Thursday, March 27, 2014

Freefalling into Politics

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Part One, of Freefalls and Human Rights
In February I posted three pieces from my Thursday night class, Three About Me, so… why not post three from my weekly “Friday Morning Freefall” writers group? Call it, Three About Politics. Both of my pieces from this Friday’s meeting are political, and I would only have to find one more political freefall piece.

Freefall writing is where, without editing as you go, blood comes out of your aorta and rushes onto the page. Call it a right brain thing. Invented, they say, by W.O. Mitchell, freefall is where you begin writing as soon as you hear the prompt, and then write like mad until the time is nearly up. It’s nice to write without pressure to be good. By definition, a freefall first draft won’t be as good as deliberate “real writing”… yet sometimes it is. And sometimes a piece can be the start of a book, or used “as is.”

Our weekly meeting even has, get this, a blog where we sometimes post our pieces. I look forward to my Fridays. Last week I walked down the sidewalk with a newer member, Marie, who said she liked how the group is so loving. As indeed we are. Also, since we aren’t sharing any “manuscripts,” we see no point in giving negative criticism. We explicitly try to be kind.

At FreeFall there is a charming, funny senior citizen who always has to stop writing early because her hand gets tired. This week she wrote of “killing the men” in order to cut down on the population in order to save on resources. She doesn’t know where or how her subconscious popped that one up.

The prompt she was using was “depraved,” a prompt suggested by a middle aged lady who speaks an Islamic language—I won’t reveal which country. Unfortunately, the lady speaks with a western accent, which makes her a target of predators. She told us predators are widespread over there (where she lived for several years) because there are no consequences from other citizens, let alone from the legal system.

Meanwhile, in my traditional lonesome prairie culture, molesting a woman is right up there with horse stealing: Other citizens would rush to look for a rope and a tall tree, forgetting to involve the legal system.

Yet… certain aspects of human nature… are probably the same in every space and time. Over here, I’m sure, neither gay women nor straight women would hope to have sex—or be “gang banged”—with many partners at once, no, not even those terribly rich ladies in Hollywood. And yet, if perchance a girl is assaulted by a gang on the football field, or by a gang at a party with photos taken, then other girls will comfort themselves by “blaming the victim,” by saying she must have been a slut. Not a sensible response at all, but a response well documented in the book Slut! Such comfort, of course, comes at the expense of the victim. Back east, after first being gang raped and then being accused by other girls, a teenage girl has committed suicide; the boys have been charged.

My Freefall friend, praise Allah, managed to escape an assault where other males were going to just stand by doing nothing. Muslim friends always asked her, as their first question, “What were you wearing?” I think they were hoping to comfort themselves by hearing she was wearing a western Khaki sleeveless shirt or Bermuda shorts. Of course she wasn’t—she lived there. And the very question makes me angry. Her too. Every law worth legislating should be upheld by individuals and bystanders, regardless of apparel… That’s my political belief.

Part Two, Some Freefalls
Here is my swift response to the prompt
Depravity.

Is there anything more depraved than valuing envy over serving your community? In a little French town if you try to serve by organizing people to put sandbags along the river, well, you won’t get any credit for your volunteer efforts—People will have too much envy, saying you are trying to be too important. Depravity to me is mouthing that God is greater than the people but never stooping to help the unfortunate people. Well, it’s hard to be noble if everyone around you is saying, “What’s the use?” Hard to live in a world where you can’t do anything without bribing everyone at all levels, and even then your livelihood is not secure if somebody’s nephew wants to move into the business.

In a sense, the poor frontier of 300 years ago was more progressive than many modern nations. “What does Ben Franklin think?” the community asked as they organized libraries and firefighting and schools and recreation leagues and service clubs and asylums and hospitals… It was safe to organize in the absence of depravity.

-- end --


The other prompt this Friday was “jeans.” Oh, the memories and opinions that prompt caused! After I read my piece aloud, a woman who lived under communism asked, “How did you know that we had to have a positive attitude?” She told us that you needed a doctor’s note in order to miss the May Day (international worker’s day) holiday parade. Here’s what I dashed off for the prompt
Jeans

I was watching all my fellow workers stride along the crimson corridors of factoplex 95: home of the world’s best tractors. They all had blue jeans, blue coveralls or, for some of the younger women, blue denim shorts, if they worked in an office doing stenography or punch cards. Everybody—Ok, most bodies, knew their shorts were a little extra worked on to be faded or snug, but what proletariat in their right mind would complain? The higher our morale the better we could fight the “capitalist roaders” and “secret fascists.”

