October 2008

Chapter 22:

Metaphor, despite the spurious claims of Freshman English, is not comparing two things. It is explicating the behavior of one thing in order to explicate the behavior of another. It is an attempt to summon forth the light of recognition by describing the familiar, and then to shift that glow to illuminate that which needs accounting. It is with that in mind that I move to Chapter 23.

Chapter 23:

Creating art is honking a car horn. It is used to communicate many things, based on the context, and the person performing the act. It is an attempt to draw attention to a wrong. To express disgust. To cry out in anguish. Sometimes it is a celebration, or an attempt to call forth recognition in the familiar. It’s primary function though, the one thing it always does, is to say “Here I am. I am here.”

So Kelly Bundy and Bodhi have cancer. That blows. Living with a disease like that is frustrating, terrifying, depressing, and hopefully enriching is some ways. But it’s not brave.

I say this without any hostility towards Kelly or James Dalton. Both of them are having a hard time right now, and it’s the same hard time as thousands of people who never starred in an episode of M*A*S*H as Private Gary Sturgis. I’m just saying, as someone who knows, that brave has nothing to do with anything.

I was 22 when I was diagnosed with the disease that will probably eventually kill me. It is through first hand experience, and lots of talk with other people in similar situations that I can tell you that what keeps you going is not bravery, but a combination of hope, fear and determination that would not inaccurately be described as desperation. We are not bravely fighting to live, we are desperately trying not to die.

It’s important to understand the difference between desperation and despair. Yes, same latin root, but the meaning of desperation has shifted from meaning a loss of hope to the clinging to of hope. Desperation is the source of a great deal of accomplishment. If necessity is the mother of invention, desperation is the midwife. It is desperation that causes someone to try eating the chunks in spoiled milk and eventually create yogurt. It is not bravery that keeps the ill from breaking down into sobs, or answering the question of “how are you feeling” with the honest answer of “terrified and angry”, but a desperate need to not give into despair. The reason is simple, if you despair, you’re miserable, and you’re still dying. It’s much much worse.

I don’t believe in the Free Market. I’m not saying I’m against it, or feel that it is flawed, I honestly don’t believe that it exists. Or that it can exist for that matter. A Free Market is

an economic market operating by free competition

Thanks Merriam-Webster!

And the issue here is that it is impossible to establish or maintain such a thing. An unregulated market will begin to favor certain competitors, who will then derive greater and greater wealth from the market, which will be used in turn to start controlling elements of the market, by buying out competition, advertising more effectively, and undercutting costs. TADA! We now have a market in which competition is not free! It is regulated by those with access to money and influence! In no time at all, the market shifts from a land of consumer choice where quality and value are the primary determinants for success to a stratified market wherein consumers choice is consciously limited and directed by an oligarchy of economic powers. This is the inevitable result of a market without any oversight. The businesses involved are free, the consumer is not.

Conversely, an attempt can be made to keep the consumer free, able to make choices freely based on informed decisions and outlets that are reasonably accessible. These attempts are made by regulation of the market, through anti-trust laws, truth in advertising standards, and labeling and consumer education requirements. Of course, that produces what is generally understood as the opposite of a Free Market.

However, as established, this perceived dichotomy is inaccurate. Neither market is free in the way a Free Market is intended to be in the abstract. However, the Regulated Market favors the consumer, while ensuring that a healthy sustainable business is able to establish itself without fear of being quashed out of the gate as a potential competitor. Clearly, only in the Regulated Market are the ideals and outcomes behind the idea of a Free Market achievable.

The Free Market is a myth, a Platonic Ideal to which we will eternally fall short. However, rather than live in ignorance, while pretending this isn’t true, we can make useful, reasonable laws and regulations to preserve the intentions of a Free Market in a world that falls tragically short of sustaining one.

Apparently, this is the replacement for the crucifix?