Thank You India

My mind is wandering to a number of far-flung places and
seemingly unrelated thoughts. But, as we decided on Monday, all things are
interrelated and even Disney knew this; he said “It’s a Small World After All”
and he made a whole experience about it and he has made a fortune from it.
So I was remembering that Alanis Morissette song, which I
love, “Thank You (India)” because I just heard it over the weekend in a little
spiritual film called The Way with
Martin Sheen in which his son begins a pilgrimage across the Pyrennees to a
cathedral in Spain. His son is killed in an unexplained accident so the Dad
takes his ashes and walks the pilgrimage. He thinks he does this for his son,
and, of course, he does, but he changes his own heart in the process. It is a
movie that asks “are you just alive, or are you living.”
Then I read TGC Prasad’s blog post on in
which he expressed his concerns about his country, India. (see link below) India can be quite
volatile at times and as India comes to terms with its own income inequality
problems (which are even bigger than America’s because, although vastly
oversimplified, there are so many more people) he worries that chaos will be
unavoidable and he hopes this will not be the path India takes to the future
(as do we all).
My mind moves on to a story on last night’s edition of the
national news. Brian Williams is zeroing in on a country the size of Texas in
the center of Africa. He is telling me about tribal thuggery in the Central
African Republic. Ann Curry talks to an 8 year old young lady whose loses are
so great all we can do is cry with her and pray that somehow she makes it
through more of this wretched part of her life until she arrives at a life that
is not wretched at all. Watching the march of greed, hatred, powerlessness, and
some kind of misguided belief that good things will follow from violence gives
us all a feeling of the terrible waste of it all and the helpless wish that we
had a solution for the Central African Republic, or South Sudan, or any of
these storied nations on the continent of Africa.
Which leads me back to America, because I am as
self-centered as anyone, and because it is what I know, and leads me to that
statement Obama made that caused such rage among the “makers” when he said “you
did not make it”, and he meant you did not make it all by yourself. And, of
course, he was right, in a way. You came up with a business idea. You built it
from the bottom up and gradually hired more and more of your fellow Americans.
Or perhaps you were wealthy to begin with and your business sprang up as a big
enterprise and then just kept getting bigger. You deserve credit for your
But Obama is right also. You couldn’t have built your baby,
your business without the use of things you don’t own like workers and
consumers and deliverers, and sellers and warehousers and roads and bridges and
railroads and airplanes and power and water. Your factory and your bank balance
benefited from a convergence of historical moments which placed you at the very
heart of the Industrial Age.
Will you hold on to every last cent even as you watch your
once-beloved country subside into the same chaos that Mr. Prasad worries
about in his beloved India? We are not usually a volatile nation; it’s probably
not hot enough here or crowded enough. We will probably just accept our fate as
we gradually fall back into the ignorance and hard-scrabble lives of our forebears. 
But all I’m saying is that it doesn’t have to be that way. You were the
builders and you used to share a vision of America with the rest of us “takers”,
a vision that made America brash and indomitable. Perhaps the vision we have
for the future will be different from the one we all had in the Industrial Age,
but it can tap back into that creative spirit you used to build the old America
and produce a new and even better America, an older and wiser America that will
be a proud pioneer in the Global Age.
So thank you India, and Africa and Walt Disney and Alanis Morissette and GE and Carrier Corp. and Obama and the American workers and on and on and on ad infinitum, which I hope is how long our little blue planet lasts and thrives.
Disclaimer:  These lyrics and this you tube video are referenced for your enjoyment. I am not claiming any connection between my ideas and Alanis Morissette. Hearing this song just inspired me and sent my mind on a trip. That is all.
Thank You Lyrics
How ’bout getting off of these antibiotics
How ’bout stopping eating when I’m full up
How ’bout them transparent dangling carrots
How ’bout that ever elusive kudo
Thank you India, thank you terror
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you frailty, thank you consequence
Thank you, thank you, silence
How ’bout me not blaming you for everything
How ’bout me enjoying the moment for once
How ’bout how good it feels to finally forgive you
How ’bout grieving it all one at a time
Thank you India, thank you terror
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you frailty, thank you consequence
Thank you, thank you, silence
The moment I let go of it
Was the moment I got more than I could handle
The moment I jumped off of it
Was the moment I touched down
How ’bout no longer being masochistic
How ’bout remembering your divinity
How ’bout unabashedly bawling your eyes out
How ’bout not equating death with stopping
Thank you India, thank you providence
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you nothingness, thank you clarity
Thank you, thank you, silence
Here’s a link to a youtube video:
By Nancy Brisson
This blog post is also available at 

Africa Is On My Mind

Africa – a place I both romanticize and despair for – is very much on my mind today because I always read the on-line edition of the New York Times (as much as I can read without a subscription). I warn you that if you look at the NYT, Africa will be on your mind all day too. The famine in Somalia is so terrible; the photos are so heart-wrenching that we almost wish for the old days when news would not have reached us in such immediate and graphic ways. The body we see on the front page does not resemble a living human being and we do not really comprehend how someone could survive such deprivation.
We see that shelters and food are available to these famine-stricken people, but we are told that they must walk for weeks with very little food and water in order to reach relief. The efforts of the relief agencies are also being stretched. Our first impulse is that we need to do something to save these families, but we are so far away and even if we make a donation to an agency we know we cannot protect everyone from painful fortune every time it strikes. In a way we have the whole world as a next door neighbor, but logistically we really don’t.
So the Africa of the movie Out of Africa, or the movie The Gods Must Be Crazy or the books of Alexander McCall Smith, the Africa of people with humor and pride, the Africa of sunsets and savannahs and Masai and exotic animals and cities is not the Africa we see most often lately. We see the Africa without a viable economy, the Africa decimated by Aids, the Africa of political upheaval and its own unique form of gang warfare.
Of course, both of these Africas still exist. Africa still holds beauty and horror, prosperity and extreme deprivation. What we would like to see is a strong Africa, an Africa that no longer has to struggle with living at the edge of disaster and beyond, but the things Africa needs in order to reach this ideal state are things we cannot supply. Africa needs an Pan-African union to help deal with the needs of all the disparate regions on the continent and it needs strong leaders, and it needs income sources and maybe it needs this council to coordinate resources on the entire continent, an African union that recognizes the strengths of the many different peoples who live on the African continent and controls the human predators that take such a toll in many areas of Africa. I may not really know anything about how to solve the problems of Africa, but Africa is on my mind today.