Posts Tagged ‘democracy’

What about this Post-capitalism?

March 3, 2019

There are a many constructive ideas floating around in the world today.

Some are commendable, others not so much. If people propose plans for making the world a better place, then let’s hear them. Let’s consider those plans.

In our present big picture, the hot-button point of contention seems to revolve around the fate of free-market capitalism, in an age of diminishing planetary tolerance.  Is capitalism as we know it an appropriate framework for just and equitable economic development in our present, allegedly climate-changing world?

Are free-market institutions still appropriate for our collective life in the postmodern 21st-century?

Can free-market capitalism even be retained in our planetary future? Or will it be overpowered by some new 21st-century tamed-down socialism?

Generating from some academic and technocratic quarters, we find revisions of the old Marxian ideology, along with assurances that the world has certainly learned hard lessons through the disastrous failure of 20th-century communist experiments.

At  https://www.socialeurope.eu/postcaptalism-unbearable-unrealism , Paul Mason writes:

    Moving to postcapitalism does not entail eradicating market forces overnight or accepting the command-planning methods of Soviet economics. The aim is to design a controlled transition in which market forces cease to operate as the primary allocator of goods and services on the planet, in which the state shrinks and the debt mountains are dismantled.”

and

   “In the past 15 years we have built a highly dysfunctional system, which is unsustainable on all traditional assumptions. It is a system of permanent single monopolies, with massive rent-seeking and financial exploitation, the creation of low-wage, low-skilled jobs designed to keep people inside the system of credit and data extraction, and massive asymmetries of power and information between corporations and consumers.”

Now, as a centrist conservative American, I read those above words and they somehow ring true. There is a sense in which I feel there is maybe some realistic MainStreet experience  missing there, but I see that Mr. Mason raises valid points, which are worthy of our consideration.

On the other side of the debate, Jordan B. Peterson has a different take on our world problems and how to solve, or at least address, them.

At  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXgZAdaMtS8&t=35s,      he says:

     “If you’re tilting toward the left, and you’re temperamentally inclined that way—and half the population is—then you have an ethical problem on your hands, which is . . . how do you segregate yourself from the radical policies of the 20th century? “

and

“. . . two things exist in a very uneasy (leftist) coalition in the West—there’s care for the poor, and hatred for the successful.  Those two things are not the same at all . . . and it looks to me that one of the things that really happened when the communist doctrines were brought into play , and also by the way we did the multi-national experiment.  It doesn’t matter where you put these policies into play . . . the same bloody outcome occurred. Didn’t matter whether it was Russia, or China, Cambodia or Vietnam—pick a random African country—or Cuba or Venezuela, for that matter. . . it was an unmitigated catastrophe. That has to be dealt with.  The intellectual left in the West has been absolutely appalling in their silence on the communist catastrophe.”           

Dr. Peterson, the speaker of these words just above, is a Canadian professor of Psychology at University of Toronto.

Down here Stateside, we have a sizable number of Americans who agree with his assessment. That supportive group includes the this blogger.

Back in 1989, freedom-cultivating citizens, such as I, thought we heard the ringing resonance of a Liberty bell when the Soviet Union fell apart and the Berlin Wall came down. We were patting ourselves on the back after those historic events, especially because Kennedy had gone to Berlin in 1963 and spoke:

    “There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future. Let them come to Berlin. . . Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in . . .”

And then later, Reagan went over there and said:

    “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Well, the Germans did tear down that damn wall, and the subjects of Soviet domination throughout that terrible empire wasted no time in tearing down—not only a wall— but much more. . . the Soviet Union itself.

Like Humpty-Dumpty it was.

So the question remained: Would they, could they, tear down all that Marxist communist ideology that had built that wall under threat of gulag imprisonment? Could they expose and dismantle the Statist oppression that had built all the gulag walls? and the Stalin statues, and the tanks and the nukes, etcetera etcetera.

That would take a long time, and it has taken a long time. But in some ways, that early 20th-century tide of Marxist oppresso-utopian wishful thinking is seeping back as a kind of theoretical, kinder, gentler socialism.

So the question becomes: is there any part of the Dr. Jekyll Marxian collectivist ideology that is workable and fair? and, as for the Mr. Hyde alter ego: Is there any part of that disgraced Soviet that would creep back as fierce totalitarian servitude?

