The Golden Age of Not My Problem

You apply for a job. You get an automated email saying thanks for your interest, we’ll contact you on the maybe, but probably not side. Have a great day. That was a computer program thumbing its teeth at you. No human eyes ever see your resume’. No one ever tells you they hired the boss’s nephew who isn’t at all qualified, but that’s on a need to know basis. And you don’t.

Your bank has an important message about your account. So a computer calls you and tells you something is messed up, please call them back. You call them back and a computer phone tree answers and requires you to select from four options, three different times. You hit the right button eventually and the computer tells you everything is fixed. Maybe it was never messed up in the first place. You’ll never know, because it takes 20 minutes of fighting with 800 numbers and phone trees and hold times before a human being finally picks up and tells you that you called the wrong department. Your phone battery is dying and CSI:Reykjavik  is on in ten minutes anyway.

You get your policy information from your insurance agent and it says your home is insured for about $30,000 more than it’s ever been worth. Which means you’re paying a higher premium than you need to, because they’ll never give you what it’s insured for. You call the company and a nice man eventually picks up because you waited 21 minutes through 18 automated messages insisting your call is very important to them. The nice man tells you your agent will have to fix that. You call your agent and his voice mail system directs you to the phone tree for the company, where you wait 21 more minutes for another nice man to tell you that your agent will have to fix that for you. You call your agent again and again and he never answers. Three days later he calls you back and tries to tell you that it costs more to replace your house than the market value. You tell him in the nicest possible way that he is full of shit, and that he needs to fix your policy. He says he will get back to you in a few days, but you know he is more likely to roll over after he hangs up and tell his girlfriend what a jerk you are.

I don’t believe in a Golden Age of Anything. I don’t think there’s ever been a time when everything worked right, or when everyone was nice to each other, or when all people were rewarded for every nice thing they did.

But this?

We are living in the Age of You’re Not My Problem.

So have a nice day!

Floating into Eternity

So here’s the thing. People float.  They finish high school, or maybe they don’t. They get through college, or never try. They get married. They get divorced. They have babies. Babies grow up and learn to float. All the time; they float. Most of them. Almost all of them. Us, too. We float, right?

You can’t afford a new car, or that trip to Europe, or to buy a house. You can’t save enough money because you don’t earn enough. And you don’t earn enough because your job sucks. It really sucks.

Some people have jobs they love.  Sometimes those jobs pay well.

Yeah, but they just got lucky, like winning the lottery. Right place at the right time. Lightning strikes, but it doesn’t strike me.

Horse hockey. You make your own lightning. But not if you’re happy just floating.

You have to know the right people, you say.

So go out and meet those people. There’s nothing wrong with networking.

I did everything I could, you say. It just isn’t the right time.

That’s a crock. You applied for one job. Or you dropped out of the community college after one semester. It got hard. You quit.

I had a child, I had to quit, you say.

You have a child; you have to show them how to swim in this life. You have to get yourself a better boat. Quitters don’t get boats.

Naw, you say, because only the rich have boats.

So go get rich, quick or slow, but do it if that’s what you want. Get some better tools, or learn some better lines, because these are getting old.

I can’t afford college, or starting my own business, or moving to a better town, or anything else, you say.

You can’t afford to work for minimum wage, or live in a drug-infested neighborhood, or spend your time with all of those people who just want to float. Some of them are drowning and you just watch.

I can’t swim, you say.

You never tried, I say.

I’m drowning, too, you say.

Swimming is about moving your arms and legs. It’s like walking, only wetter.

I don’t like the water, you say.

You’re freaking soaked with it, I say.

The Death of the Novel

There was a time when writers could write novels and make a pretty decent living at it. They weren’t quite as celebritized as, say, actors or baseball players, but people knew who they were, even if said people didn’t read a lot.

But I think, and maybe I’m just glorifying the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, that people used to read more than they do now. Tell me if you think I’m wrong there.

People used to buy books. In book stores. They didn’t go there for lattes or stuffed animals or board games. Ok, maybe the board games. But they went to book stores to look at and buy books. Just like they went to shoe stores to buy shoes, and vegetable stands to buy vegetables.

The Bigboxation of America (and probably most of the rest of the world) means everything gets a small shelf in the store. Walmart and Target sell books. But just the popular ones everyone has already heard of. How do you get heard of if you aren’t already?

Where do authors, musicians, or painters go to get discovered? Or in the absence of traditional representation or management, where do they go to sell their wares? It seems the more we slide over to fully digital media, the more we see people who want our stuff for free.

It seems hopeless for as-yet untapped talent, like the art form of the novel is on its death bed.

But don’t give up hope. You have to have faith that it will survive. Somehow.

