Sunday, October 30, 2016

KEEPING IT REAL


The corporate-controlled media are pushing mass distraction on several fronts. They are whipping up the Cold War antagonism between the U.S. and Russia. They are trying to sell the U.S. Presidential election as democracy. They are tearing at the heart-strings of the inanely sentimental with constant stories about migrants and refugees. 

Media in the developed countries of The West are not talking about the deterioration of banker capitalism in the face of radical environmental degradation and overpopulation. The core value of this failing financial model is obvious to anyone free of debt. The "more is more" notion of this capitalism is based in greed, not logic or social compassion. It sits in stark opposition to ancient wisdom, summarized by "less is more". 

The power structures behind most world governments are based in exploitation of the masses by manipulation. Fancy euphemisms for politicians, like "change agents", cloak the reality that power still corrupts. And the corrupted seek absolute power to protect themselves from discovery and accountability. The Clintons and Trump are excellent examples.

What would a caring democratic media establishment be focused on? Well, it might be exposing the arms dealers who are behind all the current wars on the planet. It might be exposing the politicians and military leaders who are in bed with these predators. It might be exposing the connection between violence and ideologies like American exceptionalism, institutional religion, internalized racism, homophobia, misogyny. It might be exposing the intentional impoverishment of the many by the few. Just for starters. 

The mainstream media are enabling the masses to turn a deaf ear and blinded eyes to the precipitous environmental crisis which is inevitable. That crisis is about to devastate global civilization as we know it. The displacement of millions by war will seem mild compared to the global displacement caused by climate collapse. Because climate collapse will not only entail some coastal flooding. The collapse of one key insect species, like the bee, could lead to a collapse of the entire global food supply for humans in a matter of a few years.

It is easy to dither in front of a monitor screen. Planting and harvesting crops is brutally hard work. As we billions become more and more removed from that brutal reality of survival, we become more and more vulnerable to extinction. We have become distanced from our neighbors and communities. We have become divided and conquered by the insidious technology which makes us feel more connected in virtual social media. In short, we have been mesmerized into complacency, like the fat and happy citizens of previous empires.

Each of us would do well to estimate his/her reality, separated from the herd. What are my resources? What can I actually rely upon in my life in case things go badly? What are my skills to deal with severe challenges which go deeper than looking for a job or making car payments? What would I do if there was no more electrical power to turn on my devices of distraction and false resourcefulness? 


Thursday, October 27, 2016

CONSCIOUSNESS IS NOT CONTROL


Buddhism has always appealed to me from a psychological, not religious, perspective. I have read Buddhist literature from all parts of Asia over my 45 years of interest in the subject. Siddhartha Gautama, one name assigned to the historic character at the core of Buddhist thought, gave rise to a practice of self-actualization in a largely illiterate world more than five centuries before the Christian Era and a millennium before the Islamic Era. Few modern self-help methodologies are unaffected by Buddhism.

The core of Buddhist thought as we have inherited it is not religious, spiritual or moralistic. It is psychological. 

The intentional development of consciousness which comes from meditation, reflection and ethical non-aggressive behavior lies at the center of Buddhist practice. If you doubt this, read the Dhammapada, a collection of Sanskrit-sourced Buddhist verses allegedly transmitted over time by followers of Gautama. My favorite version, pictured above, is available here. I carry it with me often for subway and waiting-room reads. I read it and seldom quote it, because Buddhism is not about proselytizing. It is about individual choice to deepen the individual human experience.

Buddhism is about consciousness. But Buddhism is not about control. Let me explain.

In the West, we tend to conflate Buddhism with Zen, one specific formalized practice developed from core Buddhist ideas in a specific cultural context. Zen then gets conflated with martial arts in some media. And so on. I believe this clouds the simplicity of the Buddhist concept of consciousness, or awakening of the cleared mind. 

Buddhism, confused with culture-based religions by that name, is also placed in a basket with Abrahamic religions in popular media as well. This is particularly annoying to me as an atheist. Abrahamic religions are dogmatically prescriptive. They actually prescribe human behaviors with the promise in return of either salvation or a good life. Don't eat lobster. Cover your head. Don't covet neighbor's wife or goods. Blah, blah.

