From the bin...

 
On being young and being old A mediatation on what the young are like to day. Has capitalism won them over totally Plus a meditation on the significance of the New Orleans disaster. Some international reaction to New Orleans flooding My meeting with Howard Guille did however highlight how much the last 30 years have consisted on an attack on the common good. If proof of this are needed one has only to look at the disaster of Katrina and New Orleans. The media got into town three days before the hurricane struck. Yet after four days of disaster, help had still not arrived to the beleaguered victims who have been forced to hunker down amid dead bodies and their own excrement by the Bush government. Never since the Irish Famine of 1846-8 has the logic of the market been so starkly revealed. Millions died in Ireland, not because of the lack of food but because the British government wanted the land of the Irish peasantry to rear their sheep and cattle on. See an ">an account of how the likes of Nassau Senior, economic adviser to the British Govt, thought that a million deaths from the famine "would scarcely be enough to do much good". In the end he got his million and many more. The crime of the Irish peasantry was to be poor and in the way of Capital’s plans. Similarly the crime of Afro-Americans is to be poor and in the way of Capital’s plans. In New Orleans the poor who are mainly blacks were abandoned in the city. They did not have the cars to take them to safety. The authorities provided no means to get them out of the city. They were herded to the Superdome and left to rot without medications, clothing, water or food. The mayor it seems was worried they might graffiti the dome, but he didn’t worry about them starving. Indymedia Ireland also supplies Pay check heads, semantics , survival hints and other analysis. Elsewhere the city of Lestat the vamire and the baton rouge has got its IMC together A mediatation on what the young are like to day. Has capitalism won them over totally Plus a meditation on the significance of the New Orleans disaster. The Bin September 2005-09-03 1. Of the young and the old… I remember well standing some years ago in the underground in London and opposite me was an advertisement for Irish whiskey. The ad compared the beginning of Robert Burns poem To A Mouse: On turning her up in her nest with the plough, November 1785. Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim'rous beastie, O, what a panic's in thy breastie! Thou need na start awa sae hasty Wi bickering brattle! I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee, Wi' murdering pattle. with the opening lines from Yeats’ The Wild Swans at Coole "The trees are in their autumn beauty The woodland paths are dry, Under the October twilight the water Mirrors a still sky; Upon the brimming water among the stones Are nine-and-fifty swans. Poetry on an advertising hoarding might sound strange, but nothing is sacred to capital, when they wish to appeal to an audience that likes to have their sense of their own cultural capital acknowledged. The point being made was that Irish whiskey like Yeats’ poem was much smoother than the rough Scotch. Though partial to a drop or two, I am not really enough of a connoisseur to pass judgment on the relative merits of Irish and Scotch whiskey. Moreover it is a moot point of course which of Yeats and Burns is the greater poet. Burns gets my vote, but I confess that I read him much less than Yeats. For I have loved Yeats’ poetry since first studying him nearly 50 years ago with Brother McGee at the Christian Brothers Grammar School in Omagh. McGee was a charismatic teacher, but also a man with the most terrible of politics. He was violently anti-modern and totally committed to Catholic dictatorships as the ideal form of government. He and the late pope would have gotten on famously. Still he made an enormous impression on me and everyone he taught. I can see McGee now in my mind’s eye clearly, standing at the lectern declaiming the poem in that deliberately cadenced non-prosaic style that Yeats himself favoured, because he hated poetry to be read like prose. Here is the rest of the poem "The nineteenth autumn has come upon me Since I first made my count; I saw, before I had well finished, All suddenly mount And scatter wheeling in great broken rings Upon their clamorous wings. I have looked upon those brilliant creatures, And now my heart is sore. All's changed since I, hearing at twilight, The first time on this shore, The bell-beat of their wings above my head, Trod with a lighter tread. Unwearied still, lover by lover, They paddle in the cold Companionable streams or climb the air; Their hearts have not grown old; Passion or conquest, wander where they will, Attend upon them still. But now they drift on the still water, Mysterious, beautiful; Among what rushes will they build, By what lake's edge or pool Delight men's eyes when I awake some day To find they have flown away? Several things have brought the poem to mind today. Recently I bumped into my old friend Howard Guille down in the city. Howard is the secretary of the NTEU and has spent a life time fighting for a society which is based on a sense of collective decency and care and one which is also committed to building up the common good. He seemed weary and hard pressed. The current burst of class war from above, namely the pushing of Australian Workplace Agreements by the Federal Govt was I thought taking its toll on him. He lamented to me the fact that young Australians would never have known a society, which was not dominated by the dog-eat-dog values of the market. He worried that might have made them total strangers to the necessity of looking out for others. The other experience that made me think of Yeats’ poem was a couple of guest lectures I gave recently to aspiring journalism students. I spoke to them of the current crisis faced by journalists. The almost absolute control of the media exercised by the corporate barons, has meant that the public in their desperation to learn the truth of such things as the Iraq war, had turned to independent documentary film makers such as Michael Moore. How did I find the journalism students? Well as always with my students I did not find them besotted with market values. They hope of course to get jobs and to be able to have a good life. That is entirely praiseworthy. But their