Saturday, June 23, 2018

An Open Letter to the Democratic Party

It is almost intolerable to sit by and watch while the Democratic Party prepares to lose yet another election. In spite of the polls there is a deep underlying weakness in democratic strategy that could turn November’s election from a golden opportunity to reverse the country's direction under Trump, to yet another unexpected and humiliating defeat. That weakness revolves around the party’s apparent inability to understand that right now it is, crazily enough, the Republicans who are winning the votes of the Democratic Party’s natural core constituency, working class and poor white Americans.

For all of its appalling ethical debauchery, the Trump administration knows what it’s doing when it attacks immigration, because they know it’s a divisive issue, and dividing people is the Republican’s stock in trade. The more they can focus people’s attention on race and immigration, and keep it away from the unifying issue of jobs, wealth, and class, the better off they will be in November.

It is amazing, that while the Democrats have such legitimate contempt for Trump’s intelligence, it is Trump who, through this strategy of keeping the dialogue on race and immigration, is now controlling the agenda, and in so doing will be able to claim at least a partial victory in the next election by effectively limiting the damage to his party, in what should be a decisive Democratic landslide. The results of this to the Democrats would be devastating, and might even user in a chapter of American neo-fascism.

For all of our legitimate hared of Trump’s agenda where race and immigration are concerned, the Democrats must not allow themselves to be distracted from the one essential, uniting, issue of our times – the one that will lead to inevitable victory or defeat, the issue of economic inequality.

Look at the deplorable state of the America working class. The destruction of trade unions has left millions with work that cannot support even a marginal standard of living. Medical care for all is still a far off dream. The minimum wage hasn’t been raised in decades. We have an epidemic of opium addiction. Our standing in the world community is in a deplorable state as a result of this, and the policies we’ve followed to get there.

The point is that we will not make progress on immigration, or racism, or sexism, or anything else unless we win back political power in America, and we can’t do that without the while middle and working class. That is start, obvious, political reality, and the Democratic Party seems utterly blind to it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Great Ten Dollar Bank Caper (A True Story)

This morning I went to a bank to get a roll of quarters. I went to the counter, and said, "I need a roll of quarters."
"Do you have an account?"
"Then we'll need to see an ID."
Wait a minute, I thought to myself, I need an ID so I can get quarters?
"Okay," I said, taken aback - like a dutiful drone.
So I gave her my ID. She looked at my ID, and proceeded to spend literally two minutes typing away on her keyboard.
I'm thinking, just what the hell can she be looking at on her screen, and what the hell does she have to type for 2 minutes, and why the hell should I have to tolerate this bullshit?
Finally, her printer spit out a piece of paper. She looked at me skeptically, and then showed the paper to her supervisor, who also came over and looked at me skeptically. (I should add here that I have no criminal record whatsoever.)
At last she whispered something to the teller, who finally passed over the. . . contraband. . . I mean roll of quarters, and I sort of furtively slunk out of the bank to my get-away car, feeling pretty mean now, pretty bad you might say - like Machine Gun Kelley.
Does this strike anyone else as being as weird as it struck me? It's like we're all criminals now, trying to prove our innocence.

Brent Hightower
Copyright 2018, Brent Hightower
*Image source unknown

The Sirocco

A murder of crows soars above the golden corn,
Their wings furled against the buffeting wind.
Beneath this blinding glare of Provencal sun,
The air feels heavy from the steaming earth.

There is no shelter from this wild wind;
So I spiked my canvas to the stubble plain,
To frame this dazzling bonfire of a sun -
These fields, swept by its archangel light.

I'm staggered by the fierceness of this place;
By these crows that rip and tear each other -
Cold, and black, and as pitiless as death,
Scrapping over the remnants of my dreams.

