Monday, September 30, 2013

Community


Community has been increasingly defined as a static phenomenon. In urban settings, it can be defined by meetings and activities. It can also be defined by a neighborhood's borders. Community centers are often confused with community itself. Church congregations are often equated with community.  In biology, a community is a group of interacting living organisms sharing a common populated environment.


I have occasionally referred to a gay community in discussions. However, there is no real homogeneous thing. There is no real Black community. There is no real Asian community. These are all constructs used by politicians and statisticians to calculate strategy. When I blow this up further, would I say there is a heterosexual male community? Would anyone buy a heterosexual female community in today's parlance?

My educational background is heavy in science. I tend to see myself as a member of a human community wherever I am in accordance with the biological definition. Therefore, when I am on the subway, I am not a member of the transit community. I am a member of the human community on the subway.

A certain mental opening occurs with this perspective. By looking at myself as a member of any contemporaneous human community with which I share habitat, I am shedding race, ethnicity, gender, age and sexual preference as qualifiers to be applied to the human beings around me. This is a moment-by-moment perspective on community. It is also entails a certain personal responsibility in the most mundane human situations.

Religions, clubs, political organizations are dividers. They segment the human community by identity markers. They serve a purpose. However, overpopulated human habitats can become alienating places when the concept of community becomes narrowed to special interests. I see this happening in my own urban environment. As a Bostonian, this alienation strikes me as relatively new with our increasing population and its increasing non-native numbers.

As a humanist, I feel that seeing all groups of human beings in shared habitat as my community is a workable and healthy way to live ethically. It helps me heal programmed obstacles to compassion in my mind. As a professional health care provider (R.N.), I have been trained to make a contribution to any community in which I reside. I take this as a personal responsibility, not simply a way to make a salary. This is why I have maintained my license since my retirement from salaried work.

As non-religious people form communities, in the sense of congregations, I hope these meetings continue to be widely open and not limited by divisive dogma. In fact I hope non-religious groups seek and thrive upon a wide diversity of the human population wherever they occur. Right now I fear that these communities are only diverse within an encapsulated socioeconomic and educational class.  The language and activities of these communities reflect this. They are more alumni/alumnae club than factory softball team.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Time

Peter and I went to a mall briefly last evening. The mall has been there for about 4 years. It was constructed along a familiar stretch of Route 1, an ancient Boston-to-Providence postal road. Peter grew up in the next town. I once traveled that area routinely when I lived south of Boston. The mundane Saturday trip turned into a revelation about change, time and aging. 

The mall is upscale. The neighborhood we once knew well wasn't upscale at all. It was a dowdy compilation of 1950's and 1960's strip malls, frequented by working class folks from the neighboring mill towns. Bargain stores reined supreme back then. Fire-sale merchandise was prized. No more. 

We are in our 60's. Peter said he understood how his Swedish-immigrant grandmother felt when she used to be driven down Route 1 in her old age, our youth. She had seen the now-faded strip malls as intrusions into farmland and marshes along the roadside. She would gasp at the changes and express her feelings of being left behind by all the commercial proliferation. I doubt she associated that change with her own production of over a dozen children. 

After visiting the mall, we went to a pub which we frequented ten years ago, shortly after we met. It was Peter's birthday, and he had always loved their fish and chips back then. This proved to be another reminder that time waits for no one. 

The place was twice the size it had been. The tight village square it borders was almost unrecognizable. Neat new pavement and curbs lined widened streets. A new triangular park was planted very professionally with lush foliage. A huge new liquor store, built to resemble the buildings in the upscale mall nearby, proudly formed one whole side of the square. The pub's clientele was the same. Older Irish-Americans, who traditionally have peopled this more suburban section of Boston. Their surroundings were more glamorous. A huge flat-panel TV, tastefully juxtaposed to a rather grand gas fireplace. None of them seemed impressed. To the diner who had been eating there for the last decade, these changes had come gradually. 

All this exploration of change in time is not alien to a Bostonian of the past quarter century. But we are a shrinking group. Native Bostonians have fled to suburbs north, west and south. Boston is becoming another international metropolis, thanks to immigration and global corporatism. I see it as another upscale mall, only bigger and with more residential real estate in it. My surprise came from encountering the seismic ripple effects of the downtown changes.

Time is change. Life is change. There is no control over it, no matter how much we choose fret about it. This is a very basic consciousness of my own humanism. Courage is required to try to make an impact of goodness on a world which is changing outside of my individual control. Those who have children and grandchildren often delude themselves into thinking that they exert some control over the planet's future by their reproduction of progeny. However, when they are encouraged to look at their own familial truths, they will acknowledge that they have had little or no control over the eventual development of the individual human beings they brought to life...no matter how hard they tried. Influence, yes. Control, no.

Earlier yesterday I saw a man standing on a surfboard-like craft in Boston Harbor as we walked along. He had a long, slender paddle, with which he steered and steadied his craft. I watched as he sudden hit the outflow of the tide from a man-made lagoon. The whirling current was most likely less visible to him at sea level. The change nearly threw him off his board. We watched him regain balance and struggle with his paddle to get on with his journey. He did a good job. 

Standing upright when suddenly swept along with the inevitable change of life, like paddling across an often invisible current. Is easier with a personal daily practice. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Sunlight

Now that it is Autumn, observing the change in the sunlight here in the northern Northern Hemisphere is ... well, enlightening. I can feel the spin of Earth under my feet when I meditate in the movement of light across a white window blind. These crisper late September mornings light up later. The sun peeks through my kitchen blinds where it was not visible in the high days of Summer. Shadows are darker, longer. In the afternoons, I watch perfect, sharp silhouettes of the buildings across the street crawl across the pavement in front of my house. Better than watching TV. Better than standing in a museum in front of a painting of shadows. Being alive and observant in the present is the core of humanism in practice.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Race

C.G. Richie Placed Third
The preliminary election (run-off) for mayor of Boston this week had twelve candidates. The top-two candidates will run for election to the office in November. Half of the candidates were Hispanic and/or African-American. Half. An African-American woman, Charlotte Golar Richie, placed third out of that field of twelve candidates. 

Why am I hearing radio programs here in Boston which are implying that Boston is a racist-Caucasian bastion because of these election results when 53% (a majority) of the city's population is not Caucasian? Yes, the top two contenders, who will run against each other in November, may be identified as Caucasian. However, they earned their positions by campaigning extensively on the issues. They are both educators and have deep roots of service in Boston.

