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Here in Bristol Bay we are waiting on the fish. A cold winter and spring have left the landscape slowly warming as the subarctic summer sun arcs across the sky, right now hidden by rather thick and persistent cloud cover.
Still, it is warming and the fish are on their way. The persistent winds and tides are shoving the run up the Alaska Peninsula and into the bay, an estimated 35 million sockeye salmon.
As we were pulling our nets last week after free week—free of fish as well—we had the surprise of a fairly large gray whale surface right in front of us only a quarter mile from shore. The dark form rose and eased back under the gray waters that were perhaps only 15-20 feet deep with the tide moving out. A rarity in the bay, we still aren’t sure if that was a good or bad sign. We simply enjoyed its presence. The fish will come. A little late perhaps, but they will come.
In the meantime, a high tide combined with 30-35 knot winds made its way up the beach to our small fishing shack, a hut made of pallets and plywood. The fairly sturdy and malleable structure survived, and the entire set net crew gathered and hauled the thing in large pieces up the small bluff and onto the tundra overlooking half of our fishing sites.
We’d never had a tide, even the highest tide of over 26 feet, shift our camp off its timber footings. This wasn’t a particularly high tide at 23 feet, but we knew the shack had to move or be destroyed in the next week when a run of high tides is on the charts.
Those tides should
bring many fish.
Those tides also make me reflect on the economic tides that rule our culture. Up and down, up and down go the fiscal tides of the free market. I also have to reflect on the current state of the ideology of the New Conservative Neanderthal Party (the NCNP, formerly the Republicans) as they crow about giving the free market a fair chance to succeed, free of government interference and meddling, even though deregulation over the past 30 years has led us right to where we are now.
“We’re mad as hell and we won’t take it anymore” is the mantra the NCNP and the Tea Party, “The Rebellion to Stay the Same,” have stolen from the mostly unsuspecting left.
Seems to be working, as working-class people adopt slogans and an anger that is directly opposed to their own wellbeing. Go figure how the tides have been turned.
In adopting that posture, those same working-class people, many of the 90 percent of the workforce without union protections, are adopting and protecting the very ideology that got us into the mess in the first place. Somehow the argument isn’t fiscal foolishness and greed but Big Government.
I can’t explain it in simpler terms. Big Government didn’t sink the economy and create the fiscal inequities of 2012—unchecked fiscal foolishness and greed did. While conservative and laissez-faire ideologues lament that they’d never gotten the chance to reach that happy, trickle-down plateau, the facts prove that notion completely wrong. The free market ideal has had its way for the past 30 years, deregulating nearly every corner of the economy, from health care to finance. While the facts prove the case fairly easily, the NCNP has lowered its shoulder and pushed its backward message, The Backward Doctrine, toward a very gullible public.
It appears as though significant numbers of the public, the working public, are eating it up.
I think I’ll go back to the tides. Pulled in and out twice daily by the movement of the moon, there is a parallel to the economic state we’re in. In the natural world every boat is affected. No boat escapes the pull.
In the strange world of free market economics in this new century, the tides don’t affect everyone the same. There is a rosy hopefulness to the notion of deregulation and the elimination of government, that the economy can resist the tides somehow. The contrived hopefulness is that people will resist the lure of greed, that the rising tide will lift all boats.
Wrong. The economic tides don’t work that way. Those fortunate few, the one percent let’s say, are able to benefit both on the rising tide and the falling tide. Even as the greater economic culture grew over the past 30 years, an even greater number of workers saw their standard of living fall.
In the meantime the fish are moving closer. We will soon be out in those tides, bobbing up and down, picking fish until our fingers go numb.
That’s a reality I can believe in.