Brent Hightower,
Copyright 2018, Brent Hightower
*Image, public domain

Saturday, June 9, 2018

The Tragic Reality Underlying Our Terrifying School Shootings

Several weeks ago I wrote an ironic article recommending that we arm special education students, as a solution to the tragic number of school shootings in the U.S. today; and given the superficial nature of the solutions bandied about by the media, and by our malodorous current "leadership," that seems about as good an idea as most, and better than some. But now I'd like to address the question in all seriousness.

Firstly, I think we must realize that school shootings can't be stopped by putting more guns into the schools, in anybody's hands. A student with violent intent can only be given more opportunity to commit violence by bringing guns into the schools. To think otherwise is to think that these kids aren't intelligent enough to get their hands on those guns, with the element of surprise on their side, and to believe that is a fatal flaw in our own reasoning. It's difficult to believe that it's even necessary to point this out.

Likewise, the view of gun control itself as a solution is almost equally superficial. Though gun control is a good idea in general, and many killings would undoubtably be prevented by it, school shootings are among the relatively rare percentage of murders that are calculated, in which case the perpetrators can overcome the inaccessibility of guns, through premeditation.

Our notion (or more accurately the notion of the NRA) to inject guns into our schools is a tacit admission that our culture's degenerated to the point we are no longer civilized, and that most certainly is not a problem that can be solved with more guns! What we must do is ask why our culture is producing such maladjusted kids, how to deal with these kids in the short run, and ultimately, what aspects of the culture itself must be changed to solve the problem.

Recently, the NRA has been funding advertisements, in effect blaming these shootings on a "liberal, permissive society". . . Well, whether America is permissive or not, it certainly isn't liberal. The far-right now controls virtually every element of American society from the Presidency, to Congress, to the Supreme Court, to Wall Street, to corporate business, to most of the governorships and state legislatures. Yet somehow the NRA, the conservative think tanks, and their obsequious puppet media, blame school shootings on liberals! The question of exactly how liberals are responsible is kept very vague, of course, because it can't stand up to a moment's scrutiny on either the grounds of logic, or morality.

This effort to blame liberals is a spoiling attack, intended to preempt the much more logical argument that these shootings result from the unjustified increase in militarism, and authoritarianism, in America - and our incessant promotion of guns and violence. Because these things, along with increasing wealth disparity, are indeed among the most obvious culprits. There isn't any other country in the developed world where this is happening - not in democratic societies, socialist societies, communist societies, or among the Inuit. It doesn't happen in Denmark, France, or Holland, which are socialistic countries, and far more "permissive," (if I understand that also vaguely defined term) than the United States.

No. School shootings are a singularly American problem.

In all of this one very important thing is missing, and that is to ask these kids themselves why they are doing it. I haven't seen a single interview with a kid at risk for this kind of behavior (and there are many), asking them why they think others like themselves are doing it; and such omission is not unusual in America. It's become standard practice over the last forty years, or so, in the media. We ask everybody else. We ask "the experts." We ask school principals, teachers, housewives, the man on the street, dog catchers, or anybody in short, but those who would actually know! Could it be that we're afraid that their answers might bring up aspects of our culture and ourselves we find unpleasant to examine?

For about five minutes after 911 there was an attempt on the part of common Americans, (as reflected on the internet), to ask the obvious question, "Why are they doing this?" But those who asked were quickly drowned out by the roar of the offended, and the self righteous. They were chastised by the "America is greatest country in the world" crowd, who seem to believe we never have to introspect, we never have to think, because we are Americans. And then, as always, the media re-affirmed our preconceptions, and so few of us ever heard the views of those actually responsible.

Personally, I find the restrictive fundamentalism, either Islamic, Christian, or any other stripe, abhorrent, but I also know that when we refuse to engage in a dialogue with those who oppose us, we will never see an end to wars and enmity. I also know that many people in the Middle East have a legitimate grievance over who profits from the wealth of their oil fields, because in most cases they themselves do not. This is to some extent a digression, but the point is, our persistent belief in our own inevitable rightness, and our refusal to engage in self-examination, will finally prove more dangerous to us than most of our supposed enemies will ever be. . .

