Archive | November, 2016

How A.A. Saved my Sanity

16 Nov


I remember having seen it before, several times.  It was on C deck, about amidships, in the window of a small meeting room that was always dark and with closed shades.  You couldn’t go from the pool ramp to the casino without having gone past it.  At the time it made no sense, “Friends of Sam-10AM’, so I gave it little notice. Until now.

It happened last evening at the late night snack bar.  It was one of the few times on this cruise  no  Nation people were in the crowd, no Americans at all  apparently, lots of others.  In a way it was sort of different, more relaxing, maybe that’s why it happened. Did I mention this was a theme cruise I was enjoying, sponsored in part by The Nation magazine. It began in Alaska, ended at Vancouver, BC.

Anyway, at this small gathering the conversation, as it often does, drifted to America’s place in the world and why.  The usual.  Maybe as the result of so many intense seminars and ardent cocktail chatter for several days with the Nation people I was expounding on the usual talk of America’s greatness: her stellar role on the world’s stage, you know the drill.

Well, after a long spiel on my part a hush was apparent.  People glanced at one another until finally someone said to me, “You might want to try A.A.  They might be of help”.  Others murmured assent and I looked about in amazement wondering what on Earth was going on. Carefully it was explained, the consensus being firm, that I was hopelessly American and could benefit from A.A, Americans Anonymous, and they met every morning on C deck.  I should look for the sign, ‘Friends of Sam.’

I stormed out of the area and headed back to my cabin in the stern of the cruise ship. Of course I stopped in front of that now sinister room and glared at that annoying sign. Whatever, I pondered, does this have to do with me? Now I’m about to learn since it is 10.05 AM and I’m at the meeting room door.

Come in friend. A voice beckoned.

Is this your first time?

I have no idea why I’m here.  What’s goes on?

What’s your name, friend.

What’s that got to do… I don’t want to…

First name is enough here. Just so we know how to address you.

Well, yeah, okay, it’s Bob.

Welcome Bob!  Welcome to Americans Anonymous.  A chorus of voices.

Then one: Remember our motto. “If you Don’t Want to Think, That’s your Problem.  If you Do Want to Think, it’s Ours.”

I sat down then and studied the group. All ages, sexes and appearances. They sat about casually and occasionally sipped at glasses of what appeared to be simply water. The one who seemed the spokesman addressed me and asked:

Bob, have you anything to offer us.  Are you bothered by any tendency to think or say certain words or phrases that you can’t control as you would like to?

What do you mean…certain words, phrases…What?

Well, Bob, such as American exceptionalism, city on a hill, indispensible nation, we’re number one… that sort of thing.

Yeah, yeah is that a problem?

Well, is it, Bob?  Can you control your thoughts, your language or…?

Sometimes, I…

Do you want to tell us, Bob? Nothing leaves this room, ever!

It’s just that…sometimes I want to not think that way but…..

The chorus muttered encouragement and whispers of we all suffer at times and we’re here to help you Bob, came across to me.

Do you feel you’re not in control at times, Bob? Is that part of it?

Exactly.  I want to think in other directions but something pulls me back. I slide down into banality and cant that I’m unable to overcome.

Keep talking, Bob. We’re listening. We feel your pain.  We’ve all been there. We’re Americans, too.

What can I do? Is there any way…

The session continued for another hour with several individuals offering insight into struggles with their own Americanism and support was offered where it was fitting. At breakup I was encouraged as a newbie to express my thoughts of what I had experienced thus far.

You’ve started, Bob. This is first step. More to come.  Take one of our “City on a Hill-Not” pamphlets, with you.

Yunno,  it’s a load off me already. I hope I can someday begin to finally think and speak without all that cultural baggage prompting me. And think and speak without sounding like…I don’t know … some kind of demented jingo or talking head. Glad I found you A.A guys. I’ll be here tomorrow.

The cruise will soon be over but I feel I can more comfortably endure the Nation folks chatter now that I will possibly be able to think for myself; if only a little.  After all, I’ve only taken the first step, They told me there are eleven more. Twelve steps. Wow, I’m saved!






A Pyrrhic is no Victory at All

14 Nov

The course of conduct set down for humanity early in our history continues to this day leading to our ultimate failure and universal collapse. This is a guaranteed certainty as the remedy for the blight we suffer has lapsed into history.  A flaw found in human conduct has not been observed in any known species and it is doubtful any extinct group had been similarly afflicted since nature is not known to condone such behavior for long.

