Sky King did nothing wrong

He followed the script.

He played by the rules.

He married young, but not too young.  He met his wife when they both were in college.  They moved to be close to family.  He took a job that provided him with free travel to see his own family regularly and stay in touch with more than social media posts.  He was upbeat, patient and pleasant to his co-workers.  He worked hard and did his job unstintingly.

And none of it worked out.  He was making barely more than daycare workers in Washington State make.  His wife was working at a bakery, making around the same.  Combined they were making around the median household income for their state, which is about half what married couples make who have kids in Washington.

But he met her at college.  They married young, but not too young.  They lived near family.

And he was almost 30 and fatherhood was looking like a dream.  He hoped further, additional credentials would finally get him a pay raise, into management.

But hope curdles in the face of grinding reality, where following all the rules pushes you deeper and deeper under and all the smiles and positive attitude aren’t moving you forward, but locking you in place.

His name was Richard Russell.  His friends called him Beebo.  What a privilege they had.

He took a plane up into the light, because for all his efforts to follow the rules, the light was slipping further and further away and all his smiles and good spirits couldn’t push away the dark shadows of despair and futility.

But in that plane, for a little while, he touched the light.  He reached down into this bleak world of corruption and the grinding down of good, young, decent men and he gave a taste of it to the rest of us here on the cold gray ground.

We who only knew him in death call him Sky King.  Sky King did nothing wrong.

 

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Almost all American married parents are Amazon Prime customers.

Amazon recently revealed they have 90 million or so Prime users in America, and that in the income ranges that mark the married class they have 70 to 90% uptake, with the 100k+ being close to 90% as far as they can tell.  By nearly any guess or estimate or account list, the majority of American households period are not just buying from Amazon, but subscribed to its Prime division.

I see right wing people brag about not buying from Amazon ever, and then I look at the reality on the ground for married mothers, who continue to have most of the children.

Acknowledgement of the extent of SCALE is part of the way towards reducing it.  Bragging on a Amazon Web Services-backed server about how you personally never go near the website to buy books or whatever, not so much.

Private retreat is impossible without scale

The frontier, the leading edge of private retreat, was not possible without a massive international and global infrastructure and use of cutting-edge technology and instant communication.

A common modern variation, telecommuting while “farming” ten acres in a rural community, is also obviously impossible without technological scale.  Scale refers to the idea that human societies grow in complexity and, er, scale with advancements in technology and the resulting productivity gains creating a reinforcing cycle of more and more scaling and consolidation and globalization.

As to more typical forms of conservative private retreat, they are also scale-dependent.  Homeschooling was originated by people using cutting-edge communication technology and benefiting from the postwar explosion in mechanical advancement producing farm equipment that could be used to work otherwise marginal parcels of land in either size or quality.  Even though ultimately most didn’t do much agrarian stuff and still don’t, the online and DIY ethos was carried forward and is still a substantial part of homeschooling as lifestyle.

There’s also the dependence of conservatives on industries that can’t exist without an overscaled society.  Like IT, or government administration.  Many small-government conservatives are employed in government jobs at government departments that didn’t even exist thirty years or even twenty and see no contradiction between their dependence on a larger and larger government and their belief that government should be smaller.  IT in its tech-company form is obviously full of deviance and general anti-family social aspects, yet it is if anything promoted the absolute most by conservatives as a family-supporting career path.

Conservatives tend to rely for frugality tips on mass production of cheap goods and also see nothing wrong with this dependence on cheap global labor in textiles and food. A common example where Costcos are located is telling mothers to take the kids to Costco to fill up on samples before dinner as a “frugality hack”.

There is much truth to the idea that progressives want everyone to progress towards a state of total and perfectly individual consumption, but the flipside of that is that conservatives want the same thing, except one level up, at the level of the nuclear family rather than the single individual.

But the problem with relying on more and more scaling up is that extreme complexity collapses, and brutally so.  There is no graceful failure mode in a world of just in time grocery shelf stocking.  Yet without an outlet for private retreat, there isn’t anything like the American conservative at all.

Frontier culture was always synthetic

This provided a glue that held the otherwise insane circumstances of frontier life together, but it was a brittle, fragile glue.

McGuffey readers, civic nationalism and the proposition nation are just a few of the synthetic components of this glue.  The original McGuffey readers were meant to educate young children in Scottish Presbyterian Christian faith, but this was rapidly subverted to promote a more generic and secular “civic nationalism” that remains the backbone of the eternal minority party, the Republicans.  Those readers, with their essentially national, limited but accessibly standardized curriculum also presaged the beginnings of credentialism and what progressives eventually snagged and remolded into “meritocracy”.

There’s also the fact that no matter how primitive the living conditions, frontier people were always reliant on what was sometimes very cutting edge and what was also pretty expensive technology to live out there at all.  The money-sink rail system, the agricultural machines, even the coal burnt out on the prairie.

Traditions formed, such as they were, were consumerist with a gloss of patriotism.