Sunday, March 16, 2008

Hope


I know what the great cure is: it is to give up, to relinquish, to surrender, so that our little hearts may beat in unison with the great heart of the world.

---Henry Miller

Wonderful! Wonderful!
New Year's morning
in the house where I was born.

---Issa

For the raindrop, joy is in entering the river.

---Ghalib

I thought Friday was particularly black. I envisioned it being called Black Friday someday. The bottom was dropping out of the American and world economy. Had anyone even bothered to construct a bottom for it? To save the day the Fed was starting to bail out greedy banks again...and using our taxes to do it. China was killing the marchers in Tibet. Bush overruled the Environmental Protection Agency, even in its pathetic weakened state, to benefit coal-fired power plants and other industries that emit ground-level ozone that gives us smog. I sent out and posted Tom Toles' cartoon for that day showing Uncle Sam in bed with a barrel of oil and oozing extra excitement at how expensive "she" was. It was a black day dawning.

I began to get replies to the cartoon from resonating friends. Reid Sinclair, a lecturer in management systems at OU and active Episcopalian in Appalachian ministries, sent me a copy of a letter from his brother-in-law in Houston. It so happens the man is none other than the esteemed Rolfian analyst Nicholas French. He was sharing the dour forecast of a close friend of his named Jim Swayze. I thought if these guys can feel bad too, I must not be completely out of synch.

Here's what Mr. Swayze had to say. His piece is called The Fallacy Of The Last Move~~~

Here we go again…

Elections are near at hand, and despite best efforts to blow it off, I find an old nagging bugaboo won’t leave me in peace, and so please allow me to write it out and be done. A warning: this has to do with nuclear arms, so some should be prepared for vehement disagreement, while others for another “ho hum.” I’ll even pre-warn that I plan to use another Einstein quote – sorry, but his fault he was so danged quotable. Something different, though, is that I plan to include an honest to goodness serious job for religion, giving it a project to work on, you might say. And with those few disclaimers, here we go…



When Carl Sagan died, I mourned his passing, but not that much. Since he has been gone, I find myself missing him very, very much. Surely, I mourn his loss more today than I did when he died. Sagan, as famous as he was, was vastly underrated by the public, probably because of his celebrity profile, always out-front with his “billions and billions.” Scientists knew better and so, in retrospect, I should have realized how much I would miss him. One of his favorite sayings was, “Extinction is the rule; survival the exception.”

A thousand years from now, people will look back at our age as the most critically important turning point in the history of mankind. There should not be a soul among us who would argue that statement, simply because if it is not said, it will be because there are no people around to say it.

I should explain the title to my little piece, “The fallacy of the last move.” It’s actually from game theory, and it has always been the overarching “theory” behind the nuclear arms race. It goes like this: say a player is studying a game board, about to make a move, and he thinks, “If this is to be the last move I can ever make, what should it be?” And do you see, therein lies the fallacy. Only if the move fails miserably in its objective will it truly be the last move the player can ever make. Otherwise, the opponent countermoves, sitting up yet one more “last move,” one more time. Reagan’s SDI, the Strategic Defense Initiative, Star Wars as it was “affectionately” known, was, or would have been, a prime example. To date, it was the stupidest idea the human mind has ever conceived, and it came from none other than my old arch-nemesis, Edward Teller. (Bush and Cheney’s bunker buster nuclear bombs may indeed be even stupider, but SDI still wins, simply by order of magnitude…and yes, those nuclear bunker busters are secretly being designed and built, despite what Congress says or thinks about it.) But let me explain what I mean about the SDI.

There are right now on the planet approximately 20,000 ICBMs with nuclear warheads poised and ready to strike, each capable of obliterating a large city. There are approximately 2,300 cities on the entire planet. In other words, do the math. (If you have not seen it, please watch the demonstration by Ben (of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream) at: http://www.benjerry.com/americanpie/bens_bb.cfm . It only takes a few seconds and is worth the time.)

