Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Winds of Change

We are waiting out a minor blow anchored on the west side of Great Harbor Cay. As I type, the cold front is just overhead, big fat drops of rain are bouncing off the deck, and the wind is moaning through the rigging with gusts estimated in the 25 to 30 knot range. Since the bulk of Great Harbor Cay lies between us and the wind, it is a pretty stable ride. It is what we expected, though this whole weather set-up is a little odd. This cold front is the leading edge of a high pressure area passing to the north, so all of the associated winds have been from the north and east.

This would be an ugly place to be if the incoming weather was the more common, cold front related to a low pressure area moving in from the west. If that were the case, one would expect significant west winds and the chance of even higher gusts in possible thunderstorms and down bursts. If there was any real possibility of sustained west winds over the next few days Kintala would be sitting at a dock at Great Harbor Marina, in spite of the $2 / foot / night fee.

Instead, we are tucked up close to a windward shore so it should be comfortable enough. The Mantus anchor is sunk deep into the bottom, only its hoop showing, with 80+ feet of chain laid down. (I love being in clear water. There is a certain amount of comfort to be found when one can look at the anchor and see how well it is set.)

There are at least eight other boats anchored around us. The assumption is that they have made the same assumptions about the weather that we have. It is always reassuring when a bunch of boats anchor up around you when weather is inbound. It isn't a matter of having any control over what the weather is doing, only an indication that one has chosen wisely in response to the motions of sky and ocean.

That is close to the bottom line of what it means to be a cruiser. The only thing we really control is how we respond to completely indifferent winds and seas. There is no malevolence involved. There is no benevolence involved. This bit of ocean and island were here millions of years before the first human sailboat dropped a hook nearby to hide from an east wind. They will likely be around millions of years after the constituent molecules of the last human sailboat (or the last human for that matter) have dissolved back into the water, air, and earth.

After this weather passes, Kintala will be headed west once again, sailing into the waters of the US within just a couple of weeks. By that time I suspect I will have started checking the news again, at least once in a while. I don't expect there to be anything new since the last time I looked. Word of anything major, say the current POTUS acting like a rational, adult human being, would have certainly trickled down to us somehow.

The feeling among all of the people we have chatted with in the Islands, and most of the cruisers we have run across (including one from the great dysfunctional state of Texas) is that the current administration is a kind of monstrous anomaly. “How could this have happened?” being a common refrain. It is not a view I happen to share.

The current administration may be a particularly crass and clownish expression of American politics, but it is still consistent with much of American mythology and ideology. Both political parties see consumerism as a valid economic policy. Both see crony capitalism, deeply influenced by corruption and influence peddling, as a perfectly acceptable means of managing a nation. The Republican partly and the controlling wing of the Democratic party both act as if running a nation as a business is the only proper approach to government.

With that idea, our government works based on the view that most Americans (and virtually every other human being on the planet) are nothing more than a resource to be ruthlessly exploited for the benefit of the few. Benefits like healthcare, education, clean water, and retirement income, are exclusively for those who rule, rewards for clutching the levers of corporate or political power. The current administration is particularly adept at highlighting this belief, making even the deranged kings and sociopathic potentates of by-gone ages look like humble and caring public servants.
The crony capitalism of America doesn't work anymore. Corruption is rapidly undermining any legitimacy government claims for itself. Even “normal” capitalism doesn't work when most of a nation's labor is automated. Put millions of truck drivers out of a job, have the vast majority of their wages concentrated in the hands of the individual who invented the auto-truck, and repeat for clerks, accountants, doctors, factory workers, technical advisers...incomes once distributed over millions upon millions of households now concentrated in the hands of a few. Capitalism is being twisted into outright oppression before our very eyes, and many of us are victims. But such a corrupted capitalism serves the purposes of an insular and fossilized government/corporate elite quite well. They could choose a different path, but it would mean surrendering power and treasure. Neither of which they will be inclined to do, at least, not of their own volition.

War does not work as war once did. Nearly every war since WWII has been an open-ended conflict, resolving nothing, settling nothing, defeating no one, just sort of petering out leaving open wounds that soon fester into some new war. Yet war is now American government's single most defining characteristic. In America, spending on human issues is curtailed in order to fund the war machine. Threatening war is the only diplomatic policy, engaging in war the last throw of the dice to keep a faltering economic system barely functioning.

In spite of decades of continuous failures both parties continue to subscribe to the politics of capitalism, imperialism, authoritarianism, and militarism. Everyone in government insists that what is good for them is good for the rest of the world, that what is good for (some) Americans is good for all of humanity.

Those illusions, those policies, are at the root of American's fading from the leading edge of history, its loss of place in the family of nations. But anyone who dares suggest such a thing, particularly on a national stage, is instantly and relentlessly attacked by the most efficient and effective propaganda machine the world has ever seen. Anyone who refuses to toe the line of “American Exceptionalism” finds it nearly impossible to get elected to the office of Dog Catcher of Podunksville, Boondocks; let alone any national office. There are a very, very few exceptions. Party wonks and corporate media ensure that they are feeble voices echoing in mostly empty rooms.

Only a radical change of world view, a near complete rejection of the politics that have ruled America for the past half century or more, will mark any chance of the US once again being on the leading edge of progress toward a future that holds some promise. An American government that sees itself as one part of a complex web of human interaction, that values wisdom and understanding, and knows that compromise and capitulation are not the same thing, could help fulfill such promise. It would also be the only approach that would help the nation safely navigate the changes of a radically evolving, global human society. For, whatever is around the corner, none of the economic, political, or militaristic forms of the past will suffice.

That radical evolution, much like the movement of the sky and the sea, is beyond the influence of any single nation, and certainly any individual. In a way it, also, is neither malevolent nor benevolent. It is simply the way things are unfolding in this tiny corner of the universe, like a incoming cold front or a building high pressure area. Navigating safely through takes accepting that such an evolution is inevitable, and making wise choices in response. This is not to say that governments, including that of the US at the moment, can't be malevolent. Only that the overall evolution of human kind is ongoing with no particular guidance other than what we provide for ourselves.

Completely fading from the picture, as a nation, is also an option - just like any individual sailor could chose to anchor on the other side of the cay, close to a lee shore, and risk loosing everything should the anchor slip in the dark hours of the night. The earth, like the rest of the cosmos, is utterly indifferent to the existence of the entire human family, let alone any single group living inside a set of contrived and temporary boarders, walls notwithstanding. Should we make the unfortunate choices that land us on the rocks, the rest of the cosmos will not even shrug.

Clearly American government isn't up to the challenge of making wise choices at the moment. Maybe it never will be again. Maybe, after years of self-indulgent hubris, arrogance, and self-imposed ignorance, America's political machine is too badly broken to be repaired. That is also just a part of the unfolding world that is beyond the influence of any individual. Something each of us needs to take into account as we make our own, personal, choices.

 The cut into the Great Harbour Cay Marina

 Very cool retro loaner bikes from the marina

Love this Tings Necessary sign

 The calm before the storm

 The Beach Club restaurant on one of the prettiest beaches in GHC

 The view from the Beach Club Restaurant table

The channel into GHC Marina is in the background

 Top of the cliff at the caves

Not a very good picture, but this is the first hamburger bean I've ever found after looking for 4 years


pfrymier1 said...

Great pictures! Love that clear blue water.

Jim Wing. said...

Well written, Tim - not just because your thinking here is so similar to mine!