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Things that Used to Work

When you were a little child, your parents would probably make allowances for you when you cried. As you got older, if you lived with your mother and your father, they probably diverged in their response to your tears. If you were still crying as a teenage boy, your mother may have continued to concede to your wishes in response to your waterworks while dad told you to quit your sniveling and act like a man. Flip that for girls. Daddy was still a sucker for his little girl's tears. Mom, not so much.

Of course, your mileage may vary, but you probably get my point. There are behaviors that work for a time, and then a time comes when they don't. The longer and the better they worked, the harder it is to come to grips with the fact that they don't work anymore. If crying got you out of punishment once but then not the next couple of times, you'd probably stop crying and experiment with new behaviors pretty readily. If crying worked for decades and then stopped working, you're likely to keep crying for quite some time. Even after you understand, intellectually, that circumstances have changed, bursting into tears when things aren't going your way may be so ingrained that it's hard to change that behavior, even if you want to.

The Democratic Party is in a bit of a pickle these days for similar reasons. They've been pandering to bankers, CEOs and upper-middle-class professionals and paying lip service to the plight of working people for a couple of decades with great success. Candidate and now President Trump has poured a bucket of sand into that machine, but the DNC is still trying to start it up and use it as they have grown accustomed to using it. It probably won't ever work for them the way it did in the 90s, but they've been riding that train for so long, they can't imagine looking for a new one.

Some collegiate social justice crusaders will graduate and get jobs in universities or in tech companies, in which case, their conditioned response of accusing people who defy their dictates with racism, sexism, ableism, or whatever will continue to work for them. Working professionals, many of them white men, fearful for their reputations and jobs, will cut these SJWs considerable slack. But many a campus crusader will graduate and find either no job or one that doesn't require a college degree and they will enter into a very different lived reality, one in which accusations of oppression don't get them what they want. They may have proof positive that their landlord used "the N word," and it won't change the fact that their rent is due. And if they end up back in their childhood bedroom, mom and dad will have no fear of being denied tenure, and all the behaviors that worked on campus will produce very different results in their post-college lives.

Slickwater hydrofracturing from long laterals (fracking) is such a neat trick and worked so well for a time that oil companies continue to borrow money to do it even when the returns on their investment aren't sufficient to service their debt. This isn't like a teenage boy crying in front of his father, however. The situation with the oil companies is a little different. For a long time, they knew how to frack, but oil was so cheap it wasn't worth going to the trouble. They'd spend more getting that oil out of the shale that held it than they could sell if for. So they didn't bother. But they knew that there would come a day when oil prices would climb high enough to justify the added expense. So they waited.

High oil prices arrived in the first decade of this century, and suddenly fracking was the golden ticket. Until it wasn't. Now that oil prices are low again (though not as low as before the fracking boom) and fracked wells are being mothballed, it's not habit or psycho-emotional inertia that keeps the oil companies from changing their behavior. There's just nothing else for them to do. Oil only comes from underground. There's no other way to get it than to drill for it. It's not obstinance that keeps the oil industry from changing their behavior. It's geophysical reality.

All of us are habituated to living in a certain way because living that way has worked for us for as long as we can remember. A time may be coming when the only way we've ever lived won't work anymore. Then we will live differently. Some will make the transition gracefully. Others, not so much.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 26th, 2017 01:01 pm (UTC)
I actually find myself thinking about this a lot. Have I become so acclimated to my course of living that if I were to find myself in a radically different set of circumstances, would I fall apart? Actually there have been a few circumstances that gave me opportunity to sample my reaction. We've had a couple hurricanes come our way that cut the electricity for several days, even a week. People close to me have suffered life threatening illnesses. We even got stuck in an airport a couple of times. Seems life likes to throw curve balls. The question we have been toying with is will collapse come suddenly or gradually. Seems to be a mixture of both. I have been known to harbor fantasies of living in a simpler world where monetary gain is not the be-all and end-all of existence, Where I can let my creative spirit flow without worry of livelihood. Where daily live is actually full of creativity. In a way, that exists for me, but not because things have changed all that much. It's because of an inner sense of purposefulness, and growing love of all the Beings surrounding me. And a bit of Luck. I have no idea whether I can maintain equanimity in an emergency, but daily life can provide practice. Shifting paradigms bring uncertainty, and with it, opportunity to hone needed skills. Things won't turn out the way we think, because we are incapable of thinking in large enough scales all the time. So yeah, we fall into habits, and some of us are wired to be able to handle change, while others don't seem to be as flexible. We may be able to help, but maybe not. Meantime I am working towards that simple life.
Feb. 27th, 2017 05:17 am (UTC)
great read. :) that time is already here for many, and theyre not equipped to react gracefully. places like baltimore and detroit are already zombie cities, vacant houses and buildings everywhere you look. just waiting for the day when that private property becomes public, not by law but because the law finally split, and the ruinmen can step in and do their thing.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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