March 1, 2015

Dispatches from Babylon

It's a long drive from SE BC to the SW corner of Arizona. Some 2400 km, in fact. Crossing into northern Montana, the weather may be more or less similar, depending on season and happenstance. You generally expect that as you progress south the snow disappears and the temps increase. So here we are in Yuma, lounging around in summer wear, while our abandoned compatriots in BC describe dreary Feb rains and inconvenient melting on the ski runs.

The distance in culture may be equally far, but more subtle to measure.
In winter, Yuma is full of old folks from all over the North country, intent on enjoying their golden years basking in the dry, desert heat. There's a certain hedonistic tenor to life, but at a leisurely pace. Yuma is also home to a military base, and one often hears the distant roar of fighter jets, or the closer thumping of big helicopters flapping overhead. To the innocent seniors, those sounds are, no doubt, comforting, as many of them once served in the armed forces, and regard the military presence as proof that their freedoms are being safeguarded.

One can easily be lulled into the easy-going delusions of the glorious, capitalist nirvana. The skeptical outsider, tho, could have uneasy feelings about the whole scene. How would these happy campers react if this blissful existence were suddenly rudely interrupted by, say, an economic collapse, or a natural calamity, or even worse?

One has to believe it would be a huge shock to the body of true blue, patriotic 'consumers.' Their biggest problem is their utter oblivion to subtle reality, like modern lotus-eaters they exist in a dazed utopia. Or like the citizens of Huxley's Brave New World, they are happy to get their fix of American Dream-drug.

Dispatches -2

It is certainly tempting to simply believe that the present idyllic world in a retirement haven will indeed go on forever, and make plans accordingly. Unlike most people, I don't like rude surprises, even if I have to think like a 'pessimist' to anticipate reality.

Without access to the Internet, life can be a bit tedious. Because it gets quite hot during the day, we like to complete our outdoor activities by early morning. We usually have another late walk in the neighborhood after supper, but have to time it to return by about 7:00 pm, otherwise it's quite dark, and there are no street lights. Daytime activities, which usually implies shopping or visiting, must be done using the car, due to distance and heat. Otherwise, one is restricted to reading, crochet, or whatever.

The modern sojourner quickly comes to understand how much we use the Internet to do so much of our daily living. Reading, researching, listening to audio, watching video, communicating... it's all done on one versatile and amazing device. Take it away, and suddenly it's the 1940s, and a whole different world!

It does, tho, give me time to write... although writing on a tablet is a bit frustrating. No, it's not the keyboard, as you might think; it's the bundled text software. For some reason, it will not scroll up as I type; which means that after half the screen is filled, one can no longer see what one types as it is hidden under the 'keyboard.' But, as the younger generation quips, it's a First World problem.

You only have to listen to the radio (our sole real-time entertainment) for a while to begin to notice the peculiar marks of American culture and it's differences from Canada's. There are several 'Christian' stations, with the expected saccharine, quasi-rock music that quickly tires the ears. Another major station, surprisingly for me, is the regional NPR (National Public Radio) outlet. The news is a litany of gov't issued press reports justifying current domestic and international policies. Mercifully, in the evening, they often play a nice selection of classical or jazz music.

After a snack and a walk, evenings are tedious without either TV or Internet access. Edna is satisfied to read novels, while I just can't sustain any interest in fiction, regardless of the glowing blurbs. Of curiosity, I started reading a spy-thriller, and finished the first chapter before putting it aside. Picking up the near impotent iPad, I began writing these dispatches.

Dispatches -3

Today we crossed the 'other border' -- the one on the south, the soft underbelly of the beast. It's a glaring contrast; one side welcomes travellers with open arms, not even pestering them with any kind of 'security;' you simply walk thru a passage and emerge in Mexico. When returning, however, it's a different story. There's a series of warning signs dissuading the immigrant from various misdemeanors-- e.g. attempting to smuggle controlled substances, or illegal 'aliens'; assaulting a border agent, touching a patrol dog, etc. etc. The border officers do their job, scanning passports, asking a few questions, and then sending most people on their way.

In Algodones, you know immediately that you're in a 'less developed' nation, as we rather indelicately state it. The whole town adjacent to the magic line is a jumble of stores and offices, all dealing with dental, visual, or physical health. While in other tourist spots in Mexico the visitor is assaulted by a phalanx of persistent shills trying anything to lure you into a time-share presentation, here they are touting this or that dentist or optician, often both. Happily, they are nowhere as obnoxious as the fore said time-share scammers.

