Friday, August 26, 2005

The Cure for Corporate Vertigo

We live in a corporate culture: our government, media, businesses, and even religious organizations (as we saw in the example of Pat Robertson) are guided by the same occupy-and-conquer action plan. Every occupation must begin with an invasion, so attack is the first movement in this corporate strategy; next comes conquest. And there's no better way to subdue a people than to feed them a steady diet of lies; the more they contradict both common sense and even each other, the more effective are the lies likely to be toward their purpose, which is total subjugation—the silence of apathy and despair.

At no time is this strategy more strenuously tested, or more rigorously applied, than in those moments where the corporate agenda is threatened with the mounting volume of popular discontent. The polls now tell us that the Bushies have reached new lows for approval ratings—and this runs the gamut of Washington vacationers, from Mountain Bike Flash himself (40% approval; 58% disapproval) to Cheney (35% / 60%) to the Republican Congress (32% / 64%).

But guess what—the Democrats in Congress are receiving the same treatment (31% / 65%). To me, it says that the scales are falling fast off the eyes of the People. We are beginning to perceive that it's not just a single party, group, or institution that is failing us—it is rather the hegemony of institutions per se that is killing and oppressing the people and the Earth. This is the point that I start from in my new book:

The times and the challenges that we face—both as a culture and as individuals within that culture—are painful and formidable. In many respects, our institutions have failed us. Our religions have failed us; our governments have failed us—they have brought us little more than guilt, oppression, global war, and the destruction of our Earth, which has now reached a point of truly critical and life-threatening mass.

We are, indeed, in a time of estrangement. What I mean by that is the psychological effect of the dizzying pace of predatory action and corporate spin; collective violence and media coverup; the insidious decrepitude and bland disguise that have infected our culture and our nation in particular. As the body counts mount higher and faster, we are told that "we are winning"; as the Earth heats up and becomes further poisoned by the pace of industrial greed, we are informed that we have a "clean skies initiative" that is already taking care of everything; as life becomes more and more difficult and painful for the middle and lower economic classes, we are told that the statistics tell a completely different and positive story of growth and expansion (see Krugman's column in today's New York Times).

It's a phenomenon that I call "corporate vertigo": we are meant to feel as if we're being whipped along on a hyper-paced treadmill, with not the remotest hope of stopping its motion anywhere in the near future. An even better metaphor might be that of being trapped in a blender with the puree switch engaged: we just leap about amidst the whirling, random spray of destruction and spin in the hope of avoiding being caught in the blades.

How can one survive corporate vertigo, let alone cease its pervasive motion? The first step is to arm yourself with facts—this is your defense against the FOX propaganda of our age. For example, as Krugman points out, the improving statistics on wages can be largely traced to an average 54% increase in corporate executives' salaries last year. What if you got a 54% pay raise today—how would your life change? Another good source of fact comes to us today in the Center for American Progress's "memorandum to President Bush", here. Read it through carefully—you don't have to memorize it or anything; just catch its direction, its feeling of urgency.

The main point now is that, as Congress returns from its month-long vacation, and while the President continues his never-ending Holiday of Death, we cannot indulge in complacency just because some poll numbers appear to be pointing in the right direction. Complacency is exactly what got us into this horrible swamp of occupation, deceit, spin, and economic stagnation: the slightest easing up now will only suck us further deeper into the pit of loss.

Bush's response to the overwhelming voice of the American people is to stick to the same old lies: we are winning the war, and if we stop now, Osama, Zarqawi, and his army of madmen will be in your hometown tomorrow, tossing bombs and spreading anthrax at the corner of Main St. and Maple. The only solution is to keep killing Iraqis at random, while ignoring Osama, wherever he is. Back home, let the tax cuts to the rich continue while the rest of us take the soaring national debt onto our shoulders, to be passed along to our children at the appropriate time.

The institutions of fundamentalist Christianity provide the same answers as those of fundamentalist Islam: KILL. Kill anyone who can be remotely perceived as an enemy, whether they're from Iraq, Iran, Cuba, or Venezuela. Jesus and his message are no longer viable in today's world: we must retro-write the Bible to give more credibility to the God of Vengeance and Slaughter.

The response of the corporations is similar to these others: send in your underpaid or outsourced labor force after the armies of death; make whatever profits can be collected for as long as the money's there; and then vanish while you reward the executives who direct operations from a cozy boardroom with another bag of millions. Meanwhile, let's get a few more pimple-faced burger-flippers working at Wendy's so we can point to improving economic statistics in countering those nay-sayers like Paul Krugman.

Once you're clear about the realities, form your own unique response to the various puddles of spin. Let your interests and your inner truth guide you: I spend a lot of my time and energy working with spiritual and psychological issues, so I am drawn in that direction in countering the spin. You may know a lot more about the economics, or the science, or the legal or sociological aspects of it: every voice is distinct, as long as it can be heard.

The fact of the matter is that this is not a time for wonkish debate or hairsplitting semantics. It's a time for straight-shooting, heart-rending facts, and those come from the lived experience of a free people, freely told. So even if you know nothing about international geopolitics or global economics, but instead have a family member who is in Iraq, or if you have ever worked at Wal-Mart or its corporate ilk, you are the expert we need now to speak up and be heard by the forces of Power.

Consult your experience and your feelings, and take it from there. Then use the Internet, the press, the mail, and your own social network in making yourself heard (for starters, you can check some of the links in the Blogroll at right, especially the AfterDowningStreet site and FAIR's media contact listing).

It begins and endures from within your heart. Cindy Sheehan was a seemingly powerless, anonymous mother who had no public voice, no place to stand and be heard. Well, the whole world is listening to her now. Yes, she was led by grief and desperation; but she also got her facts straight, and that's made her an insuperably difficult person to dismiss or to drown in spin.

This is not a matter of waiting till the next election—the urgency is too great, the danger is too pressing for us to hope that another November will bring us justice or even a little relief. We've made that mistake already, and we can't afford to make it again. Let your heart lead you; then follow its clarion voice to those places where it can connect with others and carry you to the center of consciousness and action that is immune from the disease of corporate vertigo.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Paths to the Spirit

Before we begin, a recommendation and a warning: for those of us without cable TV, Norm Jensen's great site, is our only access to that jewel of cable TV programming, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Well, I think I pulled a rib cage muscle while watching this one (just open the video at that link)—it may be the funniest Stewart skit I've seen. It is hilarious, but it might hurt. Well, you've been warned.

Another excellent point in the firmament of the blogosphere that you may wish to explore and bookmark is our link of the week, Current Era. Here you'll find some of the backstory that gets missed by the mass media amid their obsession with the obvious, the Rovespin, and the scandalous. Sites like Current Era have helped to lead this country toward the critical-mass point that we're at now, where the tide of public opinion has done a near-180 degree turn from where it was a year ago—even in the so-called Red States.

Need proof? You can check out the polls. But what about the response to Cindy Sheehan's appearance in Crawford—particularly how even the mainstream media has retreated from the chickenhawks' efforts to demonize her as a tool of liberal advocacy groups, or the performance of Paul Hackett in the Ohio Congressional election?

As bad as things are, there is tremendous potential in a moment like this—an opportunity to cut clear through to the exposing and discarding of the underlying ideologies that have brought us to this time of global hell. Just watching Paul Hackett on the Maher show, and realizing that this fellow lost by a whisker an election in which he shouldn't have had a claimer's or a Nader's chance, was enough to reinforce my confidence about the future.

