Aug 30, 2009

Vessels: The gift of increased carrying capacity.

The history of the vessel goes back to cupped hands, animal skins, bladders, hollowed out wood, formed clay and woven sacks. It probably dates at least 50,000 years. Most of what I read says advanced pottery bowls are common in the neolithic. (12-15,000 years ago.)

Our development of vessels to carry things really made a lot of new stuff possible. We could carry water if the vessel was impervious to liquid. We could haul food, firewood, seed, sick people, children, old people, animals and many other things in vessels.

From woven bags, animal bladders, hollowed out trees and hand formed pottery to today's, vessels: flash drives for your digital data, books for your stories, CD or iPods for your music, plastic bags, mesh bags, stainless steel bottles, and ceramic covered space shuttles, we haul things around in vessels!

Not all this increased carry capacity is needed but, think about the way you store and move your stuff. Imagine doing it with out vessels! We are defined, in part, by our ability to move things in vessels.

Aug 29, 2009

Clothing: A gift of modesty & deceit.

When did humans begin to wear clothing? Estimates seem to differ widely but, I think we can safely say it was between the dawn of the neolithic age, 11, 000-15,000 years ago and human control of fire as far back as 650,000 years. I wrote about Skin and Eccrine sweat glands: A new sensitivity & mobility. in May. Clothing is a unique human creation that provides a second skin and a cultural pallet.

Beyond protection from the elements and establishing gender differentiation, marking status, and style, clothes have become a form of communication. Clothes are a canvas for self expression and a tool to conceal or reveal the form of our flesh. We use clothes to shield our neighbors from having to look at our sex organs, to make statements about politics or economics and obscure the real shape of our bodies. We accentuate what we perceive to be our best features with clothing. We use color to express our feelings and, while these uses of this ancient tool are in the forefront today, clothes' functions: warmth; protection from insects, disease, weapons, or hazards of the surrounds, are still paramount to a garment's usefulness.

I want my clothes to fit, be stylish -after a certain fashion that may not fit within the strictures of contemporary design - and to protect me from a myriad of potential ills. When I put on the red suit, whether a full Santa costume or just a vibrant tee, I put on a form of modesty and I start to live a lie. I'm a portrayer of Santa. I am not Santa. I live as Santa 24/7 but when the reindeer go to sleep and I curl up with the paper the sad fact is I cannot fly anymore than they can. But, I can give gifts. I can tell stories of our past and point out how far we've come since our naked ancestors started using tools to increase our ability to survive into the next generation.

Now, we've come so far that our biology would perish if our tools had to all be abandoned. Most people would die without tools. If you're a regular reader of The Wisdom of Santa, you know that I chronicle gifts from our ancestors that are often tools. Physical tools are becoming less important than social tools. Look at facebook or twitter. These tools, like clothes, allow a double use. One is to polish or protect us, make look shiny, happy, or goth - ready for work, play, or relaxation. The other is to obscure us. To hide our zits, our scars, our flab or skinny exposed ribs. Clothing can make the small look large and the large small.

When protect our body from the cold or our friend from having to look at our sorry flesh, we use clothes for modesty and deceit. Our style of clothing follows our ability to control the materials we use fashion our clothes. I marvel at how far we've come just in my lifetime in fabrics to keep us warm. From amazingly scratchy, heavy wool to the softness of PolarFleece or the claustrophobic rubberized rain gear to today's Gortex. The culture uses of clothing are as important as its functions.

Aug 9, 2009

Illegal Drivers, the Commons & Government

I've written before about the value of those six big ideas in the Preamble to our Constitution. I basically believe the function of government in America can be summed up in three words: Protect Our Commons. At the risk of pedantry, these words need some deconstruction!
Protect, this means to secure, make safe, hold dear, shelter, shield, . . . . Note that it does not mean attack, torture, invade, preclude, preempt, ignore, deny, or squish.
Our, this could be a little dicey but I believe our founders were speaking to a hungry world as they wrote our Constitution. The French Revolution was on, all over there was change and tumult in the air. I think "Our" in this case must mean everyone. All people, all mammals even, all creatures, all living things. We all hold a stake in the Commons so we all own it. It is OUR Commons the Founders hoped to Protect.
Commons, this means those things that are not private. It means, public, held in common, group owned, shared assets, the public square, common markets, public lands.

This is the main duty of Government, Protect Our Commons.

Now, our commons are weakened. We have very few common spaces left. Our marketplaces are mostly malls - privately owned - or on the internet - private and mostly solitary - and city streets - still a common asset. But, even streets are losing their common attributes. In the 1950's an act was passed by Congress and signed by President Eisenhower.

