Saturday, October 31, 2009

Cultural Rupture

I thought I had become racist. For a second.

A Hispanic woman who did not have extensive English or seeming of much wealth (for lack of a better description) came into my store the other day and I immediately knew she wasn’t going to buy anything. I thought this conclusion came from me starting to breed that terrible mental illness known as racism. But It wasn’t. Of course, I work in a linens-and-furniture retail store and it’s my job to attend to customers in the store as soon as I see them and attempt to sell them merchandise….and I did. She told me she was looking for a circular dining table and we started on our pre-determined path of no fruition. I showed her all that we have, each piece individually costing as much as open heart surgery, and last but not least, the cheapest round table we had, the quality of which matched the price. She, of course, left without buying anything and I stood asking myself why her race was able to tell me that this would happen ahead of time. The answer ended up being that it’s a dynamic consequence of the fact that our store is in a neighborhood that can barely afford anything we sell.

If I had to guess, the President of the company picked the location of this store, a lower class Hispanic neighborhood in the South Bronx, because renting the property would be cheap. It’s built over a sewer which odorously makes itself known to anyone who walks inside. It’s built next to a river that’s so polluted the fish would have better chances of survival if people fed them opium everyday. There are as many rats in the store as there are customers and employees combined. Cheap electric and heating bills. Cheap water bills. All to upkeep a franchise made for the economic class that lives in the Hamptons, Long Island, Manhattan and New Rochelle, while keeping money in the capitalist’s pocket. Makes perfect sense to someone who just considers their own pockets in their decisions. And why should anyone be considerate of anything else when making decisions? Years ago, a decision like this wouldn’t have made any difference in whether the President of the store made his millions or not.

Circa 1999, citizens of the neighborhood were able to afford all of the ridiculously priced things the linens-and-furniture was selling. Italian sheet sets flew off the racks. Classy handmade chandeliers were pulled off the ceiling almost as soon as they were hung. Brand name leather sofas were bought up like iPhones. Two years later, a couple of planes consecutively crashed into the Twin Towers, making an economic vacuum that sucked loads of cash right out of American (and international, subsequently) circulation. A certain Texas-bred Fascist used the media, anger and sentiment over this to direct the country towards more violence. And the war started, with him spending $80,000,000 of taxpayers money per month on this. Then concepts like bad mortgages and housing bubbles bursting started coming into reality. And now here we are. The company is not making any real money, because it’s still busy trying to force high prices down people’s throats.

I’ve heard billions of complaints from customers about the smell of the sewer over which the building is built. Billions of inquiries as to whether the neighborhood is safe to walk through. Plenty of people who can’t make it to the store before closing time because they live and work in Long Island or Manhattan or New Rochelle and then have to travel to the Bronx to shop (without a car). Economically, if we cater to these areas, shouldn’t the store be located there? If we are stationed in the Bronx, shouldn’t the merchandise be affordable to Bronx residents? Then we’d have customers. Even people with money are complaining that things are too expensive, although this could be because they think everything in life should be cheap, regardless of the fact that it’s not really doing them any real damage to purchase things at the prices that are already there.

I originally questioned whether placing this business in poor neighborhood was right or wrong. A co-worker says that question really doesn’t apply to the situation at all since there really isn’t any obligation to the community you enter. I say that you have no business being in the community unless you’re supporting it somehow or are not really affecting it in any major way. Of course, selling furniture and bed sheets is not about any moral obligation at all, but I also don’t see the point of entering a culture without positively adding to it. We could talk about the company hiring local residents so that a few more of them would have some income, but that isn’t even the case.

The co-worker said that you cannot put your beliefs on other people, and that free will should not be violated. So, the company is free to posit itself wherever and run however it likes. This is true, but when you have this as the basis for all other thoughts, it leaves all kinds of room for immoral activity. People who mow down forests to setup corporations and test products on animals and “constitutionally bare arms” that end up in high school shootings solely have the free will argument behind all they do. If the world is to heal somehow, good ideas need to be guiding those actions. Only thinking about how you would materially benefit is never a good idea.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="The reason why crime still persists, not enough people allowed to be heroes."]The reason why crime still persists, not enough people allowed to be heroes.[/caption]

So, at my job, one co-worker was telling me and some others about how strange he found the bond between two of his friends to be. They were in a relationship, and he was absolutely boggled at the fact that they still considered themselves to be together, but were not having sex. "What are they doing???" he exclaimed with a shrug. "They been goin' out all that time, and they ain't f*** not once?? Nah, if I'm dating a woman, she gonna give me some he** or somethin'. If we ain't fu***n', what am I there for?" Me and someone else tried explaining to him that perhaps they weren't ready for that yet, or that it's possible that in this day and age, some people still do just enjoy each other's company. "What the hell are you talkin' about? What am I hangin' out with her for if she ain't givin' me no pu**y"

Some of you might be focused on the fact that he thought all of what he was referring to absolutely had to happen in a designated deadline of spending time with a woman. But I will say that that is no here or there, only because it's just one of a list of things some people of each gender still strictly expects from the other.

I was just talking arguing with an old friend over dinner a couple of days ago about the gender specific things she wanted in her own future family. The husband is being charged with throwing money at the house from his job as a construction worker/businessman/one-man army that's hired to destroy all socialist/communist nations and making himself dumb and muscle-bound in order to be a man (I'm totally exaggerating, she just said she was looking for someone to "protect and provide"). She as a wife would stop having an actual job and would instead stay at home to play with the kids, scrub the floors, cook dinner and be on demand to do what my unwitting co-worker was asking for in the first paragraph of this post (she really just said she'd be taking care of the house and child for a little while [but even after that stage of child-care is done, she'd only return to a "woman-friendly" job]). She, of course, slathered this shallow vision for herself with "I want a marriage founded on God, which is an indestructible foundation". Ok, I agree with the foundation part, but what she's describing is the annihilation of any kind of presence of a spirit in that home. What the co-worker shows is a complete negligence of humanity altogether.

Wars, depression, serial killing, famine, and 10 billion other rote forms of destruction to this world that I could list all persist partially because there really isn't enough people looking at past their own biological makeup for potential for solution-building. They're too busy sacrificing that potential to attend to infinitesimal-scale things in their own home or listening to jackasses like the Batman in the comic panel above and actually deeming it sensible ideology. Even in people who claim to be progressive, there is this illogical and toxic focus on what role this or that man/woman/alien/cat should be playing. Thus, I will venture forth and say that God is absent from this.

The strength and spirit of Christ was not in the title "Mary's son"1 or "Jew" or even "Man" for that matter. It was in the title "Carpenter", "Teacher", "Prophet" and "Son of Man (server of the community)". It is in these roles that he worked fervently to be. He fostered his 12 confidants on the basis of their titles as "Disciples", not "Men". He disliked what the Pharisees represented as "Teachers of the Law".

Thus, the answer to who we truly are, the places where are souls get their expression, does not lie in "man", "woman", "wife", "husband", "black dude", "homosexual", "parent", "Iraqi". They lie in the titles "astronaut", "writer", "teacher", "janitor", "dancer". There is not a checklist of things you add to a relationship as a woman or a man, but there sure is a journey you can take someone on or go into as a preacher, a musician, a social worker, an origami folder, an environmentalist or fireman. These titles coming together in a relationship are where the Foundation of God can be found and the spirit thrives.

Notes:
1) Go ahead, click on the link in the words "Mary's Son" above and tell me what you think of it. There's more than one example of Christ following something bigger than himself and not simply his own bloodline.