9 07 2011

We’ve got a Metro Council/Mayoral race going on in Nashville this month, but for the most part nobody’s getting too excited about it.  Most incumbents, including Mayor Karl Dean, are expected to coast to easy victories. spouting easy platitudes about growth, development, education, jobs, and “Greenness.”

But all that talk, from my perspective, is like Huxley’s “soma” in Brave New World, an addictive drug intended to pacify the masses, even though it will eventually cost them their lives.  When I look into my Deep Green crystal ball at the future of Nashville, I don’t see big international industries and businesses relocating here, on the old fairgrounds site or anywhere else.  I don’t see a busy convention center surrounded by crowded hotels and a tourist district for high rollers.

A lot of what I do see is not that pleasant to contemplate.  I see Nashville’s core cut off from the south as the bridges over a disused I-440 deteriorate, and ferries crossing the Cumberland once again, once we no longer have the resources to maintain those bridges, either.  Roads and bridges cost a lot of money, and if there’s a lot less fuel tax–or maybe even none at all–being collected–there’s no way to maintain them. I see a downtown that’s dangerous to navigate, not because of homeless, derelict people, but because of the danger of debris falling from abandoned, derelict high rise buildings.  I see neighborhoods depopulated, houses torn down, the Detroitisation of Nashville.  It’s already started, if you’ve driven down West Hamilton Road lately.  I see these empty lots being turned into gardens OR reverting back to forest.  I see neighborhoods getting together not just to garden, but to excavate buried springs and creeks so they can have a reliable, if not necessarily safe, water source as Metro’s water system deteriorates due to severely falling tax revenues.  Likewise, I see neighborhoods coming together to create their own security patrols as the Metro police department literally runs out of gas and can’t afford enough electric vehicles to respond to anything but the most dire emergencies.

Where are the people gonna go?  Many will move back to the rural areas and small towns where they still have family, because life will be somewhat more pleasant and secure in those locations.  We may see some horrific epidemics that either defy drug treatment or, worse, that could have been prevented if only the funds for public health measures had been available.  I think we will lose a lot of population by attrition–it will be easier to die from a broad spectrum of diseases, including a couple that I’m working it out with myself, and the world will be dismal enough that people will be less inclined to start families–and, like us older people, children will be more prone to succumb to things that are not, at our current level of civilization, fatal.

On a more positive note, I think we will see a revitalization of our riverfront as an industrial and transportation hub.  The Cumberland provides a deep-water passageway combined with a strong current, two factors that are little appreciated today. Before the era of rail transport, it was the equivalent of an interstate highway, and let’s not forget that there is a reason why the word “current’ applies to both rivers and electricity–they both provide energy.   The river’s energy, however, is not dependent on fossil fuel or high-tech solar installations.  Water power can turn lathes for machine shops, run industrial looms to weave cloth, and power bellows that can create a hot enough fire to run a metal forge, as well as the more common applications of grinding grain and lifting water into fields for irrigation.

I was very relieved to meet someone the other day who has a good technical understanding of water wheels and how to build them.  In another few decades, somebody with those skills will be able to, as they say, write his own ticket.

And since I’ve been talking about deteriorating infrastructure, let’s not forget that there are locks and dams on the Cumberland that are not going to last forever.  We have not had our last major flood here in the Cumberland basin.

But–try running for Metro Council talking about those issues.  Can you say, “Debbie Downer,” boys and girls?  I don’t believe their is enough moral courage in this country to face the likely realities of our future.   To function as part of Nashville’s government, you have to at least make nice with the soothing pabulum of “growth” that far too many people believe in even more fervently than Christianity.

It’s like they say–the tough part of knowing the answers isn’t so much the knowledge itself, as having the patience to wait for somebody to ask you the right questions.  So, if you are involved in Metro government and actually have a clue about what’s going on, you will only reveal your deepest thoughts in fairly subtle ways.  You might propose to allow people to keep a few chickens.  You might oppose “future’s so bright” projects like Maytown,  the convention center, or seeking to sell the fairgrounds to private developers..

When I see Metro Council members who take such positions, I am inclined to favor them, though I’m certainly not going to put them on the spot by asking too many questions.  I know what constitutes political suicide, and I’m not going to push my favorite local politicians to expose themselves, so to speak.

Funny–it’s easier, politically, to be out about being gay than it is to be out about understanding the transition we are about to undergo.  Well, being gay ultimately involves only you and your sweetie, but transition involves everyone. Aah– i digress.

As I’ve observed Metro Council over the last several years, two of its members have really stood out for me–Emily Evans and Jason Holleman.  Among the Council’s 40 members, they are two who seem to be the most clued-in about what the future really holds in store.   And yet….and yet…..our “Green Mayor,” Karl Dean, seems to be behind the well-financed effort to unseat Holleman.  What gives?