Cmnism

On the other side of 21st-century civilization, at the same time, and as long as we’re at relative peace in a cooperative globalist attitude, another question arises: What parts of FreeMarket Capitalism are still workable?

Tiananmen talk

Advocates of our free-market democratic republic must admit, for instance, that yes, Virginia, Freedom and free-market capitalism does have its problems. It always has, although those troubles do not necessarily disqualify the free market as a model for economic well-being.

The weak spot in our capitalist framework was exposed in 2008-9, when our financially engineered wall street perpetual profit, speculative machine flew apart, and sent all of us free-marketeers high-tailing it for the exits.

Statistics reveal that since that disruptive correction in the fall of ’08, a stubborn stagnation has taken hold of our economy. Even though the Fed cranks out statistics to reinforce the notion that we have recovered . . .we have not recovered.

You call this a recovery?

No way!. I grew up in the ’50’s; I know what a real recovery looks like, and I worked my way through the ’90’s.I know what a truly busy, productive economy feels like.  And whatever we got now—this ain’t no real recovery.

  This is stagnation.

The Feds got all their numbers trying to convince us that all is well, but the truth is: So many folks are not making enough money to prosper. They’re just gettin’ by. Meanwhile so many speak of a widening inequality gap, and although I don’t really see the world in those “class warfare” terms, I suppose that, in some sense, yes Virginia, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.

But then, hey, hasn’t that always been true? We shall see. At any rate, let’s not get all commie-bent out of shape about it. Just keep busy. Find something helpful to do. As Jordan says, responsibility gives life meaning. You can start by cleaning your room, and thereby making the world a little bit better place.

Glass half-Full

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The Ambassador

December 14, 2018

I was of that generation who wanted to save the world for democracy.

When I was born, my country was fighting a war in a faraway land, trying to run the communists out of Korea. It was a valiant effort we made over there, but only—from a military and/or political standpoint—about half successful. By 1953, we had managed to help get that little Asian peninsula about half-saved for democracy.

Just like most everything in this life, we manage to get things right about half the time.

That expedition did apparently turn out better than our other Asian deliverance mission—the one that ended, or so it seemed, in 1975 with our boys having to select which war refugees could be loaded onto an American helicopter and whisked away before the Viet Minh took Saigon and then later named it Ho Chi Minh City.

Like I said before, in this life we manage to get things about half right about half the time.

Which ain’t too bad really, when you consider what we’re up against.

I mean, life ain’t no bowl of cherries; it’s not a walk in the park. Sometimes it’s hard.

But you know, looking back on it all, there were the good times and there were the bad times. . .

When I was in high school, we thought it was cool to stay up late and watch the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Johnny didn’t even show up on the airwaves until 10:30, CST, after the news, and so if you could stay up that late to catch his monologue etc, you were pretty cool. At school we’d try to make jokes as funny as Johnny could. Everybody loved Johnny—he was like the Jimmy Fallon of his day. He had really cool people on his show like Marilyn Monroe or Joe DiMaggio.

Famous people would always show up to talk to Johnny; he’d ask them questions about their careers in show business and Broadway and movies and whatnot and they’d talk about themselves, and Johnny always managed to crack a few jokes about whatever they’d be yapping about. Carson was so cool and we wanted to be like him.

Every now and then he’d have some serious person on too. But they’d still manage to have a good time.

BillynJohnny

Growing up in the ’50’s and ’60’s was pretty cool. We were the first generation to have TV, and that really changed everything, although nobody really knew what the outcome of all that boob tube influence would be. Public personalities became quite adept at blowing their own horns and making big scenes. Ultimately the guy with the loudest voice managed to bluster his way into the White House. And I guess it really should be no surprise to anybody the way things have turned out.

Who could have anticipated that there would come a day when the big 3 networks would slip into the background and the universe of media would be taken over by the likes of faceboook and twitter?

But of course there are always the folks in the background who quietly get through to people with an important message while so many others are busy running their mouths about all the great things they’re doing.

BillyinBerkeley

One thing I’ve learned about life during my 67 years: you gotta take the bad with the good. Shit happens, and you gotta deal with it, gotta get up the next morning and keep on truckin’. Ain’t nobody gonna feel sorry for ya. Well, maybe if you have a life mate to help you cope and get along, move on the next thing and all that, life can be a little easier to deal with. At least that has been my experience.

