Archive for September, 2010

Decline is what you want it to be.

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

I read the popular press, on both sides of the promoted issues. Popular issues only have two sides, and only a handful are promoted. I’m surprised by a general agreement about the country: things are bad; there are no reasons things should get better.

I wonder how long well-fed human beings can wake up every morning believing things are getting worse.

A few years ago the so-called Soviet Union collapsed. A lot of public Americans went ecstatic. We were the one remaining ‘hyper-power.’ We were going to run the whole world in our image. Then, we turned out just a nation among nations. Maybe to those public Americans it feels like the end of an empire. But peace is a good thing, and we’re getting tired of feeling bad. Perhaps coming home isn’t really losing our global war – it’s just walking away from a fight.

No pretty white girl hacked to pieces today

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

So I’ll take this opportunity to talk about the economy. There is no problem with the economy. The economy is functioning perfectly, as designed. It’s designed to produce high unemployment when workers fail to demand high wages. It’s designed to empty your 401k, phase out social security, and eliminate your food stamps. It will, too, until you and the rest of the folks at the office walk out for better pay.

But you don’t like the folks at the office. You’re better than they are. You got your kid into a charter school. You agree with the boss. You’re not going down with the rest of the slackers; you’ll take a pay cut to save the firm. In fact, you’re pissed off. Things would be fine if the government wasn’t screwed up. You agree with those foam-flecked, red-faced speeches about taking it back from you. You don’t want it anyway. You just want an iPad.

Then there’s the poor guy in the White House, knotted up in academic cobwebs and struggling with a decision to be the boss. Hardly an inspiration, I’ve got to agree. But we don’t have to wring our hands and wonder what’s gone wrong with the economy. It’s following orders. Our orders. Let’s be crystal clear about this: people deserve what they vote for.

I have to go, too.

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

I’ve been in a place where the situation is, it would be all right not to be alive. It isn’t the same as wanting to die. I thought, “wow, I understand it; if I were the sort of person who would, I could kill myself.” I might have been afraid, except fear isn’t there; I am, and could be not. Okay.

Since I was there, it’s another place that I have been. I remember the good things about the places I remember; really not scary, holding on to nothing at all. Okay. But I always wanted us never to die. Okay.

Onward, christian socialists!

Friday, September 17th, 2010

I know what you’re thinking: ‘christian,’ ‘socialist’ – they’re the same thing! For most worldly purposes, you’re right, but there’s been some misuse of both terms this past century. I keep them together as a reminder to the rest of us, we’re all still moving in the right direction.

Socialism is an idea (about how workers should get the profits), just like capitalism is an idea (about how owners should get the profits). Nothing more. There’s never been a socialist state I know of, just like there’s never been a capitalist state (maybe there actually are unfettered markets in Darfur, I’m not sure). Socialism is a good idea because it fits the human animal; we work together and we prosper from our work. It’s a good idea in any religion; for Christian, Muslim, Atheist socialists alike.

Christians, of course, were the original socialists, starting with all that ‘give everything you have to the poor’ stuff. In one more perverse twist of Christian blasphemy, today we’re taught we can not only worship God and money at the same time, but piling up money is proof of God’s love! Believe that, and you already have your reward.

The fishing story

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Of all the deep joys of my life: making love to women, fishing, writing for myself, flying in dreams, walking anywhere with my kids – I am ambivalent about fishing. Well, not really. I fished early and often. It is deep magic and strong teaching; on still mornings listening to a million wet sounds, staring at a surface that just maybe, maybe, might give it up; exhilarating anticipation and a thudding surprise and a contest, often lost, well worth winning. I understand Allah does not subtract from his life the time a man spends fishing.

But the fish die, you know. I never bought the scowled excuse from the older guys that ‘they don’t feel pain like we do.’ I held them and watched them in their big-eyed terror, gasping. They bleed red blood and they quiver and they die. I eat them. I always eat them, even the smallest, as my atonement for this.

The fish are gone now, too; they’re not there like they were when I was a boy. Just fished out. Too many people. Too small an ocean. So this wonderful lesson in life and dying; I don’t know if it should be learned any more. Folks say if you teach a child to fish by age twelve, the urge never goes away. If you don’t, they never get it. I guess I’ll take my kids fishing and think about it.

In class, and liking it.

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

In the nineteen thirties, you couldn’t go back to the farm. The machines that were reshaping the world had plowed it up. The entire sense of reality was new and different and even the rich and powerful were afraid they might not be rich and powerful tomorrow. They tried to enforce mass unemployment, but there were other rich people who wanted to staff their machines, and then the labor unions turned this once isolated country into a truly prosperous and great nation.

Today, after lots of worrying and active viciousness, our stable aristocracy is finally back. And it’s televised. Everybody knows our kids are going to be doing the same things, in the same situations, that we are now. Rich, indebted, and poor – we’re all not really that uncomfortable with ourselves, or the familiar lifestyles that come with us. In fact, if we’re given a vigorous popular opinion to puff us up, we’re genuinely content.

Where the lucky ones go.

Saturday, September 4th, 2010

I visited an old woman with no money, staying in a government-option nursing facility. She is still too young and healthy to remain with the demented and dying around her, so she’ll be going home. But when she becomes demented, or approaches dying, she’ll be back. Her biggest complaint about the place is how boring the rest of the residents are, since most of them just lie down or sit there without saying anything at all.

I went home and opened my mail; a notice from the insurance company my rates are going up twenty-five percent. I chuckled at the timing; the industry’s encouragement to vote to degrade public health care. Instead, I’ll vote for public competition with the industry.

My generation has been the luckiest in the history of the planet. We’ve never suffered war, pestilence, or plague. We’ve been given every comfort and compliment that human beings can receive. We’ve squandered all as fast as it’s been handed to us. Now, we’re growing old, and some of us think our private stashes will keep us happy while we’re sitting there, saying nothing at all.