Saturday, November 28, 2015

Sane Zombies

Sane zombies?  It doesn’t work as a concept.  It’s a contradiction in essence.  But that’s the point.   

In my last blog post,  I talked about werewolves and vampires as symbolisms of human monstrosity, our devastating effect on the ecology and meteorological homeostasis of Earth.  Also, our relationships to each other, and animals, the exploiters and the exploited, the consumers and the consumed, the powerful, the toadies, the thralls.  Souls, the potential to actualize with dignity and health, are sacrificed to this maleficent trench.  The zombie theme adds yet another component:  the  teeming senselessness.  Idiot conformity and, in response, the validation of gory  killers.  Our airwaves endure an orgy of zombie parades, and the de facto deputized resisters, little islands of the beseiged, trapped in a sea of compromised flesh, butchering the lost in droves.  When we see characters in the Walking Dead slaying the mentally withered through varied means of bloody violence, it taps into a subconscious disgust of  fellow humans.

Let’s be honest, many liberals are disgusted with humanity.  As are those on the other side of the fence, who chant to the fascist rhetoric of Donald Trump.  Warnings about Trump’s trajectory toward police state have already been written, excellent op-eds in newspapers like the Washington Post and the New York Times.  Here’s a few, one is explicitly Hitleresque:

We all partake in the actualization of the vampire, werewolf and zombie themes.  The people who read this blog are most likely privileged.  We may not be aware, not often, but we buy things, all kinds of things, made by the exploited.  We suck the life blood out of those in sweatshops, and callously plod along the path of consumerist devouring.  We in the USA contribute to greenhouse gas emissions at a grossly disproportionate rate.  With the boomer generation as bellwether, we have become blithe in our habits, our driving of vogue cars, our casual flipping of the coal-hungry electric switch.  The vertical production chains around food and clothing showcase other ways in which we support (effectively revel in) the degradation of workers, the ongoing wreckage of Gaia, the extirpation of Her creatures.

Despite all this, as I hinted above, there is a difference between monsters.  That we are all to blame does not make us equally culpable.  Or equally ready to effect much needed change.  Imagine if Trump became President.  He could.  He erects a wall between the USA and Mexico, coercing our southern neighbor to pay for it.  He registers Muslims in a data base.  He feasts on social veins of ethnic antipathy, even as he bloats them.  He has said America must do the “unthinkable.”  Are we to assume his gross narcissism will stop short of nuclear options?  Should we just hope he won’t go too far, as many did with Hitler?  Narcissists and sociopaths, engrossed in selfish excitement, need to up the ante to get their rise.

Too often we use the idiom ‘nuclear option’ in casual ways.  We should really stop.  We need to be alert to the tens of thousands of ICBM’s launchable by a hate-mongerer like President Trump, or by any one of the other leaders in other troubled countries that possess such doomsday weapons.  India and Pakistan are a rancorous pair, locked in mutual seethe.  North Korea, absolutely Orwellian in its totalitarianism, has nuclear weapons.  And so on.  I haven’t even mentioned global warming--about which the GOP is in utter denial--and how it lards the odds of anomie.

It comes down to how we deal with our disgust and rage.  I think Martin Luther King, Jr. had it right.  Only love has a chance to overcome hate.  Hate in response to hate results in unmitigated violence.  Hitler’s hatespeak led us into WWII.  We can’t afford to let Trump’s hatespeak reign.

It’s tremendously hard not to mock and taunt the Trumpites, their starry-eyed “amens!” Presented with history, the xenophobia of past generations, even targeting their ancestors, they deride the argument, refocus on the “evil” of liberals.  Trump’s obvious lies do not bother them, if they can see the obvious at all.  Trump mocked John McCain’s status as a war hero, a Republican Senator who was imprisoned in Vietnam for years.  The Trumpites don’t even care about this attack on a patriotic solider, a symbol they usually hold dear.  Trump can mock whoever he pleases, even his followers, as long as he validates their fearful racism.  The insular purity of their apple-pie white bread myth.

