Monday, December 31, 2012

2012, RIP

     Thus today quietly passes 2012, the year that the world ended.  The Mayas told us so.

     Before moving on into tomorrow, it might be worth a couple of moments' reflection on all the distraction and disinformation that caught up our media-driven consciousness.

     Who sourced this hype?  Where did it come from?  It didn't come from the Mayas, that's for sure.  The calendar-makers are long dead, and their descendants who still live today in the same area of Central America didn't foist this upon us.

     Who believed it, or half-way believed it?  The media creators?  Your friends and neighbors?  You?  Me?  Or only the Dumb People?

     Who benefited from all this distraction?  Was it just to sell more commercial time, make a little money?  You know, like William Randolph Hearst hyped the Spanish-American War into existence.  Just to sell newspapers and make a little more money.  Right?

     What were they doing, while our media-affected eyes were looking the other way?  Setting us up for 2013?  World without end, amen?

     Perhaps we shall soon see.  Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Real White Man's Burden

A parody.

     I am indebted to Laurence Vance, who posts regularly at the Lew Rockwell website, for calling attention to the excellent website 'History Matters,' dedicated to providing reliable resources for the study and teaching of history.

     The website includes Rudyard Kipling's well known poem, "The White Man's Burden," which was published in 1899.  I hope you will take a moment to re-read it.

     The website says:

     'In this poem, Kipling urged the U.S. to take up the “burden” of empire, as had Britain and other European nations.  Theodore Roosevelt, soon to become vice-president and then president, copied the poem and sent it to his friend, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, commenting that it was “rather poor poetry, but good sense from the expansion point of view.”  Not everyone was as favorably impressed.'

     The historical context for Kipling's poem was the recent victory of the United States government in the Spanish-American War.  The U.S. Army's upcoming deadly treatment of the Filipinos was clearly in view, and needed sanctimonious justification.  Kipling provided it.

     In 1902, Ernest Crosby published this parody, which I hope you will enjoy.  As Laurence Vance notes, the parody "reads much better than the original."

     One thing is for sure.  More than a century of experience and hindsight shows that Crosby was much closer to the truth than Kipling.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Punishable Peacemaking?

A link to a post.

     Rick Love, the director of the organization, Peace Catalyst, has just written an op-ed for the Washington Post, in which he calls on our current Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, to exempt peace-making organizations from the federal decrees that punish people (with confiscation of assets and imprisonment) for making overtures to groups in other countries that the U.S. Government, in its boundless wisdom, has deemed "terrorist."

     I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Love at an Evangelicals For Peace conference in Washington, D.C. a few months ago, and am persuaded that he is interested in real peace-making, primarily between Christians and Muslims.

     I urge you to read his post, 'Punishable Peacemaking?'

     If you are interested in promoting the cause of peace, or at least of peace-making, I invite you to share this link with people whom you hope you can influence.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

William Cavanaugh: The Myth Of Religious Violence

A link to a video.

     If, like me, you are someone who feels that you have been caught in the Left-Right Paradigm (that has been used to direct and control Western -- and American -- civilization for a couple of hundred years),  and . . .

     If you suspect that most of what you are getting from the broadcast-cable media and big publishers is pushing something onto you that you doubt is fully true, and know you don't really want, and . . .

     If you would like some perspectives to help in backing out of The Standard Approved Mental Box into a clearer, more honest and thoughtful space . . .

     Then I think you will like this video link, The Myth Of Religious Violence.  It is a recording of a speech by the theologian William Cavanaugh given to an audience in Wellington, New Zealand, on July 30, 2012.

     I advise you:  the whole speech lasts over 57 minutes, and it gets off to a slow start for the first 5 or so minutes.  That is okay.  This is no sound bite; it is also not an interview.  It is only one of several speeches by a careful Christian scholar and researcher.

     I further advise:  Unlike the talking heads (that we all know and love), he doesn't claim to have all the answers.  But what he does have is some excellent commentary on current trains of public thought, Western domestic and foreign policy (mostly American), and a more comprehensive perspective on matters political and religious than a whole lot of better-known and more popular people.

     You can find out more about Dr. Cavanaugh, and his books and articles, here.

*       *       *

     There is a second video, 'Myth Of The Free Market,' which is a speech in the same series, given by Dr. Cavanaugh on the following day.

      I am indebted to Charles Burris, a contributor to Lew Rockwell's website, for bringing this fine thinker to my attention.  Comments are most welcome.

Friday, December 7, 2012

We Have Been Scripted

     We have been scripted.

     We have been deeply scripted by evil men.  I think, all of us have been scripted.  Some more so than others.  But probably all of us, to a greater degree, and with more negative effects, and for longer, than we suppose.  And in ways, and by such means, as we are hardly ready to admit.

     The script is specific, general, pervasive, and old.  Ancient, even.  It is filled with damage.  Saints and sages have warned us of it.  It hypnotizes, allures, distracts us, weakens us, and compels us.  It is embodied in bad men.  They tell us what to do, how to think, where to go, and when.  They check up on us to see that we are obeying them.  They control us; or want to. 

