Let’s Kill Hitler


For baby boomers, on whom the shadow of World War II fell the darkest , the post war years teemed with possibility. Our future lay before us like a shimmering landscape, designed by the brilliant minds now free to bring us sci fi and fantasy tales of a world filled with scientific and technical advances beyond our wildest dreams.

flying carFlying cars anyone?

But, if we looked to our families, who were now coping with war’s aftermath, or when we saw the shadow of a tattoo on someone’s wrist, we felt the pain of the millions who’d perished for a tyrant’s narcissistic wet dream, and, even the youngest of us wondered .. why didn’t anyone stop Hitler when he first started killing people?

During Hitler’s years in power, there were 42 failed assassination attempts on his life, that we know of. Surrounded by bodyguards and security forces, it’s pretty hard to kill a dictator.

But if you were a writer possessed of a fantastical mind, you might have asked yourself; what if you could go back in time, and kill a younger version of Hitler, before his rise to power?

It is perhaps unsurprising that this particular trope appealed to hundreds, if not thousands, of scribes, and that the attempt to find a time travel exemption to changing the past, continues to be tested. As recently as August 2011, my fave sci fi series, Doctor Who, took their own stab at the genre, in an episode called, “Let’s Kill Hitler.” (Spoiler alert; they failed to kill him.)

weird tales 1941 I Killed Hitler

 

Actually, the very first story to do so was published in Weird Tales, in July 1941, and was called, “I Killed Hitler.

 

In James Gleick’s book, Time Travel, he posits that “humans invented time travel to counter the regret that we only have one life to live. “ The question isn’t really, “Should you kill Baby Hitler?” But rather, “How do we best come to terms with a world where evil exists?””

But why do I bring this up, you ask? We’re all aware that Godwin’s Law says that “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.” So it’s moot, right?

Well, here’s the thing… by June 24, 2018, even Mike Godwin had to admit that “The question of evil, understood historically, is bigger than party politics.”

“The seeds of future horrors are sometimes visible in the first steps a government takes toward institutionalizing cruelty. In his 1957 book “Language of the Third Reich,” Victor Klemperer recounted how, at the beginning of the Nazi regime, he “was still so used to living in a state governed by the rule of law” that he couldn’t imagine the horrors yet to come. “Regardless of how much worse it was going to get,” he added, “everything which was later to emerge in terms of National Socialist attitudes, actions and language was already apparent in embryonic form in these first months.

So I don’t think Godwin’s Law needs to be updated or amended. It still serves us as a tool to recognize specious comparisons to Nazism — but also, by contrast, to recognize comparisons that aren’t. And sometimes the comparisons can spot the earliest symptoms of horrific “attitudes, actions and language” well before our society falls prey to the full-blown disease.”

So, why am I bringing up this comparison? The answer lies in a portion of a new digital exhibit, the 1938Projekt, that catalogues the final days of European Jewry.

” As was the case with French Jews who threw lavish parties in the months leading up to their deportation, or the Poles who helped manufacture the very weapons that would be used against them a year later, for my family the impending loss of their property, their homes, and even their lives seemed so surreal as to be almost impossible. They don’t actually mean it. They’ll make a show of it but we’ll be fine. There’s no chance we’ll really be gone tomorrow. The tragedy is that we don’t recognize how intractable these political climates are with a sudden timely realization, but rather as a slow burn—imperceptible until only after the damage is done.”

…………………………………………….

You’d have to have been crazy to have predicted such a thing as the Holocaust. Most of them simply didn’t believe that there was any credible reason why things would suddenly surpass normal levels of anti-Semitism and go from bad to catastrophic.

It is the story of how easy it is to become inured to the progression of a deteriorating situation. Through its lens, we see the time more clearly for what it was: not just another brief chapter in the thousands-of-years-old story called anti-Semitism, but a tinderbox heating up with the passage of each day. It’s easy to look now and see a series of warnings plastered onto the walls of the past, plain and clear for all Jews to see, only for fools to ignore.

But if someone were to tell you about a shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh and swastikas graffitied on the Upper West Side and Nazi marches and Jewish cemeteries being defaced and a president who calls himself a nationalist and ordinances that dissolve the rights of immigrants and of the queer community and a caravan of refugees, and told you to leave behind your family business and your belongings and your home and move across the world to a place where you didn’t know a soul and didn’t know the language, would you? You’d have to be crazy.”       (https://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/274646/what-it-was-like-to-be-a-german-jew-in-1938)

You see, I think that, like those long ago writers of science fiction who yearned to turn back the clock to a time before Hitler took power, we’re now living in a time when there is a chance to change what seems to be inevitable.

