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I’m riding the Greyhound north savouring the last of Vermont’s colourful October forests. Although we are riding over dry pavement here, I am very aware that elsewhere many people I know are suffering from torrential rains and the subsequent damages they cause. Reports from Monteverde have been full of soggy complaints following about two weeks of downpours, grey skies and lack of sun. That means that landslides are probable and so traveling becomes quite unpredictable, making my hour-behind-schedule-otherwise-smooth bus ride from Maine to Montreal seem quite insignificant.

More seriously, my friends living on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala – an enchanting place I’ve written about frequently over the last few years – have been watching the water levels rise at a rate that they couldn’t imagine and were hoping they wouldn’t see quite yet. The pictures being posted on Facebook are truly alarming. I believe that many living close to the shoreline on the lake have been forced into evacuating their homes, perhaps permanently, for even if the water hasn’t entered the building, it has destroyed septic beds and compromised their water system – and is still rising. They say the lake has a fifty year cycle of rising and the elders know that the lake still has a ways to go. My heart goes out to those who built their homes and businesses only to have their dreams gradually washed away like eroding sand castles.

In Monteverde, our friend Wolf has just spent close to two weeks again in the Puntarenas Hospital. I am happy to say that he is back home and apparently doing fine. He had a bladder infection that they couldn’t control with antibiotics administered at the house so he was put into the hospital to receive treatment intravenously. Experience has shown that bladder infections cause a greater distress in older people, confusion and weakness being common symptoms and I guess that is what was happening with Wolf. Fortunately it seems that Wolf has rebounded well. I am anxious to be back down there, to see with my own eyes how he is doing. Once I’m there, I’ll be blogging about all things Wolf, Monteverde and booklike much more regularly.

I’ll be headed back to Costa Rica on November 16, just in time to attend a concert honouring the late Fidel Gamboa, Costa Rica’s recently departed musical genius. Malpais, the band he fronted along with his brother Jaime and five other great musicians, have decided to disband. I expect that the strength and reorganization it would take to carry on without their main composer, singer and guiding spirit was just too great. I believe it will be an incredible night of Fidel’s powerful music performed by his musical brothers and sisters, his lyrical poetry sung by friends and the night augmented by the addition of Costa Rica’s Philharmonic Orchestra. I am so glad that I can make it back to Costa Rica in time for this last-in-a-lifetime show.

In the meantime, I’ve been paying attention to the Occupy Wall Street movement as it ignites our world. For those of us who have been paying attention to the corporate takeover of the world with trepidation for decades, the rising of the 99% in North America is a wonder to behold. It’s about time! I move around with the sound of Lorraine Segato’s “Rise up, Rise up” playing in my mind – a song performed at Jack Layton’s wedding years ago and again at his funeral in August (for those unfamiliar with this man, I wrote about him a couple of posts ago.) I know that Jack, if he had not died so prematurely of that nasty cancer, would have been joining Canadians in the street and helping to inspire the peoples’ movement.

The timing and strength of the protests has surely exploded with the examples set in other parts of the world – Egypt, Tunisia, Libya – where populations of largely oppressed people realized that they have taken enough abuse from the upper echelons of power. At a certain point, people figure they have nothing to lose but plenty to gain in rising up. North Americans don’t like to think that such revolutions, sometimes violent, could happen here, but I’ve always thought, or at least hoped, that even in the comfort zone of the passified North American consumer society, people would eventually realize the folly of our system. It’s based on the lies and greed that reward a few while keeping the masses distracted with shopping and sports addictions (how many corporate logos can you wear in one outfit or fit on one car?) and fed with the belief that one day they too will get to feed from the golden trough. It would seem that we have reached the tipping point here, where people have had enough of supporting a system that isn’t supporting them any longer. While the 1% licks the cream off their lips too many others never even get to lick out the bottom of the pot.

Surely the movement has been fueled by the frustration of people trying to get ahead with hard work, if they can find it, but without the rewards promised. We pay for insurance that doesn’t guarantee security, for schools that don’t properly educate, for health care that isn’t available when you really need it. The two industries that seem to thrive in this harsh climate, that people are forced to seek work within, is the military and prisons, neither of which offer any hope for the future or health benefits for our society. Even here in soft-shelled Canada our very conservative government has decided to buy into this draconian way of creating jobs and controlling the poor.  As French/Basque musician activist Manu Chao says, a country that spends more money teaching their citizens to kill than they do on education is a country based on fear, not hope for the future.

