Fire trucks in New York.

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Image by Anthony Delanoix | Unsplash.com

The fire trucks go a lot slower in New York than they do in Adelaide.

For someone used to seeing fire trucks moving along city streets at speed, watching them thread their way through traffic on Eighth Avenue, with sirens wailing and horns blaring, is disconcerting – and hard on the ears. Maybe things burn a lot slower here than they do in Australia. Who knows?

But, it’s not just the fire trucks. The ambulances have a hard time getting through as well.

It’s not that the drivers here ignore emergency vehicles. New Yorkers are justifiably proud of their first responders, but drivers often have nowhere to go to get out of their way. New York’s grid of streets might make it easy for finding your way around, but it’s also packed with traffic lights to regulate the flow of traffic on the East – West streets that cross the busy avenues, and they seem to be very close together.

Eighth Avenue is one of the streets that carries traffic uptown. Interestingly, it has a lane that allows bike riders to slip past all that traffic which blocks in the emergency vehicles. Sometimes I see a fire department support vehicle or a NYPD squad car shoot up the bike lane, and I wonder if there is a lesson there for the City Council – like having a dedicated lane for emergency vehicles on Eighth Avenue.


IMG_0156Peter Mulraney is a creative writer from Australia. He is the author of the Inspector West crime series, the Living Alone series of self-help books for men, Sharing the Journey: Reflections of a Reluctant Mystic and The New Girlfriend. He has also published colouring books and journals under the Sharing the Journey banner.

Meaningful work and wage justice

Most of us spend a lot of time working. Some of us are lucky enough to spend that time doing things we love.

A lot of us are looking for meaning through our work or are on a quest for meaningful work.

Is this quest a dream? Perhaps.

One of our common reasons for working is to earn the money to pay the bills that come with modern living. That leads us into thinking that we’re working just for the money.

On one level, that gives our work a meaning – survival. But when we work for survival we’re open to exploitation. We don’t stand up for our rights in the face of wage injustice because we need the money; we can’t afford to lose our jobs. We let employers earning hundreds or thousands of dollars an hour from our labour pay us less than ten dollars an hour. I don’t think survival makes the cut for creating meaningful work.

I suspect we need to see what we are doing as being of service to feel that we are doing meaningful work. We need to believe that we are making a contribution to the community in which we live. When we can see our work that way, then any task can become meaningful work.

Finding meaning in our work may help us get through the day, but it does not guarantee wage justice.

I’m in New York, where I’ve been listening to the commentary on the presidential primaries. The pundits are starting to understand that Donald Trump is tapping into the anger and fears of the American working class – the very people experiencing wage injustice in the wealthiest nation on earth.

New York Skyline courtesy of Death to Stock
New York Skyline courtesy of Death to Stock

Should be an interesting few months leading up to November.


IMG_0156Peter Mulraney is a creative writer from Australia. He is the author of the Inspector West crime series, the Living Alone series of self-help books for men, and Sharing the Journey: Reflections of a Reluctant Mystic. He has also published colouring books and journals under the Sharing the Journey banner.

A short history of walls

Walls are not new to Americans. There used to be one on Wall Street.

opejnart.org

Some Ancient History

The Chinese built a wall. We know it as the Great Wall of China. They’ve had their wall for more than a thousand years. It didn’t keep out the Manchurians – they came in through a gate, and it didn’t keep out the Europeans – they came by boat. It’s probably been more successful as a tourist attraction than as a defensive barrier. In fact, they’re restoring parts of it so that we can marvel at the engineering feat that created it.

The Romans had some walls at the edges of their empire. Most of us have heard of Hadrian’s Wall, but they built another in Tunisia, with the primary purpose of maintaining pax romana so they could concentrate on taxing the prosperity of the locals. Neither wall saved the empire.

Some Modern History

The French had a wall. They built it after World War 1 and called it the Maginot Line. The Germans flew over it in World War 2.

The Soviets had a wall. We called it the Iron Curtain. This one was a bit different. It wasn’t designed to keep people out but rather to keep people in. It came down in 1989. They pulled it down themselves.

Today

The Israelis have a wall. You only have to watch the TV news to know how effectively that structure is maintaining peace and security. The Europeans can’t afford one but that hasn’t stopped some of their member states from putting up fences.

The Chinese are building an unsinkable aircraft carrier in the South China Sea, which is probably more at risk from climate change than the US Navy. It will be a lot less mobile than the US Seventh Fleet, and probably a lot less expensive to operate, but at least we’ll all know where it is.

