An opportunity to change the community conversation

Recent news has rocked our world. We don’t know where it is headed. We don’t know how it will affect our future. We don’t know when it will end. We simply know that this is not normal. Yet, even right now, I see at least one clear possibility for channeling this into positive energy. Yes, this crisis is an opportunity. Right now we have an opportunity to change the public conversation, we have a rare opportunity to come together in our communities in a unified voice, to show our true human strengths, and seize this a unique opportunity for progressive change toward our shared goals.

My business focuses on sustainable business redevelopment in a rural community at the New Jersey bayshore. This field is typically divisive and partisan. I have regrettably become notorious as a divisive force for progressive change over several decades. I’ve made plenty of conservative enemies. My community activism even triggered death threats that snowballed into an attempted political assassination fourteen years ago. Recovery from those injuries cost me many years in recovery. The risks of political fighting within the community are all too real for me. My family and I certainly have good cause to fear politics and activism.

Yet despite this bitter experience, six years after the attack we were forced to learn an entirely new lesson. Superstorm Sandy wiped out my home and business in late 2012. In that time of community crisis, we all set down our weapons and come together for our own survival. Partisan bickering disappeared. We worked side by side to pull ourselves out of the mud and gradually rebuild out community. Our community of Money Island eventually rebuilt from within with virtually no support from government, even in the face of obvious FEMA fraud and maligned government forces working against us.

Over the past few days, I see signs that we will repeat many of the same social patterns. Even our normally impotent in Washington DC proved this weekend that people can come together for the common good. Rahm Emanuel is credited for saying “You never let a serious crisis go to waste”. The line gained notoriety. But over time we have learned that the ‘crisis management approach’ to community action has proven to be the most effective method we have available to unify our diverse communities. Those who can see this opportunity hold the keys to moving our communities forward. I urge each person reading this to recognize the opportunity, to take a lead role, and be a positive force in leadership through the crisis.

Someday this crisis will be over. But we have good reason to believe that positive measures adapted in an emergency become part of the mainstream of our lives going forward afterwards. Namaste.

Refuze Bees Wing

“I was nineteen when I came to town
They called in the Summer of Love
They were burningbabies, burning flags
The Hawks against the DovesI took a job in the STeamie
Down on Cauldrum Street
I fell in love with a laundry girl
Was working next to meShe was a rare thing
Fine as a beeswing
So fine a breath of wind might blow her away
She was a lost child
She was running wild, she said
As long as there’s no price on love, I’ll stay
And you wouldn’t want me any other wayBrown hair zig-zag round her face
And a look of half-surprise
Like a fox caught in the headlights
There was an animal in her eyesShe said, young man, O can’t you see
I’m not the factory kind
If you don’t take me out of here
I’ll surely lose my miindShe was a rare thing
Fine as a beeswing
So fine a breath of wind might blow her away
She was a lost child
She was running wild, she said
As long as there’s no price on love, I’ll stay
And you wouldn’t want me any other wayWe busked around the market towns
And picked fruit down in Kent
And we could tinker lamps and pots
And knives wherever we wentAnd I said that we might settle down
Get a few acres dug
Fire burning in the hearth
And babies on the rugShe said O man, you foolish man
It surely sounds like hell
You might be lord of half the world
You’ll not own me as wellShe was a rare thing
Fine as a beeswing
So fine a breath of wind might blow her away
She was a lost child
She was running wild, she said
As long as there’s no price on love, I’ll stay
And you wouldn’t want me any other wayWe was camping down the Gower one time
The work was pretty good
She thought we shouldn’t wait for frost
And I thought maybe we shouldWe were drinking more in those days
And tempers reached a pitch
Like a fool I let her run
With the rambling itchLast I hear she’s sleeping out
Back on Derby beat
White Horse in her hip pocket
And a wolfhound at her feetAnd they say she even marriend once
A man named Romany Brown
But even a Gypsy caravan
Was too much settliing downAnd they say her flower is faded now
Hard weather and hard booze
But maybe that’s just the price you pay
For the chains you refuseShe was a rare thing
Fine as a beeswing
And I missher more than ever words could say
If I could just taste
All of her wildness now
If I could hold her in my arms today
Then I wouldn’t want her any other way”

  • Richard Thompson performed this at Philadelphia Folk Festival. I don’t remember what year.

Notes from: “Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work”

“Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work”
book by Alex Williams and Nick Srnicek, 2015

notes from Blinkist

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inventing_the_Future:_Postcapitalism_and_a_World_Without_Work

PostCapitalism by Paul Mason (2015) offers a close examination of the failures of current economic systems. The 2008 financial crisis showed us that neoliberal capitalism is falling apart, and these blinks outline the reasons why we’re at the start of capitalism’s downfall, while giving an idea of what our transition into postcapitalism will be like.

