Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Wrapping Up the Holiday

I found the above photo in a Google image search for "black Friday", that notorious American capitalistic "tradition" where people turn into insane, raving lunatics all in a quest to find a good bargain that was worth waking up for at 3 a.m.

On Wednesday, I was aghast hearing the two ladies I work with excited about the early Friday morning sales. For them, it's tradition, to which I responded, "Uh, which stores did the pilgrims shop at again, because the history book I learned from neglected to mention it?" How did we get from a great tradition about true gratitude and good will, sharing with family, friends and neighbors to becoming materialistic, greedy, and selfish monsters?

Need examples? One Wal-Mart employee whose job it was to open the doors for the hoards at 4 a.m. was trampled to death!!! A stampede of Wal-Mart shoppers were so desirous of getting to the bargains first that anyone in the way was worth less than the material item. I hope they find the culprit and charge the person with manslaughter. I have little sympathy. As one Wal-Mart manager of another store was quoted as saying, "nothing in our store is worth the safety and lives of people." Damn straight! America's crap emporium has nada worth buying. Unfortunately, I'm unable to convince my own parents and fellow church members at home not to shop there. It's hard to argue with cheap...and in these uncertain economic times where many companies are filing for bankruptcy, the news reported that Wal-Mart has actually seen an increase in sales.

In college, I wrote a poem entitled "Wal-Mart", which was about an old lady who left behind a lot of plastic junk for her descendants to sort through after her funeral. In my creative writing class, one girl said, "I don't get it. Why is it titled 'Wal-Mart'?" Gotta love the subtlety that went over her poor little head.

My disenchantment with Wal-Mart occurred in 1996 when I walked in and saw "Buy American" signs hanging from the ceiling all over the store. Everything I had planned to buy, I checked the label and saw "Made in China." It made me mad how they would tell customers to buy American yet not offer anything made in America. It told me how disconnected the managers of the store were to not realize this.

The second thing that bothered me was seeing bins in the middle of the floor filled with videos of movies I had never even heard of before. And I'm a movie buff. Who bought that shit? I'm talking crappy looking movies, yet they had gobs and gobs of videos. It told me that they'll sell anything at all. There was no standard on quality. The final thing that bothered me were the people who shopped there. Most of the people looked like they lived in a trailer park. They were low class people. I quickly switched to Target, which offers a more pleasant shopping experience. I do notice things like other shoppers when I'm out and about...and yeah, call me a snob if you want, but I won't set foot in Wal-Mart at all. The trampling to death of a Wal-Mart employee is only a reminder how low class the people who shop there are. Life means less than the crap sold there. Shameless. And we wonder why "they hate us" in the Middle East!

On the local news, they interviewed a lady who was camped out at one store on Thursday! While her family was enjoying a cozy home with food and fellowship, she was waiting to be first in the store for Friday's sale day. What's wrong with that picture?!? She'd rather camp in the damp cold outside a store than spend time with family? Again, what message does it send? Materialism is worth more than human fellowship. Warped.

Okay...so I might not be so pure...as I made the choice to spend Thanksgiving alone than with my brother. But I needed to. It was just God and me. I needed to find the peace that has evaded me so long this year. The frustration of a nearly two year long job search, with the culmination of being informed of a church position I qualified for only to be denied for whatever reason. Yeah, I'm still not over it, I suppose. It's because I want to work in an organization that shares my values, where quality is viewed as more important than quantity. The longer I work where I work, the more jaded I become. I couldn't care less about the numbers. They don't pay enough for me to care. The numbers might effect someone else's pay and promotion, but until it affects mine, I don't play their games. Because in the grand scheme of things, these numbers don't matter. It's all a capitalist construct that is fraudulent and dishonest to the core. But, hey, that's their salvation in jeopardy, not mine.

My brother didn't spend it with his evangelical church group like I thought he would. He spent it with some friends of family/church friends from back east. They aren't my friends, though. The few times I been with them, I didn't feel a connection. I got the impression that they are too materialistic. Um, a nice mansion in suburbia, a Lexus SUV, and a businessman with a gorgeous wife and teenage daughters who speak Valley Girl-ese. Yeah...that's exactly how I want to spend my Thanksgiving. It's a bit too plastic for me. I'm sure they are fine people, because our mutual friends in common are great people who befriend everyone. I'm just uncomfortable around materialistic people...especially those who are very showy about their success. I want to be around people who are real, who can have an honest conversation about world events. The times I spent with these people, I got the impression that they knew a lot about where to shop for the best bargains, but not a whole lot about what's going on in the world.