     I do not claim to know all the whats or hows or whys.  I think I know some of them.  I think it would be profitable for us to think for a while about the script, about its existence, its agents, its nature and effects, its complexities and simplicities, and what we may know, and what we do not know.

     I think that there is a way out, but I will save that for some other time.  

*       *       *

     See my previous post, "A World War II Veteran Comes Home," for some of my specific thoughts on the nature of the evil script.

     I also made a reference to this in another post, "Reading Between The Lines."

     Your comments, as always, are most welcome.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A World War II Veteran Comes Home

     Here are some true stories of World War II veterans, which were personally recounted to me a long time ago.  I wrote the title of this post in the singular to make it more individual, to emphasize the point that each man lived only his own singular, private story. 

     When I met him, and I met him only once, Wally was a friendly and mildly prosperous insurance salesman.  It had been more than thirty years since the Greatest Generation had "won" the Good War.  He came to sell us -- my new bride and me -- life insurance; but for interesting reasons we shifted subjects and he ended up telling us the war part of his life story.

     He grew up in Idaho, the son of good Mormon farmers, with all the love of God and family and country that that implies.  He knew right from wrong, worked hard, and loved his country -- as he knew it, America being, in his mind, God and Idaho, only writ larger.  A war was on, and at the age of eighteen he found himself in the U. S. Army.  He received training as a paratrooper, and must have been a good one:  at the tender age of nineteen he would find himself in charge of a company of over a hundred men (I think he said, about a hundred and sixty) that was part of a larger force that had been dropped on a Japanese-occupied island in the Pacific.

     So there they were: a small company of young paratroopers, under the immediate command of a nineteen year old potato farmer from Idaho, untested in battle -- jungle, battle, and Japanese soldiers were all equally unknown to them.  He told me it was like being dropped into a totally different world.  I could believe it.

     His company was in a concealed position, and wanted to keep it that way.  The enemy forces apparently -- who knew for sure? -- occupied their own section of jungle on the opposite side of a large clearing.

     Suddenly, one of the paratroopers broke and ran.  Was it panic?  derangement?  Whatever it was, the soldier was running straight for the clearing, in the supposed direction of the Japanese.  In a few seconds, he would surely be giving away their position, and jeopardizing a hundred men.  Wally was in charge.  What does a nineteen-year old farm boy do, with only a second to decide?  Let the guy give away your position?  or instantly "drop him" -- one of your own men?

     It was a matter that apparently still haunted Wally after thirty years; something that he wanted to talk about to somebody -- in this case my wife and me.  (And we were complete strangers.  And probably it helped that we were complete strangers.)

     He returned to farming after the war, but a freak hailstorm in July broke him.  With some regret, he left farming for insurance.

     Stuart grew up in a midwestern city.  He graduated from high school in the middle of the Depression, and had difficulty finding a job.  He landed one with the Civilian Conservation Corps and went to California, where he worked in a National Forest.  Whatever his job was, it required lots of camping out, and he spent many nights alone, with his protection being only a campfire and a sleeping bag.  He told me that he occasionally shared his camp (unwillingly) with mountain lions that apparently roamed pretty freely in the California mountains in the late 1930s, as I suppose their descendents still do today.

     I do not find it surprising, therefore, that the Army ended up sending him "behind enemy lines" in Burma; he was surely more qualified than most.  In Burma, it seems, "enemy lines" was an exceedingly fluid concept.  From what he told me, the small-unit military operations he was involved in included a fair amount of Americans setting lethal booby traps along trails that the Japanese would use, and then ambushing them.  It was, of course, equally important to avoid the ambushes and booby traps set by the Japanese.

     He lived for weeks at a time with local people and shared their (to him strange, to them normal) food.  He said they were very hospitable; and I suppose that they learned to avoid the booby-traps set by both sides.

     I have wondered what the "natives" (as usual, the people who lived in and belonged in that country for generations, but did not control it) thought about what the Allies and the Japanese were doing to their country, and to each other.

     At any rate, Stuart survived the war without any apparent damage other than being very jumpy about abrupt loud noises for a while after he returned to "the States."

     Will was a clerk in a small construction company when he was drafted into the Army and was sent, by his request, to serve in the medical corps.  He landed in England at an army hospital in 1944, shortly ahead of D-Day.  His hospital handled many of the seriously wounded; and he handled their records.  

     The hospital treated all kinds of wounds.  They were always treating men with severe burns -- mostly crew members of tanks that had been hit and caught fire.  He told me that they rarely treated tank drivers. Apparently it was very difficult for the driver to survive the ordeal of crawling through and out of a burning tank.

     Infantrymen in the rifle companies had other kinds of injuries -- limbs shot off, terrible belly wounds, and the like.  He told me that many had their testicles and other genital apparatus shot off.  (What happens to men like this?  You never knew, you didn't hear them much talked about.)

     Will, like the others I have mentioned so far, returned from the war unharmed.  When I talked to him many years afterward, he had become a minister.


