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Ben Yoke: July 2014: Ghostly conversations near the Grove Park Inn
Wednesday, 02 July 2014 21:04

On capitalism, socialism and ... architecture


A Grove Park Inn employee, who I’ll call Jasper, claims to see ghosts, famous ones. 

He was making the rounds on the hotel’s outside terraces on Friday, June 13, 2014, the moon was almost full, the sky was clear and breezy, and it was at about 3:45 am., when he encountered an illustrious group of past, or rather passé, guests sitting round a table and watching the lights of the city below.

Jasper has reported hearing conversations of roughly this same eclectic group of spirits gathered several times before. He moved stealthily in closer and hid within earshot, concealed by a bush:

William Jennings Bryan was speaking, unusually loudly for a ghost. “I’m telling you people, this new TEA Party’s a confounded conundrum!”

“Oh, William,” Zelda Fitzgerald said, “Why so relentless with the politics? I’m curious to know, instead, what’s that hideous dark monolithic apparition out there, in the center of the city?”

“My dear, that’s what they call ‘The BB&T,’” Thomas Wolfe said.

“Why would the living make such a ghastly thing?”

Wolfe replied, frowning, “No one I know of can adequately explain its existence, but far be it from me to disparage my home town. They’re volatile when roused.” He looked warily at some other ghosts milling about near the table. 

Bryan said, “If you want to talk about trivialities, Mrs. Fitzgerald, I doubt they’re of interest to Mr. Rockefeller. Now what about my point sir, what do you make of this new TEA Party? They are common citizens, devout Christians, mostly, my people, and yet they advocate for policy which manifestly benefits only the fabulously rich.”

Rockefeller, ever the taciturn, seemed to hesitate, or so Zelda Fitzgerald must have thought.

She said, “Aesthetics are not a trivial matter Mr. Bryan, if you’d learned that perhaps you wouldn’t have been so bombastic in your time, been taken more seriously, and even became president. Anyway the resolution, if you all want to know, to the endless fighting people do over economic systems, lies in humans really understanding the significance and nature of creativity and synergy. But that would require too much non-linear thinking for most people, I suppose.”

It was young Alex Haley (apparently ghosts can choose their age in the afterlife) in a luminous sailor suite who spoke next, “William, the conservative appeal of this TEA Party is to an often subconscious white nativism and racial anxiety in this changing culture. The veneer of a conscious argument for a return to a mythic time of pure and successful laissez-faire capitalism doesn’t have to be rational, if it seems to sanctify conservative emotions. . .

They all turned now to Rockefeller, who has the peculiar distinction of being the richest man in the history of the world, yet he seemed so very old. He wore a fine but dusty funerary tuxedo and top hat, and his voice was high and wheedling, barely audible. He said, “Mrs. Fitzgerald, Mr. Wolfe, I take issue with your assessment of that structure. It holds up the sky and lends at least an aura of rigor to an otherwise frivolous looking little metropolis”

After a curious pause it was Wolfe who actually seemed to provide the answer for Rockefeller, though perhaps as the devil’s advocate. “Mr. Bryan and Mr. Haley, the old man must refer to the fact that a productive work ethos is not always flashy or beautiful, but it’s necessary as part of the economic picture, and I think the people of this time may no longer be so common. Perhaps they look at history and advocate for ideas, no longer for “class struggles,” silver thrown to the herd, such as you Bryon have catered too. They’ve seen the abject failure of Marxist ideas, the limits of this “New Deal” which you helped spawn, and they listen to these new proponents of capitalism like Hayak, Friedman, Rand, and President Reagan.  

“Rand and Reagan yes,” said Bryan, “and demagogues like this Limbaugh, but the effect of their policies has  . . .”

“Stop! Stop it!” said Zelda, “You men don’t ever listen to me! It’s always the same. I died, trapped in fire in an asylum on that hill over there, because F. Scott would never listen, had me locked up. Now, I know what I’m talking about!”

“Really, my dear,” said Bryan, “A ballet dancing flapper should know all about economics. Do tell us.” 

 “Well,” she said, ignoring his tone, “The natural law (essentially biological) reason a mixed economy is the necessary solution can be boiled down to just one sentence, which is: As a method of enhancing ‘productive work’ individual competitive creativity is intrinsically no better, or worse, than collective cooperative synergy. Don’t you see? Creativity must arise from individual brains, and to thrive relies on individual freedom, thus the roots of capitalist ideology. But synergy can only be productively facilitated when there’s a social contract agreement for equal rules, and to at least some extent equal benefits, for all; thus socialist ideology. Yet both creativity and synergy are valid methods of enhancing productive work!” 

The manly ghosts sat looking at her, startled by her clarity I suppose, when Jasper reports that a gust of early morning wind came up and blew them all away. . .

Ben Yoke, a philosopher and writer, lives with his wife and two sons in Weaverville.

The Daily Planet’s Opinion, July 2014
Wednesday, 02 July 2014 21:00
Let’s put the bite on taggers

But is Asheville’s graffiti crackdown tough enough?

Asheville City Council’s campaign to eradicate the city’s burgeoning downtown graffiti problem is a step in the right direction, but if the initial effort fails, then more stringent measures will need to be taken.

We support council’s crackdown that began July 1. It includes removing grafitti as soon as possible, instituting civil penalties for vandals, in addition to criminal ones, and asking the state General Assembly to toughen criminal graffiti laws, the last of which is making progress in the House.

In the past few years, incidents involving tagging buildings and almost anything else downtown with grafitti have visibly jumped. The situation has gotten so far out of control that visitors, residents and the business community are complaining about the city looking like a war zone.

While we respect Asheville’s flourishing artistic community and the desire of self-expression by individuals within the city, there are appropriate places for graffiti-driven self-expression.

The alternative locations allow for graffiti without damaging private or public property, which costs taxpayers and individual property-owners. In the latter case, the taggers are acting as vandals — not artists.

The city’s study of cases  of successfully dealing with grafitti problems elsewhere show that mandating fast action in grafitti removal and imposing tough penalties on taggers are helpful. We think the city is on the right track.


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