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Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Thoughts for a new week



So if I look into the campaigns right now (or the news cycle allowing surrogates to speak for the different campaigns) the things that leap out at me are:



1) Obama claiming never to have heard the Reverend Wright rhetoric. Yeah, right. And simultaneously, he was ready to leave the church if Wright didn't retire. Arrrgh. My take: he wanted to serve the people of the community, and had heard sentiments like Wright's for years. They are sentiments for those who lack Barack's intellectual skills and philosophical perspective. To separate himself from all those who say such things would have left him without a constituancy...let alone a community. I get it. I've dealt with this my whole life. Doesn't mean I believe his answer, though...



2) Hillary saying that she and McCain are ready for office, and Obama isn't. That line was over the line politically. It was honorable if she truly believed it. But it probably cost her the Vice Presidential slot. Can't see how she comes back from that one, or spins it.



3) My favorite recent news item: in the same 24 hour news cycle, Bush makes a comment about "appeasers" which was widely considered to be a slam at Obama (I can see why, since he's said he will speak to our enemies. A large percentage of human beings see this as weakness. Personally, I see it as wisdom.) Now here's where it gets interesting. When Huckabee made the "duck and cover" joke, he was revealing his own unconscious tensions. Humor is a release of tension. Was he calling Obama a coward? Was he expressing a bit of wish fulfillment? Here's a fun game: if we consider that comments from members of a group express, in the aggregate, the unconscious wishes of that group, combining these two comments gives us something fairly disturbing: a message to "shoot him...he's an appeaser." You can count on the fact that this meme will be entering the public discourse A LOT over the next months. Always plausibly denied, and probably rarely by someone who has a specific conscious thought about doing him harm.



But any organization will fight for its survival, and its members are human, with a messy combination of conscious and unconscious wishes. Racists, for instance, DO have reason to be concerned about integration, multi-culturalism, and so forth. It DOES mean the death of the white race. And the black race. And the Asian race. It is dead to the concept of "race" across the board, and to those who are strongly coupled to race as a concept (what? Ten percent of the population?) the ascendancy of a Obama is a nightmare, a view of a future in which some of their most precious assumptions and definitions are blown totally out of the water.



I would call these two comments cultural Freudian slips. They will be discussed. Huckabee will make the talk show circuit apologizing. And every time, the meme re-enters the public arena. No matter how he disowns his "joke" remember: you can't not think of a purple cow. And from the perspective of the part of the human consciousness that clings to racial tribe, it was a plea for someone to do violence. This is pretty ugly stuff...and I've heard at least ten comments like it for every whisper of violence to be done to Hillary on the basis of her gender.



If you don't factor little things like death into the equation then sure, Obama could seem to have an advantage based on race. Personally, I find it unfortunate that Hillary supporters can't deal with the fact that as smart and tenacious as she has been, it is possible for her to be out-thought and out-fought. The fact that they leap for gender and race as answers is unfortunate. As I've said, I'm sure plenty of black Americans would have used a Clinton victory to claim that race relations are poisonous. And I would have considered them just as blind and self-serving. As some men would have grumbled that Hillary was swept into the White House on a wave of reverse discrimination or political correctness. As you'll hear some propaganda that Obama is being bouyed by secret Saudi money: he's a secret Muslim, after all. As you'll hear whites complain that "a white man doesn't stand a chance in this country..." and other brain-damaged comments. Pretty sad stuff.



But that's the heat of the battle. The blogs are filled with Hillary supporters swearing they'll support McCain. I think that that's on the level of "I hate you daddy!" when you ground your teenager (and Obama supporters would have been about as bad, I'm sure.) Be interesting to see how many of them actually vote their values, and not their hurt feelings. Unless of course, they ARE voting their values...which is another, interesting conversation.

##

The Moonview presentation last Saturday has led to an invitation to work with a high-powered company this week. The company seems to use Aikido as a teaching, team/building tool. I like that idea very much, and will be speaking with the CEO tomorrow to clarify things. I've spent hours this weekend trying to figure out how to relate the short version of how my teaching pedagogy evolved. It's been a long, long, odd road...

##

If I assume that Bush's comment was sincere, it suggests a typical Yang view that communication equals appeasement. Pardon me, but it seems to me that vast and complex systems of diplomatic etiquette have evolved over the centuries precisely because countless rulers and generals found that communication with their enemies was VITAL. The other end of the spectrum is someone who thinks that conversations and communication can solve everything. Both ends are rigid and naive.



