POEM: Financial Wizardry

Steal from one
You are called a thief
Steal from many
You are called a financial wizard

I like this short poem because it plays with the idea of how we interpret personal or individual acts versus impersonal and large-scale actions.  This poem fits the same format and tone as:  kill one and they call it murder, kill many and they call it foreign policy.  Each of these highlights the apparent bias that we have against individual or personal harmful acts, and our apparent bias in favor of impersonal and distance actions.  On the one hand, this makes sense since you can more easily see and connect the dots to the harmfulness of someone stealing directly from you in person, or assaulting you in person.  Yet, on the other hand, by stealing little bits from many, many people in an impersonal fashion and across great distances, Western civilization has frequently decided to term this financial wizardry or good foreign policy protecting our national interest.  It seems to me that much of the so-called success of Western civilization has been a drive toward maximizing impersonal and large-scale relationships to avoid accountability.  However, beyond avoiding accountability, such crimes actually become laudable and bring many benefits, such as wealth, control, and status.  An alternative to this facet of Western civilization would be to move toward and value more highly personal, local, and more organic human relationships.  Some of us might call this anarchism, the free association of individuals to come together and determine their common destiny.  This concept of anarchism is less about individualism than is about maintaining the ability to forge a common destiny, mediated by a shared reality.  Community is necessary since we have a shared reality.  This type of anarchism is democratic, but is skeptical of so-called representation by others, and favors direct democracy where people represent themselves.  This poem is a quick way to highlight the dangerously wrong direction that scale and impersonality or dehumanization can bring.  My own view is that if we don’t humanize so-called civilization, then so-called civilization will dehumanize us.  Most importantly, a humane world will not need a lot of financial wizards.

Reality Television: Poverty Grows

Reality Television: Poverty Grows – POLITICAL BUTTON

Reality Television: Poverty Grows--POLITICAL BUTTON

Reality Television: Poverty Grows – POLITICAL BUTTON

This cool design is linked to a button, but other great Top Pun products like T-shirts, bumper stickers, mugs, caps, key chains, magnets, posters, and sticker sheets can be accessed by scrolling down the product page.

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While many seem obsessed with reality television, it seems that many more important realities are being overlooked.  I’m amazed by Western civilization’s capacity to distract.  I would hope that the chasm between reality television and reality would be something that most people could discern; though my optimism may be showing through.  While this is disturbing enough, I find myself increasingly surreal state when we propose one thing and live truly do the opposite, and then had the audacity to call these opposite the same.  Now I’m a fan of paradoxes as much, probably even more, than the next guy, but holding fast to literal contradictions seem to be an unnecessary grasping of the absurd.  Let me offer an example.  The above design references the reality that poverty grows.  This can be taken as one half of the proverbial the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.  However, poverty is not something that we can discuss in polite company in America.  For instance, Pres. Obama in his State of the Union address this year was the first president since Harry Truman to not even use the word poverty in his State of the Union address.  Now, this might not be so unusual if we were in a period of expansive economic growth and poverty was receiving, but, alas, we are in the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, and poverty is growing.  But, let’s back up to our most recent period of apparent untrammeled economic growth.  Democrats like to call them the Clinton years.  I can’t help but notice that the same Clinton cronies that Obama hired to get us out of the most recent economic crisis are exactly the same people who led us into the crisis.  But back to Clinton.  One of the so-called crowning achievements of the William Jefferson Clinton presidency was his so-called welfare reform, which I prefer to call welfare deform.  Here is where holding fast to a literal contradiction comes into play.  President Clinton used the language of reducing poverty as the ultimate goal of his proposed welfare reform.  In other words, the ultimate success of this policy was supposed to be measured by how much it lifted people out of poverty.  However, virtually every analysis of the policy from left to right, governmental and nongovernmental, concluded that Clinton’s welfare reform legislation would result in more poor people, more poverty.  And sure enough, more people were pushed into poverty.  Unfortunately, a new measure, perhaps actually the original measure, was how many people were on welfare rolls.  This actually went down.  Surprise, surprise!  When poor people received less help, they became more poor.  Oh yeah, that idea that generous Americans and the church folk would feed, house, transport, tutor, and provide jobs for poor Americans without government involvement turned out to be a pipe dream. Wow, and I didn’t have to mention the Bush administration, one or two, Papa or Junior.

