Sunday, October 23, 2016

The mouse that was forbidden from roaring.

“Only when a republic’s life is in danger should a man uphold his government when it is wrong. There is no other time.”—MT

The question is thus, is our republic in danger? And if so, how did it become that way? Without knowing if it is, and how we got to a place of jeopardy, odds are we’ll continue repeating historical errors. It would be most beneficial to not make them again. However, MT wasn’t so sure we won’t. According to him, “It is not worthwhile to try to keep history from repeating itself, for man’s character will always make the preventing of the repetitions impossible.” Nevertheless I’ll take a shot at opening the curtains of ignorance (a dangerous endeavor) by taking my readers on a short walk through history in order suggest answers. 

It will, however, take more than a short post to fully answer these two, and if I’ve learned nothing else from years of writing, hardly anyone reads anything other than short ones. That being the case I’ll take this in stages and the first stage concerns a satirical story—The Mouse That Roared—written post WWII by Irish American writer Leonard Wibberley. The timing of the story was critically informed subsequent to the defeat of Germany and Japan, followed by rebuilding both, with massive infusions of U.S. taxpayer dollars and then going on to become major players in the global economy. The reason for my choice, while not immediately apparent, will become clear as I continue with subsequent stages in posts to follow.

In the story, the tiny European Duchy of Grand Fenwick has built a precarious economy based on growing and selling Pinot Grand Fenwick wine. Unfortunately the entire economy is placed in harms way when an American winery makes a knockoff version, “Pinot Grand Enwick,” putting the Duchy on the verge of bankruptcy.

The prime minister decides that their only course of action is to declare war on the United States and bank on a quick and total defeat (since their standing army was equipped with mere bows and arrows). The next sequence in his plan was to rebuild itself through the largesse of the United States and then become annexed, no longer singularly dependent on Pinot Grand Fenwick wine, but instead enjoying the prosperity of being a member of the U.S. The success of the intended plan depended on the “roar” of this tiny mouse, however the plan didn’t work out as expected. But this misguided part serves my purposes in setting the stage for answering the two question about the danger of our republic. And as we will see, the present day mouse has been prohibited from roaring effectively, and just like the story, the plan has gone South. 

In the posts to follow I’ll begin to wend the thread from a sad beginning to a sad end by considering how the emergence of ISIS actually began.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The new national bird?

Your choice.
“Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul.”—Mark Twain

It’s my intension (although not always delivered) to take a daily walk through the woods that run adjacent to my house. Above the trees runs a power line, upon which sit thousands of birds, and far above flies an eagle. I’ve contemplated this image and wondered that perhaps we need to adopt a new national bird; one that more closely resembles those sitting on the power line. The freedom of the soaring eagle, while clearly more desirable, doesn’t seem to match the current tendency of so many who cluster together on a line through which runs enough power to roast them all, just a fraction of inches beneath their feet. They appear oblivious to this danger and sit there, probably content to engage in their squawking, and ignore their fellow eagle soaring so freely above their heads.

The eagle is growing increasingly more extinct but the others seem to proliferate daily. Is this a good thing? There are gains and losses to everything and I leave my readers to decide for themselves.

Monday, October 17, 2016

A formula for success (of some) and failure (for the rest of us).

“I wish to become rich, so that I can instruct the people and glorify honest poverty a little, like those kind hearted, fat, benevolent people do.”—Mark Twain

Don’t we all; harbor some hypocrisy? Mr. Twain’s tongue-in-cheek aspirations more than likely fit a number of us, particularly those who have enjoyed the privilege of possibility. Those who abide in “honest poverty” will undoubtedly take umbrage in this aloof attitude of benevolence, fat though we be. But for the moment let me perpetuate the pretense, just for the sake of satire. 

Suppose you had the opportunity of making obscene sums of money but needed to craft a plan to insure sustained results. What sort of plan would succeed? Let’s see if we can put on our thinking caps and develop a really good plan. What would the ingredients be?

