Friday, May 6, 2016

What Does Anybody Really Need? (Wail)

So I already knew that PP Subscribers A and B were out of town this weekend when I printed out today's Portal Paper. Rain allowed me to duck out of the library fast without paying for the printouts, because I didn't have a penny in my pocket--earlier in the week, when I bought kibble, it came out to $x.05 and I had $x.04. Rain also kept me from delivering a paper to Subscriber C, to whom I was hoping to sell an ad, and had kept Subscriber D from coming into town at all. Nevertheless: another financial crisis.

I am tired to death of financial crises, Gentle Readers. I believe in some sort of afterlife; I'd rather go to my Eternal Reward than feed my inborn oxygen addiction by doing things that I believe render people unworthy of an Eternal Reward. So welfare-cheating is out, and, although the topic came up in a conversation this morning and I empathized with those who choose a criminal lifestyle over welfare-cheating, that's also out.

Some of you were hoping the Frugal Gracious Living Challenge had been miraculously funded by someone else, so you could enjoy reading about it without funding it. You were wrong. I did the hunger strike, as promised, and a sponsor who really had had pneumonia and couldn't get into town said "There has to be just one more thing you've not tried yet." There is. Just one more thing. The Portal Paper is it. I agreed to "try" this for the rest of May. On the first of June, either I have $1000 in cash in hand, or I stop eating and drinking.

It was cold, this morning, for May. It was damp. It was windy. The thermometer was up to 57 degrees Fahrenheit (from yesterday morning's 42) but the wind-chill factor made it feel about equally chilly. Almost all the "regulars" decided there wasn't going to be a Market this Friday, and slept in. The vendors who'd set up were non-locals, and their mood was not optimistic by the time I got there. I shoved copies of PP on them, in shameless, manipulative, vulgar ways. I don't like doing that and I'm sure those people dislike me, and they may well have decided they dislike Gate City, by now.

I'm promising myself now, in order to get through this day--no more trying. I am a widow. Apart from my own personal enjoyment of life, which I expect will be drastically reduced when the heat and humidity roll in, I have no particular need and little reason to live. If I do need to be alive, it's your job to convince me. Words mean nothing unless they're accompanied by substantial amounts of MONEY, and even then the words need to be limited to "Please accept this token of my appreciation for what you DO [insert active verb phrase]."

I use the word "need" from time to time, as most speakers of English do, but I'm not sure that we shouldn't try to eliminate it from the language, because it has been so horribly abused by people who want to substitute the idea of "needs" for the idea of "honest exchange." There is no real need for more humans to take up space on this crowded planet. If we as a species don't appreciate what our neighbors do, then it's stupid and sentimental to try to feed them. (Obviously we don't pay our children, or our elderly parents, hourly wages; we want to do better than that by them--but that's because we appreciate what they do, not because they sit around whining about their "needs.")

I do appreciate what people do; I've always tried to pay people for what they do, and most especially to support small businesses and casual vendors. I'm not seeing a corresponding level of interest in making sure that I get paid for what I do. I don't like people who cheat me, who try to cheat me, or who babble about "human needs." I don't need to live in a world full of that sort of people. Nor do they need me--or you.

I'm not officially not-eating this week...but what I had to eat, on the profits of last week's PP, has been: Sunday--medicinal garlic and caffeinated soda pop, only. Monday--one packet of nuts, plus garlic and soda pop. Tuesday--another packet of nuts, plus garlic and soda pop. Wednesday--garlic and soda pop. Thursday--garlic and soda pop. Today, so far--a third packet of nuts, plus garlic and soda pop. I will be able to share two meat-and-veg meals (no rice) with the cats, this afternoon and tomorrow. At this point, considering that I didn't stay home and conserve my energy this week, I assure you I'm feeling "emptier" than I did during the hunger strike.

