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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, January 19, 2005


A couple of articles caught my attention in the past few days, and inspired a bit of reflection. One, "The Madness of George W. Bush," presents the thesis that our president is afflicted with "malignant egophrenia," or ME disorder, and the author contends that it is a disease that exists in the soul of humanity, but in a potential state in most of us (we hope). The other was an essay that contends the Scots Irish screwed up America.

Valid arguments or not, I found these perspectives valuable, because they took the discussion of the current condition of the U.S. of A. out of the emotional, pejorative, denunciative, and paranoid, and at least tried to provide a bit of background, and what I call "meta-level" analysis. We cannot move towards a truly integrative, distributive, democratic, ecologically, socially, and spiritually harmonious civilization unless we understand the underlying reasons of why we are in our present predicament.

In "The Madness of George W. Bush," the author, Paul Levy, makes the following observation: "In much the same way that a child's psychology cannot be understood without looking at the family system he or she is a part of, George Bush does not exist in isolation. We can view Bush and his entire administration (Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Wolfowitz, etc), as well as the corporate, military industrial complex that they are co-dependently enmeshed with, the media that they control, the voters that support them, and ourselves as well, as interconnected parts of a whole system, or a "field." Instead of relating to any part of this field as an isolated entity, it’s important to contemplate the entire interdependent field as the ‘medium’ though which malignant egophrenia manifests and propagates itself. ME disease is a field phenomenon, and needs to be contemplated as such. Bush's sickness is our own." He goes on to compare present day America to the Germans under Hitler, and reminds us of the words of the great psychologist Carl Gustav Jung: "The gigantic catastrophes that threaten us today are not elemental happenings of a physical or biological order, but psychic events. To a quite terrifying degree we are threatened by wars and revolutions which are nothing other than psychic epidemics. At any moment several millions of human beings may be smitten with a new madness, and then we shall have another world war or devastating revolution. Instead of being at the mercy of wild beasts, earthquakes, landslides, and inundations, modern man is battered by the elemental forces of his own psyche."

Joe Bageant argues that our troubles can be traced to a group of Celtic cattle thieves who lived along Scotland’s border with England 450 years ago, migrated to Northern Ireland, and then to America in the early 1700s. Warlike, hard drinking, fanatically Calvinist Protestant, these immigrants spread their influence throughout the country, but mainly in the southern states. Their modern-day descendents form the basis of Bush’s support among evangelicals, NASCAR fans, followers of hate radio and television, and even provide the intellectual foundation for the "neoconservative" "theory."

These ideas are food for thought. Whether one agrees with the authors or not, it is important that we look at the background of how we got to this point in our nation’s relatively short history. As a country we are poised to send the entire planet into chaos. Iran appears to be next on the list of preemptive wars, presented as vital to our national security, but in actuality the intention is to further the criminal ambitions of Bush and his cronies. To keep creating chaos worldwide, the Bush crime family needs a network of support. Just like Hitler before him, he needs to create diversions, artificial threats, feigned crises, and mass hysteria about subversion and terror from "outside" groups among us.

Given this situation, it behooves us to understand the psychological and social underpinnings of our national psyche. What we are getting at the present from "leftist," "progressive," and "liberal" activists and commentators is blame, condemnation, ridicule, resentment, and what I call "Nyin, nyin, nyin, nyin" – the relentless nitpicking and nuance inventing, the scattergun criticism that is devoid of priority or perspective. This is a generalization, for sure, and there is much valuable, insightful analysis and criticism going on, but there is so much nagging - winge-ing, as the Australians say - that it’s hard to listen to or read, and certainly doesn’t communicate with anyone but "insiders" – the people who are not the most important audience to reach.

The underlying belief or agenda of complainer mode is that knowledge and wisdom are additive: the more information and criticism you pour on, the clearer it becomes what ails us. The expectation is that people will get riled enough to act, and will know what action to take and who to act against. Nowhere is it considered that piling outrage upon outrage might lead to hopelessness, apathy, anomie, and depression.

