reflections on the poverty of one’s life and the richness of one’s character
by Paul Haeder / January 11th, 2020
I’m watching the Pacific heave up a king tide in the tiny town of Waldport on the Oregon Coast. Houses right above the beach line are now soaked, their back and front yards littered with driftwood, logs and tree stumps.
And water. The power of that expanding ocean and the rising tides lend pause for any sane person realizing that this yearly cyclical event is a premonition: what I am seeing now is going to be the new normal. Everything shifts with one-three-nine feet of ocean rise in the next 20-30-50-100 years. The winds are pushing up more sea spray, and the entire scene is both amazingly beautiful and dangerous to the future of my town, a million towns across the globe.
That “normal” is no more beaches, or, that is, until the ocean takes out homes and front and back yards to sweep away more of the land to deposit beach materials to create beaches.
The idea of humanity is to deploy hard mitigation techniques to fight the tide of rising oceans — dikes, boulders, trillions of tons of earth, cement, sea wall, diversion conduits, stilts, bloated and expensive channeling and walling off wetlands. You know, more and more busy bees, busy ants trying to push back on the forces of nature. Then there is retreat and abandonment. Obviously, we see how well retreat works when so many investments in capitalism are tied around the real estate and infrastructure of so many of their industries and businesses being so close to the impending ocean inundation. Forgot about abandonment for a long while, as we can see for obvious reasons beach community after beach community rebuilding after powerful hurricanes, that will look like rain storms under the impending new normal of heating ocean currents, etc.
There are other ways to plan for a world without ice, but we are an insane species who have let overlords control every blinking, swallowing, thinking, defecating, urinating, masticating, breathing, bleating, REM-ing moment of our lives. We have been so brainwashed and colluded and controlled that we can’t think even though we should and are capable of fixing the mitigation plans. Retrenchment is out of the question when it comes to capitalism, USA all the way, arrogance, and war making against people, planet, species. Ecosocialism!
Unless we change the conversation. Unless we get people to start thinking about and talking about and working for a viable alternative to the market-driven collapse of civilization. Our job, as ecosocialists is to put forward a practical plan to slam the brakes on emissions, an emergency response to the climate emergency. This plan has to begin with brutal honesty:
We can’t have an infinitely growing economy on a finite planet.
We can’t suppress emissions without closing down companies.
We need to socialize those companies, nationalize them, buy them out and take them into public hands so we can phase them out or retrench them.
If we close down/retrench industries then society must provide new low- or no-carbon jobs for all those displaced workers and at comparable wages and conditions.
We have to replace our anarchic market economy with a largely, though not entirely, planned economy, a bottom-up democratically planned economy.
The environmental, social and economic problems we face cannot be solved individual choices in the marketplace. They require collective democratic control over the economy to prioritize the needs of society and the environment. And they require national and international economic planning to reorganize and restructure our economies and redeploy labor and resources to those ends. In other words, if humanity is to save itself, we have to overthrow capitalism and replace it with some form of democratic eco-socialism.
Yeah, I know, we didn’t all sign up for the pollution, the massive surveillance, the penury, the ecosystems destruction, the addictions promoged and promulgated by consumerism, the predilections of greed, the gentrification, McDonaldization, Walmartization, Facebook-Google-IZATION of our worlds, for sure. But all of that didn’t just happen, since this country has a DNA-warp which allows for almost complete deification of the rich and the powerful and the controlling. Celebrity cultism doesn’t even scratch the surface of how colonized the Western mind has become.
Yep, we were sleeping when all the psy-ops, info-wars, algorithmic predictive shit came barreling into our lives. And complicit in the entire colonization of our minds, bodies, hearts, souls, futures and fates by a Brave New World corporate SOP and a big brother government.
Wet, Wild, Unpredictable
I’m talking to a few people who are here in Waldport photographing with phones the king tide phenomenon, and they dance back and forth out of the surge of high tide and the sneaker waves pummeling parking lots, cars and yards.
