Monday, March 19, 2012

Let It Glitter

This month is March Madness, and I ain't talking about basketball.  I have had sick children, husband, cats, it has been all about vomit and diarrhea and sleepless nights and with that deteriorates my mood and in the last few weeks I have fallen into a pit.  The only good thing I can say about it is that I am able to realize it is falling into a pit.  I know that intellectually but not viscerally.  Because when my mood descends, when the horror of every moment is all that makes itself known to me, I do not have the strength to imagine otherwise.  You suffer when you are bipolar, like I imagine you suffer with Alzheimer's or cancer.  I would venture to say that my personal mental configuration, when suicide looms as a wonderful alternative, the most seductive thing in the world, I would venture this configuration causes comparatively a lot of suffering.

And with it comes a drop in competencies, I don't eat as well, I don't exercise, I miss appointments, I forget things. And with it comes, at least it seems to me on this run, sort of a radical drop in the strength of my immune system.  This plummeting mood is hand in hand with garden variety viruses, but three of them in a row.  Owain and I have both had them and take turns being sick.

And work, well, the evidence of my life stands in stark contrast to the conventional wisdom that part-time work is never really that challenging for bright women.  Ha ha ha ha ha ha. 

So things have been stressed and sad, and there have been pale children and hundreds of wash cycles and scrubbed toilets, and there have been cancellations of big events that mattered to me and many evenings of exhausted collapse.  Things fall apart.  On Sunday I asked if Rhys could go through the McDonald's drive thru for dinner on Sunday.  It tasted so good.  There are hours of television, and me so short tempered and sad, but there are also good moments, good moments to explain to Owain about bipolar and why it is this and not him that is making me sad.  This is tough stuff, but, you know, he can handle it. And there are good times too when they really help out when I am fragile and they believe in their own ability to help and make a difference when they see it in my face.  Yesterday Liberty put her own diaper and pyjamas on and brushed her teeth by herself.  She is three.

She is very Joan Crawford at the moment.  She will put her hands on her hips and shake her finger at you with the most dramatic delivery, telling you exactly what you should not do and why.  But that same passion translates to everything, good things, what she plans to eat for lunch.  Just planning what we are going to eat for lunch can cause that girl shivers of delight.  She is painting a lot, and since Christmas has requested access to a glitter shaker we got for her birthday.  She puts some glitter on the paintings as accents.  But last week when she got her shaker, she shook every piece of it on to the floor.  I didn't see this. I was probably posting something bitter about the Olympics on Facebook.  Anyway, when I saw it I sighed and looked at my daughter ruefully and said I did not want to clean it up.

Hands on hips, finger in the air, "NO MOMMY!  NO MOMMY!  LET IT GLITTER"

I left it there in the rug, the little Chinese pugs glinting here and there, I left it and looked at it.  So I am letting it glitter, all the broken pieces of my life, all the parenting mistakes and shortcomings, all the tears streaming down cheeks and vomit reflecting in the toilet bowl, there it is, it is glittering, it is my life.  Letting it glitter is the best antidote, the best antidote to my personal mental configuration.  I am going to let it glitter. Then I remember that now I am typing away to my heart's content, and that the play will come, and Spring will come, and all I need do to honour this life is to let it glitter.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

That Sweet Flute John Clare

That Sweet Flute John Clare

by Mary Oliver. From West Wind (1997)

That sweet flute John Clare;

that broken branch Eddy Whitman;

Christopher Smart, in the press of blazing electricity;

My uncle the suicide;

Woolf, on her way to the river;

Wolf, of the sorrowful songs;

Swift, impenetrable mask of Dublin;

Schumann, climbing the bridge, leaping into the Rhine;

Ruskin, Cowper;

Poe, rambling in the gloom-bins of Baltimore and Richmond--

light of the world, hold me.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

On the Olympics

You know, this thing with the Olympics and the government on steroids amping up authoritarian rule at the expense of the taxpayer is really bumming me out.  The press today about the security costs and security measures really filled me with rage.  People think that people with bipolar are outliers, but I ask those people what the hell makes them think their neuropsychotic programming is all copacetic if they are not filled with rage when they see this going on.  I mean, what the hell?  And people are speculating that protest is impossible.  People are reporting that protest will be impossible. 

