POLITICAL POEM: The Bus of Times, The Worst of Times

His political career
Hung in the balance
Throw a certain number under the bus
Or see bus production drop precipitously

This short poem recognizes a brutal utilitarianism in politics, which is present at most any level.  Using people as means to another end is the Achilles heel of a utilitarian ethic so popular in Western so-called civilization and particularly in its politics. People Before Profits POLITICAL BUTTONThe sacred worth of people, in which human rights are secured, is anathema to the commonplace horse-trading that politicians participate in as business as usual.  Universal respect for human rights would grind the meat and potatoes of politics to a halt, and cripple the usual business interests which are better suited for corporate persons than actual human persons.  A deep appreciation for human rights that are not subject to some currency exchange is at the core of an anarchist radical critique of capitalism or any other large scale human endeavors willing to trade humans for cash or securities.  The economy and economies of scale (meaning large scale efficiency) serve as the gods of modern America, or simply as idols in owed time religion.  The impersonal and distant relationships present in global capitalism provide convenient cover for amoral/immoral behavior, all the wile habitually greasing the wheels of commerce with the lifeblood of humanity.  Money is the Root of All Politics - POLITICAL BUTTONThis disconnect between humanity and economic production is directly related to inhumane politics, as economics and politics both serve as fool for the same engine.  In the bus of times, the worst of times, career politicians can even manage to do miracles, by throwing people under the bus AND opposing public transportation.  Perhaps it’s time to travel another way, recognizing that such politicians don’t behave as if we are in the same boat, and, as a rule, don’t even ride the bus.

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 GLOBALISM Pits Workers Around The World Against Each Other In A Race To The Bottom POLITICAL BUTTONI'd Boycott Everything Wall Street Made, IF They Made Anything POLITICAL BUTTONAnarchism is founded on the observation that since few men are wise enough to rule themselves, even fewer are wise enough to rule others. Edward Abbey quote POLITICAL BUTTON

POEM: Nobodies Prefect

Anarchists know
Nobodies
Prefect
In a dyslexic god eat god whirled
As upside
Down
With community
As right side
Up
With lords of all sorts
Anarchists no
Aiming too pleas
The raven us
Nevermore
All the wile
Poor in the streets
In classless schools
Of life
Taking it awe
Personally

This poem parlays my slight dyslexia in word play with the title, “Nobodies Prefect.”  “Prefect,” posing as a misspelling of perfect, is a government official responsible for a particular political juris diction.  This plays with the truism that prefects and politicians of all types offer an endless series of compromises to our aspiring humanity.  Free Range Human Being - POLITICAL BUTTONThis anarchist poem recognizes that “nobodies” are, in fact, the foundation for all personal and political power in human communities.   Anarchists are masters of their own domain, not making themselves subject to the rule of impersonal institutions and the governors who shield their humanity behind them.  Any power of larger institutions and their elected or unelected governors is derived by the consent of people.  Withdrawing consent from illegitimate governance is the most noted characteristic, albeit stereotypical, of anarchists.  This withdrawal of illegitimate rule gives rise to the archetypal rebellion assigned to anarchism.   Stop Believing In Authority, Start Believing In Each Other POLITICAL BUTTONOf course, the positive ideals of self-governance, voluntary association within smaller scale communities, as well as mutual aid and solidarity, give rise to more organic, thus legitimately human, relationships.  Shifting power toward smaller scale, decentralized, human relationships focused on basic needs alludes to the place from which anarchists view the source of legitimate authority.  By focusing and valuing direct, unmediated human relationships, anarchists show respect for sustainability based upon personal accountability and trust/integrity rather than rule-based accountability and so-called “impartial” enforcement.  Sustainability of human communities are founded upon personal accountability and trust/integrity more so than impersonal institutional structures or inertia.  The quest for larger scale power is inextricably intertwined with choosing impersonal, dead structures over living beings, human and otherwise (corporate “persons” not included).  At larger, impersonal scales, people become more like tools than the awesomely beautiful artisans humans are most truly.  Artists Make Lousy Slaves POLITICAL BUTTONA primary tool for turning people into tools is to socialize people into being subservient to impersonal structures or systems.  Such alleged objectivity is the enemy of subjects, training people to serve things or idealized and impersonal systems.  At least in some sense, anarchism is an anti-ideology ideology, recognizing that any ideology, including anything called anarchism, is a dangerous, deathly substitute for our vibrant and living humanity.  Meeting other humans as humans is the essential nourishment of anarchism.  The starving or weeding out of the inhumane and impersonal serves as its primary tool in its relationship with the inhuman and anti-human.  May we each relish the humanity of each other and refuse to bow to inhuman and impersonal farces posing as a worthy substitute for our humanity.

Anarchism is founded on the observation that since few men are wise enough to rule themselves, even fewer are wise enough to rule others. Edward Abbey quote POLITICAL BUTTONHumanity Has A Bad Case Of 'Just Following Orders' POLITICAL BUTTONHighly evolved people have their own conscience as pure law --Lao Tzu quote POLITICAL BUTTON

Good People Disobey Bad Laws POLITICAL BUTTONIf They Won't Let Us Dream, We Won't Let Them Sleep POLITICAL BUTTONFind 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 BUTTON

I am as desirous of being a good neighbor as I am of being a bad subject -- Henry David Thoreau quote POLITICAL BUTTONLearn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist --Pablo Picasso quote POLITICAL BUTTONThe first step in the evolution of ethics is a sense of solidarity with other human beings -- Albert Schweitzer quote 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 BUTTONThe Mind Of A Slave Asks Is It Legal, The Mind Of A Free Person Asks Is It Right POLITICAL BUTTONBigger Cages, Longer Chains - FUNNY POLITICAL BUTTON

Ignore the Propaganda. Focus on What You See POLITICAL BUTTONIf You Behaved Like Your Government, You'd Be Arrested POLITICAL BUTTONLeft, Right, Take Your Pick (Manacles) - POLITICAL BUTTON

Make Love, Not Money POLITICAL BUTTONAn Economy Where Advertisers Thrive While Journalists And Artists Struggle Reflects A Society Interested In Deception And Manipulation --Jaron Lanier POLITICAL BUTTONDon't Let Schooling Interfere With Your Education --Mark Twain quote POLITICAL BUTTON

The More Real You Get, The More Unreal The World Gets -- John Lennon quote POLITICAL BUTTONWALK Around Like You Own Yourself, It's YOUR Life, Take Control Of It POLITICAL BUTTONParty Line No Party Line--BUTTON

Nothing More Agreeable Than Making Peace With Establishment Nothing More Corrupting--PEACE QUOTE BUTTON

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POEM: Chains of Command

A juggernaut of freedom
He proudly served
As the weakest link
In the chain of command
And above
Awe
Due no harm

This poem juxtaposes the contrasting notions of freedom achieved through tight, even militaristic, ventures versus embodying freedom through default nonviolence and decentralized decision-making.  This is a command and control model versus fostering non-hierarchical and autonomous action.  Free Range Human Being - POLITICAL BUTTONMy experience is that directly practicing freedom and modeling this for others is the best means for manifesting increasing freedom.  Most succinctly put, this is a matter of means and ends — or rather a madder of means and end for the militarist or militant fundamentalist.  Subcontracting out freedom by wholesale consenting to others’ directives strikes me as a fundamental bastardization of freedom, particularly in large militaristic bureaucracies dedicated to the end of freedom — through ever-escalating means.  This is part and parcel to anarchist practice and philosophy.   Anarchists value direct, unmediated experience as both a way to live and learn, in contrast to imputing authority (via consent, and ultimately responsibility) into impersonal human organizations or other impersonal social arrangements.  Humanity is best experienced and served through smaller-scale, personal relationships, where the creative expressions of voluntary association and the personally uplifting experiences of mutual aid flourish.  The most common way people give up power is by thinking they don't have any -- Alice Walker quote POLITICAL BUTTONThe title of this poem, “Chains of command,”  is a pun — a double meaning — directly linking the shackling of freedom to systems of command and control.  Anarchists are renown for their issues with authority.  Less well appreciated is their fundamental critique of large, impersonal ventures which are viewed as the primary threat to our individual and collective humanity.  Anarchists seek to live on what is considered a human scale, which is necessarily smaller-scale — you can only relate personally to a finite number of people — and decentralized in that your set of relationships is an organic, even alive, entity that is guided by free association and mutual aid.  While anarchists are often portrayed as dangerous (perhaps to many forms of social order) and cavalier (perhaps revealing how foreboding freedom can be), there is a certain humility built into the anarchist worldview; there is a profound lack of ambition to control others (and be controlled) through the bulk of social arrangements in modern, so-called civilization.  The hubris necessary for violence is for me the best example.  Now, the brand of anarchist practice that I would ascribe to might be referred to as green anarchism, where violence is not understood to be an integral and necessary part of being human.  So-called black anarchists might view the violence inherent in the present social order as necessitating violent responses.  My view of freedom does not consider violence as necessary to being human, though the choice to be subject to violence as opposed to inflicting it remains a difficult and necessarily challenging one.  Clearly the current world order considers violence as merely the order of the day, a necessity, outside the realm of free choice. The last lines of the poem are a tribute to a pacifist green anarchism, and the deep humility it engenders: And above/Awe/Due no harm.  Of course, this is a take on the Hippocratic Oath: Above all, do no harm.  Plus, the “Due no harm” alludes to the vision of a world where the cycles of violence are broken and there is no longer the cruel divide of victim and perpetrator.  To go full circle, we must cast off the chains of command.  May you find the freedom and courage to pay the cost of boldly adding your beautiful human life to the mix of humanity where fear and misunderstandings and inertial privilege stand in the way of our individual and collective humanity.

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POEM: Love Is Scored

He did
Not necessarily
Believe
In evil
Though he found it
Much easier
To commit
Than endure
And hear in lies
Won lessen
As love is scored

The man who speaks of the enemy is the enemy himself. Bertolt Brecht quote PEACE BUTTONThis poem is a tribute to apologists for evil everywhere.  The lesser of two evils rationalization is perhaps the all-time most popular moral shortcut.  Unfortunately, when evil is embraced, morality is cut loose.  The “necessity” defense is actually an abnegation of moral agency altogether, pretending that no choice exists.  Of course, where there is no choice, there is no morality, or perhaps more conveniently, no immorality.  So much for freedom marching on!  For you can’t have freedom without its twin: responsibility, that bully big brother.  The face of the enemy frightens me only when I see how much it resembles mine. Stanislaw J. Lec quote PEACE BUTTONUltimately, one’s own responsibility is morphed out of existence into an other’s accountability.  He “made me” do it.  As we become an impersonal — and amoral — force for precious accountability, we polish a veneer of morality, all the wile avoiding personal responsibility for our own actions.  Most simply put, we become mirrorly a consequence of evil, our moral agency be dammed! We become an effect of evil rather than a cause for good.  Morality necessarily involves restraint, the project of limiting our choices, hopefully to good choices, among all possible choices.  The key point is that it focuses on self-restraint, not other-restraint.  It's hard to fight an enemy who has outposts in your head. Sally Kempton quote PEACE BUTTONThis shift of focus on accountability of others, presumably punishing evil, is classical psychological projection of one’s own shadow, dark side, evil onto an other.  No doubt, evil happens.  No doubt, evil costs dearly.  Projecting all responsibility onto others serves the convenient purpose of shifting the cost away from our own costly choices.  No doubt, morality is costly — just as evil is.  Enduring these costs is the stuff of a moral life.  This is the price of true freedom.  Evil runs over the good for evil ends, for its own sake.  Good revels in the good for its own sake, and somewhat paradoxically, lifts up, invites true freedom for others’ sake as well   If No Enemy Within Enemy Without Cannot Harm--PEACE QUOTE BUTTONHalf of the moral life is the willingness to live into what we know to be good.  Half of the moral life is enduring the inescapable effects of evil, what we no to be evil.  Only God knows the half-life of evil.  While it may be a truism that we do not get out of this life alive, we can live more than a half-life.  May you live fully!  Moral choices may be unclear.  Moral choices may be extraordinarily difficult.  Still, moral choices are always a choice.  To deny this is the paltry heights of amorality and a brutal equivalency of evil with good.

May you find wide-open love stronger than shadowy hate in your life.

Who is a hero? He who turns his enemy into a friend. The Talmud quote PEACE BUTTONTransforming hatred of the enemy into compassion lies at the core of all religions. Sister Helen Prejean quote PEACE BUTTONOur enemies opinion of us comes closer to the truth than our own. Francois La Rochefoucauld quote PEACE BUTTONPEACE QUOTE: Met Enemy He Is Us PEACE SIGN BUTTONIn the practice of tolerance, one's enemy is the best teacher. Dalai Lama quote PEACE BUTTON

POEM: Zombie Apocalypse — Carry On

In habiting
That thin lyin’
Between living and undead
Pray and prey
Plodding for survival so chaste
Eerie reverence
For awe virtually unmoving
They’ve got
You’re numb-er
Too many to re-pulse
To take account of
De-sending from cubicles and proto-calls
Contracting art and sole
As-certain
As a ballad to ahead
Or souled heart for a song
Forging for a meal ticket
Having mist
The notice
Of the zombie apocalypse
Having all ready past buy
As things sow sterilized
And humanity’s fate sown up
In arms and sordid extremities
Have eaten
Half alive
Only too whither the storm
The moot in one’s eye
Of learned haplessness
And ever abating brains
Until getting the best of you
As present itself
As in genius solution
The just
Walk away
Hope realized as traveling light
And renouncing
Carrion

If a zombie apocalypse poem is particularly relevant for you on a Monday, then you may be suffering the blurring of your existence as living or undead.  The popularity of zombies in current culture strikes me as an apropos metaphor for the deep and abiding alienation present in much of everyday life.  Alienation is endemic in multiple spheres: alienation from our own humanity by being submersed in artificial and virtual realities; alienation from others by having life mediated by impersonal institutions and technologies; and alienation from nature and the natural world by working in cubicles, living in self-contained boxes, and traveling in mobile cages of steel, plastic, and rubber over rivers of petroleum byproducts.  Zombies seem to be the incarnation of our collective ennui and existential angst over our preternatural penchant for mistaking motion for progress and our banal disability in distinguishing between any vital life force and inanimate matter.  The titillating trepidation of slow, barely animated monsters overtaking us in our hurried existence gives freakish flesh to our fears.  The undead have some surreal power to overtake the caffeinated, if not sublimely discerning, protagonist humans slash food.  Their sheer number or inexplicable relentless hunger — fed by their will to unlive? — overwhelms any resort to our keen or ken.  We fatally mistake our presents as mere fuel or fodder saying chow to our humanity.   This helpless and hapless existence is, in fact, the fantasy, a projection of our fears, that inanimate forces haplessly set in motion are the ultimate arbiters of the human sphere.  Without resort to stale arguments about free will, human freedom and the like, I will only say that if the posers of zombie powers that be come to my door, I intend to say “Eat me!”

Carry on.

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: Slow Mo’ Bettor Blues

Is it awe
A gambol
Sometimes you git
Their faster
In slow motion
More rarefied
Then a tortoise and its hair
Relegated to children
Of God
Knowing nothing
In the phase of fabled
Head weigh
Breeding like
Rabbits
Countering undeniable cullings
Sow cruel
Hour nature spurning perpetuity
As if
Life is
Allegory mess
And too the victors
Come the spoileds
Certifiable
That the hole
Whirled
Plodding against them
Wading for ascendancy
As not see
Wee are just
Critters in the for us
Peering as equals
On the wrong aside
Of hasty formulas
And breakneck algorithms
As mirrorly xenophobic creeps
Seeing what
Formerly cannot be
Seeing
And hearing what
In the passed
Was beyond what was winced imagined
And in deed
Awe
The more
As silence speaks
Volumes
To those slow enough
To listen

This poem is an ode to the adage that sometimes you get there faster in slow motion.  It is a sad lot who careen through life hanging on to the notion that you succeed by getting there faster than the next guy — and yes, it’s usually a guy.  As Gandhi so aptly noted, “There is more to life than increasing its speed.”

Speed is close kin to efficiency, that typically impersonal and depersonalizing practice that produces alienation with grate efficiency.  Modern, capitalistic, consumer culture cons us into trading manufactured goods for the perennial goods understood and revered by most cultures through most of human history.  Xenophobic nationalism icons us into perpetual war.  You can’t buy authentic, healthy human relationships.  Alienation from our own human nature and one another arise from buying the better part of employees lives and buying off minions and masses to bolster won’s usurious interests.  Earning friendship and offering radical hospitality to all has little kin to urning enemies and sending radicals to the hospital.

Overrunning natural boundaries is almost the definition of modern civilization.  There are natural processes that can only be ignored at one’s own peril.  Things take time.  If we don’t take time, then things will take us.  Buy weigh of example, baking a loaf of bread or growing a seedling takes a certain amount of time and follows a distinct order.  Baking a loaf of bread by only letting it rise half the time or baking it at twice the temperature does not result in either a speedier or even satisfactory outcome.  The final state of a seedling is more related to the nature of the seed than even the earth in which it is planted.  A seed may die prematurely, but a tomato seed will never grow into a rose bush.  Western civilization seems in deep denial about a natural pace of human life or a prudent ordering of manufactured goods over perennial goods.  SLAVERY Is The Legal Fiction That A Person Is Property - CORPORATE PERSONHOOD Is The Legal Fiction That Property Is A Person POLITICAL BUTTONPerhaps the most illustrious example of this is our equating, or even favoring, corporate persons over actual human persons.  When things are of equal or greater importance than people then the sphere of human life will be locked into the equivalent of a flat earthers worldview, or worse yet, relegated to subterranean living, with social sanctions for humanity raising its beautiful head.

