Morally Turning Inward

As a young person, I was raised in a certain type of household. My father was Spanish-Basque and Catholic. My mother was raised in a very American family with 4 children, little connection to a church, and a mixed lineage drawing from midwest farm culture. I think that this must have been a difficult experience to have survived. It appears that my Grandmother fell in love with someone she was not meant to be with. And the child born of that relationship was rejected by her small community. I can only imagine that being young, unmarried and pregnant in the 1940s in the midwest was a dangerous and vulnerable position. My grandfather was a good man. He smoked. He drank. She found him. A lonely boy fresh out of the military. Do you know what it’s like to have lost both parents before the age of 9? Maybe you do. But at least now maybe you have thought about it. He was raised by sisters and aunts and sent to a Catholic elementary school where his left hand was tied to the chair to keep from using his dominant left hand. The left hand is associated with devil, right? When my grandmother got involved with my grandfather and already had a child, he could redeem the loneliness of his childhood. They became a family in 1940. My mother born last of 4 came in 1951.

The Raven Club is a salty old bar. Locals still haunt the place and regulars call each other by name while sports play in a constant din in the background. Have you seen any interesting neon signs recently? The one that hangs out in front of Club Raven has a black image of a raven whose neon wings flutter in slow motion as if it were going anywhere. It mocks you. This is where my folk met in 1984 or so. They got pregnant. Eloped. A year or two later got married in a church. I was there for a bit. My grandparents and aunt asked me if I was tired took me home and I didn’t get to see the rest of the ceremony. My mother converted to Catholic Christianity, attended RCIA classes, read during mass and eventually taught in the Catholic school system. I was raised in Sunday School, reading the Beginner’s Bible, religious education in school and CCD classes culminating in Confirmation in the 8th grade. I took morality seriously. I deeply wanted to be a saint. I wanted to be pure. Whoever was teaching us in that school-church education system did a great job extolling the heroic virtues of the Church’s saints. They were build up into heroes. There was a magic associated with them. I feel like we may be the last group that will experience these saints in this way.

After abuses, sex scandals and disillusionment with the hierarchy and clergy, I feel that people view the Church with disdain, unfortunately. I do see, however, people are sincerely devoted to the ideals and mission associated with the living church as it was intended to exist instituted by Christ according to His mission. I am reading a biography of Saint Therese of Lisieux, in which, the author laments the diminished role of women in the Church. And it seems absolutely important that we understand how the role of women has been established in the minds of thinking people in the western world. As much as theology can liberate, it can also confine us to ideas that are violent and destructive. Religious zealots are constantly looking to affirm the patriarchy. The dualism that was understood by the Greeks and St. Augustine has created a lot of this problem.

 

A Message to My Students on Election Day

Everything I was taught by well meaning California educators through out my years really didn’t mean a damn thing. No matter how much you intellectually disarm racism and bigotry it does not mean that it is extinguished. Being aware of discrimination does not create equality. Dramatizing the story of the victims of various moments of injustice throughout history does not equate to policy that is righteous and it certainly doesn’t mean that people won’t repeat the errors of the past. Becoming aware is only the first step. Performing the works to create the change and right the wrongs is the next logical movement. Listening to people’s stories and understanding their experiences creates a moment where you can transcend your own experience and relate to another.

Unfortunately, we have a great number of people in this country who see their own struggle as severe enough to support the persecution of others. I do not believe that these people are evil, but they must be challenged in some way and exposed to a great hardship that denies them the opportunity to see that rhetoric that is racist and xenophobic hurts us all. And I truly want to understand that position their position. I want to know how you can be in a place that allows for people to be treated like animals by the party you support because you feel disenfranchised. What is your reality to allow for that?

The only thing that matters at this point is to carry on without apathy. Do not enter into the future with only a concern for your own well-being. Do we really want to be that sort of nation? Despite the despair caused by the election realize that a great number of people did vote for that which is not defined by hate and bigotry. In those people we can find solidarity. Maybe we need to band together to have discussion about important issues and find ways to achieve certain goals for all of society rather than assume that because we think we are right the world will follow. I do not think that our society is completely broken? Do you?

Notes on Education

“I believe that the motion picture is destined to revolutionize our educational system and that in a few years it will supplant largely, if not entirely, the use of textbooks.
I should say that on average we get about two percent efficiency out of schoolbooks as they are written today. The education of the future, as I see it, will be conducted through the medium of the motion picture … where it should be possible to obtain one hundred percent efficiency.

Thomas Edison (1922) quoted in Larry Cuban, Teachers and Machines: The Classroom Use of Technology Since 1920.”

Maybe he is right… I love learning from videos online from TEDx or whatever, but the printed page is still all over classrooms and will not be going anywhere.

