History repeats Itself--sort of like reincarnate. The old man remembers-- having lived through several cycles.
In conversations with his great granddaughter on her twelfth birthday, he realized he was and still is part of the shell game. He sill gets suckered by the smarter, faster and more-up-to-date. By the plutocrats of course.
It went like this.
Lakota: "Gee Gee Pa, what do you remember when you were twelve?"
Gee Gee Pa: "Oh honey, times were tough. It was depression time. Hobos came to our door asking for food and water. Sometimes they couldn't walk too good"
Lakota: "You mean walk too well?"
Gee Gee Pa: "Yeah, I guess."
Gee Gee Pa: "Well we lived in the country, and they had to walk everywhere they went, looking for jobs."
Lakota: "You mean they didn't have jobs?"
Gee Gee Pa: "That's what I mean. I remember one old skinny guy putting used coffee grounds in a rusty tin can and boiling in water from his canteen over a greasewood fire."
Lakota: "What's a canteen?"
Gee Gee Pa: "They are containers for water that you can carry."
Lakota: "Did the coffee taste good?"
Gee Gee Pa: "I don't know, but they drank it right out of the can."
Lakota: "Where did they sleep?"
Gee Gee Pa: "Right by the fire."
Lakota: "You mean on the ground?"
Gee Gee Pa: "Right there on the ground."
Lakota: "Oh. I thought there were snakes where you grew up?"
Gee Gee Pa: "There were."
Lakota: "Oh, how awful?"
Gee Gee Pa: "For those days it was common. People out of work didn't always have a place to sleep. Sometimes the heels of their shoes were all wore out. I used to wonder how they stayed alive."
Lakota: "Worn out? What about the soles?"
Gee Gee Pa: "Yeah. Those, too. The times were tough, very tough."
Lakota: "Did people starve?"
Gee Gee Pa: "Yes but not very often in the United States; I never heard about anyone dying."
Lakota: "Why was that?"
Gee Gee Pa: "Well we and other advanced countries had soup kitchens that charities organized. And flop houses where people could sleep."
Lakota: "Did people really live like that?"
Gee Gee Pa: "Yes, if they were lucky. The men I saw lived by walking door to door, place to place, asking for handouts."
Lakota: "No women?"
Gee Gee Pa: "No. They probably were afraid to strike out like the men did."
Lakota: "What happened if they got sick?"
Gee Gee Pa: "I don't know. Most people get over things naturally. Sometimes though, we would find a dead body. No one knew how they died, or even who they were."
Lakota: "How awful! to be buried alone after being sick."
Gee Gee Pa: "Yeah, many such people were buried in boot hill, the local cemetery. Sometimes they were buried right where they died."
Lakota: "Was that legal?"
Gee Gee Pa: "I am not sure, but what else could people do?"
Lakota: "They could call an ambulance."
Gee Gee Pa: "There were no ambulances in our county. And besides we didn't have a telephone."
Lakota: "Did you ever bury anyone?"
Gee Gee Pa: "No, but my father did. I watched him."
Lakota: "How horrible. What did you think? Where did he die? How did that make you feel?"
Gee Gee Pa: "Out in the back of our house. I didn't think; I was too scared."
Lakota: "Who was president then?"
Gee Gee Pa: "Herbert Hoover."
Lakota: "Did he cause the hard times?"
Gee Gee Pa: "No. The whole world was suffering. He inherited the problem."
Lakota: "Why? Did people stop farming"
Gee Gee Pa: "No there was plenty to eat. But if you have no money, you can't buy food, or pay rent. Many people stole food to stay alive."
Lakota: "Why were there no jobs?"
Gee Gee Pa: "There were jobs. Most people, four out of five in fact were working. So twenty percent of everyone was on the dole. They are the ones that suffered."
Lakota: "Dole? What's the dole?"
Gee Gee Pa: "Public assistance in one form or another."
Lakota: "Why did that happen? Was Hoover a bad president?"
Gee Gee Pa: "Not bad in the sense that he was evil. He organized and did many very good things in his life. He was a mining engineer and knew how to organize things. He was out of his element when the whole world crashed. Congress didn't understand the roots of the problem either. If you understand something, you can fix it. They didn't."
Lakota: "Oh. So what was the problem?"
Gee Gee Pa: "People are still arguing about that."
Lakota: "Will it ever happen again?"
Gee Gee Pa: "Some people think so."
Lakota: "If it does, what then?"
Gee Gee Pa: "It will be bad, like in the old times. Those times were called the Great Depression--part of the economy collapses. There are recessions, a milder form of depression, where the overall economy slows while small parts of it go bankrupt. Banks in particular can go bankrupt. That is happening now. It happens over and over in history."
