Sunday, July 05, 2009

Old Dogs Learning New Tricks

I wasn't much interested in setting up a Twitter account prior to the June elections in Iran. Like much of the International community, I found the news coverage of the rallies in Iran, before the elections, to be a sign of movement from Nationalism towards International citizenship.
Much of the West ignores the reality of Muslim divisions, sect differences, and, most importantly, of political moderation, or lack thereof. For those of us who make a point of exercising our planetary citizen status, all of the elections, from Lebanon to Honduras have been interesting to watch, as well as thought provoking.
In America, the election of Barack Obama as president signaled a shift of power from European ancestry based control, to immigrant and youth control. For me, as well as so many others, this was refreshing as well as invigorating.
The potential for similar shifts of voting blocks in other nations is great. For instance, in Israel, Arabic Israelis and Palestinians in Israel will soon out number Hebrews. The significance of that is enormous as Israel's leaders may have figured out with their willingness to now discuss the "two state solution". In many ways, like other pundits, I see it as too late for Israel to offer the two state solution to Palestine. Palestine, if current population growth trends continue, will undermine its position by accepting toe "too little, too late" two state solution. If Israeli Jews wish to remain the majority party in Israel, they will have to enforce draconian voting laws, keeping Palestinian and Arabic Israelis from the polls.
The educated populations of our world are settling more comfortably into the role of international citizen. They realize that without moderate and tolerant views, Humanity may not be able to survive on our planet. That without compromise and clear goals from all nations, we probably can not solve our biggest problems such as climate change, poverty, water and energy demands.
What happened in Iran was not in vain. Another mindset has emerged in the Muslim nations that is not about condemnation or control of or through, religion; it is about proper stewardship of resources so we can continue to work toward alleviating poverty, ignorance, disease and intolerance. Sooner or later, the will of the majority will be impossible to ignore and the people who feel disenfranchised by election results, will be moved again to shift the balance of their power.
What happened in Iran caused me to Twitter. What happened in Iran made me think about what happened in America in 2000 when Bush, Rove and Cheney stole the election for president and were successful at their bloodless coup. Instead of taking our passions and protests to the street when we were told that the recounts were illegal and the will of the people was invalidated, we retreated to our living rooms and to the safety of the media propaganda dream machines. Considering the Iranian people who left their homes and possessions to voice their outrage at their government and were dealth with extremem violence, while Americans were threatened with labels such as "Traitor", or "Terrorist"; and decided not to risk their material comfort to accuse the Bush regime, I have once again been humbled by the resilience of the human spirit.
No, Iran, your protests were not in vain. Next time, you will need a leader, a true Leader who will take you all the way to the seat of your new democracy (if that, indeed, is what you choose). In the meantime, gather your wits, re-examine your purpose, and prepare for the next opening - for surely it will come.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


I don't write about my "kids", Sunkist and Mojo because, well, I would rather play with them than spend time writing about them. Looking at that last sentence, I realize that I am playing 'chicken' - I don't write about the parrots because I don't want to seem mushy and silly and 'bird-brained'. I also think that committing things to words diminishes some of the magic of what goes on.
I just spent 24 hours reading "Wesley the Owl" by Stacey O'Brien, and I've come to realize that perhaps I should write about my relationships with the birds - anyone who spends so much time with their companions, has insights that can be useful, and endearing, to others.
Sunkist is my love. He came from a big box pet store and the decision to allow myself to fall in love with him (thus buying him) was made unconsciously. I had been haunting pet stores and taking sketch pad and pencil with me to draw parrots. I was always interested in their anatomy - and once I began to learn about wild birds, parrots seemed a natural progression. What I never counted on was how much I could love such a tiny bundle of feathers. Sunkist is now 9 years old and it is human nature to think of the future. To think that he will not be with me forever is a dark spot I'd rather not explore.
Mojo is the baby. She is difficult to deal with sometimes as she is now coming into sexual maturity. She is a different kind of conure than Sunkist is; smaller and even anatomically different. Mojo has a kind of smell about her that has gotten better since she first came into our lives. She is nippier than SUnkist ever was - she did not love me like Sunkist did (before I ever brought him home). But I love Mojo almost as much as I love Sunkist - she is sweet in her own way, and she is very responsive to affection and patience.
Sunkist, fell in love first with my hair. As a 'bappy' he would nestle into my hair and poop down my back. I loved the nestling and would put up with the poop for that sweet snuggling. Sunkist began talking quite soon after coming home.
It's said that parrots mimic rather than reason - those platitudes are obviously uttered by people who don't have parrots living in their home.
Parrots reason, logic and then express themselves in a manner which a human companion can not explain away as mimicry.
Parrots wind themselves in a tight loop around your heart and not even the most passionate human lover could be as intuitive about emotion as my Sunkist.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Overcrowding? Or new extended families?

Much has been said about our society being bereft of the benefits of extended family.
With the necessity of dual incomes, many parents find that getting their kids into day care, often premium day care, is beyond their economic reach.
But America, as well as urban Europe has fallen under the spell of promised personal space, and privacy. Not only do we find it convenient to have others care for the kids while we work, often many middle aged people find themselves putting their parents into nursing homes or assisted living for the same reasons.

2008 heralded a trending change in these habits as the economy collapsed and many middle aged working people found that their adult children were losing their jobs, and with the jobs, their homes, and finding a need to return to 'the nest'.