The good book says we oughta mourn with those who mourn and laugh with those who laugh. Who would’ve ever dreamed that, in our lifetime, two such different persons as these two would be laughing together?:

BillynBoris

Life is good; sometimes we win and other times we lose. When Boris Yeltsin managed to take hold of the old Soviet Union! it was amazing. Who’d have ever dreamed of such a thing? Berlin Wall came down without a shot after Reagan suggested to Gorbachev to tear down that wall.  Amazing stuff in my lifetime. JFK, had he lived to see it, would have been proud.

I mean this life is very good in some ways. In other ways it’s not so favorable. You gotta take the good with the bad, and you gotta help people. We all need a little help. It’s good to help people along the way. Occasionally, every one of us need some really big help. I mean, while there are some victories, there are of course some terrible setbacks and tragedies.

So while the good book says we should laugh with those who laugh, it also says to mourn with those who mourn.

BillynCoretta

We gotta help each other from time to time. Everybody need a little help from time to time. In my lifetime, we tried to go over there and help the people of Vietnam to muster up some democracy, and maybe it didn’t work out so well, and maybe in some ways we even made a mess of it but hey, when my daughter visited there a few years ago, and she rode a scooter through Ho Chi Minh City (used to be called Saigon) she said the people over there love Americans, and they have a tender place in their hearts for us. Go figure!

Going back even further than that, and thinking once again about what all was going on when I was born into this world. . . we were trying to make Korea safe for democracy, we find that some really good things  somehow managed to came out of it.

BillyinSeoul

I think it can be concluded that good things can indeed happen when every now and then someone comes along who is willing to—instead of tooting his own horn— work quietly and diligently as an Ambassador for the Prince of Peace.

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.

Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”

I can think of one person, at least, who has managed to live in the manner described above by our brother Paul.

BillynKimIlSung

King of Soul

Barcelona v. Berlin in 1936

September 9, 2018

When it comes to European civilization, Greece is where the  legacy originated about 2500 years ago.

Among the many enduring contributions  by which the early Greeks set Europe into cultural motion, I find two, in particular, that have demonstrated incredible longevity:

Democracy, and Olympics.

Those early Greeks were incredibly active in their sporting competitions, and also in their zeal to launch the world’s most notable experiment in governance by “the people.”

Their idea of Democracy was later amended by the Romans as a form of governance known as Republic, which was perhaps a more practical working out of the egalitarian concept, because groups of citizens could, by vote, select representatives to do the actual decision-making.

Many centuries later, the notion of democracy ascended on a fresh new wind of modern life. Most notably in the 1700’s, certain forward-thinking individuals in America and central Europe used the ancient democratic ideal as a basis for updating and improving human governance. The working out of it has been, over the last two or three centuries, somewhat messy and unsure, but the idea of government by the people for the people is still widely considered to be the best and fairest framework for doing collectively whatever it is that we humans are trying to do to improve our situation here on earth.

A lot could be said here but I’ll just toss up an example of how the idea of democracy continues to capture Euro imagination. Here’s a photo I snapped a few days ago while walking through a public square in Barcelona.

Democracia

As we can see here, democracy seems to be a readily attractive notion, worthy of public mention. However, the prospect of promoting democracy has not always been easy here in Espanya. Spain has had a rough history in which Democracy and Authoritarian governments have bloodily contested each other.

Following their rejection of a King in 1931, the Spanish people fought a civil war, 1936-39; it began in a political competition between zealous advocates of these two opposing models of governance.

But during those tumultuous years, the people of Spain were not the only nation who were grappling with such controversies. A few European borders away, the people of Germany were in a similar contest.

After the Germans suffered the defeat of World War I, they had a massive reconstruction project going on, as they were striving to re-assemble not only their physical nation and its infrastructure, but also their way of governing themselves.

During the 1920’s and ’30’s, both the Germans and the Spanish  wrestled with themselves to establish a democratic Republic. Both attempts ended in failure.

When the Nazis took over Germany in 1933, they ditched the Weimar Republic and degenerated into Third Reich bellicosity. Also in the 1930’s, the people of Spain ousted their King and declared a new Republic. But in 1936, the Franco-led Falangists attacked their own people. By 1939, they had driven the Republicans out of office.

