America has been living under the dark shadow of greed and materialism, and it was something so dangerously close to me that it threatened to swallow me whole. Over the past few years I have felt a little bit like Mrs. Brisby, trying to move her home and children to a safer location, but the move I wanted wasn’t physical, just philosophical. They say you can judge the people you know by the company they keep, and we weren’t keeping good company. We spent all our time with the cast and crew of Modern Family, figuratively speaking, and it was, as they say, no bed of roses.
I think the most dangerous thing about the show is its failure to demonstrate how much effort and money it takes to keep up the visage. In the show, there is a symbolic nod to this in that Jay Pritchett’s business is selling closets. Like my own extended family, the Pritchetts were business people who didn’t consider the downstream effects of their lifestyle or actions; maintaining the visage was, it often seemed, their only concern.
At one point or another, all of us in the family have been small business owners, and at this time, only Mitchell has a traditional job, only he is not an attorney, he is in tech. Jay is actually an amalgamation of my parents-in-law and on some level, and I feel like we were the Dunphys, trying to impress Jay and his wife (who he didn’t know how to love, only shower with gifts), to no avail. On television, Jay was an evolved version of Archie Bunker, who had evolved from poor to a man who had made it and finally had some modicum of freedom through building a name for himself.
What nobody talks about is how building the name becomes so poisonous.
Right now, the United States is at a turning point. The plebes have realized that the greed and hate engendered by wealth is a problem, and that it is keeping us from moving forward together as a society in peace. Those who are financially okay are in a powerful place to vote with their actions, and I can think of no better way than to be wary of aiding and abetting the wrong people. My Pritchetts considered themselves progressive, and as far as I know from dinner table conversations, that is how they voted. They were model citizens, and prided themselves on it. But they got their money through working with racist and conservative companies like Hobby Lobby, rental property management companies, and homebuilders in the Southern US, and those companies are still an important part of their revenue stream.
I was acutely aware for years of how my own associations with them drained my energy, fed into my distrust of others, and made me afraid to speak my mind. The major way their business and family-over-community lifestyle poisoned the family is that everyone learned to speak out of two sides of their faces, and would never go public with how they really felt about any policies that might be supported by their customers. I have been nervous to speak on some level as well, not for their approval, but because it is strange to say these things about people my children have spent so much time with. I have had tremendous fear of speaking about these things my husband and I have discussed at length for the psychological damage it would cause to my kids. But the Universe has been kind and brought me many other people living under the shadow of that sort of censorship and narcissism, and has also showed me the addiction and pain that springs from it in the children of these families.
Much like the television Pritchetts, our Pritchetts liked to eat in fancy restaurants. They prided themselves on having three cousins (who they rarely saw) in the high end restaurant industry. I have wondered if they ever discussed the darker side of the restaurant industry with those cousins. Several years ago I met a mother of small children whose cocaine addiction started while working in restaurant kitchens. Many high pressure industries supported by the upper middle class have increased rates of employee addiction. Something I have noticed about the Pritchetts is that they are largely ignorant of the inequities in the industries that support their lifestyle, and this is only one example. They rarely step out of the silo they have created with their nuclear families and business contacts, so they don’t understand or even care for people less fortunate than themselves. I was actually friends with one of the wait staff in his 20s at a restaurant we would go to, and this friend would never say anything bad about his employers, but I know they did not pay him enough. I know this because he has had two jobs and not been able to make it on his own. He has been a good friend to us, and I have suspected that there have been people who have distanced themselves from us because of our association with him due to his poverty. My own family has expressed interest in helping, but there is only so much they can help.
In terms of the matter of certain industries having problems with addiction, I have had the opportunity to get to know people (mostly Millennials) in the salon industry fairly well. This is an industry which is driven by client anxiety, and my salon friends have told me some pretty horrific stories about entitled clients, and the scheduling gyrations they have to do to prevent cat fights in the salon, or having too many high-maintenance clients on the same day. Uniformly, the salon artists I know struggle with great levels of anxiety. One of my friends has to vape CBD continually during work hours, and another one developed, after a car accident, more dangerous addictions. I was told that my stylists would actually schedule me in as a palate cleanser, and I know a few other clients of theirs who were probably also used in this fashion because of their easygoing natures.
