THE PREJUDICE THAT UNITES US

12 03 2016

It’s been quite a month. Republicans are starting to fear that the Trumpenstein monster they have created might be about to tear them, and their party, limb from limb. “The Ku Klux Klan endorsed Ronald Reagan,” they admit, “but he refused their endorsement.” That conveniently ignores the fact that the KKK endorsed Reagan because he embodied their principles, and in rejecting the Ku Klux Klan, Reagan did not abandon the ideas for which they endorsed him. The whirlwind the GOP has been sowing for fifty years, ever since Barry Goldwater, may be about to blow them away.

Meanwhile, among Democrats, Hillary Clinton is doing exactly what I predicted she would, stealing Bernie Sanders’ somewhat radical rhetoric. I don’t expect her embrace of his positions to last much past the election. If she wins the nomination but loses the election, I suspect that, in spite of his doing everything he can to avoid being “Naderized” by the Democrats, Sanders will, indeed, be “Naderized,” blamed for raising peoples’ expectations too high and making them dissatisfied with, and less than enthusiastic about, Ms. Clinton.

And Barack Obama, on top of shilling for the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership, has just defended his administration’s half-hearted, half-assed show of regulating Wall Street. It must be really schizy to be  a “progressive” Democrat.

I could spend the hour commenting on all this foolishness, but this is the “Deep Green Perspective,” and what I try to do here  is go to the roots of what’s happening. Tonight, I’m going to examine prejudice, and in particular the one prejudice that nearly all of us share.

Read the rest of this entry »

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AS DOMA GOES, SO GOES THE DEA?

13 04 2013

music:  Greg Brown, “Spring Wind

String Cheese Incident “Land’s End

Same-sex marriage and marijuana use have a lot in common.

Thirty years ago, both were viewed by the American mainstream as beyond the pale, off the table, over the top fringe behaviors that would never see the legal light of day.  But here we are, with nationwide full legal equality for gays trembling on the brink of reality, and marijuana legal for all in two states and those with a medical need in eighteen states.  That’s little more than a third of the states, but they happen to hold about half the population of the country.

At the state level, same-sex marriage is actually somewhat behind legal/medical marijuana, with only 9 states recognizing it, and many states specifically prohibiting it.  On the other hand, there is no such halfway step as “medical marriage.”

It’s hard to tell how the Supreme Court is going to rule on the same-sex marriage cases before it this year.  First of all, six of the judges are Catholic a faith that rejects homosexuality in theory, while some Catholics, of course, practice it.  Still, many of the questions the Supremes asked when they heard the DOMA and Prop. 8 cases.  seem to indicate a more open-minded view of sexual orientation than their pontiff might approve. Read the rest of this entry »





BARITT ROMBAMA IS A SHOO-IN; GREENS WILL CONTEST ELECTION ANYWAY

12 05 2012

Maybe, just maybe, the shift is hitting the fan for the one percent.  One of this last month’s big stories has been that several of America’s megacorporations have been embarrassed enough by public exposure to stop funding the American Legislative Exchange Council, which in turn has been embarrassed enough by the flood of negative publicity it has received to at least officially abandon its efforts to enact legislation that limits voting rights.  On the other hand, they can afford to–so much damage has been done to ballot access by now so that, coupled with the background level of media hypnosis, Mitt Romney might actually have a fighting chance to unseat Barack Obama, and end the shame of Amurrica’s perceived leader being the spawn of a white woman who got careless with one of the darkies…..excuse me, I know that’s horribly politically incorrect, I’m just trying to express what it seems to me that a lot of people are thinking, but are simply too polite to ever say–although one Evangelical Christian friend of mine was willing to go so far as to tell me, before the 2008 election, “It’s not right for a person of Muslim descent to be President of the United States.”  That remark has been enough to give me some satisfaction in knowing that Barack Obama’s sold-out butt is the one sitting in the Oval Office, just because of the cognitive dissonance it creates for so many Right-thinking Americans, but Barack Obama is much closer to Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, or, for that matter, Mitt Romney and Ronald Reagan, than he is to Rev. King or even Jesse Jackson, let alone Malcolm X, despite the pervasive right-wing rhetoric about Obama being a “socialist.”  Hey, they call him a “socialist” because they couldn’t get away with calling him a n–and neither could I, so I’m not gonna say THAT word.  I have my limits!

