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 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 males 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


--------

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.



-------------------------

Monday, March 16, 2015

Ignorant We



Researchers have announced that the east Antarctic ice sheets are melting.  We already knew the west side was melting.  This new info doubles down:


A hundred years from now, humans may remember 2014 as the year that we first learned that we may have irreversibly destabilized the great ice sheet of West Antarctica, and thus set in motion more than 10 feet of sea level rise.

Meanwhile, 2015 could be the year of the double whammy — when we learned the same about one gigantic glacier of East Antarctica, which could set in motion roughly the same amount all over again.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/03/16/the-melting-of-antarctica-was-already-really-bad-it-just-got-worse/


As I’ve written, ad nauseum, we are going to look amazingly selfish, ignorant and greedy to future generations, and rightly so.  The USA, the ‘wonderful’ consumerist empire, has contributed more to global warming than any other country.  And now China is taking over as the champion of economic ‘freedom’.  It’s an Orwellian joke.  Obscene wealth (1%) next to obscene poverty (80%) , this is called "freedom.Global destruction is termed "development.War is called the only way to peace.  Of course, the US leads the world in arms sales, and has been at war continuously since 2002.

We were told these wars would be over in a matter of months.  The patriotic citizenry doesn’t seem to care.  Lesson in political psychology:  consumer capitalism makes for easy mind control.
 
Although future generations will rightly blame all of us, the Republican Party of the Empire is the primary culprit.  They are in the pocket of Big Oil and Big Energy, and they use fear, racism and sexism to whip up their (primarily white) followers into a blind furor.  I don’t think it is a conscious mechanism.  The right wing has simply become obsessed with contradicting anything liberals (especially a black President) tries to say or do.

In fact, global warming is a liberal hoax.  Why?  Because right wing media outlets say so.

Meanwhile, a nuclear warhead could launch any day.  The geopolitical scene is endlessly volatile.  Once one missile flies, more will probably follow.  Silver lining:  the seas, prompted by global warming, will rise to cover the ugly wounds of nuclear war.  Nothing but tips of broken skyscrapers, sticking up out of the swollen brine, to remind future citizens of our ultimate stupidity.

But I think they’ll know.  And maybe, just maybe, they’ll realize that greedy selfish ignorant capitalism is not the way.

Owl

Friday, March 13, 2015

The R Hypothesis



I’m not sure how you would prove that the Republican Party is racist; and yet, despite the difficulties of verification, it makes for a strong theory.  Let’s just call this the R hypothesis.  It is a sickness of our times that R can be obvious yet socially deniable.

You might want to say that detachment from simple truth--the trickery of submerged racism--is just part of the “human condition”; but I believe there are feasible societies that could rise above such fundamental deceit.  In the future, it is possible that an enlighted culture will look back on us in dismay: “how could they have acted like that and deny it at the same time?”

It is hard enough to prove one person is racist (even if a definition can be agreed upon--another towering hurdle).  Racism can be conscious or unconscious, and virulent in both forms.  It is also possible to be aware of one’s own racism, and to actively work against such inculcated bias. This sort of positive awareness and remedial approach can arise from a formal, progressive education.  Given R, Republicans would attempt to warp, inhibit and replace such education.

What do you think?

(The basic mechanism by which the right approaches higher education:  (a) no government 'handouts' to subsidize college, (b) make colleges run for-profit like a business, (c) proceed to downsize according to dogmatic preferences and the needs of the 'free market').

On the other hand, there seem very few Republicans who will admit they are racist.  This means (given R) they are either unaware of their racism or just lying.  How could someone in either of these conditions even begin to mitigate their prejudice,as might someone who, in contrast, admits they have been molded by an encompassing culture of prejudice? 