There is an odd assumption, especially among Liberals, that people of Hispanic and African-American descent cannot be racist. This is absurd, of course. There are no electrified fences around the Hispanic and African-American neighborhoods in Boston where being Caucasian can be a risky business. Many of the self-segregated European-heritage communities have diversified. Many Caucasians and Asians have had to move from gentrified neighborhoods due to economic pressures. However, I hear many racist cries coming from Roxbury, an African-American neighborhood in Boston, that Dudley Square, currently under urban renewal, is unfairly becoming too diversified economically and racially. In the media, these claims are never identified as racist. Why not?

Racism will only be abolished when all people of all races surrender the politics of race. One of the twelve candidates for mayor is very vocally racist. He is African-American. He owns a race-based radio station. I am happy to report that he placed 11th in the field of 12 candidates. This gives me hope as a humanist that racial diversity and equality is gradually becoming a matter of fact in my city, not a matter of constant contention. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Duplicity

The Tea Party, which is a group dedicated to small-corporate welfare and no personal entitlements, is trying to overturn Obamacare, the new national health care program in the U.S.. This group of unbelievable double-speakers screams about government intrusion into the private lives of citizens. At the same time, they decry government support of the corporate infrastructure of which they are the base. They are funded largely by the Koch brothers, oil and gas magnates from Texas. 

Ted Cruz, their newest star, is the son of workers in the oil industry. His father is now a Baptist minister in Texas. Perhaps that is the Tea Party ideal of a retirement plan. His parents are divorced. Oil and religion seem to take well to each other. Cruz represents the unquestioning, anti-scientific and religious Tea Party ideal.

So, why would someone who is indignantly moral and religious oppose providing health care for the masses? The reason is simple. Religion is a tool of opportunism in the Tea Party. It is a way of connecting with the old Moral Majority which brought us the hyped Reagan administration, from which our society is still recovering. Reagan, a demigod in shared Republican and Tea Party iconography, ran American infrastructure into the ground while handing over control of the government to private corporate interests. He is the grandfather of the socioeconomic mess the U.S. is now grappling to get out of. 

The Tea Party is a lie. It portrays itself as a populist front. It claims to be anti-government and anti-corporate. This is also a lie. The "small businesses" they claim to represent are businesses with less than 500 employees under tax law. These corporations represent 99% of all business in the U.S. as of 1995. In other words, the Tea Party is big business. It is looking to reshape the laws for corporate welfare at the expense of personal welfare for those at the bottom of the economic pyramid of capitalism. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Shame

Pyramid of Photos of the Disappeared in Buenos Aires, 2004
There is little attention paid to the shame which the U.S. has accrued in recent history. In the current American media discussion of the U.S.-Iran relationship, little is said about the American destruction of Iranian democracy in 1953 when the U.S. government assisted in deposing an elected government which had nationalized the oil industry. The Shah was a puppet of the West, installed shamelessly to give oil companies in the U.S. and Europe what they wanted when they wanted it. 

United Fruit's role in Central American history is very similar. This American corporation (now Chiquita Brands International) devastated lives, government and environments in its ruthless determination to supply the developed world with cheap bananas. Yes, countless examples of human suffering, supported by the U.S. government, over profits from bananas. 

Argentina is another example of shameless American self-interest. Through the entire presidency of Jimmy Carter and through most of Ronald Reagan's first term, 30,000 Argentinians were "disappeared". These individuals, mostly associated with pro-labor and pro-equality causes, were secretly abducted, tortured and murdered by government goon squads. The U.S. government stood by quietly. Later it distracted the U.S. public with the Iran hostage debacle. That debacle was simply American foreign policy coming home to roost. 

There is absolutely no reason for any U.S. citizen to be haughty about American generosity or a justifiable nationalist pride. This form of flag-waving is ignorant and hypocritical. From supporting mafia in mid-20th-Century Cuba to supporting the wrong side in the Chinese civil war prior to World War II, American foreign policy has brought us to this place in international affairs. We are looked to to be a military bully for the corporate interests of the developed world. Where those interests are most threatened (Israel, Central Europe, Afghanistan, Iraq) American response is vicious and lauded by the corporate-controlled media of the West. Where those interests are unlikely to be fostered by intervention (Syria, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt), the corporate-controlled media rationalizes measured reflection and hesitation. 

The shame of U.S. foreign relations outweighs its honor, especially since the Second World War. Rabid anti-Communism was a cover for rabid corporate expansion and greed. The rise of the American automobile and other American technologies led to American superiority after Europe and much of Asia were devastated by war. The environmental deterioration of the entire planet is payback for that greed. The rise in international, anti-scientific, anti-capitalist terrorism is also payback for that brutal greed. 

If the U.S, spoke more of its shameful responsibility and less of its ordained superiority, perhaps any nationalist pride would be more rational. Instead, Americans have whined as victims when they have suffered attacks based on their country's bad causes. Those who have survived the horrors in Central America, Argentina, Cuba, Afghanistan, Iraq, and many other places where American foreign policy has been guided by selfishness and greed are less likely to share the opinion that the U.S. is a victim when attacked. This is just common sense. 


Monday, September 23, 2013

Democracy

Shanghai Transit Map
I had a funny thought yesterday after two unrelated brain inputs. First, I had a campaign worker at the front door at noon. She presented herself as a bright young person. Her candidate, while local, leaves me cold. He seems to represent all the Irish politics here in Boston which I don't like to acknowledge. But they rule. We spoke for five minutes. I told her my positives and negatives for her candidate's information. She seemed stunned that I even knew who he is. 

Earlier that morning I had heard a magazine piece on National Public Radio's Weekend Edition which somehow teamed up with being canvased in my brain. That piece was an interview with a British map expert. He was being questioned about the current trend in cities to take public input in designing subway maps, that multicolored spaghetti on train walls which mystifies but seldom clarifies. Like an ancient rune, it must be studied and deciphered, after which the code breaker often discovers he/she has missed the crucial stop.

The map expert decried public input into design as counterproductive. He explained that the most confusing spaghetti comes from this process. He enumerated specific examples. 

So, when I reflected on the discussion I had with the young canvasser at my front door about the twelve mayoral candidates here, I thought of the clipped British voice of the map man. I realized that these twelve candidates offered little selection and much confusion. They all agree on the things I dislike about the current direction of Boston's development. A few have quirky positions on minor points. One wants to tear down the city hall, a much loved and much hated icon of 1960's pseudo-Japanese brick. Another, who went from being a CEO of hospitals to CEO of high-rise construction,  is the only candidate who thinks building a gambling casino in Boston is a bad idea. Unfortunately, this opinion, which I share from a scientific position, tends to be presented with a tinge of Roman Catholic moralism which makes me itch.

