Sunday, June 24, 2012

On turning Sixty

A few thought on turning 60 years old.

I'm not quite sure what to think of this. After all, 60 years is a significant span of time for a human being, although not all that long in the grand scheme of things.

Since it is the tradition to grant wishes and give gifts on one's birthday, I was thinking about what I would like as the ideal gift. At first, of course, I thought of trivial things: a Classic Corvette, an all expenses vacation, even an autographed collection of Stephen King or William Carlos Williams. But these are things, and in the grand scheme of things (no pun intended), end up as dust collectors and clutter in an already cluttered life.

And lets face it, at 60, your life is cluttered, whether you like it or not. My little “office” at home is a narrow room, about eight feet wide by twenty feet long, and it is very difficult to maneuver in . There are three cabinets of VHS tapes, six bookshelves filled with books and other assorted things (which I rarely use), a weight bench with weights and several dumbbells and barbells, a folding table filled with all sorts of books, magazines, and other tools of the trade, a desk which I am sitting at as I type on the computer, a chair, an exercise ball, a space heater, a CD holder, another table, three guitars, a banjo, a mandolin, two wastepaper baskets, and several items out of sight I have neglected to mention, I am sure. All of this contained in 160 square feet. I think you will agree, this is the definition of cluttered.

As to feeling 60, I am not sure what that means. After all, I woke up this morning like I woke up yesterday. A little stiffer, perhaps. I have accepted that as a part of life, seeing as various injuries and bad habits of my youth have taken their toll. I won't dwell upon them all here, but suffice it to say I have dared to challenge myself from time to time, and not always in the smartest of fashions. [I think back now and am reminded of the famous last words of the American Redneck....'Hey, Ya'll, Watch This!']

I would love to say I have succeeded at every endeavor, but that is not the case. I have had my ups and downs, my successes and my failures. I have completed an Associates Degree in Liberal Arts, and have all the credits needed for a Bachelors Degree, but cannot seem to master a foreign language with enough skill to fill that requirement, which frustrates me to no end. The requirement, that is. I see no need to master another language when my native tongue is spoken around the world. Furthermore, since I never intended to work outside the United States, I just don't see the point. But the universities and other institutions of higher learning seem to think this is important, so I continue to write poetry and prose sans the benefit of an acknowledged degree. C'est la vie. так это жизнь. E` così la vita.

But back to the birthday wish. I believe if I could make one wish come true today, I would wish for all the peoples of the world to believe in themselves, in their inherent goodness, in their ability to reach beyond their petty differences and realize they have been laboring under the flawed misconception they are destined to forever be at odds with one another.

As a Christian, I understand where part of this comes from. The concept of original sin pervades our thinking like a universal solvent, creeping in to every thought, every plan, every notion. We accept without question our nature is flawed, and by extension believe every other person is the same. Since we believe we are all flawed, we therefore believe that people, when given the opportunity, will always sink to the lowest level, and are, therefore, innately untrustworthy. When we think of each other like this, we are presuming the nature of humanity cannot rise above this flaw.

Now this is not exclusive to Christians. I use them here as an example because I know the people who read this are probably Christians and want them to understand where I am coming from. No matter what culture you hail from, this basic precept exists in one form or another. And it is the greatest impediment to our rising to the next level of human development. We can be one planet, one people, one race, if we are willing to trust one another.

As the Bard would say, “Aye, there's the rub.”. Trust is probably the hardest emotion to earn, and the hardest state to attain. We are raised by our parents not to trust, and some would argue with good cause, for there are predators and deviants among us, evil men and women intent on satisfying their own needs above the needs of others. But what we fail to teach our children is these are the exceptions to the rule, not the norm. We teach women in our society particularly to distrust other women, a practice going back in time to competition for mates. And while we teach our sons teamwork, we also teach them to consider other men as adversaries. I could give you many other examples, some more extreme and distasteful, but the point is we teach our children not to trust.

And our leaders, be they Presidents, monarchs, employers, or clergy, use this to maintain their power over us. Now you would think they would want us to trust, to share, to be at peace with one another, but nothing is further from the truth. For a society which trusts is a society which listens to each other, a society which bonds together to cry against injustice, especially when it is injustice carried out in the name of the people. If we were to learn to trust one another, we would be the ones in power, and the leaders would be forced to surrender their power back to the people. And power is a drug once taken which cannot easily be surrendered. So the leaders allow the public to be terrified by the media, even so far as to staging events and circumstances to drive fear into the people and a wedge between factions, making them fear one another. And when you fear, you cannot trust.

Twenty years ago, this wish could not have been made, at least with an expectation of fulfillment. Twenty years ago, the internet was nothing more than bulletin boards and emails. Twenty years ago, there was little chance of hearing all the facts of any matter without the media slanting the information in one direction or another. Twenty years ago, we did not have this marvelous tool called the internet. Twenty years ago, we could not speak across oceans and continents to learn about other people and their desires, their aspirations, their dreams. Twenty years ago, communication required risk, confrontation, encounters. None of that is true today.

