Monday, April 11, 2016
From The Class Struggle Archives-Stop The Trans-Pacific Partnership-Then- And Now Too!
From The Class Struggle Archives-Stop The Trans-Pacific Partnership-Then- And Now Too!
Stop The Sweetheart Deals For International Big Business-Organize the Unorganized Internationally-Built The International Workers Front!
Building A Thing From Which You Have To Run-With The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) In Mind
By Sam Lowell
“I’m not a Luddite, I’m not a guy who thinks we should go back and live in the caves, fearful of beasts, natural disasters, smirking shadows on the walls, bemoaning fate dealt by some unmerciful god. Not a guy either, maybe even less so these days when we are trying to downsize our lives, Melinda and me, who needs the latest gadget to prove that he has made something of himself in his ordinary clay life,” Josh Breslin told his three companions (plus that down-sizing- crazed Melinda) one night as they sat across from each other in Lenny’s, the best place by far in Portland (east side America version up in Maine not tree-hugger-crazed Oregon) for super local wines and equally super crabs and clam-cakes. They, Frank Jackman, Zack James, and Jimmy Jenkins were in Maine as guests of their old-time friend Josh who after many years of living in Cambridge down in Massachusetts when he had finished up a half-bright feet of ordinary clay career as an independent writer for half the unread radical magazines and journals in the country. You know the ones that every half-sensate intellectual or wannabe had on his or her coffee table to display come small intimate party time to show-off to their compatriots how “hip” they are (and Josh in his more candid moments grateful for those guilt-edged subscription bases which helped with alimony, child support and college tuitions for two ex-wives and four bright kids, two and two).
That last point, the point about Josh’s writing for many of the glossy and un-glossy publications of the past half century is important since the subject under discussion that night that bought out a spark of Josh’s old confrontational self was the recent passage by the United States Congress of President Obama’s negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership. Trans-Pacific that is with everybody who wanted in on the cozy deal, for oligarchs, big business and governmental bureaucrats except the elephant in the room, China (formerly known in Josh’s and his kindred’s youth as Red China, to distinguish it from the “real” China of the day-Taiwan). This whole pact was meant as nothing else than as a move to counter growing Chinese influence in that section of the world to the advantage of the United States, to the serious advantage of the United States.
Josh, and his fellows at table, all politicos, mostly left of the Democratic Party leftists, not so much independents which in the current coin of political usage means independent but subject to selecting between those two non-choices, elephants (no relations to China, an elephant in the room of a different sort) and donkeys (not asses, which are a different animal no matter how appropriate a mascot they might rightly be) but the kind who might support Ralph Nader in his various candidacies, Cindy Sheehan, Bernie Sanders if he ran as an independent socialist had spent plenty of hours opposing previous international big-business rip-offs. Rip-offs like super-rip off of the Mexican peasant NAFTA, CAFTA and Frank’s favorite, LAFTA (who being born and raised in Carver about thirty miles south of Boston made everybody chuckle when he said it-LAFTAH, like a response to a joke, a poor joke on the peasants and urban poor of South America).
They had not taken up their opposition to these accords so much as pro-working class opponents like a lot of national and international labor organizations who saw, correctly saw good jobs going out of their countries of origin, to lower wage areas without benefit to those new employees and the lowering of the standard of living of those left behind-the now much vaunted and talked about increasing international standard of living gaps between rich and poor. Although not much done about that situation, much done about smashing the gap by a radical redistribution of wealth, for all the talk, plenty of parlor talk.
But let’s get back to Josh and Lenny’s and that statement that he made about not being a Luddite, not being a “back to primeval nature guy,” not being a material objects-collector which raised a few eyes in the room since they had all, all the men had met in San Francisco in the late 1960s when they were all interested in turning the world upside down. Breaking for the lust for a ton of dough and all that brought with it. Still were but with a more measured if less passionate thrust. (Josh had met Melinda after his second painful and costly divorce in the late 1980s and he ever after wished that he had met her back in the 1960s when it would have changed lots of things for the better-if nothing else saving costly alimonies, child support and college tuitions).
Jimmy, who had been the last to go west to California and the last to meet Josh, to be introduced to him by Jimmy’s hometown friend along with Frank and Zack from Carver High School the late, long lamented Pete Markin got the ball rolling he let out, “Hey Josh weren’t you the guy who after a couple of years on Captain Crunch’s yellow-brick road bus wanted to settle down in New Mexico or one of those square states and set up a communal farm, did so for a couple of months before scurrying back to San Francisco. Didn’t you also say another time that living on that primitive yellow-brick road bus was too “bourgeois” and that you were talking off with Butterfly Swirl to live in a cave in Todo el Mundo just south of Big Sur and abandon the decadent world to commune with nature (and commune with foxy Butterfly Swirl who knew how to “play the flute” for you which is a whole other story for another day). And weren’t you the guy who said that the down-pressed of the world had the right idea about keeping things simple, and that you “renounced” all worldly possessions, except what you could carry in your rucksack-and that damn typewriter of yours.
Everybody chuckled at Jimmy’s remarks, Jimmy whose sharp wit kept the Carver guys laughing in front of Tonio’s Pizza Parlor all through high school had hit the nail on the head. (Melinda didn’t chuckle not having heard the story before but who would get filled in later that night by Josh, except about Butterfly Swirl and her charms, leaving her wishing that she had known him back then as well.) Everybody expected that Josh would say something back but he just kept what he called (according to Melinda) his own counsel and let it pass. Let Frank go back to that time and tell one and all that they all had, under Markin’s cryto-mysto- Catholic-etched “from hunger” influence, been willing to break with their youthful dreams, become one with the fellahin as Markin called them before finding out the world-historic reality that every farm boy, maybe every farm girl, their stuck-on-the-land mothers and fathers too, wanted to get the fuck off the land at just the time that a big portion of 1960s youth nation was ready to go “live off the land.”
Frank continued in that same vein, “Hell even those of us from the “from hunger” Atlantic neighborhood, the neighborhood where most of the “boggers,” the guys who worked in the cranberry bogs which employed half the town were ready to forsake our “bourgeois” dreams, our mothers’ dreams that we get nice civil service jobs and move up the ladder one step above them to live more simply, to live in some intentional communes where all would be shared out among all those who put in their fair share to make the thing work.”
With that remark Josh said he had agreed with Markin back then since he had grown up in the same kind of town, except the big deal was textiles which had when he was a kid left first to head south in America and then overseas leaving guys like his unskilled labor father with not much left to dignify his life except hustling for every job he could land to keep four hungry growing boys, him and his three brothers, from the county farm. That in the end, after the fall, after he, they and their kindred had been defeated by the greed-heads in the early 1970s was why he had opposed all those unequal trade pacts, why he to belatedly honor his father and his desperate attempts to gain dignified employment, fought tooth and nail against their ratifications.
That was the serious part of the evening, the righteous political part but when Melinda left the table to go to the Women’s Room Josh signaled to the assembled men, now a bit “in their cups” after a night of wines and seafood to come closer and admit that he had left Todo el Mundo when Butterfly Swirl decided to go back to “civilization” down in Carlsbad where she haled from, decided to go back to be a surfer boy’s girl he made a swift shift in his plans. Josh flushed when he wistfully murmured to the assembled that Butterfly Swirl sure knew how to “play the flute.” Some things never change about guys, even serious guys.