Americans deride immigrant families that 'crowd' living spaces. Americans find it inconceivable that married adults share a bedroom with their children, and sometimes, parents. Apartments rented with the idea that they hold 2 or 3 people oftimes are home to 8 or 10 people. In rental cases, this is enough to get a family evicted.

Much of suburban, and some urban, areas have thrived as communities with Homeowner Associations. As such, the Associations build into their organization sets of covenants with hopes that by enforcing same, property values in these areas can be maintained, and often made to increase. these covenants often adjudicate the number of residents allowed in a home. They stipulate that a single family house be a specific size, with space for a set number of vehicles, and have governance controlling land usage.
As families weather the financial crisis around the globe, they find it convenient, and sometimes necessary, to move in one house together to offer support during unemployment, as well as care to children and aging parents.

In some circumstances, if people made these choices freely, without the pressure of joblessness or economic hard times, they would be considered to be pioneering a new age of extended family, and applauded by sociologists. While in Homeowner Associations, situations such as these can lead to restrictions on how a owners property is used - rendering an extended family pariah.

Sometimes change comes about not because of serious contemplation, but of financial necessity. That is the case in what is now becoming a growing trend in families which are living under one roof.
Can we not simply accept that as our society changes, we begin to see habits which had no place in our community before? If we can applaud those who make decisions freely, without pressure, can we not applaud, or at least be empathetic towards those who make decisions based on economic need?
It is time we stop oppressing what is often viewed as de-evolution. It is instead, time to consider that combining families under one roof is not only conserving resources (and money), but it is enriching the very families who thought they were moving in together out of financial need rather than social commentary.

Lets all get together for a big Group Hug!

Are we humans wired to be part of a clique? Is it essential for us to form group identities and rely less on our individuality?

I've been playing around in a rather large community for the last six months. It is tied to one of those websites which were, as I understood it, originally begun as a jump point for researchers. Well, as it goes, the site has, or actually was when I joined, a big group of cliques which play off each other for fun, or, depending on your point of view, fan the flames of divisiveness.

I am actually having a hard time sticking to my goal of hanging with the site for the length of a year. This is not an uncommon goal in my observations of culture and people. Once I decided to spend 1 year watching 2 soap operas trying to understand the phenomenon. I can't say that I ever got much insight from that experiment, but I did stick it out (which says quite a lot about the state of Question and Answer websites.

It is interesting to note that regardless of the community, one will always find scammers, cons, frauds, spammers and predators. I, myself, having had a bit of a run in now and then with those kind of people, tend to stay out of situations which divulge any personal information about myself. Yet, I am always surprised at how people who profess to be so smart are so quick to accept some contrived story from a person they do not know.

In less than 6 months, I have come to recognize that the site is mostly insipid stuff - questions asked with hopes that 'friends' will raise said question into hierarchy by assigning 'points'. The questions do not have to be important, relevant or even interesting. They simply have to catch the attention of other people who have "points" to give away.
Now I find this a sad state of affairs -- research is limited to websites like WIKI which is also contributed to by people like me, some benign, some clique-ish who might, or might not, have anything useful to add to an entry.
What happened to the days of using the internet to research "real" topics, administrated by "real" professionals? Have they all been delegated to subscription websites? Is it really true that in order to access real information, a person has to pay for it?

Subrubia Is Swell

What's so great about living in the suburbs anyways? It might be a nice place to raise a family; the streets are quieter and assumed, safer. The houses are roomy and allow for personal space. The yards are large, rather private, and nice for kids to play in.
The schools are often better (depending on tax base). Suburbs generally have convenience shopping, can be walkable, and, in the case of Homeowner Associations, there is a certain level of control that exists in how homes, yards and space is maintained.
But America's suburbs, like much of the rest of our country, are homogenized. The ubiquitous fast food emporiums are draws to busy working parents. Play time for kids is often confined to Gymboree establishments that promise play, music and fun - and can be compared to every other Gymboree across the country.
Life in the suburbs is convenient, and if a family finds that it needs to relocate for one reason or another, to hop from suburb to suburb is not so different or alien.

Life in the suburbs is mundane. Culture is non-existant on a real level. Oh, each suburb may have a town center, with an art gallery or two, fabric shop, craft store (more chains), an intimate little dining establishment.

One can be certain that life in the suburbs will throw few 'curve balls'. In other words, there won't be too many surprises. If the suburb is chosen based on socio-economic factors (and most of them are), the potential resident is apt to find a suburb which leans towards their own religious, political, and financial mores. Neighbors will live in a house just the same as the next house; they will attend church in the community; children will all attend the same schools; and most of the residents will vote for the same candidates.
There will be very little in the way of independent thinking.
Perhaps this is desirable to the parents of young children who wish to shelter their kids from the "big bad world" and the people who live in it. It is easier to control your children's direction when you can control who they see, where they go, what is available to them. Safety for kids is great when the children are young. But without independent thought, without outside challenges to their morals, their beliefs and their education, how can we expect those same kids to grow into self sufficient, innovative, creative, adults?

Growing up in a large city presents so many risks for young people. I remember the first times I saw, or was the target of, a "flasher", and the response of my parents when I inquired about the motives of such a person. I also recall living across the street from a city park where community theater, art classes and physical activity were available to me each day. I learned to ice skate at a city park, I learned to play softball, I was in small theater productions, I created mini-masterpieces in art class. I also recall growing up knowing that a number of my neighbors were 'gang members' who hung out at the park at night. These were often the big brothers of our neighbors; and contrary to what one might think, these same gang members were often the people who looked out for us littler kids.
I developed a unique sense of independence as a kid being able to ride city buses.