Saturday, June 30, 2007

This land is NOT their land

Barbara's Blog

Ms. Ehrenriech complains about rich people taking over the "good country." It's all a matter of perspective.

I experienced it in Jackson, Wyoming in the 70s and 80s. I lived in a teepee on the Gros Ventre and a fifty year-old cabin on Ditch Creek at the base of Blacktail Butte at East Moose. I rode my bike 14 miles into town where I made stained-glass mirrors and window lights.

During that time The Butte was covered with million-dollar homes, where movie stars and other rich folks (Dick Cheney, Robert Goulet...) called in home once or twice a year. The Huidekoper Ranch played host to Jimmy Carter and Henry Kissinger, complete with massive military helicopters, closed roads and be-suited hefty men in dark shades, inconspicuously talking into their lapels.

We didn't go into town much, just to the Safeway for groceries when absolutely necessary. It was not a pleasant place. Teton Village changed from an empty ski lodge in the summertime to a year-round party hamlet over night, thanks to the Chamber of Commerce types who wanted more than a "one-season" money-maker.

Now I live in another "destination community," on the Left Coast, on the Pacific Ocean, complete with Boardwalk, amusement park, surfer dudes and dudettes. The cost of living here is the fourth highest in the United States, largely due to the cost of housing. Modest one bedroom homes, beach shacks and anything resembling four walls and a roof go for $750,000. New construction tops $1,000,000 and an empty lot, if you can find one on flat land, goes for $600,000.

We live here simply and thriftily, in a mobile home park a mile from the beach, the good beach, not the Boardwalk beach, in a 1964 trailer house (not a fancy "manufactured home," such as the monstrosity next door). We work part-time jobs within walking distance of home. We walk to the market, to the library and the video boutique. We drive our 1972 VW Beetle once a week to stock up on "Two Buck Chuck" the award-winning wine that costs $1.99 a bottle. OK, twice a week, when we go downtown for a drink and a meal at the "old-timers" hang-out. Less than 20 miles a week, 1,000 miles a year.

Yes, houses are expensive here, and everything else is cheap. That is, if you reject the party-glitz, the chi-chi clothes, the entertainment whirl. If you live here, in this place, on its own terms, it's a cheap place to live. 2,000 homeless people will agree!

Yes, they come in droves, over the hill from the North American plate, driving their SUVs, their mini tanks, their hot rods and their Priuses. They play, they shop, they splash, they whine and they go back home.

I think we'll stay.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Lame Duck Quacks

Dick Cheney and the Gang, including The First Minion, are out of control. They're running roughshod through the halls of Washington, leaving a trail of fragments of the Constitution of the united States of America in their blustering wake. They insist on autonomy, unsupervised by Congress or any other government agency, not to mention We the People of the united States of America.

Why are they doing this? What has happened to this "lame duck" administration? Don't they know they're supposed to roll over and play dead until the next election?

What is Dick Cheney and the Gang preparing for?

Looking through the list of prospects for The First Puppet, I can't see any that stand out for the next round. Obviously something is going on in the background, something we mere citizens are not allowed to see until it is a fait accompli.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Anarchy, old and new

Anarchy - we think of it as something new, dating from the Seattle protests, 1968 Paris, 60s communes, the IWW, the Spanish Revolution, pre-soviet Russia, the Paris Communes.

Think 1630s Massachusetts and immigrants from England.

According to a book by T.H. Breen, Puritans and Adventurers, the 22,000 people who came from England during The Great Migration, 1630 to 1640, set up their new communities and villages along cooperative, "covenented" models.

We think of the Puritans as somber Calvinists with funny black hats and buckled shoes. We remember the stories from grade school of Puritans and Pilgrims coming to America to avoid religious persecution. That's only part of the story.

England in the early 1600s was experiencing a tidal change from the rule of Queen Elizabeth to James I. James decided to take on the French militarily, necessitating the round up of cannon fodder (aka soldiers) in the all the towns and villages of the realm. This increased centralization f the military ran counter to conditions in Elizabethan England, when folx had gotten used to local autonomy and control. Life was village and community based, with the locals beholden to local lords and gentry, and far-off kings and princes considered a pretty uppity and meddling bunch, to be ignored whenever possible. James sent gangs of Irish mercenaries out into the villages and demanded that locals billet them in their homes, as the foreign ruffians dragged off the able-bodied men to serve the King across the Channel.

As part of the struggle between Protestantism and Catholicism, James I sought to centralize the churches as well, and though Protestant, they were increasingly intolerant of ecclesiastic dissent and congregational experimentation, particularly those who sought a simpler, less bureaucratic approach to religion that ran counter to the centralized churches pomp, ceremony and demands for more and more money from the people, experimentation such as Puritanism.

To top off these social strains, the economy took a bad turn in East Anglia about this time, when immigrant cloth manufacturers entered the area and began taking jobs and business away from the locals.

So the move from England to America was not so much a flight to a new world where things would be different, but an escape from central authority to a place where things would stay the same.

Membership in the new communities in the Massachusetts Bay colony was by willing contract between the individual and the village. Immigrants were accepted into the community as "freemen," which meant both membership in the social and economic community as well as the church. According to Breen, "The essential ingredient in this contract was free choice, for the Puritans believed that meaningful obedience could only grow out of voluntary consent, never out of coercion."

The Massachusetts Bay colonists were our first anarchists, concerned first and foremost with anti-authoritarianism, cooperation and mutual aid. Even members of the military, in the form of covenented militias, called "trainbands," in each village, voted to choose their own leadership. The Councils and Governorship of the Massachusetts Bay colonies accepted the decisions of the militias, since they knew they could not get cooperation from them without allowing this simple form of democracy.

In the end, it was money and commerce that did in this early anarchy. The voting franchise was further and further restricted after 1650, until, by the time of the American Revolution, only landed gentry could vote for political, economic and military organization and direction.

The next time you think of our "Founding Fathers," think of them as anarchists!