People are cheering because Trump wants to build a wall between the USA and Mexico to keep the Mexicans in Mexico. He’s not satisfied with the existing fence. Maybe it’s got too many gaps because Congress decided not to continue funding the expansion of the so called high tech virtual fence in Arizona.

An interesting message from the Marines

The other night I was at the movies in New York. Before the movie started they showed a short film produced by the US Marine Corps, reminding us that all walls can be breached. You can watch it on You Tube.

Why do people think a wall is a good idea?

The answer is simple. If you build a wall you can point to it and say that you’re doing something about the problem.

Trouble is, building a wall will never solve the problem because migration is not the problem. Poverty and crime are the problem.

What needs to be addressed is the movement of narcotics across the border in one direction and of guns and money in the other. That will take a President and a Congress with the political courage to address the demand side of the drug problem in the US. (When did Nixon start the war on drugs?)

Helping the Mexicans to improve their quality of life at home will probably do more to stem the flow of people than building another wall.


IMG_0156Peter Mulraney is a creative writer from Australia. He is the author of the Inspector West crime series, the Living Alone series of self-help books for men, and Sharing the Journey: Reflections of a Reluctant Mystic. He has also published colouring books and journals under the Sharing the Journey banner.

 

Confirmation

An anti-Islamic, political party was launched in a secret location in Australia last night.

I heard one of their spokesmen being interviewed on Radio National this morning.

His answers to the questions posed by the journalist, while highly entertaining, simply confirmed the suspicions I expressed in my previous post: IQ.

BTW: The secret location was not prompted by fears of being attacked by Islamic terrorists but rather fears of being laughed out of town by the wider Australian community.

For your information

In Australia this week we changed the leader of our government.

  • No shots were fired.
  • No money changed hands.
  • There was no fighting in the streets.
  • There were no barrel bombs dropped from helicopters.
  • There were no police in riot gear firing tear gas canisters or rubber bullets.

It was just another peaceful day in paradise.

The circus has begun.

It’s hard to believe, given the media coverage, that the US presidential election is still more than a year away.

For us non-Americans watching on from afar, the lead up campaigns to select the Republican and Democratic contenders for the top job are a great source of both amusement and concern.

Amusement – because it’s a challenge to take some of the hopefuls and their arguments seriously.

Concern – because, although we have no say, we all get to live with the consequences.

It might appear to be a circus to us, but going by the amount of money spent on the campaigns, it’s a serious activity for some in the USA.

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One is left wondering whether there would be a different set of candidates if campaigns were publicly funded – with every candidate getting the same amount of campaign funds.

Thanks for dropping by, Peter.

Common sense

One of the books I’m reading at the moment is Waking Up by Sam Harris.

In a section, where he discusses our evolving understanding of the physical world from a scientific perspective, Harris writes this sentence:

“In fact, our common sense seems to be stuck somewhere in the sixteenth century.”

An interesting observation.

We live in a world, according to the scientists, where everything is composed of vibrating packets of energy.

No doubt you heard about atoms and other subatomic particles during a science class at school, even if you didn’t have any idea what the teacher was going on about. They have different names these days – who can keep up?

Do you remember all the excitement surrounding the confirmation of the Higgs boson or God particle in 2012?

Perhaps not. If you need a refresher Wikipedia has got all the details or ask Google.

4 rocks in a pile

It appears science has a story of the physical world that is far removed from our everyday understanding. As far as we are concerned, rocks are made of solid stuff. You can sit on them. You can cut them into pieces. You can build things with them that last for thousands of years.

At our level of perception, there is nothing vibrating about a rock or the screen that you’re reading this on. Scientists can tell us that they’re both mostly empty space but common sense tells you they’re solid. You only have to touch it to see that common sense is correct.

Another aspect of common sense lagging behind our scientific understanding of the universe is the way we talk about the movement of the sun. Galileo Galilei got himself into a spat with the Church, in the early part of the seventeenth century, for pointing out that the earth revolves around the sun and not the sun around the earth.

Even though we have sent men to the moon and spacecraft into deep space based on Galileo’s version of the story, common sense – based on our pre-Galilean picture of the solar system – still tells us that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.

You can watch it move across the sky during the course of the day, any day of the week. And, isn’t daily experience where common sense comes from?

I suspect this is the point Harris is making.

What do you think ?

Thanks for dropping by, Peter.