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Dear friends,

As a result of my evolving apprehension of what's called society (from my new awakened perspective, some insightful letters with a friend, and reading Dickens's Little Dorrit back-to-back with Trollope's Last Chronicle of Barset, and watching Andew Davies's film adaptations of the former, I've become aware of how we are today (2011) evolving an dysfunctional society in new ways.


Matthew MacFayden as Arthur Clenham in Little Dorrit: sometimes he is shut out, and sometimes shut in

My argument is that at the same time as we hear all this talk about networking and stress on family groups, support systems (systems no less), circles of friends, in reality as the public job sector shrinks, wealth goes into fewer hands, we are seeing a decrease in civility, increase in rapaciousness (which the decrease is a function of and supports) as well as the long term advance of isolating circumstances.  The Admiral's argument is that larger groups have ever been on the verge of disintegration, disfunctional unless you invent games and rituals and shared interests for them to form around.

I can support this in small and large things. I get a card notifying me I have to renew my driver's license. It's written in punitive terms. If I do not do X in ten days, I will be fine. X includes sending a check or debiting my credit card as well as filling out a difficult form on the Net (or downloading one -- with the paper I have bought and snailmailling it. Woe to me if it doesn't get there in time. 

There's an artist display up and down Olde Towne streets last week. The Farmer's Market people get highly unfriendly notices that they must clear out by 10 am or else. The natural result is less than half show up because they have to get up so early, set up their stuff and that takes time and need time to sell it. The streets are also taken up by the interlopers. It's the Farmer's Market who generate incoeme, but the artists have friends in city council, are more strikingly prestigious on a form of What We Did Last Month.

This kind of things is back up by the continual circumlocution displays on the phone and downright lying (for one cannot check what's said). Only by threatening to write a letter of complain to someone who can genuinely punish the people at the other end of the line can you get any service at all.  Individuals are dispensable; those who work for whatever institution are there to protect their salary, pride/ego and the institution first.  The people serviced are nothing, to be fitted in if there's time.

Larger examples: The phone system:

Students in my class when I asked them where else does the administration of the college (beyond the extortions for parking) show their exploitation of student accompanied by utter indifference: one girl raised her hand and began to speak rapidly: the phone system. Ever try to get help?  It takes hours to reach anyone by the pressing of buttons (you must wait till they call you back) and then you are with either an abrasive person who won't help or given another person similarly disposed.  Financial aid is particularly given to such reactions -- even to get a Mason card where the college can fleece you with ease takes heroic efforts.

It's hard to find out phone numbers of major institutions.  Parcel post for example. Blazoned on buses are the phone number of your nearby military recruiting office of course.

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How to break this to start.  Very hard.  Theres' the taboo about never telling how our money actually functions in our social encounters works to enable the agents of institutions to hold us hostage and/or fleece us:

My father very young and innocent really believed he and my mother could not take me home from the hospital where I was born because he could not cough up the $200 for the operation -- there had been a forceps. This obscene way of pricing: like slavery, people and their limbs have a price.  He went to the bank and borrowed against his salary for several weeks. That was literally holding someone hostage.

When Yvette was declared a SIDs baby, to get an apnea monitor machine which would tell us she had stopped breathing or was about to, Children's Hospital demanded we pay them $1400 a month - that was 26 years ago. It was a crazy sum then (and now) and we literally didn't have it and he literally didn't make that much a month and we had rent, food and lots of other things to pay for. We didn't have a bank account with any savings beyond what he was paid weekly and we spent it as it came in. (We had our first savings well after that. Not until well after that did we have any excess.) The admiral got up to leave. He was really leaving without the box. The people at the desk were startled. So was I. But I got up too -- and guess what?  They suddenly offered us a cheasier machine for nothing. Nothing. The one for $1400 or whatever a month was battery operated so I could walk about with the baby.  The free one had a plug. So I couldn't take her about.  They were shameless too. They had tried to wrest $1400 for a machine they were equally prepared to give us for free. To see what they could wrest. They resented the admiral I could see and when I've told other people this story they are shocked at the admiral. Not the hospital.

Captain oh my captain.

 I know it's an old trick for one person to fob off someone and let another office charge and pretend not to know about it. Also to add on charges -- that's common. It's no longer nickeling and diming but one thousanding or hundreding people. I still feel the sting of what I felt was a scam about the way I was led to pay $500 for a 2 pairs of glasses about 2 years ago; the woman cited only the charge for the frames not the lens and there I was with both of them. I wish I had walked out and certainly won't ever go to Kaiser for glasses again.  I'll take my prescription elsewhere. I end up hating myself when people succeed in fleecing me and it's not much comfort to know others pay the same. Indeed it angers me when women friends claim to pay less -- which oddly they do.

Yes. Friend A is ever claiming to have spent less; my friend, Friend B does the same.  People are embarrassed to admit how much they paid or don't want to have to admit how they got the money -- not from a job but that no-no in US life of some help from someone else. Not by working (the great noble thing).  They like to pretend their semi-adult child has thousands to pay college fees. Perhaps they do borrow it, but this is a still a curious back-handed kind of showing off to pretend you got away for so much less. Whlie the listener is the sucker.

An important element in all this is shaming people. Using silence to shame them.

Finally day-to-day fleecing. Again the example happened in a medical help care facility -- ironic, or it should be. At Kaiser.  I still feel the sting of what I felt was a scam about the way I was led to pay $500 for a 2 pairs of glasses about 2 years ago; the woman cited only the charge for the frames not the lens and there I was with both of them. I wish I had walked out and certainly won't ever go to Kaiser for glasses again.  I'll take my prescription elsewhere. I end up hating myself when people succeed in fleecing me and it's not much comfort to know others pay the same. We are all being egregiously overcharged.

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Then there are spreading everywhere offers of jobs for no payment  with no future (or only a hope), internships for which you pay to have, and huge charges everywhere for anything.  I am not saying there is really anything new here.I've read that in the eighteenth century people would sometimes coerce their servants to give up their teeth to put in the master or mistress's mouth.  How different is that from women selling their uteruses?

It's the same set of norms from human nature that ever were, only now they are operating as brutally and ruthlessly as they can for the people in various positions of power see they can get away with it.

We have less and less laws of amelioration in place; that's the key here. For 30 years they have been decreasing ...

Sylvia

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