Force Attracts Men of Low Morality

Force Always Attracts Men of Low Morality–PEACE QUOTE BUTTON

Force Always Attracts Men of Low Morality--PEACE QUOTE BUTTON

Force Always Attracts Men of Low Morality–PEACE QUOTE BUTTON

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Albert Einstein is recognized as perhaps one of the greatest geniuses that ever lived regarding physics.  However, few people realize that Albert Einstein was also a great genius of metaphysics, or spiritual physics if you will.  This simple rule that force always attracts men of low morality can be a powerful organizing principle in how we relate to the world.  What if we realized, truly realized, that the world of command-and-control, the world of the military and security apparatuses, did not attract the so-called best and the brightest, but attracts those of low morality.  While Einstein certainly devoted the better part of his life to understanding physics, his number one extracurricular activity was to work for peace and the uplifting of all humanity.  Of course, these types of activities typically don’t make the history books, if for none other than the simple reason that history books only deal with great persons in history with a few paragraphs at most.  However, dealing with issues of morality in our culture seems strangely avoided.  This seems to be entwined with the Western civilization worldview that science is objective and all is science, that is reductionistic science.  We simply don’t know what to do with subjectivity, of which morality is one of the more obvious subjects.  Is it any wonder that Western civilization can be strikingly amoral?  So-called Western civilization has nearly perfected the ability to neuter any productive conversations about subjectivity or morality.  Oddly, this is probably viewed as a highly moral position.  You’ve got to love the irony!  Well, back to Einstein.  I like to think that his commitment and fascination to humanity springs forth from the essential truths that he reflected and meditated upon in physics.  I believe that all things are connected, and that this is a profound truth that underlies both physics and metaphysics.  I would hope that very few would object to the premise that all things are connected, as this is profoundly interwoven in the assumptions of any science.  The problem that many people shy away from, of course, are those connections that could be called subjective between humans and the rest of reality.  In the end, I guess my point is that many would view of what Einstein as a prototypical scientist.  If this view is based in any reality, we should pay attention to the fact that Einstein concerned himself with the nature of humanity that cannot directly be put under the proverbial microscope.  While Einstein is perhaps the best example, and he is the most well-known, there are many examples of theoretical physicists who have  immersed themselves in and accepted a mystical reality that cannot be fully explored with traditional hard science.  Yes, Einstein was a softy – a really smart softly.

POEM: Near Life Experience

I once had a near-life experience
but that’s another story

I like this funny two-line poem because it turns around the mysterious fascination with near-death experiences.  This poem implies that near-life experiences may actually be the uncommon experience.  This is driven home even further in an ironic fashion by not even bothering to tell you about the experience but simply referencing it as just another story to tell.

Blessed are the Peacemakers

Blessed Are the Peacemakers – Jesus Quote–BUTTON

Blessed Are the Peacemakers--BUTTON

Blessed Are the Peacemakers – Matthew 5:9 – Jesus–BUTTON

This cool design is linked to a button, but other great Top Pun products like T-shirts, bumper stickers, mugs, caps, key chains, magnets, posters, and sticker sheets can be accessed by scrolling down the product page.