The book begins (chapters 1–2) by critiquing dominant left-wing thinking in the West.

Contrasts left-wing folk politics with the success of neoliberalism in achieving global cultural hegemony.

Folk politics isn’t working.

Most people don’t distinguish between Liberalism vs. neoliberalism.

The current political tactics of the left are failing for working people. To succeed in transforming society, the left must take a page out of the right-wing playbook and build a long-term, strategic vision that offers an alternative to the current neoliberal, capitalist world order.

The most important takeaway is that the left needs to build a similarly long-term, strategic vision. To do so, the left will need to abandon its fear of organizational secrecy, hierarchy and rationality. Such changes are essential if we are to build and sustain a comparably hegemonic position.

Automation and unemployment are increasingly likely.

Universal basic income is the key to creating a world after capitalism.

In the 1960s and 70s, basic income was a core proposal of the US welfare system. Economists, NGOs and policymakers were all exploring the idea in great detail. In fact, 1,300 economists signed a petition urging the US Congress to pass UBI, and two presidents, Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter, attempted to pass it as legislation.

Support has come from writers like Paul Krugman and Martin Wolf, and news outlets like the New York Times and the Economist.

“The goal of the future is full unemployment” – Arthur C. Clark

Orwell wrote, “the job of the thinking person is not to reject socialism but to make up his mind to humanise it”

What happened to Occupy?
https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/08/21/is-there-any-point-to-protesting

Notes on “Death of the Liberal Class”

“Death of the Liberal Class” by Chris Hedges, 2015
Notes are from Blinkist

Modern society’s liberal thinkers have failed in promoting and developing the ideals they supposedly hold dear: protecting the meek and regulating government. The consequences for this failure are far greater than dysfunctional government; indeed, they may be catastrophic.

Liberalism is dying a slow death, and importantly, highlights the awful consequences to come in the United States of a one-sided political and cultural system.

The American media isn’t really free anymore;
No one is interested in “standing up for the little guy”.
The United States went to war against liberalism.

The liberal class has failed to protect American workers from exploitation.

The liberal class has purged itself of radicals and unconventional thinkers to its detriment.

The arts have abandoned liberal values; money has taken the place of political expression.

The media is no longer free and independent, as corporations have taken over a majority of papers.

We live in a world of total corporate control, where wars are endless because profits are high.

“The corporations that profit from permanent war need is to be afraid”.

Many liberals have blindly hoped that technology and a free market would bring about utopia.

We are just as uncritical of science as many years ago people were uncritical of god.

Many of today’s liberals have been bought off with wages or promises of a luxurious life.

The death of the liberal class can destabilize the entire democratic system.

With their needs unmet, the public turned to extremists on both sides of the political spectrum for support, which eventually allowed the Nazi party to rise significantly in power.

Society as we know it will collapse unless we institute the necessary liberal reforms.

Climate change, spurred by unregulated production and consumption, will drastically alter the living conditions on earth.

Moreover, there is a revolution in our future, and one that will be born at the far-right end of the American political spectrum.

Revolt is necessary, as it is our only means of toppling corrupt government. However, this revolt won’t come from the middle classes or be inspired by moderate politicians.

The only solution is a complete restructuring of human society into small communities, in which small groups of people can rebuild their lives.

These communities will have to be modest and self-sufficient, growing and building everything they need themselves. To live within their means, these groups can’t be much larger than a few families, otherwise they risk becoming reliant on larger industrial producers.

The emotional rural response to the disarmament trend

The majority of people nationally and locally support the slow tending changes of U.S. gun laws moving toward disarmament. Yet a number of rural New Jersey communities are resisting and acting out against the long term trend of change in our gun culture by asking local governments to declare themselves “second amendment sanctuaries” and to oppose any new restrictions on guns which they deem to be unconstitutional. Local governments comply because these measures are popular with the voters and cost nothing now. In a sense, the sanctuary measures are harmless. But even if they have no legal impact, I’m concerned that they set the stage for wasting taxpayer money ahead. The reality is that gun regulations laws fall under state and federal jurisdiction, not local governments. No matter how much a local community “resists”, they won’t change that. Compliance, as a practical matter is an individual choice with little to no local community impact. Despite the emotional discussions, gun law compliance will be based on simple economics, not an emotional or values-based position.

IMO these sanctuary measures only “kick the can down the road” by continuing the division between rural community residents and the much larger rest of the state population. The overall state population overwhelmingly support change in gun culture. It would be better, IMO, for governments to engage and empower local rural residents to get involved if state-level gun culture efforts.

Some proponents of the gun sanctuary movement have even resurrected words like “nullification” and “interposition”from Southern secessionists during the Civil War and opposing desegregation in the 1960s. That’s scary, but probably not meaningful.