So, we don't ask these kids why they're so desperately unhappy. Nevertheless, some of the reasons are transparent. These are, in no particular order, that many of these kids are rootless. Their families have often moved from place to place, and they haven't been able to establish permanent connections. Most Americans no longer have farms, own no land, have no animals to provide these kids companionship and allow them to learn empathy. They have no sense of place, or room to roam freely, no appropriate spaces to play with each other, and later, to safely congregate. In many modern tract housing developments today children don't even have a cursory strip of grassy yard in front of their house to play in. Their world is built for cars and for degraded adults, not for them.

We are continually told (by Republicans mostly), that more guns and more law enforcement will solve our problems, when all the evidence shows they have done the opposite. The more money we spend on added "security," and take away the things that comprise a civil society, like decent schools, the worse our problems become. The fact is by now obvious even to a sub-par intelligence that the "Reagan revolution," with all it's emphasis on selfishness, and on police and security, has all but destroyed the once great United States. And yet the lunatic liturgy goes on. . . Deregulation! More police! More "national security!" More guns!

We must face the truth, that everything about current American culture tells these kids we don't really value them. Even after so many school shootings there are a grossly insufficient number of qualified counselors in the schools, and counselors are the most important mechanism for preventing these attacks! Except for a tiny minority of the overprivileged, who get whatever they want without having to earn it, everything in these kids' world is now sub-par, starting with the condition of the schools they attend. We no longer build city parks for the great majority of American children, or athletic fields, or public swimming pools. They will have no jobs that pay a living wage when they graduate from high school. College is too expensive, and even college graduates are now lucky to find jobs that can support a family.

Many of these kids are also tormented daily, by peers allowed to vent their Darwinian instinct towards domination on them unrestrained. In many schools even teachers, and particularly athletic coaches, have encouraged this pecking order out of the very subconscious impulses that drive the schoolyard bullies themselves. When children are exposed to a value system like that, is it any wonder they sometimes lash out in rage? With boys this "hazing" is often looked upon as something positive, as "toughening them up." But children can learn physical toughness, and discipline, without being encouraged to torment and humiliate. It should be especially evident we need to do whatever is necessary to reform this simian social hierarchy when, with modern weaponry available to anyone determined to get it, this bullying behavior is increasingly getting the bullies themselves shot with high powered rifles.

Perhaps the reason we don't ask these kids why they're so angry is that we don't really want to know. If we did, we might have to confront the fact that it is we ourselves who must change, if we want them to change. If we really care about ending the school shooting tragedy we have to repudiate the outlook that gave rise to it. Partly that is the "Reagan revolution," which takes as it's first tenet the abdication of all social responsibility.

We need to care about something beyond the wealth of a few bankers and corporate executives, and show these kids that we actually do care about them, by taxing those bankers and executives and putting that money into the things these kids desperately need, starting with school counselors. For the price of one military contract boondoggle, like the obsolete-off-the-assembly-line B1 bomber, or the osprey aircraft that isn't safe at any speed, we could have built new high schools for just about every state in the union. And even those kids who don't know this can sense it. In their hearts they know exactly how much we really care about them.

If we want them to care we have to care about them - not just pay lip service to caring about them - while a few unconscionably greedy individuals cheat them of a life. Even more importantly, far more so in my judgement, we need to subdue our acquired cultural arrogance that prevents us from critically examining our culture, and ourselves - that prevents us from introspecting, and therefore from making any positive change, in any area of our society at all now for over 40 years. For if we continue down that road, even these school shootings will prove to be a drop in the bucket of the social chaos to come.

Brent Hightower
Copyright 2018, Brent Hightower
*Image, Washington State Psychological Association

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The Cresting Tide

My mind at peace, I gaze upon the sea,
Its blue, unfathomed depths, epochal.
The cresting tide rushes in, as if alive,
And sounds an ancient chord inside me,
Some tone general to the orchestra of life.

