A Recycled Coffin

Ed Raymond

Is The Bottom Going To Fall Out?  

The story about the Fargo man who died in his storage unit who remains unclaimed by any family reminds me of thousands of Irish funerals conducted during the Great Potato Famine. Because of the numbers of deaths during those trying times, the Irish held the cost of funerals down by recycling coffins. Everything looked normal while the coffin was lowered into the grave but when it reached the bottom of the grave the bottom of the coffin was fixed to drop off with the body. The reusable coffin was then raised to a discreet level. Rather clever—and economical. Some U.S. economists believe at least half of our population is now living in such times. Noam Chomsky is one of our best known philosopher-scientists who is constantly analyzing our politics and economics. Now 90 years old, he has written 100 books spread over war, politics, language, linguistics, economics, and mass media.

He has been labeled from libertarian to socialist and always gives an interesting and provocative interview as an intellectual gadfly. His theme in his latest interview is that the United States is a “Third Country” mess because it’s involved in seemingly endless wars, has millions of people in economic despair, has a rising mortality rate that is worse than many third world countries, and has absolutely out-of-control gun violence. (This statement was made before El Paso and Dayton. I would love to hear him comment on the fact the Dayton shooter was a civilian with an assault rifle who killed nine and wounded 27 with 41 bullets fired in 32 seconds - and lives in a country that has more guns than people. The police said he had large-capacity magazines carrying 250 rounds with him. He could have easily killed and wounded over 200 people in three minutes.)  

Just After El Paso And Dayton  

I received the following message in an-e-mail from a Minnesota reader who had picked it up from Google. The minute I read it I thought if it hadn’t been written by Chomsky it was certainly inspired by his thinking.

“How about we treat every young man who wants to buy a gun like every women who wants to get an abortion: mandatory 48-hr waiting period, parental permission, a note from the doctor proving he understands what he’s about to do, a video he has to watch about the effects of gun violence, an ultrasound wand up the ass (just because). Let’s close down all but one gun shop in every state and make him travel hundreds of miles, take time off work, and stay overnight in a strange town to get a gun. Make him walk through a gauntlet of people holding photos of loved ones who were shot to death, people who call him a murderer and beg him not to buy a gun. It makes more sense to do this with young men and guns than with women and health care, right? I mean, no women getting an abortion has killed a room full of people in seconds, right?”  

Chomsky Labels The U.S. A Schizophrenic Country  

First, Chomsky lists all of the advantages the U.S. has on Planet Earth:

(1) We are the richest country in world history,

(2) We have enormous mineral resources in many categories,

(3) We have a huge territory where you can fly 3,000 miles and think you’re in the same place, and

(4) We have incomparable agricultural resources because of good farm land.  

But Chomsky says, “Life in the U.S.—the richest country in the world—doesn’t need to be like this.” He cites many problems:

(1) The uncontrolled gun culture puts everyone at risk, whether in big cities, small towns, or farms and ranches,

(2) We have the highest economic inequality among developed nations, and

(3) Our infrastructure across the country is falling apart while the rich fly off in helicopters and private jets (The American Society of Civil Engineers gives us a “D” for infrastructure, the lowest grade).  

Chomsky is right. We are really screwed up. The U.S. is the only country in the developed world in which mortality is increasing. Fact: we are dying quicker for all kinds of reasons. At what age? 25 to 50. Because that age group is suffering death from despair. Reasons? Suicide, drug overdoses, and economic stagnation for the middle class since Ronald Reagan brought in his “Greed is Good” philosophy in the 1980’s.

Now we have a pathological liar who tweets constantly we have the best economy in decades, the lowest unemployment at a little over 3%, and rising wages. “Fake news” from a deranged uninformed bullshit artist. The actual unemployment rate is over 7.5% because a large number of workers have given up on the economy and have dropped out of the workforce. Over the last 20 years there has been a steady decline of median family wealth and almost half the population can’t come up with $400 to cover an emergency. As Chomsky says, it “doesn’t need to be like this.”  

A Man Who Followed Trump’s Demand And Visited His Country Of Origin  

New York Times opinion writer Timothy Egan decided to go back to Ireland to visit the country his ancestors left many generations ago to escape the Great Irish Potato famine. At that time Ireland was “infected by crime, famine, disease, and assorted horrors of foreignness that its British overlords said a merciful God was doing a favor by killing off the starving masses.” There are now about 30 million Irish-Americans in the United States. Amazingly, there are only 4.88 million Irish living in Ireland today. Their lives have changed dramatically since the famine—and particularly in the last three decades. The Irish haven’t used recycled coffins with the false bottoms for over two centuries. After suffering for centuries under the rule of the Roman Catholic Church, the Irish have basically sent it packing back to the Vatican.

