.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

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.

My Photo
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.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Pleasant dreams

It being Earth Day, I feel a little obliged to say something about the state of the planet. There’s really not much I could add, though, to what we already know about our common predicament. We are living in a civilization that is squandering the Earth’s bounty, threatening all life on the planet, and that has no effective intention of changing this dynamic.

This progression will continue until a critical mass of awareness changes the dynamic. Right now the dynamic is controlled by a combination of criminal government, a criminal level of business ethics and practices, a hysterical involvement of religious crackpots in public life, and an escapist cultural landscape.

Today leads to tomorrow, tomorrow leads to the next day, and the dynamics of human life change day by day. If global warming is a real phenomenon, as it very well seems to be, then the day will come that it can no longer be ignored and denied. That day is likely to come soon, and quite possibly this year. Other phenomena, such as weather changes, soil erosion, depletion of ocean life, air and water pollution, contamination of our food supply, invader species proliferation, "exotic" diseases, damage caused by genetic engineering, population explosion, habitat destruction, and species extinction all combine synergistically to hasten the day when criminality, crackpot religion, and escapism will no longer be options. Bush Yuga, the age of Bush, will be a short-lived one.

One of the heresies I speak when the chance arises is that we have an infinite growth economic system on a finite planet. Though an obvious truth, you won’t find a "leftist" saying anything about it. "Leftism" goes as far as condemnation of corporations and Capitalism, but nothing about the problem of growth. "Leftists" play ostrich with this subject because to face it means to deal with it. And to deal with it means the laundry list of "leftist" concerns has to change. A couple of decades ago "leftist" writer Robert Kuttner observed that "leftist" economists don’t want to talk about growth because growth is what allows resources to be directed towards poverty. They don’t want to talk about redistribution of resources within a steady state for reasons of political expediency and what I would call ideological inertia. Herman Daly has been writing on this subject for many years, and his latest book, Local Politics of Global Sustainability, co-written with Thomas Prugh and Robert Costanza, is a worthy read, and covers the subject of growth and human civilization in a truthful and timely way.

The only event I went to today had nothing to do with Earth Day, as such. A new temple is being constructed at Deer Park, the Tibetan Buddhist monastery established by the Dalai Lama’s former teacher Geshe Sopa. Today the groundbreaking ceremony was held. On a day dedicated to saving the Earth, I was lucky to spend my time with someone who embodies what a human being can attain in life. Geshe Sopa to me is a living Buddha, a humble, light-hearted, enjoyable person who embodies the highest teachings of all world religions. I needed that example today. If the human species is to survive and flourish we all need to have examples of what a person can aspire to, and how a being can be on this planet.

As well as Geshe Sopa, it was heartening to see all the Tibetans who came to the ceremony, families uprooted from their homeland, but living in America and maintaining their culture and spiritual life. There also were many Americans of European descent, reaching out to their brethren from far away, all because they wish to reach a higher level of being.

This was the perfect Earth Day for me. The future of the planet depends on human beings. Human beings seeking a higher level of existence. To be around a few of them was both a reminder and an inspiration. A reminder of what is important, and an inspiration to continue seeking a higher ground of being. If I can dream of reaching the level of Geshe Sopa, then other people can too. Dreams can spread. May we all have pleasant dreams.

Friday, April 15, 2005

United we stand

There is an event upcoming in Madison, Monday, April 18. Theologian David Ray Griffin is giving a talk about his research for his book "The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions And Distortions." The talk is sponsored by a new organization, the Muslim-Jewish-Christian Alliance for 9/11 Truth. C-Span is covering the event, a first for coverage of the 9/11 truth movement. I hope it goes well. (Apparently it did. Read about it here.)

I have a very simple approach to the questions about the attacks of September 11, 2001. George W. Bush was a criminal before he was governor of Texas, while he was governor of Texas, in his selection as President in 2011, in his invasion of Iraq, and in his election in 2004. Criminal involvement in the September 11 attacks would be entirely consistent with his criminality before and after the attacks. The question, as far as I am concerned, is not his culpability, but of what can be done about it, and how to be about it.

