Friday, February 27, 2015

A Message To Those Who Voted For The Right To Work Law In Wisconsin

To my Republican representatives:
     Thank you very much for passing the Right To Work Bill. I am very flattered that you were thinking about me. But, you see, I already have a job. In fact, I have been working my entire adult life.
     If that is not what you meant by Right To Work, I urge you to speak plainly, because those who do not are apt to be mistaken for liars and charlatans.
     I would thank you for listening to the concerns of Wisconsin workers in passing this bill, but I don’t recall any general call for this bill to be passed. As a matter of fact, even the wacky neighbor that puts hand written signs on his front lawn has never mentioned a need for a Right To Work law. So what exactly put this thought into your head and what made the need for it so immediate? Perhaps it was the sound of hundred dollar bills rustling into your campaign coffers that you mistook for the murmur of your constituents. Perhaps those out of state contributions given by billionaires anxious to drive down wages here and everywhere else temporarily blinded you to the ideals of representative democracy.
     So next time please ask me, John Q. Public, before passing a bill. Because I have plenty of suggestions for you, as do many of my neighbors and coworkers. Here are a few:
Instead of a Right To Work law, how about a Right To Have Off When I Need To Take A Family Member To The Doctor law? How about a Right To Job Security law? Or a Right To Only Have To Work Five Days A Week Law? Ask any of the fine folk in your voting district and I’m sure they’d have an idea or two that would be better than what you just voted for.
     Of course, we do like to see you in office actually doing something other than attending fundraisers, so I hesitate to complain. We’re glad to see you on the job, and we all know it’s not your fault the system’s the way it is. All we ask is that when you spout off about wasting the tax payer’s money, that you realize that most of what we begrudge is giving our hard earned wages to people like you.
     There are many things you could do to help a hard working, taxpaying citizen such as myself: taking away what little voice I have in my work environment shouldn’t be at the top of your list. But it seems when you are among us working guys you don’t listen so much as talk. Instead of listening to what we say, you are eager to tell us what you are going to do for us and how your solution is the best solution. It’s only when you’re with your rich contributors that you seem to be all ears. Forgive my cynicism, but I can’t help thinking that is because you are listening to their cash falling into your campaign chest.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Stream Of Consciousness Entry Part 1

Twenty years ago, while in Advanced Composition, we were given the assignment of writing everyday in a journal. It was the first time I had the need to write without being given any idea what to write about. What it turned into was a stream of consciousness writing that opened up new doors inside of me as I shut down the inner censor that was always hampering my inner voice. It started slowly, eventually opening up something inside me that was revelatory. I cannot say you will have the same effect reading it as I did writing it, but I’m willing to see. The process is gradual, so you will have to be patient. No attempt has been made to correct any errors except for spelling.

12-12-95

Writing without having a clue about what I’m supposed to write about give to me an amount of freedom. I cannot possibly run out of things to write when I have no…Or at least I thought so. Stream of consciousness thought is easy to do but hard to put on paper. The thoughts flow freely, but the hand that records c an only move so fast. Thoughts are lost, often forever, as the slug-like fingers crawl across drag the pen across the page. Then again, there is the part of me which wishes to edit, to conceal whatever defects I may show. AS much as I don’t like to admit it, I am proud, with plenty of petty vanities. Stream of consciousness shows my thoughts as they occur, not as I would like someone to think they occur. I can only imagine, though, that others feel the same way, that no matter how honest we think we are, we hide ourselves behind little masks, many of which hide ourselves from ourselves. I don’t particularly like where my thoughts are headed, but feel compelled to continue this line of thought. Jack London writes in John Barleycorn that there are two levels of truth, the healthy truth and the higher level. The healthy truth teaches us to cherish the things that help us survive. The higher truth simply is, without concern for us. Jack London said he glimpsed truth unrobed and turned in horror. I feel compelled to look at what London could not deal with. And yet I am afraid to relate that which I see. I am afraid to confess my fear, my weakness, myself. And without other people’s input, I think my vision is skewed by who I am, that others might see things in a different light. There is a fine line, I suppose, between honesty and an over willingness to burden other people with one’s problems. I mean, everybody has problems, right? Nobody likes a whiner, and it’s not healthy to dwell on negative ideas. Nothing is good or bad except in proportion. A certain amount is good, but too much more or less makes it bad.
But here I run from the truths I wished to find. And even now I am thinking I will destroy this paper before anyone sees it. I am ashamed of my unguarded thoughts. Ashamed more of their bizarreness or mundaneness than anything else. But perhaps just there I lied. I am afraid that anyone reading this might find me strange. I feel an unguarded me is an unpleasant one. I am here unguarded by the civilized me and am face to face with baseness, cowardly emotions and base desires.
It’s funny, but I am merely a collection of things, none of which is the true me. There is no indivisible whole that I can point to and call “me”. Whatever. I do not like where this is leading. Should I terminate this line of thought? Run from truth laid bare? Because it is true, you know, all of it.

