Small-town America is the only Solution

Big cities breed big failures, trickster capitalists, foaming-at-the-mouth flimflam artists

Image result for artwork of young students climate change

I’ve been straddling the void, so to speak: I have had a disgust with this Imperial Society so long that down looks up, man. Slip streaming through the wastelands of America, first, as a kid wrestling in Tucson and having huge confrontations with fellow high school punks, racists against the Mexican-Americans on the other side of town, racists against the Native Americans up north, and racists against the African Americans recruited by the hometown basketball and football teams – University of Arizona Wildcats.

I hated and fought the bulldozers tearing up the Sonora, hated and fought the trappers wanting every god-damned coyote and other vermin cleared from the land, hated and fought the people on both sides of the foolish Tupperware or Rubbermaid parties who backed the baby killers and old lady rapers called US Uniformed Services.

The Minutemen along the border, shooting up crossers and holding at gunpoint, again grannies, old men and women, I hated them and did things to some of their crusades. .

I had nothing in common with the haters, the levelers, the people who gushed over July 4th bombs bursting in air, gushed over the Superbowl, gushed over the Oscars, gushed over the cheap flights to Vegas and Honolulu and Mazatlan. I knew even before Tucson and the border and my work in Mexico that the project of Empire was based on Puritanical lies, slavery of the mind, and the Mad Men in every branch of government and all sectors of the economy doing that soft shoe bait and switch akimbo with the minds and tax coffers of more and more distracted dumb-downed deluded magical thinking members of this sideshow carnival society.

Blind allegiance to something, that’s the American way, even those who see themselves as stripes of another zebra. Capitalism as a system of putting on the backs of the majority the pain and suffering and failures of the elite’s project to accumulate more and more wealth, land, power, industries, economies of scale toward human obsolescence, well, that was weighing on the 15-year-old’s heart, wrestling my way through anger in Southern Arizona with people who were not of my tribe, people from an alternative belief system, or at least I was from some alternative universe.

I felt like shit living in the skin of a teenage boy in Arizona, anywhere, in the US of A, and I had zilch in common with more and more people. Older people, that’s who I gravitated toward. Misbegotten hobos, they called themselves, or outlaws – bad check writers, credit union and small time hold up artists, drug dealers, Vietnam vets in motorcycle clubs or living in trailers out in nowhere Sonora Desert. Shitkickers who wanted nothing of US government, US lifestyles, US consumerism, US ideals.

I gravitated toward Mexicans who lived tight with other Mexicans, illegal crossers who seemed to know how poverty is the system designed to divide and conquer, as the once poor, with enough toil or scamming, get to play in the land of the middle class.

God, country, apple pie, and mother? Schools were are joke, because the idealism that young people should have garnered, the rebellion and the anti-authority tendencies we have as youth, creativity, genius, those were the things that the powers that be fought against.

Whew, that was then, 1972, and here I am struggling in Oregon, meeting the riptide of humanity along the Oregon Coast, a hardscrabble existence of boom or bust, displaced people, and old timers who have seen the entire place transformed into dichotomous America in microcosm: those who have put down roots, did the logging and fishing and crabbing thing, and then those who have wads of cash from California or Texas or Portland who have set up dream summer homes along one of the more incredible coastlines along this country’s two sides of the land mass.

Here I am doing the education thing again, teaching, right in the middle of the muck – some of my first gigs as substitute teacher have been right in the middle of grades 1 through 6, an emotional-intellectual-spiritual tender for those vulnerable years, those formative years, the years where the real difference in a child’s life could be enhanced by a society that throws its all into education, into teaching instead of training, mentoring instead of dictating, embracing creativity instead of stifling free thinking.

What a perfect time for young people to finally get the hands-on work of artists, historians, biologists, nurses and doctors, writers, farmers, tradesmen/tradeswomen. What a perfect time to help youth learn cooperative thinking, communitarian ideals, and have a chance to learn about and practice revolutionary thought.

Instead the schools look like old Army post barracks, and the lackluster curriculum is so dumb-downed that so many potentially fantastically creative and smart youth end up passing through the sieve of standardized education.

Yes, that age, 6, 7, 8, 9 squirrelly, but really, collectively in 2019, the entire mess is busted. Parents working three jobs, parents arguing about when to finally pull up stakes or drag in the anchor and head out of these small coastal towns. Fractured families, now, with 1 out of 1.9 marriages in disunion by 5 years in. This is the time of reckoning for young people, yet we are teaching them the hate of the country, the values of bombing other people, the ideals of dog-eat-dog capitalism, having them celebritize and honor the luxuries of the rich, and thereby forcing young kids to even give a shit about multimillionaire talent-less singers, movie idols and arbiters of crass culture.

