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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, October 29, 2006

The throwaway society

In the early 90s I worked as a substitute teacher, and one day I got called to sub for a math teacher in a predominantly “African-American” junior high school. I didn’t do much teaching, since the teacher had tests prepared to give to the classes. In one of the afternoon classes, while I was sitting at the teacher’s desk doing not much, a student came up and asked for help doing an extra credit question. He took me by surprise, because he was polite, calling me “Mr. Hamilton,” was neatly dressed, and was wearing a tie. He had very short hair, and I assumed he was being raised in the “Nation of Islam.”

The problem went something like this: Tommy’s father’s age is 4 times Tommy’s age. In four years, Tommy’s father’s age will be three times Tommy’s age. How old is Tommy, and how old is his father?

I looked the problem over, and was trying to figure out a way of explaining it without giving the answer. A girl in the class yelled that I didn’t know how to solve it, and things were getting a bit unruly. I asked the student if he knew any Algebra, and he said no, so I told him I would just do the problem algebraically, and I assured him that he would learn the method the next school year.

I said something to the effect of “Let X be Tommy’s age, and Y be his father’s age. Since Tommy’s father’s age is four times Tommy’s age, we can say that Y=4X. In four years, Tommy’s father’s age will be three times Tommy’s age, or Y+4= 3(X+4), which can be multiplied out to Y+4=3X+12. This can be reduced to Y=3X+8. Substituting 4X for Y, we get 4X=3X+8, which is the same as 4X-3X=8, or X=8, Tommy’s age. Since Y=4X, Tommy’s father’s age is 32.”

He was stunned at the ease with which I solved the problem, and thanked me. The class became less unruly, and I felt like I had accomplished something.

This is the kind of moment teachers live for. A willing and enthusiastic student who is polite and respectful, an opportunity to actually teach something, and a result that might be an inspiration to not just one student, but possibly the entire class. Moments like this were rare, with babysitting and disruption being more often the case. I'd like to think that this student went on to be a rocket scientist at NASA or a theoretical physicist at Caltech or Berkeley.

It's nice to be appreciatedI’ve done substitute teaching off-and-on for many years when things were slow at my regular job, and sometimes it was steady enough that it was my only job. I was better at it when I was younger, and the students were more accepting then. I finally gave it up a couple of years ago. The schools have become more out of control, and the danger level has gotten more serious over the years.

The school district I taught in recently is predominantly “white,” in a small town near Madison, where you would think the situation would be vastly different. It was different, but not vastly. The same problems exist, but to a lesser degree. There are drugs, gangs, violence, underachievement and alienation, like in the big cities. Cable television is the same everywhere, and the same video games are available, so children throughout the “United States” are exposed to the same “youth culture” pressures and temptations. Holographically, the part revealing the whole, it is safe to say that “American” society is in a state of deterioration, of decline.

The deterioration in “inner-city” schools is much worse. I watched a segment of “Nightline” a few days ago, which focused on the HBO TV show “The Wire.” The show is about a school in Baltimore, where the students don’t have much to look forward to, and the threats of violence and drugs make their lives pretty bleak.

Then they graduate. School is over, and it’s out into the adult world of employment and citizenry. For the youth of Baltimore the poor educational experience is followed by poor job prospects and the attraction of a life of crime.

The results of this pattern of failure nationwide can be seen on a daily basis here in Madison. Madison’s downtown is inundated with homeless men, “black” and “white,” often inebriated, aggressively panhandling for money, and many of them menacing and violent. Over the past several months there has been a rash of vicious muggings and rapes, with the few who have been apprehended being among the homeless population.

Near where I live there is a park where homeless “African-American” men hang out. They sleep in the park shelter, and as the weather gets colder, they make campfires from tree branches and palettes they find. A bicycle path weaves through the park, and whenever I ride through there’s a ruckus going on, but they know better than to bother people using the park.

Recently a number of arrests have taken place in the park, as suspects in the muggings have been identified. I haven’t been by there lately, but the days of unrestrained camping are likely over.

This is not a meaningful way to run a country. One thing I noticed above all else about the men in the park is that, by-and-large, they were able-bodied, strong-looking individuals, capable of doing productive work. No doubt they all have been through the criminal justice system in one way or another. “American” life has passed them by, and they are simply human refuse, much like so much else refuse in this throwaway society.

The “conservative” answer to this problem is of course arrogant and callous: It’s their own fault. I have heard this argument time and again, in the mass communications media, and in person, from a wide variety of people, most of whom are otherwise decent human beings.

