Saturday, November 30, 2013

“Crow Is Never The Diet Of Choice”

I have to confess that I am painfully challenged when it comes to anything electronic or that which exceeds the bounds of elementary computer mastery.  That particular handicap of mine was driven home, recently, in spades   

I began writing this blog in 2007 and I subscribed to Sitemeter in order to monitor activity on my blog, augmented by Blogspot for posting my blogs.  I felt gifted that I was even able to manage all that.  However, I recently discovered that there is a provision for “comments” which I had never seen before!  I opened it and, voila, there was a treasure trove of comments that I had never looked at from the time I started writing.  It was like Christmas multiplied many times over, and I enjoyed every word that greeted my eyes.  I was overcome by the kind and generous assessment of so many of you with what I had committed to paper.  It was, to say the least, a humbling experience. 

Now, mind you, of the all the human frailties that any of us can commit, I regard taking anyone for granted to be one of the worst.  I feel ashamed that I have allowed this to miss my attention for so long, and I sincerely apologize to all of you who have been victim to my ignorance.  But, take some solace in knowing it was not deliberate. 

I write my blog, not for any recognition or praise that might follow.  Rather it is an expression from the heart and mind, such as they are.  Without all of you who have been so generous with your time in reading and reflecting on those words, my efforts would have been for naught. 

Starting off on a better foot, I sincerely wish each and every one of you a joyous and happy holiday season, and may the coming year be filled with renewed hope and promise for all who share a genuine concern for their fellow man and preservation of the fragile planet we all share.   

All the best.

Cowboy Bob

November 30, 2013      

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

“We Can Do Better If Only We Will”

Every once in a while we have a run of unusual weather in this part of the world.  The customary grey clouds have taken a brief respite from the sky.  The trees are barren from their loss of any residual bits of vegetation.  Instead, we are blessed with clear skies and brilliant sunshine.  The ground is atypically dry and covered with a light blanket of frost that lingers in shaded spots during the day.  It is a reminder of how, in the final analysis, we really are just living creatures being treated to a glimpse of an infinite universe.  It is easy to be deluded into believing all is well with the world.  But, a dose of the daily news and the talk shows staffed by pundits of every persuasion reminds us that it is quite the contrary.  God’s miracle of bright sunshine on a frosty landscape is only a reminder of how finite we are compared to what He can do with all He has it His disposal in the universe.  Mortal man, take note.  In the final analysis we are really nothing.  The magnificence of the wonders of how decent we, as human beings are, is dwarfed by the pervasive evil that surrounds all of us, and just how small we seem to be in our efforts to move into the sphere of wonderment which is our common lot.  It is the persistent pall that hangs over us all. 

God is at peace in His Heaven while we consume the flesh of each other in our persistent efforts to satisfy a greed that is never satisfied. 

I happen to believe in the inherent decency of mankind.  I don’t believe that anyone enters this world less than a perfect example of the work of our Creator.  What lies ahead may well tarnish his being and compromise his soul, but we begin with perfection as our birthright.  Rather, it is what we do to each other and the insults that await us that make us fall from grace and do the unspeakable to each other without remorse.  We become ugly and rationalize that which we become but were never intended to be.

I cannot recall a time in my life when I have looked out on a landscape of living beings who have managed to sell their very souls to the darkest bidders for every conceivable kind of materialistic and hedonistic pleasure imagined by the human mind.  Instead of wonders of Creation, human beings are viewed as just another expendable commodity and consumable resource to be devoured in the pursuit of those who just cannot get enough at the expense of all those who have so little to give.

A decorum that once set limits on our darker natures has vanished.  Rather, the only norm of conduct is simply whatever the traffic will bear.  There are no more boundaries within which we are expected to live for the good of everyone.  There isn’t even a faint attempt to reign in those excesses.  And those who are at the bottom of the “social” ladder are their victims.  We all intuitively know that but do so little to try and right all those wrongs.  We just look the other way and continue with our feeding frenzy at the expense of other less fortunate souls.

We talk a good story but I see few genuine moral compasses that keep us pointed in the right direction.  I, particularly, am deafened by the particular influence of religion in all this.  They have fallen silent on a message of hope, peddling instead ecclesiastical bull dung in their futile attempts to seduce the lesser among us into believing they have our best and most desirable interests at heart.  And we remain mute as we drink in every word they utter and covet every perverted admonition they peddle.  They have managed to convince us that they hold forth knowledge.  Yet, they can empirically prove nothing.  All they have at their disposal is a battery of assertions; empty beliefs they euphemistically call “gospel.”  Knowledge is arduous, believing is folly.    