And I think that, if a change doesn’t happen, we’ll see future writers scribbling about wanting to time travel back and kill a baby Trump, before the real horrors began in America.

wh punished Acotsta more than khashoggi murderersUnlike a lot of people who still cling to the idea that checks and balances, and the application of the Constitution, will prevent anything too destructive from happening in America, I see that we are once again following a historic arc that has always moved in a horrific direction, and that swing is accelerating.

The assaults on the justice system and law itself are compounding daily. Where is the outrage over Khashoggi‘s murder? Why have those who swore to stand by AG Sessions, or to defend Robert Mueller’s Russian investigation, suddenly disavowed their previous words?

What did you think it meant when President Trump suggested he could pull press credentials from any reporters who didn’t show him “respect.” Can you not see that Trump has essentially revoked the First Amendment without even having to use an ‘executive order’ to do so? Like all dictators, first they must take out the press, in any way possible, because the press are they that would show you the misdeeds the administration would rather conceal.

cronkite just read the newsThe POTUS, on his bully pulpit, cannot repeatedly tear down American institutions verbally, without risking their actual destruction. When every speech at his rallies sounds like the words of an authoritarian, the supposition of an authoritarian regime can’t be avoided.

Post midterms, and post some of the most despicable attempts to thwart a legitimate election in recent history, many Republicans are publicly calling the attempt to count every ballot cast, voter fraud, and an attempt to ‘steal’ an election. But this is not theft or a fraud … you may not recognize it, GOP, but this is democracy.

When I hear Americans cry, “...but this isn’t America. This isn’t who we are!” I have to beg to differ.

There’s an historic pattern of racism and xenophobia that has a long through line, from America’s very beginnings, right through to the US Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to gut a key element of the 1965 voting rights act, based on the election of a man of colour to the presidency. That law demanded that areas with a history of racial discrimination at the polls get prior authorisation before changing their election or voting laws. As we’ve just seen in the 2018 midterms – we really needed that provision. We all watched the disastrous Republican-run elections that slashed the rights and ability of people of colour and indigenous people, to cast their votes, in the name of non-existent voter fraud. What you saw was voter suppression.. they never got a chance to vote, so there was never a chance of fraudulence, except on the part of those making up these rules to benefit their own party.

That problem is solved,” Justice Roberts intoned, dismissing centuries of racism and exclusion.

“This isn’t who we are!” you say?

Do you remember the poem that begins, “first they came?” America’s version begins with calling Mexicans rapists and claiming that they bring drugs and crime, then moves on to the torment of American Muslims, before dancing on to the Dreamers, the Trans community, the LGBTQ, Puerto Ricans, Hondurans… and eventually, it comes to the Jews, as it ever has.

The massacre at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue came at the hands of a white, middle aged, right wing, Trump supporter, who thinks Trump isn’t hard enough on the Jewish citizens of America, and so he murdered 11 people in Trump’s name.

Ironically, and In spite of his overtly racist leanings, Trump enjoys solid support from the Jewish community. One of his most fervent supporters, Miriam Adelson, the wife of Sheldon Adelson, will soon receive a Medal of Freedom, that is essentially her reward for her part in her husband’s donation of $113 million to Trump’s election and midterm support.

Like those in Germany, Poland and France that went to the movies, or threw parties, mere days before they were marched to camps, supporters like the Adelsons think his racism will stop with Mexican immigrants and African-Americans.

The pattern is too consistent. History shows horrible acts of racism, over and over and over again, against the most vulnerable of citizens. The United States, like 1984’s Oceania, has always been at war .. with itself.

This IS who you are, America.

Bill Maher has been calling this flaunting of law by the Trump administration a ‘slow moving coup‘ for the last year. With the illegal appointment of Whitaker to the position of Acting United States Attorney General, that coup picked up speed.

In third world dictatorships, the chief law enforcement officer‘s main qualification is – he doesn’t enforce the law. Officials of independent mind are hounded out, or shoved aside.”