When Trump said people who didn’t like what is happening in the United States should “get the hell out” and go back to their “crime-infested” countries, Egan decided to see how Ireland was doing in comparison with the U.S. After the visit, he wrote “Send Me Back to the Country I Came From.”

Here are a few of his reasons:  

• “What I found on that island where typhus took whole families as they shivered on floors of mud, where by one medical estimate, 50% of the children of Dublin once died before their first birthday, is now a land of universal health care. The number of (U.S.) uninsured has gone up seven million under Trump.”  

• “Colleges are nearly free to its citizens—good colleges. Imagine a family not having to bankrupt itself to help a child off to a better life.”  

• The prime minster is the gay son of an Indian immigrant and an Irish mother. He is married to a man. Its prime minister would never gloat over a “send her back” chant at a Trump hatefest. Back home in America, the unimaginable is the new norm: a fully blossoming fascism. “We’re stuck in a hideous loop of hate. But it’s also an idiocy loop.” This is why he wrote his article.  

Chomsky Is At Times A Revolutionary But Accepts Progress In Increments  

Chomsky thinks people can change, that societies can reorganize. An example is the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. A hundred years ago macho Ernest Hemingway in his novels romanticized the running of the bulls in the streets in the mornings and then the killing of the bulls in the bullring in the afternoon. About 1.5 million tourists come to the “festival” each year to see the running of the bulls and the matadors killing the bulls. Hemingway, who later put the barrel of a shotgun to his head and ended it all, wrote about the “sport” in 1925: “It ain’t a moral spectacle and if a male looks at it for a moral standpoint there isn’t any excuses. But if a male takes it as it comes, Gawk - what a hell of a wonderful show.” Cruelty has been part of Spanish festivals since the Middle Ages, but slowly the people have recognized the brutality and the cruelty of many practices. Goats used to be thrown from tall towers in a number of cities. Bulls used to be killed in the streets of Castile by spear-throwing citizens.

The Spanish are beginning to close down bullrings. In just a decade bullfighting events have been decreased by 60%. Many of the Pamplona bull runners are men from the United States seeking the adrenaline rush of running with 1,000-lb bulls through the narrow streets. Very few locals run. Many runners are injured or killed each year. After the chaos of the run, the bulls are killed in the bullring. The town is also getting tired of trying to control the crowds and the two million pounds of trash left in the streets.

Each festival handles about 2,000 police complaints, mainly caused by toxic masculinity and sexual assaults. Each year the pressure from Spanish citizens to close the festival down is getting stronger. Perhaps it will close before Chomsky leaves us. Then the tours of places Hemingway never visited will also cease to make a buck for unscrupulous promoters. The city of Pamplona is considering eliminating the afternoon killing of the bulls. The proposal came from the Spanish young. The times they are a-changin’.  

Chomsky On The Trump Economy And Gun Culture  

According to Chomsky King Donald has led us to a small slowdown in growth.

There is growth but it is concentrated only in certain areas. This is because wealth has become highly concentrated in the hands of 0.1 percent which holds 20% of the nation’s wealth. The top one percent hold 40% and three U.S. billionaires have wealth equal to that possessed by the bottom half of the population. About half of the population has negative net worth; that is, family debts outweigh assets. We have had 30 years of stagnant and losing wages for the middle class.

This is Trump’s “fantastic best economy” he constantly lies about. Since 2000 there has been a steady decline of median family wealth. Chomsky disputes the Supreme Court decision that the Second Amendment ensures that individuals have the “sacred right” to have guns in their homes. The Heller decision in 2008 overturned at least two centuries of decision that guns should belong only to members of a state militia.

Chomsky claims that only militia members should have weapons because of two reasons:

(1) The British were coming to maintain control over us; consequently becoming our big enemy, and

(2) We had a slave society which forced us to have militias to control slaves and to recover those who escaped slavery. Slavery was growing massively after the revolution.

Remember George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were both very wealthy men because both owned over 100 slaves. Chomsky says if we follow the original intent of the Constitution only members of state National Guard units should have weapons. That opinion makes more sense than ever because we average a mass shooting every day (255 so far this year!).