I did a radio bit this morning at Veolia Environmental Services. (You can listen to it here.) On radio remotes like this, I like to research the company and tailor the segment to them. Generally, you never know who is listening, but when you’re doing a remote, your audience is right there in front of you. I rationalize my pandering and glowing review of the company by knowing that the jokes are more entertaining to all present when they’re “inside.”
At any rate, Veolia is a waste management company, so for the last three days, I’ve been researching waste as defined by “the stuff we throw away.” If I didn’t have to research the topic, like you, I probably wouldn’t. I’d do any of a number of other things that my life requires. For the most part, I was trying to find facts that I could fold into jokes, but a larger, kind of macro view of society began to emerge.
It started with this recycling fact: 80% of what we throw away is recyclable, yet America’s recycling rate is 30%.
That led to the question: Why? And the answer is simple: Because we don’t care enough to do it. Despite what we say, if we really cared, we’d act.
Then I read this: Recycling creates 4 times as many jobs as landfilling. Every other commercial you see or hear from now until November 2nd will feature a guy in rolled-up shirt sleeves, running for government office, crowing about the jobs his opponent lost and/or the jobs he will create. And here we, you and me, with no need for a government mandate, can create jobs simply with our behavior. We are free to do that. And yet…
Also in those campaign commercials, the guy in the rolled-up shirt sleeves will promise change because that’s exactly what we tell them we want. And yet they never do, do they? Why do you think that is?
Well, politicians are kind of like teenagers: They’ll run off to their room and try to get away with whatever they can. They’ll do just enough to not get in trouble. They’ll turn up the music so we can’t hear what they’re really doing. Politicians are kind of the same way: They run off to Washington D.C. and try to do whatever they want. The minute they walk into their new office, they spend most of their time and energy trying to keep it. And they’re music is the words and political platitudes that they know we want to hear. They can’t help it; it’s their nature.
Telling them we want change isn’t working and isn’t going to work. Politicians don’t listen to what we say, but they do pay attention to what we do. They also follow our dollar like cats stalking the dot from a laser pointer. What politicians truly pay attention to is where we spend our money; that all-American concept known as the Free Market.
Politicians talk about the Free Market as if it’s either good or bad; capitalism at it purest, or the destroyer of worlds; the greatest thing since watermelon-flavored heroin or the worst thing since, well, watermelon-flavored heroin.
I prefer not to judge; the Free Market is both a sword and a shield depending on who is wielding it. But, nevertheless, it has power. And the Free Market will reveal our hypocrisy with blinding light.
Nod when the guy in the rolled-up shirt sleeves says we need American jobs and then shop at a megastore featuring 500,000 square feet of stuff made in Sri-Lanka, Taiwan and Honduras? The Free Market has made its judgment before you can take out your credit card.
Want to help the environment but prefer individually wrapped chicken breasts? The Free Market will decide how you really feel.
Government is who we elect with our votes, and the Free Market is what we elect with our dollars, and make no mistake, our government will bow to the Free Market every time.
And either we use the Free Market, or the Free Market uses us. It can’t help it; that’s its nature.
There’s an awful lot of impotent rage in America today; you don’t have to look hard to see it. We feel trapped and lost and angry, and we’re looking for something to hit. The good news is we do have some power. Essentially, we can vote with our actions; with our behavior and our pocket books. And, as for an American Idol contestant, you can vote as many times as you want.
I promise, the next blog post will be funnier.