The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Dinosaur nations and the "jena Six"

“Many linguists predict that at least half of the world's 6,000 or so languages will be dead or dying by the year 2050. Languages are becoming extinct at twice the rate of endangered mammals and four times the rate of endangered birds. If this trend continues, the world of the future could be dominated by a dozen or fewer languages.”

Another sign that mankind’s ego walls are slowly dissolving. Cultures separate people, and anthropologically, you need isolation to create a truly separate culture, isolation that no longer exists. Again, I believe nations existed to serve a genuine purpose: the difficulty of communication that exceeds the speed of horseback. Once “instant” communication became possible (the telegraph) then all that’s left is thousands of years of propaganda that human beings are extremely different and alien, all caused by the ego-need to rank your own religion, political orientation, language and culture at the top. Others MIGHT be given equality, at the very best. But in our heart of hearts, I think we’re programmed to believe that if it isn’t us, its less than us. Otherwise…wouldn’t we move there? Adapt that religion or way of being? We’re programmed to move away from pain, toward pleasure.
That brings us back to Maslow (or the Chakras, of course). If survival is so primary, why do martyrs sacrifice themselves for spiritual causes? The answer that makes sense to me is that each level serves a purpose. The hunger on that level satisfied, you move on to the next. People risk their lives for sexual satisfaction. They Ignore their sexual partners to dive into their careers. They give up comfort and sexual promiscuity for love. They Risk their careers to speak out with honesty against corruption and lies. And the spiritual realm is about preparing yourself for death—grasping that everything in this world will be left behind. Some religions promise that you can take your ego with you. Some insist that you cannot, that the realm of spirit has no room for the “wealth” of this world—including individual identity. You take your pick, and take your chances.

But no matter how I look at it, I see how every human action in this world either glides along this path or is a specific contradiction to it. If a specific contradiction, one tends to see the culture disapproving of such actions, or find reproductive punishments built-in. The expression “awakening the Kundalini backwards” might be defined as obeying higher levels without anchoring yourself in the lower. For instance:
1) Abandoning your family to chase a spiritual dream
2) Developing advanced political theories without grounding yourself in actual day-to-day reality (isn’t this how Communism got its start? If I’m not mistaken, one of its core proponents let his own children die of malnutrition because he was too busy theorizing? Maslow-wise, this guy missed the bus completely, disconnecting from his own instincts to follow his intellect)
3) Allowing sexual needs to destroy emotional ties.
4) Refusing to mature sufficiently to build a career, then complaining that women aren’t attracted to your “inner being.” A bird who builds no nest shouldn’t wonder at the lack of eggs.

I could go on and on. Sting singing, so long ago, that “the Russians love their children too” encouraged us to see the commonality of man. I am obsessive about this, partially because without this point of view, I would have been like the bigots who directly or indirectly controlled the culture I grew up in—and I refused to be like them.

I just can’t grow up on war movies in which throwing yourself on a live grenade to save your buddies…or a suicidal charge on a machine gun nest is seen as great courage, but Kamakazi pilots or suicide bombers are seen as “cowards.” What? Or hear politicians soberly assessing “collateral damage” as an unfortunate side-product of war, and see them as utterly, completely different from those who actually target civilians to terrorize a population and break its will. To me, the same grim and ghastly continuum.

No, I genuinely see the commonality, and believe that the differences are caused by a thousand thousand different views of the same mountain. And as we climb the mountain together, the view of the lowlands is increasingly similar, and those who climb, from whatever direction they do, will understand what those who live in the lowlands rarely do.

Now, it will serve those of political bent to have the lowlanders believe they are all very different from one another: one of the easiest ways to keep people from evaluating your worth is to convince them that you are protecting them from an “other.”
And boy oh boy, will people make excuses for their “leaders.” I remember several biographers “justifying” or “explaining” George Wallace’s racist rants on the basis that “oh, he was just being political. He swore he’d never be `out-niggered’ by his opponents again.”

