I know my friends think I’m nuts. And I guess I am. It’s from the pressure of everything: the downsizing from my job after 22 years, the bankruptcy of my business (mostly due to the ruined economy), the discomfort of those around me who have lost their jobs, houses, most importantly their self-respect. I help Myrtle with her non-profit, as I have for 20 years, and each day the line of people needing help gets longer.
So I’ve been driven nuts. I was always goofy but it used to be in a disconnected way. I would spend most of my time reading books or working in the garden, occasionally emerging to pitch in at church, help-out at places like Habitat for Humanity, or attend a protest rally of some sort. But the bigger world wouldn’t leave me alone, until now I fight the urge to become like Howard Beale in the movie Network, screaming out to the world, “I’m as mad as Hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”
The urge increases and the energy must go somewhere, so I try to find a constructive outlet. I make comments to online sites, I occasionally go to protests, when I come across an interesting news article I forward it to my homeys, and I talk and talk and talk to them. They endure it with patience and a reserved smile when I try to engage them in a discussion of deeper implications. They often agree that something must be done, but they aren’t going to do it. One old friend can’t find the time and energy to fight the system even though he’s unemployed, bankrupt, and uninsured. It wasn’t always this way. Last week, I finally asked a friend of nearly 40 years why he has lost his spark. He and I used to go to protests when we were younger; we used to write letters to make ourselves heard. Now he’s old and tired and, although he complains and hates the way the world is, he’s not going to try and change it. I, on the other hand, don’t believe in just complaining. And when I complain about the world to Myrtle, she asks me, “And what are you going to do to make it better? (That’s one of the reasons we get along so well together). I believe in taking action. I’m also old but feel fired-up. As I commented to my friend, “I’m just getting started.”
Is there something in the water supply that makes Americans more passive as time goes by? And why is it seemingly affecting only those who want to make the world better? The selfish and lunkheaded have become louder and more aggressive in recent years, while the tolerant and reasonable grow strangly quieter.