Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Occupy Wall Street/Tea Party:Two sides of the same coin?

Occupy Wall Street hasn't been in the news lately, but I've been thinking about it a lot lately. The meeting of the ultra rich and powerful in Davos Switzerland last week brought it to the top of mind again. I am convinced Occupy Wall Street was motivated by the same underlying substrate that motivated it's nemesis the Tea Party. Hear me out on this.

The Tea Party set it's sights squarely on government, specifically the unconstitutional overreach of the Federal government. Occupy Wall Street rallied against the 1% - the rich few they believe controls the world just to hold the rest of us down. I'm increasingly convinced they are one in the same, since nothing else explains how the events of the past 60 or 70 years could have played out as they did.

[ To be perfectly clear being rich is not a crime, when talking about the 1% we're really talking about 1/100th of 1%. Essentially the super rich that play with 100 of millions like it was Monopoly money. ]

Occupy Wall Street (OWS) are the sons and daughters of the middle class facing dimming prospects for a future as bright as the one their parents had. The Tea Party is made up of mostly their middle class parents who are watching the country they knew (and loved) morph into something unrecognizable. Both of these movements are purely reactionary. There is a deep sense in the western world that there is an unrecoverable erosion taking place. Both sides see remedies in polar opposite extremes based on where they are in life. The mostly young of the OWS tend toward the utopian idealism of a more communist system, while the older more seasoned in the Tea Party see the solution in going back toward the original intent of America's constitutional framers. Both cant be right...

Some say that the Soviet Union was the inevitable result of communism, a system that lasted barely 70 years. It was clearly a failed system that caused untold suffering and doomed many generations to a dreary life even to this day. Others will say that the U.S. is the inevitable result of a capitalist free market system. Exploitative and unfair. Of this I'm not so sure. There is a perversion of the system that is denuding the middle class and weakening the core of the most successful social and economic system the world has ever known. The answer can be found by determining who is benefiting the most from the turmoil. Is it the 1%? Clearly it is.

I've written before on these pages as to why I believe the middle class in America is slowly being destroyed. By the 1960's and 70's the middle class had become too powerful a force. It was a collective force, powerful indeed, but with no head thus easier to defeat. Rallied by radical journalism in the 1960's it brought it's power to bear on the war machine and forced Washington to abandon the South Vietnamese. Whether this was right or not, or spurred by socialist/communist elements I'm not speculating, I'm just saying the power of the vast middle was evident in these events.

This had to be stopped. There has been, in my mind, a concerted multi-decade domestic and international effort to squelch the middle class dominating all the Western nations.

Who has benefited the most from moving a vast portion of American manufacturing to Asia? Who has benefited the most from NAFTA and free trade in general? Who has benefited the most from the Fed's quantitative easing program? Certainly not the middle class. Could it be the 1%? Of course it is. Arguments can be made that capital will always chase the cheapest labor and that free trade is ultimately good for consumers and cheap interest rates and easy money helps build equity. True, but it doesn't erase the fact that the American middle class is shrinking and these costs are outweighing the benefits across the board for the 99%.

The corporatization of the major media and the stranglehold the corporate political parties have on the levers of government ensure that the cronies in the 1% class (regardless of nationality) get what they need. With the Roman paradigm of Bread and Circuses alive and well in America and the West the 1% have little fear from the what's left of the middle class. Liberal platitudes and outright lies serve to ingratiate big government solutions to the destruction of the American dream among a large portion of the population who can't pull themselves away from American Idol, Facebook or their smart phones long enough to realize the pot is boiling. The conservatives unfortunately can't speak with enough articulation to wrestle themselves out of a wet paper bag. What difference, in the end they are as beholden to the 1% as the other guys.

There is an element lurking around the Internet known as reactionaries that have taken to calling this cabal the "Cathedral". The Cathedral is essentially untouchable. If any politician or any other entity steps out of line they are soon scandalized or marginalized, discredited or ruined. That said it's no surprise there is no fealty to any political party or their ideologies among the reactionaries. It goes without saying there is certainly no trust for the mainstream media. While I tend to agree with this assessment in truth the reactionary movement is tiny and toothless.

So in reality the Tea Party and the OWS movements are battling the same enemy. Ultimately they have demonstrated they both are toothless as well. The OWS has some allies in government carrying their rally cry of income disparity, but the movement itself is seen as a disorganized and smelly public spectacle. The Tea Party having had some success early on challenging some squishy Republicans have also been targeted and marginalized by the power of the Cathedral.

You begin to wonder where this will all end. The U.S. government can't continue to print money forever and there has to come a time when the destruction of the middle class starts to affect the hangers on of the 1%. What then?


