Tuesday, December 2, 2008

let's pause for some old Bucket-head poems

The America impoverished
Bright stinky plastic
covered a jar with metallic money
As threads of yolk-mold grew
in the corners of their mobile home
a poor American family formed
hidden scales, all unstable
Papa forked his largest fare--
floatin' gun smoke, dust, & eggshells
So saddle up poor child,
No more feedin' on grass spores today.
Emmanuela Mujica, 2007


When dirt filled slippery shovels, time dropped through
the painting's grime, through Cuban movements
When dirty rugs were beneath old men and cigars
mosquitoes swarmed through the cigarette burns
stubbing their wings on adventure and light posts
The park lit by the broken moon, a glistening peach
It was the summer, and the ocean breeze threaded us
with cool. Oiling our humid inner bubbles.
Eric Watson, 2007
(permission to publish)

Owning your sustainability

An article I read a few months ago on NPR, “Are you sure you own your stuff?”, talked about the idea that Americans don’t actually own anything because everything they own is disposable to them. This so-called “Maker movement”, in which people learn how to repair and improve products they acquire, is battling against the “Throw-away culture”, that sees no issue in deeming possessions as junk after transitory usage. In his second volume of Endgame, Derrick Jensen talks about behavioral patterns in humans caused by trauma to explain why humans have destroyed the planet. He equates the inner conflict suffered by those that are abused to the inner conflict that civilization has always known. Perhaps the ever-present human conflict is the vast void that is created by the realization and evasion of one’s own death. One way that individuals remedy the void is by over-consuming, a practice in which Americans have become extraordinarily adept. What Jensen and many others have pointed out is that consumption is a temporary, external solution to the void. How does the human void relate to true ownership? Having true ownership goes beyond the temporary pleasure felt after buying something new. In realizing one’s potential to be a crafter and creator, a distancing from the thoughtless consumption and disposal patterns of civilization occurs. The human void may not ever be filled and the problem of civilization will never be remedied, as Jensen fervently points out, but individual sustainability can be partly attained with true ownership. Personally, I enjoy that most Americans don’t “stop and think before they toss” because I make good usage (and banana bread) out of discarded goods. But most of what myself and the other “dumpsterteers” miss or can’t use, gets put in landfills, which makes it that much easier for humans to forget their wasteful, detrimental behavior. Thus, I will take further steps in my sustainable journey to become a crafter, a creator, and a repair woman because I may encounter a time when constructing or refurbishing goods to be durable is the only way to survive. Now, I must go figure out how to craft a bucket for my head…

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Global human experiment

How far can humans go? That is the question navigating the experiment us humans are conducting on the world. Certainly, the human brain has immense cognitive, psychological capabilities, and our achievements are nothing to belittle. We have succeeded in creating vast areas of study such as the sciences, and have made great discoveries in our short time on the Earth. The price tag attached to the global human experiment is great. Human advancement threatens the existence of everything that preceded us: the atmosphere, the land, the oceans, and all of the species of flora and fauna that once thrived in these regions. Derrick Jensen professes that civilization is killing the world time and time again in his two volumes of “Endgame”. He blames “the whole damned culture”, and I’m not very far behind him in my outlook on the world. The problem is that Jensen’s solution to the human global experiment is to bring civilization toward a swift, violent demise. I cannot find it in my mind to agree with such an idea. So, he wants us to continue on in our consumptive, violent human existence so that we can get just what we deserve? Atrocities we have caused, yes, but do we have to ramp up the atrocities to make a point? I’d like to die knowing that I tried completely stopping my own participation in the global human experiment rather than join Jensen’s revolution, which seems to be structured on a foundation of hatred and devoid of ethical principle.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Technological axes of evil

“How is it conceivable that all our lauded technological progress--our very Civilization--is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal?” Albert Einstein.

Derrick Jensen agrees profoundly with the comparison Albert Einstein made between the horrific, destructive potential of humanity armed with technology and fortified by civilization. It is a shame that these two individuals did not have a chance to meet. I suppose Albert Einstein would have a great deal more to say today about civilization’s role in the current state of the global economy. Increased potency and effectiveness of oil extracting technologies led to massive booms in petroleum demands, which led to expedience towards the oil peak. The current global oil situation is a good example of our pathology towards increased demand armed with the “oil extraction axe”. We effectively diminished global non-renewable petroleum reserves while contributing climate altering CO2 gas to the atmosphere. 2008, 53 years after Einstein’s death, the United State’s is experiencing the backlash of the “technological axe” in many more respects. Einstein saw the damaging potential of technological advance during his lifetime, but why is it so hard for Americans to see it today? Besides the bucket-head, it might probably be because the average American’s IQ is 98, while Einstein’s was reportedly between 160 and 265 (and I doubt he could fit a bucket over his beautiful gray locks). The United States is not notorious for genius insight, so we are not likely to realize the faults of civilization until falters and falls.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Fall of America

