Schn00dles now has a publisher. Magic Bean Books is now stocking some of the collected work found on this blog, and also that of other fine authors. Drop by for a look (and a read). They’d love to see you.
Schn00dles now has a publisher. Magic Bean Books is now stocking some of the collected work found on this blog, and also that of other fine authors. Drop by for a look (and a read). They’d love to see you.
Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine is a huge book of 2016 pages plus an index of 78 pages and some additional ‘plates’ of illustrative photos. (Which you wouldn’t want placed by your evening meal.) A joke has it that a medical student fell asleep while reading this thing in bed and broke her nose. And it would be a nasty thing, heavy as some chunk of earthen conglomerate, to break your nose on, as it is chockfull of infections, afflictions and diseases … many too awful to describe. On late evenings, studying this huge work myself, I often wondered how it was I stayed alive? Every sort of organism both large and infinitesimal is out there bent on doing us in, or at least sucking our vital energies and/or gumming up the works – assuming that our own genes and inherent lunacy doesn’t sink us.
Often, I’ve imagined how fortunate it is that I’ve managed to travel the miles and do the plethora of tasks I do every day – meeting with the unforeseen, the unpredictable, dealing with the marginally employed and the intensely volatile – and stay alive.
I still marvel that I’ve been able to stay out of jail, as virtually nobody – even lawyers – fully or often partly understand the reams of city, county, state and federal laws and regulations we labor under. In Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent by Harvard lawyer Harvey Silverglate – “The average professional in this country wakes up in the morning, goes to work, comes home, eats dinner, and then goes to sleep, unaware that he or she has likely committed several federal crimes that day.” Imagine that. Our over-reaching laws and regulations seem vast as an ocean and as hazardous nowadays as going to sea ever was.
It’s a wonder I’ve been able to maintain some standing in a society which doesn’t allow much margin for error. Say the wrong thing, or even burp or laugh at the wrong time and you lose that sale, that career opportunity, that sexual opportunity, that social opportunity… I remember an article in the Seattle Times some years ago which was advising single women on handling home repairs. A general contractor advised that they could find a plentiful supply of cheap handyman labor, by utilizing those whose personalities had proved too volatile for steady employment.
I’ve wondered how the average person avoids bankruptcy. Monthly bills and direct withdrawals attach themselves like leeches. Insistent invitations to buy fill the media. Credit card prospects flood the mail. Contracts and guarantees are a minefield of fine print. The wife and kids always maneuver for another purchase. And when you go broke, as my brother advised me: “You don’t just run out of money. They gut you like a fish.”
I’ve wondered – in places beyond my grasp – how in the world the technology we depend upon doesn’t fail us? Each day I fear the Y2K equivalent of cyber crime, or cyber terrorism, or a simple identity theft. Or will some preteen hacker take control of my ‘smart’ car and run me into a tree?
As the years pass the devices we use pass beyond our ability to comprehend. I no longer fiddle with the car. My computer does things… I can’t say what they are. I can’t figure out the Apple TV buffering. Even the remote baffles. And the thermostat has become like Hal in 2001. If you happen to stumble and brace your hand against it in the night on the way to pee, the Lord knows when your next heating cycle will occur.
I worry about how us average Joes will stay employed. Statistically, we’re expected to retrain ourselves several times throughout our careers, while surviving to land that next job. We’re expected to rope up through networking, maintaining contacts, and staying on top of our fields through continual re-schooling by controlling our mindset and maintaining a positive outlook. What is going to happen to me when I get tired?! (Author’s note: I’m tired.)
I’m puzzled how the average person raises ‘survives’ more than one child. There is barely time to listen to all their demands! They have activities, destinations. They have medical, dental, and therapies. They either want lots of your complete attention and right now – or they can’t hear you! Their school work is a haystack of handouts, online links, and hop scotching through a textbook of printed and written assignments whose directions are far harder to understand than the assignment itself – and written as if for a fellow PhD in Educational Theory. They don’t attend every school day, nor always for a full day, nor do they always begin or end consistently. They need shots and permission forms and fees for anything detachable, plus lunch monies. And lately a community activity has been added to the required electives, plus a dollop of “zero tolerance” up to and including felony time, for an ala carte of adolescent transgressions. And, they’re up for anything their ‘in’ crowd peers might want to do, including jumping off a cliff, I would hazard.
