Democracy Is Rare to Non-Existent


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I live in Thailand, a country whose last government was abruptly dissolved by a military coup. The current prime minister is the general who led the coup. When he learned that tourists would find their travel insurance voided by staying in a country under military rule, he had the parliament filled with yes-men and members of the military, who quickly elected him prime minister. He promised elections would come as soon as possible, but that was four and a half years ago.

Is the United States a democracy? Hard to tell. How about Egypt, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Venezuela, Brazil. Guess it depends on whom you talk to. I would be more comfortable describing northern European countries as democracies than most African, Asian or Latin American countries. Money talks everywhere, but in some places it fairly screams.

The idea behind Democracy was a noble one. One person, one vote. Anybody could rise the top and be elected to high office. In the United States, it costs approximately twenty-five million dollars to secure a seat in the Senate. Senators earn $175,000 a year. Makes you wonder who they’re working for.

Maybe we should stop pretending and get real. We like to use the word terrorist to describe groups of people who don’t have well-equipped standing armies. We give Israel three and a half billion dollars a year in military aid. The Palestinians throw rocks. Guess whom we call terrorists?

 

 

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Facebook Exile


Time Out for Naughty Posts

 

 

I tried to post two vintage 1920’s pictures of naked women on Facebook and was blocked from using that service for three days for violating their “Community Agreements.” A computer ratted me out, recognizing nipples. In my three day fast, I’ve been prohibited from sharing likes, posting new items, or sharing the posts of others. I feel like a citizens band radio addict who’s had his microphone impounded.

I wish I could say my time-out has fostered a mini-renaissance in writing and reading, but it hasn’t. I guess this proves that what’s left of my attention span is permanently fractured, reduced to fragile shards that cannot be swept up and reassembled. There’s nobody home anymore.

My menagerie of funny photos cries out from my desktop folder, demanding to be shared with the hypothetical thousands of “friends” I have. Since I post too much every day, no one has noticed my absence. This is what it will be like when I finally die. My Facebook feed won’t feel any different to most users, my blog subscribers will simply no longer receive emails about new posts, and it may take several years until anyone notices that I’m no longer at the helm. Pictures I’ve unearthed of silent era starlets and corny 1950’s ads will be discovered long after my ashes have been absorbed by the nearest palm tree here in sunny Thailand.

 

 

Boring Blogs


 

 

 

I just discovered an old American who also lives in Thailand who writes a blog. So do I. He’s an even better writer than me, his output is voluminous, and he illustrates it with many good photographs, just as I do. He’s nine years older than I am and has had a varied and interesting life, just like me. I tried to read his blog and became overwhelmed by the sheer mass of it. His entries are thousands of words long. He’s been writing this blog for twelve years! It’s as thick and dense as War and Peace!

No, even I who have so much in common with my blogster elder brother couldn’t scratch the surface of his retirement output. I’m afraid I too have become a tiresome old fart. I’m the garrulous grandpa you meet at a family barbecue or social event and eventually make an excuse to distance yourself from because he won’t stop talking.

Most blogs I try to read are written by young people, twenty and thirtysomethings who are usually drifting around the planet on their parents’ dime, writing about their travels. I can’t read their blogs, either. The points they make are obvious and sophomoric.

Young people also write a lot of “lifestyle” blogs where they opine about the rules of success or building good “relationships.” When I read that last word, I know it’s time to move on.

When I hear the word “relationship” I brace myself for “couples counseling,” and “intimacy.”

What have we become? Tiresome boors who can’t even enjoy the leisure and privilege we grew into, surrounded by billions of people who have to defecate outside and carry water and firewood back to their hovel.

We peck away at our laptops with great purpose and then divert ourselves by watching Netflix.

No Regrets


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What do I really enjoy doing? Writing and Acting. Why don’t I do more of it? Because it’s hard and nobody’s paying me to do it.

