I've been meditating on some recent reading, here. Bear with me.
After the Wall fell, two factors became shockingly clear. Firstly that the GDR's loudly trumpeted industries were almost entirely uncompetitive, both in the enlarged domestic and the wider international market. Secondly, that those skills, manpower and productive capital resources lost to the West in the post-war period were not coming back - or at least not in the quantities that would have made possible a genuine revival of the region's fortunes to pre-GDR levels.*
I've been thinking a lot about the haves and the have-nots over the last month or so. I guess one could argue that it's been on my mind in one way or another since 8-29...and even before that...
A while back, I was in my grandparents' synagogue for the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, where I was witness to a comparison of the Unetaneh Tokef prayer with the events of 9-11 that made my blood boil. To the words "who will live and who will die; who will die at his predestined time and who before his time; who by water and who by fire", the rabbi added some to the effect of "who shall be on the 90th floor and live, and who shall be on the 92nd floor and perish." I wanted to run up to the bimah, the pulpit, and wring the man's neck right then and there. I vowed never to go back to my grandparents' synagogue as long as that man was still their rabbi (he only lasted another year or two as their rabbi, anyhow, but I still haven't returned there for services). What made me so angry? This crushing idea that we are fated to live and die in a way that we have no control over whatsoever. An idea that was of little comfort to at least one family in my grandparents' shul who had lost one of their own in the collapse of the Twin Towers. There is more than enough humbling of ourselves before God at the time of the Jewish New Year. This simply added injurious insult to metaphorical prayer.
The true 'punishment ' of the East - and the most insidious, lasting crime of its Communist masters - was this theft of hope.*
Injurious insult has been added in slow, torturous increments to the folks who are suffering in great numbers in these parts. This, the third year post-8-29 (check Maitri's for exactly what day it is - heh) is turning out to be a major test of our capacity to hope, and in keeping that hope alive, our capacity to work our butts off for change. It ain't easy by any stretch of the imagination. With city government and city services behaving badly, folks fighting for money to rebuild, the feds getting their war on in other countries and leaving our own country in the dust, and other assorted bits of rising crime rates, crumbling national infrastructure, and instances of downright selfish behavior on the rise...well...it's just a tad too easy to abandon ourselves to fate and let it all pass us by or carry us off.
All of us are feeling this strain in one way or another.
In my recent reading, though, I took some comfort in the fact that a wall that was built to keep people in East Germany for hundreds of years lasted only a little over a generation. Paradoxically, the Berlin Wall came down because the GDR wanted to keep its people from leaving in droves, which they were starting to do through the loophole of traveling to other then-Soviet bloc countries with more porous borders. Where there is a will, there is a way. Where hope is stolen, there is a means of stealing it back. Because, in the process of taking it back, we are taking back our own lives in the bargain.
Here's to another year among the NOLA blogpocheh, a bunch of yahoos who haven't gotten the message that "hope" is supposed to be a four-letter-word in the dirty sense. Though I will be bringing in the new year up north, I'll be back for more in 2008. Be well.
*from Frederick Taylor's The Berlin Wall: A World Divided, 1961-1989
And, for those of you who instantly said Aw Hell Naw on seeing some more quotes from yet another book I've read - tough toenails. I read a lot. Get used to it. And just to torture you some more, here's another bunch of quotes from the past year. Read 'em and weep - with laughter.