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A Time for Humanity to Say, 'The World is My Village, That Homeless Woman Is My Sister'—Paul K. Haeder

In a time of neoliberalism, Capitalism runs roughshod over humanity for the One Percent and another Nine Percent in USA

What is the seed of humanity Americans may still have in some semblance of our co-conspiring existence? Where do those cries of children bombed by this country’s full-bore taxation system go? The very idea of complicity for every American, whether we wax lamentations for the very foundation of why we are having a 75th anniversary of internment of Japanese Americans, or now, as the spasms of anti-Latino/a or Muslim hate rise up?

Do we as individuals care for even our own brethren, our people in the trenches where we work? Our neighborhoods? The cities we go to for MRI’s or cancer treatment or big time basketball games? Do we care about the 16-year-old son, delinquent, broken by the constant pulse of consumerism, video game hate, all the wrong things in schools, but now, our son, ADHD, or worse, broken so young by the bad seeds of a racist and genocidal country?

Where is that hope within our own clan, our people who supposedly we work with, as team members? Where do we go for self-care, for some harbor from the emptiness that is competitive and disastrous capitalism? How many souls do we burn, pollute, force into famine, those souls of the other, when our own people, even in these ripped-from-first-nations borders, decide that it’s all for one, one for the taking?

How many souls do we burn, pollute, force into famine, those souls of the other, when our own people, even in these ripped-from-first-nations borders, decide that it’s all for one, one for the taking?

I have been witnessing the circling of the SUVs (wagons, those driving those Priuses filled with the soldiers of identity politics, urban and suburban tribes, families, only seeing bloodlines as worthy of any amount of ‘it takes a village” professing) and this compulsion to push everyone outside our see-hear-speak no evil head-in-the-sand great American rugged (sic) individualism (sic-sic) of the dog-eat-dog and big sea of sharks mentality that has permeated every portion of this democracy, in the halls of injustice, in the ivory towers, inside boardrooms, warehouses, non-profits, everywhere.

Attacks on food stamps and social programs (like libraries, public schools, job training, help for the homeless) while these pigs we call entrepreneurs and captains of industry rake in the billions from the very public coffers they seem to have a say in controlling, with their own obscene corporate welfare. One drug costing us, Medicare, $650 million over a two-year period, while the Pharma felons sit on boards and vie for political capital to close down any form of support – human welfare – for the majority.

And this goes on and on, whether a life-saving EpiPen goes up to $600 a shot while the CEO sets herself firmly in her $23 million a year New Gilded Age trio of mansions.

These Silicon Valley Ayn Rands and the militarists and their little Eichmanns, all those exploiters of labor and loopholes, off-shoring Americans’ taxable profits, pushing more toxic pools into more and more third World places, degradation for the masses, while these pundits and sociopaths make millions off this little Hitler’s, this little Trump’s pimping of the worse kind horror show.

It never ends, this question of where we go for solace, for some humanity, when the big picture is a splattered canvas of garish neon colors over big black letters stating, “We Do Not Care About Your Tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to another place, and not to me: I lift my Immigration and Customs Enforcers’ and Homeland Security Goons’ spotlights beside the golden wall of terror our golden toupee Hitler runs 24/7 so you all scurry away like cockroaches.”

The words of Emma Lazarus are now heresy, impeachable, indictable, easily incarcerated in this day and age: “Until we are all free, we are none of us free.” And, those words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, probably now a Trump Tower Property, LLC:

“The New Colossus”

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
with silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Strike those words on the side of your smoothie glass and remember them now, even as we wait for March Madness after the Academy Awards, the garish fawning of celebrity, the one percent, all the little Eichmanns at the trough, slurping up cardiac burgers and chocolate covered grasshoppers.

I wonder how far the shoe drops now in America – me, a former teacher-college instructor, almost always questioned about my questioning the systems of that overblown system of control and conformity? Rarely were my brothers and sisters there for me, for my own radicalism or revolutionary spirit, infrequently there for me while I questioned and confronted the vanguard, fought the powers that be, challenged all the antiquated and demeaning systems of compliance, rebuffed all the hierarchies of dominance, picking at all the silly putty in the giant yawning system of mass education, teaching to the new pedagogies of oppression and business-think and following the elites, the leaders. I organized part-time faculty, and like the moles of all great movements, so many were ready to narc on me, to tattletale about my activism and disrupting ways.

