Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Monday, December 08, 2003  

Last week, I sat down at a pizza parlor with a couple of slices of cheese and the New York Times. (Used to be my regular routine, until I became slightly wheat intolerant. Damned aging process.) In the table next to me a couple and their two boys (maybe 4 and 6) sat down. Or rather, spread out--physically and psychicly. They dominated the space, kids spinning like screaming electrons around the table. Mom and dad, neither dismayed nor plussed, ignorned their neighboring diners and cooed at the kids.

A repeat on Saturday, when I ate at the Purple Parlor, a hip new joint in the hip new neighborhood of Mississippi Avenue in North Portland. In this version, a mom, playing with a toddler at an adjacent table, chair scooted back so far from the table I had to hunker--and waitstaff had to avoid. And let's not even get into the way people drive in SUVs, whom I regard with awe from my Civic (or bicycle).

Could be that I'm getting to be a cranky, wheat-intolerant oldster. Surely that's in the mix. But there's also something afoot in society. If the self-indulgence of the 70s were based on individual growth, at least it had as a virtue the acknowledgement that others shared physical space with them. But the new millennium's version of self-indulgence is worse--call it the "entitlement decade." People are not only self-indulgent, they call it a moral virtue. Crush you with my 6,000-ton, tax-deductable Hummer? Well, better you than my own child (or grandchild or wife or Pekinese).

It undergirds our politics, too. Lose your school lunches because of my tax cuts? Well, I have my own kids to think about, you know. With the extra money, we can send them to a private school. Damage air quality when we weaken requirements on industrial emissions? Well, we're the most economically-advantaged country in the world--you don't want to see the damn Germans encroach on that, do you? Just get an inhaler. Kill innocent civilians when we invade your country? Well, your leader seems threatening, and we're not sure what he might do. Better not take any chances.

I know, I know, this is a rant. But I haven't gone on one for awhile. I saw a cartoon in the New Yorker recently in which a man sat in a chair airing petty complaints. The title? "Creeping Rooneyism." I know this post is a symptom of early onset Rooneyism, but that doesn't mean I'm wrong.

posted by Jeff | 7:39 AM |
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