So much of my life I spend cynically griping about the bad side of human nature. The work I do every day frequently centers around a ceaseless source of constant frustration. Seeking strategies to reform destructive behaviors is the basic skill set of many professions and basic activism. Influencing people so that they might understand the correct means of conducting their lives is a substantial challenge and a constant energy drain. I’m sure many of you understand this quandary all too well. While it is true that we all possess a dark side, some more than others, recent events in my life have provided a unexpected but welcome sense of clarity and perspective. I note with joy over the past three days that I have, much to my great surprise, seen the very best in people. Once again I am humbled to have been proven incorrect in my assumptions about others.
Oct 12 2009
An article written in today’s Washington Post posits whether or not the foul-mouthed chorus of immature slights and sharp elbows that characterizes an internet world shows a new degree of rudeness or whether said dialogue merely reflects a new awareness of the democratic insult. I myself received an tremendous amount of hateful, childish comments when a few seconds of the iReport I posted online to CNN was chosen for broadcast and aired on the network itself. What I had been attempting to convey in my talk were the many complexities of the life of Ted Kennedy, but what I quickly noticed were that the personal attacks I received did not even come close to directly addressing what I said. No one was really listening to or even contemplating my words, rather they just wanted to vent. I think the most bizarre and gratuitous insult I received was the poster who told me to “comb [my] f__king hair”.
For all the debate and the analysis, true civility might very well be an ideal rather than a reality. The instant feedback and information deluge of our internet age gives us the realization that human discourse provides us equal, ample evidence of every conceivable shade of good and bad. Nowadays, we often believe we live in the worst of all possible worlds. A pessimistic approach does not provide much in the way of comforting, helpful answers, but neither does the kind of radical optimism rightly savaged by Voltaire in Candide. As the article addresses, looking into the past to find evidence of a time where the trains always ran on time, every imaginable need was cheap and readily available, and people treated each other with courtesy and respect is wistful nostalgia for times that never really were.
Mary Schmich’s opinion column entitled “Advice, Like Youth, Probably Just Wasted on the Young” includes this bit of advice.
Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.
There have been as many pronouncements that society is on the brink of self-destruction as there have been prophetic sureties of the imminent Second Coming of Christ or the End of the World according to calendars of ancient indigenous peoples. The Post story addresses how the conservative pitchfork rabble falsely accused a DC area author and government worker of having some secret connection to the now infamous rap song, recorded in a New Jersey school over the summer by students, the lyrics of which dared to praise the President. The unfortunate subject of this massive knee-jerk, Charisse Carney-Nunes, voices how many of us feel when subjected to another pitched volley of irrationality hurled at us by an army of plate glass window-smashing malcontents.
Carney-Nunes spends a lot of her free time teaching children how to bridge divides, but she has no idea how to build a dialogue with those who attacked her.
“How can I talk to those people?” she said. “These are people who persist in believing that Barack Obama is a Muslim, that he isn’t a citizen of this country. You tell me: Where is the beginning of that conversation?”
Contentious times produce contentious disagreements. We still believe, as did those who shaped this nation, in a liberal line of logic that insists, provided enough education, people can become self-aware, rational beings. The flaws in this argument are particularly glaring now, when education alone, or as the Right likes to call it, indoctrination, seems to be insufficient in the face of emotional excess. From a distance, it is interesting to observe the internal conflict within many people now up in arms over something that shows itself whenever passions are overheated. As though at war with both hemispheres of their brain, they bounce back and forth from uncivilized raw emotion to some degree of civilized restraint. That they themselves seem incapable of recognizing this is problem enough.
“Completely false allegations incubate in the fringe and jump within days to the mainstream, distorting any debate or progress we can have as a society,” said Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which released a report last month noting a rise in the “militia movement” over the past year. “What’s different is that a great deal of this is real fear and frustration at very real demographic and cultural changes.”
