Friday, November 30, 2012

Mencius - Book 7, Part 1, Chapter 32

Kung-sun Ch'âu said, 'It is said, in the Book of Poetry,
"He will not eat the bread of idleness!"
How is it that we see superior men eating without laboring?' Mencius replied, 'When a superior man resides in a country, if its sovereign employ his counsels, he comes to tranquility, wealth and glory. If the young in it follow his instructions, they become filial, obedient to their elders, true-hearted, and faithful. What greater example can there be than this of not eating the bread of idleness?'
~ James Legge translation via ~
 Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Works of Mencius.

Afternoon Matinee: Impressionists - Kevin Spacey

Scorched Earth

Trey Smith

The worst factory fire in Bangladesh’s history, which broke out on Saturday night in the Ashulia industrial zone, has exposed the ugly workings of global capitalism.

At least 112 workers died in the blaze, either through suffocation and burns, or from jumping out of the eight-story building in a desperate attempt to escape. The fire, which began on the ground floor, where flammable textile and yarn was stored, blocked the stairs. The only other exits were locked.

Photographs of the burnt-out Tazreen Fashions building show rows of incinerated workspaces where hundreds of workers produced clothes for major European and American corporations, including Walmart and the C&A retail chain. The lack of elementary fire safety precautions was matched by long hours, poor conditions and low pay. Survivors explained that they were owed three months of unpaid wages, plus bonuses.

In the fire’s immediate aftermath, a well-practiced cover-up swung into operation at all levels. The government, local and national authorities and employers’ groups shed a few crocodile tears over the deaths, announced sham inquiries and promised pittances in compensation to the families of the victims. All of this is aimed at silencing critics and preventing unrest until the story drops out of the news.

At the same time, police, soldiers and the country’s notorious Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) were deployed against distraught and angry relatives at the scene and also protests by workers that erupted on Monday. To justify the security build-up in the industrial zones, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed told parliament, without a shred of evidence, that the fire was “pre-planned” — that is, an act of sabotage — directed at destabilizing the government.
~ from The Brutal Face of Global Capitalism by Peter Symonds ~
Before any of you think to yourselves, "Hey, it IS Bangladesh. What do you expect?" it should be remembered that this same scenario of locked exits and fires has popped up numerous times over the past 100 years in THIS country. Heck, within the past decade in, I believe, North Carolina, several workers at a textiles facility died in a fire because all the exits were blocked.

The reason many employers lock the exits is because they don't want their slaves workers to take breaks -- even when breaks are mandated by law! Breaks represent downtime and downtime means fewer profits. If you lock the exits and employ menacing supervisors or security to patrol the facility, workers feel pressured to work at breakneck speed without pausing to breathe!

It's important to terrorize employees, particularly in the textile industry. Americans and other westerners certainly don't want to pay high prices for crumby t-shirts, pants, scarves, shoes and handbags! We expect to pay the lowest prices possible and the only we can do that -- while providing the fat cats with mountains of profit -- is for textile workers to be treated like little more than slaves or indentured servants.

Bit by Bit - Chapter 4, Part 7

Trey Smith

"However, you must have some plan in mind. Come, tell me what it is."

Yen Hui said, "If I am grave and empty-hearted, diligent and of one mind, won't that do?"

"Goodness, how could that do? You may put on a fine outward show and seem very impressive, but you can't avoid having an uncertain look on your face, any more than an ordinary man can. And then you try to gauge this man's feelings and seek to influence his mind. But with him, what is called `the virtue that advances a little each day' would not succeed, much less a great display of virtue! He will stick fast to his position and never be converted. Though he may make outward signs of agreement, inwardly he will not give it a thought! How could such an approach succeed?"

~ Burton Watson translation ~
Back in high school, I remember taking a class in the art of persuasion. We learned all sort of tricks -- like reverse psychology -- to try to convince others to do what we want. I suppose this course was provided to teach us how to succeed in this me-first world.

Interestingly enough, the most straightforward approach was not included in our coursework: Living our principles in all we say and do. When an individual serves as a good role model, often others want to emulate the way that individual comports him/herself in their own lives!

To view the Index page for this series, go here.

Mencius - Book 7, Part 1, Chapter 31

Kung-sun Ch'âu said, 'Î Yin said, "I cannot be near and see him so disobedient to reason," and therewith he banished T'â-chiâ to T'ung. The people were much pleased. When T'â-chiâ became virtuous, he brought him back, and the people were again much pleased.

'When worthies are ministers, may they indeed banish their sovereigns in this way when they are not virtuous?'

Mencius replied, 'If they have the same purpose as Î Yin, they may. If they have not the same purpose, it would be usurpation.'
~ James Legge translation via ~
 Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Works of Mencius.

From the Book of Tzu-Youzi: The Stream of Transformation

Scott Bradley

Wenzi inquired of Tzu-youzi, "Master, please tell me more of your transformation."

Tzu-youzi answered, "Yesterday you were born, tomorrow you will die; what more do you need to know? This morning you were young, this afternoon you are old. One moment you are strong, the next you are weak. Does anything exist that yesterday did not or tomorrow will not? What other transformation do you seek?"

"But, Master," replied Wenzi, "you are not like other men, having become one with transformation. The sky might fall and it would not disturb you. The world laughs at you and presses on without you, but you do not care. Surely, your transformation is more than the course of everyday decay?"

"Ah," exclaimed Tzu-youzi, "I see you would make of transformation some constant thing! Still you seek a guarantor of what has never been. Transforming into transformation all imagined constancy is left behind. Should the sky fall, would it miss this hoary head? It would not; only there is no one whose head it is, so why should anyone distress?"

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mencius - Book 7, Part 1, Chapter 30

Mencius said, 'Benevolence and righteousness were natural to Yâo and Shun. T'ang and Wû made them their own. The five chiefs of the princes feigned them.

'Having borrowed them long and not returned them, how could it be known they did not own them?'
~ James Legge translation via ~
 Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Works of Mencius.

I Admit It -- I Am Guilty Too

Trey Smith

Most people I talked to over Thanksgiving apparently think the “fiscal cliff” is the government runs out of money on December 31 because the deficit is so big and all kinds of terrible things happen on January 1. This is sort of the opposite of what is going on. Even the few who didn’t think it was about the country running out of money were misinformed in one way or another, with most thinking something terrible happens January 1.

The “fiscal cliff” is about taxes going up and budget cuts, which reduce the deficit. And absolutely nothing in anyone’s life will change on January 1, or for some time (weeks, months) after.