I had not cut my own hair until last winter when I was ill and couldn’t go to the salon, at the encouragement of my wise friend. For me, salon visits began when my kids were little as an escape from my house. I started going to the particular stylist’s salon I have “frequented” years ago when she was an employee in another salon. People tend to tell me stuff, and she told me about the unfair working practices at the salon she was at, and that she wanted to start her own salon. I found her interesting because she liked to read young adult fiction, and would tell me good things to read to the kids. We talked a lot about media over the years. She is a very talented stylist, and I often just let her do whatever she wanted, because we became friends. I understood why she became a stylist, some of which was to express herself as an artist, and I understand what it is like to be an artist, and how your art can become torture when it all becomes about commission. What was exceptionally strange about this is that nearly every woman I met wanted to know where I got my hair done. The question elicited anxiety for me, because I didn’t want people to know how much it cost to have my hair done because I thought it would make me look vain, and the only reason I care about that stuff at all is because of mirrors, actual and metaphorical. When I am alone, I don’t care about these things. People treated me differently, however, and having to be with other people, one wants to bring the mood up, not down. When I hung out with other homeschooling mothers, nobody really cared about that stuff. It was a transition I made because I was around young people more. This was a departure from the moopy character that I think people saw before. Anyway, long story short, I became friends with one of the other stylists, and connected with her better, and switched to her a few years ago.
Some of this is because my other friend, the owner, changed a lot in ways I found uncomfortable to address, but that negatively affected my salon experience, and was due to some significant hypocrisy on her part. Specifically, this amounted to becoming a mother, yet using the privilege of extended family resources to justify voting against policies to help working mothers. She had been raised in a conservative family with conservative values, and the new stylist was much more like-minded. I suppose what I could say about that friendship is that we are similar sorts of heathens, and it’s nice to find your heathens. But anyway, because of the stresses on her as a businessperson and as a mother, her work was more rushed and she was dropping a lot of balls. Seeing her was no longer the enjoyable experience it had been. It made me wonder if I was enabling something bad by using her services, because she was becoming kind of toxic from thinking she could do it all (and I resemble that comment). She and her husband were conservative Millennials who didn’t want to be saddled with the debt of higher education, and who together devised plans to have careers that could support the family they wished to have together. It was really quite intelligent, and I had hopes that the cheerfulness and connection she had with her clients was reflective of a good plan, but it turns out children take a lot of energy, and extended family gets tired, too.
I think it is a burden on families that we do not provide for children and parents better as a society, and that it creates unhealthy codependency in families and totalitarian matriarchs. Claire Dunphy is not the most obvious totalitarian matriarch, but that is what she is. She is Jay’s little girl, still trying to get Jay’s love, but Jay doesn’t know how to love.
Something else that struck me that might not have been apparent to other people watching the show, was how the families of Gloria, Cam and Phil were marginalized and looked down upon for being poor. Family allegiance and get-togethers were so important to the Pritchetts that Gloria, Cam and Phil are constantly disconnected from who they are. There are a few episodes that show the more heart-centered family dynamics they had, which were startling in comparison to the Pritchett’s wealth-centered life. This is a dynamic that was repeated in my family. Those of us who have married into the Pritchett family have lost connection with our own.
Moreover, the family functioned mostly as a unit to try to siphon money off other people. Much of their discussions revolved around concocting business schemes, which was also a departure from the sorts of discussions I used to have with my family as a kid. When I grew up, we talked more about things like science, religion, and what it means to be human. I don’t recall the Dunphys or the Pritchetts entertaining such discussion, and if we did have discussions like that, they couldn’t be sustained very long. They didn’t value love very much, and spent a lot of time cutting themselves and the people around them down subtly with blind societal value judgments around weight, country of origin, socioeconomic status, floor plan, brand names, fridge color, length of pant, color of baseboard, religion, and other nonsense. They made judgments about the types of people I associated with fairly regularly. It was a total waste of life, and the energy I used to have to spend with my kids became vaporized. They concerned their precious minds with these inane things while people around the world and in our own backyards were starving. I have not known them to be the type of people to do something big out of the kindness of their hearts for unknown fellow humans. If that were to suddenly happen, I would feel a lot better.
