Columns :: …and to all a good night…
Author: Dane Lowell, Posted: 2012-12-23 09:53
Fiesta Queen

Somewhere in northern Spain, Dec. 21.2012 – This is the day that the world was supposed to end – again!! – and we’re still here :-)

But this time it was for real, the Maya aficionados told us: It was the last day of the Mayan calendar; therefore, the world was really coming to an end. But some real Mayan scholars said it was just another cycle of the calendar, so not to worry. So most of us didn’t. And to those who did, I can only say better luck next time; or is it worse luck?

The god-awful state of the world today would lead some of us to say, “too bad the world didn’t end; humanity would be in a lot better shape if it had”; but then the pale glimmer of hope reasserts itself, and we say, “maybe it’s better it didn’t end; humans will find some humane way out of this morass.”

But then reality sets in again, and we say, “nope. Better it had have ended while we’re ahead.”

This game could go on for a long time :-)

When I was in “Rick’s Café” in Casablanca a few months ago,

(see “Fiesta Queen, Aug. 5, 2012) I sat next to a piano that I thought – unlikely as it was – just might have been the one on which Sam, played by a black actor named Dooley Wilson in 1942, played the immortal and haunting “As Time Goes By” while Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman toasted each other.

Well, it wasn’t, according to an article on Yahoo News. The real Rick’s Café piano sold at a Sotheby’s auction a few weeks ago for $ 602,500!

But don’t despair, you can always go to Rick’s Café in Casablanca and pretend it’s the real thing.

Has capitalism failed?

This question, which the corporate-owned American media wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole, was asked by a Spanish TV station in a man-in-the street interview program. The answer, as might be expected even in Spain -- which boasted a socialist government until a year ago -- was mixed.

But what I found fascinating was that it would even be asked. It shows that the European Union is ’way ahead of its dumb American cousins in its political thinking.

Think I’m being unnecessarily pejorative by calling Americans dumb? I wish I were. A few years ago American students couldn’t distinguish between Russia and Australia on a world map. A 2010 test showed that only 9% of American 4th graders could identify Abraham Lincoln and only 2% of high school seniors knew about the Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education.

And when Newsweek in 2011 asked a thousand U.S. citizens to take America’s official citizenship test, 29% couldn’t name the vice president! Seventy-three percent couldn’t correctly say why we fought the Cold War. Forty-four percent were unable to define the Bill of Rights. And 6 percent couldn’t even circle Independence Day on a calendar!
Yes, folks, Americans are dumb. They couldn’t define “capitalism” on threat of waterboarding. But they can readily tell you without any concept of what it is that “that’s what made Amurica great!”

The bad news and the good news:

The bad news is that I haven’t heard any more from Sasha. I’ve sent him a couple of e-mails, but have had no further response from him.

The good news is that I had an e-mail from Igor. He didn’t ask for money!! and we’ve even been in touch by Skype a couple of times. I am thinking about going to Moldova to renew my visa in April. Igor has agreed to meet me in Romania and travel with me to Moldova, where I would stay a week or two.

Anyway, here’s Igor’s e-mail:

Hello, my dear Dane!

Forgive me for not writing. I was in the hospital….They did an operation, thank you very much for the money, Dane. You remember, I ask you for help because I don’t have anyone else….I am alone, after the divorce, I was in a depression, now I am alone, life is difficult l found work, but it didn’t work out, I injured my leg, was ill….I didn’t earn any money

Do you really think that at 24 I don’t want to live normally, earn money, and live like everyone else…I want to, Dane!

As concerns your age, Dane, I invite you to come to me and live with me, I will look after you….It is warm here, and there is medical treatment; it’s true there is no work….If you want, we can live together in Kishinev, there everything is also very cheap…and we can find work for you and me….Not everything is as poor as you think…there is Good medicine and treatment and I (one [way?] or another) will look after you well! If you want to live quietly….we can go to a village, there is it is quiet, peaceful, happy!

Think about it, Dane! I love you, kiss you, ‘bye! I await an answer.

The truth is I don’t want to live in Moldava, but how do I tell Igor that? This is what I wrote:

My dear Igor,

Thank you for the very nice letter. I hope you are well and feeling better now. The idea of living with you in Kishinev is very pleasant. I think we could live well there. But I need to think a long time about it. I am settled here in Spain. It is a pleasant country, and the people are nice. I am learning the language well. A friend from America is planning to come in June, and Sasha says he is coming to live with me a little later. So I plan to stay here at least for several months and maybe longer.

I know that you have been depressed and things have gone terribly for you – one illness after another, not getting paid in Moscow, etc. You are a very good, kind, loving person who deserves good things. If we lived together, life could be pleasant. But I am not ready to move to Moldova. I am living a pleasant life here. And I also could become ill at any time and have to return to America :-((((( and you would again be alone :-((((

So I think for now the answer is that I will stay in Spain a while longer and see what happens. Thank you for wanting me to come live with you, but for now I think I should stay here.

