The House

The House

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Occupy will never die.


One year ago today I wrote the following:

I have been watching live-stream of general assemblies, process, community and peaceful protest since October 6th almost non-stop. From my virtual "fly on the wall" view, the energy being put out on a daily basis, most of it 24/7 has been amazing. It has been tiring for me, but exhaustive for the Occupy facilitators. I needed to be witness if I could not always participate like I wanted to.
This movement has grown in direct relation to the commitment put into it. Who of the original 56 knew it would grow so large so fast. Who among them was prepared for success? I don't believe a one of them. The empowered themselves and each other in the hopes of getting a few others to recognize the terrible state of our country and planet.

                The individual empowerment they embraced as they held each other in that space in Liberty Park became a conduit of fire, pent up anger and love. I could have burnt them up, exploded or simply vented and died after the first push back by the city of New York. The fell in love and like any love affair it raged with all the passion, beautiful and mystery that love is. Gaining trust, showing up, being present, and welcoming the creativity of change that is required if any new endeavor is to survive.
As I watched I was mesmerized by the concentrated discipline of the non-hierarchical structure, inclusion and a mantra of peace that truly expressed itself in action, no faux gestures, and no logos. I do not believe those who made the commitment to mid -wife this movement have comprehended what they started, not entirely. They are too busy doing it.

Perhaps they think they find themselves a year later the "only ones" a small loyal cadre? I write this a year later to let many know just the opposite is true. Just like the rumors’ of Paul McCartney’s death, smaller doesn't mean dead! Rumors’ of Occupies death are greatly exaggerated.
Like any new baby this infant of the collective soul is new and needs full attention. They are too busy to think about all the changes yet to come and what it will eventually grow into, but the values imparted now will tell the tale later.

But tonight, more than 36 hours after the big raid on Monday morning I saw some very tired parents. The ebb and flow, the tides of emotion to send off a movement are just beginning. Grief is part of any process, try stopping change once it is implemented; impossible. The space defined a community kept the baby safe, carefully collected items that defined the character in time, for a time. Some must feel the baby being thrown into the world too soon. Memories and images kept for infinity on the World Wide Web. But obviously today there were those who were prepared ahead of time for this next phase of growing pains.
I say "leave" because I believe that Bloomberg also is part of the birthing process. The assertion of Occupy would not truly be able to stand without resistance in the archetypal sense. A slap on the butt, the movement like a gazelle in the wild, hours after birth must run from predators. We live in accelerated and exhilarating times. The clearing out of the park is the mess of birth, the womb of a new liberty now comes into the world fully gestated in two months. Be happy. This new creation is wobbly, hungry, eager and ready learn. I watched a meeting become somewhat chaotic, many have before, but this was different. The parents are rushing to keep up. Do any of these mid-wives of change the historic never to be forgotten energy they have given over to the world? Not yet. Older activists and change makers can relate this experience and like a knowing grand masters smile with a pride not felt in decades.

I marvel at the lack of violence on the part of Occupy. Less crime than the general population given the exposed nature of the participants, no one died in New York. A veteran killed himself at an Occupy camp in (?), which served to bring attention to the suicide rate among vets involved in last ten years of conflict. The disease and pestilence cried about by the city never came to pass. The way the community dealt with the personal needs, safety and views of each person who arrived, the last but not least the homeless and mentally ill. At one point Occupy was the largest soup kitchen in the city. Occupy didn't create a new model, they had all the spiritual and intellectual resources they needed from other movements and intentional community. But it had never been modeled quite like this before.
I have been involved in group projects in theatre, putting together a production in 4-6 weeks. All hands on board or nothing will happen. Egos, fatigue, personality clashes, bogging down but the goal is always the same; opening night for good or ill. I didn't have to live with these folks nor was life and death of democracy at risk.

We are social animals and Occupy sees one tribe oppressing and cheating another tribe, the 1% vs. the 99%. Occupy brought together the tribes of progressiveness; All the disparate causes from fighting addiction to unions, from debt to voter suppression, from environment to women’s issues, veterans groups, health and welfare. This is power of the people that the plutocrats fear. The small tribe of the "masters of the universe" who put themselves above the majority isolated themselves from the rest of the human race. Their own success and power corrupted them like it always has through history. Throughout history the fear of being left behind, shunned, left to starve has been used to make people comply to the demands of the bully’s, who threaten, cheat and often slaughter wholesale. To be fair there was no wholesale slaughter in the case of Occupy. The gods of commerce and transaction fear the goddess' of transformation and community. Occupy lost its things in a tsunami of elite military driven fear of the tribe of humans turning on their gods of money. "You cannot evict an idea!"; becomes the new defiance.
If Occupy is just old hippies, spoiled brats, no leaders, disorganized, than why are the elite so upset? The powers that be feel change and are scared. They are used to being in control that illusion of control carefully crafted. Occupy says the “the emperor has no clothes". What is more tangible is a new conscience born of the seeds of reason and enlightenment.

We Tak We Asne (pardon for the phonetics) the saying from the Lakota; We are all related, kept echoing in my ear as I watched this new conscience express itself on my little lap top. The dancing, the drumming, the arguments, the library, medical tent, art, puppets, signs, laughter fill me with hope.
I am struck by the strength of the voices I hear. I went to live stream/ Occupy London it was 3 a.m. there and a soldier was talking to a handful of people. He described helping an Iraqi family pick up the bits of body parts so they could bury their dead after the Americans had bombed them. He talked about bashing in doors, night after night taking the males and turning them over the Americans to torture for intel. No honor in this. He spoke of the men in Iraq being the "security" for their families and he has nightmares wondering what happened to the women and children left without doors at mercy to roving gangs. In a thousand years there has been one year where a British soldier has not died in battle.

The voices and faces are part of a Greek chorus I soak up each and every night till I can't stay awake. Even when the main stream media tried hard to find an ignorant old lady Occupy version of the Tea Part "bag" lady they couldn't. The attempt to characterize Occupy as dirty, lazy, stupid indolent bored youth, the need to show older women as not understanding the issues, uneducated, senile is typical of the corporate media. Then there is Dorli Raely. Wow! Her voice was so strong, not shaky, her thoughts not muddled or wandering. She showed confidence and humor on what had to be her only national interview. Not scared of nothing. She has been soaking it all in, paying attention since she was born into Nazi Germany. My heroine and a model for ageing I needed.
Tim Pool of the other 99, interviews people off the street, candid, funny determined. His dedication and almost peaceful warrior mentality was inspiring. His determination to tell the story with as little bias as possible should garner him a prize in journalism. The main stream seldom interview off the street, usually the famous, or pseudo famous or each other. I hate the term "regular people", not an actor, real people. If we aren't all real or seen as equals from the beginning gives birth to the non-hierarchal approach to democracy that so few seem to get.

Since I wrote this the movement has changed the conversation of a nation. Has given support to a variety of causes including stopping the XL pipeline if at least temporarily. Started an Occupy Foreclosure, Occupy Strike Debt and Occupy Sandy. I see courage spreading like a breath of fresh air, truth beating back lies, love and strength saying NO to the bullies, racists, elitists and exploiters. As the Chinese have over 87,000 protests this last year against the communist corporatists, as Europe fights the moneyed interests of global finance and austerity, as the so called third world marches and dies against the greed of oil, gold and diamonds, we finally awaken from our free market dream state. And for some reason I cannot fathom the rest of the world is happy to see us awaken, see us as the leader in so many things. We have to live up to our own hype. Put our money where our mouth is. Our constitution is dusted off, that old secular sacred document supplanted by apocalyptic scriptural fanaticism. Occupy will never die as long as there is one person willing to speak to power, say no to tyranny and lies. They said the civil rights movement, women’s movement, Native American movement, environmental movement, the peace movement, would all die! Occupy is not separate but the name of a big family of righteousness. I wear my little Occupy button with pride, just like the old peace sign used decades ago, yellow ribbons, suffragette banners, feathers in hats, pride of the rainbow, and “hatitude”.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Occupy Greed

 As the presidential election unfolds we watch as a man who gained his riches by raiding corporations tries to convince the electorate he is the answer to all our problems. What ever made the republican party believe that an avowed 1%, who keeps his money hidden off shore, has joined a class of job
destroyers exporters in the wake of Occupy could be made president? I have been trying to write this segment all month and each day something else in the campaign and this country shows the arrogance of to large a portion of the plutocracy.