A funny thing just happened as I was eating my reheated spaghetti lunch. I glanced over at my bookshelf and noticed "The Fall of America" a collection of poems written by Allen Ginsberg. Since I have been contemplating the fall of civilization, it felt rather appropriate to pick it up. As I closed my eyes and opened the book to a random page, two $20 dollar bills fell out from between pages 90 and 91. This satisfying surprise made the reading of the poem "Crossing Nation" that much more significant. The end of the poem reads:

"Vietnam War flesh-heap grows higher,
blood splashing down the mountains of bodies
on Cholon's sidewalks --
Blood boys in airplane seats fed technicolor
Murderers advance w/ Death-chords
thru photo basement,
Earplugs in, steak on plastic
served--Eyes up to the Image--

What do I have to lose if America falls?
my body? my neck? my personality?" June 19, 1968

Ginsberg was not talking about the fall of civilization, but he was speaking to the atrocities caused by a war that was both pointless and unsuccessful. I did not live through the Vietnam War, but I feel similar resenting undertones of the War in Iraq. With the American economy in upheaval and a future of deep recession, America is falling; The U.S. is falling hard and fast to its knees. What would Ginsberg write if he was here right now?

My speculative version:

Falling Economy

Economic crisis! Quick, hurry! Bail-us-out!
150 billion from tax pockets to AGI.
Help us! S.O.S. Economy wounded,
CEO men down --
Car industry dying --
Cries for blood money
from plush exec chairs
Bank predators biting
easy loans their sharp-teeth
Americans their prey

What do I have to lose
if the American economy falls?
my money? my job? my civilization?

The fall of civilization seems to be following me around wherever I go these days. Guy's latest blog entry was particularly snarly this week. He used the "change" theme of the Obama campaign to highlight the change America will likely face in future months and years with grand old inflation, a deep nasty recession, and the eventual fall of civilization. Everytime I was in pain, my mom said, "It feels really good when the pain stops!" So, part of me, the part that cherishes innocence and childhood, wants to feel hopeful that we will eventually pull through the hard times and everything will be okay. I have no way of knowing when the economic pain is bound to stop, since the real economic pain hasn't actually begun.
Part of me, the part that is drawn to the ideas of Ginsberg and other "gloomy guys", is prone to think that we are all royally fucked. But if civilization is going to collapse in my lifetime, why would I want to spend my precious time glooming it up?

Now I have a bucket-head conundrum: Do I take my bucket off and align myself with the national gloomiads over the current economic situation or do I keep my bucket on and live like the national ignoramuses?
At least for the time being I have a little extra unexpected cash to save up just in case I have to move to Canada. In that event, I will have to lign my bucket with protective thermal insulation.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans & Native Americans

Today was Veteran's Day; a day nationally gifted to all Veterans as well as governmental employees. This morning I thought to myself, "how nice that Veterans get a day decreed to them, but what about the other historically important peoples?" My husband and I visited Tohono Chul Park to honor Native Americans on this day. The United States' earliest Veterans defeated these first Americans, and so inhabitation of the U.S. continent by my ancestors was possible. No one nationally commemorates Native Americans for fighting for their designated rights to the land, and for persisting culturally despite the violent ways their land was taken from them.
An old docent at the park approached and directed us to an exhibit of woven basketry, and spent his time commenting on the few facts he remembered from his years of docent-hood. One comment he made struck me. He pointed to a Tohono O'odham basket called "The Man in a Maze", which consists of seven concentric semi-circles with a circular center and a man positioned at the top of the labyrinth. The docent said, "The 'Indians' think that if the Man ever makes it out of the Maze, it will mean the end of the world. This is the Tohono O'odham tribe’s symbol." For one thing, it was irritating to me that he called the Natives "Indians", but I accept that he may not be hip to the politically correct times. Aside from that, I thought it quite intriguing that the Tohono O'odham people tell a story that has a clause for the end of the world, instead of Christianity’s personal heaven/hell clause. I shall investigate further to find the real story behind “The Man in the Maze".
I have found that the old docent's interpretation of "The Man in the Maze" is a slightly distorted version. Of course, interpretations of the symbol vary from person to person and from tribe to tribe. The common thread among all stories deals with the struggle of the journey through the Maze towards death (the center). The Man could be the Tohono O'odham tribe or an individual life. To some anonymous persons I know, the man could readily signify civilization. According to the symbol, civilization can be viewed as an entity taking its course through the complex labyrinth of time. The clock ticks away as civilization makes its journey toward the center of the labyrinth, toward its eventual collapse and death. Maybe this is how the old docent interpreted the "The Man in the Maze" basket.
I wish I had talked to the docent for a longer time. Soon after leading us through the basket exhibit, I noticed he was wearing a Veteran’s shirt. How appropriate, I thought, for my theme of the day. I did not want to negate the observation and recognition of Veterans on this day, so I enthusiastically wished him a happy Veteran’s Day. He responded with a calm smile and said, “I had no choice… World War II, you know. France, Britain, Germany…” I could tell it was not a topic he wanted to go into depth about. After this uncomfortable exchange, he shuffled backwards semi-apologetically and pointed us toward the meditation garden. Meditate I did, meditate I have. I meditated over the heavy anti-war bucket on my head that made me under appreciate the Veterans, and the lack of choice most of them had in their service. I realize now that Veterans and Native Americans are much alike: both have struggled for rights, recognition, and bore no significant alternative to the place in which they found themselves fighting and struggling.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The beginning of my life as a social critic

