THE BeZINE, Vol. 4, Issue 2: Poverty, Hunger & Working-class Slave Labor

November 15, 2017


In the four-year history of The BeZine, this is the most significant edition. All of our concerns – peace, environmental sustainability, human rights, freedom of expression – depend on a more equal distribution of wealth, on making sure no one goes hungry and on breaking-down barriers to employment, healthcare, education and racial and gender equity.

This pyramid (courtesy of Wikipedia) reveals that:

  • half of the world’s wealth belongs to the top 1%,
  • top 10% of adults hold 85%, while the bottom 90% hold the remaining 15% of the world’s total wealth,
  • top 30% of adults hold 97% of the total wealth.

We’re all cognizant of that profile, but if you feel you’re sitting pretty and you’re not at risk, you’re employed, educated and middle class after all, you’d be well-advised to reconsider. The middle class is now – and has been for some time – dramatically challenged to find work, to acquire jobs that are fairly paid, offer stability and reasonable hours, and in the U.S., enable them to send their children to college.

The implications of a concentration of wealth in the hands of the few, the oligarchs and mega-corporations, are horrendous. Not the least is the undermining of democracy. Those who vote for and support the oligarchs because they think that’s where their security lies are victims of propaganda and bound for disappointment. The shadow of catastrophe (not too strong a word) that hangs over us is not due to the poor or the “other” who doesn’t look like us, worship the same God, or speak the same language, but to the 1%.  Huxley was disconcertingly prescient.


This month our core team and guest contributors create a picture that beckons and behoves us to abandon stereotypes and propaganda about the poor, to recognize slave labor in its most absolute terms (human trafficking and prison labor) and more subtly in the conditions faced by workers at almost all levels of the corporate pyramid. We are called to ethically source the products we buy, to study our history, to bravely speak out against injustice and stupidity and, by implication, to shine a light on best-practices, those programs, services and unofficial efforts in your city/town, region or country that are helping and that can easily be implemented anywhere in the world. (You can share these with everyone via our Facebook discussion group.)

Beginning with Juli’s impassioned editorial, The Exponential Demise of Our Well-being, and moving to our BeAttitudes: John Anstie’s powerful Dictators and Desperadoes … Delegation and Democracy; Corina Ravenscraft’s and Trace Lara Hentz’ thoughtful invitations to awareness; Phillip T. Stephens on prison injustice; Sue Dreamwalker’s encouragement to see the homeless as fully human (and she connects us with homeless poets and artists in England); and Joe Hesch’s honest exploration of self, we are called to responsibly participate in history.

We present a memoir from Renee Espriu and a short story from Joe Hesch this month. These are followed by yet another stellar poetry collection from poets around the world, including work by core-team members: Charles W. Martin and John Anstie.

New to our pages, a warm welcome to: Juli [Juxtaposed], Sue Dreamwalker, Michael Odiah, Evelyn Augusto, Michele Riedele, Irene Emmanuel and bogpan. We welcome work from among our previous and regular contributors: Paul Brookes, Trace Lara Hentz, Renee Espriu, Sonja Benskin Mescher, Denise Fletcher, Phillip T. Stephens, R.S. Chappell, Rob Cullen and Mark Heathcote.

In the spirit of peace, love (respect) and community
and on behalf of The Bardo Group Beguines,
Jamie Dedes, Founding and Managing Editor, The BeZine


HUNGER, POVERTY and THE WORKING CLASS AS SLAVE LABOR

How to read this issue of THE BeZINE:

Click HERE to read the entire magazine by scrolling, or
You can read each piece individually by clicking the links in the Table of Contents.
To learn more about our guests contributors, please link HERE.
To learn more about our core team members, please link HERE.


