Monday, September 6, 2010



By Meg Bowman

At a time when much of our literature is awash with pronouncements of gloom and doom, Burt and Margie Liebert’s new book, Out of the Cage, is Eleanor Roosevelt’s proverbial candle in the darkness. For over half a century we have been regaled with dire warnings of nuclear war, greenhouse gasses, global warming, climate change, and the coming storms, floods, droughts, fires, and loss of planetary species.

Not that we can afford to ignore these warnings. The threat is real. But beyond warnings we need a plan. That plan is clearly laid out in Out of the Cage. While the book does deal with the usuals of green technology––solar panels, wind generators––it also goes well beyond.

Don’t be afraid to get your head out of the cage, the authors are saying, and visualize a whole new way of life. I find it interesting that their solution lies not in endlessly generating more and more energy, but in needing less, on finding satisfaction in human relationships instead of the never-ending quest for wealth and possessions. It is a treatise on humanism, on ethical living.

As frosting on the cake, we get an intriguing love story, featuring Gordon van Cleve, wealthy, sophisticated New York business executive, who views the concept with deep distaste. I wondered as I read, if Gordon was really me, finding the whole idea a bit unrealistic. But on second thought, maybe . . . . And finally, the idea came together so logically, I wonder why it isn’t our prevailing life style. I would have liked the authors to tell us how to get there from here. But on the other hand, it leaves a challenge for us to get our heads out of the cage and build a world that will allow our children and grandchildren to experience the same gloriously abundant planet we enjoy today.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Out of the Cage

Out of the Cage

by Burt and Marjorie Liebert

Out of the Cage is a creative story of modern pioneers who set out to build a new society called Civitas, dedicated to establishing a more viable political, economic, and social system. Their goals are to eliminate global warming, relegate war to “a curious footnote in the history books,” and establish a new concept of human fellowship.

Through narrative, Out of the Cage suggests a pathway for you and me to build a more cooperative, ecologically sustainable world. Following is a short excerpt, pages 209-210. An elder statesman of Civitas is discussing political campaigns with a group of Americans:

“There’s one big difference between your system and ours.”

“And what is that?”

“We can demand that our leaders work for the benefit of the people. You can’t. In Civitas, all leaders, from the President of the country to local boards of directors, are elected by popular vote, and can be unelected the same way.”

“That’s also true in the United States.”

“But yours is a system of government by bribery. The government does the bidding of the biggest bribers. Oh, you don’t call it bribery. You call it campaign contributions. These are for the purpose of gaining influence.”

. . . Someone wanted to know, “So how do you eliminate influence?”

“Here, if you want to run for office you take out a petition and post your resume, along with a statement of your position on major issues, on the Internet and in all public libraries. You send copies to the press. The Electoral Committee checks your statements for accuracy and writes an accompanying report. If you gather enough petition signatures you qualify for public campaign financing. And that’s all you can spend, not even your own money. Extra contributions are considered illegal bribery and can disqualify the candidate and bring a stiff fine to the briber.”

“Isn’t it a drain on the treasury, all those candidates getting public funds to run campaigns?”

“The major corporations found out long ago that money contributed to politicians is the best investment they can make. The same is true for taxpayers. . . . Can you think of a better investment than getting private money out of politics?”

The authors are available for group discussions, classes, and book reviews.

When 173 junior high school boys signed a murder pact


As I look back upon all the gorgeous women I have seen in motion pictures, television, Macy’s ads for women’s underwear, and various publications I’m not supposed to even know about, much less devour with near-religious zeal, I still insist the the prettiest of all was the music teacher at Mansfield Junior High School, Miss Emilie Sprengle. Perhaps she was not the most beautiful, but certainly the prettiest. There is a difference, you know. Petite, dainty, feminine, yet with all the outstanding features most women only dream about having, when Miss Sprengle smiled or complimented us on our singing, she held the heart of every hot-blooded boy in the above named junior high school. And when Miss Sprengle sang––when Miss Sprengle sang, the nightingales came out of the woods to listen and learn. Is it any wonder we would fight any boy in school for the privilege of carrying her books to her car?

But all teachers at Mansfield Junior High School did not make student life one of continual bliss, and the reason was the person of Mr. St. John. Tall and slender, Mr. St. John possessed a brand of Gary Cooperish rugged, masculine good looks. But alas, we have come to the end of Mr. St. John’s better features. No matter how long and hard we worked on his assignments, he wielded his red pencil with a ferocity that let us know what blathering idiots we were.

In those days teachers were permitted to paddle unruly boys, and Mr. St. John applied his weapon with a frequency and savagery that would put today’s puny terrorists to shame. Unfortunately, at that time there was no Homeland Security to protect mischievous junior high school boys. St. John was the teacher to avoid. If we found ourselves drafted into one of his classes, we would fight any kid in the room for the privilege of sitting in a desk against the back wall. One doesn’t even have to be Christian to wonder how such a devil could get away with the name St. John.

So went life at Mansfield Junior High School, until the arrival of winter holiday. At last! Two whole weeks to generate new and creative methods of pillaging the neighborhood. But after the too-short holiday, January came again, and life returned to dear old Mansfield. First day of class we poured eagerly into Miss Sprengle’s music room. Would she talk about Stephen Foster again? Play the Triumphal March from Aida? Would she sing for us?

She did none of these.

She waved her left hand meaningfully in front of her and told us that from now on

we are to call her Mrs. St. John.