Thursday, August 23, 2018

Externalizing Alaska

Blaming all your personal problems on the governments or political opponents is pointless.

We are in Valdez, Alaska, which is a nice town.  The weather finally broke and we saw more than just fog for a change.   Went on a glacier tour, which was nice, but the captain of the boat kept up a commentary about nearly everything that came into his mind, and apparently he's been listening to Infowars a lot, lately.

Did you know Hillary Clinton was fired from a fish cannery in Valdez, after she tried to unionize the workers?   Did you know that global warming is a hoax?  The glacier we toured - which has retreated five miles since the tour captain started doing this tour 40 years ago - has retreated not because of global warming, but because of "cracks" that "let all the water in and melted it".   No word on what caused all the other glaciers in Alaska, and indeed, worldwide, to retreat as well.

And the endangered species act!  What a lot of hooey!   We were treated to a rambling discourse on sea lions and how "those government people don't know anything!" and instead of just shooting them (the sea lions that is) all in the head, they floundered around trying to figure out how to keep them out of the fish ladders in Washington State.  What that had to do with Alaska, I do not know.

Of course, we were treated to an extensive lecture on the Exxon Valdez.  Turns out that all that "environmental damage" was just a media hoax!   Not much oil leaked out, and what did leak out, well, that all washed out to sea, without ever touching land.

Despite that nonsense (and it was pretty easy to ignore and just talk over) it was a spectacular tour, even if the captain has lost his marbles.   But it got me to researching, and all I could find out about the Hillary thing was that, yes, she did go to Alaska after graduation and got a job at the "Mt. McKinley" hotel as a dishwasher.   She claims she worked in a fish cannery but that it was "gross" and when she complained, they "disappeared overnight".   No word about organizing the workers into a union - something I think Ms. Clinton herself would champion.   And no one Valdez at the time seems to remember her being here at all.   I think there is a little lying going on, on both sides.

That evening we went to the local fried food emporium, where the 20-somethings hang out and drink beer and eat what I can only describe as Poutine on steroids (gravy, sausage, fried eggs, jalapenos).  It was open mike night, and the bartender sang a few songs he wrote, including "what it means to be an Alaskan" - based on people (tourists mostly) asking him that question over the years.

While his song was sarcastic and biting (describing tourists as "walking advertisements for REI") it was spot-on.   We've driven by countless "compounds" out in the country, with ramshackle shacks surrounded by decaying trucks, cars, and other machinery, often with signs or flags decrying the government or declaring their independence.   And we've met city folks who are on the other end of the spectrum, who condescendingly talk about their rural brethren as "subsistence living" - which many of them are, by choice.  It seems each side wants to blame the other for "what's wrong with Alaska" and of course, both sides want to blame the government, State, Federal, and local, for everything else.

It is, of course, externalizing.   If you are living in a shack with particle board covering the windows and insulation hanging out - surrounding by a field of 30-50 abandoned cars and other vehicles - I think your "problems" have less to do with government agencies or political opponents than with your automotive hoarding disorder.   Sell the cars for scrap, buy some siding and new windows, and see how much better life could be!

But of course, folks like that are never going to change.  These are the kind of people who refuse to mow their lawns or put junk cars around their house, and then act the martyr when the "big government" in the suburbs fines them.  They move to Alaska simply because there isn't any zoning and no one cares if they want to live in squalor (hint: When traveling in Alaska, never look out the side windows when travelling by car).
And oddly enough, they are even more unhappy here, I think.   Since no one cares about how they live in squalor, they are even more upset.  No one is paying attention to them anymore!   So they have to do more and more outrageous things in order to be martyrs to some sort of "lost cause" or whatever.

Whatever the cause - and whatever the political views involved, Left or Right, centering your life around injustice and grievance is a shitty way to go through life.   Why?  Because the injustices you rail against will never be resolved.  The folks who live this way intentionally seek out injustices that cannot be fixed overnight, or indeed, if ever.  And the politicians like to nurture these sort of things along - never seeing them fully resolved - because it "gets out the vote" at election time.

The biggest problem the NRA has isn't school shootings and the outrages that attend them.  Their big problem is they have been too successful and as a result, people are complacent about their gun rights (which in our country, are in no danger of going away!).  So they have to resort to alarmist language to get people motivated - today claiming that since banks won't issue a "School Shooter Frequent Rewards VISA" card, the NRA will go out of business!  Forever!  Oh me, oh my!  I don't buy a word of it - they have millions, indeed maybe billions - and that's just the Putin money.

Again, externalization at work.  If not for those evil bankers, the NRA would be safe and secure!  After all, nothing they've done, such as promoting weapons for felons, the insane, and even the blind, could have lead to their alleged "problems" today - right?   It has to be someone else's fault.

That's just an example, of course.  Externalization exists all over the place - among politicians, governments, organizations, friends, neighbors, and ourselves.  A Republican legislator, running on a platform of "fiscal responsibility" incurs over a thousand overdraft charges on his checking account which has a balance of less than $100.    He dips into campaign funds to live a lavish lifestyle.   And it isn't his fault - other people are out to get him, it's all politically motivated!

And yet, I am sure that many voters will believe just that - because the "evil bank" also charged them a bounce fee, and that's just how life works, right?   It can't be the fault of the politician - people are out to get him!  It's all a vast conspiracy!

It is sad, but the reality is that people who live this way - externalizing - end up living far less of a life than they could.  And I realize this, having spent most of my life externalizing, myself.   We all do it - and we all continue to do it.  The best we can hope for is to minimize externalization in our lives and look inwardly as much as possible and own up to our own mistakes.

There really is no other choice.  Really.