YOUTUBE FUN

29 11 2009

Being a grumpy old man, I confidently predict that in 10 years YouTube will have ossified into a slick, manipulative money-making machine, a la Disney and MTV.

But for now, those kids are having FUN. Try this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67Tvfe8JvjE





IT’S TRUE ABOUT SWEDEN !

27 11 2009

Dear Readers,

Please take a look at this much earlier post of mine, reporting stuff I’d learned on the Internet from an ACTUAL SWEDISH PERSON:

https://nightman1.wordpress.com/2009/01/04/is-it-true-what-they-say-about-sweden/

Now another Swede has come along and told more of the details of life in Sweden in the form of comments to that post. See the comments of Annika about paid parental leave.

If this blog does nothing more than inform a few working Americans how good life COULD be for them, and in fact is, every day, for millions of people just like them in the premier progressive, democratic country of Europe, it will have done a hell of a lot of good.





THE WAGES OF WEAKNESS II

21 11 2009

Some comments on my last post on “The Wages of Weakness”:

1.

The minor slights I reported in my last post were nothing compared to what I suspect most black people in the South experience! Those trivial events in my life are connected to the local virulent racism only in that they may have stemmed from it in some attenuated way, as I theorized in the last post.

But my little experiences do represent what I suspect is the most frequent FORM in which racism is experienced by its victims these days. Direct insult is now out. Violence is now out (except by cops). Firing at will, and quietly refusing to hire, are IN.

And the “inexplicable slight”, above all,  must happen every day. I would hate to be as hypersensitive as I, alas, am—and have to confront a world that contains so much scorn for folks like me.

2.

Nothing I experience in the way of inconvenience or occasional insult will deter me from pursuing my plan of avoiding driving—and the inevitable anxiety attacks that go with it.

When something seriously sucks, I believe it’s OK to avoid it. Millions of people have dramatically decided to avoid things that made them miserable or threatened to harm them during my lifetime.

The first group of people who did this that I remember were the Viet Nam War era draft dodgers. They were willing to go to Canada and live as foreigners for a lifetime — and in a country that’s COLD MOST OF THE TIME to boot — rather than die or suffer in any of a number of ugly ways. They didn’t believe any such suffering could be justified by the call to defend, not our nation, but our Empire.

I’m glad I personally got a high draft lottery number back in 1970. Viet Nam would have destroyed me (assuming I lived through it)….The only treatment they had for major depression in 1970 was electroshock, and it was not only traumatic by only episodically successful. I don’t think they had any treatment for major anxiety disorders at all.

3.

In the back of the mind of every old American man looms the ghost of John Wayne, exhorting him to perpetual toughness. I never had a shot at achieving that even when I was young. Now that I’m old, I look back sadly at my half a lifetime of struggling to be Waynian when I am by nature Barney Fifeian.

From now on I’m using to the full the amazing opportunity that age gives us to become no less and no more than what we truly are  — and in my case to get off the macho hook for good.





THE WAGES OF WEAKNESS I

19 11 2009

PRELUDE

I’m 61. I’m White. I live in a city in the Southern US that sprawls for many miles. Its structure has been shaped by and for the car. Recently I choose to give up driving because I’ve always had a phobia for it, which has gotten worse every year, to the point that the last few times I drove I had severe anxiety attacks, and came home totally exhausted from the experience. I also have a history of depression, which put me on Social Security Disability for three years a while ago. I now have a job that comes with a very good health plan, one that is known to practitioners throughout this city because so many people here have it.

Now that I’m not driving, I’m very assiduous in finding ways to work around that detriment. I do most of my shopping on the Internet. For my frequent trips to health professionals, I’ve found a fine organization that gives ride to the afflicted.

STORY #1

Several months ago I set out to develop a relationship with a small pharmacy located about 3 miles from the downtown of this city, where I live. The listing of that pharmacy in the Yellow Pages said “We deliver.”, and that’s why I chose to use it. I had several conversations on the phone with a pharmacist there. I filled out two sets of forms he mailed me. My downtown address appeared prominently on both. I received no questions or comments from the pharmacist on any of the information I supplied. I then went happily on with my life, figuring I had the prescriptions problem well provided for.

Several weeks after that, I came home with three new prescriptions from my doctor, which he had also faxed to that drugstore. I called them the next day to place an order. The pharmacist informed me, out of the blue, “We do not deliver to downtown.” Nothing I said would change his mind, even though either he or his partner had received my earlier telephone calls and the forms I’d filled out, both of which had contained my downtown address — which, again, is located less than 3 miles from their place of business.

