Sunday, January 04, 2009

Graphic Truths

A Clear Day in Greenwood.

The record-setting winter blessed us with beauty that persists even as the frostbite fades into memory. Yes, frostbite. It's not something I ever expected to be concerned about. My tiny little camera, a thirty-dollar bubble-pack special can't help but capture postcard images. It's an astonishingly beautiful place to live. Oddly, I never thought I'd ever feel at home away from the coastal rain-forests or a vibrant city such as Vancouver, and yet I miss neither. Our little apartment over the local pizza shop - humble accommodations by any standard - feels like a castle.

Oh, winter is not without it's downsides for my wife and I, as an autistic-spectrum person I find fitting into a new place and a new routine to be a prolonged and difficult thing. But here, I look forward to that, being outside and getting to know at least a few people; something I never could say about Reno. Reno has it's own beauties - but while I see them, they just don't speak to me.

Meanwhile, I am dealing with the dregs of the blahs - something that happens to me every year, from November to January. Oddly, as difficult as it has been due to tight finances and being trapped inside for the most part, it's been one of the least difficult in years. I'm used to feeling like I've lost my way; I feel that way right now. The difference is, somehow I know that I will find it again, and that when I do, I'll find more than what I seem to have misplaced for the moment.

Coming up, I expect to write more about Canada and Canadian affairs, climate change and green approaches to real problems. Call it a more immediate and practical approach to the craft of ethics.

I plan to take a lot more pictures, and do more artistic work based on them. The last eight years, from the viewpoint of my writing, has been a depressing litany of pointing out mistakes before they happen, and then watching as mistakes even more profound than I expected play out. What I must hope at this point is that enough people, worldwide, have had their noses rubbed in it long enough and hard enough that I don't feel the need to add more words to the pile of warnings.

I suppose I am fortunate in that; that this blog has never had great influence; locking me into a career as prophet of doom. It's been depressing enough to do it on a pro-am level and I'm blessed that I'm not obligated to a community or bound by economics to considering a course that has become increasingly depressing, as this Jerimiad will prove.

Nonetheless, I'm sure I'll continue to have occasional fits of the disease and, as usual, an "I told you so" post a year or two later. The use of torture comes to mind, as it becomes clear that the mad and evil decision to use torture may well have doubled US casualties, by motivating far more dedicated opposition, fueled by quite genuine and earned hatred of all that the US presence in Iraq represents.

All of this was quite predictable. I predicted it, as did many others, but we were shouted down. Well, one fruit of that is that I, and many others, no longer give much of a damn about what happens to people who are still so transfixed by fears and bamboozled by their willful prejudices that they can defend torture or rationalize the other evils so dear to the Religious and Political Right in the United States, and mirrored elsewhere.

There comes a time when it becomes clear that each of us have to be responsible for our own choices and allegiances; that we must and allow others to make choices that are incompatible with the choices we make. Both history and legend tell us that these cusps have a way of working out; that those who are fixated on evil and consumed by fear tend to destroy themselves. The trick, of course, is finding a way of not being nearby when they do, and muddling through while the mess and bloated corpses are cleared away.

And that is why I am here in Greenwood. It's a place where people do real things that matter directly to people they know. It's also a place that depends on tourism, so it's tolerant of difference and values creativity. And when the waters rise - as now seems the inevitable result of allowing willful foolishness and religiously-mandated stupidity to triumph over science, common sense and even the plain words of the Bible.

80 million US dollars were spent by the Mormon and Catholic churches to force Proposition Eight down the throats of Californians - a campaign that depended upon conscious lies about constitutional rights and Biblical truths. I'm not going to bother documenting them, others have done it better and Google is your friend.

No Fishy Whining button
The idea that any Christian - or indeed, any ethical being, any person with any spiritual component to their personality, any appreciation at all for the priorities laid out in all the great spiritual traditions, could choose to spend that money to oppress others, to take away basic human rights of association, to criminalize love and institutionalize their homophobic fears in the teeth of their clear duty to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the homeless and comfort the afflicted - these are persons who have nothing to to say worth hearing.

They have made themselves by their own actions irrelevant to people interested in becoming better people, unworthy of speaking for any God worth knowing. If they are sincere in their beliefs, that's even worst; a liar who KNOWS they are a liar can always choose to tell the truth.

These betrayals of faith are viscerally appalling, revolting; the exact opposite of the loving-kindness Christians are called toward. And it's so easy, so tempting and so dangerous to hate them for it. But, the fact of the matter is, hating them for the evil they have become harms only ourselves; further, it distracts us from doing anything useful. It traps those that hate them in the same place those worthy of that hatred have chosen to place themselves. So, let us not argue whether it's heaven or hell - let us simply choose better company.

Proposition 8 will be over set, or it will be ignored, and it will be linked in many minds with a great many other moralistic diktats about who and what free people may or may not do, under penalty of law, for such laws make the idea of law itself contestable. When the law is seen by lawmakers as a means to an end of imposing their own visions of a "proper social order" regardless of the interests and needs of actual people, when it becomes clear that it's simply a means of impoverishing these people and enriching those, than what virtue is there in abiding the law? People tend to try to do the right thing, more or less, and if the law ceases to be a reliable guide, they will seek out other guides that are more useful to them.

And indeed, it's quite possible that events will overtake such abstract concerns; the Earth herself has a say in this; rising waters and whirlwinds trump law and culture every time. Volcanoes incinerate the just and the unjust. Rivers shift their courses whatever laws we make, and the sun shines on everyone, with or without the blessings or curses of those who think they have the right to decide who is good and who is bad based on their essential natures. And as for the economy - well, those who concentrate on real things - bread, cheese, grapes and jeans will fare better than those who concentrate on money in the belief that money is something more than a symbol for transactions of real value made by real people doing real things.

