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Archive for the ‘American thoughts’ Category

When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it. – Frederic Bastiat

tgLife happens, and mine has been busy. I could be blogging about all that’s going on, but frankly I’m not in the mood.

I did share a bit a couple of months back, but haven’t felt the need to blab much lately. Yes, on a personal level life is grand; it’s in general, which includes everyone else (those not within my sphere, or spinning away over on the periphery) that has me hunkering down here on PP and instead popping off regularly in 140 characters like  screaming goats at a curry protest.

It’s Trump. Of course it’s Trump! But, then again, it’s so much more than SoCalledPOTUS Tangerine Skidmark Shit-Gibbon. He is vile, and that’s for sure. He’s also insane, stupid, glaringly shallow, ugly, insipid, avaricious, acquisitive, covetous, grasping, materialistic, mercenary, self-indulgent, self-aggrandizing, self- possessed, and … OH! … how I could go on, but a rather new, yet keen awareness of how quickly 140 characters flow by has tempered my use of descriptive adjectives. (You’re welcome.)

So actually it isn’t Trump that set me to raising my hand and my voice and my hackles in outrage at the world we live in now. Nope. It’s the people who allowed this blathering turd to take charge of the United States of America. Voted for him? You are complicit. Vote 3rd party? You are complicit. Didn’t bother to vote? You are complicit. Work in news or any sort of communication or information providing, yet did not bother to drag him down? You are complicit. GOP party faithful letting him slide? You are complicit. Politician of any stripe covering your own ass? You are complicit.

Yep. Anyone who is pulling a punch is helping the setup that has set us ALL up.

As a student of history, and now old enough to have a slice of it under my belt, perspective might have a chance of offering some comfort … if anything like this had ever happened in my lifetime.

But it hasn’t, so when my 30-something friend was disheartened and desperate and terrified of a future that no longer seemed assured to be at least reasonably reasonable asked, “Is this what it felt like back in the ’60s and ’70s?”, I was forced to pull that tiny shred of hopeful rug out from under his feet and admit that, no, putting an end to the Vietnam War and removing Richard Nixon from the Oval Office was NOTHING like what is going on today.

Robert Redford summed this reality up well when he said recently after being asked to equate the “All the President’s Men” days with what is happening today:

… while watching archival footage of the Senate grilling former White House Counsel John Dean in the Watergate Hearings, he had “a realization that made me sad, about something being lost having to do with our country.”

Continued Redford: “What I saw was the panel was made up precisely of both sides, both Democrats and Republicans, all acting as one, trying to get to the truth, and that hit me like a ton of bricks when I revisited. I said, ‘Oh, so there was a time.’

So … not in my time, and not in my place, which is NOT to say this hadn’t happened before.

Cue the DVD of the 1959 film “The Diary of Anne Frank“.

WWII ended in Europe with the unconditional surrender of Germany in May 1945, so 14 years before the release of this film, and I was I was eight-years-old when the movie came out.

I’d read Anne’s book before seeing the film and been deeply touched and totally terrified by the knowledge that something as horrible as the holocaust not only could happen, but DID happen in a place not long ago and not all that far away, so the movie served to underline the fact that humanity was not to be trusted.

I watched the film again this afternoon. Everyone should watch it. Everyone’s kids children should watch it. Everyone should hear the sound of jackboots pounding the pavement just outside the hiding place of two families while the knowledge that the 13-year-old girl portrayed died in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp along with her mother and sister and thousands of others because … well … Jewish.

It is fact that more than 6 million people were killed because other people lined up behind a lunatic and his insane hatred. They turned their backs to blatant bigotry, let stupidity run rampant, clucked sympathetically when losers laid blame by color or status or favored books, let their attention be diverted by cheap and trivial shiny things, and allowed themselves to be amused through various versions of perceived intellectual superiority to the idiot shouting catch phrases ad nauseam.

And here we are again.

