POEM: Wrenching Machine

He threw himself into his work
Like a wrench
More than just
A gag
In a wrenching machine

They deem me mad because I will not sell my days for gold; and I deem them mad because they think my days have a price -- Kahlil Gibran quote POLITICAL BUTTONQuestion Consumption - POLITICAL BUTTONHere is a Monday poem dedicated to all anti-work workers, those less-than-willing cogs in dehumanizing machines.  I am so grateful for being my own boss and running my own business, where I can escape many of the heart-wrenching accommodations faced by wage slaves.  I heartily recommend simplifying your material needs to help minimize any need of selling yourself to dubious employers.  This also doubles as an anti-consumer, low-resource consumption lifestyle.  May we all find meaningful vocations untethered to capitalist exploitation.

Debt Slavery - No Chains Necessary (Sisyphus) - POLITICAL BUTTONIf Wealth Was The Inevitable Result of Hard Work, Every Woman In Africa Would Be A Millionaire -- George Monbiot quote POLITICAL BUTTON

Simplicity Trumps Affluence [Royal Flush] SPIRITUAL BUTTON

POEM: Reject

They took out a social contract
On her
In what might as well be
Too her
Too be
As good
As dead
From their point of you
Her response sow questionable
If it’s awe the same
Too you
I’ll strike
Oppose
Whatever
You have
Status quid pro quo
Ad infinitum
With slick prose and dodgy idioms
Foreign to me and my kind
Only wanting
Too ax me
Where unseen ahead nod
And invisible
Hand
Shake
Down
I reject

A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except learning how to grow in rows -- Doug Larson BE A WEED POLITICAL BUTTONNever forget that only dead fish swim with the stream. Malcolm Muggeridge quote POLITICAL BUTTONThis poem’s title, Reject, can be read as both a noun and a verb.  People, too often treated as things, often end up as rejects of a dehumanizing status quo.   The humanizing response to being relegated as a reject of a dehumanizing status quo is to reject that dehumanizing status quo.  People, and their vital humanity, are better characterized with verbs than as nouns.  People rebelling against being a means to an undignified end, being treated as a cog in a machine or so much fodder, is an indispensable beginning to becoming more fully human.  May your rebellion against that which is dehumanizing manifest many fine beginnings.

Feel free to check out more designs about rebellion, resistance and revolution:

Thou Shall Not Take Shit POLITICAL BUTTONThe Opposite of Courage In Our Society Is Not Cowardice; It Is Conformity -- Rollo May quote POLITICAL BUTTONTo learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize -- Voltaire quote POLITICAL BUTTON

	 Love Is Our Resistance POLITICAL BUTTONHumanity Has A Bad Case Of 'Just Following Orders' POLITICAL BUTTONDo Not Mistake Us For A Movement Without Leadership - We Are ALL Leaders POLITICAL BUTTON

The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion -- Albert Camus quote POLITICAL BUTTON

POEM: Corn Fed Politicians

We are surrounded
By corn fed politicians
Who don’t eat corn
But slaughter the herd
Fed only corn
In a round a bout weigh
In realty
And capitol punishment
Their hire power
Contracts executioners
To deal with every unwieldy beef
If one is to get to the bottom
Of their food chain
In locking up votes
With cheap gruel
And patronizing jobs
It is enough
To give you gas
But I’ll pass on
The magic
Of any half dozen
Of such human beans
So called
With their meat and greet
As giant he goes
Stalk, stalk, stalk
Chop, chop, chop
Nothing left to ax
Accept the sky falling
And the eminent crash
Hour only comfort
In the succor borne this minute
That they don’t know Jack
As we get out of
Dodge

Politicians make at least one thing easy; that is, to be cynical about politics.  This poem melds an ecological and vegetarian theme topped off with a Jack and the beanstalk climax.  Politicians often contract out their dirty work so they can maintain a veneer of respectability and civility.  Of course, they may be lazy-ass cowards too.  Radical politics often has two somewhat divergent strategies: 1) expose, confront, and bring down elitist and corrupt politicians and political systems, and 2) dodge the disastrous social consequences of power and money hungry politicians — along with nurturing humane and sustainable alternatives.  Mainstream politics is largely about securing specific interests, better crumbs from the flesh-eating politicians.  Usually its a lower level political crony handling the corn and crumb distribution.  The System Was Never Broken It Was BUILT That Way - POLITICAL BUTTONRadical politics is a more wholesale and holistic approach, recognizing that reforming a system that is fixed, not broken, needs to be fundamentally replaced.  Thus, there is plenty of work for all, bringing down corrupt systems and building up new sets of human relationships and community that serve all, not simply an elite.  Radicals are hold outs, rejecting the wholesale social contract that imprisons most people and holding out alternatives that can provide humane work and meaning for all.  Rather than simply hoping that we don’t crash or waiting for a crash, radical politics erodes the power and authority of dehumanizing systems as a way of life.  Please Pardon Our Peaceful Chaos As We Reboot Our Country's Operating System - OCCUPY WALL STREET POLITICAL BUTTONPlus, rather than simply trying to not be the next one to get the boot, radicals prepare for the reboot.  May you live your life in such a way that when the flesh-eating politicians come for you, you can happily retort, “Eat me!” — ever working for that day when we won’t be food again.

FREE POSTER – Black Lives Matter: Devolution of Blue Lives Matter to Corporate Lives Matter, NOT Evolution, NOT Revolution

The Black Lives Matter movement has been successful in spawning reactionary movements.  The latest of these is the Blue Lives Matter messaging going national through billboards as a so-called public service.  Here is my take on such reactions:Black Lives Matter Devolution Poster

Black BLACK LIVES MATTER [black background] POLITICAL BUTTONThat police are threatened by nonviolent social movements is perhaps the only evidence needed that the police are not simply defenders of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Police Everywhere, Justice Nowhere POLITICAL BUTTONFor no good reason, gunning down black men in the street puts in serious doubt the defending life claim.  The police as the front line of the racist and repressive criminal justice system betrays any just claim as leaders and defenders of liberty.  The police take their orders much less in the pursuit of happiness than as per suit of property owners.  Police are far better suited to protect corporate interests than human rights.  Respect Our Existence Or Expect Our Resistance with African American Flag colors POLITICAL BUTTONThus, the logical and deathly devolution to “Corporate Lives Matter,” codifying the rights of property over people.  The police serve as tools in this regressive hierarchy.  The Criminal Justice System is CRIMINAL POLITICAL BUTTONUntil that hierarchy is turned over, to the people, and a revolution completed, the police can never truly be peace officers, and they will face the honest and just resistance of masses of people.  Until police stand up to challenge their own impunity to justice and the dehumanizing criminal justice system, they will neither get nor deserve the full respect of the communities they have sworn to defend.  White Silence is Violence POLITICAL BUTTONMay the seed of Black Lives Matter take root in our hearts and lives — Let’s root for a criminal system that is just, for people, not simply persons of privilege and their monied interests.To Protect and Serve The 1% [Policeman] POLITICAL BUTTON