I ask myself, “Where is all the love, forgiveness, compassion, concern, understanding, redemption, and all the other superlatives that are supposed to be at the heart of their message?  Instead, they peddle fire, brimstone, damnation, discrimination, prejudice, and eternal hell for all those who dare to question what they have chosen to simply “believe.”  Where is the proof? 

I subscribe to the notion that we are all responsible for who and what we are.  No amount of rationalization can cleanse us of the darker aspects of what we become.  That is on our plate.  That is our burden.  I don’t believe that anyone comes into this world inherently bad or beyond redemption.  Nor do I believe that all we carry with us to death necessarily vanishes from our souls either.  The burden of our humanity is our greatest challenge that carries with it the responsibility for a level of introspection and reflection few of us ever master, but which most of us sorely need on our journey throughout this life. 

I cannot identify one religion that even comes close to the level of perfection that all forms of religion profess but which few actually practice.  Otherwise, why do we have a plethora of hypocrites and so few saints among us?  How is it that we manage to rationalize the darker side of our nature with such ease and condemn our transgressions with such difficulty?  The religious institutions that are there to guide us in this effort seem to have managed to overcome that liability with a minimum of effort. 

I find it rather incredulous at the amount of time and effort that has been spent on us over the ages regarding the basic need of humans, as living beings, to simply reproduce.  That would seem essential to the propagation of the species.  Moreover, decorum would suggest that the process should be a personal matter between two consenting adults.  How it has become an issue for public consumption and perverse pleasure takes it out of the realm of what, in my opinion, it should be.  On the other hand, it isn’t much of a stretch when you have members of the clergy immersed in pedophilia, those who advocate and practice polygamy, those who promote violence and discrimination, and those who have sold their souls for the almighty dollar and hold themselves out as paragons of virtue.  These are but a smattering of those who profess to be messengers of God.  All seem to have rationalized and codified all they need to feel righteous in the pursuit of their evil.  It should come as no surprise that they have so little credibility and those who used to listen to their messages of hope and salvation have turned to the more visceral forms of pleasure.  Then there are those who practice the most brutal and suppressive forms of politics, all in the name of the Almighty they ostensibly revere and who have the audacity to honestly believe “He” (whoever that is) actually communicates with them!  At the end of the day, it is Buddhism and the simplicity of its purity that wins - hands down.

I am most aggrieved by my own chosen faith, the Catholic Church, into which I came from a more generalized form of Christianity, but chose for the sake of familial homogeneity brought on by the institution of marriage.  Do I regret it?  Not in the least.  Am I comfortable with what I have learned about all its forms of perfection and dismayed by all its imperfections? Of course. The piety which it professes and the reality of its being have been a challenge, but I am reminded of the wise words of one who said, referring to any commitment in life, “Is it not better to stay and strive to change it from within than to simply condemn it from without?”  That fits for me and it is the path I try to follow, reserving the right to engage in constructive criticism where appropriate, balanced by the knowledge that there is nothing stronger and more potentially dangerous than a simple belief.

The ranks of the clergy are replete with examples of hypocrisy at its worst and virtue at its best.  Sadly, the darker side of human nature seems to have prevailed because of the denial of our human makeup at a tremendous cost to a belief that, somehow, celibacy made one more pleasing to God than simply being a good and decent person.  Marriage serves a good purpose and it should be an integral part of the lives of the clergy in the Catholic Church.  I cannot see where being a good husband and father has dampened the religious calling of legions of good men to different Christian faiths.  But, the pageantry and power coveted by so many men of the cloth in the Catholic Church seems to have been a much stronger calling.  Ambition and reverence for power seems to have won the day, but it certainly has not dampened the sheer force of hormonal energy.  But, at what cost?  One need only look at the damaged lives strewn over time, created by secrecy and lust tempered with a false sense of piety.  Yet, to this day, we still defer to the notion that celibacy is preferable to procreation.    

