Tag Archives: current events

Toppled

A man* once predicted (I paraphrase) “We’ll have to learn the manners of being third world citizens.”

“What a grand crazy idea!” I thought, (though secretly I knew we were certainly on the path to such a claim). That was just a few years ago and today I know with certainty that we’ve lost our stature.

Most recent, and most troubling, is an all call advisory to the world that we have a gun violence problem and maybe people should rethink their planned visit to the US, “avoid crowded places like…schools, places of worship, shopping malls.”

  • A nation that once attracted the tourists of the world is now considered an insecure geographical area.

We’re dying because our healthcare system is built upon uncompromising avarice. “One thousand percent increase!” on a patent I didn’t create, on a loophole they don’t close, on body counts that are out of sight, out of mind. (“Senator, did you hear about the couple that committed suicide because of health care bills?”    “Why no, I”ll have my staff look into it.”)

  • The wealthy do not care that people die as a direct result of their greed. They have theirs, fuck the rest.

Armed forces are raiding workplaces and holding up random citizens or sending them back to a country they never lived in where they die.  “Where are your papers?” “Where do you work?” “What is your nationality?” “What is your main language?”

  • Militant removal of ‘others’ for the sake of purity of a chosen few – a police state of racism replaces the open welcome of diversity.

National leadership demonstrates a complete disdain for norms and processes. Professionalism and duty towards country is now usurped by name calling and sycophantic treason. “I’m proud I held up a SCOTUS nominee.”  “I’ll raise the price of membership to my golf club.” “I’ll visit an enemy country on our national celebration of Independence.”

  • Elected officials casually dismiss our founding tenets for the sake of self-preservation and power.
  • Refuse to replace staff, defiantly hold off on appointing cabinet members, gradually bring together all power under one authoritarian voice.
  • Perpetual insecurity, filling the populace with fear so it’s willing to submit.
  • Resisters are ridiculed; facts and logic considered crazy.
  • Truth is subjective, propaganda becomes norm.
  • The fourth estate is defamed.
  • Wealth disparity grows daily.
  • We’re in a heap of debt.

We are a toppled nation..

 

*Chalmers Johnson, “Dismantling the Empire”

 

 

 

 

 

 


The Laws of Dichotomy and Balance

Installment 1 of 21st Century Treatise.


Nature is always, tirelessly, constantly, and ceaselessly striving for balance. This is because it is comprised of endless pairs of opposites:  matter/anti- matter, light/dark, positive/negative, on/off, high/low, male/female, animus/anima, ad infinitum.

There are two kinds of balance at work in Nature. We might immediately think of the scale kind of balance model, as in the ‘scales of justice’, similar to a teeter totter. A scale balance is an either/or situation: the energy on one side significantly outweighs the energy of other side, and we get a lopsided situation; or the energy is of equal weight on either side and balances perfectly. There’s no middle ground with the scale model of balance.

There is also a bell curve model of balance, where two extremes or opposites exist but the majority of the energy falls in the middle, creating a ‘bell shape.’ This inherently makes for a flexible, more stable kind of balance. The energy can shift slightly to one side or the other, but the system will remain viable and functioning. Since the dynamics of the bell curve balance place most of the energy in the middle of the spectrum, we can therefore perceive balance of this kind as belonging in the ‘middle.’ (Interestingly, our language is teeming with references to this ‘middle’ balance kind of model. We use the term ‘middle ground’ to indicate compromise, balancing opposite opinions if you will, and moving forward.  The term ‘middle class’ defines the bulk of a nation’s economic, social, and labor energy. The wisdom of the Buddhist concept of ‘The Middle Way’ encourages moderation instead of the extremes of asceticism or self-indulgence.)

Examples of both models of balance abound in Nature.

On a scale model of balance, we know there had to be just the right amount of gravitational balance on our planet in order for Life to have developed; if it were slightly more or slightly less, Life could not have formed. Atoms possess the dichotomy of positively and negatively charged protons and electrons. This dichotomy allows them to bond together to form molecules as their charges attract to each other to achieve balance. The wind that tousles our hair is the direct result of a low pressure system and a high pressure system meeting and striving to achieve atmospheric balance.

An example of a bell curve model of balance can be seen in the age distribution of any animal group, there are a few youngsters and a few oldsters (technically termed outliers), but the majority of the group is middle age.  If the energy of the system shifts too far one way or the other, let’s say there becomes an abnormally high elderly population, then we begin to see problems within the working model. In Japan, for instance, the growing elderly population is affecting the development of robotics. Since there are fewer caretakers than elderly, life size robots are being used as a substitute. In the US, the retiring Baby Boomer generation is leaving an imbalance in job fields such as engineering and electrical specialists since there aren’t enough younger people trained in these areas. It is also straining our Social Security and public retirement systems, which means funds to keep roads maintained or hire more staff for forest upkeep or open another sheriff’s position are compromised. Our current resources, both monetary and labor, are scarce due to an imbalance in retired citizens.