Sitting in the small but comfortable waiting room, a wall-mounted TV was tuned to CNN. Viewing this 'news channel' thru my now ultra-skeptical eyes/ears, the only thing that impressed me was the gloss on the b.s. Much like the CBC, this channel doesn't just spout it's stream of lies, half-truths, and misrepresentations— it also presents 'self-ads' assuring viewers of its credentials and professionalism!

We're told by earnest correspondents how they want to present 'the truth,' with visuals of them in various garb according to the foreign locale. It's a very compelling message for the average, unsophisticated viewer raised from infancy to believe in the bona-fides of the system.

There is nothing in the trusted news, tho, to offer the slightest hint that the conflict in the Ukraine is being fomented by US agencies, nor that it could well be the spark point for a major, even catastrophic blow-up between NATO and Russia.

As we drive back to Yuma, past a variety of ‘Mexican’ restaurants and Spanish-named streets and districts, the irony strikes me again. While officially the American government (and many individuals) are trying to keep the hispanic hordes on the other side of the border, the populace is happy to domesticate selected aspects of Mexican culture. Of course, the whole state was once Mexican territory until it was liberated by Colonel Travis, Davey Crockett, and those other brave imperialists of storied folklore.

Dispatches -4

It can be boring in this retirement utopia. (You did notice, didn’t you?) You can only spend so much time hiking in the hills, or reading, or shopping. Then what do you do? At least we have the phone with an unlimited talk plan; but again, how much talking/texting does one do? We wondered why it felt different here than back home, but the answer always seems to lead to the Internet.

Since the weather here is similar to our summer, we don't go out for activities in mid-day as it's too hot. We do go for an evening walk, but since there's no street lighting, we can't go very far. So... there's plenty of time for reflection.

[I can't help wondering what I'm really 'here' for, why I'm alive. Most of my pearls of wisdom have been expressed in my blog... for whoever may stumble upon it. No-one in my life 'needs' me, really. Maybe most people come to this kind of crisis as they attain senior status.]

As I write, the radio news from NPR is playing. The stories make me wonder what kind of country is this; what progress have we made as of this 21st century? A deranged man in WA was shot multiple times and killed by police for brandishing a rock at them. Women giving birth in prison in many states are handcuffed to the bed as routine policy. What next? Debtors prison? Burning witches? Society seems to be going backwards. Especially in this self-defined epitome of civilization.

Soon we journey home, albeit with a detour to Phoenix for a brief one-night stop to visit a relative. We both feel it's time to go back to our home in the wintry mountains, as much as we enjoyed this month of warmth, sunshine, and desert. Of course, we'll soon be back in the old routines once more, although for a while with a new perspective. It will all have been worthwhile.

Afterthoughts

After that, who knows what will follow? There are dire predictions for the U.S. dollar, for the global economy, for major war between the USA/NATO and Russia, and other disasters. The probabilities are high-- much higher than most people perceive-- for any of these things to occur. As usual, the unknown factor is the timing. No-one can know for certain the date/time of most crises--except for those hidden manipulators who actually generate them for their own devious purposes.

Certainly, the Western media are providing no useful clues to the witless masses who rely on the telly to tell them everything they should know about their world. So what calamities lie around the corner will come as sheer, rude surprises to those masses. It will be very ugly, to be sure. A population raised on an innate sense of entitlement will be in shock at first, followed probably by panic. Since panicked people do irrational things, the ugliness will commence in earnest.

When the governments use the unrest as a suitable pretext for martial law, things will really descend into chaos. Especially in the USA where millions of citizens have firearms and dreams of Hollywood-style shoot-outs by outgunned heroes. Others, likely the great majority, will just meekly comply when DHS storm troopers herd them into the FEMA camps that everyone who reads the 'alternative media' knows have been prepared for just such an occasion.

The end of an aeon, especially the Kali Yuga, is never a serene or pretty transition. This one promises to be the epitome of collapses, as social chaos is mirrored in vast upheavals of the natural realm. Just as the entire West of the continent experienced warmer than usual weather, the East has been having the winter from Hell, with huge snowfalls and bitter cold. Of course, the great masses shrug it off with the buzz-phrase 'climate change,' never suspecting that this turmoil is merely another taste of worse events to come.

Even now, at this late hour, the world still appears, on the surface, to be the same stable, if rather excitable, planet we think we've known for centuries. Once the strife gets rolling tho, we will be doubly shocked at how berserk the end of the age really is. The Bible and various other traditions have tried to prepare people with stark prophecies, yet even most devout readers come to view these utterances as hyperbole. More typically, words cannot adequately convey the full dimensions of actual events. A grim prospect for the realists among us.

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