Actually, when you toss R at Republicans, they tend to call you racist in return.  On the battlefield of rhetoric, a strong offense is often the best defense (in the Empire, violent metaphors concerning battlefields, etc, are readily applied).  On a deeper level, a psychological one, the defense mechanism of projection comes into play:


Projection is the misattribution of a person’s undesired thoughts, feelings or impulses onto another person ... Projection is used especially when the thoughts are considered unacceptable for the person to express, or they feel completely ill at ease with having them. For example, a spouse may be angry at their significant other for not listening, when in fact it is the angry spouse who does not listen. Projection is often the result of a lack of insight and acknowledgement of one’s own motivations and feelings.

http://psychcentral.com/lib/15-common-defense-mechanisms/0001251


I think the description above sums up a large part of the problem.  In a nutshell, it is simply too painful for Republicans to admit R, whether in themselves or as endemic in their Party.  Hence they retreat from awareness.  They lack “insight and acknowledgement” of their “own motivations and feelings.”

Part of the irony is that by hiding from such pain, you increase its power over time.  Again, I want to emphasize that racist behavior is not unavoidable: such two-faced cowardice is not necessary and I  condemn those who dismiss it as ‘human nature.’  Racists are culpable.  We can change and should.

What is the evidence for the R hypothesis?  I can’t even come close to a full account here.  Actually, I find it ridicuous to even argue it.  Logic isn't why racists hold onto racism and it isn't going to change their minds.  But maybe the following is helpful to some people in some ways.

You could start by looking at recent themes in political history:  Nixon’s Southern Strategy and Reagan’s “welfare queens.”  Currently, we’ve got a very white GOP, male-dominated, that refuses not only to cooperate but even to recognize the legitimacy of the first black President (Obama).  Recently, 47 Republican US Senators wrote a letter to Iranian extremists, saying that Obama’s policies were not theirs and could easily be overturned.  Obama’s birth certificate is still challenged.  He is still called a Muslim, despite his professed and clear Christianity.  He is constantly referred to as being in league with Arab terrorists.  And so on. 

Hateful stuff.  What is the explanation, given R?  Those who believe in white superiority cannot abide a black President--it creates too much internal conflict, too much cognitive dissonance.  If Obama is a decent leader, or even just as competent as the least white leader, it shatters the view of black inferiority.  Hence, to avoid painful acknowledgement, Republicans raise up walls of denial, bolstered by hate, and they engage in the psychological defense mechanism of projection.

It seems that the assumption of R leads to learned, plausible explanations for the invidious behavior of the right wing.

Foundationally, the Republican stronghold is the racist South and Midwest, where racial tensions are high and inequality is right before your eyes.  The town of Ferguson, Missouri is currently a flashpoint, due to the recent shooting of an unarmed black man. The resulting firestorm of media attention, and protest, points to our much larger national woes. 

Now let's consider the South.

The theme of ‘lazy blacks on welfare’ resonates with statements made by Southern secessionists right after the Civil War (of course, they were Democrats back then).  Amazingly, the GOP's anti-government, lazy-poor-people theme goes all the way back to the "aggression of the North" against the South.  Such is the endurance of the mental poison.  Such is the importance of studying history, not just business management in college.

When we ask questions like the following, we reflect on the past in manner similar to how the future will reflect on us:  "How could the antebellum South have possibly denied that black people were human?"

Today, Republicans control a huge block of the government.  Racist themes surge.  Power brings privilege.  Privilege allows spin.  Given R, if the Republicans gain more power, their insidious, virulent form of racism will spread.  Much seems to hinge, sadly enough, on monetary flows, not the level of ethical reasoning in the population.  

We all suffer from the negativity and rancor generated by R.  The evidence for R is overwhelming.  And yet society pushes to pretend that R isn’t true.  If we trumpeted R, we would deeply offend people all around us, ordinary people, perhaps even our next-door neighbors.  Indeed, as I mentioned above, all of us have been socialized in a racist culture; so it's not so much a matter of who is racist, as how a person deals with it.  

Welcome to the 'United' States, where truth can get you ostracized quick.

Yes, we citizens of the Empire live in a volatile tinderbox of social complications.  Let's hope it doesn't get as bad as the ideological chasm that preceded the Civil War.  As mentioned, that wound never healed. And, despite the progress made in the 60's, I fear its continued oozing.  If left unaddressed and therefore unhealed, it will lead to the demise of the 'United' States.

Owl