2007/07/31

Kvatch Kvetches: A Simpler America?

Robert of Crawford's Crier (an excellent little blog that you really should be reading if you aren't) recently bemoaned the 'Extinct America', an America of safe neighborhoods, moral decency, and trust in our government--an America we might remember from our youth or perhaps a vision we have from our parent's.

But I don't really lament that particular America. Sure more trust in the government would be nice, but I don't for a second believe that the America of...say...the 1800's was a place where I could trust the government. I don't really believe that 'Frontier America' was a safe place for kids. Perhaps that was a mid-20th century America. I don't know...

But you know what I do miss? A simpler America, and it makes me resentful. I resent an America of such dazzling complexity that few can comprehend it without a Ph.D. I resent a tax code so complex that I need a program to do the work for me. I resent shelling out $50 for the software and resent the fact that I'm probably still getting fleeced by the Feds.

I resent the f*ckin' 'Ownership Society'. I don't want to be in charge of my health care choices--my retirement plan's investments--my auto insurance, fire insurance, long-term disability, dental, flood, or any other stupid insurance. I resent the fact that, if I don't make investment banking my god-damned career, my own nest-egg will never grow. I resent the necessity of the two-income family. I resent all the demands on my time--having my leisure moments squeezed to the point where I can hardly find time to sleep.

But most of all, I resent the fact that I live with an ease that no generation in human history could conceive of, and yet I can't seem to stay on top of it's mind-boggling complexity. What kind of ungrateful frog am I?

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23 Comments:

Thank you!
You're the kind of frog that gives Invisible Women anxiety with that investment and nest egg and all that stuff. It is too complicated!
Come here, little frog! The blender is waiting. Soon Big Brother will take all your worries from you and, after a few seconds in the blender, you'll become an integral, happy part of the warm gray stew we call society.

Don't be worried now. Come with Daddy.
Your the kind of frog that will always see that the pond could be better than it is. A visionary frog. Any society needs that kind of amphibian.

And I agree with all of it. Thing is, I recall that some 35 years ago I thought life was getting unnecessarily complex. I had no clue....
I resent the fact that most of American Christians rely on (so-called) biblical experts to tell them what to believe and most often that knowledge centers on money. It's been 500 years since the bible was opened up to the masses to read and think about and discuss, but today the masses belly up to the altar of fundamentalism and check their brains at the door.

And they would say, "Froggie, you're on your own." :(
Robert... You're very welcome!

Nvisiblewmn... Just doing my part to enhance everyone's anxiety. ;-)

Don't be worried now. Come with Daddy.

Daniel... Oh no! I know who you are. You're the big bad alligator. My what a sharp wit you have! ;-)
Ms. Yenta... You're too kind.

I can't imagine what it must be like to move from a society where, if you had a good industrial job, your company pretty much took care of you to a society where everything from your health to your wealth to your education is entirely in your own hands.

RevPhat... Welcome to Blognonymous.

As an agnostic, I think that "Froggie, you're on your own," would be the mildest of their responses. But more to the point: The Bible (any religious text for that matter) give a lot of advice on how to relate to people but sparingly little on how to deal with society's complexity. With the exception of maybe Buddhism.
Exactly! This is way too overwhelming for anyone, even those of us who have some ability to handle it. Can you imagine how hopeless it is for those 50% of Americans who can't read above the 8th grade level?
I was going to say something else but Mary has made an excellent point and I ditto her comment.
your like neo from the matrix, frog. you see the bigger picture unlike the drones of other zombies content with utter bullisht. your resentments are valid and justified. they also are the things that absolutely make people of your caliber frustrated. but i sympathesize and am with you if you figure out a way to fix even one of these dilemmas.
Peacechick, PoP... I can't even comprehend. I suspect that this is why everyone waits so long to settle down, have kids, stuff like that. The 4 to 8 years after high school/college is spent just trying to figure out how to become a functioning adult.

RAFFI... Thanks for the kind words. Perhaps we could go after one per year--starting with the MOTHER-F*CKING TAX CODE!!!
I dunno...I have the feeling that most of that will change pretty soon. Probably not for the better either
It's hard to function when you are overwhelmed. I think that's the point, we aren't suposed to function as articulate, comprehending citizens. We are just suposed to consume and do as we're told. I am just so cynical anymore, sigh.
DAV... If what we're talking about is the tax situation, I really hope not! The system is already so complex that most, if not all of us, are in serious danger of screwing up even when our tax situations are fairly simple.

Liberality... No doubt, no doubt, and it helps to try and remove complexity from one's life. I guess I'm taking issue with the government deliberately making our lives more complex. [sigh indeed!]
All good points. I resent the loss of personal service we get from insurance companies, banks, government offices, etc. I almost feel like screaming when I hear the message "Please press #1...".

Why can't we talk to people anymore?!
In a lot of situations it's true that simpler was better. But then again, the reverse is also true.

I know, iounds like something that one of Raygun's speech writers would've worked up for him.
iounds=it sounds

geez
"lt's real hard to be free when you are bought and sold in the marketplace. Don't tell anybody that they're not free, because they'll get real busy killing and maiming
to prove to you that they are."
- Easy Rider

Word.
Yeah...I agree...and I'm surprised I had the time to read all these comments now that I think about it.
Kathy... Yeah, phone trees suck! I usually just cut through it and go straight for the representative.

Chuck... I guess the problem we have now is that there are layers of complexity that serve no purpose.

Fred... How true.

Sumo... Actually this damn blog adds to the complexity!
Ah, the rub lies in your last paragraph.

We bitch, moan and, dare I say it, kvetch, and we have life easier than any people on earth, past and present.
Just found your blog and added the feed. I am in the "4-8 year period" post-college trying to become a functioning adult. I'll let you know when I get there.

--Jon
There are different kinds of complexity. Some are useful, some are pointless. In many ways, the problem with America is that it is too simple. Right and wrong, for us or against us, Republican or Democrat, fascist or socialist, freedom or death. If any country could use a little more complexity in political and cultural affairs, it is the US.

But I do agree that there is a lot of useless complexity. The tax code is unnecessarily complex, as you say. But you're absolutely not getting fleeced by the Feds. US families pay relatively little taxes, because they don't pay for what they use in services (hence the government deficit), and because the government doesn't do many of the things it should (maintain infrastructure, clean the environment, educate all children, ...)

I certainly agree that healthcare choices and investments decisions are largely negative impacts on quality of life. Incidentally, to fix that, you need more government, and hence higher taxes.

As to our place in history, I agree that we have it easy in some aspects. Less of us do backbreaking labor, partially because we moved jobs that require it to other countries, partially because we import laborers (illegally and legally) to do those backbreaking jobs that we can't export, and partially because we use non-renewable energy to make our lives easier. We live longer than our forefathers because we have easier access to food, live more sanitary lives and have access to healthcare. All of that depends again on our access to cheap non-renewable energy as much as on technological progress.

But do we live happier lives? I seriously doubt that. I don't think that people living in societies with less choices are necessarily unhappy. After all, our consumer society has only one goal: to make people unhappy with what they have. People that are content don't go out and buy things. And if we didn't have TV to watch, or bills to pay, wouldn't we perhaps spend more time with each other?

So I don't think it's ungrateful to resent living in a modern society. And certainly it is healthy to question the way US society works. After all, there are several countries with higher standards of living, even though they lack all the natural advantages the US has. It shouldn't be too hard to learn from that?

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