Chapter 5. Ploy Before Play
I was relieved to see my bizarre buddy calming down and returning to normal. Normal for him, that is. From now on I would be a little more considerate. I would try not to subject my guest to the same type of horror stories often told in alien abduction stories that contain graphic descriptions of what curious aliens have performed on us. It just wasn’t right to subject a guest to such discomfort.
My tales of terrestrial terror have only served it seems, to send him into repeating oxymoronic linear loops, and I didn’t want to be responsible for starting an international – or even worse – an interstellar incident. From now on I would be more careful.
He was definitely an enigma wrapped in a riddle. I was nevertheless impressed with his skill of our language although there were communication failures at times. It seems we don’t always understand the possibilities for these misunderstandings until they happen. For example, when someone says “I don’t want to be cleaning up after you”, this makes sense to us; but not to intelligent beings from a different plane of understanding. Why would anyone want to clean up after someone else has already done so? Alien intelligence may have inferred the expression to mean that the first cleaning was done badly, so it really wasn’t a “cleaning”. We humans assume that the sentence infers that you are messy and so I have to clean up after you; and this I am protesting.
The same thing holds for questions of no consequence, like “Is anyone here?” or “Are you alone?” A negative answer to either of these would make the unsuspecting inquirer reasonably suspicious. Such is also the case with quintessential customer inquiries, such as “Can I ask you a question?” Or, “Is it too hard to ask someone for assistance?” Obviously, it is not too hard for anyone who can ask the question to go ahead and ask it.
The alien’s current situation was improving, and I was going to ask him if he could talk or at least say a few syllables, but then realized it was just one of those questions. Eventually he had regained composure and continued the “interview”, as he was intent on finding the truth. He knew it was out there, and wanted to take advantage of every moment of quality time to interrogate me. He probably wasn’t worried about his own health, but rather the success of his research mission. I was admittedly impressed with his commitment and work ethic. If only we humans had such a work ethic. Oh, the places we’d go!
He was determined to utilize his studious mind to figure out some universal application to understand our human condition. I realized I was Way Below his superior intellect, which undoubtedly made him as cunning as a fox, and seemed to be as clever as a 20th century Disney movie. But now that intelligence was challenged and overwhelmed like the District of Columbia Metro Center station during rush hour. But his determination to accomplish his duty was paramount. We were united artisans and each of us knew our respective roles. He was the serious interviewer, and I the cooperative interviewee. He was the mover of ideas and I was the impressed projection.
I felt the intensity of the beams of this exotic extraterrestrial were exaggerated just a bit, delving too far into things he wasn’t prepared for. But his mind was made up. He was going to analyze the roots of our economic woes even if it was the last thing he’d ever do. And if he continued with that intensity, it might very well be.
Unabashed at his momentary disengagement, he got back into gear. “A lot of things seem weird to me about you humans” he opened, “but it seems particularly strange to me that talented people with something to contribute can be rejected for employment so many times. From what you tell me, your civilization should be able to do a great many things, if you do not mind me saying so.”
I didn’t mind. The alien’s candid compliment and positive attitude made me feel very good, and seemed like music to my ears. Particularly as of late, I wasn’t used to hear someone say something like that even if that someone came from a place so far away. But I couldn’t help wondering whether he was better positioned than even our media to make observations that were fair and balanced. I wasn’t sure if he was more qualified at drawing unbiased conclusions about humans than we humans ourselves who live so much closer to home.
The alien continued his probe, unaware perhaps that he was further providing an indication of his misplaced understanding of humanity. “Maybe you need to tell the person who placed the job ad simply how much you need the money in order to survive. Then maybe you could fill the position.”
This silly statement was light years from the reality we face. My pitiful situation was beginning to get a bit embarrassing, and it would have been much more so if my friend had been a human being. I was feeling like my psyche was being dissected piece by piece. But in fact, he wasn’t examining me as much as he was exploring the human condition brought upon by waste of the species and of the available resources which could have otherwise been used by society to better its chances for survival.
I was finding all this somewhat challenging, trying to explain to the alien our very basic thought processes. Then I felt it was necessary to take the explanation step by step and not leave out anything that I might have otherwise considered obvious to my fellow humans. So I explained very simply, “That doesn’t interest the employers at all. They know I need the money, because they do, too. We all do. That’s the basic cornerstone of the human condition, and it in fact defines our economy.”
He then commented on my simplistic statement: “So it is all right with your society and its leaders that there are so many poor but talented people out there that can’t get jobs.”
“Oh, yes” I answered without hesitation. I had lots of experience in that.
“But does not your government and its leadership care about training these people for work, and to prepare them for their place in society? Are the people supposed to remain tired, poor huddled masses, wretched refuse from your own teeming shores?”
Good question. You would think that societies that promote an industrious work ethic would strive to become illustrious societies beaming with pride.
“The elected officials say that they care, but I don’t know,” I said with an obvious tone of capitalist capitulation. “They earn enough money not to care, anyway. As for me, I have a bachelor’s degree and a master in business administration, with many years of documented experience in a wide range of activities. I am always ready to learn something new if it will get me into a job position that I could bring value and could receive value - money - in return. But it seems to me that most places don’t want to train people, even those who have proven themselves.”