The first matter of importance would be to set up a system that would insure continuing prosperity, regardless of unforeseen turns of events. And once established go further and recruit broad support to aid our cause among the very people who would be most vulnerable and necessary for our efficiency. Does that arrangement sound familiar? It should, because those ingredients constitute our American culture, at least in present form. An alternate label would be called “greed.”

OK, I can sense the hackles rising already. Nobody, me included, wants to tear down a system that results in their own betterment. UNLESS of course, it doesn’t (result in their own betterment). Like an iceberg, what appears above the surface necessarily depends on what lies beneath. We can see that part but it is what lies beneath that matters. If the bottom is about to melt, for sure the top will follow. So having now considered the metaphor, let’s get real.

Our culture is sitting on an about-to-explode powder keg, with a very long fuse that was lit 155 years ago in South Carolina and has been smoldering ever since. And the significance of that time frame? On April 12, 1861 the American Civil War began and ended four years later in the spring of 1865. When the War ended 620,000 American soldiers lay dead; more Americans than died in WWI, WWII, Vietnam and Korea combined. And why was the war fought? Allegedly to free the nation of the scourge of slavery. According to Pulitzer Prize-winning author James McPherson “The Civil War started because of uncompromising differences between the free and slave states over the power of the national government to prohibit slavery in the territories that had not yet become states. When Abraham Lincoln won election in 1860 as the first Republican president on a platform pledging to keep slavery out of the territories, seven slave states in the deep South seceded and formed a new nation, the Confederate States of America. The incoming Lincoln administration and most of the Northern people refused to recognize the legitimacy of secession. They feared that it would discredit democracy and create a fatal precedent that would eventually fragment the no-longer United States into several small, squabbling countries.”

And guess what? If you haven’t noticed, the magnitude of our discontent is now off the chart, with more than several squabbling parts. Might you notice some correspondence between what is now happening and the unresolved roots driving the tension? If not then this post will more than likely go right over your head. On the other hand, for those who wish to avoid further meltdown, consider the following.

At the beginning of the Civil War there were roughly 4 million slaves “used” primarily by 400,000 southern land holders to maximize their economic advantage. When the war ended, and congress ratified the 13th Constitutional Amendment, slavery appeared to end (at least the part above the water line). So what’s the problem? Slavery didn’t end, it just followed a different path that became legitimized due to a six word clause in the amendment, “…except as a punishment for crime.” The entire amendment reads, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

Since that time no effort has been spared to criminalize and incarcerate black people who have then been used, just as the slave holders did before the War, as indentured servants: free labor to advance the wealth of the few by the many. While 4 million slaves at the beginning of the War sounds overwhelming, it pales by comparison to the number who have been unjustly incarcerated spanning the years since. According to The United States Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), today there are nearly 1 million black people out of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population (43%); incarcerated at a rate of nearly six times the incarceration rate of whites. And as might be expected, the criminal “justice” system pays handsomely. Just as war benefits war profiteers, criminality, legally structured, benefits criminal profiteers. As a nation, we now spend more tax derived revenue incarcerating and using people for making obscene wealth than we do educating our youth. If there was ever a system programmed to self-destruct, it is hard to imagine one better than this.

This post is a mere store sample designed to whet the appetite of those who wish to see our nation continue beyond the current crisis. After the trial period of 155 years it is time to pay the piper and try a better way that will keep the iceberg floating a bit longer. To gain the most thorough grasp of this vast criminal web you need to watch 13th: The documentary. There you’ll see who, how, when and why the key players have been complicit, and it really is about the money. Once you get the full grasp, you’ll know what to do (or not). And by doing nothing the end is in sight.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Power of the Press.

“It seems to me that just in the ratio that our newspapers increase, our morals decay. The more newspapers the worse morals. Where we have one newspaper that does good, I think we have fifty that do harm. We ought to look upon the establishment of a newspaper of the average pattern in a virtuous village as a calamity.”—Mark Twain

“Propaganda tries to force a doctrine on the whole people. Propaganda works on the general public from the standpoint of an idea and makes them ripe for the victory of this idea.”—Adolf Hitler wrote these words in his book Mein Kampf, and they still apply today: Control the media and you control the hearts and minds of the people. 

