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.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The men and women who manufacture the trigger mechanisms for nuclear bombs do not tell themselves they are making weapons.  They say simply that they are metal forgers.

Susan Griffin, A Chorus of Stones

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

I'm accused of being oversensitive.  That's because our society caters to the most insensitive.

Gerald Whatherfurk

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Whiny Privileged Male 'Woes Me" Rant



I’m jet-lagged and frazzled, the perfect time to launch into existential crisis mode.  Usually, I don’t launch, I get launched.  Here’s the crux of it:  I often feel my voice deserves no time in any kind of social spotlight.  Why?  Because I am a (relatively) privileged white male.  Never mind the various sufferings and struggles I’ve had in my 51 years.  Whatever they were, I still got all kinds of breaks.  In fact, without those breaks, I probably wouldn’t have ended up with a PhD in philosophy.  There’s nothing more privileged than a white male who gets to choose to have a PhD in philosophy--this while billions of people live on less than $2 a day, and get whipped (sometimes literally) into line from birth. 

If I had been black or latino, I would have been marginalized or put in jail. 

It really doesn’t help me to hear that privileged white men have done important work steering the course of history.  I’ll name one of them out of the blue:  John Locke.  First of all, the possibility that I am going to steer the course of history is more than remote.  It’s like trying to see a protozoa a hundred feet away without a microscope.  Second and more important, why should white males be the ones that push things forward?  There are plenty of females (white and nonwhite) and nonwhite males who already are striving extremely well--give them the podium!  Maybe in Locke’s time, white males were the only feasible option for the promotion of interesting new ideas (nota bene: not all Locke’s ideas were progressive; some of what he said reinforced terrible attitudes toward nature and native peoples).  Nowadays, there are more nonwhite voices of ability and opportunity than ever.  

Also, it's really disgusting if, in Locke's time, white male intellectuals were the only possible way to push forward new, progressive ideas (very flawed ideas, like 'All men are created equal', excluding women, nonwhites, slaves...)

Nota bene again:  nothing points to  white male privilege better than a casual use of latin.  I’m steeped in the unconscious habits/usages of white male opiniondom.

Given that, historically, it has been white males all this time, with rare exceptions for the Joan of Arcs and Hypatias, shouldn’t we just step aside?  Honestly, I often feel this way, and I have not had an easy life.  There has been a lot of abuse, suicidal thoughts and a suicide, depression, and all the confusion and torn emotion that goes with that, lots of angst and anguish.  I have been a wrecked mess of a person. Currently I can't afford to see a doctor--unless I ask my father for money.  But you see, I have a father I can ask for money. 

When he dies, or gets sick, this might well all change, and I might get closer to learning what utter lack of options is all about--having to go out and work whatever kind of job, even if it is utterly meaningless to you, to have to beg, even, for this opportunity, and wear the pretty face.  But, you know, I get to whine about it, here on this blog.  And my PhD in philosophy, though it is not a big cash-bringer, has helped me expand my mind.

Yes, expanding my mind has kind of been a curse, a perpetual angst-maker.  Boo-hoo, poor 1st world dude with his PhD.

As I grow older and sometimes, now, need a cane to walk, and see the US Empire decline, cannibalizing its middle class, I feel great pain.  I do.  Geniune pain, often intense.  But it's all like 'Boo-Hoo', poor white male, he has a lot more than most, now whining more than most.

It's sad to me and frustrating and terrible that no matter what happens to me now, how badly I suffer, I have/had all this privilege, and that is ethically relevant to my pain.  I feel I don't deserve validation (which clearly I crave.  I wouldn't be writing this if I didn't crave validation). 

Why do I deserve anything?  White males led the charge to commit genocide against the native americans, almost wiped them out, took over a continent, instigated ideologies of racism, sexism and militaristic expansion.  My privilege today can be traced back into that thicket of atrocities.  Why should I get to speak?  To write poetry?  To write a novel?  I just finished writing a draft of a novel.  Yes, privilege allowed that, privilege built on the backs of slaves.  The roots of my privilege go way, way back. 

Ponder this:  Solid research shows that black slavery really didn’t end until after WWII.  Yeah, Lincoln freed the slaves but Southern law soon created chain gangs, Jim Crow, etc.  So, even my more recent ancestors benefitted from black slavery.  The roots of my privilege are solid up through modern times.

Another wakeup call:  most of our stuff today is Made in China.  Are the Chinese workers slaves?  You can make an excellent case that they are (no Bill of Rights, Police State, massive working hours, terrible soul-crushing conditions, beatings, abuse, no realistic alternative, etc.).  This puts all us consumer citizens in a bad light--but, being more educated, I should know better (and I do try to buy less Made In China).

