When Nobody Listens

gagged“I had a dream,” I told the psychologist frankly, “and I don’t know why it disturbed me, but I sat straight up in bed, sweating and trembling this morning.”

“What was the dream about,” she asked gently.

“It was so simple, really.  The whole family was in the living room, talking, laughing, sharing stories.  The television was in one corner of the room, but no one was listening.”

“Repeat those last words again.”

“No one was…”  My voice cracked.  “Listening.”

Nobody ever listens.  It became my acceptance speech to life.  You dress a certain way for social gatherings.  You say all the right things and don’t offer disagreement to opinions.  Don’t ever offer disagreement to opinions.  So many words laid still and turning to bile from silence.

“Do you know what’s wrong with our economy?”  Asked the young man in front of me after a lively discussion surrounding the collapsed real estate market.   “The economy in Florida and California are suffering because there are no jobs to be had.  The Mexicans have taken them all.  Think about it.  If we send the Mexicans back home, there will be more jobs for everyone.”

I stifled the answer that I knew would have him climbing down my throat to rip out the voice of dissent.  I would have told him, if I thought he might listen, that I believe in Nationalized borders and that we would benefit better by trade agreements and open borders than by separatist thinking and closed policies.  He wouldn’t have listened.  He was waiting eagerly for a response so he could elaborate more on his hatred.  I ignored him.

I’ve met his kind before.  There was an argument I used to try and present to the closed borders argument.  “My children were born in Mexico.  They’re half Mexican.”

“No, that’s different,” they would insist.  “Your children were raised in America and they were raised by you.  They are natural citizens.”

Technically, Mexico is part of America.  Technically, the children are not natural citizens but naturalized ones.  Their three and five year old photos look like mug shots on their immigration papers.  They have a choice.  Although the United States doesn’t recognize dual citizenship, Mexico does.  At any time during their lives, they could return to Mexico and claim their citizenship.  Technically, even their mother’s status as a compulsory citizen of the United States is questionable.  I was born while Alaska was still a territory.  Technically, my citizenship is territorial.

For identity purposes, I like to believe I belong to the Republic of Alaska.  That is, I feel a close alliance with the environmental aspects, cultural influence and social definitions of my birth place.  An entire country separates us from the United States; one of the largest countries in the world.  Although our transient population consists mainly of  military stationed or job related temporary Continental United States residents, the stable core of generational Alaskan families are a blended mix of European, early United States homesteaders, Japanese, Russian and Alaska’s First People.

Our history is different.  The initial exposure of white settlement began with the Russians.  They colonized Alaska and claimed its territory under the expansion of Christian rule domination instituted by Peter the Great.  Their first industry was the fur trade.  The initial legislation for purchase of Alaska was not motivated by the speculation for profit.  In fact, when the bill was finally pushed through by William Seward, it was called, “Seward’s folly.”  The igniting force was a concern that the Russian Orthodox religion, with its separate seat away from Roman Catholic origins ( which, by the way, all Protestant and Western Bible clutching branches have as a great grandfather) was becoming too powerful a force in the Northern hemisphere and creeping dangerously close to the collective United States.  The Monroe Doctrine fueled the fire to save the “heathens” from Constantinople’s corrupt views.

Within one year after its purchase of seven million, two hundred thousand dollars in 1867, The U.S. federal government had doubled its investment through natural resource development; primarily furs and gold.  William Seward, who eventually established his place as an anti-slavery activist even though he wasn’t completely looked upon favorably by the Lincoln administration as a Whig gone too liberal, was saved from obscurity because even his opponents had to give way and admit the United States had made a wise investment.  To this day, we still have Russian villages.  We still have the influence of Russian Orthodox religion within our society.  Although the groundwork is as disturbing and filled with as many injustices as any invading culture, as a community, it  hasn’t harmed us.  We have absorbed it and it has added to our diversity and enriched us.

As a citizen of the Alaskan Republic, my first priority is to the well-being of its indigenous and generational inhabitants.  I want the Constituents of my domicile to clearly comprehend the value of their resources within a global economy.  I don’t wish to see them sell themselves into slavery for the privilege of resource development.  As a citizen with a global consciousness, I’m aware of what Alaska has to offer and how much of a factor it could be in stabilizing the U.S. economy.  Realistically, I’m sure we will be exploited.

My oldest brother was talking to me the other day about how my parents’ house and estate were ready to go on the market. This was a decision I had been opposed of from the start, as my parents’ real wishes had been to keep the estate intact, but I had learned a long time ago that my voice didn’t count.  The deed was done.  A loan had been drawn to improve the condition of the estate and raise its value.  My brother wasn’t quite satisfied with the appraisal and said he was going to raise the asking price considerably.