Deeply listening and keenly observing are hallmarks of both the material sciences and the spiritual sciences.  Such noble ventures, discovering truths about the natural world and human nature, take both time as well as respect for the guidance of the accumulated wisdom of the ages.  Silence itself is considered by many as the language of God, reality experienced directly and unmediated by the handicaps of human language.  Words will always fail to completely embody such experience.  Material sciences have the advantage of studying a sum-what less-elusive “dead” world of things and impersonal (objective) forces.  Spiritual sciences aren’t sow lucky, tempting to elucidate the nature of humans (subjective) and even more daring to mumble of God (Subjective, with a capital S), that most precarious of places, where awe may be said and knot holy done.

May you find a pace of life that gives you a supple foundation for participating fully in the perennial goods of humanity and the awesome world in which we live.

This poem’s title includes a reference to mo’ better, a slang term for making passionate love to the point of exhaustion with someone who wants you as badly as you want them.  Of course, the better is transformed to the pun bettor to allude to the precarious reality that passionate love for another person, a loving creation, or loving God, will entail risks that the risk managers will most certainly recommend that you manage.  Perhaps the only mortal sin in postmodern existence is to be out of control — as if we are in control of much anyway!  Are you willing to bet on the seductiveness and elusiveness of love, to live a life beyond others’ sensibility of control?

May you find loving passions that spill out uncontrollably over the whole world.  And as in any great lovemaking, may it be long and slow…

POEM: A Whole In The Wall

The man
Reproached
With muscles taut
Just as I stood up
With a plank beyond question
A clear-cut match
To the breach in the wall
As an unwanted chink in won’s wooden amor
As if adore rendering useless
In efface of stock aid
An other bull work
Only offering
Stiff generosity
To mortals unlike
As can and able
Mirrorly as allot of frat aside
Thinking knot necessarily evil
Doing the best they clan
As the beam in his I gleaned
He commanded
In some grate atone
For his manly timber back
Or he would forest me into much the sane stand
Or abettor yet a fence of steal
As he was
The executer of my state
And equity would be his
Bye this time I had already gotten board
Having lumbered away
And considered the whole madder
As water under the bridge
That I was building
From a hole in the wall

This poem tells the story of someone taking a wooden plank from a barricade. At first glance, this may appear to be a destructive act. Yet, this singular action links two positive enterprises: creating a hole in a wall that divides and transforming that barrier into a bridge. The threat of “The man,” doubtless backed up by a passel of formal authority and police powers, is rendered irrelevant by the more nimble plank-gleaner and bridge-builder. Could this be a tale of anarchism wagging the dog that is state rule?

This poem also gives a tip of the hat to “The wall,” which has gained iconic status with the Pink Floyd album of the same name. Here is a sampling of lyrics from that iconic album:

All alone, or in two’s,
The ones who really love you
Walk up and down outside the wall.
Some hand in hand
And some gathered together in bands.
The bleeding hearts and artists
Make their stand.

And when they’ve given you their all
Some stagger and fall, after all it’s not easy
Banging your heart against some mad bugger’s wall.

Banging your heart against the impersonal apparatuses of the powers that be may seem feudal to sum, yet this may be the most humane response-ability given the alternative of simply being banged by an unjust status quo — and banged in places not limited to the heart.

May you in great generosity take advantage of too for one specials that make for a world where one side fits all.

POEM: Attorney General Edwin Meese III

I know of a man I never met
A foe of mine, I can only bet
A very close impersonal friend
To my unknown needs he’s supposed to tend
To rehabilitate me from what to what
Maybe he’s a pure-bred and I’m only a mutt
We make quite a pair
‘cept it’s me in the pound
Yet he’s always around
A thousand miles away
Yet I can hear his voice
“If charged you are guilty”
“If hungry it’s your choice”

I wrote this poem in 1987 while imprisoned for my epic failure to register for the military draft.  Below is a copy of the actual handwritten poem.  I had the original taped on my office wall near my desk for years.

Draft registration was reinstated by President Jimmy Carter as a response to the Russians invading Afghanistan.  Seems to me that invading Afghanistan would have been punishment enough.  We had the opportunity to learn such as lesson later — or not.  President Ronald Reagan, after breaking a campaign promise to abolish draft registration, continued it.  I was in the first batch of young men subject to this new law in 1980.  I spent the entire decade sparring with the world’s greatest military superpower, with a couple of years of probation and community service ending in 1989 — like I need the federal government to sentence me to community service!  Out of the millions of young men in violation of this Military Selective Service Act, less than a dozen were convicted of such flagrancy; all were public in their opposition.  Seems pretty pathetic for a so-called superpower.  I didn’t learn my lessen.

I feel no need for vindication, but I do feel like I have now lived through a full cycle of history, and history is on my side, if you believe in sides, that is.  While assuring my incarceration to make sure that I wasn’t around to not defend our homeland, the U.S. was training and equipping their version of freedom fighters, the likes of Osama bin Laden and the lesser known Frank N. Stein.

This poem is about President Ronald Reagan’s Attorney General, Edwin Meese III.  Though there was a lot of competition, Ed Meese was only clearly beat out as the most pathetic administration crony by James Watt, Secretary of the Department of Interior, which Mr. Watt, in his signature suicidal hatred of government, wanted to abolish; though it’s still not entirely clear whether it was the department or the environment he wanted to destroy.  Ed Meese was infamous for the two sayings recounted in the last two lines of my poem.  In an astounding disavowal of the U.S. Constitution, Mr. Meese, claimed that most suspects can be rightly assumed to be guilty.  Well, it’s not like he was the overseer of federal and constitutional law — sheesh!  The other statement, out of the jurisdiction of even his ignorance, was that if people are  hungry in America, it’s their choice.  When I heard this, I could have swore that his little round belly shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly.  Well, OK, it wasn’t his belly full of jelly.

I’ve made my choice, and 28 years later I’m still hungry for justice…

Attorney General Ed Meese III POEM

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: God Gets a Bad Wrap

God gets a bad wrap
As do men
Gloom
Over
Rite and wrong
Babies borne of bathwater
Throne buy themselves
Like clay
Giving rise
To the pitter potter of little feats
And inconceivable images
Speaking out laud
In a class by themselves
Bastards won and all
In celestial relationships
With awe thumbs up
Too given the slip
Sow fatefully fired
Knot from above
Hardened arts of ode
And stone code making cooler heads
Commandments all deca-ed out
Can you digit
For what remains
Won in the mettle
No’ing only gods enflesh
And bones picking
Wons fecund knows
As dead pan humors
And how to think themselves
Outside the box
And portending wake
Only breaking
That awkward silence
And bound curiosity
Ex-splaying stuff
A coffin in drag
Employed in the coroner office
As doody-full janitors
So disposed
In a sweeping universe
Taken out
Behind the would should
Wile hearts still
Beating
Out standing in there feeled
Straw men ghostly flailing
Which came first
The bunny or the egg?
An ironic inquisition
Unable to eat crow
So far a field
Full of crop
Making hay
Of men
Which can’t be bailed
As so determined
Only Abel to must-er
Barren stock aid
A vestigial humanity
Remains incalculable
Even as calculating
Blinded by the blight
Reckoning slight unseen
Nothing sound to be hold
No peeps to be herd
In this objective a praise
Un-re-lie-able reports
Of being touched
During wholly observances
Untraceable soles
Save those who follow
A fare hearing too steep
Know inviting savor to a t
Angles abandoning
No read scent to be found
Not to be
Incensed by fragrant violations of logic
Having bin burned before
And thinking it novel
Sticking to non-friction
Yet a tribute to nothing a tract
Easily excepting gravity
And perhaps animal magnetism
In a random house
A glorious reproduction
Fit to survive
In terminable halls of tomes
Covering smiles from end to end
Atlas, holding the whirled
And shrugging
As passé
Ages of old
Quipped with a thesaurus
In countering the unspeakable
Super seeding doubt
Calling out
Awe hail
Too the faithful
As libel to slander
Of rites unridden
And xenophobic farces
Poorly versed
Caricatures
With drawing
From think wells
Drying too hard
Distasteful to unknown palettes
A vapid likeness
Running lapse
Around good taste
For bitter or worse
Never winning
The grace
Unfounded
Even though profits speaking
Assure us
From the freely given
We make the most sense
Only from blessed assumption
Are we
Infer the right of our life
Or in ability
To take our hunch back
And so stoop id
Egos on and on
Un-till
We are
Super
With unassuming cape-ability
There is all ways won more
Last sup pose
Surrounded by friends
Or enemies
So tight
God sheds tears
In a wrap so taut
A hide sew made
Pelted by the dead
The cruelest of stoles
Witnessed ever
Only
Escaping such a cloak
From beyond assent
As leapers never heeled
By any crowning bluff
Transcending any convictions
Illiciting something knew
Surpassing the bounds of a head
A risqué gambol
When all that you are
Goes for bust
Never able to hold its own
In the public square
Spilling the truth
On all who will here
Should their eyes beam
And motes be crossed
To take a hike to knew places
Where nothing will be left
Wanting more
Even when full
Groan

