Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Ths Just in: World Going to Hell

I'm a big Kevin Drum fan--and Charles Murray gets up my nose--but for once I think  Murray has the better of it (link). Kevin, I was there, and he is right: we have slid downhill since the 60s.   More people are disconnected, with no real stake in the community. One in eight of us is on food stamps (one in four of children) (link) Fifty-one percent of us pay no income tax (link). And don't misunderstand, I'm not having a Michele moment here: I do not resent these folks but I do think we're seeing a society seriously out of whack.

Here's another point Kevin didn't discuss: the rich and even the well off are finding more and more ways to insulate themselves from the common ruck.   Anecdote: 1963, I was a fledgling newspaper reporter and word got out that the town's leading auto dealer was double-selling his receivables. It fell to me to find him and confront him.  I took my little aqua-blue Renault Dauphine out to his snooty east end stomping ground; I found the circular driveway in front of his columned (no kidding) mansion.  About 645 am I pulled up and parked by his front door.

Sure enough, about 20 minutes later,  he popped out and hustled down the grand front stairway, Tony-Soprano-like in his terrycloth bathrobe, steam exuding from each ear.  Short of it is he harangued and berated me for 20 minutes or so. When I had enough of his bluster to satisfy the city desk, I climbed back into my sewing-machine-powered sardine can and drove away.

Point is, aside from the comic absurdity of it all, these days I wouldn't have got close. A security guard would have stopped me at the project gate. Had I somehow slipped through, once he saw me from the window, he would have called the neighborhood contract cop who would have physically removed me and sent me on my way (probably without a savage beating, but still with nothing to satisfy the gents on the desk).  I--and so much of the detritus of humanity, would just not be his problem.

Here's another take from Underbelly's Wichita bureau--another old guy, albeit actually ten years younger than me:

  We recently were in Minnesota while I toured the Mayo Clinic – (unfortunately they don’t have much of a cure for advancing age). I grew up in Rochester and it was about a quarter the size of the current city. ...  I was appalled at how visibly and aggressively religious the city had become. Not surprisingly, there was a substantial Arab presence – with at least one mosque. And there were at least three Jewish centers – one for the Chabad group. Those make sense due to the people seeking medical care at the clinic. But there were  many  religious schools for kids and lots of ‘Pray for ______’ signs. And more churches than ever. It was depressing. 
 "Oh," adds Wichita, "and big box stores – many many big box stores."  Copy all that, but speaking as a longtime pagan, I have to acknowledge a certain ambivalence on the religious thing.  One the one hand, I'm as offput as you can be by the resentment and rancor that seems to pass for religion in so many quarters--not to mention the intrusiveness.  On the other hand, I acknowledge that there is all sorts of evidence that the sincerely religious are far more likely to be plugged into the world than us heretics.   Oy, young folks nowadays.  Complicated world.   

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