But the people are of course more powerful than Visa or Coca Cola, or Barclays.  They are more powerful than those security firms and the thousand FBI agents.  The people have the power.  We have handed that power over to corporations and to our government, we have handed it over because we have been too busy participating in the economic system to pay attention as they took it.  They just took it away from us when we weren't looking.  And now we really don't have a lot of the rights we used to have, rights like habeus corpus, or effective assistance of counsel, we just don't have those rights.  This previous erosion, coupled with the new authoritarian normalcy they have planned, these actions are attacks on the people.  I consider the authoritarian measures and security budget to be - an attack on the people. 

But people are reporting that protest will be impossible. 

I don't believe that for a minute.  I actually think this is where Occupy comes into its own, fulfills the destiny of its own title - it can occupy this new authoritarian normal as it appears in the Olympics, it can push back.  Everyone can be in the Occupation for this purpose, right?  Anyone concerned with civil liberties, with austerity measures, with the plight of the poor and the accountability of the rich - anyone could Occupy. 

My idea is that we adopt the Occupy London arrow logo as a small discrete temporary body tattoo, as a badge, a t-shirt, a hat, a carry-all -- something that everyone who attends the Olympics can wear or carry.  No violence, no marching, no tents, just a show of solidarity.

Starting with the ticket distribution and the requirement that you have an active Visa credit card in order to buy tickets, I have had a bad feeling about these Olympics.  It seems to be moving corporate reality much more squarely into focus at the sacrifice of other kinds of reality.  The Olympics is now the unimportant content between the bank advertisements and the car advertisements.  And the populace is something that is dictated to by corporations, under the auspices of the government. Anyone who went through the ticket lottery is welcome to comment, but I think you have to agree with me there.  It's all very creepy, you get dictated to.  It used to be that consumers had rights, but it doesn't appear that they have rights any longer.  That is something else we let slip away.

I just finished watching the incredible HBO John Adams biopic which is the best thing I have ever seen on television, that's right, bitches, better than Hill Street Blues or Modern Family or even those early heady days of Ally McBeal.  It ends with this quote:

“Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present Generation to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it.”

I can't help but think John Adams is repenting in Heaven.  

Saturday, March 10, 2012

What Would Jesus Do As President?

So I recently posted to FB this Stephen Colbert quote about being a Christian nation, and confronting ourselves about the way the state treats the poor; we either have to pretend that Jesus didn't actually provide a mandate to help the poor, or we have to admit that this mandate exists and we decide to ignore it. 

The post got some pretty antagonistic comments, saying Jesus had no relationship to the State and that no one wants to consider their nation a Christian nation.

I thought that this antagonism, which was completely good natured and authentic, was actually an interesting thing.  These ideas are used to silence a debate we need to have both in the United Kingdom and in America, an important emotional debate.   According to the numbers and the best principles of democracy, both the United Kingdom and the United States are Christian nations.  Yet somehow everyone does not want to talk about that, thinking that the separation of church and state demands among educated liberals some kind of eerie silence about what values they hold dear and what virtues they want the state to accomplish.  We have little content for ideas such as justice when we rob ourselves of our scriptures.  The desire people have to honor their God and their faith in their vote is pretty overwhelming, and that desire is being skewed in US politics into some pretty unhealthy and unhappy avenues.

Even if you never want to mention your faith what about your vote?  What about your political participation?  Jesus did not create the State, but we as taxpayers and citizens who say we follow Jesus do create the State.  If Jesus shouldered that burden, what would he do?  Can't that be a way of thinking about these issues?

I am not frightened of having this dialogue, because I think what would emerge quickly is that radical tolerance and respect for persons is in fact a key principle of Christianity, perhaps the very principle that informed and inhabited the Constitution.  Let's see what Thomas Jefferson had to say.

