POEM: Unleashed

As anger and grief morphs
Into the habits and vagaries of daily life
The heart is circled by its waggin’s
In loo of revolutions more roil
As if
Too be stuck
In
The mettle
Only to be
Haunted by cursory echoes
Of lives a custom to be frayed
Of what might be
Stranded
Into the unbreakable
Accord
As knot the tear or stricken
And still
The heart fastens
Awe that grows
Unleashed

This poem addresses the challenges of palpable anger and grief “normalizing” as time goes on.  The necessities and sheer habits of everyday living bear down on overflowing passions, often sublimating such powerful emotions into more comfortable or familiar patterns.  This can tamp down more revolutionary impulses for changes in life.  Such coping is commonplace.

Such a process causes me to reflect on the current post-election era.  The System Was Never Broken It Was BUILT That Way - POLITICAL BUTTONI remember the outrage when Baby Bush beat Al Gore only with the intervention of the Supreme Court, in the face of a popular vote loss and electoral college squeaker fraught with voting irregularities and inadequacies.  I noted how the un-sexy issue of the mechanics of voting and elections receded from consciousness in due course within a matter of months.  Multiple presidential election down the road, many of these election and voting deficiencies continue largely unfixed.  The electoral college has taken US to school again!  Plus, the striking down of key elements of the Voting Rights Act has left state-level shenanigans with voter suppression to run rampant.  Add in the increasingly surreal gerrymandering of voting districts and the democratic process is literally moot for most of America in national elections.

While our national democracy stays the course on being massively dysfunctional at so many levels, this election cycle, a vicious cycle, is a quantum leap in dangerous effect.  Stop Hate STOP Sign -- POLITICAL BUTTONThe sexism, racism, anti-Muslim, and anti-immigrant xenophobia reached for new heights and historic lows during the campaign.  Women, people of color, Muslims, and immigrants have legitimate reasons to worry on both a daily basis and what looms in the future.  Misogyny, white supremacy, and xenophobic nationalism are being baked into the Donald Trump regime.  While in many ways this is nothing new to disenfranchised folks, the stunning respectability of sexual assault braggadocio, scorn of Black Lives Matter, collusion with white supremacists, and a national fortress mentality could easily converge into the most authoritarian presidential administration in our lifetimes, if not ever, in America.

This poem is a warning of the dangers of “normalization,” and a call to the difficult, lifelong, trans-generational work that needs to be done.  Courage Trumps Fear PEACE BUTTONI don’t believe that such work can be done unless it is equipped with hope.  This poem culminates in the hope that by reaching deep and going long the solidarity of wholehearted people will supply needed power to resolute minds and steadfast hands to further incarnate seemingly impossible justice for all.

Dealing with endemic injustices calls for a demanding balance between daily coping and cultivating a long-haul way of life that shrewdly generates and regenerates, creates and recreates, produces and reproduces just and heartening habits of behavior and ways of being in the world.  Will the better side of America prevail over the genocide of America?  We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools--Martin Luther King, Jr. BUTTONAll I can say is that when sides are drawn, I know which side I hope and plan to be on.  As Martin Luther King, Jr. so plainly observed and prophesied, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”  Though I would update this a bit and expect to see sisters steadfastly leading this fight.  Some things don’t change.  This can be a good thing.

 

SHIFT HAPPENS POLITICAL BUTTONThe Ones Who Are Crazy Enough To Think They Can Change The World Are The Ones Who Do POLITICAL BUTTONAll the darkness in the world could not put out the light of one small candle. Jewish Holocaust victim's epitaph POLITICAL BUTTON

The Enemy Is Fear. We Think It Is Hate, But It is Fear -- Gandhi quote POLITICAL BUTTONFear does not prevent death; it prevents life --Nagub Mahfouz quote POLITICAL BUTTONLife shrinks or expands according to one's courage --Anais Nin quote POLITICAL BUTTON

ACTIVIST POEM: Our Ayes Will Have It

She had
Enough
Of half-baked politicians
She kneaded democracy
Here and now
As the yeast she could do
Sounding off
To those who might
Listen
Wee choir not
A grand stand
To lift every voice and sing
Wringing well
The harmonies of liberty
However aloud the rolling sees
Our ayes will have it

This poem is a tribute to the enduring importance of movement politics as the truest driving force for social and political change, working for justice for all.Justice: Some Assembly Required -- POLITICAL BUTTON  This poem is a tribute to political activists who do most of their work outside formal electoral politics.  Such action is centered out of the direct lived experiences of broken hearts and broken lives as opposed to white papers and think tanks.

Most people of privilege and power will roll their eyes when hope dares rise from despairing circumstances to demand justice, aka “too much.”  “They just don’t get it” the condescension goes, as if people on the short end of power don’t know how the world works.  “Not getting it” may be true inasmuch as the powers that be have “it” and don’t give anything but a shit.  Mainstream politics is almost by definition reactionary.  The first duty of society is justice. Alexander Hamilton quote POLITICAL BUTTONThe fear of losing “it” at best and organized greed at worst, short-circuits justice in our so-called democracy for countless minorities (disenfranchised folks of every stripe), which deeply ironically comprise a majority of our nation.  If the 1% are masters of anything, they are masters of dividing an overwhelming majority of the populace against each other to assure that none of their many legitimate grievances are fully redressed.  Human progress is neither automatic or inevitable...Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering and struggle. MLK QUOTE BUTTONFear of losing whatever one has sides with frightening regularity with the increasingly routinely vain hope of “upward” mobility, aligning itself with organized greed, all to avoid earnestly casting one’s lot with the poor and disenfranchised.