Who made up the Gestapo? The SS? Commanded the death camps? Turned in their neighbors? Were those we now see as a hideously evil faction within the Third Reich somehow manufactured for the events?

Of course not. They were neighbors and school chums, buddies from church and the PTA, the harmless nutcase next door, the crazy uncle who creates trouble every holiday. And they didn’t do it just for the hats or the boots or the preferred parking, although all those things did convey a sense of being somehow special.

They gassed children, raped and killed, stole every bit of everything from anyone who fit the profile because it made them feel good about themselves. They suddenly belonged and life had meaning. Well, THEIR lives had meaning.

This massive festering blight on the history of our species did not begin with gas chambers, but with lies and diversions and divisions and insanity that it was not polite or profitable to address.

This is the world we live in now.

#Resist

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boschsevendeadlysins

The Seven Deadly Really Sucky Things

It just so happens that today, the 9th of November in the year 2016, I am rereading Richard Leakey’s  1994 take on how we became what we’ve become, “The Origin of Humankind” . The timing of the read was dictated by nothing more than it being the only hardback book on hand after relocating to Italy, but it all seems somehow prescient upon awakening this morning.

Why?

Donald Trump has been elected to be President of The United States. Wow. Aside from underlining just how good an idea it was to leave the US almost 25 years ago, there are no positive points to this now being the actual reality. (Had it been scripted and edited as ‘reality shows’ actually are, no one would ever have believed this situation even remotely possible … no matter how clever the contrived convolutions.)

The New York Times conveniently compiled a list of The Donald’s tacky snipes , so there’s no reason to dwell on the nasty divisiveness that spews forth from His Orangeness, but it does rub against the grain even more abrasively when juxtaposed aside the anthropological construct that says humanity itself … the very basics of what makes humans human and separates us from apes … began evolutionarily with sharing.

As Leakey states in his 1981 book, “The Making of Mankind”, sharing is THE factor that puts us where we are, “ … the food sharing hypothesis is a strong candidate for explaining what set early humans on the road to modern man.”

The Smithsonian’s Richard Potts notes in “Early Hominid Activities at Olduvai”:

The home-base, food-sharing hypothesis integrates so many aspects of human behavior and social life that are important to anthropologists — reciprocity systems, exchange, kinship, subsistence, division of labor and language.

Yet 1.5 million years later where are we?

We are in a world that just made a lying bigot with zero experience, no integrity, ethics or morals the most powerful man on the planet, not only suggesting democracy is a failed system, but also that evolution has come to naught. Sharing made us human, now not sharing will reduce us to whatever form of cockroach-like scramblers we are destined to become as Earth revolts against perpetual rape and some learn the hard way that avarice is actually one of the seven deadly sins.

And … just FYI …

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“Persistence. Perfection. Patience. Power. Prioritize your passion. It keeps you sane.” ~ Criss Jami, Killosophy

super_power_islandWatching the world from my veranda can provoke some convoluted contemplation; it’s big/small,  gorgeous/grotesque, unjust in the extreme, yet inherently fair in the grand scheme.

Birds fly, fish swim and the sea has rhythm, yet there is a Donald Trump and The Riders of the Purple Dildo (with 50 gallons of lube on hand … so to speak) in simultaneous existence and I find that mighty confusing some days.

Those are the days I have power: power to get myself out of bed, make coffee, sometimes even shower and dress as well as contemplate convolutedly. Oh … and juice. Those days I have juice.

Juice is vital. It connects me in ways nothing else can. Passion fruit juice connects me to my garden. Grape juice — that’s been sitting around for a while — tethers day to night almost flawlessly. And when current is current, electric juice connects me to the Internet … which connects me to balloon juice, which gives a handle to lunatics … which is funny. (I’m a fan of funny.)

I know some wonder what possible charm a computer screen could have when the view, the peace, the chirping birds as the only sound, are on offer. They ask how I can pull myself away from puffy, white clouds reflected from the surface of the perfect shade of blue that is the Indian Ocean and why I’m not sitting on the shore of said ocean all day, every day. Why would I even think of opening my laptop in such a paradise?

To these people I say two things:

1) Obviously you’ve never lived decades on a rock in the middle of nowhere thousands of miles from anything even close to the real world, and 2) A girl’s got to make a living.

I sit on Facebook for hours every day (Go ahead. Let the thought cross your mind with the sit/face thing if you must.), not because I find it stimulating (Yeah …  okay …go on.), although it often is, but because it’s my job.

Keeping up with friends, family and global events is surely a benefit, and hopping in and out of conversations, arguments, bombastic bullshit, freaky hallucinations, unsubstantiated claims and such keeps me sharp.

Access to information is vital, and thanks to today’s technology I can educate myself on things other than the tide table, the rapid growth of unwanted greenery and the painfully slow decomposition of granite.

My clients expect nothing less than total up-to-date-ness on travel trends, global economic fluctuations, flight interruptions, international conflicts, and sometimes something as obscure as the price of a cup of coffee in Sofia, Bulgaria.

To say I rely on electric juice is an understatement of understated, yet understandable, proportions, given that my livelihood, and no small part of my social life, can only happen when everything can be turned on, because when the power’s out, I can’t do shit.

I can and do write when my wifi squirrel dies, but having no idea when someone might get around to reviving the rodent has me checking battery levels as often as I insert a semi-colon. Outages going on for full days present a stack of work piled up to the virtual rafters, all needing immediate attention 5 hours ago. (That, btw, tends to delay me connecting with my grape juice, thereby sloshing day into night and pissing me off.)

The power was off all day yesterday … again … for something always referred to by the utility company as: Urgent maintenance on the overhead lines. (We apologize for the inconvenience … again … and appreciate your patience. Yeah … right.)

Ah … island life … in Africa; all juicy tales and the undiluted nectar of nature. Or is it sap?

“I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word. Sometimes I write one, and I look at it, until it begins to shine.” ~ Emily Dickinson

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This evening, as the kids and I watched the “Wizard of Oz’, I had a sudden recollection that ties the generations together for me.

The movie came out in 1939, the year my mother turned seven-years-old, and made quite an impression on her.

It began what was to be an annual run on American television in 1956. I was five that year, but we watched it as a family every year of the ‘50s from then on.

I don’t remember ever not having a TV in the living room; sitting in front of that tiny (by today’s standards) screen in the huge wooden cabinet on the oval braided rug as my mother … either perched on the brown, skirted couch, cup of coffee in hand no matter what the time of day, or standing behind the ironing board with a bowl of starch water at hand … did the ’50s version of multitasking. It was a position I must have mastered very early. Color TV had yet to arrive, so black-and-white was all we knew. Ricky and Lucy’s apartment, Sky King’s sky, everything the Mouseketeers got up to … all were sans any shade but variations on gray.

Image

The 1939 Poster

And that was fine … most of the time.

The exception to the whole being-okay-with-B&W thing came with the opening bars of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”. My mother’s WoO had imprinted itself on her brain before the age of television, when films were only seen in ‘movie houses’ where a show cost a dime … unless you wanted to sit in the loges … and grownups could add a bit of atmosphere with clouds of cigarette smoke.

By 1939, cinemas also offered films shot in Technicolor, something this movie was made for:

Notable for its use of Technicolor, fantasy storytelling, musical score and unusual characters, over the years it has become one of the best known of all films and part of American popular culture. It also featured what may be the most elaborate use of character make-ups and special effects in a film up to that time.

The fact that this beloved experience was reduced for us kids to NO color annoyed my mother no end, apparently, so she did a running commentary to enhance our viewing pleasure … or hers.

This is where, all of a sudden, everything goes into brilliant color!

That is the YELLOW brick road!

The witch has GREEN skin! (No mention that she looked just like our Aunt Mary when seen in B&W until we were much older.)

Those flowers are poppies … bright red poppies … and are so beautiful.

The whole city is GREEN!