I answered that I would be cautious and watch the economy closely right now as it could follow the depression of the real estate bubble in the Continental U.S., especially as the cost of living was rapidly outstripping the earning wage, or it could open up to more resource development and experience another boom, similar to the pipeline era.

He cut me short, telling me I knew nothing about real estate or the economy.  “Alaska is not going to go broke,” he told me with certainty.  He went on to point out he had already purchased one house and sold, and now was purchasing another.

I tried to tell him that he had bought and sold a house during affluent times and these were not affluent times, but he wasn’t listening.  I reflected as he stormed off, however, that he could be right.  Several large gold mines have recently gone into operation after years of dormancy.  Pebbles Mine continues to make its plans for the Bristol Bay despite the growing protests over its exploitation.  The global summit could decide to use metals as a world currency value, in which case, Alaska would probably experience another boom.

For my own satisfaction, I decided to investigate some of the topics for the global summit.  There was considerable address to placing a value on one of the world’s natural resources, but it wasn’t gold or other metals.  It was water.  According to the report issued at the 2009 Davos World Economic Forum, we are headed toward water bankruptcy.  In the United States, a large number of the plants, reservoirs and water pipelines were built fifty to a hundred years ago.  More ominously, most of the water aquifers and surface ground water use are contaminated or drying up from years of overuse.

The report states that Americans pay too little for their water.  They waste it.  They use it to maintain lush lawns, and run it freely from the tap.  It lists many ways that water could be saved and programs that could be initiated for more efficient water recovery, but the contention was clear that it would probably not be a voluntary effort that would cause America to begin conserving water.  It would have to pay and pay well before it could appreciate the value of this commodity.  It seemed kind of cold, kind of cruel.  It seemed it was probably necessary when we live in a world where no one is listening.

About karlsie

Some great perversity of nature decided to give me a tune completely out of keeping with the general symphony; possibly from the moment of conception. I learned to read and speak almost simultaneously. The blurred and muffled world I heard through my first five years of random nerve loss deafness suddenly came alive with the clarity of how those words sounded on paper. I had been liberated for communications. I decided there was nothing more wonderful than writing. It was easier to write than carefully modulate my speech for correct pronunciation, and it was easier to read than patiently follow the movements of people’s lips to learn what they were saying. It was during that dawning time period, while I slowly made the connection that there weren’t that many other people who heard the way I did, halfway between sound and music, half in deafness, that I began to understand that the tune I was following wasn’t quite the same as that of my classmates. I was just a little different. General education taught me not only was I just a little isolated from my classmates, my home was just a little isolated from the outside world. I was born in Alaska, making me part of one of the smallest, quietest minorities on earth. I decided I could live with this. What I couldn’t live with was discovering a few years later, in the opening up of the pipeline, which coincided with my first year of junior college, that there were entire communities of people; more than I could possibly imagine; living impossibly one on top of another in vast cities. It wasn’t even the magnitude of this vision that inspired me so much as the visitors who came from these populous regions and seemed to possess a knowledge so great and secretive I could never learn it in any book. I became at once, very conscious of how rural I was and how little I knew beyond the scope of my environment. I decided it was time to travel. The rest is history; or at least, the content of my stories. I traveled... often to college campuses, dropping in and out of school until one fine day by chance I’d fashioned a bachelor of arts degree in psychology. I’ve worked a couple of newspapers, had a few poems and stories tossed around in various small presses, never receiving a great deal of money, which I’m assured is the norm for a writer. I spent ten years in Mexico, watching the peso crash. There is some obscure reason why I did this, tightening up my belt and facing hunger, but I believe at the time I said it was for love. Here I am, back home, in my beloved Alaska. I’ve learned somewhat of a worldly viewpoint; at least I like to flatter myself that way. I’ve also learned my rural roots aren’t so bad after all. I work in a small, country store. Every day I greet the same group of local customers, but make no mistake. My store isn’t a scene out of Andy Griffith. The people who enter the establishment, which also includes showers, laundry and movie rentals, are miners, oil workers, truck drivers, construction engineers, dog sled racers and carpenters. Sometimes, on the liquor side, the conversations became adult only in vocabulary. It’s a good thing, on the opposite side of the store is a candy aisle filled with the most astonishing collection, it will keep a kid occupied with just wishing for hours. If you tell your kids they can have just one, you have an instant baby sitter; better than television; as they agonize over their choice while you catch up on the gossip with your neighbor. We also receive a lot of tourists, a lot of foreign visitors. They are usually amazed at this first sign of Alaskan rural life style beyond the insulating hub of the Anchorage bowl. Many of them like to hang around and chat. They gawk at our thieves wanted posters. They laugh at our jokes and camaraderie with our customers. I’ve learned another lesson while working there. You don’t have to go out and find the world. If you wait long enough, it comes to you.

