Yesterday was one of those days from the twilight zone in which I thought that I had taken leave of my senses. I was called in by my best client who is an electrical consulting engineer to come take a look at a project we had worked on for a school district. When I arrived I discovered that the electrical maintenance supervisor for the district and the consulting architect were also there.
For over an hour the four of us were escorted from classroom to classroom by a very stressed out and rude lady principal who insisted that she could hear a high pitched whine coming out of the light fixtures I had sold her school. Try as I might I could not hear the sound nor could the other three professionals in our entourage nor could the lady classroom teacher herself.
I knew that women could hear a higher range of sound than men but by the same token, an electronic ballast alternates at such a high frequency that the sound it may produce is well beyond anything the human race of either gender is capable of hearing.
Besides the only teacher who also claimed to be able to hear a whine “only when the lights were first switched on” was obviously sucking up to his boss. The old fixtures which the electronic ballasted new ones replaced would have been capable of producing humming from their old style electro-magnetic ballasts but not these. Perhaps they had gotten so use to the noise that they missed it and imagined they could still hear it.
Meanwhile all kinds of whines and whirs were coming from window case mounted air conditioning units on various portables and buildings all around the campus all the while that this chief administrator was lambasting us about the lack of acceptability of the fixtures and how she didn't think she should have to pay for them and she didn't care what OSHA standards were if the noise distracted even one ADD child they were not acceptable. As the father of two ADD/ADHD children myself I couldn't recall either one of them every claiming to be distracted by noisy lights.
I really strained my ears and mind listening for an imaginary sound that did not arrive. I began to wonder if we were all suffering from some form of “arctic hysteria” and the engineer and I even at our own detriment tried to be sympathetic and told her that we might be hearing something but weren't sure if it were from the lights or some other appliance like the hvac.
Meanwhile it had taken me about 2 minutes to figure out that the architect was Persian and we immediately hit it off both making disparaging remarks in Persian about hormone replacement therapy and the like. I could only imagine what this man who had lost his country of nurture must have been thinking and feeling.
I myself kept flashing on mental images of crowds of Afghan refugee girl students sitting in rows on the bare ground trying to learn how to read and write from itinerant teachers using portable blackboards having been denied education for an entire generation by the former Taliban. The Taliban, another creation of the CIA.
How spoiled have we become as a nation? How out of touch have we become with the reality of life in the third world and our contribution to its low standard of living? I am not just a bleeding heart liberal railing about social injustice. How will we ever stop terrorism if we act like first class citizens in a world where everyone else is suffering? And how much of the suffering is due to our economic practices and failed foreign policies? How often have you passed a beggar in our streets without offering them assistance?
I am reminded of another Persian friend of mine, a school psychologist who took issue with my statement that there were no beggars in Iran and no matter how poor they were they all sold something even if only Gerdou. She said that when she was a school girl she would encounter an old lady beggar everyday on her way to school and would spend time talking to her and always ended up sharing her bag lunch with her.
The point is that third world countries share the same problems as advanced industrial nations only the people there have a personal relationship with those who live around them. Here a person could literally drop dead in the street and it is entirely possible that no one would notice. It is possible that you can live next door to someone for two or more decades and never know their name or enter their house under any pretext.
How often have you passed by someone with a vehicle breakdown without stopping to help? How often have you helped a neighbor with a scheduling problem by driving their child somewhere or sitting with them? What must our society look like to these traditional cultures? What personal responsibility do we take for our actions and their effects on those around us?
It is always some institution or organization's responsibility that we defer to or refer to, never ours. How many law suits have there been when a simple phone call or a personal visit might have defused the problem? And where is the logical conclusion to the direction our “civilization” is headed? You can literally spend hours being bounced from one electronic voice to another without ever speaking to a real human being on the phone.
It seems that as technology conquers the globe that there is less and less room for humanity. We are made to look at machines as our role models. They are considered cheaper to hire and more accurate and unemotional. Our culture admires the quality of being icy, aloof, emotionally removed and they call this state: “Being Cool.”
Well as far as I'm concerned it is not “Cool” to be “Cool.” All the bitch goddess princesses with their cash registers for hearts can screw themselves. Everyone needs a healthy dose of compassion as their measuring stick for human worth. I don't care about how many tens of thousands of dollars you have spent on boob jobs and nose jobs and liposuction; who have you been nice to lately and what was your motive?
Yet human nature doesn't change regardless of modern society or traditional. The need for embellishment; for status, for showing off remain the same. Instead of the biggest feather headdress it's the most expensive biggest car. It doesn't even have to be pretty just big like Hummers.
In Papua some men wear gourd necks over their peckers to make them appear huge; here the sports cars are the dick extenders for all the midlife crisis men. (I wonder if Viagra has impacted the sale of sports cars?) And of course the difference is that here nothing is personal. No one knows who they are keeping up with, Jones's or otherwise nor have they personally made any of their accoutrements but only bought what producers have made for them. It all becomes very abstract. It is always “they” whoever they are…
The herding instinct is still here. If you don't conform you are ostracized whether it means you have to wear Nikes or pig tusks… perhaps the future salvation for humanity becoming nicer and more compassionate and less driven by greed and ego lies in genetic engineering. Perhaps that is God's plan to let us re-engineer ourselves for our own salvation because it's all in the wiring and if that wiring doesn't change we are going to destroy ourselves… and our ecosystem along with us…