Populist Rant (Largely unrelated to beer) (Friday Edition)

Growing from infancy into childhood we are introduced to illusions that we collect and refine. The rest of aging seems to be a process of dealing with our roster of illusions: either by shedding them when they no longer work for us or seeing them actually assaulted and defeated. Also there’s substitution. And collaboration. And prostitution. And eventually we are hopefully old peeps adorning porches and happy just to still be ticking.

They say that older people are happier than younger, which seems counter-intuitive for a moment and then makes perfect sense. Illusions are heavy baggage, and the strain of fitting the world in them is a crippler. The denial or suffering required to deal with the damage done to them by brute reality exacts psychic pounds. But who is illusionless expects little and so’s happy with what comes. Expecting nothing is only jaded if you’re bitter about it; if you’re cool with it, well, it’s like what the brilliant and peculiar Darryl Zero says in the brilliant and peculiar film Zero Effect (1998) about looking for things: “When you look for something specific, your chances of finding it are very bad, because of all the things in the world, you only want one of them. When you look for anything at all, your chances of finding it are very good, because of all the things in the world, you’re sure to find some of them.”

Sometimes, though, an illusion is so appealing that it’s impossible to flush it all the way down the toilet. You start flushing it, then reach in and save it and say, hang on, I can do something with this. Take the idea of meritocracies, for instance. We grow up thinking that if we work harder than the next guy it will translate into success. We grow up in thrall to the idea that every generation does a little better than the last owing to equality of opportunity and hard work. The cream rises to the top, the early bird gets the worm, blah blah blah. Some of us see through this illusion earlier than others. Some cleave to it out of necessity. (I heard a one-percenter interviewed on Planet Money or something who said that a person with a cell phone isn’t poor. “If you have a cell phone, you aren’t poor,” he said, chuckling.) The truth is that equality of opportunity is a myth so long as schools are unequally funded. A smart kid from a poor neighborhood can reach the same finish line at the same time as a middling kid from a rich neighborhood, maybe, but she’s got to run faster and harder and the wind’s against her and someone’s shooting at her and there’s all this crap in her way.

It’s childish to think that society at large will furnish conditions in which merit blindly determines success, but it’s grown-up to look to your own. It isn’t an illusion if your own actions bring it forth.

There is much that we at the French Broad Brewery do not have. We are not shiny. We are not controlled by millionaires. We are limited. We are the old horse, the small claim, the bowling shoes, the gift wrapped in newspaper, the battered car with a busted odometer, the sweaty collar, the strong back and its ache at day’s end.

But we’re running hard. And our beer? Our beer is pretty damn good, y’all. Come on over and get you some this weekend. We’re here every day.

This van has a hole in it and I'm not even kidding.

This van has a hole in it and I’m not even kidding.