Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Robert Muller: A Global Soul

I discovered Robert Muller in the January/February issue of Ode, a magazine sort of like an international version of Utne.

Robert Muller was part of the French Resistance. Muller was imprisoned by the Nazis during World War II and while there, in a way similar to Victor Frankl, discovered that a concerted effort to sustain an attitude of internal and constant happiness helped ease the despair. He took a cue from the French psychologist of optimism, Emile Coue, and says, "Always be the happiest man on earthm wherever you are and whatever you do. If you look at it that way, being in prison is actually a rather interesting experience."

In 1948, Muller began a distinguished 40-year career with the United Nations, to which he took his lessons from WWII - that to do good in the face of strife, the greatest necessity is optimism. Of a world prone to conflict, Muller says, "You see, love for peace is not enough. Beyond it we need a vision of peace, a science of peace, a strategy for peace and innumerable actions for peace." And as for the role of the UN in all this, Muller is emploring: "Someday humans will realize that the UN is one of the greatest biological phenomena of all times, a true turning point in our planet's and human evolution. Too many people do not believe in the UN. They criticize it, lash out at it, call it inefficient and ineffective. Why don't they love it instead, defend it, encourage it and give this god-sent instrument for world peace and order a chance to succeed in the face of truly gigantic problems? HOw can the UN succeed without your faith and encouragement?

"In order to model a happy and beautiful world, we must believe in it, we must work at it, we must be in love with it."

"Human history so far has been the history of a primitive race. Only now, with planet wide knowledge and consciousness, have we entered the real challenge to our species: the good management of our earth."

"To be unhappy, to be ungrateful, not to feel wonder and appreciation for the incredible gift of life is a most foolish and short-sighted attitude. The toughest prison of all is that which man imposes on himself."

"Life is divine, life is an extraordinary, incredible, miraculous phenomenon, our most precious gift. We must grow a global brain, a global heart, a global soul. That is our most pressing current evolutionary task."

Monday, February 13, 2006

VP = Very Private (Cheney)

VP, as we so well know, stands for VERY PRIVATE.

Closed doors, keep out, off limits, no comment.

But do these guys need a bumper sticker stuck on their limosines? It's not the crime, it's the time... (of the DELAY). As James Carville might say, "It's the delay, stupid." Even for a smoke screen kinda guy, a 24 hour delay in acknowledging even an accidental shooting smells of cover up.

No doubt about it, these guys take the "public" and the "service" out of public service. As "public servants," they're supposed to have accepted not only the "public eye" but the public's right to know. Of course, actually LIKING the public, the People, as in "We, the People," would really help. The opposite seems to be true, as in how easily we can imagine a smurky Mr. Cheney snidely saying, "they don't know what's good for them. We won't show them, we'll just give it to them."

So, Mr. Very Private, why the delay? Not, I say, to "get all the facts" or even to "get the facts right" but to spin the facts if not can them. Who's gonna fall for 'needing all the facts' first? What story waits for "all the facts"?

Tim Grieve reports in the War Room at Salon that Mary Matalin got up early Monday morning to put in a good word for her nefarious boss. As Grieve said, "No less of an authority than Mary Matalin says that Vice President Dick Cheney was in the right when he unloaded his shotgun on a 78-year-old hunting companion Saturday."

Matalin was reported as saying, "He felt badly, obviously.... On the other hand, he was not careless or incautious ... He didn't do anything he wasn't supposed to do."

To which Grieve notably retorts: "Would that she could say that about the vice president more generally."

What a guy, our stiff upper lipped Commander Behind the Curtain.

Interesting that neither VP "Duck, It's Dick!" Cheney nor the White House issued any announcement of the VP's accidentally shooting a hunting companion for a whole day - until, in fact, well after the story broke in the Corpus Christi newspaper.

Why? Because Dick Cheney is the tail that wags the dog. In the New World Order of Bush, that's the way it is, especially when blood is spilled.