My response to this argument is pretty simple. In tribal “Africa” there was no unemployment. There were no throwaway people. Everyone had a place. These societies may not have been idyllic, but they were functional, and they existed in harmony with their environments.

Something happened between tribal life and advanced mass industrial civilization. For tribal “Africans,” the first thing that happened was kidnapping and slavery in the “New world” of the Western Hemisphere. When slavery was abolished, the former “Africans” were not returned to their homelands, but remained to fend for themselves, with varying results. In the “United States,” some have found “success,” mainly in sports and entertainment, but also in the entire gamut of modern life.

But they are the underclass, considered inferior by their lighter-skinned compatriots, and a higher portion of them are completely left out of the “American dream.” We may not like to admit it, but the system is set up that way. A mass industrial corporate society inevitably leaves people out. As long as there is corporate dominance of the economic system, people will be throwaway.

I got thrown away last year, along with over 400 other people at my place of employment, which closed. Though it hasn’t been easy, I have managed to get some retraining and have been able to find other employment, though without benefits. I’m one of the lucky ones. Unlike the dark-skinned people at the park shelter, I have a lot of “education,” a decent work history, skills, and know how to use the “system” to find work. I can quit working altogether next year if I want to. I won’t have a great living on Social Security and my paltry IRAs, but it’s something, and I won’t be on the streets.

We are having an election in a little over a week. If this country has any hope of saving itself from further decline and collapse, then our only hope is to rid ourselves of the criminals who currently run the various governmental bodies. That means get rid of all “Republicans.”

That is only a start. The “New Deal” of Franklin D. Roosevelt needs to be revived. Progressive taxation, an employment program like the “WPA” and the “CCC,” a sensible housing program, a national health insurance program, and an education system that educates would all be part of the new “New Deal.”

Criminals would be punished, starting with the Bush crime family and working from the top down. Tobacco profiteers. Weapons profiteers. Halliburton. Bechtel. Chemical polluters. Pharmaceutical parasites. Global warming mongerers, starting with the executives of major oil companies and the auto makers. And so on.

Unrealistic? OK, then let’s keep doing what we’re doing now, and see what it gets us.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Summing things up

I started this blog with the intention of raising the level of dialogue, of writing from a perspective of wholism, and of broadening the forum of ideas and analysis to areas that are not covered in conventional media. In pursuing these goals, my writing has emphasized a few simple concerns:

(1) The mass industrial system is one of infinite growth of physical output on a finite planet. The greater the level of output, the greater is the threat to the planetary ecosystem, and the greater the depletion of scarce resources.

(2) The conventional representation of political perspectives, concerns, and affiliations as fitting into an imaginary continuum of “left” to “right” is not only factually without basis, but serves to impede meaningful discussion and progress in resolving the difficult challenges we face.

(3) The administration of George W. Bush and the “U.S.” Congress is a criminal organization, dedicated to corrupting “American” public life by rigging elections, redistributing income, wealth, and power to the already rich and powerful, making the “U.S.” a threat to world peace by bullying and invading other countries, making the contracting of government goods and services subject to payoffs and cronyism, and manipulating the information media to serve their criminal enterprises.

(4) Our entire way of looking at the world and our place in it is in error. At its root is the expansion of the human ego, the illusion of individual identity and its aggrandizement through the pursuit of the lower needs of human existence: sex, power, and wealth. This illusory mode of existence is the foundation of all of the problems we face, and especially of the three previous concerns. In particular, we would not be burdened by the criminal Bush regime if we did not have a national ethic of personal aggrandizement and paranoid demonization of “other.”

(5) Because the “United States of America” is at an advanced stage of corruption of human existence, it will decline and collapse fairly soon if it does not fundamentally change to a holistic, sustainable mode of existence. We are at a monumental crossroads.

It was inevitable that a group like the Bush crime family would come along to reduce the political process to what we see today. Nothing is static in the universe, and a system of personal aggrandizement will ultimately result in a criminal sociopath doing whatever it takes to seize total power, or a reasonable facsimile thereof.

Now the Bush criminal operation is in its decline. The term schadenfreude, the pleasure in another’s misfortune, is being bandied about a lot lately, and I have to admit to some enjoyment of the difficulties of the Bush crime family. With a difference. I see it as strategic. Or maybe tactical. As long as the momentum of the planet works against the Bush criminal organization, it is prevented from implementing further criminal schemes. If “Democrats” win both houses of Congress in next month’s elections, then we are not likely to have another war, will likely exit from “Iraq,” and we just might start dealing with Global Warming.

