THE KVETCHING SOCIETY

I’ve written before about Joey, our pet cat who is now 9 years old (middle-age for cats.) Joey has white and grey fur, sparkling blue eyes, and a bushy tail that seems to be in perpetual motion whenever she’s excited. But the most distinctive feature about Joey is that she’s a non-stop kvetcher. If she’s displeased about something, we will  hear about it in no uncertain terms. I don’t believe our previous cat, who was with us for 18 plus years, meowed more than a half dozen times during that period. But with Joey, it’s just the opposite. She started kvetching the first morning after we brought her home from the shelter as a 12 week-old kitten. I understood that she was upset because for her previous 12 weeks of existence, she was surrounded by probably hundreds of homeless cats, to say nothing of her mother and siblings. Now all her little pals were gone, and there were just these two strange looming figures towering over her.

To aver that Joey is doted on, pampered, and just spoiled rotten would be a vast understatement. She lives in pleasant surroundings, is well-fed, receives “treats” periodically throughout the day, receives fresh water twice a day, has her litter box cleaned as necessary, and gets periodic out-door time in our backyard each day. If the wife and I leave her alone for a few hours, say to go to dinner and a movie, she’s a nervous wreck. We have to pet and kitchy- koo her endlessly to soothe her frazzled nerves when we return home. But still Joey is unhappy, and kvetches away to let us know about it. And why is that you might ask.

Well, it’s because we don’t allow her to roam freely over the entire neighborhood as she so desperately desires. Besides it being verboten by our community regulations, her life would be in peril because of the wildlife inherent in this area of the country. Coyotes and bobcats exist in large numbers out here in the desert, and would enjoy nothing better than tearing apart a defenseless cat for lunch or dinner. One of them already did that to a rabbit it had trapped on our front porch.  What a delightful mess that was to clean up. Unfortunately, Joey is too innocent and naive to understand such dangers, or why her out-door time is restricted to supervised periods in our fenced-in backyard. And so she continuously kvetches away.

It has struck me, however, that American society has become a lot like Joey, always kvetching about one thing or another. Poll-after-poll in recent years has shown that two-thirds or more of the population is unhappy with the direction this country is headed. Some polls show that more than 70% are saying that the U.S. is on the wrong track, or that their children will have a bleaker or poorer future than they have had. So, you might ask, what is driving this sort of pessimism. As always, one has to return to those glorious days of yesteryear (as the Lone Ranger might have put it) to find the answers. Not as far back as when people had to traipse across the entire country in horse-driven covered wagons. Just a generation or so back to the 1980s.

In the 1980s, there were no cell phones, texts, apps, or calls for Uber to pick you up, etc. If you wanted to call someone, it had to be from a land line, and would connect only if the other party was at home. Computers were mysterious gadgets only located in offices to be used for business purposes. The first home computers started coming on the market around 1980, and were bulky, clumsy hunks of metal boxes. Hardly anyone bothered to get one. The internet, if it existed then, was in it’s infancy. The operating systems for these new computers were so slow and archaic, that one was tempted to claw his or her eyes out while waiting for a transaction to be completed. Cell phones and home computers didn’t start to take off until about the mid-1990s. Cable TV was also in its infancy a generation ago. And it wasn’t just electronics. Both high and lower priced cars were usually gas guzzlers, often prone to mechanical breakdowns. Today’s cars are vastly more reliable and energy-efficient. The same is true for home appliances, which use far less electricity or gas while giving greatly improved performances. I could go on, but you get the picture. So why all the kvetching.

Well, it’s about the economy, stupid, you might say. So, if that’s true, this time we only have to go back 6 years to 2009. If you’ll remember, the economy was crumbling under the weight of a vastly over-inflated housing market. The unemployment rate shot up to 10.5%. Today, it’s down to 5.3%. It seemed as if almost the entire housing market was “underwater,” i.e. homeowner’s mortgages war far higher than the property could sell for. People, by the droves, were abandoning their homes, i.e. walking away and leaving the banks holding what became useless paper. Today, the term-mortgages underwater- is seldom used as the housing market has begun to stabilize, with reality prices headed back up. Of course, there are still serious economic weaknesses, such as stagnant wages for middle class workers, or our mounting national debt. But compared to where we were a mere 6 years ago, vast strides have been accomplished.

Well, you might further say, if it’s not the economy, then it’s about foreign affairs. Yes, the threat of terrorism from Mid-Eastern Islamic fanatics is a constant worry, as well as, a rather poorly drafted nuclear agreement with Iran. But we should be comforted by the knowledge that we have the military capability to destroy both the Islamic-Jihadist infrastructure, as well as Iran’s nuclear capabilities should we decide to so deploy our forces. Perhaps the next president might decide to do just that.

Don’t get me wrong. This country has some very deep-seated problems, which I will be the first one to attest to. Almost all my blogs have been to examine those problems, and perhaps offer-up potential solutions. It may take a lengthy span of time and evolution, but most of the serious stuff troubling us today is solvable through rationality and wisdom. So when something like 70% of Americans pessimistically believe our future in indeed dark and bleak, I can’t help but feel that they’re acting a lot like my cat Joey. Welcome to the USA, the kvetching nation.

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