Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Intimidation

Yesterday I posted an essay about the recent failure of police to potentially prevent the murder of a young woman in Boston. A police detective did not pursue a previous assault complaint by another woman last year against the chief suspect in the case. The chief suspect has an extensive record of violence and an extensive record of avoiding incarceration.

This morning I got a joking response from a friend in an email. He suggested that I may get more attention from police than I bargained for as a result of my post. Many a truth is spoken in jest. 

The post-traumatic psyche of the media since September 11, 2001 has sewn a basic fear in the U.S. public. The obsession with violence and fear of it has simply fostered more fear. Violence has not stopped by any means. In fact, U.S. cities are dangerous places, compared to other cities in the so-called developed world. The omnipresence of legal and illegal firearms, a burgeoning drug trade, crime syndicates associated with illegal immigration and drug smuggling, an so on.

Peaceful and nonviolent citizens have good reasons to be fearful. When a 911 emergency call yields no response for any reason, the safety net of our municipal environment is weakened. If a person lives in a poor neighborhood, the likelihood of this is greater. Good police work seems to be a privilege of wealth in many cities. 

All of this contributes to a subtle social intimidation of those with less economic influence. This intimidation fuels suspicion of law and police. An unfortunate spiral, aided by poor public education, develops in certain communities prone to this intimidation. Anyone who cooperates with the police is considered untrustworthy by the populace. Witnesses to crime do not come forth. The effected neighborhoods become less safe and the darkness of fear deepens to the advantage of the violent and criminal. 

My outrage over the recent case of police negligence stems from being raised by an ethical policeman, my father. My outrage is informed by his life as an honest cop surrounded by corruption and malfeasance. My outrage will not be extinguished by fear of those whose job performance is not worthy of my respect. 


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Police

Chief Wiggum of The Simpsons
From "Boston Strong" to "Boston Wronged". The Boston Police were confronted by a large community meeting in South Boston last evening. One radio correspondent estimated the crowd as 75% female. 

Amy Lord, a 24-year-old computer professional, was abducted and murdered in Boston last week. The primary person of interest (suspect) is a man with an extensive record of violence and escaping prosecution. Boston detectives neglected to investigate and make a case against this man last Fall after he attacked a woman in South Boston. The assigned detective, Jerome Hall-Brewster, has now been "demoted", but he still has a police job. 

The swooning applause of the police state created here in April by the Boston Police Department and State Police after the Marathon bombing has now faded. We return to the reality of poor policing in neighborhoods overrun by addicts and street people. Slow response to 911 calls is matter of course here in neighborhoods unladen by the deep pockets of Beacon Hill, Back Bay, North End and South End. Response times in those neighborhoods are surely faster. The absence of vagrants and ruffians speaks to more active police intervention.

Mayor Menino's media machine has been very effective at elevating his 20-year reign as chief executive of this city to legendary status. Those of us who have lived in this city for most of our lives know better. The deterioration of the Boston Police Department has been obvious and ongoing for decades. The police and firefighter unions, like the transit union, must share the responsibility for this decline in policing the greater area of residential streets of the city. 

Police PR reps spout the word "community policing" at civic association meetings. However, there is no community policing in my Boston neighborhood. The only police presence in my neighborhood consists of officers doing private duty at construction sites and officers hanging around in a coffee shop owned by a city councilor. It has replaced the local Dunkin Donuts as a police hangout. The local shopping center has its own small police station and more policing than my adjacent neighborhood, which has frequent break-ins and a host of roaming junkies during daytime hours.

While I really like my neighborhood for what it can offer, I feel the city government does not. My neighbors have a vibrant civic association. Police officers, doing public relations, attend the 10 monthly meetings and report on crime. My neighbors inevitably bring up 911 calls that were not answered. We get shrugs in response and no notable improvement in service. I am present on the streets of my neighborhood daily. I walk to do errands. I take an afternoon walk every day, more or less. I can testify to the absence of any police presence on the streets of my neighborhood. No cruisers. No police on foot or bicycle. 

Policing and firefighting budgets are large parts of the municipal budget. After 911, police forces have been showered with Federal Homeland Security funding as well. I see flashy new police motorcycles and cruisers. Last weekend I saw two State Troopers riding horses along a deserted section of beach in South Boston on their way to lunch. They looked like aristocratic lovers in a period film. Just enjoying the ride. On my tax dollars.




Monday, July 29, 2013

Options


Learning to accept responsibility, true responsibility, for my own life has made choice a very present and active process in every moment. Surrendering all trappings of being a victim is a first step. Some people in minority communities learn to parlay the role of victim into cash. This erodes a sense of worth and responsibility in a life.

Playing the victim comes from being a victim in childhood, usually. Those who have been neglected or abused as children often fail to proceed psychologically to a truly adult identity. These individuals become very adept at manipulating systems and authority, as they manipulated abusive parents to survive. Giving up this survival mechanism is very hard and usually requires a great deal of practice and/or therapy.

Generational poverty is the end result of the failure of grown individuals to proceed to true adulthood. Deprived and undeveloped children having children who will be deprived and prone to lack of development. The Ayn-Rand Libertarian would simply cut off social supports to these individuals in the name of helping them. This is absurd, of course. Corroding funding to public education, diminishing proper nutrition and shrinking companies to hire fewer and fewer people are the other brilliant ideas of these Tea-Party types. How can you help someone who is deprived by further depriving them of resources? Makes no sense.

On the other hand, there is the New Liberal approach of providing an endless, placating buffet of options without adequately providing remedial education/therapy for the core problem of neglect and abuse by family. This is like handing a $1000 can of caviar and a soup spoon to someone who usually eats in fast-food restaurants. These Liberals see addressing family dysfunction and damage as politically incorrect or "judgmental". Wasting time and money simply enabling dysfunction is stupid in my judgment.