POEM: To Abettor Portion: Owed To Math You 5:21-48

The shepherd pays dear
Attention to his sheep
As the sheep due
Not follow suits
But accompany prophets
In ways safe from a peril
That compound interest in the whirled
As you have herd
It said
You shall not murder
But now this is tolled
Do not bill bloodsheds
To finance your palatial manner
Or liquidate nations
In the name of kicking assets
Do not except life
And its costly knock offs
Anyone who pro claims
Your life is feudal
Or you fuel
Will end up burning oneself
And anyone bastardizing my word
Is an executer of my state
Do not purchase good will
Wile others out lay
Make it rite personally
Without gaudy talk
Before just us
Decent upon you
Rather forced to pain
Fore every debt sentence
Sow all can make cents
You have herd
It said
You shall not commit adultery
But now this is tolled
Any man dishonoring the source
Of human life on earth
Wood be better off
Had he never been borne
Any man divorcing himself
From what is a parent
Is not fit for a womb of his owin’
You have herd
It said
Long a go
Do not brake your promise
But now this is tolled
Do not sow your wiled oaths
At awe
Your promise on heaven unearth
From here on ahead
This simply know
And yes
Any more sow
Is from the evil won
You have herd
It said
An eye for an eye
And a tooth for a tooth
But now this is tolled
As eye tooth sow telling
Bring to light every bone picked
Sow not striking in efface
As a retainer of humanity
And if won from beyond
What is fare comes
Barren suits
Down on you
Make just us naked
XXX-posing
Shame on them
Farcing won too walk a mile
Sow trying
To catch up with your smiles
Only wanting them
To borrow
Awe that you have
And if knot
Make no’ing to all
You have herd
It said
Love your neighbor
And hate your enemy
But now this is tolled
Love awe
Before you
De-spite those who prey
Wile publicly prosecuting
You as their enema
Knowing full well
Sons rise
And reigns fall
As surly as won nose
Effacing such loathsome fishiness
Too tax a verse
Getting more than you put in
As children of ungaudiness
Seeking abettor
Sow much better
Than that which they are used
To have
Being
Holy one’s own
Reflecting awe
Given freely

This poem is a punny paraphrase of Matthew 5:21-48, the middle portion of The Sermon on The Mount.  The Sermon on The Mount is considered the core of Jesus’ teachings, his stump speech.  The title alludes to one of my stock concepts in my poems, the notion of humans being reduced to math, mere calculations in an oppressive algorithm, and its lowest common dominator, conventional wisdom.  This central litany of Jesus’ “You have heard it said, but I tell you” razes the bar and builds a whole, new worldview.  Jesus’ message transcends the traditional message of religionists and secular conventional wisdom.  This culminates in the proclamation that God rains on the just and the unjust.  This indiscriminate love is the unending ideology that Jesus is found rooting, nurtured by such reign as is God’s.  Jesus incarnated the reality that we are at our best when we are fully our self and fully God’s.  Accepting and giving freely is the deepest nature of God that we can reflect in our lives.  Jesus was such the juggernaut of grace whose designs were to overthrow the weighs of the whirled.  Jesus did not desire to be some historical pinnacle set up on an untouchable pedestal and worshiped.  Jesus lived to tear down the very notion of untouchable, the bedrock of dominating class.  Anyone accessing the indiscriminate love that Jesus accessed, that is, asking for anything in Jesus’ name/character will surpass even Jesus’ accomplishments during his life: “Anyone who believes in me, will do the same works I do, and even greater works.” (John 14:12)  Of course, indiscriminate love is a lousy foundation to rule over others, totally in sync with the instruction by Jesus to be servant leaders, not masters.  Religion, committed to such a precept, will find itself at the heart of human needs, as the oppressed and dispossessed will be attracted like a magnet to non-judgment and working solidarity and service — awe without a needs assessment!  Of course, you will find an enemy in the powers that be which depend of dividing and conquering for their dehumanizing weigh of life.  I find great joy and solace in the summary (variously attributed)  that Jesus only promised us three things: to be completely fearless, absurdly happy, and in constant trouble.  May it be so!

POEM: Can She Be Eunuch?

She stated
No one else can do what I do
To witch
They rejoined
Realing in whore
Accept that you are a cog
You intractable wrench
Unfit for cloning round
And unstranded
She cut out
From the puppet tier
Knot to be
Am ployed
As if
She were eunuch

This poem is about breaking away from the artifice and inhumanity of the machine, aka, capitalism, which is designed to monetize you in any way possible.  When someone discovers the passion of their unique role and contribution to the world, the machine pushes back as it has difficulty incorporating one’s soul eccentricities into it’s standardized system and dehumanized algorithms.  Generous portions of creativity easily overwhelm “the way we have always done things” as well as distant, disconnected orders from big bosses.  Creativity is so unnatural to the machine that it ultimately creates huge inefficiencies, even amidst its seeming devotion to efficiency.  The machine typically finds it much more expedient to grind cows to hamburger than even milk them for all that they are worth.  Workers’ humanity routinely suffers the analogous outcome.  Creativity that cannot be easily plugged into the machine is ignored, discounted, or actively stifled.  In this poem, the sheer stupidity and foolishness of a system that fails to adapt to the unfathomable creativity of the human spirit is represented by the rhetorical question that is the title: Can she be eunuch?  Beside the overlayed meaning of the pun eunuch/unique, the definitional absurdity of a female being a eunuch (a castrated male) illustrates how the machine fundamentally misunderstands and misuses the very people it is alleged to serve.  The machine is indiscriminate in its castration!  Of coarse, such crudeness does serve some people, just not workers within the system.  Even though a system well designed to incorporate human creativity and eccentricities could unleash incalculable efficiencies and productivity AND be well aligned with the desires and needs of each of those working within such a system, the capitalist system is not intended to produce the greatest good, particularly the common good, but instead is geared and cogged to produce material wealth for an elite few who pull the levers of so-called industry.  Private profit at the expense of human potential and the common good is the only real order of the day in capitalism.  The common good is reduced to foolhardiness as it is wide open to being robbed by the capitalistic princes of virtue, greed being the organizing principle of capitalism.  Human attributes not easily monetized atrophy in capitalism.  Turning humans into cogs for personal profit may very well be one of the better definitions of evil.  Robbing others of their God-given creativity and eccentric passions for a few bucks and a cynical acceptance of a diminished humanity is a pathetic way of honoring the countless gifts humanity brings to the world.  Courageous creativity, the bold commitment and determination to find a way to be who you were created to be, is the answer to the dehumanizing capitalistic machine.  Reveling in the infinitely greater portion of life that is not easily monetized assures a home and hearth for your own humanity and all those who take the time to be present to such gifts.  May you find your unique passions and the courage to boldly follow them in their many serendipitous consummations.

POEM: A Full Life

Charlie’s life was full
Every available space laden to wrest
His productivity well suited
To his interests
Taxidermy and robotics

This short poem offers a challenge to what it means to have a full life in modern Western civilization, where increasing speed and productivity are worshiped as the means to a good life.  I am a big fan of rest and empty spaces as an essential way to fully round out one’s life.  Our culture’s addiction to productivity, fitting in (“well suited”), and a focus on narrow interests has most of us bamboozled.  In this poem, the inane and the productive meet in the metaphor of taxidermy and robotics, representing the deadening and dehumanizing effects of an overfull life.  This metaphor also juxtaposes vocation and avocation, where it is unclear what is a job and what is a hobby.  While this may be confusing, it hints at the underlying connection that a capitalistic culture makes.  Capitalism works best when we devote ourselves to both work/productivity AND inane consumerism.  Capitalism wants to own both vocation and avocation.  Of course, an endless array of inane avocations are offered, as long as they support the consumption of some product or service, hopefully in the service of distracting you from the emptiness of your “full” life and the avaricious nature of endless “growth.”

