Category Archives: Books

Who are the Savages?

bkskanesav1995

This isn’t a book review about Savages, by Joe Kane, published in 1995.  This is an attempt at a synopsis, although such a meaty and universally relevant book is hard to encapsulate.

On the surface, it is a travelogue, depicting the author’s extended visit to the Amazon rain forest, where ancient meets modern in dramatic but understated violence.  In 1991, Kane, a journalist originally working for an environmental group in San Francisco, came across a plea for help from members of the “savage” Huaorani, indigenous clans of Ecuador, primitive jungle dwellers who live off the land and are known as fierce warriors who have never been conquered.

The mysterious letter claimed DuPont-owned Conoco was trying to destroy their land and way of life.  At issue was the massive development of oil fields in the Amazonian jungles by many oil companies, but especially by Conoco.  Maxus Energy Corporation, which was slated to develop “Maxus Block 16” on traditional Huaorani land, also becomes a major player in this book’s drama.

Author Kane wanted to discover for himself what the Huaorani were like and how they lived.  He writes about befriending tribal leaders/members, and hiring one of them, Enqueri, as a guide to Maxus Block 16, deep in tribal lands but slated for oil drilling and exploration, if the Huarani could be appeased. The story delves into the author’s encounters with other locals, the military, the oil company representatives, government officials, missionaries, environmentalists, and the land itself.

Savages becomes a personal story about the Huaorani, especially members Moi, Enqueri, Nanto, and others who are fighting for their land and traditional ways, but they are forced by inevitable change to adapt, each in his own way. Kane describes his first, danger-fraught trip by truck, canoe, and foot through the jungle, with nothing but a machete for defense, and virtually no clothes.

He provides entertaining but respectful cameos of the individuals and Huaorani settlements.  He emphasizes Huaoranis’ resourcefulness, their ability to go without food for days, to build leak-free shelters out of palms within minutes, and their bountiful good humor in the face of adversity.  Deemed savages by some, because of their reputation of vengeful killings of invaders, the Huaorani that Kane depict come across as lovable and kind, well adapted to the jungle but sadly naïve about the world beyond their territory.

Kane describes multiple instances in which his jungle-bred friends collapse in laughter.  They spend afternoons in communal bathing, playing and flirting.  Sharing food is a sublime act of generosity, because for them, it is feast or famine.  They adore their children.  The Huaorani can also stand motionless, without expression, for hours, observing everything.

The story offers adventure deep into the Amazon rain forest and shows its contrast with the new age of oil exploration and development by the generic “Company,” which includes Shell, Texaco, Conoco, and most egregious, Maxus Energy Corporation. The author reveals the horrific degradation of the land caused by the “Company.”  The Huaorani refer to all non-clan members as “cowode” or “cannibals” who have brought roads, pipelines, colonists, oil spills, overflowing toxic waste pits, oil in the streets, towering flames of natural gas, and the pervasive smells of petroleum.  The Company has clear-cut vast acreages of jungle.

The Company has led to poverty and disease like never before, but it has also brought gifts, jobs, and schools.  The missionaries have in some ways run interference between the Company and the local populations, but they have imposed their own agendas, and have convinced younger generations that tribal ways are evil.

Since 1970, the national debt of Ecuador has gone from $300 million to $35 billion, the opposite of what the oil extractors promised, yet the Ecuadorean government—like so many other governments—has played along and accepted enormous debt in the peoples’ name.  They have looked the other way as filth replaced natural wonders and pristine natural habitat.  As Ecuador sank ever deeper into debt, oil prices declined, and oil companies claimed costs were higher than expected. They assured the government that clean-ups were being handled and going well.

The trajectory of the book shows how the natives are killed or absorbed, killed by disease from infection, toxic waste, contaminated drinking water, malnutrition, and all manner of accidents.  The author specifically mentions malaria, polio, and tuberculosis, as well as fungal infections.  He also describes the toxic effects of crude oil and cleaning up oil spills for slave wages by hand.

But the gifts were seductive, and the jobs attracted those who wanted a more modern life.  Food like rice, salt, a kind of Kool-Aid, and lollipops, as well as tools, outboard motors and gas, began to creep into the jungle to take their places alongside the traditional manioc and monkey meat.  The Huaorani wanted schools and health care, which the missionaries and oil companies promised to provide.  Kane mentions the double-edged sword of literacy.  Children were taught by missionaries to read (the Bible), but not to write.

The story hasn’t ended, but the fate of this hitherto isolated culture seems destined to change, and to change dramatically.  At this point it doesn’t matter whether it’s right or wrong, because it’s too late.  Huaorani children are already forgetting the history of their clans, or they are being taught it was a “savage” one well left behind.

But, still, the book raises the disturbing question: “Who, after all, are the real savages?”

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Oil Glut

bkssinclairoil1926

By Katharine Otto, January 20, 2018

Tracking history through personal time shows how my interests evolve.  In January, 2008, I was reading Oil! by Upton Sinclair, the 1926 novel he wrote about the oil industry.

In January, 2018, ten years later, I have read the biography of John D. Rockefeller, Sr., Titan, by Ron Chernow, published in 1998.  This book goes into detail about Rockefeller’s childhood, personal life, his creation of Standard Oil and business methods, retirement, and philanthropies.  It gives short character sketches of most of the people associated with Rockefeller.  It makes an attempt to reconcile the strange mixture of rapacious greed and Baptist charity that coexisted in the man.

I didn’t know it then, but the novel Oil! was probably based on the true story of Standard Oil and the way it destroyed, compromised, or bought out its competitors.  The monopoly was dissolved in 1911 when the US Supreme Court found Standard Oil in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.  Chief Justice Edward White gave the company six months to spin off its 33 subsidiaries.