Indeed, the similarities between Obama and Romney are remarkable enough that I, among many others, apparently, am tempted to refer to them as “Barritt Rombama”  and “Mitrack Obomney,” or belittle them as Tweedledim and Tweedledimmer.  Both are the best candidates money can buy, and their images are carefully crafted to appeal to their target demographics, one wing or the other of the tragically vast majority of Americans who are still asleep and dreaming the American Dream.  Obama’s image is meant to appeal to those who believe they are more open-minded, generous, and tolerant, while Romney’s message is intended to galvanize those who feel more sure of themselves, sure about what’s right and wrong and who are inclined to believe that people should be allowed to sink or swim on their own abilities.

If that were what is really going on, it would be wonderful, but that’s not what’s really going on.  What’s really going on is that the forces behind both the Democrats and the Republicans are thieves who are ripping off the world, and the big difference between them is that the Democrats want to distract the guard dog by throwing it a bone, while the Republicans would rather just shoot the dog.  Both, however, are equally intent on taking everything they can get their hands on while the getting is good.  Just where they will go with their ill-gotten gains is certainly a good question, but, apparently, being clever–and stupid– enough to be the expert thieves they are does not mean that they have the wisdom and foresight to be thinking of the long-term consequences of their actions.  Somehow

“Only when the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will some people realize that they cannot eat money.”

has failed to register in the consciousness of the people who think they own America.    If you stay in the sphere of mainstream politics, it’s all about how to get consumption growing again, without even a moment’s reflection on, for example, the fact that “consumption” is an archaic name for tuberculosis, or, in the words of that other environmental core statement,

“Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.”

Thanks to Edward Abbey for that one.  Authorship of the “last tree” quote is a little harder to track down, but it seems to originate with the native people of this continent, who, to their credit, have seen this coming and have been trying to warn us clueless white folks about it for several hundred years.  Oh, well, I guess the Green Party is not the first batch of Cassandras to appear in America!

And I guess this is the point at which to mention that the Cassandra Society of Tennessee, aka the Green Party of Tennessee, will be meeting for a nominating convention next Saturday, May 19th, at the Scaritt-Bennett Center in Nashville.  You can get the details on our Facebook page or website, but the essence is that we will be designating our official candidates for various state and national  offices, and deciding whether to endorse Roseanne Barr or Jill Stein as the party’s Presidential candidate.  The comedian or the doctor?  The country could use a good dose of both.  Anyway, there are a great many more offices open than we can contest from among our usual ranks, so we are hoping that dozens, or hundreds, or at least a handful of Green-minded citizens will come out of the political woodwork and stand for office under the Green Party banner this year.

Let’s take a music break

Richard and Mimi Farina, “House Un American Blues Activity Dream”  (the first link goes to the recorded version of the song, the second to a live, acoustic version with a more interesting video)





241 THINGS A GREEN CAN SAY TO IRRITATE DEMOCRATS

10 09 2011

I recently ran across a cute little piece on the internet, called “100 Things You Can Say to Irritate Republicans.” It’s quite a mix.  Some of it is good talking points, such as

10. Reagan raised taxes eleven times as President.
11. Reagan legalized abortion as Governor of California.
12. Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency.
13. Ronald Reagan supported gun control.

Some of it is long-term historical stuff, like

1. A Socialist wrote the Pledge of Allegiance.
2. Jesus healed the sick and helped the poor, for free.
3. Joseph McCarthy was an un-American, witch hunting sissy.
4. Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee were traitors.
5. The South lost the Civil War, get over it.

And some of it is downright silly:

67. Republicans don’t want to pay for your birth control, but they want you to pay for their Viagra.
68. Republicans actually NEED Viagra                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 71. Republicans hate communism, so why do they refer to themselves as red states?

and some are good indicators of how much baloney run-of-the-mill right wingers are willing to swallow;

69. Fox News is owned by an Australian and has a Saudi prince as an investor.
70. Republicans complain about immigrants taking American jobs, then freely give American jobs to foreigners overseas.