     Delbert fought in Europe.  Whatever it was he saw and did, I never knew, because he didn't talk about it in public, but he was seriously damaged.  His wife and children made the best of it they could -- "one of his crying spells, you know, one of his breakdowns; Daddy hasn't been right since the war" -- and he lived the rest of his life somewhere between fragile normalcy and extreme depression. 

     What name would you care to put on his injury?  "That's just the result of cowardice"?  "Get hold of yourself, man"?  "Just shows that he lacks true grit"? 

     In World War I they called it "shell shock."  In World War II, with a predictable Freudian condescension, they called it "war neurosis."  Today it is called "post-traumatic stress disorder," unless you prefer the smoother and more genteel "combat stress reaction."  Personally, I would call it a common and natural reaction of a human person who has been placed in mortal danger, repeatedly, against his own will or against his own better judgment, and who has found no way out.  Given the extreme conditions, it is both predictable and non-preventable.  (To prevent it, one must remove the conditions.)

      Bill fought in France and Germany, in and around the Battle of the Bulge.  He said that when they captured men who fought in the German SS, they castrated them, pretty much then and there.  (He did not say with what precision they carried out this field surgery, nor did he say how many they treated this way.)

     Bill came home from the war pretty much okay.  He got a good job and raised a family.

*       *       *
     For an interesting fictionalized account of a World War II veteran's experiences, read Wendell Berry's short story, "Making It Home," which is found in the book, That Distant Land.

     Comments always welcome. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Thus Spoke Zarathushtra

A memo.

To:  The Moderns and the Post-Moderns

Date:  Now

Subject:  Wisdom


1.  Right now, in the midst of your years of conversation with your philosophical peers and adversaries, take this moment to consider the wisdom of Zarathushtra.

2.  Thus spoke Zarathushtra:

     I have seen things, and I will speak:   There is a God, one Lord, who is both Wise and Good.  I know that He is, but He has not told me His name.  Therefore, I shall simply call him "Lord Wise" -- Ahura Mazda.

     A Wise Lord would desire in worship that which would most accord with His own nature: an active wisdom and goodness on the part of His worshippers.  Therefore, I will worship Him in the way that He most likes, because it is most like Him:  by following after wisdom and goodness -- by good thoughts, good words, and good deeds.

     I will summarize and symbolize His active wisdom and goodness as a holy Fire.  When I kindle a fire, I shall think of it as a sacred thing, and meditate upon the holy energy of the Wise Lord, which it signifies.

     I will make Songs for my family, and I will sing them.

     I have seen that there is a realm, around and above me, which is usually invisible to me, but not always.  This realm is part of the wisdom and goodness of the Wise Lord.  In this realm, too, the Wise Lord is best worshipped by wisdom and goodness, by any creatures, such as Angels, who inhabit it.

     I see around me much evil, which appears to directly oppose, with much success and energy of its own, all that is wise and good.  This evil is widespread, I see; and I see some of it in the natural world; but it seems to center mostly in Mankind.  I do not know what name it takes for itself, so I shall simply call it "Lord Manu" -- Ahura Manu.

     Lord Manu appears to be a persistent and effective opponent of the One Wise Lord.  He appears to operate not only in the world of Men, but also in that less visible realm of which I know something.

     I am aware of Lord Manu and some of his agencies, both visible and invisible.  I will always seek to oppose the works of Darkness.

     I choose to follow the Wise Lord, and I will worship Him with good thoughts, good words, and good deeds.  I will always think of Him in the sacred Fire, and when I sing my Songs.

3.  Serious reflection on the old wisdom of Zarathushtra can clear many of the cobwebs that have been woven into the modern and the post-modern mind.

*       *       *

     My own words, yes;  not precisely Zarathushtra's.  But, from those who have read him,  I welcome commentary as to whether or not you think that I have expressed the gist (gestalt) of what he said.  Not so much what you or I think that he should have said (although you can include that, too),  but rather, what was his own wisdom.  Do you think of things to add, or revise?

     The place and time of Zarathushtra's life are the subjects of much interest, and I will not go into that here.  There is a serviceable entry at Wikipedia as a starting point, although I have found much better information at other sites available on the Internet.

     A word about names.  Over the many centuries after Zarathushtra's time, Ahura Mazda's name was contracted to the more familiar "Ormuzd," and Ahura Manu likewise to "Ahriman."  Zarathushtra, when his name was translated into Greek with a scribal error, became the more familiar "Zoroaster."

     The Zoroastrians of today are not numerous.  They are to be found mostly in Iran, the country of their origin, and in small communities around the world, notably in southern California.

     Readers of the Bible can find some connection with the Zarathushtrians in the person of Darius the Mede, one of the kings under whom the prophet Daniel served, as well as the Magi (Wise Men) who came to Israel at the Nativity of Christ.

     Twentieth-century allusions to a Zoroastrian paradigm can be found in the music by Richard Strauss, "Also Sprach Zarathustra," which was popularized in Stanley Kubrick's film, 2001: A Space Odyssey.  There is also an implicit Zoroastrian mindset in the original StarWars trilogy (now known as IV, V, and VI, crazily enough), with its perpetual conflict of good and evil, its "dark side," "dark father," and the "Force."  Other comparisons and contrasts may occur to people.