But today, it's even more curious that the talking heads on TV are chitchatting about how Dave and Jay will have a field day with this little piece of news "for a week!"

Yep, a notorious and telling little incident, trivialized before the joke writers have even had downed their coffee and Cokes to confab on the conning VP's buckshot bust - and figured out how to make it funny. 'Oh, goodie, we can't wait to see what sort of hay they'll make from this one.'

Meanwhile, we have to wonder how this story might have emerged if the victim's wounds had not required a hospital stay and surgery.

UPDATE: Scott McClellan is on TV right now, squirming over questions of THE DELAY and 'what is the protocol for informing the press?' McClellan is taking a beating right now. "Why is it that it took so long...?" McClellen can only repeat himself by blowing another puff of smoke.

Meanwhile, the gracious (and apparently honest) owner of the ranch might be in trouble with the White House, as it was she who called the Corpus Christi paper to report the accident. Cheney has reportedly been hunting at this ranch for years, but I'll bet this VP doesn't ever go hunting there again. Of course, as far as safety goes, Cheney is a loaded gun himself, even when he's not firing one.

Friday, February 10, 2006

From the Library

I haven't had a home phone for months, which, in my case, also means no dial-up, which means no computer. I get down to the local library most days - on my street about 8 blocks, so I can walk there easily.

But libraries are, as you may recall, rather earnest places, if not quite as hush-hush as they used to be - at least as many people are clicking away on computers as are wandering the stacks of books and mags.

The earnestness of the library lends itself to a noticable lack of the flippant and/or satirical in the reading and writing I do there - there, where I am now, as I type this.

So it's probably hard to believe that I'm a flippant and satirical and - on a tear - sarcastic kind of guy, without sacred cows of any sort. Libraries imply a sort of sacredness. Even the extraverts are introverted here. It's not exactly a place to break out in hearty conversation even when you run into someone you know that you're very glad to run into.

But even if the society is rather self-absorbed and subdued, I like the civility of the place, the idea that I'm participating in a public place, a public resource - instead of just blathering on and on home alone. Home alone lends itself to way too hours spent on the computer, and a lot of guilty friends attest to this - as if home weren't already sedentary enough.

When I'm at home, even in marginal weather - even chilly, rainy days - I leave the doors open and the windows cracked. I get outside, not necessarily to DO much of anything but just to be outside. I don't see any of my neighbors just standing about in their yards. For most, I suppose, their yards are just places they visit now and then. They don't really feel they live there.

After some months of this, I now feel like I live at the library, too, a good amount of the time. Sometimes I walk down twice a day. But the use of a computer is limited to an hour at a time, and that sort of keeps things in check a bit.

Then I get back outside.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

On "Politicizing" Parks & King

Two great champions of civil rights died not so far apart, Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King. Presidents (plural) flocked to their funerals, as did other high profile mourners, to pay tribute - and to add some political spin to their passing.

Well, some pundits, I hear, have had a field day with this, arguing (and that is the right word for it - arguing) that no one's death or funeral should be "politicized." You might note that the pundits (and the public) on this rampage are not our biggest fans of civil rights, of protest, of speaking truth to power, of trying to do what's right - right in the face of what's wrong.

Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King politicized their own lives. Indeed, they lived political lives, by choice, consistently and persistently. Just because they didn't usually preach or shout or testify or run for office doesn't mean their lives, as not only we the public but as their own friends and families knew them, were not political. Perhaps compare them to Oprah Winfrey. Ms. Winfrey often steers relatively clear of taking political sides, but she's political, too. Of course she is! Anyone interested in voicing their views for rights and change and governance and civility and what kind of people should we be and what sort of nation should we be is political.

So, actually, it would be inappropriate to let these courageous women fade away without giving some stirring speeches (and even offering up some new and honorary legislation) specifically regarding what Ms. Parks and Ms. King desired in life, what they stood for, what they worked and took risks for - and not only for themselves but for us all.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Triple D: Depression, Disease & Defense

Part of the "disorder" of depression - for some a huge part, I am sure - occurs not because of any disorder within but from the disorder without.