Some say, “Well, this is man’s doing. Or it will be more and more each decade. Amazing we think we are the highest forms of life in our universe.”
Yes. this is a direct quote from one of the bystanders who also told me she plants as many trees on her five acres, and she sees the little town of Waldport sort of vanishing in the coming decades because she knows there is no will of the people to work together to move it, or to put in hard barriers, which in the end won’t do that much.
Oh, those 7 R’s: retrench, retreat, regroup, reorganize, reassess, reinvent, revive.
In my slow (by many of my friends’ standards) life here, I am faced with a lot of time to write, a lot of people who are precarious, faced with poverty and with people who end up in my column for a little rag on the coast. Some of those pieces end up in Dissident Voice.
Not exactly tinged with revolution and Marxism and anarchy and ecosocialism and hard left zeal to at least give a decent run at this perverse society of exploitative and predatory capitalism, the columns are my emotional and intellectual Prozac, man, insulating me for a few nanoseconds from the madness of this world and the reimagining of my own sanity. I’ve got a friend out there who sees the scientists and others I feature in this rag of a column as sell outs, as reasons for the many precipitates the communities and the cultures within those communities are failing.
Scientists and capitalism, an old pairing that has done wonderfully destructive things to people, planet, ecosystems big and small. And I get it, really, as I plod through slipstream after slipstream. Man, I am on the thin ice of aging (63 next month) and being made anachronistic daily by my idiotic dream of still getting something out there on some mainstream best sellers or notable list for my brand of literary fiction.
I daily have fights on various channels and in person about how people like us, like me, give zero to society.
What great invention or engineering feat have you done? What contribution to the good of humanity have you done? I bet everything you do — including typing your idiocy on your computer — is the result of engineers and technologists and doers. Take your poor ass liberal teaching (indoctrination) and Podunk writing (who the hell reads your irrelevant stuff?) and crawl back to your tie-dyed, smoked out Oregon. Another libtard/turd . . . Living in Oregon? ‘Nuff said!
This is the hard-wired brain of many Americans — and the so-called left and the wavering liberals are part and parcel part of that mindset because so many in my lifetime have denigrated my brand of revolution, perspective and analysis as way too extreme or radical. Irrelevant. Utopian. Impossible. Foolish. Something along those lines, as tempered as the above quote really is since most people I run into who label me commie, socialist and libtard are threatening my life, want my expulsion from love-it-or-leave-it-in-a-coffin USA. It gets worse what these pigs of capitalism and red-white-blue Military Industrial Complex say to me on-line and sometimes in person.
They are here to wear us down . . .
Nothing works, it seems. Each big, small, tiny, gargantuan community is flooded with takers, and the leavers of the world, the givers, are not only out-gunned, but the entire fabric of capitalism and consumer culture and this military-might-makes-right society is flooded with those Yankees.
Begging for a countywide warming shelter, no free clinics, not dentists, reckless law enforcement hobbling the poor with more violations and court dates and jail time. The RV-with-Jeep-in-tow-and-vacation-home America against the very people who do the oil changes, the plumbing fixes the burger flipping, the road . . . .
Have a beer and celebrate when the video of Saddam’s neck is snapped by a rope. Celebrate with tailgaters when Osama bin Laden’s supposed dead body is sealed upin body bags by those magnificent SEALs.
Despair is easy in this country, with the wide gape of peering into the belly of the beast, which is really us, US, USA.
I work as a substitute teacher and also work for a national non-profit that has designed this anti-poverty program around social capital and unconditional cash transfers. I am daily struggling to see how my two books that are coming out will make a drop in any bucket, and I am plagued with the fear of lifelong bad decisions, with a general anxiety disorder, and my own form of collective Stockholm Syndrome just daily slogging along in this messed up culture, society and country.
Let me reframe here — Any creative artist who is revolutionary and communist in purpose is going to be wacked hard in this competitive, superficial, predatory, hard-boiled, violent, usury-drawn country. Every single monetary interchange and human exchange is filled with duality after duality. Contradictions. Counter-intuitive thinking. Equivocation. Rationalization.
