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Foundation for the General Welfare

What counts as “work”? Or a “job”?

The usual conception of a “job” implies activities that create value for someone else – one’s employer. For doing this, one gets paid… and the employer makes profit by making sure that payment is less than the value of the work.

Many activities, though, that demand time and effort, and that do in fact create value for society, but not for an employer, are not recognized as “jobs.” As social theorist Riane Eisler has pointed out, our economic systems “fail to value and support the most essential human work: the so-called ‘women’s work’ of caring and caregiving.” This includes the work – usually full-time, if not 24/7 – of caring for oneself, one’s family, one’s community, and one’s environment.

In the present debate on healthcare, for instance, conservatives who are trying to dismantle sections of the social safety net are fond of saying that those who may lose Medicaid coverage “can always get jobs,” as White House spokescreature Kellyanne Conway recently stated.

general welfare

Well, okay then.

I propose the establishment of a quasi-governmental foundation, to be called the Foundation for the General Welfare. (As in “promote the general welfare,” one of the stated goals of the United States of America.) This foundation would be funded initially by the government and, increasingly over time, by private donations.

It would hire people, and pay them a living wage to do what they have to do.

This foundation would, for example, hire the chronically ill who do not have insurance. Their job description would be simple: to participate in treatment for their illnesses, and get better if possible. Full insurance would be among the benefits – in fact, it would be the same Federal employee package now enjoyed by our Congresscritters.

This foundation would hire single unemployed parents, especially teenage moms. Their job description: to raise their kids and take care of their households.

This foundation would hire adults who are caregivers for their parents. Their job description: keep their parents as safe, comfortable, and happy as possible.

Get the idea?

THE MCADOOIAD: Book 3

BOOK 3

A beach it was indeed – but like no beach he had ever seen.
For this is the shore that has no condominiums,
Where suntan lotion never sells. No brochure
Advertises that view, no agent (save Stavros) offers package deals –
And there is no romance to be found there, nor souvenirs for sale.

There must have been light, for he realized he could see –
But there was neither sun nor color. He took a handful of sand,
And watched it run between his fingers, black as coal.
He looked around, and saw his group arrayed about him,
Slowly coming to their senses. He stood quickly in their midst.

“My friends,” he said, “do not fear. Unless I miss my guess,
We have been spared that arduous trek
Once trod by Hercules and Orpheus, Dante and Aeneas.
Instead, our friend Stavros has sent us off in style
And let us take – shall we say – the express rather than the local.”

At this they heard a cry, and looking up, saw white-haired Stavros –
Standing, it seemed, upon a tall and distant cliff –
Though he might also have been in a hot-air balloon,
So little of him could they see as they strained to hear his words.
“Good to see you all made it through!” be called.

“I apologize for the nature of your trip, but I know your time is precious
And so I could not accompany you down the long and ancient way.
Remain where you are, and be not afraid – your presence
May cause some commotion amongst the shades,
But your escort will arrive shortly. Check your pockets – and again, farewell!”

Their wallets – gone. Passports – gone. Watches, cell phones,
All had disappeared – save for three gold coins, and several Milk-Bones,
Their pockets had been emptied. Alarmed, they looked to McAdoo,
Who had answers at the ready. “No photography allowed,” he said,
“And down here, believe me, reception is lousy anyway.”

“Your personal possessions are of no further use,” said a voice.
“As you already know, you can’t take it with you.” They turned as one,
And saw – a man? A boy? An ancient, long beard and all?
His form shifted, sometimes radiating youth, sometimes sallow age,
Sometimes both at once. Only his eyes remained constant.

“Upon your return to the upper sphere, your goods shall be restored,”
He said. “In the meantime, rest assured that they are protected
More securely than any vault on Earth could ever promise.”
“We thank you,” said McAdoo, and all the others added their assent.
“Where are we, and if it is permitted, may we ask who you are?”

“I may have had a name once,” he said, with something like a smile.
“But here no one ever asks for it, and in truth I do not miss it.
Here I am but one of many guides for the newly arrived,
Whom I escort to the shore you see before you, the banks
Of the Dark River – for that is where you are.”

And now their eyes had adjusted, they looked shoreward once again
And became aware of movement along the river’s edge.
Indeed, there was nothing but movement,
For the entire shore was densely packed with jostling shades
So tightly crowded that they seemed to overlap.

As a field of wheat ripples in the warm Midwestern breeze,
So did waves of motion play across that ghostly mass.
But there was no sound, no cries of “Hey! Watch it, buddy!”
Nor polite whispers of apology, as spirit nudged against spirit,
Slowly swaying along the obsidian shore.

