Wednesday, February 18, 2004


Got word from my friend that the court had in fact not come to a decision in regards to my case. She says that they did say that they would release the transcripts but only on my signature. I therefore, have not a clue as to what is the truth. I will do what I can to find out over the next few days.

As for today, I am going to go a little farther along in my thinking about our connection to Belarus and the former communist world.

The Ripple Effect

Yesterday I went on a bit about how things are connected to each other. I know that I was babbling a bit, but there was a method to the madness. We creative folk always believe that there is, don’t you know. But beyond thinking about how this series of essays eventually ties together, my thinking of the connections between specific though seemingly unrelated events got me to thinking about some events in my own life and raised a very interesting question: Could it be possible that there would actually be a seeable and understandable connection between my personal life and the fall of communism in the USSR? It was a great question: Is it possible that an event that occurs halfway around the world to a completely different socio-economic system might directly effect me personally?

So, I had got to thinking about what was going on in my life between oh, say, 1989 when the Berlin Wall was opened , the early 1990’s, and realized that there just might be a rather grand connection between some personal things and the larger political picture.

This is what I came up with:

Around the year 1990 or so, I was happily married. My wife and I seemed to have a rather ideal relationship. We lived in California. We never fought much, got along splendidly and enjoyed each other’s company. I would not say that we were on the fast track, we didn’t make a lot of money, but I think we were doing OK. And that neither of was thinking about being rich might have had something to do with how little problems we actually had. We were alive, together and happy and that was about all we cared about.

But it was at about this time, that my wife and I began to notice that a lot of our friends were starting to break up and get divorces. A lot of them. We saw it at the time as being sort of like a virus or something that was beginning to infect people. We for a long time laughed at how it seemed to be not having any effect on us.

But what was happening was that the cost of living in California, which was, at that time, probably the epicenter of the remarkable rise in the cost of housing which had started in the early 1980’s, was starting to become very problematic*( see below a bit about that and how this also had an effect on the east). We were renting a house at the time and the cost of that house was, including electricity and such, around $1300 a month. This was normal for the area, but a lot of money for us and it was basically all we could do to keep up with it. And this effected our life in general because of course we couldn’t save any money because all of it went for the rent on the house. We couldn’t even escape the rent trap by buying because we couldn’t afford either the down payment or the payments on a house that would cost up to several hundred thousand dollars. And, it became more impossible when my company started to fold up due to its own money problems. We were stuck. So hoping to find some way to continue our happy lives together, we fled to Minnesota where it was a little cheaper and where there was possible to both buy a house and go to go back to school. This was, we thought, an economically practical thing to do. We were divorced within two years, in the beginning of 1993.

The virus we had noticed as affecting the relationships of our friends apparently was the change in the way things worked insofar as how much money was needed and available for life from the way it had been. We had all felt free previously to marry because we felt the world to be an affordable place in which to live. This was no longer the case. And, protracted out to the present, it does not take a genius to see that such archaic and un-cool practices such as marriage are simply not in the vocabulary of today’s oh-so-well informed young. This, along with a lot of other old-fashioned ideas about life having been rethought and newly theorized. Its all just social Darwinism, right Rush Limbaugh?

What happened? Here’s the theory:

I remember having a conversation with a guy in Vancouver BC about this subject. We were at the international film festival and we were waiting for the start of a film called “Onyegin”, an English-made adaptation of the Alexander Pushkin novel. This fellow, an immigrant to Canada from the Czech republic, offered an opinion that the number one effect on the world that came as a result of the end of the USSR, was that there was no longer any philosophical competition for the capitalists in the world. This I guess could be directly similar to the philosophy behind “checks and balances” ideology behind the American “Two Party” system.

Before the fall of the wall, western capitalists needed to remember that there was such a place in the world that functioned and existed without them, this as with all competition kept them in check. Because more than half the world was at least semi-socialist, it had always been extremely important for private firms to remember the lives of its employees as being important. And it was a part of the basic contract that this would be so, even if that meant that a little more money needed to be spent on them. This necessary expenditure on life was also true also for “humanities” studies in the universities and for such things as high school sport programs and elderly care within the communities: Social services and road maintenance being the primary concern of local governments.