EDITORIAL

The Exponential Demise of Our Wellbeing, Juli [Juxtaposed]

BeATTITUDES

Dictators and Desperadoes … Delegation and Democracy, John Anstie
Change Your View and Your View Changes, Corina Ravenscraft
‘Til the Jails Are Empty, Phillip T. Stephens
Blessed Be, Lara Trace Hentz
Homeless, Sue Dreamwalker
Ramble Tramble, Joseph Hesch

MEMOIR

Meeting Poverty, Renee Espriu

SHORT SHORT STORY

And Crown Thy Good, Joseph Hesch

POETRY

As if …, John Anstie

Carolina Oriole, Evelyn Augusto

Ecomium, bogpan

Crow Share, Paul Brookes
Means Tester, Paul Brookes
A Hunger, Paul Brookes
The Good Employer’s Manifesto, Paul Brookes

Bitter limp fruit, Rob Cullen
Life in complicated times, Rob Cullen

Empty Pocket, R.S. Chappell
War Over Hunger, R.S. Chappell

proud at unjustified margins, Jamie Dedes
an accounting, Jamie Dedes

A Thread of Hope, Denise Fletcher

Dustbowl, Mark Heathcote
Humanitarian help worker, Mark Heathcote

Togetherness, Irene Immanuel

a slave’s mentality, Charles W. Martin

#ice&mud, Sonja Benskin Mesher

Nautilus, Michele Riedele

Life, Michael Odiah

EXCEPT WHERE OTHERWISE NOTED,
ALL WORKS IN “THE BeZINE” ©2017 BY THE AUTHOR / CREATOR


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god’s of our making, a poem … and your Wednesday Writing Prompt


we have need of gods
an ancient irony
like blood that needs heat
to sweat out the mysteries
to rage in revenge
to reconcile sacrifice
to repel condemnation
to simmer our gratitude
for the many wonders
as misunderstood
as all the horrors

relieve us we pray
in our righteous moments
from the sins of others
their guns, their bombs
their swords of hate
lives and livelihoods cut short
in genocides renamed –
semantics play large
in wars of loathing and
vile justifications

relieve us we pray
from children killing children
from executions in the street
from brothers killing brothers
from sisters unleashed
like the dogs of war
like a belly full of cancer
like an aorta swelling

our gods cry ‘havoc’
in traps set by rulers
by teachers at schools
and in places of worship
by parents at dinner table

our legs immobilized
like wolves ensnared, we chew off our feet
attempts at freedom cripple and break us

and everywhere
mouthing lies
groaning in denial
bowing to gutter rats
scraping to vultures
the false gods of our making

© 2012, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved 

WEDNESDAY WRITING PROMPT

How is it, why is it, when is it that we bow to gutter rates, scrap before vultures, worship gods made in our own feeble image?  If you feel comfortable, share you poem in the comments section below or via a link. All work shared on theme will be published here next Tuesday. You are welcome – encouraged – to participate no matter the status of your career: beginner, emerging or pro. You have until Monday evening at 8:30 PST to respond.


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“Beware” … and other responses to the last Wednesday Writing Prompt


Here is our collection from last week’s writing prompt, into the great yawning, November 8: what should we do, what should we ask for, when we know that vision has died and lunacy is on the rampage?  It garnered such an interesting, pointed and passionate response.

The great joy of themes and prompts is that there are always surprises.You just never know where people are going to take an idea. It’s always a jumping off point to something that’s been nagging – perhaps even raging – from each writer’s unique perspective.

I never hold people strictly to the theme or the prompt, which I recognize is an irritation to some … or, at least, that’s what I’ve been told recently. The thing is: art comes from sacred space. That has to be honored. So if the piece is linked by a thin silken thread or was written before the prompt went up and the poet/writer is inclined to share, so be it. Amen, I say.  This is, after all, an informal exercise meant to inspire, work the writing muscle, offer a venue for worthy ideas and writers, and to provide a chance to get to know others who share our passions. Enjoy!

… and thanks to Colin Blundell, Sonja Benskin Mesher, Paul Brookes and Juli. Bravo! Your ideals are real.

