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In Search of Substance

Glamorous Servitude and Sexy Debt

by KATHLEEN PEINE

When Earl Butz said “get big or get out”- well, they got out.

It was nearing the appropriate time anyway, they were getting old enough to merit a retirement. But truly, the world of “big” requires the working class to borrow enormous amounts to achieve such largeness. My grandparents would never survive in such a world, so they left the farm and slid into a gentle slope of retirement, an insulated existence of tidying the house. Well, until Parkinson’s brought them to our home. A nightmare realm that only emerged at night accompanied my grandfather, and it was full of things like deep sea divers with knives, all there to threaten and kill. My grandfather, in his terror, even thought my grandmother was a villain, but again, only during the night. I wondered if he would see me the same way, but I was too scared to emerge from my room to find out- 3rd grader, after all. I couldn’t fathom that this was the same gentle soul who would let me sit by him and watch footage of the Mars Missions of the 70’s- some of my best memories from childhood. It was an early instruction in the fleeting nature of reality and even sanity itself. If the sun can go down and cause a sweet man to go crazy, what other horror and spells exist in this world? Things are not what they seem. After an especially ragged night, my grandfather was sent to the local nursing home, a shadow sadly irrelevant to the churning of the modern world just like the philosophy from which he came.

Those of his generation often feared debt above all things; I suppose it was due to Depression era memories- that a palatial estate on verdant land could be reduced to nothing with the power of a piece of paper. As those like my grandfather passed away, an opening was found since all Americans love the shortcut- suddenly a new spritz of respectability was placed on debt. It was a means to becoming large, getting big. Never mind that the fallacy of this worldview has more than ample evidence. Suddenly the person living in a paid for shack was the failure, and the McMansion mortgage holder became the hero.

Projecting a new normalcy-that it is the only way to live- this stifling debt, be it student loan penury or the cost of your living space that you “own”….when this became a norm that was rarely questioned, the populace certainly became even more vulnerable and controlled without a shot even being fired. They successfully got citizens to internalize values of expected debt.

Incremental steps brought this on. First the appearance of items like credit cards for “convenience”…then later status. Look at the color of my card. It’s how much debt I can get into. But it eventually worked, and the handcuffs became more firmly attached by the day. The weapon of debt is powerful when the victim believes.

Refusing to play the game is difficult. There are some success stories out there–contrast the living standards at this moment of Iceland (who essentially said who gives a fuck about our debt to the powers of the world) and that of Greece (who evidently wants to stick with that austerity debacle as evidenced by their last elections).

As these dramas play out worldwide, we consider matters of celebrity and nonsense. But our servitude is to be made more marvelous. Why you can even by a pair of shoes from Adidas with a shackle attached. I am not making that up.

Our “literature” involves young women who sign contracts or some such shit to be a billionaire’s sex slave. (I admit I haven’t read that one, life is too short, but like an ass, I’m going to comment anyway). How romantic and glamorous! And I’m not railing about that dorky book due to prudery. If you want a diatribe of that kind, I think Hobby Lobby might have a new library section next to the cross stitch “no Adam and Steve” kits (50% off this week). It’s not that kind of a gripe, it’s that I’m just stunned that people can’t even get their perv fix on without consigning it to submission to the wealthy- once again putting a shine on an indebtedness to someone or something. Why can’t there be free weirdness? Are we really turned on my contracts? Will a visit to the lawyer become an aphrodisiac in this new world? I’ll show you a legally binding agreement, baby.

And I just know somehow the kink of “50 Shades of Grey” has something to do with those Adidas sneakers. Give me time, I’ll figure it out.

But every single day, what is real is becoming veiled just a little bit more. Substance is gone, the winners are those able to avoid Ponzi’s pinnacle. Glory in the servitude and find ego in your shiny things.

There are no pat answers, we all struggle and straddle this world of fantastic illusion. Like someone sane in the morning, insane at night- trying so hard to hold this all together. But in the end, you can’t coexist with crazy, and your shackles are not glamorous, no matter what cultural conditioning rains from the sky. But like a cheesy movie’s voodoo, it mainly has power over you- only if you believe in it.

I don’t believe. What about you?

Kathleen Peine writes out of the US Midwest and can be contacted at kathypeine@gmail.com or at the website paintedfire.org