In addition to looking at our collective unconscious, there is another characteristic of our social system that it is vital to understand as we move towards ending the criminal reign of the Bush syndicate. We live in a mass system. People are organized into large entities in nearly every aspect of their lives. We tend to work for large organizations, doing repetitive tasks that are small elements of larger tasks. We travel, shop, pay bills and taxes, and recreate as parts of large populations, where activities and functions are concentrated in central locations and institutions. People advance in livelihood, status, wealth, and privilege as parts of a whole. Whether it is a bureaucracy in business or government, in political life, or even in self employment or other small business, the individual moves up in material and social well-being as part of a mass society. To the degree that one serves the interests of one's immediate bureau, division, department, corporation, or agency, one rises or falls within that cubicle of human endeavor.

The vulnerability of this type of system is that power and wealth naturally tends to be concentrated at the top of organizations, with little or no input or accountability to the organization as a whole, or to society as a whole. The hierarchical structure that is inherent in a mass system tends to be self-perpetuating, self-rewarding, parasitic, and ultimately sociopathic. In this context, the Bush crime family and its supporting corporate and governmental superstructure can be seen as the logical conclusion to a long progression, or more accurately regression, into an undemocratic, propagandistic, demagogic, planet destroying, criminal corporate fascist state. If you have any doubts about the criminality of the Bush regime, read this. In street terms, we are up against it. We are in a big fix.

Though the fix we are in may be big, understanding it, and our place in it, is the first step in the process of getting out of the fix. If there is any meaning to human intelligence, we should be able to get out of this fix. If you believe in the Absolute, and especially if you have some experience of the Absolute, you know that there is meaning to human intelligence. Therefore, it is easy to understand and believe that we not only can get out of this fix, but will. All we have to do is intelligently participate in the undoing of this criminal enterprise known as the Bush crime family. It will unravel as naturally as it came to fruition. These people are frail human beings, evil to the core, and not particularly bright. As Louis L’Amour put it, and I have repeated before, the criminal mind always underestimates the forces it is up against. If we all do our part and act with intelligence, compassion, integrity, and forbearance, this nightmare will pass sooner than we will believe possible. Then the real work begins: where do we go next?

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Concentric Circles

A number of years ago I took a class in wilderness tracking. One of the methods introduced was a practice of indigenous tribes of North America, or First Nations, a method known as concentric circles. In this technique the location of the human or animal being tracked is deduced from what can be seen, heard, smelled, and felt. Activities of birds and other animals, changes in trees and other plant life, and changes in the land, water, and sky all are observed for evidence of what has taken place at succeeding distances from where one is.

This method can also be used in the man-made industrial world to deduce not only location, but to trace criminal activity. For instance, in both Ohio and Florida, the evidence provided by exit polling revealed the likelihood of vote fraud in last November’s presidential election. More importantly, concentric circles can be used to assess whether the Bush regime had advance knowledge or even complicity in the attacks of September 11, 2001.

The most immediate evidence the American public has of what goes on in its government is in the propaganda superstructure of public relations, corporate media outlets of television and radio networks, their local affiliates, newspapers, magazines, and other mass information media such as movies and the Internet.

What the public perceives and believes to be the truth can be carefully manipulated by various methods of information control, spin, framing of acceptable limits of thought and speech, and marginalization of dissenting views. The version of reality presented by the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal, as well as the TV networks, have great influence on what parameters, or bounds, of acceptable thought and discourse are for the country as a whole. The acceptable bounds of perception of the causes of the September 11 attacks are that the intelligence agencies failed to "connect the dots" from the myriad of warnings about the impending attacks. The other cause, in the conventional wisdom, was the laxity of immigration laws and policies, which allowed foreign infiltrators to take advantage of American freedoms.

In recent years a new element has been added to further skew levels of acceptable perception and discourse: the bombastic, hypercritical news and talk show. The object of these programs is to create a sense of anger and fear in the audience, and to arouse animosity to targeted individuals and groups. These shows are modern high-tech versions of the lynch mob agitators of the 1800s and 1900s.

The mistake "leftists" make about these shows is to take them at face value, to refer to their hosts as "right wingers." Just a little use of the concentric circles method would reveal that all these people work for someone else. They are employees. The false accusations, lies, innuendo, posturing, and ranting of Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, and the numerous other talkers on the hate media are all done at the behest of the providers of their paychecks. It is in the interest of the owners of these TV and radio networks to have the waters muddied, to have the people distracted, angry, and scared instead of focused on what is actually going on. In the presidential campaign last fall, John Kerry was attacked for "looking French" and for falsifying his war record, among other untrue and misleading accusations.