I said before that you’re first novel will probably suck. And your second one might have flaws, too. But keep writing. Get those out of your system. Maybe you make music or paint, or you have business ideas. The first ones might not be your best. But keep at it. Have faith that one day the right people will see what you do and go, “Yeah, that’s what we need!”

The Internet Bill of Rights

1) If I do this thing I’m considering, will I make lots of money?

2) If it’s illegal, will I be able to avoid getting caught?

3) If I get caught, will my attorneys get me out of trouble for less money than I will make doing this thing I’m considering?

4) If it costs me a lot to get caught, can I somehow turn the scandal into some other profitable venture, like a book or a movie?

5) Will any of this negative or positive press help me get elected or re-elected?

6) If you can answer yes to any of these questions, then yours must be a darned good idea. Do it.

 

It sure feels true. If you can grow a company to be completely faceless, soulless, heartless, inhumane; then you can be stinking rotting rich.

Traditional versus Moral

A friend is getting married this weekend; a glorious life together awaits them. Only it’s not really waiting. They’ve known each other for several years, dated, co-habitated, learned each other’s foibles. In fact, they probably know everything about each other; how the other spends, saves, eats, cleans up, what their favorite TV shows are, buzz words that piss them off. Living together for a few years will do that. So now there won’t be any surprises when they are married.

This is a good thing.

Decades and centuries ago, when the modern traditions of marriage were formed, girls were often underage (by today’s standards) when they became married, so of course they were unaccustomed to living with a man, and knew nothing about adult stuff. Boys were typically older when they got married, maybe several years older than their new wives. I’m sure someone could get more specific than I am being, but the point is that the tradition of “waiting until you’re married” comes from a very different time.

Those times are gone. Girls don’t get hitched at 13 anymore (for the most part, I hope).  Men aren’t typically 12 years older than their new wives (but it does happen sometimes).  And with so much emphasis on me me me these days, a person never knows what a prospective spouse will act like until they are co-habitating. So it seems wiser, more moral, in our culture today to try things out for a period before getting married.

Maybe if more people tried that, the divorce rate would be lower. And maybe fewer children would be born into broken or soon to be broken homes.

Who is in Charge

I was listening to Fresh Air on National Public Radio again last night, as I am wont to do on my long commutes home. And they were interviewing a Roman Catholic bishop who was investigating a group of nuns regarding their national organization and yada yada yada. The politics of it was beyond me, as I am not a member of a church. But this bishop repeated over and over (in different terms each time, because he had a very nice vocabulary), that the Church does what it does because that’s what it has always done.

So I started thinking, do you have a right to believe what you want to believe? The bishop said you can leave and join another religion. He was trying really hard not to bash any other religions. But what if they are all kind of pig-headed? What if they are all stuck in their first century?

I do believe religions are strongly influenced by the culture of the time when they were created. But should they be flexible as times change?

In the time of Abraham, of Pilate, of Martin Luther (even Joseph Smith), women didn’t have the right to vote. Most religions were completely male-dominated. Now women can vote. They can be Prime Minister of England, US Secretary of State, maybe President of the US one day. Should old school religions continue keeping women out of the highest leadership roles?

Maybe women should start their own religion.

I’m curious to read your comments on this.

Morality is About What You Do, Not Where You Sit

Recently, a person I respect, who professes a certain religious perspective, said they were tired of welfare moms and others who seemed to believe that they were entitled to certain government benefits. Ok, a lot of religious people I respect have said pretty much the same thing. And I agreed that, to some degree, government handouts, whether to individuals or to corporations, foster a sense of dependency. Look how upset business-types get when legislatures advise they are going to cut corporate tax breaks. How dare they?

Individuals on government benefits also get pretty upset when said benefits are reduced or eliminated.

I’m not advocating that we try our best to get more people on welfare (or more corporations). But I am troubled when any religious people advocate turning our community backs on people in need. I seem to recall a Jewish gentleman from  Galilee who advocated helping everyone you can, including giving them the shirt off your back. I actually do see some religious people acting and thinking that way, and I hope they know they are appreciated.

But there seems to be a sense of moral entitlement among many religious people, that says basically this: I am the moral elite because I practice this religion. My practice of said religion actually makes my choices morally elite. Therefore, whatever I choose to do, because I am a religious person, is the will of God.

No, it isn’t.

The will of God, whatever your religious proclivities, is for you to live a good life, be a positive influence to your family, your neighbors and your community, and show some appreciation and humility for your life and all the great things in it.

Maybe political parties could benefit from this thinking, too.

I bring all of this up for two reasons. One, it annoys me when people say they know their religion, but act antithetically to it. And two, this is one of the themes in my novel, Virtual Silence, which is available at amazon.com in paperback and on Kindle.

Do something good today!