Should a large city of over half million people be managed by someone chosen by popular vote? Reasonable question. After all, our public high schools only graduate 60% of their students. So, how bright can the average electorate be? Maybe it would make more sense for the mayor to be elected by the local councilors, who are more likely to be known in some form by their constituents. This model is commonly used and seems to work just as well. Cambridge, MA, the home of Harvard and MIT, elects its mayor from its city council. It was recently voted America's most walkable city. It is a clean and friendly environment with bike lanes and some of the craziest people in the metropolitan area of Boston. It seems to be managed just fine. 


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Divest

The easiest way for an individual to promote good in the developed world is divestiture. Not funding bad causes takes time and research. It also can take the form of behavioral change. One example is the popular movement to divest from Exxon. That company has developed a name synonymous with environmental destruction. 

Most of us do not have extensive stock portfolios. Those of us who do tend to let it be. They reap the benefits of pay-outs from the corporate machine. Few wealthy people divest from profitable companies. Many have no idea where their money goes or comes from. This is blissful and intentional ignorance on the part of the privileged and educated. This process alone has more to do with human misery worldwide than the combined flaws and omissions of the rest of humanity. 

The conscious decision to not invest in or enable bad causes is most valuable to the decider. This is a form of practice for good. It is a healthy psychological assertion of individual motivation to do what is good for others and the planet. The behaviors which follow this decision will bring their own rewards. Freeing myself as much as possible from the grip of irresponsible capitalism is liberating. Not consuming more than I need makes me aware of my personal strength and resourcefulness.  

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Ray

Liev Schreiber
I do watch television. I am not an connoisseur of much of anything. Wine tasting and film festivals are not my scenes. However, I do write and appreciate good writing, whether it is prose or drama. 

The rise of streaming video is for me what the development of the automobile was for early 20th century pedestrians. Like the car, video has its evils. The streaming video market place is filled with a preponderance of mediocrity and outright crap, like any other. Youtube, for example, is best used to find out how to fix a toilet or to locate an obscure documentary, in my opinion. 

So, I am getting old. By sundown, my eyelids are prone to imitate the setting sun. This is my time to kick back for some stimulating  entertainment (hopefully). I light up my cable or my Netflix account.

This brings me to Ray Donovan, for whom I have titled this essay. Ray Donovan is the lead character of a Showtime cable TV series, modeled very loosely on a version of the Bulger family of South Boston. Liev Schreiber plays Ray. 

I didn't want to like this show. I am disgusted by the Brothers Bulger and their kind. My Irish surname here in Boston often associates me with their ethnic group, from which I could not be more dissociated. My own Irish-American grandfather taught me deep skepticism about the Irish. "The only difference between the bog Irish and the lace-curtain Irish," he would say with a sigh, "is that the lace-curtain Irish proudly paint their names on their trash cans."

I got hooked on Ray Donovan's life. He is a fixer for a gangster-turned-movie-producer who ran from the police in Boston to Hollywood. Ray grew up with two brothers and a sister in South Boston poverty. His father, Micky, a retired boxer and low-level henchman for the Irtish mob, was a derelict father. The boys were abused by a local Catholic priest who stepped in when their mother was dying of cancer. The sister committed suicide while high. The three brothers moved to California with the help of the well-meaning (in his mind) movie producer, who in turn exploited rough Ray as his fixer, a man who makes problems go away by any means. It's a little more complex than that, but that is the gist.

So, why would a self-proclaimed, nonviolent humanist get hooked on a show like this? I think I first got hooked as a nurse. Much of my nursing role was being a fixer of sorts. Then I realized that Ray is a Zen nihilist. He is a shark, moving through the swampy water of Hollywood, simply doing what he perceives he must do to survive and protect his clan. No matter what it takes. And it takes lots of intimidation and violence, even murder.

The interplay between religious hypocrisy and the Donovans' code of familial superiority is fascinatingly torturous. The show directly confronts and exposes issues of racialism, homophobia, addiction, clan, family, parenting and loyalty. Ray, a very well written anti-hero, is both likable and hateful. Just like any real person in extreme circumstances. 

I know. I sound like an advertisement and/or a lame critic, but my point is that my practice of watching television is intentional, thoughtful and skeptical. I learn from selecting media which inform as well as entertain. Ray Donovan has actually brought me to a very different place in my thinking about South Boston, the Irish thing, the role of being a provider and more. I am discovering more and more quality productions which are questioning religion, ethnic loyalty and the questionable definitions of "family values". This is a good thing for a practical humanist.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Choice

The great pursuit of egoistic choice is an ideal of the U.S. culture. Few American associate this narcissism with the genocide of native peoples. However, its roots are deeply planted there. Manifest Destiny was a monster of egoistic and ethnocentric choice, promoted and encouraged by the near descendants of the holy Founding Fathers. 

Capitalism thrives upon and exploits this Culture of Me First. It is hard to avoid. Buying the simplest goods for daily life is infected with marketing, geared to appeal to transitory impulse as opposed to practical utility. The numeric progression of iPhone versions, rapidly paced one after another, is a clear example of this capitalist exploitation for massive profits to already wealthy shareholders.

Choosing a simple life with practical sensibility is very unpopular. Choosing sobriety over drunkenness is old hat. Choosing socially valuable work, like teaching in public schools, is seen as a form of admission to intellectual inadequacy. These choices are not valued in a capitalist society, which is driven by greed and monetary social superiority. 

Daily practice is a worthy choice. Responsible living is a worthy choice. Sobriety is a worthy choice. The worth of these choices has nothing to do with the marketplace. These are internal choices which are made for the promotion of one physically and mentally healthy life. Practice for profit is hokum. Gurus and clerics abound. Their impact is neutralized by their eventually obvious hypocrisy. The worthiest choice of a human being is to be a decent, ethical and responsible human being in each life moment. It is also the hardest choice. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Mothers

Yesterday an appalling media platform was given to the mother of a mass murderer, who did an imitation of Treyvon Martin's mother in a grossly inappropriate speech blankly denying any responsibility for her son's condition which led to the loss of lives on a U.S. Navy base in Washington, D.C.. Ms. Alexis may have been honest when she said flatly, "My heart is broken." However, the tragedy-queen tenor of her speech rang hollow in my ears. It seemed to me she simply wanted to be a celebrity, even a celebrity mother of a murderous schizophrenic. 

Most human cultures enshrine birth and motherhood as sacred totems. This is all wrapped up with religious imagery and unscientific nonsense about the "miracle" of reproduction. When bacteria reproduce infectious offspring, do we laud this as a miracle times millions? No, we strive to sterilize the bacteria and eradicate their offspring as quickly as possible. 

