Monday, November 5, 2012

Your Hair is Purple, So Now I Have to Feed You?

(Originally published on September 21, 2009)

Walking to my car in West Hollywood yesterday, I noticed two young women, maybe 19 or 20, talking to a 40-ish woman up the street. The older woman was holding some papers and digging in her bag; I thought maybe she was a canvasser and was hunting for a card or a pen.

I turned and walked back a few steps to listen to an outdoor speaker playing a song I had forgotten all about, called “Human.” Something struck me when I first heard this tune and, doing a little research, I found that it was inspired by a statement by Hunter S. Thompson that “America is raising a generation of dancers.” Although people have had varying interpretations of the lyrics, the songwriter, Brandon Flowers, has said himself that it is a “mild social statement,” and the lyrics speak against a puppet-like conformity that casts off freedom and responsibility to dance without question or protest to the tune piped in by today’s “conductors” of nihilism.

I leaned down toward the speaker and listened:

Pay my respects to grace and virtue
Send my condolences to good
Give my regards to soul and romance,
They always did the best they could
And so long to devotion
You taught me everything I know
Wave goodbye
Wish me well...
You've gotta let me go.

Are we human?
Or are we dancer?
My sign is vital
My hands are cold
And I'm on my knees
Looking for the answer...
Are we human?
Or are we dancer?

My moment was interrupted by the two girls, who had found their way to me. As the song continued in the background, one of them spoke.

“Do you have any spare change?” she asked. “We want to go to Carl’s Jr.”

I wasn’t sure I heard right, so I asked her to repeat herself. 

“Could you help us out?” Pointing to her friend, “She just spent her last five dollars dying her hair purple, and she wants to get a Carl’s Jr.”

Her friend, smiling and giggling, held up her hands to show me the purple dye stains.

“And so you want... what?” I asked. I still wasn’t sure I got it.

“We want to go to Carl’s Jr., and she just spent her last five dollars. Can you help us out?”

Oh, so that’s what the other woman was doing.

Now normally, for any number of reasons, when people come up and ask me for a handout, unless they’re 20 years old or look like the criminally insane killer who walked away from a “field trip” at the Spokane County Fair the other day, I give them something. But this was, well, one of the above.

“Okay,” I said, raising my hand to give them the “wait a minute” signal. “This is a philosophical issue.”

The Girl Doing the Talking was instantly disoriented. “A philosophical issue?”

“Yes, a philosophical issue,” I said. “Look, you’re both young, you’re healthy... do you work?”

Purple Hair Girl didn’t answer. Talking Girl replied, somewhat weakly, “I go to school.” 

“Okay,” I allowed. “But you’ve made a choice. Of your own free will, you chose to spend your last five dollars getting purple hair, and now you want me to pay for your hamburger.”

(This was all the more egregious because I was at the time carrying a freshly bought smoothie and veggie wrap from Jamba Juice. I thought only young Liberals ate that stuff, while old Conservatives were mean to the cows. But I digress.)

The girls were looking quite dismayed. Confused. Puzzled. Perplexed. Slapped in the face with a 20-pound salmon.

“But... my house is all the way over in Glendale. If I have to get on a bus and go all the way back there...” (To withdraw more money from the Bank of Mom and Dad, she was clearly about to say. Life is so hard!)

“Again,” I drilled forward, “Is that my responsibility?”

“No, but... it would just be nice if...”

“Look,” I said, “I like helping people out. People who are actually down and out or who actually need it, but not people who are young and healthy and make the choice to spend their last five dollars getting purple hair and then ask me to buy them a meal at Carl’s Jr. Sorry, but I’m not helping you.”

The girls wandered off in a daze (and in search of a more willing benefactor of the new, “Progressive” American work ethic, no doubt). There were many more things I wanted to ask them, like, “Who was our first president?” “Is South America above or below North America?” “How many states are there, and which president said there were 57?” But I too was in a bit of a daze, and couldn’t think fast enough.

Now in fairness, when I was their age, I wasn’t terribly responsible myself. And I’ve certainly wasted a lot more than five dollars on any given day. That’s not the issue here. The issue is the choice made after the silly dye job – a choice that betrays an utter absence of any kind of elementary moral grounding at all, that something about this kind of activity simply is not right.  Add to that the fact that when I gently presented them with the concept that their request was improper, they looked at me like I was from the planet Zarkon.  With such an oblivious, morally empty mindset carried all the way into young adulthood, there is no reason to believe this will ever change; it will simply evolve into an active worldview made increasingly destructive as they get older and influence others, including their own children.

Chalk it up to Postmodernism, I guess – an utter detachment from all sense of social order as previous generations understood it; a complete lack of any training in or understanding of even a basic set of values that would inspire and permit certain choices, while prohibiting and preventing others. I lived on the street for three months, and never asked anyone for a dime. Not because of “pride” – on the several occasions when someone saw my state and offered me something, I gratefully accepted – but because I knew my situation was my fault, and I just didn’t think it was right to expect others to pick up the tab for it. And I know it’s politically incorrect to say so, but – God provided, and I survived. But such a foundation, a sense of appropriateness, a sense of personal responsibility for the circumstances in which our own decisions put us... I’m not sure these girls have, or ever will have, any of that in them at all. 

Of one thing I am sure: First thing Monday morning, they will be back in school, continuing on their course of indoctrination about how cold and cruel and selfish Conservative America is, and how mean-spirited and un-compassionate it is not to want higher and higher taxes on all the bad evil rich people (that is, anyone who makes more than they do, excluding Liberal Hollywood celebrities) to pay for every kind of entitlement that Congress, ACORN and its 196 front groups, or SEIU can drum up. They will dance on happily, string-chasséing allegiance to the Democratic Party and swooning at every word our President says, while dutifully recoiling at the very thought of giving ear to the words of someone like, say, George Washington. Or Ronald Reagan. Or Mike Huckabee. Or even Jon Voight. Or even Chuck Norris. Or even their non-Progressive peers, hiding in the catacombs of their own campus. They will continue to cement their complete lack of knowledge of or interest in the most rudimentary elements of American history or heritage. They will gain no appreciation for the freedom they received at birth, nor understand that it is a bargain that comes with a price: work hard; carry your own weight; risk failure; and you may actually live a better life than you would in your professors’ pet wonderlands (Cuba, Venezuela, etc.). They will not be challenged all year to reflect on Divine things, nor even be curious about how the ancient Bible speaks to their own existence; they will not pause to consider the effects of their actions on their own lives, or the life of their community; and they will not develop any sense of protective shame to guard against character-destroying behaviors like blithely asking anyone around for money when they’re not suffering at all and have never worked a day in their lives. Worst of all, they will not be given any tools that will enable them, at some future time, to reverse this present damage.

But they will have purple hair, which will at least enable them to navigate the middle ground between Red and Blue states, where they may, respectively, be asked to pay their way or have goat’s blood thrown on them by a PETA activist. And sooner or later – scratch that, sooner than later – they will have a hamburger. Paid for by strangers. You and me, that is. Taxpayers.

The Bee Gees got it wrong: No, you shouldn’t be dancing. Not like this, anyway. Not if you want to be... human.

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