I promised an introduction to my cellmate Teabagger Bob.
(Actually, I doubt that he’s a real Teabagger. I think he’s just a guy who listens to Fox News.)
Bob is a very hard worker. He spends most of the day shouting into the telephone about various arcana of the business, in a penetrating, querulous New York accent. He clearly feels a great sense of urgency about doing the job and getting it right, and a lot of concern that he’s the one who will be blamed if there’s a snafu.
But every so often he gets into a big political wrangle with the two Russians who sit next to him, who are also very right-wing but clearly think Bob is a madman. And this is when I get a window into poor Bob’s tormented mind.
I don’t participate; I just listen. This is a spiritual exercise I recommend unreservedly.
Bob’s political outlook can pretty much be summed up as fear of freeloaders. Bob is convinced that the country is full of idle folk who are living high on the hog at his expense.
None of it makes any sense, of course, and Bob doesn’t have a fact in his head. Indeed, he believes, and asserts as incontestable truth, things that five minutes of Googling would demonstrate are chimerical. My liberal friends are to this extent right about the Bobs of the world; their thinking is not ‘fact-based’. (Of course, neither are my friends’, or mine, or anybody’s; but that’s another post.)
I don’t know whether Bob has really overcome much adversity or not, though he clearly thinks he has. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s a self-serving myth — who was it that said every American wants to believe he was born in a log cabin that he built with his own hands? But certainly, there’s plenty of sorrow and adversity in every life, even the most privileged.
Bob’s view of the world is emotionally driven — but then, so is mine; I can’t throw any stones on that score. The difference, of course, is in the emotions, and in the narrative we each construct of our lives.
Bob wants to believe that he has prevailed, partly because he’s virtuous — hard work, of course, being an unquestioned virtue in overworked Amurrica — and partly because he’s tough.
Me, I think I’ve been lucky. I know I’m not virtuous — particularly when it comes to work — and I’m about as tough as a suckling pig.
Bob and I are both under the harrow. Fear is distressingly audible in his voice as he natters on the phone. Of course I’m scared too. But I’m a fatalist, and Bob is a striver.
Bob has really internalized the boss’ expectations. And of course, what you get is what you tend to pass on. He is in effect acting like a boss to all these imaginary freeloaders who surround him. Get tough! Cut the bums off! I’ve got a job; they should get a job!
Me, I just wonder how to get on the gravy train myself.
And sometimes I wonder a bit about what the world would be like if everybody, from birth, had a modest seat on the gravy train. In this happy fantasy world of mine, the energetic and motivated could upgrade to second class, if they cared enough(*), but everybody, striver or slacker, would arrive at the grave having lived in decent comfort.
Would Bob like that unpunitive world? He wouldn’t like the idea of it, as he now is; but I bet he could get used to it. I bet we all could.
Bob has made it clear that he’s going to vote for Rombama rather than Obromney. Since facts don’t play any role in Bob’s thinking on this subject, it’s clear that he just likes the Rombama story better.
But the competing stories are the only things that distinguish the two contenders. In the fact-based world, they’re quite difficult to tell apart. So really, who can blame Bob for preferring a more congenial story?
My liberal friends fret about how to enlighten the Bobs of the world. They’re always coming up with arguments, and facts, to show the Bobs how deluded they are.
My theory: if you want Bob to vote for you, offer him something. Bob may be crazy, but he’s not stupid.
At the moment neither contender is offering anything but a story — or no, that’s not true; Rombama is offering lower taxes. Of course he doesn’t mean it, but still, nobody likes taxes.
(*) There wouldn’t be any first class. And there certainly wouldn’t be any business class.