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The King In I

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Health Care Reform

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Halloween, 09

"The King In I"

Click on history. Select "lists", go to "F". Under "F" find the roster of all-star fools. Right at the top are the alchemists. Our great amusement flows not from the conviction that they have never succeeded in changing base metals into gold, but from the understanding of what would result if they did. What could be more stupid than to believe improvementt could result from transforming what is precious because it is rare into what is cheap because it is common?

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Along the way, I had a friend that was something of a wheel in local government. At the time, before the local triumph of gentrification, my friend was working on what might tenderly be called Brooklyn's "image" problem. As a private citizen, I knew it was none of my business. I threw my two cents in.

I suggested clever slogans. These were the kinds of things you could scribble on the signs politicians make magically appear the instant they take office. I sought to add some inspiring verbiage to follow "Welcome To Brooklyn" (Kings County, NY). This, I imagined, could be squeezed in between the large letters of the salutation and the even larger letters designed to advertise JOE FATHEAD, local honcho.

The task was to update the historically negative opinions of America's fourth largest city. Sayings such as "Where Families (7) Make Their Bones", or the "The Slum That Inspired The Black Panthers", were not in keeping with our new image. What was needed was something that, first of all, made Joe Fathead look good, while keeping in step with the new Brooklynites, who, if nothing else, were folks what had tone.

I suggested "In Kings Live the People", and other variations of that theme like "The People Live In Kings", so on, and so forth. My friend was impressed, even surprised; revealing, if nothing else, that our friendship had not been based on my intellectual potential. In the end, while I couldn't imagine why, nothing came of my work; except in my own mind where the notion of citizen as King survives.

This delusion abounds. The signposts are everywhere. We moat ourselves in communities with names like "Westminster Estates" and "Royal Oak". When we want to be absolutely top drawer, we roll out the "red carpet" and give 'em the "royal" treatment. What swell would settle for a night on a "citizen" size mattress?

Nowhere is this social dynamic more apparent than in the forlorn efforts to reform "health" care. Since it is already clear that none of the "plans" on the table will relieve the crushing costs driving us onto the rocks, eliminate our backwardness, or restore us to the ranks of first-class societies, the time has already arrived to ask "what went wrong this time". Soon, the air will be full with the sage judgments of our credentialed celebrities, all of which I predict, will rely on rational explanations and omit any mention of human nature such as it manifests in the American subjective. Conclusions drawn from populist perceptions are beneath their ken: Such erratica is annoying. I can't be sure of course, (being only a private citizen), but this seems like a good time to throw in another two cents, and add something to our understanding of why Mr. Obama is taking the flop.

Let me return you to the turn of twentieth century when manufacturing surplus had made goods cheap and affordable, even to the "masses". There came into focus what we call today the "consumer society". Among other things, the average citizen was able to boost self esteem and exaggerate worth through his or her ability to purchase stuff.

To the historic urge to wish oneself a King, was now added the ability to demonstrate one's superiority through accoutrement. This expansion of the individual's normal desire to swell his or her story from "equal" to "special" became its own doctrine, its own raison d'etre. Goodbye citizen, hello customer.

The Magna Carta may have circumscribed the power of despots, but the contemporary shopper has transcended those out-dated restrictions. This new assertion of absolute imperiousness, the anthem for every member of that vain subculture, and the credo of every hustler that panders to it, was provided by the owner of a British department store who chiseled the commandment "The Customer is Always Right".

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shopkeeper 1976-2001

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