I sometimes tend to think that evil is an illusion, that if I look clearly at it I will understand it and not be frightened by it, that there is nothing to fear. Other times, I am all too sure that it is an entity, to be avoided, and if need be, run from. I think at some level, we all run from the truth. I think I have had enough of this line of thought—at least for now.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Fifteen Hour Work Week


“With the natural resources of the world, the machinery already invented, a rational organization of production and distribution, and an equally rational elimination of waste, the able-bodied workers would not have to labour more than two or three hours per day to feed everybody, clothe everybody, house everybody, educate everybody, and give a fair measure of little luxuries to everybody.”


     This was written in 1905 by Jack London, a hundred ten years ago.
     What has happened since then? Mankind has invented the airplane. He has invented the cartridge pen and later the ball point pen. He has invented the electric typewriter, the word processor and now the computer. Where it once took weeks for news to circle the world we can now receive it almost instantly. Documents that once needed to travel by rail, by ship and by horse and buggy are now zipped by satellites effortlessly and instantly.
     And the machines of industry have increased almost unbelievably as well. The machine I now operate is twice as efficient as the one I used to operate, is ten times more efficient than the ones in the memories of people I work with. Easily, production has increased tenfold since the time Jack London wrote those words, proclaiming that there was no need for able bodied workers to work more than two or three hours a day. That should put our workday at somewhere between 12 and 18 minutes.
     So what has happened since then? How did we go from a married man working 50-60 hours a week to a couple averaging 100 hours or more a week?
     There are the labor saving devices we have to pay for, I’ll give you that. A washer and a dryer, dishwashers and garage door openers save us some time working at home. But they save physical labor, the kind that is healthy and for the most part stress relieving. Because we now sit at desks for 50 hours a week instead of doing physical labor, we now have to run to the gym after our 10 hour work day and get a workout in. So in the long run our riding lawn mowers and our snow blowers have not really saved us any time.
     What has happened to us since then? How did we end up a society that pays someone to walk our dogs so we can drive our SUVs to the gym to hit the treadmill for an hour? How did we get here from there?
     Sure, we all have televisions nowadays. Really big ones. But a hundred years ago, people would go out to see a play or sit on the porch and talk to our neighbors as they happened by, or played cards with parents or children. Was that a good trade we made?
     Granted we have food from all over the world now, and we can eat the most tropical of fruits in the middle of winter. But very few of us now have grandma’s preserves sitting on our shelves. Very few of us eat vegetables picked fresh from the gardens we or someone we know lovingly tended. Very few of us would even know how to raise food from the ground. Very few of us would know how to prepare an animal, to either raise livestock or hunt for our own dinner.
     We’ve lost something and I don’t know how we let it happen. And we’re all in such a hurry to get things done, I’m worried we’ll never find the time to wonder how it all went wrong. Life should be better than this. We should demand the benefits that our labor saving devices have supposedly given us. We should be humans again, take time to smell the roses, spend time with those we love, do the things that are worth doing and ask the questions that need to be asked:

     So once again I ask you--if you can find the time to come up with an answer—what happened?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Short Story

Here's the first story in my collection, Stories Light And Dark. Since Kindle allows you to read it for free anyhow, I may as well post it here as well. If you like this, you might want to check out the rest of the book, available here: Stories Light And Dark 1 If you are a member of Kindle Unlimited, you can borrow it for free. I always want to tell people my stories aren't all as dark as this. Or, if it's a spiritual story, I want to tell them they're not all like that. That's why I gave my compilation the title I did.

