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Cracks in the global façade

Letter from Slim Wolfe

Rural life – January 2000 – Colorado Central Magazine

Ed & Martha,

You have to credit humans for our inventiveness. Just as we were running out of real space for our dreams and schemes, we invented cyberspace. It doesn’t do much for me, personally, but it seems to be just the thing to fill out the economy with minimal danger (we hope) to the biosphere.

Law enforcement, however, seems to be stuck back in the dark ages, not so much in Central Colorado, but plainly in metro New York, where it seems to be a punishable offense to be black, and metro Seattle, where it’s a crime to assemble and petition for redress of grievances. In this age of a zillion options, the best option our cops can come up with is gas ’em and shoot ’em in the back when they flee? It doesn’t require an advanced degree to think of a couple of alternatives whereby the loony fringe could have been removed and the vast peaceable majority allowed their presence. By choosing the storm-trooper option we lose any credibility when we decry rights abuses in Turkey or China or anywhere else. This backwardness needs more attention than a Mars probe or a flight data recorder at the bottom of the ocean. This is the key to democracy.

Trade seems to be our most volatile subject after ethnicity. In Boston Harbor a gang of vandals once destroyed a consignment of tea, while Virginia farmer Jefferson railed against taxes and tariffs. In Salida, there’s talk of major highway surgery to hide the global globules which clog our artery. In other surgeries, free-enterprise medicine made 40,000 fatal mistakes last year in America. Perhaps the Shah of Kentucky will now fly to Iran for intensive care, proving that commerce is reversible.

Hiking the back country here in the Rockies, we come on relics of human ingenuity. A century ago, people could reinvent themselves with hardly more than a shovel and a saw, some cattle or an ore pocket. Seeing this can give us hope in human endurance, flexibility, inventiveness.

Kids who grow up in big cities see nothing but concrete and brick barriers guarded by a uniformed army. If they want to gain a foothold in life they can’t break new ground, they have to displace someone or wait for an opening into which they must fit. Cities have developed in order to facilitate commerce, but they also breed poverty and hostility. We can’t go back to Jefferson’s horse and carriage and farm world of independence, but there need to be plenty of cracks in the totalitarian framework of global commerce, cracks big enough to accommodate free thinkers.

Commerce can take care of itself. It has managed quite nicely for thousands of years. Democracy is more fragile and needs our support, as does the biosphere, as do the downtrodden among us. The road to tomorrow doesn’t need to be delineated with rubber bullets. All they do is keep us stuck in the past, when the people were a disease to be contained.

Slim Wolfe

Villa Grove