In the end, I predict that these social tensions will fade away without much excitement. Evolving gun regulations will be crafted in a way to dissipate emotional reactions as an important integral component of their design. Technology and finances will effect the change in an unemotional manner. Future regulations about gun insurance, taxation and registration will wisely avoid confrontation and allow the resisters to voluntarily comply with changes as the financially and legally logical choice. I’ve covered those from a revenue and tax perspective in other blog posts.

Goodbye to the decade of disillusion

I am happy to say goodbye to the decade that lowered my expectations of the future of humanity.

I had allowed past events to create the illusion that we were advancing beyond ignorance as the standard of society. Ten years ago I believed that more information would inevitably lead to enlightenment. That proved wrong.

We are reminded of the incredible power of ignorance, bigotry, greed and hate fueled by anti-social media powers. We aren’t out of the woods yet, but at least we have some strategies. We know that deep-fake propaganda is the next wave to hit us. It will be difficult to learn that we cannot trust what we see with our eyes, hear with our own ears. Instead, we will need to learn to apply a cognitive mental process, probably combined with machine-driven algorithms to learn the truth. It won’t be easy.

It’s sad to end my blog this decade on such a sour note. But I remain committed

 

“Dickensian lens”

Early this morning I was driven to understand the meaning of the common phrase “Dickensian lens”. I get the feeling when I read this term in print that some who use it don’t have much depth of understanding as to what it means. I have no idea what it means. After doing a little research it is still unclear.

I found this definition of “Dickensian” in “Masterpiece Classic”. The source and purpose of this publication is not clear.

“Charles Dickens’ work continues to be so influential that the adjective
“Dickensian” is used today to describe something “of or like the novels
of Charles Dickens (especially with regard to poor social and economic
conditions),” according to WordNet at http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/
perl/webwn?s=dickensian.

Search for current usages of the word in The New York Times archive at nytimes.com (put the term “Dickensian” in the search bar) or other newspapers in order to understand how “Dickensian” is used in different contexts. For example, a 2008 article in The New York Times describes Mumbai, India this way: “For the writer, the Dickensian lens offers an easy view of Mumbai: wealthy and poor, apartment-dwelling and slumdwelling, bulbous and malnourished.” (www.nytimes.com/2008/11/09/”.
weekinreview/09giridharadas.html).

It is clear that the term refers to social commentary. But that’s all I see so far. Is Dickens still relevant today? I don’t see it. English literature professors do. In either case, does looking at a current situation in comparison to the way Dickens would describe it add any insight now? Again, I don’t see it, except perhaps in reinforcing that the human condition has always involved suffering.

I still don’t see why the trendiness of the term “Dickensian lens”.

 

 

 

 

MAGAt at your own financial risk

Tonight I overheard a young white man in Vineland say that he left his job after being harassed over his support of Trump. He loudly proclaimed that he is way too good to tolerate that type of treatment and they don’t appreciate his genius in this former $14 per hour job. Now he is suddenly an entrepreneur, on his way to building a sales empire.

I was reminded of the joke:

“Teenagers: Revolt now! Rise up from the tyranny of your parents rules! Move out, get a job, support yourself now while you still know everything!”

Then a few minutes ago I joined an online conversation among a few professional friends, one tax lawyer and one enrolled agent, where I concluded that MAGAts should not be denied our business services but it is a good idea to charge premium fees for putting up with such personalities.

Expression of political beliefs is not helpful to the wallet.

Black Friday was disturbing

Thinking about the disturbing scene we saw yesterday while out shopping for used furniture for our new house: hoards of hyped-up people in ‘feeding frenzy mode’, some actually running and slamming shopping carts through the Goodwill warehouse in South Jersey for ‘$.99 a pound’ special sale. We noticed the many Mercedes and such high end vehicles in the parking lot. The phrase “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure” is proven true.

I remember a few years when I would shop for marina work clothes at Goodwill but my friend and partner Bruce would not. We made it a point to only get him new Carthartt stuff as a small luxury in his life. But meanwhile, I thought the Goodwill shop was great!

We didn’t find any decent furniture yesterday but we are in no hurry.

Goodbye to the neighborhood

On Friday Lance and I took a long walk from our home in Belmont Hills, through the roads of Penn Valley and to the neighborhoods of Bala Cynwyd to my mechanic’s shop on Montgomery Avenue near the post office. It was perfect fall weather for a walk. We’ve taken that two and a half mile walk before; he loves it. Our Australian shepherd/Burmese mix just loves to walk. It’s a welcome change from the daily beach walks we’ve taken all summer. I first came to this neighborhood when I started graduate school in Philadelphia at age 21. That was 38 years ago. I left for a while to live in Doylestown but returned when it was time to start a family. Years later after a second divorce I left to live in Ocean City for a while but returned as soon as I could afford a home here again.

