Friday, November 26, 2010

Some Things. from Tea Party Jesus

Original: here.

Hi, everybody. My name’s Dave. I’ve been thinking about a lot of stuff lately, and I want to talk to you about what I’ve decided.
First, I should tell you a little bit about my life. I’m in my early thirties, born in Illinois, living in North Carolina. I’m married to a seriously amazing woman and we have three kids, a twelve-year-old and twins who just turned three. My wife and I both have retail/service jobs, and even though we both work hard, it always seems like there’s never enough money. We’ve recently finished paying our car off, so that gives us more breathing room, but we still spend so much just to provide a house, food, and electricity for our family that we end up dividing bills into piles: “We need to pay this now” versus “These people can wait a while.”
About a week ago, I had a sudden realization: I’m practically owned by my job. I get up in the morning, I piddle around on the internet until it’s time to go to work, I spend eight hours waiting on strangers (some are fantastic, others have apparently just crawled out of the nearest Morlock cave), I go home and drink or get high and play video games and watch TV until it’s time to go to bed. My entire life is built around trying not to let my job make me crazy. I dress the way they tell me to, show up when they tell me to, say what they tell me to, and I don’t get to do half the things I want to do in my real life because my schedule is tied up with work. That’s a horrible way to live. And now we get to the really insane part:
My life is awesome.
No, seriously. Remember that link I sent you to yesterday? If you’re reading this on a computer, you live better than 99% of the human race. We eat cheap, plentiful food because it’s farmed and harvested by migrant workers, then complain about the same workers trying to take our jobs. We put cheap gas in our cars to drive to our jobs because the teenage children of our poor people are sent to the Middle East to shoot the teenage children of their poor people. We wear cheap clothes and buy cheap furniture for our house because ten-year-olds in China are put to work in factories to make them for us, and there aren’t any laws about how much they have to be paid or how many hours they can be made to work.
Humanity is a pyramid, with the richest few living a life at the top that’s only made possible by the misery of the billions beneath them. And you’re caught between them: you’re comfortable because of the suffering of others, but you’re not really fulfilled because your life is about working to maintain a society where the very richest can do whatever they like.
And our society has evolved (quite unintentionally) to trap you in that life:
For the last half-century, we’ve been working hard to encourage moving to the suburbs, buying a car, and driving to work. In most places in this country, you can’t live without at least one car, which means a loan, insurance, gas, maintenance—thousands of dollars a year.
We’re completely dependent on strangers for our food needs. If our grocery stores disappeared, a lot of us would starve to death.
Health care has become insanely expensive. If you manage to find a job with decent insurance, there’s no way you’re going to leave it. The risk of getting sick or hurt and being ruined financially is just too great.
We have no social safety net. And I’m not talking here about government programs because while it’s great that they’re helping people who need it, they’re not good enough. They’re inefficient and monolithic and slowly but surely being hacked away at because the truth is there’s just not enough money and nobody’s willing to raise taxes. If you lose your job or break your back or your car breaks down or any of a hundred other things happens, you’re screwed. Most of us live one or two paychecks away from disaster. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a position where an extra twenty bucks meant everybody got to eat until payday, but believe me, if you don’t know someone who’s there right now, you know someone who knows someone.
We get stuck. We’re caught in these lives because of fear. Fear of losing our job. Fear of not being able to buy food. Fear of having our car repossessed, which means we lose our job, which means we can’t buy food. We’re ruled by fear because we have no security in our lives.
And fear makes you stupid and selfish. Fear drives you to hoard, to hate, to build walls to keep the Other out. Fear makes you forget that your neighbor is just another human being trying to do his best and transforms him into a lazy, thieving bandit trying to take what’s rightfully yours. Fear makes you watch Glenn Beck/Keith Olbermann tell you that the Democrats/Republicans are monsters out to destroy you and your way of life, when the truth is that most politicians (not all, but most) are mainly interested in being rich and powerful and famous without actually having to work very hard, and will tell you pretty much anything you want to hear to keep their jobs.
We need something better. We need to start helping each other. We need to start working together and taking care of each other. That’s what I want to start doing. Here’s what’s up.
I’m starting a new blog I’m calling Project Neighbor (with a Facebook page for all of us to talk to each other). It’s going to be a place for exploring ways that we can work together, create more security, and live happier, less fearful, more fulfilling lives. I’m not going to ask you to quit your job or move to Montana or, in fact, make any changes in your life that you’re not up to making. I want to experiment with making tiny changes, one at a time. My hypothesis is that enough of us, doing that together, genuinely can make our lives, our countries, and our world better. I’d love it if you all would be willing to help me test that.
Tea Party Jesus isn’t going away (at this point, he feels kind of like that weird, cranky uncle who makes everybody uncomfortable at Thanksgiving dinner, honestly) but I won’t be updating him daily anymore. I’ve decided that immersing myself in as much awful, hateful, ignorant rhetoric as I had to sift through every day just isn’t good for me. It made me a less pleasant person, and I’m not going to do that anymore. You’ll probably see him a couple of times a week from now on.
Some of you are rolling your eyes right now. That’s cool. This might be me being stupid; it really, really might. But I feel like it’s worth exploring. If it’s a dead end, fine. The worst that can happen is we end up helping a few people who need our help. If you’re skeptical, just do me a favor and bookmark the new site. Come back in three months, or six months, or a year. See how it’s going. Re-evaluate it. Never stop taking a second look at things and seeing if maybe you’re wrong about them.
And that includes this thing, by the way, guys. If you think I’m wrong about something, by god, you’d better call me on it. All of us together are so much smarter and stronger and better than any of us are alone. Let’s put that to work.