Saturday, December 27, 2008

2008.12.27 - Collapse of Capitalism? A Rumination

This essay arose at the prompt of someone asking, in an academic-based on-line discussion group:

"Collapse of Capitalism? Do you think it's possible? If so, what do you think will trigger it? And, what will replace it? Just curious - it's good to think outside of the square!" May 22 08 12:28 a.m. Golden Key Society.

When I decided to add my comment to the list of 20+ it was supposed to be short and quippy. But over the last few days it grew beyond anything even resembling a comment. I did put a truncated form of it in the Golden Key comment chain. Below is my complete response, which has elements that are outside the box of our popularly acceptable economic ideology.


Collapse of Capitalism? Curious question.

Some of the answers posted to date are also interesting, but for the most part they are little more than bobble headed quips supporting the currently accepted socio-economic ideology glossed in our media and business schools as 'capitalism'. For those who don't like the word 'ideology' you may perhaps substitute 'zeitgeist' or 'weltanschauung', but I've supplied a few definitions of 'ideology' at the end of this essay that confirm 'capitalism' as an ideology.

[In light of the comments to this question, another interesting question, one of self-discovery, is 'How do I know that I am not imprisoned by an ideology?' I propose an answer to that in an essay I wrote called 'Death by Freezing,' which is posted here in this blog.]

There is a need for definitions, as has been commented, because the capitalism being discussed here is a kind of 'secularized-protestant' version that has evolved from the industrial revolution and been modified by the selective mis-application of some of Adam Smith's and David Hume's economic theories and a completely circumscribed understanding of history. The evolution of Christ's Mass to today's xmas epitomizes that process. (And for anyone seriously interested in this issue I strongly suggest that Smith, Hume, JS Mill be actually read, instead of the 'MacDonaldized' versions that have been propagated throughout the departments of economics and journalism via the Chicago School of Economics and their derivatives. Those who take the plunge will be surprised what they say about money and labour, for example.)

Could capitalism, even by definition, collapse? First, what, exactly, is capitalism? Capitalism is …

… an economic system, dominant in the Western world since the breakup of feudalism, in which most of the means of production are privately owned and production is guided and income distributed largely through the operation of markets (Encyclopædia Britannica Online).

... a system in which the central institutions of society are in principle under autocratic control. Thus, a corporation or an industry is, if we were to think in political terms, fascist; that is, it has tight control at the top and strict obedience has to be established at every level — there's little bargaining, little give and take, but the line of authority is perfectly straight forward (Chomsky, Noam Chomsky: Language and Politics, p162).

… an economic system in which land, labor, capital and other resources, are owned, operated and traded by private individuals or corporations for the purpose of profit, and where investments, distribution, income, production, pricing and supply of goods, commodities and services are determined by private decision in a market economy rather than through government control or central economic planning by the state. A distinguishing feature of capitalism, in contrast to other market economies, is the prevalence of wage labor sold to corporations for the purpose of shareholder profits (Wikipedia).

… a system in which private capital or wealth is used in production or distribution of goods; the dominance of private owners of capital and of production for profit (Oxford Shorter, 1993).

… the organized pooling of capital by private citizens in order to create, through ventures of various sorts independent of the government, additional wealth (Guy A. Duperreault).

… an economic system in which the means of production and distribution are privately or corporately owned and development is proportionate to the accumulation and reinvestment of profits gained in a free market (

… an economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state (Apple Dictionary).

And so, by these definitions, capitalism could in theory collapse. But only by these definitions, because the pragmatics of human ingenuity and requirement will see to it that capitalistic enterprise is never squelched. Throughout history banks have come and gone, but the spirit of capitalism has never been extinguished. Capitalism existed in the USSR and Communist China, even if it wasn't official or legal. And the ingenuity of capitalism is demonstrated by the unstoppable development of underground capitalistic economies within prisoner populations, which was entertainingly described in the Japanese PoW setting of the novel King Rat by James Clavell.

And while this is a kind of answer to the question, I think that the nature of the query warrants a more extensive analysis. Here goes…

John Ralston Saul, in looking at the functioning of capitalism in recent history, wrote that "Capitalism was reasonably happy under Hitler, happy under Mussolini, very happy under Franco, and delirious under General Pinochet" (The Doubters Companion: A Dictionary of Aggressive Common Sense, p.56). He then adds that "What these experiences indicate is that democracy and capitalism are not natural friends. That doesn't mean that they have to be enemies. But if allowed free run of the social system, capitalism will attempt to corrupt and undermine democracy, which after all is not a natural sate. Democracy was a gradual and difficult creation against the stated desires of the natural sectors of power (authoritarian, military, class)" (p.57).

