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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.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Paradigm shift

I watched Bill Moyers Journal tonight, where he covered the growing influence of John Hagee, a "Christian" fanatic who is promoting military action against "Iran," the "Rapture," condemnation of the "Catholic" Church, and the presidential candidacy of John McCain.

There was a lot of talk on the show about McCain and his relationship with Hagee, the influence of Christian fundamentalism on politics, and about how various "conservatives" curry favor with religious fanatics.

The power behind the throneI tuned out on most of this talk. What interested me were the scenes of the followers of Hagee. They were waving "U.S." and "Israeli" flags, singing hymns, and generally looking vacant and blissfully identified with the ultimate truth of Hagee's message. My impression was that these were people who are desperately in need of self-esteem, of a feeling of importance, that their lives were significant. They looked like the kind of people who were ignored, demeaned, and dominated by others.

Hagee's message is false, of course. Fanatical leaders like him are interesting to me only in how they are able to manipulate the gullible and use various methods of deception to enrich themselves and gain influence.Casting the approving eye on Tom DeLay Somehow, in this fragmented, conformist mass society, the vulnerabilities and prejudices of great numbers of people are easily played upon by the clever, convincing them of silly, paranoid, and dangerous ideas that can result in great harm to themselves and to society.

It isn't just "Christian" fundamentalists who are fundamentalists, though. There is another form of fundamentalism that is as entrenched as the psychotic proliferation of low-level "Jesus" fanaticism. It is largely independent of deistic religion, but is not necessarily "atheist." What I call this fundamentalism is the religion of the "left" to "right" paradigm or model of reality.

Strange bedfellowsA few days ago I read a post on Smirking Chimp, and the author's rant against the "right wing" ruined what I felt was an otherwise pertinent and well-written essay. I had an immediate response, and then another, to a comment on my remarks. They are reprinted below:

A question no one wants to answer

For about the couple of hundredth time in Smirking Chimp, I raise a simple question: Is there such a thing as "left" and "right?" Is there in physical reality a horizontal linear spectrum of people, and a corresponding horizontal linear spectrum of ideas, attitudes, beliefs, superstitions, and mythology that can be measured by gradations along its scale? Is there a symmetry to this spectrum, whereby principles, theory, policy positions, and even theology can be shown to be on one "side" or another on this imagined scale?

Kissing cousinsThe simple answer is no. Even the terms "left wing" and "right wing" beg the question of what these wings are wings of. A great bird? Maybe it's the "American" eagle. Or the wings of a snow white dove, where "he" sends "his" pure sweet love? A sign from above.

Bush kissing male prostitute and fake journalist Jeff GannonThe ideological "spectrum" does not exist, except in the minds of the ideologically addicted. Because of this addiction, we are pressured into conforming to one wing or another of this make-believe spectrum. Meanwhile, the "Republicans" and corporations are laughing all the way to the bank.


Is it love or infatuation? Or maybe something else. Bush is closer to his Saudi friends than he is to the American people.
How about a different spectrum? How about one where criminal corporate and political behavior is looked at for what it is: criminal sociopathy. In a vertical model, there is such a thing as lower and higher realms of behavior and existence. Simple material gain and power, like in Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs, would be seen as fulfillment of lower needs, which he called deficiency needs. They are needs to be transcended if a person and a society are to reach levels of meaning and happiness that can approach self-actualization and even enlightenment.

The lie that started the invasionIn the "left" to "right" model, there is no sense of value, or of rising above lower levels of existence - just a swinging pendulum. Woops. Another model. On the mere "left" to "right" duality, the struggle goes on forever, because you can't have a "left" without a "right" to be "left" of, or a "left" to be "right" of.

All there is in the "left" to "right" model is condemnation of "those guys over there." It doesn't go anywhere. As in my favorite movie, Life of Brian, all that is accomplished is endless nitpicking, bickering, and posturing. And again, the rich, the criminal, the corporate laugh all the way to the bank, when they should be crying all the way to life in prison without parole at hard labor. The torture teamThis country is run by organized crime. Because its minions aren't necessarily of Sicilian or Italian descent and don't wear black pinstripe suits with black shirts and white ties, "intellectuals," for reasons of their own placement on the needs hierarchy, refuse to look at this organized criminal operation as anything other than what it actually is. Instead, they insist on the completely impotent paradigm of the "left" to "right" spectrum.

Part of this insistence is romantic - a remnant of revolutionary glories of past eras - the "Cuban" revolution, 1917 in Russia, The French revolution, why, even the "American" revolution. Patriots, comrades, compañeros, brothers and sisters, power to the people, and so on.

Part of it is conformity. You can immediately become part of a group by identifying with one or another "wing" of the mythical spectrum.

Part of it is laziness. You can do trite, simplistic "analysis" of the other guys, debunking their supposed "ideology," and gain some level of position in one or the other imaginary "wing" of the make-believe spectrum.

I think when Barack Obama finally becomes president, he will likely be the guiding force and inspiration for disabusing the planet of the completely useless model of reality so affectionately known as "the spectrum."

Bush with friend Jack AbramoffThen maybe we can call Bush, his cronies, their propagandists and hangers-on what they actually are: criminals. Once we start calling these people exactly what they are, maybe we can even take the next necessary step: put them all in jail for the rest of their lives.

Submitted by JAH on March 4, 2008 - 7:48pm.

Going from where we are

Well, at least someone else is not hooked on the fake paradigm of "right" and "left." The name-calling doesn't help. Referring to the Bush criminal regime as criminal is not name-calling. It is factual.