Another benefit of the decline of the Bush crime family is that we are more likely to find out the extent of its criminality. The snowball effect of the Abramoff, DeLay, Iraq, election fraud, Enron, September 11, 2001, Hurricane Katrina, and various other scandals serve to open the doors to finding out even more about crimes in high places. At some point, the people of this country are going to have to ask ourselves what kind of country we want to have. We are going to have to ask ourselves what kind of legacy we are leaving for our children. We are going to have to ask ourselves how important it is to expand our egos. And we are going to have to ask these questions pretty soon.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Rodeo clowns

The contrasting color UN ambassadorKarl Rove has been telling people at Republican fundraisers that he has an "October surprise" ready to bring out just before the November election. What, I wondered, could he foist upon the "American" public that would guarantee "Republican" majorities in both houses of the "U.S." Congress? Many think that the usual terror scares, "swift-boating" smears, or a fake diplomatic breakthrough in some hot spot around the world are being planned, but only one possibility stands out in my intuition.

Osama at one of his cavesThe capture of Osama bin Laden. This has been Bush's ace in the hole ever since 2001. If bin Laden was allowed to escape from the "Tora Bora" mountain range, then it must have been known where he was to escape from. If so, then "we" have the technology and spying capacity to know where he has been ever since.

There is one little problem with this. Reports came out last month that Osama bin Laden was either seriously ill or dead, the result of some water-borne illness, most likely typhoid. This scenario is plausible, given the sanitary conditions in that region. When I was in India I went on a tour of holy sites in the Maharashtra state in the last week I was there. I got infected with a salmonella bacteria, which was first diagnosed as typhoid-carrying. It turned out to be less dangerous, and was easily treatable when I returned to the "U.S." I was in some of the larger towns in Maharashtra, and probably was infected in Nasik or Ahmednagar. Based on this experience, I can attest that the drinking water in the former British Raj area is of very uneven quality, and precautions are advisable when traveling there.

So Rove's "October surprise" may be something less than planned. He may have to settle for another José Padilla or Lackawanna Six hype, but the capture of Ayman al-Zawahiri might suffice.

Whatever Rove has planned, it is in the context of the North Korean "crisis," the Congressional page scandal, the balooning Jack Abramoff scandal, the deteriorating situations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the multiple scandals within the scandals. Rove, the supposed "genius" of political scheming, has his work cut out for him. I suspect his "genius" reputation is about to take a dive.

The reason that I am optimistic is something I have mentioned repeatedly in this blog: the Bush regime is a criminal organization, a gang, a syndicate, a mafia "family." Criminals may be of a devious personality type, but they are not from the more intelligent sectors of society, by and large. They also tend to have delusions of grandeur, have an arrogant attitude towards other people, and believe themselves to be much smarter than they actually are. Therein lies their downfall, time and again.

In the case of the Bush crime family, they possess all these characteristics, plus a belief that they are "entitled" to absolute power, and are above the law. Hubris is the common term applied to the BCF. Pride goeth before a fall.

With the heating up of the public scrutiny and outcry over the various scandals at the highest levels of government, a new factor is emerging: comical farce. And nowhere else is that farce more obvious than the spectacle of "America's" U.N. Ambassador, John Bolton.

I watched a bit of "Nightline" the other night, where the blustering Bolton looked ridiculous, with his bad hairpiece, contrasting color mustache, and pathetic tough-guy talk. He didn't look so tough. He is aging, and he doesn't have any skill or experience in solving real problems. He is the point man for the Bush crime family in its interactions with all the other countries on the planet, and he looks like an old rodeo clown. I took the liberty of Photoshopping a contrasting collar on the shirt he is wearing in the picture above. What other contrasts might add to his loony persona? Readers can have their own fun with this.

There is much dark humor to be mined in the cosmic joke that is the Bush crime family, but the future of the planet is at stake. The BCF is now under siege, and this makes it more dangerous. Under normal circumstances, with the momentum of the planet building against the Bush criminal organization, the eventual impeachment, war crimes trials, imprisonment, and further disempowering is the trajectory that it faces.

In order to avoid this fate, the BCF will have to try something desperate. Like Green Bay Packers quarterback Bret Favre in recent times, they will likely resort to "chukking it," throwing long in traffic, hoping against hope that the desperate moves will save them. It is unlikely that they will succeed, but it should be remembered that the September 11, 2001 attacks were enabled by the Bush crime family's negligence. They knew something like this was being planned and did nothing. No evil is beneath them.