How do we survive?
Well, in my optimism, I think of that weekend in my youth when my brother organized a trip down the Deschutes River in Western Oregon. Being the youngest member of the entourage and in a straggler position, I got the small two person life raft with these cute little oars. The river rushed past as I stood on the bank. I had to use the outhouse twice before embarking. But once I pushed off and gained river speed the travelling was quite pleasant. There were emerging rocks and downed trees and whirlpools and rapids with tall standing waves. There were lots of dangers to thwart by wiggling my two cute little oars. And looking back, this looks a bit like the situation of our lives.
I did well enough until I drifted into a whirlpool and started sinking. The raft filled. I went down, down… until the river was just under my arms. What a perspective. Again, just about as our lives as I’ve described. When, with a big whoosh! the inflatable sprung to the surface and further down the river we glided.
In retrospect we’re forced to say – in face of the evidence – that many of our fears and dangers are illusory. Though it certainly doesn’t seem so. But the evidence is – that we’re still here!
Which forms the wellspring of some real optimism.
And as long as we are alive, this evasion of all of these certain dangers keeps happening! There is no doubt about any of this! And surely this is the cause from some credible optimism.
Now I haven’t suffered the misfortunes of many, many people. Disease, tragic death, terrible accidents, war, famine, poverty and strife have stayed their distance. But even those for whom it hasn’t… as long as we are alive, it is hard not to make the case for optimism. Our lifeboat is still working.
So let’s have a smile, people, and thank our Creator, or as the atheists would have it, Mindless Happenstance. After we’re dead, it might be easier to build that case for pessimism.
Or, we might just be dead.
There is very little news, but an awful lot of politics.
Most people, when they are looking for a safe neighborhood to live, don’t visit the local police station. They do not check out the operational state of the police motor fleet or their effective fire power, nor even research the level of officer training, minority representation, nor their level of community representation, nor the sheer number of officers on the street. They do not travel to city hall for a run down on the applicable laws in place so that the neighborhoods behave and whether Federal Law might come into play. If they inquire, it’s about tax and sewer rates, and proximity to good schools and medical aid. When normal people judge the safety and desirability of a neighborhood, they do so by going there and looking around. The laws in Ferguson are pretty much the same laws as in Pocatello or in Buffalo. And if you see a lot of police activity or bars on the window or pit bulls inside of cyclone fences, you don’t want to be there. And if you don’t see an active police presence and the homes and the lawns are kept with pride, the fences are picket, and a lot of idle groups of young males aren’t giving you the eyeball, it’s more than likely a good spot.
However, when there is a ‘newsworthy’ problem, reporters generally do just the opposite. They interview the police, city hall, victims and onlookers, and sometimes either the victim or the perpetrator’s neighbors. Then they interview the experts. Until finally we get to the talking heads and the national pundits, if the level of interest should climb so high. Eventually the politicians chime in. Because in the final analysis the news is showing us the politics of what is going on: claim and counter-claim, heading into to the jury trial.
In short, a lot of the news is not the news of what it purports to be. The average Joe, given a brief glimpse of the situation, could often deduce that there is no news here, that things are pretty much as they would expect and move along. They could resolve the issue just about as quickly as they could decide whether to move to the neighborhood. And that would probably be a big, “No”.
It would seem that nowadays most of the news is politics. The facts themselves are shared, only in so much as they would affect the public temper. And depending upon the particular tenor of the media source, these facts are revealed either sooner or later – or not at all.
So herein lies the disconnect.
The signs say, “Black Lives Matter”, but the visuals say, not so much to us (the majority) – “what with the way they dress, the way they act, the way they talk and the arguments they pitch”. Angry pundits say the police are “out of control”. But the more complacent visuals say, “I’d hate to patrol this place” and moreover, “How can they find people to do it?”
Best move along.
What is interesting about the ‘news’ nowadays is that with the advent of the internet search engines, we can actually see how the ‘news’ is assembled. There has been talk in the media of how the internet has fractured the ‘news’ into slivers of self-referential fiefdoms with each audience ‘bubble’ opting to hear what is most comfortable. What is also interesting, I would say, is that we can now see what the ‘news’ is and how the narrative has been assembled.
