That’s a quote from 20th century French poet, Paul Valéry. The original is “La meilleure façon de réaliser ses rêves est de se réveiller.”
Truth be told, I’m not sure Valéry was much of a ‘hopey-dreamy’ kinda guy since at the end of the 1st World War he also wrote: “We civilizations now know that we are mortel.” Europe was already well on its way to handing over the dominant role in world affairs to the United States.
I’m not especially a ‘hopey-dreamy’ type either. Or should I say, not anymore. Like most people, at least amongst those who don’t have bombs dropping on them or murderous thugs preying on them daily, in my youth I had certain utopian aspirations. Like “really freedom and justice for all and a brotherhood among peoples.” Then came Viet-Nam. In the year 1969, the first draft lottery was conducted for men of draft age born up to 1950, under President Richard Nixon. The second, in 1970, took in those born up to 1951. That was me. I won the lottery for the first and only time in my life. The Jackpot! I didn’t have to go. Living in Michigan, I didn’t have to use my Canadian escape route, among many others that 125,000 young Americans did use.
Some of my high-school friends didn’t win. Some made it to Canada, some came back in body-bags from the quagmire. A wake-up call for sonny-boy you might say.
It’s not that I have any particular bone to pick with faith, hope or charity. The first can help to unify communities or indeed entire nations and even more so in trying times (think Poland during the Solidarnosc 1980s). The third is something millions of people practice (myself included) for various more-or-less avowable reasons but which does act, however minimally, to assuage, albeit short-term, some of the more egregious injustices which are so highly visible in our world.
Hope, on the other hand is today a horse of a different color. See 1, Corinthians 13 for the biblical reference, which, by the way, suggests that Charity is the greatest of the three.
I admit to using the everyday word ‘hope’ pretty much as everyone else does. The day before going on a picnic, for instance, I might say: “Gee, I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow.” You’ll find the word in the ‘About’ introduction to this blog. But I also know for a fact that some of those high-school buddies who came back in body-bags were fervently hoping they would not have to go.
It could well be that quite a few people who use the word are really talking about spiritual resistance to despair. That is clearly the message that Chris Hedges puts forward as one of the intellectual leaders of the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York. His credentials are sterling, his discourse is inspiring, his dedication is total. Still, my question is: Why use the language which has become the language of Power?
With the present Hopey-Changey President in the former Whitey-House not closing Guantanamo, not eliminating torture from the American playbook, increasing civilian casualties in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen by predator drone attacks, not pressing hard enough for significant health-care, banking or environmental reform, not confronting the looming menace of climate change, increasing executive privilege and government secrecy, failing to send his Justice Department after blatant fraudsters etc, what did all the Hope/Change propaganda actually usher in? And note that the POTUS’s political victory on Obamacare is anything but a victory for public health. The word has been over-worked and dulled beyond recognition and thus basing a “better future” on it does not look like a credible option to this blogger.
Maybe it’s time to take a page from William of Orange, otherwise known as William the Silent, today called the Father of the Netherlands, who found his tongue long enough during the Dutch 80-Year War of Independence from Spain (1568-1648) to say this : “One need not hope in order to undertake, nor succeed in order to persevere.” 80 years? Now that’s perseverance!
Once more, it’s not that I’m against hope, but for all its immediate psychological benefits, there are some cases where its rather cozy and comforting fuzziness simply won’t get’er done.
Which brings us to the first two “momentous issues” referred to in the tagline of this blog. The ones positioned right at the top in terms of urgency: Fukushima Dai-ichi and Economic Collapse. On that sliding scale we mentioned in the initial post of this blog, these are both niners. Problem : We don’t have 80 years! Probably no more than 2 and quite possibly less than one. Let’s first consider Fukushima. TEPCO, the Japanese nuclear hotshot company, has slanted, covered up and outright lied about the event on March 11, 2011 from the beginning. Of course nobody wants general panic but there are limits to obfuscation. What else was to be expected since they were put in charge of “managing” the crisis? Does anyone remember BP in the Gulf of Mexico? In the meantime, several reports have come out from Japanese seismologists who conclude that the chances of another earthquake in the region are high. That would likely take down fuel pool n° 4 and possibly others along with it. The wealthy Japanese elite have already bought themselves an island refuge off the southern coast of China in case of a repeat. A large chunk of Japan could become completely uninhabitable. This should be a top-drawer priority for the international community. What am I saying? Put it on the desk right up front and make it scream! Every country that does not wish to see increased birth-defects, cancer, etc in their populations should be contributing in some way to getting those fuel rods to a safer place. Cesium 137 is much worse than dioxin, folks. The Pacific Northwest of the US is extremely vulnerable and has already shown unprecedented spikes in radiation-related illnesses and malformations. Let everybody know that you know this.
The second most immediate issue is economic / financial collapse, i.e. another recession, in all likelihood worse than the last one. Greece, Italy and Spain’s economies are all circling the drain at the moment as many of you will have noticed. All signs point to another sharp downward bounce, the only questions being when and how far down. At the same time the austerity push is on, despite having demonstrated its inefficacy in doing anything other than funneling plenty of moolah to bad-bet creditors. That can’t go on forever though as defaults on debt payments are probable in the near future.
There are reasons for that, which several French, German and American banks (we’re talking big ones here) understand perfectly well. Their modus operandi has always been “Externalize costs, losses and environmental or societal damage to the max; whilst internalizing profit!” In other words, they don’t give a flyer about people who are not them, their shareholders or their bought-and-paid-for politicians. The Germans and the French hold outsized portions of Greek bonds for example. Stands to reason they would be doing everything they can to keep the house of cards from collapsing. Ditto for US banks but for a different reason: they hold the derivative junk “guarantees” which supposedly underwrite the Europeans’ bad bets. So all of them want to squeeze as much out of the situation before the S$@€ hits the fan. People be damned! A debt is a debt! Even if it is an odious one where banksters, corrupt politicians and their suite of hucksters have re-written the rules so that they cannot lose and nobody else can win! A case in point is the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel. She has so muddied the waters with her ‘over my dead body’ rhetoric with regard to any action other than using stealth bailouts for banks that no doubts remain over who her sponsors really are. Of course, as mentioned, the tracks of various other “players,” whether North American or European, are all too evident in that muddle. Anything to keep the growth/debt addiction and its über-rich peddlers satisfied. What can be done? Support any movements you can which demand financial accountability, taxes on derivative and other fancy structured-investment-vehicle instruments and get the word out! Write your Congress-Critter, take your money out of the Big Four banks. This is a high-flying gaggle of crooks (to which we shall return in a subsequent post) but they can only be taken on by ground-level attitudes and actions.
We humans can be an extremely perseverant bunch. The hitch is, we too often persist in doing things which do not enhance our mid-to-longer term collective chances for relative well-being. As Lao-Tseu stated in the Tao Te Ching: “Those who refuse to change course are liable to end up where they are headed.”
Hoping is fine, dreaming is great; but even both together are unlikely to suffice in our predicament.
In the following posts, we will no doubt have the occasion to return to the topics introduced here, in addition to moving on to other, no less important ‘momentous issues’. Meanwhile, I leave you, dear reader, to contemplate the image below.
A photo of the Fontaine Médicis in the Luxemburg Garden. It depicts the Greek myth (found only in Ovid’s Metamorphosis as far as I know) of Acis and Galatea, ill-fated lovers, as the jealous suitor Polyphemus the Cyclops dashed their hopes – and Acis’s brains, with a boulder upon discovering their union.