Friday, March 18, 2011

Golfing While the World Goes to Hell

Do not adjust your computer screen. This is not another post about the forgotten Tiger Woods and his attempts at a comeback. The photo above is actually President Barack Obama, playing golf. While I don't personally see anything wrong with golf, I am disturbed that since Obama became president, he has taken up the sport which he was not previously known to play before (at least not that I had heard or read about until recently). In one of my previous jobs, I've known guys who did not play golf who only took up the sport because of the head guy at the office. Golf is considered to be the acceptable corporate "male bonding ritual." Those who golfed with the old man (the boss) saw a side to him that they didn't see at the office. He was crude and vulgar, an image that would not sit well if other people had known about it. The person who told me said that he saw it more as the boss's attempt to appear hip and cool to the younger generation. Make no mistake, though. Things are discussed on a golf course that likely don't get discussed at the office. Deals do get made. "Genuine" connections are established or felt. And it sure as hell beats the old standby: the strip club!

When the person told me about this, though, I was bothered by the idea because what if you're just not interested in golfing? What if you don't want to participate? Will it hurt your career? Is golfing with the boss a form of ass-kissing? And for those who are good at golf, do they purposely mess up their shots so that the boss can win? Why do things get talked about in a more honest manner on a golf course than at the office? That's what its really about, though. I had read a book about a decade ago about how boys learn differently from girls. When having a deep discussion, our gender tends to prefer having such discussions in the course of DOING something (like hiking or golfing). Sitting down face to face to have an honest dialogue is considered a bit too uncomfortable for most men. Its easier to have that conversation side by side in the course of doing something. Perhaps this stems from our days as cavemen, when the men went out in groups to hunt the woolly mammoth and the women sat around the fire communicating.

You may be wondering what this has to do with President Obama. Well, I have a theory that our corporate culture enforces the golf game on our presidents. To me, the photos of President Obama golfing (especially last Saturday, when a tragedy was unfolding in Japan and the escalation of violence continued in Libya) is proof that he is completely bought out by the corporations. Prior to becoming president, was he known to golf? If so, he kept it a big secret. Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton were also not known to be golfers BEFORE they became president. Its strange to me that these men would take up the sport AFTER they've become president. I think there is something deeper worth investigating there. One of the things President Eisenhower was known for was playing golf. I don't know if he started the trend, but a lot of things from the 1950s have ended up making a mess of things in America today: the move from public transit (particularly metro rail lines for streetcars) to a car-dependent culture; suburban tract homes; conformist corporate culture (the white shirt, blue suit, tie, and short hair cut); and endless promotion of shopping as the main economic activity of our country. Shop til you drop!

Its strange, though, to hear criticism from conservatives about Obama's golf game. They love to point out that Bush had claimed to give up golf since the Iraq War because he didn't think it looked good for a president to golf while our soldiers were dying (in a war of his choosing!). However, I read that the only thing that changed was that there was a media-blackout regarding Bush's golf game. It was all a lie. He still played golf through the end of his term and we're still in Iraq. I believe that the golf course is where the president discusses business with the corporate CEOs who own the president. It was no different for both Bushes as it was for Obama and Clinton. Unlike the right, though, I've read quite a few liberals who are equally disturbed by our president's interest in playing golf while multiple world crises are occurring. I never heard any conservative criticize their beloved President Bush for playing golf, so this is another case of liberals being more independent thinkers and consistent with their thoughts on the matter.

My message to President Obama would be: You ain't no Tiger Woods, so stop acting like him. Do the job we sent you to do and you can golf to your heart's content after 2017. Okay?

The above map shows the time it takes for the tsunami to reach distant shores. Its pretty scary stuff. A week ago, Japan was hit with a devastating 9.0 earthquake just off the coast. This is the kind of tragedy that simply goes from bad to worse to much worse. Its an all around nightmare for our planet! If the 9.0 earthquake wasn't bad enough, the resulting tsunami was even worse. An entire town along the coast of Japan (near the city of Sendai, northeast of Tokyo) was completely wiped out in the tsunami. They only had 30 minutes to clear the low-lying area, since the earthquake was nearest to them. Its no surprise that most people did not make it. Thirty minutes is not enough time to scramble for safety. After seeing the film Hereafter last year, I understand how terrifying a tsunami truly is. I would hate to be caught up in one. I feel horrible for the loss of life, for those thousands of people who were in their routines when the end came so suddenly. A truly horrifying way to leave this earth.