Many years ago I added some Adobe movie software. Afterwards I found that some other Adobe software wouldn’t work, though I hadn’t connected the two issues. So I went to the Adobe help link to find why my software had these problems. The offered help was not helpful. But Adobe said on the link that if the offered help was not sufficient, that for a certain price/hour you could talk to a technician for further assistance. This seemed like buying a pig in a poke. So instead I Googled my problem using a quotation technique offered me by a friend. Soon, the nasty underbelly of the software industry was revealed! Here I found that the very problem Adobe was going to charge me to help fix, was a problem the new addition of their software program had caused and that they very well knew this, but weren’t saying. I was astonished!
Flash forward to our current conversation:
A narrative is created in one prejudiced ‘news’ agency, which is countered by facts from another prejudiced ‘news’ agency, so that these later facts must now be incorporated into the narrative of the first. We can see the ongoing battle for narrative that occurs throughout the life of a news ‘story’ displayed on the internet right before our eyes.
We can now witness what the ‘news’ is, and how it is assembled from a meticulously controlled release and spin of information. But, we are forced to do at least twice the research and reading to discern some truth.
There are other complications. As the news entities become more polarized so do they attract more prejudicial, polarized readers. This in turn allows these more advocating journals leeway to spin and to slant their information – all the way to downright fabrication and lying. This leaves the discerning reader in a quandary. As the poles of advocacy journalism and their chosen audiences separate further, it can happen that the polarities become so estranged as to ignore one another. And a discerning reader can wonder whether they aren’t reading a story published in two separate parallel universes. There is less and less of the common tale to compare! What to do?
Keeping up on the news has gotten a lot harder than opening the newspaper over coffee in the morning with June Cleaver.
Another complication ensues within the competition for audience i.e. market share. “Life is not fair,” Jimmy Carter re-iterated famously. Life is rarely balanced. There is usually a winner and a loser. Such is the case with the media. Currently the liberal sources dominate. Studies of the political bent of journalists shows that the liberal majority of them vastly outnumber the conservative. A liberal slant controls the news, which in turn controls the narrative.
This, in turn, has created oppositional sources such as Fox News, Rush Limbaugh etc. which are not sources in themselves, but doppelgangers to the dominant established media. That is, they exist as an oppositional slate of faux conservatism which respond like zombies to the established liberal narrative. (And to my mind, perform about as graciously also.) These faux sources have no ‘being’ in themselves other than opposition. (“Only a head shot will take them down.”) They are exactly such ‘obstructionists’ as the liberal media intended. In a sense, the prejudices of the dominant media create ‘hate-groups’, of which Donald Trump is the most recent conjuration.
The authentic conservative sources currently fight as an insurgency. Their position is described in weekly periodicals, such as “Commentary”, “First Things”, “The New Criterion”, “The National Review”, books, and think tank publications such as “Cato” and “The Discovery Institute”. But fighting from these rag tag positions, it is almost impossible for them to influence the narrative.
With this current election cycle we are determining which side of the progressive/liberal narrative we chose to follow. Their direction, however, is the same. This election is like a dysfunctional family. You can chose to align yourself with either the mom or the dad. But it’s still the same screwed-up clan.
Americans like things which are clear and make sense. I share this proclivity. But poetry is the source of many problems in this area. Some poets are provocatively vague, others are sophomorically vague, still others are vague because this aspect of reality speaks to them, others just can’t manage a coherent thought, and then there is one who is scrupulously confusing as he believes reality is an experience rather than a description, and that his crafted perplexity can stimulate a ‘visitation’. Such is John Ashbery.
‘That’s all very well,’ many Americans are wont to think, ‘but I have no time for that.’ Like the American philosopher, William James , they are very much interested in the “cash value” of an idea. They feel the experience of it can wait for later but generally do not have a slot free in their day timer. “Call me back in a few months.” Or, they have tabled all conversation about mystical value, and suffer a sort of hay fever around poetry of any sort and must immediately leave the area.
Enter the translation.