What, I wondered, would be on the list of “100 things a Green can say to irritate a Democrat” ?Then I found that a peace group in St. Petersburg, Florida, had already done my work for me, and then some:  They came up with an “Obama Fact Sheet,” with 241 examples of Obama behavior that directly contradicts the progressive values so many of his supporters project onto him.  Here’s some samples, starting with, as it were, the high (low?) points:

hype we can believe in!

Waged war on Libya without congressional approval
– Started a covert, drone war in Yemen
– Escalated the proxy war in Somalia
– Escalated the CIA drone war in Pakistan
– Maintained the military occupation of Iraq
– Sharply escalated the war in Afghanistan
– Secretly deployed US special forces to 75 countries
– Sold a record $60 billion of weapons to Saudi Arabia
– Signed an agreement for 7 military bases in Colombia
– Touted nuclear power, even after the disaster in Japan
– Opened up deepwater oil drilling, even after the BP disaster
– Did a TV commercial promoting “clean coal”
– Defended body scans and pat-downs at airports
– Signed the Patriot Act extension into law
– Continued Bush’s rendition program

The indictment then moves chronologically backwards through Obama’s political career, showing how he has abandoned his earlier, more principled stands as he has risen in the ranks of power.

  • Obama’s military action in Libya contradicts his words from 2007: “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation” (read)
  • Obama: Drill, Baby, Drill.  Obama to open offshore areas to oil drilling  — In June 2008, then-Sen. Obama told reporters in Jacksonville, Florida, “when I’m president, I intend to keep in place the moratorium here in Florida and around the country that prevents oil companies from drilling off Florida’s coasts” (read).  Obama said offshore oil drilling is “not risky” (read).
  • Obama does U-turn on Guantanamo Bay terror trials – will restart military tribunals for a small number of Guantanamo detainees, reviving a Bush-era trial system he once assailed as flawed (read).

The list also includes praise for Obama from Republicans, and I don’t mean that rare breed known as “liberal Republicans.”  we’re talking about a former member of John McCain’s election staff:

The absence of a solid anti-war voice on Obama’s national security team means that US foreign policy isn’t going to change – “What does it say that, with 130 members of the House and 23 in the Senate who voted against the war, Obama chooses to hire Democrats who made the same judgment as Bush and McCain?”   Neoconservative leader and former McCain campaign staffer Max Boot summed it up best. “I am gobsmacked by these appointments, most of which could just as easily have come from a President McCain,” (Jeremy Scahill, 12/1/08).

From that Republican eminence grise, Karl Rove, we hear a tweet:  “Thanksgiving Cheer From Obama – He’s assembled a first-rate economic team” (read).

Plus, there’s a link to an article in which the likes of Newt Gingrich and Richard Perle applaud Obama’s selection of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State:

Newt Gingrich told Fox News that she would be “a very formidable secretary of state, and frankly, a lot tougher in defending American interests than some of the liberal secretaries of state we’ve had in the past.” Republican Senator Jon Kyl lavished her with praise, calling her “a very good selection.” The Weekly Standard gushed that she had become “The Great Right Hope.”

“On the whole I’m quite pleased,” explains Richard Perle, former chairman of the Defense Policy Board and an architect of the Iraq war. “She seems to me quite tough-minded. That’s not a worldview, but it is a predisposition. That’s a good thing. It’s not an easy world out there.”

….Perle says he would rather have a hawkish Democrat than a Chuck Hagel-style Republican as a token bi-partisan appointment. “I heard about others on the list [for secretary of state] that I wouldn’t be happy about,” he says. “Those were mostly Republicans.”

….Perle predicts that Clinton will likely perpetuate the foreign policy approaches that have typified Bush’s second term, when the president pursued goals such as tighter sanctions on Iran. “I’m relieved,” he says. “There’s not going to be as much change as we were led to believe. I think she’s very much in the mainstream. By now, I think the Bush foreign policy is, as a practical matter, the same policy as the policy of the Department of State–which is what I’d expect it to be under Hillary Clinton. Contrary to expectations, I don’t think we would see a lot of change.”

