Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Non-Profit “Irrational Exuberance” Bubble

As you could probably tell from my Supreme Court posting, I’m very frustrated with the liberal non-profit world these days. (Yes, I still work in it myself because I haven’t quite figured out how else to earn a living.) Today, my partner wrote an email that really captured something I’ve felt, so I decided to share it with you. I took out any identifying information; after all, we do need that non-profit to keep paying his salary!

“This morning, I watched an intern tell a co-worker some relatively unimportant piece of news that I suppose could have been interpreted as a very mildly positive development on whatever the both of them are working on, and I then had the privilege of being a witness to that dorky 10-second dance that my co-worker does when she is given a piece of "good news" (complete with finger-snapping) that totally does not warrant such a physical display of joy.

“And then it hit me: I thought about ol' Alan Greenspan and his comments about "irrational exuberance" - this is totally what half the people here do. We get excited about bullshit, and convince ourselves that the bullshit is in fact very significant and real, like overzealous cheerleaders at a high school pep rally, and then we sweep very substantial and meaningful bad news under the rug and put our own delusional spin on it. Whether this is done consciously to keep morale high or the troops focused on their tasks, or unconsciously as a defense mechanism to prevent us from having a complete nervous breakdown, I dunno. But in any case, it blows my mind, increasingly so since last November.

“It's certainly not in my view a simple case of "positive attitude" or "necessary optimism". No offense to the real hard work all these folks do, but the delusional state of mind (especially after the last presidential election) sometimes borders, in my view, on mental disorder.”

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Break Up Songs

While it’s easy to pay attention to love songs when you’re not in love (isn't that what being 12 is about?), you don’t necessarily care about break up songs unless you’re broken up. So what follows is a list of break up songs I have direct experience with. Thank goodness the last one was in 1991!

The first person I ever broke up with freshman year in high school listened to Purple Rain non-stop afterwards on his walkman. I guess that line “It’s such a shame our friendship had to end” was what got him. My friends called him a drowned puppy. I felt a little bad. I still love that song.

I don’t really remember any song from my next break up, but I do remember that he gave me Chicago XVII for Christmas. Was “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” on that one?

The next one was a guy who communicated through notes, which consisted solely of song quotes, and tapes he made me. When we broke up, I got a blistering tape of Marillion. Harsh! I immediately threw it away, despite the fact that I did like “Lavender” and “Kayleigh”. I just didn’t want to listen to them if they were supposed to be about me!

For that guy, I guess “Careless Whisper” was my guilty feeling song. Oh, and in his yearbook I did write quotes from two songs (anonymously!):

Memories may be beautiful and yet
What’s too painful to remember,
We simply choose to forget.
But it’s the laughter we will remember
When we remember
The way we were.

Don’t let the past remind us
Of what we are not now

Do you think he knew it was me? ;)

Then was the guy who couldn’t tell the Beatles apart. Good riddance!

Then, let’s see, I ended going out with Purple Rain guy again between high school and college. We did the long distance thing until he broke up with me over Easter weekend when I was home from freshman year in college. Guess things evened out in the end. The only thing that saved me was Melissa Etheridge’s self-titled first album, which had just come out. For those of you who only know her from her recent adult contemporary work, her first few albums are quite bitter and rocking. Just what the doctor ordered! In my more generous days, I also played Chicago’s “Feeling Stronger Everyday”, but that was more for me than for him.

Finally, we have the soundtrack for the “friends with benefits”. I guess you can’t really call those breakup songs if you were never really together. Two of my favorites for that were Suzanne Vega’s “Knight Moves” (Do you love any, do you love none, can you love 20, can you love one, do you love me?) and the Cowboy Junkies’ “Cause Cheap is How I Feel”. Both are excellent for sitting in the dark and crying in your beer.

Billy Bragg’s “Greetings to the New Brunette” is a great “moving on” song. And Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” (forget Whitney’s version exists!) is heartbreaking – it makes me cry whenever I hear it, especially when she sings “and most of all I wish you love.” And Phil Collins doing “Against All Odds” is still an amazing song. If that’s just too un-hip for you, you can listen to the Postal Service’s cover of it. Great song, either way.

