Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Walking Dread


A Funny Parody, When You're 9,000 Miles Away.  In West Africa? Not So Much.

Where you and I are standing / At the end of the century /
Europes have sprung up everywhere / as even I can see /
There on the horizon / There's a possibility /
Some bug from out of Africa / will come for you and me/
Destroying everything in its path / from sea to shining sea /
Like the Great nations of Europe / In the 16th century
-- Randy Newman, "The Great Nations Of Europe"

El Rog The Magnificent, trapped in his own veal pen at work, as I am, made another as-usual-trenchant observation about the current health crisis in America earlier this week after the announcement that the first nurse from Dallas Presbyterian had been hospitalized.

"The government says, 'We have the finest healthcare system in the world', and, 'We're not like Africa -- it can't happen here'," El Rog says.  "Everyone goes to sleep. You want the government and people in this country to wake up and pay attention? Then you don't say 'Ebola' -- you say, 'Zombie Apocalypse'.  Then they'll pay attention."

The Ebola epidemic is horrifying. Not because its further spread will have an unknown effect on the politics of fragile 'African Domino' states. Not because of an effect to world financial markets; and not because of the possibility that its exponential progression will almost guarantee a wider spread into Europe, America, or Asia. It's horrifying, because human beings living in scrabbling poverty with little hope are dying, faster and faster. 

Someone Else's Problem 

On Tuesday, the World Health Organization announced that  in west Africa, Ebola has claimed more lives. They estimate that if the disease continues to infect humans at the same exponential rate, this outbreak will produce a minimum of 5,000 new cases per week by the first of December, and (worst-case) as many as 10,000.

Before September 28, when symptoms of the first patient in the U.S. were finally recognized and he was admitted to a hospital, spokespersons for the World Health Organization and Doctors Without Borders had gone in front of the media and done everything but scream at the UN, EU and American governments for not organizing resources and money to contain and reverse what was happening in Africa. They warned that the epidemic was "spiraling out of control", that the window of opportunity to deal with a massive health crisis was closing.

Ebola In West Africa By The Numbers (Virology Down Under Blog)

For months, caregivers in the field and the epidemiologists in their labs were struggling against the perception in western Europe and America that yes, Ebola was a terrible hemorrhagic viral disease -- but a remote African disease, an African problem. Similar illnesses had popped up in single, isolated cases in the west, the media reminded us, and all were quickly contained because of a superior healthcare infrastructure.

We were also reminded that it was harder to contract the disease than flu, malaria, or half a dozen other illnesses endemic in west Africa. But through the spring and into the summer, the outbreak spread and epidemiologists knew it was different than any sporadic, rural brushfire outbreak in the past: for the first time, Ebola had found its way into urban areas.

Woman Walks Past Ebola Victim In Monrovia (Abbas Dulleh / AP / NYT)

But, the EU and United States governments were too preoccupied with their own internal politics and economic situations to listen very closely to the alarms being sounded by international public health agencies and NGO's. Not doing more to help reverse the progression of the disease almost guaranteed that, sooner or later, the danger which had come out of the forest would begin spreading beyond Africa.

It's Money That Matters 

America has emerged, superficially, from the worst effects of The 2008 Crash. Our economy is still wounded from the excesses of the Bush years: America spent a trillion dollars violently projecting itself into the world during a decade marked by a War On Terra, and the excesses of an unregulated shadow banking system.

The past five years have been hard (but not for our famed One Percent, who received 93% per cent of all income generated in that time). Effectively, we've walked into our collective McMansions, closed the door and turned on our giant televisions. The world can take care of itself.