This article came out yesterday:

Love is the only way to challenge the momentum of such rancor.  The sort of love espoused by King.  Or even the Bible.  Jesus was compassionate toward the poor and the weak.  If liberals respond to Trump's followers with agape, the kind of love King endorsed, or Buddhist compassion, or any other spiritual tradition of care, as opposed to attack, it will make it harder for Trumpites to see those outside their in-group as subhuman.  It could disrupt the black-and-white worldview.  Perhaps more importantly, it could influence those who are still undecided, apathetic or unaware.  Those on the fence.

Humanity seems to be marching in good zombie-fashion toward doom.  The USA, with its supreme military, harbors tens of millions of citizens foaming at the mouth before the infectious vitriol of their grand hotspur--a needy man of huge ego who, according to his ex-wife, kept a book of Hitler’s speeches next to his bed.  Americans, especially the white classes who adore Trump, have it pretty good.  They can, for instance, spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a gun, money that constitutes a month or even a year of wages in other countries.  Still, Trump has managed to fill their minds with ugliness and loathing.  A complete lack of appreciation for historical perspective.  I wonder how many people watching zombie shows are mentally substituting “illegals” for the ghouls of drama.  Subconsciously, at least, I think that would be a large number of folks.  How many displays of hate, bolder and bolder by a dark leader, will it take before the fury that lurks below leaps into reality?

White protesters with guns in Dallas, standing near an Islamic sanctuary.  Scary, scary photos:

What we need, of course, is not sane zombies.  That’s impossible.  We need to stop looking at each other with dehumanizing hate.  We need to stop thinking of each other as no better than zombies--and instead embrace love.  It’s trite.  But so what?  “The great way is easy, yet people prefer the side paths” -- Lao Tzu.

"When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace."
-- Jimi Hendrix 


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Better Vampires, Saner Werewolves

I think the political cartoon below by Pat Bagley nicely sums up the split mind of the USA.  On one side, you have people pushing for progress and greater awareness.  You can easily imagine a multicultural diversity of folks.  On the other, you have a faction in denial, driven by fear and hate, locked into closed-mindedness.  This, it is clear, is the Republican side, the stubborn  and bitter white core that is, demographically, fading in numbers relative to other ethnic groups.  These are the folks that buy readily into, say, Donald Trump’s intense racism when he says he wants to build a wall between the US and Mexico.

I don’t write on this blog much anymore, mostly because I am fixated on my novel, which involves two very different cultures and two sets of protagonists.  Another reason, much less, is that I feel the main points I want to emphasize are fairly simple.  Bagley’s cartoon sums a lot of it up.  I’m just repeating myself when I lament that we are in the midst of the Earth’s sixth mass extinction, and our declining war-addicted empire just doesn’t care.  It comes down to human psychology.  Our enemy is not ‘out there’ somewhere.  It’s our ability to become a slave to our fears and hatreds.  So much of the population is manipulated that way.  Again, Bagley’s cartoon.

I’ll always be awed and disgusted by what I’ve been born into.  This human-dominated world that is on the verge of nuclear war or other civilization-ending chaos; that is on the verge of merging the human species with computers and other cyborg machinery; that has changed the Earth in ways not seen in the planet’s 4.5 billion years.  Honestly, we should all be stunned and amazed constantly, not only by the incredible beauty and complexity of life, but also by what humanity has done, and is doing, to change the nature of it.

We’re blind.  I’ll always be sickened and grieved by the vast genocide of the Native Americans that took place not long ago, committed so that my country could expand, following its self-proclaimed “Manifest Destiny.”  Every privilege I have, every bit of time to write or think, or just be free of constant worry or the need to work and bow down to oppressive forces, comes at the price of unmentionable injustice. This is something none of us should forget and we who benefit deserve to carry a burden of shame; for the momentum of horror continues in various forms.  It was only a hundred and fifty years ago that the atrocities were carried out, scalps sold, massacres conducted, hatred incarnating into murder and demonic cruelty.  This is not ancient history.  The mindset of the genocidists still infects us.  Look at how many people cling with nostalgia to the Civil War, which ended in 1865.  We're very much still children of those times, and its white-supremacy.

