Sunday morning thoughts in mid-May

Been doing a bunch of thinking lately. Been also thinking about what a woman mentioned in the last post told me the other day. She said nothing I hadn’t already thought of — much of it was just the sort of things that blackens my heart from time to time and causes me to look upon humanity with disdain.

But, she also brought out my need to defend humanity against such cynicism, though admittedly I’ve flip-flopped since our conversation, sorting through all the horrible stories I remember hearing of, and this also being the week that Michele Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus were discovered after being held captive for a decade. Doesn’t help the case for optimism.

Every day I circle around and around in my feelings toward humanity, oscillating between extremes, but much of the time contemplating shades of gray. There is no confidence in this assessment, only aimlessly looking around and trying to take in what’s going on. People confuse me, and I confuse my own self. Our history boggles my mind.

The woman said she doesn’t believe we’ve evolved in any real sense over the last 10,000 years. And I can’t say one way or the other as to whether I agree. Personally, I tend to think our species’ apex occurred thousands of years ago, perhaps during some point in humans’ hunter-gatherer phase or during early agrarianism. But what would I know? Oh, I do imagine we have evolved, and by this I’m referring in terms of our becoming domesticated, and it’s a process still very much underway. Doesn’t necessarily make us better, and perhaps it has made us worse off, in terms of the civilizations we’ve created as well as what it’s made people into, psychologically. And perhaps I’m imagining things when I entertain the possibility of us ever having been any better than we are today. I can’t even say what might be “better.”

What strikes me as interesting is how we seem to have developed a sense of disgust over what humankind is capable of, and this makes it very easy for people to dismiss other humans as selfish, mean-spirited, corrupted, overly aggressive, deceptive beings. What I wonder, though, is how often that mirror is turned around on oneself?

Also, it’s come to my attention over time how many people out here take great issue with their own species, yet lavish love and heart-felt appreciation on other animal species, particularly their mammalian and avian pets. What troubles me about this is that the very traits they describe as despicable in humans, they tolerate in animals, as though animals simply cannot help their natures, yet we are different. I do believe, of course, that we do differ, yet the truth remains that we too are animals and remain bound to our natures as well (at least to a large extent). Because our natures differ and contain a greater measure of free will doesn’t lead me to completely sever us from the natural kingdom and declare us as “bad.” As I told the woman, the traits she described don’t strike me necessarily as all bad, and she abruptly responded that that indeed is how she feels. She said that humans are mostly “bad” by nature, and I’ve heard this over and over again from people. But what is it that they are pointing to? What makes us so horrible?

Is it that we have some power to choose, whereas animals are largely led by instinct (or, in the case of household pets, driven by habits and reinforcements)? Are we simply angry at one another for not living up to our potential, for not turning away from our base nature, for not making better choices? I can understand all of that. Yet, how much control do we really think we have? Because I don’t believe it’s as broad as we tend to imagine, especially not when we consider the societies we grow up in and what we’re exposed to that influences our thinking. How much free will does one possess when his or her imagination is stunted? How free are we really?

I think sometimes we take issue with one another because we do not like living in captivity. In modernest times, we face the very weird reality of cameras everywhere capturing us, recording us, documenting our whereabouts. With so many people around there’s little room to move about, to do as we wish, without hearing the complaints of others. Even our relationships are scrutinized, as are our financial decisions. Ideologies are at war with one another, and there can be no peace. Technologies have advanced beyond our capability to handle them responsibly, with the common drive for power distorting our worldviews and undermining ethical considerations. We are still very much tribal peoples — that apparently has not, and perhaps will not, change. Much as many have come to realize we all share in our humanity, that we on some level are ONE, these considerations don’t sink in as deeply as we might like to believe. A shift in consciousness radical enough to overwhelm the direction we find ourselves collectively heading in may indeed come too late to be of real use to our species. It is possible.

When people get scared, they tend to get angry, then tend to want to lash out against something. What we do not understand worries us. The unpredictability of others concerns us for our safety and our emotional well-being, and from all directions we are bombarded by news stories and personal accounts and claims of all sorts that degrade our faith in humanity. It all adds up to make it seem like life is meaningless, like it all boils down to avoiding suffering to the extent one is able.  Why not? Why not protect oneself from chaos? Well, because that sort of reflexive response typically points back to the very traits people take issue with in others. That blatant hypocrisy points to a greater truth, which has been paraphrased as: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Because others don’t wish to do it, we then don’t wish to either, because we are afraid of appearing to be suckers, and we’re afraid of being taken further advantage of.

But consider the logic, and we hear this sort of thing all the time. Because she has witnessed disturbing aspects of her fellow humans, she withdraws into her “cocoon” and avoids them like the plague. Because they are “self-centered,” she feels perfectly fine retreating to the comfort and security of her own home, away from all those “selfish” people. She is not made happier as a result though, so this strategy doesn’t seem to be benefiting her incredibly much. Though I will say that the blessing of privacy to return to at the end of the day is a wonderful thing, and I will not disparage its necessity and value. My qualm is only when we hide in here and use this secure perch to lash out at others, others whom we oftentimes do not even know well, whom we make assumptions about, whom we hide from and in person would say no such sort of things to. That cowardice is a bit confusing to me. I grasp the need to put on an act around some people because of the need to remain employed, but that’s not what this is all about. The internet has provided a space for people to vent relatively anonymously through, so we’re freed up to say the most wretched things to one another.

But that lady spends her time online looking at animals, not worrying with other people. She spends her time at home with her pet, and she claims to donate money to causes that benefit animals. And she works in a profession operating under the guise of “treating” people, albeit sometimes against people’s will. The people she comes into contact with are pretty often at their worst, in search of help or brought in in an ambulance. She, like a police officer, sees a disproportionately negative side of humanity as part of her daily work. I can sympathize with how that may skew one’s perception.