This is why I'm attempting a small contribution toward shaking the ground that the fundamentalist house of cards stands upon: people are already wondering how a fellow like Bush could imagine that God directly advises him to go off and destroy a foreign country that has done the U.S. no harm. I want them to go another step beyond that and ask, "where did we get this notion in the first place that God is someone or something that works via revenge, destruction, and deceit?" If enough people rigorously ask those kinds of questions, then tyranny will no longer have any ground to stand on, because its programmatic lies will have been flushed out of the consciousness of the citizenry, one person at a time.

Voters with clear minds make the right choices: the government they choose tends to endure. It all begins within the heart of each individual. A truly secular society is not a spiritless one: it has simply cleared out from its heart the medieval prejudices of institutional religion. We do not have that yet in America; but we're getting there.

One way to get there will be to follow the leadership of our sciences. This is why, in writing my most recent book, Drinking From the Darkness, I found myself discussing Einstein in the midst of a chapter about relationships. I discovered that just as Einstein, Bohr, and other scientists have developed a fresh understanding of gravity as a principle of attraction rather than merely of mass; just so must we come to the realization that love is not about falling, but rather about connection.

So what does that have to do with encouraging a spiritual renewal in society? Everything. If we can take the dull weight of sentimentality and falsehood out of our most intimate and personal relationships, then we are sure to realize a concomitant cleansing of all our social relationships—including those that we form between leaders and the led; managers and employees; government and citizens; God and the human race. It's all about turning within and killing the ideas that will otherwise inevitably kill us.

What caused the deaths of 3,000 people at the World Trade Center nearly four years ago? What has killed tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis and nearly 2,000 of our soldiers? What was responsible for the genocides in Bosnia, in Rwanda, in Sudan?

Sure, there's power and greed at work in these situations—no reasonable person would deny that. But if that's where we leave it—blame the whole thing on the "ugly side" of human nature, we are stopping far short of a whole understanding.

Bush says that God—specifically, Jesus—told him to destroy Iraq and start the madness that now embroils and divides this nation. Osama says that God—specifically, Allah—told him to kill as many Americans and other "infidels" as possible, in whatever way he and his followers can.

Whether or not these beliefs are pale rationalizations serving private designs matters less than the fact that people accept them. It is up to us as individuals living in the way of Nature to boldly and plainly tell these people that we reject their false brand of spirituality. That, in essence, is what a grieving mother did last week in Crawford, Texas: Cindy Sheehan said to Mountain Bike Flash, "tell me what your war's noble cause was and is; tell me what God said to you that caused you to send my son to his death."

To this point, she has received no answer.

That's because there is no answer: as I said before, if we take that vapid religious rationalization away from Power by refusing to assent to its stupid sentiment, then we accomplish two things. We destroy the base upon which tyranny supports itself, and we recover a natural spirituality for ourselves.

If you'd like to get a clearer and more personal idea of how God works, of what It truly is, then I'd suggest following the lead of Science. It doesn't have the answers, but what it does have is the perspective that each of us can draw upon in forming a unique understanding that penetrates the thin veil of piety put forward by the agents of terror and tyranny. Try reading one of Brian Greene's entertaining and illuminating books; or go to a website like The Global Consciousness Project to see real evidence of universal consciousness at work. You don't have to understand all the technical stuff: all you have to do is see that there is so much more to life, mind, and the universe than you have been told is there.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Way to Abundance

I'd like to remain on the topic of shopping with a couple of quotes. The first, according to my new policy (announced yesterday), is from my new book:

One of the favorite techniques that a collective ideology will employ on us is to present seemingly simple and positively shallow statements of what it refers to as Fact, and then arrange these statements in a logical, syllogistic order that defies examination or debate, such is the apparent power of its compelling, A-to-B-to-C logic. See, for example, if you can detect any weakness or fallacy in the following argument:

“I am insufficient.” That is to say, “I can't do or accomplish everything that needs doing or creating in this world; I am born into this life dependent and needy, and remain so in one way or another throughout my life.” This is what I call the “premise of Lack”.

“I must therefore go outside myself to obtain what I lack.” Or, I must externalize my sense of lack—blame it on someone or something else. In any event, I am taught to strive for what I am told that I lack. Perhaps I lack education, or social standing, or fame, money, certain possessions or entitlements—the “stuff” that is lacking varies, but the deep projection of Lack is always there. You can already see the seeds of emotional consumerism in this statement.

“The world cannot provide for everyone—the proof is in all the Want that we see around us. Therefore, I must struggle against others to obtain what I lack.” In other words, I can only achieve or obtain prosperity, abundance, happiness, etc., at the expense of, or ahead of, others. Thus in our so-called civilized culture, we occasionally witness mob scenes at shopping malls in which consumers trample their neighbors to beat them to an advertised bargain.

Incidentally, we see this phenomenon enacted fairly regularly in our society, most recently in an alarming mob scene over some old Apple laptops. It all boils down to a kind of addiction, which is insidiously reinforced within our culture. Thus, our second quote, from Ernest Becker, from his masterpiece, The Denial of Death: “Modern man is drinking and drugging himself out of awareness, or he spends his time shopping, which is the same thing.”

The Wal-Mart culture is a culture of addiction. As I mention in my book (drawing upon Karen Horney's insights from Neurosis and Human Growth), it is the mechanical mutation of a natural need (for food, comfort, nurturance of body or mind, etc.) into a claim—a neurotic demand made by the loud and rigid voice of ego. It is no wonder, then, that a Wal-Mart culture is so defined by misery and death (mainly among the clientele and the hired help, but also even amid the opulence of the corporate family itself)—it is fueled, after all, by the pale energy of inner death. Its obsession with, and addiction to appearances thinly veils its essential inner vacuity.

When all we know is claim, we can never understand a gift; when possession absorbs us, abundance is lost amid the crush of competition. The grasping hand of possession, once denied, easily becomes a fist; it can no longer receive but only punish. It's one thing when it is isolated to the mall; but when it becomes embedded in a society and its laws of both religion and state, then the trouble really begins. We've been governed by that trouble for nearly five years now.

There was a woman comedienne (Joan Rivers, I think), who once said, "when we talk to God, it is called prayer, but when God talks back to us, it is called schizophrenia."

This joke does an excellent job of pointing out the trouble with religion: it makes itself (and anyone who listens for the voices of the quantum realm) crazy in the eyes of the collective. I get this all the time, most recently from the lady I wrote about earlier this month, who wondered if I was being "scientological" for using the I Ching the way I do. And then there's the O'Reilly crowd that would brand one such as I as a tree-hugging freak who hates America, Budweiser, and football (two out of three ain't bad, Bill—but I still love America). So the equation of mysticism and spirituality is a real problem, and it becomes an enormous problem when it gets tangled up in Law. If you'd like to get an idea of how big a problem, just watch for the next "Justice Sunday."

Moses was an avowed mystic, for example, and we are to this very moment still struggling to get out from under the massive stone tablature of Commandment that his mysticism dropped onto our heads. Hell, we're still arguing about it in our highest courts and legislatures, not to mention wasting valuable air time in the media over what should be a dead issue.
To me, the ultimate in spiritual understanding is the realization that when a bush burns, nothing comes of it but smoke and ashes. Then it's simply a matter of clearly sensing that they too, are alive with consciousness.

So if you wish to come to know yourself and the universe a little better, open your clenched fist. Let Wal-Mart go on without you (you don't have to "boycott it"—just let it go, that's all). See what happens as you relax the inner grasp of claim and let it unfold into the open palm of receptivity. This is the way to Abundance.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Exiling the Lawgivers from the Psyche

There was a woman comedienne, I forget exactly which one, who once said, "when we talk to God, it is called prayer, but when God talks back to us, it is called schizophrenia."

