As of a few days ago, I’m back in the United States, western North Carolina to be more precise.
America’s wealth is immediately apparent: the wide, smooth roads, big houses, even for poor people, store after store after store selling cheap, high quality goods.
I made a few trips in my mother’s car to buy a coax cable, brackets and other supplies for some minor repairs in her new house. I was struck by the monumental investment in commerce. Huge tracts of land dedicated to making my patronage as convenient as possible. I imagined all the people hoping I’d stop at their store to buy home furnishings, groceries, lunch, tax advice, mobile phone service, paintings, building materials, pet supplies, discount clothing, electronics.
I paid $2.40 for twenty five feet of RG 6 coax cable. How do these places stay in business with such low prices? I had to explain what I wanted and wait for a while as they made it. At Lowes, the same cables was available for $10, ready made and hanging abundantly on their shelf. A higher price for more convenience? I love choices.
For a while everything seemed possible. Everything seemed to be at my finger tips. For my every desire, it seemed some merchant was desperately trying to provide at a price I could afford. I tried imagining my second cousin’s visit to Toronto in 1990. She was startled by the question “what type of tea would you like?” never before realizing more than one type existed.
I was reminded of the power and ingenuity of the human spirit as it once existed in the United States, unhindered by populist claims of social responsibility by which everybody puts their fingers in everybody else’s pocket. As William Faulkner expressed it:
that man’s inalienable right [to pursue happiness] was the peace and freedom in which, by his own efforts and sweat, he could gain dignity and independence, owing nothing to any man.
OWING NOTHING TO ANY MAN! Do you hear that, leftists??? I want my country back!
Faulkner went on:
the enemy of our freedom now has changed his shirt, his coat, his face.
He no longer threatens us from across an international boundary, let alone across an ocean. He faces us now from beneath the eagle-perched domes of our capitals and from behind the alphabetical splatters on the doors of welfare and other bureaus of economic or industrial regimentation. . . .
His artillery is a debased and respectless currency which has emasculated the initiative for independence by robbing initiative of the only mutual scale it knew to measure independence by. . . .
to believe this, that man’s crime against his freedom is that there are too many of him, is to believe that man’s sufferance on the face of the earth is threatened, not by his environment, but by himself: that he cannot hope to cope with his environment and its evils, because he cannot even cope with his own mass. . . .
Which is exactly what those who misuse and betray the mass of him for their own aggrandizement and power and tenure of office, believe: that man is incapable of responsibility and freedom, of fidelity and endurance and courage, that he not only cannot choose good from evil, he cannot even distinguish it, let alone practice the choice. And to believe that, you have already written off the hope of man, as they who have reft him of his inalienable right to be responsible have done, and you might as well quit now and let man stew on in peace in his own recordless and oblivious juice, to his deserved and ungrieved doom. . . .
What we need is not fewer people, but more room between them, where those who would stand on their own feet, could, and those who won’t, might have to. Then the welfare, the relief, the compensation, instead of being nationally sponsored cash prizes for idleness and ineptitude, could go where the old independent uncompromising fathers themselves would have intended it and blessed it.
Let’s hope that after the collapse of the dollar, America regains its lost liberty, and more importantly, its lost spirit of self reliance and responsibility.
I made of list of impressions as they came to me, writing them on a notepad on my pocket:
* Wealth. The amount of wealth accumulated in the United States is mind boggling.
* Polite customer service — this excludes TSA workers.
* Obese people.
* The stewardess is required to teach Americans how to put on their seat belts. Home of the brave, baby!
* People dress much more casually.
* At stores, I get accurate change every time and without question. (In Ukraine, they’ll bother you for exact change, or other small bills and coins to reduce the volume of change.)
* Standing in lines is much more ruly. There’s no consuming fear of losing one’s spot. Perhaps this is because the United States has known famine and mass shortages (except during FDR’s New Deal).
* Money looks different.
* Lawns instead of gardens. My first thought concerned all the wasted fertility, all the vegetables and chickens which might be raised, but then I thought: No! Division of labor. Specialization.
* No more adapters for my laptop power cords.
* Much more processed food.
Stay tuned. I will blog about Donetsk next and post my lectures.