Note:  neo-con man Perle says he likes Hilary Clinton better than the unnamed Republicans who were also on Obama’s short list for Secretary of State.  Obama was considering Republicans for one of the most critical positions in his cabinet, right from the get-go.  So much for all that “hope and change” stuff, eh?

Well, I was curious to see what kind of reaction these 241theses, to be Lutheran about it, would have on our local progressive community, so I nailed them to the wall at Mid-Tenn. Progressive Strategy’s Facebook page, where they provoked a storm of comments, mostly expressing denial and affirming that the only way to create change in America was to work through the Democrat Party.  (And I, Sisyphus, will roll this huge boulder up to the top of that hill!)  There was one comment, though, that actually did cut to the chase:

…so you’ve successfully brought the problem to the table. I appreciate presenting a problem, but like I told my kids when I was raising them…you can always bring the problem to me, but please bring it with at least an attempt at a solution. What is your solution?

And so I wrote a response, including my best shot at a solution.  I will share it with you after this musical break.

music:  Will Kimbrough, “I Lie”





“TRANSITION NASHVILLE”–ORGANIZING FROM THE GROUND UP

11 12 2010

 

As Margaret Mead famously said,

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

The potluck didn’t happen due to the weather…a bit ironic to have a “transition” potluck cancelled because of extreme weather, eh?

This coming Monday, December 13, there will be a gathering of thoughtful, committed citizens, and you, dear reader, are invited.  The event will be a potluck dinner, so bring a dish or drink that is, or could be, grown or raised here in middle Tennessee.  Please note:  while I am a vegetarian, this is not necessarily a “vegetarian” event.  Cheese, eggs, turkey, beef, venison–if it’s your thing and it’s at least theoretically local, bring it.  Sorry, no pineapples, avocados, or tuna casseroles!  Catfish?  Of course!  Me, I’m bringing a bean dish.  I’ve seen truckloads of Tennessee-grown beans, and I ain’t just talking soy.

The dinner will take place from 6:30 pm until 9:00 pm at West Nashville United Methodist Church (4710 Charlotte Avenue), at the corner of 48th Avenue North and Charlotte Avenue.  Parking is across the street in front of Richland Library. Enter the Fellowship Hall next to McDonalds.  (McDonald’s! Oh, the irony!)

For more details, check out Transition Nashville’s meetup.com site, or the Cumberland-Green River Bioregional Council’s meetup.com site.

Nashville is a big city, and I think that ultimately it will take a great many neighborhood transition councils to really change the way we do things around here, but I’m not gonna hold my breath waiting for a mass movement.  I’m just gonna do my best to get something started, and trust that we will inspire people who are more talented at community organizing and politicking than I am–and, believe me, that’s not a high bar to set–to take this idea and run with it.

As far as I can tell, one of my gifts, such as it is, seems to be an ability to grasp and communicate the big picture–so what follows is the big picture, past and future, of the transition movement.  To the extent that I can translate that into specific examples, I’ll give you those as well.

It was twenty years ago today, you could say, that Tennessee’s two prize Alberts, Bates and Gore, first struck up the band on the subject of human-caused climate change and imminent resource depletion. Bates’ book, Climate in Crisis, published in 1990 with a forward by Gore, attracted notice mostly in the counterculture, although Gore did give a copy of it to every member of Congress.  (It would be interesting to know how many actually read it!)  Gore’s book, Earth in the Balance, which came out a couple of years later, became the first book by a US Senator since John Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage to make the New York York Times Bestseller list.

Unfortunately, Gore’s early effort, like his follow-up, An Inconvenient Truth, failed to inspire a working majority of either the politicians or the people of America to get up and dance to his tune. The reasons for that are legion, but the bottom line is this: due to our collective failure to sufficiently change our ways, we are beginning to feel the effects of climate change, not to mention resource depletion, AKA “Peak Oil,”and for the rest of our lives, we will have to deal with an increasingly erratic but overall warmer climate, while at the same time  the financial and material options available to us to cope with this change will  narrow and diminish. Climate scientists have published reams of statistics and “big picture” predictions. What I am going to explore here is what that may mean for our daily lives.