For its part, the European Union after the 2008 Crash has spent years teetering on the brink of dissolution. The fragile economies of Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain were kicked to the curb by the failures and excess of  the financial crisis. There was public talk in member states of abandoning the Euro, which would effectively mean the end of the Union

The EU is a hard-won culmination of an old idea, to prevent future European wars (nearly all of which grew out of trade disputes) and to develop economic power to compete with the West or East. To those who believe in a united continent, returning to a splintered, every-country-for-themselves Europe is unthinkable. To shore up the Union, its leaders preached a combination of forced austerity programs, and loans for EU states like Greece, principally underwritten by Germany.

It's worked so far -- but the veneer of recovery in the EU is even thinner than in America. The German economy now appears to be losing power, and sudden expenditures to deal with a military or health crisis could break the delicate balance of shoring up the EU's weak economies.

As the United States retreated from Empire, a civil war broke out in Syria and has ground on for two years; America dithered for a year and a half over providing support for moderate Syrian rebels. The Arab Spring erupted; Libya destabilized, and Egypt went through two revolutions; the Israeli - Palestinian conflict exploded.

And this spring, a real wolf appeared at the door: ISIS -- violent, murderous, oppressive. America and Europe hesitated in dealing with it, and even when the Islamic fascists began seizing more territory in Syria, northern Iraq and Kurdistan, the U.S. continued to waver. Now, ISIS' gains have brought it to the doorstep of Baghdad. It's clear that bombing alone may degrade ISIS but not stop it -- however, America is not about to re-introduce troops into Iraq, or anywhere. 

Making it even more complex is the split between the Shiite and Sunni branches of Islam. For generations, the west (America in particular) has supported the Sunni House Of Saud -- but since 1979 Iran has risen to dominate the Shiite world, and their intent is to eventually dominate the Islamic world -- possibly with the threat of developing nuclear weapons.

Against the background of all this Sturm und Drang, Ebola began appearing on the radar of western governments as more than just something happening, you know -- over there.

America's Ebola Outbreak Will Be Televised

 Na Gahana Happn: AMC's The Walking Dead

In the first week of September, the WHO and Doctors Without Borders described the Ebola outbreak in West Africa as spiraling out of control . What prompted their near-panic wasn't only what was being seen on the ground, but statistical models of the outbreak's progression created in the United States and Europe showing a steep rise in the number of total cases.

It's only a guess, but when the models were presented to the National Institutes of Health and the Centers For Disease Control, it got people's attention. Worst-case scenarios predicted total case numbers in the hundreds of thousands by January of 2015, with (so far) a 50% case fatality rate. At which point the chances that Ebola would spread elsewhere (to Europe and the United States) became a near-certainty.  

The further it spread, the harder each outbreak would become to control. There would be a strain on the healthcare system of any country where it appeared, possible disruption of transportation and supply networks, and a rising sense of panic -- difficult to control if there was a lack of public confidence in any government's ability to deal with the disease -- political instability, civil disorder. It wasn't the Zombie Apocalypse, but close enough.

Some probably argued that if Ebola were to appear in America, containing the disease would be difficult -- but they were overruled by those who believed that kind of talk was alarmist. We need to prevent panic! Protocols to deal with infectious disease were in place, and we have the best healthcare system in the world! 

Still, the only way to reduce risk to America and Europe was to stop the disease where it was developing, in Africa, as the WHO had been pleading for. The U.S. government was reluctant -- taking the lead to lend assistance could mean paying most of the costs, involve us in the internal politics of African states, and many other governments were tired of the U.S. leading anything larger than a lawn sale. The EU, with fewer logistical, technical or medical resources than the U.S., and no desire to spend money, also hesitated

Then, on September 28, a man returned to the emergency room at Dallas Presbyterian Hospital. He had been seen there days before, and despite telling the ER nurse at that time he had just returned from west Africa, he had been sent home. Now he was even more ill; this time someone finally connected the dots, and everything changed. Ebola had made its appearance in America.

