Monday, October 29, 2012

“Tell Me What I Want To Believe; Not What I Need To Know”

I think a lot about what we are as people. What are our origins? What makes us tick? Why are we so much the same and yet so different? Why are we so kind on the one hand and so cruel on the other? In the final analysis, why do we talk “us” so much and practice “we” so little? Why are wisdom and knowledge so difficult to come by, and prejudice and bigotry so easily internalized? Obviously, the questions go on ad infinitum, but the mystery always remains.

I believe that wisdom and knowledge are the result of a very long and arduous process. It is a time span that goes back to the time of the ancient sages and philosophers. Wisdom and knowledge are the products of an arduous process of contemplation, study and discourse devoted to finding answers to what we ponder, yet never seem to master. It is the intellect that always transcends emotion. It is the question that remains and the answer that is elusive.

As I reflect back on history and look around me today, I am persuaded that the history of mankind is a series of peaks and valleys; our high points and our low points; our finest hours and our darkest moments. The aftermath of World War II seems to have been one of our finest hours. From the apex of all the good that followed the end of that war, we seem to have descended into a period of progressive darkness. Scholars who once devoted their entire lives to the pursuit of knowledge, truth and wisdom seem to be a dying breed. They are fewer in number and listened to far less by the masses. The halls of academic excellence that used to be their environs have given way to institutions of technical skills. The pursuit of knowledge has taken a back seat to the mastery of the products and tools of the electronic age. We have become addicted to and dominated by gimmickry that does as much to entertain us as to serve us. Instead of being intellectuals studying and pondering the wisdom of the ages, we are obsessed with the pursuit of every conceivable form of hedonism and materialism imaginable. We don’t want to commit to the rigors of working for anything that will further the frontiers of knowledge and produce a better life for everyone. Rather we seem to have fallen prey to the notion that we have an inherent right to have “fun” and all of the material paraphernalia that goes with it. It is all about us; the rest of the world be damned.

We honestly seem to harbor the belief that we have an inherent right to exploit the human condition, reduce them to abject poverty and deny them a fair share of the world’s resources simply because we have some twisted notion that we are simply “entitled” to more, without any rational basis to support that system of beliefs. Evil and its sinister progeny are all around us and we systematically deny its existence. It is hard to define and at what point do we simply become assimilated into it. How much do we have to consume before it becomes vulgar?

Just stop the noise machine in your own head long enough and listen to the price others pay for the system of beliefs that tells you that you have a right to their suffering and sacrifice because the system has conferred that right on you, quite by accident and the fate of history. Do you really believe you are invincible and immortal, or do the mirrors that reflect your existence simply deceive you? Immorality is just as elusive today as it has always been, and always will be.

I don’t see any virtues in the plutocrats, oligarchs, financiers, bankers, politicians, corporate capitalists and all the other rapacious predators that seem to have consigned the rest of us to a form of human bondage they deem to exist for the sole purpose of serving their every whim. They are the real parasites of our time and they deserve to be regarded with the same contempt and disdain we harbor for their kindred spirits from the sewers and the wharf pilings. They don’t warrant our admiration and respect. They are what they are. They cannot be believed nor trusted. They thrive and prosper at our pleasure, not theirs.

I, also, happen to believe that Our Divine Creator intended for the fruits of this planet to be shared equally by all of us. None deserves more because of who they are, nor do those who have less because of who they are deserve less. Governments should exist to ensure the integrity of that fundamental social contract. To the extent that it does not fulfill that role, then it should be periodically modified and ratified to ensure that it does.

I, also, believe that most people have an idea of what constitutes a fair and just social contract. Admittedly, we have a plethora of experts on the “divinity” who have no trouble in telling the rest of us what it is that “God” wants from us. From my perspective, I would have to say that “He” hasn’t done a very good job of picking the cadre of minions and scholars to spread the word to the rest of us. Although I choose to believe in God, so far He has never spoken to me. Moreover, I doubt that “He” has ever spoken to any of the millions who profess to talk to “Him” on a regular basis.