Emptiness can be revolutionary.  This is why capitalism works best when it crams every available space with inane crap.  Capitalism’s very life depends on it.  Surely, capitalism must provide abundant avenues to distract us from our emptiness.  However, emptiness is not empty!  If we sit with our emptiness, in the sense of lack of fulfillment, this will foment unrest poorly suited for capitalism.  Even further, in experiencing empty spaces and silence, we expand our perspective, the framework upon which we see things, allowing us to truly grow.  Buddhists and Taoists are particularly adept at exploring such realities.  Deists might frame this as silence being the language of God, that small, still voice.

After experiencing a period of relaxation, have you ever then experienced increased anxiety or dread when “going back to work” appears on the horizon?  In a life abundant in balance and wisdom, while work requires effort, it does not require dread.  Dread is a sign of imbalance.  Chronic dread signifies a shortage of wisdom.  Dread speaks to us.  One of the central concepts (the first of the Four Noble Truths) of Buddhism is often stated in English as “Life is suffering.”  I have heard this elaborated upon as realizing that life requires effort (work).  Work is not the enemy.  Work is an integral part of life — as is rest .  The issue becomes how to achieve balance and minimize suffering.  I like the image of breathing in and out as a metaphor for balance.  Questioning whether breathing in or out is better misses the point — as is often the case in Western convergent thinking.  If you do ask which is better, the only sensible response is “what did you do last?”  If work causes anxiety, then rest.  If rest causes anxiety, then work.  If everything causes you anxiety, then look to emptiness.  Of course, emptiness often looks like rest, but there is good work to be done there…

POEM: Never Wanton Too Leave

In the tree of life
I take my leave
Looking not
To politicians, generals, celebrities, or philanthropists
For salvation
Re-lying not
On triangulating hourly opinions
In gluttonous cynicism
That fuels no bodies everywhere
But their own
Leaning not
On skulking intelligence
And hulking legions
Bulwarking the eternal fewed
With the shock and awe of epic fauxs
Not giving my nod
To looking glass likenesses
Endorsing make up
For broken weighs of life
Nor counting on
Oversized purses
Itemizing riddled coffers
Curmudgeoning us to death
Only bequeathing
Close-fisted sermonettes
Instead
I look to
Neighbors
As well as I kin
And friends in deed
Awe ways in courage
So gorge us
Prone to gentleness
To won another
A parent
And a peer
In our wake
We gather intimately
Cultivating our bounty
Where everyone is a head
And strangers honor guessed
Only kneading dough
To break bread
Round the table
At know time
Turing on us a test
Knot on your life
Leaving no one behind
Never wanton too leave

This poem strikes again at my frequent theme of the inane versus the meaningful, pitting the superficial and dehumanizing forces of the powers that be against more intimate and personal ways of relating to one another.  The poem also intimates the bounty of healthy human community that wins hands down (and fists down) against lesser machinations of the political, military, famous, and monied.

I feel obliged to disclose the most obscure pun in this poem, lest it be gravely mistaken as a typo or such.  Turing on us a test is an alliterative pun for turning (e.g., turning the tables), but also a reference to the Turing test which is used to distinguish a human being from a machine (human intelligence versus artificial intelligence).

I find the notion that humans are just complicated dirt as both bizarre and dangerously foolish.  If humanity cannot distinguish between itself and inanimate matter, then we should hold very little expectations for humans and any higher potential.  The rationale that seems compelling to some, that we are merely some type of biological computer, leaves the human heart empty, sterile, out of reach, and puzzlingly irrelevant.  Anyone committed to reducing all human friendship, love, joy, hope, and faith to deterministic factors (mere machinations) is an amputator of humanity and a denier of the mystery of life.  My hope with this poem is to remind folks that living into the mysterious grace of life, particularly human life, when shared, not denied, leads to growth of said life.

The title of this poem, and its final line, Never wanton too leave,beckons the metaphor of the tree of life.  We are each a leaf on the tree of life, we cannot live alone yet we are an important part.  There is both a profound humility and sacred value in being human.  May we never be less than we were created to be, nor overblown, in finding our way in life.

POEM: A Befitting Size, That Matters

Starring on the big screen
Used to dominate young dreams
Super-sizing them for mass consumption
Today, celluloid immortality miniaturizes
So five minutes ago
Small screens test us
As we flail miserably
In a feudal limbo
‘Tween
Puffed up images
Flickering about
And atrophied soles
Going nowhere fast
No longer facing
A true converse
Of penetrating I’s
Present minds
And supple lips
Flush of heart
Given to a musing gesture
Deflating kings
And giving commoners rise
Surpassing hands shaking
And awe that follows
Neither settling
For collapsing our highest hopes
Nor minute fits
As souls meet the street
And welcoming nature
Banishing the might he
Of lesser woulds
And inspiring fresh heirs
To real feat
Baring our soles
Grounded in realty for all
A shared fete
A fare commune
Wear each mourning
Met lightly
With a celebration of the hearts
No longer idle worship of images
Every won an original
Not merely deference
Bland tolerance
Or thumbs down devolution
But powered by appreciation
You can bank on
A currency turning led into goaled
A redeeming alchemy
The most handsome ransom
For our ugly whirled
A watery swell so grave
Or a cowering inferno
Mything the point
With such hocus pocus
And uncounted allusions
To awe that would suitor
A befitting size
That matters
And keeping it
Reel
Never having too obsess
What’s the catch

This poem is a call to more real and human-scale relationships.  Social media technology, celebrity, and widespread shallow images of ourselves projected to others is robbing us of better ways of being.  We can easily be overwhelmed by images of celebrity, status, and wealth, tempting vainglorious dreams.  We can easily feel inadequate and too small by a juggernaut of Photoshopped images and word processed personalities.  Humans are best suited to face-to-face relationships.  As such real-time, real-world relationships are edged out by other more nominal relationships our humanity and satisfaction suffers.  Nobody wants to be multi-tasked, no matter the purported claims of efficiency.  Long-term, face-to-face, human relationships better reflect the awesome depth, complexity, and eccentricity of humans.  It is by far the best place for healthy intimate relationships to thrive.  Such relationships also keep us humble, rooted in reality.  I see humility as being right-sized, not too big or too small.  Perhaps the greatest threat to humility is technology and institutions which depersonalize human interactions.  Powering up through technology and institutions is a powerful temptation to become too big, overpowering human scales with impersonal agency and concentration of power among elites.  This is dehumanizing.  This creates persistent structural temptations to value things and concepts/ideologies over actual people.  The seductive drive of scaling up power disconnects us from our own humanity and the humanity of others.  I suspect that Western civilization is far-flung from any balance between being rooted in healthy, human-scaled relationships and powering up to “get things done.”  Further, I suspect that there may be a nearly proportional relationship between getting things done and getting humans done.  May we keep things real and not finish off humans.  I kind of like them!

POEM: Unemployed Stat

Unemployment hit a 5-year low
Still, Bob remains 100% unemployed

This short poem highlights the difference between statistics and people.  Statistics can estimate probabilities with some accuracy of how a large group of people may act, or be affected by something.  Statistics cannot reliably predict stuff on an individual level.  The farther we get away from individuals, the greater “power” statistics wields.  Of course, we could compile all the statistics in the world and estimate what the average or typical human would be like, yet never actually know anything meaningful about any individual human.  That typical human being would be a 27-year-old, Mandarin-speaking, Christian, female agricultural worker.  Those researchers might well learn more about humanity by going to lunch with their other researchers.  To take a simpler example, suppose researchers measured the foot size of every person in the United States and calculated the average value.  If leaders used this information to provide everyone with a pair of average-sized shoes, there would be a lot of shoes thrown at such foolish leaders.  Except for the exceptional genius of baggy pants, one-size-fits-all often doesn’t work well. In many cases, the truth is closer to one-size-fits-none.  The point is that the farther we get away from knowing individual human beings the less we know about humanity.

