I learned two new Yiddish words today–schlemiel and schlimazel. The schlemiel is the one who is always spilling the soup, the screw-ups if you will, while the schlimazel is the one that the soup always falls on. Our country has its fair share of schlemiels in government, industry and media who are constantly screwing up and making schlimazels of us all! They spill the soup and it lands on us. The ones that come immediately to my mind are big oil, talk radio, Apple and Microsoft, Wal-Mart and education.
I grew up in Texas and live in Oklahoma City where oil is king. We even have an oil well on the state capitol grounds. I get the fact that we need oil companies. Except for the uni-bomber, none of us want to travel everywhere on horseback or bicycles. It’s hard to think of any part of our daily life that isn’t somehow connected to the oil industry. You’d think that an industry that draws income from almost every living person in America would be respectful of all of us and the places in which we live. This is not the case.
Big oil has been doing more than their share of spilling the soup for decades. The tragedy in the gulf, the Ixtoc and Exxon Valdez spills are only the tip of a very large iceberg of ecological boondoggles perpetrated all over the globe. Pollution, scandals, dishonest gaming of energy systems to raise prices at the pump, the buying and bribing of political influence here and abroad, as well as the excessive disasters of late, should be more than enough to turn the stomachs of every thoughtful citizen. Outside of defense, I can think of no industry that receives more favor and governmental support than big oil. Few will deny the existence of extensive regulations involving oil; however, given the numerous tax breaks and near monopolies enjoyed by this industry, it is only right that there be a system of checks and balances in place for the good of all concerned. With all of this governmental support, as well as the income dollars derived from the spending of almost every person on the planet, I don’t think it’s too much to expect that Big Oil be a better citizen.
Here in Oklahoma City, the local radio stations air two things: commercials and a constant drumbeat of anger and vituperation. It is, quite possibly, the most mean spirited town I have ever lived in–when it comes to political matters. Yesterday, I counted 10 instance of name calling (Nazi, idiot, morons, etc.) over one station inside of three minutes of time. The radio stations here are absolutely full of hate and they spew it 24/7. I find it odd that the radio stations, who believe in the power of advertising, deny that their mean spirited diatribes have very little influence over the outrageous behaviors of others. Lest you think that I’m attacking conservatives and giving liberals a pass, I’m not. The political rhetoric towards George Bush, in his day, was no less shameless and just as bad. The point is, the lies, vilification, name calling, and over interpretation of every single word and deed, which has become the standard fare of talk-radio in Oklahoma City–as well as other places–is disrespectful of political servants and the people they serve.
We need politicians and the work that they do. Politicians are not perfect and all of them have feet of clay. Even so, they work in a system that is infinitely more complex than any of us know–they are scrutinized well beyond the point of reason. The nasty rhetoric of talk radio stations makes schlimazels of us all.
Apple and Microsoft Pundits
Within moments of the announcement of the IPad, Apple Computing was criticized by almost every techno-geek blog on the web. The IPad was too much of one thing and too little of another. The same thing happens to Microsoft every time it introduces a new product or upgrades an old one. What is it with these guys? Our computer products are the envy of the world. Apple and Microsoft make all of our lives better by giving us some of the best hardware and software anywhere. There are hardly any better stories to illustrate America’s capitalistic successes than these companies. There is more engineering and technology in the operating system of our laptop computers than in the 757’s that fly us around the world. I don’t know about you, but I love my IPhone, and personal computer; and, I love the software that’s been created for them.
Wal-Mart is the company that everyone loves to hate. I do believe that Wal-Mart could give away every item in their store for a month and some people would criticize them for it. No doubt, Wal-Mart has a lot of sins to repent of; but the truth is simply this, they wouldn’t exist if people didn’t buy their stuff. But, people buy their stuff because they do a lot of things right. As for me, Wal-Mart usually has the stuff I need at a price I can afford. When I have a problem they take it back. It’s really that simple. When I want personal service and attention, I go elsewhere. Wal-Mart is not responsible for today’s globalized economy–though they thrive in it. The economy exists because people everywhere vote with their wallets to buy stuff at the lowest price possible; and, whether we like it or not, they seemingly do not care if their goods are made by people in third world environments in less than ideal conditions. Wal-Mart is not responsible for this–we are. Shop for your clothes at Talbots if you wish–just notice that their clothes are made in the same countries as Wal-Mart–by those same people under the same conditions. We live in a world of our own creation that rewards Wal-Mart and helps it thrive. Personally, in a time of harsh recession and double-digit unemployment, I’m glad we have at least one place to buy what we need without being raped and pillaged.
The American Education System
The education system in this country is broken to the point that many of us wonder if it can be fixed at all. Teachers are usually the first criticized–which makes about as much sense as criticizing postal clerks for the problems of the US Postal service. Teachers are criticized for almost every social ill imaginable. Parents complain about homework; then, bemoan that their kids don’t understand their studies. They are expected to teach students with severe discipline problems while tying their hands when it comes enforcing discipline (hey you try that and tell me how it works!). Schools have very little authority to punish those who act out in the classroom–which creates impossible teaching and learning environments. We spend vast sums of money for special education and expect gifted and talented students to sell fruitcakes so that they can have microscopes in their labs. We support sports and cut music and art programs.
At the college level, the public criticizes universities it for not being run more like a business while insisting that their sons and daughters are educated for free. Parents insist upon the very latest in technology, educational resources, dormitories and learning environments. Come election time, these same people will berate their legislators for the sums of money spent on education. If I could make the rules, every politician, as well as every right wing radio and television personality, would be required to teach in the public school system for six months. I’m betting they can’t do any better.