Utopia is not my goal, and in my opinion, will never be achieved. But hunger, poverty, disease, homelessness, depression, and all the ills of mankind caused by greed, corruption, and injustice are solvable. All you need is trust.

Frederick Smith
© June 24, 2012

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A commentary in poetry

“United we stand, divided we fall”

The ancient truth of Aesop stands, an axiom unchallenged.
When we unite, no power on earth we cannot overcome.
Our rulers know this. They understand the power of the masses.
And so conspire to set us one against the other, dividing into classes,

exploiting every negative to keep us separate.
Relying on our ignorance, our apathy, our hate.
The saddest testament is how we live, and what we say,
continuing the lies they thrust upon us every day.

We've learned this canticle of  propaganda all too well.
So tell, me, brother, sister, is it time for us to swell
into a single mass and cry together, “NO! NO MORE!”
“We've had it with your petty lies, your avarice and war,

your struggles to protect the rich and keep the poor contained,
your greed in keeping everything within your rich domain.
Your politics and trickery replaced the chains of old,
we're tired of waiting patiently for what will never come.”

Think carefully, my brethren, before you stand with me,
for greed and avarice will not go quietly.
They'll use their laws and armies to attempt to keep us down.
They'll call us communists and claim we are the ones,

the real culprits of the cause of all your loss and pain.
They'll whittle at the least of us til nothing else remains.
Unless you really want this world to change, don't stand at all,
go back in to your closet, go spray paint on your wall,

do nothing, and hope someday your children will be wise,
not following the path that you have set before their eyes,
but rising to the knowledge that we are of one race,
and understanding being human is not about a place,

a sea, a book, traditions, or how we think of God,
but a universal kinship, a vast genetic bond.
We are HUMAN, we are one, we are united in our blood,
inherent in our strength is our desire to be one.

So, tell me, brother, sister, can you offer up your lives,
to realize a dream where people everywhere survive
in harmony and unity, without the chains of old?
Are you willing to be brave? Are you willing to be bold?

Are you willing to be tolerant, and can you understand,
the differences among us are the power to be grand?
The colors of the rainbow exist within our hearts.
Are you willing to embrace them, give love a fresh, new start?

I would not have you answer me from lurching gut reaction,
but having thought this through, discussing with each faction,
if we are willing as a race to put away the past
and bring the new millennium of peace to Earth at last.

I've little more to say on this, my sermon's at an end.
If nothing else, I hope that you are thinking now, my friend.
I'll add one final epigram, these words you should recall,
“united we will surely stand, divided we will fall.”

Frederick Smith
© June 23, 2012

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Universal Franchise

"We are all born in a terribly unfair world." I don't care who you are, when you hear this statement, you will nod your head in agreement. That saying is a generally accepted axiom [def: a saying that is widely accepted on its own merits. (For those who need it, no offense to those who don't.)] But does it need to be true?

I think many people who accept this accept Social Darwinism as well. Yes, there will always be the smarter, stronger, wiser or more savvy among us, but are they any more deserving of a decent, fear free life than any of us? Should anyone be denied Life, Liberty, or the Pursuit of Happiness because they are above or below average?

 According to our Declaration of Independence, everyone is entitled to these things. It shouldn't make a difference if you are brilliant or mentally challenged, if you are wealthy or poor. Your life should be of the highest quality, free of challenges to your survival, free to pursue your desires. You should not have to "earn" happiness or life. You should be able to pursue whatever you like as long as it does not interfere with the rights of another.

 This is not socialism, communism, or any other "ism" on the books. This is the statement of the Declaration of Independence, sometimes known as the Universal Franchise. We have an obligation to level the playing field to afford opportunity to all, not just the lucky ones, not just the 1%.

We have an obligation to ensure every American has a place to live, food to eat, clothes to wear, and access to education to improve their life beyond simple survival. We have an obligation to allow everyone to compete if they wish, and to allow those who do not to survive as human beings.

 We have no right to ostracize, to discriminate, to eschew or cast out any person who desires the basic necessities of life. We can only do so when such an individual threatens the safety of their neighbors or this nation with attempts to destroy what we know to be right; that all people on this planet deserve to be treated as human beings as long as they are willing to respect the rights of others.

 This is why the upcoming election is so important, my friends. The incumbents, Democrat and Republican alike, are bent on retaining the current system of "checks and balances" in our economy and in our society, those same checks and balances which sustain welfare, homelessness, poverty, unemployment, and all the inequality of this nation which has been created by this endless stream of career politicians to maintain their control of the United States while appearing to fight for the people.

 We must eliminate Career Politicians from our nation. We must elect people who are willing to serve this nation and then return to the private sector to allow for others to contribute. We must eliminate the machine.