Dystopic Preoccupation

I guess maybe I’ve been watching and reading too much Sci-Fi lately, but the end of the world is on my mind.  I look at where we, humanity, are right now and I wonder where there is left for us to go?  Just how many years will it take us to nail this coffin shut?

If I believe in a second coming of Christ, it is the one Yogi Amrit Desai spoke of some years ago.  He said that “Christ” would come again through the consciousness of the masses.  I like that idea and in New Age circles it’s pretty popular.  It’s the theory that something will happen that will cause a great shift.  Like magic our hearts will open and compassion will spread through the land.  Then we will be back in the garden once again.

But what has to happen first before we get there…if we get there?  We are abusing our earth and her creatures so mindlessly.  I myself am guilty of it.  I read a book that tells me in detail the pain and suffering animals endure so that I can have eggs and cheese, yet I can not summon the willpower to give up those products.  I push it out of my mind so that I can enjoy pizza and omelets.  Everywhere you look people take more than they need, hoarding or throwing away the leftovers, while other people are hungry and homeless.  The only thing that seems to pull a community together is tragedy.  It’s only when tremendous loss is endured that people realize how much they need each other.

In the US especially we’re entrenched in a society of greed.  These wars we’ve been fighting since 2003 are no longer about September 11th (if they ever were), but simply about oil and profits.  The soldiers who come back are forever changed by what they experience there-whether physically or mentally.  On the education front, we’re saddling our young people with enormous student loan debts while many of them won’t be able to get jobs when they graduate college.  CEO’s are overpaying themselves and setting up shop in other countries where labor is cheap.  But the kids keep going to college and they stay hopeful that education will guarantee them a job…maybe even a good one.

So, I read books like Oryx and Crake, where a young man with a God-complex creates a disease that wipes out humanity because to him humanity has reached the point of no return.  Or I watch the show Dollhouse where human-beings are turned into slaves by erasing their original personalities and programing them with new ones.  Eventually the technology falls into the wrong hands and the “dolls” and real humans are literally killing one another.  Then there is the movie The Book of Eli where everyone’s illiterate because the written word was destroyed in lieu of technology that is, of course, non-existent in the post-apocalyptic world it is set in.

Most of that fiction sounds far-fetched, but when I realize that just this week I communicated with friends in India, Spain, California, Canada, and the Netherlands on the internet without thinking twice about it…anything is possible. (I remember a time when I couldn’t even talk on the phone to my friends from church because they lived 20 miles away and it was long distance.)

So if there is an apocalyptic event on the horizon (and man I hope it doesn’t happen in mine or my daughter’s lifetime)…we ought to get back to the basics-community.  We might really need each other one day, so we should start now reaching out, connecting, and loving one another.  Forget about the money and the stuff, what we really benefit from is each other.

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Inside Job

We watched this Academy Award Winning documentary last weekend and it was both eye-opening and disturbing.  Between news stories in the days after the financial collapse and bank bailout and a recent Rolling Stone article, I knew a lot of this already but the refresher was good.  I get the feeling it’s all going to happen again because nothing has really changed.  The CEO’s and executives of the top financial institutes have their influence everywhere.  Bank executives who were aware and involved with the “voo-doo” that crashed the economy are cycled through government positions and professors who teach the future traders and bankers are on the payrolls of the companies that stole from our government.   With a system like that there is no way to fix anything.  We’re training the future minds to continue the same practices and filling government positions with people who refuse to regulate anything.  Our financial futures are in the hands of criminals who are running the government agencies and training bright minds to be even better criminals.

In the days before and after the bailout, people were so pissed.    Now it seems just like a blip on the radar, long forgotten.  We’re back to fighting over things like abortion, gay rights, and “liberal media.”  If you take the time to look at the wealth distribution numbers in our country it is sickening.  And the bailout, well that just siphoned money from the hard-working people at the bottom to the people at the top.  Do you know that bailout money was even used to give executives millions of dollars in bonuses?  After politicians slammed wall street for it’s system of bonuses, they didn’t even bother to put a clause into place to keep them from using tax-payer money to give more bonuses.

During the housing bubble, I said on an almost daily basis that it didn’t make sense.  How was it sustainable and how could people actually afford the homes they were purchasing.  I said it over and over again, yet the news and the Fed chair kept saying that everything was OK.  It wasn’t.  They lied to us and the result was a lot of people losing (and still losing) everything.

In the midst of the bubble, about 2 miles from my house, thousands and thousands of acres of trees were cut down.  I teared up every time I drove by the scene, but they were going to build a wonderful shopping center.  To make myself feel better about the whole thing, I imagined this great place with sidewalks, fountains, ice-cream shops, and boutiques.  If the precious trees (and animal habitats) had to go at least we’d be left with a nice place to kill time.  It’s been five years since they took out those trees and all we have to show for it is a Wal-Mart, a Costco, and an abandoned Sportman’s Warehouse.  There are no sidewalks or cutesy shops.  The bubble burst and the money ran out.  Everyday I drive by a shopping center I don’t even use (I don’t shop at Wal-Mart and don’t have a Costco membership).