I wondered angrily for a while why this sudden reversal had occurred. I decided that I will never know. But I wonder: Could it have anything to do with the fact that the downtown of this city is known to be a place where many Black people live?

STORY #2

Over the last few weeks I made a couple of calls to a local audiologist, asking to make an appointment to get my broken hearing aid fixed and get an updated hearing test. I explained that I would have to get a ride there, since I did not drive. I mentioned that fact in both calls.

I showed up today and the audiologist fixed my broken hearing aid by cleaning it out. The whole interaction took no more than 10 minutes. The audiologist’s  manner was abrupt and dismissive. She then informed me that she did not have a time to give me a hearing test, and I would have to come back another day.

I was very disappointed because I knew I couldn’t come back, due to the difficulty of arranging a ride and the fact that the hearing test was just a precautionary thing. It wasn’t essential.

Then I sat in their waiting room awaiting my ride home for half an hour. I didn’t see any new customers come in. I started to wonder why I had been denied the hearing test, and complained to the audiologist’s receptionist. She said that she had put me down for a hearing test, and had no idea why the audiologist wouldn’t give me one.

I left, bemused.

Why this dismissal? As in Story #1, a health provider had denied his or her services to someone who needed them and was in a position to pay full price for them. Could the reason for that have anything to do, in this case, with the fact that during my talk with the audiologist I mentioned that I had received my 2 pairs of hearing aids free from the State Vocational Rehabilitation Office over the past 9 years? (That happened while I was coming off Disability status and returning to work.)

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

This is the redstate American South. I grew up here. It has a history of the most vicious, heartless racism, amounting to American apartheid. I remember things being said in my home about Blacks that, even as a child, I found vicious and cruel. In my middle-size town in the 1960s, Blacks lived in an enclave of their own, and no interaction occurred between them and Whites that I could see, except those strictly necessary for business (which did NOT include their being allowed to hold any good, white-collar jobs).

Though much has changed here since then on the surface, such a fundamental cultural wellspring as that old racial hatred does not go away in a single generation. Does it still flow here as strongly as ever, but now all unspoken, and does it explain the mystery of Story #1, and, indirectly, of Story #2?

This is Ultra Right Wing home base. The radio-host pygmies on local AM station WJBO strive daily to stand as squarely in Rush Limbaugh’s huge shadow as they possibly can. Folks who call into the shows of those mini-Rushes love to hear the hosts’ vituperation, and from time to time make it clear that they, too, take it as given that all recipients of social programs are cheats, thieves, and/or layabouts.

This drumbeat of propaganda is endless and unrelenting. The generalized fury of the local AM talk radio listeners is so thick it’s almost palpable. It has an emotional intensity way beyond what I think can be motivated by mere disdain for the awfulness of liberalism alone. But the power of xenophobia, now…THAT is strong enough to do the job!

I’ve come to believe that the triumph of extreme right wing sentiment in the South arises from continuing hatred of Black people, an unusual number of whom live in poverty here in the South, and so are the the main recipients of those hotly-condemned social programs. Hate the program and consider it worthless = scorn its beneficiaries.

By being stridently Right, folks down here have found a way to be racist covertly.

Did I, a White man, then, get unceremoniously shown the door today due to merely being associated in someone’s mind for a moment with the hated minority group? Did the audiologist simply show me her dislike for a presumptive cheat/thief/layabout?

Or am I just being paranoid?

Even if I am, as we’ve all heard many times before:

“Just because I’m paranoid, that doesn’t mean they’re not out to get me!”





MORE HUMOR THAN THE INTERNET HAS EVER DELIVERED BEFORE

11 11 2009

Bad Gods

http://badgods.com/limerickpoems.html





REPUBLICANS GO POSTAL

9 11 2009

This gentleman really understands the history of the last 30 years:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/09/opinion/09krugman.html?_r=1

All I have to add is that anyone could see at any given time during the Great GOP Period that it was not a populist party.

Things like

in Reagan’s time, using “supply side economics” to pass tax cuts for the rich,

refusing again and again to reign in the ever-greater abuses of the credit card industry,

[trying to] spoil Social Security,

in Bush-the-Lesser’s time, again passing even more tax cuts that mainly benefit rich people,

and, most recently, refusing repeatedly to vote for extensions to unemployment compensation in a time of economic desperation…

these are not populist actions by any measure I’ve ever heard of.