 Occupy has celebrated its first anniversary with "flash" protests and has decided for the most part that the focus in the next year will be to fight debt slavery. with a growing  One in five households yolked by student debt, nationally totaling over a trillion dollars,larger than credit card debt nationwide; debt is the common thread that binds the 99%. Homes are still being foreclosed, each family picked off one by one in the largest banking land grab in modern times. The crisis big money created, the chaos and usury of the banks is unfolding still after five years, virtually unabated. Not because President Obama has been recalcitrant in dealing with the issues, but because the republican/tea party plutocratic backed minority has held our country hostage over ideology. The greed apparent in the market as it soars to near  pre recession highs causes no loss of sleep for the ultra rich 400 who now own more than the bottom 99% combined. To give you  an idea and some proof of the hubris of the republican candidate and the ilk that want him in power, a quote from Edward Conard; former Bain Capital partner with Mitt Romney, in his book Unintended Consequences:

 "Let's not kid ourselves about just how cheap offshore labor really is. We not only pay substantially less per hour, we also avoid the costs we would incur if these workers immigrated here. We don't pay for there medical expenses, when they show up in the emergency room without insurance. We don't pay for their pension costs if they don't save for retirement. We don't pay for their children's public education, nor do we pay for their out of wed-lock children, their unemployment benefits, their
 workers compensation, their slip and fall torts, their wear and tear on public infrastructure and the costs of their drunk driving drug use and other crimes. We outsource pollution, its adverse effects on our health and its clean up costs. Neither the employees nor their employers are here to vote and seek political handouts."

The dripping derision on so many levels is hard to fathom and worse the likes of Conard do not see any problem with their views or their own superiority. Like so many tyrants throughout history they rationalize the good they do and if people suffer it is "unintended" so that makes it okay. They throw out platitudes like " humans aren't perfect", "it isn't about the money", "job creators" blah-blah.
 There are many who write about and speak to the issue of the plutocratic-corporate-fascists-religious-militaristic-apocalyptic society we find our selves in. The book list and authors that I have written down are only a few of the books being on the subject.

 Vultures Picnic  Gregg Palast
 Seeds of Destruction Peter Narvarro
 The Shadow World Andrew Feinstein
 Challenge Empire PHillis Bennis
 Secrets of the Temple William Greider
 Shock Doctrine  Naomi Klein
 The Folly of Fools Robert Trivers
 Debt: The first 5000 years   David Graeber
 Cities under Siege Stephen Graham
 Age of Greed
 Debunking Economics Steve Keen
 The Looting of America Les Leopold
 Two Income Trap  Elizabeth Warren
 Buying out Of America Kosman
 Oil's unending Bid
 Billionares Ball
 Waking up from the American Dream
 It's Even Worse Than It Looks
 Twilight of the Elites Chris Hayes
 War is a Racket (1935) Gen. Smedley Butler
 The Servant Economy: where Americas Elite is sending the middle class.
 Bail Out  Barafsky
 The Price of Inequality Stiglitz
 Matt Taibbi
 House of Cards
 Greedy Bastards
 Robert Reich
 Paul Krugman

And this is just a list of the ones off the top of my head, not to mention the articles, editorials and news documentaries about the rise of  plutocrats on steroids. Many if not most of the mega rich got that way with large government subsidies and contracts. The most recent I  read about was in the Nation. Tagg Romney started a private equity firm in 2008 when his father was considering running for President. The company is called Solamere and from what I
can tell is banking on and grifting from those millionaires and billionaires who are mad at this administration for pulling there fat subsidies, contracts and catching them for fraud. The articles refers to the owner of the Scooter Store who had to pay a fine of 13 million for fraud to medicare. I find it disgusting if you or I bounce a check we are often not only fined but if we close our accounts we can't get another bank account. Period. But this greedy bastard who milks our government on the backs of the elderly and disabled is still receiving money from medicare for his scooters. ( The last proof of greed in The Nation this week Nov. 5th, is an article by Gregg Palast and the fact that Romney, through Delphi (Delco) and a Paul Singer (hedge fund manager) held the auto deal hostage for obscene profits)

Greed and avarice and religious superiority are the sins that overtake us. The hyper superiority of the plutocrats hides an inferiority of morals and has roots going back to this nations beginning. The pilgrims lived in peace with the Native peoples for 20 years. The Puritans felt entitled by God and pushed the Natives aside. Not only did they foist religion upon them they took over the land. The worst part was the pigs that
roamed freely and destroyed Native crops and food stores. It is as if we have always been of two types of people. Those who understood community as reciprocity fairness and equality and those who only see evil and are thoroughly indoctrinated in their God given right to all before them and the only community is the one they create and all others are nothing. Phrases like "makers vs. takers", the 47% percent of Romney, the views spouted of women being assaulted and pregnancy as "God's Will". The religious fervor in which the Republican party  and greed wraps itself in, is not new. I could say it possible goes back to a 17th century pamphlet Tears of Repentance relating the fear of God and the need to do his bidding. (which is based upon the need for profit by Dutch merchant class and the newly created corporations.) Puritans used debt and a promise of health care for Europeans of this religious cult.They took advantage of disease and death to seize Native space and land. Our heritage as a democracy is two faced, shared democracy and owned democracy. These two themes have run red through our fabric and we have not fundamentally changed in over 400 years.

We all understand the wrong of taking more than our share, animals in the wild will discipline young ones who get too greedy at the kill. Lioness's will chase off lions who won't share. When I was little my sister who was two years young than I was caught taking my food and was severely punished. My sister and I both got in trouble for tasting our baby sisters food, not thinking how it was greedy. Growing up my Mother was keen on sharing, taking care of things and not invading each others space or rooms. My sister in an attempt to get this into her head, whether from anger or a need to drive it
home to herself, carved my name in to everything I owned to avoid confusion. We were little and instinctual the lioness tried to help us understand that things are not just things they represent hard work and heart to create a good life for all. Food was always just enough, drawing straws was
a fatalistic way, if you were lucky you got the extra serving. Poverty thinking ran our lives, how to scrimp save make do,and even when my Mother was comfortable she felt poor. The neo-cons in big business and the representatives they have bought keep crying poor when it comes to any money
spent for helping people yet give more and more money to the privatized military, privatized medicare, privatized fuel economy. The numbers don't lie.

The signs of greed are everywhere. Since 1976 the majority of 90% have seen their wages stagnate at 30 thousand a year while inflation during that same time till now is over 250%. all the while good paying jobs or jobs that would have kept up have been swallowed into the maws of private
equity and exported to countries more desperate and hungry.
1% @ 400,000 make 1.1 million a year in income.
In 1980 - Ceo's made 42 times the lowest employee, by 2000 Ceo's make 343% of their lowest earner.
In 1945 taxes on the highest earners was 66% by 2010 it is 32% but that is before all the loopholes and rich deductions they are provided.
Lobbying pays off or they wouldn't do it. 2010 - GE profit was 5.2 trillion with a T, they received a tax refund of 3.2 billion with a B.
Goldman Sachs gave 22 million in campaign money and 21 million for lobbying in 2008. They paid 1% in taxes. At least they paid something forward.
The numbers keep rolling over the lies of the free-market devotees. In Greedy Bastards by Dylan Ratigan the facts of the feed back loop called high finance makes your head swim. lays out in clear facts and graphics a fifth grader can understand. Pick an issue and follow the money to the top. It is hard to believe that there is such craft and greed aforethought involved but its true. These corporations don't have any loyalty except to themselves and their stockholders. A man named Larry once exclaimed to my husband that the "investor" class are the most important. That there is basically no one else worth considering. This otherwise gentle man pronounced himself the superior of all around him.

