I was recently in bed not sleeping, thinking about the visit to the doctor tomorrow. My mind wandered to the question of personal freedom and from THERE to what seem to be the governing values of American society.
Wealth — the personal freedom to NOT pay taxes to support other people so you can keep all your money because the people who NEED your tax dollars are obviously losers or they would not NEED anyone’s help because, by god, you don’t.
You’re one of the chosen.
That line of thinking very naturally led me to Calvinism and the Doctrine of the Elect.
You can see why I got up and decided to make cocoa…
It occurred to me that THOSE values infringe on MY personal freedom. I don’t share those values. Not at all. I never wanted a lot of material wealth. I just wanted to be OK, to have my basic needs met and a little left over for an aesthetic. I like to travel, for example, but I don’t need to go first class. I like owning my own home, but I only need enough for me. I even considered a tiny house… Though my friends have said I HAVE a tiny house, I don’t. Just a small one. It is tiny when four or five people are attempting to stay in it at the same time, true…
And that, folks, is the tug-of-war. RICH people (people who have a lot of money for the sake of having a lot of money) want THAT and they want to APPEAR wealthier (and be wealthier) than those around them. It is their value. People like me — resolutely middle class — don’t. Those are aspirations absolutely at odds with each other.
I worked hard my whole career for the good of the society in which I live. I believed that was right. More than 10,000 people passed in and then out of my classrooms, and I think all of them learned a little something. A few of them learned a LOT. Lucky for me, I got to teach at a California State University with a pretty powerful union, and I started teaching a few years after the union had fought and won retirement benefits for Lecturers. Godnose where I’d be right now if it were not for that. Because of that I have excellent health insurance, and I have a pension that makes it possible for me to live in a little house in a depressed economic area in the wilds of Colorado. Lecturers, by the way, are dedicated teachers who teach 5 classes/semester to the tenured faculty requirement to teach 5 classes a year. In my college we were also required to do all the extra-curricular stuff tenured faculty did. It was a racket, absolute exhausting exploitation but a person has to eat right?
Lucky for me living on Social Security and a small pension in the back-of-beyond is fine, but what if I were a person who wanted to live in a city? I’d be hard-pressed to live comfortably in any city other than, maybe, Detroit. I sure as hell could not stay in my home in the mountains of Southern California. I would have, but I couldn’t.
If I were rich, I’d have had the freedom to choose, but to be rich, I’d have to be someone else.
The Doctrine of the Elect, chief among the “Judeo/Christian Values” that “formed” this nation, states that those chosen by God will be more prosperous than others in this lifetime because God will not let his chosen ones suffer. In contrast to Catholicism where a person earns his/her right to Heaven, most Protestant faiths believe that people are saved by God’s grace and all they have to do is accept Jesus as their personal savior. Within this over-arching theory is the idea in some Protestant faiths that God has already decided who is and is not going to be saved. You know who they are because they will be conspicuously “blessed” in this life — materially. Because a lot of those people settled this continent, that idea is deeply entrenched in some American philosophies.
The irony of this is that many of the people who cling to this philosophy — and voted for Trump — are most dependent on tax dollars.
The cocoa and hot milk has had the desired effect as has trying to write this at 2 am. A good article with effective graphics to explain this dependency phenomenon in detail can be found here.