Archive for June, 2016

Our Current Home

June 29, 2016

Belpre May 2015

I like this place better than my wife does.

“That’s true.”  She frowned one day.  “There’s a reason I left.”

The people here look different and think different.

“Yeah.  And that’s because they are ignorant as hell and stubborn as mules.”

My wife is a salesperson, which in the world of commerce is something like a missionary.  So, now and then, she gets tossed into the native’s supper pot and stirred along with the peas and carrots, and it makes her grumpy.

But I’m a writer.  And I’m living where stories have flourished unmolested among generations of hill sheltered Irish, Scotch and German immigrants.  Life still flourishes in little clannish pockets of rustic growth scattered throughout these hills and hollers like so many petri dishes which have been left open to the air along the culture lab countertops.  There’s nothing quite like it in the Seattle metropolitan area from where I came.

It is said by the author, John Alexander Williams, in “Appalachia / A History”, that historians who have tried to identify this territory as a single entity concluded “instead that it is a territory only of the mind, an id’ee des savants, a place that has been invented, not discovered, an “alternative America” projected onto the mountains and mountain people by reformers whose real purpose is to critique or change things in the nation at large.”  Progressives break their picks on this place – file for exhaustion under a Federal Program, I’d suppose – and move away.  So that in many ways, (including to ‘my’ way of thinking), it’s bliss.  “Almost heaven.”

The brick buildings and infrastructure crumble.   When driving through a town hereabouts and  you see a large sign declaring their place in history, you can pretty well bet that is because there is nothing much going on currently.   Heritage is big, partly because although there was much happening then, there is not much happening now – and partly because so many of the people are related.  We’re talking family, here.

The State of West Virginia has lost population.  The coal mines are shuttering.  Oil prices have dropped.  For some reason, I have yet to plumb, their greatest pride in historical photos is of record floods.  You’ll see old photo after old photo, in the larger of the small towns, of ancestors poling around in boats down main street past the hotel and the mercantile.

We live just across the river from Parkersburg, West Virginia.  A lot of what once gave our town character and hometown beauty was bulldozed when the automobile bridge went through.   (The railroad bridge dates back to the Civil War.)  But to enjoy this place – and many others like it – you need to pan for the small pockets of gold.  For example, a lovely riverside residence sits behind a curved drive, in back of an empty row of store fronts along the treeless main strip which boasts a Hardee’s.  Another hidden mansion sits down a dead end street behind a sign designating it as a historical structure.  A yard sized graveyard hosts “Mrs. Armstrong and 3 children / Killed by Indians / in 1795.”  It’s surrounded by a non-descript, waist high hurricane fence with a gate on a low rent residential block.  Down the way is a house trailer perched high on the Ohio riverbank with a small garden trailing off below it, rowed with corn.  Also buried inside is “Israel Stone Jr. / March 24,1778 / April25, 1791 / Drowned in the Ohio River”.  You’ll find a lot of this puttering around on a bicycle.

The new construction and well maintained real estate appear to be hospitals, rest homes, mortuaries, government facilities and chemical plants up and down the river.  Billboards advertising “our nationally ranked cardiac surgery center” and personal injury lawyers are frequent sights.  It’s oddly easy to find a church and very hard to find a tavern, though the counties crawl with alcoholics and opium deaths are currently epidemic.   You can drive along a road in West Virginia which will gradually peter away into something like a pot-holed driveway, and then continue on to find the road improved and yourself in another small town.  The towns are so small and unremarkable that most of the rural folks identify themselves by the county they come from.

So what is there to like about this place?  Well, we have warm summer days punctuated by thunderstorms.  If you close your eyes summer times, what with the birds talking and the breeze blowing, it reminds me of Mexico.  Quiet stretches of forest full of broad leafs abound.  We have excellent produce.  People talk sports and hunting instead of politics.  The houses have porches which people use.  It rains enough, you needn’t water.  And although we’re a large percentage Caucasian, the minorities get along peaceably.  If you just turn off the national TV, you’re not going to hear a conversation about race, though each seems to stick with its own, as seems natural.

