This is Just the Way it is

Things are just the way they are.  Most people believe that since we’re largely helpless to change even the most oppressive things about our lives, particularly the gigantic ones well beyond our influence, it’s best to simply develop a stoic attitude.   It’s one thing to imagine a better world, it is a much harder thing to figure out how to bring about positive change to bring us closer to that imagined better world.  Best to accept that this is just the way it is, we are powerless to change anything, however ugly and unjust some of the details of it might be.  The best we can do is develop the serenity not to be tortured by injustice, we are taught.

Would the life of the average American be much more secure if nobody had to worry, on top of the fear over a life-threatening health challenge, about going bankrupt and becoming homeless if they get cancer or are grievously injured in a car crash?  Sure, but IT’S SO COMPLICATED!  Jobs lost, destroying lives, gigantic private companies out of business, almost two million jobs for health insurance middlemen and middlewomen lost forever… what if you like your doctor and a socialist death panel doesn’t allow you to see her?  How will socialized medicine work?  Who will decide?  Won’t millions still die while waiting to see a doctor?  Isn’t socialized medicine a disaster everywhere else in the world?  I don’t want to die.  I have good private health insurance, why should I jeopardize that, etc?

I don’t minimize any of these complications.  Those two million people will have to be retrained, and paid while they learn new job skills.   Some could probably be employed by the government administering the program that will be replacing their jobs.  How to make the transition to a better health care system is a real discussion, it will take some hard work to find workable solutions to real problems. Is it unimaginable to live in a country where nobody has to make the unthinkable choice between losing their home and seeking treatment for a deadly disease?  I don’t think so.  Particularly since every other wealthy nation has that kind of system already.

I tend to put much of America’s pessimism about positive change down to the billions spent in the corporate media to convince us that the way things are is simply the inevitable result of freedom in a democracy.   We are influenced by the often pernicious myths we are fed every day, in ads, in the way news stories are presented (what facts and voices are excluded from the conversation), by a skilled group of well-paid talking heads, speaking persuasively over corporate media, telling us how things actually are.  

Listening to this stream of persuasion we come to believe things,  Most of us succumb to this wall of inevitability that is presented to us.  Things like: it is inevitable, of course, that the boldest and the brightest, if they work hard enough, will succeed.    That the accident of your birth will be a huge factor in whether this is true or not will not be mentioned.   Though there is, by objective measure, less social mobility here in the USA than in most other wealthy nations (born poor die poor and born rich die rich are pretty much the rule, with notable famous exceptions that can be cited to “disprove” this rule) we all prefer to believe that the American Dream is attainable by anyone who works hard enough.    You can work very hard at McDonald’s, but the rewards will not be as great as if you are working very hard (or even hardly working) as the youngest executive at your dad’s billion dollar company.  [1]  That’s simply the way it is, the way it has always been, grow up and get over it, loser.

This quickly heating frog soup water we are all marinating in is, to a large extent, the result of irrefutable corporate logic.  Corporations have armies of lawyers and lobbyists, as well as public relations geniuses, making sure that the law favors their profit-driven activities, for reasons the public can understand as philanthropic.   If there is a regulation that will cost a corporation millions to comply with, a team of top shelf lawyers is sent to court to fight its enforcement.  I have a friend who spent his legal career dutifully, and skillfully, fighting this army of lawyers in case after case in federal court.  He went to court over and over to get a judge to order a US government agency to enforce its own laws, in each specific case he was forced to argue.

There was a regulation that stated that a corporation could not engage in this practice (that was destroying a habitat, dumping toxic waste, whatever) without first doing these other things that ensured certain protections for the rest of us.  The corporation had not done these things, the facts made clear.   The law was clear.  So, at the end of litigation, were the loopholes uncovered by the army of corporate lawyers who’d proceed to drive the bulldozers through those loopholes.

We learn, because corporations, unlike us, have no feelings, no conscience, are incapable of moral judgments about anything outside of the best way to increase profits for shareholders, that it is futile to fight these monsters.  Those of us who persist in these kind of draining, one-sided battles, insisting on our “rights” (the express limitations of which are, after all, excruciatingly spelled out in the corporately drawn contracts we are forced to accept) are considered by many to be masochists madly tilting at windmills.   The corporation will almost always win.  Getting the benefit of your bargain with them, if they are intent on shortchanging you, will require superhuman patience and resilience.  Best to avoid!  Take your screwing, go have a nice dinner, go watch a comedy.

The alternative?  The new computer you bought does not perform one essential function?  Call the company, speak to polite men in India, have them run the diagnostic tests on your computer.  Wait for them to tell you that your computer has passed all the required diagnostics.  The problem is not from the “hardware”, it is a “software configuration” problem that is expressly excluded from the warranty.   They will provide a paid service to fix it, if you’d like to be placed on hold to learn more about this service.  You can’t be told the price, because the corporation does not let the technicians at the “out of warranty” department communicate that information to the warranty department.  Why is this feature out of warranty?   We will send you the warranty, sir, you can read its 15,000 tiny words for yourself.  Believe us, sir, we’d like to help, if we could.  And as to the paid service, don’t worry, the paid service is “take it or leave it”, you needn’t pay anything if you don’t like the price.

If you are willing to endure however many hours will be required to solve the problem with your otherwise nifty new computer, you can learn, eventually, that the company was misstating their warranty policy for a brand new computer. As one would hope, everything about the computer, including the configuration of the original software, is under warranty for a certain period.   No need to pay the $239 for premium out of warranty service, $169 for premium limited out of warranty service or even the $129 for a one-time fix.  Not your financial responsibility to pay the company for fixing a bug that came loaded on to their brand new machine.  No need to endure a long, aggravating hold to learn the fixed prices for this service!

Of course, the psychic price you will generally be asked to pay to learn this may be unreasonably high for most people.  I wound up screaming in uncontrollable anguish near the end of an entire frustrating day, mostly on hold, listening either to an annoying loop of upbeat muzak or to endlessly repeated ads for the computer company.   My life was temporarily ruined by my exertions yesterday, in a real sense.  Sekhnet is not talking to so far me today.  Even though the last call of the day came with good news.  My complaint had been escalated, the computer will be fixed free of charge, nobody should have been put through what I was yesterday and the night before.  Apologies all around.

Of course, I had to remember and deploy the word “escalate” before reaching this resolution.  The last supervisor I spoke to, while empathetic and apologetic, was unable to really do anything for me.  She regretted this and apologized again for her inability to be more helpful.   Until I reached into my expanding corporate lexicon and pulled out the magic word “escalate”.  Yes, that was something she could do, she would escalate my complaint.  Shortly after my issue was “escalated” I got a call back from someone who could actually solve the problem.  Like magic, after only a handful of hours of frustration.  Just the way it is.



[1]   My grandparents arrived in America twenty years before the Nazis wiped out everyone else in their families.   Jared Kushner’s grandparents were in Europe during those nightmarish Nazi years and managed to survive and reach America.   My grandparents worked very hard, every day.  Jared’s grandparents also worked very hard every day.  It would be impossible to say which couple worked harder. Jared’s grandparents started with two dollars between them, the unlikely story goes.  A generation later: billionaire owners of a real estate empire.   My grandparents, who I assume came with more than two dollars between them, died owning a one-bedroom apartment in Miami Beach and not much else.  C’est la vie, baby.

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