MANN TALK: America's Absurdities

by Perry Mann

Thus, there gnaws at his being something missing; and however much he possesses or however creative he is in substituting for it, there still gnaws a primal nostalgia and the feeling of something lost

. What is gone is his union with his origin, an origin, in his waywardness and folly, he has and is with diligence and deliberation destroying, and an origin he is fast replacing with an absurd world. Further in his folly, he believes, to his detriment, that within the fortress of his city, he has buffered and bunkered himself from the reach of nature’s universal Precepts and has liberated himself through science and technology from the impingement and penalty thereof.


Man once used his muscle and bone to do the work necessary to earn his keep and to produce his needs. The backhoe has replaced the shovel, the corn combine has replaced horse and hoe; in short, the machine has replaced man. The result is not paradise. Idleness and boredom have driven him to drugs and alcohol, to crimes and corruption. He cannot rest or sleep, he needs tons of pills and powders for sour stomach, irregular bowls, neuroses, neuralgia, and insomnia and for aches and pains from instep to earlobe, all of which ailments were rarely known when he axed the tree, hoed the corn and shoveled earth.


It’s a rare one who does physical work anymore and it’s even a rarer person who walks. Most people eat at restaurants or fast food places. Their intake of calories is enough to provide energy to a ditch digger or brick mason for a ten hour shift. But few people dig ditches or lay bricks. They sit and shuffle paper or sit and do something else.


Overweight and little exercise are no-noes to nature. She exacts a tax on health for such a condition and omission. But no problem: this country has the best medical care on the globe for a price. If the heart is clogged with cholesterol, one needs only to order a new one or have the old ingeniously repaired at a cost that would exceed the ordinary patient’s yearly income.


So is not this absurdity? Technology has eliminated the sweating brow and has idled hand and foot. Entrepreneurs sensing great profit in the sale of sweets and grease to the idle have built more fast food joints to accommodate the liberated than there are buds in spring; and they have sugared and spiced and effervesced water to improve nature’s drink to quench the restlessness of those with too many pauses in life. Tobacco companies sensing great profit in selling addiction to the restless have hawked with bucks by the millions the nicotine fix. The maladies resulting from sitting, riding, fast food, pop and tobacco have enriched the medical industry the drug and insurance companies.


Madison Ave., always eager to brainwash the populace from nonage to nonagernarian for a profit, have with TV’s complicity shrilled commercials and drilled messages with the persistence of Chinese torture, peddling at the same time the produce and products that are the cause as well as the purported cure of the said legion of maladies. Children, who are awed by the phony TV personalities selling them sick and shortened lives, are hooked by the frauds before they know the truth; and most go to their graves unaware that they were pawns in the capitalistic game of profits before people.


One can channel surf and happen often upon the absurdity of an evangelist faith-healing  the sick, sore, lame and disabled. It is a circus of superstitions the likes of which one can be certain Erasmus once observed. The evangelist cures every kind of ailment in a manner of minutes. He cures children, the old and not so old. He has his patients rising from wheelchairs and running up and down the stage to convince a congregation of hundreds, before its very eyes, of the miraculous power of the touch of his hands. The stage is cluttered with discarded crutches and wheelchairs. He does all but raise the dead.


Hippies that grow a few plants of marijuana for home consumption, if apprehended, face felony charges, while tobacco farmers make more money from an acre of tobacco plants than any other crop. Also, makers of cigarettes --- and other tobacco products that contribute to the addiction of millions--- harvest shekels by the bushels, amass estates that afford their progeny a lifetime of extravagant indolence and indulgence, and leave a legacy of lung cancer, emphysema and shortened lives.


Erasmus, were he here, would discern soon the mother of absurdities: a nation of fabulous wealth that worships before the Golden Calf of Commerce forty hours a week and gives lip service to its Christian God for an hour on Sunday. This disproportion of work and worship, in view of the admonition of the Christian God’s Son that possession of worldly riches is an insuperable obstacle to one’s election to  the Kingdom --- would induce Erasmus to add another chapter to “The Praise of Folly.” He would note in it as well that  few had most of the wealth and  many had the least of it.

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Perry Mann is a former teacher, a lawyer, a former prosecuting attorney of Summers County and a columnist for Huntington News Network. He lives in Hinton, WV. He turned 90 earlier this month; he was born in Charleston, WV in 1921.

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