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Preface to A New Start

Preface to A New Start

One day short of my 8th anniversary, I was laid off.  I find myself feeling relieved. There were seven good years, and after the stress of the last year or so, I am grateful for the chance to regroup and start again. It was past time for me to move on, and this works.

It has been almost a month, and my mojo is returning. I’m catching up on all the things that I didn’t have the energy or inclination to do over the last year. My hair and nails are getting healthier, and my dentist is making progress against the acceleration of gum disease. I am even getting poised to attack the “my brand” tasks (very uncomfortable for someone like me).

I have not yet decided the exact direction to take going forward, but am inclined to try something different. I could start my own business. I could turn a heap of text with rather bad dialogue into a real comedy novel. I could move into a different industry, or try a different role. When I think back about what I loved best about working at my old company, it was really about meeting a wide range of people who were able to rally around some core values in order to achieve something. I would like to find that again, but perhaps in a completely different context.

This is just a kind of landmark post, but I intend to blog again soon, if only to get back into the habit of writing. It doesn’t flow the way it used to, and the solution for that is always the same: write more.

For now, just feeling grateful for the privileges:

  • a little wriggle room to refocus
  • a clear, clean conscience
  • decluttering the home office
  • sleeping in a little, reading more, family time
  • “spring ahead Monday” at home!
  • the feeling of anticipation toward what lies beyond this new turn in the path

Looking out

up up and onward

And They All Look Just the Same

And They All Look Just the Same

This one’s for Debbie, and you know why:

Little Boxes, by Malvina Reynolds

Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky,
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.
There’s a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,

And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

And the people in the houses
All went to the university,
Where they were put in boxes
And they came out all the same,
And there’s doctors and lawyers,
And business executives,

And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

And they all play on the golf course
And drink their martinis dry,
And they all have pretty children
And the children go to school,
And the children go to summer camp
And then to the university,

Where they all are put in boxes
And they come out all the same.

And the boys go into business
And marry and raise a family
In boxes made of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.
There’s a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,

And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

America Slouching Toward Fascism

America Slouching Toward Fascism

Bush’s comment on Islamic “fascists” continues to tickle at my mind, and I’m not alone. Some of the characteristics of some kinds of fascism are there, but fundamental and very essential traits are also missing – the economic, the nationalistic. Our own U.S. of A. is actually closer to an outright fascistic regime. Some say it’s already here.

Classic projection onto the enemy, or at least that’s the reaction they are hoping for? Or is it just names at the playground? You Nazi! You Fascist! You Bully!

Or worse, is the vocabulary a sign of a softening up American prelude to more wars against nations (rather than abstractions like “terrorism”)? More regime changes, say in Iran and/or Syria? Nukes? Who knows – not much would surprise me from this administration. This vocabulary seems to have been tested out by none other than Rick Santorum the Insufferable. Anyone remember why Iran dislikes us?

Even worse, Santorum was patently dishonest when he failed to explain why many in Iran, in 1979, came to view America as its enemy. In fact, it was an American-backed coup in 1953, followed by twenty-five years of repression by Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi that sparked the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the rise of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and much of the suspicion and hostility toward the United States that remains today.

It’s called “blowback.” Moreover, Iran’s rise in the Middle East today is, in large measure, yet more “blowback” — resulting from the lies and exaggerations about Iraq (in preparation for America’s invasion) which despicable neoconservatives and conservatives, like Santorum, foisted upon an unwitting, if not witless, American public nearly four years ago.

Yet, four years ago, serious people were warning that an invasion of Iraq – the illegality and immorality of it aside – might empower Iraq’s Shiites, thus benefiting Iran, might lead to an insurgency and perhaps a civil war, which, in turn, might embroil the entire Middle East.

Now, out of fear that the public might seize upon those prescient warnings and turn out of office the reckless instigators of this Middle East conflagration, obnoxious and desperate conservatives like Rick Santorum speak yet more reckless nonsense in order to save their political skins. Yes, even if it means duping Americans yet again for the sake of another regime change, pouring more fuel on the raging fire and provoking yet more blowback.

