…twice, shame on me

May 1, 2012

It’s a useful aspiration for a writer to want to rattle cages because if people aren’t out beating cages with a bat to Zen-smack us out of our stupor, we and our cages will become as irrelevant as sunrise is to a corpse.

As I write, Politco’s national poll shows a dead heat between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in the run-up to November’s election. Gallup shows the same thing, which means that almost half the nation thinks the policies that dumped us into our great recession are the best policies to haul us out. It also means that as far as the future of the planet is concerned, half want to take climate change and global warming off the table. And (most counter-intuitively), it means that the same almost-half believe the obstructionist party of labor-hating, middle-class-dissing, poverty-ignoring, job-destroying, corporate-doting, deregulationists who have a problem with women is the one most likely to work for interests of workers, women, the middle-class, the poor and the planet.

Have fear and sound bites made us that looney?

Once, shame on you.
Twice, shame on me

Forty-six percent of us want to return to the scene of the crime and watch the right pull off the heist again.

We cannot ignore our way to a better world. We can’t restore the free-market pleasure dome. Like it or not, change is the only future we have.

To wish for a time we might again cruise interstates in gas guzzlers on a blazing June afternoon, hair in the wind, deliriously coddled by a free market that automatically fills potholes ahead and sucks carbon directly from our exhaust to some out-of-the-way dump while simultaneously draping invisibility cloaks over the poor, is to be lost in a bizarre, oligarchic, Wall Street hallucination dreamed up by myopic, narcissists who speak through the hand-puppets of billionaire Ruppert Murdoch’s Fox News to folks watching giant flat screens at tea parties.

In fact, there will be no so-called free market, no consumer society and no absurd Wall Street compensation packages in the world the free market, our consumer society and absurd Wall Street compensation packages are creating. That trajectory is, quite literally, a dead end. There are not infinite resources on a finite planet. At seven billion, we’re out-growing and soiling our room without a bigger, cleaner one to move into. Yet we go on electing corporate employees to office, hoping for a return to the same level of runaway depletions we luxuriated in during the glory years.

If you don’t believe we have a death wish, look at our politics. It would be reasonable to assume that a tuned-in population would run any politician out of town who suggested a return to policies that decimated our economy and which is decimating our planet. Since Ronald Reagan’s voodoo economics (a term coined by the first Bush president in his campaign against Reagan) took hold with its tax breaks and deficits, deregulations, war against labor and empty claims of trickle-down wealth, the U.S. has declined to the place we are now. We’ve believed too much the myth fed from the top: that more money up there means more money down here and that, regarding wealth & consumption, more is better.

If eight years under George W. Bush and his tax breaks for “job creators” hasn’t proved the bankruptcy of Reaganomics, what will?

Nothing, I fear.
And where has that model lead us?
To here, my dear.

We’re really quite crazy, you know
A classic case of the Midas Touch
We don’t think things through

You know the story: King Midas was so gold-obsessed and gorged with cable-visions, he got his wish and one day everything he touched became a glittering object, but a glittering object that did not sustain life —everything he touched became a heavy metal; his couch, his bed, his Hanes, his suit, his food, his air. In the end, Midas longed for a simpler life.


There’s a wonderful poem by Tony Hoagland that addresses this lethal possession we’re caught in. In the poem the poet, a college professor, reacts to some half-baked ideas of a student. He calls it, simply, “America.”


Then one of the students with blue hair and a tongue stud
Says that America is for him a maximum-security prison

Whose walls are made of Radio Shacks and Burger Kings, and MTV episodes
Where you can’t tell the show from the commercials,

The poem goes on like that for a few more lines until the professor remembers:

… that when I stabbed my father in the dream last night,
It was not blood but money

That gushed out of him,

He gasped “Thank god—those Ben Franklins were
Clogging up my heart—

. . .

And I look at the student with his acne and cell phone and phony ghetto clothes
And I think, “I am asleep in America too,

And I don’t know how to wake myself either,”
And I remember what Marx said near the end of his life:

“I was listening to the cries of the past,
When I should have been listening to the cries of the future.”

But how could he have imagined 100 channels of 24-hour cable
Or what kind of nightmare it might be

When each day you watch rivers of bright merchandise run past you
And you are floating in your pleasure boat upon this river

Even while others are drowning underneath you
And you see their faces twisting in the surface of the waters

And yet it seems to be your own hand
Which turns the volume higher?

The 2012 election is about more than electing a President and representatives who work for more than campaign contributions, it’s about selecting a future.

It’s about having a future.
by Jim Culleny, 4/30/12


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