So what was so stupid about the SDI? It was to be a 20-year, trillion dollar project which, if successful, its proponents claimed would take out somewhere between 50% to 80% of missiles launched against the US. Great, huh? Now again, those numbers come from the people who wanted the SDI, not its opponents. So based on current technology – in other words assuming the pesky Russkies made no further enhancements to overcome the defense system, as well as assuming they didn’t decide on a preemptive launch before the system was completed – then of the approximately 10,000 missiles expected to head our way, maybe as few as a mere 2,000 would actually make it to target. Which, ta da!, would mean the SDI had been absolutely as successful as could ever have been hoped for!!!

Does anyone else get the sense of insanity in this way of thinking? The scientific community was up in arms against the SDI madness until finally, and thankfully, Congress did get the balls to pull the funding, thus stopping it at least this one time (also remember the hawks later used its cancellation as justification for stopping work on the supercollider), but that doesn’t mean that a trillion dollars a year has since not continued to be spent around the world in refining and enhancing those damned bombs. They still exist and if there is one law of the universe that never fails, it is that nothing goes to waste. If they exist when the time comes, and it will come, they will be used.

But it is election year once again, and soon we will be electing the 11th consecutive President who buys into this insanity. Eleven who have not figured out that when we invent something fancier, the Russians, or more likely Chinese now, invent it back, followed by us inventing something even fancier (and more expensive), which is again reinvented back, and on and on, one last move after another until we finally make one which succeeds by failing. All in the name of a “strong defensive posture,” as we so bravely call it. And then of course, there is the cost. Hundreds of billions of dollars diverted annually from health and education and human welfare programs like Social Security to maintain weapons systems which, if ever used, can and most probably will destroy us and everything else on the planet.

Why does the madness not stop? Lack of leadership, of course, but it runs deeper than that. For one thing, the military-industrial complex of which Eisenhower warned us, without the support of which no one can get elected, but it runs still deeper than that. It’s a cultural problem, maybe even, heaven help us, a genetic problem. There are many ways to begin an explanation of what I mean, but let me choose this one:

One of the most sacred things we humans do is revere our ancestors. This is an old, old trait, no doubt hundreds of thousands of years old, and why not? It makes sense. Wisdom comes with age and why not listen to the old timers who have been through it all? “Our fathers taught us…” Isn’t that how it begins? Let’s think a little more about that. In the beginning were the small tribes, fighting for survival, figuring out ways to defend what they had as well as take what they wanted, and so there existed what I will term intergenerational wisdom to be had and passed on. The wisdom accrued, and so we learned to listen in order to prevent making the same mistakes. But back then life advanced so slowly that intergenerational wisdom worked well. Spears which made excellent weapons 100,000 years ago were still working well into the 19th century.

Since I like using religious examples, let me do so here. Look at science. The Old Testament was written down during the Babylonian Captivity 2,600 years ago, and the writers wrote into it the prevailing science of the times. According to the Bible, the world is flat and the sky is a multi-layered crystalline affair with water surrounding everything. Back then, the world needed people so the word was, “Go forth and multiply,” and boy, did they ever!

All that began to change with the Industrial Revolution when things began to change faster and faster until now, even our birth fathers can’t recognize today’s world of electronics and light speed gadgetry. Crises in population, crises in natural resources, crises in civilizations now exist which the wizened ancients never dreamed of! Intragenerational change: that’s the term I use for today’s world, intra- for the need to adapt to changes occurring within each generation. Intergenerational is hopelessly outmoded and long past the time it should have been laid to rest. It is time we start thinking for ourselves, while we still have the chance.

Now it’s time to talk about religion. Who can lead us toward a new horizon of peace and stability? Certainly not the politicians. They are bought and paid for and trapped in yesterday’s world. Establishment hawks say the idea of disarmament is foolishly na├»ve. Their strength is fear. President Bush may not be the brightest light in the White House, but he is smart enough to know that if he can scare you badly enough, he can lead you anywhere. Fear is the strongest of the emotions. I only know of one anodyne to fear and that is faith. Yes, this is the place religion should stand and be counted.

