Monday, August 29, 2011

It's A Calvin And Hobbes World

My parents' generation had a kind of nervous blame tic. If something undesirable occurred, they'd immediately come up with a scenario of who was to blame, and how it could have been prevented. The "who" was always you, by the way. Jews have schlemiels and schlemozzles. We only had schlemiels.

If you fell down and skinned your knee, you should have been more careful. Pick up your feet when you walk. Of course you caught cold, you weren't wearing a scarf. You got a headache from sitting too close to the television. If Sputnik landed on you, you should have come inside sooner.

Catholic school was likewise full of warnings that the machinery of the universe would tick over immediately to punish the incautious. Hell, (whoops; sorry, sister) if you threw your dessert uneaten into the trash some foreign kid would immediately keel over and die for the want of it. That was never his fault, somehow, and it didn't matter that dessert was prunes from a huge dented can, and even Biafrans were known to turn up their noses at those. You killed those people. A+B=C. Period.

Darwin has taken the place of Greg Brady's sketchy dad and the nun inspecting your lunch leavings in the universe of the younger generations. Whenever anyone dies for any reason, it was a sign of the intrinsic foolhardiness of whatever they were doing. If a hurricane kills you, you shouldn't have lived near the ocean, silly; if you move to Oklahoma to escape New Orleans you were just begging for that tornado to hurl you into the ether. It's a form of self-flattery: If those people were smart enough to confine themselves solely to commenting on all behaviors from the cockpit of their mother's basement, they'd be alive now. They're not smart like me, bravely doing absolutely nothing.

If Darwin had any useful opinion about current affairs, there's only one class of people he'd be interested in, and they're the legions of timid, second-guessing people that live in their mother's basement and aren't interested in procreating. Or more precisely, aren't interesting enough to anyone else to procreate with.

Of course bad things happen to basement dwellers, too, and must be explained. Explained away, as a rule. Someone did it to me. Evil people. If you get cancer it was some chemical. If you're kid's moody it's because he was immunized. If you're poor, someone stole your money. If you're depressed about being, well, you, it's because evil people won't acknowledge how swell you are and double down on their perfidy by demanding you pay a copay for your Effexor. You didn't smoke for forty years and get cancer; you were targeted by an evil corporation for smoking. The morphing of prosecution witness into a defense witness is the denouement of this process:

1950: Your honor, the defendant just snapped and killed three people.
2010: Your honor, I'm innocent, I just snapped and killed three people.

I'm hard-pressed to come up with any segment of the population that doesn't have a pre-medieval answer ready to be trotted out, at flight-deck-McGlaughlin Group volume, for any social ill or misbehavior, and a ready-made template to call any productive behavior a crime, too. There's isn't a dime's bit of difference between Pat Robertson or Al Gore in these matters. (A)Gay people or (B)Ford Explorers cause hurricanes. Take your pick, but there's no (C) 

People who heeded the call to be cautious, first, last, and always took tolltaker or public school teacher jobs, and they're angry right now because the only thing those jobs offered was security and even that was illusory, apparently. The Ivy League drudges wonder why the government doesn't tax their plumber more and leave them alone, so that they can go back to hiring illegal aliens to do their scutwork while trying to catch up with the Secretary of the Treasury on cheating on their taxes. And they're all angry at unemployed people for not paying taxes and not having enough sense to be born Chinese next to an iPhone factory.

In short, I find myself living in a Calvin and Hobbes world, and I don't like it. Predestination and barbarism are man's lot in life. But it's not the Calvinists against the Hobbesians, no; it's one faction, half and half, against another faction, half and half. Half the Calvinists say their money is the sign of God's approval of them, and the other half say money is the mark of the devil and evidence only of some great crime. 50 percent of the Hobbesians say the world's fine except there are too many nasty, brutish people that end up having indoor plumbing and golf clubs, and the other 50 percent say the world would be fine except for the nasty, brutish people who haven't got a pot to piss in ruining it for everyone else. In both cases, they'd like the other half to have nasty, brutish, short lives and stop leaving big carbon footprints -- or smoking department stores, depending on budget -- in their wake.

Me? It's occurred to me lately that a person could do most everything right in this world now, cooperate and do what is demanded of them --behave in an exemplary fashion, almost -- and get creamed anyway. Where would a person like that go, to find someone to talk to? Beats me.

Read My Stories For The New Depression, Inspired By The Last One:


Jess said...

Therapy teaches you to become responsible for your decisions and make changes to prevent undesirable consequences in the future. Unfortunately, therapy requires admitting life can have some unwanted changes on thinking, so the stigma of being perceived as mentally ill prevents most from seeking help.

So, to answer your question: they could talk to their therapist, but that wouldn't ever happen. Living by the rules means you have no problems, therefore no therapist. That leaves the reflection in the mirror.

julie said...

...lately that a person could do most everything right in this world right now, cooperate and do what is demanded of them --behave in an exemplary fashion, almost -- and get creamed anyway.

You sound like my husband today. As he was saying last night, in his view, the people who are just trying to do for themselves, mind their own business, and abide by the law are like Butters: the only one who'll do what's necessary and just try to get along, yet dumped on from all sides by the very parasites who thrive off of his labors.

In truth, I don't know what the solution is, except to note that if conversation is all you want, that's what this here innernet is good for. But you already knew that :)

John Lien said...

WRONG! The answer is D: Gays driving Ford Explorers. Morton, your thoughts?

Leslie said...

I come here.

SippicanCottage said...

Hi Everyone- Thanks for reading and commenting.

Leslie- Made my day.

Sam L. said...

I occasionally have odd thoughts. Sipp, you are a PRO at having them, and writing them down. What Leslie said goes double for me.

misterarthur said...

Brilliant piece, Mr SIppicanCottage.

Anonymous said...

I liked it so much, I bought the book!

SippicanCottage said...

Many thanks.