THE RICH GET RICHER

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A wall Street-off Scott Lynch/Flickr

I hear the Rich are happy now

     Millions are left uninsured

     Their congressional pawns lie straight-faced

     Tax money saved and secured

 

How much do Rich need to satisfy

     How far can their zeros extend

     Common decency should prove the check

     When so many have so little to spend

Ask, they’ll say: we worked hard for our money

     We deserve every fruit of the earth

     They’ll explain to us, meritocracy

     Forget criminal inheritance, and birth

They’re rich because we like their stuff

     As greed smiles behind our backs

     Their small Christmas bonus implies

     We can buy those boots but not those straps

The Rich assuage guilt with philanthropy

     Tattooing their hearts with no blame

     As the poor kneel to pray for cures

     For diseases bearing only their names

A Country For No Child

Jaime Kalenga, whose mother died in labor, suffers from malnutrition and tuberculosis. Credit Nicholas Kristof/The New York Times
Jaime Kalenga, whose mother died in labor, suffers from malnutrition and tuberculosis. Credit Nicholas Kristof/The New York Times

There is a country rich in diamonds,

Oil and foreign sports cars

I know this – having read it in

The Times

This is a country in which one child

In six will die before the age of five

Says The Times’ Kristof

But I live in a country that cares

About children – Some of us

Care so much we call authorities

On parents whose children walk

Home from the park – alone

Keeping our children absurdly safe

Ignoring the Angolan mother holding

The “twig limbs,” swollen belly, wizened face

Of the near carcass that is her child

She’s waiting for care from the few who do

Those people who come from far off places to nurse and

Heal everyone’s children

Those people who know that diamonds

Are friend to no one

The people who recognize

The diamond’s sparkle

Being stolen everyday

From the eyes of babies

Leaving in its place a

Haunted spectacle, skeletal frame

Held together in wrinkled brown

Wrappings of skin

To My Journalism Students: On the Subject of Truth

  Revamped repost

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She walked along the moon-lit shore

And said her name was Truth

She fell from lips of every bore

Uncomfortable in hearts uncouth

 

Her mistake was simply looking back

To gather facts from the root

But

Gaining hard from tail of the pack

Greed fought to neutralize truth

 

Dressed in cloth so tailored and fine

He put his minions just so

Greed flashed his smile oh quite divine

Promising power and gold

 

Pledging power from uncommon seed 

Promises to evil flows

Liquid influence; oh sweet mead

The returns unchecked – grows

 

Did greed succeed – making Truth moot?

I for one won’t abide

His forcible rend by nail and tooth

Believing Truth is forced to hide

 

I believe she’s on some inland street

Barren of youth and sound

Where life is sold to make ends meet

Truth, not easily found

 

Not in the burbs? Maybe in town

Hiding in campaign lore

Alley dirty, slogans all ‘round

By what was a General Store

 

I see her

 

Dress in tatters, no sun-lit shore

Can Truth hold strength to greed?

Slipped the lips of too many bores

Liberty, country called as creed

 

 

“*How strange is the lot of … mortals”

Each life, a single sojourn

Dragging Truth through hideous portals

Awaiting their gold – in return

 

Where’s the country to shelter Truth?

To wait Her patient assay

Who sees Her rape as vile, uncouth?

Beautiful mouths; adorned decay

 

Oh for the day when Truth will rein…

But truth’s always been a tool

To tease and dig the lie’s huge skein

Speaking power to those in rule

 

Truth will remain abused and lost

If we fail to sow her seed

Grab our shovels and dirt be tossed

Upon the grave of greed

Searching for Howard Beale: The Fall of Our Discontent

Photo courtesy of Kelsey Johnson

*Picket lines and picket signs
Don’t punish me with brutality
Talk to me, so you can see
Oh, what’s going on
What’s going on
Ya, what’s going on

