22 May 2017

Is My Country For Sale? Keeping Down The Rabble…

By: Jon Katz

Is My Country For Sale?

I try not to watch the news too often, but I also feel I should try to keep up, and I looked in my phone this morning to see some of the festivities in Saudi Arabia, the Gold Swords and opulent palaces and mountains of fresh flowers and fruit, flown in from all over the earth.

I was startled by what I was seeing, in a country where some people are terrified of losing their health care and others are terrified to drive down a road if there is a police care ther, the barons and rulers and arms makers  of the earth are holding feasts and celebrations with Golden Swords, glowing orbs, dancing soldier and mountains of lobster and fish and beef that would have shamed Maria Antoinette.

It was the kind of gala that cost her her head, but was being presented to us as  the arrival of a new world order. If you read some history, it will look very much like the old one, before revolutionaries in France and America had a new idea called liberty.

I felt cut off from myself, disconnected from my country, and I had this recurring idea, it kept flashing through my mind, that our country and everything in it is now for sale.

And the rich Kings and Princes and Saudis and fawning and bowing American leaders were in a buying and deal-making mood, it was gleefully announced that the Kingdom would soon be investing in billions of dollars worth of American infrastructure in exchange for being permitted to buy hundreds of billions of dollars in bombs, jet fighter planes and the newest tanks.

And all of this in the name of  a new kind of harmony and peace. It  was some sort of over-the-top Devil's Feast it seemed to me, it has about as much to do with working people or peace and harmony as me as diving off the Australian reefs in a yacht.

Everytime I look at the news, I see that something new is for sale, another deal in the making  – the media, health care, national parks, prisons, seats in Congress, schools big banks, immigrants and refugees, the environment and the earth itself,  tax reform, oil and gas reserves,  cabinet positions.

My country is having a giant yard sale, the biggest in the modern world. We are selling everything we are to the deepest pockets and nastiest people on the planet. And nothing, absolutely nothing, is sacred.

What, I wonder, happened to working people anyway?

They have never, in my lifetime, been more beleaguered, underpaid, discouraged, or broke. They seem broken and disoriented to me, cheering on the very people who are grinding them into the dirt.

After watching the almost grotesquely opulent ceremonies in Saudi Arabia, one of the world's most repressive and cruel countries, I saw a piece in the New York Times called "Alone on the Open Road: Truckers Feel Like 'Throwaway People."

I remember when trucking was  valued middle-class work that paid well and brought hard-working people into the middle class. Now it is a brutish and miserable profession that pays little, has awful working conditions, no benefits,  an 80 per cent annual turnover, and is hated by the people doing it and the people they serve. It's worth reading this piece.  Look what they've done to work, I thought, destroying yet another kind of valued labor for more money.

And look at what have they done to working class.

Have working people been so ground into the dirt that they can no longer tell friends from enemies or organize to better their lives? We live in a country where fast food workers and Wal-Mart employees apply for welfare and food stamps to live (while the family that owns Wal-Mart now owns 40 per cent of the nation's wealth?)

Where Amazon warehouse workers have GPS devices attached to their legs so that their bosses will know if they pause to rest or go to the bathroom?

Look at how they rail and tremble at even the mention of socialism?  Could it possibly be as bad as life in an Amazon warehouse?

Wait until they encounter the Communists again, they are practically begging for them to return.

I took out my dog-eared copy of Requiem For The American Dream: The 10 Principles Of Concentration Of Wealth And Power, by Naom Chomsky, a wise and honest teacher.

I opened to page 107, the chapter was called Keep The Rabble In Line, and there, Chomsky was writing about what I was reading about,  the brutal war against organized labor, which he calls "the one barrier to this vicious cycle going on, which leads to corporate tyranny."

A major reason for the concentrated, almost fanatic attack on unions and organized labor is that they are a democratizing force, Chomsky writes. They provide a barrier that defends workers' rights, but also popular rights generally. This interferes with the prerogatives and power of the corporations and those who own and manage our society, and who now collect all but a fraction of the wealth.

If you have also been watching the news,  you may also see that we are now living in a Corporate Nation. Every legislation, appointment, government agency is for them.

And who really speaks for the working class? The right? The left?

"I should say," writes Chomsky, "that anti-union sentiment in the United States is so strong that the fundamental core of labor rights – the basic principle in the International Labor Organization, which is the right of free association, hence the right to form unions – has never been ratified by the United States. In 1978, the head of the United Auto Workers said that "business is waging a one-sided class war against the working class." Then, more than 60 per cent of working people belonged to unions, and the middle class thrived.

