July 31, 2011

"The Piping Days of Peace"

I forgot who wrote, “War shall endless war still breed.” (Coleridge?)

Watching President Obama since his election, alternately thrilled by it, and disgusted by his warmaking, and by his concessions to conservative Republicans, and by his patronizing, uninspiring speeches, I find myself still liking him, but detesting his lukewarm domestic, and incendiary foreign policies. How many times, during the last two months, have we heard, “the middle class?” One would think that the middle class is of more importance to politicians than their own families. Many of them came from the middle class, but are of that class no more, and are the owners of property, businesses, “perks,” status, and power. Of course, they are aware that it was this class, which elected them, and which they need to elect them again, if they will continue their lucrative careers in politics.

Another thing that comes too often from his mouth--for they are the magic words politicians must utter at least once daily, to convince us that everything they do is for "the American people." For a better understanding of what I mean by this, please Google Harold Pinter's Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech. He said it better than I ever can.

I remember the 60s very well, because I was in my prime, and a small part of it. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was my hero, though I am a white southerner, and, even today, his simplest words make me teary. What a loss. What a terrible loss. Imagine, if this committed and passionate man, this moral and courageous man, assassinated at 39, had been elected to Congress.

Additionally, I remember Bobby Kennedy, a very rich man, who tramped through the shantytowns of the South, the poor white towns of Appalachia, the squalid migrant labor camps of the West, and the ghettos of the North, and sat in smelly rooms with the poor, the aging and hopeless poor, on sagging chairs, with cockroaches all about, and no electricity, and little or no food in the cupboard. Kennedy was not bashful about pointing to the plight of the poor, black or white, and insisting aggressively, but with grace, that it was the nation’s duty to pay them attention, and provide care. I cannot help but compare President Obama to Robert Kennedy. But there is no comparison.

If King and Kennedy were here yet, and still in their lovely prime, they would not be saying, “the middle class.” They would be saying, “the poor.” It is the poorest who must be attended to before all others; before the wealthy, before the military, before the students, and before the middle class. As President Franklin Roosevelt said, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” Republicans and members of FDR’s own wealthy class, called him, and still refer to him in private, as “a traitor to his class.”

FDR, in effect, created the middle class, when he put money in the hands of the poor, who spent it, helping business to prosper and grow, and for new business and enterprise to become. How quickly we forgot this, in our too-comfortable, complacent, and materialistic lives.

Now I’m reminded of another quote, by John Wilmot, in reference to King Charles II:

“We have a pretty witty King,

Whose word no one relies on.

He never said a foolish thing,

And never did a wise one.”

But the clever King Charles, hearing of it, replied, “That’s true, for my words are my own. But my actions are those of my ministers.”

If President Obama has such wit, we have not seen it, and wit is a sign of high intelligence, as the wit of Presidents Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and John Kennedy and his brothers, and lately, of Senator Al Franken, proves.

President Obama may be intelligent; but he is not witty. He has never made me laugh, and is about to make me cry. Who will follow his likely one-term presidency, which promised so much, and delivered so little? What a loss. What a tragedy. But, if he doesn't light a fire in his belly, and start speaking out for the poor, I won't be sorry to see him gone, no matter who follows him. The "lesser of two evils" is only "the evil of two lessers."

It is like Representative John Conyers (D-SC), a toughened veteran of the Civil Rights Movement, said recently: "President Obama went to Harvard."

And, considering the middle class, I’m reminded of yet-another quote, which, again, I think came from Coleridge:

“Mid thy herds and thy cornfields secure

Thou hast stood,

And joined the wild yelling of famine and blood.”

This is a copy of a blog I've begun at firedoglake.com ("The Piping Days of Peace")

July 19, 2011


I've been going through a serious criticism of my blog by someone whose opinion I valued for awhile. I'm going to post some of it here and then try to analyze and deal with it.

"you mike have a one track mind.
your problem - and it has been all your life - in every one of your damn blog entries THAT I HAVE READ
you only hear your own woes and your own self.
everyone who has met you in this process has pointed that out.
funny, how fifteen people all come to the same conclusion.
and while yours might say "she's still young" mine all say "well he is an angry old man that never grew up"

This person praised my blog to the sky: "There is some good stuff in there." She said it was "strong" and "unique" and other accolades. I admit that those sorts of compliments encouraged me to keep writing. The blog enabled me to finish things and led me to think it was one of the most-productive periods of my miserable 50 years of writing life. I'm not used to people reading my writing, much less praising it. It encouraged me to keep on with it. It was heady praise, and it went to my head of course. When I lost her friendship, my self-confidence went down like the moon, and I lost interest in blogging.