I believe that we are on the right side of history and that our cause is just and good. Yet, I resist strongly the temptation to gloat or to condescendingly dismiss those who fear that reform, any reform, means destruction and that change, when enacted, can never be undone. Being snide and condescending only makes matters worse. Every meaningful conservative has one foot in the past and values the sanctity of the status quo. But as we have seen, merely returning to old ways does not provide simple solutions. The past is too messy and composed of too many ironies to be anyone’s Golden Age, either for us or for them. We ought to take the lessons of the past as they are, without smoothing away its rough edges or glossing over the bits that don’t serve our purpose. The Past, in its pure form, has no bias to Left or Right. It can be frequently be instructive, so long as we know that it calls us out as much as it calls out our opposition.
Returning to the subject of common decency or the lack thereof, driving much of this conservative grassroots backlash is the reality that this nation will soon consist of an ethnic and racial plurality, and many on the Right fear that balancing authority among separate identity groups, each with its own cultural peculiarities and goals, will lead to disunion and strife. Pat Buchanan and others have advanced this argument before and I fully expect to see more instances of it as the Caucasian majority in this country begins to slowly, but surely recede. We portray these people as foolish or intent on selfishly benefiting from a sense of white privilege and entitlement at our own peril. Fighting fire with fire in this instance is the surest way to eventually cause an inferno. Anyone with an itchy trigger finger is merely looking for a reason to pull it. And as for us, any self-contained group does an excellent job of talking to itself, but finding a way to know how to converse with the broader universe is the key challenge. Much of our discourse could be rightly described as choir practice, which is good to some extent, but we would probably be better served by developing ways to speak to the vast majority of Americans who do not embrace the politics of the conservative nutroots.
Jul 28 2008
Very few things in life are certain….here is one of them.
It is easier to destroy than to build.
Let us take for example, the Bush Administration and rampant “Conservatism,” that have been the most destructive force loosed upon the world since Nagasaki.
Ok, I guess you could argue that one. That one is far from certain…but it is pretty darn hard to deny it, from where we sit today, in the rubble of the implosion of America caused by the incompetence, intransigence and the willful destruction of everything that those OTHER than the top 1% of the worlds rich held dear. The destruction goes beyond any single event or act that they have committed. The real damage that they have done, above and beyond all of the horrors that we in the blogosphere have documented, is this.
They tried…and are still trying…and will never stop trying….. to redefine good and evil.
They….Karl Rove and Fox News and the spin machine…tried to destroy objective fact.
They tried to take us back to a time before The Enlightenment before Reason was valued over Faith. A time when what was comfortable and convenient for the ruling class was more important than actual reality. A time when reality was what we were TOLD it was. Since The Enlightenment humans have tried to establish an objective reality based on empiricism, have tried to build a common language based on observable facts. Now, according to them, there are no facts, and thus no agreement, and no commonality.
Jul 24 2008
Why am I drawn back over here whenever what appears to be conflicts arise? Because I am absolutely fascinated by the process of human communication and always have been, more on an intuitive level, than an intellectual level. It works much better when I am an observer, not a part or participant in the group experiencing the “conflict”.
Somehow, even as a kid, when listening to adults fight, the actual words they uttered sort of floated past my attention: instead, I’d be drawn to how the feelings, or how the “energies” between them seemed to dart at each other, like arrows that could
pierce..weapons that or had to be shielded against, or even shot back. I’d see that this created so much chaos and static, pretty soon no one could really hear WHAT anyone else was saying, not really, or even really discern good intent from bad intent anymore.
I started to notice that the more the people involved CARED about each other, and the shared structure built together, the more painful and upsetting it seemed to be to all concerned when “conflicts” couldn’t be resolved, and threatened the shared structure or mission, and relationships that had already formed with each other. No one wants to lose a place that feels like a “home” or the “like spirits” with whom they have found some sense of “belongingess”. Everyone is so alone now, in so many ways: to feel this threatened adds loads of fear, whether identified and admitted or not. Fear makes us much more vulnerable, especially when NOT acknowledged or owned.