The Last Hours Of Brandon Kratz

The trail of corpses will lead them here. They’ll find their killer, they always do. But the reign of terror made it worthwhile, a few days of carnage that had the entire country glued to their television sets wondering how long it would last. And though it will all end at the cabin up ahead, the world will not soon forget the name of Brandon Kratz.
The cabin cannot be too far now, I know these woods too well to be mistaken.
They will find their man, but they’ll never find the answers they’re looking for. They’ll never understand how a seemingly loving family man could have killed his wife and children and fed them to the neighbor’s dogs. They’ll never understand how a person who looked so normal could be capable of such evil. Sure, there’s the rambling manifesto they found on Facebook, but that will serve more to disturb than enlighten. They’ll talk to the neighbors and relatives, who will tell them what a friendly and helpful person Brandon Kratz had always been. But these answers are not the ones that will help them sleep soundly at night. These are answers that only serve the festering doubt and fear that will linger in their minds and hearts.
What they want is to think that there is something that separates unfeeling, uncaring killers from the rest of society, some distinction that they can make and so separate the horror from their own lives. But they will find no answers because there are none, at least not the kind that bring comfort. Many murderers have given their explanations for what they have done, but the average person is unwilling to accept the truth of such explanations. They want rational reasons and are unwilling to cross into the territory of insanity, which is where all the real answers lie. They like to believe in a rational world, but they are too cowardly to embrace the truth that the world is the better part irrational.
I continue on my way towards my final destination, keeping to the woods and shadows in case the helicopters come. There is a determination in my stride, and I will myself to confidence regarding the direction I take. There really is no point in doubting myself now.
Would you like my truth? I have done what I did because I am God to myself. Perhaps you feel the same way too: frankly, I don’t care. I only know that there is no reason not to take what I want, do what I want. I see no reason to care about a world that is outside of myself. What good is it if it is not there for my pleasure? I don’t care about you, nor would I ask you to care about me.
Ah, but you do care, don’t you? You and everybody in Southern California are very concerned about me, concerned that I am out there, somewhere, unchained by the laws of society. You will not rest soundly until Brandon Kratz is captured or dead. Have no fear, you will get your wish soon enough.
I estimate I have about a fifteen minute walk yet. The going is slower than I anticipated. But I cannot come up short now, not when I am so close to the end.
The life of a serial killer is brief but thrilling. I am like a force of nature that tears through a neighborhood, a city, the countryside. Like an approaching tornado, a community forgets about their normal lives and activities. I am the one concern. I am the center of the universe, mine and theirs. And for a brief time, I am the only thing that exists, the only thing that matters. Ayn Rand grasped merely a portion of the truth. If self-interest is the highest good, why stop at pursuing my own ends, why not bend all others to my own desires? Why not have the universe exist for me?
And so it began. If one starts out quietly, there is a lot of time to commit the initial murders before talk of a serial killer begins. I disposed of the wife and children first. I then quietly dispensed with the elderly woman across the street. With her blood I left a note on her wall in order to alert the authorities as to whom they were dealing with—the name Brandon Kratz was written in letters five feet tall, with every drop the old woman had in her. It took her lazy son two days to get around to paying her a visit, even after he must have heard about the murders in her neighborhood.
I guess I’m fortunate that I don’t look like a killer. People seem to trust me, maybe because I’m good at appearing caring. Even more important than not appearing threatening, I believe my features are generic enough to allow me to blend in with a crowd. If you saw me walking down the street, chances are you wouldn’t even notice me. Try it the next time you’re in a busy restaurant or a crowded mall. Take a look around you and see if you can spot the next Brandon Kratz that’s about to go off the deep end. See if you can spot the one carrying a weapon, see if you can catch a glimpse of murder in a stranger’s eye.
The temperature is warm and I am dressed for protection rather than comfort. The sweat makes my clothing cling to my body, making every movement an exertion. It occurs to me that I haven’t slept since this all started, more than three days now. I have been living on adrenaline, but that can only take you so far. I am tired. I’m glad that I am almost at the end of my journey. I think back on what a journey it has been.
There’ve been a lot of mass murders in the L.A. area recently. There’s been such a rash of murders that people are wondering if there is something in the air or in the water. There is a lot of talk and—typically—nothing will ever come of it. But even in this place and time, the name of Brandon Kratz will stand out. More than Billy Moreau’s four murders, more than Eric Cooper’s five. Even Ryan Kennedy’s seven murders don’t add up to Brandon Kratz’s total. I’ve been on quite a roll. Let’s see, now, Stefani Kratz, and Codi Kratz, and little Amber. Old lady Weathers. That hitchhiker, Chad, I think his name was. And then there was the mall shooting. I only killed two there, but I escaped, which was the important thing. I don’t think anybody even saw me there, although I’m sure I must be on some security camera somewhere wearing my trench coat and black military helmet. Kind of stupid of me, doing that at a crowded mall. Too easy to get caught. They could have got me alive, which would have been horrible. They would have stuck me under a microscope and viewed me like I was a bug. Much better this way, where they are searching for me with satellites.
Sorry, where was I? Six—no, seven, I’m forgetting Chad again. And then there were the two sheriff’s deputies that pulled me over. That was well done, they were armed and dangerous. But it cost me; I had to leave my car in the process and I’m pretty sure the cops will know where I am and that I’m on foot. I’m in the woods so they’ll be able to limit their search to a relatively small area. The road’s coming to an end for Brandon Kratz, but it will be the ending that I design. All I have to do is make it to the cabin.
It won’t be far now. I’d love to get rid of this riot facemask, but it’s part of the plan. There’s really no path anymore, just trees and undergrowth. Still, I know it can’t be far. I feel it in my bones.
I approach the cabin. It does not belong to me, but I know about it, planned to make it the end of my road. I open up the door and the terrified pleas begin.
“Where’s my family? Did you do something to them? Are they okay? Why are you doing this? Please, please don’t hurt them.”
“Now, Mr. Kratz,” I say “I’ve explained this to you before. There’s been a lot of killing and someone is going to have to take the blame for all the damage done.”
What society really wants is to get a hold of the psychopath and make him pay for what he’s done. But they rarely get the chance. Too often, the murderer kills himself rather than being taken alive. Such will be the case today.
“The people will need some kind of closure, no matter how unfulfilling,” I continue. “A corpse is better than nothing. At least that way they’ll be able to sleep tonight.
“Now if you’ll agree to open your mouth for me, I can promise to make your end short and painless. But it won’t look like suicide through clenched teeth. Are you going to cooperate?”
He looks at me with a clenched jaw and a look of defiance, as though anything he did mattered to me.
“No? Well, your loss. This might take a while longer, but the result will be the same.”
I place the gun to the side of Brandon Kratz’s head, wait for him to stop his futile head movements. I’m tempted to make the shot a poor one, make him suffer for his insolence. But I know I can only use one shot if it’s going to look like it is self-inflicted. I have to make it a good one. When I know I have a good shot, I pull the trigger. It’s a full cascade of blood, brain and bone that comes out the other side of his head, and Kratz quickly slumps in his chair. I untie my victim and allow him to drop to the floor. He’s lying in his ever-increasing pool of blood, his tongue hanging from his mouth as though he were a gibbering idiot. “It’s a pity they never count my final victim,” I think to myself. I always feel cheated by that.