Especially when dealing with a diffuse network (as world terrorism seems to be) such that the multi-billion dollar war machine cannot capture or even directly engage with the leader of the opposition, the idea that brute force could conceivably handle this just isn't a winner. But clearly, if one forgets for an instant that you are dealing with people willing to kill and die to accomplish their aims, that would be an equal error. The number of times I've heard Right-wingers talking about terrorists having no logical aims, not having human emotions, being cowards, or worshiping a demonic god tells me something: add up all the people who feel that way. What percentage of the Right do they compose? All right, cut off that percentage, then cut an equal percentage from the edge of the Far Left.



The attitudes of the people in the middle will be the ones I consider to be rational enough to actually solve the problem. Everyone else is frozen. There are people who are total predators, or completely insane, and cannot be reasoned with at all. The tendency for people to think that members of Group X are fanatical, insane, stupid, animalistic, etc. is normal and a survival trait in certain instances. But what is hard for them to grasp is that it is no more efficient than talking and communicating. Violence and communication have to operate in a cycle. I suspect that, deep inside, almost everyone agrees with this: the only real question is the percentage of each.



Of course, that's my perspective, based on fifty-six years of life and dealing with stress and challenge. Your experience may be different, and that experience would shape your attitudes. I honestly believe that we've been in a period of history where the more Male, hierarchical structure of worldwide power is going to yield to a more Feminine, non-hierarchical web-form. These are not "better or worse" approaches. They are different, and adherents of each approach tend to be afraid or dismissive of the other.



The future belongs to those who can hold both possibilities.

##

I think it comes down to what Sting said long ago: that there is nothing to fear from the Soviet Union, if the Russians love their children too. The same is true here. If the Arabs, the Muslims, and those among them who are radicalized love their own people, and their own children, then we can communicate with those among them who are sane. And I see no reason to believe that a higher percentage of US are sane than of "THEM."



Trust me: if I can understand what white people, or men, or women, or black people have done over the years, I can understand every action of the Middle Eastern conflict with the same beliefs and observations of basic human nature. And I've kept myself and my family safe in some very hairy, potentially violent situations by assuming that most human beings are motivated not by "good" or "evil" but by fear and love. And noticed that those who think they are better, or that their enemies are worse, just seem to collect more enemies over time. Slowly, the world seems a more and more dangerous place.



Of course, those who think the world is all lambs and butterflies are in for a serious awakening as well. No one becomes more cynical than the formerly open-hearted.



Again, balance.

17 comments:

Todd said...

"Death of the White Race"

Every time we see something like this Tiel says "I am the future. In 100 years everyone will be beige!"

Dan Moran said...

Despite my genetics, I have vastly more in common with black Los Angeleans than I do with white people in Ireland. One of the great things about sports is that it gives an outlet to tribalism, while making it clear just how trivial it is, at the same time. You haven't lived until you've watched a bunch of conservative+liberal Lakers fans sneering at a bunch of conservative+liberal Kings fans ...

I don't think tribalism is going away while people are people. But it can be shifted into harmless areas.

Anonymous said...

Steve:
I disagree that it is wise to speak to all our enemies. A leader must show good judgment in deciding which enemies to speak with and which ones not to speak with. When you speak with a leader you run several risks. First of all you give him a certain credibility, which may help him convince others to support him and his plans/schemes. Second of all when talking to a twisted person he may become convinced by your willingness to talk to him that you are either a fool or weak or both and this may encourage him in his plans/schemes. Thirdly what good is talking to a enemy leader if there is little chance that leader will follow through on any promises/agreements except those that clearly benefit that leader. For reference, see results of Neville Chamberlain’s discussion with Adolph Hitler. Speaking of Adolph Hitler, most people would consider Hitler an insane evil person; this does not mean that most Germans in the 1930’s were insane evil people. It means that in a country where most of the people are sane and good, an evil person can still rise to power. It took only a small portion of the German people believing in the superiority of the Aryan race to propel Hitler to power and similarly a small proportion of Muslims buying into a divine jihad to propel a similarly sick individual into leadership of a Muslim majority country. I am not saying this has necessarily happened, I am only saying that the person who leads this country needs to have the wisdom to understand that each ruler of an enemy country must be evaluated with these factors in mind before agreeing to meet with that leader.

Marty S

mkf said...

