Lao Tzu

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” – Lao Tzu

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Fiddling with Facebook While Japan Fries

“The middle of the road is for yellow lines and dead armadillos.” —Jim Hightower

My daughter-in-law has been fund-raising on behalf of the public school my granddaughter attends in Rancho Penasquitos, a moderately affluent town twenty miles north of downtown San Diego.  Perhaps she doesn’t mind having to raise money for art, music, and classroom supplies; after all, her child’s education is among her highest concerns. Or, perhaps she does mind, given that she and my son have already paid dearly into a system that is supposed to provide free education, a system that, regardless, places a higher value on the military machine
than on her children’s education—$1,164,513,049,451 and climbing spent on wars since 2001 (this number will be obsolete by the time you read this).
One trillion-plus dollars spent on destruction. That’s who we are. But that’s okay—the more mothers we can enlist to pitch in and take up the slack in our schools (habituating service), the sooner we can privatize all the public schools and devote more financial resources to the main goal, which is, apparently, to turn America into a neo-feudal, corporate wet-dream of everlasting war and broken government, that is, paradise for millionaires and billionaires, while the scruffy stray dog the Commons has become wanders about searching for scraps... 

Oh “gloom and doom!”  Let’s not think about it!  After all, we’ve already thought about it —irrational wars, our warming the planet to the point of no-return, the corporate coup d’etat of America— and come to realize we’re screwed. Time to “eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die,” or at least check our horoscope to discover we “may feel a little down today or low on energy. We may feel that we have hit some kind of creative road block, that we have suddenly turned invisible...”  Or, perhaps we will poke somebody on Facebook, hoping for a poke back (Nobody ever pokes me, sigh.). Or we can write a blog post that nobody will read. That’s always useful.

Nobody wants to think about it?  Not quite. Not all are ignoring reality; some are giving our situation a serious look and taking action. I happen to like Chris Hedges’ take on the subject in “Death of the Liberal Class,” for example.  He has helped me to see what this denial is all about, and where we might be headed if we don’t get out of it, the denial, that is. 

This morning UCTV aired a lecture by ecofeminist Professor of Environmental History, Philosophy, and Ethics at Berkeley, Carolyn Merchant.   This lecture was entitled, Environmentalism: From the Control of Nature to Partnership. There, she traced the history of science from the Renaissance, with its Earth-as-a-Living-Organism world view; through Francis Bacon’s view of Earth as a female that man can shape and have power and dominion over; through Newton and the Industrial Revolution, where the view of nature went from “organism to machine.”  Okay, so now we know how well that philosophy worked out, or is working out, still expressed by corporations that continue to operate in that unenlightened mode. They still act as if nature is something they can control via technology, in a mechanistic way. It’s nuts, but that’s who they are.

Fortunately, we can now say, “Whoa boys and girls, there’s new science to consider!”  Namely, the “Butterfly Effect” in “Chaos Theory,” which I don’t pretend to understand, but which, according to Merchant, has given us a chance to “re-think our relation to the natural world.” One definition gives us this to consider: “Chaos Theory claims that as complexity increases in a system, its predictability decreases.”  Think about that—Man, you don’t get to control stuff anymore. You’re weak and pathetic compared to Mother Nature.

So, suddenly, just in time —we hope— we have reason to tell people to give up the folly that we can do as we please with the planet, because some technological fix will save us. Science itself is telling us to forget that and start living “in partnership” with the Earth (Merchant’s vision). Well, isn’t that quaint? It took the Men, and Women, of Science in the industrialized realm this long to come to a realization indigenous peoples have understood from the start. Verrry schmaaat...but schtoopid!

It does seem to me, though, that not enough people are up to speed with the new vision. Many still think we can continue living as we do—continue burning carbon for fuel, sprawling across the urban landscape, importing food from far-away places, subsidizing the oil industry, failing to develop green technologies and failing to adopt earth-friendly options such as vegetarianism, etc., etc., etc.  But how is a change of world view to be accomplished on a mass scale, when there’s so little time? We have known we are in trouble for decades. Jimmy Carter tried to tell us back in 1979, when he proposed that 20 percent of our energy should come from solar power by the year 2000:  

“To further conserve energy, I'm proposing tonight an extra $10 billion over the next decade to strengthen our public transportation systems. And I'm asking you for your good and for your nation's security to take no unnecessary trips, to use carpools or public transportation whenever you can, to park your car one extra day per week, to obey the speed limit, and to set your thermostats to save fuel. Every act of energy conservation like this is more than just common sense -- I tell you it is an act of patriotism.” 