Besides following the leads of other dissatisfied societies around the world, perhaps the 99% movement in the US is taking advantage of having a president in power who may be somewhat sympathetic, at least enough not to have the protesters immediately tear-gassed and jailed, though there are signs that mayors in some cities are going in that direction. Although there is plenty to be disillusioned about with Obama’s presidency, it was always obvious that he was up against a corrupt and well-entrenched system that retains power and wealth for the select few in a historic perfect storm of global collapse. I believe that he can still do the right thing as this movement gains strength, and I will continue to believe that deep in Obama’s gut, there is a spark waiting to burn a hole from where his real strength and humanity will fly. I like to imagine that he and Michele watch the news at night and embrace each other, happy with the knowledge that the citizens of the United States, as elsewhere, are passing the goblet overflowing with empowerment and justice. When it makes its way to them, the Obamas will be ready to replenish it. At least that is what I like to think.

Being Canadian, I obviously didn’t have a chance to vote for Obama, but I joined with the millions who celebrated his election and believed in his message of hope and change. A simple fact of global life at this point in time is that though the citizens within the confines of the US may be able to live in ignorance of the governance of other countries, the rest of us are as deeply affected by the politics of the USA as we are the global governance by multinational corporations.  How to explain what has been going on for the last three years? A system so entrenched in corporate power and elite privilege that even a man of deep principles and experienced in community welfare can’t remain immune nor stand up to the force of its greed. I remember Obama’s 100-days in power interview when he answered the questions “What has surprised you the most?” What has troubled you the most?” by expressing his not-so-naive understanding of just how difficult it is to work within the system, that change in Washington (and on Wall Street) comes very slowly, that even in the middle of a big crisis the discussion is lost to a lot of partisan bickering. Even as President of the USA, he can’t make the bankers do what he would want them to do or turn on a switch and have congress fall in line. Well, that is why he needs the help of the population to stand up and insist that the corporate rulers, the bankers, and the outrageously wealthy pay their share. It is time to get the power back into the hands of the people.

I also believe that it is the responsibility of people everywhere to stand up to the massive brainwashing that has created a global epidemic of consumption. The belief that owning a bigger home, a newer car, a better wardrobe, every new appliance and electronic device available, that all these things are going to bring happiness and peace to your soul – well it is time to step back and stop the madness. How can one possibly defend the needs of those who own several mansions, a fleet of luxury vehicles, whose bracelet probably costs more than your monthly salary unless you are thinking that it your own goal? This kind of ostentatious outlandish decadence is setting the example of so-called fulfillment. It has tricked everyone else into supporting those who feed this dream to us even as it is making people physically, emotionally and mentally ill. If one can’t afford the luxury items, they shop with the same abandon in the dollar stores. Junk, stuff, tomorrow’s landfill. It is insanity and, to me, it is a big part of the problem, this desire for more and more of everything. The drug lords are the corporations, the pusher is the television, the addicts are everybody…and the loser is the earth.

Instead of spending so much money on the war on drugs and the criminalization of marijuana, the government should be cracking down on the real crack – stuff!!!!!

Those of us who are the protesters, the 99%, whether we are living in a tent in one of the occupied city parks, or disseminating information through the social media, or speaking up in support of the Occupy Earth movement at every chance we get, know that it is time. We don’t need a “leader” or a single headline for the media to grip on to that will simplify their job. It is impossible to narrow the issues into one stream when it is already an ocean out there, full of inequality, insane policies and despair. The “free market” system, capitalism as it is called, has stopped working for the majority of not just the humans, but all creatures who share this fragile earth. A few may be getting rich – even very very disgustingly rich– but most are experiencing life as one crisis after another with nowhere to hide. Climate change, environmental degradation, health decay, economic collapse, fiscal mismanagement, the inequities that pit workers against workers and the middle-class against the poor… the absurdity of it all is well beyond a single slogan or one spokesperson. It is time. Gather your loved ones, put on your dancing shoes, be peaceful, open your mouth, feed your mind and RISE UP!