Nature is obsessed with balancing the millions of dichotomies inherent in its makeup.  We humans are as subject to this peculiarity as every other part of the Universe, in fact it is ingrained within our very cellular structure. The membranes of our cells are careful ‘gatekeepers,’ allowing only a certain amount of fluid in or out to maintain homeostasis – balance. If Nature’s Law of Balance matters at microscopic levels, then it’s not much of a leap to understand that even the things we create: our institutions, our social frameworks, our cultural elements, and even our personal lives – are subject to the same Natural Law. When an imbalance occurs, whether from a germ that causes a fever in an individual, or greed that has caused a nation’s economy to become imbalanced, Nature will ensure that it is resolved to a balanced system. That’s Her thing.

It’s not always a smooth process to achieve balance. High/Low pressure systems can produce some nasty, damaging storms. Social balance is difficult to attain if one group refuses to give up control or privilege, as seen during the Civil Rights movement in the US. National economic imbalance places undue, extreme hardship on a country’s citizens who eventually push back against the policies that created the imbalance, the storming of the Bastille, for example. Here’s the glitch about achieving balance: the process is often violent. As severe weather storms can sometimes incur human casualties, often the restoration of social/political/economic balance comes at the cost of human life as well.

Balance is one of the most obvious Laws of Nature for us to observe, but we often miss the principle that our social constructs are as subject to this dynamic as any other. Take a moment today after reading a news article to reflect on the influence of this important Law. Does the article relate to some nuanced issue of balance? Consider the many situations the Law of Balance affects our lives. Don’t we strive to balance our work / home lives each day? Finally, understand that we can make good decisions based on the actions of this Law, both personally and nationally.

Thank you for reading. Next in this series: The Law of Balance applied to Economics.

Peace,

Frankie


21st Century Treatise, Introduction

Nature will not let us fret and fume. She does not like our benevolence or our learning much better than she likes our frauds and wars. When we come out of the caucus, or the bank, or the abolition convention, or the temperance-meeting, or the transcendental club, into the fields and woods, she says to us, ‘so hot? my little Sir.’”

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Spiritual Laws,” Essays, First Series (1841, repr. 1847).

We humans have achieved some pretty amazing things since the agricultural revolution some twelve thousand years ago. Once we learned to manipulate Nature in various ways to suit our needs, we catapulted our species to soaring heights. Our clever inventions allow us to lead a very charmed life today compared to our ancestors.  We work in carefully controlled indoor climates, we live longer, and we are more aware than ever of our natural surroundings and how they function.  We understand the universe in ways incomprehensible to Copernicus and we understand our bodies in ways unfathomable to da Vinci. We don’t need to hunt any longer for our daily food and we don’t even need to have sex to pass on our genetics. We’ve been to the moon, we’ve put a tread mark on Mars, and some of us actually live in space. We homo sapiens have come a long, long way indeed.

While we bask in our achievements and enjoy their conveniences, there is cause for worry. As we’ve progressed from cave-dwellers to space station tenants, a great disconnect occurred between Mother Nature and her bi-pedal children because we are no longer as intimate with her workings as we once were. It seems a logical by-product of our advanced civilization: we live and work mainly indoors and get our food from cans and bottles and jars. Our experiences with Nature are confined to camping trips, gardening, and domesticated canines and felines. Limiting our interaction with Mother Nature, and becoming independent from her, means that we have lost touch with her. We fail to remember – and recognize – that we are as subject Nature’s Laws as the rest of the universe. In fact, even our social structures and the civilizations we build from them are governed by Nature’s Law’s – “So hot? my little Sir.”

Twenty-first Century Treatise explores the affect of Nature’s Laws on our social structures and civilizations in order to discover some very important lessons about ourselves and how our societies work. We learn how Nature’s Laws effect our personal lives. We learn that Nature’s Laws apply to our social frameworks and we can make pragmatic decisions using those Laws to develop policies that sustain healthy societies. We learn that it is possible to make conscious, long term, positive political decisions through the lens of Nature’s Laws. We learn that certain areas of each nation must be balanced in order to be healthy and growing; and that we can control those areas with effective legislation. We realize why it’s important to be diplomatic with our international neighbors.

