Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Feeling Apocalyptic?

I read that people in Mexico City are feeling like it’s the end of the world. That’s understandable, since Mexico is already suffering economic downturn and drug wars, and now swine flu has shut down the capital causing further trauma and losses, plus they felt a magnitude 6 earthquake just the other day.

And just a week ago, "viral" referred to that catchy Susan Boyle video that was making millions cry tears of joy. Now it looks like she was the doctor with a booster shot of soul that we would be needing to keep our hearts open through the harder times dead ahead.

In the whole world it’s not a good time for a flu epidemic. People are down, finanicially and emotionally. Healthcare and nutrition have already been suffering in many countries, as budgets are slashed and people lose their jobs.

It’s a tough time for tough choices, and people have got to make the right ones. I admire Barack Obama for example, for pushing for more regulation and funding for sustainable industries. So far that has meant renewable energy on top of financial system overhaul, but I think we continue to see how deep the problem really goes.

I heard that the US Republicans stripped from the stimulus bill last month the flu prevention funding which now has to be restored for the current emergency. We know what 8 years of Bush and Republican majority led to already, from wars to abandoning New Orleans to enabling the over-borrowing that crashed the fortunes of millions. Who you gonna trust now?

Sorry, trick question. Actually President Bush is to be thanked for stockpiling anti-viral medicine and developing a pandemic flu plan back in 2005. Which serves to remind that no side is all right or all wrong. We need to move forward together, appreciating the best that each has to offer.

Swine flu appears to have started in industrial pig farms in Vera Cruz, Mexico. These are places with thousands of pigs crammed in cages so small they can’t turn around, out of the sunlight which would act as a natural disinfectant, pumped full of antibiotics to try to keep them from getting too sick. Huge systems of fans blow air and fecal dust out of these animal prisons, down onto neighboring towns like La Gloria, where the stench attracts so many flies that the government sprayed to kill them.

In La Gloria, hundreds of people got sick suddenly as far back as February, most recovering though two infants died. People commuted to Mexico City from there, so now you know the rest of the story. Officials wanted us to believe they did everything possible, but really it took two months to alert that a deadly flu was spreading, and now it’s too late to stop it from rocketing around the world.

Fortunately the flu's been pretty mild so far, despite a number of deaths in Mexico. We’ve come a long way in 90 years since the 1918 Spanish flu that killed 50 million. 50 million! Today no one expects that many to die, because we’ve got anti-viral medicines stockpiled and people know to wash their hands. In the wealthier countries, anyway.

What we still don’t have is the laws and enforcement to stop the kinds of environmental and economic abuses that breed disasters in the world today. And you know who suffers the most: the poor, those who can't speak for themselves, the children, the old, the middle class. 99.9% of the world.

Hmanity will advance when the real crimes are outlawed.

The greed and manipulation that destroyed global capitalism in 2008 wasn’t just another forgivable mistake. Americans have been too tolerant for too long, hoping to get their slice of the pie. Most saw the meltdown coming for years, but the ones benefitting didn’t want the party to stop.

The abuses of nature that we call modern farming are creating breeding zones for diseases at unprecedented rates. The world has been lucky so far, recall that SARS and avian flu had kill rates of 50 percent or more. They didn’t spread like the swine flu which is mild in comparison. So far. The 1918 flu started as a mild flu in the spring, but became deadly by fall.

Hopefully our current health crisis will fizzle out, it's entirely possible. But the effects will be with us for years in economic and psychological damage, along with the other crises we’re simultaneously suffering.

The global recession isn’t going to be over anytime soon. People who want you to start shopping again like to say things are looking up, but they are lying to you and themselves.

The biggest man-made avoidable crisis of all, this global warming thing which is going to raise sea levels, spread disease and hunger, and exterminate species, will shape and limit our children's children's futures and beyond.

All for what, yesterday's jobs? Aren’t we ready to legislate into oblivion yet, these people who say we must not change the system because it might cost them too much? How much more can we pay? Let’s face it, a business that rapes the environment, bankrupts customers, and destroys our children's lives, isn’t a business at all. It’s a crime.

If a business can’t survive much less thrive within the rules of decency, including fairness to consumers, fiscal responsibility, and health to the environment, then it doesn’t deserve to exist. It’s us or them, let's face it now. Nature is incredibly successful and synergistic within strict parameters of health and sustainability, why can't these titans of industry and science be held to the same standards?

Because it'll cost them money, that's why. Things might turn over. It's a lot of change to deal with all at once.

Change comes either way. We should have made sure the changes would be more positive, long ago.

There are too many people in this world who will kill us all just so they can keep making a buck. Or a yen. Let's not forget the toxic products from China in recent years. Now there was a business model for you. Melamine as a cheap toxic protein substitute killed thousands of pets around the world, wasn't stopped, then reappeared the next year to kill infants drinking their formula. That's what one system allowed. And tragically, many saw those deaths of pets and children as just the cost of another emerging economy. Call them collateral damage, in the accounting practices of economic war.

China is a country that routinely sacrifices the individual for supposed collective good. Last year, deaths were under-reported in the patriotic rush to build Olympic stadiums, parents who lost children to earthquake-collapsed shoddy schools were bullied and bribed to keep quiet, and ethnic Mongolians and Tibetans were further persecuted and destroyed to spread Chinese rule.

But China wasn't alone in its system of crimes against humanity. The US led the current world economic collapse with predatory lending and phony investment deals rigged at the highest levels. Modern industrial practices which so abuse the planet were pioneered long ago by the United States, which became so full of fat bloated over-consumers pathologically scouting for cheaper deals that we've outsourced our own jobs and manufacturing to the cheapest bidders overseas with the fewest regulatory impediments to exploiting their workers and fouling their environments more than we would allow anymore here. Only there are no borders anymore, NIMBY isn't allowed. Global warming, economic ruin, and swine flu aren't stopping for anyone's door.

