Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Realizing Freedom and Choice

Obama is removing middle class tax cuts, increasing the tax burden, spending like a demented billionaire.

While I rarely use credit cards still the notices arrive in my mailbox. Fees added or increased. Percentage rates increased. To outrageous amounts. All because Obama forced their hands with new regulations.

Unemployment is not getting better but worsening. Tom is still on reduced hours, contract broken, case to be decided soon.

Grocery prices continue to creep creep creep upwards. I find my budgeted money bringing home fewer bags even though I am buying cheaper items, less high-end delights, more ingredients to make things myself.

Yesterday I read to my daughters about life in the former Soviet Union. From Goldie Hawn's, A Lotus Grows in the Mud I read aloud her experience visiting Russia in 1975 during the Cold War. Goldie witnessed a rare insight into every day life which included being shushed and told to gesture or whisper because of cars and homes being bugged, the KGB following her every move via black cars and tattletale women perched outside her ugly gray concrete hotel. She was introduced to three families living under one tiny apartment roof, each member having his 'own corner' to call his own. Little color. Little joy. No eye contact.

It's her story about the bread lines that astounded my girls and me.
We walk through the chill air along a grand Russian boulevard lined with baroque buildings and dart into the doorway of one that looks like a royal palace. It is now a bread hall.

I am amazed by all the customers inside, who have formed at least three different lines. Dour-faced men and women in heavy hats with gray scarves wrapped around their faces are lining up to choose what they want to buy from a glass-fronted display case.

I stand in line. A woman in a drab utilitarian uniform puts my pastry choices in a bag and hands me a ticket. I watch as my bag is taken away by another staff member in a uniform and a funny hat.

Kristina leads me to a second line, where I hand someone my ticket and pay for my pastries. Then a man gives me another ticket and points me to a third line, where I now have to wait to collect my goods.

The bread hall is my first glimpse of everyday life in Russia. They had a good idea: that everyone be employed and treated the same. I already know from listening to my journalist friends that the reality is quite different. The results are in plain sight. The human spirit is being crushed, and apathy has set in.

"My God. This is insane!" I tell Kristina. "What a screwed-up system! This whole process has taken almost an hour. It would have taken five minutes back home."

She laughs out loud, hoists her son back up on her shoulders and off we go, down the narrow streets, continuing on our journey through life under Moscow's communist rule. (Emphasis mine)
This account lingers in my mind. Is this how it begins? A good idea gone bad? Desperate people putting their faith in a disastrous leader? In greedy, ambitious politicians?

Goldie's line, 'The human spirit is being crushed, and apathy has set in,' haunts me, covers my heart and mind like the gray clouds outside my window that hide the sun, the warmth, obliterating color, dampening my spirit.

Bread line mentality isn't seeping in. It's here. And we are apathetic. We are being pushed and forced and pressured and we are just taking it. But like a watch that is wound one twist too many, the spring of our society is going to snap and we will have no one but ourselves to blame.

We'd better wake up. Before it's too late.


tom said...

Your comments may be prophetic.

Cherie said...

I certainly hope not, Tom, but if things keep going the way they are - and what's/who's to stop them? - yeah, maybe so.

deanna said...

I'm sure sorry to hear that Tom's on reduced hours with a broken contract. Equally unpleasant things could happen to our household any time.

I found it interesting that the Communist political party endorses Obama, saying he's on exactly the same page as they.

Oh, and I was going to remember to call him *President* Obama, in honor of the office. Keep forgetting.

Cherie said...

Deanna, I tend to forget, too. What's up with that? :D

Ben said...

Cringe. Here it comes...
Now I haven't been paying as much attention as I have in the past to the current affairs. But, from what I've seen and read, the financial regulations are mostly just re-instating stuff we had from the great depression up until very recently -- stuff that once removed CAUSED the financial problem in the first place. Glass Steagal Act, etc. See here.

In fact, John McCain, you know, the other guy, is also a vocal supporter of reinstating the glass steagall act. That's what the so-called Volcker Act that Obama is now supporting is all about.

I can tell you from personal experience, the banks started dramatically raising their rates well before ANY financial reforms were instituted. The first bout of reforms was simply re-instating some usury laws which limited their max rates and required them to actually have a reason for doing so.

In my opinion it doesn't matter whether the oppressor is the 'government' or the 'Evil Corporations' when they're doing the same thing. Communists = government, but communism is just a shade away from Fascism as far as many are concerned. Fascism was radically Capitalistic -- that's it's defining characteristic -- a corporate/government alliance. That is a lot more like what we're headed towards than any communist vision.

The reason I mention that is because the left accuses the right of being fascists and the right accuses the left of being communists. However, it's a false dichotomy to a large extent. The right gets mad when it's the government soaking us, and wants to let the corporations do it. The left gets mad when the corporations soak us and wants to let the government do it. The problem is the soaking, not who is doing it!!!

I would be MUCH MORE worried about the latest supreme court decision concerning corporate 'free speech' than about any of these rather tame banking regulations. These banking regulations are no different than the regulations we were under through most of the 20th century, up until 1999 for crying out loud! This new and expanded corporate power of 'speech' is, however, a new and even more expanded power of corporations, AND further enables the corporations and government to work together, treating us all as their play-things.

Don't fall for the hype and the distractions!!! That's what all this rabble over banking regulations is -- and that's what all this left vs right 'communist! communist!' crap is, too -- distraction!

Cherie said...

I didn't cringe. I sat closer to the screen and read every word, Ben. I value your opinion - that's why I'm always asking for it. :D

"..enables the corporations and government to work together, treating us all as their play-things." This is the point at which I fully agree with you, it's really my only point in the post. That we are play-things. I like how you worded it.

I don't really read much news at all - that's your dad. No FoxNews or anything like that. Too much hype and distraction.

I was, however, stunned to read Goldie's account and to find myself so easily relating to it, and remembering how things were when I was your age. I'm not as smart as you are about all of this. All I know is that I feel rather frightened and hopeless and like there is a huge division between the haves and have nots and that we have nots are sinking sinking sinking into mindless drones.

I don't like any of it. Communism, Fascisim, even Capitalism has become so extreme that it's way out of bounds.

Give me my freedom, give me back the right to pursue happiness without the governements'/corporations' hands in my pockets and rules all over my life.

Too much to ask?

Ben said...

I definitely agree with your desire for freedom, you know that :)

It's all just so complicated. I definitely have my beefs with Obama, and concerns about healthcare, etc. However, I think the banking reforms are one of the things he's doing RIGHT and perhaps he isn't doing enough. I'm still not sure what I think of him in terms of motivation, etc. I don't know if he means well but has to compromise in order to get things done -- which I understand -- or if he is a greedy politician just doing as much for us as he has to in order to keep us placated while looting. Truth be told, in a lot of ways I don't think it matters which type of leader you have. The self-serving ones can do a lot of good out of practicality, and if they are good at it. An incompetent but well-meaning one can screw things up at least as bad as a self-serving one. What matters is what they actually do, and how it affects real life, imo. Bush may or may not have had good intentions. (In reality, I'm sure all the leaders are some combination of well-meaning and self-serving.) However, he was at the very least completely incompetent, and he screwed things up in ways we may never recover from. I don't care if he meant well or not. He's not my friend. He may as well be a robot to me, because his only impact on my life is pragmatic and functional. It is what he does, not why, that matters.

From that perspective, then, I don't really care about all the 'he's a phony/wolf in sheeps clothing' etc types of arguments with regards to Obama. I care whether plans work, whether his measures help or hurt. To make any headway thinking about it, then, you have to really understand how everything works. That is, of course, near impossible in something as complicated as modern economics and politics. The big brains of economics and political theory fall into disagreeing camps. Which is right? Usually both and neither. It works a lot like science, actually (or evolution for that matter) where conflicting camps are both wrong and right. Neither has the complete answer. A good book on the whole subject is Thomas Kuhn's 'The Structure of Scientific Revolutions', which is not a science book but actually a philosophy (of science) book. (It has many parallels with punctuated equilibrium, and market theory, actually, but that's getting on a serious tangent. I just think it's interesting how interrelated the functioning of many of these things is. I forget what the name of the theory explaining that whole dealio, though...)

