You know, I was reluctant to give this website a go any more last year, after losing my job, and struggling through unemployment for a little while.  I had a quick look into what it means to be unemployed, and it’s not pretty.

Everybody’s got rights, and everybody’s got dignity.  I worked with some true desperadoes of the world, and a little dignity and respect goes a long way in the particular relationship.  That doesn’t mean that in another situation, they might not kill you for a dollar – but in a special role like caregiver, once you establish mutual respect and courtesy, it matters.  In some cultures.

If you’re wondering just how long the rot has been developing in our society, read The Lottery by Shirley Jackson.  It’s amazingly brief.  It was published in the New Yorker around 1948.

When it was published, the response was unexpected.  Jackson wrote:

One of the most terrifying aspects of publishing stories and books is the realization that they are going to be read, and read by strangers. I had never fully realized this before, although I had of course in my imagination dwelt lovingly upon the thought of the millions and millions of people who were going to be uplifted and enriched and delighted by the stories I wrote. It had simply never occurred to me that these millions and millions of people might be so far from being uplifted that they would sit down and write me letters I was downright scared to open; of the three-hundred-odd letters that I received that summer I can count only thirteen that spoke kindly to me, and they were mostly from friends.

The editor of the New Yorker wrote:

Curiously, there are three main themes which dominate the letters of that first summer—three themes which might be identified as bewilderment, speculation and plain old-fashioned abuse. In the years since then, during which the story has been anthologized, dramatized, televised, and even—in one completely mystifying transformation—made into a ballet, the tenor of letters I receive has changed. I am addressed more politely, as a rule, and the letters largely confine themselves to questions like what does this story mean? The general tone of the early letters, however, was a kind of wide-eyed, shocked innocence. People at first were not so much concerned with what the story meant; what they wanted to know was where these lotteries were held, and whether they could go there and watch.

Whatever is wrong with us now, was beginning to show its head at least back in ’48.  But that, and Capote’s much longer but greatly readable In Cold Blood, offer a peek into the origins of what’s going on now.

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