business as usual?

this is one of those rare times when i don’t really have much to say but i just feel like writing. so, here i am. if you know me in person (some of you do) than you know that i am rarely at a loss for words, especially if the subject involves something i have some knowledge about like technology or film/tv or even, on rare occasions, current events and politics.

so, it might come as a surprise to some that i am at a loss for a topic and something to say at the moment. what i am hoping is that the more i type here the more chance a topic will come to m and then i will be able to switch gears and get to the “important” and more substantive content. until then, i’m just winging it.

so, in that spirit, let’s keep gong and hope that something comes to me. in the meantime, while we wait for that small miracle, what’s going on in the world? war, terrorism, baseball, sex, drugs and rock and roll. no matter what happens in the world and i mean no matter what bad things happen in the world, there will always be sex, drugs and rock and roll. i’m not advocating drugs but i do like me some sex and rock and roll now and again. sometimes, both at the same time.

anyway, its a rare thing these days when you get to sit and just enjoy something for a few minutes. it seems that the older you get the more your time is just sucked away with things you never thought you would ever spend time doing. when you are young (a teenager) you never think you will spend most of your time working and very little of your time having fun. unless you are one of the lucky ones who has fun at work. unfortunately, i think those people are in the minority.

for most people, work is just that, work. a place you have to go and toil at for eight or more hours a day in order to get little green pieces of paper that you can trade for goods and services. granted, those goods and services (especially things like food and shelter) are important but are they so important that you should spend the rest of your life doing something you don’t like or may even hate just to have them? i don’t know for sure but i feel that they are not. they can’t be, can they?

i’m not telling you to quit your job and go live on the streets and become someone who asks me for a “dollar for the bus” while i’m sitting in my favorite starbucks trying to wax philosophical. no, i’m just asking if its really that important or if it has been artificially inflated and just seems more important than it really is. this brings me to a conversation i had with a guy named joe yesterday. and yes, joe is his real name. no anonymous protection here folks.

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(the sun sets over the lebanese town of kfar kila in the distance behind metulla, israel. photo by michael j. totten)

i was writing yesterday and then was having a conversation with my friend shaun about the current state of affairs in iraq, the world, etc. joe, who was sitting at a nearby table was overhearing us. finally, he turned and engaged us in conversation. he told us that he agreed that our society was obsessed with material gain and also takes it upon itself to push its agenda on the rest of the world. he also agreed that our goals in iraq and in “the war or terror” were in many ways driven by religious fundamentalism and the desire to spread the christian doctrine to the less enlightened parts of the world.

i did not solicit these opinions from joe but was surprised to find out, after speaking to him for several minutes, that he was a successful business owner and a republican who had voted for george bush in the last election but was now very disappointed as to how things were going. again, he volunteered this info. joe told me that he was supportive of the President but felt that had lost sight of his goals and was now floundering and desperate to hold onto any rationale for our present situation.

he also told me he was strongly considering changing parties before the next election. another reason he gave for his support of President Bush and his policies was fear. in his circle of friends and business associates, it was considered un-american to criticize the President, his policies and the spread of democracy around the world. in fact, he felt his business and personal life would suffer if he were to express opinions outside the collective. how could it be that in this country, he was being condemned and was afraid to speak out and express his opinion? is this not one of the fundamental freedoms that we here in the usa enjoy?

i was amazed that he was afraid to speak and even more amazed that he chose to share this info with me, a liberal and a democrat. finally, he expressed his opinion that the other main reason we are in iraq is so that we can keep the oil flowing and so that oil companies can continue to dominate the world economy. if there was not oil, he reasoned, we would not be there. its not for atrocities or to spread democracy. if it were, there are far more people being killed and tortured in other parts of the world like somalia or the sudan than in iraq.

plus, he asked, are people not more interested in clean water and food for their children than in having the right to vote? voting is a great privilege but it rings a little hollow if your children are starving and don’t have any medical care.

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(tanks in the street. photo by michael j. totten)

all in all, he made some very interesting points and i enjoyed our conversation very much. we agreed to perhaps continue our conversation again at a later time to be determined. or, maybe it would be just random chance that would bring us together again. who knows?

actually, this has happened to me at starbucks more than once before. it seems people with intelligence sometimes frequent these establishments and often wish to engage in conversation. its part of what makes our country so great. the fact that two people (or more) can sit around discussing the good things and the bad things about our country and its leaders. try that in china or north korea. one day, you and your family might just disappear.

so, people with intelligence do frequent expensive coffee establishments. and yes, i go there too.

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