Communications breakdown

You know how great it feels to hit a homerun? I don’t because in a real game I’ve never hit one. I was always a Pete Rose sort of guy; grounders that I hoped went through someone’s legs. No, that’s not true either; I really was more of a pop-up guy watching that ball soar toward the blinding sun. It felt really good; homerun good, until the ball plunged into the second baseman’s glove.

I have hit some homeruns in my life. They’re now 27, 28 and 30. My homeruns have always been salt of the earth ball over the wall runs. I’ve been lucky; they now hit homeruns for me. Swing batter, crack of the lumber, and it’s gone. Living vicariously through one’s children is something we all do, at least I do.

Nature allows us earthy success. Not just in the dusty-orange clay of the infield or the smell of freshly cut fescue beyond the baseline. There is a nature communication between us, but sometimes it comes naturally and other times it becomes forced. Shyness, incompatibility, lack of similar interests or somehow fear (of what you don’t know) get in the way of becoming acquainted with someone who could be your friend forever.

It starts with that whole eye contact thing. It should be natural to allow someone in. Allow someone to at least scratch the surface of who you are. And like ants and the large mat of vegetation that covers much of the earth’s land surface, there is a connection. A real connection that is innate, unavoidable; the communication is beyond reproach; it just is, just as the association of most families – a few close friends, parents, siblings and grandchildren.

Another metaphor for the connection between man and the earth is the work of Michael Pollan and his relationship with the work of Sir Albert Howard, who is responsible for the organic movement. Organic food, whether on the supermarket shelf, at a farmer’s market or at a Whole Foods Market, has become quite prevalent and profitable.

Howard put it this way: “Artificial manures (synthetic fertilizers) lead inevitably to artificial nutrition, artificial food, and artificial animals and finally lead to artificial men and women.” Those artificial folks that smell fresh-cut grass, watch those afternoon thundershowers that sway the trees and plow their gardens feeling the earth as they plant their tomato plants, have a special relationship with their tomato plants but not their neighbors. There is a symbiotic relationship we have with nature but why not our neighbors or that guy in the store-checkout line.    

Howard continued, “Mother Nature never attempts to farm without livestock; she always raises mixed crops; great pains are taken to preserve the soil and prevent erosion; the mixed vegetable and animal waste are converted into humus; there is no waste; the processes of growth and the processes of decay balance one another; the greatest care is taken to store the rainfall; both plants and animals are left to protect themselves against disease.”

Most of us are not farmers but Howard certainly makes us think about how nature can take care of itself without our intrusion; without our interference; without making the mistake of adding to an artificial world.

Communication, an interesting concept: Maybe we don’t communicate enough, but maybe we don’t receive the right kind of communication from our local government. I sat on my screened porch on Friday seething about the arrival and approval of vehicle lenders. The predatory lenders, who are permitted by the state to charge 220 percent on your loan, will have arrived on some streets soon after you read this.

The amendment to a county ordinance was constructed in collaboration between planning staff and the predatory lenders themselves. Only at the last minute was the Virginia Poverty Law Center allowed to weigh in. Were common citizens invited to the party? No.

And once the amendment was crafted and put into county law business such at Title Max were lined up to take all the advantage of those who could not afford it.

According to an NBC report, “In Virginia alone, four car title lenders contributed more than $280,000 to legislators in 2007. One company, Anderson Financial Services, which does business as LoanMax and several other lenders, contributed more than $185,000, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, an independent, nonprofit tracker of money in state politics.”

At Virginia’s maximum allowable interest rate on predatory lenders, the interest rate is 220 percent; a $950 loan would cost the borrower $2,003 with a payment of $223 per month.

The issue here is communication. First, these lenders would be surrounded by businesses, so residents were not contacted per county policy. Also, communication about the businesses themselves was slim to none. Thirdly, the county did not conduct a community meeting allowing the public to weigh in. And number four, as Virginia was passing its law concerning predatory lending, the lenders lobbied the legislature to the tune of more than $236,000.

Chesterfield has got to communicate with its residents, not just select residents or big businesses. We have to be involved in the dialogue. I have been at too many meetings at which the staffer that should be running the projector is the cheerleader for the case at hand.

Communications and living what’s right is as important as the food we eat. But on the opposite side of the county communications arguement; you have to participate if you want to take charge of your own life, “But first, you’ve gotta get mad!... You’ve got to say, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!’” - Howard Beale, fictional character in the movie “Network.” 


The Wonders of Modern Technology

Let's hope the brick-and-mortar facilities of the so-called Alternative Financial Services [an ill-disguised euphemism for predatory lenders] fail miserably. People determined to get ripped off can now do so on line by visiting internet web sites like touted by Montel Williams. That way, folks can get ripped off in the privacy of their own homes without the embarrassment of appearing in public at any of the four Title Max or Fast Auto Loans offices proposed for Chesterfield County. Isn't technology wonderful?

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