The 1950’s

Things have “changed” since the 1950’s; the so-called era of conformity and willed innocence. Some things have changed for the better and some for worse. But people really haven’t changed. I mean, they really haven’t…

What we allow has changed, both in ourselves and from others. And what we tolerate and understand has changed. But again, people are fundamentally the same. Sure, we may have been or be better or worse versions of ourselves, but still… Our core is the same.

What does that mean? Well, while in 1950’s America people rarely spoke candidly about sex or certain inner turmoils -many period films in the last twenty years have been made about this – people today rarely speak candidly about sex and their inner turmoil. Ha! Of course, it’s in a different way though. Some things have “changed” after all.

In the past if a woman was unhappy in her marriage she had great incentive to be quiet about it. Today a woman can speak freely about her marriage woes. But what isn’t talked about as honestly or openly, in my opinion, are all the people who fight against marriage…

This could get way too detailed so I’ll use a few semi quick examples:

There’s the woman who won’t stop flirting with your husband at the corner store to the point that said husband now uses a different store to buy cream for coffee out of actual annoyance. Oh and don’t get me started on that – how little we acknowledge that a lot of men actually don’t always want to cheat or have sex with every woman (or person or man in some cases) they meet. But it’s so very cliché to say and believe otherwise that thinking anything opposite to that seems unfathomable to many, including some truly pushy pursuers of men.

Then there’s the guy or girl buddy who is still single or unhappily coupled and insists you must be too, either subconsciously or otherwise. “Why can’t he let you come out more?! Why do you always have to be with each other?” Of course, if you’re truly happy and in a healthy relationship it’s not that the significant other won’t let you go out…and it’s not so much that you are “always together” as that you are together and umm…that’s kind of how a lot of romantic relationships work. Right? You tend to want to be around each other. And while you love your friends they aren’t your significant other.

But see, in the situation with the friends it’s their job to find someone to be their significant other. Friends don’t fulfill the same purposes emotionally, etc. as a significant other. And it’s up to them to find that someone who meets those needs for them too…

But people get scared and then, sometimes, they get jealous. And in the above case of the woman in the corner store it’s not a coincidence that she supposedly has a different boyfriend (actual boyfriend) every three to six months at most. She once was accidentally overheard telling someone on her cell phone, on a smoke break, that she struggles with deep insecurity and it’s ruined every romantic relationship she’s ever had.

But we don’t really really talk about the above situations. I’ve only just barely skimmed the surface in my description. …And while it likely seems that we do discuss the sort of things covered in the situations I’ve described there’s a lot left uncontemplated and dealt with. It’s always the things that seem “silly” or “…well that’s just not the way it works” that we don’t touch. Those things are still alive and well. Those anxieties and pains have just squirmed their way into another social cavity of foreboding and confusion. We can’t avoid being human no matter how much growth or change occurs and being human is divinely, tragically and beautifully complicated.

Here’s a link to a recent article on Fox News that encapsulates all the confusion, anger, and misguided intentions of the above issue: Girlfriend’s ‘Controlling’ List. In this article the lady is clearly being controlling to the point of madness but one does wonder what made her that way (although we are never supposed to truly wonder why evil doers of all genders are evil nowadays but instead just castigate them). And frankly I read only one mentioned response in the article that even vaguely touched on the likely actual truth of the situation… I tend to think this boyfriend is a cheater and instead of letting him go she’s doing her best to fix things. But her best is sadly an unsustainable disaster… Either way can people talk about this sort of thing without getting uncomfortable and agitated? No. Truly they can’t. I picked this issue because it’s perfectly suited as an example of a closet we hate to open in our time. We make quick assumptions, blame someone (in this case the “controlling and abusive woman”) sharply, decisively and then close the door. No more thought and certainly no more real discussion.

Actually, just to clarify, in my reality right now, there is no woman at a corner store and our friends are supportive. However, I know those people like the friends I described and the woman at the store exists, and I’ve had to cope with them all in the past. But what got me on this train of thought was watching a documentary about Bernie Madoff.

Random, I know…

It’s fascinating to ponder what he got away with. He was masterful, but of course he was also profoundly idiotic in that he seemingly neglected to fully realize how fundamentally short-sighted and absurd his schemes were. Getting away with them was possible but doing it permanently was very unlikely. It was a colossal risk and he bet everything.

But Bernie did understand some of the “hiddens” of the current age. And part of me thinks he justified his greed with one thing in particular: In this day and age people often want to be lied to. And it’s not necessarily because they’re scared in some way that’s easy to compassionately empathize with.

Ok. Maybe they’re scared because they lack a sense of perspective. With the secularization of the world and the radicalization of the fringes it’s harder to place yourself cosmically in a discernible place? Or maybe it’s the crumbling American/Western middle-class hegemony coupled with a sense of intensity and doom about the future? Those are big picture things but they stumble into the personal in weird ways… It’s complicated, certainly.

Regardless, people want to comfort themselves, almost pathologically nowadays. Maybe they want to cover, fill or circumvent all that angst of a worthless void and longing for agape love that they experience. And I’m not just taking about single or generally “unhappy” people.

And a lot of these people longing for comfort tell themselves that if they’re the best they’ll be ok. If they reach some pinnacle or accomplishment just beyond the next that it’s there they’ll be secure. Sounds cliché but it’s true, I think.

Bernie Madoff knew that. He knew the insecurities of the lady in the corner store because they fundamentally look like the same insecurities of the wealthy Palm Beach set he fooled. Even if they’re very different sorts of people they both potentially lack a fundamental security.

Madoff sold security, peace and comfort. He flourished because people don’t truly change all that much and we still “don’t talk about certain things.” We don’t often acknowledge what’s really bothering us – our real issues.

Those investors wanted something basically impossible mathematically speaking, and they believed it when they found it because it comforted them. Or they didn’t know what they were asking for was impossible and/or were investing blindly… The lady at the corner store wants to believe she can have any man she wants. And when she finds a man she wants she disregards any disinterest he shows or any red flags about him either out of ignorance or self deceit. But both the lady and the Palm Beach Set fundamentally may want to believe lies to avoid obnoxious truths about the ugliness of actual life.

Question is: Who do you sympathize with more? The Madoff investors or the lady? Can you honestly think about it without feeling a little uncomfortable or angry? And how can I even compare them?! Right? There’s so much we can’t say…