I’m of course sickened by all the other genocides as well.  And much else, as I’ve made clear over years on this blog.  My life is a strange duality of fascination for the beautiful and miraculous aspects of being alive, and utter disappointment in humans.  And also the Architects of this universe, this universe that was designed to foster realms like Earth, so magical and yet tragically flawed.  Resplendent and giving, yes, but also inveterate with violence, themes of predation and brutality built into the clockwork of ecological and evolutionary systems.

I frequently rail at God, though I doubt there is one ‘God’ who created all this.  Still, such a God makes an easy, cathartic target.  “Why did you set things up, knowing this was likely to happen?”  "Why? You idiot!  You asshole!"

Most likely I am railing at no one, though it is better than railing at individual people.  We are to blame but we are also very much ignorant pawns of greater ideational systems and the psychology of zeitgeists.  What is infuriating is that we don't have to be ignorant. I sometimes wonder, though, if some people can escape their denial.  Some people seem, after a certain time of letting it settle, locked into ignorance forevever.

Our culture is fascinated by vampires and werewolves.  I think this is so in large part because humans are the real vampires and werewolves.  We consume life, even torture it in factory farms, to survive.  Our need to consume life, magnified through the egregious lens of consumerism (note the essence of that:  consume), has turned much of the planet into a stranglehold of crop lattices.  We are also werewolf-like in that we wear pretty faces, as individuals and nations, proclaiming Liberty, Equality and all that--but the truth explodes into world wars, and the detonation of bombs that are like massive claws suddenly swiping the skin of this abused world.  The truth is also the factory farms where animals are tortured, and the manufacturing plants were peasants toil akin to slaves.  Anyone reading this is probably not shackled to the wide oppressive base of the socio-economic pyramid.

Even though we are all vampires and werewolves, it doesn’t mean we can’t work for good and improve.  That's the key.  Some people are better than others ethically.  Some are more innocent.  Again, my philosophy seems to revolve around polarities yet acknowledges the importance of gradations.  Polarities in the essence of life.  Beauty and ugliness.  The search for Good and yet the continuous blight of atrocities and heinous crimes.  Within this framework, we can each move forward, as individuals or collectively.

My spirituality now acknowledges that there are spirit guides who are good, not absolutely, but that is their goal, or part of their purpose:  seeking the good.

There also might be greater gods, but I see them as much less caring.  There is no all-powerful Good God watching over us.  Such a being would not allow the genocides, the defacing of environments, the trashing of an entire world by selfish little creatures who wear pleasant facades but fall into patterns of us-versus-them, conformist etiquette that says all the right things--but harbors eruptions of the worst.

One of two fates will congeal.  Either humanity will collapse and nature will thrive in multifarious abundance again (witness what is happening amid the ruins near Chernobyl).  Or humanity will continue its technological push and create a new kind of species, no doubt through terrible, wrenching upheaval that involves much injustice, class privilege, and vicious repression (we have all these now, nothing new here).  That new techno-species will continue to ride the cyborg wave through versions of 'advanced' creatures.

Hopefully they will be advanced.  Not in sheer power to destroy and conquer, but rather in virtue.  The happiest ending, maybe, is for creatures of light to evolve.  Beings who do not need to devour other life forms; that are not beset by the fears and lusts that cripple sanity.  But as for us humans, we are not creatures of light.  We are vampiric and lycanthropic.  We express as much in our movies and books; that is, our myths and cultural fascinations.  Subconsciously, at least, we know what we are.

We’re tasked, though--if we seek the Good--to channel our energies in new and better ways.  To control and redirect our desires.  To push for awareness and a healthy psychological dynamic.

It can be done.