As Maher said, “In mid 2017, I first read you my dictator checklist, but since this week is the week we first added, “install your personal protector as head of the justice department, ” after adding in September, “install your personal protector on the highest Court,” let’s review the dictator list one more time.

You’re a narcissist who likes to see his name and face on buildings.
You appoint family members to position of power
You hold rallies, even when you are not running, and they are scary.
You talk about jailing the press, and political opponents.
You want to hold military parades, and muse openly about being president for life.
You use your office for personal financial gain.
You love other dictators.
You lie so frequently your supporters don’t know what the truth is anymore, and don’t’ care.

For a coup to work, it is first necessary for truth itself to be destroyed – as well as the people who try to report it. So the dictator is free to say anything, and his followers believe it.

Adding to that dictator checklist, we now have state TV in this country, an actual propaganda channel, where the ‘reporters’ openly endorse the leaders. And we have people who oversee the elections they are running in.

In August of this year, Trump’s semi-liquid mob mouthpiece, Rudy Giuliani, said “the truth isn’t the truth.”

So – truth isn’t truth, the press is the enemy of the people, there are ‘alternative facts,’ “there’s no proof of anything, ” “What you’re seeing and reading isn’t what’s happening.”

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………
In 1986, after 21 years of being the president (dictator) of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos, and his wife, Imelda Marcos, had their reign of corruption overturned, and the family was sent into exile. It is estimated that the couple plundered between 5 and 10 $BILLION US dollars from the Philippine people during those years.

imelda w shoesAnd yet, Imelda made a comeback, and somehow managed to get elected to the the Philippine House of Representatives , not once, but FOUR times, despite having been called a kleptocrat by historians, being listed by Newsweek as one of the “greediest people of all time” and having had the distinction of having committed, along with her husband, the greatest robbery of a government, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

In November 2018, Mrs. Marcos was convicted of corruption involving US$200 million, from the time between 1978 and 184, when she was governor of Metro Manila. She has been sentenced to a total term of up to 77 years of imprisonment.

I’m telling you this because of the parallels between the Marcos and Trump camp … neither can quit their love for a self-serving, selfish, corrupt, world champion thief. Nothing you say will change the opinions of his or her cult. And just as the Filipinos kept voting Imelda back in, as she siphoned over $200 million from the people to her Swiss bank account, there will still be Americans voting for Trump some ten, twenty years down the road, and probably even after his death.. maybe especially after his death.

“Godwin’s Law was never meant to block us from challenging the institutionalization of cruelty or the callousness of officials who claim to be just following the law. It definitely wasn’t meant to shield our leaders from being slammed for the current fashion of pitching falsehoods as fact. These behaviors, distressing as they are, may not yet add up to a new Reich, but please forgive me for worrying that they’re the “embryonic form” of a horror we hoped we had put behind us.”      Mike Godwin
…………………………..
veteran Remembrance Let politicians warLest we forget …. On this, and every Remembrance Day, I remember and thank my family for their sacrifice.
WWI: Uncle Len, Uncle Cecil
WWII: Uncle John, Auntie Anne, Auntie Pat
KOREA: Uncle Leo, my dad
and Uncle Dennis, who served in peacetime.

The Madness of King Donald


To quote Crosby, Stills & Nash … “It’s getting to the point, where I’m no fun anymore.” Well, at least when it comes to debating the psychoses of our current hot topics.

But I CAN still be fun! Here’s my Halloween costume!

I remember when I spent my leisure time playing computer games and reading novels. In this ‘new normal,’ I’m continually finding myself trying to unravel the latest controversies in the face of those who will gleefully jerk a knee at whatever red meat is thrown at their feet. The Kelly Ann Conways and Sarah IdiotChild Sanders of the world have laid claim to dictating what is right or wrong, factually or morally, on every facet of our daily lives. Up is down, left is right, football players and the media need to listen to an octogenarian’s spittle-sprayed pronouncements and DO AS HE SAYS.

Stop listening to them until they have something more than spin and ‘alternative facts’ to bring to the table.

mueller lays chargesFriday night, those of us who have stuck the political IV deep into our veins were cheered to hear that Robert Mueller, the special counsel heading the Russian investigation, was ready to begin laying charges against those who have colluded with a foreign power to interfere with last year’s election.

Predictably, Trump and his administration have spent the weekend ginning up outrage over old and long refuted claims blaming Hillary Clinton for pretty much everything. I’m assuming they were practicing their chants of ‘lock her up!’ between tantrums and panicked packing.

