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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Contrary To Our Pervasive Pessimism

Harvard University professor of Psychology Steven Pinker, author of the book – The Better Angels Of Our Nature – disagrees with the popularly held notion that the world is falling apart or getting more violent. In an interview with National Public Radio’s Michel Martin in 2016 he states the following in regard to this hypothesis:
The only way you can really answer the question – has violence gone up or down? – is to count how many violent incidents have there been as a proportion of the number of opportunities, and has that gone up or down over the course of history? And that’s what I tried to do in the book. I looked at homicide, looked at war, looked at genocide, looked at terrorism. And in all cases, the long-term historical trend, though there are ups and downs and wiggles and spikes, is absolutely downward. The rate of violent crime in United States has fallen by more than half in just a decade. The rate of death in war fell by a factor of 100 over a span of 25 years.”
Asked whether or not this was a worldwide phenomenon he says:
Well, it’s highly uneven. If you certainly choose the most violent parts of the world at any given time, they’re going to be pretty violent. But if you count the number of parts of the world that are violent versus those that aren’t, then you see that the world is becoming more peaceful. The impression that some kinds of violence have gone up over the last five years has some truth to it. Because of the Syrian civil war, the rate of death in warfare has drifted upward a little bit in the last five years. There has been a small increase in homicide in the United States in the last three years. But both of those figures are at a fraction of what they were in the ’60s, ’70S and ’80s.”
Admittedly the foregoing is small comfort to many who, try as they may, cannot escape the overwhelming sense of gloom and insecurity in the face of tragedies that are ever present around us. But contrary to the pessimism bolstered by a mass media focused on the reporting of bad news, there are reasons for optimism in our world. In addition to the perspectives researched and presented by Steven Pinker and others, we can state the following with certainty…
Despite recent downturns, economies around the world are growing at significant rates, with seven out of ten of the fastest growing in Africa. Global poverty, according to United Nations estimates, has been reduced more in the last 50 years than in the previous 500 years. Educational access has vastly improved, with a fourfold increase in the number male college graduates and a sevenfold increase in the number of female graduates.

In a world culture now fueled by the work of researchers developing and advancing new technologies that are revolutionizing the way we live, these are significant facts that we must not allow ourselves to overlook despite the retrogressive rubber-necking to which we are frequently drawn.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

On Raising Our Sons



'On Raising Our Sons' by guest blogger Monica Rhea Graham (as posted on her Facebook page).

As we were headed to brunch to celebrate My Birthday and our Wedding Anniversary, unbeknownst to us, our son Trei took this picture from the back seat... it's Me and My Honey holding hands (the norm for us). He captioned the picture 'Happy Anniversary' and sent it to us.

I read a few posts today that pointed to the fact that as we raise our sons, remember that we are raising them to be someone's Husband and Father. The fact that Trei felt compelled to capture this Loving image and honor his parents on their Anniversary makes my heart smile and let's me know that he is definitely on the right track.

Just in case you think that your children are not paying attention to what you say and how you move in this world, think again.

One Love!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Walking Bare-footed Over Perilous Paths... A word to those like myself

There is a vacuous liberalism that would have us believe that we can claim our human right to Freedom while slighting our communal call to Responsibility.  This is especially true in the cliched analyses of what is wrong in many communities, and specifically in African American life.

On any given day we can tune in to various media, and read and listen to the arguments that basically posit the view that the reason peoples' lives are the way they are has to do with the overarching influence of some other entity flexing its cultural and economic might to the disadvantage of those perceived as victims in this dynamic. Any contradicting critique of this way of seeing this issue is usually greeted with the reflexive liberalism that we are "blaming the victim for his/her victimization"? Any serious analysis of the socio-economic disparities in our society must account for and acknowledge that such disparities have some roots in the victimization implicit in the liberal critique. It is true that greed and a corrupted sense of being are afflictions in the pathology of our societal dysfunction; but we would be incredibly amiss to end our analysis there.

We cannot ignore the fact that corporate compensation has outpaced the value placed on labor to an extent that a moral society will find abhorrent. This, in some cases, acts as a disincentive to pursue work, especially where the reality is that becoming a welfare recipient is a better option due to the accrual of certain necessary benefits. The current ongoing political haggle over raising the minimum wage highlights much of the impoverished logic that go into objections to  doing what is right for workers and their families. Moral voices must continue to insist on doing the just thing over the loud objections of those who have a stake in maintaining the status quo. Let us note for the sake of History that those objecting to the demands for a livable wage were the same voices against the 40 hour work week, Medicare and Medicaid, Social Security, the ACA, and other programs designed to make this a more just and economically secure society.