What? They said this as if it makes him more human, more admirable. Heck, he wasn’t a bigot, he just used bigotry to assume power. I want to vomit. To be an actual bigot means to see the world through a lens that says “this” group is better than “that” group. That’s your core programming and conditioning. Frankly, I don’t blame people for having such poison in their system…although I applaud when they can throw it over. But you’re telling me this man DIDN’T BELIEVE IT, and still used it? Still made the lives of millions of innocent people hell, just to gain power? To me, this is a thousand times worse. To me, such a person has a reservation in the lowest circle of hell.

It serves those who hunger for power to convince us that the “Others” whoever they are, are in some way critically different, unimaginably alien, essentially…inferior. We can only convert them, control them, or kill them. We certainly cannot listen and see if they have actual grievances, oh no. That would be admitting that we aren’t perfect.

Frankly, in terms of governments falling, or becoming less important, one very real possibility I see is in essence a “Rollerball” world—corporations becoming more powerful than geopolitical governments. They’re wealthy, they’re immortal, they live to increase their market share and answer to no direct human morality. From their own perspective, selling cigarettes to children, or exploding cars to consumers, makes perfect sense. Why should they care about individuals? I figure they have about the “awareness” of simple multi-celled organisms right now.

But wow, I know people who believe in “free market” and “the power of capitalism” to a degree that NO ONE I know believes in governmental power. Seen as organisms, it is to the advantage of corporations to have human beings believe that they are the only answer. Privatize schools, health care, the military? Sure, why not! The biggest problem is that the people who prate about this don’t have what I would consider a logical attitude, that the power of corporations can grow until it balances X percent of the power of political organizations. They seem to have more of the “shrink government until you can drown it in the bathtub” attitude. And if corporations are these simple multi-celled organisms (each with as many cells as there are human beings working for or investing in them) then they have only blind hunger, are operating at the very lowest levels of Maslow’s Heirarchy, concerned only with survival and growth and hunger.

And what exactly do you expect to balance them? And if they aren’t in balance, well…life will be great for those who invested in them, or are in the top 20% of their employees. But I wouldn’t want to be in the bottom 80%.
I haven’t looked deeply into the “Jena Six” situation. From what I see, if the races were reversed, I wouldn’t think that a charge of attempted murder would be appropriate. Five or six kids kicked another kid while he was down. Aggravated assault, I’d think. A terrible thing, worthy of prosecution. But attempted murder? Really? The prosecutor called tennis shoes “deadly weapons.” Having trained to kick both in bare feet and tennis shoes, I can say that it’s the feet themselves that either are or are not deadly weapons. Hitting someone with tennis shoes without feet in them don’t hurt much.

Is there a racial component in this? Absolutely. Hell, the entire context is poisoned, and it’s a lie to pretend otherwise. Hanging a noose from a tree is a clear attempt to intimidate, based upon racial history. As someone whose mother told him stories of black men dangling from trees while whites giggled, I can promise you that there is no comparable threat one can make to whites in this country…except maybe threatening a woman with gang rape, or a gay man with bashing. It was designed to trigger fear, which is what it did. The next months at that school were apparently tense, and there were numerous fights and conflicts. This sounds like the worst of them, but the kid was released after two hours of medical treatment. His attackers should be in jail or juvie. But attempted murder? That sentence, by an all-white jury, begs me to ask the question: would I believe they would be as swift to bring down an identical verdict if the races were reversed? How about if the jury was all-black? Of course, I doubt if in the entire history of this country, any white person has ever been tried by an all-black jury.
I guess the final thought is that we have a crime here, a terrible crime, but the intent was not to kill him but to kick his ass thoroughly.

Of course, I may not be seeing something…like I said, the entire context of race in America is poisoned. After 400 years, we only really started processing those toxins about forty years ago. This shit takes time. Can anybody name a wound that takes less time to heal than it took to inflict?

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