An obscene 1.4 trillion has been spent for Iraq and Afghanistan in some shape or another and this was spent in the foot soldiers salary nor their care after returning home. The bulk has gone to a privatized military (thank you D. Cheney). It wasn't spent to make sure soldiers had what they needed to do the job, when Hummers no better than the vehicles we drive on our highways were without plating and that was the tip of the ice berg. What pisses me off is we don't have the best military money can buy. The money spent could have converted 100% of every home to solar - 5 times over. Or to wind 9 times over, or food for everyone for two years, college for every high school grad through PhD and 5,500 dollar grant 7 times over. Paid the entire countries volunteer fire fighting force for 23 years, full pensions and health care. (numbers from the American Autumn: Occudoc)

 It isn't the deficit, it is what it has been spent on. why is it in the halls of congress are those fighting to kill all social programs or further privatize it want to hold onto every penny the military gets. At this point the military sees itself awash in cash and refusing more money. A 50 billion cut in military spending would only put us a few years back ( or at the writing of this blahg, make the east coast whole again) but the greedy corporations want more. When I explain these things to my 14 year old, who is a very intelligent young lady, she stated: "Who needs that much money?" What does it go for? Certainly not wages, health care pensions and 401ks that they have raided repeatedly over the last three decades. They may be able to endow a professor at a college or buy the right to have their names upon the football stadium but you won't see them paying for public school teachers, or building bridges unless there is something in it for them. Diploma mills, the for profit colleges rake in billions from student loans, which are defaulted and 27% the rate public university loans are. The cuts in education to force us from a public system to a private for profit system vis a vis the meme from all sides "competition".

We keep being told, almost brain washed with phony compliments about how hard Americans work, how resilient etc. only to have to work harder. Yet, after the Bankruptcy and credit cards laws were changed in 2005 and it became harder to pay debt, as jobs were raided and shipped to the more hungry Chinese and their greedy plutocracy, Americans were blamed for having too much debt, especially communities of color, subtly and not so subtly. People are now going to jail for debt. Yes, debtors prison. When the private equity junk debt buyer files a motion to reveal assetts and subpoena, and the debtor doesn't show up the court is forced file a warrant for contempt. Debtors are arrested and thrown in jail till the debt is settled.

The "capitalist pig" is alive and well after successfully creating a juggernaut of free market back lash to the civil rights,women's, gay  and  environmental movement of the sixties and seventies. The Heritage Foundation was formed in 73 in direct response to Rowe v Wade.  This was the straw for the conservative right that saw white male supremacy in danger. Along with other so called "social" foundations they co-opted the tactics of the movements of the previous twenty years and turned the tide. Even co-opting and changing the meaning of language; " a thousand points of light" was a tenant from the New Age, more like a thousand pin pricks to drain us slowly of life force.  Pure and simple, these scions of power and money felt threatened and decided to do something about. Their first task was to get into the White House with someone more their kind and the answer was not Reagan, but Gerald Ford. Do you think for one minute that Nixon would have been caught or would have had to resign if he had gone along with them and Milton Friedman? No way. They eat their own just as well protect them.

In American Autumn: An Occudoc. Dennis Trainor Jr. the producer of the film asks: "human need before corporate greed" why does it feel un American to say that?"
For the same reason it is cause for derision if one states they are against war; you are not "supporting the troops", not a patriot. Why am I called greedy labor when I ask for a living wage? But Ceo's ruin their companies, banks etal and get golden parachutes and perhaps their wrists slapped and a fine that is "part of doing business". I bounce a check and refuse to be arm twisted with fees and can no longer get a bank account, but the likes of Centura rips of millions from medicare and they can still collect from medicare.   An aside: Maria Hinojosa (PBS) has been arguing that we need to stop using the term "illegal" immigrant, it implies a criminality on part with drug runners and in the same breath derided the guards at the detention centers as "paid minimum wage" as if this makes them less than human without morals or feelings. This was a glaring hypocrisy. We are all guilty of such, but only criminals hate laws and when a law is oppressive or wrong we must not demonize those who enforce them because they are victims also.

There is a song called "Idealistic Youth" on the Occupy Album that talks of a generation that believed the lies of the the free market, after all free is good, right? How wrong they were. Corporations have killed capitalism it intones. 21 trillion is hidden in banks in Monaco, a country the size of lower Manhattan. That is more money than the combined ten year budgets of the U.S. and Japan. As the child said; "who needs that much money?"
There isn't one demand in Occupy but one mantra: Occupy Everything. Name an Issue follow the money. The abuse of power not unlike the barons of old, the gilded age, (gilding btw is a thin layer to hide the cheaper metal below) the master, the lords, the husband who is king of his castle, the fear tactics and bullying. there is never enough money I can be paid or he can bring home that will buy our dignity or souls. Eventually all slaves rise up and all masters underestimate the power of the people.
The non-hierarchical approach to the general assemblies is elegant in a way they may not have realized when they were carefully trying to let every voice be heard. It isn't necessary for literally all voices to be heard, in the fact that someone will almost always say what you are thinking as if we become of a single mind in hard times. Words are power. Social media has lived up to its promise of personal expression and empowerment because it was through these forms that words created a chorus the Greeks could never imagine. The empowerment of realizing you aren't un-American if you are for peace, not a hippie (which I am proud of) for wanting what is right for the planet. We aren't alone in our doubts and hopes. The hundredth monkey "trends" with a million hits. Words in any form create an energy that cannot be dismissed. I remember my friends and I having passionate discussions over coffee for hours, long before iPhone, twitter and instant message and joking about having saved the world in our kaffee clutch. But our conversations were not in isolation it seems.
While you and I try to be good people. Are ashamed when we realize we have hurt someone else or the community at large, feel guilty for leaving lights on or having a gas guzzler before we realized. While we simply want a home, some comfort and memories with our kids, not much. There are those who are sick with ego and the need to feed it with power that comes with money. They want us all in debt to them, beholden to them, adoring them.
Amin Husain an OWS activist was very eloquent when he put it this way, when asked how direct action if effective:

 "How do we deal with mafia capitalism? which is social, political economic injustice that is pervasive in all our institutional structures. When our govt. is incapable of dealing (freeing itself from) with the grip of global capital. What do we get out of direct action? People empowerment. At an age and a time when people seem powerless, and it's important to free up imagination to think there is another world possible and that there is another way of organizing social political, economic life that isn't about Republican, democrat or independent where people get lost in the shuffle....this is the long term direct action. 9/17 became a way of life, in the epicenter of a greed culture, became a society of mutual aid"