Friday, January 24, 2014

Ugly is in the eye of the beholder

(I just don't want to see it)

I could never be a cop, especially a big city cop. Sure cops do extraordinary work at times, important work, work that needs to be done. Unfortunately they have to see the ugly side of humanity everyday, often the ugliest side. All too often cops see people on the worst day of their lives. I would become so depressed. I don't like ugly.

I don't like discordant music or poetry that doesn't rhyme. I don't like abstract art or so-called high fashion. I don't like (nearly all) public sculptures or 1960's architecture. I don't like ugly.

What is ugly? I'm not sure I can even describe it, but I know it when I see it. It can be something as inane as your favorite sports car with a hideous neon green paint job, to the full blown filth of urban decay. Like all things in this world everything has it's counterpart, with beauty you get ugly too.

Human beings can be ugly on the outside, that's just a fact. It's not that they're ugly that bothers me, it's when other people insist on trying to convince them they're not - they know they're ugly!!! However, it's the people who are ugly on the inside that you have to worry about, am I right?

I would make the world's worst movie producer. I happen to like happy endings, but I also like happy beginnings and happy middles too. Conflict can be so ugly. I realize that even schmaltzy romantic comedies need conflict. There is literally no entertainment value in movies that have no highs with the lows or conflict with the harmony. Good thing I'm not a movie producer.

I have a hard time with some TV shows too. Cable shows like Dirty Jobs where Mike Row engages in a series of jobs that are so down right ugly it is impossible for me to watch. Same for a show called Life After People which depicts the world after all humans are gone. It chronicles the pace at which nature consumes mankind's footprint. It's not that humans left an ugly world - it's that an unmaintained civilization turns ugly. While I rather enjoy those post-apocalyptic movies I just wish someone would take some time to clean things up a little, the apocalypse can be so untidy. Those various "picker" shows make me think I'd just as soon light a match to those disgusting sheds and barns as I would enter them and start picking stuff up. It's not just the quasi reality shows or disaster movies that are ugly to me. I thought the doctor show called House had as it's main character just about the ugliest human being I've ever witnessed.

Then there's music, the very essence of mathematical beauty and melodious harmony. It can be perverted into something grotesque and down right evil. I get that some people like devil metal - or whatever it's called - but it is ugly, ugly music. Same goes for hard core rap, it's ugly and harsh, rather unpleasant to listen to. While extreme jazz and long-haired classical music may not be my thing I can appreciate the beauty in it. Even country music and hip hop have elemental beauty to them. Years ago I couldn't figure out why whenever my teenage daughter was in my car I was so irritated... Now I realize it wasn't her - it was that ugly music that was blaring out of the radio.

The place where ugly is truly detrimental is in relationships and human interaction. We've all have ugly relations with people in our lives. Some people thrive on it. Some people like to fight. I'm not one of them. I'd rather everyone be happy, or at least for God's sake pretend they are happy. We can't escape ugly behavior, it's part of life. I think just about the ugliest thing I've ever seen was a man (if you want to call him that) who purposely picked at his wife in such a derogatory way that no matter what she said or did it was cause for getting smacked. That piece of %$@# thrived on ugly. To see this beautiful young woman so deeply humiliated and depreciated (and physically hurt) was more than I could take. I was too much a mouse to do anything about it. It was 30 years ago but I have never forgotten it. Wife beaters in my book are the second lowest form of life right after child abusers.

I used to like watching boxing matches, not any more. Mike Tyson made it a classless and ugly sport. Today boxing has all but been replaced by, get this, something so much more civilized, ultimate fighting. This is where two men get thrown into a cage and literally beat the snot out of each other. I'm not sure what is uglier, the modern day gladiators in the ring or the bloodthirsty audience cheering them on. It's disgusting in my book, pure ugly.

It's often said beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that's true, but then so is ugly. Sometimes people are just being polite or they are deluding themselves when it comes to things beautiful and ugly. Not every baby is beautiful, sorry moms. And little dogs with bulging eyes are not cute, they're ugly. A Siberian Husky with sky blue eyes, now that's a beautiful dog.

No one person has the final say on what's ugly and what's beautiful, but people should be honest with themselves, I'm just sayin'.


Sunday, January 05, 2014

A new Jesus?

A while back I was talking with my brother, someone I respect enormously, about religion and so forth. Something he said really got me thinking and I've been ruminating on it ever since. My brother is no fan of religion to say the least. Me, I am a Christian, or rather a follower of Jesus (the label Christian has a few connotations that showcase hypocrisy, wickedness, inspiration and righteousness all at the same time). My brother advocates for a humanist approach to the question of ultimate morality, citing the need for mankind to adhere to the concept of true respect and genuine human rights for all people everywhere, no exceptions. I said something to effect that it's all right there in the Gospels of Jesus Christ. To that he declared that the world needs a new Jesus.

I was at a loss to even respond and we left it at that.

Now that I've had time to consider what he said I declare no, the world doesn't need a new Jesus what the world needs is new Christians. It isn't Jesus who has steered us so wrong. There is nothing in the Gospels that justifies the way many Christians act or some of the things they believe. Christianity is polluted and it began over 1500 years ago and is only now at the very beginning of clearing the air.

There was a time when Christians were indistinguishable from the modern radical Muslims of today. Again, nowhere in Gospels does Jesus ever ask for vengeance or encourage violence in any way. Quite the contrary, what we get from the New Testament is the real "New Deal", a deal free from an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth of the Old Testament.

Jesus said: You have heard it said an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other cheek also. 

And behold, one of those who were with Jesus reached and drew out his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.

This is what Jesus taught us: violence and vengeance in kind is not the answer to violence and vengeance. If only Christians through the centuries had actually practiced what Jesus taught, what a different world this would be. This is the truth of Jesus, that if we actually lived like Jesus lived and loved like Jesus loved then the world would see mankind living with true respect and genuine human rights for all people everywhere. Jesus is the ultimate humanist!

I have learned at lot in the past two years having left the Catholic Church for a bible-based "teaching" church. This modern mega-church is headed by the most passionate Jesus follower I have ever known. For the first time I understand that the Holy Bible is a family story that culminates with Jesus Christ. Much of it is awful, cringe worthy, but it is a story with a beautiful ending. This story is told in the traditions of first century Jews and was never meant to be taken literally. It is not a reference book where you can pull a passage out of anywhere in the text and declare it truth, it's a novel where the order of things has relevance. You can't just jump over Jesus and cite the violence of the Old Testament as a definitive view of God. Jesus came to offer a new covenant, based on self sacrificial love and forgiveness, not the vengeful law of the Old Testament.

My brother is wise and instinctively right about a lot of things. He is right about religion in general, it is a problem and quite possibly even a cancer for mankind. There are good people practicing "religion" and this not to impune them. To be a follower of Jesus one must practice faith not just declare it. Faith is a verb. One practices it by living like Jesus lived and loving like Jesus loved. There is no litmus test for faith, having the right beliefs or jumping through the right hoops like the Catholics do cannot buy salvation. Living your faith and accepting the grace of God will lead you to good works, not the other way around.

The pastor of this mega-church is an influential American theologian who has written over 18 books, including a best seller popular in the secular world. He has written a book that he often cites on Sundays called "Repenting of Religion". He is Gregory A. Boyd. Another book that was published in 2013 by Bruxy Cavey called "The End of Religion" echos some of what Boyd says in his book.

Christendom, which is the melding of Church and State, was brought forth when the Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in the fourth century. He then declared the whole Roman Empire to be Christian.This in essence Romanized the Church. This unholy pairing of Church and State became drunk with power and started on a course of that can only be described of as evil. Jesus stopped being about love and forgiveness, and became a Warrior God - or He was shoved aside altogether.

Through the fall of the Roman Empire and the Protestant reformation the Church/State ruled for centuries by cultivating the fear of God rather than the love of Christ. Every ugly picture of Christianity can be traced to Christendom. It still rules the Church today in many ways, but it is slowly becoming extinct. This is exactly what these two books are about - the end of Christendom and the return of a Jesus-centered faith - and it is a beautiful thing.

The rise of non-denominational mega-churches (churches with thousands and thousands of congregants) all over the world are purposely separating themselves from the churches of Christendom. They focus on teaching and interpreting the Bible rather than dithering on rote traditions. The old line churches look down on these institutions as scripturally deficient and inauthentic. In my eyes the sermons in the mega-churches are actually sermons whereas the sermons in the traditional churches are more often than not pitches for money. These churches may not have the Magisterium of the Church, but they also don't have the baggage. They are fresh and exciting and people love being a part of it. Contrast a mega-church (this can be done just by looking at the parking lot on Sundays) to a Catholic parish or a Lutheran congregation where the young leave the church at 16 never to return. The pews are half-full the old who truly love their church, but they will never renew it. The Jesus-centered mega-churches have people of all ages and backgrounds and the 16 years-olds drive themselves to the service every Sunday - because they want to be there.

They are learning to reject violence and grotesque consumerism. They are learning that every person they meet - friendly or not - has unsurpassable worth and is precious enough for Jesus to have died for on Calvary two thousand years ago. They are learning that everyone is welcome in the Kingdom, sinners and saints, blacks and whites, gays and straights. They are learning to live within their means and to be generous with their extras. They are learning that living like Jesus lived and loving like Jesus loved leads to better world here and now and to the glory of the Kingdom to come.

These are the new Christians.