Everything I (Won’t) Do, I (Won’t) Do It For You

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There was a popular Bryan Adams song, “Everything I Do, I Do It For You.” I think I was in 4th grade the first time I heard it. It made me want to find a girl like that, someone I’d do anything for. That was where bliss lived.

And though we’re protected from realizing it, that mentality makes us Americans dangerous. If I’d do anything for the person I love, who wouldn’t I harm to ensure her happiness?

I always ridiculed the “you complete me” crowd. Then a woman put me back together, and I promptly closed my mouth. I find myself saying stuff like that to her all the time now, and thinking it far more often than I say it. Just this morning I caught myself typing, “You are my everything,” in an email to my partner. I backspaced out of those corny words, but never their sentiment.

The human social order breaks down in a time of crisis. When people care too much about themselves and those close to them, inevitably, resource wars will follow. This is how the world will end, someday. If we don’t nuke each other off the planet, we’ll die fighting each other as the planet purges us.

Resource wars—“hot conflicts triggered by the struggle to grab valuable resources”—can be global, as is the race for oil, or local, as in the case of a hurricane ravaged town short on food and supplies.

Who wouldn’t you kill, if they refused to share their resources with you? If there was no food, who wouldn’t you steal it from to feed your family? Who wouldn’t you tell to piss off, if they were starving and begging for your generosity?

The resource wars are already starting, albeit in less hysterical form. Theoretically, resource wars tend to be discussed as if they were a last resort. But we wage them not for our survival, but because we can’t live without the things we want. That’s what makes our resource war in Iraq unlike the ones inevitably scheduled for “Armageddon.” Right now the world has too many people and not enough resources to satisfy all of them. There could be enough, of course, if the West would convince itself to stop craving more than it needs. But why should we? What’s ours is ours! And what isn’t ours, we’ll acquire fair and square, through hard work and discipline and war.

As consumer demand rises, the needs of corporate suppliers increase as well. We want more and more and more, and so someone else will make it, because their nightmare is being unable to supply the things others are willing to pay for, because they too want things they don’t need. So the really powerful men in the NW hemisphere send their less powerful minions to do their killing, because with fewer human beings comes a smaller strain on resources. And from our vantage point, the killing manifests itself in conveniently tame ways—as gas prices dropping, or as the dollar rebounding.

Meanwhile, across the universe, an Iraqi woman waits at a bomb site. Her husband worked there, and didn’t come home today. She stands at the edge of the seething acre, from which they’re recovering pieces of bodies, charred and melted together. The woman can’t face the corpses, she looks instead at pictures of their teeth. Hunched over these images of dead strangers, eventually she thinks she recognizes the one she shared her life with, the one man she would have done anything for.

Can you imagine the body that held you last night as you drifted to sleep, bulldozed away with the rest of the rubble and tiny specks of burnt flesh? Would you recognize the face that presses yours in love, as it melted off of a decapitated skull in the name of someone else’s love, and dripped back into the spongy soils of the earth?

If you had to bury that face, how might you feel about your foreign enemies on the other side of the planet who have the luxury of bitching about gas prices and mortgage rates and baseball players on steroids?

We hate that there is suffering, so we push the suffering outside of ourselves. Gosh, that’s terrible, but what can we do? Anguish is easier to bear when we remove it from the burner, place it off our radar, beyond our control. We look at the suffering that happens now, and it may as well be 1944; old, historical movies from past wars, horrifying events that happened long ago and can’t be changed now.

The pundits remind us that “the economy has now surpassed the war in Iraq as the number one issue to American voters.” But do we think these two issues are divorced? We may pay lip service to the idea that it’s inhumane to fight wars for oil, but anyone can say that. We don’t want to spend more money on gas. We don’t want to drive our cars less often, or ride our bikes to work. We don’t want to inconvenience ourselves. We don’t want to overcomplicate our lives by underspending. No matter how many strangers’ lives we might save, we don’t want to change anything at all about the way we live our lives, because, for all our whining about the war, We Don’t really give a fuck about strangers, do we?

Please, somebody else make the sacrifice. Don’t be so corrupt, Mr. Politician; don’t be so spoiled & greedy, Mr. Business Man; don’t be so dishonest, Mr. O’Reilly. It’s up to everyone else to change, not us. But who pays for this system, who keeps it running, who makes it work? We do. We want, we want, we want; and we take, take, take, take. And they give it to us—with their hard work and their discipline and, oh yes, they’re even decent enough to shield us from the implications, the realities of what we’re taking, and from whom?