But in the early 90’s, the capitalist of the world claimed a great philosophical victory and immediately went to work showing us all what it meant to indeed be a good capitalist. The “Bottom Line”, the place where the final pennies were tallied because the primary focus of the equation. Companies began “downsizing” and “reconfiguring” their “management scenarios” so as to more efficiently run their businesses. A whole crop of “business consulting” firms began to spring up. The true value of these firms was not really in their ability to find flaws in the companies cash flow, but rather in allowing the ownership to shift the blame for the dismissal of middle management and other “superfluous” employees to the findings of the consulting firm. Getting paid became the cause and effect for all endeavors, an any thoughts to the contrary were seen as foolish.

Everybody had to get harder. Everybody had to get smarter. And of course in their needs to be ever faster and sharper, everybody started dropping their feelings of responsibility to each other. This philosophy also translated to the cities and towns who also began to count the pennies of their local budgets. And slowly, things that had previously been provided by the system, such as the above mentioned trivialities were dropped in favor of paying attention to more “fiscally responsible agenda’s”.

Humanities and studies of the arts were dropped from the agenda’s of universities because of funding cuts. Money for school sports programs began to disappear, elderly care services, funding for adult education and social security began to diminish rapidly.

But, if there was a drop in the perceptible quality of life in general, it was placed against and eventually dismissed because of the images of those lucky few of us who had become very personally well off. Those lucky few of us had become so because of either the rise in home equity, real estate in general or from investments in computer or telecommunications firms and “Initial Public Offerings”. Of course it was not possible for all of us to be rich, but for a while we all felt like it was. And so we allowed for this “dream” to suffice us and paid no mind to the ongoing diminishment in the quality of our lives.

I worked for two computer-related firms in New York as a biker around the turn of the millenium and the lack of business reality was astounding. They were there though because of the dream of computer millions when they finally made their “IPO’s”. It was not a surprise to me when they both of these two zeppelin-like behemoths finally crashed and burned on tarmac, taking with them losses of investment money close to half a billion dollars. And they were still entertaining potential investors as much as 60 days before the crash.

A friend of mine in New York recently wrote me that in New York these days, the general idea is that there are a few people who have everything, and the rest of everybody else has nothing. This idea is seconded by a friend in California who, with a son of “after school sports” age, is personally feeling how little there is for such expected and natural activities. And that there is no money for civic employees or any other social services. His community of San Mateo California, on of the single richest “real estate locations” in the world, is broke apparently. What do you know about that?

So what are we doing to fight back? What are we doing to reclaim that feeling of neighborhood and home and friendship and brotherhood that all of us dream of as being a part of a well lived life? Well, take a look at what we are doing: To combat these ever growing feelings that our lives have been too far diminished, The government of the United States of America decided to throw the full thrust of its governmental power into a war in the middle east. War of course having always been the great solution to social unrest. And, that being at war gives the government additional powers to dismiss human rights because of their potential threat to national security, is of course, yet another solution to the problem.

We said we were right and that they were wrong. They agreed to let us play, as we liked. What all you see now, is the result of our freedom to play as we liked.

See the point?

Have you read any of the plays I have blogged up? I think they are actually pretty good, all things considered. I might blog up a few more over the next while.

More tomorrow.

*This housing inflation was inspired by a retooling of the banking laws that allowed banks to be much more free in what they invested in. This retooling was done because of the increasing demand for home ownership by the “Baby Boomers” who were now in their mid thirties. This retooling was seen as necessary because the old system of banking had many restrictions as to what and where the bank could invest. These rules had been in place, in general, to prevent money from going too far away from the communities the bank was loaning money to. However, due to the old restrictions, there needed to be a rather high interest rate on home loans, business dictated this. So, amidst complaints about 14 and 18 percent home loans, the restrictions were taken off of the banks as a means to allow for the possibility for the banks to make more money by investing elsewhere and to create a situation where interest on home loans could be more affordable. Everybody thought this was so great that then president Reagan allowed for this home loan to be the primary source of tax relief (superceding deductions from private businesses) and the cost of housing, fueled new low, low, low interest rates and an added tax relief, went through to proverbial roof.

This situation created A LOT OF VERY RICH PEOPLE because simply owning a house gave one, at least as far as the equity in that home was concerned, an additional income which after a few years of 20, 30 and 40% inflation, a greater income than from their jobs! The result of all of this new “Upward Mobility” was that there was a lot of new investment in products that could be purchased by wealthier people. A whole lot of new things began to flood the market place as well as of co urse, the advertising for those products. This advertising of course was seen and heard throughout the world and had a lot to do with the rise of unrest and unhappiness with the way of life in the east.