Statistics is impersonal.  Statistics knows nothing of intimacy.  Statistics treats human beings as deterministic objects.  Only by studying huge numbers of people can statistics succeed at sufficiently washing out individual differences.  Granted, most human systems are very complex and many of these differences are, in fact, “material” or deterministic differences.  Nonetheless, the grandest fallacy or illusion brought by the power of statistics is that human free will is insignificant and can be ignored or rounded down to zero.  The greatest fact that can only be ignored only at the peril of losing our humanity is that human freedom is the very reality that most defines humans.

Bob is not a statistic.  Bob is not simply something to be tallied up, or experimented on for other people’s edification.  For those who actually care about Bob, statistics provide little human warmth and limited meaning.  Without human caring, which is ultimately rooted in intimate human relationships, statistics serve to dehumanize us.  The issue is not whether to abandon statistics as a human tool to help understand the physical world around us.  The issue is whether our humanity will wield tools for our betterment, or such tools will wither our humanity.

People who seek great power need to scale up their individual power through tools.  If the scale of power sought exceeds one’s ability to exercise their humanity, by growing their own humanity and the humanity of others, then tools become weapons against humanity.  The exercise, and even threat, of such power exceeding a human scale can tempt others to react in an equally inhumane way.  This “self” defense is often justified as an equal and opposite reaction.  However, unless inhumane treatment is met with humane treatment, then the interaction is nothing more than physics — every reaction has an equal and opposite reaction.  If humanity doesn’t respond to inhumanity out its own higher nature, humanity, then it is reduced to inhumanity.  Part of human existence is physics.  However, if we don’t recognize and live into our higher nature, in the realm of metaphysics, then humans will closely resemble billiard balls, albeit very complex billiard balls.  The ability to react in a humane way to any situation is, in fact, what human response-ability is!  Newton’s third law of motion, that every reaction has an equal and opposite reaction, is not adequate to explain human behavior.  Though, ironically, the less free we become, the closer this seems true.  I don’t know about you, but for me, as a free range human being, that’s not the way I roll!

Sadly, the temptations of great power, whether to secure great power for oneself or to react in “self” defense against such dehumanizing power, seem to be an everyday reality for most humans.  Modern-day success often seems to rest on either wielding dehumanizing power over others, or, at best, reaching a form of detente, where we react in equal and opposite ways, hoping not to reduce humanity any further, but not willing to risk our humanity to up the game.  Unfortunately, any slightest miscalculation will degrade humanity.  And the calculating humans required for even the best detente have already sacrificed their humanity to play a game of billiards.  In fact, without higher aspirations, people become tools — or at least begin to appear as tools.  Yet, people are not tools.  Hope springs eternal.

Reintroducing human scales, necessarily smaller and decentralized, resting on a rich and robust foundation of human intimacy, is the greatest challenge humans face in responding to globalization and cancerous capitalistic and consumer culture.  We need to get over the notion that modern civilization’s institutions are too big to fail.  We need to get over the notion that wee, the people, are too small to make a difference.  The truth is the opposite.  Western civilization is deeply dependent on dehumanization and continues to race unabated past natural limits, most notably by destroying the very environment we depend upon.  Humans depending on dehumanization and doggedly insisting that we “shit where we eat,” is unsustainable.  Either humans transcend such dehumanizing dependencies or we will descend into fascism.  Either humans learn to live in harmony with nature or nature will “select” us, or at least our cancerous globalized civilization, out of existence in some Darwinian extinction.  Nature may be kind enough to simply scale us down a bit, doing for us what we can’t do for ourselves, in a Newtonian third law of motion tour de force.  We can do better.  Not through hubris and ever more precise power grabs.  I suspect the seed of a successful human future will be rooted in personally nurturing Bob and singing songs of humanity rather than bowing to the steady hum of a wickedly efficient bureau of labor statistics.

POEM: We Won’t Be Food Again

I would rather
Be Job
Less than
Renounce
A living wager
And know place to lie
My head
My heart
Made homeless
In loo of
A fast fooled nation
For going
The beast
Wee
Can due
Hitched to number one
Number too
As on the line
For given debts
In place of
Solemn assemblies
And last riots
As wreck we him
For the masses
Left too
Starve
As a full groan man
Eschewing
A distended belly
And infantile grimace
Dis gorging
To which I object
A single finger
And vomiting
A sour second
Relative to the toil it evacuates
As vying a bowel inconsonance
And those who are but in
Fringe benefits over doo
Be rated by privilege takers
Of a hollowed hire power
Pro claim
There is no Black day for employment
The unanswered trump it
As if
Falling flat to some honky
Reveres discrimination
As dark daze per severe
The fecund material bound
Now a mushrooming clerical class
Beaten too
A bully pulp it    
Copious crumbs and the blest whines
Offering salivation
Like no me
Biblically
Throwing the book at me
Showing me the works
As if in some fooled court
Taking out
On me
Sum type
Of contract
Know labor
No food
Nor time travel to
’79 sense
For every dollared earn
Or as a payday loan
Cash here
Slipping through my fingers
Each day
For another till
My dreams standing still
Idoling money changers
On short order
Cooking the books
Serving as sum batterer
Or fry guy
Who is just
Greased
At the end of the day
Pain
You less
Than what
You learned
With respect to
Meat grate people
Seriously toying
“Be the happy meal”
As if
I whir
To halve a cow
And go to town
Drug by sum ferry tale
A bout
Worshipping some magic beings
Stalking skyward
As some giant rumble
To expose my hide
Wont to grind my bones
For their bred
My blood smelt
As iron away
From their golden cuffs
Razing my shackles once again
I will only ax once
As you know not jack
Weather the heavens fall
Either I am
Udderly fed up
Or my last words herd
Eat me
As I will only be
Food once
It’s just
Awe in a daze work

I wrote this poem today, all in a days work!  This poem was triggered by my experience last night at a community meeting, “Faith Conversations on Income Inequality.”  I was somewhat disappointed that of the two hours, less than 15 minutes was conversation.  The meeting was mostly didactic, with two detailed presentations, a short film well documenting the existence of actual poor working people in our very state of Ohio, and a short small group exercise (where some conversation occurred).

The kicker for the evening was after the meeting when conversing with a woman who I had never met proclaimed the disproportionately too-often cited and familiar, “If a person doesn’t work, then they don’t deserve to eat” (see 2 Thessalonians 3:10).  Of course, the key word and concept in this passage is an unwillingness to work.  I might add dignified and humane work.  Either way, it certainly doesn’t apply to people who can’t find work.  Further, in the previous verse, the apostles speaking about their own self-support when visiting the Thessalonians, say, “We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate.  This seems to state that they did claim a right to such help (food), but were modeling an additional value of not being a burden on others.  If the apostles accepted help, when they were able to pay their own way, and this caused a burden to another, then they shouldn’t take such a necessary resource from another.  The higher way modeled by the apostles seems more apt as a critique of people unjustly benefiting from paying poverty wages, thus causing a burden to others, than as a critique of food as a human right.  Perhaps a less sophisticated yet more easily understood response to worrying about hungry people getting too much food is Uggghhh!

