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Sovereign Be the Thug
Today, I received a letter from the Social Security Administration that explained the current state of my retirement benefits. I get a report like this from time to time, and I usually throw it away without opening the envelope; but this time, I decided to see what it said.
If I do not claim benefits until I am 70 years old that's about 20 years from now I would receive a monthly check of $641.
From my calculations, I estimate that my benefit check from the state teachers' retirement system would, at that time, be approximately $295, although the state legislature is discussing a plan that would reduce that benefit if I receive Social Security retirement money, too. Assuming that reduction will not happen, if I work as a teacher for another 20 years (on top of the almost 30 I've already done), I can retire on a monthly income from the two benefit checks of around $936.
That works out to an annual retirement income of about $11,232. That's less than half of what I made last year: teaching brought in a little less than $23,000, and sales from my online store along with some kind donations brought in another three grand or so. Things were looking up for this year, what with teaching at two schools, again, as exhausting as that is, but the higher ed budgets have collapsed into a fiscal crater (while the schools are still on wild sprees of erecting new buildings), so the rest of the year is looking grim.
One way or the other either scrambling for work from semester to semester or taking those bodacious retirement benefits the Golden Years never looked better for a fellow like me.
Yes, that last statement veritably dripped with a toxic stew of irony and cynicism. In my defense, it also had a generous dose of gallows humor thrown in for flavor.
Fortunately, I have no plan to retire. I will work until I die, and if I am fortunate, that end will be relatively swift. I certainly cannot afford medical care, nor would I want it even if I could pay for it. I will let other people worship at the Church of Modern Medicine. I've gone to their services a few times, and I like Sunday mornings with Methodists or Presbyterians a lot better. For one thing, the collection basket is voluntary; for another, unlike the practitioners of modern medicine, preachers usually make no pretense that their religion is going to forestall mortal death. Everything at the chapel is about the after-life, and I like it that way: no proof whatsoever; just faith, along with the occasional hymn that reminds me of my childhood. That was before my dad died of lung cancer, after the doctors had bankrupted us with their snake oil poisons, which came after Blue Cross/Blue Shield cut off the medical insurance because of the bills. That was all before my mom finally collapsed on the floor of the all-night diner where she ended her working life, finally driven to near death by fatigue trying to keep body and soul together until her eyes went blind sometime while she was in the coma caused by the diabetes she hadn't mentioned to anyone. Later, the Social Security people would tell her that they'd have to cut off her disability checks because blindness in a 58-year-old person didn't mean she couldn't find some work. President Reagan and his people saw to it that her food stamps got cut way down, too. We all know how it is with those disgusting welfare queens and how we have to get them to take care of themselves.
Mercifully, Mom finally died. Most unfortunately, she had been declared incompetent by the county social services people, who took away what was left of her disability checks, tied her to a bed in a filthy nursing home, chopped off her legs, and told me I couldn't come near her because I had tried to stop all of it, and that meant I was a bad man.
You want to talk me into having anything other than abiding, everlasting scorn for the sovereign? Give it a try. I dare you.
I will not die the way my blood kin did.
Those who trust the sovereign to be better now than it ever was before are entirely free to believe in their myth, and I certainly do not begrudge them the comfort of the lie that sustains them; but God help anyone who has the gall to disparage my choice of lies by which to carry on from this day to the next and, someday, to the end. If I were to have the misfortune of living to an old age (and Lord knows, each day I earnestly endeavor to avoid that awful fate), I would certainly ask neither the Social Security Administration nor the state teachers' retirement bureaucracy for money. I do not beg to have returned to me what has been taken by force. I would not ask a strong-arm thug to give me back what he had seized, and I shall most decidedly not ask the sovereign equivalent, in all its legal and violent majesty, for mercy in the crushing wake of its fist. Both the common and the majestic of brutes can go straight to Hell and therein burn for all Eternity. Like the lowly highwaymen, the king's thieves needed the money they confiscated from me far more than I did, which is why they took from me without concern in all those years when I really could have used a better meal, a safe place to sleep, new clothes, and some pocket change for the rare but sometimes much-wanted indulgence.
