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  • feedwordpress 09:01:39 on 2017/02/23 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , This Land is Your Land, , , Woody Guthrie   

    “To be wealthy and honored in an unjust society is a disgrace”*… 

     

    What does having money mean for us and for our neighbors? When the art critic John Ruskin took up this question in 1860, he started from the assertion that more money for us means less money for them, and he didn’t have to go much further to conclude that disparity, after all, might be the whole point of the enterprise…

    Suppose any person to be put in possession of a large estate of fruitful land, with rich beds of gold in its gravel; countless herds of cattle in its pastures; houses, and gardens, and storehouses full of useful stores; but suppose, after all, that he could get no servants?

    In order that he may be able to have servants, someone in his neighbourhood must be poor and in want of his gold—or his corn. Assume that no one is in want of either, and that no servants are to be had. He must, therefore, bake his own bread, make his own clothes, plough his own ground, and shepherd his own flocks. His gold will be as useful to him as any other yellow pebbles on his estate. His stores must rot, for he cannot consume them. He can eat no more than another man could eat, and wear no more than another man could wear. He must lead a life of severe and common labour to procure even ordinary comforts; he will be ultimately unable to keep either houses in repair, or fields in cultivation; and forced to content himself with a poor man’s portion of cottage and garden, in the midst of a desert of wasteland, trampled by wild cattle, and encumbered by ruins of palaces, which he will hardly mock at himself by calling “his own.”

    The most covetous of mankind would, with small exultation, I presume, accept riches of this kind on these terms. What is really desired under the name of riches is, essentially, power over men; in its simplest sense, the power of obtaining for our own advantage the labour of servant, tradesman, and artist; in wider sense, authority of directing large masses of the nation to various ends (good, trivial, or hurtful, according to the mind of the rich person).

    Via Lapham’s Quarterly, John Ruskin on the Master/Slave paradox: “Blessed are the Poor.” (From Ruskin’s “The Veins of Wealth.”)

    [Image above, from here.]

    * Confucius, The Analects

    ###

    As we wonder about wealth, we might recall that it was on this date in 1940 that Woody Guthrie wrote (the first version, he varied the lyrics over time) of “This Land is Your Land.”; he didn’t record the song until 1944, nor publish it until 1954.

    Guthrie wrote the lyrics (to an extant tune) in response to to Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America”, which Guthrie considered unrealistic and complacent. Tired of hearing Kate Smith sing it on the radio, he lifted his pen…as he’d considered writing a retort, he’d thought to name it “God Blessed America for Me”; happily, it surfaced with the title we know.

    source

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:00 on 2016/03/06 Permalink
    Tags: Ash Wednesday Storm, , , Great March Storm, hautepop, , , , Woody Guthrie   

    “We are but dust and shadow”*… 

     

    On the 14th day of April of 1935,
    There struck the worst of dust storms that ever filled the sky.
    You could see that dust storm comin’, the cloud looked deathlike black,
    And through our mighty nation, it left a dreadful track.
    From Oklahoma City to the Arizona line,
    Dakota and Nebraska to the lazy Rio Grande,
    It fell across our city like a curtain of black rolled down,
    We thought it was our judgement, we thought it was our doom.
    — Woodie Guthrie, ‘Great Dust Storm’

    March had seen ‘dusters’ every day for thirty days straight; in Dodge City, Kansas, there’d been only thirteen dust-free days so far that year.

    Yet on that second Sunday in April, the morning dawned bright, sunny and clear. In the farms of the Oklahoma Panhandle, families opened up their front doors and breathed in deep. It was Palm Sunday, a week before Easter, and people hoped God was in a forgiving mood.

    They opened up their homes, and started to clean. Wet sheets and blankets and gunnysacks put up to catch the dust could be taken down; the tape and flour-paste strips sealing up windows and doors peeled off, and windows thrown open wide. Dust got swept and scooped out of the home by the bucket-load; roofs were shovelled before they collapsed under the weight of it; bedlinen and towels and clothing washed, and hung up in the sun to dry. People went to church – the Methodist Church in Guymon, Oklahoma held a ‘rain service’, the congregation praying for divine intervention to bring much-needed moisture. In Boise City they resumed plans for a rabbit drive, delayed a month by the dust storms. Elsewhere, families walked out to inspect their farms, the outhouses buried, the ceilings fallen in, new dunes nine and ten feet high, piled up against the fences.

