Sunday, July 24, 2016

HOW CARS ARE RUINING OUR LIVES

Typical Urban Smog Cloud. Photo credit: mirror.co.uk

I was born shortly after WWII. I realize now that cars impacted my life and are ruining all our lives.
 
I heard a recent analysis of the present U.S. economy this morning. The economist maintained that things were looking up in the retail sector, which is focused now in July on selling clothes and supplies for students in the Fall. He attributed this to low gasoline prices which have compensated Americans with an additional several hundreds of dollars per month for discretionary spending. In other words, incomes are flat, so Americans are being subsidized by the petrochemical industry. Great.
 
Why would the petrochemical industry subsidize the low-earners of the American economy? Well, for one thing, it may avert a mass uprising against the Federal government they have essentially owned since the 1950's.
 
At the beginning of World War II, my metro-Boston area had about 140 electric trolley lines which densely covered all neighborhoods within a 20-mile radius of downtown Boston. The fare was 5 cents and transfer tickets were given out for passengers who had to use multiple trolleys to get from Point A to their Point B. I am very aware of this because my parents courted and eventually married without owning a car. They lived about 8 miles apart and used electric trolleys to date.
 
There are three street trolleys in Boston. We have trolleys which run on buffered tracks in islands along major boulevards, Commonwealth Avenue and Beacon Street. One short section along Huntington Avenue actually runs in the street between Brigham Circle and Heath Street terminus. It is a constant location of accidents and breakdowns ... due to car/truck congestion. 
 
After World War II, America's industrialists were left with a huge infrastructure for building machinery. We had created the largest war industry the planet had ever seen. This, combined with hordes of returning soldiers who needed to be decommissioned, led to the development of the U.S. automotive and aircraft empires, which extended itself to Japan and Europe as part of post-war reconstruction. Ever wonder why India, Russia and China, three massive countries, never developed global car or aircraft businesses? They were not our post-war allies.
 
And who fueled all those cars and aircraft? Who provided the asphalt for roads and runways? Ding. Ding. The petrochemical industry.
 
So, with the help of President Eisenhower and Congress, the public transportation infrastructure was dismantled intentionally to sell cars, trucks and airplane tickets. Petrochemical moguls made fortunes building roads and selling fuel. Steel magnates also made fortunes. Manufacturers of cars and airplanes also made great fortunes. Highway contractors, bridge builders, et al...they all cashed in.
 
The jamming of city streets with cars, smoky buses and trucks in place of smaller vans which operated from urban freight train depots emptied urban neighborhoods of the more affluent. Real estate moguls made fortunes building sprawling suburbs, like Levittowns. Politicians in urban-abutting small cities and towns got fat on building permits and highway funds. The car was a cash cow all around. For some.
 
The burden of individual transportation was promoted as a gift of independence and mobility. "See the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet." was a popular ad campaign. Mass media indoctrinated the public into loving the automobile and suburban living. Movies of the 1950's and 1960's romanticized lawns, fences and swimming pools. TV was largely sponsored by cigarettes, cars and oil companies. A three-headed dragon indeed.
 
So, now we live here on a planet whose atmosphere has been decimated in 70 years. Whether you wish to think of it or not, the planet is becoming inhospitable to human life right now. Yet the most "green" and educated among us get into their SUVs and pickups daily to contribute to the problem, to hasten the destruction of the human ecosystem. Their stock portfolios are still jammed with petrochemical stocks or stocks of industries involved with the petrochemical industry. They will vote for politicians who support more roads, wider highways and fewer trains. And they will condition their children and grandchildren to love cars.
 
 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

CRYING FOUL. CRYING WOLF.


There is a wonderful documentary series on Netflix about airport immigration officers in Australia. It is called Border Security. It is a study in human nature and its resistance to authority. I recommend it.
 
The lesson this show provides is simple: Many human beings refuse to take responsibility for not following what they know to be correct behavior. The guards in the show ask simple questions of travelers seeking to enter Australia. They are polite and quite gentle. "Do you have any food or organic plant material in your luggage?" is one example. Many people who are later found to have both say "No." with blank faces.
 
