Saturday, March 18, 2017

Hermits

I used to recommend nature related books on greentangle. Unfortunately, reflective of our society’s illusion of removal from nature, as exemplified by a government which favors pollution and greed over ecology and humility and respect, and children and adults who’d rather play games or listen to music on their phone than see or hear the world they’re passing through, there aren’t as many of those books being published now. So now I feel the need to check out any book which involves the outdoors at all, and then write about a book I don’t recommend you read.

The Stranger in the Woods is about a man who apparently spent 27 years living in the Maine woods with almost no human contact, surviving not by living off the land but by stealing from buildings. Most of the people in the area do not believe that he actually lived outside all that time, which was my first reaction as well. He claims he never left his camp during winter to avoid leaving footprints in the snow (he was not in a remote wilderness, but only a few hundred yards away from the closest neighbor). I have a hard time imagining how he was able to steal enough food to stockpile to survive those long winters, and history is filled with false claims of nature fakers. 

But whether or not he lived there for 27 years doesn’t actually matter to me because he offers no explanation of why he did it (claims not to know) and offers no wisdom from his experience. Yet he considers Thoreau a dilettante with no deep insight into nature. Of course, he also considers Bach too pristine and believes people will be listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd in a thousand years. So, clearly not a guy I’d like, and enough about him.

I’m actually much more troubled by the behavior of the author. After the “hermit” (more about that later) was finally captured stealing, the author wrote to him in jail. They exchanged a few letters, but after the hermit stopped replying, the author made the first of many trips from Montana and showed up uninvited and unannounced at the jail to visit someone who obviously didn’t like people around. The hermit’s relatives hung up on him and closed doors in his face, but others in the area spoke to him. On his trips to Maine, he would camp at the hermit’s campsite. Eventually after the hermit was released, he had to tell the author that if he showed up again, the police would be called. It was all much too much of a creepy stalker vibe for me.

For me, there were only two interesting aspects of the book. The questioning of the hermit’s psychological state led me to briefly investigate autism spectrum and schizoid personality disorders to see if either fit me; many aspects of the latter seemed to apply. The book also discusses three types of hermits: protesters, pilgrims, and pursuers. I’m clearly in the first group—“. . . primary reason for leaving is hatred of what the world has become.”

If you’d like a more detailed review and description of the book, see a review in New Republic here. And for a large and fascinating collection of material on hermits and solitude, check out the website http://www.hermitary.com which doesn’t consider the book’s subject worthy of inclusion.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

It Can Always Get Worse

I read W said some negative things about 45, and I thought, “Gee, I wish W were President.” Who woulda thunk it? And I remember how disgusted I was when Reagan and Nixon were in the White House. Ah, for the good old days when the GOP created environmental laws instead of letting the robber barons do whatever they wanted.

A couple things I’ve heard. “Rich people like clean air and water.” Presumably true, which makes it lucky for them that they’re able to move far away from the pollution they cause. No mansions by the pipeline or summer homes next to the coal mine for them. “States should have control over environmental laws.” A basic lack of understanding of the way the environment works. Dear Pruitt: Just like the aforementioned rich people, the wind blows and the water flows beyond your imaginary state lines. Also, the same thing occurs beyond your fascist nationalistic borders.

The other day in an email, I wrote about the poor little rich boy’s dreams of gungho militarism, and the program wanted to correct gungho to bunghole. Very appropriate, I thought. He doesn’t just want to be a king, he wants to be a despot, tyrant, dictator. I’ve noticed the Hitler and Third Reich books in the library have been getting used a lot. I suppose it could be folks looking for ideas on how to trash a Jewish cemetery, but if they’re like their hero, they probably don’t read much. A Twitter post is like a long novel for this gang. So I guess these books are being used by folks checking out the similarities between now and then.