Conformity, and fear of being different, of actually, not ever fearing doing, that is America. In the publishing world, in journalism, other areas I lived in. How many so-called arbiters of style and literary acumen were there, even when I had a literary agent, shipping my works off to judges, they finding fault, something just not conforming enough to be taken in as final draft contracted works of fiction, novels, short story collections? People from Smith College and Vassar, the Eastern Seaboard Ivy Leaguers, judging me, calling my work, regional! Dark. Too much sadness. How much of this country is even cut from a cloth of communitarianism, cut from the ideals of helping people, supporting people?

This is the devaluing of this state of competitive sink or swim capitalism. Devaluing the collective and the individual, even in the same so-called sphere of influence or cohort-ness? I saw this as a reporter, working with editors who themselves were cut from the conservatism that is America, through and through. A country that only goes so far, only accepts so much outside the lines coloring. A country of fines and levies, prisons and debts, fees and interest penalties, foreclosures and repossessions. A country where in the end, those editors were not willing to go outside their own self-professed rules of engagement (or disengagement)?

I’ve taught in prisons and PK12 institutions, and each and every experience was galvanized to systems of conservative thought, not going beyond or outside proscribed avenues. I’ve been a union organizer, questioning my role as a worker for the union having to support an Obama or a Clinton. Why these systems in the USA are so self-absorbed with their “uniqueness” and “specialness” when in the end we do not take care of our brothers and sisters in arms, when in fact we rarely have the time or the gumption to take care of our brothers and sisters in blood.

Recently, though, the pendulum has moved, as one of my gigs as a writer – after 16 years writing for a magazine, bringing outside the box ideas to a conservative readership, bringing something other than cookie-cutter crap or the new “in” vapidity of “more is less, short is sweet, and long is so passé”. After sixteen years, a dozen awards, tons of sources, tons of readers from my choir, actually thanking me for having the guts to keep writing for a conservative magazine.

You see, one never knows when the moment of being passé or washed up or too old, or, just not new enough, will strike. America of strip mall after strip mall, tear downs every ten years anything slightly resembling culture, our housing made for demolition in two decades, paved-over Indian cemeteries, parking lots cemented over our few African-American slave burial grounds, each Native American sacred spot filled with beer halls, filling stations, suburban wasteland after cul-de-sac Hell. Drain the Everglades and build the swamps of Disney World.

No matter the flavor or the venue, these people I call colleagues, cohorts, coworkers, fellows, they still have no abiding loyalty, no abiding class about sacking or firing or pushing-kicking-catapulting one to the proverbial curb. This is the state of insurgency in America, no matter the political stripe or apolitical bent, certainly, mostly Christian-Zionists, these people have no allegiances to the people in their crews or on their warehouse floors or working as slave laborers in this precarious work, at-will (the will of the industry/company) world.

You see, I got one of those creative pink slips. Working a gig, for a magazine and the jig is up, of course, like all the writers for the magazine, “freelance, for the love of writing not the size of the remuneration check.” After 16 years, writing and researching and making contacts, creating new worlds for a very flat and simplistic world of slick magazine making. Always there to support the editor’s whims, and, alas, told in bold, here, the sayonara email –

"Thank you for reaching out to me. I have been so swamped my head is spinning! Which has brought me to the conclusion that I really need to work with writers who live in the community (for all of the editorial pieces in the magazine). As I juggle and manage so many things, I need journalists who are tied in to what is happening in the Spokane/Coeur d’Alene area and who can pitch me too many ideas to choose from. As the real estate of editorial space becomes more valuable with page count cut-backs, etc., I have less flexibility to fit in different journalistic pieces than I would like, so I need to mix up the space used for Metro Talk and dial in a mix of investigative journalism pieces.

I have truly enjoyed working with you and I appreciate that you always have met the tightest of turnarounds. Please know that this is purely a logistics thing for me, where I need people pounding the pavement right here.