It shouldn't surprise anyone that a man who had contact with a person infected with Ebola lied about it on a questionnaire while traveling to Dallas from Liberia. It also shouldn't be a surprise that protocols developed for use with an infectious disease have never been used, for real. We've never had to before

As it turns out, caregivers apparently cannot have any skin exposed when working with a person seriously ill with Ebola. It may not be a good idea to allow a nurse who helped treat such a patient and then develops a low-grade fever to use public transportation (say, a jet).  And, we may have a model healthcare system, but the majority of hospitals are not equipped to deal with this disease -- isolation in negative-pressure environments; treatment; waste disposal, or security.

Now, as the 21-day window for the appearance of Ebola passes for each group of persons who may have been exposed, everyone breathes a bit more easilyUntil the next time -- and that continues to be possible until numbers of new cases in Africa begin to decline and the outbreak burns out. No one knows how long that will take. The U.S. and Europe have finally put resources into west Africa, but the effort has started off slow and uncoordinated -- as with our reaction to the Ebola cases in America, everyone seems to be learning as they go.

Ebola's coming to Europe or America from an out-of-control epidemic in third-world countries which other governments paid little attention to until it threatened their security shouldn't really be a surprise, either -- but it does seem to have surprised a good number of people. Meanwhile, the outbreak in west Africa continues, where it is not a parody, or a joke, but a tragedy.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Fleet Week

Kiddietown welcomes the Big Boats. Time to fire up the VCR and perform the annual viewing of Der Blaue Engel mit Marlene Dietrich und Emil Jannings.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Patrick Modiano, 2014 Nobel Laureate In Literature

 La persistance de ce qui reste dans nos âmes

Patrick Modiano, a publicity-shy French author whose roughly thirty novels (per Reuters)  explore "memory, oblivion, identity and guilt that often take place during the German occupation of World War Two" has been awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize for Literature.

Sweden's Academy declared Modiano "a Marcel Proust of our time... for the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation. ... he returns to generally the same topics again and again, simply because these topics cannot be exhausted".

Again per Reuters, Modiano said in a 2011 interview in France Today, "After each novel, I have the impression that I have cleared it all away. But I know I'll come back over and over again to tiny details, little things that are part of what I am.... In the end, we are all determined by the place and the time in which we were born."

It's difficult to experience the full impact of an author without reading them in their own language; if you think about it outside the context of "preparing a property (as publishers refer to literature) for sale", who is doing the translation and how well they understand in their bones both languages and both cultures becomes incredibly important.

As a Dog who reads, and does read Another Language (not French), I always wonder how many works of incredible ingenuity and imagination are out in the world -- and which I don't know about, because I don't read Urdu, or Turkish, or Japanese.

Fortunately for me, some of Modiano's works have been translated into English.  I can recommend Honeymoon; 'Suspended Sentences'; or Out Of The Dark, which not only involve questions of memory and human connections set in occupied France, but also use the Detective novel as a method of exploring them -- a bit like Marcel Proust and Graham Greene getting together for a drink and a chat.

Another author's works -- American, and a Francophile -- remind me a bit of Modiano because they deal with similar questions, and the Europe they're set in is close to war and occupation or already sliding into it. Given that, I've wondered occasionally whether he had read Modiano and if it influenced his work in any way.

You can find them through The Behemoth The Selling Pit The Soul Destroying Home Of The Demon that very big website where you can buy things, or -- my preference -- go to that very nice independent bookstore in your area and (if you can't find it on the shelf) order them.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Your Modern World

Garden Of Earthly Delights

(Original Photo: Reuters / Y.T. Haryono)

Saturday, October 4, 2014

I'm Sorry

Little late, but go atone for something.

Yeah, you; that's right. You know who you are.


We Are Saved

Everything's Gonna Be All Right. More Or Less.

Frequently, I'm accused by the three people who read this blog of cynical, abiding and excessive negativity (The Superintelligent Parakeet won't comment; he just blinks, very slowly; and Mista Charlie, Phd., hasn't yet weighed in). But, hey -- there's a good bit of "Looks like it's all gone to hell in a plastic shrinkwrap" out there just now.