A generation later, the war is over.

By now, less than 7 per cent of private sector workers have unions.

Today, the working class is suffering epidemic poverty, suicide, drug addiction, shorter life spans, depression and declining wages. No wonder. There is no middle-class left for them to get to.

Like the truck drivers and fast food workers and Amazon warehouse employees, they have become the new "Throwaway People," the people left behind and who cannot get ahead, victims of a culture that celebrates the idea that good business means getting as wealthy as possible and forgetting about everybody else.

The mountains of lobster and wine and the mountains of caviar and prime steak flown in and served with our President's favorite ketchup in the desert last night turned my stomach a bit. The corporate journalists could hardly contain themselves, this was, they gushed, so presidential.

What, I wondered was the message for me? Of course, I realized. There is no message for me.

I remember when it was our values that we sold and promoted, not just our money and workers.

Posted in General

Bald Eagle In The Maple: Visitor And Mother. Selflessness.

By: Jon Katz

Eagle And Mother

We started getting calls and e-mails this morning reporting that a big and beautiful Bald Eagle was nesting at the very top of one of our big old Maple trees. We went out to look and we saw him (or her) sitting proudly up there. We also saw a wren or swallow mom trying to protect her nest.

She kept coming closer to the eagle, dive-bombing him and trying to lure him away from her nest. Her mate kept cropping up on the other side harassing him and trying to distract him. It was nice to see the eagle, even more inspiring to see the dedication of these two small birds, the eagle could have killed either one of them in a flash.

We also noticed that the chickens were hiding  under the roost, they didn't come out until he left. Nature is the greatest show, it offers up endless lessons and stories and parables. I thought this wren the bravest creature, she went right over the eagle's head five or six times, happy, even eager to sacrifice herself for her young.

The mothers in nature are among the most selfless creatures on the earth.

Posted in General

All Clear: Red’s Fine.

By: Jon Katz

Red Gets The All Clear

Red got the all clear from Dr. Suzanne Fariello this morning at the Cambridge Veterinary Service this morning, she said he looked great, had a great pulse and heartbeat and was doing beautifully. He has no fever, and is eating heartily. He remains on antibiotics for the next tree weeks and she recommended rest and light work for awhile.

We've dropped all of the other meds.

"He's good to go," she said, sweet words, given that I thought we were losing him just about a week ago.

Dr. Fariello said his energy was still a bit low. We thanked her and I agreed to begin a series of preventative and maintenance treatments – acupuncture,  massage. Dr. Fariello has become more and more interested in Chinese veterinary medicine, including acupuncture. I am becoming an admirer of this occasional approach as well.

I thought she did a wonderful job treating Red, the severity of his four tick-borne infections was surprising and unnerving, but she quickly and systematically ruled out things like cancer, kidney and liver disease and focused on the tick-borne infections. He started eating again, his fever broke, and he looks great.

I'm keeping him on light work for another week or so, but will resume our visits to the Mansion two or three times a week, starting today.  It's important to the residents, it's important to him. There are lots of ways to heal.

I am grateful to all of the love and support Red and Maria and I received last week, for all of my grumbling about social media, it made a difference. It was comforting and grounding.

I'm sorry to be putting off the amateur veterinarians, I know they were trying to be helpful, but the way my mind works is that I need to focus on one true vet and trust him or her, and not fill my head with other people's ideas and experiences. Boundaries, boundaries.

I think that worked for Red. Maria was wonderfully wise and supportive, Dr. Farliello was steady and thoughtful and strong. It all worked as it was supposed to work, and Red is bouncing  back wonderfully. I am lucky and grateful and glad that I shared the experience.


Posted in General

The Joy Of Discovery: The Little Free Library. The Rebirth Of Democracy.

By: Jon Katz

The Little Free Library: Maria finding her book.

One of the great pleasures in my life is discovering wonderful things, and then realizing that so many people were ahead of me. Maria and I were driving through Arlington, Vt., yesterday after stopping for breakfast and we came across a beautiful and somewhat mystical box on the side of the road which said it was part of the Little Free Library.Org movement.

You take a book and return a book, and it's free.

Maria took a book called "Goddesses In Older Women," an idea that has often been a part of her art. She will bring another book back.

I went on the non-profit group's website and learned that more than 50,000 people all over the country have set up their free library boxes and stocked them with books that people can read for free, and then replace.

There are a lot of ugly things about social media, but there are a lot of beautiful things about it as well, the trick is to pick and choose, I think.