"The attitudes of the people in the middle will be the ones I consider to be rational enough to actually solve the problem."

amen to that.

as a white man, i'm generally considered enlightened and progressive when i rail against the excesses of the simple-minded far-right (them being my tribe and all); yet, when i use the same language to slam the corresponding faction on the left i'm reflexively dismissed as a neanderthal (or, if i'm talkin about (a) black or brown folk, a racist; (b) feminists, a sexist; or (c) gay folk, a self-hating homo).

truth is, i don't give a damn what color, gender or sexual orientation somebody is--to be taken seriously by me requires, at minimum, a mind open to the idea that extremism in either direction is fatal, and that balance is essential if we're to steer our way through the perilous straits ahead without running aground on the rocks of either shore.

[a far more ponderous way of putting it than yours, perhaps, but you're the writer, not me.]

Anonymous said...

I have to say more about this talking to our enemy business, because it really bugs me.We do talk to some of our enemies. We are under the Bush administration currently sending aid to N. Korea because of a potential famine there even though they certainly fall in the enemy category. But in order to have negotiations with your enemies, by the definition of negotiations you have to be prepared to give the other side something they want. If what the Palestinians want is the destruction of Israel what can offer them? Half of Israel? Two thirds of Israel? Neville Chamberlain gave Hitler Czechoslovakia it didn't prevent WWII and its what put the word appeasement everyone's vocabulary.

Marty S

Christian M. Howell said...

Hey Steven,
Christian from HBP. Interesting article. I think the problem with most people is that they think they are special for whatever - sometimes twisted - reasons.


I mean look at West Virginia. People had the NERVE to say they "weren't ready" to vote for a black man. That is the most ambiguous yet revealing statement I've ever heard. It tells me that may of us will never be truly enlightened and live by the credo of "content of character."


It's unfortunate because it's the later generations that suffer. I mean 10 years from now the fallout from Iraq will still be affecting the rest of the world.


The funniest thing about this election is that the front-runners are truly the opposite end f the spectrum of their respective groups.

Most young women are struggling to get any amount of respect while most young black men are totally lost in their over-sized pants.

I actually do think though the best ticket for Dems is Hillary\Barack no matter who wins the nomination. It really is time for the good ol boys club to close for good.

That's the way forward.

Mike Ralls said...

"I think it comes down to what Sting said long ago: that there is nothing to fear from the Soviet Union, if the Russians love their children too. The same is true here"

Here's a clip from Palestinian TV showing how glorious it is for kids to become child-soldiers;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FvXefcvXCM

---
http://www.pmw.org.il/bulletins_may2007.htm

From Hamas TV a a video dramatization of the four-year-old daughter of female suicide bomber Reem Riyashi singing to her dead mother and vowing to follow in her footsteps. The video clip ends as the little girl picks up explosives from her mother's drawer.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fiRMLVcjfc

2. Another Hamas video encouraging the participation of children in terrorism focuses on Ahmed Yassin, the Hamas founder and religious leader killed by Israel. The video portrays young children as the continuation of Yassin’s legacy. Children are shown in uniforms, holding rifles and participating in military training. The lyrics stress the children's connection to Yassin: “Even though they killed our [Ahmad] Yassin, the land will grow a thousand Ahmad.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LB7nMZOjxyw

3. In another video, which was broadcast on Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority TV hundreds of times from 2001 to 2004, a young boy leaves a farewell letter to his parents and goes off to seek Shahada, describing the death he aspires as "sweet." This PA clip is designed to offset a child's natural fear of death, by depicting Shahada as heroic and tranquil.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0_ExnR6yxs

4. From 2000 to 2003, PA TV broadcast a music video depicting the delightful Shahid paradise of Muhammad Al-Dura, who died in crossfire. The child actor is shown flying a kite, frolicking on the beach and even at an amusement park. The clip opens with an invitation to other children from Al-Dura to aspire to Shahada: "I am waving to you not in parting, but to say 'follow me'." This video directing children to follow Al Dura to paradise as Martyrs was suddenly broadcast again in June, 2006, after Israeli troops had gathered at the border of the Gaza Strip, following the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=canTCmXEMk8

5. The result of such virulent propaganda is apparent, when listening to the interview on PA TV with two 11-year-old Palestinian girls talking about Shahada and describing it as a primary ideal and personal goal. They explain that "all Palestinian children" view Shahada as more worthwhile than living because of its promised grand Afterlife.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8dPb1bF-s4M

Anonymous said...

