Sur le pont


Oakland Bridge that is. The one got fixed by a China-based sub-contractor.

Now, down the dock and downtown, Occupy pledges to stay for the long haul.

Gertrude Stein once said of Oakland: “there is no there, there” (hence, no center to be occupied.)

When crossing that bridge, I thought of New York City (sprawling California only has a few thriving city centers such as San Francisco.)

Mark Zuckerberg mentioned that he would have liked to start again in Boston (too cold for T-shirt?), perhaps due to its proximity to Harvard.

We all grew up and felt attached to a certain place, whether it’s a city or  a village.

What drives our decisions often comes our sub-conscious: a graceful face or a soothing sound. For instance, when I listen to classic rock, I am transported back to high school even though geographically it’s an ocean apart.

I am sure it was similar with the Greatest Generation, when they saw something French (WWII) or Baby Boomers, when they saw “War” (e.g. associating War in Afghanistan with War in Vietnam).

American went abroad (unless they defected to Canada and stayed) and came home a different person e.g. Hemingway in Europe, or Hanoi Jane/Joan Baez back from Vietnam (Diamond and Rust). They have a changed view of looking at the world, at materialism and spiritualism, at family and country.

I still remember a striking title by Alan Paton “Cry my beloved country”.

Being immigrant, we lost our sense of patriotism (of the land we left). Yes, we voted and outsourced (to politicians) our freedom every four years, just like we outsourced the fixing of the Oakland bridge.

They in turn appropriate what part of the budget that goes to defense. Then men and women in the uniforms are deployed, many might not come back (offshoring the fight).

The closest thing we have to patriotism these days  is to watch Gen Y protest, 3 years after the Wall Street and Detroit debacle.

Our sons and daughters’ generation is at stake.

They have been told to stick to the screen and stay out of trouble.

When the internet connection got cut off, or their dorm rooms vacated, they turn indignant.

Not even Facebook can keep them in. This time, it’s Occupy Everything, except for the old job.

In Iowa, our Maytag man got laid off by the very sturdy machine he helped created (the quality and longevity dilemma).

Things got cheaper for a while, before interest rates kick in and push up the price on clothing, tuition and housing (rent).

What can be digitized and commoditized will be.

Our problem (high costs) = someone else’s opportunity (low labor).

Si tu n’existait pas. If we could disappear somehow (telepathy), there wouldn’t be such a big problem.

In fact, studies showed a decline in immigration population in Southern States.

One of the banners in Cannes this week is “people before finance” (in French).

Ironically, Cannes enjoys the showing of movie stars more than politicians’.

Conversely, stars couldn’t help crossing-over to politics (Some have likened Occupy to Flower Sixties with Peter w/out Paul and Mary).

I am glad the digital generation finally got off their PC chairs and hold up some signs (of protest).

No one expects them to pour gasoline over themselves (as I once eye-witnessed the burning monk doing just that).

Just get out and see the world as it is. The real should trump the virtual, since what’s out there is crueller and colder than what’s in our head and on the screen.

Just try to cross that Oakland bridge with windows open. Then you might discover, as Gertrude Stein did, that “there is no there, there”.

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