Your family is your concern, mine is mine, no amount of legislation can change that reality. We love and live as we do, irrespective of who others think we should, and almost all of human literature is concerned with conflicts between what others think what should be as opposed to what actually is. People who are capable of being distracted from the rising waters by such trivia will be swept away by the changes that will come despite their arguments, their faith, their denial and their prejudices. There are important things to be concerned with, little time and much to be done. There are those who will tell you that their doctrine demands that you sacrifice that time and attention to their aims. If you listen to such fools and parasites, the outcome will be as tragic as is as predictable.

Ethics and the morality that derives from it's study teach us how to co-operate without violence, without friction and oppression of one another; they teach us how to live without being seen as worthy targets for retribution or ill fortune. There IS no greater issue than that, even to those of us who believe in the precept of "as above, so below."

Violence begets violence, hatred begets hatred; policies of violence and moralities that teach that other people should be hated because "God does" should be obviously oxyomoronic. Anyone who claims moral or religious authority, anyone in a position of power over you who seeks to "divide and conquer" by setting this group against that group - well, it's time to stop the madness.

When the people entrusted with the task of instructing us in issues of morality give us advice that MUST lead to suffering and pain for some for no greater benefit than allowing some others to feel smug and self-righteous, they deserve nothing from you; not even your opposition. Don't become their enemies, they thrive on hatred and opposition. Just ignore them. Shun them. Smile and walk away.

As they rail and froth about what hells await those of us that reject their council, I can think of nothing better to do,no more appropriate fate for them to be reduced to preaching to the choir.

They have made a corpse of New Orleans and scattered those who were it's life to the winds, forgetting who founded New Orleans and how it happened to become what it was. Now, it's simply an investment opportunity for those who see no sin in profiting on the shattered dreams of poorer and better people - who will be better people elsewhere, taking the essentials of that culture everywhere they are scattered.

Will those who stood aside and let New Oreleans drown, and then stood in the way of those who ran to help, are such people be wise enough to create a new city worth living in, or will their greed blind them, and cause them to lure more greedy fools to live in physical denial of reality? A foot or two added to the flood walls will be insufficient to a changing, less forgiving climate.

They have already removed those who are innocent; they have stolen and smashed that what was good. Those who remain, and who celebrate that they have banished the "evil" and "licentiousness" that was the heart of New Orleans will have their reward - for a time, putting their trust in FEMA and The Army Corps of Engineers.

Call it foreshadowing. Call it an object lesson. Call it a test of civic duty that deserves an F-minus. This is the result of people given power who did their duty as they saw it, to the best of their ability. The standards they hold as sacred cause them to claim it as a good outcome.

These are the omelette makers who claim the right to break YOUR eggs whenever they see fit. So you have to ask yourself - why do they deserve your attention, much less your loyalty and efforts on their behalf? They exist on your tithes and taxes, your donations and your hours of volunteerism that you give in the belief that this time, they will do better.

Why should they? They have gotten fat and lazy on doing exactly what they do. You have not held them accountable, so why should they do otherwise?

Me, I'm above sea level, living in a place with an old and rooted community. The rape of New Orleans made me realize that a place that has had it's social compact deliberately shredded and betrayed by those entrusted to preserve those relationships cannot prosper. It made me realize that there was no place within the borders of the United States safe from that fate. New Orleans was a bipartisan failure, a triumph of corruption the result of a culture that has come to tolerate bad rulers for the fear of worse ones. Even worse, they'd prefer to be ruled than to accept the responsibilities that citizenship in a Republic. "A Republic, if you can keep it."

Nothing remains for it to New Orleans to prosper with, for people foolish enough to have caused the problem in the first place surely cannot come up with solutions that starkly demonstrate their own foolishness. Oh, perhaps one or two, but we are speaking of thousands of very stupid people in very powerful positions who's positions and power depend on maintaining their various charades.

Therefore, New Orleans is no exception. It's what will happen to those who trust in those who have proven to be untrustworthy.

Ultimately, it's people that matter, not buildings, not cities, not nations nor monuments and certainly not churches nor their doctrines, save that these things exist in service of people and their relationships. My efforts and social participation go toward efforts that promise good outcomes.

Those who think that some of us matter less, that some people are expendable "for the greater good," that it's justifiable to kill and maim and torture in order to maintain a particular "life-style" when there are not merely alternatives, but far BETTER alternatives - we cannot afford to indulge such people. Never mind such abstracts as "good and evil." These are people who's decision making process is so impaired that they are starkly dangerous to be around.

You may ask, "what can I do."?

You can withdraw your support from anyone who supports or extols the moral values most starkly illustrated by the people who brought us all an economic collapse and to the brink of a world war induced for purely theocratic beliefs. Stop expecting them to do their jobs honestly or well; stop pretending that things will work out for the best without you. Stop buying the crap they tell you you absolutely must have, stop listening to their media and for heaven's sake, stop giving money to their prophets.

Concentrate on making things in your immediate area better. Put your money, your efforts and your attentions there; close to home. Stop trying to live up to the examples of fools; people who genuinely believe that appearances, perceptions and beliefs exist apart from their necessary foundations; that credit is the same as wealth and that a false promise is just as good as an honest handshake.

They believe that their visions will allow them to make choices on your behalf better than you could. That their morality is better than yours. That they are wiser, better equipped, better situated and more blessed by God than you. I suppose they have to believe that, just to get through the day. But there is nothing written by man or God that says that YOU have to, and much written says that only a damned fool would.

What do events tell you about that presumption? They have gained great power already. What does that tell you about how well they will manage even more? Have things gone as they promised in public? Have they gone as they seemed to expect? Have they told you the truth about what they did, and why they did it?

And on that rhetorical note, I'll count this as a week's worth well done - for what that's worth.
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