Flint is What Happens When Atlas Shrugs

Back when I was a middle and high school teacher, I often had to write students up for dumb stuff they did in the classroom.  They’d have their phones out during class or they’d be talking when they weren’t supposed to be or whatever.  Usually phones.

Anyway, so school policy would be for me to ask them politely for their phone so I could confiscate it and then give it back at the end of class.  Usually the kids complied.  Sometimes they wouldn’t.  At this point, I would have to ask them again.  Again, some of them would refuse.  At this point, I’d crouch down on my old-man knees next to their desks and whisper to them something like, “Look.  I’m not mad at you.  I’m not angry.  I’m not yelling.  I just need you to hand me your phone.  You’ll get it back.  I’ll make sure.”

At this point, almost all the kids have given me the phone.  Sometimes they would still refuse and, again crouching down by them, I’d say “Look, you know what happens if you refuse, right?”

At this point, their friends would usually be lobbying for them to “just give him the phone” because most kids are good kids and they don’t want their friends to get into trouble.

Some kids are just kids, though, and even when they know they’re going to get sent out of the room and get detention and have their parents called and maybe get suspended because they just got called down to the office for the third time that week, they still refuse.

At this point, I’d sigh, walk to my classroom phone, call the main office and ask that they send an administrator down to remove the child from the classroom.  Sometimes it was the dean, or a principal or vice-principal.  Sometimes it was the school safety officer.

And the kid would be escorted down, just like a perpetrator being escorted by the police, all because he had refused to comply with a very simple command.  A very routine situation, in which the kid was clearly in the wrong, had escalated almost to the level of a legal action.

Then, later, I’d have to fill out an incident report describing why I had asked for the child to be removed and what the problem was and how I  handled the situation.

For this last part–how I handled it–I would write down that my interactions with the student resulted in “the natural consequences of his/her actions.”

I’d like to comment on this idea that I hadn’t really punished the student, but that their getting sent out was just a natural consequence of their behavior.  That is to say, a reasonable person, if asked what should happen to someone who did something bad and refuses to obey an authority figure, would describe exactly what had happened: the offender would get hauled off somewhere. (Conversely, an unreasonable person would say that I “should have just left him alone”).

But, like, they’re kids, so they’re dumb and they don’t do what’s in their best interest to begin with, and they don’t think very far ahead.

But I don’t want to talk about just the kids being punished.  In a classroom of 20-30 kids there would always be the ones who “got it.”  These were the young adults in the sea of teenagers.  And you could see the frustration in their eyes while their class would be interrupted while some kid was getting in trouble.

Every once in a while, I’d look up from my little tete-a-tete with phone kid and lock eyes with the good kids and mouth “I’m so sorry about this.”  We understood each other.  They were as frustrated as I was.

There wasn’t a formula to produce them.  Some were rich.  Some were poor.  Single parents, two parents, whatever.  Sometimes they were twelve, sometimes they were eighteen.  What they had in common was that they were humans who had decided that they weren’t going to act like children anymore.

Those kids grew up to be leaders.  They grew up to be competent humans.  They’re the ones who work at the DMV and don’t mess up your paperwork.  They’re the ones at the office who refill the toner cartridge in the printer, even if they have to go google how to do it.  They don’t mind learning how to do something so that they won’t have to rely on someone else to do it.

Simply put, they’re the glue that holds society together.  They become the secretaries at your grad school that make sure your idiot professors (who make three times what they do) can sit around and BS all day instead of doing the administrative work that has to happen.  They’re the assistant principal who actually runs the show while the principal runs around being head cheerleader.  They’re the garbage truck guy who doesn’t just leave your cans lying in the middle of the street.

They’re the people who push the motherfucking carts into the motherfucking cart corrals at Walmart.

And they are fleeing the hell out of mainstream America as fast as they can.

You can call it brain drain, but it’s really competency-drain.  The competent humans are sick of picking up after everyone else’s messes and are segregating themselves from the rest of the population.

Atlas has already shrugged.  The John Galts are already gone.

Especially in places like Flint.  Flint has a population of 99,000 people, none of whom are even remotely capable of being competent humans.  Because competent humans do not sit around and let two separate governments that they elected poison their children.

If any competent humans had existed in the past, you can bet that at some point they thought to themselves “Hmm, we keep electing politicians who can’t balance a budget and can’t figure out how to provide basic services.  I could stay here, or I could move to another place where people have their shit together.”

It’s not hard to imagine where that line of reasoning went [hint: it’s why I moved from Illinois to Indiana.]

But Flint isn’t just Flint.  Flint is everywhere.  Detroit is Flint.  Stockton is Flint.  Harrisburg is Flint.  Apparently, most of Appalachia has been, is, and always will be Flint. Chicago is going to be Flint (I can’t even imagine the covered-up-oh-no-shit-piles that Daley the Younger left for Rahm Emmanuel upon the former’s departure).

But not everywhere is Flint.  Naperville, Illinois is not Flint.  Carmel, Indiana is not Flint.

People from Chicago could very well imagine their city government poisoning them.  People from Naperville could not.

The difference is that Chicago is full of children; Naperville is full of adults.  Chicago’s civil service is a jobs program whose main goal is not providing service, let alone civilly; Naperville’s civil service is, well, a civil service.

Charles Murray says that this is the white community “coming apart.”  And in part, this is true.  White Flight in the 1950’s and 1960’s was middle class whites trying to escape from poor blacks.  Today we’re seeing the same thing only with middle class whites fleeing from poor whites.

But that’s not the only problem.  Sure, competent humans have abandoned poor communities in droves, leaving them with ill-provided public services.  But the problem has metastasized into a national crisis, most evident in this presidential race and its dearth of support for actual, real adults running for office.

The Democratic Party has not seriously considered nominating a governor for President since 1996.  The Republican Party will not break bread with Kasich or Christie because they had the gall to be actual executives, which involves making actual complicated decisions instead of just giving nice speeches.

The same assholes who kept forwarding the little “miss me yet?” pictures of W in 2010 now refuse to support his brother because he speaks a foreign language.  The majority of Republicans want to either elect a used-car salesman who just got endorsed by a woman who found the job of governing Alaska, a state so rich in natural resources that the residents all get tax rebates, too difficult and quit or a man whose claim to fame is that he’s really good at making the government stop working.  The hope of conservatives in the party is a nice-looking, well-spoken, first term senator who talks very, very pretty.

At the same time, the Democrats have narrowed their field to two, one of whom literally made a career out of defending rapists, and the other of who lives closer to Canada, physically and mentally, than he does to Washington, D.C.

Some of us saw this coming. When the US in 2012 straight up looked at two candidates, one of whom was a competent, sober human being, and the other of whom was, well, not, and they picked door number two, that was it.  The American Electorate had firmly put themselves in the “children” camp.

There is no return from this.  The children aren’t going to grow up.  There is no super ego in America any more, just id.  Those of us who read our Nietzsche knew it was just a matter of time coming, anyway.

Like dogs resisting getting their nails trimmed, the large majority of Americans can no longer even see what’s good for them, let alone enact those things necessary for their survival (i.e. not poisoning one’s children unto death) or thriving (i.e. higher taxes and less spending).

But really, how could you expect a citizenry to be self-governing when they can’t even put their goddam carts away at Walmart?








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