Vast waves are thundering far out to sea,
Like the reverberation of primordial drums,
Or the fire of a thousand sea-borne guns,
Bringing to mind the cresting human tide;
Engulfing the earth in its onrushing flood.

On this Island, lost in earth's greatest sea,
Coconuts brown in the great beach palms.
And verdant uplands glow in riotous green.
Yet even this thriving nature lies imperiled,
By the seething tide of starving billions.

Before us rises the specter of annihilation,
And though the thought is scarcely bearable,
In mourning the loss of these living things,
We find detachment on the loss of our own life,
In that our death eases a burden on the earth.

And though species perished for me to live,
In this brief nova of a burgeoning mankind,
Sorrow and regret can only profane their loss,
So in homage to their passing, I will live for joy,
And forge my spirit in a metal worth the price.

Brent Hightower
Copyright 2018, Brent Hightower

Tuesday, May 29, 2018


As an infant what they saw reflected there was love,
That so beguiling aspect in their mother's eyes,
For what is there in a whelp, but the need for love?

And maybe it was love, of a sort, reflected there;
One couldn't be certain, for even when close up,
Her dark eyes maintained their cold inscrutability.

Though she might wear the mien of a caring mother,
In those deep-set eyes was something overweening.
One didn't come between her and a fresh carcass.

So, unsettled by the mysteriousness of her manner,
Her whelps were left to ponder the nature of love,
And whether any such thing existed under the sun.

And perhaps, it was then, they first chose to believe,
That love was what they saw in those distant eyes,
For if not, what could be the purpose of their being?

Though she might stand over a prize roebuck,
Smiling, satiated, over its engorged entrails,
Her teeth crimson from the kill, still they believed.

For the mirages on the littoral plain are desolate,
And there is little shelter from the summer sun.
In such a land one might turn anywhere for love.

Brent Hightower
Copyright 2018 Brent Hightower
*Image source unknown

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Eulogy For a Demigod

I'd like to preface this essay ( as I've often felt compelled to do ) with a disclaimer - in this case to say I believe that science is a valuable tool, and likewise modern technology, but with serious reservations. Firstly, we can only believe in them to the degree we can believe in the people who practice them, and, like the rest of humanity, some of these people are first rate, and some are dastards. Secondly, we can only believe in them with an awareness of their limitations as guiding forces in life. The reason I say this is that the Western World has, at the present moment, no cohesive worldview. That is, we have no worldview that incorporates reason and factual analysis with the spiritual and ethical aspects of life traditionally provided by religion.

It seems clear that to have a life worth living, our disintegrated outlook must give way to one that incorporates these differing aspects of human life into a whole. And I believe that through a number of modern insights ( particularly those provided by Darwin and Freud ), combined with Platonic philosophy, such an integrated view is now possible. But this latter question cannot be addressed in depth here.

The subject of this essay is, at least in part, Steven Hawking, the influential physicist who passed away just recently. Again, I have nothing against Steven Hawking personally, in fact I have great respect for his courage in facing a debilitating and terribly protracted disease. I hope people will see it's possible to criticize a person's views, or what they have come to represent, without criticizing them as human beings; but based on experience I wouldn't be surprised if, in spite of what I say, some people do take this essay as a personal attack. Be that as it may, as George Orwell said, I'll "write as I please." I don't think a writer who's afraid of controversy can say anything worth one's time. . .

Hawking had been held in very high esteem. So much so that for all intents and purposes he's been held out as an oracle, a sort of modern god. Yet to me, in many ways, he represented everything wrong with modern, technological society. His presentation always struck me as that of a disembodied brain, a mere mechanical utterance, empty of all emotion, of all passion, holding forth from some bloodless nether-world on the great questions of human life.

His voice seemed almost to be the very voice of modern technology itself. Nor, does it seem to me, did Hawking do or say anything to deny or deflect such an interpretation. Among other proclamations he held forth on how we should close all the philosophy departments in modern universities because they are antiquated, and have now been superseded by science. . . Because apparently, they have now been superseded by Hawking himself!

