Death without Regret: Side Effects from a Disposable Society

My son was excited to receive a Webkinz  animal. For those unfamiliar with the marketing machine, cute, stuffed animals are sold at book and toy stores alike. Attached on the toys arm, is a code that allows my son to eagerly access the website, thus turning the physical reality of the stuffed animal into a real life, animated creature, at least as real a life as a computer generated image can be, to what a numerical facsimile can become. With Webkinz , my son can not only hold the creature in his hand, but on the computer, move it around from room to room in a house that he created. He can also play games, earn token money, put the animal to bed, and most importantly, feed it, for if the on-screen animal is not fed, the computer-generated image ceases to be.

 Now considering the stuffed animal stays perfectly intact in the physical world, when the computer image is not fed, then I suppose what ceases to be is the computer generated soul, which is what the stuffed animal truly is. Or is it? For this morning, my son mentioned, after deliberating with himself about going upstairs, logging on, and feeding the Webkinz animal, that he would, well, he announced, €œ”I think I’€™ll let him die.”€ In my mind, the cold, unattached words, Let him die, brought out the radical ideologies bestowed to Jews and Negro’€™s.

 However, it is only a computer image, right? It is simply a market driven, profit enhancing, I’€™m-going-to-guilt-you-to-come-to-my-site company. Then out of the blue, hearing the same words my son announced, my daughter, older, possibly struck down with similar adult attachments as my own, says, “€œLet him die, which one?”

 I did not know when I began writing this that we were dealing with multiple computer souls, maybe a whole family, with brothers and sisters, moms and dads. How extended could it be? Were there cousins, aunts and uncles, which were all going to be part of what my daughter queried, Which one? Which of the souls were no longer to be in existence? To this, my son, after an embarrassing smile and a shameful laugh, states. “€œAll of them! All of them will die.”€

 Well, I did not know what to say to something like this, and neither did my daughter. What can be said to the forfeiting of a life, real or computer generated. I have not even met these creatures, and instantly there was a longing in me that I will miss them. Has my son gone to where murderers go when to separate the soul from the body, when to make something real, or not real, enables the very act of discarding it guiltless. Or has my son come to the realization that what the computer generates is not a soul at all. That what the screen displays is only what we project to be real.

 So, my son’€™s callous statement may not be obtuse in the least bit, but honestly grounded. And I believe that. I want to hold to that idea, for as much as our society uses and throws away in such a short time, can death be just as disposable. It is then my son says something that brings it all down to a fundamental reality, he says, “€œI don’€™t want them to die…die, I just like the stuffed animals is all.”€

 Maybe there is hope after all.

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Why southerners only go green when it comes to money


 

Obviously, there are people in the south that have gonegreen in the environmental way, if not with both feet, at least with an arm ortwo. Being raised in the south, I count myself amongst those in the green belt,which is just a hair above the Bible belt. We recycle everything in our family;glass and plastics, to anything paper. In addition, I am a nut when it comes toturning off lights, flushing the toilets every other time, and low-wattage-energy-savingbulbs installed throughout the house. Lastly, I am eager, in the next fewyears, to transition out of our current vehicles into something small and hybrid. I am green, not out of some trend, but because of a sense of obligation. I have made it my own, and now all this is done unconsciously.

 However, for some of us in the lower states, these environmental habits could not be further from the truth. Are people in the south different then the rest of the country when it comes to the environment? Probably not.Some communities lack the infrastructure for a solid recycling plan. In addition, there are social economic deficiencies that produce a rift in beinggood, environmental stewards. But putting those issues aside, lets talk aboutthe affluently solid middle-class, lets talk about living in a community that has recycling picked up from the curb, lets talk about southerns that are any color but green.

