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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.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

No child left behind

The 'Mideast powderkeg,' now starting to explodeIn February I wrote about the changing relationships of different "nations" and peoples on the planet, and linked to a map of the “Mideast” which highlights individual countries. I knew “Israel” was small relative to most other countries in the region, but seeing it in relief made the smallness pretty startling.

For a long time I have been saddened and angered by the behavior of “Israel” toward the “Palestinians,” of its ambitions in the region, of its relationships with other countries in the region, and its curious symbiotic co-dependency on the ruling elites of the “United States.” Because “Israel” is in possession of atomic weapons, the simmering feuds with other countries, Iran in particular, have the potential of igniting a nuclear war. I was surprised, then, at my reaction to looking at the map.

The rightness or wrongness of Israel’s behavior (I should say of the ruling structure of the State of “Israel”) receded into the background, and I started to see things from the perspective of “Israel” looking out.

The programmed response from American doctrinaire “leftists” is that “Israel” was created by the utopian dreams of “Zionists,” who believed that the land “Israel” now occupies belongs to them, because it is the ancient home of the “Jewish” people. According to “leftist” doctrine, the land belongs to the “Palestinians,” and their rights are being violated.

This is a true representation of the facts, as far as I can tell, but it only tells part of the story. Partial truth, I’m afraid, is one of the scourges of modern times.

Whatever the roots of “Zionism,” it is a pretty undeniable fact that the World War II extermination plan of Adolf Hitler et. al. was the largest scale attempt to eliminate an entire people in history. Actually, they tried to eliminate several peoples - “Jews,” “Gypsies” (“Roma”), and “homosexuals.” They also were executing the mentally ill and retarded, and people with birth defects, dwarfs, etc. But the main target of their extermination scheme was the “Jewish” people. It is further undeniable that the scale of the mass murder is the single greatest factor in the settlement of and statehood granted to Israel. With an attitude of “never again,” the nation of “Israel” has amassed the strongest, toughest military in the Mideast, superior to that of almost any country on the planet. They have the most effective, competent intelligence agency in the world, the “Mossad,” which even spies on the “United States.” And, thanks largely to their influx of “Soviet” nuclear scientists, who fled the oppression in their home country, “Israel” has a nuclear arsenal as advanced and potent as exists anywhere.

Ever since the establishment of the “Jewish” state, “Israel” has faced the enmity of its neighbors – “Lebanon” to the north, “Syria” to the northwest, “Jordan” to the west and south, and “Egypt” to the east and southeast. It is almost beyond comprehension that millions of people around the world would want to settle in such a hostile region, but “Israelis” consider the land theirs, and that it is sacred land, the “Holy Land.” “Christians” also believe it is the “Holy Land.” I’ve always wondered if that means that the land of, say, Keokuk or Aliquippa is profane land. Is any land on this planet more sacred than any other? The basis for the presumed sacredness is that people lived there centuries ago, and surprise of surprises, they were “Jewish.” Actually, there were twelve tribes of “Israel,” of which the “Judeans” were only one. Since none of the other tribes have come forward to seize the “Holy Land,” the “Judeans,” or at least the professed descendents of the “Judeans,” lay claim to the whole area by what can be called “evictors' squatter's rights.”

If World War II had not happened, and thence the “Holocaust” also had not happened, the prominence of the State of “Israel” would not be what it is today. Indeed, if there is anything that Adolf Hitler and his band of strange people “accomplished,” it was to instill a “Jewish” identity and national spirit among people of “Hebrew” descent and/or religion. The scale of the mayhem, especially after centuries of abuse, united the “Jewish” people like nothing else could. It also emboldened them, especially in “Israel,” to have the attitude of “never again,” and to respond overwhelmingly to any perceived threat, domestic or foreign, real or imagined. Sounds kind of familiar, doesn't it? One difference between "Israeili" policy and “American” policy is that “Israel” actually is surrounded by threats. Ours are threats of opportunity. The opportunity to seize Iraq's oil created its own motive. The method was lies, fear mongering, and brutality.