Let’s start in the garden. It’s a good place to start, because we’re probably all going to be spending a lot more time there in the future.  Our winters are overall going to be milder, but with the ice off the Arctic Ocean, there will be an increased possibility of heavy snow and extreme cold waves. At first glance, it may seem counterintuitive that a warmer Arctic will make our winters colder, but here’s the reason:  open water evaporates more readily than ice, and so, if the Arctic Ocean isn’t frozen, it will generate stronger storms that will push further south and east.  We’re seeing that now in the cold weather that is striking here, as well as northern Europe.  Last summer, we were all hot and dry.  Russia’s wheat crop burned in the fields, remember?  First time ever.

Here in Tennessee, we are on the boundary between the “polar continental” climate region, where weather is driven by  that Arctic pattern I was just talking about,  and the Gulf region, where the weather is sub-tropical, generated by evaporation from the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, Pacific,and the South Atlantic Oceans.  As the planet heats up, they, too, are evaporating more, and all the water that goes up, comes down, in the form of tropical storms and hurricanes. Being on this boundary makes our weather in Tennessee especially difficult to predict, according to a NOAA meteorologist I once met.

This much is for certain: we can expect our summers to be hotter, with more erratic rainfall, and our winters, too, will be milder, but with more erratic cold snaps, like the one we’re currently riding out.  Hotter summers may shut down some traditional summer garden crops like tomatoes and peppers, which won’t set fruit if it’s too hot. We may find ourselves planting these as spring and fall crops. More tropical species like okra, black eyed peas, and sweet potatoes should continue to thrive. Did you know that sweet potato leaves can be cooked and eaten?  Overall warmer winters will make it easier to keep cool weather crops like spinach, kale, collards, and the many delicious types of oriental greens through the winter, especially with the aid of simple cold frames and hoop houses.

Our fruit tree menu may have to change somewhat. We are already near the southern boundary for successful apple growing, but pears, especially the oriental types, should continue to do well in Tennessee. Peaches, which bloom early, are likely to be even more chancy as our later winter/early spring weather becomes more erratic. Late freezes could be a problem for all perennial fruit crops. On the plus side, rabbiteye blueberries, which are native to north Florida, should continue to thrive, and if winter temperatures start to consistently stay above the 10 degree Fahrenheit mark, we will be able to add local  figs, oriental persimmons, jujubes, and pomegranates to our diet.  Yum!

More erratic weather patterns will not just be a hardship for local gardeners, however. As we saw in Russia and Pakistan last summer, entire countries may see their agriculture burned out or washed away. Here in America, we have not yet begun to feel the strain of food shortage, but I think that home gardeners would be wise to expand their production from “just” vegetables to staple crops—lots of winter squash, white and sweet potatoes, beans, and even grains. Field corn is fairly easy to grow, harvest, and grind. Diversifying your gardening efforts is probably the best way to insure that, whatever the weather, your garden will provide you with something to eat.

OK, that’s kind of “the good news.”  Let’s factor in a couple of other likelihoods:  a much-diminished economy, and increasing scarcity of oil-related products, which includes everything from gasoline to electronic devices to plastics and pharmaceuticals.

Our economy in this country is largely funded by money we borrow from China and the oil Sheikdoms of the Middle East.  They loan us money so we can keep buying oil and manufactured goods from them, but they are growing increasingly uncomfortable with this arrangement, and we may wake up one morning to find they have decided to quit financing the American way of life and world domination.  As I commented last month, even mainstream, middle-of-the road politicians like our Governor, Phil Bredesen, recognize this, although Bredesen and his interviewer didn’t explore its full significance.  Here’s my short take on it:

It all revolves around one simple statistic. We Americans, about 5% of the world’s population, consume about 25% of the world’s resources. That’s five times our fair share, and we are buying it on credit.  When we can no longer get that credit, the result will be an “adjustment”–a more equitable distribution of resources.  To be blunt,we will probably be (barely!) able to afford only our 5% fair share of the world’s resources.That’s an 80% reduction in the average American standard of living. If those to whom we owe money push hard to collect on our debts to them and take possession of chunks of our infrastructure, real estate, and remaining resources in lieu of cash payment, we will have even less.  For the wealthy few, it will not be so onerous, but for most of us it will be pretty severe, albeit hard to imagine from this side of the “adjustment.”

