The Five Allegiances

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The Five Allegiances

“We be of one blood, ye and I” — Mowgli, in The Jungle Book, by Rudyard Kipling

The hierarchy of the five allegiances is: nepotism, tribalism, classism, nationalism, humanism.

Family connection is the emblem of conformity with nepotism.

Group identity is the emblem of conformity with tribalism. That emblem can be: race, religion, language, ethnicity, cult bondage.

Money wealth is the emblem of conformity with classism.

National identity is the emblem of conformity with nationalism.

Species-wide identification as homo sapiens is the emblem of conformity with humanism.

Each allegiance is a strategy to gain competitive advantage over other human beings. That competitiveness decreases from extremely intense with nepotism, to absent with pure humanism.

For each allegiance, those above it are barriers to its complete success. Humanism, being the least competitive relationship between humans, is also the most stymied by the combination of: nationalism, classism, tribalism and nepotism. We see this reflected in the inhumanity of homo sapiens world society, for which deprivation there is no compelling physical nor sociological reason.

Nationalism is stymied by the combination of classist greed, tribalist bigotry and family-linked corruption; and it is slightly diluted by expansive humanist cosmic consciousness. The managers of national governments, who are too often motivated by the three higher ranked allegiances, may at times try to unite a multicultural national population with the imagery of democracy, equality, inclusion and diversity. This is particularly so when armies have to be raised for wars of national defense and foreign conquest.

Nationalism is most successful when applied through a lush and expansive economy providing a high standard of living for all. In providing secure and fulfilling jobs with good pay, and which ease the existential anxieties of individuals and gives them roles they can adopt as emblems of self worth, economic nationalism in essence pays people off to relinquish their reliance on classism, tribalism and nepotism. As the equitable economics of any nation withers, so does its mass appeal to national allegiance, and deepens its fragmentation by classist greed, tribalist bigotry and nepotistic corruption.

Homo sapiens world society is devolving through a planetary sustainability crisis, of which global warming climate change is one compelling symptom. That crisis is driven by classism — economic greed — which is exacerbated by the other allegiances except humanism. The solution for overcoming that crisis is well-known: humanism applied with reverence for Nature and All Life, and in perpetuity.

Merely stating that solution illuminates all the barriers to its implementation. Besides being structural and non-personal in the sense of nationalistic competitions and economic exclusivities, such barriers are also weaves of egotistical personal attitudes and failures of moral character dominated by selfishness and bigotry.

It is clear, from looking at the aggregate of homo sapiens world society today, that the prospects for reversing that devolutionary planetary crisis are very dim indeed. For too many people, the idea of eliminating all the old socio-economic structures along with all their personal prejudices, and replacing them with a planetary humanism of species-wide solidarity to fashion a sustainable human-with-Nature world and truly radiant civilization, is just too fearful to even imagine let alone seriously consider. Certain death inequitably distributed by relentless impoverishment is by far preferred, even though most people suffer from it. The tragedy of human existence is that most people prefer to live out their lives and die without changing their ideas even when those ideas are harmful to them.

Frustrated humanists can easily imagine a worldwide French Revolution breaking out in defiance of that tragedy, with the decapitation of the nepotistic, tribalist and classist national managements, and with the eruption of a liberating world socialist nirvana. This is like the aspirational dream of Christianity held by the millions of slaves in the Roman Empire.

But in the sad reality of our present world, could any violent outburst by the impoverished and oppressed be motivated by a globalist liberating humanism, instead of merely reactionary survivalism for family, tribe and class? What few revolutions of this type not quashed in their embryonic stages by the economic and national managers, would soon recycle the same poisonous exclusivities of former times but with a new cast of leading characters.

To transcend this pernicious eddy and actually evolve humanity out of its present decaying stagnation would require a universal enlightenment of human attitudes and consciousness. And that is an unrealistically utopian thought indeed. But incredibly, it is neither a logical nor physical impossibility, just an extreme improbability.

Is it possible for us as individuals to increase that probability? Based on a realistic view of the long arc of human history the clear answer is “no,” despite the numerous temporary blooms of localized enlightened society that have occurred during the lifetime of our homo sapiens species. But it is depressing and dispiriting to live with that “no” dominating one’s thinking. The mere fact of having been born entitles you and every other human being with the right to enjoy a fulfilling life with a liberated consciousness, the right to seek achieving your full human potential.

One can seek that fulfillment along the simultaneous parallel paths of supporting a family of whatever kind, caring for others through both personal and societal means, creative immersion in arts, sciences and craftsmanship, and championing global socialist humanism by both intellectual allegiance to it and personal engagement with it in the political and societal arenas you are a part of, at whatever level. Ultimately, the course and fate of humanity is the sum total of the courses and fates of the individual lives comprising it, and the greatest impact we each can have on helping to steer that great stream is made by the quality of the choices we each make regarding the conduct of our own personal lives.

Achieving a morally enlightened personal fulfillment in no way guarantees the morally enlightened success of any subgroup the homo sapiens species — your family, your tribe, your class, your nation — and least of all of humanity as a whole; but it helps! And living with that as personal experience is very satisfying indeed.

