Friday, June 11, 2004

friday morning analytical rant

Sorry, time for one of these again…

What prompted it was Powell “clarifying” the terrorism report that was apparently misrepresented by the President (Prez says terrorism has declined; Powell corrects that it has, indeed increased and done so dramatically). I am just wondering when people will get tired of this? The transparency of this administration is so apparent to me – their affront to an open, (Ashcroft telling the Senate Judiciary Committee under oath that he would not release memoranda about what the Justice department advised the administration about use of torture – note that he may be in contempt of congress for not giving a reason why he is withholding this information) democratic (what has come to light about the use of torture and the President is that he was advised that he could, essentially be outside the law, i.e., not be held accountable, for the use of torture if the argument could be made that his okaying it was to ensure national security – now, think about this…a national leader who, for all intents and purposes, is outside of the law…whom does this conjure up in your mind? What kind of leader?) society. Their pattern of misrepresentation, denying information until their feet are held to the fire, serious and grave miscalculations about Iraq…and this from a Prez who promised to “restore dignity and integrity to the White House.” What duplicity.

Okay, I think the rant is done, now one to some analysis (with, perhaps some rant still left)

9-11…the 9-11 commission heard testimony from many people – many said that “even if they were able to piece together all of the disparate (and this is in question too, just how disparate all of it was) information, they still wouldn’t have been able to stop 9-11 because it had already been planned.” Huh? This would be like saying, “Well, it looks like there is a fleet of hostile nuclear subs off our coast, but we’re not really sure, and ya know, it looks like this has been planned for a long time, so there really isn’t anything we can do about it now.” If this is the best argument that they could come up with for their failure(s), then we are really in trouble.

Reagan…yes, I know that man was warm, apparently sincere, etc. But, he stated publicly once that “the US was not selling arms for hostages,” then a couple of months later said, “well, in my heart, I still believe that we did not sell arms for hostages, but the evidence appears to indicate otherwise” and he is known as the “great communicator?” Now, what does his prevarication communicate? That it is okay to break the law, and lie to people just so long as, in your heart you really believe what you are doing is right, despite evidence to the contrary. Hmmm, I wonder if that defense would work in court? “Ya know, I held the gun, and pulled the trigger, and yup, he died, but in my heart I truly believe that it was not ME that killed him, it was the GUN that did.” Yeah, makes sense to me.

Ray Charles death…hmmm, a week long remembrance for Reagan and a blip for Ray Charles? Not right. Who has the much better story to tell and contributed much more to world peace and understanding? A blind, black man who overcame all kinds of obstacles to be successful, was not bitter about any of it, never complained, worked his butt off his entire life, and his primary concern was with making people happy or…RR. No question in my mind – we should have a week long celebration for Ray, a national day of mourning, and have hundreds of eulogies, etc, for him…and I would LOVE to see Ray on the $100 bill (his contribution to the world is worth waaaaay more than $10, IMO).

Elderly men in my Sunday school class…now, I know that none of you know these guys, but they are an inspiration to me. We have two men that are over 80 in our class – they come every Sunday (one with his wife of 60 years, the other a widower), one bakes muffins for all the Sunday school classes every Sunday, works serving food to the congregation on Wednesday night, spent time in a WWII German prison camp is funny, irascible, and very, very kind. The other is a former missionary, wrote an article on Christianity and homosexuality (essentially how it was NOT Christian to condemn homosexuality) and the other day when a 50- something member of class who has hepatitis came in, got up, and helped him to a chair. Amazing. (Now, we have women that are equally as amazing, too. I focus on the men because they are role models to me). Two men, living quiet lives, serving others selflessly, and they are both considered to be “irrelevant” in our society because of their age. I hope I am equally as “irrelevant” when I get to be their age (assuming that I do, that is).

The culture of make believe…this is actually the title of an incredible book by Derrick Jensenthat is more about racism and hatred in our country, but I think that it is apropos here, too. I think it is time that we let go of the myths about America – we are the moral leader of the world, we are the best country in the world, we are the strongest country in the world, etc., not so much because they are wrong, but because they are not useful to us. Make believe in general is not useful. It is delusional. What we need is reality, honesty, accountability, and compassion. The hubris, arrogance, and ignorance that has become our cultural export is so disappointing and it cheapens what we have to offer the world as Americans, but more importantly, as human beings. People might say, “gee, John you don’t like America” – nope, not true. I don’t like bullshit. I don’t like make-believe. I like reality because then I know what the hell is going on and what we need to do about it to make it better. That is why I am a social scientist – so I can reasonable know what they hell is going on so I can do something about it. You cannot do something about make-believe, except to get rid of it. Trying to improve things on the basis of make-believe is inherently flawed. I don’t dislike America – I dislike the myths about America. I would much prefer to acknowledge what is REALLY going on in America and with Americans than pretend all of the other crap. Hell, I just said that I admire two Americans (the guys in my Sunday school class – well, actually 3 if you include Ray). But what I admire about them is NOT that they are Americans, but that they live(d) what they believed – they are honest, they serve others, they are compassionate, they admit their faults…they are real. No make believe, no bullshit. Amen to that.

I was going to add something about terrorism, but I am too tired – this writing takes a lot out of me. If I get refreshed, I might post it later.