These people do not just lie to the authorities. They frequently argue for their immunity from the consequences of their dishonesty, usually a cash fine and confiscation of contraband. Many of these people are immigrants, most legally living in Australia. They often pretend to have misunderstood the printed declaration form upon which they have lied. Unfortunately for them, the form is printed in multiple languages, usually in their language. The guards patiently point this out.
 
Eventually, in order to resume their lives in Australia, the miscreants fess up, relinquish their contraband and/or pay their fines. They seem unconcerned or apologetic for having wasted an hour of a guard's time by trying to do something illegal. They seem unimpressed by the risk of spending time in jail or losing their resident visa. They shamelessly wave at the camera as they leave the inspection area.
 
When I see videos of demonstrations by young feminists at SlutWalks, I am reminded of this Aussie show. I am also reminded of the show when I see some Black Lives Matter videos. Why? Well, there is a culture of regressive denial of accountability for one's actions in The West. Some lay the blame on the permissive child-rearing of Millennials. Some blame the media for infusing unaccountable criminal culture into news, film, music and video games. Whatever the source, there is a definite whining unresponsiveness in those of the Millennial generation who champion the causes of the irresponsible and unlawful.
 
Crying foul when you are caught performing a foul deed is simply another form of dishonest and unethical behavior. For example, getting drunk and taking mind-altering drugs in a sexually charged situation but demanding that it be a safe space is infantile and irresponsible. To cry foul once you've been sexually compromised is simply stupid and embarrasses others who cannot believe your infantile stupidity, especially when it is displayed on the campus of a prestigious academic institution.
 
Crying foul when you are "triggered' by simple reality is also irresponsible and infantile. If you are "triggered" by something that most human beings may find distasteful but less than traumatic, you have a psychological problem which needs treatment. That is your responsibility. It is blatantly narcissistic (a symptom of mental illness) to feel that the world must change to accommodate your discomfort.
 
Crying foul when police arrest and prosecute you for illegal drug sales and/or distribution, no matter what your color or economic status, is also stupid and irresponsible.  Stupidity does not immunize anyone from prosecution. Falling prey to police intervention has its risks for anyone. Placing yourself in the path of those risks by your own behavior is your problem, not the problem of the police officer doing his/her job.
 
The generation of childish excuses is sadly also the generation of protest today. While previous generations protested to gain equal rights for stalwart citizens from marginalized minorities, today's protesters demonstrate for the right to be criminal and irresponsible with impunity. They defend the "right" of vandals to deface public property. They defend the "right" of people without any means or grounds for asylum to illegally immigrate into the country. They defend the "right" of certain religious communities to oppress women on the basis of culture. They defend the "right" of angry young women to flip off people in legitimate positions of authority in institutions of learning. They defend their own "right" to be alcohol and drug addicted with accompanying antisocial behaviors. They defend their "right" to indulge, rather than seek treatment for, their own psychological problems, such as neuroses and eating disorders. Whenever held accountable, they cry wolf.
 
They will be the recipients of the consequences of their own behaviors, regardless of the short period in history during which they may be tolerated. They will grow older. They will live with the consequences of their actions. Law, perhaps in a harsher form, will eventually prevail for the sake of the greater population who do not subscribe to infantile ethical standards. They will pay for their alcohol and drug abuse. And then crying wolf will fall on deaf ears. It will have the impact of a cardboard sign in the hands of a panhandler at an intersection.
 
 
 
 

Friday, July 22, 2016

I DON'T CARE WHAT YOU BELIEVE.


 I don't care what you believe if we are not acquainted. Therefore, much of what appears on internet backlit pages is irrelevant to me. This page may well be irrelevant to you. That's fine with me.
 
What I do care about is how you behave in my home or in my shared public space. If you approach me wearing full Islamic drag and spit at my feet, I don't give a shit what belief system motivates you. (Yes, I have had this happen to me when I was wearing a rainbow T-shirt.) I also do not care if some xenophobic asshole beats the crap out of you.
 
