When I first moved here I was a young graduate student who came from a small group of solid friendships formed from long weekends camped out together in nature. We may have disagreed about many things, but those disagreements served as the glue that strengthened our bonds. We are all still friends, still close, still in touch even though time has scattered us all over the world. We trust each other. We would never betray each other, never talk crap behind our backs, never disrespect each other so much that we would use one of us to punish another. We are firm believers in the theory that once you share a campfire with someone they become part of your soul forever. We are decent, ethical human beings every one of us or we would not be friends.
The mistake I made in this community I immigrated to was in letting my new world become overly populated with the pampered and selfish children of the rich and upper middle class--people with no real goals, no ambitions beyond ego gratification, no skills that contribute to survival. Far too many of them do little but wait for rich relatives to die and leave them varying fortunes so they can continue their parasitical existence. This abomination called "community" is the outer skin that will never learn what was formed around campfires shared with the handful of friends I've made in this part of the world.
My campfire friends are the ones I am close to, the friends I trust with my life. They are the balance that keeps me sane in a community of really mean crazy people. They are people like me who grew up believing what really mattered in life are things like honor and ethics and loyalty. Most of us didn't even have a credit card until we were adults on our own. We worked our way through school and life. Most of us grew up with friendship having a value beyond anything that could be bought. Most of us inherited or will inherit only debts when our relatives die so we had to make our own way in life, we had to make our own dreams come true.
I've never had a roommate from a poor family run out on a bill, but I've had every single child of the rich stick me with unpaid phone and power bills and their share of the rent. The burden it placed on me was invisible to them just as their lack of purpose in life is invisible to them. And the problem many of them have is that their purposeless existence makes them bored and bored people do a lot of damage in order to entertain themselves.
Usually this damage is directed at those they perceive as being different than them, people like me who came from dirt poor parents, who is solidly Atheist and who won't go to church no matter what frou frou new age crap they call it these days. And let's not forget the most important difference--a loyalty to my friends that grew from not having anything to rely on but another human being. They can't relate to any of that so they attack it all, and they attack me without even thinking about why they do it. It's small town, small minds crap and it stinks.
Most of the time I'm quite skilled at staying out of the way. My small circle of campfire friends and I move back and forth between the other circles with a skater's ease. We are very much the same, this small handful of us within the larger hand of community. We are the children of their parent's servants. We are the children of the people who waited on them in fancy restaurants, who picked up the clothes they left on the floor of the dressing rooms, who picked up the garbage they couldn't be bothered to put in the trash, who fed their pets when they got bored with them. We are the children of those who taught them the piano, the violin, the guitar, the painter's easel, the stage, the dance, the words that would go in books. We are the ones who gave them all we had to give--our art, our talents, our services. And we are the ones they turned on first because to turn on each other would be a violation of some unwritten rule that elitism does not attack elitism.
So we became to them people they could use when they needed someone to complain about each other to, when they needed numbers in their side of the wars, when they needed someone to use who wasn't already used up by them. We became the ones they blamed when they couldn't take responsibility for their own actions. We are the ones they gossiped about and made up lies about just to entertain and fill their tedious little boring lives. We are the ones they hurt because they envied our ability to love and live without a price tag on everything we did and felt. They quite simply hate us for being something they can never be but in a strange sad way recognize as having a value beyond anything they can buy.
In so many ways they are the children of the Reagan years, children of the Bush years, children who were born too late to live through times when you had to take to the streets to get heard, when you had to put yourself out to make things happen, when you had to care enough about people to make sure the laws were changed to make us all equal and subject to the same laws. They came of age believing they deserved it all and so they took whatever their greedy little hands could grab...clothes, cars, homes, the best looking lovers, the most prestigious vacation trips, the highest credit limits. They took and took and took and continued to take because giving was not something they ever learned.
But life has a way of turning on you to keep the sense of balance even, and the way life has turned on them is simply by making them look in the mirror and seeing the awful truth they just can't escape: old age is the great equalizer and boy does it creep up on you fast. My friends who grew up like me and who weren't the prettiest, the most accomplished, the most privileged learned to rely on something inside ourselves. It is what made us strong enough to take on injustice. It's what made us able to create jobs for ourselves in dismal economies. It's what made us able to provide for ourselves without having to depend on anyone.
I now see these privileged acquaintances starting to panic when they realize the relatives they've been waiting on to die are healthier than ever, no matter how much they run up their credit cards, no matter how much in debt they get trying to spend their way to happiness, no matter how much they deny they are setting themselves up for a lonely, dismal and poor existence while we, the children of the poor will have a much happier and complete life. And the final insult is that their own children, the ultimate status symbols they gave birth to are very much like me and my campfire friends. I see in their children the ultimate fuck you and rejection of the shallowness they grew up with.
It's the way life balances out. It's the way the circle connects and reconnects over and over again. It's what makes me have hope that our planet will survive the utter and complete selfishness of people I made the mistake of thinking were good human beings instead of selfish mean petty tyrants who just can't wait to hurt another human being with gossip, with lies, with confessions of transgressions and other stupid shit. I never understood someone who would call up another human being only to tell them the sordid details of their spouse's affair, and I don't ever want to understand that, I never want to get close enough to that kind of mean-spirited shit to ever understand it. I only know that I live in a community of awful people who think such things are okay, and for someone like me who can't even hurt a fly without suffering massive guilt and anguish, well...let's just say we've come to the end of my time in this part of the world. I can't live around people like that when I have a choice to live somewhere else.
So, in the next year I will leave here as most of my campfire friends have left here, as most of the selfish people's children have left here. I don't know yet where I'm going, just that I am going. For now that is enough to keep me halfway sane and functioning and still believing in the awesome power of love and compassion in the people who truly are my friends and always will be. They are my wealth, my stability, and my future. They are solid and true. They are real. They care about the world. They care about each other. They are mine and everyones hope and always will be, long after the selfish and cruel assholes in this community are long forgotten and have only each other left to abuse.
Image of Mt. Shuksan available at Ursine Logic Photography section.