Why am I posting a picture of a tile mural from the entrance to a women’s bathroom in the MSP airport? Because it’s become symbolic to me. I blame my awesome boss for that, by the way, he pointed out how nice the bathrooms are there in a meeting and now I can’t help but notice, appreciate, and compare all other airport bathrooms to them. I get that they’re just a bathroom in an airport but think about it. You’re traveling, which can be stressful. Plane bathrooms are tiny and gross. These are large and clean, bright and well designed. There are hooks and shelves, well lit mirrors, an area to tuck a stroller in… plus those murals. The whole airport is nice actually. Wide seats, free charging stations everywhere, a good variety of stores and food and it all makes traveling easier and more enjoyable. My hometown airport has set the standard by which I judge all other airports. It helps me appreciate coming home. It reminds me that my motto “do better always” needs to apply to everything, not just the big things. It needs to apply to the small, usually overlooked, things too…like bathrooms. Because those small things are often the unifying factors of humanity. When you do that people notice and they appreciate it and hopefully it inspires them and they can go off and inspire others.
I questioned who was benefiting from this shallow society we now live in. Pondered what the cushion between the haves and have-nots was, now that the middle class has all but disappeared. As I was debating this topic with another person the answer suddenly presented itself.
The new cushion between the rich and rest of us is the entourage and handlers who make their living suckling at the teat of wealthy individuals. Take for example one of the major players, Jonathan, of Village Green Properties. He is a millionaire (he has an F150 Ferrari hanging from his ceiling…just because) who continually makes poor design decisions and wastes money on ill-advised projects. He has an entire executive staff who will stomp down upon one another to get in his favor or impress him so they can climb ever closer to him on his corporate ladder. They refuse to say no to him out of fear he will cast them aside. They do not share the valid concerns of lower employees about issues that arise at his properties. They will ignore cost-effective/ethical solutions brought to their attention by anyone lower on the totem pole than they are. They would rather chew people up and spit them out in a pattern of failure than address the idea that the process Jonathan has put in place, or their own terrible ideas aren’t successful. Anyone who appears to be willing to offer Jonathan a different opinion/option is seen as a threat and kept at bay or let go. The hard workers who would ensure continued revenue at rental properties are continually sacrificed to balance mismanaged budgets and take the fall for mistakes of the entourage. I have seen it happen at several companies I work for as well.
This isn’t only applicable in the business world. Society in general treats wealthy people as if they deserve more respect and less accountability than non-wealthy people. It usually has nothing to do with a winning personality either. It is the hope that by being nice to, and doing favors for, rich people, they will bestow some of their wealth and protection to the people surrounding them. It is the collection of people hoping to get close enough to the money tree to break themselves off a branch or two that form a protective bubble of delusion around those rooted in prosperity. They are the ones who keep the rich safe from the outrage of the poor.
As the pool of super wealthy consolidates to a smaller and smaller number, will the entourages of each rich person left also dwindle? At what point will people stop chasing the almighty dollar and open their eyes to the dysfunction of planetary management. Money has an arbitrary value which means we ultimately control what it is worth. The fact that so many people sacrifice ethics, integrity, time and even lives for a made-up commodity is pretty ridiculous if you stop and think about it. Greed has already been the downfall of many people and civilizations, yet it appears that too many people have not learned the lessons of our past. If we don’t stand up to greed and put an end to its reign it will also be the downfall of our entire population.
As I drove home listening to the news I heard about snapchat being valued at 25 billion. Why, I wondered, would it be worth that much? Granted I haven’t used it in years but a friend told me about the new features and how people liked to subscribe to celebrities because presumably they can feel like they know famous people better. It got me thinking again.
Why do many people spend more time cultivating relationships with people over social media or the Internet and less time investing in real life interactions and relationships? Why limit yourself to acquaintance networks that never really scratch the surface of the people in them? Sure social media and acquaintance networks are easy because they require minimal effort to establish and maintain, but they also offer little back in return and are the equivalent of fast food friendships. Where’s the substance? They aren’t built on a strong foundation and can fall apart much easier because there is such a paltry investment required of them. In relation to the people who follow or subscribe to celebrities, the entire concept that you have any connection with them at all is basically an illusion. Of course fiction is much easier to create and maintain than real life.