I hope you stay well and that good things happen to you. I love you and miss you.

Your Dane

We talked a couple of times by Skype, and this morning I received this e-mail:

Hello, my dear Dane! I was very glad to see you and hear you on Skype! I am very glad that I can communicate with you and that we can see each other! I would very much like to come to you and live with you, Dane, at we did in Moscow! But unfortunately I don’t have such opportunity and no money :-( Here in Moldova there is no work to earn money….I would work if I had the opportunity…

I have a little problem, I write to you in secret …Several times I haven’t been able to get a hard on, I am afraid it’s the same kind of problem I had earlier….Urethritis…Now I can’t even stick it in :-(

There is some good news! I still don’t drink or smoke….and I don’t want to….

And there is one question….Only don’t be offended….You won’t have the possibility of helping a little for New Year’s? If not, I won’t be offended…Everything is normal….Thanks for helping me….

I love you, kiss you, ‘bye! I await an answer and will be on Skype….

I had already decided to send Alyona’s 9-year-old son, Denis, $ 50 because New Year’s – the Christmas of former Soviet states – is, like Christmas in Western countries, a time for children. So I wasn’t offended when Igor asked for help for the New Year.

When I was in Moldova in the summer of 2011, I also noticed the heart-warming relationship between Igor, whose worthless father abandoned him and now sits in a Russian jail – and Denis, who, if he has a father, doesn’t know him and desperately needs a father figure, which Igor provides.

So this morning, I answered Igor:

My dear Igor,

Thanks for the letter. I’m sorry to hear about your problem. Unfortunately, I’m not a doctor and don’t know what to tell you. As you know, I have a problem with my prostate and have the same problem. I’m afraid I may have to go to the U.S. for treatment at some point :-((((

But I’m glad you don’t drink or smoke any more. As you know, I have never smoked, but now I don’t drink, and like you, I don’t want to.

New Year’s, like Christmas, is a time for children. So I’m sending you $ 50 for Alyona’s son, Denis. You can buy him clothes that he needs and maybe a toy. I hope it will make his New Year’s happier. It’s all I can afford now.

I too am glad we are on Skype and can see and talk to each other. Oh, by the way, I said I could visit Moldova in March. That’s actually April. I have to leave Spain every 90 days. I will go to Morocco in January, Moldova in April, and Morocco again in June to see my American friend.

Okay, honey, that’s all for now. I’ll give you the Western Union transaction number tonight on Skype or send it by e-mail.

Love to everybody,


Okay, it’s time to wish you a Merry Christmas,

and I will do it by printing for you the following article by the British environmentalist and activist George Monbiot. It was sent by Jay Hanson to the EnergyResources Website. Like Hanson, “I don’t agree with everything that Monbiot says (he is now extolling the virtues of nuclear power, e.g.), but this is excellent.”

Speaking now for myself, I feel that Christmas is a reminder of love and selflessness; I am aghast at the commercial whine of Christmas as it has evolved over the nearly 80 years I have experienced it.

Of course, since most of my friends think as I do, I realize that I am “preaching to the choir” by sending you this; but maybe some of your Internet contacts are conspicuous consumers who contribute to this “festival of junk,” so feel free to send this Christmas message on.

Read it with interest, if not anger. In the meantime, I wish you love and a merry, loving, Christmas with friends and family,

The Gift of Death

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 11 December 2012


There's nothing they need, nothing they don't own already, nothing they even want. So you buy them a solar-powered waving queen; a belly button brush; a silver-plated ice cream tub holder; a "hilarious" inflatable zimmer frame; a confection of plastic and electronics called Terry the Swearing Turtle; or -- and somehow I find this significant -- a Scratch Off World wall map.

(These gifts) seem amusing on the first day of Christmas, daft on the second, embarrassing on the third. By the twelfth they're in landfill. For thirty seconds of dubious entertainment, or a hedonic stimulus that lasts no longer than a nicotine hit, we commission the use of materials whose impacts will ramify for generations.

Researching her film “The Story of Stuff,” Annie Leonard discovered that of the materials flowing through the consumer economy, only 1% remain in use six months after sale (1). Even the
goods we might have expected to hold onto are soon condemned to
destruction through either planned obsolescence (breaking quickly) or
perceived obsolesence (becoming unfashionable).

But many of the products we buy, especially for Christmas, cannot become obsolescent. The term implies a loss of utility, but they had no utility in the first place. An electronic drum-machine t-shirt; a Darth Vader talking piggy bank; an ear-shaped i-phone case; an individual beer can chiller; an electronic wine breather; a sonic screwdriver remote control; bacon toothpaste; a dancing dog: no one is expected to use them, or even look at them, after Christmas Day. They are designed to elicit thanks, perhaps a snigger or two, and then be thrown away.

