Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The path of least resistance

Modern life has a way of taking the starch out of us, particularly if we try to do things that go against the grain, or we dare to swim backwards upstream. We are socialized to sit down, shut up and basically, face the front of the room. We receive our marching orders from parents, teachers, preachers and presidents, and any time we decide to vary from their advice, the masses swarm in and beat us silly until we rejoin the bleating herd.

Whether one decides that he won’t shop at Wal-Mart, writes honestly on a blog, attempts to represent rural life in a book, or keep alive a local baseball league for non-professionals, there is the constant reminder to stay in line, embrace the commonplace and do not vary from the company manual.

I understand why most people adopt a comfortable life. The 9-5 schedule is reassuring, as you always know where you’ll be and at what time. The paychecks are steady, and while you always make considerably less than the head honcho, you don’t have to wait for the check in the mail, or harangue editors for payment for that article that you laboriously researched and slaved to write. Voting Republican (or Democrat, for that matter) gives one the comfortable feeling that one is doing something meaningful. The real rebels get a tattoo.

Volunteerism is on the wane and I think one of the reasons is the bureaucratic maze and mumbo-jumbo that one is put through any time they try to do something that benefits the community. Navigating phone grids, facing the rudeness of gatekeepers (the true sand in the gearbox of most forward movement), and generally bucking the status quo of others boring work-a-day existence brings frustration and a questioning of one’s sanity for even attempting to vary from the teeming masses of followers.

When the local professional team has an upside-down lease that has the city basically subsidizing a private business and the local baseball league pays through the nose for use of dilapidated or inadequately maintained (and lighted) fields, then its obvious that the good of the community no longer matters to those in control. In community after community, the lifeblood of place is drained by economic development mafias, dictating to the overburdened taxpayer what’s best. Then, after footing the bill for the well-heeled, Joe Q. Public finds that he’s been denied access to the party, left through a hole in the fence.

Occasionally, shards of light break through the darkness. A friend's kind word of encouragement, a local businessman who "gets it" concerning community, an administrator willing to go the extra mile for you, and a family member who is behind your project, all these keep you in the game for a bit longer, bringing the tape at the finish line into view.

Obviously, there are more important things than whether I publish my book, or the Twilight League makes it through another season. We have young soldiers (most predominantly poor) dying in Iraq in a war that we were told was won. Our so-called representatives cut backroom deals with credit card companies, rolling back the clock to the days of debtor prisons and poorhouses. Homeless people roam the streets lacking shelter, healthy food and proper medical care in Portland, Maine. Yes, there are bigger issues in the world than my little penny-ante pissing.


weasel said...

But your penny-ante pissing is valuable as we have to tackle the small things first. Keep fighting and never settle; read lots of Christopher Hitchens for the big stuff; and have Dylan Thomas ssreaming in your head: "Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

Jim said...

I'm glad you find my "penny-ante pissing" valuable.

I always worry about seeming "whiney" at times when I share my frustrations of life.

I do concur with you on the need to tackle the small (and presumably local) things first.

I know it's become cliched due to its use on bumper stickers, but I like the saying, "think locally, act globally", because I think that's what you are talking about here.

Jim said...

I knew I'd fuck that one up!! Urggghhh!!

It's "Act locally, think globally", or some combination of the two.

weasel said...

I hate any idea that can be distilled down to a bumper sticker... that's why I'll never amount to much in politics.
That one in particular, I'm afraid, is the liberal equivalent of a yellow ribbon: simply by putting that sticker on their car people think their social obligations are taken care of.

Jim said...

Yes, I concur Dear Weasel. Boiling complex issues down to soundbites and bumper stickers often lack the nuance and thought necessary to tackle the tougher issues. They do make us feel happy and contented though, don't they?