Sunday, June 28, 2020

Warriors Wanted

                                                                                                    written 21 June 2020
                                                                                               published 28 June 2020

            Current discussion about police reform desires a shift from the "warrior" culture as currently expressed by aggression and domination.  But writer, consultant and activist Margaret Wheatley, in a Daily Good interview on June 17th, 2020, excerpted here, describes a different type of warrior. 
            "The warriors arise when something needs protection.  At this time, it is human capacities of 'human spirits': our generosity, our creativity, our kindness.  The tradition of spiritual warriors or peaceful warriors occurs over and over again in history.  We are standing on the shoulders of millions of other people who have trained as warriors.  There's no such thing as a casual warrior.  You have to have a level of dedication that is really unusual these days."
            "Warriors for the human spirit are committed to serving people but vow not to add to aggression and not to add to fear.  We want to be the embodiment of the best qualities of human beings: presence, good listening, confidence that isn't based on arrogance.  We want to be there for others not for our own glory.  A warrior for the human spirit is someone who makes a commitment to stay.  Who practices compassion and insight wherever they are.  Who knows they can't do anything without community." 
            "We feel more acutely the despair.  The sadness is overwhelming for us because we're staying in the world and we're trying to be there, open to what's happening with people's suffering, the egregious abuses of power going on now.  That openness brings our recognition of how much suffering is going on.  We talk a lot about how to maintain a sense of humor, as part of our actual skill set, to deal with the despair and the sadness."  
            "I am never going to be free of despair because this is a despairing time.  This is a time worthy of despair.  But I'm not afraid of my despair.  I recognize it is part of the price I pay for being awake and therefore I know I have alternatives.  If I'm witnessing this despair, how can I serve?  How can I get out of myself and the self-protection and find ways to be of service?  With warriors-in-training, it's what can I do right here, right now?  What we're offering is the reminder of what it means to be a good human being."  
            "It's an illusion to avoid something that is so real and present in our emotional bodies.  How could you not feel despair when you're really taking in what's happening now?  The work of the warrior is to fully take in what's going on because when we do, we discover the qualities we need: compassion, gentleness, non-aggression, and clear-seeing.  You fully witness what's going on.  Your heart opens, you feel compassion for others, and end up with a very satisfying life."
            "The events of the past few months have convinced many people that we are already losing the systems and losing the planet.  The question now is: as things get worse and worse, what is right action?  What do we do?  Who do I choose to be?  Where can I still give service?  Where can I live a meaningful life?"
            "We need to be working with our children and our grandchildren now for them to know what it means to be a fully alive human.  We need people being people.  We need people recognizing our greatest human capacities: our consciousness and awareness, our ability to love, our ability to work together in harmonious ways and our ability to care about one another rather than just the self.  This is what's been eradicated in global culture, consumer culture, political culture.  I want us all to really focus on enlivening those qualities in ourselves and making sure now that we're bringing them to our children and grandchildren as well."
            "You could start with that, but the first work is to start a conversation among like-minded others.  Then you get into the possibility of what could we create here in our community?  I use Theodore Roosevelt's statement: Do what you can, where you are with what you have."  
            For the full interview go to:
            We are experiencing an evolution in human consciousness, each of us challenged to be the best of humanity in response to the worst. 

Sunday, June 21, 2020

We All Have Responsibility

                                                                                                    written 14 June 2020
                                                                                                published 21 June 2020