The next Wednesday Writing Prompt will post tomorrow. All are welcome to join in no matter the status of career: beginning, emerging or pro.


beware

the Abstraction Monster
roughing its way
through pompous discourse
whose wifflers maybe don’t realise
quite how they destroy
all purchase on the sticks & stones
of things – real apples ripening
towards August drainage systems
against water on the brain…
George Washington’s Birthday
done by Charles Ives
complete with jaw harp
dissolving into glorious dancing

freedom justice beauty
our country (usually wrong) money –
Abstraction Monster friends
death-dealing to the tip
of the iceberg thought

real thinking dwells in all the open doorways
and river basins of the wide wide world

© 2017, Colin Blundell  (Colin Blundell, All and Everything)

This comes from my 2016 ‘101 apolitical poems’ (ironical!) in which the poem (posted here not necessarily as a contribution, just for amusement), headed by a quotation from my favourite long-dead politician, is: “No amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical or social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin.” Aneurin Bevan (1948)

lower than vermin

therefore not really vermin at all –
not worms (Latin vermis = worm) or snakes
or miscellaneous bugs
not reptiles not fleas or flying ants
not wild animals not insects of any kind
difficult to control in large numbers

but maybe ghouls that go bang
in some dark pit at dead of night
at the centre of an impenetrable forest
whose trees are constructed
out of piled up old rancid dustbins
that haven’t been emptied for months
where not even rats will go
for a Sunday afternoon promenade
for fear of the calculated potholes

I wonder if ghouls that go bang
in the night really are lower than vermin –
there may be something even lower

ridiculous demons if they weren’t
so terrifyingly malevolent

© 2017, Colin Blundell  (Colin Blundell, All and Everything)


a vision requested.

early while driving.                     omen repeating

sometimes the sun comes lower after the crest

one moment

imagine them marching,           slow & white.

will you name them?

in the wake all things come clear.

slow & white.

later below the peaks i tell him. he said it is

the dark crystal.

© 2017, Sonja Benskin Mesher  (Sonja Benskin Mesher, RCA and Sonja’s Drawings)


Don’t Get (From A World Where 2)

involved. Distance yourself.
Else you’ll be wound in,

A fish on a line, handed
responsibilities you can’t handle.

Care for those you help will absorb
all the time you can spend with yourself.

Stay sane. Hold folk at arms length.
Others who can afford it will fill the absence

You make with your lack of response
When a person falls, injures themselves.

Be assured their are professionals our society
employs who can deal with it better than you.

© 2017, Paul Brookes  (The Wombwell Rainbow, Inspiration, History, Imagination)

Our Insanity (From A World Where 2)

is healthy. Hurt others,
hurt yourself. Hospitals

widen wounds. Firemen
are firestarters. Doctors

avidly spread disease.
Dementia is encouraged.

Helpfulness and reasoned action
is criminal. Thought for others

will get you referred to a psychiatrist.
Multiple personality is encouraged.

Not knowing who you are is wellbeing.
Celebrate murder, envy, greed, selfishness.

© 2017, Paul Brookes (The Wombwell Rainbow, Inspiration, History, Imagination)

The Offering

of your place for theirs.
A seat for those who cannot stand.

An arm for those who need support.
An empathetic word for those who grieve.

Warmth for those cold as marble.
A smile for those downcast.

Small acts of give amongst the take.
Your strength amongst the enfeebled.

© 2017, Paul Brookes  (The Wombwell Rainbow, Inspiration, History, Imagination)


The Exponential Demise of our Well-Being

You know that sudden speeding montage of thoughts and images you get when a torrent of information flashes through your mind and your consciousness grasps their thematic connections and creates a glimpse of the bigger picture? It only lasts seconds but it’s revelatory and dramatic and, when it produces a physical resonance, can be said to reveal truth – be it the individual’s recognition of a personal truth or of an external reality. You shiver, feel sick, overwhelmed perhaps, or optimistic, even excited if the epiphanous moment is positive. It’s the kind of high frequency, moment of clarity that sparks creativity, spurs innovation and signposts direction – and of course, it can also incite utter panic. The fact that it’s not an everyday occurrence – besides probably making such events all the more meaningful – is likely a good thing: there is such a thing as ‘too much’ and systems, mechanical or biological, do not really appreciate being overloaded.

But what about the low frequency hum of the mundane? The unnecessary, interminable tension imposed by the government and its agents, who intervene for our own good like stereotypical missionaries: they’re enough to drive the sanest people to distraction. For a party which professes ‘small state’ governance, they’ve made spectacular inroads into nearly all levels our daily lives, with their micro-management and moral prescriptions. They’re like all-enveloping smog, systematically choking the goodwill, the patience and the hope out of an entire nation.