All of this breaks my heart — not my will or hope. This poem alludes to the rousing song, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which is often referred to as the “Black American National Anthem.” This song beautifully embodies and honors in music and lyric the undying hope and ultimate commitments arising like a phoenix out of countless inhumanities and death itself to keep our eyes unwaveringly on the prize: justice for all.  This song was written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938) in 1899 and set to music by his brother John Rosamond Johnson (1873–1954) in 1900, the lyrics of which are:

Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise,
High as the list’ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us,
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest, our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee,
Shadowed beneath Thy hand, may we forever stand,
True to our God, true to our native land.

May our native land, and every native land, be blessed with the spirit of this song.

Feel at liberty to browse my justice designs:

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere--Martin Luther King, Jr. BUTTONKnow Justice, Know Peace with African American Flag colors POLITICAL BUTTONIf you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor -- Desmond Tutu quote POLITICAL BUTTON

Globalize THIS - JUSTICE [earth graphic] POLITICAL BUTTONMarch For Justice - and every other month -- PEACE BUTTONPower at its best is love implementing the demands of justice -- Martin Luther King, Jr. BUTTON

The moral arc of the universe bends at the elbow of justice -- Martin Luther King, Jr. BUTTONJustice Is Less Expensive Than Injustice POLITICAL BUTTONConscience is the Chamber of Justice--PEACE QUOTE BUTTON

	 Liberty and Justice for White Rich and Connected (LIBERTY BELL) POLITICAL BUTTONJustice Is No Yoke - Isaiah 58:6-PEACE BUTTONJustice for ALL POLITICAL BUTTON

Justice NOW POLITICAL BUTTON

Donald Trump: The Dress Rehearsal for Fascism

If you want to make sense of the failure of neoliberalism, as typified by Hillary Clinton, and its vomiting up of proto-fascist leaders like Donald Trump, then author and journalist Chris Hedges nails it again, in this piece, Donald Trump: The Dress Rehearsal for Fascism:

Americans are not offered major-party candidates who have opposing political ideologies or ideas. We are presented only with manufactured political personalities. We vote for the candidate who makes us “feel” good about him or her. Campaigns are entertainment and commercial vehicles to raise billions in advertising revenue for corporations. The candidate who can provide the best show gets the most coverage. The personal brand is paramount. It takes precedence over ideas, truth, integrity and the common good. This cult of the self, which defines our politics and our culture, contains the classic traits of psychopaths: superficial charm, grandiosity, self-importance, a need for constant stimulation, a penchant for lying, deception and manipulation, and incapacity for remorse or guilt. Donald Trump has these characteristics. So does Hillary Clinton.

Our system of inverted totalitarianism has within it the seeds of an overt or classical fascism. The more that political discourse becomes exclusively bombastic and a form of spectacle, the more that emotional euphoria is substituted for political thought and the more that violence is the primary form of social control, the more we move toward a Christianized fascism.

Last week’s presidential debate in St. Louis was only a few degrees removed from the Jerry Springer TV show—the angry row of women sexually abused or assaulted by Bill Clinton, the fuming Trump pacing the stage with a threatening posture, the sheeplike and carefully selected audience that provided the thin veneer of a democratic debate while four multimillionaires—Martha Raddatz, Anderson Cooper, Clinton and Trump—squabbled like spoiled schoolchildren.

The Clinton campaign, aware that the policy differences between her and a candidate such as Jeb Bush were minuscule, plotted during the primaries to elevate the fringe Republican candidates—especially Trump. To the Democratic strategists, a match between Clinton and Trump seemed made in heaven. Trump, with his “brain trust” of Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie, would make Clinton look like a savior.

A memo addressed to the Democratic National Committee under the heading “Our Goals & Strategy” was part of the trove of John Podesta emails released this month by WikiLeaks.

“Our hope is that the goal of a potential HRC [Hillary Rodham Clinton] campaign and the DNC would be one-in-the-same: to make whomever the Republicans nominate unpalatable to the majority of the electorate. We have outlined three strategies to obtain our goal …,” it reads.

The memo names Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and Ben Carson as candidates, or what the memo calls “Pied Piper” candidates who could push mainstream candidates closer to the positions embraced by the lunatic right. “We need to be elevating the Pied Piper candidates so that they are leaders of the pack and tell the press to [take] them seriously.”

The elites of the two ruling parties, who have united behind Clinton, are playing a very dangerous game. The intellectual and political vacuum caused by the United States’ species of anti-politics, or what the writer Benjamin DeMott called “junk politics,” leaves candidates, all of whom serve the interests of the corporate state, seeking to exaggerate what Sigmund Freud termed “the narcissism of small differences.”

However, this battle between small differences, largely defined by the culture wars, no longer works with large segments of the population. The insurgencies of Trump and Bernie Sanders are evidence of a breakdown of these forms of social control. There is a vague realization among Americans that we have undergone a corporate coup. People are angry about being lied to and fleeced by the elites. got fascism? POLITICAL BUTTONThey are tired of being impotent. Trump, to many of his most fervent supporters, is a huge middle finger to a corporate establishment that has ruined their lives and the lives of their children. And if Trump, or some other bombastic idiot, is the only vehicle they have to defy the system, they will use him.

The elites, including many in the corporate press, must increasingly give political legitimacy to goons and imbeciles in a desperate battle to salvage their own legitimacy. But the more these elites pillage and loot, and the more they cast citizens aside as human refuse, the more the goons and imbeciles become actual alternatives. The corporate capitalists would prefer the civilized mask of a Hillary Clinton. But they also know that police states and fascist states will not impede their profits; indeed in such a state the capitalists will be more robust in breaking the attempts of the working class to organize for decent wages and working conditions. Citibank, Raytheon and Goldman Sachs will adapt. Capitalism functions very well without democracy.

In the 1990s I watched an impotent, nominally democratic liberal elite in the former Yugoslavia fail to understand and act against the population’s profound economic distress. The fringe demagogues whom the political and educated elites dismissed as buffoons—Radovan Karadzic, Slobodan Milosevic and Franjo Tudman—rode an anti-liberal tide to power.

The political elites in Yugoslavia at first thought the nationalist cranks and lunatics, who amassed enough support to be given secondary positions of power, could be contained. This mistake was as misguided as Franz von Papen’s assurances that when the uncouth Austrian Adolf Hitler was appointed the German chancellor in January 1933 the Nazi leader would be easily manipulated. Any system of prolonged political paralysis and failed liberalism vomits up monsters. And the longer we remain in a state of political paralysis—especially as we stumble toward another financial collapse—the more certain it becomes that these monsters will take power.

Fascism, at its core, is an amorphous and incoherent ideology that perpetuates itself by celebrating a grotesque hypermasculinity, elements of which are captured in Trump’s misogyny. It allows disenfranchised people to feel a sense of power and to have their rage sanctified. It takes a politically marginalized and depoliticized population and mobilizes it around a utopian vision of moral renewal and vengeance and an anointed political savior. It is always militaristic, anti-intellectual and contemptuous of democracy and replaces culture with nationalist and patriotic kitsch. It sees those outside the closed circle of the nation-state or the ethnic or religious group as diseased enemies that must be physically purged to restore the health of nation.

Many of these ideological elements are already part of our system of inverted totalitarianism. But inverted totalitarianism, as Sheldon Wolin wrote, disclaims its identity to pay homage to a democracy that in reality has ceased to function. It is characterized by the anonymity of the corporate centers of power. It seeks to keep the population passive and demobilized. I asked Wolin shortly before he died in 2015 that if the two major forms of social control he cited—access to easy and cheap credit and inexpensive, mass-produced consumer products—were no longer available would we see the rise of a more classical form of fascism. He said this would indeed become a possibility.

Bill Clinton transformed the Democratic Party into the Republican Party. He pushed the Republican Party so far to the right it became insane. Hillary Clinton is Mitt Romney in drag. She and the Democratic Party embrace policies—endless war, the security and surveillance state, neoliberalism, austerity, deregulation, new trade agreements and deindustrialization—that are embraced by the Republican elites. Clinton in office will continue the neoliberal assault on the poor and the working poor, and increasingly the middle class, that has defined the corporate state since the Reagan administration. She will do so while speaking in the cloying and hypocritical rhetoric of compassion that masks the cruelty of corporate capitalism.

The Democratic and Republican parties may be able to disappear Trump, but they won’t disappear the phenomena that gave rise to Trump. And unless the downward spiral is reversed—unless the half of the country now living in poverty is lifted out of poverty—the cynical game the elites are playing will backfire. Out of the morass will appear a genuine “Christian” fascist endowed with political skill, intelligence, self-discipline, ruthlessness and charisma. The monster the elites will again unwittingly elevate, as a foil to keep themselves in power, will consume them. There would be some justice in this if we did not all have to pay.

The parent conundrum here is how to create a way out of neoliberalism while dodging the rise of fascism.  Both require a much more politically conscious and politically courageous populace, who on occasion may also be an electorate.

Please feel free to browse more anti-Fascist and anti-authoritarian designs:

This Country Has Been Reformatted to Fit Your Fears--POLITICAL BUTTON I Don't Agree With President Vader's Policies, But I Still Think We Should Support Our Storm Troopers POLITICAL BUTTONWe Have Nothing to Fear But Fearmongers Themselves POLITICAL BUTTON

Make the lie big; make it simple; keep saying it; and eventually they will believe it --Adolph Hitler quote POLITICAL BUTTONOne Party System - Republicrats - POLITICAL BUTTONA Nation of Sheep Soon Beget a Government of Wolves - Edward R. Murrow Quote - POLITICAL BUTTON

You can't underestimate the power of fear. Tricia Nixon quote POLITICAL BUTTON

POLITICAL POEM: Among Politicians For Sail

In the art of politics
We are the wind
Awe that madders
To those who sea
Among politicians for sail
Transcending them to helm
In their infernal riggings
And whatever weigh
As such politics
Blows
And how ever along winded
Wee will
Prevail
Sow go a head
Win
Be my gust

Q: What can transcend the riggings in the political system?  A: The strong winds of political movements derived from the consent (or resistance) of the people.  Perhaps the most reliable characteristic of politicians is their ability to do most anything to gain power or maintain power.  Politics is often referred to as the art of compromise.  Power Requires Consent POLITICAL BUTTONPolitics is as often at the heart of selling out.  Power requires consent, the consent of the people.  This is the foundation for nonviolent resistance and noncooperation with evils in society.  Fortunately, the malleable morality of politicians can be harnessed by the exercise of power directly by the people, without relying on simply moral appeals.  In the body politic, the moral state of the state is mediated by the people either exercising their values which manifest political realities and shape power, or by the people delegating moral behavior to politicians (sic) and/or relinquishing morality altogether.  The people define the political realities by which politicians must navigate.  The pragmatic malleability of politicians makes them far better suited to follow than lead, to reflect current political realities rather than challenge and change them.  The notion that power is fundamentally derived from political elites is mistaken and not what the founders of the constitution understood of governance as derived from the consent of the people.  Likewise, moral behavior is derived from each person as a moral agent, a responsibility that cannot be relinquished and a privilege that each human shares.

Be the Change You Want to See in the World -- PEACE QUOTE BUTTONAuthentic leadership, by being the change you want to see in the world, is often punished by the powers that be of the status quo, whose interest is in maintaining things the way they are, that is, to their own advantage over others.  Your resistance and its equal and opposite force applied by the powers that be is exactly the measure by which your values are valued.  Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you've found out the exact measure of injustice which will be imposed on them. Frederick Douglass quote POLITICAL BUTTONMore simply put, your values are values exactly to the extent that you are willing to pay a price for them.  Many good things in life come cheap, either through the work of others or the grace of God.  The luck of the draw in possessing such good things that come to us without us personally paying the full cost is what is often called privilege.  Good things are, well, good.  But, when we haven’t paid the full cost, or worse yet, someone else is involuntarily paying the cost for you, such an imbalance in the balance sheet requires moral action to assure fair treatment of others.  It is exactly such imbalances in the balance sheets that fundamentally amoral ideologies such as capitalism cannot produce balance.  In fact, amoral ideologies such as capitalism act to leverage inequalities and unfairness into further inequalities and unfairness.  In short, it takes moral force, truth force, what Gandhi referred to as satyagraha, to set the world right.  Those experiencing the short end of inequalities and unfairness most fully experience the material conditions suited to such enlightenment.  Those experiencing the long end of inequalities and unfairness find that their the material conditions are rife with easy denial and low-cost rationalizations suited to maintaining their advantage, their advantage over others.  This is another way of describing the “preferential option for the poor” in liberation theology, recognizing that the dispossessed are naturally better positioned to exercise moral leadership since their personal interests and social justice interests are better aligned.  Surely, the poor have their own special set of temptations to choose the low road in morality.  However, the privileged are only required to give up privilege over others for justice’s sake, which is a nominal sacrifice compared to coping well or poorly inside chronic injustices.  This is particularly true since the powers that be exact a price disproportionately higher to the dispossessed than what would represent a fair price for their personal, individual justice.  In other words, the dispossessed must invest in social justice to experience personal justice.   If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor -- Desmond Tutu quote POLITICAL BUTTONThe privileged are free of such costs, and worse yet, are personally advantaged by injustice, a cruel incentive to unjust action, or more often than not, inaction.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere -- Martin Luther King, Jr. BUTTONAs can be seen through the lenses of power derived through the consent of the people and the material conditions conducive to acting morally in the face of social injustices, the hope for a more just and moral world is founded in actions of solidarity with and among the disenfranchised of the world.  Expecting the privileged to relinquish their privilege — or manage the poor justly (sic) — is a lame substitute for disenfranchised peoples acting in the interest of both themselves and all people.  May we act in solidarity with one another to overturn injustice anywhere.

Feel free to browse Top Pun’s designs about social justice and a huge choice of political action issues.

Comedian Jesus: Any TRUMP? NO, Go Fish, I’m Not Playing That Game

This Comedian Jesus cartoon combines the contemporary unwanted news cycle of Donald Trump with the timeless question of: Precisely what game are you playing?

Comedian Jesus: Any TRUMP? NO, Go Fish, Not Playing That Game

This Comedian Jesus cartoon is an inspired hybrid of a pun on “Trump,” and my poem, “Different Game:”

Sorry, I don’t have any bargaining chips
I’m playing a different game

Perhaps it goes without saying that I am a real card.

The fact that Jesus hung out with fisherman, real working class people, is just another bonus layer on the metaphor of the card game: fish.

Elect Satan - Why Pick The Lesser Of Two Evils - FUNNY POLITICAL BUTTONA ballot is like a bullet. You don't throw your ballots until you see a target, and if that target is not in reach, keep your ballot in your pocket. Malcolm X quote POLITICAL BUTTONIn the current epic game of the lesser of two evils, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton vie to benefit more by comparison than by any solid or transcendent standard.  The cynicism in politics is largely defined by the perpetual cycle of disappointment in the politicians that we elect.  We are frightened by both “means” and “ends.”  We are blackmailed into compromised candidates, wear fear and compromised boundary setting conspire to deliver the “goods” that are, in fact, not good.  As captives of fear, compromised “means” unsurprisingly produce congruent “ends.”  The simple fact is that you will not produce politicians substantially better than the electorate.  We want politicians to save us from one another, when what we need to be saved from is our own fear. This myth of redemptive politicians short-circuits the reality that we must be the change we want to see in the world.  CAPITOL PUNISHMENT: Those Without The Capitol Get The Punishment [capitol building] POLITICAL BUTTONThe fact that we look to fundamentally compromised candidates to triumph over other fundamentally compromised candidates, speaks to low expectations consistent with the tattered boundaries (based on our values) that we set (or don’t set).  These boundaries are based on who each person wants to be, not who they want others to be.  We are all leaders.  We need solidarity with one another, not the desire to rule over others.  Defeat The Elite POLITICAL BUTTONElectoral politics is overwhelmingly about choosing who, some elite typically, to rule over us.  Ruling over others is the devil’s game. You can’t beat the devil at his own game.

In my view, we need to be well centered in solid and/or transcendent standards along with the courage to see a different game possible.  The solid and/or transcendent standards speak to a long game, dare I say eternal (or timeless).  The courage speaks to every moment presented to me where I have a choice of ruling/dominating over others or living as true equals, with equal respect and claim to our human rights.  It is not in the nature of politics that the best men should be elected. The best men do not want to govern their fellowmen -- George MacDonald quote POLITICAL BUTTONSuch a courageous game of equality and solidarity is anathema to privilege.  True solidarity is always directed at the disenfranchised, those whose human rights are trampled, humanity marginalized, and personhood monetized.  Gangs of privileged folks crying, “All lives matter” in the face of people rising up to claim their human rights is not true solidarity.  For a long time now, I’ve viewed “First Worldism” as the fundamental disconnect on the planet.  This disconnect is centered in the USA.  Americans certainly have their problems at home.  Nevertheless, these problems are rooted, and overshadowed, by the disconnect with the wrest of the second and third world — most of the world.  American exceptionalism is exceptionally bad for the planet and humanity, and a nearly psychotic break from reality.  For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil is one striking at the root. Emerson quote POLITICAL BUTTONIf the game in the center ring is to secure better social benefits on the deathstar that is America, rather than dismantle the deathstar, then America will be a plague on this planet and a cancer on humanity.  I intend to play a different game.

Please feel free to browse other thought-provoking designs on breaking through the lies and propaganda in politics to live in transparent truth.

POEM: The Yeast Of These

Wile there is much bred
Daily preyed for
Ample for awe concerned
That seemingly still
Fomenting swell times
A mist repleting agin and agin
In dubitable motifs
Giving ascent to
That for most ingredient
A telling signature of homme
The yeast of these
Which will provide
That effervescent up
Rising
Without flail
Soully as flower and water
Well grounded
Flourishing in a rest
And taking the heat
Toward its full realization
Satiating more than just us
And peace meal gain

This poem is about hope springing eternal, utilizing the metaphor of yeast responsible for the rising of bread.  Hope often strikes me as a reality grounded firmly in both necessity and possibility.  The faith that hope is comprised of the stuff that makes for a juggernaut gives me profound comfort.  This fuels a much more joyful social activism. The subtle and permeating workings of hope inspire the artist in me.

The metaphor of yeast rising, the smallest portion of the bread — the yeast of these — responsible for the very nature of a successful outcome, speaks to the infective and catalytic role that hope plays in social transformation, in social uprisings giving results often surprisingly larger than the sum of the mere parts.  That the uplifting power of yeast is invisible to the eye is far from insignificant.  Even the penetrating scientific mind will likely lead to a disgust to our human sensibilities: the gas released by yeast that expands to rise the dough is the waste product of microbial fermentation, yeast farts if you will. To add insult to injury to some, the pockets of dough that successfully capture these farts so well is attributable to the much demonized foodstuff called gluten — be afraid, very afraid!

Beyond the world of bread-making, in the human world, the downtrodden, dispossessed, and disenfranchised are the necessary ingredient and driver in social justice movements.  The sanitized conventional wisdom that it is an elite class of intelligentsia or highly formally educated “managers” who guide social transformation is simply wrong.  In truth, such conventional forces are typically beholden to making a different kind of “bread” — or bred.  Bread Not Bombs Flour Power Its the Yeast We Can Do-FUNNY PEACE BUTTONThe lessens learned in the school of hard knocks are fertile fodder for street smarts and a built-in “skin in the game” that powers authentic personal and social transformation.  The primary purpose of so-called social success and “middle-class” living may very well be to erect a firewall between one’s own success (and kin or clan) and the milieu of the messy, grungy, and sometimes vulgar “lower” classes.  This firewall is the very barrier that creates and perpetuates social injustice.  The sanitized, impersonal, distant injustices of the board room and bedroom communities are normalized as “civilized,” even though they are responsible for far more human lost potential and suffering than the “barbaric” physical acting out of street crime and “bad” neighborhoods.  White collar crimes go unpunished or perhaps dealt with “as a cost of doing business ” — on occasion there is a slap on the wrist, more like going into the penalty box within a blood sport.  Almost without saying, waging war is a patriot duty, not a human tragedy.  “Street” crimes involving actual people — as opposed to corporate people — are an almost exclusive focus, to protect property and mostly respectable people.  People of color, those lowest on the social ladder — or any “other” — get the book thrown at them by erudite, costumed judges and enforced by less-erudite, armed, uniformed police.

This poem alludes to nonviolence, Rising/Without flail, but this is not simply a comfortable nonviolence of safe pacifists.  On the receiving end of violence by the state and the powers that be, its victims eventually realize that you can’t beat the state at its own game.  Besides being outgunned, “non-sanctioned” violence is used to discredit social movements and serves as a convenient excuse to violently suppress — in a “civilized” way of course — social revolutionaries.  When rising tides of resistance reach critical masses, violence is what the state knows best to put down resistance.  The usually unbroken veneer of civility is deeply threatened when persistent nonviolent resistance bares the brutish, overwhelming power of the state.  This is a highly effective weapon in manifesting true civility.  The solidarity needed for such a daring and dangerous venture is rooted in the shared experiences of the many disenfranchisements that the powers that be yield.  The equation of having more to gain than lose in such a venture presents the palpable opportunity and deep root for real social change.  Privilege works against such opportunity, when the status quo favors one’s own personal interests.  Plus, beyond any simple equation, the humanity gained by living in solidarity restores some measure of the humanity robbed by injustices.  Long the weigh, many realize that peace is the way, and such folks offer another way of living that doesn’t re-lie on the dehumanization of others.

May you find peace long the weigh and bare its many fruits…

POSTSCRIPT: On a somewhat more vulgar, and perhaps somewhat embarrassing, note, this poem can be red quite well as a sexual poem.  This was not my original intent.  If you read it that way, you are probably a man!  This is a fine example of how it is possible, particularly for a man, to sexual eyes most anything, any metaphor.  Hopefully, this multiple meaning will harm no one.  Enjoy!  I hope to never lose my touch…

POEM: Just Us Fore Awe

Privilege and disenfranchisement
Are two sides of the same coin
Defining this flipping world
And the soul weigh out
Is to stop chasing coin
And exorcise our debt to won another
Just us fore awe

People are more important than things.  Human persons are more important than corporate persons.  You can’t serve God and money.  These are relatively simple truths that can order our disordered lives, individually and collectively.  Chasing the almighty buck degrades the awesome aspects of our humanity.  Focusing on how we can profit from others, what we can get from others, is the ultimate “taker” attitude.  For those who have a lot, are on the long end of the stick, the looming threat of disenfranchisement, and those disenfranchised seeking justice, assures that having is never enough. Even those with little, or on the short end of the stick, often internalize this sick attitude as wannabe privileged, perpetuating the dominant worldview of domination over others.   As I see it, the soul weigh to get rid of this two sides of the same coin is to get rid of coin.  Inasmuch as people are viewed as means to ends, we will have a whirled of mean, and unsatisfying ends.  Recognizing, honoring, and glorying in each other’s irreducible humanity and awesome possibility is perhaps the only debt we have to each other.  If you view this debt to one another as a privilege or a duty, you are correct.  The awe at the heart of our humanity is what should command our respect and serve as our authority in all matters.  Our greatest gift to one another is to serve awe.  May you find awe that you are looking for, and may awe that you due serve others.

POEM: Unfare

Weighter
Truth be tolled
Whoever’s pain the bill
I’d like a reseat
At the table

This poem addresses the truism that life is not fair.  I have spent most of my life and part of most days working to address social injustices.  Recently, with the advent of the Black Lives Matter movement, I have redoubled my efforts to examine my own privileges and disenfranchisements.  In sum, I am a very privileged individual.  I am fascinated by how our own sets of privileges and disenfranchisements play out in society, particularly social justice movements.  Perhaps the most prevalent divide, present even within most households, is male and female.  Patriarchy is nearly omnipresent.  As in any privileged group, men must exert effort to not by default weaponize privilege against those disenfranchised, in this case, about half of the world’s population!  I have seen how people of color and trans folks have worked hard to claim their rightful roles and places within the LGBT equality movement.  In addition, socioeconomic class issues cut across virtually all social movements.  As a U.S. citizen working predominantly alongside other U.S. citizens, the privilege of First-Worldism profoundly impacts our relevance and importance as planetary citizens, where the poorest majority of humanity bears the brunt of the rest of the world’s over-consumption of resources, abuses of power, and assorted and sundry cultural dominations.

Activism Is My Rent For Living On This Planet -- Alice Walker quote POLITICAL BUTTONAs for me, solidarity is a primary guiding principle for my social justice activism.  Literally standing with people who are disenfranchised in one way or another strikes me as one of the most direct ways to step toward social justice.  This is related to “putting skin in the game,” which serves as my primary measure for authentic commitment to other human beings and the creation we share.  As Alice Walker so elegantly stated, “Activism is my rent for living on this planet.”  This planet, so teeming with life, deserves our respect, appreciation, and honest efforts to make it the best home possible for millions of miles around.  As I like to say: Life isn’t fair, it’s excellent!

POEM: Liberal Mined Violent

Some liberal mined violent
Call up on pacifists
To condemn a brand of violence
To wit
They object
Ultimately subjected
To accost
Without benefit analysis
Coming efface to efface
With realty
And a sorted loved wons
Unwilling to accede where others have flailed
The brand they hide
Singularly fingered
Buy pacifists
Calling a tension two
A third weigh
Of the largesse possible
An unwelcome piece
When wanting more than have
Of everything fourth with
Ironying details
Ever beyond that which is a greed
How to saddle for less
Than being cowed
And truth be tolled
The violent
As a madder of practice
Get their weigh
A tempting feudal steer
Milking it for all a veil
In udder disbelief
As much as we can
Due better
Keeping nothing bottled up
Unleashing everything even remotely herd
Know longer listening
Too the artless
Like sum stock ticker
An engine only for the vain
Abase symbol for awe to hear
As the lover of awe kinds
Relinquishes the bully pulpit
In respect to those assembling
Not dissembling

Pacifists such as myself are sometimes called upon by those who are selectively violent to roundly and reliably condemn some violence that is repugnant to their preferred modes of violence.  PACIFIST - Someone With The Nutty Idea That Killing People Is Bad PEACE BUTTONThis convenient opportunism by “liberal mined” violent can hopefully serve as an opportunity for pacifist to draw connections and expose biased interests in enterprises that vainly wish to promote some kinds of violence and condemn other forms of violence, yet miraculously divorce means and ends and somehow produce a nonviolent state.  The situation that came to mind for me in this poem harkens back to the early 1980’s as a peacemongering student at Hope College.  I was asked by a conservative political science professor to serve as an expert witness in the campus’ mock United Nations proceedings.  Specifically, he was asking me to address violence by Palestinians against Israelis.  Much to his chagrin, I spoke about violence in the Israeli occupation of Palestine proportional to the violence present, that is, overwhelmingly committed by Israel and backed by the political and financial patronage of the United States.

Probably the largest complaint that apologists for violence have against pacifists is that they are “passivists,” complicit and enabling of injustices, specifically, and perhaps presumptuously, injustices that seem only solvable through violence, or at least the right “kind” of violence.  Complicity to violence and injustice is a profoundly true charge to both pacifists and apologists for violence.  Pacifism sets the bar high and regularly fails at fully fulfilling its high calling.  Feel free to contrast this limit of idealism (and its harms?) with the cynical acceptance (realism?) that killing others is necessary for justice (usually just us). If the notion and practice of necessary evil doesn’t make your head explode, it will quite assuredly shrink your heart, particularly if aspiring to follow a God of love.  I see Gandhi’s simple taxonomy of roles in the necessarily epic struggles for justice as insightful. Gandhi spoke of nonviolent “warriors,” violent warriors, and cowards.  I'm not a pacifist. I'm not that brave. Phil Donahue quote PEACE BUTTONHe saw these ordered in terms of moral achievement; the pacifist activist, then soldiers, and lastly, cowards. Of course, poorly performing pacifists can fall into the pit of fear and cowardice, unsuccessfully bridging the gap between talking the talk and walking the walk.  Soldiers have an inherent advantage in that a significant proportion can be expected to face death in combat situations.  This engenders a palpable sense of courage for facing such situations, whether, in fact, these situations are just or not.  Willingly facing being killed or severely harmed is the definition of courage. We can learn a lot from soldiers (not the least of which is that the most vehement anti-war activists are often veterans of military combat, sometimes simply slaughter). Courage is commendable.  Having skin in the game is the necessary good.  Any pacifist worth their salt will embody courage and skin in the game.  Evil, and its even uglier companion, necessary evil, can only thrive amidst cowardice and not having skin in the game.  Without courage, cowardice will rule the day (and night).  Without skin in the game, the privileged will continue to keep their foot on the neck of the disenfranchised, usually through a complex system of subcontracting not requiring their actual foot to do the dirty work.  A cowardly, distracted and narcotized public will earn an assist in maintaining their somewhat more advantageous state in the hierarchy of privilege and disenfranchisement.

