Links for the Week: Saturday January 10, 2009

BLOG Links for the Week: Saturday January 10, 2009

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Cheryl’s newest photos from Esperance, Australia: Marlo checks out a sleeping sea lion, and later a sea lion baby, on this magnificent beach

Since I missed posting links last week, there’s a bumper crop this week Also, I’m behind in my blogroll scan, so these are mostly links from subscribed sources and diligent readers. Back to the regular round-up next week.

Things I Learned in 2008: PS Pirro and Communicatrix have wonderful year-end lists. Here is mine, undoubtedly incomplete, and in no particular order:

  1. How to really love, and really care about people: It starts with letting go. And learning to be modest.
  2. No one is in control. There is no global conspiracy, no elite in charge, no centre of power, and people who see themselves as leaders, or who we see as leaders, will always fail. It’s all up to each of us, doing what we must.
  3. I cannot be responsible for others’ expectations of me. It’s important to learn how to say no, gracefully.
  4. Before we can do anything well, we first need to know ourselves.
  5. The most important quality in any relationship is honesty.
  6. How to begin to begin to be authentic, open, raw, nobody-but-yourself: It starts with really paying attention, being there, in the moment, and constantly challenging and breaking up our own worldview, our own conceptions and beliefs and fears, while at the same time not taking on the ‘gunk’ of others’.
  7. I expect a lot of myself, and of others, and that underlies my misanthropy and my veneration of exceptional people. The things that make people exceptional to me are intelligence, articulateness, sensitivity, emotional strength (based on self-knowledge), and imagination. 
  8. Discovering where we belong and what we’re meant to do gets more difficult as the world becomes more complex and interconnected — there are simply more choices, more possibilities.
  9. The greatest of all the many threats to our world and our survival is our imaginative poverty. We are too horrifically constrained by the only life we know.
  10. The key to doing anything effectively is generally love, conversation and community. We must do what we can to nurture and facilitate these three things.
  11. Own less, and owe nothing: It will free us.
  12. We should not hope, or aspire — just intend.
  13. If we want something, we should just ask. People are open to invitation.
  14. One key to helping others (especially children) to help themselves: Just get them started. We should use stories, demonstrations, provocations, conversations. Then, mama birds all, we should get out of the way and let them soar.
  15. There is no mastery. There is only practice.

Knowing What You’ve Lost: One of Patti Digh’s finest essays is one she wrote three years ago about the death of her father, who was born on Christmas Day and died at age 53. My mother died on Christmas Day 1988, at age 60.

Make or Break Time for Business:
Gregory Lent and Umair Haque are riffing that traditional-model big businesses need to reinvent themselves quickly or die. I think there is some truth to this — the recession and the commensurate collapse of consumer spending pose an enormous threat to businesses that are highly leveraged (i.e. profits increase or decrease by many times the increase or decrease in sales) and dependent on double-digit annual profit growth (because this growth determines their share price, which in turn affects their financing capacity and the bonuses and options they need to attract competent employees). But I think this “growing collective consumer consciousness” line of argument is nonsense, romantic echo-chamber stuff. The average citizen/consumer doesn’t get smarter because s/he has less money to spend — s/he just buys cheaper stuff (which often means fast food, junk food, Chinese Wal-Mart crap, dirty fuel instead of more costly renewables. What big companies need to do to survive in a world of dumbed-down lower-income consumers, alas, is not reinvent themselves but to deleverage (which means layoffs, short-termism and abandoning innovation) and lower prices and costs (which means offshoring, outsourcing, and squeezing suppliers). The recession is not good news for anyone. The renaissance of the informed, empowered citizen/consumer is probably further off now than ever.

Will We Act to Prevent Great Depression II?: Paul Krugman is doubtful. And there have, of course, been many great depressions before the one in the 1930s, back before the memory of potato famines and cannibalism. But still we believe, against all the evidence surrounding us, that it can’t happen again.

How to Fix the Financial System: A 3-part NYT article suggests sober, long-term ideas for repairing the broken financial system that make a lot more sense than bailouts. They include nationalization (which is, of course, politically unacceptable) and instead of trying to perpetuate and restart the insane borrow-more-spend-more cycle, recommend a more resilient restructuring that will let the markets self-correct for the excesses (also politically unacceptable, because the rich, the incompetent executives and the over-extended and reckless investors will take the hit, instead of the taxpayer). Good link in this article to the cause of the Madoff scandal as well — basically laying the fault on the regulators.

The City Hurts Your Brain: I’ve often said that I hate cities, and that as I get older and more aware of myself I am convinced that cities make me ill — stressed, sad, pessimistic, disengaged, disconnected. Now research confirms that cities are not good for us: “Just being in an urban environment…impairs our basic mental processes. After spending a few minutes on a crowded city street, the brain is less able to hold things in memory, and suffers from reduced self-control…People who had walked through the city were in a worse mood and scored significantly lower on a test of attention and working memory.” Thanks to Tree for the link, and the one that follows.

The Mother of Twin Oaks: Kat Kinkade, who died last year, was the founder of Twin Oaks, one of the most successful and enduring intentional communities in the US. Her moving NYT obituary tells you something about the idealism that lies behind intentional communities, and some of the challenges they face.

Our Vulnerable Food System: Wes Jackson and Wendell Berry explain that the industrial agriculture system, which has exhausted and exposed soils, made crops dependent on massive use of oil-based fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides, increased vulnerability to drought, storms and disease, poisoned the soils, and replaced permaculture with fragile monoculture, is utterly unsustainable and (just as thge excesses of the financial system led to its collapse) headed for collapse, perhaps (as I’ve reported before) as early as this year. Our willingness to shrug off these dangers until collapse actually occurs does not bode well for our ability to cope with the cascading crises ahead of us.