This poem is a long elaboration of a familiar theme of mine: the transcendent bigness of God and the cramped quarters built by man’s hubris.  The poles of this theme are occupied by scientifically unverifiable but glorious experience of life and the denial of God, often on the grounds that any mental packaging of God is necessarily inadequate, a too messy foundation for some.  The mystical reality that no description of God can do God justice is fodder for both believers and skeptics.  Those anywhere on the spectrum from belief/openness to skepticism/denial are doomed to at least some measure of failure trying to give God any wrap in human terms.  Believing in an open-ended God that cannot be put in a box strikes me as a rather predictable characteristic of the creator of life — life being a dynamic and messy endeavor.  To continue maturation beyond a certain point as a human, belief is necessary — necessarily messy.  Those who are agnostic strike me as trying to avoid confronting this juncture between the transcendent and the mundane.  I think this can leave one developmentally disabled or delayed.  Deniers strike me as having more hubris than tenuous believers because they must assert certainty to disqualify the question as a legitimate question.  Of course, the is a seductive simplicity to addressing the nature of transcendence by simply saying it doesn’t exist.  But, like Einstein said, “Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

Disagreements about God probably have little meaning as an abstract intellectual argument.  God is definitely too big to fit in your head!  Our conceptions related to the God question are ultimately questions of power.  There seems to be a universal tendency in humans to not be lorded over by others.  This part of our nature can serve both skepticism and belief.  Questioning authority is a natural process when ultimate authority is open-ended and messy.  Belief in such a higher power, one that doesn’t want submission but rather co-creative participation, frees us rather than enslaves us.  Reality is bigger than our self.  In at least one inescapable sense, we’ve gotta serve somebody or something (for those more comfortable with the impersonal).  Bob Dylan captured this sense well in his song, Gotta Serve Somebody:

You may be an ambassador to England or France
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You might be a rock ’n’ roll addict prancing on the stage
You might have drugs at your command, women in a cage
You may be a businessman or some high-degree thief
They may call you Doctor or they may call you Chief

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You may be a state trooper, you might be a young Turk
You may be the head of some big TV network
You may be rich or poor, you may be blind or lame
You may be living in another country under another name

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You may be a construction worker working on a home
You may be living in a mansion or you might live in a dome
You might own guns and you might even own tanks
You might be somebody’s landlord, you might even own banks

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride
You may be a city councilman taking bribes on the side
You may be workin’ in a barbershop, you may know how to cut hair
You may be somebody’s mistress, may be somebody’s heir

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

Might like to wear cotton, might like to wear silk
Might like to drink whiskey, might like to drink milk
You might like to eat caviar, you might like to eat bread
You may be sleeping on the floor, sleeping in a king-sized bed

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You may call me Terry, you may call me Timmy
You may call me Bobby, you may call me Zimmy
You may call me R.J., you may call me Ray
You may call me anything but no matter what you say

You’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

In life, as in tennis, even before the first serve, there is never zero, only love.  It is only our need to score points that obscures this primal reality.

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: Trust is the Glue

Trust is the glue
Sticking me to you
The favored few
The spoils of many
Consume mating
The fool
Faith and credit
Of US
Divining
Kindly mirror
Or unwelcome truth
A confidence game
And quiet passably
Escaped convictions
Sow what
Is the catch
Having been borne
Into a flimsy throng
With shortcomings taut
Exposed arrears
And know weigh out
From what hangs in the balance
And scaling up intimates dread
Both
Give and take
Be for you
A present
A forward looking gift
Offering as such
Promise
Seasons swimmingly
A rested development
And good grief
Those early mournings
In one’s out look
As prodigal hearts aplomb
And despite awe
One knows
Turning out
To be
Better than goaled
And silver locks fall away
Any hitch
A mere trailer of coming attractions
The untangled web weave
And too the our
Looming cleave

Trust is the real currency of human relationships and civilization.  True community can only be built upon trust.  We are born vulnerable, and vulnerability remains at the center of human intimacy throughout life.  Authentic human intimacy can only be achieved through vulnerability.  Exploring our vulnerability with others, and sharing our burdens of vulnerability with others, is a necessary process for building trust.  If we put ourselves out there and we are accepted and embraced, the space where we can truly be ourselves and truly learn about others grows wider and deeper.  This knowledge and experience of ourselves and others is essential for reaching our full human potential.  In its most simplest terms, we need others to be fully human.  Trust is an invitation to trust.  If another reciprocates that trust, then trust grows.  If another shuts us down or hurts us, then trust stagnates or recedes.  Similarly, mistrust becomes an invitation to mistrust.

We have all experienced rejection and hurt, and many have experienced outright trauma.  These facts of human existence provide the baseline for how much trust we might expect at any given time.  However, building trust or healing from mistrust can only occur by inviting others to trust, which requires a vulnerability from anyone inviting another to grow trust.  These are the true heroes of human community, not those who “make” things happen (the purview of force).

Without trust we devolve into isolation and fear.  Individualism can only be maintained by increasing control over others whom we do not trust and consider threatening.  This does not play well with the people sought to be controlled.  This is the most fundamental division in forming, maintaining, and building human community.  There may be a nominal alignment of interests within social classes to secure common goals, but these interests will remain forever in tension and at risk of erosion if the primary driver is individual security.  The perpetual warring of competing interests, and continual realigning of interest groups, is an inescapable result of an unwillingness or inability to share vulnerabilities with other people, to invite mutual trust.

Further, the drive to control others emanates directly from a subjugation of the common good to our own perceived good.  Whether conscious or unconscious, this drive is based on the calculation or assumption that, as an individual, one can fare better by competition against rather than cooperation with others.  While this may be true in limited contexts and time-frames, such competition and subjugation erodes the potential for human progress or evolution at any given moment.  There are many things that a trusting community, of two or more people, can build than an individual, no matter how much force they can apply to others to control others according to their own will.  If you have any doubt about the benefits of trust, consider the simple advantages of unlocked doors versus locked doors.  A fortress mentality, built on mistrust, is costly both physically and psychologically.  Of course, physical security for one’s person and property is perhaps the crudest manifestation of trust’s benefits.  At the heart of trusting relationships is self-discovery in the safety of accepting and loving others, and deep knowledge of others; both of which vastly improve our functioning in the human world in realistic and effective ways.

Since community builds from a growing trust in others, it is not surprising that families and close personal relationships are the building blocks of community.  Even the trust of institutions near and far is powerfully mediated by our personal experiences and from the example, character, and opinions of those whom we trust, those closest to us.  For this reason alone, building community is a bottom-up enterprise.

You can’t legislate trust.  Trust is synonymous with authority, not power to coerce but that which we believe has a legitimate claim upon us.  Institutions seem to have a life of their own, a self-replicating or self-perpetuating nature.  However, human institutions are dependent on humans.  Any authority that an institution has is derived somewhere down the line from the “street cred,” the level of trustworthiness of that humans associated with that institution.  Institutions are comprised of a set of humans associated with it, and a set of impersonal “corporate” relationships that govern its behavior.  The consent and trust of humans determines the legitimate authority of institutions (as opposed to simply force), not the other way around.

At the nexus of the personal relationships of humans and the impersonal corporate relationships of an institution, is the next level of human community where trust and mistrust manifest themselves.  Institutions guided by trust are mere tools, a technology to be used, by humans, to achieve some common good.  They act in accord with the will of the people associated with it, and demonstrate authority in as much as it behaves in ways with legitimate claims to creating common goods.   Institutions guided by mistrust are those plagued by humans who value the tool more than the people it was designed to serve.  Such human plague trusts tools, things, more than people.