Having acknowledged the persistent inequities in our society, we must nevertheless not ignore the most fundamental consequence of our claim on Freedom. That consequence is the need to assume responsibility for our present circumstances, and for our futures as individuals and as groups.

I speak as a descendant of a once enslaved people. I was raised by a grandmother who was born in the year 1900. That happens to be one generation removed from the Emancipation Proclamation. I grew up in a house in which the absence of "modern conveniences" was immediately obvious. My children look at me with a pronounced incredulity when I tell them that for most of my primary school years I walked the five or so miles to and from school... barefooted over mostly unpaved roads.

We did not have much in terms of the stuff that many now take for granted, but what we did have were parents (in my case Grandma, and Mother) who inculcated in us, sometimes through harsh means, a sense that we were expected to "do right" regardless of the challenges around us. Remember that dictum about "sparing the rod and spoiling the child"? Disrespect was never tolerated. Laziness was always discouraged. We were taught that "cleanliness was next to godliness", and that went as much for our garbs as it did for the floors of our oh so humble abode.  Despite the scarcity of opportunities, we were nonetheless raised to have great expectations.

Through a connected effort between home and school and church, we got not just an education in the "three Rs", but in the Ten Commandments which we were expected to live out in our relationships. Don't kill. Don't steal. Don't covet. Don't bear false witness. Honor your mother and father so your days may be long...and so on. My Grandma, and in my teenage years my Mom, would ask us "What did you learn in school today?"  When they did not go to church with us we had to tell "What the preacher preached about today".

My Mom knew nothing about Pythagoras' theorem, but it was enough for her to hear me trying to explain something about the square on the hypotenuse being equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides. The idea that “the shortest distance between any two points was a straight line joining those two points together” made perfect sense to them as folk who walked almost everywhere. They couldn't help with homework, but they did what they could to make sure that we were doing as we should. We kept the house and our yards clean. It was our duty. No allowances either! We participated in growing and harvesting the food for our sustenance. We were taught to respect our elders. By these means my granny helped my mom raise seven children, all of whom are upstanding productive citizens to this day. What I got from those experiences was a solid foundation for my own life, and a template for raising my own children.

Without belaboring the point, I will put before us the reality that we need to return to some basics. Whether we live in cities  or wherever, there are basic acts of living and growing up that we are ignoring. They are acts of industry. The inculcation of moral and ethical values. Acts of basic decency. Cleanliness. These are the foundations which we are ignoring to our peril. With regards to the business of  being free, we have come to the bank of our lives without the collateral of assumed responsibility. By so doing we are complicit in the impoverishment of our own circumstances.

And oh yes... I remember spending part of a summer with my father in my preteen years - but I never met saw him again until my brother and I and our mother went in search of him just before my twenty first birthday. My brother was a year and a few months younger than I. We still remember the tears he shed when he finally realized who these two young men standing beside the woman he once knew were.

We loved our father, but his tears were his. He chose to act out his freedom by ignoring his responsibilities to two sons that he helped bring into this world. His pain is demonstrative of the peril of claiming his freedom while ignoring his sacred duty to be responsible... Kinda like walking barefooted over a perilous path.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

You Are Only Human...

Superman is a figment of our imagination, as dynamic a figment as we can imagine, but even he has his kryptonite.

We are all prone to influences that have deleterious effects on us and on our ability to be the dynamic operators we wish we could be in our various worlds. As such there are times when we succumb to being tired.  We become torn by the various challenges that are ever present in the course of our lives. Those challenges come from within and without. They originate in our own deficiencies as individuals. They come from the inevitable bruising of lives lived in the real world where things don't always pan out according to our idealism.

Beyond our desire to rise to every circumstance lies that bothersome reality that we are in fact breakable. We discover, much to our chagrin, that we are vulnerable to the battering that comes our way in the course of the many transactions that we are agents of. And so it behoves us to periodically pause, and take stock of our need of repair.

That nagging headache. That developing tendency to snap at everyone about  everything. The repeated collisions of our feet and our other body parts with objects that more and more seem to be “in the way”. An inability to focus. That creeping hypertension. The inability to summon the energy we need to get going at the start of our day. The fact that rest does not come when we lay down to sleep. The unwelcome observation that we are becoming more and more absent in our most intimate relationships. The deficit of joy that everyone around us now notice, and that we can feel in ourselves. These are but a few of the indicators that become present in our lives when we are operating on the ragged edges of the wear and tear that is a natural part of being. And while it is natural that living will take its toll on us, continuing to operate in a state of disrepair should never become the norm… as so often it does. Ignoring the need for personal repair eventually has disastrous consequences.

In the face of the many demands of life, there comes a time when we are required to pay attention to the signs and symptoms of the developing dysfunctions in ourselves. These dysfunctions have physical, intellectual, and spiritual manifestations. They adversely affect our ability to get up and go. They present as distortions in judgement, rendering us unable to think straight about the most basic problems we face. Eventually they cause us to fail in all the relationships essential to maintaining balance, and achieving the success we desire in our world.

To head off the very real breakdown that can result from being worn out, we must heed the squeaky noises coming from our own internal commotion. There comes a season to retreat from the ever-present demands of our lives that eventually wear us down. There comes a time to reflect  on our approach to things, and the results we have been harvesting for ourselves and in our relationships. These are prerequisite steps which must be taken if we are to renew ourselves in ways that will lead to the kind of revitalization that impacts positively on every aspect of our being in the world. Take time off for self-repair... or suffer the unfortunate consequences.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Needed Now... A Remedy For Hate


Then Senator Barack Hussein Obama in his now celebrated address to the Democratic National Convention in 2004 declared:

“… even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America — there’s the United States of America. There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America. The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats…”

Senator Obama went on to become President Obama. His time in office was marked by his receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize, and the passage of seminal legislation such as the Affordable Care Act - now known as Obamacare. His Presidency was also, without doubt, marked by a significant challenge to the notion of a united country -  which was the main thesis of his 2004 speech. Those who hoped that we could put issues of race behind us were in for a rude awakening.

With the coming of a Black family to the White House we learned to our chagrin that there is in fact a Black America, and a White America. In the face of the hope-full-ness of the first African American President -  white supremacists came with a vengeance … to take their country back. This sentiment now finds fulfillment in the presence of Donald Trump in the White House - his stated commitment… to make America great again - is one which reenergized the likes of white supremacist David Duke, and the KKK. Every right wing racist extremist now salivates at the prospect of making America white again. They have all collectively embraced Trump as their new savior.

The essence of white supremacist sentiment in the United States of America is captured in a now infamous statement that Abraham Lincoln made in the context of a political debate in Charleston, Illinois on September 18, 1858. While there has been considerable discussion as to whether or not Lincoln harbored racism as a fact of his own cultural and ideological disposition, this statement in and of itself captures the gist of white supremacist thinking on issues critical to the lives of black folk. Lincoln's words, in this circumstance, demonstrate the awkward position that politicians put themselves in when they speak out of both sides of their mouths on a critical issue such as this. On this occasion he bites his own tongue when he responds to the prodding of a political opponent about his involvement in the abolitionist movement by stating:

"I will say that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, ...that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of  qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And in as much as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race."

Lets talk about "inferior" and "superior" positions for a moment. There is a remarkably pathetic quality that marks the logic of the white supremacist. In his effort to justify his culture of exploitation he must employ the tactic of subjugation, and he must codify this in his laws and his philosophy of life. Thus he assigns an arbitrary "inferiority" to those he exploits based on their most obvious difference - color. One can see why they hate Marx... he has a better explanation - power. Marx points out that in a culture of exploitation all relationships are necessarily power relationships. Thus when reactionary half literates talk about black racists, ask them what black institution in our society has the power to exploit and victimize white people. In a culture based on exploitation - as in Slavery - the underlying power dynamic breeds fear for the simple reason that you must always watch your back when your prosperity is based on the brutal exploitation of others. Fear is an inescapable consequence of the dysfunctions inherent in a culture of oppression; and hate is a fruit of this fear. The one proceeds from the other.

Hate is the torment that fear breeds; and White Supremacy is nothing more than the agency of this dynamic. The oppressor lives in fear, and therefore his hatefulness

The cancer of hate that thrives in the gut of this nation needs to be diagnosed as such. It needs to be subjected to the necessary radical treatment that we reserve for any malady that threaten our lives. Make no mistake about it - people are dying from this sickness in our midst. It is not good enough that we engage in occasional outpouring of emotions when those infected with the disease of white racism spew their nasty venom at will. We have witnessed the snuffing out of vulnerable lives like those in that church in South Carolina, and most recently the killing of an African American man in New York City by a white supremacist who traveled hundreds of miles with the expressed purpose of murdering black men.

