Thursday, July 4, 2013

Going Fourth

It's time to continue on with the gardening post I started, but first I want to wish everyone a very Happy Fourth of July!

Last year, I spent a great deal of time on a 4th of July post, only to have it censored by Blogger. It has scans of a number of photos I took years ago on the 4th in Boston, one of the best places on the face of the earth to celebrate this day. As I've noted before, I grew up in a small town in the southern part of New Jersey, close to Philadelphia. I don't know what Philly does for the 4th these days, but I don't remember them doing the kinds of things Boston does.

Because it still rankles me, I have to note that last year's post had an embedded video of a musical number from the stage show "1776". The number was broadcast on the Tony Awards show on tv. Sony filed a copyright violation against me for the video, and Blogger removed my post until such time as I deleted the offending material. Sony owns Columbia Pictures, for whom I used to work. Columbia owns the rights to the movie version of "1776". But not to the stage version, and not to the Tony Awards. I wrote Google (which owns Blogger and YouTube) a note in protest. I detailed the rights on the material and noted that the offending video was still on their own site. The address I was given for such a response turned out to be phony. I had no recourse. The video which I embedded is still available on YouTube. Welcome to Corporate America, Happy Independence Day.

There are lots of things in this life which offend me as much as that silly piece of corporate ownership kowtowing offends me.., A lot about my country currently offends me. It used to be that one could protest things one thought were wrong. The media reported such protests. Until the Bush II administration invaded and bombed Iraq as punishment for 9/11. At the time, there were huge protests in the major cities of the US. What was thought to be the largest protest ever held in this country was held in NYC over this invasion of a country most knew was not involved in the events of 9/11. It was mentioned on a network news program I watched on ABC. There were no pictures, and there were no crowd estimates, it was only mentioned. I watched other news programs that day which didn't mention it at all. Corporate America controls the news instead of reporting it.

See, my problem is that I'm old enough to remember a lot of things. A world before a small handful of conglomerates controlled a huge percentage of the economy. For instance, TV dinners were a convenience. But they also helped pave the way for corporations to create processed food and food perfect for microwaves. Food was seasonal once; if it wasn't in season, it was a luxury purchase - if it was even available. It had to be flown in from other countries. Now just about everything is flown in to everywhere, with the attendant costs that entails passed on to the consumer. The costs go up, but not the consumer's wages or purchasing power. The fields near my house used to be sprayed for insects. The chemical used was DDT, and who knows what else. The DDT was considered harmless, but it turned out to kill birds too. My hometown area has never been declared a hot-spot, but a lot of people there (including my father and my Aunt Mary) have died of cancer. The lake in which we kids used to swim was long ago declared too polluted for human use. Now the crops that grow nearby have been genetically modified (and it's seed can't be saved, it must be purchased) to be bigger, fatter, and to grow through poisons like Roundup which is meant to kill weeds, but which now will evidentially kill anything that isn't genetically modified to grow in ground treated with it. A corporation makes the seed, owns the farms, owns a part of the purchasing manufacturer, part of the trucking company, part of the company that purchases oil and makes gasoline, etc. ad infinitum. The various companies involved pay each other, but they are all owned by the same folks.

As TV in the early 1960's showed us, the ideas of equality and rights in this country were always a little bit illusory. We all know this. But in the past we could fight, organize, protest, work to create legislation, vote and riot to secure those rights. The media would report these efforts and investigate claims of intolerance or prejudice. Much progress was made. Progress is still being made, and still needs to be made. But the forces of wealth and privilege are fighting back, up to their old tricks of using social issues to divide and distract the populace from focusing on real problems. Problems, like pollution (a major player in global climate change), which they created and don't want to pay the bill to fix. These folks are always referred to as rich white men. Be careful - that is the same stereotyped jingoistic thinking the rulers are foisting on the country. The desire to hold onto wealth and privilege is not just the province of old white Anglo-Saxon protestant males. It is endemic to anyone of any race or gender who is on the have side of the scale who does not want to be on the have not side. It is instinct.

