We Are The Ones We Have Been Waiting For..*

*From Alice Walker’s blog, on the occasion of the events of November 4, 2008

We not only are the ones we have
been waiting for, we’re all we’ve got. Pray all day and all night for the next month, send your miracle-seed donations to whatever shyster television evangelist you choose, or otherwise passively wait for something supernatural from the sky to occur to solve your financial problems. Write angry letters to the editor of your shrinking daily newspaper, call the offices of your congressional representative weekly, go on strike, organize a boycott, find somebody to sue, or sit around the cafe and make jokes about people who for whatever reason- color, age, gender, sexual preference, nationality- are not as good as you and bring their financial problems on themselves and it’s just not fair because now they’re going to be helped and you’re not and God knows you’ve worked hard and you really are a victim: of bankers, Jews, Socialists, Obama, William Ayers, that guy who kills turkeys in Alaska, the CEO of GM, Affirmative Action, and/or global warming, Big Oil, gay guys who want to get married, gay women who believe in evolution, et.al., et.al., etc., and so forth . Do those things; hand the responsibility for your individual fix and our collective predicament over to some thing or some one outside yourself and begin the long slow descent into madness then death, while watching TV and waiting waiting waiting for what once was to be again..

Or..

We can start new philosophical, spiritual, and even legal balls rolling that will culminate one day in a very different set of economic attitudes. And those new attitudes are not an option; they are a necessity. An economic system based on perpetual growth is a Ponzi Scheme Supreme. It will fall, as all top-heavy things do. (read Genesis 11, about the Tower of Babel..it’s an old, old too oft-ignored story.) The American economic system of 2006 was bound to fail!! The fact that it is so amazingly easy to see that now is exactly the reason we can’t be tempted to return to it.

We need new thinking. It probably won’t be fun as we have been prone for too many myopic years to define fun: i.e., “Hey kids, let’s go the mall!” or, “Wow! Look how much our house is worth! We can retire early!” or “Just put it on the credit card.”

Nor will the new thinking we must undertake be able to have the old assumptions of unlimited natural resources, unlimited and willing labor, and an always expandable world market to be constructed upon. In fact, if we hear ideas based on those presumptions, we can know- even without being an economist- that they are wrong.

Here are some things I think MUST be thought about, reconsidered, redacted, discussed, argued about, and then allowed to evolve. These are just a few things and I’ll write more about each and add to the list as well. I hope you’ll talk about things like these in your circles of influence, too- in honest and open ways and in full knowledge that this is a New Creation we are part of..which is both scary AND exciting, isn’t it?

1. We must focus locally and in smaller ways, in every way we can. Interestingly, building “up” is a way to do both (think Manhattan). Walking more, sharing tasks, making do with 1 car instead of 2 or 2 instead of 3 won’t be options one day. The ‘New Marketplace’ will be the hub of the New Community, and for the sake of local employment we should not listen to any proposals by Walmart or any other large corporation to run those Marketplaces!

2. Speaking of Corporations, let’s not, as much as possible. Theirs is a legal status which must be redefined as we move this country from Corporate Socialism with their attendant strangleholds to something far more humane- something really strange and wonderful and new: small businesses, in real competition. (wow, what a concept!)

3. Everything I say about Corporations I say about Big Unions, too. It’s time to rethink everything no matter what color your collar is. Blue collars don’t automatically make you into a working class saint, and white ones don’t mean you’re a bourgeois sonofabitch.

Bottom line: Big has proven to be a hazardous concept, generally speaking. Small must b demonstrated to be the cool new kid on the block that everyone wants to be friends with, because small can give life. Big sucks life away. As someone’s grandpa used to say, “Put that it in your pipe and smoke it.” Really.

4. Here’s something else we should be allowed, if we choose to, to put in our pipes and smoke: hemp. Marijuana. There is a huge industry waiting to be begun in the growing, processing, transportation, selling, and taxing of hemp. Marijuana. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry that exists already but doesn’t raise a single taxable nickel while most of the proceeds flow south. Legalizing hemp (marijuana) would ease our prison costs, allow huge fiber industries to begin (Rule: If you’re going to buy hemp fiber, you’re going to process it in the USofA, ok? Good. We understand each other.)