It did seem he was a perfect god for our times - one incapable of touching us, of moving us to any higher state of consciousness, or bringing us even the smallest drop of solace. In his sterile monotone he presided over a universe of neutered numbers. The answer is "String Theory," or "Dark Matter," or as Douglas Adams said so wryly in his novel, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, 42! Meanwhile children continue to go hungry, polar bears (along with tigers and too many other species to count) are forced every day closer to extinction, and the world strides on blithely one step closer to destruction. They are answers that answer nothing, that can change nothing, and that is why the corrupt established order, bend only on it's own wealth and self-aggrandizement, embraces them.

We are enthrall to our own self-destructive power, enslaved by the very forces we believe make us great. Let's look at the world today, one dominated by the scientific outlook, and ask ourselves, "Is it the kind of world we'd like our children grow up in?" I believe few of us could honestly say it is. Those who wholeheartedly support applied science and technology would argue that too many people have failed to adhere to that outlook. If only we all complied all would be well. The irrational and destructive elements in human nature are responsible for our decline, in spite of the civilizing influence of science - and there may be some truth in this view, but I believe it's mostly a comforting rationalization.

Firstly, it begs the question. For if science is to succeed as the guiding principle of civilization (and it certainly is put forward as such, whether scientists themselves say so or not) then it must command widespread compliance. Even a small minority of irrational people can wreak havoc with the smooth functioning of a social system based on science. So in this light the argument of insufficient compliance itself becomes evidence the scientific outlook can't meet the exceedingly high standard of a guiding worldview. For if science can't achieve the first prerequisite of its own success - namely, sufficient compliance, then it can't solve humanities problems.

Clearly some contrary aspect of human nature can't be persuaded, mitigated, educated, eradicated, or nullified, by science; and if practicality is the measure by which we judge a system that claims legitimacy through its superior practicality then, here again, we find evidence of failure. This isn't to say that some other existing paradigm is better, merely that science hasn't overcome this impediment any better than religion, or any other founding social principle to date. Yet their influence is so great they've acquired almost godlike status. Whenever people want to bestow upon something unquestioned legitimacy, from a brand of toothpaste to "channeling" alien beings from the Pleiades, they try to wrap the thing in an aura of scientific legitimacy. So if science is what we think it is, why are we teetering on the brink of destruction?

Twenty-five-hundred years ago Socrates said science couldn't answer the only questions he believed mattered to human beings. It wasn't that he didn't believe science could, for example, increase the grain harvest. It was that he saw that the meaning of life could not be determined by increasing the grain harvest. Of course it's good thing to increase the grain harvest (unless resulting increased populations merely become a precursor to greater disaster) but that the search for real meaning has nothing to do with such questions. Science may be able to increase the grain harvest but it can't explain the mystery of being, and it can't prevent some strong man from seizing all the grain for himself, regardless of whether he needs it or not. Science can simply do nothing about greed, prejudice, hatred, envy, narcissism, revenge, or the thousand other human flaws primarily responsible for the misery on this planet. We are the dominant spirits among the only known living organisms in the entire universe, and yet we really know little about the meaning or purpose of life.

Socrates said, "know thyself," and that "the unexamined life is not worth living." That wasn't an inconsequential abstraction. Without self-knowledge (that is introspection, a genuine search for the truth about our own natures, and the meaning of our consciousness) science and technology are useless, because they cannot save us from ourselves. Until we have control of our own psyches, and find a path that satisfies our spirits, we will be driven to acts of war and hatred, and forced to re-live the cycle of destruction and misery that has been our fate since time immemorial.

People demand more of a worldview than an instrument to explain the workings, and manipulate the essence, of purely material phenomena. They demand a means of hope, a means of fulfillment, and even a means of attaining exaltation. The real questions of life - the questions of human relationships, of love, of hate, of loyalty, of the spirit - these questions are not addressed by modern society, and so are now left to a hodgepodge of mostly charlatan spiritualists. And we wonder why there is an epidemic of loneliness, why we have so little real caring for one another, or the other living things on this planet.

