Friday, April 7, 2006

Transformation 101: Killing the Demons

Something very strange and upsetting just occurred here, but I'm going to try and stay on topic, because I think we've opened a can of worms worth examining, with this issue of economic disparity in our once-great nation. In fact, my partner Terry McKenna will be coming in for his usual appearance on Monday with a rebuff for the IRET spokesman mentioned in yesterday's post.

But first, about what just happened—and it contains a point. The landlady just broke into my apartment. No knock, no ring, no call: she just flat broke into the house. Her name is Judy Berman, and she is one of the more demented individuals I have ever met. However, as a landlord (and folks say we've grown out of the medieval era), she ranks in the middle of the pack on the overall Snidely Whiplash depredation scale.

So, if you live in Farmville or Shantytown or Oshkosh and wish you could live in the great New York City, think again. Unless, of course, you're in that tax bracket we focused on yesterday. In that case, you too can be a real estate magnate, controlling places and people and encroaching upon them at will. You can be a Judy Berman.

But perhaps you do live away from the city, and recognize the same painful inequity in your own experience. It is what we have allowed our society to become. This is how we live here: the rich soak those who have less; they manipulate them, cheat them, humiliate them, and torment them. In this culture, to be a renter is roughly synonymous with being a slave. You stand up for your rights to privacy, fair treatment, and ordinary human courtesy at your own peril.

The reason is that the landlords have all the power—all the power. The economics of it are most accurately described by the extraordinary journalist Barbara Ehrenreich in one of the more significant books of our time, Nickel and Dimed:

When the rich and the poor compete for housing on the open market, the poor don't stand a chance. The rich can always outbid them, buy up their tenements or trailer parks, and replace them with condos, McMansions, golf courses, or whatever they like. Since the rich have become more numerous, thanks largely to rising stock prices and executive salaries, the poor have necessarily been forced into housing that is more expensive, more dilapidated, or more distant from their places of work.

Let's be clear about one thing: I am not poor. Uncomfortable, maybe, but no more so than a lot of people in this country (though in 9 days it's going to be a tad tighter around here than it is right now). It's mainly the consciousness of Landlordism that affects me, that causes me to behave as I did tonight—slamming a door in a woman's face and screaming "Bitch!" at her as she retreated down the stairs. The cult of power—master and servant, landlord and serf—still operative in our culture at the most insidious levels, infects us all in ways that become apparent in their destructive decadence only after, as often happens, a conflict has escalated beyond a reparable measure.

I feel that this consciousness lies at the root of the Iraq War; I feel it is the seed that feeds the corruption and scandal that is now being revealed within our government at its highest levels; and I feel it is the fuel that drives the insane engine of economic disparity and social inequality. I sense it, as perhaps you do as well, every day in my work within corporate America; I have felt its effect in certain family relationships in the past; I see it in the way we insult and destroy the works of Nature; I am appalled at its cruelty in the abuse and neglect of children.

I feel that until we destroy it within ourselves, each of us, it will kill us all, and our planetary home as well. This is why I teach and write and practice as I do. I have no definitive or institutional or global answers; though I do have some ideas that may be part of an answer. Yet overall, in fact, I have far more questions than solutions.

But one thing is clear to me, I feel: we will be far more effective at exposing the corruptions within others if we can dispel their shadows from within ourselves. As a very wise person I know said to me just today, "you cannot be nice to demons."


Quote of the Day: This may in fact be the quote of the year, from Kos himself (I'm giving this from memory--to see and hear the original, look here).

The Republicans are very good at telling us when we can be born, and when we should die; it's just all the stuff in between that they screw up."

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