Cosmic Confusion In A Robin

Robins herald the coming of Spring. 

Usually. 

But not this one. 

This one likes cold weather. 

This one likes 19 degrees. 
  

Trust me. 

He’s there. 

Get some binoculars.  

You’ll see. 

The Decline of American Manufacturing and Education

Bitching and Moaning

I am always bitching and moaning about the service economy we have become, but really offer little in terms of service, as the stupidity of people seems to increase exponentially each year, likely because of the impoverished educational skills we now teach, which require no thinking whatsoever, and reward rote learning and test skills over thinking and asking lots of questions, which seems to me is exactly the meaning of learning — not parroting facts and figures, but actually questioning where those facts and figures come from, instead of blindly accepting them on some elusive authority that hangs in the air.

Retail Industry

So let’s just look at the first contact in service fields — the Retail Industry.

First I have to state that I have always been a compulsive label reader.  I’ve always wanted to know what I’m eating, so I’ve been scouring labels on supermarket shelves forever, and the same with products that I purchase — I want to know where they are made, so I can decide if I want to support that economy or not.  And let there be no mistake, the biggest manufacturer in the world today is China.

At first, I noticed the label Made in China on toy products, decades ago — the kind of things that didn’t cost much and broke easily, trinkets. Gradually, the list of items manufactured in China grew, and now it is difficult to find anything that is not made in China.

It’s depressing.  Personally and economically.

But although China is the main manufacturer of most products made today, it is not the only one.  Cheap labor is also had in the other Asian Countries, from East to West.  However, the most pathetic item I ever came across that had been outsourced was a plastic laundry bag in a hotel room — Made in India!

Another depressing thought. Are we so stupid that we can no longer manufacturer cheap, plastic laundry bags?

While this shift was occurring, it seems we also developed a bigger and bigger appetite for objects that conveyed status, either from handbags or the name of a designer on clothing purchased, which afforded the designer free advertising, the name emblazoned there for all to see.  Ironically, there was a period when designers, especially of handbags, waged a minor protest about knock-offs, clones of the real thing. But as designers also succumbed to the realization that if they manufactured their products in Asia, they would make shit-loads of money, as opposed to paying workers here to make those products, which, alas, would require they pay a decent salary and demonstrate humane tendencies, and help those struggling to survive in this abysmal economy, which is so not in the Bible of Corporate Philosophy, that protest dissipated.  So, really, at this point what is the difference between a knock-off and the real thing?

Not much.

Our market has become over-saturated with designer labels that for me, at least, has led to an aversion response whenever I see this stuff.  I first noticed it while subbing in high schools in the affluent Montgomery Country School System, Maryland.  I reached the point where I felt if I saw another — See?  I have blocked the name, and can’t remember it! — I would gag.  Everybody had these jackets, from Gang Bangers to the Preppy Population.  The air become polluted, and my eyes, fatigued, from the constant monochrome message pasted on student bodies.

(Nor do I understand the appeal of those cheap-looking, plastic bags that sell for over a grand, with the YSL logo emblazoned on the them. What’s up with that?)

The Extrapolation of Education

Going back to that anemic learning environment we call Education today, I find that there are parallels between that and the intelligence of the work-force.

The lack of curiosity has turned people into working and shopping zombies.  Go to any upscale shop today, and the sales associate is clueless about the product’s manufacturing history.  My favorite is Coach.  What a status symbol that is, huh?  Now there was a time when Coach manufactured its bags in America — not so, anymore.  How long have they been manufacturing in Asia? Not sure. But long enough. I think I bought my first Coach bag 3 decades ago. That bag was manufactured in the U.S. But the name has become so synonymous with prestige, that most women don’t even realize that these bags are all manufactured in China. So as Coach reaps substantial profits, while its headquarters building in NYC appears abandoned, even if you point out where the bag was made, after asking the sales associate where the bag was made, they give you a dumb look,  a blank look, like nothing  whatsoever is there, empty minds —aside from designer logos floating around.

Check any designer label, and you’ll find the same manufacturing label.  You would be hard pressed to find something that is actually Made in America.  Calvin Klein,  Ann Taylor, GAP,  J.CREW,  Madewell, Michael Kors,  — I’m drawing a blank here, but go ahead and play Hide ‘n Seek with designer labels, especially now that they bury the origin of production deeper and deeper into the pockets of the items they sell.  They’re catching on.  Especially disappointing are those designers who exclusively produced their clothing in America then succumbed to allure of Asian manufacturing.  Eileen Fischer, for example.

 

Correlations?

Now whether there is a correlation between our decline in critical thinking skills because of the frenzy to keep testing students for what they already know, which is not much, but surely makes testing companies happy, and the absence of producing anything of significance in this country, may be an unknown, especially since I have not seen any researchers tackle the monumental task of measuring Stupidity and the Decline of Manufacturing in America.

 

 

 

 

 

The Gods Must REALLY Love Me!

Have you ever tried having a rational conversation with an irrational person more than once?