“The American Way of Life” will be over.  It has been sacrosanct, declared non-negotiable by every President since Ronald Reagan booted Jimmy Carter out for the cardinal sin of proposing to negotiate it.  (“The moral equivalent of war,” as Mr. Carter said.)  Oops….We have all but lost the war to maintain American hegemony.  It’s too late for negotiation, and it turns out the only alternative is unconditional surrender.

“Welcome to the third world, America!”

Ah, hubris…..must be time for a music break.

music:  Steve Earle, “Ashes to Ashes”

Okay, enough with the current situation already.  Looking in my crystal ball, what kind of future do I see?

I see that we are going to have to learn to get along better with each other, because we are likely to be living in larger groups and tighter quarters.  With less income and higher costs to heat and light houses, people will increasingly move in with friends and family because their only other option is homelessness. As Robert Frost wrote,

Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in.”

We will have to re-learn co-operation, and not just to grow our gardens and feed our faces.  We will need to co-operate to create or obtain the goods we need for our every-day lives, because we won’t be able to buy Chinese goods from big-box stores any more.  We will need to co-operate to educate our children and each other–because a whole lot of us are going to have to learn a broad spectrum of new/old skills, the house-holding and homesteading skills we lost when our cultural norm became going out and working for money and buying things instead of staying home and making do.  And we will need to co-operate to take care of the ill and elderly, because hospitals  and “assisted living,” along with most other medical care, will be out of reach of all but the very wealthy.

The good news is, more of us will be born at home, and more of us will die at home, and more of us will attain the maturity that comes from familiarity with birth and death.  The bad news is, more of us will die earlier, from conditions that, currently, are rarely fatal.

We’re not going to have–and indeed, are already in the process of losing–universal access to private cars and the fuel, whether gasoline or electricity, to run them.  Cities and states will increasingly lose the ability to maintain public transportation, highways, sewers, water and gas lines, and police forces.   Warm weather and drought may curtail power plant operations–both nuclear and conventional electric generating stations require plenty of cool water to operate, and if they can’t get it,  your electric stove, your air conditioner, your lights, and your computer will become increasingly unreliable. My lights, computer, and electric stove and water heater won’t work either.  This troubles my sleep.

As I write these words, our government is watering down the value of our currency.  They call it “quantitative easing.”  This is just one of the things that is alienating the countries we borrow money from. If the U.S.’s credit rating and currency value drop much further, other countries will be able to outbid us for oil.   If our economy loses access to the level of oil we are dependent on, America will come undone so fast it will take your breath away.   Walking and bicycling will be increasingly important modes of transportation, but, to paraphrase Gary Snyder,  the most appropriate thing for most of us will be staying home as much as possible, making do with what’s at hand and enjoying the company of our house-mates and neighbors.

Have some more blueberries!

Boy, that neighbor kid sure can play the guitar!  He’s right proud of that guitar of his–weeded the woodworker’s garden all summer to pay it off.

First step in staying warm next winter–sharpen up the ax and the crosscut saw.

I’m gonna take this bundle of rags to the paper maker.  Sure am glad we’ve got a neighborhood mule to tote ’em for us.

Internet? Telephones?  The U.S. mail?  I remember when we used to  have those!  Man, we was living high on the hog in those days!

A pound of sugar?  Wow, how’d you come up with that?

I hope I haven’t scared you half to death with this little rant, but it should be nothing new to my regular listeners and readers.  “Transition” people are, understandably, a bit skittish about disclosing what it is we are transitioning into.  It was Chellis Glendinning who wrote about needing a twelve-step program to break peoples’ addiction to consumer culture.  One of the basic maxims of the twelve-step approach is “one day at a time,” and in this essay I have perhaps violated that precept.