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This quote from Jesus from Matthew 5:9 is probably one of the most famous and well-known Jesus quotes from the Bible.  Though, however common the phrase blessed are the peacemakers is, you’d be hard-pressed to figure that Christians took this seriously, given how many Christians are in the military, in many a nation (often opposing nations), and how much counsel and comfort is given to those manning, and occasionally womaning, military enterprises.  Of course, many Christians would argue that war-making is a form of peacemaking.  I think that this was a popular argument in 1984.  Or, well, it’s a real job creator for theologians to figure a way out of loving our enemies, and allowing us to kill those that we hate.  This is one of those areas where I find that Christianity gets seriously in the way of following Jesus.  Many people do not realize that in the early Christian church, pacifism was the prevailing norm.  Refusing military conscription was a common form of martyrdom in the early Christian church.  Of course, later, when Christianity cozied up to the state, particularly in the fourth century when Constantine made Christianity the state religion, Christianity mysteriously came up with new ways to justify warring on its enemies.  This co-option into the ways of the world is as common as it is unjustified.  Just reflect on Jesus’ words for a moment.  Really, what blessings do we see reaped by the peacemakers?  In worldly wisdom, these so-called blessings are secondhand fodder for the weak, the lowly pacifist.  I don’t think that it was a mistake that Jesus’ words recorded here as part of the beatitudes, added for emphasis that peacemakers would be called the children of God!  he was trying to make a point!  This is a title reserved for the blessed peacemakers in Jesus’ list of who is blessed.  Most people stop reading the beatitudes soon after this because they are insane enough to suggest that those who are persecuted for righteousness sake are also blessed.  I also like to Luke version which mentions as one of the woes as all people speaking well of you, for this is what our ancestors did in speaking of the false prophets.  It seems that a common thread of the many rationalizations I believe stray from Jesus true message concerns avoiding a cost for our actions.  Some days I just wish that we had a courageous Messiah that spoke boldly and prophetically to the powers that be in this world, and they wouldn’t back down, even to the point of death by the cruelest means.  I can tell you one thing: they didn’t need to torture Jesus to get the truth from him.  However, the fact that Jesus was willing to put some skin in the game, all of his skin, speaks truth deeply.  Like they say, talk is cheap.  What would you be willing to sacrifice for peace?  And what blessings would you reap from this?

Any Jackass Can Kick Barn Down, Takes a Carpenter to Build

Any Jackass Can Kick a Barn Down Takes a Carpenter to Build–PEACE QUOTE BUTTON

Any Jackass Can Kick a Barn Down Takes a Carpenter to Build--PEACE QUOTE BUTTON

Any Jackass Can Kick a Barn Down Takes a Carpenter to Build–PEACE QUOTE BUTTON

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Destroying stuff is a lot easier than building stuff up.  Ironically, this seems to give a certain power to people who destroy or threaten to destroy stuff.  Since destroying stuff is easier than building stuff up, there seems to be a certain efficiency, or competitive advantage if you will, to be a destroyer or terrorizer of destroying. While I don’t care much for this apparent bias that seems to favor the stupid and the violent on our planet, it seems to be a reality with which we must deal.  Nonetheless, this reality also points to the value, and even sacredness, of those things which are both vulnerable and treasured.  There seems to me to be a reality that is way beyond our ability to change that is good and beneficent.  I think it is this deeper reality that has hardwired us for hope.  Still, it is difficult not to have one’s attention distracted from this deeper reality when there seems to be plenty of stupid and violent behaviors to go around.  I think that building and protecting those things in life which are both vulnerable and treasured is the most important battleground for humanity.  Then, the real question becomes am I going to vote with my humanity for building up things of real value, or am I going to use the power vested in me by being human to destroy or threatening to destroy that which is built by others in order to get my own way, whatever that maybe.  So, we need to pick sides.  Do you want to be on the side of the jackasses, or do you want to be on the side of the carpenters?  I hope that this answer is an easy one to nail.

POLITICAL CARTOON: Country Club Jesus – Jewish, Non-American, Non-English-speaking

Country Club Jesus Speaks!