As Google defines it, to translate means to “express the sense of (words or text) in another language”. And right away, we can see the differences in the mission statements between “translating” and “poetry”. Which is, as Google defines it, “the art of rhythmical composition, written or spoken, for exciting pleasure by beautiful, imaginative or elevated thought.”
I’ve often wondered if the wonderful simplicity and clarity of Chinese poetry were due to its nature or because I have only read it in translation. Perhaps it’s a bit of both. But with it came the notion that people who object to the confusion of modern poetry – might try reading it in translation.
You don’t understand Chinese; can’t make heads or tails of poetry? Try this poem by Meng Jiao Tr. Graham:
“The thread in the hand of a kind mother
Is the coat on the wanderer’s back.
Before he left she stitched it close
In secret fear that he would be slow to return.
Who will say that the inch of grass in his heart
Is gratitude enough for all the sunshine of spring?”
Easy enough, huh. Now try this Rilke from the German:
“His vision, from the constantly passing bars,
has grown so weary that it cannot hold
anything else. It seems to him there are
a thousand bars; and behind the bars, no world.
As he paces in cramped circles, over and over,
the movement of his powerful soft strides
is like a ritual dance around a center
in which a mighty will stands paralyzed.
Only at times, the curtain of the pupils
lifts, quietly–. An image enters in,
rushes down through the tensed, arrested muscles,
plunges into the heart and is gone.”
Clear enough, and enjoyable! Don’t you think?
But… it’s probably plain that we can’t tell if the poem in its original language is confusing or not.- since we don’t know the language. Perhaps the translation is no clearer than the original, or even worse! So what I’ve done here is to write us all down a rabbit hole where I am searching in the dark for a turn around where to re-direct this poetry tour bus of mine.
Still, it was an interesting notion and remunerative in that by following this line of thought I fortuitously bumped into what amounts to a good primer about “How to Read John Ashbery” : http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/the_highbrow/2005/03/the_instruction_manual.html In which we find that one of the strategies you might take with poetry is to just scan for those portions which clarify the mind. It’s like snitching the pepperoni off a pizza. No one’s watching and wouldn’t mind if you do. Here’s some entertaining lines popping from the clutter of John Ashbery’s Houseboat Days taken from “Daffy Duck in Holly wood”:
…“Where Pistachio Avenue rams the 2300 block of Highland
Fling Terrace. He promised he’d get me out of this one,
That mean old cartoonist, but just look what he’s
Done to me now! I scarce dare approach me mug’s
Reflection in yon hubcap, so jaundiced, so de’confit
Are its lineaments – fun, no doubt, for some quack
Fern-clogged waiting room, but hardly what you’d call
And here’s a truth widely witnessed everyday:
…”Enough vague people on this emerald traffic-island, no,
Not people, comings and goings, more: mutterings,
The bizarrely but effectively equipped infantries of happy-
Ashbery can get hilarious. But also serious. Again, from Houseboat Days:
Said, that insincerity of reasoning on behalf of one’s
Sincere convictions, true or false in themselves…”
Who says we have to understand everything we read? I certainly don’t understand everything about a beautiful spring day, or a woman (for sure). Nevertheless there are these moments. So perhaps it’s best to think of poetry as a woman, and enjoy the confusion.
Take her out for just the evening. Enjoy the evening. Glance at her now and then. Go ahead, high-grade the pepperoni.
Most of my life I have been looking for a certain place, a locale… maybe a milieu where I would be welcomed to speak and to think spontaneously, nourishing friendships that transformed into fully realized community, rather than a plodding bus driver’s sort of life that froze awkwardly into a revolving Groundhog Day of bored greetings.
As it turned out, it was not a place I was looking for but an age.
Old age has become that place in life where in many respects, I fit. And I enjoy it. Not that this early idea I’d had of a friendship utopia has ever come to pass. The completed vision itself still eludes me and may elude a final release date. But I have made outreaches and created small settlements where the inhabitants and I are welcome and enjoy one another in a somewhat circumscribed way. Which, as you age, suits the personality of old. I haven’t either the energy nor the neural fortitude for any buddy trips, beer-addled nights out, nor intense philosophical inquiries nor romance. Instead I Facebook interesting people in neatly digitalized encounters. I meet to read and discuss poems with a regular crowd. I enjoy activities with my wife and son, and spend a large share of time reading or writing. I walk my dog around the neighborhood, now and then stopping to chat with a neighbor. We all have to do a little upkeep on our homes and we discuss the ups and downs of that and exchange a bit of the very local (within a block) news. And modern TV is a dream realized! I can download my favorite series to watch at my pleasure, uncut by advertisers and without the interruption of unruly patrons at the theater. Very few gripes to my life, you bet! And it settles in every day around 3pm with a cold beer.