I wrote about this encounter Sunday on the blog.

Here, the idea of sharing good books with people one-on-one, person-to-person,  is an intimate, community driven and even revolutionary idea. You can buy a library box and ground pole or build one or hire an artist or carpenter to help. You are asked to register ($43) so that people know where you are.

I was further surprised by the more than 70 posts on my blog's Facebook Page that appeared immediately, many sharing photos of the free library boxes in their communities. I noticed that many of these posts came from rural areas, but they also came from almost every part of the country.

Many were from the Pacific Northwest, or the deep South.

Even though I had not heard of it, it seems to be spreading like wildfire, and it is a great example of how grass-roots organizing, fueled by social media, can spread powerful new ideas below the radar of what we call mass media and politics. Journalism and government have absolutely nothing to do with the Little Free Library movement and don't even seem to be aware of it. Yet it is everywhere and growing rapidly.

The story of the little free libraries are a story of America at its best and worst. The first little free library was created in Wisconsin in 2009 by a man who wished to honor his mother.

They grew rapidly, but like everything in America, became controversial. Some people thought they were ugly and sought zoning ordinances to limit or remove them, others complained they were "unattached" structures and should be taxed or outlawed. Some people complained that they were unsightly, not fit for upscale neighborhoods.

Despite those occasional conflicts, the movement has grown rapidly and steadily.

It was especially interesting that Maria found this goddess, subtitled "becoming a juicy crone."

The idea of the "crone" is important in the history of women and feminism. Once it meant a wise goddess, when the major religions – Judaism, Christianity, and the Muslim faith emerged – men dominated conventional religion, and the term evolved into something derogatory. The crone became an evil, old, shriveled up witch.

Many of Maria's works and images have focused on the emergence of Goddesses and their importance in women finding their voices. Maria says she is a juicy old crone, by which she means anything but shriveled up or  barren of spirit and life. Crones are not witches, they are empowered women.

How fitting it seemed to both of us that this was the book she spotted in the free library box on a roadside, the book that reflects so much of her work, the book she took home.

We agreed that we will join this group, we'll look around for an appropriate cabinet, if we don't find one, we'll buy one on the littlefreelibrary.org site. We'll probably buy a pole to stick it in the ground. We would love to have one out by the road in front of Bedlam Farm. From all of the posts, I gather that it takes awhile for people to get used to the idea, especially in areas where the idea is new.

It fits us perfectly.  It would be great to have people pull over and take a book, and then come back and leave one. We have plenty to offer ourselves. I'll be happy to share the experience, I love the grass roots movements springing up all over America, from politics to books. To me, it speaks to a rebirth and re-invention of our democracy. Many of us are committing to it all over again, sometimes, we forget just what it means.

I would be greatly pleased if the people reading this who have these boxes would put up photographs of them on my Facebook Page today.

The piece yesterday clearly struck a deep nerve, and I am pleased to learn about this idea, it is good for us. This is about books, but also something more than that. Something even deeper.

Thanks for reading and sharing.

Posted in General
21 May 2017

Bringing Home The Bacon (Er…Bread)

By: Jon Katz

(Er, The Bread)

If you live with Maria for any length of time, or go out to dinner with her, you will notice right away that she always orders bread, but rarely, if ever, eats any. I understand this odd habit now, I see her collect the bread carefully at the end of the meal, wrap it in a paper napkin, but put it in one of her coat or jacket pockets, or sometimes, the purse she carries.

The bread, I now know, is for the animals. When she gets back to the farm, she goes outside and unwraps the bread and gives it out in little pieces to the sheep and the donkeys, who gather around her and wait – usually patiently – for their turn. If they get too boisterous, Red will move in and organize things.

He does not permit sheep to crowd me or Maria, ever.

Sometimes – often actually – Maria, whose mind is always sparkling with her art, will forget the bread, and it is a rare week she doesn't pull some rock hard old and very stale bread out of her pocket, usually adding, "oh, this is the bread from the Round House, I got it in December."

This is no longer and unusual or surprising event in our loves. Maria has a great huge heart, and she is always thinking of the animals. Even if the bread is stale or months old – the record is about two years, fossilized wheat bread in a winter jacket – she will not throw it out, but break it up and find a way to give it to the chickens. No food is wasted or tossed out in our home.

I came across a bread gathering yesterday and I was almost overcome with love for this person, whose generosity and empathy are truly boundless, for all of the living things on the earth, including me.

Posted in General