Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Waxing Political

I try to keep my blog pretty squarely on the topic of comics, but I'm going to veer off a bit tonight if you'll indulge me.

When I was a teenager, I came to the conclusion that all politicians were just lousy bastards and there wasn't a single one worth voting for. Plus it didn't matter anyway, since I never saw any that even remotely reflected my views on anything. Not surprisingly, I didn't even bother registering to vote once I was eligible.Why waste my time?

After I got out of college, I started paying attention to the world around me a little more. I started listening to the news, and understood things that were happening to people well outside my sphere of influence. Politics inevitably came up, and I started seeing politicians a little differently. They were still lousy bastards that weren't worth voting for, and I still didn't see any that even remotely reflected my views, but I did start seeing that some were not only not acting in my best interests, but actively working against everybody's interests except their own. Sometimes they were coy about it, but increasingly, they were pretty openly hostile in their views towards anyone who wasn't them.

So I began voting. Cynically. As much as I would like to vote for a candidate, I sadly myself voting against them at least as often as not. The lesser of two evils, as it were.

I don't expect government to work for me. I don't expect them to act in my best interests. I expect that the only person that's going to stick up for me is me. I think that a lot of people think similarly about businesses, but I apply that same notion to essentially any institution.

I live in a pretty solidly middle-class neighborhood. Kids ride their bikes in the street, people jog on the sidewalks, there always seems to be one guy mowing his lawn. Except for the lack of white picket fences, it wouldn't be terribly out of place in a 1950's sitcom. In the past three years, within a one mile radius of my house, there have been four foreclosures that I'm aware of. I can't speak to the individual issues each household had, but I bring it up because two of those four houses have been vacant for the past 1 1/2 to 2 years. Why? Nothing wrong with them, as far as I know, but the banks have never bothered to put them on the market. They haven't bothered because almost none of the houses that have gone up for sale willingly have sold in the past 2-3 years. I know there's one just four doors down from me that's been on the market for nearly two years.

I could get into the housing crisis and bank mess and all that, but you know the recent history there. Instead, let me embed this 1/2 hour video that goes back a bit further to explain things at a more macro level. (Stick with it. It can get a bit confusing in places, but it makes sense if you sit through the whole thing.) (Also, the last five minutes or so pay a bit of tribute to Frank Miller's 300 if you need a comic connection here.)

I'm fairly certain killing Henry Paulson isn't going to solve everything as the video sarcastically suggests at the end, but overall it does make fairly evident why we're all screwed these days.

And with the global economy on the verge of disaster (make no mistake, the crisis in Europe is by no means limited to Europe) I'm pretty well scared shitless. Like, building a bomb shelter with enough supplies for several years, type of scared. I'm okay with some things being beyond my control. I've (mostly) come to grips with the notion that I can't afford to hold to my ideals and survive. I understand that I'm not good at playing the corporate game, but I know it well enough that I can get by reasonably well most of the time.

But these days, I have no clue what comes next. Not just who gets elected and what type of policies they pass, but whether or not currency holds any value. I realize it's a somewhat irrational fear in the same way that I was scared that the Soviet Union might drop a nuclear bomb on us in the 1980s. Which is slightly comforting in that we obviously survived that decade without a nuclear attack but, at the same time, look what happened to the Soviet Union. I've actually tried (unsuccessfully) to look up how average Russian citizens coped on a day to day level with their country -- and economy! -- collapsing. Clearly, the precise nature of how/why the U.S.S.R. fell apart isn't really at all applicable to the U.S., but the impact of a country's economic and political system falling into complete disarray might be worth studying regardless of the root cause(s).

I've noted before how I think we all need to act at least partially like freelancers in order to keep income flowing regardless of our current job situation. I read another post recently that suggested that's how you get through retirement as well. (Again, not expecting the government to come through with anything like Social Security by the time I retire.) She opted for renting part of her house instead of writing a book, but the core concept was similar. (I won't link to that piece because I think the author was off-base on some other significant points.)

I'm still working towards that end because the only model I have to work with is what we've got right now. And since I don't know what things will look like in a year, much less a decade, I figure it's better to work with at least what's current than with not doing anything at all. Current might translate into whatever is next; not doing anything most definitely won't.

I've got the local election results scrolling by in the next window as I'm writing this. The results generally reflect which campaign spent more money on advertising, seemingly regardless of whether or not the bill is in the best interests of the 99%. I am by no means complaining about where I'm at; I don't have anywhere close to the hardships that a lot of people are facing these days. But I still see a lot of what I do as survival because, clearly, the people who are already wealthy are the ones running the show for their benefit. Not mine. And yet people still seem to be voting against their best interests. (I fully acknowledge my bias here, and that my best interests don't necessarily overlap everyone else's, but some of these issues don't serve anyone's interests except the 1%.)

I don't have a good way to wrap this post up. I'm scared, in part, because I'm trapped; I can't afford to switch jobs or attempt to move in this economy. I'm scared, in part, because I disagree with most people in my region at some really fundamental levels -- I can almost always predict how my district will vote on any given issue or candidate by choosing the opposite of how I vote. I'm scared, in part, because I don't have any answers. I don't even know the questions. I'm scared because I can't expect my government (local, state or federal) or any business I have to deal with to do anything but screw me over in every way they can. I do what I can, and that's largely just working to keep my head above water and, maybe, find a piece of driftwood to cling onto.

And, you know, that really kind of sucks that someone like me, doing even moderately well, has to think like that.

2 comments:

jfbauer said...

Wow, your deep political despair comes through loud and clear in your article. I wish I had something uplifting to say, but the more I begin to understand how various aspects of the political system "work", the more I scratch my head as well.

Matt K said...

Yeah most of this goes for me, too. I'm keeping up, but it's not getting any easier and I'm scared not only generally, but for myself, because if I slip up for a second, who or what will help me catch up again? How am I going to keep eating double-digit health insurance premium increases, year after year?

I've been pessimistic for a while now, but that fades away somewhat when it isn't renewed. The past 24 hours have been a big pessimism recharge.