A nation turns its lonely eyes to you


Once upon a time there was a plastic girl named Barbie, and a plastic guy named Ken—or was it G.I. Joe? Barbie stood stiff with a perpetual smile in a sparkly pink world. Ken—or was it Joe?—stood bland and drab nearby. He may have worn a gabardine suit. We married their fortunes together.

Times seemed simpler. Or some of us were—or are now—more simple-minded. I remember a style with stark simplicity. We call it “Mid-century Modern”. Folks then may have called it “Modern”. Both Mid-century Modern and Barbie are back. What goes around, comes around. Most of all, you’ve got to hide it from the kids.

In early school years I learned “social contract”. I had no real idea what it could mean. Now I understand it’s an implicit truce among social beings. It’s a vague agreement to get along. We set and limit the duties and powers of group members. We may avoid conflict and share both gain and pain. Like a large organism with intelligent parts.

As humans are fruitful and multiply, the contract gets trickier. It may seem broken.

Bait and switch, small print: “These terms may change at any time for any reason. Your continued presence implies your agreement to these terms.” Every way you look at it you lose.

Numbers grow. Supply and demand. Prices grow.

The good: incomes grow. More minds, more imaginations, more expensive and wondrous goods. Those architect bees demand higher wages.

The bad: the hive needs more worker bees. Janitors, burger servers, electricians, toilet hole diggers, and plastic assemblers for the more minds. But “Hiring” signs proliferate. Higher wages come from street corners than from flipping burgers. More workers demand higher wages.

Potholes multiply. Hole filler jobs are as hard to fill as the holes. To pay the expense takes taxes. But the many minds and the many workers hesitate to pay taxes. The contract falters: not enough shared gain and pain.

Lawyers and politicians manage the contract. These drones whine like brats on behalf of more architects and more workers yowling “Me some! Me some!” Laggard minds demand higher wages.

Yet the Queen Barbie retains her effervescent grin.

And we’ve all come to look for America…