The core of Buddhism is personal, not prescriptive. The user of core Buddhist ideas sets out on a journey of internal discovery with the resulting effect on his/her perception of reality. This awakening to personal truth is the development of consciousness, through which all else is experienced.

This core Buddhist mindset is not about not being controlled by dogma. It is not about creating a personal illusion of control upon the environment, including other living beings. Its core goal is controlling one's own mind and actions. Its beauty, for me, is its caution from the beginning that this in itself may be impossible to achieve in the real world. This strikes me as brilliant in the context of Gautama's time. 

Shedding the mental pollution of Roman Catholicism has been hard for me. I was brainwashed as a child into believing that "goodness", defined by dogma's prescriptions, is its own reward. I have found that the human brain mishandles this conditioning readily into a sense of moralistic entitlement. This reads, "If I am good and holy, I will be blessed." Quid pro quo, in other words. Corrupt politics and business certainly work on this principle, but this has nothing to do with "goodness". On the contrary, the good-bad paradigm of religions is at the root of most of the evil and violence in human societies. 

Practicing consciousness development is its own point in core Buddhist thought. It is practice for practice's sake. It is polishing a lens through which all else is perceived, not controlled. It is learning to take in uncontrollable external reality to be processed by a clear mind. The clear mind is more prone to take non-aggressive, compassionate action or no action at all in response. Surrendering all polluted illusions of control over other people and events leads to developing a mind which can actually contribute more to the practitioner's environment. 


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

RESPONSIBILITY


One homeless man murdered another last weekend here in my area. I live about a mile from a black hole of addiction, allowed by the city government. Scores of addicts and homeless people congregate at the corner of Melnea Cass Boulevard and Massachusetts Avenue here in Boston. It is a no-go area for wise pedestrians and an inconvenience for the many drivers who pass through there on their way to and from two of Boston's largest medical centers. How ironic.

There is a shelter up the street from this urban blight. The distance between is called "Heroin Mile", due to the traffic of addicts and dealers. Heroin Mile is actually half of Heroin Two-Mile. The traffic of addicts and dealers extends beyond the shelter to the city housing projects beyond Andrew Square in South Boston. Dozing-and-stumbling pregnant women and women with baby carriages join in the daily zombie parade. These aren't the cute and witty zombies of iZombie on TV. And their children will most likely not have very functional lives ahead of them.

I read a neighborhood news site. It has a crime report section. The reaction to addiction-related crimes usually runs in the vein of "How sad." How sad, indeed. How sad that the commentator thinks that people living somnambulant lives on our streets is "sad", not absolutely shameful and outrageous in a rich country like the U.S.. "How convenient" is more like it. 

Americans have chosen to tolerate beggars on our sidewalks and traffic intersections rather than funding strong mental health and detoxification services. Reagan's libertarian individualism was the preface to today's everyone-for-themselves concept of civic responsibility. How many media stories have you heard about former addicts and former felons becoming stellar citizens in corporate America? Too many of these false representations of the real deal are foisted on media consumers to rationalize leaving people to wallow and drown in their own dysfunction. 

"You can't save someone from himself." This is the current wisdom that is used to rationalize a gutted and corrupted public health sector. "Addicts have civil rights." This screwed-up rationalization has led to public policy under which overdosed (dead) addicts must be revived with Narcan by police, firemen and EMS personnel but cannot be sent to a hospital for addiction treatment if they refuse when they wake up. So, our public policy, devised by politicians and lawyers, dictates enabling of heroin addicts by eliminating the risk of premature death by overdose. Is that responsible to the addict or to society? I say it is responsible to neither.

Public denial of the poisoning of our urban environment by addiction and alcoholism is epidemic.

One local business executive said, While ... it is difficult every day to watch people with addiction and in the throes of homelessness and not to be able to do anything about it, it is rare that these issues affect the safety and security of the 28,000 people that work in this area.” She said this after a man was shot in the face in the middle of the day in that district of Boston where addicts and homeless people camp out all day. 

Businesses which cater to alcoholism have accumulated great political power. Microbreweries have managed to become chic. Pubs, dressed up like quaint British or Irish establishments, have added a new veneer to the neighborhood bar where the increasing number of local alcoholics convene nightly. Entertainment media celebrate drunkenness routinely because they profit from product placement, as they still do from the cigarette industry. 