And there is plenty of disorder from without. A lot of people make a lot of money from disorder, whether it's selling self-help books, advertising cleaning products, handing out traffic tickets or building or fending off bombs.

I would say that many of the depressed have some predisposition not necessarily towards gloom but towards awareness and reality - seeing things as they are and feeling the urge to flinch or withdraw. We're all asked and even expected to participate in very convention lives, to "play by the rules." But too many of the rules these days are being created by businesses and a government which do not have our best interests at heart. And some of us not only sense that but SEE IT, clearly, starkly, in bold relief. But there is little relief, and we're not easily relieved.

Those who suffer from depression are not easily relieved. Career success, grand accomplishments, notoriety, popularity, even fame and fortune can't relieve us enough. Money can't buy you love, and it can't buy a lot of other things we need, too.

For real health, we need respect-worthy neighbors and a respect-worthy society, a culture which exudes virtues above and beyond power and might. For my health, we need a natural world that is at least being preserved, if not restored to rebound afresh. And we need a government which serves the best interests - the long term best interests - of... Jeez, I'm wandering off into dreamy platitudes here. Sixties shit. I've said it before, said this and a lot more. But then, on days like this, this is what I do think needs to be said most, however hokey, however hopeless.

You know where I'm going without me having to say it. Our country, beloved and beleaguered, has seriously lost its way. It just would take TOO BIG a leap of faith to believe we are anywhere close to the right track these days. And that sorrow, when I look around and feel enough passion and purpose to write to you, creeps into my bones, my insistently melancholy bones.

Yet I look outside, and it is a lovely day - so sunny in February, and I know I am lucky to be here, sitting in a decent public library in the Texas Hill Country looking out at so much sunshine - even if the days ARE just a tad too warm for comfort for this time of year (even in the bright rays, there is that specter of global...).

We, I say "we" as Americans, host a bunch of disorders besides depression. We're dis-eased, like so many hundreds of millions who are bored and so, to relieve their boredom, punch the remote control - not a very inspiring way to fend off boredom, but very insightful as to how lost we are. Besides their few good moments, aren't those millions of TV viewers treating their TVs like self-administering morphine vials, taking tiny hits.

That's what this is all about, this depression of ours, this dis-ease we live and feel, this sucking up to the war-mongers to defend us from ours fears which may be vague but which are really a lot closer to home than half a world away. We are afraid we're pissing our lives away, thinking we need to bond with our friends over the ads flashed before us during the Super Bowl. Just morphine, even if all taken together in friendly rooms, huddled together on couches with TV trays, Velveeta and Lite beer.

Maybe not realizing all the while that we're still being taught to love battle and war and to depend on the very "enemies" we're told we're afraid of. The implications are clear: that winning (marking and crushing enemies) is the only victory, that martial law, like a Mean Daddy God, is the highest law, law of the highest order, hellishly heavenly. But really, as every armed conflict shows, there is no order in military order. Order is an ongoing thing, a sharing of civility. And the military is just not civil; that's why we're the ones called "civilians." No, the military, like sports, is so brutish it goes against the grain of rules and against the grain of civility and civilization. So it's not an order, an answer, but more an end game - or an end to games. Why glorify it? Why then even duck out of issue by even saying you "support our troops"? I don't want anybody to die, but it is each person's responsibility to not participate, solider or not. I say to every soldier: You might want to believe it, you might even feel it, but there is no god on the side of war or warriors. The only blessings you really get are political and sentimental from those who are twenty paces and a thousand miles behind you - and themselves duped into believing that bad behavior is necessary and that bad news is good news in disguise. Well, if you think about it, and whether you believe in God or not, there are no disguises. But the good news is that your life is your own to live as best you can. You can be a hero if you speak up for peace and against any injustice, any cruelty - even the slightest slip. And yes, you are a hero if you desert or leave, go AWOL, do what it takes to get out of wherever you are and go to a peaceful place so you can be good by doing good.

