Saturday, September 02, 2006
BOTH SIDES OF THE COINS
I used to live in a communal household in the early ‘70s with as few as five and as many as thirteen steady occupants and as many as ten more crashing transient citizens of the world. We felt like a halfway house for traffic from Mexico reacclimatizing from the siesta to the faster pace of the US, and from the carpet bagging North to depressurize from the tempo of accumulating and protecting the biggest stash to the laid back attitude of Awestun, Tejas, the biggest village in the world. None had cars. Everybody hitch hiked everywhere. Life was wonderful.
Rent was maintained by two ice cream truck routes that all of us drove at one time or another. One of the routes was in a predominately black neighborhood in a neat old part of town and the other was in the brand new IBM ghetto yclept Quail Creek with no two streets straight or parallel. This contrast taught me a metaphor for the historical cycle of empire and wealth leading to decadence, decline and fall before former slaves, servants and barbarians — all more competent to live life independent of being served. A more perfect lesson in grass roots uprising could not be found.
When I would hand the kids living in Quail Creek their Dreamcicle they would slap down their money and run off with their friends, forgetting all kinds of change, never a tip. In the old neighborhood, upon receipt of whatever flavor they ordered I would hear, “Can I have it on credit?” from even the youngest of tikes. It happens with civilizations; it happens with family fortunes; it happens wherever an entire generation’s inheritance comes from a plutocracy.
From the mainstream of the US to its imperialist elite the ideal life is one of avarice, acquisition, and accumulation all in the name of buying the future for the next generation. I should know. That was my life until the twelve and fourteen hour days of acting out my avarice as I acquired the great salary and stock options accumulated at IBM left my family so neglected in the present that they absented the premises. I have often wondered if I would have dropped out and tuned in to the rest of the world without my wife leaving me. It sure can get comfortably ignorant within those air conditioned isolation chambers of home, car and work — just the way corporations like it — dedicated and brilliant on the job and pig ignorant about anything not on US television or news.
When I transferred to Texas from Kentucky to help begin a new branch, several of my fellow engineers transferred as well. Soon the lunchtime conversation began being about the non communication between parents and their teenagers unseen until the move. To hear it one would think all the kids were ruined by the laid back slacker attitude made famous in Richard Linklatter’s debut film years later. After I broke with the yuppie career bubble, quit IBM (for all I know, I was the first person to ever leave their employment for any reason; they had no precedent to process my departure), sold my house and sailboat, liquidated my stock and moved into Austin proper, I met a lot of those slacker sons and daughters of my former colleagues. Great kids who’d declared, “Please mother, I’d rather do it myself.” They’d all been infected with the same anti-yuppie virus going around in those days in Austin that had gotten to me. They had seen the possibilities of life outside their parent’s plans for them and dropped out before being poured and molded in.
When civilizations turn upside down it is not due to a revolutionary uprising so much as to a natural reaction to the top heaviness of inheritors of the power of wealth with no clue how it came to be. Being carried atrophys self reliance. Oppression teaches it to those it doesn’t kill.
The first man to see an illusion by which men have flourished for centuries surely stands in a lonely place. -Gary Zukav
Too many parents make life hard for their children by trying, too zealously, to make it easy for them.-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.-Eric Hoffer
The dissenter is every human being at those moments of his life when he resigns momentarily from the herd and thinks for himself. -Archibald MacLeish