• Ayatollah Khomeini and Putting the Shoe on the Other Foot

    • Posted on Nov 30, 1979

    Suppose Richard Nixon had actually done what many of us feared: suppose he had actually killed or imprisoned those many citizens on his "enemies" list.

     And suppose, to help him, he had created his own secret police force to intimidate and terrorize all those who might be candidates for Nixon enemies, meaning hundreds of thousands of the noisy minority.

    Suppose he also formed alliances with other countries who supported him (some might even say helped put him in office) and who bought American products in return for, say, oil. 

    Now suppose that we fiercely independent Americans, after a few years of Nixon's secret police and foreign oil, decided to rise up and turn him out of office. Nixon would wisely flee, taking millions of our dollars with him to the countries who had supported him.

    And suppose Nixon ended up in a hospital bed in one of those countries, under their guard, supposedly ill with, say, cancer. Would we have trouble believing that, since he had lied to us so often before? 

    And don't you suppose we'd want him back? Don't you think we'd be angry at the country that refused to send him back, especially if that country arrogantly insisted that our new leader was a fanatic, when all the new leader had done was to help throNixon out and punished his secret police force? 

    Wouldn't you be tempted, honestly now, to take a few of that country's citizens hostage until they returned Richard Nixon for trial?

    I submit: we would, by now, have demanded that Nixon be returned or else. Hell, we probably would have sent in the marines to drag him home, kicking and screaming, for trial. 

    So let's stop our self-righteous ranting about the Iranians. Put their shoe on our foot and we likely would stomp just as hard. 

    Khomeini, however, certainly has some communication problems with the West. That's because communication involves communing, a commonality—look at the word.

    Without some common agreement, however small, no communication can take place. 
    We've all had the frustrating experience of trying to explain a point to someone with whom we disagree entirely. The argument goes round and round, in and out, up and down, until both arguers either quit in disgust or find some bludgeons. 

    Once in a great while, though, the arguers find to their surprise that they do agree on a point or two after all. Then, and only then, do they proceed to actually disagree and —communicate. 

    But with Khomeini, we're at the round and round, in and out, get out the bludgeons stage, with no commonality in sight. He thinks we're satanic, we think he's fanatic. He thinks we're imperialist war-mongers, we think he's a monomaniacal absolutist. He thinks we're capitalist manipulators, we think he's a throwback to pre-industrial zealotry. 

    No wonder we're not communicating. 

    Go comment!
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  • Battle hymn for inflation: O’ Dem Bucks

    • Posted on Nov 16, 1979


    You can’t win a war without good songs. The North probably beat the South because of “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and Vietnam may well have been lost to “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy,” if not “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”

    So in the current war on inflation, which we’re obviously losing, we need a rousing good anti-inflation song with some real fighting words.  Here’s my contribution, to the tune of “Dry Bones.” (Excuse the Stephen Foster dialect—that’s part of the song.) Here’s the chorus; sing it aloud if you’re alone:

    Dem bucks, dem bucks gonna rise again,

                Dem bucks, dem bucks gonna rise again,

                Dem bucks, dem bucks gonna risa again,

                O hear de need of de poor!

    The verse is simple; sing it out!

                De nec goes into de nee nees,

                De nees go into da wan wans,

                De wans go into de garbage can,

                O hear de need of de poor!

    The verse is not full of typos: it contains real inflation-fighting logic. “Nec” means necessities, “nee” means needs and “wan” means wants. So, to fight inflation, we must convert our necessities into needs, our needs into wants, and our wants get canned.

    It's just elementary dry-bones economics. The dollar has become literally quarter-sized, so we have to pay more of them for the same necessities. Yet fewer of us get enough tiny dollars to make up the difference. In fact, no one can keep up, since as wages go up, so must prices to pay the higher wages. Demanding higher wages, the “take the money and run” solution, only works in the short run, and only for those lucky enough to get some money to run with. For everyone else, it means higher prices and even tinier dollars.

    We need a long-run, dry bones solution. So: de nec goes into de nee and nees first. Here are some national necessities that we can convert easily into needs. Deodorants, all junk food and candy, pop, beer, cigarettes, wine, liquor, meat, cars, airs conditioning, most appliances and electric grooming aids, trendy clothes, calculators, stereos, records, and of course television. Some of these are actually necessities for a very few people; that is, their lives would lose all meaning and purpose without them.

    Or maybe even their survival depends on something in that list, like a wino with his Thunderbird. But for most of us, these necessities aren’t necessary at all; they just make us feel better for short bursts.

    Next, de nees go into de wan wans. Needs become luxuries, so get turned into mere wants: movies, dinners out, long vacations, theater, symphonies, spectator sports, magazines, newspapers. Again, some of these are real needs, and maybe even necessities for a few addicts, but for most they’re just wants that somehow got pushed up to needs.

    And finally de wans go into de garbage can: the trip to Europe, the honeymoon in Paris, the big new car, the videotape machine, the house on the boulevard. Dump these for now. You’ll only get them by not wanting them, since so many people wanting them made them impossible to get. Besides, that’s good Zen wisdom.

    I know, someone is bound to object to this dry bones solution, probably using a wonderful line from King Lear, “O reason not the need: our basest beggars are in poorest thing superfluous: Allow not nature more than nature needs, Man’s life is cheap as beast’s.”

    True enough, but I’m not suggesting that we give up those things that are truly necessary and need-filling.

    Most of our houses and lives, thanks to formerly cheap energy and effective advertising, are full of junk that isn’t necessary, that we don’t need or even really want.

    If we could follow through with inflation dry bones, we would soon see lower prices, and certainly fewer misguided inflation fighters.

    So altogether now:

                Dem bucks, dem bucks gonna rise again,...


    Go comment!
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