That’s right, all the people who were hysterically screaming about the deficit are hysterically screaming now because of deficit cuts. Go figure. But the reason is that they have an agenda.
~ from Saying "Fiscal Cliff" Is Taking Sides by Dave Johnson ~
Though I have tended to supply the qualifier, "supposed", to the mention of the fiscal cliff, I will admit that I am guilty of Johnson's charge. Too often, writers of all ilks get a bit lazy and utilize popular terms as a convenience. We do it because it saves time and space. Who wants to have to explain certain situations every time one is referenced?

The mainstream media and elites count on this kind of mindless laziness. They introduce some sort of Orwellian term and, before you know, it becomes a part of the lexicon. This happens because supporters and foes alike keep saying and writing it ad nauseam. It gets repeated so often that it turns into a self-evident "truth," even when there's not one damn true thing about it!!

So, I will make every effort not to use the term "fiscal cliff" in future posts. As Johnson points out, there is no cliff -- only a slope.

Afternoon Matinee: Impressionists - Rich Little III

Into the Frying Pan

Trey Smith

What if the leaders of the United States -- and by leaders I mean the generals in the Pentagon, the corporate executives of the country’s largest enterprises, and the top officials in government -- have secretly concluded that while world-wide climate change is indeed going to be catastrophic, the US, or more broadly speaking, North America, is fortuitously situated to come out on top in the resulting global struggle for survival?

I’m not by nature a conspiracy theorist, but this horrifying thought came to me yesterday as I batted away yet another round of ignorant rants from people who insist against all logic that climate change is a gigantic fraud being perpetrated, variously, by a conspiracy of the oil companies who allegedly want to benefit from carbon credit trading, the scientific community, which allegedly is collectively selling out and participating in some world-wide system of omerta in order to get grants, or the world socialist conspiracy, which of course, is trying to destroy capitalism), or all the above. (God, whenever I write anything on climate change these people hit me with flame-mail like mayflies spattering a car windshield in mating season!)

What prompted me to this dark speculation about an American conspiracy of inaction was the seemingly incomprehensible failure of the US -- in the face of overwhelming evidence that the Earth is heating up at an accelerating rate, and that we are in danger of soon reaching a point of no return where the process feeds itself -- to do anything to reduce either this country’s annual production of more atmospheric CO2, or to promote some broader international agreement to slow the production of greenhouse gases.

It seems insane that this nation’s leaders, corporate and political, would even now still be deliberately refusing to take action to protect the Earth, which of course they and their children and grandchildren will also have to live on, and yet almost to a one they are on the side of the deniers or the delayers. The business leaders for example overwhelmingly provided campaign funding to the Republicans -- a party that makes jokes about global warming and openly urges more burning of coal.
For the record, I don't think this notion is that unthinkable. Within the past few weeks, I've read that both the World Bank AND the Pentagon have issued reports that treat climate change as a given. It is more than obvious that a lot of the world's leading capitalists are aware that climate change is real and coming our way soon, but this acceptance has been met with idle yawns. 

So, it stands to reason that they must see a huge profit angle to the crisis. If you are certain that you will make money hand over fist, why would you not hasten it along? The sooner it arrives, the sooner you strike oil.

As Lindorff writes, how else can one rationally comprehend this seeming reticence to impending calamity?

Bit by Bit - Chapter 4, Part 6

Trey Smith

In ancient times Yao attacked Ts'ung-chih and Hsu-ao, and Yu attacked Yu-hu, and these states were left empty and unpeopled, their rulers cut down. It was because they employed their armies constantly and never ceased their search for gain. All were seekers of fame or gain - have you alone not heard of them? Even the sages cannot cope with men who are after fame or gain, much less a person like you!
~ Burton Watson translation ~
Rest is an important facet of life. We need it to clear our heads and refocus on what's important. When we neglect rest and scurry around around constantly trying to feed our egos, our minds become clouded with desire. We become like a marauding army looking for the next village to sack and pillage.

To view the Index page for this series, go here.

Lords and Serfs

Trey Smith

Imagine walking into your favorite store and being handed a list of items you are told that you WILL purchase that day. Scanning the list, you see a good deal of the items you had planned to purchase, but there are 6 items you have no interest in whatsoever.

"The list looks fairly good," you say, "but I don't need the 6 items I marked. So, would you kindly remove those from my bill?"

"Sorry, no can do," replies the clerk. "The store's manager decided that you need those items and so that is why they are on the list."

"But there is a case of peanuts on the list," you respond. "I'm deathly allergic to peanuts!! I DO NOT WANT THEM."

"Well, you actually don't have to take them," the clerk tells you.

"Great, that should reduce my bill significantly," you say cheerily.

"You don't understand," the clerk says. "You don't actually have to take the peanuts, but you do have to pay for them. They are on the list."

"WTF!" you scream...

Sounds crazy, doesn't it? But that's the way it works for my friend Paul and his mini mart. The distributors he deals with basically tell him what he will buy and he has little say in the matter. Every week they bring products he doesn't need or that don't sell, but he is forced to pay for them, nonetheless.

Now, you might suggest that all Paul needs to do is to switch distributors. This strategy might work in urban areas, but in rural communities off the beaten path, you can't. Why? Because the distributors for certain products have a monopoly. If you don't contract with them, then you can't sell the popular products consumers want and, if you don't sell those products, customers will go to your competitors and you'll soon be out of business.

So, you're stuck and there's not much you can do about it!

Capitalists will tell you that they live for competition, but it's mostly a big lie. What most capitalists want is a real or virtual monopoly. When you have the only game in town, you call ALL the shots. You don't have to be nice to customers. You don't have to play fair. You basically tell people, it's my way or the highway.  And you laugh all the way to the bank!!!

Mencius - Book 7, Part 1, Chapter 29

Mencius said, 'A man with definite aims to be accomplished may be compared to one digging a well. To dig the well to a depth of seventy-two cubits, and stop without reaching the spring, is after all throwing away the well.'
~ James Legge translation via ~
 Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Works of Mencius.

From the Book of Tzu-Youzi: Neither Rank Nor Sweet

Scott Bradley

Wenzi came to Tzu-youzi in distress and asked, "Master, there is a man in Lu who teaches a way of disharmony and things that would not issue from your lips, nor as much as enter your mind, yet he has so many disciples he has to turn them away. How can these things be?"

Tzu-youzi smiled and replied, "If this distresses you, then would you not do better to follow him? It is said that ants come to mutton because it is rank and bees to honey because it is sweet, yet for ants mutton is as good as sweet and for bees honey is as good as rank. If disharmony distresses you, then perhaps your sweet is really rank or your rank is really sweet."

