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A heritage of fear

Letter from Slim Wolfe

Modern Life – July 2007 – Colorado Central Magazine


We read that George Sibley is concerned about the next generation which won’t have a legacy of a free higher education to help it cope with an increasingly complex world. Meanwhile Hal Walter worries that his son’s legacy will be a poisoned environment, and John Mattingly is philosophical that his son doesn’t want to inherit a crop circle but prefers just to make money….

Hell, I’m concerned that we’re not leaving much legacy of a revolutionary spirit which has been the basis of most human progress. I’m worried about a new generation which can’t take five steps without a cell phone and will never know the thrill of life before caller ID. I’d say we’re leaving an inheritance of fear, fear of the natural world and our own natural bodies. We need the roundness of a wheat kernel to be flattened into a flake and the roundness of human vocal sound to be flattened into cyborg-talk.

The legacy of revolutionary upheaval goes back at least to Renaissance Italy, where Christian zealots enacted edicts and incited mobs against “sumptuaries.” Sumptuaries, incidentally, were the filthy rich who had inherited castles, merchant empires, higher educations, and the wherewithal to have sumptuous parties with lush clothing, food, wine, and troupes of entertainers. Not many today would call such conspicuous consumption “ungodly” or even “counter-revolutionary.”

While the waitresses and auto mechanics in our world struggle to break even without the boon of a grand inheritance, the descendants of the prosperous tend to become more prosperous and sumptuous with a helping hand from the powers that be. Who stands to gain from our overseas adventurism, and our largesse here at home? While a struggling mom is reviled as a welfare queen, the Feds are flying in airplanes spraying invasive weeds and sniping at coyotes to help our poor suffering land-owning classes. Never mind that Homo sapiens is the original invasive weed. Never mind that our universities are cranking out apologists for the status quo and self-indulgent money-making career zombies, you need to sweat and strain and set aside your hard-earned cash so your kids, too, can have enough ring-tones to choose from as they attend college, the better to promulgate our more complex and fearfully prosperous lifestyle.

Well, pilgrim, if all this is making you listless, depressed, out of touch with your true inner self, you should try a trip to Slimbo’s Desolation Row Back to Basics Getaway. You don’t need a round-trip flight to the upper reaches of the Zambezi or the Mekong to get yourself centered with the life force. At Slimbo’s you’ll never see a sheet of drywall or particle board or a flush toilet and certainly not a computer screen or anyone with a Master’s degree. You’ll know the adventure of heating water on a woodburner and fending off the spiders and beetles as you shower in plain view of whoever marches up, and the water (of dubious pressure and uncertain temperature) is guaranteed to get you clean after you’ve been down on your knees like a peasant laying rock or transplanting veggies. For a mere $1595 you can enjoy. . . .

Here’s one thought for parents planning their kid’s schooling: The two most useful bits of education in my life were absorbed by age 16: language arts, thanks to which I can rant and rave in these letters, and music, thanks to which a simple radio broadcast (or live performance) becomes a sort of sonic light show in my mind so I don’t feel the lack of video stimulation. While others spend a fortune on video gadgets (and half-a-lifetime staring at them) I can be fully entertained by a thrift store boom box while I’m working or doing chores. So don’t deny your kids music lessons — even if it never earns them a living, it brings a wealth of a different sort.

Slim Wolfe

Villa Grove