I passed my closest neighbor Joe on the street in front of the house. We said goodbyes knowing that our moving day is approaching. I joked with him that I thought I would die in this house, just like the former owner (a weird long standing joke between us). He has always been a great neighbor. I came to this Jones Street neighborhood in 2003 after divorce. I told a Realtor that I wanted a house in the Lower Merion school district with a yard where the kids and I could have a tree fort and a garden. Then I told him how much I could afford. He laughed. I bought this house cash “as is” for $132,000. The only thing from the original 1901 construction is the thick stone wall frame. We rebuild everything else. We did have an awesome treehouse and a garden and greenhouse and hot tub. So many nights were spent in the hot tub looking out over the lights reflecting off the Schuylkill River and the Roxborough radio towers. It was a great house.

Lance and I started up the steep hills from our block where my heavy breathing reminds me than I’m not getting any younger. Then past the library and the community pool where we made so many family memories when the kids were young. In the 1990s living in Narberth we lived to get to the pool in the summer. I remember some desperate measures we took to get there on hot summer weekends. I remember the last time I visited in my early 40s I swam a mile as part of a triathlon training and I never had the urge to swim again.

20191025_140754385_iOS
apricot tree in Belmont Hills

We passed my favorite trees in Belmont Hills; oriental apricots I think. I remember speaking with the owner once. I noticed that some other houses look like they’ve have had no attention in four decades.

We passed through the roads of Penn Valley that makes me feel like we are risking our lives to cross the street. I was tense. In Lower Merion, we say, traffic lights are only a suggestion. I remember the day I saw a kid doing donuts in the small park presumably in the parents’ Rolls Royce. I called the police later when I got home. They knew about it already but seemed unconcerned. The mix of interactions of the ultra-rich and ordinary folks has always been an issue here.

We walked past the Cynwyd houses where I delivered the kids for play dates and wound up at the Cynwyd Elementary School. I remember when the school was the center of the universe for us. Then the middle school next door. Then to Lower Merion High School just down Montgomery Avenue. It seems so long ago.

Approaching the commercial neighborhood I am reminded of my friends at Rotary. Life would be have been empty without them.

When I got the neighborhood where the kids’ apartment, I lost emotional control. I had to sit down at a bench and cry. I remember that they moved there with their mom and step-dad after our marriage broke. I felt so bad, that I had let them down from a nearly perfect family life. At my lowest moment of post-breakup despair I sneaked to the house there one night and looked into the window where the kids were sleeping. But I also remember being grateful that if I couldn’t be there throwing a ball in the yard with my kids, I was really grateful that Ed was. And there was never any doubt they had a super mom. The story of how our marriage broke is compelling, but not appropriate here. I remember saying that I needed to have more quiet time to read and to write. That was about the time that I started spending more time at Money Island, my summer home now.

After I pulled myself together we walked up to the drive-through ATM. I planned to withdraw a pile of cash to pay the mechanic. By amazing coincidence an old relationship pulled up. He probably wondered who was the weirdo walking through the drive through. It turned out to be Lance, the retired Philadelphia police officer turned trainer at Friends Central School. I used to coach wrestling there. Lance was an amazingly strong positive influence. I still remember the intensity of his exercise classes. I also remember his strong positive attitude. We hadn’t seen each other in many years but he recognized me right away. I wonder if he saw that I had been crying. I explained briefly and I invited him to bring his boat and visit me at Money Island.

20191025_150055515_iOSWe continued our walk through the center of Bala village. Wow, so much has changed. I remember when I had a house charge account at the hardware store after we bought our first home there. I was a regular customer with constant remodeling projects. The hardware store, the pizza parlor and the movie theater made that block the perfect downtown small neighborhood. We passed Stephanie’s condominium where my kids grew up; where they still call home. I’m proud of them – Steph and Ed and that whole community there for being such a positive force for Josh and Arielle over the years.

Of course it wasn’t all smooth sailing. The months and years of recovery from an assassination attempt and TBI. Absurd! Then the devastation of Superstorm Sandy on the bayshore business and how it ripped me away from my life in PA.

I thought about all the great effort that Lori put into selling this house and finding us a new home over this past year. She did a fantastic job. I deliberately disengaged from the whole process and that was the best approach for us. I know how blessed I am that she’s been able to tolerate me through all I’ve been through in the past two decades. Few spouses would put up with my drama.

When Lance and I made it to the marina work truck at the mechanic’s shop I felt emotionally exhausted. I couldn’t focus on work so I took the rest of the day off to move some lumber and household items.

It is likely that this will be our last walk through the neighborhoods of Lower Merion. Thank you for all the memories.

 

I know a father
Who had a son
He longed to tell him all the reasons
For the things he’d done
He came a long way
Just to explain
He kissed his boy as he lay sleeping
Then he turned around and headed home again

  • Paul Simon, “Slip Sliding Away”