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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.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Private accounts from Hell

Tonight George Walker Bush (I prefer the Spanish version of his name – Jorge Paseante Arbusto. Paseante means promenader.) will address the nation in front of an audience of soldiers at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. No doubt he will insist that his war is going well, that it was done to protect you, and that the world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power.

It’s all tripe, of course. Bush can’t speak before anything but a captive audience, and what more captive an audience than soldiers at Fort Bragg? There’s a Federal supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, but it might be a bit of a challenge to get the inmates to cheer at designated times during the speech. No problema with the soldiers. They’re conditioned to do what they are told.

What he won’t be saying is what the real plan is. What was the war really for in the first place? Why all the torture? Why the massacres in Fallujah and Buhriz? Haven’t heard of Buhriz? Small wonder. The kept press has kept it hidden. Read about it here.

I think I can shed a little light. According to "leftist" analyses, the Bush gang members are "Neocons" (short for "Neoconservative," the supposed symmetrical opposite of "Neoliberal") ideologues, utopian intellectuals from think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute, The Heritage Foundation, and the Hoover Institution. And of course, the Project for the New American Century. These minions do have influence, but the real reason "leftists" focus on them is because they are ideologues themselves. Since that’s the world they live in, then that’s the foe they are up against – other ideologues. It’s "left" versus "right," by definition.

In actuality, the main force behind the "conservative" movement is lust for wealth and power - a mental and emotional state. Whether it is individuals, corporations (made of collections of individuals), religious zealots, or political operatives, the supporting cast in the Bush criminal operation is a vast array of people who want to dominate other people, who want to live lives of luxury and privilege, and who want to have impunity from responsibility.

They also want to kill people. Legally. Commit murder and get away with it. Capital punishment isn’t enough. Massive poverty, disease, hunger, joblessness, and misery aren’t enough. Outright killing on a large scale is what is desired.

The lies that led to the invasion of Iraq can be rationalized by some as the necessary propaganda to enable the great empire, so it can be on its way to triumph. But I believe the real reason the lies came so easy is that they were consistent with the general criminality of the Bush regime. The torture can be explained in the same way. Law enforcement professionals have known for decades that information gained by torture is unreliable, but the Bush crime family insisted on doing it anyway. Why? Because torture is its own reward. Just like the power to take the lives of others, the power to torture creates the false sense of overlordship, of Godhood on Earth. "God" doesn't just talk to George Bush. "God" is George Bush. Or George Bush is "God." "God," being made in the image and likeness of man, since that is all that man's mind can handle, is just another guy, in this limited view. A very powerful guy, but a guy nonetheless. In the words of "right wing" preachers and generals, he is "better" than the Muslim "God." More powerful. More loving. More just and kind. And, curiously, he hates fags. At least that's what all-knowing preacher Fred Phelps would have you believe.

So in the name of Godhood on Earth, kill, destroy, maim, and torture. Render whole nations into abject misery. Terrorize the ones you don’t destroy, maim, and torture. Steal by invasion, extortion, subversion, and deceit.

Which all begs one question: What is gained? All the wealth and power in the universe? Immortality, hah, hah, hah, hah!? Purging of life’s slights and humiliations?

Hardly. The gains are fleeting and fragile. We all die some day, and as Wal-Mart heir John Walton so clearly demonstrated yesterday, you can’t take it with you. Whatever thrill is to be gained from murder and torture, it won’t last, and even a lifetime of murder and torture must end some day. Then comes the next phase, and no mortal arrives there carrying his impunity with him.

Which begs another question. What about all the people murdered? What happens to them? According to the fiction of the murderer, either it doesn’t matter, or they go to a bad place.

Iraqi girl killed during the Shock and Awe campaignBut au contraire, mon président. Over 100,000 people have been killed in Iraq, and unknown thousands in Afghanistan. They went somewhere, and it is likely a better place than the future home of sociopathic criminals. Take this child, for example. What harm did she do, to earn being marked for murder by the Bush crime family? None, of course. Her suffering is over, but I would not like to be in the shoes of those who caused her death.

More to the point, the essence of the error is in thinking that because you have killed someone that you have solved a problem, that you have gotten someone out of the way so that you can accomplish some end. In the case of the Bush crime family there are the multifaceted goals of control of dwindling oil supplies, big money for cronies like Halliburton and Bechtel, control of nations, control of masses of people, and of course, diversion of interest from responsibility for other crimes.

To gain the whole world, but suffer the loss of one’s immortal soul, a warning from Biblical times: Mark 8:36. Then there is the famous quote from Jesus: "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" (Matthew 19:24).

Another warning: Thou shalt not kill, the Sixth Commandment. Everyone gambles with misbehavior in their lives, but homicide is one that only fools play around with.

