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THE SAFETY OF WHALES
I went to the crossroad
- Robert Johnson, Cross Road Blues
George Carlin, I think, once remarked that people concerned about the planet and its environs are somewhat misdirected. "The planet's not going anywhere," he suggested. "We are."
There are noble souls out there, true - selfless to the last, genuinely concerned for the safety of whales and the like. But they are few and far between. As a whole, the environmental movement derives whatever strength it has from the Average Joe who has sat up and taken notice of the impact his lifestyle has had on the world. And while he might hold no grudge against the mighty whale, it's not the loss of the old beast that gets AJ worked up. It's the sudden realization, like that first serious illness or death of a loved one, that if it can happen to them, hell, what does that spell for me?
We're standing on a strange cusp, these days - somewhere between the Great American Tradition of expecting More - never being satisfied - and the thoroughly novel concept (at least in the industrialized world) of being content with what one has, while it's still here.
There's no any more, anymore. And no where is it more evident than in the working world. There's been an undeniable shift in recent years, from the promise of a good job, advancement potential, and decent compensation to diminished expectation and the resigned conclusion that those who have jobs, regardless of hour or wage, are just lucky to have them. Been there myself, more than once - more than twice. I recognize the frustration, the desperation, in the eyes of my friends and my family. The weary mill of Sunday papers, resume adaptations, trips to the post office, and unanswered cover letters. No word. Nothing.
It's worse overseas, where the work has been shipped. The hours are long, the wages laughable, were the situation not so severe, and yet the people turn out for it. Why? Because it's a job - for them, an improvement, no matter how relative. But they will never have it as good as we had it, while we'll never have it as good again. Checks and balances, level the field - they make it, we buy it, whether we can afford to or not. Because there's always more credit, more plates to spin. More dreams to hump - not of having it better than our parents, but the increasingly distant aspiration to, one day, again, have it as good as they did.
Welcome to the Brave, New World Order.
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