I think what we are seeing here is a case of greenwashing versus reality-based decision-making.  Dean likes to be billed as “The Green Mayor,” but a look at what he actually does, and a look at who’s behind him, reveals the truth.  His moves, most noticeably on the Fairgrounds and Convention Center issues, have been pure, clueless, big-business optimism.  His backers are the Democrat Party mainstream, who are not so much committed to being “Green” as they are to branding themselves as “Green,” just like the national party.  Corporate pigs with green lipstick.  Ugh.

Jason Holleman is a David to these Goliaths, who value loyalty to their personal power above independent, rational thinking.   By this time next month, we will know who the people of Sylvan Park have chosen.  Good luck, Jason!

music:  Jane Siberry–Superhero Dream>Grace


11 07 2010

A couple of non-related, but related, stories have come to my attention lately. On the surface, they might seem to have little in common.  One deals with psychiatry, the other with pre-natal medicine, but taken together they raise a red flag for the future of diversity in mainstream culture.

The first story came from England’s Manchester Guardian, and here’s how it begins:

Healthy food obsession sparks rise in new eating disorder

Fixation with healthy eating can be sign of serious psychological disorder

Eating disorder charities are reporting a rise in the number of people suffering from a serious psychological condition characterised by an obsession with healthy eating.

The condition, orthorexia nervosa, affects equal numbers of men and women, but sufferers tend to be aged over 30, middle-class and well-educated.

Some of the natural health writers I follow started freaking out about this. Well, I thought, obsessive-compulsive disorder can take all kinds of forms. Then a friend sent me a short checklist of the symptoms, and I discovered that, according to the criteria of a private treatment center that stands to make a lot of money “curing” those diagnosed with eating disorders, that I do indeed “suffer” from the dread “orthorexia Nervosa.”

On one hand, we have dietitians and nutritionists telling us the American diet is the root cause of many health problems.  On the other, we have psychiatrists telling us there’s something wrong with having a strong aversion to junk food.

The other story that got my attention started with a headline from my favorite sex and relationship columnist, Dan Savage:

Doctor Treating Pregnant Women With Experimental Drug To Prevent Lesbianism

A female doctor, Maria New, is concerned with preventing “congenital adrenal hyperplasia, ” or CAH, a condition which can, in extreme cases, give women slightly to seriously “masculinized” genitals (hairy tits, big clits, oh my, oh my!), and in lesser cases, to quote another researcher on the subject,

“CAH women as a group have a lower interest than controls in getting married and performing the traditional child-care/housewife role. As children, they show an unusually low interest in engaging in maternal play with baby dolls, and their interest in caring for infants, the frequency of daydreams or fantasies of pregnancy and motherhood, or the expressed wish of experiencing pregnancy and having children of their own appear to be relatively low in all age groups.”

Dr. New, who is one of the first women scientist/M.D.s in her field, apparently does not find it ironic that in some ways, she herself is a textbook example of what she is trying to prevent by treating women with a drug that has not been carefully tested for the use to which she is putting it, and which has, according to other researchers, tremendous potential for disastrous side effects.  Hey, whatever it takes to avoid bringing more uppity women into the world, right?
In the interest of accuracy, I think it is important to point out that many members of the medical community think that Dr. New and her colleagues have gone off the deep end with this, and there is a movement afoot to ban the treatment that she has been pushing. Her name is  “Dr. New”?!  Who’s writing this script?
There are a couple of things that join these two stories for me, and the links, in turn, are also related.  One link that joins them is that they are both results of the medical/insurance/pharmaceutical  bubble, which is about the only financial bubble that has yet to burst.  Orthorexia and the specter of pre-natal treatment for “excessive” masculinity in women are both the results of there being too much money sloshing around in the wrong place.
The other, deeper, darker significance of these examples is what I call “the Brave New World syndrome”:  psychiatry and medicine working to preserve corporate, conformist,  anthill culture,  drawing a circle around what they consider “normal” behavior and appearance, and defining everything outside that circle as pathological.
Marijuana use  has become “drug addiction.” Questioning the status quo has been turned into “oppositional deviant disorder.”  Now distaste for junk food is “Orthorexia,” and girl babies can be drugged before birth to insure that they will become good, subservient, willing wives and mothers.
O brave new world!   How long will it be until science divides us into Alphas, Betas, Deltas, and Epsilons?  Well, the whole thing will probably come crashing down before that happens.
(sorry about the crowded format here…I’m not sure why, but I can’t create a line break between paragraphs in the bottom of this post!)
music:  French Frith Kaiser Thompson:  March of the Cosmetic Surgeons

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