You've heard--I know you have--people talk about accepting the consequences of one's actions. It's a persistent sermon from our preachy neighbors on the right, the responsibility to "accept the consequences of one's actions." Particularly when it's somebody else they have in mind.
However, there is another name for the consequences of our actions, and happily, it's quicker to say. The future. The greatest influence over which actions we take, if we are thoughtful human beings, is our ability to extrapolate those actions out into a viable vision of the future, yes? That ability may come as a result of education, prior experience, native intelligence or common knowledge. But without it, everything we do, every act we commit, is guesswork. The extrapolation itself could amount to something so relatively insignificant as, "If I eat that burrito so soon before bedtime, I'll be farting all night long," or scenarios far more portentous--i.e., "What comes next after people like the multi-billionaire Koch brothers and their toadies get everything they want?"
The latter of those two questions has been heavy on my mind lately, as it is so often the consequences of other people's actions that determine our futures more profoundly than anything we do as individuals. Given the broad-scale assault on what's left of middle-class economic stability by people who already have more money than God--or if not God, then certainly more money that you, me and 95 percent of Americans, put together--I wouldn't expect the brothers Koch, nor their skulking minions, to answer such a question. Not honestly, at any rate. Nor would I expect the gullible lower percentiles who constitute the right's fawning flock to extrapolate a future from current events, as I've seen no evidence of a talent for long-range thinking in those people.
Yet such an extrapolation must be done, don't you think? If the insatiable David and Charles Koch get their way, if state leaders slavishly servile to the super rich (New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, to name a few) get their way, if the voracious corporate beast that every day devours another chunk of our America gets its way, what is our future? Once organized labor is thrashed to extinction and the public schools are as privatized as prisons and military mess halls; once higher education is priced out of reach for common citizens and all benevolent government programs are sold off to cronies; once reproductive freedom is choked out by the hands of theocrats and our very survival is at the whim of insurance magnates; once any and all regulation of corporate and banking concerns is scuttled and consumer protection, environmental protection and worker protection are things of the past ... then what will our country, our lives, look like?
The following is the way I see it unfolding. I'll make it as short as I can, but I can't cram the whole future into what's left of this page, so it'll come in two parts. As any storyteller knows, it is always easier to comprehend something vast through the experiences of an individual rather than the mass impressions of generic eyes, so I create my character, "Billy," on whom the future will fall. I don't consider him strictly fictional. Let us think of him as my grandson, as yet unborn.
Billy loses his latest job because he is too sick to go to work. It's his third bout in a year with salmonella from contaminated greens. Each time, he lodges a complaint with the restaurant in question, but since the Food and Drug Administration was converted years before into a tax-funded public relations agency for the agri-industry and big pharma, that's as far as it goes. All three restaurant managers tell him essentially the same thing--"So sue me"--knowing full well that anyone bringing suit against a business now has at least an even chance of ending up in prison himself. (This is the inevitable result of those tort reforms that redefined virtually any lawsuit against a business enterprise as "nuisance litigation"--or as the decrepit, 99-year-old Justice Clarence Thomas croaked out when the reforms were approved by the Supreme Court, "lynching by shyster.")
Billy's wife tells him to stay away from the salad bar and stick to the deep-fried items.
"You wouldn't be getting salmonella all the time if you'd forget about that damn spinach and go with the hush puppies."
He snaps back, "I wouldn't be getting salmonella all the time if there were somebody inspecting the damn food supply for contamination, that's what!"
His wife rolls her eyes. "There you go again with that socialist talk."
"I'm just trying to lose a little weight, dear. You should, too."
Taken together, Billy and his wife weigh 487 pounds. She has diabetes, and he will as well by the time he's 33. She considers herself lucky that their health care is covered by her job, even though a condition of her continued employment is that she stays in the company's health plan, that she is responsible for 100 percent of whatever cost they throw at her and that by the time they deduct the premiums, she nets just enough money to pay for the gas it takes to drive to work each day.
"Thank God they did away with Social Security," she mutters, "or I'd have to use public transportation." (This comment reflects her sense of black humor, as everyone knows there is no longer any public transportation.)
Join me next week as young Billy goes job-hunting in the future.