Public policy which enforces denial of addiction as a core problem in society is irresponsible. Our collusion with that policy as citizens is also irresponsible. Alcoholism and drug addiction are not just a phase that people put aside magically on their own. Medical research for decades has proven this. Addiction is a lifelong chronic disease which requires conscious management and support. When the medical establishment and sober citizens yield to bad decisions by politicians and judges, the whole society loses. 


Thursday, October 20, 2016

PARDON? FOR WHAT?

Alan Turing. Gay Savior of WWII Britain. 
Driven to suicide (or possibly assassinated) by the British government. 

Another illustration of how out-of-touch are the aristocrats of the corporate West. The British government offers pardons to homosexuals who were jailed, stigmatized and impoverished by anti-gay laws in effect in Britain until the early 2000's. I'm solid with George Montague, an elderly victim of the injustice of bigoted anti-gay laws, who said he would not accept a pardon. Oscar Wilde, Alan Turing, John Gielgud and others died under the shadow of shaming by the British government. Wilde and Turing were mentally and physically destroyed by their persecution.

This is like pardoning people for being runaway slaves after the Civil War in the U.S.. Pardoning people for disobeying unjust law, which violated basic human rights to be physically and psychologically free within their own bodies, simply continues to validate the unjust law. The law itself invalidates the justice of the system which maintained it. It is the system which is in need of pardon. Those abused by it deserve much more than an unjustifiable pardon. 


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

DEPRIVING THE MANY


Children of the 1950's and 1960's in Catholic schools in the U.S. were often told to look to the starvation in India as an inspiration for Catholic charity. In other words, nuns and priests collected money for proselytizing efforts by exploiting the suffering of the impoverished whom they claimed they wished to convert. More likely the millions of "mite boxes", coin-filled cardboard boxes the size of individual milk cartons, went to buy more gold for the Vatican. The pressing of guilt-over-comfort into the open consciousness of children is a basic indoctrination principle of Roman Catholicism.

Institutional religion is an arm of the power of the wealthy few over conformist many. Religion supports the cause of convincing the many to support the rich. By promoting misogynist ideals of motherhood and over-breeding, institutional religions maintain a surplus of worker-slaves and soldiers for the owners of social wealth. The reward to the religious hierarchies is obvious. They live like the aristocrats they serve.

The resurgence of religious indoctrination in the past several decades coincides with the slow gutting of middle-class prosperity in post-industrial societies. Religion has begun to be utilized by the new economic aristocrats in Asia as well. Even in Communist China, where religious chic has become a trend among some. Buddhist Thailand's state religion has supported military rule and the most arcane enforcement of monarchic oppression, disguised as worship of traditional values. U.K.'s monarchy worship has been promoted with renewed vigor as the public takes note of the widening wealth gap in that nation. Queen  Elizabeth II is the head of the Church of England.

Less monotheistic India and Communist China have taken steps to decrease overpopulation under loud criticism from Abrahamic religions. Abrahamic religions are more supportive of elites. They promote ideals of moving over and making room for overpopulation. Sharing is caring. It takes a village to raise a child. There's plenty on Earth for everybody. These inane notions are promoted to keep the oppressed and exploited busy with scraping by while the super-wealthy cash in. Self-deprivation is promoted to those who have less as moral and preferable to sticking up for yourself and the fruits of your hard work. The subtext is that God has chosen to make the rich "blessed", and the poor are just not working hard enough. 

This is superstitious nonsense which suits the consciences and manipulations of predators, schemers and charlatans. By gutting secular public education in the U.S., the wealthy, backed by religious and charter-school entrepreneurs, are actualizing a social coup de grace upon the prosperous middle class which is required for the maintenance of progressive democracy. Government in the U.S. and Europe is now ruled from within by wealthy corporate interests. Their promotion of unlimited immigration, the defense of misogynist religions, promotion of anti-science in their media and militarization of police to suppress protest are disguised by their monetary support of faux-progressive candidates like Hillary Clinton over rabble-rousers like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren.