As for my earlier years, I re-create those early days as I make sales calls each morning in my ‘retirement’. For this work you must be friendly, confident, keep the conversation quite direct, on track and goal-oriented, while giving the semblance of a relaxed but knowledgeable representative of a prominent, prosperous business. You don’t waste their time with idle chatter. You talk but listen more. And an older voice with a bit of gravitas, a mature sense of humor and a knack or historical recollection for the right comeback is valuable. People trust an older person more than they do a younger. Any conversation lasting longer than 3 minutes usually goes south for me as my thoughts wander; my imagination opens its mouth. I like having conversational fun too much. So, all of this, plus the fact that I’m just missing many of the puzzle pieces to a successful chat makes the grit and slog of cold calling ideal. For three minutes I’m a young Turk and in the game and I can obey life’s rules.
So currently, it’s my ‘new and improved’ youth in 3 minute stints for 3 hours a day, and then a lot of old age which is my New Age – as I’ve found old age to ‘exuberantly’suit my temperament. Old people are rarely listened to, but I was rarely listened to when I was younger. Besides, I’m often wrong, and this just keeps me from making a fool of myself.
Not much is required of old people. We’re left to wander the grounds. Old people are not required either to shine or to play at athletics. Younger people don’t want answers or trouble from old people. They certainly don’t expect miracles – at least, from me. And they don’t ask where I work. And they evidently feel they have a pretty good take on what I do by noting the grizzled chin hairs. (Which I leave long primarily for that purpose – and because I’m lazy.) Older people are even allowed to be eccentric or a bit silly.
Among ourselves the narrative has all been cherry picked for the best possible life’s story until we really get to know each other, and by then it doesn’t matter – either to me, or to them. We laugh about all that. And us older people are left alone to pursue our interests, while included by the relations. Nobody asks me what I intend to do with my life, or if there is a special ‘somebody’? And I can call a halt to most any conversation just by mentioning a death – and giving them the gimlet eye as I do so.
In short, when I was young I never realized that the best career I could have hoped for would to have been a has-been and to have rested on my laurels. I’ve always loved the idea of a has-been. To have been there! To have accomplished! And then, to be done with all of that. Pure heaven!
(I feel Kevin Costner, especially, has pulled this role off very well in his movies.)
That’s how I see it. And if I could have had my wish, it would have been to have been old sooner, while I still had all my physical abilities and mental capacity!
Unfortunately, I could never develop any laurel to rest upon. So I’ve just had to age.
About Donald Trump. Plainly, a large portion of the electorate want a different conversation than is currently offered, and this matter would seem to ‘Trump’ all other considerations in their selection of a political candidate. Do they care that Trump swaggers with braggadocio, insults candidates and citizens? Apparently not. Do they care that he makes outrageous claims? “I will build a wall and make Mexico pay for it.” Apparently not. Do they care that he seems to have done little or no homework regarding the job he is applying for? “I will cut the Medicare budget by 300 billion.” (When the Medicare budget is only 78 billion?) Apparently not. His approval numbers just keep climbing. What is going on?
The people I’ve seen voicing support for Trump seem intelligent enough, look to be running their own lives successfully, and give no signs of mental instability… aside from polarizing a conversation very rapidly.
It seems a large portion of Trump’s support has materialized out of a disparate electorate as if precipitating from a clear American solution. Or at least from the clear solution as it has been presented to us by the dominant media and cultural outlets: a Progressive rainbow coalition of answers which are relayed to us as having no serious contenders – that are not ‘beyond the pale’ of accepted thinking. And yet, all of a sudden, all this collective animus?