It is past time that this nation becomes proactive about its collective well-being. As a nation we are a house divided. That division is realized in the negation of every ideal that a hope-filled Senator Obama espoused in 2004. Wisdom and History have taught us that a nation that nourishes discord is destined for destruction. The cantankerous political argument regarding Healthcare that has dominated the news in recent years is itself a product of the issue of racial dysfunction in this society. Naming the Affordable Care Act "Obamacare" was a way of denigrating it by appealing to the racist underbelly of a nation steeped in a history of bigotry. It is almost humorous to note that many who opposed "Obamacare" did not realize that it was in fact the ACA ... yes... the same insurance they were about to lose under "Trumpcare". 

The significance of Obama's legacy powerfully impacting one fifth of this nation's economy is not lost on those who would make his complexion - rather than his convictions - the issue. It is time to focus on preventive actions that will address the cancer of hate, a function of the racism in our country's body politic. Beyond Obamacare and Trumpcare, diagnosing and rooting out this malady must become our top national priority.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Concupiscent Embrace Of Spring

It is the end of that recurring season of frigidness, and she has come again... 
The scars of what seems like too many days in the cold are still present, and all around me. We all have those scars no matter where we find ourselves, they are the unmistakable impressions of lives lived out in the uncomfortable open. We are not all threatened by frostbite. But like deciduous trees our leaves fall off, and our limbs are left bare to embrace the elements during the days of cold. Those days of discomfort come and go in our lives wherever we are… the extent of our exposure, a matter of degrees. For some of us, on those seemingly endless days, the presence of sunlight does very little to quell the wrath of Jack Frost. Threat of frostbite or not, we all experience that season in our lives when not much flourishes...or grows for that matter. Even the “evergreen” will testify to this.

We have been told by the more “seasoned” among us that there is no such thing as bad weather… just bad clothes. There is undeniable wisdom in that old adage, but I beg to differ. Heavy coats and appropriately insulated boots or not, bad weather is a fact of our experience. It is a reality that tends to wear us out despite our best efforts at clothing ourselves against it. We may dress ourselves up in its presence, but its impact remains nonetheless unmistakably wearisome.

Squirrels hide their nuts. Birds fly South to more agreeable climes. And we… well we either imitate the birds, or we bundle up till the days become more accessible to the company of the sun. For some, the option to shut things down and retreat to places where we can hibernate is rather appealing... it seems to come naturally. For others the challenges of daily survival dictate that we adjust our pace and keep moving forward. Like the mail, there are items that we need in our lives which must be delivered despite seasonal and temperamental challenges.

She has been gone for awhile, and I have missed her...
I have grown accustomed to her coming and going… she does so with an abiding constancy. When she is with me I experience that wonderful reawakening that affirms again the presence of the roots of my potential effervescence. The stimulating vitality of her aura makes me sprout again in all the right places. Yes, she makes me breathe and live again in ways that celebrate my fecundity. Savoring this aspect of her impact on me, I sometimes enquire of her as to why she has to go as she does… And she, in her everlasting patience, reminds me that it is essential that we have time apart.

Discerning my angst she places her kind, stilling, fingers on my quivering lips; and like the poet Gibran, she breathes into my ears the substantial sentiments… There must be spaces in our togetherness... Sentiments that, like myself, some may find difficult to embrace and cultivate, but that are nevertheless so essential to our individual and communal well-being. Spaces for rest and restoration. Spaces to discover and be discovered. Spaces to be and to become. Spaces for everything and for no-thing. Spaces to create and to re-create… Spaces… Yes… Let there be spaces...

As has been the case, it was around the beginning of Summer that we were last together. After that season of resurrection and reinvigoration she inspired me to nurture the products of our mutual insemination. With the help of her warming influence and the blessed showers of our fertile dalliance, we together sowed and nurtured the seeds that are witnesses to our divine multiplicity. In time it would be up to me to reap and to store as needs be, the abundant harvest of our innate creativity.

“Your life and mine are the place where Heaven and Earth intersect”, she always says. 
I believe I now understand what she means. It is true that we are both creatures and creators. Our lives are the gardens where the gods come to play… where they resort to connect with their primeval clay. I know without doubt that the place where we connect is idyllic. It is indeed a place of unmistakable bliss. But beyond my agreeable reflections during the seasons of her absence, there remains my persistent longing for her. I can state with a certain guilty pleasure that our intersection is the place where I most want to have my life. Those who know her will agree.

My longing however, is fortunately not a function of any essential intransigence. I am certain of this because I have come to trust her wisdom. I have come to recognize and affirm the need for, and the nature of the spaces in our togetherness. Those spaces help us to keep and maintain the boundaries between our needs and our wants. It is essential to the cause of balance in our lives that they be kept clearly defined. They serve to prevent the kind of intransigence that clouds our judgement, and render redundant our claims to any right of self-determination. Our recognition of the value of the essential spaces in our experience is what helps us to connect with the time honored declaration... “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens… ”. This is a self-evident truth about which the "The Preacher" speaks to us with a certainty that is inescapable:

A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.


 Discarding the heavy garb of a season of frigidity… Come Spring!
There is a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing. As much as we may revel in our wants, it is the path of necessity that keeps us appropriately focused. We can, and should enjoy our wants without compromising our needs. The cultivation of appropriate focus helps us to transition effectively into the various seasons of our lives and their natural demands. I have been feeling her unmistakable approach for some days now. There is a warmth that is in no way transitory, and it is all around me. Yes she is here, this is no tease. There is a stirring in my sacred places that tells me that I am ready, that she is near… That the time has come for us to cohabitate again.

The bulbs that laid dormant underground have started to shoot their way through fertile topsoil. The limbs that seemed asleep yesterday are now displaying their multiple eruptions of vitality… their succulent sprouts soon to be leaves providing shade, and shelter, and sustenance. The geese are gathered again around the ponds. They are as loud as ever as they announce their presence and mark their territory. It is breeding season. And youth... Youth have discarded the heavy garb of caution in favor of the more flattering wear that invites passionate encounter. Spring is. Here again.

I awoke this morning and there she was in all her magnificent splendor. I opened my eyes, and all my senses rejoiced at her extraordinarily enlivening and fragrant presence. Her beautiful visage as manifestly magnetic as always. Seeing her, I stood up. And I advanced with unhurried steps toward the twin windows of my dwelling. I unlatched them and swung them wide open. Her air came in at a pace that matched my strides. It was neither hot nor cold, just air as it is meant to be on such a day as this. There was no bluster. She was calm, comfortable, and joy-evokingly splendid. She was non-abrasively enjoyable. Nakedness-inspiring. She was there with me, occupying the very space in which I stood...

…  And we embraced… With an unhurried kiss we simultaneously inhaled the breath of our mutuality. And time stood still as if to salute the passing of another season… as if to honor the letting down of our guard on this new day. And I absorbed her in all her essentialness. And she enveloped me as only she could. And we knew each other… Again.



Thursday, March 9, 2017

An Uncircumcised Honesty

The process of reflecting provides opportunities to take an all-around look at ourselves. It allows us to see ourselves in greater detail than we are usually comfortable with. As an objective looker I challenge myself to see me as others might.  I give myself a chance to come to understand why someone else might not be comfortable with certain aspects of the me that I present daily.

As an honest viewer of myself I might find some aspects of me that I need to fix for my own wellbeing, and for the sake of the health of some of my relationships. Useful reflection is grounded in a raw, uncircumcised honesty. It lays us out in front of ourselves in all our awkward bareness, and presses us to come to terms with the ragged parts of our personhood.

At times we tend to talk about reflection as if it were some kind of esoteric abstraction. In response to that particular approach I would say like Ludwig Wittgenstein, a disciple of Sigmund Freud...  "Don't think, look!". The truth is usually right there, unblinkingly staring back at us. Meaningful reflection is an engagement in a decidedly unflattering evaluation of self, that forces to the fore the most authentic and at times unflattering pieces of who we are. It initiates a process of personal distillation that relieves us of the froth that is our superficiality.

In meaningful reflection we allow truth to become an ally in opening us up to the possibilities of becoming in accordance with our greatest potential. By truth I mean those transcendent statements that call us to be more than any of the existing estimates of who we are, or for that matter, who we can become.

In the course of our experience we are defined by the things we do, and by the things that are done to us. To be defined thus is to be limited accordingly. As a transcendent dynamic, Truth nullifies the limitations that Experience fetters us with. Through meaningful reflection then, we are empowered to make declarations about ourselves that transcend the facts that previously operated against us to stunt our growth.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Media Hacks And Political Mayhem

Corporate media is now fully engaged in exploiting the news-worthiness of the Russian hack of the US presidential elections. To hear them tell it, we should all be concerned about the atrocity of a foreign power's manipulation of our sacred electoral process. They want to now manufacture outrage toward Putin and his interests, and in the process expunge themselves - the Media that is - of any complicity in what is essentially a circus of economic corruption. If Putin and his forces were able to drown the the prospects of a Clinton presidency through the power of speech, vulgar as it was... and always is... they were in fact only executing that same strategy that powerful imperialist forces have used to determine the political fate of many individuals and nations. I remember as a boy growing up in Jamaica, how the US Government of the time painted Fidel Castro of Cuba as the devil incarnate in order to foil any alliance between progressive movements in Jamaica and our neighbors ninety miles away. In an ideologically bipolar world this kind of operation remains a fact of life. What's that old cliche... what's good for the goose is good for the gander.

