Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tao Bible - Exodus 3:5

And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.
~ King James version ~

Tao makes no distinctions.
~ possible Taoist alternative ~
As we move throughout the Bible, we find a deity who constantly distinguishes between places, beings, actions and thoughts. In this instance, God deems a particular piece of real estate as "holy".

Tao makes no distinctions. Perceived differences are an invention of the human mind. From this perspective, if all things are of Tao, then all things are divine. If one patch of ground is holy, then all patches are holy.

If you're interested in reading more from this experimental series, go to the Tao Bible Index page.

The American Theocracy - Tattoos and Piercings

In the new American Theocracy, tattoo parlors and body art shops will be taboo! Since many conservative Christians consider such body adornment to be the work of the devil and/or bound up in evil pagan rituals, body art will no longer be tolerated.

The legislation passed to make these sorts of things patently illegal -- both for business owners and consumers -- will be justified by I Corinthians 6:19-20:
What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.
Ironically enough, while the "body as temple" argument will be utilized against tattoos and piercings, little emphasis will be focused on obesity!

With women forced back into the home, preparing the daily meals will become one of the highlights of their day. Magazines like Good Housekeeping will be resurrected and women will pore through them to discover new methods for preparing leg of lamb, pot roast and yummy butter cake!

America will continue down the road toward treating our bodies not like temples, but like 80,000 seat stadiums!

If you're interested in reading more from this tongue-in-cheek series, go to the The American Theocracy Index page.

The American Theocracy - Women in Politics

It's more than ironic that one of the leading figures in turning America back to God is a woman: Sarah Palin. In fact, if we look at many of the key races around the country, fundamentalist Christian women often are leading the way! This is most ironic because, in the eyes of conservative Evangelical Christians, a woman's place is in the home, not the halls of power.
But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.
~ 1 Corinthians 11:3 ~

I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.
~ 1 Timothy 5:14 ~

To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.
~ Titus 2:5 ~
So, what will this all mean in the new American Theocracy? Stealing a motif from Christianity itself, women in contemporary politics will play the role of Moses. They will lead the faithful to the Promised Land -- a theocratic America -- but they will not be allowed to enter it!

Once government and religion have been fused, women unceremoniously will be pushed out of politics and back to the kitchen! In fact, women in the corporate world will be thrown back on the hearth as well. (Poor women, of course, will be allowed to toil away in the low paying services industry.)

We'll return to the idyllic 1950s! You know, that time when a woman's primary role was to keep house and punch out one child after another?

It really makes one wonder if Sarah Palin and her ilk have really thought this whole thing through to its logical conclusion!

If you're interested in reading more from this tongue-in-cheek series, go to the The American Theocracy Index page.

The American Theocracy - Phase Two

When I first set off on this little rollicking adventure, my objective was modest. As I wrote in the introductory post, this brief series "will have 10 parts beyond this introduction and will span no more than 3 days." However, as I wrote an entry for each commandment, it dawned on me that I was letting off the fundamental right far too easy! Their movement has opinions on just about every major issue of our times as well as many issues of their own making.

So, Phase 2 of this series will take a look at where they stand on a myriad of topics. Posts most likely will not appear as frequently because, while I intend to maintain my tongue-in-cheek approach, I actually will be conducting a bit of research in order that I can quote and paraphrase their positions more accurately. Satire only works when what you're poking fun at contains a semblance of truth.

If any of you would like to take a run at an issue from the standpoint of the American Theocracy, drop me a note.

As with almost everything else on this blog, what I (or a guest columnist) will present merely is one person's opinion. Please don't take it as anything more than that. There will be times in which many of you may strongly agree with my stated points. However, just as often, you may think I've missed the mark entirely. Either perspective or a combination of the two comes with the territory.

While my approach will seem whimsical, humorous, melodramatic and/or oversimplified at times, my intent underlying this satire is serious: A theocratic America is to be resisted!

If you're interested in reading more from this tongue-in-cheek series, go to the The American Theocracy Index page.

Line by Line - Verse 3, Line 2

not to prize articles which are difficult to procure is the way to keep them from becoming thieves;
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

Not collecting treasures prevents stealing.
~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

Do not treasure goods that are hard to obtain So the people will not become thieves
~ Derek Lin translation, from Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006 ~

If you give things too much value, you're going to get ripped off.
~ Ron Hogan rendition, from Beatrice.com, 2004 ~
Let's see how three of my Taoist blogging compatriots view this line.

Bragging about what you have may incite someone to take it away from you. Not only is it wrong type of speech, it may prove to be dangerous. A wise man does not count his money while walking down the street.
~ Roshi Hogan ~

And of course it is because we place such a high value on physical possessions that we begin to covet and steal them. If everyone stopped caring about whether they had enough of necessities and luxuries of life, wouldn’t there be plenty of both for everyone? What if you alone chose to live this way?
~ Chris Bryan ~

By simplifying, and living that way, no one would rob or need to, government would not be required.
~ Ta Wan ~

As we continue our slow journey through the Tao Te Ching line-by-line, what matters most is NOT what I or others think about each line. No, what matters most is what YOU think. That's the underlying point of this whole exercise!

To view the Index page for this series to see what you may have missed or would like to read again, go here.

The American Theocracy - Number Ten

You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor's.
~ Exodus 20:17, RSV ~
Application: Of all the 10 Commandments, this one is the hardest to legislate because, in many cases, our desires are internal. While the Bible teaches that committing a sin in the heart is just as bad as actually committing the sin itself, even in theocratic America, it will be more difficult to preempt bad behavior.

Consequently, I envision the new president setting up a theocratic program akin to Americorp VISTA. However, instead of recruiting Americans to work to rid our nation of poverty, discrimination, environmental degradation and the like, volunteers will serve as domestic spies to try to uncover instances of the beleaguered working class (now exceeding over 50% of the population) "coveting" the largess stolen by the wealthy elite.

Watch lists will be expanded greatly and, anyone who doesn't toe the fundamentalist Christian line, will be watched intently for ANY missteps. The worst part of this new ideology is that far too many people will unknowingly buy into it and everyone will be watching everyone else in order to report "suspicious behavior" to the proper authorities.

Exceptions: The most glaring exception to this new policy will be in terms of continued US military aggression. In almost every case, war is about coveting what someone else has. Yet, while our leaders will harangue us with the evils of desiring that which is not ours, it will be one the chief motivating factors as US military forces launch one invasion after another. Sadly, few Americans will notice the connection.

Of course, the other arena in which coveting will be a-ok is when corporate powers and the wealthy elite want something YOU have. If your home happens to be located in a place where they want to build or they've identified some resource in your possession, you're shit out of luck!

How can you defy them? It's all part of God's plan!

If you're interested in reading more from this tongue-in-cheek series, go to the The American Theocracy Index page.