The problem is that I don't know much about anything other than myself. I have opinions of course, strong ones, and think I could organize some things better than they are; but I don't know much about anything, and doubt everything I think I might know. It's my skeptical nature and low-self esteem, which was birthed by betrayals and failure.

But looking back through some of the 190 pieces I've posted here, I can't fully accept the criticism that I "don't listen," and write only about myself. It's simply not true, though it has elements of the truth.

I'm forever re-writing things I read:

"The moments after engaging with a sunset or engaging with a partner in the act of sex are the ones that offer true clarity"

My rewrite:

moments after engaging a sunset or with a partner in sex are moments of true clarity

I wouldn't know.

I've seen thousands of sunsets and remember only one. It certainly was a moment of clarity. The sex I remember ended with temporary unconsciousness but not clarity.

I was walking beside an estuary in Corpus Christi in the early 80's, probably hitching to the university, where I was reading about the Holocaust, when I saw thousands of birds; gulls, pelicans and cranes, standing on rocks rimming the small cove to prevent coast-erosion. They were standing there apparently watching the sunset. I stopped to watch it too.

I was probably stoned. I usually was. I was broke most of the time too, jobless I'm sure, and for awhile I donated blood in one of those plasma-sucking stations that paid 15 bucks for a quart of my vital body fluids every two weeks; but somehow I always had some weed. So I stood there for about 10 minutes completely immobile as our fiery star sank past the curvature of the planet. Then, to relieve my feet, I kneeled.

Every single bird in the estuary lifted off in a flutter of silent wings, hovered a moment, then settled back to the shoreline. They had all been watching me, and, when I dropped into a shooting position, they had instinctively lifted off for evasive maneuvers. I was shocked. They had been watching me. Imagine that a simple act of yours frightens thousands of other creatures into taking flight.

It did not make me feel powerful or important, but small, mean and feared. Other creatures feared me and my species, even as I meant them no harm, and I could not claim species-discrimination. After all, do sea birds shoot at us? Wherever there are birds, it seems, there are two-legged humans killing them for food or sport.

All the other animals must feel the same instinctive wariness, because there isn't a one we haven't killed in great numbers. They know our firesticks. It is in their genes.

At one time it was probably a more-even contest.

There are many many creatures who are our betters in physical ability and ferocity. A bear of any kind can tear us to pieces and eat us alive; a whale can swat a whole boatload of men with a single stroke; tigers, lions, cheetahs, and all other cats,can kill and devour us. A baboon can rip us to shreds with its teeth, a chimpanze can tear us apart with its hands, and our faithful dogs can turn on us and kill everybody in the house. There's hardly an animal out there which a single human can defeat in hand-to-hand combat. Imagine what a wild boar with tusks and teeth can do to a frail or flabby human being. A pig can kick our ass.

We learned to gang up on them, to distract them with drums and poke them with hot sticks, and to beat them to death all at once in a circle of death by rampaging human fury impelled by fear. We learned how to hunt, trap and kill every one of them over time. We are the best predators on the planet; if not the best-looking.

Our intelligence out-matched their strength and ferocity, as Nature would have it, and the smarter ones learned to give us a lot of room, with the noble dog being the only clear exception. This poor animal is probably the only one capable of loving us despite our abuse. Well, we feed them too. Actually, most domestic house-dogs are drugged by their dog food. (As for cats, they are an alien species and parasites of the first order; but they provide us with soothing vibes in exchange for food and shelter.)

We obviously are more afraid of wild animals than they are of us. We've proved we can kill anything on the planet except the cockroach, and the other animals know it. The real danger is if the cockroaches learn it.

The trouble is that there are so many of us, and way too much killing of all sorts. If we keep killing at this rate--species, fish, oceans, forests, air, each other--soon the only thing left to eat will be the cockroaches and each other.

We need to slowly over many generations reduce the population of humans to a manageable billion. There's no reason why each of us can't have hundreds of acres of land and all the resources thereon. Nor is there a sensible reason why we should steal and destroy the natural habitats of the other species. It is clear that all life and systems are inter-dependent. If our quality of life is to improve, the quality of all other lives also must improve. Our arrogant, warlike species has defiled the planet and this must stop. We must rid ourselves of thinking that we can and should control the earth. The planet will destroy us before we destroy it. And it is absurd: we don't control the earth.

It would be so much the easier to do with fewer people and less waste, and, served by robots and machines operated by robots, we could have a happy and serene life. A life perhaps of contemplation or sensation, or whatever we choose. A free life, presumably. Or could we? Life is so complicated and hard sometimes that we can only attribute the cause to human malevolence and stupidity.

But we still would have to put up with cockroaches. They will always be here, feeding on our stenchy waste, searching for and finding food and territory. Rather like ourselves. Of course, they can't make atom bombs. But atom bombs can't wipe them out either. Nothing can withstand radiation like a cockroach.