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Category: Politics

High on Austerity
You know, I kind of like austerity. Really.

There’s a stoic pleasure that comes with self-denial, a sense of control and mastery. Strip to the basics, hunker down and tough it out through sheer force of will. Yeah, like an animal. A wolverine, or a badger, or the nastiest bug you’ve ever seen. Rugged, resilient, too mean to die. Form a goddamn husk if necessary. Grrrr.

That’s the austerity high. Not fun, exactly, but when you come out the other side you feel empowered as a survivor. The rush of deferred gratification can be very gratifying indeed, and the self-righteousness you feel is way more fun than real righteousness. If you’re alone, particularly — living out of your knapsack, sleeping under bridges, depending only on yourself and letting others do likewise.

I’ve been there, I’ve done that, and I understand the austerity high. Of course, I was a young man then, with no job and no dependents; a lone wolverine. The prospect of living it now, however, is not so appealing. I’m married, I’ve got a kid, and if I have an animal identity, it’s more likely some kind of house pet.

The missus, I can say with confidence, would not be fan of the husk look. I don’t want my kid hunkering down under anything. Same with old Mr. Bronstein up the block, or the Ogilvy twins. I don’t want vets, or poor people, or middle class families, or any of my fellow citizens to feel any more pain than they need to. There is, after all, more than enough naturally occurring austerity to go around.

I certainly don’t want my government to make it worse by adding a layer of official, government-sponsored belt-tightening. In fact, I want my government to do just the opposite: soften the blow, ease the pain, smooth out the bumps. Isn’t that what we have a government for in the first place — to keep things sailing on an even keel so we can all thrive?

So please, beloved leaders — don’t fail the gut check the way the Europeans did. Just back away from that austerity panic button re-e-e-al slow, and nobody will get hurt. Which is what we all want, right?

Thank you, and good luck in the upcoming election. Be sure to spend whatever it takes to get elected.

Hate
I did a Deep Cover cartoon a couple of weeks ago (7/19/12) that dealt with hate. It’s a topic that has interested me for a long time, both others’ and my own. Later, I saw comments on the web suggesting that I had “played the race card” by bringing up race as a possible reason for the crazed antipathy some people have toward Barack Obama.

My point, however, was not that racism was the reason for peoples’ hatred. I was simply saying that it’s the one motivation they will rarely cop to. They’ll admit to believing he’s the antichrist, or an alien, or a commie, or any other of the nutcase theories about him, but never to flat-out racial bigotry. I don’t think racism is necessarily at the bottom of their hatred, though it might be. The reason people hate Obama is because they like hating him. They get off on it. The rationale behind the hatred is irrelevant.

As an emotion, hatred provides a pretty attractive up side. It unplugs the rational mind and all the pesky nuances rationality can introduce into your thinking. Giving in to hatred, in other words, simplifies things. All considerations become binary: bad, not bad. Any logic, no matter how false or simple-minded, will do fine.

Hatred brings its own special rush, as well. The feelings of righteousness, of empowerment, ferocity, and clarity of purpose are all part of the hate high. For those reasons, hate can be positively addictive.

Unfortunately, there is a downside to this addiction; it is deadly poisonous. Ask the members of the Sikh temple or the workers in the federal building in Oklahoma City. The killers in those situations were poisoned by their addiction, and so were the innocent people they killed.

I confess that I still hate George W. Bush. I’m not proud of that, though in my defense I consider it a completely rational hatred (if there is such a thing). He did, after all, start a foolish war that killed a million civilians. If there were ever a good reason to hate, that would be it. But what’s the point? He’s out of power, and I’m not getting the hate high anymore. All it does now is make me feel lousy.

More enlightened people than me might suggest love as the antidote to all this hate, and they might be right. That approach sounds so rational and sane, but I can’t get there with W; not yet, anyway. So I try not to think about him, because to do otherwise would only poison my state of mind. I guess that’s my solution to the hate epidemic, whether it’s racial or not: admit you’re an addict, and resolve to avoid the drug. Then hunker down and wait for sanity to return.
Our Part
For the last twelve years, it’s taken heroic optimism to detect anything hopeful on the business page. A day when nothing gets worse can seem like a good sign. The worst part, though, is the feeling that we’re helpless to make the situation better.