The American Theocracy - Number Nine

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
~ Exodus 20:16, RSV ~
Application: Currently, there are many forms of being untruthful that can land a person in legal doo-doo. The new American theocracy will strengthen most of the current laws and insure that the penalties are more stringent. As outlined previously, blasphemy will be added via federal legislation with severe punishments. In addition, new laws will be added against making scientific claims that contradict fundamentalist Christian belief as well for ANYONE who seeks to instruct or indoctrinate any person in a belief system not congruent with Evangelical Christianity!

Exceptions: Government and church leaders -- in time, it will be difficult to discern the difference -- will be immune from all such laws. They will be able to promise falsely anything under the sun in order to convince the American populace to part with what's left of their meager money, to get them to go along peaceably with the most draconian policies, and willingly to sign-up to go off to fight in and die for every imperialistic war that comes down the pike.

Major corporations will be allowed to continue to lie through their teeth via advertising. They may continue to tell you that their products are healthy and have been tested using the latest unbiased scientific techniques, even when a first grader knows this to be untrue.

The mainstream media will be allowed to sidestep these sorts of regulations as well. The American theocracy will support the mainstream media when they tell the viewing public that they are providing all the news there is to know -- particularly when authorities KNOW the media is barely scratching the surface!

In essence, what these sorts of laws will boil down to is this: We commoners will be held to very strict standards under threat of severe penalties; everybody else can lie at will!

If you're interested in reading more from this tongue-in-cheek series, go to the The American Theocracy Index page.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Tao Bible - Exodus 3:2

And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.
~ King James version ~

Tao is and follows the way of the cosmos.
~ possible Taoist alternative ~
According to this verse in the Book of Exodus, God appears to Moses as a flaming bush. Defying the laws of nature, the bush burns, but the plant itself is not consumed.

Tao performs no tricks. Though we humans do not understand all the processes that govern the cosmos, Tao is and follows the internal nature of all that is.

If you're interested in reading more from this experimental series, go to the Tao Bible Index page.

The American Theocracy - Number Eight

You shall not steal.
~ Exodus 20:15, RSV ~
Application: As it now stands, stealing is already against the law. So, the new American theocracy won't need to spend much time passing or updating current statutes, though they definitely will work to stiffen the penalties.

Exceptions: While the police, prosecutors and courts will continue to focus almost all of their self-righteous zeal on the crimes of commoners, corporate crime will continue and steadily increase unabated.

Now that religion and government are intertwined, the utilization of eminent domain will take on a perverse spin. The Church will be allowed to take whatever private property it deems "necessary" and the payment of "fair compensation" will become a farce. In fact, in most cases, religious authorities will try to convince property owners to forgo any compensation at all by reminding them that God favors those who are more willing to give than to receive!

Corporations will continue to receive various tax advantages, outright subsidies, no interest loans and taxpayer-funded bailouts. Following the current trend, they will continue to externalize the costs of business. In addition, massive tort reform will shield corporations from significant liability and punitive damages when they despoil the environment, jeopardize the health and safety of workers, and/or their products and services maim and kill members of the general public.

If you're interested in reading more from this tongue-in-cheek series, go to the The American Theocracy Index page.

The American Theocracy - Number Seven

You shall not commit adultery.
~ Exodus 20:14, RSV ~
Application: Laws would be passed to make adultery illegal and punishable by the theocratic court. Current laws on pornography (adultery in the heart) would be strengthened and, under this guise, the government would move to regulate the internet. Only permissible Christian-based websites and blogs would be allowed to continue operation. Stiffer penalties against common prostitutes would be included as well.

Exceptions: As mentioned previously, men convicted of adultery would be fined, but women (those temptresses of God-fearing men!) would be subject to the death penalty.

Church and government leaders would be exempt from punishment under the pornography laws because, well, they need a way to blow off steam after a day spent running the free world, for God's sake!!

While streetwalkers would be subject to heavy fines and long prison sentences, officials would look the other way when it came to high-class call girls -- you know, the ones they have liaisons with before heading home to embrace their "family values"?

In another interesting twist, a presidential Executive Order would be drawn up to shield all clergy from criminal and civil charges in relation to the sexual abuse of minors. Instead of punishing them for their misdeeds and "sins of the flesh," they merely would be transferred to a different church in another region. Hmm. Sort of like they do now!

If you're interested in reading more from this tongue-in-cheek series, go to the The American Theocracy Index page.

The American Theocracy - Number Six

You shall not kill.
~ Exodus 20:13, RSV ~
Application: Various laws will be updated or passed that make certain kinds of killing illegal (or, interestingly enough, legal). For example, if a husband has incontrovertible evidence that his wife has been unfaithful, he may either kill her himself or present her to the local government jurisdiction who will order her death by stoning. Homeowners will be granted the right to kill anyone who trespasses on their private property or molests them or their belongings in any way.

Exceptions: They are legion! For one thing, wives who have incontrovertible evidence that their husbands have been unfaithful will not be allowed to kill them. A wife must present her evidence to the local government jurisdiction, and, if the husband is found guilty, a fine will be levied.

While homeowners, in general, will be granted the right to defend their person and property with deadly force, in cases in which the homeowner is non-white and particularly when the decedent IS white, the incident automatically will be reviewed by the appropriate local court to decide if it was indeed justified. Woe to those who are found to have killed unjustifiably!

Law enforcement will be given blanket permission to utilize deadly force, whenever they alone deem it appropriate. Except in those cases in which an important person is killed, such events will not be subject to review.

Illegal immigrants coming from south of the border may be shot on sight at any time with no questions asked.

The death penalty -- state-sanctioned killing -- will be expanded as the preferred sentence for a long list of crimes, including such subversive activities as interracial marriage, anything that smells of homosexuality, utilizing a science-based argument against approved faith-based beliefs, etc.

Of course, the biggest exception will concern US military aggression. Since the US will only wage war at God's behest, anything goes as we invade one non-Christian nation after another.

If you're interested in reading more from this tongue-in-cheek series, go to the The American Theocracy Index page.

Line by Line - Verse 3, Line 1

Not to value and employ men of superior ability is the way to keep the people from rivalry among themselves;
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

Not exalting the gifted prevents quarreling.
~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

Do not glorify the achievers So the people will not squabble
~ Derek Lin translation, from Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006 ~

If you toss compliments around freely, people will waste time trying to impress you.
~ Ron Hogan rendition, from Beatrice.com, 2004 ~
As Derek Lin writes in his book,
When we glorify achievers and set them aside for special treatment, people will compete aggressively and step over one another to achieve that glory.
Of course, this is precisely the kind of mentality that pervades American society. People will engage in all sorts of antics -- many of which are wholly unethical -- to win their 15 minutes of fame.

As we saw in the last lines of the previous verse, selfishness is the barrier between each of us and selflessness. The selfless person has no need or use for glory!