Are you shocked? At a preacher saying this- at any good American saying such a thing? Well, get over it. I’d much rather have my kids (or your kids) passing a pipe around a circle of munchie-hungry friends, than slamming down Dos Equus and Grey Goose in a bar 10 miles from home, while some guy in the corner over there is getting alcohol-angry and is about to rage on the girl who is about to vomit on the kid who is dying alone and silently under the table of alcohol poisoning.

And anyway, it’s the prison building corporations and the alcohol distribution corporations who really don’t want the hemp industry to take off in the U.S. That speaks volumes, doesn’t it? (Ok, now..pass the Cheetohs, wouldja, and the chips and the bean dip, and where’s that cake? [Just Kidddiiinnnggg!!!])

5. Barter, trading. I’ll mow your yard this year for you if you’ll allow us to pick from your apple and pecan trees. I’ll paint your house in return for piano lessons for my kid. I’ll keep your pickup running if you’ll help replace my furnace. I’ll trade you my TV for your extra lawnmower. I’ll give you 2 pickups of wood for a calf. I’ll trade my extra room to you for janitorial work at the store.

You see what I’m saying. I know you do. It’s how people all over the world lived for tens of thousands of years but it’s a way of life most Westerners have put behind them. It became easier to hand people money rather than friendship or time. Behind the security fences there are people who need you. And you need them. Don’t wait until you or they are hungry to make introductions. (Ask the elders among us- the veterans of the Depression- if that last statement makes any sense; they will assure you it does.)

6. Death. No, I don’t want to talk about it. The trouble is, nobody wants to talk about it, so we continue to treat it as if it’s something that can be denied, put off, or foiled. We make absolute fools of ourselves with the massive amounts of money we spend to gain a few years of uncomfortable life at the end of our life. This is a huge subject that is very much a part of any discussion of a new economy, a New Community. And I’ll have more to say.

OK, that’s a start. Discuss amongst yourselves. Just don’t spend a moment humming “The Way We Were” or wishing you could have a conversation with your stockbroker like you used to have in the late 90’s. Those days really are gone. Kaput. Fini. The saviors we were hoping for never arrived. We really are all we’ve got; we really are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

Cool, yes?

(and yes, there are a myriad of other subjects in the new economy- all things green, for instance, cottage industries, family and community gardens, and on and on. But w’ve all got to start somewhere. These are the places I chose to begin.)

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Sully Sullenberger, Katie Couric, the U.S.A: that was the week that was..

“That Was the Week That Was” was an NBC satirical newsmagazine which was broadcast in 1964-65. The chorus of show’s theme song:

That was the week that was, it’s over let it go.                                                    Oh what a week that was,                                                                                    That was the week that was!

Now, insert the word “Country” where the word “Week” was. That’s what I’m talking about, and Sully and Katie are part of it. And Obama’s doomed economic plan, the Republican’s doomed-to-hell economic plan, the suburbs, GM, Thomas Kincaid “paintings”, and many churches, among many other iconic and traditional things and ways of life in America.   That was the country that was.      

Hang with me here; it will all come together a few paragraphs from now.

1. This may seem like it has nothing to with anything here, but it does in a huge way, and that’s why I list it first:

Sully Sullenberger, pilot of U.S. Airways Flight 1549, and the man who successfully landed a disabled jet on the Hudson River last month, is NOT a hero. He IS one heck of a pilot- seasoned, calm, utterly professional, highly skilled, and a real asset to his profession, his race, his family, his community, and his nation. The other 154 passengers on Flight 1549, and their families, love him very much. But he is not a hero. He was doing the job he had trained for and practiced and he did it very, very well. (I’m convinced, after hearing Sullenberger speak several times, that he would agree with everything I’ve just said.)

But media types began the “hero” labeling  immediately, with hopes that hero worship at the glass and plastic home altars would follow. And we, the media sheep, believe our shepherds, and begin genuflecting. Katie bragged at some dinner last night about how she “won” Sully’s first network interview from the other networks.

