Musical Chairs

(10 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

That old game, I played it in grade school.  A circle of chairs, say 10 chairs, for 11 people.

And the music starts, and we all walk in a circle around the chairs.  Until the music stops.  Then we dash about to sit on one of the chairs and thereby claim it.  We can sit!  We have a chair!  Ha!

There’s one person left standing.  They do not get a chair and are out of the game.

This goes on, subtracting a chair each time, until there is one chair left.  As the music starts, two people walk in a circle around the chair and when the music stops, well, we have a winner!  Someone gets the chair!  And all the rest are left out.

It’s a pretty strange game, come to think of it.  Though if I recall, it was kind of fun, too.

Homelessness is rising:

Homeless advocates say families are flooding homeless shelters across the United States in numbers not seen for years, camping out in motels or staying with friends and relatives following foreclosures on tens of thousands of homes during the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

“It’s very depressing because we have been making progress in getting it down in the past couple of years,” Nan Roman, president of the Washington-based National Alliance to End Homelessness, said in an interview.

Demand for emergency food assistance rose in 20 of the 25 cities surveyed, the report added.

The report marks a reversal from a U.S. government survey released in July that showed the number of chronically homeless Americans declining by 15 percent to about 1.6 million people from October 1, 2006, through September 30, 2007.

“We’re seeing a new trend and I would expect the number to rise substantially,” Roman said, noting a usual lag between when a family crisis occurs and when homelessness begins.

She said the strain on budgets from the yearlong recession could make it difficult for cities to handle the increase.

For a more personal take from one of our own on what I have put in bold, read NLinStPaul’s excellent essay.

I remember at the end of the Reagan/Bush era, I remember the city streets of the Big Apple thronged with homeless folks.  Most of them were very nice people, imo.  Some were crazy, as the laws passed in the 70’s about involuntary commitment were changed, and left folks with mental problems to fend for themselves.

Hard times ahead.  Hard times right now.  Some of us have chairs, others have been left standing.

But really, that game is ultimately false.  All I have to do is think of 9/11 to realize that.  Folks who had it made, folks bringing in six and seven-figure salaries, with a good house in the ‘burbs and a protected family, they died in a split second, and all that so-called “security” was revealed as hollow.  Others, who didn’t have much, survived unscathed.

There is no chair.

I think the danger in reading about hard times in the news (in this case, Reuters) is that the very “professionalism” of the story is misleading.  Some of those very reporters are going to go through hard times as newspapers and media start laying folks off.  It’s important to understand this story on a personal level as well, and that is where I think citizen journalism will be helpful.

Good fortune and misfortune in the coming years won’t be so easy to ascertain.  To me, good fortune will come to those who can as buhdy says, eat the bitter.

There is no chair.  But if there was a chair, perhaps a homeless person would win it.  Moral:  Better be nice to everyone, regardless of their station in life.  You never know who has the chair.  


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  1. … where we went around “the mulberry bush,” except of course it was in a classroom and there were no mulberry bushes present.

  2. Strange game, indeed, just like a lot of traditional fair tales.

    Thanks fot this, NSP.  Kinda’ puts things in perspective — will it do any good?  Well, if enough people could just get their heads together — well, maybe!

  3. …metaphor for society, really.  Keep shaving off the outliers, sharpening the filter.  Eventually you have to find a new chair and you’ve lost whatever it takes to get the next one, that magical blend of marketablity, age and competence, and it’s fingerless gloves, one salmon and an ice floe for you.

    A friend of mine who worked in WTC shortly after they went up responded to my comment about not being nearly so sentimentally stricken as I was supposed to be, esp. given the relative wealth involved (yeah, I was one of those people) described going to temp there and the lifelong secretarial types she worked for, who never missed a day and made everything work and got shit for wages.  Sort of changed my class perspective on it :}

  4. recently reposted a letter he’d written to his daughter on September 12, 2001.

    I can imagine looking uptown as the plane came closer, and seeing Harlem or the South Bronx and processing if only for a moment the irony: that those were the safest places in all of New York yesterday. Funny how even terrorists know which victims count most in America.

    Yes baby girl, If America wants safety, we’d best get our asses to the ‘hood. Get our boogie shoes to 123rd street. Move immediately into the Robert Taylor Homes, or Cabrini Green, or the lower 9th Ward in New Orleans. Do not pass go let alone Wall Street. For there we are like sitting ducks.

    Musical chairs indeed!!!  

  5. Although the security of wealth, a false sense in any way, is presumed to shield one from being left standing, leaving that to the” lessers”, when it comes to the electric chair, the lessers seem to always get the “preferred” seating.

    No matter when the music stops.

    • Alma on December 14, 2008 at 6:35 am

    No wonder I’m not winning.  I keep trying to bring in more chairs for everyone.

    • kj on December 14, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    i guess that, to me, is the ultimate safety.

    i have a chair (and an afghan and a cat and a pillow and a…) and when it is time to leave the chair, i want it to be my choice and i hope, hope, hope it is made with grace.

    i want to leap overboard on a whale watch… i want to fall asleep by a tree that is frozen with ice…  i want to hold my arms straight up in celebration and sink to the bottom of the lake.  i want this choice.

    everything else is just living!

  6. when you have a golden parachute. Where that parachute will land is a mystery to me. No where I want to be. Maybe standing is better, hard to walk away when your seated protecting your flimsy useless chair. What happens when the claiming of chairs becomes irrelevant to everyone but those in possession of these seats?  They continue to sit while the rest have to get busy creating a new game one that provides more then a chair. If we could just get beyond the myth that these are the only chairs and there is not enough for all and learn how to build our own. Even a good rock or log makes a nice seat, chairs are for resting not claiming.  

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