Meanwhile, back at the crunch, there was an athletic contention going on between these two violence-torn countries–Germany and Spain. This  competition gets back to the other great contribution that I mentioned earlier from ancient Greece:

the Olympics.

At the meeting of the International Olympic Committee in 1931, Spain had proposed that the 1936 Olympics take place in Barcelona. But, by a process of democratic voting among the member nations, the IOC awarded the hosting to Berlin.

That was an ill-fated turn of events. Germany was at that time being taken over by the Nazi Third Reich. Hitler and his Nazi thugs were striving to use the Olympics as a showcase of their supposed bullshit Aryan supremacy.

Down in Republican Spain, the leftist government caught wind of what the Nazis were up to. They smelled a rat in Europe. So they launched an attempt to conduct an alternate Olympics, which they thought would express more appropriately the sporting competition of  classic  events.

BarcOlyPop

But the so-called Olimpiada Popular in Barcelona never happened. As it turned out, the Spanish people were having a war among themselves in 1936 instead of inviting the world in for some friendly sports.

Later, during and after the Second World War,  the civilized world  awakened to the disastrous truth of what Nazi Germany had been doing behind the scenes while they had been hosting their facade of pseudo-Olympic propaganda back in ’36.

Spanish Catalunya Barcelona did, however, ultimately have its day in the Olympic sun. That came 56 years later, in 1992.

A few days ago, here and now 2018, we visited that Olympic site in Barcelona where the competitive events were conducted in ’92;  quite an impressive sight it still is:

BarcOlymp

My hope is that both ancient institutions—Democracy and Olympics will survive and thrive in this century we live in now—the 21st.

 Smoke

Derelictic Dialectics

March 26, 2018

While surfing the web today in the usual way

I stumbled upon a dispute in some political fray;

seems it was a matter of some current politics,

rendered hot and bothered by fringish  dialectics.

The dispute’s gravity has been magnified beyond repair

due to polarizing factions that foment both fair and unfair.

Populists spurt rants irresponsibly in fact-check neglect;

indignant apparatchiks would impose politically correct.

Who’s to say what’s a fact and what is not

in the midst of this politico-cultural polyglot?

Fact-checking technocrats want censoring rules

assuming the populist rabble to be unschooled fools.

If I had to choose between political correctness

and uninformed opinion  that’s incorrect  and reckless,

I’d opt for the unrestrained, the free and eclectic

instead of the censured, the tamed and restrained derelictic.

Some say democracy will end in chaos and confusion

with too many fringies spurting fake news and delusion,

but really, the slide toward our enslavement will commence

with self-appointed fake-checkers who in fact are quite dense.

Because freedom to think, to speak and to act, is the stuff of liberty,

more essential than cubicles of fact-checking drones who decree

that this or that fact is not fact but in fact it is fake

and thereby impose conformity that the people can’t take.

Derelictic

While surfing the web today in the usual way,

oh, let me stumble into some free folk at play,

where the ass and the elephant freely roam

to make fools of themselves ’til the cows come home.

King of Soul

The American Deal

July 13, 2016

Way back in time, hundred year ago, we was movin’ out across the broad prairie of mid-America, slappin’ them horse teams so’ they would pull them wagon out across the grasslands and the badlands, and then blastin’ our way ‘cross the Rockies and Sierras all the way to Pacific and the promised land of California.

GoGate35

And it was a helluva time gettin’ through all that but we managed to do it, with more than a few tragedies and atrocities along the way, but what can you say, history is full of ’em: travesties.

Troubles, wherever men go– travesties, trials and tribulations. That’s just the way it is in this world. If there’s a way around it, we haven’t found it yet.

  But there has been progress too, if you wanna call it that. Mankind on the upswing, everybody get’n more of whatever there is to get in this life, collectin’ more stuff, more goods, services, and sure ’nuff more money.

Movin’ along toward the greatest flea market in history, is kinda what we were doing.

Taming the land, transforming the planet into our own usages, improving, or so we thought, on God’s original versions.