You can whine all you want about your right to unlawfully invade my country or someone else's. I really do not care if you believe that or why you believe it. I also do not care if they drag you off and deport you for not following the rules. Your unlawfulness in my country, which I support with my taxes and civic engagement, will have reaped you the treatment you deserve. I don't care what the authorities who drag you off believe either, as long as they are doing their jobs lawfully.
 
The fading beauty of the American secular Constitution was based in its indifference to what people believe. Freedom of thought is implied in the First Amendment. That same Constitution insures that you can even say what you believe as long as you do not physically encroach on other individuals' peaceful enjoyment of their lives. In other words, you can walk in a civilly planned demonstration down Main Street with a placard that states your most outrageous beliefs. It does not mean you can stop traffic ad lib on an interstate highway at rush hour. If you do that, I don't care what you believe. You deserve to be dragged off to jail or perhaps run down by a texting driver.
 
The last three decades of religious resurgence are leaving deep scars in the fabric of contemporary American society. I am not just talking about the outbreak of urban mosques, financed by extremist Saudi Arabians who seek to influence our government. I am not only talking about the Christian lunatics who are gay-obsessed when they are not forecasting some lame End of Days. I am not just talking about the rich Zionists who have welded us to a racist state in the Middle East. No. I am talking about the hypocrisy of all religions which preach love and tolerance but actually stir up hatred and division between people.
 
I am talking about the pious assholes in religious robes who tell people to not be Islamophobic at memorials for people killed by Islamic religious fanatics. I am talking about the Black ministers who rail against violence and drug abuse in ghettos but wink at their parishioners not cooperating with police to solve drug crimes and murders. I don't care what beliefs motivate these people. They are hypocrites and deserve the devastating exposure many of them experience later in their private lives.
 
If Donald Trump were not a total train wreck as a person, he could have potentially brought some of this practical sensibility back to our secular society. I do not believe he is any more of a racist or a xenophobe than the vast majority of human beings. I do believe he may have psychological problems. But Trump is basically saying to various whining special interest groups that he does not care what they believe. His focus is on what makes a country work based on a well established rule of law. I wish the media had been able to see this instead of playing up the man's quirkiness. I must also say I would not feel confident in his leadership if he were elected.
 
Hillary Clinton represents the apex of political exploitation of the after-effects of religion's infection of the American consciousness. She plays mother to the feminists who believe they are entitled to be drunken sluts while being protected by the state in case they hang with the wrong guys. She stokes the belief of some Black Americans that they are being persecuted on a massive scale by all authority. She will play the part of the bourgeois fag hag for gay men and the raging bull dyke for lesbians. I do not care what she believes. I doubt that she believes in anything other than "more" for Hillary. I just don't like how she has behaved officially and unofficially. I will not have sympathy for her if she is defeated by Donald Trump.
 
My life is unimpaired by the conformity and hypocrisy which rule the lives of most people with children. I have chosen this life. It wasn't all an accident. It has had plenty of challenges of its own, but having to live for my progeny has not been one of them. So, I do not care if you believe this or that is the best way forward for the next generations. From what I have seen, the behavior of parents has not contributed to a peaceful and ecologically healthy planet. It is by that reality that I do indeed judge and act accordingly. I don't care what you believe. Just follow the rules, obey the law and try not to be an obnoxious person to the people around you.
 
 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

NOT MARRIED.

Weeks after we met in 2003.
 

Tomorrow is our 13th anniversary. One week after my father's death in a Boston hospital, I met Peter for the first time in the lobby of that same hospital. Peter coincidentally lived in an apartment building adjacent to the hospital campus. We made an immediate connection.
 
We walked from the hospital across a foot bridge to the Charles River where we sat for a long while watching the flow of the river traffic. I walked with a cane, just weeks away from 24-hour IV therapy for sepsis which had infected a heart valve. Peter was also frail. He was having a long recuperation from cancer therapy. This same cancer therapy had led to my sepsis. We were cancer brothers.
 