To perhaps finish his thought for myself...govt. is people creating a body for "mutual aid". B. fuller said that to be successful one must include as many people in your idea as possible and it should help as many as possible. Alexis Goldstein of Occupy the SEC said the movement is looking for "transformational change not transactional change". Social change is difficult, long hard work. The first people who cry out for justice are often not heard at first, but when the cry gets picked up by others like the people mic, than politicians must make it their job to ratify that voice.
I remember not that long ago there was no whole grain, low fat, no sugar preservatives, much less organic in stores. Food was deplorable. There certainly wasn't any no smoking zones nor was there very much clean air in our cities and the river literally caught on fire. There was no one who dared talk about sexual abuse much less teach kids to tell. Women suffered horridly from pregnancies they didn't want and botched abortions and don't forget the unwanted children who were born. There was no idea of endangered species. There was a hole in the ozone that even Reagan recognized as a threat and now it is reported the ozone layer is returning to normal faster than the scientists calculated it would. We are capable of shifting the conversation and Occupy has done that, think about the language in the media in the last year. 
We learn to resist individually and then together. The Occupy movement has become a larger voice for many groups, an umbrella if you will for labor, foreclosed families, public lands, the mentally ill, the poor, women, black youth, on and on. If you felt you couldn't put your single mind to one issue or movement, if you felt scattered, torn Occupy can give you a sense of doing it all is some way. For all of us. One of the first things Occupy did was show up for the Verizon workers who had been on strike for a year they also protested with the Sacs Fifth Ave. auction workers. They shouted out and supported the services workers in Wisconsin as did Egypt. We are all in this together.
On Sept. 17th, tens of thousands converged on city centers to burn loan papers from house foreclosed upon, student debts, and usurous credit card collections. When people are cheated or robbed the first thing they do is blame themselves. Feeling stupid and alone, ashamed at not seeing it coming they find themselves not able to make decisions not unlike abuse victims. Occupy wants to help empower people to free themselves from debt slavery. People want to be responsible and pay their debts, but they cannot make deals with criminals who have dressed themselves with legal sheeps clothing. The debts are sold repeatedly and the tactics used are worse than the old boys at the pool hall who loan sharked. I would rather deal with them truth be told.
The Debt Resistors Handbook is down loadable for free. In it you can find ways of fighting the greed that hounds us. We cannot blame ourselves for trusting the "dream" they sold us. It would be just like blaming the child for being molested, the woman for being raped, that man who is duped by thieves.
Pursuing the American dream is not about riches, it was always truly about a Utopian dream. Not all Utopian dreams fail they evolve, they mature what they usually fail at is holding on to the dream that is truth.
 We will have the world we envision, that utopia that is the United States we must as a debt to our forebears and the Native peoples who were willing to share this utopia.

       "I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations, which dare
        already to challenge our government to a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws
       of our country"     Thomas Jefferson

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Occupy Peace w/gun control

When I was fifteen I was awakened in the middle of the night by my Mother and Step-father having a horrible screaming fight. I heard violent words and a smacking sound that caused me to run from my bedroom and yell outside their door; "if you hurt my Mother...I will kill you!"

My parents had been having difficulties for a couple of years and it was hard to not hear the things that were said. My Mother complained of my step-fathers drinking and the violence toward us children, especially my brother.

After my mother came to the door and told me to go back to bed, "it would be alright" I heard a loud bang. I had only heard a gun one other time in my life when my Father had taught me to shoot a single-bolt action 22 at the age of 8. My heart pounding, imagining my Mother in a pool of blood, not even knowing there was a gun in the house I crept out into the hallway. My mind raced as I tried to think of what to do, where to run with my younger sisters and brother.   My Mother wasn't dead and we hovered outside the bathroom door scared to death. My step dad had gone in the bathroom to kill himself in response to my mom wanting a divorce.  My Mom said in exhaustion; “ I am not going in till the morning.“ at that moment she couldn’t deal with it and told me to go back to bed for the second time that night. A few minutes later she came flying out of the room and said; "get everyone...we are leaving" and she called the police. My step father had come out and in a drunken slur said; "I missed!"

She decided we would go to a neighbors and let his brother and the police deal with it. I never saw Chuck again. (footnote: My step father was brain injured. His father had beat him into a coma at the age of 9 or so for "playing with himself". Chuck was also a football player. After his coma he was functionally illiterate, and self medicated with beer. He died from the complications of Parkinson’s as we now know is the marker disorder of the brain injured)

Although you might think that this incident was traumatizing the worst part of this was realizing how many people die of gun related violence then and since. Before this gun violence occurred feet from me my mind was already primed for violence with images of Vietnam, and assassinations that came one right after the other.

Just over a month ago, a young man walked into a midnight showing of Batman and started shooting. Killing 12 and wounding 58, traumatizing a community and a nation once again. Mr. Holmes had difficulties and had tried to get himself some mental health, such as it is, to no avail. We spend billions on war and so called homeland security and no one was sent a "red flag" regarding this man arming himself to the teeth with six thousand dollars worth of personal arsenal fit for all out combat. People can't control themselves so we need gun control. Mr. Holmes sits in a court photo the media shows over and over, obviously medicated and in shock by his own actions. We know so little about the brain, where such actions come from yet the media uses words like "nut job", "maniac" and "insane" to make it harder for those with emotional and mental problems to find help. Shaming works on so many levels.

Two weeks later another gunman, ex-military (discharged for drunkenness ten years ago) and a known racist goes into a place of worship and guns down Sikh's. Again, billions of dollars to protect our country from terror to no avail. The Southern Poverty Law Center had been watching and reporting on this person for a decade and no one in a position of authority listened.

A few weeks ago a local, running for county Commissioner had signs  all over town including a church near me. It stated Herndon for County Commissioner, "clinging to our guns and bibles" Perhaps this was a dig at our Presidents comment about the ilk who think those two words go in the same sentence, but I posted on his face book and to the local papers and the sign was removed. It is interesting to note that I have seen his signs come down all over town well ahead of the election. After some "free speech" comments from those who couldn't see the problem with this it looks as if I wasn't the only one who was offended. When adbusters called for Occupy, I wrote ” Occupy Everything Follow the Money” on my American flag and hung it on the porch. I was shaking and nervous about doing this. I half expected to find a bullet through my front window or my cars damaged. As it turned out a marine who lives near me actually stopped and we discussed the issues amicably. Overcoming my fear of being "bullied" or harmed helped open dialogue. Empowerment comes when each of us does what is right in spite of our fear or at least expresses a view, whether Occupy or political signs. We all have the right to say "no" as well.

As I write, the reports on the news are yet another gunman near the Empire State building. Three weeks ago my husband and I decided to go mushroom hunting in the Pike National Forest an hour from Colorado Springs. This was the most enervating and saddening outing we have ever gone on. Not minutes onto the gravel jeep road we could hear gunfire ringing out. For the next four hours as we wended our way along a very washed out and torn up road (atv's and dirt bikes destroy forest roads) we listened to and heard automatic, semi-automatic and assault weapon fire. Ever since Pres. Obama announced that guns are allowed in our national forests  (not just for hunting season) the forests have exploded literally. At first we thought it was a gun club or group, but it turned out that there were many people set up along the way shooting at targets, leaving Bud light cans, bottles and anything else that suited their fancy. Every sign in the forest is shot up and toward the end of the sojourn we discovered downed trees. What kind of wind shreds trees three to four feet off the ground? Some gun-rights-flag-waving patriot supported by the seeming right of the Constitution had used an assault weapon to shoot down trees. Leaving shell casings, and trash in a macabre sacrifice to patriotism. Probably good church goers all, NRA members, hard working. Why is it that to many gun owners are so inconsiderate and destructive? Rangers don't patrol the forests like they used to because of the cuts during the Bush administration. If I hear a gun in town I am to call the police, but there is nothing I can do in the public lands.

We came out of the area shaken, depressed and resolving never to go within two hours of either Colorado Springs or Denver. I went to Guenalla Pass to climb Mnt. Beirstadt last weekend. On Friday night after my near-by neighbors children settled down around dark, a couple up on the road began to have a screaming fight. The woman could be heard haranguing in shrill anger for the most part dominating the fight. He could be heard occasionally retorting back. Not so loud to hear details but loud enough. I was already in my tent, trying to sleep for the early rise when around midnight and for three hours after, the entire valley would ring with a shot gun round. Obviously from on the road in the direction of the fight. "Sure..." I think; " I should just yell at him/her to stop" and then what, have a bullet ring past me, hit a child’s tent in between me and the shooter. No one to call if the gun wielder kills someone or himself. No cell service and the rangers do not go in these areas in numbers as they have no way to "police" or keep guns in check. We still can't bring alcohol supposedly but guns are okay.

After the mental hospitals were closed by Reagan in the eighties I had an Uncle Ted who was released in Baltimore and never seen or heard of again. The streets began to fill with homeless men and women and then blamed for not doing well. This atrocity has never been addressed in ways that could make a difference. Since the continued cuts in mental health (which has never been fully funded in this country) the take over of big pharma., along with guns pouring into the streets the blood bath has grown a pace while anyone with mental issues from mild to severe is exhorted to go to church. Psychology is "secular humanism" and being self healing is not seen as good as getting religion and being a rugged individual.