A side note on the military fantasies. This is the guy who avoided the draft and all military service by being a student and because his feet hurt, and later had the gall to call avoiding sexual diseases his personal Vietnam because vaginas are like landmines and “there’s some real danger there”. All I can say is, “What a pussy!” Or I could go on about how it’s always the rich old white guys who know nothing about war who are the most enthusiastic about starting one. Or hey, if we build up the military enough, we can start a few.

I just checked my blood pressure and it’s high after writing this. On Valentine’s Day, I had a stress test and echocardiogram. No sign of blockages, so apparently I’d had weeks of a digestive issue and high anxiety. I wonder what could be causing that. The doomsday clock? The dismantling of environmental protections? Endangering the Endangered Species Act? A racist, sexist, xenophobic “leader” who has complete contempt for anyone who disagrees with him and who wants to drag the country back in time?


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Week One




This year is the 200th anniversary of Thoreau’s birth, and we need civil disobedience more than ever.

I completely understand why many people didn’t want Clinton to be president. But though I’ve never been someone who bothered voting for the lesser of two evils, I did this time because the vileness of Trump was not only obvious but also something that he was clearly proud of.  At election time, I didn’t understand how anyone who claimed to see Clinton’s corruption and other failings could not see that Trump’s were many times worse. But after a week of him in office, deplorable is much too good of a word to describe anyone who still supports him. This is a man whose behavior and temperament would get him fired from almost any job in the country. Psychiatrists and historians are going to get rich writing books about him and his supporters.

Looking over headlines this morning, I saw the following adjectives for Trump and his policies: cowardly, dangerous, useless, awkward, un-American, and erratic. We need lots of press coverage like that to tell the truth instead of the alternative facts. So much is happening every day that it’s hard to keep up, but we need to stay aware.

The federal employees and scientists at NPS, EPA, NASA and other agencies who are choosing truth over Trump’s agenda, and the secret service agent not wanting to take a bullet for him, are heroes and we need more of them. Every species and the planet they live on needs them. The Doomsday Clock—does anybody really know what time it is? Al Gore has arranged for a conference to replace a canceled CDC conference. Even if all the rogue and alt social media accounts aren’t run by actual employees, we need them. We need the t-shirts and patches and caps they’re all going to be selling—we need to be visible every day.

Trump wants to eliminate support for the national endowments for the arts and humanities. We need more songs and videos like the previous post, more songs like those described in a book I just started reading, 33 Revolutions Per Minute: A History of Protest Songs, from Billie Holiday to Green Day. We need more plays and movies and novels, more dance, more paintings, more support for education and libraries. The arts help people learn there is more to life than the money and power which drive Trump.

Trump wants to demean and control women’s lives, but is finding out that pussy grabs back. I looked for an inauguration day protest here but found only an evening church gathering which didn’t appeal to me. I was working on the day of the women’s march, though I would have changed that if I’d realized there was one here. 1400 people showed up in Duluth, not bad considering the many who went to DC or St Paul for larger marches. 

Honestly, in the aftermath, I thought that although the marches were great as comfort and support for those of us horrified by the election results, they didn’t really mean much because I doubted there were any Trump voters marching, and the largest were in blue states which had already had their larger vote totals declared irrelevant by our election system. But a few days later I was looking through an Amazon forum I used to be a member of, and saw many pre-march comments from middle class women whose screen names I recognized from years of conversations. They wrote about how they were afraid and nervous about going to these marches but felt they had to stand up and be counted to oppose Trump. And so I realized the value of the marches I hadn’t recognized before—we need these newcomers, and we need a lot of them.

Trump wants to directly eliminate support for Amtrak and DC’s Metro, and indirectly for all other transit systems—those city people don’t support him, and they’re not using enough oil. I expect people are going to die at Standing Rock.

Everyone’s going to have health insurance—we’ll start by taking away what they have now. Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare—the hell with those, just invest in the stock market. We need mayors of sanctuary cities and governors of blue states to be strong and creative because we’re all on the enemies list. We need Republicans who opposed Trump during the campaign to now say, “Well, we gave it a try, but this guy really is nuts and we have to stop him.” 

