Future Building Political Commentary

Buying Civilization

Liked paying for civilization by Anne Helen Petersen (Culture Study)

The other day I was walking the dogs along a favorite trail, turned a corner, and realized there’d been a significant re-routing. They’d closed a section of the old trail, which was rocky and treacherous and steep in winter, and rerouted a new, evenly graded trail to the side. A few yards down, they’d planted a new row of saplings, protecting them from the hungry deer with chicken wire. A bit farther down the trail, they’d opened up a once-fenced and densely wooded section of the trail to create a small sitting area overlooking a small, usually hidden reservoir. I actually gasped when I saw it. I was so surprised, happy, grateful. What a gift!

I use the word ‘they’ as if it were people, and of course people did the work. But in a way, I gave that gift to myself. Or everyone in Missoula gave that gift to me.

Yes! I hate the perspective that taxes are inherently bad.

Yes, they pay for some things I dislike, like an enormous military and security theater Homeland Security. That’s why it’s important to vote.

And our taxes aren’t perfect – especially here in Washington, we have an extremely regressive tax structure. No one wants to hear that they owe more, but the wealthy and middle class aren’t paying their fair share: they are happy to be subsidized by the poor so they can keep more of their own wealth.

But taxes themselves are a force for good.

the idea that I should only pay for things that benefit me directly is anathema to me. Every single thing on that list benefits me in some way, because it benefits the community around me.

Think about all the things in your life and community that you help pay for every day. You create and maintain civilization, every day. Taxes! What a blessing, to be able to care for others in this way.

It’s especially a weird thing as a government employee, where occasionally grumpy strangers who don’t see me as a human or part of their community (I am) will tell me that they pay my salary (they actually pay for me through their garbage bill) and that I’m a waste of public money, that my position shouldn’t exist. It’s hurtful to hear, since I do live in the city I serve and do care deeply about the community, but they think the literally dollar they chip in for me annually is insanely ridiculous government excess. I think folks don’t think through how little they individually pay for each thing because there are enough of us to spread the burden around. And, how much they truly get for their money.

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at She/her.

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