Two editorials in The Nation Jul27/Sept. 3 2012 are about two thing that should never mix, mental illness and guns.

Katha Pollitt's "gun Control? Dream On". and Patricia J. Williams' "Tragedies in Waiting" both speak to personal and cultural insanity that refused to do anything meaningful about either. Mayor Bloomberg controls soda consumption but there are also strict gun laws in the city and state. Here in Colorado it is against the state constitution for any city or municipality to pass gun restrictions of any kind. Yet there is a "make my day law" that basically says its okay to shoot anyone who comes on my property uninvited. We fear "terrorists" from abroad while our citizens terrorize each other. People can't control themselves so we need gun control. (as an addendum the Mayor of Denver recently came out in support of control of assault weapons)

Marked by its absence, the instances of gun violence in and around the Occupy events stands out. As our heavily militarized over- kill of the police increasingly became apparent, each day was a hold- your-breath moment waiting for gun fire to ring out. As it turns out, one suicide by a veteran (which is the largest cause of death among Vets. more than the casualties of war) and one gun death that may or may not have been associated with Occupy Oakland. The right wing owned media went on a tear about how violent Occupy is of course and in a virtual black out have announced the movement dead.

In recent days the President has stated we should remove weapons of war from the streets of our cities, with support from police across the country backing him. The National Action Network promoted by Rev. Al Sharpton has called for a "take back the corners" campaign to make witness to the violence on our streets. Chicago deaths by gun violence has outstripped war dead in the gulf this summer, for the first time in ten states, gun deaths (including Colorado) have outstripped traffic deaths. The U.S. sells more arms to the world than all the world combined, we have a larger military than the rest of the world combined. Are we safer? Is the world more peaceful? Am I frightened and on guard every time I go to the store or for a walk? Do I worry about my child at school in an area that is loaded for bear?

The bravery of those who cry out, put their bodies on the line to fight gun violence and the lack of control, the lack of meaningful regulations in banking, the run away hydrocarbon industry and all the social and economic ills is heartening. For my part, I feel vindicated and empowered by Occupy in the fact that for all my adult life I have talked about the two faced nature of the right since Reagan. (Nixon was a disappointment but I was 12 when he was elected) The right wing tea party ideologues that have been backed by the likes of the Koch brothers, Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation etal. no longer speak in code; they are in our faces daring us to stand up to them so they can blame and shame each of us for not being on the "winning side". In this age of gray winners and losers, of the thin lines between success and greed we are growing up as a nation of "thugs" as someone said recently, and of victims. We struggle to teach our kids not to bully or be bullies yet the economic reality is the greedy win.

  Tough love and self respect are expressing themselves in Occupy providing a banner for each of us to find our power as a peoples. Once we all get over the shame of having been tricked we will "not be fooled again" when The Who sang about the new evolution.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Occupy and the empowerment of the individual

                July 7: As part of an independent study to meet my continuing education requirements as a licensed professional counselor, I will be posting over the next sixth months a look at the state of mental health via the views of Occupy. Occupy has shown people their individual power and we are the "hope" we are looking for. 


                In America, Mental Health is over-medicated, underserved, narrow in focus, reactive instead of proactive, quick to pathologize, stigmatize,  and  a failure overall. The statistics, if they are to be believed having been promulgated by big pharma; with its profit agenda, reveal a nation of bi-polar, p.t.s.d., anxiety ridden people with a varying array of eating disorders, addictions, violent tendencies and personality disorders from ADD to Xenophobia and getting worse every day. Everything, and the smallest things are turned into pathology so a pill can be used to cure vs. the genuine interaction of one caring human with another over time. Mental Health has been co-opted by advertisers who want to manipulate the masses to buy the products of their clients, used to find better ways of torture and taken over by idealogues who believe that God is the only cure for all mental illness as if "demons" exist in our heads.

                If mental health does any good it is by accident, not by design; by the very tenacity and heart of the men and women who choose to be in service to others. What these caring individuals end up doing is triaging the horrible bloody psychological wounds of a society that has turned people into liabilities and assets. Consumers not customers, terrorists not patriots, chickens in a pecking order of meritocracy where the biggest bullies claim to be the smartest and have been robbing everyone blind, raping the environment for decades through the piracy of free market hierarchy, wars un-ending and the co-opting of democracy worldwide. On the one hand we are manipulated daily by the marketplace, surveyed, polled, analysed, spied upon, brain washed and kept confused with lies, lack of information, and fear and then told each of us must fight peer pressure, temptation, impulse by simply not thinking or acting wrongly. It takes super human effort not to be dragged about by the tender parts

                My own personal story of trying to do good in the world, while holding onto any semblance of mental and spiritual well-being perfectly illustrates the undermining of fragile ego, the fracturing of the id, and expecting the soul to survive in a country that has become full of religious fascism, demagoguery, phony patriotism, myths of the rugged individual, glorifying militarism and violence, brainwashing and outright lies.

                I am 54 and have been a therapist for twenty years. I started out in theatre because it felt safe and helped me to overcome a life time of being bullied, abuse and grief. I decided at eighteen I wanted to use theatre and dance to help others delve into the largeness of themselves, to "fill the egg" as the great dramatist Stanislavski taught. I invented drama and dance therapy and it would be twelve years later before I would find out it had already been invented. I realized very quickly that I needed to live some life and learn about who I was before I could take on the hopes and wounds of others. I went to graduate school in theatre only to be attrited out. I thought at first I was not good enough but found out due to cuts by the Reagan administration the university couldn't afford to have so many graduate students. This was the first time in my life I was aware how national politics could effect me personally. I was always more aware of national politics than most of my peers. I snuck out of bed at the age of 12 to see the election returns. I was aware of environmental issues because of an art teacher in seventh grade. The Vietnam War was played out before me in black and white, but somehow I could still see the red of the blood. When Reagan ran I got into fights with class mates over his being a John Bircher and his record of austerity in California. I was very aware of local politics, of graft and corruption in the county commissioners, developers wanting to run highways through established neighborhoods, the race riots of 1927 in Tulsa still being played out 60 years later in aggressive and passive aggressive Jim Crow, the oil industry’s  devastation of the water and air along the Arkansas river.  

                Along the way I have felt useless and helpless. During the crash of the 80's I was everything the President and his minions said was causing the downfall of America. On welfare, not a Christian, liberal politically and female, the only thing I wasn’t; black. I didn't own a car or phone, day care was impossible to find. I can't express the gratitude for our public schools for a place for my child to be safe while I tried to find work. Then as now the need for money was critical. The schools were under attack, the war on drugs ramping up; the ideologues were emboldened, the racists wanting segregation again. Big pharma had its eye on boys and the use of Ritalin was a dollar sign in their eyes. Reading rates had plummeted, math dumbed down, crowded rooms, less pay and the attack on the teachers and their union and unions in general was just under way. The grade school I had my daughter in told me she needed to go to transitional before first grade. I respected their professional advice and it was a mistake.  The transitional year had become a place to make money, not to help learning disabled children. Since there weren't that many learning disabled kids they started cherry picking, especially kids from single parent homes. My daughter could barely read by third grade in spite of the extra year. I read a book called "Why Johnny Can't read" that laid out the national politics behind the removal of phonetics in the schools. I taught my daughter to read in two weeks from that book. The teachers were amazed at her progress and I sent them a copy of the book. A year later the school won a presidential award for the most improvement in reading. Again national politics and money had a profound influence to the negative in my eldest and later two subsequent daughters’ lives.

                I was married to a lawyer and  his legal assistant for several years. In that time he had environmental cases come across his desk from natural gas condensates in the water of a Kiowa family, a team of con artists tried to put toxic waste over an aquifer on Apache land. Another suit that had been in the works ten years by the time he saw it, where a crop duster spraying a noxious mix of a variety of chemicals on peanuts and homes nearby.  Pres. Carter allowed the chemical companies to spray under "experimental" status on peanuts. It was then we began to see the rise in peanut related deaths. Politics reared its ugly head again when laws were passed to allow large law firms to advertise and do the thing lawyers are always accused of, chasing ambulances. Once large firms could hire cheap or free interns to track down accident records and literally go to the homes and hospitals of victims to offer their services, my attorney husbands business fell off the map. Bankruptcy was the biggest part of his business and that changed has changed as well due to federal laws that make the lawyer responsible if clients lie about assetts.

