May 25th, 2008
I understand, from what friends and others tell me, that I was supposed to outgrow this stage, the same way I outgrew believing in the tooth fairy, a benevolent God, or that whole “it’s what’s inside that really counts” deception. Maybe there was supposed to be a revealing shock somewhere along the way — similar to the shock of seeing my eldest sister put a dime under my pillow, or having my childhood letters to God returned “undeliverable as addressed”, or seeing a well-qualified woman turned away from a job interview because my boss didn’t like “lazy Indians” — that scraped away another layer of optimistic naivete and replaced it with cynical skepticism.
Come to think of it, there have been plenty of revealing shocks, and I’ve written or talked about them with all the exclamation points and disbelief they were due. Did thousands of people really send Oral Roberts money when he said God would kill him if he didn’t raise $10M dollars? Yes! They did! Did Tammy Faye Baker, thief extraordinaire, really go on to become a minor celebrity and gay icon? Yes! Did Hal Greenwood, a banker who bilked thousands of retirees out of their pensions, get to keep his multi-million dollar home? Yes! And after he got out of a very short prison stay, he actually ran for Mayor of Grand Marais, MN! And he had lots of community support!
Closer to home, did a family-owned real estate business really steal funds from their client’s trust accounts to pay credit card bills, get plastic surgery, and buy stuff at BabyGap? Yes. Did the state take swift and thorough action? No. They pulled the license of the business owner, but let the actual thief (her daughter!) take over for her. Did I once have a boss who said he didn’t want a woman working for him? Yes. Did the corporation see this as a problem? No, but they did have him attend an EEOC seminar, so that he could learn “more appropriate language”.
The apathetic reactions of the blindly self-involved Me generation I was born into seems to be keep trying to shock me into complacency, but somehow I just get more and more outraged. Somehow the lessons the greater part of society is trying to teach me — like how useless logic is in an illogical world, and how senseless it is to beat my head against the same brick wall, and how really, I should just worry about myself and not worry about all these things I can’t change — continue to pass me by. I keep trying. I keep believing that my generation of human beings, as a multi-billion strong entity, are smarter, more alive, and more passionate than we’ve shown. . .yet.
I thought maybe the reign of King George II, America’s first Imperialist president, might be just the shock this country needed to get off of its collective ass and do something. I was partially right. Many people have spoken out, written letters, gotten involved — yet an amazing 34-36% of Americans still approve of George W. Bush. Meaning that in a group of 100, 34 to 36 people have their heads buried in the sand, or have been brainwashed beyond redemption. That’s certainly a revealing shock, but then again so is the Democratic race this year, in which those who stand united against Bush have chosen to excoriate each other in damning, and often hateful ways, instead of drawing together to ensure a race of reason and integrity.
When Exxon Mobil reported the highest quarterly and annual profits ever for a US company, twice in recent history, I was pretty sure Americans would take to the streets — meaning that they would rebel against the glut, greed, and lies of oil companies, and start walking wherever they could, boycotting gas whenever possible. Instead, the story came and went, and most of middle America shrugged. Welcome to $4 a gallon gasoline. Exxon salutes our apathy.
Outside and inside of politics, child abuse remains the subject that no one wants to talk about anymore. Not even a world-renowned author who has written decades worth of amazingly insightful books. She doesn’t want to answer any more questions, and she doesn’t want to talk to the general public anymore outside of what she puts on her website — which means she’s limiting herself to people who already know her, and who are already in search of answers, instead of possibly educating those who have had no cause to even ask the right questions. In a recent email to me, she said, “. . .everybody who WANTS to know and understand can do it reading in the internet. For people who are afraid of understanding what I am writing I can’t do anything. Even hundreds of interviews will not do.” This is a woman who was once a pioneer, a fighter, an intelligent, guiding voice to thousands trying to escape a dark void. She has grown tired. Apathetic. Comfortable in her ivory tower world, where silence rules, and the unwashed masses are abstract theories and subjects, rather than intrusive, always hurting, slow to heal, not-quite-there-yet, constantly seeking, human beings.
There’s some solace in knowing that the author above “paid her dues” — that she did so much, for so many years for the cause of children — but it’s an empty comfort. There is no one on the horizon to take her place. There are no more Alice Millers. She will leave behind a prolific body of work, but who will there be to add to it, to keep it alive not just in the broken spirits of victims, but in the higher consciousness of the public. Who will continue to wake up the living dead in her absence? Who will be the public voice for the children who cannot speak for themselves?
Alice reminded me of something, though, and that’s about “want”. Those who “WANT” to understand, she said to me. I know, however, that want actually plays a very minor part in this extended play of reality. There was a time most people did not want to believe the world was round. A time when most did not want children off the farms or out of the factories, or women or minorities to vote. It wasn’t that long ago that most Americans wanted a society where men earned more than women, and where women’s choices were extremely limited.
Want is, more often than not, a creation. A person, small group, or other entity has an idea, complaint, or belief, and pushes forward to promote their concept. Other people catch on, and the concept grows and is expanded. Eventually, the “want” of that particular something forms among a majority or a well-backed minority, and laws, systems, products, or other things change to fulfill the want that was created.
Had television never been invented, I doubt we would have ever wanted Tila Tequila or the housewives of Orange County in our living rooms. I doubt that we could have even envisioned a time when, on average, our children would be exposed to 50,000 commercial messages a year, with 1/4 of those ads being deceptive in some way. Not only would we have never envisioned it, we probably would have never approved it — but now our want for television has grown by literally hundreds of channels. The want continues to be created daily by popular culture, charismatic personalities, and marketing companies.
The world around us is struggling and failing in so many ways. From fundamentalist religions to corrupt superpower governments — from genocide to genetically engineered food crops — from gross war profiteering to bad parenting — there is plenty to keep us engaged, busy, and passionate for decades to come.
Unfortunately we, meaning the majority of my generation, have largely failed to create the “want” to better the world. We’re sitting at home, watching American Idol, cheering for one of two new age Davids, and paying little attention to the Goliath of apathy.
I want a worldwide revolution. I want the televisions turned off and the heat turned up. I want passions ignited, and the potential of billions of minds fully realized. I want to scream into the ears of the living dead — wake up! Look at what has happened in your absence! Let’s get busy and change this! Move the food trucks, educate the kids, teach ethics and logic from kindergarten to college, open the doors, let freedom ring, and the sun shine in. It’s not impossible. We just haven’t fully created our want for the best possible world yet.