Ideally, we want to raise caring and tender children who rightfully grow into wise and smart adults.  Unfortunately, the way into adulthood is, and always had been, fraught with predators and disappointment and liars.  We prefer to pretend these evil elements are not among us — and within us — and the ability for adults to repress inherent danger in the spinning world is what particularly places children in a purposeful peril.

It has always been a fascination when I read about pensions — especially forced pension payments from those who are made to pay as a requirement of their continued employment, with some paying over $800 a month into State “pension” coffers — and how those workers are demonized by the Far Right who believe public servants and private pensioners are somehow taking advantage of those who do not pay into a pension program. Pensions are not payoffs or welfare. Pensions are earned investment money entrusted to public or private equity.

How many of us live to be defined by our possessions?  How many of us find value only in what we have achieved and won and coveted?  I wrote about this nagging issue of human governance on November 22, 2006 — “Worthy of History: Only Expensive Things Survive” —

The perversion of the historical accuracy of how our ancestors lived, and how we currently live, is created by preserving only expensive possessions — tokens, icons, valuables – and in the purposeful construction of indestructible architectural monuments used by the privileged few.

History is skewed by this preservation technique because it only pretends to tell future generations how people actually lived. When we visit museums we are only seeing what the powerful majority of the culture of that time deemed important enough to save and pass down.

We only get to know what they thought was worth saving and inevitably those things are the expensive, the pretty, the unique and the tokens of the wealthy. Even pioneer and Native American museum dioramas are idealized with hardy items and the most beautiful things. The ordinary is forsaken for the power of the inherent value in the preservation of the perceived best.

We live in a risky world where few things seem to matter.  A handshake is no longer enough of a guarantee of friendship or a promise for a business deal.  A country’s reputation in the world doesn’t matter if individual selfish interests are more important than a right example and proper behavior.

Where once we wanted to live the American Dream and to own the best and to be the brightest — we have now been beaten down by the ridicule of those elected to serve us, and by punishing economic times that sap our passions — we are now fine with just getting by, living paycheck to paycheck, and buying things are just “good enough” to get us by into the next reckoning moment of despair.

This steep decline in expectation and excellence is never grand or proper when it becomes the defining mantra of a country and its people.  A return to excellence and moral leadership takes money, empathy, dedication, and education.

His was a life of bricks and the skillful hands to lay them, fast and capable hands as adept as machines. His was a history thrown with gale force at walls and buildings all over town, a long constructive life of making things to last. Everywhere now in his decline were the monuments of his having passed that way, standing in red clay and mortar, signs of a man’s existence no less expressive than those of whatever poet you might wish to mention.