We’ve seen new awareness in recent history.  Raised-consciousness that challenges sexism, racism and the callous idea that the Earth and its creatures are just bland resources, numbers in a profit equation.  A lot could be solved simply by preventing talented narcissists and sociopaths from usurping the reigns of power.

Freedom is consciousness-raising.  Awakening, layer after layer, to a great universal compassion, the sort of inspiration and spiritual infusion that drove Martin Luther King, Jr..  On the other hand, freedom is not freedom to be racist or sexist.  

 That kinda sums it up.  Bye!  Owl.

(click on image to expand)

Friday, August 21, 2015

Afternoon Thoughts

If I had to give advice to a young peson, I would say, ‘Get used to knowing the truth and not being heard.’  Even more:  ‘Get used to working in social situations where bringing up the truth is counterproductive.’  However, ‘Learn to fight effectively for the truth, and to keep yourself well despite the frustration.’

My latest frustration is an article in the Washington Post titled, “Inside the GOP field’s new strategies to ride out the Trump tornado.”  It’s a dull, pragmatic piece that points to three strategies:  (a) attack Trump, (b) join Trump, (c) ignore Trump.   What’s entirely missing in the article is the frightening racism that Trump  pushes.  He wants to build a massive wall, create a huge police state to deport millions of  “illegals,” and he recently referred to some of his followers who beat a Mexican as “passionate.”  There is only one ethical strategy for dealing with Trump:  condemn his racist demagoguery and point out the dangerous slide he is taking into fascism. 

Instead, what you get from the article is that the candidates want to tap into Trump’s followers, not by condemning their racism, but by harnessing it for their own campaign.

Let’s be honest, Trump is a large step toward a Hitler.  To not see that, or speak against it at this point, is egregious and broken.  Hence our country is egregious and broken.  It is, indeed, a decadent, wealth-dominated imperial nation in decline.

America is infected with virulent racism, and the Republican Party is effectively its champion.  But you can’t say that.  You get nowhere and you get attacked.  The confederate flag was recently taken down in South Carolina from a prominent site.  But the backlash is large, and, within its fury rides a mighty racism.  The promoters of the confederate flag have even rewritten US history, making the civil war about States’ rights, not slavery.

They not only refuse to see truth, they attempt to obliterate it.

Another truth:  the United States was built on a genocidal push to eliminate or ‘civilize’ Native Americans.   Not only did the US remove and diminish the Native cultures, it embraced european attitudes of domination and enslavement.  This applies to peoples but also wilderness and nature as well.  The Native Americans respected nature as spiritual and reciprocal.  In the US, nature is a resource to  be exploited.  “Resource,” “exploit”--these represent the vocabulary of an ego-centered, material culture that has turned a beautiful continent into an impoverished one in a geological blink of time. 

Slaughtering millions of buffalo and laying train tracks--that serves as a symbolism of the ideological sickness.  So does blowing the heads off mountains to get at the coal inside.  So does the greed of the oil companies, and all the pollution, traffic and degradation thereby entailed.

The US has new technological powers, but it acts with callous disregard in its implementation of those powers.  “Callous disregard” is an understatement, given the atrocities, given the extinctions of species, given the uglification of the Earth.

Even global warming is considered a hoax by Republicans.  If you say otherwise, you are part of a conspiracy.

It’s so frustrating to try to speak the truth.  Humanity might well collapse soon, still not listening, still in denial, as those who speak truth continue, without being heard, to speak out.

Anybody who wants to live honestly on the Earth needs to be aware of this profoundly dysfunctional mass psychology.

Another truth:  the Christian god is not the one real god.  Christianity itself is a belief system based on myths.  This is the truth.  But you can’t say this. 

There is an epidemic of rape and other violence against women in this country.  We don’t talk  about it.  The internet fosters a massive realm of anonymous misogyny.  For Republicans especially, whose leaders are most all men (and white), these issues are off the table.  Welfare recipients are mostly single women raising children, and Republicans attack welfare recipients, tapping into sexism, racism and misogyny.

