Tag Archives: musings

Upkeep

If you’ve ever wandered the stacks of a library and thumbed through the books just looking for something interesting, maybe it took you a shelf or two — maybe even a series of shelves, ’cause even when publishing was thriving and not so much about it books, there was of course the catering to privilege — but surely something that spoke to you appeared. Something like, “Unlearning Hemperkin’s Rules for Optimum Snobbery.” Maybe the words were in a book that didn’t even have its cover sleeve anymore, something as tattered for the passing of time as it might have been for being read so much. I think blogs can be sort of like those particular volumes, except of course that they’re an ongoing process.

And that ongoing process isn’t always so big with the going. Some of my favorite bloggers came and went in an instant; I don’t think it was due to a waning attention span, at least not in and of itself. Life is hard, and if you’re not getting paid from some soft-ish perch to write about what it’s like for those folks on the rocks, written word upkeep means having to occasionally tear pieces of yourself off for fuel — metaphorically, of course.

One of the perennial Zeitgest narratives is about apathy; it’s usually more about “care more!” than the reasons people become apathetic. Having to deal with basic human selfishness is hard enough, but there’s also the manifest destiny of privileged comfort. Blogdom has a lot of greatness to offer, but at its generalized best its landscape also has these smiley commerce- and privilege-driven ideals that are nice to disconnect from for a bit.

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the chicken or the egg

 

I don’t think most people work jobs that are, in and of themselves, fulfilling. On any less than pleasant journey to work, it’s not uncommon to see people enveloped by any piece of technology that can provide some escapism. But even while people are working they’ll sometimes try to enhance what can feel a bit stifling. There’s everything from the usual water cooler talk about pop culture, and then occasionally you might hear the musings about how some trope from escapist TV would fit into the day. “Hey, what if a pack of mutant bikers just came and started circling the place?”

Between the life that one populates with pretend scenarios to make easier, or the TV that we let act as the window to vicarious lives — what comes from what?  

double-edged sword

Thinking too much is a double-edged sword.  Wait, aren’t all swords double-edged?  I’m no expert, but … never mind.  You see, thinking too much.

Understanding the world is vital, but thinking too much about its unfairness and myriad of hardships  — not a great time.  And yet, if you think awareness is the point of being conscious, that’s just par for the course.  A double-edged sword — though qualities do seem to have more depth the thoughtful way.  Maybe that’s a silver lining.

Labor Day and John Henryism

John Henry statue

At the heart of Labor Day is the idea that if you work hard enough you’re awarded with sales so incredible they can only be a reward from Cthulu — the happiest shopping deity of them all … No, wait. In this day and age Labor Day may actually be stranger than that. Oh, right. It’s supposed to be about appreciating workers — labor workers, in particular — for the accomplishments they made in this country.

There was a slow change-up from the backbone of the economy being slavery and indentured servitude to workers who could demand better treatment (and be accommodated in the slightest). Even if it wasn’t uncommon for some of these workers to only want such for people who looked like them, their ideas helped form any notion of decent working conditions we have today. The shift of jobs to places where people can be paid much less for their hard work has had a hugely detrimental effect on the morale in this country, including the way it seems to be milked to blame other people for this — instead of people who wanted to and could maximize profit.

When connections and being on the right side of red lines add up to more opportunities, it’s easy to wonder sometimes what hard works adds up to outside of that. There’s a condition called John Henryism in which people who are denied opportunities work twice as hard to make something of themselves — at the expense of wrecking their bodies. If you’ve ever lived in a crowded neighborhood that isn’t upwardly mobile, you’ll likely be familiar with older people who still get out despite the fact that it’s quite hard on them physically. It’s both bittersweet and inspiring, just like any solid notion of work.

Location, location, location

Robert Pinero art

Robert Pinero urban samurai art

“It’s comforting to believe that there’s an essential version of each of us — that good people behave well, bad people behave badly, and those tendencies reside within us.

“But the growing evidence suggests that, on some level, who we are — litterbug or good citizen, for example — changes from moment to moment, depending on where we happen to be.”

The preceding quote is from Adam Alter’s NY Times opinion piece, “Where We Are Shapes Who We Are.”  For a while now, I’ve been writing about the silver lining of so called “bad” neighborhoods — that they can make for a certain kind of strength — but I may have only delved a bit into the thug culture that pervades in some of those neighborhoods.  This was probably because an abundance of people of color in a given neighborhood unduly makes for a bad place to live in the culture at large, even though most of any such people aren’t “thugs” at all.  Beyond a “black people are scary/cool” mentality, the Alter piece got me thinking about the role that location has in the way thug culture plays out — and also in the way that people extend themselves.

There is no greater fulfillment of the way that African-Americans have been disenfranchised than thug culture.  For the past century and a half, black people migrated to the north in a search of less discrimination and more opportunities — but, by and large, found themselves being looked over for working-class jobs (pretty much decreasing in number the more there was an emphasis on valuing employees as people).  Historically, such jobs have been the starting point for families to become middle-class and gain some sense of mobility.  With the people providing those jobs vastly preferring people who looked like themselves, African-Americans, already dealing with the psychological scars of being treated as less than human, typically had to reside in locations redlined by a population that fled to suburbs and various other enclaves.  It’s not an easy place to be (literally and existentially), and if you didn’t have much of a value system internally in the first place . . . well, it’s always easy to embrace mindlessness.

When hip-hop first emerged in crowded, urban black enclaves, it was something that was against hopelessness — much in the same way that rhythm and blues was when it came out of the backwoods of black southern life.  But that was then (and to be fair to what’s labeled as hip-hop presently, it’s the corporate stuff that’s the most mindless), and this is now, when what sets the tone is bass-thumping self-aggrandizement.

In his opinion piece, Alter mentions various studies that postulate that people who live in less densely populated areas are nicer–essentially, more likely to extend themselves.  Urban areas are defined by how crowded they are in relation to surrounding areas; gentrification by whom it thins out.  If you’re in some densely urban place that’s not gentrified (or maybe only a little), and you still haven’t succumbed to apathy and a hard heart, that’s really something, isn’t it?  Just because it’s easier to be selfish where there’s less resources doesn’t mean it’s natural to the locale.  In a world with a population that’s becoming increasingly urban because such is where the opportunities are, it seems to me it’s not all that much to only be able to find kindness where it’s less crowded, less noisy and where the streets are less cracked.