Friday, April 15, 2011

Rome, USA

"We are up Shit Creek"...sorry... but I always wanted to start a paragraph with those words. Up Shit Creek is usually followed by "without a paddle" indicating that there is some situation we are facing that is akin to floating along in a river of excrement of some sort and the solution is not within our reach-we cannot extract ourselves without a paddle...we cannot navigate our way out of the situation we have gotten ourselves into-either individually or collectively. Five minutes or less of the morning news confirms the fact the humanity is in serious trouble from environmental disasters, economic collapse, political scandal, war, famine, religious intolerance, and the best contestant being kicked off America Idol...Shit Creek is a real place with real problems and someone somewhere either forgot to give us a paddle, took away our paddles or we gave up on using the paddle and have decided the effort to paddle one more time is not worth it...of course Shit Creek winds its way to Shit City and you know what that's all about.

Back when Romans were on a binge to conquer the world they boasted modern day technology like..roads..sewer systems...public baths...made great contributions in architecture...and of course you have Rome to thank for the NFL..coliseums that holds thousands watching our version of gladiators at battle. For nearly one thousand years Rome ruled the world...but fell apart not because they did not appease their Gods or were overrun by the hordes of heathens or from some great plague carried on the back of rodents. Rome fell not because of the walls that kept enemies out was the enemies within that ended the great civilization.

Edward Gibbon wrote the classic "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" and in that work pointed to five main causes of breakdown in the Roman society that led to the collapse. Lets see if any of what brought Rome to a fiery end is taking up space in America today. 1) Families began to fail and fall apart due in part to the changing of societal norms. 2) Taxes were pushed higher and higher over time and used on superficial programs instead of maintain things like education and infrastructure.3) The over promotion of sports and the increasing brutality of the games began to shift focus from the lessons of sport to the business of sport. 4) Decadence became acceptable, from screwing in the streets to massive became a focal point with lead to the 5th factor-a loss of connection to a higher power that was pushed aside in favor of the gods they had created..wealth at all costs...trinkets, idols and estates..."things" became more important than "truth."

The parallels are so obvious I would be wasting time to point them out. Technology has given us access to all that spelled the end for Rome at the push of a button. In 21st century America we think we know everything because we have everything-and even when we have what we want- we want more. We lust for what we do not have..and so often fail to be thankful for what we do. The 1st step in making our way out of shit creek is to accept that we put ourselves in Shit Creek-and for a species that has a hard time admitting to just about anything being our responsibility that's a tall order.-You are responsible for your part.  The 2nd step is to understand we already have the paddles but... why should I use mine if other people aren't going to pitch in an use theirs? Paddle anyway-The 3rd step-take someone with you-not by telling them-forcing them or berating them-but by example. 4th step-Shit Creek exists because we keep filling it up with all sorts of crap-politically and professionally and personally. Stop adding your shit. Finally the 5th step is simple. If you want to stay out of shit creek choose the people in your boat carefully. Birds of a feather and all that...not easy to do in a corporate environment-or even the people you hang with-but you have a choice. Its not falling in shit creek that will kill you-its swimming in it every day that will take you out.
The Romans thought they were invincible. They were wrong. Start paddling.....

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Growing Pains

When my son Andy was about 12 or 13 he used to wake up in the middle of the night agonizing about the pain in his knees. His cries would of course bring dad to the rescue with little to offer in the way of relief and I would say "Andy, you are having growing pains-meaning that someday you will not be the height you are now but much taller. In order to become your full potential you are going to have these pains now and then." Later on I came up with a novel idea called "The Magic Towel" that I created and insisted to both kids that it held the secret to pain relief. When the pains came I would take out the cloth that was nothing more than an old kitchen towel, and wrap it around their knees until the pain subsided and then it was back to bed for me.

I am reminded of growing pains when it comes to the current (current meaning ongoing for the most part) budget "crisis" in Washington. We are all in pain on many fronts, at the gas pump, at the grocery store, in our schools and in no longer foreign lands as we remain in Afghanistan 11 years and counting not to mention ongoing operations in Iraq and support in Libya. The pain felt by our soldiers and their families is the same pain they has always been dealt with by those who serve. Woulda been great if the "War to End all Wars" had actually worked but once humans found out how much can be made off a government contract (uhh 7 billion dollars for an engine on an airplane the does not exist) the war thing became a profit thing... America is in serious debt with more zeroes than I care to count. The last time the checkbook had some extra cash in it was in 2000-when Clinton left office (Bill not George.)There are of course are those that cite somehow the previous administration of Bush (George H) had a ripple effect making wild Bill look good for the 8 years he was in the big chair-but the bottom line is that the jobless rate was about 4% and there were more jobs than humans to take them when Willie left. The next 8 years GWB rode in like a Texas Tiger and by the time he left 2009 we had deficit of 1.3 Trillion due in large part to 9/11 and chasing down the still at large Osama Bin Laden (how does a 6'5 bearded turban wearing kidney dialysis patient who is the most wanted man in the world still run amok?) Afghanistan-Iraq and a host of other wonderful joy filled excursions (main street bailing out Wall Street) that all have to be paid for by US. So Pres O enters the fray 24 months ago and tries to bring some sort of civility to the squealing two legged that we elected up near the Potomac and despite his intellectual yearnings the kids on both sides of the aisle have decided not to play nice and the government as we know it might end up shutting down...or it might not. Both sides of course have "THE RIGHT ANSWER" and blame throwers on are full blast. All this is causing pain for our soldiers, their families whose paychecks (meager as they are) might not be worth the paper they are printed on and not to mention that if they shut the lights off in DC most of the animals in the national zoo will not get fed (lions and tigers will I am told-so they don't end up eating the zebras in the next pen.) So as MSNBC and Fox line up their respective go-to talking heads on how both sides are right- I had a thought....

Lets get a magic towel! Yeah we could go out and buy a bunch of towels and head off to the nation's capitol..march past the Washington monument.. "I cannot tell a lie.." and right past Abe in his really big chair "A house divided cannot stand" and then over to the Senate and House and in the midst of all the "the other side is causing the American people undue pain" blather simply take the towels (not big ones-a hand towel will do) and gently..ever so gently shove the towel into the rear anal area (or ass) of our elected officials. This will do one of two things immediately.. 1) Won't have to hear anymore "America is bankrupt and I KNOW HOW TO FIX IT BUT YOU DON'T" crap and 2) It will force them to stop speaking out of their asses in use other parts of their anatomy-perhaps their ears to listen twice as much as they talk.

There are no easy answers here. It took alot of incidents-some unseen-some foreseen and even more behind the scenes (how many mobile homes purchased at triple the going rate for Katrina are still unused?) to put us in the financial pickle we are in. What is needed is a commitment from both sides to find common ground and chip away at the debt in a way that causes the least pain possible. For every government cutback-someone loses a job. For every social program that goes unfunded someone misses a meal or after school program. For sure there is waste enough to go around but the biggest waste is the time spent by Democrats and Republicans trying to use this issue...and come to think of it every issue- as a proving ground for their ideology.

We are a very young country by world standards-and growing up as previously mentioned is not without its pains....but one day we have to learn to stand on our own two feet and get past what hurts and accept the fact that the only way to become a grown up is to start acting like one.