LATE BREAKING NEWS

17 06 2018

Three big stories have been in the headlines as I wrote this week’s main blog post. The possibly good news was from the N. Korea summit, where for the moment, at least, one of the world’s ticking time bombs may have been defused. When I first heard this , the cynic in me wondered when Trump will screw this up, or if the Democrats would have to screw it up for him. Since then, the Dems have done all they can to point to this as a dangerous, radical move that conclusively demonstrates that Drumpf is in Putin’s pocket, and that we absolutely must continue our policy of regular practice bombing runs and invasions of North Korea which, the North Koreans have repeatedly stated, is why they feel the need to develop nuclear weapons. What this uproar actually “conclusively demonstrates” is that the Dems and the media are firmly in the pocket of the Neocons and the hawks who want to show the Russians and the Chinese who’s boss, even if they have to vaporize Pyongyang to do it. Could somebody please tell me what threat North Korea poses to the continental United States, beyond the fact that if we nuke them, the fallout will end up here?

The Supreme Court decision allowing Ohio to kick people off the voter rolls if they haven’t showed up for a while and don’t respond to a written inquiry mostly reminds me that it’s important to vote in every election, not just in Presidential years. I think that the more local the election, the more important it is to vote, because we the people have a lot more control over local officials than we do over the big players. Here in NW Nashville,, we have a Metro Council runoff between “a local businessman” and a woman involved with Nashville Organized for Action and Hope, a local social justice organization. No question which one of these two I want representing my interests in Nashville. The “businessman” even boasted about keeping low-income housing OUT of our district. How’s that for “Christian values”?

Speaking of “Christian values,” Jeff Sessions really showed us all how much he lives by his faith when he declared that people fleeing domestic or non-state violence will no longer be considered candidates for asylum in the US. Take “the least of mine” and stick ’em where the sun don’t shine, eh, Jeff?

And, speaking of Christian values and stickin’ ’em where the sun don’t shine, how ’bout if the Egyptian equivalent of ICE had separated Joe and Mary from their Baby when they crossed the Egyptian border? Wonder how baby J’s Real Dad woulda resonded to that? You think the Mosaic plagues were bad? Whohoo! :-)

music: Terry Allen, “Southern  Comfort

Advertisements




STORY

15 06 2018

This is another chapter in our continuing reading of Charles Eisenstein’s 2013 book, “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible.” You can buy or read the whole book here. I hope you will choose to buy it.

 

One day Confucius was walking along with some disciples when they came upon two boys arguing. Confucius asked the boys what the dispute was about. They told him they were arguing about whether the sun was nearer at dawn and farther away at noon, or farther away at dawn and nearer at noon. One of the boys argued that the sun appeared larger at dawn and smaller at noon, so it must be closer at dawn and farther away at noon. The other boy argued that it was cool at dawn and hot at noon, so the sun must be farther away at dawn and closer at noon. Confucius was at a loss to determine which one was correct. The boys jeered at him, “Who said you were so smart?”

This story is from the ancient collection of Taoist allegories known as the Liezi, as rendered by Thomas Cleary in Vitality, Energy, Spirit: A Taoist Sourcebook. Cleary explains, “[The story] illustrates the limitations of discursive reasoning, thus hinting indirectly at a more comprehensive mode of consciousness. Presented as a joke at the expense of Confucius, it illustrates how logic can be coherent within the bounds of its own postulates yet be ineffective or inaccurate in a larger context.”

…..

The reason that the defiance of the Shuar moves us isn’t that they are willing to kill for their cause; it is that they are willing to die for it. This is, in pure form, service to something greater than oneself. This is what we must emulate if we are to cocreate the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible. It is also a way to transcend the separate self, since to bow into service is to merge with something greater, something whose power to precipitate change extends beyond our understanding of causality. Then, the unexpected, the improbable, the miraculous can happen.

The more firmly we stand in a larger Story of Self, a Story of Interbeing, the more powerful we become in disrupting the old Story of Separation. I think questions of violence and nonviolence, ethics and principles, right and wrong, lead us into a conceptual maze. See, the sun is nearer at noon. No, it is at dawn. Every evil deed and every cowardly inaction that has ever been perpetrated on this earth has been justified by principle—the logic of a story. As we sober up from our long intoxication with the Story of Separation, we have the chance to enter a “more comprehensive mode of consciousness”—the consciousness of story. In it, we ask ourselves, “What story shall I stand in?”