The fatuity of the products is matched by the profundity of the impacts. Rare materials, complex electronics, the energy needed for manufacture and transport are extracted and refined and combined into compounds of utter pointlessness. When you take account of the fossil fuels whose use we commission in other countries, manufacturing and consumption are responsible for more than half of our carbon dioxide production (2). We are screwing the planet to make solar-powered bath thermometers and desktop crazy golfers.

*People in eastern Congo are massacred to facilitate smart phone
upgrades of ever diminishing marginal utility(**3**). Forests are felled to make
"personalised heart-shaped wooden cheese board sets". Rivers are
poisoned to manufacture talking fish. This is pathological consumption: a world-consuming epidemic of collective madness, rendered so normal by advertising and the media that we scarcely notice what has happened to us.*

In 2007, the journalist Adam Welz records, 13 rhinos were killed by
poachers in South Africa. This year, so far, 585 have been shot (4). No one is entirely sure why. But one answer is that very rich people in Vietnam are now sprinkling ground rhino horn on their food or snorting it like cocaine to display their wealth. It's grotesque, but it scarcely differs from what almost everyone in industrialised nations is doing: trashing the living world through pointless consumption.

This boom has not happened by accident. Our lives have been corralled and shaped in order to encourage it. World trade rules force countries to participate in the festival of junk. Governments cut taxes,
deregulate business, manipulate interest rates to stimulate spending.
But seldom do the engineers of these policies stop and ask "spending on what?". When every conceivable want and need has been met (among those who have disposable money), growth depends on selling the utterly useless. The solemnity of the state, its might and majesty, are harnessed to the task of delivering Terry the Swearing Turtle to our doors.

Grown men and women devote their lives to manufacturing and marketing this rubbish, and dissing the idea of living without it. "I always knit my gifts", says a woman in a television ad for an electronics outlet. "Well you shouldn't," replies the narrator (5). An advertisement for Google's latest tablet shows a father and son camping in the woods. Their enjoyment depends on the Nexus 7's special features (6).
The best things in life are free, but we've found a way of selling them
to you.

The growth of inequality that has accompanied the consumer boom ensures that the rising economic tide no longer lifts all boats. In the US in 2010 a remarkable 93% of the growth in incomes accrued to the top 1% of the population (7). The old excuse, that we must trash the planet to help the poor, simply does not wash. For a few decades of extra enrichment for those who already possess more money than they know how to spend, the prospects of everyone else who will live on this earth are diminished.

So effectively have governments, the media and advertisers associated
consumption with prosperity and happiness that to say these things is to expose yourself to opprobrium and ridicule. Witness last week's Moral Maze programme, in which most of the panel lined up to decry the idea of consuming less, and to associate it, somehow, with authoritarianism (8). When the world goes mad, those who resist are denounced as lunatics.

Bake them a cake, write them a poem, give them a kiss, tell them a joke, but for god's sake stop trashing the planet to tell someone you care.

All it shows is that you don't.


2. It's 57%. See

See the film Blood in the Mobile.




7. Emmanuel Saez, 2nd March 2012. Striking it Richer: the Evolution of
Top Incomes in the United States (Updated with 2009 and 2010


And one more, while I’m at it:

The following also appeared on EnergyResources. I’ve removed much of it, which was an anti-semitic rant that was personally offensive. No matter how much the Israeli state looks like the Nazi Germany at whose hands it suffered horribly, the Jews I know and respect are as innocent of its atrocities as I am of my country’s.

But what is left of the submission below is something that desperately needs saying: The U.S. suffered the senseless mass killing of women and children in Newtown, Connecticut, just once. But many of the innocent people we are at war with suffer this kind of agony every day -- at our hands. How sad, and how senseless:


The media is full of nothing but the murders. They talk about continuous coverage all the way through the funerals that will be beginning and continuing for so many days. The world has stopped on the networks because of this event.

Does the world stop when Americans bomb Moslem homes, when Israelis bomb Palestinian schools, homes and Mosques and all-girls colleges. When we allow all kinds of collateral damage. And let us not just think of the women and children our sons have killed but also the innocent sons, brothers, fathers, husbands and friends of people -- we have killed them by the thousands -- and they were not even guilty of 9-11 –

The discussion of the fiscal cliff is closed on the media -- the pressure is off Congress -- they are not addressing the problem so people can grieve the loss of those chilren in Connecticut -- as though death by terror and war is OK everywhere but where we live.

Our economic system causes this kind of death and suffering all around the world every day. Sometimes people die together and sometimes alone. Sometimes it is by quiet starvation or failure of other life support - that failed because the debt-system did not leave the country enough to provide for its own people

They have deliberately made this a culture of death -- and now we get to see on Fox News live suffering parents and police and neighborhoods in Connecticut like they never show it of Palestinian families, or Iraqi families.

So, once again: Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night :-)

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