We are living in a society in the U.S where murdering children and adolescents are becoming commonplace. Gang shootings are often performed by minors intentionally to avoid a lengthy adult prison sentence for the perpetrator if he/she is caught. Recently, the misguided bleeding-hearts in the Massachusetts government have decided to reverse rational laws which tried adolescents 17 and over as adults for murder. I am sure drug dealers associated with gangs will now have an easier time recruiting adolescents to commit drive-by shootings. 

Where do these murderous children come from? They were all born of mothers. And what responsibility do we place on those mothers as a society for the malicious products of their mothering? None. On the contrary, as a result of a misguided feminism which enshrines reproduction as a sacred right (not responsibility), any woman can have as many children as she wishes. This includes severely psychotic women, women with HIV and other diseases known to be transmissible by birth, women who are impoverished and incapable of providing for their offspring at inception. In fact, public policy enables and actually encourages dysfunctional women to have children. Why?

The answer is fairly simple. Very few human beings ever take the time to struggle with and seek resolution of their circumstances of birth as it pertains to their relationships with parents, especially mothers. Religious and cultural taboos against growing up in this way are still strongly enforced in most cultures. The child who confronts the unfairness of his birth with his mother is perceived as ungrateful for the sacred gift of life. Absurd. What is the great gift of a life of slavish labor, hunger and poverty? It is not a gift. It is a lifelong curse and a sentence passed at birth in many places on the planet. 

And what of the mother of Aaron Alexis? She apologized for her son's behavior and denied an understanding of how he happened to turn out like that. Really? Paranoid schizophrenia and other major psychotic disorders are discernible very early in child development. Family history of mental illness is a major indicator for caution and observation. For the educated and responsible, a family history of a major psychotic illness would raise the question of whether or not to reproduce at all. This is the point which determines whether having a baby is about the parental neediness or the child's future. The poor in all states in the U.S. have health care programs for women and children, sponsored by the Federal government. Mothers need only care enough to access it. 

A majority of births in the developed world are still claimed as accidental by birth mothers. The vast majority of pregnancies in the underdeveloped world are unplanned. This is mass female ignorance and/or irresponsibility on the scale of billions with the rare exception of women who are impregnated by rape. 

I am male. I am homosexual. I understand my perspective on reproduction is outside the usual realm of heterosexual reproduction. However, I have known many homosexual men who have intentional produced children with women who were unaware they were carrying the child of a man who preferred other men sexually. Many of these women have deep rage and resentment after discovering this reality, but did they decide to bring a child to life because of their sex lives or because they wanted selflessly to provide a good life for their offspring in order to improve the world? 

This is by no means a misogynist's rant. I chose to work most of my life as a medical nurse in the company of and under the supervision of women. I have had good friendships with a wide variety of educated, liberated and feminist women. Some of them have become mothers and grandmothers.

I am the unwanted second child of a mother who once told me so. To her credit, despite her rage and occasional violence, she gave me some valuable tools to develop my own identity and to prosper. It was a long and painful road of 61 years to work on our relationship until her death. I managed her end-of-life care for her, because she had a brain tumor. She was never able to surrender her anger at me for being born, even at the end. So, my compassion is extended primarily to those who are born of mothers who are incapable or unwilling to love and nurture. My anger over the commonality of this process is aimed primarily at the institutions which foster female ignorance and oppression. I experience disappointment when I encounter any woman who is unwilling to accept deep responsibility for those she has brought into the world or is planning to bring into the world.   

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Psychosis

Aaron Alexis
Paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disease are major psychotic disorders. They are forms of what used to be generally called "insanity". People who were genetically cursed with these disorders comprised a large proportion of the population of state hospitals in the United States before those institutions were taken apart by politicians for financial, not honest medical, reasons. The government, aided by Hollywood, successfully manipulated the public consciousness into believing that residential hospitals for the mentally ill were universally evil and dangerous. This was and still is absurd. The real reasons for their demise were societal denial and expense to the taxpayer.

Some state institutions were indeed badly managed. They were generally underfunded by legislators who would rather ignore mental illness than acknowledge its presence, especially in their own families. Courageous staff members often made due with very little to provide a relatively safe haven for dysfunctional psychotic patients, whose mental illnesses were unresponsive to medications alone. These aides and nurses are unsung heroes, who often risked their own lives to work with very disturbed human beings for very low pay. Hollywood stigmatized them relentlessly by exploiting paranoid images of sadistic nurses and no-neck orderlies. 

The path from the dismantling of the state hospitals to now has been shameful. Rather than fulfilling the ideal presented by Reaganite "reformers" of multiple clean well-managed halfway houses and in-community housing for the chronically mentally ill we have hordes of homeless, self-medicating drug addicts and alcoholics on our urban streets. Our prisons, a growing profitable industry, are functioning as mental hospitals. Psychotics and those with personality disorders in poor communities are not treated early in adolescence or young adulthood. There is no hospital or residence where they can escape pathological families of origin, from which they have genetically and environmentally inherited their disease. Gangs and the street are their escape routes. 

Alcohol, marijuana and heroin have become the self-medication of the untreated as they wander the streets. Government favors funding methadone clinics and shelters over rehabs and mental hospitals. Methadone providers, like prisons, are a growing industry with urban clinics popping up like MacDonald's franchises. Yesterday I witnessed six people, all stumbling from methadone doses, trying to pile into a car at my supermarket parking lot. There is a private methadone clinic around the corner. It draws clients from all over Eastern Massachusetts. I speculate their security measures and evaluation practices are very loose. The addict grapevine has led to a flood of methadone addicts coming on all forms of transport to this particular clinic. Even driving here and driving home stoned!

The shock voiced in media at the recent shooting at a Navy installation in Washington on the part of law enforcement or the psychiatric establishment is disgustingly disingenuous. Aaron Alexis had been displaying classic symptoms of mental illness in the Navy and since his discharge. Police had dealt with him on several occasions, during which his mental dysfunction should have been glaringly obvious. And what were they to do with him? The jails and prisons are overwhelmed with mentally ill inmates. While the prison industry is burgeoning, mentally ill inmates eat away at profits. I would speculate that police officers are discouraged by superiors from arresting and detaining mentally ill suspects. 

A society which denies its genetic mental illnesses is due for painful wake-up calls by incidents of violence. Citizens who supported the dismantling of mental health services in every community across the U.S. with the ballots they have cast cannot claim to be innocent victims when these situations occur. Citizens who support politicians who will not pass gun-control legislation cannot claim to be innocent victims. Those who do choose to see themselves as innocent victims are deluded. Delusions are common symptoms of  psychotic disorders. 


