Walter Rhett

O B Joyfulls

In Arts, Business, Living on January 28, 2011 at 3:10 pm

5000 Women Singing on US Capitol East Steps to Support Suffrage, 1914

 How You Sound

 It’s a huge struggle it for a people to maintain a worldview. Holding on to beliefs means acting against forces seeking to alter your way of life. Protecting your identity means nourishing your roots, even in a hostile world. It means casting your light and blinding those in the dark. The adjustment of vision by those looking in and those looking out takes time.

Looking in or out, it’s no surprise, but there are really two Americas. They are separated not by wealth or race or religious belief, or by region, sex, or age. They are not divided by political party, geography, or by liberal or conservative ideologies, or those for or against change. They are not split according to symbolic or real foxes, elephants, donkeys, guffaws, or mules.

Increasingly, America is divided and dispirited by the remarks of living that are our daily requiem on the future. A weary world, speeding by, comments on its turning points. Without a careful eye, it is easy to overlook our serious differences.

As each day dies, our requiem is supposed to celebrate the passage of our common journey, recount its steps and its scars, secure its common hope. Yet increasingly, dead words mark the future and its hope. Distorted words mark our past. Difficult words mind our future.

There is another requiem rooted of tested wisdom. Its words are seeded in experience. They grow our future. They nurture us past the shouted and silent fears.

 Unlike others across the chasm, these words rise from hope and this rquiem will never be a judgment that shuts mercy out of our ears.

Dreams For Sale

Glen Echo, MD Amusement Park, 1943

Price increases are killing the American dream. They nibble and tear away its fabric in the short and long term, by indirect and immediate means. Profits were once tied to the values of a country founded to benefit the common good, a country where those with more pledged to do more. Profits now reflect the simple intent to get more and to widen the gap between rich and poor. 

Prices are an economic element that seldom draws any attention in discussions except as a bugaboo for inflation. Few remember that Nixon, who believed in the powers of big government, actually implemented nation-wide price controls, requiring every price for every item be posted and increases were strictly regulated by the feds. His party now carefully overlooks the utility of big government practices and controls they pretend to abhor.

The debate over economics rarely views the impact of prices on the family as a whole. When it is expressed, it’s mentioned as an index, rising and falling in percentages, of “real income.”

The dying ideal of prices is tied to our dreams. In Disneyland, the price of an admission in 1971 was $3.75. A 2010 one day children’s pass (9>) was $68.00. Have family wages kept up with the price increase?

What’s worse, income, falling behind prices, is now divided by ceilings. It is broken into horizontal layers, with no trickle down to the unemployed, with minimum wage workers locked in to service occupations that offer limited advancement and even fewer benefits, with middle class professionals having no employment guarantees, with retirees not able to depend on pensions (re: Pritchard, Alabama), with fewer services provided by businesses at the local level. This alone shows how we have misdirected economic efforts away from a conservation model that would conserve resources, produce growth and enhance prosperity. (Example: the $80 solar power units in demand in African villages but produced in China.) Instead we have turned to a consumer model that produces a runaway contradictory spiral of profits and shortages – a model rapidly approaching the limits of diminishing returns with the family as its first catastrophic victim.

Revolutionary Twitter

Tunisia Protests

Sure, it’s new media, but the small spark that triggers revolutionary change has caught fire in many places and eras. No matter the technology or circumstance, the seemingly insignificant happenstance touches something deep and profound at the source. The obvious example, for me, is Mrs. Rosa Parks’ weariness that tapped into a deeper strength that day in Montgomery when she boarded a city bus and refused the driver’s order that she give up her seat because of her race. Arrested, fingerprinted, her personal protest of an embedded system of injustice was the flash point for an entire country to be galvanized into action.

The irony of social media is that as it grows, mass action in America is almost extinct. No more stadiums filled with protesters opposed to war, no more marches with the giant ballons that symbolized the power of the masses for peace, progress, and jobs and justice, not even the feel good event that was “Hands Across America.” Now we all participate by texting our vote and waiting until next week.

We are left with tiny screens that transmit our images and chronicle our actions, but also leave us trapped and segmented and separated into bubbles with personal passion but without the power of collective action. Once, the tweet was less important than the feet. I think we are too exuberant and effusive in our praise of the power of the new media and its role in change. It should not obscure the fact that revolutionary conditions had to be heightened, and were roiling just beneath the surface, ready to spill over into the streets where people stand for change.

Back in the days of handwriting and putting words on paper, a Poet of the Library of Congress, in his poem, “The Middle Passage,” Robert Hayden, said it best: you “cannot kill the deep immoral human wish, the timeless will.”