After that great westward expansion transference/transgression, had been goin’ on for a good while, and a bad while now that you mention it, we Americans found ourselves high up on a bluff overlooking history itself. At Just about that time, them Europeans had a heap of trouble that they’d been brewin’ over there and they dragged us into it on account of we had become by that time quite vigorous, grasping the reins of manifest destiny and ridin’ along, as so it seemed, on the cusp of history, seein’ as how we had been raised up on our daddy’s Britannic colonizing, mercantiling knee.

Then long about 1914, them Europeans dragged us into their big fatally entreched mess over there and we went and fought the first Big War, fought them high and mighty Germans that first time and when we got done with it and got back over here the world was a different place.

I mean the world was a different place, no doubt about it.

For one thing, everybody in the civilized world was so glad to have a little peace in 1920, we just went hog wild.

Everybody got out there a-workin’, roarin’ ’20s zeitgeist, scrapin’ crops out o’ the ground, building great machines, skyscrapers. Edison had electrified us; Bell had sounded the bells of modern communication; Ford had tinkered us into a vast new world of mass production with a horseless carriage in every garage and a chicken in every pot and and we were skippin’ right along like a cricket in the embers.

NewkDev

‘Til ’29, when the big crash came along.

  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39RKRelTMWk

Some folks said that Mr. Hoover, great man that he was, was nevertheless clueless, and so the nation turned to Mr. Roosevelt for new answers. FDR, young cousin of Teddy Roosevelt who had been the father, so to speak, of American progressivism– cousin Franklin D., Governor of New York, took the bull by the horns and somehow managed to breed it into a donkey.

So from Teddy’s bullmoose progressivism there arose, through 1930’s-style unemployed populist cluelessness, Americanized Democratic Socialism;  with a little help from FDR’s genteel patriarchal largesse, the New Deal saved Capitalism, or so it is said among the theoreticians and the ivory tower legions who followed, and are still following, in Roosevelt’s wake.

Well, by ‘n by, between Lyndon Johnson’s grand Texas-size vision for a Great Society, Clinton’s good-ole-boy nod to residual crony capitalism, and then the 21st-century-metamorphosing, rose-colored proletarian worldview as seen through Obama’s rainbow glasses, and now the upswell of Bernie’s refurbished wealth redistribution wizardry– we’ve turned this corner into a rising tide of  flat-out Democratic Socialism.

It will be, quite likely, soon inundating the tidal basin inside the beltway as in 2017 we slog  into the mucky backwaters of full-blown Americanized Socialism, dammed up on the other side of the slough by that other guy whose oversimplified version of the nation and the world seems to want to land us in a brave new world of American National Socialism.

And who knows which way this thing will go; only time and the slowly softening sedentary, dependent American electorate can tell.

Looking back on it all, today, my 65th birthday, having lived through Nov22’63, April4’68, 9/11, yesterday’s disruptions wherever they may be, and everything in between, I find myself identifying with all the old folks whose weary outmoded facial expressions bespoke disdain,  while I traipsed errantly along life’s way. Here’s to all them ole folks who I thought were a little out of it, one brick shy of a load, peculiar, decrepit and clueless. Now, I can relate.

How I wish America could be back at real work again, like we were back in the day.

We’ve pushed through vastly extracted frontiers that yielded to massive infrastructure networks punctuated with skyscraping towers of steel and concrete. Now we’re lapsing into solid-state, navel-gazing nano-fantasies, living vicariously through celebrities in our pharma cubicles.

Maybe there’s a new frontier in there somewhere but I’m having a hard time seeing it.

But hey! let me conclude this rant with a hat-tip to the man–he happens to be a Canadian–who best eulogized the essence of that once-and-future great North American work zeitgeist, which seems to be disappearing into the dustbowl of history, because it looks like  there’s nowhere left to go.

  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NjoU1Qkeizs

Well, maybe there is somewhere.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38bHXC8drHc

Glass half-Full

The life song of J Alfred Bourgeois

May 11, 2016

We’ve worked hard for what we’ve got;

maybe we’re smart and maybe we’re not.

Thanks to the courage of long-dead soldiers,

we can grow and prosper and manage to get older.

We’ve read about .gov by the people, republics, and democracy;

we try to stay decent, clean, and free from hypocrisy.

And yes, we’ve heard of that Marx guy, and Lenin and whatnot.

but I’m here to say we aint no proletariat.