Is this not what has been happening to North American democracies, as the corporate 'free market' takes greater and greater control of the political systems? And has not that control been perfectly demonstrated in 2008 with the banker and auto maker bailouts?

And these bailouts allude to a common confusion in our age that 'economy' equals 'society.' This confusion has arisen, in large part, because of the media's propagation of that conflation and their adulation of greed as an economic benefactor of society. For example, when the media argues that this or that is good or bad for the economy it is commonly understood that that means good or bad for society. And while there is a connection between them, their being equal is false, and that falsity is easily proved. Man-made or natural disasters wreak havoc on societies, but always create massive bursts of economic activity. For example, the Exxon Valdez, Katrina, 9/11 and war. And, perversely, sickness is better than health for an economy because protracted illness, especially when it includes medical malpractice, generates more economic activity than does well being. Thus what is good for the economy does not unequivocally equal good for society. However, economic collapse has the power to collapse a society, and has done so throughout history. Which is why, in part, the financial bailouts. But societies can and do exist with very little of what we call an economy capitalistic or otherwise, such as (the now almost nonexistent) hunter-gatherer tribes and in the world's 'backwater' communities.

Much of today's discussion has been predicated on this moment in time as if all history but ours is irrelevant, and as if 'our' capitalism is an acme of not only economic, but of democratic, societal organization. And some have overweeningly cited wealth generated as a sign of capitalism unimpeachable 'goodness'. That's been said by every wealthy nation of itself, and that specious argument conveys poor understanding of just how wealthy and capitalistic were the Persians, Egyptians, Romans, Chinese, Indians, British, throughout history and despite the various forms of government extant within them. However, capitalism is not some blessed event into which we have been lucky enough to have been born. It is simply a method, albeit a very important one, of economic organization that has existed within various societies under various political systems in various forms to various extents since humanoids began exchanging goods and services.

There is, however, one distinctive difference between most past capitalistic experiments and ours, which is the absence of the slave labour that up until relatively recently was an important element of societal economies. And that is a challenging economic twist, because our slave-free 'democratic' version requires that there is extant a readily available pool of labour large enough to supply, and poor enough to need to supply, their labour to the capitalists at a price. Which is why our business news media obsessively express grave concern over workers being paid too much, when one would logically think that high wages would be a key component of a wealthy democratic society. Adam Smith and JS Mill both thought so too – see (Adam Smith's An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Bk. I, Ch. 8, “Of the Wages of Labour," and John Stuart Mill, Principles of Political Economy with some of their Applications to Social Philosophy, Bk. V, Ch. 10 par 32.) So it is odd that our creative capitalists have chosen to combat high wages without slave labour while keeping an adequate supply of needy workers in their media lauded Export Processing Zones. EPZs are designed specifically to circumvent any vestiges of social-democratic responsibility to their host nations and perhaps epitomize the form of capitalism extolled in this forum by minimizing or removing taxes, minimal labour hours and pay, worker health and safety, and pollution requirements.

Please read Aristotle's The Politics! In it Aristotle gives an excellent analyses of the various form political forms that societies can take. For example, he cites the 'proper' forms of government as being

(1) Royalty, or the rule of one.

(2) Aristocracy, the rule of a few.

(3) Polity, or the rule of the citizens at large.

He elaborates that these forms can be perverted [his word, not mine] in the following manner:

(1) tyranny

(2) oligarchy

(3) democracy,

... "for tyranny is a kind of monarchy which has in view the interest of the monarch only; oligarchy has in view the interest of the wealthy; democracy, of the needy: none of them the common good of all' (The Politics Vol. 1, book 3). By these definitions America's political right-left argument, currently masked as an economic one, is really an argument about extending their oligarchy or moving towards a democracy or polity.

Collapse of Capitalism? That is the wrong question, because capitalism will always exist in one form or another.

The more interesting question is whether or not these most recent social consequences of self-serving oligarchic practices will awaken a population from its unconscious complacency with greed as a social good.


Definitions of Ideology:

1: visionary theorizing

2 a: a systematic body of concepts especially about human life or culture b: a manner or the content of thinking characteristic of an individual, group, or culture c: the integrated assertions, theories and aims that constitute a sociopolitical program (Merriam-Webster Online).