A friend of mine got divorced right when that Alanis Morrissette album came out, you know the one with “You Oughtta Know” on it. I guess it was very cathartic for my friend.

I can’t wait to hear your favorite break up song stories! C’mon, relive your exquisite pain!

Perfect Love Songs

A few months ago when we were visiting Karl’s family in France, I began polling people about their top 5 perfect love songs. Now I am not a romantic person. In fact, I’m about 99% cynic. But even I have to admit that there do exist some perfect love songs. I also couldn’t think of any that had been written after the mid-80s. Most of mine were from the 60s and 70s. So I was curious to know what others thought. So far no one has come up with one from more recent times.

I’d love to hear from you. What are your top 5 (or more) perfect love songs? And by that I don’t mean unrequited love songs, or breakup songs (that’s for another post). I mean songs about I love you, you’re so great, we’re so great, this is perfect.

Here’s my list:
Maybe I’m Amazed, Paul McCartney Now I’m a John Lennon person, myself, but my best relationships have always been with Paul McCartney men. I did date that one guy that couldn’t tell the Beatles apart – that should have been a sign right there. And Lennon/Lennon relationships are too intense. There’s a reason why it was Lennon/McCartney. That’s probably why this song tops my list.

Wonderful Tonight, Eric Clapton I used to think this was a sad song, but a friend of mine (rightly so) told me I just thought it was sad because of personal associations. It’s a beautiful song.

God Only Knows, The Beach Boys And god only knows how Brian Wilson wrote such heartbreakingly perfect songs.

In My Life, The Beatles Nothing to say, it’s just that perfect.

You’re the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me, Gladys Knight and the Pips OK, maybe I was a bit influenced to put this on my list by High Fidelity, but it is a great song.

Wouldn’t It Be Nice, The Beach Boys I actually played this for a boyfriend when I was 17. Ah, young love!

Sweet Thing, Van Morrison My dream is for someone to sing this song to me.

Reservations, Wilco "I’ve got reservations about so many things. But not about you. Not about you.”

Just Like Heaven, The Cure Officially the most recent perfect love song.

Still the One, Orleans I’ve loved this song since I was a kid, and now am quite delighted that it actually applies to my life!

On a side note, our friend Leland sang Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love” for us on our 10th anniversary. And Elvis sang “Can’t Help Falling in Love” when we renewed our vows in Vegas, so those are pretty good songs, too.

Karl’s List:
He says he could only come up with three… (in no particular order):
1. Perfect Day, Lou Reed
2. Something, The Beatles
3. Pale Blue Eyes, The Velvet Underground

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Signifying Nothing

When I checked my email on Friday, July 1, there were over 50 messages in my inbox about Sandra Day O'Connor's surprise resignation from the Supreme Court.
"O'Connor Resigns – Women's Lives Are at Stake!"
"Urgent Alert! Action Needed Now!"
"Abortion Rights Emergency!"
"The Battle for the Supreme Court Has Begun"
"Protect Our Rights!"

Reading them, I found myself moving from irritated to fuming. It's not that I disagree with the basic premise. There is no question that we are at a very dire moment. Whoever fills the vacancy left by O'Connor's retirement will have an influence on the Supreme Court for decades to come. Looking at Bush's nominees to the lower courts, we can tell the type of jurist he will likely nominate for the Supreme Court. And the prospects are not good. The consequences will be far-reaching, and will have a direct impact on people's daily lives.

As Adam Cohen wrote in New York Times in October, 2004:
"Abortion might be a crime in most states. Gay people could be thrown in prison for having sex in their homes. States might be free to become mini-theocracies, endorsing Christianity and using tax money to help spread the gospel. The Constitution might no longer protect inmates from being brutalized by prison guards. Family and medical leave and environmental protections could disappear."