Which is just as well...for I was preoccupied with the terrorist attack in Mumbai to be good company with anyone. Is there a place for me in the international realm? It's where I belong, where I feel most comfortable. In my apartment complex is a great immigrant family from Ethiopia. I always enjoy talking with them. Their four year old son is the biggest Obama supporter, too! It was awesome to hear him tell people why Obama should be president. Anyhow, that's who I prefer to spend my time with...people who've been out in the world, not people who focus their attention on the finer things in life while lacking awareness about the greater world outside our American consumption based lifestyle.

On Saturday afternoon, my apartment complex had a "Civil War" viewing party with Pizza and soda. I'm not a big sports fan...much less a football fan...but when they're offering free pizza and soda, hey, what can I say? I can be bought quite cheaply! I was only planning to stay through half time, but I was surprised how good the game turned out to be. For those that don't know...like nearly all states, Oregon has it's main rivalry between two competing colleges: the University of Oregon (Ducks) and Oregon State University (Beavers). If the Beavers won, they'd go to the Rose Bowl. One lady asked who I was rooting for and I honestly told her that I didn't take sides, but if I had to choose, it was probably Oregon because that's where I'd go to school (over OSU), though I like the Beavers mascot much better. Yet, Oregon has my high school colours (green and gold).

The 20 or so people watching in the lobby area of the apartment (with big screen TV) were all rooting for Oregon, which did well. The Ducks kept a 20 point margin through most of the game. One of the teammates (I believe his name was Johnson) kept making long runs down the field like Forrest Gump, even getting a few touchdowns that way. It made for an exciting game watching him run the field without being tackled, though once he had three guys trying to bring him down. This was all before half-time, so I knew I was staying for the second half. How could I not? I didn't have anything else going on and it's rare that I watch a football game (I generally am satisfied watching only the Superbowl each year--so single ladies out there looking for a hubby who won't make you a sports season widow, email me!).

OSU students looked more and more despondent as the game wore on. Their hopes of a Rose Bowl were dashed and even the Duck mascot rubbed it in by tossing a rose into its beak. The final score was 65 to 38.

Saturday night, I watched Oliver Stone's Wall Street, which I had never seen before. The recent mess on Wall Street made me want to see this film, so Netflix sent it to me last week and I watched it with complete amazement how relevant this 21 year old film is to current events. Particularly the scene in which Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas, seen above) tells the stockholders of some paper company that the executive board with its over abundance of Vice Presidents with their salaries and perks but mysterious job description are hurting the company. He talks about "Greed is good!" for companies and for our country. He is like a character straight out of an Ayn Rand novel. No morals at all. It's all about wealth accumulation and increasing one's power, no matter who gets hurt.

The film is absolutely relevant to today's mess. In fact, things are far worse today than they were during the Reagan years. Executive pay and bonuses have only increased while average workers salaries have remained stagnant, and some might say, have fallen behind from where we were in the 1980s if you adjust for inflation. Honestly, after watching this film and reading about the mess on Wall Street with all these corporate types crying to Congress about bailouts, I think that capitalism isn't working properly. Or maybe it is and thus why we need a fairer system. All the corporate execs who ruined their companies deserve no less than jail time. They worked for their own wealth accumulation, not for the betterment of their companies. This will continue if there is no severe punishment for greed. I would even go so far as to say that these corporate CEOs of bankrupting companies are guilty of treason. They have betrayed the American workers. They, like Gordon Gekko, have fallen for the faustian bargain but don't want to pay the price. Sorry, but the devil always gets his due. That's what happens when you make a deal with Satan.

