I had an interesting conversation last week with a cab driver, pre-Inauguration. He was listening to the news on NPR — cab drivers I engage with always seem to be as politically frustrated as I am, probably because they’re foreign and have a broader perspective. I learn a lot from them.
This one was wearing a cream-colored knit skullcap, and had moved here from Pakistan 26 years ago. He’d turned the radio down when I’d gotten into the cab, and I’d asked him to turn it back up. After we’d listened to the latest logic-defying Trump move (might’ve been his meeting to discuss Housing and Urban Development with the host of “Family Feud” — but more likely was Trump’s views on Muslims), I saw the driver shake his head.
“I know, it’s crazy, right?” I said from the backseat. My driver replied, “We are going to be in third world war in a year.”
“I’ve said that exact same thing for months,” I told him.
And then he explained Armageddon to me. “Christians and Jews call it ‘Armageddon,’ but Muslims call it ‘Har-Meggido.’ Meggido is an ancient town on the way between Egypt and Syria. In 1400 [BC, I assume], a Muslim prophet said a war will start there that will kill one-third of all people.”
I blinked. “Wow. Sounds . . . realistic. Given what’s been happening, and what’s possible. But Trump’s son-in-law will make it all okay in the Middle East. ‘Cause he’s Jewish and he went to Harvard after his father gave them $2.5 million.” Yeah, I didn’t say the last part out loud. But I’m sure the cab driver would’ve gotten my humor.
So I marched yesterday, with my girlfriends here in NYC. I made myself a pussy hat out of a pair of thick, deep-pink socks I had. Unfortunately I think I have ringworm on my forehead now, even though I’d only worn the socks once, and I definitely washed them afterwards — not to mention that I’ve never had athlete’s foot. But no good deed goes unpunished.
But I’ve gotta do more than march to Trump Tower with 400,000 progressive women, men and children. I’m stepping up my world-saving game a little higher. It’s that or going into deep, deep denial.
I’ve started with applying for a job at the Environmental Defense Fund. Writer/Editor on the creative team — perfect for me, right?? I completely revamped my resume, and wrote a kick-ass cover letter that must’ve been good, because after submitting it over Thanksgiving weekend, I was granted a phone interview shortly after Christmas.
Now, I want to make it clear that my being gaga about waste and, by extension, the environment, is not about saving the planet, per se. As I say in “Waste Management: The Show,” the planet is gonna be here no matter what. It’s not about tree-hugging. It’s not even about polar bears, even though I loves me some polar bears. I’m also crazy about penguins. My absolute dream vacation — were I to somehow get my hands on an extra 25 grand, haha — is this Antarctica Sailing Expedition.
No, at this juncture it’s about saving people. Life depends on ecosystems and biodiversity. You probably already know that, if you’re the type who’s reading an enviro blog right now. Climate change is about droughts in the Middle East that turn into civil wars over shrinking resources, which turn into terrorism on so-called Western soil (and everywhere else). It’s about economics, and the externalization of corporate costs that result in pollution and the abuse of workers. It’s about massive oil companies and money-first personalities (i.e., Exxon and Goldman Sachs) taking over our government — right in front of our faces now. For profit and gain and “growth” at any cost, which is just creating a bigger wealth gap between rich and poor, black and white.
So the EDF phone interview went well. The HR person asked if I could send some writing samples, which I did the next morning. That afternoon they asked me to come in and meet with the head of the team the following week.
Now, I haven’t worked a 9-to-5 job in about 20 years. And this one is nonprofit, so it doesn’t pay much more than I already make as a freelancer. Which reminds me of a conversation I’ve been having with myself about certain political figures, both new and pre-existing (like those pesky medical conditions): How much money does one person need?
According to Oxfam, just 8 of the richest people (i.e., dudes) in the world own as much combined wealth as half the human race. Six of them are American. Most of them are tech guys — Zuckerberg, Gates, etc. That’s whacked, man.
You know who else is one of the richest dudes in the world? Vladimir Putin. Forbes doesn’t put him on their “Richest Dudes in the World” lists, but guestimates are that he is worth between $70 billion and $200 billion, and did some pretty shitty things to get it. Is that title “Richest Man in the World” a thing dudes aspire to? (There are far fewer women billionaires.) Does that title give you happiness? How much real estate, diamond cufflinks, and solid-gold bidets does one person need? (Actually, I would love to have a bidet . . . but porcelain will do.)
Oops, I got sidetracked again. My point is that climate change impacts everything, and everybody (firstly, poor people), and we are now going totally in the wrong direction, since inaugurating a complete love addict (see my post about that here).
I believe happiness comes from having our needs met. In addition to the basic food-and-shelter rigamarole, we also need love and touch and play and contribution. Personally, I’d really like to wake up not depressed every morning for the next four years, knowing that an egomaniac with a bachelor’s degree and zero attention span thinks he can save the country by reverting it to 1947, while continuing to amass his fortune and brand identity.
And even if THAT changes, a job at EDF won’t zip me up in a happy suit, even if I love it; it’s not an escalator ride to that imaginary plateau of happiness where everything aligns, and all is just great from then on. Because life includes suffering — we can’t escape it. That is not an “alternative fact” (in the words of Kellyanne Conway); that’s the truth.
As you may have read About Me, maybe it’s because I don’t have kids, and have to put that nurturing instinct somewhere.
And like all of us, I would like to live an abundant life. Rent, food, utilities, therapy, and my damn hair color are some of the basics; I had a bicycle accident in the fall for which I had to fork over a $600 co-pay for lying down in the ER for a bit; I’ve ground my teeth into oblivion; and I continually have things that break in my West Village condominium — I know, I’m stupid lucky, but it’s no joke that plumbers are expensive, and the original developers really cut corners when they built the infrastructure of this place in ’97, so there’s always some broken pipe or busted lock or malfunctioning oven that needs repair. And the Columbia environmental program ain’t cheap.
Would the job also beef up my personal life and self-esteem? Sure. Do I want to say that I do something cool at cocktail parties? Yes, absolutely. AND I also want to take my specific skills and use them for good. What is that famous Marxism? “From each according to her ability, to each according to her need.”
Sadly, about a week after my in-person interview — which was really fun — I found out I didn’t get the job. But I’ll likely be freelancing for them. They’ve even asked me if I think there’s a way to use humor in the work they do. My answer?
Follow this blog below to find out next time. 😉 And please, leave your thoughts in the comments.
Oh, I almost forgot! I asked my Muslim cab driver what his god says about finding happiness at a scary time like this. He answered by holding up four fingers and ticking these off like memorized bullet points: “Trust your gut. Do good things. Help people. And trust in God that things will be alright.” Amen to that.