According to news coverage, Brandon Kratz’s body was found in a cabin in the mountains last evening. He had shot himself in the head, it was reported, his suicide bringing to an end the latest and deadliest in a recent spate of killings. As for me, I’m busy clipping newspaper articles at the moment. After a little time off to rest up, I’ll be searching once again for another Brandon Kratz, the normal kind of person that no one would ever suspect could commit the horrible crimes he’ll be accused of.
The next time you’re in a busy restaurant or a crowded mall, take a look around, see if you can spot the next Brandon Kratz. Is it the tired-looking waitress that’s pouring your coffee, the man sitting next to you with his wife and kids, or the older gentleman at the bookstore who looks incapable of harming a fly? It could be anybody. It might even be you.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A Poem From A Soldier To His Mother (Part 2)

Here is another poem I found that my dad had sent to his mother while away from home during World War II. As much as it speaks of a different age, it also speaks to me of a young man I never knew, the man my father was long before I was ever born.

This country of ours is waging
A battle from sea to sea
And I’m truly grateful
That the battle includes me.

Though myself, I’m not superhuman
And though myself I can’t win this war
Just think of the effect it would have
To add to me ten million more.

Some may be majors and captains
While us privates acquire no fame
But what good is a picture
If it hasn’t got a frame.

I stand ready to do my duty
To fight and to die if there’s need
So that the people I left behind me
Needn’t under a dictator bleed.

When this mess is cleared up
And when our men return
There will be celebrations
And there will be no need to yearn

The men will then take over
To relieve women tired and ill
Let women return to her household
While men return to the mill.

Let new cars roll out of the factory
Let people have tires and gas
Let wives have sugar and coffee
Let sportsmen return to their bass

Let baseball return to its standing
As America’s No. 1 game
Let football and hockey and tennis
Return and again be the same.



Sunday, February 15, 2015

Why I Write

I spent the better part of my Sunday playing around on the internet, avoiding the attempt of putting words down into a physical form. And then the words seemed to flow and this is part of what I recorded. This is why I write, to discover that such things exist inside of me. Not sure how well it translates to the reader, but perhaps with a little polish...

     Nevertheless, Doug lifted the old metal latch that was the occupants’ only protection from what was outside their sanctuary and slowly opened the door of rotted wood. Its rusty hinges resisted, as did a certain warning in his heart. But as his eyes adjusted to the dark, he saw a small human form lying curled up on an undersized bed in the corner of the almost empty room. Doug was full of the fear that the suffering of another of God’s creatures could bring upon a man. He wanted to look away, to say that there was nothing he could do for him. He wanted just to forget, to flee and save himself. But he had a certain amount of pride, a degree of teaching from his parents that dictated that this is not how he should act. He was a human and he would act like one. He was not an animal, deaf to the suffering of others. And besides, even animals had empathy for others, he had witnessed it himself. Swallowing his own fear, he reached out to connect with another living soul.
     “Are you okay?” Doug asked into the darkness. The uninterrupted whimpering of the child did not in any way show that he had been heard. Not having any idea what to do, Doug approached the bed and knelt down to the figure lying upon it. The smell of sweat and overripe hay hit his nostrils, the shivering of the child palpable from the short distance he maintained. He recognized him now as the child in the field the other evening, the one who had cut his hand on the sharp blade of the sugar cane. His hand was still bandaged with the dirty rag his mother had torn from her dress. Doug was afraid to touch him, both for himself because it might increase his closeness to suffering and because he might frighten him. Instead of touch he used words.