This joke does an excellent job of pointing out the trouble with religion: it makes itself (and anyone who listens for the voices of the quantum realm) crazy in the eyes of the collective. I get this all the time, most recently from the lady I wrote about in my other blog who accused me of being "scientological" for using the I Ching the way I do. And then there's the O'Reilly crowd that would brand one such as I as a tree-hugging freak who hates America, Budweiser, and football (two out of three ain't bad, though Bill: I'm not that crazy about football, and Budweiser sucks). So the equation of mysticism, spirituality, and derealization is a real problem, you might say the biggest problem that fellows like me encounter in society. Moses was an avowed mystic, for example, and we are to this very moment still struggling to get out from under the massive stone tablature of Commandment that his mysticism dropped onto our heads. Hell, we're still arguing about it in our highest courts and legislatures.

To me, the ultimate in spiritual understanding is the realization that when a bush burns, nothing comes of it but smoke and ashes. Then it's simply a matter of clearly sensing that they too, are alive with consciousness.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Worst President Ever???

<— Worst Ever? —>

(um...we report, you decide)

Today we welcome Mr. Terence McKenna back to the blog, as we try to decide who wins the palm for most incompetent and destructive President in the history of this great nation. There are several contenders, and as always we welcome feedback that contains your vote.

First, I want to post this note that I got from Freya about yesterday's entry. It is a reminder that, when it comes to the most important questions (which are usually posed by children), there are many right answers. Freya's response is one of them.

I had a terrible fight with my mother once, during the start of a 4th of July parade, in front of about 300 people. My youngest son had asked why everyone stood when the flag passed. I told him that he could stand or not stand if he wanted to. That the American flag "says that everybody here has a choice and we love it so much, most of us choose to stand...". My mother then decides to brainwash my flesh and blood and told him that no, we have to stand if we are "good Americans" and that he is a "bad boy" if he doesn't..."get up".

Thus the fight ensued.

Thank you very much for posting your insight on our 'tradition' of the Pledge of Allegiance in classrooms. Hopefully, it wil encourage people to THINK.

And now, Mr. McKenna, the blog is yours:

I just finished a short biography of General Grant that focused on his presidency. For those who don't follow such things, Grant's presidency has long been considered one of the worst, the very embodiment of the excesses of the gilded age. I wonder if future generations will look at the administration of George Bush Jr. as the embodiment of our excesses.

All of Bush's policies are suspect. But for today's blog, let's focus on 2 issues that continue to loom large in news and punditry: energy and national security.

GW did not create the current energy crisis, but the business interests that support him have long supported the over-reliance on the free market that has led to our current dilemma. It could have been different. Had the Congress passed improved mileage standards-let's say 20 years ago-and had we found some way to restrict suburban sprawl, we'd have real options now. The Europeans have long prepared for today's oil shock with high energy taxes. In European cities and towns, a person can survive without a car, and their heating standards are modest compared to ours (they put on a sweater when cold, we turn up the heat). Their single useful energy measure, the CAFÉ standard, is 30 years old.

But our new energy bill does nothing to lessen the demand for more oil; to the extent that it succeeds, we will only end up guzzling even more oil. Time is not on our side: 30 years ago, the US was more centralized. You who live in the NYC area may not know it, but in the rest of the US, vast corridors around our cities have been developed into impenetrable suburbs. So where 30 years ago, we could have grafted mass transit on top of existing housing, for many suburbs, this is now impossible.


National security is another area where we blithely continue with policies. The current War on Terror is just a cover for what the US has been doing since WW2. At first (in Korea and Viet Nam) we fought with our own troops, then we decided to use surrogates - the war in Angola is one example, the fight against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua is another. The terrorists that we are fighting now are the very spawn of the Mujahidin that we funded in Afghanistan. If we examine our successes we see little evidence of our benefiting from years of aggression. For example: South Korea may be counted a success, but it took 4 decades of support to turn it from a right wing military dictatorship to an industrial state with elections (is it a democracy? probably) - but we also have an embittered and militarized North Korea whose only cash product is weapons. Who can say that doing nothing 55 years ago would not have been better for all of us? And for all of our troubles in Nicaragua (remember Iran Contra) we have one of the poorest nations in the region, one saddled with debt and with an extremely unjust distribution of wealth. For comparison: infant mortality in Nicaragua is 29.1 per 1000 births, in Cuba it is 6.3 (in the USA it is 7.0 - way to go USA!).

With Iraq, we are back to using our own troops (for all of the talk of coalition forces, this war is an American parade). But the failure is the same. We can't seem to learn that it is near impossible to control human behavior or history. And by and large, people don't like being led by foreigners. Nor do they want to be preached to. So maybe it's time for a little benign neglect with regard to world affairs. Let's just let people be. (Yes, a lot of evil will be done, but evil and good abound in human affairs - and will continue to do so whether the US is involved or not).

If we really want to influence human behavior, we should redirect our efforts to the home front - and start with making it hard to own gas guzzling cars and harder to construct energy consuming suburbs.

—T. McKenna

Incidentally, on the matter of Homeland Security: see this article for an illustration of how out of touch with reality the Bushies are these days. Note that the judge who delivered the decision stopping the Administration from suspending labor rights for so-called "operational urgencies" is, in fact, a Bush appointee.

Now when your own picks for the judiciary are starting to behave like the "activist judges" that the Bushies love to hate, you know that it's time for a reality check.

But we all know that these people are incapable of any relationship with reality. Last year, the tune was, "wait till the Iraqi elections—everything will be better after then." Right now, the story is, "just wait till the Constitution is done, and see how much better things become." Next we will be fed, "as soon as the next set of elections happens in December, we're going to see the insurgency disappear and all our sacrifices will be proven worthy."

It's a different story every day, a different set of delayed expectations every month, while the death tolls for both soldiers and civilians mount. So our job now is to join Cindy Sheehan and countless other Americans (62% of us, according to the latest polls) in insisting that this war is wrong, always was, and needs to be ended immediately.

It would also help for as many of us as possible to add to the crescendo on the matter of impeachment. When a group of madmen are this divorced from reality, this steeped in crimes against humanity, this embedded in a nest of lies and distortions—ridding the nation and the world of them with the full force of Article II, Section 4, of the U.S. Constitution is the only sensible option left.

For more on the disarray and derealization of the Bushies at this moment, Frank Rich's column in Sunday's New York Times ("Someone Tell the President the War is Over") is a delightful must-read.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The Vast Disconnect from Reality

How distant from reality are the Bushies these days? On the matter of Homeland Security: see this article for an illustration of how out of touch they are. Note that the judge who delivered the decision stopping the Administration from suspending labor rights for so-called "operational urgencies" is, in fact, a Bush appointee.

Now when your own picks for the judiciary are starting to behave like the "activist judges" that the Bushies love to hate, you know that it's time for a reality check.

But we all know that these people are incapable of any relationship with reality. Last year, the tune was, "wait till the Iraqi elections—everything will be better after then." Right now, the story is, "just wait till the Constitution is done, and see how much better things become." Next we will be fed, "as soon as the next set of elections happens in December, we're going to see the insurgency disappear and all our sacrifices will be proven worthy."

It's a different story every day, a different set of delayed expectations every month, while the death tolls for both soldiers and civilians mount. So our job now is to join Cindy Sheehan and countless other Americans (62% of us, according to the latest polls) in insisting that this war is wrong, always was, and needs to be ended immediately.