A system of ideas or way of thinking pertaining to a class or to individual, esp. as a basis of some economic or political theory or system, regarded as justifying actions and esp. to be maintained irrespective of events (Oxford Shorter, 1993).

A system of ideas and ideals, esp. one that forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy (Apple Dictionary).

Tendentious arguments which advance a world view as absolute truth in order to win and hold political power. … Followers are caught up in the naïve obsession of these movements. This combination ensures failure and is prone to violence. That's why the decent intentions of the Communist Manifesto end up in gulags and murder. Or the market-place's promise of prosperity in the exploitation of cheap, often child, labour (John Ralston Saul, The Doubter's Companion: A Dictionary of Aggressive Common Sense, 169).

A set of beliefs, aims and ideas, especially in politics. An ideology can be thought of as a comprehensive vision, as a way of looking at things (compare Weltanschauung), as in common sense (see Ideology in everyday society) and several philosophical tendencies (see Political ideologies), or a set of ideas proposed by the dominant class of a society to all members of this society. The main purpose behind an ideology is to offer change in society through a normative thought process. Ideologies are systems of abstract thought (as opposed to mere ideation) applied to public matters and thus make this concept central to politics. Implicitly every political tendency entails an ideology whether or not it is propounded as an explicit system of thought (Wikipedia).

1) The body of ideas reflecting the social needs and aspirations of an individual, group, class, or culture.

2) A set of doctrines or beliefs that form the basis of a political, economic, or other system (

1. the body of doctrine, myth, belief, etc., that guides an individual, social movement, institution, class, or large group.

2. such a body of doctrine, myth, etc., with reference to some political and social plan, as that of fascism, along with the devices for putting it into operation (

Any wide-ranging system of beliefs, ways of thought, and categories that provide the foundation of programmes of political and social action: an ideology is a conceptual scheme with a practical application (philosophers dictionary).

2008.12.27 - Death by Freezing

I wrote 'Death by Freezing' in the mid 1990s. I was prompted to blog it now in part because of someone posing the question "Collapse of Capitalism?" in a on-line discussion group, for which I wrote an extensive response. Within it I refer to this article. Here is the link to my response to the query: Collapse of Capitalism?.

"Death by Freezing"
Question: When is an ideology worth dieing or killing for?
Answer: When it is invisible.

I thought that I had rejected ideologies which kill, but I was recently shocked and embarrassed to discover that I had unwittingly accepted one which does just that.

I became conscious of this thing alive in me (and Canada) when I examined my intense reaction to two books critiquing Canada's current economic policy and the media. Reading Linda McQuaig's Shooting the Hippo:  Death by Deficit and Other Canadian Myths and The Wealthy Banker's Wife:  The Assault on Equality in Canada was an emotional roller coaster!  I felt despair, anger, bitterness. I wanted to write letters everywhere — but did not. I wanted to hide my head under the covers and wait for a perfect Sunday morning — but re-read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy instead. I wanted truth and broad integrity from my politicians and news people — but got media endorsed political and economic double-speak.

The intensity of my reactions surprised me because I have for various reasons long since stopped trusting the integrity of most political and economic rhetoric, especially that disseminated by the corporate media. So, after I had cooled off a bit, I asked myself why I had taken McQuaig's rhetoric so much to heart. Why were her words not just empty rhetoric to me?

To begin with McQuaig's writing and subject appeal to me: I root for anyone who powerfully questions the integrity of the media's presentation of economic "truths." McQuaig does this exceptionally well. However, despair and anger are not the reactions I associate with a confluence of ideas! So what was going on?

The seed of my understanding begins with McQuaig's interview of a Swedish sociology professor about food banks. McQuaig wanted to know how Sweden handled them, but was surprised at how difficult it was to convey to the professor what food banks were, despite the professor's excellent command of English. When McQuaig eventually made herself understood, the source of the communication problem was determined: food banks do not exist in Sweden!

While the professor was surprised to learn of the existance of food banks in Canada, she was shocked to learn that Canada has "homeless people." The professor asked McQuaig where, in such a cold country, they slept. McQuaig described shelters, overpasses, steam vents, etc., and added that a few do not, in fact, survive, and that such a death "makes a small item in the press." In the process McQuaig experienced "anew the horror of what [she] was saying" (Wealthy 70-1).

I mulled over this exchange, unclear as to why it seemed central to my emotional upheaval. Eventually there bubbled from my unconscious the memory of another death, an infant's death, in Thailand.