I wonder if it’s this very proclivity towards illusionary, low-effort relationships that contributed to an environment where someone like Donald Trump could become president. Sometimes I feel like we live in a world where it’s easier to believe the lies than it is to believe the truth. I’m not ok with that. I must belong to that camp of people that value quality over quantity. I value truth over lies even if the truth hurts. I want genuine relationships with the people in my life, I want to experience events for myself and make memories that mean something to me.
How did humanity get to this point? Alternative facts shouldn’t be a thing. Having to be highly skeptical of every single accusation that comes along because there were people willing to lie about events just to create more chaos in the world makes me want to cry and rage, which might have been the point. What message are we sending to the world, to younger generations? Some things need to matter and effort must be exerted. Yes lies are easy and truth is hard but a world without substance isn’t sustainable.
I used to focus on money…a lot. I’d save as much as I could, my “nest egg” was never big enough and I would work longer hours and burn myself out so I could make more and feel more secure. I would chose work over play, and limit myself on food, clothes and fun just so I could keep more of what I earned. I thought if I reached a set amount of money that I could finally relax and start living my life the way I wanted to. Money would buy me freedom.
This is what I thought until I hit a major bump in my life. I was working for a company that, unbeknownst to me, was in the process of going bankrupt. I ended up being demoted (along with many others) as they started to close down stores and saw my pay cut in half. Around the same time I learned that a previous roommate had forged my name onto his student loans years back and my credit score was now taking hits as his loans went into collections since he wasn’t paying on them. The apartment I was living in was full of mold in the carpets and vents and I couldn’t live there but the rental company wouldn’t let me out of my lease even with solid proof of my claims. It wasn’t money that came and saved me. Money didn’t solve any of my problems. It was the people around me that were willing to be there and help me, support me, love me…that is how I managed to hit that bump and keep going.
I moved out of the moldy apartment and stayed with a friend (rent-free) till my lease was up. I found a new job with the help of another friend who referred me and was happy to get out of the retail/service industry. My cousin helped me find the right contacts to prove to SallieMae that I had never agreed to be a co-signer and my name was forged by previous roommate and I got my information removed from the loans. I still thought money was important and I would still get stressed out feeling like I didn’t have enough, but I was starting to see that there was far more value in my relationships with others.
Getting married was a huge challenge on the money front. It was a major source of stress and fighting between us because we had different views on it. He assumed we’d figure it out no matter what and I wanted to know that I had a cushion to fall back on. I started to focus on the money again…instead of on the people.
Then came the husband injury and the unemployment and then the fire…which resulted in getting a bunch of money to replace things and having that large chunk of money in the bank didn’t change my stress level. I didn’t feel any different, no safer, no more fulfilled. I told myself then it was because husband was spending the money as fast as we were getting it. Eventually I got sick and tired of fighting with husband about his excessive spending and gave up stressing about money. I made sure I made enough to cover all the bills and stopped expecting anything from him. I decided my relationships needed to be more important than money.
If you think about it…money is an arbitrary concept and holds only the value we agree upon. US currency isn’t really backed by anything other than faith in the government. Most money is virtual now as well…numbers in an account that could be wiped out with the push of a button. Your assets could be seized by the government or skilled hackers and what would you do? Where would you go? Who would you turn to? Instead of focusing on making as much money as possible I have started focusing on building my skillset. Learning how to utilize what I already have and what is around me to accomplish tasks instead of just buying something new or hiring someone to do it for me. I focus on building stronger relationships with people. I no longer tally up a mental account balance in my head over what they’ve spent on me vs. what I have spent on them. I value time and events over making additional income. If I had to take on additional work to make money to cover my bills I would, but if I don’t have to I would rather spend my time making memories I can look back on fondly. Money is useful, but if I had to make a choice today I would choose the people I care about over money every time.