Daily it’s as if I have to fight very hard to stave off the insanity from surfacing, or at least battening down all those mental duress points from congealing. Daily, I have to quell the anger. Daily, I have to resort to looking toward some spiritual formula to stay sane, pacific, and within the constraints of the social contracts laid out to keep me from going ballistic.
And yet . . . . I also work with people in complete struggle against all aspects of capitalism — shitty jobs, low pay rates; shitty vehicles or vapid public transportation; shitty local culture for people with no money, or no places for children to gather without throwing in dollars for the ride; shitty schools for their kids; shitty housing situations; shitty social capital and community resources; shitty backgrounds; shitty family dynamics; shitty physical and mental health; shitty credit scores; shitty prospects; shitty people controlling their shitty lives; shitty air and water.
Then, it’s up against this backdrop of drive-in fast-food culture, in this homogenization of every mile of roadside attraction country. Little things like — Did you know that the 7-11 corporation is directly responsible for all those bodegas and cool little family holes in the wall in places like New York going belly up? Colonization, like cancer . . . page from the playbook of Starbucks, Walmart, Amazon, the lot of them. Flipping 7-11 “convenience” stores flooding neighborhoods using economies of scale and the power of billions to push out the mom and pop’s, the little guy or gal. Rents go out the roof, and that’s it, RIP small town/big town America.
Yet . . . but . . . however . . . hold on a minute! Many of these people living under shitty circumstances can muster some sense of positive daily outlook. Sure, many have false hope, and many believe that hype and propaganda of the American Dream, that anyone can be a millionaire — forgetting that there is-will be-was always a million suckers born every minute in this stolen land.
Given that, though, my whole life has been compelled to understand that survivable character in these people — how they can get a can of sardines and believe they have caviar. You know, the old lemons made into lemonade axiom.
That’s what the new short story collection coming out, Wide Open Eyes — Surfacing from Vietnam, galvanizes in the 17 short stories: the will to survive, and not always thrive. Like that coyote chewing leg out of trap to limp on three legs to still live another day and another. Three-legged Americans, these characters in this collection are all somehow tied to the Vietnam War, plagued by their own survival or someone close to them. It’s not thematic, and each story is a stand-alone. I didn’t even try and thread this or that juxtaposition to make the collection super cohesive or interlinked. Alas, though the book is a stand-alone in that all the stories have that atmospheric and gritty demarcation between failure and giving up and just going on, moving ahead . . . no matter the circumstances of past, present or future.
In that sense WOE is an American book, like the wide scope of American literature. That’s Wide Open Eyes from Cirque Press, available, gulp, on Amazon, my arch nemesis. There will be a review of the book here soon. Looking at maybe four sales from my DV crowd. Oh well.
That little detail is like death by a thousand cuts, and, coming around the bend to 63 years old, I am having a difficult time having my principles stick. Everything about Amazon, about Bezos, about the people who plan the company from coder to software and logistics engineer, who develop AI and flood the world with the non-competitive shit that is the company, I despise . . . and yet, here we are, Year of the Rat, 2020, and I have just given over my soul in a Faustian Bargain to Amazon hawking my book with their bloody cut of the deal.
Checking out isn’t an option, and the fight is now for the little guy and gal, the child, the wordless old man with Parkinson’s, the bent over old lady checking items at the Safeway. There may be MAGA in some of those struggling souls, and that’s a whole other deal. For now, though, what is this country, and what is the ordinary man-woman-child?
Country as an idea, country as something that doesn’t exist, country as something continually changing because of outside forces. Country as a word from the enemy, meaning the empire. — Roque Dalton, Salvadoran poet
Joseph Campbell (“The Power of Myth”) quote roiling around my busy mind: I don’t think there is any such thing as an ordinary mortal. Everybody has his own possibility of rapture in the experience of life. All he has to do is recognize it and then cultivate it and get going with it. I always feel uncomfortable when people speak about ordinary mortals because I’ve never met an ordinary man, woman, or child.