Saturday, November 13, 2010

Two Cents Worth . . .

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There is so much I wish to share with you, I hardly know where to start. The continuing problem is time. I've got hundreds and hundreds of photographs all lined up, waiting in the wings, each one has been rehearsing its story, ready to spill the beans to you, but it is just a question of finding time to blog. Around working for a living at the straightjacket factory (and I can assure you, this is one sector where business is booming...) and just trying to keep house and home together, spend some time with daughters who are growing up fast, with la Grenouille, who after 18 years of my company still insists that I speak with her once in a while (that's a joke :-) (see Ralph Fiennes in "The Duchess" if you wish to see a truly terrifying husband model), and all the other time-saving conveniences of modern life which are all conspiring to ensure we have no free time. The poem written the other day about scars is the first I've written in rather too long. "If only I had more time", he lamented !
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Well, time waits for no man. Day before yesterday was the 11th of November, which is Armistice Day in France. The end of World War One. Four long years of pure hell. Hard to believe it has already been a year since I went and spent one week walking and exploring the area around Verdun. Verdun, a name that still strikes people dumb with the horror of what happened there.
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One reason I love living in France is how visible the history is here. In graveyards one can see traces of the past that tell stories, poignant stories which often leave me speechless. Let us remember those who fell.
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PS . . There was a bit of a reflection in that first photo, which thus qualifies this post for a link to James excellent Reflections Weekend series. Happy travelling James...
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For some reason I get the feeling it is going to be a long, cold winter. Just as a few posts down I offered you chopped firewood by the roadside and a nice green truck to deliver it in, here I'm hoping you have a good supply of wood already neatly stacked away in your back shed... just like this :
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And while you are curled up by the fireplace, enjoying the warm glow of embers, I'd like to share with you one of the finest pieces of writing I've come across of late. This blog is not a politically oriented blog, far from it, but every once in a blue moon, there are some words and ideas that are worth fighting for, even if just to paste them to a public wall where someone might perchance read them.
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These next several paragraphs were written by my good old friend Bob, who has figured in a few previous posts in these pages which you can find by clicking here if you're curious. (I just learned today that "curious" in Finnish is "utelias", so now I am one word in to learning Finnish) The below artical is not about Finland however, where I know nothing of their politics either, it is about the United States of America, which for inexplicable reasons continues to monopolize the world's attention to a worrisome degree.
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But back to Bob Wreck ; he e-mailed me this piece a couple of days ago, and it certainly crystallizes, as good writing should, many thoughts that had been occurring to me over the past few months, but which are spoken in the voice that is uniquely Bob's... without further ado :
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Wake Up & Smell the Coffee
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Politicians should stop endlessly regurgitating the new soundbite "The American people" (i.e. "the American people have spoken… ") as if to imply that this recent election was a mandate, which it was not; just a reactionary temper-tantrum from the fringe, which is spreading like the plague because our entrenched national problems have not been solved in two years—problems which have grown from ideological seeds planted during the "Reagan Revolution"; and whose rotting fruits are now being hurled at President Obama. This administration is not responsible for creating the mess we're in, and has been fighting diligently against the ‘army of no’ to reverse the thirty year drift toward a flawed right-leaning ideology. No president—democrat, republican or independent, could get us out of the mess in two years—period.
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I am appalled at the vitriol and contempt aimed at the President from an impetuous, ungrateful and small-minded sector of our electorate which increasingly seems to view any taxation, engaged government, corporate responsiblity and regulation as the four deadly sins—and yet at the same time lament the decline of a vibrant middle-class existence in a civil society. There is a confounding disconnect here.
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And yes, there is also a thinly veiled xenophobic, if not racist, element among the right which has treated President Obama like a janitor called in to clean up the big mess after the eight-year republican bash at the Country Club (on the national credit card) —and then have the gall to blame him for not sweeping up the champagne bottles and cigar butts fast enough. It's a disgusting and shameful spectacle.
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"Tea-party" types who are still employed should be thankful their livelihoods even exist at all. The economic stimulus is no magic bullet, but if the stimulus policies had not been enacted, many of those railing about the "socialist government" would be in line at a soup-kitchen, instead of sitting on the sofa at home frothing over FOX news. Where was the “tea-party” from 2000-2008 when the Clinton era surplus turned into an ATM machine at the Bush White House? Probably not drinking tea.