It would also help for as many of us as possible to add to the crescendo on the matter of impeachment. When a group of madmen are this divorced from reality, this steeped in crimes against humanity, this embedded in a nest of lies and distortions—ridding the nation and the world of them with the full force of Article II, Section 4, of the U.S. Constitution is the only sensible option left.

For more on the disarray and derealization of the Bushies at this moment, Frank Rich's column in Sunday's New York Times ("Someone Tell the President the War is Over") is a delightful must-read.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

"The Magic of Meditation"

The stuff I teach and write about on these pages and through I Ching Counseling's various programs is not mysterious, arcane, complex, difficult, or mystical. It is just what we can do to make ideas and action flow a little more smoothly through the often rock-strewn stream of Life. For that matter, it's not even "magical," though it may often appear that way (which is one reason why I've written about the connection between the life guided by meditation and the themes of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter stories).

I was reminded of this by a Newsweek feature article about film director David Lynch. Lynch, of course, is the creator of Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive, and the TV series Twin Peaks. He has discovered that a simple daily practice of meditation opens the gates of creativity in every corner of life (both the common tasks of daily living and the areas we normally think of as "creative"); and keeps them open. This is what Chinese medicine refers to as "opening the microcosmic orbit"—a reference to keeping the flow of life-force, or chi, unobstructed in the vital neurochemical energy paths that are distributed through and around the body-center.

Lynch also makes an important point about how the societal institutions of education have utterly failed us in this regard. He says:

My schooling was a total waste of time, even though I went to what was a very good high school. I wish that I’d had consciousness-based education. I would have been a lot further down the road. The problems and the stress at younger and younger ages--it’s getting worse instead of better.

Compare this with the discussion of the school experience in Western culture from my new book, Drinking From the Darkness: Living Completely in a Time of Estrangement:

For most students in school, the day starts in a hilariously misnamed place called “Homeroom.” Most of us would feel more at home inside a refrigerator. Anyway, the first activity of the day in Homeroom is usually a collective reading of a nationalistic catechism, which goes as follows:

I pledge allegiance to the flag
Of the United States of America
And to the Republic
For which it stands:
One nation, under God, indivisible,
With liberty and justice for all.

By most accounts, this is the creation of a radical socialist ideologue named Bellamy—a man who seems like the type of fellow who might get a White House press pass these days. Why he thought that children needed to begin their day by pledging allegiance to a flag is as opaque to me as the notion of placing one's hand on a book filled with the stories of a violent, deceitful, and vengeful God while one promises to speak the truth in court or serve one's country as an elected official. But if we as supposedly mature adults have given up questioning such practices, how can we expect a six year old kid to do it? So we have to examine carefully the effects that this sort of a daily ritual has upon our psyche, and how it becomes generalized: from the understanding gained, we will be better able to disperse the falsehood projected into us by this bizarre rite.

As we do throughout this book, we begin by making sure we have a clear grasp of the meaning of the words employed. “Allegiance” is defined as “the act of binding yourself” or “the loyalty that citizens owe to their country or subjects to their sovereign.” So, in pledging allegiance, we are binding ourselves in payment of a perpetually recurring debt (“owed loyalty”) to a nation, a Republic, a flag.

Yes, a flag: a colored piece of cloth. Not to the Earth; not to the Universe; and least of all to ourselves and our unique and indissoluble connection with the Cosmic Source of our being. No: we are pledging a presumably eternal, or at least lifelong, debt of loyalty and attachment to the flag of a particular tribe and its state. Everything points toward a collective—the in-group and its binding claim upon our psyche—even “liberty and justice” are “for all.” But not for each. This is the suppression of the individual at such a comprehensive and fundamental level that it can be said to lay the groundwork for all future “pledges of allegiance” to come in the life of each person who accepts their unyielding terms. We have seen this narrow projection at work already in the marriage vows and the Cult of Hard Work; we will meet it again in the discussion of Fear and Competition in Chapter 5. Not merely does it set the tone of the child's day—it sets the tone for his entire life.

What if kids started their day with a one-minute meditation instead of being forced to mouth a "pledge" to some industrial-strength sewing? There needn't be any particular instructions or ideology accompanying this minute of silence—in fact, it would be just as bad if there were any such pedantry attached to it, no matter how holistic and well-intended its direction. If the experiences of David Lynch, myself, and many other people are any indicator, such a simple practice might be a formative element in a revolution in education, and therefore in society. This is why, by the way, I speak of "Daily Revolution" in this weblog.

What's keeping us from such a revolution? Is it the fault of government, of corporate or political leaders? Well, not really. In fact, to look for someone to blame for all this is sort of like looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. It would be much better if each of us looked within himself and herself for the obstruction preventing the flow of progress and the way clear of that blockage.

In the matter of educating our children, that's where we have to begin. As I also mention in the chapter of my book that I quote from above, if we can't clear the mud of conditioning that defines our own inner darkness, then we can't expect our children to follow us out into the light.

We, the so-called grownups—have to turn within and heal ourselves. If we do, then our kids will naturally follow us, and each will learn his and her own unique path into the light of creativity, learning, growth, and healing. The first step is to discard all those inner and outer voices that tell you, "this does no is impossible to transform the world by looking within yourself." For indeed, there is no other place to look for the kind of change we all desire.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Deep South, Deep Delusion

It seems Jimmy Hall can't make up his mind about Cindy Sheehan: is she a traitor—a dangerous criminal plotting to destroy the U.S. of A.—or a mere "fool" exercising her Constitutional right to dissent? Well, why not just say she's both and let God sort out the truth? That's exactly what Jimmy did.

Well Jimmy, if she's aiding the enemy as you say from one side of your mouth, then maybe you shouldn't be writing about her in a big-city newspaper, but should instead be informing the police or the Attorney General. Or is a column like yours the modern equivalent of a good-ol' boys, Stars-n-Bars lynch mob? You know, Deep-South justice?

But if she's being a free American—albeit a "foolish" and "disgraceful" one—expressing dissent under the protections granted by the Bill of Rights (this is the message that drips out the other side of your gob), then she's not aiding the enemy—she's helping America by promoting the conversation of democracy. See if you can put that monster-truck mind of yours to work on this little conundrum, Jimmy, and let us know what you come up with.

Meanwhile, the rest of us can send a letter to the editor of the Atlanta newspaper that printed this strange rant.

By the way, Jimmy, are the red eyes in the photograph your natural color? Personally, I like the look—Foster Brooks was a big favorite of mine, and you're the spittin' image.

I think the last word on all this should belong to Cindy Sheehan. Let's listen to her...

"...the people who flew those planes into the Trade Center, were they from Iraq? You tell me the truth. You tell me that my son died for oil. You tell me that my son died to make your friends rich. You tell me my son died to spread the cancer of Pax Americana, imperialism in the Middle East. You tell me that, you don't tell me my son died for freedom and democracy."

Here's a great page from which you can get yourself heard: Awaken the Media

And here's a place where you can join the campaign for impeachment: Impeach Bush

Finally, I know this is fairly serious stuff, which a lot of people would find simply too painful and depressing. So remember to have fun with it—to recall the energy of joy that arises when there is true community. As deluded as these brutal tyrants may be, we must laugh at them even as we expose them for what they truly are. There's probably nobody better at that than Jon Stewart (just click the link and open the video you see for a hilarious illustration).

There's also the inimitable Mark Morford, whose response to his neocon hate mail is a must-read.

