Thursday, September 29, 2011

To Work Or Not To Work

It was, I believe, Buckminster Fuller who once stated that the proper job of mankind was to get back to what it was doing before some clown came along and said you had to work for a living. In a nutshell, that thought acted as a thesis in my recent 'undisclosed location' meeting.

While I cannot give specific details -- oath of secrecy and all that -- there was no doubt that the terms 'work' and 'job' came under close scrutiny. Not surprising, considering that both seem to be fading away rather quickly. Or so many thought, praising technological advances that would allow everyone to feed, clothe and house themselves without anyone doing a stitch of work. This position was buttressed by a slew of Venn diagrams, stochastic bends, pie charts ,scattergrams et cetera ad nauseam.

All this, of course was rubbish, and I quickly became a voice in the wilderness by stressing that jobs and work were essential. People need something TO DO, and always have. Way back when, that something was hunting and gathering. Then came agriculture, along with the concept of deferred gratification -- it is to that first farmer's everlasting credit that he (or more likely she) threw some seeds onto the ground and had the patience to await results. Then came industry, followed by our current technological revolution.

Throughout all this time, people worked. Serfs and peasants actually had little choice in the matter, but even their bosses, sundry lords knights and barons, worked. Warfare was mano e mano in those days, and to be successful, you had to work hard at it. At present, work and jobs has become so central to one's self esteem that when a person's job is lost, so is the person.

The reason is, at least to me, crystal clear: the link between person and job has become fixed, as in concrete. It is this aspect that cries out for more discussion, imaginative thinking, and the development of an action plan to move beyond this pairing.

The group, sad to say, was not overly interested, preferring to concentrate on bail outs, economic stimulus, debt reduction and the like, without really exploring the root cause, the need to be doing something that the person and the society values. Robert Frost summed up this position well in his poem "Two Tramps in Mudtime":

"Only when love and need are one
And the work is play for mortal stakes
Is the job ever really done
For Heaven and the future's sake."

Now if only the Great and the Good can start from the position outlined by Frost, there just might, might, be a way out of the employment mess we are in.

Just a thought, folks. Just a thought.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Proposed Meeting of Minds

Yes, I am a bit early with this writing, but needs must. I have been 'seconded', or rather ordered, to attend a meeting,, and unfortunately not at liberty to disclose the location. Hah! An undisclosed location! Maybe Dick Cheney will be there, and if so, we will have Words.

This all came about shortly after the Compte De Rienville left, after a too short in and out visit. And no comments on that last phrase. It started, as these things usually do, with a call from Sir Harry, my sometime employer. He requested my presence at said meeting, and the tone of voice he used brooked no refusal. I did glean, however, that things fiscal would be at the heart of things.

"But why me?" I asked.

"Because," Sir Harry replied grumpily, "you apparently are noted for providing a needed food source, your enterprise is expanding, you make money, and your workers think you're some kind of goddess. But don't let any of that go to your head."

"Wouldn't think of it," I replied sweetly.

Now I am not one to indulge overmuch in fugitive speculation, but I suspect that what will be discussed, after the obligatory weeping and flossing of teeth, will be the current financial mess afflicting Europe and the U,S.A. And yes, here I would have something to offer. Yet regardless of any solutions put on the table, it will come down to people demonstrating leadership, something sadly lacking at the present time.

To illustrate this last point, the very fact that the U.S. group known as the 'Tea Party' can wield the influence it does is disturbing, indeed frightening. (I personally would dump the lot of them into Boston Harbour. After all, there is historical precedent).

What is need then is the identification of such a leader, with the political nous and the sheer guts to bang opposing heads together. Sadly, John A. Macdonald or Franklin Delano Roosevelt are no longer with us. Barack Obama is simply too conciliatory, and, with one exception, no one else measures up. The exception, the person who might just be capable of accomplishing such a difficult task, is --and you read it here first --

Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Australia Fair

Curled up in my study, I was absorbing some interesting news received from a colleague in Australia, code name Barbie Q. I hadn't seen BQ for some time, not since we participated in a shootout with a Nepalese drug gang near Ayer's Rock. Rather messy affair, really, but I digress.

What BQ was on about was that Australia's new passport designation. Apparently, sexual orientation, like Caesar's Gaul, would now be divided into three: male, female and a simple X. What this means (I think) is that those who do not identify themselves as male or female will no longer be required to check off the 'M' or 'F' under gender, will have the option of checking 'X'

Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase 'Generation X'.

BQ also included a statement by Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, to wit: "This [passport] amendment makes life easier and significantly reduces the administrative burden for sex and gender diverse people who want a passport that reflects their gender and physical appearance." In the past, Australian citizens had to choose either male or female, and were able to make changes to their gender on the documents only if they had sex reassignment surgery.

Well, well well.

All this prompted interest in the stance of some other countries when facing gender alteration. A little research discovered the following. The U.S. and Canada maintain Australia's first position -- proof of gender surgery - and the UK allows people to check a gender other than their gender at birth. In New Zealand a gender decision is made by a family court ruling.

The 'X' factor, then, belongs solely to Australia.

What was not in BQ's information was where all this might lead.

Now for those who feel the authority of compassion, and respond to it, the X's will have no problem. It has, however, been my experience that passport control officers are a breed apart, and compassion is not their strong suit. Particularly American officers.(I still rankle at that bitch at Chicago's O'Hare that tried to steal my Milano Blahniks.) So expect some trouble, and it would not be beyond the realm of possibility that some X's will find themselves instantly put in the 'no fly' category, and if they get vociferous, wind up in Guantanamo Bay. Though this latter action is probably a step too far -- Dick Cheney no longer holds the reins of power in his sweaty hands.