Some tidbits for you to ponder:

“fascism – A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism.” – American Heritage Dictionary

Granted that the 19th century was the century of socialism, liberalism, democracy, this does not mean that the 20th century must also be the century of socialism, liberalism, democracy. Political doctrines pass; nations remain. We are free to believe that this is the century of authority, a century tending to the “right”, a Fascist century. – Benito Mussolini, Doctrine of Fascism

“There’s basically two principles that define the Bush Administration policies: stuff the pockets of your rich friends with dollars, and increase your control over the world. Almost everything follows from that. If you happen to blow up the world, well, you know, it’s somebody else’s business. Stuff happens, as Rumsfeld said.” – Noam Chomsky, Interview by Geov Parrish, December 23, 2005

Before the rise of fascism, Germany and Italy were, on paper, liberal democracies. Fascism did not swoop down on these nations as if from another planet. To the contrary, fascist dictatorship was the result of political and economic changes these nations underwent while they were still democratic. In both these countries, economic power became so utterly concentrated that the bulk of all economic activity fell under the control of a handful of men. Economic power, when sufficiently vast, becomes by its very nature political power. The political power of big business supported fascism in Italy and Germany.

Under the sway of neo-liberalism, Thatcher, Reagan, Mulroney and George W. Bush have decimated labour and exalted capital. (At present, only 7.8 per cent of workers in the U.S. private sector are unionized — about the same percentage as in the early 1900s.)

Neo-liberals call relentlessly for tax cuts, which, in a previously progressive system, disproportionately favour the wealthy. Regarding the distribution of wealth, the neo-liberals have nothing to say. In the end, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. As in Weimar Germany, the function of the state is being reduced to that of a steward for the interests of the moneyed elite. All that would be required now for a more rapid descent into fascism are a few reasons for the average person to forget he is being ripped off. Hatred of Arabs, fundamentalist Christianity or an illusory sense of perpetual war may well be taking the place of Hitler’s hatred for communists and Jews.

Ironically, Hitler pandered to the middle class, and they provided some of his most enthusiastically violent supporters. The fact that he did this while simultaneously destroying them was a terrible achievement of Nazi propaganda.

Mussolini, the one-time socialist, went on to abolish the inheritance tax, a measure that favoured the wealthy. He decreed a series of massive subsidies to Italy’s largest industrial businesses and repeatedly ordered wage reductions. Italy’s poor were forced to subsidize the wealthy. In real terms, wages and living standards for the average Italian dropped precipitously under fascism.

Even this brief historical sketch shows how fascism did the bidding of big business. The fact that Hitler called his party the “National Socialist Party” did not change the reactionary nature of his policies. The connection between the fascist dictatorships and monopoly capital was obvious to the U.S. Department of Justice in 1939. As of 2005, however, it is all but forgotten.

It is always dangerous to forget the lessons of history. It is particularly perilous to forget about the economic origins of fascism in our modern era of deregulation. Most Western liberal democracies are currently in the thrall of what some call market fundamentalism. Few nowadays question the flawed assumption that state intervention in the marketplace is inherently bad.

As in Italy and Germany in the ’20s and ’30s, business associations clamour for more deregulation and deeper tax cuts. The gradual erosion of antitrust legislation, especially in the United States, has encouraged consolidation in many sectors of the economy by way of mergers and acquisitions. The North American economy has become more monopolistic than at any time in the post-WWII period.

As in pre-fascist Germany and Italy, the laissez-faire businessmen call for the state to do their bidding even as they insist that the state should stay out of the marketplace. Put plainly, neo-liberals advocate the use of the state’s military force for the sake of private gain. Their view of the state’s role in society is identical to that of the businessmen and intellectuals who supported Hitler and Mussolini. There is no fear of the big state here. There is only the desire to wield its power.

— from Paul Bigioni. Toronto Star. Toronto, Ont.: Nov 27, 2005. pg. D.01 Online version

Some interesting articles…

Ur-Fascism can come back under the most innocent of disguises. Our duty is to uncover it and to point our finger at any of its new instances — every day, in every part of the world. Franklin Roosevelt’s words of November 4, 1938, are worth recalling: “If American democracy ceases to move forward as a living force, seeking day and night by peaceful means to better the lot of our citizens, fascism will grow in strength in our land.” Freedom and liberation are an unending task. – Umberto Eco, Eternal Fascism: Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt