Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Scenario 3: "Modern Myths"

Setting: An old, run-down comic book store in a sleepy American suburb.

Its a cool day for July and the wind echoes as it floods through the silent alleyways of this middle-American town. Children occasionally ride up and down Main Street on their bicycles, dressed in t-shirts and shorts. On the corner of this village is a place called Moira's. It is a dinette/eatery that has barely seen any business in the past six months. Next door is a Bookseller's that shares space with a hardware and appliance store. Both of which are two months over-due in rent. There hasn't been much of anything lately on this once cheerful strip. Down the block at the opposite corner is an old, dusty store. A large, weathered, wooden sign hangs diagonally and is covered in peeling red paint. A shadowy figure stops in front and pauses for a moment at the door as he looks up at the sign. "Universe Comics." A bell rings as he enters. The clerk is a teenage boy, asleep behind the front counter.

FIGURE: Ehem. Excuse me, I didn't mean to startle you. I was just wondering if you carry the Year One graphic novel by Frank Miller. It's a Batman comic. Not too old, but it's a classic. I've been looking for it for some time now and this place has been the first to strike me as a carrier of valuable comic commodities. What with it being so rustic and all.

CLERK: Well... uh... I can't say that we do. I ain't never heard of anythin' like that before anyways.

FIGURE: Ah, I see. Would you mind if I had a look around then?

CLERK: ...Wha? Uhh, yeah whatever. Just don't make a mess, alright?

After rummaging through some old cardboard mail carts, the figure approaches the front counter only to find the clerk dozing off again.

FIGURE: Ahh, here it is! I'm so glad to have found it. You wouldn't believe some of the wisdom these things have to offer. I mean its not even that old of a story although its been widely influential today. They used some of the material in this graphic novel in the recently released blockbuster, Batman Begins. What a great flick. What'd you think about it?

He flops the thin graphic novel on to the counter top and begins excitedly navigating through the pages.

CLERK: Heh. Me, watch that garbage? Shit man, I'd rather forget about this stuff altogether. Bad enough I gotta babysit this kid's stuff five days a week on the pay I get. No way in hell I'd ever actually take time to watch some freak run around in tights tryin'a fly an' whatnot. That'll be ten bucks buddy.

FIGURE: Oh no, I'm not going to buy this. I haven't got any money. It's just been a while since I've read it and I find much of the premise quite intruiging. I assure you... this is far from kid's stuff.

CLERK: Ha, ha, ha, ha! Oh man, what're ya kiddin' me?! Look at this right here, I mean come on. The fella's wearin' a bat costume and kickin' people in the face! Ridiculous man, ri-di-cu-lous!

FIGURE: Well sure, the idea of a vigilante bringing justice to a corrupt town under the guise of a huge bat may seem a little far-fetched at first, but that's not its essence. Have you ever read The Iliad and The Odyssey?

CLERK: Well, I remember we had ta read The Odyssey for English in eleventh grade, but I didn't pay much attention. I did think the guy's name was cool, though. Odyssius... means the giver and receiver of pain. Heh, heh.

FIGURE: Yes, well many of the superheros that have been created since are just an extention of those same characters. They're called archetypes. Batman's parents were killed and that was his life-changing trauma that would haunt him forever; engulfing him in perpetual pain. In turn, he then decides to become reborn and punish all those who like him, have suffered but have chosen to inflict pain on others due to their own wounds. There's a very thin line that separates Batman from his enemies. He's just as insane as they are, but he chooses to do good.

CLERK: So what's that got to do with the Odyssey?

FIGURE: The ancients had a great way of using myths to convey timeless messages. The ancient Greeks and Roman were most well known for it, but the oral tradition that we've come to know as the myth has been passed down from time immemorial. What is the first thing that comes to mind when I say the word

CLERK: Fiction.

FIGURE: Ahh, see the connotations we have connected to these words? So much so that it obscures any of the true meaning. Myth comes from the Greek
mythos meaning "word of mouth." These oral traditions were passed down from generation to generation as great traditions of education. Each story has an essential moral. In the 17th century, Rene' Descartes began discussing the idea of nature and nurture being two of the most influencial forms of human development. In other words, your genetic predispositions and your most early indoctrination effect much of your behavior throughout your life. The ancients had some grasp of this concept so they told their youth of these stories we know as myths. While the stories were epic and gradiose, they served to subconsciously indoctrinate certain values and virtues in the youth of the ancients that would pervade throughout their civilization. They taught them the morals of kindness, compassion, greater good, higher power and respect for nature just to name a few.

