Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
“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
"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:
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
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
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?
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.