Fight the Good Fight

Religion has been for centuries been that thing that compels us to exist, because it wasn’t only camus who discovered that life is absurd and why should we live it anyway. We have been suffering from this existential crisis ever since we contemplated our own mortality. So then people build temples, gods and heroes to be models for excellence and righteousness. They created beliefs to organize peoples thinking and practices to organize people’s behavior. These had both practical and sectarian purposes. And at some point these grew up into institutions, which ended up only serving a few and kept the rest obedient (materialist theory of religion). But they also gave people hope and helped to emphasize transcendence over materialism and gave people dignity through adherence and a sense of righteousness to boot. Each movement was a response to the agony and suffering of life and the attraction of apathy and licentiousness, especially among a group persecuted and disenfranchised. The powers that be would rather you exist in chaos… it makes them feel better about themselves and justifies their persecution of you. There is nothing empowering about using free will to make bad choices.
 
So when we look at the world’s religions and those that don’t make sense in our modern age, we have to consider that, though they might be confusing, they are a living history of people’s experiences through time and perhaps our best record of how people have been treated in history. Hasidism and pogroms and the shoah for instance.. The reform movement and general acceptance of Jews in the 19-20th centuries. Christianity and the Roman empire. Protestantism and Catholic corruptions. Islamic extremism and capitalist, secular egoism. (And the unwillingness of the western world to accept Islam.)
 
And yes institutions are inherently absurd too and conformity is by its nature not functional for everyone, but still sometimes the institutions protect history or sacred knowledge that is not easy to understand or immediately available to us. But they should not be thrown away hastily because they aren’t progressive enough for our tastes and we believe that science and technology will save us from all of our sufferings anyway. I’m not saying that science, reason and technology are not going to lead us to a healthier more sustainable way of living, but ignoring the emotional and spiritual aspects of our existence is not healthy either. And might result in the elimination of good art or authentic human feeling, which ultimately is the only thing keeping from being our devices anyway.
 
I really get tired of Bill Maher’s extreme lack of compassion for religious people. But even his position proves my point, because it is a response to evangelical Protestantism (and other fundamentalisms too), which really has very little authenticity. It is kind of fundamentally flawed and very easy to tear apart and is ruining our country for its influence on our politics. (I am not throwing out protestantism enitrely here, just forms of it in the US.) And yet, it too was a response to the failures of the late renaissance Catholic Church. Certainly many religions do not emphasize such a personal relationship with the divine that we should put up our hands and do nothing when suffering occurs in areas of society that we can control (the poor existing in areas with failing education systems, racial prejudice concerning the justice system.) We cannot keep on having the belief that because we believe people are created equal means that they are treated equally under the law or by the institutions that govern their existence. Moral egoism is a great corruption. I am not trying to even say that we need to steal money from the rich and or status from the elites and give to the poor and without. And I am not say that one shouldn’t be responsible for their own success or failure. But we should be able to at least ensure a certain quality of life in this country when it does appear that there is money in our system to make it possible for everyone to be fed, clothed, housed and educated. And let us not forget that it was ethical monotheism of Abraham that gave us any sort idea of morality from the beginning anyway. Stop villainizing religions or religious people; the real evil is that people suffer unjustly, when policies can change or money can be spent to actually make peoples lives better. When peoples basic needs are met then they can approach the secular rationalism that Sam Harris talks about. But telling people to stop being religious or that all religions are invalid is sure sign of elitism. Religious has guided radicals and progressives as much as it has confined people to a set beliefs that made them complacent. Alright im done…
 
Can you tell I watched Jerry Maguire last night?

Sympathy for the Devil, or the Disenfranchised Which We Vilify

Why are so many of us so self-fulfilled by vilifying the other? Or throwing stones at the institutions? Or the current generation? Or blame-centered snarkisms? Nothing is accomplished in that level of thinking. The world’s institutions didn’t create these problems. They do enable them and perpetuate them. But it isn’t the fault of the institutions themselves. They are a product of human power corruptions and misplaced values. Culture is what it is, because different power structures within an elite group of people change and adapt to whatever means of control enables their existence. The injustices corrected by revolutionary or prophetic movements become systematically circumvented by the authorities that adopt them. Stop blaming the Muslim or Islam or Christian or Evangelical or Semite or Black or Refugee or Terrorist or Abuser or Dependent! They are a product of a system of order that encourages their derogatory identifying characteristics and ignores their humanness.  On the other end of the spectrum, passionately raising the up the value of the individual creates ever smaller circles of inclusiveness and in the absence of dedicated thinking and learning and experiencing encourages a lack of empathy for those who are different than us.

Let us not continue to see the world as either/or or a/b or us/them. To make a concession, does not mean that you have lost or that you even have to use those terms to discuss your position. In using those terms you have lost already or acquiesced to the idea of losing and adopted the idea that concession is failure and unnecessarily puts in fear of a losing position which doesn’t necessarily exist. Certainly it does not! It is empowering to acknowledge that someone else has a more sophisticated or enhanced idea, rule or system for our existence. The sooner we adapt and include those ideas (or whatever) into our own mission on this Earth the sooner we are stronger because of it. In fact, that is what the elite or command structure of our societies do to maintain their seat of power and influence. Within any society or prophetic mission, this elite group has used those new ideas to wreak havoc on the new world it created.