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Magic Mirror of You All

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Magic Mirror of You All

This is my Roseanne Roseannadanna equivalent of a response to the many skeptical good-hearted people who have replied to any of my scribbles.

Thanks for writing and sharing your own memories with me of the ‘good old days,’ whose madness by luck we both managed to survive. Such recollections by others help me sharpen my own memories, and improve my interpretations of my old and often confusing experiences. Learning never stops for anyone really intent on living.

Maine I loved (like you), Wes Montgomery records I have (like you), piano lessons I took for years in my adulthood (instead of your clarinet), music is a touchstone for me. Hippy I never was, though I let some coeds who insisted I was to keep thinking so because it was better for me that way. A lost world, 1969. I loved some of everywhere I’ve been, some of everything I’ve heard, some of everything I’ve seen; and some of that love was only realized long, long after the ‘now’ of the original experiences.

In fairness to you as you make your corrective judgments on my words, let me share my biases: between Guy de Maupassant and Anton Chekhov, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre, I prefer: Maupassant, Fitzgerald, and Camus.

Since I haven’t worked for anybody in a long time, have no career ambitions, no reverence for authority or wealth, nor interest in any ideology or religion; no need for recognition, attention, ‘honors,’ votes or even “likes,” and have nothing I can be blackmailed for, I have devoted my external interests to presenting the truth as I find it.

In doing so, I have learned that no rational argument can overcome an irrational belief, and that religious fantasy in a myriad of forms is part of every human personality. And that is why COVID-19 is “just a flu,” anti-pandemic masks are “loss of freedom” while guns make you free, vaccines cause autism, and the televised American Fatima on 11 September 2001 was a divine revelation bestowing on the souls of true believers an instantaneous graduate degree in engineering and physics. Amazing grace.

I don’t argue: people believe what they want to believe, facts don’t matter.

Why? Because it is part of a person’s self-image and self-definition, and protecting that from modification against the pressure of cognitive dissonance can be achieved by fashioning psychological armor against reality out of fantasy. People don’t reason, they rationalize.

Humans have always made sacrifices to propitiate the gods — the powers beyond them and which control them — to help them live through their fears; and that is why they invented those celestial potentates in the first place: whether elevated on Mount Olympus, or by the Electoral College. And the sacrifices?: their minds.

So, yes, I know I am embarrassing and annoying (and wrong!). I make no apology.

From my earliest days, I realized that people, generally, are very inattentive; in a word: unaware. They amble blithely in their personal little bubbles oblivious to all that lies outside them. They babble loudly in their little groups in cafés without any thought to disturbing the people around them. They drive their cars with minimal notice of traffic, bicyclists and pedestrians. They have an unfailing ability to not-notice you if they are waiting tables or behind a counter you are in line in front of. There are just an uncountable number of ways that people can not-see, not-hear, not-notice and not-know. Of course, sometimes this not-noticing is intentional, arising from laziness, envy, fear or hostility. But, most of the time it is just simple short attention span mindlessness.

Because of the commonness of human narrow-view, short-focus bubble-vision, coupled with perceptual insensitivity, communications are often garbled, incomplete, misdirected, mistimed and ineffective. Who is without complaint on this score, whether at work, at school, among family and friends, and out and about in public?

Millions have been painfully and pointlessly consumed unseen by such blanket unthinking ignorance, like with the Vietnam War, whose discarded memory in the United States has been given the finalizing punctuation of a Black Wall past which the untrammeled unchanging national amnesia and human-reduced-to-robot OCD proceeds locked onto the almighty unending ‘grab.’

So, I have learned that it is necessary to be quite redundant in my verbal and written communications: repetition is the essence of pedagogy. Repetition is the unavoidable necessity of successful communication. So, when I want to ensure that my message is received by another consciousness, I repeat myself: in the speaking of the message, in the writing of the message, and in the repeated sending of the message.

Those who notice this repetition easily form the impression that I am “old,” and even “dumb.” But, I have made the calculation that it is acceptable to be taken for a bit of a clown if that ensures that the messages I care about have been effectively transmitted.

The messages I care about are those that will make for better lives for my children, and also all children; even though I think most American kids (and adults) are spoiled brats. But, “man is a social animal” (as Aristotle said), and the second best way to ensure a good future for my children is to advocate for a just and peaceful society of benefit to everyone.

This motivation has led me to advocate for the left-wing political causes and candidates I’ve written about. Astoundingly, advocating for a real response to global warming to cut off the Sixth Mass Extinction (which includes us) is branded by the status quo as beyond-the-pale radical left-wing extremism!

Sometimes in giving out my truths (the rational) and opinions (the somewhat less rational), people smile at me (agreeing), and sometimes their assholes pucker (disagreeing), but usually I glide through a human sea of not-noticing — both conscious and unconscious. I have plowed up a mountain of embarrassment before me, and I trail a wake of relief behind me. And, I don’t care. Transmission gets through (as best as it’s ever going to).

I have high hopes for the new generation resplendently buoying up the revitalized identification with “socialism” in America. But, I also have no confidence in the character of the Americans who see themselves as part of the establishment, or who fool themselves into believing they are entitled to its privileges by dint of their heritage and attitudes. It is disheartening to realize that Donald Trump can claim 74 million Americans as devoted fans.