Options are always nice. However, options, once chosen, need to be accompanied with responsibility for the consequences of choosing those options. The undeveloped individual who rips through government entitlement programs without any results should be held accountable. Holding this individual accountable in some form could be the first step at helping him/her devise more intelligent and responsible behaviors.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Prophets

Pope Francis and Mass Murderer
The Bible itself cautions against subscribing to the preaching of false prophets. The show of youthful enthusiasm for Pope Francis in Brazil, while not surprising in that country of steeped Catholicism and flirtation with military fascism, is troubling. Jorge Bergoglio (stage name: Pope Francis) has a history which undermines his gospel of compassion and upholding of homophobic/misogynist dogma. 


The Roman Catholic Church has embarked on a state-of-the-art media campaign to refill emptying coffers. Sex scandals and the general effects of technology by educating the poor to a world without religion have emptied churches globally. The light of education and scientific rationality withers dogmatic preachers like sun on vampires. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Memorials

I recently read an article about atheist protest against a religion-labeled public monument in an Ohio city. The secular arguments were compelling. After all, separation of religion and government in the U.S. is a basic liberation principle of our Constitution. It has been under threat for over thirty years, since Ronald Reagan legitimized the religious (Christian) Right Wing in order to get elected to the Presidency. 

Those who try to erect memorials of any kind carry a certain entitlement. Somehow they feel that harping on the past is a holy thing, which should be above any criticism. I encountered this within my own minority (LGBT) community during the height of the AIDS deaths in the U.S.. For example, when I was the director of a residential AIDS hospice in the mid-1990's, I discouraged visitors from working on the AIDS Quilt panels in the building for their loved ones who were still alive there. I explained my rationale in each case: The loved one was still alive and did not need someone at his bedside waving a symbol of his death in his face. The AIDS Quilt had great value for mourners. It had little value for the dying. The dying needed love, reassurance and constant physical care.

Those visitors who chose to get into a battle over my policy were ruthless. They channeled their rage at mortality and loss into trying to engage me in a fight. They complained to my superiors. This reinforced my philosophy about the issue. This quilting business was all about them, not about my patients, to whom I owed my absolute loyalty and attention. Some time after I left my position at the hospice due to my own battle with AIDS, I visited an exhibit of the AIDS Quilt and saw images of my patients here and there. This held value for me and my own grief, but I did not regret my hospice policy.

Memorials reveal a great deal about the human fear of death and fear of repercussions from bad deeds. I think war memorials are the creepiest. I see them as subliminal confessions by people in power to the atrocity of warfare. Watching the loved ones of fallen soldiers embrace a war memorial saddens me. This is a submission to violence and war by those damaged by it. Would a Jew or homosexual sentimentally embrace timbers at a Holocaust memorial set up in a concentration camp? 

I applaud the designers of marker-free cemeteries. I applaud those who spread cremated remains in sea or garden. I have specified in my own will that my cremated remains be scattered or planted. Feeding a plant with my remains is a comforting image. It seems the least I can give back to the planet after taking so much from it as a person in the developed world. 

Perhaps the best memorial we human beings can provide for future human beings is a healthy planet, free from injustice and violence. Far greater than carved stone on concrete pedestals is the gift of a peaceful life with healthy food, clean water and breathable air. Right now such a legacy seems unattainable as human population spirals out of sustainable limits. Right now our memorial may well be a world of machines where the quality of human life becomes less and less important. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Rain

Summer rain, which is pouring down now, is a blessing. Time to take a breath from exploiting the long sunlight hours for all those outdoor tasks that haunt us all winter. Looking to my garden brings a smile. The wilted plants, scorched by a week of blistering dry heat, are standing erect and are plumply green. New flowers are popping out. Birds are bathing in sidewalk pools. Days of rain in summer give a glimpse of how beautiful our planet can be. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Waiting

I am waiting. Once again waiting for workmen to do what they do: Destroy and build. Waiting is an acquired skill. At least, waiting patiently is. My anxiety of waiting stems from lack of trust. I don't mean trusting the waited-for person and/or event. I mean trusting in my own ability to cope with disappointment or surprising developments.  After all, any life situation holds the potential for divergence from my own best planning. As a recovering obsessive-compulsive, total control of my environment is an illusion I must always work to dispel. 

My practice for relieving the anxiety of waiting is simple. I occupy my mind and body with constructive use of waiting time. On a subway platform, I walk the platform's length or a circular path at one uncrowded end. This serves to keep me warm in cold weather and also keeps away anyone who might want to hustle me for some reason. They assume I am mad perhaps. Today, I am writing this blog post as I wait. This is translating my anxiety into a here-now activity, a use of my present to reflect on my greater life. 

The toughest waits I have had have been in hospital waiting rooms as a patient. In 2002, I was irradiated 30 times for cancer. The treatments became increasing painful from one to the next. I was waiting to be subjected each time to a deeper torture in the name of cure. The urge to bolt was very strong. The other waiters seemed less interested in their here-and-now than I was. Most of them, men with prostate cancer, spent their time complaining to each other about their life at home. I learned to meditate my way through the wait. They assumed I was asleep, I suppose. One x-ray technician said, "You seem so calm when you come in here (treatment room). Most of the patients are really jumpy."

Mastering the anxiety of waiting is very useful as I age. I am 63 and live with two serious diseases. I do not delude myself into thinking my demise is all that far off. So, in a real way, I am always waiting for that final moment. The secret is not letting the anxiety of that waiting to interfere with the life I have left in me. Doing this constructively takes some skill. My builders, who have now shown up, have no idea what a leap it is for me to improve my property under my life circumstances, both existentially and economically. But, it is all part of my attempting to live happily while waiting. That is something I can control. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Think

The National Security Agency of the U.S. government still maintains that it must spy on all American citizens and their foreign contacts to provide property security from attack. This leaves a simple question: If the U.S. government and American media were committed to love, peace and universal socioeconomic justice, would they feel so very vulnerable to attack? 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Aristocracy

As more and more human beings wake up to their role as the prime predators and potentially responsible stewards of the deteriorating planet Earth, the time and energy spent on adulating aristocrats and royals can seem like a perverted waste of human energy and resources. I understand the enshrining of a royal pregnancy by heterosexuals who are hard-wired to reproduce. This birth becomes a grandiose symbol for births across the planet, most of which are beginnings of struggling and suffering human lives. But this symbol does not translate into reality for those being engulfed by poverty caused by overpopulation. 