Sorry strangers, I can’t “be the change” this year. Nor am I required yet to sacrifice, that will come later. For now, there is a girl, and I will do everything for her. So Die for me, Mr. Iraqi, I can’t afford the diamond ring if you’re alive.

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~ by Matthew Frederick on March 21, 2008.

16 Responses to “Everything I (Won’t) Do, I (Won’t) Do It For You”

  1. Hey, if they wanted resources and didn’t want to die, they shouldn’t have been born in Iraq.

    This post reminds me of my neighbor who will drive his Ford F-150 monster truck to the convenient store to buy a gallon of milk. The convenient store takes about 60-75 seconds of walking to get to.

    The Bryan Adams song only heightened the level of disturbing images in this post. Excellent job.

  2. I wish I could tell you how deeply this post cuts for me. I get what you’re saying in the political sense and no truer words have been spoken. We want. And to get what we want, we take. I don’t believe this is a natural tendency of mankind, but the natural evolution from a conscious decision to satisfy some very basic human needs — love, understanding, companionship — with self-gratifying substitutes. What we are witnessing is the end result of a culture begun last century that compelled us to move indoors and isolate ourselves from the very communities on which we thrived. As Randal Graves example suggests, we’d rather drive the F-150 than walk to the store not so much for the convenience of getting there faster, but to avoid the hassle of having to stop and talk with a neighbor. “Fuck,” Mr F-150 is saying, “American Idol is on and I want to get back before the commercial break is over.”

    But as I alluded to at the top of this comment, this post cuts really deep for me. You see, I am one of those guys that takes, takes, takes, and takes and wants it not because I really need it, but because I want it all.

    No more. I’ve had a recent situation in which my horrible behavior was starkly exposed and led to several broken hearts and a nearly broken family.

    MFred, thanks for this heartfelt and thought provoking post. I wish I could express to you how much this is helping me get through my issues right now…well, shoot, maybe I already have. Again, thanks. Spartacus.

  3. The image of the Iraqi woman looking for her lost husband was both searing and profound. Thank you for writing with such wisdom about the responsiblity we all face.

  4. This post reminds me how, at the beginning of the war, there was outrage because the administration wouldn’t allow the media to film the caskets coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan. I haven’t been paying enough attention to know whether they are showing them now, or whether the media is following the funerals for the young men and women who have died. My sense is that that, as well, has gone off the average person’s radar. How truly despicable is that?

    And you are correct, how many of us are even considering the losses and traumas of the blameless Iraqi families? And why don’t we even have a clear understanding of how many have died? Could it be because we just don’t want to know? It would far too horrific to discover and then, we’d ALL have to say something, outrage MUST follow. But, then again, we’d rather NOT be outraged, or rather, there is so much outrage to go around, can we handle much more?

    We are a complacent populace, to be sure. And, as I believe Charlie Rangel (D-NY) once noted, if we imposed a draft, things would be quite different.

    I highly recommend to all of you at Jonestown Samantha Powers’ book, “A Problem from Hell – America in the Age of Genocide”

    http://www.amazon.com/Problem-Hell-America-Age-Genocide/dp/B00008NRHH/ref=pd_bbs_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1206110594&sr=1-2

  5. There is a disturbing trend among young liberals surfacing in America. It is an attitude that “we’re going to destroy the planet with our excesses anyway, so why stop now.” It’s another cop out, and I hate it. Maybe too many of us are not having children that we care enough about to want to exact change in the world, or in our small part of it. Maybe this is just part of our new, post-industrial America. I don’t know. But it sucks.

    I respectfully disagree

    Our economic system has been built by people in power for the last 30+ years to make the rich richer, and others slaves to these products and this petroleum. When Ronald Regan rolled back the tax policies of the new deal, he began a trend that has led us to this new society… this new feudalism. There are ultra rich, their legacies, and their children who never have to work a day in their lives. There is an entire (growing) class that willfully separates itself from the rest of us. They amass huge resources in a tiny fraction of the populace, and all the laws, written by them and rubber stamped by a spineless government are there to keep making them richer.

    With all due respect, I AM DOING EVERYTHING I CAN. My economic situation requires me to live paycheck to paycheck. I have traded in my old car for a more efficient one, and that nearly broke me. I buy almost NOTHING. I have been wearing the same crappy clothes for the last 10 years. This is my reality. This is the reality of a lot of people. We wish we could do more, but THE SYSTEM WILL NOT LET US. This is why I’m back in school. This is why, in my mid thirties, I decided that my only chance at ever getting to a place where I can save any type capital for my old age was to add another suffix to my name.

