Tuesday, July 12, 2011

HAWKS...


I believe we must have a hawk’s nest somewhere nearby, in our Los Angeles neighborhood. We have been hearing their strange, brief whistling calls for days now, and we spot them often, perched atop a telephone pole or in one of our tall eucalyptus trees or swooping in long arcs over the garden. This one...

... spotted the other evening toward sunset, had the fluffy look of a fledgling. To judge by the different sources of their calls, I’d say there are three or four of them out there, and that they have been busy these past few days with their preliminary flying lessons. All guesswork, really. Or fantasy. But it’s a delight to have them around.

I wonder if they’ll be disturbed by the work that’s starting today in our yard. It’s a noisy annual two-day job, to trim the trees and cut back the tall hedges on either side of our long garden...



... and the guys arrived this morning early to get started. They work hard and cheerfully, these men, in the hot sun all day, clambering up their ladders with clippers and noisy chain saws and trimmers...


... and carting away the debris up the steep steps at the side of the house to the machine that chews it all up and spits it out.

It’s a (slightly perverse?) pleasure to watch them. A sedentary character myself, I marvel at the strength and grace and energy that goes into their work, and the spirit that they bring to it. We have good reason to be grateful to such men, who readily go about the kind of labor that no longer much appeals to their more privileged brothers in this country, where the expansion of the “middle class” since the end of World War II has left the concept of a “working class” behind—a phenomenon related, surely, to the disrepute into which the word “socialism” has fallen. Forgotten, it seems to me sometimes, are the values and the dedication to social justice that went into the great cultural changes of the past century—many of which are the result precisely of the socialism that is so much despised by those who have benefited from it.

The whole notion of social “classes” is a quaint one in today’s infinitely complex world. It belongs more appropriately to earlier times, when the socially or, later, the financially privileged held the reins of power, for a long time unquestioned by those beneath them in rank or fortune. Now that our precursors have fought so successfully, in many ways, for equality of rights, it is time for us to radically re-evaluate the way in which we establish our relationships. On the economic front, in this shrunken globe (the “flat world” that Thomas L. Friedman writes about) neither capitalism nor socialism is working very well for humankind. Just as we need to evolve toward some more equitable and functional economic system, so also do we need, at the same time, to be ready to make far-reaching changes in the hierarchies and ideologies that divide us culturally.

In short, we’re going to have to find better ways for us to “all get along” as global fellow-travelers. It’s pretty clear by now that the old models are no longer working. Divisions by wealth, class, race, sex, religion—these do not help, but rather endanger us further, along with our already endangered home. If our species is to survive, we still have a good deal of adaptation to accomplish. We are merely foolish if we insist on clinging to our old ways when they are past their usefulness. And yet the more the way of life to which we have become accustomed is threatened, the more resistant we become to change.

Change will happen, of course, whether we want it to or not. My guess is that a millennial shift will have taken place in human consciousness by the end of the current century, if we manage to survive that long. It would be nice to think that I’d be around to see what our world looks like in the year 2200; but I’m not betting on it. In the meantime, there's this...


6 comments:

mandt said...

"The whole notion of social “classes” is a quaint one in today’s infinitely complex world." I couldn't agree with you less than on this point Peter. Having been born into a life of privilege and conditioned in a paradise shelter, my psycho drama has been that of Siddhartha, who when leaving home and going into the world found the truth about the human condition. The four decades of the 'American Dream' certainly gave the illusion that all classes melded into a prosperous homogenous class. But it is not so. ( ie. read Joe Bageant) Neo liberal late capitalism is moving the world and its poor and working peoples into an age of neo feudalism. I once had the experience that you described above, while watching a crew of twenty laboring on my hillside to plant, pour, build and labor. Years later, even while acknowledging I paid them well I felt sick at heart at the difference in perception. Watching idealistically the labor of one's servants is exactly what class warfare is all about. It simply affirms my belief that well intentioned people of good will, even while conscious, will ultimately chose class solidity when property and the maintenance of privilege is concerned.

PeterAtLarge said...

I don't think we disagree, MandT. Perhaps I simply didn't get then tone right, here. I should have written that "the whole notion of social classes SHOULD BY NOW be a quaint one..." I think if you read the rest of the para. in this light, you'll see that we're not far apart. My point is, there is work to be done.

mandt said...

There is work to be done Peter, I think we would agree that a humane and evolved civilization depends on it.

Sofan said...

When most of us learn to respect and accept differences, the world would be a better place.

Anonymous said...

It is difficult to imagine a time with no leisure class, no rights of privilege. But on the other hand the hard work that day laborers do in the hot sun is amazing, the entire agriculture of California would disappear without their hard work. If they come back tomorrow be sure and thank them individually. SR

joe said...
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