Then, we come to those who feed on the stuff of Ecclesiastes at the bottom of the food chain.  One only has to look at those who claim to be members in good standing of the Tea Party, followed by your garden variety of politico in every environ and haven to be found in Washington, D.C.  No group can peddle chapter and verse of God’s Will with greater aplomb than politicians comfortably seated in the halls of government in order to plunder and pillage in the name of the will of a higher power.  None are better at pandering to the great wealth of our nation’s oligarchs, financiers and former government officials.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to spot them a mile away.  Despicable is my word of choice, but there ought to be one better.  I refer to those legions of self-professed hypocrites who know absolutely nothing about religion but believe everything it has ever peddled, and which gives respectability to their personal biases and prejudices that underscore what they know, with absolute certainty, is the word of God Himself.  Critical thought and analysis is “verboten.”  All it takes to become a member in good standing is a set of beliefs, no matter how shallow, vile or destructive they may be, so long as they are compatible with, not what they need to know but what they choose to believe.  That is their one-way ticket to redemption and the carte blanche claim to every kind of political largess they can allege as their inherent right.  Meanwhile, those who have the least are left to suffer the most.  After all, is that not God’s will?       

Then there are the barons of Wall Street, the august members in seats of power on the political spectrum to be found in government institutions ostensibly there to serve us and to be role models for a better society.  We have a sacred and protected two-party political system.  We have the White House and all who live and work there.  We have the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the Supreme Court, all living like kings and queens supported at the expense of the broader world of “serfs” who only want their fair share of their democracy and an equal shot at the spoils that spring from it.  What they, as taxpayers, cannot provide is garnered from the legions of lobbyists, myriad numbers and kinds of special interests, the military-industrial complex, the vast array of financiers, oligarchs, plutocrats and all of the other unsavory characters who have managed to worm their way into the national treasury.  Every conceivable kind of thief, philanderer, moral reprobate, and political hack that make the “system” work can be found somewhere within the Beltway.  Do we hold any of them to account?  Do we bind them to any standards to ensure their honesty, integrity and performance?  Not on your life. 

The most glaring example of how bold they have become was the recent and perverse comedy staged at the White House when the President and chief minion of William Jefferson Clinton awarded him the Medal of Freedom.  If that doesn’t prove to a numbed-down nation of citizens just how corrupt and self-serving the “people’s” government has become, I don’t know what does.  Bill Clinton gave away the safety and security of our financial and banking systems with the stroke of a pen and, also, reminded us that the term “fellatio” does not actually refer to any form of Italian food or work of art.  Yet, it is he who is held out by every kind of mass media known to us that he was a great president and our greatest living statesman.  Now I ask you folks, if that doesn’t confirm the reality of our lazy minds and shallow beliefs, I don’t know what does.  A preponderance of us actually believes all that crap.  Yes, we really do need a “free and unfettered” press to protect us against our proclivity to plunge headlong into a terminal case of calcified cranial tissue.

Let us not forget that this democracy belongs equally to each and every one of us.  It is a treasure we cannot afford to take for granted or to simply care for on an “as needed” basis.  It is a high-maintenance treasure we must nurture if it is to remain viable and healthy for us and all generations to come.  We must carefully guard and protect it from predators of all kinds; all those who claim privilege and power based on their self-perceived and claimed right to every entitlement imaginable.  It is the antithesis of “self” and the champion of “we.”  It is not for sale to the highest bidder, but rather the property of us all.  It is our individual and collective responsibility to ensure it will always be there to serve our mutual interests and the common welfare for us all. 

We, as individuals, must confront the perils to what we want to be as civilized people.  We must reclaim a sense of decency, justice, fair-play, and tolerance, a shared concern for everyone and the attendant affects they have on us as individuals.  We have to protect our individual rights but, also, our social responsibilities.  Our collective wealth must be shared equally with everyone valued as individuals. 

We must relearn respect for the great minds, the talented artists and learned scholars who have the means to delve into bodies of knowledge that will keep this planet we call home safe and viable for ourselves and all of those yet to come.  Our treasures are not there to be plundered for a few but, rather, to be the life-blood for us all.  Personal initiative is to be encouraged, but our common welfare must be a sacred obligation we have for one another. 

The temporal value of things must be kept in perspective for what they are.  Our human component must be kept paramount in our list of priorities lest we become like a pack of wild predators that see only opportunity in those of lesser means.  We must always remember that it is the blood of a patriot that saves a nation; not the blood of a nation that saves the wealth for a few. 

We live in the most perilous times I can recall in my entire life.  Nothing is to be taken lightly and each of us must remain vigilant against the most pervasive evil one could ever have imagined.  We must be careful not to allow the pursuit of pleasure, the acquisition of things and our own vested interests to dominate our lives.  We must join with others who share a common goal of preserving what we have and improving on what is yet to come. 

