The Revolving Door

The revolving door was invented in Berlin in 1881 for protection against cold, snow, dust, and noise. More than two centuries later, it also serves as a personnel recirculation system among business and politics and war.

The Parachute

The parachute was invented in twelfth-century China. Early versions consisted of a cloth cone stretched over a wood frame, though with time the material used became more refined. In the late 1700s, pleated silk was the chosen fabric. But it was the twentieth century that saw the introduction of the most extravagant material: the golden parachute. It was engineered to protect corporate executives from the perils of a fall from grace and employment.

The Elevator

They say that the first elevator was a chair attached to pulleys invented centuries ago by the hugely fat Henry VIII of England to avoid the stairs of the palace.

A more modern form of elevator was used by Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi to achieve absolute power in Italy. In 1984, Bettino Craxi, Socialist prime minister, signed an executive order officially blessing Berlusconi’s monopoly over private television.

In the world championship of impunity, Berlusconi weathered an infinity of trials without a single day of detention. He converted his vices into virtues to be admired and his rackets into feats worthy of applause.

The Scapegoat

Certain ancient religious traditions held that a male goat bore the sins of all people, and so they punished the animal by driving it out into the desert. This invention served to deflect responsibility for our own misconduct and sins. Certain peoples, like the Jews and gypsies, have been serving as scapegoats for a long, long time.

In mid-2008, the Italian news weekly Panorama, owned by Berlusconi, came out with an issue with this title on its cover: Born to Steal. It was referring to gypsies, and the magazine cited polls showing that the public agreed with this assertion of genetic criminality.

The Traffic Light

The first traffic light has been in operation since the end of 1868, standing in front of the British parliament.

In our time, other, far more powerful stoplights govern the world’s traffic.

In almost all countries of the North, the red light halts the circulation of many dangerous herbicides, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers.

Yet in almost all of the countries of the South, the green light is on for these same agrotoxins, poisonous to humans but sold by the North.

Who runs the traffic lights?

Who governs the governments?

This is an excerpt from Eduardo Galeano's column in the November issue of The Progressive magazine. To read the column in its entirety, simply subscribe to The Progressive for $14.97--which is 75% off!

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The new head of the Environmental Protection has a history of suing the agency for trying to do its job.

The reach of this story extends from the lowliest working stiff to the highest court in the land.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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