Conservative thought would seem to have made no inroads in breaking the Progressive grasp of our politics and culture. The universities are increasing learning institutions devoid of Republicans, as are the Arts. The press is near wholly in the grip of the Democratic Party. The few bastions of vocal resistance, like Fox News and Rush Limbaugh’s Talk Radio, are more demonic Id dominated doppelgangers of a Leftist psychological condition than original entities. Small periodicals, think tanks, editorial boards in the fly-over states and the Wall Street Journal still produce reasoned, considered and temperate conservative argument. But they garner little traction in the national conversation. And the Church, possibly the most conservative of all institutions, is on its heels from attacks on all sides. Sometimes I wonder if the Church itself doesn’t wonder if God hasn’t “left the building”. Current conservative reasonableness has been given the brush off in the media so many times that it has the traction, in the public’s mental landscape, of a fly.
It’s been said that Donald Trump represents the current American Id. I’d say that’s a fair assessment. Trumps platform wants what it wants when it wants it and that may change on a moment’s notice which makes no difference if Donald says so… I would take that to be a reasonable assessment of the basic Trump position.
The overweening objective among political strategists in these post-modern times has been to “control the conversation”. The Left has been extremely successful at this. And I would hazard that this is a very dangerous thing to do. When you deny reasonable disagreement at the table, what you reap is unreasonable disagreement from off the table. The Left is very good at summoning creatures like Trump, whose outrageous nature is to make the Left look like the reasonable party. Getting these summoned demons back into the box can be a lot harder. And when they appear, they injure us all.
My advice. Pull back from these extremes. We need a Conservative/Liberal coalition which will restore reason to the national conversation. Conservatives and Liberals are like man and wife. When behaving properly they can become the best friend they will ever have, and more productive than either alone.
When politicians demonstrate great respect for their opponents’ positions, personas such as Donald Trump will dissipate like the smoky huffing apparitions they are.
Prior to our entry into WWI, the sentiments of the general citizenry were quite isolationist. Here’s what Mark Crispin Miller says regarding the work of Edward Bernays (among many others) to change that:
“… it was not until 1915 that governments first systematically deployed the entire range of modern media to rouse their populations to fanatical assent. Here was an extraordinary state accomplishment: mass enthusiasm at the prospect of a global brawl that otherwise would mystify those very masses, and that shattered most of those who actually took part in it.”
As Bernays was to say later, “We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.”
One of the strategies employed by the Federal Government to deflect opposition to the draft in WW1 was to enforce its implementation at the local level. This insulated the Federal Government from criticism of its policies. Supporting the draft took on personal approbation. Patriotic citizenry could question and bedevil the holdouts, the slackers, even root out the traitorous. The Federal Government, in essence, released the mob. (My grandmother’s defense of my grandfather’s German roots nearly got him jailed.) This same strategy continues today.
In political circles there is a concept called the Overton Window, which “also known as the window of discourse, is the range of ideas the public will accept.” (Wikipedia). What enlarges or shrinks this window are the intellectual and/or political players at the national level. But what enforces this window of debate are the citizenry all around us.
In sales, when the prospect you have chosen to speak with is not moved by an argument whose advantages are overwhelming , it’s fairly certain that either you are not talking to the ‘decision-maker’, or that, for some reason, they do not find what you are saying credible. Either way, you have fallen outside of that person’s Overton Window, and are left peering at the Overton Wall (my invention!).
You may have experienced this same level of mystification when discussing political issues either in person or as it more commonly happens today on social media. Only experts need apply. The powers that be have ruled personal experience inadmissible and most probably suspect. Personal experience or anecdote will place you right outside the Overton Window alongside the rustics. Common sense need not apply either. It is outside the Overton Window too. We’re all experts nowadays, or nothing. And this applies to both sides of the issues.
Web links are the puppet strings. More and more we move by them. We think by them. We exercise our freedom of expression through them.
Or, perhaps, for a less paranoid view, try this which is taken from an article by Nathan Heller in a recent issue of The New Yorker:
“The stories you encounter through your smart phone are stories, basically, asking to be found.
Getting outside of the museum is hard.”
“Encounter thinking” (real experience), “our response to the exceptional, saves us from the errors of consensus and the expectations of smooth process that, like the myths of consolation, leave us ill-equipped to deal with changes when they come.”