Depriving the many is not moral. Self-deprivation to enable overpopulation by less educated parents is not moral. Enabling poverty is not moral. Saying the poor are less poor in the current system is not moral. It is a convenient distortion of reality by those who feel comfortable at the top of the human economic pyramid. Depriving the many is regressive, not progressive. 


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

BITTER?


I was given a gift by an old acquaintance on Facebook. She responded to a political comment I made on her personally based political timeline post. She said she was glad she knew me when I was young and not bitter. She is apparently an avid supporter of Hillary Clinton, whom I have publicly criticized on Facebook and elsewhere. 

Why would I consider being called bitter a gift? Well, I appreciated the validation that my reality is far distant from the realities of those who consider themselves part of mainstream America, as I perceive it in places like Facebook. If I were considered to hold banal views of a media-indoctrinated zombie, I would be devastated. That would really make me bitter in the parlance of my universe.

I'm actually quite jolly in my way. Perhaps someone who knows me better might agree. It matters little to me. I am amused by life. I am amused by myself. I am even amused  by mortality. I am happy with the people who really matter to me. My daily life, compared to my whole life history, is leisurely and financially untroubled. I'm out of bed at 7. I'm asleep by 11. I look around at my gym and feel pretty damn good for almost 67. (Seriously, the apparently straight married guys my age are mostly shipwrecks.)

I had to spend some time figuring out what this 'bitter' thing meant, coming from my old acquaintance. We aren't chatty friends, or else I'd just ask her. So I came up with some speculation.

I know that most heterosexual married people with children and grandchildren are deeply prejudiced against those of us elders who are childless. They consider us as missing something, not quite right, perhaps even mentally ill. And, if we don't goo-goo over their progeny, we are liable to be suspected of being psychopaths. If we are too attentive to their progeny, we are liable, as old gay men, to be suspected of pedophilia. This I have known for a long time, though it is hardly ever spoken within our hearing. Am I being considered bitter on these grounds? 

Perhaps I seem bitter because I contradict all the things that make some elderly conformists feel safe and warm: Family, religion, ethnicity, political correctness, traveling on cruises, consuming too much wine, trips to casinos, whatever. None of those 'values' apply to my life. I don't drink or take psychotropic drugs. I don't gamble. I don't take charter tours of European cathedrals. I don't go South in winter. I don't shop for unneeded items. I read. I watch intelligent media. I walk in my own community. I belong to my civic association. I drive a 16-year-old Japanese subcompact. I even enjoy shopping at Whole Foods and Trader Joe's once a week. Is being vocally different from conformists a form of bitter?

I may seem bitter because I live with my eyes wide open. I consider human beings to be just another mammalian predator species. I do not live inside the technology I use. I actually understand how some of it works, so I am not a religious optimist about technology's ability to save the planet. Probably isn't going to happen before the Sun's supernova or our self-initiated extinction. I think human beings have overpopulated and have irreparably destroyed a great deal of what made Earth an outstandingly beautiful planet.

I don't feel I have to justify any contribution to overpopulation or environmental degradation. I will have left a sizable carbon footprint in a single life, but, considering that I haven't added any new footprints behind me, I'll hold my head up. Add to that my work in human services and my conscientious payment of taxes, and I think I come up on the asset side of the asset-deficit scale of our species. I would probably more likely be seen as conceited for these beliefs, not bitter. 

Is my perceived bitterness associated with my free expression of what I truly perceive and think? Maybe my lack of concern over what the mob thinks about me or what I say is considered to be bitter or, even worse, 'angry'. Ooh, 'angry people' are so bad in today's politically correct, conformist, passive-aggressive world, where the rudest creeps toss out 'sorry' like an expletive. Openly angry about things that are infuriating is way worse than bitter. So, maybe my old acquaintance was  being exceedingly kind. Maybe she thinks I am angry, which I am about many things I see around me. So, perhaps, I should really prize her nailing me on Facebook as only bitter.