Like the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy, we may never know for sure who and what were behind the attacks of September 11. We don’t have an institutional structure that has room for that level of truth and knowledge. We can assume there are nefarious forces at work in this country at all times, cooking up plots, schemes, best laid plans, and conspiracies to control the universe, hah, hah, hah, hah!, and enslave mankind. The temptation of power is just too strong for some people.

Before exploring what to do about this predicament, we first must ask the question of how to be about it. This question is not "on the radar" in our national dialogue. As far as "leftists," "liberals," and "progressives" are concerned, the Bush gang is a bunch of "right wingers," or "neo-cons," and, of course, "racists," and they should be defeated, brought to justice, and replaced by "leftists," "liberals," and "progressives."

It would be nice if it were that simple. As much as I would like to see what I call a sustainable, distributive system of economy and governance, I am very uneasy about trusting such a system to "leftists," "liberals," and "progressives." The reason I say this is because many of the "leftists," "liberals," and "progressives" I know are some of the most arrogant, narrow-minded, ego-driven, paranoid, and self-congratulating people I have encountered anywhere. Especially since the era of George W. Bush has been with us, I have found "LLPs" difficult to engage in conversation. In varying degrees of intensity they will go through a litany of what they know about how bad Bush and his administration are, or I will get what I call the "I was there when…" syndrome. "I was there when the Dow riots happened," "I was there when the Miffland riots happened," "I was there when Leonard Peltier spoke at …" One guy I know does both of these routines on a daily basis, whenever he gets the chance, which in Madison is often. It's almost like a Vaudeville act. He has nothing to offer, no solutions, no positive vision of the future, no ideas. At least none that I have ever heard offered, and I have heard his song-and-dance many, many times.

I don’t want to make too much of a generalization about this because there are plenty of people here and elsewhere who are working very hard to advance peace and reconciliation in places like Central America, Israel/Palestine, Colombia, East Timor, Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other places. There are people establishing fair trade relationships with farmers and craftsmen and women in poor countries. There are people working on issues of fair housing, living wage, local currency, economic democracy, food quality and independence, transportation, protecting the environment, and myriads of other issues.

The difficulty I have is with the talkers, the pretenders to knowledge, the jibber-jabberers, the peer group status campaigners. An easy example for me is in writing this blog. No one I know who has read it has anything to say about it, other than "Did you really do all that stuff?" It doesn’t fit within the limits of "leftist," "liberal," "progressive" thought and interaction. The ideas and experiences expressed do not make for easy jibber-jabber, and do not provide much inspiration for peer group status promotion. What I write does not invite point-scoring, one-upping, Bush bashing, or slogan repeating. I don't promote the idea of an "us" opposed to a "them."

If human society is to survive and advance, then we all have to do better. We have to realize that the problem we face is not as simple as "us" versus "them," that ego-centeredness will destroy us, and that the conspiracies that arise to undermine our civilization exist in a context. The difference between the criminals who facilitated the September 11 attacks and anyone else in this society is not great. Indeed, they came out of this society, full-fledged members. Even if completely exposed, these evildoers will find much support in this country. Condoleeza Rice has already admitted on nationwide TV that the warning "Bin Laden determined to attack within the United States" was not just ignored, but rejected, opposed. She got a promotion. The Republican Party has become a party of criminals. The Democrats have consistently gone along with them (though that seems to be changing a bit). The supposed "religious right" supports the criminality of the Bush Administration, and is more concerned with power than with the values of love and kindness that Jesus advocated. A good many of them are criminals themselves, and inciters of criminality.

This theme will continue as I write this blog. As long as one self-appointed "us" looks down on another designated "them," our civilization will continue in its certain slide to disaster. We can wake up, as a society, to the criminality of our money-power elite, and take the necessary steps to make our civilization sane and sustainable. We just have to do it together. It won’t be easy, and at this point it doesn’t seem likely. If left to the ego-point-scorers that I know, we’re sunk.

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.