Tuesday, March 27, 2012

health care reform to benefit big pharma CEOs

I think this woman has it right. The Obama health care bill is not enough. This is a world in which we cannot accept incremental change. We need systemic overhaul. We need a new system. One not run by corporations, but by governments, held accountable by an educated populace. 

This bill legally obligates American citizens to pay private health care corporations. This bill sets the stage for a world in which our government forces us to pay corporations directly, and then charges us penalties (going to other corporate subcontractors, undoubtedly) or puts us in jail (private ones) for not complying. We are seeing a disgusting and shameful merging of corporations and the state so that the state will soon be the military enforcer of corporate profits. 

What's the alternative? A system in which we don't spend hundreds of billions on military contracts (for corporations), but instead mandate universal health care for all citizens which will substantially drive down the cost for all. 

We need universal health care. We need to live in a society where we care about our least. This bill does not improve on the current system because it gets government more entrenched with corporations. People are MANDATED to buy something from a corporation! and the taxpayers will directly pay the corporations for those who can't pay.

What's the solution? Who cares? There's a big difference between IS and OUGHT to be. 

What OUGHT to be: a world where we want more equality, where we want basic quality of life for all citizens (literacy, infant mortality, clean space), where corporate profits are not the endpoint of all existence.

What IS: an ever-increasing merging of corporations and government, the rapid repeal of civil liberties (NDAA, Patriot Act, secret NSA domestic spy centers), raping of the planet  and its people for the benefit of the .001% of the world's population. 

Well, to be vague about my future, it has something to do with this:

Monday, March 26, 2012

The brain on love

Diane Ackerman is a wonderful writer, I know her from having read her book A Natural History of the Senses as well as seeing her at the Chicago Humanities Festival in 2007. That was the same festival where I saw Don DeLillo at the premiere of his play "The word for snow," but that is a discussion for another time.

I just came across an article by Diane Ackerman today in the NY Times: "The Brain on Love." It is astonishing how well she can weave through scientific facts and draw from them the most profound meanings. This skill is something I am constantly working on, and one I admire her so deeply for. I want to know, why does this matter? How can I show that this is important to everyone? It is something my professors say I'm good at -- making the case for why a particular topic is substantively compelling (as opposed to theoretically, i.e. it adds to the literature). Yet, I still think I have a lot of work to do in this area.

In any case, this particular article really moved me, the most substantial reason being I am currently madly in love and newly married. She makes the case that one of our fundamental emotional goals in life is to recreate the bond we had in infancy with our mothers. This is an argument first made to me by Erich Fromm is his seminal book The Art of Loving.  Whereas Fromm used philosophy and deductive reasoning, here Ackerman shows it through neuroscience.

The crux of the article comes here:

The supportive part is crucial. Loving relationships alter the brain the most significantly.

One cannot simply be in any relationship in order to alter your brain chemistry for the better, but only in a good one. I find that this lesson, although intuitive, is one that I must continuously be reminded of. I read Ackerman's book about 5 years ago, and it abounded with little wisdoms such as this, yet much of the efficacy of those lessons has melted away with time in me. It takes constant effort to maintain good love. For me, right now, it flows effortlessly. I want to love deeply, kindly, fully. I want to nurture and protect. Yet, there are moments of callousness, times where I am not empathetic but selfish.

I think the lesson here is to love totally and all the time. Not only in our romantic relationships (although they seem one of the only outlets in our individualistic society), but with everyone we know.

Friday, March 16, 2012

a love poem to adbusters

(from adbusters.org)

I went to visit Adbusters the other day. For those of you who don't know it, it is the magazine/entity that called for the original Occupy Wall Street protests which have manifested into so many protests around the world today.

I have been a subscriber for a couple of years now, but have been reading the magazine for long before that, since I first ran across a copy in City Lights bookstore in San Francisco and read it cover to cover. The next day, I went to the San Francisco Public Library and read all of the back issues in the facility.

Adbusters is more than a magazine for me, it is a a space where all of the big ideas I care about collide in a way that is palatable. It contains art, writing, poetry, letters, no advertisements. It includes all of these things in a way that is accessible and inspiring.

They're based in Vancouver, and I was planning to take a spring break trip to Vancouver and Victoria with Patrick, so a sent them an email a week before the trip asking if I could stop by. They said they're around most days from 9 to 5, and that I could stop by anytime.

I looked up their address and it seemed to be a simple house in a Vancouver neighborhood. When the day came, I got really nervous. I had been reading the work of these few people for years, and think of them as visionaries, the philosophers of our time. I almost made an excuse to ditch out on the visit, feeling like a silly fan girl, but Patrick thought that maybe if we picked up some doughnuts some of the awkwardness of the encounter could be negated. So we did, and we went.

The offices were indeed in a simple basement of a house in Vancouver. There were about 7 people, dressed as you would expect with plaid shirts and winter hats sitting loosely on the backs of their heads, but not trying too hard. They mirrored us in that way, I guess. Patrick and I don't work to cultivate an image, but we pick out clothes we like that are comfortable and don't pay much for them.

They were all very gracious and kind. I was too nervous to say anything special, but after I left I wrote them the following email:

Hello All:

Thanks so much for entertaining our visit the other day. I hope the doughnuts helped you all get a littler closer to deadline.

I wanted to share with you all a poem. It is a love poem from me to you, but it is also to all the readers, occupiers, thinkers, monks and poets looking for a different way in this world of multiple collapses.

The poem, "September 1, 1939," was written by W.H. Auden on the eve of world war two. I feel that we are in the same predicament now that he was in then. We are in the throes of all the history that has lead us to this point. 

Yet, in the midst of all of this pain, death, destruction, uncertainty, there is a simple hope. Not the unrealistic techno-fixes of those who hail to the idea of human progress as if it were a god. But to each other. This poem is for all who see clearly where we are now, try to understand how we got here, and to look for something different, better, more. 

You are the "ironic points of light," in the words of Auden, and this poem is for you. Thank you for lighting a path out of this darkness. The more we get together, the more our lights will shine, and just maybe we will then be able to see out of the darkness.

"September 1, 1939" by W.H. Auden

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright 
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can 
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return. 

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire 
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
"I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,"
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

Ashley Colby Fitzgerald

To which they replied:

Hi Ashley,

Thank you so much for the kind words. I wish I could have been in the office to meet you! I've passed the beautiful poem that you sent on to our editors. Thanks for spreading our message.