If we fall silent into the vacancy of despair, then Bush and the other terrorists of this world win; and the shrill, hateful voices of Jimmy Hall and the other media slaves of tyrants will also prevail.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Jimmy Dean Highway Bill

I haven't had cable TV since the '80's, and I don't feel as if I'm missing much. In fact, the TV has been turned on about three times this year. I've got an 11 year old kid who needs to grow naturally, and not under the stupefying influence of The Box.

But that's my choice, and I respect those who choose to measure out some portion of TV for their kids. There are, no doubt, a few bright spots on the box, even in this age of reality TV and sycophantic, White House-approved newscasts. One thing I know I'd watch constantly if I could would be The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Fortunately, I get a good enough dose of it courtesy of One Good Move. If you click that link, you'll be taken to a hilarious dose of Stewart, who examines the new highway bill recently passed by Congress and signed into law by Mountain Bike Flash himself. You'll hear about the tobacco road, the $100K traffic lights, and the multi-million dollar bridges that go nowhere.

So as funny as it all is, the effect is in the end nauseating, even if Stewart's treatment of it is gut-bustingly hilarious. What might all that pork do if its value—to say nothing of the $190 billion so far spent on the Iraq war—was directed toward relieving the suffering in Darfur, or the hunger in Niger? Or maybe even a few of our more troubling problems here at home, such as health care and poverty?

And speaking of Niger—is the Bushian disease of psychotic denial of the obvious a contagion that's spreading to other leaders around the world? Check this out: the President of Niger is completely denying that there's any famine in his country,

claiming that his

people "look well-fed" to him. Some people think that we are living in another Dark Age, like the one in Europe over a thousand years back. Looking around the globe and the leaders of its nations, I would tend to call this the "Brain-Dead Age."

So there may or may not be people dying in Niger—every objective international humanitarian organization that's gotten in there certainly thinks so, but to the President, it's a different story: if your ribs aren't actually sticking through your skin, then you're "well fed."

And if you need to get to some island in Alaska where about 40 people live, relax: after about $450 million and another couple of years, you'll be able to get there. If you'd like to thank your leaders in Congress and the White House personally for this favor, by all means go to the links below and start writing.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Smoking the Janja

Go out in the street today, or take a tour of the office and ask a few people what Janjaweed is, and you might hear people say, "oh, I don't smoke that stuff—but I like Bob Marley."

Well, maybe the question itself is not quite precise enough: it's not what Janjaweed is, but who. Though once you understand what the Janjaweed have done, you would be tempted to ask, "what kind of hell-demons are these?"

The Janjaweed, of course, are the brigands who have robbed, raped, starved, displaced, and slaughtered hundreds of thousands of innocents in Darfur. Indeed, the numbers I give may be too low, but it doesn't matter: when it comes to genocide, the statistics don't matter very much except to network news anchors. And since the mass media has joined the U.S. government in turning their collective backs on this situation, the exact numbers matter even less.

Suffice it to say that both the statistics and the horror of this hell-on-earth surpass the death and devastation wrought by the Asian tsunami of 2004. To even take a cursory overview of the carnage numbs the mind and crushes the soul. I realize I've brought this up a few times before in this blog, but as long as it keeps up, and as long as the networks think that Jen's Vanity Fair cover shot rates top billing, we have to keep talking about Darfur and continue to demand justice and healing in Sudan. And we have to continue doing the mass media's work for it, while also insisting that they wake up and do their jobs (watch the video on this link).

After all, it's not that we the people of America are ignorant or hard-hearted about this stuff. According to the Zogby poll quoted at ICG's site, we are an overwhelming—and bipartisan—majority when it comes to this issue:

• 80% agreed that the Janjaweed attacks on civilian populations in Darfur can accurately be called "genocide" or "crimes against humanity", with response higher among Republicans (82%) than Democrats (79%);

• 84% said the U.S. should not tolerate an extremist government committing such attacks and should use its military assets, short of putting U.S. troops on the ground, to help stop them.

Obviously, I have to add that dropping bombs on the crazy bastards is simply going to create more mayhem, just as it has done in Iraq. So what's the solution? A bigger U.N. police force to protect the villages that are most at risk for future depredations? Maybe. Diplomatic pressure applied to other nations in the region, or to our international allies? Perhaps, though there aren't very many bastions of political stability on that entire continent right now, and other countries such as Niger are struggling with crises of nearly equal proportions to that in Sudan.

Clearly, if you have the cash to give to international aid organizations such as the Genocide Intervention Fund, that can only help (the link to their site should be spread far and wide, if only for the compelling video in the opening).

But perhaps as urgent as anything is the simple matter of raising awareness. The New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has kept a running timeline on the number of days between mentions of Darfur from 8-handicap Flash of Crawford, TX. We have to let every politician within shouting range know that the Bushies' idea of international justice—bombing foreign nations that present no threat to the U.S. while turning a blind eye to genocide the next continent over from where our soldiers are dying for no good reason—is not what we-the-people want to endorse with our votes or fund with our tax dollars.

Next come the media: we have to be the dog at the pantlegs of the mass media, and we might have to keep biting for a long time to come. Get used to it, have fun with it, and make a total pest of yourself. Start with the recommendations here, and then add your own creative touches.

We are better than our government. We are stronger; we are wiser; we are braver; we are sure as hell smarter. Let this be your motto—if you will, your mantra—as you continue to strike one match after another at the iron foot of Power. If you have more ideas on how to awaken the world and its purblind governments to the continuing hell of genocide, send them in and I'll post them.

Tuesday, August 9, 2005

The New Leader of the Progressive Movement

I have complained before about a certain fractiousness and disconnection amid the various major arms and voices of the progressive movement. It often seems as if there is a latent competition among the largest and most well-heeled of these organizations to be seen as the Leader of the Progressive Movement. Maybe it's just lousy communication: they certainly don't seem to plan anything together; you can't find a plain old Links page on any of their sites; and there's no visible coordination among the various competitors for the palm of Progressive Leader.

Well, here's my vote for the moment: Cindy Sheehan, the Mom of Casey Sheehan, an American soldier killed in Iraq last year. Ms. Sheehan has drawn a little attention to 8-handicap Flash and his insane war by camping outside the stick man's Texas ranch until she can get a personal audience with the Prince of Petroleum. Good way to ruin a man's vacation.

What is her demand? That the American troops be brought home immediately, in memory of her son's sacrifice and those of the other 1,832 GIs that have died for a rancid pile of lies. In fact, one of the more eloquent statements on this war has been written by Ms. Sheehan, and it's all of 8 paragraphs long and will take you about five minutes to read—take a look at it now (just scroll to about the middle of the page and read "A Lie of Historic Proportions").

Quite a mess you're in now, Dubya: whatcha gonna do now, Flash? This is one of those things that happen when you demand that people die so that you and your friends can reap bigger profits and give one another shiny medals and worshipful praise. You get some Moms and Dads really, really angry. And these Moms and Dads tend not to have any more scruples left for appearances or self-consciousness. In fact, they don't care how they look on TV or what people think about them, because the brightest glow in their lives is now gone—taken from them by your mindless arrogance, Flash.

Let's give the rest of this entry's stage back to Ms. Cindy Sheehan: this is from her account of a meeting she had with the President last year, only two months after her son's death.