No ordaining god has deemed this newly born royal English child superior. His superiority comes from centuries of wars, torture, beheading and assassination by his forebears. Anyone who lauds his superiority is colluding in the propagation of this form of human oppression, whether they acknowledge it or not. The madness of the English in this is legendary. They are a people known for an ancient sadomasochistic relationship with aristocrats. Their ability to live with the duplicity of aristocracy juxtaposed with parliamentary republicanism rivals that of the ancient Romans, who once attempted in vain to bring civilization to their island. 

The French roiled with the spasms of eliminating functional aristocracy for more than half a century. Now, over two centuries after their revolution against aristocrats, France stands as a global model of progressive democracy as well as a global model of cultural preservation against enormous external pressures.

The U.S. has a growing economic aristocracy which looks with teary-eyed admiration at the British aristocracy. Many of these economic aristocrats would be first to kneel before the altar of the sacred Founding Fathers, side by side with an altar of an evangelical religion which preaches a "gospel of prosperity". These dual worships are steeped in a gross misunderstanding of human history, fueled by narcissism, self-satisfaction and greed.

I am encouraged by the gradual marginalizing of hereditary aristocracy even in England. The economic aristocrats of the developed world only worship money and materialism. Perhaps their role in history will be to displace hereditary aristocrats, who see their superiority as god-given, as opposed to money-earned. Eventually, the human species will see the need for equality and social justice for its very survival. When that time comes, aristocrats will be consigned to the same place in history as extinct species.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Realism

Being realistic (life is what it is) does not mean being nihilistic (nothing really matters). Being a humanist entails acknowledging the importance of social ethics, social justice, environmentalism. A humanist must be realistic in assessing those things in life which improve the quality of life and those things which deplete quality of life. As I have said often, it isn't all good. It it were all good (the contemporary flipping of nihilist thought into a positive affirmation), there would be no need for progressive change. 

Nihilism is convenient for materialists, hedonists and capitalists. By leveling everything and every behavior into a flat-line ethical framework, the cut-throat and selfish need feel no ethical qualms or sense of responsibility to others. Why pay taxes? Why respect the needs of others, if they stand in the way of what I want? Why defer my own pleasure in order to help others?

Some young atheists are drawn to nihilist justification of their lack of religious belief. They resent any notion of good vs. bad. This is not progressive. It is as ancient as religion itself. It is simply a way of rationalizing behaviors which are self-serving at the expense of others. 

Religion does not have a monopoly on ethical behavior. Being an atheist and a humanist with a commitment to a daily practice of education, mindfulness and compassion is an ethical lifestyle. It requires no supervisory deities. It requires no catechism or Torah or Qur'an, though extracting wisdom from these documents need cause no harm to a widely  informed mind. Doing to others as you would have them do to you is a good start. This is a realistic way of being a good person without submitting to the psychological domination of patriarchal religion. 


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Karma?

1940's Boston Streetcar Lines
Karma, the law of cause and effect of Buddhist thought, may be relevant in the current state of the city of Detroit, Michigan. However, in this case, it could be seen as Car-ma.

The car industry of Detroit nearly extinguished the life of all the major cities of the United States in collusion with the Eisenhower government of the 1950's. Robert Moses, perhaps the most influential city planner (destroyer?) of the 20th century colluded with General Motors and Ford to pressure the Federal government to build highways to reach suburban developments, which were being built on a massive scale to fill a demand created by cheap mortgages extended to veterans of World War II. These power brokers funded massive advertising campaigns in print and audio/visual media extolling the virtues of suburban life and car travel. It is comparable to the current Apple invasion of media.

Electric trolley (streetcar) tracks, which once connected every neighborhood and district of most major U.S. cities, were ripped up or buried in tar to make way for urban gridlock. City centers were evacuated by the more affluent, who embraced the car mythology. Formerly grand neighborhoods of proud blocks of town homes sank into decay. In many cities, they were ultimately leveled in favor of apartment blocks or commercial buildings. City centers became ghost towns after 5 PM. The neighborhoods which surrounded them became boarding-house slums.

Isn't it interesting? Many of the cities which Detroit sought to destroy in order to make money from the petrochemical industry are now experiencing resurrection. My own city, Boston, is developing its downtown into a vibrant gated community for the well-off. The director of the Boston Redevelopment Authority recently declared that developers in Boston needn't be so restricted by current regulations which demand ample parking spaces as part of any new development. He said the more affluent and young newbies in Boston preferred bicycles and public transit to cars. Too bad they don't have non-polluting electric trolleys on every corner, as their predecessors had.

Also interesting is the homophobia fostered by Detroit's felonious mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (2002-2008), convicted of over 24 felony counts and also convicted of subsequent parole violation. Kilpatrick fomented African-American hatred of LGBT people in the city as part of his election campaign. He campaigned as a religious moralist against gay rights and gay marriage specifically. Kilpatrick also rudely ejected a group of gay entrepreneurs who approached the city in the early 2000's with a plan to develop the downtown into a gay holiday/casino/entertainment destination. He did this as a homophobic religious moralist. Well, now that LGBT people are embracing new forms of liberation, Mr. Kilpatrick is embracing life as a prison inmate.