Lakota: "Why is that?"
Gee Gee Pa: "You are fill of questions this morning."
Lakota: "It is exciting to know about everything. My teachers say I am a pest!"
Gee Gee Pa: "You are that all right." [Grinning]
Lakota: "So I am a pest am I?."
[Pouting playfully] Here I am asking questions because mom said you might know about some things.
Gee Gee Pa: "I will if I can; I was just agreeing with your teachers. Don't they answer your questions?"
Lakota: "Usually; some do; some don't."
Gee Gee Pa: "OK. Any more questions?"
Gee Gee Pa: "Lunch isn't ready yet so fire away. But wouldn't you rather shoot some pool with your brother?"
Lakota: "Nah, he isn't any good. And besides, this is more fun."
Gee Gee Pa: "You are more than a little unusual for a sixth grader. Who would have thought?"
Lakota: "I can't remember when mom wasn't asking me questions?"
Gee Gee Pa: "Do you ask her about this kind of stuff."
Lakota: "Yes, and she said to talk to you. So you are stuck with me."
Gee Gee Pa: "Am I supposed to groan?" [Groans]
Gee Gee Pa: "Atta girl; fire away!" [laughing.] At your age, I didn't know anything and didn't want to."
Lakota: "What did you do?"
Gee Gee Pa: "Went swimming in the water hole; played baseball; hung out with the guys. "
Lakota: "That was all?"
Gee Gee Pa: "Well I tried to make out with the girls. But I never had any luck. So don't accuse me of being smart."
Lakota: "I won't, I promise. How come you know so much?"
Gee Gee Pa: "I am 90 years old and each year life taught me some lessons. Anyone can learn. It just takes me longer."
Lakota: "Do you think Obama can turn the world around?"
Gee Gee Pa: "No. But if he is lucky, the economy will get better soon. After that we will have to wait and see. He says all the right things."
Lakota: "Why do you say lucky?"
Gee Gee Pa: "He is a politician, not a a scientist."
Lakota: "Do scientists know everything?"
Gee Gee Pa: "No. Not at all. What scientists do better then most people is finding the roots of problems that technicians can fix."
Lakota: "I see. What is he doing?"
Gee Gee Pa: "He is saving the biggest banks from bankruptcy, going broke."
Lakota: "Going broke? How could they, don't they charge interest?"
Gee Gee Pa: "Yes. They charge interest. But two things often go wrong?"
Lakota: "What goes wrong?"
Gee Gee Pa: "If they loan more money than something is worth, and the loan holder can't pay it back, the bank cannot recover the full value of the loan. The banking game should be all about how to avoid risk. The other way they can lose is different, but not all that different. Banks can pay too much for something, a mortgage from another bank, for example, that they cannot recover their value in it if the debtor cannot pay up. Whether they lend or buy, it is the same risk. In that way, the problem is simple in words."
Lakota: "Is Parkvale Bank in trouble?"
Gee Gee Pa: "No, It is well managed. It is small. They avoided the temptation to take risks. Your savings account is safe. "
Lakota: "What does size have to do with it?"
Gee Gee Pa: "Nothing in principle--everything in practice."
Lakota: "Why is that?"
Gee Gee Pa: "Big banks, like Bank of America are too big to fail; it would hurt everybody, immediately. That was what happened when Hoover was president. With their savings gone, people had to go on a cash basis; money could not be borrowed on the basis that better times were coming, even when in fact they were. Recovery took a long time, ten years."
Lakota: "That sounds simple enough"
Gee Gee Pa: "But there is more."
Lakota: "Yeah? What?"
Gee Gee Pa: "Human nature. You know, people are different."
Lakota: "Yeah, my brother is stupid--right?"
Gee Gee Pa: "Maybe. Or maybe he is only fourteen, not ninety! The fact that all he can think about is girls, doesn't mean he is stupid--maybe just ignorant, or loaded with hormones."
Gee Gee Pa: "Yes, these chemicals govern the processes in our bodies. There are several kinds. They moderate our health, our digestive system and our mood. Mood is where some boys, like your brother, lose sight of the important stuff in life. Civilized life I mean."
Lakota: "OK, that's what mom says. I still don't understand about banks. What is wrong with the bad ones?" [Pause] Uh, Let me think--mom makes me do that. It must be because they are not smart.
Gee Gee Pa: "Or?"
Lakota: "You are just like mom! Let's see. You mentioned hormones. I understand about boys. What does that have to do with banks. Wait a minute! The bank Managers are men, and maybe haven't grown up."
