Unexpected Consequences

In addition to apocalyptic scenarios, I also enjoy teasing out the possibilities of action/reaction in society’s macro behaviors. Like Freakonomics taught us, what are the implications to what we’re experiencing and how we’re reacting? Here are a few I’ve heard of and some I’ve dreamed up myself. My favorite is Goldie’s “there’s gonna be a rash of December babies born this year due to the work-from-home mandate.”

Close the borders and…

  • Migrant workers cannot come in to perform the agricultural work needed by 1/3 of the industry.
  • They won’t be there to pick, pack, and purvey the produce we need directly, and the food industry needs to create our canned, bottled and frozen foods.
  • Those same workers won’t be there to perform the planting that will result in crops in four to six months.
  • Close the borders and we eventually starve.

Close the schools and after school programs the daycare facilities and…

  • All the kids now need parents to stay home.
  • Many of those parents are critical service workers: police, healthcare, emergency responders, infrastructure repair.
  • And the kids won’t be staying home, or alone, or away from the elders who live with them. They’ll be out mixing it up with other neighborhood kids, perhaps more so that had they just stayed in school.

Shut down the hospitality industry and…

  • Fifteen million low to medium wage people lose work if not their jobs.
  • Another eight million in the airline industry lose work if not their jobs.

* Suppress spending across the entertainment, sports and restaurant industries and the velocity of money drops through the floor — ending up in a massive recession — one we’ve been expecting for three years.

* Drive the price of oil down below $30/barrel and the booming U.S. shale oil and fracking industry collapses throwing another million workers into the pit.

@ On the bright side, fewer cars on the road means fewer traffic accidents; less air pollution; quicker response to emergency calls (to save an elderly person with COVID symptoms).

* Force everyone to work from home and the homeless go WTF?

@ Fortunately, it’s already second nature to remain socially distant from the homeless.

@ Is there going to be a resurgence of home cooking where millennials learn to make more than Mac-a-cheese and Ramen?

* Too bad Grandma won’t be allowed in the kitchen with those asymptomatic carriers.

* Millions were forced from their homes to live at the whims of the rentier society during the last Great Recession.

@ Although thousands more will end up being force to foreclose during this calamity, at least we know that the rich are just as susceptible to this scourge — so there’s hope a proportionate number will die along with the rest of us.

* Is this the end of the Farmer’s market? Craft fairs? Concerts in the park?

No doubt the unintended and unexpected consequences from this pandemic will continue to play out. How many more can we come up with? I’m sure there are dozens just waiting to be exposed.

  • More marijuana smoking/eating?
  • More alcohol binging?
  • More reviews on movie venues, book venues, products?
  • More online psychologist sessions?
  • More facetime calls with estranged family?
  • More Amazon Prime memberships?
  • More neighbor altercations?
  • More house cleaning?
  • More nookie?
  • More?

Why so many flavors?

Buffet

[Flickr: Commons Image]

Humans, in fact most animals, could survive given the bare essentials of nutrition: Some grains, some beans, some earthy greens and maybe a few eggs. Pretty basic, nearly tasteless stuff. So, why do we have such refined sensibilities with regards to taste (and smells)?

There are literally millions of ingredients, spices, recipes, mixtures, and cooking methods all producing exotic, intoxicating, alluring odors and flavors. It seems overkill. Thousands of culinary media stars (over the years) continue to entice us with the promise of just one more umami taste, one more Maillard enhanced sensation. Sheesh! Talk about the absurdity of The Excess.

If I were designing a brand new biological creature I’d focus on a binary eating process:

  • Will this kill me (or make me ill), or not?
  • Will this enhance my nutritional energy quotient, or not?

There, done.

With such a process, a vast swath of beneficial food stuffs now opens up for such a creature to leverage. Think: super goat. The whole concept of “squeamishness” would vanish.

“Oooh, I can’t eat that.”

“Well, sure you can. It won’t kill you, or make you sick, and it will keep you alive for another day and a half.”

Does today’s food culture seem excessive and absurd to you?

Point System: keeping score

We all live by and adhere to a bevy of social contracts.

One of those contracts is the equity of gift exchange. If I take you for lunch, you must, eventually, take me for lunch — or breakfast, or drinks or… Whatever it is, it must roughly equal the value offered in the original transaction. If you spring for a fancy dinner, the onus of return has now shifted back to my shoulders. And so we live, social debt flowing to and fro.

Until one side takes, the other side gives and an unbalanced ledger results. I borrowed your lawnmower, your shovel, your chainsaw and never repaid you in kind.

Without effort from my side, this slight will grow and fester. An unspoken feud may molder and spawn, like some fetid mushroom pushed up through rotting soil.

There is however, one system which lives for an unspoken unbalance: The Mormons.

The Mormons have a charity point system; they must do good deeds, in excess of those good deeds done back onto them. When we lived in Utah, we confounded them and their points-for-heaven tally sheet. We would be our neighborly, good-natured and giving selves; going out of our way to help and assist and donate whatever we could — simply because that’s how we were wired. They, in turn, would try and surpass normal social mores and attempt to double up in pious points.

Now, to be fair, I’m sure this equanimity generally stemmed from the aforementioned social contract. But, on occasion, we were well aware that we’d flummoxed a number of our neighbors with excessive kindness, a gift that tipped the scales in a way that no doubt confounded them no end. We were, after all, the infidels of the neighborhood. The score could not be left teetered so.

Eventually, the weight would shift and we would accept that to remain amicable, we must be a smidgen in arrears; they were headed to heaven, we realized, and the score must tip in their favor.

 

Grave of a child

I’ve stopped reading and writing.

childsgrave

My kindle is chock full of “To Read”s yet, there they sit. I’ve got a dozen story ideas listed on a whiteboard each one glaring down at me. My blog inbox is bulging. My outbox is crickets. My fingers creak as I write these words. In fact, penning this post feels like digging the grave of a child. But it has festered and begun to stink and so must be put to rest.

I spend my time now, wasting it. Youtube, Netflix, and of course the job — I have to teach myself Accounting 101 in the next few months. It’s killing me inside.

And yet, there’s this tectonic ache building within me. The stress between artistic plates strains as I attempt to ignore it. But when the slip finally comes on what will I expend my efforts? What topic, concept, or endeavor deserves my time? And herein is the thrust of this post…

Why do we read what we read? Why did you choose to read these words? What drove you to select that novel? That Aeon or Medium or WordPress article? And, more importantly, should I consider your underlying needs for written entertainment as I choose my next writer’s work?

There’s no end to online explorations as to “why we write and/or create” — what the muse whispers in our ear — what inner force compels us to imagine, sculpt and produce.

But what about the flip side? What drives you to consume? What notions worm their insidious threads of quest, of exploration into your mind? Notions that will not be suppressed — that insist that you read that novel, research that technology or phenomenon, study and probe those people, places, events and ideas until you are satiated?

And shouldn’t such factors influence what creative topic or concept I choose next? For I prefer (as do all writers) to write words that will get read and enjoyed, celebrated even. Sure, we write foremost for ourselves. But if we didn’t care to have our work consumed by others, we would write it — and then delete it. So of course writers crave readers.

But what do readers crave? And why? Why do you read what you read, watch what you watch?