Snake Oil

i am not afraid of snakes. i have been around cottonmouths, water moccasins, southwest rattlers, cobras, and even some weird dude snakes in northeast Florida, which i could not identify yet knew they were poisonous by their eyes being on the side of their heads,  not forward. No, i’m not afraid of snakes. Just use good sense if i am around them.

But i am, most definitely, afraid of snake oil.

It occurred to me over the past few days, i am, this country is, awash in snake oil. I am afraid.

Growing up, in case you haven’t figured it out, i loved westerns. i loved them so much, i continue to use the terms “oater” to capture the essence of the genre. I love them still and have discovered the Starz network has a “Westerns” category with many of the great “B” oaters in the library. In fact, there seems to be at least one hundred Hopalong Cassidy movies there. I plan to watch all of them when Maureen and Sarah are not in the house. i even am considering setting up a theater in my garage workshop to watch oaters, complete with fountain cokes and popcorn (and one quarter for admission), only to be watched in the afternoon to honor the Saturday matinees at the Capitol and Princess theaters in Lebanon, Tennessee in years gone by.

In a great number of those oaters, there was a scene or two where some snake-eyed yahoo would come to town in a painted up wagon, stand atop the wagon bed, and sell snake oil.

A small crowd would gather round and listen to the yahoo proclaim this snake oil was a miracle cure for what ailed you, whatever ailed you, and if someone would purchase it, it would cure gout, pneumonia, allergies, gunshot wounds, whooping cough, even snake bites, and bring about world peace. It would always turn out the yahoo’s miracle cure was a syrup consisting of perhaps honey, vinegar, a good dose of rot gut whiskey, and maybe some spices to make it taste a little better.

The snake oil never worked and some duped settler would demand his money back. Eventually, the snake oil salesman either would be ridden out of town on a rail or perhaps, tarred and feathered before being chased out in just his red long johns (and i still laugh when i think of him awkwardly running toward the wide open range in his long johns).

Well now, it seems, snake oil is everywhere, permeating our society, actually running it. And everybody is buying it like it’s going out of style. Well, not everybody. i ain’t bought it and don’t intend to. i am still afraid of snake oil.

It seems we don’t sell products or services anymore. We sell marketing and reader/listener/watcher/target victim statistics, and all those folks standing around the snake oil wagon are buying it. By the ton. We are convincing us to buy something without having something to sell. We sell stuff so we can make more money, not make money by selling products and services. This system permeates our world. As one very shaky “business development” guy asked when i also was in the gig of military contracting, we are all “selling smoke.” It’s a shell game.

Hello. It’s snake oil.

Some yahoo somewhere came up with the idea we could make money by not having a real person answer the phone and providing us a phone tree connection that makes poor Charlie on the MTA look like a quick commuter. Sometimes i think the purpose is to piss me off enough i will hang up and not use any of the service or go to the website text where it will take me about ten times as long to get to anyone who happens to be headless and voiceless and never quite figures out what i really want.

Snake oil.

And politics. Yeh, that’s snake oil. Everybody claiming they know best and they are going to take care of your problems and make you happy with no worries by making it a hell of a lot less happy for all of those folks you don’t agree with. And all those folks on the other side are heathen and worshippers of the devil. Oh, and in the process, they are set up for life and play the role and probably don’t give a damn because they and their families are set for their lives and the lives of their offspring. And that’s all sides, all points on the political spectrum.

Snake oil.

Look, no government system is going to work if the folks keep screwing it up. The one we’ve got had the best chance, but it turns out people running it from the start had their own agendas while they created a wonderful dream and one of the few that would work. One many of our citizens now won’t buy into because:

It’s snake oil. They turn the dream upside down.

And no politician or website or corporation or attorney is going to make your life work the way you want it. They are selling making it easy, making it not hurt YOU.

Snake oil.

As my friend and former POW, Dave Carey, once said, “Life ain’t supposed to be easy.” It’s life.

The key to having a good life is having good relationships with people because you are willing to go more than halfway. If you go more than halfway and it doesn’t work, it’s time to look for new relationships. And whatever it is we are doing, it ain’t easy and never will be.

We aren’t perfect. People having difficulty with each other is part of the game. We need to work on that, and as my friend Mary (Mary, i apologize because i can’t recall your last name right now and am too lazy to look it up) in a program for facilitating a new auto selling program) once said, “You can always say, ‘I’m sorry.’” We make mistakes.

Hopefully, we aren’t selling snake oil.

And “easy” ain’t the answer. Working at something is a good thing. In fact, working at something feels good.

Money ain’t the answer. It’s snake oil. Oh, it helps, and i wish i had enough to do all of the things i want to do, go to all of the places i want to go, and to some extent make my life work better, more effectively, but not easier. Ain’t gonna happen.

Money seems to have become some status symbol, some misconstrued measure of power and fame and status. BS. The snake oil salesman made a goodly amount of money before the settler town folk found out it was garbage. Found out that bozo was selling snake oil. They wanted to believe it worked, but they found out.

Snake oil.

Money is effectively ruining sports. i was effusive when sports contests i wanted to see became available in mass on television or TV’s successor. But the rhythm, the beauty, the joy of a game or a meet has disappeared. Now it’s a circus of replays, talking heads never stopping, telling you how, why, and what is wrong with everybody, and how they could do it so much better, and the halftimes of marching bands and majorettes and the Texas A&M Military Marching Band, have given way to ex coaches, athletes, and trained snake oil salesmen known as sports media journalists sounding more like a bunch of old women at a quilting bee (and the latter is much better) babbling, crowing, whining, over analyzing, and talking ad nauseum off point. It’ no longer sports.

And now, the coaches aren’t in it for the players. They are in it for the fame, the glory, and, of course, the money. The athletes themselves are selling snake oil as well. They no longer, in spite of their protestations, play for the love of the sport, taking one for the team. It’s the money, either right now or in the future.

Snake oil.

Okay, i’ve had my rant. I needed it. i will get back to my life, and i will enjoy it. You see, i am old enough to have seen plenty of snake oil salesmen fail in oaters. And i am old enough, i don’t have to buy snake oil. And i don’t plan to.

I do worry about the next generations of my family and friends having to deal with snake oil because if they keep selling it and the people keep buying it, the next thing down the road ain’t going to be pretty.

Snake oil.

i wonder if i could get Hoppy to take ‘em on.

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