So, I don’t deserve to talk.  I guess you could turn it around and say I ought to talk, but only about why I shouldn’t talk. I hate this situation.  I hate myself for bringing it up.  And I hate myself for whining.  I really wish I hadn't written this.  I hope there is something completely fundamentally wrong about what I am saying, and that, somehow, I do deserve validation.  I do deserve a pat on the back. It's true, I have worked so f---ing hard.  Nevermind that Republicans say my hard work doesn't count, because poets don't bring in money.

There’s no good answer to this puzzle of my privilege.  The best hope:  everyone has a right to have the precious time to flourish as an individual.  In effect, I was given that time.  I floundered, I searched, I doubted, I questioned reality and myself.  Being a college student helped a great deal with that.  Having someone always in the background to help me financially, should I need it, helped with that.  Guess it's okay that I got that!  And, of course, there's the old cliché, ‘everyone has a right to speak.’   And that “everyone” includes me, mr. white male. 

Convincing?

The world is still vastly unfair, and males in the privileged category (these need not be white; China has a racist patriachy too) continue to be most of the leaders, to be heard.  We privileged males are even among the brilliant and correct leaders, who say the right things.  Such leaders get audiences who listen to them, audiences who reward them and say, “Thank you, you’re so right!”  "It's okay that you're a white male because you're going the right direction!"

We’re not going to get where we need to be as long as it is mainly privileged males who get the wonderful opportunity to struggle with their wounds, their ideals, and finally, after heroic journeys, produce fantastic, progressive ideas.

 Again, you might say, it’s the ideas that matter,  not who says them.  But it does matter who says them.  Otherwise you’re just accepting racism.  Racism continues onward if white males are usually--what a strange coincedence--the ones who end up leading society forward with their excellence of thought.

It’s true, my white-male-written novel is going to be unique in some ways.  It’s fair to say no one else could write this novel, only me.  And then you might say, “It’s a work of art, we can’t just condemn it to the flames.”

But I worry, greatly and with good reason:  how many novels (including great ones!) were, and are, effectively damned to the flames, so that I could have the time to write mine, a book that probably isn’t going to create many ripples (despite my fervent hope that it does).

Yes, I’ve worked extremely hard.  Yes, I have suffered and struggled, philosophically and psychologically.  Yes, I continue to persevere, despite health and financial woes.  I'm a human being.  I suffer.  I count.  I really want to count! But it all comes back to this:  I feel so guilty for my privilege, and I know it is privilege (1st world blues) just to whine about it.  So I live in great conflict. It suxs.

Bottom line:  am I going to stop speaking, writing and thinking?  No.  That seems wrong to just stop.  Am I going to give up my house (a house that has been handed down to me)?  No.  So what does this essay amount to?

Blah...

Owl

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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

One of the hardest things



One of the hardest things for me, and I think many others as well, is that we can see the ideal of the Good, and yet humanity has, and is, stumbling so badly in the quest for it, and constantly threatens to go in the opposite direction--and does.
                                                         Oleph Drumcaller

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Gluttonous, fat, oversexed ...

And yet, I have this sense that this place is holier than back home.  Gluttonous, fat, oversexed, overconsuming, materialist home, where we're too lazy to see our own faults.  At least here, Rodriguez has the decency to worry about hell.

Redeployment, Phil Klay


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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Release: Offcourse #60, 100th issue!



offcourse@albany.edu

Offcourse, a very special literary journal, has released its 100th issue (#60).  I very much recommend it.  Below is a poem of mine from issue 59.  The title is “Closer” (as in ‘to close’ a deal).  It is one of my latest meditations on Los Angeles.  

Owl


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Closer

sunset baked the folk, millions of them,
all flavored different the same.
AC’s whirred on volt-bound coal,
while the swelter of lets and sublets
played on.

jetliners
owned the decibel extremes,
but in a corner of the emulsified sky
a pair of hawks tread.

after they funneled off,
flies in the amphitheaters of kitchens had to do,
or disaporic house spiders,
steadfast in lank mezzanines.

(no one counted
the machinelike ants
migrated from scalded dirt
to cool cornucopic parlors.)

crows whittled the sun away,
such tired and cranky switch-wing punks.
Fibonacci throngs of them, congealing,
superimposed a whirlpool
over the effluence
of this brake-light time.

the city wasn’t
supposed to be about swerving birds,
or even the trudging phlegm of cars.
faces hung inside
like fruity cyborgs:
orange, grim, and cherry splashes
across the herded glass
of spectral visors.



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