We now have a presidential candidate who holds himself out as a paragon of divine virtue. He is the product of a lunatic who tried to form a religion from the secrets of the Masonic order, and was summarily murdered in Palmyra, New York for his licentious behavior. His followers fled west with their myriad wives, their divinely ordained practice of polygamy, and all of the rituals and temples of grandeur that would convince the rest of us of its divine origins. The vestigial remnants of multiple wives and polygamy can still be found in the backwaters of the desert west and southwest. Meanwhile, back in the mainstream of true believers, we have the fundamentalists, the evangelists, the Tea Party, the fringe loonies of one sort or another and a whole host of others who profess to be in the mainstream and enjoy a special place with God. Each has a slightly different take on what that mystery is all about, many have managed to become filthy rich and have garnered broad public support for their various stances relative to Our Divine Creator. Some of the more notables are Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Glenn Beck, and other forms of sordid celebrity. Now I ask you, what sane mind could possibly believe any or all of this nonsense? I cannot help but wonder if today’s politicians did not originate from the ranks of a zealous clergy of an earlier time. There is an eerie similarity to their rhetoric and language. Religious zealots, demagogues and true believers all give me pause for concern. We seem to have a bumper crop that has spawned in the last few decades, and have found a home in politics. Now we have to live with the din of their endless exhortations of the wrath that is about to come down on the heads of those who simply mind their own business. Intelligence has given way to irrational extremism in its many forms, all using the tools of lying, deceit, double-speak, and limitless exhortations about their inside track to divine revelation. There isn’t one of them who could tell the truth even if their very life depended on it. They are the ultimate “believers,” totally incapable of any semblance to critical analysis or original thought. They are the fools the majority of us have to suffer. Sadly, the din of their endless admonitions that, in some small way, resemble human speech, numbs the minds of those who genuinely want to keep the ship on an even keel by creating a stable government that will truly serve the common good, not those who have some warped notion of superiority that entitles them to a life of gluttony without limits.

I recently had a good friend, well intentioned, who reminded me that one of the things I fought for during my stint in the United States Navy was our right to vote, and my right to exercise that right. If lounging in peacetime Hawaii was war, I could take another tour of duty. But, I don’t denigrate the seriousness of voting. We do have a solemn duty to exercise that right, regardless of our political persuasion, an obligation I have never shirked.

However, given the hammer-lock our two major political parties have on government, and the obvious collusion exercised to keep other political voices from sharing their forum, I chose to vote for the Green Party candidates for President and Vice-President. Why? Because they are both women; a change in the political ranks of our top elected officials I happen to believe is long overdue. Moreover, they are likely to be free of “testosterone overload,” something that seems to plague the thousands of male members comprising the majority in the various branches of our government. There is probably less need for posturing and strutting by women as if they were members of the superior sex. Where did that notion come from? Think about it. When you were a little child needing comfort and nurturing, where did you get it? Highly unlikely that it came from Dad. But when it came to your prowess on the field of Little League or the polished floor of a basketball court, who shouted for you to take out the opposition in the pursuit of victory? Less likely that it was Mom. When it came to soothing the pain of hurt feelings, who was it that calmed the troubled waters and made it all right with the world once again? Think about it.

I really do hope we, as a nation, will manage to right the wrongs of the past. I hope we will be able to quell the plague of chronic greed and unbridled deception from which this nation suffers. I hope I will live long enough to see basic human decency an integral part of who and what we are as a people. I hope I will live long enough to see, once again, “that shining city on a hill,” the beacon of hope for all of us, in equal measure. I hope I will live long enough to see genuine compassion for each other, as fellow human beings worthy of God’s grace; (something I choose to believe but don’t know for certain) in absolute terms.

Like it or not, we really are our brothers keepers. As the world’s population increases that will become an inescapable fact of life. When that time comes, those who cannot honestly earn their share of the pie will, out of necessity, simply take it, by whatever means are necessary.

Cowboy Bob
The Sagebrush Philosopher
October 29, 2012

Thursday, October 4, 2012

"How Will I Betray Thee? Let Me Count The Ways"

The dust is settling on the first of a long-awaited series of presidential debates, preparatory to the national elections in November. Were there any surprises? Not really.  It was, at best, an exercise in mental gymnastics by the political elite who have been ordained as the only acceptable candidates for the highest office in the land.

The moderator, Jim Lehrer distinguished himself as consummate journalistic milquetoast. Retirement would seem to fit him better than returning for a cameo appearance in the real world of television news.

Mitt Romney wasted no time in re-affirming himself as an accomplished plutocratic whore of privilege who harbors nothing but disdain for those less fortunate than he and his silver-spooned upbringing. He impressed us all, once again, by his ability to lie with impunity and still expect anyone with a modicum of intelligence to swallow it all hook, line and sinker. At the end of the day he is as transparent as a window pane and hasn’t the sense to realize it. The absence of any semblance to a human soul is palpable. But, we can expect those who labor under the burden of an attempt at human thought, largely comprised of all the religious zealots of one persuasion or another, to savor his every word.

Then there was the sterling performance of our President-in-residence. He removed any residual confusion there might have been regarding a clear-cut example of oratory vs. debating skills. But, think about it. What can one reasonably expect from an amalgam of a background rooted in law, community organizing and politics? Seems like a recipe for failure to all progressives who were hoping to see him ride in on a white horse and immediately charm the nation. Didn’t happen, did it?