"My take: he wanted to serve the people of the community, and had heard sentiments like Wright's for years. They are sentiments for those who lack Barack's intellectual skills and philosophical perspective."

Wright's comments were nowhere near as bad as the media tried to portray them. They were MUCH milder than comments made by such people as MLK who spoke of the US government as being "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today" or who mentioned offhandedly working with "our sick white brothers".

Obama's issue is that he is publicly committed to running a "post-racial" campaign in a country that is anything but post-racial. This means he will need to denounce or ignore any "Black" voice perceived as critical of modern US policy.

Obama has to walk a fine line between folks who HOPE that having a Black President will make a difference in some aspect and folks who FEAR that it will make a difference.

From my perspective he's been a tad too accomodating of people that won't vote for him anyway. He needs to be careful. The next "denounce and renounce" game will be played with his wife as a target.

mjholt said...

Re Marty's comment,

You either talk or fight, and this isn't fight club.

International politics is not just dealing with the person (strong man) in power; it is dealing with all the people around that person, too. Isolating strong men seems to make their stranglehold on their people stronger, e.g. Castro.

While Chamberlain has been castigated for his "Peace in our times" statement after "negotiating" with Hitler, no matter the motivations (he was an extreme egotist) he bought GB time to prepare more for war, which was done in great part by Churchill, personally. England was among second tier of most damaged places, in terms of people and economy, from WWI, and they would have been defeated had they gone to war with Germany 1938. The quasi-war time truly helped GB. Since Chamberlain died two years later and never got to write his side of the story, we will never know his private views, only the "information" hung on him by pundits and his political enemies. He was, nevertheless, a poor leader for war.

Bush's comments were egregious since he is by far the worst leader the US has ever had, and the worst war leader imaginable. Bush is simply flailing around. Reagan illegally negotiated with Iran (he was elected but not yet in office) and achieved the release of the US hostages that Carter's no-negotiation stance had be ineffectual at doing.

I have gone from ambivalence about McCain to outright horror. Either the man will do/say anything to get into office, which makes him a liar at best, or he has dementia. Read the transcripts from some of his speeches they are internally contradictory, as well as contradicting each other. I have come to believe that McCain will seriously damage our nation. Some of this is from reading < href=:www.votevets.com"> VoteVets.

I also do not trust the people around McCain. I don't know how well Obama will do, but Hillary's silly tough talk really put me off of her. I would prefer a smart and strong president to a tough one. Right now we have a dumb and weak president.

mjholt said...

Steve,
A couple of weeks ago, you called for suggestions concerning what topics you address in Dar Kush. I would like to add to that list.

Please speak about recovery from moderate to serious injuries.

I realized I need this information as I was mudding a ceiling Sat and Sunday, and found that old injuries were lingering: a 2 year old broken should (tibia), 30+ year old fractures of three vertebrae that were "opened" in the fall that broke the shoulder, and small fractures of ankles and feet. (I had a bone-density test and it was good. I just land hard.) I don't consider any of these to be more than moderate injuries. I went to PT, did what I was supposed to do and have good range of motion, but I have not regained freedom from pain, strength, or endurance.

I am working on the warm-ups and alternatives to the Tibetans since I am out of shape, and I think I am coming along with them well.

Dan Moran said...

The next "denounce and renounce" game will be played with his wife as a target.

Of course it will, but seriously -- she's not going to hang him out to dry the way Wright did. Obama didn't renounce Wright until Wright forced him to.

Marty,

But in order to have negotiations with your enemies, by the definition of negotiations you have to be prepared to give the other side something they want.

Obama didn't say he'd negotiate, did he?

Refusing to talk to your enemies is much closer to being a sign of weakness than of strength.

Josh Jasper said...

Marty - I have to say more about this talking to our enemy business, because it really bugs me.We do talk to some of our enemies. We are under the Bush administration currently sending aid to N. Korea

We're also in direct contact with Iran on a regular basis over Iraq. We're in contact with Hamas through intermediaries over cease fires in Israel too.

But in order to have negotiations with your enemies, by the definition of negotiations you have to be prepared to give the other side something they want. If what the Palestinians want is the destruction of Israel what can offer them?

We're talking with the PLO on a continuing basis. They're closer to an ally than other Palestinian groups, and less so than others. Treating the Palestinians as a monolithic block is something even Bush isn't uneducated enough to do.

