I was talking with a friend, over lunch today, about entitlement. Well, really about what turns people into entitled douche nozzles, but entitlement in general. It got me thinking about worth.
I wonder what we value, as a culture?
There is an axiom in philosophy that says, you know what a person values by their actions.
I believe that is the case. One can say what one wants, but what one does tells the world what one values, or else, why would one waste the energy?
And if you observe how our culture acts, what we value – on the whole – emerges. And it is not pretty.
Here’s a short list, (feel free to tell me if you think I’m wrong):
2) Fame/ Celebrity
3) Our Individual Egos
(I’d say power, but that – to my way of thinking – falls fairly securely under the ‘Our Individual Egos’.)
Those seem to be the three general categories.
(I’ll remind you here, this is not about what you, or I, or someone specifically else values, it’s about what we seem to value as a culture; collectively.)
I thought about explaining/ defending each one of those, but you have eyes. Go look for yourself.
But, I will give an example.
There was this beautiful piece of land, here in Knoxville. It separated two large shopping complexes. It was just a field, not hilly but not perfectly flat. The owners cut hay on it a couple times a year, and when the nights grew cool, and the mist rose from the honeycomb of limestone that much of Knoxville sits above, it covered the gulleys and runs of this field first. In the light of the full moon, it was one of the most beautiful things you will ever see. Heart-breakingly beautiful A small island of peaceful green, smack dab in the middle of the intersection of consumer, strip mall hell and an overly large church compound.
(And why is it that churches build fucking compounds now? When did worship become a fucking defensive maneuver?)
It never failed to touch my soul – if ever I had one. And it never failed to touch the souls of others, after I pointed it out.
Do you know what they did?
They scraped the goddamn thing flat and built another fucking strip mall on it.
Why would they sell such a lovely piece of nature?
Because it made someone a metric-fuck-ton of money.
That’s it. Just money. Just a representation of wealth.
I can’t help but feeling that it is like eating the menu instead of the food.
Here is this place. Natural. Beautiful. Still providing someone with income from the hay proceeds. And it wasn’t enough. No one thought that its beauty, its uniqueness was worth enough to keep as it was – unspoiled. They only thought about the money they could make off its sale.
This saddens me in a way I can not adequately express.
We lost something there, not just the place, but a piece of ourselves; maybe a piece of our souls.
Someone is monetarily richer for the exchange, for whatever fucking good that does.
How much is enough?
How much are we willing to sacrifice to the green paper god that most people seem to worship so dearly?
As an aside, I’m sitting in a tavern while I write this. Nearby, there is a conversation happening. One guy has just laid down some knowledge. It wasn’t profound. It wouldn’t shatter and remake anyone’s world. But it was solid and edifying, and real. Do you know what the response of one of his companions was?
“How does knowing this make me money?”
There is a place in side me that screams for me to get up and shake the bastard. Slap him in the face like they did with hystericals in old movies. I think if I had a Zen stick, he would not be safe.
But I know it would do no good.
He has been so inculcated by the fucked up values of this culture that he literally – at this moment – is not capable of knowing any better.
And you don’t punish children who are too young to understand why they are being punished.
We talk a lot of shit in this culture, especially about what we value.
God. Country. Family.
It’s all bullshit. And it has been for a long time.
And it makes me sad. It makes me weep for the species.
We’re not exceptional anymore. We’re a bunch of money grubbing gutter snipes, fighting over the nickels dropped by people un-preoccupied by the state of their pocket change.
I could deliver a few platitudes now:
‘be the change you wish to see in the world,’ or, ‘we can get back that magic,’ but they all just feel sour in my mouth.
The truth is, we’re a beat-down culture, and most of us are just barely making it through the day, let alone have the energy to make a difference. There is a large portion of this country just hoping they can get by; hoping things get better.
And like a movie, someone nearby is softly singing a Christmas carol – high soprano and sotto voce. I don’t know if it’s hopeful or sad. Maybe it’s both. Maybe hope only comes in the midst of sadness. I don’t know.
I can’t tell you what to do. I wouldn’t, even if I thought you’d listen.
All I can say is, for me, I do not intend to go gently into that good night.
It’s just not my way.
My way is to Rage against the dying of the light.