A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
I’m absolutely bone-weary of constantly being told how screwed-up my world is. I realize it’s a long way from this place to Nirvana; however, this isn’t the worst of all possible venues west of Lucifer’s back porch, either. Actually, Western civilization is a kinda run-down suburb of Disneyland, where most of life’s rougher edges are smoothed over. I have a friend who says, “If you want reality, go to Somalia.” And she’s right. That’s where the real world lives. What we see out our front windows is a man-made amusement park, put there for our comfort and entertainment. Personally, I don’t mind people complaining, but there is a limit. There’s a lot of stuff in this world that I like, and I don’t appreciate every malcontent with an attitude calling it down. The truth is, my world is made of sterner material than what reality has to offer and a lot of people are working very, very hard to keep the harsh, nasty bits of real life away from my front door. So, here are a just few things people should think about before they start complaining.
I like libraries. I think they’re cool. I can walk in, take a book (any book) off the shelf, sit in a warm, semi-comfortable chair and read it. And if that isn’t good enough for me, I can take that book home. All the library wants is my word that I’ll bring it back. They trust me. And it’s free. It’s part of what I get just because I live here.
I like buses. In my city, for $2.50, I get a vehicle and a driver, who will take me within two or three streets of anywhere I want to go, anytime I want to go there. I don’t even have to ask or show up on time. These buses travel all around my town just on the off chance that I might want to go somewhere — and that’s 365 days a year.
I like grocery stores — big ones, small ones, all around the town ones. I’m never more than a kilometre away from food. It’s not just any food either; it’s all kinds of food. It’s food from all over the world in what looks like nearly infinite varieties. If I want to, I can buy vegetables with names I can’t even pronounce. I can buy food that other people have already cooked for me. In some places, I can buy fish so fresh it’s still alive when I buy it. I’ve never been to a grocery store that doesn’t have some kinda food you don’t even need– like pickles and parsley. They’re a garnish, for God’s sake — and we still have tons of it. And here’s what I like the most about grocery stores – they never run out.
I like the cops. Yeah, yeah, yeah: they’re always showing up after the fact, and there are quite a few nasty ones, but so what? I like being a mere three digits away from specially-trained people whose sole purpose on Earth is to keep me from getting my ass kicked or robbed or run over by a drunk. I might not see a cop from one week to the next — but they’re around. They’re like spare tires; you never have to think of them until you need one. Yet it’s their very presence that guarantees I don’t have to worry about involuntarily donating money to a horde of crack addicts with kitchen knives – in my backyard.
I like space. One of the neatest things my world has to offer is space. I’m not talking about the great outdoor wilderness somewhere north of Rubberboot, Alberta. I’m talking about urban space that makes certain I’m not haunch to paunch with my fellow citizens every minute of every day. On some of the busiest streets in my city, there are benches; places to stop, sit down, take three deep ones and look at the world. As long as I don’t bother anybody, I can sit there as long as I like. Or if I don’t like traffic, I have parks – lots of them — green spaces where somebody else cuts the lawn, trims the bushes and plants the flowers — just so I can look at them.
But the best thing I like about my world is, it’s not every man for himself. I’m not on my own against a barbaric universe. I literally have armies of people who want to help me – doctors, nurses, garbage men, teachers, counselors, postal workers, social workers, firefighters, therapists, dog catchers, health inspectors, building inspectors and on and on and on and on. Everyone from the kid under the information sign to the person who cleans the sewers – they’re all there to make my life better – just because. Here’s the deal. This world might be slow; it might be frustrating; it might not give each one of us the exact result we want, but at the end of the day, if any of us has a problem, generally this world is willing to help. And all ya gotta do is ask.
Honestly, folks! We live in the most benevolent society in history — it even gives us enough leisure time to complain about it. Let’s not abuse that privilege.
Originally written in 2011. Reproduced with some gentle editing.