I had really hoped for an opportunity to share personal experiences and perspectives on faith and poverty, or income inequality.  For better or worse, I’ve thought about such things my whole life.  Still, I am actually eager to learn more, as I continue on my journey.  The story of dealing with poverty seems to me to be full of good news-bad news.  In my case, the bad news is that technically, I have lived in poverty most of the last decade — technically, meaning that my average income has been under the federal poverty guidelines.  The good news is that I am the wealthiest person I know — of course, I don’t get out much!  Such a conundrum has provided much experience and raw material upon which to meditate regarding what is true wealth.

One main point that I believe could help bring a more balanced perspective in our dealing with poverty is this: from a spiritual perspective, we must give equal time to spiritual poverty.  This is perhaps most succinctly captured by Mother Teresa, “It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.”  I see Jesus as quite clearly spelling out the dividing line: “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24)  And, of course, serving God is inextricably linked with serving our neighbors: ” ‘The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.’  ‘What should we do then?’ the crowd asked.  John answered, ‘Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.’ ” (Luke 3:9-11)

A corollary of this spiritual view of poverty is that we must not stigmatize the poor, or dishonor God’s special relationship with them.  I half-jokingly put this under the moniker of: “You say poverty like it’s a bad thing!”  A couple of generations ago, Latin American theologians developed the concept of God’s “preferential option for the poor.”  In part, this refers to the special relationship that the poor, disenfranchised, and marginalized have with God.  Their vulnerability manifest by oppression in the world creates an openness to God’s way.  This openness fosters a greater intimacy, deeper understanding, and easier access to living in harmony with God’s laws (ultimate reality).  Of course, harmony with God’s laws is counter-cultural to the status quo and the powers that be.  Intriguingly though, the oppressed already stare down the brutal realities of the powers that be every day; so, being counter-cultural is much less of a leap “of faith” than those who benefit from the status quo.  This is perhaps the most simple reason why top down change rarely, if ever, benefits the poor more than the rich.  Thus, the poor are already primed to adopt God’s ways, as the world’s ways sure as hell aren’t working for them.  Jesus is a striking example of acting in accordance with this reality.  Jesus spent the vast majority of his time with the dispossessed, and “regular” folks, the 99% if you will.  In a stroke of spiritual genius, Jesus planted his message among people who were both most open to God’s message and had their material interests aligned to move in a direction parallel to God’s ways, including, of course, justice.  No doubt, Jesus played a prophetic role, in directly confronting the powers that be, whether religious, political, or economic elites.  Such confrontations were likely inevitable.  Even so, Jesus brought an unwavering dignity, intimacy, and authority (street cred) to such encounters.  Jesus did not shy from his fully humanizing ways, even in the face of dehumanizing forces.  This was a palpable measure of how Jesus loved his enemies.  This is God’s ways manifest.  The poor have fewer barriers to accessing such ways. Let’s learn from the poor!

I have lived among affluent people of faith most of my life.  For the affluent, the vast majority of us in the so-called developed world, I am convinced that voluntary poverty and simplicity is the most powerful tool to transform our world, God’s creation, into ways friendly to abundant life.  I have drawn this conclusion from my profound failure to convince rich westerners to truly care about the world’s poorest.  I am a formidable debater, both informed and with heart.  Still, the misery of my failure to convince others with words is exceeded only, and greatly, by the misery of the world’s poorest.  I cannot escape the weight of my experience that the affluence of westerners, including myself, and the material conflicts of interest we are embedded in, is the single most important factor preventing such a conversion.  Better aligning our material interests with the poor, through voluntary poverty and simplicity, can unleash a cascading journey where the soul’s force begins to flow more freely, as water invites gravity to do its work — and the most grave law unbroken, that of love.  This poem of mine alludes to the freedom gained by simple living:

Dining with Kings and Queens
Courtly balls
Knightly duels
And priestly indulgences
You can avoid it all
If only you are happy
Eating beans

Probably the greatest illusion humans face is seeing wealth (and its companions, status and power) as an answer to all of their problems.  Surely, people have material needs, and those needs going unmet is a tragedy.  However, once one’s basic material needs are met, wealth becomes a disability to the individual and a disease to society.  There is a great body of psychological and sociological evidence that increasing wealth makes us less compassionate and less generous.  In short, wealth serves as a wedge between people and God.  Science confirms the truth of not being able to serve two masters.  People can, and do, argue about the role of material scarcity in the problems of poverty — just witness political wranglings about budget-busting social programs in the richest nation the world has ever known.  Nonetheless, there is one pervasive and undeniable fact: there is, and has been for at least centuries, enough physical resources to more than meet the material needs of every human on the planet.  In this light, spiritual poverty is exposed.  We can solve material want; we choose not.  It is not a close call!

Poverty worldwide is endemic.  Billions of people live on $2 per day or less.  Those most likely to be the poorest are women and children — so much for family values.  People of color are also at much greater risk.  Those most likely to go hungry are those who grow food, our farmers.  The only way this can happen is to literally steal food from their hands.  The rich claim a hugely disproportional share of the world’s resources, including the productive labors of billions.  All the wile, pawning sham scarcity as an excuse for their hoarding and ravenous ways.  Gandhi captured it well when asked what he thought of Western civilization.  He responded, “I think it would be a great idea.”  I concur.

With untrammeled globalization, poverty can only be adequately viewed as a global problem.  The causes of poverty cannot be isolated within one country.  We, as a world, are in the same boat — though, undoubtedly, there is an increasing chasm between the accommodations of first and third class.  Debt, just as in biblical times, is used to enslave people.  We are told that the world is in great debt, accepting it as gospel truth.  Yet, to whom exactly are we are in debt?  Pay no attention to the money changers behind the curtain.  Exploitation and robbing of natural resources unjustly enriches the wealthier.  Such profitable cleverness is called business.  Meanwhile, non-prophet organizations stand by impotent to counter this unseemly necessity.  And governments suffer from electile dysfunction. The good news is that the cancerous idol of endless economic “growth” may not destroy creation, with such abundance and ingenuity.  Praise be to God!  If only, God forbid, the dream of a worldwide “middle class” can be averted.  Work.  Buy.  Consume.  Die.

Less poetically put, the “powers that be” work on a global scale.  This juggernaut of globalization reduces humans to economic beings in a consumer culture.  People become means to ends, not being of sacred worth and inherent dignity.  To enforce this state of affairs, wars are waged as “needed.”  These wars, unsurprisingly, do not serve the interests of the dispossessed.  This global reality is rooted in a distinct worldview: poverty is not the problem; poverty is the solution.  While a tsunami of rhetoric speaks of jobs, unemployment serves to lower wages, not just of the unfortunate unskilled, but of skilled labor too.  More unemployment is good for (someone else’s) business.  And if you missed that memo, perhaps the desperation of unemployment and wage slavery has you occupied.  Such desperation can serve as a distraction and thwart a healthy, functioning civil society (see electile dysfunction).

There is an African proverb which says: where there is no wealth there is no poverty.  This ancient wisdom emanates from the experience of humans over many generations and cultures that concentrated wealth creates poverty, that is, depends on poverty. There is a powerful illusion that wealth brings wisdom, that the rich must really know something that we don’t.  Well, if they do, it’s most likely occult or a cult.  I cite the incisive lyrics of “If I were a rich man” from the play, Fiddler on the Roof:

Posing problems that would cross a rabbi’s eyes!
And it won’t make one bit of difference if I answer right or wrong.
When you’re rich, they think you really know!

The truth is much simpler, and more stark: the rich need the poor; the poor don’t need the rich.  For those who might cite the droll biblical retort, “the poor will always be with us,” have you pondered this: if you think the poor are hard to get rid of, try the rich!

The diseased worldview of consumerism and capitalism has at least on Achilles’ heel.  This rests on the utter inability to answer a fundamental question in life: how much is enough?  Capitalism thrives on convincing you that you never have enough, you are perpetually lacking something (which we happen to be selling), and by extension: you are lacking.  This turns the Gospel’s worldview upside down.  The good news is that you are enough; God made you that way.  Return to this truth, and capitalism recedes to a perfunctory process describing the nominal exchange of goods — and the goods are actually good!

The meeting on faith conversations about income inequality focused on the United States.  While poverty extends far beyond, and is rooted in, the larger world, the U.S. can serve as an enlightening case study.  The U.S. just recently observed the 50th anniversary of the “war on poverty” as declared in 1964 by President Lyndon Johnson.  [For poetic versions of lessons learned from the “war on poverty,” see my poems, Hungering for Answers, and War on Poverty]  The “war on poverty” is about the same age as me.  During my lifetime, the U.S. has grown about three times wealthier in material wealth.  Nevertheless, more Americans work, and they work longer hours.  Some gains were made in reducing poverty in the early years.  However, the overall trend since the late 1970’s has been stagnating or declining wages, especially when compared to skyrocketing worker productivity.  Income inequality is higher now in America than in the last hundred years.

For those with biblical commitments, we are long overdue for a Year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25).  The year of Jubilee is a Sabbath of Sabbaths.  It prescribed forgiveness of debt every seven years.  In the fiftieth year — after seven cycles of seven years, not only was all debt forgiven, but all slaves were freed and all land returned to its original owners land.  This is the biblical prescription for preventing large concentrations of wealth and persons from being permanently dispossessed from their land and/or forced into servitude through debt.  Let’s make it so!

POEM: Her Voice

Her voice could be heard
Three generations within earshot
Yet the man in front of her
Was two ears short of listening
At times she spoke
Simply to convince herself
That she could
Due more
Then listen
Wading for something more than deaf
And dumb ruse of men
Relegated to quaint shams
Engendering stupefactions
As a pathetic answer
To unquestioning order
In a guise whirled
Gent-ly herd
In tasteful reservations
And if more than udder
He turns out
To be the outright shovin’ist
Is it possible
For him to do without
As if
You list a strata
And he’ll forevermore
Still fancy himself
On top
The crowning member
Of some exclusive club
The human race   
Oft leaving
Room for only one abet
Take it or leave it
Never quite getting it
What he wonts
So leading ladies
Show him a role
Un-for-gettable
And when it comes to you
It will be
Awe about
That transcending property
You’re choice

Being heard is perhaps one of the most fundamental aspects of positive human experience.  This poem addresses the profoundly prevalent and persistent reality that women are not listened to as much as men.  The need for human connection is so strong that being ignored can be more harmful than active dislike.  Being treated as an object rather than a subject is the primary mode of dehumanizing people.

The male privilege present in most human cultures, often called sexism, may be the most important -ism in humans’ communal experience.  Sexism may also be the most stubbornly persistent -ism.  I think that this is true because women are interspersed in all human cultures.  Many -isms, such as racism and classism, flourish because of in-group and out-group dynamics that can more easily be stratified in one’s everyday life and experience.  However, since women are nearly omnipresent in households with more than one person, there would seem to be powerful forces integrating women in a relatively fair way into the most fundamental units of society, the family or household.  A nearly universal factor in advancing equality for disenfranchised groups is to have that group exposed in meaningful ways to the dominant group.  It seems that the theory is that exposure leads to understanding, compassion and justice.  This doesn’t strike me as having much truth in regard to women.  Boys grow up with the proverbial “hand that rocks the cradle,” subject to profound influence by their mothers.  In the dominant heterosexual world, men seek and have close relations with women, as lovers, partners-spouses, raisers of children.  Still, it seems that these interpersonal and family dynamics are trumped by larger social and cultural forces.  I don’t pretend to have a solution for the ages old “war of the sexes” (which is typically framed in male fashion).  Nonetheless, I am quite sure that men not listening to women is not only a profound insult to women, but a profound loss to men.  Listen up guys!!

POEM: As The Tao Plunges

As The Tao Plunges

I seek boundless horizons
Beyond what can be billed
What you can have
Fore walls
No bull work
A retainer for passable living
A cistern to dammed dreams
Reining upon you
Only knot to be brothered with
As some look out
Your winnows
Punctuating all that you can
A fort
Out to sea
A veritable glass menagerie
To one’s peers
Pipe dreams
Leading too
A fire place
Your hanker chief
Scant comfort you
As most daze
Facing a cold hearth
An exhausting flue
And ashen remains
Yet why carp it
When you can have
Your Parkay® floors
For butter or worse
As you slip
Pitter pottering a bout
Your life cast
Dangerously close to kiln
For my ran some
I seek the earth’s bounty
To rise up
To meet my feat
And when I fall
I shall look up
Sharing a ceiling with the stars
No guise worrying
A bout some prostrate iffy canopy
For without
You might lose your marble’s
Stony ledges looking good
As the Tao plunges
And to the great abyss plumb it
To one’s own depth

This poem explores the relationship between the commonplace cubicles of the workplace, both literally and figuratively, and the great abyss singing its siren song, daring skilled sailors to plumb it, risking one’s own depth.  A life, well, lived, requires effort.  Beyond that, I’m not a big fan of work.  This is particularly true in modern America, pawning itself off as the pinnacle of Western civilization.  You’d think that the timeless questions of humanity had been answered once and for all, and all that you had to do is buy (and sell) one of the many great brands available.  Well, in my book, brands are for cattle.  Plus, my preference for vegetarianism leaves me with little use for cattle — or sheep — or chickens.  These days, people expend huge amounts of energy, and cash, to dress themselves up with others’ brands, defining themselves by what they own — or what owns them — by what they consume — or by what consumes them!  The fact that many people will pay extra for essentially advertising another’s brand shows the vacuousness of our own unique lives.  Gee, at least get paid to be a walking billboard.  And as I like to say, if you are going to sell yourself, at least get a good price!  It seems that living vicariously through someone else’s image, identity, celebrity, or sheer familiarity in pop culture, commands more value than undamming our own dreams.

The Tao is a masterful critique of the superficial.  The Tao in Chinese history and culture plays, perfectly synchronously with itself, a balancing role in contrast to Confucianism with its focus on set rules, set roles, and the centrality of propriety.  Unfortunately, Western civilization suffers from the worst of both worlds.  Modern America lacks both the harmony and balance of the Tao, and suffers a sociopathy, even nihilism, that Confucianism holds in check.  Perhaps America can harness its restlessness to throw off the dehumanizing forces of greed and undue focus on economic necessity.  The Tao offers a vision of the rest that gives rise to all.  The Tao is more than serendipitously short.  The Tao is concise, poetic, and sparse on words precisely because reality and relentlessly emerging life cannot be reduced to any imperial plan assuring a particular outcome.  It surely cannot be reduced to a brand!  The awesome abundance of nature’s bounty and the beautiful openness of human experience invites us, even begs us, into continual re-birth and re-creation.  All of creation groans for our freedom and participation in its bounty.  So, if it should seem that your life is ever in the toil it, be mindful as the Tao plunges, bypassing technological fixes and vexations, your dammed dreams may very well be unplugged.