Some times have been good; others, pretty grim. Always, always, though, the sovereign took its coin and now, its soulless machines spit out to me these epistles telling me the gospel of financial ruin that awaits me if only I shall work another 20 years?
Like I said: They can take their $936 lie and go straight to Hell with it.
I clench my jaw.
I have served in the community college cesspool known as adjunct instructing. They will gladly take your life, for the princely sum of $1,600 per class, per semester. $400/month, $100 a week. That is what most of the people teaching there earn. In order to live, one teaches 3-4 classes, sans benefits.
It is an incredible exploitative racket.
Yet the men who know tell us things are getting better now, maybe deflation and not inflation, the health of the country as always hinging on and being gauged by the stretch of the dollar.
And the even greater stretch of credulity, Lisa.
The Dark Wraith is just about stretched to the limit, though.
Every day I pray that I go out like my old man, with a bang, not like my mom who is here but not here. We suck at retirement and we don't care about the people who make it possible for the well off to ignore their children while they party with the last of the country's financial resources.
Geez, mom's SS check is bigger now than yours might be in the future and dad has been dead for almost twenty years. Something tells me that you and I will work until we drop dead and then the government will search out relatives who never paid us a moment's attention and charge them for ignoring us in order to avoid acknowledging any contributions we have made to society.
Or as someone so aptly put it, life sucks and then you die.
And I thought it was just me that couldn't thread the eye of the needle. I finally got out my magnifying glass (like I don't already wear trifocals) before I finally got it in. That button isn't coming off again in this lifetime.
I'm sorry, Wraith.
The whole "system" is definitely flawed.
From the comments at John Robb's latest at Global Guerillas, "No March Back To Equilibrium":
Government is institutionalized violence. It cannot operate without force and fraud. Through taxation, licensure, cartels, and prohibition, it stops willing buyers and willing sellers from trading for their mutual benefit. It replaces what could be an infinite marketplace of voluntary transactions with one mandated lifestyle: serve the rulers.
Good evening, Moody Blue.
As I explain to my business students, often we see a system as flawed when it is, in fact, our expectations of that system that are flawed.
This is frequently the case with the people we judge: what we expect of them is inconsistent with their capabilities. We see in them "potential" that is our wish. These expectations of ours might even be their own expectations of themselves, but neither they nor we (most certainly) can always grasp that for which we reach.
I was a child of a magnificent, can-do era in modern American history. What we achieved was even more than what we expected. That, at least, was what I thought was happening.
But then the world came apart. Mine did, anyway. I might have grown up admiring the greatness of our nation, but I finally grew up when I knew that my expectations had, to some extent, been flawed, and that government and the people who elected its officials were nothing like I had expected.
In the end, the people wanted their leaders to be mean, the justice system to be cruel, and the fruits of progress to be theirs in isolation, not in common.
That the electorate has recently made as our President a somewhat progressive Democrat means nothing: the people were scared for their own economic well-being, not for the poor, not for the unjustly treated, not for the good of all, and not even for the kind and thoughtful fulfillment of the lessons spoken by a young rabbi of two millenia ago.
We are, each of us, on our own. The good of the common is nothing but the veiled fist of the state, and the will of the people is the desire to be made better, if need be, to the detriment of the desire to be made good.
We cannot return. Most decidedly, we cannot return to a place that existed only in the fantastic expectations of children of another time that both was and was not.
I wish upon no one the way I see our world; yet, if I accomplish nothing else in my time, I want to tell what I see.
This system is flawed only if others have expectations that exceed the capabilities of their leaders, themselves, and their own hearts. Should people want more than a flawed system has to give, the place to begin repairing the chasm is within.
Hence, I cannot fix the system.
However, that does not mean you cannot.
The Dark Wraith has spoken.
It was fun talking with you on the radio. You are a great presence, and very entertaining :) Thank you for taking the time.
Aw, shucks, Lisa. If I didn't have callers like you and the other wonderful people visiting with me on the show, I'd have nothing to offer.
The show is picking up listeners every week, so I hope you who call in will keep doing so because it's the conversations that seem to be driving the traffic.
The Dark Wraith does recognize that he should probably get some better audio equipment just so he won't sound so wretched during the opening sequence.
The show is picking up listeners every week, so I hope you who call in will keep doing so because it's the conversations that seem to be driving the traffic.
