Thursday, October 25, 2007

Whatever Didn't Kill You Probably Made You Mean As Hell

Re: my previous post which upon reflection probably comes across as a bit flip about California's troubles. Ok, I admit it, quite often my posts are somewhat flip about a lot of troubles. I'm not about to apologise for it but I'll go as far as giving the curious a l'il bit of context.

I lived in southern California for 20 years. Not once but twice an arsonist tried to torch my neighborhood, it's a daily fact of life there. Lots of mentally ill folks and lots of angry folks all looking at the herds of happy-happy, joy-joy families with their 500k houses. Shit is bound to happen.

100 years ago, back when I was a young, broke-as-hell, struggling single parent, the jackass who lived three doors down from me caught the building on fire and burned us all out on Christmas Eve. There I sat with a pile of burnt rubble, three small children and no place to go and not one person said "hey, is there anything I can do to help". Not that we had anything to start with.

Not whining, whatever does not kill you will make you stronger or at least meaner, tougher and thicker skinned. I did what I always did, figured a way to work things out on my own. So, while I'm not jumping for joy that a lot of people lost homes in the fires, I figure they'll live. Yes, there is an element of "most of them are people who would have spit in my face back in the day". Can't shake that completely, we are what life makes us.

I have lots of stories, most of them far, far worse, but really they're no more interesting than the stories of a few million other people. The only difference between me and them is most of them don't blog. Many of them didn't survive their stories. I save most of my empathy for them, the people who really are screwed in this world and there seem to be more of them every day. No, I don't feel anything but laughter welling up inside me when I see Mr. 80k per year crying about his student loans or his mortgage payment. I do not feel his pain. I think that's what some call "coming up hard" and that's what it does to you.

If it seems like I'm thumbing my nose at the world most of the time....it's because I am. Nearly half a century down the road and plenty of money in my pockets but the rage never quite goes away. Multiply that by a few million and you've got at least part of your answer as to what the hell is happening to our country. Think about it, millions of angry people who haven't been invited to the picnic and not all of them will content themselves with taking out their vengeance at a trading desk.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mean people live everywhere. The most dishonest I ever found were in North Dakota which has become the money laundering center of the US.

Flimsy Sanity said...

I think you are comparing two really different things here. Being a victim of a natural disaster is nothing like being targeted by an arsonist or abused as a child, or any of the horrible things humans do to each other because it is not personal.

I think victims go in several directions: Many just give up and whine like you say, a few pull themselves up by the bootstraps and say "I did it, you can too", whereas lots say f#*k society that let this happen to my childhood and grab what they can (and make up our violent criminal ranks). The real gems are the precious few who use the experience to try and make things better for others.

Put me in the whiner category of crime victim who will never get over it.

RJ Adams said...

Of the two natural disasters to strike the US in recent times, the basic difference between them is that in New Orleans prior to Katrina, the vast majority could not afford the high cost of property insurance and suffered the consequences. In California, they're all insured to the hilt, so the staunch smiles and 'I'm American, I can take it' attitudes we see on the news of late are a lot easier to display. I bet most are already planning how their new homes will look. In New Orleans there was never any hope of a new home to plan for.

Not Your Mama said...

FS: natural? With a lot of help from human hands. Half the state did not go inferno all by itself. Arson is a favorite sport in CA.

What I'm saying is I'll save my tears for people who really don't have any resources to fall back on. Any who were caught in this will likely not get much or any help from the good people of southern CA. We aren't likely to see them on TV either. They're the farmworkers and maids and convenience store workers...many of who live in their vehicles in southern CA because they can't afford rent there for the wages they're paid.

They park in huddles in different out of the way spots every night for safety and to avoid being arrested for vagrancy and they clean up and dress in public restrooms in the pre-dawn hours so they can go to work and maybe eventually get an actual place to live. Or a dozen of them band together to rent a shithole and pray some fine, upstanding citizen doesn't turn them in for being bad, evil, people who stack too many people into a house just to piss of the neighbors. Like they have a choice and anyone would choose that life.

You think I can cry for people who lost a 500K house? Not in this lifetime. I sold a 300k house for $1 to a family that worked at Taco Bell, I can talk. County clerk thought I'd lost my mind. She was wrong, I found mine.

RJ: you're so right, there's no comparing the victims in these two very different disasters. The people in NO were victims before Katrina ever hit. Husband thought I was a bit cuckoo when I couldn't sleep for two days before it actually hit...afterwards he couldn't fathom how I knew what the outcome was likely to be. It's simple: no people have ever been invisible to me. I lack that wonderful self-protective ability to not see the ugly side of things.

PS: crappy redneck town we may be on some levels but we have several families from NO and the community did right by them, houses, furniture, jobs and all the fixings. They have no plans to ever go back. Sometimes we do the right thing in spite of our redneck asshat contingent who always get more press.

