Wednesday, February 22, 2006

the Calculus of George Bush...

Arab Robber Barron Dictators who've put $100M up my Dad's butt = ALLIES and U.S. PORT MANAGERS!
Arab Robber Barron Dictators who haven't put $100M up my Dad's butt = TERRORISTS!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Why I'm Not Happy... an open letter to my mother on my birthday

Mom,

If I bought The Left Hand of God for you, would you read it? It’s a book by Micheal Lerner, a Jewish rabbi that describes how U.S. conservatism has distorted the Jewish and Christian scriptures, and religiosity in general, in pursuit of essentially selfish and purely economic interests, when the reality of the scriptures, as you and many other important institutions, like the schools and the free press, taught me is the scriptural emphasis of every religion is essentially love, charity, tolerance, equality and justice.

I listened to Rabbi Lerner, the book’s author, on CSPAN this morning and I sincerely believe that Rabbi Lerner is absolutely right: the Bible and the Torah say far more about the jubilee (forgiveness of debt every 7 years, equal redistribution of wealth/land every 50 years, love, fairness, peace not war) than railing against homosexuality or for individualism, nationalism and the necessity of war.

Furthermore, I believe that Biblical/Torahical Israel was never as much a nation as a people, even occupied by other nations, but retaining unwavering purity and solidarity in its faith. In short, Rabbi Lerner contends, and I agree, that ours is one world, shared by all living things; that our nations and individualism are too rapidly destroying our world far faster than our technology and present political and economic structure can compensate. And for many reasons, which George Bush and his administration seem to symbolize for we on the Left, the present U.S. government could very well represent a turning or inflection point for our world.

For example:


There was a CNN poll this morning: should the U.S. close the “terrorist” internment camp at Guantanamo Bay Cuba. 79% of respondents (myself included) favor closure as we favor immediate U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq.

A recent Pew Research Center study/poll shows how much income and politics play into “happiness.” In short, those with family incomes in excess of $150K/year report far greater levels of happiness. Republicans/conservatives report significantly higher levels of happiness than Democrats/liberals and independents. Frequent church goers report far higher levels of happiness than non-goers.

But frankly, my (i.e. “Liberal”) contention is that to be happy -- in the face of an unending war, massive poverty and disease, ecological disaster and essentially our unsustainable “American” way of life, whereby 82% of this world’s resources (e.g. fossil fuels) consumed annually are consumed by 21% of its “richest” people -- seems frankly more mass-delusion than reality. In other words, I ask, can we rationally justify personal happiness when life for the vast majority of humans is getting worse and more stressful, despite rising longevity? As you know, I just turned 44 years old. And while I am an amalgam of contradictory ideas, ideals and behavior, I can clearly recognize this (worsening) truth. And it disturbs me. It keeps me awake at night; mostly because, on our present human course, I see essentially no likelihood or possibility for improvement.

So if there is life after death, as so many American believe, I would think that God, the creator, if benevolent as most religious persons believe, will have many, many questions for every one of us, but perhaps especially for those professing “happiness.”

Questions like:


Why didn’t you personally do more?

Why was improving your individual and family social and economic status more important than improving your neighborhood, town, nation, species and planet?

Why was emphasizing the social and cultural differences between you and others, mostly to the detriment of civil discourse and human tolerance, more important than emphasizing commonality, like the necessity for clean air and water, collective economic improvement, and free, unbiased education for all?

How could you have possibly professed “happiness” in the face of so much very real suffering? Especially when it’s likely that greater sacrifice and better, simpler, more easily justifiable ethical choices by you and your elected governments might very well have increased the greater good for the larger majority of past, present, and future species cohabiting planet Earth?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Peter Principle of Human Societies?

At Bush's State of the Union pace, events to force the U.S. off crude will have little to do with price, time or technology and everything to do with politics. They all seem to really hate us: Saudi, Iran, Iraq, Venezuela... and as soon as they are able, they will turn off the spigot, and starve us in the same way that our way of life has ignored/exploited/corrupted/starved them.

I read this yahoo newsgroup, NASPIR and it's very esoteric and replete with intellectual/academic language, but I believe, as the writers there do, that our only hope -- our only "solution" -- is political, economic and religious compromise, not cultural, economic and military war. But global, near nuclear, war (in the form of U.S. capitalism) has been waged against the earth since the end of World War II. But does globalization mean simply better, more efficient global arbitrage and exploitation? If so, we're all doomed to endless war and pointless death. And if the answer is less for us and more for them, then I say fair is fair. A world (like Bush's) with absolute winners and losers, where losers far outnumber winners, can never be secured and therefore has no future. Doesn't the ultimate collapse of every empire to date prove this?

And while I dream that one day secular idealism will finally and ultimately refute and replace these silly, pointless religions (both Christianity and Islam). Today we witness a potentially catastrophic fundamentalist backlash from the un/mis-educated on both sides. But when you really look, it's a backlash against precarity and not for religious ideals. But precarity is not death and it's time we all begin to understand this. Human beings can adapt to scarcity and precarity just as we did to the false advertising of free/cheap abundance through mass/over production.

In other words, I and many others believe there must be a sustainable, human compromise to be struck:

1. capitalism, combining both regulated AND free markets, bringing innovation and modernity, while limiting and penalizing greed and corruption.
2. secularism, but with morality and common sense modesty, devoid of offensive sensuality and vulgarity.
3. spirituality without absolutism -- a right to private prayer/meditation, while publicly abiding the golden rule -- is a recipe for societal Justice, which is both core and culmination of every religion.

And if I'm wrong, then I'm afraid it's the Peter Principle of human society -- and ours has simply ascended to the nadir of its incompetence.

Todd Ryder