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President Bush himself, after his second inaugural, stated in a press conference "I earned some capital after this election, and I intend to spend it". Those clamoring to "take our country back", and who reminisce about the prosperous American economy of the 50's & 60’s might want to look again at the American tax structure of that "golden” period (when the wealthy actually paid their proportionate share). Instead of blaming a mexican worker, or a black president for our nations woes, maybe they should re-consider the notion that a fair distribution of wealth is what makes a civilized society possible. Marie Antoinette might have an interesting postmortem on that one.
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If you are one of those who believes you could succeed in your own private, well-armed bubble—disconnected from the larger society, away from the long arm of the IRS and those pesky mexican laborers, perhaps a tour of Somalia or Afghanistan would open your eyes to the anarchy you seem to be encouraging. It’s not a new American Revolution you are embracing—its civil war. My guess is that this marriage of convenience between those of you with the Smith & Wesson’s, and those with the Swiss bank accounts will soon end up in a nasty divorce.
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In your race to the bottom, don’t forget to close the bunker door on the way down. Despite another divisive war (from which apparently no lessons were learned), there was a great national pride in 1969 when American astronauts landed on the moon. I'll bet most Americans who were alive remember exactly where they were the moment it happened. Well, chalk one up for NASA—a government agency—your taxes.
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Forty-one years later, instead of making a "Giant Leap for Mankind", our national mission in 2010 was mopping up the petroleum cesspool in the the Gulf of Mexico caused by a corporate cowboys cut loose from all reasonable regulation, thanks to Dick Cheney & the free-marketeers. One giant step backward for mankind.
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And make no mistake—despite BP's debt of financial & environmental restitution, thirty years of deregulation now translates into your tax dollars being spent on the cleanup and investigation of this unprecedented disaster caused by private enterprise and unrestrained free-market capitalism— tax dollars which should be used for education or infrastructure. Talk about wasteful spending.
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Angry about the bank bailout and all the other corporate welfare queens? Me too—furious. But I won't blame the doctor for my lung cancer if I still have a pack of cigarettes in my shirt pocket.
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In this age of the global economy, the "trickle-down" economic theory has become a "trickle-out" economic reality—it’s a leaky economic faucet. It may have been a believable model for a different era in the U.S. when the economy was a closed loop, but it's turned into a Chinese water torture for the American middle-class. Without that closed economic loop, or tighter regulation of corporate money, power and influence, the extreme free-market philosophy is a joke that only the wealthiest five percent of americans are laughing at—all the way to the bailed-out bank.
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But the joke's on you and me.
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We have been indoctrinated from youth with this notion that unrestrained free-market competition offers more choice and options at a better price. Hmmm… well, now we have no choice and just one option: bail the bastards out, regardless of the price—or face total economic meltdown. A devil's bargain in which no American president from either party would dare risk a worldwide depression (just watch all the republicans rant & rave —and then fall into line when they vote to raise the debt ceiling next year). We are being held hostage by a false economic model which sounds kinda’ like… extortion.
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I would like to see the words government "tax", and the more benign free-market "price" interchangeable. Money is money. For many of us who are self-employed, health care premiums have risen between 15-18 % every year for the past eight years. If that was a "tax" and not a "price increase" in this age of the ‘tea-party’, there would be blood on the streets in this country. A boycott perhaps? Sounds almost quaint. The equivalent of throwing a beer bottle at a tank. Executives would just roll over the dead on their way to work.
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Even acknowledging the government inefficiencies which need correction, nothing could be less efficient than the "free-market" health care system we currently have. If we pride ourselves as such great leaders in business information, technology and efficiency—then why are our doctor's and dentist's offices still lined with metal file cabinets stuffed with manilla folders full of archaic paper forms—all on different systems? Siamese cats could run a single payer, single operating system more efficiently, and less costly than the "price" of the our current health care system.
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The reality is that extreme capitalism, just like its estranged cousin communism, may end up in the boneyard with the Brontosaurus if there is no willingness to to budge from the ideological bunker.
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Time to wake up & smell the coffee.
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Like it or not, WE ARE the government. You and me. And we all need to take a long, hard look in the mirror.
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Yep, it's us alright— and we get what we deserve.
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R.E.K.
November 10, 2010
© REK 2010
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It is getting harder and harder for us kittens to find our way in this confusing world . . . but find our way we must.
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46 comments:

Sylvia K said...