As far as having faith in Obama, he's a start. You go with what you have. I'm pretty much a phenomenologist as far as that goes. Obama is a phenomenon. He may not be up to the myth, but JFK wasn't either, and his myth got us the Peace Corps, the momentum for civil rights, Medicare, flying to the moon, and inspiration around the world. Of course, it was organized crime that got him elected, but that's another story.

The Beatles are another example. They were a phenomenon who came on the scene and changed Western culture. Among other things, they brought Indian classical music to the West, helping to inspire the World Music movement.

As I wrote in my blog a while back, Obama will be a follower as well as a leader. We either solve the problems caused by climate change and reverse the damage, or we go extinct as a species. There is no "right" or "left" to this.

The coalition of the killing having a laughThere is no criminal or law abiding to it either, for that matter, but it is the criminals who are killing the planet. They also will be extinct along with the rest of us. They just can't change because they are criminals. If you have ever known a criminal, you would observe that they are like children, immature, looking at a near-term gratification, completely inconsiderate of others except their cronies, and not so considerate of them either.

So it's not a matter of any approach to decriminalizing our society being absolutely good and another absolutely worthless. The world is not binary. If we're lucky, we make some kind of difference, and eventually something monumental happens. This civilization ruled by organized crime can't go on indefinitely.

Tougher than toughAnother way of looking at paradigm change is this: does your model of reality communicate with the general public? Does it speak to the "American" public? Or does it speak to a self-selecting intellectual elite, not necessarily an elite of intellects, just a mutually reinforcing (and putting-down) cohort of snobs, literally. I've known many of them. The one thing above all that they have in common is their arrogance. I guess the other thing is an audience of peers. Gads! Sometimes it seems as though we're completely sunk, but I think the energy on the planet is shifting.

Let's pay attention. It looks as if Ohio was stolen for Hillary (surprise), but I think Obama is unstoppable. He's the man, and we have to make him be the man he has aspired to be. That gives us something to do. Let's hope they don't shoot him, which I'm sure has crossed their minds.

Submitted by JAH on March 4, 2008 - 11:13pm.
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Here are a couple of articles about the intersect of criminality with political power. One and two. For the unaware, the reason lenders like Countrywide Financial Corp were able to engage in fraudulent loan practices in the first place is because of their connections to politicians through lobbyists making campaign donations, writing legislation for them, and infiltration of Federal and state regulating agencies, being appointed to high government positions by such criminal luminaries as George W. Bush. And, or course, through criminal influence on judicial appointments.

Now the "U.S." Justice Department is "investigating" the crimes of these lenders, but it will only go so far. If perchance we somehow regain democratic (not the same thing as "Democratic") control of the various legislative bodies, the executive branch of the Federal government, the judiciary, and the mass communications media, these lenders and their enablers can be included in the numbers of the members of the Bush criminal organization when the prison gates open for them (and then shut, for good).
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And on a couple of other subjects:
Salon letters

The beat goes on
[Read the article: Obama should be proud to be named Hussein]
[Read more letters about this article: Here]

Program for the Madison concert appearance of Hariprasad Chaurasia and Zakir Hussain, March 20, 1986And let's not forget the great tabla player Zakir Hussain, best known for his collaborations with Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart. He also was part of Shakti, the great fusion band from the '70s. I saw him perform once with "Indian" flutist Hari Prasad Chaurasia in 1986. One wouldn't think that flute and tablas would go together, but it was the most mesmerizing concert I have ever been to. If you weren't spiritually inclined before this experience, you would be forever afterward.

Zakir Hussain was born and raised in India, the son of the great tabla player Ustad Alla Rakha, who was the longtime accompanist to Ravi Shankar. For a brief introduction to his playing you can do a search on YouTube.

It is worth mentioning that in "Indian" classical music, "Hindus" and "Muslims" play together blissfully and with great talent and skill, and before audiences worldwide.

I suspect some good will come of this. Maybe, as part of the war crimes trials that await the Bush criminal regime, the history of the relationship between Saddam Hussain (Hussein) and the CIA, Donald Rumsfeld, various "Republican" regimes, and "defense" contractors will be revealed. If Hussain is such a bad name, why was it so good for so many of our political and corporate elites for so long?

Thursday, February 28, 2008 10:46 AM

HappyJack

[Read HappyJack's other letters]
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Smirking Chimp


I'm so glad

It would be great if Eric Clapton goes to "North Korea." I have found him to be a bit of a disappointment ever since Fresh Cream, one of the greatest albums of all time. Since then his work can best be described as "technical blues" or "recitation of the blues" (quoting myself). All technique, no heart.

Now he can far surpass grandstanders "Bono" and Geldof, doing something that can be a start to genuine change in the region. The "North Korean" regime can last indefinitely while it is isolated, but how do you keep 'em down on the farm, once they have seen Eríc?

Another way of looking at it is in terms of "Chaos theory," in which any phenomenon can have far-reaching and unpredictable consequences. It's worth the chance that the effects will be strong and positive. It may be culture shock for the "North Koreans," but Clapton and company will likely have the attitude, in the immortal words of that great sage Mick Jagger, "If you want some blues, I'll play some blues. Otherwise, get the hell out of here!" (Stadthalle, Frankfurt, Germany, June, 1971)

It will be great looking at the concert on YouTube. "North Koreans" doing a little "Rollin' and tumblin'." Priceless. I hope it lasts from four until late.

Submitted by JAH on February 27, 2008 - 5:22pm.
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A couple of songs by Iris Dement make good accompaniment to this post: Wasteland of the free and On the wings of a dove. Here's the original Ferlin Husky version.

Just for a little fire, here's Neil Young and Pearl Jam.

A little Cream never hurt anyone.

And let's not forget The Who.

Ah, what the heck. How about a little Traveling Wilburys?

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