Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Q: How do you make money?

A: By losing money.

I heard the most amazing story today. A friend of mine reports to me that her boyfriend, an IT boss sorta guy, works for a company that actually loses money in order to keep a big ass corporation as a customer. They make not a cent from the account. But, they do get to work awfully hard, sometimes to the point of absurd exhaustion just for the privilege of saying, “hey, we have this big ass corporate customer who brings us so much prestige that we are willing to lose money to keep them just so other big ass corporate customers will want to do business with us because we stand in the glow of such amazing prestige.

I know, It’s hard to believe. But, I have been roaming the halls of Corporate America long enough to take it at face value. In fact, the more irrational something sounds, the more apt I am to believe that it happened, in Corporate America anyway.

There’s a saying that goes like this, if you want to remain sane in an insane place, the best thing to do is to become insane.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Q: What causes depression?

A: Depressing experiences.

There’s no doubt about it. I suffer intermittently from depression, the blues, sadness, melancholy, whatever you want to call it. It shows itself in different forms at different times: nausea, lack of energy, feeling as if nothing really matters but watching TV, always wanting to eat, not wanting to eat, not wanting to get out of bed, continual need for sex, the list goes on and on.

I am not alone. There enough of us out there that the pharmaceutical companies have managed to build a nice little business around us. Seems there is a cure for everything these days. Feeling sad, take some Xanax. Feeling fat, take some Jenny Craig. Feeling poor, call up CitiBank and get a credit card.

I have a theory about this depression stuff. It goes like this: The reason that there are so many depressed people out there is because things are pretty depressing. Let’s face it: our economy is based on funny money and our culture is becoming more militarized in the service of non-beholden corporations impersonating national governments, most of which have significant interest in Financial Services and Energy. It seems as if the model for our interpersonal relationships is based on a cross between Desperate Housewives, the World Wide Federation of Wrestling, MySpace and fundamentalist Christianity.

Seems that the purpose of modern, dual income, career oriented life is, to quote George Carlin, “to buy shit that we don’t need with money that we don’t have.” If this isn’t depressing, then tell me, what is?

Call me a cynic, but I can’t help but wonder what society did to address depression before the medicinal response. Well there’s a good argument to be made that we simply drank our woes away. But most people didn’t. In fact, it’s my belief that most people simply just made due. We coped. You had your family and you had your friends. That you didn’t get to choose your family meant that every once and a while an Uncle Ernie popped up and did some fiddling on your cousin’s private parts. But, you did get to choose your friends. Thus, most of us were fortunate enough to choose well. Our friends lasted us a life time, regardless of our socio-economic status or geographic location. Before our salmon like existence of upward mobility we shared a history, a place on the planet, a seat at the common table. Today we share a highway, driving around in little, lease instead of buy, self contained boxes that we drive into other self contained boxes, that are part of other self contained boxes—Russian Doll environments in which our most significant ties to one another are the Internet and our home theatre.

Then to top if off, we send our children off to have a collegiate experience in which Texas Hold’em is more important than Chaucer, calculus, premarital sex and pot. A mind really is a terrible thing to waste.

Call me a Romantic, but I long for a time when I knew most the people on my block, where the corner candy store was owned by a guy name Nick, not a company named Walgreen’s, and there was still such a thing as a children’s matinee at the local movie theatre—fifty cents to get in and twenty five cents for a box of Dots that was guaranteed to rot your teeth.

But, I am not so much of a Romantic to have forgotten that those days brought us Blacklisting, the War in Viet Nam, and a national televised experience where a lot of people died right before our video glazed eyes. I was eight when the first Kennedy was shot in black and white and thirteen when the last one met an identical fate, albeit live and in living color. It’s a lot for a developing mind to take in and still be in tact.

We’re told that happiness is a choice, a state of mind, that our thoughts create our reality. If so, then what do we do about the sad fact that we’ve become a nation of privatized occupiers of oil rich client states and a global community that is just sort of accepting the fact that our atmosphere is a bit too warm to maintain the Good Ole Days and that the politics in Central Africa, the West Bank, Gaza, Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Azerbaijan and Mexico are more akin to Crips and Blood diplomacy than Realpolitik. Believe me there are some things in life that really are louder than Prozac, no matter who is listening.

But as the song says, Don’t Worry, Be Happy. And, as the TV commercial says, for everything else there is Mastercard, which, by the way, can be accepted as payment at your dentist for teeth whitening services, your psychiatrist for counseling services and at your local pharmacy when it comes time to have your prescription of Celexa refilled.