Anyway, though, the reason I bring all of this up is because what ANNOYS me so much is all the stupidity that permeates all these arguments. Nobody wants to actually talk about the things that really are making a difference. It doesn't matter what labels we throw at things. Also, I hate all the people who are just spewing lies and disinformation to keep us all bickering amongst ourselves about non-issues, while the important stuff goes flittering past without our knowledge. Actually, since Dad is reading that book about black history, he can probably note some of the similarities in tactics that were (are) used against blacks after slavery was abolished to keep them in a subordinate position while technically 'free'. They were free, except they would be given land on credit and then the game played such that they couldn't ever really pay it off, etc. Those techniques are played out over and over by the rich to control the poor. Divide and conquer, stimulate in-fighting, have them fighting the wrong battles. What you have to look at is how things WORK, not what it's called. Words are powerful, and most of the crap you hear from anyone talking politics is just words used to manipulate your FEELINGS not to accurately describe what the issues really are or anything. It's a matter of choosing words with the correct current connotation to make people like the option you want them to like. It's marketing, pure and simple.

Ben said...

The republicans REALLY annoy me in that they always talk like they're trying to stick up for the little guy, defending his 'rights' and all that, but if you look at what their policies do, they just screw us over and strengthen the hand of the rich and corporations. Watch 'The Corporation'. I believe that's the right one. This whole notion of a 'Corporation' is so vastly different from how A) corporations originally were envisioned, B) how any of the big names in market theory envisioned things should work and C) bloody counter to all our interests. It is amazing that we've let things get this out of hand.

I just want to be voted off the island...


Sorry, rant rant rant. It all just got me going. And health care reform IS necessary. Our system is screwed up beyond belief and IS NOT a market-based system right now. That is such a load of hot-air. Our system is a weird mangle of tiny fiefdoms of control, government program, insurance scam, etc. It's ridiculous. Reform IS necessary, but the right doesn't care. They get their paychecks from their REAL constituents, big pharma, insurance, etc. Of course the plan they are (werre...) working on is not perfect. Not even close. Not even in the ballpark. But I think it's no WORSE and probably is somewhat better. It also has some of the broad strokes in good places. Oh well, alas, our decline into 3rd world status continues, uninterrupted. Pretty soon we will all be indentured servants of the Chinese.


Ben said...

Sorry, ranted so long I had to split it in 2 to beat the character limit. :D

Cherie said...

Didn't mean to get you so riled up. Mercy me. ;D

You should go into politics, Ben. You could help straighten it all out.

You need to. Otherwise I'll be lost. I don't know how to speak Chinese!

Seriously, you raise excellent points. Just excellent.

"Divide and conquer, stimulate in-fighting, have them fighting the wrong battles. What you have to look at is how things WORK, not what it's called. Words are powerful, and most of the crap you hear from anyone talking politics is just words used to manipulate your FEELINGS not to accurately describe what the issues really are or anything. It's a matter of choosing words with the correct current connotation to make people like the option you want them to like. It's marketing, pure and simple."

This is why I don't watch or read much news. I don't believe a thing I'm hearing/reading. It's all manipulation. This I know.

Vote me off the island, too. We'll start our own country. I'll be the cook. You take pictures.

Ben said...


tshsmom said...

You schooled a smart one there Cherie!
I share both of your fears. I'm also sick to death of all the name-calling when we should all be working together to fix this country.

The only solution I can see is to vote anti-incumbent. Our gov't needs a good house cleaning!

Ben said...

I'd like a 'none of the above' option :)

tshsmom said...

Don't laugh Ben, but I HAVE written in "none of the above" before. I vote in every election, but I refuse to vote for the "lesser of two evils" anymore.

The main reason I vote is to show the politicians that Americans aren't apathetic. We're just sick of the rotten choices they put on the ballot.

Cherie said...

Ben, meet Tshs.

Tshs, Ben.

You guys should get together in a room with good food and drink and have a nice long chat. Such is the way revolutions have begun!

tshsmom said...

That's one of my dreams Cherie, to have both our families together, chatting our hearts out. Let the revolution begin!

Ben could also give me a few tips on operating the new camera. ;p

deanna said...

Cherie, I'm glad you mentioned there were things to learn in these comments. Ben, thanks for what you said.

We do get emotional over different/certain things, I think, no matter who gives us the "facts." We're trying to sort it out. Thinking for yourself is an art, and I congratulate all three of you above for working on it!

I rarely check the news reports anymore, either, for the same reasons Cherie noted.