Wall Street: a neighborhood that handles the finances of those elusive job creators who have perpetrated the ultimate coup: enacting a suspect political dogma that the masses think they understand. Simple wording and snappy sound bites are all part of the gelatinous political-stew of lies and half-truths. But wait a minute, not all the masses have eaten this last supper of deception. Zuccotti Park has become a festival of signs and faces of protest which brings to mind a certain declaration – the emotional genesis for many a proletariat movement – “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”  Today, life imitates art imitates life… (I could go on). The art here is the 1976 movie Network (written by Paddy Chayefsky, Directed by Sidney Lumet) where the mad rantings of prophetically sensitive newsman Howard Beale (played by Peter Finch) send the network establishment into the hair-pulling tizzy of damage control. They fire the unhappy newsman deeming this much easier than attending to the root of his suicidal outbursts. Beale’s position is saved by a friend’s intervention and his promise to apologize to his viewers. But the emotional waters have already boiled and all it takes is heat from the lights, camera and the countdown to spill over. Once more, rather than the promised apology, Beale rages at the camera calling life meaningless and “bullshit!” The “angry man” scenario is an overnight (today it would be instantaneous) ratings hit moving the network to give Beale his own show. Network is ripe with subtext and the firing of Beale highlights the old Hollywood maxim – “…you’ll never work in this town again — until we need you.” The personal urgency behind Beale’s rage remains unexplored by those he works for and the audience he entertains with his emotional antics as the “Mad    Prophet” who refuses to be ignored any longer. Timing is everything in love, politics and business and Beale hits the perfect note when he persuades his audience to throw open their windows and shout the “mad as hell…” mantra of the masses. The people have found their leader  and, at his behest, will send letters and telegrams (yesterday’s e-mail and twitter) to the White House in protest of the UBS network company being bought out by a Saudi conglomerate (any of this sound familiar?). Beale’s pending emotional breakdown is ignored even as his message is being co-opted and twisted by his employers who fear his power.  The big boss does manage to get a naïve Beale to put his evangelical zeal to work on another, less populist cause. As a result, ratings tumble but Beale is kept on and, like a public hanging in which the corpse is left (as a lesson) to twist in the wind, his messages, along with Howard Beale the Mad Prophet, are barely remembered.

Photo courtesy of Kelsey Johnson

In 2000, because it was considered “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant,” Network  was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. And rightfully so. Those protesting in Zuccotti Park are mad as hell and (in a figurative sense) refuse to continue the dance with their executioners. It is as if Network creators had their fingers on the pulse of the future.

I have a journalism student who spent several days photographing, talking and sleeping at

courtesy of Kelsey Johnson

Zuccotti park as part of the Occupy Wall Street movement. This highly  motivated and intelligent young woman believes that education is her key (as it has always been) to open the gates of success. I wondered if she would come in contact with other college students, those who perhaps have already acquired the key to said gate. Would they tell her how the key no longer fits?  How can there be a future with bright horizons when there is no present to occupy? Sadly, it is part of the grand deception; the horizons that once belonged to today’s youth have been bundled, parsed and sold as part of the derivative stew of lies and half-truths. Yes, education can be the key to success, but not in a society that allows the 1%  to leave the building and take all horizons with them.

In the quest for lost horizons, frustration becomes the muse of the masses from Egypt to     Oakland and major points in between. If Howard Beale represents the 99%; those  unemployed without hope and those workers with more empathy than hope, then the 1%,

A wall Street-off Scott Lynch/Flickr

the vile and heartless who today would mock the protesters as they sip champagne on a balcony overlooking Wall Street, is represented by Diana Christiansen (Faye Dunaway) the network programming head whose spiked heels have pierced many backsides in her race to the top of the ratings chart. Like the Wall Street dwellers, Christiansen has crapped where she lives but a little cinematic license allows her to close the door on the smell.

Not so in life – today.  Chickens truly do come home to roost- witness Zuccotti Park. But, until these demonstrations manifest in a change that will slay greed thereby returning futures to their rightful owners, these Wall Streeters get the same warning of self destruction that Network‘s Christiansen received from her lover (William Holden), “You are [greed] incarnate…indifferent to suffering, insensitive to [true] joy.” For Diana Christiansen, “All of life is reduced to the common rubble of banality.” And so it goes with a life owned by those who would mock  misery with their bitter toasts.

   *From, What’s Goin’ On/Marvin Gaye