     “Don’t be afraid. I know what he did, know what Delavois did. I won’t let him hurt you,” Doug promised, knowing his promise to be an empty one. He was helpless to stop Delavois from doing anything he wanted, but Doug knew he would have to find a way to stop him, knew that helplessness was not acceptable. This would have to end and he was the one who would have to put a stop to it. He didn’t know how but it somehow felt that his will would open a rift in reality to permit it. Delavois’ power, after all, was a rift in reality, a wrongness crying out to be righted. Suddenly, this purpose placed itself above all others in Doug’s mind, higher than the urge for self-preservation that was the default setting for all living things. Here, in the darkness, amidst the suffering of a child bereft of his mother, Doug discovered something so beautiful he almost wept at the realization of it. It was the opposite of what had Delavois had gripped so tightly, that fear that so much shaped mankind’s reality. It was a truth at least as powerful as all the darkness and corruption that surrounded him.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

A Poem From A Soldier To His Mother

I was going through some things at my mom’s house and came across something my father sent to his mother after enlisting. I thought a poem from a son to his mother during World War II might be interesting to more than just me.

There’s a lonely mother somewhere
And a lonely soldier too
He is many mile away from home
He’s thinking this night of you

He may not have been the best son
That a mother ever had
But though he wasn’t perfect
He wasn’t very bad

Like a million other mothers
To this country you gave a man
For we now have a war to win
And he’ll win it if he can

He appreciates his mother
Now, as he never did before
For he knows that he loves you
And will forever more.

Someday the war shall be over
And someday the fighting done
And the sons will return to their mothers
And the mothers to their sons.

Your Loving Son,


Walter

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Creatures Of The Night (A Poem)

Every write has a poem or two in his past. It’s funny how the theme in this is a theme I still deal with today. Tonight I offer you a poem, tomorrow, perhaps, I will tell you of the inspirations behind it.

Creatures Of The Night

Within the shadows of the world
Hide creatures of the night
They come alive when darkness falls
But always out of sight

In older days when darkness ruled
And real knowledge was rare
They were a cause, or so it’s said,
Of both hope and despair

They got their strange unworldly might
From those who would believe
Belief created fearsome power
Both above and beneath

As mankind and its knowledge grew
The shadows then receded
And under reason’s blinding light
The wise men grew conceited

The people came to disbelieve
In creatures of the night
For how could something never seen
Be wielders of such might

And so sickened, and disbelieved
And blinded by the light
They withered under desert sun
The creatures of the night

And all of those that still survived
Prepared for final flight
But there is nowhere left to run
No Shelter from the light

Disproved belief, no longer real
Crushed by reason’s iron heel

Creatures of the night

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Perchance To Dream Hits The British Isles

Just thought I'd let my British fans know my book, Perchance To Dream, will be on sale at Amazon UK for £0.99. Not sure how much that is, but I think the £ is for lira. Whatever it is, I'm confident my book is worth point nine nine of something I've never heard of before. The sale will be going on for another 4 days, which would be 2/7th of a fortnight. May you enjoy it immensely: Perchance To Dream (The Amazing Morse)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

This Poem Is For YOU

I found this poem amidst the piles of papers I keep stashed about the house. I seem to remember writing an improved version of this but I can't find it. If I do, I'll share it. 

I believe in you
Yes, you.
I know who you are
Because I am you too.

I believe you can be what you desire to be
And that what you most desire is both noble and true.
I know this is real because I believe in me too.

We are all rays of the same sun
Tracing ourselves back to the only One.
Travel how we might, we can’t escape our source
Though shame and shyness and embarrassment
Seek to rob us of our innocence
Innocence cannot die while we yet live.

This is the big yes,
The answer with no reasons
For reasons need reason
And reason can only reflect, not be.

Whoever, wherever, you are
Please believe it’s true
Please believe in me,
That I believe in you.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Thoughts of the Day (Random Thoughts Part 4)

Thoughts I scribbled down while at work today. Not a full blog, but I thought I'd share what I do at work. Besides work, I mean.