How much time do I have left in this lifetime? Dunno, maybe fifteen or twenty years. Why don’t I spend that time writing and acting? Because it’s hard and nobody’s paying me to do it.

How absurd. People who work in hospice say that just before death, almost everyone tells whoever is within earshot (and it may just be a whisper) that they wish they had done what they really wanted to do with their life rather than what other people expected them to do. It’s a continual lament by concert pianists who ended up working in offices, oil painters who worked in department stores, poets who taught school.

I guess if ever there was a time to do the things I really want to do, it’s today.

“Waking up to who you are involves letting go of who you imagine yourself to be.” – Alan Watts

Gone and Completely Forgotten


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I will not be remembered long after I die, for my Facebook posts will cease, and that is the way most of the world knows me. Where I am, what I’m doing (or not) and most importantly, what my political views are. I’ve never had many strong views about politics, other than a lingering bad taste in my mouth caused by Nixon and a general distrust of those who profit from war, a category that seems to include almost everyone except me. Facebook, on the other hand, seems to thrive on political opinions.

But as to the real me, the whole me, the me that doesn’t translate into social media posts, I don’t expect my legacy will linger long. If somebody doesn’t tell Facebook or Google that I’ve passed, I suppose my blogs will linger for a few years while my Facebook pages continue to accrue likes, until someone realizes there’s no money to be made off me any longer. No, I will never pay to boost this post. Stop asking.

Then, when my pages are hacked and over run by those who copy identities in order to sell copies of Ray Ban and Oakley sunglasses online, a bot somewhere will close my accounts. No servers will store my data for free. My entire electronic library of silly stories and goofy pictures will vanish in a wisp of electrons.

Ex Libris Dan Coffey. My profile picture will go dark. My electronic wallpaper will curl.

GETTING ORGANIZED


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I’m trying to disentangle myself from all my confused, shortsighted, and unprofitable affairs before I leave this world. I don’t want to leave a mess behind for someone else to clean up.

Not that I’m in ill-health. To the best of my knowledge, I’m in the best physical condition I’ve been in years. Like all of us, I’m not getting any younger, and sixty-eight is a perfectly reasonable age at which to simply drop dead.

When my mother died, she left behind no mess at all. Everything was neatly handled and packaged. My father dropped dead while walking the dog. He had just turned sixty-four. Fortunately for his chemistry students at the community college, he had just finished grading their final exams and entered their final grades in his grade book.

I’m more at peace now than I’ve been in a very long time. I have fewer things to be anxious about. I’m not necessarily happier than I’ve ever been, but I am less worried than at any time I can recall, and that seems odd because I’m also closer to death than I’ve ever been.

Aren’t you supposed to fear death?

I don’t.

I’m more curious than apprehensive. Dying is sort of like traveling to a foreign country that nobody knows anything about. Will it be fun? Will the inhabitants be nice to me? Whatever it’s going to be like, my advance opinions about it don’t matter in the least regarding the outcome. It is what it is. And it isn’t what it isn’t. Will I meet Grandma and my long-deceased pet kitten in the Great Beyond? Dunno. Either way, it won’t be a tragedy if my expectations are dashed. On the other hand, it may be better than I’ve ever let myself imagine.

Facebook Time-Out Jail


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Facebook has informed me that I can’t post for the next 24 hours because there has been unusual activity on my account. All of a sudden I’m invisible. The main way I’ve been communicating with the outside world has been removed.

If I’m not the guy who posts funny pictures on Facebook, who am I? I can’t promote my blogs, because unless I link to them on Facebook, nobody knows they exist.

I was once put in quarantine for posting a picture of a woman’s breasts. It was a woman of old Siam, back before World War II when the Japanese took over and the lackey collaborator in charge of the country decided that from now on Thai women had to cover their breasts in public. A great loss for the nation. A boon for bra manufacturers.

I hope they get to the bottom of this soon. Probably some Pakistani guy sitting in a cave stealing passwords and identities.