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.