“They do not yet know,” said their Guide. “They are as dreamers,
Or babies newly born, or surgical patients emerging
From Morpheus’ painfree embrace. As you are discovering now,
Other senses come into play here, senses deadened
Under the weight of flesh and air, senses that must be learned anew.”

He gestured to them to follow, and turned toward the shore.
“Stay close,” he said to them. “Answer no question, make no comment.
Be as they are – still, quiet, and patient. I will make a way for you.
Oh – but do guard your pockets.” So saying he walked ahead,
turning now and then to check their progress.

When young boys break into an abandoned house,
Their imaginations filling each room with dread,
They advance in a clump down the creaky hallways, not daring to breathe,
Their flashlights swinging wildly at every wooden creak,
Jumping out of their skins at the sight of the dead man’s cat.

So how did they manage, these mortal though powerful men,
Advancing through real and actual ghosts to that most final of shores?
I would like to tell you that they kept their cool,
Facing these specters with the same kind of bravado
They used on conference calls with investors.

And they tried their best, in truth they did,
But each one felt his knees give way, his heart race,
Felt fear like he had never felt – save McAdoo,
Who was too busy looking at the faces of the shades
To think about the fear he felt within.

“Oh Guide,” he said, sotto voce, so as to not disturb,
“How long have these shades been here, how recently have they died?”
“Depends,” said his companion, with a hint of surprise at the question,
“Some have only arrived this very instant, some have stood here
For much, much longer. Do you seek someone?”

“Oh – no,” said quick-thinking McAdoo. “My parents died
Some time ago, and I am certain that in this great crowd
Even were they present, I should never find them here.”
“Just so,” said the Guide. “A shade could wait here for millennia,
As passes Earthly time – but never know the difference.”

“Remember,” he said, “this is Eternity’s shore you stand upon,
The boundary between your time and timelessness. You still retain
Your sense of Time’s flow – but to such as I the truth is clear,
That all that happens or will happen there has happened.
Not everyone is willing or able to make this crossing.”

And now a great horn sounds, and the companions jump as one,
Sending ripples throughout the assembled ghostly horde.
“Fear not,” says the Guide, reaching out to steady them,
And to calm their quivering shoulders.
“That is the sound of the Ferry arriving – look, and see if you can see.”

From the dark grey fog, across the dark grey waves,
Their eyes discern an enormous shape emerge. A ferry – or a cruise ship,
Indeed, a ship much like to those they saw upon the Aegean waves,
But with a mountain’s bulk and height. A mountain, or a mountain range,
Perhaps, peak piled onto peak – but made all of black glass.

Showrunner

Let me process these developments
The arc of the story has changed
Gotta write a whole new narrative
The plot points got all rearranged

Let me run this by the writers
See if we can set up that shot
Let me run it by the sponsors
See if they’ll buy another spot

I’m the showrunner now
Ever since you spun me off
A full reboot, try another route
Get the fans back on the bus

We had a long run, but the plot got stale
The old chemistry was gone
In-universe, things turned for the worse
It was time for some one to move on

No way to go back for a prequel
Without finding a whole new cast
Change the locations, try a new style
Ratings were slipping fast

But I’m the showrunner now
Now that you’ve left the team
To pursue your solo projects
Now that you’ve split the scene

I’m the showrunner now
A new season in the works
Got some surprises up my sleeve
New cliffs to hang, new tears to jerk

Poem for Eustace St. Meeting

In this time of such turbulence and strife
We come into the Silence and here reclaim our life

The powers of the world outside may be deeply shaken
But here, within, the Spirit quietly awakens

And when the touch of Light has eased our pain
We can re-emerge to face the World again

(written at Eustace St. Friends Meeting, Dublin, 5 March 2017)

A Green Year – updated version available

Start by looking over the “Ten Key Values” and “Four Pillars” of the Green Movement. You might notice that the Key Values can be distributed under each of the Pillars in an almost symmetrical way…

As I was thinking about this, it occurred to me that with the addition of a couple of values, we could make four sets of three, and assign each Value to a month, and each Pillar to a season – thereby setting up a kind of canonical Green Year, that could then be used as a framework for Greens and Green groups.

So I added two, and tweaked some of the terminology a little bit. Here’s the result I came up with. Feel free to make your own adjustments – I know that not every Green will approve of some of my word choices (which is why I’m not submitting this for any kind of organizational imprimatur ;*).