(I was unable to find the music in this video in a form that I could play on the radio show, but the video and music are definitely worth watching. Instead, I played “Hungama Hai Kyun,” by Ghulam Ali. The link goes to a different version of the song than the one I play, but just as good.)





NASHVILLE’S BREXIT VOTE

13 05 2018

th+graph+1I recently wrote about Nashville’s plans for a better transit system, calling it “another big-ticket neoliberal scheme to make the rich richer,”  and now the voters have spoken. By a nearly 2–1 margin, with nearly twice the expected turnout, the transit plan was voted down. The analyses of the issue that I have read treat it as a failure of strategy and tactics, and largely ignore the fact that the funding mechanism was pure neoliberal flim-flam: they were going to do this wonderful thing for the low-income people of Nashville, that the lower-income people were going to have to pay for themselves. According to the Tennessean, nearly 90% of the revenue for the project would come from an increase in the sales tax. If you are reading this, I probably don’t have to remind you that sales taxes are highly regressive in nature, paid disproportionately by low-income taxpayers. The other sticking point was the widespread perception that the plan did not do nearly enough to address the already rampant issue of gentrification in Nashville, which even proponents of the plan admitted would likely come to neighborhoods with better public transportation. Indeed, Metro sees increased property values as one of the benefits of infrastructure projects, whether they’re sewers or light rail lines. Liberals in the city can make all kinds of cluck-clucks of sympathy about the plight of low-income Nashvillians, but their actions, which promote gentrification, belie those words, and lower-income Nashvillians were rightly wary of the latest set of promises and the likelihood of increased exploitation.

Let me spell that out: people earn low wages in large part because their labor is being exploited. By “exploited,” I mean that their labor produces considerably more value than they are paid for, with their employer skimming off the difference. Nashville’s largely Democratic/neoliberal power brokers blithely assumed that they could successfully exploit the exploited still further, rather than ask the businesses who exploit those workers, and who are disproportionately wealthy as a result, to pay a fair share of the cost. As with Brexit and Trump’s upset victory, the exploited took advantage of the ballot box to do what they could to indicate that they did not want to be exploited any further.

Like Brexit and the Trump Presidency, this is a three-sided issue, not a bipolar one, although every attempt is being made to portray it as such. I hated to see the GOP screw-the-poor crowd get to chalk this up as a victory about as much as I would have disliked seeing the plan win, since, to say it again a little differently, it screwed low-income people by making them pay for the plan and not doing enough to address the rampant gentrification that was all too likely to follow the tracks. The big-ticket construction plan, and the gentrification, would further enrich the wealthy at the expense of the poor, in the name of “doing something for the poor.” Excuse me for repeating myself, but I think this is an important point to make. That’s how the Democrats roll.

The third position is the one taken by The People’s Alliance for Transit, Housing & Employment, which, in its recent “People’s State of Metro” called for the following: Read the rest of this entry »





TENNESSEE’S BALLOT ACCESS LAW IS DESIGNED TO DENY BALLOT ACCESS

12 05 2018

I wanted to touch briefly on The Green Party of Tennessee’s candidate and prospects in the 2018 election. This is an issue we have litigated for years. We went through a frustrating cycle in which we would win court cases, and the judge would order the state to loosen up its ballot access laws. The state would ignore the decision. The judge would order the state to include our party name with our candidates’ names, and the state would do so for an election, and then drop us when none of our statewide candidates achieved the state-mandated minimum number of votes to stay on the ballot. Recently, the judge who saw things our way retired, and the last time we went to court, we got a different judge, who, in spite of numerous rulings in other courts holding laws like Tennessee’s unconstitutionally exclusive, upheld the state law. The gubernatorial candidate we are running,  Yvonne Neubert, is running as an “independent.” Even if she gets more than 5% of the vote, her win will not help get The Green Party back on the ballot.

yvonne

Barred by law from decaring herself “The Green Party candidate,” she sends the message subtly.

