While I am just sitting around on this pleasant Saturday afternoon, and as I have not mounted my soapbox in a while, let me solve the problems of, if not the world, these United States of America.
In passing let me also note something that occurred to me last night. Only writers are interested in reading a manuscript. Readers are interested in reading a finished, well-edited book that they can read an interesting review of, in a publication they respect, before taking the long plunge into its hundreds of pages. I love to write as much as I love to read, so I am not the one to ask about these things. However, it was a realization that struck me with great force last night.
Now, on to saving the world.
The central problem that leads to every sort of violence and abuse is a lack of meaningful, life-affirming connection. To others, to ourselves. Follow me here, if you will. If you have work that satisfies you, or at least pays you well, people who empathize with you, listen to you, trust you, if you have regular joy in your life, you are unlikely to go on the internet and join a hate group. You are less likely to join a gang, become addicted to dangerous drugs, engage in violence or other destructive behavior. You will have healthier options and outlets. When you have a problem, if you have someone to listen to you and give you good advice, people who remind you of the essential goodness of life, you are much less likely to do something desperate.
Yeah, yeah, you will say– and you will know what I am driving at: helping the fucking losers.
Our societal problems are kept at a boiling point by a competitive worldview that puts only one value on everything in the world: how much is it worth in money? Human lives are reckoned according to this irrefutable calculation: lifetime earning potential times earning/pension years likely to be lived. There are actuarial tables that allow experts to calculate the value of the life of a murdered 30 year-old hedge fund guy on the 98th floor vs. the dead 30 year-old busboy formerly at Windows on the World. Hedge fund guy: several million dollars, and his widow will be angry at whatever the low-ball number is. Bus boy: $20,000. Guess what? If we did the actual calculations the lump sum payment for the bus boy’s life would be much more, but what is this jerk-off’s mother going to do about it anyway?
Actual case. She lived in NYC public housing and, because she got this lump sum payment after her son was among thousands killed by enraged assholes on 9/11/01, she lost her Medicaid. She was ineligible for this free health care for the poor until she spent down the $20,000. Couldn’t afford her psych meds, or could, but they were brutally expensive and she resented having to pay the settlement money to Big Pharma. She got angry instead, and, when Gupta the NYCHA functionary arrived at her apartment and may or may not have suggested sex in exchange for the repairs she was demanding, or may or may not have made a grab at her, threatened to castrate Gupta. I met Gupta in court during NYCHA’s attempt to evict this woman. Mr. Gupta was indignant about the whole thing and laughed off the attempted “rape”.
“She’s crazy,” he told me with a big, winning smile, and he may well have been right. But crazy women get hands put on their asses all the time, have people with even a drop of power use it to try to get some of that crazy woman sex. I will never know the truth of what actually happened, nor, to be wearily brutal about it, do I really care all these years later. Fact is only this: if this woman had had the money to hire a good lawyer and contest the $20,000 payment for her dead son’s life– a clear undervaluation on any scale– she would have come away with many times that amount, minus the 33% for the lawyer.
Our society measures everything in money, everything in terms of return on investment. When a business is profitable it succeeds. Take agriculture, the source of our food, and also a major source of our health or lack of it. You cut out the expenses that maximize nutrition, safety, sustainability. Fuck it, it’s all about maximizing profit, right now. You plant monocultures, no real profit in diversity. You get the government to subsidize these crops, look the other way regarding your hiring practices. You use whatever chemicals are needed to make the crop as cheap to grow and as plentiful as possible. You feed the excess to animals you raise for maximum yield and efficiency. There is no reason to be humane here either, that costs money, eats into profit and, let’s be honest, nobody cares about cows, chickens, pigs, turkeys, only how much beef, chicken, pork and other meat actually costs.
Why put only one chicken per pen when you can fit ten in there? They will go insane, begin pecking at each other, you will say. Not a problem– cut their fucking beaks off when they’re babies. What about disease? you will say. Antibiotics, we shoot ’em full of it the same day we’re cutting their little beaks off. Hormones in the food, steroids, whatever– yo, it’s meat. This is not your pet bird we’re talking about, this is produce, product, the stuff you buy packaged raw in the meat section or deep fried at the fast food joint.
Here comes my point, or what is left of it:
Make maximum production/profit the only motive, place about half of the population (and this percentage is growing by the day as the richest get richer) out of reach of a materially comfortable life, meaningful work, at the mercy of the cheapest and most lovingly advertised sources of food– highest calories for lowest cost– the American way, and you have the recipe for what we have now. Millions of obese poor people with extremely expensive preventable diseases like diabetes, at a cost that the lives of 1,000 dead hedge fund guys a week couldn’t cover. American health care is insanely expensive due, in large part, to the costs of procedures to prolong the sickened lives of the world’s unhealthiest population.
Here’s my immediate solution: create meaningful, decently paid work for poor people. At minimum, it will provide them the income to afford healthier food choices. Instead of an army of off-the-books slaves making less than minimum wage to care, often shabbily, for old and infirm people, create a profession of skilled caretakers.
There is a vast need for this life-saving service as Baby Boomers bloom into a huge generation of old people. Train people for this important work. Give the otherwise underemployed meaningful work that brings the instant rewards of connection to others, being of service, being appreciated, in addition to a decent income. You will need to educate them, of course, but let Bill Gates and fucking Michael “Philanthropist” Milken and their filthy fucking ilk take care of that, if you prefer. Let the billionaires reap the profit for this training if you like. I am talking about the end-game.
The many jobs, undone or done badly, because society, our “free market” culture, deems them of no value, that, if done well and fairly paid for would add real value to every life they touch. Any room full of smart people could come up with a list of such jobs, jobs that would benefit millions, society, reduce poverty, crime, hopelessness, vastly improve our health and our way of life.
Of course, I know what you’re saying: where’s the profit in any of that? We’ll leave that up to President Trump, or President Clinton II to decide, eh?