Listen – I think they’re all crooks and con artists. But Clinton’s not president, and Trump is, to the chagrin of the majority.

And while he’s proving that his hand is quicker than your eye, he’s been ignoring the bill (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA) that hits Russia, Iran and North Korea with tough sanctions, that was passed in an overwhelming majority by 98-2 on July 27.

Trump-sanctions-memeTrump first refused to sign the bill, then did so grudgingly. “The law gave the Trump administration staggered deadlines to begin implementation — the first being Oct. 1 for the Russian portion. “

Tillerson finally signed off on the sanctions this past Thursday, nearly four weeks after the deadline, . Whether this was Trump and Tillerson flexing their muscles or outright treason, I leave to the historians to decide.

But this excerpt from Rachel Maddow‘s show on Friday night says a great deal more about where Trump’s allegiance truly lies. They just haven’t hung out the flag yet.

“The part of it that I have been a little dismayed by, is that – it’s one thing for people that are partisans of the Trump administration, who are Republicans, and see it as their job to defend the president …. to say, “you know what? this collusion thing didn’t happen. What Russia did is terrible, we as Americans are against that, but don’t try to drag Donald Trump into this … you’re saying that he was involved in this to undercut his election; he won his election fair and square. What the Russians did was something separate.”

I can understand Republicans making that case, But what has started to happen now is that the White House, in particular, is trying to get away with saying that the Russians did nothing wrong. And they’re doing that at the same time that Rex Tillerson is dissolving the Sanctions office in the State Department. That the White House is dragging it’s feet on bringing sanctions against Russia for what they did in the election. And .. when .. if .. we’re going to protect ourselves from Russia continuing to do this .. the department of Homeland Security, DoD, and lots of other organizations ought to be well down the road in protecting us, and they’re really not.

That kind of surrender, to what Russia has done .. that’s a patriotism thing, not a partisan thing. And that is the part that makes me sad.”

The fanaticism that’s laying the Republicans low is like a red hot fever, and it will take them down eventually. But in the meantime, what is the rest of the world supposed to do or think, in the face of an administration that looks and behaves more and more like the dystopian land of 1984‘s Oceania?

trump 1984Oceania is a world of perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance, and public manipulation. Oceania’s residents are dictated by a political regime euphemistically named English Socialism, shortened to “Ingsoc” in Newspeak . Newspeak is the government’s invented language. The superstate is under the control of the privileged, elite Inner Party. The Inner Party, or Party, persecutes individualism and independent thinking known as “thoughtcrimes” and is enforced by the “Thought Police.” The tyranny is ostensibly overseen by Big Brother, the Party leader who enjoys an intense cult of personality, but who may not even exist. The Party “seeks power entirely for its own sake. It is not interested in the good of others; it is interested solely in power. (wiki)

See what I mean?

That’s where the Republicans find themselves at this moment, a place where Senator Jeff Flake makes a stirring resignation speech that should be mandatory memorization material for all Americans – and particularly for aspiring politicians – and then, hours later, follows up that speech by voting with the same party, denying the American people’s right for consumer financial protection.

jeff-flake-with-reportersEven more alarming than Flake’s ‘come to Jesus’ realization of the Trumpification of the Republican party is the way that Trump’s spokespeople have been manipulating Americans into believing that Trump’s word is as infallible and immutable as a god’s.

Consider how any pushback or rebuke by the people or the press has been answered. There’s an undercurrent in the words that hints at a sort of moral bankruptcy in anyone foolish enough to question any of Trump’s or his administration’s decisions.

Spokesperson Sanders found it “highly inappropriate” that reporters had the nerve to refute ‘four star general,’ now chief of staff, John Kelly‘s memories of what a congresswoman had said at the dedication of an FBI office – despite the entire event having been videotaped and contradicting his words.

Trump GodKingShe has been repeatedly ‘stunned’ that the media and the public choose to believe their own eyes rather than the soup of lies, false premises and promises the administration foists upon the American people.

In fact, I’d venture to say that this position of spokesperson, and the apparently repeated shocks she is subjected to in her role, might be just be a little too upsetting for her precious, pearl clutching, southern sensibilities. Lawd sakes! It’s just all too much for a fragile, shrinking violet such as she!

Leaving aside the delicate nature of this administration’s spokespeople, I have to quibble with the deification of Trump, in which any words spoken against him are blasphemy.