Thank you so much for all you have done over the years. You have been an asset to the magazine that won’t be forgotten. I’m wishing you well in all you do, Paul."

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The begging questions are real, truly, for this bum’s rush, this quick terse response to my email about next month’s deadline, is predicated on the fact that one has to be on the ground to be a writer and reporter. You see, my 10 years in Spokane and the area called the Pacific Northwest Inland truly ensconced me into a hundred worlds with hundreds of people willing to come to my table and talk about the issues I have under my belt or those I want to show interest in. Living across the state in Vancouver is not an impediment.

That’s all a rouse, really, to cut ties completely, and while the $400 a pop for stories was not enough to make a dent in the mortgage payment, hmm, let’s see, for someone working as a social worker in the dead and class divide real Portland, and with 60 years under my belt fighting gravity, and 42 years as a precarious worker in all the venues I have ended up, hmm, those four hundred smackers mean a lot to me. So, ending a gig, saying things have to change, that the ride was fun while it lasted (all the way back to 2002), these aren’t easy things to swallow.

Forget about the philosophical issues tied to how journalism is now just a side-of-the-cereal box advertisement, or it’s now geared toward some slick, imaginary and vapid idea that started with USA Today, decades ago – short, not-very-deep articles with big splashy headlines.

It hurts losing a gig, and for the readers of this blog, I can imagine them saying, “Oh, get over it . . . that’s how the cookie crumbles . . . out with the old and in with the new.” That is, of course, the conundrum I am attempting to drill down to, that we are a world that is merciless on many levels, even in the gentlest of put downs and pink slipping. Not even a door has been left open slightly for me, no way to say, “If you have a really passionate desire to write something, a topic you are under and over it big time, with all the local sources, then, please, pitch it.”

This is the America of fake feelings, of Hallmark emotions, or those people just close enough to the Oprah moment, mothers of disingenuous lives, the placating Americans, easily happy in their decisions to cut ties, end relationships, sack, fire, destroy, ignore, stigmatize, denigrate or just pack up and leave behind.

I see it in my work, my social work job, where we are in the trenches with the homeless and the re-entry criminals, the addicts, the mentally frail. Jobs that eat at the soul, and working for non-profits who get close to what poverty pimping is about – fancy buildings, fancy lunches, PR junkets, the whole Nine Yards, but no subsidized day care centers, no raises, no safety nets: just one large analysis paralysis, data mining, graphing stats and abiding by the rules of the grantees, all those philanthropic outfits who are advancing their version of capitalism’s pound of flesh and first born retribution/allegiances.

What is this world, really, for, or about when someone like me at my stage in life, in this advanced revolutionary state, over-traveled (that’s what a lot of people say about my earlier years and decades traveling) and over-educated (more degrees than the supervisors or executive directors running the show now in the social service agencies I’ve been associated with) can find himself lamenting and begrudging the change (silencing of oneself) in one’s voice (losing each venue as a writer is a BIG deal) and the measly $400 a month pay?

Would Kafka sound these alarms, or George Bernard Shaw, or anyone of them – those I have honored with my time and learning?

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” ― George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, a four-act drama written by George Bernard Shaw in 1903.

“The salvation of the world depends on the men who will not take evil good-humouredly, and whose laughter destroys the fool instead of encouraging him.” -- The Quintessence of Ibsenism is an essay written in 1891 by George Bernard Shaw.

“But I’m not guilty,” said K. “there’s been a mistake. How is it even possible for someone to be guilty? We’re all human beings here, one like the other.” “That is true,” said the priest, “but that is how the guilty speak.” -- Franz Kafka, The Trial. Page 265.

“It is not necessary that you leave the house. Remain at your table and listen. Do not even listen, only wait. Do not even wait, be wholly still and alone. The world will present itself to you for its unmasking, it can do no other, in ecstasy it will writhe at your feet." -- Franz Kafka

In the end, my work for a magazine representing the top 20 percent of the income-profit stream in the Spokane area was about social justice (injustice), the environment, poverty, urban planning (miss-planning) and the engines of power in small and large communities. That very juxtaposition of my working class but highly educated prominence as a writer and the value of a readership putting materialism ahead of so much, that very feature was a prominently unique way of having a voice in a system where opposing voices are not allowed or appreciated.

The times are a changing, that has been a mantra for decades, since I first went to J-school in 1975, at the University of Arizona, when we knew then that full-time jobs as newspaper reporters for medium and large size venues were a thing of the past. I ended up working in Southern Arizona for small dailies, covering small-town life, a microcosm of the big issues big newspaper men and women cover. The writing was on the wall more than 40 years ago – the newspaper business was dying and was being turned into a shell of itself, run by accountants and bean counters (as we know Hollywood is run by lawyers controlling both the purse strings and the writing).

What do relationships mean between writers and between readers? What is it about men and women who think ties can bind then and then so easily be cut? Are we few believers in an honorable way in journalism naïve and gullible? Maybe, maybe.

We are in monstrous times, when we eat our children from the inside out, throwing the old into ditches, finding anyone outside the lily white hoarding game OUTSIDER, enemy. This is a time to recall the words of the wise 70 years ago, Pablo Neruda, floating through this disjointed, wicked but hopefully lovely place of juxtapositions and counter-intuitive leanings.

From Pablo Neruda’s Let the Rail Splitter Awake

(Translated from the Spanish by Waldeen)

But if you arm your hordes, North America,
to destroy that pure frontier
and bring the butcher from Chicago
to govern the music and the order
that we love,
we’ll rise from the stones and the air
to bite you:
we’ll rise from the last window
to pour fire on you:
we’ll rise from the deepest waves
to sting you with spines:
we’ll rise from the furrow so that the seed
will pound you like a Colombian fist,
we’ll rise to deny you bread and water,
we’ll rise to burn you in hell.
**************************
Let none of this come to pass.

Let the Rail Splitter awake.

Let Abe come, let his aged yeast raise
the green and gold earth of Illinois,
let him lift up his axe in his own town
against the new slaveholders
against the slave-lash
against the poisoned printing-press
against the bloodied merchandise
they want to sell.
Let them march singing and smiling,
the young white, the young Negro,
against the walls of gold
against the manufacturer of their blood,
let them sing, laugh and conquer.

Let the Rail Splitter awake.

Peace for the twilights to come,
peace for the bridge, peace for the wine,
peace for the stanzas which pursue me
and in my blood uprise entangling
my earlier songs with earth and loves,
peace for the city in the morning
when bread wakes up, peace for the Mississippi,
source of rivers,
peace for my brother’s shirt,
peace for books like a seal of air,
peace for the great kolkhoz of Kiev,
peace for the ashes of those dead
and of these other dead, peace for the grimy
iron of Brooklyn, peace for the letter-carrier
who from house to house goes like the day,
peace for the choreographer who shouts
through a funnel to the honeysuckle vine,
peace for my own right hand
that wants to write only Rosario,
peace for the Bolivian, secretive
as a lump of tin, peace
so that you may marry, peace for all
the saw-mills of Bio-Bio,
peace for the torn heart of guerrilla Spain,
peace for the little museum in Wyoming
where the most lovely thing
is a pillow embroidered with a heart,
peace for the baker and his loaves,
and peace for the flour, peace
for all the wheat to be born,
for all the love which will seek its tasseled shelter,
peace for all those alive: peace
for all lands and all waters.

Here I say farewell, I return
to my house, in my dreams
I return to Patagonia where
the wind rattles the barns
and the ocean spatters ice.
I am nothing more than a poet: I love all of you,
I wander about the world I love;
in my country they gaol miners
and soldiers give orders to judges.
But I love even the roots
in my small cold country,
if I had to die a thousand times over
it is there I would die,
if I had to be born a thousand times over
it is there I would be born
near the tall wild pines
the tempestuous south wind
the newly purchased bells.
Let none think of me.
Let us think of the entire earth
and pound the table with love.
I don’t want blood again
to saturate bread, beans, music:
I wish they would come with me:
the miner, the little girl,
the lawyer, the seaman,
the doll-maker,
to go into a movie and come out
to drink the reddest wine.
I did not come to solve anything.
I came here to sing
and for you to sing with me.

war criminals

From somewhere in the Americas, May 1948

Paul K. Haeder
Terminal Velocity

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