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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, August 30, 2006

Mistaken identity

Professor Irwin CoreyFrom the mid-sixties to about the mid-seventies Chicago Sun-Times columnist Irv Kupcinet hosted one of the first "talk shows" on TV, "Kup's Show." His guests included politicians, entertainers, and other public figures. On one memorable night Martin Luther King eloquently explained his oppostion to the Vietnam war. His exchange with former Illinois senator Paul Douglas was the kind of conversation all too rarely seen and sorely needed today.

Another memorable night was in the early ‘70s, when the panel included Professor Irwin Corey, a comedian I detested. His act consisted of a parody of the archetypal intellectual, using flowery academic language in convoluted patterns of gibberish, speaking total nonsense.

That night changed my view of Irwin Corey completely. He dragged the conversation down repeatedly with his nonsense, and at one point blurted out “Did you know that the people of the United States support the Communist Party?” Everyone on the panel voiced their impatience and displeasure at this outrageous question. Corey stood his ground. He said something to the effect of “Do you remember when there was the plane hijacking at O’Hare Field last year?” Murmurs of yes, yeah, sure. “Well,” Corey continued, “all the FBI agents in Chicago were called in to help. That night, the Communist Party held a meeting, and I was the only one who showed up!”

It was one of those “ah-hah!” moments. Outrageously funny, and piercingly insightful. I don’t think I ever saw Irwin Corey on TV again, but I have had great respect for him ever since that night. It also provided me with a perfect metaphor to use whenever I feel uneasy about not just how extremist groups are depicted, but about how any phenomenon is presented. The two main sources of propaganda and misinformation are governmental bodies and corporations, and their means of presentation is the news media.

From the Wisconsin State JournalA case in point was last Saturday’s permitted rally by “Nazis” from Minnesota. Somehow this group’s permit gave them priority over Madison’s farmers market, which was forced to close two hours early to accommodate the rally.

Madison’s main peace group called for a counter-demonstration, hoping to mobilize the city in opposition to the “Nazis.” Eighty people showed up. I wasn’t one of them. I had better things to do.

This is a hopeful sign. If a mere 80 people could be aroused to see the “Nazis” as a threat, then Madison is making progress. I know from ongoing experience that there is an element in this town that can be incited to action by any perceived injustice anywhere on the planet. I call it the "something happened somewhere" syndrome.

A couple of weeks ago I tuned in to Madison’s doctrinaire “leftist” radio station, and in the one minute I had the station on, I was informed that a developer in South Dakota is infringing on Native American rights. The tone of the “alarming” news was depressive and self-righteous. The story was covered the following day on National Public Radio, and was a bit more nuanced. The supposed threat is construction noise in a well-traveled area, near Bear Butte. I camped there once, and remember that Bear Butte is near a busy highway. It is sacred ground to the Lakota, but is also a state park, with some areas reserved for rituals. In a perfect world, the native peoples would never have been conquered and oppressed. In today’s world of multiplicity of cultures and land use, conflicts are best resolved by accommodation and cooperation.

As far as the “Nazis” are concerned, the first thing I look for is the leader. Is he sane-looking? Is he the kind of person sane people will follow? Is there a compelling message?

Then I look to the accompanying “extremists.” Do they look like quality human beings? Do any of them look more impressive than the leader? As can be seen in the above picture, neither the leader nor the one follower look very impressive. They claim to speak for the “white race,” but it's pretty obvious they are grasping desperately for some self-esteem. They may be capable of causing a lot of mischief, but the kind of fascism they are trying to foment is very unlikely. Whatever government infiltration there is of this group, it would have to be the work of near-genius in order to fit in.

The kind of fascism represented by the Bush crime family, now that’s another story. The BCF has been very successful in implementing fascistic controls: serial wars and war mongering, restrictions on civil liberties, symbiotic relationships with large corporations (otherwise known as crony capitalism), theft of elections, effectively creating a dictatorship, and an intensive propaganda apparatus. Other characteristics of fascism that fit the Bush crime family can be seen here.

Whether we are in a condition of fascism or not, the real question is why, in this critical time in world history, there is so much human failure. Why is failed leadership so rampant? What is it about our sense of human accomplishment and worthiness that such people as George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleeza Rice, Karl Rove, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, and Oliver North can rise to prominence? If these people can be accepted as leaders, why not the men in the picture? Surely they have the same sense of personal mission. If the Bush gang and their enablers can be leaders, the “Nazis” can too.

“Leftists” believe it’s all because of ideology, because that’s the world they live in, but the answer is much simpler. The source of all this madness is the human ego, the sense of self-identity, of individual attachment to temporal existence. Power obsession is a form of false consciousness, a lust for a sense of immortality through self-aggrandizement.

I’ve mentioned this predicament before in this blog. If there is a history to record about this era, and a truthful history, it will have to look back on this time as the age of the human ego run amok. The age of ontological error – of misplaced identity, believing the temporary to be permanent.

But the temporary is just temporary, as are the people who believe it to be permanent. The members of the Bush crime family, whether brought to justice or not, will pass from the temporary scene very soon. Then comes the next thing. Now is the time to prepare.

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