I watched them striding along healthily, as it was Monday, we weren’t tired yet, and this was the day the Party Members would show up with working cameras to document our positive attitudes. I always know when a female and equal comrade comes into the room—or, in this case, comes into my radar range. It was Fiona, coming right up beside me. She had a light denim shirt, perfectly regulation, but one that that clung too much and I happened to know she ironed too much, because I was a lucky body who had been over to her place—on a very long date.

In one swift step she claimed her right to come past scanner range into sensor range—nice perfume— and into thermal range. I could, as we say in the reserves, feel her heat signature. “Carl,” she breathed “I don’t see any important people going by.” In an instant I stifled any remarks about the salt of the earth, the slick cogs in the machinery, the valves of the Party. Fiona is far more astute than I.
“What is it?” I asked out the corner of my mouth.
“All the Party members are gone; the shop stewards are gone and their office door is closed with the office empty; the commissar’s parking spot is empty; and none of the camera crew is here.”
I didn’t want to think about it—but Fiona’s more astute than I.

-- end --


Sometimes the prompt is a 2-D picture or an object. One morning a transparent thing reminded me of a coral paperweight found by Winston Smith back in nineteen eighty-four. I said so to my freefall group.
Prompt:


It’s nice to be Islamic, of course. Not like in those old benighted times when the Great Satan ruled us, when women would fornicate in cars and Islam was under attack. No, now, Allah willing, we have order in the world. But who can stop wondering about those old times when people with too much pride built towers that were just too tall, scraping the sky, setting man’s ambition against God’s?
Sometimes I wander the old streets, past the old style buildings, and I wonder. Of course I am glad we tossed out Satan, but still I wonder. In my mind’s eye the sinners are always at night, with light spilling out of doorways to the sound of loud laughter and tall folks looking like Abraham Lincoln.
Besides their idolatrous paintings, what else did they have? Did they know the beauty of Allah’s natural world? Some did. Recently I found something, in an old store in the old part of town. It was light glass, round like a cup, but with a tapering shape and inside was a very old beauty: strange grass and plants and corral and, at the top, a pretty yellow butterfly. For how many decades, generations, had the butterfly perched there? Who owned it? Did he… or she… dream that one day Allah’s will and sharia law would prevail? Surely someone who loved nature craved a righteous world! I took it home in secret, and I secretly put it in my drawer.
It’s nice to be Islamic, but some things have to be kept secret.

-- end --

To find that third political piece, I had to cut and paste from our Freefall Fridays blog. Next to my piece I found my Thigh High Boots. I include it, just for fun.
My sister was always a handful: first to get a tattoo, first to get a silver stud on her cheek, and first in—in a lot of things. No, she didn’t eat goldfish or streak—that was our Dad’s generation. One late October afternoon, out by the tree swing, I was doing something normal—one of us had to be normal—I was merely doing some underage drinking. Our widowed father was off in town somewhere working in the office again. My sister came up to me and said, “Good grief, is that all you are doing? No Panama red?”
I replied, “Someone has to be normal around here, with Dad wearing a suit, and you—Say, is that what you are wearing tonight?” She was wearing a long cotton pioneer lady dress. “Don’t tell me you are going as a Mormon.”
“No,” she said, “I am going as a liberated Mormon. Guess what’s under my dress.”

“Uh, geez,” I squinted “Not your typical lady stuff?”

“Nope. I plan to disrobe… Don’t say ‘strip,’ say disrobe…. Ready? Here it comes!” and off went her long dress. From the shoulders down.  She must have practiced. She always practiced dance moves too. What caught my attention was the thigh high boots.  In basic black.  And hot pants. Black.  And a tube top. Black and red, horizontal stripes.
 I gave her the brother look number four, code for groovy, far out, and anything else our father’s generation would have said.

“I want to know something.”

“What?” she said, trying to see if she could dance with her dress over her shoulder.

“Where did you get those boots?”
Sean Crawford, March, 2014
Footnote: Our blog is at: http://freefallfridays.wordpress.com 
Note: My blogspot-Google claims the site does not exist, so I deleted the link. You will have to type it in manually, or use the link up at the top paragraph.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Say Hello to Strangers

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I suppose, dear reader, you have noticed how twilight can be a bittersweet time. At twilight, on Sunday, I skimmed some pages of a feature on loneliness in this month’s Oprah magazine. I found that social connections are scientifically proven to add to various measures of health, and increase our longevity… Oprah’s readers were advised to “Speak Up,” and then advised to have a national “Say Hello to strangers” day for Oprah readers. The next morning, on a fine Saint Patrick’s day, in a Calgary Metro column, Jeremy Klaszus wrote of the “proven health benefits” of saying hello not only to strangers and friends but to those in-between in the “blurry zone” such as the barista whose name you don’t know, and the jogger you nod hello to every day.