 (O B Joyfuls were strawberry daiquiris served from pitchers by a host of a Charleston winter inn in the 1950s. /wr)

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Walter Rhett, Writer, Walter Rhett, Writer, Walter Rhett, Writer, Walter Rhett, Writer, Walter Rhett, Writer and others. Walter Rhett, Writer said: O B Joyfulls: […]

  2. I like how you tagged one of your entries “My Voice/National Conversation”- it is as preposterous as it is powerful that millions or thousands of people in Tunisia or Egypt or historical South Carolina clamor not so much for their individual voices to be heard as for their collective voices together to drown out the oppressive voice of a particular leader to NOT be heard…
    A cacophony of millions clamoring for the collective representation of their individual frustration, demanding that no one, for the moment, speak for them…they speak only for themselves, but when everyone speaks at once, the message is not so clear in defining what they want, as what they do not want…

    On the 9th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo, and on Martin Luther King Junior’s birthday, I engaged in street protests with men and women who have spent nights in jail with Howard Zinn, Noam other words, they’ve been engaging in civil disobedience for decades, most of their lives, both when it was popular and unpopular…we were but a handful of protesters whose definition of being civil means being disobedient to uncivil practices (like torture, extraordinary rendition) that fall beyond the purview of laws or the ideals of genuine freedom–to throw yourself into harm’s way, to risk jail or even torture to try to illuminate to anyone who would listen that we are all subject to the same tyranny of labeling, and without evidence, anyone and everyone can at whim be declared, “the worst of the worst; enemy combatant; terrorist”–which is why everyone, without exception, needs the power of the courts to escape the tyranny of dictators–be they presidents or kings or state governors or local sheriffs.

    Some of the protesters(on the outside) were fasting for weeks in sympathy with the Guantanamo hunger strikers–it was a small handful of believers…and I cannot decide, were these protests more sincere and powerful because we are so small, so marginal? Is a tiny group fruitlessly storming the gates at Quantico military base demanding the release of Bradley Manning “less powerful” than millions and millions of people demanding the ouster of Mumbarak? Or “more powerful” because theoretically these should be ideals distilled in their purest form, because there is no social popularity to be won in performing them? More powerful because these are actions, protests, and jailings by some of these activists repeated across a lifetime through conviction and sincerity–going as far as they can to put themselves in physical harm’s way for ideals of freedom is as much as you can do, short of actually dying. Short of writing blogs.

    So even if Twitter is not going to fill stadiums up with thousands in the U.S…..even if the entire world wanted to annihilate itself in a narcissistic life only for profit with not a shred of collective conscience–or should I say, BECAUSE our current society tends to cultivate shoppers rather than protesters–it distills the hypocrisy out of those who do dare to show up at the White House and raise their voices. Voices who won’t get any print time in any newspaper in the U.S., and who won’t be on Al Jazeera—who won’t be causing the next revolution, but who in themselves are proof positive of the revolution of consumerism that has so effectively quashed the collective soul of activism and protest in the U.S.–Making dissent at an all time low and collective action at the height of unpopularity today–maybe an all-time nadir? Because it seems even the underground railroad was bigger and more unified than today’s splintered groups over a multitude of “lost causes”…?

    Egypt and Tunisia are a Rorschach test for people in the U.S. who are either inspired by it as the type of momentum that could be harnessed here to express our devastation over job loss and foreclosures, to finally get the big banks out of government, and the health insurance companies out of the business of extortion…or who view it as another opportunity for “Islamo-fascism” to take over a country, so that we have to fight it like we do Iraq and Afghanistan to protect our all important business interests flowing along the Suez Canal…

    But those of us who are scared of the time consumption and privacy implications and who aren’t on Twitter and Facebook, I guess we miss out–for apparently the revolution, indeed, will not be televised…it will be tweeted? Hopefully those with iphones would have the courtesy to telephone a few of us dinosaurs who still use landlines with actual wires (not cordless)? What we lack in technological sophistication, we make up for with voices hoarse from decades of activism, and seeds of dreams carried eternally waiting for the next conflagration, be it consequential, or inconsequential…trying is the end in itself…
    thank goodness the revolution has never been televised, because it lives in hearts that nourish it, so it lives always, whether a person’s body is in jail or on the street, alone or together…love is the revolution, called by its many names of freedom, and dreams are its water….

    In the end, it is those tiny reachings across of hands that matter the most, after the smoke has cleared, the last tire has burned, and the dictator has fled. Today I am holding hands in Egypt and Tunisia, but I do it better on the real streets in front of the real White House than on a white fragment of cyberspace…

    • I posted a quote from yr response on my twitter account. :”it is powerful that millions or thousands of people in Tunisia or Egypt or historical South Carolina clamor not so much for their individual voices to be heard as for their collective voices together to drown out the oppressive voice of a particular leader to NOT be heard…”

  3. Thank you for re-weaving the essence of what I was trying to say above in your post to Brook’s “Quest for Dignity” column today…

    “It’s amazing, and Egypt reminds us, that the most profound expressions of liberty and freedom are found in simple acts. Standing up and gathering in free assembly. Adding a personal voice to the collective voices of a people calling for freedom. Experiencing the bravery of facing the unknown. Turning aside fear to find the courage to face death for your beliefs while finding exhilaration in new hope. The acceptance from hand to hand of shared food and drink. The soaring feeling of safety in the face of military fire power.”

    Your whole post is exquisite, as usual, and I feel saddened that other commentators are “reader favorites” when, if this nation was fully alive and would just plainly feel the brunt of the joy and pain of our history, your words would be the lightening rod coalescing so many!
    Egypt seems so alive—I have Al Jazeera on the actual tv all night and day, and this is just more amazing than the fall of the Berlin wall, or Tienanmen Square…
    Egyptians seem SO MUCH FREER than us right now…simply unfettered, truly having an epiphany of collective action, actual loving-kindness brotherhood, peaceful, orderly, with dignity we in the U.S. could never understand or experience as long as we cower in our a-political shells and maintain allegiance solely to our employers and friends, at the expense of a truly rousing, deep, meaningful civic and human freedom….

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