Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Differing Visions of Life in America

Like millions of Americans, I heard the president address the nation in his State of the Union address to Congress last night. I was impressed. He seemed relaxed and at the top of his rhetorical game.  

Yet the speech also troubled me.

President Barack Obama addresses the nation during the 2013 State of the Union in Washington D.C.
President Obama
If I heard him correctly he called for preschool  for all children beginning at age four.

He called for high school education more closely tied to job placement, more akin to an associate degree from a community college.

"To grow our middle class," the president said, "our citizens must have access to the education and training that today's jobs require."

He also made a pitch for an increase in the minimum wage, to $9 an hour, a  boost for the working poor.

It was about jobs and work — tailoring people to fit the world of work rather than tailoring the world of work  to fit people.

Those at the top prosper; those below perspire.

Wandering Wolf

If Mr. Obama was offering a vision of  utopia based on rewards, benefits and confinements of corporate America,  Wakatel Utiw—Wandering Wolf—a Mayan elder who has been walking the Americas, see things a little differently. 

Five hundred years of  rule by occupiers, colonialists and corporate interests has not created paradise in the Americas or the world, he says. It is a system based on greed. Its legacies are division, distrust, poverty and war.

Wandering Wolf 
Don Alejandro Cirilo Perez Olax, Wandering Wolf, is at the heart of the movie, Shift of the Ages, exploring the meaning of the Mayan and other indigenous peoples' visions for a better way of live. For more than seven years he has traversed the Americas from Guatemala to Peru and Bolivia, meeting with elders and speaking speaking of a coming change foreseen by his people as long count  calendar comes to a close and a new epoch begins. 

Although the time is now for a new era, he says, mankind must end its divisions and we must work together to make it happen—to end the fouling of our air and water, to end poverty, to end war and greed. 

“The new Sun will come, but if we don’t change our destructive and disharmonious ways, many may not see it. We are not powerless over something happening to us," he says. "We are happening to the Earth and to each other.”

He points to 500 years of occupation, colonial rule and corporate oppression. The lessons of the old order are manifest in a world that has turned its back on the human spirit and preached a world of material plenty and spiritual poverty.

His words contrasted with the focus of the president's address stirred something in me.

Why should it be that in a world of plenty there is so much want?  Why should we begin preparing the young for a lifetime of work at the tender age of four? 

For what reason?  To get ahead?  Who profits?  Who loses?

A Theft of Tender Years

One of  nature's preschool instructors.
Taking four-year-olds, sparkling and spiritual and at an  age when imagination should be free to explore and to play, and putting them on the treadmill that feeds the maw of the corporate machine seems a crime against them and against all humanity.

Using education not to enlarge the spirit and expand the mind but to hone workplace skills seems not so much an exercise in developing  human potential as it does  in crushing it.

The rewards are the material gee-gaws and gadgetry that fill our empty days and overflow our landfills.

One thing that nights looking at stars and mornings watching a sun rise over mountains has taught me is that the stars and the moons and the mountains and the sunrise belong to all of us.  And so too the Earth.  And that there is no more beautiful sight than a free human cast in his or her own mold and not in the mold of others or the machine.

We should be careful what we ask when we seek to grow our economy, and wary of the price we may pay and the fuel we are putting into the fire, 

The four-year-old sitting by the campfire beside her mother, hearing the conversations of coyotes in the hills, the rustle of wind in the grass, the screeches of owls and chirrups of insects and frogs,  dreaming of life unfolding before her in her vivid imagination, will not be so happy in an air-conditioned preschool where she may learn keyboard skills but not know the scent of a pine forest.

Even if it does one day lead to a job.


  1. Hi John, I like your take on the State of the Nation speech and state of affairs of the world.
    Thanks for the good food for thought...much appreciated...

  2. Hi John... and hi Brian ;) ... my take on this is there are so many children whose parents work ... this means they are left at day care centers.

    A child of four is at a very healthy natural learning age. Very curious and malleable. If the parents ~ some who care and some who don't ~ they're too tired or too busy ~ don't spend time with their children ~ going to school would encourage that little ol bitty curious mind to love learning.

    I stayed home with my son. When he was enrolled in kindergarten? I was told he might need remedial courses. remedial? m'god … in what?

    Well, he doesn't color within the lines ~ very erratic ~ and his cutting and pasting skills are way below kindergarten level ~ lacks coordination

    I'm on the floor....

    uh, I said... I'm not very artistic at all. I just encouraged him to read. We do crosswords together and read. Doesn't reading count for anything?

    The teacher says, reads? ... me ~ yes. I mean he's reading Dr. Seuss books and words from crosswords ... not Charles Dickens

    SHE THEN recommended him for the advanced class.

    What this means? Our education system needs better educators. Teachers ~ not glorified babysitters. I think that profession should be the highest paid profession in this country. Get rid of the deadweight.

    Parents ... who would rather sleep than play and read with their children ~ need to let someone who does ... do.

    I like Montessori schools... education is something we need to support to stay up with the rest of the world ...

    A child in Fouke, Arkansas ~ Alalmorgordo, New Mexico ~ San Diego, California ~ Kalispell, Montana ~ Manhattan, New York ~ Beaumont, Texas ~ to New Orleans, Louisiana … should be afforded the same education. the same. each child should have the same opportunities …

    Liked reading this… and I enjoyed his speech very much. Rubio? oh, baruther

  3. Hi John,
    I read somewhere that in 1930 there were a billion people living on Mother Earth. In 2013,7 billion.In 2023...can 19 billion people realistically hear the coyotes's song? I know it is hard to imagine when you are in a place to actually hear the coyote's song.


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