Some of us who are depressed and ill at ease are some of the most intelligent, the most sane, the most aware, the most idealistic and patriotic people out there. We're just not sure how to defend ourselves and others against all those ads, against the propaganda, against the deadly sin of pride, against all that conventional oblivion, before the boob tube and before our own beliefs. We're not sure how to turn the tide on that defense that is so offensive.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Military Might: The Booming Budget

It's a RECORD!!!

So ex-post State of the Union, Mr. Bush has offered up what he really wants and has really wanted all along - oh yeah, the biggest military budget ever. The dollars, in terms of almost anything a human could think of, are staggering: $439.3 billion for one year's worth of military might. And that's not even including the costs for the actual product of the military - the wars themselves, at an undisclosed cost of some more hundreds of billions.

This is personal, friends. When do YOU say "enough is enough"? Or better yet, "this is WAY too much." (Just think what we could do with $140 billion if we still kept the military to a $300 billion budget, which is what it was as recently as... 1999 (that year it was a measly $298.4 billion, to be exact) Seems we ought to get what we need for a bunch of hot heads and car bombers - even an actual military threat - for $300 billion. So I say, for starters, cut defense right now by $140 billion. Then we can talk.

As before, in the wake of this request, the Secretary of Defense has gone on the offense to defend those billions as a necessary cost of being a rich free nation: 'We need this, and we can afford this,' has been his line. Hell, we can't even afford all the holiday junk and Super Bowl-worthy big screen TVs we've just stacked up on our credit cards like jumbo jets circling over O'Hare in a sleet storm.

But then I suppose we Americans really think it's costing us all that much. Somehow, the government will figure out a way to take somebody else for the brunt of it. Take out another loan from China or Germany.

You know, speaking of the Germans, back in the 1930s they were a pretty well educated and worldly people, and they fell for it, too - a crazed, fear-fighting, patriot-driven military buildup. They read newspapers and saw things on newsreels and voted and let things get out of hand BIG TIME. It was pretty irration - as if even the brightest people wore blinders... like the blinders Americans seem to be have been slipping on themselves for some years now.

Sleep, eat, TV, sleep, eat, TV. A work a month of your year to pay for this horror? Me, I'm an American patriot, a peaceful citizen. I take President Bush at his word that we are a peaceful nation, that, as he said one week ago tonight in his second to last State of the Union Address, that we (even he?) "will renew the defining moral commitments of this land." Surely, the freedom to not participate in violence or war is an American right. So, peaceful I am, though I am NOT AT peace with any nation that thinks the armed forces are it's most important and most valuable and most necessary investment - not even my own.

The Germans learned their lesson the hard way. What will it take for us? I'd rather see a peaceful solution, and, at the very least, that will take more moral certitude and complaint from the American people. Too often, it seems, peace takes protest.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Grunts, Gladiators

I didn't see the Extra Large Super Bowl XL. I was vaguely aware that it was on, which is more than I can say about some years. I don't think I've seen a Super Bowl since the Patriots won their first one - not sure if they won another one.

But today at lunch, I caught a glimpse of ESPN, not my channel of choice, but blog worthy for all its post-game wind down, letting off Super Steam for lack of much else to do. It seems men really do like to watch sports on TV. It's a realm they think helps make them men, modern men, who do more than trudge off to their gainful jobs before doing the domestice scene - meaning domestic duties often thoroughly and persistently assigned to them by their wives.

So men watch gladiators. And they've convinced millions of women to somehow think it's an OK thing to do, too - more surprising to me. I used to give women, as a gender, more credit than that. Sure they use "The Big Game" as an excuse to cook and gab and mingle and load up for the serious Snack Fest. Men have also convinced a lot of women that drinking Miller Lite is about as patriotic as it gets in America - nearly the definition of the freedom some unlucky grunts are shipped off to fight for. Other gladiators, out of sight, those grunts are. We hardly see their faces on the news, and of course they don't enjoy the spoils of war. No, the spoils of war go to those who fight it out on the astroturf, not in the backalleys of Baghdad. These mash-mouthed millions grease up, grunt it out, work up a sweat and then hit the showers and the champagne, then cash the checks and live it up and live like pimps.

Some "freedom" we're fighting for.

Maybe we should fight for honor instead, and maybe if we really were fighting for honor and not just these dangerous charades of pomp and power, maybe we wouldn't have to fight so much. But oh, no, this is America, and that's the kind of country we are - a country that likes a good fight.

Even if it's sort of just a front, a fake, a show for military might or money.

Some freedom we're fighting for, indeed.

Friday, February 03, 2006

The New Reichs

Sir Donald - that would be Mister Rumsfeld, has compared Venezuela's Senior Chavez to a certain Mister Hitler.

In psychological circles, it is often said that a person is most easily
annoyed by or angered by things in others that they dislike in
themselves. Thus, the aggrieved and aggrevated, often without realizing it, pursue a mindset that says something like, "terrorists are bad... so let's terrorize them right back."

So when it comes to having/wanting enemies, Our Man at the Helm, Mr. "Snake Oil" Bush, Our Man in Charge, Mr. "The Wizard" Cheney and our Man of Menace, Mr. 'War R Us' Rumsfeld, easily find themselves in the company of some other rather unsavory bullies from the past and present, whose latent fascism needed only the pomp and circumstance to make it grow.

Watch out for little bullies posing as Big Men. They get sand kicked in their face and drop a bomb on you, especially if you're hiding out in some far off jungle or sand pit.

Bush could lead us toward his stated "American values" by firing these guys. But he follows their filthy ways - not very Christian for a "man of peace," president of a "peaceful nation."

No, what WOULD a truly peaceful nation do?

What WOULD Jesus do? And where's the heartfelt Scarecrow when we need him?

Be peaceful.


Thursday, February 02, 2006

"The Dead of Winter"

Turns out there is no such thing as "the dead of winter."

If the bare plants or the seemingly frozen turning of the seasons (or our spirits) were really dead, there'd be no coming back from it. And as far as we call tell - persistent sentiments aside - death is a one way trip - and really not a trip at all but a final destination. Indeed, the words "dead end" really DO go together.

No, even in this, for some, dullest (if not darkest) time of year, life goes on, perhaps more subtly, more ingrown.

The plants that may look dead above the surface are growing roots all the time. In fact, roots do lots of growing during the winter.

So think of the roots, even in winter. Persist in drought and darkness. Counter the cold in safe keeping, underneath. Keep growing, no matter how ingrown/in growing, no matter how cabin bound or close to home.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

State of the Union

Well, at least we seem to have curtailed George W. Bush's ambitions. No more sweeping changes to Social Security or much of anything else - though he does continue to take the budgetary ax to every social program he can get his sights on - even Katrina relief goes by the wayside, even as the president says we must renew "American values."

BIG WORDS: "We will renew the defining moral commitments of this land," but poetry aside, it might be nice to know what Mr. Bush really thinks those are. And are they any different for him than they are for us?

No, nothing revolutionary on the table this round, nothing sweeping at all, not even rhetorically, unless you count the "wide arc of human history," whatever that means. Maybe Mr. Bush ought to ask his speech writer what it means.

Some say this speech will be remembered for the short sentence, "America is addicted to oil." But isn't that our smarmy drug dealer telling us that? How odd, an oil man, not unimersed but truly embedded with that enemy OIL. But at least he said it so we can say he - even HE - told us so.

But not there in the "addicted" sentence or anywhere else, no real passion, no depth, nothing grand, nothing but the '06 marking of a passing parade. He read the speech as if they were clearly all words written by another man, a spectre of a focus group. We witnessed (or didn't) a smaller speech from a notably smaller man.