It’s like this everywhere.  Next time you drive out look around your area and you will see remnants of the greedy business of Wall Street and the damage they did to America.  The half built neighborhoods, the homes in foreclosure, the small businesses closed down, and your neighbors who are dealing with lay-offs and pay cuts.  I live in Florida’s capitol city.  My state elected a sociopathic, tea-party “business man” as our governor.  My city is experiencing the brunt of his ax.  Our nation’s debt is a real problem and it was made a lot worse by the bailout at the end of 2008, but no one is asking those executives to help out.  Instead men like Rick Scott and Scott Walker are attacking teachers and other government workers to pay down the debt.  It is absurd, immoral and unjust.

But I don’t really expect any big change.  Despite his campaign slogan Obama hasn’t and won’t bring any change to that industry.  The only hope there is left is for the people, the masses near the bottom of the ladder, to take a stand.  The thing is, those people, they have more important problems to face.  The remaining middle class folks have to deal with rising gas prices (which affect the price of everything else), pay cuts, health care costs, and the debt they’ve racked up by simply living the American dream.  And the poor among us, they are just trying to survive, there’s hardly time for a political fight when you’re not sure where the next meal is coming from.

In a lot of ways Wall Street wreaked just as much havoc on America as other groups, it’s just the towers that crumbled because of them are much smaller and spread out across the country so few people have to actually watch them fall.

Politics Screw With Love

Almost everything that pokes at me and sends me out of my comfort zone these days originates from Facebook.  I think this window we’ve created for ourselves into the lives of people we know, but don’t really know forces us pull our heads out of the sand and admit that there are all kinds of other viewpoints out there.  If we can’t embrace each others’ differences, we at least have to learn to accept them because they exist and denying the existence doesn’t change that fact.

For me the button that is most often pressed is the one in charge of my politics.  I know that I am not the only one that could admit this.  Today a friend posted something that was so very true, yet left me feeling a mixture of angry, sad, and fearful.  I’ll try to paraphrase what she said:

Do you ever notice how when you find out someone’s political beliefs your opinion of them instantly changes and you no longer feel the same about them? It’s interesting that that happens.

Reading that made me sad because, after two years of being her Facebook friend, I know her political views and they are not the same as mine.  It was a reminder that the instant I am open about being liberal there are people who will think less of me and perhaps even write me off.  The comment made me angry because it means that all the respect and love that brings us to a relationship in the first place can be torn apart in one moment of categorizing ourselves.  Finally it made me fearful because, like I said before, it was a very true (for probably most people) statement.

I’ve been in both situations before.  I’ve been in the place where you’re hanging out with a new friend, you like them and see the potential for a great relationship and then the subject of politics come up.  They say something that lets you know their on your team and suddenly you feel those warm fuzzies.  In your mind you’re running through a field of daisies with some sweet song playing.  In one instant an alliance has been made, and yes, you like this person more than you did the moment before.  I’ve also been in the moment where the new friend expresses a political opinion opposite yours and the sound of a record scratch resonates in your head.  How could this be?  She/He can’t possibly be one of them!  And just like that, you’re not so sure you could ever find common ground with this right-wing/left-wing crazy (gotta love how our ego exaggerates)!

If there is something I want to transform about myself it is this reaction.  I want to see myself have these snap judgments and be able to take a time-out to pray for God to heal my thoughts and help me see what’s real.  In reality we all just want the same basic things.  We want to feel safe and loved.  It doesn’t matter what your political party affiliation is.  The negative reactions about our differences come from fear and that fear is used so well in politics to divide us, even from those we respect and love.

More and more these days I am finding friends on the other side of the fence whom I have so much in common with.  I am better for having them in my life and hope that in the future my political allegiances never keep me from connecting with people like these smart and loving ones I already know!

*A note to my FB friend if she is reading*

I hope I didn’t offend you by paraphrasing you here.  Thank you for inspiring me to look within at my own reactions.

Why Tuesday Broke My Heart

On Tuesday night I watched the election results and basically felt as if I had been stabbed in the gut.  For the first time I understood that fear-you know the fear that has been swimming through our ultra-conservative population across the country since Obama was elected in 2008-that the country is about to see some very very dark days.  I sat there with this ache in my belly wondering how long before we bleed out.  I used to think that that fear was absurd and irrational, but since the shoe is on the other foot now, I can finally understand.