And X's should not even think of showing such a document in places such as Iran or Saudi Arabia. The powers that be in those countries are still deeply embedded in the 9th century, and the 'X' could all too quickly morph into an axe, headed for the traveller's neck.

All in all, though, an advance.

A soft knock on my door, and lo and behold, who should appear but the Compte de Rienville! I leapt to my feet, overjoyed to see him and that he was free (temporarily) from the European fiscal mess. The words he spoke to me at our first meeting flashed into my mind: "Our eyes have met; our thighs not yet."

Sorry about that. Got carried away.

And I really did get carried away.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Aiding, Not Abetting

I was in the study at the Manor, doing some research for a commissioned article, when Irving advised me that my visitor had arrived.

"Father Martin?"

"The very person."

"Good. Show him in. Oh, and Henri has some tea and scones ready. If you could be so kind...."

"T'is said. T'is done."

Irving left. The scones were a bonus, but a previous visit had made clear the good Father thought them marvellous. He was right. And while I am not who is usually kind to Divines, I make an exception with Father Martin. After all, he has come to see the value of my little group of atheistic nuns, the Little Sisters of Poverty and Pain, and wards off the Bishop, who would disband the group in a heartbeat.

Irving reappeared with Father Martin in tow.

I rose and greeted him.

"Father. Always a pleasure."

"Likewise, My Lady. I trust all goes well?"

"As well as can be expected." At that point my thigh began to throb where a Libyan bullet had been extracted, but there was no need to bring this to Father Martin's attention. "Now, what brings you to the Manor? Have the Little Sisters done something untoward?"

"Not at all. No this is something quite different. The Church is very concerned about the famine in the Horn of Africa, and is mounting an aid campaign to help. The situation is desperate, and in need of --"

"Stop right there, Father," I interrupted.

"But --"

"Just listen for a minute. You should know that I have been in Ethiopia and Somalia. Right now, the area comprises one-third lunatic thugs who have no understanding of the Qu'ran, one-third devout Muslims who do, and the remainder are women and children who are starving to death. Too often, aid does not reach those for whom it is intended, but rather goes to purchase AK 47's, RPG's and other like weaponry. Is that how you want to see any funds you might raise used?"

"Well, no. Of course not. But the famine does not have a religious cause, but a natural one, a drought --"

"To be sure. But, Father, I should like to draw something to your attention." I rummaged on my desk for a moment, then said, "Ah, here it is. Father, are you familiar at all with the work of Dr. Amartya Sen?"


Dr. Sen is an economist currently at Harvard, and a Nobel Prize winner. In his text, Development As Freedom, we read the following statement: 'No famine has ever taken place in the history of the world in a functioning democracy.' That, Father, outlines the goal to aim for."

Father Martin fell silent as he thought over Dr. Sen's words.

At that point Irving entered bearing tea and the scones. Father Martin visibly brightened, and after several sips of tea -- and four scones -- hesitantly asked, "Then just how should we be helping?"

"Well, what I have done is to fund the purchase of three steel-plated armoured vehicles and donated them to Oxfam. These vehicles laugh a Islamist-run road block to scorn. Thus aid is picked up in Mogadishu, barrels through these road blocks and then reaches the UN camps with their goods intact."

"But they could be shot at --"

"I have also supplied some colleagues -- well, never mind about that. The point is to make aid arrival as certain as possible. In this regard, I would suggest that you continue your campaign, but ensure that funds are sent to outfits like Oxfam or Medicins Sans Frontieres. Keep Holy Mother Church out of it. Islam is in a stage where it has trouble recognizing that there are many paths to salvation."

"You mean, many paths to God."

"No, I am not talking about imaginary friends, comforting as those friends may be. But nice try, Father."

"Oh, I always try. Goes with the territory. And now I must be off, although perhaps one more scone...and I won't forget Dr. Sen's words."

Nor should we all. The sentiment, of course, has been stated before.

Lest we forget.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Keeping Current

Reading The Economist these days, packed with fiscal articles of doom and gloom, is akin to poring over The Tibetan Book of the Dead. Now in my opinion the Tibetan Book of the Dead is crap. But if the monks who wrote it knew it was crap, well then it's not crap. (Discuss among yourselves.)

My mood was not improved when I learned, upon my return from Geneva, that the Compte de Rienville would not be visiting. Apparently he had been sent to Tripoli and given the task of determining just where Moammar Gadhafi might be. As any woman would agree, he got his priorities wrong -- there are, I suspect, hundreds trying to determine Gadhafi's whereabouts. The Compte would have been much better off in my company. Certainly I would be much better off.

As to old Moammar's place of refuge, theories abound. Sir Harry suspects he will hare off to Zimbabwe, where his friend Mugabe will welcome him, kick some white landlord off his farm, and make him a present. Matilda Hatt, based on information based on a reliable source, is certain he has gone to North Korea and is exploring that country's delights with that paragon of democratic idealism, Kim Jong Il. This latter theory I believe to be rubbish. Tilly's "reliable source" was a drug-addled Azeri she encountered in an alleyway in Baku.

My own theory, based on Gadhafi's background and my own knowledge of Libyan tribal structure, is that he has fled to the town of Beni Walid, about 150 kilometres southeast of Tripoli. This town, and the surrounding area, is held by an ally of Gadhafi's, the powerful Warfalla tribe. The rebels are unlikely to attack, given that some of their own forces are members of that same tribe. Just a theory, mind you, but we will see.

Finally, and to end on a more positive note, it has become apparent that the whole Libyan situation is one that while there was a nasty and bloody cost in lives, nevertheless met with success. Good on the rebels, and good on NATO. One can but hope that what happens now profits all Libyans.

This outcome was presaged by a bright young Muslim girl at the beginning. In an excerpt I caught on Al-Jazeera, she had said "If NATO can take out the heavy stuff, our boys will do the rest."

Sounds like they did.