June 30, 2011

There's Nothing Left To Lose

Graffiti seen on doorway 
near Gramercy Park in NYC
Photograph courtesy Pak So 

... and The People have spoken. 

On June 27, 2011, Roger Cohen wrote an Op-Ed article titled America, Awaken  for The New York Times. From the Readers' Recommendations of comments and responses to the article, Winning Progressive of Chicago, IL writes the following:

"I agree that it is ridiculous that our country has neither a comprehensive energy policy nor an industrial policy. But to lay these failures at the feet of President Obama while ignoring the real culprits - the Republicans - is inaccurate and unfair.

In the closing months of the Bush Administration, our nation lost nearly 3.6 million jobs. And from the day that President Obama took office, the GOP has launched a war on jobs designed to ensure that the economy did not recover. This war included watering down the stimulus bill and removing aid to state and local governments, filibustering small business lending fund and tax cuts for more than nine months, eliminating 250,000 jobs by filibustering renewal of the TANF Emergency Fund that the GOP had previously supported, filibustering 20 nominees to the Treasury Department and three to the Federal Reserve (including a winner of the Nobel Prize in economics), holding unemployment benefits hostage to further tax cuts for the wealthy, and opposing a recent proposal to provide a payroll tax cut that the GOP had previously supported. These actions were motivated by a desire to ensure that President Obama is not re-elected in 2012, which Mitch McConnell has noted is the GOP's number one priority.

So, yes, let's bemoan the economic problems facing our nation, but in doing so let's focus our anger on the Republicans who are responsible for causing and continuing those problems, not on the Democrats who are trying to fix them."

. . . . . . 

On June 30, 2011, Sarah Lyall wrote an article titled Public Workers Strike in Britain Over Pensions  for The New York Times. From the Readers' Recommendations of comments and responses to the article, KT of NYC writes the following:

"My family has belonged to unions, including public service unions, for fifty years. That is why, although many earned only average salaries, all the seniors in our family lived safe, healthy retirements. My uncle, a member of the longshoreman's union - he was an office worker - is now 92 years old and still lives independently. His union pension and veterans' benefits (he is a member of "the greatest generation"), along with Medicare, have enabled him to stay healthy. No way that he could have supported and educated a family -- three kids, now employed, good citizens -- on his longshoreman's salary.

The Republicans want to destroy all of this. The British unions have the right idea: fight now, and fight until the other side agrees to be fair and reasonable. I'd bet that the real issue is not raising the retirement age, since we all agree that people are now living longer that they did 50 years ago (in part, I believe, because of adequate pensions and medical care); or even small, reasonable increases in worker pension contributions. The issues are exactly the same as in the United States: fewer benefits for fewer people. Paying more for less is what the corporations and governments are offering. Sharing the burden of keeping us all healthy and safe is not part of their credo.

Unless American workers start to fight back, and American voters realize that, regardless of all the "Christian", "family values" and "individual rights" spiels, the Republicans are not friends of the middle class, we will wake up one day, as did the public service workers in Wisconsin, and find out that the financial rug has been pulled out from under us. The British workers have figured out that "united we stand, divided we fall". Will we learn the same lesson, or find out, too late, that our fates will be far worse than that of our parents' generation; and that the fault for that outcome lies, not in the stars or machinations of a few Wall Street moguls, but in ourselves."

You Can Only Breed Mediocrity

Wake Up America!, 1917
by James Montgomery Flagg
Propaganda poster from the collection 

From a 1938 letter written to the New York Herald Tribune by James Montgomery Flagg:

"There are no art teachers. Art cannot be taught. Artists are born that way. They educate themselves, or else they do not become educated .... I happen to have been born an artist. Ask anyone who doesn't know. I wasted six years of my young life in art schools. As far as any benefit accruing to me from them - I was working on the outside all the time, anyway. Nothing but total disability or death could have stopped me. I had to be an artist - I was born that way .... You can't breed an artist. You can only breed mediocrity."

June 14, 2011

Cause life is sweet ... and life is also very short

Life Is Sweet as performed by 
Natalie Merchant on VH1 Storytellers
YouTube video posted by NatalieMerchantVideo

Excerpt from the lyrics for Life Is Sweet by Natalie Merchant (from the album Ophelia released by Elektra Records, 1998):

But don't cry
know the tears'll do no good
so dry your eyes

They told you life is hard
it's misery from the start
it's dull and slow and painful

I tell you life is sweet
in spite of the misery
there's so much more 
be grateful

> Follow this link to the musician's website to stay in touch about her latest news and upcoming shows.

June 12, 2011

Happiness Is Never Grand

Seen at the Happiness Deli & Grocery 
on Delancey Street in New York City
Photograph courtesy Pak So and Anna Tan 

Following is an excerpt from Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, first published in 1932 by Chatto & Windus, London:

"Because our world is not the same as Othello's world. You can't make flivvers without steel - and you can't make tragedies without social instability. The world's stable now. People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can't get. They're well off; they're safe; they're never ill; they're not afraid of death; they're blissfully ignorant of passion and old age; they're plagued with no mothers or fathers; they've got no wives, or children, or lovers to feel strongly about; they're so conditioned that they practically can't help behaving as they ought to behave. And if anything should go wrong, there's soma. Which you go and chuck out of the window in the name of liberty, Mr. Savage. Liberty!" He laughed. "Expecting Deltas to know what liberty is! And now expecting them to understand Othello! My good boy!"

The Savage was silent for a little. "All the same," he insisted obstinately, "Othello's good, Othello's better than those feelies."

"Of course it is," the Controller agreed. "But that's the price we have to pay for stability. You've got to choose between happiness and what people used to call high art. We've sacrificed the high art. We have the feelies and the scent organ instead."

"But they don't mean anything."

"They mean themselves; they mean a lot of agreeable sensations to the audience."

"But they're ... they're told by an idiot."

The Controller laughed. "You're not being very polite to your friend, Mr. Watson. One of our most distinguished Emotional Engineers ..."

"But he's right," said Helmholtz gloomily. "Because it is idiotic. Writing when there's nothing to say ..."

"Precisely. But that required the most enormous ingenuity. You're making flivvers out of the absolute minimum of steel - works of art out of practically nothing but pure sensation."

The Savage shook his head. "It all seems to me quite horrible."

"Of course it does. Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the overcompensations for misery. And, of course, stability isn't nearly so spectacular as instability. And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand."