I was captivated by another Throughline that aired on January 19, 2023. This episode explores possible Extremist Futures as envisioned by Omar El Akkad in his novel American War.
Omar’s novel is about America’s second Civil War. He imagines 50 years into our future. A time when climate change has turned Florida into an underwater theme park and climate disasters devastate the world. His vision is very similar to mine in my novel Sapience: The Moment Is Now (not yet published).
In American War, the world finally understands that it has to stop burning fossil fuels and bands them–but it’s too little too late. The US is the last to band fossil fuels. All states agree to switch to more sustainable energy except Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. These three states take up arms, deciding they would rather secede than stop burning fossil fuels.
They lose, again, but what follows is a years-long insurgency. This is where his story is mostly centered.
Something Omar says in the beginning of this Throughline needs to be emphasized. He says, “We read to feel into another.”
This is how we come to know and understand each other. A country or a state (I’m thinking of you Florida) that bans books because they might be subversive… God Forbid… they might give children ideas… is a system that seeks to keep its citizens in ignorance.
Break down the word: ig — nor — ance. States and countries that ban books are teaching their people to ignore what they see with their very own eyes.
And, people who are kept in ignorance are a heck of a lot easier to manipulate too!
He also says, “Story is the final act of Resistance!“
The New York Time’s describes his novel: “Omar El Akkad’s “American War” is a disturbingly plausible case in point — a tale of a future America torn asunder by its own political and tribal affiliations.“
This is what caught my attention too.
Throughline plays some from the audio book of American War that includes sound effects. Had I not caught the beginning, I might have thought I was listening to real, on-the-ground reporting.
Omar’s story feels real, very real. It feels like it is already happening.
He grounds his story telling by his real life experiences as a boy in Lebanon where he was a witness to the devastation of war and what happens to people in refugee camps.
Omar says, “A society subjected by warfare is akin to moving backwards in time.”
Think of what Putin is doing to his people and to the beautiful people of Ukraine. Every image coming out of his sick ego trip is likened to images from WWI.
The Academy Award nominated movie All Quiet on the Western Front vividly paints the insanity of rich, powerful men who send other men to die for their personal power and glory. In this movie (and of course the book), Paul Bäumer and his classmates are just cannon fodder for a fatherland that has gone mad.
If you are having a hard time remembering the horror and senselessness of death of WWI, then watch All Quiet to remind yourself that quiet means dead. Watch as these young, gifted boys sign up for service and get pumped up by grumpy, old narcissistic men who stuff them full of overly romanticized, patriotic notions of war and how they are defending the fatherland. It’s on Netflix, so you have no excuse.
Omar describes this souped-up patriotic messaging as euphemistic fraudulence.
This article begins with the college admission scandal that caught up actress Lori Loughlin and fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli in acts of fraud to get their children into the best schools.
Robert writes, and this is important:
In an earlier blog post we suggested some reasons, grounded in behavioral ethics, that might help explain why reputable people and loving parents became involved in these frauds. The conformity bias, the self-serving bias, and incrementalism all may have contributed. The evidence disclosed in the indictment offers additional clues.
A euphemism, say’s Webster’s, is “the substitution of an agreeable or inoffensive expression for one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant.”
Famed Stanford psychologist Albert Bandura writes of “moral disengagement,” suggesting that people, such as Loughlin and Giannulli, who think of themselves as good people can do something bad so long as they can selectively suspend morality for their activities. One way people do this is by use of euphemisms. Bandura notes:
“Language shapes the perception of events and the thought patterns on which people base many of their actions. The personal and social acceptability of given activities, therefore, can differ markedly depending on what those activities are called. Euphemistic machinations are used widely to detach and depersonalize doers from harmful activities. Cloaking detrimental activities in euphemisms can be a powerful weapon.”
Examples of the “sanitizing and convoluted language” (Gambino) of euphemisms that have helped people make their peace with wrongdoing include the following:
Dead civilians = “collateral damage”
Mass firings = “right-sizing”
Lies = “alternative facts”
Burning down villages = “pacification”
Fraud = “creative accounting”
Genocide = “the final solution”
Empirical studies indicate that “euphemistic labels can psychologically sanitize unethical practices, facilitating our participation in them.” (Moore & Gino).
The World is Either Good or Evil
This is a lie. Every modern human being born today is told this lie.
Omar talks about how this idea is used to twist us into doing all sorts of evil things. It is a notion, an idea, a belief drilled into us since the day we are born until the day we are dead.
It is this very idea that the world can be cleaved into a good side and a bad side that allows us to be manipulated.
I would add it is precisely splitting the world into Good and Bad parts that lets us justify just about any abominable violence we can dream up.
It is also what allows ruthless rulers to turn plain, ordinary, decent human beings into killing machines and monsters.
Ruthless Rulers are already monsters and include men such as Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Ali Khamenei, Kim Jong-um, Denis Sassou Nguesso, Abdullah Aziz Al Saud, Bashar al-Assad, and there are many more (see the list of Current World Dictators).
We live with these monsters right here, right now on our planet. And they are pounding our world straight back to the Stone Age just as fast as they can.
What do you think? Are they winning? The Red countries that is… are there more red countries than yellow or green?
That is exactly what they want you to believe. But, perhaps you are beginning to sense out it is precisely this idea of division that is the problem.
One of Omar’s characters is an empathetic lair. He is the character that goes into the refugee camps and radicalizes the kids there.
Omar says there is no such thing as exotic suffering, but empathetic liars make you believe there is. Empathetic liars parse the fine threads of what we do and what is done to us. Empathetic liars play upon the lack of self-agency in a place like a refugee camp (or one of Putin’s prisons) and use it like a gleaming lure to hook their targets–kids (or Russian prisoners) whom they plan to turn into cannon fodder.
Omar says, “People go to bad place when their self-agency is taken away from them.” And the more damaged a person is, the more their circle of Trust closes in, making them extremely vulnerable to empathetic liars
And that is exactly what autocrats, dictators, and pretty much most of the Republican Party in the United States are doing. Whoever they are…all close ranks around their strong man, hype their followers up on FraudulentEuphemisms, and close the circle of Trust until only one man can be trusted.
And, there sure are a lot of want-a-bee dictators who desire to be the one and only man the entire human race can trust–Putin, Trump, Xi Jinping, Ali Khamenei, Kim Jong-um, Denis Sassou Nguesso, Abdullah Aziz Al Saud, Bashar al-Assad, or pick your poison.
Yes, Omar is very right to envision the coming of America’s Second Civil War! Heck, we might be staring down the path to WWIII.
I think Empathetic Liars is another name for Dark Empaths. Dark Empathy is not a good thing. Dr. Ramani does a very good job in this video explaining why all of us need to be on the look out for Dark Empaths and Empathetic Lairs.
Reality? What Reality!
Omar talks about when a group of people believeanything they want to believe is real… you’re living in a very dangerous place and time.
Add the element of violent insurrection being a central part of a country’s narrative, and you have a tinderbox waiting to explode.
He admits he’s been amazed how reality has out did his fiction.
He warns, “There is a particular Force that when it emerges within a group of people, it must be stared down directly.”
I would add that when this Force is encountered: You cannot blink. You cannot turn away. And, if you falter, it will destroy you.
I’m writing about such a force too. I was reminded of a prologue I was playing around with to describe my story. I realize it is exactly what Omar is warning us about.
Image from: Penguin Random House Audio | “Powerful . . . As haunting a postapocalyptic universe as Cormac McCarthy [created] in The Road, and as devastating a look as the fallout that national events have on an American family as Philip Roth did in The Plot Against America. . . . Omar El Akkad’s debut novel, American War, is an unlikely mash-up of unsparing war reporting and plot elements familiar to readers of the recent young-adult dystopian series The Hunger Games and Divergent.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
The last chapter of Maria’s book is: Why Fascism Is Winning and its subtitle is Collaborate, Collaborate, Collaborate. She is the recipient of the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize for her courage and work standing up to President Duterte, 16th President of the Philippines who was elected to the role of the presidency on June 30, 2016 (exactly 6 months after Trump did the same thing in the United States).
Both men went to work attacking the Press. Both men claimed they, and they alone, knew what is right and wrong. Both men labeled any coverage from the press that they didn’t like as Fake News, Unreliable, Unprofessional, Untrue. Both men worked furiously to annihilate truth, facts, and reality. They knew divided we fall!
To some extend, both men succeeded beyond their wildest mad fantasies!
Duterte’s Mad War
Duterte went to war, he said, to reduce ‘crime, corruption, and illegal drug trade‘. Many cheered. In reality, he would leave a brutal, bloody legacy of dead. Official numbers account that 6,248 people were killed, but human rights groups say the number is much higher, as high as 30,000 people.
Investigations show many victims of Duterte’s war on drugs were his opponents, leftists, drug users (who needed treatment, not a bullet), and some dealers. The UN has implicated Duterte in more than 1,000 killings and disappearances of people. Police whistle blowers have told how they planted guns and drugs on these victims to frame them as involved in the drug trade. For more on these stats, please see the BBC’s June 30 article: The bloody legacy of Rodrigo Duterte.
Trump’s Mad Dash to Dictatorhood
Trump’s 4-year term is just as distributing. He knew COVID-19 did not bode well to be elected for a second term. So when the virus arrived in the United States, Trump went into deny, distort, and distract mode.
He continually played down how deadly the virus was and mocked people who wore masks. This turned a cheap, easy, commonsense public health approach of keeping people safe into a culture war.
Veteran Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward on Monday called the former President Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic a “crime” that killed more than 1 million people.
The Hill reports Woodward said: “I call it a crime, not telling the people that he had been warned that — by his national security advisers in the most vivid way, which is outlined in these tapes, the interviews with them, where they are telling him.”
This is the reason why Woodward released the tapes he recorded with Trump early in 2020 as he interviewed him for his books Rageand Peril; earlier, he wrote Fear.
As of November 23, 2022, over 1 million US citizens have died of COVID; the vast majority of these deaths occurring while Trump held office before a vaccine was available. Trump crippled the CDC and turned public health guidance into a political weapon.
There Is A Big Yang to Pay When Facts Fall Prey to AuthoritarianDisinformation Campaigns
Since we are on the topic of global pandemic, let’s take a look at President Xi Jinping. He has recently been elected to a historical third term. This of course is code for President for Life.
He has cozied up to Putin, imprisoned Chinese Wiegers, carried out a brutal crackdown on democracy protesters in Hong Kong, and most recently was posturing in a tense standoffs about the fate of Taiwan. Many think Taiwan could be the next Ukraine as XI Jinping lines up his ducks to make Taiwan China again.
But real life, especially nasty little viruses, don’t always go along with the next chapter of the Dictator’s Playbook. President Xi Jinping took a hardline approach to COVID when it first emerged in Wuhan, China.
Zero COVID policy worked at first and it became the main strategy of Xi. Local authorities eager to prove how loyal they are to Xi have implemented extreme lock down measures, including locking people inside their homes and whole apartment complexes.
Xi has bragged about how effective China’s Zero COVID policy has worked, while the rest of the world suffered. He didn’t put much effort into vaccination efforts other than insisting China make its own vaccine while claiming Western-made vaccine like Pfizer or Moderna would be ineffective.
“China would never do something crazy like use a COVID-19 vaccine made in the West! Heck, the Western World is falling apart… look at what happened at the US Capitol!“
Well, Xi is right about the US Capitol. We have lost our collective mind, but it is not because we have a free society and democracy (that is what he and his flying monkeys blameall the evil on).
The reason we are losing our collective mind is because our trust landscape is being destroyed by people who want to be just like him–a bully and a dictator—and digital clones, keep reading! But when you tell lies and spread disinformation to prop up your authoritarian ambitions, they tend to come back and bite you in the butt. And that is what is happening in China now.
CNN reported more than 17 protests occurring all over China, some very bloody. The deaths of people trapped inside their high rise apartment because the fire escapes had been locked due to Zero COVID lockdown measures ignited these protests but anger has been building all over China after 3 years of overzealous lockdowns. These measures are killing people too. Some have not been able to get medical care for heart attacks or other life threatening health conditions, others have committed suicide, all locked down have complained about getting rotten and substandard food or no food. This has lasted for months at a time.
Xi put himself into this very small box.
The protests are a real threat to his authority, but so too is China’s failure to create a vaccine that works. Virologists have compared China’s vaccine to Pfizer and Moderna and found it is not as effective.
Compounding the limited effect of China’s vaccine, China just has not put as much effort into vaccinating its population, relying instead on enforcing its Zero COVID policies with upmost brutalities. The result is the vast majority of China’s population are under vaccinated or not vaccinated. Nor do many individuals have immunity from a previous infection compared to the overall population.
If they let up on Zero COVID without vaccinating their population with a vaccine that works, COVID will roar through its population killing millions and while it does, it will be mutating and this could cause a BIG problem for the rest of the world, again.
If Xi relents and allows Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to be used in China, he reveals his lies about Western democracies to his people and he looks weak.
Oh what a sticky misinformation landscape Xi has created for himself!
If Disinformation Doesn’t Work, Create A Scapegoat and Attack It
This is what Putin is doing now in Russia. He is losing the war in Ukraine. He looks weak and stupid. He needs a good distraction so his citizens don’t rise up against him and who knows, perhaps they castrate the man.
After all, it is his actions, and his actions alone, that have cut the Russian people off from the rest of the world–no Facebook, no Twitter, no vacations to Paris or Italy, no McDonalds–all because of his war with Ukraine.
So what does Putin do? Putin makes being gay illegal in Russia. He calls it a sickness of democracy and the Western World. He claims Russians don’t have gay people.
Come on Putin… now you look even more stupid than before. To read more about Putin and his flying monkeys, see Ukraine Letters.
The Dictator’s Playbook
Dictators around the world and throughout history use the same tactics. They attack the truth, exaggerate threats to make people afraid, and enflame emotions to herd as many people as possible under their make-believe umbrella constructed out of their annoying, droning chant: “I and I alone can fix it.”
That is the secret spell of a dictator. This stupid chant is his top-secret, classified magic potion. This is what every dictator throughout time has ever used to manipulate the masses. It is called ignorance dust. It is what evil fairies use to make their mischief.
What they don’t say out loud is …they broke it and they made up the boogeyman who you are now afraid of!
Dictators systematically claim they represent truth, decency, and dignity while fabricating facts, fiends, and fantasies about their own greatness.
Dictators pit people against each other, then they sit and watch the carnage on TV.
1. Expand your power base through nepotism and corruption.
2. Instigate a monopoly on the use of force to curb public protest.
3. Curry favour by providing public goods efficiently and generously.
4. Get rid of your political enemies.
5. Create and defeat a common enemy.
6. Accumulate power by manipulating the hearts and minds of your citizens.
7. Create an ideology to justify an exalted position.
You should read the article because Mark gives some very lively examples.
So, Just How Do You Stand Up to a Dictator?
Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate
This brings us back to Maria Ressa. She stood up to Rodrigo Duterte and to Mark Zuckerberg and his Facebook nightmare. In an interview with Dave Davies on FreshAir she said:
I wasn't the only one under attack in Rappler. And Rappler is about a hundred people. We're - we just became - we hit 10 years. We're 10 years old January this year. So my gosh, we're going to be 11 by January next year. But it's 63% women. And our median age is 23 years old. So when our younger reporters came under attack, I became far more protective of our team.
And within a short period of time, we increased our security six times, seven times, because at some point it became very clear that online violence is real-world violence. And, you know, in your introduction, you talked about the attacks of President Duterte and Facebook. I think, by 2016, I was calling for an end to impunity, impunity of Rodrigo Duterte and this brutal drug war and impunity of Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook. They go hand in hand. One could not have happened without the other.
DAVIES: When you started Rappler, this news service, one of the things you note is that the population of the Philippines had already become remarkably attached to digital technology. Different from a lot of places in that way, wasn’t it?
RESSA: Yeah. Look, we were the texting capital of the world before this, the SMS capital of the world. And then we became known as the social media capital of the world. And by January 2021, for six years in a row, Filipinos spent the most time online and on social media globally. A hundred percent of Filipinos on the internet today are on Facebook. Facebook literally is our internet.
DAVIES : I mean, it seems that what you were discovering was that social media platforms, like Facebook, have discovered that people respond to sharply emotional messages. And so the algorithms give them more of that – anger, hatred, resentment – which, in turn, brings more engagement, which is what their economic model is based on. And it – you observed that this was allowing people who were telling lies that were destructive and poisonous to democracy to spread faster than truth.
The interesting thing is that you actually had conversations with Facebook executives about this, right? You met with a bunch of them. Did they get it? What did they say?
RESSA: Rappler was essentially an alpha partner of Facebook. We knew Facebook in the Philippines better than Facebook did. And I went to them with the data, hoping that they would give me more data and fix it. I thought it would be an easy fix 'cause in 2016, it was alarming to see this kind of, you know, incitement of hate. In 2017, I was one of about a dozen startup founders that Mark Zuckerberg met with. And, you know, I was trying to get him to come to the Philippines to see how powerful Facebook was. And at that point, 97% of Filipinos were there. And that's what I told him. I said, you know, you really have to come 'cause 97% of Filipinos on the internet are on Facebook. So he started frowning. And I thought, OK, I must have been a little too pushy. And then, he looked at me. And he said, Maria, where are the other 3%?
RESSA: I think that was the problem, right? They were so focused on market share, their profits, their goal for the business, that they forgot to look at the social harms. I also don't think it's a coincidence that they do not tell the difference between fact and fiction. It doesn't have any business or economic benefits to doing that. So at this point, you don't even have facts. So what did they do? They outsourced it. They gave - it became a fact-checking network that was doing this. But it was never integral to the product by design. Social media divides and radicalizes, and this is what we're seeing in the world today.
DAVIES: You write that, at one point, Zuckerberg wanted Facebook to start to really focus on weeding out offensive content. And you said, you’re missing the point. It’s – the problem isn’t content; it’s distribution. What did you mean?
RESSA: Because so much of the debate centers on content when that isn't the problem. Doesn't matter if your crazy neighbor talks about a conspiracy theory. You'll still like your crazy neighbor, and you listen. But it becomes different when that's the front page of your town newspaper. Imagine, the crazy things now make it to the front page. That is what goes viral. And that's the world we live in.Doesn't matter if it's real or not as long as it captures your attention. So it is your amygdala that decides, right? If you get angry, you'll share it.
And this is the - I mean, look, there is a - E.O. Wilson, who studied emergent behavior in ants, said that our greatest crisis that we face is our Paleolithic emotions, our medieval institutions, and our godlike technology. That godlike technology manipulated us to the point that the very systems of democracy that gave rise to this is now at the verge of failure.
DAVIES: You know, at the end of the book, you kind of ask the big question, which is, what do we do about this? I mean, now that you’ve – it’s apparent how harmful and poisonous this can be for democratic institutions. You know, in the United States, I mean, tens of millions of people believe made-up stories about a stolen election despite plenty of fact-checking that has been published debunking a lot of these stories. You think you have some strategies that might be effective? I mean, this is a little complicated, but share some of these ideas with us.
RESSA: In the short term, we decided, as we were walking into our presidential elections, that we would try to figure out what a whole-of-society approach to civic engagement could look like. And we created a four-layer, facts-first pyramid - four different layers. The bottom layer are 16 news organizations - the first time news groups worked together. You know, I've been trying since 2016, but we finally all work together. And that is the supply of fact checks.
But as you know, fact checks are really boring. They don't get wide distribution on social media. So that leads to the second layer. It's called the mesh - 115, 116 different civil society groups - NGOs, human rights organizations, climate change groups were there - business, the church. The Philippines is Asia's largest Roman Catholic nation. And the goal of the mesh layer is to share those boring fact checks, but to add emotion because emotion is what moves it through distribution. And what we found when we did that was that inspiration spreads as far as anger. The third layer are academic institutions. Eight of them total that took the data from the first two and every week told Filipinos how we were being manipulated, who was winning, who was losing, what were the media narratives being seeded? And then finally, the last layer, layer four, is rule of law. It's legal organizations from the left to the right in the Philippines, from the free legal group to the integrated bar of the Philippines to the Philippine Bar Association.
They filed, in less than three months, more than 21 cases, tactical and strategic, that helped protect the three layers. It worked. We were able to - it was the most successful attempt to try to take over the center of our information ecosystem. We mapped it. But more than that, within two weeks of launching this facts-first pyramid, the Philippine government - the office of the solicitor general filed a petition at the supreme court against Rappler and our commission on elections, because we were working with them at that point. They said that fact-checking is prior restraint. They tried to stop us from fact-checking. It almost made me laugh.
DAVIES: To kind of summarize here, it sounds like what you’re proposing is that news organizations need to overcome some of their competitive instincts and work together when there is important fact-checking to be done, connect them to other organizations in a way that puts energy and emotion into it and get that out there.
RESSA: Think about it like this. Like, if you don't have integrity of facts, you cannot have integrity of elections. And ultimately, what that means is that these elections will be swayed by information warfare. I mean, you know, it's funny. Americans actually look at the midterms. And they say, well, it wasn't as bad as it could be.Death by a thousand cuts - it's still bad. And if we follow, you know, what - the trend that we're seeing, if nothing significant changes in our information ecosystem, in the way we deliver the news, we will elect more illiberal leaders democratically in 2023, in 2024.
And what they do is they crumble institutions of democracy in their own countries, like you've seen in mine.But they do more than that. They ally together globally. And what they do is, at a certain point, the geopolitical power shift globally will change.Democracy will die. That point is 2024. We must figure out what civic engagement [looks like and], what we do as citizens today, to reclaim, [and] to make sure democracy survives.
In Maria Ressa’s interview on 1A, she explained surveillance capitalism and how it enabled want-a-be dictators like Duterte and Trump to actually get elected in Free and Fair elections. Something she told Jen would never have happened pre-Facebook (and other social media era).
Here is how she explains it:
technology has degraded facts and broken our societies. I became a journalist because I believe that information is power - it’s how we get justice. The death of democracy began when journalists lost our gatekeeping powers to the technology platforms that not only abdicated responsibility for protecting us ... but also destroyed democracy by destroying the facts ... for immense profit.
Like the age of industrialization, there’s a new economic model that brought new harms, a model Shoshana Zuboff called surveillance capitalism - when our atomized personal experiences are collected by machine learning, organized by artificial intelligence - extracting our private lives for outsized corporate gain. Highly profitable micro-targeting operations are engineered to structurally undermine human will - a behavior modification system in which we are Pavlov’s dogs, experimented on in real time with disastrous consequences. This is happening to you - to all of us around the world.
Engagement based metrics of these American tech companies mean that the incentive structure of the algorithms, which is just their opinion in code implemented at a scale that we could never have imagined, is insidiously shaping our future by encouraging the worst of human behavior. Studies have shown that lies laced with anger and hate spread faster and further than facts.
Without facts, you can’t have truth. Without truth, you can’t have trust. Without these, we have no shared reality, no rule of law, no democracy.
In my upcoming book, the prologue I submitted last year began with the splintering of reality in Crimea in 2014. I had to revise that when Russia invaded Ukraine using the same narratives seeded then. Would that have happened if the platforms had acted 8 years ago? That is the true cost for the world.
Now these networks form a global nervous system of toxic sludge partly fueled by geopolitical power play. In 2018, we connected the information operations in the Philippines with Russian disinformation networks through websites in Canada. In 2020, Facebook took down information operations from China that were creating fake accounts for the US elections, polishing the image of the Marcoses, campaigning for Duterte’s daughter, and attacking me and Rappler. In 2021, the US and the EU called out China and Russia for Covid-19 disinformation.
We are all connected.
To read more on how to tackle this huge problem that the whole world faces, a psychological-social virus just as deadly as the Coronavirus, see her speech: The Assault on Freedom of Expression. It is jaw dropping.
No one can afford to sit on the sidelines and watch how this all plays out. Every human being alive right now has a choice to act or watch democracy fall. And if the choice is to watch, you will also watch the world fall over the Climate Cliff.
You (reading this right now)… you will be alive to watch this all happen. It is happening right now and it is going to happen faster than anyone has previously predicated.
If we don’t save democracies, we will never get around to collaboratinglike we have never collaborated before as a global species to solve the looming climate crises bearing down on all of us right now. These climate crises are going to push the entire human race over the Climate Cliff.
It is time to Wake Up!
And Ron DeSantis (another want-a-be dictator), go buy yourself a mask, fins, and snorkel because if Florida is where Woke Goes to Die…well, Florida ain’t going to be around after Earth’s glaciers melt… and it’s going to happen much faster than the Woke People you disparage are telling you it will happen!
Think about it. Think about it hard.
What will you say to your children and grandchildren 50 years from now when there are no more democratic countries and we fail to act on Climate Change?
What will you tell them when you did not try to stop the Putins, the Xis, the Trumps (and his flying monkeys), and the rigid old men in Iran persecuting and killing their young people?
And old men of Iran, for what? What are you killing your young people for… a strand of hair sticking out from a veil?! Come on you stupid old men… what are you going to do? Kill every young person in your country? Yes, probably you will… the ouroboros is the symbol for rigid old men clinging to their dictatorships.
And the North Koreas…well, Kim Jong Un is sitting pretty these days not collaborating with anybody not even his fellow dictators and firing off his rockets… he is the ultimate symbol for a manly male, a tough pluck... a virile coward if I ever saw one. Someone has to enjoy all the spoils he directs only to him and his loyal supporters.
Maria Ressa says we are all living in the upside-down now. Yes, the very same weird world as depicted in Stranger Things. In this world, only the ruthless get to relax in luxury. Everyone else suffers unbelievable poverty, abuse, and gets crushed under super surveillance systems created by dictators afraid of losing power.
We may be wise enough to know that Facebook is tracking us using super surveillance systems and this is pretty bad… thisis where we are now. We all exist in a world of digital clones that are used against us to make huge profits for the ridiculously rich people of the world (think Elon Musk— you can be a corporate dictator too!). These are nasty little things corporations and social media platforms use to make more money by tearing truth, facts, and reality into tiny shreds. Read Maria’s book!
But the next step is not so very far away in our collective global future. The people fighting for their very lives in Ukraine RIGHT NOW know this! They know Putin will not stop if he wins Ukraine. No strongmen, no dictator, no authoritarian is ever satisfied with what they have. They always want more. That is their purpose in life. They have made themselves into monsters and the only thing they can do is devour the entire world. There are a lot of monsters alive RIGHT NOW trying to do this very thing.
The next step Maria Ressa is very clear about is the fall of democracies around the world and the rise of dictatorships ruled by the ruthless. I believe her. And guess what? There is not much room at the top. What all ruthless rulers eventually do if they last long enough is turn on the very people who put them in power. Think about it. Ruthless rulers always need a foil,a ploy, an enemy, a scapegoat. Once they kill all the obvious people, they will start in on their loyal base of followers, the very people they put to sleep using their maniacal evil fairy dust:ignorance.
This is happening NOW on our watch!
How will you explain this to your children?
How will you explain food shortages, water shortages, raging floods and fires, sunken cities, more global pandemics, and governments that won’t even allow you to hold up a blank sheet of paper to protest not being able to protest for your most basic human needs and rights?
It is she who said monsters are made. Think Frankenstein, definitely constructed by a human.
And we do this all the time…in our heads simply repeating the stories we tell ourselves that create indelible images, which we then project onto the world we live in. Or better said, the world we wish we lived in.
The Planet We Made
Olafur Eliasson is an Icelandic–Danishartist known for sculptured and large-scale installation art that employ elemental materials such as light, water, and air temperature to enhance the viewer’s experience. He designed the cover of Time this month to highlight our collective climate crisis that will affect and impact everyone on Earth. Rich or poor, everyone will pay a huge price for further dithering and delaying on taking immediate action Now.
Olafur tells Time to create the effect on TIME’s cover, he employed a technique called after imaging. By following the instructions on the cover, when the page changes, your eyes re-imagine our overheated planet in the healthy vibrant greens and blues we, the human race, were born into and began our journey as a species through time.
The Monsters We Make
This same elusive after imaging takes place inside our minds. The images that get stored inside our minds are created by the stories we tell ourselves and the images we consume as ordinary citizens.
These images, let’s call them cultural images, are stored in our minds as belief systems. Beliefs are vastly more complicated images than the one created by Olafur Eliasson for the cover of TIME. However, compared to reality, beliefs are pathetic and paltry.
Belief systems tend to leave far more outside (the evil other) than inside (the person who sees the the world like you do). All of us adopt and cultivate belief systems. They help us know who we can trust. And, they help us survive by acting as short cuts to reality.
By popping your beliefs into a situation, you can just get down to action. Or really reaction to a situation because beliefs allow you to skip the work of hard thinking, critical analysis, and feeling into what you are actually experiencing.
Systems of belief are informed by the families we grow up in, the cultures we live in, and the religions we participate in (or do not participate in). Systems of belief are further evolved and informed by friends, peers, teachers, clubs, politics, and media, among many other sources.
Whether you accept the stories and images imparted to you through these systems, whether you believe them or you don’t believe them, beliefs about how the world is or isn’t are formed and held in the mind very much like the phantom image Olafur Eliasson created on the cover of TIME.
Each and every belief are things you have choose to accept, to believe, and to store in your head. You choose to believe the things you think are true or what you don’t believe or believe to be not true, regardless of whether they are empirically true or not true.
Once you commit to a belief (in other words you swallow an idea hook, line, and sinker), it creates an indelible image of how the world is, which gets overlay onto everything you do and everyone around you. Very much like the elusive image Olafur Eliasson made for the November 2022 cover of TIME. You put them there, and then you project them on the world.
Beliefs are more likes wishes, fears, and desires. They accord with more how we want the world to be rather than how it really is. Our wish/fear/wants live inside our minds and are projected on the world every moment of our lives. They hoover and cling to everything and everyone we come into contact with like a ghostly aura. Depending on what our projected system of beliefs tells us we should believe about a person or a thing that comes into our narrow bandwidth of focused conscious attention, aligns our actions and behavior in the world.
This rather simple ability has oversized implications–some good, some bad. It is an ability that we take for granted as human beings. Our ability to create systems of beliefs is a form of ignorance (ig–nor–ance, what we choose not to see) and it has gotten the better of us. It is what allows us to turn ordinary human beings into monsters or our world into a wasteland.
Kendra R. Parker explains our creation of and fascination with monsters this way:
When Dracula appeared in the 19th century, there was all of this fear, the English were preoccupied with borders, boundaries and nationalism. Between like 1881 and 1900 there was an increase in the number of non-English Jewish people. There was this xenophobia, this fear of Jewish people, this sort of threat of external colonization. And so these fears about the threatening outsider, who is going to come in and disturb the national pure body, finds its way into Bram Stoker's Dracula.
And if we come to the United States in 1898, we have newspaper images popping up out of North Carolina that depict Black men as vampires because there was this fear of Black men. There's this fear of black men being in politics and so that if you got black political power, then they're going to take over and destroy white women and all of that. And so you've got all of this propaganda.
And there are two images in particular. One is called "The Vampire that Hovers Over North Carolina." It appears in 1898, and it's a Black male vampire coming out of a ballot box. And there's another image that same time period in North Carolina where you got vampires coming out of the grave to vote and they're Black. And so there's this fear that if you let these monsters vote, they will take over and destroy our way of life.
The Monsters We Are
When we use our system of beliefs to turn other human beings into monsters, it is ourselves who become the monster. When hate becomes our fuel, then the transformation is complete. The monster has been made.
It is a way of being in the world that leads to Hell. It is the path of destruction, of mayhem, and of death.
It is a way of being in the world that may begin by being suspicious, distrustful, and skeptical. But it can quickly eclipse who you think you are and make you into a person who takes pleasure in being cynical, ghoulish, grisly, and grotesque.
Such a journey is often summed up by the popular phrase —Take The Red Pill. This means a person that falls down a rabbit hole. They start out innocently following juicy breadcrumbs of gossip and plausibly outrageous happens that grow ever more implausible. But once you get hooked on these toxic breadcrumbs carefully left behind by Master Manipulators who are experts in making the implausible sound plausible. Indeed, the Truth that you are willing to die for.
How To Make of a Monster
Step 1) Chop the world into absolutely good and absolutely evil, then choose a role to play in this absolute drama (it goes without saying that whatever side you play on… that is the righteous side, the good guys, the side that is going to slay absolute evil)
Step 2) Select a Mask for the role you will play in the absolute drama to rid the world of absolute evil (make sure you are the Super Hero of your story and everyone else is the bad guy)
Step 3) Strap Your Mask Tightly To Your Face So It Doesn’t Slip or Fall Off (you don’t want anyone to see you are merely human like the people and other living beings you are dehumanizing)
Step 4) Cut Up Bits and Pieces from the World and Other Stories, Then Mash Them Into Your Mask So You Become Unrecognizable Like Camouflage (it doesn’t matter if the bits and pieces make sense anymore, you are creating your super hero version of yourself!)
Step 5) Add Lots of Layers to Your Mask, Be Sure to Use Lots of Devilish Deceit and Deception, More Camouflage to Help You Better Play Your Role (God forbid anyone recognize that you’re really human behind your Fake Persona)
Step 6) Distort, Deform, and Mangle Your Mask to Create Fantastic New Levels of Distractions and Illusions, Even More Camouflage… Fighting Evil Isn’t for Sissies (this will draw others to you — your followers, your zombie army)
Step 7) Forget You Are Wearing A Mask: Now You Are A Monster
I have not read this book, Metaflesh. But, the image of the cover is captivating. To me, it perfectly captures how we can turn ourselves into monsters using any system of belief, any one at all. In the land of make believe, nothing is sacred. Once we slip down a rabbit holes inside our minds, the inner Hellish landscape allows us to endlessly violently project onto others what we cannot admit to ourselves that we are.
This is a book review of Metaflesh from where I got the image:
Metaflesh is written by Evan J. Peterson, author of The PrEP Diaries: A Safe(r) Sex Memoir and DragStar!, the world’s first drag performer role-playing game. Metaflesh is a book of verse and prose from the point of view of Frankenstein’s Monster. The reflections are inspired not only by Mary Shelley’s seminal work (double entendre fully intended) but also by the pop culture descendants of her novel. Sources include a wide variety of Frankenstein/mad scientist movies and song lyrics. The book also contains themes of Jewish folklore, queer culture, camp, and a lot of David Cronenberg-style body horror. The book covers the gamut of the Monster’s experiences through over a century of movies and songs, and portrays the Monster as both gender-fluid and a sort of chimerical film critic, reviewing portrayals of their self through lyric poetry and flash fiction.
This is an ingenious book of metafiction. Just as Dr. Frankenstein cut up different people and stitched the bits together, Peterson cut up and reassembled his sources, turning them into something greater than the sum of their parts. Borrowing from William S. Burroughs cut-up technique, he splices together Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein with F.T. Marinetti’s Manifesto del Futurismo (Futurist Manifesto) and with J. G. Ballard’s essay, “Why I want to F*ck Ronald Reagan.” He apostrophizes the sexually explicit films of avant-garde queer Canadian creator Bruce LaBruce and doesn’t forget to include General Mills’ Frankenberry breakfast cereal or select lines from Mommy Dearest and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The combined imagery of classical Greek mythology, white supremacy, drag queens, Judaism, and zombie erotica do not merge into a hot mess but meld together into a deliciously readable book.
This literary retrospective is sad, funny, quirky, surgically precise, and captivating. I was never bored and didn’t skip through parts. I tore through my first reading at speed and have been taking my time through subsequent readings. The only spot which slows me down, pulling me to a frowning halt, is a simile in the poem, “His Name is In Me”: “gross as the tallest savage.” Although I’m aware that white supremacist imagery is intentionally used throughout the book—punching up, not down—the use of the word “savage” feels out of place here. It is a racial slur used against Black and Indigenous peoples and stands out awkwardly in a poem strongly based in Judaic imagery. If it is a slur used against Jews, I am unaware, but this is my only quibble with the entire book. -- Book Review: Metaflesh by Evan J. Peterson
Someone OnceTold Me
Someone once told me that my blog The StoryTelling Species Series was just a story. He really just wanted to put it down and elevate himself because we were having a very strong disagreement about COVID. I knew he was wrong, but could not explain to him why he was so wrong then.
Now I can. I knew it is the stories we tell ourselves that make us into heroes or villains, good or evil, saints or monsters. Now I know how it happens inside our minds.
Given how susceptible we are to believe our own stories and lies about ourselves, it is best to give all other people the benefit of the doubt and trust they are not the monster you are afraid of… the one that lives inside of you. It is best just be human and to recognize that we have a little bit of good and a little bit of bad inside of us.
It is when we hang onto the evil inside of us and refuse to let go of it that we make ourselves into monsters and turn Earth into Hell. Trust that reality is far more interesting than the stories we tell ourselves about our selves and others.
Trust that you belong here and now with everyone else and that together we can heal ourselves. This is something we can only do together. And if we heal, Earth heals and our burning hot planet may once again shine in its brilliant, beautiful, life sustaining blues and greens!
In the second episode of Shantaram, available on AppleTV, Lin steps out of his friend Prabaker’s tent in one of Bombay’s sprawling slums. He looks around at all the people in the bustling slum who are looking at him and wonders if they are afraid of him and hate him. He knows he doesn’t belong there, but fate has put him there.
Thinking to himself, he says something like this: “It is what people know about themselves that make them afraid of you.“
In A World…
I rewound and watch this moment again. I was not expecting a nugget of wisdom in this drama. But, there it was…something real, something true, something very pertinent to the world we live in now. Today, no matter where you live, we live in a world….
…where MAGA Republicans think all Democrats are evil beings who drink the blood of children. This belief makes liberals and Democrats not really human. If they aren’t really human, then that makes it all right to kill them, all of them.
“Oh? You don’t believe me?”
Listen to this man right here. He’s the man with the littlest Wiennie of them all. The man in the middle touting hate, lies, deception, stories of separation, fear, and division. He’s Steve Bannon.
This little man, Trump’s Rasputin, knows that a democracy divided is easy to control. And he wants to control everything. Look at his beady eyes and scrubby stubble. He’s a tormented man doing everything to create confusion, chaos, and destruction so he can rise as a Christ for a world of sinners. If you have not seen CNN’s special report Divided We Fall, it is time to watch it.
“Oh — you don’t trust CNN?“
“You say it’s the radical left touting Joe Biden’s radical agenda…and before that it was Hillary….and before that it was Obama…and before and before…”
How far back should we go with the blame game and ‘I don’t trust you‘ contest? To Adam and Eve? Is it really that nasty little snake who started it all?
If you’re playing this game, you have already swallowed the Red Pill, and it’s working its toxic poison deep inside of you. It’s a poison that makes you deeply afraid of others and deeply afraid ofyour own shadow. And, you probably should be deeply afraid of your own shadow.
That is what Lin is aware of while standing alone in the slum of Bombay. That sneaky shadow that lives inside all of us casting its evil intensions and desires onto everyone else, except for you.
If you are playing this game, you have joined the ranks of people who violently participate in the denial of diversity. You do this to legitimize yourown violent fear of anyone who doesn’t walk like you, talk like you, look like you, act like you, or think like you. You secretly believe and harbor a wish to bring into being a world that obeys and worships you.
The dirty little secret is hidden deep inside of you is a greedy, little, bloodthirsty thing who rages and whines about inflicting pain and suffering onto others. You want to do this so that you can enjoy your comforts and privileges. You need to do this because how would you know you are enjoying comforts and privileges unless others are suffering?
When you get called out on your racism, homophobia, antisemitism, and racism, you rage. You rage against the radical liberals who are merely pointing out your evil shadow. But, you don’t want to see the evil inside of you. So you build a wall. It’s a really tall wall that is made from the seething anger and rage boiling inside of you. If anyone gets too near, it burns like a living fire.
‘God damn it!’ if anyone is going to penetrate you inner wall and see that howling, wounded, frighten, greedy thing that lives inside of you.
That thing…. that scoundrel, that fiend, rascal, rogue, fraudster, trickster, beast, son of a bitch, deviant thing, loser, weirdo, cry baby, stupid brutal bastard, and bully. But guess what? So am I, and so is everyone else you know. We all have this evil thing living inside of us.
It never goes away. It bubbles and boils and burns inside us all. It pursues and terrorizes us in our dreams. Lin says, “A dream is when a wish and fear come together. A nightmare is when they are the same thing.”
Remaining ignorant of your evil being merely locks it inside of you where it is hidden behind the carefully constructed idea of yourself (your persona: the role you play in your community and for your family). It is your personal internal prison cell behind the giant wall that you built to conceal your evil being. You built the wall so well, most of the time you can’t even see your evil being locked inside your mental prison cell with you.
This thing inside of you is relentless and torments you night and day. In an act of utter desperation, you spew it out onto others and shout in a voice dripping with rage and fury:
“There! There is the boogeyman!
There is the Devil!
There is the Evil Thing that must be annihilated!”
Or, if the other person (the boogeyman) was once part of your exclusive club of people who know the Truth and what is really going on, you might shout:
“Hang Mike Pence!!”
In a world where Putin calls the people of Ukraine Nazis. Never mind he is the one acting like the Nazi. He is the one full of hate. He is the one who has driven out close to a million Russian men because they don’t want to fight in his barbaric, poorly equipped, and pretty bad army. He is losing. So he resorts to lies and double downs on stupid while waging his limp, impotent Nuclear Weiner.
Do not be fooled by Putin’s weak, victim-based, impotent hysterics! He is exactly the type of man who would push the button.
In a world where Iran’s Moral Police beat up and kill young women simply for wearing their hijab too loosely. But it is themselves they are really policing. They are afraid that if they see a single strand of hair sticking out from a hijab, their Limp Weak Weiner will grow. And if this happens, they are afraid they’ll lose control and turn into the Devils they know themselves to really be deep, deep down inside. This corrupt and bankrupt regime has already killed 272 young people and beaten and/or tortured 1,110 others.
In each world outlined above, each man’s rigid, inflexible thinking and bullshit is camouflage for the shitty little men they really are. They lust after power and cluster together helping each other hold onto power and control in their stinking palaces riddled with long, long corridors of terror.
Maps of Hate
This is what the corruption is and this is what it does to human beings. It is a kind of moral bankruptcy. It takes root inside individuals who find each other and clump together in groups that try to take control in order to enforce their style and way of thinking. If they do get control, they quickly create systems that exclude diversity and impose their way of doing things in brutal ways meant to terrorize everyone else into compliance. When a government becomes populated by such individuals, it turns into a structural system of terror bent on brutalizing anyone who is not exactly like them.
There are three main mappable categories of this deadly psychic virus: Dictators, Terror Groups, and Hate Groups. But the corruption lives inside everyone and is readily expressed in every day transactions. You see it in families, in workplaces, in schools, between friends and lovers. It thrives in ignorance and lack of self-awareness. It particularly loves to reside inside narcissists!
Dictators of the World
This is a comprehensive, up-to-date list of the world's current dictators and authoritarian regimes. In 2022, there are 57 dictatorships in the world. We define a dictator as the ruler of a land rated “Not Free” by the Freedom House in their annual survey of freedom. See the interactive map and photos below or click to visit the current dictators category.
Of course, the dictators of the world will point to all the yellow areas of this map and claim, “There! There is the evil capitalists who are draining the world of resources and polluting our planet!”
They are not entirely wrong, expect they think in black and white, good and evil,right and wrong. They split the world into opposite halves. Then, they step inside the Good Bubble, created entirely inside their mind and spew out their pent-up boiling hate, vengeance, and destructive tendencies on everyone else. They never take responsibility for themselves. They are the consummate victim, and always the hero in their narcissistic story. And so, it is in this way that we (the human race) will split the planet into two unreconcilable halves and all die together in a seething puddle of hate.
One step behind dictators and authoritarian rulers of the world are terror groups such as Boko Haram, ISIS, and Taliban (which actually managed to retake control of Afghanistan bumping them back up to the dictator map above). The map below shows terror groups around the world and provides a list of largest terrorist groups worldwide.
These are groups of people who twist words and religions to bolster their brutal causes. They are mostly stateless centers of terror who are trying to grab some land and people who they can crush and ruin.
Overall Terrorism Index Score: GTI is a composite measure made up of four indicators: incidents, fatalities, injuries and property damage. To measure the impact of terrorism, a five year weighted average is applied.
One step behind terror groups are hate groups. Rather than centering their brutal activities in one spot or country, hate groups operate like a distributed network that hock, sell, and propagate hate. It is easier than ever to breed hate with the advent of the Internet and people who live their lives online.
Hate groups traffick outrage and outlandish accusations designed to divide the world into Us and Them, into people you can trust and people you can’t trust. Hate groups are insidious and invade peoples minds like a drug. Once you become addicted to hate, it is an addiction that is harder to kick than heroin. It is a poison to your mind that is more destructive than Meth. Hate literally changes the neural pathways of your brain.
The following images are from Jigsaw, an incredible website that helps you visualize hate.
Another excellent mapping project is the Hate-Map using real time data of hate events to create a map that shows hotspots and how hate is growing worldwide.
The Hate Map is populated with data submitted both by our internal researchers, the public and our network of volunteers. This data largely stems from publicly available news-sources and consolidations of information from other public data-sets and records. Existing records are however often limited in scope and fail to give a comprehensive picture of the global activities of the far right ranging from spread of propaganda and low-level activities through major terrorist incidents.
All data in the Hate Map is verified and quality controlled by internal researchers who are experts on far right extremism and experienced in the field of open source intelligence (OSINT) building on public sources and providing verifiable documentation before it is made available in our public-facing database and dashboard. Our researchers take great care to verify sources where there might exist any doubt. Links to external sources are provided for all our database entries in order to ensure that the public further can verify any incident independently.
Our dataset is cross referenced against the work of other institutions and organizations mapping the far right in order to ensure as comprehensive a picture of the global situation of the far right as possible, in keeping with the highest academic standards.
The Hate Map is a living document and both recent and historic events are added and verified on a daily basis. -- The Hate-Map
Regardless of if you are a dictator; an authoritarian ruler; a leader or member of a terror group; a leader or member of a hate group; a narcissistic boss, sibling, friend, or parent, you play from the same dirty handbook. That book repeats one mantra over and over, which is to inflict as much pain, terror, and suffering on your enemy (which is anyone who does not agree with you) while constantly claiming to be the victim. And if you can’t win that way, then you have the right to destroy everything.
This attitude, belief system, behavior is all a big cover up of who you really are. It is a smoke screen and distraction because deep, deep down inside yourself you feel inferior, impotent, dithering, confused, frighten, and like a limp Weiner. That’s why you run around the world hurting everyone else. If you can’t have it your way, then you want to be the first to destroy it!
Looking at these map, it is pretty clear we are not doing very well as species. No wonder we are not paying attention to Climate Change. Perhaps we won’t need to after all. The way things are going we will blow ourselves up before nature cleans us off the surface of the planet with climate disasters that are only getting bigger and more deadlier by the year… and this trend is only going bigger and badder not the other way.
Perhaps we all better stop, take a deep breathe, and listen to the Whale Songs again. The ones Vermont biologist Roger Payne captured and brought to us in the 1970s!
I realized this thing Lin said in the second episode of Shantaram is part of the puzzle of the Yetzer Harah.
I first heard about the Yetzer Harah while listening to Alan Watts lectures who describes it like this:
So, in Hebrew theology incidentally. That there is a thing called the yetzer harah. And in the beginning of time when God created Adam he implanted in him the yetzer hara and the yetzer hara means that wayward spirit. He put something funny in man so that man would be a little odd and it was a result of the yetzer hara that Adam was tempted by Eve who was tempted by the serpent to eat that famous fruit. And, but the Hebrew believes that everything that God created is good. Including the Yetzer Hara. Because if it hadn’t been for the yetzer hara, there would have nothing ever happened. Everybody would have obeyed God and God would have said well this is kind of a bore.
Now that you see, you can’t you can’t just get up to someone and say disobey me, because if they do there are varying you. See that’s a double bind. Say to somebody disobey me but God is much more subtle than that. He didn’t tell Adam to disobey he told him to obey.
But suddenly he put this yetzer hara thing in like that so that, God would say well I’m not responsible. For this thing’s going to happen on its own because what everybody wants is something to happen on its own. And everybody wants that.
Because you see, this sensation of being you. This curious lonely center of awkward sensitivity, subject to the most peculiar feelings and pains and anxieties and all that sort of thing all that. Is an essential prerequisite for feeling something else. These two experiences go together. -- 2.4.9 Way Beyond Seeking Part 2; Alan Watts Organization
In short, the Yetzer Harah is why we do evil things, why we fear people we don’t know, why we wage wars, why we cheat each other… pretty much why we are living in the mess we made of the world today.
Shantaram tells the story of how Lin made a mess of his life (surely guided by his inner Yetzer Harah that tempted him into making a lot of bad choices that landed him in prison). Then, Lin makes a courageous choice, escapes from prison, and gets a second chance to live his life, which he is messing up again–gosh darn it!
I’m only on episode 2…so Lin is probably going to embark on different mistakes. And I bet he is going to grow from these mistakes because Lin demonstrates the capacity to reflect on his new situation and past mistakes, which pushing open the door of the prison cell inside your head, just a little bit, but if you look…there is vast and beautiful field of wisdom beyond your prison cell behind your wall of ignorance.
Is wisdom perhaps the reason God implanted the Yetzer Harah into man at the very beginning?
I suppose we will never know because clearly we are going to kill each other long before we can collectively learn how to embrace diversity and celebrate life in all its many facets and ways of being in the world.
Images For Archetypal Animations
Feature Archetypal Animation
Music: Down the Rabbit Hole: Emma Wallace  Rabbit Hole 2:02
Second Archetypal Animation
I was searching for exactly what Lin said to himself when he woke up the first morning in his friends tent in the Bombay slum. I could not find it, but I found a lot of other great quotes from Gregory David Roberts who is the author of Shantarm. So, I have sprinkled these in between the credits of where I found the images for this animation.
“Civilisation, after all, is defined by what we forbid, more than what we permit.” ― Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram
“Fear dries a man’s mouth, and hate strangles him. That’s why hate has no great literature: real fear and real hate have no words.” ― Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram
“For this is what we do. Put one foot forward and then the other. Lift our eyes to the snarl and smile of the world once more. Think. Act. feel. Add our little consequence to the tides of good and evil that flood and drain the world. Drag our shadowed crosses into the hope of another night. Push our brave hearts into the promise of a new day. With love; the passionate search for truth other than our own. With longing; the pure, ineffable yearning to be saved. For so long as fate keeps waiting, we live on.” ― Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram
“The past reflects eternally between two mirrors -the bright mirror of words and deeds, and the dark one, full of things we didn’t do or say.” ― Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram
“While I was chained to a wall and being tortured, I realized, through the screaming of my mind, that even in that shackled, bloody helplessness, I was still free: free to hate the men who were torturing me, or to forgive them. It doesn’t sound like much, I know. But in the flinch and bite of the chain, when it’s all you’ve got, that freedom is a universe of possibility. And the choice you make between hating and forgiving, can become the story of your life.” ~ Gregory David Roberts
“The truth is that there are no good men, or bad men,’ he said. ‘It is the deeds that have goodness or badness in them. There are good deeds, and bad deeds. Men are just men – it is what they do, or refuse to do, that links them to good and evil. The truth is that an instant of real love, in the heart of anyone – the noblest man alive or the most wicked – has the whole purpose and process and meaning of life within the lotus-folds of its passion. The truth is that we are all, every one of us, every atom, every galaxy, and every particle of matter in the universe, moving toward God.” ~ Gregory David Roberts
“It’s forgiveness that makes us what we are. Without forgiveness, our species would’ve annihilated itself in endless retributions. Without forgiveness, there would be no history. Without that hope, there would be no art, for every work of art is in some way an act of forgiveness. Without that dream, there would be no love, for every act of love is in some way a promise to forgive. We live on because we can love, and we love because we can forgive.” ~ Gregory David Roberts
“There’s a truth deeper than experience. It’s beyond what we see, or even what we feel. It’s an order of truth that separates the profound from the merely clever, and the reality from the perception. We’re helpless, usually, in the face of it; and the cost of knowing it, like the cost of knowing love, is sometimes greater than any heart would willingly pay. It doesn’t always help us to love the world, but it does prevent us from hating the world. And the only way to know that truth is to share it, from heart to heart, just as Prabhakar told it to me, just as I’m telling it to you now.” ~ Gregory David Roberts
“Love is the passionate search for a truth other than your own; and once you feel it, honestly and completely, love is forever.” ~ Gregory David Roberts
“Some feelings sink so deep into the heart that only loneliness can help you find them again. Some truths are so painful that only shame can help you live with them. Some things are so sad that only your soul can do the crying for them.” ~ Gregory David Roberts
Music: Shantaram (Chapter Four)Various Artists  Aeternum 9:16  Inner Fire – Yuriy from Russia Remix 9:15
The Tao is like an empty container: it can never be emptied and can never be filled. Infinitely deep, it is the source of all things. It dulls the sharp, unties the knotted, shades the lighted, and unites all of creation with dust.
It is hidden but always present. I don’t know who gave birth to it . It is older than the concept of God.
Conservatives have long invoked the specter of the 1857 Supreme Court decision in Dred Scott vs. Sandford in their fight against abortion rights, likening embryos and fetuses to slaves with no due process. Progressives now, too, are drawing parallels between the stripping of rights from people who may get pregnant and the infamous majority opinion penned by then-Chief Justice Roger Taney, who wrote, "a Black man has no rights which the white man was bound to respect."
Missing from this historic analogy, however, are the experiences of Black women, whose enslavement and forced reproduction was fundamental to America's rise. We speak with Dr. Deborah Gray White, Distinguished Professor of History and Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University, about this not-so-distant history and the possibilities it holds for all American women.
My take away: In the wake of Roe vs Wade being overturned by the Supreme Court, Deborah Gray White was watching the dystopian story the Handmaid’s Tale with her daughter who said, “Oh my God, we’re becoming this!” Deborah replied, “We already are this. America has used black and brown women as reproductive commodities since its founding. What’s changing is now white women are getting closer to becoming commodities again.”
Alok Vaid-Menonis a gender non-conforming writer and performer who grew up in Texas to Indian immigrant parents. They use their creativity and platform to explore themes of gender, race, trauma and belonging, advocating and bringing visibility to the trans community. We speak with Alok about their work and advocacy, and what they learned from their aunt, Urvashi Vaid, the beloved LGBTQ rights activist who spent more than a decade working for equality at the National LGBTQ Task Force.
My take away from this amazing interview: The gender non-conforming community is showing the world how to love during a time of great division, growing hate, tremendous suffering, and huge oceans of human anxiety.
We talk about changing the Constitution and what comes next after the reversal of Roe.
This conversation is part of our Remaking America collaboration with six public radio stations around the country. Remaking America is funded in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
My take away: I loved listening to Olatunde Johnson, professor at Columbia University School of Law | The United States Constitution was made by a bunch of slave owning, patriarchal, misogynistic pale males. It is ludicrous to think we cannot update or change it as our society changes and grows. This is what overturning Roe vs Wade is about. This is what Jan. 6, 2021 is about. It is about a bunch of people who want to live 18th Century lives in the 21st Century.
On June 11, 2022, the Washington, DC 2022 Capital Pride Parade began with full regalia and ceremony followed by rowdydow fun and celebration. This is the first of four videos from this day.
For the video, I wrote this:
Today was like walking into a rainbow. After more than 2 years due to COVID, the WDC Pride Parade of 2022 took place in an embrace of joy and celebration. It was one big mass of human exuberant celebration. Such a different energy than the Trump rallies that twisted and deformed into the raging, dangerous mob of Jan. 6, 2021.
I filmed one of the earlier Trump rallies, and I filmed one of the Black Lives Matter marches after the murder of George Floyd. The paranoia and double-standard of the Trump years faded to a distant unpleasant memory in the embrace of so many people celebrating differences, diversity, and inclusiveness.
What kind of world do we want?
Do we want one that is angry, overly righteous, mostly white men who want to control women's bodies and turn America into a desolate land of mediocrity and conformity?
Or do we want one that celebrates diversity, lifts up inclusivity, and makes space for everyone to shine their truth and colors as they feel them?
I choose the rainbow hands down over The Divine Republic of Gilead as depicted in Canadian author Margaret Atwood futuristic dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale that feels more and more possible each passing day, especially since the Trump years that made hate great again in America.
Hate is not what makes us a great nation: Love is what makes us great and moments like this Parade are more important than ever, especially with the plotters of Jan. 6 still scheming how to turn America into a totalitarian state like Russia...
I suppose so we could exterminate the world in a mutual annihilation of scapegoats because that is what cheap, cowardly, hate filled people do...blame everyone else for their problems and who they really are inside.
This is the inspiration for this blog: the idea of diversity and the mutual arising of opposite things in the world because on this same day, 31 members from the group Patriot Front were arrested in Idaho.
Pride Parade in Idaho
Thirty-one men, faces covered with masks and carrying baseball bats stood packed in the back of a U-Haul like illegal immigrants sneaking into the state. The truck was heading to the Pride Parade in the city of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Their purpose was to start a riot.
Police said the men came from at least 10 states. They are members of the white supremacist group Patriot Front, previously known as the white nationalist hate group Vanguard America. It rebranded itself after a neo-fascist was photographed holding their shield just before he ran his car into a crowd of people, killing Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, VA.
Interview with Mother of One of the Men Arrested
Earlier this week, a mother of one of the men arrested gave an interview with Sara Sidner.
From the video above: When "a little army" of men with shields and other riot gear was spotted near a Pride parade in Idaho on Saturday, authorities soon linked the men to a relatively new White nationalist group and charged them with conspiracy to riot. Most of the men arrested had logos on their hats "consistent with the Patriot Front group," and some had other clothing associated with the White supremacist group, Coeur d'Alene Police Chief Lee White said. CNN’s Sara Sidner reports
This Same Hate Perpetuates Racism & Wars
This is the same hate that fuels racism and perpetuates continuing inequalities and brutality against black and brown people in the United States. Slavery is barbaric, and so too is racism. Americans went to war and died over ending slavery in America. This war began on April 12, 1861 and lasted until April 9, 1865. In the end, more than 620,000 men were dead, roughly 2% of the U.S .population.
However, this is far less dead than the number of men, women, and children who died being transported from Africa to America, who died as slaves from violence and mistreatment, and who have died since emancipation due to the continuing violent beliefs and hate embraced by white supremacy.
Black Live Matter March
Photos From Gettysburg National Military Park
Emancipation Proclamation & Juneteeth
Gettysburg was the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. It was the most ambitious push of General Robert E. Lee into the North. Each side fought fiercely. This battle turned out to be the turning point of the war. It is also the inspiration for President Abraham Lincoln’s immortal Gettysburg Address.
Word of the emancipation of enslaved African Americans finally reached Texas on June 19, 1865 where people were still being held as slaves. More than 150 years later, Juneteenth has finally been made a federal holiday commemorating and remembering the legacy of slavery and the emancipation of slaves in America.
Yet, this horrible battle still rages in the hearts and minds of far too many white Americans still to this very day. Hate still has a home in America.
Photos From Gettysburg National Military Park
One of Trump’s Rallies After Losing the 2020 Election
A Call To All Humans Who Value Freedom and Democracy
This Arises… That Becomes
I finally came to understand the idea of This Arises… That Becomes… from a lecture Alan Watts gave.
It is the basic principle of dependent origination as described by Buddha. In Buddhist doctrines, it is called Pratītyasamutpāda.
Pratītyasamutpāda consists of two terms:
Pratītya: "having depended." The term appears in the Vedas and Upanishads[note 2] in the sense of "confirmation, dependence, acknowledge origin". The Sanskrit root of the word is prati* whose forms appear more extensively in the Vedic literature, and it means "to go towards, go back, come back, to approach" with the connotation of "observe, learn, convince oneself of the truth of anything, be certain of, believe, give credence, recognize". In other contexts, a related term pratiti* means "going towards, approaching, insight into anything".Samutpāda: "arising", "rise, production, origin" In Vedic literature, it means "spring up together, arise, come to pass, occur, effect, form, produce, originate".Pratītyasamutpāda has been translated into English as dependent origination, dependent arising, interdependent co-arising, conditioned arising, and conditioned genesis.[note 3]
Jeffrey Hopkins notes that terms synonymous to pratītyasamutpāda are apekṣhasamutpāda and prāpyasamutpāda.
The term may also refer to the twelve nidānas, Pali: dvādasanidānāni, Sanskrit: dvādaśanidānāni, from dvāvaśa ("twelve") + nidānāni (plural of "nidāna", "cause, motivation, link").[quote 2]Generally speaking, in the Mahayana tradition, pratityasamutpada (Sanskrit) is used to refer to the general principle of interdependent causation, whereas in the Theravada tradition, paticcasamuppāda (Pali) is used to refer to the twelve nidānas.
Dependent origination is a philosophically complex concept, subject to a large variety of explanations and interpretations. As the interpretations often involve specific aspects of dependent origination, they are not necessarily mutually exclusive to each other.
One interpretation (which I feel is closest to what Alan Watts refers to in his talk) regards this doctrine…
...as describing the arising of mental processes and the resultant notion of "I" and "mine" that leads to grasping and suffering. Several modern western scholars argue that there are inconsistencies in the list of twelve links, and regard it to be a later synthesis of several older lists and elements, some of which can be traced to the Vedas.
Rocks of Ignorance & Rainbow Flags
In other words, we only know inclusivity and love in comparison to callousness and hate. Like a river diverted by a rock–some water flows to the right, some flows to the left. The rock in the river is an idea, a symbol of reality, but it is not reality. Indeed, all words, all thoughts, all ideas are poor substitutes to what is really going on in life.
What should be noted is that both streams flowing around the rock are of the same river of being. They are only being briefly divided and diverted by a rock of thought that got lodged in the river of being.
Maybe, One Day
Another way of looking at this idea is that inclusivity and love are the polar opposites of callousness and hate. Although opposites, both qualities and ways of being in the world go together just as a magnet has a North and South pole. If you chop a magnet in half, there is still a North Pole and a South Pole because a magnet is one cohesive whole thing.
Since I choose to support rainbows and Pride Parades, I stand on this side of our polarized America. It is a conscious choice to flow in the stream of being that includes rainbows and diversity. And it means I am making a conscious choice to embrace all sorts of people and their differences as well as recognize how similar we are because deep, deep down I believe what Alan Watts says that we are the fabric of existence itself.
Maybe one day, we can let go of our rocks of ignorance that we cling to for security and comfort. By letting go, we can grow as a species. And if we grow, we might be able to really feel one day our oneness with each other and all life on this planet. When rocks of thought due appear in our river of being, we can better navigate the currents of division driving us apart and pushing the entire world to a tipping point that we may not recover from due to a mutual massacre of scape goats.
Maybe one day we will know we are all part of the stream of humanity no matter our skin color, sexual preference, our religious beliefs. It has always been this way. It is only when we cling to our rocks of thoughts and rocks of ignorance, which if we are constantly anxious, nervous, angry, and afraid–we are clinging to an idea, which is one of these rocks dividing us and causing so much suffering and pain in the world.
The intersection of gay rights, racism, and white supremacy continue intersecting through time. Will we ever grow up as a species to embrace and hold all of who we are as human beings? Or will we simply continue to label, divide, and conquer each other with hate and despair? See Hate Arises… Rainbows Become… to explore more on these ideas.
We stopped at Gettysburg National Military Park, Pennsylvania on our way up for our daughter’s graduation from Middlebury College in Vermont. It was late in the day, cloudy with a little drizzle–perfect weather to walk the roughly 6000 acres of historical pasture and woodlands where Union and Confederate soldiers met in General Robert E. Lee’s second and most ambitious invasion of the North.
It was the “High Water Mark of the Rebellion”, the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, and the inspiration for President Abraham Lincoln’s immortal “Gettysburg Address”.
My husband found a monument dedicated to the 13th and 16th Vermont regiments. From their forward position, the nearly 1,500 men of these regiments poured devastating point-blank fire into the enemy ranks. They inflicted terrible casualties and ravaged the Confederate flank. The battle that was going in favor of the Confederate side began to slip. The Vermonters helped turn the tide of the battle and because of this win, turn the tide of the war itself. It would turn out that we were staying in a valley from where one of these regiments came from in Vermont.
Today, in 2022, it seems like the battle that took place on July 1, 1863, occurred so long ago and that the wounds inflicted from a country being torn apart by different ideas and ideals of how to live a good and just life would be long healed. The pictures of the wildflowers and wildlife are a testament to time and nature’s ability to regenerate.
However, the human heart and soul seems to still be torn and hurt. There are people alive today ready to do damage and tear apart America’s delicate democracy. There are people willing to lie, cheat, and steal to get more than they deserve or inflict their own will on the will of the people. Democracy isn’t easy. It requires compromise, and word that seems to have disappeared from American political and culture vocabulary. It does not require every share the exact same beliefs or values, but it does require tolerance and willingness to learn about the beliefs and values of people who are different from oneself. It requires curiosity and a basic agreement of facts and shared reality.
Will America be able to keep this fragile flower of self-governance in the face of a Republican Party that prefers to stick to loyal tests rather than truth, in the aftermath of Jan. 6, in the ongoing disenfranchisement and brutality to African Americans and any people with a darker skin tone, in the double standard that it is OK to regulate a woman’s body, but it is not alright to regulate guns?
“Every day, on average, 316 people in America are shot in murders, assaults, suicides and suicide attempts, unintentional shootings, and police intervention.” — Team ENOUGH
“Guns have become the leading cause of death for American kids. early two-thirds of the 4,368 U.S. children up to age 19 who were killed by guns in 2020 were homicide victims, per the CDC. Motor vehicle crashes, formerly the leading cause of death for kids one and older, killed nearly 4,000 children.” — Axios
If you are upset by these statistics, by politics, by anything that gets you shouting at your TV or computer screen. It is time to get outside. If you find yourself getting enraged by a rainbow flag celebrating Pride Month or want to join the next raiding party of the Capitol, why not try going to a place like Gettysburg? Walk the park rather than drive. Let yourself sink into the blood-soaked earth where flowers now grow and birds once again sing. Talk to the park rangers, read about what happened, feel yourself being transported back to that time when the sound of gun fire and exploding canon balls rang continuously like a speeding train.
War is bloody. Conflict kills. There are other ways to solve conflict arising from diversity. We have one of those ways. It is called Democracy.
The people of Ukraine are fighting fiercely for this way of organizing society. They are showing us what it means and takes to defend freedom, liberty, and justice for all against a brutal, totalitarian regime; a regime that lies to its people, that exterminates anyone who becomes a threat to it, that concentrates wealth and power among a very few.
In America today, it seems we are choosing whether to stay a democracy, which means making room for tolerance and compromise again. Or will we choose to become a dictatorial regime (like Russia) where lies and distortions are used to whip up dissent and division so that truth, justice, and liberty for all becomes a distant dream.
Stay Human! Go outside today and hug another living being!
The Tao Te Ching was written around 400 BCE by Laozi (also written as Lao Tzu). He is the founder of Taoism, which is one of the philosophies flourishing during the time in China known as the time of The Hundred Schools of Thought, which thrived from the 6th century BCE to 221 BCE.
According to Mozi, another of China’s great philosophers born c. 470 BCE and died to c. 391 BCE, the achievement of social goals necessitates the unity of thought and action by the people and their rulers. His political philosophy bears a resemblance to divine-rule monarchy: the population ought always to obey its leaders, as its leaders ought always follow the will of heaven.
He is the first major intellectual to rival Confucius, founding the school of Mohism during this period of The Hundred Schools of Thought. His teaching have been summed up into 10 theses that have since been extensively argued. His most famous these is that of:
Jian’ai: This is the injunction that one ought to be concerned for the welfare of people in a spirit of “impartial concern” (jian’ai) that does not make distinctions between self and other, associates and strangers, a doctrine often described more simplistically as “universal love.” -- Encyclopedia of Philosophy
It would not be long before how well the leaders of the people would (or could) follow the will of heaven would be tested.
The Rise of Strongmen and Ruthless Rulers
Qin Shi Huang is the second of the Ruthless Rulers I highlight in my book Sapience: The Moment is Now (not yet published, but soon).
He is the first of the feudal kings of China to conquer all of the Warring States in 221 BCE, which included six dynasties, to create the Qin Dynasty. These territories include most of what we consider modern China today. Upon doing this, he declared himself the first emperor of China and assumed a title implying he possessed divine powers. He begins his rule by persecuting monks and philosophers, which cumulates in the burning of the books and termination of the Hundred Schools of Thought.
"Beginning in 213 BCE, all classic works of the Hundred Schools of Thought — except those from Li Ssu's own school of philosophy known as legalism — were subject to book burning. "Qin Shi Huang burned the other histories out of fear that they undermined his legitimacy, and wrote his own history books. -- History of Information
It is a pattern that has repeated itself over and over and over again since the first Ruthless Ruler walked the Earth. The inability of the people to tolerate diverse groups of thoughts seems to lie at the heart of how and why Ruthless Rulers rise to power.
And yet walking alongside Ruthless Rulers are men and women of rich intellectual mastery and wisdom such as Mozi and Confucius, Plato and Aristotle, Laozi and Zhuangzi who are only a few of individuals who have delved deeply into the human psyche and wrestled with the unknowable.
More than any time in our collective history, we need so many more people to take the plunge and do the same. To wrestled with the monsters that live inside all of us. We need groups of people in greater numbers than ever before to contemplate, debate, mutter and muster greater understanding for the tremendous diversity of thoughts, ideas, and philosophies we are capable of conceiving and creating into reality using nothing more than our minds to imagine something different than nature would have previously allowed to exist. We must work and stretch our minds far beyond the simple ploys Strongmen use to generate arguments and embed slogans into minds meant to bend the into little boxes that are easy to control and use like disposable commodities.
This is what Strongmen do, as they endlessly dream of becoming the next great Ruthless Ruler.
We see it playing out again, right here, right now, in our own countries wherever they are as the tide of intolerance, bigotry, racism, nationalism, patriotism, partisanism sweep strongmen into powerful positions–Jair Bolsonaro, Viktor Orbán, Marine Le Pen, Rodrigo Duterte, Narendra Modi, Xi Jinping, Putin, and formerly Trump.
They use righteous ideas and righteous talk like jack hammers that steadily chip away at the unity of thought and action Mozi talked about centuries ago as essential for collective good of all. When their speech doesn’t flame the right pit of emotion and opposition arises, they use violence (if they canget away with it) to silence those who don’t agree with them.
Will we let ourselves be torn to pieces by ideas and thoughts flung about by Strongmen and Ruthless Ruler? It always ends the same way. They reign with terror tearing down and destroying anything good and wholesome a country or group of people has managed to achieve, turning on those who turn against them, annihilating anyone or anything who dares to question them. They tell their followers they have been sent here on a divine mission, they have been sent by God, or indeed, they are God and everyone must bend down before them.
It is for this reason I will highlight parts of Laozi’s book written so many centuries earlier. A man who was believed by the people to be a god and worshipped, though I suspect Laozi would have tolerated this as a bit foolish…he knew he was a man with faults and foibles…that is what his teachings are about navigating the stream we call ourselves full of faults and foibles, wisdom and knowledge, danger and destruction. He advocated the middle way. His system of thinking would serve modern men and women well right now in the dangerous tides we ourselves have created and now must swim.
Here is his first chapter of his masterpiece of thinking animated with modern images and music from our time now.
Chapter 1 — Tao Te Ching
First Archetypal Animation & Stanza
The tao that can be described is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be spoken is not the eternal Name.
Second Archetypal Animation & Stanza
The nameless is the boundary of Heaven and Earth. The named is the mother of creation.
Third Archetypal Animation & Stanza
Freed from desire, you can see the hidden mystery. By having desire, you can only see what is visibly real.
Scott Simon talks with Hernan Diaz about his novel, “Trust.” It tells the story of a New York tycoon who takes advantage of the 1929 crash, and his attempts to rewrite and control his own story. In this interview, Diaz tells Scott that power is the ability to bend reality and shape what others perceive as real. Power imposes someone else’s reality onto others. Wealth and money (and the desire to get more money) does this to people. They burn with the desire to have more of that kind of power over others. Great fortunes create a reality in and of themselves that others are eager to have a part or piece of.
From workplaces to schools to national governments, leaders everywhere are being called on to solve complex problems with humility and bravery. This hour, we consider what it takes to be a leader. Guests include executive coach Patrice Gordon, organizational psychologist Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon, and educator Shabana Basij-Rasikh.
I found the first interview particularly compelling as the speaker relates our ancient programming to have strong men leading a tribe or clan. These were times when groups were small and all members knew the integrity of every other member and whether they could be trusted or not. However, as our small bands and groups of people surviving together against vast and overwhelming odds have grown into vast civilizations, the qualities of a good ruler have shifted tremendously.
A good ruler today does not act on gut instinct, as would have been the right thing to do 10,000 years ago. A good ruler today actually must go against gut instinct to grasp the greater complexities of our modern realities and make more calculated, incremental moves that benefits all members of the collective, even those who are against the leader. But as people electing who to rule us, we are still vastly informed by our own gut instincts and emotions choosing ruler who we feel we could have beer with rather than rulers who could stare down the missile silo of a narcissist idiot threatening to use nuclear weapons on the world.
“The World Economic Forum annual meeting at Davos, Switzerland, 2019 – an exclusive event where the world’s richest and most powerful people get together to solve the world’s problems. I was there when David Attenborough, you know, was showing his new film. The Garden of Eden is no more. Beautiful – you know, absolutely beautiful, stunning footage of how we’re wrecking the planet. And people were literally crying while they were seeing it. And I was thinking, but, guys, you arrived here in your private jets.”
Why does Russia's massive and powerful military force continue to struggle against a smaller, less well-equipped opponent? Journalist David Volodzko wrote about this in a recent piece in The Daily Beast titled "The Embarrassing Truth Behind Putin's War Failures." He says the Russians appear not to have internalized the lessons they could have learned during other conflicts, particularly the civil war in Syria, where Russia backed the government of dictator Bashar al-Assad. -- MICHEL MARTIN, HOST
The problem is, in April 2021, I believe, the company that makes the Azart and its owner, Leonid Reiman, who's the former minister of communications, came under investigation for fraud. They had evidently been using cheap Chinese parts. This led to a bunch of problems, including the batteries didn't really work that well. So they've had to switch instead, and they're largely using mobile phones and things of that nature. And this is just one example of how corruption has left Putin and his army out in the open, in a sense, and exposed. -- DAVID VOLODZKO
I think that we all have overestimated Russia's military capabilities. And, I would add, I think that Putin did, too. One point that I make in the piece is that Moscow recently purged 150 Federal Security Service agents, and they sent the head of the FSB's fifth service, which handles counterinsurgency ops in Ukraine, to Lefortovo Prison. Now, there's a couple different theories as to why, and I'm inclined to go with the official explanation on this one, which is that Beseda lied to the state and stole funds. -- DAVID VOLODZKO
So again, as with the radio communications issue, we see corruption coming back to bite Russia. And as a consequence of that, Putin may have gone in on bad intel, thinking that the Ukrainians were going to be waiting with flowers instead of Bandera smoothies - which is, you know, Ukraine's version of a Molotov cocktail - and going in with bad gear, thinking that he had the best and the latest. And so as much as we fell for this idea of Russia being much more powerful than they are, much more capable than they are, Putin fell for that himself. -- DAVID VOLODZKO
Ridley Road | Masterpiece Theater
`Ridley Road' is the story of the 62 Group, a collection of anti-fascists who stood up against the rising neo-Nazi movement in Britain after World War Two, based on Jo Bloom's book of the same name, released in 2014. In the summer of 1962, twenty-year-old Vivien Epstein, a Jewish hairdresser from Manchester, arrives in London following the death of her father. Alone in the world, she is looking for Jack Fox, a man she had a brief but intense love affair with some months before. Her search leads her into the fight against resurgent fascism in East London, where members of the Jewish community are taking to the streets, in and around Ridley Road. -- Google Knowledge PanelNote:This is 1962 this movies is about; just 17 years after Nazi Germany almost successfully invaded England.
What would you do if this was your last day on Earth today?
Perhaps write a poem?
It is our perception of reality that determines so much of what we allow ourselves to accept or not accept, what we allow ourselves to believe or not believe, how much we allow ourselves to love or not to love.
Poems are wonderful transformers of perception.
Here are some poems about nature, Earth, and life that have been written at very different periods in time, and yet, there is something universal, something incredibly current, something worth paying attention to in each and every one of them, especially today.
When all thoughts Are exhausted I slip into the woods And gather A pile of shepherd’s purse.
From Dewdrops on a Lotus Leaf: Zen Poems of Ryokan, translated by John Stevens. Published by Shambala in Boston, 1996.
Nothing in the cry of cicadas suggests they are about to die.
The bee emerging from deep within the peony departs reluctantly.
Summer grasses: all that remains of great soldiers’ imperial dreams.
From The Essential Basho, Translated by Sam Hamill. Published by Shambala in Boston, 1999.
The world before my eyes is wan and wasted, just like me. The earth is decrepit, the sky stormy, all the grass withered. No spring breeze even at this late date, Just winter clouds swallowing up my tiny reed hut.
From Wild Ways: Zen Poems of Ikkyu, translated by John Stevens. Published by Shambala in Boston, 1995.
These Zen poems come from A Sampler of Zen Poetry. The author of this sampler says, “These are a few of my favorite poems by three of Japan’s greatest Zen monk-poets, Ikkyu (1394-1481), Basho (1644-1694), and Ryokan (1758-1831).”
They are indeed very beautiful and holy.
Today is Earth Day!
Go ahead, write a poem! Transcend space and time and perceptions of reality using nothing but your mind.
We never know when our last day on Earth will be.
Seize the moment, see more, feel your rightness in this moment, know you belong and you matter, right here, right now. You are it!
Please note Chrome works best for the Archetypal Animations in this post.
— By Wendell Berry
First Archetypal Animation & Stanza
When despair for the world grows in me, and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s live may be,
Second Archetypal Animation & Stanza
I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
Third Archetypal Animation & Stanza
I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.
Fourth Archetypal Animation & Stanza
I come into the presence of still water.
Fifth Archetypal Animation & Stanza
And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light.
Sixth Archetypal Animation & Stanza
For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
ReflectionsOn Wendell Berry’s Poem to This Moment in Time
When the forces of man’s collective psyche gather into a maelstrom sending destructive vortexes this way and that into the world, it is hard not to feel as Wendell Berry begins his timeless poem:
...despair for the world grows in me, and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children's live may be...
Putin blows his devil’s breath from high within his isolated, depressing Moscow tower. A devil’s wind that makes his warrior vortexes go this way and that. Everywhere they go, the leave behind trails of blood, of dead bodies and blown up buildings, trees, and earth. Up there in his tower of desolation, he bloats in his madness as he congratulates himself over and over again about how he is getting away with unleashing his Hell-scape fantasies, deathly desires, and foolish folly into the world.
If you are a person with normal capacity for human empathy and compassion, then it is impossible to turn away and ignore what is going on in Ukraine. And you must not turn away.
We all must witness this wicked madness straight on, just as the Ukrainians are meeting Putin’s little devils straight on. If we don’t want to become like Putin, we must feel this destruction deeply and furiously. And we must feel down deep into our bones all the other tragedies unfolding in Afghanistan, the Middle East, Africa, Central America, South America, in the heart of all major cities and super rick countries in this world.
If you do, this means you are still human.
Wendell Berry describes the monsters inside us all. And he also tells us how to quell them and to sink into the peace that passes all understanding.
I wonder when was the last time Putin went down to where the wood drakes gather? When did he last lay down on his back, belly exposed to the light, the air, the sun, the stars and breathe in the beauty of this world? When did he last see a heron eat a snake or ponder the peace of still water? When did he last look up into the night sky and wonder about how implausible any of us are here at all?
When did Putin cut himself off from his curiosity, his wonder, his inner grace and awareness that he is alive in a magnificent world with enough bounty for all, if only we would tap into our inner wild nature where the wild wisdom of life runs free with the knowledge there is bounty all, if only we take our fair share? When did Putin become a narcissist blob cut off from his body, his heart, and his humanity? When did he become a monster?
Seventh Archetypal Animation | When Grace Is Lost
Putin lost his inner grace long ago, and now, alone and cold in a forbidding world, he opens a gate for devils to tumble and fumble their way out into this beautiful world. They rape women, shoot children, bomb maternity hospitals, children’s hospitals, and recreation centers where 1,000 women and children huddle in the dark and cold hoping they might just stop their bombing. Instead, they are crushed under the rubble of another bomb.
I hate Putin. I hate Putin’s army of dead and dying souls. I wish the Free World would grow a stronger backbone and kill this man who has become a Dracula overseeing an army of Zombies. But, we are playing on the “civilized” game board, while Putin plays on the barbarian game board.
However, he won’t win. He might kill a Hell of a lot of people. He might even launch a nuclear bomb, but like so many Ruthless Rulers before him, he will crumble into the dust bin of life. Ruthless Rulers always do.
Oh yes, they might win for a time. And, they might press their smelly likeness onto other human beings, adding to the blob, but he will never win. His zombies will never rule over the multitude as he has promised.
Evil never wins! At least not for long…not as long as there is life to live. Not as long as wood drakes sail on lakes or great herons hunt and devour snakes. Not as long as a single human being wanders down to the waters edges and wonders why this whole thing exists at all. Ponders why we are here amongst the divine majesty of the trillion billion stars above.
Being Human by Being Connected to Each Other & the World
My friend Karen shared this poem with me. We both feel deep pain for suffering the of the people of Ukraine. We both feel helpless in the face of such evil, and yet, we live…and…in the face of such horror, in retaliation to the demonic evil unleashing death, destruction and horror on Earth, Ukrainians fight! They live!
And yes, they are dying by the hundreds of thousands because Putin is a coward and his army is ill-equipped and ill-prepared, indeed, they are unwilling to wage this war, expect for the beasts he’s imported in and the degenerate ones who glory in the gross and disgusting side of life…the ones who are too afraid to love or to know who and what they really are.
Ukrainians know the price of this evil, and they stand against it, and they are winning! They are winning because they remained connected to their humanity and grounded to this Earth–our home, our mother, our true nature. They show us, the Free World, each and every day how to fight for what is right and how to be better human beings!
“In accordance with Quranic verses and traditions, the promised Heaven and Hell are presently in existence and will be completely shown in the hereafter where man will be given his everlasting abode in relation to his beliefs, actions, and ethical traits. But, there has been another form of Heaven and Hell which can be seen in this world through mystical experiences (shahūd) or they will manifest themselves for mankind in the inter-world which will result in either pleasure or pain. There are differences of opinions in regards to the form of influence and relation that one’s beliefs and actions have on his condition in the hereafter and also in the explanation of Heaven, Hell, and their forms.”
“Your love is like a knife to the heart and a dagger to my soul. You will not be happy until I have lost all control You see me in calm waters after drowning me in your river of drama So you continually…“
Music: Meditative Dreamer by James Kenneth |Shamanic Journey (Healing Flute, Wind, Fire & Drums) | Available on Apple Music, Pandora, Deezer, and other streaming services.
“The answer to the question whether the Viking berserkers are historical or not remains a mystery. What we know about these figures lie in very few materials. The Viking berserkers are the ones who would wear no metal armour and enter the battlefield. They were armorless and still willing to join the battle to sacrifice not only for their clan but also for Odin the Allfather. Legend had it that the berserkers would howl and scream when they fought against their enemies. They were completely different when they joined the battle. These warriors would know no pain and no fire and flame could burn them.”