The USA needs heroes…

October 26, 2007

There is one guy running for President in the USA worth anything. He is a whistle blower, releasing the “Pentagon Papers” (information on the Vietnam war being kept secret by Nixon) and the man who effectively ended the draft in the USA during the Vietnam war. The Senator for Alaska is in no-one’s pocket and was just dropped from the Democratic Nomination debates on NBC for not doing things he did and not being rich enough. This would be the second televised debate that he will be excluded from. Gravel is against the war and vocally for substantial cutting the USA military. NBC is owned by General Electric*, the USA’s biggest arms contractor and the second biggest company in the world. The USA spends more on military than the rest of the world combined (even excluding the cost of the Iraq war).

Mike Gravel asks inconvenient questions like “are you genuinely talking about dropping a nuclear weapon on Iran?” Particularly important for Americans since Putin, yesterday, assured Iran that any attack on its sovereignty will be seen as an attack on Russia.

Come a hero: a young multimillionaire, Gregory Chase, who agreed, if necessary, to simply hand NBC the $1million they say Gravel needs to be taken seriously as a candidate and allowed to debate. He says he is happy to buy advertising on their network for Gravel to that amount if but will hand over the money gratis if required. Chase, a man who seems to understand “sound-bite” culture, said: “We could put it (the &1mil) in a fireplace and burn it for all I care, as long as he gets in the debate.”

Chase has also put up $25,000 for the person posting the Mike Gravel YouTube Video that gets the most hits before January 1st 2008.

Oddly enough this story has been missed by The BBC, Sky and CNN.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bryan-bissell/gravel-supporter-puts-his_b_69789.html

 

*- GE was convicted in 1990 of defrauding the U.S. Department of Defence, and again in 1992 on charges of corrupt practices in the sale of jet engines to Israel.- wikipedia

Advertisements

Dave, 33

April 20, 2007

It had been a strange year. 33 years of skating over a frozen pond, skimming over the world, unaffected and always in command and then, in the 34th year two cracks formed. Two pieces gave way and twice I was plunged into cold, unforgiving waters.

The second was depression, the war of my life. Prone to madness, my family, and I got off lightly I suppose. One schizophrenic uncle, a gaggle of suicidal aunts and grandmothers, nutters perched on every branch of the tree. It was a fight I had always won. Sometimes a little too easily, perhaps. It is when you lose your fear, in my case my only remaining fear, that you might succumb. Fear is healthy, it exists for a reason.

I was never scared of dying. Never of pain. Never fazed by dislike or revulsion. Always happy to make the tough decision. Never afraid of never being loved by anything but a pet. Not scared of poverty. Never titllated by speed, wrenched by heights, nor threatened by the malicious and vicious. Afraid of only one thing and that was losing sanctuary. Everyone needs a place of sanctuary. A place of calm. Of control. Stability. Home.

I lost my mind.

The second crack. The ice gives way and down you go. It’s an odd thing, losing your mind. In my case, losing it to depression. When people talk about unhappiness, about grief, about that wailing, crying, sobbing, drizzy mess that comes with loss few realise that they are, at that point, nowhere near true depression. Crying is cathartic. Grieving is love.

Depression is empty.

That was the surprise as I dropped through the ice and sped down to the bottom of that world. How numb it all feels. How coldly logical everything seems. How detached you are from everything tactile. It is not like sorrow, don’t confuse it with sorrow because sorrow comes from yearning, as does melancholy. The smart, smarter than I, know to cherish those emotions. The depressed yearn for nothing. Cherish nothing. Air. Water. Fire. Tea. Sunshine. Friend. Oblivion. All are the same to the depressed.

With sorrow and grief and pain there is still you. There is still some driving force that can think of a better life. That can remember having one in the past and is desperate to have one in the future. To the depressed there is no sch thing, no reason to get out of bed, no reason to change the channel. There is no reason to turn on the television. You can’t anyway, there was no reason to pay the electricity bill…

The second crack. The second time drowning. Just enough of me left somewhere. Just a voice in the background not content to slip into oblivion without just one more final try. one more push. One more chance. A tiny voice had the sense to take control of the voice chords and scream “help”.