Former president Jimmy Carter is correct to say that the United States “no longer has a functional democracy,” because incorporated Big Money can and has bought politicians and elections, so that the vast bulk of the public has little impact on government policy, which they are paying for in money, blood and impoverished futures for their children. And, all that sacrifice subsidizes the obscene corporate looting of the public commons, and the subversion of government to the service of very selfish and destructive special interests.

Even so, the remnant of democracy that we still have seems able to produce political figureheads for the oligarchy, whose dismal characters do reflect the embarrassing reality of the dominant traits of the American electorate: morally weak intellectual mediocrities who are tolerant of corruption, sloppy to the point of incompetence, and cravenly selfish. Not everybody, and for most not all the time, but in aggregate just too much.

If this were not so, Bernie Sanders’ mildly utopian mildly socialistic vision would have been implemented long ago. The opposition to the political visions of Bernie Sanders and young champions like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and “The Squad” is really of the same type as that before 1865 to the vision encapsulated in the 13th Amendment. I like to believe that the socialistic vision of Eugene V. Debs through The Squad will eventually prevail in the United States, when the evolution of the aggregate character of the American people finally arrives at the requisite “higher level.” But, it’s so damn slow getting there!

So, for my outnumbered fellow rational thinkers and fatigued ethicists, let me leave you with this summation by W. Somerset Maugham (himself quite a flawed and compromised human being — and who isn’t? — but also a much better writer), from his 1944 book “A Writer’s Notebook”:

“There is a nobility which does not proceed from thought. It is more elemental. It depends neither on culture nor breeding. It has its roots among the most primitive instincts of the human being. Faced with it, God, if he had created man, might hide his head in shame. It may be that in the knowledge that man for all his weakness and sin is capable on occasion of such splendour of spirit, one may find some refuge from despair.”

And some of those ‘occasions of splendour’ have been sprinkled randomly on me through unexpected letters.

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Photo:

Laura Williams
19 June 2013
https://www.flickr.com/photos/laurawilliams_x/9732914426/

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What’s Wrong With The United States?

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What’s Wrong With The United States?

In his 1995 book, The Demon-Haunted World, Science As A Candle In The Dark, Carl Sagan wrote:

I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time — when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness. The dumbing down of America is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30-second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance. *

Isn’t this all true today? We have Ubu Roi Trump as US President and officially in control of the most awesome nuclear annihilation button on Earth. We are mostly galley slaves chained to our capitalistic economic and perceptual oars, implacably driving ourselves into the geophysical tempest of climate change. We have cracked the secrets of genetic modification and have let this incredible power be held by tight-fisted corporations only interested in their own financial gain. We have a growing infestation of measles, a disease that in 2014 was thought to be nearing extinction but which has since 2017 expanded due to a decrease in immunization, reflecting an idiotic anti-vaxxer superstition justified as a “protect-my-child” panic. Our infotainment media is a wholly-owned subsidiary of plutocracy, for the electronic diffusion of corporate propaganda against the public interest, and for the mass virtual pithing of the public mind.

What is wrong with the United States? It is the failure of its people to unite with the vision of “with charity — and justice — for all, and malice toward none,” but instead to debase themselves into passive entertainment-dependent robots, or into ambitious careerists “led by their materialism and instinctive worship of power.”

The United States Of America is both classist and tribal. These are the fault lines of American greed and politics. The varieties of American bigotry arise out of envy and resentment, from within our classes and tribes. The nation itself is big and powerful, but greatness eludes it because its people are unwilling to overcome their pettiness. Internally, the classes and tribes are fragmented by ageism and sexism, as well as by racism where a class or tribe happens to be multi-racial.

As is always true when speaking about society, all generalizations are formally wrong because one can always find individual counterexamples. However, what is wrong with the United States is that the number of such counterexamples to the sweeping criticisms made here do not count up to an overwhelming majority of the American people. If they did then everything in our society would be different, as would everybody who is now “in charge.”

The decadent nature of our society is a mirror of our cowardly denied national consensus for a pathetic tolerance of anti-intellectualism, ignorance, superstition, moral irresponsibility within our particular class and tribe, shameless sociopathic egotism, criminality labeled as capitalism, bigotry labeled as religion, and religion practiced as hate-crime.

There is no sociological fix that can come down to us, externally, from our political and judicial systems — whose only functions are to protect capitalism from popular democracy and to mediate capitalistic disputes — nor from organized religions, which arrogantly claim to hold the answers to ultimate questions (they don’t), and which demand to regulate and compel social morality.

The only possible fix is the combination of attitudes and behaviors that emerge individually out of personal commitments to principled and thoughtful living, and then merge into a mass socialist consciousness, from which collective economic, social-humanitarian, technological and self-defense actions can be logically organized.

To say that this emergent (as opposed to external) sociological fix is “utopian” is simply to dismiss the possibility of ever seeing it achieve any degree of reality, however modest. I think it better to be realistic than defeatist: our “utopia” is easily possible if we “all” want it, and though that is highly improbable it is better to align our intentions for personal conduct with this vision than to acquiesce to a personal debasement of becoming another trivial mind-numbed soul-dead unit in the official hypocrisy of decadent materialism.

