Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Déjà Vu, again and again

As an unrecovering, unreconstructed, not yet former red-neck hippie, I'm a long-time Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young fan. The lyrics to one of their hits have been haunting me recently. Do you remember the song (and the album) Déjà Vu, and the repeated line "We have all been here before?"

a path is made by walking
a path is made by walking
Photo by J. Harrington

I keep hearing that refrain when, all too often these days, our mishandled attempts to govern ourselves leave me depressed. For solace, and for a change, I turned not to thoughts of Ed Abbey's Monkey Wrench Gang, but to Donella Meadows observations about politics. See if you find any of these thoughts of hers helpful and encouraging.


Environment: enviros fear a desertification of the earth, anti-enviros fear that valuable natural assets will be taken out of their hands.  All sides could work assiduously to take the stupidities out of the environmental laws.  Those laws, written only 20-30 years ago, were experiments.  They need to be evaluated and refined — but not weakened.  Some of us need absolute assurance that we won’t destroy every wilderness for oil and every species for condominiums.

The necessary debate here is about how much nature to leave alone.  Ten percent?  (In many of our ecosystems, from tall-grass prairie to old-growth forest, it’s too late for that.)  Five percent?  Two percent?  We will have to stop eating into nature when we come to zero; there are moral, practical, and esthetic reasons to stop long before that.

Compelling feedback. Suppose taxpayers got to specify on their return forms what government services their tax payments must be spent on. (Radical democracy!) Suppose any town or company that puts a water intake pipe in a river had to put it immediately DOWNSTREAM from its own outflow pipe. Suppose any public or private official who made the decision to invest in a nuclear power plant got the waste from that plant stored on his/her lawn. Suppose (this is an old one) the politicians who declare war were required to spend that war in the front lines.

I will never believe he won. I’ll always think he got a minority of both the popular and the electoral vote. To me he’ll always be President-Under-False-Pretense.

Well, but you know, the Rs would feel the same way if a few hundred Florida votes had tipped the other way. Only worse. If the tables were turned, the Rs would be whipping up their talk radio attack dogs, organizing more threatening mobs, turning over rocks looking for grounds for the next impeachment. At least for the next four years we will be relieved of that kind of bitterness. Whatever their faults, the Ds lose more politely than the Rs do....

But the point of it — OK here’s the point — the point is, this political system sucks. The issues and concerns of the people are squeezed out by the issues and concerns of the centralized money-makers. The country runs on money-making at the expense of all other purposes and values.

lenten rose, new growth
lenten rose, new growth
Photo by J. Harrington

If you have the sense that our elected politicians keep fighting the same battles, back and forth, time and again, while things in general keep getting worse, and you're as tired of it as I am, follow the links above, read Meadows' complete pieces, and realize that insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. We need to change not just the players, but the game that's being played. As Meadows concludes:
For the life of me, I can’t see why it wouldn’t be more interesting and pleasant and intelligent and effective to go at our national problems from a foundation of honesty and respect than to keep up the knee-jerk polarities that poison our political discourse.  Doing so would ruin the raps of politicians and talk-show hosts, but that would be a small sacrifice to get back some hope for our nation.
Remember, as John F. Kennedy, one of the few presidents in my life that I've really admired, famously said in 1962, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."

Self-portrait



I lived between my heart and my head,
like a married couple who can't get along.

I lived between my left arm, which is swift
and sinister, and my right, which is righteous.

I lived between a laugh and a scowl,
and voted against myself, a two-party system.

My left leg dawdled or danced along,
my right cleaved to the straight and narrow.

My left shoulder was like a stripper on vacation,
my right stood upright as a Roman soldier.

Let's just say that my left side was the organ
donor and leave my private parts alone,

but as for my eyes, which are two shades
of brown, well, Dionysus, meet Apollo.

Look at Eve raising her left eyebrow
while Adam puts his right foot down.

No one expected it to survive,
but divorce seemed out of the question.

I suppose my left hand and my right hand
will be clasped over my chest in the coffin 

and I'll be reconciled at last,
I'll be whole again.


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