POEM: Ad Dulled State

Ad Dulled State

Well come
To this ad dulled state
What will it take
To see the light
Tell a vision
Divining every yen
Razing the whys
Jacking up
All that meters
Taxi’ing every quarter our
Static being drug
Swallowing minute libations
To our own
Dram nation
Pros astute
Shop lifting thirsts and seconds
Feigning coy
Eat us
Interruptus
Lusting an instant
To be
A loan
Stop the word and let me get off
Yet in the end
A foreign language oui read
LITTLE PRINTS
Exposing
Astor risks
Like a John going down on the Titanic
Can that
Be conceivably kosher
Such an untold clip
That diabolic scroll
In nothing flat
Can we circumspect nothing else
So ordained
A diction
Razing
High couture
That calling
NOW
To see double
Speak easy operators
Reaching the hype
Of pop culture
Soda whatever happens
The dream of auto pilots
Every wear
Fashioning model consumers
In compassing all the rage
Insuring all lost
A luxurious cell
With the laidest technology
Everyone fast
Food again
Con fronting counter fits
With an app petite
To be ravenous nevermore
Conquering SOBs hankering
Whatever man
You fractured
To undemanding specks
Whatever you craven

The near omnipresence of advertisements in so-called advanced civilization can lead to an addled state of mind.  Capitalism cannot resist, and even lifts to a virtue, monetizing everything possible.  And where does this road lead?  To one big commercial, occasionally interrupted by life.  The need to convince people about all of the needs that they didn’t even know they had takes unrelenting programs of repetition assaulting our senses in increasingly novel and clever ways.  Our brains can find little refuge from such assaults.  Weather coy interruptions or sensory overload, the lowest common denominators of sensuality, status, and power tempt and train our baser instincts to buy products basking in their glow.  Unfortunately, the glow of big-screen televisions, neon lights, and fancy packaging rarely deliver even a fraction of their alleged benefits.  The truth evaporates like ethereal promises scrolling by as incomprehensible fine print.  We are expected to rest upon verbal promises not even worth the paper they aren’t even printed on.  Such means produce similar ends.  The consumer is consumed.  Elusive wants grow larger the closer we get.  In our dreams, we Chase Freedom™ like a fairy tail.  Our simplest needs are crushed under the weight of gadgets, accessories, and the inevitable infestation of bugs in Life v.16.2.01.   What we need is life unplugged.  A blackout might reveal what is truly electric.  Even in the darkest of ages, those who are be-wild-er-ed will find a road less travelled.  The best things in life cannot be manufactured.  The best things in life are free — that is, if you can pay the cost…

In Politics Stupidity Is Not a Handicap

In Politics Stupidity Is Not a Handicap–FUNNY PEACE QUOTE BUTTON

In Politics Stupidity Is Not a Handicap--FUNNY PEACE QUOTE BUTTON

In Politics Stupidity Is Not a Handicap–FUNNY PEACE QUOTE BUTTON

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This funny quote from Napoleon Bonaparte  is particularly funny since Napoleon certainly had many encounters with all types of politicians, so he should know.  While I don’t think that intelligence is necessarily associated with politics, I think that a deficiency of certain types of wisdom is widespread.  Politics is fraught with expediency and compromise.  This marginalizes other ways of living and relating to one another.  Ironically, the quest to triangulate thousands of expedient compromises, even with the intent to preserve and enhance human life, invariably degrades our collective humanity and individual worth in relation to the body politic.   This is another case of vainly seeking to achieve certain ends by means incompatible with those ends.  This necessarily disconnects the natural order of things, that means and ends are connected; and when the connection between means and ends is severed, the meta-message is that life (or politics) doesn’t make sense and that sensible solutions to community problems are irrelevant.  This state of affairs continues because sensibility is not the primary concern, rather, it is power.  Power can be wielded sensibly, but power has the “privilege” of operating insensibly, according to its own whim or interest.  One does not have to have intelligence to wield power, therefore stupidity is not a handicap in politics, the wielding of power in relation to others.  A wisdom that views means and ends as inseparable needs to face the difficult work of forging a way that is far less expedient.  If we didn’t negotiate away (compromise) human rights regularly, then large-scale human endeavors would require an even larger scale of work necessary to preserve human rights.  This is a primary reason why I see anarchism and its critique of large-scale enterprises as so important to understanding the large-scale dehumanizing forces in Western civilization.  If we were committed to healthy human relationships, we would not engage in large-scale enterprises which run over human rights.  Of course, this is seen as impracticable or unattainable; thus, the pervasive sense that individuals or small groups cannot make a difference.  This fatalism is a logical read of the logic inherent in these larger systems.  The systems do NOT value you.  That’s because valuing you has been so compromised out of the system.  People become means, not ends.  Invariably, when people are treated as means rather than ends, they are treated meanly, like so much building material in the dreams of others who wield more power.  For better or worse, the only way out of this seems to be the masses rising up with their own inherent power derived from their will and consent and overthrow the dehumanizing powers that be.  Now, this takes more than wisdom; this requires courage!  I encourage you to rage against the machine.  I encourage you to live in ways that inspire others to fully live and not compromise themselves as they internalize and model so well the compromising of others inherent in modern politics.  To live free is not a guarantee that you “win” (as in the conventional wisdom), but to center your living around the fact that being free is winning.  Live free or die.  The second comes to all of us.  The first is optional.

 

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.

POEM: In God We Trust? Money Speaks!

In God we trust?

A graven image

We never leave home without

Good

For all debts, public and private

When miss taking goods for good

The most note worthy tender legal

By George, Abe, Alex, Andy, Ulysses, and Ben

Close impersonal friends

Treasuring some denominations more than others

Speaking for itself

Silencing those without

Trust

In God

Wee

It is hard to imagine anything much more ironic than engraving on our money, “In God we trust.”  In a so-called Judeo-Christian nation, the irony is even much deeper.  Jesus tells us that “No servant can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Luke 16:13, NIV)  Perhaps, the intent of engraving, “In God we trust”, on our money is to remind us that we are supposed to trust God rather than money.  However, this also just seems to play into the irony.  Of course, this irony has reached the point of the surreal in recent times in the United States, with the US Supreme Court declaring that money is free speech and corporations are persons entitled to rights formerly reserved for human beings.  God has created human beings, and human beings have apparently created some other form of persons.  In Wall Street speak it would be some form of human derivative.  Wall Street is a modern-day Golden calf, creating idolatrous graven images.  The reason such activities are considered idolatrous is because it violates the natural order of things.  Humans are to serve God and one another.  Corporations are legal fictions created to serve humans, a man-made technology or tool to be subservient to human needs.  Corporate personhood is a derivative of the modern-day Golden calf, the worship of Wall Street, its so-called best and brightest, and, in the end, the worship of money.  Money is a tool.  People who worship money become tools, dehumanizing themselves and others.  Wall Street brings us to a very sad state:  we put a precise price on everything, yet lose our ability to value anything other than the almighty buck — deer me!  We must not get caught staring into the bright headlights of unrestrained capitalism and its well funded propaganda trying to convince us that we are helpless against the idolatrous idea that serving money is inevitable and that we cannot do better.  It strikes me that living in this surreal and cynical situation requires that real people speak out freely against this dangerous fiction of corporate personhood and money as free speech.  Otherwise, corporations will rule us rather than the other way around, and money, concentrated in the hands of a few, will drown out the true speech of the people and we will be robbed of our democracy.  This is all just a fancy legalistic way of the richer telling the poorer to shut up.  What say you?