Now the system is broken, in so many ways. Is that apocalyptic? Sure, and the apocalypse was preventable, unnecessary, and allowed. Man-made practices of greed took deadly shortcuts to material wealth. Spiritual bankruptcy manifested fatally on so many levels.

Can we stop the downward spiral in time? Sure, I believe so. Humanity has such miraculous potential to work with nature, and nature has repeatedly shown itself to be fantastically resilient for the right owner.

Just don’t mistake the symptoms for causes, be shallow and wimpy no longer. I wish us all the best in economic and environmental recoveries, for physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual evolution. Let's not be afraid to take the opportunities to do it all better and right this time. Apocalypse stops here, demand back our tomorrows.

Yes, the whole world is changing, more everyday. Don’t be afraid. Face yourself and others with love and care, do what has to be done. And see a little bit further. Make the changes that are happening be for the better, and we’ll get through this together. We just need to remind ourselves that so much more is possible than what a few greedy bastards have thus far invented for the rest of us to live on.

Bastards is a harsh word I know. But it expresses my anger at humanity's past mistakes, and can be further deconstructed as follows. A bastard is someone who doesn't know their own father. Psychologically speaking, the mother is the parent of belonging and sustenance, while the father is the parent of achievements and consequences.

Every one of us who couldn't or wouldn't admit to where our choices were taking us has been a bastard who faces now the most terrible of truths. Fatherless and futureless, we find our mother Earth is literally dying to introduce us to our real parentage. We are not nature's thinkers for nothing.

We were evolved for this pivotal time, to live or die by the planet that we too long each exploited for unsustainable personal gains. What we didn't do, we allowed. We each had our emotionally self-serving niches in the dysfunctional world order. We ran our homeworld into the ground, now we need to run it back up again.

So we do need to think about and expect massive change, but it doesn't have to end badly after all. The end of the old world, the beginning of the new. Apocalyptic for those who cling to the past, salvation for those who reach for tomorrow. I believe that humanity is up to the task of solving planetary crises, it just won't be business as usual.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Got Susan?

On Saturday April 11 on "Britain's Got Talent", a British talent show comparable American Idol, there debuted an overweight, unemployed, solitary, never-been-kissed 47 year old woman named Susan Boyle. With her caterpillar eyebrows, triple chin, and guileless learning-disabled personality, she shocked the audience and jaded celebrity judges by saucily claiming to be ready for unprecedented fame. They laughed at her, until she started singing "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserables about how life had stolen her dreams, and then she changed their world forever.

This excessively plain spinster from Blackburn Scotland unleashed a voice of heaven that made the people stand cheering and crying, and over a week later the cheering and crying has not stopped. She is by far the biggest internet sensation ever, with her youtube video watched in a matter of days millions more times than the most famous clips of the most famous people have been watched in years. Her name simply is the top searches of Google, both locally and worldwide. No news media in their right mind can resist the fairy tale charm of this unlikely new hero, as fansites spring up across the web, and demand grows for her new career as singer of the human soul. Fortunately, all indications are that Susan is the real deal, and she's eager to begin her new life with every one of us. She promised her dying mother two years before that she would audition for the show, and she's been singing mostly to herself since the age of 12.

I got the youtube link in an email on Monday April 13, and I have been profoundly moved ever since. There is an energy here of the perfect divine storm, with everywhere people proud to admit that Susan made them feel a tear or even cry a gusher. It's not even just Susan that did the trick, but everything around her, including the way she was found, the song she sang, the shock and bliss of the hardest judges, and the state of our world today. Like a character from the epic social commentary of Les Miserables itself, Susan broke all the rules, and made people believe in something more pure, original, and ordinary than they thought was possible.

I love the characterization of Rev. James Martin that we're seeing Susan Boyle through the eyes of God, experiencing the soul and worth inside a plain old human being. That's good, but I think it goes further too, for this unique time in history. In record numbers people around the world are watching Susan sing over and over, and crying cathartically as never before, because Susan is the timely projection for the survival of humanity. The entire world is past a point of no return, and people know it too. Judged by the values of yesterday for superficial beauty and success and promise, our dreams are dead, just like in the song that Susan chose to sing, in which Fantine lies penniless, jobless, unloved and abandoned in the gutter. This is humanity's story now, because we will never live the lives we thought we would, of beautiful people and endless consumption.

The global environment and economy are in tatters, we are all in the gutter of Les Miserables, millions of precious lives are being lost. Our only hope is in the spiritual rebirth that Susan embodies, for the direct experience of innate beauty and talent which go so much deeper than the surfaces which never really mattered. We can hold our heads high and live triumphantly for just being ourselves. By letting go the past and treasuring what we truly are, this is how the planet will be saved. Susan Boyle is a gift from God to reignite the hope in every human being that what was always most valuable has not yet been lost, and is in fact the easiest thing to recognize and reclaim after all. Pure love of dream, talent, soul, a world in which we still belong. Humanity is rising to the song of Susan Boyle, millions more can feel it now.

PS- for the skeptics who say Susan is good but not that good, on pitch but just loud, well that's the showtune style. Here's an amateur recording she did for charity in 1999 that shows much more skill and nuance, singing "Cry me a River", a jazz standard written for Ella Fitzgerald in 1953. If you want to collect Susan's original CD, be prepared to ebay thousands of dollars now!

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