Jesus Cartoon: Country Club Jesus - Jewish Non-American Non-English-Speaking

Country Club Jesus speaks to us in many ways.  Ironically, Country Club Jesus, perhaps soon to be an American icon (lol), is neither American, nor speaks English.  Even more shocking, is that Jesus was a Jew.  Of course, this week’s comic touches on all three of these issues.  Hearkening back to the days when country clubs simply did not accept non-whites or non-Christians, the revelation of Jesus’ Jewishness would be better kept as a secret, and better to let people assume that the Christ is in fact a Christian.  Returning to current day America, with a new brand of xenophobia, suspicions of the need to exclude would probably center more around Jesus as a Middle Eastern man rather than a Jew.  Profiling Middle Eastern men as potential terrorists it second nature in America today, and may even be classified as a national hobby/obsession.  Notwithstanding, I’m most curious as to how the English-only crowd sees Jesus who in reality is a foreign speaking (Aramaic), well, foreigner.  Even more oddly for the American English-only crowd, they seem to often have a fetish with the King James version of the Bible, which is hardly an American version of English, let alone modern-day British English, since it was completed in 1611.  Sticking to such a version strikes me as an unwise balance between tradition and accessibility.  I would argue that if the Bible cannot be translated into more accessible English, in the case of American English speakers, then there must be some fundamental disconnect between biblical truths and modern life (which I don’t believe to be true).  I also find it incredibly ironic that one of the most popular version of the Bible was commissioned and given oversight by a monarch, a king.  I find this ironic because I see Jesus as standing against worldly authorities, monarchies, and the like.  But hey, I guess you’ve got to have a wealthy and powerful sponsor to get your message across.  Maybe we should sell naming rights to the next version.  How about the Wal-Mart Bible, or the Exxon Mobil Bible, or the Bank of America Bible, the McDonald’s Bible, or the J.P. Morgan Chase Bible?

So, until next Sunday, with the next edition of Comedian Jesus, CEO Jesus, Country Club Jesus, etc., let me know what you think.

POEM: Protesting Pet Peeves

I would protest against my pet peeves
Except, I’m not sure that “Honk if you want to end noise pollution”
Would work out so well

I like this funny little poem because it teases at the natural limits of something like protesting.  Many people consider me a big-time protesters.  Perhaps fewer people recognize that noise pollution is one of my major pet peeves.  I love the sign that protesters have that say “Honk for peace” or the like.  This is a great way to invite others to get involved in making a public statement about something very important.  However, when you put these two things together: a honky protest and a desire to end noise pollution, the incongruity becomes comical.  Life is funny!  Thank God!  Sometimes we just have to live into the mystery and find things laugh-worthy along the way, especially when dealing with serious or difficult issues.  At some moments in life, it may not be possible to have both peace and quiet; it may be a choice of peace or quiet.

LOVE POEM: Stolen Glances

I have a confession to make
I’ve stolen so many glances of you
And just us demands
That I stare into your eyes
Until further notice

This love poem is dedicated to my sweetheart, Maryjo.  Fortunately, when only the two of us are involved, the eyes have it!  May it be the same for you and your sweetheart…

POEM: Flowers Cut

I set before you these flowers
For your reflection and edification
These flowers were cut from my yard
A yard not unlike the two yards that will cover us all some day
Some may say that cutting short the lives of these flowers is wrong
But what do I say to this?
That the greater danger is cutting our own lives short
For it is much easier to harm ourselves than to harm another
Unlike most flowers and most of nature
This flower lives in the city
Most flowers and most of nature
Are as beautiful as they are unseen by human eyes
But these flowers, these city flowers
Go largely unseen, even as so largely present
People pass by, out of their minds
Racing to that whose beauty cannot compare
Neither flowers nor nature require our attention
But, ahhhh, the beauty is all sufficient
So, if I have cut short the life of these city flowers
By some few days such is life
Pardon my offense
And help me repay such expense
With such beauty they briefly impart
Not unlike this poem
Which from the mind will soon depart
Let such beauty replenish the beauty of your heart
And prepare you for every worthy start

The beginnings of this poem struck while I was taking a walk late yesterday afternoon.  I was to go to an Occupy Toledo General Assembly meeting early that evening, and I decided to take some cut flowers from my yard.  I love it when the muse strikes!  It is a glorious curse of the poet to pay homage to the moment when inspiration strikes.  Having a life where I’m able to do this brings me incalculable joy.  Some may say that I have too much time on my hands, but I certainly don’t have a watch on my wrist, or a cell phone in my pocket.  Anyway, to the calculating chronologist, we all have the same 24 hours each day.  Poets know better, I say in all humility, or rather awe.  While many of us live a similar amount of time, in terms of times our heart is beating and there are waves in our brain, there are simple and great differences in how well we live that time.  I am partial to the blessing given by the late Will Rogers in saying, “May you live all the days of your life.”