Great post for the day and I do so relate to all that you've written. I lived in Europe (Germany and Spain) for three years -- years ago, loved it. Spent time in France, Greece and Portugal. I'm now retired, living in Seattle, but life is anything but easy, but blogging helps, can't imagine what I did without it???? Love your photos! Look forward to reading more about your Magic Lantern Show. Have a great weekend!

Sylvia

pRiyA said...

Excellent writing by Bob Wreck.
Actually it could even be India that he is talking about. A lot of what he says parallels with what Arundathi Roy has been saying for years in her writing, speeches and books - 'If you are one of those who believes you could succeed in your own private, well-armed bubble—disconnected from the larger society...open your eyes to the anarchy you seem to be encouraging'... Thanks for posting this.

Elisa said...

You certainly make me thinking.. and that is good. And time, I hope that in summer here in Finland lasts about 30 hours and now when it it dark it only lasts less. But I think that we survive because we always have. There is no other way. Here where I live, in summer - sun shines in midsummer all night long. And we have long and warm summer nights, birds are singing and everyone is so happy because it is summer. We collect energy for the winter and soon there is a new summer ;) Finnish love winter, real winter, and cold weather is not a problem here. Last winter was oh too long, we have 88 days behing each other frost! It was quite awful, for me anyhow ;) But then came summer and we have best summer ever, so - what can we do?
You find tracker, fine! Lets see whats happen. Have a nice day ;)

J Bar said...

Great post.

Steve said...

Much food for thought here, Owen... especially the piece by R.E.K. Very enlightening, very sane.

mythopolis said...

Good commentary by Bob. What is happening here is quite insane.

Clytie said...

I was asked an awkward question during a job interview once - something about what I would NOT do in the job. I said 3 things - I don't do snow; I don't do coffee; and I don't do politics. I got the job anyway.

With that said, I really don't do politics, but I found myself reading this post in its entirety and feeling a little ashamed that I AM part of the problem in this country. How many of us who "don't do politics" complain about the government that was elected while we stood around doing nothing? As Bob said - 'we get what we deserve'.

Okay, so I could go on and on. Kudos to Bob for his very timely wake-up call (as in smack-upside-the-head - WAKE UP!)

Kudos to you, Mr. Toadman, for spotlighting what he wrote.

Time to go make some coffee, eh?

Gwen Buchanan said...

It is indeed a time of great change that we will never forget.

pineriverreview said...

I am a Detroit born and bred firefighter. I work in the epicenter of the post industrial apocalypse. We make nothing in this country anymore except war it seems. Detroit was once what cities in China are today, a manufactoring giant. Today we are a example of what follows, a polluted ruin of ancient factories. If we can not find a framework of sustainability to build the framework of our future the rest of the West will follow us into oblivion.
Technology has made human beings irrelevant to the workings of society. The machine needs cheap labor to sustain itself. Industry has no soul and no appreciation of the human delema.
A fine commentary Toadman! And oh yeah, the pictures pretty good too!

namaki said...

Well ... a young she-cat found her way to my home ... and there she is !

Stickup Artist said...

Everybody I know and talk to is very well informed and shares Bob's views. I don't understand where the extreme right is coming from nor do I know them personally so cannot even engage in a chat. I'm horrified and stunned by the midterm elections, the tea party, and hope it is just a big baby tantrum but that's pretty lame in itself and doesn't get at the root of a problem or offer any solutions that make sense to me. All in all, it is not very much fun, frustrating, and downright scary.

On a lighter note, I picked up Desert Solitaire on your recommendation and I LOVE IT. I feel Edward Abbey is a kindred spirit. Thank you so much!

English Rider said...

Responsibility is so out of style.

mythopolis said...

English Rider said it so succinctly. There was an important activism that came up through the fifties via the civil rights struggle. And it transferred so easily to that next thing on the table...the Vietnam war. The war ended finally, and you would think this energy would have exported itself to the next items on the socio-cultural/ political agenda, but no. It flat vaporized over the next decade. I feel in a land of zombies who can't take time to tune in to what is going on, because they are biting their nails about who will get voted off American Idol. I love this country, but the mentality lately seems like "peas porridge cold...nine days old".