Some may question what this kind of “doomerism”  has to do with politics in general or the Green Party in specific.  Here’s my response:

The Republicans and Democrats are completely unwilling to face these issues.  Somebody’s got to point out that not just the Emperor, but the Empire, has no clothes, and that dirty but necessary job has fallen by default to the Green Party.  Although we are still pretty much locked out of national or even state politics, we are slowly increasing our influence at the local level, which is where a great deal of what actually needs to happen to facilitate transition gets decided.

But you don’t have to sign up for the Green Party to join the Transition movement, which, among other things, involves a transition out of politics as we have always known it–along with the rest of the familiar, if deeply alienated, reality that we have become, however comfortably or uncomfortably, accustomed to.

One day at a time.  Today, all you “thoughtful, committed citizens” who can make it are invited to a potluck dinner.  That potluck dinner is Monday, December 13, at West Nashville United Methodist Church (4710 Charlotte Avenue), at the corner of 48th Avenue North and Charlotte Avenue.  Parking is across the street in front of Richland Library. Enter the Fellowship Hall next to McDonalds.   (Mc Donald’s–remember them?  They used to be everywhere.)

For more details, check out Transition Nashville’s meetup.com site, or the Cumberland-Green River Bioregional Council’s meetup.com site.

If you can’t make our potluck, maybe you can get together with your friends and neighbors and start your own ball rolling.  That would be great.  It’s gonna take a lot of balls to pull off a smooth transition.  (Ladies, please don’t let my little joke put you off!)  There’s a lot of insight, skill, and vision in this city, and sharing them only increases their power.  It’s been twenty years since Al and Albert first raised a warning..  It’s time to let it grow.

music: The Beatles, “Sgt.Pepper>A Little Help From My Friends”





TRUTH IN STRANGE PLACES…GOLDEN OLDIES DIVISION

9 05 2010

Our “Truth in Strange Places” award this month is a bit of a golden oldie, as it was uttered as part of a college commencement address in 1969.   According to my source, the speaker

repudiated an “acquisitive and competitive corporate life” in her class address at Wellesley College. She called for “a more immediate, ecstatic and penetrating mode of living.”

The speaker was Wellesley’s valedictorian that year, Hillary Rodham, our future first lady.  Damn it, woman, you should have inhaled and ingested a whole lot more than whatever you did!  Maybe it would have helped…not that it seems to have helped our current President all that much, but… How far we have fallen!

We, not just she, not just Hillary Rodham-Clinton.  We, the children of “The Greatest Generation,” the Americans who overcame the Great Depression AND the Nazi-Japanese attempt at world domination, we saw our calling as we came out of the starting gate with a clear, acid-etched understanding of our parents’ failings and a strong determination to take America and the world to the next level.

At first it all seemed to go so well.  We stopped the war on Vietnam, toppled a corrupt President and replaced him with a guy who cheerfully posed for pictures with Jimmy Buffet and the Coral Reefer Band.  (I’m sorry, that photo seems to have vanished from the archives!)  We started a nationwide network of radical newspapers, alternative radio stations, food co-ops, head shops, communes, ashrams for dozens of Eastern spiritual teachers.  We delivered our own babies and nursed each others’ babies, shared childcare among husbands, wives, and family friends, started our own schools based on the philosophies of A.S. Neill or Rudolf Steiner or Maria Montessori.  We blew the lid off the idea that marriage meant one man, one woman, their children, forever, by experimenting with open marriages and multiple marriages, and by accepting same-sex relationships, which ought to be marriages, already!.  We lived simply, sharing cars, homes, gardens, tools and televisions.  We produced shelves of books touting our way of life–Small is Beautiful, Diet for a Small Planet, Foxfire, Voluntary Simplicity, the Whole Earth Catalogues, just to name a few.  We started “Earth Day,” and got Martin Luther King’s birthday recognized as a national  holiday.