The difference is between humans using a tool or the tool using humans.  Of course, the tool does not have a life of its own, but its character is derived from the humans associated with it.   Used appropriately, institutions serve as a tool to magnify the common good, and they both deserve and build trust.  Used inappropriately, institutions are weaponized by some to control others, magnifying the invitation to mistrust, and degrading community.  This weaponization of institutions hinges on a mistrust that chooses valuing “things” over people, in a quest for individual security.  In essence, such institutional abuse is a form of dehumanization, reducing people (and their institutions) to things simply to be used for one’s own advantage.  This tension or outright conflict within institutions greatly magnifies the dividing line between people and things.  While institutions can leverage the common good, I suspect that the ease of hijacking institutions compared to the great effort required to build healthy institutions does not bode well for the total net benefit of large institutions in human life and community.  Large institutions with their relative ease of weaponization sets up access to perhaps the greatest area of power differentials in human society.  Perhaps the best basis for securing human equality is minimizing large institutions which can magnify power differentials between people.

I suspect that widespread trust is much more efficient and effective than the widespread large institutions, the hallmark of Western civilization, at bringing about healthy, happy, and free human communities.  The fulcrum between trust and mistrust is compassion, or love.  Without compassion toward ourselves and others regarding our vulnerabilities and imperfections, we will forever fall short of being whole human beings, who can only be made whole in community.  Compassion builds trust and can banish fear.  I am hopeful that the experience of authentic, healthy community is more powerful and attractive than fearful isolation and individualism.  May it be so…

POEM: Impartiality

Judge Stamper was renown
For his impartiality
Still thinking
Nothing of
Preferring
Stepping on others
Rather than being stepped upon
A justice so becoming
A courting to a void
Deputizing peons
Siding with minute ordnances
Backed up by deferential canons
Allege paper-thin
Untoward the tramped
His honor
Like a frozen statute
Without peers
A connoisseur of contrived generosity
More accustomed to threat than promise
Of a gavel from above
An arbiter of grievances
A master of small sells
To captive audiences
Gleaning threadbare
Take away messages
A requiem of dis interest
Overseers in black dress
Annunciating your last rights
Offering little chance of success
Unless over
A game of squash

This poem is a reflection on the criminal justice system, which is sometimes criminal.  The alleged impartiality is a convenient notion for those doing the judging.  Though if you look impartially at the effects of such a criminal justice system, you’d be hard pressed to say it is fair.  The poor are the most likely to experience injustice at the hands of the criminal justice system.  The same is true for people of color.  The rich are the most likely to have the criminal justice system protect them, or punish their opponents.  One only need look at who is in prison to see that prejudice is rampant, though noting who isn’t in prison surely cements the case.  White collar criminals are much less likely than “common” criminals to be convicted.  Also, if convicted, they receive much less punishment relative to the harm to society.

Well engineered legalisms often bear little resemblance to the truth.  Biases are institutionalized, blind to the injustice they create.  The veneer of objectivity helps shield unconscionable acts from their true effects.  Innocent until proven guilty is often reduced to he’s probably guilty if he was convicted.  This sad state of affairs seems to fit under the moniker of the banality of evil.  In an impersonal system, where human judgment is minimized and legalisms rule, personal responsibility is easily avoided.  The most palpable confrontation with this reality was during the Nuremberg Trials, following the horrors of Nazi Germany in World War II, which gave rise to a famous principle: It is not an acceptable excuse to say “I was just following my superior’s orders.”

The banality of evil is not limited to war crimes, nor international crimes.  The shifting of personal responsibility to an impersonal system is endemic in modern Western civilization.  This is an everyday experience for many, if not most, people.  Such experiences usually take one of the many forms of “I am just following the rules.” The real question should be: “Am I just, following the rules?”

SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER: A Christian Perspective on Justice

Here is a portion of a document that I drafted a couple of years ago while I was a board member of Toledo Area Ministries (TAM).  It was never adopted in any form, but I put a lot of work into, so I wanted to make this work available to others. If you are interested in a Christian perspective on justice, try this one on for size:

Speaking Truth to Power

Power, Truth, Accountability, and Politics

What is Power?

All power and glory is God’s.  Power originates in God’s sovereignty.  From God’s sovereignty, comes TAM’s core value of the Church as “the most powerful certainty on the planet.”  God will work God’s will in God’s own way:

“My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord.

‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

 We are called to exercise power responsibly, and not lord over one another:

“You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant.  And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45)

“But Gideon told them, ‘I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you.  The LORD will rule over you.’” (Judges 8:23)

Whatever power we possess is a gift from God.  However, with power comes the temptation to use it for our own purposes instead of God’s purposes.

Responsibility and accountability are proportional to the amount of power possessed:

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38)

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48b)

Power and power differentials are an inescapable fact of human life.  Power and power differentials exist within families.  Power and power differentials exist within community and governmental organizations.  Power and power differentials exist within faith communities.  Power and power differentials exist between nations.  Power and power differentials exist between all of these.  In fact, power and power differentials exist within any form of community.

The engagement of political powers transcends individual people:

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12, King James 21st Century Version)

God in Christ, shares power and authority with us through authentic community:

“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.  For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:19-20)

Truth and Accountability

Injustice is rooted in evading accountability to God and one another.  “What is truth?” (John 18:38)  This rhetorical question as posed by Pilate to Jesus is the classical evasion of accountability made by the “powers that be.”  Of course, this evasiveness is not restricted to powerful political leaders.  Cain, while his brother’s blood cries to God from the ground, attempts to evade God’s accountability by saying, “I don’t know…Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9-10).  Nor is evasiveness of accountability restricted to murderers.  An expert in religious law, in testing Jesus, himself confirmed that loving your neighbor as one’s self is necessary to inherit eternal life: “But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ ” (Luke 10:29). Of course, this leads to the parable of the good Samaritan, where the hated enemy is judged righteous because he took effort and risk to help one in need.

“Distracting and conquering” is the conventional first line of defense in evading accountability.  What these three Biblical accounts have in common, besides a big dose of simple denial, are questions implying doubt that the truth can ascertained.  In attempts to deflect accountability, we have all encountered many versions of, “I don’t know.  Who can really say?  It’s all so complicated.” or “This is so important that we should study it (to no end).”  The key problem this raises when dealing with power differentials, is that this takes the “powers that be” off the hook, so they can maintain their power without being called into accountability, and injustice can reign.

“Distracting and conquering” results from being trapped within a misunderstanding of Truth.  As already noted, the evasive “What is truth?” question by Pilate was used to evade accountability to the Truth incarnate right in front of him.  The assumption implied in this question is rooted in the belief that ultimate truth cannot be determined by objectively studying all the facts in the world — which is a fact, though not the truth.  Believing this state of affairs to be the ultimate truth is relativism.  Unfortunately, relativism is only half of the dualistic confusion called materialism, brought about by worshipping creation rather than the Creator.  In fact, many secularists believe that you can determine ultimate truth from the many facts of the scientific world.  This form of idolatry employs the vain hope that if we only look at all the facts, Truth will be determined.  This is the conundrum of modern science without God.  In fact, secularists inevitably must vacillate between these two facets of materialism simply because each is inadequate to answer life’s deepest and most important questions.  Not surprisingly, when this confused world view can’t bring peace, violence is employed.  Ironically, this conundrum leads to both Pilate’s “tolerance” of Jesus and the brutal Pax Romana he ruled within.

The living God offers a way out of the dualistic confusion of materialism:

“For the word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

and Jesus’ words eliciting Pilate’s evasion: “In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth.  Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” (John 18:37)

“Make sure no one captures you. They will try to capture you by using false reasoning that has no meaning. Their ideas depend on human teachings. They also depend on the basic things the people of this world believe. They don’t depend on Christ.”  (Colossians 2:8, NIV Reader’s Version)

“Objectively” studying all the facts from all of the different views of the world cannot reveal the One Subject, the great “I am.”  There is more than Nature, the created world.  There is a Creator.  God reveals truth to us through the Holy Spirit, the person of Jesus Christ, Scripture, the traditions of the Church, and peoples’ experiences.  Reason confirms these means of grace, but cannot access life’s deepest truths alone.  Conventional wisdom is not enough:

“For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.  Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” (1 Corinthians 1:21-25)

The living God offers a way to out of life taking a beating with a “dead” philosophy where “the powers that be” can “manage” avoiding accountability to their unjust benefit.  The living God offers a way beyond the false neutrality of the secular world which declares God’s Lordship over all as off-limits, or irrelevant at best.

Of course, being made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27), humans have an innate conscience, inescapable sense of morality, and desire to have a relationship with God.  So, distracting and conquering will eventually reach its limits.

“Dividing and conquering” is the next line of defense in politics in evading accountability. 

When the “powers that be” cannot quell or manage the moral demands made upon them, they turn to what they know best: self-interests.  Welcome to the world of “divide and conquer.”  When you can’t “distract and conquer,” pit the self-interests of individuals and groups against one another.  Again, this serves the purpose of reinforcing and maintaining the status quo and the power differentials enjoyed by the “powers that be.”