It is my hope that this Treatise will provide some tools for positive decision making as we continue to grow and move forward together. We are an amazing creature, but we cannot forget that we are, and will always be, subject to Nature’s Laws, and so are the civilizations we build around us. “So hot, my little sir?”

Frankie

Read the next installment of 21st Century Treatise: The Laws of Dichotomy and Balance


Belonging to Facebook

There’s a subtle social struggle going on about whether to Facebook or not to Facebook. I talk about it with others and observe many comments in different forums online. I myself made the decision to step away from the platform some six-plus months ago.

My decision was based on two things: Facebook’s wont to mine our personal data and pass it on to marketers or god knows who, and the fact that I could not longer deal with seeing some of my old friends, or even family members defend things like child concentration camps, racism, or historically failed economic policies. I’d rather remember them as decent people than view them through the lens of an algorithmically curated timeline.

I don’t miss the frustration, but I do miss out on family pictures and social group connectivity, like posting local events or keeping in touch with local organizations. Yet when I conjure up the benefit/cost analysis in my mind, the result falls in favor of staying off the site.

As I gain further distance from the platform and engage or listen in on conversations about participating on it, I’ve formed an important insight: Facebook offers an incredibly strong sense of belonging, even if much of it is a false sense of belonging.

This is a worthy point to hone in on because the need to belong to a social group, to feel accepted and loved, isn’t just a flippant desire; it’s as hard wired a necessity as food and oxygen to our survival. Abraham Maslow backs this up with the scientific observation of his Hierarchy of Needs – if we don’t feel a sense of belonging and love, we can not achieve our full potential as humans.

By and large, the one reason people seem to be sticking with Facebook, in spite of its astonishing lack of respect towards private information, is that it plugs in to our human need to belong.

Every thumbs up and heart emoji translates to feeling like we belong, we’re connected, we’re appreciated. We live in a hectic, fast-paced, dog-eat-dog society that often makes us feel lonely in spite of the thousands of people physically milling around us. But if we  post a picture of our cat, vent about our ex’s new spouse, or share a news article, a select few friends will see and like or offer comments of support and BAM! we’re accepted, we belong, we feel important. 

It’s not a genuine sense of belonging, though, simply because Facebook relies upon algorithms to determine what we all see on our timelines. The end result is that we’re only sharing or posting stuff from a narrow, virtual, point of view and our sense of belonging is tied to the likes of those followers who are chosen to see our posts through an algorithmic determination. Neither the incoming or outgoing messages are organic, but the responses satisfy our need to feel important nonetheless.

On the broader scale, many are reluctant to leave Facebook since that’s where they can connect with local organizations. I often hear someone lament that, ‘It’s too bad there isn’t some other way we can connect and share with such-and-such demographic.’ This particular area is where I personally miss Facebook most acutely. This indicates that our need to belong is so strong, and satisfied so well by Facebook, that local organizations are dependent on the platform’s connective ability to market their events and causes.

To the point that Facebook does not filter its news outlets for veracity or authenticity, the reliance we have on Facebook to provide a sense of belonging becomes dangerous. Millions are subject to outright propaganda which transcends to polling results…check out where we’re at right now as a nation.

To Facebook or not to Facebook may not be as much of a choice as we think. Considering the impact it had in the last general election, I’m concerned we all ‘belong’ to Facebook in an indirect way no matter our conscious efforts.

The fact that its roots reach deep into our psyche and entwine themselves greedily should at least make us pause to think about the consequences the platform inflicts upon our society. And maybe, some smartypants kid will develop a better way to connect. Or, maybe, we could fulfill our sense of belonging with real life people instead of virtual avatars.

Peace,

Frankie

NB: I’ll admit that YouTube, Twitter, and other social media outlets offer a sense of belonging in the same way. I focus on Facebook due to its ubiquitous role in our lives comparatively.

For a similar analysis about the dynamic of belonging to a social group and its effects, here’s an article about how it works in religion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Perverted

These things I heard from you as a child:

You told me that He detests hypocrites,

so be careful not to be one.

You upheld His life of humble poverty as an example,

and pointed out that the proud rich man is to be pitied.

You showed me pictures of the time when He

upset the merchant tables, and then you talked

about what it meant to defile a sacred space.

I learned from you that He loves the little children,

all the children of the world.

And now you tell me that this man who says one thing and does another,

this man who could never pass through the eye of the needle,

this man who defiles our sacred space,

this man who separates children from their mothers

is chosen by the same God?

That  is … perverted.