He was persistent, if not grammatically consistent. “Why do not the job providers want to train their future employees? Who makes that determination?” he asked earnestly.
“It comes through the HR department. HR stands for Human Resources.”
“Human Resources!?” he asked with vociferous excitement. Your money providers have a department called human resources? Why that is colossally fascinating! What a wondrous land! All you need to do is approach human resources departments, tell them you are human, and a ready, able, and willing resource to work and you should have a job by the end of the day! You should do this – it is so obvious!”
Finding the best response to these unintentionally absurd exclamations was difficult – there were so many possible ways to respond. I should have known that the term “human resource” would resonate with an impartial observer from another world who was studying how humans could behave in such an inhuman way to each other.
“We have never heard of a department dealing with ‘human’ resources before” he continued. “This is something for which we were not prepared. Do you have a non-human resource department, too?”
It was interesting that the alien did not a sentence in a preposition. The preposition rule which most of us ignore was obviously covered in his ESOL classes, and he was most likely attentive that day with his druid pedagogue instructors at Stonehenge.
If his question, naïvely and innocently posed, hadn’t been so annoying it would have been rather amusing. I thought to myself that, although we didn’t have non-human resource departments, we did have some inhuman ones.
I answered his question with a sarcastic one: “Why do you ask? Are you looking for work on our planet? I’m not sure if this is legal. After all, a lot of human citizens look down on undocumented aliens taking over jobs that should have been theirs.”
I guess he didn’t get my cynical comment. He was still trying to work things out and was getting frustrated.
I wasn’t sure if he was losing patience with me, or just getting frustrated at the lack of progress he was making in reaching his objective. But he looked at me for a second and appeared to notice that I was really sad about my own situation. So he changed what appeared to be his demeanor. At least I think he did. It was hard to tell.
“What you are telling me about human resource departments, job searches, and talent waste sounds not only inefficient but also very cruel. Are a lot of your people treated in this sort of way?” My inquisitor was trying to follow some logical process of getting to the cause of my problem, in order to get to the larger issue of our socio-economic failure. My own failure to find work was ostensibly being employed as an illustrative starting point in his analysis. How I wished he could pay me some compensation for my contribution, if not for my painful and tortuous memories of self-inflicted impalement as punishment for not finding work after all these months.
“Sadly, yes” I could barely hold back the tears. My visitor had no idea how meaningful work was important to us humans. We wanted to feel useful and contribute to society. He had no idea either of the notion that even if people didn’t like what they were doing at work, at least they would be compensated for it with money so that they could enjoy life when they were not working. In keeping up with the flow of the conversation I continued: “I know a lot of people who are talented and experienced individuals who have been stuck in this feedback loop many times. They are still out of work today.”
He paused for a moment, then started to say something, then paused again. I had no idea what he was going to say and why he decided not to say it. I sensed no telepathic signal, only body language from a being with anatomy that contained illegibly cryptic lettering all over. It seemed that his species had no special telepathic ability, and couldn’t read minds. He couldn’t understand what I felt any more than I could understand what he felt by entering his thoughts. In this sense we were equals.
At the same time, I understood his thinking. He was drawing conclusions based on his studies and his interview with me. Maybe he had drawn a conclusion that some people just have that permanent function of being unemployed. Is it possible that our well-paid elected officials actually want there to be a segment of unemployed people? I hadn’t thought of this before. I was Not Sure about this idiocratic system.
It may be that the economy is like a machine that produces unwanted waste which must be discarded – otherwise the rest of the machine gets backed up and eventually blocked from doing any further work. No machine is perfect; even refrigerators generate some heat. Financial systems aren’t perfect, and there are many examples of that. Theft and larceny turn legitimately generated money to fraudulent. It’s like background noise interfering with high fidelity music you really want to hear in good faith.
I suppose such noise - such waste – is a natural byproduct of productivity. For nothing in life is free – even before we are toilet trained we know that after we have recharged our bodies with food, the body needs to process the food, ultimately rejecting and discharging waste material which would otherwise be poisonous to the body.
Although I am an avowed capitalist, sometimes I get so discouraged about the way our economy is set up. I suppose we humans have found it easy to depict our society and its sustaining economy in terms of organic production and waste. It explains not only why people remove trash from their homes, but also why people like me are discarded from the workforce as garbage. We are probably viewed by the CEOs and other captains of industry as excrement of the workforce, with the understanding that if trash like me is not discarded, it becomes a burden on society.
This was a painful metaphor, comparing the long-time unemployed people to trash. But I got to know it over the years, and I had begun to identify with it, too.
As the alien stated his observations he seemed like a scientist who has carefully applied some sort of delicate acid test, showing concern that the application doesn’t destroy the sample that is being tested. I think he was worried about my own mental welfare, and appeared to hope that he didn’t cause me any damage by insulting me.
As quickly as I could regain my composure, I responded “Anything’s possible. But before you pass judgment, have a look at my resume.” I then pulled out one of my thirty-seven versions and gave him the one with more professional detail.