Pilate’s moral reasoning was reduced to managing self-interests [“…he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.  But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover.  Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?” (John 18:38-39)].  Pacifying constituent interests to meet one’s own interests falls far short of accountability to God and one another.  Beyond Pilate’s ill-equipped moral reasoning, Cain and the expert in religious law sought to evade accountability to “my brother” or “my neighbor” by questioning the great commandments to love God and the second, like unto the first, love your neighbor as yourself, from which all the Law and the Prophets hang (Matthew 22:37-40).  Beyond obvious self-interest which short-circuits right relationships, in the end, we can no more focus on just our neighbor — to the exclusion of God — than we can focus only on God –to the exclusion of our neighbor.  Neighbor without God results in secular interest-based politics, an endless clashing of unfulfilled interests. God without neighbor results in a vain search for piety unsullied by engagement of worldly politics and transforming “the powers that be.”  

Injustice ultimately rests on violence, the end result of worldly politics, relying on simply conquering when other more “civilized” means fail.

Eventually, God’s justice must be confronted, and violence remains the only option left to maintain or force injustice upon others. This can take brazen forms such as the Roman Empire crucifying Jesus or waging war.  Though simply conquering often takes less brutish forms such as power grabs and punishing of political enemies. 

What is Politics?

Speaking truth to power deals with politics.

The Mirriam-Webster dictionary defines “politics” as:

1) the art or science concerned with guiding or influencing governmental policy;

2) competition between competing interest groups or individuals for power and leadership; and

3) the total complex of relations between people living in society.

The first definition is “Politics with a capital P.”  The second and third definitions are “politics with a small p.”

God, as the Lord of all, is also the Lord of politics, of all varieties.  This includes legislative and policy issues.  This includes advocacy with community groups, including churches.  Ultimately, this is about how we work out our common life together as God’s children.

Our primary concern is where power differentials exist and the potential for “Lording over” one another is greatest.

Worldly Politics versus Jesus’ Politics

The “Powers that be” and Domination

The “powers that be” has been the subject of study of Walter Wink, Professor of Biblical Interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary, and author of a seminal trilogy of books addressing the issues of power.  Dr. Wink defines the “powers” as “the impersonal spiritual realities at the center of institutional life” (Wink, p. 28), “… the ‘corporate personality’ or ethos of an institution or epoch…” (Wink, p. 27), and “… the soul of systems…” (Wink, p. 29).  As such, the powers are not necessarily evil.  This “ethos” or “soul” of an institution, system, nation or epoch can move us positively or negatively.  It can motivate us to extraordinary unselfishness and service for good or it can be manipulated in the service of evil.   The powers are at the same time good, fallen, and redeemable.  In viewing an institution only as good blinds us to injustice and we reinforce an unjust status quo.  In viewing an institution only as fallen sinks us into despair or rage where we see no hope for change.  In viewing only an institution’s redeemability we end up just tinkering around the edges.  In any institution, we need awareness of its goodness, fallenness and redeemability to discern effective steps towards change.

In working for justice, we often confront the powers as one of the many “-isms,” such as racism, sexism, materialism, consumerism, militarism, nationalism, or patriotism.  As Dr. Wink puts it, “This overarching network of Powers is what we are calling the Domination System.  It is characterized by unjust economic relations, oppressive political relations, biased race relations, patriarchal gender relations, hierarchical power relations, and the use of violence to maintain them all…from the ancient Near Eastern states to the Pax Romana to feudal Europe to communist state capitalism to modern market capitalism” (Wink, p. 39).

from When the Powers Fall: Reconciliation in the Healing of Nations by Walter Wink (Fortress Press, 1998):

Wink points out that a world-wide system of domination is the problem, not just occasional expressions of it, like Rome in Jesus’ time:

“Jesus’ message has traditionally been treated as timeless, eternal, contextless teaching proclaimed in a sociopolitical vacuum, but his teaching and deeds are directed at a specific context: the Domination System.  Jesus’ message is a context-specific remedy for the evils of domination.  God is not simply attempting to rescue individuals from their sufferings at the hands of an unjust system, but to transform the system so as to make and keep human life more human.”

Wink contrasts Godly versus worldly values:

“Jesus does not condemn ambition or aspiration; he merely changes the values to which they are attached: ‘Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.’  He does not reject power, but only its use to dominate others. He does not reject greatness, but finds it in identification and solidarity with the needy at the bottom of society (Matt. 5:3-12/Luke 6:20-23).  He does not renounce heroism, but expresses it by repudiating the powers of death and confronting the entrenched might of the authorities, unarmed.”  Jesus’ words and deeds “repudiate the very premises on which domination is based: the right of some to lord it over others by means of power, wealth, shaming, or titles.”

Wink notes Jesus’ pivotal call to end economic exploitation and nonviolently overthrow evil:

“Economic inequalities are the basis of domination.  Domination hierarchies, ranking, and classism are all built on power provided by accumulated wealth.  Thus Jesus’ gospel is founded on economic justice.  Breaking with domination means ending the economic exploitation of the many by the few.  His followers were to begin living now ‘as if’ the new order had already come, seeking first God’s reign and God’s justice.  It is not described as coming from on high down to earth; it rises quietly and imperceptibly out of the land.  It is established, not by aristocrats and military might, but by ineluctable process of growth from below, among the common people…An egalitarian society presupposes nonviolence, for violence is the way some are able to deprive others of what is justly theirs. Inequality can only be maintained by violence. The root of violence, moreover, is domination. Turning the other cheek to a ‘superior’ who has backhanded an ‘inferior’ is an act of defiance, not submission; stripping naked when a creditor demands one’s outer garment brings down shame on the head of the creditor causing the poor debtor’s nakedness; carrying a soldier’s pack a second mile would put him in violation of military law (Matt. 5:39-41). These acts do not at all mean acquiescing passively to evil, but are studied and deliberate ways of seizing the initiative and overthrowing evil by the force of its own momentum.”

DOMINATION AND THE CHURCH. “The failure of churches to continue Jesus’ struggle to overcome domination is one of the most damning apostasies in its history. With some thrilling exceptions, the churches of the world have never yet decided that domination is wrong.  Even in countries where the churches have been deeply identified with revolution, there has been a tendency to focus on only one aspect of domination, such as political freedom, and to ignore economic injustices, authoritarianism, the immorality of war, domestic violence, gender inequality, hierarchicalism, patriarchy, and the physical and sexual abuse of children.  We have tried to take on evil piecemeal.”

SEEING A SINGLE FRONT. “While it is true that we cannot take on everything, we have not always located our struggles within Jesus’ total project: the overcoming of the Domination System itself. Jesus’ vision of a domination-free order enables us to see every struggle against injustice, illness, and greed as part of a single front, and gives us a perspective that links us to everyone engaged in similar struggles.”

A. “Follow the money” versus Biblical economics

Follow God or Money

“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)

“All the believers were one in heart and mind.  No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.  With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.  And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them.” (Acts 4:32-34a)

“Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality.  At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, as it is written: ‘The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.’ ” (2 Corinthians 8:13-15)

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.  Sell your possessions and give to the poor.  Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 18-32-34)

Surely, budgets are moral documents revealing where our treasure, and our hearts, are found.

God decreed the year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25) to prevent large concentrations of wealth and persons from being permanently dispossessed from their land and/or forced into servitude.

B. Servant Leadership versus Status

Not Lord over others

Hierarchy reinforced by “shaming” – false moralism, enslaving us to legalistic categories, using unjust social norms to reinforce an unjust status quo

“Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” (Colossians 3:11)

C. Authority versus Control

Jesus ran no formal organization, had little money, and no great worldly titles

In the world closely related to status (which is closely related to money),

“Who is this man who speaks with such authority?  Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (Matthew 28:18)

“The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.” (Mark 1:22)

Prophets commonly criticized kings:

In 1 and 2 Kings alone, prophets proclaimed that no less than two dozen kings “did evil in the eyes of the Lord.” (1 Kings 11:6, Solomon; 15:26, Nadab; 15:34, Baasha and Jeroboam;  16:25, Omri;  22:52, Ahaziah;  2 Kings 8:18, Jehoram; 3:2, Joram; 8:27, Ahaziah and Ahaz; 13:2, Jehoahaz; 13:11, Jehoash; 14:24, Amaziah; 15:9, Zechariah;  15:18, Menahem; 15:24, Pekahiah; 15:28, Pekah; 17:2, Hoshea; 21:2, Manasseh; 21:20, Amon; 23:32, Jehoahaz; 23:37, Jehoiakim; 24:9, Jehoichin; 24:19, Zedekiah).  Also, the Bible records judgment on the entire nations of Israel and Judah (e.g., Judges 2:11, 3:7, 3:12, 4:1, 6:1, 10:6, 13:1, 2 Chronicles 29:6, Isaiah 65:12, 66:4 and 1 Kings 14:22).