Meanwhile, back in the Sunday twilight, I reflected on the connections that day.

This Sunday, I confess, was an “off day” for me. I had only done a little writing craft in the morning—normally I do a lot over morning coffee, so the rest of my day can be guilt free. And I had only done a little house cleaning—much remains. Finally, in the late afternoon I’d driven to Bridgeland and walked about, but not nearly as much as I would usually walk.

As I walked I was conscious that—call me a Puritan—I usually try to make my days more productive. Below a long hillside, on the big rectangular field where the city hospital used to be, were young men and women in street clothes with superbly padded swords, arrows and spears. They had identical round shields. Interesting. I could tell they weren’t part of the Society for Creative Anachronism, but I didn’t bother asking two bystanders what was going on; I didn’t sit on a bench to smell the grass and see what would unfold. Usually I’m not so apathetic: As I said, it was an off day.

Walking on the sidewalk this Sunday I always stepped aside, well in advance, from any approaching groups of happy dogs and their humans—without making eye contact: Which is unusual for me, here in my small-town city. At last I looped back around to a Starbucks Coffee shop, there to plunk down my pack at one of about a dozen little round tables. A bland middle-aged man in a bland grey T-shirt glanced up at me twice as I came in: I noticed him having the unmistakable body language I knew from my student days, saying, “Let’s connect, stranger, and talk, to chit chat or delve into the meaning of life.” But my sociable student days were behind me, and I was really having an off day… As for the rest of the folks in that community coffee shop in the Bridgeland community, they weren’t communal at all.

In fact, I was so struck by how non-communal the place was that later, after the man had left and been replaced, I recorded some statistics in my journal:

-The only folks conversing were a group of four young dressed-in-black police constables with protective vests.
-As for the other tables, there were no groups and no pairs, only nine solitary occupants, including me.
-Only two non-Puritans were merely reading for pleasure: One was a middle-aged lady with a streak of brightly dyed hair, reading a harlequin romance; and one was me, reading a “manga,” a translated Japanese comic book.
-Three or four were intently focused on using their laptops.
-Three or four were intently making notes as they read.
-No one had a “social prop” such as a newspaper with short articles, or notebook to sporadically write in (except me, briefly) where one would be clearly seen as not minding interruptions.
-Most strikingly, everyone but me had a stiff intent-on-what-they’re doing, oblivious to their surroundings, don’t-bother-me body language. Not communal, not at all.

As for me, while occasionally making eye contact with a young police constable, I was having a good time glancing around and grinning to read my manga: volume four of Haganai, I don’t have many friends. That’s the series where the girl justifies being caught talking to her imaginary friend: “If you can have an air guitar then I can have an air friend.”

The behaviors I noticed on Sunday were all the more striking because it was a day where you would think we had something in common lifting everyone’s spirits: There was water trickling in the gutters, there was more bare ground than white—summer was rushing in! At last! …Around these parts we don’t have spring.

Not everyone, I guess, knows how to say hello to strangers. I have a pretty friend, Christina. How pretty? Let’s just say I take too many photos of her. She has an equally pretty friend, “Shawna.” Poor Shawna can walk for blocks without anyone speaking to her. Unlike Christina. My friend connects with strangers because, she explained once, she has a light body language and light roaming eyes. “I got that from you” she said. How nice. I like to make her smile when we’re together by having fun talking to strangers. It’s easy for we two, but not for Shawna, walking heavily with her intent eyes focused straight ahead. Such a pity. I suppose “saying hello” means having an inner state of being open to the world. Role modeling would work: I guess Christina just relaxed and channeled her “inner Sean.”

Back when I was a young man I lived in a wonderful shared house where no one thought I was shy—but I was, sometimes, when away from home. Back then I read a book by Professor Phillip Zimbardo. I remember his description of one of his students, in the cafeteria, nervously cramming a cupcake into her mouth as someone walked by. After the professor’s students asked him for help he wrote the first ever book on shyness. Zimbardo declared shyness “is not dispositional but situational.” In other words, we can be non-shy, even too talkative, in a situation with people we know such as our immediate family… My conclusion: It would not be enough for Shawna, or the folks in the Sunday coffee shop, to know how to say hello—They would also, on that day, have to be willing.

I wish for all my readers to have days when you don’t walk along with tired eyes, or a frown. I believe we all have something to offer, such as small talk; we all can give a smile to lift up a stranger.

And may you and I forgive ourselves our off days.


Sean Crawford
On Saint Patrick’s Day,
Calgary (Cowtown) Alberta
2014
Afterthoughts:
~On Friday Judy and I went to explore an art gallery in Inglewood. It’s four floors above Gravity coffee shop, in a very affluent office tower with glass stairs. We made our way up, floor by floor, past art at each level. Neat! Of course by the time we reached the gallery we weren’t tired old baby boomers—if we ever were—we were alive, excited and approachable. You enter the gallery through an airlock: a revolving door. As we hung up our coats a stranger, a young artist dressed all in black, burst out that she liked how my T-shirt was so nice for others to enjoy, saying she should wear ditch her black for something friendly too. Wow—Trust an artist to see, and to speak her truth. I advised her of an artsy French T-shirt I’d seen for sale down the street in a new comic book store: How nice to make a connection! (I later learned she had a generation Y name, Kaylin)

My shirt, by the way, had a detailed Jurassic scene complete with a foreground brontosaurus arcing his long neck up, up against pretty clouds.

~Back in the days when people cared about status, Dale Carnegie said words to this effect: A woman’s expression is more appealing than the fur coat on her back.

~Joss Whedon, best known for his summer block-buster The Avengers, got his start writing about a lonely high school vampire slayer in Sunnydale, and then about a lonely refuses-to-drink-blood vampire in Los Angeles. Joss said, “Loneliness leads to nothing good, only detachment.” Well. If in my grim old age I detach, then I will no longer give-a-care about making small talk to cheer up strangers: Yuck! … I prefer the innocence of youth, expecting I will like others, and be liked.


~Related essays are Brights in a Grey Life, archived December 2013, and Learning to be Nice, archived May 2013. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Stupid New Math

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The other day I was listening to two schoolteachers on the CBC radio. They were talking about the “new math.” I was astonished: Are people still talking about it? The new math, as you may know, was a common topic in magazines and newspaper columns back around the time of the Vietnam War, back when “people over thirty” hadn’t learned to question the authorities in our society. But as for the new math, yes, that we questioned. Parents were amused and frustrated because they couldn’t understand it, couldn’t help their children tackle their homework.

As I listened it became clear a teacher wanted to bring in a new new math—as some other provinces have done—and it became very clear the young idealist hadn’t learned from recent history. While the other teacher was opposed, I listened as an expert young authority enthusiastically explained how the “new math” would mean the child would try all sorts of problem solving to get the answer; I heard the same man heap scorn on the old emphasis on rote learning of basic skills. The new math, he said, was “progressive” and “creative.”

I had scorn too: for the teacher. As an historian would say, “If you don’t know where you’ve been, then you don’t know where are.” Where the teachers “have been,” for as long as I’ve been alive, is saying judgmental things about my friends from “the wrong side of the tracks.” They say the children across the tracks cannot do as well in school as rich kids because their parents don’t role model reading books at home; they say the parents cannot help their young children with homework because they work so much or aren’t motivated enough. I’m not saying I agree; I am saying school teachers agree that socio-economically challenged families are challenged in doing schoolwork—so why don’t the same teachers, to be consistent, also agree that “new math” would surely result in parents being further unable to help their children?

And where are we to find the “progressive” teachers to do this creative math? Perhaps the Vietnam years have made me too skeptical, but I ask: How many of us during Vietnam could do the progressive new-fangled “win the hearts and minds” thing? How many State Department teachers in the Mekong delta, or soldiers or marines, could manage to win the village farmers over to choosing democracy instead of communism? Not very many, not at all. And so for this new math, I suspect teachers would merely end up doing it by rote. Someone else would have to write the curriculum and plan out his or her “creative, progressive” lesson plans for him or her.

Too often extreme idealists forget the rest of us are not as progressive as they are. Decades after woman's liberation we were barely ready for the nice, not-so-Hollywood women of the Dove soap commercials. We regular folk certainly aren’t ready to creatively teach our kids the newest new math.