Last night I went to a screening of Michael Moore’s latest tell-em-like-it-is (but don’t bore em and do make em laugh) documentary called Capitalism: A Love Story. As happens with each film MM produces, I got riled by the audacity of the greedy and pissed by the injustice that exists around us, but encouraged by the fact that truth is being spoken in a way that makes it accessible to millions. I also laughed to tears cuz in the end you just have to laugh or you’ll die disgusted and that’s no way to go.

capitalism_a_love_story_m[1]I’m so thankful that there is someone out there making documentaries like this, explaining how complicated our politico-social systems are and how deliberate is every motion by the powers-that-be to protect their interests. Mike examines why the “little people” fall into line rather than fight back. He explores all this in films that are entertaining yet shocking, which will keep the raised-on-TV-n-fast-food-nation watching when they otherwise might have given up at the first dialogue over 45 seconds and gone to get a chili dog. People pay more attention and learn easier when they are happy and endorphin-filled (Hello Sesame Street).

From the opening montage of images comparing the fall of the Roman Empire with the present state of the American Empire – bound to follow the way of all beasts that went before – you know you are in for a Moore-a-coaster ride through the good, the bad and the ugly.  I obviously agree with Mike’s politics and gleefully watch him presenting ideas I have understood all my adult life. I love that he calls greed what it is and takes on that hallowed, perverted system of Capitalism. Although I would venture that the Religious Right and the Tea Party gang would defend to the death the right to make money and bear arms for all, they often seem to leave their compassion on the donation plate at their church. Mike interviews his Catholic “moral superiors” and they didn’t pull punches – they all agree that the basic creed of capitalism does not bless the poor but instead feeds the rich, is immoral and radically evil, at least the way it has been practiced in the last thirty years since Wall Street took over Washington with the help of that all-American cowboy, Ronald Reagan. 

mike moore

There are so many great moments in the film that all I can do is say go see it. Michael wrapping crime scene tape around the headquarters of Goldman Sachs in New York City and calling the corporate criminals out to face their punishment is priceless. In his films Mike runs around America like an overweight but tireless referee, blowing his whistle, trying to get the teams to follow the rules, play nice and be fair. When I met him briefly a couple of years ago in Traverse City Michigan, I told him “take care of yourself”. I still worry about his health. We need him.

I was real moved by the family in Miami who returned to their home after the bank had tossed them out – made me want to get a ticket and go to Florida and meet these warriors. According to the text at the end of the film, they are still there. They managed to rage against the machine by gaining the strength and support of their neighbors who can see their own fragile futures in this one family’s crisis. That’s the message – that the 99% of the nation who aren’t part of the 1% who are basically controlling the economics, politics, media and future of the country needs to stay together and fight the fight for and with each other. Here in Canada, ditto.

2 little leaves Two lonely isolated Canadian souls

multi-leafed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The beauty of diversity and what happens when individuals join forcesorange trees

lake trees

 

And we all work together for the common good…

 

 

 

close gang

Spent a perfect few days in Mattawa with great friends last week. The kind of people you know would be there for you whenever you needed them. Smart folks, generally outraged like me by the injustices of the world but who self-medicate with love and laughter.

leo at fire

 

We spent a beautiful afternoon on Carney Lake where not a wisp of breeze rippled the water or rattled a leaf. We couldn’t get ourselves to make a move and leave until dark. We ate too much of course. And, a group of game-players all, we indulged in our new addiction, Quiddler.

 

quiddler

My sister sent me this card game for my birthday – for Scrabble players it satisfies the need to madly arrange letters into words, for card players it has a rummy-kind of feel to it. It was extremely flexible as the group ebbed and flowed in numbers and you could get distracted yet not miss anything. Our little crowd of Quiddlers gave it 18 thumbs up.

liily eyes

The time is flying by and I’ve got lots of writing to do as well as a couple of book presentations. I just booked my flight to Costa Rica for November 23. In Capitalism: A Love Story, there are some interviews with airplane pilots, those professionals whose hands we put our lives in when we head into the skies. The ones Michael talked with were making less than $20,000 a year – a paltry sum for people with such a responsibility. Turns out that many are nourishing themselves with food stamps and donating plasma to make extra dollars. Gives a new slant to the dangers of flying – I hope I won’t have images of hungry, light-headed, disgruntled captains driving my airship south. Perhaps I’ll pack a lunch bag to give to them – oh right, won’t get that past security. IMG_4271

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