I guess my own views are that we are animals nowadays born in captivity and that we tend to be highly-reactive, self-concerned, and unfortunately not terribly good at self-directing in a productive fashion (which partly has to do with boundaries set within our society). We are expected to walk a new path as designated by the rules of our societies, even though plenty of this runs counter to our natures and plenty also runs counter to our interests. But even without our concrete jungle, we have likely always lived as contradictions and likely always will. Just as nature has her contradictions as well. We are not above that, nor are other lifeforms, including our beloved pets, simple as they may individually seem to be.

We have a tendency to reduce everything down to too small or narrow of a view, and once formed we tend to cut off information that contradicts that view, keeping it small and narrow indefinitely. What propensity exists in us to do this, I do not know, but I assume it has to do with individuals reaching their thresholds in terms of the will to process information. It seems all of us narrow our focuses as our lives unfold, hence the notion of us becoming old dogs unable to learn new tricks. It’s not uncommon to hear of old people being accused of being set in their ways, because it’s largely true. Most are. That is what typically becomes of us, perhaps because we cease being as curious, perhaps because the free hours in each day to explore and learn are very limited, perhaps because we’re exhausted from work and our own social lives. And perhaps because we’re not pushed to engage with others and come into less contact with others unlike ourselves due to positioning, as becomes possible when income increases and we can afford to move to the suburbs or when we take a job where we are in a position of power and interact with others unlike ourselves primarily through that lens. We’re molded by our life choices just as much as by what we’re born into.

So what might propel us to be the change we wish to see? What might motivate us to behave differently than that which we claim is “evil” or wrong? Apparently when it comes to the opinions of others, we’re pretty content with playing a part, putting on an act, so it’s unlikely that real and authentic connections can occur between us. What might motivate someone to take time with the people they criticize and condemn so as to gain a deeper understanding of why those people behave as they do? Because so often we judge based on superficial appearances and limited contact.

I’m asking myself these questions too. Perhaps what bothered me most about what that woman said is that I am well-aware of the wrongs in my own being. It is easy to get depressed and to become stuck right there staring at that reality, but I believe a more productive goal would be to step beyond, to continue exploring (particularly that which I find most offensive), and to seek redemption through improving myself and taking action of greater value. Perhaps it won’t prove a thing one way or another when it comes to debating whether humans are “bad” and beyond deserving sympathy, but that’s not what it’s ultimately about at the core. Underneath it all, each of our lives is a journey, and how we conduct ourselves has a lot to do with how we wind up seeing others and whether they wind up relating with us.

All of that is being said as someone who, if she only knew, belongs among those she derides and looks down upon. At one point she declared that she knows what she’s talking about, her being much older than me, nearly my grandmother’s age. I am still relatively young and perhaps still clinging to idealism that will fade with time. She spoke of my generation’s and younger people’s lack of work ethic, and I stood thinking to myself that I see no reason to work as a cog in the wheel for a business that by all accounts gives not one damn about me. If that is due to my lack of work ethic, then so be it. But I do believe our view of work is changing, that people are awakening to the pointlessness of the rat race. Transitions don’t always look like they have a purpose when observed from a traditional vantage point — to her it may seem like ridiculousness and nothing more. I see it as holding the potential for a grassroots revolution of sorts as people try to figure out other way to get by than selling their souls to a job that they loathe. There’s creativity in this. But I suppose it wouldn’t look that way to someone who’s tired from playing the game for so many decades.

I’m not trying to put her down, just trying to understand. She is angry about the reality unfolding, as am I, and our concerns overlap in areas, though I’d be willing to bet our proposed “solutions” would differ dramatically. But that doesn’t make us enemies, even if we can’t see eye to eye. She has been good to me over the last couple of years, and I’ve aimed to be good in return. But admittedly our conversation saddened me a bit. I realize she was just venting and sharing. But I wasn’t in a position where I could give her a full and honest response, nor would it have probably been worth attempting anyway. I too would like to keep my job. So I suppose she’s right at least on that count, that we tend to interact as actors.

Sunday night ponderings in May on human domestication, estrogen, and the future

Domestication. It’s a topic I like talking about because it’s difficult to not see it unfolding around us. We’re becoming domesticated on a whole new level. Was just thinking about birthcontrolbirth control pills and the convenience in using them to regulate your cycle, plus certain brands reduce breakouts. Plenty of side effects accompany hormonal birth control options, and I would absolutely never recommend the progestogen-only varieties (like Depo Provera — yikes!), so it’s a trade-off. But for a lot of years birth control pills felt like a risk worth taking for the peace of mind they offered in avoiding unwanted pregnancy.

But when you really think about the concept of taking hormones to control fertility, improve the complexion, and regulate the cycle to become more predictable and convenient — that’s pure science. The latest in technology. Convenient, but with notable drawbacks, to our own bodies but also to our environments. Think of what happens to all those hormones regularly flushed down toilets, whether they are even capable of being properly filtered out in treatment plants. Some evidence suggests problems loom there. Think of how that might wind up affecting men in a round-about way. But then again, we’re exposed to so much estrogen in our environment already, as we’ve discovered with plastics and also soy (which is now in damn near everything on the super market shelves, including our pets’ foods). Estrogen everywhere. Due to this consideration alone I expect people of tomorrow to turn out a bit different than all who’ve come before. Hormones are powerfully influential on our development.

drugs_glassofwater

Just makes me wonder what tomorrow could bring. Suppose it’ll be interesting to see what this lifetime might unfold, much as I doubt it will remotely resemble what I’d like to see for us. My spirit is paleolithic, I think, having always felt obsolete. lol

We like to say that people direct their own lives, that we can take the reins for ourselves, do something different, try another way. But how? We’re deep in this labyrinth already, and it would take such radical action to retreat and head in different directions. But then again, it would be much easier for smaller groups to break away somehow if there were enough to do so around the same time. But that’s a pipe dream, right? People want this, on some level, because we can’t imagine anything different, and if we can it still doesn’t appear feasible. The floor has fallen out from underneath us and we’re clinging to the walls, trying to keep up with what appears to be the only game in town. It’s a stupid game with so many unfortunate consequences that will likely culminate in disastrous effect. But how does ONE, just one person, go against the grain? Without winding up much poorer, much unhappier, less understood by others? That’s the thing — those are the consequences. Might wind up treated as a leper. Probably will lose friends. Definitely will be criticized. How many people would willingly sign up for that? It looks like social suicide to someone who cares about that sort of thing.