That was yesterday.

Monica

February 13, 2007

barbie1.jpgMonica Sells is an anchorwoman for a plastic-and-neon television news show in an anonymous network of glossy lips and Formica smiles. She reads her lines with a pretty face and immaculate cheekbones laughing gaily when appropriate and showing deep, passionate concern where required. Often within the same 3 seconds.

Miss Sells hadn’t always been like this. Monica had started out thinking of the news as something that mattered. Miss Sells saw it as an important part of a stable democracy. Miss Sells had wanted to do real investigative journalism. Uncover evils and wrongs and help protect the world from the crimes never reported, never uncovered by any normal system of justice.

Two years, just two, working for a newspaper had taught her different. She had been born in the wrong country, the wrong city or, as she had increasingly come to suspect, in the wrong decade. Journalistic ethics were gone, if they had ever existed, and a journo’s job had been reduced to ‘advanced copywriter’. You were owned by corporate and had to drag the line of whatever political stance was thought, this week, would increase either sales, boost advertising revenue or help the chairman of the board acquire yet another country club membership. Stories were buried because advertising would be pulled. Or because they would offend religious readers. Or because corporate had just bought shares in the company being reported on and didn’t what them to tank. Or because they got a lawyer’s letter and suddenly dicks had shriveled at the thought of lower bonuses for letting revenue be soaked up in a lengthy court-case. Or because you had laughed at your editor’s suggestion of a weekend away when he was off to a conference because you really thought that the fat, balding, sweaty, married forty year old was kidding around.

The only chance to get a real story published was to make sure that it quoted someone on the record. And the quote had to be clearly documented: recorded, transcribed, signed, validated, cleared by legal, cleared by the editor, cleared by marketing, cleared by corporate and cleared by Jeff the janitor, his dog, his aunty and some guy the editor met in the pub last Tuesday- before being left in a desk drawer to rot for half a year. This might allow the paper to pass on the liability in court to the poor schlub who tried to do the right thing and everyone would get their bonuses while said poor schlub lived out the rest of his life under a motorway bridge cleaning car windows for loose change and regretting like hell that he had given enough of a flying fuck to go on record in the first place.

It was one such occasion that had led to her dignified exit from the newspaper. An altercation with her boss and his superior who she nicknamed “Mr. Bland.” In the company car park. At a very public time of day, as everyone was arriving, in which she questioned their manhood and suggested more dick could be found at a feminist lesbian conference than in a meeting of the company’s entire board of directors.

Her observations, although accurate, were met with a similar lack of enthusiasm to which her story had faced. There were rumours that the story was squashed, despite her source going on the record, because corporate had used the information therein to secure a lucrative 10-year advertising contract for the paper as well as shares in the offending company for each of the directors. Her five minute angry tirade drew a fair crowd from the paper and neighboring offices who were privileged to witness it’s sparkling conclusion when she hiked up her skirt and pissed on Mr. Bland’s brand new Mercedes convertible.

There are things in this world more disturbing than having a pretty girl much smarter than yourself piss on your car in front of your employees but if you had asked Mr. Bland what they were at the time he would have been hard pressed to tell you. It might have been okay if she hadn’t been absolutely correct in her rage. It might have been okay if he believed they did a good job and that she did not understand the true ramifications of what she had wanted to publish. But he knew he was just another idiot with a meaningless (well paid) job protecting the money of people far more powerful than him.

When confronted with the passion of a human being that actually thought you should fight for the good of the world or at least for something bigger than your own needs and was willing to put her career and future on the line for it he felt emasculated. After his very public run in he found his self-loathing that he had kept at bay by a combination of hard work and a sense of corporate achievement rise to the surface.

Mr. Bland found himself unable to make love to his stable, pretty wife in his dull, pretty house in his safe, pretty neighborhood. He found himself listless and distracted at work, unable to enjoy the endless round of acquisitions, cost-cuttings and sell-offs.

