Regarding Belizean beer, FDR's ghost and the Citibank tapeworm (also why we ain't Mayans, no matter what that calendar says!)
I think I first read some of your stuff in a short stay in antique Guatemala. On my return to the US, a friend gave me your book Deer Hunting with Jesus and I enjoyed it for the most part.
I try to live outside of the United States, on my Social Security, and for the most part in Costa Rica, but not in the tourist areas, of course. The yuppies from all countries are destroying everything everywhere i go eventually. I read your article on the underclass. From my anecdotal experience, most folks when you ask about class, respond that they are in the middle class. I have been wondering about what happened to the working class. It seems to me the great pundits in our society have convinced the majority of us that even if we are doing the crappiest jobs, we are middle class.
Anyway, Joe, i just wanted to make some contact with you. I have been in most of Central America but not Belize and I hear all kinds of different stories -- "great if you are into the ocean but be careful of the natives" -- but if that kept me from traveling I would never have left my working class neighborhood.
Oh yes, one thing I disagree with you is on FDR. I am happy to have been able to get out of the USA rat race even if at what most hypnotized fellow citizens think is not enough to live the American dream, or more the nightmare to me.
Regards and peace,
Sounds like you have a good handle on the American understanding of class -- which is none at all. As for Belize, it's a mixed bag, like every place else. The observation: "great if you are into the ocean but be careful of the natives" is true, I guess. Hell, it's true of Palm Springs and Key West. Moreover, it all depends on how you want to live and what culture you want to engage. Belize has several, Mayan, Creole, Garifuna, Mestizo.
Living by the ocean suits me purely for the natural virtues of the sea. Belize is not cheap by Central America standards. Twice as high as Mexico on the whole, mostly due to lack of infrastructure and everything having to be imported. I do OK when I am there -- right now I am back in America for a few months finishing up my next book -- because I live pretty much like Garifuna Belizeans live, except that I drink far more beer at Ollie's place. No car, no hot running water, few of the material accoutrements of US life. In fact, most of the people in the village have more durable goods and commodities than I do, such as cable TV, microwave ovens, etc.
Regarding choice of a country in which to spend time, mostly I am interested in places where I can do something basic and real for people without interference. School books, housing, etc., with the income I get from US sources. In that sense, I like Mexico very much too. I'd have to admit that I feel a bit more comfortable in Mexico because the cultural values of the people more resemble mine. Same European based concepts and underpinnings, same pretenses and vices too. I cannot say that is the dominant theme in Garifuna Belize, at least in the purest sense as we understand those things. I've been scammed often there, sometimes knowingly, other times not, and will be again.
Not that most Belizeans aren't honest. Most ordinary people on the planet are honest, or try to be. Some of the gringos there just shake their head at me, not in mockery, but in friendly mystification. My feeling is that many of the poorest Garifuna and other Belizeans, once you understand them, are not really so dishonest, despite that they are often working an angle on you. They are simply working the most fruitful territory, in the same fashion as when Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks, replied, "Because that's where the money is." It's just life in a poor place where they get robbed to the point of beggary at the governmental and business level before they ever see any money or opportunity. It's a rich country with a lot of poor people.
There is a middle class, which is good for Belize, I guess, since they are not as poor. Personally, I am not much interested in those people, because their goals are too often carbon copies of failed models of affluence in America. Yet there are some dynamic Belizeans who have a real handle on Caribbean culture and their history -- to my limited grasp of it at least - who have shared some of the most meaningful insights I've ever encountered. I dunno, it's all just the Caribbean culture I guess. To me it's one of the most earthy, exotic, often tragic, generally poignant ones in this hemisphere. But I've not been everywhere by any means.
As for FDR, even though I don't know your views, I probably don't disagree with you. It's all a matter of perspective, as they say, and there are many perspectives. All are equally legitimate, whether they be Marxist, Capitalist, or whatever, simply because they are held by hundreds of millions in agreement. Interpretation of history is malleable at best, history cannot really ever be known, regardless of historians' claims in the name of job security; only an assemblage of facts and actions can be amassed, subject to current and subsequent interpretation. Also, my brief remarks about FDR in no way indicate the complexity of the man, the times or the situation. When you stand way back, which is to say outside the standard American sound bite of FDR, which like all other historical figures, he has been reduced to, when you look at it from outside America and even America's academic institutions (maybe especially America's academic institutions), you find that essentially he saved capitalism.
FDR also gave succor to millions of desperate Americans. I think one of the problems with Americans is that they want it to be simplified, reduced to good guys and bad guys, emphasizing presidents as personalities. Yet no president is so simple as that, with the possible exception of George W. Bush, and even then he had a small group of very complex men animating his presidency, Dick Cheney chief among them. No matter what one thinks of Cheney's lack of decency, compassion, or his love for convoluted power plays and intrigue, his cold ruthlessness, he is complex. His objectives may be as simple as those of a snake, but he's nevertheless a complex snake. Which is neither good nor bad, as the world is full of snakes. In the end we can only assess the result of these powerful men. Forget about them as personalities to be enshrined or reviled, depending upon one's political stripe or cultural brainwashing. Hagiography sprouts up around personalities, only to be put to use by more elite men for their own uses. In other words, focus less on the smile and the cigarette holder, and more on the biggest picture possible. What larger systems governed events?