I feel like this American election could be paralleled to the Harry Potter series. Except this time there was no Dumbledore (they wouldn’t let him run) to keep Voldemort in check. Voldemort won because fear won. Voldemort won because too many people were scared to have mudbloods being treated as equals and thought the ministry was trying to take their wands away. Divided we fall…every time. Did we learn nothing from this story?
I woke up this morning to discover that while my state may not have, there were enough insecure Americans that voted for a sociopath to run this country that he actually will be the next president. I am so disappointed that hate won and that despite all the valuable lessons history provides, too many people have learned nothing.
Base needs, primal fears and the society we have created that caters to one and denies the other. That is the topic of thought that has been swirling around in my head for the past couple of days. I have been pondering about the correlation between the way we live our modern lives and the increase in mental/emotional issues/drug addictions as it relates to the laws of nature. We often use the phrases “survival of the fittest” and “the will to live” when we discuss the tenacity of humans against adversities. If we are bound by a will to live yet also bound by the premise that only the strongest will survive than what happens if a species takes away the constant threat of disease and famine, reduces the threat of war and increases the average lifespan by more than double? There must be a balance and currently we have tipped the scales with overpopulation which has allowed an accelerated destruction of multiple other species and the very environments we actually depend on for life. At a certain point disease, famine & war will once again knock the quantity of man back down to a more manageable level but in the meantime I think nature has devised some new standards on which to judge our ability to survive this new world we have created. I hypothesize that thanks to a combination of lowered social expectations and an increase in technology nature has found a way to correct for our new inclinations to breed genetic weakness into our population. Where once you literally had to be strong to survive in a world full of disease, hard labor and little resources to go around we now have to be mentally strong to survive in a world full of temptation, lies and constant tests of character. If you manage to be born into a family that actually has the financial resources to provide you with clothing, food and shelter are you lucky enough to also be provided love, support and encouragement? Are you taught right from wrong as defined by the general public and not by your specific neighborhood or gang, or are you left to fend for yourself in a dysfunctional environment? Was your educational development nurtured and were you given the attention needed to fully utilize your own natural skills? Did anyone bother to say no to you so you would learn that you can’t always get what you want? Was any emphasis placed on making healthy choices for your body? Were you taught social skills so that you could make friends? Was the concept of balance reiterated over and over again until you understood that nothing is permanent and it can’t rain all the time? In these nice ideal circumstances you would probably have the strength to easily shrug off petty insults by others who were obviously insecure, to say no when weaker friends offered you life-destroying drugs and to stand firm against others who would try to manipulate and connive against you. However, if you were denied love as a child, abused, ignored and/or raised to be guarded and selfish than it would take much more strength to rise above the new trials that life throws at us. More so now than ever before we have people addicted to drugs/alcohol, taking prescription drugs, stuffing their bodies with unhealthy processed crap, squandering their talent while they suffer in silence, continuing the cycle of selfishness/violence/abuse they were born into, taking their own life or taking their rage out on innocent people in horrific killing sprees. I feel that the proclivity towards succumbing to the new pressures of life is just an indication that the will to live isn’t strong enough in some people to ensure their survival. I can’t count how many times a little voice in my head has said that this is all so hard and what is the point of going on…that this world isn’t worth living in and nothing will ever change. I can’t count how many times I have been overwhelmed with sadness and hopelessness, with pain and loss and violent frustration. The thing is though, even in my darkest moments, I have never even come close to giving in. No matter how loud that negative voice has been, my will to survive has been louder. I questioned before if the new way to survive this world was to give in to the current philosophy that standards aren’t important and hard work is to be punished, but now I think that perhaps that line of thinking is just an indicator of the weak. Our world is the one we have made it. By changing the standards by which nature grants us survival we have created a world of weak people trying desperately to find a way to drown out the will to live. If we want to change the world we need to start by fostering mental strength into the next generation. If their base needs are met they won’t be tempted by drugs, won’t suffer depression/anxiety and won’t want to lash out at others. They will have the will to live which includes the motivation to lead healthy lives and create positive innovations that benefit society instead of being slaves to fear and greed. It can be done, but are there enough strong people left to make it happen? What do you think?