This bass resonance features large in our everyday domestic arrangements too. Life is a journey of relationships, private, public and overwhelmingly political in nature. Government is in your face; so is media hype. But maybe, so are your neighbours, members of your family, your friends, your boss, your ‘clients’… we are all someone intruding in another’s space. As the infrasound increases pitch and pierces the surface, the customary dynamics dance under intensifying friction with random acts of ‘true colours’ and out-of-character behaviour.

People are living precariously under perpetual and pernicious stress. (Sorry for the ‘Ps’) You don’t need me to tell you about the growing surveillant, authoritarian management-style; the stark poverty living side by side with gluttony; religious oppression and paranoia; conflict and invasion; economic malfeasance – the list is almost as endless as it is global – and the cost of such dis-ease, as we all know, is far more than monetary. We are being worn down by failure and blame and uncertainty. People can’t help but project their hopes and fears into the future, but how much can you channel or manage them when you are the puppet of puppets?

I see the low frequency as starting to have the same impact as the high. We are overwhelmed and panicked and most people are either fighting it off, drowning under it or veering between the two. This is a fight or flight lifestyle and it is unsustainable: you can’t operate indefinitely on adrenaline, can you? Not without serious repercussions to your physical, mental and emotional health. That would be like perpetual war…

Mental health is a spectrum. We’re all on it. We travel its width in both directions for the length of our lives and, if we avoid the pain at its extremes, it is surely by some merciful grace? But this does not mean that the rest of us are healthy individuals, communities or nations. Not when we live in a state of constant dis-ease.

For as long as they can, people cope as well as they can, with whatever resources they can muster and with varying degrees of success. It might be instinctive but it’s exhausting and dispiriting to exist rather than to live, so it doesn’t take any genius to understand why some will chose denial rather than face reality or the unknown; that many of those who cannot unsee and unknow, will seek intoxication as respite; and that recklessness will become attractive to some while others will withdraw and become frozen.

And people snap. Everyone has a breaking point – though I must confess: it’s somewhat reassuring in the UK, to know you are at least unlikely to be shot at. But, facetiousness aside – I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to discover where my snapping point is – I can’t help but imagine we will see and hear of many implosions, both in our personal spheres and in the News at large. There’s an ever increasing number of people who live every day at the threshold of a breakdown: people who are grateful if they merely find themselves no worse off at the end of their day than at its start. Every day. With no seeming end.

Lives of such fragility are surely unsustainable: they are certainly an obscene mark on a modern world. I fear that, in a climate of continual manipulation and confusion, gifted by the accelerating machinations of a powerful few, the exponential demise of our well-being is almost certain. But, just as pain and anger can be warning signals that something is wrong, so too is the hum and it is screaming at us to make the madness stop: to pay attention to real meaning and create meaningful solutions

© 2017, Juli [Juxtaposed] (Subject to Change)

A frozen spring

The behaviour of our world leaders is extraordinary. These creatures trot out one ridiculous line after another about whatever and whoever, seemingly oblivious to the irony of their expedient relativism, all the while projecting as if theirs was the light and the way. They make policies based on any outlying prediction of convenience that their hypothetical histrionics can fashion and these become as the self-fulfilling prophesies of their tragic little imaginations. I’d say you couldn’t make it up but I reckon they do.

The scope for all manner of catastrophe by their obnoxious, cynical hands is horrifying. And we keep being told that there’s no alternative; that it’s competence or chaos; mainstream or radical fringe; with us or against us; deserving or undeserving; ally or monster; either-or. Always either-or… To do this they oversimplify each issue and circumstance, scapegoating or sexing up, until it is reduced to a catchy, polarizing meme and then they feign consternation over all the threats and distress they’ve conjured. Or do they conjure up a load of threats and distress and then simplify them to polarize everyone…?

How are we continuing to tolerate such an industrialised scale of hypocrisy and hubris? How on earth are we still bearing their cold indifference to cause and consequence; the expedience of their cruel, misguided pragmatism? How do we stomach the interminable provocations and funnelled paranoia? I don’t believe our modern species is so readily predisposed to such superficial extremes. I think we’re far too full of contradictions and nuance once you get underneath the first couple of layers. Why are these creatures still being allowed to get away with their obscene behaviour? At what point will we admit we are complicit and have learned to love our chains? For, if we are not; have not: where are our blazing pitchforks?

And Mainstream News’ content and delivery? It mostly seems to collude to serve the Powerful. We get fed shallow headlines followed by even shallower analyses; celebrity big-up or tear-down; something about someone, who apparently should know better, not toeing the latest line; a report about a report on something so appalling that people cannot understand how it could ever have happened at all, must ‘never again’ but probably will; a few temporary and meaningless economic numbers, followed by even more meaningless analysis; another story of hair-raising incompetence or fraud, quickly justified or deflected; another populist policy to tempt, punish or placate, framed as anything but the tinkering that it is; merit given to sheer electioneering mischief… And on and on. Every day more surreal and yet so sterile.

There are moments, some days and some whole days when it’s as though my outrage and numbness have been whisked into a solid fusion. It’s like I’m flung, for a period, into suspended animation. The passion of impotent protest, crowding in and freezing my whole being. I know it’s a fleeting overwhelm of emotion and thought but, well, it’s visiting more often and staying longer. Sometimes I think I’m only saved from losing ‘it’ due to lashings of healthy irreverence, an eye for the wry and a great deal of there but for the grace of… And I wonder at the leadership which creates and depends on a world of fight or flight for its profit; at all those around the world for whom this designed overwhelm is an imposed, perpetual constant. How are there not more people running around, demented, with wild eyes, pulling their hair out? Or curling up in a corner and rocking? I think we are, though, in our souls. Is it just me being temporarily consumed by the fanned extremes of my own angst or am I tripping into the angst of collective consciousness?

For the global atmosphere is a heavy fog of fear and denial, so widespread, so deep, so prevalent that, whether consciously or subconsciously, it must overshadow and infiltrate every individual to some degree. Even if you’re paying only a little attention to national and international affairs and conditions, you surely cannot fail to be at least uneasy about the interminable, mind-blowing ineptitude that has put our world in such a state – however you measure yourself by pressing ideological instruments. And they are pressing, aren’t they? In this reckoning coming – for reckoning is our current trajectory – there will be teeth-gnashing and hand-wringing for everyone.

And yet…

I have hope. It’s in that inextinguishable light contained in Humanity’s heart and mind and an enduring faith in our capacity for enlightenment and generosity of spirit. And I tell my shadow self that this grotesque age, too, shall pass. That the People will rise. That these monsters of narrow, selfish ideology will surely be slain lest our doom be sealed because, simply, it’s the grotesque or the rest of us. And I tell myself that, whether I’ll still be sane (please smile at that) or even still around for our healing, it matters little. Others will be. However long it takes. And that those generations will conduct themselves a bit better, perhaps for longer, next time around.

© 2017, Juli [Juxtaposed] (Subject to Change)

‘especially in times of dark‘

Always
but especially in times of dark,
encroaching space,
my hope alights and leans
on an enduring faith
in the human spirit
and the myriad illumined pockets
of kindness and enlightened thought.
They are as the stars in a night sky:
escape the density of beamed artifice
and they are constant; visible.
For the heart sees what it looks for
as much as does the mind’s lensed eye.

© 2017, Juli [Juxtaposed] (Subject to Change)


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Ramble Tramble … a BeAttitude from poet and writer, Joseph Hesch

Joseph Hesch

Joseph Hesch

“Each day I squeeze the contents of my heart over whatever expression I’m wearing & imprint it onto a notebook page–my version of St. Veronica’s veil.”

Joseph Hesch (A Thing for Words) lives in a beautiful region, upstate New York, at the confluence of my own beloved Hudson River and the Mohawk River.  It’s a fine setting for a poet.

This is a prequel to this month’s The BeZineIt’s on theme by a slender thread but profoundly supports the core objective of the Zine, which is to recognize that “other” isn’t other at all and to respect and honor all humanity. Enjoy! … and visit The BeZine on the 15th for our November edition, HUNGER, POVERTY AND THE WORKING CLASS AS SLAVE LABOR. Read more about our core-team member,Joseph Hesch, HERE.



When you’re in the middle of it, living and learning, learning about living, living as a means of learning, you don’t notice how you might be different from (or the same as) some guys across the ocean or across the room. You don’t notice much about anything but what’s inside the three inches of air surrounding your body.