T. Becque said...

The photo with the logs is incredible and that's a heck of a lot of wood! Would love to have a fireplace to enjoy.

'Tsuki said...

Great post... Very interesting, and the pictures are so awesome... Thanks for sharing all of it with us.

Sar@h said...

Pauvres parents qui ont donné deux fils dans cette guerre.
J'aime beaucoup le seconde photo : la composition, les trois espaces déterminés et les courbes. Le N1B lui sied bien.

Alistair said...

Great photo's and another great post Owen. French cemeteries are incredibly moving places, more so than many over here, and it's hard to go through one without countless reminders of the wars that have been fought across its landscape.

I found Bobs poice very insightfull and unfortunately deeply prophetic - for the short term at least.

You wrote recently about curmudgeons and here Bob displays all the attributes of a seasoned curmudgeon; talking basic, fundamental common-sense yet feeling he is howling at the moon regardless of the honesty of the argument.

Sign me up for the curmudgeon club!!

kind regards.....Al.

Alistair said...

and sign me up for using spellcheck - or a simple read through - before posting!!!

Mathilde said...

Je te remercie pour ton inscription sur mon blog, et, je reviendrai voir ton blog 1/quand j'aurais un peu plus de temps qu'actuellement (mais ça ne serait pas tarder) 2/quand j'aurais appris l'anglais (je plaisante, j'ai un traducteur !)
Les photos en tout cas sont très très belles !!!
A bientôt !

Dee Newman said...

Owen, I just posted your good old friend Bob's article on my blog (the8thdimension.blogspot.com) and referred my readers to your blog. I hope you do not mind. If so, I will remove it.

the fly in the web said...

I loved the photograph of the wood...but the commentary left me wondering what, once the situation is analysed, does one then do?

Catherine said...

Armistice Day always needs remembering even though the war is no longer in living memory - salutary post for the day - Breetings from mexico

Owen said...

Sylvia,
Thank you so much... I hear alot of good things about Seattle. I know Tom Robbins loves it up that way. I've never been... guess I'll have to one of these days. Would love to see Olympic National Park.

And indeed, what on earth did we do before blogging ??? Before portable phones ? Before e-mail ? Hard to imagine. I see that my children already live in a very different world than I did... sigh... But blogging is good...

Owen said...

Hi Priya, he is very good, Mr Bob... I think you would like his paintings too. I've posted a few, but there are many more around his house and some friends houses...

As for politics in India, I cannot begin to imagine... how a government could begin to govern one billion people... it seems inconceivable to me. But any government these days is going to be facing major challenges in days to come, no matter what the number of people they govern. Things are too unbalanced at present, one can almost hear the ropes unravelling, the ropes holding it all together.

Owen said...

Hei Elisa,
If anything here is making you think, then that is a good thing, being curious, and thinking, a fine combination. It sounds like you, and perhaps many finnish people are quite philosophical about the seasons. Can you imagine living at the equator where every day is 12 hours long, all year round ? And hot ? Changing seasons are a good thing I think. But here in Paris seasons aren't so clear. Winter is not always a real winter like I remember from where I grew up. It just gets cold and rains and rains and rains... like all last week. And we are not even winter yet. And no squirrels... or almost none...

Owen said...

J Bar,
Thanks very much ! Looks like you are having a good time in Sydney. And I couldn't help noticing you have links in your sidebar to several blogs I appreciate alot... what a small world.

Owen said...

Hey Steve,
For such a crazy guy it's amazing how sane he can be... glad you liked.

So, is the British gov't going to raise the cost of tuition to universities ??? Please tell Mr Cameron not to do that...

Owen said...

Hi Mythop, indeed, indeed, the house of cards is starting to fall down, and let the wild winds in. When anyone can take Sarah Palin seriously, then you know we are all in trouble. Big trouble.

Owen said...

Clytie,
Loved your comment. Don't do snow, eh ? Hope you can head south for the winter then !

Yeah, good idea, let's go grab a coffee. Maybe by the time we get back from coffee break, someone will have figured out some solutions. Do you ever read Dave Barry's columns ? He has alot of ideas. Maybe he could be the next president...
;-)

Owen said...

Gwen, Was it Confucius who said, "A man should be so fortunate as to live in interesting times" ?