It’s the Greed, Stupid

It’s the Greed, Stupid POLITICAL BUTTON

It's the Greed, Stupid POLITICAL BUTTON

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This cool design does not rely upon puns or complex twists.  This design is another tip of the hat to the Occupy Wall Street movement.  Of course, for those that been around for little while, you’ll recognize that this is a takeoff on the presidential candidate Bill Clinton campaign slogan, “It’s the economy, stupid”.  His Republican opponent, Pres. George H. Bush, was dealing with yet another economic turn downturn produced by the soon-to-be named “irrational exuberance” and casino economy that inevitably cycles into booms and busts.  Some things never change.  It almost goes without saying, since we worship the economy, that moneymaking by either corporations or by people in the form of jobs is perennially issue number one, and number two as well.  If you don’t think that we worship the economy, the next time you hear a news report or read a newspaper, just substitute “God” for “the economy” and it will make a lot of sense.  In this case, in this design, the simple twist is a substitution of “greed” for “economy.” This hones in on the normative driving force of the so-called neutral or generic economy.  The 1980s resulted in the coining of the phrase “greed is good.”  The inevitable logic that led us to such a stupid conclusion is centered around the idea that the economy is the ultimate provider of good in our society, i.e., our god.  This is why we must constantly serve the economy, feed the economy, and make it our ultimate focus. My simple definition for what constitutes one’s God, is what one values the most, what one serves over and above other potentially competing values.  It’s interesting to note, that in the 10 Commandments, while God commands us to serve God first, God does not claim to be the only god.  There are plenty of gods to choose from.  A companion to the incredible confusion that would lead us to say something as stupid as greed is good, is Western civilization’s quest for objectivity or neutrality.  Unfortunately, this perennially leads us to the conundrum of talking about what we value most while trapped in an underlying worldview that denies that any one thing is actually better than another.  This quest for ultimate objective reduces morality to simple if-then statements, neutering any morality.  This is the Achilles heel of denying subjective reality.  Just because something is subjective doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, it just means I can’t be pinned down in some definitive empirical way.  Objectivism in our culture, and current political environment, is probably best represented by Ayn Rand.  Ayn Rand and her ideas are idealized, even idolized, by folks of the libertarian variety.  There is great force behind these ideas, that is, if you don’t mind ignoring the metaphysical violence that inevitably results.  Another term for objectivism is scientific reductionism.  In both objective reality and subjective reality some things follow other things; there is an order to the universe.  Those who have ears to hear, and those who have a heart listen.  A contemporary case in point would be Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul.  Many folks with a libertarian sentiment find Ron Paul’s political philosophy very attractive.  In my judgment, his judgment is largely negated by his gross inhumanity that frequently crops up when he takes his political philosophy to its logical conclusion.  For example, in denying health care for those who need it and cannot afford it, quite literally saying “let them die”, reveals forcefully that his God is not about caring for one another, or caring for creation as a whole, but raises each individual to the status of a god, and is forced to accept the ensuing violence that is inherent in such an inhumane philosophy.  If the individual is a god, not subject to any higher power, then individuals are condemned to be at war, and civility, in its best sense, will be run roughshod over, necessarily so.  Bringing this all back to the economy, greed is not good.  To have to even state such a truism is a testament to the sickness from which we currently suffer.  The idea that greed is a legitimate organizing principle for society should be offensive to anyone with a heart.  Of course, if being heartless is not a barrier to living one’s life fully, then go ahead and follow this mechanistically violent path to its logical conclusion.  I guess my concluding point would be that logic reaches a conclusion before life does, and that to continue living, that is to not reduce ourselves to being some mechanistic robot, we need to transcend logic.  This is the realm of the heart.  This is the realm of God.  By living fully into this realm, logic need not be tossed out, it merely serves a higher purpose, a humane purpose, a godly purpose.  May it be so!

POEM: Toddling Western Civilization

Have you ever seen a toddler who can barely walk
Stumbling forward, running to not fall
Deliriously proud of oneself
This may be Western civilization

This short poem is a metaphor for Western civilization.  For any of us who have been around toddlers at that age when they are just learning how to walk, it is quite a sight to see how they look like they’re almost going to fall down, stumbling forward, and moving their feet faster and faster, eagerly hoping that they don’t fall down.  Interestingly, these toddlers just learning how to walk typically don’t show fear; they may show mild anxiety but the overall experience seems to be one of excitement at learning something new.  This could even be seen as deliriously proud (though this may be more of an adult anthropomorphization than the toddler’s experience).  I want the reader to experience that sense of anticipation and excitement.  Then, of course, comes the turn around.  Making this whole experience a metaphor for Western civilization rips the fresh innocence of a toddler into the immature delirium of the world rift with arrogant adults.  While this state of existence as a toddler is natural and commendable, this state of existence as an adult is horrifically developmentally delayed and dangerous.  The third line about being deliriously proud of one’s self could just as well have been omitted and the poem would’ve made perfect sense.  However, this line serves as a transition in comparison of the toddler and adult states.  As alluded to before, the  experience of the toddler is probably not accurately described as proud, since the self-awareness of a toddler is probably not that well developed.  Thus, I took the liberty of anthropomorphizing a bit.  The statement is intended to be prescient of the metaphor for Western civilization, a set-up.  Also, the anthropomorphizing can actually be viewed as projecting adults’ experience onto the toddler, which is a conceptual pun, meaning that projecting our own experience onto the world is part and parcel of the the arrogance present in Western civilization.

Now, back to the second line.  The running to not fall strikes me as a very apt image of our culture which values ever-increasing speed.  Mahatma Gandhi once said that there is more to life than increasing its speed.  I agree wholeheartedly.  In fact, the conundrum we seem to find ourselves in most of the time is substituting speed for almost anything else of value.  We may not know where we are going but dammit we are getting there fast.  This reminds me of one of my own sayings which I’ll probably blog about at some other time, “Sometimes you get there faster in slow motion.”  As a one-size-fits-all solution, increasing speed not only leads us to do the same things over and over again, perhaps expecting different results, but leads us to doing those same things even more so; that is, more efficiently, more crap in less time.  I have a lot to say about blessed inefficiency and how this better resembles life, rather than the cogs in some robotic machine as modern Western civilization would have it.  But back to the poem.  For a toddler, not falling down is a simple pragmatic desire not to hurt oneself.  For adults in Western civilization, not falling down often represents a perfectionism and fear of failure that ironically is often self-defeating.  This immature perfectionism and fear of failure can be a powerful underlying emotional state that drives our anxiety-ridden, fast-paced race to make life better.  Ironically, this fast-paced way of living serves quite well as a coping mechanism for avoiding dealing with our underlying anxiety.

The basic error that leads to applying speed to any and all problems, seems to be rooted in a confusion of means and ends.  It’s probably trite to say that life is a process, a means, but it is true.  People are not things, ends.  In the end, it’s the difference between living and having our lives lived for us (as a means for something else). Yet, our modern Western civilization seems to be persistently incapable of distinguishing between people and things:  “Employees aren’t people, they are expenses.”  This is the kind of prevalent, ignorant crap that dehumanizes us all.  Although, if you don’t mind treating people as things, means to an end, you can really make and consume an amazing amount of stuff (including people) through the miracles of efficiency (see eugenics).  This is pretty much a capitalist’s wet dream.  Unfortunately, dehumanization is a two-way street, and the capitalists dehumanize themselves in the process.  While in some sense, in some impersonal karmic way, this may seem like poetic justice, it really just sucks!  We can do better!  We need not (and should not) rely on the cause-and-effect, every-action- has-an-equal-and-opposite-reaction, materialistic world to do our business for us.  That’s why we have humanity.  Try it, you’ll like it!