Unfortunately, personal experience, more and more, is useful only as a private curio or baubles to be traded in psychoanalysis. It may rule our stars, but it has little impact socially. Or worse, it could have a hazardous impact socially and even legally. You can pass on a link with much less worry of being branded by the content. You are merely passing on ‘what is out there’. Whereas, you are personally liable for your personal views.
But what if there is nothing out there that you want to say – which can be copied and pasted? And a lot that isn’t?
Well, here in our new America, we’re each choking on our own very private experience. Grin and bear it or suffer the consequences.
P.S. As a small update, it occurs to me that what the ‘Donald’ brings to politics, regardless the view of him, is personal experience. He puts arguing a point from personal reflection back inside of the Overton Window. And I think a lot of people respond to this.
Artwork by practitioners of a Conservative viewpoint can be hard to come by. If you’re a Conservative you’re accustomed to this. If you’re not, you might be afraid of reaching down into the rabbit ‘hole’.
Well, fear not. Here are a few sample snippets of some poems:
Sometimes I lie in bed at night
trying to imagine how big the government is
until I pass out.
And summer times I some times,
lie on the grass
and name each constellation
as a separate bureau.
That constellation there.
The big one.
That’s the Department of Health, Education and Welfare
with a total budget this fiscal year 2015
of one trillion twenty billion dollars.
Anarchist at the Political Fair
If we are our own worst enemy,
as we are so often,
what folly to cast aspersions!
I am not here to rile you up;
I am here to calm you down…
Continue to disagree as you will and as you must.
I am not here to change your minds – but to disperse them!
Altogether we constitute a pox! There’s the truth of it.
Too much power is granted to too few.
If you enjoyed these starter hors d’oeuvres, you might enjoy this book:
Every story takes place in a country where the character must be sacrificed for the good of the whole and the author is the sole authority. There is a “greater good” to be achieved. “Kill your darlings”, is the much quoted classroom tutorial phrase which comes to mind. In a story there is no Constitution, no Bill of Rights, no questions of debt or expense – because stories are about conflict. That is, they take place on a war footing. A great problem is afoot, great things are at risk, strong leadership is required, new thinking is required. Quibblers need not apply. Basically a story is a country with a ‘strong man’ ruler where the author owns all means of production.
Even in the Land of the Free we are not so hostile to this moral fascism of the “greater good”. We honor our military veterans, our fallen, our departed leaders, our selfless citizens who sacrificed for their children, their town, their school, the fire department, the police and all those who are self-supporting, pay their taxes and honor the law. And as humans everywhere, we think in narrative.
But in our published narratives we demand a little more and peer a little further. We do an autopsy. We lift that curtain on the ‘soul’, take the character to task for their choices, dig and scratch right down to bedrock where we assay a true nature and a truth, and decide whether or not they are useful to the greater purpose. Should the character be obliterated from history or enshrined in the canon?
If you are of the progressive turn of mind and worship at the altar of progressive change, you might want to extend an uplifting book into realms as yet unwitnessed. Life is indeed better in some stories. Why shouldn’t this narrative be extended? Why shouldn’t what reads well, play well? Why shouldn’t we fight for justice as the hero does in our book? Why shouldn’t we change the town to run more like it runs in the uplifting story? Why shouldn’t we demand more of human character?! And why shouldn’t we enact laws to help shape and sustain these efforts? Especially, if a particular story has caused a terrific outpouring of popular sentiment? Who would be so cynical as to not want a better world?
Indeed. Who doesn’t love Disneyland, where our positive narratives have been infinitely extended. The characters entertain. The workers sing and smile. They arrive and leave through tunnels and back hallways behind false walls and eat and shit somewhere else. And you don’t have to pay them. Just one flat fee and it’s all handled. No one panhandles. No one protests (except perhaps the long lines).
One afternoon, while at Orlando, we got caught in a stalled attraction. We were jammed in this dark, echoing tunnel among numbers of other boaters, while children’s voices of diversity – from all over the world – chirruped loudly through overhead speakers, “It’s a Small World”. Over and over. A constant barrage of melodic uplift.
I felt as if I might lose my mind.
