Monday, June 28, 2010

WEATHER AND DEMOCRACY

     I guess people born and raised in areas of great humidity adjust to that, perhaps even prefer the wet warmth. But for those of us who live where there are seasons, it is unavoidable stickiness. The common refrain up north here near New York City is that “I don’t mind the heat (say 90 degrees, which is hot for us), but I can’t stand the humidity.”

Of course, the same lips, including mine, also form the words, “I don’t mind the snow, in fact, it’s beautiful, but the ice, no.” Obviously there are regional variations to the weather – the dry but very hot conditions of the Southwest, for example. In Texas, where I visited in December and found temperatures in the mid-70s, that was a cold snap, and some were pining for summer’s constant heat wave.

At least many in Texas, though not all, have air conditioning, and in the Northeast, etc., too, or “chillers” or  heat pumps. This is America, and the middle class, low, true middle and high, has made creature comforts widely available. The seasons are more a function of the outdoors, if you choose them to be.

The great middle class civilizes America, even applying it to home and car comfort, and as such is a bulwark for democracy. I cannot imagine what social troubles might ensue if suddenly there was a reduced middle class and, so, less paid-for AC and heat.

This is not 1936, with a Great Depression having thwarted American higher expectation and materialism not yet the routine anyway. The middle class was much smaller, though it had begun to develop at large in the dizzy-hot economy of the later 1920s. It took the Depression tryouts of one government program after another, some failing, some not, some working, to keep the people’s mind off their class worries. World War II production and post-conflict largesse brought a real American middle class, along with government as an economic but increasingly involved, even smothering “buddy.”

Now, as the rest of the world also develops a middle class, our own is shrinking from high unemployment, The AC is still on in the great heat, and there is warmth for most in winter. Yet, where there are seasons and where there are not, there is a growing, disturbing worry that when it gets hot and when it gets turns cold, there  won’t be relief. Government only does so much, for it spends largely in deficit, not investment.

In the old days, the middle class came to the rescue. Or at least the aspirations of those seeking such status propelled effective government of least, but necessary, intervention. Soon enough, who will stave off the humidity?

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