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Poem

Conspiracy Theory

Think.
Certain patterns emerge.
Here and there can always be linked.
Clues will be withheld, so guess again.
Timing is everything.
When comes next to how
and where is very helpful.
Isn’t there complicity in proximity?
The sharp edges of vision
get us to the grocery store,
but are of no help
in looking behind, below
where reasons live
crowded in a dark hold.
What is intended?
There are so many starting points.
Why don’t we know?
The world works without us
and could fail us
without further notice.
Who rolls the dices?
(Somebody knows something!)
Close your eyes,
what starts as a whisper
can become a sing-along and
the pattern of the certain
can feel divined.

Copyright 2021, Mylor Treneer
All Rights Reserved

Poem

Surely

Sometimes I feel like
I have shuffled through my days in loose slippers.
Had I arisen just a little earlier
in time to press my uniform,
lace my boots and cinch my belt
I could have dressed with fit.
My options could have been coolly surveyed,
attendant risks given their red flags.
Surely I could have walked the world
to a different destination.

Copyright 2020, Mylor Treneer
All Rights Reserved


Poem

Perspective

We are small in bodies
that sculpt perception
with the clay of memory.

We cannot look around the corner.
Mismeasure is our ken,
improvisation our best hope.

God enjoys full presence
and cannot be surprised.
God will never get a joke.

Somehow that makes me feel better.



Copyright 2020, Mylor Treneer
All Rights Reserved

The 1619 Project

Mt. Calvary William H. Johnson

If you grew up thinking you are “white”, the New York Times “1619 Project” is a must read.

Slavery was undeniably a font of phenomenal wealth. By the eve of the Civil War, the Mississippi Valley was home to more millionaires per capita than anywhere else in the United States. Cotton grown and picked by enslaved workers was the nation’s most valuable export. The combined value of enslaved people exceeded that of all the railroads and factories in the nation. New Orleans boasted a denser concentration of banking capital than New York City. What made the cotton economy boom in the United States, and not in all the other far-flung parts of the world with climates and soil suitable to the crop, was our nation’s unflinching willingness to use violence on nonwhite people and to exert its will on seemingly endless supplies of land and labor. Given the choice between modernity and barbarism, prosperity and poverty, lawfulness and cruelty, democracy and totalitarianism, America chose all of the above.

The 1619 Project

We, the Police

Image Courtesy of LJ WHitsitt

From the London Review:

“Anglo-America’s dingy realities – deindustrialisation, low-wage work, underemployment, hyper-incarceration and enfeebled or exclusionary health systems – have long been evident. Nevertheless, the moral, political and material squalor of two of the wealthiest and most powerful societies in history still comes as a shock to some… every morning in the endless month of March, Americans woke up to find themselves citizens of a failed state. In fact, the state has been AWOL for decades, and the market has been entrusted with the tasks most societies reserve almost exclusively for government: healthcare, pensions, low-income housing, education, social services and incarceration.

Pankaj Mishra

The other dingy reality is that we use the police as a cordon sanitaire between us and the consequences of all of our social and political failures; the police keep the homeless out our minds; the mentally ill away from our door steps, the darker skin tones in their allotted neighborhoods and  the desperately poor from stealing from a “middle class” teetering with economic precarity.  While we have come to live without a general sense of prosperity, we cannot seem to relinquish our attachment to “order”.

Of course we can’t. We can sense that we are, collectively, a ticking time bomb. Today, American exceptionalism means extreme inequality of wealth, more guns than sense, abiding racism and a pathological distrust of collective problem solving. The way we police in the U.S. is inextricably bound up in the exploitative capitalism to which we as citizens have become resigned.

The police are to capitalism what neurotic or compulsive behaviors are to the psychoanalyst; symptoms of a (death) drive. In Freud’s words, (the drive)… is “like the grain of sand around which an oyster forms its pearl”.

The capitalist death drive is to accumulate, to acquire and to constantly rediscover that that no acquistion really satisifies, no level of profit is sufficient. Impelled by a dread of scarcity and the impoverished view that the only real “wealth” is private, Americans are frantic earners in a bleak zero sum landscape. If I don’t get it, someone else will. We accept that there are “winners and losers”. We accept that folks for whom cost-benefit analyses are difficult, impossible or irrelevant tend to get pissed off when they perceive themselves to be left behind. They are wont to behave in ways that disrupt the “order” that dispossesses them.