We must be vigilant, and keep the pressure up. The game is afoot. Send out the clowns.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Value systems

I went to the county fair a couple of months ago, and the local newspapers had a booth where they offered tremendous bargain rates for subscriptions. So I signed up for the weekend special, in spite of my disdain for so much paper waste. Over the last couple of months I noticed that the advertisements for women's underwear have become more revealing and enticing, to a degree that has to be offensive to most newspaper subscribers. Men may find the ads entertaining and even arousing, but I suspect they would by-and-large not find them appropriate for a family newspaper.

A "leftist" way of looking at this phenomenon would be to rail against the exploitation of women, the commodification of sex, and the "sexist" nature of corporate greed. While all these complaints may be well-founded and accurate descriptions of the practice, I think it goes deeper, and is holographic for what ails us as a people.

We don't have a meaningful or sustainable way of distinguishing right from wrong, of good from evil, of proper from improper, and of before from after, antecedent from consequence. Ethically and morally, as a people we don't know our asses from a hole in the ground. As a result, we have such surreality as the presidency of George W. Bush, the Iraq war, torture, "extraordinary rendition," the multiplicity of scandals in our various governmental bodies, of corporate irresposibility, and of the destruction of our environment, most seriously evidenced in our unwillingness to even admit that Global Warming exists, much less to try to solve the problem.

We can go on like this for a while longer, and probably will. The growing opposition to American hubris worldwide will not slow things down domestically until the gods of money see their own stature threatened. To the average "American," change will not come except by some catastrophic event like a depression, disease epidemic, natural disaster, environmental breakdown, or some combination of these factors.

"Americans" make fun of how "Muslims" require their women to wear a veil, "chador," "hajab," , "hijab," or "burqa," (Or is it bourka, burke-uh, birqua, or bercka? Only Khadaffi, Qadafi, Kadafi, Ghaddafi, Ghadaffy, or Gadaffi knows for sure.) According to "American" values, the "Muslims" are oppressive of women, "sexist," "uncivilized," and "backward." Our ways are "better" and "more advanced." One of the things Bush and his cronies boasted loudly about in the supposed defeat of the "Taliban" in Afghanistan was that women would now be "free." They would no longer have to wear the "burqa." Mission accomplished.

Some "Muslim" cultures may be extreme in their rules of gender behavior, but they recognize something that every society on the planet contends with in one way or another: People who have reached the age of puberty, especially men, have powerful reproductive drives and urges. These drives can be controlled and channeled in various ways, but all civilizations have found it necessary to establish rules of behavior. Here in "America," men and women use separate public bathrooms. We generally wear gender specific clothing, have different grooming practices, and still have some occupations that are either gender-specific or nearly so. Nurses are still mostly women while firefighters and police are mostly men.

In regard to display of the human body, "America" is at the prurient end of the spectrum. Though few of us are as physically attractive as the women shown below, having a sexually attractive body and displaying it in an alluring fashion is the social ideal.

In my guru-following days the men were separated from the women in the chanting and meditation sessions. The reason given was to avoid distractions. At first it seemed prudish and archaic, but it gradually became clear that the practice was based on experience and practicality. Some "liberated" women voiced their objection, but men, the more easily "distracted," kept quiet. In yogic lore it is the sexual energy that is transformed through spiritual practice into higher energies. The struggle of the meditative journey is at its core a struggle to control and transform this energy. With an understanding of the power of this struggle it is easier to understand why so many religious "leaders" are found to be sexual abusers and philanderers. They aren't just phonies. They fail in the struggle.

If you have a sense of the difficulty and elusiveness of recognizing and dealing with the power of sexual energy, look at the advertisements below, and see if you agree that the "American" way of treating it might be just a little crazy, a mixture of licentiousness and condemnation, of irresponsibility and repression, of the permissive and the forbidden. Then see if this craziness applies to other aspects of our way of being. You might want to ask yourself if this way of being has a future.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

A good man gone

Gary Comer and Captain George Silva at a 'Dive and Discover' launch. Read about it here: http://www.divediscover.whoi.edu/expedition2/daily/ss000206/4.htmlGary Comer, the founder of Lands' End, died yesterday. He led a mythical American life, rising from humble beginnings to providing both employment and quality merchandise to many thousands of people worldwide. In more recent years, he became known for his charity work, funding a new children's hospital at the University of Chicago. Today's Chicago Tribune gives a good synopsis of his life. His little known advocacy for protection of the environment is described in this article.

Undecided voters of Wisconsin adFor me, the character of Gary Comer was revealed most poignantly in the full-page advertisement he placed in the Wisconsin State Journal just before the 2004 election. If you click on the image at right, a larger, more readable one will appear.The ad also appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

May he rest in peace. Thanks for the great example, Gary.

(To read more about Gary Comer's life, click here.)