Some jokes manage to be old, corny, and profound at the same time. For example, one routine has a guy asking a comedian the secret to being funny.
Guy: “What's the secret of--”
Comedian (interrupting): “Timing!”
Well, that's old, for sure. Corny? Yep. But profound? Yes, indeed. Because in communications, timing really is everything. People don't heed something unless they feel a reason to heed it. You can't command someone's attention, the best you can do is seduce it, baby. This fact separates the hacks from the pros in any medium.
But the timing isn't yet right for a true take on the CNMI's economic situation. Who would listen? Nobody. The CNMI is still under the spell of wishful thinking, still engrossed in its own dramas, still in the emotionally-driven revolving door of seeking new messiahs and vilifying old ones.
So let's just let the action play out. There is no need to hurry things. Water seeks its own level.
In the meantime, I'll mention a little yarn about communications and timing. So pull up a beach chair. Crank up the boom box and play some Oingo Boingo. And, here, have a cold one. It'll help set the mood. Cheers.
When I was a teenager I had a pal who had a rich daddy. OK, I had a few such pals, but this one in particular drove a brand new car that Daddy bought him. He was a nice kid, very popular, and we generally went to the same parties, but he had a penchant for driving with reckless abandon. My reaction was that he was awfully hard on that car of his; I bought mine with money I had earned and I treated it like a Ming vase in an avalanche zone.
Nobody wanted to see the rich kid get messed up in a car crash, or get tangled with the cops, so over the span of a few months a few people diplomatically suggested that he “chill out” on the wild driving routine. Alas, he was totally deaf to such pleas.
Anyway, one night he crashed his car. The cops were there but in the aftermath his daddy managed to play the “only a lad” card, so the authorities gave him the benefit of the doubt.
Shortly thereafter, our lad was back on the road, not humbled by contrition but instead emboldened by apparent invulnerability.
His second event landed him in truly deep trouble, so much the worse because they had given him a break the first time around.
So while the rest of us were enjoying teenage life, and the biggest problem any of us had was a pimple, this guy was sweating various legal proceedings. He also lost his license. His dad took his car. Worst of all, he lost his dates, such were the vehicular logistics of teenage life.
As he'd regale us with tales of woe, people would nod patiently but would eventually say, “Dude, I tried to warn you, but you wouldn't listen.”
To which he once replied, “Well, I'm listening now, because I need a ride to school.”
Indeed, the guy who had been given a car was worse off than the poor mooks like me who had to earn ours. He had inverted his initial advantage by ignoring rationality, thus winding up worse off than if he didn't have the advantage at all. That is a paradox I have long pondered.
I'm not making a moral point. I'm not a moralizer, and I heed the old Chinese saying that goodie-goodies are the thieves of virtue. Well, no virtue here: I'm merely pointing out the hedonic economics of being a bonehead.
Segueing back to the Commonwealth economy, our generous Uncle Sam has sent out money that is measured in the accumulative billions (BILLIONS) of dollars now. But even generosity can have side effects, and the CNMI never had to acquire a sense of economic cause-and-effect in order to survive.
The CNMI has never heeded any warnings. Why should it? It's speeding around curves in the dark, head full of whiskey, laughing at all the mooks who have to eek out a living by the brute effort of workaday toil.
Well, speed on, brother! It's your car, not mine. Show us workin' folks how smart you are. There will be time enough to recount the situation afterwards.
Yeah, afterwards, but, after what, exactly? Good question. Barring some dire budgetary hiccup in Washington, I suspect the CNMI won't be in the listening mode until a crime problem starts giving people immediate worries. Abductions, rapes, robberies, arson, murders, that's a precocious list of mischief for such a small venue. If the trend continues, then perhaps people will want to think about things in terms other than slogans.
And maybe then we can talk about things rationally. But for now it can't be hurried. Why not? Timing!
Visit Ed Stephens Jr. at EdStephensJr.com. His column runs every Friday.