What goes around comes around? I do not believe there is any karmic judge in the clouds. Santa Claus, who keeps track of naughty and nice, is an imaginary being. I hope we can all agree on that. However, I do believe that bad causes create bad effects which eventually can bounce back on the creator of the bad cause. If you piss into the wind, you get wet. If you shoot with bad aim, the ricochet can kill you.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Reciprocity

I grew up with the notion that living life in community is a matter of reciprocity. In other words, generosity should be met with generosity. Acceptance should be met with acceptance. Candor should be met with candor. My own profession, nursing, pioneered a form of organizational reciprocity of licensure between states within the United States. 

I am finding that this ethic is fading in U.S. society. It seems to me that everyone is out for himself/herself more and more. Generosity is perceived as an opportunity for exploitation of weakness. Manners are perceived as arcane symptoms of the out-of-touch. Simply not with it. Not cool. The new cool is being harsh and rude. The battles over gay marriage and universal health care have exposed the lack of reciprocity between states within this country. 

This change is symptomatic of the culture of narcissism, promoted shamelessly by media and those who exploit media for power and money. It is the Donald Trump Syndrome: If I don't like you (or can't get something from you), you are insignificant to me. This syndrome is even evident in the proliferating non-profits who are constantly knocking on the door for money. 

Reciprocity indicates trust and fellowship. The lack of it belies suspicion and selfishness. The recent discussion about race around the Martin-Zimmerman case, for instance, has been rife with this lack of reciprocity. It has been couched by media and politicians as a matter of sides. Who is more racist? African-Americans in media present racism as an exclusively White problem. Whites in media accept this assumption often, but then try to derail the discussion away from race. There is no reciprocity of trust or equal responsibility. It is a blame game. And our own President, who is multiracial, has participated in this process, identifying himself in mono-racial terms.

I see humanism in part as a life choice to be open and reciprocal in human relationships. Justice, a pillar of human thought, centers on fairness. Reciprocity between human beings, displayed in trustful sharing and good manners, creates an atmosphere of equality. Focusing aggressively on what separates breeds more separation. Look to Israel-Palestine as an example. 




Friday, July 19, 2013

Fashion

I viewed a video recently which featured gay icon, Marc Jacobs, and Anne Wintour, a fashion editor and fashion celebrity. What is fashion? Fashion is an assertion of privilege and wealth in society. Those who live off fashion aspire to the elitism of its supporters. It calls itself an industry. However, it produces little but waste of natural resources and exploitation of human resources. Couture translates to sweat shops eventually, as high fashion undermines the practical needs of the average citizen. 

Perhaps the height of Western couture occurred in the late 18th century in Europe. And its resurgence in the mid-19th century was a re-assertion of royalist power after the French Revolution. In other words, fashion is a parade of aristocratic privilege, currently measured in terms of monetary wealth rather than genetic provenance. 

As a liberated and socially conscious gay man, I have always resented being equated in the (homophobic) public mind with dress designers and hairdressers. I have empathized with intelligent and socially engaged African-American men who are often equated with rappers, drug dealers and pimps in popular (racist) stereotypes. Marc Jacobs is not a gay Nelson Mandela by any stretch of the imagination. Anne Wintour is not a role model who represents liberation from sexism and misogyny. 

Salivating over and collecting expensive pretty things is the privilege of those who do not lack life's basic needs. Those who feed that hunger for extravagance are hardly treading a high ethical or socially responsible path...whatever the charity they may use to shelter their incomes from taxation. The recent events in Bangladesh factories are the end result of the fashion industry's peddling of the different, the new and more of it on an overpopulated and socially unjust planet which is being steered by corporate capitalist media. While Jacobs and Wintour sip champagne in Paris, the vast majority of humanity scramble for shelter, clean water and food. Rome still burns. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

God-business

The god-business is "organized" religion which supports a hierarchy, a clergy or an elitist isolationism. Selling your particular god and his mandates means big bucks and requires little education. If you are a jihadist, your god-business justifies having a mafia (Taliban, Hezbollah, Hamas) which feels free to extort, maim and kill in the name of your god. If you are a fundamentalist Christian or Jew, your god-business justifies a convenient morality which elevates you to superiority, from which you may condemn and exploit others in the name of your god. If you are a Buddhist monk, your god-business allows you to live securely in a monastery upon a hill amid gold and jewels while you preach nonviolence and patience to the poor who live in the squalid valley below. 

The chief products on sale by just about all god-businesses are misogyny and homophobia. Ever wonder why?

An educated woman who can say "no" to sex and reproduction competes for social stature through sexual and economic independence. Misogyny eliminates about 50% of the competition in male-dominated god-business. Liberated gay men and lesbians are also potential free agents in society. Since homosexual men do not reproduce as matter of custom, they disrupt the chain of paternalistic/tribal control of property and money. Lesbian women compete for the emotional and intellectual influence of other women. They are sexually identified women. In societies where psychological and/or physical female castration is supported by god-business, lesbianism is a revolutionary element  to be feared by patriarchy.

Organized religion is not about fostering goodness. The evidence to support this statement is clear to anyone who reads the history of the human species for the last 10,000 years. Those in the god-business discourage broad reading and learning for this very reason. They steer young minds to The Prophet, The Savior, The Rabbi, The Lama, The Lord. Why? Because this accustoms young minds to submit to patriarchy, to go to war, to be good followers. Roman Catholicism has a particularly pernicious trick of beating up young minds with guilt-provoking patriarchy and then referring the bruised and traumatized to seek solace at the feet of The Blessed (and Docile) Virgin or at the feet of a statue of a happily lacerated martyr.

The god-business has had millenniums to perfect its patter. It has developed a learn-as-we-go psychology. It always pushes the masses to the wall of endurance for extortion and abuse. That's where the profits lie. You must have a wide following of impoverished people to expand the business. This explains the current alliance between fundamentalism and free-market capitalism in many quarters. It's a natural fit. They practice the same business model: "There's a sucker born ever minute."