If the purpose of breaking up Standard Oil was to destroy the monopoly and allow for competition, the plan backfired.  The same insiders controlled stock in all the subsidiaries, Chernow notes, and in the decade after the decision, the total value of the assets quintupled.  Rockefeller, who had a quarter of the stock in the parent company, and received the same amount of stock in all the subsidiaries, went from being a mere millionaire to a having net worth of  $900 million, and thus became the richest man on the planet.bkschertitan1998

In 2018, the largest oil companies in the world are Standard Oil descendants.  Standard Oil of New Jersey became Exxon; Standard Oil of New York evolved into Mobil; Standard Oil of Indiana became Amoco; Standard Oil of California was renamed Chevron;  Atlantic Refining morphed into ARCO and eventually Sun; and Continental Oil became Conoco, now a unit of Dupont and Cheeseborough-Ponds, according to Chernow.  British Petroleum later took over Standard Oil of Ohio.

Also in the past year, I have been reading about the divestiture of fossil fuel stocks from a number of pension plans in various countries, including the US and UK.  The Norwegian central bank has recommended similar divestiture from its sovereign wealth fund to avoid too much dependence on oil in its portfolio.

wsjoslooil111717This leads me to believe the industrial age, with its over-reliance on fossil fuels, specifically oil, has peaked, and we are on the path to some new paradigms regarding energy and its use.  I’ve speculated about what sells oil and realized war, international shipping, airplanes, plastics, trucks and automobiles provide some of the largest markets.  In other words, the “global economy” depends heavily on oil and will for the foreseeable future.

To reduce dependence on fossil fuels requires a longer and broader perspective than we have considered so far.   The drum beat for “growth” and “progress,” and for the “global economy,” American dominance, and “jobs,” presumes a continuation along the paths we have taken so far, yet they have led to world-wide malaise, toxicity, and conflict.  Will more of the same be better?

The US dollar lost 95% of its value between 1913, when the Federal Reserve Act was passed, and 2010.  More money isn’t necessarily better, and it leads me to wonder if the frenzy over money, from individual to international levels, misses the crucial issues.  They say money doesn’t buy happiness, but worry over money buys only pain.  They also say money is a symbol for energy, but energy blocked or misdirected, like money, festers and ultimately damages the host. Is more energy better, if it causes destruction?

Oil is the new gold, in today’s economy.  Oil may be more useful than gold, but the way it is used leads me to question whether we are wasting or misspending our energy and resources to acquire only excess, pollution, and trouble.

Oil has become so integral to our 21st century lives that it’s hard to imagine life without it. It’s also hard to imagine the pristine conditions the planet enjoyed before humanity started extracting that gooey black stuff from under the ground and spewing its spent components in the air, dumping it in the water, and spreading it over the land.

Does “the economy” really need to grow, or does it need to retract a little and engage in some self-reflection, to appreciate and make better use of what we have?  Will the “growth jobs” of the future concern themselves with cleaning up the ocean gyres, planting trees, and making re-usable shopping bags?  Are American citizens and taxpayers under any real obligation to support wasteful government mis-spending of empty money that rightfully belongs to the unborn?

Anyone who supports return to a healthy planet should consider how our national policies create artificial markets for fossil fuels, global warming, and planetary suicide.

Thoughts on Utopia

I picked up Thomas More’s classic book, Utopia, the other day.  Publsished in 1516, the book describes what More conceived of as an ideal place.  The word “utopia” is derived from the Greek, and means “no place.”

Thomas More was trained as a lawyer and worked in government service under King Henry VIII of England.  As most people know, King Henry was desperate for an heir to the throne, and his wife, Spanish Catherine of Aragon, was barren.  King Henry wanted an annulment, but this was denied by the Roman pope.  To obtain his desire, King Henry had Parliament pass a law in 1534 declaring King Henry the supreme head of the Church in England.  This eventually became the Anglican Church..

Thomas More was a devout Catholic and refused to accept King Henry as the head of the church.  For this treason, he was imprisoned and ultimately beheaded by the king in 1535.

The book, Utopia, opens with More involved in a conversation with one Peter Giles, and a traveler, Raphael.  At the time, More is on the king’s business in Antwerp.  Raphael proves to be well travelled, having visited many known and unknown kingdoms and other territories.  He shows a familiarity with many forms of government and impresses More and Giles with his comprehensive knowledge and understanding.  Giles naturally asks him why he does not enter the service of some king, as an advisor, as he could be quite useful.

Raphael refuses to consider the idea.  He says kings have advisors who are jealous of each other and of new information.  Also, kings want wars to expand their power and influence.  Working in the service of a king would amount to slavery, and Raphael prefers his freedom.

The subject of thieves comes up, and Giles notes that thieves are being hanged on a regular basis, yet there is no reduction in stealing.  Raphael says hanging for thievery is unjust, a punishment far in excess of the crime, and that the plague of thievery is created by society.  He notes that wars, for one thing, produce a multitude of maimed and mutilated former soldiers who are unable to work and have no other means of supporting themselves.  Wealthy landowners, who keep many idle hangers on, only like the healthy ones.  When their lackeys become sick, they are tossed out, with no place to go.  Add to this the fact that kings keep standing armies, even in times of peace, in order to keep prepared for eventual war.  These soldiers are not trained in any other livelihood so are without recourse should anything happen to interrupt their military careers.

Raphael goes on to say that the problem is rendered worse in England, where the wealthy have commandeered large tracts of land for the grazing of sheep.  Formerly agricultural land is fenced off, with whole towns being displaced from their former livelihoods involved in agriculture.  These people have no place to go and no alternative sources of income, so they are forced into thievery to survive.