Do I need food? For what? Just to go on breathing? Why do I need to go on breathing? The young would have a better chance of learning what fair exchange, honest work, honest pay, and honest respect and appreciation of other people, are all about, if my entire generation stopped breathing; when they think nobody knows who they are, many of them say that. I don't particularly want to let them have my stuff (which in my case would be a small tract of land, and yes, I know some of the people who covet it, and no, they'll not get it). Do you or I really need for me to go on breathing just to spite younger people who want my stuff? Or yours?

I would, obviously, feel more cheerful if I were eating more regularly. And if the Cat Sanctuary had working electricity again, this time not connected to Appalachian Power. And if last November's fire damage were continuing to be repaired. And several other things. Food alone won't do it, Gentle Readers. If I "need" to be alive at all, I need to be seeing that "every day, in every way, my business and finances are getting better and better."

No handouts. No "needs." My own personal enjoyment of life is zero as long as I have to look at any human who is not positively thanking me, so I do not, in fact, feel a "need" to ask anybody even for food handouts. If you want me to eat, you say, "I appreciate what you do. I may not 'need' (in the sense of absolute survival 'needs') a book, or another hat, or an advertisement, or any other goods or services you provide--but I want them, because I want to support honest work and maintain a community of honest Christian people, and I thank you for them and I want to pay at least the price you've put on them without whining or stalling or wheedling about my 'neediness'."

You might be able to eat or breathe for another day without me, but you are, in fact, better off if you're able to admit that you want benefits--physical and emotional--that I provide you. So shut up about "need." Pay for what I do. Pay now, or forever live with your guilt...but pay because you want to pay, not because you imagine that I "need" anything whatsoever. If other human beings don't want me in this world, then the Holy One can take care of my needs in the next.

We as a nation would be much better off without any welfare cheats, and after looking at a few of them this morning I have the emotional feeling that it would be sort of fun if our existing welfare-cheat population were lined up and shot. I certainly don't "need" to do what they consider to be "living." Neither does any poor person you know. At least for those of us who've had the experience and know it, living means producing and giving and taking and growing and thriving, not whining or begging or "needing." There may be welfare cheats and social workers for whom their parasitic lifestyles feel more like living than anything else they know, but I thank God I'm not one of them--for me, what they do would be a lot more like dying, and I'd rather die at once and be done with it.

Of course I still have a lot going on. Of course I still want to live. But that's want, not "need."

There's nothing wrong with wanting things we don't "need" for hour-to-hour survival. We want children, even the ones who are not related to us, and eighty-year-old mothers who want very much to be able to work more hours (for lower wages) than mine currently is, even the ones who are not related to us, to go on living...because of something they do: they make the world a nicer place. We're all better off when we can admit that providing education for the children, retirement pensions for the aged, emergency shelters for disaster victims and temporary safety-net funds for the suddenly unemployed, are luxuries we want and enjoy...even more than we want the restaurant meals when we feel bored with cooking at home, or the gas to drive two miles to show that we don't "have to" walk, or any of the cute, fun things Wal-Mart makes it so easy to throw into the shopping cart. Literally starving though I am, I want and enjoy those luxuries too, every bit as much as you do.

But nobody needs whatever else you may do, for me or in my memory, please don't ever tell someone whose company you happen to enjoy anything like "What you need is to sign up for some sort of tax-funded 'benefits' (even though you're a competent, able-bodied adult)." That person doesn't need to be using up funds that were meant for people who are not competent, able-bodied adults. That person needs to be working--if only sweeping floors--and you need to be paying that person.

It's too easy to think that "working" means "being employed by a corporation," in these days when the corporations aren't hiring...anybody, unless (a) the person is between 25 and 30 years old and (b) the person has a specific "look" and (c) the person has been doing an identically described job for another corporation during the last year. Where does that leave able-bodied adults for whom living basically means working, but who aren't going to be eligible for corporate employment again in this lifetime? Because I got into this category by dropping out of university, well before age 25, I know where it leaves us. It leaves us happily doing odd jobs--which means working with and for individuals just like you--or it leaves us better-off-dead.

Blessed are those of us who have the fortitude to admit it if we've become better-off-dead.