Gee Gee Pa: "Right on. Could there be more?"
Lakota: "Like what? I am clueless?"
Gee Gee Pa: "What do hormones do?"
Lakota: "They regulate people."
Gee Gee Pa: "So what about society?"
Lakota: [Pause] "What about society? Give me a clue. No, wait." [Pause] "People are in society." [Pause]
Gee Gee Pa: "You are on track."
Lakota: "Let me think; you are just like mom." [Pause] "People are society. Uh, I don't know."
Gee Gee Pa: "What about people? What about society?"
Lakota: "People are different! Is that it? Uh, yeah maybe."
Gee Gee Pa: "Yes."
Lakota: "Judgment is logic, right?"
Gee Gee Pa: "Yes."
Lakota: "I hate people like you?" [laughing]
Gee Gee Pa: "It is hard isn't it?"
Lakota: "Let me think."
Gee Gee Pa: "What about intuition?"
Lakota: "Mine says boys are stupid, are bankers stupid? No that is not the answer is it? Uh, hmm. Boys sometimes take stupid risks. On track, right?"
Gee Gee Pa: "Right."
Lakota: "Bankers are too. But that is not what you are looking for is it?"
Gee Gee Pa: "You are doing OK."
Lakota: "Can we talk again after lunch."
Gee Gee Pa: "I have a dental appointment. How about around four?"
Lakota: "A deal."
[Break for Gee Gee Ma's tuna salad and homemade ice cream--the real deal from a 1922 model using salted ice from the fridge, along with a secret recipe! Some things get better with age and ice cream is one of them,]
Lakota: "Are you still grumpy like you were this morning?" [laughing]
Gee Gee Pa: "Try me out and see. But yes--no more hints, how's that?"
Lakota: "Keep your hints, you know where you can put them."
Gee Gee Pa: "Smart-ass remarks won't get you there."
Lakota: "Just where do you think I am going?"
Gee Gee Pa: "I really have no clue."
Lakota: "So just who is the smart-ass? How about this?" [Another long pause]
Gee Gee Pa: "I'm holding my breath."
Lakota: [Laughs] "OK. If hormones distract boys, they can distract bankers too!"
Gee Gee Pa: "Oh?!"
Lakota: "Ever the smart ass aren't you. Mom said you might be like that. So..." [Another long pause]
Gee Gee Pa:"I have bated breath, can't hold it much longer."
Lakota: "Hormones must affect thinking, right."
Gee Gee Pa: "Uh,,,,"
Lakota: "You are impossible" [Feigned anger] "What you want is the most fundamental, right?"
Gee Gee Pa: "Maybe"
Lakota: "That means you are not sure what the deepest answer really is?"
Gee Gee Pa: "Does anyone?"
Lakota: "Here goes. Emotions can affect a man's thinking."
Gee Gee Pa: "Yep"
Lakota: "But there is more isn't there?"
Gee Gee Pa: "There must be, if you say so."
Lakota: "Sarcasm gets you nowhere. So if a boy doesn't grow up, he spends too much time in the emotional realm, instead of thinking and learning."
Gee Gee Pa: "Could be."
Lakota: "And if he does grow up, he can still get distracted by things other than girls, right?"
Gee Gee Pa: "Are you there yet?"
Lakota: "No, I am testing you!" [mischievous look]
Gee Gee Pa: "I'm in trouble now."
Lakota: "Yeah you are big time. After girls, boys want money."
Gee Gee Pa: "I never would have dreamed."
Lakota: "What am I going to do with you? And money is what banks and bankers is all about. That must be why they do stupid things."
Gee Gee Pa: "Must be if you say so."
Lakota: "You are not only a smart ass, you are a sarcastic one!" [another mischievous look, complete with brown eyes sparkling.]
Gee Gee Pa: "You say that because you are people-smart"
Lakota: "I am not 90, you are. You are still hung up on your hormones. By the way, can I buy that low-cut dress for the party tomorrow tonight?"
Gee Gee Pa: "Not on your life." [But she did anyway!]
As a matter of fact, Gee Gee Pa did not ask the next question: "What would you call such people?" He missed out on the answer she obviously had ready in her ever-sassy, too-wise-for-her-age, street-smart style.
There were no streets where Gee Gee Pa grew up; so he would not understand.... He grew up in Indian country; the same place Lakota's mother found her life mate, and an appropriate name for her daughter. .
History repeats Itself--sort of like reincarnate. The old man remembers--having lived through yet one more generation of sassy progeny. It goes with the turf.
Posted by RoadToPeace on Thursday, April 30, 2009.