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Endurance


I feel the weight of the reports of violence and greed in the media. It takes some psychological endurance for me to enter each day with optimism and resolve. This is a conscious implementation of strength, developed with the practice of healthy living. I prefer to live this way. I would not choose to let all the negativity of the world wash over me with a shrug. This would provide little motivation to be an agent for change.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Governance

Bad government's ideal citizen.
There is an unfortunate melding of politics and governance in the U.S.. The two are not synonymous. Governance is the application of legislation in the public interest. Constitutions, statutes, ordinances are legislated by politicians and tested by politically appointed judges. Governance falls to the civil authorities who are charged with enforcing legislation. Rare exceptions are the U.S. President and governors of the fifty states, who hold the office of commander of armed forces, state police and national guards. 

When I attend civic association meetings in my neighborhood, I am often amazed at how confusing it is to determine who is charged of governance of certain civic functions. This speaks to the domination of our so-called democracy by the political class. A neighborhood park here, for example, lies on a street which was once considered a state parkway. It is under the governance of the state, even though it is now simply another Boston street running through Boston neighborhoods. As a result, getting any maintenance labor or supplies for that park becomes a journey through Byzantine bureaucracy. This enables both city and state public works staff to throw up their hands and avoid maintaining the park.

My own recent experience was parallel. I walked past a neighboring street which was undergoing road work for some time. There was a slight breeze on that sunny afternoon. A dust cloud had formed along that short street. It was so thick that the street at the other end of the short block from where I stood was invisible. As a nurse concerned with public health, I was angered. The construction companies who take these government-funded contracts are supposed to have water trucks and/or street sweepers on the site to prevent this problem, which could trigger asthma or other respiratory conditions. There was no water truck. There was no street sweeper.

It took a week and half-dozen emails to two city councilor offices to get confirmation that the city public works department was responsible for the situation. They are charged with site supervision of contractors. This week a privately contracted street sweeper was buzzing around the neighborhood. I also noted that the contractor rapidly wrapped up the work on the street which inspired my inquiry. It had been languishing with little activity for weeks previously. The contractor was apparently using the street as a heavy-equipment parking; the public works supervision by the city government had been inadequate. 

It is the responsibility of citizens to supervise governance in a democratic system. Totalitarian regimes rely on the laziness of the citizenry to gain power. Mussolini was lauded for making Italian trains run on time, for instance. Corruption thrives in a society where citizens do not supervise the governance on a regular basis. This citizen supervision is vastly different from campaigning for a politician in hopes of getting something out of it if he/she gets elected. Citizens are responsible for their own environment. Government is employed for doing the work of maintaining that environment. 

Practicing this form of humanist responsibility and action is a lonely job in current U.S. society. I am sure I am viewed as a crank by some within my own civic association. I forward my correspondence on city issues to the board of the civic association when I have clarified an issue with government officials or government contractors. There has not been an overwhelming response to that information, and nobody goes out of their way to associate with me at the civic association meetings. Politicians, however, are regularly present and are generally courted. 

This issue renews my commitment to the idea that humanism or any other standard of ethics is hollow without practicality. Talking about being responsible in society is not in itself being responsible in society. This is the failing of most organized religion. It is talk or "belief" without practice. It lies at the base of much of the duplicity and corruption in a society. 


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Change

Williamsburg...Brooklyn, NY
My neighborhood is currently dealing with the overall transition of Boston from an environmentally conservative college town to an international city. The outflow of considerable wealth from the center of the city into fringe neighborhoods like Roxbury, Mission Hill, South Boston and my own Dorchester is drastically changing these neighborhoods. Change has been changing these neighborhoods over the past two centuries, despite the perception that Boston has a stable architectural or social history. 

The human yearning for stasis is a product of cognition. We know that time waits for none of us. Fact of life. So, by trying to control our environments, we are trying to control time and change. For example, there is what I call Williamsburg (Virginia) Syndrome: A romanticizing and imitation of eighteenth century architecture and design. Building a four-car garage to look like a Williamsburg brick barn at great expense in a suburb hundreds of miles away from that historic theme park is a symptom of the syndrome. While I am fond of eighteenth century American architecture, I am also fond of running water and indoor toilets. 

Historic preservation makes more sense in a society which controls its growth conscientiously. America has never been this kind of place. After all, it began with wiping native civilizations, developed over thousands of years, off the face of the landscape. The occasional historic neighborhoods in older cities are simply quaint shells, housing the chic interiors of the wealthy. More about property values and hereditary provenance than historic accuracy.

A basic element of any personal practice for health and growth is the acknowledgment of change as a fact of daily life. This usually develops with the personal acknowledgment of inevitable mortality. Once the aging and deterioration of the body is accepted as a natural process, a person is liberated from obstinate nostalgia physically and environmentally. The true consciousness of limited time makes nostalgia seem like a waste of time. Embracing change and struggling with its sometimes painful results brings strength, endurance and wisdom. Avoiding change, trying to obstruct its inevitable tide, is like living in a sandcastle at the ocean's edge and expecting things to always remain the same.  


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Indoctrination



Locaux 42 by 42Born2Code

A new technology school in Paris may point the way to a new model of higher education. 42.fr is a school devised by technology businessmen who have little respect for the current traditional university system. It will accept students on the basis of a series of qualifying exams. The exams are geared to test for talent and potential in the computer-tech field. It is a private school which will offer considerable financial aid to students. 

Old educational models are designed to develop an elite of masters and doctors. It evolved out of the European guild system, which was beholding to the beneficence of local gentry and nobility. Top-down control of the population's education was a basic agenda item in the development of European guilds and universities. Eventually, revolutionary educators, like the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), opened the doors of education to the general population through qualifying examinations. Usually this process was associated with parishes and tutoring priest who would in turn recommend students of merit to take entry examinations. 

Even with the opening of universities to the occasional poorer student, the Catholic Church rigorously controlled higher education for centuries. The Reformation changed this somewhat, however the wealthy were still given preference for admission. Legacy admission, facilitated admission based on a lineage of previous graduates from the same (wealthy) family, still exists today in elite universities in Europe and the United States. 

Our higher education system has been drastically altered by the evolution of electronic campuses. Chain-store education, like that offered by University of Phoenix, has mimicked the standard university model. The result is less than progressive. Chain-store grads find it harder to compete in the workplace, where provenance from an established university with a real campus trumps for good reason. Recent revelations have made it clear that the on line university may at its core be a slick way to raid government funds for higher education at the expense of both taxpayer and student.

The doctorate is an award which verifies the recipient's indoctrination in the status quo of his/her subject. This is a double-edged sword. Experts with doctorates are repositories of history of their subject's development. This is an important cultural asset. Just repeating history is unproductive, whether it is in science or humanities. So, it is the job of the doctors to scope out rehashing and distinguish it from innovation. Unfortunately, the system does not always deliver on this promise.