Mebbe you could do a segment, and call it "Let's call Tommy and wake his dumb ass up!" 'cause I've been asleep for every radio show so far. :(
I too wish I didn't see the game the same way you do. And it's all a game, baby. Just as the middle-class said nothing to prevent the horseshit done to those unlucky enough to not have an "in" or just unlucky period, until...they see themselves as victims, then all of a sudden "there's a financial divide here!"
Wraith, I cannot fix "the system" either.
And I know it.
And I'm glad I know it.
And I wouldn't fix it if I could.
Because the system is not merely "flawed". It has NEVER been anything but a goddammed illusion. An inimical deception, fueled by exploitation of human weakness, vulnerabilities, and gullibility. By far best for it to at last unravel, twist in the wind, and finally crash.
Why all this morosity people? You're only passing through this world. Don't get so attached. The question is: Are you ready for eternity?
"I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the rejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands, and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war."
-- Abraham Lincoln, In a letter written to William Elkin less than five months before he was assassinated.
Gandhi: “The individual has a soul, but the State is a soulless machine, it can never be weaned from the violence to which it owes its very existence.”
Henry David Thoreau:
"It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see." –
The difference between neurosis and wisdom is struggle. (Natalie Goldberg)
"I didn’t say it would be easy, Neo. I just said it would be the truth."
~Morpheus, in The Matrix
Vision is the art of seeing things invisible. -Jonathan Swift
"If you could hear the whispering of the dream, you would hear no other sound."
From “Thus Spake Zarathustra” by Friedrich Nietzsche
O man, take care!
What does the deep midnight declare?
"I was asleep—
From a deep dream I woke and swear:—
The world is deep,
Deeper than day had been aware.
Deep is its woe—
Joy—deeper yet than agony:
Woe implores: Go!
But all joy wants eternity—
Wants deep, wants deep eternity."
"You must understand the whole of life, not just one little part of it. That is why you must read, that is why you must look at the skies, that is why you must sing and dance, and write poems, and suffer, and understand,
for all that is life."
-- J. Krishnamurti
(11 May 1895 -17 Feb 1986)
“We come to it in the end, the great battle of our time, in which many things will pass away. But at least there is no longer need for hiding.”
King Theoden, in Lord of the Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkien
"At first, this Earth, a stage so gloomed with woe
You all but sicken at the shifting scenes.
And yet be patient. Our Playwright may show
In some fifth Act what this Wild Drama means."
"And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh."
- - Jesus; Luke 21:28
While the angels, all pallid and wan,
Uprising, unveiling, affirm
That the play is the tragedy, "Man,"
And its hero the Conqueror Worm. -- E. A. Poe
All good, esp. the Nietzsche and Krishnamurti, whom I have always liked.
Interesting Lisa, in that the two are so diametrically opposite.
I have tremendous respect for Krishnamurti due to his biography. Beginning in childhood he was brainwashed by people eager to fulfill thier own fantasies. But in the end, he so gracefully showed them kindness and a higher way.
Peter, you know Poe was a perennial neg head. A great poet though. By all means, may the worm consume the rotten corpse. But where there is life, there is still hope:
Out the Himalayas comes a breath of fresh air. Bhutan shows what can happen when wisdom, intelligence and imagination are combined and a society chooses to just say no to money and the pop culture it engenders.
Read all about it: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/30621347//
Omnia Vanitas - "All Is Vanity"
Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.
What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?
One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.
The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.
The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits.
All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.
All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.
The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.
And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith.
I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.
I choose to see the intersections among the great thinkers. Nietzsche understood the herd mentality of the much too many; Krishnamurti understood truth was pathless land, and that each had to walk it alone.
Neitzsche may have taken his uberman aesthetic too far, and was certainly misunderstood, but both thinkers understood the primacy of individual understanding. To me, that is not arrogance, but the utmost in humility. Affiliation with churches or any other institution bespeaks arrogance, oft times.
No one can shepherd us there, or perform as an intermediary to the truth. The truth is a direct perception.
As Dark Wraith quotes Hillel, If I am only for myself, what am I? The seeming irony is that we must go into the questions alone, but when we emerge, we do so with a greater sense of our shared humanity.
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