Friday, September 23, 2011

talk of a strike at our university has everyone wondering and dredging up memories of growing up in an uncertain world; the father of my director, i thought i heard her say, was an air traffic controller, and another colleague's father's company went down with a strike forcing him and a family that depended on him to move to new jersey. i myself didn't grow up in a union family, or even one that felt strongly, as my father was a chemical engineer, but i grew up in towns like pittsburgh pennsylvania where everyone had memories of bitter and violent labor action in which people died and nobody could ever forgive or forget the evil owners. in coal and steel country strikes were always violent, always terrible, left bitterness for generations and the best thing to do was to just pack up and get out.

they send these armed guards down the river in a barge, this was 1892, and they shoot at the steelworkers on the banks and take over the mill and this image hovers over the city for like eighty years and is still there when i show up, but now it's being played out in caricature, because faculty at our university are derided as spoiled public employees in a world where they are the only ones left with health insurance. and the cost-cutters who wield a mean knife from the top see health insurance as well as unions, as something to be gotten rid of. so we can say the barge is on its way down the river and the best thing i can think of is to say, all of a sudden, i have problems in the family and have to head out to the chihuahua desert for a spell to be with the folks. and maybe this story makes sense since it really is my turn and my brothers and sister, all have taken theirs recently; i wouldn't, in fact, be lying.

the president of the university is a scrapper, involved in the electrical and plumbing unions at one time, was asked to serve in the state senate and did, but this was at a time when he was trying to finish his degree, so he plagiarized part of his thesis on his way out the door and then went on to have a successful political career although the cook county contingent wasn't quite enthusiastic about his candidacy and he lost a big election for governor. nevertheless governors go to prison in this state anyway so it was just as well, and he ended up president of the university, so it was all water under the bridge, except that in an earlier union dispute some union members found his dissertation and exposed him, which put him in a fighting mood and now he doesn't care for the faculty union much and this shows in the nasty turns the negotiation has taken; it's almost like he considers his own union background to be genuine, yet has no respect for faculty as working people of the same status, and even has a grudge to pile on it. this is what a neutral observer would say upon wondering why an ordinary negotiation could take so many turns toward the nasty and toward inexplicable and unreasonable hostility. is it because we're in coal country? with towns like pittsburg and our own which has a name, most directly translated, of "coal town"...does that explain why everyone would rather fight than reason? don't know, but the barge is coming down the river.

autumnal equinox came through, and a cooling rain, and a fall fog, a fog hanging low on the fields out in the hills where we had a faculty retreat out by a golf course and some million-dollar homes that, the best i can figure, aren't getting much business. the first of the fallen leaves hang wet on the ground and wait for the fall dryness to relieve them of their dead weight so they can blow around and become next year's mulch. i don't see the deer but there's plenty of evidence that they've been enjoying what's left of my garden which i could also say, needs a lot more of my attention. it's a time of year when i should be making excuses to go stand out there, get a little bit more of that clear fresh air, the sunlight, the fresh feeling of leaves above, about ready to set sail and drift. my thoughts go to living without insurance, without income, driftless, as if the new world depression settled in and left me completely without work, without identity, home, family. reason enough, maybe, to vote against a strike. or better yet, reason enough to get online, develop another income, start looking for other horizons...

chou, more later, these squares i'm making, they are mostly for my own entertainment, and the development of my own weblog system, which goes outward from here, and includes lots of links...


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