On my Facebook page several people commented on how it was a new day in America.  One of them stated that now the morals and values would be returning.  That one made me start to think about my own values.  I’ve not always been inclined to state what really matters to me for fear that I may rock the boat and make others uncomfortable, but I think it’s time for me to tell everyone what being liberal means to me.

*I believe in doing what you can to help people in need.

*I believe that people are more important then the profits of enormous corporations and when the divide between the rich and the poor gets this out of hand we should really start asking what is going on.

*I believe that sick people have a right to be healed, even if they don’t have very much money or don’t spend it wisely.

*I believe that gays and lesbians should be allowed to marry and adopt children in every state.

*I am pro-choice because I am simply not qualified to make that decision for someone else.  It has nothing to do with how I feel about abortions or whether I value life.

*I want to protect our environment so that we have clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and a healthy food supply.

*I value public education and want to see it thrive.

*I believe in peaceful compromises.

*I believe that if our men and women in uniform (military and civil service) are willing to sacrifice their lives for our freedom and safety, we should be willing to sacrifice a little extra from our paychecks to help our communities and our country remain safe and free. (At some point someone’s got to raise taxes-starting with the Bush tax cuts- or else we’re going to be the United States of America: PROPERTY OF CHINA.)

I’m sure this list could go on and on, but I’ve been at this post for an hour and a half now and I’m fried.  The simple fact is, when I read over the list none of that sounds evil to me.  Being liberal to me is about being generous and open-minded.  There is a song we just taught the kids at church that sort of sums it up.

Love is something if you give it away, give it away, give it away

Love is something if you give it away, you end up having more

It’s just like a magic penny, hold it close and you won’t have any

Give it away and you’ll have so many, they’ll roll all over the floor

(My take of it is that) the Republicans will have you believe that closing off the tap will save what we have and allow our wealth and strength to grow, but I think (and I’m pretty sure Jesus would agree) that quite the opposite is true.

Thugs VS Businessmen

This morning I was listening to NPR and getting the story about what is going on in Jamaica.  Basically from the little bit I heard, my understanding is that Kingston,  the capitol city is in utter chaos all because of one man who happens to be a drug lord.  The United States is asking that the man be extradited to the US to face trial for drug and weapons trafficking charges and the people of Jamaica are refusing to allow this to happen.  He has both government and everyday citizens on his side.  A war is going on in the streets.  Civilians are killing and being killed in defense of this man.  In America when we think of drug lords or leaders of crime organizations we usually call them thugs.  Does this man or rather thug in Jamaica really care about those people?  Are they fighting a battle that will benefit them in any way at all?

That thought brought me to the following question.  How different are some of our big CEO’s from that thug?

Take Rupert Murdoch for example. He is the media mogul who brought us FOX News.  **It was his network speaking as his voice that also brought us the tea party movement.  With this movement we have American citizens in the street warring with words without understanding all sides of the events taking place.  They’ve decided to listen to one side, and even more importantly, one source.  They are fighting for what?  Less taxes on the average salaries they bring in each month?  Has their taxes been raised?  I don’t think mine has.  The people who are most at threat for having a tax increase are the Rupert Murdoch’s of the world.  And interestingly enough he has regular citizens fighting his fight so that he can keep his millions and millions of dollars.  Does he care about those people?  Is he going to do anything to reward them for fighting his battle?  No.  He may be a businessman but seems to me he’s just one bag of dope away from being a thug.

I am truly concerned at the state of business in America.  The bottom fell out of our economy in 2008 because some money hungry un-regulated institutions started selling and buying imaginary items that were worth nothing.  It was our government and citizens who stood behind them and saved their asses.  Little to nothing has changed since then.   I was reading an article in Rolling Stone the other day about some businessmen who are buying up tracts of land in third world countries.  They are seeking fertile soil where food can be grown.  The plan is that as the climate changes and people are unable to find food, they will be able to cash in by owning the only land available for agriculture.  Basically many people will die so they can profit.  And apparently that is OK with them.  But they are not thugs, no, they are legitimate businessmen.

Something has to change.  It is a sad sate of affairs when our waters are polluted, sea life killed, children poisoned, and families are left homeless all in the name of making more money than one could even figure out how to spend….

**Thanks to the links Renee provided I see that I perhaps did not do enough research in writing this post.  It was not Rupert Murdoch and Fox News that brought us the Tea Party Movement.  I am going to keep the post up as it is though, because I do know that they organized and advertised many events and they are probably the only network viewed by most of the Tea Party folks.  From my quick overview of the first link in her comment it seems maybe it was initially started by an individual on her blog and a few corporations hijacked it.  They hijacked it to the extent that most of us don’t know how it really started.  Because of that it really has become a corporate sponsored movement with the regular everyday Joe’s fighting for the rights of the wealthiest Americans to keep all their millions.

