Travels of a New Gulliver: Chapter 2 by Joseph Natoli

by Joseph Natoli
Guest Writer
Dandelion Salad
August 5, 2011

Protesters at a health care reform town hall m...

Image via Wikipedia

Chapter II

In which the Author and his young companion Ned arrive in the village of Trickle Downs and there find that anything is possible, words are never pawns, personal choice matters most, exclamations of “Whatever” replace jumping back, and there are no speed limits.

My dear Reader, it has been a fortnight since we left the village of Jumpback and arrived in Trickle Downs just at daybreak. During our trek young Ned and I had talked much about his hopes and dreams of finding a place in the world where talk was not riddled by doubt and suspicion. He wanted to live and not talk endlessly about the living. He was tired of words and wanted to live in a world of action.

And so, dear Reader, he was perfectly attuned to what befell him as we walked down what we assumed was the main thoroughfare of the village. A sports roadster rushed around a near corner and both Ned and I had to leap aside or be run over. The roadster came to a sudden stop, backed up and a comely lass lowered her sunglasses, surveyed Ned and asked him if he wanted to join her for a ride?

The lad was in the roadster and waving his goodbyes to me in an instant. Trickle Downs had just opened its gates for young Ned. Perhaps as the immortal Bard says he was green in judgment, or, perhaps I’m not young enough to know.

And so, dear Reader, I was once again a solitary traveler in an unknown land but I retained a distinct feeling that Ned’s path and mine would cross again.

∞∞∞∞

What I was first struck by was the difference in physical appearance between this village and that of Jumpback. Houses in Jumpback had been prefab uniform structures but here in Trickle Downs there were all manner of odd shaped houses, some palatial and some no more than shacks. There were many also that were no more than shacks but were adorned with cheap knock-off features of the lordly dwellings. I noted the same differences among the villagers: some in rags and some in silks and some in mock silks. I had found everyone in Jumpback to be of a jumping back proclivity, to varying degrees, but here in Trickle Downs it was difficult at first to perceive commonality in anything.

I later realized this was so because so much effort was extended by each villager to avoid appearing anything other than unique in word, action and lifestyle. But the architecture of the village belied this presumption of radical individual difference for there was clearly a wealth division. My own assumption then was that I would find that similar talk would be shared within each of these domains.

Accordingly there were three levels of lodging in the village: exquisite five star, faux five star, and hovel. As I had been roughing it somewhat in my digs at Jumpback, I decided – and I hope my dear Reader will not hold it against me – to begin my stay at the Trickle Downs Hilton Resort and Spa. You will find in Proverbs the opinion that the poor are hated even by their own neighbor while the rich have many friends. My own discovery at the Spa was that the rich, when they are not talking about themselves and ownership, talk about what obsessions the poor have.

I heard much at the bridge games I enjoyed playing.

For example, Mr. Hugh, who is a well tanned and greased financier who travels with a secretary half his age, told me that as long as fools were busy fighting a war against evil `over there,’ he could make a sucker of them over here. A good Christian wages war against the forces of evil. “Do you believe I was told by some self ordained backwater minister that Jesus loves war?”

I remarked that war always seemed to find a way even through the gates of religion.

Mrs Goodheart, a widow who was often my partner, told me that ownership does it. ” You can’t keep nomads and gypsies and all the assorted ne’er do wells, troublemakers, discontents and such in line but convince them that a piece of property is their destiny and you’ve got a malleable sort.”

Mr. Swearly agreed to a point.

“The beauties of compound interest soothe the savage beast,” he told us. “Ownership of stocks will take the piss and vinegar out of any young rebel.”

“Ring the fear bell,” Mr. Wims said, banging a fist on the table. “It’s the lordly Duke who’ll protect the lowly serfs from the foreign beast.”

“Get any fool to hate that foreign beast,” Mr. Hugh told us, “and all the blackness of evil jumps to that beast’s back and the homeland has the look of Eden.”

“I am always amazed,” Mr. Wims said, “how well the race card plays in every one of these damn elections. And how damned cleverly coded these politicians are.”

‘You think they’ll be shooting at the gas pumps?”Mrs. Goodheart said.

“I applaud shootings anyplace,” Mr. Swearly said. “I’m certainly not going to be at a gas pump or wherever these miscreants are shooting. Arrest them. Send them to prison by all means. Send them to the prisons I hold stock in. Fill up the empty beds. Can’t make a profit with empty beds. Shootings, arrests, prison terms, profits.”