POEM: Feminists Know Something

As a man
One day I wondered
How come there are so few
Women politicians
Women economists
Women lawyers
Then it occurred to me
Maybe they know something we don’t

The quest to understand the difference between men and women has probably been around as long as there have been men and women.  This feminist poem seeks to stimulate reflection around the issue of self-selection of a career or vocation.  While there are certainly barriers to women entering, succeeding or advancing in certain male-dominated careers or vocations, there are definitely self-selection factors based on gender.  In this poem, I choose the specific fields of politics, economics, and law for reflection.  These fields are dominated by men.  However, I suspect that much of the reason women are not attracted, or dare I say engendered, to these fields is because of both the nature of these fields and the way these fields have been shaped (or distorted) by a male point of view.  As a man and a feminist, I try to understand and value women’s experiences, ways of being, and points of view.  Of course, men’s experiences, ways of being, and points of view, are transmitted more easily in our society due to men’s dominant role and control over many structures and processes in our society.  Given these realities, we should all be feminists, seeking to strike a more healthy balance between the genders.  This requires that we all pay more attention to what women know; and by knowing I mean much more than simply intellectual content but the whole range of experiences, ways of being, and points of view.  And by all means, I don’t relegate the field of “doing” to men, given the fact that women do most of the work in the world.  Simple curiosity demands that men especially seek insight into what women know that men may not.  Of course, being counter-cultural, this takes work, and for some reason women either seem more willing to take on work, or just experience ending up doing more of it..  Either way, we should all pay more attention to these differences.

POEM: The Human Race Is Not Well Done

The human race
Is
Not
Well
Done

I like the short poem because in seven words in five lines it can be read several different ways.  The human race can be seen both as a species and as an actual race, such as a foot race or a rat race.  Whether or not this race, either way you take it, is done well or, well, done is an open question.  You can meditate on that one for yourself, and for others if you like…

Real Test of Power to Prevent War

PEACE QUOTE: Real Test of Power to Prevent War–PEACE SIGN BUTTON

PEACE QUOTE: Real Test of Power to Prevent War--PEACE SIGN BUTTON

PEACE QUOTE: Real Test of Power to Prevent War–PEACE SIGN BUTTON

This cool design is linked to a button, but other great Top Pun products like T-shirts, bumper stickers, mugs, caps, key chains, magnets, posters, and sticker sheets can be accessed by scrolling down the product page.

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This peace quote reverses the typical notions of power.  Power is typically viewed as the ability to make things happen.  That is certainly true in the context of the capacity to make war.  However, the power to exert brute force and coercion is very different from the type of moral force is needed to build and sustain peace.  Morality, in its essence, is about restraint.  By contrast, amorality is simply having no restraint or limits on one’s actions.   Thus, when comparing the capacity to make war versus the capacity to prevent war, or to create peace, these concepts of power tend to clash.  War is hardly an exercise in restraint.  While war may require a lot of discipline in many respects, it requires unleashing incredible brute force that by its very nature cannot be controlled.  One simply has to recognize the reality that for every combatant killed in wartime, approximately ten non-combatant are killed.  Clearly, war is not a precise surgical procedure, despite all the talk about smart bombs and laser guided systems.

As the United States is beating the drums of war against Iran, there is talk about the right thing to do, the moral thing to do.  Of course, most of this talk is couched in terms of all the evil, bad, or immoral things that some other parties are doing.  Sort of by default, morality is imputed on people who oppose such evil doings and evil doers.  Unfortunately, what is lost in the mix, mostly of lies, is that morality is more about restraining one’s own behavior than about restraining another’s behavior.  By losing our focus on our own behavior, we can drift dangerously close to the unaccountability needed in order to wage war.  If you think war-making requires restraint and discipline, try peacemaking and loving your enemies.  The difficult task of taking personal responsibility for one’s behavior both as an individual and as a citizen of a nation can be costly.  However, there seems to be an  inertia in the human condition that defaults to blaming others for one’s own problems, and shifting the cost of relating to one another as human beings to other people that we see at fault.  Even if I have a relationship with someone where a conflict or “problem” is 20% mine and 80% theirs, this does not relieve me of being accountable for my 20%.  Rather than taking care of our own moral business and accountability, we often feel justified in focusing the blame and the full costs of the conflict onto those we see as enemies.  It is impossible to successfully wage war without demonizing one’s enemies.  This is the only way to justify killing a combatant.  This is definitely the only way to justify killing non-combatant.   Show me a nation that can create peace in the face of potential war and I will show you the most morally powerful nation on earth.