He began reading my professional resume, and while he did so, I started speaking about the emotional experience of being continuously rejected by employers “If I really weren’t that good, how could I have been working for so many years with letters of recommendation for outstanding work? Take a look at all the things I have done. Can you really say I’m not that good?” I started to raise my voice in excitement and lose control while making these exclamations. He finished reading my resume, then stared at me again for about a minute.
After considering the plausible reasons for my lack of employment success, he pursued the point further. “Could it be that your leaders would rather keep a reserve of labor on the sidelines? This reserve would consist of people who would do anything for even a small amount of money, or perhaps even volunteer their time and energies to get some critical job done for free?”
“Good question,” is all I could say.
The interstellar interviewer seemed a little disappointed from my answer, apparently hoping for something a bit more enlightening. He continued, “We have also noticed that the problem of wasted talent has been going on for centuries. It seems that it is in the nature of the human being to minimize the other person’s talent even if that would mean bettering the quality of life. Look at how many people who have been sent to fight in your wars and who have died, taking all that talent and potential to the grave.”
Touché, again. This was a good point, and motivated me to make an effort and shed some beams of light on our wasteful history. “Actually, this waste has been going on for so long, we have gotten somewhat used to it.” Then I said something which surprised even me. With a bitter irony I sounded off: “What is new about these times in the 21st century is this: Whereas in the preceding centuries the people were motivated by fear and intimidation to comply with dictatorial systems, today politicians and our so called leaders simply choose to invoke what the French called a “Laissez Faire” attitude to let these problems ‘take care of themselves’, roughly translated.”
The alien looked up somewhat astonished. I presumed so based on his wrinkled tubular protrusion which appeared to be his forehead, in an expression that seemed to hint some cognitive dissonance. His color changes seemed to indicate that his moods had been capriciously changing from “warm and fuzzy” to something that could be described as “cold and prickly” even when the heat was on.
I understood the alien, although I was against excessive government interference in things we consumed. What we wanted to eat was our business. Except for the war against drugs, I always felt that the government had no right to interfere and take on the role of supervising nanny state.
I guess political vision should be left to the true idealists and not to the pros and cons. It’s should be about form and vision. On paper, conservatives look to preserve traditional form and vision, while progressives look to innovate these through re-form and re-vision. The conflict between form and reform, as well as between vision and revision is valid. The problems start when greed and corruption get in the way and are disguised and cloaked by these ideals. Much confusion and distortion arise from erosion of true idealism and the departure from the path to those perceived values and re-values.
Then the alien told me what was confusing him: “I fail to understand, human. I thought you were a capitalist who didn’t like governmental interference, and now you are blaming that lack of involvement for the woes you are suffering”.
Good point. I found myself trying to work through this inconsistency. I was against government interference on one hand, but had problems with a government that opted for a strategy that seems to promote human waste. At times our elected leaders seem to prefer to lie to the people about the situation being much better than it really is.
I admit I was rather amused at this use of the double-entendre term “human waste”, which could be used also to describe the outcome of the social economic neglect we had been discussing.
After some personal reflection I began to notice that my visitor had been staring at me in amazement with an expression that was of course, alien to me. He apparently had uncovered a very inconvenient truth about what was really going on in our socio-economic reality.
With an urgency bordering between logical inquiry and momentary panic he exclaimed. “This situation is killing you, human. It has to stop, someplace. As a predicament that predicts possible future outcomes, this talent-waste simply can not be ignored. Look at all the problems and challenges you have on your planet. Can not the talented people you have in your society be used to prevent upcoming tragedies? Look at the mess your planet is leaving behind for your children. What will the next generation say after you are gone?
Again amused at his syntax problems, I chose not to correct them. Instead, I confirmed his rhetoric observations “I can’t imagine what they would be thinking about how wasteful we are,” is all I could think of saying. I wasn’t feeling very clever right now.
The interstellar inquisitor was really touching a nerve, and a painful one at that. “Your descendants will probably be asking a lot of questions: They will be wondering why the people before them – their parents’ generation – were not deployed to investigate possible scenarios of natural disasters. They will want to know why the talents of experienced unemployed professionals were not utilised in order to perhaps prevent an ecological disaster.”
I had a hard time answering these questions which were rhetorical in nature. I supposed he realized that his questions had no answers. How could we, as an enlightened society, allow our children to take loans and invest in themselves and their education, only to tell them afterwards that there are no jobs for them? How can the burden of such massive college debt be thrust upon them? Don’t we love our children? Don’t we want to protect them from lone wolves and loan sharks? Didn’t we promise the next generation that if they work hard they would be rewarded like their parents? Do we really want them to suffer educated poverty at their expense? All I could say, was “I really don’t know. I really, really don’t know. Then I lowered my head in shame. Shame for my species.
The alien continued unabated: “And what about other unforeseen hardships just waiting to befall your descendants in future generations? Will they be ready to cope if you have not built foundations for the future? Will they know how to deal with structures of no beams and no architectural design? Why should they suffer because of your fear of evolutionary change, of human advancement? Why should they be victimized by your metamorphobia?”
