What started as an awareness raising and ethnographic styled walk through Sierra Leone, this site now details the encounters of a not so academic academic who spends more time occupying Wall Street and squats than a university...

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Profiting from Death

Ok, so this is a tough post to write and one that underplays the huge emotions that go with it.  But I am going to try to stick to the situation rather than the emotions as it goes without saying that this was a really tough day.  I was at a funeral today, one of the most important men in my life passed away.  It was really tough, and my heart bleeds so much for this man and his family.


That being said, I am going to try to write something about the day that really just doesn't seem right.  I just can't help but connect this day to the themes and issues that I am constantly seeing each day.  Even through the tears it is so hard not to see the exorbitant process and ritualism that has ultimately been fully commodified.  What does the funeral parlor cost?  And what about flying the remains to another location? $2000.  How do you even handle the body if not at a parlor?  What does the box of laminated wood cost people are buried in?  A $3000 minimum? And a burial plot?  To see my friend, who's father it was that passed, have to constantly be pulled aside to sign papers and deal with the business side of the day was really tough to watch.

What was once a ritual, to return our bodies to the earth, has become a capitalist spectacle.  Much like any other ritualistic occurrences: weddings, birthdays, holidays.  Anyway/thing that you can turn a profit out of.  Its amazing that similar rituals used to be more simply managed with just a wooden box, someone digging a plot, a memorial given wherever was appropriate for that person's beliefs, and all was good - a person was remembered and a dead body ended up in the ground to rest.  But not now in current day, thousands of dollars later and all of that stuff, and you've got a body buried in the ground to rest.

Take me out into the woods and and let me be.  Let the animals eat me, the worms have a little something extra that day to decompose.  Hell set me a fire to me out there if you're uncomfortable with it all.  Return me to nature with the least cost and for the least profit.  Minimize my end please...

Learning to Pay

So I'm spending a decent amount of time on kids issues these days obviously, and am struggling with the idea that people have to move because of school districts.  Why should people have to move to suburbia to get good schooling?  Or enter some lottery and hope to get in to local schools?  Or pay some exorbitant amount to go to private school from nursery school through high school? And by exorbitant I mean, 20, 30, even 45,000 dollars a year - for preschool!!

Our education system is failing our kids and in turn failing us. So many children don't have enough food, they don't have stable parenting, and then they get to a school where they don't have enough materials, are packed into classrooms, and now are forced into programs styled simply on reaching quantified outcomes that force an emphasis of accountability that has nothing to do with true education.  In stead it is a way for the state to feel like it can measure accountability for "failing schools" through nothing but numbers.

It is not about failing schools, but a failing system.  And we are of course right now moving away from funding public schools.  Moving towards charter schools, with another private option seemingly popping up everyday.

I don't purport to have the answer right here today, but I do know that if we started by funding our schools it would alleviate a lot!  One of my colleagues at Occupy has a son who's school after going from 22 to 30 kids per class last year (among other cuts) is going to see another classroom size change this year and will also lose their library.  Yes, teaching kids with no books...?!?  We have to find a way to provide attention to kids education, not penny pinching quantified accountability focused programs that take the emphasis off educating kids, and put it on bureaucratic accountability, money, and privatization.  Too many people get left behind; like an entire city of kids that either can't afford private school, or can't win the lotteries it takes to get into special schools.  But hey, with suburban flight all those big retail big box chains get more business, and housing starts can go up, and those poor kids - mostly minorities - that can't move out to find better schools, what do they "matter" anyway, right?  WRONG.  Fund education so these kids can go to good schools in their own communities, and then stay in these communities and help develop them in ways that don't require gentrification that then force them out into worse neighborhoods with worse schools when the rents go up.  And we wonder why we are becoming more economically segregated?  It's not be choice, its by systemic decree and economic necessity - which unfortunately usually falls (or is meant to fall) along racial lines.