Two sub-points here, call them 1a and 1b. Ok, 1a: Television stories need exclamation points at the end of as many sentences as possible! They need heroes, not boringly competent people. Just as they need berserk monkeys, octo-moms, and Kim Jong-il. Television demands words writ simply and large and images drawn in bright, shiny colors. They need heroes  and more of them, so they manufacture them by finding individuals who are extremely competent at their jobs, or who play football well, or who are under six years old but know how to dial 9-1-1 when necessary, or who are a dog that barks and alerts firemen to an unconscious child, or who are a cop and gets shot. The media needs these people because I guess we (the American consumer) need them, too. People who watch X-treme Games, or Jackass, or Real Time Videos of Real People Being Injured are beyond staying tuned in through the commercials for a report on anything resembling normalcy. Who wants to see great golf tee shots when they can see a wrestler fall heroically from a high-lift into the turnbuckles, to his death?

1b. Katie, nobody outside an extremely small circle of network insiders gives a rat’s rear about who got the interview first, when, or ever. Nobody except the fellow word-spitting clowns on the local news desk remember, care, or wanted to know in the first place who “broke” a particular  news item. It, like 99.9% of everything, doesn’t matter!  It matters only when you’re part of a culture that believes everything must be won, or lost; that believes for everything that goes wrong or merely not right, there is someone/something to blame; and that believes winning (whatever the game is) is all that ultimately counts.

2. Just as we need bigger-than-life heroes so we may sate our need to vicariously tickle our egos, we have also- being good Americans- sought for too long, that which is too large and too much. For two decades, the suburbs have been growing absurdly fast, filling with homeowners mesmerized by the 300 cubic feet of empty overhead space in the dramatic entryways of crazily huge homes sitting on zero-lot lines, available for nothing down and a first year ARM of only 2%! We have bought cars that are too large, pets that are too expensive, clothes that are too quickly out of fashion, computers that are too old at six months, too pricey college educations that are no longer worth a million extra dollars over a lifetime (as high school guidance once mouthed without critical thinking), too expensive tickets to too many sporting events, concerts, and too many meals out because we’re too busy to stay home and cook, and now the whole too-high hill of too-high hopes is falling. In avalanche fashion.

Jenga! Jenga! Jenga! We’ve been playing a game of pile-’em-as-high-as-you-can, and while there are lots of criminals, we are all guilty. The pile had to fall. The money I made with IPOs in the 1990s- money made without my doing a single thing!- was part of the fall. The credit I’ve used to buy things I didn’t really need, or didn’t really need to replace- that was part of the fall, too. Sure it’s easy to shout red-faced and angry at the Enron parasites and the human cancer Madoff, but I in my tiny way added to the mess of Jenga tiles now covering the table and the floor, spilling out the front door, and out onto the street. I helped make the mess and you did, too, and there is one more huge mistake we can make together, if we let the traditional people-with-answers come up with the answers we desperately need; namely, this:

We can pick up the pieces and start trying to build them back up again, just like they were. 

In normal life situations, cleaning up the mess and starting over would be the right thing to do- in some cases, perhaps even the heroic thing to do! But normalcy as we knew it, as we may soon be pining for it, as we may demand it from a selfish, narrow, screw you standpoint, normalcy is gone for the rest of our lives. (That’s a prophetic statement on my part- a statement born of feelings, guesses, and some basic understandings of human behavior and spirituality; it is not a statement born of formal economic training or knowledge. It’s a statement born of eyes wide open, rather than one formed with mind tight shut.)

I’m afraid the stimulus package has been written and fueled by too many people who believe we can make the country that was into the country that is, again. Even those who oppose the stimulus package are opposing it with a set of tools fashioned with Americo-centric blueprints drawn by social Darwinists who were sitting on natural resources that would never run out, with a great labor supply of people who would always be happy with what they were paid,  and who considered the whole world to be an American franchise.

That was the country that was, remember that. It’s over- let it go! It was bound to fall, and has. We- literally- can spend the rest of our lives bemoaning, regretting, blaming, and finally dying unhappily. Or we can begin to rebuild, like the pioneers whose blood flows in all of us who are Americans. It can be similar to what was, and probably must be. But it cannot be the same. We cannot merely build a new economic Petri dish in which new Enron and Madoff bacterial slime might grow.

Oh, what a country that was…!