"But Master," replied Wenzi, "you teach a way of harmony and it is harmony that I seek. You have taught me that I seek what I do not have and I do not have it because I seek. Should I then abandon the harmony I do not have for the disharmony that I do? Will I find harmony in my disharmony?"

"Did not the sage Zhuangzi teach just this?" answered Tzu-youzi. "People point to Heaven and mutter "harmony", but where is harmony anywhere to be found? "Tranquility in Turmoil" is the way of harmony and nowhere else does it arise."

"What business have you distressing over the teachings of another?" Tzu-youzi continued. "Would you not do better to ask after the reasons for your own distress? Harmony does not seek harmony, for it has no need to harmonize."

"As for having multitudes of disciples," he concluded, "let that be the concern of those who haggle over what is rank and what is sweet."

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Mencius - Book 7, Part 1, Chapter 28

Mencius said, 'Hûi of Liû-Hsiâ would not for the three highest offices of State have changed his firm purpose of life.'
~ James Legge translation via ~
 Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Works of Mencius.

Afternoon Matinee: Impressionists - Rich Little II

Dying For a Toaster

Trey Smith

Every year after Thanksgiving, the nation's wealthy elite, still fat-bellied from turkey and cornbread stuffing, tune in to their local news outlets and observe what has become an annual tradition of bloodletting and frenzied consumerism.

We call it "Black Friday." But to those like the Walmart heirs who together own more wealth than the bottom 40% of the nation combined, it might as well be called their very own "Hunger Games."

It's their stores, after all, that play host to this one-day battle - waged by poor and working class people - to get discounted appliances, clothes, and toys for their kids.

Like Suzanne Collins' dystopic future portrayed in The Hunger Games, in which impoverished teenagers battle each other to the death once a year for the amusement of Panem's wealth elite, Black Friday "Battle Royales" often end in death as well. In just the last few years, we've seen shoppers and retail workers shot to death, trampled to death, pepper-sprayed, bitten, punched, and kicked, all in their pursuit for Black Friday shopping deals.

This year was no different. Two people were shot outside a Walmart in Tallahassee, Florida. Another two people were run down by a car in a Walmart parking lot in Covington, Washington. And at a Sears store in San Antonio, Texas, one man punched his way to the front of the line only to have a gun pulled on him by another man.

Every year around this time the phrase, "clean up on aisle five," takes on a much more disturbing meaning.

All while the wealthy elite look down on the spectacle before them with amusement and the knowledge that the entire spectacle is fattening their bank accounts.
~ from Walmart's Hunger Games by Thom Hartmann and Sam Sacks ~
One of the inherent advantages of being really cash poor is that Black Friday, Gray Saturday and Cyber Monday don't mean a whole helluva lot. I mean, when you're hard-pressed to keep pace with your routine monthly bills and you don't have any credit cards (by choice), you simply don't have the requisite funds to engage in this annual consumer frenzy.

In past years, I sometimes would look at all the ads which advertized the various products I wouldn't be purchasing, but not this year. We're in the process of shedding belongings -- we don't need more!

I don't shop at Walmart anyway. I refuse to. That said, I don't entirely begrudge others who do because, unfortunately, in many areas, Walmart is the only place around to buy needed items on a budget. While I certainly wish that more of my fellow consumers were far more conscious of the many negatives Walmart and other big box stores bring to communities across the land, I understand that too many people are bought off by the fancy ad campaigns.

It's just sad that so many people are hurting and they try to buck up their bruised egos and self-images by buying crap that they really don't need.

Bit by Bit - Chapter 4, Part 5

Trey Smith

"In ancient times Chieh put Kuan Lung-feng to death and Chou put Prince Pi Kan to death. Both Kuan Lung-feng and Prince Pi Kan were scrupulous in their conduct, bent down to comfort and aid the common people, and used their positions as ministers to oppose their superiors. Therefore their rulers, Chieh and Chou, utilized their scrupulous conduct as a means to trap them, for they were too fond of good fame.
~ Burton Watson translation ~
In all honesty, this short tale doesn't make much sense to me! To be scrupulous means to be principled and, if one of your principles is to help the people, then fame wouldn't really be an enticement.

It might be one thing IF the ministers were helping others simply to advance their own political careers, but if this were true, scrupulous is not the adjective I would employ to describe their behavior.

To view the Index page for this series, go here.

A Diverted Stream?

Trey Smith

Over the next 4 - 8 weeks, I suspect there will be days in which -- other than the various series that run on this blog daily -- my postings will be negligible. I'm certainly not saying this is a hard and fast rule, but my time and energy will be divided. As we work to get Della set up in the White Salmon area while I continue to work here to relinquish the house, I'm guessing there will be days when I'm so tired that I will have difficulty linking together even a few cogent words and ideas.

The again, things might go streaming along as before. You may notice nothing different here at all!

You just never know with me.

Mencius - Book 7, Part 1, Chapter 27

Mencius said, 'The hungry think any food sweet, and the thirsty think the same of any drink, and thus they do not get the right taste of what they eat and drink. The hunger and thirst, in fact, injure their palate. And is it only the mouth and belly which are injured by hunger and thirst? Men's minds are also injured by them.

'If a man can prevent the evils of hunger and thirst from being any evils to his mind, he need not have any sorrow about not being equal to other men.'
~ James Legge translation via ~
 Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Works of Mencius.

Friendship IV: Stimulating Personal Transformation

Scott Bradley

I began this series with a view to exploring my own reflections on friendship before reading Brian Lundberg's "A Meditation on Friendship" in Wandering at Ease in the Zhuangzi; I have now read that essay. One aspect of friendship that he touches upon that I perhaps did not is how that it helps in the cultivation of one's own self. "Developing a friendship," he writes, "is, in essence, a training in looking outward beyond and away from self-interest — only one step away from letting go of personal pre-conceptions, a prerequisite for the expansion of insight. Genuine friendship is therefore a highly effective source of spiritual transformation."

In support of this point he also refers to the story of the carpenter who, when his friend had a bit of plaster on his nose, was called upon to cut it away with his axe. When a duke heard of this, he asked that the same 'trick' be performed on him, but the carpenter deferred, implying that the feat, though certainly requiring his own skills, was equally dependent on the skill (fearlessness and confidence) of his deceased friend. His own attainment was in part conditional upon that of his friend. His friend brought out the best in him.