Concerning the idea of winning or losing, we should transcend those physical, temporal boundaries. Even to be on the winning side throughout history does not necessarily imply that you have won. Winning implies a grave responsibility. A responsibility that many apathetic young people have realized early on and rejected. The apathy of the young male or female is a deep concern of the present period. The burden of success dissuades many from trying. More on that another time.  Indeed, the success of the Allied States was not entirely a victory. It was the loss of an entire generation of the male population in some states and an annihilated physical infrastructure and the creation of a war machine that exists to this day. The militarism of that period negatively affected the world for the entire period there after.

People have loved to romanticize the World Wars, just like they have loved to romanticize revolution. It’s the romanticism of fight and the fragile purity of the hero within our collective unconsciousness that feeds into the structures of power and dominance that pervades human thinking only to hold us down and weaken us. This, unfortunately, is encouraged by our social media driven culture which a creates information silos, in which, thinking that challenges our own is excluded from the body of information, with which, we allow ourselves to be presented. And the availability of information along with ubiquitous presence of a screen is not in and of itself the challenge as some might have you believe.

 The challenge is that we have lost the ability to try to understand that the experiences of a group of people outside our own insular groupings may have thoughts or ideas we do not share, yet are still valid given their relationship with historical injustices. And yes, those groups of people may be easy to vilify.  But a villain is most unnecessary and built out of a construct of dialectical thinking about championship and heroism. 

Heroism, in the Disney sense, is unrealistic and unique to our saccharine celebration of ‘Thumbs Up’ culture. The disenfranchised  are worthy of our sympathy and I think that the ancient people did have an advantage in their body of literature in recognizing the flaws of even their gods and demigods. Perhaps the elevation of a monotheistic, personal god responding to the needs of a chosen people is dangerous in that is perpetuates the us vs. them construct and systematically extols the virtues of inclusion and conformity rather than celebrating the synthetic beauty of harmonic disparity. On the other hand, the divisiveness of tribalism or paganism led people again to competition between groups. What should be our goal, then? 

Empathy. True empathy must be available both ways along a two way street. It gives people the power to have emboldened lines of self-identification, yet intellectually reach beyond those limitations and emotionally and biologically understand the experiences of another person’s point of view. Continuing from there we can grow as a people and encourage every group to have a share in the abundance of riches pre-existing in our universe before we even came to be. But accepting this reality requires a different way of thinking about how we are to be living and sharing in the beauty of this world. We can not limit ourselves to abmonoculture and we must encourage ourselves be in love with ourselves and take pride in ourselves and all acknowledge another groups’ right to pride and self-value. Remove blame! Success in harmony and equanimity! Champion us all! Let us not acquiesce until the last blade of grass is redeemed.

The Things They Took

They took our religion and created divisive doctrines.

They took the land and created partitions.

They took that which provided and confined it to a single source.

They took that which was bountiful and create scarcity. pt-ak125_mpmoun_g_20081105133354

They took that which was natural and made it poisoned.

They took our health and made us sick just to sell us a hollow remedy.

They took free will and gave it back to us, a la carte.

They took our ideologies and turned them against us.

They took what which wasn’t theirs and sold it back to its rightful owners.

They took our animals and gathered them for slaughter.

They took the many dimensions of beauty and corrupted each one.

They took the women and raped them.

They took the rights of man and women created a structure of inequality limited only to some.

They took communication and made it binary.

They took honor and made it nebulous.

They took profits, accumulated them and locked them away. Where?

They took our consciousnesses and upload2015-10-20-1445365090-8703308-4882-frnkenthaler1217_0008ed them.

They drew the lines and created difference.

They created access points and narrowed the portals.

They drafted us as slaves and put us up to slaughter.

They celebrated the individual and scandalized the organization.

They paved us into parcels miles apart.

They carved out cities where there should be none.

They took our resolve and encouraged our weakness.

They abandoned us when our minds let go.

They closed the mental wards and set us into the cold.

They took our education and made it inaccessible.

They took our music and made it worthless.

They created a system of abstraction to exonerate the guilty.

They took anything worth anything and destroyed it because they felt they could.

The Myth of United States’ Military Altruism

Esquire – Bernie and Monroe Doctrine

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I had a conversation with a student last week relevant to this subject. He believes that the United States is the world’s police force and that our 800 military bases around the world are present there, because other world powers are incapable of demonstrating an force against rogue nations. He notes the failure of the UN and NATO as more reason for this presence. I tried to enlighten him to the fact that the United States has undermined the actions of these entities many times. However, it fell on deaf ears. He still sees it true that the United States’ intervention is necessary in world conflict and that we are the capable big brother in a world full of inept losers.

Had I been more equipped and less distracted with the course of the class time, I would have asked for evidence of situations, in which, the United States had really been unilaterally effective in policing world conflict within the last 40 years. It seems that military presence in the world is more about being aggressive about US politico-economic agendas rather than truly being altruistic in policing the world’s aggressors.