It is encouraging to me to see out-of-the-box educational institutions emerging in direct challenge to the standard campus. This is the kind of revolution which the truly intelligent foster for the good of the species. Like their Jesuit forebears, these French IT moguls are challenging social and intellectual norms to the benefit of brilliant students who may not get a break in the traditional university. It is rational. It is scientific. It is revolutionary. It is egalitarian. It is essentially humanist as I see that quality in the human species. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Development

A Levittown Development
I live in an urban environment. My street, a mixture of 19th and early 20th century residential buildings, flows into an area of random industrial growth of the mid-to-late 20th century. As one business owner down there exclaimed in a recent civic association meeting, "It's a war zone!" He exaggerated, of course. 

The reality of burgeoning population growth and the rising of Boston as a popular 21st-century city are making that "war zone" prime real estate for new development. Acres and acres of undeveloped and sparsely built-upon urban soil. A city-planner's ideal canvas. 

However, this post-Reagan business age is not much into urban planning, or any planning. It is into quick profit with little concern for community or quality of life. A recent apartment building proposal in the area has raised the hairs on the necks of the NIMBY contingent. The result is a scaling down from 26 units to 22 units on a lot which would have accommodated 9 units in three buildings back in the day. Well, we are obviously not back in the day.

I felt scolded indirectly after a comment I made at association meeting. I had simply supported the notion that buildings must be built in a capitalist system according to cost effectiveness. I certainly did not defend the system, but I wanted to inject a whiff of reality in the discussion which had been dominated by the NIMBY contingent. I wanted to suggest the paving of a middle path. After all, an attractive brick apartment building with contained parking trumps the trash, weeds and rodents of the current "war zone". 

The scolding came from, of all places, the local city councilor, who stated from one side of his mouth that his family were "involved in local development". He himself owns a local cafe and a local restaurant. "It is not the function of this group to even consider cost effectiveness," he began, as he looked in my direction. Hmm, I thought, Doth he protest too loudly?

Development is contested by at least three major groups, as I have seen it. The NIMBY contingent are boilerplate reactionaries. They do not want change, no matter how they decry the present condition of an area. They are looking for salvation ...hoping for a new messiah of urban planning to make it pretty without changing anything. A second group wants anything done as soon as possible as long as it is better than what exists now, as long as it  fits its ideals of the "perfect neighborhood". This often includes playgrounds on every corner and visions of a parade of baby strollers on tree-lined sidewalks. A third group are the builders themselves, usually in concert with politicians who are looking for campaign contributions. They are in the shadows behind lawyers and architects. They don't want to live "there". They just want profit. 

The random and unscientific approach of government in urban development has left us with car-congested cities, wind-tunnel streets, segregated neighborhoods for the haves and the have-nots. Robert Moses, perhaps one of the most destructive human beings who has graced the modern landscapes of America, destroyed historic neighborhoods with glee. Turned small residential streets into vast plazas between monolithic high-rises. Destroyed urban mobility by destroying the street trolley system in favor of the automobile and the bus. His legacy is slowly dissolving to the benefit of all urbanites.

Attending my civic association meetings is seldom enjoyable, but I do it as part of my practice of being a responsible citizen. I believe a humanist must be engaged on a grass roots level if positive change is to develop in society. The area of urban development illuminates the true nature of life in an overpopulated environment. It cries out for scientific rationality, which is seldom found within its process. 


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Brown

Not long ago Scott Brown ran for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Ted Kennedy here in Massachusetts. Brown, former nude model and attorney, ran as a self-righteous Tea Party candidate. He touted his poor childhood on welfare and then proudly decried government assistance for those who are now in the circumstances of his own youth. He puffed up his chest in a military uniform, looking the male model indeed. He drove an ingenuous pickup truck across the state. Scott's pickup truck was a Trojan horse, and he used it to get past the gates of an established Democrat state establishment.  

Well, Scott Brown didn't get reelected. This certainly raised my esteem for my fellow Massachusetts voters. And this week I was reminded why I dislike what Scott Brown represents. 

On September 10, The Boston Globe reported that ex-Senator Brown has taken a job advising a Florida weapons manufacturer. This firm also specializes in foreign intelligence. I'm sure it is only foreign, aren't you? The word "Fascist" is indeed overused, but a Fascist supports the combination of government, industry and military to achieve its goals of government control of the individual for some greater purpose. By all measures, Mr. Brown now meets that criteria. 


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Anniversaries

Today marks twelve years since the debacle at the World Trade Center in Manhattan, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.. I watched those horrible events while they occurred/developed on television. At the time, I lived a stone's throw away from Logan Airport, from which one of the jets had departed. Several days earlier, I had come back from British Columbia through Logan. I easily imagined the terror aboard the hijacked jet before it crashed into a tower. 

The announcement of a television special about the construction of the mega-tower on the site of the Manhattan destruction. This jarred me into thinking about the significance of anniversaries in my life. Those twelve years had flashed past in my brain's comprehension that a dozen years had passed.  

Many people immerse themselves in sentimental nostalgia at anniversaries. Parades, graveside ceremonies, wreaths on monuments. This has never appealed to me. I tend to see anniversaries as personal days of accounting. What have I accomplished in twelve years? How has my understanding of the world changed since I experienced the events of September 11, 2001? What am I doing now which has improved or profited from my changes in the last twelve years? 

Ruminating on an adulterated view of the past is useless and self-destructive. It is the stuff of would have, should have, could have. Remorse and regret over the unchangeable is a waste of time. Implementing a stark accounting of the gains or losses of the past to promote healthy change is an intelligent use of past mistakes, tragedies and victories. The quality road forward is all we really have to hope for, despite its predictable and inevitable end. Lighting candles, rather than representing loss, should be used to illuminate the way forward.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Work

Physical labor is rapidly giving way to circuitry. A worker pounded my asphalt driveway today with an iron bar to dig a fence post hole. He had forgotten his jack hammer. The thud and scrape of iron against asphalt seemed alien, even though I did the same labor as an adolescent. 

What are the implications for us as a species if we become distanced from gravity and muscular force when labor is required to fix or improve things? The current exploitation of desperate immigrants to do physical labor may continue for a while. Inevitably, cost-effectiveness will most likely diminish the demand for them as well. 

Post-apocalyptic movies usually have a scene in which survivors of the destruction of a high-tech civilization have trouble figuring out how to do some simple domestic task. They stare at basic plumbing with gaping curiosity or wonder aloud about how primitives once had to flick on a light switch. Is this really a reach of science fiction.

Looking at videos about the rest of the world, the low-tech world, isn't encouraging. While physical labor as a fact of life is still quite real in the developing world, the lack of resources for a burgeoning and impoverished human population in mega-cities leaves little to be admired. I watched a recent documentary about the capital of Uganda. Not an inspiring advertisement for low-tech existence. 

