Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Talkin' Old Truck Blues

It's a strange thing. Here I just wrote about the burden of possessions, and then I go and dump over $1500 into my truck's front end. Ouch. At the same time, I'm reading Grapes of Wrath, about the Great Depression, the masses of people suffering through hard times, with Steinbeck's musings on what might be when those distressed and angry people all get together... and as I'm sitting in the mechanic's lobby, thinking not only of my times on the trails with only what was on my back, but also about the times this country and world is facing now, the Occupy protests being shut down, unemployment up and no end in sight... I'm a bit conflicted, and stirred up inside.

On the one hand, I know the pain of being stuck, the difficulty in staying ahead of bills and costs, and though I resent it at times, I know I'm not getting rid of my truck any time soon. But ah, how nice it would be to not need it, if public transit existed or could exist in these diffuse, scattered cities of single-family housing, cities with no real centers, just sprawls of development on the cheap and cheapened land. I'm as stuck as anyone else in a system that I requires I dump money into the suck-hole that is a vehicle, which I need for getting to work, where I have to work all the harder for it, and for less of a wage than I should be making. Wages always fall behind inflation; even when we get raises, we're still getting pay cuts every year.

On the other hand, I've lived the truth of simple living, I've walked that path and found it good. How we value things, and how little those things mean in the end! Yes, you need some gear to get by, be it hiking gear on a trail or the accouterments of daily life. We make so much of nothing: the owners on the one hand obsessed with owning, those without always trying to become owners themselves, and always failing and being miserable about it. Everybody always looking up, and trying to climb there, never happy where they are. I say, the less you need, the less you need to work-- and then look how much more free time you have! Time for what matters, and less stuff to worry about, and less stress about "getting ahead."

We should have let the banks fail, should have let this system crash, and from the ashes built something more sensible. So, I have an idea that it would be better to opt out. Of all of it. Let's get local currencies going, let's barter among ourselves, get black markets going, and cut the banks out of it. Why should they, or for that matter the government, profit because you and I make a private transaction of goods and services? We use the banks' money, Federal Reserve Notes, and we are taxed by the government to do it. Then the banks fuck around with interest rates and push inflation on us, constantly devaluing the money we have to use, so it gets harder and harder to live. Why do we go in for these shenanigans?

It just seems we are all working so hard to stay in the same place, though more often falling behind, and all because we can't see outside the box, can't see that this system is not set up for our benefit, can't see that there are other options, other perspectives. I'm not saying that all of our woes fall on us, the lower classes. In fact, it is my adamant belief that this system was built not by us, and that is why it fucks us every time; it is of, by, and for the rich and powerful. But I am saying that we have a responsibility and a right to do something else that is in our own interest. But first one has to see other possibilities, other ways of looking at it.

That's why this Occupy movement seems so cool to me. I like that people are talking about this stuff, in living rooms, in diners, in mechanics' lobbies, in bars. I'm disheartened a bit that the green movement seems dead, since all anyone cares about now is jobs (growth), but maybe if this system really gets the shaking up it needs, that will be part of the new order. And I know it's hard to live against the grain, to find a new way to order your life; so much easier to just go along.

But one thing is for sure, something has got to change. We're so inflexible, so unable to act responsibly in everyone's interest, that we're heading for environmental disaster. I know I've been talking economics mainly, but these two things are deeply connected. The insane lust for profits (growth) is killing our planet, but we can't stop the killing without somehow fundamentally altering our economy. I'll leave you with this: I heard the other day that there's a 1 in 10 chance now that by the end of the century, global temperatures will go up 7 degrees Celcius, effectively ending life on Earth as we know it. You like those odds?


  1. And I just paid a plumber $2400, mostly to prevent possible damage to units underneath mine. (But my shower is much nicer now. I may go through more a lot more shower gel now.)

    I saw a brief news item today while the plumbers were working, that some millionaires have gone to Congress to ask to pay more taxes.

    And things just get hotter.

  2. Having a truck does have its advantages. When it comes time to move, you can easily move yourself. Don't have to hire someone to move for you, unless of course you have BIG furniture, but doesn't sound like you do. So it's sort of like a portable empire, a giant backpack on wheels. And worse comes to worse, if you ever fall on hard times, finding yourself homeless, there's more security in a vehicle than on long as you've got the funds to keep it running.

    I live without a vehicle, which means I hardly have any possessions at all, but moving can be a drag, I'm much more dependent on others.

    I'm currently outside of public transportation, edge of town, very rural. Not having a vehicle is a major handicap, but I do have a bicycle, and of course there's always a taxi. What I would like to do sometime, is add an electric motor to my bike, as a backup when I run out of gas, so to speak.

    So anyway, there's pros and cons to both, but if you can fit all your possessions in your vehicle, that's still a pretty good start, compared to many others who would need a huge semi truck to fit all their stuff.

  3. Oh and by the way: Not to nit pick or anything, but you misspelled the word "environmentalism" in your labels, and also "communism" in your profile. Unless that was intentional? If so, just ignore.

  4. Cym, you've become a copy editor! We're all about nit picking.

  5. A portable empire, that's awesome! Like the sound of that...

    Thanks for the spellcheck, I don't always notice things. Like, I deleted half a sentence in this post and forgot to fix it. Sometimes I'm in too big a hurry.

  6. Great post Brandon. I read Grapes of wrath about a year ago and found it both inspiring and infuriating. I wish someone would re-make the movement and keep it true to the novel. I think it would be catalytic to the OWS movement in many ways.

    Spellcheck? What's that?