The euro is on life support, American cities are going into bankruptcy, your fellow citizens are in full panic and swallowing the Tea Party drivel whole. We seem to be at the mercy of vast, mysterious forces over which our institutions have no sway, much less our own pathetic efforts. We are nothing but hostages on a rudderless ship being sucked into a vortex of economic doom! Aren’t we?!

Gee, I hope not. And I do think there are some things that we can do. For starters, we can work to increase our own productivity. American productivity is at its highest levels in history, and that is all about the power of individuals to work smarter and produce more. It is, in fact, one thing over which we have absolute control.

If we increase our productivity, we save time, and time is money. That is our power — and a cause for hope for our economy. You want specifics? Okay, here are just a few ways to make your life more efficient. They may not seem like much, but if we all get behind this, it just might work.

Let’s start with pleasantries. It usually goes something like this: a chance meeting, Oh, hi (insert name here if you remember it), blah, blah, blah. It’s a complicated, time-consuming way of saying, “Yes, I recognize your face, and in general I have positive feelings toward you. Gotta go now.” I’m sorry, but we’re wasting too much time on this stuff.

I have heard that some people actually derive pleasure from pleasantries, but for all our sakes, perhaps they should look elsewhere for their fun. Until we get through this downturn, it would be better to just go with eye contact, a smile, and “Hi” — and then get back to business.

Another way to cut back is to not check the oven to make sure that you’ve turned it off. You already turned it off. Probably. And even if you do leave it on by mistake sometimes, ask yourself: has it ever been on when you did go back and look? No. So why continue to squander that valuable time when you could be double-checking to see if the front door is locked?

Then, there is the issue of phone-answering etiquette. Imagine yourself sitting right next to the phone; it rings. Do you pick it up immediately or wait for a second ring? Most of us, whether out of courtesy for the caller or a need to conceal our own desperate need for contact, will wait. Those extra seconds, when calculated across the whole economy, constitute billions of hours of lost productivity every year. That’s just an estimate, of course, but you get the idea.

Lastly, let’s focus on the time lost at stoplights. As things stand now, when the light turns green, we wait while each of the cars in front of us waits for each of the cars in front of them to start moving. If you’re back in the pack, it might take you two or three cycles just to get through the light. This is madness. If everyone just started forward at the same instant, think how much faster traffic — and our hobbled economy — would move. All we need is buy-in. I, for one, am game to try it. Starting tomorrow. Consider yourself warned.

If we pull together, we can beat this thing. We know that the job creators are working feverishly to do their parts; can we afford not to do ours? At least you’ll feel like you’re doing something to help, even though the vortex of economic doom will probably devour us all tomorrow. Oops — I hope I haven’t spoiled it for you.
Not News
Did you hear about the 3.6 earthquake in Barstow? It was in the newspaper.

I confess that I didn’t get past the headline. Any quake under 6.0 is just not worth worrying about, and for Barstow I’d put the minimum at 8.0. Otherwise, it’s not news.

If there is a poll showing that people think global warming is a hoax but that there’s some truth to astrology, please don’t waste my time. The insight this provides into human nature is not news.

The Yankees are in the playoffs? Tell me something I don’t know.

The Dow is up a hundred points? Now it’s down a hundred? Wake me when it swings a thousand or more.

Feel free to edit out all celebrity updates, especially those involving long iterations about struggles with addiction. Thanks; I’m trying to quit.

I guess I do need to know about corporate malfeasance and political corruption. It’s not news, but I do have to keep my outrage fully inflated at all times. You know — just in case I’m presented with an opportunity to do something about it.

I do not need to know about Rush Limbaugh’s latest vile exudation. As a wise man once said, Rush Limbaugh is a big fat idiot, and that will suffice for me. As to his followers, who proudly proclaim their identity as “dittoheads,” I can only say that I don’t know whether or not they are overweight.

I suppose the end of the world would be a newsworthy event, but what good would it do me to know it was near? Thanks for your concern, but it’s not news.

It is possible that, with all these deletions, my daily newspaper would shrink even more than it already has. Some of my favorite online sources might disappear entirely. I would mourn these losses. I suppose I could subscribe to one of those tailored news feeds, but those services assume that I know what I want. I don’t; all I know is what I don’t want.

If only there was some service that could comb the various news outlets, weed out the useless stuff, then submit the remainder to me for reading.

Oh, wait a minute; that’s me.
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No "new normal" for me, this shit ain't normal.
~ MS, Truckee