This is prelude to the rest of the story, about the ideal civilization of Utopia, but what strikes me is how little has changed in 500 years.  Wars and displacement continue to be the primary causes of poverty, with the corporations and governments commandeering large tracts of land for such things as dams, airports, and power stations.

Ongoing discussions about the increasing disparity between rich and poor neglect to consider the most fundamental, root cause of poverty, as prominent today as in Thomas More’s time.  War and displacement debilitate the most vulnerable members of society and lead, ultimately, to the crime and violence we see in the US today.  While we don’t have actual war on our turf, we are involved in wars around the globe, to expand our US economic empire, while neglecting problems at home that are destroying the fabric of the society in which we live.

One would think we would have learned something in the past 500 years.  At least we don’t hang people for thievery, which may be a step in the right direction.  Should we begin applying our vast resources to constructive rather than destructive activity, we may begin to revitalize our debilitated national spirit and make a justifiable claim to being a civilized society.

October, 2007 Memories

 

In October, 2007, I had just retired my state medical and DEA licenses.  The practice of medicine was ruining my health and attitude.  It had become too hostile and dangerous for this wimp of a psychiatrist.

I spent the next few months reading.  These journal entries are the result.

MY GRANDFATHER’S SON, CLARENCE THOMAS, 2007
Monday, October 1, 2007 – I went to B&N hoping to buy a copy of Clarence Thomas’ book, My Grandfather’s Son, which comes out today.  Jonathan, my B&N employee friend – the coin-collector customer-service-book-orderer, a 20’s something kid who agrees with me so is very intelligent – told me B&N only ordered 12 copies of the book.  Corporate B&N in New York “didn’t know Clarence Thomas was from Savannah.”

Well, Jonathan, you and I both know that’s a lie, but we’ll pretend they don’t want to undersell his book in his home town.  He’s much too credible.

Sure enough, B&N’s 12 copies sold out in about ten minutes.  They had to rush order 40 more copies.  Should be here in 2-3 days.  400 more copies would be more cost-effective.  They can save on UPS shipments.

Apparently B&N’s entire marketing department missed the 60 Minutes interview with Thomas last night in advance of this pub date.  60 Minutes interviewed him right here in Savannah.

Is B&N trying to lose money?  I would sell its stock real quick-like if I had it, and I would buy copies of Thomas’ book, instead, from another distributor.  What is B&N trying to hide?

Thus do I think like a free market capitalist.

THE ROBBER BARONS, MATTHEW JOSEPHSON, 1934

Tuesday, October 2, 2007 – I’m reading in The Robber Barons, about Jay Gould, the money churner and asset plunderer par excellence.  Gould was a master manipulator, but anyone who refused to play his games could have stopped him.  He used Vanderbilt’s and others’ spite towards him to play out his line, then reeled in the big fish over and over.  How many times do people bite before their mouths are full of holes and they are still starving?

I’m getting an explosion of awareness regarding American history.  Why has this become my latest passion?

I see the patterns set in motion long ago, in the history of human beings as we remember them, and in America.

The American history most astounds me.  Lincoln essentially bought political favoritism by giving the West, the Louisiana Purchase, away to friends, political donors, and corporate railroad interests.  Thus did he finance his war on the South.

I’m seeing Lincoln and Wilson as ego-driven megalomaniacs, not the great liberators their handlers claimed.  They got us into two of the bloodiest wars to date, and the third great liberator, Roosevelt, got us into World War II.

I haven’t appreciated the intensity of my feelings for peace.  What I’ve believed was my own violent nature is merely the reflection of a world so foreign to me that I had to identify with it to understand it.  Once identified, I can forgive it, or so I hope.

Vis a vis The Robber Barons, I don’t understand sleazy business practices.  I read, astounded that taxpayers have allowed these people to get away with such cruel dishonesty for so long.  We have the veneer of civilization, but the viciousness has only changed garments and venue in time.

Jay Gould must be the idol of today’s Wall Street.  This is why product quality has plummeted.  Gould, et al. paid more attention to stocks than to managing tangible assets, and today’s brokers are doing the same.  They have even less connection with the corporations’ tangible products than before.  They deal only in electronic stock certificates, used in place of currency for the insiders.  It’s a method for selling other people’s and taxpayers’ productivity.  The companies’ products and services are only excuses for selling stock and feathering government pension and benefit nests.

Through all these wars and contests, who has benefitted, I wonder, as I sit in my lofty 21st century perspective.  I have the advantage of history to guide me.  For all of recorded history, war and fighting don’t work.  The fruits of victory are spoiled by the fighting.

ROBBING HOOD

Monday, October 8, 2007 – When you rob from the perceived rich to give to the perceived poor, you are still a thief.  You set up a race to the bottom, because everyone vies to be the best thief.

What happens when everyone is equally poor?  Leadership loses its relevance, and it’s every man for himself, unless he can learn to cooperate with those around him.  This is genuine leadership.

Now government robs from the poor to give to the rich.  This is easily camouflaged, because there are so many more poor people than rich people.  Cumulatively, poor people consume much more food, energy, clothes, and other tangible products and pay more in taxes than the rich, who reap the bulk of the profits from taxpayer-funded infrastructure.

BURNED-AT-THE-STAKE LIFE

Tuesday, October 9, 2007 – I’ve been thinking about my friends’ attitudes, which they revealed over the years I went the psychiatry route.  They seemed to think I defected.  I was merely exploring my own consciousness through the medical model.  They hurt my feelings most by making no effort to understand my point of view or to give me credit for the history we shared.