That’s the ‘Horse of a Different Color’ and as it walks around the color changes from green to purple and more!

And so on …

All these years later, I found myself tonight explaining my mother explaining the colors to me to my kids as they watched a hyper-hued DVD of the road and the witch and the poppies and the horse, realizing as I did that time sometimes moves in circles.

Now … if I can just find those damned ruby slippers. I know they’re around here somewhere …

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DeadguyThere’s nothing new about trying to keep old, dead iconic autocrats around; the Egyptians came close to perfecting the process more than 3,000 years ago, after all. What differs now is the lack of the bling, the box and pointy building.

These days there seems to be the thought that people will actually yearn to be very close to a lifeless corpse and to lament the lost leader while gaping at said corpse forever. Hugo Chavez is the next despot in line for non-desposal. Being somewhat iconic in life, someone apparently figures displaying the icon rather than burying it six feet under will render it (not in the candle sense, please, although my guess is that would shed more light on more subjects than a carcass) somehow still tenacious.

Yes, Chavez will soon join the ranks of Mao, Lenin, Ho Chi Minh, Ferdinand Marcos, Eva Peron and the Kims … father and son, both Il in life, both dead-but-not-gone, Jong and Sung … on display, like Roy Roger’s horse. (Russia offered Stalin The Stiff as a side show until 1961 when he was finally buried as part of a move to “un-Stalinize” the country, figuring, I suppose, that out of sight is out of mind.)

I have had the dubious honor of filing past the perpetually present corpse of Mao, an experience fraught with emotion … but not the sort it was designed to inspire.

It was 1989, just a couple of weeks before the soon-to-be-deadly protests started in Beijing. I was in China with my nineteen-year-old daughter, out and about to see the sites. At that time, it was required visitors be guided, both physically and with the intent to lead them toward unreasonable conclusions. On our way to visit Tiananmnen Square, our chaperone explained our upcoming experience.

“You will now have the great pleasure to see the most famous exhibit in all the world,” she said in heavily accented not-quite-Chinglish. “Millions of people come every day to see what you are about to see.”

We waited for it …

“THE MOUSE MEMORIAL!”

At least that’s what Jenn and I heard.

It took a few minutes to realize that the queue of Chinese peasants stretching for some distance … four abreast, equal distance apart, eerily silent … were having their places pushed back some so we tourists from the decadent West could officially cut in front to enter Mao’s Memorial.

Well … sorry propaganda machine of the government of the People’s Republic, but there was no way in hell we Californian’s had not already constructed a working version vision of Mickey Maos.

We had previously visited the Beijing Zoo (Remind me to write a post about that nightmare someday.), so weren’t expecting much in the way of quality, but were a bit surprised at the lavishness on the inside of the square, squat building. It was posh in the way that flash-over-substance always is and filled with enormous bouquets of white chrysanthemums in garish vases. The military was well represented with dozens of uniformed men holding automatic weapons and standing at attention. (My daughter got off the line of the day when she noticed the Red Army wears white socks.)

Reserving pride of place amongst a bazillion flowers sat a glass-domed casket inside of which lay the perpetually rigid corpse of Mao Zedong.

He wasn’t looking so good.

Being that we entered the place with certain images already in mind, could we help it if the thoughts and whispers we shared had to do with what the Disney people could have done with him? He’d be sitting up and waving at the crowd, perhaps even pacing the floor like Lincoln on Main Street instead of simply assuming the position of the waxy, fake-looking lump of whatever he might actually be after all the years … not that he was a particularly attractive man when he could still walk under his own power, but obvious inches of pancake re-dos hadn’t helped. (Here’s an explanation … sort of … on how he was made up.)

Laughing was definitely out with all those guns and properly inculcated citizens of the PRC around and stifling our giggles took a LOT of self control, but we certainly had no problem going along with the no-photos-no-videos rules. Since we’d passed on the offer to buy flowers to add to the heaps, we meandered by with our hands over our mouths and swallowed our chuckles until we made it to the other side.

