Having just finished The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, here are a few “take-aways.”
1. Men and money are a bad combination.
2. The same strategies to put down, oppress and foment hatred against people of color was used against the Okies coming to California in the 30’s, the IWW workers movement at the turn of the century (read Cold Millions by Jess Walter), the British against the Irish, etc. Proving my suspicion that you can’t separate the purposeful perpetration of the “isms” from economics and greed. That’s the next big conversation we need to have.
3. The police are there “to serve and protect.” The rich folks, that is. Always have been and still mostly are. Along with the corrupt bosses, they changed or bent the law at will giving those they threaten, beat, jail, kill, no resource for complaint or justice. (This deserves its own post.)
4. Compared to the lives of so many Americans a mere 100 years ago, the average citizen today is living like a King or Queen in terms of comfort, leisure, food on the table, shelter, climate-controlled environments and more. Just reading about the sheer amount of grueling physical labor, the horrible working environments, the hunger and privation, the battle against the elements, the sanitary (or rather unsanitary) conditions, all of that on top of the brutality of the bosses, helps me realize that we often have no idea how trivial our complaints are in the face of our supreme luxuries. (That damn toilet is running again! Oh, life is so unfair!)
I left the book with a similar feeling to finishing What Is the What by Dave Eggers. That I simply have no right to complain about anything. Nothing. Except, of course, the big things like injustice and the forces that keep it running. But those little daily annoyances? “The restaurant won’t seat me until 8:00? That’s too late for my bedtime!” “What? There isn’t a kosher macrobiotic carb-free vegan option?! How dare they!” “Dang! I can’t find that movie on Netflix.” You get the idea.
So next time you find yourself complaining about things like that, start reading some of the books above. But first set your thermostat to the desired temperature, take a bath or shower with the perfect temperature water and one of 50 kinds of soap while listening to your favorite music from 10,000 choices on Spotify, Pandora or your CD collection, settle into your cushioned royal throne with drink in hand kept cold in the refrigerator (choose from 65 different kind of beer or wine or kombucha or flavored sparkling water) and assorted chocolates from 25 different makers, put the glass and plate in the dishwasher and if the book is too hard for you, see if you can find the movie on Netflix.
And get outraged if you can’t find it there!!!