I am buying what you’re selling.

Vicki DiPaolo,
Charleston, SC.

It is the basic instinct of survival that causes us to evaluate our environment and decide if what we see is helpful, benign, or dangerous. We don’t always get it right because ingrained thoughts are always right in today’s world. We began in communities where we all looked the same. If we came into contact with someone who looked different it usually meant one group would be taking what the other had and our very survival depended on keeping “ours”. Today’s world, including the last few hundred years, is totally different. World exploration has mixed cultures and in the beginning human rights were unheard of, it just wasn’t part of the picture. It was okay for one group to take others as slaves. It was okay to treat someone that wasn’t your class, race, or sex as subhuman. And the farther away from your mirror image the less human that individual was to you.
Leap into the second half of the 20th century. I wish that the love-in of the 60’s and 70’s where to bear fruit, and it has to some degree. We had varying success with race and sex issues. We cannot forget what others suffered to give us in law what we have now. It may not be in the real living world that we experience those rights but in written law the truth is spoken to declare what is morally right.
But the 1980’s gave birth to a badseed to counteract the fruits of the morally just. It began with a movie quote, “Greed is good.” It grew when people saw their homes not as a home but as something that could be bought and sold within months to get a bigger and bigger castle whether their family needed it or not. Soon the greed bug infiltrated our way of life. You didn’t work hard to get ahead, you worked “smart” in the free market of economy. Truth and the handshake deal were out, getting “yours” at any cost was smart. If you didn’t take advantage regardless of morals or law you were a chump. The rise of the Superstar who had no talent had arrived. Talent was out, fame was in.
White collar crime, street crime, crime against elderly and children. All at first shocked, then became commonplace. And who do we blame? Why going back to our most basic instinct of survival, we blame those most unlike ourselves. The rich blame the poor and middleclass who are lazy and steal everything they can get their hands on. The poor blame the middleclass who they can see firsthand, enjoying their homes, cars, and all the fun things a credit card can buy. And the middleclass blame the poor who they can see and will attack and kill the middleclass group to take their belongings. Middleclass blacks, whites, Mexican, and Asians will band together as a group to protect their community. The same is true for the rich and the poor. When the economic group becomes unstable the ethnic difference will become more important. And what of the elderly? Unless the noble virtues return and life’s knowledge becomes an access I feel that the greed on which our society is based on will make the elderly seen as taking up more than they give. Since no one sees their own time will come, social security and any safety net for the aged will be reduced and the nursing home will be a true nightmare.

What does this all have to do with Race? And what does “I’m buying what you’re selling.” mean? It’s that when we allow greed to rule our behavior, that we use intimidation to get what we want we have to be prepared for the doublesword of our behavior. I am a nurse. I care for people who for the most part have little financial strength. I see many spectrums of how people deal with their economic status. My favorite patients, of course, are pleasant, say please and thank you, and don’t blame me for being sick. In turn I respond to their needs as quickly as I can, say please and thank you, and don’t blame them for having to work to support myself and family. The worst patient is intimidating, sometimes physically, but mostly verbally or in by implying a financial threat of job loss or suing. Most people fall in the middle of these too groups, unfortunately, closer to the intimidating.

They say that all the world is a stage and we are all actors. Then your costume is what you choose to presentyourself. Yes, this is your clothing. But your presence, your mannerisms say much more. Unfortunately, greed has inspired the popularity of the person who takes whether they deserve or not. The ability to lash out physically gains respect. Images are shown on Facebook, Twitter, etc. boasting fights or outright assaults. A gaudy amount of riches is displayed by every level of society. And all of this is seen as normal. It makes me sad. And hopeless. Because all of this behavior is happening in the day to day lives of people who don’t watch PBS. And how many people will take the time to read what I’ve written in the age of Twitter? Still, I’ve written down what I believe is the beginning of an idea. And isn’t it better than not at all.


Tweets by Michele Norris