Recently, a woman in college carried a mattress with her on campus and even to graduation, to make a statement:  that she was raped, and the university not only didn’t hearbut also stood in the way of justice.  She literally carried a mattress, using it as a symbol of the truth of what happened.  She was ignored or belittled by those in power.  The Dean refused to shake her hand at graduation.

Just recently, the Black Lives Matter movement started to speak out about the violence against blacks by police, police who never suffered for their unprosecuted  crimes.  For generations, they got away with shooting blacks with no consequences.

In our society, there is so much of this denial.  If you have been sexually abused and try to seek acknowledgement, expect not only the perpetrator--almost always a male--to deny it, but also the social system.

I could go on and on.  The big one is that human civilization is on the brink of collapse, either ecological or through nuclear war.  But the more you talk about this, the less you are heard.

So, if you are going to be honest and not stifle your conscience, get ready to deal with being an outsider.  You’ll be aware but ostracized. It seems that a lot of young people, late teens, early twenties, are open-minded and see society’s lies, and feel serious frustration.  History shows us that they are the essence of social movements.  The younger generations are our hope.  We should listen to them much, much more

This is what I have learned in my fifty-two years of life.  Happy birthday to me, Aug 21, 2015.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Crux of the 21st Century Cross

My mind, it seems, reels every day, still trying to come to grips with critical moral questions.  There will be no final, satisfying answers.  In a sense it is healthy to maintain an active, engaged state of cerebration.  But progress in awareness is possible, which can bring many psychological and practical benefits.  In the end, all we can do is speak our thoughts, whether or not others decide to listen, or even hear.

I want to reflect on some of the struggle’s basic aspects.  We’re born into conditions we can’t control, and are greatly molded before we reach adulthood.  This can lead to psychic and physical scars.  It can create belief systems and behavior patterns almost immune to major modification.  Someone raised fanatic Christian might well stay fanatic Christian.  Someone sexually abused might never be able to accept open intimacy.  And so on.

With enough education, maybe, and enough luck and help, maybe, we start to break free. Aside from the family dynamic, many levels of culture mold us.  These, too, can cripple, and require consciousness-raising to gain insight.  Feminist consciousness-raising (seeing how a nation, community, family, media, etc. fosters sexist unequal treatment in forms subtle, not-so-subtle, and fully violent) is paradigmatic of the struggle to achieve a higher, more ethical state of mind.

Of course, alongside sexism occurs racism.  Biases toward gays/lesbians, and so on.  Dealing with all these prejudice mechanisms is a multilayered journey. 

To recap the above:  we’re born into circumstances we didn’t choose and only through terrible psychological and intellectual struggle can we (maybe) break out of patterns that keep us subservient to the norms of power.  These norms of power enforce biases that favor a select, elite class above others.  Racial segregation in the South is a stinging, stark reminder of willful ignorance by the dominant whites. 

By willful ignorance I mean egregious and horrific wrongdoing, whether or not the dominant class ever consciously considers that the subordinated class is equal.  There’s conscious suppression of the truth; and there’s also repression (into the subconscious, where it can’t be accessed) of the truth.  Both are despicable.  Utterly. 

So, once you start to break out, find some modicum of mental freedom, you’re looking from outside at a blanket-system of mind control, one that locks a huge number of people--scores of millions in the USA--into a state of subjective, anti-ethical blindness.  If you challenge them with obvious truths, you are (a) not heard, (b) lack legitimacy, (c) are sick, (d) need to be isolated and ostracized.  If you somehow get someone to ‘argue’ with you, they will say something like, “It’s just human nature, there’s nothing to be done about it.” 

Saying something like the following can turn you into a pariah in many circles of power:  “women are raped and often blamed for the rape instead of the male perpetrator; and this indicates a major problem in our society.”