I would mention here Christianity’s vaunted Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” As well as the other old bromide, “Love thy neighbor.” I hear these sayings repeated ad nauseam in our supposedly Christian country, and yet I have yet to see anyone meet the standard. Or even come close. I mean, seriously, do we not have the right to expect our clergy to practice what they preach? We have a sitting President who believes the creation of the state of Israel along with the Middle East crisis portends Armageddon and the Rapture! And we are about to elect another who half-believes it, so the threat of self-fulfilling prophecy is not going anywhere. Where did they learn that crap? From the pulpit! And you may think from pulpits like Jerry Falwell’s but I can tell you G. W. is a card carrying member of mainstream Highland Park Methodist Church, where he will be returning next year. I mean, whatever happened to “world without end”? No, it is high time for the clergy of this country to lead the way into the 21st century with a real Come to Jesus movement, but this time for the good of mankind, a concept that seems to have gotten lost somewhere between the Gospels and Revelations.

I mentioned genetics, and it is true that we are no more than the meanest of animals (by which I mean ignoble! You all know I love critters). But like animals, we have within us both the competitive savage and compassionate kindness. Our failing has always been in how to choose between the two, and too often it has been a choice made by emotion. We can hardly afford that anymore. Time has come to use rational thought in deciding whether to unleash the killer within or to back off and turn the other cheek. In the final analysis, this, and things like this, should be common sense decisions. Emotions based on the morals and perceptions which are 2,600 years out of date are going to get us all vaporized.

Einstein (sorry, but here it comes) asked the only question which really matters: “What is the alternative?” By that he means if we do not, if we cannot, change then we are doomed, and therefore, there is no alternative. But just getting rid of nuclear weapons alone does not solve the problem. We humans are very, very clever at killing and we will find other ways if the nukes are gone. This is a key aspect when I spoke of a turning point in history: our ability to make informed, perceptively intellectual decisions based on compassion and the preservation of our species. Doing so involves a change in human psyche, change which entails the question of which side, killer or compassionate human, gets precedence in the teaching promoted by our government, our schools, and most importantly by our churches.

It will not be easy. Sagan was right: extinction is the normal course of the universe, and only by great fortune does life continue. The bishop of the Catholic diocese of Amarillo, in a remarkable show of courage, told his flock that it was immoral to work at the nuclear weapons plant there. To my knowledge, not a single person quit. But that bishop stood alone and was widely objurgated, even within the Church. He needed the support, not just of the Church but of all Christianity. In my eyes, that he stood alone encapsulates the weakness of the Christian religion. Let’s hope it finds its true moral path soon.



With that, I will stop. Short and sweet, sort of. Don’t get me wrong: I expect the game to continue to the bitter end. That’s the way we humans do things: we react to catastrophe, we don’t prevent it. Only this time I doubt anything will be left to react to. I am merely the really bad salesman who says, “You don’t really want to buy this, do you?” It just seems like someone ought to be making some sort of sales pitch, and so now you have mine.

Jim



Then Bob Sheak wrote. I quote him all the time, largely because he's certainly the most well-read person I know...especially in all areas of his fields of anthropology and sociology. He titled his message Unrestrained Debauchery...but, get ready for HOPE, watch how he concludes this~~~

As I wake up here, I'm stunned by the cartoon's aptness, a small symbol of what powerful interest groups, corporate capitalists, neo-cons, and an assortment of tens of millions of other fellow travelers are doing to us. Cartoons like the one you sent give me a momentary relief from what is unfolding around us. A bit of fleeting sunlight. But this bigger reality seems to be happening so fast: record setting oil prices, rising prices in food, medical services, prescription drugs, a falling dollar, approaching a $10 trillion national debt, continuing movement of jobs abroad, more coal-fired plants, a snail's pace in gains in fuel efficiency, water problems, a collapsing infrastructure, deforestation, degradation of soils, food contaminated with all sorts of junk, an unchallenged military establishment and budget, a war based on delusions, the ludicrous call for more nuclear power. It goes on. You know well the long list. Amidst all this, a laugh is good but fleeting, though it can be extended through the retelling or savored in a quiet moment, but not without its irony. It serves to conjure up more vividly what is enveloping us. Ironical, funny, uplifting, relief, a good cartoon deserves another cartoon or, at least, an uplifting thought.

The setting for the uplifting thought came with Dahr Jamail, occasional guest on Democracy Now and author of the recent book, Beyond the Green Zone, who appeared on C-Span not too long ago. Jamail has spent years in Iraq covering the US occupation, in places like Fallujah. From first-hand experience, he describes how the occupation has caused enormous harm. At the end of his presentation, he referred to the following poem by Marge Piercy so as not to leave the audience with a complete sense of doom and gloom.

Bob

The low road

What can they doto you? Whatever they want.They can set you up, they canbust you, they can breakyour fingers, they canburn your brain with electricity,blur you with drugs till youcan't walk, can't remember, they cantake your child, wall upyour lover. They can do anythingyou can't stop themfrom doing. How can you stopthem? Alone, you can fight,you can refuse, you cantake what revenge you canbut they roll over you.

But two people fightingback to back can cut througha mob, a snake-dancing filecan break a cordon, an armycan meet an army.

Two people can keep each othersane, can give support, conviction,love, massage, hope, sex.Three people are a delegation,a committee, a wedge. With fouryou can play bridge and startan organization. With sixyou can rent a whole house,eat pie for dinner with noseconds, and hold a fund raising party.A dozen make a demonstration.A hundred fill a hall.A thousand have solidarity and your own newsletter;ten thousand, power and your own paper;a hundred thousand, your own media;ten million, your own country.

It goes on one at a time,it starts when you careto act, it starts when you doit again and they said no,it starts when you say Weand know you who you mean, and eachday you mean one more.

-Marge Piercy



From "The Moon is Always Female", published byAlfred A. Knopf, Copyright 1980 by Marge Piercy.

Well, the Piercy poem certainly set me up for spending all day yesterday in Columbus, where there were two meetings we wanted to get to. The first was in the offices of America Votes Ohio, where a quarterly meeting of various progressive groups and coalitions all over the state was scheduled. http://ohio.americavotes.org/ I particularly like supporting this group because it is multi-generational, and seems to be getting stronger and more innovative all the time. The young people at the helm of our branch of America Votes are smart, open, and great organizers. I love to participate in this kind of dialogue---and there's one guy there from Licking County who's even older than me! I was beginning to cheer up.

Unfortunately we had to leave early to get to the second one. This was around the corner and less than a mile to Broad Street Presbyterian Church, where the first public meeting of the newly forming Ohio Interfaith Power And Light was gathering. Interfaith Power And Light, or The Regeneration Project, began 10 years ago when the Episcopal priest Sally Bingham started a group of spiritual concern for environmental issues in her church in California. Outreach went to other churches, and now there are 4000 congregations, synagogues, temples, ashrams involved in 26 states. http://www.theregenerationproject.org/ The illustrations from their splash page decorate this article.

Reverend Canon Bingham was the keynote speaker yesterday, and it was easy to catch her inspiration. I picked up so much information at the exhibits that I need to do more research before I can write about these developments with any authority. There were a number of alternative energy groups and startups there as well, and we left feeling this is a great moment of hope in Ohio---and apparently elsewhere in the country. High time too, since so much of Europe is far ahead of us. I'm particularly impressed with the website and new publication of Green Energy Ohio, which give current updates on both technological and legislative progress.

It's good for me to feel hopeful on Palm Sunday. This is the day we celebrate the humble entrance into the Big City by a small-town young man, whose rising fame made this arrival inevitable. And there also were all those prophecies. He went straight to the temple, and waded directly into the corruption he found there. Confrontation with the Big Money, and we have a lesson---even in gloomy times---a lesson of Hope we must remember and act upon.

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