    You are right, some of us are the problem. Our grabbing hands grab all they can, in 80’s techno-speak. but is Wal-Mart successful because we are greedy pigs? I say no. It is successful because of a the systematic transfer of wealth from small businesses and entrepreneurs to large conglomerate, multi-national corporations. It has not been an accident. Purposeful deregulation is the culprit, and we can blame Regan, Bush, Clinton, and Bush, their corrupt administrations and their corporate masters for it.

    Often here, at Jonestown, it seems that the prevailing attitude is that we are all more complicit in our current situation than we are. They told us they were doing it for our good. For the good of our country. Many of us had doubts, but obviously a majority of us did what came naturally and trusted our elected officials.

    Jonestown… let’s try to keep our eye on the ball and put the blame where most of it is due.

    Eat the rich, bitches.

  6. Of course there are men/women behind the curtain/camera directing the picture show we call America. However, we have both the power, and the obligation to refuse said direction.

    And that applies, despite the rabid protests, even to the Poor.

    Turning the Poor into some kind of political marionette does no one any good.

    The housing crisis is a great example. Yes, the predatory lenders took advantage of people. Yes, they manipulated people. Yes, they profited from unethical business practices.

    But placing the blame solely on the lenders implies that most Americans/People are incapable of making decisions for themselves.

    Maybe this is true, but ultimately, I disagree.

    I do think human beings are generally lazy, and this leads us to make stupid decisions, but we know, on some level, what we’re doing. We just choose to ignore it.

    Someone making 30 grand a year knows they cannot afford a $250,000 house. They know they can’t.

    Just because you’re offered a glass of Kool-Aid doesn’t mean you have to drink it.

    And turning everyone into victims only succeeds in perpetuating this madness. Not to mention it takes away from those who truly are victims.

    I (like most people) have entered into many agreements with other people, organizations, etc in my lifetime. Rarely, if ever, were any of these agreements one sided.

    In the American mindset, Human Beings are entitled to “Rights” that are honestly not “Rights” at all.

    People do not have the Right to own a $250,000 house. In fact, you could argue people have no innate right to own a house at all.

    Don’t believe me? Look around the world. Hundreds of millions (Maybe more) of people on this planet have no “House.” They might have “Shelter,” but a shelter is not necessarily a house.

    There is a Huge difference between having rights as a Human Being, and having rights as an American.

    Many of the luxuries (And that’s what they are) we enjoy in this country come at the expense of the majority of the world.

    We are complicit.

  7. The basic idea you’ve stated cuts a lot deeper than politics. The ability to look at other people as objects, to be blind to our identity with them amounts to an identification with “self” as a very limited entity, i.e., one that merely desires and consumes and reproduces, and nothing more. From this springs every problem–male supremacy, slavery, war, crime, you name it.
    Political solutions take this state of things for granted, which in a certain sense is wise, if government is seen as a vehicle and protector for both the common good and individual rights. But the urge to transcend this state of things is why spirituality, philosophy, or (if you prefer) wisdom is needed. The big American picture reflects to some degree the way we live individually. What will change that? As awful as it sounds, I suspect only an economic collapse will shake America out of its daydream. Even then, the challenge will be whether we continue to act as if we existed in isolation, or recognize our identity with other countries and cultures.

  8. Good post. No offense to Jonestown, but this is a message that needs a much larger audience than it, or perhaps the entire blogosphere, can provide.

    I agree that resource wars are what we’re going to be facing this century. Clean water will probably be paramount.

  9. fairlane: Again we disagree on just how “controllable” people are. I guess with that fundamental disagreement always between us, we may never see eye to eye. I, for one, am glad for it. Healthy disagreement is the lube in the idea machine.

    I don’t ever remember metioning the housing crisis. It’s a symptom of the bigger problem, and does not accurately reflect how much big business has us over a barrel. There was stupidity all around in the sub-prime fiasco, but again, let me direct you to the lending deregulation of the early years of the current administration. Without it, this whole business could not have happened.

    Business controls the government, the government polices the people. We have the power to refuse direction? How? When the truth is called “liberal bias” and corporate lies are called science? How can most people know the truth? In all the confusion, the natural thing to do is to tune it all out and watch American Idol. Can you really blame people?

    I don’t think poor people are just dumb puppets. But I do think that the less money and/or opportunity you have, the less free time you have to think about who’s sticking his dick in your ass.

    I also think that that’s the way the man likes it.

  10. Hello, Mr Frederick.
    Just to say that the big hole here that no one has mentioned (so far) is that it really isn’t so much an issue of finite resources so much as the system of distribution of those resources.