That last word was interesting. I must try to remember to use it sometime. Was it anything like metamorphosia or something Escher-related line-skewing or mind-bending or macular degeneration? Whatever it was, the term “metahormphobia” sounded like something that could provide more heat and pressure than most metamorphic rocks.
Besides his use of metamorphobic metaphors, I saw no value in responding to his questions, as they seemed to be nothing more than trivial pursuits. These can be the most challenging. Like the expressions “It is what it is”, or “Wherever you go, there you are” or “what goes around, comes around” or one of my personal favorites: “If everything is a something, what is a nothing?”
It wasn’t that his pursuits were so trivial and basic. In his case they were annoyingly intrusive. He had been claiming that we humans did at times seem to have some phobia about progressive advancement, that we had some false evidence appearing real, some FEAR of Movement and Change, a FOMC that could dwarf the rest of the Federal Reserve.
I politely disagreed in silence out of respect for this intra-galaxial interrogator. He kept right on going with his inquisition tactics, poking and prodding just like aliens had been rumored to do to humans on occasion. The qategoric alien’s curiosity may have killed the cat, but I hoped his generosity would bring it back.
“And what about the most serious of infractions, what we on Zatox consider the worst of all sins and infractions against the creator: The ultimate sins of species-cide on the planet over which you claim to have dominion?”
He made me think again about my paranoia towards the birds. I realized that despite our having contributed towards the killing off of so many bird species wasn’t really my fault, personally. But I am nevertheless part of a digital species of ten fingers and ten toes with a long history of decimating both the flora and fauna on our planet.
I thought for a moment about Groucho Marx, who once made a wisecrack that targeted himself as well as the club he wanted to join. In the same way, I don’t think I would want to be considered member of any species that would count me in as a member.
It seemed appropriate for me to chime in at this point: “It’s true, we may let some species go extinct. But at least our enlightened civilizations take a very negative view towards cruelty to animals.”
He then looked at me with a look that resembled part disappointment and part disgust. “Species-cide is not a crime of cruelty,” he said slowly, seemingly exhausted from the banter. “We on Zatox are aware of some of the humane ways of humanity, of the kindness to animals that is taught to the your kinder of your kind.”
I guess that’s where the term kindergarten comes from. On this side of the pond the kids call it “kidnergarden”, a misnomer that shows how children can easily get confused. Just like the line in the pledge of allegiance which many children get wrong: “One nation, under God, invisible…” Since many of us are taught as kids that God is a Creative Spirit who is everywhere, it’s small wonder why the naïve and innocent young would see God as an Invisible Spirit of Goodness who is not only omnipotent, but ever-present and pervasive.
I now noticed that the alien sat down in my fauteuil, apparently both tired and frustrated. Though he was disgusted with our species, it seemed he felt he should try to calm down and get a grip on himself. He certainly had enough appendages to do that.
I was impressed with his usage of a novel expression “species-cide”, which I had never heard before. From its context, I understood the creative usage of this word to describe unspeakable acts of permanent destruction of creatures under the auspicious responsibility of the human beings. Apparently his people had derived that word to describe extinction of various species which we had known were endangered, and whose fate was to become excluded from existence, although we could have done something all those years ago to enable their preservation.
When it comes to species-cide, something is decidedly rotten in Denmark, worse than the murderers of wonderful giraffes. Even Hamlet would have considered and decided this inhumane homicide to be a horrible act. More than just a giraffe gaffe, something there definitely ran afoul of the human spirit. Not fair play at all, whether you believe in creation or evolving creatures.
If human beings were charged at the creation with safeguarding the various animal species, as some theologians profess, we certainly haven’t done an effective job at it. Despite our dominion over the animals, and the responsibility to enable the fruitful multiplication of the multitude of creatures created in Divine origin, we humans seemed at times both inhumane and inhuman. Our slaughter of beasts on land and see may have been human, but didn’t seem at all humane.
Giving this a little more thought, I found I agreed with the alien on this point. It doesn’t matter whether one believes in Intelligent Design or in the Biblical story of Genesis where creation of birds took place on the fifth day and other beasts - including humans – happened on the sixth day, or if life forms evolved through successively successful processes of natural selection over eons of time. In either case, the extinction of these miraculous products is irreversible and the sin, therefore, unforgiveable. And it crouches at the doorstep of the being that claims to hold responsible dominion over all the species on Earth – the one under whose watch the extinctions have been taking place: Mankind.
Perhaps the term “speciescide” had been a translation from a word spoken on the alien’s home planet. It seemed motivated and derived expressly by all the things we human beings are doing wrong and perhaps by the misdeeds of his own people in their own developmental history. Perhaps he simply didn’t want to repeat his own species’ misdeeds. Whether one was a believer or an atheist or an agnostic, I could understand how such an irreversible, degenerative event could be catastrophic and shameful. This was too much for me. All I was doing was looking for a job.
I looked back at the alien who was sitting in my fauteuil and it occurred to me that I knew less about humanity than I had thought. I was no misanthrope, but perhaps I wasn’t as qualified to testify about the human race as either of had assumed.