If a president’s words are to be held as infallible as a pope’s, then what does that say about Trump overturning every decision and law made by his predecessor ?

Even going so far as to ask the two Alaskan senators if they thought the name change from Mount McKinley to Denali should be reversed. Cuz … Obama.

woman in flamesIt’s such a stunning hypocrisy that I’m amazed that IdiotChild Sanders, who professes deep religiosity, doesn’t burst into flame with her lies, or at least turn into a pillar of salt.

Now THAT’S entertainment!

It is NOT sacrilegious to question or even mock Kelly, any of the current administration, or even the man in the highest office in the land. They, and he, are only there for a short time. They, and he, owe their loyalty to the people, not vice versa. It is the position that commands respect. The person performing that role needs to live up to the position.

Leave us the right to laugh at the Madness of King Donald, as he’s left us little else to laugh about.

 

The End of History?


I wrote this column just days after the election, but was so dispirited that I never published it on Frustrated Boomers. Two weeks into the Trump presidency, it bears repeating.

This morning, Neil Postman‘s son, Andrew, wrote something along the same lines. It is worth reading.

quote: “Our public discourse has become so trivialized, it’s astounding that we still cling to the word “debates” for what our presidential candidates do onstage when facing each other. Really? Who can be shocked by the rise of a reality TV star, a man given to loud, inflammatory statements, many of which are spectacularly untrue but virtually all of which make for what used to be called “good television”?

Who can be appalled when the coin of the realm in public discourse is not experience, thoughtfulness or diplomacy but the ability to amuse – no matter how maddening or revolting the amusement?

…. For all the ways one can define fascism (and there are many), one essential trait is its allegiance to no idea of right but its own: it is, in short, ideological narcissism. It creates a myth that is irrefutable (much in the way that an image’s “truth” cannot be disproved), in perpetuity, because of its authoritarian, unrestrained nature.

https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/feb/02/amusing-ourselves-to-death-neil-postman-trump-orwell-huxley?CMP=share_btn_fb

And here is my column, originally published on November 27th, on Bob Segarini‘s wonderful site, “Don’t Believe A Word I Say.”

.***********.

When we’re confused by where we are, it’s important to look at where we’ve been.

Confusion, uncertainty, masked as fear, pride, or hubris, reigns in all of us in these last days of 2016. What a year! I’m tempted to ride out the last bit hiding under my bed with my cats.

I don’t think Trump could have been elected in any other year but 2016. Not only has it been a year where we’ve lost so many of those whom we respected and loved, but a year where the horrific has become commonplace, whats-aleppowhere democracy is shoved aside as unfriendly to business,  where opinion (literally) trumped logic,  and the slaughter of millions of innocents barely raises an eyebrow.

“What is Aleppo?”  Gary Johnson asked “What is Aleppo,” while seeking the office of President of the United States. America … you have much to answer for.

We have to understand that we would never have come to this moment in history without a lot of groundwork being laid. George Orwell and Aldous Huxley, amongst others, foretold days like these; it’s been in the works for quite some time. huxley-vs-orwellPerhaps Huxley, in Brave New World, understood our impressionability more than Orwell did in 1984 … it’s not that we are being denied books or access to information, it’s that we prefer entertainment to knowledge.

From the foreword to Neil Postman‘s Amusing Ourselves to Death, 1986, Penguin edition:

“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distraction.” In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.”

It’s not being a conspiracy theorist to understand that there are market forces, globally, that need certain conditions to occur, in order to sustain capitalism, and that those forces will do whatever is necessary to create and sustain those conditions. However capitalism, of necessity, must eventually eat itself, since it is based on continual growth.

Before we move into the next era, post capitalism, we have to deal with the mess that capitalism has made, not just to the planet, but to our thinking. We have to understand that we have been willing lambs to the slaughter of intelligence and sober thought, distracted by shiny things that hold our limited attention for seconds before our constant craving for the next sensation propels us on to the next shiny thing.

north-korea-bomb“The world’s nuclear clock  sits at one second to midnight .. but first, a word from our sponsor.”    

We have to come to grips with a constant rage that bubbles beneath the surface of our collective consciousness, a rage that has no real focus, but seizes on whatever temporarily irritates or annoys us, that compels an acting out far beyond what the situation warrants.