I had read about it several years ago, in Don't Fall Off the Mountain by Shirley MacLaine. MacLaine was canoeing on a river near Bangkok. About 200 feet from her she saw an infant of about three months fall from its parents' canoe. She wrote: "I strained my eyes to find the child. Its parents heard the gurgle and turned around. Neither made a move to go after him. The child disappeared. With static expressions they watched their baby drown. I could see that their lack of reaction was genuine. I was stunned. I had learned that many Buddhists will not interfere with what they believe is preordained fate. But to witness such as thing was staggering. This death was the will of God.... To a Buddhist, death is only another form of life. Life and death are not viewed in terms of individual people — it covers a broader philosophical spectrum. Fate is their religion. The fate of the drowned child was not to be interfered with. It was accepted" (140-1:my emphasis).

MacLaine was shaken by the manner of that infant's death in a foreign country. Yet the reality for MacLaine and most other North Americans is that we witness and participate, dispassionately, in many scores or more such deaths every year. MacLaine ascribed to the Thai parents' behaviour religious belief. In North America such an act could lead to charges of manslaughter or criminal negligence, as it has with some Christian Scientists or careless parents. On the other hand, a homeless person's death by freezing, for example, is shrugged off and ascribed to Economic Fate and the personal failure of the individual. In this instance, like the Thai parents in Thailand, such a death brings with it little more than "static expressions." And because Economic Fate is our religion, there is not any retribution nor, sadly, even the notion of retribution — whimpy finger pointing and some "heartfelt" head shakes and muttered "isn't-that-a-shames" from the media not withstanding. (It is curious that recent laws make the owners/managers responsible for the environmental toxins they create, but not the employment toxins downsizing, for example, creates.)

The minimalist reaction by the public and the press to a death by freezing in Canada is no different than that of the Thai parents' reaction to their infant's death by drowning. However, whereas the Thai parents were living their Buddhist faith when they "accepted" their infant's fate, what faith are we Canadians living which accepts with an almost complete "lack of reaction" another Canadian's death by freezing? I suggest that it is an ideological faith in an "Economic Truth."

Read the Oxford definition of "ideology" (see below) and it is plain to see why I say that our faith in modern economic principles has become ideological. It is being huckstered from all media outlets as the saviour, as if it were some kind of god. The lives of people have become less important than acceptance of the Truth as dictated by this cruel god. It uses circular logic to rebuke all criticism which suggests that it is not working as well as advertised. (In a country as wealthy as Canada, the tolerance of homelessness, let alone its justification by people driving BMW's, is a madness little different than that of the French aristocracy before they lost their heads.)

At the time I was reading McQuaig, I was "presented" with an opportunity to put money in the can of a beggar who had hanging from her neck a terse sign describing her troubles and need for money. (She looked like someone recently "let" into the community from some kind of care home in the name of integration.) By my action I revealed my unconscious adherence to the ideology of Economics: with a static expression I did not part with "my" wealth. I "let" her face the consequence of her economic fate and personal choices alone, and thus mirrored exactly the Thai Buddhist parents inaction: if she was to drown then, like the infant in a Bangkok river, that would be her fate — her Economic Fate.

The Swedish professor's reaction mirrored MacLaine's in that what in Sweden is unthinkable has become in Canada (and North America) an acceptable "truth."  The professor saw a Canadian's death by freezing as the consequence of a chosen course of (in)action in the same way that MacLaine saw the Thai infant's death as the result of a chosen course of (in)action. (There is bizarre irony in the comparison between Buddhist faith and Economic faith: monastic Thai Buddhists beg as their sole means of support.)

And so I came to understand my reaction to McQuaig's books:  my rage and despair at the media and the body politic was my way of avoiding personal responsibility for holding, unconsciously, an economic ideology which promotes an emotionally cold and isolating society. My anger at politicians and the media for manipulating me with misleading reports on the importance on the deficit, or downplaying the significance of record banking profits, for example, while extolling upon us the virtue of hearts hardened to the cries of fellow citizens, was at least equally anger at how my unconscious beliefs contribute to both that hardened heart and suffering. I was angry because I had unconsciously bought into an ideology which kills.

To whom am I responsible? To my self, to my family/community, to my country? I think the answer is to all of them, since I am a significant part of them all. However, today's "pundits" of economic "sense" and "truth", i.e., the wealthy bankers, corporate agents and their government and news media mouthpieces, are verbally pummelling me in ways which seem designed to displace all complex feelings and thoughts of responsibility for community and country with a simplistic and cold notion of personal economic responsibility to be selfish.

