Today’s Commemoration, Tomorrow’s History

by bicyclemark 3 Comments

In an effort to save money and increase productivity, Portugal is getting rid of some holidays that people don’t really celebrate anymore.  Among the obsolete days of non-work, the day the nation dumped the monarchy and became a republic, October 5th, 1910.  More than 100 years since that significant moment in history, no one alive remembers it, and few are the voices that think its worth hanging on to as a holiday.

Here in the Netherlands, this past Friday was Remembrance day, which includes the 2 minutes of silence which takes place every May the 4th in memoriam of all the victims of WWII (though more recently it has been expanded to include victims of all military conflicts, its still more famous for WWII victims).  A friend’s grandfather, who lived through the occupation of the country and the war that caused so much pain and destruction, finds the 2 minutes of silence un-necessary – after all, he lived through it. But WWII is much more recent and much more significant in the lives of present day people in the Netherlands that the establishment of the republic is for today’s Portuguese. The reasons probably seem obvious.

But it occurs to me that 100 years from now, WWII remembrance day may also get put aside for economic or social purposes.  At some point enough time passes that these significant moments that some lived through and others know all-to-well from stories and history books, even these seemingly vital rituals will not be seen the same way.  This is not to say it is a good or bad development, these moments in history and the holidays dedicated to them, can fade over time.  It is, if anything, just an odd characteristic of us as a species.  We may record history, but over time, to some degree, it becomes natural to forget.

Imagine that. The era will come where WWII is referred to in the same far-off spirit as today we look at the war of 1812 or the wars during Roman times. September 11th will no longer be remembered as it is today, nothing special will take place at the sight of the World Trade Center, life – like time – just keep moving along.

Incapable

by bicyclemark 0 Comments

New Brunswick, NJ by dan.orso on flickr

The images from my home state of New Jersey the days following hurricane Irene featured flooding like few had ever seen before. The images also showed one re-occurring theme: Infrastructure collapse.  Chunks of highway collapsing, a struggling power grid, and rivers rising up and swallowing entire communities.  Things growing up in the suburbs of New York City, even to this day, many people never imagined could happen.  But this lack of imagination is no excuse for ignorance regarding a looming crisis. There is no shortage of research and reports, as well as examples over the past decade, all of which point to the fact that all over the United States (theyre not alone of course) infrastructure is stretched and strained to its limits. The glorious promise of privatization leading to improved services has resulted in just the opposite. Lack of significant investment under a whole list of economic and social excuses has left millions of people on the edge of a crisis, many of whom don’t even know about it.  Or perhaps, they don’t want to know or will never understand.

There is a phenomenon that didn’t start with this generation or this era, but has very much been perfected in our time: the art of knowing but not wanting to know. That mobile phone we all carry can poison your body – but how could we be without our phones?  The computer we type on is made from toxic chemicals and will one day poison our soil – but how can we not have these essential machines? Cod Fish is on the verge of extinction – but it tastes so good! And of course on the macro scale – our global way of life is destroying the earth at a dangerous rate – but how can we not live the way we live?!

Eddie Izzard, the great comedian and life philosopher, used to do a bit about mass murderers and genocidal maniacs. He said something to the effect of “When you murder someone, we know what to do with you, we put you in prison… but over 10 or 20 people.. we can’t deal with that, we invent things like house arrest and hope no one ever goes in that house.”  Though he was joking I find a great deal of observational wisdom that I apply in present day situations like the crumbling of our infrastructure. Like having to deal with genocidal maniacs, we are once again in a situation that is too hard for many to process. You can present facts and even wait for terrible things to happen which confirm the problem, and still people find a way to ignore it. Perhaps it is simply a mass coping mechanism. Otherwise everyone would so into either a deep depression or a dangerous panic. That or, they might try finding solutions and taking action to better prepare for the future. Regardless of what the economists or the politicians say.

Meanwhile many keep telling themselves that its only a few roads and a few parts of the country that had problems. Keep repeating that line about how these events are rare. Whatever it takes, I suppose, for us to collectively cope and keep doing (or not doing) the same things we always have.

Abortion in America (2011 Update)

by bicyclemark 2 Comments
West

Snapshot from West Philadelphia

The violence and threats occasionally are reported about in the mainstream media. The threats to funding have also grabbed headlines this year. Almost two years since the murder of Dr. Tiller, what is the state of abortion in the United States? For those who perform the procedure. For those who need or want the procedure. How have things been changing for all the actors involved over the past few years.

To explain the state of things I’m visiting with one of my favorite people,  Leah, of the Philadelphia Women’s Center.

She was last on the program back in December of 2007, discussing the state of abortion in America at that time.

Your 4th of July, Not Mine

by bicyclemark 8 Comments

It’s is the first time in many years that I am back in the US during the 4th of July celebrations.  While I enjoy a BBQ with friends and family today, I’ll also not forget the powerful words of Frederick Douglass back in 1852.  In this video entry I read an except from that speech.