 But here we are thirty-two years later, and we haven’t budged more than an inch toward an energy program that would not only be sustainable from a consumer standpoint, but would be sustainable from a world peace and Earth-healthy standpoint, even though we are facing ecological and environmental catastrophes, world-wide, everywhere we look.

Thirty-two years.  Do we have thirty-two years to waste, fiddling our thumbs, waiting for the corporate media to stop propagandizing on behalf of the oil industry? Do we have thirty-two years, while Japan fries (apparently global warming ='s earthquakes),  Russia burns, the Arctic melts, bees die and disappear, corals fade and die?

Maybe if we hold a bake sale in every town.  I can see it now...a sugar-cookie walrus hanging onto one tiny bit of white frosting on a sea-blue cake...

Naw...that’s not going to do the trick.

In Wisconsin this week, a protester’s sign read, “You screw us—we multiply!”  What we need is the spirit of Wisconsin to multiply across the country in a tsunami of citizen democracy the likes of which no corporate criminal has ever seen. Wouldn’t that be something, something great for worker rights, for unions and the middle class. But notice how silent we are on global warming. Somehow it looks like only when a real tsunami of global disasters begins to affect all of us, including the Koch brothers of this world, only then will we humans get the message. I hate to annoy you with the truth, but by then it’s going to be too late.

Perhaps we need to hold hearings on the pernicious ideology of “free” market capitalism/empire, rather than the one being held this week on Islamic extremist ideology?  Just a thought.

In the meantime, don’t feed the corporate beasts. They get fat and arrogant.  Put your money in a credit union. Wear up-cycled clothes. If you can’t grow your own veggies, go vegetarian. Buy organic. Buy local. Buy American made products. Car pool. Vote progressive.

Any other ideas? I'm just a little bit worried for those grandchildren I love so much.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Pale Reminiscences of a Never-ending Girlhood

The day of my birth, my father visited my mother in the hospital to tell her he wanted a divorce. I have no way of knowing how that dismal fact affected my childhood, though Mother told me I used to whimper a lot as a baby. Regardless, I must have recovered quickly, because my earliest girlhood memories have me swinging from the tops of trees like a natural monkey, or flying over fences after letting go of my seat on a swing, or engaging in dirt-clod wars with the rest of the kids in the neighborhood, taking cover within the lush suburban jungle of a vacant lot. 

I only had one doll and couldn’t say if I missed having more, though I remember being envious of the awesome collection of Storybook Dolls lining the shelves of a little friend’s bedroom. Not to worry, of course— I had other things to do, and playing with dolls wasn’t on the list.

My mother re-married when I was eight-years-old, and the man she married was a handsome, no-ifs-ands-or-buts veteran of WWII, a Lieutenant. Having only experienced a casual matriarchy up until then —mother, grandmother and three girls— and being entirely unacquainted with the notion of patriarchy, I didn’t take to the new arrangement all that well. Thus began The Resistance. My step-father soon learned I wasn’t going to be a push-over, getting lip from me in no uncertain terms: “I don’t have to mind you— you’re not my father.”

The man had a big heart, though, and found a way to soften the resistance when I reached age ten. He bought a six-month-old horse for me, fulfilling that little girl’s constant wishes, which she had been expressing out loud from the very beginning. I named him “Salute,” and we remained good companions until I married at age twenty-four. Funny thing is, now, a million years later, I miss the horse more than the man I married and divorced thirteen years into the marriage.

Also at age ten I could beat any boy in the neighborhood at foot racing. Of course, those athletic triumphs soon went the way of pale reminiscences, when all of us reached puberty. “Oh! The unfairness of it all!” But I still had my horse, though I went from horse-crazy to boy-crazy in no time at all, not that I ignored my horse—he was always good for soothing a broken heart. Then along comes marriage, and I had to sell my horse and put all my childish dreams aside, but didn’t. Not really.

"So, like a forgotten fire, a childhood can always flare up again within us."  ~Gaston Bachelard

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Gaga Update

I happened across the March issue of Vogue magazine the other day. Guess who was the subject of the cover article?  Yup—none other than herself, Lady Gaga.  As you can imagine, I was eager to see what Vogue had to say about her, and slightly anxious that I was about to have my entire thesis demolished before my eyes.

Not to worry.  Yes, the slutty bit was absent— tasteful make-up (pee-hole-in-the-snow eyeliner gone), an arty pink hair-do, and a sumptuous array of photo layouts with Gaga dressed in costumes of the highest and most exquisite femme-fantastical order you could ever imagine.  Quite beautiful, actually.  Then it hit me—Marie Antoinette!  Well, sure—Lady Gaga is the new royalty.  In essence, what I found myself looking at was a let-them-eat-cake ideology only Vogue can deliver with quite the slick and delicious perfection that it does.

