Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Caves, Malls & Holidays

by Frank Scott

The consumption frenzy that is the annual celebration of market religion once began after Thanksgiving , but as economic problems grow the season of overspending starts even before Halloween. During this time when many seek spiritual joy through shopping but often find material sorrow through debt, we really should consider what it is we celebrate, and why.

Long before humanity invented religion or calendars , our ancestors huddled in caves during the darkest cold, discovering in the process that we needed one another to survive. The winter solstice brought our primitive communist forebears together to cope with fears, but also strengthened faith that the darkness would ultimately lift, that light would return and bring a rebirth of nature . And this was always the case, thereby setting a tradition for the celebration of future light , and the warm security provided by the community of kinfolk and tribes .

In the 21st century another darkness is descending, not as a result of nature but by our systemic attack on nature. Continuous war and threats of environmental and economic breakdown present us with more crises than we’ve ever had to face, not simply as families or nations, but as a race . And while we slowly learn that despite geographic and cultural differences, we are one human family, those differences are manipulated by rulers and used to keep us in mental darkness that threatens our future survival.

So as we enter the season of further increasing already unpayable debt, we should consider this natural impulse to come together at special times , and its perversion into a mass marketing orgy that covers evidence of a society going mad under a cloak of senseless individual consumption.

During our earliest days life was a struggle for all , and not just some. But as we evolved we found that clinging together was the best way to survive, as when the coldest, darkest nights offered no other security. That impulse is still with us, though it seems hard to find in our present divisive reality of competitive and warring national organizations that corrupt individual instincts by perverting the social nature of their origins.

While much of the religious impulse is toward material good for the whole human community , dualistic racial supremacists control the dominating biblical faith, and threaten to do the same with Islam . Their fanatic absolutism denies our commonality by separating us into individual cults. It rationalizes violence as protecting some of us from the rest of us, in support of governments which wage war for political economic systems. But when we gather in places of worship it is usually to create communities, not destroy them. The contradiction between our spiritual dreams and our material reality must finally be confronted. It can no longer be considered balanced while preaching charity and togetherness for a season, and accepting brutality and alienation the rest of the year.

The holidays are never joyous for the billions living in abject poverty, nor those invaded, occupied and made refugees by a warped moral code that glorifies waste and celebrates pain. When we have reached a material level which could assure decent comfort to all humanity, what allows this situation to prevail? The reason is not supernatural or mythological; it is political and economic and needs to be changed by the democratic human family which has been manipulated into being dysfunctional for far too long .

Wouldn’t it be nice to celebrate a holiday season not only with those at our dinner table or religious service, but by extension with all those unable to physically join us where we huddle in greater material comfort than our ancestors could ever dream? We don’t want to return to the material status of those ancestors, and it could happen if we don’t gain control over our environment . But we might advance as a race, both spiritually and materially, by relearning their solidarity in times of stress and need.

Political systems use religion to keep people focused on an immaterial future and oblivious to the material present , but the best religious motivation brings people together for the betterment of all, here and now. While politics is creating radical change in much of Latin America, it does so balanced with strong religious belief . In the same way, religion has provoked political movements in the Middle East to improve people’s material life and to fight against their oppression. These movements are portrayed as menacing by ruling forces that would maintain a system of commercially immoral despotism and call it enlightened moral democracy.

It is no longer weather or seasons which oppress humanity, but political systems of domination, and even when climate change seems most dangerous it is often due to the political damage of uncontrolled economics.

Our ancestors clung together hoping for a rebirth of nature, which always came. We live in a time when the death of nature is threatened, not by mysterious means but by very earthly forces which need to be overcome. We could try to exercise the spirit of the season in the communal way in which it was born, and revive its past social impulse as a means of working for present social change .

Rather than throw our money into the cash nexus that is a major part of our problem, if we shop for presents this season we might at least consider buying them from organizations working for another world, of peace and social justice. We would further its possibilities by helping to create a celebration of humanity, and not simply an economic bottom line that could cause our civilization to bottom out. Let’s spend, if we must, with acts of thoughtful hope for the future, and however we choose to label them , have happier holidays in the process.

Copyright (c) 2007 by Frank Scott. All rights reserved.