Maybe I haven’t changed, but the world has moved in some weird direction. Things seem to have changed a lot over the years, and the changes have made me feel increasingly more like a stranger in a strange land. People also talk differently now from how they once did when I was growing up. At some point in time people started to pronounce the “t” in “often” as if humanity were injected with some mutant “T” cell antigen receptor. Fortunately, the “p” in “corps” is still silent, unlike the “t” in “often”. Otherwise even Tolstoy would have blushed we talked about the marine corpse and the peace corpse without even thinking about victims and heroes in War and Peace. Somewhere along the way the adjective “disconcerting” was replaced with the preposition “concerning”, a word which is supposed to mean “in reference to”. And it was probably some cheater at Scrabble who needed an ‘e’ but had extra ‘u’s to use and then decided that “nuclear” had an unclear but valid synonym called “nucular”.
I guess evolution can’t really be put on hold. Things change. Retail stores are facing new challenges brought on by internet ordering. Post offices have had to market themselves to the public in order to stay afloat. Change has been recognized as an immutable standard in this fundamentally challenging world. Like how “junior high schools” became middle schools after people were getting confused about whether a particular “Martin Luther King Jr. High School” was actually a high school or “junior” high school.
Lots of questions arise when considering the direction of the evolution of language. When did it become correct for Harvard graduates to say “between you and I?” Why does Twitter stubbornly insist on the use of the subject “who” when it should be employing the object “whom” when suggesting whom to follow? And why can’t we use the term “déjà vu” without having to add “all over again?” It was funny the first time when Yogi Berra said it, but enough’s enough.
The changing times are indicated particularly in our dialogue. If “Gone with the Wind” were to undergo a remake today (like most of the movies are), Rhett Butler’s closing line that dared to burst a damn of censorship would probably be re-scripted as: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a rat’s ass!”
Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m just scared of change. It seems everyone has stopped “that’s a good idea”, and instead are commenting “sounds like a plan”. People who may once have said “don’t worry” are now saying “no worries”. It really doesn’t bother me, but sometimes I feel alone amongst the pod-people. So many things seem different. I should probably see a shrink about my chronic case of “metamorphobia”, something of a fear of maturity. Maybe a lot of people are afraid of becoming overly mature that they can’t make adjustments when new things replace the old, like Escher’s metamorphose squares on the left become reptiles on the right. Maybe when you get old you start to notice things shrinking. The old neighborhood does seem smaller than I remembered. I wonder what else the shrink would say. I hope my hour isn’t up yet.
At times I felt like Alice in some mad tea-party, or like Dorothy in Oz who was bewildered by all the strange things going on around her, but accepted them as the new reality just in order to keep up with the flow of things. I continued to wonder how speech changed, particularly with the way young people – particular women - started talking with a weird accent, replacing short “e” sounds with short “a” sounds. Where they once have pronounced the sentence “I said I’d bet that the letterhead was better in red” correctly, today many of them would say “I sad I’d bat that the ladder had was batter in rad.” Maybe they do mean rad, all the way down to the bedrock. Or should I say, the “bad” rock of the planet.
Some words are pronounced differently, like the word “word”, which can be pronounced “wud” or “wurd” or woyd, depending whether the speaker is from London, Nashville, or Brooklyn. Sometimes it all depends on the place whence one “hiles”, “hails”, or “hells”.
Differentiation seems to be part of the nature of the universe, and change seems as constant as the stars. Some planets once in our circle of influence have been demoted from our solar system after my generation had learned that there are nine. Since Pluto’s demotion there are only eight planets in motion around the sun. Because of the way English – and only English – is pronounced, the name of Uranus is now accented on the first syllable. I understand why the powers that be decided to change the pronunciation, not wanting reference to the place where analytical scientists do their best thinking. But why were they so stubborn to keep the opening “Y” sound? After all, there is only one “I” in dysfunctional. “U” seem(s) to be jumbled in there, after the “I”. “Y”, - that is, why – I do not know. When they changed it from “yur-AY-nus” to YUR-ah-nus, Why didn’t the powers that be decide not pronounce the first “u” syllable like it is in the words “urban”, or “Uruguay”? I wondered why no one thought of pronouncing it u-RAH-nus like they do in all the other languages, though I’m sure the planet u-RAH-nus doesn’t really give any thought to it as it rifles its “why” with perhaps too much of an English spin, like a bullet around the sun. Once I realized that that was the end of “yur-AY-nus”, I could tell everyone they could kiss their astronomic heavenly bodies good-bye.
Maybe I need to get used the fact that change is normal in a healthy dynamic society, and language evolves over time like the organic people who speak it. Some words drop out of the vernacular, like “thou”, “thee”, “thence”, “forsooth”, “prithee”, and “groovy”, while others change their forms, like how “doth” became “does”, “spake” became “spoken”, and “Cape Kennedy” reverted back to its previous “Cape Canaveral”. It all depends on your preference: Some say that cape is in “Flarida”, others will say it’s in “Floorida”.