There was a culture in the family cemented around binge drinking, and it was made “okay” through the perceived social value of the particular alcohol consumed. No Montezuma Tequila for these people, or for many other people I have associated with. Alcoholism is definitely a thread, and not something they want to admit. There are at least three people in the family who drink every time we are together, like it is a reflex. When I met my in-laws, they often said, “It’s four o’clock somewhere!” while pouring themselves a drink. I didn’t think much of it when I was young, except that my own parents had been teetotalers. These parents didn’t hit their children like my parents did, and so I started to question my parents’ avoidance of alcohol. My parents cited abusive life with alcoholic fathers as their reason for avoiding alcohol. What I had to learn is that the sort of abuse created through binge drinking is not always the physical kind, and that doesn’t make it less bad. Our Jay actually has kids of his own who all struggle with addiction and anger issues and who have been cast out by my mother-in-law. They had a little culture and even ritual around red wine, and that came from three family members having some interest in either investment and collection or sommelier training. I sometimes wonder how many alcoholics subconsciously justify their red wine habits because of the church’s equation of it with the blood of Christ. That, to most people, is superior. Personally, I don’t need Christ to die for me, just give me a little mouth to mouth (I’ll take the Breath of Christ! Ha!). My in-laws view their own vices as better than others’, but it turns out that science has now linked binge drinking to decreased levels of empathy. My own understanding of the cognitive effects of alcohol grew significantly when I made the connection that the areas of the brain which are first to lose metabolism under toxic and stressful conditions are those involved in empathy, executive function, and language processing. This would explain the self-critical and xenophobic behaviors engendered in much of society. Like, maybe we’re all a little drunk some of the time, as a society, and that’s why we’re so stupid with respect to living in peace.
In some ways I was Claire, and in some ways that honor goes to other members of our family. Claire’s home always looked like it was ready for sale, and as a person who reads books, has hobbies, volunteers, and has children, that was never possible for me. The interior of my home was never an important source of validation for me; I always just wanted to be comfortable. I think I have learned a lot about what those two different things are through feeling brave enough to use my own vision to decorate my home in my very own way. A friend helped me make sense of it. We tried to help each other out over the years. She was an interior designer who was thrown away by her industry when her health failed and who has become a writer. She has also been incredibly brave in telling her story, and I have been privileged to see her process and struggle. The world is cruel.
For a long time, I had my in-laws’ cast-off prints, which were images that were meaningful to them. I know I paint a mean picture of them, but they just got confused by big business and conservative family members, and I think it happens to a lot of people. I think we were just the unfortunate poster children for the struggle many Americans face due to an illusion we kept selling ourselves. I got a lot of hand-me downs from them over the years in the form of furniture and yard tools, but notably, their collection of signed, numbered and framed prints, which had been so meaningful to them at one point. It was nice to get hand-me-downs, because we honestly couldn’t afford to buy all the things we were given as new when they were given to us. However, the truth was that it was too much stuff, and because they never read reviews, a lot of it was a burden. So we have dealt with a lot of guilt regarding whether or not to keep things that don’t serve us due to lifestyle differences or poor design. We often haven't known whether to pass them along to be a burden to someone else, or make do, and mostly what we did was make do.
