Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Why do workers vote for rightwing (even far rightwing) parties? Why do those whose standard of living has been declining or who live in rural areas with weak infrastructure support a man and a program based on decreased taxes for the wealthy and reduced safety nets for themselves? If one reads the statements they make on the internet or in answers to queries from news reporters, the answer seems clear if complex.
They know they have been doing badly in terms of income and benefits in the regimes led by more traditionally Establishment presidents over the previous twenty years.
They assert that they see no reason to presume that continuing the previous policies will improve their situation.
They think it is not unreasonable to assume that they might do better with a candidate who promises to govern in a completely different fashion. Is this so implausible?
They believe that the slightly redistributive promises of the previous regimes have not helped them. When they hear these same regimes boast of (and vastly overstate) the social progress they have made in aiding “minorities” to be better integrated into governmental programs or social rights, it is easy to understand they associate redistribution and minorities, and therefore conclude that others are advancing at their expense.
Understanding the motives of others does not mean legitimating their motives or even negotiating with them. It means we should pursue social transformation realistically without blaming others for not supporting us by arguing that they are making errors of judgment.
When Hillary Clinton used the term “deplorables,” I flinched. Now, with hindsight, I recognize how condescending and judgmental was and is the term. As I join Mr. Wallerstein in attempting to understand the consciousness of Trump supporters, I am newly sensitized to terms that derogate, debase, devalue and dishonor those whose moment in national history and, in fact, in international geo-politics is different from mine.
How to apply the same consideration to Mr. Trump remains, for me, inconceivable. This is not an issue of party politics and not an issue of opposition to a particular proposal he brings to the presidency, but rather a personal angst about the human being that he is. Am I merely camouflaging the term deplorable?
Monday, March 20, 2017
No, I was not at all surprised when I saw the list of ten happiest places on the continent.
- New Zealand
Conversely I was surprised that the U.S. came in as high as 14. The shared emotional mien among people I know is way, way down.
According to Jessica Durando’s report, printed in USA TODAY, nation-wide happiness may be correlated with wealth (Norway has oil.), a low unemployment rate, low income inequality and climate. Life expectancy, freedom, social support, trust and generosity “also count.”
John Helliwell, professor at the University of British Columbia, attributes high scores to “high levels of mutual trust, shared purpose, generosity and good governance.”
Here is how I would rank “happiness” countries that I have visited or lived in. This list is highly subjective.
- Costa Rica (1968-80, 1977-79, 1988-89)
- Canada (numerous times)
- Chile (2009-10)
- United States
- England (1996)
- Argentina (2009-10)
- Italy (1974-75) — not sure of the year
- Thailand (1987, not counting the refugee camps)
- Cuba (1958-59, the week before Castro took Havana)
- Spain (1972-73, the final year of the rule of Francisco Franco)
With all this in mind, I turn to the Jewish blessing: may you have peace, may you be happy …today.
Sunday, March 19, 2017
Walkers typically keep time
in one of two ways — miles or minutes.
The note at the end of this unit
shows one of my timekeepers:
year to date mileage.
An unexpected discovery
for me as a regular walker
is encountering nature whose clockworks
are operated by three phenomena —
the earth’s rotations,
the earth’s tilt,
and the earth’s trips around the sun.
Measured by my own inner clocks,
nature’s clocks are s—l—o—w.
Night and day.
Summer, autumn, winter and spring.
A walker’s steps are fast; nature’s changes are imperceptibly
slow, excepting for interruptions of wind, water, quakes, ice —
most of which we seal ourselves away from,
in our human shelters.
When I began my dedicated walking,
I tried to open myself to discovery.
I did not expect one of the surprises to be time.
But currently, after adjust my walking sticks and set my pace,
I am invited into nature’s time zone.
The stillness of the forest,
The slowly drifting clouds,
the lapping of wavelets
become the second hands of nature’s clock.
In that ambience I turn from trying to set a speed record.
And thus I begin a walk at the moment of a tick-
and finish about the moment of the -tock.
Year to date mileage: 224
March 17, 2017
Trees bless a three-mile walk. Seldom am I looking at my feet taking step by step. Instead, I look up and often what my eyes fix upon are trees.
You’ve seen my favorite sycamore.
Most of the trees, of course, don’t have that charisma. In fact, many are nameless, part of a forest, but no less worthy.
When my eyes sweep across a forest, I think of those many trees that have never been looked upon, that spend their entire lives incognito. Other trees happen to close to a path or road, but perhaps even many of those trees are never closely examined and appreciated for what they are.
This spring when buds and leaves appear, I want to enroll in a self-taught class in identifying trees. Up till now I am drawn to particulars such as bark …
and root systems …
and structure …
location and habitat …
and what seems to be ambience.
I like old dead trees that have maintained their sense of humor.
and, in contrast, those that are solemn pillars in the community.
Hmmm. What might it be like to walk a day without seeing a tree?
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
While my first love shall always be Pennsylvania, I enjoy singing the praises of Indiana.
— lovely flatlands, the Wabash and Ohio Rivers
— remarkable state and local parks
— four major universities, other distinctive universities and colleges
— several leading seminaries
— major manufacturers
— professional athletic teams
— an attractive capitol
— several nationally ranked medical centers and networks
— major medical insurers
But I am sad to read that Indiana shares with Nevada and Oklahoma the lowest life expectancy in the nation. If I were a working journalist I would try to find the dozen highest contributors to this unwanted distinction. I am left at this point to make educated guesses. Here are seven.
- Indiana is known to have a high rate of obesity.
- Rural areas, particularly in southern Indiana, are experiencing high levels of drug addiction.
- Indiana’s cities all have pockets of intense unemployment and poverty.
- Despite the many fine institutions of higher education, Indiana has one of the lowest levels of residents with a college education.
- The state has a high number of single parent families.
- Gun violence has pushed up mortality rates.
- A conservative government has not provided enough money and other support for family and child services.
This is not a blog I enjoy writing.
Sunday, March 12, 2017
This weekend Paul Ryan said, pertaining to the proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act, “It’s not our job to make people do something that they don’t want to do. It is our job to have a system where people can get universal access to affordable coverage if they choose to do so or not. That’s what we’re going to be accomplishing.”
In my words,
- Ryan and his colleagues don’t want to force something on people. This is the land of the free.
- If people want health insurance, let them buy it. If they don’t want health insurance, that’s their decision.
Something very large is missing in this understanding of the American people. A percentage of them — perhaps 1% or 3% or 5% or 10%, I don’t know the exact figure — can’t afford to purchase a low-deductible health insurance and at the same time to pay for survival basics such as food.
On two occasions I was at the neighborhood pharmacy, standing behind a person at the counter who, upon hearing what a medication would cost, had to decline the purchase because of not being able to pay for it. Has Paul Ryan never met such people?
To be fair, I think it must be nigh impossible to create a nationwide, private insurance-supported health care plan. How much easier would it be to excuse private insurers and have us all pay into a central fund which could give a basic protection for all people. If average life expectancy is an accurate measure, our system is not the best in the world, nor second best nor third. We have catching up to do. The current proposal won’t help us do that.