This Mid-Ohio river valley town is a hard place to turn a buck. As a salesperson you don’t have to make many phone calls to figure this out. As I work my way down the Chamber of Commerce lists of local businesses I follow a lot of hardscrabble efforts and read a lot of unique business names. I call and get a busy signal, a number disconnected, or a voicemail from six months previous. Lots of pre-recorded voicemails predominate as the owner themselves are missing while out presumably massaging some other prospects themselves. It often seems the selling around here involves a lot of sniffing of each other’s skat. In short in this area, as in a lot of the rust belt and increasingly more coastal areas of the country, the hunting is getting scarce. In these business pages you can certainly see people trying …everything. Pet salons, beauty salons, pawn shops, barber shops, chemical cigarettes, lawn services, clean-up services, insurance services, financial services, tax assistance… Even the professionals such as accountants and lawyers are having to jog pretty fast just to get by, and they seem to go out of business nearly as fast as anyone else. In my mind the local employment solutions remind me of when as children we tried to catch a bird or a squirrel with a box held up by a stick with a string attached to it with some yummy bait inside. We used to wait a long time and rarely had any luck. So also with fishing with string and a safety pin.
Most of the small business around here has been run out by the franchises. The dime stores, the cafes, the hardware and clothing stores have been replaced by the Wal Marts, MacDonalds and Home Depots. They take the money here, but their purchasing is done elsewhere. The mines and oil companies pull the resources out, pay some pretty good blue collar wages, but they purchase elsewhere and take the money elsewhere also. The chemical plants up and down the river are not as thriving as once, but they still pay some pretty good blue collar wages – but here again purchase and use the money elsewhere. The government brings in some money in terms of schools and federal services. There is a bit of farming and logging. The industries with the most profitable looking presence around here are the hospitals, funeral homes, and tort law. Just driving around you get the impression that the common activity is to die. The most common posted historical photo is of some devastating flood.
Oddly there are some very good teachers and individual contractors around, as these seem to be relatively good paying jobs which allow some to the best people to remain in the area. The majority of the service jobs remaining, however, barely afford a life. And if you are a youngster trying to break into an occupation around here, there is not much job mobility and few openings. Maybe every twenty years something will come along to rock the economy and a few job holders are lured from the safety of their sure employment into something else to create a vacancy. Otherwise the suppliers and customers are as attached and committed to one another as an embryo to its placenta.
But, here, more and more it doesn’t appear as if we are alone out here in the woods of Appalachia. Even in the metropolitan area of Seattle, where I once called home, and all around our nation people are talking about the hollowing out of the middle class. At the dealership where we once worked in Seattle they demanded an extreme work ethic. You could work extremely hard and earn quite a bit more money that we needed. We could have also worked just a normal week taken home $150,000/year, gone to see all of our child’s games and made it home for dinner by 6 every evening. Except that the latter was not an option. The company needed $500,000/year from that territory. Otherwise they’d get someone else.
I see this all around the United States. The big game like an elephant, a whale or a rhino are still around. And if you are equipped to hunt them, you will have more food than you can possibly need. But most the deer, rabbits, squirrels, possum, fish, etc. are gone. Normal people with normal skills need not apply. You have been replaced by better software and robots.
Then, just the other day, this caught my eye. It was an article written for “The Seattle Globalist” by Sahid Maxad, an immigrant who, after twenty years repatriated to Somalia. Sahid writes:
“But I was also getting away from a mostly stagnant and unfulfilling life in Seattle — White Center to be specific.
I was tired of working dead end jobs just to pay the bills. I felt trapped in a vicious cycle, where I always ended up at the same starting point, with no end in sight. I felt as if I was living a real life version of the movie Groundhog Day.”
What Sahid found in Somalia was a very poor country, and yet one with “many continuous years of improved safety and infrastructure development.” And the time seemed to be right. “More and more people are choosing to take their savings and invest in startup businesses and NGOs in Somalia to help rebuild the nation on a grassroots level.”
“Returning diaspora members are positioning themselves for success beyond their wildest imaginations — especially compared to their prospects in the States. I’ve seen people come here with a modest amount of savings and leverage it into entire hotel chains and various other lucrative entrepreneurial enterprises.”
In other words, the game hunting is good there in Somalia for the burgeoning middle class.
I wonder if we might not see more and more of your own middle class heading for the poorer regions of the world in the coming years also, as they search out a better life.