I found Peter on a gay men's sex site. I was not in any condition for having casual sex, but I was tired of solitary recuperation. The greater gateway to gay male connection is still based in sexuality. We are a sexual minority. There was Peter, my same age, stating that he was the only person on the site with my own issues. After checking to make sure I wasn't hallucinating on my medications, I contacted him.
 
Resurrection is a theme in our lives. Peter and I both came to the lethal edge of AIDS in the 1990's. We have both been infected with HIV for decades. We have lived through "The Band Played On" times. We have lived through the AIDS Quilt times. I administered and worked as a nurse in an AIDS hospice. Peter lost more friends than I did to the disease. Both of us lived in Manhattan during the epidemic. We are both from the Boston area. I had seen Peter twice before our meeting in that hospital lobby. Both times were about a decade earlier when our disparate paths happened to cross in the city. I have that kind of memory for faces.
 
Thirteen years have passed very fast. It's just like that when you get older and have had so many personal challenges. They age you. Time accelerates. We speak of our personal ends of time. Peter eccentrically purchased his funeral arrangements and locale already. This says a lot about his childhood with alcoholic and neglectful parents. My experience as a hospice nurse, a facilitator for thousands of individual deaths in my career, has made me much more laid back about funerals. Actually I think the funeral industry is an insult to the environment and the survivors of loved ones.
 
Peter and I are not married. We do not intend to be. We're old-school gay men, who feel that the state has no business getting between us in any shape or form. We do not need the approval of the state or religion to love and remain committed to one another. I happen to think marriage has more to do with social approval, money and property than love and commitment. We each deal with government on our own footing as retired working people and taxpayers. It's just fine that way.
 
Four years ago we decided to live together. We were both confirmed live-alone guys after having several previous relationships. Nine years together at that point seemed to me to be enough to consolidate households for both our sakes. Peter eventually agreed, so he and his two elderly cats moved in with me. Aside from my cat allergy, there were some serious adjustments for the first year or so, but we have worked it out. I think our home is a peaceful and welcoming environment.
 
We both keep up with politics and social trends from afar. We laugh about some of the absurdities we see younger and more passionate people embracing. The worsening environment troubles both of us. We are canaries in the city air which more and more resembles a coal mine. As urban children of the 1950's, we are both aware of density and overpopulation. The near-collapse of urban transportation infrastructure is a frequent lunchtime topic after we have gone to the gym or done some shopping.
 
I used to think maintaining a gay male relationship was very complicated in a potentially hostile world. I now realize that some of my partners along the way were themselves very complicated in ways that made my life more complicated. We tried. It worked while it worked. I have no negative feelings about the impermanence of relationships. In fact, it is often very healthy for both people. Peter and I will face impermanence, even if we remain committed to the end of life, mine or his or both. Part of learning about love and commitment through honesty is letting go of absolutes. Keeping the heart open today, in this moment, with practiced caring and generosity is itself the prize of being together.
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

WHAT DO YOU WANT?

 
DeRay McKesson. Photo from Huffington Post.


I didn't feel like writing this morning, but I don't want viewers of my blog to be greeted with a picture of Milo Yiannopoulos any longer. He's vane enough as it is.
 
I have been looking at more communications from the Black Lives Matter (BLM) cause. Specifically, I am studying DeRay McKesson, the gay Black man who is a major activist in that cause. To be out, gay and Black is itself a measure of courage. Being a former class president at Bowdoin College, a smaller Ivy League school in Maine, speaks to McKesson's intelligence and application of it. His subsequent involvement in public education development and Baltimore politics speaks to his putting his ideological rubber to the road. He seems like an all-around decent guy at heart.
 
The problem McKesson may be facing in his attempt to champion justice for Black citizens is not simply White racism, which is the main focus of the BLM message. White racism is a dying enemy. The majority of the U.S. population will shortly be non-White. McKesson's own city, Baltimore, is at least 68% Black, according to census data. The percentage of urban non-White citizenry across the country is already tipping into majority. In other words, urban Whites are becoming a minority. And metro-urban populations will be the majority of the future.
 