POLITICAL CARTOON: Comedian Jesus – Love Your Enemies

Comedian Jesus Speaks!

Jesus Cartoon: Comedian Jesus - Love Your Enemies, Hah, Good One!

Welcome to Comedian Club Jesus!  This is the latest installment the Top Pun series of comics that run on Sundays, featuring CEO Jesus, Free Market Jesus, Country Club Jesus, General Jesus, Comedian Jesus, and who knows what other incarnations!  This is the first appearance of Comedian Jesus, but he will undoubtedly return again!  Comedian Jesus knows how to make them laugh!  People have taken Jesus way too seriously in the past.  Seriously, how may times do you have to read the sermon on the Mount to realize that Jesus was just being sarcastic.  My best guess is that the person recording the sermon was laughing so hard that their handwriting must have been abominable, and confusion was bound to follow.  Of course, experience with the classic joke of this week, loving your enemies, is enough to ascertain that Jesus was joking.  Trust me, just tell someone to love their enemies and wait for the punch line.  Of course, the punch line being an actual line of people waiting to punch you, either literally or figuratively for suggesting such a ridiculous notion.  Of course, my guess is that this is not the biggest disappointment that Jesus had.  For instance, Jesus was probably really bummed by having to be crucified rather than just having an arrow shot through his head.  But comics, particularly jesters, often have little control over how things end for them, or how they are interpreted.  I’m guessing that some people are really hoping to for some new material in his second show…

So, until next Sunday, with the next edition of Comedian Jesus, CEO Jesus, Free Market Jesus, etc., talk amongst yourselves or let me know what you think.

POEM: Everything Reminds Me of Everything Else

Everything reminds me of everything else.

This one-line poem is a quick way to get into my mind and how it works.  I probably love metaphors as much as I do puns.  This short poem cuts to the chase, so you don’t really have to deal with all those messy details.  My thinking and belief is rooted in the idea that everything is connected.  Thus, if one is paying close attention, then everything and anything that you see, think, hear, or feel, can be traced back to everything else by some undisclosed number of degrees of separation.  Poetry is just playing with all of these connections and associations.  Metaphors are just representations of the next level of connections and associations that recognize that everything is connected.  People who are not poets may consider such things eminently impractical.  However, consider this:  if everything reminds me of everything else, then I don’t need Post-it notes.  Who says the mind of a poet isn’t practical?

Risk Taking in War and Peace

PEACE QUOTE: Risks Making War Risks to Secure Peace–PEACE SIGN BUTTON

PEACE QUOTE: Risks Making War Risks to Secure Peace--PEACE SIGN BUTTON

PEACE QUOTE: Risks Making War Risks to Secure Peace–PEACE SIGN BUTTON

This cool design is linked to a button, but other great Top Pun products like T-shirts, bumper stickers, mugs, caps, key chains, magnets, posters, and sticker sheets can be accessed by scrolling down the product page.

View more Peace Quote Buttons.

This simple peace or antiwar quote challenges our thinking by asking a question about what we are willing to risk or invest in securing peace.  Everyone seems to understand that war is costly.  However, oddly, many people seem to think that peace should just happen.  Though, this might be true, if we just dis-invested from war, but this would involve great risk and sacrifices that I would simply call taking risks to secure peace.  Either way peace takes work!   The status quo, which is solidly in the war camp, is what will continue to happen if we do not change the way we do things.  This involves a cost, a high cost, the cost of war.  This is a choice, just as much as making a conscious choice to take the risks to secure peace.  As quoted elsewhere, war is costly, peace is priceless.  I hope this peace and antiwar quote stimulates some meditation upon what price you are willing to pay help secure peace on this precious planet, for all of its inhabitants human and otherwise.

Who’s the One percent and 99 Percent?

