Monday, March 22, 2010

"Il faut cultiver nos jardins"

That's from Volataire's Candide. It's the last (or very nearly last) line of the book. Literally, it says, "We must work in our (own) gardens." Figuratively, in context, it means, "Attend to the stuff you can have an effect on."

I think that's what I need to do. My getting upset over what I interpret as a creeping takeover of our freedom isn't going to help anything. I can vote, and I will vote, come November, but frankly, there's not much else I can do. Writing letters or calling offices no longer does anything. Watching the news only makes me disgusted. I feel at times as if we are living in something like pre-Revolutionary France, where the "aristocrats" (which WE elected) are saying stuff like, "Rules don't matter" and "we make it up as we go along."

So instead, I'm going to turn inward. I'm going to focus on research and teaching and my various hobbies. I'm going to read a lot - not politics, but the novels I have on the shelf, the books of history, the popular-press science books that may actually help me to teach. I'm going to watch cartoons on television or re-runs of House, MD, or NCIS or I'll watch the cooking shows.

Because, I give up. Aside from voting, nothing I can do or say makes any difference to how Washington is run. It's a giant stinking swamp and short of a Jefferson-style revolution (as he said: sometimes it's necessary to shake things up), I don't see it changing. If a pitchfork-and-torches brigade starts marching, maybe I'll join in, but most likely not.

But what I can do is try to prepare my students for their careers. And do research that will perhaps advance my own - who knows what's coming. Maybe I will have to defend my job every year in the future as universities decide that tenure is no longer viable under the new economic regime and decide to abolish it. Maybe I will have to grab every opportunity I can find to earn more money and bank it against inflation or future higher taxes or whatever. Or buy canned goods and ammo. Or something.

I don't know. I feel like there's a centipede's worth of shoes left to be dropped involving our nation and our culture, and I don't like feeling like that.

1 comment:

Dave E. said...

It's been a tough couple of months to stay engaged, I can second that. It's also understandable to want to take a break now and just focus on the more personal priorities. Like they say on airplanes, if the oxygen mask drops, put your own on first. Hopefully you will be re-energized by fall when the real fight occurs. In the meantime, if you see that a candidate you like will be speaking, take a few minutes to listen if you can. Or throw $10 bucks here and there to help some of them out. But first of all, take care of yourself.