Archive | February, 2012

THE LOTUS EATER

12 Feb

Is it just me, or is civic responsibility over rated?

Imperfect as I am, I will admit to not having always followed the path less travelled and committed to doing the right thing. I suppose if one takes into account the last twenty or so years of my indentured servitude I’ve raised my societal standards somewhat and am now entitled to consider myself a worthy-citizen – a toga wearing civus romanus. I’ve spent my hard earned cash, paid the bills, fed the economy, and contracted myself into monthly payments that have enriched those who would like us to think of themselves as pillars of the local community. The bankers who pretend to be our local go-to-guys; akin to the green grocer perhaps or the candlestick maker. Just the kind of neighbor you’d want to spend time with, chit-chatting over football results and weekend highlights, I don’t think. More a blood bank than a savings cooperative or building society! 

When was the last time you dropped off a fresh pint of blood at Vlad’s castle only to be told, that one blood donation really wasn’t enough? Very much the same thing with the institutions. No matter how much you give it’s never enough. Sure back in the day, I was suckered in with their phony smiles, free checking and their gratis plastic tooth brush holders. Years of watching my wages disappear into the black hole of what my friendly banker liked to call fees, with no word of appreciation. It’s my money after all. Why am I paying them? 

Even Vlad I assume would send the occasional Christmas card, “Come around. I vant to suck your blood.” 

Sure I owe them for a mortgage, and yes I have a car loan and understand perfectly that it’s a quid pro quo relationship; we give back a little more than borrowed – nothing is free and everybody deserves to make a living. 

 Right? 

Commerce is the corner stone of the capitalist society. One hand washes the other. But after having bent over backwards and been taken roughly from behind, time and time again, I am starting to question my own sexuality. Clearly I must like the way they do me or I wouldn’t be going back for more. You know, a little lube would help, but I can only imagine the fee that would be attached to the convenience! 

Sitting on a client’s roof surrounded by undeterred pigeons I gaze towards the horizon, the Arizonan sunshine beating off my face. Life is good – the body is at one with the universe and I can see forever while feeling pretty good about myself. The work is easy and the fee I am charging my customer is exorbitant. There is minimal interference and zero stress. It’s not as though they can check on me! I’m on the roof for god’s sake and I don’t suspect either of the octogenarians will peep their heads over the roof tiles any time soon. This is the way life ought to be; no pressure, cash flowing in, and no final demands. The only thing missing perhaps is a cold beer, although rethinking that beer and ladders aren’t necessarily to be recommended. 

Since the easing of the Arizona laws I’ve been considering medicinal tobacco. Not something I’ve experienced before but something that would undoubtedly help remove me from my terrestrial anxieties. A huff and a puff and a whole world of cares and concerns would evaporate to reveal an inner piece; a window cleaner’s Nirvana. 

 I’ve never smoked so I’m sure that the first few drags would rasp my throat and probably cause me to cough my guts up, but anything worth doing, as society has taught us so well, is worth percerviering with. Therefore I am decided. Despite the taste, the cost to my lungs, and the thought of possible incarceration for being high, whilst being high on somebody else’s roof, I will consider the experience. How bad could it be? I’ve experienced alcohol induced insobriety and can’t really say that I recommend it especially when one is purging from both ends. I have vague memories to remind me of my drunken debauchery, so perhaps a little medicinal greenery wouldn’t be so bad? 

Strange! I would never have thought about this in the past but what with the daily grind, the continual strive for the Yankee dollar and the need to ingratiate my boss into giving me a single digit pay rise, a little bit of mind altering herb might just be what the doctor ordered? Let’s face it; Johnny Depp looks pretty damn cool with an opium pipe in his mouth. The logistics of locating opium on this side of Phoenix may be an issue however, a five foot long hand carved pipe nearly impossible? Clearly this might be problematic. I may have to rethink my drug of choice. 

So it’s got to the point where I have to decide. Do I go on with my interminable mortgage or do I put a stop to the madness. The property is so far under water I have to wear a diving mask and scuba just to leave the house in the morning. The mortgage that continues to go to my bestest-friend every month continues to rattle into the bottomless void of a thirty year loan. I’ve thought it over, weighed the pros and cons and spent sleepless nights tussling with the consequences. Am I doing the right thing? Should I continue to do the right thing i.e. fulfill my contractual obligation, or should I finally grab the bull by the horns and cowboy up? 

The bell has tolled, the ink has dried, a decision has been made in, what can only be described as, a hand-wringing hair-pulling flash of clarity. Sure I’ve heard the morality argument, that it’s my duty to pay and that I’ve promised to reimburse the bank ample remuneration over a period of thirty years, Seemed Like a plan at the time, now however not so much. If I keep the house for the next thirty years I’ll be paying through the nose for what can only be described as  millstone; a big rusty anchor that will sink me and my loved ones far beneath the financially survivable waves. If my house price matures by 100% (Imagine a world…) I will still be in debt.

Q.E.D. What’s the bloody point? 

The time has come to cut the cord and release myself from the noose that is slowly strangling me, walk away and write the whole sorry affair off as a bad investment. 

In fact isn’t that what corporate America does when things turn south; amputate the limb to save the body? Isn’t that the American way? House prices are at an all time low and sinking. They’re giving money away at the bank because the dollar isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on, a financial storm is clearly gathering on the horizon. All over the west side of town they are building new houses, that rather than stimulate, will only help to repress the market and take the ability away from the home owner to sell his house for a fair price. 

 In the words of Noah, “It’s time to build a bloody boat.” 

The way I see it, from my vantage point on the roof, the bank is making out like a bandit. They already have my monthly payments of the last six years in hand, my down- payment, the federally insured mortgage that guarantees them their money back and the house which they will foreclose on and resell under the same terms. The table is rigged, the dice are loaded. 