"His mouth kept moving," Sheehan later recalled of her meeting with Bush, "but there was nothing in his eyes or anything else about him that showed me he really cared or had any real compassion at all. This is a human being totally disconnected from humanity and reality. His eyes were empty, hollow shells." Bush called her "Ma" or "Mom" throughout the whole meeting, and never got around to learning her name.
"The whole meeting was simply bizarre and disgusting," Sheehan said later. "designed to intimidate instead of providing compassion. He didn't even know our names. I just couldn't believe this was happening. It was so surreal and bizarre. Later I met with some of the other fifteen or sixteen families who were at the White House the same day and, sure enough, they all felt the same way I did."
"Casey was told that he would be welcomed to Iraq as a liberator with chocolates and rose petals strewn in front of his unarmored Humvee" Sheehan wrote in February. "He was in Iraq for two short weeks when the Shi'ite rebel 'welcome wagon' welcomed him to Baghdad with bullets and RPG's, which took his young and beautiful life. Casey was killed after George Bush proclaimed 'Mission Accomplished' on May 1, 2003. Hundreds of our young people and thousands of Iraqis have been needlessly and senselessly murdered since George Bush triumphantly announced an end to 'major combat' almost 2 years ago now. All of the above events have been heralded by this administration as 'turning points' in the 'war on terror' - or as wonderful events in the 'march of democracy.'"
"I believed before our leaders invaded Iraq in March, 2003," said Sheehan in her testimony, "and I am even more convinced now, that this aggression on Iraq was based on a lie of historic proportions and was blatantly unnecessary. The so-called Downing Street Memo dated 23 July, 2003, only confirms what I already suspected: the leadership of this country rushed us into an illegal invasion of another sovereign country on prefabricated and cherry picked intelligence. It appears that my boy Casey was given a death sentence even before he joined the Army in May of 2000."

So, is my nomination seconded? Cindy Sheehan, you are the leader of the progressive movement. I know you didn't mean to be, and would give up all the TV time and the appearances before Congress just to be back home with your son in blissful anonymity. But since it's happened this way, let us follow you.

Monday, August 8, 2005

"Spirituality is for Those Who Have Been to Hell"

"Religion is for those who are afraid of going to hell...spirituality is for those who have been there." This is one of those expressions that can't be traced to an original author or speaker, but is heard and seen on T-shirts, in books, and all over the world wide web (just google it and you'll get about 1,800 results). I've quoted it myself, most recently in my book about the transformative symbols in the Harry Potter stories (you can find it in the download from my Tao of Hogwarts page).

I have long understood that expression to be pointing us toward the difference between fundamentalism and just plain living. As we have seen in many of the discussions here (most recently in the case of Assemblyman Dov Hikind), fundamentalism has a certain rigidity and arrogance about it—an exclusive air of having the market cornered on truth, which often appears as intolerance. Life, on the other hand, has a palpable resilience, flexibility, and buoyancy to it; its truth is fluid and organic.

I was reminded of this by a note I received from a lady who asked me if using the I Ching to help in solving the problems of personal life might be construed as "scientological." It's a fair question which deserves a fair and thorough answer. I'll do my best.

Scientology, of course, has appeared in the public eye in the context of recent comments made by an unfortunately deranged Hollywood actor named Tom Cruise. He appears to have the same kind of stone preconceptions about medicine that Dov Hikind has about social equality. In both cases, there is a ranting note of inflexibility combined with a violent impulse to mute debate by demonizing those who differ with the fixed position. The case of Mr. Cruise is hardly as dangerous as the more insidious position of Hikind's: I have spoken and written myself about the over-medication of our society, and our willingness to deliver ourselves into a slavish dependence on pharmaceuticals. However, most of my clients come to me under medication; occasionally one has asked me whether it makes sense to stop taking the drug (usually an anti-depressant) now that she has chosen to follow a psycho-spiritual way of healing. I tell them all that there is no need to stop taking medicine; but that there may be a need to examine one's inner attitudes and beliefs about pharmacy.

What I mean by that points directly back to the distinction referred to earlier between fundamentalism and living: a pill conceived as a machine, or as a cog inserted into a malfunctioning machine, is a symbol of fundamentalism. But a pill taken into a living, conscious presence, as a single, transient aspect of a multi-dimensional healing path, becomes what the I Ching refers to as a "Helper."

The consciousness—both of the pill and the person taking it—makes all the difference. Now a lot of people would consider me barking mad for imagining that a pill could have consciousness. But that's the crucial point to this whole scenario—that's the part that gets a fellow like Tom Cruise stuck in a ranting ideology of "all medicine is of Satan." What if he paused for just a moment to consider the mere possibility that God resides in the submicroscopic elements of, for example, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (the "Prozac" family of drugs)? To just admit that potential, that a universal quantum Presence resides in a pill, is to begin transforming our ideas about both illness and recovery (for more on this topic, see Peter Kramer's new book, Against Depression).

In other words, Mr. Cruise, if you haven't been to Hell, don't dictate to me how I should avoid it. And even if you have (perhaps that's where you are right now, to judge by the way you've been acting), don't tell me that your way clear of it is the only way out.

Thus, we come back to the path of plain living. My answer to my correspondent would be that the I Ching is not a one-size-fits-all solution to life's problems, or that anyone who hasn't encountered it is somehow fit for damnation or even limited. I teach people that the I Ching is not a holy relic or a set of commandments from a distant and external God—it's just a reference manual for your soul; and one of many at that. I usually add that we can only benefit from the I Ching (or any such psycho-spiritual aid) when we start by detaching ourselves from it as a vessel of sacred wisdom. Once we've shredded that attachment, we can start to get help from innumerable sources in our lives.

This is the way I like to think about God: it isn't a Big Boss in the Sky or a Deliverer From Evil and Inscriber of Stone Commandments. God is an equal, a simultaneously personal and universal Energy that flows through everything—people, animals, plants, and yes, pills—and which works within the field of consciousness. It answers to our deeply-felt needs—whether through an old Chinese book, an astrological chart, a poem, a sutra, or even a prescription—by a principle of quantum gravity that Neils Bohr called "complementarity." Those of us without a deeper understanding of quantum physics simply refer to this principle as Love.

So my answer to that woman's question, "is the I Ching a cult?" would be, "it has been before, and perhaps could be again, whenever it is handled with the iron fists of ego." But wherever it is questioned sincerely from a troubled heart, without demand, expectation, or attachment, it is exactly what it was always meant to be—a helping presence of equivalence in the field of consciousness.


Note about the site: Yes, I know, there's advertising on here now. The problem is that, while I'm getting over a thousand page views a month, nobody's touching the Donation links I have all over the place. Either my content is so crappy that it's not worth a buck or two, or the honor system just isn't working very honorably in these times. Or more likely, that economic recovery we've been hearing so much about in the mass media only applies to the wealthy and the media moguls that spread that kind of horseshit. So I'm resorting to ads for online book shops. I promise to keep them as inconspicuous as is reasonable (they're ads, after all, and are meant to be seen); and I also promise you'll never see any stomp-the-cockroach-and-get-an-ipod junk around here. Nevertheless, I—like many people among us today—have certain financial issues that must be dealt with one way or another. Advertising may help to feed the kitty a little; and I'd also be grateful if you could think about buying my book.

Saturday, August 6, 2005

Grounding the Dov

I will add a few more points about yesterday's topic, because I don't want there to be any misperception about my criticism of Assemblyman Hikind's position.

Let's go back to what the Assemblyman actually said: “It is nice to do what is politically correct but we’re talking about terrorism.”