Pizza and French fries lathered up in ketchup and ranch dressing in the cafeteria. Lunch rooms that are so loud it seems like an election night announcement that Hillary won. These little people are shuffled from recess to special reading classes, and from lunch room to classroom.

Children can’t sit still, and many are on the spectrum; and, really, there is no respect at all taught to them about elders, teachers, groups of other people. It is all for one — me-myself-and-I. How can we blame them with leaders like Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump!?

We know how to do things right; there’s no big black hole of head scratching on “how to solve the education crisis” bullshit. We know that experiential learning works. We know that smaller hands-on classes work. We know that having mentors in the families’ homes mentoring parents works. We know that parents having mandatory and company-supported days off for co-learning in the schools works. We know that music and second and third languages work before age 12. We know that art and science blended together works.

We know that the face of a nation, or the globe, is dependent on the next and the next generation and next ones after those “getting it.” We know that more learning works, and more cultural crack cocaine leads to more zoned-out and zombie-like adults. So no more crack cocaine pop culture, consumer-mad-men junk to consume and electing idiots who bag the money and run away from the real solutions.

We know that today, low wages and high living expenses and barely scrapping by and no public safety nets reap more and more scattered thinking, more and more survival of the fittest mindset, more and more children who can’t learn, won’t read, don’t know how to think.

We set upon our youth a firestorm of false ideologies of consumerism, false beliefs in might makes right, a false religion that America is the only nation to count and all the rest are against us.

Hey, so, here’s this truism: many of the venues I teach at I am the ONLY male instructor, and the staff and children alike wonder when I am putting in my application for full-time work. “Sir, we have been trying to get a male teacher hired on here for years,” is a common refrain from fellow teachers. High fives from the full-time staff for me, a guy, making it through a full day of 2nd graders.

Managed chaos. So many young children with behavioral plans. So many children with learning disabilities, with anxiety disorders, with self-esteem issues, with socialization complexes and with family burdens.

Of course, a society can be judged harshly on how it treats its children and elderly and infirm. Of course, a society can be judged on how many permissible levels of toxins, heavy metals, particulates, VOCs, neurological disrupters, endocrine scramblers end up in the soil, air, water, food of our youngest and most vulnerable of citizens.

Input, output. Mindless and meaningless and dehumanizing consumerism and popular culture (sic). Output, input.

Meaning in one’s life means a full-force commitment to the vulnerable, to youth, to individuals and families who are the backbone of labor, community, the arts. Meaningfulness means food security, economic opportunities at the local level, a real sense of a downtown and real town, no matter how rural the place might be.

Health clinics that serve the poor and the middle class alike. More and more interactive teaching and cross-discipline scholarship; and real work on stopping the lacerations against the poor, the working poor, the poor and aging, the sick and aging and poor, the young and homeless and poor, the enlightened youth and college aged adults who have solutions that the pigs of politics in those chambers of death could only imagine in their most enlightened moment.

So, interestingly, what I am a conjuring up is probably stuck in my brain and heart, and my gut gets it. But nothing that I say will work in capitalism, inside this out-of-balance society. Ironically, I started off wanting to go off on this insipid piece of journalism (sic) in New York Magazine.

Somehow this five-year old article got stuck in one of my hundreds of feeds, the one tied to urban planning, land use, New Urbanism, etc.  5 Reasons Cities Are Getting Better, and Everywhere Else Is Getting Worse.

As cities grow, their advantages of scale will grow, too. From 2012 to 2013, U.S. metropolitan areas of more than 1 million people grew twice as fast as cities with fewer than 250,000 residents. Downtown areas — the places where density is highest — are growing even faster. And millennials, who both start tech companies and form much of the consumer base for tech products, are flocking to cities in record numbers. The convergence of these trends means that large cities are not only going to get bigger in the coming years, but better.

I’ve lived in big cities, in suburbs, and in rural towns. All three have their charms. But new research shows that cities are much more likely to benefit from today’s massive wave of consumer tech investment — think delivery drones, self-driving cars, and green-energy innovations. The fact that many of these technologies are being developed and deployed first in densely populated urban zones, rather than in the countryside, means that in the future, cities are going to pull further away from rural and suburban areas economically, and carry a much higher quality-of-life premium than smaller towns.

