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Only Shades of Gray

Updated on December 11, 2011

An Awakening?

Since my wife had the day off, we decided to do our grocery shopping today (Friday, 11/25/11). There were certainly no deals at the Ralph's supermarket where we normally shop. The trend of paying more for less continues beyond all sensibility.

A large bottle of Aquafina water was priced at $1.67. The price on this product has gone up dramatically within a short time frame. During the summer the same size bottle was about $1.25. Why am I paying so much for bottled water? I think I may have to go back to buying distilled water from Arrowhead.

Tap water tastes like rust and chemicals. If you let a glass of tap water stand out on a table until it evaporates completely, the inside of the glass will be coated with a kind of bleach-like smelling white crust. I don't have the heart to offer that even to my cats.

Because everyone was at the big box stores, Ralph's was half as full as normal, and I appreciated that. The worst part of grocery shopping (for me) is having to listen to their canned music. The music is not muted nor intended as a relaxing background atmosphere. I've heard a handful of good songs, but most are so awful it's like having cockroaches crawling into my ear canals.

Today, it was almost all Christmas music. For retailers, the day after Thanksgiving may mark the start of the Christmas season, but it doesn't for me. In S. California, the day was in the mid-seventies. So far, there is no snow on the local mountains. Playing Christmas music this early really underscored a sense of desperation.

The OWS protesters are right about shoppers supporting big business. The shopping frenzy for video games, iPods, 52" wide-screen TVs, clothes made in Mexico or China, the latest ridiculous Nike sport shoes, computer tablets, e-readers, etc., does help keep the retailers in business, and this schism is stupid/nutty.

Buy, Buy, Buy

Yes, US consumers have been conditioned for years to buy, buy, buy -- even if it means nearly maxing out one's Visa or MasterCard. The yearning to consume the latest adult or children toys runs contrary to the nationwide spirit that demands equilibrium between the "haves" and the "have nots." Giving in to the frenzy basically indicates that Americans are schizophrenic. They will clip coupons to get a better price on a bag of tangerines, but, with mostly modest discounts on Black Friday, they throw a lot (but not all) discretion to the wind.

We are a consumer nation. The urge to consume seems to have infiltrated our DNA. It's like some kind of social disease. A day of supposedly big discounts is all it takes to awaken the latent virus in our blood. While the filthy rich are buying diamond studded necklaces at Tiffany's, the rest of us are trampling over ourselves to get the latest/greatest cellular phone. Obtaining this phone is vital because it also has a two-inch screen where one can download the latest installment in the "Twilight" series.

Life will be like nirvana if only we can get our paws on multi-function computers or some other blasted thing. Other nations simply do not understand how vital it is for Americans to fill their shopping carts with boxes of goodies. The shrine of the Christmas tree is incomplete until all the boxes are nicely wrapped and arranged under the tree's dying pine needles.

But, at the same time we want a more equal distribution of wealth -- to see our tax dollars spent on something besides endless, unrewarding wars. We're hissing mad against those banks attempting their sneaky efforts to raise capital off their customers, but we hold a slim hope that the same banks will raise the credit limit on our credit cards.

For real change to take place requires a solidarity that simply doesn't yet exist in the American public. Holding sit-ins or disrupting traffic, or occupying space around a Bank of America branch will only yield tiny results (if any). As long as the majority of our citizens become like wild chimpanzees on some superficial date (such as Black Friday), one of our strongest tools is forfeited.

Saying No

The best tool for change is saying "no." Say no to solicitors, salesmen, and even dentists who seem overly eager to whiten your teeth. If you are an individual contemplating an enlistment in the armed services, just say "no." If you are already enlisted, say "no" to any order that contradicts your moral and ethical upbringing.

Without bands of soldiers to muster at will, without new, unthinking recruits, our military will have to stand down in its endless interventions across the globe. Insist that the "peace dividend" be used to lower taxes for those Americans who are struggling to hold on.

Say "no" to an assignment in Australia (or anywhere else). Say "no" to the idea of building a "defensive" missile system in Europe. Say "no" to using your skills and knowledge in building a super-sonic weapons delivery drone. Say "no" to any and all global interventions that do not have a guaranteed payoff for the American people.

If we can have a "mad as hell and we're not going to take it any longer" moment, then the center of power will be loosened from the grip of Washington and return to the public.

We have the right to clean drinking water (don't we), price regulations for consumables, a chunk of time where we don't have to worry about our young men and women shedding their blood in foreign lands for reasons that no one fully understands. But, the first step is to give up the addiction of consumerism -- in all its formations and phantasms.

The second step is to forget about our petty differences, unite and form a solid block of protesters -- a solid mass that will not cave in to vague promises and appeasing rhetoric. Say "no" to lies and false visions of a golden tomorrow. Let everything come to a grinding halt. No one at the fast-food restaurants. No one buying cars. No one buying new fashions. No pizza deliveries. No air transport. No jewelry sales. No Hershey bars plopping out of the vending machines. No manicures. No attendance at sporting events or concerts. No movie theater attendance. No purchases of new CDs or DVDs -- not even a rental.

Shut it down, shut it all down, let the cogs and wheels grind to a halt. The little white mice in DC will scamper out of the machinery voluntarily, afraid for their own skin. Then we start the hard work of beginning anew -- in a system that allows all voices to harmonize within a chorus.

If the US has to divided itself into two, three, four different countries, let's do it. The country (today) is so divided that perhaps a geographical separation would be a logical solution. Let's try representing ourselves instead of ego-obsessed puppets manipulated by corrupt corporations and special interest lobbyists.

Conservatives won't like any of these ideas because they are tied to the articles of the Constitution. Fine. Give the conservatives the original document and allow them to assemble a new government (or a retrograde) government on their own land. Allow them to experiment on the possibilities of adhering to the "values" of a document that was forged for a colony over two hundred years ago.

Let all hell break loose -- This would have to be more realistic than living in a constant state of constipation. Today, the US is practically putrefied because of its inability to find a common cause. Everything remains in a stalemate condition. Thus, it is time for a new round of chess, with different rules, and different ideas about state alliances.

If the confederate states want to display their Civil War flag, let them have it, if such minuscule rituals bring them a sense of comfort and harmony.

If Northern California wants to break from Southern California, let it happen. N. CA can run naked in the sun while inventing new microprocessors, and S. CA can become the test ground for the ultimate melting pot.


Does all of this sound like chaos? Well, perhaps it is. Who can say? But, the US is due for some dramatic changes. The gridlock in our political system has allowed us to slip behind -- because nothing seems able to pass through congress. Stagnation is far worse than experimentation.

The Constitution and The Bill of Rights are not carved in stone. Those who feel they must adhere to what they view as the letter of the founding father's intentions should be allowed to explore this avenue to whatever conclusion.

More liberal states may wish to make amendments, and they should be granted this opportunity. Perhaps the fracturing of the US will prove that democracy wears many faces, but, when needed these separate bodies can unite to fend off enemies and those hostile to our various forms of government.

How bad, how rancid must things become before "We the People" insist upon whatever change is necessary to improve our standard of living and increase our sense of involvement in the decisions and directions of our government?


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