Thursday, January 21, 2010

And You Thought You Had It Bad...

Given the profound devastation in Haiti coupled with the profound reflection of the recent Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, here in the USA, BlaiserBlog has been on a thoughtful hiatus.

Like Abe Vigoda, however, Zany Optimism ctm is not dead. Please give money to your favorite aid-relief organization. I patronized Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) earlier this week, not only due to their sterling reputation, but also because they use accent marks, which always make me feel exotic and hipper.

Thanks for reading, and always remember that it shouldn't take stacks of dead, poor people in the streets for us to be reminded that 1) we should be thankful for what we have, and 2) Pat Robertson and Rush Limbaugh are uncivil embarassments of the first order, and awful, awful human beings.

 (I'd have Chief Justice Roberts, for example, over for dinner any day of the week, because I respect his mind, and the conversation would be stimulating. But those other two jerk-weeds aren't making it past my front door.)

Monday, January 11, 2010

I'm so sorry, Uncle Barbara.....

Or, why Barbara Ehrenreich and Dick Cheney ought to go out to lunch together. In France.

After dropping off the progeny at school this bright, cold, Brave New Morn, I walked to the village center to do some marketing. My cleaning supplies needed replenishing, I had money to deposit in the bank, and there was bakery danish with my name engraved on its top, in sweet, lacy white icing.

It occured to me, on the bracing walk back home, that Mondays in January ought to represent the ne plus ultra of fresh starts and renewals. I don't want to take a Polyannish position that ALL things are, in fact, possible (cue monkies to fly out of my nether orafice), but that MANY things, or at base, SOME things are surely possible, and that's a lot for many people. I'm not talking about most Americans, if you will. Rather those of us on the planet who are truly challenged--folks who may worry what kind of roof will be over their heads tonight, where their next meal is coming from, why their soccer team was blown away on the way to the stadium. And especially not anyone still driving a Hummer. Unless they're driving it in North Florida, which I encourage as much as possible to globally raise the temperatures there in time for my visit there in two weeks...

So. I was upbeat--to be sure. That's what I do: Zany OptimismCTM, and welcome to it. After cheerfully scrubbing dishes and tidying up, I turned on the radio and heard the surprising news that one of the most war-torn areas on Earth was down with that, too: Seems a lot more people in Afghanistan think that things can and will get better. Afghanistan.  You'll remember it as the land of you-can't-win-here and If-it's-a-new-decade-you-must-be-the-next-major-power-to-invade-us....

But the next story on the radio was that Barbara Ehreneich wants me to feel bad. Or rather, that the power of positive thinking is, essentially, a dumb thing for Americans to do. Well. Full Disclosure: I have not read her book yet, but for now, I'm calling Bull Puckey, based on her interview on the BBC this morning and her irresponsible position on Optimism:

On a personal level, it leads to self-blame and a morbid preoccupation with stamping out “negative” thoughts. On a national level, it’s brought us an era of irrational optimism resulting in disaster..

Now, look. I realize this quote is somewhat out of context. Moreover,  I think I have a handle on what she's really railing against: delusion; megachurches; a breakdown in reason and logic. That's all well and good, but in the damaging sound-bite interview I heard this morning, the message was overwhelmingly "Don't be so damn positive." Cow Pies, I say.

Greed and stupidity certainly contributed to the various late 20th-Century economic bubbles--i.e. many folks took no responsibility for their own mortgages and allowed less-than-savory--ok scummy--real estate brokers and bankers to mesmerize them with the promise of short-term financial alchemy. Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's moving more product than I this fall? Don't blame it on my smiley-face, however. Or my neighbors'. Blame it on the disintegration of American education, perhaps, but not on a sunny disposition, a precious commodity in the general moral morass of Planet Earth these days.

Barbara, I'm sorry you got breast cancer,* and I'm sorry you didn't like the pink-ribbon festooned support network you found on the Internet. (And who wants you to embrace your cancer as a gift? That's just dumb.) You've lost the whole point of life-changing events. It's a changed perspective that one embraces, not the burden of disease. It's an ability to maintain perspective that allows us to find the clichéed silver lining, and re-discover the beauty, say, of a freshy cut perrywinkle-blue iris.**

Barring suicide, we don't choose the manner of our deaths. This is thin ice for me, and my cancer friends can surely chip in, but perhaps part of what's going on for long-time chronic and fatal disease-sufferers is that they simply have much longer to contemplate their own demise, or see it only through the filter of sickness. I don't know, but what I do know is that this media campaign rubs me the wrong way.  Again again again, I have homework to do, but you know what? My instinct tells me there are equal parts self-promotion and bitterness in this book. That's why Barbara and Dick ought to have lunch together. In France.

I'll wager that for every bummer story you throw at me, I'll come back with a positive one. There's parity in this human life. Which side do you choose to be on? Is it a value to society to teach our children that the class is half-full? For we all die. This is perhaps the root tragedy. There are wonderful things in life and we don't get to carry on indefinitely. Sucks to be us, yeah, I know. I'm with you on the inanity of bringing motivational speakers in to pep up the academic community,  but don't you make me feel bad on this beautiful Monday morning.

Thank you, the management here at

* Contrary to pessimistic readings, this is sincere. I do not minimize anyone's health issues. That would be mean.

** $4.99 at Trader Joe's. You should check it out. But stay away from their ecologically-correct cedarwod & sage multi-spray... it smells like a half-pack of cigarettes left overnight in a can of Old Milwaukee...