To view the Index page for this series to see what you may have missed or would like to read again, go here.

The American Theocracy - Number Five

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the LORD your God gives you.
~ Exodus 20:12, RSV ~
Application: It will be mandated via Executive Order that ALL school curriculum will include instruction in the principles of honoring one's parents. This order will be extended to include the honoring of elected leaders because as Jesus is head of the Church and husbands are head of each household, the government will be viewed as surrogate parents for all citizens.

Exceptions: As part of the system of honoring parents, child protective services will be eliminated. Most child abuse laws will be stricken from the books because sparing the rod goes against the will of God. New statutes will be added that make it a crime to teach children about other religions and/or to not see to it that each child is enrolled in Sunday School.

While parents are to be honored, this dictate will not apply to single parents who are poor and non-white. Children will be given the right to petition the court to be removed from single parent households and placed into a family with a mother AND a father. Single mothers will be strongly encouraged to marry any "upstanding" man who proposes marriage.

If you're interested in reading more from this tongue-in-cheek series, go to the The American Theocracy Index page.

The American Theocracy - Number Four

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
~ Exodus 20:8, RSV ~
Application: Americans will be strongly encouraged to make attendance at church the focal point of each Sunday. However, in an interesting twist, this encouragement will not be set down in law. Though not a legal mandate, most of the wealthy will treat it as such anyway.

Exceptions: While there will be some debate at reinstating "Blue Laws," the theocratic powers will decide that such laws would put too much of a damper on American capitalism. With most of the high wage jobs now overseas, consumer spending will play a much greater role in keeping the national economy solvent. The malls MUST REMAIN OPEN.

A second consideration against reinstating Blue Laws is that it would make it more difficult for the wealthy elite to keep their lawns mowed and landscaped (among other things). Since the average work week will have increased from 40 to 60 hours and all minimum wage laws have been rescinded by this point, working class individuals may only be available on the Sabbath for the kind of jobs that used to go to illegal Latino immigrants -- those who are now barred completely from entry into the country.

If you're interested in reading more from this tongue-in-cheek series, go to the The American Theocracy Index page.

The American Theocracy - Number Three

You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
~ Exodus 20:7, RSV ~
Application: Slander and libel statutes would be rewritten to include the crime of blasphemy. National leaders would encourage citizens to spy on and report to the police or FBI anyone who invoked the name of the Lord to legitimize fraudulent claims to authority.

Exceptions: Televangelists and evangelical speakers would be immune from these laws. They could continue at will to claim anything and everything consistent with fundamentalist beliefs as a method to try to fleece more and more monetary contributions out of their captive American audience.

Elected leaders would also be immune. They could continue to tell Americans that God himself had ordained whatever draconian policies they were instituting or that God himself had instructed them to attack the foreign land of the month.

Average citizens, however, would be dealt with severely if found to be committing blasphemy. Long prison sentences or worse would be par for the course.

If you're interested in reading more from this tongue-in-cheek series, go to the The American Theocracy Index page.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The American Theocracy - Number Two

You shall not make unto you any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth
~ Exodus 20:4, RSV ~
Application: Symbols and imagery that are not connected to Evangelical Christianity will be outlawed. There will be a brief grace period to allow such images to be removed from the public space. After the grace period ends, government officials will order removal and bill the offending party.

In addition to the requirements related to public spaces, clinics will be set up to examine body art on all US residents. Any symbol or image that does not celebrate God/Jesus' mercy on humankind will be removed at the individual's cost plus a punitive fine of $500.

Exceptions: Though it will never be explained to the public, 60 foot tall Jesus statues will be erected in every county. Crosses, depictions of the crucifixion, and all sorts of church-related sculpture and artwork depicting God somehow will be exempt too. If a person tries to point out the rampant contradiction here, they will be thrown in jail.

If you're interested in reading more from this experimental series, go to the Tao Bible Index page.

The American Theocracy - Number One

You shall have no other gods before me.
~ Exodus 20:3, RSV ~
Application: Federal legislation will be passed requiring a prayer to God/Jesus and the Pledge of Allegiance to be recited at the beginning of each and every school day, public event or ceremony, and workday in every American workplace with two or more employees. While it will not YET be mandated (wink, wink), weekly church attendance will be strongly encouraged.

In the beginning stages of the American Theocracy, congregations of other religions will be allowed to continue to meet, but no new building permits will be approved and such institutions will lose their tax-exempt status. After the American Theocracy has taken a firm hold, efforts will be undertaken to outlaw any religion other than Evangelical Christianity.

Exceptions: While the conservative Christan God will be front and center, citizens will be allowed to continue to worship the God of Nationalism as well as the God of Consumerism. Of course, while our leaders pledge their allegiance to God, our Heavenly Father, they will spend most of their time worshiping a far different deity: the God of Earthly Power & Money!

Because most of us peons will be forced to engage in all sorts of church-related activities -- unpaid servitude -- we will be too harried to notice that the wealthy elite is ripping us off left and right. Besides, our ministers and pastors will reinforce the notion that bountiful riches come to those with the greatest faith.

If you're interested in reading more from this tongue-in-cheek series, go to the The American Theocracy Index page.

The American Theocracy

Yes, I'm at it again! I am introducing another one of my patented series. (Have you figured out yet that I really like the series format?) This one will be brief. It will have 10 parts beyond this introduction and will span no more than 3 days.

Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin are the motivating forces. It is a response to something Beck said yesterday from his self-anointed podium at the Lincoln Memorial: "America today begins to turn back to God."

It got me to thinking. What if, in these mixed up times, enough people drink the kool-aid and elect the kind of leaders who will put Beck's rhetoric into practice? What would the new American theocracy look like?

That's when it hit me! We would jettison (actively ignore) all those parts of the US Constitution that conservatives don't like. You know, things like allowing freedom of speech, assembly and religion to those they disagree with. At the same time, we would continue to embrace those parts of the constitution that conservatives love like the right to bear arms.

The biggest change, however, would be incorporating the 10 Commandments (the popular version from Exodus 20:1-17) into all aspects of American life. Every courthouse and government building in the land would be required to post the 10 Cs in a prominent location. All places of worship -- regardless of the religion -- would be required to teach the 10 Cs and, if the leaders of the synagogue, mosque, church or whatever else refused, they would be shutdown.

The 10 Cs would become a regular part of public school curriculum -- along with "creation" science. The 10 Cs would be on billboards, in grocery stores, at the mall, on gas pumps and just about anyplace else a person can think of. Nobody would be able to say they were unaware of the 10 Cs because they would be so ubiquitous!

Over the next 10 posts, I will take an individual look at each of the 10 Cs. Each post will begin with the "holy word" from our heavenly father (written with dripping sarcasm). I will then take a tongue-in-cheek look at how each commandment would be applied as well as all the important exceptions to the rule.

I think this will be fun!