Even our sense of smell is better equipped to judge the outside world than our intellect, but the intellect is better at convincing us it is right. Think about it, if something does not seem right but our mind cannot find a reason against it, we say that “something smells rotten” or “it doesn’t pass the smell test. For one day, abandon reason for scent. Follow your nose and see if it does not make you happier.

Simplistic ideas are the weapons with which the thoughtful are clubbed.

I often hear people ponder about humankind, what is so unique about us that we have come to dominate the planet over all God’s other creatures. What vanity. It is like Babylon pondering what made their civilization superior to all others, or a child contemplating how he got to be king of the hill. It is a thing of the moment.

When we abandon our gods, we cease to be human.

The gulf between liberals and conservatives is not as vast as the gulf between the people and their leaders. But our leaders do everything in their power to keep us focused on the former rather than the latter.


The essential knowledge of the virtues civilization needs is embedded in the great religions. I cannot think of another institution they inhabit.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Iron Heel by Jack London



In an earlier blog post I questioned why anyone should want to buy my book on Kindle when there were so many of the great books available for free. I first listed a number of books that I would very much like to see everyone read, then attempted to justify my existence by stating that while my work does not hold a candle to that of the great authors, at least it deals with contemporary issues better than books published over a century ago.
I was wrong.
I’ve recently been perusing The Iron Heel by Jack London and from even a few pages I can grab a blog’s worth of great quotes. And not only of things that were true of London’s time but true of the times we are living in. In fact, Jack London saw the present more clearly than I do, so acute was his mind’s eye. I am in the dirt before him. Everything I’ve attempted to say he’s already said, and better. Having said that, here are some quotes from The Iron Heel.

The mental processes of a man with whom one disagrees are always wrong. Therefore, the mind of the man is wrong.

The press of the United States? It is a parasitic growth that battens on the capitalist class. Its function is to serve the established by moulding public opinion, and right well it serves it.

The swift changes in our industrial system are causing equally swift changes in our religious, political, and social structures. An unseen and fearful revolution is taking place in the fibre and structure of society. On can only dimly feel these things. But they are in the air, now, today. One can feel the loom of them—things vast, vague, and terrible. My mind recoils from contemplation of what they may crystallize into.

“Oh, I am not challenging your sincerity,” Ernest continued. “You are sincere. You preach what you believe. There lies your strength and your value—to the capitalist class. But should you change your belief to something that menaces the established order, your preaching would be unacceptable to your employers, and you would be discharged.

“Our boasted civilization is based upon blood, soaked in blood, and neither you nor I nor any of us can escape the scarlet stain.”

“And not one of them was a free agent,” he said. “They were all tied to the merciless industrial machine. And the pathos of it and the tragedy is that they are tied by their heartstrings. Their children—always the young life that it is their instinct to protect. This instinct is stronger than any ethic they possess.”

“Tell me,” I said, “when one surrenders his personal feelings to his professional feelings, may not the action be defined as a sort of spiritual mayhem?”
I did not get an answer. Colonel Ingram had ingloriously bolted, overturning a palm in his flight.

They were the most hopeless of all I had encountered in my quest. They believed absolutely that their conduct was right. There was no question about it, no discussion. They were convinced that they were the saviours of society, and that it was they who made happiness for the many. And they drew pathetic pictures of what would be the sufferings of the working class were it not for the employment that they, and they alone, by their wisdom, provided for it.

“When they want to do a thing, in business of course, they must wait till there arises in their brains, somehow, a religious, or ethical, or scientific, or philosophic, concept that the thing is right. And then they go ahead and do it, unwitting that one of the weaknesses of the human mind is that the wish is parent to the thought. No matter what they want to do, the sanction always comes. They even see their way to doing wrong that right may come of it.

“The weakness in their position lies in that they are merely business men. They are not philosophers. They are not biologists nor sociologists. If they were, of course, all would be well. A business man who was also a biologist and a sociologist would know, approximately, the right thing to do for humanity. But outside the realm of business, these men are stupid. They know only business. They do not know mankind nor society, and yet they set themselves up as arbiters of the fates of the hungry millions and all the other millions thrown in.”

“They too, were bound to the machine, but they were so bound that they sat on top of it.”

“Here life was clean, noble, and alive. I was in touch with great souls who exalted flesh and spirit over dollars and cents, and to whom the thin wail of the starved slum child meant more than all the pomp and circumstance of commercial expansion and world empire. All about me were nobleness of purpose and heroism of effort, and my days and nights were sunshine and starshine, all fire and dew, with before my eyes, ever burning and blazing, the Holy Grail, Christ’s own Grail, the warm human, long-suffering and maltreated but to be rescued and saved at the last.”