And now Chavez is in the perfect position for the same treatment … if trocars and formaldehyde can be considered treatment … and legions of the faithful, the morbid and the amused will be filing by as he continues to be dead.

Personally, I hope someday to rest in peace, not in public … it’s just so TACKY.

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Ah, the subtle swaying of simple minds ...

Election furor in the US.

Some of that here, too, with the National Assembly vote very soon.

Palestine’s bid for membership in the UN will be vetoed.

An execution in Georgia took place.

Austerity measures are protested in Greece.

Facebook makes changes.

Just a few of the topics swirling this morning that bring to mind a recent discussion on democracy, what it means, what it is, and what’s do be done with it, spawned partly from last week’s declared International Day of Democracy marked on the 15th.

So, what exactly did that occasion celebrate?

democracy
diˈmäkrəsē
noun ( pl. -cies)

a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives : capitalism and democracy are ascendant in the third world.

• a state governed in such a way : a multiparty democracy.

• control of an organization or group by the majority of its members : the intended extension of industrial democracy.

• the practice or principles of social equality : demands for greater democracy.

ORIGIN late 16th cent.: from French démocratie, via late Latin from Greek dēmokratia, from dēmos ‘the people’ + -kratia ‘power, rule.’

As a quick read through the democratically organized Wiki shows, democracy comes in many different flavors.

You’ve got your Representative Democracy, your Consensus Democracy, your Deliberative Democracy, Cosmopolitan Democracy, democracy Representative, Parliamentary, Presidential (and Semi-Presidential), direct, inclusive,
participatory, Socialist, Sortition, Supranational and the Anarchists … any of which can be liberal … or not … characterized by Majority Rule, but, as mentioned, ” … it is also possible for a minority to be oppressed by a “tyranny of the majority”.

While there is no universally accepted definition of ‘democracy’, equality and freedom have both been identified as important characteristics of democracy since ancient times.These principles are reflected in all citizens being equal before the law and having equal access to legislative processes.

Nice idea, heh?

Those of us who were around during the time the US was busy wrestling dominos in the course of “saving the world for democracy” might be forgiven for thinking democracy a new-ish, western-ish concept since not a lot of talk about Mesopotamia, Phoenicia and India, cultures that adhered to democratic practices before the Greeks came up with the word, entered debates over whether or not dropping cluster bombs over Cambodia was a good plan.

Democracy went from being a Greek word to a Buzz word once … dum de dum dum … communism gave it something to bounce off of and resonate, and as is the nature of such things it became undemocratic to question the righteousness rightness of democracy.

It doesn’t take a deep investigation into history to see how that worked out. Do the term McCarthyism ring a bell?

During the McCarthy era, thousands of Americans were accused of being Communists or communist sympathizers and became the subject of aggressive investigations and questioning before government or private-industry panels, committees and agencies. The primary targets of such suspicions were government employees, those in the entertainment industry, educators and union activists. Suspicions were often given credence despite inconclusive or questionable evidence, and the level of threat posed by a person’s real or supposed leftist associations or beliefs was often greatly exaggerated. Many people suffered loss of employment and/or destruction of their careers; some even suffered imprisonment.

As Thomas Jefferson so aptly put it: A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.

So, is democracy a red herring, a set of shiny, jangling keys designed to take our eyes off the prize of true freedom and call it healthy compromise?

American history is rife with praise for the democratic way of doing government, starting as it did from roots dug from monarch trees that had held the mountaintop for centuries, but perhaps the motivation was best summed up years later by that very British brain, Winston Churchill, when he said, ” … democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”

Unless the world ends in 2012, there is much more to come in the way of evolving systems of governing bits of our increasingly crowded planet. Power will shift, economies will weaken and strengthen in little relation to rightness or wrongness, wars will happen and winners will be touted as those holding the true path to glory. People will even adjust to Facebook altering the way feeds work.