Let’s be honest about this. We, as a nation, have been royally seduced by the so-called “two-party” system that dominates our local and national politics. Who said we, the electorate, are to be limited to a choice between those calling themselves “Democrats” and “Republicans?” Where were the rest of those seeking a shot at the highest elected office in the land? I, for one, feel if there should be an opportunity for all those who have the qualifications and the organization to set their sights on the White House; they should be at the presidential debates. Didn’t happen. By whose edict? It is tough not to conclude that the system is rigged against us, the people. It is difficult to place much stock in a system that so blatantly determines our priorities for us. Jill Stein, the presidential candidate for the Green Party and Rocky Anderson, presidential candidate for the Justice Party had every right to be there, and to be given equal time and opportunity accorded all the others. They are as well qualified as either of those who monopolized the stage in Denver. Every person in the United States who is qualified to exercise the power of his/her vote should not be denied that choice. Anything less is a gross affront by those harboring a mindset of perceived superior wisdom, the fallacy of which speaks to us every day.

Until last night, I thought President Obama had the election in the bag. After his lack-luster performance, I am not so sure. On the other hand, if lying works, we can all shudder at the prospect of Romney succeeding him. Either one will, at best, be more of the same and an ongoing national disaster. About all we can do is to wait out the next few weeks to see the final outcome of this charade.

Presuming Obama is re-elected, what can we expect from him in the next four years? Let’s begin by accepting the fact that he is no leader. He is a compromiser, an appeaser, a shill for power and money. Consensus is his game; courage is not. The result will always be mediocrity at our individual and collective peril.

Because of the only choice we have, I will vote for Obama simply because I see him as the lesser of two evils. But, make no mistake I have no reason to expect anything earth-shattering. So, what do I envision?
Following are a few of the issues that have stuck in my craw.

• The Cabinet is likely to be stacked with more holdovers from the Clinton Administration.
• A strong influence by the scions of Wall Street and other power brokers in the field of banking and  finance.
• A continued reliance on corporate capitalists for advice and counsel on the economy, both nationally and internationally, not the least of which will be the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
• Total disregard for the knowledge and experience among our group of some of the best economic and scientific minds in the world.
• Pandering to influential interests in health care, energy, trade, defense, intelligence, and other special interests.
• Secret meetings and trade deals with international interests seeking free trade agreements at the expense of American enterprise and the workers who make it all happen.
• The resurrection of the Simpson-Bowles Commission, engaging in compromises at the expense of long-established and successful programs comprising the nation’s social safety net, which the President has vowed to defend.
• Continuation of the tacit agreement between the White House and the Justice Department not to indict, prosecute or punish those guilty of crimes against the country and our national interests.
• Continued support for the military/industrial complex.
• Continued support for the persecution of those who dare to challenge the way our government does business without the advice and consent of the American people. I am thinking of those well-intentioned people who wear the badge of “whistleblower” with pride and dare to question the omnipotence of the institutions of government and business.
• The unilateral authority of the Executive Branch to identify and order the assination of those deemed to be a threat to national security.
• Minimal support for organized labor as an equal with the owners of business and commerce.

I had high hopes for President Obama, but it soon became apparent to me that those hopes would be proven illusory. The inspiration that infected thousands at Grant Park in Chicago proved to be rather fleeting. There has been too much secrecy in the way he does business. There has been a tendency to place far too much reliance on people of influence and prominence, but lacking in the integrity and commitment of the man to whom they are beholden.

President Obama simply has to come to terms with the fact that he has no equal; not on Wall Street, not in the halls of corporations, not in the Pentagon, not in Congress or the Supreme Court. He has been given the baton and sits at the pinnacle of power, a solemn gift bestowed on him by none other than the American people.

He seems to have never understood or simply lost sight of the fact that his job, as President of the United States, is unequivocally one of pure leadership. With leadership comes the ability and the will to take responsibility, listen to his advisors and then embolden himself to take charge and lead. The baton belongs to him and it is up to him to have the courage to lead with authority, conviction and inspiration. He has not done that. It is time he realized his own destiny and to fulfill that mission during the coming four years of his second term in office.

As I reflect back on history, I cannot imagine Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower or John F. Kennedy having to even so much as reflect on that fundamental fact of being President of the United States of America. Behaving as a compromising appeaser, seeking not decisive action, but consensus, is not what it is all about. This country is in dire straights and is begging for courage and the mettle to do what is right, with strength, determination and fortitude. He owes it to us, the American people, to do what he was elected to do. To hell with cronies carried over from the Clinton Administration. They are flawed merchandise. To hell with the criminals on Wall Street, the corporate capitalists, the super rich and the bellicose posturing of warmongers. He is duty bound to be a role model for all of us, manifesting the very best within us and knowing that we will take up his cause and follow him to the ends of the earth if that is what is required to save the spirit of this great nation. Popularity contests are the stuff of narcissistic fools; taking command and charge of the greatest office in the world has no equal. That, Mr. President, is what it is all about. Get used to it and, for God’s sake, take charge. You DO have what it takes if you will but recognize that very special gift and act accordingly.

Bow to no man, but never hesitate to take the hand of a man in need.

Cowboy Bob
The Sagebrush Philosopher
October 4, 2012