The Defense Highway Act created the Interstate Highway system. A great way to create public right of way from city to city across the US@. It had a few problems that we accept now without question. It bans pedestrians. We created a public place were people on foot are not welcome. (With the speed on these Interstates it's a good idea to avoid walking.) It constricted states with regard to siting and design. It has been used to bludgeon states into accepting things like lower speed limits and higher drinking ages. All and all the Interstates have been good for America in the era of automobiles. But, can this go on forever?

- End illegal drivers' destruction of our common heritage.
As it is, many of our citizens don't follow the simple rules of the common ground. They speed on the Interstate. In many cases it is the same folks decrying "illegal aliens" who then become illegal drivers the minute they step on the gas. Lots of these folks support things like: wars in far off places, private enterprise free to exploit consumers in unlimited ways, domestic spying, detention without trial for "terror" suspects, an end to government waste, etc. While at the same time opposing: public health care options (socialism, they say), public education, welfare for the poorest of our neighbors, unemployment compensation for our idled workers, and using science in governance. Then they get on the freeway and don't even realize the damage they do to our culture when they speed. They believe that as long as they don't crash or get caught there is no harm done. Speeding increases wear and hastens deterioration our roads take a beating from speeders. I say it is time to get these illegal drivers off of our roads. These socialized thoroughfares are meant for law abiding citizens. Illegal drivers should be banned not just fined. Why should we create a socialized system and then let these anti-government, anti-democratic, anti-law folks use it?

Aug 8, 2009

Justice: A gift of divided governance.

Sonia Sotomayor will become the 111 Justice of the United States Supreme Court today. Chief Justice John Roberts will swear her in during a private ceremony at the Supreme Court.

I wrote about the importance of empathy in May (Empathy: The first gift of human civilization) when President Barrack Obama nominated Sotomayor. And in April I discussed the value of government (Government: A gift from the founders to US.) When the United States Senate confirmed Sotomayor on Thursday, the president said we had taken another step toward a more perfect union. As the the third woman and third non-white member of the Court Sotomayor will give us justice just like each of the previous Justices.

In my country there are people who would deny citizens justice. 31 US Senators voted "no" on justice when the President's nominee was presented to them. In essence they were saying she can't be fair or impartial because she is a woman and a latina. Many of these Senators stood to speak their mind on this topic. They sound to me as anti-government, anti-justice and anti-democracy as any member of the anarchist groups I've been involved with in the past. When the Republicans in office sound like anarchists attacking government with a vehemence once reserved only for the truly disturbed you must wonder if our system can ever work. Can we ever have a civil discussion of ideas?

These supposed freedom loving folk have now turned their attention to lying and bullying their way thru August helping insurance companies stay in control of the ever increasing costs and ever diminishing quality of outcomes in our health care system. If they are successful, our health care system will continue to limp along with the highest cost buying us the 37th, 54th, or 72nd best results. We can't let this happen. We have to do a few things:
1) Support government. Government is good. Our government provides many important functions one of which should be to lead on health care. Along with freedom of speech, public common spaces and thoroughfares, rights to bear arms and train for common defence, the right to be healthy is, and should be guaranteed.
2) Support a new approach to the healthcare system. We have to change the way we're doing it because paying so much for so little is stupid. It will bankrupt us.
3) Speak out, not just to your elected reps but to your friends and neighbors, especially if they disagree with your position. Talk with respect and dignity to your adversaries.

If we do these things across the country we can change the health care system for the better.

Aug 5, 2009

Bullying: The gift of broken discourse.

Well, I've just watched about a dozen public meetings where Members of Congress, Senators and other elected officials have been shouted down by bullies. These folks, apparently schooled by Dick Armey's lobby firm Freedom Works rise to ask questions or just start shouting in the middle of the event with misinformation and smears. They impugn government, the same government that they have worked so hard to destroy for the past 28 years. They shout, bluster and offer no ideas just an all out assault on public discourse. They seem to want to destroy anything that is left of the commons. Oh the humanity!
It's gone from bad - having these lying, greedy, bullies in office - to worse - having these lying, greedy, bullies trying to destroy from without what they couldn't destroy when they held power.

I'm sick to my stomach watching the evidence.

A ranking Senator on the Judiciary Committee has said he will not support Judge Sonia Sotomayor because he's afraid that she could not be objective and fair in the conduct of her job. This despite 17 years of written evidence to the contrary. I call on Jeff Sessions to use this same standard in his deliberations and in the performance of his job. Objectivity! Yes, government by science! Please, Jeff, say you will!

I want my country! I want people who support and defend the Constitution when it calls for a more perfect union, justice, domestic tranquility, common defence, general welfare and the blessing of liberty. I'm tired of greedy, lying bullies.

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