August 2011

Dark Hints About Nothing

What our knowledge has wrought. Dark hints about nothing. There is that double-edged sword of modernity called medicine that offers both salvation and damnation. What worth the next day if our soul (the inner individual) is left questioning the value of it all?

There is no stronger force in nature than the human will to live. Recall the scene in the movie Schindler’s List where three Jewish children have been reduced to standing chest deep in the fetid, liquid excrement of a German outhouse. In order to survive for that moment. For a moment.

In another distinct scene from Schindler’s List, you follow, from a “safe” distance, the black & white film footage of Germans violently rounding-up and killing Jews. Periodically you watch as a little girl, innocence dressed in bright red, runs hither and yon, in and out of doorways trying to escape the Holocaust. You’re aghast at the atrocity yet you’re hoping against hope that this child will somehow escape her fate. Time passes. Later you see her discarded red outline on a heap of dead bodies. So much for hope.

I’ve read for years that if you live long enough, every man will get prostate disease. Isn’t that a comforting thought guys? Something is inevitably going to get all of us. And it ain’t the Boogie Man. We’re saddled with a body that for thousands of years provided humans a life, say, of thirty years. In the past we had a life expectancy half or two-thirds of what we might experience today. There are a number of reasons responsible for today’s human lifespan and science legitimately gets our grateful tip of the hat for its many contributions.

Ah, but “life” is not content with providing additional years without extracting its proverbial pound of flesh. There is a quid pro quo quality to human existence. What for what? Longer life vs increased uncertainty. In one of today’s enduring ironies, we live longer only to wonder are we but one diagnosis from doom? Modern medicine is now the Sword of Damocles, always hovering, literally. That ache. That cough. That bump. That growth. That fever. That moment of forgetfulness. The doubt. The fear.

I recently had a biopsy and I will receive (supposedly) the results on September 1st. I say supposedly because I am now in the maw of modern medicine where one test leads to another which in turn leads to yet another doctor and more tests. Ad infinitum. I argued (gently) with one doctor that I did not like the course events were taking. I was told that if I wanted to stay under his care I had to do exactly as he ordered. I inwardly laughed at this man and silently said, “Jawohl.” And clicked my heels.

Go in for one test and celebrate its results only to find later that, guess what, while eliminating “that” we found “this.” And so it goes.

I was so stoked last week over how the aspiration biopsy went that within minutes of arriving home I cracked a bottle of champagne. And giggled and laughed at my predicament. Our human condition. All I want is the 22 more years I planned for.

Know what? The Hubble Telescope has picked-up a distant rumbling from the far recesses of the universe, from the beginnings of time. They’ve determined . . . it’s a laugh.

I’m A Tweet Twit, Too.
Hanging with Christopher Robin.

I recently joined Facebook, perhaps the last person in North America to do so. Actually I’ve received e-mail that that is not the case. There are others who are also slow to get with the “latest” new thing. Not so new, huh, when there are 750 million users. Oh, and I’m a Tweet Twit, Too. For the life of me, the purpose of Tweeting escapes me. Yet, I get it completely.

As my sister describes humanity, “We’re nasty little monkeys,” but by gawd, “Can we talk about it?” Most human beings crave contact with their fellow human beings. It goes beyond crave, we require it. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the rest are broadly classified as Social Media. Many, if not all, of the social media have the capacity to instantaneously “Share.” And that Dear Reader is the crux, the fulcrum for this phenomenon. Oh, and mix-in the ability of corporations to profit and “Oh, Lordy, Katy bar the door.”

I am not the “innocent” I might be, the unassuming neophyte in this “Brave New World” of human connectivity. Why else write a weekly column for 23 plus years for an esoteric weekly newspaper in the little burg of chichi Winter Park, Florida? What compels an individual such as myself to do so? Two reasons primarily. Ego and writing about a subject crystallizes one’s thoughts. How will I know what I know until I write it down.

Today, with the ubiquitousness of Social Media, everyone is a writer, an author, the mistress of her fairytale life, a master of his “compelling” narrative, the purveyor of unvarnished truth and dispenser of “objective” opinion. Un-huh.

Not only that but I’ve had a blog (a personal forum on the internet) for years, MEDIAmerica.US. I thought myself soooo very clever when I came up with that name, in a spurt of creativity some 15 years ago. But that was well before the rise of social media. I am an old man in an evolving world of communication.

Perhaps, a dozen people genuinely care about my welfare. I call them my lifeboat compadres, those who would make it in my lifeboat as the ship sank. Who I would willingly give-up my seat for. Everyone has such a list or could rather quickly compile it. I even have a list of folks who could hang on the gunnels. Hanging with Christopher Robin subsequently takes on new meaning. The balance devolves into the great abstraction called the “rest of humanity.” Who didn’t make the cut. Who cannot, so to speak, hangout.

Facebook has changed the equation of relationships and communication. This is what’s coming folks. That Six Degrees of Separation is now a marketing formula (an algorithmic computation) for pushing product and services. And Facebook and all subsequent iterations of electronic/internet social communication will become vast platforms for evaluating who you are, who you know and what you/they consume (ideas, products, services, needs & wants). Purists decry the commercialization of the internet and I laugh out loud (LOL) at such naïveté. Anything mankind can do, well, will be done for a buck.

Find a stray dog in the neighborhood and post about it on Facebook? Expect, someday, pop-up ads pushing dog food.

If you think you’re going to find “yourself” on the internet. Wrong. It is you who will be found.

Music To Fiddle While Rome Burns.