D. Obeying God’s Laws versus Human Laws

“Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.  But Peter and John replied, ‘Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges!  As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.’ ” (Acts 4:18-20).  And later in Acts, Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! (Acts 5:29)  The daughter of the Egyptian Pharaoh and the Hebrew midwives Shiphrah and Puah pointedly violated the Pharaoh’s edict to kill all male Hebrew children (Exodus 1:17). Even after he was ordered to be silent, Jeremiah continued to preach that Jerusalem was doomed unless its leaders repented and submitted to the Babylonians.  Jesus broke Sabbath laws (John 5:16-18) and carried out a public witness by cleansing the Jerusalem temple (Mark 11:15–19, Matthew 21:12, Luke 19:45-46, John 2:13–16) for which the authorities crucified him.

“So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” (Matthew 22:21)

God commanded Israel not to treat widows, orphans, and foreigners the way the Egyptians had treated them (Ex. 22:21–24).

E. Expecting persecution

Persecution is a natural consequence of challenging the “powers that be” — in fact, it is a sign of success, a blessing!

“Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult youand reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.  Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.  But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.  Woe to you who are well fed now,  for you will go hungry.  Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.  Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.” (Luke 6:22-26)

“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.  You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:21-22)

 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.  If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own.  As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.  Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.  If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.” (John 15:18-20)

“Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute?  They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One.  And now you have betrayed and murdered him.” (Acts 7:52)

Prophets are invariably infuriating to their own people, and God often turns to outsiders to do God’s work:

“ ‘Truly I tell you,’ he continued, ‘no prophet is accepted in his hometown.  I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land.  Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon.  And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.’  All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this.” (Luke 4:24-28)

 Jesus was a prophet, killed because he challenged powerful religious and political elites.  The seductive logic of the world is to save our church, our people, our nation — which means giving up Christ:

” ‘If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.’  Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, ‘You know nothing at all!  You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.’ ” (John 11:48-50)

 Our church, our people, our nation already have a Savior who has shown us the way:

 “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.  What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?  Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Matthew 16:25-26)

 In prophetic witness, we are in good company, a “great cloud of witnesses”:

 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)

Is it any wonder that complicity with the “powers that be,” which offers rewards of money and control, greater status, and ‘security,’ is such a tempting alternative to guaranteed persecution?

The Vision/God’s Dream

The God of all, including the future, holds for us blessings greater than we dare imagine.  Nonetheless, the prophet Isaiah boldly declares this vision:

“ ‘Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; the one who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere child; the one who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed.  They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.  No longer will they build houses and others live in them, or plant and others eat.  For as the days of a tree, so will be the days of my people; my chosen ones will long enjoy the work of their hands.  They will not labor in vain, nor will they bear children doomed to misfortune; for they will be a people blessed by the LORD, they and their descendants with them.  Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.  The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, and dust will be the serpent’s food.  They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,’ says the LORD.” (Isaiah 65:20-25)

God’s vision for his children is real and powerful, calling out to be manifest in the world, to transform the world.

TAM’s Mission

To help the Church meet God’s vision, TAM’s mission encompasses three broad areas: meeting human need, creating community and working for justice.

Meeting Human Need

Primary TAM Core Value: Value the Vulnerable

The greatest commandments are hinged by connecting love of neighbor as self with loving God:

” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar.” (1 John 4:20)

 Meeting basic human needs is part of loving God and neighbor:

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?  Can such faith save them?  Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:14-17)

” ‘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)

 ” ‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me…Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:35-36, 40)

God’s mercy to us is the model for our behavior toward others.  Relying upon ‘deserving’ is ultimately a denial of God’s basic character, unconditional love.  “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45b)  “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), yet God is merciful.  We are on the short end of this fundamental power differential and God shows us mercy:

“I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’  I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.’” (Hosea 2:23)

God reminds us often of where we have been and what God has already done for us, that which we could not do ourselves:

“I am the LORD, who brought you up out of Egypt” (Leviticus 11:45, 19:36, 22:33, 23:43, 25:38, 25:42, 25:55, 26;13, 26:45; Numbers 15:41; Deuteronomy 4:37, 5:6, 5:15, 6:12, 6:21, 7:8, 8:14, 13:10, 20:1: Judges 2:1, 2:12, 6:9; 1 Samuel 10:18, 12:16;  1 Kings 9:9; 2 Kings 17:36; 2 Chronicles 7:22; Nehemiah 9:18; Psalm 81:10; Jeremiah 16:14; Daniel 9:15)

Humility is the opposite of self-sufficiency.  Expecting God to provide for us and forgive us undeservedly while insisting that only ‘deserving’ neighbors have their human needs met is unjust and denies our complete dependency on God for forgiveness and ‘our daily bread’:

“Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13b)

“If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?  Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others?  Do not even pagans do that?  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:46-48)

Creating Community

Primary TAM Core Value: Value Reconciliation

Our reconciliation with God makes us new creations, ambassadors of reconciliation to our neighbors:

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.  Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.  And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” (2 Corinthians 5:16-20a)

Love leads us to live as a community of equals:

“Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.  Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3:11-14)

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)

We can engage in respectful conversation with those with whom we differ.  We can humbly explore the sources of our differences.  We can honor the sacred worth of all persons.  In prayerfully seeking the mind of Christ, we can work out our life together in love.

The way of Jesus is one of radical hospitality.  Radical hospitality is a sacred process of transforming a stranger into a guest, or even family.  It witnesses to the reality that God entered the “world” to reconcile us to God and neighbor.  Jesus was the incarnation of radical hospitality: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” (Matthew 23:37 and Luke 13:34)

Where radical hospitality is practiced God’s realm flourishes.  Examples of these include:  Abraham receiving the three strangers — angels (Genesis 18), the Midian priest taking in Moses (Exodus 2), Rahab allowing Joshua’s spies to stay with her (Joshua 2), the widow at Zarephath offering Elijah her last bit of food (1 Kings 17:8-24), and the Samaritan woman inviting Jesus the stranger to stay with her community, which he does (John 4).

Where radical hospitality is not practiced, God’s judgment waits:

“If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.  Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.” (Matthew 10:14-15)

Beyond Civility

The golden rule provides guidance in how to live in community with one another: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31)  Nonetheless, God requires even more than human love that returns its own:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:43-44)

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.  Live in harmony with one another.  Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.  Do not be conceited.  Do not repay anyone evil for evil.  Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.  On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:14-21)

Jesus did not avoid harsh words for those in positions of authority.  In fact, Jesus saved his harshest words for religious elites who avoided accountability to those they were to serve.  After calling the teachers of the law and Pharisees “hypocrites” (Matthew 23:23, 25, 27, 29) and “whitewashed tombs” (v. 27), Jesus says, “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?” (v. 33) (see also Luke 11:37-54)  Jesus boldly overturned tables in the temple, declaring “but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’ ” (Matthew 21:13b) in response to an affront of the religious establishment to the Lord’s declaration that “my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” (Isaiah 56:7b)

True worship in authentic community produces justice.  God despises religious practices that do not produce justice:

 “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me.  Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them.  Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them.  Away with the noise of your songs!  I will not listen to the music of your harps.  But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! (Amos 5:21-24)

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?  Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.  Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.  (Isaiah 58:6-9)

Calling one another into account with God and one another, i.e., working for justice, is an essential part of creating authentic community.

Working for Justice

Primary TAM Core Values: Value leadership and creativity.

Love leading us to live as a community of equals starkly highlights the many injustices in the world.

Doing Justice

“And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

“Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the Lord your God is giving you.” (Deuteronomy 16:20)

“The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.” (Proverbs 29:7)

“Learn to do right; seek justice.  Defend the oppressed.  Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” (Isaiah 1:17)

“Woe to him who builds his palace by unrighteousness, his upper rooms by injustice, making his own people work for nothing, not paying them for their labor.  He says, ‘I will build myself a great palace with spacious upper rooms.’  So he makes large windows in it, panels it with cedar and decorates it in red.  Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar?  Did not your father have food and drink?  He did what was right and just, so all went well with him.  He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well.  Is that not what it means to know me?  declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 22:13-16

“Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.” (Isaiah 10:1-2)

Advocacy, prophetic witness, social witness are all related expressions dealing with working for justice

Persistence and boldness are characteristics of leadership.

