Process must move though stages of haggling

Editor of the Reformer:

The big news the other day was that the "Syrian Peace Talks" were a spectacular failure because the belligerents were loudly insulting each other and their respective backers.

I once lived in a country where we had only two ways to get stuff. Go to the vast, stinky, sprawling, brawling, colorful marketplace; or, the traders would come to the door in a line of bicycles festooned with baskets full of live monkeys, illegal national antiquities and velvet paintings of Elvis. Either way, there would be incredible bargains. I mean the actual process of bargaining. A clash of civilizations, a duel of wits: haggling. The exchange of goods and money was an afterthought.

Divide the price you are willing to pay by three. The trader multiplies. Somebody starts by making an offer. Dismissive laughter, and a long diatribe from the trader about the value of his reputation, while you spin a yarn of penury. You greet the counteroffer with a shrug of feigned indifference and wander off seeking other opportunities. But everyone knows this is just the opening gambit.

After a suitable interval you return, casually pointing out the little chip on the antique statue exposing new wood, the mangy appearance of the camel-skin purse or drum or wallet or hassock, "Made in China" on the authentic Kente-cloth. The trader tells you about each of his many small and sickly children. You hem and haw and finger the goods doubtfully. Late in the afternoon, you get within shouting distance of a price. A little extra something is thrown in to sweeten the deal (Dashee, or Langiappe, a Baker’s Dozen) and the bargain is reluctantly sealed. Then is a bond of eternal friendship forged, never to be put asunder, until you ask the price of that other thing over there.

Americans just don’t get the process of haggling anymore. We’re always whining about uncertainty. In other places, people thrive on it. We only understand the word, "compromise," as in "a compromising position." In the warmer climes, nobody is happy with a deal unless it is a hard-fought dance of give-and-take.

If the Syrian Peace Talks are not allowed to move through the stages of haggling that the antagonists’ respective cultures and upbringings require, the alternative is truly awful to contemplate. These are some of the people responsible for the incredible slaughter that is still going on in Syria. Because it is a proxy war with so many layers of interests, the haggling will be interfered with by the real antagonists for their own purposes, and probably many more people will be murdered or displaced before we see substantive change. Hopefully the talks will go out of the spotlight for awhile, and maybe the killing will stop. It’s a chance, at least. They just have to agree on a price. The costs are still going up.

Peter Barus,

Whitingham, Jan. 17

Brattleboro voters
put CAA on ballot

Editor of the Reformer:

Common Sense, advocating San Francisco’s Center for Biodiversity’s National Campaign to lower carbon, succeeded in adding the Clean Air Act to the March 4 ballot. With your vote, when this passes in March, President Obama and and The Environmental Protection Agency will be enforcing this act and we will become the 78th community across the country joining the action in curbing greenhouse gases.

On Thursday, Jan. 23, 416 out of over 600 signatures were counted, just enough to calculate to 5 percent of our total population, here in Brattleboro. Thank you, to all that signed.

Burlington, Vermont and Keene, N.H., No. 53 and No. 73 on their list, have come before us and are currently striving to lower their greenhouse gasses to head off catastrophic climate change. Perhaps we can look forward to the use of cow power or the weatherization of local buildings to help us achieve our lower carbon goal.

Adrasteia Andrews,

working with Common Sense,

Jan. 24

More on I-91 construction site ‘glare’ issue

Editor of the Reformer:

I was pleased to read ("Blinding lights," Jan. 24) that the glare issue on Interstate 91 is being addressed. However, at one point in the article the contractor said the lights from the oncoming traffic may not be the issue. I need to say that the glare from the lights from oncoming traffic is definitely an issue. It is true that this is not the only issue, but it is an issue, a big one. As the contractor said, the glare from the construction lights is also a problem. The worst was a large, high, bright white light. When the two combine, it makes driving particularly terrifying. And if there is rain or snow refracting the light on the windshield, driving safely becomes even more impossible. I now get off at Exit 3 southbound after twilight.

Norma Willingham,

Brattleboro, Jan. 24