Our neighborhood is quite safe.  No intimidation.  No break-ins.  No burglar bars.  Neighbors wave and nod.   Which is kind of puzzling, since there was a crack house a block and a half north of us, a hooker who lived just up the street, and a trailer court of a half dozen older boxes a block kiddy corner in the opposite direction, and pickup trucks driven by grizzled  guys (and gals) rumble past.   The hooker was the undoing of my contractor.  And I think she got some of my money, too.  But otherwise, kids are respectful and walk past or ride by on bikes and play in the street.  I can’t say I understand it.  In the big city you had to buy your way out of these problems by moving to a development in the suburbs.  Here, it is very heterogeneous.  Lovely old mansions sit a half block from a trailer court.  A tumbledown is right next door to a nice foursquare.    Along the Ohio stately homes are recessed back of lawns sloping down towards the river, with here and there a small bungalow, or a cottage surrounded in junk with a blue-tarped roof.  Churches abound.  It seems every clan which has a member with a bent for religion starts another.  On a short drive to get the ‘best biscuits and gravy’ about thirty miles to the  south, we averaged one church per mile, and I can’t recall seeing a tavern.  In the small town of Carnation, outside of Seattle near where we once lived, there were three bars within a block’s radius.

Our son is busy with innumerable activities, very few of which involve a lot of money as there aren’t many attractions to spend it on.  He attends all the sports events, does pickup basketball,  organizes camping and pontoon boat excursions, goes mudding, cave exploring,  stays up late with his friends around bonfires and is the go-to school photographer.  And he has a steady girlfriend.

The teachers at his school are excellent.  Which puzzled me until my wife suggested that teaching is one of the better jobs to have around here.  The trades and service professions tend to fill up with individuals who in the larger metropolises would have graduated to more lucrative professions.  Families go back generations.  And you have to be careful who you squabble with as there are all sorts of filial ramifications.

So.  About being “ignorant as hell”.  Well, that’s the glass half empty.  The glass half full is that they are well schooled in experience – going back centuries.  And “stubborn as mules”.  Again, that’s the glass half empty.  The glass half full is that what has worked is honored, and they are a profound bulwark against the next incursion by those smarty pants, who are so finely educated that they know better even before their tuition has been fully paid, and are off preaching to “change the world”  with a vision offered from the moral high ground of their immaculate lives .   These damnable progressives, who constantly devalue our traditions… while carping, carping, carping about what a mess the modern world is – a world more and more of their making…  well, don’t get me started.

Like I say, those sorts either move away, or break their pick and go back to where they came from.  And it’s real restful.

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Two Problems with Socialism

June 26, 2016

Bernie4

Last night I watched a biopic of Jimmie Hendrix in which one commentator remarked that trying to become famous can be more fun than the actual ‘being’ famous.

I would make the same case for making a living.  Endeavoring to insure oneself a roof over one’s head and food in one’s mouth is wholly more involving than the simple consumption of it.  People who must earn a living become resourceful, capable, industrious and persistent.  People who just consume often become just the opposite.  It would seem humans are made to strive, not arrive.  We are designed to be problem solvers, not consumers.

Take your average consumer.  For the most part, even they are out to purchase the answer to a problem they have.  The housewife needs to dress her children and feed her family and to create a well appointed and comfortable home.  Even the indulgent consumer is either out to create a mood through a hedonistic purchase or a prized look through the purchase of fashion.  I would hazard that even the Socialist has more fun and finds more purpose in life trying to bend the world to their will and moralizing from their soapbox – than when lying back and enjoying the benefits of the free lunch themselves.  I’d guess that they have little envy for what they are striving for, and only envy for what they testify against.  Otherwise, they would move.

Another problem with socialism is that people enjoy doing business.  They love it, even when done for pennies, such as at a flea market.  As Francesca Aran Murphy so succinctly states in her piece, “Is Liberalism a Heresy?”  (and in a former post I’ve made)

“A mixture of rule of law and respect for personal freedom enabled market economies to emerge.  People readily took to the roles of buyer and sellers of goods, because buying and selling involves the kind of role-play in which human beings flourish…..  Buying and selling became a driving force and expressive feature of modern societies, because the clever play of concealment and exposure through language and gesture it entails fits our social, dramatic  natures like a glove.”

Socialism saps the fun from life.  I believe it was Susan Sontag who said, “The problem with socialism is that it is too boring.  And the problem with fascism is that it’s too exciting.”  Have I talked you into becoming a Babbitt yet?

Currently the next conversation due upon the political horizon is of creating a basic national income.  This is being seen as necessary to many, who foretell that the coming jobs available for a large percentage of our citizens will simply not pay enough for them to live successfully.  What is to be done?

I don’t know.  I don’t know if what is foreseen will actually occur.  Nobody does.  But if it does, proponents say that a sample of  studies undertaken seem to show that people given the money do not waste it, but utilize it to create better lives for themselves.

