I had come to see my retinal specialist.
The place gets more like a factory with every passing what? Quarterly earnings report?
In between the generally unnecessary but billable examinations with new machines
They had me wait on a chair in a narrow little hallway,
Sitting next to other waiting people, across from the examination and consultation rooms.
Rather than read or draw, I decided to meditate, recalling, though not practicing,
The Transcendental Meditation technique I had learned in college
45 years ago.
I found myself wondering what the purpose of meditation was.
Or what was my purpose in meditating?
To slow my down my heart and get the benefits of a nap without napping?
To recall the Oneness of the universe or the purposelessness of human existence?
Reduce stress? (In the interest of my arteries, prolonging my life?)
You could say that wondering about the purpose of meditation was serving as my mantra,
My way of slowing my heart rate and passing the time.
The aging woman in the consultation room opposite me had cataracts.
In my head I started sketching a poem about a future –
People had less money,
Or medical consumerism, along with consumerism more generally, became passé.
Teeth did not have to be white or straight anymore.
Think of the centuries after the Black Death,
Before enclosures, poor laws and piece work took their full, deadly effects.
As long as the pigs and potatoes held out, people were content to drink, sleep and fornicate.
Work was not a priority.
In my future, it was realized that most people did not need to have good eyesight.
Automobiles were not used even by the rich.
If you didn’t have a television, you had a radio,
And there are always the kids yelling outside,
People with their dogs chatting outside the café below my apartment.
It occurred to me that my future had already begun –
When drug companies got so many women to take birth-control pills,
Which lowered their sex drives.
People didn’t have to have sex anymore,
And if they did, they could have sex without consequences.
It’s become strangely popular, this idea that our lives might have no consequences.
Does this just mean that people don’t have to respond to cellphone messages, even from “friends”?
Or could the current lack of consequences include global warming?
Or try this: Could death not be a consequence of birth?
An ad running on my TV these days says that breast cancer is unacceptable,
Failure is unacceptable.
I heard my name.
It was time for my consultation.
Touch wood (!) my retinas were much as before.
My left eye doesn’t see much; my right, perhaps too much.
“Come and see me again in six months,” said the doctor, whose main interest is golf.
The young woman behind the front counter scheduled my next visit
And took my co-pay.
drafted 5 March 2019
∩ In his chapter on the expropriation of the agricultural population in the first volume of Das Kapital, Marx argued that the enclosure of agricultural land in England—moving from people growing their own food to a few large farms; eliminating shared agricultural land—played a key role in the development of capitalism. It transformed land from a means of subsistence into a means of making profits on commodity markets, and it transformed small peasant proprietors and serfs into wage-laborers, whose opportunities to exit the labor market were cut off. (An interesting parallel: what happened to women and families when it came to seem a “right” of all women to be full participants in the formal work force, and thus, we might say, women’s opportunities to exit the labor market were cut off.)
All I know is Wikipedia? The English Poor Laws began to be enacted in the wake of the 1348-50 outbreak of the Black Death, when an estimated 30-40 percent of the population died. This left the surviving workers in great demand, and thus landowners either had to pay higher wages or leave their land fallow. And the workers saw the higher wages as providing them an opportunity to work fewer hours or to move around the country to where living or working conditions seemed better. So, for example, the 1351 Statute of Labourers required everyone who could work to work, and that wages be kept at pre-plague levels. Additional laws were passed to punish “escaped” workers, and the 1388 Statute of Cambridge placed restrictions on the movement of labourers and beggars.
We might say that the English slave trade began shortly after that, or that it had already begun. Class war never ends. Absent a plague, civil war or other form of mass extermination, those on the bottom rarely get a fair share.