To recap again:  you struggle to (hopefully) emerge in a space where you can see the grand dysfunction of the social world.  At this point, you are wiser and more aware.  But, still, it sucks to be you.  It’s painful, it’s depressing, and your journey of awareness continues--always continues--as you peel back more layers of cultural programming and your own biases. 

In my own case, this has gone on for decades.  And somehow I have to look back and not hate myself for my previous level of ignorance--and for continuing to do certain things even though they are wrong, such as eating the meat of factory-farmed animals or buying things that were made by de facto slaves in China.

This is what life is like if you strive to ‘Know Thyself’, the motto written near the Oracle of Delphi.  It sucks, it really does, but it’s imperative.

At some point in this struggle, you get a comprehensive picture that includes:  sexism, racism, homophobia (etc.)--and also, what I haven’t touched on yet--depraved and unjustifiable wars that draw on hate-mongering and race-baiting; and also terrible environmental destruction.  I don’t want to use the word “rape” lightly.  But the Earth indeed has been raped by human greed.  As ecofeminists assert, there's a cultural, conceptual link between Earth being dominated and women being dominated.

Scientists have pointed out that (a) we humans are committing the planet’s sixth cataclysmic extinction, (b) we humans have pushed global warming past a point of no return.  Add to this the ugliness of ‘development’ across the globe (rectilinear grids, whether urban or agriculture) and all the pollution and trash.  So, yes, we’ve raped the planet.  It’s as sick and twisted as men raping women. 

Amazingly (at least to me--still--after all these years) a lot of people just shrug in both cases. 

You get the “human nature” line, or more likely, “you’re crazy, you’re the sick one.”

I'm sick of people calling me sick because I point out obvious injustice and scientifically verified phenomena.

Humans have lived with injustice forever.  But our time is even worse.  Why?  Because we overburden the Earth, are pushing the entire planet toward collapse, even as we stockpile more ‘efficient’ weapons and point them at each others' countries.

So, to recap again:  your reward if you (somehow) manage to open your mind is pain.  You get to watch the over-heating, shrinking life raft of Earth run out of supplies and head toward a cliff.  Meanwhile the passengers point guns at each other and act as if males are superior to women, whites over blacks, heteros over gays.  Etc.

Just the probability that animals such as elephants, apes, and rhinos will be gone soon--that alone is monumentally sad.  Add on all the other sorrow from above.  Add on the many others I haven’t the grip to mention. 

When people asked me why I look tired, I ought to just refer them to this blog entry.  I truly believe I am going to die much sooner because of my awareness.  Still, I wouldn’t give up my awareness, even to live an extra thirty years.  Denial is great for longevity, at least in the Baby Boomer generation. 

As I touched on above, my own journey has involved breakdowns and personal milestones.  I’ve taught in colleges since I was a graduate student, back in the 1980’s, and I’ve reliably pushed for greater awareness in my students.  I’ve published 900 poems and some stories, many of them subtle or not-so-subtle indictments.  I’m working on a novel that I intend as my magnum opus, my great statement.

I keep fighting and going.  But it’s despicable what we have done--and I’m speaking primarily to those who will not read a blog entry like this, or anything that speaks to oppression and environmental wreckage--those still in denial.  I know, Who’s perfect?  I wish I was.  But I’m not a creature composed of pure energy and light.  I beat myself up because I’m not.  Really.  But... BUT--

In the end, we have to keep trying and speaking out for more awareness and more justice; and those who say we have no right to speak because we ourselves are flawed, they are just wrong. 

We need to encourage our own individual awareness and also our collective human awareness.  Heck, once a culture gets pushed far enough, it starts to set individuals in the right direction.  Few people, if any, in America are challenging women’s right to vote.  This was a very controversial topic just a hundred years ago, and indeed back then women couldn't vote. 

Yay, some victories. 

And yet, from another perspective, people act so shallow.  Act.  That doesn’t mean they are. That’s the essence of the great tragedy that has already arrived.   And it will keep arriving, getting worse and worse. 

You’ll see.  Or you won’t.  It's the basic, critical choice.