I remember when computers were new. I once walked into the Hudson’s Bay Company the first morning of their new cash registers. The changeover, I was told, had been the previous night. That morning I heard all their cash registers going “ba-beep, cheep, beep.” It felt weird. Progressive maybe, but weird. In time we learned to silence them.

Back then we hoped for a new, improved “paperless office.” In my day, computer consultants would come in and lay down a network and then, overnight, a business would change over to doing everything by computer. I remember reading in a Calgary newspaper about a company suing the computer experts: The company was going bankrupt from automating too fast. I’m sure the company lost their court case because the common sense practice at the time (At least, I hope it was common) was to run the new system side by side with the old paper system until you were sure it worked.

Well then. Can’t this new math be run for a time side by side with the old? Logically, if having children problem solving were so ideal, wouldn’t there already be some creative teachers out there teaching “problem solving” alongside the regular curriculum? Let them teach their fellow teachers how to do likewise. If they can.

And, if taught side by side, I ask sarcastically, wouldn’t problem solving grow to be used more and more, without needing extra energy or scorn, just as surely as children, to quote Sylvan Learning Academy, will grow to be “hooked on phonics”? (phonetics) Now I’m getting angry. You see, there is a fierce expert debate, going back to my grandparents time, on teaching literacy through either “sounding out” (phonics) or else “whole word” (memorizing) But not both. My niece Derrelynne failed to learn to read three years in a row until my sister—who role modeled reading at home—took Derrelynne out of the school that clung to the one theory, and put her into a school that used the other. The second time Derrelynne took grade three she “got it” but she was forever a year behind. Why, oh why, aren’t the experts willing to use a mixture of both theories? Have they no "street smarts?"

And as for that young expert’s heavy scorn over the radio: It might seem charming, maybe, to hear a teenage girl using scorn to summon up energy to separate from her parents or small town; it is not charming to hear such scorn in a grown adult—I find it most distasteful… Put it this way: If I was to hear an idealistic oil executive being as scornful about, say, global warming, then I would think there must be merit to the global warming theory. And vice versa.

I wish these advocates of the newest new math would respect recent history; I can imagine asking them to respect regular folks who never go to university, and then requesting the experts to venture over to meet with us, here on the wrong side of the tracks. I would say: We are the ones who slogged through the rice paddies in Vietnam so you could build your ivory towers. We don’t know fancy theories but we sure know what the ground looks like. Ask us, work with us. In your ignorant idealism, please don’t ignore us.


Sean Crawford
Middle aged,
Watching fashions and fools come round again
March 2014
Footnote:

~US philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who can’t remember history are condemned to repeat it.” For a more sad than comic view of how “US in Vietnam” history is repeating see my essay A Young Girl’s Guide to Wars and Drugs, archived in March 2013.    

Thursday, March 6, 2014

I Don't Believe in the Environment

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Sometimes I wish I knew as much about human nature as an English literature guy. Sometimes I wonder what I’m missing. Never mind. At least I’m not a babe in the woods: These days I’m really wondering about all those leftist-environmentalist-anti-establishment types. So serious and strident—I really don’t think they get the human comedy.

These fringe folk seem to believe that once you move up to a certain floor level in an office tower you will say, “I changed my mind—I no longer believe in the environment.” The socialists forget that it was a war hero, big game hunter and occupier of that classic office of "the establishment"—an oval shaped office in a big white house—who brought in America’s first national park: Yellowstone. To the people of the day, if you wanted to create a metaphor in the form of a doll to depict The Man in Washington, then the doll would not be a capitalist running pig-dog: it would be a teddy bear. Yes, Americans embraced a bear named after President Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt.

I’m not saying rich folks can’t be as silly as the poor anarchists. Back in 1986 Pulitzer winner David Halberstam exposed the thick skulls of the arrogant executives in the big three auto companies: Powerful folks, but so far behind the times. Halberstam revealed, for example, that front wheel drive was standard in Europe for ten years before the suits tried it here. Sometimes the suits at GM remind me of the brass at HQ, so distant from the front lines in Flanders Fields. Oh, the adjectives I could use! —But I restrain myself.

While the Japanese auto executives, according to Halberstam, believe in being frugal, after the Wall Street Melt Down the Detroit executive bozos flew to Washington to ask for a bailout. Their trip became front-page news, of course—as they flew in a private jet! Across America readers rustled the paper and burst out with adjectives. What could I do but laugh?

Equally laughable is the belief of the environmental folks that if, on some space age day of reckoning, we all have to share in the burden of rationing gasoline, then we’ll all share the burden equally. Who are they kidding?