Dominion

I “like” the Vegetarian page on Facebook and today there was an interesting post that started a discussion.  It stated that humans weren’t created to eat animals.  Of course one of the responses was that the “Good Book” says differently.  This was in reference to the idea that God gave humans dominion over the earth and creatures.  This is an idea that bugs me because I think that it is abused.

As human beings we have abilities that most animals do not.  We can think, reason, and make rationale decisions.  We have intelligence that allows us to adapt and invent in order to make life easier.  The fact that we can use our abilities to create makes us like God or “in his image,” and with that comes a degree of power.  But with this power or dominion also should come other qualities of God like respect and love.  Most of what is done and defended by “The Good Book” is lacking both of those.

Calves are taken away from their mothers and fed formula while their mothers are pumped full of hormones to provide milk for human consumption.  Cows are fed corn which they are not intended to eat and cannot digest so that we can eat Big Macs.  And because they are not built to eat corn they get sick and are pumped full of antibiotics so that we do not become sick.  What happens instead is we ingest these levels of antibiotics in the meat we eat and then become immune to them so that when we actually need antibiotics they don’t work.  Chickens are overfed and pumped full of hormones so that they will grow bigger, so big that they can’t even stand up.  Basically animals are tortured so that we can eat unhealthy levels of meat.  I looked at the passages in Genesis and from what I read it sounds like the Vegetarian FB people are right.  Genesis 1:29-

“And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.”

In my interpretation I’d say that if we are to eat animals it should only be as a last resort.

Dominion or not if we believe that it is God’s creation and we claim to be Godly people we should have respect.  For years we have been raping and pillaging the earth using the bible as our defense.  We hunt and kill animals for fun or to feel powerful.  We clear land and cut down trees to build new houses and shops while older houses and shops are left abandoned.  There is a balance in nature and we have a role in the circle of life.  We have been upsetting the balance for a long time and it is time to live more consciously and stop using The Bible to excuse ignorant behavior.

What’s Missing?

This week I read the book Spiritual Economics by Eric Butterworth.  I’m currently in the middle of the last chapter and have to say it is a very powerful book.  In it, Butterworth debunks a lot of false ideas and (for me) shined a light on how we got to where we are.

I do believe that, in America, we are currently watching the tower crumble.  At some point in history there was a shift from giving to getting, from country and community to me and mine.  My entire life has been one immersed in consumerism and materialism (not by my parents but by media and society in general).  As a kid I remember watching Saturday morning cartoons and getting as excited about the toy and cereal commercials as I did the shows.  I’d beg my mother for those items I saw on TV.  At Christmas time I’d take the Sears catalog and circle everything I wanted from Santa.  I’d say my generation grew up with the “collect them all” mindset.

So now we are all grown up and out in the world searching for MORE MORE MORE.  A few years ago I decided I wanted a bigger house.  It wasn’t a logical desire considering we are a one income family, but I wanted it.  I thought that more space would make me happier, and I knew people who were living in 3000+ square feet houses, so why couldn’t I?  We started going to Open Houses and shopping around.  It was the peak of the market here in Florida.  Most of the 4 bedroom homes were not within our budget.  But still we took the next step and interviewed a couple of real estate agents.  It was only then that reality hit me and I realized I didn’t want to leave the small home that I love.  Since then, I’ve embarked on this spiritual journey and have realized what that “more ” is I was searching for.  I know that I wouldn’t have found it in a bigger house.  And nearly everyday it crosses my mind how grateful I am for my great neighborhood and my home, even it’s smallness.

And that brings me to the answer to the title question.  From what I’ve learned of our history, I’m pretty sure that in the beginning America was a nation founded on gratitude.  People who came here were so happy to be free from the hardships they left behind.  They were thankful for the opportunities to build a life.  The American dream was raised on people everywhere saying thank you, thank you, thank you.  I am so blessed to be here.  It is wonderful that I have this home, freedom, opportunity, and abundance (not in terms of things either).  The “God” that blessed America in the beginning was the Grateful attitude of the people.

But over time, as the nation prospered and life became easier, people stopped saying thank you.  I think that some people began to feel resentment and some gained an attitude of entitlement.  And from that was born the mindset of competition and getting ahead at all costs.  So for a long time now, we’ve been “keeping up with the Jone’s” by spending money we don’t have and running our businesses without ethics.  We do it because we are supposed to have the American dream.  It was promised to us by all those folks that were grateful!

Currently, tons and tons of oil is making it’s way to our shores, men and women are dying in battles in other countries, people everywhere are losing their jobs and homes, animals are being brutally slaughtered, our roads and bridges are weakening, and many of our once thriving communities have turned into ghost towns or war zones.  I can’t help but wonder if we’d be in this position if we hadn’t stopped saying thank you or if we could turn it all around by starting now to live with an attitude of gratitude….

The following video is pretty interesting and speaks to what I talked about when referring to my own childhood.