The aesthetic of the inherited art was “Breckenridge Condo” which wasn’t really my family. The art evoked images from “Jay’s” old hunting days, including landscapes with geese, ducks, deer, and specifically a painting of a Labrador head floating over a lake at sunset. It was a work that had been done by an artist as a commission for Jay to remember his passed companion, or that was my understanding. But for some reason, it was still just a print, and, not one they wanted to have to maintain real estate for. I got the sense they didn’t want to see the art go outside the family because they imagined the prints to be valuable someday, so I ended up giving them back, which felt awkward. I knew the real reason I ended up with them, as I do anything, is because I hold things for their inherent meaning, and that the art had been passed along simply because it had been deemed unworthy by their interior designer daughter, the actual Claire. The psychic battles between them were hilarious; they would demand Claire’s professional opinion, free of charge (ostensibly in return for all their gracious hosting of her and her family over the years, and paying for her education), and then totally ignore it. She then felt invalidated as both a professional and their daughter. None of them could see how their use of each other was actually abuse, because they were just treating each other as they would other business people. A lot of time was spent pretending there were no hard feelings about things, when there really were. So it never dawned on me to alter the prints, or anything creative like that, because the whole situation was mired in guilt.
I knew there would be strange vibes around returning the art. If we turned down gifts, or got rid of hand-me downs, there were hard feelings, even if unspoken. I had always suspected it, and got confirmation when they thought I got rid of something it turned out they expected me to keep (and which I still have). Things were always given to me as a, “Claire doesn’t want this, and you don’t have to have it, Gloria, if you don’t want it, but it was extremely important to our family” so I have taken things thinking they might be useful, but then when I have found them not to be useful, if I get rid of them, there are hard feelings. The part that is exceptionally frustrating about this is that my in-laws keep a pretty austere home in terms of belongings, and they have vocalized judgment over my housekeeping and clutter, while simultaneously burdening me with a constant stream of incoming demands for my time and conformity.
Over the twenty-seven years I have been with my husband, his parents have owned around a dozen homes. When I met them, they worked in the real estate and architecture businesses. Their last three homes were in our home town, and were purchased in the last 8 years. Until this last home, which they may be kind of stuck in, we figured out the average length of time spent in a home was somewhere around 18-24 months. We could tell when they were about to move, because they would become different. They became negative and would complain about everything, which was usually followed by some manic expenditures on improvements that don’t matter in terms of resale. Because they had been in the industry, they prided themselves on their ability to sell quickly, and so reason could not be used with them. For one house, they had the driveway jackhammered and repoured so that it would sell quickly. In every home they lived in, they would replace all the flooring with new carpet and ceramic tile, and they would paint all the walls and much of the cabinetry. All appliances would be replaced so they were stainless steel. This might not sound like a big deal to someone who watches a lot of HGTV, but all of the materials used to do these things are incredibly toxic, and we were all being exposed to these chemicals regularly for years because they were incapable of making do, and were never satisfied with what they had. And they had no friends.
I tried to tell them over the years what a waste it was to assume that buyers would not change their design choices. My own parents have lived in the very same house since 1969, and they have watched many neighbors come and go. The sellers, in order to get the house ready for market, always remodel that home only to have a buyer rip out all the recent remodeling. I told my in-laws this, and their reaction was basically “So?” The house next door to my parents has changed hands fewer times than my in-laws have moved, so the waste on that home has been far less than my in-laws have generated during the same course of time. Plus that home is a lot smaller than the typical home they purchase. But still, they have no remorse.
So, for all this house swapping, one would think my in-laws would be fairly wealthy, right? Sadly, the reality is that they were always mortgaged well beyond their means in homes and neighborhoods that never made them happy, and when they are gone, there will be nothing left for Mitchell and Claire, or their children. It was all an illusion. In addition to their primary social contacts being their bosses, the only extended family members my mother-in-law makes an effort to keep in contact with is her extremely conservative business owner brother whose home is always getting upgrades and who always has a new car. We learned that it was all mortgaged as well, and, the big kicker with all of this is that all of the homes are under reverse mortgage, which means that when their corporate sponsored lives end, the bank will just suck up all the remnants. The more liberal side of the family who worked in education, transportation, farming, and window sales (ha!) has been somewhat estranged.