So why am I fuming when I should be joining the fight? Because the Left is gearing up to fight the same battle they've fought, and lost, since Bush stole the election in 2000. From the Florida recount debate, to the launch of the Iraq War, to the 2004 election, to the filibuster battle, the Left has used the same losing strategy over and over again. In essence, the strategy is to get lots and lots of people – including those who have never participated before - to support the Democrats, and to hope/beg/lobby that they will "do the right thing", which usually involves maintaining a system that was long-ago broken. The solution to the vote fraud in Florida? Get more people to vote. How to stop the war from starting? Call your Senator! Want to get rid of Bush? Hold your nose and vote for Kerry! Desperate to prevent Bush's outrageous judicial nominees from getting confirmed? Celebrate as a victory a "compromise" that ensures the filibuster won't be used.

Even progressives have embraced this strategy, citing of the importance of "speaking truth to power."

Well, the truth is that power doesn't give a shit. Power is only interested in staying in power. As Frederick Douglass said, "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will." So far, no one is demanding anything. Nothing of substance, anyway. Nothing that will really rock the foundations and change the dangerous course that Bush, et al, are leading us on to fascism and theocracy.

So I'm fuming because all this desperate activity - the emails, the national conference calls, the emergency meetings – strike me as nothing but "sound and fury, signifying nothing." Nothing, because the result will be the same as with the other major battles against the Bush juggernaut: Lots of time and energy and money will be expended, and Bush will still get his way.

Some said of the 2004 election that the bright side was that unprecedented numbers of people, many active for the first time, were mobilized to work to elect Kerry. The thought is that these folks will now be involved in new battles. But is it a good thing for people to organize to go down a dead end? Isn't that actually disorganizing?

Many people comfort themselves with the thought that "the pendulum will swing back." But the fact is, there is no pendulum. The laws of physics do not dictate that the world will swing back and forth between the radical left and the radical right, eventually settling in the moderate center. When the times have "swung" one way or the other, it is because the people made the world change. Civil rights, women's rights, gay rights, all were achieved with decades of hard work and personal sacrifice. Many people went to jail to make change. Some people died. In every case, it was only when the demands of the people became so great that those in power had no choice but to pass legislation or issue court decisions that echoed the will of the people.

The situation we find ourselves in today is also the result of people on the extreme right working for decades behind the scenes to make the change that THEY want to see in the world. The architects of the Bush agenda have been working since the Nixon administration – my entire lifetime – to get to where they are today. They are not going to walk away from power just because a bunch of new people registered and voted for Kerry. They are not going to back down from their agenda and nominate a moderate jurist for the Supreme Court just because people ask them to. And the Democrats are too invested in protecting their own limited power to step out in a way that might actually make a difference.

So what to do? We have to do something. Everyday we grow nearer and nearer to a point of no return. I go back to Douglass's assertion that "Power concedes nothing without a demand." What demand will make a difference today? What demand will stop this juggernaut and take us away from the brink, from the point of no return?

The only proposal that I've heard that has the possibility of actually turning things around is The World Can't Wait! Drive Out the Bush Regime! <> The name says it all. We can't continue to fight this stuff piecemeal with ineffective strategies. We can't wait for an imaginary pendulum to swing back. We can't wait for 2008. We need to be bold and take this on head-first. Some people say we need to develop a long-term strategy first. But let's be real: unless we act today, there will be no need for a long-term strategy. Unless we stop the Bush regime NOW, the Supreme Court will be irrelevant in the not-too-distant future.

Go to the website and read the call. Think about it. Talk to your friends and family about it. Join me in signing your name to call, and become one more in the millions needed to drive out the Bush Regime. Truly, the world cannot wait.

With Thunderous Applause

Star Wars was the first movie I ever saw in a movie theater. As a child, I was only allowed to watch “educational” television – movies and FM radio were verboten. But for some reason, my father deemed Star Wars important enough to make an exception. So obviously, Star Wars is very special to me.

I was seven years old in 1977, and immediately I became a huge fan. I joined the fan club, and impatiently waited the three years in between each film. Since I was a child, I was naturally attracted to some of the more surface aspects of the film: I longed to wear my hair in Princess Leia “donuts”, and gosh that Han Solo sure was cute!