Just a couple of hours after my first social criticism on Guy's blog and already I have an opponent to my views of the conflict in the Congo. I realize is difficult for people to listen to issues that are not pleasant, and for which they feel no responsibility. When I tell people that our privileged lifestyles are connected to larger global problems, they scoff and disagree right away. "It's not my fault," they say. I don't blame them: it is a burdensome state of being to feel responsible for the world's problems. But if I'm not responsible, who is? I don't have the power or money to change the practices of major American corporations, or the governmental leaders who sanction them. I do have the power to do small things to protest the aspects of the American culture I disagree with. I have given up convenient trips to inexpensive all-in-one stores in exchange for the more expensive, local businesses. I have made a pact with my bicycle to ride it as often as possible. I will vote tomorrow, and be a proud participant of the process. These actions are both helpful and positive, but insignificant in the face of the major global issues of the modern world.
One step at a time...
My newest step is to become a committed social critic. So here I am, in my thick 12-point font armor, ready to write on high about the world as I see it and explore it. Won't you join me as I lift this bucket off of my head?

Bucket-head Nation

I have new vision of the United States. I call it "Bucket-head Nation." My inspiration came from a humorous scene in Werner Herzog's latest film, Encounters at the End of the World. The scene portrays students in an Antarctic survival class wearing buckets on their heads to simulate the zero-visibility, white-noise conditions of the Antarctic tundra. The leader of the bucket-heads had the objective of leading the other bucket-heads to a location specified by the instructor. They failed this task twice because the leader of the bucket-heads misguided them. The scene ends with a shot of the disgruntled bucket-heads in a confused, clustered entanglement. Sound familiar?

Lately I've been having recurring conversations about the bucket-head nation. I had a conversation the other day with a good friend, who admitted that he wasn't registered to vote because the United States government and everything that spawns from it does not affect him. This is the bucket-head dilemma. People tune out of what's really going on in their neighborhood, in their community, in their city, in their state, in the United States, and in the world. The mentality is this: "What goes on doesn't affect me, and I can't affect anything as an individual." I am devastated to realize the bucket-head mentality is ubiquitous. The bucket-heads are my peers, my friends, my professors, and my family. I am a bucket-head, and you are a bucket-head.

When you deny the homeless man down the street of your spare change, you are a bucket-head. I am a bucket-head.

When you drive your car a distance you could ride a bicycle, you are a bucket-head. I am a bucket-head.

When you buy cheap products, regardless of their sources or their manufacturers, you are a bucket-head. I am a bucket-head.

When you relinquish the right to vote or to become an activist, because you think you can't change anything, you are a bucket-head. I am a bucket-head.

When you continue to support corporations and governmental leaders that have created our devastating economic crisis, you are a bucket-head. I am a bucket-head.

When you support a war, declared with falsehoods, that has killed thousands of soldiers and civilians, you are a bucket-head. I am a bucket-head.

Why are there so many bucket-heads in this nation? To quote Guy's latest blog entry: "the truth is damned inconvenient." The truth that the United States funds and perpetuates a war in the Democratic Republic of Congo for control of metal and mineral resources is inconvenient. Freeport McMoran needs those resources for the 2.6 billion cell phone batteries the American public demands by the end of 2009. Our cell phones are a convenient mode of communication and we need them. Would you still need your cell phone if I told you that high demand for cell phones and other electronic "goods" is responsible for the death of 6 million Congolese people since the resource war started in 1996? You would probably shrug and admit that you won't give up your cell phone; it's just too inconvenient. What if I told you life is a hell of a lot more inconvenient for the Congolese women being raped and assaulted every day than it is for the average American? I haven't given up my cell phone yet. The blood of the Congolese people is on my hands, and it's on your hands. If this information has hit you in the gut, lift your bucket off and become a friend of the Congo. Chances are, your bucket is steadfast on your head and you won't take it off for 6 million men and women you've never even met. The truth is that the citizens of our country are not willing to give up their convenient, inexpensive lifestyles to relieve people around the world of their hardships and suffering. We have the power to make conscientious choices when we take off our buckets and fully realize that our individual actions do create ripples around the world. When more people become bucket-less, attuned to their potential to affect change, the travesties of greed, violence, and selfishness may be more difficult to sustain.