A particularly upsetting aspect of this lifestyle, to me, was all the time and brainpower that was spent on something that was such a waste, for people who gave absolutely nothing back to their community. They registered their business and their vehicles in states that would not require them to pay taxes, and followed the corporate loopholes they taught to their clients to afford them the same advantages in society. Financially, they may not have much of an existence as a couple, as they use their corporate business power to leverage as many financial advantages as they can. Much of their life strategy has been around determining expenses that could be used as a write-off, and they taught me all of this. I am certain this contributed to their isolated ways, because it is an ugly truth that wouldn’t survive the scrutiny of most US Citizens. Doing my taxes now scares the crap out of me because I worry about being given an unfair advantage.
I wish I could say that I was being over the top about the xenophobia I saw in the family, but they said overtly xenophobic things about Latinos, Black people, fat people, poor people and addicts. Everyone was an “other” to them. When Claire and her husband moved back to Colorado from Florida, they were afraid of everyone because all the winter gear “made everyone appear homeless and dangerous.” The matriarch made it clear that her family line was better than everyone else’s. The Dunphys received regular lectures about this. And if that isn’t xenophobia, I don’t know what is. Her family was from Central Kansas, and detailed histories of their family had been leather-bound years earlier, conveniently omitting any sense of shameful hardship, which was discoverable through public record, anyway. I wonder if that is a theme in other genealogies I see. I am a bone digger genealogist, who does genealogy in the interest of healing generational trauma, so I am not interested in glossing over hardship. In those rural settlements, most people have to have some sort of business, and that probably plays a role in wanting to keep hardship under wraps. And the more hardship people have had, the more quiet they want to be, because we all know what hardship can do to a person.
The family was especially classist that way, rejecting people for any sign of hardship they might have had, and failing to see the ways they personally contributed to the oppression of others through their entitlement.
I didn’t cut the cord with my in-laws sooner because of my relationship with my husband. I knew who he was apart from them, and the man I married was the one who saw all of these things in their grotesqueness when we first met, but over the years he too had been blinded by the Pritchetty-ness of it all. He kept saying just to look past their behavior, but didn’t see how it was sapping our love for each other. For years I had played the role of trying to be a peacemaker, but I didn’t understand the darkness I was up against. Part of it was trying to be a “good person” and another part of it was that I was wearing the same foggy glasses they were; I was seduced by red wine, cheese boards, aperitifs and the way these things made me feel like everything was okay, even when I could turn the news on and see the world burning. The shows they watched fed into their worldview, certainly. Back in the day they liked the current president’s public displays of abuse enough to buy a bobblehead to place on the front dash of their RV. They were Americana.
For a long time they would not have a dog, partly because dogs are hard on property, and also because Jay said he couldn’t bear losing another dog. A few years ago, they finally got another dog, and the dog has always been very sick under their care, even though they are loving owners and care for her well. I think this is probably because of their constant remodeling. Months ago, this was something I wasn’t sure was okay to say, but I have since learned of the health dangers of exposing oneself to chemicals at the levels they subjected us to, and I think it is wrong to conceal. The dog’s face aged years with the kitchen remodel, and everyone noticed it. Before this experience, I wasn’t sure what evil was, but keeping all of this inside was eating away at my soul, and that was certainly evil. Of the four adults in our family who live in Northern Colorado and spend the most time at their home, all of us have experienced problems with consciousness (three have had seizures), and early on after they bought their first house here, my daughter would lose consciousness while visiting them, which really worried me.
They paid labor, including my brother-in-law (who is Gloria, too), to do construction work for them. I have a friend who also sometimes did work for them, too. They were reasonable employers, for the most part. They gave both my brother-in-law and my friend work when economic times were difficult, but for as many man hours as my brother-in-law put into construction for them, he doesn’t have much to show for it. That’s okay, though, in their eyes, because all these remodeling efforts were good ‘ol Kansas barn-raisins’, you know? For the same people, over and over. He has done work for my side of the family, too, and my father put forth a lot more effort to make sure the arrangement was fair than they did, but neither arrangement is enough to consider his healthcare. Healthcare was a difficult issue for my other friend, too, whose income often bordered on non-qualification for government programs. As a “regular person” it is difficult to be able to pay for expensive renovation products in a way that would cover the risk to the workers’ health, and that makes me wonder if the building of structures isn’t inherently supported by the unfair use of others’ life force as we currently do it.