“Democracy… while it lasts is more bloody than either [aristocracy or monarchy]. Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide.”
~ John Adams

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Ten years ago today I was on a sofa in North Carolina staring into the beautiful eyes of my granddaughter who had just passed her first month on earth. My daughter had handed her into my care so she could get a bit more sleep and I was about as content as I’ve ever been with perfect, tiny fingers grasping one of mine as the baby girl dozed in my arms.

I lunged for the phone when it rang, hoping my daughter wouldn’t be disturbed, and was surprised, yet happy, to hear my son’s voice on the other end. It was very early in California, an unexpected time for him to be calling the East Coast.

“Mom,” he said, interrupting my queries as to what the heck had him up at the crack of dawn. “Turn on the TV.”

Tucking the phone under my chin and the baby against my chest, I fumbled for the remote to the huge set and clicked.

Of course everyone saw what I saw.

“What the fuck is happening?” I asked Jaren.

“We’re under attack, Mom.”

The second plane came in before I’d managed to absorb anything but terror, and like the rest of America the only words that came to mind were: Oh my god!

The juxtaposition of realities … the new life in my arms, the new horror in New York … could only compound the distress.

“What sort of world do you have now, Baby?” I asked.

Part of the answer I knew then: her world was one in which people drove planes into buildings full of other people.

In efforts to try to gain perspective, I conjured an image of another woman at another time holding another newborn as a radio announced the attack on Pearl Harbor, that woman asking the same question I just had just posed to the cosmos.

The specter rising from that was World War III.

Over the 10 years between then and now that has not happened. We have not experienced mass conscription or concentrated conflict inflicting colossal damage across great swathes of the developed world or food rationing or bombs dropping on our beds or that-country-against-this-country, but rather sporadic terrorist attacks and religious fanaticism and fear.

Civil wars and oppression and human rights abuses continue as they always have, people starve and fight and kill and rape and poverty breeds the hungry, the uneducated and the dangerous while wealth motivates those hungry for power and equally dangerous. While many strive to survive, others do what they can to protect, to inspire, to effect change for the positive to varying degrees of success and failure.

The world of my granddaughter turns out to be not much different, in human terms, than the one my mother, grandmother, great-grandmother … and so on … and I were born into — a world where people perform deeds of great kindness and acts of almost unimaginable horror.

No, my granddaughter will not be able to sling on a backpack equipped with a Swiss army knife and a couple of pints of contact lens solution then board a plane like I did. She’ll learn to travel without belts in slip-on shoes and allow 3 hours for check-in. She’ll probably never sip a cocktail in a rooftop bar overlooking a major city without at least some trepidation. She may look askance at those who dress and worship differently and choose to surround herself with the familiar for illusions of safety.

History will show her that paradigms shift, that deadly enemies, the evils incarnate, eventually become familiar trading partners no matter how dissimilar they may be in look and faith and culture and background as it absorbs the dead and those imprinted with images of fire and smoke and collapsing monoliths full of humanity pass along.

We no longer tremble at the thought of Japanese or Germans, no matter the price they exacted from the world only a bit more than half a century ago in their bids to accomplish their goals, but have contextualized the horrors and moved beyond as we comprehend new evil, new enemies,

This is how we humans do things. This is how we have always done things, and it’s history that dictates wrong from right as it divides winners from losers.

What will be far different for the children born with the rubble and toxic dust of the Twin Towers in their path are the impacts of events less dramatic in the making but much more in outcome and harder to live with — the results of the relentless attack of man on the planet.

There is no template for putting the climate back together after an onslaught, for negotiating a truce between rising seas and inundated land. No reconciliation can be won once patterns of weather are so drastically changed that the seas no longer function as Earth’s lungs.

Reparations will be futile and even discussion of them will set human against human, as will attempts to share out slices of the ever-diminishing pie. Once again, wars will be waged and many will die, a circumstance that will relieve a bit of Earth’s burden, but when she’s too wounded to carry on we’re done and all fights are over.

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