Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Last Lantern


According to official statistics, the unemployment rate in the United States is now 9.8 percent. But those statistics understate the severity of the jobs crisis. The official statistics do not include the 875,000 Americans who have given up looking for work, even though they want jobs. When these "marginally attached" workers and part-time workers are added to the officially unemployed, the result, according to another, broader governement measure of unemployment known as "U-6," is shocking. The United States has an unemployment rate of 17 percent...

By adding the 3.4 million Americans who want a job but have not looked for one in over a year...
[the actual unemployment rate may be] 18.8 percent.

(Michael Lind, "The Sound You Hear...", Salon Oct. 20, 2009)


During the Great War (what the First World War was called, before we had to start numbering them), after late 1916, in some places of the Western Front the lines were trenches surrounded by heavily-shelled ground that could reach back several miles. In order to navigate at night, and provide a marker for anyone shooting at the enemy lines ("Do Not Fire Right Of This Point"), red lanterns facing towards the rear were used.

When you came to the Last Lantern, there was nothing in the dark beyond it but your own wire, then No Man's Land (Rut's Alley / Where the dead men lost their bones). Only those with specific orders, some compelling reason, or who were complete fools would keep going.

All of us are standing just this side of the Last Lantern, which is sitting on a piece of board lying in the mud just to the right of our boots. We're looking out into the dark, the future, and have only the dimmest ideas of what's ahead. The only certainty is that we're going to have to walk forward, whether we want to or not.