They seemed so afraid I would abandon them that they pushed me away.  I had to go deep inside myself to find companionship.  Here I make friends of ghosts, memories, my cat, plants, and the few people who accept me at face value or who must deal with me.

I feel like a witch appearing to burn at the stake, shackles melting in the heat, but who emerges triumphantly from the blaze.

“I’m only waiting for the chains to melt, Assholes, then we’ll see who can take the heat.”

The witch got a little burned in the chastening, admittedly, but she’s walking, talking, and breathing fire.  She cackles.

Smell that?  They piled hemp on the logs, this time, so the burning was more enjoyable.

I have internalized the sacrificial heat, contained and controlled it, practicing using the dragon’s fire to advantage.  Sort of.  Burned the tips of my first and second fingers the other day.

However, burning witches is a waste of time and resources, and it distracts everyone from doing anything useful.  It pollutes the air and puts everyone in a bad mood.

bkswildrey1927

 

THE BRIDGE OF SAN LUIS REY, THORNTON WILDER, 1927

Saturday, October 13, 2007 – I started one of Mama’s books, The Bridge of San Luis Rey, by Thornton Wilder.  Published and printed in 1927, the book has thick pages, almost like cardboard.  I have avoided it, thinking it a war novel, but I was wrong.  It’s about a 100-plus-year-old, hand-made bridge across a deep gorge between Lima and Cusco, Peru.  Set in 1714, it tells the imagined lives of the five people who fell to their deaths when the bridge finally gave way.  I’ve read about Dona Maria, the sad, alcoholic, rich mother, whose adored daughter had repudiated her, married a rich patron of the Spanish court, and moved to Spain.

Now, I’m reading about Esteban, whose identical twin brother, Manuel, died, leaving him half alive and desolate.

THE CREATURE FROM JEKYLL ISLAND:   A SECOND LOOK AT THE FEDERAL RESERVE, G. EDWARD GRIFFIN, 1991-2007

Saturday, October 13, 2007 –  So far, The Creature from Jekyll Island is astounding.  It is so clear, concise, well researched and documented, reasonable, and logical that I’m amazed it hasn’t made a larger splash.  Perhaps the time wasn’t right.  It’s a sleeper and about to come into its own.

Griffin writes about the history of money and defines terms.  He mentions tobacco as commodity money. So are shrimp, eggs, and any food, and that’s the bottom line.

He discusses the gold standard, says there were only about three examples of “honest” money in the world:  Ancient Greece, the Byzantine Empire – which lasted 800 years on the gold standard – a bank in Germany before Napoleon plundered it, and maybe one in Amsterdam.

By “honest money” Griffin means money which is 100% backed by solid deposits, like gold.  He says fractional reserve banking, which is lending more money than you have in deposits, against deposits that already belong to someone, is dishonest, because the banks have no right to do that.  Why have a bank store your money if it’s not safe there?  If I want to lend money, I can do it and keep the interest.

Fractional money eventually disintegrates into fiat money.  This usually seems to happen to finance wars.  The author doesn’t specifically state the latter, at least not yet.  He says fiat money has zero percent backing, and that’s what the US dollar has become, fiat money.

Seems funny in light of all the political debate about international currency.  I don’t know if any international currencies are backed by gold or silver, so they are all equally worthless, according to Mr. Griffin.

SCIENTIFIC METHOD

Tuesday, October 16, 2007 – We all know quantum theory turns the “scientific method” on its ear. If it works in sub-atomic physics, it works in life, because we are all composed of those electrons they study.

Now, if the experimenter influences outcome by desire or expectation, there is no way the scientific method can be valid.  Experiment design alone can determine outcome, as any drug study shows.

Now that we’ve established that the “scientific method” is a crock, a sacred cow that needs to be broiled and served up as steaks, for the mastication and nourishment of truly progressive science, we introduce the quantum leap from the scientific method, which is the fact that human beings, by the power of their will, have the ability to influence destiny!

DIAGNOSIS:  TESTOSTERONE POISONING

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Genetics:  A sex-linked condition, like hemophilia

Epidemiology:  Found almost exclusively in males

Presentations:

Sadistic type:  Bullies

Masochistic type: Cons

Other:  Disputed

Treatments (Experimental):

Death: Not politically correct

Funded by costs

Not economically sound

Prison camps:  A better idea, but still must house and feed

Not economically sound

Castration:  The nation is almost equally divided on this one.  A growing contingent claims testosterone poisoning is a medical illness, with castration the treatment of choice, worthy of insurance funding.  It is believed Leydig and other testicular cells could be recycled into pill form and scientific research.  Many female scientists have already applied for research funding.  A particularly elated female researcher said no man has had the balls to apply, so the women have an open field on government contracts.

THE RAIN FALLS ON ALL

Friday, October 19, 2007 – I dyed fabrics last night, noticing how cotton or silk, sewed with polyester thread, doesn’t dye right, because the polyester doesn’t absorb dye.  It also melts at lower temperatures, which makes garments with polyester thread hard to iron.

As I do things like this, I think about world politics, and how they affect daily life.  We are being socially engineered to use man-made products in lieu of natural ones, because our textile mills and cotton are going to China.   Meanwhile, China exports acrylic – a petroleum product – to the US, complete with the overhead of packaging, transportation, import and export taxes, and distribution.  Machine-made polyester is considered a cheaper improvement, but it doesn’t wear or last like natural fibers.  To me, plastic clothes reflect America’s cheap, plastic attitudes.

It’s raining.  The rain is natural and impartial.  Governments come and go, but the rain falls on them all.