A new report about so-called “innovation zones” is one of the clearest so far on the subject of urban tech growth. The report, by Bruce Katz and Julie Wagner of the Brookings Institution, claims that while innovation used to take place in loosely packed suburban areas like Silicon Valley, innovation in the 21st century is moving into large cities, which have several major advantages:

Physical assets
Economic assets
Network effects and cross-pollination
Density as a service
Special status

So much is wrong with anything coming out of the East Coast, really. The media and the so-called Press and the Publishers make a grown man cry with how out of touch and mean-to-the-rest-of-flyover-USA these pathetic souls can be in their hip and urbane bullshit. And what they take as god’s truth is so messed up that another trail of tears has to be shed just to get through the thought processes and elitism these freak-on-vators believe.

First, the stupidity of promoting these five “advantages” as if this is headline news; it shows the shallowness of the East Coast and their echo chambers – all those Ivy League and East Coast prime colleges loaded to the rafters with shallow thinkers and white paper tigers and endless department captains selling the same story ever told.

The takeaway for this magazine piece? “Move to a city.”

Maybe it would take me writing a book about the illogic of these captains of industry and Richard Florida bums who believe that innovation, high tech, and dense cities are the only places that count. As they depend on all the natural and agricultural and mined and harvested resources of the hinterland. Of these rural small towns, burbs, towns and townships.

We need more rural towns and burbs thriving, not less. Imagine, cities like Newport and Lincoln City or Coos Bay, as sanctuaries of people I write about all the time – the misbegotten, the retired-but-poor-as-Grapes-of-Wrath, the people of the land, the innovators in agroecology, the stewards of forest, estuary, reef, river. Imagine, green buses that transport big city people to green small rural communities where tulips are grown and apples thrive, and where that feta cheese is produced and that fresh air is filled with DNA-enhancing ions. Imagine real quaint communities and real meaningful places where the city or its harbingers are not the centerpiece of everything.

Where pounding nails into homemade furniture is the value added, not some robotics-fueled IKEA madness. Imagine small is better homes, hummingbird feeders fashioned out of old pickle jars, passive solar and incredible community and community-served private gardens. Aging in place and young people starting in life on the same properties. Imagine reading, hiking, fishing, identifying every tree, bush, insect marine life as values, as opposed to hipster, bullshit tech-centric crap tied to the industrial finance-military-surveillance-banking-prison-indentured-debt complex?

I’m thinking of these kids on the coast and some miles inland from the coast, small-towns, and a society that says this ain’t no place to stay, no place to raise a family, no place to see the world, no place to advance, no place for big dreams and tech wannabes.

Talk about a systemic existential crisis, this bullshit America of the billionaire Mafia president and the multimillionaires like Feinstein. Speaking of which, this DiFi, can’t even talk to fourth graders and other students of high school age.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) net worth: 2004: $61,768,616; 2014: $94,202,571. Increase in 10 years: $32,433,955 (+52.58%).

That speaks volumes now, and so, flyover states, the decrepit places, the struggling masses, the majority of Americans who actually have been colonized by mindless marketers of Lucky Charms and Lady Gaga and New England Patriots, they, with the right E-D-U-C-A-T-I-O-N, these people on both sides of the political dung heap, and those now in the dozen-plus vying for the Democrat nomination, it speaks volumes how they will forever court the high tech god of salvation.

Image result for artwork of young students climate change

We know how to solve climate change. We know how to solve homelessness. We know how to educate the right way. We know how to eat well, live fine and thrive in a holistic and preventative health care frame.

We know what a healthy family is, what a healthy community is, and what a good “nation” should be. We know how to think globally, act globally and be that diversity quilt of a million colors.

We know that treating us “bumpkins” in these small towns and those children in those small-town schools with the same dignity and seriousness as one treats a Bostonian or New Yorker is the right way to be an American.

We have solutions, those of us who are disenfranchised, those of us who have lived a fuller and more complete life than any Georgetown University creep could even dream of in their wildest imaginations.

The solutions and solutionaries are right here, everywhere, any place, where the pigs of capital failed to look or acknowledge our existence because they are so big city inbred they can’t hit a solution to this madness with their apocalyptic- inspired ICBMs.

Paul Kirk Haeder has been a journalist since 1977. He's covered police, environment, planning and zoning, county and city politics, as well as working in true small town/community journalism situations in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Mexico and beyond. He's been a part-time faculty since 1983, and as such has worked in prisons, gang-influenced programs, universities, colleges, alternative high schools, language schools, as a private contractor-writing instructor for US military in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Washington. He organized Part-time faulty in Washington State. His book, Reimagining Sanity: Voices Beyond the Echo Chamber (2016), looks at 10 years of his writing at Dissident Voice. Read his autobiography, weekly or bi-weekly musings and hard hitting work in chapter installments, at LA Progressive. He blogs from Waldport, Oregon. Read his short story collection, Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam, coming out Jan. 2020 from Cirque Journal. Read other articles by Paul, or visit Paul's website.