I’m not sure what happens to anyone when their time here is completed, but it can safely be said that what one does on this plane of activity should be undertaken with great care and respect. The illusion of impunity is for the dullard, the criminally insane, and the arrogant. We have a combination of all of these running the U.S. government at the present time, and it’s time we remove them from office, and from impunity. To do less is to be complicit, and to be complicit is to share in their destiny. And that destiny is not a stock in which I want any shares.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Cognitive dissonance

A couple of weeks ago when I was leaving my abode I was confronted by a man who flashed a badge at me, indicating he was a police "authority." He asked if I recognized a person whose mug shots were in a folder he carried. I told him no, and he persisted, aggressively asking more questions about whether I recognized the person in the pictures. I told him I would have to see the wanted man in person, but didn’t recognize him. He angrily walked across the hall and began beating on the door of another apartment, rang the doorbell, and pulled back and forth on the doorknob. Someone answered, and I walked away, having better things to do.

It’s not every day that one gets approached by law enforcement. At least not yet. It took a few days for it to sink in, but I found this experience a pretty good microcosm of American life. The presumed detective was Hispanic, and was about five feet-six inches tall. Even in "liberal" Madison, Wisconsin, these are factors that would place him in a position of disadvantage, of relative inferiority to his peers. A person of high character and sense of self would be able to take these challenges in stride, but that, unfortunately, is not the norm in these challenging times.

Every person who lives in this society is faced with the same problem: this is a mass system, and we are all just one person, trying to live lives with meaning, self-worth, and social value. In terms of the needs hierarchy of Abraham Maslow, we are attempting to move to higher levels of fulfillment. The predicament in which the United States finds itself is that we are stuck in the lower end of the needs hierarchy: sex, power, and money. Maslow referred to these needs as deficiency needs - basic to human survival. They have to be met before we can rise to the higher needs of love, esteem, self-actualization, and even enlightenment.

Because we have an economic system that divides reward in a pathologically disproportionate manner, poverty is a growing phenomenon. Because we have an economic system that requires continual growth in output for its very survival, protection of the environment has to be downplayed, if not ignored. Physical survival is now a concern for not just the poor and middle classes, but for the human species as a whole.

Because sexuality is not integrative to a mass industrial system, it is seen along a spectrum between two extremes: the forbidden fruit, and a form of attainment - the more and "better" engaged in, the more attained. Each extreme depends on the other for its existence. There would be no attainment if it weren’t the forbidden fruit, and it must be forbidden because it is an attainment. This is why there are so many scandals among religious extremists, and why so many former libertines become religious fanatics.

In the convoluted times in which we live, the same goes for money and power. As John Steinbeck said in "The Winter of Our Discontent," there are two kinds of money: no money and not enough money. America’s corporations and political elite have painted themselves into the corner of trying to have it all. Mahatma Gandhi once said that the entire universe is not big enough to contain the greed of one person. It is now crowded with the greed of millions of people, all vying for the not-so-holy grail of all the money and power in the cosmos, and more, since there is never enough.

Religion would seem to have a moderating effect on this pathology, but the traditional Judeo-Christian faiths have been overwhelmed by the institutional imperatives of the mass material system. The vacuum is now being filled by a formerly fringe element: hysterical Christianity. Sometimes known as evangelical, sometimes as fundamentalist, and sometimes as "The Christian right," this phenomenon works in parallel to its secular counterpart: zealous pursuit of money and power, marginalization and elimination of opponents, and pretending that large parts of reality do not exist.

The cognitive dissonance the United States is now undergoing in regard to the twin scandals of the war in Iraq and the practice of torture in various places around the world is something that we will be burdened with for some time to come. Because an increasingly rapacious economic and political elite will become absolutely and relatively smaller over time, with more and more people moved to lower levels of participation and reward, the greed model of existence will increasingly be called into question. Because environmental degradation will get worse over time in the rapacious system, the suffering and death it will cause will also increase. Eventually the dissonance will reach a critical mass point, and one of the cognitions will have to yield.

"Leftists" bemoan the propaganda power of the corporate news and entertainment media to suppress the dissonance, but this is a only partial analysis . No propaganda has the power to clean up the environment. No propaganda has the power to make war a meaningful method of human interaction. No propaganda has the power to create a sustainable economic system. And no propaganda has the power to move people and societies to higher levels of need fulfillment. As the power elites go to greater extremes to suppress cognitive dissonance, real problem solving gets delayed, and dissonance increases. Eventually the lies will become too obvious.

This progression has been going on for a long time. The ascension of the Bush crime family is a perfect phase in this progression, a marker of how far along the system is in its march to critical mass. Can we have a more absurd regime to preserve the unpreservable? It would seem not, but these are pretty absurd times. Time, the arbiter of all truth and untruth, will tell.