We must relearn the value of mastering the art and science of critical thought instead of memorizing shallow opinions.  We must relearn the value of intellectual pursuits and the ability to apply the results of those exercises to more noble actions.  We must relearn the value of talking to each other, touching each other, and seeing each other that only can come from the warmth of another person.  Let the texting and all of the other empty forms of social networking we have come to rely on die.  We will learn much more of lasting value from each other than we ever will from those who have made billions off gadgets that only numb our brains and give us nothing of value in return.  We are alive; they are not.  We can think ahead and conceptualize; they cannot.  We were created to be all we are and more.  They were created for one purpose only, with a limited life and valued only until the next model hits the market.  Who needs that?  Moreover, who wants that?                                           

Our most formidable enemy is those who believe it will never happen to them.  They are the ones who denigrate all of the great minds throughout history whose curiosity and determination are more attuned to the reality of our lives.  We are the repository of a broader scope of thought that takes in all that is around us and all of what we can imagine.  Theirs is a life of lifeless things.  Ours is a life of amazing wonder.

If you want to change your life forever, simply set yourself to the task of doing something nice for someone else.  Hold a door open for someone.  Pay the difference for something that another might not have, but thought he did.  Say “hello” to someone who would never have imagined that you would.  The sheer surprise by the recipient will warm the very cockles of your soul.  The residual feelings within you will stay with you longer than you think. 

At the end of the day, get to know humanity all over again.  See the beauty and worth in every individual.   Feel his pain and share in her dreams.  Share the burden of fighting for all our dreams, hopes and aspirations.  When the sun sets on the total worth of all of that wonderful effort, the magnificence and value of all we are and can be will change you forever.  Moreover, it will sow within you the desire to preserve the very best about us and renew our collective hope for a future yet to come, giving each and every day new meaning. 

One of my long-departed Grandfathers left me with one very profound pearl of wisdom.   “When a man waves the Bible in your face, keep your back to he wall.”  Truth may be elusive but it is the greatest gift of all.  May it always have the power to become your personal goal and our common bond. 

Cowboy Bob
The Sagebrush Philosopher
November 28, 2013   



Monday, November 4, 2013

“Where Is Our Shame, America?”

Just when I thought we could not sink further into the mire, an entirely new set of subhuman behavior rises from the cesspool of living things to remind me of just how fragile we are as civilized people. 

As if the concerted action by the Republicans in Congress to impede approval of the Federal Budget, followed by their collective efforts to refuse approval of the Debt Ceiling, we are greeted by their concerted action to stick it to the poorest among us by cutting back on food stamps and reducing the most impoverished within us to yet another low in their standard of living, such as it is.  Typical of some of our most distinguished faux Democrats representing us in the White House, the Congress and appointees to various commissions, there are backdoor conversations going on relative to cutbacks in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.   All of this is justified by the incestuous relationship between Republican demagogues and plutocratic Democrats to effect further reductions in government spending, alleging there is an increasing need to create more jobs and get people back to work.  Clearly, a patent exaggeration that has no basis in fact.  Rather, it is precisely what the Republicans advocate if you listen to their rhetoric.  The tune and the lyrics have not changed.      

In case any or all of them may have forgotten, who among them have been the greatest advocates and facilitators of free trade (i.e., Clinton, Obama, and their cadre of minions), enabling the plunder of the nation’s financial resources by Wall Street (i.e., Rubin, Summers, Geithner), and corporate capitalists, all aided and abetted by a compliant news media and a gluttonous corporate system totally out of control.  Then, of course, there is the burgeoning military/industrial complex.  The irony of this ruse is that it is they who have caused the plunder of our nation’s wealth that has caused the precipitous drop in jobs and the soaring increase in the number of the nation’s poor and underprivileged, all creating the increased demand on our nation’s resources.  Contrary to what we are led to believe, it is not due to the the majority of Democrats.  Rather, that result can be laid squarely at the foot of the Republicans.  And, not to break a long tradition of dutiful compliance, mainstream America remains indifferent and unmoved by what is going on around them.  Complacency is so easy on a full stomach, a good sleep in a warm bed and the solace of a regular and secure job.