Had a couple drinks and felt like pondering out loud. Reflecting on conversations with people, wondering if indeed there is anything of major impact one can do. And honestly, a part of me says it doesn’t matter. It’s not just about influencing others the way we’d like to. If the many are going to collectively steer this ship into a glacier, either through stupidity or genuine but misguided intentions, what can be done about it? Doesn’t mean we have to conform entirely and go along with their program. No. Because life itself is the journey, and living itself is the source of redemption. When I think deeply on these sort of topics where the individual is being pulled along by the collective-run-amok, I gain an appreciation for the stories that point toward a higher purpose than simply following the herd. And by higher purpose, I’m just saying having respect for something bigger and beyond our human experience. All of life is paradoxical and filled with mystery, and there’s more to it than just our drama. We humans may indeed fail in this experiment in living, who can say? But we as individuals don’t necessarily have to. We are our own persons underneath it all, and we possess enough will to buck back when it feels right. If nothing else, we’re driven by orneriness. LoL

So who can say what the future may hold? And who can say that the most important emphasis should be placed on trying to change the hearts and minds of others? Seems to me if we really want to impact others, we’d work on our own selves. I’m trying to, much as I fail and stumble. Can’t seem to knock off getting irritated while driving. Haven’t taken time to get to know the new neighbors. Too often grumbling, complaining. Because I worry so much. But at the end of the day, what am I so worried about? That people might suffer. But perhaps that’s what’s needed to turn our lives around. Life’s tough love is letting us see how we can create hell on earth if we aren’t mindful of what we’re doing.

By John Conway

“Future Humans” by John Conway

It’s a cruel lesson that breaks my heart to witness, but I suppose such is the way of nature, and divorced as our habitats may seem, the natural world remains the ultimate game-changer.

If we choose to go along with living as domesticated pets, though in less luxury and expected to work, we will suffer what that fate entails. Perhaps there can be no other way, not until our infrastructure crumbles due to a lack of resources, or until political and economic conditions deteriorate to the point where that dream gets snuffed. I don’t know.

Maybe people will find ways to pacify themselves going into this New Age, and perhaps people of tomorrow will figure out a way to strike a new balance that my feeble brain is unable to conceive of. But it won’t be my world by then, so that is for them to create. In my lifetime I’d like to imagine how we might live smarter, more in line with what’s natural to us as people who need one another, who value relationships and reciprocity, who want to care, who aren’t content in slavery, who aren’t content being taken advantage of by the few whose only work is to manipulate and exploit the rest.

Then I wonder how it’s possible to not feel disgruntled in the face of so much disillusionment.

Sunday thoughts on collectives and groups, feminism and MRAs

I continue pondering over here where to take the conversation on feminism. Having made a couple videos speaking out against feminism and a couple in general response to MRAs I’ve come into contact with on youtube, I haven’t really fleshed out the topic in greater detail on this blog. Been hesitant to do so because I’m still collecting my thoughts. But one thing remains a constant: I continue to care about the rights of womankind. Just as I also care about the rights of mankind. My own views, however, break apart from the politically-minded feminist bandwagon, because I do not believe social problems can be remedied by legal means alone or primarily (as I will keep repeating). Much of what we face today stems from economics, which cannot help but deeply impact the social sphere because we are its workers competing for wages and we are its consumers. Our economy is largely backed by our government, so we are in a serious conundrum at this point. What’s even more unfortunate is how people have come to view everything as a legal contest and join sides and battle one another as groups on ideological grounds, creating deeper divisions between the people and painting complex issues with broad brushes that ignore relevant nuances and undermine further attempts at effective communication. In other words, people are declaring war, social and legal war, on other groups of people.

That I am tiring of. Is there not enough competition already to satisfy us that we must create more?

I do not automatically view men as my enemy, nor do I automatically view women as my enemy, nor do I automatically view members of either sex as compadres. This life has shown me firsthand some horrible people of both sexes, and wonderful people of both sexes, to where I am unable to take gender-related generalizations too seriously. People are people, it is true. We are individuals who must be known as such, and these generalizations tend to dehumanize us, robbing us of our individuality, ignoring our perspectives and histories and choices, rendering us nearly invisible to those who lump us into association with whoever or whatever else appearing to possess something in common, no matter how trivial or tenuous, and then dismiss us out of hand on that account. How is that respecting individuals? So many claim to care about individual rights, and yet they have blinders up when it comes to the individuality of those they stand in opposition to. Blinded by group affiliation, people demonize the “others.” As has been common all up through human history.

Makes me wonder why we like to boast how we’ve come so far when it is apparent we have so much farther to go, assuming we are able and willing.