A big blind spot we all had, especially in my family, was around the environmental impact of travel. Our nuclear family was probably medium-level consumers of air travel, which generates a lot of carbon. The more well-to-do family members regularly traveled to places like Hawaii and Mexico, where they regularly surfed and scuba dived, which I understand contributes greatly to the death of the coral reefs. Mitchell and Cam traveled the most, owing to Cam being from overseas. Jay had several RVs over the years which got about 5-9 miles to the gallon and were exempt from emissions standards. Just owning one meant having to own or rent a place to park it, and it cost as much as a decent-sized family home, but depreciated in value. When we purchased this home, one of the considerations was that it had a hookup if they wanted to stay with us, but they only did it a few times. I think that’s probably a good thing, because whenever they were around I ended up spending a lot more money. They were always trying to get us to go on vacation with them at our own expense, and on the condition that it involved their RV, and conformed to my nephew’s school schedule. This meant that vacations had to incorporate access to locations with RV parks they deemed safe enough to stay at (no Motel 6 for these people). But they were also among the too many white people that descended upon Yellowstone during that madness. It’s a choice I would not have personally made, and decided to stay back, but my kids went. Ultimately they ended up coming back early, because my understanding is that two senior citizens who start their day at 4 am and three adolescents who end theirs at 1 am in a bus in the Wyoming heat does not Shangri-La make. Especially when RVs have major problems with formaldehyde. Duh. If they had ever bothered to understand what it was like to live with their beloved grandchildren, they would have known the idea was stupid, but they don’t show that level of interest in our lives.
The thing that gives me the most pause about all of this is that they are incapable of discussing these matters. When I wrote about white fragility being a real thing, it was because I have tried to talk about some of these things with my extended family, and they react like they are entitled to behave in these ways because God said so. This is going to sound horrible, but Jay and my mother-in-law both have recent English and German ancestry, and some real trauma they are trying to forget, and I think that it is all related. Their trauma is related to fascist, xenophobic and colonialist mindsets in their ancestors, as well as shame around health issues, and mental health issues in particular. Moreover, their business niche serves corporations that serve these same mindsets, so it is against their best interest to identify and change their behaviors, because it would mean admitting the wrong that has been committed in the name of their personal comfort.
My in-laws are not climate change deniers. They have even participated in environmental protests. They just can’t see how their lifestyle contributes to climate change. They don’t see how every resource they have to pull from the earth to support their shiny lifestyle pollutes the air and water. They don’t see how their busyness and inability to fill their boredom in ways that do not require resources or others steals from the future. I find this so strange because we did things like visit the Earth ship community in New Mexico together, and my mother-in-law owns some valuable Native American artwork. Her dream, which she has been very sad about not achieving, was to have an Earth ship and a farm someday, but she was never able to save up the energy or resources because they kept making poor investments in a lifestyle that cares nothing for the earth or its inhabitants. Maybe we need to build communities for these kinds of people to go heal from their toxic lifestyles. Or they could be temporary places people go, like a hospice, to recover. I think her goal was right, but she lost her way.
Maybe someday I will have an Earth ship, or I will live somewhere where I am not judged for the length of my grass, the cracks in my sidewalk, the bindweed in my garden, the dog fluff in the corners, the peeling caulk, the aging car paint, my cellulite, breasts, hairstyle, clothes, friends, or their their homes and attire. Or maybe, just maybe, this stranglehold that the Pritchetts have on the entire world and its resources will just fade away as we all become more aware and appreciative of differences.