“Two no trump,” Mrs. Goodheart said.

∞∞∞∞

I became friendly with Walker, a youngish man who described himself as an adventurous capitalist after I had said I was for the near future no more than a traveler. He seemed to find some link between us and went on about how we had the courage not only to face the unknown but to plunge into it, the greatest adventure being a plunge into risky waters. I admitted that no sign announcing “Here be dragons’ would prevent my own journey onward.

I had been invited to Walker’s home on a number of occasions but the one I wish to tell you about my dear Reader revealed much to me.

Most of the guests had gone home and I was about to, warming myself by the fire with a brandy in hand, when Walker and his girlfriend, Lyla, a relatively new conquest, began an argument concerning one of Walker’s servants.

“She’s just stupid is what it is,” Walker insisted.

“She’s unfortunate,” Lyla replied.

“You don’t have to tell me she doesn’t have a fortune. Why doesn’t she? Because she’s stupid.”

“And that’s her fault?”

“My God!” Walker exploded. “Who’s fault is it? Mine? Am I supposed to suffer idiots gladly? And pay them exorbitant wages?”

“I’m just saying a little compassion wouldn’t hurt.”

“Oh, I have to come up with compassion and money? Give me a break. Talk sense. You’re old enough.”

This brought some color to Lyla’s face and I could see she was trying to control herself.

“Not everyone has your gifts, Walker,” she said. “And you don’t even have them all the time, believe me.”

He glared at her.

“Whatever I have, you’ve been enjoying it.”

“I think it’s time for me to go,” Lyla said, getting up.

Walker’s mood changed instantly.

“Come on, Lyla,” Walker whined. “Where are you going? Jeez, have some compassion.” He laughed. “I’ve had too much to drink. I don’t know what I’m saying.”

Lyla was deterred. I got up. It was time for me to leave.

Walker turned to a man named Andy who Walker had introduced to me as a fellow adventurer.

“Andy,” Walker said, “Give me some help here.”

“Lyla,” Andy called out. “Give the heartless bastard a break. Stay. We need you.”

Lyla sighed, smiled and said she’d stay but she wanted to hear from Walker’s own lips when he thought compassion was called for.

“Okay, okay,” Walker responded. “Never. No. I’m kidding. But if you mean by compassion that I should hand over my own rewards for what you call my gifts to people too stupid to have any ambition, then I don’t have compassion and I don’t want to have it. I’m like all those politicians that say they have it. All I have to do is say I have it. But I’m no crooked politician. I’m honest. I don’t even say I have it. I don’t believe in giveaways. I do believe you let people back themselves into a corner and then see if they’re smart enough to work their way out. If they can’t do that then what’s the sense of asking the winners to support them? They’re drowning why the hell should I go down with them?”

Lyla’s face had darkened as Walker spoke.

“My brother Ray’s got cancer and no medical insurance,” she told us in almost a whisper. “He can’t afford it. He can’t get the treatment he needs.”

“Baby,” Walker said, going over to her. “You know I’ll help. I’m crazy about you.”

She looked up at him.

“Yes, I do know that,” she said. “That’s why I’m here. It’s not compassion. It’s not attraction. It’s not love. It’s something you can understand. It’s business.”

With that she left us, telling Walker to call her. He looked at me and I think he was surprised to see me still there.

“I’m more than business,” he said, angrily. “But I’ll be damned if I pull in my teeth because everybody else is toothless. Her brother Ray is a shiftless lazy bastard.”

“If some of us didn’t have teeth,” Andy said, yawning, “they’d be no gnashing and if there was no gnashing there’d be no war. And if there was no war…”

“I’ll bet Colter made a fortune on this war,” Walker said. I had no idea what war he was referring to, not being at all familiar with Trickle Down international relations.

“I’d like to put that bitch in a trench and see how much compassion she’d have.”

“If business got really bad here,” Andy conjectured, “would we be moving to China?”

“I don’t think it’s that easy in China to take the money and run,’ Walker replied. “I don’t love business because it’s business. I love the money and when I’ve got enough, I’m out.”

Andy laughed and told Walker he’d never have enough to which Walker responded “Guilty.”

He looked at me.

“You’ve seen cold hearted bastards like us in your travels, Gulliver?” he asked me, smiling.

“I do not judge anyone,” I told him. “I believe we all have our difficulties in caring about each other. But I’ve found my countryman Shakespeare is encouraging: `No beast so fierce but knows some touch of pity.’ Of course that’s Richard III and Richard did confound Shakespeare’s optimism.”