Persistence:

“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.  He said: In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought.  And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’  For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’  And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says.  And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?  Will he keep putting them off?  I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?’” (Luke 18:1-7)

“Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’  And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’  I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.” (Luke 11:5-8)

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)

Boldness:

[In response to rulers conspiring against Jesus…] “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.” (Acts 4: 29)

“Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold.” (2 Corinthians 3:12)

“So, because you are lukewarm — neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of my mouth.  You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’  But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” (Revelations 3:16-17)

“One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent” (Acts 18:9)

“Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” ( 2 Tim 1:7)

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.” (Matthew 5:14-15)

Leadership requires a balanced view of the “powers that be” as being at the same time good, fallen, and redeemable.  In viewing an institution only as good blinds us to injustice and we reinforce an unjust status quo.  In viewing an institution only as fallen sinks us into despair or rage where we see no hope for change.  In viewing only an institution’s redeemability we end up just tinkering around the edges.

ESTABLISHING POLICY

What are the issues?

Our Biblical values manifest themselves in the world in many ways; many of these issues are encompassed by these categories:

1.  Being stewards of the natural world that sustains life on earth.

2.  Building up families and our nurturing communities, which underlie the

potential for each to live into the fullness of their humanity.

3.  Support our social communities and human rights that affirm our equal value in God’s eyes.

4.  Upholding an economic community that benefits all people and provides our “daily bread.”

5.  Engaging the political community and government to assure a just ordering of the larger society.

6.  Recognizing the oneness of God’s world and world community and seeking our particular role in it.

Reflections on Power, Leadership, and Decision-making

The status quo is.  The Kingdom of God is at hand.

“But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” (Luke 12:31)

Where you stand depends on where you sit.

Money.  Status.  Control.  These are the ways of the world.  Falling back into these ways offers many temptations, for the world rewards these ways, and punishes those who challenge these ways.

God judges us as nations according to how we treat “the least of these.”

Areas of privilege:

God has given us all variety of gifts.

In what areas do I have advantage over others?

Servant leadership

Areas of vulnerability:

Intimacy

In what areas do I depend upon the mercy of God and others?

What am I afraid of losing?

compassion

From a spiritual perspective, we are all indigent.  We cannot be made whole by ourselves.  We depend upon God and others for our very life.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Offering all to God:

God makes us whole.  God works through our areas of giftedness and advantage and our areas of vulnerability

Taking a stand.

Prophetic voice in tension with consensus and majority rule

Cost of Discipleship

One of the costs of discipleship is enduring this persecution.

cost high but the reward much greater than the cost

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Recommended reading:

The Powers That Be: Theology for a New Millennium, by Walter Wink, Doubleday, 4/98, ISBN: 0-385-48740-1

POLICIES AND PROCEDURES

Decision-making Around Issues

What factors should be considered in addressing an issue?

How important is the issue?

How significant is the impact on human need, justice, and authentic community? (importance test)

Does the issue impact meeting human need?

Will people be deprived of meeting a human need that will directly and significantly harm individuals or families (human suffering test)

Does the issue impact creating community?

Is a partner organization or local faith community involved and/or affected? (good neighbor test).

Does an issue affect our local community (the local test)

Do many Christian faith traditions have statements supporting such advocacy and/or very few, if any, faith traditions have statements that may contradict such advocacy? (tradition test).

Does dealing positively with a controversial issue offers an opportunity to model a Biblical alternative of authentic community to worldly politics (Biblical alternative test).

Are families and/or our nurturing communities undercut in a way that threatens community members in living into the fullness of their humanity (nurturing communities test).

Is “civility’ violated and/or opponents are demonized and offering a faith-based perspective could be of substantial benefit (civility test)

Is the common good threatened or diminished, where short term gain creates long term loss (seven generations test)

Does the issue impact working for justice?

Does an issue threaten the poor and vulnerable (“least of these” test)

Does an issue weaken an economic community that benefits all people and provides our “daily bread” (shared benefits test)

Does an issue threaten human rights/civil rights that affirm our equal value in God’s eyes (children of God test)

Does an issue threaten the ability of people to engage the political community and government to assure a just ordering of the larger society (fair representation test).

Does an issue threaten public safety, peace and non-violence (non-violence test)

Are power differentials so large that it precludes a fair hearing of the issues (fair hearing test)

Does an issue threaten stewardship of God’s creation (creation stewardship test)

Does an issue deny the oneness of God’s world and world community (one world test).

Is there no other local faith body addressing an issue of Biblical justice (voice in the wilderness test)

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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?

POLITICAL CARTOON: General Jesus – Blessed Are Those Who Kill People Who Kill People

General Jesus Speaks!

Jesus Cartoon: General Jesus - Blessed Are Those Who Kill People Who Kill People

Welcome to Gen. Jesus!  This is the third installment a new Top Pun series of comics that will run on Sundays, featuring CEO Jesus, Free Market Jesus, Country Club Jesus, General Jesus, Comedian Jesus, and who knows what other incarnations!

This week’s Gen. Jesus is an over-the-top parody of the pacifist Jesus.  As you can see, Jesus is quite at home in his oil-rich desert that we know as the Middle East.  This is a top assignment which he probably garnered by being able to speak both English and Aramaic.  Notice that Jesus’ cap is slightly askew, as a tip of the hat to the little people, and perhaps a subtle clue to his truly radical nature hidden behind an unstoppable war machine.  As he humbly points to his “killing people” medals, he is quick to point out that he did not actually do the killing, but he has people who do this for him; it is simply his great leadership and command of billions of dollars of killing technology that justifies such colorful, ostentatious displays.

General Jesus’ lesson for today is a kick ass, shock and awe moral principle: killing people is a very effective way of showing people that killing people is wrong.  If this moral lesson seems somewhat screwed up to you, it must be because you are unable to grasp the many subtleties that spring forth from the moral pillars of brute force and impersonal killing that drone on and on.  Of course, General Jesus knows certain things that we don’t.  Perhaps this is why we are asked to trust him.

The longer version of this moral lesson is that killing people who kill people shows people that killing people is bad, and this is a sure guarantee that we will never get out of the job of killing people.  Remember, it’s all about jobs: snow jobs, con jobs, and the occasional sweatshop job (somebody has to make all that crap).

On a more serious note, it is interesting to note that Jesus was a powerful opponent of Roman imperialism, which played well with the masses since he was part of one of the many groups that were put down by Roman imperialism.  In fact, the book of Revelation in the Bible is considered an allegory speaking against imperial Rome.  Apparently, sometimes you need to couch what you say in terms that your intended audience will understand, but not so obvious that the powers that be will come and take you away.  However, Jesus apparently did not master this ability completely, as he was taken away and executed by Rome and its complicit cronies.   Those of us who are into the power of humor will appreciate that many of Jesus’ titles are actually intended to mock the worldly and political powers of the day.  Calling someone “Lord” in the Roman Empire would be seen as an infringement upon Caesar’s god-given rights.  This would be similar to calling Jesus “Commander-in-Chief” in modern-day United States.  Not surprisingly, religion and the state often do battle over claims to ultimate allegiance.  This is the way it should be, or perhaps, must be.  How these particular battles turn out probably depend upon your view of ultimate power.  If you think that fear, control, and domination are the most deciding factors in human life, then I would say side with the state.  However, if you think that love, solidarity, and service to one another are the most deciding factors in human life, then I would say side in a higher power, sometimes in the guise of religion.  In the end, it seems to come down to voting with one’s feet, voting with the existential force that is our life.  I choose to vote for love, solidarity, and service to one another.  What say you?

Hope: Real People Fighting for Democracy and Workers

John Nichols of The Nation offers a hopeful look at real people making a real difference in fighting against impersonal political powers, non-person corporations, and real ingrate politicians, such as Gov. Walker of Wisconsin, in his article Twenty-Five Faces of an American Uprising.  Mr. Nichols writes:

The governor’s attempt to intimidate Wisconsinites into accepting an austerity agenda that assaulted not just labor rights but the state’s open government and small-“d” democratic traditions was a failure from the start. Instead of scaring citizens into submission, Walker provoked an uprising that continues to this day.

The courage, optimism and steady determination of Wisconsinites, many of whom had never engaged in public protest or political action before, is what undid Walker’s best-laid plans. Even as he succeeded in enacting elements of his program, the push-back was so intense that two of his key legislative allies were defeated in the state Senate recall elections of last summer. And, now, he and his lieutenant governor face a similar fate.

Mr. Nichols tells the stories of 25 individuals and groups in Wisconsin that have fought back to attacks on democracy and workers.  It’s great to have a reporter that takes the time to tell the stories of real people making a real difference.  Despite the best propaganda efforts by the 1%, the powers that be, we are not helpless!  Power is derived from consent, the consent of the people.  When the people decide to withdraw their consent from illegitimate powers and claim through direct action of the people a more just solution, we are all better off.  Let the stories be told that the legends be born, and may the powers of this world tremble in their boots, even to the point of examining their bankrupt consciences, seeing the light, and joining their rightful place alongside the peoples of the world, not lording over them.  Let’s make it 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!