Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Why are we still sacrificing canaries?


Back in the day of coal mining's heyday,  disasters in the mines were common. Dangerous gasses built up in the tunnels and an errant spark ignited fiery explosions, killing miners, destroying both the mine and the product itself, and necessitating large scale rescue and emergency response operations to mitigate the death and damage.

After a while, people recognized that the gasses that blew up were also toxic, but the miners weren't always affected by the fumes enough to notice before it was too late, so they began a practice of sending a caged canary into the mines with the workers. The small birds were more sensitive to the gasses, and when the canary stopped singing, the miners took note and were able to evacuate and purge the passageways before death and destruction resulted.
Caged Canary -- credit: gauchemanitoba.blogspot.com
Today coal, though the least-favored, most-polluting fossil fuel, is still mined, and co-occurrent gasses still accumulate, but canaries are no longer sacrificed; better technologies have been developed to monitor the air quality.

The practice of sacrifice for the greater good has been a human belief since the days of ancient demanding gods: mythology records that the volcano deity expected virgins for appeasement; weather gods demanded portions of the harvest. Over time, powerful earthly representatives of the gods took charge of the sacrifices: priests collected offerings and tithes to appease the wrathful gods; as time continued, lesser beings were turned over to divinely ruling monarchs in order to maintain the touchy equilibrium of truce in abutting kingdoms.

The sacrifice of canaries and virgins may be over, but the sacrifice of the many for the few is still prevalent. In fact, over the centuries it has been institutionalized into common fact. Hierarchy protects those at the top and axes the minions below to keep the status quo: bureaucracy calls the practice reduction in force; corporations "restructure" their operations; generals send platoons of soldiers into battle. Today, the masses of common laborers are the pawns of executives just as slaves were at the beck and call of the landed gentry of yore.

Times continue to change. The voting restrictions documented at America's founding have been whittled away, giving more power to those previously constrained by established rules. Societal mores evolved, extending protections of law more equitably to those previously without legal rights. Slaves were freed. Laborers organized and demanded better working conditions. Women were emancipated and joined the ranks employed outside the home. Students and underprivileged minorities agitated concessions from the political system. Worldwide, patterns shifted.

As equity became more achievable, the sacrifice concept lost its allure, disrupting the power structure. More and more competition threatened the traditional overlording controllers who scrambled to enact measures to re-establish their positional power. And so they established the theory of "trickle down economics".

Without sacrifice from the masses, the hierarchical power structure cannot exist. By purporting that anyone can rise through hard work, the system retains its structure while controlling access; the few rise while the rest struggle, and as the power is more firmly established at the top, the ante is upped by increasing disparities, requiring more sacrifices from minions while bolstering the attainment at the top. As long as the ranks of aspiring midlevel achievers fail to recognize the Ponzi scheme they are playing in and succumb to the allure of possible triumph, they perpetuate the system. And those who are fated by socio-economic, racial, ethnic, or educational underprivilege to serve as the underpinnings of the system are destined to not just perpetually fail but sacrifice more and more for the success at the top.

Prove it to yourself:  This is no fairytale theory. 

Today's wealthy elite manipulate in the background, funding the politicians to manage their "trickle" process. Those marginalized by gender, racial, ethnic, or religious categorization, the old, the disabled, the hungry, the poor, all are targetted daily for more sacrifice while the rich controllers are rewarded with inappropriate spoils. Women are prevented from controlling their own bodies; blacks can be killed for seeming to be threatening while their white assailants get out of jail free with "stand your ground" laws. Taxes are cut for the wealthy, and public lands are leased to their corporations for a pittance of their value to be exploited by unsustainable extraction processes that pollute the air, water, and land itself for generations to come.

Until we realize that "trickle down economics" is a trick of the wealthy to perpetuate their status and diminish the rest of the world's quo, we underlings of the system will continue to remain caged, abused, disposable, and unaware that in this system, we serve as the sacrificial canaries.
I wonder... what you think.
* Photo Credit: gauchemanitoba.blogspot.com

Monday, July 15, 2013

What is to become of US?

I keep hearing that Saturday's verdict means our world is no longer safe for young black men. But then, nor is it safe these days in America to be a woman or an immigrant or poor or gay or a senior on Social Security or... well, fill in your favorite marginalized group. As far as anyone can see these days, the world is a pretty hostile place for nearly everyone but the super rich and their paid-for legislators.

It's not the world I want to live in or the one I want my granddaughter to inherit.
It's time for everyone to support a Better World.
Yet, I do have to wonder at the mentality of the controlling establishment at this juncture because they are overplaying their hand pretty much on all fronts. Perhaps they intend it as a divide and dominate tactic but rather than prodding people back into self-preserving submission, I think they've gone too far and are stirring the forces of resistance into power.

It's time we realize we can't be complacent in our small corner of the world while we watch the dominoes of other marginalized groups disintegrate around us. It's time to come together, and to act.