Word usage and meaning is also an on-going process where like “gross” and “awesome” became reengineered and reissued. Language is an organic medium. It gets rejuvenated and restructured over time. I still think it’s strange how English developed. We have gotten used to avoiding past form of the verb to “go”, which is never used in its Anglo-Saxon roots “goed”, but rather from the Latin “went”. But it’s not an “unwenting” process, rather an ongoing one that just doesn’t stop coming or going.
If Great Ceasar’s ghost could talk from the other side he would probably insist that he should, as Emperor, have the right to divide and conquer the King’s English, razing it to the ground. His apparition would consider himself the only one sufficiently noble to summarize his brutally culminated life, terminated by knife, in employing his critically acclaimed words which resembled “want, went, won’t”. He would probably do this in a Ghost Adventure through some Ovulus device in a statement to the press loosely translated as “I want more; I went to go plunder the store; I won’t conquer here anymore.
Perhaps that nutty old soothsayer from Act I should have warned Caesar about his future demise by saying “Beware; be aware, or be not there by the tax ides of April.” For as Macbeth figured out centuries later, only the dead can escape the inevitable stalker on the attack side of the tax side, the walking taxman’s shadow who confronts the poor player full of sound and fury, signifying nothing but revenue collection for internal government use and abuse.
Yes, it was interesting to see the development of accents over time. It’s a yarn that won’t make anyone yawn. Maybe it has something to do with rhyme schemes and rhythms. Like in a civilization-cradle song of a do-or-die Wall Street jingle sung to the tune of Yankee Doodle: “Enkidu, the raging bull went lookin’ for some money, made a crash with Gilgamesh, then left him awful lonely. Enkidu, do keep it up, keep investors happy, first Uruk where market’s shook, so let the cash be handy.”
True, wild bulls and their bullies are sure of shored-up gains. But bears with little brains stay on Main Street. Perhaps the fair lady Liza Doolittle might have said it best without marbles in her mouth, if she had tried to express my previous claim in her own indigenous way: “Bars with little brines sty on mine street.” By George! I think I got it: “The Rhine in spine falls “minely” on the “pline”.
Oh, wall…maybe I don’t gat it, after all. Methinks I protast too much and digrass to excass. Too much trying to turn the sub-lame into the sublime.
I turned to see how the alien was doing. He was still sitting in the chair continuing his respite, and by now his emotions appeared to have melted down, although I could see by his bright flaming countenance indicating that he was still silently waxing wroth inside.
“Maybe you could just lighten up?” I asked of this enlightened thinker, looking up like a suspect entering a mea-culpa guilty plea. I liked that expression ‘lighten up’. It referred to a state of mind that idealized the release of excess baggage. This was relevant particularly to those psychologists who believe that overeating is a mental disorder. In that case our obese bellies could use a shrink. Then we might finally be able to close our pants.
He turned to me reassuringly, and remarked, “I hope you will excuse me, human. I was merely digesting the input you have provided. There was much to absorb.”
While I was aware of the overload of information he had to contend with, I wanted him to know that I had been questioning my own qualifications. During the last few minutes I had concluded I was absolutely obsolete.
So I offered this disclosure statement: “I really am not in a position to answer your questions, neither the rhetorical ones nor the theoretical ones. That’s why I told you that I may be least qualified to be interviewed by you.”
“Nonsense, human. You are very qualified for this task.”
For some reason, the agitated alien just wouldn’t give up. He seemed refresh after having sit for a while. He was on a mission. He wanted to drive a point “home” so to speak.
So he continued, “Change is a part of natural development, as long it is a move forward. If humanity does not move forward, it will die off. It must be able to deal with disasters as small as a virus and as large as an asteroid. For example, what would you do if it became clear that your planet’s rotation around your sun puts it in on a path of an asteroid?”
“Is that true? Is an asteroid going to hit us one day in the future?” It was now my turn to panic. The interstellar visitor had his turn at being star-struck.
He then recoiled: “I have said too much already. The Zatoccian government would not be pleased if I were to give away such information. Let us perhaps drop the subject of the disasteroid.”
I liked that term “disasteroid.” It seemed very clever. But my earthly curiosity then got the best of me: “When will this collision take place?”
“I really cannot tell you if and when it would be taking place. But your people should indeed be aware that you have the potential to prevent the collision from happening if you begin to take it seriously, today. Remember that if such a catastrophe would occur, it would put an end to your economic system, whatever it is, and however it works or doesn’t. That is why you should not be thinking about how to create jobs just to keep people busy in order to solve the unemployment problem, but rather how to effectively solve the deployment problem, utilizing people where they are needed in exchange for money, of course. The national treasure is really its people. The live ones, not the monuments or inanimate objects. This includes their talents and abilities. They just need to be deployed effectively and earnestly.”
I really enjoyed chatting with this astute alien. Despite some occasional syntax issues, he was proving to be not only an excellent conversationalist but also a veritable fountain of creative expressions. His command of the English language proved to be remarkable, and I was impressed by his acquired ability to illustrate his ideas with linguistic tools that were not native to him.
For all I knew, this fellow creature of the cosmos wasn’t much of a cosmopolitan; nor was he cosmo-political. He seemed more “down to earth” than any intelligent being I had ever met. He could very well have been some Sage of Aquarius with peaceful intentions.
