Saturday, January 30, 2010

fed up

It tried to follow me home yesterday, but I gave it the slip, taking a quick right turn into the shelter of a familiar neighborhood. Close one. I enjoyed a peaceful evening, slept straight through the night, woke more refreshed than I've been in days and then...there it was again this morning, scratching at my door like a hungry animal: my job.

Friday evening it took hold of me as a fury, a rolling boil, roiling with all the flotsam of this urban life: caged trees, entire buildings, acres of glass and concrete, buoyed by rushing bubbles of conversation burst by dull ideas and punctured by cutting words. Not suddenly; slowly, surely I became outraged at what I am asked to do, to be there, and to not be, at how I have turned myself into a numbered employee, at what I have willingly traded for this pox-ridden blanket. I wonder how many of us exist so, commuting between our lives and our jobs every morning, every night, checking our selves at the door to get through security.

I may be a fool, but I'm not an idiot. I am well aware that I've got a Very Good Job, in the small picture: I must eat and pay the bills; if I had a family I might be supporting them (or more likely, on my salary, I would not...); I don't work at a plastic factory in China the size of a gazillion football fields. But in the big picture none of this makes a shred of sense. People are using up everything there is on this planet, and fast. It's not just about peak oil, dwindling energy sources, the near impossibility of a zero-sum solution. They have poisoned our wells and drenched the soil in "weed" killers, pharmaceuticals and agents of biological warfare. In some places, like here in the Midwest, we've noticed a few amphibians with a leg or two out of place; in other places, entire populations are being slowly, but surely devastated.

So what does that have to do with my job? Well, for one, where I work our business is the Root of All Evil. I don't think I need to explain what money has to do with capitalism, what capitalism has to do with exploitation of "resources" (also known as human beings, animals, plants, land, water, minerals, air, space and everything else that exists), what resource exploitation has to do with war, or what war does to life. And I don't think it should be necessary to explain what life has to do with food and water, but apparently there are a lot of people out there who really don't know. They don't know that potatoes grow in the ground, or that milk comes not from a carton but from animals' mammary glands, that the water they drink and flush down their toilets has been recycled for millennia, or that every single breath they draw is thanks to someone, a real live person, who raised from seed a living being (the resurrection) to give us sustenance (our daily bread). And these seeds are grown in soil, water and sunlight. Sunlight we still have quite a lot of, maybe more than we know what to do with. Soil and water, however, are becoming more and more scarce. And as they do, the cost of living--of food--will continue to rise. In America we spend proportionally less on food than does most of the world, thanks to low-quality calories subsidized by our federal government, the labor of immigrants, and destructive farming practices. How long can this possibly continue? How will I be able to feed my family, when food prices here have doubled?

So, back to my job, my day-to-day, where I am encouraged to adopt an "attitude of gratitude" toward a system which is in the big picture killing the planet and in the small picture killing my spirit, as if life were a picture-in-picture television screen and not a holistic experience of macro and micro and meta, simultaneously... And now this job follows me home and crawls into my bed, keeping me awake at night, and then wants to hang around all weekend, stinking up the place with its foul breath and crude jokes? No, hell no, this will not do. But how exactly do I show it the door, when it's the one paying my mortgage?

Sooner or later this is going to end, and there won't be any paycheck to take to the store. This is why we grow our own.

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