Of course, the difference between a pacifist and a soldier is not the willingness to die for a cause, but the (un)willingness to kill for a cause.  The willingness to kill is the preeminent prerequisite of a soldier.  Object of War Not to Die for Your Country But Make Other Bastard Die for His -- General George Patton ANTI-WAR QUOTE BUTTONIn regard to willingly dying and willingly killing, perhaps the infamous WWII General George Patton said it best, “The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.”  Further, in the calculus of soldiering, we must remember that in modern times (the last 100+ years), military combat has frighteningly consistently killed over ten noncombatants/civilians for every soldier killed.  By what stretch of imagination do “realists” consider this courageous and honorable?  The cowardice inherent in the proposition of necessary evil is the root of much evil in this world.  The fantasy of necessary evil is nothing short of an abnegation of responsibility, an idol worship of something other than the free will and moral agency of which we are endowed.

As a spiritual practice, I find pacifism, ruling out the killing of others, as a profoundly creative practice.  You may be surprised at the depths of creativity accessible by dispatching the human perversion called necessary evil and the barbaric practice of killing others.  Without presupposing limits on human goodness, you can unleash new experiments, pioneer new ground (sometimes observed as common ground), raise the heights to which humans may aspire, and make the world friendlier to love.  Nonviolence is Organized Love -- Joan Baez PEACE QUOTEAs Joan Baez so elegantly and succinctly said, “That’s all nonviolence is — organized love.”  Of course, my paraphrase would be: nonviolence is just, organized love…

 

POEM: A Re-View of a Plunk Rock Band, Tossing Watery Graves

I want it awe
Yet what do you no
What measures
Must we take
From emanate ripples
He helled the earth in his hand
Of what intimated
Of know consequence
A dinky mount
To sky ward heavin’
Hoping only to rock the whirled
Impelled to sea
In escapable gravity
Never in visioning
That there is
None boulder
In his pond-erous
And Sisyphean weigh
Casting all he once held dear
As flippin’ grovel
Into an unbroken mirror
As just
Hanging in
Con centric circles
Learning too a bridge lessen
As a bait
Waving less and less
To say good buy
As their reach is their largesse
Only to leave us
With an eerie qualm
And little
If any thing
To take
To the bank
Shoring up any pausible hope
Un-availed by the human I
Wither or not
As poetry
Reduced to pros
As awe things reckon
As precisely quota’d
A praising every angle
Bent on wane
Every thing
That is
Having fits
The scale
Leaving us
The lit-less
And immeasurable whoppers
The won with abacuses and slyed rule
Counting upon the inevitable apple
Fallen from trees on shore
Given too fruity beaches
With nothing
Better to do
A Newtonian uni-verse
As if
Dispatching
A lagoon squad
In sum kind of egression analysis
In a bounty us pool of data
Free from water
Fishing
In err
With out-land-ish loch
On learning
Of fall-ibility
Grounded in certitude
Agitated a bout
Tsunamis of certainty
And faintest freedom
Fueled agin
Too buy too
An arc
Reliant up on
Being largely stoned
And heading south
All the faster
To murky depths
Still
In this abyssal life
Wear there is
Every thing but
Life re-sides
In a soul place
For awe
As be-wilder-ed
Knot mirrorly a void
A stones throw aweigh
As be guiled
Cursory-ing like a sailor
Skimming the mirror surface
A mist watery solutions
Crying out
Over an abyss
All armed a bout
Drowning in what
We are trying
Too divine
What you can count on
Ripple™
In hitting one’s bottom
Throne down a well
As per cent
100 proof
Making a wish
Of scientific rigor
Sow rarefied
As iron out
Of awe that is mist
Worshipping statutes
That no copper can enforce
Nailing the truth to dead wood
Caskets and buckets
Lowered
Hung out too dry
Bailing out
Awe that is well
A tempting
Sow perverse
Amiss under stood
Plunk rock band
Billowing out
In con sequential
To sum
So poor tending
The easily fluttered
And shirking
That beneath us
Or sow a peer
Do be us
As it may seam
Take me littoral
And fathom deeply
The coast of freedom
Fore who knows
More of that which swells
Those who lead
Unfetid lives
Learning their keep
In this
Life unearth
Or those who undertake
Properly measured lives
In a dogma eat dogma whirled
Vainly exacting an incalculable prize
On each and every won
For in
The sweet by and by
It is
Better to be
Taken in
Than taking out
Rulers
And measuring cups
In the see of life

This poem goes out to my friend, Toby, who in a conversation a couple of evenings ago inspired and quasi-commissioned a poem (and blog entry) around the metaphor of fathoming the ripples from a stone being thrown in a body of water.  In our conversation this was about measuring the effects of our actions, specifically social justice actions, as to the effect they have on the world and its inhabitants.  The hope was to better harness this knowledge in order to parlay it into more effective actions.

