“In watermelon sugar the deeds were done and done again
as my life is done in watermelon sugar.”
On 16 September 1984, after a life filled with abuse and mental instability and alcoholism, Richard Brautigan, one of the finest poets and storytellers of the twentieth century, shot himself in a cabin in Bolinas, California. He was so isolated that his body wasn’t found for a month.
There were entire decades during which I read and re-read the complete Brautigan canon every single year. After Dylan Thomas, Richard Brautigan was my most important influence. He was especially valuable to me in giving inspiration and value to my flash fictions and poems. Lawrence Ferlinghetti said of him, “As an editor I was always waiting for Richard to grow up as a writer. It seems to me he was essentially a naïf, and I don’t think he cultivated that childishness, I think it came naturally.” And there is a deep profundity in that naivete.
I read and re-read the koans that are the stories in “Trout Fishing In America“, the utter tripiness of “In Watermelon Sugar,” the essential genre pastiches such as “The Hawkline Monster,” “Sombrero Fallout,” and “Dreaming of Babylon“, the straightforward vulnerability of “The Abortion.” And the poetry. Every year I read them, for decades.
I just finished “Trout Fishing” and “In Watermelon Sugar” for the first time in a long time, and I may go back to reading Brautigan every year again. He still speaks to me and deserves to be remembered.
He had long ago accepted the loss as permanent,
but that acceptation was merely a gloss, as yet skin deep,
not yet having bled into the very marrow of his being,
nor led him to that place of serenity.
His bitterness lay as deep as the roots of cedar in shale,
following tracks as distant and serpentine as the staged attacks
of true hackers working their miraculous juju through the internet
ether, and forever ending in a sad soiled grace.
And, though he could choose to confuse his loneliness with tragedy –
as if he were the sainted prophet of his own persecuted
exarchate in exile — it was but loneliness nonetheless,
and it hurt as bad as the arrows of martyrdom.
On Saturday 28th September, come explore our wonderful neighbourhood and its history with the help of the Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s Grandview Heritage Tour.
“Following on the success of the 2018 West End Heritage Tour, this tour will be offered in a similar format with the chance to explore a variety of heritage places including private homes, community buildings and long-established businesses …
The tour is self-guided and will offer opportunity to get inside both private and community spaces, ticket holders can choose which ones to visit and in which order. Volunteers and your guide map will offer historical information about each site as well as additional neighbourhood insight.”
During the tour, I will be joining colleagues at a Grandview Heritage Group display table at St. Francis Church. Buy your tickets at VHF and stop by for a chat!
This is the third in a series of discussions about changes that need to be made to modern capitalism to protect the mass of humanity in advance of a full and revolutionary change to mutual aid and co-operativism. In the first, I proposed new taxation rules for corporations and in the second, I suggested changes in structure for banks; here I discuss corporate governance in more general terms. I note once again that these are just notes, eager for debate and adjustment.
The key to the improvements required for corporate governance is a constitutional amendment (or similar, depending on each national situation) stating specifically that corporations do not have the same rights as human beings; they have only the specific and particular rights granted to them by legislative or executive action.
More specific changes would include a ban on quarterly reporting and forecasting; possibly the half-yearly reports, too. This will enable a new cadre of senior executives to concentrate on managing their companies for the long-term rather than for short-term stock market speculation. The CEO of the world’s largest investment management firm, Larry Fink of BlackRock agrees that CEOs should “focus on creating long-term value instead of emphasizing quarterly targets.” This is such a fundamental and important priority that I would impose severe penalties (including mandatory jail time) on CEOs for any breach.
Loans from the taxpayer would be permissible (see the recent Bombardier requests) but indulgence of this kind in state socialism would trigger a specific set of rules of governance. Until the loan has been completely repaid:
- no dividends or similar may be paid to shareholders;
- no share buy-backs or similar schemes are permitted;
- no increase in executive emoluments (of any and all kinds);
- no executive bonuses of any form.
Lay-offs totalling 5% or more of company personnel in any two-year period trigger the same rules as loans for a period of two years; this sanction shall not be concurrent with the loans’ rules. The two-year sanction for any breach of maximum lay-offs will be imposed at the end of any loan repayment.
Corporations may pay unlimited salaries and bonuses to executives, subject to sanctions not being in place. However, the portion of any emolument exceeding thirty (30) times the average non-executive wage or salary shall not be a deductible expense for purposes of determining the corporation’s taxes (in a corporation income tax situation), or shall be added to aggregate revenues (in the license scheme proposed earlier). This will assist the system to return to the Eisenhower days (for example) when profits from increased productivity were shared more equitably among all workers. Currently, CEO pay and benefits are on average more than 300+ times that of the average employee.
Bankruptcy rules for corporations must be changed to ensure that non-executive wages, salaries, and pensions are first in line for payment. Labour should not be a risk proposition. If you work, you must be paid. I believe trade suppliers should be paid next. Banks, other lenders, and investors have to bear the risks that their rewards and “free enterprise” suggests.
Finally, no corporation should be allowed to make political donations (in cash, in kind, through third-parties, etc. without limitation) without the express consent in advance of sixty percent (60%) of all shareholders both as to amount to be contributed, and to whom donated. This rule will stay in place until we rid ourselves of political donations altogether.
If we put these rules in place, then we will mitigate some of the worst excesses of modern capitalism. If they stay in place long enough, these changes will tend to lean us in the direction of mutual aid and co-operativism, which should be the ultimate aim.