You might notice, if you go to Vogue’s website, an advertisement for “chalk calf copper anklet sandal, also available in black: $2,295.”  Ee-ee-kkk!  I don’t know about you, but if I had that kind of incidental cash, I’d rather spend it on a heating system for my humble abode (mine is not functioning).  Leafing through the magazine itself, you might also notice in the advertisements, as did I, a fashion trend that is quite reminiscent of the Roaring 20’s, which is also present in the Gaga layouts, or, as it seems to me.  Hello?  Are they telling us something, or not?  And isn’t this yet another face of the zeitgeist, where wealth and fame and extravagance and cold cash are the ultimate values? Class warfare? You bet!

The Gaga article is pure cotton candy, supporting the ridiculous notion that she is an artist, though I don’t know why I would even hope for a RollingStone sort of exposé in Vogue. And the Lady lies through her perfect teeth again, claiming to have been bullied in her school days. Well, the myth must be perpetuated, after all.  The author did use the word “zeitgeist,” however.  That I found most interesting.

(Note: Fair Use doctrine applied to the use of this photograph, as it is being used for the purpose of artistic criticism. And because not all that many people will see it here!)

Friday, March 4, 2011

We Have to Stop Meeting Like This...

This blogging thing is taking up too much of my time, my life.  The question has become not so much to be or not to be, as, is this or is this not being, living?  I ask this, while being entirely aware of the irony of the question, posed as I am, sitting here in front of my monitor, the window onto the life of my imagination, a life built from electronic bits I know pretty much nothing about, aside from 0101010101...all the while the buzz of a landscaper’s trimmer breaks the barrier from outside in the real world to inside my skull, annoyingly, interfering with my concentration.

This morning, rather than going directly,
dressed in my bathrobe, to the computer to write my next comment to one or another blog post at Thom, I said, No, that can wait. I got dressed, instead, had breakfast, then got in my car —which now runs quietly, thank you very much— to go do a few errands and be in the world.  The last stop on my list was the local torterillia, where they have extra-large-sized corn tortillas, and teeny-tiny ones, and where I speak Spanglish with the workers. (I have never seen another anglo in this business.) At the checkout, I made little jokes here and there, and the clerk played along, smiling, mirroring my mood. When I said, “Bromeando...I’m only kidding,” with a chuckle and a smile, she nodded and smiled back.  This was important, as miniscule a moment of human interaction as it was, because it reminds me of what is so lacking in online relationships—air, human bodies in space and time, where real smiles, eyes, eyebrows, and gestures give communication a reality one can count on. No amount of text or emoticons will ever take the place of the real thing; no matter how hard you try not to misinterpret an online conversation, it is bound to happen. Not that we don’t “misunderestimate” (a word coined by my favorite comedian, Dubya) people in person, for heaven’s sake. It happens all the time. However, at least there you have a chance. Online? Not so good.

So many of us find ourselves relating in this way, sitting alone in our offices, or cars, kitchens, at school, or wherever, “talking” to “friends” at Facebook, or Tweeting, or texting, where everything and anything can be said, or discussed. We need it, don’t we, because where can you go in your neighborhood to discuss politics, to play, where you don’t have to buy a drink? Does anybody talk politics at home anymore? It’s a puzzlement.  But I’m not sure we have the best answer.  I, for one, find myself pulling away from the digital life, thinking I just might be happier shutting it all down and going outside to tidy up my front yard. At least there, I might meet a real person, a neighbor, and have a real conversation....  um...  but where we will have to avoid the subject of politics, or religion, or culture....oh hell, it’s an impossible choice, and so here I am again.



Looking out from our beach bench,

at grays, mauves and umbered swaths,

this sky pressing down on the smothered sun,

the surf crawling forward like a frothy

army of crabs, only to scoot a reminder

of the Now ‘round bathers’ ankles, as if

Monday were not looming—

we ignore each other, you on your laptop,

I with the passers-by on the sidewalk,

dogs on taut leashes, spotted mutts,

sleek pointers, the muscular pug with her

complement, the master in black spandex

and loose-jointed amble leading with

the hips, cutting a profile on the landscape

worthy of the Hockney eye; but you

offer another view, a digitally pieced

psychedelic composition I’ve seen

more times than I care to remember;

and the music works it out, makes it,

takes it to where no salty breeze

interferes, from here to where

we are again, like indoor cats

at the window of our lives.