There are men who had dramatic impact on my life. I do know what it’s like to be mistreated a bit, by men and by women, by family members and people I once looked up to, as well as relative strangers. I do not live in some fairy tale where all has been given to me or where others have walked as if on eggshells to appease and protect me (though perhaps to avoid arguments — I do get riled up at times). The reality I’ve witnessed, whether directly or through those I’ve met along the way, has been raw and has left scars that I am coming to terms with being a part of me for the rest of my life (as I’m certain I’ve left scars on others). There is nowhere to run to escape the reality we’re all helping bring about, so I turn to us—to myself and to others—to seek remedy. Because the power has always lied with us, much as we struggle to grasp that concept. Changes take time and there’s no way to rush these processes. But there are ways to hinder them, and we’re proving to do a fine job at that.

I don’t particularly get along well with other people. (Laughter and grimaces there — it’s not by deliberate intent, but whatever, that’s a separate topic.) With a few I do, and I love them dearly. But I don’t expect to win many more friends in this lifetime, and that’s all right. Striving for popularity never made much sense to me, because then you wind up acting in accordance with what members of your group expect from you, which is limiting. It cages you in and polices your thoughts and words, ridiculing you for speaking out of turn or saying something they don’t want to hear. Much has been documented about group dynamics and how we tend to behave differently when group-minded or in a group setting versus when we act and think on our own accord. But I do not say any of this to give the impression that all groups are worthless all the time — no, they have their benefits and purposes. But when group membership or classifications come to eclipse the individuals therein, as they always have, we then lose ourselves to them, and this I take extreme caution with.

Out of loyalty for the group, we tend to overlook the fanatics and extremists within, preferring to ignore them, thinking their views will shrivel up and die away eventually. Just as the majority of religious persons assume to be the case with fringe cults — until those cults gain enough followers to seriously challenge and contend with the wider religion, as happened over and over again. Extremists draw attention and their words appeal to the core where we desire radical change, tricking some into believing shortcuts are possible if they are willing to go on the offense and use whatever tactics are at their disposal to undermine their “opposition,” even if that leads to outright war. The more tensions mount on each side, the more that members within either “camp” become unwilling to criticize their own, especially publicly, because they are locked into a contest where they don’t wish to display “weakness.” Admitting there is flawed thinking within the ranks of the group you belong to apparently is viewed as “weakness” to people in a competitive mindset. So the extremists within each camp continue on largely unchallenged except by the supposed “opposition,” and the silence of their more moderate group members is taken as a sign of consent to the message being put forth. With no obstacles aiming to challenge the extremist message, newcomers take it in as representative of the larger group. If that weren’t the case, debate would be taking place, isn’t that so? And this is how feminism is being framed by people calling themselves MRAs. And I see where MRAs are doing the exact same thing without realizing it, as the video above helps point out.

I don’t know what to think of humanity most days. Not sure where we might go from here. Not convinced we’re willing and able to change direction from this path of least resistance, this descent into incessant bickering and fighting and feuding and competing. If enough people want it this way, they will have it this way. If people prefer to fight rather than seek outside the box for possible solutions and ways to work together, we will experience history repeating as it has so many times before. And we will demonstrate that we have not evolved near as far as we like to think we have — despite all of our modern technological gadgetry and scientific innovations, we are animals at war with our own selves, with both our potentials and our base natures. Collectively this problem cannot be adequately addressed because fundamentally it is an individual concern that requires each individual to grow as we are able. Collectives tend to take on lives of their own and come to discourage this sort of personal growth and exploration so as to use its members to suit its own political or social ambitions (and whatever those ambitions morph into over time).

And now I must head back out to work. I hope to return to this subject later today, if I feel up to it.

Carter, Eisenhower, and my neo-agrarian vision

Pres. Jimmy Carter – (1979):

Don’t know much about Jimmy Carter aside from him being a Southern peanut farmer and later in life volunteered with Habitat for Humanity in building homes. His isn’t a popular name within my wider family — all are Republicans so far as I’m aware. So forgive my ignorance about the man. Not sure I’ve ever really listened to him speak before. And that speech was amazing. Much more honesty than we’ve heard out of a president in … how long?

Eisenhower’s farewell address is the only other speech of its kind that springs to mind:

I appreciate what both men had to say. Both are warning future Americans (us) of the gravity of the choices and possibilities we’re faced with — on one hand the formation of the military-industrial complex, on the other the energy crisis. Both pointed to the social and ‘spiritual’ crises that would accompany these radically-changing times, and their words ring true.

What Jimmy Carter said up above speaks to this idea I’m continuing to play around with involving intentional communities branching off and reclaiming power in the hands of common people by producing more for our own selves and the communities we belong to and/or trade with, particularly in terms of the necessities (namely, food generation). Let me very briefly outline the benefits of the setup I envision:

  1. Providing for our own necessities within our own homes and communities to the greatest extent possible, particularly when it comes to sustaining foods, reduces our dependence on the Corporate State (that is, major corporations being backed by government).
  2. By implementing this form of neo-agrarianism and making better use of the land we have access to, we can reduce the amount of petrol otherwise required in Big Ag’s pesticide-laden monoculture megafarms (as well as the transportation costs typically involved). Through the use of new technologies surely modern farming of this nature can be made very productive with little or no harmful chemicals and big-brand fertilizers needed and while utilizing knowledge of biodiversity and the introduction of animals and insects useful in the process. (Farmer Joel Salatin could surely be of help in explaining this aspect in better detail to those who are curious — he’s mentioned in a few agriculture-related books and documentaries.)
  3. Our current dependence on Big Ag to supply us with food unfortunately is made possible through its heavy use of petrol in various stages of the food production process. It is said that at least 45% of oil used in the U.S. is imported, and we’re well aware where much of it comes from. The military has had a hand in gaining us access to the oil needed to fuel our economy, and this is having disastrous effects throughout the globe, injuring our relations with peoples in other countries to the point where our government stands on high alert, nonstop, ready to defend against probable attacks from foreigners. We as a nation are coming to be reviled, and this will have repercussions eventually. Whether we’ve hit peak oil already or will someday, the fact remains that the competition over oil is harming us, yet is currently needed to prop up the lifestyles we’ve grown accustomed to as well as to make the foods many of us otherwise would starve without. If we somehow lose out on procuring enough oil, it won’t only result in a social reset in this country (and others that wind up affected as well), but rather complete chaos and competition on a savage level. People will starve. And all because we rely too heavily on fossil fuels to maintain our modern ways of life. If we can reduce this dependency by providing for ourselves and take back a big measure of control over our own lives in the process, why not aim in that direction?
  4. Through learning modern farming and urban gardening techniques, we will likely become better acquainted with sciences and technologies, further broadening our awareness and enhancing our own power as individuals. The skills needed there calls for all kinds of creativity and innovation, particularly of the jerry-rigged variety, and this opens us up to so many possibilities and learning experiences. Atheists and others frustrated by others’ lack of scientific understanding should be pleased by this likely outcome.
  5. People desiring simpler lives with more straight-forward expectations (like myself) may find solace in this saner way of living. But it’s all in how each community and each individual therein chooses to bring it about. As always, we can pave the way to hell if we’re not careful.
  6. It’s come to my mind that slavery will always exist. And what I mean by this is we humans will either wind up slaves to one another or ‘slaves’ to the earth in terms of living within nature’s parameters (or possibly both if we’re as unlucky once again). The castle made of sand that we’re working and living within today is not sustainable — not ecologically but also not socially and psychologically. Debt slavery has a long history, but it is a human construct, not a condition imposed on us by the natural world itself. For as much drudgery that may be involved in farming and directly utilizing our own labor to provide for our own needs, it at least comes with the benefit of tuckering us out enough to where we, with any luck, will use what energy we have remaining more wisely and not waste so much of it bickering over our differences. The intentional communities going their own ways also helps reduce tensions by allowing groups of people breathing room who otherwise stay locked in irreconcilable arguments.
  7. The gender issue can be abated because, again, people are kept busy with creating something they do want instead of arguing nonstop with one another over what they do not want. Furthermore, men and women would need to contribute to the extent their capable, and this competitive environment can be put to productive use through struggling to prove themselves as able-bodied and relatively independent (and to admit where one or the other may generally be better-suited to certain tasks, however that may shake out).
  8. It is my belief that a greater peace than many of us experience today can be found through engaging in productive work that serves a real and necessary purpose. When we pull our own weight, so to speak, this boosts our sense of pride and satisfaction with living. And through observing the dedication in others, we may kindle respect and admiration for one another and go a step further toward solidifying community bonds. Because the notion of community exists only when it revolves around some sort of commonality, like shared life experiences and working toward common goals. Through working together we may also learn the importance of charity, as well as why shame deservedly accompanies abusing charities provided. Because people then see how, up-close and personally, that charity was brought about through the labors of others. Those who lack empathy in this manner should be noted and never promoted to positions involving much power.
  9. Love matters. And love involves respect, knowledge, responsibility, and care. Reacquainting ourselves with the land may go a long way toward healing our social wounds as we learn to see one another in the context of individuals we see and come to know rather than mere statistics printed somewhere. We need to bond, just as we also have a need for a sense of belonging to something bigger than ourselves, something greater. It is not about stepping back into the past so much as it is inquiring into what life has taught us thus far and see how we, individually and collectively, might do better. But it starts in the hearts and minds of individual people and spreads from there. The connections forged along the way may make the entire process worthwhile, even if humankind winds up beset by obstacles we prove ultimately unable to overcome. To genuinely become friends and loved ones and neighbors — is that not what gives living so much of its meaning and authenticity?
  10. If we are indeed facing “end times” or the emergence of a new Dark Age, self-reliant communities will likely have a better chance of surviving or at least winding out their days striving to make amends internally and get right with our creator. I do not envision a God as any that have been described so far, but something beyond that, the unknowable yet the intuitively felt. Everyone understands this in their own way, and I won’t elaborate further. If that creator is viewed simply as nature itself, that works too. The point is that it may help mitigate the suffering that may befall us and give what lives we have remaining greater quality. Maybe. Depends on a lot of variables, sure. But maybe.

I’d love to change the world, but I don’t know what to do. But as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., stated: “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” He also said: “All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.” As well as this: “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

Sunday thoughts on the neocon vision and our possible futures

Got angry the other day, but moods like that come and go. Caught up on sleep and felt a bit better. Created a video to capture my thoughts that cold and rainy day, but I don’t care to link it here. Just was an honest depiction of how I feel with all of this some days. But my own life isn’t bad and my job is wonderful most days. Storms and bad weather come and go, and I enjoy walking outdoors. Just eagerly awaiting spring up here, chomping at the bit, wishing this state didn’t cycle between summers and winters and skip the springs and falls. Transition seasons are the best. This year nature has decided to be a tease. Maybe next week we’ll finally be in the clear.

But I meant what I said. Edited it carefully to ensure that’s what I shared with others. Neocons drive me wild. Militant pro-lifers freak me out. We have technologies for everything, and that’s all fine and dandy, but when it comes to reproductive choices we should remain living in the Middle Ages. That’s some weird stuff. And I know why they believe that — because the more of us there are, the more competitive with one another we become. The less we each individually come to matter; the more interchangeable we become. Cogs in a wheel. Humanity being bent into machines for economic purposes. That sounds like hell on earth to me. I can’t imagine a worse way to live. How completely meaningless that would be.

Nineteen-Eighty-Four-George-OrwellOften I juxtapose in my mind between the themes in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eight-Four and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. I imagine both outcomes in a blended way. First Nineteen Eighty-Four‘s vision of strict class stratification; history being rewritten or disappeared; Big Brother Government communicating with us through spying computer screens (quite ingenious that he thought that up in the 1940s); being told how to live and expected to strictly conform; bratty, spoiled children rule and snitch on their parents (and adults are encouraged to snitch on other adults); genders divided and cold toward one another, treating sex as if rape, stubbornly locked in competition.

