Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Today is still -- no wind -- with rain threatening, so I’ve been up on the garage tarping the roof. Don’t worry. I’m very careful, it’s a flat roof, there’s a little parapet around it, and my ladder is good to 300#. I also read the directions pasted on it and corrected the angle of incline. I do learn even as I age. This is a bigger and better quality tarp, but plastic and therefore slippery where double. I have to watch my sleeves and pants legs, which tend to catch on things. One of the worst hazards is people who startle me by calling out, “Be careful up there! Don’t fall!!!”

It’s Veteran’s Day and all I’m a veteran of is roof-tarping, but nailing lathe gets one’s blood flowing, though one must be careful to pay attention to the task at hand. What occurs to me most is that Veteran’s Day is a far cry from what it used to be, and I don’t mean just that our own officers shoot our own soldiers. (One soldier said he could understand it if ordinary enlisted went crazy, but a MAJOR??)

Here’s my provisional list of what’s happened to us and I’m not going to mention the end of the Cold War, though that’s relevant. What I’m talking about affects everyone on the planet, even if they’re not consciously part of a nation or organized religion.

First is urbanization, which includes a lot of depersonalization. Here in Valier everyone knows what goes on to a far greater extent than in the great warrens of cities where so many people are from different backgrounds, so different that they eat different foods and wear different clothes, things that have to be imported from an entirely different ecology, meant for a different climate. The greatest commonality is via television, which is for sure the lowest common denominator. Night after night it presents everything in juvenile terms: sex, violence, rivalry, power, paranoia. This is today’s Cold War and pits us against huge mysterious corporations that are destroying the planet. No way to even find them.

Second is the domination of the Middle Man. (I don’t mean males, of course, but Middle Persons doesn’t work. Maybe Interlocutors, but they don’t talk. They don’t have to because they have us by the throats. Consider that the farmer raises a chicken, someone else buys them or has already contracted to buy them, someone else kills and cuts them up, packages them, freezes them or makes them into something else by adding a lot of processing, stores them until prices are good, advertises, distributes them to chain stores that redistribute to individual merchants. Most of the eventual cost is post-chicken. Meanwhile other Middle Men work at changing laws to favor their products, esp. the ones that are cheap to produce and are then off-loaded on poor people by using government subsidies: breakfast cereal, cookies, biscuit mix. Swing by your local food bank and see what they’re giving out. By now so many people are used to eating such things that they don’t protest. They’d be better off eating pemmican.

Industrialization is a Third Force that may destroy us all. Everything is produced in huge amounts by big factories. I vividly recall touring a Nabisco cookie factory right after WWII, which everyone thought was a major advance. (The first sugar wafers I ever ate.) But now industry -- huge organized groups easily creating monopolies and cartels -- has taken over things like recreation, art, school supplies (Texas and Florida dominate the textbook industry because they are high population), medicine. (Did you know Tamiflu is said to be traced back to a dominant pharm company headed by Rumsfeld?)

It’s as much a marketing, commodifying attitude as it is an actual business model, but industry operates by analyzing things into parts and that leads to the next concept: contracting out the parts, everything from torture to sewing shirts to leading people through confusing computer apps while speaking a confusing accent. We’ve been contracting out our wars. In one incident Blackwater killed about the same number of innocent civilians as Major Hasan did, but we feel that it’s none of our business. We’re contracting out our guilt.

Mechanization has been messing with wars since the invention of the chariot, but never has it been so high tech that a three-foot-long predator operated by a young man in Iowa can zoom into a village in Afghanistan, fire a rocket -- guided by a satellite feed -- into a designated house, and be gone before anyone can react enough to save survivors, whatever “saved” means. No risk except money and the destruction of the predator only means more profit for the company that makes them.

Don’t tell me you don’t know. You’ve probably watched as many Harrison Ford spy movies as I have. Or “The Spy Game” with Robert Redford and Brad Pitt. Remember the onlookers who stand behind the computer operators, watching people die and cheering? What do you think radicalizes Redford and Pitt? Did you think it was the money they make? I think it’s the scripts they read.

I would include on my list the erosion of public schools and their mission, which is to produce citizens, NOT to create employees of corporations. Last night I listened to Brian Kahn’s Artemis Common Ground (rebroadcasts at ) while he interviewed a ranch boy, an evangelical Christian, who had been home-schooled until high school. (He said that because his parents interconnected with other home-schoolers, his range of acquaintances was more varied and larger than the tight little bubble of the local high school where the pressure for conformity was high.) He has been attending Gutenburg College in Eugene, OR. I was impressed with his level of thought. This year he’ll enroll at MSU as a history major. He is a SHINING example of what we ought to be doing. Brian Khan is not a bad example either.

What I see in the army is something that was very true in WWI, WWII, the Korean War (the one my classmates “attended” and the scariest because of the emphasis on mind control), the Vietnam War (the one my students fought that radicalized our whole society). An actual war in a foreign country teaches young people. There is a class of young floaters now that has to be taught to tie their shoes. The army can do it and the constant high level of poverty forces those floaters to sign-up. It’s a ghost draft.

But there are other lessons about other ways of life, about reliability for the sake of one’s comrades, about courage even in little ways, about simple survival by endurance. If Hasan had kept it pulled together enough to actually serve overseas, I think it would have saved his sanity in a way no amount of reading Freud and Jung could do. PTSD is about the recurring memory of something ghastly and ghostly, which is FAR harder to fight than the original experience was. Hasan got pulled into the unreal world of movie phantoms.

There’s only one way to cure the fear of getting up there and tarping the roof: that’s to get up there and do it.

1 comment:

Lance Michael Foster said...

Excellent and thought-provoking post...