Some friends have been amused over the years by my determined routines of listing successive projects, sweeping sidewalks and cleaning my house. My European cultural background conditioned these behaviors in me from an early age. Every day I set aside time for some form of physical labor. This is how I get things done and maintain what I have. It is a practice which has served me well physically and financially. 

My heart sinks when I meet some of the young laborers who do contract work today. It is not a matter of their pay level. In fact, some of them are paid quite well. I often see a defensiveness in them which tells a tale of feeling "less than" in the eyes of a technologically obsessed society. Others inspire great respect. They carry themselves with the confident self-esteem which comes with mastery. They know the worth of their labor and its products. In the event of a devastating catastrophe, they are the people who mean the most in a society. That hasn't changed.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Sobriety

There is a current hysteria about a ecstasy-like drug called "Molly" here in Boston after two young clubbers died from an overdose of a tainted form of the drug. The city expended extensive police resources this past weekend at a public rock concert in reaction. Molly, taken by mouth in pill form, would be nearly impossible to detect without blood analysis. The policing was most likely a token response to calm reactionaries. 

I am a strong advocate for voluntary sobriety from alcohol and mood/mind altering drugs as part of a health practice. The benefits of sobriety far outweigh any benefits of alcohol or drugs, despite the hype used to promote their usage. That is not a denial of the benefits of alcohol and all mind altering drugs. Some people for whatever reasons are better off intoxicated than sober at certain times in their lives. Someone I care about, for instance, must take mind altering pain medication to maintain his mobility. A tough choice, but an effective one when all is considered. 

Voluntary sobriety is often the liberating choice of those who have most likely experimented thoroughly with intoxication. The chemically dependent person who chooses sobriety is usually a person who has made a significant life passage from denial to consciousness, from retreat to progress, from the cyclical to moving on. Kicking back with marijuana, beer or wine every evening is not the harmless process it is portrayed to be. It is a choice to cyclically treat stress with a substance which is potentially toxic to brain, lungs, liver and kidneys. It can become an habitual escape from addressing stress in a rational way to work beyond it consciously and intentionally with the developed skill it takes to do so.

I have worked with the elderly frequently as a nurse. A common issue of old people in institutions is detox. A large percentage of elderly patients with brain issues in my experience had extensive histories of alcohol and/or drug use. These folks become agitated and often psychotic with the withdrawal (absence) of alcohol. Their suffering from the condition which caused their hospitalization, such as a broken hip, was multiplied exponentially by their detoxification. It is helpful to remember there is a broken hip or equivalent in all of our futures.

I see those who are facing aging in an alcoholic haze in my environment. I see those who are facing aging in a sober state. The physiological difference is quite remarkable. I recently spent several hours with a man my age (in his 60's) and a woman who is in her late 80's. We were engaged in physical activity as part of a community service event. The man, a regular drinker of alcohol, became fatigued and disengaged quickly. He struggled and grumbled as the work went on. The woman, a proudly sober and physically fit person, sustained her activity with a pleasant attitude for the entire time, despite dealing with arthritis and osteoporosis. 

Our identities are our brains. Our perceptions of the world are measured by the health or sickness of our brains. Experimenting with altered consciousness may have its benefits in expanding perception. However, no drug-induced state can rival the state of consciousness of a developed, educated and sober brain when dealing with the inevitable challenges of life that come with aging. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Relevance

Victim's of Assad atrocity.
Twelve years ago nearly 3000 people were killed in an attack reputedly performed by Islamic fundamentalists on New York City. Last month nearly 1500 people were killed in Syria by poison gas, delivered by Syrian government forces. The victims in New York were overwhelmingly adults associated with the corporate business of an international center of capitalist commerce. The victims in Syria were men, women and nearly 500 children who were living in a neighborhood of Syria's capital city, a neighborhood seen as a threat to the Assad dictatorship. 

It is clear that the monsters who perpetrated both of these attacks suffered from fear of and hatred toward their targets. It is unlikely that those who actually delivered the death blows knew many or any of the victims of their atrocity. It was anonymous mass murder in both cases. The atrocious equivalent of a drive-by shooting by thugs wearing balaclavas. Neither attack had any higher purpose than a drug-traffic turf war. 

The difference in the reaction of Americans is notable. After September 11, 2001, the U.S. was inflamed with rabid, violent nationalism. Corporately controlled media stoked the flames of that rage. After all, one of the great shrines of capitalism, the Wall Street neighborhood, had been attacked. Many of the people killed were involved in finance or government service. Two disastrous and lengthy wars resulted. These wars have bankrupted the U.S. financially and philosophically.

After the internationally condemned mass murder of nearly 1500 civilians by banned weaponry in Syria, a large majority of the Americans polled oppose intervention by their government and military in Syria. This is the same government and military which wave a flag or moral superiority around the world. This is supposedly a government and military of the American people, most of whom claim to be religious and to subscribe to various religious moralities. This is an American people who do not support anti-gun legislation in their own country, even after children are massacred in public schools.

The myth of America becomes obvious at times like these. The American Dream is not a beacon of freedom lighting the rest of the world. The American Dream is bullying narcissism. The American Dream is a religious nationalism which is hollow and hypocritical. The American Dream is raping the planet for its resources and giving back surplus GMO grain, jet fighters and other lethal weapons. The American Dream is to be American without paying for it in taxes and civic responsibility. The American Dream is taking as much as possible and getting away with it. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Walking

Where not to be.
I walk daily around my own neighborhood. I think it is unfortunate that most people in America do not. I can count on one hand the people I see regularly strolling through my area. 

The dependence on the automobile has been as disastrous for the many as it has been beneficial for some. In rural areas, the car or truck is a valuable tool for maintaining community. In metropolitan areas, the car has nearly eliminated public transportation. Those who can afford to pay taxes to fund public transport are the least likely to use it. It is not popular with the middle class. 

Cars have also ruined the pedestrian nature of villages, towns and cities. Shopping malls have replaced commercial centers which were once integrated into residential centers. Even here in my urban neighborhood, the nearby shopping center is a vast parking lot lined with box stores. The pedestrian accommodations are minimal and risky. SUVs and cars dominate, even though a large portion of shoppers access the shopping center on city buses ans subway cars.

I recommend walking to anyone who wishes to remain healthy as age advances. Every nonagenarian I've known has been a walker for extensive periods of their lives. I am not referring to hikers or trekkers. I am referring to urbanites who chose to walk rather than drive as a daily practice. A walk to the store for a newspaper in the morning. A stroll through a park in the afternoon. A walk to do errands during a lunch break from work. 