Why is it better? Because you would develop and realize more of your human potential, and because you would acquire greater lived experience that would justify an authentic and satisfying sense of freedom and self-respect. Also, you would have a greater positive effect on the people you personally come in contact with, most importantly your family. I believe the abstractions we apply to the masses and label as “socialism” and “utopia” and “green new deal,” and so on, can only materialize by bleeding out of the realities of individual lives of integrity, and then mixing into a rising tide of socialist revolution.

So, what movement should you join?, politician should you vote for?, petitions should you sign?, charities should you contribute to?, job should you try to get?, sect should you fight in in our sectarian wars for political purity?, in short what is “the right way?”

How do I know? All my specific choices to these questions can be argued with — even by people who agree with me in the global abstract — because every person’s experience of life is different. Our individual templates for personal action will inevitably be ill-suited for most of each other. The persistence of people pushing their own “right way” orthodoxies onto others, whom they share a grand fuzzy vision with, is what dissipates popular energy that could otherwise propel a worthwhile — if fuzzy — collective purpose, and which instead thus leads to an enervating argumentative fragmentation of the original socialist unity.

So, at this point I am left with only platitudes and a reliance on high-minded innuendo, if tasked to spell out a detailed program to fix our society “once and for all,” to wrest it from it’s late-stage capitalist Kali Yuga.

What I believe is that the effort to do this is and will always be never-ending and myriadly multifaceted, and that any worthwhile elements of socialism that successfully make the transition from popular aspiration to realities that can be experienced, will have had to emerge atomistically from individual lives of integrity — rather than being imposed deus ex machina — in order to blend and bond organically into the humane, compassionate and intelligent future society we can so easily imagine.

All I can offer here are recommendations for aspirational solidarity, such as expressed by Albert Camus: “I rebel, therefore we exist,” and for intentional moral character, such as expressed by Thucydides as a quote by Pericles: “Honor is the only thing that does not grow old.”

Maybe from such airy notions, and a bit of personal pride, we can surprise ourselves into finally making America decent for everybody. And that would be great.

* [Thanks to Dan Kaminsky and Ivan Sudofsky for pointing me to the Carl Sagan reference and passage.]

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I Am Puerto Rico, So Are You

I Am Puerto Rico, So Are You
26 September 2017

The island of Puerto Rico has been destroyed by Hurricane Maria, and remains in ruins and with little outside assistance for about a weak now. What should be done?

The U.S. could (if it wanted to) send an aircraft carrier (or two or three) to Puerto Rico, and use its nuclear reactor as a power source for basic needs in San Juan (where it would most likely dock). It could offload mobile hospital units (MASH) and truck and/or helicopter such units to more remote locations; such units would include gasoline/diesel generators. Additionally, there are Marine units designed to set up helicopter landing zones and other forward bases (as in Vietnam), which today include the ability to set up some solar power systems (for very local electric power), as well as drone systems (for reconnaissance) to search for and locate places/people most in need of help. The US military also has hospital ships (as in Vietnam, during the US war), that could treat the most seriously injured, transported (by helicopter) from “the field.” The U.S. military, as well as the oil companies, have tankers that can bring in needed fuel (oil, gasoline). The US Corps of Engineers (basically the Army construction industry) can have units dispersed throughout the Island, to clear debris, repair and open up roads, and repair power lines. The combat engineers of the U.S. military (with the Navy, the famous Seabees) can also make amphibious landings and create temporary airfields and clear debris (they are intended to go into landing zones before the troops and clear mines and obstructions against amphibious assault).

One use of remote solar collector-to-electric power systems would be to power cell phone towers, and provide local cell-phone charging power outlets, so people isolated in the wrecked hinterlands can at least communicate, for both family/personal matters as well as financial matters. Establishing housing locations in sanitary conditions, with clean water and safe food available – “refugee camps” – can and should be established ASAP by combinations of the resources/forces I have mentioned. Basically, what is needed is the network of extended support services needed by US troops in a war zone – again, as in Vietnam during the US war there – only this time those being supported are Puerto Rico’s people, the victims of Hurricane Maria.

Had I been US President this would have been called into action as soon as Hurricane Maria’s winds had died down to below 60 mph at each locality on the Island. What we have now is that 6-7 days after the passing of the Mega-Weedwacker of Hurricane Maria, Trump has been prodded to make a speech – mainly to moan about the fact that bankrupt Puerto Rico “owes” billions to the vulture capitalists on Wall Street.

In my view, the abject failure to safeguard, or at least speed the rescue, of Hurricane Katrina victims in New Orleans during the administration of George W. Bush, and now particularly the case of Hurricane Maria devastation in Puerto Rico during the Trump Administration, is above the threshold of “high crimes and misdemeanors” for impeaching the Trump executive branch (too late for impeaching GWB, but not indicting him), and the congressional leadership, minimally of the Republican Party and probably also the Democratic Party. For Trump, I think such intentional negligence (how could it not be intentional?) rises to the point of being indictable for murder.