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Poison

Twenty-two or more children are poisoned to death in India by free lunches. Accident or atrocity? The shame is that the question must be asked. The poison is a commonly used chemical pesticide. Think of it. A highly toxic substance is being used to grow crops worldwide. Higher yields are needed to support an out-of-control human population. Whatever the process in India in this specific case, the fact will remain that the world is being polluted by man-made poisons.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Interaction

I see my humanist practice as both internal and external. Internally, I work with my mind and body to maintain maximum health and intelligence. Externally, I consider every interaction with my environment to be an application of my humanist principles of consciousness, nonviolence and compassion.

There is no action in isolation, as we know from Physics. Every action is balanced with an equal and opposite reaction in context of space, time, matter and energy. So, in a very basic way, every action is part of an interaction with the Universe in some form.

This all sounds quite airy. It isn't at all. If I am committed to my principle of nonviolence, I must act nonviolently, meaning I interact in such a way that does not excite violence. I take this very seriously in every action. When I am gardening, I try not to be carelessly violent when weeding. The bees are friendlier to me, as one positive reaction of Nature. When I place a dish in a dishwasher, I try to avoid being violent in that action. Not slamming dishes, silverware and door in the process. The dishwasher will operate better with this approach.  In my movements, I try to be nonviolent. For example, I have learned to use a hammer as a precise tool instead of a weapon of destruction. One precise blow of moderate strength is more effective than flailing smashes.

The word "graceful" used to be commonplace when discussing the actions of individuals with "class". As society has become cruder under the influence of a violence-pimping and sex-pimping capitalist media, grace and class (in the sense of ongoing education and refinement) are no longer promoted as qualities to acquire in order to achieve social provenance. Clumsy aggression and sarcasm are now seen as "cool". Rap is considered poetry. Explosions are considered high entertainment in films.

If a culture interacts with the Universe violently, it will inevitably reap the recoil of its own violence. If it rapes Nature, Nature will adjust accordingly. If it sanctifies war, war will come to bestow its horrors upon it. If an individual is violent to his/her environment, his/her environment will return the favor inevitably.

Practicing humanist ideals through daily interaction is in my own self interest, as well as being beneficial to my environment. How I make my first steps into any action will determine the outcome in some way, no matter how I may change my course in time. Walking in peace and openness into my environment is a practice upon which all other actions follow naturally in a more positive and constructive fashion.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Prejudice

Racism is not abolished by constantly couching every issue in terms of race. Homophobia is not abolished by constantly couching every issue in terms of homophobia. Ethnocentrism is not abolished by couching every issue in terms of ethnicity.
 
There is a human tendency to personalize external events which often have nothing to do with the narcissistic observer. Personalizing is different from understanding. Personalizing is different from being compassionate.
 
Superimposing my own person on every event comes all too easily in this media age. Media reporting is increasingly lacking in any rational objectivity or skepticism. In the name of objectivity, journalists now seek out and publicize the most extreme reactions to any situation. This is an extension of the polarization of government (power). The consumer is emotionally nudged into one extreme camp or another by this kind of limited reporting. This does a disservice to public understanding of and public conversation about difficult social situations.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Martin-Zimmerman

The acquittal of George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin will outrage some and make others feel safer. Neither reaction is rational.
 
The confrontation of an unrecognized 17-year-old by a 28-year-old resident in a gated community in Florida was not in itself anything unpredictable. I understand the defensiveness of people who retreat to gated communities. I do not share it.
 
For example, yesterday there were seven muscular and tall adolescents on my subway car. They were loudly speaking what sounded like Portuguese. I speculated that they are of Cape Verde heritage. They intimidated the other passengers on the car with their loud and violent behavior toward each other, which included a brief wrestling match between two of them. When they exited the train at my stop, they blocked the exit stairs and continued to be loud and raucous. A petite woman who was near me on the stairs stood unusually close to me as we slowly ascended behind the cavorting and clueless bunch. She followed on my heels for several blocks as we walked from the station. She looked very afraid.
 
If those adolescents turned their aggression on me and if I was armed, I would have drawn my firearm in defense. No question. And, if they attacked me, I would have discharged my firearm. No question. This is why I choose not to own a firearm.
 
I do not believe guns are the solution to feeling afraid. I do not live in a gated community. I do not believe retreating behind gates (social segregation) is the healthy solution to feeling uncomfortable with social change.
 
The State of Florida apparently believes in gates and guns. Trayvon Martin apparently did not fully comprehend where he was . He had no acquired respect for the fear of those who retreat behind gates. It would have served him well. George Zimmerman did not fully comprehend how miserably fearful he was. He also did not comprehend that his mental state was not up to the responsibility of owning a gun.
 
The meeting of these two human beings was intrinsically fraught with dangers, just as my encounter on the subway was. However, guns and poor socialization collided with an irreversible result. Martin is dead. Zimmerman will never have a truly peaceful life. Martin was not a martyr. Zimmerman is not a paragon of civility. The problems lie in poor education, poor socialization, poor mental health treatment and, most of all, the inappropriate and dangerous presence of hand guns in our civilian society.  

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Royalty

A royal baby is due in the U.K.. A news correspondent from England said this morning on National Public Radio here in the U.S. that those in Great Britain who are opposed to the monarchy, "republicans" he called them, were keeping their heads down. This statement brings home that all this royal nonsense isn't really nonsense in the U.K.. It impacts human lives and progressive thought. What century is this?
 
Royalty is an assertion of a God-given right, bestowed at birth, to rule other human beings with absolute authority. The U.K.'s constitutional monarchy is checked under political law, but the monarchy is still a hereditary brand of unquestionable privilege in British society. This is absurd. It is especially absurd when one studies the depth of dysfunction and lunacy in the British royal line.
 
The royals of history are the godfathers (and godmothers) of mafias. The aristocrats who supported this social and political hierarchy were relations and henchmen, elevated for massacres and extortion from the less wealthy and less well armed. Kings and queens throughout history supported slavery, racism and violent religious bigotry.
 