We live in a world where power is measured in dollars and cents. An abundance of the one sets up the proliferation of the other. The US Supreme Court has ruled that "money is speech", so those with the most dollars are able then to rule through the drowning out of the voices of those without great wealth. Ultimately corporate media is driven... in all things, by its profit motif. Those who own and operate the media complexes that muscle their way into our attention, have no more noble an aspiration than to maximize their profit potential. They know that it takes money to make money... to wield power... and they are committed to the making of money by any means necessary.

To accomplish their goal, programmers must attract and hold our attention. The formula for doing so is a rather uncomplicated one... present more and more of the stuff that their core audience loves to see and hear. Those who want truth and esthetically uplifting content will generally not be satisfied with the content on our most dominant networks. These networks feed at the very bottom of Maslow's 'Hierarchy of Needs'They tap into the insecurities that drive those still focused on their own survival in a dog eat dog world, and cultivate their fears with an unrelenting persistence. This is the allure of a Donald Trump... this is what explains his perch at the pinnacle of American power. Trumpism is an appeal to the fears that drive the insecurities which provide fuel for the engines of a morally bankrupt society. The roots of that moral bankruptcy runs deep in American history and culture.

A culture of insecurity has become the desired environment for those who seek to profit from an audience still preoccupied with issues of its own basic survival. Through well honed "dog whistles", groups are turned against groups. The crass political banter that passes as "discussion" on daily news programs are real representations of this dynamic. The most basic of our human concerns are exploited through the grossest of our individual instincts. Our need to procreate physically and economically, and our anxieties about our ultimate decline become the triggers that get us to act out against each other in the cultural and political arena. Sex and violence... Self-propagation and death... These are the triggers constantly being fingered to keep us on the edge of our existential seats. They grab and fondle the  genitalia of the socially and economically vulnerable in order to keep them distracted from the real issues that affect their lives. This grossly aggressive indulgence greases the ball and socket that enables the long arm of our crass economic and political culture.

From cartoons to fake reality shows, every dramatic medium is utilized to cultivate mindsets that then become the agencies of the mayhem that we witness all too often in our society. Our preoccupation with the underlying insecurities in our psyches is what explains the phenomenal rise of politicians who continue to ride the angst of a declining middle class to the very heights of social, economic, and political power.

By generalizing about immigrants as rapists and murderers,  and those with different religious convictions as terrorists, these charlatans tap into and exploit the most basic fears of the group they see as their ticket to the the top of the political hill. The whores in corporate media then partner with their political counterparts in the enterprise of  hate-mongering to maximize their audience share... and therefore their profit margins. It is time for us to tune them out. 

Friday, February 24, 2017

Trumpism... The New Great Hope Of The Prison-Industrial Complex

Since the 1970s the prison population in the USA has grown by leaps and bounds. According to the International Centre for Prison Studies:
“No country incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than the United States at 716 per 100,000 people”. 
This fact stands out in light of our claim to being the “beacon of Freedom”. It is necessary that we ask why… Why do we lock away our people at such an outrageous rate? Unsurprisingly the answer to this question may lie at the very heart of our socio-economic ideal. At the very core of this issue is a version of capitalism …expressed as unbridled, rapacious greed.
Vicky Pelaez writes the following in an article titled “The Prison Industry in the United States: Big Business or a New Form of Slavery?” :
“There are approximately 2 million inmates in state, federal and private prisons throughout the country. According to California Prison Focus, “no other society in human history has imprisoned so many of its own citizens.” The figures show that the United States has locked up more people than any other country: a half million more than China, which has a population five times greater than the U.S. Statistics reveal that the United States holds 25% of the world’s prison population, but only 5% of the world’s people. From less than 300,000 inmates in 1972, the jail population grew to 2 million by the year 2000. In 1990 it was one million. Ten years ago there were only five private prisons in the country, with a population of 2,000 inmates; now, there are 100, with 62,000 inmates. It is expected that by the coming decade, the number will hit 360,000, according to reports.” 
Addressing the same issue, Andy Kroll writes the following in an article titled “This Is How Private Prison Companies Make Millions Even When Crime Rates Fall” published in Mother Jones magazine, Sept 2013:
“We are living in boom times for the private prison industry. The Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest owner of private prisons, has seen its revenue climb by more than 500 percent in the last two decades. And CCA wants to get much, much bigger: Last year, the company made an offer to 48 governors to buy and operate their state-funded prisons. But what made CCA’s pitch to those governors so audacious and shocking was that it included a so-called occupancy requirement, a clause demanding the state keep those newly privatized prisons at least 90 percent full at all times, regardless of whether crime was rising or falling.
Occupancy requirements, as it turns out, are common practice within the private prison industry. A new report by In the Public Interest, an anti-privatization group, reviewed 62 contracts for private prisons operating around the country at the local and state level. In the Public Interest found that 41 of those contracts included occupancy requirements mandating that local or state government keep those facilities between 80 and 100 percent full. In other words, whether crime is rising or falling, the state must keep those beds full.”