                When I went to graduate school for my masters in human relations, counselors were making on average to start of $55,000.00; where they got this number I do not know but I have never seen more than 24,000 a year. As the ink was drying on my license Pres. Bush was changing the laws around mental health and giving public dollars to religious organizations. Religious organizations see psychology as secular humanism and God-less. They were telling us through the corporate media that humanists ( code for therapists) were destroying our nation. Pres. Bush being "born again" believed this as well. Under Reagan, mental institutions were shut down all across the country. My grand uncleTed was released from a Baltimore hospital and never seen again. No one in my family could find him, no doubt like so many others he ended up homeless, unable to manage his medications for schizophrenia and died. Then the religious lobbyists wanted all institutional facilities and clinics to hire preachers. I am a licensed therapist, passed my boards and am in good standing and can't find work because I haven't a degree in psychology, sociology or theology. My masters is a diversity program which includes counseling, systems and organizations. I watched religious students get up and leave in a temper because the professors discussed gender issues, religious abuse of women, reproductive choice, racism, atheism, gangs and value systems of people from all walks of life. Gender issues seemed to be a particular sticking point. My masters combines sociology on steroids, psychology with soul, theology not just Christianity. I can't get work for the lack of the suitable degree and more importantly because there is no money. ( I  read an article yesterday that discusses the lack of mental health dollars and the ramifications of further cuts in light of the Aurora theatre massacre.) It was pointed out to me that it is also hard to get hired when every place I have worked has been shut down. Two nursing homes and a facility for children all shut down for neglect, dangerous facilities, and wrongful death. I caught a doctor prescribing anti-psychotics for the sedative side effect, gas leaks, water in air ducts, mold, religious abuse of a patient, bed sores, and sexual assault. We won't even talk about the food and the need for profit running it all. Politics looms large while the men behind the curtain of the tea party takeover of the Republican party ( or is that bring it out of the neo-con closet). They scream for cuts in all social programs since FDR, all the while the corporate war machine, oil and banking get fat on subsidies and gaming the system. My depression was deepening the summer of 2011, to a level I had never experienced before. I didn't know what to tell someone like me. I am well educated, always made goals and kept them, tried to do right, and was working in a low wage service job. No hope or prospects and realizing the older I get the less likely anyone would hire me. I am worth more dead than alive to my family (1,035.00 in social security to my daughter and husband if I died, and bringing in less than $1,000) what a way to see things. Then you add in the savings in resources from food to upkeep.  

     Occupy came in the nick of time for my part. I had spent so many years working to be a person who could make the world a better place in my small way. After I obtained my license and finished almost a decade in personal healing and certification in integrative breathwork I couldn't find work. I bought a little store from a friend who was moving and was able to provide counseling with some of my customers. When the bankruptcy law was passed and the adjustable mortgages began to trickle through the economy, gas reached four dollars a gallon and inflation roared I could see we were in for hard times. As my sales slumped, customers would come in to apologize for not spending money, just to say hello and try to make sense of things. I did my best to help them realize it isn't their fault; the deck was stacked against them long ago. By Christmas of 2007 I knew I would need to close. The depression from yet again being cut off by politics and the greed of corporations has been devastating. Now I am hounded by collection agents with false lawsuits and inflated amounts owed on credit cards. I tried to pay and when we lost our jobs it was impossible. The 1% ultra-rich sells our debts over and over to make money and don’t actually care if the debts are paid back. Watching the Spanish "indignado" and the Arab spring unfold on the internet via current TV, free speech TV and Democracy Now lifted and excited me like nothing has in over almost four years. From there I was aware of the protests in New York. I was watching live streaming the second week and Ad Busters called for occupation I was glued to my computer hunting down all the live streaming footage I could find.

     Like the hiking in group’s adage, our society only evolves as fast as the slowest among us.The personal sense of vindication was powerful. The conclusions I had come to regarding the shadow side of capitalism were not just the personal rantings of  a woman slowly losing her grip. I wasn't and am not alone. People like me who had been bullied and shamed into silence, derided and marginalized for not joining the group think of "Americanism" now had the courage to speak out loud, to wear our values openly. Slogans like; "Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!", "Human Need over Corporate Greed" "The Earth is not an Assett", "I am a human being, not a pathology!", have changed the tone of the conversation dramatically.  Occupy helped expose the horrible state of mental health among the many inequity’s in the world. This very young field of science was just beginning to get some strength when it was attacked by ideologues and a right wing agenda of rugged individualism, hyper masculinity and "Greed is Good". Occupy Wall Street was in a position to help many mentally ill persons who were tossed aside. At one time they were the largest free food kitchen in the city of New York. They also were dealing with a rainbow of mental issues from depression, addiction and suicide, violence was rare but not unheard of. The encampments across the country gave voice to those parts of our society that have been cast aside the mentally ill, addicts, veterans, single parents, LGBT, non-Christians, debtor class, wage slaves, unions holding on by a thread, immigrants and allowed us to yell enmasse, THE EMPORER HAS NO CLOTHES! 

    My endeavor over the next six months through articles, videos, websites, books and activities to research the benefits of Occupy and the Empowerment of the Individual. There is a long history of populism in this country usually by factions whether is it white blue collar labor, African Americans, women, gays and immigrants.   I want to explore the non-hierarchy used in the general assemblies, the inclusion of the best of social structures, the failure of the mental health field to protect its own, and its client’s best interests. The application of psychology of place as it relates to inequity in the United States. Occupy has changed the conversation and given voice to those who are marginalized. I want to find my way to understanding what can come of the cry rising from the land, to understand how mental health can better assert itself as a way through the miasma of pain. How mental health can overcome derision, educate better, be more present, overcome profiteering, and help us as a nation to attain that small part of the pursuit of happiness our founders felt was a right of all beings.

These groups have changed the conversation slowly but surely through decades of protest and education. As factions they fought often alone and died, only when a larger part of society joined them, those not a part of the core group, change was realized. What is remarkable about Occupy, it is a banner where all groups can rally together as a force not seen in the world or this country. All walks. Not factions. All walks all voices. And though the powers that be have tried to fraction and cause dissent the movement keeps going. A deepening equality is being revealed by Occupy. 


Thursday, May 24, 2012

It Is All About What The Neighbors Think!

I can’t stand my neighbors! I have lived in this place for eleven years and not one of my neighbors has been kind, thoughtful, friendly or even tried to keep their yards nice. The “white trash” in this town figuratively and  literally are outrageous. I can’t take it anymore.
What is really weird? Most of these places are rentals always have been and they keep attracting the same types of people. What is with that? Do the landlords make the same judgments’ over and over about their renters? Or are these the only types to rent to? Whatever the case…one house had a hoarder and an alcoholic living there. The old guy had lived there a long time. The roof was no good; trees and weeds over took the place, the back yard full of junk. His grandson was living in one of the trailers in the back, grandpa finally in the hospital. No electricity and the place condemned. One of the grandsons’ friends set fire to the place. It went up in less than two minutes, never seen a house go up so fast. It was fully engulfed ten minutes later and catching the house to the east on fire.   As the firemen were cleaning things up one of them rolled out an old freezer and it opened up, the stench must have been horrendous as the fellow started gagging as the others laughed at him in sympathy. That house sat for two years, stinking and ugly before the city finally hauled the trash away.  Someone bought the property, built a darling little rancher and sold it….to a woman who is a cat lady and a hoarder! WTF?
Another big two story house has been bought and sold at least on average every two years then rented. Each new buyer has poured money into this pit. It has asbestos siding and the last renovator simply covered it with siding that is bubbling, bending and falling off. The roof was cheaped out and is blowing off (third layer) There are no gutters and the water for a year was running off the back and straight into the basement through the door outside. Every group that has rented, has been nasty, loud, rude and trashed the place again. Dogs barking, trash blowing around, screaming and yelling, kids running up and down tearing up yards, doing whatever they like, fights and drunkenness.
My neighbor next door is from Michigan (and thinks the Gov. is a great man there) they live here in Colorado and there six months each stay to avoid paying property taxes. They hate Obama. I don’t talk to them anymore; they think it’s funny to insult my views. Their yard is a moon scape derived from so much weed killer and insecticide that two of their dogs have gotten tumors. Hello! Clue!?