But from the start, I was also drawn to the political aspects of the story. The Rebellion were a small, rag-tag group of people fighting against the evil Emperor and his police state, enforced by the Stormtroopers. When we first meet the Rebels, we don’t know how long they’ve been fighting the good fight, but we see their loyalty, and how much they’re willing to sacrifice.

Neither of my parents were activists, but politics were a topic of conversation in our household. I had an awareness of injustice in the world, and a desire from an early age to be part of the struggle against it. I wanted to be a member of the Rebel Alliance!

I can honestly say that I spent a lot of time wondering what happened in the Galaxy that the Jedi Knights were decimated and the Emperor came to power. How did the peaceful Galaxy become the fascist Empire?

Padme Amidala answers that question in Revenge of the Sith: “So this is how liberty dies: with thunderous applause.”

The steps that lead to this moment seem innocuous, even reasonable, in isolation:
*The Trade Federation blockades Naboo, a peaceful, out-of-the-way planet
*Senator Palpatine of Naboo is elevated to Chancellor by a sympathy vote.
*Obi-wan Kenobi discovers that a clone army has secretly been commissioned.
*Jar-Jar Binks leads a successful call for the Chancellor to be given emergency war powers, including calling up the new clone army. His reasoning: we must be able to act quickly in these uncertain times. (Sound familiar?)
*Small conflicts break out all over the Galaxy, and the Jedi, the peacekeepers of the Galaxy, are stretched beyond their capacity.
*Some Jedi start to sense that the agenda of the Sith is connected to that of the Chancellor.
*Meanwhile, a small group of Senators becomes concerned that the actions of the Chancellor may be moving them towards a fascist police state. Their solution is to cling to their democratic principles.

By the time anyone puts all the piece of the puzzle together, it’s already too late. The Chancellor, whose term has long expired, declares himself Emperor, to the aforementioned “thunderous applause.” At long last, the Jedi decide they must act to bring Palpatine down, but they are too late. Palpatine has successfully won over Anakin Skywalker, the star Jedi Knight, who then single-handedly brutally eliminates the Jedi Council, as well as all apprentices, even the children.
Many people see Star Wars Episode III, Revenge of the Sith, as the story of Anakin’s turn to the Dark Side, through his literal physical transformation into Darth Vader. In fact, Episode III is much more. It is a clear depiction of how simple steps, often rationalized by the majority as needed for security or for the greater good, can quickly take a society to a point of no return.

The movie ends with the few remaining Jedi going into exile, and other potential leaders of a resistance movement disbursing (Yoda, Obi-Wan) or dying (Padme Amidala). Evidently George Lucas cut an early story line of Padme Amidala starting the Rebel Alliance. Scenes of Yoda going into exile on Dagobah ended up on the cutting room floor. So we are left to fill in the blanks ourselves. We do not know how, but a resistance movement does form, presumably led by Senator Organa of Alderran, Princess Leia’s adoptive father. It takes approximately 20 years for the Rebel Alliance to gain the strength to take on the Empire in a serious way. All this time, the Senate continues to meet, albeit as a rubber stamp for the Emperor. Only at the beginning of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope is the transition to a fascist police state complete with the dissolution of the Senate.

As fans of the original trilogy know. The Rebel Alliance was eventually victorious, killing the Emperor, and destroying the second Death Star, the ultimate weapon of a fascist police state. But at what cost?

We are not living “a long time ago, in a Galaxy far, far away”. This is the United States of America, 2005. Our own trajectory parallels that of the Star Wars Galaxy in a frighteningly accurate way. Anakin, newly re-named Darth Vader, actually says to Obi-Wan, “If you’re not with me, then you’re my enemy,” directly referencing George W. Bush’s pronouncement before the Iraq War began. Like George Lucas’ Galaxy, we are quickly approaching a point of no return. Unlike the Jedi Council, we cannot drag our feet in making bold moves to halt the current path of history. We cannot wait for everything to fall apart, for all resistance leaders to be jailed or worse, before we act. We cannot afford to wait to form our own Rebel Alliance until after the other shoe has dropped. As Steve Earle sings on his latest album. “The Revolution Starts Now.”

May the Force be with all of us.


Related Posts with Thumbnails