∞∞∞∞

I took up golf which I had played and played very well in my own homeland. I was at my locker when one of the foursome I had been part of – Reverend Swot – gave me some advice.

“Here’s how you avoid the coming people’s revolution, Gullfart. Number one…”

“Excuse me,” I said, lacing a shoe. “What revolution is that?”

“You’ve got the bottom forty percent of the village pretty well beaten up. The government could help but no one, not even the bottom forty percent, wants that. Everybody hates the secular government. The middle class is still chasing that rabbit of upper middle class status but that rabbit can no longer be caught. You see, their bourgeoisie look is a façade. Compliments of credit card debt. So you’ve got two people working full time having less buying power than one guy fifty years ago. Quality of life is fading. Then you’ve got the top one percent who are close to owning everything on the board and the next twenty per cent serving them in some professional capacity. 80% hurting; 20% full liquidity. Even if they lose that liquidity, the secular government will bail them out. What else can they do? You let the boys play their games and when they crash you save them because saving them is saving the country. It’s a nervy game because at some point — The Apocalypse. Riots and things fall apart.”

“So how do you defuse this coming catastrophe, Reverend?”one of our golf mates, Gene Wormers asked. Gene was a corporate attorney.

“I know how,” Angelo Rudo shot out. Angelo owned a number of used car outlets.

“Look, the bottom feeders are strung out on drugs, booze, porn, video games, and just surfing the web. Technology will keep them doped up. Provided they can pay for it. The Feds should give a rebate to every poor slob who buys an X-Box. I say put a fast speed Internet hook up in the household and credit cards in everybody’s wallet. Shopping and porn.”

“And this defuses the coming revolution you anticipate?” I asked.

“Sure,” Angelo told me. “And neat profits are made thereby also, my friend. Technology is sweet and never questioned. Somebody could come up with something to replace the human mind…like a tiny cell phone implant….and people will eat it up. Here, take my mind; give me the digital version.”

Angelo laughed.

“You are a very cynical man, Angelo,” Reverend Swot told him.

Angelo shrugged.

“Losers are losers. They think like losers and they act like losers.”

“You say that, Angelo,” Gene said, “because you talk people into buying your cars and they do and you think they’re stupid but they’re not.”

“My cars sell themselves,” Angelo said, winking at me.

“You don’t think people who are hurting can be distracted forever?” I asked Gene.

He shook his head.

“I think disaffection grows into old fashioned discontent which breeds anger, hostility, violence.”

“Number two,” the Reverend Swot said holding up two fingers. “You need to detour their anger. We do it all the time. The Devil made me do it. The other guy is at fault. Or the system is. Or it’s just in the cards.”

“It’s the crooked unions is what it is,” Angelo said. “I’ve got seven locations and two hundred and thirty three employees and they think I’m going to let them form a union so they can suck my blood.”

“It’s the godless,” Rev. Swot said. “And by the godless I mean the abortionists and the welfare queens and the socialists and the gays.”

“Those environmentalists keep us from drilling for oil,” Gene added.

“Illegal immigrants take jobs and make it hard for people who live here to survive.”

Gene looked at Angelo.

“You have a lot of wetbacks working for you, don’t you Angelo?”

Angelo laughed.

“We’re not talking about what I do,” he told us. “We’re talking about, what? Keeping the losers from looking our way.”

“And if they do look your way?” I asked, curious.

“What do they see?” Angelo replied. “We got privileges. That we pay for. We lean the system our way.

“The bigger the piece you cut for yourself,” Rev. Swot said, “the less there is for anyone else. Unfortunate. But fortunately, faith is a solace.”

“The socialists want to talk class warfare,” Angelo said, “and we all know anybody can be anybody they want to be here in the spa. We don’t have classes. But nobody wants to talk about blacks living on welfare and browns coming across the border to take your job. And we got Muslim terrorists all over the place.”

“But that’s not where the oppressing power is, is it?’ I said. “I mean these people have no power to rule.”

“Hitler just went to the Jews,” Gene mused.

“And the gypsies and the Anarchists and the Communists and the homosexuals and the handicapped,” I said, correcting him, feeling that by even mentioning them, I was doing a courageous thing and standing up for them. But it was too late for that and I didn’t know how to stand against what I was hearing now. There was no way.

“I would not underestimate the effect,” Rev. Swot said, “of aiming that hostility in the direction of the gays and the abortionists and all those atheists causing a moral decline in the village.”

“Is there a moral decline in the village?” I asked the Reverend.