 There is an Irish saying: “más rud é nach bhfuil tú mhaith dom, saoire dom féin”; If you don’t like me, leave me alone. It has become my mantra with my neighbors.
The cat lady said a nasty thing to another neighbor in front of my then 8 year old daughter, she of course told me. I don’t acknowledge her at all.
Now I see the thought process behind covenants. The neighbor who screams like a “fish mongers wife” all day at her kids and grandkids threw two large ugly sofas out to the curb two weeks ago. Okay, I think they are taking them to the dump or donating or whatever. Two weeks in a row the sofas are soaked by downpours. The first big rains we have seen in years. The woman puts a “free” sign on them. OMG! I call code enforcement. I have never done such a thing. Today the fellow drives by to look and low and behold, the woman has thrown more crap out there and is having a garage sale. And to top it off, the cat lady (who btw feeds her cats inside and out so every night the raccoon parade hits the front porch with fighting and frightened howling cats)  decides to let her friend the former junk store owner also have a garage sale. One of many that will be held all summer AND they lay the crap all over the yard of the house next door because it is empty. That does it!
As far as I am concerned they don’t think. Not about the trash, the animals,  screaming horrible things, the loud music, the dying grass or trees, the dead cars, the dying dogs, the mean spirited gossip, the bigoted digs, the religious ignorance…..

It is all about what the neighbors think……they obviously don’t care about what I think.

We have a nice little house. It was built in 1900 by a local architect and builder for his own family. I call it a poor man’s Queen Anne; with a touch of ginger bread and pillars. It is well built, with beautiful carved oak mantel piece, egg and dart on thick oak doors, old growth hemlock fir floors. My husband hated the yard though. It was a desert (hello southern Colorado); five hundred year old fir trees and one tiny four foot beat up crabapple tree; which was not identifiable at the time.

I have painted every inch of this house, inside and out. Hubbie got all the “sexy jobs” the roof, the attic, the foundation. It of course is a work in progress and still needs work and after ten years it needs to be painted again. I bought a Van Briggle vase and used it as inspiration for the bright colors. I found out a neighbor hates the colors. All the houses are pale yellow, brown, tan in a word dull. Someone finally painted one of the houses adobe orange.  Colorado means land of color, literally. Yet no one uses color on their homes, their clothing, their yards. Yes I exaggerate some, there are some lovely buildings and homes here, but the slum lords who rent don’t care about this place. They rent to whomever; do as little as possible on their properties. Collect the money and live in Denver, Utah wherever.

I love this little house. We sometimes think we could just pick it up and move it to the countryside. I had a dream the other night where I had money and I bought all the houses and the crappy little fall-y down rectory next door. I tore most of the little old guard shacks down, the nasty asbestos thing, planted trees, and built two maybe three more house in the style of R.J. Okie did for this little house and sell them to the kind of neighbors I want. Nice people, without dogs, who use trash cans, are quiet and like the color of my house.

Sure, that will be the day! (Shut UP Mojo!)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Where have you been all my life John Galsworthy?

Where has John Galsworthy been all my life? I have read thousands of books and never read The Forstye Sage. What a revelation! Charles Dickens go bark at the moon! Galsworthy lived from 1867 to 1932 and his work reveals an attitude of “a man of property”; Soames  Forstye;  timeless and timely. Galsworthy has an insight into British exceptionalism that is familiar and sad in its intransigeant.  Soames is a solidly wealthy man. Not only did he inherit great wealth he was raised to believe in his superiority in that fact. Having grown his wealth with practical English logic almost Vulcan in its detachment, he finds himself in his later years defending his universe to himself thus;

Take his own case for example! He was well off. Did that do anybody harm? He did not eat ten meals a day; he did no more than, perhaps not so much as, a poor man. He spent no money on vice; breathed no more air, used no more water to speak of than the mechanic or the porter. He certainly had pretty things about him, but they had given employment in the making, and somebody must use them. He bought pictures, but Art must be encouraged. He was, in fact, an accidental channel through which money flowed, employing labour. (sic)  What was there objectionable in that? In his charge money was in quicker and more useful flux that it would be in the charge of the State and a lot of slow-flying money sucking officials. And as to what he saved each year-it was just as much flux as what he didn’t save, going into Water Board or Council Stocks, or something sound and useful. The State paid him no salary for being trustee of his own or other people’s money – he did that all for nothing! Therein lay the whole case against nationalisation – owners of private property were unpaid, and yet had every incentive to quicken up the flux. Under nationalization (sic) – just the opposite!
Soames’ cogitations come in the roaring twenties and with a jaundice eye toward human beings he has been able to ride the profits of chaos with the expertise of the great British Empire builders and explorers. He is not oblivious to the “ruffians” in the market running up commodities, selling shoddy goods and undermining the practical English character. His only concern is to dodge these gamblers and come out ahead. He is totally unaware of the benefits bequeathed to him on the backs of slaves and oppression. After this brief attempt at bolstering his own world view he proceeds to one of his many law offices and orders sale of stocks and the eviction of an old woman of eighty three. There! English practicality prevails and all is right with the world!

The attitude of the elite, the 1% is a grand and gross rationalization. What harm does it do indeed!? Soames is a cold man of property, his love of his first wife was that of a buyer of beauty. When he realizes he may lose this perfectly beautiful woman his response is to show her how much she “belongs” to him by “ enforcing his rights as a husband” ; spousal rape. Confident in his re-possession, believing she was finally convinced of his loyalty to her by his showing of intense emotion he is devastated by her finding a lover. Devastated to learn of her careful avoidance of pregnancy, and suffers the role of the victim, why doesn’t she adore me?

I can’t help feeling sorry for him as does his cousin Jolyon Forstye who marries Irene, the woman who from some “perversion” is unable to submit to Soames. Unsentimental, practical, controlled and controlling English man of art bought and paid for, but artless to his core. In his way he feels deeply his position in the Empire and his family, but never expresses it, each rare tender moment with a dying father, the birth of a daughter, the grief of losing his perfect wife, is concentrated, condensed to the point of pain almost unbearable; to be carefully hidden and covered over with business, logic, plans. Force and strength are all he knows. He does not know he is lost, caged and cut off, like Midas.

The crash is coming, war yet again. His type will be undone, the gilded cage will break and like domesticated birds he will not be able to fly for he never learned. A world will crash about him. As a reader almost one hundred years later, to see this hubris repeated yet again makes me feel like an alien in a weird way. The elite of today, those empire builders that had it handed to them after World War II are coming to the downhill side; Tied in knots by their own exceptionalism, their own practical rationalizations’. The “job makers”, the Kings of the Universe, the smartest men in the room, the men of free markets, of world order.