“And so it was, instead of in paradise, that I found myself in the arid desert of commercialism. I found nothing but stupidity, except for business. I found none clean, noble, and alive, though I found many who were alive—with rottenness. What I did find was monstrous selfishness and heartlessness, and a gross, gluttonous, practiced and practical materialism.”

“You have failed in your management. You have made a shambles of civilization. You have been blind and greedy. You have risen up (as you today rise up), shamelessly, in our legislative halls, and declared that profits were impossible without the toil of children and babes.”

“No man can be intellectually insulted. Insult, in its very nature, is emotional.”

“Life sums itself up to you in profits. You have a firm and abiding belief that you were created for the sole purpose of making profits.”

“And the absurd thing about it is that you have repeated these phrases so often that you believe them. You want opportunity to plunder your fellow men in your own small way, but you hypnotize yourself into thinking you want freedom. You are piggish and acquisitive, but the magic of your phrases leads you to believe that you are patriotic. Your desire for profits, which is sheer selfishness, you metamorphose into altruistic solicitude for suffering humanity.”

“And why not?” he demanded. “Why can we not return to the ways of our fathers when this republic was founded?”
“I’ll try to tell you why not, though the telling will be rather hard. You see, you fellows have studied business, in a small way, but you have not studied social evolution at all. You are in the midst of a transition stage now in economic evolution, but you do not understand it, and that’s what causes all the confusion. Why cannot you return? Because you can’t. You can no more make water run up hill than can you cause the tide of economic evolution to flow back in its channel along the way it came. Joshua made the sun stand still upon Gibeon, but you would outdo Joshua. You would make the sun go backward in the sky. You would have time retrace its steps from noon to morning.”

The above quotes I have found in a few moments’ perusing of pages. There is so much more to be read within the pages of this classic. If you have a Kindle, you can download it free here: http://www.amazon.com/Iron-Heel-Jack-London-ebook/dp/B00847CZZO/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1423453696&sr=1-1&keywords=the+iron+heel+jack

If you don’t have a Kindle, I’m sure you can find it elsewhere.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Scott Walker, Wisconsin Public Radio, and The Taliban

     In the vast cultural wasteland that is commercial radio, I sometimes bounce from one channel to the next in search of something that doesn’t offend me on multiple levels. I go from one station where Ted Nugent is glorifying having sex with underage girls and ZZ Top is singing about having sex with prostitutes only to find the same songs played shortly after on the next station. I hear DJs that can’t seem to find a topic of conversation that doesn’t involve poop or body parts. But then I discovered Wisconsin Public Radio. Sure, I guess I always knew it was there at the end of the dial, but I never really listened. Until I did. And the more I listened the more I realized there was nothing else on my dial that could remotely compare to it. It was intelligent conversation between opposing viewpoints that maintained a degree of respect for the other as well as the listener. It was humor that had a degree of sophistication and a lack of cruelty. I could hear world music, the blues, classical, jazz, folk and all kinds of variety that is lacking elsewhere on my radio dial. It was old time radio programs being rebroadcast and advice on gardens and all the important speeches of the day.
     It was all the things that The History Channel and A&E and CNN and others were supposed to be but weren’t. I’ve heard entire hour long programs dedicate to various founding fathers, Aristotle’s influence on science, and Ornette Coleman’s album A Love Supreme.
     And it was free! It was free and so it was available to everyone with a radio, which is pretty much everyone. I like knowing that people have this option. I like to think people who are looking for something more than scatological humor and three chord tunes have some place to turn. Not only was WPR free of charge but free of commercials. Think for a moment of how often your consciousness is invaded by commercials and you will appreciate how much that one distinction is worth. Advertising shouts at you from billboards as you drive down the street, call to you from the corner of your Facebook page, and annoy you every few moments while watching TV or listening to commercial radio.
     It is the one, the only, alternative to commercial radio. There is nowhere else to go, no other state culture outside the mainstream. And of course Scott Walker had to go after it. Of course he said it was nothing personal, but decisions had to be made.
     I can’t help feeling that Scott Walker’s decision to defund Wisconsin Public Radio is comparable to the Taliban’s need to blow up the statues of Buddha in Afghanistan. Seriously. The mindset is: let’s blow it up because we don’t understand it. Let’s blow it up because it offends our small little understanding that we dogmatically follow. And at least part of the reason for both the Taliban and Scott Walker is: blowing stuff up is fun. I like to blow stuff up. It makes me feel powerful, makes me feel like a man.
     It’s an overly patriarchal view of the world that believes everybody must be punished. This isn’t an attack on masculinity or men, it is an attack on an unhealthy perversion of masculinity, one nurtured on a philosophy that qualities such as kindness and unity are weaknesses, that everyone is out to get me and that I’ve got to get them first. It’s the belief that even the smallest bit of sharing or charity is a sin that will spread weakness and dependency like ebola.
     Scott Walker, if you cannot appreciate the value of Wisconsin Public Radio, there is something wrong with you. Not only is it valuable on its own, it set Wisconsin apart, was a jewel in its crown. WPR provides us with culture, which is something utterly lacking in commercial media. And culture is important to society, as important to society as a pancreas is to the body, although both are difficult to explain to someone who is uninterested in knowing.
     Great societies need culture. It is the glue that holds a people together. It provides a pool of knowledge and viewpoints and gives us something from which to build a common vision. But we are heading into a new dark age, and that is not the bold new idea you want to propose.
     You don’t have to enjoy something yourself to acknowledge its benefit to society. I seldom drink water straight from the tap but I’m glad it’s there and safe for those who need it. And I’m willing to pay so that it stays that way. For everybody.

