Anomie


Should we invite the neighbors over for dinner?
Their politics so different from ours.
All the more reason. Combat anomie!
He’s worried the town’s losing population
but opposes immigration. I like immigrants
but hate passing people on my morning walk.

The whole mountainous western region of the state
is losing population at a rate of 1% per annum.
The young move out, the old stay put but
young artists priced out of big cities move in
looking for affordable studio space. How low
can the population go as long as rents stay low?

We did agree about the fire department expansion
being premature (him) or unnecessary (me).
He argued we should renovate the high school first
the roof is caving in and walls crumbling.
But you can teach under a spreading chestnut tree
or baobab and science needs the world more than a laboratory.

I teach at the old 2nd St. jail in Pittsfield
a town that doesn’t know if it’s coming up or going down.
A few shootings last month, no deaths.
They’re holding their breath but also trying to attract life
science businesses to the industrial park. The local bank’s
expanding, buying smaller banks in neighboring civilizations.

Eventually our fire department got the vote they wanted,
just called another meeting and packed the auditorium.
The final winning argument was we can do the school,
the fire house and the police station all at once.
Don’t accept defeat, limitations. Defeat anomie!
Anomie means lawlessness and purposeless in Greek

so that’s not exactly what we’re trying to defeat.
It’s the mismatch between our aspirations and resources,
no, the dissonance between our tribe and nation,
no, the individual as sexual animal and intellectual,
no, the farmer and the banker, the loved one and the litter,
no, whatever happens to you after you die and belief in reincarnation.

For me, it always boils down to mortality
every conversation, which is why no one comes to dinner.
Whether the fire department buys an exorbitant parcel
at the expense of a future school renovation
in a town slightly losing population but still viable
with a college, bank, artists and a few working farms

is everything and nothing, as Borges says.
Deutsch says death ought to be curable.
The new high school or fire station, conditions like anomie
v. democracy, new life forms, self-conscious species
from the laboratory or the biome. How de body?
Today ok. Tomorrow I don’t know. Potential

energy, lover, killer, anomie. Karl Popper
had such faith in the rational whereas Niebuhr
acknowledged man’s ego is uncontrollable except
by force. Conflict is inevitable. But at dinner
we agree it doesn’t always have to be violent or terminal.
We can do the fire department, police station, the school and anomie.


Copyright 2014 by Robert Ronnow.