            The origin of the word "sin" is an archery term, meaning "to miss the mark'", "off target", or "go astray".  In this form, it is an evaluation of a specific attempt, rather than the categorical judgment usually associated with the punitive religious meaning.  If I miss the mark on this effort, I have another chance the next time.  The only requirement is the intention to improve. 
            Derek Chavin, an officer with 18 violent complaints on his record, is charged with 2nd degree murder for killing George Floyd.  Assisting in a crime, before or after, is also a crime.  Tou Thao, with 6 violent complaints on his record, stood watch over the crowd while Floyd was killed, and is charged with aiding and abetting.  Two other officers, Alex Kueng and Thomas Lane, trainees with less than a week on the job, helped hold Floyd down.  They are also charged with aiding and abetting: marked for life because they trusted their superior officers. 
            In America, where the ideal is equal protection under the law, this entire event was a sin, missing the mark.  The death of George Floyd was not a unique event, but the response has been, and America may have hit a tipping point, with the intention to do better.  The protests are widespread and ethnically diverse.  Ubiquitous smart phones capture activities that used to happen in relative secrecy, allowing the whole world to see firsthand, sometimes while it is happening.  This allows innate human compassion to rise up and say, "This must stop now!"  
            For the benefit of the group, members and leaders of a group have responsibility to call out corruption within their group, because corruption by a few taints the entire organization and destroys trust within the institution and within the larger society.  This response is beginning to happen around social justice, but it must happen within politics as well.
            Republicans have always been the party of the wealthy, but they used to have other values as well, such as family values, rule of law, honoring the Constitution, patriotism, and democracy.  But the rise of Trump, and the endemic corruption of his brand driven egomania, has dragged the party away from those historic values.  What line could Trump cross that would finally provoke a tipping point within the party about his excesses?  The party leaders are narrowly focused on maintaining political power, but the mass of Republican voters may have other concerns. 
            Is democracy still a Republican value?  Are Republican goals so narrowly crafted to benefit the very wealthy that they know they can never win a fair election?   Republican leaders have admitted this to be true, and use extreme gerrymandering and voter suppression to maintain control.  The recent Georgia primary had hour long lines in predominantly black urban areas, and no lines in white areas.  The recent Iowa primary was mostly vote by mail, with high voter turnout and no problems in execution, but Republican leaders passed legislation to prevent that from every happening again.  Do rank and file Republicans accept cheating as a value?  
            In Wisconsin, Republicans required in-person voting during a pandemic, risking the health of poll workers and everyone wanting to vote, in the hopes of preserving an unpopular judge, who lost anyway.  Is disregard for the lives of citizens a value?   We know from experience that this is a corporate capitalist value, but are Republicans voters willing to risk their lives for the upper 1%?
            The Republican party is now embarking on a grand experiment.  To promote Trump's re-election, in spite of scientific medical advice to the contrary, they are planning large indoor campaign rallies and their national convention, with no masks or social distancing.  They bet the pandemic is of no concern, and they are willing to risk the health of all of their people.  Party faithful, many elderly and overweight, will be packed inside for hours in loud cheering masses: a perfect recipe for a super spreader event.  These folks will then go back home and infect everyone else, with hospital results showing up within a month.
            For the cult of Trump, this test of party loyalty is comparable to drinking the Kool-Aid in Jonestown.  What does it take for Republicans to say "this has to stop?"

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Transcending The Myth Of Separation

                                                                                                      written 7 June 2020
                                                                                                published 14 June 2020

            For thousands of years, "fear of other" has shaped society and civilizations into patterns of domination, control, hate, oppression and war, perpetuated by the Myth of Separation: the illusion that "self" is isolated and thus threatened by everything that appears as "not-self".  
            Over that same interval, enlightened individuals, inspired by deep compassion, have taught the power of love over fear.  The core of Christ's teaching is "love the other as yourself": The Golden Rule.  As testimony to its universality, this teaching is found in every spiritual tradition around the world, an expression of unity reality which experiences all form arising from the same fundamental source.  The journey from separation to unity, from fear to love, is the history of human civilization, still unfolding today.
            The founding of America was part of that journey and a radical social experiment at the time.  The US Declaration of Independence, stating "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal," and the US Constitution intending to "form a more perfect union", institutionalized equality under the law.  Even though the nation's founders almost limited legal equality to just land owners, and did limit it to men, generally white men, over time the integrity of the initial purpose has extended the equality franchise to include women and people of color.  Obviously, this is still a work in progress, and the Myth of Separation has not been put to rest.  
            Everyone has now seen video of four white "peace officers" killing George Floyd by asphyxiation while he was down on the ground with his hands cuffed behind him.  Without a doubt, those white men did NOT see George Floyd as "one of them".  He was "other", to be feared and dominated by force.  The fact that all four officers are now charged and in jail is a good first step, but it is important to recognize that this specific event, and racial injustice in general, though outrageous, is a symptom of the Myth of Separation and "fear of other", which corrodes our society in many ways simultaneously.
            The Minneapolis police department had already received numerous complaints about officer Derek Chauvin, the man directly responsible for George Floyd's death.  
Fearing bad publicity, the department chose to protecting their own and hid the actions of bad cops, sacrificing the larger community, destroying trust and accumulating grievances.  
            The Myth of Separation inspires misogyny, hatred of women, and the systematic economic devaluing of women, casting half of humanity as "other".  Economic inequity, where three white men own as much as the poorest half of America, is institutionalized separation, literally devaluing the "other".  Class systems that divide the "other" by religion, income, education, or neighborhood are another form of endemic separation.  This fosters the idea that some people are disposable, relative to the larger good.
            The Myth of Separation supports the dominant consumer economy's rapacious destruction and contamination of the environment by projecting the "other" onto everything non-human, building acceptance for sacrifice zones devoid of life.  The raw materials of the Earth are not necessarily feared, but are clearly not loved, or considered with sacred regard, being despoiled with apparent impunity.  All living creatures are defined as pests to be eradicated, or resources to be processed, for the generation of short term profit for a few.  The valuation of whole ecosystems is limited to how these systems benefit humanity alone. The issue of climate change casts the entire planet as "other", despite being essential to all life, now bringing humanity to a tipping point.  We can no longer be so numerous, so powerful, and so ignorant. We must transcend the Myth of Separation.
            Fortunately, we can all play a part.  While I have little real power to change anyone else, I am the only person who can change my own perspective.  Thus, it is incumbent on each of us to recognize when we are operating from fear within the Separation Myth and make the conscious shift from fear to love, actually living The Golden Rule.  This will require changing every aspect of our culture, a massive undertaking.  However, every day we see more clearly how the culture of fear is killing us all, and we who are alive today are here to accomplish this task.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