And, there are more of these diminishing middle-class White people than the rich Whites who oppress without concern about the race of the people they oppress/exploit economically and politically. Middle-class White people, especially the young, are the reason Bernie Sanders came close to slaying the dragon of the Democrat Party. But BLM managed to partially alienate that White Sanders base with the manner of their protests at earlier Sanders events.
 
Many White people who have always supported human rights campaigns are puzzled by BLM. We simply do not know what BLM wants. We see clearly that they do not want our input or support. We see clearly that they do not want to negotiate with police or politicians in any meaningful way. We see clearly that BLM is composed of angry young Black people who are deeply entrenched in holding on to the history of slavery as the core of their identity. We understood that in the 1960's. We are finding it hard to accept in 2016.
 
It seems to me that BLM wants attention but has no idea how to use it effectively to move the general society in some way. It is hard to ignore any Black movement when the U.S. President and part of his administration are Black Americans. It is hard to ignore a Black movement when the entertainment industry is heavily representative of Black Americans. It is hard to ignore a Black movement when professional sports are dominated by Black athletes. We see you, but what are you proposing we do about what is bothering you? That is what I do not see. We are not deaf. We are not blind. We are confused. Help us out.
 
 

Monday, July 11, 2016

FOLLOWING AND UNFOLLOWING

 
Milo Wagner, AKA Milo Yiannopoulos
 
I was disturbed (as usual) by several things I read on Facebook and Twitter today. Being disturbed by social media is healthy, in my opinion. If you sit staring at Facebook GIF's and Retweets for hours on end without being disturbed, I suggest you check your pulse. If you still have one, proceed immediately to your local psychiatric emergency room. If you are already on psychiatric medication, I suggest you look into getting your prescription reevaluated.
 
I have considered leaving Facebook. Some intelligent people I know already have. Today I thought about ditching Facebook after reading an account of a young German couple whose page was censored by Facebook after some Left-Wing-Fascist-nut-job complained that it was "hate speech". You see, these native Germans had simply put up a page to give other Germans an opportunity to express their reactions to illegal mass migration. The couple had taken special care to exclude what they considered radical speech, based in violence and blanket xenophobia. Nonetheless, they were sentenced to suspended prison sentences and a 1200 Euro fine for posting a Facebook page! I suppose, by that standard, I should be folding sheets in a prison laundry as well. That is why I must stay on Facebook.
 
This is a crystal-clear example of why Brits voted out of the EU. Merkel's Germany has descended into the worst kind of Fascism. It is plutocratic Fascism posing as Enlightenment. And, I fear, it is exactly that brand of Fascism which Hillary Clinton will bring to the White House. I doubt Congress will comply with it, but we may just get another eight years of no substantial betterment of the country and a surplus of egoistic media posturing. Donald Trump, if he pulls out a surprise victory, will also posture, but he may well change the political landscape with the help of the Libertarians, people like Milo Yiannopoulos..
 
I did unfollow Milo Yiannopoulos today, considered by some to be the Libertarian Anti-Christ. Milo is an outspoken free-speech advocate. I like that. However, he is also an elitist without compassion ... or even class. He has taken to displaying a kind of narcissistic homosexual behavior which we have endeavored to leave behind since Stonewall. The tweet which broke my tolerance implied that poverty is always a choice. The pure insanity of this assertion in concert with his recent condemnation of abortion rights sent me searching for the unfollow button. Enough is enough. I am close to that same edge with several social justice warriors on the New Left as well.
 
A world of followers and unfollowers is a world prone to extremism. It is as simple as that. It displays the proclivity of the young geniuses who devised social media to become plutocratic Fascists themselves. After all, social media are becoming a collection of vast adolescent bedroom walls, bedecked with posters which often seem grossly absurd in retrospect. Perhaps it is time for more intelligent people to move out of that protracted adolescent space to something more actualizing, like physically participating in local community, local politics, local education and local environment.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

WORTH

 
 
worth
 
worth is not net monetary value.
worthiness is not bestowed but earned.
worth is an accumulation of action.
worth is honest esteem in a mirror.
worth is in the eyes of the loved.
worth is left when all is stripped away.