Here’s a brochure version: GREEN YEAR brochure 3.5

For more information, see agreenyear.wordpress.com

WINTER
PILLAR: PEACE
First Month (January) – Nonviolence (Dr. King’s Birthday)
Second Month (February) – Restorative Justice (Black History Month)
Third Month (March) – Feminist Values (Women’s History Month)

SPRING
PILLAR: ECOLOGY
First Month (April) – Ecological Wisdom (Earth Day)
Second Month (May) – Future Focus/Sustainability
Third Month (June) – Personal & Global Responsibility

SUMMER
PILLAR: COMMUNITY
First Month (July) – Social Justice
Second Month (August) – Respect for Diversity
Third Month (September) – Community-Based Economics (Labor Day)

AUTUMN
PILLAR: DEMOCRACY
First Month (October) – Active Engagement
Second Month (November) – Grassroots Democracy (Election Day)
Third Month (December) – Decentralization

NOTES

  1. You can either count the months using the equinoxes and solstices as your starting points, or use the standard calendar months. (Alternatively, consider using the overlaps to reflect on the connections between these topics…!)
  2. I have included some key holidays and commemorations that relate to certain values – let me know if there are other special events that could be linked.
  3. Also let me know if you think the order of values within a season should be changed.
  4. Under “Restorative Justice” (the meaning of which can be found here) I also mean to include such notions as mercy and forgiveness.
  5. By “Active Engagement” I mean encouraging citizens to undertake ongoing participation in democracy – not just by voting, but staying informed, writing to elected officials, etc.  If you look back on the original 10KV statement, you’ll see that the “Grassroots Democracy” value is more about setting up systems that allow particpation – this value is about making sure that people use their power.

THE PEACE AND JUSTICE FILES: EVERY NEW BEGINNING

It’s not often that a rock song nails a deep philosophical truth in a single pithy lyric… but that’s just what the band Semisonic did back in 1998, with their anthemic hit “Closing Time,” which includes this great line:

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

In this case, 2009 was that “other beginning.” Barack Obama’s Inauguration was the crest of a wave, a flowering of post-Bush “si, se puede” optimism that unfortunately was quickly squelched (let us not say “betrayed”) by his own centrist pragmatism and the Republicans’ petty, partisan obstreperousness.

So now here we are, at that beginning’s end – and a new beginning. On January 20, we will see what I am calling the “Dysauguration” of Donald J. Trump – as massive a perversion of the democratic process as the planet has seen since the emperor Caligula supposedly named his horse Incitatus to the Roman Senate.

I plan to see this event from a different perspective. By the time Mr. Trump intones the words “So help me God,” I’ll be across the border, in Canada. (You might want to join me, even if just in spirit, or just for the day. See the article “Vote With Your Feet?” on my website, skipmendler.wordpress.com.)

I’m taking advantage of this “new beginning” to stage a new beginning of my own. I am headed to Europe for an indefinite period, with two goals in mind.

One is to get involved with refugee assistance over there. I am aiming for the Greek Isles, but I might find that I can be useful elsewhere along the route. Ideally, I’ll be able to use my performing experience by hooking up with one of the groups like Clowns Without Borders that has been doing shows to entertain the kids in the camps, but I’m willing to do whatever. (Look up “refugee clown circus” for a raft of articles about what some folks have been doing already, and why.)

The other is to get some opinions and suggestions from activists and academics over there regarding what can be done to fix our broken system, and our fractured society. I am particularly interested in how they make multiparty democracy work, and how we might bring the American system more in line with European democracies in this regard. (See my September column, “Two Parties Are Too Damn Few.”) I also plan to attend the 2017 Global Greens Congress in Liverpool at the end of March.

At present, I’m thinking I should be away for six months to a year, maybe more, depending on what happens (and how long the money holds out). In the meantime, I intend to continue this column, but I’ll be focusing primarily on my experiences along the way.

I remain an “apocaloptimist”: I believe that things are about to get quite rough, but I also believe they will work themselves out in the long run. This particular “new beginning,” this onslaught called Trumpism, will run its course and eventually end, hopefully sooner rather than later, but end it will.

And then there will be more – and better – new beginnings on the way.

 

Crawl from the Wreckage

 

Through the months and the years
The pressure just grows
& then in a moment
It seems everything blows

She drops the bombshell
The storm systems merge
Tectonic plates shift
As two lives diverge

And then when it’s over
You open your eyes
Surprised to discover
That you’re still alive

(chorus)
Crawl from the wreckage
Pull out of the debris
Take a good look around
At what you used to be

Destruction seems total
Nothing remains
But you still have your hands
And you still have your brain

(chorus 2)
Crawl through the wreckage
Sort through the debris
Try to find what’s still useful
In what you used to be

You feel so abandoned
You think you’re on your own
But just lift up your eyes
You’ll see you’re not alone

Hundreds and thousands
Millions and more
Who have known devastation
This has happened before

(chorus 3)
Pull them from the wreckage
Clear off the debris
Try to make yourself useful
What else is there to be