Friday, February 13, 2009

I came home yesterday . . .

To find all the electricity had gone out. We'd had terrible winds all day and some power lines must have gotten knocked down. I immediately thought about two blog posts I had read in the morning. Needs vs. Wants: Do you know the difference? by BlackGirlinMaine and especially Drowning in Problems by Keep It Trill who in that post wrote that given the current economic excrement heap we find ourselves in, "a third to half of us may be lucky to have Internet service next year."

I so totally recognize so many of the luxuries we have been mindlessly enjoying living in America. When I came home to find out that the electricity was out, I didn't think about the food in the fridge spoiling or the boiler and water heater not being able to work (actual necessities)--I thought about THE INTERNET not working.

I had a good chuckle at myself. I hadn't thought about KIT's words until I came home and there was no internet. I *just* paid a HEFTY Con Edison bill (electric and gas). The last thing I was looking for was interrupted service. I almost got out my corded phone to call somebody and demand answers. So could it be that we could go on paying our bills, our taxes and just one day *poof* those services disappeared? Who could we talk to? What could we do? As it is, Con Ed has us by the nutsack. How can you dispute what they say? Can you physically go out there and fix things when they break? Nope.

I remember learning when I visited Nigeria last that paying your bills was no guarantee that your electricity would work and that going to work was no guarantee that you'd be paid. Being in Ghana taught me that there is a fundamental difference living in the U.S. and living in "the third world": realness. In Ghana, when the electricity got caught off, I immediately thought about my food that would most likely spoil in the fridge. I noticed how little folks actually relied on the fridge. Food was cooked daily and hardly anything was stored in the ice box. I noticed that I started to buy food that wouldn't spoil easily and food that I actually intended on eating very soon. That's real. I noticed so many unfinished houses and rickety, hooptie cars. No, roads weren't filled with late model cars and I certainly saw no Hummers. But folks really owned what they live in and drive. In Nigeria, I learned, being wasteful with water would mean you were at the mercy of whoever delivered the water to cook, bathe, etc . . . real. That's what's lacking most living here: instead of being focused on real stuff, we worry about illusory things like the internet.

Anyway, I don't have cable. I don't have fancy clothes or many fancy things. In most ways, I'm very practical and I live as humbly as I can. I often think I'd be okay if my family and I had a roof over our heads, food to eat, clothes to wear and a little tiny extra to make life special sometimes. But I sure do love my high speed internet. I'm too attached to it. Even sometimes I think addicted. I need it. I know it would do me good to do a week long detox. Even the one day break I take on Saturday is not enough. I need to purge a little more than that. So that in the event that internet gets cut off, I won't have to go through forced withdrawal. I want to be able to take note, miss it, and go crochet or knit (activities that I often neglect in favor of the net). I feel the same way about my car but to a lesser extent because with small children, not having a car would really challenge my mobility especially in the winter. But still, every so often I walk a distance that is a little less than comfortable, that would be much more easily done driving, just to remind myself.

I don't really talk about politics too much or get too up in arms about what's going on in Washington. I know, though, that the "bail out" is not going to get us out of this. Certain things I just have always known and don't surprise me--like that they were going to try to do a bail out. When a ship is sinking, you have to be wise enough to put on your life jacket, blow up your inflatable raft and abandon ship. Sometimes talking about politics and personalities is just a distraction from getting your own stuff together--figuring out what to do now that you know the ship is really sinking; devising a good plan that will potentially work no matter who is in office or how hard others are bailing water and pretending the thing is not sprouting holes everywhere. Preparing for the worst while hoping for the best--even if the only best that can be hoped for is good food, clean water, a roof, and some clothes.

And the hubby and I agree: if things get so bad, if the U.S. turns back into a developing nation, we'll be on the first thing smoking back to Nigeria (or Ghana). Because without the opportunity the U.S. offers, there is nothing, just nothing for which to stay here. If the dreams of all these racist folks who hope Obama fails come true, they can certainly have what's left.

These are challenging times we're in and that means that we have to be willing to personally challenge ourselves? Are you up the challenge?

Suggested Reading: Poverty of Imagination.

Photo Credit: Playing on the Computer by fd on Flickr

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