Let’s face it: Tennessee’s so-called “ballot access laws” are actually designed to keep other parties besides the D’s and R’s off the ballot. First of all, they were initially enacted in the early 60’s, as the “Dixiecrat” rebellion, conservative Southern Democrats opposed to racial integration, was gathering steam, in hopes of keeping George Wallace off the ballot in Tennessee. As it happens, there was enough support for Wallace and his “American Independent Party” in the state so that he and his party actually fulfilled the law’s requirements, collecting the nearly forty thousand signatures needed to get their party’s name on the ballot. No party has succeeded since.

There are two ways the law works against an up-and-coming party. The first is that the number of signatures required to place a party’s name on the ballot is large enough so that professional  petitioners are a necessity. That costs about two dollars per signature. Since not everybody signs correctly, or is even entitled to sign, it’s advisable to gather around twice the number of signatures needed. That means that a party that wants its name on the ballot needs to raise somewhere between sixty and a hundred thousand dollars just to get its name on the ballot for one election. If none of the party’s statewide candidates win 5% or more of  the vote, the party is back to square one, and has essentially been fined a very hefty sum just for trying.

Here’s the other way this law actually discourages new parties. Read the rest of this entry »





THE BOUNDARIES OF COMPASSION, pt.2

15 04 2018

In a post a couple of months ago, I wrote about a dustup I was having with some old friends over Caitlin Johnstone’s posts, “Please,, Just Bleeping Die Already” and its follow-up, “Good,” written after McCain had been diagnosed with brain cancer. My friends were horrified that she seemed to be wishing death on someone, even a bloodthirsty maniac like McCain. I thought Ms. Johnstone’s view might fall under the rubric of “radical compassion,” doing whatever it might take to keep him from doing more damage (after all, hurting other people hurts oneself, as well), and decided to ask the opinion of a person I regard as an authority on what is, and is not, compassionate. After that conversation, I communicated with Ms. Johnstone, and on those bases, here is my response to my friends in that discussion group.

First, I want to lay out some context for the statement that “Caitlin Johnstone wishes John McCain was dead.” Here are a few statements that I think fall into the same category as this allegation about her. Read the rest of this entry »





THE UNITED STATES OF DENIAL

12 11 2017

I want to explore the geography of the United States of Denial just a little. No, “The United States of Denial” is not a new name for Egypt. I’m talking about the good ol’ USA, where we are all united in being in various states of denial. Some of those states are adjacent to each other, some are pretty far apart, and some of the ones that are adjacent to each other are simultaneously quite distant from their neighbors. That’s one of the ways we’re united–in denying our denial. Those other people–they’re in denial Not me!

There’s Republican states of denial, Democratic states of denial, and then there are various liberal-left-socialist-Green states of denial, as well. I think it’s wonderful that, even though the United States of America has effectively closed its political process to all but two basically similar parties, in the United States of Denial there’s room for lots of political flavors.

Republican states of denial have been on the front burner a lot lately. Climate change denial has been front and center, along with science denial in general, as well as denial of racism, sexism, and compassion.  And then, of course, there’s denial of reality in general. Speaking of generals, there’s denial of the danger that a war anywhere in the world would pose to life everywhere in the world.

That particular state of denial, the denial of the danger of war, borders one of the most prominent Democratic states of denial, which also denies the dangers of war. While the Republican state of denial of war danger borders North Korea and Iran, its Democratic counterpart bumps up against Russia. The two states of denial also share a common border with Afghanistan.

Republican climate denialism is so well-known that I’m going to skip over it and give some attention to its neighbor, Democratic climate denialism. Democratic climate denialism is more subtle than the rugged Republican version, which simply denies that the problem exists. Hey, mass extinction is the capitalist way to solve overpopulation!

Read the rest of this entry »





PSYCHOPATHY

8 10 2017

The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible is available for free at this link, but I urge you to buy the book and show your support for the author.

Note: This another amazingly relevant chapter from a book written four years ago. Because of its length, I am reading half of it this month, and half next month.

If something bites you, it is inside of your clothes.

