Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The birds, the trees and the whole damn planet

by Richard Mellor

I am thinking about how lucky I am.  I am sitting in my backyard which has some trees around it, two pines and a few other trees in my neighbors' back yards around me. The squirrels are driving my Jack Russell nuts.  They sit on one of the lower limbs of the pine or the poplar tree, or atop the fence separating my yard from my neighbors and throw things at him.  I imagine them laughing with one another about how dumb that dog is. He chases bees too and had the misfortune of catching one.  I looked over at him and I thought he was dead.  But he'd caught the bee and it stung the roof of his mouth; he was in shock.

He was on his back, dead as a doornail.  I could see he was breathing and picked him up. I took him over to what was once a lawn and set him down on his fours.  He just collapsed.  I ended up having to take him to the vet and and she gave him a shot of adrenalin.  But he's still chasing them.

But I can hear this bird singing, it's so beautiful.  What is that bird singing about? The weather? It is, after all a beautiful day today.  It must feel as good as I do.  The birdsong makes me appreciate why people become bird enthusiasts;  want to know what sort of bird it is.  I know you can buy tapes of bird songs and I already have a good bird book that shows the various species and I think I will try to learn more about this.

I grew up in this sort of macho English working class culture and would have "taken the piss", or as the English say it, "taken the mickey" out of some guy, especially a guy, being interested in birdwatching.  Now I know, they were a lot more advanced than I was in some ways. But they were backward in others, that's the dialectic I suppose.

I stepped toward the back of the yard to see if I could see the source of this wondrous sound.  It's no good, I can't.  But as I look skyward in to the pine, I am transfixed by the majesty of this tree.  "Man, I love trees"  I know this sounds a bit silly, but I felt such a connection to that tree, I have feelings for it. I don't want the natural world, this beautiful Earth, to be covered in creosote and nuclear waste.

I took a picture of it for you and have included it.

I am lucky that I am still alive to appreciate the world in which we live.  I don't believe in gods.  I had a heart attack some time ago and it made me think more deeply about death but I never was concerned about heaven or hell or Jesus or anything other than I didn't want to leave this place yet. I want to hear those birds and watch squirrels and meet all the people I can.

There's one other reason I'm lucky.  I had a good public sector unionized job. I have had decent health care for 30 years which is very important in the US where there is no national health system and caring for people's health is a business.  I am not boasting about this, I am happy with it. I want to expand on it and include all workers.  Everyone should be able to retire after years of work and live a comfortable life. 

Society can afford to provide everyone with a decent life in their senior years, just like it has the resources to provide health care for all,  education, housing and other necessities. The problem is it is not a profitable enterprise, it is "money out".  For the rich, it's money out, for us it is simply returning to society in the form of services, the wealth created by our collective labor. The owners of capital will only provide something if it is profitable.

We cannot have democracy, we cannot have freedom, and won't have the guarantee of a liveable planet until we collectively own and allocate the wealth we create; it's ours after all. 

And we won't be able to hear the birds. That thought sort of keeps me going.

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