That fear can make us more vulnerable, as tensions rise and we try even harder to be heard and understood by each other, and thus, we get much more defensive. Someone may say something the same way the alway have, for example, but suddenly it seems to have a grown a sharp point and looks like an arrow aimed at me! Twice as scary and shocking, when fired by someone we thought we knew and trusted.
If we am vulnerable, that “arrow” can pierce, and we bleed, whether the other person intended it as a lethal weapon or not. We feel attacked, and when humans feel attacked, most of us we “REACT” emotionally, if we have an investment in each other.
Many times it’s a reflexive defensive response, because anger, which not always easy to deal with well, often feel safer and more protective, and in a way “stronger” than admitting the so called “weaker feelings” like hurt or pain, in the presence of a perceived “attacker”! (whether that is their intent or not.) Because by now, in close knit group in the middle of painful conflict..no one involved is able to really “hear each other” very well by now, because of the (normal!) emotional static and chaos. Misinterpretations, misunderstandings, distortion of communicative intent..become inevitable..the harder people try to hang onto each other and to the shared “mission and place.”
Some folks, however, have reached a point within themselves, where they can admit openly that these things “hurt” and cause them pain, and dare to do so. Others, who still (subconsciously) view see these as “weaker” or self serving or attention getting, or in any case not useful, may misinterpret this reaction also. Round and round it goes, with the principles and involved onlookers each feeling more and more misunderstood, misinterpreted, dismissed, angry, hurt, rejected, unwanted, stressed out, frustrated, exhausted, sad,even hopeless, about being able to “save” what was precious to all.
Some know they have to leave: that this process is costing them way too much to continue. Sometimes this feels like a very real death , and we grieve it hard. It IS a death of sorts, for some of us. (I still feel sadness over having to leave the “pond”, as it was once, for me. It felt like my online “home-place and family” for so long.)
I think this is ALL about learning how to be being fully human.. together.
As we ARE right now, right WHERE we each are each are right now, in our individual personal/intellectual/emotional/spiritual maturation and evolution.
I think the rise of these kinds of “Community Blogs” are one NEW way we’ve been given to work on this TOGETHER.
Think about it.
Until the internet, most of us who post here would never have even known the others even existed, much less have come to know each other, or to CHOOSE each other, in places like this!
Ok..so here we all come, each a still imperfect “work in process”, at all different stages and ages, with ALL our similarities…AND ALL OF OUR GLORIOUS DIFFERENCES!
For me, discovering Community Blogs..signaled the FIRST TIME EVER where in time, I discovered I honestly could be…ALL OF WHO I REALLY AM, and that people DID actually exist in this world, who COULD accept me and like me ANYWAY!
(What do you think my chances WERE of being accepted here in this place full of older generation hard core ultra conservative religious fundies, being this whistle-blowing loud mouthed liberal activist oddly gendered lesbian grandmother who has a beautiful red headed three yr old grand daughter with..TWO MOMMIES? And an elder who absolutely will NOT go to church, wear polyester, dye my hair blue OR play freakin’ BINGO on Fridays??!!)
Oops, back to the topic at hand. Come play some “What IF” with me? It’s my favorite game.
What if..what clearly is being viewed by many good people here, here as a very disturbing “CONFLICT”, that seems to be threatening this space you have all built, is really NOT A CONFLICT at all, BUT AN OPPORTUNITY that everyone invested here CHOOSE, on one level or another.
What if it’s really some kind of GRADUATE SCHOOL for those who READY TO LEARN NEW WAYS to come together and STAY TOGETHER, long enough TO CREATE CHANGE?
(Because it can’t BE any clearer, that we as humans, have yet to LEARN THIS!)
What if this REQUIRES chaos, as a REVIEW of what IS NOT WORKING, (FOR EACH of us, individually) so we can see it more clearly, become more willing to LET GO OF WHAT DOESN’T WORK (individually, first!) ..so we can each, and then together, get free enough to try NEW AND DIFFERENT ways of staying together?