The Republican Party has always shown, by word and deed, that it is the party of the rich. Historically it has not been ashamed of that fact nor, until the last 30 years, has it tried to conceal it. Only in those same last 30 years has the GOP sought to make itself a majority party by grafting onto its vast amalgam of money something called “social conservatives”, which are in large part poor and working people who don’t like to see things change because they subliminally know that they may not be able to figure out how to keep on surviving in a world that changes too much.

After all the GOP’s highly visible betrayals of this latter group, the Democratic Party was perfectly situated to present itself as the Party of The Little Man, as it had in fact been from the 1930s to the Clinton year. Instead, the Big Donkey forever undermined that claim by giving vast amounts of dough to big banks as a way, supposedly, of staving off another Great Depression.

So I am scared as to where that leaves us now.





PHILOSOPHY WORKS !

2 11 2009

In the contemporary world (USA version) I wonder if the name

Søren Kierkegaard

is known by anyone any more, except by a few philosophy professors. And from what I hear of the state of American higher education these days, I think that even those professors may no longer be allowed to teach Kierkegaard’s work to anyone but philosophy graduate students.

But college was different 40 years ago, and difficult old philosophers were thought then to be worth undergraduates’ time, so I walked into the third meeting of my Existentialism class in the early spring of 1968 absolutely ignorant of philosophy and ripe to be snared by the mere first paragraph by Mr. K’s great book The Sickness Unto Death.

Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) was a philosopher with a twist–a pioneering analyst of despair whose description of the many varieties of that state later became, I believe, the source of one of the most familiar truisms of our present place and time:

Be yourself!

aka

High self esteem is good for you.

We didn’t know about “self-esteem” back in 1968. And if I had ever made enough progress in the first reading assignment for that class in  to discover the original progenitor of that self esteem concept lurking in The Sickness Unto Death I wouldn’t have understood it anyway. Mr. K’s description of the various kinds of sorrow that can come to one who does not accept himself* would have fallen on deaf ears for me then for one very simple reason—I couldn’t stand myself.

I had no self-esteem at all. In its place I had grandiosity. After a lifetime of abuse of various sorts, I saw myself as simply a kind of unwanted and inchoate mess….

…”but that’s OK”, I always thought back then, when I was forced to take notice of what an unsavory creature I seemed to be, “because I’m going TO DO GREAT THINGS SOMEDAY…”

…”because I’m SO SMART!”

Could there be any kind of person in the world better prepared to be stopped dead by the following gaudily incomprehensible  introductory sentence of The Sickness Unto Death?

A human being is a spirit. But what is spirit? Spirit is the self. But what is the self? The self is a relation that relates itself to itself or is the relation relating itself to itself in the relation.

Nope. Someone with vast intellectual pretensions constructed on a foundation of nothing, like I was then, was maybe never going to get past that sentence.

And I never did. I was the guy, after all, who was so smart that I could understand anything if I only put my mind to it! I exhausted myself pondering the meaning of K’s impenetrable introductory sentence and a few very abstract pages following it, and never read further into the book to discover the much more accessible, and very insightful, dissection of spiritual despair in all its varieties that was to be found there.

Too bad! Because it was information that I could have used, and at that time in fact desperately needed. I might even say that if I had absorbed what Kierkegaard had to say and realized how much it applied to me then, the experience might have changed the rest of  my life for the better.

So don’t  you be the same as I was! And don’t be the opposite kind of person, who yells “BORING!” and runs away in panic when confronted with anything “hard”, either!  Instead, take a look at this brief appreciation of Søren Kierkegaard:

http://happydays.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/28/kierkegaard-on-the-couch/?em

As for me, 25 years after that first abortive encounter I got out my old copy of The Sickness Unto Death and skipped the hard first part and read the perfectly accessible remainder.  The experience was instrumental in making me what I am now — very odd, and OK with that.

The desire to be some other self than one’s own sweet, inescapable one-and-only self wears many disguises, and Mr. K. describes them all. Some of them you wouldn’t guess in a million years.

Who knows? You might be wearing one of  those right now. Buy the book and see.

____________________________________________________________________________________

*Kierkegaard wasn’t writing a self-help book. He was proselytizing. His purpose was to show that a human self, being partially a spiritual being, had to be “grounded” in God to avoid falling into despair. Without that connection, the self would be unstable, and would be forever pursuing things to complete it that could not complete it. Anyone who watches the antics of the powerful people of the earth for a while, as they display this “seeking” behavior in various forms on a huge scale, would have to agree. See, most recently, American investment bankers.