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For the Long Winter’s fall?
Said the Lady in her parlour
Said the Butler in the hall . . .
Is there time for another?
Cried the Drunkard in his sleep ...
Not likely, said the little child.
What’s done, the Lord can keep .. .

Dark Ages, from the Jethro Tull album Stormwatch, 1979-1980.

Yesterday as Hurricane Ike receded from Galveston and CNN broadcast stories about broken windows and newborn babies amidst the wreakage, I listened to an old favorite while working my 10-hour Saturday shift.  Funny, how in college in 1980 I would never have dreamed that I would be here, just outside Dayton and Cincinnati, working an outlandish 4-day shift that begins at five a.m. just to sort the incoming mail in a wholesale pharmacy.  I was, after all, in COLLEGE, and pulling in a steady grade-point average over 3.5.  Of course, I was majoring in psychology, overloaded with debt, and with no focus for what I planned to do with a life that, to the best of my educated and intelligent analysis, was going to occur during the collapse of civilization as we knew it.   Undertaking more debt to acquire an advanced degree seemed a waste of time and money, and I was restlessly eager to get on with my Real Life.  And so here I am ... not at all unhappy, actually, and not unprepared for the dark curtain, that seems, suddenly, ready to fall once again ...

Black and viscous – bound to cure blue lethargy
Sugar-plum petroleum for energy
Tightrope-balanced payments need a small reprieve
Oh, please believe
We want to be
In North Sea –

It was twenty-seven years ago, and the price of  imported oil had skyrocketed with the Iranian Revolution.  The staff of the American Embassy in Tehran was held hostage while Jimmie Carter asked the American people to sacrifice by turning down their thermostats and wearing sweaters.  And if we could just manage to hold on for five years – for ten years – we would Find A Way out of the crisis; we would, oh please God Mummy we promise to be good – we would invest in insulation, and fuel-economy standards, and solar energy, and the construction of expensive nuclear power plants.  We would mend our energy-spendthrift ways and become reformed world citizens.  We would learn from our mistakes and Do Better.  All we needed was a little extra time.

Ah, but we know now what we really did.  The Gods gave us that time – not ten years, but twenty – and all our good resolutions went frittering away into computer-games and home video-cams and a new generation of bombs and missiles and tanks and guns.  Ten years later we went to war with Iraq to secure the Saudi and Kuwaiti oil fields.  And ten years after that, we returned to Iraq to secure the Iraqi oilfields for Exxon and British Petroleum, whose North Sea and Alaskan fields were finally depleting as predicted twenty years before.  The Gods never intended it to be a permanent fix.  We blithely forgot.

In the mornings I see the woman who used to work beside me for our ten-minute break.  As the TV turns from storm reporting to politics, she growls.  "I wish they’d just stop it all," she says.  "I know who I’m voting for."

"Oh?" I ask.  Dee is probably the most competent worker in our group; she’s smart and quick and can’t sit still long enough to waste time if she tried.  Like me, she could be making a good deal more than we do, but while I chose the job to mark time stresslessly, she took it for the medical coverage; her husband is seriously and chronically ill and has none at his job.  She has a foot in both camps, so to speak; she and her husband have good jobs and good savings, but his illness puts them at risk of financial disaster at any time.  "Who is it?"

"I’m voting for McCain," she tells me.

I shrug.  "Your funeral," I say.  "Man doesn’t know a thing about economics – Dark Ages, here we come."

Dee bristles.  "I saw a townhall meeting – this fellow asked Obama a question, but he wouldn’t answer it.  He talked around and around and around, but he wouldn’t answer the question."

"Well," I tell her, "real-world problems very seldom have a twenty-second answer.  He was respecting the man by telling the truth.  These things are complicated."

"He took ten minutes and he still never answered the question!"

"College professor," I remark.  "I used to work with them.  Look, Obama’s smart, he knows economics; and if he seemed to be off the topic, I suspect that’s because the question was complex and required a complex solution, not a sound-bite.  And the professor in him was determined to educate his audience instead of pandering to it."

"I’m not voting for a man who can’t give a simple answer to a simple question."

I sigh.  I should have known.  "Dee," I try.  "There are no simple questions.  And McCain can give you all the simple answers you want – he’s a fighter-pilot; they’ve got one answer that takes care of everything: shoot fast from the hip.  That works if you’re a fighter-pilot; it works real good.  And I like the man – he’s Navy; he’s family.  But you can’t shoot the economy, except by shooting yourself in the foot.  If we put more incompetence in charge with the economy in the state it’s in, we won’t just be in a recession.  We’ll be back in the Dark Ages.  You want that, well, fine.  Hell, I had a good time in the Dark Ages.  As long as I can get my toilet up in the mountains fixed before everything goes completely to hell, I’ll be just fine."  But she won’t be.  Her husband needs up-to-date, high-quality modern medical care to live.  Of course, the curtain might take longer to fall, than he has anyway.  Most civilizations die slowly.

"I won’t vote for a man who won’t answer a question."

Break is over.  On CNN, they’re repeating the same story about the newborn babies and the boarded-up hospital that they were showing three hours ago.  I’m back at my desk with the headphones turned up.

She wore a black tiara
rare gems upon her fingers
and she came from distant waters
where Northern Lights explode
to celebrate the dawning
of the new wastes of winter
gathering royal momentum
on the icy road ...

