This year, we had thanksgiving dinner at my uncle's home, which is a welcome small island of conservative values. To add spice to the Pumpkin pie, was my sister. She is very liberal. She is usually very smart.
Archimedes volume principle applies to my sister, where any wine consumed, displaces the liberal thought, which must be vented to make more room for Merlot. This year, I decided not to engage in a long and fruitless emotional exchange. Neither mind would be enlightened; I can assure you.
The story would have ended here, if she wasn't spewing the tired drum mantra of evil American corporate culture all over my two young second cousins, who seemed to be listening somewhat indifferently.
I know their mother is a fellow conservative, so it is probably ok. Thank God she didn't start with the war for oil and the pathetic overused Bush speech. After the recent election and the recent layoffs at work, that would have ignited the gathering cloud of fumes around the room. Never mind. Leave it alone, Insolublog. My uncle was watching the NFL. I was switching between the screen and the anti-corporate propaganda campaign.
My two cousins gathered at the appetizer table and pull over a couple foldout chairs. The gravy was being simmered and assembled. The fragrant, corbread stuffing was being spooned onto a platter. Young Debbie, who is also celebrating her birthday is fingered the menu on her iPod. Jamie inspected the jacket of a CD he and his band cut together.
Here is a tip. Use a prop to make the truth of your point. These days, rhetoric will never be remembered, without a good visual aide and the holiday to tie it together. Everybody remembers the holidays and the events they bring. It is such a good time to craft memories that will stick to the future.
I thumbed around my effects. The cell phone would be overkill. A cell phone is such an unappreciated supreme miracle of modern creation, it would be like explaining the difference between a billion and a trillion. What did Reagan say? The national debt is big enough to take care of itself? Heh.
There it was. A generic ball point retractable pen. That would do. I grunted forward in the arm chair, and rolled myself to a standing stretch. I pulled my sweater back down and ambled over to the table. With an arcing motion, I slapped the pen down on the table, in front of my cousins.
Debbie, what is that?
Uhh... It's just a pen?
Right. Just a pen. That little device is a miracle of the evil capitalist corporate conspiracy my sister hates so much. Look closely at it. There are several formulations of modern plastic chemistry there. from the hard plunger, to the rubberized grip. There is a precision tensioned spring. There is an elegant rotating mechanism which cycles round and round, making the pen point go in and out. You can see it through the clear barrel. There is a perfect tube, loaded with ink, of just the right viscosity. The ball in the tip keeps that ink flowing uninterrupted and without the need to dry the paper afterwards. All of the different plastic formulations are negotiated for price and shipped on time. We haven't even discussed the design for visual aethetics and human ergonomics. That little wonder is on the shelf over at Target in a box of twenty-five for three dollars. That is twelve cents a piece. There is no way a human being assembed that pen. To make their money, it must be assembled in a mere fraction of a second.
I had the rapt attention of these two kids, at this point.
It took energy to melt the plastic, extrude it, and inspect the parts automatically. Try to imagine building one yourself, at home, with homemade parts. You would not succeed. When my sister lays all this guilty garbage on you, about the butcher, baker and candlestick maker being put out of business by Wal-Mart, think hard about it. Would you like to carry bottles of ink and delicate, hand trimmed quill pens in your pockets, along with fine sand to dry the ink? That is the kind of pen the corner merchant can make for you. You will also pay a hundred dollars a box for them.
No person would be willing to trade this (holding the pen up) marvel for the pollyannish sophistry of the past. We will not even discuss the variety and quality of paper, which would make an old printer like Ben Franklin drool uncontrollably. But you said it Debbie. It is just a pen. The evil corporate conspiracy is so damn good at making them so efficiently and cheaply, that you can throw them out, without a second thought.
Jamie was now looking at his cell phone,. Debbie was looking at her iPod, instead of browsing it.
I love my sister, but on this day, Thanksgiving day, her language is the language of an ingrate. She is going to climb into a car she loves, full of engineering and computers. She is going to drive down to the evil oil company and pump that gasoline into her car. That oil was pumped out of the ground, cooked, seperated, formulated, purified, tanked and delivered to her, by the evil corporate conspiracy. It flows continuously, without interruption or complaint. She is all about passing laws and using government to regulate the people that make this pen and that gasoline, and every little wonder of the industrial world, which touches us every moment of our lives.
Remember, those lawmakers do not actually produce anything for delivery. They generally bicker, criticize and use people.
Then my twenty-one year old cousin said something that made me proud.
Yeah, I know. I would pay an extra dollar a gallon for gas, if we could fire all those a-hole congressmen.
He had heard every word, and he went on to share quite a few of his own; to my surprise and delight. These two kids filled me with hope for the youngest among us. In spite of their youth, they knew they were being spun and knew how to deal with it. They just wanted to listen to my story.
That revelation just made Thanksgiving a holiday to be thankful for.