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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 9/6/09

Eight Months Into a new Administration -- What's Next?

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We are in the eighth month of a new Administration, a new president, and not much has changed. We still wage some visible and a number of invisible wars. The loudest war is between the two parties yes, in America we define "democracy" as a two party system.As somebody said, both parties have slid to the right, the Democrats are now in the middle, and the Republicans off the board (and that is the polite version).

The Republican party is a clear and obvious minority but through its loud and often delusional yelling gets the Media to report every last off-the-board joke. My favorite so far is the Senator who proclaimed that if Stephen Hawking had been a Brit he would never have become famous because the health system there would have written him off. To which Dr. Hawking replied that in fact he is British and alive thanks to the National Health Service. That response of course was largely ignored here.

Many of us feel disappointed because so little has changed by a president who was elected because he promised change. What we here, almost as far from Washington, DC as Baghdad, know is that our local economy has collapsed. I am utterly ignorant about economics, but it seems strange that many States are in fact bankrupt, but it was the big banks that were saved by our government, not us.
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I am disappointed also that perhaps because of the unholy noise of so-called debates what we call "the environment" is very far from a priority. It seems that making money is more important than survival. Strange how people think. Do they?

Personally I am doing as well as an old man can do well. I have enough income to live a simple life, and occasionally put a few dollars in my savings account.
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Books, apparently, have stopped selling. Every now and then I read that the coming thing is e-books. So far Amazon has the advantage because they have their own machine to read digital books. The machine is not cheap, and buying a digital book usually costs only a dollar less than a paper book. Amazon saves shipping, and the buyer gets the book immediately. Other book sellers have other formats and that is what we are accustomed to in a capitalist world. Holy competition.

It is becoming more and more difficult to convince people that Man, by nature, is not a greedy beast wanting "more" which is only possible if others the majority get less. Getting rich means stealing from the poor. Do capitalists think about the future? What kind of future do they see? Do they imagine a world with a very few very rich owning the masses of very poor? And what about melting glaciers, rivers drying up, oceans rising, agriculture drying up? They don't "believe" that, they say. Hmm.

This may sound complacent, smug, and other ugly words, but I find it easier all the time to consider the story of Rain of Ashes a likely possibility. There are officially nine countries who have nuclear weapons, and they include "rogue" nations like North Korea and others that shall remain in the dark. Meanwhile glaciers really are melting, which means rivers will dry up. When an individual gets seriously threatened s/he gets dangerous; when large countries get threatened they become infinitely more dangerous.

Of course I know that most of us do not want to think about these black scenarios. Most of us do not want to face our own mortality. Buddhists are taught that it is useful to meditate on one's mortality. We know all individuals die. Plants and animals die. Trees die, although they may live longer than other life forms.

Even a minor meditation will give one an insight in the larger whole that individuals are a part of. The wholes do not die; they change. In fact, that is what Life with a capital L is about: the wholes, all of them part of the planetary whole, all of themever changing ecologies, constantly adjusting to small changes here and there.
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Ever since we, homo sapiens sapiens (humans, aware to be aware, proud to be smart) left the wild to make our own world on top of, but not part of the planet, we have also made our own lives different from who we were, now long ago. We live longer than ever before because we (some of us, at least) have more to eat, have more comfortable homes, drink cleaner water. And so we have the ability to create our own lives to be unhealthy, smoking cigarettes, eating junk food, getting addicted to this or that.

At my age one lives a day at a time. My death (everyone's) gets closer each day. I learned about the process of dying the two years that I volunteered with Hospice. Dying is much like birthing, it is a passage between two states, often a tight squeeze, painful or smooth. It is a process that begins long before the end. I have had sufficient experience to know that I do not want to go through the process in and out of hospitals, spending all my time (and money) on medical "care" that today is too often a needless prolonging of the process, obviously never avoiding death. I want to be here, outside, in the wild that I know and feel part of. I know full well, of course, that my wanting is wishing, and I may not have choices.
Of course I have thought about whether there is an after, or even another life time. I do not know; I cannot know. If there is an after, I shall know and if there isn't, there is no I to know it. No need to imagine one thing or another.

And so I can also think of a my species dying. Certainly a dying of who and what we have become. It is distressing to think about, but as individual dyings, the important thing is what happens with the whole that my species is but a part of. The whole is already changing because so many species are extinguished. Where the whole is heading I can only guess.

Ecologies have a grand imperative to variety, the greater the better. If an ecology goes through a period of severe reduction of biodiversity, as we have today, mutations will occur. The Hawaiian Islands has an example of how this worked. Because these islands are so isolated, 2500 miles from the nearest continent, for a long time only one species of birds arrived here. Biologists found that the one species mutated into at least forty now sufficiently different birds to be called species. It seems to me that the planetary ecology is going through, moving toward, some kind of crisis that, probably, will cause surviving species to split into a variety of new species. If homo sapiens survives here and there, we may well mutate into a variety of new species, each different from what and who we are now. All of which says that I see the whole of the planetary ecology the biosphere going through a severely critical event that may (will?) result in a planet with a different atmosphere, and an abundance of new species. Perhaps different kinds of "intelligence," which seems to be the quality we think we represent. These are some of the thoughts that I played with in Rain of Ashes.

Because the world is suffering an economic what-shall-we-call-it, I've decided to make Rain of Ashes available to any and all, for free, as a pdf file -- an e-book of sorts, that you can read on your computer, or any other e-book reader (but not on Amazon's Kindle). The pdf file is the text only, the front and back cover you can see on my web site. Let me remind you that all my writing is protected by a Creative Commons License, which basically means you can do anything you want with it, you can share it, email it, print it the only thing you can NOT do is make money from it. The printed book is nicer, but pricy. The free download is for the month of September 2009 only, for now. An 850k download. And if you want, you will find a sequel to Rain of Ashes, called Anansí, also available as a pdf file, also free (a 444 k download). Anansí is an African spider, the small animal that survives despite its smallness because it knows how to spin webs: to me a symbol of ecologies. Anansí is for (West?) Africa, what the fox is for parts of Europe, the coyote for Native Americans, the dwarf deer for South East Asia small, smart, successful.

Wishing you all a happy Fall and Winter, or Spring and Summer if you live in the Southern Hemisphere of this happily chaotic planet.

robert wolff, 4 september 200




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robert wolff lived on the Big Island, called Hawai'i

his website is He passed away in late 2015. He was born in 1925, was Dutch, spoke, Dutch, Malay, English and spent time living and getting to know Malaysian Aborigines. He authored numerous books including What it Is To Be Human, (more...)

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