That’s the tip of another of the icebergs of my generation’s early accomplishments.  We declined to accept the tacit segregation of our parents’ generation.  Not only did we date and marry across racial lines, many of us ignored ghetto lines in cities and created racially mixed inner city neighborhoods.

We raised hell about nuclear energy and nuclear weapons and the cold war and Israeli repression of the Palestinians, white repression of native South Africans and Native Americans.  We pushed Richard Nixon, one of our creepiest Presidents, to create an Environmental Protection Agency, a Council on Environmental Quality, an Occupational Safety and Health Administration and a Federal Products Safety Commission,  and to pass a Clean Air Act, a National Environmental Policy Act, and a Water Pollution Control Act.

We were on a roll…then, somehow, it all started falling apart.  Perhaps blackmailed by Henry Kissinger, Jimmy Carter granted asylum to  the newly deposed Shah of Iran, the enraged Iranians took over the US embassy, our secret rescue mission failed.  The President who had called energy conservation and independence “the moral equivalent of war” lost his bully pulpit in a reactionary landslide and Ronald Reagan, the great miscommunicator, steered America into a trance.  Our movement melted away, as former radicals sought the apparent safety of professional careers, suburban homes, and safe investments for retirement.  Many of us traded bulk foods for fast foods, community engagement  for televised distraction, political passion for sports fandom, LSD for CGI, and pot for prozac.

How did this happen?  As far as I can tell, there was a lot of pressure from a lot of directions.  Early on, the record companies whose ads were a major source of finance for the “underground press,” withdrew their support and started the papers’ slide into “entertainment weeklies.”  Somewhere in her voluminous output, Barbara Ehrenreich reports that a cabal of network executives and advertising agencies determined that hippiedom and communal living would never be shown in a positive light on national television, because the ideal of sharing was bad for business.

There was financial pressure.  In 1974, median income peaked; although the average has gone up since, this has been due to the rich getting richer while the poor and middle class get poorer.  This has resulted in people having less time for leisure and non-income producing pursuits like social change.  College education became much more expensive, saddling students with debt and giving them a strong disincentive to rock the boat.  Did the barons of finance put the squeeze on us because they didn’t like what we were doing with our leisure time, or was our loss of leisure, AKA time to think and dream.  just an unintended consequence of being wrung dry?  We may never know

I believe there were internal pressures, as well.  The ideals that we held and shared were, for many of us, largely intellectual constructs that were not deeply anchored in our psyches.  What lurked in the depths  of all too many of us was the unreconstructed insecure materialist conditioning our parents had burned into us, and all it took was stress–whether from financial pressure, interpersonal turmoil, or the shocks that came as our cute little kids turned into sexual, independent-minded teenagers–to unleash that conservative parental programming and turn legions of once airy hippies into mainstream American zombies who would just die if their kids ever found out what they had done in their foolish youth–and who would completely go postal if those kids ever dared try any such stunts themselves.

That’s what I saw going on around me, anyway.  I’m not sure what I (and the mother who raised me) did right, but somehow I seemed immune to the pressure that was causing people all around me to cave in.  Not that I (and my kids) didn’t have some baggage to deal with–but somehow I seem to have ended up one of the last hippies standing.

I’m tooting my own horn way too much here.  I may be alive and more or less well and idealistically intact, still pumping for local food, local industry, and local control, but the Hillary Clinton I once saw eye to eye with about the dangers of,  as she put it ,”acquisitive and competitive corporate life” is now one of the lead spokespeople for corporate life.  I’m not picking on Hillary personally–she’s just a symbol for millions of members of my generation who sold out for what I’m sure they thought were all the right reasons.

Meanwhile, the promises of corporate America ring hollower and hollower to more and more people, and we’re not just talking furriners here.  As George Carlin famously said, “They call it ‘the American dream’ because you have to be asleep to believe it.” Formerly middle-class Americans are falling out of their cocoons and waking up with a bang on the sidewalk in front of what used to be their homes, their dream derailed by job losses, medical bills, and sucker mortgages among other things.  Maybe it’s not too late for a national reawakening.

music:  James McMurtry, “Jaws of Life”  (actually played “Paris“–two different songs on the same subject, different points of view..








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