Formula for a city's growth
"We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light."
And there you have it in a nutshell. Truth is the beacon that shines forth from good men and women. And the truth is that there is much work that needs to be done in this city. Not superficial clean-up and pretty-up but dig down deep and stare the demons in the face work. I listened to the Common Wealth Club on 90.3 PBS radio this week and here are some of the things I learned. That in order to grow and attract corporate business you must offer three things --
1. An excellent school system
2. Safe streets -- city wide
3. Excellent and available mass transit and train and plane facilities.
Sorry guys, a party and play downtown does not enter into this. CEOs will go to New York to see shows of first-class caliber. A movie theater like the Spectrum in Albany might help but our cinema rarely shows foreign or indie films. When I was growing up the Scotia Cinema was such a house and the lines snaked up the block. I saw my first Ingmar Bergman film there, along with "Two Women," a million Marcello Mastrianni movies, Jacques Tati films and on and on and on.
"The Seventh Seal"is still the most amazing film I've ever seen. We sat in the dark, ate popcorn and read the subtitles. We fancied ourselves as avant-guarde intellectuals. And I have little or no taste for the super popular genres of the films being shown downtown now. Although I do admittedly have a taste for Bow Ties' popcorn. It is of supreme interest to me that in their new berth in Saratoga they will be concentrating on the art film (or so they say). What happened? Do they look on us as the boobs and nit-wits of the area?
Now as regards No. 1 of our list. A fine school system speaks for itself. And that goes hand in hand with a safe school system. Not buldings in constant lock-down or lock-out. The women on the Common Wealth Club were speaking about L.A. and the effort now to consolidate schools and how well it was working. She did say however that the mayor was easier to work with than the governor.
We are surrounded by excellent school systems, some of whom have far less money per student than we have. No more excuses. Some of the best school systems in our nation exist in poverty stricken ghettos. Remember when busing was part of our nation's directive? So the segregation of poor and disadvantaged children would stop. Whatever happened to that? I'll bet the Niskayuna schools would struggle to count 100 children of color in their whole district.
John Cage, a major composer of the 20th century, left this list for all teachers and students. You will see by his choice of issues that creativity played a major role in his feelings about education. We don't have that here anymore, it's all bout test scores -- and that's not education. The United States is no longer in the top ten in the world for education. How did that happen? I think the advent of universal testing destroyed our education and the love of knowledge just for the intellectual life.
And the absolute fun and expansion learning provided is gone. We talk about literacy till it rolls over and groans, but how many people read anymore? I mean READS, at least 8-10 books a year. Real books, not romance fiction or books that are excrutiatingly badly written? It's simple if the parents don't read -- the kids won't either.
Here follows the list of Mr. Cage
1. Find a place you trust and then try trusting it for a while.
2. Students, pull everything out of your teacher. Pull everything out of your fellow students.
3. Teachers pull everything out of your students.
4. Consider everything and experiment.
5. Be self- disciplined. This means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be disciplined is to follow in a better way.
6. Follow the leader -- nothing is a mistake. There is no win and no fail. Only make.
(Note J. Cage uses the word 'make' to denote creating something.)
7. The only rule is work. If you work it will lead you to something. It is the people who do all the work all the time who eventually catch on to things. You can fool the fans
but not the players.
8. Do not try to create and analyze at the same time, They are different processes.
9. Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself, it is lighter than you think.
10. We are breaking all the rules, even our own rules and how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for the X qualities.
John Cage was an experimental composer and performer. He worked in the Andy Warhol era and partnered with choreographer Merce Cunnigham frequently. They helped each other to have prominent places on the world stage. He died at the end and/or the beginning of the 20th/21st century. He revolutionized contemporary serious music.
As I digressed I would like to lead you back to the 3-part list about successful cities -- let's continue with Number 2 a safe city. Simply put we are not a safe city. We have high crime -- serious crime, that is, high gun use; children as young as 10 carry guns looped through the belts of their jeans, high drug use, high rates of prostitution, and astoundingly high rates of teen pregnancy and AIDS/HIV infections. Not to mention homelessness, which keeps growing daily.
Back a few years ago I was involved with a group to eradicate homelessness in 5 years or less. And of course the 5 years have long since passed, and homelessness is a blight on this city. And the cost for this stellar failure was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Oh well, did I mention we have one of the highest tax rates in the nation, and safety is still running away with our reputation.
Recently we made national headlines because of the death of a grandchild presumptively at the hands of his grandmother. The BBC has just finished a lengthy study and the U.S. came out on top of the western nation with the highest rate of child abuse. These are deaths of children 15 and under, and there are more deaths of children at the hands of murderers than deaths of soldiers in the Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan wars.
Think on that as I give you another horrifying thing to fry your brain. Facebook has a post of a father holding a young boy over his knee and spanking the child as he howls. The caption reads, "If we had more of this we have less of that." And this picture shows three young men wearing do-rags, low slang jeans and dangling some sort of smoking stuff out of the corner of their mouths.
As of yesterday there were 60,000 likes. Can you imagine? I hear it all the time, if you don't beat your child he will turn out bad. "Parents fault." Of course it doesn't matter if you feed and clothe your children. Spend time talking to your child or helping them with their homework. Good parents beat their kids, bad parents don't. End of story.
Thirdly -- good transportation, taking you where? No place, unless you count the trains and buses to Manhattan, Philly and Boston. We do not have access to transportation which is usable to get to work, go shopping or to the movies. We all know that.
Just a little aside here, Rudnicks is closing after 75 years, for those of you with good memories, you can chew on this. Schenectady had a gang called the Cleanaz, the meanest, most violent gang to hit this town. Did you know they were some of Rudnicks' best customers? All the camoflage they wore as their gang colors they bought at Rudnicks. Now they both have faded away. One plus and one minus.
At my last board meeting one of my board members said, "Oh Judy, she's so negative, she always sees the bad in everything."
I do not think this is completely accurate; I do not see the glass as half full or half empty. I just see the glass with liquid in it. And the levels change from day to day, sometimes rising and sometimes falling. That is the dynamic of my life. And it's called, truth, transparency, honesty, reality. And isn't that the way it is supposed to be?
I made a note to myself earlier this week to talk about the joy of having love from a child. You're missing out people. How many of you have a flock of children racing to you singing, "Judy's here -- Judy's here!" Do you know a 12-year-old boy who will come up to you in the car and say, "How can I help you today?" or "When can we visit your house" or "Can I ride with you when you pick up kids?" or "Can I help you down the stairs?" or squealing, "Judy, Pudy," while she grabs you around the waist and hangs on?
They fight to be the first in the car, last to be driven home and especially who is going to ride "shot gun." They make me a plate for dinner, and admonish me when I don't eat. Sometimes they just stand there and say, "I love you." Is any one of you more blessed than I; they even laugh and sing when they take out the garbage. Get with it folks you are missing out. Definitely letting the river of joy pass you by.
"The Buddhist does not make it the purpose of his life to rise from the dead, gain the immortality of a mythical being known as self, to lay up treasure for the future, to expect some reward in Heaven....he endeavors to actualize the glory of God in the world while he is alive -- the glory which he had before the world was -- and which is -- made manifest only by following the way of God, by practicing in thought as well as in person the doctrine of non-ego, the precept of lovingkindess."
-- Suen Shaku