“There’s always moral decline in the village,” Rev. Swot replied, giving me an indulging smile. “It’s biblical.”

∞∞∞∞

When I had a good grasp of this Spa talk, which I found to be inspired by somewhat less than the better angels of our nature, I moved to the Village End, the scruffiest and most disreputable part of town. I wanted to record on both parameters and in this way anticipate to some extent what the talk in between might be.

I found a room in a boarding house run by Mrs. Bombers, a fiftyish widow, who I discovered had gametic and genetic ties to almost everyone in the house. Had I extended my stay beyond what my conscience would allow I too might be now included on that list.

At first I only had dinner at Mrs. Bombers, my practice being to set out early in the morning and not returning until dinner time. I soon found that there was little usable talk on the streets of the Village End, most of it encapsulated in a word such as “whatever” or “wanker” or a phrase such as “give it here” or “roll on it,” or “thems me food” or “thems me music” or “poof off.” But the boarding house table was replete with a good array of boiled potatoes – what Mrs. Bombers called her “good go to“—and a good sampling of the sort of conversation that would have had Mayor Parsall wincing non-stop. The strategy I employed was to throw out to the table an explosive observation as one does a bit of chum in the water to lure trout.

Tonight, for example, I began with this: “I find that heavier taxes on the rich might remedy some of the problems here in the Village End.”

To this Mr. Skinley, a pensioner, responded: “Oh, you would, would you? And I suppose Mr. Joe Stalin put you up to that notion?”

“I object, sir,” Mr. Rapoort said, pointing at me with his fork, “to agreeing to anything that might turn around and bite me in the arse. Excuse my elocution, ladies.”

“Poortie has some idea he’s going to be rich any day,” Mrs. Bombers said as she laid down a platter of thick brown bread. “That’s after he digs himself out of the hole he’s in. Of course he got pushed into that hole and didn’t dig it himself.”

“Mrs. Montrose says I’ll be rich and famous because I have the legs and the voice for it,” Betty, one of Mrs. Bombers’s daughters, remarked as she laid a platter of potatoes on the table. I guessed she was no more than fourteen or fifteen but a quite comely lass, if I may say so.

Mr. Sal, a man in his early thirties I calculated, and who always came to the table with dirty hands told Betty that she could always in a pinch fall back on porno work to which Betty responded “Whatever.”

“All the child has to do,” Mrs. Montrose, a silver haired dowager, proclaimed, “is to want something long and hard enough and it will happen. It’s The Secret, dear, and I’m passing it on to you.”

“Long and hard,” Mr. Sal repeated, winking at Betty.

Betty shrugged and said “Whatever.”

Mrs. Bombers remarked that it sounded more like a bowel movement.

“All a man has to do is work hard,” a young Mexican named Ramon said, without looking up from his plate. “I think that is the secret.”

“Without computer skills you’re not going anyplace today,” Mrs. Montrose proclaimed.

“Sometimes I wonder,” I said, throwing more chum on the waters, if you will, “if it’s mostly good or bad luck that brings us to where we are.”

“I object, sir,” Poortie said, not surprising me, “to being told that all I have made of myself is the result of Fortune’s hand at the wheel.”

“More like your hand on a fork,” Mr. Sal said. “That fork made you fat, no good luck or bad luck about it.”

“But if a man’s in need of help through no fault of his own, shouldn’t those who are doing well be taxed to help him get back on his feet?”

I tried to slip this in as harmlessly as I could. No luck.

“We choose all that we get,” Mrs. Bombers said, plopping down now at the head of the table, her ample breasts rollicking above her plate. “I chose five husbands. Damn stupid choices all five of them. But I chos’em. We’re not machines. We’re not programmed. You make lousy choices, you wind up in a lousy spot. Don’t look to me to help you out.”

“You’ve got a Red way of thinking, mister,” Mr. Skinley told me, squinting at me as if I were difficult to get into view. “Them Reds all got a beef with the successful. Envy is what it is. Them Reds won’t rest until they get their hands on another man’s property.”

“It’s not money or property that I think will make me happy,” I said, reaching nonchalantly for a hard boiled egg. Mrs. Bombers had told me when I asked what dinners usually consisted of that, in her words, “potatoes, tomatoes, eggs, beer and bread are me foods and that’s what you’ll be seeing in different arrangements and consortments.”

“Right now you’re happy with that egg, right?” Mr. Sal wisecracked. I found him most annoying.

“I got what makes you happy, Sal,” Mrs. Bombers said, winking at Sal.

