POET’S PLAN: Two party system; The EPA is “NEITHER.”

TWO PARTY SYSTEM? THE EPA IS NEITHER.

If God had wanted me to learn about computers, He would have arranged my life differently. I was all ready to start work at a computer place in Scott’s Valley, California, back in 1984, and back then I was the sort of worker who is not only avid to learn, but capable of learning. I was “a quick study,” (and what old Yankees called “thefty,” which is a word that has pretty much faded from use, but meant you could figure out how to get a job done even if you lacked the proper training and tools; a word a bit like the politically-incorrect phrase, “nigger rigging,” but “thefty” had more positive associations.)

I was so quick to catch on to what a job entailed, and so eager to figure out ways to solve problems, that I often was swiftly promoted. Often such promotions involved doing twice the work for a five-cent-per-hour-raise. Also it tended to make other workers hostile, (and when a Union was involved, it was actually forbidden.) Lastly, such promotion often was a dead-end, and then, as soon as my job became repetitive, and involved no challenges or learning, I tended to find some excuse to leave. In which case I should not blame God, because the simple fact was that, by 1984, I was well on my way to working well over a hundred jobs. My vagrancy was my own doing. The only way to blame God, (or to give God credit,) is because he shaped me the way I am; IE: I can’t stand repetitive jobs that don’t involve learning.

However the job I was about to start in Scott’s Valley might have been different. For one thing, the starting wage was well over minimum wage, and that can make a man like me put up with boredom a little longer. Second, it offered training, and a whole universe of classes pertaining to computers. To learn about computers in 1984 would have put me well ahead-of-the-curve.

Instead I swiftly found myself in Window Rock, Arizona, in the bureaucratic offices of the Navajo Tribe, somewhat illegally indirectly leeching a bit of money Congress intended to be used to train Navajo youth to be modern. And what was the so-called “modern” thing I was learning? It was how to repair an IBM electric typewriter.

Talk about a totally useless skill to learn! Within a decade it was hard to even find an IBM typewriter in an office building.

How did I come to move from Scotts Valley to Window Rock? Well, “some people claim there’s a woman to blame,” and I‘ll admit a little of that was involved. However even before the woman appeared the job in Scott‘s Valley vanished. The place closed its doors on the very day I was suppose to start work.

Apparently the management of that place decided to tell Microsoft and Apple where to get off. They were tired of having to design stuff to fit Microsoft and Apple hardware, and told Microsoft and Apple to design hardware to fit their stuff. (Why do I have the sneaky suspicion cocaine was involved?) They promptly lost huge contracts and had to close their doors.

If I‘d been working there you might be able to blame me. You could suggest I had caught management‘s ear, and poisoned their business-sense with bad advice. However, as I hadn’t even walked through the door for my first day of work, this is not an occasion where I can be blamed.

Unless you believe in God, and can imagine God was horrified at the prospect of a poet like me becoming a computer geek.

Usually God is patient, and leaves us in our messes to figure things out for ourselves, with our flimsy and meager “Free Will,” but perhaps, in dire circumstances, when a poet like me is about to become a computer geek, (well “ahead of his time”, and likely also relatively wealthy and corrupted by all the bad things filthy lucre does,) God will intervene. He will plant the idea in the skulls of management that it is a wise business move to challenge Microsoft and Apple.

If you believe God can intervene in that manner, then it probably is my fault that a little start-up operation in Scott’s Valley went bankrupt.

In any case I spent the next four years about as far away from computers as you could get, in the lower 48 states of the USA. Not that I stopped learning. But my study involved very different things.

One thing I happened to study was bureaucracy. I couldn’t help it, in that area, especially during the time I spent fixing electric typewriters. (I only worked that job part time, and at times it was a very small part of my time.)

To be honest, few things seemed more out of place in that Navajo landscape than modern gizmos, whether they were out-of-date electric typewriters or more-modern computers. However bureaucracy was invading the wild west big time. Not only was there the Cowboy bureaucracy, (State, County and City,) and the Indian bureaucracy, (Tribe and Chapter Houses,) effecting the roads, hospitals, colleges and libraries, but there was The Bureau of Land Management, The Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Veteren’s Administration, which were neither Cowboy nor Indian. I learned a lot about the strange world of the “Neither”, repairing typewriters.

“Neither” is the brainless bureaucracy that thought it was helpful to teach Navajo youth how to repair electric typewriters, when that was a skill that would make the teenager obsolete before age twenty-nine.

“Neither” is also the out-of-touch logic of the EPA, all these years later, as they deem it wise to shut down coal mines and coal power plants, which will impoverish, if not actually freeze, the poor.

Even though I didn’t study computers, I did study the stupidity of “Neither,” as it effected really classy Navajo, Zuni, Hopi, Hispanics and wise-but-nearly-illiterate Cowboys. Though I missed my chance to be ahead-of-the-curve, in Scott’s Valley, in terms of computers, I was ahead-of-the-curve, in terms of what it feels like to be a Navajo, or any other ordinary people, facing the bureaucratic “Neither.”

It used to be we could feel pity for Navajo, but now we need to feel pity for ourselves. It is all Americans who are now the Native Americans, facing the monstrosity of the “Neither.”

(Past my bedtime. From here on this is just notes for a follow-up essay.)

Coming to grips with this monster is no easy task. It is hydra-headed, and while some heads are obvious, others are not. I’ve spent years thinking about the problem, and I’m not helped when my computer crashes, my notes are lost, and I haven’t learned enough about fixing computers to fix the problem.

