Thursday, July 5, 2012

FTT Off-Topic: Independence Day and Dependence Life

Yada yada, not sports.

The day job was not open today, of course, but I work from home with off-hour folks... so I did a couple of hours.

The holiday here in mid-Jersey was celebrated with fireworks, brutal heat and then violent storms. The first factor is not appreciated by the new puppy, and the second two have pretty much been here for the better part of a month, so... the holiday really wasn't celebrated. At least, not in my house.

To be honest, and not terribly patriotic (not that I've ever been all that much; in the words of the late great Bill Hicks, this is just where my parents rutted, so the pride seems a touch overblown)... I don't quite get this holiday anymore. Independent of today's events.

We share the same planet, Americans and others. The work I do can be done anywhere. My community is local; I have less in common with people who live in Flyover Land than I do with people in Canada, New Zealand, etc. If the climate changes (ok, when, or actually, how much and how fast) and the water level rises, the screwings will be global. If the Internets go poof, it doesn't really matter where my body is when it happens; so goes my paycheck and my ability to provide for me and mine.

American exceptionalism is a highfaluting  word that means we're better than everybody else, and increasingly hard to defend. I'll vote for my guy in November with a clear conscience and easy heart, but he's got a kill list to go with his Nobel Prize, and the country he leads watches reality television shows, thinks that being a celebrity is more important than doing good work, and wants to be and breed perpetual teenagers, because that's where the money is.

Paying extra for anything, so that you can live in a community filled with people who have decent jobs, makes you quaint at best, and a sap at worst. Complaining about taxes and the people who draw salaries from those taxes is about as controversial as breathing, even when it means that the schools, hospitals and services can now only be populated by those who are OK with that level of abuse with their paycheck. (And we wonder why corruption follows.)

Anyway, I'm not buying the exceptionalism. We're racist and lazy and dumb in more or less the same measure as everyone else. The only difference is that we had a virgin continent to exploit, no enemies of note on our immediate borders, centuries of slave and de facto slave labor to ride, and enough churn in the economic classes to foster some breakthrough innovations and inventions. If we are exceptional, it's only by degree; in the immortal words of the Firesign Theater, some of the greatest Americans of the last century, we're all bozos on this bus.

Fireworks are fun. Chinese, too. Knowing your history is important -- all of it, rather than just the soundbites A day off of work is a day off of work. Grilling meat works for me. I'm even OK with the heat; my laundry dried quickly and well on my clotheslines today. (Hey, might as well use it. At least the AC bill is getting mitigated by something.)

But independence, true independence, is a happy little story we tell ourselves, and ask others to tell us. What we are now, and always have been, is dependent.

Here's the good news: dependence works.

 I depend on the people that work for me to serve my clients. I give them direction, guidance, support -- but they add to that, surpass the goals, and allow me to provide the best work of my career to my end users. Those users depend on our external clients to believe in what we're doing and drive our business.

On Friday night, two to three tables worth of guys I like will come to my home and play in my poker game. I depend on them to produce the right environment to bring everyone back, time after time, for one of the best things about living in this area for me. They depend on me to run a good game, to act impartially and with integrity, and to sweat the details so that they don't have to.

Our country depends on its regions to provide what they lack, and other countries for the same. Exceptionalism, patriotism, and self-aggrandizing stories of our unique wonderfulness is fluff at best, ballast at worst.

So today, I'm proud of my dependence. I'm proud of my teams, my friends, my family, and when they aren't doing something as obviously stupid as getting emotional over a piece of cloth or a song... the other people who live in this country.

Moving on.

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