We have to accept that we have been lied to, in the name of business, as our resources have been seized and ruined for future generations, as species become extinct due to their habitats being stolen from them. Human greed and human need have made the chances of your great-grandchildren ever seeing a real live elephant, slim.

politicians-before-and-afterAnd, in what I consider truly tragic, we still have to somehow find a sense of trust in those we elect to lead us into this uncertain future, and I don’t know if we can suspend that much disbelief any more.  There comes a point at which we simply can’t deny that each successive political  ‘saviour’ is just a new mask on an old face of treachery, bought and paid for by market forces.

Billions of our hard earned tax dollars have been frittered away on projects benefiting commerce, not the people. In Ontario alone, before privatization of Hydro One,  it was run by one president, one vice-president, one department head, and so on. The president’s annual salary was around $420,000. Today, in Ontario ‘s Hydro (between the Ontario Energy Board (OEB), Hydro One and the Ontario Power Generation (OPG) (all three Public Sector Agencies)), the president reportedly earns around $4million annually, and there are 11,879 employees who make more than $100,000/year. These top earners draw combined annual earnings of over 1.6 billion dollars. 626 in management positions are making more than $200,000/year…

… while many Ontarions are having to decide whether they can afford heating or eating this winter, because they can’t come up with the money for both.

And yet, this week we’ve heard that our Prime Minister has been making the rounds, intent on privatizing yet more of the country’s assets, despite economical and historical data proving that privatization of assets can add a minimum of a third of the costs to taxpayers, when internal positions are outsourced.

Canadians on a government pension of $12 to $14K a year can only pretend for so long that the enormous government wages and pensions of civil servants and politicians make any sort of logical or humane sense.

well-dressed-lobstersDespite no recent Prime Minister having been elected with a clear majority or mandate, sweeping changes that will affect Canadians for generations have been put into place over the last few decades, with barely a whimper.  Or, if a whimper was murmured, it was simply ignored. At best, we changed lobsters and continued the dance.

And we can only look on from afar and pray for American’s who are, like it or not, about to have their historical clock turned back to the ‘good ol’ days’ of segregation, back alley abortions, internment camps, and increasing civil unrest.

Many think we’re at a pivotal moment in time, although  the events of 2016 may pale in light of other ‘really terrible years,’ like 1347-50, when the Black Death took a third of Europe’s population;  1492, when the indigenous people of America invited the wrong people to dinner;  Ireland’s Potato Famine of 1845; or  Europe in 1943, when the Holocaust deaths were at their height. Certainly, Syrians will name 2016th as their country’s nadir.

franz-ferdinand-1914From History Today, ” If I was forced to name the worst year, it would probably be 1914. In July of that year, a European order that had brought peace, prosperity and extraordinary artistic and scientific progress, began to unravel. The vast conflict that followed led directly to the Russian Revolution, Nazi Germany, the Holocaust, the atomic bomb, the Cold War and the mess that is the modern Middle East. Only in 1989, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, did we enter a relatively stable period – the ‘End of History’ – before it came crashing down on September 11th, 2001. ”

So – we’ve been here before. However I don’t think there’s precedent for this year of Syria and Iraq; unparalleled devastation creating a flood of refugees fleeing for their lives; Europe’s epidemic of terrorism, Brexit,  the Zika outbreak, horrific civil unrest in Turkey, growing racial tension in the United States; famine in northern Nigeria,  American peaceful protests being met with aggressive military engagement; and possibly worst of all, the unholy alliance of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin … these are this year’s trials. homeless-world-cup-2016

What comes after the “End of History?” Whatever happens next, it is certainly a time when the decisions and actions we – as a people – take now, will determine where we go from here, and will define not just North America’s future, but the entire planet’s.

 

 

Books, Music and Stuff


Tolkien if-more-of-us-valued-food-and-cheer-and-song
The skies are grey, it’s been raining for days. What better time to turn my attention to the accumulated office mess and scan through the wee bits of paper on which I’ve written a germ of an idea, usually accompanied by an *asterisk* and several exclamation points!!!? I just have to haul them out from under the weight of the newspaper clippings, flyers, magazines, library books and paper backs they’ve landed under, over and in between.