Would my emergency “invasion” of Puerto Rico by the US military cost money? Hell yes, a lot! But then there never seems to be a lack of billions and trillions to bomb dark-skinned people to smithereens all over the world for decades at a time. The Washington D.C. government is treating Puerto Rico like the Israelis treat the Palestinian Occupied Territories. Spanish is the primary language in Puerto Rico, and that island was conquered by the U.S. in 1898 (The Spanish American War). The residents of Puerto Rico were given US citizenship on March 2, 1917, and the U.S. (Wilson Administration) entered World War I on April 6, 1917; and men from Puerto Rico were drafted into the US military for that war and for every US war thereafter till the draft was replaced by voluntary induction in 1973. Tellingly, Puerto Rico was not given US statehood, nor allowed to have voting congressional representatives in the US government.

Realize what is happening here, the high rollers who have bought out the US government really only care about lining their pockets, and getting megalomaniacal orgasms from exercising power, and they really don’t care much about the well-being and security of the US population outside their class – the 1%, and also outside their clan-race affiliation (so Blacks, Muslims and Latinos are largely out of luck). Unless you are in one of the cared-for wealth classes, or favored “race” classes, you are only one hurricane, or tornado, or flood, or epidemic, or earthquake, or landslide, or fire away from ruin and very possibly survival.

So, instead of giving up and letting yourself end-it-all by instant gun-cop-shootout suicide, or not-so-fast suicide by opioids, or slow motion suicide by junk food, cigarettes and TV, wake up enough to find out who is actually worth voting for (let Bernie Sanders’s example be a template) and stop giving the usual pricks and prickesses your attention and ignorant support. If enough do this maybe in time we will see an improved people-oriented administration of the American Republic.

Look at the photos and news videos from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, and sear this thought in your mind: I am only a 24-hour catastrophe away from those people, I am on hold to be the next destroyed Puerto Rico, we are all Americans, therefore I AM Puerto Rico.

Now, focus your outrage where it will do some good for us all.

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25 September 2017

The devastation caused in Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria is shown in a series of photographs published by The Atlantic. As a matter of Constitutional duty, and simple human decency, it is essential that the Trump Administration move its ass and get assistance to the Island, much more and much faster. There are still people living in wreckage who have not been contacted since the Category 5 hurricane hit the Island about 5 days ago. The suffering and privation are universal (or almost nearly so), unsanitary conditions will spawn diseases for many if too little is done too late, and there could easily still be isolated injured and trapped people whose lives hang in the balance. Here is a clear emergency that requires a US President to act presidential, and an American government to actually demonstrate it is “exceptional.” The US news media has focused its sympathy and coverage of hurricane victims to Texas, Florida and the US Virgin Islands, and much less on Puerto Rico – where English is the second language. I see many parallels with the Palestinian Territories under Israeli Occupation. I would like it if the US Government acted so as to dispel that image from my mind.

https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2017/09/disconnected-by-disasterphotos-from-a-battered-puerto-rico/540975/

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I Am Puerto Rico, So Are You
27 September 2017
https://dissidentvoice.org/2017/09/i-am-puerto-rico-so-are-you/

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Swiftian Overload

“He has gone where savage indignation can lacerate his heart no more.”
—Jonathan Swift (1666-1747), his epitaph for himself, from the Latin

People listen to what they want to hear. What they want to hear is that they are righteous, they deserve what they take, they are free agents of independent mind, they are valued members of their group, their beliefs are justified, their actions are blameless, and they have no requirement to change. Prophets are doomed to exile accompanied by their insanity.

Eden

We huddle in our comfort groups, behind the circled wagons of our circular-logic orthodoxies, preserving the warm certainties of our virginal delusions against the hostile assaults of painful reality; our brave protectors sending out righteous fire onto a heathenish enemy intent on our dissolution. But God is on our side, because we created Him. He is our disembodied superiority, the source point of our primacy, the divine root of our power. So long as our circle remains unbroken, we bask in the certainty of this heavenly delusion, the Eden womb of ignorance. Truth is cold, knowledge is hell, awareness is exile.

This is why “under God” must stay in our loyalty prayer to our national flag; of course it is unconstitutional, but thank God our Supreme Court understands the will of the people is beyond constitution and law, and yearns most deeply for the one true faith to unite us all in one true state under one true God — unchallenged by the unthinkable.

Faith and religion must be crammed down the throats of non-believers because until all conform, believers insecure in their belief will agonize over their fears and doubts. People who have actually had a religious experience do not require anything of anyone else, at most they feel joy they may wish to share and a sense of compassion for the continued suffering of the unenlightened. Organized religion and dogmatic faith are impediments to actual religious experience. If you actually want to know God, you have to let go of religion. The burning bush of Moses, the blow that struck St. Paul off horseback, the fire that burned in St. Teresa’s heart are not for the weak, the self-satisfied, the fearful of denial being exposed; so instead, most choose to cling to religion. Religion is the great protector of prejudice, and our prejudices define the egos we cling to as self-definitions. How could we jeopardize THAT? How could we abandon ourselves to an overwhelming unknown that would burn all THAT away in a flash? And so the circles are drawn tight.