 Observing these people up close ”because I am a writer and I do things like that ”they tend to fall short of the environmental green hue not just in one category, but simply across the board. Most I know fail to recycle at all, We just dont, was their answer as if their ambiguous response was a get-out-of-jail free card. Naturally, with them not recycling at the house, their businesses receive the same flat treatment. They tend to drive the larger, bus-type-I am-almost-a-tank vehicles, expansive square footage homesteads, play toy type thingies; boats, jet skis, weekend car. They represent a cross section of America that is a capitalist dream when it comes to consumption.

 Yes, I know, I am being petty. This is America for goodness-sake, if we work hard, might as well play hard, and that is why this is not about the lack of recycling or the driving around in large vehicles, but about southern land owners. These landowners have strong roots clear back when slaves worked the fields. Owners, where the land had been handed down from one generation to the next, until one day the newly inherited trustees, timbers it and puts it up for sale. It seems to be a common practice with the gentry of this young generation.It is a gentry that’s green all right, but its all about the money.

 How did they get this way? What is different about these southern people compared to, lets say, the landowners out west in California. Landowners,where at one time, turned their inherited property over to the state creatingvast expanses of virgin forest, and open, uncluttered vistas.

 Why is it that when I drive along the limited waterfront in Alabama,is it visually the opposite with what California has to offer with a pollution of condos or shipyards or industrial plants, save for a tiny state park that can easily be trekked across in less than an hour? Why is it that swamp land, bought a century ago for less than a hundred bucks, are sucked dry, mound over with redclay, and built on? Why is it as I travel north into what is considered the plantation part of Alabama, the landscape is dotted with countryside in some state of use, weather it be for farming or timber? Where is the virgin, old growth forests of Alabama?Where is the philanthropy in our colloquial phrases and soft-spoken words, in our foods, in the way we live? Has not their Christian roots taught them anything about giving back? Has it not occurred to anyone of them as they sit,pen in hand to sign away their property, to ask that question they read on stickers attached to their own bumpers, What would Jesus do? No, I suspect they would not.


 

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Memoirs of a Voiceless Writer


Memoirs of Voiceless Writer: Pathetic, or maybe desperate, or maybe, just maybe, crafty in the sense of being marketing savvy. Yeah, that is the way I want to define my actions today. I had a little time to kill, so I decided to drive over to the local Barnes and Noble in Daphne, Alabama. They were really good people to work with, for they had agreed, a few weeks back, to bring in three copies of both Surrendering Danny, and A year of Minutes and War. Well, I simply went by in my time to kill and see how the old books were moving. A friend of my wife’s said she had bought herself a copy of Surrendering Danny, and sure enough, I believe she was telling the truth, because all the copies that Barnes and Noble had ordered were there save for one solitary book of Surrendering Danny (Note: Point of interest, part of a good marketing plan is repeating the product slogan more than three times in an ad, cleverly, I’ve mentioned Surrendering Danny four times, wink, wink). Naturally, being a marketing genius as I was, I began to process as to the why there was a lack of books moving off the shelves. Before, having introduced myself to the assistant manager, I had been motivated, and quite honestly, encouraged with the business model Barnes and Noble had established, really, a pure science of economics if I should say so myself. The game is this, listen close, when the books sell, they will order more. I know I know, complicated, but it whispered to me none-the less. It sounded almost like, Build it and they will come, easy, right, even heard James Earl Jones sounding off the intros. Well, with my book release party recently completed, and the 30% of the people showing that was on my guest list, I felt that word of mouth word take hold and, well, Barnes and Noble at the Daphne location, you better just keep that re-order button pressed. Yet, here I was scoping out the joint in the air-conditioned atmosphere with the distinguishable smell of paper and glue wondering how in the world only one book sold. I have a website for Christ sake, with a blog…how many other writers have a blog? The word should have circulated about my books by now, and re-orders eminent. The data should be crunching along at a fevered pace, signaling the big dogs, the New York agents and publishers alike that I’m a writer to be reckoned with, a writer that can move some books off the Barnes and Noble shelves. Sometimes though, the answer is simple…placement. More importantly, face time. I looked down at my visual presence on the Barnes and Noble shelf, and my total allotted space ended up being three and a half inches when the humidity was up. We deny it. We say the opposite to people all the time about how someone looks, that Oh, don’t judge a book by its cover. Whom are we kidding? We do, all the time, and so do readers. I got the spine of my book shown and that was it. Other books had the front cover exposed, how does that happen? I wondered if monies changed hands to get that job done, or what rep slept with whom and I sure as hell hoped they used protection. So yesterday, I faced the reality of obscurity. That despite writing a good book the prospect of anemic book sells was possible, sanctioning me to a life of anonymity. And that was fine, it is nothing to stop in traffic and cry about. However, before leaving the smell of paper and glue at Barnes and Noble, you had better believe I pushed the other books out of the way, and turned my novel around to gain a little face time on the shelves by golly, even for a day.