No I don’t feel sorry for the bankers and feel no moral compulsion to continue to pay what I cannot afford. 

As I reach for my virtual opium pipe I understand that it’s time to let go.

What would Johnny do? 

“Got Cocaine running around my brain…!”

HOMELAND SECURITY

10 Feb

 

Coffee was poured and newspaper pages turned as the electrical litany of the ever present television broadcasted its sponsored rhetoric into the café – a subdued voice above the hum of breakfast and crashing crockery. Salt and pepper shakers were refilled and ketchup bottles wiped; another day in a community far from the maddening militarism of American imperial conquest.

The commercials finished and bikini-branded beer and erectile dysfunction medicine drifted from memory as the talking-head once again began to read from the teleprompter. A government mouth piece, but a mother of two struggling with a mortgage and rising supermarket prices. Credible or not what she read paid the bills. It wasn’t a question of moral weakness, more a hand-fast on financial security.

“Terrorists today were once again in action against government troops. The continued harassment of military installations and destruction of surveillance hardware has become prevalent in recent weeks. The military are recognizing this as a resurgence in violence that was thought to have been subdued over a year ago.

 General Smith told us from his headquarters, that the latest campaign is being taken extremely seriously, and that even now forces were being moved into the most dangerous areas.

 To quote General Smith.”

“What we are seeing her is a radicalization and resurgence of the kind of violence that was common during the early part of the campaign. It would seem that the guerrillas have reformed, regrouped, retrained, and rearmed. Those whom we are facing today and who seek to do us harm are not the hot-headed amateurs of two years ago, but organized, well trained groups employing hit and run tactics. In short they have learned their lessons the hard way and are now employing the same methodology we used against them. The enemy is elusive, and can slip easily in and out of population and is almost unrecognizable as a combat force. It is only when we are able to destroy them on their home turf that we can truly identify those who would seek to do us the most harm.”

“The General went on to say that a new theatre of war was developing in the South West  of the country and that forces at his disposal were being pressed to deal with the new front as well as the regular suburban insurgency of months past.”

Pictured in desert fatigues and with the American flag stoically placed behind him, the career officer was a believable source. The medals on his chest spoke of heroism and deeds done in the defense of this great nation. Without men like General Smith where would America be?

*

High in the still, baking air above the desert an American flagged machine darted across the sky; a silver bullet that cast its long shadow on the dry, baked valley floor beneath it. Six million dollars worth of technology controlled by an anonymous figure in a darkened room, thousands of miles away in Langley, Virginia. The eyes of the machine were the eyes of the controller. Everything that passed before it skimmed across his monitor – a virtual pilot of a very real flying machine. The drone had been fitted with hell-fire missiles. Twenty-first century weaponry that could decimate any given target and reduce the enemy to a dust cloud and a sound bite on the early evening news. There were thousands like it all over the country keeping watch over the countryside from the safety of the sky above. It was a win, win situation. They could access the most inhospitable terrain and the enemy never saw them coming. If lost it was merely a dollar price rather than a man’s life that had to be replaced. No grieving relatives, no rifles fired over flag-draped coffins, simply a standing order that went to the manufacturer to replace the destroyed drone. Warfare had moved on since the clash of arms of massed men in open order, although the effect was still the same. The point of the missile was as to the sharpened end of a Spartan’s spear. To that degree nothing had changed. War was hell and particularly so for those that incurred the wroth of the great United States of America. The drone swooped and began to turn as it reached the end of its assigned grid. Tirelessly and remorselessly hunting and seeking those who would seek to do America harm.

*

The two men dressed in camouflage fatigues skulked between craggy rocks. They had been there since yesterday having parked their truck nearly a mile away so as not to leave tire tracks and alert the ever vigilant sentinel to their position. They had bought food and water with them however the baking sun and radiating landscape had quickly diminished their supplies. It was now or never, or wait until night fall and then make their retreat.

 The shoulder fired missile launcher they held between them had been looted from a convoy their group had attacked a month previously. A night of death and destruction where they had surprised a convoy and liberated munitions destined for the government forces based nearby. It had become routine. Ever since the deserters had started to enlist with the roving bands their tactics had improved – their attacks more decisive. Now they were winning. The boot was on the other foot and it felt good to be fighting back.

*

The drone flew lazily across the laser sight of the weapon.

*

The older of the two men whispered something under his breath and squeezed the trigger. Fire belched from the tube and the projectile raced into the sky following the invisible laser-line illuminating the drone. They watched as the missile arced upwards  as it chased down its target.

*

The drone was engulfed in a fiery ball. A black smear spread across the sky and the remnants of a tax paying publics investment fell to the desert below. Somewhere in Washington a computer screen went black. The operator casually got up from his console to use the bathroom and refill his coffee cup. This wasn’t the first time they’d lost a drone; in fact it was becoming a common occurrence

*

Billy jumped up and down and whooped out his lungs, his father standing beside him, a broad smile on his face, embraced the boy. “That’ll show the bastards,” he said in his slow south-western drawl. The two high-fived and then quickly began to pack up their things and make their retreat. It wouldn’t be long before they sent a second to discover what had happed to the first.

Send as many as they want, they would knock them all down! This was their third and the Arizona resistance groups tenth. Freedom came with a price and despite the Arizonan’s brave fight casualties were common. They were a fledgling unit, a band of like-minded individuals who refused to be suppressed by big-government and the new world order.

This was early days, but with a determination and spirit that had ousted a King two hundred years previously they too would endure.

America the brave.  America the free.

Billy and his father grabbed their rifles and headed back for the truck.