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frank scott
email: frankscott@comcast.net

Monday, November 19, 2007

Why They Shouldn't Hate Us - Countering Irrational Muslim and Arab Grievances Against USrael

Although we're making substantial headway on destroying the freedom Al Qaeda hates us for, there's still a long way to go and resentment levels remain high.

This is mainly because Arabs and Muslims are neurotically sensitive about being blockaded, bombed, strafed, occupied and terrorized for their own good. U.S. research psychologists are puzzled by this reaction and have to date uncovered no clue as to why USrael isn't universally adored. They are adjusting appropriately by getting more selective in their pursuit of the facts and will soon only admit data that confirm their hypothesis - that USrael is uniquely lovable. Terrorism should vanish entirely after that.

In the meantime, the Bush Administration continues to take prudent security measures like imposing bloody occupations on Afghanistan and Iraq, plotting a coup against Iran, and blocking all investigation of Israeli war crimes. Inexplicably, this has failed to stem the rising tide of anti-USrael hatred to date, but their resolve is firm and they expect it will work out beautifully any day now.

False Grievance #1 - Occupied Palestine

Israel's occupation of Palestine is simply self-defense against terrorist maniacs. Consider it from a logical point of view. If I took over your house to liberate my family from homelessness and you showed your poor manners by failing to take it in stride, and then after years of shooting up the place I finally decided out of the goodness of my heart to let you live in shackles in the basement, you would have no reason not to cheerfully accept your fate, would you? Of course, you wouldn't. And if you took it upon yourself to attack me instead, I'd be justified in torturing and killing you in order to preserve the peace and security of the neighborhood, wouldn't I? Of course I would. See how simple it all is once you stop and apply a little reason to the situation?

So what is all this tiresome nonsense about Palestinian rights? How can terrorist maniacs have rights?

False Grievance #2 - U.S. support for reactionary dictators

It's difficult to understand how this could bother anybody. First of all, look at the Persian Gulf region. Other than oil, there's not much economically to exploit. And once that resource runs out, the people are screwed if they haven't developed a modern economy. So just how exactly can we get a democratic majority to support siphoning off the region's one resource to underwrite an extravagant consumer lifestyle in the West, a policy that will leave the Arab states bankrupt and undeveloped in the not-too-distant future? The obvious answer is that we can't. So that means that we have no choice but to heap arms and aid on repressive dictators who fill up graveyards with those who have the poor sense to resist USrael's control of the region, while Arab masses endure wretched poverty awaiting the future catastrophe we are steering them toward.

How can anyone get angry about that?

False Grievance #3 - Iran

Here's a case where an elected government recklessly tried to take control of its own oil in the interests of the people. The C.I.A. engineered a coup (1953) and the people found themselves swimming in blood instead of oil. The pro-Western Shah took over and achieved quite an impressive record of supermilitarization, forced modernization, and systematic torture. Amnesty International rated his human rights record the worst in the world, and he almost sank into the sea from the massive load of armaments sent on by Washington.

Then after the Shah was overthrown in 1979, the U.S. supported Saddam Hussein in his eight-year war against Iran, which killed hundreds of thousands of Iranians, some with chemical weapons. While this excitement was going on, the U.S.S. Vincennes shot down an Iranian civilian plane and killed 290 people. With utmost tenderness George Bush Sr. declared: "I'll never apologize for the United States of America. I don't care what the facts are."

All of this was for the best of motives, but "militant Islam" has brainwashed Muslims into hating us for no reason at all. There's no telling when they'll get over it.

False Grievance #4 - Permanent U.S. Military Presence

It's hard to see how this trivial item even got on the list. Would we mind if the United States was dotted with the military bases of a foreign power come to liberate us? Of course, we wouldn't. We would greet our occupiers as liberators and strew their path with flowers. We would be polite and respectful as armed 18-year-olds barged into our living rooms and ordered us about in a strange tongue. We would make do without water or electricity or decent food and happily accept the machine-gunning of loved ones as they drove across town. We'd shrug off sodomy, rape, and other tortures as the birth pangs of democracy.

We would do all of this because history shows that military invasions are all about improving the lives of the invaded, and we would be grateful to be among the beneficiaries.

------Michael K. Smith is the author of "Portraits of Empire," "The Madness of King George" (illustrations by Matt Wuerker), and "Rise to Empire" (forthcoming) all with Common Courage Press. He can be reached at proheresy@yahoo.com