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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, June 10, 2007

Attraction and repulsion

Paul KrugmanMy involvement in politics has been incidental and accidental, for the most part. For example, in 1996 I was working as a temp, and one day I got a call from the agency I was working for, offering me a position telemarketing for the “Republicans.” The agency person told me I would just be soliciting donations from previous contributors, and that I didn’t have to take the job if I felt uncomfortable about it.

Poverty can dim your sense of right and wrong. After a brief hesitation I told her “I’ll take it.” I reasoned that it was just taking money from one “Republican” and giving it to another "Republican." Dole was going to lose anyway, so making a bit of cash from his campaign wasn't such a bad thing.

The following day I reported for training to the state “Republican” headquarters, a small suite of offices a few blocks from the state Capitol. A file cabinet in the main office had a bumper sticker on it that said “Life’s a Hillary.” This was supposed to be a funny take on the cliché “life’s a bitch.” I found it curious that Hillary Clinton, not Bill, was the focus of "Republican" hatred. Times haven't changed much. Nowadays they hate her more.

My fellow hirees included a middle aged “African-American” woman, a young “African-American” man, a female University of Wisconsin student, and someone else whom I can’t remember. While we filled out application paperwork I turned to the “African-American” woman and said, “I never thought it would come to this.” She replied, “I know,” in that long, drawled-out manner of slave-culture dialect that spoke volumes. It was the entire history of slavery in two words.

The “African-American” male was dressed in what I would call cheap fancy – pointed shoes, big-collared striped shirt, lots of jewelry. The UW student was wearing student-casual, a stretch pants outfit with sandals. She seemed half asleep, and probably was.

The manager of the office appeared after a few minutes, and started by asking if any of us knew about the election. The “African-American” guy spoke up immediately, proudly stating “I know all about the “Democrats” and the “Republicans!” In fact, I just read in the paper that Dole is already demanding a recount!” I felt badly for him, but still felt I had to respond, and told him that what he read was in The Onion, and was just a joke. He loudly answered, “No! I read it in the paper!” It was not worth pursuing any further.

The office manager continued with his introduction, telling us the campaign wasn’t going very well, and that “Republican” voters were angry that Dole had avoided Wisconsin. I still remember one of his stranger remarks: “Jack Kemp’s helmet is in the Packers Hall of Fame, but he still won’t come here!” Jack Kemp, for those who don’t remember, was Bob Dole’s running mate. Before becoming a politician he played quarterback for the Buffalo Bills professional football team. I found it weird that the manager thought a football helmet was a good reason for a political candidate to visit Wisconsin, but I was in uncharted waters.

The training mostly consisted of learning the fundraising script, and developing responses to objections and refusals. We spent a good deal of time listening to experienced tele-republicans, seeing how they did the job. The following day would be our first real day on the job.

I showed up the next afternoon at the appointed time, and was the only one from my group who returned. I was disappointed, especially that the “African American” woman hadn’t returned. I felt that I needed a kindred spirit, and now I was alone in this morass of negative consciousness. I also had a twinge of guilt that I was the only one who, after having a night to think it over, was still willing to raise money for the “Republicans.”

The work started slowly, with me taking time between calls to ask questions and try to improve my money-hustling. It was bizarre. One of the people I called was a woman in Milwaukee who told me her son was Rush Limbaugh’s producer, and she was furious that Dole wouldn’t come to Wisconsin. I told the office manager about this, and he said “Yeah, I know who that is! Her son is Joe Btfsplk (or some such entity). He’s a great guy!” And some more “Republican” blah, blah, blah.

I was amazed at how many people I called were elderly, retired, and not very well off. And furious at Dole for “not coming to Wisconsin.” It’s a strange world, the realm of political campaigning. Not one person mentioned any issue facing the country. It was all about Dole “coming to Wisconsin.”

My shift was for eight hours, but after four hours I started getting physically ill. I trudged on for a while, but got so dizzy I thought I was going to pass out. I finally got up, and stumbled towards the door, telling the manager “I’m sorry! I just can’t do this!” It took until the next morning before I felt better. I at least had the satisfaction that I didn't raise one red cent for the “Republican” campaign for president.

Such was my sojourn into the world of “Republicanism.” I felt as though I had been saved by some inner force of revulsion that would not allow me to sink to this level. The kind of dizziness I felt was like nothing else I have experienced, coming from some primordial domain. I took it as a warning.

What reminded me of this experience was not the current campaign as such, but a post I read in “The Daily Howler.” It was a commentary on New York Times op-ed columnist Paul Krugman’s latest offering about the prostitute role the news media have played in enabling the “election” of George W. Bush, and of propagandizing his criminal “war.” Krugman contends that the news media, far from being “liberal biased,” are actually willing tools of the “Republican Party.” Whores. Prostitutes. Mercenaries. Bargainers with the devil, ala Dr. Faustus. Krugman sees the major media as unrepentant, too enamored of their money and celebrity, corrupted by their own hubris, unable to do anything but act as shills for their patrons, the evil “Republicans.”

So what’s the lesson here? As I have learned many times in my life (see “Similarities”), I’m no “better” than anyone else, just lucky. I could have killed when I was in the Army, but avoided being put in that circumstance. From early in life I responded to situations in ways that were unique to my experience.

More than anything else, though, the thing that has guided me is the connection I have with spiritual reality. I didn’t embark on a path of meditative practice on a whim. It was an intuitive response that had years and probably lifetimes of preparation. Throwing gravel at Douglas MacArthur was preparation for three irreverent years serving in the Army. Running away from home when I was three prepared me for quitting every bad job I had, to say nothing of freeing myself from a couple of religious cults - Roman Catholicism and Siddha Yoga. I’m not sure what experience caused me to stumble out of the “Republican” headquarters, but the world would be a much better place today if a few “journalists” stumbled away from their computers and television cameras over the past decade or so.

Yoga philosophy says we should be beyond attraction and repulsion, but you first have to have the capacity for repulsion. Then you can move beyond it. The problem for “journalists” in “America” today is that they have not yet developed the capacity for revulsion. Again in yogic terms, this is known as “tamasic.” It is a state of dullness, of darkness, of ignorance, and of delusion and pursuit of destructive activities.

And of course, the perfect example of this dullness, darkness, ignorance, delusion and pursuit of destructive activities is none other than George W. Bush, “President of the United States.” The “journalistic” profession is just fine with this state of affairs, having “successfully” enabled it. The real lesson here, I believe, is that we are very, very early in the game of civilization. The reaping of what has been sown in the modern era will last for probably centuries, long after the prostitute-journalists are gone. Let’s hope the next generation advances to a sense of revulsion.


Blogger MartaSzabo said...

Hi John,

Just found your blog and really enjoyed the story of not raising one red cent for the Repubs. I will read more.

You might enjoy reading my stories of life in the Siddha Yoga ashrams (though it was after your time):

I'll be back for more, for sure.

warmly, Marta

6/12/2007 5:43 PM  

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