Fortunately today there is an antidote to pre-determined Corporate Media messages: The Internet. We must always be mindful that Corporations are owned by wealthy individuals who have vested interests to enhance their wealth at the expense of the people of our nation, and have final say on what will be delivered through their medium. Not so via the Internet although congress and their benefactors have tried, and fortunately failed “thus far,” to regulate that also through their efforts to undermine net neutrality and thus completely control message content. Nothing in this world remains static and that applies to the war to undermine net neutrality and control propaganda.

Maintaining a free, open and non-regulated Internet provides a voice of the people that won’t come via corporate media for a simple reason: greed. Corporations (with their vast army of lobbyists) and, thanks to “Citizens United” billions available for buying time and space through traditional media as well as corrupting government officials to do their bidding.

Why is this presently a big deal? Because Corporate America has already decided whom they want elected as our next president and consequently empowers communications that promotes their person of choice, and restricts coverage of candidates they have decided threaten their greed driven agenda and don’t want to advance.

If you haven’t noticed, you rarely (if ever, and then only with a speedy glancing blow-by) hear or watch news regarding the huge successes of Senator Bernie Sanders, except through the Internet/Social Media. By nearly all measures Senator Sanders is leading the pack of also-runs by drawing massive crowds who respond with enthusiasm to his clear assessment of the challenges we face, along with real solutions to level playing fields, narrow the progressively widening gap between the ultra-wealthy (the people who control message content in Corporate media) and the rest of us, move the country toward restoring the vanishing middle class and address genuine threats to the wellbeing of all people.

However, according to messages delivered through traditional channels, Senator Sanders “doesn’t have a chance,” which will surely be the case if we allow ourselves to be brainwashed by Corporate America.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Knowing and Doing

The fact that man knows right from wrong proves his intellectual superiority to the other creatures; but the fact that he can do wrong proves his moral inferiority to any creatures that cannot.—Mark Twain

Doing whats right isnt the problem. It is knowing whats right.—Lyndon B. Johnson

We live in a world where we can’t say anything with certainty. However, that doesn’t stop us from attempting to persuade both ourselves and those with whom we relate, that we do in fact know matters with certainty. 

Doing and knowing are not the same thing, as both Mark Twain and LBJ pointed out. Ideally there would be a single, universally accepted understanding of what is always right, what is always wrong and possess the fortitude of following through with right doing. But since there can’t be a fixed, universally approved criteria of knowing right from wrong, it’s a sure thing that disagreements will arise. And why is that so? Because the very nature of right requires a counter point to have any meaning. Right and wrong are two sides of the same matter of judgement. Then, of course, is the matter that we all have our own eyeballs, with our own different life experiences and filters through which we see the world. And most important of all is what Zen Master Hakuin Ekaku nailed as the root of disagreements: “The cause of our sorrow is ego delusion.” 

The person we think we are, who attempts to persuade themselves; the one who sees right apart from wrong is our ego. That vicious fabrication of our identity will always see life through vested interests, desiring to always have the last word, is linked to a lens of delusion. When viewed in this way it’s a miracle we haven’t already blown ourselves to smithereens.

“When the world knows beauty as beauty, ugliness arises
When it knows good as good, evil arises
Thus being and non-being produce each other
Difficult and easy bring about each other
Long and short reveal each other
High and low support each other
Music and voice harmonize each other
Front and back follow each other.”—Tao Te Ching

Monday, March 23, 2015

War and Peace: What it the heck is wrong with us?

Unavoidable signs of a world-wide collapse in civilization are everywhere to be found. The signs are prolific throughout Europe, The Middle East, the continent of the America’s and into Asia. It would be insulting to the intelligence of my readers to plough through the laundry list of all of the related problems, but at the heart of them all exists one single toxic seed: The seed of “I’m right and you’re wrong.” In different terms that characteristic is called self-righteousness or simpler yet, “Egotism.” I have written much about this driving force that’s pressing us all toward the abyss, including in particular three books, More Over, The Non-Identity Crisis and The Other Side of Midnight.  All of them are cut from the same bolt of cloth. Their consistent theme is one of misidentification: Not understanding the true nature, at the core, of what it means to be human.