In this hyper-technological society billions grope for a reason to live. Given our values we are making ourselves irrelevant. Computers will be able to do everything we now care about better than we can, and judged by these end results, the scientific outlook can be seen as actually insane. Life is worth living, or not living, according to what we believe - according to whether we love, or do not love, or we only love ourselves, or all we do is hate.

In our pursuit of mastery over the physical universe, to the exclusion of honor and spirituality, we've created a species of inverse human evolution worse than the Darwinian principle of survival, and the classical conception of human aspiration has been supplanted by one that elevates men like Dick Cheney and Karl Rove to the highest echelons of society, while so many people of courage, spirit and vitality - the natural leaders in any sane world - are made pariahs, or even hunted down like dogs.

This is no exaggeration. People of exceptional character and aptitude, from such diverse origins as Martin Luther King, Sitting Bull, Bernadette Devlin, Mohandas Ghandi, and Paul Robeson have all been outcasts, or even murdered precisely because they were too whole in mind and spirit to accomodate themselves to the truncated and vivisected condition of modern man. Yet someone like Steven Hawking is accorded the status of a deity! Why? Precisely because he doesn't threaten this inverse evolution that is enslaving modern man; he exemplifies it.

The meaning of life cannot be found in a mathematical formula - in some new technological "marvel," In our search for meaning, and the foundation of a society worth living in, materialistic philosophies fall short. The true seekers - those who stand facing eternity - know there's more here than "dark matter" and the next trip to the shopping mall. Those who've had the courage to truly live, who've stood up to the implacable soullessness of the age, have at best a mild contempt for the pronouncements of men like Steven Hawking. Likewise, the great masses of suffering humanity, who struggle daily with the real questions of survival, will never worship at the alter of science. They will never be satisfied by "string theory" or 42. They know better.

Brent Hightower
Copyright 2018 Brent Hightower

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

It's Time to Consider Arming Special Education Students

Given the number of school shootings over the last several decades it seems time we considered innovative approaches. It's been suggested that we employ armed security guards in the schools, but given budget constraints I think that's inadvisable. Likewise, we could arm our teachers, but discipline problems have become serious enough ( due to those same budget constraints) that that might entail the possibility of students and/or teachers being shot on a fairly regular basis, so we probably don't want that. There is an approach, however, that could potentially solve these problems, and a number of other problems in our schools at the same time. That is arming our special education students.

I know at first this might not seem to be the most obvious solution, but let us consider the benefits: Firstly, arming students in special education programs could do wonders for their self esteem, and their feeling of empowerment. For example, in the past they may have tried to make themselves inconspicuous on the bus going to school, or shied away from encounters with other students, and so they might greatly benefit from such a show of trust on the part of their teachers and their communities. Moreover, the savings to the taxpayers would be considerable, and it would give us the opportunity to introduce more guns into the community, an asset for those who believe strongly in the Second Amendment. Furthermore, for those of strong faith, we should remember the words from the sermon on the mount... "The meek shall inherit the earth." An approach like this might just give them a fighting chance.

Arming our special education students could also prove a deterrent to bullying in the schools, so there could be savings on anti-bullying programs, that might even prove to be no longer necessary. These students should, I believe, be given plenty of firepower for the above reasons. This is not to mention, of course, that almost any potential shooter would be discouraged by the thought of 50 or 60 such students in every school armed, not only with Glock 9 mm pistols, but M16 rifles, M60 machine guns (with ten or twenty thousand rounds of ammunition) and for more serious situations, shoulder-fired stinger missiles.

The combined benefits of higher self-esteem, the reduced need for bullying programs, and a positive cost/benefit ratio achieved through not needing to hire added security (and of course the deterrent factor) are, however, only the most obvious benefits of such a program. At the same time we would also be training these kids to take a positive role in their communities after graduation. Such training could give them the experience necessary to join the very special forces, or work in our big city police departments, where recruits of this kind are clearly valued very highly. Beyond that, they could look forward to careers in the American intelligence community, in the CIA, or the NSA, and other agencies where such abilities are obviously much appreciated by their country.