Paying The Piper... Calling The Tune
It has been reported that the Trump Campaign received significant contributions from those who hope to boost their profits from the mass incarceration that is a stain on America's conscience. Well they have made their investment in Trump, and now they are looking forward to reaping the benefits. They have paid the piper, and now they are calling the tune to which they hope he will march. How, you ask, will they halt the trend of locking up people for profit that Hillary Clinton promised would be reversed under her Presidency? For the answer to that question look no further than  the new vigor that now characterizes immigration enforcement laws. 
There are by conservative estimates now over 11 million undocumented persons living in the US. For decades the focus has been on acting mainly against those with criminal histories. By all indications that will now change. Enforcement will now target everyone of those living in the shadows. Those who have invested in locking up people for profit must be smiling... all the way to the bank.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Fix... A Love That Grows In Us & Between Us

How do we repair the breach that frustrates us, and that divides us against ourselves and from one another? How do we renew ourselves and find the oneness of being that characterizes sound, healthful living? We may begin, as has long been established, by recognizing the need to fix ourselves, and then proceed to seek the restoration of our relationships wherever possible.
Of some afflictions we are the authors; of others we may be the victims. With honest reflection we find ourselves needing to forgive ourselves our own indiscretions, and seek forgiveness where we have been the source of pain. In the course of this healing initiative we will find it necessary to forgive those who have trespassed against us.  We will also discover that we cannot fix every relationship around us that have in some way impacted us. It becomes necessary here to just walk away… let time and distance deal with those. Forgive where you can, forego where you must.
There are many stumbling blocks in our personal journeys that can make our way forward rather treacherous. Some of these are there as facts of our lives, others we may have had a hand in creating. Instead of continuously tripping ourselves up, we must eventually find ways to make these potential obstacles into stepping stones… (cliche intended). This becomes possible when we harbor the wisdom… and the courage… to avoid or navigate our way over and around the scandals that give life to our personal and interpersonal dysfunctions. Wisdom enters into the places where we live our lives when we allow humility to open our doors to her. She enters in when we are ready to accept her help. She takes our hands when we are ready to let her lead. She speaks when we are ready to listen.
In a culture that celebrates the rambunctious, unproductive argument – we must learn to face the circumstances before us with resolve, and speak the truth to and about them without malice. Deep breath… deeeep breath. This is never easy, but there is a reward for trying. There is certain liberation that comes from diffusing our anger. That freedom to act creativelycomes from our restraining the impulse to “let the other person have it” – verbally and otherwise. We can learn how to free ourselves from our own harshness. Truth spoken without venom has a certain healing quality. Instead of creating discord, it acts as a tonic. Instead of depressing us, it acts as an elixir. Instead of poisoning the discourse, it acts as an antidote. This way of engaging makes us stronger. It helps to restore our joy. Ultimately it might be the remedy we need for what ails us.
The freedom to act creatively is enabled by two dynamics… Forgiveness and LoveWhile this season is still new, we are forcefully reminded to focus on seminal events that figure significantly in effecting our redemption. This is that moment in time when we seek to facilitate the birthing of the Christ among us. This Christ is the universal Influence that seeks to redeem us… to restore us to our best selves, and to reconcile us to our Creator and to each other.
Our redemption necessarily begins with the recognition and admission of our need to be forgiven for our own tendencies to miss the mark… to mess up… to sin. Our lives are works in progress. None of us have any claim to perfection. This being the case, we can relieve ourselves of the burden of guilt that accumulates over time because of that naivety which evidences our lack of wisdom. If we can face the fact of our own unfinished-ness, then we might not be so terribly judgmental in our assessment of the shortcomings of others.
We begin our own healing with understanding the need for forgiveness in ourselves, and in others. First we admit our flaws and our faults… and those of others around us, and then we make a commitment to walk away from them. Forgiveness is the unburdening that comes when we act to leave our faults and those of our neighbor in the past where they belong.
The other aspect of the freedom to act creatively has to do with the cultivation of that resource which is in fact the ultimate expression of our wholeness. That resource is Love. A meaningful and durable expression of Love must go beyond any romantic notion of being together. Romance most certainly has its place, but we should all be aware that Eros has always been, and will always be a transient. Feelings come and go based on the culture of convenience and the fatuousness that typifies many of our interactions. The cultivation of a true Love must be grounded in a sense of selflessness – not in the shallowness of our egos. A ‘love’ which does not serve us beyond the moment, and beyond the trappings of an infatuation that is mostly concerned with our own self-satisfaction, is never durable.
Love in its purest and most lasting form is an unconditional commitment to what is just. A true love is rooted in a genuine concern for the growth and well-being of the lover and the loved. That kind of love rescues us from the miry clay of our own self-indulgence, and from the tricky self-indulgence of others. We will not always like each other, but we have a moral/ethical duty to treat others as we want to be treated ourselves. The carried consciousness of this duty becomes the agency for enhancing what is best about us, and what can be really good between us. Love grows in us and between us the grace that enables us to be vessels of the Christ who comforts the lonely, feeds the hungry, is the healer of the broken-hearted, and the liberator of the oppressed.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Witness