 

 

 

 


Another Sort of Soldier

I’ve ignored my yard, my dogs, my husband, and my house. I’ve done more than most, not as much as some.  I am exhausted, bone tired, ready for a long winter’s nap.

I am only one of millions of us who have been working like another sort of soldier to protect our democracy and freedoms. These soldiers are as dedicated to the truths of  democratic principles and the Constitution that protects them as any that patrol our borders and skies. They understand that our democracy is at risk and every single vote this election counts.  They volunteer time and donate their money to Democratic or Progressive Congressional candidates running for office this year.

These sorts of soldiers wear tennis shoes instead of boots. They carry clipboards insteadboots to shoes of ammunition clips. But there’s still an order of command, there’s still a clear objective, there’s still the need to carry water and wear sunscreen (some of us even arm ourselves, with pepper spray, depending upon the territory).

These soldiers knock on doors, make phone calls, table at libraries, and have tough conversations with neighbors who might have a different political yard sign.  They’re the sort of soldier who arrives every Monday night, for weeks, to write post cards to fellow voters encouraging them to vote. Soldiers that spend hours on end tediously printing out precinct maps and lists, then organizing them. Dutiful ranks that transport campaign materials to rural districts. The kinds of soldiers that drives for hours to campaign for a candidate outside their district, for the sake of flipping the House.

Let me be clear:  The armed forces that serve on our front line and daily put their life in danger deserve all respect and gratitude. I do not claim that the sort of soldier I reference here requires the same. I am simply pointing out that there is indeed a different sort of soldier that works diligently to protect our democracy. They do, at least, deserve a whispered thank you in the corner of the room.

Vote smart this election. Take it from this historian, your democracy depends upon it.

Yours,

Frankie

(photo credits: marine times, visualventuring.com)


Omelet or Tree?

I understand the frustration that led many people to vote for Trump because they wanted to ‘shake up the system’ and  have someone in the White House who would ‘tell it like it is’.  One analogy I’ve seen is “You gotta crack a few eggs in order to make an omelet.”  I get the sentiment, I’m not sure about the analogy.

I mean, an omelet is a single serving meal consumed immediately, forgotten immediately, and has the staying power of maybe about 12 hours while it provides the body with nutrients. That’s it, that’s all you get from ‘cracking eggs’, ‘telling like it is,’ or ‘shaking things up.’

You see, democracies embrace brotherhood and equality rather than selfish, single, one time moments.  They profoundly affect world events for centuries. They foster culture and progress with eternal benefits.

They are more like trees which provide a home and protection to many creatures – without prejudice. They provide oxygen for us to breathe and consume our carbon dioxide in return, profoundly affecting our environment. Some dominate entire redwood nat geoecosystems with eternal benefits.

Democracy is as impressive as a thousand-year-old Sequoia Redwood. It is as finicky as a ficus tree.  Democracy can be as hearty as a Valley Oak, or as delicate as a Japanese Maple. It goes through cycles of drought and flood, winter and summer, naked or in full bloom, yet it continues to grow, reach, progress, just as a tree does.

It’s true that trimming and pruning are beneficial, democracies as well as trees can lose their shape or become gangly if they aren’t regularly clipped.  But there’s a difference between careful, thoughtful pruning and lopping off the entire tree at the trunk hoping the plant can regenerate itself – it seems like that’s what’s happened with the ‘cracking a few eggs’ strategy and now we wait to see if it dies during this winter or sprouts again next spring.

If we adopt the comparison of our democracy to a tree, we can understand some of our current dynamics better, I think. It takes patience to nurture a democracy. Growth does not occur overnight and in the current age of Ista-  everything, it can seem frustrating to have to wait. It requires discipline to take care of our Democracy, just as it takes discipline to care for some trees. It must be watered, for us that means voting regularly. It must be pruned for even growth and bigger fruit, that means looking for waste that is robbing us of  growth and fruit bearing. It must be nurtured with thoughtfulness, one eye on the past to find the lessons, one eye on the future to project our goals. It must be fertilized with diversity, free speech, and equal opportunities. It must be protected against those who would cut it down for the sake of building their own personal mansion.

I understand the frustration, I don’t buy the analogy. Democracies are fragile, living institutions, they must be cared for, not shaken. Tended instead of cracked.

Yours,

Frankie

 

 

photos courtesy of eggs.ca and national geographic, respectively

 

 

 

 

 

 


Hate in the time of Carr Fire

I finally get it.

Carr fire map: What started the Carr fire - has it reached Redding? | World | News | Express.co.uk

Express Co UK

People have been upset by the collective hatred aimed at Trump. I’ve been diplomatically claiming that we’re mistaking hatred for righteous anger at seeing him demoralize our Intelligence Community, attack the fourth estate, and marginalize our allies – among other things. Then someone pointed out to me that righteous anger can easily turn to hatred if conditions worsen.