It is arguable that monarchies impeded human evolution from the time of the demise of ancient Greek democracy in Western civilization. Royalty has set the model for hereditary superiority and transmission of hereditary privilege. This model is played out by aristocracies and the bourgeoisie around the world. Currently, an aristocracy of corporate wealth is subscribing to the royalist model with a new social hierarchy based on income. The media collude in this by their lust for celebrity gossip and dependence on corporate masters.
 
"Family values" can be code for arcane conservative stubbornness. Those who look to the past to justify injustice frequently rely on the social power and provenance of royal paradigms. The sanctification of The Founding Fathers in the U.S. is a form of this retrograde thinking. It is unrealistic and unscientific. It is not a humanist approach to human justice and social equality in a country which poses as a democracy in the 21st century.
 
I wish the pregnant Royal Princess and her due offspring no ill. After all, she is just another human being. I do hope her offspring or the offspring of her offspring will some day abolish all royal privilege as a gesture in support of a united humanity, progressing to a responsible and scientific stewardship of the planet and all life upon it.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Healing

I once belonged to a Japanese Buddhist group in Provincetown, Boston and Manhattan over some years. We practiced shakabuku. Shakabuku is a sharp psychological kick to the head ... a "Road to Damascus" experience of sorts. As practicing Buddhists, we felt compelled to share Buddhist teaching with others. So, we would shakabuku strangers on street corners or at parties or at work. We would give them literature and invite them to a Buddhist meeting of our home group. It sounds much more Pentecostal than it actually was.
 
Practicing shakabuku was intended as an act of healing unhappiness in the person invited into Buddhist thought and practice. Of course, learning to overcome fear and shyness in sharing our belief systems was very healing for those of us who practiced it. Our senior Japanese members would behave strangely whenever one of us brought a sexy or wealthy shakabuku to a meeting. One of my friends, who had brought a beautiful professional model, was offended when this happened and approached the older member.
 
"Pretty and wealthy people don't need your shakabuku!" The older Japanese member spoke this with a particularly clipped English. "The world takes care of them. They will have to work for many lives to break free from the material life. You go out and find a person with one eye and a humped back. Bring that person here. Love that person. Then you will live your Buddhism!"
 
I was very moved. My eyes watered with a deep agreement with this stern advice. My friend left indignantly with the model, had an affair that was ill-fated and eventually came back to the group months later.
 
Healing one human life is a tremendous contribution to the world. Most of us are drawn to the healthy, the young, the promising. Our animal instincts to survive and propagate drive much of this unconscious behavior. That is why celebrities with buff bodies and small brains gain financial and social power. Extending a hand to the infirm, old and/or disabled is the true measure of a healer.
 
My humanist practice developed in healing environments. Before my Buddhist experience, I had been working with street people in a state hospital and later with LGBT people in a mental health center for nearly a decade. My shakabuku came from a new friend, a Buddhist, who felt I had compartmentalized my healing work to my jobs. He was partly correct. Joining the Buddhists for several years helped me to integrate my sense of myself as person and healer.
 
Some people seek to heal by adopting children from foreign orphanages. The instinct to help the helpless infant or toddler is strong. Others confuse trying to heal others with actually trying to heal themselves. The person with low self-esteem who finds the gorgeous model with a heroin addiction, for example. This isn't healing as much as it is the blind leading the blind.
 
My experience has taught me that the only effective healer is one who has already begun the practice of healing himself/herself. Healing another becomes an extension of healing the self. It is a mutual process, but the healer must know what he/she is about from the get-go. This is one difference between mutual exploitation, or co-dependence, and mutual healing.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Ventilate

Breathe. I say this to anyone I meet who is under stress. Breathe. It is easy to tighten the body under stress. It is a low-grade extension of the fight-flight hormonal system, which can get stuck in the 'on' position in an anxiety situation or under chronic anxiety. The body is tensed. Muscles use more energy, even at rest. Lactic acid builds. The body functions inefficiently. The mind suffers, is distracted and lacks clarity. Breathe.
 
The simple act of fully expanding the lungs slowly and rhythmically for a minute or two changes the metabolism of the body. Oxygen is pumped more effectively to tightened muscles, which relax. The mind experiences a sense of relief, an ebbing of physical stress.
 
Chronic lack of proper ventilation is often associated with anxiety-induced hyperventilation. Panic attacks are often accompanied by hyperventilation. Simply cupping the hands tightly over the mouth with the fingertips closing the nostrils will help to restore normal breathing. Unattended to hyperventilation can lead to loss of consciousness, which usually takes care of adjusting the breathing to a more normal state. In extreme cases, respiratory arrest could occur and require emergency intervention.
 
Our bodies (ourselves) are complex systems of many living components. Millions of cells, all alive in their own way with their own functions. Our minds, powered by our evolved frontal lobes, enable us to actively utilize scientific knowledge about our own bodies. This is the tremendous gift of intelligence, memory and consciousness. Simply breathing intentionally to remain calm and to meditate is a wonderfully human thing to do. It keeps me in touch with my true human nature.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Justice

Why are courtrooms routinely unavailable on public media in a supposed democracy? From the Supreme Court down to municipal courts, judges and lawyers do not wish to make their jobs visible. I believe this is due to their wish to control and manipulate the justice system in favor of vested interests.
 
We live in an age of immediate visibility through technology. However, politics, governance and the judiciary operate under systems devised for the 19th century. This is absurd. This does not persist as some holy tribute to tradition. This persists to prevent the public from having a stronger hand in politics, governance and the judiciary. This is unjust if a truly democratic republic is to exist in the United States.
 
In 2010, there was one attorney per 172 people in the U.S.. In 2010, there was one doctor for approximately 350 people in the U.S.. Twice as many lawyers, relevant to population, than doctors. This may be a clue to the reasons behind the veil of secrecy over the justice system. It may be a case of too many cooks in the kitchen, for example.  It may also be an example of a powerful professional group which does not want transparency.
 