When the memory of the day refused to fade, Mr. Bland traded in his car for a different make and model. He bought something more sporty. More red. More obviously masculine. He started working out. He started drinking more, staying out late with colleagues from work. Sometimes they would party through the night, with him renting a hotel suite and laying on the champagne for everyone to continue their revelry long after the clubs had closed. Him, Mr. Bland, with everyone looking up to him for spending such ludicrous amounts of money in such a cool, dynamic way. He bought sharper clothes, went on a diet and got a more aggressive haircut.

Mrs. Bland, though pretty and stable, was not stupid. She recognized the signs. The sharper dress sense, the working out, the new car, the late nights and the fact that they hadn’t made love in forever. Not even a quickie. Within months she had called a lawyer and sued him for divorce on the basis that he was seeing another woman. A cruel irony for a man who hadn’t had an erection for over a year.

She left Mr. Bland taking his house, new sports car and dog in the process. It would be a further two years before he got his next erection. The day when, while overseeing the audit of a new acquisition, one of the television companies that their growing corporation now owned, they interviewed a certain Monica Sells for anchorwoman. It was the day a lip-glossed Monica Sells sold her soul to the world of plastic.

He made sure she got the position. He wanted to see for himself that her passion had died. That he had been right. It was like having a trophy on the wall. Mr. Bland had his dick back.

James

February 12, 2007

ph_lonelygirl.jpgWhen I was eight I had just joined a new school. My father and I had moved cities for my father’s new job. My mother had died a year before and in retrospect I think my father accepted the change in position more for the change in city than the improved money or title. He had never been much of a title or money man.

On my first day in the new school I arrived home crying after a day of vicious taunting by the other children. It was a new experience for both of us and my father seemed at a loss for what to do, but comforted me. I asked him what to do and he said, “Son, I do not know. But in the morning we shall speak again and perhaps we will know more.”

My father was not a highly educated man but he loved to read. He also listened. Not in that manner where the person can’t wait to get their next word in but in a patient manner. He listened to you like he had something to learn from you and that what you had to say might be important.

That night my father did not sleep. He sat at table with a pencil in hand, writing. He had a shelf of his favourite books completely clear; all of them open on the table. Each of his favourite books had characters he admired and, as I was growing up, he would make up stories for me that contained them, giving them life outside the covers. When I would ask him to read me the books he would refuse.

“Those stories you read yourself. You have plenty of time.”

I believe he went through them all, looking for his most admired character’s best, most fundamental characteristics and distilling that down to something for me.

In the morning he and I sat down before school and he gave me a sheet of paper.

“Your words are written in red, mine in blue. This is like a play. We will read it once and then we will talk about it. Afterwards we will make changes if we agree they are necessary. Then we will do it again tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that.”

“When will we stop doing it, Papa?”

“When you tell me you want to stop. Your line is first, son.”

“Papa, the children at school make fun of me and call me names. They are cruel and it hurts when they do it.”

“Fear not little one. You will learn that the opinions of the outside world do not matter much. Tell me, whose opinions do matter?”

“Yours, Papa. And mine. In that order.”

“And what is your aim?”

“My aim is to learn, Papa. To learn until I decide I am ready for my opinion to be more important than yours.”

“And then what will you do?”

“Then I must choose the other people whose opinions will matter to me too. But they must never matter more than my own. My own opinion will always matter the most.”

“How will you choose those people whose opinions will matter?”

“I will choose the people who keep their minds as open as the world will allow. I will choose people who will learn every day; from reading, from listening, from observing, from feeling. I will choose people who are willing change their beliefs every day if what they have learned requires it. I will choose people who will find joy in a good argument even if the conclusion of the argument proves them wrong.”

“These sound like admirable people. Smart people. Why should your opinion be more important than theirs even if they are smarter than you?”

“Because my opinions will lead to my actions and I will never blame another for my actions.”

“What is the greatest danger of repeating this every day?”