Slumlord Millionaire

As most of my fellow Americans are painfully aware, statistics in regards to the housing market are down across the board. As NPR reports, "New home sales in July were at the weakest levels since the government began keeping records 47 years ago. Existing home sales weren't much better." The median sales price for houses on the market is 20 - 40% lower than it was a few years ago. More and more people are facing foreclosure and/or simply walking away from their homes.

While economists keep telling us that things are bound to turn around -- though reality seems to keep undercutting their rosy forecasts -- it does cause one to question who, if anyone, can rescue so many unoccupied buildings.

Banks aren't lending. One in five Americans is unemployed or under-employed. Most people don't have a few hundred thousands dollars sitting around gathering dust. So, who can afford to jump start housing sales?

In thinking about this issue, the answer I came up with is slumlord millionaires. This is what Wikipedia has say about the word, slumlord:
Traditionally, real estate is seen as a long term investment to most buyers. Especially in the developed world, most landlords will properly maintain their properties even when doing so proves costly in the short term, in order to attract higher rents and more desirable tenants in the long run. A well-maintained property is worth more to potential buyers.

In contrast, slumlords do very little maintenance on their property (ordinarily, just enough to meet minimum local requirements for habitability), and in turn offer low rent rates to lure tenants who will not (or cannot) pay high rent (and/or who might not pass background checks should these be required to live in the higher rent areas). Slumlords of this kind typically prosecute many evictions.

It is not uncommon for slumlords to buy property with little or no down payment, and also to receive rent in cash to avoid disclosing it for tax purposes, providing lucrative short term income. (Thus, in the U.S., slumlords would normally not participate in government-subsidized programs such as Section 8, due to the requirements to report income and keep properties well-maintained.) A slumlord may also hope that his property will eventually be purchased by government for more than it is worth as a part of urban renewal, or by investors as the neighborhood becomes gentrified.

Some slumlords are more interested in profit acquired through property flipping, a form of speculation, rather than rental income. Slumlords with this "business model" may not maintain their properties at all or pay municipal property taxes and fines they tend to accrue in great quantities. Knowing it will take years for a municipality to condemn and seize or possibly raze a property, the slumlord may count on selling it before this happens. Such slumlords may not even keep up with their mortgage payments if they become equity-rich but cash-poor or if they feel they can sell the property before it goes into foreclosure and is taken by their lender, typically a 6-8 month process at the quickest...
Think about this for a moment. With banks not lending to the vast majority, it makes it next too impossible for a working or middle class family to purchase a home in these times. With so many houses on the market, this has led to a decrease in sales prices. So, those few with the money can swoop in to buy lots of property with cash-on-hand or a pool of funds from likewise fat cat investors. And, since the wealthy elite certainly don't want to mix with our kind, it is far more likely that they will be absentee owners.

Who knows? Maybe we will return to a bygone era in which most people live in something akin to a company town. We will live in houses owned by the few who also, by the way, own the local grocery store, newspaper, television station, hospital and the area's elected leaders.

Line by Line - Verse 2, Lines 13-14

The work is done, but how no one can see; 'Tis this that makes the power not cease to be.
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

Work is done, then forgotten. Therefore it lasts forever.
~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

It is because they do not dwell on success That it never goes away
~ Derek Lin translation, from Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006 ~

When the job is finished, they move on to the next job. That's why their work is so damn good.
~ Ron Hogan rendition, from Beatrice.com, 2004 ~
In way of explanation for the latter portion of Verse 2, I want to share what Wang An-Shih wrote in 11th century China:
The sage creates but does not possess what he creates. He acts but does not presume on what he does. He succeeds but does not claim success. These three things result from selflessness. Because the sage is selfless, he does not lose his self. Because he does not lose his self, he does not lose others.
~ from Lao-tzu's Taoteching: with Selected Commentaries of the Past 2000 Years by Red Pine ~
How can we achieve selflessness? The first step along the journey is to say goodbye to selfishness. When we can accomplish that, we find ourselves much farther along the road than we might ever have imagined.

To view the Index page for this series to see what you may have missed or would like to read again, go here.

Locke and Key

This is the final installment of a brief 4-part miniseries. If you haven't read Parts 1, 2 & 3, this one might make more sense if you did.

In Part 3, I looked at the concept of improving perfection in terms of tangible property. In this post, I'm going to address the same general theme in terms of intangible things such as ideas and thoughts.

One of the first aspects we need to look at in regards to knowledge is whether or not there is such a creature as NEW knowledge. I am of the opinion that all of the knowledge in the vast cosmos has always been with us. Therefore, nothing in the realm of thought is new. While it may APPEAR new to a person who has never thought of something before, it is timeless information, notwithstanding.

From this standpoint then, not unlike tangible things, all knowledge is perfect. It is what it is and all that it ever needs to be. So, it begs the question I asked before: How can we humans make something that is perfect MORE perfect?

Also, as with the previous post, we can't improve on perfect knowledge; all we can do is alter our perception of it. While there is no question that we CAN improve on our understanding, this understanding doesn't change the perfect nature of that which we seek to comprehend.

If we return to Locke's formulation, that to make improvements upon raw material is what leads it to be considered property, we find ourselves with the same dilemma as before. If we can't improve knowledge, then how can anyone own it?

I suppose it could be argued that all we own are the alterations of knowledge. However, from my vantage point, such an explanation still is problematic. Any idea or conception that you and I can think up is built upon the foundation of the ideas and conceptions of others, both dead and alive. The words that I'm typing right now are not pulled out of thin air. Each one has been used countless times before.

Not only has each individual word been written or uttered before, but the language, grammar, syntax and spelling rules are not original either. Even if no other person has ever put forth the point I'm trying to make right now, it is still built upon the edifice of previous theories and ideas. So, how can I claim exclusive ownership to any of it?

All in all, the concept of property is a human illusion. What we claim as our own belongs to the cosmos. We hold exclusive title to nothing.

Glenn Beck's Little P

Over and over again, Glenn Beck proclaimed that yesterday's conservative shindig in the nation's capitol was NOT a political event. During most of the festivities, both Beck and the other speakers steered clear of obvious partisan politics. More references were made to the Christian God and President Obama's name never came up.

So does this mean that Beck's rally was indeed a non-political one? Hardly!

While it may not have been Political with a capital P, the whole affair WAS about politics.

Politics is about the power relations within any type of group. Politics rears its head when we discuss the power relations within a nation all the way down to the power relations in your local garden club or your family. It's about how decisions are made and who gets to make them. It's about lobbying others to see issues from your perspective. It's about who gets ahead and who's left behind. In reality, life is politics.

When people like Beck (hey, it happens just as much on the left) want to hide the fact that an event or activity implicitly is political, they play a silly game. They go out of their way not to mention specific political parties, leaders, candidates or substantive issues. By steering clear of what would be considered partisan, they are able to claim falsely that no political motivation is involved.

