Saturday, August 3, 2013

A little bit of Americana: There is no such thing as a boring life.

To me, socialism is an optimistic philosophy.  That doesn’t mean that all socialists are all optimists or good people. Actually, given my experience of all the groups that claim to be socialist, I hope to all ends that they never achieve state power; we’ll all be in deep shit.

But I believe in the socialist ideal as I believe in humanity. We are collective creatures, we need the comfort and economic security that human society offers us and we have come this far through collective efforts not through those whose goal in life is individual gain.

I consider myself an alcoholic as I have never been able to quit the drink except for a brief period, the ten years from 1988 to 1998. I started off trying to quit cocaine but ended up realizing that it was alcohol that was my main problem. So I quit all of them , cigarettes too. I just have a drink now and then, more often then.  My dad used to make me laugh because he got caught bribing orderlies to sneak him in a bottle of scotch at the old folks home he was staying at when my mum had a stroke and couldn’t take care of him any more.

You’re an alcoholic like me” I said to him when they sent me to his room to get him to behave. “If I never drink for the rest of my life I will still be an alcoholic because it is my drug of choice.”  I told him.

He was stunned, I could see by the look on his face.  “I’m not an alcoholic” he said with gusto, “I can knock it on the head whenever I want”. To “knock something on the head” means to quit it.

I will take some literary license here as I don’t like to cuss in writing but, “For fuck’s sake dad” I said, “You’re 93. You drove the car through the front door.”.

I am a social drinker as this is part of my culture growing up in England. But I go to one pub these days.  I don’t drink at home particularly, after all, what is the point, no one else there drinks. For me, it is the human contact, the social nature of a drink that I am addicted to.

I had such a wonderful time in my local pub tonight. It is a very mixed crowd, some workers, some small business types and people from various backgrounds and ethnic groups. In short, it is a wonderful cross section of US society. What’s missing is the poorest among us and the youth in many ways, so it’s not everything, but it is a real piece of Americana.

I saw an older man there tonight who I haven’t seen for a while. He looked gaunt and a little tired and he’s lost some weight. He used to come in more often but I haven’t seen him recently. I walked over to him to say hi.

“How’s things going?” I asked him.

“Not good” he replied.

“What do you mean?” I responded.

“Well, my wife died and I miss her.”. he said.

I gave my condolences and asked him if he was from the area.

“I’m originally from Missour-uh.” He says

I have a friend form Missour-uh and that’s exactly how he says it but most people I’ve met say Missouri so I asked him why he says Missour-uh.

He told me his people came from the Shenendoah Valley in West Virginia and they travelled to Missour-uh in covered wagons. From what I can gather, these two pronunciations go back four hundred years. His wife died earlier this month and he was having a hard time dealing with it, they had been married 57 years. He felt a bit guilty about it saying that he tried to save her but he couldn’t.

He said he was 86 (maybe 82, I can’t remember) but he was having a hard time without her. I could imagine it. Sometimes I think about these things. I am in my sixties and coward that I am I always think that I hope my wife goes first because it would be so difficult to be in this house without her presence; it was bad enough when my dog died.  His wife was artistic and painted in oil. He was an accountant but he wasn’t alone he said, “I have two cats and a parrot in the house.”.

I told him how I believe we are collective creatures and he agreed. Human beings need the comfort of others and our community. I used to live in what is called here in the US the “ghetto” or the “hood”.  There were lots of problems, shootings, drugs, unemployment etc.  One time some white folks got lost on and left the freeway trying to find directions to where they were going. They ended up in my neighborhood where I was the only white man and made a bee-line for me I could see it; they were terrified. People always think that in these conditions there's no community but they're wrong. It's this community that helps us survive.

I told them where to go but little did they know that my neighborhood was a real community. I was safe there, my wife was safe there so was my son because we were part of it.  We were victims like all of us there of urban blight and the problems facing all residents of the inner city but we had a good friendly community there.

This old fella agreed that human beings needed each other but society has become so alienating, so greedy that we are disconnected not “like I was growing up” he said. “We have so little time and are so engulfed in trying to survive we don’t have time for each other anymore” he added. I agreed.

But this is how the ruling class likes it. We are all individuals; they like to preach. Well, we are.  But we are individuals within the community of humans. We are not whole outside of the community but capitalist society, one based on selfishness and a ruthless “winner take all” philosophy cannot abide collective living.  We might gang up on them. 

As I talked to this 80 year old I thought how interesting he would be to teenagers and the young folks we see day in and day out with their faces glued to a cell phone screen or the TV and how much life they would breathe in to him. Young people are lovely to be around. It reminded me of that John Prine song, “Hello in There”, and how we can walk by someone in their eighties and not for one minute think about the wealth of history and life that is in them.

I am not used to writing like this and was a bit apprehensive about it but WTF. This is political stuff. It is about regaining our humanity and the wonderful collective spirit that makes us special and what has enabled us to survive for so long.

A society that cannot respect and offer a secure, fruitful and comfortable life to its aged is not a civilized society.

This, existence of ours my friends is not civilization.


soldier said...

Richard: This is some of your best writing. I like it when you describe personal relationships. The personal stories and interactions give the ideology you advovcate life, narrative, emotion. It makes the abstract idea a fact of life. All organizing comes down to personal interactions, personal bonds. This was very genuine. I think you would like the book, John Barleycorn by Jack London. stay solid, shotwell

Michael Benca said...

Interesting many other cultures don't understand the concept of loneliness.