ON MEDICAL LICENSE RETIREMENT

Monday, October 22, 2007 – Other people are more upset than I am about retiring my medical licenses.  This shows how over-rated the license is.  Once I explain my rationale, no one challenges it. I’m becoming convinced this is the most powerful statement – nay, indictment possible regarding the health scare/snare racket.  If the system has become so bad that I am afraid to practice within it, that must be truly scary, indeed.

From my perspective, malpractice has become entrenched, subsidized, mandated, and legislated to the point where the risk to me is too great to continue.  Only by retiring my medical licenses do I make my stance definitive, direct, and consistent with my beliefs.

DIEBOLD

Monday, October 22, 2007 – My psychodrama continues.  I removed stuff from the safety deposit box today and put it in a safer place than bank with a Diebold key.  It makes me nervous that Diebold has the contract on voting machines, bank safety deposit boxes, and bank ATM’s.   Call me paranoid.  No, it’s not a conspiracy.  Anyone can buy Diebold stock, I suppose.  I should check it out.

THE “CONSPIRACY THEORY” AND LIZARD WISDOM

Monday, October 22, 2007 – People like Hillary Clinton scoff at “the conspiracy theory.”  My sister mentioned it today.  It is they who imagine such grandiosity.  I merely think the politicos’ behavior is stupid and counterproductive.  That there are so many people being stupid, incompetent, paranoid, dangerous, and dishonest doesn’t necessarily make it a conspiracy.  It merely means the planet is overrun with idiots.

This is something lizards understand.  On my way to run errands, I had a conversation with a lizard on my back door.  He was too close to the hinge for my comfort.  I stopped to caution him – her, I think, although she was large.  I told her she needs to be more careful.  I mean well, but I’m clumsy, and when I get agitated, I’m dangerous.  I’m also noisy, so she needs to stay out of my way if she doesn’t want to get hurt.  I watched her listen.  She tilted her head this way and that, eyeing me from different angles, while spread getaway style along the bottom edge of a step.  My head was sideways, watching her, studying the wide blue eye shadow that ringed her eye.  Such wisdom in animals’ eyes, if you look closely.

According to the World Book encyclopedia (2005), lizards are 65 million years old.  Cockroaches are 250 million, birds 213 million, cats 55 million, dogs 34 million, man two million years old.

I told the lizard this hanging out on back doors is a bad idea. I killed one of her relatives by accident the other day. He got caught in the screen flange.  It devastated me, because I figure these lizards are Lizardo’s relatives and descendants, and they are watching out for me.

As I got in the car, I saw a second, smaller lizard on the porch, also watching me.  I hope he/she was listening.

Of course they were.  That’s how they have survived so long.

Then, as I leave, I startle three deer in the woods, a doe and two fawns.  They stopped to watch me, and I told them how much I love them.  It worries me that Carol is clearing out so much of the underbrush, because the deer have fewer and fewer places to hide.

LET ‘EM FAIL

Wednesday, October 31, 2007 – Status post a trip to Cutter’s Point Coffee, where I read a Wall Street Journal scarfed from an outside table.  I’d also purchased the USA Today and Savannah Morning News from the news boxes in front of CVS/Piggly Wiggly, so I was saturated with more current events than I knew what to do with.

The Fed meets today, and Wall Street is all aflutter.  The presumed crisis is most amusing to me.  These idiots will not see that it is not my crisis but theirs.

What they perceive is a crisis, I see as blessed relief from Yankee oppression and aggression.  Let the markets fail.  It’s high time they did.  Get outside before the skyscrapers collapse.  The penthouses have the farthest to fall.

It’s About Time: Bud, Beon, and the Bots

kcoartsplit1

Sunday, July 2, 2017—This is a scene from my novel, a decades-old perpetual work in progress.  Superficially sci-fi, it is based on a philosophy that life is immortal, everything has consciousness, and everything runs its course then evolves into something else.  Time and space are illusions within a “spacious present.”  Death is like a phase change–like water converting to steam–while retaining the essential qualities of water.  From this perspective, there is no end point, and the process is the goal.

The purpose of the novel is to make you smile.  Let me know if you want more.

CHAPTER 4

CAUSE AND EFFECT

The sun, shining through dingy, crocheted curtains, cast a mosaic of light and shadow across the worn rug. By the angle of the light and content of the shadows, Joe knew it was at least 11 AM.

His head throbbed with an intensity of 200 on a one-to-ten scale.  The light hurt his eyes, but he didn’t have the courage to move.  He remained curled stiff, eyes clenched shut, until his bladder forced him to attempt the impossible and get out of bed.

He moaned, then winced.  He eased to a slouching position at the edge of the bed, resting his aching forehead between tender hands.  Slowly, ever so slowly, he stood and staggered to the bathroom, carefully shielding his eyes from the light.  He downed two aspirin and then a third, to abort the stroke he must be having.  It was at least a stroke. Maybe an aneurysm had burst.  He stared into the mirror.  Images of his certain, agonizing, and imminent death spread like acrid black goo across his quivering brain.

“I’m dying,” he told his haggard face. It stared back at him—coldly critical, his appearance substandard today, even for him.  He and his reflection eyed each other.  He noted the dark eye sockets, red eyes, fuzzy vision, chin stubble, wrinkles, and greasy hair.  He didn’t smell too good, either.  Let the embalmer handle it, he decided.  That’s what he’s paid for.

He trod a wobbly path through the living room to the kitchen, where the percolator was full of yesterday’s grounds.  His stomach wasn’t feeling much like coffee, but his head told him he was in caffeine withdrawal.  He cursed Marian for getting him so drunk that he forgot to prepare the coffee pot.  He imagined her boiling in a vat of coffee, begging for mercy.

