Saturday, April 16, 2011


In reading a pamphlet titled The Crisis, written on Christmas Eve, 1776 you'd think something important was happening. "These are the times that try men's souls." Thomas Paine famously begins. He was a clever cat with his deft manipulations. He had to be. No one wanted the war as much as they wanted some kind of stability that the English were too stubborn to give. So, Paine writes,

"If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace;" and this single reflection, well applied, is sufficient to awaken every man to duty."

It's the latter day equivalent of "Buy today, pay tomorrow."

Oh, it would take all day to delineate the subtle lies hidden in this pretty untruth. The most obvious one is that war does not lead to peace. Or, more importantly, the one declaring war is the one watching it on TV. Another lie is that what one man calls peace another man calls war. What one man calls manifest destiny another calls the end of paradise. What one man calls chosen for heaven another calls chosen for hell. And so on. But, the coward I protect in my Thai cotton underpants wonders if he also has enough balls in there to repel foreign or domestic attacks. I doubt I would've paid taxes to Britain on trading wool or wood to my neighbor but my reasoning for war would've been less noble. "My child will fall under my sword before he works for a king." or something like that because either way the kid is dead.

Paine's words worked. The fledgling nation found its wings during free fall and earned the right to trade slaves without British interference. Paine has the nerve to call paying taxes "slavery". It is slavery, but when there are slaves picking your apples then it's not quite the same thing. Do you know who is picking your apples?

The Crisis Paine is talking about is English resistance to the budding separatists. There was some doubt the Americans could pull it off and 240 years later the marketing strengths of CNN and Fox would have us believe they did pull it off...god bless them...and America is the greatest country on earth. blah blah blah.

I have my doubts if only because when I stripped away the camouflage of patriotism I'm pretty sure I don't see a free market utopia, but rather a huge group of elite pencil pushers who don't want to wash their own cars, epitomized by the loathsome Lou Pai of Enron fame who slipped away with $250 million and a stripper to buy (becoming the second largest land owner in Colorado) what was once territory occupied by the Ute Indians. Now, you tell me if that's progress. You sit in front of me and tell me that's what Thomas Paine had in mind when he talked about souls and slaves. Or you might say that's an anomaly, "growing pains" and I would point to the widespread income gap which has the wealthiest 5% of Americans owning 3/4 of everything. Or Michael Moore saying the top 1% owning more than the bottom 95%. Let's put it into real scenarios: my buddy drives 30 miles one way to cut down trees and clean gutters (spraying Simple Green onto white plastic gutters 'so they will look clean' from 40 feet below in a neighborhood where the nearest house is 70 yards away IN THE FUCKING FOREST!!!) He does this without complaint not because he is part Mexican and believes menial service work is his pre-destined lot or because the house owners have been close family friends for years. No, I don't think so. I don't know why he does this but it probably has something to do with the portraits of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. Isn't that ironic?

Another carpenter buddy works in Colorado and Lou Pai is not worthy to touch the exclusive cabinetry and custom banisters he makes. Let Pai's stripper wife polish a splintered hand rail with her crab-infested pussy before she touches one of my friend's creations! But we are not expected to make these value judgements, are we?

Now consider the fact there are 2.3 million Americans in jail. 1 in 30 people are in jail or on parole. Strangely, Lou Pai isn't one of them. So, is this nation that Thomas Paine thoughtfully defended one populated by criminals or is something else going on? The message I hear is, "Clean my gutters or you will go to jail." and that's a message I'm prepared to challenge.

A movie opened today titled "Atlas Shrugged" It's adapted from a book by Ayn Rand. I'll review it when I see it, but it's basically what happens when industrialists go on strike. People like Bill Gates and Kenneth Lay and Bernie Madoff all say, "No more working for the benefit of the socialist looters." Hahahha. I pray they take Lou Pai with them...or maybe Lou Pai used the retirement funds of California utilities workers to buy all that land in Colorado for the future Egoist utopia compound, complete with strip clubs to produce the future wage slaves. My point is that a strike is in the future but I don't think it should be corporate moguls doing the walkout. I've met the tree trimmers and the nurses and the teachers and the manufacturers and the junk men of this country and I'm telling you: we need Sam Walton and Steve Jobs like a fish needs a bicycle. They can clean their own swimming pools; Oggy Bleacher Shrugged.

The Santa Cruz saga touches on all of these topics and more. I'll probably die of old age (43) before I finish it. I have abandoned John Updike's model of writing in favor of Victor Hugo's. There is more Les Miserables in my story than Rabbit, Run. I have pages comparing Oggy to Marius and the Mayor to King Louis XVI. It's a grand, grotesque soap opera. People from every walk of life mixed it up on River Street and I heard and remember all the arguments. I made a few impassioned speeches myself to a yawning city council who sneered at my clothes made of reclaimed mattress covers and beach blankets, my stinking beard and unwashed teeth festering with ginger compresses and garlic cures and echinacea lotions.

"When one man," I usually began with a tear in my eye (I refused to use the microphone because it was powered by nuclear generated electricity so these remarks were all off the record), "believes his welfare is more important than the welfare of the whole then all is lost! All is lost! And you seven men and women deem yourselves wise enough to decide what person's habitat is fit? I ask you, you members of the city like myself, when did the land not belong to us all? When did the rent we pay for services turn around in the form of a baton to land on our backs as we plead for the freedom to forage in the forest for food?"

You get the point. I don't want Oggy to be the hero of that story. He's the device through which everything happens. The issues are bigger than Oggy. And are there ever any heroes in a soap opera? Let's just say there are no weddings at the end of my story. No, "Bring Him Home" songs.

Anyway, it's nice to believe the Ute Indian was the lesser man because he was eradicated. Survival of the fittest...circular reasoning...that sort of thing. We modern Americans must be the more suited to survival...because we are surviving. And how do we survive? Modern Medicine derived from clear cut rain forests? Was that your home in the canopy that was cut down? Modern conveniences like cell phones and computers? Was that your river that washes the sulfuric acid away when silicone chips are reclaimed from obsolete electronics? Fast cars? Was that your dictator controlling the oil fields to get kickbacks from the Bush owned oil companies? Was that your habitat poisoned? We're kept in the dark about many things but it's our responsibility to know what havoc we are causing elsewhere. Claiming ignorance is unjustifiable in the wikileak era. The only sinister propaganda minister today is in the form of a sweaty, grinning Howie Mandel holding up briefcases full of money before a hysterical crowd. You either get informed on your own or you will be hung with your iPhone crammed up your asshole.

No, the Ute wasn't the lesser man. He was the outnumbered man. In a fair fight, the Ute and the Apache win. The Sioux win. But war isn't fair and that's why Thomas Paine used whatever he thought would win the confidence of his fellows. He was an early marketeer and his product was a tax free country. Did he foresee Lou Pai pillaging the retirement funds of millions of Californians to pamper his stripper wife on the blood fields of Colorado? Maybe, but he never let on. That kind of full disclosure is the job of philosophers, not used car salesmen.

Thomas Paine writes,

"By perseverance and fortitude we have the prospect of a glorious issue; by cowardice and submission, the sad choice of a variety of evils- a ravaged country- a depopulated city- habitations without safety, and slavery without hope- our homes turned into barracks and bawdy-houses for Hessians, and a future race to provide for, whose fathers we shall doubt of. Look on this picture and weep over it!"

That's as true today as it was in 1776.

Our bodies are pre-sentenced to death row from the day we are born, but Thomas Paine was right; these are the times that try men's souls. What will be the verdict?

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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.