But I still wasn’t sure if his planet had been one of those so aligned as to be guided by peace, and still wasn’t sure if his star was one of those steered by love. Was his curious alien-nation gathering evidence in order to sue us for peace or for alienation of affection?
I then asked with intrepid curiosity: “What if there is no money to pay the people who are working on things like the disasteroid project? At a time like this when internal revenue is down, and government debt is up, how could we finance such an effort?”
“You would have to work it out. You did so during your world wars when everyone realised there was an emergency. Stop wasting human talent. Get people back to work, and pay them for it. Is that so hard for your humans? Besides, how do the unemployed people eat if they cannot buy food? How can they pay the rent?”
“I guess some have friends, some have family, like me. Those less fortunate must learn to scrounge for themselves in garbage cans for leftovers.”
“The alien had by now cooled off, as indicated by the candle-light flame now beaming from his turgid grotesque figure. “I can not believe my ears,” he said, causing me to break a smile. “These people cannot find work, and they cannot afford a roof over their heads and cannot afford health care either. Is there not anything that anyone can do?”
“We have tried so many things to improve our situation. Nothing has worked, so far. None of our leaders wants to listen. They are just interested in improving their own political power and their own wealth.”
“I just can not believe what you are saying” he exclaimed, rather incredulously. “Surely your leaders are voted into office because they have the best plans to deal with your economy. It is just not logical to assume they do not take to heart the interest of the very people who have voted them into office. They must want to limit the number of the unemployed.”
I found interesting the alien’s use of the word “heart”, relating that hollow muscular organ to the notion of conscience, just was we have done. One thing for sure: Despite the alien’s appearance, he wasn’t just your run of the mill tin-man. Either the tin smith gave him a heart or he was successful in some visit to a wizard. In either case he was a scientist with a heart. He certainly was not an empty kettle, but on his mettle, and metal too. He had no disposable thumbs and thus was an exception to any rule of thumb. I wondered how his species could have built spaceships without holding screwdrivers to turn bolts that would keep his ship together. How did he and his race develop technology without such thumbs? Perhaps he used another appendage in among the complicated array of limbs, a part or set of parts that didn’t become vestigial over time. He and his cohorts were probably that exceptional case where “i” before “e” except after “c” has its exceptions in both science and conscience and in the scientific and conscientious realms, as well in everyday blissful nescience.
It just goes to show that we humans are prejudiced in understanding what intelligent life should be like. Maybe their bolts are different; maybe their thinking patterns are different; maybe their composition and anatomy are different. But until now we had nothing else to go on. No samples of screws and nuts like the human race at times. All we have is our imagination.
I did my best to keep up my end of the conversation with out too many pauses. “I’m not sure. All I know is, they have jobs – and those jobs pay very well. In the meantime, there are a lot of people like me who are not working, but on the other hand are not considered “unemployed.”
“That does not make any sense. On Zatox, we have actually noticed and investigated the semantics problem you are talking about relating to the term “unemployed.” We find that it is easy to play with loose definitions. After all, what constitutes ‘unemployed’? How do you count the wasted talent?”
The word “unemployed” wasn’t the only one that baffled me. The term “leave of absence” didn’t make sense either. Like the term “factual truth”, it has an unnecessary word in there somewhere. It’s strange that the term AWOL is used even though one can’t be absent without having gone through the process of leaving. How can one be absent without leaving? Can one take a liberal leave of absence? Is that in opposition to conservative leave of presence? It’s also interesting that in the army, “missing” is a tragic term, but “absent” borders on criminal desertion. The distinction of two such closely defined words in the dictionary, but applied in the military is a lot like the IRS distinction between tax “avoidance” and tax “evasion”. The government obviously has its own set of definitions. Unfortunately, that happens to include “unemployment”.
After a little more thought, I answered his query: “There is a statistic which relates to the percentage of those not working. It is often quoted as the ‘unemployment rate.’ And I am simply one of the statistics.” I said rather somberly, feeling like a victim in this situation, together with all those other Caspar Milquetoasts out there whose timid souls are victims of soft-speaking stick-carrying politicians and stooges of media moguls who constantly quote that datum out of context.
I could have also told him about the misery index, but I was enjoying the conversation and didn’t want to chase him away by adding more gloom to the fire. Misery loves company, even in the company of a queer looking extraterrestrial as he.
“Interesting name for such a datum,” he said, invoking the correct Latin form for the term. He was obviously educated, although not very informed. “Can you tell me what the current unemployment rate is?”
“It varies from place to place, but nationwide it is often quoted as being in the range of five percent to ten percent.”
“Did you say 10% at the higher end? That does not sound like so much.” He responded reassuringly. “It means that 90% of you are working and getting paid. That really does not seem so bad!”
I felt like a dunderhead. I was in over my head, just like any typical homeowner underwater would have felt. I responded, “What I said was, the unemployment rate is often quoted as being somewhere in the range of five to ten percent. But that doesn’t take into account people have given up looking for work. They are not counted among the unemployed.”
That does not compute,” he said, sounding like a 1960’s robot lost in space-time. “Where are they counted?” He asked, without hesitation.
