Monday, September 12, 2011

911 Musings

Okay. Most of that morning is a kind of blur. There are pieces, spots that I remember. I was working as an inside sales rep at a wholesale organic food co-operative. That morning there was a meeting, nothing new to co-ops. I remember the meeting room being packed. I can't quite recall the discussion at the moment. The CEO was there. There was something going on and tempers were flaring. I remember one young woman and the CEO really got into it. She wanted her voice heard, and as a member owner of the co-op, she thought she had that right. But the CEO whipped his head around, his chin jutted out, his eyes narrowed, and through clenched teeth he raised his voice to say "Ownership is not management".

It was one of those trump everything moves that shuts down discussion, sort of like calling someone a Nazi or a racist. The meeting had gone unconscionably overtime and those of us on the sales force were rushing to do an hour's work in 20 minutes. As we filed back  into the large open area where our prairie dogging cubicles were, we noted that the woman at the sales switchboard/receptionist area had a radio turned on. She told us a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. There was fire. And another plane just rammed into it, too.  At some point, management turned off and secured the radio. I went over to the new buyer's desk. He had a computer attached to the Internet. We could see the towers on fire. But we had to get back to work. Another crash - at the Pentagon! And another plane headed towards Washington might have crashed in Pennsylvania. It was just after 10am. The receptionist/switchboard operator gasped at what someone told her over the phone. The look on her face hushed us all - one of the towers had collapsed. Someone near me said, "What"? Without thinking I said, "Well, yeah," like it was the most logical thing in the world, "We're at war." A few minutes later, the second tower crashed. The CEO came in and told us that we needed to get back to work. We had to get these orders done. We had to go on as though nothing had happened. Because if we didn't, "they" would "win". The woman who had recently been put in charge of the inside sales staff (a plant from a corporate competitor, I was sure) started to weep. The CEO put his arm around her and walked her into her office. The offices for regular management ran alongside one whole (and very long) wall. A few minutes later, the CEO left for the day. Before he did, it was announced that only those having a hard time dealing with the situation could go home. The rest of us were to stay. Where I sat, I could see the wall of offices. And one by one, the lights in each office went out. The wall opposite had a big glass enclosed area with an entryway into the bookkeeping offices. The lights there started going out too. It took less than 20 minutes, and they were all gone for the day.

I remember getting home later than usual. I was hardly inside the door before I had the tv on. Try to find CNN on the dial - oh, it wasn't necessary. I should have known. There was only one story anyone was talking or thinking about. I had begun to stare at the unimaginable pictures and action replays. I can remember two phone calls, both with the same message: The community radio station I was involved with was broadcasting a taped program about a musical attack from Swizzlestick outerspace or some such thing  - it was just one too many discordant notes in the night. Where was I, wouldn't I go in and put something more spiritual on? Not having Mozart's Requiem on tape, I declined - I wanted to see this footage, I wanted to get beyond my wasp detachment. I had to believe it really happened, I guess.  A little while later, I noticed that the station was playing a program with zen sutras, Koranic chanting raga-ish music in the background, like some new age tape you might've heard once in Bar Harbour. I can't remember much else of that day or night.

So many columns, blogs, new stories, magazine stories, etc. are commenting on how that day changed America and the World. The ideals of my country were called into play by those who wanted to exploit the situation for their own ends. We watched, helpless screaming, even as the news was telling us that the news was being evasive, incomplete, and distorted. We all knew what was happening. But we didn't know how to stop it. And we let it happen.

The generation just arriving at military service/voting age probably doesn't have memories of a time when we weren't at war. They don't know of a world without cell phone miracle machines. They don't remember when we didn't torture. They don't remember the racial divide that collapsed in the wake of that day. They don't remember a time when we had jobs. Or before the internet and then before the corporations took it over so they could charge you while implanting their shopworn dreams.  When airplane travel was unrestricted. When you had to go out of your way to find good clean and/or organic foods without chemical growth residue. They don't remember a world before email or a world where you go could go the to library to borrow or reference material without the government having access to those records. Hell, the way it's going, they soon won't remember libraries at all. The answer is right there for the asking, as long as you can afford to go online. Where every keystroke can be monitored. They don't remember that the CIA isn't supposed to be operating in our own country. They are  too young to have noticed the phony yearly cycles in gas prices. They don't remember when "liberal" wasn't a dirty tax and spend commie word. Actually, they're not old enough to remember Communist Russia.  Or remember when we were a good, mostly honest, people decently living our beliefs, and admired and respected for that throughout the world.