Sunday, October 9, 2016

COLUMBUS DAY WEEKEND


Yes. Let's celebrate the destruction of many civilizations based in Nature religion and ecologically sound life on the Earth. Let's celebrate the imposition of Christianity through torture and genocidal massacre. Let's name the celebration after an exiled Italian who managed to get funding from the princes of the Spanish Inquisition. Their claim to fame was the expulsion of Muslims and Jews from Spain. How truly relevant to this year's pre-election season here in the U.S.. Let's all get drunk on alcohol or high on legalized marijuana.

I listened to an American voters' panel on BBC this morning. They were discussing the upcoming Presidential election. I was astounded by their general lack of understanding of history, politics and American contemporary reality. It seemed the British moderator had to steer them into sane discussion by prompting them with real facts. Downright embarrassing.

The most memorable statement of their History for Dummies was the assertion by a Muslim-American woman that the U.S. was founded and built by Muslims. Yes, folks. She wasn't going to buy into that silly Mormon notion that America was founded by a lost tribe of Israel who were actually the pupae of Latter Day Saints. No. According to this Einstein, the U.S. was founded and built by African Muslims who were brought here as slaves. 

Now, I do not dispute that some of the African slaves may have been touched by Islam. After all, the Arabs who ran the slave trade in much of Africa were indeed Muslims.I also do not dispute that African slave labor, alongside Anglo-Saxon slave labor in the form of indenture, contributed to the rural prosperity of the early U.S.. But, declaring some kind of shared moral superiority as an American based on the slave trade after railing against the genocide of American Indian tribes by "white people"seems a serious stretch. It was a major stretch coming from a second-generation American who was raised in relative wealth in Manhattan.

This is the America, as seen by media, of this Columbus Day Weekend in 2016. It is not the America of decent hard-working people who are educated enough to know better. It is not the America of those who see the real problems of this country: Exceptionalism, selfishness, greed, materialism, hypocritical religiosity, corruption, etc.. It is not the America of people who are simply trying to live a good life without much concern at all about racism, minority status or ethnocentrism. Those Americans move around in their daily lives undiscovered by media. They do not draw eyes to Web pages  and TV's, or ears to radio. They are being swept away in virtual America like their American Indian predecessors were in an earlier time. 


Saturday, October 8, 2016

VILLAGE-CHILD FALLACY


Hillary Clinton is associated with the statement, "It takes a village to raise a child." This is a time of too many children and too few villages. It is a time of metropolitan massing of overpopulating humans who are rapidly destroying their own habitats.

I confess my bias. I am childless. I have never felt a compulsion to spawn a mini-me. It is just not part of my being. I think puppies, kittens and babies are cute enough. I feel the brain chemistry kick in when I am gurgled at by a cherubic face. But I know that it is brain chemistry, not a conscious moralistic decision to smile back.

None of that has anything to do with reproduction for me. Reproduction is one of the most primal animal functions retained by humans throughout their evolution as a species. Producing another human is as primal is eating, defecating, sleeping or copulating. A human being devoid of intelligence can reproduce. Adolescent females can reproduce. Elderly females can reproduce with mad-scientist intervention. I could have reproduced without even knowing it under certain circumstances. Old men can spawn children. Human beings have perverted the process of natural selection to their own detriment as a species.

The current feminism of "Me First" has obliterated any ethical discussion about children and villages. The aggression of modern feminists is understandable and is also not new. This reflects the inner struggle of the great mass of the female species after millennia of conditioning. It is unfortunate that modern feminism has confused reproduction with feminine empowerment. The simple mathematical reality is that unintelligent reproduction does more to erode female power than to bolster it.

The conflating of reproduction with personal fulfillment by cis-females resembles the conflating of plastic surgery with fulfillment by those who are not cis-gendered, in the current parlance. A woman who is not intellectually and economically free cannot be truly fulfilled by giving birth to totally dependent human beings. That woman can only be stressed and inhibited in her personal development in favor of providing for the development of her offspring. Her biology will dictate these terms, unless she is disordered in some way. The human species is increasingly losing developmental ground because of the increasing breakdown of female fulfillment and the production of too many children with too little nurturing. Unintelligent reproduction is at the core of poverty and the decline of civilization.