    It was the best day of the year so far, temperatures in the 80s – shirtsleeve weather. In Springfield, Colorado, Ike Osteen cleared out his Model-A Ford, filed down the burnt spots on the distributor, got the engine to fire, and drove out to pick up his friends Tex and Pearl Glover.

    That same morning the sky turned purple and the winds rose, eight hundred miles to the north near Bismark, North Dakota. The temperature dropped 30 degrees as the winds picked up and blew south and south-southwest, forty miles per hour then sixty five miles per hour over South Dakota, Nebraska, and into Kansas, picking up the dry, dry dirt from the exhausted land into a roiling mass of darkness 2,000 feet high. At 2.30pm, Dodge City blacked out, the air too choked with earth for car headlights to let you even see your hand in front of your face.

    The stormfront rolled on southward, picking up more dust and dirt and power as it went…

    More at “Black Sunday,” an entry at Disturbances, a fascinating newsletter by Jay Owens (@hautepop) devoted entirely to dust.

    For even more, watch Ken Burn’s The Dust Bowl, and/or read the accompanying book.

    * Horace

    ###

    As we cover our faces, we might recall that it was on this date in 1962 that “The Ash Wednesday Storm” hit the the east coast of the U.S.  Also known as the Great March Storm of 1962, it was one of the most destructive storms ever to affect the mid-Atlantic states– one of the ten worst storms in the United States in the 20th century.  It lingered through five high tides over a three-day period, killing 40 people, injuring over 1,000, and causing hundreds of millions in property damage in six states, from North Carolina to Maine, and deposited significant snowfall over the Southeast.

    U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo of damage at Virginia Beach, Virginia

    source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:45 on 2014/07/14 Permalink
    Tags: , , , food security, migrant workers, , , Woody Guthrie   

    “The future of the nations will depend on the manner of how they feed themselves”*… 

     

     click here (and again) for larger (and legible) version

    This map, compiled and published by meat-packing company Armour in 1922, illustrates the extraordinary range of agricultural activities in America at the time.  The broad message of the map is that America’s strength as a nation was substantially based on its strength as an agricultural power.  The huge expanse of American land and the vast number of climates across the country allowed the U.S. to grow a more diverse set of crops and raise more kinds of animals than other nations.  As Armour concludes, “the United States [was] the most self-sustaining nation in the world”…  but lots has changed in the near-century since then.

    How nations feed themselves has gotten a lot more complicated. That’s particularly true in the US, where food insecurity coexists with an obesity crisis, where fast food is everywhere and farmer’s markets are spreading, where foodies have never had more power and McDonald’s has never had more locations, and where the possibility of a barbecue-based civil war is always near…

    From Vox40 maps, charts, and graphs that show where our food comes from and how we eat it, with some drinking thrown in for good measure.

    * French epicurean Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, 1826

    ###

    As we pick a peck, we might send tuneful birthday wishes to Woodrow Wilson “Woody” Guthrie; he was born on this date in 1912.  Guthrie traveled with migrant workers from Oklahoma to California and learned their traditional folk and blues songs. Many of his own songs are about his experiences in the Dust Bowl era of the Great Depression– and earned him the nickname, “Dust Bowl Troubadour.”

    ‘This Land is Your Land (in D)’By Woody Guthrie

    CHORUS: This land is your land, this land is my land
    From California to the New York island
    From the Redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
    This land was made for you and me

    CANADIAN CHORUS:

    This land is your land, this land is my land
    From Bonavista to Vancouver Island
    From the Arctic Circle to the Great Lake Waters
    This land was made for you and me

    SANIBEL CHORUS:

    This land is your land, this land is my land
    From California to Sanibel Island
    From the Redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
    This land was made for you and me

    As I was walking that ribbon of highway
    I saw above me that endless skyway
    I saw below me that golden valley
    This land was made for you and me

    I roamed and rambled and followed my footsteps
    O’er the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
    While all around me, a voice was saying
    This land was made for you and me

    When the sun came shining and I was strolling
    And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
    As the fog was lifting, a voice was chanting
    This land was made for you and me

    As I went walking, I saw a sign there
    On the sign it said NO TRESPASSING
    But on the other side it didn’t say nothing
    That side was made for you and me!

    In the squares of the city, in the shadow of the steeple
    In the relief office, I seen my people;
    As they stood there hungry I stood there asking,
    Is this land made for you and me?

    Nobody living can ever stop me
    As I go walking that freedom highway
    Nobody living can make me turn back
    This land was made for you and me

     source

     
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