young hearts are also full of the hope and desire for a better world. They know things are not going well. Every night on the television they behold the slaughter bench of history groaning under the weight of its countless victims. Every day the corporate media preaches to them the doctrine of TINA -There is no Alternative. Yet the heart of the young is a lonely hunter, and the desire for a better world cannot be choked out by a thousand Murdochs or even a thousand years of neo-liberal economics. So what then of Yeats and his swans? The poem is of course about growing old and the loss of the animal-like vigour and energy that Yeats as a Nietzschean valued so much. Passion and conquest are the two qualities of the young that most inspire envy in the ageing poet. It should be clear from my remarks above that I do not see the young in the same way. I do not doubt their energy and long may they enjoy it. That however is a trivial matter compared to the qualities of hope, courage and generosity of spirit that the young have in such abundance, and which makes teaching them such a joy. Contrast that with their elders. Here I like to quote from Aristotle’s portrait of the elderly. "The old have lived long, have often been deceived, have made many mistakes of their own; they see that more often than not the affairs of men turn out badly. And so they are positive about nothing; in all things they err by an extreme moderation…they think evil; that is they are disposed to put the worse construction on everything… they are slow to hope; partly from experience – since things generally go wrong, or at all events seldom turn out well; and partly, too, from cowardice." So Yeats as an ageing male of 54, lamented the loss of his energy and envied the young. My friend Howard worries how the young have not been exposed to the ideal of a society which values the common good: an ideal which he has given his life to. Myself, the oldest of them all, am quietly confident that the world belongs to the young and the young will make a better world. 2. The meaning of the New Orleans disaster My meeting with Howard Guille did however highlight how much the last 30 years have consisted on an attack on the common good. If proof of this are needed one has only to look at the disaster of Katrina and New Orleans. The media got into town three days before the hurricane struck. Yet after four days of disaster, help had still not arrived to the beleaguered victims who have been forced to hunker down amid dead bodies and their own excrement by the Bush government. Never since the Irish Famine of 1846-8 has the logic of the market been so starkly revealed. Millions died in Ireland, not because of the lack of food but because the British government wanted the land of the Irish peasantry to rear their sheep and cattle on. Go to < ">http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/61/010.html> for an account of how the likes of Nassau Senior, economic adviser to the British Govt, thought that a million deaths from the famine "would scarcely be enough to do much good". In the end he got his million and many more. The crime of the Irish peasantry was to be poor and in the way of Capital’s plans. Similarly the crime of Afro-Americans is to be poor and in the way of Capital’s plans. In New Orleans the poor who are mainly blacks were abandoned in the city. They did not have the cars to take them to safety. The authorities provided no means to get them out of the city. They were herded to the Superdome and left to rot without medications, clothing, water or food. The mayor it seems was worried they might graffiti the dome, but he didn’t worry about them starving. Meanwhile the President sat holidaying on his million dollar property, the Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, shopped for thousand dollar shoes, and the mayor declared a day of prayer even though the Governor had already urged people to “pray the cyclone down to a 2”. The poor broke into shops to get food for themselves and their families. The government and the media raised the spectre of black looters and dispatched the army to shoot them. Rescue operations were suspended so that property could be protected. The true victims, the black poor of New Orleans, were thus effectively criminalised, while the true criminals have been able to escape scrutiny. The absolute truth is that this disaster had been foreseen. There have been warnings after warnings about the vulnerability of New Orleans to a hurricane. Yet money to repair the levees had been spent on the slaughter that is the Iraq War. The Louisiana Guard, which should have been mobilised to help the poor, has been busy in Iraq killing and being killed. Wetlands too had been cleared and developed and that left the city even more vulnerable. I will not mention global warming and the criminal refusal of George Bush to do anything to alleviate the problem. All in all there is a lesson to be learned in New Orleans. George Bush’s government is a government for the rich and the powerful American ruling class. As he himself said the “haves and the haves mores” are his “base”. The same rich and the powerful are determined to have everything their own way. For them the poor are expendable and if they are black then they matter even less. Yet this is the government that we Australians are so devoted to. To placate this government we send our young into danger. Our Prime Minister has told us we must not criticise America or “Western Values” for that will lead to terrorism. Look at New Orleans and see those same “Western Values” in operation. The Bush government has found a way to slaughter thousands anywhere in the world in a matter of moments. Yet it will not bring aid and comfort to the sick and the starving poor of their own country. For the sick and the poor do not have the money to become customers and so the disciples of the market think of them as worth nothing. It matters not to the rich and the powerful that the blacks of New Orleans have given the world a unique artistic culture in the form of its jazz. What do the rich and the powerful care about working class culture? In cultural terms they are only interested in how big a fool you are prepared to make of yourself on Reality Television. That is the true meaning of “Western Values”. http://www.indymedia.ie/attachments/sep2005/save_us.jpg

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