But how can a person genuinely believe that saying we need to return America to God is NOT an expression of that person's belief in a certain perspective regarding power relations? It openly suggests a specific political course. It openly suggests which specific candidates for public office that a person will support. It openly suggests what types of laws and policies a person will advocate on behalf of. It defines a person's political perspective.

Glenn Beck may not have shaken his big P at the assembled crowd, but his little p definitely was on display.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Social Control

Here's the last of the three-part video that was first posted at 7:00 p.m. I will skip tonight's Tao Bible post to allow time to digest these 3 provocative presentations.

A Theme -- I See a Theme

Here's Part II of the video first presented at 7:00 p.m.

A Pattern -- I See a Pattern

I must give kudos to the blog RealityZone where I saw this video first posted. It's rather eye-opening, don't ya think?

Locke and Load

I've got two more posts in this brief miniseries. If you haven't read Part 1 and Part 2, this one might make more sense if you did.

For Locke and other classical liberal philosophers, the act that confers ownership is when we take something from its natural state or further refine something that someone else took from its natural state to improve upon it or to make better use of it. In this post I want to explore this notion in terms of substantive or tangible things. In the next post, I will again return to the realm of ideas (i.e., intellectual property).

Regardless of how one views the ultimate mystery of life -- be it via a supernatural designer who continues to play a role in the design, a supreme designer who no longer plays a role, science or no real opinion at all -- I think most of us will agree that the world unto itself is perfect (for lack of a better word). Each being or entity has its own internal nature and it lives according to the way a designer or whatever else made it to live.

If you accept this notion, then it does lead to a most important question: How can any person improve perfection? How do we make something that is perfect MORE perfect?

In terms of the discussion of property, let's use Bob as our example.

Bob sees a forest. In terms of Bob's desires, the forest in and of itself is not very productive. So, Bob claims the forest as his own. He develops an idea to chop down all the trees and to turn the raw material into baseball bats. After investing his own industry in this enterprise, he reaps a profit for his efforts.

The forest has now become a barren field with various types of plants and the decaying stumps of the bygone trees. Bob goes off to follow other pursuits. In time, he returns to what he perceives as a barren field. He develops a new idea -- one that will improve upon the land again. He will dig up the stumps and till the soil. He plants corn and, in time, he sells the corn to feed a hungry community.

The way our civilization is set up, most people will look at this situation to say that Bob improved upon this parcel of land twofold. He took the raw material of trees to create baseball bats for the local little league and then he grew corn to feed his neighbors.

But did Bob improve the life of the trees? No, he cut them down. Did Bob improve on the life of all the plants, fauna, insects and other organisms that were sustained by the forest and then the "barren" field? Again, in most cases, the answer would be no. From the standpoint of the other beings EXCEPT humans, Bob may be viewed as a maniacal terrorist!

My point here is that what we humans consider to be an improvement of perfection represents a very narrow and misguided view of the interconnected nature of the cosmos. For us, improvement is defined by how it affects our species, front and center. If it meets our needs and desires alone, we deem it an improvement over what it was. If it does not meet our needs and desires, then we say that no improvement was achieved.

In truth, humankind cannot improve on that which is already everything that it needs to be. All we really are doing is altering or modifying perfection to serve our specific needs. In fact, that is what life is all about anyway. Billions upon billions of entities altering perfection in every moment.

I am NOT here to suggest that the process of alteration is inherently evil. Every breath we take alters something. Every time one organism feeds on another an alteration takes place. Alteration -- change -- is the constant of the cosmos.

All this brief discussion seeks to point out is that the manner in which we approach life leads to our own alienation of the depth of a better understanding of life itself. When we delude ourselves with the notion that we have the power to improve upon perfection, this creates the specter of separation. We create the very island of which we spend the rest of our lives trying to escape from.

Derivations on a Theme - Can't Buy It

There is a marvelous essay, "To save the world, the Left must reclaim utopia," posted on the blog Climate & Capitalism. One section really spoke to me.
The failings of economistic 20th century leftism have allowed capitalism and consumerism to run rampant to the extent that the biosphere of the planet is beginning to experience a catastrophic breakdown, best known in the form of climate change (although broader than that most pressing problem).

Climate change and the ecological crisis are demanding a reinvigoration of the left’s imagination. No longer can workers settle for demanding pay rises and economic advances. No more can the left settle for reactive campaigns calling to stop this or that crime, or to save this service from cutbacks. These are the defensive posturing of a movement that has put their visions of a better future off indefinitely as impractical or impossible just now.

Climate change demands action now. It demands solutions. They are feasible, and we can fight for them, but they are a radical departure from the consumerist life. This life is what the Western working class knows. It is largely what the third world masses aspire to. It is the dominant mass ideology. It’s a powerful ideology because it gives the appearance of having left behind the grim poverty of yesterday, and it gives the appearance of some return on the hours of workday drudgery that pay for it.

But at heart, consumerism is truly a hollow ideology. Even the commonplace sayings of the consumer era refute it. Consumerism says “you are what you buy” – but everyone knows, as the Beatles sang, “money can’t buy me love”. It can’t buy very much happiness either. There is an intrinsic gap in the ideological hegemony of the consumer ideal...
This last paragraph is so true! Though most of us build our lives around "keeping up with the Joneses," we know in our hearts that the material goods that we surround ourselves with do not bring peace of mind -- in fact, we know it often leads us in the opposite direction!

Why do we flock to substance abuse, religion, shopping malls and mental health centers? It's because we're looking for something -- anything -- to make us less afraid and to shield us from the emptiness we find in the way we live our lives. It is the inherent alienation of the ways our civilization has decided to order and define life on earth that lead us to be estranged from the cosmos.

Consumerism -- which lies at the heart of the capitalist system -- has deformed our ability to imagine possibilities. It has warped our creativity by placing all ideas within the context of a strict cost-benefit analysis. If any particular project or program doesn't pay for itself economically, it is immediately tossed into the dust bin.

And with it goes our hopes for finding sanity in an increasingly insane world.

Line by Line - Verse 2, Line 12

they go through their processes, and there is no expectation (of a reward for the results). The work is accomplished, and there is no resting in it (as an achievement).
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

Working, yet not taking credit.
~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

They act but do not presume
They succeed but do not dwell on success

~ Derek Lin translation, from Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006 ~

They do the work without expecting any favors.
~ Ron Hogan rendition, from Beatrice.com, 2004 ~
In nature, when things happen, they just happen. The sun shines, the wind blows and the rain falls. No one bothers to take credit and Mother Nature doesn't expect any plaudits.

Whenever we undertake an activity and our chief aim is to win accolades or achieve status, our attention to what we're doing is divided. Part of our focus is on the task at hand and the rest is bound up in our expectations. And so, because we're looking ahead, we too often miss those opportunities that present themselves to us in the here and now.

While we may prove very successful in our endeavors, imagine how much more successful we could each be if we focused SOLELY on the matter at hand. When a person gives their all to a project without any expectations, once the job is done, there is no need for congratulations. You know in your heart that what you've completed is good.

To view the Index page for this series to see what you may have missed or would like to read again, go here.

A Different Way to View the Bible

Many Christians view the Bible as the inspired word of God. Some take it even further. They believe that it is the inerrant word of their creator. Either way, both viewpoints are a real turnoff to most agnostics and atheists. It defies rational belief that a collection of documents so rife with error and contradiction could come from an all-knowing being!

If only more Christians would view the Bible like philosophical Taoists view the Tao Te Ching and the Chuang Tzu, maybe more skeptics would be willing to give Christianity a second look or at least not ridicule it so much.

Most Taoist scholars accept the notion that Lao Tzu most likely did not write the book ascribed to him. For one thing, Lao Tzu means "old boy" or "old master". Consequently, this title doesn't really provide much clue as to who Lao Tzu actually was. In fact, it is commonly accepted that Lao Tzu was most likely a fictional character anyway.

While there is some confirmation that Chuang Tzu was an actual person, most scholars believe that he only wrote a small portion (the "inner chapters") of the book named after him. The rest of the text most likely was written by later disciples and/or students.

How does this impact both books? For one thing, there is no claim to divine inspiration. These works simply were attributed to two sages, men of wisdom. There are many references to people or places that have been lost to antiquity. No one feels the need to try to fix errors or perform mental gymnastics in order to smooth over mixed messages or contradictions.

We acknowledge that much of the text from these works that exist today did not come from the pen or the imagination of the two individuals it was ascribed to. These texts were developed and brought together over hundreds (or thousands) of years and the messages contained therein represent diverse schools of thought. (Confucian and Mohist influences can be readily seen in places.) In time, these different perspectives coalesced into the philosophy we refer to today as Taoism.

Imagine if we applied this same perspective to the Christian Bible. It would remove the need for endless debates as to the authentic authors of particular books. People would come to understand that different sections of both the Old and New Testaments represent differing political, historical and philosophical schools of thought.

Such a viewpoint would provide an understanding as to why so many contradictions are present. An historical event, parable or principle told by one set of authors simply was viewed differently by those of a different school. It would no longer cause readers to feel the need to reconcile elements that don't add up into a whole.

Of course, this approach would change the nature of the Bible altogether. No longer would it be viewed as a direct communique between the deity and humankind; it would become a document by which people could read to gain insight and to spur reflection of their experiences in the here and now.

Why We Cannot be Silent

I've written a lot lately about the vitriol and hate being spewed around the US by political conservatives and many evangelical Christians (who typically are political conservatives). The prime reason WHY I have spent so much time and energy on this generalized topic is that IT MATTERS. For many, it is a matter of life and death.

A recent report has uncovered something that should surprise no one: anti-Latino violence is on the upswing.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is reporting an upward tick in anti-Latino hate crimes, and apparently it’s a general trend that’s been in the works for years. Hate crimes against Latinos had already increased in each of the four years between 2003 to 2007, according to FBI statistics. After taking a slight dip last year, the trend seems to be picking up just as the national debate over immigration reform rages on...
Of course, it's not just Latinos that are being brutalized. There has also been an increase in violence against Muslims!

Where hate speech is prevalent, violence tends to follow. When popular demagogues control the airwaves, it tends to whip certain segments of the population into a frenzy. If the voices of peace, justice and diversity are muted, there is nothing to counteract the growing furor.

As it stands now, the purveyors of hate, suspicion and self-righteousness are running amok. If left unchecked, we will continue to see a surge in hate crimes. Consequently, it is vitally important to call these people out and not to mince words. It's not enough to say that, while I don't personally agree with their rhetoric, it's a bit over the top to charge them with hate-mongering because what they ARE doing is hate-mongering!

If we remain silent, all we end up doing is abetting their efforts and I, for one, want no part of that.

I Will Not Listen to Reason

Don't know why, but this video reminds me a lot of Fox News!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Tao Bible - Genesis 24:35

And the LORD hath blessed my master greatly; and he is become great: and he hath given him flocks, and herds, and silver, and gold, and menservants, and maidservants, and camels, and asses.
~ King James version ~

Tao provides for all. Great is the individual who has much by having little.
~ possible Taoist alternative ~
From this verse of the Bible, we learn that, when God bestows his blessings on someone, the individual will enjoy earthly riches and great stature.

Tao, on the other hand, bestows nothing to any specific person or entity. What Tao provides is provided for all. The sage is a person who does not pursue earthly riches nor stature. He or she understands that enough is enough.

If you're interesting reading more from this experimental series, go to the Tao Bible Index page.

Locke, Stock and Barrel

In the last post, I wrote a wee bit about John Locke and the concept of private property, mainly tangible, substantive property. But what about intellectual property? Might that be different?

Whenever one of us comes up with a grand idea, new theory or a wondrous innovation, did we simply pull it out of thin air? Of course not! Any sort of mental or intellectual thought is built upon the insights, knowledge and imagination of the collective consciousness. In other words, just like with tangible things, the seed and all of its constituent parts were already out there in the ether. All we have done is alter them ever so slightly to create this "new" formulation.

Consequently, in my mind's eye, intellectual property is no different than tangible private property. All those things (e.g., land, businesses, stocks, toasters, tampons, books, cars, ideas, dreams, etc.) belong to the commons -- the cosmos -- and those things that we call mine are the result of a minuscule amount of individual input on our part. Yet, our society tells us that we control these things absolutely.

Let's say you are the majority shareholder in a large corporation. Two of your managers come to you with divergent ideas of how to propel the company forward. After hearing their presentations, you begin the process of mulling over which direction to head. As you are about to come to a decision, you learn the decision has already been made and it's not the one you planned to choose.

"Who made this decision?", you thunder. "I'm the majority stockholder. I own 95% of the stock." You're told that a little old lady from Pasadena who owns only one share is the person with the final say so. "How is that fair?" you boom. Everybody tells you that this is just the way it is!

In the above example, the majority shareholder is the cosmos, Tao, God or whatever you want to call it. The person who holds one measly share is each of us. Every time you or I make a decision about something that we claim as our own, we are attempting to usurp the majority owner. We are granting ourselves exclusive authority that we don't possess.

In Locke Steppe

Students of American history know that Thomas Jefferson's oft repeated phrase from the Declaration of Independence, "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" was borrowed straight from English philosopher John Locke. The only difference between the two is that Locke was far more direct; property was the third element. Of course, in Jefferson's time, a person couldn't feel secure and happy WITHOUT property, so the slight alteration in verbiage was understood to mean exactly the same thing.

Locke's political philosophy exerted tremendous influence on the Founding Fathers and much of his formulations are contained both in our founding documents and the great American ideal. One of these concerns private property and that is the subject matter for this post.

For Locke and other philosophers of the school of classic liberalism (it's ironic that today's conservatives unwittingly often embrace the antithesis of what one might think!) property becomes private or owned when an individual or collective of individuals take raw resources and, through their own sweat and industry, improve upon it. This adding of an element of the self allows that self to lay claim to the finished product.

For example, if an individual discovers a barren piece of ground and turns it into a viable farm, it is said that the individual has improved upon the land and, thereby, can lay claim to it as being an extension of the self. Today, we accept such definitions as self-evident and "the way it's always been." To look at such an accepted concept in any other way is...subversive or worse!!

Since I'm an avowed subversive, let's look at this whole conception in a different way!

The raw materials that form the basis of property belong to the cosmos. Before humans ever developed as a distinct species, this world was populated by untold numbers of flora and fauna. So, trees, ore, cotton and the like did not come into being because we willed them to; they were already here, marching along their own evolutionary routes.

Consequently, anything that we say we own is really a partnership. Yes, by our own wit, industry, muscle or monetary investment, we may have altered raw materials in such a way that they serve a different function, but the basis for ANYTHING we might develop or create was already here to begin with. In fact, if we look at the long history of the species we have altered for our own purposes, that history alone dwarfs our contribution to the process.

If anything, about the most that we can say is that we are minority owners in those things we call mine. Why is it then that we, as minority owners, believe that we alone can decide what will or will not be done to those things we lay sole claim to?

[I will thresh a few more thoughts along this line in subsequent posts today and tomorrow.]

Line by Line - Verse 2, Line 11

they grow, and there is no claim made for their ownership;
~ James Legge translation, from The Sacred Books of the East, 1891 ~

Creating, yet not.
~ Gia-fu Feng and Jane English translation, published by Vintage Books, 1989 ~

They create but do not possess
~ Derek Lin translation, from Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths, 2006 ~

They don't own much, but they use whatever's at hand.
~ Ron Hogan rendition, from Beatrice.com, 2004 ~
With this line -- unlike the previous one -- Legge now falls in line with Lin and Hogan as ascribing these characteristics to the sage. Feng and English continue to present these principles as more general, in nature. Personally, I favor the more general tone simply because I think it is apt advice for anyone and everyone, not just those individual who are designated as sages!

However one wishes to construe it, I like what John Lash has to say in reference to this line.
The Tao creates everything that exists, but it does not possess them. It makes no claim of ownership.
In other words, Tao creates with no strings attached!

To view the Index page for this series to see what you may have missed or would like to read again, go here.

Everyone Has a Story

Regardless of what a person believes, we each have a story that has led us from birth to where we are right now. While my story is not the same as the one shown below, there are a lot of common threads.

When They Said the Sky Would Fall

I was reading an article on the National Public Radio website on how many people actually die in the US from the flu each year. As I read down the page, the following information really jumped out at me:
Deaths peak when the H3N2 strain of influenza A dominates. When it's H1N1 or influenza B, the toll is quite a bit lower...
While it certainly wasn't the focus of this article at all, this information is astounding WHEN we remember what transpired last year.

Do you remember when the news was ablaze with dire predictions about the so-called swine flu (H1N1)? We were told it was so lethal that, not an epidemic, but a pandemic was staring us in the face. TV and internet news sites covered the impending doom around the clock. People were clamoring for the vaccine and we found ourselves in a bit of public hysteria. Things got so bad that many school districts, when it was confirmed that a few students had contracted the H1N1 virus, shutdown completely for several days or a week or more.

Of course, the pandemic of pandemics never materialized. In truth, it turned out to be a run-of-the-mill flu season. The anticipated high death toll was within normal parameters. Here we are -- less than one year later -- and you rarely even hear it mentioned much anymore.

So, what happened? Is it simply a case that we lucked out, that we dodged the bullet?

Unfortunately, the answer is that the lethal potential of H1N1 was more hype than anything else. It wasn't based on science; it was born of capitalist economics!

It turns out that the people who first sounded the alarm about H1N1 had a vested interest. You see, the people who got the ball rolling toward public hysteria were from the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture flu vaccines. The more they could whip up doom and gloom forecasts, the greater the number of vaccine doses they could sell and, with each sale, their revenues and profit margins grew.

It is a story of callous disregard for the public interest. It was nothing more than a ploy to fatten the bottom line!

As bad as this was, governments around the globe played a role as well. They fell hook, line and sinker for the manufactured hype. With their citizens clamoring for them to do something, they purchased millions upon millions of vaccine doses. After the money had exchanged hands, some people began to figure out this whole deal was a hoax. But most governments did NOT share these doubts with the public.

In essence, government found itself between a rock and a hard place. If they exposed the dubious nature and heavy conflict of interest of those utilizing scare tactics re H1N1, it would cause many to ask why their leaders could be so easily duped and manipulated. It might cause a massive loss of faith in government. Not only that, but the deficit hawks would lampoon them for wasting millions of dollars of taxpayer money on snake oil.

So government did was government tends to do. It facilitated the continuance of the scare tactics to cover their derrières. And they continued to badger citizens to submit to this vaccine, even as more and more people learned that the great pandemic was make believe.

A few years back the US was in the throes of another such panic due to the West Nile virus. Owing to what transpired regarding the H1N1 situation, I'm now wondering if the companies that manufacture mosquito insecticides had a hand in this scare as well.

A Game Show I Would Watch (Religiously)

But where is Vanna White?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tao Bible - Genesis 22:2

And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.
~ King James version ~

Tao neither rewards nor punishes, tempts nor tests.
~ possible Taoist alternative ~
In order to test Abraham's devotion, God orders him to sacrifice (murder) his own son, Isaac.

Tao asks nothing of us. We may believe in the Way or not. Tao remains all the same.

If you're interesting reading more from this experimental series, go to the Tao Bible Index page.

A Most Reasonable Challenge

I Don't Get It

Throughout my life as an anti-war, human rights and environmental activist, I have been videotaped by the police numerous times. Never once have they sought my permission to do so. Never once have I been committing a crime of any sort while being videotaped.

What have I been caught on tape doing? Holding a protest sign. Participating in chants. Standing in a crowd. Marching. Delivering a speech. Driving a car. Even going into a grocery store. All this in the name of protecting the public from my dangerous rights of free speech and free assembly!!

So, a story posted today on CommonDreams, has me puzzled.
A Maryland man is facing up to 16 years in prison for videotaping an overzealous state trooper who stopped the man for speeding.

But Graber, a sergeant with the Maryland Air National Guard, is now facing 16 years in prison, not for dangerous driving, but for a Youtube video he posted after receiving a speeding ticket.