The Occupy Wall Street movement has been successful in framing much of the political debate in this country around the concept of who is the 1%, and who are the 99%.  Obviously, for those in the United States, it is usually quite easy to ascertain whether you are in the top 99% or not.  The confusion probably only arises among Americans whose income is at least a few hundred thousand dollars per year.  The actual break off for the top 1% income in the United States is about $380,000.

However, as Morgan Housel, the Motley Fool blogger, has written in his article, Attention, Protestors: You’re Probably Part of the 1%, the profile of who is the 1% and who are the 99% changes drastically when looked in the context of occupying the entire planet.  When considering all humans on this planet, earning about $34,000 per year or more will place you in the top 1% of incomes.  Further, an income of about $70,000 per year would place you in the top .1% of incomes worldwide.  Now, in dollar-denominated economies, you can probably discount such income about 10% or 20% when comparing incomes worldwide.  Thus, to be among the top 1 percent of incomes worldwide, would be about $40,000 per year or so in the United States.  Likewise, to be among the top .1% of incomes worldwide, you would need to have an income of about $80,000 per year or so in the United States.  This is a humbling reality for many Americans, most of whom consider themselves at least cash poor and middle-class.  Somewhat ironically, most of the 99% in the United States are actually the 1% in a worldwide context.  Even the poorest 5% of Americans are better off economically than more than two-thirds of the world’s population.  Thus, in American discourse, the discussion of rich and poor, wealth and poverty, would be greatly enriched my understanding and appreciating the massive income inequality both between and within different countries.  A common thread in the American discourse of rich and poor is about “earnings”, and about who are deserving poor.  To shed some light on this discussion, we need to realize that our country of birth determines more than 60% of the variability in incomes worldwide.   Apparently, picking parents who resides in the right country account for most of our economic success!

There many things that we take for granted living in the United States.  One example would be having access to clean water and adequate sanitation.  This is nearly universal the United States.  However, according to the blue planet network, over one billion people in the world do not have access to safe drinking water, roughly one-sixth of the world’s population.  Over two million people in developing countries, most of them children, die every year from diseases associated with lack of access to safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene.  Half of the world’s hospital beds are filled with people suffering from water related illnesses.  In the past 10 years, diarrhea has killed more children than all the people lost to armed conflict since World War II.  Half of people on earth lack adequate sanitation. Another way to look at it: Nearly half of the world’s population fails to receive the level of water services available 2,000 years ago to the citizens of ancient Rome.  80 percent of diseases in the developing world are caused by contaminated water.  The average distance that women in Africa and Asia walk to collect water is six kilometers.  The average person in the developing world uses 2.64 gallons of water a day.  The average person in the United Kingdom uses 35.66 gallons of water per day. The average person in the United States uses between 100 and 175 gallons every day at home.  It takes 5 liters of water to make 1 liter of bottled water.  It takes 2,900 gallons of water to produce one quarter pound hamburger (just the meat).  The UN estimates it would cost an additional $30 billion to provide access to safe water to the entire planet.  That’s a third of what the world spends in a year on bottled water.

If we are going to have an evolution or a revolution that changes the world, we certainly can’t settle for fixing the perceived problems in the economically developed world.  The vast income inequalities across the planet must be addressed with eyes wide open and hearts wide open if we are to have any hope of bringing justice to this planet and its inhabitants.

Proud Ally

Proud Ally BUTTON

Proud Ally BUTTON

Proud Ally BUTTON

This cool design is linked to a button, but other great Top Pun products like T-shirts, bumper stickers, mugs, caps, key chains, magnets, posters, and sticker sheets can be accessed by scrolling down the product page.

View more Straight Friends Buttons.

This design speaks for itself.  I treasure solidarity with those struggling for freedom and equality.  I know what I am, what are you?

