Punchinello’s Chronicles

August 28, 2008

Punchinello’s Chronicles

Punchinello is one of the earliest examples of the jester and clown, with an important role in society and the court. Modern clowns, familiar to many of us from circuses, tend to be slapstick, roly-poly, brash, and loud. Even so, many young children are frightened by clowns. Early jesters weren’t so simplistic.

The early jesters filled a purpose in providing strong contradictary views to royalty. Where political and military advisers often were pushed to tow the party line (or end up beheaded), the jester often could go up against a king, queen, or high-level official. It was all a “joke,” so therefore didn’t have to be taken seriously.

Not so long ago, I was working and making money, enjoying life, and trying on various careers. Bad things happened, and like the collapsing floors of the World Trade Center buildings, every single safety net broke through. No, I wasn’t one paycheck away from being homeless; I had quite a number of backups. But even so, life came together in a perfect storm, and knocked me off the cliff.

Being over 55, I find that I’m also part of the aging Baby Boomer population. Everything anyone’s ever written about projected trends and the likely future for our group, starting way back in the early 1970s, now has a chance to be tested. Sadly, much of what was projected forty years ago has indeed begun to take place.

People say that older people always complain about younger people. Every older generation gripes about the music, the culture, the work ethic, morals, and social systems of the younger generations. People also say that all this griping is par for the course. Things aren’t getting worse, only changing: That’s what people say.

Unfortunately, it isn’t true. Americans have a tendency to “muddle along,” winging things and solving problems at the last minute, when they’ve become a crisis. “Somehow we’ll get through it, and things will go back to the way they were,” people say. None of it’s true.

The average lifestyle is indeed getting worse. Our real incomes, value systems, and our entire social structure are collapsing. It’s not new; it’s the typical cycle of 80 years, four generations. Throughout history, we come to a crisis point where that which came prior is swept away in a major, critical turning point (“The Fourth Turning,” Neil Howe & William Strauss). We live in that time, now, and see the process everywhere.

So many people are still clinging to the middle class lifestyle, hopes and goals, and methods put in place following World War II. And yet, so much of that thinking has reached an endgame. Very little remains of the economic and social platform that led to the great postwar boom, expanding economy, and everything that made America a superpower. World competition has caught up with us, yet we’ve done practically nothing to build on our past energy.

Here at the bottom of the economy, below the poverty threshold, reality is an everyday event. There aren’t any fancy theories, delusions of past glories. There’s little room for mistakes. Poverty is a difficult condition, filled with many people too stupid to do much about it. Yet an increasing number of previously middle class, well-educated, skilled citizens are arriving at this level. It’s not stupidity, incompetence, ignorance or bad decisions.

Life has a way of bringing about massive changes to anyone’s situation. Maybe it’s illness, perhaps a catastrophic injury, it could be job changes; all sorts of things. Like any good dramatic novel, life is a story and the author isn’t available for argument. Things happen, in other words, and we either spend our lives regretting what might have been, or we start out in a new direction.

It’s easy and natural to theorize about how to fix the poverty problem when you have economic security and a fanciful view of how life used to be. Most of our academics, pseudo-philosophers, politicians, and social engineers spout all sorts of nonsense, causing disaster and collapse with every new program. Who’s to report all this?

The jester comes from even a longer line in history, going back to the Fool. We see this history in Tarot cards depicting the Fool as a sort of innocent wanderer through life. He represents imagination and fancy, often carrying a rose and being accompanied by a dog. Some say that the dog is the representation of the real world, nipping at the heels of the Fool.

The Fool also is shown along a mountain trail, perilously close to going off the edge. These days, we use the expression “over the top,” or “going off a cliff” to indicate someone in such a dangerous condition. Although many say that the rose is a depiction of an appreciation of beauty, the rose has historically represented secrets and occult knowledge.

Punchinello’s Chronicles are the reports from the bottom, from a fool’s perspective. These are the views, opinions, stories, thoughts, and general rants that won’t make it into the news. Here are the real-world results and events of all the social programs, liberal stupidity, conservative denial, and general hullabaloo taking place in social discourse. Don’t agree? That’s okay, it’s all a joke anyway.

Right?

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