Monday, October 10, 2011

ahh, the Golden Spurtle award

-- In Egypt, full-blown riots broke out and 24 people were killed.

-- In Europe, the Franco-Belgian bank Dexia agreed to the nationalization of one of its banking divisions ... and were promised $121 billion in state guarantees. Some think this may put pressure on other euro-zone countries to underwrite sagging banks. It is hard not to ask in exasperation, "Banks?! Bail out banks?! What about the rest of us?!"

-- In email, a friend sent along a video rant asking essentially those questions -- a rant that is indicative of the amorphous malaise of the times ... full of fervor, hard to disagree with and yet lacking, like politicians everywhere, a statement of direction or specific goals or how to achieve them short of dissolving into a puddle of unfocused wrath or the kind of riots the Egyptians have seen.

-- In New Hampshire, a state some 100 days away from voting for a Republican nominee for president, ten women could barely name all the candidates. What if they had an election and nobody came? Candidates spending millions to attract attention and arouse excitement and people seem to have better (or worse) things to think about. Millions of dollars spent by and for exemplars who cannot expound in clear English the reasons that those millions could not be better spent on soup kitchens or highway projects ... or damn near anything concrete. And it's hardly as if the Republicans are alone. Bit by bit, it's as if the electorate has decided that agreeing with or dissenting from the old political models simply doesn't work. Politicians have proven themselves not just ridiculous ... they have proven themselves irrelevant.

-- The Occupy Wall Street movement, which started in rag-tag fashion Sept. 17 and has found echoing resonance in cities across the country, continues to grow. No longer is it just young people with an idealistic outlook. Middle class union members, out-of-work TV producers and greying grannies with all the concerns that aging brings have joined the well-organized and well-modulated throng in New York and elsewhere. To date, the gathering has decided by consensus what to do next. Its lack of leadership is a decided plus in a world where any positive agenda -- any set of stated goals -- runs the decided risk of being picked apart or being co-opted by one mealy-mouthed spin-doctor or another. As in Egypt, the cri de coeur resonates: "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more."

But weeping can only last so long before any individual or group has to stop crying or risk falling into helpless irrelevance or mindless riots. I think the question posed by The Washington Post is apt:

Now, a movement that started with no concrete goals as a simple protest of power must decide what to do with some power of its own. Can a leaderless group that relies on consensus find a way for so many people to agree on what comes next? Can it offer not only objections but also solutions? Can a radical protest evolve into a mainstream movement for change?

Not today, perhaps, and perhaps not tomorrow, but at some point a decision and direction will have to be chosen and then, of course, it's Nellie bar the door: The devil is in the details and, well, the devil will have his due. It's a rock and a hard place -- continue to work smoothly and by consensus and stand as a strong witness to the malaise in the country or to shatter the glass bowl of witnessing serenity or risk becoming as ineffective and unworthy of attention as politicians in New Hampshire. You can only call others to account for so long before you have to realize that you are calling yourself to account. It may be infuriating, but I think it is true.

-- On a brighter note, a Gaelic singer, John Boa, has won the coveted Golden Spurtle award at the World Porridge Making championships. How wonderful that there should still be time and energy available to judge the best porridge recipe. And add to that the fact that I had never in my life heard the word "spurtle" and, well, the story offered a small jet of delight. A spurtle "is a spatula-like tool traditionally used to stir porridge." That, for my money, helps the sun shine today.

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