I'm on vacation this week. A "staycation." Hate that word, but I'm staying in town this week so I guess it fits. Anyhow, a friend was going to join my last night for a visit to the gym in my building. It's not a fancy gym, but it has what we need: an elliptical thing for her, an exercise bike for me, and various machines to tones legs, arms, and other bits. But we couldn't use the gym last night because, well, because of what follows:
As my friend was nearing my place, she noticed a lot of cop cars, fire trucks, and ambulances around my building. There was a cop in my building lobby, and he asked her where she was going. Thinking that there was a crime scene somewhere nearby, she told him she was visiting a friend and asked where she should go in to the building and whether I should leave. Oh, no problem, he said, and said something like "have a nice visit."
So she comes up and tells me about the scene outside, which I missed because I had the blinds drawn. We stop at the lobby on our way to the gym to see if we can learn anything. Another tenant walked in after talking to a cop, and he told us that he was told that there was "an investigation going on." My friend wondered if it was some nasty domestic dispute. Still, we went down into the basement because we assumed that it was safe or the cops would have closed it down. I wondered whether it could be a drill--they have these regularly in New York City to prepare for the unpreparable and to scare the citizenry who may have forgotten to be afraid.
In the basement there was a cop in uniform. Near him were four full red bags with the words "Infectious Materials" written on them. And then I knew it was a fucking drill. I asked him whether I was correct, and he had to concede it (but you could tell he didn't want to) when I pointed out the four potential dangerous if true bags o' pretend impending death. And no, we couldn't go into the gym because some cops had changed in there and left their civilian clothes on the equipment and they didn't want us in there with their things.
I know that the police, firemen, and EMTs have to drill to prepare for various possible scenarios. But while gobs of money are spent on the security state which has institutionalized the continued violation of our 4th amendment rights through dataminging (because no one has said that it ended, have they?) and TSA genital gropings, there apparently is no money to investigate and prosecute bankers, provide health care to unisured Americans, or encourage the use of alternative energy, which are real and present dangers that the political class and their uber rich masters ignore on purpose.
Maybe I shoud move to a small rural community and unplug.
In the era of big boxes, a day for the little guy. I have said this before, but I will repeat myself: we must step in and do what the whores who run our government will not--support local stores, insist on having access to American-made products, and refuse to buy Chinese made shit (and shit from other countries with deep pools of exploited labor). Before I buy a thing, I find out if the product is made in the US (or Canada, the EU or another country where labor has some protection and the government regulates industry). If I can't find out on my own, I send the company an e-mail and ask where the product is manufactured. A couple try to be cute and say that their products are proudly designed in the US, but then add that the product is manufactured in China (with oversight, blah, blah, blah). When I get one of those e-mails, I know that I wasn't the first potential customer to ask. Good. I believe that if only 10% of us did this, the U.S. would be a hell of a lot healthier for the 99% of us who are obscenely rich.
Long and short, money spent in local stores will stay local. Money spent in WalMart goes to the filthy Walton heirs who are not spending it in your communtiy (although they may be spending it in mine, because I'm sure all of them have enormous penthouses in Manhattan, among other places). I didn't watch or listen to Obama's state of the union, but I understand that he started making some noise about saving the middle class, jobs, etc. Wow, it only took him 3 1/2 years to figure that out? Wrong. He needs votes so he's dancing for the disillusioned base. Once he wins his re-election--and he will--it will be back to serving his masters on Wall Street. We can't force Obama and his administration to investigate and prosecute the bastards, but we can refuse to fund them and the rest of sociopathic monsters running America's biggest corporation by simply refusing to feed them our money. It's simple: starve the beast. And yes, it feels good.
but I do it for two reasons: 1). Americans can make stuff (and well made stuff, by the way) , and 2). no one moves production to China because the quality is better. As for reason number 2, we all know that there is absolutely no government regulation in China and the factory owners are willing to take the risk of getting caught doing something they shouldn't. How do we know this? Well, given that the punishment for getting caught is being taken out back and having some government functionary put a bullet in your head, it seems pretty clear that government interference with manufacturing must be virtually nonexistent (because if the risk of getting caught and shot was high, very few people would even try). And, of course, I'd rather not have products rinsed with the tears of exploited Chinese labor.
Which leads to my query: Can anyone recommend a set of measuring spoons that are sturdy, accurate, and NOT made in China? Yeah, I did run into every kitchen store and hardware store I could today and found nothing but Chinese made tat. I know that life would be easier if I just accepted that some things have no non-Chinese made alternatives, but in the long run I think life for everyone here would be better if we all demanded more American made goods. That said, I'm willing to purchase European, Canadian, etc. made goods too. Any country where there is some regulation of industry and protections in place for workers (sad, isn't it, that the US is low on that list).
Buy It For Life. As I've mentioned before, I left my apartment at Chez Horrible--a crappy apartment located on Barrow Street, one of the best blocks in Manhattan--and I now live in a much better place in Dumbo, Brooklyn. Because my old place was so small--the kitchen was not really usable except to boil water for coffee or, sigh, a bath--I did not have all the kitchen things one needs. Like dishes. I mean I had them, but after a few years I realized that I wasn't using them (I have my big meal at lunch, which I usually ate out), so I gave them to my brother.
Five or ten years later, I have a real kitchen and I have started cooking. I need to cook more regularly, and I have purchased most of what I need to do that. That said, having a set of dishes would help, so I ordered them yesterday. I picked a set that I think I will like for a long time, that are durable, and, no surprise, are made by people who work in a country that generally protects the rights of workers (this time it was France). The women who sold them to me says she bought her set 15 years ago, uses them all the time as her casual dishes, and has never chipped a plate. Sold.
My purchases for the new apartment are almost done, but now that I have dishes, I need a kitchen/dining table. As with the dishes, I am going to spend a bit more and buy something that I will use forever. And then it will be handed down to someone else to enjoy for another lifetime.
If enough of us bought things that lasted longer, I think it would have a real impact on this country. Sure, initially one would probably spend more, but in the long run there would be a hell of a lot less waste and a bit more money in our pockets. Another benefit of buying for life is that often the producers of well-made, long-lasting products are smaller businesses--you can find out exactly who it is who is getting your money. Given how rapacious our evil filthy corporate overlords have become (they always were, but know they don't even hide it), knowing that your money is going to an independent woodworker in West Virginia and not some mega-corporation that oursources production to China is a big deal.
I have come to the conclusion that that the biggest impact I can make as a U.S. citizen is to vote with my wallet. Not a cent to cable companies, not a cent to the main stream newspapers, not a cent to any broadcast anything, not a cent to Walmart or Target, and so on. In a country where the dollar rules, I know that my vote may or may not count but someone cares about every dollar I spend.