The strangeness of the Pritchetts was not impressed upon me until I took a trip to Southeast Asia. Streets and sewers are in disrepair in the region I visited, but there are ample shopping malls. Not only were there quite a few shopping malls, but they were full of high end merchandise that most people I know could never afford. For not much money (approximately USD$75/night it was possible for us to get a 2 BR suite at a high-end hotel. Next to the hotel was a restaurant where it was possible to get traditional Malaysian food, and while we were there eating our food, a homeless man approached us and asked us if we were from the United States. He explained that he had health problems and a big hospital bill, and asked if we could give him some spare change. He even had his hospital bill to show me, which was strange. I gave him probably USD$5 and he was really appreciative.
They say it is better now since their campus moved to the main island, but employees of the company we visit had a 1 hour commute each way to get into work. Many of the worlds’ electronics were being manufactured in this particular business park, and the problem of getting the massive number of employees to work every day on such a tiny island is probably still not solved. The amount of time everyone dedicates to work there is unhealthy already, without adding on two hours of commute each day. Nonetheless, everyone we spent time with had new cars, which was strange to me. I grew up in a family where my father only bought vehicles he could pay for in cash, and because I had made the mistake of being “car-poor” (in my father’s words) early in our marriage, I didn’t want to do it again. Our vehicles are 20, 21 and 15 years old, except for the car we bought after that trip. I have actually known a lot of people without cars, and their lives are challenged in the suburbs. Cars contribute a lot to air pollution, and so even though I have four of them, I don’t drive much. I try to optimize my routes and avoid traffic. I have wished more people would do this, and wondered what would happen. I feel like I got my answer during the shelter in place order during the pandemic.
It was strange to travel to Malaysia because class and racial divides are so much more apparent there. Three populations coexist on the island of Penang, which we visited. The ethnic Malay people are the ruling class, and govern the others. My husband was in an odd enough position to have met the Prime Minister at an awards banquet. That time was really scary because it was released on the news that there were terrorists in Kuala Lumpur. It was the first time he had traveled there and had a reliably functioning telephone, so that was a relief, because the awards ceremony he was attending was in KL during those same days. Our associations in Malaysia are mostly with ethnic Chinese people, but my husband has also gotten to know a Malay and an Iranian man fairly well through his work and travels. When we talk to the people there, we find we are not so different. We did not get to know any Indian people there, because they are relegated to the working and serving class, which was heartbreaking. There are also very few women in positions of actual power.
Early on in my metaphysical training, I used the Osho Zen Tarot cards a lot. There’s a card, I can’t remember which one, which talks about spending too much time in the dissociated state, and how the Eastern religions’ focus on that has left their people in squalor, and when I read that card, I immediately knew what it was talking about. Living in man-made bliss and fantasy all the time fosters ignorance of the reality around us. From my world travels, what I can tell you is uniformly true: the world is composed of glittering malls, temples, churches and mansions which are ensconced in the blood of poverty.
“They” want me to talk about the problem of plastics in the environment, and how many of the products we buy end up killing wildlife because of microplastics. These can be found in our cosmetics, teabags, and also now is becoming a problem from all the clothing we purchase and discard every year. This means we need to find other ways to reuse and recycle our clothing. I’m saying “they” because I get lots of messages, and I’m still not sure where they come from. That stresses me out a little, but as I have mentioned before, I have tried to remain optimistic about whatever is going on, because there are so many potential explanations which aren’t negative. Anyway, the effect is that the content I am getting through my technology and also the natural world is fueling an internal dialogue which is helping me grow.
Furthermore, regarding the problem of plastics and the environment, last year the burden of American recycling on Asia became too much. The island of Penang had been taking a lot of it, and it’s not a very big island. They had to start turning it away. I was horrified to learn of this, and wondered if maybe it was fake news, so I asked someone I know who lives there, and he verified it was true. On the island there is a place they call “The Jetty” with homes that have been erected on stilts above the water. The homes have been there for around 300 years, so longer than the US has been a country. We got to visit the home of someone my husband works with, whose family had been living at The Jetty as long as it had been in existence. The front door entrance on the boardwalk opened to a wooden structure with a slatted floor, open in many places to the ocean. There were just a few rooms and very little furniture. Our host’s grandmother offered us a soda from the five gallon bucket she was sitting on. Everyone we met was so gracious and generous, giving even though they had so little. It mortifies me to know that we were polluting their homes with our recycling!