Live long and prosper…

Saturday, June 05, 2004

so true, yet so hard to remember...

From Eknath Easwaran:

In the ultimate analysis, our resentments and hostilities are
not against others. They are against our own alienation from our
native state, which is cosmic consciousness, Christ-consciousness,
Krishna-consciousness. All the time we are being nudged by some
latent force within us, trying to remind us what our native state
is. Our senses are turned outwards and we are adepts at personal
profit and pleasure, so we do not like to hear these little
reminders; but the needling goes on.

Friday, June 04, 2004

our unconscious collective

couple of posts to a sociology list about our "sleeping" collective, that if awakened, we could really change the way things are...

posted on 6/2/04:

I try and get students to realize that simply by "going through the motions" each day they create the structure of our society...coming to class they maintain the institution of education, buying stuff, they maintain the institution of the economy, paying taxes, they maintain the institution of gov't, etc. I try and emphasize that WE are society, it is not something "out there."

I think that if a one-day national embargo against Exxon, Mobil, whomever worked, i.e., around the country NO ONE bought any gas from Exxon, Mobil, etc., people would have tangible evidence that it is US that is the economy, US that is "the market," etc. Getting this to occur is quite another matter, as evidenced by it not happening yet.

I do think that most people need to witness the effects of our collective behavior to truly get a sense of how we "create" society through all of our daily actions.

As such, IMO, we really CAN create any society that we want -- it is simple to do something different, but it is not easy. This is true for individuals and especially true for groups/cultures (the not being easy part).

I also get students to think about group arrangements that support human thriving (a "good" family, a Buddhist monastery, some schools, etc) and ask them to identify what it is about those arrangements, the cultural content of those structures, that consistently promotes and maintains human thriving. Once we identify those, then I say, "Well, all we got to do now is get those things going on a national/global basis..." How does that happen? Everyone acting in accordance with what we identified, creating that kind of social arrangement every day through their daily actions.

Simple, but not easy.

In short, we create the current structures, why not create some different ones? As sociologists, we know how structures are created, the question is, what KIND of structures should be created? This past weekend I presented a workshop on "Human Rights as Organizing Principles for Family/Community Life" at a home-schooling conference. Granted, they are eruo-centric and could use some updating, but IMO, the UDHR is one place to start.

posted on 6/3/04:

(My perspective was challenged as being naive and individualistic)

This is not what I was saying. I was saying something similar to Marx, actually, and that is, if we as a collective realize that we ARE a collective and we can use our collective power to create something (which is what we do anyway), why not create something that truly promotes human thriving?

I do, however, think that individual actions can and do make a difference. Do they radically change the social structure? Guess it depends on whom the person is that is acting. I suspect that ANY action could have a profound effect given the right circumstances. I am surely not going to stop doing things that I think are beneficial simply because I think they won't make a difference -- isn't this characteristic of the apathetic malaise that infects our culture currently to some extent?

I think that if there is naiveté in this perspective it lies with all of us whom think that we can do nothing and so we don't. Again, the issue is the "class consciousness" that needs to occur -- doesn't really matter what the trigger is, what matters is that it arises.

I certainly don't think that classroom teaching is the sole way of getting the world to be different. In fact, I think that "education" has little effect in making things different. The factors that I am familiar with, that, IMO, DO have an influence are desire and motivation.

Right now, many folks' desire and motivation are purely self-centered -- "Gotta get what I want and need and make sure no one gets it before me or takes it away once I get it" -- this is the American way, yes?

Hard to think about others and making the world a better place when you are obsessed with getting all you can before you die (and rising gas prices, the threat of terrorism forever on the horizon, etc.)

Education can only have so much effect on this kind of orientation to life.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004


Spent this last weekend here -- what a wonderful oasis from the (sur)real world we currently inhabit. To be surrounded by sane, caring, parents who actually are interested in trying to do what is best for their children is inspiring. The kids are just anecdote...

I was walking through the lobby on Sunday, late afternoon and noticed this tween boy putting up his laptop. I asked him if the wi-fi was working in that area. He said it was. I told him how it hadn't worked for me, blah, blah, blah. Then he asked me how he could organize a session to teach other kids how to write computer games. Now, this was on Sunday, the second (and last full day) into the conference. I told him to talk to the two organizers, tell them what he wanted to do, get a room and then let people know about it. I mentioned that the talent show was coming up that night and that the MC could announce all the details then. He said okay, thanked me, and we parted company.

I saw him again at the talent show, pointed out one of the organizers to him, and he said that had decided to just invite people by word of mouth.

Twenty minutes later, he is walking around the dance floor on his hands -- one of his many talents that he received much applause for.

At midnight, I went to the auditorium to watch a horror film by one the presenters at the conference. I had attended his session on Saturday entitled, "How to make a movie for under $1,000" and had wanted to see one of his features.

I go into the room, and here is the tween whom I had spoken to earlier, with a handful of other kids, and he has his laptop hooked up to an LCD projector and is holding a class on how to create computer games.

Fortunately, the movie director didn't show up -- if he had, I would have told him that the kids got here first and we were out of luck.

amazing what kids can do if given some support, space, and opportunity.