Suddenly, Beon’s face loomed across Joe’s inner screens.  The balding, round visage grinned like the Buddha, his eyes innocuous, his portent ominous.  Joe’s head pounded harder, and his knees felt weak.  An image of lab rats, pinned to boards and randomly shocked, blotted out Beon’s face.  Then, the lab rats became little Joes, with Beon delivering the shocks.

Joe listed the objective, measurable reasons for his agony.  Unendurable pain. Undetectable caffeine levels. Betrayal by his only friend.  Violation of sacred coffee ritual, and death without absolution.  Beon.  He threw fresh coffee in the pot, spilling half the grounds on the counter, creating yet another reason to feel miserable.

Percolator finally started, Joe turned to face new trouble.  He opened the freezer and scowled at empty ice trays.  The little Joes in his head jumped and slumped.

He dragged his failing carcass to the couch. He imagined the pain in his head could power a small city, if he could figure out how to harness the energy.  Not today, though.  And tomorrow wasn’t looking too good, either.

Beon’s face returned, and with it, thoughts of the healing machine.  Joe wondered if it could cure his headache.  “Yes,” said Beon’s image.

“Who asked you?”  Joe demanded, not realizing he spoke out loud.

“You did.”  Joe decided he was going crazy, too.  “DALE,” said the face.  “Diet-Associated Life Enhancer.”

Joe covered his ears, but it did no good.  Beon’s image swelled in his head, and dream pictures bombarded his brain, rocking his scientific foundations.  The throbbing and pounding got louder, clanging against his skull.  Joe closed his eyes and waited to die.  Through it all, Beon’s face smirked, as if he enjoyed Joe’s suffering.

But death defied him, and Beon continued to grin.  Joe glanced around the room.  A single picture, hung askew, showed a listing clipper ship, an artifact left by the previous tenant.  George White left a few pieces of tired furniture, too, good enough for Joe.  His mailbox in the foyer downstairs still bore White’s name.  When neighbors called him “George,” Joe didn’t bother to correct them.  It was as good a name as “Joe.”

Now Joe wondered for the first time what happened to George White.  His couch may not look great, but it had personality.  It was warm, comfortable, inviting.  It was friendly.  It was taking care of him, helping him feel better, as a friend would do.

“I have tangible evidence that you existed,” he told the former tenant, “even if we’ve never met.  I still get your mail.  Beon is only imaginary, but he’s torturing me, and I can’t get away from him.”

Joe’s eyes began to blur.  His stomach felt queasy.  Vague terrors swept over him, and sweat poured from his upper body.  He wiped his face with a dirty napkin and dropped it on the floor.  “This is only a hangover.  It clouds my perspective, makes me think crazy thoughts.  It was only a dream.  A machine like that is impossible, and Beon doesn’t exist.”

Finishing People’s History

bkszinn2003

Seven years ago this month, I finished reading A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn, 2003 edition.  I have posted blogs about the first part of this book in March, 2017 and April, 2017.  In these blogs, I have noted events described in the book, as well as my thoughts on them.  The book had a powerful effect on me, supporting and expanding my beliefs about under-reported US history.  This May, 2017 post covers the final section of the book.

FINISHING A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES, HOWARD ZINN

            Monday, May 3, 2010—I read some People’s History, now at World War II and how brutal the US was, dropping the nuclear bombs on Japan for no good reason except economics, killing 100,000 people in Hiroshima, mostly civilians, and 50,000 or more in Nagasaki.

Why oh why would people do this, I wondered.  It explains why people are so afraid now, why Americans are such mealy-mouthed wimps.

Thursday, May 6, 2010—I spent the afternoon reading People’s History, up to page 462.  Now into the race riots of the 1960s and 1970s, the assassinations of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King.  The FBI apparently did everything it could to intimidate King.

I can understand why people are afraid of government, and it is becoming more paranoid all the time.  I’ve always believed blacks are inherently peace-loving people, and Martin Luther King personified that spirit.

I wonder why I’m so fascinated by People’s History, because it implicates the federal government as a vicious, tyrannical bunch of mobsters since the land’s discovery.  Yes, it gives me even more data to support my beliefs.  It reveals what hasn’t worked.   Zinn focuses so intensely on the hatred and violence, though, that I wonder what ultimate purpose it serves.

While I believe the government is justifiably paranoid, I have to respect its power to hurt.  I’ve learned my lesson, I hope, about pissing the wrong people off.

As Malcolm X said, if you remain radical long enough, you win your freedom.  This is my belief, too, because I’ve come back from the “lunatic fringe” with more elbow room, maybe.

Fidel Castro in 1959 pissed the US off by confiscating land held by US corporations, then distributing it to landless peasants.  The Bay of Pigs was a manufactured crisis by John F. Kennedy and associates to stir up revolution against Castro in Cuba, but Fidel was too popular.  The US was embarrassed because its tactics, so successful everywhere else, failed with Castro.

Saturday, May 8, 2010—I read some People’s History, now up to page 490 in this 688 page book.  We’re in Vietnam now, and it is astounding.  The US has made a career of sadism, so no wonder we have a nation of victims.  We have the CIA actively stirring up trouble in a pacifist, land-based, family-and-tradition-based culture, but the CIA couldn’t seem to control the outcome, no matter how many cities and fields they bombed, people they slaughtered, or poisons they sprayed and dumped hither and yon.  They couldn’t understand how the revolutionaries managed to maintain morale, and I contend they weren’t fighting governments but for a way of life.  Ho Chi Minh, the North Korean leader, was immensely popular among the people, because he confiscated land of absentee landlords and distributed it among the landless, similar to what Castro did in Cuba.