The laughable failure of the criminal justice system in the O.J. Simpson case in 1995 on national TV probably has something to do with the current secrecy in our trial courts. The politicizing of the Supreme Court may also have something to do with it. Whatever the reason, promoting an image of courtroom process with the likes of Judge Wapner does an injustice to the public. A country with the highest prisoner-to-population ratio in the world and one of the highest lawyer-to-population ratios would do well to shed some light on the process in courtrooms as a matter of course. Maybe this would accelerate reform of the our justice system from top to bottom.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Cost

We tend to identify cost with money. However, actions have a cost. Ideas have a cost. Ethics have a cost.
 
Having it all is the quest of the modern materialist. Of course, there is no such thing, no matter how rich or pretty a person may be. Striving for wealth or fame has a great cost to a person's being. Doing nasty things to get rich corrupts the mind. Compromising a good sense of justice and fairness for personal gain has a cost. Sometimes these costs are not retrievable.
 
Relationships entail costs. A relationship with a pet entails a cost in time, attention and money. A relationship with a child should entail a great cost to the parents' needs in favor of the child's. Friendship, true friendship, entails costs of time, energy and emotional commitment.
 
This is an age of seeking gain over accepting cost. Capitalism preaches its profit gospel with a slant against the costs of quality of life for the many over the few. Good public schools cost a great deal, especially when they are expected to provide the same quality of education for every child. There is no immediate monetary gain from this cost.  The enhanced minds and skills of the students are the gain, which reveals itself socially over subsequent years. U.S. voters have lost sight of the value of this cost in favor of tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy aristocracy they support.
 
Individual practice entails costs. Time must be spent exercising, assessing proper diet, reading, meditating, reflecting, interacting meaningfully with others. What is more valuable in a mortal life than the cost of time? Expending a cost in time on personal development of consciousness and compassion  is perhaps the most worthwhile spending a human being can do. It often does not bring any financial return. However, it does bring increased quality of life for the practitioner and his/her environment.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Oil

Lac-Megantic, Quebec in Canada was partially leveled by the explosion of a runaway oil train this morning. Lives were lost. A town was devastated. It is reported as an accident. An accident?
 
The frustrated oil executives who have been prevented from running a potentially devastating oil pipeline from central Canada to Texas refineries have been discussing the alternative route of piping oil across to Quebec in existing pipelines and eventually to U.S. ports on the Maine Coast.  Today's events in Lac-Megantic are a good education on the multi-layered dangers of our dependence on the petrochemical industry.
 
Leadership on alternative energy has flagged in the face of a booming fracking industry and shale oil industry.  The wealthy aristocracy at the top of societies across the developed world are living fat lifestyles on dividends gained from investment in the oil economy. President Obama and Congress are in the pocket of the corporations which depend on and produce petrochemicals.
 
Most citizens of Lac-Megantic are not rich. They were just in the way of the profit-making machine of oil-driven capitalism. They were the victims of negligence and lack of safety concerns of the oil industry. According to press reports this morning, they had not been made aware a large shipment of combustible crude was being tanked through their town yesterday. Nobody seemed to care about their vulnerability to the disaster that unfortunately befell them.
 
Corporate media use the fear of terrorism to justify government intrusion and to intimidate the populace here in the U.S.. It is the old trick of the powerful to cow the less powerful and to create the illusion they are watching out for the interests of everyone. The reality, visible to opened eyes, is quite different. The corporate culture, blind to human welfare and social equality, look for profits at the least cost of investment. This is much more dangerous to the public interest than the odd religious lunatic.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Responsibility

2006 Time Magazine Cover
I am amused by the popular euphemism, "start a family". It was used moments ago in a radio story I heard. "Start a family" in light of the divorce statistics and other evidence of relationship dysfunction can be compared to "get a puppy". Unfortunately, most humans like puppies better than grown dogs as they like babies better than independent human adults.
 
Each birth is the inception of an independent human life. It is not responsible to that human life to envision it as a means gratify the needs of the parents. This is the difference between satisfying the breeding urge by an animal without a frontal lobe and conscious human reproduction in developed society. Approximately half the births in the U.S. annually are considered "accidental" by the birth mothers. This shows both sexual ignorance and irresponsible reproduction by many women in this relatively developed society.
 
Much is written and shouted about female reproductive rights. Fertility promotion is a major industry in developed nations, hypnotized by the insane basis of capitalism's "health" on population expansion. What about reproductive responsibility? The old quality-vs.-quantity issue. Capitalism always goes for quantity over quality.
 
A short conversation with a social worker involved with a child welfare system in any country will educate the unaware on the vast lack of reproductive responsibility in most human societies. Children are neglected and abused in all socioeconomic groups in all societies. Among the poor, children suffer inevitably from ignorance. In the U.S., childhood obesity is one widely visible symptom. Overfeeding a child a poor diet is as much a form of neglect as starving a child from a perspective of long-range health.
 
The  public high school graduation rate in Boston, "Athens of America", in 2012 was 65.9%. The other 34.1% are evidence of reproductive irresponsibility in a society which offers no hope for those who have less than a high school education. Of those 65.9% who graduated, only 15% went on to a college or vocational education. Therefore, That means about 90% of the graduates of the Boston Public Schools will enter young adulthood with substandard preparation for the current job market in America. Is this evidence of responsible family-starting in human society?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Explosions

Esplanade's Mugar
Boston media have exploited the Boston Marathon bombing extensively. The uninformed or remote listener/watcher would assume that Boston is still reeling and learning from the explosions on Boylston Street in April. Not so. In my neighborhood last evening, the evening of Independence Day, illegal fireworks blasted loudly and frequently until the early morning hours. There were no police sirens. There were no long pauses which would have indicated some police intervention. There was obviously none.
 
No, all the State Police and municipal police available were monitoring the annual corporate event on the Esplanade, an entertainment venue devised by a wealthy (by birth) Boston businessman and free market capitalist.  That event attendance was nearly halved this year. In anticipation, the national commercial TV broadcasters who usually televise the event had pulled their money and cameras.
 