What if.. it’s not ONLY absolutely, perfectly OK to have different perspective on things in this world..but totally ESSENTIAL that there BE these different perspectives??
What if the different perspectives ARE NOT EVEN THE PROBLEM AT ALL, and the real lesson being presented is “HOW can we LIVE TOGETHER WITH OUR DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES..AND STILL GET ON WITH THE WORK?
Wow. One hell of a tall order, for me, anyway!
It meant I had to figure out how to stop focusing on and reacting to how everyone ELSE is communicating with ME, (and how it AFFECTS ME)…and START focusing on on how I communicate with OTHERS, by listening to how it is affecting THEM, via their reactions to me!
Could I figure out a better method of communicating my AUTHENTIC intentions and meanings, in ways that WERE clearer to those I want to communicate with?
Oops, there I ran into ANOTHER internal barrier. I began to realize that I didn’t always KNOW what my own authentic intentions and meanings even WERE, before I hit the comment or publish button! Much of my work was coming mostly from my head and the thoughts in it at that moment, without me even pausing to ask myself THIS ONE ESSENTIAL QUESTION:
.”What IS MY AUTHENTIC INTENTION for this piece of communication I’m about to send, that is of use to the greater good of all concerned?
Once at this point in my own “internal investigation”, I felt really “sobered”, by seeing more fully the full scope of the responsibility I held, as a committed “Online Community Blog Member” , if I wanted to add as positive a contribution as possible,to the overall greater good of the community I wanted to be a part of, and whatever shared mission we had.
I am finding this whole business of placing the “common good of all concerned” on an equal priority basis (inside of me I mean) with “serving my own needs”.. to be a fascinating challenge in all my relationships. There’s no way to DO this, unless I know what the hell my OWN AUTHENTIC needs and intentions ARE, as best I can, and geezus..does this take some real time and effort and intensely HONEST COMMUNUICATION with my own “higher and lower selves!”
As an Uninvolved Observer with no horses in this race, I’ve read most of the comments of the past few days..and you know..I nod my head in equal understanding of ALL the perspectives shared, no matter HOW they appear to “conflict” in meaning..because I CAN SENSE THE AUTHENTIC SHARED INTENTIONS…even if you can’t! Tell me if I’m wrong.
I see a bunch of very special highly intelligent people who all signed on here, to build a online place where you could join hearts, minds and spirits and to seek and find ways together,to make this world a better place for all of us. (how am I doin?)
I see communication lines getting tangled up simply because we are all merely human, and can only operate with what we know and are aware of about ourselves and about each other, at the moments of communication. I see people interpreting this as an overall “NEGATIVE” EVENT here, that could threaten the well being of this Community.
And of course it could! We’ve all seen these things “implode”. But they did exist awhile, didn’t they? Someone knew they were needed and created it and others “came” and stayed as long as they could.
That in itself..to me..is solid progress, towards learning new ways to come together in common cause for the greater global good.
Now comes the next phase for this new form of coming together.
Once we finally find each other, and get the place built,
HOW CAN STAY WE STAY TOGETHER?
That’s when, I think, those truly invested in the cause (who are ready to do this) will be guided INWARD for a time, to come to see what each needs to learn about the self, that might possibly need to be seen, tweaked or changed in order for us to be ABLE to see past our own needs, fears and confusions, at least far enough to keep the common good up there where it has to be, as a priority for any authentic community to thrive.
If I am right about this, then the next question for each of us really is this.
Am I ready to enter this advanced stage of self reflection, flexibility and personal growth it will take for me to stay here and be an effective part of designing NEW WAYS TO STAY TOGETHER WITH LIKE OTHERS?, given as challenging and hard as this is clearly going to BE?!
Me, I know how much energy this takes, and I know mine is now limited, so I will probable continue this more comfy role as some sort of “Itinerant Blogger” who drops by here and there, now and then in friendly places where I feel welcome. And I do feel welcome here to share what are really ONLY my own observations and interpretations of things from my current perch in life, no more, no less. And I find what’s going on here absolutely fascinating.
May 26 2008
Being a series of gross oversimplified generalizations written in various stages of being on both pain and painkillers, with a happy ending:
I spent five hours in the Las Vegas airport Saturday night. I can’t think of a better reintroduction to America.
A pleasure city built in the middle of the desert to serve the repressed desires of puritanical Americans, who would deny themselves and others pleasure. An illusory mirage of freedom from the constrictions of self imposed illusory moral rectitude. Sin City, it is called. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas….because you aren’t allowed to have fun anywhere else! Built in the middle of the desert…where no body will notice it, lol. A pleasure city to which, in part the mighty Colorado River has been sacrificed. The Colorado River, in case you did not know, no longer reaches the sea. Every drop of it is diverted now, so that Americas can have fountains and golf courses and swimming pools in the middle of a dessert.
Truly a symbol of Americas power. Americas indisputably great power, and Americas indisputably VERY odd use of its great power.
Apr 30 2008
Apr 22 2008
Thought you should see this.
It seems that the democrats attempting to win seats have different priorities that those who already have them, and so are more likely to say the right things. Now, whether they mean it is a wide open question, but, when you hear what you want, you should say, “That’s what I want to hear!”…So perhaps you should do that.
PS : Thanks.
Apr 20 2008
It’s called AOH. Apparently.
Have you ever had that moment, when it just clicks? The metaphors and cliches describing the the moment are myriad. It dawned on me. I was struck by the notion. Then I saw it clear as day.
I was reading Booman’s recent observation about the press yet again seeming to manipulate things in an anti-Obama way. And Boise Lib’s take on finger gate. And plasticseapolluter’s catch of the job the foreign press is doing on our country’s embrace of torture and terror tactics, while the U.S. media more or less ignores these crimes. And OPOL’s ode to a love — and to a life as an activist artist.
Apr 13 2008
One of the very first film scripts I ever wrote contained the following exchange between a twelve year-old son (Christopher) and his father (Aaron):
AARON: Open your hand.
Aaron places a stone into Christopher’s palm; its smooth, sanded granite.
CHRISTOPHER: (confused) It’s a rock.
AARON: No. It’s your ability to love.
Christopher looks up.
AARON: Given to you at birth. Yours to offer up to others. You’ll say, “Look at this. Isn’t it something. Take it. Hold it.” Some will treasure it. Most will abuse it. They’ll scratch it or bust off a chunk. They’ll take another’s stone without ever telling and then they’ll cast yours aside. And each time you get hurt, you’ll naturally want to share it less and you might even be tempted to ball your hand into a fist and lock it away for good. Don’t do that, Christopher. That’s death.
AARON: Close your palm up and you’re no longer living.
Aaron spreads Christopher’s fingers.
AARON: This is how you live your life. Palm open, fingers outstretched.
Feb 19 2008
The only thing that never changes….is that everything always changes. However the rate of change undoubtedly fluctuates. If we look back at history we can see many periods and many points where the various conditions that normally cause slow and steady change suddenly converge and cause massive and rapid change, at least on the historical time scale. We seem to be in one of those periods right now.
But this time, unlike in the past, the change that is occurring as we speak is not limited to one culture or region. It is by its very nature, a planetwide phenomenon.
Feb 14 2008
If you want to look at it from one perspective there is no difference. From THAT singular perspective you will get no argument from me.
They are The Powers That Be.
You can lump them all in, as far as I’m concerned…from that perspective. Throw in the Bankers and the Insurance Cos and the Oil Cos ad the Defense Cos too. Throw in the 1%, the hyper-rich. Throw in the cops, who protect them. How far do you go? Where do you stop? Throw in everyone who works for one of these entities? Throw in anyone who sells something to them? Throw in anyone who consumes something they make? Throw in everyone who does not spend every waking hour, every minute, every breath out in the streets opposing them?