Wednesday, December 24, 2014


I promise I'll try to find something more upbeat for tomorrow. But, I'm not felling very upbeat right now.

For probably ninety nine percent of the time humans have been humans we’re lived on farms, small villages, or cities that had at most a few thousand people, Even if the farmers lived in town they went out every day to work their fields.

Even trades like spinning and weaving were done at home with a middle man picking up the finished product. Then we invented the internal combustion engine. (I’m simplifying I know) and you could put a factory anywhere. Concentration of machinery led to concentration of your workforce. Concentration of the workforce led to housing conditions in some city that you wouldn’t force on a dog, but they were “OK” for people.

After WWII there was a convergence of events that led to a significant depopulation of rural America. The interstate highway system bypassed the small towns. It is so weird to drive up I5 and know that state Highway 99 is only about a mile or so away in some sections going in the same direction. The push to treat farms like factories. “Get big or get out.” Somewhere along the line the mantra became “it’s inefficient to raise your own food, or have it raised close to where you live. Get a job and pay for what you used to be able to do for yourself.”

In the eighties Wendell Berry wrote an essay titled “What are People For?” It isn't very long and here's a piece of it.

“At the same time the cities have had to receive a great influx of people unprepared for the urban life and unable to cope with it. A friend of mine, a psychologist who has frequently worked with the juvenile courts of a large Midwestern city, has told me that a major occupation of the police force there is to keep the “permanently unemployable” confined to their own part of town. Such circumstances be good for the future of democracy and freedom. One wonders what the authors of our constitution would have thought of that category “permanently unemployable.”

“When the “too many” of the country arrive in the city they are not called “too many.” They are called “unemployed” or “permanently unemployed. But what will happen when the economists ever perceive there are too many people in the cities? There appear to be two possibilities: either they will recognize their earlier diagnosis was a tragic error, or they will conclude that there are too many people in country and city both—and what future inhumanities will be justified by that  diagnosis?”

Now stop and think about what we’re seeing in the way minorities, especially African Americans are treated in some areas. And I’m not talking about the gray areas where somebody points a gun at a cop, is doing something that is a low level crime although it’s a big part of the problem. I’m talking about a kid checking the mail box in front of his own house, somebody jogging in a park, or a man who just happened to be an off duty NYPD cop coming out of a birthday party at an upscale night club.

He had a new car. He was wearing some relatively flashy jewelry, sweat pants and a T shirt. The details are a little hazy since he’s suing the city and his former department after being slammed into his own car and ending up on the ground in hand cuffs. And the list goes on..

Watch a few old WWII movies with scenes of cities occupied by say the German army. And compare those with how some of our fellow citizens are treated when they are perceived to be “out of place.” There’s an element of “show me your papers” in a lot of these incidents/

Of course there’s the mantra of “just do what you’re told.” That is not what this country was founded on. I least I didn’t believe it was until I read these comments and op ed pieces from retired cops. More fool me. I can’t help but wonder how THEY’D feel if they were stopped on the street for no reason that they could see or pulled over for the most minor of traffic violations? Probably howl like a scalded cat. 

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