But as terrifying as a tsunami is, the even worse part of this three-part tragedy are the explosions in the Fukushima nuclear power plant. They had three explosions in three days and a few other plants were damaged in the earthquake and under risk for failing. The levels of radiation fall-out could cause cancer in residents who live in the area nearest to the plant. This is one of those public relations nightmares where you really cannot believe the government or the nuclear scientists, because they have reasons to downplay the disaster in order to not create a huge public panic.

What I find most interesting is that when President Obama had indicated in his 2009 State of the Union Address that he was open to off-shore drilling, we end up with the huge BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last summer. He also indicated being open to having more nuclear power plants, and now we have this impending crisis in Japan. The words "fuck" and "shit" pale in comparison to the obscenity that is "FUKUSHIMA"!

Somehow, I find that these crises are a planetary wake-up call that there is greater urgency towards developing a new energy source. The problem is that the use of solar, wind, wave, and geo-thermal sources (renewable energy) is not enough to sustain our current levels of energy usage. As an example, there is a ultra-modern condo high-rise in downtown Portland that has FOUR wind turbines on the roof. I had asked a person who lives in that building if those turbines handle the entire energy needs of the building. The response was a complete shock to me. His answer was: "It only covers the elevators." Yikes! Four wind turbines to deal with just the elevators in a high rise?

In several books on living a more environmentally sustainable life, the number one advice is to REDUCE your energy needs. This includes walking more (or bicycling or using public transit), conserving your electricity by not leaving lights on everywhere, not heating your home so warmly in winter time (and following President Carter's advice in the late 1970s to wear sweaters more often), and the big one: not running up the air condition in the summer time (very difficult to avoid in the South, though. Air conditioning was the best thing that ever happened to the South since General William Sherman went marching through!). The problem is, too many Americans have gotten used to the convenience of our cheap energy lifestyle that it will be hard to make sacrifices. What this ultimately means is that change will only come about when the price begins to skyrocket and we all feel the effects of it (from higher grocery bills to the talked about possibility of $5 a gallon this summer). I have a feeling riding the bus and MAX is going to be a lot more uncomfortable this summer (standing room only!). If more people would make adjustments now, we will save ourselves much pain in the future. But, I know how human nature works and most people don't change until they are forced to by outer circumstances. In other words, "we're fucked!"

The earthquake last week was shocking, in part since it followed the one in New Zealand earlier. But mostly because the World Affairs Council discussion group that I attend twice a month actually mentioned an earthquake hitting Japan. Just a week and a half before the earthquake hit Japan, the discussion group talked about Haiti and the aftermath of its devastating earthquake last year. Someone mentioned that Japan was the best place to be if you had to be in an earthquake because so many of their newer buildings were built to withstand an earthquake. Haiti had no such technology, which is why so many buildings crumbled. There's talk that Portland is due for a major earthquake and many of the old brick buildings will likely be reduced to a pile of rubble (which is why I will not live in one). Hopefully, though, it won't happen while I live here...but seeing all these earthquakes around the world, nothing surprises me anymore.

With the ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan, I have no doubts that this might unleash a new wave of Godzilla movies. After all, Godzilla was the creative Japanese response to their being bombed by two Atomic bombs at the end of World War II by President Harry S Truman. The 1950s monster movie was all about the unknown effects of atomic / nuclear power on humans and our environment. I loved watching those movies as a boy, but I never saw the updates (the 1985 movie or the 1998 movie or any ones after that). Despite the cheesiness of the original films, I still love Rodin the best.

Sleep well, everyone! When our world goes to hell, don't go golfing. There are better things we can do to turn this planet around. The time to look inward to find our answers is now. We must change the way we live, because our planet can not sustain our lifestyles for much longer. We have to change or die. That's our choice.

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