October 16, 2012

Cutting to the chase

I don't have much time left, so I'm gonna dispense with most of the niceties I'd planned, and just lay out what I want to say. Should there be time (and interest) later, I'll back-fill.

I. The shit is already hitting the fan, folks; nothing can be done to stop it, and very little, at this point, to ameliorate it. The easy pickings of the fossil fuels we've been running on the last 300 years are gone (not to worry, for now, at least, because the production and burning of said fuels will continue, albeit ever more sparingly and sporadically, until nobody can make any more money from it). Habitat destruction, climate change, and the continuing, ubiquitous poisoning of the entire planet have already launched us into Earth's 6th Great Extinction, which will now run its course. The great "elite" economic enterprise of theft and slavery, especially as manifested in the last 500 years or so as the ideology and practice of capitalism, is finally showing itself to be a house of cards, a gigantic chain letter which has finally hit its end. Depressing? Yes, if you're happy with the way things have been going for the last 15,000 years. The only consolation, if that it may be called, is that the brunt of this great unraveling will likely not fall upon us of the infamous baby-boom generation (the last who had a real chance to make a difference, which we blew, spectacularly), or even our children, but their children will almost assuredly begin paying the price.

II. Though there's little basis for real hope in the short- and middle-term, there is reason for great hope on the other side of the impending crash (slow-motion as may be). For starters, we are in desperate need of a drastic reduction (something in the neighborhood of an order of magnitude) in the sheer numbers of humans on this planet - and that is coming, one way or another, like it or not. For another thing, the institutions and practices that have been foisted upon us, by the thieves and slave-holders who have been so proud to call them "civilization," and that we have so docilely accepted, will be swept away, if for no other reason, by the utter lack of resources needed to support them. Ain't gonna be no rich folks like what we got now after what's coming, and that'll be the best chance in thousands of years to make sure there won't ever be any more.

III. What is still available to us old folks now is the opportunity to teach - and the best way to do that is by example. If we want change, as we claim, then we must start practicing that change in our daily lives and in our way of thinking. It is not enough to belong to or contribute to some organization or political action committee, or to march and carry signs in some demonstration or protest, or even to vote for a candidate (though a few, especially at the local level, are deserving of a vote) if we are not, at the same time, practicing real change every day. (For this notion [and much more besides] I am forever indebted to Mr. Wendell Berry; c.f. especially Chapter 2 of The Unsettling Of America.)

I offer an example from my own life, not to pat myself on the back or to proclaim my moral superiority, but to illustrate the kind of practice I'm talking about: In the past 33 years, I have not owned an automobile for 30 of them. For the first 7 years, it was much more a matter of necessity than virtue: I just couldn't afford a car. Then, from 1986 to 1989, I could (or thought I could) have one, which I did. Then, hitting another lean stretch, I went carless again, and though, later, I could once again have bought and operated one on several occasions, I've refrained, mostly because I've discovered that I can survive without one. Yes, there are many times I miss (sometimes sorely) the convenience of not having a car; but I have saved myself many many thousands of dollars by not having one, and I've also avoided injecting well over 200,000 pounds of CO2 into the air, and adding to the habitat destruction and social breakdown directly attributable to automobiles - not to mention contributing to the bottom line of some corporation. Near as I can figure, there are something like 7 million undecided voters in this presidential election. Can you imagine the effect these people, representing a bit more or less than 5% of eligible voters, would have if they parked their cars for even one year? A damn sight more far-reaching in many more dimensions, I assure you, than whether they vote for Obama or Romney.

IV. Dismantle your TV with a heavy blunt instrument, and do it immediately after reading this. The last event worth watching on TV was the Watergate story; before that, the JFK assassination. Everything else is highly refined and nearly perfected indoctrination, designed to make you a docile "consumer" of whatever notions, none of them ever explicit, the sponsors want you to respond to. You will not be able to even begin thinking clearly until you've completed this prerequisite.

... wanting good government in their states, they first established order in their own families; wanting order in the home, they first disciplined themselves  ... - Confucius, The Great Digest
You don't need to wait for anybody else. Start today. "If not us, who? If not now, when?" 


  1. keep cutting . . . you've got my attention . . . some of us dwell too long on Hecuba . . . (see how I keep googling all that I read?) . . .

  2. I fear it will out me as either terminally obtuse or as a hopeless cultural rube - but your reference to Hecuba is over my head. I know it would probably ruin the effect and spoil it for those who do get it, but can you lead me out of my benighted ignorance?

  3. I probably misspoke . . . an earlier version (I am older than you) of the phrase (cutting to the chase) was "cut to Hecuba" because many productions of Hamlet would cut some of the (supposedly -possibly- dreary speech making) to the second part of Act 2 and the reference to Hecuba . . .
    "O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!
    Is it not monstrous that this player here,
    But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,
    Could force his soul so to his own conceit
    That from her working all his visage wan'd;
    Tears in his eyes, distraction in's aspect,
    A broken voice, and his whole function suiting
    With forms to his conceit? And all for nothing!
    For Hecuba?
    What's Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,
    That he should weep for her?

    Clearly not something one would want to miss (smile) . . . so the idea was to cut TO Hecuba . . . and not BEYOND Hecuba . . . and as I said, I probably misspoke because I appear to be, and probably am, trivializing not only a heartfelt message of import, but a guest in my own house as it were. Please do not let me distract you with my bits of smart aleck nonsense. You may be terminal, but you have not been obtuse since I've known you.

    1. Ahhh ... OK, now I'm at least marginally enlightened. I thought I knew who Hecuba was: Priam's wife, mother of Hector, Paris, and Cassandra, right? But I had no inkling that Shakespeare had ever mentioned her in any context, and I couldn't for the life of me figure her connection to anything I said.

      Just goes to show that I really am a heathen, though - despite repeated tries, I've never been able to develop a taste for Shakespeare. Something about Elizabethan English, maybe, or Willie's obscure usage, that has always left me totally at sea after only a few lines. Oh, well ... never could get into Pablo Picasso or Neil Young, either. So, there ya go ...

  4. loved reading your blog entry hardhead. is there more? could be start of a good book. have you ever considered writing a book about your life?


    johan - friend/colleague of bill

    1. Thanks, johan. I appreciate your comment more than you guess - sorry to be such an inveterate quoter, but I couldn't put it any better than Robert Pirsig (again), in Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance:

      "When you live in the shadow of insanity, the appearance of another mind that thinks and talks as yours does is something close to a blessed event. Like Robinson Crusoe's discovery of footprints on the sand."

      There's lots more, some of which I hope to get down here in the time left to me. As far as a book about my life - nothing I can think of would warrant it. There are countless other stories just like it, maybe not in the details, but in general outline: Nothing spectacular, no great achievements, no names to drop, just another Loser struggling to get by. Nothing remotely of interest for a people obsessed with "Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous."

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