The same executives who have reserved parking stalls near the door, and company-supplied chauffeurs, will surely fly to Washington to lobby to justify extra gas for businessmen. “We have to inspect plants and scout suppliers.” Or, “What’s good for General Motors is good for the country.” Or, whispered in genteel tones in Executive washrooms, “What’s wrong with a little entitlement between colleagues?” In my hometown the oil executives are so entitled—how entitled are they? The media aren’t even allowed to peek inside the executive washrooms, let alone photograph such golden palaces and throne rooms. Well. So while I can easily imagine how soylent rationing would work out in practise, I don’t suppose the eco-leftists are imagining a non-equalitarian world. Maybe I should buy them a good history book about how rationing worked in WWII. Back then the same sort of young guys who would today get pirate music and movies would back then get pirate gasoline… as the dead son of Mrs. Ryan was rocking in the waves...  

Maybe I could buy the True Believers some English literature books: Human nature just doesn’t change. I’m sure the Communist Party Members over in North Korea and China feel just as entitled as any working man here who starts out down in the mailroom and in time rises through the ranks to say, “Look Ma, I’m the Vice-President of Production!” Say, I wonder if the Chinese Party Members hate the Japanese for being frugal?

Or maybe I could draw my ecologically minded friend’s attention to a big everyday symbol: the recycling containers in the Tim Hortons (no apostrophe) donut shops. These coffee shops, named after an NHL player, are as popular in Canada as, well, hockey. There was even a Tim Hortons in the Canadian Forces Base in Kandahar. Given human nature, I rather doubt the Kandahar Hortons had signs for recycling—surely the locals needed no reminder to re-use. Back in Canada these days every Hortons has a tasteful recycling counter, in plastic imitation wood, with four prominently labeled funny shaped holes: two for “waste” and two for “recyclables.” Because all of us at Tim Hortons, except for the suits who are going elsewhere for expensive lattes, believe in the environment. A discrete swinging door allows the staff to access the four black plastic bags inside where the items are gathered. If you don’t mind being nosy, glance into the specific holes: You will see more than enough garbage mixed in with the bottles and cans to make the recycling vats jam up and melt down. “What the—?”

Yes, “Everyone believes in the environment.” In fact, every single home in my sincere city has two color-coded recycling bins in the back. It’s compulsory. And every sincere homeowner is charged an ongoing fee. Everyone believes, but in the Tim Hortons not everyone can delay a microsecond to locate the proper receptacle. Why? Maybe the idealistic generation can’t read, maybe the computer generation doesn’t have a microsecond of attention span, or maybe human nature hasn’t changed since before the invention of the vacuum tube.

Notice to my eco friends everywhere: You can’t expect The People to have a morality any higher than their day-to-day needs. Maybe they will rise above themselves temporarily, when there are flags and drums for war, but even a world at war will soon have some people sinking down, long before the war is properly begun, down into the pit of the gasoline black market. To the justifying of piracy there is no end… As for the world’s most notorious pirates, the Chinese, the last I heard they were still publishing China Reconstructs, in English, and talking about “continuing the revolution.” Yes but by now, surely, even the Communist Party Members are merely going through the motions.

Just as people will go through the motions of throwing stuff into the "recycling" can when in reality it is a garbage can—and they know it. Of course, their day to day morality can be effected by compulsion and laws from the establishment, the authority, The Man… and the people in suits who have everyone in my city paying extra for personal recycling bins. 

Back in my childhood the advertisers had determined the average housewife didn’t know words like “obsolete” and “ecology.” Back then during the evening I would see the tubes in the back of the radio set glowing, and during the day I would be out collecting beer bottles and pop bottles—these could be returned, to the same stores where you bought them, for two cents. For a half dozen empty bottles I could buy a sparkling soda bottle or a Spiderman comic. (Gold Key comics were 15 cents, DC were 10 cents) Since childhood the price of comics has far outpaced pop—even though paper grows on trees. Those days of getting dirty, scratched and stepping into still water while scouring the ditches and bushes for bottles were days of authentic everyday morality—I was being true to the human comedy.

Sean Crawford
Calgary, under a hated winter vortex
While my neighbours say, “Thank God for global warming.”
March 2014
Footnotes: 
~I honour David Halberstam in my essay, Poor David Halberstam, archived September 2012.
~The Human Comedy, set during the war years, is one of my favourite classics.
~I wrote an essay with links on Pirates and Prohibition in April 2012.