In this context, the filmmaker Michael Moore can be seen as one of the great trackers of modern times. By looking a couple of levels deep in his movie "Farenheit 9/11," Moore was able to deduce that there has been something very suspicious going on at the highest levels of the Federal government. He wasn’t the only person to notice the connections between the Bush and Saud families, the stolen presidential election of 2000, the longstanding plan for the invasion of Iraq, the global interests of corporations like Halliburton, Bechtel, and the oil companies, the willful ignoring of warnings of an imminent attack, and the need fora "catastrophic event" to enable all these interests to converge. But he was the best person to inform the entire planet of what he discovered.

In Economics there is a concept know as the rationality assumption. It is the contention that people behave "as if" they are rational when making economic decisions when they try to maximize satisfaction. By trying to have more goods and services people are "behaving rationally," whether or not they actually are rational. All that matters is that they are behaving "as if" they are rational.

The rationality assumption can be used to describe the Bush organization. We cannot be sure that they had advance knowledge or complicity in the September 11 attacks, but they sure did a pretty good "as if." They did not behave "as if" the protection of the country was their top priority. They did not behave "as if" they thought the warning "Osama bin Laden determined to attack inside the United States" was in their "interest" to take seriously. They did not behave "as if" anything mattered other than their own preconceived plans to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, and establish an empire of preemptive wars all around the world. They did behave "as if" they knew the attacks were coming, and allowed them to happen.

Now we have another stolen election, and it would seem that more of the same is in the offing. But I would not be so sure. There are other concentric circles to read. Bush is hated all over the planet. There is a movement picking up steam worldwide to boycott American corporations and products. Our trade deficit has reached a crisis stage. The budget deficit is also at a crisis stage. The Iraq war is costing much more in lives and treasure than the Bush gang ever thought possible. It is likely to get worse.

The curtain is being pulled back from the hidden nature of the Bush regime. Similar to the proverbial "Wizard of Oz" movie, it is becoming apparent day by day that the American government is run by not just incompetents, but by criminals. The congress may have quashed the investigation into the voting irregularities in Ohio, but the effort to investigate was there, and subject will come up again when other realities come to the fore. The torture mongering Attorney General-to-be may be able to lie himself into a successful appointment, but again, the subject will return when other realities come to the fore. Any number of criminalities of this regime will come oozing out in the days ahead. The energy task force, the plans to gut the environment, the new version of the Patriot Act, privatization of Social Security, tax cuts for the rich, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, the entire Iraq debacle, even the coup in Haiti and the attempted coup in Venezuela - all these criminalities will be seen in a new light in the days ahead.

Why do I say this? For the simple reason that eventually a government has to come up with real solutions to real problems. The Soviet Union failed for a number of reasons, but the main reason was it no longer served the people. We are about to see the same thing here. We are at the end stage of the Industrial Revolution. Our infinite growth system has already gone beyond all constraints of sustainability. The oil will run out in our children’s lifetimes. Other resources, like land, water, fish, timber, and minerals will become dearer and dearer. Climate change will become more serious every year. Genetic mischief in seeds and animal products will come back to haunt us. Sociopathic corporate policy will cause widespread unemployment, suffering, and unrest. The wanton squandering of our military might will make our nation’s defense weaker. The criminalization of our electoral system will degrade the political process.

Though this is a pretty grim forecast, it is based on fact and careful analysis. A social-political system that does not serve the people and provide real solutions to real problems will eventually fail. It will be good riddance. There is an entire elite structure in support of the Bush crime family, and they don’t know how to act in their own best interest. The theft of two elections may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but ye reap what ye soweth. If we can learn a few basic tracking skills, maybe we can find a way out of this madness. I think we can.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Happy New Year

In attempting to understand the direction of American culture, and shed some light on how it can change for the better, I tend to look for the hologram, the part that reveals the whole. The New Year's weekend is always a great source of insight in this regard, and this one had plenty.