“We are not counted”, was my answer. I identified with that group after having sent hundreds of resumes to employers. It could be that many of us long-term unemployed have a hard time just admitting we are out of work. Being characterized unemployed carries a stigma, similar to belonging to Alcoholics Anonymous – Like with new members of the AA, people who find themselves in a situation of unemployment find it hard to admit they’re off the wagon that moves industry which is supposed to lead help lead the horses to water where they can drink if they want to.
I have been looking for a long time for work, and although I have been invited to several job interviews, it always happened that the position was filled in some other way or by some other person. Perhaps I hadn’t really given up, because I was still sending out resumes, and had worked even this morning on making “first contact”, so to speak. Little did I think I would be making “first contact” this afternoon, in this way.
Also, I really hadn’t given up finding ways to make money and was considering using this discussion to bring in personal income in an entrepreneurial way by perhaps writing a book. But the statistical gatherers probably still didn’t consider me unemployed since my unemployment insurance had run out months ago. I had been taken off the unemployment list by an incongruous state of affairs. I was now a non-statistic, somewhere in limbo.
I still couldn’t understand the apparent political lack of interest in getting people back to work. Maybe that’s why interest rates are so low. A nation’s competitive advantage starts with full employment and good management whether competing with other nations or with other planets. The society or nation that figures this out will have a true advantage over the others.
The alien looked at me very strangely now, even when compared to his normal alien look which was strange enough. His glance seemed to give me the impression he thought I was a zombie, a walking dead person. Realizing how inept governments can be, he apparently decided to focus on the human part of the equation rather than the institutional one. “How can someone be out of work for so long?” He asked with gnostic curiosity.
“Very simply: Each day I search for jobs, find an opening, customize my resume for that opening, and submit the resume. I use my old computer, which is slow, but still does the job. I do this every day, until I am exhausted by mid-afternoon, and the results are dismal, as I already told you.”
“But you should not become discouraged if you don’t get results in one day. There is always tomorrow. You just have to keep trying.”
“And I do keep trying. I customize and send resumes every day. Actually, I have hundreds of such customized resumes on my computer. The problem is, I get no results one day, then the next day, then the following day. Days turn to weeks, weeks turn to months, and…well, you know the rest.”
He nodded in the affirmative, and I understood that he was able to figure out the rest. I found it interesting that nodding vertically was a sign of agreement in his species as well.
He then thought for a moment, perhaps wanting to give me a bit of a respite, then said “If all what you are saying is true, then I would like to suggest that you call this a “deployment” problem rather that an “employment” problem. It is a situation in which people are not being deployed where there are needed. And it seems like all of you are definitely are needed. Without utilizing your people, your world could be doomed to suffer one disaster after another.”
I was so pleased to have had the opportunity to host this trans-stellar transient. His explanations showed me that I wasn’t an alien to my society, being unemployed. I felt strangely relieved because I finally had the opportunity to hear from an impartial observer with no earthly bias, that I am not crazy. I am not imagining the economic problems of our society.
The irony is that we usually think of people who see a flying saucer or UFO as being crazy. And here, this guy was making me feel “at home”, so to speak. Home that is, in a place where reason and rationality are infrequent norms, if you’ll pardon the oxymoron.
Now here was a true epiphany, stronger than the one I had when I first found out that anvils were in reality important forging tools used by blacksmiths and silversmiths, and not just an object dropped on coyotes or other victims in Looney cartoons.
This coming to terms with reality had opened my eyes and would have been more enjoyable if it hadn’t been for an interruption of ringing beeps coming from what sounded like my alarm clock.
Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep.
I looked around and didn’t see my alarm clock. Where was that ring coming from? Did an angel just get his wings in heaven?
Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!
I suspected the alien had some sort of communication coming in. Was this his subspace communicator? Was it an analogous analog to our own human-hand-held mobile phone device which all too often holds us as prisoners? If it weren’t for the beeping, I probably would be thinking about that Hotel California song. This could be heaven or this could be hell. Winged angels or hoofed devils - either way I wanted the beeping to stop.
Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!
The alien looked confused but also somewhat intrigued. His color turned to what appeared to be a pale off-white tone. “Could you please turn off that ringing? he asked insistently but reasonably. I thought he could turn it off himself. But he was just as clueless as I.
Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!
What was that alarm coming from? I looked for it, and while I did, I turned to the alien and noticed for the first time was getting more and more irritated by the ringing and beeping. I guess his ship didn’t have any of those audio bleeps creeps or sweeps.
Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!
I couldn’t find where it was coming from. Maybe he was only pretending he didn’t know. Maybe he wasn’t friend, but fiend. I still wasn’t sure of his true intentions, despite his sympathetic demeanor.
Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!
The beep sound repeated without pause, and was beginning to sound more like a “Beam” noise. Just as repetitive and just as annoying…
Beam! Beam! Beam! Beam! Beam! Beam! Beam!
Where was that incessant noise coming from?!
Beam! Beam! Beam! Beam! Beam! Beam! Beam!
I had to find out before we both went crazy.
Beam! Beam! Beam! Beam! Beam! Beam! Beam!
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