We don’t wanna change the world;

we like stars and stripes in the breeze unfurled.

Dinner on Sundays, work on Mondays, weekends for fun days;

this is what we like, and cultivate in predictable ways.

Jefferson said let’s do .gov by the peoples.

We say along with that came letting folks raise their steeples.

Marx, on the other hand said we need dictatorship of the proletariat,

but this home-making bourgeois boy giveth not a plug nickel for all that.

We’re happy to be plain ole boojwazee,

with a washer, dryer, car, and a home someday mortgage-free.

There are plenty out their who wanna die for the Cause;

we just like living in freedom under reasonable laws.

Floral

Glass half-Full

Vietnam in US

August 2, 2015

59500-6a0120a79e132f970b01b8d13d5000970c-pi

We were there for a long long time.

Our military presence there was a sign:

America would uphold capitalist resistance

against Viet Cong communist insistence.

In the end it didn’t work out that way:

The North moved onto the the South to stay.

Sound familiar?

After years of war hemophilia.

We started with an idea to protect the world

against communist incursion that swirled

throughout Asia and Europe and South America,

so dominoes wouldn’t fall on US in America.

 

Kennedy had good intentions,

as Cold War assumed gargantuan dimensions.

He sent in the advisors and trainers,

as if the whole project were a strategic no-brainer.

 

Johnson stepped up the escalation,

had his guys doing all the right calculations.

But when McNamara found doubts and resigned,

then Cronkite and New Hampshire consigned.

Old Lyndon’s stress and strain were now showing.

He could see where this whole damn thing was going.

So Ho and his insurgents unearthed new determination

to turn Vietnam into a Communist nation.

 

Along came Nixon with all that American bluster,

and the waning resolve that a silent majority could muster.

Although Nixon was stubborn, he got paranoid and stumbled.

I guess he, and we, needed to be humbled.

 

There began, during that time of our national distress,

a cultural fissure we find it hard to redress:

there’s them that went, and them that didn’t go.

As one who didn’t go, I want you to know–

you who fought in the shadow of the Ho Chi Minh trail–

you went and you fought; you did not fail.

 

In some lessons we stand, but in others we fall;

the truths you taught us were the hardest of all.

You were the brave; you who bore the burden, the few.

We couldn’t have known what to do, but for you.

The battles that men make and the wars that we fight

are borne, in our own American way, in the desire to do right.

Looking back on it, I think it’s plain to see:

all we were wanting was to make the world free.

 

That old war began with us in Vietnam,

but it ended with Vietnam in us,

a haunting memory that’ll never go away: jungle patrols long gone,

body counts and trumpets that end in a hush.

 

If you visit the Vietnam War Memorial today,

you’ll see Washington’s Memorial beyond the long wall, granite gray.

At the end of the other angled plane, set your sights on Lincoln’s dedication:

to honor those who bled and died for our upstart nation.

Remember those brave slain at Gettysburg, Verdun, the Bulge, Korea, Saigon,

who lifted freedom’s defense at Iwo Jima, Ia Drang, Hue and Khe Sanh.

 

Yes, now it’s time, our old grievance to acknowledge:

some served in hell while others were in college.

But hey, let us now endeavor,

because we hope our noblest intentions can live forever.

Let us give honor to those brave souls who, in firefights across the ocean,

paid the dear price of our liberty with their last full measure of  devotion,

whether they be now dead,

or with post-traumatic stress instead,

still alive.

That aint no jive.

Strive.

Don’t ever give up.

Now wha’sup?

 

Glass half-Full

Be aware of Greeks bearing debts

April 25, 2015

Greece is, you see, the opposite of California, and I’ll tell you why.

The first thing is: Greece is very old. California is, on the other hand, very new.

The “West”–that is to say, California and all the rest of us New World types– actually started in Greece about three thousand years ago. Greece was the “West” because it was westward from what was, in ancient times, the Old Country, the region we now call the Middle East, or Levant, or Holy Land, depending on your point of view.

Long ago, after Alexander and his military legacy turned the Persians back at the battle of Marathon, long about 490 b.c.e., the people of the Greek city-states began joining together to form an historical entity that we now call Ancient Greece.