So much has changed, and yet so little. There are still pharaohs ruling the world. They simply build no public works, no pyramids, engender no higher ideals in mankind. They own and/or run corporations now. It's been that way for quite awhile. Where you used to replenish the country's coffers by war against another king, now you war against your own people. Normans and Saxons alike. It's like time somehow shifted along with the weather patterns. The image being sold at home is late 50's early 60's Consumer time.  And the poor kids today don't know to look for the man behind the curtain, or to follow the money.

In the 1960's, we really did change the world - before you laugh, look at the way you are dressed. Look at the number of women in the workforce - even if they aren't being paid as much as men. People suffer no disgrace now from divorce, or unwed pregnancy. I might as well say that people now suffer no disgrace. I look at gay teenagers and beam with joy at the world they are creating. But I also see young women coming along who don't seem like they will continue the fight over fair wages. They have to be taught, they need knowledge. I'm not just speaking about women here, the men too. We can't let them forget or go without knowing a world in which you don't have to register for military service. The clock is being turned back. In a few weeks, daylight savings time will be here. It's not just that we gain an hour, you know - it's getting back to the real time that's becoming important.

Somewhere in those memories now 10 years old, are the memories in the background - how quickly the barricades went up, even in a little town like this. How quickly people got used to having and having to show their IDs  to get into government buildings. The government buildings that are fortresses against the rabble. They know one day we will come for them. They're getting ready.  How quickly it became useless to try to stop the government from privately accessing every day actions, what books we've read, what we purchase, our medical problems, our financial status - and then there's the targeted advertising and credit ratings industry paid for by whom exactly? When the kings of business get together, they trade amongst themselves. After the kings of business get together, they circle like vultures. There will be nothing left to feed the dragon. Except for everlasting war.

I can no longer see an option here - we will have to fight the corporation/government again. Use the same tools you just know our guys taught rebels in the Arab Spring oil east. They did, after all, get those ideas from us. We - the decent ones, who still uphold the message - we - have got to get to the kids and the young adults. They need to know there is a better world and that once, one great once upon a time, we were getting near it. Camelot, da da dah da dah, Camelot! Lost Horizon of Shangri-la. Cities of gold. Xanadu. They need to know there are ideas and ideals worth living for. And the only way to fully express that is to live it. Every day.

Race relations will soon be stirred up again - crime is already on the upswing, and a goat will be needed to blame it on. The nonstop wars have started - over there. So far. The wars of money and subjugation have started over here. The merger of government and business is spreading. It could take years, or it could be tomorrow, but make no mistake, they will be coming.  Except for the ones who get to leave after 20 minutes.


Rory Grant said...

Bravo! I think the points you make about the younger generation are perfectly valid. They know of no ' other time '.

I'm not an American, but growing up in Scotland I was envious of the Americans and grateful. When it came to liberty, democracy, freedom and social justice through my young eyes there was nowhere to compare with America.

Somewhere between then and now it was stolen, I really do mean America was stolen.

When I was just 12 years old I was desperate to be an American and even wrote to the city of New York to ask how I could become an American and then become a police officer. It took the time and trouble to reply to 12-year-old Scottish kid explaining how it could be done. But what really struck me about the letter was the bold letters at the top - We Are an Equal Opportunity Employer. Here was a nation where everyone had an equal opportunity to succeed.

As I look at America today I see only downwardly mobile people and the government facilitating their equal opportunity to be so.


Austan said...

Holy shit Stevil. This should be in the Times, or at least The Commons.
Everything you've said is true. I remember when we were working toward the betterment of and for The People. Now we're made to work for the betterment of the Corporations and to Hell with Us. It must change. We must change the direction. Somehow. What do we have to lose? You and I are already on The List.

CarrieBoo said...

WOW. This is an amazing article. We just last night watched Michael Moore's documentary 'Roger and Me' and I could have buked. 1989... I think it really seemed to sum up the beginnings of this downward spiral. I think the most American-made car you can buy now is a freakin' Toyota. Meanwhile, people drive around in huge gas-guzzling Ford trucks with bumper-stickers that say, 'Out of a job yet? Keep buying foreign!' My poor head can't take much more of this. It's going to blow!

I can't believe they made you keep working. I got sent home before lunch, after we crowded around the radio for some time, in Toronto!