Working together has synergy, and bringing so many "minorities" into conjunction can only result in a supermajority that can finally overpower the old paradigm. It may take a while for the disparate constituencies to realize the value of unity, but ultimately (and it will be only a short time from the point of view of evolution), that united effort is what will make the world a better place.
Sometimes when the fight begins, I think I'll let the dragons win. But then again, perhaps I won't. Because they're dragons. And I don't. ~ A.A. Milne
It's up to each and every one of us to imagine the compassionate world we want to live in, because that's the only way it will be possible. We can change the world only IFF we imagine a world of respect, compassion, and sanity, believe we can create it, and work to make it so.

The change is simple -- it just isn't easy. Of course I recognize that today's sad reality means that WORK is needed to create the world I -- and you and every sane individual -- yearn to live in. That is why I always stress that it begins with thought, requires heartfelt belief in the possibility of change, AND takes the effort and resources to work for the new reality.

If everyone who wants a different world retreats into self-protection instead, their energy for change is lost to the world. We make a better world only when we stop accepting someone else's definition of what is right and IMAGINE what we choose to make possible instead of the mess that is, BELIEVE with all our heart and will that we can succeed, and WORK to make it so.

In the end what will hurt the most is not the words of our enemies
but the silence of our friends.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

It's time to sign ALL the petitions and join ALL of the marches and write ALL the letters to the editors and legislators and agency heads. It's time to Recall Congress and vote in true Representatives of the People. It's time to overturn the euphemious Citizens United and stop all the backers and SuperPACs and shady backroom dealers. It's time to rise up and reclaim America as its united citizens and return our nation to the stature we believe it deserves. It's time to become all we are capable of being and lead the world into an era peace, prosperity, and human rights for ALL. It's time to step forward and act.
I wonder... what you think.
Dragon photo: Fanpop.com; text: AA Milne

Friday, July 5, 2013

What's more shameful than the "N-word"?

Gee, Paula Deen used the "N-word" -- in a joke -- once up on a time. Yeah. Let me think: a white Georgia-bred 66 year old got fired for being a racist because under oath, she admitted to this error of judgement. Now, I'll admit, I haven't read the full testimony nor do I condone the use of that or any other pejorative label in any circumstance, but the whole overblown Paula Deen scandal is scapegoating a much larger, more prevalent, and far more troubling issue in America.

That Paula Deen was raised in a racist society cannot be disputed, and one thing brain scientists will explain if you don't know from your own personal experience is: what we learn during early development is seeded deep in the synapses of the brain, below the level of our day-to-day awareness. Sadly, not only was Paula Deen raised in a racist society; so are all Americans -- still, to this day. And even when we consciously want to overcome those childhood lessons (even Paula Deen has expressed remorse), the automind of habit -- especially in conditions of stress -- is much more powerful than rational thinking. It takes more than just momentary effort of will to undo the lessons of a lifetime. It takes constant practice and reinforcement of better behavior.
Children are colorblind until taught to be otherwise
Because we as a society have pretty ineffectually attempted to sweep the detritus of slavery -- and other ethnic disparaging -- under the rug of presentability, insidious racism remains rampant in America. The fallout of the Paula Deen testimony isn't its shameful fact, it's its public witchhunt fervor. Bad Paula: SHE said "the N-word". The thing is: racist words and other slurs pollute the air of every American community. When we hear denigrating terms, we witnesses may mildly deprecate with a weary headshake or dismiss the intent or -- more often -- simply disregard in silent complicity. People may squirm or look away, but no one ever talks about its offense. As Ta-Nehisi Coates reports in The Atlantic, "The ignorance is willful. We know what we want to know, and forget what discomfits us."

Let me be clear: I do indeed think Paula Deen in private still harbors the prejudices of her upbringing, just as a too-large portion of the entire United States does. The loud and zealous societal excoriation of Paula Deen isn't proof of a moral turnaround and it certainly isn't evidence of anyone stepping forward to atone for white privilege. People's reactions show no real movement toward resolution but merely a posturing of indignation, more for the slight of bring up the unmentionable in public rather than righteous repentence.

“The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” 
~ John Wooden, American basketball coach

It's convenient to denounce Paula Deen, but if we're sincere, where are the protests against the "birthers" and other blatantly prejudiced Obama maligners, like Donald Trump. Where is the censure of legislators who perpetuate jerrymandered districting and voucher education into ghettos of failure. Where are the protests against the Roberts Court, which can admit racism exists yet strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 before any mitigating replacement legislation is enacted. Where is the outcry against the torrent of hatred unleashed at the Cheerios ad featuring a biracial family. Why do we attack only one aging southern belle when there is a whole country steeped in white privilege and denial?