This kind of a statement contains the seeds of tyranny. It reveals an obsession with mere appearance, and delivers implicitly the demonic accusation that to care about tolerance, fairness, and equality in an open society is nothing more dignified than "political correctness." In other words, it makes the very values that built this nation and helped it to prosper, disposable. It says that because a person has "a certain look" he can be searched, interrogated, detained, and even tortured or murdered.

In other words, and to put this in terms we can understand right now, Assemblyman Hikind is expressing a fundamentalist attitude. It is the same attitude that makes misogyny, homophobia, and corporate oppression into cornerstones of domestic policy (as Mark Morford has pointed out in a recent column). I have written about fundamentalism before in this blog, so I needn't belabor the point here. I will only add that this kind of thinking, and the behavior and policy it breeds, is a danger such as we have not witnessed in this nation since the McCarthy era. Yes, it's even scarier than Dick Nixon or Ronald Reagan, because fundamentalism spawns group panic, and panic breeds mob violence. As in: If you're not with us, you're against us; if you disagree with us, you're one of them—the terrorists, and whatever we do to you is justified in the eyes of God and the Government. That is the voice, the message, of fundamentalism in any flavor—Islamic, Christian, or nationalist.

What astonishes me today is how little discussion there is of this in the media, even here in New York. The Times has had nothing to say of Hikind's paranoia except for this report buried deep in the Metro section. So it's up to us to once again pick up the ball that the mass media repeatedly drop.

Our democracy was founded on a bedrock of insight—that every individual deserves equal protection under the law. This is not a thin veneer of "political correctness"—it is the life's blood and the breath of this nation; and demagogues like Dov Hikind cannot be permitted to steal it from us. We have endured civil war, cold war, and world wars, by remaining true to this principle of social equality that Assemblyman Hikind chooses to dismiss as "political correctness." Now, we must endure the scourge of fundamentalism.

What Dov Hikind labels as "political correctness" is not some "nice" option to be disposed of when times are tough. No: it is instead our core, our center, the heart of a nation founded on principles of equality among humans and humility before God. When political leaders begin to recommend that we stop or discard that heart, then we have reached a moment where fundamentalism is steering us straight toward tyranny. If freethinking people do not speak out to cease this decadent movement, then the gangrene of spirit that has possessed the Bushes and Osamas of our world will also infect us, and we will become the slaves of tyrants.

Friday, August 5, 2005

The Flight of the Dov

“They all have a certain look” explained Hikind, who added, “It is nice to do what is politically correct but we’re talking about terrorism” as he justified his controversial remarks.

It seems like a pretty sorry day here in Brooklyn: our State Assemblyman, Dov Hikind, called on city officials to arrange for racial profiling of potential terrorist bombers in New York City, under the new "random inspection" order here. My first reaction was, "here we go, back to the beloved mid-20th century—McCarthyism and the KKK."

But then I thought that maybe I'd better walk a few steps (I don't think I could handle a mile) in the Dov's shoes, and see whether there's any substance to his psychosis. So here we go...inside the mind of prominent NYS Assemblyman Dov Hikind...

...Those people all look alike—never mind John Walker Lindh and Tim McVeigh—they're the exceptions that prove the rule...we all know how they look...scrawny, kind of a light cocoa-skinned complexion, like smudges on yellow wallpaper...dark-eyed with a short beard, kind of a four-day growth...some of them wear turbans, I think—or is that some other group that's not quite as dangerous? No matter: they've all got that shifty look—dark, sickly, skulking, like stray cats around a garbage dumpster...and of course they all will have backpacks big enough to hold a bomb...or maybe they could even fit it in a shoulder bag...Hell, you could slip a bomb into an unabridged copy of War and Peace...but wait, those people can't read, or at least they don't read our books...only their weird Bible—the name of it starts with "K" or "Q" depending on which crazy sect or cell they're connected to...Shit, they can't even settle on how to spell the name of their Bible and they call it the word of God! Maybe we should see about banning that book, anyway, under the Patriot Act or something, since it tells those people that they have to come to New York and kill us all and themselves, too...Yeah, those Arabs...that's what they're like, the slimy bastards....I could spot one of these terrorists a mile away...

In response, the NYPD, God bless them, released a terse statement saying: "Racial profiling is illegal, of doubtful effectiveness, and against department policy."

Listen, Dov: if you're scared, that's fine. Many of us are. But there's a big difference between fear and panic. Learn the difference, and know that there are lots of us out here in the real world that don't spend most of their time safe in Albany, but have to get on that subway every day, with the lurking consciousness that it could be our last ride. So be afraid, and be public about your fear if you have to—just don't spread panic here. If you feel that sick and weak from your fear that you are going to descend into racist paranoia, then quit your job, get the hell out of Albany, out of New York City, and sure as hell out of Brooklyn, and go wherever you think your paranoid schizophrenic ass will be safe. But don't hang around here dragging the people of New York into your cesspool of delusion and bigotry, because we don't need to hear it.

The more we allow ourselves to be influenced by your paranoid ideation, Dov, the more we will become exactly like the enemy we wish to defeat. Our panic would be their victory.

Already, some other nut case, a NYC Councilman appropriately named Oddo, is joining Dov in promoting this hysteria. It's our job as citizens of a democracy to call down these lunatics and expose them and their illness for what they are—the kind of thought and behavior that deserve not debate, but psychopharmaceutical medication.

Thursday, August 4, 2005

Plot Thickening, the Madness Deepens

We all need to read the Washington Post's report of the further depredations and torture committed by Rumsfeld's Psychotic Rats. Note the lies built into the web of torture and murder: even as they were recording the history of this crime, the dementos reported to the press that the poor fellow had died of an unknown illness after delivering lots of useful information about Saddam.

Now we switch to another new report, this one revealing more evidence of secret detentions and extreme rendition by the U.S. government. This pointed and detailed allegation comes from Amnesty International, which is not in the habit of shooting baseless or unfounded complaints into cyberspace. Once again, the report is met with blank denial from a government and a military that cannot raise themselves beyond the level of a toddler in the field of debate. "The Department of Defense does not engage in renditions," said Air Force Maj. Mike Shavers; who then added that no evidence to support this denial could be brought forward, because all their records on individuals in detention are confidential.

Meanwhile, soldiers keep dying and the toll passes 1,800. Back on the ranch, amid bike rides and rounds of golf and cold ones fresh from the Rockies, Our Leader prates on with the denial. He said it's important that our troops keep on dying until the Iraqi government has finished writing its Constitution.

Couldn't we speed this process up, I wonder, and perhaps save a few lives along the way, by helping them out—maybe providing them with a draft of our own old document, dated though it may be? Let's see, how does it start, Dubya?...ah, that's it: "our father, who art in Washington..."

Oh no, that's the other one—equally important, mind you—the Declaration of Stem Cell Independence. The Iraqis need a Constitution—how about it, Flash? Don't hurry now, but after you've putted out on 18 and had a nice lunch, why not ask Karl to fax a copy over to Baghdad so they can finish this thing?

Oh, that's right...Karl's still working on the Intelligent Design Amendment. Ugh.

Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Shed No Tears for Kings

"The vice president will lead the presidential delegation to Riyadh to express condolences on the passing of King Fahd and the accession of King Abdullah," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

Well, Scott, it may be somewhat premature to mourn the accession of Abdullah, but I can assure you of one thing: I am not wetting my cheek over the passing of King Fahd.