So here I am living in a world in which my country uses buzz bombs - oops, I meant "drones" (buzz bombs refers to the V1 and V2 unmanned rocket bombs used by the Nazis in WWII) against its own citizens in other countries. Maybe they are bad people, but they are still citizens of this country who were executed without due process even being given a thought let alone a chance to fail miserably. And this country holds many foreign nationals prisoner without giving them legal protections that should be given to anyone. We have to practice what we believe and the truths we hold self-evident. They apply to everyone, or they are simply convenient fictions. Our lives, purchasing habits, and expressed thoughts are monitored thanks to our modern electronic inventions, in an effort to "keep us safe". But we are still monitored. Safety is a polite fiction.

Now, I had started writing a bit about my old garden in Boston, in the area known as the Victory Gardens. Here's a picture of a small portion of them in early spring circa 1990. This portion contained my garden, which is partially hidden by a tree.

If my memory is correct, there were about four hundred plots all together. Here's a pic of my humble self in my plot:

That picture was taken my gardening neighbor, who was from one of the Caribbean Islands:

And here's a couple of my other garden plot neighbors. I wish I could remember everyone's names, but it's been too long. I think the gentleman was Stu or Stewart. The lady in the picture had emigrated just a couple of years before from Russia.

The area wasn't really very safe - we all looked out for each other. If someone was sick, they sometimes returned to find that their neighbors had watered and weeded their gardens for them. Not everyone fit in. I tried to adopt the new gardeners who got the plot at the end of my row, two young female students from one of the nearby colleges. They started hatching their plans, I lent them tools to work with & etc. On their second day in their garden, I was hard at work weeding away when I heard them scream. I tore off out of my garden and ran to theirs. They were alone. I asked if they were all right. It seems that they had begun digging and seen worms, Worms! I told them that for a garden, worms were good. They never returned.

I didn't mean to run off at the fingers as much as I did, so I'll post more of my garden pictures another time. I won awards for that garden, by the way. In 1995, I moved to Brattleboro, and located a garden spot for myself and my then housemate Jonathon. But that's a story for another time. I was never able to get all of my plants out of Boston, but saved what I could. My initial garden here had to be moved when my original plot became part of an experimental school's expanded play area. My relocated garden, although only a few hundred feet away, had soil of very poor quality with lots of slate just an inch or two down. The plot is on an incline. There was a shrub and a wisteria (that didn't bloom and which was trained into a shrub form) that the land's owner asked me to keep. It was kind of discouraging, but I kept at it. Then, when I moved to a nearby village (Brookline) for awhile, I stopped properly caring for my garden. When my car died and I couldn't afford to replace it, I basically abandoned it. Here's a couple of shots of what it looked like when I stopped working on it.

Without a car, and a 45 minute walk away (and that's when I'm moving right along at a good clip), the years of neglect have taken their toll. Here's what the same two shots look like now:

 Most (not all) of the white stuff that looks like Queen Anne's Lace is a plant known as Bishop's Weed, or Gout Weed. It spreads by seed as well as underground roots. A small piece of broken root can regrow an entire plant and its siblings. There is a lot of work to do to save what I can. This weed has taken over and destroyed many, many plants. It's going to be a huge task.

It's July the 4th today. Over the years, my country made lots of progress even when the soil wasn't hospitable. The country is like my garden; when it wasn't properly monitored, and was out of sight and out of mind, pernicious weeds took over and destroyed many many plants; the garden is endangered.  It remains to be seen if we the people have what it takes to do the constant weeding.


Anonymous said...

You coaxed a lovely garden out of poor and limited soil. I think your country (and mine as well) needs a good load of you know what tilled into it. I just made the mistake of re reading '1984' again....the first part of your post seems to be taken straight from the book.

sdt (a.k.a. stevil) said...

mbj/Delores - certainly there is enough you know what being produced these days to spread around. There is a current internet meme making the rounds on Facebook which says something on the order of, "1984 was supposed to be a warning, not an instruction manual".