Then comes news of a New Paradigim event which changes everything we know. A new day dawns. Perspectives shift; hope returns, and we believe all will be well because of it. At least, if you're an exceptionally wealthy, pudgy white male.

The Guardian UK tells us all about it: And it's Made In USA, home of Viagra, "Lil' Boots" Bush, Gouvenour Le Placard Perry from the Nation state of Texas ("Our healthcare system is takin' care of it,") and the BSD's of Wall Street.

To paraphrase Mary Ellen Mastrantonio's character in James Cameron's The Abyss: "With everything that's going on in the world -- you people focus on a penis transplant???"


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

#Occupy Central

This is Occupy Hong Kong

 A Sea Of Umbrellas: The Police Claim 'Only A Hundred Thousand'

There is something happening on our planet.

The World Wildlife Federation released a report which stated that, since 1970, the numbers of all animal species on Earth have declined by over forty per cent. The numbers of Mountain Gorillas, Snow Leopards and Bengal Tigers, and African Elephants and Rhinos have been reduced by encroachment, climate change, and poaching. Today's children may grow up to see them all vanish.

The world is suffering through two major military conflicts (Syria / Iraq; Ukraine) which affect millions -- as refugees, and brutalized, subjected populations -- and a half-dozen smaller wars, all the result of religious intolerance, generations of hate, greed, and a high-level power game between a very few players.  And short of one side killing the other, there seems no solution.

Kurdish Refugees Escape Into Turkey (Reuters / Murad Sezer)

Across the world, in the name of ... well, somebody's god, anyway; people are subjugating, raping, stealing from, and murdering other human beings -- who, in fact, are dying in extreme pain and fear. No one seems to understand that this is wrong, and that nothing in any world could ever make it right.

Particularly in the United States, the gap between Those Who Rule and The Rest Of Us grows wider, to the point that we can't even see how well off the truly rich are. And they continue to work to create a future of inequality -- a new Gilded Age of unseen Owners, and a sea of Proles -- and to them, this is the natural order of things.

We endure the continuing weight of a rigged international financial structure, of the WTO, of Monsanto's GMO foods; we buy gasoline-powered automobiles that are unsafe, drugs that are too expensive. We take on $300,000 in debt for an education to land the perfect job that will allow us to buy overpriced suburban McTract homes full of formaldehyde fumes. We're told to want sex and power, to win the Lottery and leave the Sea Of Proles behind.

Our communications are monitored. Whichever major political party we choose, every side appears bought with the same coin. Entertainment conglomerates owned by corporations or Oligarchs tell us to sleep, always sleep, and suppress the voices which whisper in the backs of our heads that It isn't supposed to be this way. We are being lied to, and led, for someone else's benefit.

Obligatory Cute Animal Photo In Middle Of Blog Rant

Then something else happens. Something spontaneous.

People stand up -- whether in Tarhir Square, or in spitting distance of Wall Street, or in Hong Kong -- in an understanding that all oppression, lies, and exploitation is the same, no matter where it occurs and whom it effects.

The people stand in opposition. They stand with each other. And in those moments, they are examples of our best selves -- brave where we often retreat, resolute where we falter, and principled where we bend in compromise.

And if we can't physically join them, we can stand in admiration, and remember a lesson that a group of people on this continent understood a long time ago: That ideas have physical substance, weight and meaning -- and that there are ideas worth "our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor".

Monday, September 15, 2014

Mongo Misses Chuck

On Friday, Too, Also

Didn't mean to!

(BTW -- want to pass some time? There's some really interesting stuff out on the Intertubes. Watch a few of the 9/11 conspiracy videos available on U Tub. You'll either find it hard to stop laughing or find it hard to stop taking notes.)


