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While We Still Have Time

In spite of the grimness of the times in which we live, there is still hope. If you feel, like I do, that the usual discourse about matters of critical concern tends to be superficial, misguided, and false, then you might find some solace and inspiration here. I will try to offer insight and a holistic perspective on events and issues, and hopefully serve as a catalyst for raising the level of dialogue on this planet.

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Location: Madison, Wisconsin, United States

I was born in 1945, shortly before atom bombs were dropped on Japan. I served in the U.S. Army from 1968 to 1971. I earned master's degrees in Economics and Educational Psychology, and certificates in Web Page Design and as a Teacher of English as a Second Language. I followed an Indian guru for eight years, which immersed me in meditative practices and an attitude of reaching a higher level of being. A blog post listing the meditative practices I have pursued can be seen here.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Taking responsibility

On Easter Sunday I drove down to Illinois to visit relatives. I had a bit of a sense of foreboding, and didn’t feel like going, but being me, I went anyway. At one point on the Interstate I was passed by a guy driving very fast and erratic, noticeably more obnoxious than the usual horde of dangerous drivers heading for Chicago. I remember saying to myself that this country is turning into a bunch of a**%@&#s.

About forty minutes later the Interstate traffic came to a dead stop. After a couple of minutes it started creeping forward. There had been an accident, and about 10 cars, an RV, and a pickup truck were parked in the median and shoulder of the road. One car was straddling both lanes of the road, facing sideways, with the front door missing.

Something told me not to look as I drove by, but, being me, I did anyway. The driver was still in the front seat, sitting up straight, normal as can be, except that he was covered with soot, and pretty obviously dead. It was the guy who passed me 40 minutes earlier.

About five minutes later a police car with the siren on was heading North, on his way to the accident. I thought, "What a job to have, showing up at scenes like this." Cops really have to deal with a lot of crap. It's easier to understand why they get a bit testy when they stop you for speeding.

I’ve been wondering about the accident since that day, and suspect that the driver was under the influence of drugs of some kind, likely Crystal Methamphetamine. I don’t know anything much about the drug other than what is in the news media, but it is supposed to be addictive on the first use, and the preparation can result in deadly explosions. If the driver was fooling around with Crystal Meth while driving, that would account for the soot. He didn’t look burned, and his clothes were intact, except for being covered with the sooty material.

On my way back from Illinois I was tailgated by a guy in a flatbed semi-trailer truck. Another a**%@&#. He pulled into the left lane when I passed him, and followed me at about ½ car length for about ¼ mile. For some reason he abruptly pulled way back. I suspect it was because other truckers got on his case. I have a bumper sticker on my car that says "Another veteran against war with Iraq." I made succeeding stickers from letters cut from other bumper stickers that spell out "Syria," "Iran," and "Korea." (I didn’t bother with the N for North Korea. War against North Korea will be war against all of Korea.). This can be a threatening message for some people. Ignorance may be bliss of sorts, but being false bliss, it is easily intimidated.

The day after I got back I went to a concert, needing a bit of fun. It was Bob Weir and his band Rat-dog. For the unfamiliar, Bob Weir was the second guitarist (and singer) to Jerry Garcia in the Grateful Dead. I expected it to be something like a "Dead" concert, and it was, to a certain degree: plenty of drugged-out people wearing tie-dyed shirts, stumbling around, and generally celebrating their identity with "Deadhead" culture; the smell of marijuana wafting through the theater, and passable versions of Grateful Dead songs. The best song was the opener, a dreamy version of the Beatles’ "Tomorrow Never Knows."

In spite of the crowd and its exercise in anarchy, the concert was pretty good until the last few songs, when the volume was cranked up to astronomical levels. I have never been in any situation as loud as this was. Especially the bass, which thundered so loud that my entire body was vibrating. My ears are still ringing, and I had Kleenex in my ears. Thanks, Bob.

I left thinking Bob Weir is an idiot, and that I should sue him. The crowd outside seemed oblivious to the harm that had been done to their hearing. Idiocy can be a symbiotic and synergistic phenomenon. In other words, it can feed on the idiocy of others, and be fed back in an ever-reinforcing loop.

Which is the condition in which we in the United States of America find ourselves today. The common theme in what I experienced driving and at the Rat-dog concert was irresponsibility. It’s not a situation where you can assign blame, because our entire culture is permeated by irresponsibility. The "leftist" analysis, of course, does assign blame, and it is assigned to "the right-wing," or "the corporations," or "the politicians," or "the fundamentalists." But blaming does not solve anything.