However, though I can’t fix a crashed computer, covered in dust and cobwebs in my attic, a guy from Puerto Rico salvaged the memory in the hulk, which I assumed was as lost as papers in a house fire.

The fellow did not gain his computer skills through being educated by a Federal grant of any sort. In fact he learned much the same way I have learned: He was given certain gifts by God, and life has a way of bringing out our gifts, because they are what survives the hammering life puts us through.

Such gifts are best developed in a free society. Attempts by the “Neither” to nourish such gifts seldom help and often hinder, because the only person who understands the gift is the person with the gift.  Outsiders cannot be insiders. In the end, the attempts of the “Neither” to legislate spirituality are bound to fail, for they fail to recognize the worth of the individual spirit, and instead attempt to deal with individuals as clumsy groupings of people who are sort-of-alike..

Then the “Neither” attempts to organize those “groupings” into an organized system, and often sees unintended consequences be the result.   When you limit the freedom of individuals you limit individual’s ability to demonstrate their gifts, and in the end you lose.

Fortunately I didn’t need to deal with licences or forms or bureaucracy of any sort to rescue the memory of my crashed computer. I, as a free individual, found another free individual who had developed the gifts I haven’t developed.  That is how things work best.

Among the slew of lost documents, I found the following profound-but-silly poem, which I can’t remember writing. Although irreverent, and a bit embarrassing, I think the poem does a good job of describing the difficulty a person who loves to learn goes through, and furthermore hints at an eventual escape from duality and the false-thought of “Neither.”

I offer it hoping it will encourage those who think they are alone, and are the only ones who see the falsity of “Neither,” and pray the poem may even inspire them to resist the bureaucratic buffoonery we are enduring,

     SEDUCING STUDENTS

Some teachers say, “Stop slugging,
And learn to coo and sigh
Over Shakespeare’s sonnets
And how skylarks kiss the sky,”
But soon as class is over
It is time for Rugby’s slugging.
Then teacher’s do not like it much
If students coo of hugging,

Unless, of course, the hug is like
A wrestler’s embrace,
The sort of hug which grinds the green
Of sod upon your face,
But if you truly crouch and clout
Opponents in the nose
You learn it’s nearly naughty as
Handing them a rose.

Teachers have to channel you;
Contain you and restrain you.
Although you’re not a horse, they’ve got
To spur you and to rein you,
But when they tried to saddle me
I said, “Get off my back!
My freedom’s my virginity;
I have a thing you lack.”

Still they felt they had to start me
And they felt they had to stop me.
“Emulate! Imitate!
But, never, never copy!
Fifty footnotes earns an ‘A!’
A plagiarist’s a sneak!
Talk when you are spoken to
But never, never speak!”

They said, “Both in sports and poems
Comes times to bow to rules.
Obey, and be submissive,
As cowed as Hitler’s fools;
For both in sports and poetry
Comes times to set all free
And race along the sidelines
Like a spirit soaring free!”

What a tricky task they faced
Teaching, “Don’t, but do.”
I was like a Juliet
And teachers, Montigue.
Knowledge has the sweetest lips.
I knew I was unkissed.
The teachers urged that I lie still
And then, “Resist! Resist!”

But when I was a student
I couldn’t stand be goosed.
I’d slap away the teacher’s leer
And wouldn’t be seduced.
I wouldn’t take the ball and run
Down sidelines like I should.
I streaked across the sidelines
And I headed for the wood.

I heard the voices hollering
That I had lost my mind.
I listened as the voices
Finally faded, far behind,
But I felt not a bit of shame
For being out of bounds
And broke the school’s commandment
About staying on its grounds.

Then I learned that schools protect.
The world is not so nice.
Though schools can seem too squishy
The world’s as hard as ice.
Where schools seduce with blandishments,
“Please don’t be an escapist,”
The world does not seduce at all.
The world’s a clumsy rapist.

What a rugby game it is
When business holds the ball!
The greedy build their mansions up
But greed then covets all
‘Til greed tears lovely mansions down
And revolution’s red
Is all that’s left of rainbows
That were promised to the dead.

The poor go limping down a field
With sidelines creeping near
Until they’re in an alley
Ruled by slumlord’s fisted fear.
Finally there’s a riot
And the scrum’s a savage game:
The balls are rolling human heads
But sidelines are the same.

But when I was a worker
I couldn’t stand be goosed.
When Left and Right spoke promises
I wouldn’t be seduced.
They were just opposing sides
Which form an alley’s hall,
And thinking back to days in school
I smiled and took the ball.

I’d learned that if you scale the walls
You stay in states you’re in:
East to west, or west to east,
You stay within Berlin.
Though you may clamber eastwards
Over scrums to dawning day
You’ll find you’re soon in shadow
And can’t see the sunset’s ray.

Wherever there’s a standing wall
There shadows will persist.
The morning that you fall in love
Makes you an anarchist.
We cannot love a thing of fear
That pushes us apart.
Something about every wall’s
Offensive to the heart.

The wall remains as long as rules
Are bricked to build them up.
I took the ball I held and gave
It to a passing pup.
To heck with rules. To heck with scrums.
To heck with hugs and slugs.
To heck with rolled-out carpets
And to heck with pulled-out rugs.

The dog I gave the ball to
Made the answer plain as day:
It wagged its tail and with its eyes
Said, “Come on! Let us play!”
And that is the seduction
Which every student faces,
And that’s what the predicament
Of the human race is.

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