The Palestinian Authority Headquarters in Nablus, attacked by Israeli forces July 21, 2006That resolve has been tested many times, in wars, “Intifadas,” suicide bombings, and in international condemnation and ostracism. It is again being tested, in what may be the beginning of the final test. The instability of the governments in the region has been intensified by the imperial ambitions of the Bush crime family. The “Shock and awe” invasion and occupation of Iraq has fueled “Arab” anger and resentment, to say nothing of anger and resentment worldwide. What Bush’s meddling in the “Mideast” has done is to put the pent up frustration and anger into overdrive, to take rationality and restraint out of the picture completely.

George W. Bush is a fight starter. Because he, personally a coward, has the backing of major corporations, the military, and enough of the compromised, unintelligent, intemperate, and fanatical segments of the population, he is able to act as a bully both domestically and internationally. And act he does, with a resulting utter failure that is both predictable and tragic. Since the inception of the “United States of America,” the “country” established with the highest set of principles in human history, it has progressed to become the world leader in economic prosperity and military righteousness, the dominant factor in victories in the only two “world wars” in the presence of the human species on this planet.

All of that power and prestige has literally been tossed out the window. Our military is now so powerful that it is scraping the bottom of the proverbial barrel for recruits, taking neo-Nazis, people with criminal records, and with low mental test scores. The result is what we are seeing in Iraq – wanton rape and killing of innocent civilians. Our economy is teetering on collapse, for a number of reasons. For just one example, We owe too much. Thanks to Bush’s imperial thrust (pretty obviously some sort of compensation for real inadequacy going on there), the amount of borrowing from foreign “countries,” especially “China,” has reached for the stars, so to speak. The amount of debt held by individuals is about to reach a crisis stage. And the amount of debt to the environment is in a chronic crisis stage. Wildfires, hurricanes, floods, soil erosion, depletion and poisoning, urban sprawl, overpopulation, extinction, and befouling of the nest have all made humankind an unwelcome presence on the planet. Again, it is the “United States” that has been the “leader” in this onslaught on the ecosystem. And there has been no better “leader” in this onslaught than George W. Bush.

This all kind of begs the question, doesn’t it? “Conservatives,” are you happy with what you have wrought? Are you satisfied with what you have “conserved?” And most especially, “neo” “conservatives.” Are you happy with what you have “neoed?” Are your grandchildren busy writing those songs about you? Are not just the people of “Iraq,” but “Arabs” throughout the region busying themselves planting flowers to throw at you, should you deign to parade yourselves through their streets? And here at home, are you ecstatic about the great future you have molded for the “American” people? Has the wealth you have gathered for yourself and your cronies made “all boats rise,” as if you ever cared? Has your ability to lie repeatedly on Fox “News” brought you closer to “God?”

It is well-known throughout the world just what the nature of the Bush crime family is. For both “Americans” and the rest of the planet, the real question is what to do to insure that the human species has a future, a future of decency and harmony with the ecosystem, with a reasonable level of subsistence. A lot is being done already, mostly on the micro level, with fair trade organizations, organic agriculture, biofuels, human rights organizations, peace activism, healthcare advocacy, pursuit of genuine spirituality, and myriads of other activities. The groundwork is there. For the groundwork to replace the madness that predominates all that is required is for a power realignment – from corporatism and “for the few-ism” to “small is beautiful-ism” and “for the many-ism.” From arrogance towards nature and people to humility. For Bush and his ilk, of course, the only way to instill that humility is prison, their rightful place. As Ken Lay showed us, just the thought of humility is enough to horrify most of them unto death. Not to worry. They’ll all be back, either in another, humbler form, or we may see thousands of them in burlap clothing spreading cinders in front of churches. It would be a sight to see.

SouthernBeirut, July 18, 2006For the people of “Israel,” I would advise putting your “never again” stance in a wider perspective. Given the igniting powder keg in your region and the likelihood that it will get worse, do you really have the luxury of such militancy, and such disdain for the lives of people you perceive as being “other” than yourselves? Is it absolutely, positively vital to your existence that you identify intensely with being “Jewish,” accepting the “otherness” cast upon you by Adolph Hitler and persecutors before him, mainly “Christian,” “Roman,” and ancient “Egyptian?” Are you really “God’s chosen people?” Does “God” really “choose” people? How does that happen? Is it like choosing up sides for a baseball game, where “God” tosses a bat, and someone catches it, and then “God” and that “person” alternate grabbing the bat until they reach the top, the last “person” getting first choice? “God” of course “wins,” and gets first “choice,” and “chooses” the “Jewish” people?

Is the luxury of such grandiosity and paranoia a winning combination in the context of Global Warming and the impending dénouement of the “American” dominance on the world scene? Is time on your side? Is the planet on your side? Is “God” on your side?

Is it worth risking your future by tying your fortunes to those of the Bush crime family?

This is of course a great burden to place on the people of “Israel.” “Win” or “lose,” they are in the thick of it, and there is no easy way out. For others on the planet, there is also no easy way out. It is tempting for many, especially those with a history of hatred of the “Jewish” people, to retreat to what is inappropriately called “anti-Semitism.” The term “Semite” actually refers to all the peoples of the “Mideast,” (except for the Iranians, who are of “Aryan” ancestry) so to be an “anti-Semite” is to hate almost everyone who lives there or descends from that region. Needless to say, this emotional disposition is abundant in “America,” mostly among “Conservatives” and especially among their less intelligent and fanatical minions, religious or otherwise.

This begs a similar set of question for people worldwide, and for “Americans” in particular. Do you really have the option for such hatred? Is this an attitude that is likely to achieve a positive result? Do the lives of your children and your children’s children mean anything to you? Is “God’s” benevolence and mercy meant only for you? Do you really think that “God” is that stupid? Even if you are that stupid, is it really worth the gamble that the certainty you have in your head is proof enough that you can’t possibly be wrong? It doesn't take much intelligence to have an ego, but it is enough to enable all the perfidy that humans are capable of.

Enough said on that little issue. We’ll find out soon enough. What I would remind “anti-Semites” is that our world civilization would not be much without the contributions of “Jews.” Jesus (His real name apparently was “Yeshua.”), of course, was the greatest influence. Other names that come up for me offhand are Albert Einstein, Leonard Bernstein, Barry Commoner, Bob Dylan, Karl Marx, Groucho Marx, Itzhak Perlman, Yehudi Menuhin, Mordechai Vanunu, Norman Mailer, Daniel Barenboim, Seymour Hersh, Arthur Miller, Jerry Wurf, Barbara Boxer, Russ Feingold, Paul Newman, Sandy Koufax, Hank Greenberg, Al Franken, Jon Stewart, Paul Samuelson, Saul Alinsky, Jonas Salk, George Soros, Steven Spielberg, Barbara Streisand, and Noam Chomsky. That is just to name a few. My two favorite movie actresses are “Jews,” – Goldie Hawn and Winona Ryder. I worked at Grossinger's in 1979. (To investigate further the contributions of “Jews” to human history, click here and here.)

Russ Feingold and me, 2003I don’t claim to be a “pro-Semite” or an “anti-Semite.” I simply don’t recognize the distinction as having any meaning. My attitude can best be described as some combination of John Lennon’s “Imagine” and “U2’s” “One.” It kind of grates me to give any credence to U2. Though most of my ancestry is indigenous “Irish,” I haven’t been much of a fan of this band, and especially its “leader.” Too much of too much. “Imagine” isn’t one of my favorite songs either, but the words fit closer to how I look at the world than any other I can think of. The Grateful Dead’s “Ripple” is probably the most pertinent to my own path in the grand scheme of things. I am writing this post while listening to "Garcia plays Dylan." (If you follow the links you can sample the songs. Try "She belongs to me.")

But I digress. As I have said before in this blog in a variety of ways, we are at a great crossroads in human history. A turning point of momentous importance and difficulty. A shift in consciousness and of the way we do things on this planet. That is, if we are to survive as a species. To many, their self-created super-identity with some illusionary faction of humanity is more vital and urgent than the survival of “homo sapiens.” We are enduring the ultimate test of the intelligence or stupidity of the “human” species. Whether or not we pass the test is unclear. Like Bush’s “No child left behind” scheme, passing the test will be the determinant of the reward or punishment we will receive. Unlike Bush’s “No child left behind” scheme, this test is for real. And it is timed.


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