I am on the phone listening to a female robot’s soothing reassurances: ”Thank you for holding. We value your call. Someone will be with you as soon as possible”. Which she repeats between phrases of soothing music.
I am sure she means well. She probably has a family, maybe even kids of her own. I wonder if she gets a coffee break. Does she go out with her robot friends for lunch? Is she really as nice as her tone indicates? Is she that way with everyone? Hey! Maybe she likes me!
Nah. She doesn’t even know me. Who am I kidding?
Or maybe she does! Maybe she’s at the end of a computer owned by Amazon or Google that knows everything about me, including my good looks, charm, and personality…!
Then I wake up. It’s 7AM and time to greet the loneliness of a crowded pandemic.
A friend of mine once asked her husband why he didn’t seem to “give a $#!t” anymore.
“My ‘give-a-$#!tter’ is broken.” he said.
Which eventually broke her “give-a-$#!tter”. Now they’re divorced. Fortunately, their “give-a-$#!tters” still work for their kids.
A “give-a-$#!tter”, for those of you who still believe in Superman, is basically a meter for caring. He didn’t care, so his “give-a-$#!tter” was broken.
Which pretty much describes this country now. Republicans don’t care about Democrats and vice versa. Rural folks don’t care about city folks. The rich don’t care about the poor. Big companies don’t care about their customers, (although they do “give-a-HUGE-$#!t” about their customers’ data).
It was not always this way. Despite the constant lauding of American individualism today, the early Americans focussed more on community than lore would have it. They had to to survive. Wagon trains were communities. If your “give-a-$#!tter” broke, you were kicked out. And bad things happened to you. Like death.
Through the years, projects too big for individuals became community efforts, from small towns all the way up to the Federal government. “United we stand; divided we fall” was the idea.
Our “give-a-$#!tters” all worked.
Vestiges of that culture remain here and there: public schools, public water, our highway system.
But as the country grew more successful, western writers and later Hollywood ignored the culture of community and glorified rugged individualism: If you work hard, you succeed; if you don’t, you die… and good riddance.
Now nearly half of the country considers the notion of a safety net to be socialism, which is just another word for communism.
Our recent leader, who personifies a broken “give-a-$#!tter,” identified that divide instinctively. And, under his leadership what had been a weak seam joining the two sides, became a huge gap. Immigrants were denigrated. The pandemic was ignored, killing hundreds of thousands. White Supremacists, once furtive, came out of their sewers and attacked the Capitol.
“Now is not the time to debate gun control” says the NRA after Atlanta and Denver and every other mass shooting, followed by genuflecting to the Second Amendment. Imagine the number of lives that would have been saved had the words “muskets” or “cannon” been used in it instead of “arms”.
Or if the NRA’s “give-a-$#!tter” worked.
Broken “give-a-$#!tters ” are way more common now than, say, during the last national crisis, WWII. Today, even though it takes no effort to wear a mask or stay a few feet apart as a sign of caring about others, many Americans, including government leaders, vehemently refuse.
Valuing community hasn’t completely disappeared. There isn’t a religion in the world that isn’t based on functioning “give-a-$#!tters”. Sports teams have it. So do families. Even neighborhoods.
But broken “give-a-$#!tters” are trending now. Political leaders used to care about people. Now they care about polls. Businesses used to be “relationship driven”; now they’re “data driven”. You and I don’t matter, data does. Artificial Intelligence does.
Which can get discouraging. Well, except in my case. Because I know there’s a robot out there, somewhere in my dreams, who really does “give-a-$#tt”.