   (Preamble to the Virginia Disestablishment Bill of 1779)

Well aware . . . that Almighty God hath created the mind free, and manifested his supreme will that it shall remain free by making it insusceptible of restraint; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments, or burdens, or by civil incapacitiations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness; and a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being lord of both body and mind, yet chose not to propogate it by coercion on either, as was in his Almighty power to do, but to extend in by its influence to reason along, that the impious presumptions of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through time . . . "

Disestablishment was the virtue that a true display of his religious faith mandated.     But then, still, the State, what is it to do?  Disestablishment must continue, but what is the truth?  What should we be doing?  What should we do to save our earth, and feed our hungry?  Can a Christian have borders in her concerns for the world?  Look, I quit that club (Ok, probably not really considering how much time I still spend on the whole matter) but you haven't!  I know so many people who have a Christian faith.  I would love to hear them addressing these questions.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Thoughts on Airports

If I can't be completely self-indulgent in a blog, where can I be completely self-indulgent?

The other day at my son's school Monday assembly an upper form recited Charge of the Light Brigade and the Headmaster commented on the virtue of submission to authority he saw in that poem.

I have never thought of submission to authority as a virtue.  It doesn't feel like a virtue to me.  In submission to authority to me there are only practical questions of consequences.  Will I get caught and go to jail?  A governing principle in my life is that I do not want to go to jail.  Virtue is what the heart longs for, it is the highest and best expression of what we as humans are and can be.  And I don't think that submission to authority is what our hearts at their bravest and best moments really long for.  I think we long for justice.  I know I do.  My sign on 15 October said Justice is Possible.  I believe it and I fight for it.

But my hope and belief seem quite stupid and implausible whenever I enter airports.  Those places stink of fear and unquestioning faith in leaders.  The theater of the liquids is completely a theater of slavery to me as people eye their plastic bags with concern, willingly throw away cosmetics, take off their shoes, separate themselves from all their possessions, submit, submit, submit. Belts, shoes, jackets.  Watching this debacle sickens my soul.  This is the red baboon ass of the State controlling the populace without adequate justification.  And controlling them for the benefit of corporations.  Iran, Iraq, Eurasia, Eastasia.  We submit, we unquestioningly believe bad people want to harm us and we never consider that we perhaps are in fact the bad people.  We never even ask if the theater of the liquids has any evidence or justification.  And up close, it dissolves into ridiculousness.

On Tuesday I flew to Madrid for a one day meeting and I flew Ryan Air.  Ryan Air is the most fascist airline. They make up their own laws and ruthlessly exploit them for profit.

(What I see happening, actually, in all areas of all markets is that, in an effort to increase shareholder returns in a non-growth period, companies describe more and more every little thing that they were already doing before and just add a charge for them.  Like Ryan Air charges you £60 to print out your boarding pass.  The airline business is not going to make anyone a millionaire by continuing the kind of common courtesy or customer service that would include printing out a boarding pass in the price of a ticket!  So that goes, and is charged.  I see this in financial services, telecommunications, transit . . . )

Anyway, I only had the cheaper sandwich bags that didn't reseal at home and I filled up three with containers for an overnight trip, careful that no container had at any time housed more than 100 ml of a liquid.  I decided that my hairspray, solid deodorant and concealer would not be liquids for purposes of compliance.  And of course I was stopped, and of course someone searched my luggage thoroughly, and of course the same person was then tasked with fitting all my three bags of regulation creams into one regulation zip-lock bag.  And in the end, she just shrugged and left half of the things in the bag.  I mean, how ridiculous and removed was that exchange from anything that could be described as fighting terrorism? Kafka is seeping through the walls at every BAA airport and I am pissed because that was another 20 minutes of my life. 

And once you are through airport security, the shopping scene at the airport (which you are forced by time constraints and architecture to inhabit at length), the way it is interwoven, without any human space, all space for commerce.  Having humbled ourselves at the baptismal font of the metal detector, we now have nothing to do but to serve at the altar of capitalism, spend money, it is the only way to express ourselves that we have.  Yet everything at the airport is crap and too expensive.  And every time I go the food looks worse, the clothes look cheaper, yet everything is more expensive.  It is sinister.  To me the airport is a heavy, heavy dose of everything I truly disdain in our civilization.