Sometimes, you can see the Aurora in upstate Michigan.  I think I’ll take a trip there this winter or the next, for a few weeks, before we lose the roads.

Originally posted to cynndara on Sun Sep 14, 2008 at 10:36 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips, (7+ / 0-)

    questions, comments, obscene suggestions, whatever.

  •  You might want to tell her that McCain will (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    appletree, stonepier

    TAX her healthcare benefits and while you're at it, give her link to Obama Tax Cut Calculator

    "Yes he can, but first we have to elect him" ! President Bill Clinton, Aug 27, DNC Convention.

    by AntKat on Sun Sep 14, 2008 at 10:42:28 AM PDT

  •  I've targeted some McCainites at work.... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AntKat, stonepier

    and figured out which ones I can encourage to think independently and which ones are a waste of time.  Don't give up on your co-worker, not yet.  Great diary, by the way.

  •  Those thirty squandered years (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cynndara, Wings Like Eagles

    I remember back in the late 70s, we were told it would take thirty years for alternative/renewable energy to be developed fully to the stage of large-scale production.  But the idea was that those thirty years would be spent actually working, doing the R&D, the testing and phasing in of the new technologies.  At the time the US was far out in the lead in those technologies, so one could easily see how they would not only meet our energy needs, but be a means of maintaining AMerica's industrial strength and export economy.

    Instead, Americans, searching for the easy way out, of no demands on them and for ego-gratifying consumer products, gladly accepted the Reaganite answer of deregulation of oil and gas as the means of solving our energy needs...

    The resulting American economy is one where the new working class are holders of college degrees (just as it was in the late days of the Soviet Union), while we import wind turbines from Germany and Denmark, and the great breakthroughs in solar technology are happening in South Korea and Taiwan.

    A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves. ~Edward R. Murrow

    by ActivistGuy on Sun Sep 14, 2008 at 10:47:24 AM PDT

    •  But the American people as a whole... (0+ / 0-)

      cannot be blamed for the lack of leadership into alternative energy.  The oil lobby made sure that their men were elected to office and that we would get alternative energy only when they said we could have it.  

      •  Why not? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Everybody lived through the 70s knew damned well that we'd just had a wake-up call, every single one of us remembered gas lines and turning down the thermostats to 62.  Instead the American people, at least the political majority thereof, made a deliberate and conscious choice to support the politics that tore the solar panels off the White House roof, the politics that extended the light-truck CAFE exemption to the SUV (what I said about ego-gratifying consumer products).  Those few of us who continued to remind of the warnings of the 70s were scorned, ridiculed and denounced, though every single American who lived through that period had decisive evidence that we were entirely correct, they simply chose to ignore their own lived experience.  And that is willful ignorance, something no one should ever be exculpated from.

        A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves. ~Edward R. Murrow

        by ActivistGuy on Sun Sep 14, 2008 at 11:08:17 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  True Activist Guy... (0+ / 0-)

          I have always said (since the 1970's) that the greatest danger to this country is the growing importation of oil to politically explosive areas of the world.  But, in my earlier statement, I was merely noting that "when the leaders lack vision, the people perish."  One of the problems is that the people are sometimes like recalcitrant children who need to be educated and led--a skill that Obama uses very effectively.  However, he is something new for us.  We're used to ignoring our leaders because, while we are high on our nation and our people, we generally have a low opinion of our elected officials (not undeserved).  Our "leaders" have continued to sell the American people out in favor of special interests (read the wealthy plutocrats) time and time again.   Hopefully, Obama will not be the first and only extraordinary leader to rise up "for such a time as this."

        •  This is what (0+ / 0-)
          I just don't understand.  We were THERE.  We KNEW.  It was staring us in the face.  If you watch movies made at the time you can see it in the dark colors, the somber themes, the recognition that the End is on its way ... and yet the majority turned deliberately away and embarked on a frenzy of conspicuous consumption.

          Is there time for another?
          Asked the Drunkard in his sleep
          Not likely, said the little child
          What's done, the Lord can keep

          There was time for another if we grabbed it real quick and partied on the edge of the cliff until the edge itself crumbled under us.  I tend to think it was the American addiction to optimism that sealed our doom.  This nation is unwilling to look hard facts in the eye; unwilling to accept the truth if the truth might inconvenience them.  Unwilling to turn down the thermostats today in order to survive tomorrow.  

          Pessimists perform a useful function, like canaries in a mine.  It's scary to live in a society that kills the canaries because it doesn't like to hear the warning.

  •  Simple question (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wings Like Eagles, stonepier

    Does McCain lie?
    Answer:  yes

    There, see how easy that is.

    Moderation in all things-NOT

    by Julie Gulden on Sun Sep 14, 2008 at 10:48:33 AM PDT

  •  Simple answer to the health care question (0+ / 0-)

    McCain wants to take away your employer-paid health care and throw you onto the open market. Dee's husband is uninsurable on the open market. If she wants him to live, she needs to vote for the candidate who will keep him alive: Obama.

    I'm in the same situation as Dee's husband. I have carefully studied all the options, and if McCain wins, I will die.

    Want to be a living kidney donor? I need one from someone with a bloodtype of B or O. Drop a note at

    by Kitsap River on Sun Sep 14, 2008 at 02:49:44 PM PDT

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