It’s merely a number. And how many of us, really, paid that much attention to it prior to America’s recent congressionally-induced financial imbroglio. Besides, as Les McCann sings on his quintessential 1969 album (Swiss Movement), “Make it real compared to what?” I speak of the recent S&P downgrade of the U.S. credit rating.

I’m not one to get all enamored with the hyped-prospects of the emerging markets of China, India or Brazil. No doubt those economies, today, have a vitality and energy not found in America but those nations have challenges of unimaginable proportions. Even if their respective middle classes experience phenomenal growth, there will be hundreds of millions of Chinese left in crushing poverty. Say that 700 million Chinese do indeed achieve the American dream of a suburban split-level, two cars and the deluxe stereo system, those left behind will number more than all Americans now residing in North America. What of them?

What is of particular interest to me is something that may not have occurred historically in quite the same way it will happen to America. Our nation is an imperialist power and has been so, unequivocally, since the Mexican-American war of 1848. We will experience inevitable decline. The “nut,” as they say, is unsustainable. What is dawning on Americans is their awareness that the ship of state (our nation) is taking on water, is listing starboard (tragically). We’ve lost track, as a people, of what is honorable, sustainable and democratic.

It is said of Nero, “That he fiddled while Rome burned.” It sums-up well the quality of American leadership today. The ship is sinking and our leaders, rather than correct course or bail water, point fingers and wax forever idiotic.

Obama is not the agent of change for which I hoped. He doubled-down in Afghanistan, hired as administrators the agents of our 2008 economic debacle, turned a blind eye to the corrupt greed perpetuated by America’s banks and Wall Street and lacks the spine to pursue his convictions. Perhaps that is the nut of the problem. That Obama simply does not share the values (convictions) I think necessary for a “healthy” America.

Worse, America’s Republicans are moronic. Both Michelle Bachman and Rick Perry do not believe in evolution. They may as well say that The Scientific Revolution of the 16th & 17th centuries as well as The Enlightenment simply did not occur. The other Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, believes Jesus Christ pole-vaulted across America. He and Rick Perry are the business candidates. Romney’s company purchased corporations, dismantled them, eliminating thousands of jobs and sold the remaining detritus for a profit. Yea, Baby! That’s some record of rebuilding America. Perry’s Texas miracle is an economic fraud. How stupid are we? If another ignorant Texas Governor gets the Republican nomination, we deserve our future good and hard.

Mitt Romney says a corporation is the same as you or me. Same rights? Really? One reason for a corporation is to escape liability. Well, Republicans sure do that well. Everything is Obama’s fault! Yea.

Democrats and Republicans alike are worthless as teats on a boar. One lacks the courage of their professed convictions and the other, well, they’re little more than simplistic, shameless bagmen for corporate interests.

Well, folks, put on J.S. Bach’s “Chaconne from Partita in d minor.”

Nero may have had it right, “Party-On, Garth!”

This Ain’t No Knife Fight.

It’s become a cliché but bears repeating, “Don’t show up at gun fight with a knife.” This appears to be how the Democrats approach governance with their Republican counterparts. It’s a metaphor, folks.

I could have conducted better negotiations with the Republicans than President Obama. I don’t say this lightly because politics is a knuckle-ball, grab their scrotum, take no prisoners process. But if the first chip you toss on the negotiating table is “the store,” what’s left to dicker over?

I kept waiting for the Democrat’s “end game” to become readily apparent. Alas, I am still attempting to understand how the language of the debate became so focused on Republican priorities. Oh, it is argued that is because of the 2010 elections and the Republicans becoming the majority party in the U.S. House of Representatives. So what? It’s as if all the insightful, politically astute, get-your-game-on Democratic strategists are on vacation. Who exactly is advising Obama? Hello! Time to send in the “ringers.”

If I had it to do over—know what I know today—I’d support Hillary Clinton. Granted she badly bungled her Iraq war vote (no inconsequential issue for me) but I’d much rather that Clinton be negotiating, on the nation’s behalf, our domestic policy.

Facts, for many, are irrelevant today, from how we got into debt to whether economic history supports cutting government spending during such an acute recession to whether a return to Clinton level tax rates on higher income Americans would “crush” whatever recovery we are experiencing. I have my understanding of these “fiscal” considerations but many Americans think otherwise. As is their right. That said, “box of rocks” comes immediately to mind, as in, they must be dumber than a box of rocks.

It is argued that Obama thinks that liberal Democrats have no choice but to support him in 2012. That for Obama to be re-elected he must secure “sufficient” independent voters and that fact alone explains his actions and policies. For the life of me, what has Obama achieved that particularly appeals to independents?

Anyone, with half a brain on knows that Obama was handed a horrible economy and two wars. Ballooning deficits, a collapsing economy, record job losses, war. Hell, add drought and his problems are nearly Biblical in scale. It is hard to make lemonade out of any of that. It is.

But Obama’s alleged card-up-his-sleeve was his ability to be “the” great communicator. To communicate. I’m a scorekeeper and Obama has been a dismal failure in this regard. I want the debate clearly framed by putting all the cards on the table as to what exactly America confronts. Frame the message and drive it home. Day in/day out. According to Republicans “We no longer are all in this boat (America) together.” This “Gilded Age” truism needs to be tattooed on Republican foreheads.

I knew we were “had” when Obama pursued no malefactors from the 2008 economic meltdown. Too many of America’s “premier” corporations, banks and financial institutions unequivocally and criminally harmed the nation. Yet, no one swings from the yardarm. No accountability. Bonuses, ironically enough. Business as usual.

Obama, sadly, wasn’t the change we need.

We require a Burt Lancaster as Wyatt Earp in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. No more showing up, under-gunned, for battle with the Clanton-like Republicans. This ain’t no knife fight.