POEM: Wrong Ballpark

Being in the wrong ballpark is a mere scheduling error
Maybe I need a game changer

This simple two-line poem is meant to challenge the reader regarding both the size and nature of change that may be needed to change one’s life, to better one’s life.  Being in the wrong ballpark is a generally recognized phrase for being in the wrong place to accomplish what you want to accomplish.  This poem plants the idea that being in the wrong ballpark may be merely a scheduling error, a matter of timing.  Of course, timing is often said to be everything, and a timing error or scheduling error itself can be fatal to one’s enterprise.  However, in combination with the second line of the poem, the nature of the error committed and the change needed to correct such an error is put forth as potentially a mere distraction.  Even the second line, maybe I need a game changer, has a double meaning and is more than what it first appears.  The typical usage of the phrase game changer refers to a significant event that changes the course of the game.  However, the second and intended meaning of this phrase refers to changing the game itself, not merely playing the current game better.  Self-help gurus and inspirational speakers like to talk about paradigm shifts.  The reality of needing a paradigm shift hits home when one finds oneself doing the same thing over and over again and getting the same results (which many define as insanity).  This usually doesn’t happen all at once, and the incremental nature of getting progressively diminishing returns on one’s investment in an enterprise often leads one with the illusion that if one just works harder, or perhaps even smarter, that one can change the nature of the unsatisfactory results one is getting.  Thus, it is often not immediately clear when changing the game itself is needed, when a paradigm shift is needed.  The image that comes to mind is a frog in a pot of heating water.  If a frog were thrown in a pot of boiling water it would immediately jump out.  But, if a frog is placed in a pot of cool water that is slowly heated, the frog will adapt to its changing conditions and desensitize itself to its impending demise, being cooked alive.  Do you have something in your life that gives you a warm satisfaction, perhaps even because you have adapted so well to changing and difficult circumstances, but you are seeing red flags of some impending doom?  If so, you may want to ponder changing the game.  Go ahead, hop to it!  Saunas can be nice for limited times but knowing when a change of venue is needed can be life saving.

POEM: Arguing with Atheists

Arguing with atheists is like panning for gold in a bathtub.

This one line poem is certainly provocative, and probably dangerous.  First I would like to concede that I cannot prove that God exists.  Secondly, and equally, I don’t think that is a proper understanding of reality to conclude that God cannot exist.  Thus the chasm between theists and atheists.  Actually, the term “God” is so loaded for people I would like to suggest a different tack.  I think the issue boils down to an argument between subjectivity and objectivity.  I find that the predominant view of atheists that I have met or read about seem to take an objectivist view, what I would call scientific reductionism.  While this view can be very helpful for understanding part of reality, it specifically rules out any subjective reality.  While this seems eminently reasonable to most modern people of a scientific bent, it ignores the most basic experience of human life: that humans are subjects, subjective.  If folks would argue that people are not subjects or subjective, then we don’t have much to talk about, and perhaps all that we do have to talk about has been predetermined in the infinite cascade of objective cause-and-effect.  The philosophy or arguments that preclude or exclude subjects or subjectivity destroys both humans and God in a single stroke.  Now, while it seems quite easy in terms of simplicity or Occam’s razor, to just eliminate God, the “Subject”, from the equation, eliminating oneself and all other subjects seems much more dangerous, even foolish.  I can probably appreciate absurdity as much of the next person, probably more.  However, scientific reductionism comes to a nice clean and neat end when it reaches absurdity, which perhaps ironically, it inevitably does.  It can go no further.  I wish to go further.  This requires uncertainty, even absurdity.  However, I think that this is where the gold is found.  Panning for gold can be a long and tedious process, and it may not even pay off for many, maybe even most.  Nonetheless, such gold cannot be found in a bathtub, the proverbial scientific reductionist billiard ball world.

One last note, on the concept of arguing.  Arguing is often seen as an intellectual exercise.  Unfortunately, the intellect has its limits, and there are places for which it is not an adequate instrument to explore.  These are the matters of the heart, of subjectivity, of life itself, which cannot be reduced to a machine, at least not with the unintended consequences of killing life.  Residing in the heart, centering our experience around the heart, living a wholehearted life, is a way existential enterprise.  There is meaning, and we discover that meaning through our subjective faculties.  I must surpass or transcends mere intellect.  I must literally vote with my life, my life force, the subjectivity that is mine.  Ultimately, talking about or arguing about things is inadequate.  What we do matters.  How we live our life matters.  Ultimately, our life is our message.  If someone else’s life seems argumentative with our own message, then so be it.  A certain amount of conflict and absurdity is necessary in life.  I don’t think many would argue with that.  Though feel free to pan my views…