(I’ve got some ideas, incidentally, which I’ll write about here in the next day or two. Those ideas, your ideas, our ideas, are what we must start discussing, sharing, modifying, and bringing into being..we must plant seeds of trees we will never eat the the fruit of ! Some of us may even have the opportunity to be real heroes in doing so [the unheralded, self-sacrificing kind]. Go ahead, break that news!)

It was 45 years ago today: the Beatles on Ed Sullivan; “behold! old things are passed away; all things become new!”

It was February 9, 1964- a Sunday. 8 o’clock EST. And most of America- one of the largest viewing audiences ever- turned to The Ed Sullivan Show. (for my family, that was the CBS affiliate Channel 27- WKBN in Youngstown, Ohio. I include that information only to warn you of the abundance of minor minutiae with which my mind bulges and may threaten at times to overwhelm unaware readers. )

We had been hearing a lot about the Beatles (“Haha! Are they buggy?”  “What’s next, the Spiders?”). We knew, from the 6:30 Huntley-Brinkley Report (Channel 21, WFMJ, NBC) that these four had long hair.  It’s hard to believe that those two words, when used in connection with a male, were once considered oxymoronic. Long Hair..my goodness, what was wrong with us? Had World War II, followed by fifteen years of full employment, constantly pregnant mothers, and Senator McCarthy-shaped grey flannel suits lulled us into utterly unimaginative stupidity? Were these moments of making fun of long-haired boys and (horror of horrors!) long-haired men, the true birthdays of the really screwy right-wing in America? (not to be confused with the concurrent but not screwy right-wing Barry Goldwater, who, I’m almost positive, was also watching Ed Sullivan this night, without making lame long hair comments). Was it making fun of long hairs which evolved into the hating of gays,  lamenting liberated women, shooting gooks with glee, and being afraid of all darker-than-Caucasian humans?

“C’mon, now..here they are- they’re on now. Hurry!” we hollered from the TV room to the adults who were pretending indifference in the living room but proved by their crowding into the doorway that they really were curious-as-hell, too.  “Shhhhhh…here’s Ed Sullivan ‘blah, blah, blah…and now youngsters from Liverpool that call themselves the Beatles..blah, blah..Ladies and Gentlemen, the Beatles!'”

“All my lovin’, I will send to you..” Those are the first Beatle words we heard- live- in America. Later in the song, names were superimposed over the screen: Paul, George, Ringo, and (ohmy) John-sorry girls, he’s married. Really!

“She loves you, yeah yeah yeah..” would become the signature we knew the Beatles by that first year. “Yeah, yeah, yeah” sang kids wearing mop-wigs on high school stages. “Yeah,yeah,yeah” drew editorial cartoonists trying (usually in vain) to understand wtf was happening.  “Yeah, yeah, yeah” we 14 to 19 year olds sang with our 49 cent singles and 3.99 LPs, by the millions.

The Beatles sang happy; we wanted to be happy like that. We wanted to forget the drums of Pennsylvania Avenue from just three months before. We wanted something- anything, please God- besides another night of Mitch Miller or Lawrence Welk.

 “..and when I touch you I feel happy, inside; it’s such a feeling that my love, I can’t hide,

I can’t hide..

I can’t hide..!”

It’s odd now, very odd but  amazingly fun, to think about the impact the Beatles were to have on us after this night as we listened to each one of many (thank God for all of them!) new songs. Ever gotten tired of hearing Baby Boomers tell anyone who will listen where they were when they heard President Kennedy had been shot? Ask one of us instead where we were the first time we heard “Hey Jude.” Listen instead to us try to explain our first encounter with clean and sober consciousness-expanding as we listened to the White Album. Go ahead and giggle at our efforts to properly explain; we can’t. But most of us wouldn’t change a moment of those times, either. (Just for a moment, you 48-65 year olds, remember the absolute thrill- the thrill you have never experienced to that degree since then when opening a package of anything- the thrill of running your thumbnail down the cellophane of new and pristine Sgt.Pepper’s or Abbey Road or Magical Mystery Tour. Sweet, huh?) 

Wow! Forty-five years ago, right about now.

“C’mon, now..here they are- they’re on now. Hurry!”

Close your eyes, listen..hear them? Of course you can. I can, too.

Yeah, yeah, yeah..