“That you have, Mrs. B,” Sal replied.

This put Poortie out.

“You want to be happy?” he said, looking at Mrs. Bombers. “Then I say live within your means, don’t bring degenerate blood suckers into your life, tell your children being a porn star is not a noble career choice…”

“They up and took my last credit card over at the Village Emporium,” Mr. Skinley interrupted, pulling a bent cigarette out of a crushed pack. “So that brings it down to me and the social security check. Till death do us part.”

“Well, make sure I get mine before you go on a binge,” Mrs. Bombers advised him.

“It’ll run out before you’re dead,” Sal told Skinley. “Unless you kick off in the next couple of weeks.”

At that Ramon made the sign of the cross.

“They say that’s a socialist plan,” I said to Skinley.

“So now you want to take away my social security check? It ain’t a handout. I worked for it. It’s my money.”

“Better spent on you than on that war,” I told him.

“I lost a son in that war,” Mrs. Bombers said, “so don’t you be saying anything against what he did over there. My son Willy was a patriot. Now I’m not. And I don’t know if Betty here is…”

“You would look grand in a uniform, Betty,” Sal told her.

“Whatever,” Betty retorted.

“Well, I’m sure God will comfort you,” I told Mrs. Bombers who was offended by the comment.

“Me and the Lord will have our day in court so you don’t need to worry about that. I’ll make my case without any help from you, thank you.”

“I get my employment checks so I guess that makes me a socialist,” Sal said.

“It just means you’re a lazy son of a bitch, Sal,” Mrs. Bombers said. “That’s all it means.”

“Were you downsized?” I asked.

“Downsized?” Sal repeated, looking down at his groin. “No, I went the old fashioned way. I got fired. One of Ramon’s relatives took my job.”

“I don’t think so,” Ramon said in almost a whisper.

“Here’s the government’s plan,” Mr. Skinley announced. “First, you send all the good jobs south of the border. Then you bring up a whole lot of wetbacks to take any jobs white men here in the village might still have.”

“I heard someone remark that here in Trickle Downs if you don’t have a gardener, you are a gardener.”

“I used to have a garden,” Sal told me, “but it went to pot. Ha ha.”

“I mean if you’re middle class,” I told the table, “you can own a home and have some investments and some medical insurance. You could have some security.”

“Who says I ain’t middle class?” Mrs. Bombers snapped. “I think you think we’re some scum off the street, mister.”

“Of course not but doesn’t it bother you that the wealthy get everything and you get nothing?’

“I like them that can pay,” Mrs. Bombers responded. “And the rich can pay. Who’s gonna hire you? Old Poortie there who doesn’t have a dime? Or Sal? We need the rich.”

“This gentleman,” Skinley said, pointing at me, “he prefers them pinko countries where everybody is equally poor and spending their lives cueing up for a loaf of bread.”

“First you get the money,” Sal said, raising one finger in the air, “then you get the power. Then you get the ladies. That’s how it goes.”

“What a deplorable life,” Poortie said as he reached out and forked another potato.

“If I didn’t spend so much time in jail in my younger days,” Mrs. Montrose said, “I would have been rich. The rich know how to stay out of jail.”

Everyone looked at Mrs. Montrose quite surprised by her confession.

“I ran a boarding house too, dear,” she told Mrs. Bombers whose mouth was still hanging open. “Spelled “BAWDING.”

She laughed.

“The government in this village,” Ramon said, breaking the silence, “is giving too much handouts to people who don’t do no work. It’s not right.”

“Who needs a government?” Sal said, wiping his mouth with his sleeve. “I don’t need anybody telling me what not to do and I damn well don’t need anybody taking my money and using it for something I don’t need.”

“You need the government to send you your unemployment checks, genius,” Poortie told him.

“Well, the government better stop killing babies is all I have to say,” Mrs. Montrose told us.

“You know I just wonder,” I said, “if abortion and gay marriage might be a big issue in the village election.”

“Nothing will stop abortion,” Mrs. Bombers snapped. “Whether or not it goes back to poor women having it in an alley or rich women at a spa in gay Paree. I’d rather have mine safely and the government pay for it. A gay guy does my hair. That’s the be all and end all of my interest in gay guys.”

“To each his own,” Poortie said.

“The gays have gotten to him,” Sal said, winking at me.

Betty’s cell phone rang then and she turned in her chair with the phone to her ear.

“I don’t know about the rest of you,” I said, “but I’m getting a deeper and deeper relationship with all this computer technology.”

“Betty does Faceback about nine hours a day,” Mrs. Bombers said to which Betty, pulling the phone from her ear, said “Whatever.”

“There is a game I like called World of Warcraft,” Sal told us.

“Crap,” Mrs. Bombers said.

“Better crap than the crap you watch,” Sal told her. “You know they make those soap operas up. Not a bit of truth in there.”

“Then how come you remind me, Sal, of one of the guys on The Loser and His World?”Mrs. B snapped.

“It is rather difficult to distinguish what’s true from what’s false these days,” I remarked. “And reality seems more like a Hollywood production than what it once was.”

“That’s just a sign that you need to go to AA,” Sal told me with a big infuriating smile on his face.

“Reality is what you make of it,” Mrs. Montrose proclaimed.

“Tell me, Mrs. Montrose,” I said, “Do you ever doubt yourself?”

“I’m only doubtful of where I might have left my room key,” she replied.

“I got it,” Sal said, winking at her.

“I just wish we’d do a better job with the environment,” I said, sighing deeply.

“You keep the inside all neat and tidy,” Mrs. Bombers said, “and the outside will take care of itself. That’s what my grand dad taught me.”

“I got a nicely furnished room,” Mr. Skinley said. “Who needs to go outside? Only socialists go outside. So let them go outside.”

“I know a guy,” Sal said, “cares more about mountain gorillas than about his mom. Ain’t that something?”

“I sometimes think if someone gave me ten million dollars I’d have a hard time knowing what to do with it?”

That remark made everyone laugh.

“Just pass it on to me, friend and I’ll show you,” Sal said.

“I mean how much can I spend on myself?” I replied. “I can only sleep in one bed at a time, wear one pair of shoes…”

“Choice is what it is,” Sal said, snapping his fingers. “You buy everything you can and then you choose whatever you want when you feel like it. A redhead one day, a blonde the next. Like that.”

“I’d want to do something for somebody,” I said. “Besides you Sal. I’d want to make things a bit better in this world.”

“Let your conscience be your guide, sir,” Poortie told me as he speared yet another boiled potato.

“You can hire agents to take care of your conscience,” Betty said, now off the phone. “I read that on the web.”

“So the agent goes to heaven,” Sal said, “and you go where you belong. We’re dogs, man. Face it. We’re all dogs and it never turns out good for dogs. We live like dogs, we die like dogs. Dogs don’t go to heaven. Why dream about it? It’s one run in the park and then it’s over. Everything else is illusion.”

∞∞∞∞

The middle class section of Trickle Downs, called Eden Forest, was marked by chemically treated lawns which were front aprons to cape cods and split level ranch homes. I spied no forests. Here unlike the Village End the lanes were quiet and there were few people walking about. I would have a difficult time in getting a sample of the talk but as luck would have it, there was an Urgency meeting in the community center the very night I arrived.

The urgency had to do with home foreclosures. I attended and sat in the back of the auditorium. After an hour or so, it became clear where the divisions were.

The Foreclosed group wanted their homes to be saved by some community action. A second group which I will call the Righteous argued that the foreclosed group were facing the dire consequences of their own actions and should not be asking the village council for a bail out. This group admitted that some prior action by the community should have been taken to exclude those who obviously did not belong.

A third group which I will call the Scavengers was willing to purchase all homes in danger of foreclosure at five cents on the dollar. And a fourth group, the Security Mom group, were worried about the vacant foreclosed homes becoming crack houses and worse.

Besides these there were a number of randoms protesting a war that Trickle Downs had joined in a far off land, the monopoly of the local TV cable company, Moms Against Porn, Vegans Against Animal Testing, Two Hands On The Wheel Advocates, a Save the Aquifer group, a Make Hemp Not War group, an Anti-Aluminum group, Young Mothers for Fencing and Lacrosse group, Converts to Colon Cleansing, Tough Love advocates, Innovation for the Sake of Innovation advocates, More Cereal Choices Group, and countless others.

Many were evangelically inspired and I myself, as I tried inconspicuously to position myself where my Dictaphone could do most good, was asked if I had accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior to which I replied that adhering to the Christian concern for others I had accepted Christ as my personal and societal savior.

On another occasion I was asked if I had any idea how much aluminum was already in my brain, a presence which would ultimately destroy my identity to which I responded that would indeed be a three pipe problem if my own brain ran off with my own identity.

I had, my dear Reader, a grand opportunity to hear as much middle class talk as I could wish.