Information for the Polyamorous and Those Who Love Them: I recently discovered two useful articles on this subject. Advice for someone monogamous in love with someone polyamorous. (“Especially if your partner isn’t currently involved in other relationships, it’s tempting to believe that it won’t come up–that your partner might be polyamorous in some abstract sense, but if your relationship is good enough, you’ll never have to deal with the reality of seeing your partner want somebody else. Avoid this temptation; this isn’t something you’re likely to be able to make go away.”) And How to practice polyamory. (“Learn to manage your time.”)

What You Don’t Know About Gaza: Some facts about the world’s largest refugee camp.

…and About Afghanistan: In the failed state of Afghanistan, everything is for sale — drugs, political office, justice, and, of course “protection”. “Kept afloat by billions of dollars in American and other foreign aid, the government of Afghanistan is shot through with corruption and graft. From the lowliest traffic policeman to the family of President Hamid Karzai himself, the state built on the ruins of the Taliban government seven years ago now often seems to exist for little more than the enrichment of those who run it.” The continued involvement of our soldiers to bolster this state of bribery and corruption run amok is insane.

Yet Another Eco-Holocaust: The damage from the massive toxic ash spill from the TVA’s Kingston coal-fired power plant will eclipse that of the Exxon Valdez spill. There is abundant evidence of negligence, lax regulation (the site has a chronic history of spills and other environmental and safety failures), and incompetence. When will we learn that big corporations will never regulate themselves, and care about nothing but the next fiscal quarter’s profits? As long as corporations are designed to be psychopathic (see the following item), our failure to regulate them, police them, punish them for misdeeds, and jail their leaders when they misbehave, is nothing short of madness. Thanks to Graham Clark for the links.

Online: Joel Bakan’s The Corporation: This exceptional film on the inherent psychopathy of corporations, based on the book, is now online in multiple parts. Here’s a summary of the best clips from the film to whet your appetite. Thanks to Andrew Campbell for the link, and the one that follows.

Not an Economic Collapse, a Renaissance: Architect Christopher Travis argues that instead of worrying about and rescuing the industrial economy, we should be bringing into existence a new economy, “a system of exchange and value that recognizes our interdependence, that is endlessly and systemically innovative, an economy of infinite possibility, of sufficiency, an economy that works for everyone.”

Reforming the Hopelessly Broken US Health System: Tom Daschle has the most difficult job in the world. To make the US health system affordable and accessible will mean ending the two-tier structure that gives the rich the best health care money can buy, and gives US doctors salaries that only the rich can afford. It will also mean acknowledging that the private sector is simply incompetent to manage an effective health care system, and needs to be fired — an unimaginable heresy in a nation that loves to hate government and worships the ‘free market’.

Interactive NASA Climate Change Maps: Picture the potential devastation of climate change. Thanks to Craig De Ruisseau for the link.

Thoughts for the Week:

  • From Poetic Medicine by John Fox (thanks to Evelyn who is, like me, at yet another crossroads, for the link): “Poetry provides guidance, revealing what you did not know you knew before you wrote or read the poem. This moment of surprising yourself with your own words of wisdom or of being surprised by the poems of others is at the heart of poetry as healer.”
  • The Want Bone, by Robert Pinsky (thanks to The Augusta Archive for the link):
The Want Bone

The tongue of the waves tolled in the earth’s bell.
Blue rippled and soaked in the fire of blue.
The dried mouthbones of a shark in the hot swale
Gaped on nothing but sand on either side.

The bone tasted of nothing and smelled of nothing,
A scalded toothless harp, uncrushed, unstrung.
The joined arcs made the shape of birth and craving
And the welded‑open shape kept mouthing O.

Ossified cords held the corners together
In groined spirals pleated like a summer dress.
But where was the limber grin, the gash of pleasure?
Infinitesimal mouths bore it away,

The beach scrubbed and etched and pickled it clean.
But O I love you it sings, my little my country
My food my parent my child I want you my own
My flower my fin my life my lightness my O.

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5 Responses to Links for the Week: Saturday January 10, 2009

  1. Dale Asberry says:

    Gaza isn’t a refugee camp, it’s a Ghetto, and, the Jewish Zionists are practicing genocide.

  2. That is a fine end-o’-year list, Mr. Pollard. All this loosening up and getting your art on has been good for you!

  3. martin says:

    lurked for a while, my first comment. Love your list, moving, makes me a little tearful in fact ;) Thanks

  4. Paris says:

    This 2008 list sounds as if you’ve just became…adult!j/k “Discovering where we belong and what we’re meant to do gets more difficult as the world becomes more complex and interconnected”: that’s for sure, cause with overpopulation, cities that are bad for our brains becomes larger, and places where we belonged becomes exctinct (mine was even before I was born anyway).About market economy loosing value nowadays, I disagree: I guess it’s an eye awakening opportunity for some people to let go of the money race. Becoming more frugal, growing to be more autonomous, self reliant, and reinventing barting systems and ‘gift economy’, in order to replace the lost market value. Once people taste the pleasure of free time, they won’t exchange it against a little money. This experience has been done on the whole french people, few years ago ’35 hour week’ replaced a 39 jour work week. But last year due to sluggish french economic growth the government tried to make people work longer hours for extra money, but most refused…they had tasted freedom and would not trade it for few bucks!people ain’t so stupid, u know!

  5. vera says:

    On the econ (too little too late) and ag (old admonishments that go nowhere).Lovely stuff on Kat and Twin Oaks. Too bad she can’t do it over again with all she learned.Done being glued to the disaster news, too. Time to focus more and more on what makes sense.

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