Brave-New-WorldOr maybe life is more of a pick your ending kind of book, assuming technologies advance in key areas that make Huxley’s vision possible: strictly stratified society determined by social engineering strategies, with babies all born in laboratories and all women on birth control; casual sex rules the day and pair-bonding is actively discouraged, beginning at a very young age; all citizens enjoy the drug Soma, which in small doses sounds like a lot of fun, but on gigantic doses proves lethal, enabling it to be used for euthanizing people; people have been turned into pets and it’s not clear exactly what all they do, though they maintain a lower working class (intentionally designed to be simple and stupid) to keep up on the laborious and assembly-line tasks.

Sounds to me like choosing to be made to be outright servants or dumbed-down pets conditioned to accept our chains and give up our humanity. Thankfully we’re not limited to those two possible narratives. But they go through my mind when I see and hear what’s going on out in society. Try my best not to stay up on the news these days, but bits leak in anyway. Always so much bullshit. What’s really astounding to me is that more people aren’t piping up about so much of this. Are they not scared? Because the levels of anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drug prescriptions tell another story. Do happy people take drugs that say right on the label may cause “suicidal ideation”? Especially when reports now claim, in terms of treating the symptoms the drugs are actually designed to treat, they’ve proven no more effective than taking placebo pills. That’s no good.

People try to be happy, I give ’em that. But there’s a lot going on and it seems many would prefer not to look at it and see it for what it is, as if others will magically step in and resolve the problems for us, no effort required out of the rest of us. But that will never work. The answers being given are ones that serve a master that doesn’t care about the fate of humanity. It is about acquisition and dominance and little else. Why allow something as important as our destiny be left up to be determined by people proving not to have common people’s best interest at heart? Why wait for heroes to save us from ourselves, and how could they anyway? If we choose to stubbornly ignore what we’re confronted with and offer no active response toward a better way, where do we expect to wind up? In heaven?

big_brother_kindle

I believe heaven and hell to be only relevant when discussing life on earth, and both are entirely subjective. We possess the power to create heaven or hell for our own selves, for one another, and for other living beings. This is the truth, which we can clearly see. Whether heaven or hell await us in an afterlife or not, we do know approximates of heaven and hell await us right here, right where we stand today. This was demonstrated repeatedly by peoples of the past, even in wealthy societies. The future is not completely left up to chance nor has it 100% been pre-determined. We do possess some free will, enough to impress on one another and hopefully also enough to better govern our own selves.

I struggle with my own impulses and shortcomings and am not here to place judgment on others necessarily, just sharing my own thoughts.

We are not so weak as to be inconsequential. This I firmly accept as true.

Anger is not something to automatically fear in others or reject in ourselves. It serves its purposes too. I don’t believe people can honestly and deeply reckon with truths without it boiling us up inside at times, assuming we’re talking about people possessing functioning consciences. Because what we have going on today is some wicked stuff, and it’s not okay, and I wish to GOD we didn’t have to support it. Tax week. Ugh.

It hurts to hand over money to the IRS, knowing what it’s going to fund. Don’t others feel this way, and if so, what can we do? I personally recommend self-employment, though it’s probably only a matter of time before that option winds up being squeezed out of existence. The IRS prefers to collect our money upfront and out of every paycheck. So many comply and accept those conditions, and this creates a conundrum when it comes to telling the IRS to stick it. How does one collecting a paycheck throw off the IRS? Is it possible? If not, so long as we work, we work for them, and our fate is sealed if this isn’t changed.

What power can we claim to possess if we cannot refuse to pay a corrupt government? The power to boycott matters because money is all those jokers seem capable of responding to.

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“What created the universe, if not God?” and ramblings on constructing a personal philosophy

The1janitor’s answer to the question “What created the universe, if not God?” (at 1:45):

“I don’t know, but I’m not just going to believe the first thing someone tells me without evidence either.”

 

That pretty much sums up the default position of my own beliefs as a self-described agnostic since the mid-90s. That’s my basic core attitude in a nutshell, succinctly put.

I’d been raised as a Christian (Methodist), spending several of those years living in the Bible Belt of the Deep South, but my grandma’s Christian teachings differed a bit from what I found in churches. As in she placed a great emphasis on Jesus’s love, devotion, and ability to forgive our shortcomings as fallible people. Grandma spoke a lot about Jesus, still does, goes on and on and on, always has and always will. But there wasn’t much fire and brimstone in what she had to say. Basically she turned Jesus into a friend and an overseer, someone on our team and wanting to see us all do better, not just some chosen few. It was a simple, humanitarian take on the religion, and I got a lot out of Grandma’s way of seeing things.

Well, then I went to church and we all know what’s typically found there. Basically the screws came loose holding me in religion as soon as I hit adolescence, which then terminated my interest in organized religion a couple years later. It deserves to be stated that some self-professed “Christians” are true-blue assholes. Especially preachers, but don’t get me going off there.

But whatever. I wound up taking a decade off from giving a shit about religion is what ultimately came about. For a long time, my agnosticism basically consisted of me not really wanting to care about the issue for a spell. “God” as described by the biblical narrative is so obviously a myth that doesn’t translate into a literal reality. Plenty of atheists take pleasure in teasing Christians about this, but what real good does that do? Just makes people think you’re a jerk. I was at a point where I’d had enough of religion and competitive arguments on the matter, seeing as how they spring up everywhere and over anything.

And through not seeking religion or even something behind religion, I freed myself up to learn on what felt like a more neutral analytical platform, which proved very beneficial. Through learning about matters that don’t directly relate to religions, it brought me around to questioning the narratives we’re commonly taught, to questioning everything. Going so far that a few years ago I began letting the notion of Jesus back in a bit more, or at least the parts of the myth that strike me as most meaningful and challenging to ponder. That’ felt like the right thing to do, even as I struggle and live in contradiction to some of the values it calls into attention. But I find the myth (story, call it whatever you will) of Jesus to be so valuable in terms of navigating our social world — like the lessons it teaches about reconciliation and forgiving one another and worrying about our own damn hypocrisy and other shit we need to work on instead of focusing on everybody else’s. It’s about living simply and within our means (which is becoming damn near impossible in this money-whore economy), about sharing with one another, about caring for the downtrodden and others who may not enhance our status or offer us a direct reward.

Why? Simply because being alive is a big deal, or at least it feels like it is for us humans, and we are capable of enduring such incredible suffering, so why add to it unnecessarily? But we all do from time to time, even despite harmless intentions. That’s going to happen. Nobody is perfect. It becomes a matter of whether we’re working on ourselves to become better than whatever we were, and that’s a personal journey we each embark on — a thorny, subjective experience if there ever was one. I’m not here to preach to others who happen to stumble across these written words, but to the universe I admit my sins (again, call it what you will — I define sins differently than some) and recognize I have a long way to go. A long way, and no shortcuts have appeared so far, not real ones anyway. Setbacks are never fun, but they happen too.

But moving on from that, I’ve kinda come to blend teachings like those of Jesus with the Golden Rule (and the reversed golden rule: Do not do unto others what you would not want done to you) and things I’ve picked up from authors and a few philosophers, creating a hodge-podge of sorts. Some parts of it are set more firmly than others; some questions still free-float in orbit around the core beliefs and attitudes I wish to uphold within myself. Some items may wind up dismissed over time after proving incompatible or inconsistent with what I’m aiming to be, as to be expected as one grows and learns. This could be considered the construction of a personal philosophy, but it has no name and doesn’t need one. Just an inquiry in response to the call of living, figuring out how one wants to approach this existence and others sharing in it, what standards to set for oneself and what to aspire toward. By and large, it presents itself to me as a personalized social philosophy of sorts, because that’s where the emphasis is primarily placed: on directing myself and relating with others and on the social constructs humans created that we’re currently expected to live with (like the blessed government and economy). In my view, the ultimate goal is to create a sane society. (Notice that I didn’t say a rational society though, because I am giving up on that dream after figuring out humans aren’t terribly prone to remaining rational, much as we may like to think otherwise. But that’s another topic for another time.)

In a nutshell, that’s what the moral/social/individual life is about. Out of this inquiry stems the sociological, the psychological, the philosophical, the existential and metaphysical, the parental, the legal and political, the economic, and, for some, the religious or ‘spiritual’. It all ties together; none stand alone because all are interrelated and in places overlapping. That is what is meant when I refer to our social world. (We can then tie in the environmental and natural since our habitat is part of who we are, which is where sciences and mathematics get introduced, leading into technologies and profound new understandings that have dramatically impacted how we experience the world in modern times. It’s all such a huge fascinating web that not a one of us could possibly cover all the ground there is within one lifetime, alleviating all concern about ever getting bored.)

It truly does help to have some sort of narrative to guide us, and I’ve come to believe its creation must be personally undertaken by each one of us. We each mold and shape what is within us, and we each are definitely primarily responsible for maintaining our own ships (in other words, monitoring and consciously guiding our own behavior and choices to the extent we are able). Because no one else can or should be responsible for managing us for us. Such strikes me as a form of slavery, so it appears we have the option of either shaping our own selves up to standards we’ve given deep introspective thought to and can devote ourselves to, or else risk being pushed by the tides or coerced into being who someone or something else determines we ought to be. We see the direction our countries are headed already, making this inquiry all the more timely and worthwhile.

But anyway, that had very little to do with that man’s video. lol  Kinda in the mood to go off on tangents this weekend. Ha! Out.

Divvying everything up

Tonight I’m thinking about all this either/or, black/white, this/that talk that’s become the norm in public discussions. Everything’s reduced down to a debate, and so many seem hell-bent on proving their “opponents” wrong or incompetent. People seem to be running around with their dukes up, spoiling for some sort of hostile confrontation that serves as an opportunity to vent their frustrations.

Often I’m reminded of the “two minutes hate” in George Orwell’s book Nineteen Eighty-Four, imagining people gnashing their teeth behind computer screens.  lol  Sad but true. So many reasons to diss and “hate”: racial clashes, political bickering, the sexes going to battle, warring ideologies and competing economic theories, religions vs. anti-religionists, etc. Lots of bullshit keeping people distracted.

But even if this bullshit is sown among us common folk from on-high, it’s still ultimately our responsibility to face and handle it. Nobody else can do this for us, so the responsibility must lie with us, right? And that’s where the issue gets really sticky, because, much as I tend to get pretty dismissive about knee-jerk labeling of one another, underneath it all there are competing philosophies that do deserve our attention. It’s a matter of struggling to figure out where the root of so much of this lies. Where’s the ultimate source of contention? Likely there is more more than one worth considering.

One important way it does boil down is to competing ideas on centralization vs. decentralization of power. Which of those do the currently powerful seek to support? Decidedly, centralization of power. Which of those do those aiming to become powerful support? They may pay lip service to decentralization in so far as it improves their chances of seizing power, at which point they revert to supporting the centralization of power. Why? Because these types of people aim for a disproportionate amount of power, and it’s not uncommon. Part of the human condition so far as I can tell. Some take it further than others, especially those lacking empathy or desire for meaningful connectedness with other humans.  Psychopathy (or sociopathy — are we still using the terms interchangeably?) is imitated by disenchanted people who’ve been peddled nihilistic fantasies.