Anyway, of course Roosevelt did much good for Americans chiefly through social engineering and nursing capitalism back to health, if health is the right word. Capitalism is a parasitic disease of human society and the earth to begin with, so it's rather like giving a dying tapeworm vitamins. At times FDR was forcing the capitalists to go against their own interests for the short term so they could survive in the long term. People in dire need at the time couldn't give a shit, and neither would I if I were in a soup line. But whether it is FDR, John Kennedy, Richard Nixon or Abraham Lincoln, there are no good guys or bad guys in the end -- only results and ongoing ramifications of their brief moment of power. And even that moment was subject to many attending forces of the times, unseen by the public.
I chose that perspective because it was one held by some people at the time. People who even wrote about it at the time, though you will not see it in state sanctioned history books at any level, popular or academic. Recorded history is a minefield to begin with. For instance I quoted Lincoln in that same essay regarding "the money powers." That quote can be found all over the place in the literature about Lincoln. Turns out that he probably said no such thing, as a reader subsequently demonstrated. But then he demonstrated it with an Internet source, so who knows? But probably not.
Having met as a journalist any number of political figures of my time who subsequently became part of our history, and having watched events as they happened, and now see what is recorded as history, I have come to one conclusion: Most of history is indeed an agreed upon lie, either by consensus of an unenlightened people, or through perpetuation by larger ongoing forces in power at the moment. So I think it's always best to doubt the history that is most readily available to you. It's available for a reason. Maybe even discard history altogether in making current decisions, because history truly does not repeat itself much anymore, if it ever did. We live in our own specific and unique moment, but choose to believe there is precedent so as not to feel so adrift, or to delude ourselves that every previous act and action was destined to deliver us unto what we presently are. A fabricated mental construction of continuity as validation. "He who does not learn from history ..." is free from the illusion that what has happened in the past circumscribes what can happen in the future.
The one certainty is that future will be an entirely different thing than has ever existed. Why? Because the global ecological collapse underway and now irreversible is gonna change everything. Period. For everybody. Nothing like it has ever happened in the past, so the past is completely irrelevant as a basis for assessment. Reading about the collapse of the Mayas won't help much. We ain't Mayas and there are six billion of us munching away and shitting in the same global outhouse now.
In any case, believing that "history repeats itself" very well serves the purposes of hierarchical democracy, because the history we are offered is all about the presidents, the generals and the titans, usually the victors but sometimes moral outlaws such as Hitler, in case we do not get the point. Which we often don't. If we did, the Zionists would be uplifting their Palestinian brothers and sisters, instead of torturing them like dogs until they snarl and bite back, providing an excuse to further make their lives miserable, and even kill them, children included.
Our official history, and no small part of so-called unofficial history, serves our hierarchical democracy. Which is no democracy at all. Direct democracy may well be possible, given the computing power and connectivity available today. However, given the military-corporate-financial dominance of all moving parts of our societal machinery, I suspect that the electorial process is subject to increasing, not decreasing, and more sophisticated black box voting stuff behind the scenes than we can ever know. After all, the corruption was clearly demonstrated, yet no indictments came down. Is that not elite license from the Empire?
No matter who is being elected, Obama, McCain or anybody else, you're never gonna see any man or woman who stands up and declares these things:
I hereby announce that this government exists so as to preserve the earth, not so it can serve us longer, but so that we may serve the earth longer, better and with complete humility for the only mother we ever had or will have. Let us now wage peace against every war making entity on the planet. Tomorrow morning at 8 AM I will cancel the space program and its interstellar wastefulness and reassign those resources to the hungriest people not just here in America, but across the world. I herein declare the American era of material prosperity officially closed for business, which I admit is no great accomplishment, given that it is already over and dead. Thus I order the hair and the nails to cease growing. Likewise the American lifestyle is also canceled.
All citizen debts are canceled and banks as we know them are abolished. Money is abolished, to be replaced with a system of social credits based upon planetary sustainability, meaningful and useful human productivity and an economy of human labor and art. I order the elites who have held captive the people's medium of exchange, then rented it back to them creating a nation of debt slaves, immediately to prison without any trials by the judicial commissariat who have always served their interests. Any true wealth that exists, other than the gifts of nature, we alone have produced by our labors. Thus we have the right to redistribute it so as to serve the greatest number, not the elites. Consequently, there will be a redistribution of all genuine wealth, not fiat currency wealth but true wealth, such as access to health care, access to education, access to clean air and the right to the love of a fully paid stay-at-home mother. All nannies are hereby fired, with full unemployment compensation to begin immediately.
From now on the national policy is "pay as we go." We choose to live within the society and economy we actually produce and create, not one based upon borrowed billions from other nations, most of which was likewise extorted from the production of their citizens. Nor will we avail ourselves to the profit of empire through thuggish conquest of the indigenous desert peoples, jungle peoples, and savannah land peoples of the planet. And lastly, the nation's capital will be moved to Beckley, West Virginia, to mountaintop removal coal country, where every congressman and senator will be required to work ten hours a week as a mucker separating rock from coal. Or, if age or health prevent any congressman or senator form doing so, then to work as a telemarketer. In either case, they shall enjoy the same wages, standard of air, water and health care as citizens presently residing there enjoy. Food stamps and commodity cheese will be issued monthly.
Now go out there and relax and enjoy life. Rediscover and redefine art and labor, meaningful work and play. To that end, I have declared marijuana legal.
Thank you all very much. Gaia bless America!
And thank you, Robert, for taking the time to write.