The Dream Café

Steven Brust: “A masterful storyteller of contagious glee and self-deprecating badassery” —Skyler White

13 July 2020
by skzb
9 Comments

A Song Whose Time is Now

I open the door and wave to the man
Just getting out of his UPS van
A box in his hands and a mask on his face
He comes up the stairs and my steps I retrace

And it’s
Step two three, back two three
Maintain the spread
Don’t get too close or you might become dead
Friend, lover, and neighbor, each one exalts
The social distancing waltz

The grocery store is a dancehall now
Two carts’ distance is what they’ll allow
Mind your feet well, listen for the refrain
As you notch your way up to the checkout lane

And it’s…

It’s a part of me now, and all of my group:
An invisible twelve-foot diameter hoop
Perhaps you’d survive, but why take the chance
You can join complete strangers enjoying the dance

And it’s…

28 June 2020
by skzb
3 Comments

My Opponent’s Tweet

(Posting this here so I can find it again)

A time there was when life was good
I’d greet each day with verve
I’d meet each challenge to come my way
No less than I deserved
Though adversity might slow me down
I knew that soon or late
I would triumph over life’s cruelty
I thought it was my fate.
I feel naught but bitter mockery now
In the smiles of those I meet
The light has gone from out my eyes
Someone “liked” my opponent’s tweet.

I’d thought that I had crushed him sure
With logic none could refute
That all I would receive was praise:
“You’re so brilliant, sharp, astute.”
I welcomed his so vain discourse
(So cruel is irony)
For I felt my argument so strong
All would, perforce, agree
I knew that all who saw the thread
Would know that he’d been beat
Pride goeth sure before a fall
Someone “liked” my opponent’s tweet.

That a virtual heart could be so cruel
Surpasses comprehension
Yet the evidence lies before my eyes
Trapped within my mentions
Now I tread on life’s harsh road
Each day by weary day
With bleak horizon greeting me
The sky unbroke slate gray.
Where once the wind was at my back
I trudge through gale and sleet
All Mudville shines compared to me
Someone “liked” my opponent’s tweet.

8 June 2020
by skzb
67 Comments

A Brief Thought on Disbanding the Police

First of all, I’m not going to say much about the cry to “defund the police” because I’m not sure what it means. If by “defunding” they mean entirely removing its budget, that’s identical to disbanding; if not, it means they’re talking about what they did in LA, which is reduce it’s budget by a tiny fraction, probably causing them to drop their “community outreach” programs that never did anything anyway.

What struck me about the other demand, to disband the police, is its contradictory nature.

When it is put forward by capitalist politicians, it means, “We are going to totally remove the police department and replace it with one that is identical except for cosmetic changes and we hope this will make you people shut up and quit trying to actively change things.”

But when it is put forward by masses of outraged protesters, it has a revolutionary content.  They are not thinking cosmetic change, they are talking—no matter to what degree they consciously realize it—about striking at the violent coercion that permits the existence of class society, particularly capitalism.

The danger, then, is obvious: that the desires of millions of protesters will be harmlessly funneled into a dead end producing apathy and hopelessness.  But simultaneously, the opportunity for true revolutionary change—worldwide, as are the protests—has never been greater.

27 March 2020
by skzb
124 Comments

The Pandemic and Changes in Thinking

Covid-19 has thrown a stick of ideological dynamite into my social media feeds, and I’m still looking at all the debris and trying to make sense of it. Never before have I seen, from people who I’d previously thought of, even dismissed as, liberals, so much contempt, disdain, and outright hatred for capitalism itself. I’m seeing this from the most unexpected sources. To be sure, there are plenty of comments that are relatively tame—people pointing out the importance of grocery store workers, delivery drivers and others who actually do the work that keeps society functioning. But a surprising number have taken longer steps, questioning or even attacking capitalism itself—that is, a system in which profit for a few individuals is prioritized over human lives.

And yet, for many of these people, illusions remain in the Democratic Party. To them, the fault lies entirely with Republicans, as if things would be materially different with a Democratic administration. But their own expressed opinions contradict this.

Let me make it plain: To be an office holder, Democrat, Republican, or Independent, requires swearing an oath to “uphold and defend the Constitution,” which means an oath to defend private property in the means of production, which means defending the system that is now openly proclaiming private profit of more value than human life. It matters nothing if some particular politician says, “human life is more important than profit” if that politician then supports a system that places profit over human life; that merely means that particular politician is either foolish, or (more likely), duplicitous.

And so the difference between Republicans admitting profit matters more, and Democrats claiming human lives matter more while continuing to support a system that says the opposite is, in practice, no difference at all.

The antidote for capitalist barbarism is socialism, and the path to socialism does not go through a capitalist politician who claims to be “nicer.” If a person or political party supports private property in the means of production, that puts that person, whatever rhetoric accompanies this support, on the side of Wall Street, and against those who, as more and more people are observing, are actually necessary for society to function—that is, the overwhelming mass of humanity.

Agree, or disagree. What cannot be argued is that the pandemic is causing major shifts in the thinking of millions of people, and these shifts are not inclining them to support capitalism. However much one is inundated with propaganda insisting our only way to change things is through the ballot box, and the only choices there are D or R, and thus we must accept capitalism as permanent, the experience of millions upon millions is convincing them that such a “choice” is intolerable.

17 March 2020
by skzb
6 Comments

Lincoln and the Coronavirus — A Parable

One of my favorites of the stories Lincoln used to tell is the one about the farmer who had a magnificent old oak of which he was terribly proud. One day, while looking at it, he saw a squirrel appear to vanish into it.  He went out to take a look, and, thanks to the squirrel, discovered the whole tree was rotten, hollow, and needed to be cut down. He said, “Damn that squirrel anyway.”

Supporters of capitalism are saying, “Damn that coronavirus anyway.”