“The greatest danger, Papa, is that this will become a mantra and then a tune and I will no longer hear it’s meaning, only it’s melody.”

I looked up at my father, the script over.

“Good boy, James.”

True to his word we discussed it every day. We added to it, cut from it. The first thing I asked he remove was “little one”. He laughed when I asked and then, after seeing my expression, stopped. He looked solemnly at me and apologized for the laugh. He said I was correct and if it made me uncomfortable then it was as bad as the other schoolchildren making fun of me.

“See James, even Papa makes mistakes. Making mistakes is not bad or evil. It is normal. The trick is to correct them when you realise they are mistakes. Then, if you have to, apologise to anyone hurt by the mistake.”

“Yes Papa.”

“Now, if you are a gentleman, you accept my apology if you think it is sincere.”

“I accept your apology, Papa.”

“Then I will forgive myself, son, as I had no bad intent.”

Later I asked him whether we could include the bit about mistakes in our morning speech. We did. One morning we discussed what to call our morning speech since we thought it needed something more personal. We talked of many names but settled on my suggestion, “our center”. We said our center every morning. At night we would talk about what happened to us during the day and sometimes we would add to, subtract from or change the language of our center so that it was clear. We did it every day for six months and then he died.

And, all of a sudden, there was no-one to talk to about how that might change our center. But this is how it finished:

“Papa, the children at school used to make fun of me and call me names. They were cruel and it hurt when they did it.”

“Yes son, all people are insecure and some will tear down others to make themselves look taller. You will learn that the opinions of the outside world should not matter much. You should never be cruel to others. You should try to build up others who you believe deserve your time. Tell me, whose opinions do matter?”

“Yours, Papa. And mine. In that order.”

“And what is your aim?”

“My aim is to learn, Papa. To learn until I decide I am ready for my opinion to be more important than yours.”

“And then what will you do?”

“Then I must choose the other people whose opinions will matter to me too. I will trust their opinions but they must never matter more than my own. My own opinion will always matter the most.”

“How will you choose those people whose opinions will matter?”

“I will choose the people who keep their minds as open as the world will allow. I will choose people who will learn every day; from reading, from listening, from observing, from feeling. I will choose people who are willing change their beliefs every day if what they have learned requires it. I will choose people who will find joy in a good argument even if the conclusion of the argument proves them wrong.”

“These sound like admirable people. Smart people. Why should your opinion be more important than theirs even if they are smarter than you?”

“Because my opinions will lead to my actions and I will never blame another for my actions.”

“What if all the smart people that you trust disagree with you? Should you not, then, consider the weight of all that intelligence enough to override your opinion?”

“Only through discussion or argument, Papa. I should speak with these people and understand their point of view. Perhaps learning will change my opinion or belief. But my opinion will always be the most important because they will lead to my actions and I will be responsible for those actions.”

“What if you discover, later, that your actions were wrong?”

“Then I will take responsibility for those actions. I will make apologies where necessary and I will carry the consequences of my actions with me.”

“When will you step free and allow yourself forgiveness? Will you wait for forgiveness from any you have hurt?”

“I will accept forgiveness graciously if it is offered. But I alone will gauge when I can allow myself to be forgiven. I will not be cruel nor lenient and I will always remember clearly my motivations when I did the deed that I now know was wrong and make those motivations the most important factor.”

“What is the greatest danger of repeating this every day?”

“The greatest danger, Papa, is that this will become a mantra and then a tune and I will no longer hear it’s meaning, only it’s melody.”

“Good boy, James.”

The words were large for a boy of eight to use. As we wrote and discussed it we sat with a dictionary and thesaurus, choosing the words carefully and discussing why one word was more appropriate than another. In fact I used the English language better than many of my teachers. But after my father died I could not look at our center any more, it hurt too much. I felt abandoned. A new city, orphanages, foster homes, boarding schools, more bullying, more mean spirits. The sound of groups of young children playing sounds joyful as long as you don’t listen to the individual sounds.