To the extent that the corporate world and its chosen ideals of free markets and globalized corporate capitalism come to be held as truths by me, is the extent to which my community and my emotional connection and empathy for all members of my community can be sacrificed and displaced by the mandated "truth" that corporate and personal greed is good for the economy. Notice that this widely accepted phrase does not read "... good for people"! For example, the "pundits" say that the wealthy who bought up and built over the lands of the metro-Vancouver were good for the economy — and they probably were, but just about every "working" person I know is poorer for it as Vancouver housing prices now take huge percentages of disposable income. Government debt continues to increase at about the same rate, it seems, as the banks' record setting profits — profits which are at the expense of disposable income as consumed by service charges and bank's interest rate spreads.

It seems to me that once I have accepted greed economics as an idealistic conviction it becomes a religion which gives me the "moral" and emotional sanction to garner to myself as much of the wealth of Canada I can, even at the expense of my community and country. From there it is a microscopic step to ignore or fail to see the poor, the homeless, the sick and the dying behind my back door, let alone those in the next neighbourhood: I can, like the Thai adults, with "religious certainty" sit impassively and watch members of my family drown. And it is an even easier step to come to believe that corporations do not have a long term economic responsibility to their community. Religious belief in Economic Fate has become our indulgence and excuse. But perhaps worst/best of all it blinds us to the "reality" that most North Americans are increasingly impoverished while the few are becoming increasingly wealthy.

What truly terrifies me, and angers me, is that this makes me in kind, if not in scope, no different than those in Germany who distanced themselves from the Jews as they were marched from their homes to meet their fate.

I have not come to terms, yet, with this discovery in my self and my community. It brings a strongly felt ambivalence and raises in me many questions as I re-examine some of the "truths" I once accepted with little question or thought. At what point does "personal responsibility", which has many obvious benefits and strengths for the individual and community, become a poisoned ideal which impedes the ability to see that the community is dying because of the lack of communal effort and sense of Communal Responsibility? How can I be charitable without that charity destroying both me and the other by becoming institutionalized? Is the size of organized charity a compensation for the lack of economic largesse? Who benefits most when a strong sense of community is sacrificed for an ideal of personal greed? Why is it that huge corporate profits do not have a corresponding reduction in unemployment levels and poverty? Why does the business community descry government presence, then criticize it for its inability to create jobs or educate us "correctly"? Is it not truly the business community's responsibility to its "grass roots" community to create jobs and educate its workforce, rather than the governments? Why does the media criticize government programmes when they are abused by unethical and destructive business practices, such as the high tech industry grants of a few years ago, but do not equally criticize the business community for unscrupulously ripping off the public in the first place? Why are not excessive multi-national corporate profits criticized for being a tax on the community, given that such corporations are loyal to the community of share holders and not the community at large? Are not monstrous "Iococan" wages for a few in fact a tax on the many?

Question: Why do we accept with relative equanimity a death by freezing but feel outrage when a child dies as the result of religious belief or government "error?"
Answer: we are ideological.

Once, when I was younger than I am now, this scared me. But I fear it no longer, for it is what it is. Now it saddens me, ideology's seeming irrepressible power to dull intelligence, foster ignorance and blinker perception.

[1996, slightly revised here Dec 2008 egajd.]


MacLaine, Shirley. Don't Fall of the Mountain. Toronto: Bantam Books, 1988.

McQuaig, Linda. Shooting the Hippo: Death by Deficit and Other Canadian Myths. Toronto: Viking/Penguin Books Canada Ltd., 1995.

McQuaig, Linda. The Wealthy Banker's Wife:  The Assault on Equality in Canada. Toronto: Penguin Books Canada Ltd., 1993.

Definitions from The New Oxford Shorter Dictionary. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993:
(3)  Belief in or sensing of some superhuman controlling power or powers, entitled to obedience, reverence, and worship, or in a system defining a code of living, esp. as a means to achieve spiritual or material improvement;  acceptance of such a belief (esp. as represented by an organized Church) as a standard of spiritual and practical life, the expression of this in worship, etc. [My emphasis.]

