don’t touch that button

Betty was sweating. Not that you would notice. Her hair was perfect. The perfect lines of her polyester uniform were still crisp. The only visible sign was the faint sheen of perspiration on the back of her neck. But the passengers couldn’t see that. She’s chosen to wear her hair down. Betty was sweating because she thought she just might be pregnant. She would like to be home, taking a long walk and contemplating that possibility. Instead, here she was, standing in the middle of the plane, smiling and pretending like there was no greater joy in the world then demonstrating how to put on an oxygen mask to a group of people who weren’t paying attention and that she would not be allowed to yell at when they panicked in the event of an emergency and couldn’t breathe.

Betty is a flight attendant. This is not her normal run but Jack took the week off because he had silicone implants inserted into his buttocks. He said the cabin pressure and altitude made them inflate and deflate rapidly and he needed more time to heal. She thought Jack was an ass in more ways than one. She resented his assuming she forgot that he had told her he was up for a part in a movie that was casting this week. Resented it, but not enough to turn down the extra hours. She needed the money. And the distraction. Children she wanted, she and her husband talked about it often. But not, perhaps, children right now.

The call buzzer went off again from seat 34C. Thank God she was in the middle of the safety show and wouldn’t have to answer it. The crew had already dubbed the two women sitting in 34 C&D the ‘Panic Sisters.’ They hadn’t left the ground yet and already those two had pressed the button five times. Nothing was to their satisfaction and everything seemed to be an omen of disaster. ‘If I am not pregnant,’ Betty thought, ‘I’ll apply for one of the Airbus routes.’ The new Airbus planes had been redesigned to move the flight attendant call button away from the overhead light button, making passengers less prone to mistake the two and less prone to call over every little detail.

She sighed. The nun in the aisle across from her was creepy. Betty wondered if she was slow. She just sat there, staring out the window with a weird sort of half-smile on her face. What kind of thoughts could be in a nun’s head when by definition, all the answers were already given to them?

– – – –

Well, it is an interesting thing, watching the Presidential election shape up. Michelle Bachmann has thrown her hat into the ring. Obama is trying to officially start a war (which always worked so well for his predecessor) and the only sane voice, oddly enough, is coming from the Army, what with the General reminding everyone that in the end, the civilians have authority over the military, not the Commander-in-Chief.

Justin Webb, of the BBC, wrote a long and thoughtful piece on the issues the US is facing with the economy. This is just a small excerpt (you can read his whole post at (

“What is the root cause of America’s failure to get to grips with its debt? It can be argued that the problem is not really economic or even political; it is a cultural inability to face up to hard choices, even to acknowledge that the choices are there.
I should make it clear that my reporting of the United States, in the years I was based there for the BBC, was governed by a sense that too much foreign media coverage of America is negative and jaundiced.

The nation is staggeringly successful and gloriously attractive. But it is also deeply dysfunctional in some respects.

Take Alaska. The author and serious student of America, Anne Applebaum makes the point that, as she puts it, “Alaska is a myth!”

People who live in Alaska – and people who aspire to live in Alaska – imagine it is the last frontier, she says, “the place where rugged individuals go out and dig for oil and shoot caribou, and make money the way people did 100 years ago.”

But in reality, Alaska is the most heavily subsidised state in the union. There is more social spending in Alaska than anywhere else.

To make it a place where decent lives can be lived, there is a huge transfer of money to Alaska from the US federal government which means of course from taxpayers in New York and Los Angeles and other places where less rugged folk live. Alaska is an organised hypocrisy.

Too many Americans behave like the Alaskans: they think of themselves as rugged individualists in no need of state help, but they take the money anyway in health care and pensions and all the other areas of American life where the federal government spends its cash.

The Tea Party movement talks of cuts in spending but when it comes to it, Americans always seem to be talking about cuts in spending that affect someone else, not them – and taxes that are levied on others too.”

I think one of the roadblocks to our economic and social recovery is the refusal of the population at large to accept that we are a welfare state. That is what we are considered by the rest of the world’s economists (and most of our own). And welfare state not in regards to “people on welfare” but that the very core of our everything is based on the perceived right to the government providing for us, not just in age, but all through our lives. We tend to only see government support in areas of healthcare, pensions and welfare benefits. But we all receive support in the form of subsidies to industries that keep our costs down, research and funding grants to innovators, monies to support the infrastructure, tax breaks and incentives, and so on and so forth. The welfare benefits we all receive are things we have gotten so used to not acknowledging that we suffer from the delusion that we provide for ourselves and are independent.

So in hard economic times, we look to cut the funding that we perceive as unearned support – social service programs, affordable housing subsidies, and public healthcare. None of the costs of these programs comes near the most expensive welfare benefit of all – that of social security. Social security and other entitlement programs are the single source of our immense debt and woes.

I find it funny/sad that the very same people who cry foul over Big Brother tactics, would fight you to the bitter end if you suggested taking away or diminishing the welfare benefits they feel is their right to receive.

The very same people who point to someone receiving social service benefits and say “I did it without help, why can’t they?” are completely blind to all the welfare help they have received.

Being a welfare state is neither a bad or good thing, it is in my eyes, the only kind way to be. However, one can only be a healthy welfare state if the functionality of it matches the reality. And we won’t get there until there is a cultural shift from delusions of independence to acceptance of the reality that we are all recipients of welfare benefits. There is no lack of homegrown economists and thinkers banging the drum and trying to get people to wake up to this fact.

But will we wake in time to prevent a new administration from coming in (even if it is a repeat of the one we have now) that will be acting on policies built on false beliefs? Will we dare to grow forward into the reality of our lives and redefine the American dream?

c.2011. Cassandra Tribe. All Rights Reserved.


About cassandratribe

"There are few artists that can do what Cassandra Tribe does. Whether with her poetry, her videos or her blog, Cassandra examines the truths that most of us can never come close to realizing and shows it for what it is, both beautiful and frightening at the same time. She exposes our inner-most workings like the cross-section of a powerful but flawed machine, our gears and springs, nuts and bolts removed and laid out before us. She is a true artist. Her new video, Requiem for a God, is the latest example of Cassandra's willingness to tear open and examine the very things that make us human. Shooting the film entirely by herself, she also eliminates all the little excuses we come up with to keep us from ourselves and our truth. You see, even when she's not trying to be, Cassandra Tribe is a beacon of truth and humanity in this darkest of worlds." (Michael E. Quigg, The Culture Network, June 2009)
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