I have lost my ability to walk farther than my bed to a chair twice in my life so far. Both times I rallied from my disability through gradually walking a bit farther each day. I strongly believe that this has significantly extended my life, despite dealing with two life-threatening illnesses. Walking is part of my daily health practice. 

If you haven't spent time walking in your neighborhood recently, I highly recommend it whether you are young or old or somewhere in between. It is healthy, but it is also enlightening, if you pay attention and interact with your environment along the way...just like any other form of practice. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Deprivation

The greater the sense of security, the greater the deprivation with its loss. The greater the sense of deprivation, real or threatened, the more desperate the measures to avoid it. I believe the U.S. government is currently spiraling into that desperation as U.S. supremacy in the world is being challenged openly by many around the world.  Personal liberties are being violated regularly by government control. Personal privacy has nearly been abolished through domestic spying with the cooperation of the IT industry. The population is lulled by a media which is already in the hands of corporate-controlled government. All this bodes badly for the future quality of life of the average U.S. citizen who has been traditionally conditioned to expect more for less.  

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Reproduction



Much is said about female reproductive rights. What about female reproductive responsibility? Much is said about the right to life of the unborn. What about the right of the unborn to be born to a mother who can provide a high quality of human life to that infant? Where is contemporary feminist activism on this issue?

Eliminating the 38% of unintended pregnancies worldwide with sex education, prophylaxis distribution by government and legislation which penalizes irresponsible reproduction rather than rewarding it would significantly solve the pro-lifers' problems with abortion. Unfortunately religious pro-lifers consistently act against sex education of children. This is irrational and destructive to the human species. 

A comparison between a pregnant human mother and a cow would be perceived as misogynist and distasteful by many. But what difference is there between a human mother who is not mindful of her pregnancy's implications and a pregnant cow? None, in my opinion. 

There is much political hooting about the responsibility of governments to insure women's reproductive rights. There is hardly a political whisper in favor of guaranteeing the quality of life of each and every human being who is born of a woman. There is a collusion of silence among heterosexuals who conceive and bear children. The injustice of bringing any child into the world unintentionally without the means to provide fully for it in this time of human knowledge and science lies at the root most of the poverty and violence in the world. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Russia

Faberge egg with royal portraits.
What is it with the Russians? I have been asking myself that question since childhood. My maternal grandmother came from part of Russia, Belarus, in 1917. I have known Russians from the Old Country. When I was a child, we attended many Russian picnics, massive affairs held in parks during the summer months. I am told I spoke Russian in my early years. I cannot remember speaking it. I can remember those drunken picnics...with a shudder.

I have first-hand experience of Russian homophobia from my childhood and beyond. It is deeply entrenched in a culture dominated for centuries by Orthodox Catholicism, a particularly superstitious and pernicious form of religion. The Russian Orthodox Church colluded with aristocrats for centuries to maintain a form of slavery, serfdom, in the empire. That slavery was emancipated in the same century as slavery was emancipated here in the United States. However, the economic slavery continued until the Russian Revolution.

My grandmother and most of her siblings were illiterate and innumerate. Russia did not educate its populace under monarchy. This was intentional subjugation through ignorance, similar to conservative Islamist subjugation of women in modern times. Anyone who gets all gooey over the assassination of the last Czar may give this history of oppression some consideration. 

Russians, like much of the Muslim world, is emerging from this past of mass oppression by power. The Bolsheviks and subsequent Soviets inherited a population which was abysmally ignorant and superstitious. It was a vast part of the planet living in the darkness of enforced generational poverty and labor exploitation. The natural environment made the challenges of lifting up that population harder. Most of Russia suffers killing winters. Scraping a life out of the ground was hard when most of the produce was taken away by those in power to support their grand lifestyles. 

I agree with Russian politicians and celebrities who defend Russian homophobia and other cultural quirks on the basis that Russia's culture is different from the developed world's. It is quite. The government's use of the reliable Orthodox Church to quell dissent in the past twenty years has led to a revival of medieval superstition in the poor masses. Alcoholism, an accepted national epidemic, has blossomed. Cutbacks in public information, public health and public education for the masses have paralleled the massive fortune-building of the Oligarchs through corruption as Soviet resources have been plundered in the name of free-market capitalism. Ayn Rand must be smiling a smile of retribution from whatever level of hell she may occupy in an imagined afterlife. 


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Philosophy

I recently had a live chat (IM) with a German Philosophy professor, who teaches at a Southern U.S. university. He holds a PhD in Philosophy. We exchanged conversational pleasantries for a while. As the conversation turned to Philosophy from an historical perspective, I decided I did not want to waste my time plodding through Wittgenstein and the like. 

I asked my philosopher a simple question: Do you practice a personal philosophy in your daily life? 

The flurry of esoteric typing ceased for a time. "What do you mean?" he typed. I then clarified by sharing my sense of my own humanist practice in a nutshell. Again there was a pause. "We don't do that." he stated flatly. I wrapped up the conversation after that answer. 

Those who can't do teach? I could not see my professor. It was a blind chat. But I conjured the image of the typical overweight high school football coach. That man who was a gloried jock in high school and never really played football at an expert level himself. He doesn't practice sport. He teaches it.

This kind of hypocrisy lies at the heart of much of Academia. From ivory tower to shabby urban campus, young minds are influenced by those who have extracted themselves from the actual world. This perpetuates the hypocrisy in politics, government and the average workplace. Experts with degrees spout idealistic models which are then hammered down by government and business to fit real people and real situations. The Frankensteins which result are often lumbering catastrophes.

Mao Zedong may have been a mad autocrat, but he did one thing which made tremendous sense: He sent professors to the fields to live, to plant and to harvest crops with peasants. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Fukushima

Map showing spread of leaked radiation on prevailing winds
The attention-deficit-propelled news cycle may have forgotten about the Fukushima power plant in Japan. The power plant is still leaking radiation. The genie is out of the bottle. It is likely that everyone on the planet will eventually feel the impact of this man-made catastrophe. Radiation from nuclear waste does not just go away. It cannot be contained without extreme measures. Those extreme measures are not being taken in Japan. Our planet is a fairly closed biological, chemical and physical system. In other words, radiation effects will eventually circulate throughout our planet's environment in some form.

Fukushima is a model of the planet's future on its present course. More and more Fukushimas will develop without drastic change in global governmental actions against future pollution and current environmental degradation. Anyone who has decided to bring children into this world bears a great deal of responsibility to bear in this. Taking the attitude of "They'll figure it out." will not cut it. Unless a mass movement for environmental activism occurs worldwide very soon, the children of today will inherit a bleak tomorrow.