Ngo Dinh Diem, the CIA/US plant in South Vietnam, was hated by the people, and South Vietnam was essentially a US government invention.  When Diem became an embarrassment to the US, they allowed him to be captured and assassinated.  Three weeks later, JFK was assassinated.

Castro and Ho Chi Minh understood Communism in the communal sense of the term, by giving land to the landless, and this is why the people were so willing to fight for it.  They weren’t defending ideological political battles for governments, or other people’s turf.  They were fighting for their homes, families, livelihoods, and way of life.

It amazes me the CIA could be so stupid, because it is obvious to me.  Their self-defeating, blind irrationality did more to promote Communism–in the communal sense—than any leader could have achieved alone.

Perhaps if we thought of people as belonging to the land, rather than the other way around, we would have a more solid footing.

Friday, May 14, 2010—I’ve been reading People’s History tonight, wondering how people can be so cruel for so long, such that it is institutionalized and considered normal, including the lying and deceit in government and the military.

I read about the Attica prison riot, followed by other prison riots, all turned into massacres by federal troops, FBI, and militia.  The prisoners’ non-violence was more threatening than if they had been violent.  Same with the American Indians, who occupied Alcatraz, a deserted federal prison, on a rock in the San Francistco Bay.  There were forcibly evicted from there and also from land at Wounded Knee they had by treaty; but that was given to the government under “eminent domain.”  This occurred in the 1960s or 1970s and hundreds of Indian men, women and children were slaughtered after the government tried to starve them out first.

Saturday, May 15, 2010—Reading books like People’s History shows I am not alone in my understanding—far from it–as people like Howard Zinn have tracked this for years and were even given a voice.  He makes no reference to the bankers’ playing both ends against the middle and leaves the stock market out of it, although he cites illegal campaign donations by specific corporations, like ITT and 3-M.

Reading about the American Indians validates my beliefs about the native American cultures, which respected the earth and all its creatures.  I wonder how much violence they had before the Europeans arrived.  I believe it was probably minimal and was developed in reaction to the European invasion and introduction of guns.

Sunday, May 16, 2010—I read more People’s History, through Ford, Carter, and Bush Sr.  All continued to serve the government/corporate marriage.  Pacifist Jimmy Carter increased defense spending significantly.  Zinn says the Democrats did more to impose regressive taxes—Carter increased payroll taxes—than the Republicans.

Zinn claims legislation like the Clean Air Act and OSHA  were deprived of teeth by subsequent caveats, administrative decree, or insufficient funding.  He does not go into the ways these bills helped the monopolists by stifling competition.

Zinn also seems to have a shallow idea of the domestic spending programs.  He implies they are good and necessary, but he doesn’t recognize they wouldn’t be necessary if the poverty weren’t artificially created by government’s social engineering.

Zinn says Ronald Reagan and Bush Sr. used CIA to interfere in Nicaragua, Panama, Granada, and El Salvador, under various pretexts.  Bush Sr. hoped to restore American confidence in the military, since the Soviet Union collapsed and was no longer an excuse, so he created a war in Iraq.  They and all their aides lied throughout.  Congress had passed limp dick legislation to pander to public disgruntlement, and to curb presidential powers, but Ford ignored it, and so did Reagan.  No one objected.  Congress looked the other way, and the Supreme Court, of course, felt no obligation to reprimand the presidents.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010—Now into the Bush Sr. years in People’s History of the United States.  Apparently HKW Bush was determined to do Desert Storm.

Zinn’s approach is becoming trite.  He emphasizes the contest between military and social spending without questioning the spending itself.  The idea that it’s a rich vs. poor issue, without understanding—as I suddenly did—that it’s a government control issue, as in controlling economic narrows.

Thursday, May 20, 2010—Down to the wire on People’s History.  We’re now into all the pacifist movements during the first Iraq war.  They were ineffective.

And on to the Clinton years.  Bill Clinton was as much a war hawk as any of them and cut social programs but not bureaucracy.

Government has appropriated unto itself responsibility for every area of people’s lives, so it needs the bureaucracy to dole out the money it has stolen, to return it piecemeal to those it deems worthy.

Zinn has some good ideas about how to rebuild America from the ground up, but he is still too tied to money, according to me.  The notion that everything must be tied to a monetary scale, like community involvement, restricts the flow of energy and diminishes the value of time, as well as other factors that have no monetary equivalent.

Friday, May 21, 2010—People’s History gives an account of the protests from many camps over the quincentennial of Columbus’ landing, on Columbus Day, 1992, so that hero has toppled from many pedestals.  The media ignored the protests.

Saturday, May 22, 2010—I finally finished People’s History.  Given his era and background, Zinn does a remarkably good job of describing the brutal history of the US and the rampant disregard for the very principles that citizens believed it stood for.  Rather than protect rights, nurture freedom, democracy and capitalism (in the human capital sense), it has made a mockery of all three, preying on a naive and gullible public to twist noble ideals into their opposites.

The current economic crisis is bringing it all to a head, I believe, because taxpayers are finding they have been used to dig their own graves.  The country is morally bankrupt, and there is no one to blame.  As the state assumed the role of lord, master, and god, acting as legal and moral judge, guard, and executioner, taxpayers must look in the mirror and see we are the state, and we are responsible for the monster it has become.

In People’s History, Zinn mentions protest against the bombing of Afghanistan following 9/11.  I remember being the only person I knew objecting to retaliatory gestures, and people around here hated me for it.

 

Ambling Through “People’s History,” Part 2

bkszinn2003April 15, 2017

Seven years ago this month, I was still reading A Peoples History of the United States,  by Howard Zinn, 2003 edition.  This is the second in a series of posts about this book, facts and my thoughts on them.  I blogged about the first 40 pages on March 7, 2017 (“Zinn on First Americans”).