The super rich see astronomical increases in their share (not necessarily fair) of the nation’s wealth, all the while brazenly going to the people’s government with beggars’ bowls in hand, seeking only a mild rebuke for their criminal behavior instead of being called out and prosecuted for their egregious assault on the public institutions of the American people.  Any way one may choose to view their conduct, they continue, with impunity, to claim ever greater proportions of the nations’ resources, all the while reducing the opportunities for a fair share of the nation’s wealth accruing to the average citizen by shipping jobs overseas and moving their fortunes into offshore banks.  Led by our first plutocratic President, William Jefferson Clinton, they are the champions of free trade agreements that are negotiated and ratified in secret which, in reality, usurp the proper authority of governments, and suck the life-blood out of domestic commerce and industry to the lasting peril of the disenfranchised and working people of this country.  No government should have the authority to negotiate and adopt free trade agreements without prior approval from the voters in a general election.  Otherwise, we are simply giving away our national sovereignty and control of our economy to foreign governments.  To me, that sounds terribly contrary to a democratic, free and open society which we believe in and extol so eloquently. 

I dare say few, if any, of those vile proponents have ever known a hungry day in their lives.  It is time to introduce them to that facet of human existence which they have created, but which they so vociferously deny and which they dismiss in such a cavalier fashion.    

If we had a real president rather than an obedient plutocrat, he would have been on a soap box a long time ago, raising holy hell in demanding a more equitable system so every American could reasonably expect a fair share of the American Dream.  Instead, we got the Tea Party zealots and, if history repeats itself, we could once again see more extreme measures advocated by their collective ignorance residing in the House.  We may not see tattooed numbers on their arms, or incarceration in internment camps, or wooden bowls from which to eat and into which they defecate, compounded by a standard diet in order to feed the maximum number at the lowest possible cost to the “taxpayers.”  But, it happened at the hands of the Third Reich and the mistaken notion that they were the “super race.”  It happened before and with the schism that exists between the “haves” and the “have-not's” in this country, I have no doubt that it could happen again.  All the characteristics indigenous to the super-rich and the privileged today are becoming more ominous.  Until our better angels rise to the occasion, I see their warped value systems as something to be taken seriously.  As was once so aptly stated, “The evil that men do shall proffer so long as good men do nothing.”  The silence of an indifferent majority among us is deafening. 

I have a particular disdain for the Tea Party and all that it represents.  There is not one scintilla of real intellect among them.  They are incapable of original thought or reflective analysis about anything.  If anything, they seem to be proud of their much coveted ignorance.  They live by the credo, “Tell me what I want to hear, not what I need to know.”  They spout “freedom” and “scripture” as if they know what they are talking about.  After all, God has imbued them with a zealous need to spread the Divine word far and wide, and to subdue the “nonbelievers” by whatever means is necessary.  As for scripture, given that the interpretation of those written works occurred over several centuries, I rather doubt that any of them can be given any credence today.  All they stand on is nothing more than a motley collection of admonitions that serve their own personal and political ambitions, honesty and integrity be damned.  They are a disgrace to politics (such as it is) and to basic human decency, the meaning of which is probably totally alien to the majority of them, as well. 

The time has come for real statesmen and stateswomen to stand up and be counted.  There is a real sense of urgency to opening the coffers of state and to dispel the growing hunger and despair from the lives of all those good and decent people who only want to survive with a modicum of respect, and an honest shot at the opportunities and the legacy that used to be afforded to all the people of this country.  Is that too much to ask?  I think not.           

If we cannot bring change to the needy, we need let those who are impeding that long over-due change feel the pressure of the population.  The good among us have to stop procrastinating, get serious about how grave our political system is and set themselves to the task of changing the entire system for the better.  Our “one-party” political system, rather crudely divided between conservatives and liberals, no longer passes the means test – for any of us.

I would be the first to admit that our entire system of social, political and economic intercourse has been hopelessly corrupted by the appetite brought on by out-of-control avarice and greed.  However I, also, believe there are pockets of people in our society who know the meaning of honesty, integrity and personal commitment by virtue of their academic allegiances, who could be called on to serve the better aspects of our society.  They are people who, in my estimation, are generally more influenced by and aligned with the principles of their profession.  They are more likely to have the confidence of the people.  They are not likely to be found among those who own our government, which the majority seem to use as their personal slush funds and party favors. 

What we think of as “our” government has been co-opted by so many vested interests that to even try and isolate what is and what is not a legitimate part of that “elected” government would boggle the minds of the most astute among us.  We deserve better and it is time we demanded better. 

For those of you who are at the mercy of these villains who claim respectability by their membership in government, stand your ground, be proud of who and what you are, and don’t let the bastards get you down.  You are not alone.      

Cowboy Bob
November 4, 2013