I think it best to present what I discovered by contrasting it with the talk at the Spa and at Village End.

In a capsule preamble this: The Forest Edenites do not agree with Sal that they are all “dogs. On the whole, they mark great distinctions between their pets and themselves. The family dog gives the children an opportunity to hone a sense of responsibility.

They do not look upon the equestrian rich as predators or as just lucky enough to stay out of jail. The well-to-do harvest the fruits of their own labor, unlike the denizens of Mrs. Bombers’s boarding house. I was somewhat surprised to discover that Mrs. Bombers and her boarders were cited more than once as examples of perfidious human behavior and lifestyle.

Slightly different than Sal’s was the Forest Edenites’ view of the life of man. (You will recall Sal’s trajectory: money, power, ladies) Here in Forest Eden the trajectory was this: pre-natal Mozart, a mutual beginning of birth, compound interest, and computer literacy, pre-kindergarten violin and/or piano lessons, Judo and karate for five year olds, synchronized swimming and Lacrosse, merit badges and Eagle scout, prep school, State college, dentristy or chiropractic, assortative mating, golf, portfolio, Jesus, mortgage home in the exclusive (but faux) Versailles Estate community, cabin up north, two kids, dog, pre-natal Mozart and around once again.

The Forest Edenites had as many illusions as the Spa set but they were very different illusions.

While the Spas assumed they were “self-made men” displaying energy and force lesser men did not possess and therefore naturally winning the field, the Forest Edenites were coy about possible effecting causes and circumstances, citing God’s hand or the industry and conscientiousness of their forebears rather than personal gifts.

The Spas had little to say about their children except the cost in terms of investment. The Forest Edenites on the other hand crowned every son a Prince and every daughter a Princess.

Other people in the eyes of the Spas were either born losers, tax burdens, or lurking thieves, kidnappers and cutthroats. To the Forest Edenites other people were either from the neighborhood and therefore safe and familiar or outside the neighborhood and therefore a possible danger to their lawn and their children.

The Spas presumptuously chose to have free choice; the Forest Edenites modestly employed their free choice.

The Spas lived in a world they made and owned and they strode in it without fear; the Forest Edenites treated the world as something ruled beyond their household and therefore they were wary and preached caution to their children.

The Spas preyed upon the moral sense of those around them while the Forest Edenites feared those around them had no moral sense.

Trickle Downs’s government was always a potential enemy to be disarmed in the view of the Spas. But the Forest Edenites sometimes thought the government did not mean anything in their lives and sometimes thought it was an amoral force with too much intrusion in their lives and sometimes thought it was best run by a CEO.

In regard to happiness, the Spas saw it in their stock portfolios while the Forest Endenites read coffee table books and watched Oprah announcing the secret of true happiness. They often googled “happiness.”

The Spas were satisfied with as much sex as they could buy in a lifetime while the Forest Edenites spent their time extracting sex from true love in the fashion that fishmongers slash the entrails from a cod.

The Spas invented their own values and mostly kept them private, changing them, like their undergarments, as the need arose. Publicly they repeated the values that best profited their stock portfolio. Their review of conscience was a stock portfolio review.

The Forest Edenites stood behind family values, which I traced to a few mid-century family sit-coms popular in Trickle Downs. What it amounted to was that if you were a father, you were always ready to deliver sober life instruction to your son; if you were a mother, you were always ready to deliver a hot meal, clean sheets, and an aspirin.

The review of conscience in Forest Eden was strictly private and personal and therefore matters of societal and planetary moral review such as global warming, poverty, AIDs, war, racism and so on failed to come under review, unless of course, one’s mate had contracted AIDS or one’s son was in the war or one was brown or black, yellow or red.

For the Spas these matters did come under review but not moral review. Global warming, for instance, was a huge threat to profit to shareholders. Devastating poverty in most of the world could mobilize any number of Do Gooders preaching a wealth sharing.

War was not a moral issue but a matter of security now and securing profits in the future. Racism was a magnet to draw the poor into voting against their own best interests.

For the Forest Edenites, these matters were not moral nor were they in any way related to their personal family life. Spirituality was tied to family values and did not extend beyond those values. And so the Forest Edenites were religious and moral and spiritual when they worked daily at protecting their families, and defining the threats to that family security. Any success in this family enclosed domain was held as a moral success reverberating throughout the world.

Abortion comes into the family values radar because it is a threat to the procreation upon which the family emerges. If you kill the fetus, there can be no family. If the family is the good, and the only good, this killing becomes a sign of the biblical Fall.