The state proscribes violence to its citizens. Not as Freud pointed out, because it disapproves of violence, but because it wants the monopoly on violence. The majority Black population of Minneapolis distrust their police greatly but cannot imagine their absence. In the USA, we have created our own monsters; we are the jailers and the jailed.

As with the neurotic, dysfunction continues until the drive is recognized (and re-addressed). Until we contend with ravening capitalism, our policing will remain unchanged.

Jetsam

We Float Image Courtesy of LJ Whitsitt

Acting together we flattened the curve of the pandemic. Not the government. We did. We the people.

Remember that phrase?

Now …we the people are no longer acting together. On July 1,we hit 50,000 new cases of coronavirus. Our personal best.

Are we so weary of inconvenience and uncertainty, that we are willing to abandon parts of our society? Have we already forgotten that this virus will disproportionately kill our parents? our grandparents? those with underlying health problems at any age? the poorest among us?

Americans have neither the stoicism to actually bear the risk of dying from covid-19 nor the fortitude to embark on an indefinite period of rigorous self-isolation. Nor, even if we could muster those qualities, could we get a majority of our fellow countrymen to go along. And so, instead of deciding upon some basically rational course of action, we have collectively agreed to forget the things we could no longer bear to know.

Megan McCardle

We the people took to the streets after the murder of George Floyd. Changing our society so we can change our policing will require rigor and collective determination and time.

How long before American Amnesia kicks in again?

More Flotsam

#45 image courtesy of LJ Whitsitt

#45

We have come to see that the gaudy marketplace and our comfortable way of life is built upon the backs of the “essential” and the perennially poor. (Hedge fund managers are not “essential” workers.) It has also dawned upon us that the “world’s greatest economy” is a house of cards. “Supply chains” get sick. The human links in these chains lose their jobs and the flywheel of consumer spending slows down.

Another revelation for the middle class: the “social safety net” does not really exist! This uncomfortable truth has has long been a knee on the neck of the 20% of the American public that has no household net worth. For this economic demographic, the quaint notion that the government “has your back” actually went out the door forty years ago along with Ronald Reagan’s wits.

However, we have seen what a uniformed representative of government can do; casually kill George Floyd with one hand in his pocket.

Business as usual.

4th of July Food for Thought

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.

Frederick Douglass

From the Ohio Public Health Department:


Flotsam

The “commodity fetish” in capitalism is the tendency to see the value of a commodity as an inherent property. The value of a widget is related only to the value of other kinds of widgets in the marketplace. We are blinded by the panoply of glittering widgets. The complex of interpersonal relations that go into producing widgets is ignored.

The pandemic has lifted the curtain and exposed (in Marx’s terms) the “relations of production” usually masked by “market” metaphors. “Supply chains”, it turns out, are people. “Supply chains” get sick.

Workers we took for granted and did not notice are now “essential” to our way of life. Why are these workers “essential” today? Why weren’t they “essential” on January 15? They are “essential” today because what they do is suddenly visible and cannot be taken for granted. “Supply chains” are working people whose labor keeps the groceries stores stocked so Americans never have to be without retail choice.

What do these “essential” workers have in common? They are poorly paid and their employers consider employee safety an afterthought.

If you work in a meatpacking plant, by order of President Trump, you are officially considered less essential than the steak you’re cutting up.

Eugene Robinson

Business as usual.

Flood Debris

Since February, we …comfortable white people…have come to see that even America … our insular City on the Hill …can be attacked by an invisible and inexorable enemy. We have been forced to look mortality in the face.

It became apparent that our government would not help us.

By the time of George Floyd’s murder, we had come to see that our only pandemic defense was our collective willingness to sacrifice the immediate gratifications of easy sociability and retail therapy. We came to see that our individual health depended upon community action. We sheltered in place and experienced oppressive uncertainty. Will we survive? Will our family members survive? Will our incomes survive? Will the “American way of life” survive?

Regardless of our ethnicity, we have all been imprisoned in a radically uncertain future.