Like millions of people in this country I watched the Tournament of Roses Parade and a couple of bowl games. I like seeing the bands from all over the country, and am moved by the efforts made to appear in the parade. The floats are fun to watch too, and I enjoy hearing about how they are made. Though I'm not much of a football fan, I appreciate a good performance, and often the best of college football can be seen in a bowl game.

What is revealing, though, is what the television industry does with these events. The parade is shown on all three major networks, and they tend to have emcees who are actors from shows they are trying to promote, or, as in the case of NBC, someone from one of their "news" shows. They tell a lot of inane jokes and puns, and generally display their self-centeredness and shallowness, the usual fare for TV. I changed channels whenever I was disgusted, which was often.

Three glaring instances of arrogance, stupidity, and tastelessness stand out from all that was said and done over the weekend. The first was on CBS. The actor/emcee covered many subjects in his hour upon the stage, and finally felt the need, or was prompted, to say something about the tsunami that devastated the nations in the Indian Ocean. I'm not making this up. He said "For all the people who were affected by the tsunami we want you to know that you have our most heartfelt sympathy and that you are not forgotten." Or words to that effect. Yes, the people of Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Thailand, and India are all glued to TV sets watching the Tournament of Roses Parade, just like everyone in the U.S. Especially the people in the areas hit by the waves.

It gets worse. Later in the day I watched the "Tostitos Fiesta Bowl." I suppose that instead of a parade they had a Tostitos fiesta, but it wasn't televised. The game wasn't particularly memorable, but the halftime show was one that will live in infamy. The big event of the show was having the wife of a soldier serving in Iraq attempt to throw a football through a hole in a target. If her aim was true $100,000 would be donated to the USO (United Service Organization - provides entertainment to soldiers, especially overseas). To build suspense and interest, the announcers added that Tostitos had secretly flown her husband back from Iraq for the weekend, and he would be appearing after her throw of the football. She threw and missed, so the USO got only $25,000, and then her husband came out in his desert fatigues, wearing a navy blue cavalry hat from the days of Custer and Sitting Bull. The lack of surprise on the wife's face was curious, but, hey, this is TV.

So "Operation Iraqi Freedom" is really just an advertising vehicle for Tostitos. The good guys at tortilla chip central have united this hero with his family for a weekend. Then it's back to Iraq. I assume they gave him a few bags of chips for his flight back. Maybe even some for his buddies back in the land of depleted uranium sand. But there's more.

The last revealing TV segment of the weekend wasn't from the bowl festivities, but from a Sunday talk show, "This Week," with George Stephanopoulos on ABC. I rarely watch this type of show, but the time was between shows I wanted to see on PBS, so I gave it a few minutes. George Will, the original man who knows everything, was holding court about the meaning of the tragedy in the Indian Ocean. He sad that it was a great opportunity for the Bush administration to mend fences with the Muslim world. There's not much I can add to this in the way of comment. The meaning of 150,000 deaths from a natural disaster is that it is a great opportunity.

So there we have it. Any one of these instances would be enough to paint a picture of American commercial culture, the culture of the moneyed elites. Taken together, they reveal a Salvador Dali-like surrealism that is a Dante's Inferno of the mind. All that is real and meaningful is turned on its head, with money and appearance being the only values. Is it any wonder that executives of any corporation are interchangeable with executives of any other, and that they will say and do anything to promote themselves, their companies, and their products? Whether it is the tobacco companies, Enron, Halliburton, Merck, or Tostitos, they are all the same - do anything for money, do anything for power, do anything for appearance.

Ending with my usual optimism, it should be kept in mind that an elite this dumb is not going to last very long. In the grandest plans of the Project for the New American Century they didn't bother to plan for their own stupidity. It isn't just the Bush crime family. The entire megastructure of the American power elite is filled with the kind of people who think the things mentioned above are examples of American greatness. If something is seen as good public relations, then it is good. It isn't just that they should be easy to defeat. We should be able to raise the level of dialogue and perception to a much higher level than the money changers. It is for those of us with common sense and decency to chase them out of the temple. We can appeal to the entire world for help in this struggle. Sociopaths, such as those in the Bush crime family and in the corporate boardrooms, are not likely to change. The rest of the country can. If we can rise to the highest level of communication possible, this evil can be overcome. We don't have much choice.