A return to a doctrine of one of the most enlightened humans of all time may help in informing this message, and I refer to Nagarjuna (c. 150-250 CE) who made a significant contribution towards grasping our essence, which was later developed as Buddhism moved from India into China where it linked up with Taoism. The second of these tributaries evolved in China with the life of Bodhidharma who seems to have brought with him Nagarjuna’s teachings, as well as the Lankavatara SÅ«tra which followed many of the tenets outlined by the consciousness only school of Yogacara. Whereas Nagarjuna is known as the father of Mahayana Buddhism, Bodhidharma is considered as the father of Chan, which subsequently came to be known as Zen. Nagarjuna established the philosophical foundation and Bodhidharma rooted the tenets into psychic turf. The tenet was (and is) known as the “Two-Truth Doctrine” and works out as follows.

Nagarjuna said we all live within two truths: A conventional truth and a sublime truth. The first truth is, and has always been, clearly evident. The second truth is not, and has never been evident, yet the second is the source of the first and these two are irrevocably cemented together. His exact words were, “Without knowing how they (sic, truths) differ, you cannot know the deep; Without relying on conventions, you cannot disclose the sublime; Without intuiting the sublime, you cannot experience freedom.” 

The first truth (and surprisingly the second as well) is binary, meaning composed of two dimensions clearly distinct and opposite from each other. This is the basis for discrimination (or perhaps in less inflammatory terms), the ability to discern differences between one thing and another, such as right and wrong. And when the matter of self-centered judgement is added to this truth, the result is selfishness, opposition, inflexibility and in many cases violence. This is the realm of conditions, one set of conditions set against another, and since conditions are, by nature always in flux it is impossible to remain steady without judgement.

Then according to Nagarjuna, we must become aware that this conditional realm is different from the realm of the sublimely unconditional. The curious observation about this awareness is that, since these two realms are polar, the realm of the unconditional is not binary, yet the relationship between the first and the second is. The unconditional is the realm of unity, tranquility and equity, whereas the realm of the conditional is one of disunity, hostility and selfishness. Unfortunately, we average humans are not even aware of the realm of the unconditional sublimity and assume all that exists is the realm of conditionality. That’s the first error of Nagarjuna’s doctrine: not knowing they are different, because knowing anything requires contrast, but even when recognizing there is a second truth (and how they are different), that kind of knowing remains a figment of the imagination, in other words rational. 

The second, and most important aspect of his doctrine, is that so long as we don’t “intuit” the sublime, we will never gain freedom and thus remain in a bondage, governed by discriminatory conflict. Now the interesting thing about intuition is that it is a transrational (metaphysical) experience of emersion into pure, unapplied consciousness.  Applied consciousness is one of rational distinction, judging one thing in contrast to another, and nearly without exception ending up in conflict. However, while in a state of pure, non-applied consciousness, there is nothing to compare since it is a realm of united, unconditionality, where we experience oneness with all.

Sadly, the major source of conflict in the world today (and perhaps forever) is rooted in the three political/religious combinations of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, all of which share common ideas regarding God and our human beginnings, while none of them practices the peace to which they aspire. Religion, in the ordinary sense, by the assessment of many, is the major source of continuing violence throughout time. In the words of Mark Twain, “Man is the only animal that deals in that atrocity of atrocities, War. He is the only one that gathers his brethren about him and goes forth in cold blood and calm pulse to exterminate his kind. He is the only animal that for sordid wages will march out...and help to slaughter strangers of his own species who have done him no harm and with whom he has no quarrel…And in the intervals between campaigns he washes the blood off his hands and works for ‘the universal brotherhood of man’—with his mouth.” 

And the songs we sign harmonize with mantras like, “Onward Christian Soldiers,” “Allahu Akbar,” or ones that shout to strangers that they alone are God’s exclusive chosen flock. And not a single one realizes the unity that resides in the heart of all of human kind.

Sunday, November 30, 2014