Archive for December, 2009

December 16, 2009

You Lie, I’m going to Argentina with my Confederate Flag

Recently I had the extreme displeasure of driving through South Carolina. No it wasn’t the Huddle House, The Southern Inn or South of the Border. At this time it seems that the state reflects our common attitudes about the treatment of those in privilege and why we seem so stuck in our collective past.

As you all know the State of South Carolina did not impeach Gov. Sanford for his misdeeds. Hell if I took a week off work, flew to a foreign country, told my associates to lie for me and charged it off to the company the least I would have gotten was fired. This guy gets to keep his job – amazing. There is at least one felony fraud charge in there for stealing the travel funds, at least for regular people like myself there would have been.

But this is how we worship the rich and powerful in this country. What would happen if we started thinking of the rich and powerful in different terms?

Here’s a scenario. Why we should now think and treat the rich and powerful as we think of and treat Wal-Mart associates.  (I don’t go to Wal-Mart anymore so this is completely fictional). We now will question them about their work, and reject them if they are incompetent to facilitate our ultimate saving experience as promised in the television ads.

When a minimum wage Wal-Mart associate incorrectly rings up your $3.55 Gleades candle and charges you $3.72 you are incensed.  You are watching each item ring very carefully and you know that the price sign on the shelf said it was $3.55  Time comes to a standstill and you state in the most indignant tone possible “WRONG PRICE”. Wal-Mart associate looks at you, she’s tired and has a Supercuts hairdo, but agrees to call back to the section to find out how this happened. All the while you think to yourself how on earth could this happen? I would never pay $3.72 for a Gleades candle. Time moving ever so slowly as the section associate checks the price and finally after what seems hours – you get the news. The item is actually $3.72 and the associate looks at you. You refuse the item based on its ridiculous cost and tell her to – re shelve it!

Oh it was painful living through that Wal-Mart scenario but I did it to remind us of how we worship the rich and powerful. We think nothing of demanding to know where a few cents of our money is going to a cashier, but we refuse to appropriately punish a person who steals from the public! Sanford is going to have to pay something back, but he gets to keep on being governor until the end of his term. What a sweet deal!

Here’s how we’ve institutionalized privilege in this case. Sanfords peers certainly wouldn’t want to take away all of the delicious privileges that he deserves. That means that someone, someday might try to take away their power, privilege and stuff if they get caught in a compromising situation.  There is an underlying unsubstantiated belief that privilege itself is somehow deserved. As a culture it is ingrained, and most of us loathe to question how or why another gets privilege while we suffer with our transactional culture – paying for everything.

Perhaps his peers think it is enough that Sanford’s wife is divorcing him, but really that’s just icing on the cake of a man who didn’t want to be with her anyway. She leaves, he still gets to be the Governor of South Carolina and have the state pay his bills and live in the fancy house  for a few more years. Where is the downside?

But wait there’s more, more, more about South Carolina. What about the “You Lie” guy – he didn’t get in much trouble either. Even though he yelled at the President during a speech in the House of Representatives Chamber. Again, if I yelled at the President in that moment they would have at least arrested me. And don’t get me started on the Confederate Flag flying above the State Capitol of South Carolina. Its like having poison ivy, mosquito bites and extra dry skin. You feel all itchy and miserable but don’t know where to scratch first. Calamine lotion will make it better for a little while but you know it just takes time to get over the whole mess. Time may heal all wounds, and rashes and we hope South Carolina will get better soon too!

December 15, 2009

Post Industrial Work Identification Neurosis

I looked for my post post modern notebook

an artifact of mass production, sans erudition

made functional in the eyes of designers

made real in China, as it makes us real many times a day.

A vibrating device

tells me who’s sending a message

or giving a call.

I looked over at the

saggy, semi-toothless face

thinking nothing much,

its easier that way,

but I did explain

about post-industrial work identification neurosis.

Where post modern man

so identifies with his job or occupation

to the exclusion of his other

more organic and sacred self.

The image concrete self

to be a useful laborer, worker

profit margin contributor

disposable, nay dispensable

collateral damage.

And that is how we contracted

post industrial work identification neurosis.

December 14, 2009

The Economic catastrophe fable – The Emperors New Clothes

Of course I understand why Jake DeSantis of AIG is sad and disheartened by the treatment and negative characterization of he and his colleagues at AIG. They believe that making money off of making money both serves a real human need and constitutes a valid occupation, god bless them.

In the world of finance – well they think they are the world , there are none more revered than the money men. With their financial skills they are the authors of our economy and this time of its failure. There is no animosity here – just a smug satisfaction because I never bought into the Calvinism of our economy nor its morality or its superiority, so I’m not disappointed, I feel vindicated.

