Archive for October 19th, 2008

I was a Whore for the Mainstream Media

Sharon October 19th, 2008

So the book’s publicist was excited about the New York Times article.  The reporter was reassuring when I worried that she would trivialize the subject - she told me she was just trying to get a hook onto this deeply important subject.  Sure.

I was nervous, but now that the worst has happened - the article appears in a completely decontextualized article about crazy people, complete with quotes from therapists.

 Good things about the Times piece:

 There’s a cute picture of my husband scything.

 Bad things about the Times piece:

 Everything else, particularly that at no point did the writer mention the Riot for Austerity and the thousand other people around the world who are trying desperately to reduce their carbon impact in a world where increasingly few people seem to care. 

I’m assuming that the next step in the McCain campaign will be to take up the cause of my son’s baseball deprivation (which is actually because we are Jewish and don’t do Saturday little league - there’s a baseball field 5 miles from my house, but they have Saturday games) and the way Obama’s carbon plan will deprive all cute six year olds of baseball ;-P.

I particularly like the inclusion of the psychologists, and the acknowledgement that while there’ s no documented reason to believe that there’s a psychological disorder here, there could be.


 I mostly find it funny - but I admit, I’m a little pissed off that an opportunity to draw attention to the work of the Riot for Austerity was totally missed because cheap and tawdry sells papers so well.  Still, I didn’t come off nearly as badly as poor Colin over at NoImpactman, whose toilet habits are yet again in the New York Times - although this time, in a level of journalistic accuracy that pervades the entire article, they say that Colin used “no toilets.”  Apparently, he endured a year of heroic constipation for the ecological cause.  Compared to that my low-level child abuse (cold house, no baseball) looks positively lazy. 

 Ah well, on to the next thing - might as well laugh about it.  Remind me of this, though, next time someone wants to do a photoshoot ;-) .


The Peasants are Revolting…But Why Aren't We Rebelling?

Sharon October 19th, 2008

A hurry of hoofs in a village street,

A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,

And beneath, from the pebble, in passing, a spark

Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet:

That was all! And yet,

through the gloom and the light,

The fate of a nation was riding that night;

And the spark struck out

by that steed, in his flight,

Kindled the land into flame with its heat.  - Longfellow “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”

Yesterday, my children and I were talking about heroism and tikkun olam (for those of you not in the know, tikkun olam means “the repair of the world” and is one of the reasons Jews believe we are here.)  We were reading stories about self-sacrifice and heroism of various kinds - we read one story which tells the tale of the binding of Isaac through the eyes of the ram sent to be the real sacrifice, one of a knight who tries to serve his king but keeps serving the people instead and doesn’t get the connection, and finally, we re-read an old favorite, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s patriotic poem “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.” 

 Now Longfellow is not one of the great poetic artists of all time, although he doesn’t suck quite as badly as people tend to think.  And while the poem has its historical problems (among them the complete omission of William Dawes who did more of the riding), and suffers from hyperbole and an excess of patriotic enthusiasm,  it is in many ways a great children’s poem.  Indeed, I knew the first verses by heart by the time I was eight or nine, and Simon knows them as well. 

I grew up in the neighborhood of the battle of Lexington and Concord, and my father would get us up in the early dark in the April morning and take us on several buses (we did not own a car) to the reenactment of the battle, to the bridge, and let me try and imagine the battle amid the upscale suburb Concord has become. 

We talked yesterday about the obligation, inscribed in the US Constitution, to overthrow tyrannical rulers, and about how hard it can be to do the right thing, or even to know what the right thing is.  And Simon at six asked me whether it would be his job to overthrow bad rulers.  And I didn’t quite know what to say, except that I hope not - that I hope, with luck, the worst of the bad rulers will be overthrown before he comes of age to pay the price.  That is, of course, the dream of all parents, and one that may not happen.

In the last few weeks, we have taken a society that already had inequities between rich and poor greater than most societies in human history, and transferred more wealth to the preservation of rich bankers.  Just now, finally, the mainstream media is beginning to admit that the bailout isn’t going to save us from a massive recession/depression.  What hasn’t yet penetrated most people’s awareness is that we just sold off a good bit of our future. 

We just gave the money we were going to spend on renewable energy infrastructure to banks.  We just gave them the price of affordable health care.  We gave them the money we might have spent on insulation, on sustainable transport networks, on relocalizing schools so that our kids’ education isn’t mortgaged by energy costs and on a host of other things.

My son anxiously wanted to know if he would have to go out and protest his government.  And of course, one of my most fervent prayers is that things will be better for him - and the only possible way that that will happen is if we rebell now against the increasing inequity and misallocation of our resources.

I’m not calling for violent overthrow - if for no other reason than violent overthrow of anything involves a lot of destruction of resources we can’t afford.  But I admit, I wonder, when we will decide that our government is sufficiently tyrannical that we can’t tolerate the way it treats us, that we cannot bear to see our future mortgaged and ordinary people impoverished?  When will we say “no more” and put our backs behind that principle?

Howard Zinn speculates that the reason the New Deal and the reallocation of resources of the 1930s and early 40s were so successful is that overwhelmingly, people were finding solutions to their problems without government intervention - and that had they continued to do so, they might have decided to do without governments all together.  As populist labor movements, strategies like penny auctions and local refusals to foreclose, and self-help strategies began to work, it became obvious to the wealthy that they had to respond, or become rapidly irrelevant.

It is that kind of rebellion I think we shall need - we are going to need the ordinary resistance of ordinary people to face the coming energy, climate and economic crisis.  And I hope and pray that we will do it soon - because I do not believe that good parents cast off their burdens on to future generations.  John Adams wrote “I am a soldier so that my son can be a farmer, and his son can be a poet.”  I don’t want my children to have to fight my battles - I want them to be able to choose, because their parents chose rightly.