And since that time, the whole thing of Greek culture moved westward and northward over a couple of millennia  of time. The great thrust of Western thought, anchored in a mental discipline called philosophy and a political idea called Democracy,  inspired empires and nations from those ancient days until the present day.

We still dream about governing ourselves in this thing call a democracy, but it has never quite manifested in a way authentic to the original concept.

Probably never will, but it’s a nice thought.

A  couple hundred years after the Greek Golden Age, the Romans came along with their Republic and their empire. Much of their marvelously innovative empire-building was rooted in Greek thought and mathematics (Euclid and Pythagoras). A lot of what the Romans did was direct imitation of Greek stuff. A good example of this is their omnipresent use of Columns for holding buildings up.

You’ve heard of Doric columns, Ionic columns?

That’s Greek stuff. Except that–guess what!–the Doric and Ionic names originated across the Aegean sea from Greece, in a region called Asia (Minor), which is now Turkey. Go figure!

A couple hundred years after the Greek Golden Age, along came the Romans. What they ended up doing was much grander and more elaborate than what the Greeks did. They took Greek columns and turned them into a universal architectural art-form. Those two earlier Column designs–the Doric and the Ionian– were not fancy enough to suit the Roman sense of grandiosity. So the Romans decorated the capitals (tops) of their columns with new, leafy frou-frou carvings and castings  which came to be called Corinthian.

The Corinthian name, however, was not Roman, but Greek. Corinth was an important city in Greece.  So once again, go figure.

Figuring is important to the whole advance of Western civilization. Everywhere Greeks and their European progeny went, they were figuring stuff out.

Thus did Western Civilization expand over millenia of time. Along came the Germans, French, Spanish, British, all of them making ever grander plans,  striving to construct their own versions of civilization.

When the Greco-Roman enterprise got to the big Sea at the end of Europe–aka the End of the Earth–its expansion was delayed for a few hundred years. But then along came Cristoforo Columbo and Presto!, Western civilization took a grand leap across the Atlantic Ocean.

Now we Americans know about Boston, New Yawk, Philly, etc etc etc;  and we are intimately familiar with Paul Revere and Grampa George Washington. Why we even know about Charleston and Savannah and all that unreconstructed goings-on down south, but what’s important here is California!

Why?

Because Americans are adventurers. Our forefathers and foremothers hit the ground running after we got off the boat in Baltimore or Ellis Island or wherever it was.

Before you knew it, we were all the way over on the far other edge of the continent, in California, baby!

Or bust! That’s what the Okies said.

And that was, if you think about it, the very end of the Greek frontier. From Athens to Anaheim, westward ho all along the way. That’s all she wrote.

The westward expansion of Greek culture ended at California. It couldn’t go any farther. Why, even when they o’erleaped the wide Pacific, what did they find?

China!

It doesn’t get any older than that–China. No Westward expansion there, although the Brits made a few dents, and of course there was Marx and all that People’s trial and bloody error.

Now We Americans have a saying: as California goes, so goes the nation.

That means that, from the 1849 Gold Rush on, the great exploratory thrust of American ingenuity and creativity originates in place called California.

The land of fruits and nuts.

And broccoli, lettuce, grapes, wine, silicon, integrated circuit chips, beach boys, beach girls, computers, iPhones, movies and pop culture, etc etc etc.

So once all the migrant Europeans got themselves planted on the East Coast back in the 1800s, they built so many cities, and built them so quickly, that before you know it they got overcrowded and pulled up stakes to head West.

Go West, young man, wrote Horace Greeley, about a hundred and fifty years ago.

And very quickly. We developed America from raw earth,  from Schenectady to San Francisco in less than a hundred years, blazing a yankee trail all along the way.

And when we hit up against that great Pacific rim, the grand tide of our exuberance struck a sea wall and then it swayled back the other way: Disney in Paris, McDonald’s in Athens, Kennedy in Berlin!

But now–and my mind misgives some consequence yet hanging in the stars–our grand millenia-old Restatement of Greco-Roman expansionism strikes, back at its ancient nascence, an Athenian rampart.

So I see the next phase of history this way: As Greece goes, so goes the West. And this is what it looks like, according to a pic I recently snapped in Athens:

EarthBraceAgor2

Which is to say, a propped up portal. Where can we go from here?