     And if you believe in the trickle down theory, that by giving to the top it will filter down to the rest of society, know that it is true for culture. When those interested in history and current events are given a source of information, they will help disseminate that information to everyone they come in contact with. But if you insist on tearing down everything that does not easily fit in with your narrow view of the world, history will more likely compare you to the Taliban than any great visionary. I have the same feeling in my heart now regarding WPR as I did then about the statues of Buddha, that a cultural treasure was being destroyed by narrow-minded fanatics.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

A Scene Is Where You Make It

     There are eras in history in which people desire to be something more, times that shine like jewels in the history books. Ancient Greece in the 5th Century B.C., The Renaissance, 1976, or the Civil Rights Movement.
     This is not one of those eras. Perhaps for some people it is, people who like 3D movies or body art, but not for me. From my earliest awareness of such things I’ve felt that I never really fit in with the times I was born to. Perhaps it is because I was the youngest child by eight years in my family. At the age of four, in 1970, I’d already been introduced to The Beatles, The Kinks, and The Animals. And Cream. Sunshine of Your Love was amongst my favorite songs at that age, as was Hey Jude. I’m sure the Batman Theme Song fell in there somewhere too, but I was very much influenced by my older siblings.
     London in the 60’s and early 70’s, that’s where I should have been as a young adult. I missed it by about 15 years. But just imagine in 1964 that I Want To Hold Your Hand came out and sounded so completely different than anything that came before it. Now think that in three short years Tomorrow Never Knows and Are You Experienced? hit the airwaves. Add to that Whiter Shade of Pale, Itchycoo Park See Emily Play, Paper Sun, and a hundred similar songs. Try to come up with some other era where music was developing so rapidly.
      I missed the party. It always seemed to be that way for me. I always dreamed of the day when some movement would come along and sweep me in its great wave. Even a small wave would have suited me. I would have loved to have been in college in Madison when somebody dreamed up the satirical newspaper The Onion. Or Minneapolis when Mystery Science Theater 3000 was started. I can just imagine how it would feel to love going to work, to feel fortunate to be getting paid for doing exactly what you want to do.
     But it has not been my fate. I have never met the right people, never been in the right place at the right time.
     Or perhaps, perhaps a scene is where you make it. Maybe if you are just so certain of what it is you want that eventually you will find what it is you are searching for. Hell, maybe you will make it happen. Because after all, a scene always has to start somewhere, and every one of the situations I described began with someone openly searching for something more.
     That is what I choose to believe. All my life I have wanted someone to find the right scene, but perhaps it is up to me to get things started. Don’t get me wrong: what pushes me forward is not my own desires but the desire to keep alive all the greatness that I have been fortunate enough to encounter. Everything I’ll ever do will be influenced by Jack London, James Warren, Victor Hugo, and a thousand other influences great and small who inspired me to do something more with my life than merely exist. So in a sense, I already belong to a scene and always have. My heart beats in sympathy with a great tide that has insisted not only that I could be something more but that the human race can be something more than a knot of squirming creatures all fighting each other for their own pitiful existence.
     And so I plant my flag today. Let it be something for others to rally around, humble as it may be. Let it be a reminder to everyone who chances upon it not only that they too may work towards greater, nobler goals, but that society as a whole is filled with individuals who are only lacking a spark to ignite a fire within them. Welcome to my blog. It is small, but it is part of something larger. I reach out to you, whoever you may be. If I can light a single fire, it shall be worth it. If I can preserve that spark that has been passed on from torch to torch for time beyond reckoning, I will feel myself to be some small part of that which has inspired me.

     Feel free to leave a link to your website, an e-mail that we may keep in contact, or a Facebook page. It helps to stay connected with those who are on a similar path. And whatever you are interested in doing, best of luck to you.