Monday, February 7, 2011

Why I'm Glad I Pay Taxes

I’m glad I pay taxes. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Am I insane? Well, maybe. Don’t get me wrong. I couldn’t find a job for a while after I graduated college. I’d spent a lot of money going through school, so much that I had to borrow some more. I was a little worried about that, but I figured, hey, at least I’ll be able to find a sweet job and build a sweet career, buy a spouse and a car and a dog and all that. When I got my job serving coffee in a cafĂ©, I was relieved; all that interest was starting to pile up! You can imagine my disconcert when I opened my first check, earned from two weeks straight on my feet, and discovered that $100 had gone to taxes. Holy moley! I was only making $9 an hour. I was pretty angry, but now, not only have I begrudgingly accepted the inevitability of my lower station in life, I embrace it and the implication of having one-sixth of my money turned over to taxes.

Think about it. If we didn’t pay taxes, where would the state get the money to keep the floors of the state government buildings shiny and gleaming? Nowhere, that’s where. And catered lunches to politicians? Forget about it. Anyway, when I had pondered the system over long and hard, I came to some very soothing conclusion that my little portion handed over for the greater good – for the wealthy political elite of Washington and my state capital to be able to do their jobs in comfort and style – may seem like a lot to me, but it’s really nothing for them, anyway.

I mean, the meager sum of cash flowing from my paycheck to the state coffers doesn’t really pay their salaries. Well, it does. So do sales taxes and loans from the Chinese. But when I see them on TV, with their tailored suits, and I wonder what kind of cars they drive, and whether my state representatives regularly take the Acela to Washington, I feel comforted knowing that their large houses and their children’s private schooling doesn’t come from my taxes at all. Those things come from campaign contributions and their investments in companies that use Chinese slave labor to assemble raw materials from Africa.

That’s a relief. So my taxes are just paying for law enforcement and the library, and keeping the state buildings clean. I can rest easy. Obviously, people who are elected to office do so for a burning sense of civic responsibility. I can only imagine the overwhelming compassion and kindness that colors their very souls.

Sometimes, when I have to face another day with dread and underwhelming inertia, flavored with a hint of simmering rage, I think, at least those people enter their offices each day confidently, cheerfully, with a sense of purpose. They wouldn’t spend any time getting paid with public money to take naps at their desks or Twittering or check out Facebook or take really long lunch breaks. They work hard every day. They are making sure that our government is being run efficiently. Like the Swedes. They wouldn’t steal pats of butter from their employers, the public, the way we dregs do.

What people like me and you need to realize is, the people who have power arrived at their power because they are better than you and me. It is thoroughly natural and just that those who have the moxie and spunk to extract natural resources from Latin American countries should have every right to be deified by our society, lead opulent lifestyles, and be placed in charge of the administration of public resources. It’s also very natural that politicians who receive large amounts of money from financial and commercial interests would be placed into office by shmucks like us who wouldn’t be smart or kind enough to fulfill these roles. And it’s even more natural that we should pay for it by working at overpriced restaurants that these people go to for brunch on Sundays.

I hope these musings have helped soothe someone else’s discomfort with the way our great system works. Don’t worry, poor citizen. Your bitterness stems from total ignorance, and the fact you are a bad person. Have faith that those your taxes are paying truly, somehow, help make this country better, even though it seems like it’s getting worse. Now if you’ll excuse me, my cat and I were just going to cross-dress and smear lipstick all over our faces while staring maniacally into a mirror.

Carl Jung and How To Find Out Who You Really Are

As a floundering twenty-something seeking my life’s purpose, I came across Carl Jung’s personality tests, and finally found the answers to the questions that my psychic and horoscope just couldn’t answer. I took a test of 65-odd yes or no questions and lo, the computer’s algorithms zipped and whirred and spat out all the answers. I am an extroverted, intuitive, feeling, judging person.
This is all great, though initially concerning, because I don’t want to be an emotional nag. The test told me that I am a great people person, that I can tend to have dark thoughts, and that I’d make a great counselor. Or scientist.

It also told me that I have a tendency toward low self-esteem, unwarranted since my ability to get along with people and change my personality according to who I talk to makes me a really popular person.