Our socio-economic system often equates a humans worth on the amount an individual is able to produce. Western economies started off with commodities, moved to trades, and then to trading and finally to finance. Finance became the holy grail of productivity and all bow to its might and power – really we do.

So we became as the subjects in the Emperors new clothes, lavishing our praise and admiration on those who created such beautiful wealth- and when the leaders could no longer get exponential profits from the goods and services, conventional mortgages and other interest garnering transactions they had access to, they had to make something better! And they made up some really creative stuff too, even though some of it was banned after the GREAT Depression, it was awesome! You can make money off of leveraged money no real investment required!

Unfortunately all of these fancy agreements unravelled because there was nothing except that good feeling you get when a million dollar bonus hits your cayman island account holding it up. When the assets under the leveraging were found to be well, worthless, the slide started and it hasn’t stopped. We built a great system of paper wealth and most of us have nothing to show for it, except our debt.

How in the heck did that happen? Where was I, did I let this happen? Oh yes I was worshiping at the altar of material success it was so shiny and pretty and I was going to get my place on the altar too! I was going to be be fabulously, ridiculously, and obscenely rich. You know what I”m talking about – we all bought it but we were never going to get it.

Yes us working folk were really the chorus in the Greek Tragedy that our times have become. As narcissus couldn’t stop looking at himself – we couldn’t stop either – we became enamored, entranced and unable to really see the naked emperor. Until the rude awakening.

Welcome to the not so great depression. You may now join me in the back row.

December 7, 2009

Greed is OUT – Good is IN

Maybe you’re like me.  I have spent many years looking for a spiritual solution to worldly problems.

Every day when I wake up I pray.  I pray for people in Haiti who have to eat dirt, I pray for the victims of the Chinese earthquake and the Hurricane in Burma, I pray for Palestine, Iraq, Israel, and people who are losing their homes and everything else due to the economy, I pray for my parents and grandparents who are passed, I pray for my husband and children and lots of others. I pray for myself that I can be the best person, do a good job at work and that I can help change lives.  I send love and compassion to others and myself

The more I pray, the more I meditate and believe – the better I feel. It doesn’t seem to matter how “bad” my situation is or desperate the economy or world events get I seem to get stronger and more committed to my faith.

So what?   I agree who cares what I do when I wake up. What matters is that there are more of us who wake up to do something else other than make money.  Don’t get me wrong – Oh we all work. But most of us don’t make money – in the US 10% of the people have 90% of the money so we know who we’re working for don’t we? 

We all work – In India a woman sells pieces of thread on the sidewalk, on the sidewalk in Mexico city she sells a handmade bracelet, on the square in Santa Fe, a silver chain.  We go to factories in China and mines in South America, offices in New York, Chicago and Mumbai,  and orchards in California and Chile. In Africa women carry water and men hunt for food or work in their shops or at the local market, we ride in cars and walk to work, we take buses and trains to work. We take care of our children and grandparents and cook food and fish. We Work.

But we don’t really make money do we? Most of us just want to have a roof over our heads and food on the plate. We want to look at our healthy children who can read, write and love us back.  We want to rest in a bed, be free from pestilence and violence in our homes. We want to wake up to the glory of a new day where we can live in a just and caring world.  That’s all we want.

Greed has crushed even the simple wants – nay the needs for most. Most of the world is living in poverty – the depth of which most Americans don’t even believe exists.  Many people don’t even have the water they need to drink, and are certainly malnourished. Their lives go from depravation to degradation.

Our economic and political systems are not so different from the manifest destiny and right of Kings. We just have a new spin on things – everything American is the best.  While the rest of the world was still in the third world or rebuilding from WWII our country was making up a whole new version of empire.  Now much of what we created then is gone, our industrial base is all but dead and the financial system that seemed impervious to cycles is now found to be the cause of the economic bubbles.  The decline of both are a result of the greed that caused industry to move abroad and the kind of leveraging that makes our heads spin.

Good can overcome greed, and it must be our future. We must commit to the common good, where our work and lives contribute to the well being of our world and our fellow travelers in this journey. We can choose to serve our hearts and use our heads to create solutions to the desperate poverty and pervasive lack of resources on our planet.  We must choose one another over mobile capital and slavery. We can stop the suffering.

Good is part of a global spiritual solution to our woes. We share in a common heritage as children of God, no matter or race or faith. Therefore take your faith, whether it be in God or humanity and make good in your life. Make good in your place of work, in your neighborhood, in your home. Join me in making good our common goal.