They are Them, There, Then. You are You, Here, Now. Context is but a ghost, barely a specter of a concept through which you  your place in a wider world. You accept ideas, tenets, the virtual castle walls within which you secure your position as the center of the Universe. You don’t question. God just IS, He is a He and you need to toe his line in order to win the lovely parting gifts they hand you for completing the Home version of this dicey Game of Life.

The other day, I asked myself not only who I am, but what, forcing myself to look beyond myself as this sack of meat, its spark of intellectual and essential energy and the possessor of opposing thumbs that answers to Joseph, Joe, Joey and any of a hundred or so discrete alphanumeric identifiers that differentiate me from you. And you and you, as well.

I saw such a small thing, a cluster of cells both good and ill, beneficial and malignant, functional and inert, held modestly upright by some universally accepted beliefs that inherently make me superior to so much of the rest of the inhabitants of this blue marble upon which we stand as it falls, rises, or circles in the vastness of the Universe.

And so much of what I see is just a matter of dumb luck, some bit of kismet that Valentine met Maria and Patrick loved Lizzy and they all somehow decided to leave their homes in Europe to come to this coast-to-coast set of geographic coordinates that may make this the most varied and valuable piece of real estate on the planet. They came to this place where people can be free to become the monarchs of their own existence. Here in this nation established upon the premise that all men are created equal.

Except, of course, if you were on the wrong end of our “peculiar institution,” where white men owned black men who did the physical labor that either built or buttressed the Whites’ socioeconomic standing. And that sin was committed even in my hometown, tucked up here in the upper right corner of your map, which is the oldest chartered municipality in the country.

And also except if you were a member of the class of original inhabitants of this breadth of the continent. Then you were crushed in the essentially forgotten, if considered at all, dirty little secret of American’s Manifest Destiny, which included eviction, subjugation, military intimidation, interdiction and an open-air type of incarceration. And, quite often, our Euro-America’s God-blessed version of the final solution to the “Indian problem,” eradication.

Which brings us rambling back to my original premise. When you are so busy trying to make it from First to Twelfth Grade, from freshly minted believer to elder keeper of whatever Word you follow, from allowance grabber to worker bee and then retirement check-cashing senior, you don’t think of these things. You pretty much have to live within your insulated little castle keep, those walls of ideas and ideals I spoke of before.

It’s human nature. Self-preservation, self-centeredness, selfishness, maybe even a selective selflessness, draw blinders around us from which we might occasionally sneak a peek outside ourselves. Then we pull our heads back within the silken bonds of our own spiritual and intellectual cells. There in the comforting darkness we see house-of-mirrors reflections of ourselves, warm and fuzzy, clean and bright, dark and angry, volatile and violent. And we accept them or reject them with but a blink, a wink or a meditative, prayerful closing of the eyes.

Please forgive me this tedious ramble. I’ve been reading again, something I haven’t done as much as when I was younger. Back then it was hardcore youthful inquisitiveness, feeding the insatiable intellectual beast as much trivia, possibly necessary minutiae and winning team history it could take. Now, it’s my own version of sticking this silver-pated gourd out of the dusty crust of virtual Hesch topography to see what I missed. In my old age I’ve become another type of Self-something. Self-aware. It’s embarrassing and painful, yet somehow freeing.

I see the mistakes, poor judgments and failures I’ve made. I see the victories, loves and lucky guesses, too. On electronic and physical pages I’ve cast them out there like stars across a desert sky. And now I see how they tell stories and give necessary direction, even if I have almost reached my ultimate destination.

I just thought I’d pass this on to you, since you’re traveling that way, Slán abhaile.  Auf wiedersehen.  Safe travels.  Ramble Tamble. Down the road I go.

This started its life as a poem, then grew like some good ol’ southern kudzu, spilling all around the page, seemingly taking over everything from my writing hand to better judgment. By the way, Ramble Tamble is the title of the first cut on Creedence Clearwater Revival’s  classic 1970 album, Cosmo’s Factory. It’s one of the rockingest songs I know, a great road song and might be as good a fit for our current times as it was for my youth.

© 2017, essay and photograph, Joseph Hesch.


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