When it comes to protecting our children, and honoring our tax cuts, by making solutions cost effective, while also protecting the second amendment, there are not that many options. I hope the Trump administration, Congress, and state and local governments can all get onboard and see the potential impact of such an approach.

Brent Hightower
Copyright 2018 Brent Hightower

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

All the Talk About Sustainability is Horse Crap

Especially since the 2008 crash, when the economy was in danger of outright collapse, there has been endless talk of sustainability in America, and here in Hawaii is no exception. Yet even here - in one of the most progressive regions of one of America's most progressive states - that is exactly all it's been, nothing but talk. Even after decades of agitation, there still isn't even a rational recycling system in place, and comprehensive recycling is the cornerstone of a sustainable modern society. For awhile I knew of one place here in Hilo, reasonably close by, that would take all recyclable material. They no longer do so, of course. I has always been that way.

Just as you yourself get a system in place at home to sort your recycling (no minor task for those of us in apartments I assure you) than once again nobody within a reasonable distance will take it. You are expected to haul it yourself to the dump. (And what good does it do to go galavanting miles in your car, burning gasoline, to dispose of a single household's load of recycling?) It does no good whatsoever, and any reasonably intelligent person can apprehend that fact. It seems we are supposed to believe that a nation capable of (for whatever reason) landing astronauts on the moon, can't figure out how to institute curbside recycling! If sustainability had ever been the objective on the part of those who make the decisions in America the whole waste system would have been re-engeneered years ago, so that everyone could recycle in the most efficient, and effortless, manner possible. One can only conclude the powers that be oppose sustainability with every ounce of their being! Nothing less could account for the current situation.

These endless efforts on the part of right-minded people that achieve nothing, disillusion people people democracy, and clearly that's just fine with the powers that be because to all appearances doing away with democracy has long been their first priority! But in order to do away with democracy first you have to corrupt it, and the power of vested interests, i.e. the corporate structure, has been hammering away at exactly that for generations - to the point that now it's highly debatable whether we even any longer even have a democracy. That is even true here on Hawaii Island. Nothing of significance can ever change. Superficial changes are occasionally made, mainly just window dressing, but if the people were really in power, if their interests had really be taken into account we would have had sweeping reforms by now of practically every area of our society, from education to electrical power. Think about it. Has a single significant thing been done by our elected officials to alter the utterly rigged and unfair system under which we must all now live?

"Recycling. . . Duh, we don't know how to do that."

Or take the Hilo farmer's market, for example. For all the prattle about sustainability, state and local government's have done virtually nothing to support the Hilo farmer's market. Hilo should have a fabulous farmer's market! We should also have an arboretum that people the world over would pay to see. A local climate and soil that's the envy of the world should assure that! But what do we have? Both Hilo's farmer's market and arboretum are a pathetic farce. I swear, the only unhealthy trees in Hilo are at the Hilo arboretum! I don't know how they even manage it!

Or take KTA, the locally owned supermarket's "Mountain Apple brand" program, which they say features products from local farmers and businesses. Their orange juice is from Brazil! Is it even packed on the island? Well. . . no. So what the hell is local about it? They sell it locally, I suppose, that's what! It's an insult to both our values and intelligence.

What happened to the Hawaii Island Journal? It went the way of all independent and progressive news sources in America, it was bought out by a corporation. Why? Did the corporation see it as potentially profitable. No. As always, after a brief period when they launched a similar, half-assed, and less controversial paper to take it's place, they simply let that paper die. It isn't about money. It's about silencing opposition to endemic corruption. Corporate interests operate in tandem to protect corporate interest. That isn't conspiracy theory, it's simply recognizing the obvious. What happened to the 2% for the land fund, a program to dedicate 2% of tax revenues to purchasing recreational land for the general public on the island, a measure that Big Islanders approved by referendum. The county council voted to overturn it, in a manner that I highly doubt was even constitutional. I mean, who the hell are these people to overturn a bill voted on directly by the citizens?