God, as the invention of war lords who justified their tyrannies by divine right descending from a remote Almighty above us, is very much the American God whose wrath falls on the poor of this earth, whom we war against for a greater good — to our benefit. This is why today even Salvadoran and Nicaraguan peasants, who may have lost family to the guns and machetes of our missionary wars, must surely feel some sadness as the most successful American fascist leader, Ronald Reagan, is laid to rest. Is not our glory worthy of such reverence? Do not our blessings from God deserve such honor? Surely, even those who may have felt the sting of actions by our freedom-loving agents and proxies, promoting the selfless civilizing efforts we make on behalf of world order, will understand the overriding benefits we have been empowered to provide. Surely, in time the world will be grateful, and God will bless us with the profits of that gratitude.

God, The Atheist

Are we alone in the universe? Will our rovers on Mars or our probes to the moons of Neptune and beyond ever find life? Instead of flinging ourselves into the cold, dark, near-vacuum vastness of space, seeking to answer “is there life in the universe?” (besides Earth), take a shortcut, go to the bathroom mirror and look at the universe to see the obvious: the universe is alive.

Imagine that our universe is just a fluke of randomness that clumped and rippled as it expanded away from the singularity of abstraction called the Big Bang — where nama and rupa, the names and forms carried by language can begin the illusion of containing the larger reality. Out of this, precipitated molecular fragments that settled as dusts and pooled as droplets drawn into the rocks and oceans of worlds drifting in space. In this one of uncountable and unknowable other worlds, conditions were just so that heat, light, water, minerals, organic molecular fragments, electricity and time could combine to produce DNA strands, and these in turn evolved with astonishing complexity and rapidity. A radiating cascade of energetics, flowing from the Big Bang through cosmogonic physics, material accretion during gravitational infall, radiochemical and thermo-electrochemical organosynthesis, biochemical elaboration, life, evolution, us.

If our science can dissect this process with sufficient precision, could we then produce life synthetically? Could we produce a sentient being directly from chemical elements, given sufficient energy, technology, and investment? Obviously, we can reproduce any living species — at least in theory — by modern artificial insemination, cloning and recombinant DNA methods. However, this is always never more than adjustments (of exceeding scientific refinement, to be sure) to existing natural biological systems of reproduction. To actually be God and create life, we would have to be able to do so from elements. We would synthesize our own DNA (which is routine today) and then build up our being from masses of basic synthetic organic material.

Our first synthetic beings were viruses, which were created by November 2003. Scientists in the United States assembled a bacteriophage — a virus which infects bacteria, not humans — by stitching together the more than 5,000 DNA building blocks of the organism, from pieces of DNA available commercially. It will be some time before American industry can synthesize a perfect butler, or a perfect prostitute.

A bacteriophage is certainly a being, but probably not one of significant consciousness. To prove to ourselves we are God, we would have to produce a creature of significant complexity and consciousness, like a hamster, or even synthetic soldiers for our military. Wouldn’t that prove we were God, and wouldn’t that prove there is no God? Then our Pledge of Allegiance could be corrected from “under God,” to “under Us,” note the capital U.

What the production of synthetic sentient life would prove is that sentience is an elemental embedded potentiality. Whether the chemist is cosmogonic, or geochemical, or a postdoctoral student in a laboratory, the yeast of sentience is intrinsic to the chemicals of life, and if the recipe is followed the hand of the maker is irrelevant. It is that intrinsic potentiality of sentience that is God. So we are God, inasmuch as we are no more than the dust and ooze of the universe and God suffuses it all, and we are not God in that we can never possess an exclusive unique power to create synthetic subservient life. Life we can create, and we may learn more ways to do so, but it will never be other than we ourselves are.

So the Almighty — God the Tory Lord — is a fiction. God is a communist and an atheist, and we are it! Tat vam asi — you are that.

Imagine the change in our politics if Americans could look into the mirror and see themselves as God, no different from looking into their neighbor’s eyes and seeing them as God, no different from looking into the beady little eyes of their child’s hamster and seeing it as God, and looking at news photos of Salvadoran and Nicaraguan peasants, and southeast Asian water buffalo boys, and seeing them as God as much as the viewers themselves. Our American God would die, his self-righteous empire would collapse, and with it the great weight of a bloody and godless idol would fall away.

East Of Eden

Jonathan Swift, the great satirist and champion of the Irish people against their oppression by his fellow Englishmen, went insane because he hated humanity but loved people. “His concern lay in his earnest, and as it happens his Christian, belief that mankind is not only susceptible to salvation but worthy of being saved.” Miriam Kosh Starkman continues, “Swift spoke meaningfully when he claimed to “hate and detest that animal called man,” but to “heartily love John, Peter, Thomas, and so forth;” for his professed hatred of the animal called man spells his dissatisfaction with mankind, and his love for the individual, his hope for mankind.” (1)

There are many Swifts in our modern day, railing against the follies and injustices of our time. Most are destined for obscurity, as American SUV excess lumbers blissfully on in our rapidly warming, desiccating world, which might snap into a mini Ice Age if the thermohaline cycle of ocean currents is diluted sufficiently by the melting of polar ice caps to change the planetary heat balance and with it world climates. Why worry, our SUVs will be perfect vehicles for cold, windy drought-parched land as long as we have…oops, no gas.