Woozie said...

We must destroy the proletariat!

All the mean people around here seep in from DC, Baltimore, or Gaithersburg.

Not Your Mama said...

Bah, I think it's just human nature. As soon as any group gets its little piece of the pie it forgets the people who haven't gotten theirs.

Look at me...I fight for the rights of ethnic minorities knowing full well more than half of them will be happy to bash gays and I fight for the rights of gay people knowing more than half of them will be happy to bash immigrants. I wish I could lie to myself about that but I can't. Humans are what we are.

At some point we're going to have to accept that there has to be a minimum standard of both economic well-being and respect for basic human dignity for everyone including people we don't like or who may or may not have "done it to themselves" or we all go down with the ship.

TomCat said...

While most of the Californians have it far better than most of the Katrina victims, I still have empathy for them. I have been very rich. I am very poor. Loss hurts from both persectives.

ryk said...

...who live in their vehicles in southern CA because they can't afford rent there for the wages they're paid.

They park in huddles in different out of the way spots every night for safety and to avoid being arrested for vagrancy and they clean up and dress in public restrooms in the pre-dawn hours so they can go to work and maybe eventually get an actual place to live.


Ah, memories. That was me twenty-some years ago. A friend and I living in a VW Beetle, sneaking into swimming pools late at night with a bar of soap, brushing my teeth at the gas station. Even way back then, you couldn't make a living on 9 bucks an hour in CA. The weather sure was nice, though...

adynaton said...

Not whining, whatever does not kill you will make you stronger or at least meaner, tougher and thicker skinned.

Where I come from, we have a saying that goes: "Whatever does not kill you will hurt like a motherfucker!"

We must destroy the proletariat!

Amen, woozie.

pekka said...

Mama, I do share your sentiments about the fires in California. I bet that George, your leader guy, is presently thinking of how much more gracious and down right American the nice people in their clue de' sacks on the exclusive hill tops of Southern California are behaving than those lazy bums in New Orleans. I can almost hear the disgusted rumble that is coming out of the Big Dick's distinguished mouth; Is there any place, far away, we could ship that human refuge of NO?

Before I go, I have been on a verge of jumping off an high building by following the continuing horror story of a British, beautiful, white, middle glass, little girl missing on her family vacation in Portugal. Thank goddess and the excellent coverage of the world's media, I haven't miss a thing! Oh, it is so tragic!

--Blue Girl said...

I save most of my empathy for them, the people who really are screwed in this world and there seem to be more of them every day.

A-fucking-men. When I say I know what tragedy looks like, I'm not kidding - I spent my career in the most egalitarian place on earth - the trauma center. I really have seen tragedy.

What I saw on my teevee the last few days seemed more inconvenient than tragic.

Omnipotent Poobah said...

It seems we have a million generalizations here. Not all the people in CA were rich, white, or heavily insured, just like not all the people harmed in Katrina were black and poor.

Disaster is an equal opportunity shit storm and all of us get spewed upon from time to time. That happens not only because mean people suck, but because sometimes you're in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But most of all it happens because life isn't fair and no matter how much we all try, it ain't gonna be. Having said that (and having suffered more than my fair share of tragedy), I'm foursquare for anyone trying make it more fair regardless of economics, race, creed, color, gender, age, etc.

The world is a shitty enough place without bashing each other. But what do I know, I'm only omnipotent.

Not Your Mama said...

Of course not, and yes, things hurt no matter what your situation. What I'm saying is the OUTCOME is different. If my house burned down today it would be a nuisance, not a tragedy. I would go to a hotel until I bought or rented another house. It would annoy me but it would not devastate my life. For people with few or no resources a loss like that is likely to start a chain reaction of events they can never recover from.

Oh, and I'd be goddamned if I'd allow someone to risk their life to run into my burning house to rescue keepsakes, not even if Elvis did once wear them on his ass.

Flimsy Sanity said...

This FBI study says many fires are started by firemen. Thought it interesting.

Flimsy Sanity said...

OOPS, Forest Service study not FBI and also in Yahoo News this morning some firefighters were caught setting fire to a fire station.

Just My Thoughts said...

Well I have to say this to Poohbah, I have had a few, mind you, just a few, shitty things happen to me.
However I have to disagree with your claim that diaster is equal oppurtunity. It's not all the same to those that don't happen to have extra resources to compensate for the disaster.
There are some people that can not afford insurance even though they own a home. Is a disaster an equal oppurtunity for them? I think not.
The sad fact is that the news coverage focuses on those who do have that edge. The people who do not seem to get left behind and ignored.
I guess they are just in the wrong place at the wrong time and not worth a note.
It seems to me if some one took note then some thing might just get done.
The world may not be fair but we can do better if we don't repeat the mistakes of the past.
The past is done. What happened to me, or that which I allowed to happen is done. We can do better if we try.

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