On Iceland, an island with abundant hydroelectric and geothermal power, electric power is free to all citizens. Here we have those two sources of power to spare, but we have almost limitless solar and wind-turbine power as well - and our electric bills are sky high! Such high electric rates undermine the entire economy, and in particular, small business. Moreover, few people here take up farming, because most of the island lies fallow and unproductive, in the hands of new class of corporate royalty, and so available land is prohibitively expensive.

The true reason for all of this is obvious. Somebody makes money the way things are, so they have the money to make sure things stay that way. Corruption is now all but institutionalized in America, and a nation incapable of change is a nation well down the road toward destruction.

So what's the solution? First, I recently read an article predicting the fall of the Republican party in the next election. I could add that to the same prediction made by the mainstream media at about this time in the election cycle in every election year. Such an announcement serves two purposes. First, in de-energizes ordinary Americans, gives them the false impression that the election's in the bag, the system is working, and they don't have to get involved. The vested interests that own American media like that. Secondly, it frames the election in such a way that any improvement at all for Republicans in the polls (improvements they can always create with a timely infusion of cash) can be presented as w wholly unforeseen Republican resurgence,. That with a little lying, and electioneering will them stave of disaster for them, that will be held up as a Republican victory. When you've seen this game 50 times, it's hard to be surprised by it any more.

So, the upshot is overthrow the party of Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, and likewise the multitudinous Democrats who are really just "Republican Lite." Find the candidates who are most likely to vote in the public interest in the next election and vote. Get politically involved in the upcoming elections as if your life depended on it, because it very well might.

Brent Hightower
Copyright 2018 Brent Hightower

Thursday, April 5, 2018

The State of Art in Fort Worth

I came across the above sculpture in an art magazine from Fort Worth, Texas. How I came across an art magazine from Fort Worth I cannot fathom, or recall, but until that moment I'd never confronted the notion of artwork in Fort Worth. It was a terrible thing to ponder, and I must say the art in the Magazine generally served to confirm my worst fears, but of all the atrocious art featured, one piece stood out - the absolutely appalling 42 inch bronze sculpture, Harvest, by Seth Vandable. I must admit it has a certain power; in fact I was staggered at first sight of it! How in Gods name, I asked myself, could a single artwork embody so many "iconic motifs?"

The sculpture (depicted above) is of a bald, heavily (one might say over-muscled man) leaping into the air, as though he were light as a feather, with a sort of ecstatic gusto, like a ballerina. Yet, not only can he leap like a ballet dancer he can harvest wheat at the same time! For over his shoulder rests that great symbol of rustic virility, the grain scythe. In spite of the balletic overtones, this gives the sculpture a decidedly masculine air. Yet again, there's something more about the thing with the scythe. There's a bit of a hip, racy, perhaps even slightly communist aspect to it, which gives the whole thing that bit of necessary controversy, that bit of essential cachet.

Oh, wow! I get it! He's not just a bald, body-building, ballet dancer, who can dance while harvesting grain with rustic implements, he's also a political activist! (As everyone is in America today, and probably nobody will be again tomorrow, or whenever they feel that that's what's expected of them). Well, probably he's not an actual communist (this is Texas after all,) but maybe a little inclined towards politically correctness of some kind or another. Whatever.

At all events, the artist has really covered some ground here! A bald, virile, ballet dancing, body building, rural rustic, sod-buster, with a political edge! Who'd have thought it possible? But wait, there's more. He's also, apparently, trying to nurse a baby! Wow, this guy can really do it all. He's a bald, virile, ballet dancing, body building, rural rustic, sod buster, with a political edge, who's also trying to nurse a baby! Now this is a man for our times, a real multi-tasker! And I bet he does it all for $7. 50 per hour. This is Texas after all.

Brent Hightower
Copyright 2018 Brent Hightower