Today’s Swifts see the European tundra, the expanded American desert and the semi-arid savanna south of the Ohio River, the oil wars in the Persian Gulf, the Eastern Mediterranean and Southern Caribbean, the boat people from collapsed eco-systems landing on southern European and southern United States’ shores, the end of middle class comfort with the fading of oil-fired transportation and industry, the loss of carefree freedom with military needs never-ending in a world where survival is more difficult, living is more expensive, and life was never cheaper among its up to 8 billion people.

The Swifts of today know that if there is to be any equity, sanity, justice and peace in a climatically altered, largely oil-depleted world, in as soon as two decades, it will be that equity, sanity, justice and peace that carries forward from mechanisms that we form today and in these next few years. We will never adjust instantly, with grace and dignity, to the impact of abrupt climate change and significant oil depletion against our selfish and wasteful inertia.

The only certainty we have is that whatever changes occur, we will experience them together, locked on this island Earth. We have the wherewithal to “save ourselves” from what we can estimate might happen, if we get busy now, setting aside our petty penurious profiteering, and organize our use of resources for the best ends of society and for a planned transition to a sustainable national and world energetics.

Alas, the Swifts of today must go mad, because their messages violate every aspect of “what people like to hear.” It is the fate of most prophets to go insane to one degree or another. Driven by visions of a catastrophe they can see yet not prevent, they rail and become public nuisances, and must be forcibly silenced by stoning, or blocking with spam filters, and in any way possible sent off into a wilderness where their cries dissipate out of earshot from polite society. This time, our Titanic is the whole planet.

An American Prayer

God, let me experience life without thought of profit, preference or death. Let me know justice, by allowing me to experience the consequences of my acts as others experience them. Let me know You for what You are: the life in all, the knower, the known and the unknown. Let me be curious without fear of thought. Let me be expressive without thought of fear. Let me be forgiving, an instrument of compassion. Let me be alert, an instrument of knowledge. Let me be humane, an instrument of peace. Let me know truth. Let me be grateful.

1.  Gulliver’s Travels And Other Writings By Jonathan Swift, edited by Miriam Kosh Starkman, New York: Bantam Books, 1962, ISBN 0-553-21232-X

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The above was originally published as:

Swiftian Overload
5 July 2004
http://www.swans.com/library/art10/mgarci17.html

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My Pledge of Allegiance

I pledge allegiance to the flag
of the altered states in America,
and to the republic-of-dreams for which it stands,
one nation under the gods,
the goddesses, the spirits of the ancestors,
and the great unknowable void,
with liberty to imagine justice
for all.

28 June 2002

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Winter Reflections (recycled)

My end-or-the-year thoughts about our world have been similar for some years now, and are summarized as follows.

It seems the major themes of my year were: the political yin-yang of popular equality versus privileged freedom in the U.S., climate change, and philosophies of eternity.

The United States today is a society in which power is allocated on the basis of accumulated and organized wealth, which imposes a social structure of inequitable freedom against the popular desire for a compassionate and just equalization of benefits and responsibilities. This situation will continue because neither the power and selfishness of accumulation nor the distractibility and ignorance of the masses show any signs of diminishing.

Climate change will proceed unhindered, as will the uninterrupted rush by humanity to exploit all sources of fossil fuels. The moral choice between restraint for the good of all life versus gaining an immediate boost to private power will always be won by the latter.

Can the nearly 200 nation-states of the world each develop into a multi-cultural democracy? That is the portal to the next level of social evolution. One significant barrier here is the obsession to rule theocratically or with major ethnic, racial, sexist, and religion-based prejudices, and with archaic and stunting restrictions on the scope of human thought and on benign natural behaviors. To achieve the kinds of peaceful modern states many can envision and few have experienced, it is necessary to have religions of all types fade from public affairs and become exclusively matters of the private thinking of individuals. Peace will come in proportion of the secularity and inclusivity of governance.

The dream of would-be benevolent monarchs, theocrats, and authoritarian ideologues, of peaceful rule under their supervision, stifles the full potential of the humanity trapped underneath it. The ultimate solution to the thorny political problems in many parts of the world is to nurture the human potential there by liberating it from the restrictions heaped upon it by factions seeking to control the lives of others through religion and mental coercion, physical force, economic enslavement, and political exclusion.

I think the eight major problems facing humanity in regard to experiencing a fulfilling standard of living everywhere, as measured by the Human Development Index, are as follows (listed from most urgent to relatively less urgent).

1. Corruption and Authoritarianism

Corruption is ubiquitous around the world, being a massive aggregate of individual failures of moral character, which is aptly named since its collective effect is the hollowing out of governance, the delegitimizing of governments. Authoritarianism and corruption naturally accompany one another, with authoritarianism being the structure of corruption at the apex of the political hierarchy.