It’s an effective strategy, but what’s particularly interesting to me here is that while colluding interests obviously help bring this about, plenty of us unwittingly perpetuate the problems ourselves. I’ve been guilty in the past and may still be guilty in some ways now (forever fallible).  Lots of people support the status quo through what they do to earn a living — hell of a conundrum that can be difficult to avoid. Plenty of us mean well but then get caught up in ideological bias without realizing it. Takes time to figure things out, including our own thought processes. Biases are a part of life, threads woven into the fabric of our individual subjective living experience. No two lives can be identical, and the uniqueness this grants us can feel like a double-edged sword at times. A sense of alienation accompanies this relatively new marvel of individuality taken to new heights.

It helps to put it in historical perspective.  The latest major rise of individualism came about during the Enlightenment Era, heralded as a brand-new way for humans to experience living, no longer mentally or materially shackled to familial clans as had been the case up through most our species’ history. Individualism as Western people experience it is truly revolutionary, unprecedented. But what allowed this to be so? What else occurred alongside this psychological leap within human beings? Economic and technological advancements ushered in new habitats and lifestyles, opening up our choices in terms of what to buy and where and how to live. People now are given the option to isolate ourselves, to live alone, to commute alone, in some cases even to work alone,  and now (thanks to the internet) to shop alone. We can choose to learn as much as we are able alone. Porn and sexual novelties make it easier to enjoy sexual pleasure alone. Many frequently dine alone. There was a time when this sort of thing spelled disaster for unlucky members of our species who found themselves abandoned or excommunicated, because so much of living involved socializing and individuals’ needs were met through the concerted efforts of clansmembers. No one person could manage it all on his or her own.

This shift cannot be overrated for its significance in impacting human psychology, which is something we continue struggling with adjusting to. Community had always mattered, and now we appear to be witnessing its dissolution, replaced by collections of people referring to themselves as communities despite members remaining unfamiliar and distant with one another. That’s a big change. Instead of depending on one another directly, we look toward government and agencies and businesses to supply what we need, and this is very often decided through competitive and coercive rather than cooperative action.

On a side-note, I’m reminded of the scene in the movie “Network” where the newscaster is talking about people living with anxiety, retreating to their homes, clinging to their radios and toasters and begging to be left alone.

Can’t speak for the rest of you, but I’m mad as hell too. It’s a natural reaction to a society out of wack. Part of the problem is just that so much change has occurred so rapidly that we’re made disoriented, especially now as each decade brings a plethora of new shit to get acquainted with. Easy to be dazzled and distracted in today’s world. Difficult to discern effective courses of action from wastes of time, particularly when it comes to waging legal battles through the largely defunct ‘proper channels’. Humanity is atomized into individuals set out on our own singular trajectories, trying to connect with others when able along the journey. Some are more introverted than others and relish so much solitude;  some grow deeply depressed due to lacking meaningful connections and a sense of purposeful living.

This is where modern “collectivist” movements attract attention, providing people with something to belong to, an affiliation to identify with, and access to others with relatively similar views to debate and socialize with. The “hating” toward the “opposition” provides members of the collective in question with something to bond with one another over. That last part is very important, because that’s the glue holding together modern groups. People feel the need to collect around some common goal(s), and standing in opposition to another group of people is an easy strategy open to all sorts. Anyone willing to obstruct the goals of “the opposition” is welcome, so long as you don’t harshly critique your own group in the process. Heck of a price of admission, but when people are lonely they do crazy things such as this. People do crave to experience a sense of belonging and identity, this being integral to how one’s personhood is defined.

Looked at from that angle, is it any wonder some people flock toward “collectivist” ideologies and movements? But this word “collectivist” isn’t a bad word in my worldview, per se. Humans are social creatures, yet individualistic at the same time. Hell of a way to be, but this is what human existence consists of. The balance varies from person to person and across cultures (and subcultures), but the fact remains in place. I am unable to comprehend individualism as if in a zero-sum competition with collectivism, as if individualism could win out and utterly defeat collectivism. No, and I don’t think we’d actually want that if it were possible. But does collectivism theoretically possess the power to potentially stamp out individualism? Maybe so. Hence why I’ve come to think of it rather as a ratio than an either/or proposition. Say, 70/30 in terms of protecting individualism and catering to collective concerns. Because individualism requires safeguards to ensure it won’t be so easily overtaken by collective/conformity-minded pursuits, but those ultimately responsible for policing this and making sure the balance isn’t tipped too far are our own selves, we the individuals. Authorities will not encourage the proliferation of independent thought and action, because that’s (rightly) perceived to be a threat to their own claims to power. Citizens have so far demonstrated we’re terrific at dropping the ball repeatedly, thanks in large part to us not being able to agree on barely anything and spending so much time fighting one another.

Sometimes I have to laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation we find ourselves in. Not sure how to remedy it other than to strive to distinguish 2 or 3 core principles a great many of us can agree on enough to at least respect and uphold to provide some needed framework that binds us into a collective on one level, but through each individual’s choice and initiative. This means leaving aside all the ways in which we differ in views for a moment so as to support an effort that is of potential benefit to all humans.

The idea is to create a new (well, actually based on an old attempt that we Americans failed at) framework on which new narratives that serve common people rather than merely the most parasitic among us can have a chance at existence. There likely will have to be multiple narratives since there’s no way one size will fit all. There’s plenty of room for flexibility here, if we could only agree that we, as individuals as well as the communities we take part in, want to be in greater control of our destinies rather than submit to being leashed and muzzled by others vying for the power to exploit our labor and play on our psychologies to suit their own dreams of gaining wildly-disproportionate advantage. It’s called slavery, folks, and regardless of the form it may take, it’s the same old song and dance.

Just some thoughts during a loooong night awake with a cold.  sick