In a society with gender diversity and sexual diversity and racial and ethnic diversity, you make those kind of [demeaning] comments, you're failing at leadership. If we can make this point [to take personal responsibility to stand for human rights and not stay silent in the presence of abuse] to powerful men and women in our society, at all levels of institutional authority and power, it's going to change the paradigm of people's thinking.
~ Jackson Katz,  Ph.D, advocate of the Bystander Approach

Society condones the media's willful whitewash the truth. Racism hasn't gone away. Compared to other nations, our diversity is woefully underrepresented in positions of power and influence. America is only equitable, evenhanded, tolerant when convenient. Our practices are far more anchored in bias, partiality, and discrimination than in policies of conscientious, upright, ethical principles. We only talk equality and hope no one notices the disparity of our nation's pervasive reality.


As long as demographics divide the world into Black and White, as long as we force multi-ethnic children to claim one racial identity, as long as prejudice and stereotypes color our assumptions, the “sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners" will never comfortably feast together at a table of thanksgiving. Rather, each group will continue to glorify inimical oral histories, and neither will willingly integrate in colorblind brotherhood. As James C. Harrington, director of the Texas Civil Rights Project says, "We may have knocked down the walls of our own apartheid, but we still stumble over the ruins of segregation."

We need not just to remember the "created equal" concept of our nation's founding; we need to embrace its ideal. We need to listen to the models who have led the way; Nelson Mandela said it well: "To be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others." We need to honor not just memorized rules of equality but the inborn "better angels" of our own empathic hearts.

Until this nation commits to the "absolute equality of personal rights” promised in the Juneteeth declaration of emancipation by Union Gen. Gordon Granger, we are failing our citizens, our national spirit, and our potential. But it's not up to one Southern white woman to overcome the inbred teachings of her past; it's up to each and every American to tap into the heartfelt wisdom deep within -- where we know compassion, where we feel another's pain, where we hold the courage to live up to our inherent values.

We need to rethink the terms we use to refer to others -- not just the epithets we know we should avoid but the demographic labels that pigeonhole divisively. The world is never Black and White and as long as the former is associated with negatives while the latter is considered desireable, slapping such labels on parts of the population will only obstruct equality. We've all internalized the implications; the degradation isn't subtle just because it isn't worn on an armband.

We're all Americans now; the qualifiers only denigrate. If you can't make your point about a person without categorizing in a potentially hurtful way, you're probably trying to make the wrong point. We need to be building respect and enhancing the opportunities for growth in everyone. If we keep that awareness in mind as we form our comments and interact, the world may actually become that better place we each and every one of us yearn for.
MLK Quote: We live in mutuality because of the interrelated structure of reality.
We can't erase the past, but we can stop repeating it. Let's not keep teaching kids to hate those who are different. You can never improve yourself by diminishing someone else.

Monday, July 1, 2013

How can we clean up our energy act?

President Obama has finally pledge more climate attention toward a better world to leave in his daughters' care. I care, too, about the state of the atmosphere and environment we create for my granddaughter and for everyone's. I fear, though, that allowing time and reasonable transitions at this point isn't acting quickly enough to protect future generations from dire consequences of climate change.
Wind and solar are only 2 of the emerging clean energy solutions.
It's not like we don't have plenty of clean energy alternatives.
Rather, the US government must take immediate lead to phase out fossil fuels. Supporting "tight" fuel extraction (tar sands and fracked gas) is the antithesis of the direction toward clean energy. Like the space race in the 1960s, the federal government must set the bar higher for developing clean energy choices by stimulating both research and implementation -- and by rejecting the development of new projects (like the Keystone pipeline) that only prolong use of those outdated polluting energies.

Exporting dirty fuels -- coal and tight fuels -- will only exacerbate the problems of pollution because it will just encourage China and developing countries to embrace the wrong technologies for their power. All proposals for these exports only perpetuate the influence of and profiteering by the dying fossil fuel industry. Rather than being part of the solution, these technologies are lethal remnants of the problem. The US must be a role model for both clean energy leadership and climate change management.

Ending tax breaks for fossil fuel profiteering corporations should be a no brainer. If Congress won't stand up for the American Taxpayers, the President must exercise line item vetos for those unconscionable expenditure and reclaim those funds for appropriate taxpayer supporting programs that create both new clean energy technology and jobs for Americans.

I stand for clean energy; I stand for an intelligent future; I stand for better policies and practices today so that now and in the years to come we protect and preserve our planet and its people everywhere. This is a global world, and America needs to reclaim its leadership role not by talking but by showing the way.

There are many clean energy technologies, with wind and solar only the tip of the coming innovation surge. If only we encourage and support the creative minds and pioneering entrepreneurial businesses that are looking to the future and not falling back into the tarpits of the past, our inventive spirit will lead us to a better, cleaner, more energy-efficient way of living.

Let's look for ways to push the cleaning edge further faster rather than plodding along holding up the failing infrastructure of a dying dinosaur petroindustry.

If Congress can't uphold the will of the People, it's up to US, the People, to stand for an energetic change of direction.