 

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We had a Civil War, why can’t the Iraqis?

    Yes, yes, I know, the current sequel to the Middle East saga is complicated, layered, and on a solid bet, will be our grandchildren’s issues in the many years to come. Think tanks grapple with solutions, and writers like me throw words at it. It is an ‘A’ list of failed, ineffective policies; Carter, Bush, Clinton, and now Bush part II. I applaud their efforts, but as we all know, erroneous, and unverifiable intelligence has put us in a spot we simply can’t walk away from.

Should we make the area less strategic with our co-dependency on oil, yes, of course, should we have contained Iraq under Saddam’s rule, probably, but the hour for arm chair quarter backing is over. Saddam was seen executed on pirate video, and the lack of enthusiasm to mandate overhauls in the energy consumption with technological advances complete with time tables, funding, and patriotic enthusiasm that small cars and public transportation is better, is not conducive to Bushes catch phrase ‘Preserving Our Way of Life.’  

The policy for tear-dropping democracy into Iraq and having it magically spread to the utopian sands of the desert countries is bankrupt. The Middle Eastern societies, the culture, the very religion in-of-itself, have characteristics that make true democracy impossible. There is a radical, underlying stubbornness in the Muslim world that belies the peaceful teachings. If the fissure is this deep between brothers, why not a Civil War? Why not a Civil War that divides the country into old tribal sects that had no business being pulled together in the first place. It is this tribal intolerance of one another that has been a century long breeding ground for monarchies and tyrannical dictators. So, once again, why not a Civil War?

In the mid 1800’s, State Rights became the poster child for slavery inAmerica, sparking off our own Civil War. It was bloody, challenging, and at the time, our national identity was unsure, but a correction in ideology was needed, and a Civil War became the only means in which to achieve it. So why not Iraq?

Naturally, a Civil War is uncivilized, visually repulsive for the CNN sound bites, and above all, costly. Internal strife, in any country, can bring about not only economic and social disturbances regarding human displacement, but can have a death toll that no administration will abdicate on their watch. Also, there is the, things just happen factor, that the histrionics of American diplomacy cannot tolerate. A Civil War in Iraq would lack Western control—and we all know how we really like to noodle in other people’s affairs. America would lose direct influences as to what political or sectarian faction would rise to be the ruling party. The oil fields would become large pools of fire and the world as we know it would collapse. (Side note; remember the ‘60’s policy makers touting claims that if Vietnam wasn’t defended, the countries of Southeast Asia would fall to communism like domino. It didn’t happen.)     

But beyond oil and who has it and who can control it, Muslims kill Muslims because of the religious schism. It is a schism so deeply woven in their traditions, it is difficult to see resolution in table tennis diplomacy. So once again, why not a Civil War. As much as the current bush administration stridently perseveres as a steadfast soldier to foil sectarian violence, it was his father who in a back handed way encourage a Civil War to occur. As the close to the of the first Gulf War wound down to victorious echoes, it was President Bush senior that trumpeted the Iraqi people to rise up and over throw Saddam. President Bush senior who cheered Iraqi’s to rise up and fight for that power void. To, in essence, start a Civil War.   

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