It is self-evident that our personal growth is furthered by interaction with others, whether that interaction be largely positive or negative. Though one has more than enough raw material upon which to learn affirming transcendence while alone in the wilderness, there is nothing quite as effective as others. I have recently come to realize that a good many of my own attitudinal failings are in part due to my having spent most of my life alone. When alone, one need not 'perform' and thus one acquires habits he would not otherwise acquire. Since the vast majority of human beings live lives in close proximity to others and usually cheek-to-jowl with others, and still do not display a significant degree of spiritual maturity, it is also clear that learning how to "perform" is not in itself sufficient to stimulate personal transformation.

I admit that I can only speak of true friendship in the abstract; in truth, I don't think I have ever experienced it. (As Zhuangzi would say, “How sad.”) This is as much my fault as it is of others, needless to say. When I look at community, personal or romantic situations in which I have been a participant, I see my own dysfunction, but also the incredible dysfunction of the others. It is laughable. Let us therefore laugh. Let us learn to laugh together.

I must say that I have learned a great deal more from failed friendships than I have from apparently more successful ones. Lundberg explains how genuine friendship enables us to go beyond ourselves in identifying with the other. Ames has described this as "extending one's de"; we become more inclusive, less self-involved, and learn to incorporate other perspectives. Consider, therefore, how a failed friendship might all the more enable us to do so. Learning to extend one's de to include those who exclude us is a powerful impetus to personal transformation. “There is no success like failure”; though “failure is no success at all”.

You can check out Scott's writings on Zhuangzi here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mencius - Book 7, Part 1, Chapter 26

Mencius said, 'The principle of the philosopher Yang was "Each one for himself." Though he might have benefited the whole kingdom by plucking out a single hair, he would not have done it.

'The philosopher Mo loves all equally. If by rubbing smooth his whole body from the crown to the heel, he could have benefited the kingdom, he would have done it.

'Tsze-mo holds a medium between these. By holding that medium, he is nearer the right. But by holding it without leaving room for the exigency of circumstances, it becomes like their holding their one point.

'The reason why I hate that holding to one point is the injury it does to the way of right principle. It takes up one point and disregards a hundred others.'
~ James Legge translation via ~
 Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Works of Mencius.

Afternoon Matinee: Impressionists - Rich Little I

Water Here Or Water There

Trey Smith

When Della and I moved to the Washington coast in late 2005, we thought we'd never leave. Living near the Pacific Ocean had been a dream of ours since the mid 80s and, since that time, we had slowly worked our way across the country from Arkansas to Kansas to eastern Oregon to western Oregon to coastal Washington. Once we moved to South Bend, we figured that we would retire and die here.

And yet, here we are getting ready to move away from our beloved ocean.

We aren't moving away from water -- we're simply moving away from close to the ocean to being close to a major river.

We're both glad that it has worked out this way because we both find a lot of spiritual rejuvenation from waters. While we will miss the ocean mist as it descends on our small coastal town, we can still rejoice while gazing at and walking along the Columbia River.

One aspect in common for these two divergent ecosystems is wind. Every winter we have gotten slammed by storms rolling off the ocean. It is not uncommon at all to experience wind storms in excess of 75 mph. While the Columbia Gorge region receives significantly less rainfall than South Bend, it has its own wind storms as well. The gorge acts as a wind funnel and the area around White Salmon is famous for its wind surfing.

Still, it is going to be very different living there. The gorge receives a lot more snow than we're used to and White Salmon is on the edge of the high desert. As you go toward the east, trees become far less frequent and sagebrush dominates the landscape.

But through it all, we still will have the water and that's what we will hang our hats on. ;-)

Bit by Bit - Chapter 4, Part 4

Trey Smith

Kings and dukes always lord it over others and fight to win the argument. You will find your eyes growing dazed, your color changing, your mouth working to invent excuses, your attitude becoming more and more humble, until in your mind you end by supporting him. This is to pile fire on fire, to add water to water, and is called `increasing the excessive.' If you give in at the beginning, there is no place to stop. Since your fervent advice is almost certain not to be believed, you are bound to die if you come into the presence of a tyrant.
~ Burton Watson translation ~
It seems to be a human tendency to want to be on the winning side. In politics, candidates will say just about A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G to gain votes. It makes little difference if they mean or even believe what they say. All that counts is receiving one more vote than their opponent[s].

To view the Index page for this series, go here.

Eastward Ho!

Trey Smith

It looks like my wife and I are on the cusp of a new adventure! Yesterday she was offered and accepted an AmeriCorps position in the small town of White Salmon, Washington. While we had expected her start date to be Jan. 16, we learned that instead it probably will be two weeks earlier on Wednesday, Jan. 2 (or, maybe, Monday, Jan. 7). This means we have even LESS time to find Della temporary lodging.

We think we will take an overnight trip that way next week. We need to scout out the possible living arrangements. I've been doing a lot of web research, but we need to look at the housing options with our own eyes. We also need to set up a bank account for Della.

Needless to say, both of us are well as a tad bit nervous. The excitement is caused by the idea of getting to reinvent ourselves in a new locale. We've been working on downsizing our lives -- what my brother calls right-sizing -- and we're going to need to downsize in a BIG way. Della, of course, is excited about joining the Washington Reading Corps program as a tutor. I'm very confident that she will do quite well.

The nervousness is borne of several things. First and foremost is the challenge of finding adequate and affordable lodging. When you have a lot of time and money, you can be as picky as you want. When you are lacking those two things, you can't afford to be very picky at all!

Another daunting issue for us is that we will be separated for a time, maybe as much as 2 or 3 months. For a lot of couples, this wouldn't be such a big deal; it is for us. Over the past 20 years, we've rarely been apart for more than a day or two at most. Della will begin OUR new life alone. I will be stuck here in South Bend without a car (though my friend Paul has already told me that I can borrow one of his two rigs from time to time).

As has usually been the case, I will be responsible for packing the majority of our belongings that will go with us for our new life and selling or donating all the stuff that isn't going. I also get the unenviable task of cleaning up the house and property. What fun!!

The variable we are most nervous about is our three pets. Chances are great that one, two or all three will not be able to go with us. We are holding out hope that all 3 can go or, if not that, at least Lily (the xolo-dachshund) can make the move. Giving away ANY of them will be heartbreaking, but we may not have a choice.

I guess we'll just have to see.

Mencius - Book 7, Part 1, Chapter 25

Mencius said, 'He who rises at cock-crowing and addresses himself earnestly to the practice of virtue, is a disciple of Shun.

'He who rises at cock-crowing, and addresses himself earnestly to the pursuit of giin, is a disciple of Chih.

'If you want to know what separates Shun from Chih, it is simply this, the interval between the thought of gain and the thought of virtue.'
~ James Legge translation via ~
 Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Works of Mencius.