Friday, April 2, 2010—I read 30 pages of  A People’s History of the United States  Now we’re into slavery from a Lincoln point of view, more or less, hinting but not stating what “freedom” meant to hoards of blacks who had no place to go and no skills except farm work, picking cotton but not selling it.

Sunday, April 4, 2010—People’s History horrifies me, as did Open Veins of Latin America.  I wonder why I persist in reading that stuff.  Am I merely looking for what’s wrong, following the trail I find so counter-productive in others?

I think I’m trying to understand how people can be so easily deceived into violating their own common sense and good judgment, on individual and mass levels, even when claiming the opposite.

My desire to trust, to give people the benefit of the doubt, has betrayed me more than anything else.  As a result, I have become the victim of numerous desperate people who believed they were saving themselves by sacrificing me.

This “die so that I may live” attitude is the fundamental betrayal of Christianity and perhaps underscores the strange notion that there is nobility in martyrdom.

I don’t see popes going to war, nor kings, nor presidents and members of Congress.  Thus the hypocrisy of the death by proxy stance that Christianity has become.

I have an idea.  Let’s create hell on earth so people will want to die.  That should solve the overpopulation problem.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010—We’re now into “The Other Civil War” chapter, page 237, about the strikes in the North in the 1830’s and beyond—long before the war on the South began.

Zinn annoys me because he focuses on the injustices and riots themselves, blaming the “capitalists,” the “rich,” and the “landowners,” without giving a good account of their methods.  The Robber Barons did a better job of showing how the railroad interests used government to further their ends.  In fact, Zinn’s history seems to worsen class divide by pandering to the disenfranchised and showing no effective retaliation other than violence, labor unions, and strikes.  He lets the government off the hook by virtually ignoring it, except in the most superficial way.

Thursday, April 17, 2010—I read about 12 pages of People’s History..  All about labor strikes during the mid-to-late 1800s.  A bad depression in 1893 due to boatloads of immigrants brought to lower the price of labor while native-born laborers couldn’t afford to feed their families.   Over and over the federal government and state militia came in to break up strikes, and the Supreme Court and lower courts cemented the rights of corporations over individuals in the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, the Interstate Commerce Commission, and other tactics that proved who the federal government really works for.

Zinn doesn’t say much about the Supreme Court, but it appears to be the great black hole in this whole US federal government farce.  Zinn only touches on the notion that it is composed of presidential appointees who are confirmed by Congress, thereby a mockery of the idea that the US is a republic.  But language distortion goes back a long way.  Even the 1800s sources Zinn quotes were discussing the conflict of labor vs. capital, referring to the overlord imperialists as “capitalists” unwilling to acknowledge human capital’s value.

Laborers never learned how to organize, except to fight, and this is why they failed.  Had they taken over the mills and factories and run them themselves, evicting the bosses, we may have written a different history.

Saturday, April 17, 2010—More violence.  Now the US in the late 1890s expands its imperialist empire, because all those machines that displaced all those workers are producing more goods than anyone needs or can afford.  So the US is forcing its way into other countries, like Japan and Cuba.  It’s justifying war, as in Cuba, supposedly to support revolutionaries against oppressive government, but also to protect American corporate interests that invested there.

Monday, April 19, 2010—Now, we’re into the Spanish-American War, in which the US used the Cuban revolution in 1898 or so to substitute the US Platt amendment for the Spanish rule.  It then used economic expansion to justify a bloody takeover of the Philippines, really bloody, in which American troops went on killing sprees wiping out entire towns, no one over ten years old spared.  And bragging about it, calling the Filipinos “niggers.”

McKinley was president at the time.  Of course he didn’t want war but felt it necessary to protect the Philippine timber and other resources from other countries and the Filipinos from themselves.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010—I read more People’s History, now up to page 363.  Late 1800s and early 1900s.  Strikes and more strikes, labor disputes, government stepping in at every turn to protect the corporations, the factories, murdering strikers, arresting leaders, making examples of them.  World War I was probably a diversionary tactic, to find an external enemy, because the internal mood was so belligerent.  No wonder people are afraid of the government.

But Zinn skips right over the Federal Reserve Act and income tax.  He subtly distorts the record by blaming Taft for the income tax and Wilson for the Federal Reserve Act, and only mentions these in a sentence or two in passing.

How strange, think I, that he would so easily bypass the vehicle by which the very workers he panders to were so completely disenfranchised.

People tell me Zinn is a “liberal.”  He seems to celebrate socialism, derived from Populism, but never defines any of it.  It’s clear “capitalism” was used in the vernacular in the 1800s to describe the industrialist imperialists, so demonization of the term began long ago.  The notion that human capital, like “qi” or life force in Oriental medicine, has been eliminated from the equation tells me this is why we are all are so debilitated now.

I can only do so much, I decided.  Many people have had a piece of the picture.  Zinn even quotes Helen Keller a time or two.  One of the heroines from my youth, she was social consciousness itself, a socialist at a time when socialism was needed, because it was synonymous with compassion.

Thursday, April 22, 2010—Peoples History shows how ruthless the GoverCorp attitude is.  People are right to be afraid.  Those who opposed the barbarians were glamorized, like Upton Sinclair, yet used to enable social reforms that played into GoverCorp’s hands.

On page 368 Zinn discusses World War I, the Espionage Act, which was used to jail and castigate people who opposed the war.  The Socialists didn’t, as a group, but notable Socialists like Jack London, Upton Sinclair, and Clarence Darrow, were soon converted.

Zinn’s history bats the ball back and forth like a tennis match but offers few insights into the causes.  The attitudes that have come down through time allow people to justify cruelty, violence, and bloodshed.