This is interesting stuff. So I wonder; is there a personality type for a sociopath? The quiz didn’t feature any questions like, do you ever entertain graphic fantasies of killing your boss in a raging hell-storm of fury, and experience sexual arousal? I’d sure oscillate less on that question than on some of the other ones. Some of the questions I felt confused by, such as, do you enjoy being at the center of activities involving other people? What does that mean? I mean, no one likes being the monkey in the middle, but doesn’t everyone love surprise birthday parties? Doesn’t everyone secretly hope, yet fear, being the goose?

I think I was personally insulted that the quiz didn’t offer me the sort of career I really want: swashbuckling explorer and legendary lover of epic proportions. I was placed into the same personality category as Pope John Paul II. Pfft, bo-ring. I’d rather be mixed in with Joseph Conrad and Casanova, or Cleopatra meets Bill Gates.

I’d like to see someone take this quiz and their personality profile comes up something like this: you are an INFP. This means you are somewhat dull to anyone who spends less than 5 hours a day watching TV. You are likely to spend vast amounts of your money on potato chips, and you enjoy coarse banter with others about professional sports. You are likely to be quite average in society, and even if you wanted to do something better, you’ll probably have a pretty mediocre, somewhat mind-numbing job for the rest of your life. Divorce unlikely, but marriage assuredly banal.

Perhaps Jung’s followers, the people who come up with these tests and write these “in-depth personality profiles” are no better than my astrologer after all. The website just looks far more academic; read: boring. The astrology site has graphics and pizzazz. Case in point: “Today, the planetary alignment promises to enhance your creative genius, bringing you to the forefront of your work environment!” Versus: “Your personality indicates that you tend to use logic to perceive events, and then process them systematically” or some such academic humdrum. This site never holds the promise of meeting someone “electrifying who will stimulate your soul and send you soaring to great heights.”

For another thing, my friend took the test and got a different personality type, but a number of the careers, that happened to require degrees offered by sponsoring academic institutions, were the same. Perhaps anyone could be a counselor, as long as they get their qualifications at DeVry University.

One thing disturbingly accurate about Jung’s site is how well he knew that I am likely to look to other people, rigid psychological theories, and bloggers for advice about career choices. You got me there, Dr. Jung. You certainly got me there.

Want to try it out? A link to the test itself:

And a couple of websites to interpret yourself, because you never really knew yourself:

I'd love to read your opinions about this, folks.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Observation on Camden Municipal Woes

Some five days after the Camden, New Jersey police force laid off half of its officers, commuters hurried from one train to another across the limbo known as the Walter Rand Transportation Center, the unfortunate hub connecting the Philadelphia-bound Patco train with Trenton-bound Riverline lightrail.

Known as "Drug Alley," as pointed out in this week's Philadelphia Weekly, the transportation terminal is a hotbed of narcotics trafficking, and the location of choice for junkies and homeless alcoholics to dry out and mingle. Commuters rush through the foyer to catch their trains to work, passing amidst and through the morning stirrings of those who congregate along the walls of the station, who for their part ignore the rush-hour traffic and carry about their own intimate affairs. If a commuter were to slow down to listen, he would become privy to the social underpinnings of the people assembled, as if walking through a stranger's house during a dinner party, hosted in the seventh circle of hell.

Camden, New Jersey lies across the Delaware from Philadelphia. The iconic Ben Franklin Bridge spans its breadth from bank to bank, serving as a pedestrian and vehicular conduit between the two states. From Independence Center and the Liberty Bell, the bridge arcs over the vast waterway and descends into the belly of Camden, Philadelphia's long-neglected and decidedly uglier sister.

Enveloped in tweed and wool, under hats and scarves, commuters try to get from Point A to Point B quickly, preferably without touching anything. Loud arguments, heavy eyelids, slurring, heavy tongues, gaunt cheeks and hollow eyesockets characterize the Center's denizens who often seem to know each other and who frequently complain of impending court summons that they discuss loudly on the trains.

Five days or so after Camden's police force laid off half of its officers, five police officers stand at the southbound lightrail platform. One of them idly kicks a pile of snow. Inside the station a 22-year-old girl slouches on a metal bench, eyes glazed atop deep, dark bags, under heavy closing lids, a graduate of Riverside High School, 15 miles up the line. Another ghost, held under the heady, drug-filled sea of this place, sucked into the potent vacuum of depair, recession, apathy and unemployment that the lightrail has become.