Wednesday, July 13, 2011

today's exploration...

"And Sharkey says: All of nature talks to me. If I could just
figure out what it was trying to tell me. Listen!
Trees are swinging in the breeze. They're talking to me.
Insects are rubbing their legs together.
They're all talking. They're talking to me. And short animals-
They're bucking up on their hind legs. Talking. Talking to me.
Hey! Look out! Bugs are crawling up my legs!
(You know? I'd rather see this on TV). Tones it down.
And Sharkey says: I turn around, it's fear.
I turn around again, and it's love.
Nobody knows me. Nobody knows my name."
--Laurie Anderson , "Sharkey's Day"(1984)

Back in high school, one of the artists I thought most exciting was Laurie Anderson. So, when my friend gave me a copy of her album Mr. Heartbreak, I was thrilled listening to her poetry, her music, and her weaving of images and sound. Strangely, it is to her music to find my peace, and recapture hope. I listen to Mr. Heartbreak, and I listen for nature talking to me. I stay hopeful, thinking that nothing can be gained in dwelling in fear for the future.

Just now after listening to Sharkey's Day, I turned on a discussion about President Obama and his ominous statement that Social Security checks may not go out on August 3. Living in a house where everyone's rent and food come from those checks, it is amazing how scary that statement can be. I am not certain if I am the only one here who knows this news. This talk could do little but unsettle my home. I was listening to Laurie Anderson before all this; I feel a tad bit sidetracked.

Back in 2004, a friend in Canada told me she was going to a rally to protest "globalization." Being oblivious, overly proud, or profoundly indifferent, I never got around to asking her the question, what is globalization. Even after six years -of listening to comedians bagging on President Bush, watching countless Michael Moore movies, and insane ideological stonewalling over money in Congress- I still was not sure what this thing called globalization is, what all is encompassed, and what are the two sides to it.

I am grateful for a book my sister brought me in 2010. It was Thomas Friedman's third edition of The World is Flat. I eventually read it, a volume filled with glowing reviews on the blossoming of new life in old economies, an explosion in the movement of products/services across the globe, and how so much of it occurred because of the dot-com bubble burst of 2000. Because of Friedman, I now realize that millions of people losing their life savings in a stock market crash is unfortunate, but a small price to pay when a second generation of telecom investors get to buy up miles of installed fiber optic cable at pennies on the dollar. In fact, I see it is a good thing.

All of Friedman's optimism is exciting. It is good to pull from his forward thinking to capture a sense where all this unbridled market liberalism and full-on privatization of government services can take us. I will be reading his book Hot, Flat and Crowded next to see how his perspective stands since 2008.

But, I also started reading from economist Joseph Stiglitz, and his views on the state of globalization, privatization, market liberalization, and the flatness of the world. Unlike my friend in 2004, I am not under the belief that a global economy is a bad thing. Trying to stop it seems even silly, especially when the very means by which we share this information exists because of that global economy. The question is how do we exert our influence to manage it better.

In 1981, Ronald Reagan popularized the concept of trickle-down economics. Joseph Stiglitz says most economists regard it a failed experiment. Still, across the globe, many are singing the praises of this philosophy: where, if you load up the corporations with enough money, their prosperity will trickle-down to the middle-class, and to the severely impoverished. There is a large amount of information for me to understand, and I feel like I am starting to sort it out. Maybe if I started reading these books when they were written, I would have been able to come out of my cave sooner.

Still, I have Laurie Anderson playing online. "I turn around. It's fear. I turn around again, and it's love."

I will keep sifting through the books, learn in turn what the word aggregate means in the economy world, and wonder why the word profligate gets mentioned so much. But that is all I can share with you for now.

Thank you for reading.

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