2. Political Violence

Military occupations, repressions, insurrections, terrorism, and coup attempts all disrupt, destabilize, and dispirit civil society. Political violence is the ultimate expression of selfishness by the factional perpetrators intent to gain political power at the expense of the entire society. Politics at every level from that of the village to the international scene will never be perfect, but until our political processes are universally seen to admit all concerns and produce timely, just, and reasonable resolutions, or at a minimum move along that direction, we will not curb the excess of political violence we suffer today.

3. Food Production

Reducing the toil of food production and increasing the environmental sustainability of the production methods are essential tasks for the improvement of the health and security of all life. For many populations, the toil of producing food is being made worse by climate change, environmental degradation, predatory financing, and political strife.

4. Healthcare and Education

Two fundamental steps to boosting the standard of living of presently impoverished, disadvantaged, or under-developed societies are: to ensure people have sound bodies through extensive public health programs and a sufficiency of adequate doctoring, and to ensure that these sound bodies house sound minds, strengthened and enlightened by widely available basic and honest education. Programs of public hygiene disinfect the physical body of a society from the germs and parasites that can cause bodily disease, and programs of public education disinfect the intellects of the people from the most damaging parasites to critical thinking: ignorance, prejudice, and superstition including archaic religious restrictions.

5. Environmental Attitudes

Every man and woman is something nature is doing (paraphrasing Alan Watts). While it is convenient to many human endeavors aimed at gaining profits or advantages of temporal power to imagine that humans are separate from and even opposed to nature, in fact our lives are entwined with the many cycles and processes that we see in aggregate as “the environment.” We are like fish in a bowl, moving within an environment that we alternately imagine as approaching food to be swallowed, and receding wastes we have ejected. What we do to the environment returns to us as the karma of pollution, environmental degradation, and climate change. In today’s world, exploitative attitudes toward nature and the environment can no longer be ascribed to ignorance; they are sometimes excused as desperation and are often a matter of simple greed. Social stability requires an enduring healthy environment, and thus an attitude of environmental stewardship with sustainable uses of energy and natural resources.

6. Financial Aggression

The exploitation of the poor by the wealthy through financial methods is a hemorrhage to the effort of elevating and equalizing the standard of living of a targeted society. Such parasitism includes the predatory financing by a wealthy elite exploiting the lower economic classes within one nation, as well as the financial aggression by capitalists in wealthy nations against nations with less economic development, and perhaps with inviting potential wealth in the form of natural resources. Such exploitation can include “free trade” agreements, loans by foreign extractors that gain them significant economic control over indebted nations, and the exploitation of domestic labor by foreign corporations producing for export.

7. Political Freedom

Political freedom is a human right. Exclusion of “the poor” from effective political participation is a fundamental barrier to their efforts to improve their standard of living. Ethnic groups and economic classes with greater wealth and political power can gain control of the government, the military, commerce, and financial systems, and use these to maintain an unrepresentative governance, one which politically excludes a large part of the society they rule over and extract labor and wealth from. While problems 1 and 7 are not identical, they can often be closely related.

8. Energy for Human Development

Every human on earth deserves access to sufficient energy from sustainable sources for a just and decent standard of living. We each need energy to cook food and purify water, preserve food and drugs (refrigeration), heat homes, provide light after sundown to enable reading and study, power communications devices, power essential tools like well pumps, and power public transportation networks.

Problems 1, 2, 6 and 7 are political and economic, while problems 3, 4, 5 and 8 are social and environmental (of course we realize that politics and economics influence society and the environment, and vice versa).

Family and the arts are refuges to the spirit in times of political exclusion and economic exhaustion.

Happy New Year, World, best wishes for the NEW YEAR.

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Originally published at Swans.com on December 17, 2012. The three changes to this article are: after the first two words of the title, a different first sentence, everything after “the” in the last sentence.

Winter Reflections, 2012
http://www.swans.com/library/art18/mgarci59.html

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My 2016 Christmas Gift To You, World

Let us be grateful:
for music and musicians,
for artists and art,
for poets and lyrics,
for writers of truth.

Let us be grateful:
for life and family,
for companionship and friends,
for wisdom won from experience
and which lingers
long after the pain of getting it has passed.

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Here are some items for your enjoyment during the Winter Holidays of 2016:

Personent Hodie – Andrea & Ella
24 December 2014
http://youtu.be/9QuX4GHgWdc

Walking In The Air – Ella & Rebecca
28 November 2014
Rebecca Scott (starts at right) and Ella Garcia (starts at left)
https://youtu.be/ziKBXkf9rUM

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Palestine’s Gift Of Christmas
22 December 2009 (revised 22 December 2015)
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2015/12/22/palestines-gift-of-christmas/

Epiphany On The Glacier
21 November 2007 (revised 28 November 2015)
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2015/11/28/epiphany-on-the-glacier/

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Dona Nobis Pacem
18 December 2012
http://youtu.be/Q01bhkJCy4E

“Silver Bells” & “Santa Baby”
18 December 2012
http://youtu.be/ATr6MbsWd58

“Walking In The Air” & “My Grown Up Christmas List”
17 December 2012
http://youtu.be/bxqyDk4oclQ

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