I’m an idea junkie, a bibliomaniac and a collector of all things relevant to my incessant research on anything that tickles my imagination’s fancy. Don’t tell me to go digital – my computer’s ‘bookmarks’ are too numerous to be manageable. No, the printed word is my vice, which is why I live in fear that, at any time, a laden shelf will collapse under its own weight and crush all in its path.

george_carlin_house stuff1It has been ever so. Even as a kid, I would escape into a world of books. My temple of choice was the local library, where I could devour books of all kinds … for free! … and float home on a cloud of new fantasies. When I left Montreal for Toronto in my twenties, I had to have several car loads of boxed books and files moved to my new city. It’s madness, a mania, and despite my current need to downsize, an almost impossible task and a literary Sophie’s Choice.

It’s hard to get rid of “stuff.” George Carlin nailed it when he said, “Have you noticed that their stuff is shit, and your shit is stuff? And you say, ‘get that shit off of there and let me put my stuff down!’”

Carlin accumulating possessionsWe love our stuff; we’re emotionally attached to our stuff, especially if the stuff has the added sentimentality of having coming from a loved one. Having our stuff around us makes us feel secure. We’ve got our house stuff, our office stuff, our gym stuff and our car stuff. I have a purse so prepared for any eventuality that it could double as an overnight bag. Except – no, I’ll need that too, cuz for overnight I’ll need even more stuff.

BOOK-HOARDERSome people like stuff more than others. We call those people ‘pack rats,’ or in extreme cases, ‘hoarders,’ the distinction being that the pack rat has a messier house than you, and the hoarder is in imminent danger of being crushed under a shelf that might collapse under its own weight and … oh my god I’m a hoarder!

Fact is, it’s easier to hoard than to be an organized person. You just never sort the stuff, or throw anything away. You find great deals on something you must have, or you sell off less significant items to finance your obsession, and you scour Craigslist or freecycle, where those without your particular kink actually give away what you’re jonesing over… and the collection grows …

ant-and-grasshopperI am the Ant, with a need to amass that trumps the flightiness of the Grasshopper. I shore up my perceived literary needs, present or future, with a stockpile that will protect me from a cold winter.

But even within my collection, there are prejudices and disunions. Books about music and the entertainment world live happily side by side with dictionaries and reference books. Those are the ‘honourables,’ the undisputed Lords of the Shelves. Books written by or about friends come next, with first, special and signed editions following.

treasured-booksLowliest of the low are the mass market paperbacks and hardcovers, although I have a few authors whom I adore, and will never unfriend. And then there are the hundreds of books that piqued my interest, but have yet to see their spines cracked. Whether fiction or non-, they taunt me with their promise and possibility.

book monsterI’m working on dismantling my book monster. Every day I sort through another category, refining my choices to what I MIGHT write about, as opposed to subjects I’ll never really pursue. I’m streamlining what remains, in the hopes of becoming a more selective reader, and of being better able to actually locate that particular reference that I need while writing a column or proving a debate point.

-it-was-a-dark-and-stormy-nightAlthough I can see a day when I’ll rely more on electronic media, the internet and e-books than I currently do, I still crave the physical sensation of holding a book in my hands, opening the cover, and reading the first sentence of a new tale, one which the writer laboured over incessantly until he or she thought they’d found the exact right words to capture a reader’s imagination.

But I don’t think I’ll ever be able to walk indifferently past a bookstore, especially one with shelves that groan under titles I’ve never read. Books – displayed, sold, and treasured – these are the gold I seek. A man who can write, and who can passionately discuss a favourite book, attains a special status in my heart and mind.

And music … I must have music. A man who can slip a literary reference into a song … that’s a delight beyond words. I quivered when Sting mentioned Nabokov’s Lolita in “Don’t Stand So Close to Me.” I grinned when Smoky Robinson referenced opera’s Pagliacci in “Tears of A Clown.”

Books and music are not such strange bedfellows. The Strokes, The Smashing Pumpkins and deadmau5 have all written about soma, the drug in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs album had three songs that mused upon George Orwell’s1984.” Bowie actually planned to do an entire rock musical based on the novel, but Orwell’s widow objected to the idea, so the project was shelved.

The Ramones wrote “Pet Sematary” for the movie adaptation of Stephen King’s novel. It was later covered by Rammstein. And of course, Elton John’sRocket Man” is Bernie Taupin’s condensation of Ray Bradbury’s short story.

Books and music are my hoarded gold. Toss in a beer and a sandwich and we’re golden.

(originally published Feb /2015 @ bobsegarini.wordpress.com)