It sounds promising.  But would this be true if everyone got free money?  And if everyone gets free money, wouldn’t this cause a counterproductive inflation of the prices of basic items?

As is usual, the studies seem to indicate one thing, but experience the other.  So the ‘smart’ people tend to line up on one side of the issue and the experienced people on the other.  The record for trust babies doesn’t look good.

How will having more money cause people to find meaningful work?  Or will it?   And if not, what then?  Idle hands are the devil’s helpers, they say.

(To read more of Carl Nelson’s work, go to: http://www.magicbeanbooks.co/home.html  )

Where have all the reporters gone?

June 25, 2016

reporter

What with the closing and consolidation of so many newspapers and news outlets around the country, I hadn’t given much thought to where the reporters had gone.

Then I noticed that the attendance to my magazine of contemporary culture had trebled.  Also that the articles I had been reading in these professorial type journals with their college and think tank affiliated authors – also had the contemporary feel of a journalist’s beat.  Have the reporters found shelter in the coves of academic publications and non-profit think tanks?

I don’t know.  And I haven’t been able to find out anything.

I’m not much of a reporter.

(To read more of Carl Nelson’s work, go to: http://www.magicbeanbooks.co/home.html  )

Hating Business

June 23, 2016

 

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Portrait of male deli owner leaning on counter

Business Hatred1

Why all this hatred of normal life?

For Conservatives one of the World’s Great Cultural Wonders is, Why Do So Many People Profess to Hate Business and Normal Life?

Business creates wealth.  Business creates and adds value.  Businesses employee people and pay them money.  Business is voluntary both in terms of using labor and in dispensing products.  You don’t have to work where you don’t want.  And you don’t have to buy what you don’t want.  (Unless the government demands this.)  And on top of all of this, the entry requirements are fantastic.  You simply start doing it.  No credentials are necessary.

Moreover, business is the flow of life.  As Francesca Aran Murphy so succinctly states in her piece, “Is Liberalism a Heresy?”

“A mixture of rule of law and respect for personal freedom enabled market economies to emerge.  People readily took to the roles of buyer and sellers of goods, because buying and selling involves the kind of role-play in which human beings flourish…..  Buying and selling became a driving force and expressive feature of modern societies, because the clever play of concealment and exposure through language and gesture it entails fits our social, dramatic  natures like a glove.”

 On the other hand, government takes our money.  It is compulsory.  It demands obedience by force.  And in some matters, even what the government offers is compulsory e.g. “free” education.

The government enslaves citizens, sends them to wars, and requires onerous tasks e.g. filling out and filing tax forms.  The governments of this world are responsible for and uncountable number of wars and millions upon millions of deaths.  Government decides upon wrong-headed policies from which its citizens are allowed no escape.  To be frank, the list of governmental sins is too long for a modestly realized piece such as this.  And then there is the nature of control.

A citizen’s control over their government’s actions is beyond laughable.  We are allowed to vote several times a year (usually 2 or 3).  Our vote is only one of millions cast.  Our decisions are on perhaps 10 -30 key topics with the results being A,B,C,or D.  From these decisions hundreds of thousands of employees are directed and trillions of dollars allocated, and yards high stacks of laws and regulations enacted.  We really have no more than a general idea of what the laws surrounding anything we might do might be.  This is why the sight of the police creates the slight frisson of fear in even the most honest citizens.  You do not want the law turning its eye upon you.  God knows what it is you could be doing wrong.

Business Hatred3

A citizen’s control over a company, however, is quite direct.  We can decide individually – and as many times as we like – whether or not to buy a product.   If we buy the product and it doesn’t perform, we can decide to not buy the product again.  If the product does perform and we like it, we have sustained a beneficial enterprise.  And the benefits of the enterprise extend well beyond the business product itself.  The ebb and flow of customers adds to the community’s vitality.  A business establishment is a place to meet, a place to talk, a safe and clean place to rest a bit.  The traffic of honest citizens deters the criminal element.   People get things they need, and the employees make money.  A successful business anchors a neighborhood, both financially and socially.  A successful business even disciplines a neighborhood.  If you don’t behave, you are made to leave.  If you can’t frequent the business, it is hard to the join the neighborhood.  Business has a civilizing effect upon the daily life of citizens, which is a consideration obtained with few laws ennacted.  Business accomplishes very much with very little encroachment upon the citizen’s liberties.  All business demands are the day to day courtesies – which, in any event, are a balm to the spirit.

Business Hatred5      business hatred2

Why then, this animus towards business?

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