Trump likes to pretend he’s a successful businessman despite his string of bankruptcies. We need corporations to oppose his plans. So far, I’ve noticed complaints from FedEx, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Netflix, and Facebook, as well as smaller companies.

We need the world’s governments to oppose Trump, and we need the UN to take our name. We need more religious leaders to condemn Trump as a phony Christian. Several Republican senators and representatives have spoken against his immigration policy and that he has replaced the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence with Breitbart’s Bannon in security meetings (because Trump’s sure he already knows more than anyone else and only wants to hear from those who agree—he’s, like, smart)—we especially need more of those Republicans. We need more judges to stay his orders. When I read about that, I imagined him sputtering, “They can’t do that, I’m the king”, and firing off tweets about fake laws. Supposedly concerned about terrorism, Trump is likely going to create much more, both from abroad and from American citizens.

I could go on like this forever, because every day brings new levels of stupidity. I did reserve the site for the Old, White, and Blue blog I had mentioned, thinking that I might start it at the beginning of the year or after his inauguration, but I decided there was just too much to write about and I didn’t want to spend all my time angry or depressed trying to keep up with it.  We do need every form of resistance we can come up with—overt and covert, written and spoken, broadcast and podcast, in the streets (and airports) and online, but we do need to refresh ourselves as well. 

I’m not a flag-waver—if I had the money to finance the move, I would not be living in this country. That’s not just a reaction to Trump and the type of people who voted for him, although I certainly would have left since the election. I’ve never shared the country’s dominant values of greed and shallowness and religion, and if I’d been a few years older and drafted certainly would have gone to Canada, not Vietnam. I love the land and wildlife here which Trump and his ilk are eager to destroy, but as to the human aspect have long wished I’d been born in Europe. When I researched the continent decades ago, it seemed somewhere in Scandinavia would have been the best fit for me. But rather than moving, I took the easy way out of having as little to do with the mainstream US as possible. Now I’m paying the price for choosing to be a bad capitalist.

My preferred solution to this country’s deep division has long been that the country voluntarily split in two (or more) with each person free to choose where they lived. Whichever side you’re on, what is the point of having constant aggravation in your life? Any marriage with this deep-seated antipathy would have ended in divorce long ago. But it’s too late for that now. 

At this point, I don’t care if it’s a lone gunman or a coup, if we make his thin-skinned head explode from constant opposition, or if Daenerys rides in on a dragon—the country and the world needs to be rid of this asshole as soon as possible. I suspect most people who’ve agreed with me so far would distance themselves here and say no, no, no violence. I’d remind them that this country would not even exist if people hadn’t been willing to be violent when needed, that Thoreau gave speeches in support of John Brown, and that following the rules is what got us here.

My only ambivalence about Trump being assassinated would have nothing to do with the morality of it, just as I think killing Hitler early in his career would have made the world a better place and saved many lives. My concern would be the reaction of his supporters, but I think there will be trouble even if he lives long enough to lose in 2020, or lasts two terms until 2024. I can’t envision the lunatic ever peacefully or voluntarily leaving the White House. He’s not even content to be there via the Electoral College; he needs to keep spouting lies about voter fraud to explain why millions more people voted against him than for him.


What do you think the country will be like in 2062, the 200th anniversary of Thoreau’s death? 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Dean on Trump

“I don’t think Richard Nixon even comes close to the level of corruption we already know about Trump.”

“By nature, I am an optimist,” he told me. “But Trump as president is going to be about surviving disaster.”

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/01/john-dean-interview/513215/

Friday, December 30, 2016

Maybe

I was waiting for a bus the other day ago when a couple walked near me, stopped as they looked through their pockets and bags, then started walking again.

She looked back and said, "You don't have any rolling papers, do you?"

I said, "No."

She smiled and said, "Twenty years ago, maybe?"

I said, "Thirty, maybe."