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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.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

As over there, so over here

From time to time I find it helpful to restate my reason for writing this blog, and the central themes that underly my perspective. Finding the usual discourse about matters of human concern to be diversionary, dishonest, and shallow, I set out to write in a way that approaches a higher level. I know that sometimes I have failed, but even failure is a honing process that makes future efforts more insightful and disciplined.

Four themes have been the basis of my writing: (1) The worldwide industrial system is founded on creating ever-increasing levels of output, causing increased stress on resources and the ecosystem. Given the finite nature of our planetary system, the drive for economic growth will eventually reach a point where human life is threatened, to say nothing of other species. The increasing costs of growth will eventually cause the economic system to collapse. (2) The presumed ideological divide between "left" and "right" is a model of reality, not reality itself. It does not exist in reality, only in men's minds. Rather than looking at human interaction as a horizontal spectrum that increments from "left" to "right," it is more appropriate to use a model of development, from lower consciousness to higher. (3) Being liberated from the archaic "left" to "right" model, we can more accurately see the Bush regime as it actually existed: a criminal organization without scruple. Its actions over eight years in office showed no hint of political philosophy, but plenty of evidence of an extended crime spree. (4) Countries are artificial impositions on the land, and I place their names in quotes. The land does not call itself "America," "China," or "Israel." Animals don't call the land "England," "Russia" or "Palestine." Only humans do.

It's pretty clear to anyone with any sense that the Bush gang was criminal to the core. The diehards who still insist on calling it "right wing" do this because of their own agendas. Without a "right wing" to fight against, there's not much mojo in being "left wing."

It was a bit of a vindication today that President Obama said he is open to the possibility of prosecution of Bush regime officials for crimes committed during their tenure. Hopefully, they will be prosecuted. We are, after all, a nation of laws, not of men. Or are we? Time will tell.

Now that the Bush gang is out of office, the torch, such as it is, has been passed, not to the Obama Administration, but to the "Republicans" still in elective office, their enablers, and those hoping to regain power. This is not to exclude "Democrats." With some exceptions, they just aren't as fundamentally criminal as the "Republicans."

Using these four themes as a foundation, the events of the day can be put in a perspective free of ideology and obfuscation. One of my favorite ways of examining the events of the day is to place them in juxtaposition, showing the similarities and common roots.

A perfect example is in juxtaposing the Supreme Court case of the Arizona seventh-grader who was given a "strip search" with the release of the "torture memos" by the Obama Administration. School officials insist that strip searching is a fine thing to do, and members of the Bush criminal regime insist that torture is a fine thing to do. Which gives me today's theme: As over there, so over here. It's a take on Gurdjieff's "As above, so below," the difference being there is no above or below in strip searching and torture, just a matter of degree. What they have in common is the exertion of power over others, subjecting them to humiliation or worse for no purpose other than to subject them to humiliation or worse. There are excuses, of course, the "war on drugs" and the "war on terror," but they are just excuses. The essence is the act of making people take their clothes off and/or torturing them.

A true visionary of the "As over there, so over here" syndrome is David Simon, the executive producer of the HBO series The Wire. He appeared on the Bill Moyers Journal last Friday, and gave one of the most insightful, touching, and pertinent interviews I have seen, heard, or read anywhere.

Simon is worthy of extensive quoting. Here's the first: "You show me anything that depicts institutional progress in America, school test scores, crime stats, arrest reports, arrest stats, anything that a politician can run on, anything that somebody can get a promotion on. And as soon as you invent that statistical category, 50 people in that institution will be at work trying to figure out a way to make it look as if progress is actually occurring when actually no progress is. And this comes down to Wall Street. I mean, our entire economic structure fell behind the idea that these mortgage-based securities were actually valuable. And they had absolutely no value. They were toxic. And yet, they were being traded and being hurled about, because somebody could make some short-term profit. In the same way that a police commissioner or a deputy commissioner can get promoted, and a major can become a colonel, and an assistant school superintendent can become a school superintendent, if they make it look like the kids are learning, and that they're solving crime. And that was a front row seat for me as a reporter. Getting to figure out how the crime stats actually didn't represent anything, once they got done with them."

Here's another: "You know, you start talking about a social compact between the people at the bottom of the pyramid and the people at the top, and that's how you ground a society, and people look at you and say, "Are you talking about sharing wealth?" You know? "Yeah." I want to-- Listen, capitalism is the only engine credible enough to generate mass wealth. I think it's imperfect, but we're stuck with it. And thank God we have that in the toolbox. But if you don't manage it in some way that you incorporate all of society, maybe not to the same degree, but if everybody's not benefiting on some level and if you don't have a sense of shared purpose, national purpose, then all it is a pyramid scheme. All it is, is-- who's standing on top of whose throat?"

And best of all, pure gold, is this: "And we knew that character that cited what was ailing post-industrial America, he happened to be a union captain and one of the longshoreman. That he would be speaking to, at the time, what we were reacting to with Enron and things like-- and WorldCom and the first sort of-- first shots across our bow, economically. That people were trading crap and calling it gold. And that's what THE WIRE was about. It was about that which is-- has no value, being emphasized as being meaningful. And that which is-- has genuine meaning, being given low regard."

You can read the entire transcript here. He's one of those soft-spoken few people who tells truth that can make you cry. In essence, what David Simon is saying is another form of "As over there, so over here." What ails "America" is comprehensive, pervasive, and corrosive. It is also reaching a crescendo. If you apply the dysfunction that exists in the "Baltimore" depicted on The Wire to solving the problem of global warming - woops, I mean climate change - it becomes clear why we are not only not solving the problem of global warming - woops, I mean climate change - we are continuing to make the problem worse.

When I started collecting materials for this post I thought I would incorporate references to articles gleaned from websites like Rolling Stone, Salon, Democracy Now, and others. Maybe next time. A few of the articles fit today's theme, so I'll just list them here.

The Big Takeover

The best investment money can buy

Obama's Sheriff

Noam Chomsky

Usury Country: Welcome to the birthplace of payday lending

Return of the gangsters

Larry Summers, Tim Geithner and Wall Street's ownership of government

The Bush Six

Emergency measures for climate change

Syria Calling

These should suffice. One last thing to mention is that David Simon said the "U.S." is controlled by an oligarchy, which Moyers went on to define as "Government by the few. Or a government in which a small group exercises control for corrupt and selfish purposes." A few weeks earlier, on the same show, economist Simon Johnson of MIT used the same term to describe the Wall Street investment houses who control our economic policies.

If the reason that we can't stop the polar ice caps from melting is because we are controlled by an oligarchy, then maybe we need to overthrow the oligarchy. The task may seem daunting, but it won't a year from now. It will seem the only thing to do. Maybe between now and then we can do it in a less desperate way.

Any way they fall, guess who gets to pay the price. Here's the lyrics.

How about some Tracy Chapman?

A local station plays this song every Saturday. Here's the lyrics.

Here's a tune to get the blood circulating.

Here's another. For a cool-down, the slow version.

It helps to keep in mind these words of wisdom.