I am reminded of the poem by Kipling;

The White Mans Burden;

Take up the White Man’s burden

Send forth the best ye breed

Go bind your sons to exile

To serve the captive’s need

In patience to abide,

To veil the threat of terror

And check the show of pride;

The savage wars of peace

Fill full the mouth of Famine

And bid the sickness cease;

And reap his old reward:

The blame of those ye better,

The hate of those ye guard

We should trade white for rich as in the new world economy the “burden” is shared and carefully nurtured by the elite of all races, colors and creeds. America may have been handed the spoils of empire after World War II, but the views of the fictional   Soames Forsyte have been sold to the entire world. We fought the fascism of old only to pass down and expand that fascism in a “burden” of democratic fascism to all men around the world. The rich are democratic among themselves, a country apart. They see themselves as the conduit of civilization, nothing would happen without them;  not greatness, no jobs, no art or beauty. They will tell you it isn’t about the money and it would be the God’s honest truth. What is this human capacity for wearing psychic blinders? Are they put on while one is very young? Are we born with them, the psyche’s way of protecting the young ego, and then that same ego is never allowed to take them off? Why is it that the elite rich keep the blinders in place? It seems to me that the culture of wealth must maintain a separation in their minds between their actions and the fragile ego’s knowledge of the harm they do? This wall is kept carefully between themselves and the “lower” classes. (Euphemistically called “working” class)  They must know. They can’t possibly live in such fish bowls where everyone can see all they do as they parade around and deny what we all see and experience. It is a grand culture of narcissism.  

Galsworthy’s ability to observe a class, his keen subjectivity as a Brit, his poetic prose, the beauty is astonishing almost breath taking like fine portraiture. One chapter covering the death of old Jolyn Forsyte leaves one in a state of longing for all death to be as beautiful. All writing should aspire to this.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

May the Day go your way!

May 1. Occupy is calling for a general strike of all commercial transactions and work by the 99%. As I understand it, May Day, or Beltane, Walpurgis Day is an ancient pagan and Celtic holiday celebrating the return of spring, fertility, and the abundance of life. It later became the date Karl Marx called for a strike to promulgate and demand the eight hour work day. I found (sorry) on Wikipedia a quote:

"In the United States of America, any sort of independent labor movement was paralyzed so long as slavery disfigured a part of the republic. Labor with a white skin cannot emancipate itself where labor with a black skin is branded. But out of the death of slavery a new vigorous life sprang. The first fruit of the Civil War was an agitation for the 8-hour day – a movement which ran with express speed from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from New England to California."

The need for an eight hour work day seemed to blossom all at once across the globe in the mid-19th century not to mention child labor laws. The May Day strikes by newly formed labor unions began in the United States and later in the Soviet Union to celebrate the worker. I just finished John Farrell's Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned. The first case to bring Darrow to the attention of the world was the defense of the Hay Market protestors. Mr. Darrow would be in the thick of it today, just as he was then. 

I find it ironic that we now either have a job that requires us to be on 24/7 call to a boss via our electronic devices or only part time low wage work. The idea of leisure time to contemplate and be with kids and family, fix up ones little castle, invent, create, read or commune with nature was the purview of the wealthy. The ability to be in connection to something other than the mechanistic cogs of commerce is important to civilization.

 To strike is "illegal", and Occupy speaks of proxy protests, strike by representation of supporters, the We vs. the royal we; thus the shutting down of the ports, blocking Bank lobbies, protesting shareholder meetings. Occupy has attracted under one banner the vestiges of the battered unions, civil rights and the social institutions of environment and human rights stuck or trapped in a perpetual wrestling match with government and corporate corruption. The recent ideology by free market corporatists that all must serve the almighty dollar is strangling the best of society. It is believed on the part of the Friedmanite/Randyites that if one is starving and oppressed you will work harder, longer and the stress of being under threat of survival will make you succeed. It is the "tooth and claw" approach to life. Eat or be eaten and then pat yourself on the back for being a bigger, badder meaner animal in the game of markets thus superior in every way, not to mention sanctioned by God. I feel we are lambs to the slaughter for thirty years now, just like the Jews of Europe before WWII.; swinging between, anger and depression and hitting helpless in between. Watching in horror as our nascent democracy and our fragile planet are plundered and bastardized.

How much do these self-appointed kings of the universe think the rest of us can take? How much whip cracking of the business model till we are all trained to salivate to the clink of coin? MAY DAY MAY DAY MAY DAY. venez m'aider. Come help me! Is the cry from every corner of the globe, the cry for dignity of soul, not just of race, religion, gender but of soul. Our collective souls are crying out and in our personal screams of agony we are finally able to hear the chorus about us. Occupy is calling us to join forces against the raping and pillaging by these neo robber barons, pirates and vampires. Yes, it has been a class war; classism is the root of all schisms. We are not crying for equality with the greedy, we are saying "you are no better than the rest of us" what makes you think you are? When did you earn it except off the backs of others? Many who gladly gave loyalty to good ideas and charisma, now find themselves betrayed, thrown aside, worn out, sucked dry and then called losers for believing in the greater good. Losers, anarchists, communists, socialists for demanding that those who cheat, rape and pillage in their legal, extra-legal and passive aggressive way be held accountable in this world not the next.

I plan to stay home; I cannot strike my family as that is my work. NO pay. I am valued by them, but not by society. My low wage personal care job I will not strike as the gentleman I help is one of us. But I will copy the story in the Nation this week regarding the organizing of caregivers unions. A Campaign of Caring by Laura Flanders and give it to my boss. An 84 billion dollar industry that pays on average below minimum wage, part time, no health care or anything else considered creating a good job. Caring for other human beings whether it be children or elderly is a low priority in this world of capital demographics. It is the hardest job and the basis of survival whether bonobo monkeys or humans.  How can we make a buck off the sick and dying is the driving factor with the rose colored rationalization of doing good.  Many home service provider companies get 3-8 dollars for every dollar a worker earns. The profits are enormous, off the public tax payer going straight into the pockets of the one percent and a token given to those who need service. They take the whole loaf, promise to share it equally and then call the end piece our equal part. It reminds me of the Lucy and Linus cartoon where Linus asks Lucy for a glass of orange juice and she says yes if he will share. She returns in the next panel, drinks the entire glass and when Linus complains she announces; "my half was on the bottom".
I am a counselor and have found the most exploited sector of the population is the disabled, sick and elderly. I remember my Mothers attitude about growing older was "just put me on an ice floe". The sense of being useless ( as a consumer) and now an asset class to be exploited is truly  uncivilized. Ageism that last stage of classism has become a trillion dollar business, between big Pharma, hospital and health Inc. Much has been said about the young college student and the lack of jobs, no mention of those over 50. Ever! Talk about wasting brain power. It is as if we reach an age when we realize we are in the matrix and wake up only to be "shat" out into space as dangerous to the body economic. If you realized it earlier you had little chance of making any difference except to huddle with your fellows, find comfort in the collective misery and try not to be noticed.
MAY DAY from pagan celebration of life to a cry against wage slavery and soul killing labor. I am grateful to the grave yard shift in the pharmacy, but they better get paid well to be there when someone needs them not to mention the harm it does their body. I am grateful for all those people on Dirty Jobs who do those awful things, often with a joke and a smile most of us cringe at. But they need to be paid well instead of treated like "untouchables" by the corporations they work for who rake in the lions share. Even the male lion knows better than to eat more than a fair share or the females turn on him. Even a chimpanzee who bullies its peers knows there is a line to be drawn if they want to remain with the troop. That is evolution, not the crawl in a hole and die attitude of the market when it can't get any more money out of you, evolution says bullies end up dead. Haven't we seen this in history? This countries inability to deal with the bullies in our midst who perpetrate upon the rest of the world is coming home to roost. Our very wars are for profit only, not even the resources we might gain, or the moral high ground. Wars unending to keep us all frightened and off kilter; wars to terrorize a world into doing what we are told as an excuse to shred human rights, democracy and the environment. War machine corporations sucking and taking at gun point all of my life, cold wars, Vietnam War, axis of evil, holy wars, oil wars, war on terror, drone wars, shadow wars war on drugs, class war.
 If we are to survive to become that collective vision of utopia we must exorcise the bullies. It's going "to be a bumpy ride" as the lady said. 
 It will take decades to unseat the ruling oppressors and as their way of life dies they will scramble and fight even harder to hold on as they scheme to create a new hierarchy that keeps them in power; as the wannabe oppressors and greedy try to take their place. Our planet cannot afford for us to be in a chicken yard feudalism. We must hear the MAYDAY call. Our planet, our country, our souls are all at risk.