It was indeed a quick turn from the righteous anger I felt towards Trump to plain old hatred when the same day it was announced that the Carr fire progressed to one of the top ten worst fires in California history, Trump threatened to shut down the government if he didn’t get the border wall funded. At a time when citizens have lost everything and are forced to rebuild their lives, they need a leader who offers emotional support as well as the promise to help them with things like sound infrastructure and functioning agencies, Trump offered threats and bully tactics instead.

So yeah, I hate Trump too these days. I detest the evil of greed and selfishness he exhibits. I abhor his complete nonchalance at annihilating a positive national budget. I despise the pathological lying. I hate the evil apparent in behaving like a dictator who only welcomes those that pledge their fealty or massage his ego. I loathe the evil of tearing apart families and using their lives as leverage for jingoistic policy making.

I’m not normally a hater. Those who know me will attest that I am naturally optimistic and trusting toward my fellow humans. When evil raises its ugly head so blatantly and with such devastating consequences however, all the righteous anger I possess morphs into absolute hatred.

I am okay with hating evil.

I totally get it now.

 


“Lord of the Flies” Adapted by Paul Ryan

Stands on the corner,"homeless - please help" sign

cardboard sign in hand.

Dirty clothes, ragged shoes,

I bet you stink to high heaven

You worthless piece of shit.

Weak for falling so far,

Where’s your self-respect?

You’ll get nothing from me,

Not even a moment’s compassion.

You don’t deserve it

If you can’t help yourself.

Not my fault your boyfriend is an alcoholic,

and you’d rather be homeless.

Doesn’t matter that you’re mentally ill,

Don’t care that you got fucked up in the war.

I got problems too,

But you won’t catch me begging.

So move on bum, outta my town,

off my corner, away from my view.

Your presence disturbs,

Your reality pricks,

your desperation smells.

You are my intolerable spectre.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Gun Talk

I had a conversation with a colleague the other day and he gave me the old “Guns don’t kill people, people with guns kill people.  I could set a gun on my desk right there and it wouldn’t kill a single person.”

Maybe, but I am certain I could never ignore a benign gun on a desk like I could ignore the tape dispenser or the sticky note pad or even the dagger-shaped letter opener. If I spot a gun on his desk, you can bet that I am going to approach him from a different perspective. I’m not going to be able to respect him based upon his intelligence, his level of articulation, or his knowledge; all of that would be eclipsed by the respect I had for the gun. Maybe he and I are cool and wouldn’t get to a point where we would reach for the weapon.  But what if a third party came into the setting?  What if derelict student came in, was having a bad day, and went for the gun?

What if none of those things happened and our interaction was uneventful? There remains a difficulty:  My experience with him would be eternally tied to that singular impression, and it’d be difficult for him to earn my respect based solely on his character.

Representative Ralph Norman made this hypothetical scene a reality the other day when he placed his .38 on a diner table during a meeting with his constituents. ” ‘I merely proved a point that guns themselves are not the issue,’…Norman said that having a loaded gun in the room should, if anything, have made people feel more safe.”  The point he actually proved was that energy of human interaction changes the second a gun is introduced. Instead of meaningful debate and a news story about discussion points, the emphasis was wholly on the presence of a gun. Everytown, an advocacy group seeking to end gun-violence in the US, was represented by Lori Freemon: “I had looked forward to a respectful dialogue with my representative about common-sense gun violence prevention policies. Instead, I felt unsafe when he insisted on showing us his loaded gun and keeping it out on the table for much of our conversation.”  The presence of a gun inherently invites the potential for harm and we will intuitively react by shutting out every other detail. There was no way this group of people could have a diplomatic discussion about the issue.

Consider another angle. Let’s compare two people arrested on attempted robbery charges.  All things being equal, if one of those is found to have a gun in their possession during the attempt, whether it was revealed or not, the consequences will be much worse than the one who merely had a knife or axe or baseball bat.  If it were just that  “guns don’t kill people” then it seems logical that both imagined perpetrators would be treated the same in a court. That isn’t the way it works. Because the presence of a gun exponentially increases the possibility and probability that someone will be harmed, even our courts treat the presence of a gun with stricter sentencing.

I’m done hearing the argument that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”  When just the mere presence of a handgun changes the way people interact with one another, it’s time to start heeding the valid notion that guns do kill, even if it is the respect I could have garnered for you otherwise.

#Enough.

Frankie