Friendship III: Forgetting Friendship

Scott Bradley

Who is able to climb the skies, roam the mists, and dance in the infinite, living forgetful of each other without end?
(Zhuangzi, 6; Lundberg?)
More often than not forgetfulness in the Zhuangzi is a positive thing. When we have caught the rabbit, we forget the snare; when we have understood the meaning, we forget the words (and need not dispute about them). When the belt and shoes fit, we forget all about them. When we forget ourselves, we become one with transformation. When we forget life and death, we are free to live without fear. And when we forget each other, we are able to be the truest of friends.

True friendship is free of co-dependency; neither party requires anything from the other; both are sufficient unto themselves. This might smack of extreme individualism, but nothing could be farther from the truth. The pre-condition to self-sufficiency is self-forgetfulness, and this is harmony with all things. When one requires no affirmation from the other, one is able to affirm that other “without end”.

But friendship is not a given; friendship is rare and special. Friendship is mutual affirmation. Its parties require no affirmation, but friendship does not exist without it. It might be said of the theoretical sage that, as an affirmer of all that is, he is a friend of all things and everyone regardless of their ability or inability to do the same, but friendship requires two.

But do we need to speak of sages? Cannot two pilgrims, two very flawed sojourners on the way, likewise affirm each other in the midst of their imperfections? Isn’t this, in fact, the only way to friendship before us?

One passage in the Zhuangzi that speaks of forgetfulness in negative terms is that in which physical appearance is allowed to obscure that which is so much more important, that which is most essential in every person. “Thus, where Virtuosity [de] excels, the physical form is forgotten. But people are unable to forget the forgettable, and instead forget the unforgettable — true forgetfulness!” (5:20; Ziporyn) What is the “unforgettable” in each one of us? To know and affirm this is the foundation of true friendship.

But is it necessary that one’s de “excel” for us to affirm them? If so, there is no hope of friendship anywhere in the world. It is not excelling de that we forget when we refuse affirmation, but simply de, the indisputable and unconditional reality of each thing as the expression of Dao. This is the view from Dao, the all-inclusive and all-affirming view, which we need always to remind ourselves, is an orientation of mind, not a metaphysical belief.

You can check out Scott's writings on Zhuangzi here.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Mencius - Book 7, Part 1, Chapter 24

Mencius said, 'Confucius ascended the eastern hill, and Lû appeared to him small. He ascended the T'âi mountain, and all beneath the heavens appeared to him small. So he who has contemplated the sea, finds it difficult to think anything of other waters, and he who has wandered in the gate of the sage, finds it difficult to think anything of the words of others.

'There is an art in the contemplation of water. It is necessary to look at it as foaming in waves. The sun and moon being possessed of brilliancy, their light admitted even through an orifice illuminates.

'Flowing water is a thing which does not proceed till it has filled the hollows in its course. The student who has set his mind on the doctrines of the sage, does not advance to them but by completing one lesson after another.'
~ James Legge translation via ~
 Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Works of Mencius.

Huainanzi - Entry 89

Trey Smith
Cultivated people can live only by justice; if they lose justice, they lose their raison d'etre. Infantile people can live only be desires; if they lose their desires, they have no way to live. Cultivated people fear loss of justice; infantile people fear loss of material advantages. By observing what they fear, you can tell their differences.
~ a passage from
The Book of Leadership and Strategy by Thomas Cleary ~
If this truly represents the dividing line, then we must admit that there are few cultivated individuals in the world today!

This is an especially pertinent issue to think about during this consumer-driven holiday time of year.  Almost everyone of any means is out to get theirs by whatever means necessary.  It is at this time of year that we hear reports of people fighting or trampling others to get their hands on this year's most popular gift items for children and, sometimes, adults.

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza and/or the Winter Solstice,  this time of year is supposed to be about family and community.  It is supposed to be a time of giving selflessly.  Sadly, in far too many cases, it has turned into an orgy of materialism in which honor or justice simply doesn't figure into the equation.

To read the introduction to this ongoing series, go here.

Afternoon Matinee: The Weird Al Story 6/6

The "Safe" Route

Trey Smith

In one of yesterday's posts, I mentioned that I really don't think there is a way to avoid least in human affairs. You could have two sagely individuals who are pure of heart and yet this in no way means that they will agree on everything!

In our lives, there are many acceptable routes or paths to take. Which path or route is taken often is taken out of personal preference, not moral superiority.
To illustrate my point, imagine a group of sages who, in olden times, went to visit a neighboring community. It is mid-autumn and all the sages agreed it was a good time to go before winter made the area tough to travel. A few days before they were set to return to their own village, a sudden snowstorm came up which deposited a foot or more of snow.

So now, the sages face a bit of a dilemma. They've learned that the main road is blocked by a huge avalanche. The question they discuss among themselves is: Should they go back to their own village and, if so, what alternate route should be taken?

Because these are sages, we're going to assume that each one is pure of heart and none of them will advance an idea based on self-interest or satisfying an egoic desire. Each sage equally is concerned with the health and safety of each member of the group.

One sage suggests that they wait out the winter in the neighboring village. He is concerned that alternate routes will be fraught with danger and doesn't want to take the chance of any of his fellow sages becoming injured or losing their lives. He understands the townspeople from their home village will be worried about them, but he believes the most prudent choice is to stay put.

Another sage suggests that they follow the shore of the great river and, at one of the narrow places, they cross it to make their way home. She is concerned that their friends and neighbors from their home village will send out search parties to look for them and she wouldn't want any ill to come to them.

A different sage agrees with the previous sage's assessment, but he suggests they scale the large mountain which will lead them to a bridge that crosses the raging river. He is worried that some of the sages who are not good swimmers may drown in the fast flowing stream.

"I recognize that is a danger," says the second sage, "but I fear that some of our brethren who are not as strong as the others may fall to their deaths trying to scale the big mountain."
Which answer is right and which ones are wrong? Should the sages stay put or choose one of the alternate routes? Should they each retire by themselves to meditate and, when this activity is concluded, will they all arrive at the same solution?

In my mind's eye, there is no one right answer. Each has its pluses and minuses. Though each individual sage is pure of heart, I would be profoundly shocked if all of them came to the same conclusion. My bet is that a few will favor each option and they will have to work together to come to a consensus opinion. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me at all if the one group splintered into three smaller ones who each adopted one of the suggestions.

Since I've never met a sage who is pure of heart, when we choose to adopt one position or another, they tend to conflict with one another. I think it's always been that way and will forever be.