(3)  A system of ideas or way of thinking pertaining to a class or individual, esp. as a basis of some economic or political theory or system regarded as justifying actions and esp. to be maintained irrespective of events.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

2008.12.23 - Some Poetry

It began by accident.
I was invited to join an academic on-line poetry group. The language of the invite was clean and simple. There is history of doggerel buried in my closet, and the invite piqued a little my creative curiosity.
I accepted the invitation. And more, because for no logically explicable reason I made an aggressive suggestion to the group that the members submit Janus headed poems, poems that look at the past and future, given the time of year.
And here I would like to publicly thank Kimberly 'Kim' Keith for her enthusiastic acceptance of that suggestion, and for her beautifully crafted and thoughtful poem that truly fired up my rusty poetry synapses and sluggish neuro-networks. And they were sluggish and rusty, but I pushed ahead, surprised at both the stretch it was and where the poem took me — it refused to go where I thought it ought.

In an odd synchronicity-petite, while Googling something, I came across a delightful little blog called JUST POETRY:words of a feather flock together. I was delighted with the quality of this blogger's writing, which despite the Blog's title, does include some prose that is also excellent! And with that I here thank Ashley for putting herself out there, and for further inspiring me to take the poetry plunge.
I wrote two poems, over the last several days.  Here they are:

Ianus Solstice Poem

Our breath crackles to ice in the blue cold clear cold spit freezing cold day.
The dust dry snow squeaks under our thickly booted feet – no snowballs today.
Against my want I have been maternally dragged from Christmas games and toys,
To be Christmasy neighbourly.  
            And we actually were, I think.  Maybe.
I think we were, 
At least we were with one or two neighbours, the neighbourly ones.
And the walk in the cold blue cold clear blue air puffed my breath around my face
And iced it to it and to the ugly scarf
And had

Wild blueberry pie baking wafts through the house.
Wild, wow wonderful Blueberry Pie baking dances up the nose into forever memory!
And I don't think once, I know not why not, 
Not once of long familial dog day summer hours
Picking tiny tiny blue bent-back-blue tiny gems from arduous shrubs
Not four inches above the quiet forest floor – so quiet! – into a bottomless 
       empty bottomless 
                    plink plink gallon plastic bottomless blue bucket plop plink plink.
"Remember to pick clean!" rings through the underbrush.
And never – 
         that night meticulous picking out tiny sticks and leafy and green minutia –
                           clean enough.
The smell untasted, haloes a promised aura of things yet to taste,
And tomorrow kin tongues wag food
         and politics
                 and booze
                         and gifts un-rapt
                                 and Christmases past

Now the ghost of Christmas past fills bespectacled eyes as 
I move through the kitchen, creating with hands from book the
             smells of shortbread – with a hint of lemon zest,
                 almond cherry Christmas cake
                                butter tarts – world's best!
                                                   cranberry sauce, thick homemade
                                                                  with orange
No blueberry pie.  Odd.
But free range turkey and bacon,
Homemade stuffing.
The winter's solstice embraces the sun and the days of remembrance are longer.
But is this the sum of all, that I am this clutch, gaggle, fraggle of food reveries?!
When'd that happen?  I don't wonder how.  Odd.
When did that happen, or maybe I simply missed my cauliflower calling me purée,
And I am adrift in my inertia
          a prisoner of inertia
                   comfortable in my inertia
                                   blithely blissfully unaware that my flailing is at heart inert
As days fumble rock-a-by inanity towards retirement and mortgage freedom and …
I am spinning out of control a web to keep me kept in words
         of rationale
              and logic
                      and frabjous mock turtle soup of the soul.
Oh joy.  I couldn't even manage to not use 'frabjous'?!
Even my words are prisoners of endless inertia. 
Joy to the word? Just pass me the gravy,
The grave rich gravy, dark and deep,
For I have place settings to prep,
And tables to set before I eat
And meals to eat before I sleep.

And now for the second one, which I wrote to thank Ashley.  But, in keeping with the conceit of her blog, I chose to respond with a poem.  Here's that one:

just poetry is

a word or two to speak the universe
in order to keep alive the heart of Life being
trampled by revered flat faced leaders' hacks
plotting words like cudgels beating them into significance 
because they think
they really think,
that these words mean something important
are important because they make the earth groan. 

just poetry is
solstice night snow flakes
hip-hopping across the window
wrapping a pale rough peace within callouse handed hugs.

just poetry is
a hard way to express thanks in an age
that tosses thanks
like artificial franks on electric rollers
at a beefcake football game with piss water beer and long line-ups.

just poetry is
stepping out without a safety harness
into the world