(Note: A satirist is schizophrenic — happy to be proven right but worried about being proven TOO right. I wrote this piece in June 2011. Now, in November 2011, analysis of 2010 census data shows the gap in net-worth between the old and the young is twice what it was in 2005 and five times what it was 25 years ago. The satirist laughs, but the soul weeps.)
Tragedy is: I have an excruciatingly niggling hangnail. Comedy is: You fall down the stairs, I laugh, and my pain has miraculously vanished.
I NEED vs. YOU WANT is today’s tragicomedy. Take our current worldwide epidemic of government budget crises. Scenes of Greeks and Brits trashing their respective capitals out of pique at government austerity plans were amusing until I reflected on the tragic possibility that this could affect my NEED to hop a plane for some souvlaki or a pint of bitter. Never mind the shattered hopes of youth, the desperation of the jobless. Have they not thought of ME and MY NEEDS, the selfish little bastards?
Then there are our own federal and state budget crises, which are far more serious than what’s happening overseas, namely in being so much closer to ME.
I’m watching Republicans and Democrats with deep concern. Yes, the Republicans swear they won’t raise MY taxes, just to redistribute them to some greedy public university student or unemployed bum, but their noises about MY Medicare and Social Security benefits could be opening shots in a war that would end up storming the citadel of MY generous Federal pension. And, yes, the Democrats vow to defend MY Medicare and Social Security to the death, but will they take it all away by taxing ME and then doling it out for some complete stranger’s PETTY WANTS?
I am comforted, here in my adopted state of Colorado (Motto: Now That I’M Here, Shut the Door), that virtually all of the blood from the falling axe will be shed by those other than ME — the schools, which will lose programs and staff; public university students, whose tuition will rise as fast as public subvention falls. Fortunately, I’ve learned all I’ll ever need to know, and my children are grown. When the effects of educational cutbacks really begin to make their way into the body politic, I will probably be dead.
Probably dead, but don’t think I’ll go without a fight! As I age (ungracefully), MY medical NEEDS will grow, and, as the technologies to keep me alive (and their associated costs) multiply even faster, I can foresee personally commanding resources that would be the envy of small developing countries. In fact, if a sufficient percentage of us senior citizens collectively held our breath until we turned blue, I’m sure we could bankrupt one or two of our more marginal states. But, not to worry. I would never support any joint action that gave the WANTS of others equal standing with MY OWN NEEDS.
Don’t bother me with John Donne and his no man is an island … the bell is tolling for me blather. And don’t try that downfall of the USSR analogy on me, you know, the one that goes: Just as we brought the Soviet empire to collapse by goading them to unsustainable levels of military spending, we’re going to destroy ourselves through massive, unsustainable levels of spending on the near-dead.
No dice. I’m singing Don’t Fence ME In and I Did It MY Way with my fingers in my ears. And, if you deny me what I NEED just to give to some young physics student or social worker what they WANT, I actually will hold my breath until I turn blue. If you think it’ll take a fortune to keep me alive tomorrow, just wait until you see the cost of de-bluing me today. It’ll make the Soviet collapse look like a Young Pioneers’ picnic.