One Month Check In

                                                                                                  written 31 May 2020
                                                                                                published 7 June 2020

            On May 1st, when America had 1,091,038 covid-19 cases and 57,266 deaths, president Trump decided to "reopen the economy", and vice president Pence stated everything would be over by Memorial Day.  I write this at the end of May.  American cases increased 66% and deaths increased 85%.  This is not over.
            According to, four countries with the largest number of confirmed covid-19 cases are: USA (1,828,784), Brazil (501,985), Russia (405,843), and UK (274,762).  Trump has handled this with denial, refusal to take charge of the response, and dissemination of false or dangerous information.  President Bolsonaro of Brazil (the Latin American Trump) also denied the risks, disparages his critics, and even pushes hydroxychloroquine, the same discredited drug that Trump touts. Bolsonoro has fired health officials that contradict his anti-science approach to the pandemic, just like Trump. Trump's idol, Russian president Putin, demanded the individual federal districts figure it out for themselves, just like Trump.  UK prime minister Johnson (the European Trump) also dismissed early concerns, delayed national reaction to the pandemic, and made the response worse by prioritizing profit driven capitalist solutions over national health concerns, just like Trump.
            With no treatment or vaccine, the only way to control the spread of infection and prevent overwhelming the health care system is to reduce transmission rates.  This requires the ability to identify those that are already infected, isolate them from the rest of the population, contact trace to identify individuals they might have infected, and isolate them as well.  Since the ability to test was not available when the pandemic began, the first response was to have everyone self-isolate, buying time to create and produce adequate testing capacity.  America under Trump wasted that time and has yet to meet even the modest testing rates he set.  But Trump's concern that the economic impact of the shut-down will affect his chances of re-election prompted him to demand renewed economic activity anyway.  We are beginning to see the results.
            On May 1st, US cases were increasing at an average daily rate of 29,459.  This rate declined to about 21,040 on May 28th, but jumped to 27,946 by May 31th. Over the same time frame, the average daily death rate dropped from 1,800 to 946 on May 26th, but increased to 1,215 by May 31th.
            Looking at national totals is misleading.  Early on, over 50% of US cases were in the New York area, including New Jersey and Connecticut.  But extensive shelter in place rules brought their case and death rates down dramatically, while rates in the rest of the country have steadily increased.
            Since testing is still somewhat limited, and many people can be infected without showing symptoms, most of the confirmed case numbers are the result of people being sick enough to show up at a hospital. Testing in some areas is better, so the case numbers might appear higher.  Deaths are more easily calibrated, although the Russian government wants to keep the numbers low, so many deaths there are not counted as covid-19 related, but attributed to pneumonia or heart failure.  So far, this subterfuge has not become wide spread American policy.  Rather than comparing the total number of deaths between areas, it is more constructive to compare deaths per capita.
            During May, the US death per capita increased 59%, from 197 per million to 314 per million.  Fifteen states (2/3 Democratically controlled) increased at a lower rate, including New York (24%), Washington (29%), and New Jersey (53%). Twelve states (2/3 Republican controlled) had over twice the national rate of increase.  The five states with the most rapid increase in per capita death were New Hampshire (217%), Iowa (206%), South Dakota (179%), New Mexico (171%), and Minnesota (166%).
            California per capita death increased 96% in May, despite having some of the first shelter in place rules.  Again, the state totals are misleading, because 48% of the cases, and 55% of the deaths, are in Los Angeles county alone.  Case load in Mendocino county has increased in May from 12 to 30, with no deaths so far, but community transmission has just been detected.  As the economy reopens, and the tourist economy revives, we should expect those numbers to change.
            We are living an experiment, with no control for comparison.