Many of the convenience foods we Americans rely on use palm oil, and I got to see some of the devastating effects of the palm industry first hand while in Malaysia. There is a funicular car that goes to the top of Penang Hill, where it is possible to look out to Indonesia from some spectacular gardens. The day I went, the air was thick with smoke from the fires that burn regularly in Indonesia. Furthermore, our actions as consumers affect the environment in Asia in other ways; when American companies were outsourcing labor to Asia, they often did it without thought for the environment, or the people working there. The demand for tech devices led to a tech manufacturing company in China coming up with such inhumane working conditions to satisfy American demand that they had to put nets around the roof of the facility to deter employee suicide. Everyone who owns anything technological is complicit in these peoples’ deaths, although I don’t look at my phone and think I am a cold blooded killer.
I wrote about how I need to use cannabis for my various health issues. I learned on EndocrineWeb the other day that cannabis may be helpful for menopause, which may be what I’m dealing with. I am extremely sensitive to estrogens, and much of the modern lifestyle is inherently estrogenic due to stress hormones being easily converted to estrogen, and also the estrogenic effects of many of the products we consume. My health issues are definitely worse when I am feeling anxiety, and my anxiety and estrogen exposure are much greater with the Pritchett lifestyle. I’d like to get far, far from it, because I can feel that toxicity inside myself. What kind of lifestyle do I think would give me less anxiety? Well, a few years ago I read Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Sacred Trickery and The Way of Kindness, and I think it outlines a beautiful way of being that is both wise and sensitive and honors women’s sexual needs, which often go unmet. I guess, if I wanted people to really “see” another way, that’s the book I would recommend.
I think the most dangerous thing about the Pritchetts is how easily they are controlled by shame. The real danger in shame is that people can be manipulated by others who wield shame against them, so we really don’t want our politicians to be people who are overly concerned with their image. It’s better for them to be uncloseted. The Pritchetts always had a lot of negative things to say about the places they had lived before, and I’m pretty sure they couldn’t see the ocean through the holes in the floor. I learned a lot about this through real estate shopping with them. They made the neighborhoods they lived before sound unpleasant. My husband and I drove around his old haunts last year one day, because they had owned four homes together before I met him, and I had not seen the two of them they always talked so badly about. They seemed like safe neighborhoods, and my husband said they were nicer than he remembered . I honestly think they were running away from their own karma all that time, and maybe the chemicals and missed connections, too. It has made me see that as what many people do when they move, although some people just don’t have a choice because corporations regularly discard their community members..
I come from a long line of make-do stay-putters. That has its own problems, but is much more sustainable, and forces one to be creative in solving interpersonal issues, and less obsessed with maintaining appearances. My parents have expressed that as they have come to get to know some of their friends better over the last 45 years or so, they were all dealing with the same insecurities. I get hints from other people that they are, too. Making relationships work involves a lot of knowing when to let things be. I think this is easier in the inner city in some ways, as privileged people aren’t always good at solving conflict due to fear of losing their privileges. There’s a lot more space for privilege outside the city, that’s for sure, but I wouldn’t vilify all of suburbia. Cities definitely have worse problems with crime, and I have often thought that is because the people who struggle to make it often can’t because the economic divides are so much greater due to the effects of gentrification. Privileged people, in trying to maintain their privilege, typically rely on law enforcement to solve their conflicts, whether or not it is the moral thing to do. The more likely it is that real estate is going to be threatened, the more likely the privileged will cry “wolf.” The colonialist concept of real estate has reinforced the classist idea that some people’s work entitles them to more space to be. It’s white men like Jay Pritchett who have been deciding that making closets is worth more than opening windows who have been deciding that for society, and that’s why they appear to have it all.
Do we want to reward the work of people who create toxic ideas and products with more earth to pollute? I personally think it’s time for The Pritchetts to learn to make do, and I’m going to make a more concerted effort to do so, too.