Is it difficult to listen to a radio because every time you go near it static ensues?
Do you have any allergies?  Are you crazy about Beethoven?

Have you ever never purchased a mirror and then decided after 5 decades to purchase one – why not! – and when you open the door to your car you notice the mirror has cracked in multiple places while in transit but nothing can explain this other than Halloween is 3 weeks away and maybe the goblins are doing a dry run before the 31st?

Are you an over-achiever?  Do you believe that concepts such as Truth and Beauty and Justice are not mere concepts but organic and tangible and breathing things and you devote your entire life striving to apply these concepts – regardless of consequences?

Have you been called an Idealist more than once?

Do you often sense trends before they emerge but nobody believes you when you try to share this insight and by the time the trends have become the fodder of fashion magazines no one remembers that you had once apprised them of these trends?

Are you really good when playing word games, such as Scrabble or Words With Friends, even though the latter game refuses to acknowledge that Eco and Bio are words but Ae and Aa are words even though you’ve never seen those words ever expressed in a sentence or otherwise?  

Is your favorite literary work The Idiot by Dostoevsky?

If you have answered Yes to any of the questions above then be proud to know that the Gods really like you and will continue to hoist upon you one challenge after another because they know how much you love to be challenged for what would life be like without challenges and with each challenge the stakes increase and well no one can ever say there is a dull moment even though what you secretly crave is peace and serenity but Hell there will be plenty of that once you’re dead and life is all about living, right?

Suicidal? Sheppard Pratt may be your cup of tea. 

Go there and come out stark raving mad?

Hm. 

Tough choice. 

Sheppard Pratt Asylum Is designed as a Critical CARE Psychiatric Stabilization facility for those who struggle with medical conditions such as Bipolar Disorder (like myself) or any other psychiatric “diagnosis.” It has an impressive and illustrious history as an innovative facility when it was first conceived and built in the mid-19th century – a refuge, with its concentration on humane treatment. 

However, reputation, to be sustained, must demonstrate consistency of those values and principles, rather than regression from them. 

Undoubtedly, Sheppard and Pratt are totally turning in their graves. 

The isolation we feel exhaustively, all by ourselves, ripens there. 

So there are parallels to the real world. Severe Depression, which is just a hop, skip and jump away from Death, actually spikes exponentially there. 

The Human Spirit is crushed, until we finally, breath by breath, disappear. This, my friend, is where you go to watch yourself become one of The Invisibles. 

Now when you are on the outside, you have some wiggle room. You may choose to remove yourself from the Kingdom of Ignorance, if only for a breath of fresh air, and focus on the brightness of the Human Spirit. 
We have choices. 

Smell the fragrance of a lovely flower. 

Meditate. 

Listen to music. 

Dance. 

There we have no choices. We are at the mercy of Stupidity, Ignorance and Fools, and we have nowhere to go, locked between two nightmares. 

There is this clearly defined and unshakeable and raw feeling that they do not care. 

Then again, if you wanna but haven’t yet experienced depersonalization, it’s available there. Think of it as a lean, introductory course on the subject. And since I am naturally an optimist, I feel compelled to plug the positive spin here. 

First, your empathy and understanding have grown for those who do experience such devastating psychological symptoms. 

Second – 

Who knows? 
This accidental slip, for example, allows you to drift into unknown territory altogether, as you wonder if you really did, in fact, erase your memory of an entire day of your existence, because someone is insisting you did – when you didn’t. 

Luckily, there are other patients there who know that you didn’t – just as you had thought. And they are now your salvation. 

But this additional drop of uncertainty and confusion has now bloomed in your head. 

Shit happens, right?

Be forewarned, however, any heroic attempt to battle the trolls and the slugs just makes you crazier. Totally not worth it. 

They follow whatever code they’ve culled and pinned to you from the Diagnostic Statistic Manual, and we all know how that keeps expanding with each new edition. 

But that’s exactly when the epiphany occurs …

I had never truly understood what I Am Not My Diagnosis meant until I realized that that is all you are there – a code. 

Yep. 

Hey!  Look at me. I’m still here.  

Sadly, they do not hear or see you.  You have disappeared. 

So when the object of hospitalization is to support and help you shed the nasty symptoms of Depression, and instead you are fighting to be seen and heard – those are the exact type of challenges we do not need. 

The salt on the wound is the absolute isolation from the actual world. This is the abyss. Isolation is not good. They keep preaching that. And then that’s exactly what they do. 

So what do you do?

Well, trying to pry open their eyes is futile. They get really, really pissed at you. And that makes them more sinister and deadly, while they sharpen their ignorance from unbelievable heights, as you are fighting for your sanity …

The plus?

You are too fucking busy to be worrying about Suicide. So in that sense they have met their goal. You have shifted from suicidal ideation to absolute self-preservation. Plus, Existentialism is the only dish on the menu. 

Yum. 

Reminds me of a poem by Stevie Smith. An attempt to communicate with those on shore, while being swallowed by the sea …

“Not waving. But drowning.”