Gay marriage threatens the bonds of a man and a woman, the coupling that will produce the golden egg, the child.

Gun control comes on the family values radar screen because fathers need guns to protect their family from roaming miscreants. Oddly, the Forest Edenites are not upset by war though it may lead to the killing or maiming of their offspring.

At Mrs. Bombers’s table, war wasn’t over there but started here on the home front as soon as you got out of bed; abortion was a fierce economic necessity; families were mouths to feed and changeable – most often husbands changing wives and wives changing husbands — by virtue of necessity, and God and heaven and hell were battles too distant to be fought now. I must report, my dear Reader, that every boarder at Mrs. Bomber’s table was prepared to give the Celestial Entity a piece of their mind. They were celestially litigious.

∞∞∞∞

In due course my presence became quite well known in every quarter of Trickle Downs village and there arose an interest in hearing my traveler’s tales. Accordingly I was asked to speak at a community meeting and I gladly accepted, believing that my talk would prove beneficial to the villagers and might contribute in some humble way to an advance in their own talk, and thereby, in their actions.

I stepped up to the podium, glanced at the faces before me, recognizing many, catching a sly wink from Sal, a lascivious one from Mrs. Bombers, a proper nod from several Forest Edenites and more than one thumbs up from the Spas.

Edenites, if may so refer to them,” I began, “believe that what goes around comes around, that God punishes the evil doer, that everyone has the same shot at success, that real rewards are in heaven, and that you can confirm the truth of anyone’s words by looking into their eyes or their heart or their soul, and that you make by your choices your own destiny.”

I paused, cleared my throat and surveyed my listeners. I could detect nothing. I went on.

“The Enders, if I may so refer to them, believe that ill fortune plagues them, that Hell is a real place and they are living in it, that they are destined to a bad end, that if life is a poker game the deck is stacked against them, that no good deed goes unpunished, that good guys finish last, that bullshit was everyone’s stock and trade, and when given the chance, take the money and run.”

This produced a low grumble from the audience accented by laughter. I went on.

“The Spas, if I may so refer to them, believe that the clever man never gets caught, that life’s deck was stacked – by them, that if you look steadily into someone’s eyes you could sell them anything, even the truth of what you were saying, and that their own winning destiny was a bricolage they made out of the sweat, tears and blood of lesser men.”

Grumbles, laughter and now angry shouts. I wasn’t at all sure of this response but went on nevertheless, dear Reader, sure as I was in the truth and validity of my words.

“The Spas believe they have a natural gift for living well and enjoying the finer things in life. They hold that spending money is a talent only they do well. Losers, in their view, have debased sensibilities and would in the end corrupt anything fine and squander any fortune that came their way.”

At this point I noticed that several fights had broken out among my audience. I went on.

“The Enders hold that it’s all luck and that their luck can change, that life is a knife fight, that any claims of distinction in anything are elitist claptrap, and that nobody who won anything had done it fairly.”

Half of the audience was now fighting with the other half. The noise level had reached tumult levels and I spoke more loudly into my microphone. My words were having an effect, which I saw as the preliminary to recuperative actions.

“The Edenites hold a temperate and moderate view toward what are called the finer things in life, believe that disciplined shopping is a sign of moral character, and that moderation in dress, language, and thinking is always called for, that the wealthy have problems different than but equal to their own, and that the unfortunate and disaffected were their own worst enemies, their problems easily remedied by a little fiscal discipline, a more developed moral character, an effective lawn trimmer, and regular Sunday service.”

Some attempt was now being made to reach me on the stage and the Trickle Downs Constabulary were dealing bone crunching blows right and left. With microphone in hand I retreated to the rear of the stage and went on.

Spas laugh at the suggestion of a class divide in Trickle Downs. The Edenites don’t perceive a class difference but only a difference in wealth, and the Enders affirm that they have a lot of class but snobs keep them down.”

This was the last I managed to intone before hands were on me and I was thrust to the floor, the angry faces of people I knew pushing their fists into my own face. In a matter of seconds I was conveyed out of the building, tied to a rail, covered with viscous tar upon which chicken feathers were applied and then, the rail being hoisted on the shoulders of the most stalwart, carried a distance from the village where I was dispatched with angry curses into a ditch.

Joseph Natoli is a retired college professor and author of numerous books on culture and politics. Learn more about him at www.josephnatoli.com.

see

All published chapters archived: 

Travels of a New Gulliver: Chapter 1 by Joseph Natoli