The great thing about cynicism is how sensible it is. The old adage that life sucks and then you die is as truthful as it is cliché. I’ve long been a resigned believer in Thomas Hobbes’ idea of the State of Nature, in which every living creature is eternally at war with each other. In his philosophy, that war is avoided by becoming a monarchist buttlicker. I only disagree with the last part.
Living creatures may not spend every moment engaged in conflict, but it certainly seems as though it’s our default setting. The history of humanity is essentially one of murdering the hell out of everything in our way, and once all the competition was out of the way, humanity turned on itself. Hobbes may have felt that civilization was the remedy to the war of All against All, but I think civilization is simply the stage for the war’s next evolution. Destruction has just been upgraded to less violent forms of exploitation.
If Hobbes’ war is to end at our hands, and if humanity’s existence is to serve any positive purpose, humanity must turn its back on its history and instincts. We must replace destruction and exploitation, in all forms, with all their inherent neediness and weakness, with systems that are a little more constructive and self-reliant.
Until that happens, cynicism is smart business.
A few weeks ago, writing in regards to the popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, I once more played the devil’s advocate. In that article, I sniped that it would take a lot for Americans to set aside their toys and gadgets and stand up for their rights in the same way that those impoverished citizens did. I believed in what I wrote.
I’m going to let all of you in on a secret, one probably held by most, if not all, chronic cynics. When I howl about how humanity is a willfully ignorant, spoiled and murderous species that more often than not is unworthy of its existence…
I’M ASKING YOU TO PROVE ME WRONG.
Last week, I discussed the two moments when I was embarrassed to be from Wisconsin. Now, let me tell you of the moment when I was the most proud of my homeland.
The way I’ve been explaining the madness of recent Wisconsin politics is as follows: last November, Wisconsin shit the bed, and now it’s trying to clean the sheets. I’m not forgetting that Dubya Walker was elected by the people of Wisconsin, but as I’m a person who views voting as token liberty it’s probably unsurprising that I feel that democracy doesn’t begin and end with elections.
Last week, thousands of Wisconsinites proved me wrong and stood up against unbridled corporatism. There’s little need to recap the events, but I will say this to the Wisconsin protesters: what you’re doing is everything I’ve ever wanted to see in my fellow man. What you’re doing is the greatest, truest exercise of American liberty in my lifetime. I’ve been waiting my entire life to see this moment, when my perpetually frustrated idealism concerning the potential of my neighbors was finally justified. As a result of the Wisconsin protests, I’ve spent the past week in a state of fixated euphoria. I’m so proud of the brave people of my home state for being the ones who delivered the payoff and started a movement that will become much larger than Wisconsin. I really, really wish that I could have been there to be a part of it.
I hinted at this in last week’s column when I – using logic! – called Scott Walker a motherfucker, but allow me to fully explain my personal stake in the Wisconsin protests.
My mother does not toe a party line, a quality which she passed on to me. She’s usually pretty right-wing and solidly Christian, though in that whole compassionate, Golden Rule style that’s so unpopular among modern conservatives. We disagree on many things, but we can usually find a consensus.
My mom is an education assistant in a Wisconsin public school. She works with the angry kids in a high school, which essentially boils down to her trying to get them to stop freaking out and do their homework. It’s not easy work by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a job which gives her the satisfaction of doing something worthwhile. In fact, she gave up a career setting up million dollar contracts with major corporations to do it.
After over a decade, my mom now makes a little over $15 an hour. Not bad, but not exactly aristocratic. Really, the big financial payoff to the job is the benefits package, which includes a pretty reliable medical plan. A reliable medical plan comes in handy when a person develops a degenerative disease in one’s neck and requires periodical injections, delivered via huge goddamn needles, into one’s spine. Which is what is happened to my mom.
Another thing that comes in handy is a stockpile of sick days which one can use if a medical condition – like, say, a degenerative disease in the neck – renders that person unable to work. If Walker has his way, both the reliable health plan and the sick days are gone, and if my mom – who just turned 60 – suffers some medical catastrophe, she may well lose everything she has.
If that happens, Scott Walker will have truly fucked my mother.
To the Wisconsin protesters: you are fighting for my mother. You are fighting for yourselves. And you are fighting for the better nature of humanity.
Thank you. Don’t give up. And stand up for yourselves more often!
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