America, We Have Eaten Dolphin Flesh

America, We Have Eaten Dolphin Flesh September 3, 2014

Life’s  a little too complicated at the moment to write a new long blog, but I’ll post things I hadn;t gotten around to.

Friday morning I had a long conversation with a pleasant young woman named Gerry, a customer service representative for Comcast. I did not make her day worse. I told her I was pretty good at customer service myself and therefore appreciated it when I got some. For example, when I did such work for AT&T, sometimes a guy would call in mad enough to spit nails, but by the end of the call, after I had exerted what authority I had and had bent all the rules that were bendable, he would be saying, “God bless you!” I felt that was doing the job right. I also learned I’d rather go without than ever do business with AT&T again.

I was calling to object to several of Comcast’s billing practices. By a series of calls, we have managed to have a third of our humungous bill rolled back. Gerry could not bend any more rules, suggested I write to corporate HQ, and assured me that all the communications companies bill the same way. That fact is the real issue. For the Gods’ sake, I’m a college professor, without the title. It has taken me months to realize how much I was being overcharged and cheated (in part because I was not paying attention). Considering the bell curve on IQ, I am statistically certain there are millions of people who cannot, are inherently unable to, figure out that they are being cheated, let alone by how much. This clearly a matter for the FCC to deal with, if it will. I do plan to file a complaint.

Beyond that, I can surmise that all too many corporations in America treat their customers thusly. I sincerely believe that the survival of the human species depends on the fact that most human beings do help one another. As I’ve written before, I also believe our human duty is to help those who cannot help themselves—NOT to exploit them. I explained to Gerry that our conversation was helping me understand Kant’s concept that a genuinely ethical decision is based on duty, not on a desire to help. I certainly would have preferred to spend that time writing. I will share this insight with my current Ethics class.

Considering our current political situation, in which corporations operate unethically with impunity, our Senate resembles the Roman Senate, its namesake, in being a rich man’s club, and government of the people is neither by nor for the people, I remembered Robinson Jeffer’s excellent poem Shine, Perishing Republic, from about 80 years ago. I also thought of one of mine from 1968, about the Vietnam war. Just substitute Iraq or Afghanistan. The only improvement is that our army is all volunteer, not conscripts.

 

The Reverend Edward Clark Mourns His Son

 

Pliny knew dolphins can smell a drowning man

And know if he has ever eaten dolphin flesh.

If he has not, they carry him to land,

But if he has, they let him drown.

 

A little over a month ago, I and my wife, my daughter and her son,

And my son’s girl of a few short days had watched his plane

Push its nose into the sky and dip away into the west,

Becoming a grey speck against the pale and evening sky.

Probably he had one wish filled, to never see an “enemy.”

Now my son was coming home, had arrived, was home

In an oblong, grey, plywood box with two bronze handles

On each side, stenciled with his name and number,

With HEAD on one end and FLAG INSIDE.

 

Even a harpy has a woman’s face, a woman’s breasts.

She will kill any man she finds in the desert,

But if she later sees in water she has a human face,

She will shed her wings and mourn for him, until she dies.

 

Now only some broken sod, a few wilted flowers, mark

Where he, who once struggled with himself to become

A unique and human being, lies distorted, never to sing

And sigh again, but only to wait out the slow hours

Of eternity, where the hatreds of men cannot enter.

 

So John Paul Jones stands still on the bridge

Of the sunken Constitution, while his uncle Davy

Whispers to him, “Johnny, ye brout it on yrsel’,”

And Hart Crane sings him a single note forever,

Sailing toward a watery paradise.

 

Who killed my son? The Viet Cong, North Vietnamese?

No, not they alone. The grenade was only the final detail.

Before it came greed and pride, so easily called patriotism.

Generals only feel important during war, when promotions come quickly.

Businessmen happily burn children alive and sell the fat for soap.

Politicians tell us, “The self-righteous shall inherit the earth, and vote for me.”

Yes, pride and greed killed him, and indifference.

Our ancestors fled here from conscription, but now it is accepted.

 

Oh, Sam Adams, has it been so long

Since you cried in my alley against the tax on me?

 

Now Congress says we will take nineteen-year-olds first,

Because they easily believe what the Army wants,

Will go simply because they are told to go.

Who will recount soldiers and women and children already dead?

How can we measure the blood already on our hands?

Every day brings more oblong grey boxes to our doorsteps.

Who then killed my son? We all killed him. I killed him.

I killed him. Oh, Isaac, why was no ram sent for you?

 

America, we have eaten dolphin flesh.

Now what hand will bear us up when we,

Forgetting we ever set sail for Jerusalem,

Plunge after our human reflection in the sea?

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  • KateGladstone

    Re: “Kant’s concept that a genuinely ethical decision is based on duty, not on a desire to help.”
    A good man _does_ desire to help — so, I take it, Kant is saying that a good man can’t be “genuinely ethical.” Therefore, I disagree. If I’m wrong, please demonstrate that.