...And I awoke in the arena of my intrigue
To witness the dark tales of my surreal anticipation...
A lion embracing a bear
And littering reality with the offspring
Of an altogether illicit affair...

I saw the marriage of an old stumbling empire
As she fell in time
To the capricious wiles of an enticing romance...
Whore to whore wed-locked
And vowing allegiance
Till death...

I saw the prophet led to his death in chains
While a bootlegging pharaoh and his sons
Aspired to throne after throne
Dying death after death... but aspiring still
While young lions slept...

I saw the priests of an untenable union
Inwardly and outwardly frocked
In robes that hid them from the uncomfortable truths
Of a time when lions lay down with lambs
Having crushed the capricious existence
Of an abominable union...

...And I pinched myself
To confirm that I was not dreaming...
For all around me the earth shook
As whore ran to whore for shelter...
The rock of their convenience
Having been obliterated

And rising out of the earth like gods...
The prophets' sons
With swords and shields... advancing

I have witnessed the weeping and wailing
Of those who mocked and scorned
When righteous men bade them
Behave

From the book "In My Element... Inspiration For Empowerment" by Roy Alexander Graham


Sunday, January 1, 2017

A New Year... New Ways of Seeing, and Believing, and Behaving

It's a new year... Happy New Year!

It's a time of new resolutions. Many are the desires to become more than we have been. Many are the opportunities for growth and renewal.

Taking charge of our lives is about being purposefully creative. We potentiate the process with acts through which we call ourselves to a spiritual, physical, emotional, and intellectual housecleaning. This requires us to truthfully unburden ourselves of those experiences that weigh us down in the miry clay of pain and regret. The objective is to rid ourselves of the hurt and guilt associated with bad experiences we have had, or caused. This is absolutely necessary before we can embark on the journey of renewal.

As we re-embark on this journey toward a more fulfilling life, we must walk away from the psychological, spiritual, physical, and social instruments and actors that are complicit in the life-thwarting episodes we want to turn away from. Talk is cheap. This is where the “rubber” of the commitments we make meets the “road” of our willingness to act out those commitments. This is where the demands of our renewal become real. It may mean new friends and associates. It may mean moving away from your familiar environment. It may require a new way of eating. New ways of thinking and acting and behaving are required for the renewal we seek. You may have to go back to school as you give up your old job in the club...or at the investment firm. The new you that you seek will need a new foundation from which to grow and develop.

Our personal journey to renewal demands that we commit ourselves to new habits. As humans we have come to think of ourselves as “creatures of habit”. Habit formation is a function of the repeated practice of the skills and behaviors we need in our improved selves. It is believed, and often said that, “practice makes perfect”. The remaking or redefining of our lives demands that we become new creatures through the renewal of our minds that come from the repeated practice of acts determined to speak with clarity about who we are and who we want to be. No longer must we be defined by the old habits, but by our new ways of seeing, and believing, and behaving.