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4 Comments on “When Nobody Listens”

  1. Being an extended member of the Commonwealth of Cascadia, this Oregonian agrees with you. A person is ‘legal’ because they’re born — I’m far more concerned about deadbeat-baby-daddies and illegitimacy than I am about a person’s locus-of-birth.

    Resources are wasted – because no one listens.

    Life is cheap – because no one listens.

    Critical thought is gone – we’d sooner vote for ‘Idol’ than president – and if anyone cared, they stopped, a long, long time ago….

  2. It is a sad state of affairs in the world today that if a person makes a stand contrary to what is being done without anyone one else behind them they are branded as a fool. Be it in a family, provincial, state or national level those who make a stand based on their individual beliefs are ignored and shunned. It is this very reason why systems, be it judicial, social, educational or political, are corrupt. There are many who will stand on their pulpits and blast out at the top of their lungs of the way things should be without understanding that when you yell you drown out the ‘yeah buts’. “Yeah buts” are what change is all about; if a person hears those, engages in active listening then quietly states their point of view then there is a revelency to their argument. No one wants to hear their opinion’s flaws so it is far either to shut those oppositional voices down before it creeps into their own consciousness. It is a shame really that so much could be accomplished if only we could sit down and listen for a few moments.

    I am often considered opinionated and carry a big stick to back up my opinions; however that stick is the “yeah buts” to my own opinion on the matter, for the most part, sometimes I prefer not to rationalize but take action but for the most part I try to analyze my own flawed reasoning before stating what I think. This doesn’t allow me to be heard any better than most of those who stand against the norms but but it makes the counter attacks on my position easier to handle. I’m done babbling now….

  3. Astra, it’s funny how our views change just a little once we give them a demographic location. It signals that you are not an isolationist, but pertain to a group with common goals and interests. The conscious knowledge of the external doesn’t change, but a priority is established to clean up your own back yard first. I’m sure that the Commonwealth of Cascadia has many similar problems they wish to address, and the same desires to establish a goal and work toward them. We aren’t strong unless we are united and agreed upon a solidarity of purpose. The key lies in equal representation of demographic area, and not in majority counsel. Majority counsel brings water to swimming pools in L.A. and keep the lawns nourished in Wake County, but it doesn’t address the reservoirs they are depleting nor the problems these diminishing supplies will bring to agriculture. Majority counsel disclaims with dismay that the glaciers are melting, changing the ocean’s currents and raising water levels, but does nothing about relaiming the fresh water. The majority of our population lives in big cities or suburban areas. They don’t see the damage first hand that their life styles are causing. For the good of the whole, it’s time to listen to the warnings of the rural voice.

    A.B., it’s never helped that for most of my life, i’ve looked like a fourteen year old accidentally turned into a woman. People generally found it difficult to take me seriously. Even when i did say something everyone would stop to consider, the first words i usually heard were, “out of the mouths of babes”. No, i did not appreciate it in the least, but i learned pretty quickly to save my repertoire for that furtive society of artists, musicians, philosophers and paranoid thinkers convinced that everyone has a plot for world domination.

    Even with all my middle aged attributes, apparently i look docile enough that just about anybody will spill their views. My employer is Inupiaq. About half the employees or customers are Inupiaq or Athabaskan. I’m their “token whitey”. When i first began working for them, we only knew of one or two racists that would sometimes come in and make crude remarks. We considered them basically harmless and ignored them, cracking jokes about them after they left.

    The past year however, i’ve seen a marked increase in the number of people who will come in and make openly racist comments; even some who have refused service if the person waiting them wasn’t white. My Inupiaq family is exactly that; family. It’s filled with beautiful, round faced children, blushing, sparkling eyed youth, lively, smiling middle aged people and wise elder’s, the faces folded in on themselves. I want no harm to come to them. I don’t want to see the nurtured fires of hatred in my community.

  4. I tend to think that people are actually listening on some level. However the information they are recieving would cause so much cognitive dissonance as to render them catatonic if they took it in all at once. These types of people have to hear things over and over and over, then let it stew. You will know they have “gotten” the message when they present it back to you as if it were their idea in the first place. I have learned to be fine with taking no credit in this type of scenerio as at least the point got across.
    Then there are those who truly will hang to the very last thread of their rhetoric whether they drown with it or not. They cannot be helped; and in addition safeguards and protection of the innocent needs to be a priority when dealing with this type of person. Cracking jokes at their expense is not enough.

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