    Just saying.

  11. Hi Cowboy-
    Let me assure you my eye is “on the ball.” Rich elites are indeed scum. That’s why I expect so little of them and why I’m bored with bitching about them. I have less faith in scum than I do in the 299 million ordinary U.S. citizens who can disempower them.

    I understand your plight and in some ways share it. We may think we have it hard, but “the system” is far kinder to you and me than it is to those living in “developing” countries, which it also controls. When we feel sorry for ourselves, realize we’re looking only through our privileged American lens. Our version of “sacrifice” means doing without things it wouldn’t cross our minds to WANT in the first place, if we lived in Iraq or Darfur. Wearing “crappy clothes” and driving “efficient” cars are luxuries there. As is having a job, and knowing you can get to it without ducking bullets.

    Like it or not, “the system” includes all Americans, and it even accounts for us in its allocation of resources. Just as Bush is more powerful than al-Malaki, so too do impoverished and working-class Americans live more comfortably than our exploited counterparts in the 3rd world. Our living standards are inflated because they CAN be, not in spite of the genocide and “resource wars” that happen elsewhere, but BECAUSE of them.

  12. first great post

    second — if you think the war for oil was bad — wait until the coming war for potable water…….

    what you are describing is america’s love affair with conspicuous consumption —- and how under reagan and now bush it is has multiplied and spread.

    what is amazing though is that the rich need to keep the masses quiet — and thus far they have been able to in the US — a combination of PR, nationalism, religion, a complicit media and smart marketing has allowed the elite classes to continue their pillage of american society virtually unabated. if i was losing my house, i would be at the head of countrywide’s door camped out until he gave me a cut of his $100 million golden parachute.

    but this country is silent — silent about iraq and silent about the class structure that has overtaken us all. you dont need a maserati or rolls to ‘request’ change — you need to be angry. and i dont see this country getting angry at anything that will make their lives and the country’s demeanor better

  13. M-Fred, I again disagree. I don’t think that me or you having enough to be comfortable has anything to do with Paris Hilton and her legacy money. I also think it has very little to do with Iraq, Iran, Darfur or China. The American, and indeed the world banking system encourages the rich to get richer. They continue to exploit, not you or I. The fact that they do it in our name, makes us no more culpable than God is when Pat Robertson says we should bomb Iran.

    To me, the simple fact is this: If you take all the mega-billioinares make them “simple” millionares and take away their satanic ability to amass the wealth of nations with better tax code, we wouldn’t be in Iraq, The diamond wars in Africa would never happen, and China would still be making carnival trinkets instead of EVERYTHING! Why? because Mega-rich people wouldn’t be getting mega-richer. They would see no advantage in shipping jobs all over the world if upon making the extra 10 million their tax rate went up 70%. There would be less advantage to keeping scarce commodities scarcer (if that’s a word). and the “resource wars” everyone is alluding to would be unnecissary.

    I am only responsible as far as my vote goes. I have been against these policies ever since my brain could wrap around them. Just because I don’t live in a bombed out mud hut doesn’t make me “excessive”.

    It makes the people who have the power to change that situation EVIL.

  14. “Someone making 30 grand a year knows they cannot afford a $250,000 house. They know they can’t.”

    Couldn’t agree more, fairlane. I keep thinking I should write a post about when Mr. Pink, my ex, and I bought this house. I was the one shopping for mortgages since I had more time than he did, and man, was that an education. I had lenders assuring me that we could count Pink’s overtime and easily find ourselves in a $250,000 house. I was skeptical of that, of course. Oh sure, they said, you could get this loan or that loan and pay no interest until later when you’re able to work full-time and the law will keep your rates from going over such and such amount. There’s no danger….

    You know what? I’m just going to post about this at my place….

  15. Cowboy-
    From labor unions to the civil rights movement, any positive social change that’s ever occurred in this country has been because the people stood together against power, not because power decided to be nice and loosen its grip. I just don’t see where the future is in crossing our fingers and hoping things will be different this time around. Unless the point is that there is no hope, no future, and that we can’t beat them so why not join them.

    Either way, thanks for the feedback everyone.

  16. When your ready to start recruiting for the Army O’ tRevolution, let me know, and I’ll see if I can fit it into my schedule.

    That sentance boils down my whole flipping point which either I am not getting across, or people are being too obtuse to acknowledge.

    I assume that the conversation is over by your sign-off, but thanks for the post. I know I come across combative, but that’s because I am. 😉

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