Bit by Bit - Chapter 4, Part 3

Trey Smith

"And suppose he is the kind who actually delights in worthy men and hates the unworthy -- then why does he need you to try to make him any different? You had best keep your advice to yourself!
~ Burton Watson translation ~
When we give advice to someone who doesn't ask for it, why do we do it?  I'm sure there are countless reasons, but, in the mix, is the fact we somehow feel superior.  We KNOW and we feel the need to let others know that we know...even when we really don't have a clue!

To view the Index page for this series, go here.

Awash in Words

Trey Smith

With so many hand-held electronic devices these days, blog posts can be written almost anyplace. You can be on a train, plane, at work/school (though you're supposed to be working!) or any other of a million places. You can be in your native country or halfway around the world.

As I've mentioned before, I don't own any hand-held electronic communication devices. With this pertinent information, you might surmise that the vast majority of my posts are formulated and written on my personal computer located in a second floor bedroom that I refer to as my "office." If this is what you're thinking -- if, of course, you even think about such things -- then you are half right.

While I certainly DO type my posts in this one spot, I formulate most of the shower!

There is not a lot to do in the shower. The process of washing is such a rote task that I don't need to think to myself, "Hmm. Maybe I should grab that bar of soap there and rub it all over my body!" So, with nothing else to do, I write blog posts in my head. Sometimes I even write them out loud. Since I take 2 or 3 showers a day -- hot water does wonders for an aching body -- I can formulate 3 - 6 posts every 24 hours.

Not surprisingly, what I write in the shower rarely makes it into print in a precise manner. It seems that my mind and my fingers aren't always on the same page! There are times that I race upstairs to type out what I have thought out, but my fingers decide to go in a different direction altogether.

Aah, such is life.

Mencius - Book 7, Part 1, Chapter 23

Mencius said, 'Let it be seen to that their fields of grain and hemp are well cultivated, and make the taxes on them light; so the people may be made rich.

'Let it be seen to that the people use their resources of food seasonably, and expend their wealth only on the prescribed ceremonies: so their wealth will be more than can be consumed.

'The people cannot live without water and fire, yet if you knock at a man's door in the dusk of the evening, and ask for water and fire, there is no man who will not give them, such is the abundance of these things. A sage governs the kingdom so as to cause pulse and grain to be as abundant as water and fire. When pulse and grain are as abundant as water and fire, how shall the people be other than virtuous?'
~ James Legge translation via ~
 Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Works of Mencius.

Friendship II: Being Without Being

Scott Bradley

There were three men who, in the course of a philosophical discussion, agreed on this: "Who is able to be with others without being with others, be for others without being for others? Who is able to climb the skies, roam the mists, and dance in the infinite, living forgetful of each other without end?" (Zhuangzi 6; Lundberg?) At this, they smiled at each other and became fast friends.

Lundberg ("A Meditation on Friendship"; Wandering at Ease in the Zhuangzi) begins his essay with this passage and I have gotten no further. One is struck with how what might seem on the surface to be a negation of friendship becomes the bedrock for the deepest of friendships. How can this be?

Forgetfulness of others is a much suggested theme in Chapter 6 of the Zhuangzi. One anecdote that I have often mentioned is that in which a species of fish, when in distress for lack of water, will spit on each other and yet, as soon as water is restored, quickly forget each other. In another story Zhuangzi has 'Confucius' quote a saying: "[F]ish forget one another in the river and lakes, and human beings forget one another in the arts of the Course [Dao]." (Ziporyn) I say "suggested theme" because it is largely left to the reader to figure out what it means.

I won't pretend to have gotten through to depths of this theme, but I will presume to suggest a possible dimension of it. Above all, I think it has to do with an understanding of and commitment to interdependence without actual dependence. To be able to "be for" someone without actually "being for" them might be mirrored in the political sphere as being, for example, "for Obama" without being unreservedly for everything he does or so partisan that his failure would cause distress. Once again "two roads" suggests itself; we care about the world, but the loss of the world would not distress us in the least. Free from care, we are free to care freely. Friendship, the truest friendship, is not founded on dependence, but on non-dependence. To the extent that we need a friendship, we fail of friendship.

Zhuangzi's vision of freedom is one of absolute non-dependence on anything. Does not the sage require water like everyone else? Yes, but she does not depend on survival and thus, while she responsibly seeks to sustain her life, she does not cling to life. Aware of the mutual interdependence of all things, she thankfully plays her part in that ecological web of life, but her greatest contribution to it is freedom, born of non-dependence, from the fear of that web being broken.

This is a reflection of Zhuangzi's (especially as elucidated by Guo Xiang) understanding of oneness as only and necessarily expressed in the uniqueness of each individual representative of the many. All things are One in being fully what they are, not-One. It is in the fullest realization of their differences that things are most similar. Our efforts "to make all things one" are thus a denial of their oneness.

You can check out Scott's writings on Zhuangzi here.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Mencius - Book 7, Part 1, Chapter 22B

'The expression, "The chief of the West knows well how to nourish the old," refers to his regulation of the fields and dwellings, his teaching them to plant the mulberry and nourish those animals, and his instructing the wives and children, so as to make them nourish their aged. At fifty, warmth cannot be maintained without silks, and at seventy flesh is necessary to satisfy the appetite. Persons not kept warm nor supplied with food are said to be starved and famished, but among the people of king Wan, there were no aged who were starved or famished. This is the meaning of the expression in question.'
~ James Legge translation via ~
 Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Works of Mencius.

Derivations on a Theme -- The Fruits of Evil

Trey Smith

But briefly, he [Alan Watts in The Supreme Identity] argues for a God that, rather than being absolutely good, is the source of both good and evil (in the finite, relative realm), while transcending both Himself. Towards the end of the chapter he says something like how, from our limited perspective, evil seems absolutely terrible, yet, from the standpoint of the infinite, it is an integral part of the finite duality, and even the most atrocious acts are worth it, for the overall beauty of the whole Creation. He likens it to standing with your face pressed to a painting; stepping back, you suddenly see that those ugly shadows are what give shape, form, balance, and identity to the light and color.
~ from Was It Worth It? by Brandon at Notes From the Outside ~
I've been doing some pondering about the concept of heaven. Supposedly, it is a place of perfection. Depending on one's faith perspective, you may be feted by nymph-like virgins or so much is provided that you no longer have a care in the "world." It is a place in which all who enter are pure of heart and every pure desire is quenched.

How could a place like that genuinely exist? More importantly, who really would want to live there!?