I have to get to the airport hours and hours before I used to have to and I resent handing over these hours of my life.  I have to worry about the flight the whole day before and check in online.  I have to decide exactly about bags or face a punitive charge.  Time is precious to me.  Time is a gift from God and I do not want to be handing it over to goddamned Ryan air and the incredibly crappy BAA.  They have offloaded their costs to me and I am paying with my life.  And it takes so much time to pay that I scarcely have any energy to even protest this unjust fate.  It is not just the airlines that have offloaded to me.  So have the grocers, the educators, the content providers, the local governments and the national government.  And I am just so completely cognizant of this that it is like an open wound.  I can't read any headline without feeling personally screwed.  Someone gets £8 million as a shareholder of a private government contract job centre that doesn't even work?  That is my goddamned money.  In my own life, I hire people and they work for their money and to me honest work for an honest wage is virtuous.  There is virtue in hard work.  But my government by tax proxy is handing way too much of my money to people who don't even work for it.  This includes Stagecoach, the bus company,  National Rail in its entirety, the private finance initiatives and the airports.  Do you know why these companies are getting so much money from the government?  Because the government is controlled by corporations and money and not by the people.  It makes me sick.  What thrilled me always about being an American, what made me the recipient of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Young Patriot award, was that I was the proud citizen of a fair and free country and I knew it, and I was proud of it.  The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States are sacred documents to me.  Fair and free.  That was the idea when they started it.  You know what, I know certain people like my husband think that I am just the world's biggest complainer, but all the shit going down at airports is just not fair.  It's not fair.  And the State, man, the State has us by the balls when we are in airports, and it keeps the very populace with the means to challenge the state down, it trains them in submission, that submission that is no virtue, that submission which looks to me when I look closely like slavery.   

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Occupy, Money, Banks

Money should be conceived of as spirit; as part of our identity.  What we buy is a way we create our identity.  And we must own the identity bestowed on us by what we own.  And what we consume.  So if we have pension funds that invest in companies that are sucking up the capital of the third world and leaving people impoverished and hungry, then it is by our own hands that they are hungry.  And if we eat animals tortured and imprisoned, then we are their torturer.  And if we buy clothes from Primark, we are paying our seamstresses in India barbaric wages.  And so it goes.  If people considered what they could do with their money, how we could use capitalism to make a better world, starting tomorrow, then the world would become much better very quickly.  I know that many people have zero choice when it comes to feeding their family and paying the bills.  But those of us that do here in the middle class can at least be careful with the money that we spend. 

Money as spirit, as a kind of collective and separate expression of identity shouldn't really be held in banks.  Banks have become a terrible vehicle for sucking capital away from the masses and toward the 1%.  The 99% could agree to turn this around in a clear and fluid way:  require all banks to be run as nonprofit cooperatives.  Something as sacred as our own identities should not be left to shareholder return.  Getting the current government to agree to this is unthinkable:  they are with the Corporation of the City of London as the highest and best hope of the future of England is financial services and capital transactions.  This is a blind hope.  This hope rests on the assertion that we are different than Greece, that our fate will be different, our lenders will be serviced. This hope must be extinguished, because every year that the government goes forward with this hope in their heads, the world becomes more poisoned and life is harder every year for us all.  We are all working harder for less money and that our public institutions and our press and our government is nothing more than a web of corruption.  The corruption of pursuing naked self interest while in a position of public trust.  Everywhere we look we see them.

People have been all up in Occupy and comparing it to the civil rights movement.  The civil rights movement in the United States.  Please.  This is so much bigger than that, there is so much more at stake.  This is much more like the American Revolution.  We are being taxed and in return we receive fewer services, indifference and contempt.  The needs of our very planet are virtually ignored by every government on the planet.  A new kind of justice needs to come, and needs to come quickly, a justice in how our money is spent by ourselves and by our government.  In imagining what this new justice can or should look like, we are only beginning.  People ask if Occupy is dead.  Well, a lot of early movements, like, say, Christianity, or the Roman Empire or the formation of the United States took some time to get momentum.  Fits and starts and discussions at the beginning.   But we are here.  We will be here when the economy collapses and your personal threshhold is reached.  We are here because we believe an enormous idea:  that justice is possible.