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Making my head pop…!

September 29, 2011

Somewhere in the past I’ve mentioned that thanks to Ariel’s dad, I have a subscription to Harper’s Magazine. And that one of the more self-abusing pursuits one can have is reading the monthly Harper’s Index, which is their compilation of various government and non-governmental stats from around the world.

I usually don’t feel the need to torture you with these facts.

I usually leave you alone to drink your wine in peace.

But every now and then certain things are noted that make my head nearly pop off and I need to share them, lest I go mad.

Sidebar:I think there needs to be a discussion one day here about this notion of my head popping off. I say it as if I was John Cleese, and this was a Monty Python skit. Can’t you just see it? Cleese, as the doctor, who enters the room, Eric Idle dressed in drag as the wife sitting beside her headless husband.

Cleese: “Right, now what seems to be the trouble?”

Idle: “His head blew off this morning, over tea.”

Cleese: (goes over and inspects the headless man). “It looks like it blew entirely off. Don’t see that every day.”

Idle: “Can you fix it, then?”

Cleese: “Madam, I am a trained doctor from Oxford. I can fix anything.”

And so on, and so forth. You get the idea.

I hate making my head pop off – it has no real benefits to my happiness, not in any way like the daily sports scores do, or a Doonesbury column, or porn.

But I also can’t just bury my head in the sand either. I have to account for my existence. I have to reflect on my place in time and space.

The Harper’s Index makes me aware of reality in ways that I rarely realize or even think about.

Maybe your head doesn’t pop as easily as mine. Maybe I have what Ariel’s step-grandmother calls the “naivety gene” – where I am naïve enough to be endlessly astounded by the most banal of facts.

For instance:

Percentage of profits American corporations paid in taxes in 1961: 40.6%

Percentage paid today: 10.5%

Most so-called Third World nations (Mexico,Indonesia,China,Malaysia,) started setting up tax-free trade-zones in the mid-eighties. Today, 93 of the United Nations 193 countries have tax-free trade zones.

It’s not rocket science to understand why then corporations are paying so much less in North America than they were in 1961. In fact, they will ask you – “why are they still paying so much?” That’s the corporation’s line of question. Even a measly 10% is a rip-off when they can go somewhere else for free.

And who told  the world to install these tax-free zones? We did. The World Bank, IMF, G7, GATT; all of them led by our Western political and economic elite.

They agreed that the best thing for the world would be tax-free zones where companies could escape all fiscal and environmental and human rights responsibility. No surprise then that we have sweat shops in China, and Guatemala, and Haiti, and all the rest of them. We should all work 14hr days, six days a week.

We should be so lucky. In some tax-free zones, people work 16hr days, seven days a week. For weeks at a time.

But you need to understand that our western lifestyle which built up during the earlier glory days of North American capitalism doesn’t come cheap. Can you imagine how many kilometers of water pipes, sewer drains, and electric wire that run through this city? Do you ever imagine how much garbage we make in a day? Someone has to pay for it all.

Or, we can live like it was when I was in Ghana,West Africa. The roads were not paved, you may or may not have electricity, you got your water in a pail from the neighbourhood well, and the sewage drained down the streets and straight into the ocean. (No, that was in Indonesia. Or was it Nicaragua? Nigeria?)

Did you know that oil and gas companies will get – between now through 2015 – $78 billion in government subsidies from the American government? That’s just in America. Here they get another $1.4 billion a year. On the global scale they get about $550 billion in total subsidies.

These are already the richest companies in the world. Who already make enormous profits with their price-fixing of oil.

But we are so addicted to the substance that we can’t stop ourselves from giving the dealer anything he asks for.

Like I said, my head wants to pop!

But there is also a lighter side to these facts.

Americans, given the choice, would rather vote in a homosexual for president (67%), than an atheist (49%).

It’s good to know the gay rights movement has moved at least that far.

It’s a mad mad world out there these days, with historical tsunamis beginning to come in from the sea – a global shift in economic power from the west back to the east (where it had always traditionally been) as capitalism over-saturates and collapses in the West, global warming, and an aging population who doesn’t really give a damn anymore.

Our children left to pick up the pieces, because we were too busy gorging ourselves stupid, and dying like flies from the resulting diabetes epidemic, to do anything constructive about it.

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 30, 2011 3:43 pm

    Very nice rant. Nobly spoken. Glad I got you the subscription, sorry it is exploding your head but that’s what you get when you follow what happens in this world – try strong soporifics.

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