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Monday, February 15, 2010

Days of Future Past -- Part II

Well…, the seed potatoes are planted in the garden at The Ranch now…, and I am glad the lead up to that story is now in the ”days past” category. I should…, and no doubt…, could have done it much earlier. Hard physical labor was a way of life in my past…, along with hard partying. Like Don, I did inhale…, but unlike Don…, I am ever so happy that in my early 40’s I traded in my day job as a chain saw jockey for one jockeying a computer for the State. The days of the future warrant some anxiety for that job…, given the state of the State budget. But that anxiety is tempered by the fact that I made that transition over ten years ago…, so I have a bit of seniority. That…, and the fact that I now have some potatoes in the ground for the future. I’ll probably be thanking Don for the inspiration that led to all the perspiration…, after I fully recovered from the physical discomfort. But…, reading Steinbeck gives me no comfort. And his image of potatoes being dumped in rivers during The Great Depression…, while people were starving…, being dumped because they couldn’t be sold for a profit is haunting my present days and nights.

“The little farmers watched debt creep up on them like the tide. They sprayed the trees and sold no crop, they pruned and grafted and could not pick the crop. And the men of knowledge have worked, have considered, and the fruit is rotting on the ground, and the decaying mash in the wine vats is poisoning the air. And taste the wine--no grape flavor at all, just sulphur and tannic acid and alcohol.
This little orchard will be a part of the great holding next year, for the debt will have choked the owner.
This vineyard will belong to the bank. Only the great owners can survive, for they own the canneries too. And four pears peeled and cut in half, cooked and canned, still cost fifteen cents. And the canned pears do not spoil. They will last for years.
The decay spreads over the State, and sweet smell is a great sorrow on the land. Men who can graft the trees and make the seed fertile and big can find no way to let the hungry people eat their produce. Men who have created new fruits in the world cannot create a system whereby their fruits may be eaten. And the failure hangs over the State like a great sorrow.
The works of the roots of the vines, of the trees, must be destroyed to keep up the price, and this is the saddest, bitterest thing of all. Carloads of oranges dumped on the ground. The people came for miles to take the fruit, but this could not be. How would they buy oranges at twenty cents a dozen if they could drive out and pick them up? And men with hoses squirt kerosene on the oranges, and they are angry at the crime, angry at the people who have come to take the fruit. A million people hungry, needing the fruit--and kerosene sprayed over the golden mountains.
And the smell of rot fills the country.
Burn coffee for fuel in the ships. Burn corn to keep warm, it makes a hot fire. Dump potatoes in the rivers and place guards along the banks to keep the hungry people form fishing them out. Slaughter the pigs and bury them, and let the putrescence drip down into the earth. There is a crime here that goes beyond denunciation. There is a sorrow here that weeping cannot symbolize. There is a failure here that topples all our success. The fertile earth, the straight tree rows, the sturdy trunks, and the ripe fruit. And children dying of pellagra must die because a profit cannot be taken from an orange. And coroners must fill in the certificates--died of malnutrition--because the food must rot, must be forced to rot.
The people come with nets to fish for potatoes in the river, and the guards hold them back; they come in rattling cars to get the dumped oranges, but the kerosene is sprayed. And they stand still and watch the potatoes float by, listen to the screaming pigs being killed in a ditch and covered with quicklime, watch the mountains of oranges slop down to a putrefying ooze; and in the eyes of the people there is the failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.”

A couple weeks ago I asked here, “…are we building up this massive debt burden for our children and grandchildren in order to keep people like the Joad's from starving…, or are we ensuring the survival and prosperity of the ‘great owners' and their ilk?”

A rhetorical question if ever there was one…, in my mind at least.

Sure…, a lot of money is going to unemployment so people don’t starve. But one hell of a lot more is going to keep big business in business…, so they can produce the goods to sell to make a profit. By selling them to people on unemployment…,? How long can this Ponzi Scheme survive?

Today I ask…, are the measures being taken now to prevent another Great Depression doing more to fuel a future Great Depression than they are doing to fight another one?

Scott R. June 6, 2009 - 2:35pm

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