Evil provides necessary definition to our lives, whether physical, emotional or spiritual. Love is a meaningless concept without its antithesis. If evil finally was vanquished, what would we be left with?

Absolute boredom!

Evil serves a necessary function. Without it, life simply wouldn't be worth living. There would be no challenges to overcome and no opportunity to gain wisdom.

Now this is not a backdoor way of arguing for hedonism -- all lives lived to achieve maximum individual pleasure at the expense of others. I am also not suggesting that we should strive to be evil as a way of providing our lives with deeper definition. All I am suggesting is that the love/evil dynamic is just as much a part of existence as the yin/yang dynamic.

Imagine a world filled with sages. Each person lives in tune with their inner nature (Tao). Would that mean that evil had been cast away forever?

Me thinks not. Even people pure of heart who follow their own paths will find that these paths sometimes collide. Colliding paths necessarily will engender conflict and conflict often serves as the root of evil.

Afternoon Matinee: The Weird Al Story 5/6

How Many Cans?

Trey Smith

The way I learned it as a kid is that, when you get to the pearly gates, God or one of his angelic minions will ask if you read your bible religiously, followed the ten commandments and accepted Jesus Christ as your personal lord and savior. If you provide truthful answers that are deemed acceptable, then said gates swing open and you are escorted inside.

The other day I was thinking, what if Christians have the overall setting correct, but are prepping people to answer the wrong questions? What if the Heavenly Father really doesn't care that much about books, rules and celebrity worship? What other kinds of questions might he ask, particularly to a resident of the Western World?

Working off this motif of pearly gates and a god, here are five questions I guess he might ask.
  1. How many tons of "garbage" did you throw away in your lifetime?
  2. What percentage of your overall salary or wages did you utilize to better the lives of people you never met?
  3. How many cans did you recycle each year?
  4. How many wars did you support by electing people to wage them for you as well as  through your consumer habits and behaviors?
  5. How many completely selfless acts did you commit that made a genuine positive difference in the lives of people you said you loved?

Bit by Bit - Chapter 4, Part 2

Trey Smith

"Do you know what it is that destroys virtue, and where wisdom comes from? Virtue is destroyed by fame, and wisdom comes out of wrangling. Fame is something to beat people down with, and wisdom is a device for wrangling. Both are evil weapons - not the sort of thing to bring you success. Though your virtue may be great and your good faith unassailable, if you do not understand men's spirits, though your fame may be wide and you do not strive with others, if you do not understand men's minds, but instead appear before a tyrant and force him to listen to sermons on benevolence and righteousness, measures and standards - this is simply using other men's bad points to parade your own excellence. You will be called a plaguer of others. He who plagues others will be plagued in turn. You will probably be plagued by this man.
~ Burton Watson translation ~
Fame blows everything out of proportion.  You get told you are beautiful, smart, savvy, or kind, not because you actually are beautiful, smart, savvy or kind, but because others want access to you and they are afraid that, if they call it like they see it, you will cut them off.  So, they tell you what you want to hear and your life soon becomes nothing more than an echo chamber.

To view the Index page for this series, go here.

Before and After

Trey Smith

One of the fantasies that liberals like to tell themselves is that the dirty tricksters of politics are Republicans. You can't trust a member of the GOP as far as you can throw them! They are masters both of misinformation and disinformation. If a Republican thought he/she could steal an election illegally and get away with it, he/she would do it in a heartbeat and not lose as much as one night of sleep.

It might be a good bedtime story for progressives, but it's far from the truth. Dishonesty is part of the political toolbox for Republicans AND Democrats. If you don't believe me, check out the two snippets below from Jonathan Turley's blog.
Cortland County District Attorney Mark Suben, 69, recently secured reelection after a tough campaign. Nothing strange there. District Attorney positions are often much sought-after positions. However, Suben was hounded by media questions of whether he was previously known as Gus Thomas, a porn star in at least 12 films, such as “Devil’s Due,” “Bedroom Bedlam,” “Deep Throat 2,” “Lecher” and “The Love Witch.” He vehemently denied the allegations . . . until he was reelected. He now admits that he repeatedly lied to the public and the press but he refuses to resign. In “Devil’s Due,” he played an actor who tricked women into bondage.

Many civil libertarians refused to vote for President Barack Obama given his dismal record in the expansion of the security state, surveillance law, and assertions of unchecked executive power. The Administration went into radio silence on such issues during the campaign in an effort to win back liberals (as they did on medical marijuana) only to announce after the election that they would resume the same policies. The Democratic leadership has shown the same duplicity on civil liberties for years — including hiding knowledge of the Bush torture program and surveillance programs as well as blocking any meaningful investigations into those alleged crimes. Now, some Democrats have reportedly put that hypocrisy on public display again. Senator Patrick Leahy introduced the bill which, as originally written, required warrants for the reading of emails and was heralded by Democrats during the campaign as their showing of fealty to privacy and civil liberties. The Justice Department then took the bill and flipped it to serve as a sweeping denial of privacy rights . . . and some Senators are pushing on passage now that the election is over. The bill includes warrantless access to university email systems.
You see what happened there? Say one thing during the campaign and then, once elected, say and/or do the exact opposite!!

Mencius - Book 7, Part 1, Chapter 22A

Mencius said, 'Po-î, that he might avoid Châu, was dwelling on the coast of the northern sea when he heard of the rise of king Wan. He roused himself and said, "Why should I not go and follow him? I have heard that the chief of the West knows well how to nourish the old." T'âi-kung, to avoid Châu, was dwelling on the coast of the eastern sea. When he heard of the rise of king Wan, he said, "Why should I not go and follow him? I have heard that the chief if the West knows well how to nourish the old." If there were a prince in the kingdom, who knew well how to nourish the old, all men of virtue would feel that he was the proper object for them to gather to.

'Around the homestead with its five mâu, the space beneath the walls was planted with mulberry trees, with which the women nourished silkworms, and thus the old were able to have silk to wear. Each family had five brood hens and two brood sows, which were kept to their breeding seasons, and thus the old were able to have flesh to eat. The husbandmen cultivated their farms of 100 mâu, and thus their families of eight mouths were secured against want.
~ James Legge translation via ~
 Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Works of Mencius.

Friendship I: Two to Tango

Scott Bradley

There is one more essay in Wandering at Ease in the Zhuangzi, “A Meditation on Friendship” by Brian Lundberg, which I have yet to read, and I have decided to reflect on the theme a bit on my own before I do.