(I presume he included women in his "man")

Owen said...

Hey Pine River,
An epic comment there, if there ever was one. For sure, we have built a monumental house of cards. Let's hope it doesn't catch fire, I'm not sure all the king's firefighters and all the king's men could put it out again.

I heard from my friend Tom B. that there are alot of abandoned factories around Detroit. He went out there and photographed one or two. You might like his websites, where if you dig a little you can find some images from Detroit :

The blog that is no longer active :

http://tombphotography.blogspot.com/

And his current Tumblr site :

http://tombphotography.tumblr.com/

Anyway, many thanks for stopping by here, hope to see you again...

Owen said...

Namaki, well, I guess she'll be well taken care of then... amazing how she found her way... the world is full of magic

Owen said...

Hi Stickup...
We are living in strange times, which keep getting stranger. And not many solutions on the horizon, just alot of gibberish from a multitude of talking heads. Thank goodness there are a few artists out there still... producing beauty.

Ah, good old Ed Abbey ! Now there was a man with integrity. Everything I read by him just totaly grabbed me. Fire on the Mountain is good, Black Sun a must, The Monkeywrench Gang is lighter, yet excellent... He even had a great article in Playboy magazine many years ago about rednecks... if you can find it. Actually, I guess it is in his book "Abbey's Road", the article was called "In Defense of the Redneck"...

Owen said...

English... you said it ! Whatever was I thinking ???

Owen said...

Mythop,
Nine days old, going on three centuries. One has to wonder about the foundations of the place, built on stolen land and a massacred people. American Idol and the Lawrence Welk Show. I'm almost ready for a new planet, I'm not sure that this one can still be salvaged. We are already stretching all the limits. Badly stretching... Like I said to Priya above, you can almost hear the ropes unravelling...

Owen said...

T Becque,
Well, I don't know how many nights a year a fireplace would be useful in Tuscon, though I guess the desert can get cold at night... But there is something cozy about sitting around a fire... The people that had the wood stacked up in the photo sure thought so anyway...

Owen said...

'tsuki,
Thank you ever so much... glad you enjoyed...

Owen said...

Sar@h,
Les traces dans les cimetières des histoires comme celle-ci me laissent sans parole souvent. Deux fils partis. Si jeune. Quelle horreur. Pour le bois, je crois qu'il y en a assez pour tenir l'hiver.
merci...

Owen said...

Alistair,
Ok, consider yourself signed up on both counts, Curmudgeon Club and Spellcheck... :-)

Bob is most certainly a curmudgeon, he could be named honorary president of the club. Glad you enjoyed all that...

Owen said...

Mathilde,
Tu es la bienvenue quand tu peux... dieu sait qu'il y a peu de temps dans une vie, et beaucoup de blogs...
:-)

Owen said...

Hi Dee, no problem, that's great, Bob will be happy to know that, I passed your link on to him. I hope many people will want to pass that piece around, I think it deserves to be circulated widely...

Owen said...

Hi Fly,
I guess that is the question many are asking at present... what now ??? Where is the way out of the maze we seem to be trapped in ?

Trust all is well in Costa Rica ? Hope you are not too near the border with Nicaragua ?

Owen said...

Hi Catherine,
Though not in living memory any longer, except for one man in the US still, I think the war still haunts many people today, who have read extensively, visited the sites, seen films, walked in the cemeteries, imagined. Yet I cannot really imagine...

nathalie said...

Sorry Owen for getting in late - but what a great (if somewhat depressing) read.
Yes just like REK I feel angry that "yes, there is also a thinly veiled xenophobic, if not racist, element among the right which has treated President Obama like a janitor called in to clean up the big mess after the eight-year republican bash at the Country Club (on the national credit card) —and then have the gall to blame him for not sweeping up the champagne bottles and cigar butts fast enough. It's a disgusting and shameful spectacle."

Thanks for this post. A necessary wake-up call. I wish more had heard it before voting.

Elisa said...

Hello Owen. You are right about the seasons. We still have four seasons and it is great. Only winter should last little less ;) I try to post photos of squirrels for you, but now here is so little light that I can only take photos at weekends.

Oakland Daily Photo said...

Just wanted to add my thanks for the essay. We've reached a point where reason has lost its currency and rumor and repetitive lies become the truth we embrace. Where did the capacity for reflection go?