Meanwhile, in my economically humble and heritage-diverse neighborhood, there were no police available to secure the peace for the citizen who wanted to get some sleep in preparation for a working-class job in the morning. The same illegal New Hampshire gun powder which maimed and amputated in April was being ignited liberally everywhere. Must have been hundreds of pounds of the stuff, judging from the noise.
 
I wonder if any of those many individuals who are standing behind litigation lawyers to secure more than the readily dispensed $8,000 for "psychological trauma" stemming from the Marathon bombings (despite their lack of any evidence of contemporaneous medical impact from the explosions) were blasting the polluted skies with gun powder smoke last night in celebration of the money they anticipate securing from the well meaning contributors to One Fund.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Independence

On this Independence Day in the United States, I reflect on what "independence" means in today's America and in a crowded world. The independence which inspired the American Revolutionary War and secession from the British Empire was purely materialistic. It was based in commerce, taxes, profits. No wonder that today's Tea Party have enshrined the dumping of taxed tea into Boston Harbor as a sacred moment in U.S. history. It is notable that our neighbors to the north, who did not secede, are living a high quality of life with comparable freedoms to our own and a more civil society.
 
Independence is naturally pursued by healthy human adolescents. One measure of a developed society's general health is the ability of its young adults to separate from their families of origin and make it one their own. The most recent U.S. Census found 22 million adult children still living at home with parents.
 
Independent thought has been suffering blow after blow at the hands of nationalist conformity in the U.S.. The current Snowden fiasco illustrates. The torture of Bradley Manning by the military while he was in early custody is another example. The way the even Liberal members of government (Feinstein and Kerry) throw around the word "traitor" in reference to whistle-blowers indicates a lock-step mentality in the U.S. which cries enforced dependence, not independence of thought and position.
 
Social media have bred a form of social dependence. While some tread the line between being politically correct and conformist, the majority wallow in vapid superficiality on social media. Baby pictures and videos abound. Cutesy animal videos also are everywhere. There is nothing morally wrong with the occasional laugh at the expense of a goofy pet, otherwise pampered. But is this the most effective use of our social media in times of a crumbling environment and growing corporate control of all aspects of planetary life? 
 
Within my own (designated) LGBTQ minority, there is little room for independence of thought and action. There is a fascism of gay marriage and gay militarism among gay men and lesbian women. It is spurred by the control of gay organizations by gay/lesbian people from the white-collar middle class.  Pride festivals are now (on-paper non-profit) Profit festivals for boards, who run them as corporations with big-money sponsors from the alcohol industry and other corporate entities which pander to gay consumerism.
 
There is little independence to celebrate in America today. Nationalism, perhaps. Materialism, definitely. Militarism, of course. Conformity, absolutely. Fear, most unfortunately. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Egypt

Photo credit: www.theaustralian.com.au
It seems the Egyptians have the right idea. Unfortunately, Islamist extremists are pushing the expression of secular outrage to violence. They are initiating the violence to intimate those who oppose an extreme Islamist government. This is the modus operandi of extreme Islamists. I praise the brave Egyptian secularists who will not be cowed by Islamist paramilitary thugs who support a theocratic President with a totalitarian Sharia agenda.
 
The wimpy responses of U.S. diplomats and the U.S. President reflect the U.S. government's participation in a corrupt dictatorship for decades by way of supporting Israel's border with Egypt. Of course, Israel itself  is also becoming a theocratic state under the harsh influence of Orthodox settlers and isolationist Hasidim. Hyper-religious American politicians are hard-pressed when they are confronted with the evil of religiosity elsewhere. Yes, the problem is religion...not which religion

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Sharia

Victim (r) of Sharia Murder.
The trap of religion is its duplicitous application by those in authority. No matter how high-minded the organized religion at its roots, it inevitably falls prey to the evil in those who fear loss of control. Those who identify themselves with a religious orthodox without broad education are dangerous. The Syrian rebellion against the tyranny of Assad is morphing into a religious movement.
 
Anarchists, uneducated but armed with guns like their Taliban equivalents, are killing civilians on the basis of their own crackpot interpretation of Islam. A 14 year old boy, a street vendor, was shot dead by these hoodlums in the street because they deemed what he had said in jest as blasphemous. Other civilians just watched and the men walked away with the impunity armed ganga can secure for themselves without the rule of lawful governance.
 
This extremism lies along the behavioral continuum of all religions. The problem is not the particular dogma. The problem is dogma, based on magical thinking and anachronistic application of ancient morality on modern life. The problem is ignorance of hard science and social science. The problem is poverty institutionalized by the greed of the powerful.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Quiet

I live in the city. While my neighborhood has trees and narrow front yards along sidewalks, it is densely populated. My neighborhood gave birth to the American triple-decker, the flat-roofed three-unit wooden houses which became identified in an earlier time with immigrants and now is more likely identified as a pricey condominium building. The first triple-decker, according to the Dorchester Historical Society, still stands down the street.
 
The first four years of my life were spent in an old cold-water flat without central heating at the top of a triple-decker. The iceman was always out of breath when he delivered the huge blocks for our non-electric icebox. Our space heaters and stove were kerosene-powered. Not so far removed from Dickens.
 
Environmental quiet is a precious commodity in the city. Very early mornings have surplus quiet, especially on Sunday. Most evenings, especially summer evenings, are boisterous. Most times of day and night are underscored by car engines, car stereos and aircraft overhead.
 
The urban mind requires special training to attain inner quiet. The nearly relentless stimulation of environment must be coped with in order to reach a meditative state. Regular meditation develops a quiet place, even in the urban mind, where a mindful person can go at will. This breeds patience and calm in the face of stress, which is never hard to come by in the urban setting. Meditation is simply a healthy daily practice which supports all other aspects of healthy living.