I remember a business professor I heard lecture would often say "The pace of an organization is set by the person at the top." If the United States is looked at as a large organization, then the irresponsibility can certainly be traced to the top: the Bush crime family. If the President of the United States is a sociopathic criminal - which he is - then his criminality sets the pace for the nation. Apparently.

It seems likely that the level of irresponsibility we are seeing at all levels - business, government, mass media, religion, entertainment, and social interaction - is strongly influenced by the criminality of the Bush regime, but it is not the cause or the main factor. The decline in mutual responsibility has been going on for a long time, and has so permeated the culture that the Bush crime family can be looked upon as merely the best among competing criminal gangs for control of a declining civilization.

Lest anyone think this is an exaggeration, flight of imagination, sour grapes, or "Bush bashing," I offer the recent article by Chalmers Johnson detailing the impending Karmic results of our collective irresponsibility. There is also Glenn Cheney’s assertion that the real terrorists are holed up in Washington. And Pierre Tristam’s observation that we have become a nation of narcissists. John R. MacArthur writes that the propagandistic news coverage of the Iraq war is eerily similar to what he saw in the Vietnam era. In case there is any doubt about the irresponsibility in the United States Senate, Texas Senator John Cornyn has suggested that judges are inviting violence upon themselves by the decisions they make that he doesn’t like. This follows the threatening remarks by the ethically challenged U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader Tom Delay. And finally there is the article by Paul Craig Roberts, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan Administration, on "Partnering the destruction of the American economy."

It’s too late to avoid the consequences of our collective irresponsibility. We are going to pay, and pay dearly, in a multiplicity of ways. The Bush gang may be able to squeeze one more war out of the American irresponsibility machine, but it will only speed up the process of decline. Threatening the rest of the planet might possibly reap some temporary spoils, but again, will only speed up the process. Drilling in ANWR? Gut the clean air act? No clean water? Halliburton? Bechtel? Homeland torture? Rampant genetic engineering? The Bush gang can try them all, but the time of reaping is upon us. And upon the Bush crime family. No one gets a free lunch at this table.

So what’s a poor boy to do? (Figure of speech, African-American derived. Feel free to use your own metaphor.) I think at this point the best thing we can all do is assume a new kind of society will be in place, and go about establishing the institutions, practices, legal framework, economic relationships, and ecological interactions that a viable civilization would have. We can be ready for it when its time arrives. The present system is about to tank. We should prepare to leave it behind, or at least prepare for future generations to inherit something sustainable.

The Bush crime family is not the problem. They are only the immediate manifestation of the problem, and they won’t be around much longer. Like criminal regimes throughout history, they will fade from memory as more urgent problems demand our attention. It will be good riddance, but we have to make sure that the civilization of the future is not vulnerable to such a ridiculous excuse for governance. If we don’t, the human species has no future, and won’t deserve one.


Blogger Rachel said...

Wow! Awesome post! :-p I am of the mind that people need to take responsebility for their actions, and get the consequences for them all.
These days it seems like everyone is trying to get ahead in life at the expense of others, and for what??
Matthew 16:26 "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"
If everyone is pushing others out of the way for their own gain, what is to become of all these lost souls??

4/06/2005 11:31 PM  
Blogger John Hamilton said...

Thanks for the nice comment. Also for the Bible quote. I use it from time to time, but didn't know the exact reference.

As far as antecedents and consequences, my main concern is for my own sowing and reaping. For others, I trust the Law of Karma, but am careful not to wish punishment on others. It's out of my hands.

Criminality, though, is a matter for civic concern. Law breakers should be brought to justice. For instance, it's not inappropriate to advocate life without parole at hard labor for members of the Bush crime family.

As far as mass irresponsibility is concerned, in India the time we are going through is known as Kali Yuga, the age of darkness. It will be around for a while.

Supposedly someone asked the Tibetan monk Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche about the population explosion on Planet Earth. His response, according to legend, was that we are living in an age in which it is very easy to take a human birth. Even an insect can take a human birth in this age.

Whatever the case, we are all heading for the same ultimate destiny. It just will take some longer than others. In the East they refer to it as the transmigration of the soul from Jiva (ego-consciousness) to Shiva (Divine, or universal consciousness). Future postings will delve into this area in more detail.

4/08/2005 8:23 PM  

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