This poem tackles a familiar theme of mine: how a fixation on scientific-reductionistic methods weigh too often rob us of access to deeper meanings.  So, here goes:

Most of my life, my working assumption has been that if other folks just knew what I knew that they would act congruently with me.  I don’t put much stock in this assumption anymore.  Hell, much of the time, I don’t even act congruently with the knowledge with which I have been blessed.  I have spent many moments and years projecting my sense of rationality onto others.  I have spent many moments and years projecting my favored modes of rationalization onto others.  Don’t get me wrong, I believe that reality is deeply ordered and that this order is accessible, even more so than we usually think.  I am still cursed with the double-edged sword of an abundance of right opinion.  Still, I have come to more deeply appreciate that we act more out of our emotional sensibilities, which are profoundly molded by our self-interest, whether that interest is privileged or disenfranchised.  I view our emotional sensibilities and the sum total in our life of our various privileges and disenfranchisements as the primary drivers of our actions, over and above our routine thinkings.  In fact, motivational and behavioral research shows that the primary causal direction of changed attitudes is from behavior, not knowledge.  In other words, our attitudes change more from changing behaviors than changing knowledge.  This is caught up in a matrix of cognitive dissonance, where we have a powerful need to make sense of our lives as it is at any given moment, and rationalizations supporting any given status quo are favored.  Changing what we do, voluntarily or involuntarily, shifts our attitudes much more robustly than even large changes in knowledge.  This undergirds the suggestion of “fake it til you make it,” recognizing the power of cognitive dissonance to drive our attitudes and thinking to match our behavior.  While this may seem inauthentic to some degree, simply compare it to the endemic hypocrisies represented by vastly incongruous knowledge and beliefs with our behavior.  This also gives a tip of the hat to the classical liberal paradigm of the importance of environmental conditions.  Our own personal collections of privileges and disenfranchisements, either personally or socially, are weigh more important to making sense of our behavior than cataloging, or even changing, our knowledge and beliefs. In sum, knowledge is routinely over-weighed in behavior change and social change.

My view is that plumbing the nature of our own privilege and disenfranchisement is a much firmer foundation upon which to build a life-affirming world.  This self-knowledge can generate powerful insights into others and is a prerequisite to empathy.  Reflecting on both grace (unmerited privilege) and unjust relationships (disenfranchisement) can leverage the attitudinal changes necessary for a better world for all.  Mustering the courage to let go of unmerited privilege when it perpetuates unjust relationships, and change our behavior accordingly, even if it feels uncomfortable and scary, will align our lives at a deeper level of comfort and peace.  Knowledge will follow.  Knowledge will catch up to our passions.  Life-affirming knowledge is wisdom.  All other knowledge is unnecessary clutter, actually confounding the manifestation of wisdom.  Where a whole heart rules, all is well.  Living in won’s head can foster a perversely dangerous idealism, disconnected from the world of the living.  If this strikes you as in any weigh anti-intellectual, you may want to delve into my blog — I speak from experience.

May you find a weigh in life that lifts up both yourself and others.

 

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!!

Silence Will Not Protect You

Your Silence Will Not Protect You – Pink Triangle–Gay Pride Rainbow Shop BUTTON

Your Silence Will Not Protect You - Pink Triangle--Gay Pride Rainbow Shop BUTTON

Your Silence Will Not Protect You – Pink Triangle–Gay Pride Rainbow Shop 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 Gay Political Buttons.

This gay pride design is a classic that was popularized during the gay community’s struggle to combat HIV/AIDS in the 1980s and 1990s.  There is a mode of being that is very common in life that if we just quietly get along everything will be alright.  This may work much of the time.  This definitely does not work all the time.

While this design is specifically geared to the gay community, with its issues of coming out, speaking out, and dealing with all the crap that comes with that, this design and saying is universal for all of humanity.  You might even say that breaking out of that common mode of just quietly getting along hoping that everything will be all right is what it means to be queer!  And one queer reality is that we are all queer in one way or another.  What I mean by this is that we are all minorities in one way or another.  We are all disenfranchised in one way or another.  We were all put down in one way or another, for who we are.  It is out of this universal queer experience that speaking out becomes necessary.

Silence is not enough.  We need to communicate and assert who we are to others, particularly when who we are is different from others.  Otherwise, who we are will never be adequately taken into account by others, that is by the majority or so-called norm for any social group.  How could we expect otherwise?  This is just the groundwork and footwork that needs to be done for us to live in community, which is inherently diverse, no matter how much we may try to homogenize things.  Communicating who we are with one another is the only way that we can live together in a way that truly honors one another.  Otherwise, while we may be technically living together, we are just in the same vicinity, living in our own little realities.  Doing the hard work of speaking out and communicating with one another leads to a lot of disillusionment, that process of shedding our illusions.  Unfortunately, I don’t believe that we have a choice in this matter.  Living authentically, that is, in consonance with reality, demands that we learn about the reality of others and communicate our own reality to others.  The difficulty in this is rooted in the fact that in those areas of our life where we experience fitting into the dominant norm, we have little built-in incentive to do the work of learning about minorities, those ways that others are queer.  Thus, the incentive, or burden, falls to those who are in the minority, the queers.  This will always be an uphill battle, with the less powerful doing their duty to inform the more powerful.  Fortunately, acting in consonance with reality is ultimately the most powerful way of being.  In this case, the less powerful are doing double duty by serving their own palpable interest and the less recognizable but equally important interests of those in a particular dominant norm.  If this seems somehow unfair, please remember, again, that we all have areas in our life where we are living into the dominant norm, and we all have areas in our life where we are living into a queer norm.  Thus, by recognizing this, there is a solid basis for compassion toward one another and ourselves.  In this sense, we are all in the same boat.  Normal is not normal.  We are all queer.  The seeming paradox of a queer norm is only paradoxical if we don’t recognize that we all experience one or another queer norm.  It’s just a matter of doing the hard work of sorting out our experiences of difference, and truly appreciating that difference, diversity, is as valuable as it is inescapable.  I do not believe that reality is cruel.  There is a beneficence to reality that favors the beneficent.  May we heed this reality and live into it joyfully whoever we may be.  Let the process of self and other discovery continue!