Glass Chimera

Fear and Posing in Crimea

March 23, 2014

Talking heads and journalistic birds,

bobbing in Black Sea swells on Crimean words,

launch up their blustery speculations now

on Putinistic confrontations, and how

the old bear’s been backed into a corner, no wiggle room, no loans,

as the world squeals sanctionistic noise  and diplomatic moans;

so the West draws its red line in the sands,

no more Ukraine for you Mister Putin; here it stands.

 

Gone is former glory of the Russian realm,

now no czar, no Lenin, nor Stalin at the helm.

We dismembered their Soviet empire back in ’89;

then thinking it some victorious Kapitalistic sign,

we assumed they’d just get it in the blinking of an eye:

the Kapitalist manifesto and the democratic pie–

how to slice it how to dice it– how, in all this Western fiat money

we’d sweeten Ukrainian bread with IMF honey.

 

Now we wonder if it be some ghostly rerun, this acquisition,

a la Sudetan land grab or nineteen thirties Rhineland nazi occupation.

But Putin says t’was nazis who yanked those Maidan’s strings,

‘though we think ’tis from the fount of democracy  hope Ukrainel springs.

Now History repeateth not itself; this is no warmed-over fascist rerun;

rather, its the old desperate Russian bear, brandishing his post-glasnost gun,

because his big Soviet one was unloaded, by Ronnie Reagan.

 

CR, with new novel soon, Smoke

A New Social(ism) Contract?

October 8, 2013

As near as this under-employed citizen can determine, the (over)simplified net effect of the Affordable Care Act will be this:

A big pile of money will be collected from employed people who can afford health insurance, and that money will be used to ensure health care for poor people who would otherwise not be able to afford health care or health insurance.

This will help poor people. Everybody else will, by premiums or by taxes, ante up some money to assure that the po’ folks will be minimally cared for whenever they have health or medical problems.

Okay, this working Republican can live with that, even it will cost me a few bucks, because, you know, I have a heart and I am a Christian and we’re all in this together and I don’t want to see riots in the streets etc etc etc.

My mind wanders every day between the poles and polls of this controversy, as I am under the influence of so many information sources, whether it be sound-bite Congressional rhetoric, or a morning email from Erick Erickson, or listening to a panel discussion on Diane Rehm or hearing Tom Ashbrook orchestrate an exploration of the issues, or reading a UPI report.

Here’s the problem: Our original social contract, which is the Constitution with its tripartite governmental institutions, does not effectively address all the divisions that arise in this post-modern predicament. For some people, such as Tea Party folks, or persons of independent means, that incongruence becomes a big objection to what is happening now. For others, who are poor or who want to, by grand design build a great society, our Constitutional freedoms and rights are not such a big issue.

Since the New Deal, the disparities and eccentricities of capitalism have driven us away from the original social contract enacted in the Constitution by our nation’s founders. We’ve tacked on Medicare and Medicaid. This is not your father’s oldsmobile; nor is it your grandmother’s household with muffin-buns and berries by the steamy kitchen window. We have evolved to a post-democratic, post-republican, post-capitalist, post-expansionist, post-consumer-waste welfare corporate State.

And hey, it is what it is, like it or not. This is 2013. I mean, 1984 was 29 years ago already.

But the libertarian folks who identify with  Constitutionally-protected rugged individualism are still with us. God bless ’em. They figure we didn’t sign up for this redistribution hijinks. I can relate. I live in a mountain town that was named after a musket-totin’ trailblazing pioneer named Daniel Boone. I wish everybody had the initiative and self-respect that the libertarians have. But alas, there are many other folks out there in the great cities and amongst the urbanized conglomerates who  are quite comfortable, even fat n’ happy, depending on the System that we’ve patched together, which is not the same as the visionary government that our Founders had wrought from the virgin soil of a vast contintent back in the day.

Now this whole Affordable Care vs. Obamacare mirage has got us all torn up, living on the edge of fiscal disaster or social dystopia or government shutdown or Default or  some combination thereof.

We need a new social contract. I propose a national referendum on the Affordable Care Act so we can settle this thing once and for all. Instead of depending on the Democrats or Republicans to interpret the polls, let’s take a real vote on the issue so we’ll know where the simple majority of Americans stand on this landmark issue of subsidized health care.

Glass half-Full