The calm

Have you ever had the feeling that something is about to break, and the dread you feel is the fear of the unknown?

I suppose it’s more of an attitude I sense than anything, but people are seemingly more on edge now than at any other time I remember. Sure, the holidays are always a stressful time, but the advent of the Occupy movement has shown that there’s a fairly short fuse out there and one helluva powder keg not too far away.

Now don’t start believing I’m turning into one of those survivalists who will stockpile seventeen months’ worth of food and water, building the underground bunker to ride out the unrest sure to come. I don’t think it will get THAT bad, but something just doesn’t feel right about society today. It seems there are too many desperate people out there.

And maybe that’s because we as a society have forced the hand of some of those people.

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day who works for a retail establishment, and he told me that one interesting category of items being stolen at a rampant pace was pet food and supplies. The theory was that people can’t use their Independence Card (i.e. food stamps) to purchase these items so somehow a small bag of dog food for Fido or cat treats for Mittens finds its way out of the store without being paid for.

(By the way, is calling the card one swipes in place of receiving actual food stamps an “Independence Card” the ultimate in irony? I know, I know, it’s a self-esteem thing so no one has to have the stigma anymore of getting out the book of food stamps and handing the cashier that funny money. Now it looks like any other debit transaction. But truth in advertising would make the card be known as the Dependence Card.)

The question then becomes – is what I’m hearing and sensing a symptom or a disease? Are we trying too hard to maintain our social status by cutting corners and violating age-old Commandments or is this Exhibit A of the entitlement mentality gone too far? If I don’t have the money to buy something, I do without – is that now an old-fashioned attitude exhibited only by fuddy-duddies who don’t live in the here and now? After all, to some who would be Occupiers, that retailer is just greedily ripping off both the average worker by not paying them a so-called ‘living wage’ and the consumer by trying to make a profit.

And I’m sure there are those who relish the thought of civil unrest to bring about change. To some on the Left, the Occupy movement was a warmup exercise to what really needs to be done, while those on the right remember Jefferson’s lamentation that the “tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” Personally I’d like to keep all of us intact because a civil war would be pretty nonproductive from the standpoint of maintaining our American lifestyles, flawed as they sometimes may be. Unlike the last time we scuffled amongst ourselves, we’re not exactly isolated from the rest of the world anymore and who knows what other nations and interests might jump in to tilt things one way or the other.

Obviously we can’t stop the hands of time, and 2012 is coming our way whether we like it or not. From what I understand, we hit the end of time next year – at least as far as the Mayan civilization was concerned, since their calendar stops near the end of the year. (Of course, my 2011 calendar stops when New Year’s Day arrives, so I’m not overly concerned.) And there’s always those who read into Biblical prophecy that the end is near – I seem to recall a lot of that around the turn of the millennium. We’re still here.

But my concern is the shining city on the hill we call America. Indeed, we live in interesting times and I don’t see that changing any time soon. Call it a hunch.

Those who say the next election will be the most important of our lives – well, they may have a case this time around. With the wrong result, that sense of urgency and dread I get may be manifested in ways we haven’t imagined.

Author: Michael

It's me from my laptop computer.