I have spent my adult life supporting the evolution of male and female roles in society. My decision to forego medical school due to the homophobia in a male-dominated medical establishment at the age of 19 was a painful one. As I progressed through my work as a secondary-school teacher to my work as a nursing assistant and then a registered nurse, I realized I had made the right choice as a man committed to breaking down restrictive gender roles. I looked around me at the women I worked with in nursing. Few of them shared my interest in change. Most of them were obsessed with being the perfect traditional stereotype of mother, wife and daughter. Those women in nursing who did not share that mindset stood apart as much as I did as a male nurse.

The confusion of modern feminism is ironically sympathetic with the child-village fallacy. The increase in single-motherhood across the planet may well place a greater demand on a mythical village to raise a child. But this trend seems more likely to lead to the development of child soldiers, sex slaves, gangsters, homeless addicts and terrorists. The village in a time of burgeoning capitalism and dying socialism is a mirage. Wealthy single mothers pay for expensive day care. Impoverished and far more plentiful single mothers depend on welfare in industrialized societies. In less developed nations, single mothers may sell or abandon their children.

"Me First" feminism of privileged women, like Hillary Clinton, is hard of hearing and myopic. It does its best to avoid the issues of overpopulation and environmental degradation. It supports the self-oppression of religious women who subscribe to misogynist ideologies. This feminism is confused and ineffectual. It alienates many intelligent women and men from conversations about the development of women in society.

Hillary Clinton has made it clear that she supports "Me First" feminism. While her own life exemplifies rational decisions by a well-off intellectual with specific life goals, she politically espouses a form of feminism which undermines the ability of less advantaged women to do what she has done. She may well be elected. If so, she will become the captain of a sinking ship rather than the mayor of a thriving village. I doubt she will contribute to raising healthier and happier children worldwide unless she takes a drastic turn in her world view. Supporting vicious capitalism and war does not a peaceful village make for any of us. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

INPUT. OUTPUT. OPTIMISM.


Nurses of my generation were taught to be obsessed with input and output. We kept meticulous I&O sheets for our hospitalized patients. This curious form of accounting was often perceived as an invasion of privacy by patients unaccustomed to anyone being fascinated by their diet and excretions. As a young man from a rather formal upbringing, it took some getting used to: "So, Mrs. Jones, did you urinate recently? And did you measure it? Oh, you saved it in a bed pan. How nice." Plain speaking comes easily. perhaps too easily, after years of these conversations.

This accounting spilled over into my personal life. My own diet and hydration became areas of daily scientific experimentation and observation. Since I worked night shifts for many years, it was not a boring process. The body goes through a lot when its diurnal rhythms are intentionally altered. If you doubt this, try eating pepperoni pizza with Diet Coke at 3 AM when cold sober. My regulation of diet and hydration made working nights tolerable for me. This enabled me to take on a second job during daylight.
 
My study of Buddhism, which began in college, accelerated in my 30's. Input and output took on another level of meaning in my life. The Japanese Buddhist concept of esho funi impressed me. Rather than seeing myself as living linearly with sequential input (stimulus) and output (reaction), I began seeing myself as living more like a fish, swimming in time and space. Input mixes with output. Output becomes input which becomes output. More fluid and dynamic. Understanding that much of my life's input and output is unconscious, while accepting that even unconscious input and output have effects with which I must live responsibly.
 
The more clearly I grasp this concept, the more aware I become that the environmental ocean around me is filled with those who are not committed in any way to their environment or even the quality of their own lives. This adds another dimension to my consciousness...a dimension of caution in every day life. This dimension of caution is practiced. After certain events in my life, since I awoke to this awareness, I have felt like a turtle swimming in a shark tank.
 
It takes practice to remain optimistic with this wakefulness. I am not talking about the inane optimism of the ignorant or religiously deluded. My optimism is based in a belief that I am living one animal life in a vast Universe to the best of my ability. I am living in what I see as my own truth. I am living without presumed antipathy to any other specific being.  I am consciously avoiding poisonous input from my environment. I am consciously avoiding poisonous behavior toward my environment within the best of my abilities.
 
This form of optimism is based in optimizing my life experience responsibly within my environment. It isn't a personality trait. It is hard work. I was fortunate to have been raised by one optimistic parent and two optimistic grandparents, in this sense. That gave me a head start. But I believe anyone can start to live in this way with education, practice and a commitment to embrace change.