I begin with the poignant story in chapter 25 of the Zhuangzi where Zhuangzi, while part of a funeral procession, passes the grave of his friend Huizi. Needless to say, we remain uncertain about the historicity of this story as much as nearly every other passage in the Zhuangzi, but the lessons here, as elsewhere, are not to be derived from facts, but from anecdote.

On this occasion Zhuangzi turns to his companions and describes the impact of the loss of his friend Huizi by way of yet another anecdote. There was a carpenter named Shih who had a friend who would put a tiny bit of plaster on his nose and invite Shih to whirl his axe and then cut all the plaster from his nose, which he did without any harm to the nose. Sometime after the death of Shih’s friend, Lord Yuan of Song heard of this feat and invited Shih to perform the same on him. Shih answered that, though it was true he had once performed this feat, he no longer had the counterpart upon which to do so, and thus could not duplicate it. To his companions Zhuangzi then explained that since the loss of Huizi, he no longer had anyone with whom he could really talk.

Despite their radically different philosophies of life, Zhuangzi and Huizi had a great deal in common. Much of Zhuangzi’s use of logic to demonstrate the limits of reason (so as to free the mind to wander where reason cannot go) was derived from Huizi (who apparently was content to stop at those limits and go no farther). In fact, Graham conjectured that he may very well have at one time been a disciple of Huizi. But their shared belief in the limits of logic and presumably common intellectual acumen was only a part of what made their friendship so mutually profitable. Theirs was a catalytic chemistry without which Zhuangzi’s philosophy might very well not have developed as it did. Huizi was his whetstone.

One thing that seems clear is that for both men their friendship was much greater and more important than differences of opinion. From the side of Zhuangzi we can see how this was an expression of his belief that all opinions are a matter of personal perspective and thus of only secondary importance. Secondary to what? In this case, secondary to the inclusiveness and mutual respect of friendship. My recent silly post about supporting Romney was in part a response to hearing stories about friendships that have been shattered by the deep ideological divides which plague us today. We can take this friendship as representative of that transcendence which, because it refuses to cling to any one ideology, is able to embrace those who do.

It takes two to tango, but not everyone is willing to learn the steps, nor admittedly, is everyone able to do so.

You can check out Scott's writings on Zhuangzi here.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Mencius - Book 7, Part 1, Chapter 21

Mencius said, 'Wide territory and a numerous people are desired by the superior man, but what he delights in is not here.

'To stand in the center of the kingdom, and tranquillize the people within the four seas; the superior man delights in this, but the highest enjoyment of his nature is not here.

What belongs by his nature to the superior man cannot be increased by the largeness of his sphere of action, nor diminished by his dwelling in poverty and retirement; for this reason that it is determinately apportioned to him by Heaven.

'What belongs by his nature to the superior man are benevolence, righteousness, propriety, and knowledge. These are rooted in his heart; their growth and manifestation are a mild harmony appearing in the countenance, a rich fullness in the back, and the character imparted to the four limbs. Those limbs understand to arrange themselves, without being told.'
~ James Legge translation via ~
 Go here to read the introductory post to this serialized version of the Works of Mencius.

Huainanzi - Entry 88

Trey Smith
People are comfortable in large houses, but birds are distressed when they get into them. Deep mountain forests are delightful to tigers and leopards, but humans are scared when they go into them. Deep ponds are suitable for turtles, but people drown in them.
~ a passage from
The Book of Leadership and Strategy by Thomas Cleary ~
It's not just that each species has it's own way, but each individual does too. I have had numerous dogs and cats throughout my life and no two have been the same.

I happen to be an individual with a large personal space who feels suffocated by crowds. While I can be social, at times, I am much more at ease tooling around by myself. I know a lot of people who would go stark raving mad living MY lifestyle. Such people need to be where the action is and many of them loathe being left alone for any significant period of time.

I'm not interested in convincing you that my path should be your path and that if you don't follow the path I follow, then something is wrong with you. I would appreciate the same courtesy.

To each his own.
To read the introduction to this ongoing series, go here.

Afternoon Matinee: The Weird Al Story 4/6

Will You Let Him Get Away With It?

Trey Smith

While the president is certainly subjected to overtly racist attacks, that does not mean he should be above scrutiny and criticism. He is planning a tour “beyond the beltway” to make his case for a so-called “grand bargain” of austerity measures which will weaken the economy, cause great human suffering, and move us closer to eliminating the threadbare safety net.

The case for the grand bargain consists of two very big lies. One, that austerity will bring the country out of recession, and two, that entitlement programs played a role in creating the federal deficit. It is government spending which can bring the economy out of recession, but conservatives want none of it. They want to starve the beast as it were and kill all government spending that is not related to defense. It is hard to believe the second fact, that entitlements are not responsible for the budget deficit, when we are constantly told otherwise. If a lie is told often enough without rebuttal it is treated as fact.

Years of Democratic accommodation to corporate interests has brought us to the point where we must fight a Democratic president in order to preserve programs which came into being because of the Democratic party. Not so long ago Social Security was called “the third rail of politics” because it was politically untouchable. It was inconceivable that a Democratic president would take his entitlement cutting show on the road, loudly and publicly demanding support for making right wing fantasies come true. Steadfast support for Social Security was always the lowest hanging fruit for Democrats. Now we can’t count on the party that markets itself as protecting our interests to make even the smallest effort on our behalf.
~ from Freedom Rider: Grand Bargain is the Satan Sandwich by Margaret Kimberley ~
If you fancy yourself as a Democrat or a liberal, will you stand by while the Democrats help to eviscerate the social safety net? This is no mere rhetorical question. Our Democratic Party President desperately wants to usher in austerity for the masses, while shielding the rich from as much pain as possible.

So, the big question facing all of you Obama supporters is: Will you let him get away with it without putting up any kind of a fight?

Sadly, if we look at the past 4 years, the answer is a resounding YES! You'll wring your hands and twist in your seats, but you'll tell anyone who will listen that since "Obama is our guy, we mustn't criticize him." You'll rationalize that he wants to do the right thing, but those nasty Republicans have forced his hand. You'll come up with one hundred and one excuses to say it's not his fault.

He KNOWS you will do this for him. In fact, he's counting on it. He is like an abusive husband with a wife of low self-esteem. Every time he hits you, all he has to do is murmur a few sweet nothings in your ear and you'll take him back in a heartbeat. You'll blame yourself for his abusive behavior and you will promise him that you will be more faithful in the future.

For all the great faith you put in him, he is not going to change. He will continue to kick, hit and slap you until you -- and the rest of us -- are nothing more than a bloody pulp. Once the final deed is done, you still won't blame him for choosing to be an abuser.

What does this say about you?