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Annual Reprint: Long, Strange Trip

(Originally posted September 11, 2010)


On November 22, 1963, I was on the playground for 10:00AM recess at my elementary school when teachers called classes back inside prematurely. After a few minutes, the school's public address system was broadcasting the carrier for CBS' radio network, announcing the shooting of JFK in Dallas and, ultimately, the audio portion of Walter Cronkite on CBS television announcing the President's death.

Where were you when John F. Kennedy was shot? was a fixture in the cultural landscape for a large number of people (now referred to by the younger set as 'Bloodsucking Useless Boomers') for a long time, due to the magnitude of the event and because it was shared in real-time by the cutting-edge media of the early 1960's.

So, September 11th, 2001: Where were you on 9-11? I had gotten up to go to work around 5:30AM PDST, and as usual turned on KQED-FM's NPR news. After stepping out of the shower, I heard a report that a plane appeared to have crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers in New York -- I've been in Manhattan and had seen how huge those buildings were. To me, "A plane" meant a Cessna, or similar light aircraft.

I remembered seeing a 1945 film newsreel about a B-25, flying through dense fog, directly into the Empire State Building. A similar incident at the WTC would be tragic, I thought; but it was an accident, for crying out loud, on the other side of the continent, distant. No one in their right mind would deliberately kill themselves, I sighed, and I shaved.

At some point the report was updated; I heard the words "jet airliner", which moved the entire event in my mind from 'Cessna-going-off-course' to the category of Did-You-Call-The-Coast-Guard-About-This?-It-Was-No-Boating-Accident.

Turning on CNN, I sat on the edge of an armchair, watching an image of the WTC towers from CNN's Manhattan headquarters, and other shots from a helicopter hovering over the Hudson. A few minutes after I sat down, I watched as the second airliner slammed into the second WTC tower.

Images Like This, and Worse, Were Broadcast And Published
In Europe, But Not In America (Photo: UK Guardian, 2001)

No joke: Aside from Holy Fuck, the only thing I recall thinking was, This is what standing at the curb in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, watching the Archduke Franz Ferdinand being shot, must have been like. I knew immediately that what I was seeing was another line in the sand being crossed, an event with consequences that would be immense. The dice were in motion in the Crapshoot that is our Universe, and what I was watching was the proof.

It also seemed unreal, a Hollywood special effect -- as if CNN would break for a commercial at any moment;  it would turn out to be this generation's War Of The Worlds broadcast.

I sat watching as the South and North towers collapsed (Wikipedia's timeline of the events puts that at 6:59 and 7:28 AM PDST, respectively), flipping back and forth between networks for coverage of the airliner plowing into a wing of the Pentagon. Finally I left to make my way to work on mass transit.

On a BART train, I was amazed at the languid attitudes of the crowd of commuters -- reading books and newspapers, a few tapping on laptops -- as if it were just another Tuesday morning. No one appeared stunned; there was no conversation about what had just occurred.

Finally, I turned to a woman sitting opposite me, reading a folded copy of the (pre-Little Rupert) Wall Street Journal, and asked if she was aware of what had happened that morning. "Yes," she replied, adding in a please-pass-the-salt voice, "There are supposed to be more of them [i.e., airliners] in the air to hit other targets."

Had anyone estimated how many? "No," the woman shrugged, and went back to her WSJ. I don't know what surprised me more, her matter-of-fact attitude, or her piece of news.

That was September 11th -- a red line on the American calendar in so many ways, the culmination of a large number of threads in our history, and the pacts and choices successive administrations have made since America decided to follow an Imperial course.

The attack on the Trade Center towers could have been another kind of defining moment for America. Our government and institutions could have taken it as an opportunity to press for a solution of the Israeli-Palestinian tragedy; we could have opened a dialog with others, rather than dictate to them.