One could, in fact, define contemporary human existence as the manifestation of an endless, generational, Stockholm syndrome.  Certainly all the major ingredients of the syndrome including sympathy and positive feeling, including genuine love for the oppressor is observed among the aggrieved parties. More often than not the oppressors are defended and identified with and the oppressed persons in turn, barely recognize their diminished status. The capture-bonding endured melds so deftly into each soul the victim feels quite average and the loss suffered remains mostly unlamented.

The damage inflicted on an individual, however, is magnified, expanded and becomes grotesque when seen in worldview.  An entire planet has become victim to a lack of human gender partnership and reflects clearly the willful triumph of the offenders. How, then, is anything different to be expected when all decision making and implementation is assigned to one faction who have demonstrated willingness to risk the entire planet rather than relinquish sovereignty or offer equality?

A total and complete reversal of the cause of this distress cannot, unfortunately, prevent the inevitable result. The ingredients that would repair and insure humanities’ wellbeing cannot be superimposed on contemporary humans.  As much as we would likely benefit, the repairs are not possible as people cannot absorb the remedy. The eons of time required for assimilation are no longer available to us.  Nothing cosmetic or make-do would be efficacious but surely will be attempted if mankind becomes cognizant of any slim possibility for redress. Psychologist Carl Jung  after a lifetime of attempting to observe human instinct at work and in action had to conclude, roughly speaking; “the basic task of human instinct is to hide itself”. So, apparently, human introspection and fairness also hide when the subject is power sharing.

So then, our task here has a fatal onus in that the aggrieved parties cannot prosper from a behavior change even, in that highly unlikely event, the guilty faction attempts to redress the wrong. A wave of inevitability rushes us along a course chosen in default and only rarely glimpsed.  Almost no language exists to properly describe an alternate reality for us, save the passing of an occasional deep sigh reflecting the loss.

The contest was decided at the dawn of civilization and humankind has had to live with the result ever since. We were not to be a benign, compassionate and responsible species living harmoniously with nature and each other.  One half of our kind decided early on to dominate and ignore the council and equality of the other in perpetuity.  The descendants of those early conquerors possess a musculature advantage and are favored with more biological leisure and use these to subjugate their human partners. The importance of the female principal, one half of the human whole, is hereby forfeit, disenfranchised and ignored.

We can only cringe and lament the probable outcome of this Pyrrhic victory.






Why the Year 2050 is So Meaningless

8 Nov

I attended a lecture last night by an instructor at one of the most prestigious and expensive art and design colleges in the nation. In the course of his talk he lamented the lack of prior decent education of most of his American students and that Asian and European kids were much better prepared. He is an instructor of some renown on the environment and was telling us how dire the future looks if we earthlings continue our careless ways.

One thing, among the countless recitations of degradations already in place and about to occur if our attitudes and destructive practices don’t soon change, was the citing of certain dates agreed upon as major mileposts in our eventual downfall. This lecture represented the curriculum currently being used at the college and his constituents are for the most part, twenty year olds.

The lecture audience, however, consisted of folks about my age, I’m 85, who are decently educated and concerned about the future of the planet. That being said, I felt then as I do now, that the presentation of such arcane data as what will probably occur by the year 2050 is as meaningless to us oldsters as it is to a college age crowd!  Yet this is Standard Operating Procedure in media and apparently in academe as well.

These are vital issues and deserve the best explanation and presentation of which we are capable. How much more effective would it be with our group or with the youngsters if this vital topic was presented as an immediate threat rather than a meaningless postponement to a vague and distant future? If instead, the peril facing us was explained in inches of water rather than decades of time.

All of us have recently lived through the Superstorm, Hurricane Sandy, that created so much havoc and devastation in New Jersey and New York. We remember the graphic scenes of the doomed roller coaster on the pier at Seaside Heights and all the ruined houses along the coast.  We were told, but apparently didn’t grasp the significance, of the fact that one or two additional inches of seawater from glacial melt was the ingredient that caused this storm to be so damaging.

We, as well as the college students, would be much more attentive and involved if instead of deferral  to year 2050, we were told of those zillion or so tons of extra seawater the oceans now hold which threaten to destroy us the very next time conditions are just right.  A mere one or two inches we are told was the culprit and with some clever math we could predict the exact day in 2017 when another inch will be added. Then we can, young. old and in between, perhaps relate and react timely to the imminent threat we all face..

Our future measured by the inch and by the day makes more sense to me than 2050.