The video, filmed with a camera mounted on Graber's motorcycle helmet designed to record biking stunts rather than police abuse, shows a plain clothes officer jumping out of an unmarked car and pointing a pistol at the motorcyclist.

It does not portray the policeman in a positive light...
Why is it that police can film people doing all sorts of things -- many of which are not illegal nor immoral -- and then these videos can show up on various TV programs, yet a citizen can't film a police officer? I fail to see the logic.

Because of dashboard cameras, the police now routinely record most of their traffic stops. Many such stops involve individuals who have broken laws. But some of them don't. In some cases, it's simply a case in which a car has broken down along the road or a citizen has flagged down an officer.

Do officers ask these people if it's okay that they film them? Well, of course not. Such a request would be unreasonable and impractical. So, why in this case would anyone argue that it WAS reasonable or practical?

Events like this cause me to shake my head. What is going on?

The Firm Grip of Christianity

While membership numbers for almost all Christian denominations in the western world have shown a slow but steady decrease over the past few generations, the Christian mindset still holds a lot of sway, particularly in the US. This holds true for believers and many non-believers as well. I must admit frankly that I find this very galling.

It's not uncommon for readers leaving comments on this blog and many of the others that I read regularly to suggest that people like me, Bruce, Lorena and others like us would be better people who led more fulfilling lives if we would turn those lives over to Jesus! The very fact that we refuse to take this course simply means we're arrogant, selfish, and deluded.

Mind you, our blogs are NOT advertisements for Christianity. We state up front that we are not Christians or, at least, not fundamentalist Christians. Yet, Christians see nothing wrong with leaving comments of their own religious testimony. They see nothing wrong with attempting to browbeat us into submission. Worse yet, most of their brethren see nothing wrong with this tack as well.

HOWEVER, if we write about our objections or criticisms of Christianity, well that's altogether different. We're chastised for expressing OUR opinions ON our OWN blogs. We're accused of attacking and railing. We're charged with being insensitive to other people's beliefs. We're told we aren't walking our talk.

To my way of thinking, this represents a double-standard. Christians are free to go where they want and to write or say what they want and it's all good. It's their right. It represents their convictions. But this same standard does not seem to apply to those of us who are not Christians.

If we visit a Christian blog and leave a comment about our personal beliefs, more often than not, we are labeled trolls and banned from leaving future comments. If a Christian visits a non-Christian blog and leaves a comment about their personal convictions, they are merely sharing their perspective and many, many people will defend their right to do this. Same situation -- different rules.

If a Christian blog features posts questioning or attacking Taoists, Muslims, agnostics or atheists, most people will say it is within their purview to express their opinions as they see fit. If a Taoist or non-Christian blog features posts questioning or attacking Christians, people tell us that we're out of line and we should stick with our prime subject matter. Same situation -- different rules.

If a Christian blog or commenter expresses the opinion that non-Christian belief systems are destroying the world, many people again will defend their right to state this unequivocally. It seems that the vast majority will bend over backwards to agree that such subject matter is fair game. If a non-Christian blog or commenter expresses the opinion that the Christian belief system is destroying the world, we're accused of painting with too wide of a brush. Such subject matter is NOT fair game and we are criticized for even bringing it up in the first place. Same situation -- different rules.

Like I said, I find this double-standard very galling, to say the least.

Real Life Tao - Simplify

One of the themes that runs throughout the writings attributed to Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu is the call to lead more simple lives. When we start adding layers of complication, it becomes that much easier to fall out of balance. When we become estranged from the natural processes of life, suffering and misery are soon to follow.

Many people view the "back to nature" movement as being incredibly naive. The very thought of getting out of our cars, growing our own food or using herbs to treat illness and disease seems so antiquated. Hey, these are modern times, they say. We have developed all sorts of technological wonders to further and enhance the human experience.

Unfortunately, while we too often focus exclusively on the tangible benefits of our technology, we either look away or don't see the costs we have wrought. Two recent articles, one on AlterNet and the other on CommonDreams, will provide apt illustrations of what I'm referring to.

It turns out that many of the cosmetic products used in the western world aren't half as healthy as we've been led to believe.
Numerous chemicals that are legally used in personal care products are untested, inadequately tested, or even proven harmful, but few are as widely used and as unnecessary as the endocrine disrupting chemicals triclosan (an ingredient in 75 percent of liquid hand soaps) and triclocarban (most commonly found in deodorant bar soaps). Scientists have recently found a number of new reasons why these chemicals should not be used in consumer products. In late July, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) brought a lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), calling on the FDA to ban triclosan and triclocarban from soaps and body washes.

Together, triclosan and triclocarban are widely used in antibacterial soaps, body washes, deodorants, lip glosses, dog shampoos, shave gels, and even toothpastes. They are found in brands as familiar as Colgate, Dial, Lever 2000, and Vaseline. Although they have been used for several decades for their antibacterial and antifungal properties, studies and even the FDA recognize that they are no more effective at preventing disease than regular soap and water. In other words, they serve two real purposes: allowing companies to market personal care products as "antibacterial," and contaminating the waste stream (and, ultimately, the environment)...
In the above cases, it turns out that what is being sold as a benefit to humankind concurrently is a danger not only to ourselves but the environment we live in! In the case of soap products, if we each followed the simple procedure of using an unadulterated bar of soap, we are just as protected against bacterial infections and we would cause far less ecological damage.

The other article concerns a known AND fully legal pesticide that, it turns out, may lead to problems with male sexual development.
Male rats exposed before birth to low doses of the weedkiller atrazine are more likely to develop prostate inflammation and to go through puberty later than non-exposed animals, finds a new study conducted by federal government scientists.

One of the most common agricultural herbicides in the United States, some 80 million pounds of atrazine are applied across the country every year to control broadleaf and grassy weeds in crops such as corn and sugar cane. It is the main ingredient in about 40 name-brand herbicides.

"Atrazine is a staple product for producers, who use it as a critical tool for weed control in growing the vast majority of corn, sorghum and sugarcane in the United States. Use of atrazine fights weed resistance, reduces soil erosion and increases crop yield," according to the Triazine Network, an association of growers and researchers.

But atrazine and its byproducts are known to be endocrine disrupters that are persistent in the environment, making their way into both surface water and groundwater supplies...
In situation after situation, humankind's obsession with trying to manipulate and control Mother Nature tends to lead to unintended consequences. What often is viewed as beneficial in one narrow area causes untold numbers of problems in other areas.

How do we find ourselves in one mess after another? I would submit that the chief reason is our attempt to compartmentalize the world; we continually fail to see the connections. When one part of the organism of life is changed, it alters the connections to and with the other parts. It is when these downstream alterations are not taken into consideration that we land ourselves in trouble!

You see, this is why the simple life is so advantageous for all concerned. You get to know intimately the local environment and you live your life within its fabric. Small changes that are made flow more easily with the life around you and we are better able to understand how these small changes will affect the overall organism.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.