First of all, he's a King, and we're Americans. We don't mourn the death of kings; we celebrate them (or have we forgotten about that?). Second, and more to the point, this guy was a crass and bigoted medievalist who oppressed and subjugated women, tortured and murdered men, and continually subverted and resisted democratic reforms in his fiefdom. Along the way, he made himself one of the wealthiest people on earth, took at least three wives and untold mistresses, and held the American economy and its government hostage at the point of a gas nozzle.

Whether Saudi Arabia lurches a little further toward a democratic society under Abdullah remains to be seen; but wouldn't it be a supreme irony for them to approach democracy just as we're abandoning it here in America?

In other news, John Bolton arrived at the U.N. today, and as he had promised, began demolishing the top seven floors. After a brief exchange of glares with Kofi Annan, he then turned to organizing his staff. Masochists from around the nation lined up to embrace the opportunity of working for the geopolitical George Steinbrenner.


And now I know one reason why I'm always shouting into empty space here: the Technorati organization has released its Weblog Inventory, and their findings are amazing. A new blog is appearing online every second; we're up to nearly 15 million of them; and their number has doubled since March of this year. I am in competition with millions of family photo albums, company picnics, and frat house spring break fables.

But the wonder is that there are so many truly good blogs out there, many of which you will see referenced around here. One of my personal favorites is Eric Alterman's blog on MSNBC. Check out his entry today, in which he compares Rafael Palmeiro's crime and punishment with some of the much larger lies fed to us by the lords of government—lies which have, of course, gone so far unredressed and generally unchallenged.

Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Dropping the Ping Pong Balls

"Well, Mr. Green Jeans, if you hadn't gone on vacation, Rabbitt wouldn't have gotten into the lettuce patch..."

So...Captain Kangaroo on steroids is going to the U.N., and the Democrats are very unhappy about that. John Kerry said, "This is not the way to fill our most important diplomatic jobs."

Excellent point, Senator. So I'm going to do something I've not done before in this blog—I'm going to repeat myself:

The astonishing thing about all this to me is that we as citizens even allow Congress to take a month off in the summer—just like that, all at once! Think about your own workplace: could everyone in your entire company, or your department, even, just up and vacate the premises for a week, let alone a month? How can the government get away with this? Why isn't there a million-person march descending on Capitol Hill to protest this madness? Why isn't there a petition with about a hundred million signatures on it, demanding that these people who are paid enormous salaries to represent the people of this nation in the most powerful legislative body on the planet put in the time and the work necessary to accomplish the will of the people? How do we allow this lazy decadence to persist, year after year after bloody year? Incredible.

And how did it get into the Constitution, anyway, that when the cooks are out of the kitchen the dogs can empty the cupboard? Who thought it a good idea to say that the President can do what he damned well pleases whenever Capitol Hill empties out for playtime? Does it work the other way—could Congress rewrite the laws of our land while Bush is on vacation? If so, then they sure have plenty of time and opportunity.

But isn't this all really a wake-up call for some Constitutional revision? I'm not talking about amendments...this requires a cleaning of a two-centuries-old clock that's still ticking to the beat of life in the Rococco era. Can't people see what is directly in front of them?

You don't send 550 people from the legislative arm of the government home all at once—for a whole goddam month! Not when there's a war on and a corruption scandal involving a treasonous act by the P.R. wing of the executive branch and innocent civilians being bombed all over the planet.

So the complacency here runs bipartisanly-deep. The Dems had to see this coming; but their feelings are hurt when Bush whines about the need to overcome "shameful delaying tactics" with this so-called appointment (it's more like a commitment, as in psychiatric). Instead of whining, they should come back to Washington as a unified body and start shaking the dust out of the Constitution.

What if you had to go to the hospital and were told, "oh, you picked a bad time to get's August...the doctors are all on recess. But the administration can provide you with a very competent surrogate who will yell at you and call you names until you're well."

Yes, Bush's remarks were disgusting in their duplicity—how can this guy call shame on anyone when it covers him like flies on fresh shit? But we have to insist on the government, and everyone within the government, clearly seeing and dealing with the underlying and substantive issue here. We aren't in school anymore, and these times we live in sure as hell ain't recess. If you want a vacation from your job, you have to get the approval of your manager. We're the managers of Congress...let's tell them "No Recess—not now!"

Monday, August 1, 2005

Mourning Dumbledore

Last night, my daughter and I mourned Albus Dumbledore. Perhaps there aren't many out there in Blogland who would understand, but that's all right. I was, in fact, watching for this moment.

The kid has been reading the new Potter tome for a week, and as she neared the climactic chapter in which the old Professor is killed, I kept an eye on her. Maybe it's necessary to have a certain feel for literature that others might think rather abnormal or excessive. I recalled my first experience with Dostoyevsky, at about the age of 13, when I physically reeled for days from the effect of an encounter with The Brothers Karamazov. But there was no one around who I felt safe to confide in, and I was a boy: you're not supposed to cry, and certainly not about a book.

I felt the same kind of bond forming between my daughter and this other literary universe of J.K. Rowling. If you read the op-ed page in Sunday's New York Times, then you saw evidence that this sort of bond is not at all rare. It is the connection between one reader's inner truth and the beings that flow from a great writer's heart—this connection, I have found, is often where the deepest insights are discovered. As the sage healer of the American Sioux, Black Elk, once said, "Sometimes dreams are wiser than waking." So also is literature.

Thus, my kid cried last night, once she had learned that the gentle headmaster of Hogwarts had been murdered. And so did I.

We mourned him together. She cleared off a bulletin board in her room and began pinning up pictures and drawings (one of them her own, reproduced here); and then we lay down beside this impromptu altar and contemplated an ending. Whether or not we succeeded in finding any meaning to it doesn't matter as much as that we tried.

You can't skip over Death in the raising of kids, or you do so at great risk. Loss can be the most fertile ground for learning, when it is experienced with feeling and modesty. This, of course, was the direction of Maria's literary experience last night, or at least one of them. How well and fully we handle Death reflects how truly we will live. It is not a matter of "getting over it," but rather of stopping to feel both the loss and the pulse of Life that continues in the field of consciousness, beyond the transformation of the body. Why should it make a difference whether the death is of a pet, a family member, or a beloved character in a story about a magical universe populated by wizards?

We live in an age of violent Death, an era of Terror. Can we raise children in a blissful ignorance of it all? No, of course not. A kid Maria's age has already been through 9/11, and is exposed regularly to the news of death and fear that soaks our culture in the same sense of omnipresent dread that the wizarding folk of Rowling's magical realm live beneath. Lord Voldemort is not a stereotypical or superficial bad guy from a book: he is a living presence among us. He is Osama bin Laden and George Bush and Tony Blair and the rulers of Sudan and all the other madmen who live and rule by power and violence.

Fortunately, Professor Dumbledore is also real—more real, I would say, than Lord Voldemort. He lived a life of joy and modesty, trusting in the spark of truth and beauty that lives, however deeply repressed, in every sentient being. His trust was finally violated beyond correction, and he was killed.

But he is not dead—not in the sense that many of us may assume. Nor are any of the victims of the Voldemort-consciousness of our time. I don't think we can afford to make such an assumption, if we are to have any hope of survival. However, if you happen to believe that death is a cold and rigid termination of consciousness; that there is no life beyond the dissolution of the body; then I cannot convince you to believe otherwise. Nor would I wish you to, anyway—belief contains most of the error that leads us into an Age of Terror. But if we are to have any hope of transformation, of a renaissance from the medieval darkness of our current era, then we had better allow our children the opportunity to discover their own truth about Death. Part of that process may involve staying up very late at night sometimes, to feel together the loss of an old and gentle wizard whose life was guided by the strength of Love.