I shouldn’t have been so critical early on.
When Inyo Supervisor Trina Orrill just started the job, and didn’t know anything, her contribution at Board meetings amounted to thanking people for doing their jobs.
But now she’s settled in. And got ahold of the 2023-2024 budget. And asked a whole slew of question at the county budget presentation Tuesday. At times, she became almost apologetic for dominating the conversation.
Good for her. Questions are good. Glossing over the budgetary elephants – not so good.
Orrill kept repeating a mantra of “purposeful, thoughtful, intentional.” I imagine this trio of words is supposed to represent the antithesis of a fearful mantra of lions and tigers and bears. I guess “purposeful, thoughtful and intentional” – if you keep saying that enough, is that what you’re supposed to become? Seems like a buncha words to me. Guru prattle. Means absolutely nothing.
When your employee cost is up 12% across the board, all the purposefulness in the world doesn’t mean squat if one doesn’t have the guts to either reduce the number of employees or ask for concessions on the benefits side, no matter how much you hit me with those $5 words.
Pension costs, healthcare costs and retiree health … each category is about $1 million more expensive this year, according to CAO Greenberg.
But I get it. If you live in a county with approximately 19,000 residents and you employ approximately 500 people (breakdown graph appears at right), and those employees have spouses and cousins and adult children, et. al. … You figure that County employees and those connected to said employees have got to represent about 10% of the vote – because some of those 19,000 residents are not of age, don’t vote, etc. 10% is a huge voting bloc. And not a bloc any politician would want to tussle with.
So you spend four or five hours talking around the edges and you leave the labor issue alone and congratulate yourself for not sticking your foot in your mouth. I get it.
There is concern this year on the revenue side because Hurricane Hilary shut down Death Valley (a brief on page seven says SR-190 is expected to reopen in mid-October). County staff estimated a $500,000 to $800,000 loss in room tax revenue if Death Valley did not reopen by the second quarter (October 1).
What else … I picked up this book of essays by Norman Mailer awhile back. Cost me a dollar. A paperback. The cover is ripped. The title: “Cannibals and Christians” copywrite 1966.
Even the best writers of an era are so quickly forgotten. Mailer could sure as hell turn a phrase. One of the best pieces in the book is his review of Lyndon Johnson’s “My Hope for America.”
Johnson put out the book in conjunction with his reelection campaign of 1964 – that was the new thing. Kennedy had released “Profiles in Courage” before his 1960 campaign. These days, writing a book is like the first step in a 12-step program to becoming a presidential candidate.
“But even at its worst, the prose style of Jack Kennedy (and his ghost writers)” says Mailer, “is to the prose style of LBJ (and his ghost writers) as de Tocqueville is to Ayn Rand. It is not impossble that ‘My Hope for America’ is the worst book ever written by any political leader anywhere.”
Now that’s just a great dig. Purposeful, thoughtful and intentional.
But what I wanted to get to is Mailer’s explanation of the theme which winds its way throughout his book – Cannibals and Christians. Because he wrote this stuff sixty years ago. And the best writers have a mastery of science fiction, because his insight, his predictions, are pretty keen.
Which really just says that human nature is fairly static, and the various ecological disasters (manmade and otherwise) … you can almost fill in the blanks with them.
So read the following from Mailer and ask yourself what you are. Cannibal? Christian? And afterward, perhaps bury your answer within yourself, because you may not want to share it with others.
“It has been the continuing obsession of this writer that the world is entering a time of plague … the man and the society each grappling with his own piece of the plague … and it is the act of each separate man to look to free himself from that part of his existence which was born with the plague.
Some succeed, some fail, and some of us succeed nobly for we clear our own plague and help to clear the plague upon the world, and others succeed, others – are we those? – you don’t know – who clear their plague by visiting it upon friends, passing their disease into the flesh and mind of near bodies, and into the circuits of the world. And they poison the wells and get away free – some of them – they get away free if there is a devil and he has power, and that is something else we do not know.
But the plague remains, that mysterious force which erects huge, ugly and aesthetically emaciated buildings as the world ostensibly grows richer, and proliferates new diseases as medicine presumably grows wiser, nonspecific diseases, families of viruses with new names and no particular location. And products deteriorate in workmanship as corporateons improve their advertising, wars shift from carnage and patriotism to carnage and surrealism, sex shifts from whiskey to drugs. And all the food is poisoned. And the waters of the sea we are told. And there is always the sound of some electric motor in the ear.
In a modern world which produces mediocrities at an accelerating rate and keeps them alive by surgical gymnastics; in a civilization where compassion is of political use and is stratified in welfare programs which do not build a better society but shore up a worse; in a world whose ultimate logic is war, because in a world of war all overproduction and overpopulation is possible since peoples and commodities may be destroyed wholesale – in a breath, a world of such hyperciviization is a world not of adventurers, entrepreneurs, settlers, social arbiters, proletarians, agriculturists and other egocentric types of a dynamic society, but is instead a world of whirlpools and formlessness where two huge types begin to reemerge, types there at the beginning of it all: Cannibals and Christians.
We are martyrs all these days. All that Right Wing which believes there is too much on earth and too much of it is second-rate, all of that Right Wing which runs from staunch Republicanism to the extreme Right Wing and then half around the world through the ghosts of the Nazis, all of that persecuted Right Wing which sees itself as martyr, knows that it knows how to save the world: one can save the world by killing off what is second rate. So they are the Cannibals – they believe the survival and health of the species comes from consuming one’s own.
Then come our Christians. They are the commercial. The commercial is the invention of a profoundly Christian nation – it proceeds to sell something in which it does not altogether believe, and it interrupts the mood. We are all of us Christians: Jews, liberals, Bolsheviks, anarchists, socialists, communists, Keynesians, moderate Republicans (Mailer lists many, many groups here). We believe man is good if given a chance. We believe man is open to discussion. We believe science is the salvation of ill. We believe death is the end of discussion; ergo we believe nothing is so worthwhile as human life. We think no one should go hungry. So forth.
What characterizes Christians is that most of them are not Christian and have no interest left in Christ.
What characterizes the Cannibals is that most of them are born Christian, think of Jesus as love, and get an erection from the thought of whippings, blood, burning crosses, burning bodies and screams in mass graves.
Whereas their counterparts, the Christians – are utterly opposed to the destruction of human life and succeed within themselves in starting all the wars of our own time, since every war since the Second World War has been initiated by liberals or Communists; these Christians also succeed by their faith in science to poison the nourishment we eat and the waters of the sea …”