Lil' Boots, 2004 Republican Convention:
Feared And Bigger Than His Daddy, At Last

I'm not suggesting it coulda been a Kumbyah moment; I am saying that it was a crossroads moment, and that our choices mattered. But, the government was run by men who had no interest in anything except power (personal, partisan, and financial) and policies that meant the use of force in furthering that power. What else could we have expected from the likes of Lil' Boots, President Cheney, Rice, Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld? From the PNAC crowd, Fat Karl Rove, Little Tommy DeLay, and Lard Boy?

(And remember, these geniuses had been discussing how to invade Iraq just days after Lil' Boots first inauguration. September 11th was simply an excuse.

And, they believed it would be simple, 'Roses All The Way', 'Greeted As Liberators' ... so no one planned for occupation, or fighting an insurgency for seven years; or for the effect on the U.S. military of multiple redeployments and 'stop-loss' denials of separation. They never conceived of failure; therefore, it wouldn't happen.)

So what followed from 9/11 shouldn't have been a surprise: An utterly unnecessary, even illegal invasion of Iraq, supported by intelligence about WMD's invented by right-wing operatives to create a causis beli, and pushed in the national media by sociopathic egos 'journalists' like Little Judy Miller, and pundits like David Brooks and William Kristol, and Little Tommy Friedman, to name but a few.

Palettes Of $100 Bills, Baghdad, 2003 (Photo: UK Guardian)

And let's not forget the $12 Billion in cash (at least; no one really knows), piles of U.S. currency shrink-wrapped and paletted and airlifted to Iraq. Some $9 Billion in cash cannot be accounted for. And all the cool new powers used by that dry-drunk, Frat-Boy younger son of an American ruling-class family; or all the power available to President Cheney.

There was plenty of money to put in C530's and airlift it: 363 Tons of it. There was plenty of money being made from the war, and tax breaks to the wealthy, which reduced tax income to the government; but there was no money  and Lil' Boots wanted to cut health care, cut social programs that continue the ideas of the New Deal, and privatize Social Security... because there's just no money to pay for it.

And there's Guantanamo, 'black airlines' flying suspected terrorists to secret CIA prisons, and the extra-legal, secret program of 'renditions'. Let's not forget Abu Ghirab. Let's not forget people like John Woo, whose written suggestions created what he still claims is a "legal" basis for torture as national policy.

Civilian Casualty Of Baghdad Suicide Car Bomb, 2007

And what followed wasn't just prisons and a lack of due process for terrorist suspects, but developing a matrix of information [Note: This was posted before Edward Snowden's revelations about the extent of surveillance performed by America domestic and foreign intelligence agencies] -- based on the unprecedented data-mining of domestic email and cellular and telephone traffic, of banking records and public record databases; the rise of a government/corporate State surveillance and intelligence apparatus that outstrips the wildest dreams of the Gestapo and the KGB.

Obligatory Cute Small Animal Being Interrogated At
Undisclosed Location By CIA In Middle Of Blog Rant

And, very little seemed to be about defeating Al-Qaeda, capturing or killing Bin Laden and Al-Zwahiri -- otherwise, we would have finished the job in the mountains of Tora Bora in October of 2002, and Iraq would never have mattered. We would have kept Lil' Boots' promises to the Afghans about rebuilding their country, instead of ignoring it -- at least half the reason the Afghan Taliban were able to come roaring back, and are now as strong as they were in 2001, if not stronger.

The 'Go-Go', Lil' Boots Bush years were about a larger Rightist agenda; it was about deregulation, defense contractors, and higher profits; and it was about Fat Karl's dream of rigging elections for permanent Republican rule of the United States.

Victory, to these assclowns, had a very different meaning -- and little of it was military.