In the documentary about the film, Martin Sheen said that the more honest you are, the more expensive life becomes for you. Somehow, that phrase struck a chord with me because in several jobs I've had where the company line is honesty, I've seen dishonest people get ahead while honest people get punished. What does that tell you? For me, it says that the corporate model is dishonest. I think we're seeing the disintegration of corporations as a workable model. Maybe it's time to return to the small business model. That's one thing I love about Portland...it's easy to support local businesses.
I watched the Moses Code last week. Rather than a whole post on it, I decided to write about it here. Basically, it's one of those new agey documentaries in the same vein as The Secret and What the Bleep Do We Know? This one is about the phrase in the Bible, where the burning bush that is God speaks to Moses, who asked for the name to call God. "I am that I am" was the response. It reminds me of a bad joke my brother loves to tell people:

"How do we know that God is white and not black?"

"Because He said: 'I am what I am', not 'I is what I is'."

Yes, bad joke, like I said. A racist friend of his told him that joke. I shouldn't repeat it here, but I did want to bring it up because I thought the expression was always odd. What the heck does that mean, anyway?

Well, this DVD says that an important symbol was deliberately left out, which is supposedly "the secret of the universe." The symbol will give you power...or, at least the kind of power new agey folks like to talk about: the power of manifesting your desires like God.

So, what is this symbol, you ask? Quite simply, it's the comma. That's right: a ,

If you're like me, you probably laughed. Hokey new age claims, right?

Consider this: "I am that I am" becomes "I am that, I am." It completely changes the meaning. So what God was supposedly telling Moses was "I am that" (and He meant all of that), with the repetition of "I am" at the end. So, our task is to identify all that is, all that we see, all that we come across as being a part of us and we're a part of it. So, whenever we see a tree, a rock, a mountain, a homeless person, water, money, whatever you come across...we are to say, "I am that," on the breath out and "I am" on the breath in.

Interesting interpretation. Kind of makes sense. When I listened to this theory the DVD is promoting, an image came to mind. When I was studying my Biology two years ago, the part I hated to learn about were the cells. That, to me, is the hardest part of biology. Anyhow, I came across an interesting statement in the textbook that said something like the microscopic cells in your body are about as far away from each other as two people across a continent, when you think about it. When you begin to ponder the world of microscopic cells within our bodies, and then begin to imagine how large our universe is...here's the thought that came to mind:

What if each universe/galaxy was a cell inside the body of God? What if each planet was a cell? If we are microscopic cells in the body of God, what the hell are we fighting about? We are all meant to be working together for the glory of God, right?

Anyhow, that's the thoughts I had while watching this DVD.

Also this weekend, I was pleased to have found a good as new paperback copy of Carl Bernstein's A Woman in Charge for $5. I have been wanting to buy that book and read it for a year now. It's supposedly the best biography on Hillary Clinton. Granted...now that she's not going to be president, why bother reading it? Well, she is a compelling figure and looks like she'll be the next Secretary of State.

I read an article on the Huffington Post that she has become disenchanted with the Senate because of her junior Senator status and her not being assigned to lead any committees and others don't want her major involvement on health care (understandably)...but she should know better. Congress is all about seniority. That's why they don't have term limits (and never will). When I read the article, it confirmed what I suspected of her in 2000. She didn't really want to be Senator of New York. To her, it was nothing more than a springboard to the presidency (following the RFK path). With that option denied to her, Secretary of State is her consolation prize. No longer does she have to pretend to love doing constituent services for "the little people" of upstate New York, as she often claimed during her 2006 reelection campaign.

Is Obama pure in his motives for selecting her? Well...there's that phrase, "keep your friends close and your enemies closer." Not that he views her as an enemy, but so long as she's a Senator with a constituency and her 18 million primary voter supporters, she could force him into a primary fight in 2012 if his popularity polls are not very good. If she's in his cabinet and works "at the pleasure of the president", he could fire her at will, though it would be very difficult for him to do so because of the power she leverages within the Democratic Party. It'll be interesting to see what happens. I can't wait to read that book...though it probably won't be until January, after I finish reading a couple books right now.

Anyhow, that's a recap of my holiday weekend. It was relaxing, but way too short. I didn't accomplish everything I wanted to do...but I definitely needed the time away from work to reflect, relax, and focus on what I want for the coming year.

1 comment:

Margie's Musings said...

Busy, busy, busy, Nicholas.