Isaels current calculus is that no amount of cease fires with Hamas are going to bear fruit for eventual peace of the kind they have with the PLO. But if you go back far enough in history, the same thing was said about the PLO - that there could never be peace with them, for exactly the reasons you claim.

Peace, or at least less bloody war was eventually obtained. And it wasn't done by ignoring the PLO and refusing to talk.

The same goes for peace in Ireland. That wasn't accomplished by people who called the other side appeasers.

When Obama says he'll talk to Ahmadinejad, who we're not currently at war with, it means that he'll meet with him in a mostly symbolic gesture of trying to work towards peace, and an end to Iran's nuclear program. Not that he'll ignore any invasion of another country by Iran.

Hillary Clinton's talk of "obliterating" Iran is disgusting. Modern nations don't treat enemies like Rome treated Carthage. Bush didn't "obliterate" Iraq. The only choice was to occupy it. That's the problem. What Colin Powell declared the "Pottery Barn" rule. You break it, you bought it. You don't just commit genocide and walk away.

Iran has a population of 65 MILLION people. I can't cheer when I hear anyone talking about obliterating them. Even if the leadership attacks another country with a nuclear weapon. It's not a gleeful thing to think about.

Steven Barnes said...

Dan nailed it: Obama said "talk" and the Right-Wing noise machine mutated this into "negotiate" (and then our President tried "appease") You've got to watch the way language mutates.
##
"Thirdly what good is talking to a enemy leader if there is little chance that leader will follow through on any promises/agreements except those that clearly benefit that leader"
So what? Who ever agrees to anything that doesn't benefit them? That is a false argument. You meet with them to take their measure, just as playing poker against human beings is very different from playing it with a computer. To find their "tells", watch their body language, see the kinds of things they will lie about, test whether their words and actions are in alignment. I would think that you would specifically elect a leader for his or her capacity to do just that, not merely follow the advice of thousands of little intel people and policy analysts. Didn't Reagan make a breakthrough with the Russians following a personal meeting? This, to me, is actual statesmanship.

Steven Barnes said...

When you look at images of people putting their children in suicide positions, your approach is to say: "these people are very different from me." My approach is to ask "under what circumstances might I do the same thing?" These are two very different starting-points for analysis. We can agree to disagree. But...I have to think that you make the same judgment about the differential behavior and/or status of other groups as well. That mode of thought isn't something easily turned on and off.

Mike Ralls said...

>When you look at images of people putting their children in suicide positions, your approach is to say: "these people are very different from me." My approach is to ask "under what circumstances might I do the same thing?"<

I actually do both. I can imagine myself as someone who believes that this world is but a moment compared to the afterlife, and that if my child dies fighting in a jihad they will have never ending joy and happiness in heaven, therefore it is a good cost-benefit scenario for my kid to die in a jihad. Because the conclusion logically follows the initial premise, its the initial premise scares the crap out of me.

And because the initial premise is not one I share, I can say, "these people are very different from me."

And here is where I obligatorily state, "That is due to cultural reasons, not genetic reasons" because (IMO) you had to deal with so much genetic crap-theories when you grew up that I think you are too inclined to assume that people think them when that is not the case.

> I have to think that you make the same judgment about the differential behavior and/or status of other groups as well.<

I think culture matters and that different cultures can create different ways of thinking from how I think. I've read memoirs and biographies of ancient Romans, Japanese shoguns, Ottoman Caliphs, 1st century Jewish prophets, 7th century Arab prophets, 19th-century slave-owners, modern day Chinese despots, and all of those had a more alien mindset to mine than the average Star Trek Alien is portrayed as having.

Different cultures produce different groups of people, and while all of those groups have huge differences between individuals within that group, that does not mean that there are not large differences between groups.

Anonymous said...

People give me a break. If the president of the United States meets with an enemy head of state its not to discuss which book most affected their life or what movie each liked best. It is an attempt to resolve issues between them which is effectively negotiations. I also didn't say that he shouldn't talk to any enemies or even that he shouldn't speak to any Palestinian or Arab leaders. What I said was that there are some leaders who should be talked to and some who shouldn't and that a person who leads this country needs to be able to recognize the difference and the need to choose. Also note that I am talking about direct communication.
This is what I heard, Obama say. Keeping lines open using third parties is a different story.

Marty S

Steven Barnes said...

I think you can speak to anyone without losing the slightest bit of who you are. The fact that his "talk" has been misinterpreted regularly as "negotiate" tells me exactly what is happening in the minds of those who object.