—Swahili proverb

I have argued that change will come not from overcoming the powers-that-be, but through their transformation. I have stated that we are fundamentally the same being looking out at the world through many sets of eyes. I have described how our perception of evil comes from a lack of understanding of what it is like to be another person. I have asserted that what we do unto the other, we do unto ourselves, and that this is something we can feel. And I have invoked the principle of the gift, that we are all here to contribute our gifts toward something greater than ourselves, and will never be content unless we are. In answer to all of these, sometimes people bring up the counterexample of the psychopath, a distinct subset of humanity that supposedly possesses no compassion, no ability to feel love, and no shame.

These people are, it is said, totally out for themselves, suffering no compunctions in ruthlessly pursuing short-term self-interest. Unfeeling, charming, charismatic, daring, and ruthless, they tend to rise to the top in business and government. To a large extent, they are the powers-that-be, and it would be naive to think that anything but raw force would stop them. Without pity, without conscience, without even the capacity to feel anything but a few basic proto-emotions, they are the epitome of evil. According to many researchers, they can never be cured. They don’t want to be cured. They are happy the way they are…..

….

Many classic psychopathic behaviors make sense within the context of a general shutdown in feeling. Inured to feeling, the psychopath nonetheless has, like all of us, a strong physiological need to feel. Therefore he is given to impulsiveness, drama, pointlessly risky behavior that doesn’t contribute to his self-interest at all. Anything powerful enough to breach the walls he has constructed will attract him. For some, it could be the intensity of infatuation, for others, murder, for others closing the big deal. It could be the big risk, the big purchase, the big gamble. Many psychopaths are addicted to such things that, they sometimes say, make them feel alive. Most academic researchers believe psychopathy is a conjunction of two independent axes of variation: lack of empathy, and impulsivity. In my hypothesis, the two are closely linked. The risky behavior is an attempt to breach the lack of feeling.

I must acknowledge that there is very little research supporting this hypothesis. I base it on my own experience—first and foremost with myself. I was an extremely sensitive child and, due to traumatic bullying in my early teens, learned to shut off most of my feelings. Though the shutoff wasn’t nearly as profound as that of a psychopath, still it enabled me to do some pretty callous, manipulative things. I also exhibited other psychopathic traits, such as impulsivity and a penchant for drama. I was trapped in numbness and wanted desperately to feel. Tori Amos’s lyric spoke to me: “Give me life, give me pain, give me my self again.”

music: Tori Amos “Little Earthquakes” (Note: the video for this song contains a lot of shockingly graphic images, as befits a song that seems to be about domestic violence.)

Second half, which concludes the November broadcast:

In addition, I have also had extensive interactions with several psychopathic individuals, at least one of whom was profoundly so: a man whose ruthlessness knew no bounds. I’ll call him C. He also had other classically psychopathic traits: glib self-justification, total lack of shame, extreme impulsiveness, extraordinary charisma, and great physical courage that often crossed the line into foolhardiness. But there were a few times when I caught a fleeting glimpse of something else, a tenderness or a purity that came out in very convoluted ways, for example as spontaneous, secret, and sometimes magnanimous acts of generosity or caregiving. These were distinct from the cynical devices he routinely enacted to seem a swell guy. There was something else, a real human being. As far as I know, that real human being is still deeply buried, but it is in there and somehow, someday, might awaken……

…..Imagine what this world could be, if we could channel that tremendous pent-up life-force toward something worth caring about. To be sure, most people do have access to things worth caring about on a personal level. There are babies to hold, shoulders to cry on, gardens to plant. Our Story of the World and its systems often squeeze these simple avenues of service to the hurried margins of life. Besides, we also need more than just these, at least in certain stages of life. That is why we, and especially young people, hunger for a cause. Like F., we want to care. We want to find a way to open the floodgates of the heart. Such things as “ending polio in Africa” or “internet freedom” might serve for a time, but eventually they cease to excite us. The gates shut again, maybe via burnout or compassion fatigue. For some of us, none of these causes, taken in isolation, can pierce the ennui, the uncaring, the cool. We need to see what bigger thing we are serving. We need a story of the world we really care about.

Music: Bjork, “It’s In Our Hands








%d bloggers like this: