Let Them Eat...Bus Fare?

Is the crush of a human shoe God-like to an ant? How much power and knowledge does it take to be God-like? Are powerful institutions playing God to the commoner ants they are supposed to serve? When did our neighborhoods become a jungle? When did our services grow fangs?

These are the questions I hear around me. The air seems filled with rage, frustration, aggression. A parking space becomes a battlefield. Buying a house is almost impossible, with multiple bids and ridiculous requirements (like write a composition about yourself. Excuse me: am I buying a house or is this an English class?).

Too many of us are unable to find jobs because someone younger and more attractive is applying. Women, particularly but not exclusively, are tummy-tucking, botoxing, Brazilian blow-drying so that they will not lose out to the pretty young things behind them.

Companies are firing their experienced staff members, with years of valuable knowledge under their belts, to hire the green and greener, because benefits and pensions are cheaper. Venture capitalists are offering money to teenagers if they will skip college and compete in the workforce immediately. Incivility reigns.

In China, a country with a long and honorable tradition of respect for elders, a law has just been passed requiring people to visit their elderly parents frequently and take care of them. The penalty is a fine or imprisonment. China needs to legislate this?

Detroit's pension system was apparently well-funded, in spite of the City's bankruptcy filing. Enter the actuaries, who are attempting to change the actuarial foundations underlying the pension assumptions. You and I know what the result will be: thousands of people will find that they were promised benefits that no longer exist, not even able in some cases to feed and clothe their families let alone hope to retire. Is Robert Reich correct when he says, "being wealthy in America today means not having to come across anyone who isn't"?

"Move fast and break things" is no longer a motto exclusive to Facebook's founder. We are breaking hearts, breaking families, breaking cultural heritage, all in the name of competition. The mantra to win at all costs is costing us our humanity.

It is tempting to join the rush, but to where? Where indeed is the love of Mozart, the joy in Twyla Tharp, the appreciation of Jane Austen? Who in their plush private jet listens to the Faure Requiem, or savors the gentle wisdom of Eudora Welty?

It really doesn't take big brash movements accompanied by offensive gestures and constant lawsuits to be a decent human. E. F. Schumacher put it perfectly: "Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered". A handshake, a hug, an understanding nod - these are the foundations of true humanity.

I like the way Alexandre Dumas phrased it in Camille: "The child is small, and he includes the man; the brain is narrow, and it harbors thought; the eye is but a point and it covers leagues".

(On second thought, I would like it better if the gender were more inclusive.)

c. Corinne Whitaker 2013