But let's not forget, too, how dissent or criticism of what would become that unnecessary war; of even more power given to people with poor impulse control, was looked upon in the immediate aftermath of September 11th.
  • Andrew Sullivan (9/16/01) -- The middle part of the country--the great red zone that voted for Bush--is clearly ready for war. The decadent left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead--and may well mount a fifth column.
  • Robert Stacy McCain (9/27/01), columnist for the All Perfect Great Father Moon Washington Times -- Why are we sending aircraft carriers halfway around the world to look for enemies, when our nation's worst enemies--communists proclaiming an anti-American jihad--will be right there in front of the Washington Monument on Saturday?
  • Robert Horowitz (9/28/01), Los Angeles Times -- The blood of hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese and tens of thousands of Americans is on the hands of the antiwar activists who prolonged [the Vietnam War] and gave victory to the communists... this country was too tolerant toward the treason of its enemies within.
Those who dissented, who believed the country was manifestly on a wrong track, were smeared as 'helping the enemy', a 'fifth column' for Islamic fundamentalism. "You are either with us, or with the terraists", as Lil' Boots so bravely told other governments of the world after the World Trade Center attack.

The chittering hatred all sounds like standard Tea Party rhetoric, now. From their point of view, to dissent and criticize is only permissible when you're attacking the Left -- and that socialist, illegitimate ruler in the White House; the dirty hippies; all those "in rebellion against god".

Our economy continues to implode, and it has never been clearer who is benefiting from the policies of the Right; but, then, it's been a long, strange trip from September 11th, 2001. Few things should surprise us any longer.

Another Lil' Boots quote:
We are not deceived by their pretenses to piety. We have seen their kind before. They are the heirs of all the murderous ideologies of the 20th century. By sacrificing human life to serve their radical visions -- by abandoning every value except the will to power -- they follow in the path of fascism, and Nazism, and totalitarianism. And they will follow that path all the way, to where it ends: In history's unmarked grave of discarded lies. (Applause)

-- George W. Bush, Address To Joint Session Of Congress
Is that appropriate as an epitaph for those who wish to do America harm?

Or, does it speak to how we have allowed ourselves to be lied to, and led; will it end up being our epitaph, a closing quote for the United States Of America?
There is no ‘populist’ version of a world where some few are born booted and spurred, and the many are born saddled, and ready to ride, and that's precisely the world which conservatism is trying to preserve.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Kim's Small Request Of All Humanity

Why Not?

Seems Reasonable. And, It's Not As If Anything Else Has Worked.
Over the recent holiday, a friend and I were talking about Life In Our City. We spoke ruefully about the number of humans -- resident, transient and tourist -- who seemed packed into the few square miles of this peninsula, and how generally aggressive (particularly in traffic), how quick to take offense, how eager people seemed to go on the offensive over the most trivial issues.  They fought so fiercely, the old homily goes, because the stakes were so small.

"It's general incivility," my friend said, and shook her head. "Some people just don't want to put out the effort to be polite -- and it does take some effort."

We agreed there were events still playing out in the world, a sense we had held since childhood about the perceived stability of things that we could feel, shifting now, right under our feet; my friend sighed and (as I've heard a number of mothers do) wondered about the future world her children would live in.

Then she described a recent altercation while driving, with her pre-teen daughter in the back seat, and having to suffer the antics of a classic Piltdown Man in traffic.

"Eventually, I was able to pull up beside him," she related, "and I maintained myself -- didn't call him a witless motherfucker. Didn't rant and rave. I just looked at him and said, 'Come on; could you just try not to be a Dick? D'you think?'  That was right from the heart. And naturally, he wouldn't look at me."

As I'm fond of saying, about three people (four, if you count Mistah Charlie, Phd.) and a Superintelligent Parakeet read this blog. It informs no one, influences no one. It is not about to become the spark from which the global equivalent of the Slow Food Movement in politeness begins.

But my friend has a point. And yes, it looks very simple.  I'm only a Dog -- but I actually think she's on to something, because how one changes behavior, at times,  seem that simple to me. It's the Yoda theorem:  Be A Dick You Must Not.

So, for all of us -- from the Pope and the Dali Lama, all the way down to you and me; all of us -- Just Try Not To Be A Dick.

And -- pass it on. Perhaps we can get something started here.