Enough is Enough

When is Humanity Going to Get That We’re All in This Together?

Archive for January, 2007

Ubuntu

Posted by honestpoet on January 31, 2007

In the morning news on NPR I just heard a story about the gangs in L.A. Egads, what a mess. The chief of police has said, “Enough is enough.” (Hey, too bad I hadn’t copyrighted that…nah, I’m not really sure intellectual property rights have any validity, esp. when it comes to words anyone ought to be able to use…I’m not MacDonald’s or Disney, after all.)

The sad thing is, I can imagine a meeting sometime twenty years or so ago where fat white men with mustaches and cigars and badges laughed together at the thought of blacks and latinos killing each other off. Such a policy would, of course, be short-sighted (as well as inhumane).

The open-source Linux software Ubuntu is named for an African concept that I find wonderful (I like the software, too). It means, “I am what I am because of what we all are together.” It goes back to that interdependence thing. It needs to be recognized: at the level of families, neighborhoods, races, nations.

At the end of the story they interviewed someone, a young man at a funeral whose life was changed by the woman being buried. She’d changed the life of thousands, by offering affection and concern, unconditional love, to the children and young men/women participating in “la vida loca.”

I don’t believe in much magic. I certainly don’t believe in a personal deity, or some magical redemption to be obtained by faith or prayer. But if there’s any magic, any force that defies the laws of physics, it’s love. It takes so little energy and provides such a huge return. All it takes, really, is a little risk. A vulnerability to betrayal and disappointment. But there’s no other risk more worthwhile.

I love my husband immensely, and my children. My husband’s love has changed my life and provided healing from a less-than-ideal childhood I never would have hoped for. It’s enabled me to love myself, and to extend that love outward, to the world. When I hear about people living like these gang-bangers (or about things like the news story that followed that one, about the burgeoning tension between the Turks and the Kurds rooted in ancient hatreds and prejudices), it makes me so sad. What a waste of potential. All these human beings born with such a huge potential for love, instead learning to live full of hate.

Living in love, one walks in beauty. Clouded by hate, all one sees is ugliness, all the world colored by distrust and fear. This is one of the reasons I have to say enough is enough to all forms of ignorance, from religion to prejudice to the culture of greed and violence bred by corporate rule. Because despite the fact that I live in love, that, walking down the street I notice the forms of the myriad natural phenomena and the grace scribed therein, and greet each face, human and non-human, with an open and friendly look, I can’t help but feel frustration, sadness, grief, and yes, fear, at the hate and violence that seethes throughout most of my environment. Not only do I listen to the news, but I also hear the most horrid stories from my husband about familial violence, physical and emotional, that plagues so many in our community (and ours in not unique in that respect). And I wonder how children from these families can have any hope of learning to love, and it seems hardly surprising that even on an international scale the nations act like a dysfunctional family.

The concept of Ubuntu demands that I seek to change this situation. I can’t fully enjoy my good life unless all my neighbors can share in it.

I don’t know that Jesus ever existed. But I do know that as a mythological figure, he’s powerful enough to have entered just about every world religion. His message of love can’t really be refuted. I just wish folks would start heeding it.

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Posted in atheism, Christianity, history, intellectual property, Jesus, politics, power of love, secular humanism, Ubuntu | 16 Comments »

Interdependence

Posted by honestpoet on January 28, 2007

In order to really understand the necessary change of mind for progressing into a stable and sustainable and reasonably peaceful future, there are a few ideas that need to be grasped. One of them is interdependence. There are obvious reasons a global understanding of interdependence is necessary in the political sphere. Understanding interdependence on a cosmic level brings myriad benefits as well, not the least of which is an understanding of one’s true value. And as a human being, able, if so inclined, to see the universe as it is, you’re very important, indeed. For the first time, on this planet at least, the universe is self-aware. For are we not a manifestation of the universe? And with these brains and the knowledge of astronomy and physics and biology and anthropology that they’ve amassed we’re able to grasp what’s going on here. And even steer it, if we all agree to work together.

I have pretty high hopes for humanity. But we’re having a difficult birth. Gaia’s labor pains must be immense. (For any religious folks reading, that was poetry, so don’t go calling me any kind of theist.) The future could be truly wonderful, if we’d unite as a species. If we don’t, if we continue to fail to recognize how much we need each other, I’m afraid we may be creating a centuries-long nightmare. Or, if some crazy nations start lobbing nuclear weapons at each other, the nightmare could last for thousands of years.

I read recently some article disparaging Iran’s leaders for having apocalyptic ideas. The author seemed completely unaware that American leaders share the same crazy ideas, albeit from a different book.

Posted in atheism, Christianity, evolution, fundamentalism, global warming, history, Islam, neuroscience, politics, science, secular humanism, terrorism | 2 Comments »

No More Preaching, Thanks

Posted by honestpoet on January 28, 2007

I recently disengaged myself from a discussion when it became clear that at least one of the participants viewed the interaction as a debate (I’ll leave a discussion of the other for later…suffice to say it’s rather pointless to continue, for different reasons). And I’d recently done the same thing over at bloggernista’s blog with this homophobic nut-job who’s like a plague there, after it became clear that he was interested in the same thing.

The problem with debate is that the participants aren’t listening to their opponents’ points; they’re too busy trying to refute them.

As I said at the recently abandoned thread, I’m not blogging to get into debates. I’m blogging to vent my frustrations with the status quo, and in hopes of effecting some change on it by raising awareness of some things. The toxicity of religion is just one of them, but it’s certainly the one that gets the most opposition. I think we should look at why.

Religion is at the core of most people’s identity. When children ask each other about religion, they don’t say, “What religion do you observe?” or “What’s your spiritual practice?” They say, “What are you?” (What’s really horrible is that around here ADULTS will ask the same question of someone of mixed race.) And when people have the core of their identity challenged, they usually have a strong emotional response.

Having a conversation with someone in this condition usually doesn’t serve much point. They will make their arguments using all sorts of borrowed rhetoric, often citing bits of a book that I don’t consider any sort of authority, and then absolutely refuse to understand that they’re arguing with a diseased organ. Because religion IS a disease. It colors every aspect of one’s perception. And it’s pathological. It causes one to see oneself as incomplete without it. Preachers are no better than plastic surgeons who advertise in women’s magazines with air-brushed pictures of 18-year-old asses. It’s unethical to create your own market. People who actually offer something of value SEE a need and then fill it; they don’t create the need. Preachers convince you you need saving, just like those Egyptian priests with their stories of horrible monsters and demons in the afterlife that their costly Books of the Dead could save you from, then offer salvation with their hands outstretched for a donation.

And these preachers are crazy. Not only do a large number of them have substance-abuse issues, but sexual ones, as well. (Catholic priests aren’t the only ones, they just get more press cuz it’s a deeper pocket to sue.) And they spout their craziness to the sheeple in the pews. Right now there’s a big to-do about the seven-headed anti-Christ. Turns out Obama is the seventh head. (Hilary has been known to be one of the heads for a long time.) Sexist, racist, homophobes giving spiritual advice all across the nation. Egads. And the superstitious gullible fractured Christians lapping it up. Is it any wonder Bush was elected?

And that guy. Sheesh. A man clearly too stupid to hold the office he does who got there only on name recognition and because Americans fear intelligence. We really are on our way to hell in a hand-basket.

So here’s the deal. I don’t want to hear from anyone anymore who believes in an invisible being who created or runs the universe [about why I should entertain such a ridiculous belief]. In Buddhism they have an axiom, that there’s nothing to be gained from concourse with fools. Life’s too short, and I have a lot of work to do. If you make a post trying to argue the case for your imaginary friend, it will be deleted.

Posted in atheism, Christianity, Egyptians, fundamentalism, homophobia, mental illness, politics, psychiatry, skepticism | 9 Comments »

Some good news, finally!

Posted by honestpoet on January 22, 2007

It seems that corporate America (or at least a significant segment of it) has actually gotten it’s head out of its butt! Ten of the big ones are working with environmental groups to tell congress to wake up and do its job: pass laws and let America join the rest of the world in fighting global warming. Here’s the story, which I heard on NPR, as reported at MSNBC.

Posted in ecology, global warming, politics, science | 2 Comments »

Now here’s a good idea…

Posted by honestpoet on January 22, 2007

…let the poppies in Afghanistan actually help patients!

Of course, it makes too much sense for anyone in power to agree to it. Here’s the BBC story.

Posted in ecology, Muslims, politics, terrorism, war on drugs | 2 Comments »

Look, Folks! Another Federal Abuse of Power

Posted by honestpoet on January 21, 2007

To anyone who’s been checking, hoping for new entries, my apologies for being away so long, unannounced. I’ve been using my neurons doing gardening things, and parenting things, and wifely things, as well as making progress with my flute. But I had to come in here and bitch a little about the feds’ absolutely out-of-hand breach of states’ rights recently in their crackdown on medical marijuana clinics in California, Oregon, and Utah. Here’s what the jackass in charge had to say about it:

“Today’s enforcement operations show that these establishments are nothing more than drug-trafficking organizations bringing criminal activities to our neighborhoods and drugs near our children and schools,” said Ralph W. Partridge, head of the DEA in Los Angeles.

This guy’s obviously able to completely disconnect himself from reality.

Here’s the story.

Outrageous. Yeah, this is what we need to be doing, harassing doctors, nurses, and patients. We’re going bankrupt as a nation, fighting terrorism, which, let’s face it, IS a very bad thing (why we ignored our neighbors’ struggle with it, and even fostered it in some places, is another question I’ll leave for now); we simply can’t afford to keep fighting this ludicrous “war” on drugs. Which is actually a war against drug users. And which is totally outside the scope of government.

Some of the statements in the news story and in the discussions online about this make clear that some citizens feel the government HAS to enforce the drug laws BECAUSE they’re the law (clearly people who got stuck at phase 4 in Nielsen’s theory of moral development…you know, that we-can’t-break-the-law-or-the-universe-will-unravel thing). Well, we can change the law. Duh.

I’m not going to argue here about how harmless marijuana is relative to the two legal intoxicants, tobacco & alcohol. There’ve been plenty of excellent arguments made by folks with better scientific credentials than mine for why marijuana should be relegalized. I want to talk about the historical view, which almost always gives a better picture. It’s like stepping away from a painting, or looking down at a city from a tall building. You’d think the guys in charge might try it sometime. But that would involve reading. Oh, I’d forgotten.

I do not understand the disconnect from reality that our government seems to experience. Like Lewis Black says in a bit, it’s like these guys take a big dump on the floor right in front of us and then turn around and insist it’s fertilizer.

Here’s my analysis, after having read and cogitated on this problem for the past 15 years: it’s time to reverse the mistake made last century, when the intoxicant favored by blacks and Mexicans was made illegal in order to give the officers who’d been fighting (again, mistakenly) to keep Americans from drinking alcohol during Prohibition something to do. All that’s happened is the creation of a monstrous and vicious black market, just like the Prohibition did with the mafia. If it hadn’t been for the leg-up organized crime got with that, our country would be a lot more peaceful and less corrupt than it is now. And now the black market in heroin, which is killing so many of us, is funneling money to the Taliban. And all those potential tax dollars are going down the drain, along with the money spent on enforcing this corrupt and inane law.

And that brings us to one of the issues that needs to be dealt with in any discussion about the relegalization of weed. A very large reason why the law hasn’t been changed is that there are too many people making a living off the status quo. Not only the drug dealers and the DEA agents, and myriad police precincts, and privatized prisons, but there’s even an entire industry surrounding drug testing, both the manufacturers of and the lab techs doing the tests, and the folks who make stuff to help users pass them. And then there are the pharmaceutical companies who make a killing selling us toxic medications that treat poorly what marijuana treats well, and gently. It’s an outrageous amount of money we’re talking about. But that’s too bad. Folks had a lot of money invested in the status quo surrounding slavery, too, but that didn’t make it right, and when it was time to change, change came, no matter how much some didn’t want it. These guys can adapt and do something useful or they can be burned off like the parasites they are.

I just hope that we don’t end up at war with each other, like over another states’-rights issue. I do know that there are plenty who are going to continue to oppose the government over this. I’m one of them. And I also know that the government can ill afford to continue to blow our money on something so stupid when we’re fighting a real enemy, at home and abroad.

The citizens of California, Utah and Oregon had the sense and the compassion to pass laws allowing those in need to use marijuana. The feds have no business going against the people’s will on this.

Another thing: America is supposed to be a beacon of freedom. How can they spout that rhetoric and then jail so many of our citizens for non-violent drug offenses? Hardly the land of the free, as far as I can see. It seems like we ought to be doing our best to distinguish ourselves from tyrannical dictatorships. Instead we seem to be moving further and further in the direction of fascism.

Posted in cancer, chemotherapy, history, impeachment, military, Muslims, neuroscience, politics, privacy, ridiculous beliefs, science, skepticism, states' rights, terrorism, war on drugs | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 18 Comments »

More Fun with Neurons

Posted by honestpoet on January 12, 2007

Another interesting discovery: I can hear my neurons firing. Sounds crazy, I know. Of course I can’t hear them when there’s ambient sound, which is always. Except at night, because hubby (who doesn’t snore!) BREATHES REALLY LOUDLY, and even when he doesn’t sound like a rusty engine, I’m sensitive to sound, and so I wear earplugs. When I first started wearing them (some months ago — they saved my life, or my marriage, or both) the sound of my own heartbeat was staggering. I got used to that quickly enough. But even when I’d tuned that out (funny how our brains can do that, isn’t it?), I still heard this high, random, whining sound, very much like being in the woods at night with scads of crickets and cicadas doing their thing. I wrote it off as some sort of hallucination thrown up by my brain to give it something to do in the silence.

But then hubby, who’s very much into music and has been exploring the work of John Cage, told me that he’d conceived of his infamous however-many-minutes of silence after he’d had the opportunity to check out this “quiet room” some scientists in Boston had put together, a room that absorbed ALL sound, so that you could actually experience total silence. But when he was there, it wasn’t silent! He’d heard what he recognized as his heart beat, and another, higher sound. And upon asking about it, he was told those were the neurons firing in his brain.

How cool is that? You can actually hear your own biological computer up there, grinding away. If you want to try it yourself, get some Flents. They’re the best.

Going to bed the night he’d told me about that, I paid more attention to the crickets and cicadas, really, to all the sounds in my head. And I was amazed to discover that I could actually focus my attention within my skull, move it around, from a pulse near my ear, to a space without rushing blood where the neurons were quite loud, back around to another artery. The next day I told hubby about it, and he said that made sense; since we’ve got two ears, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to, if we try.

Dang, brains are cool. Goodness knows what they’ll be capable of when we really start harnessing them.

Posted in atheism, neuroscience, Paul Churchland, science | 5 Comments »

Seriously, though…

Posted by honestpoet on January 11, 2007

At my husband’s encouragement, I’ve begun reading Paul Churchland’s book, The Engine of Reason, The Seat of the Soul. We’ve been discussing the ideas he deals with for a while, the current understanding of neurobiology and cognitive processes, but I’ve never actually read the work. But I’ve recently read another book thick with science, Christopher Williams’ Terminus Brain: The Environmental Threats to Human Intelligence (which I highly recommend and may discuss in a separate post), so I thought I ought to quit being put off and go for it.

I’m still in the introduction, but these paragraphs felt worth sharing here (I have a feeling I’ll be sharing a good bit of this book, for educational purposes, ya know):

If we can be so evidently and so wildly wrong about the structure of the universe, about the significance of disease, about the age of the Earth, and about the origin of humans, we should in all modesty be prepared to contemplate the possibility that we remain deeply misled or confused about the nature of human cognition and consciousness. One need not look far for potential examples of deep confusion. A hypothesis that still enjoys broad acceptance throughout the world is the idea that human cognition resides in an immaterial substance: a soul or mind. This proposed nonphysical substance is held to be uniquely capable of consciousness and of rational and moral judgment. And it is commonly held to survive the death of the body, thence to receive some form of reward or punishment for its Earthly behavior. It will be evident from the rest of this book that this familiar hypothesis is difficult to square with the emerging theory of cognitive processes and with the experimental results from the several neurosciences. The doctrine of an immaterial soul looks, to put it frankly, like just another myth, false not just at the edges, but to the core.

This is unfortunate, since that hypothesis is still embedded, to some depth or other, in the social and moral consciousness of billions of people across widely diverse cultures. If that hypothesis is false, then sooner or later they are going to have to deal with the problem of how best to understand the ground of the moral relations that bind us together. Such adjustments, to judge from the past, are often painful. The good side is that they just as often set us free, and allow us to achieve a still higher level of moral insight and mutual care. In exploring the lessons of cognitive neurobiology, I will proceed at all times on this hopeful assumption.

Exactly. That’s my hope as well. That’s my intent, and my goal. I know I can come off brash, even (gasp!) bitchy at times. But my deepest purpose is to help steer world culture in a better direction than the hell we’re headed for. Let’s face it: these days, we need to be thinking about world culture. I don’t mean a monoculture, some homogeneous melting pot. I certainly don’t mean an empire, like with the Romans, goin’ around “civilizing” (meaning romanizing and then collecting taxes) everyone they could conquer. No, I mean a richly diverse planet, where everyone celebrates and nurtures their own traditions, and honors those of their neighbors, but where all have accepted the truth of our mutual humanity, and what that humanity means: that we are one evolved species among many, that our survival depends on remaining adaptable and learning how to live harmoniously with the rest of the world, of which we are an intrinsic part. I sincerely believe that such a future won’t come about unless and until the erroneous hypothesis elucidated above is let go.

Speaking of neurons, I can feel mine getting stronger. I got a simple-system flute for xmas, an inexpensive (and hardy) one made of bamboo, with which to learn Irish folk music. (I’ll be getting an intermediate flute, I hope, in a year or so, when I’ve learned enough.) I’ve been listening to the flute gods tape, and I fell in love with a song, which, now that I’m more intimate with it, I realize is performed a number of times on the tape, by various artists — mostly unknown — each with an individual style so varied that you wouldn’t guess it’s the same unless you knew the song well. I’m working on the first four bars. It’s coming along, and with this practice (which is a lot more fun, and therefore more educative, than the scales I’d been practicing, which, while necessary, were a bit of a bore) I can practically feel the synapses rearranging themselves. (This is partly why I’m doing it — use it or lose it, you know.) Two days ago I was barely aware of my throat, and couldn’t imagine some day being able to use it to articulate the notes in the Roscommon style (my grandmother’s family came from Co. Roscommon, so I figure I ought to learn that one…and it suits me, too…slower, more expressive), which doesn’t use tonguing, just fingering and this sort of glottal thing.

But tonight, practicing those four bars and wanting badly enough to play like the flute gods that I put real effort into it, I became aware that the difference between the low D and the first overblow is largely in the throat, only slightly in the embouchure. Before, I had almost no awareness of my throat at all. It’s like gaining a new sense.

And that’s what I’m hoping will happen for humanity. With science, we can gain a new set of eyes with which to see ourselves, and the world, and our place in it. And one day our descendants will have trouble understanding what it was like for us, before we learned who, and what, we are.

Posted in atheism, ecology, evolution, history, Irish flute, Paul Churchland, psychiatry | 1 Comment »

Mentally Ill in the Military

Posted by honestpoet on January 10, 2007

My husband brought this man to my attention. “Personality Disorder”? I think more like a sociopath. This is terrible, for the victims especially, but also for our soldiers still there. And now we’re sending more, whom some generals say will basically just be bomb fodder.

Here’s the article that hubby had really found disturbing. The military’s mishandling of this man is tragic.

The military has got to start taking mental illness seriously. They’re also having a real hard time treating people with post-traumatic stress disorder properly, and it’s taking a serious toll in suicides.

Posted in mental illness, military, politics, psychiatry, terrorism, Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

This is why we need to up the reality dose

Posted by honestpoet on January 10, 2007

Hubby just came across this book review at amazon that I had to share.  It’s for a book on the computer graphics system for linux called gnome.   You’re not gonna believe this:

0 of 7 people found the following review helpful:

Sheesh. I thought this was about Gnomes., November 12, 2006

Reviewer: Windy12 (Bern) – See all my reviews

Oh, silly me. I got this one when I first started to get into Gnomes. I thought it was going to teach me how to experience them. Imagine my dismay when I got it. Oh My. Well, I gave it to my nephew to work with, he’s into those computers. I finally found “If You Could Only See .. A Gnome’s Story” by Christopher Valentine, MBA and Christian von Lahr, PhD which was the right book for me. That is to say, learning that Gnomes and nature people are real. Very convincing book. Lots of how to. Thanks for the official Gnome 2 Guide, but the title really threw me. I hope this message helps others who may be looking for the REAL DEAL on seeing and experienceing gnomes for yourself. Good luck you computer types out there, for you, you may find this book a playful addition to your technical references. And, at least that, is something suitable to gnomes.

If you don’t believe me, find it here.

Posted in atheism, ridiculous beliefs, science, skepticism | 4 Comments »