On Fudge and Reindeer Games

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chocoContinuing my ongoing discussion about social justice, economic justice, community justice, the roots of injustice, what it all means and what’s wrong with the world, my tiny little part of the world, anyway.

I used to have an elderly friend who would always say, “Have you solved all the world’s problems yet?” I’d say, “Not Yet.” And she’d say, “Well you better get on it, daylight is wasting.”

So this tiny little fudge shop where I live posted on facebook that they are just going to close down indefinitely. Politics, threats, public officials, a story I’ve heard a million times over the years, that’s it I quit, I just can’t do this anymore.

You’ll have to forgive me here, because I don’t intend this to be a legal brief or a debate over details or anything, I really just want to address feelings, specifically the feelings around this dark spirit that has gripped our community since forever. It’s a spirit that says, we get to pick the winners and losers. It’s a spirit that says there are two sets of rules, one for those we approve of and another set for those we don’t. It’s a spirit of injustice.

It’s a spirit that flat-out says, we have a 101 ways of making your life really miserable. We have growth management acts, we have sign codes, sidewalk regulations, audits, zoning, building codes, you name it. We got walls we can put up that you wouldn’t believe, things that will stymie you from every direction. You’ll be chasing so many rabbits down holes tracking bits of contradictory bureaucracy, your head will spin.

Some of us are old-fashioned, we’re like, hand me the set of rules and I’ll comply. I’m just like everyone else, so if I work hard, do what I’m supposed to, I’ll reap what I sow. That’s justice, a level playing field. That’s fairness, we all play the same game with the same set of rules.

Well, we don’t do that here, we never really have.

When you’re on the wrong side of the tracks,  you are simply out of luck. You won’t be invited to any reindeer games. You are now the enemy. One of those kind of people. If you have a whole lot of money, you can hire teams of lawyers and kind of bulldoze your way through the opposition, but most of us lack those resources. Most of us lack the desire to become a chronic pebble in people’s shoe too, we want to be part of a community.

How do you get on the wrong side of the tracks? Wrong politics, social disapproval, what part of the country you came from, your faith, or simply the fact that someone isn’t getting enough fiber on their breakfast cereal and has decided they don’t approve of you. Who knows how and why? Those rules are fluid too.

When you’re on the bottom of the food chain, the game gets even uglier. You speak up or cause offense somewhere, some people believe they have the right to completely annihilate you. They’ll contact child protectives services, run your kids out of the school system, report you to various agencies, call the cops, use the legal system to harass you, whatever people can think or dream up.

You can actually lose your kids. Your job. Your housing. There’s a saying we’ve co-opted that sums up a lot of people’s feelings in these parts, “come on vacation, leave on probation.”

What we’ve done, intentionally or unintentionally, is created this stifling environment where people begin to feel as if the deck is so stacked against them that they are completely powerless. That’s it, I quit, why bother. You just can’t make it, not financially, not socially, not when it comes to housing, business, life, because the game is just so rigged against you. Enough bullying begins to create this sense of learned helpless.

It all starts to make you feel a bit paranoid, too.  Am I really an epic failure at life here or are there really all these people out to get me?  All in good humor here, but I really empathize with those feelings, as I drive around with my car insurance duct taped to my dash-board least I get pulled over, dodging the animal cop who’s trying to charge my cat with trespassing, all the while changing parking places every hour least my tires get marked.

I do all those things because I am so conditioned to accept injustice as a way of life that I expect it.  I  expect somebody to have decided to target me for whatever reason. That’s learned helplessness, that’s the fruit of that spirit in our community that believes it is entitled to pick the winners and the losers. What we’ve done is created extreme economic hardship, a housing shortage, a thriving meth and heroin trade, record suicide rates,  and crushed so, so many spirits in a million different ways.

People don’t seem to understand that when their personal becomes political, when their social justice campaign insists on targeting the little people, what you are really doing is just preying on the powerless and hurting people. You don’t create change in the world by tearing down a small business owner.

So cause and effect, causation and correlation. Newton’s third law is: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The statement means that in every interaction, there is a pair of forces acting on the two interacting objects.”

When we feed a revenge based spirit of social justice that demands the personal become political and target individuals for their assorted “crimes,” we create walls in our community that stifle growth, create poverty, inhibit prosperity, and sow  endless misery. It’s the precise opposite of freedom.

I may well be crazy to draw a parallel between fudge shops and reindeer games, but I am not crazy to observe a clear relationship between this spirit, this form of social justice that is rooted in revenge,  annihilation, destruction, with people being trapped in poverty and unable to carve a life out for themselves.