A strange look has come upon the clerk's face. While he had at first made up his mind to ask the unidentified customer to kindly depart from the establishment, he felt a certain importance and urgency in his message. Oddly enough, this apathetic high school graduate felt for the first time he was actually learning something.

CLERK: So you're sayin' that them Greeks and Romans didn't actually believe in all these gods and heros?

FIGURE: Many of the common folk later came to misconstrue the true meanings of myths and metaphors with history and dogma. As a matter of fact, we know much less about many of these beliefs and religious systems than most scholars would have you believe. The foremost authoratative figure on Mythology has for the past forty years been Joseph Campbell. He taught that these archetypes took on a thousand faces and forms, but were essentially the same hero. It was the same message being conveyed in a less dry, text book manner. We learn alot more from ficition than fact sometimes.

CLERK: Ya know man, I did see Spiderman in theaters. I went with a bunch of my friends. I figured it was gonna be lame but I did really like one of the lines in the movie. The Green Goblin says to Spiderman, "We are who we choose to be." I was thinkin' about that for a very long time. Makes so much sense... I mean I sit here every day, open to close. This isn't me, this isn't who I am. And I feel stuck here some times and I curse everything else around me when, really, I'm the only one who can do anything to change it.

FIGURE: That's absolutely right. These are the things we take away from our modern myths. One of my favorite lines is from Batman Begins... Batman
is my favorite super hero. "It's not who you are underneath, its what you do that defines you."

CLERK: So much truth in that, man. I mean I hear all these kids talkin' about how one day they're gonna graduate and be somethin' big... an' all I ever see em actually doin' is drinkin' and going out til real late... not even workin' any jobs. I think it's one thing to root for the good guy to win when you're watchin' a movie, but knowing the difference between right and wrong is different from actually doing good. You can talk all you want... all theory and no action. At the end of the day its only really what you do that determines who you are. So sit back and spout out all your prayers, likes and dislikes about humanity, society, the way things should be. But in the end actions speak louder than words and all you're doing is paying your ideals a lip service.

FIGURE: While Batman may be my favorite hero, the quintessential hero is Superman. He is the epitome of every great self-sacrificing hero ever written about. He has been blessed with a gift and he chooses to sacrifice his own happiness every day only to do what he believes is right by other people. Talk about actions speaking louder than words. He's not Clark Kent... he's Superman. He loves humanity and that is why he is its savior. His alter ego is a shy, mild-mannered, timid, unsure, man, which is exactly how he sees the people he is defending. If ever there has been a dying and rising savior (and there have been since long before the time of Jesus) Superman embodies our contemporary ideals about that savior. He's really our hope that in each of us there lives a hero; a savior. He is that idea we hold on to. He's that hope that no matter what happens we will always possess a power that is greater than most anything. That power is the ability to do great things.

CLERK: I guess if we just pay lip service to justice and good, but don't act on our higher voice, or what some people'd call our "conscience," we're just a walking hypocrisy and nothing else man.

FIGURE: Well... we are always who we choose to be.

Leave the cave.



Some things are harder to accept than others. The previous sentence may seem at first an obvious statement, similar to other concepts and ideas that are commonly tossed around in our day-to-day lives. What more are words but merely sounds that indicate specific concepts and ideas? While we'd group words such as love, hatred, truth, justice and freedom as those that we have clear and concise concepts of, it is impossible for us to ever be able to put ourselves in the perspective of another to see just what their "clear and concise" definition of the word may be. Like most things, our definitions of love, hatred, truth, justice and freedom are completely relative to our own perspectives. This fact may seem harder to accept than another. It would be safe to assume that the idea of love being comprised not of one word, but of multiple ideas and concepts such as attachment and trust in varying degrees, is completely different than many other ideas of love. Would this perception of love be obscured and considered totally void of any merit or truth? Once again, whatever answers we think we hold to the question posed are completely relative.

Consider that argument can be provided to anything and that any ideological structures that oppose one another can be reduced to rubble within a few seconds by each other. In fact, all of the ideas or writings expressed in this blog can and have been picked apart with a few moments of analysis and argument. However, this blog is here only to offer another perspective, not to claim that the one it offers is absolute truth. These ideas may also be defended sturdily by adhering to the same concept with which they were torn down: Truth is also relative. We spend so much of our time formulating opinions and ideas, gathering them all to be truth because in our experience these equations have produced the most consistant results. Let me use this example: When love is mentioned, the word enters our ear and reverberates through the ear canal, eventually coming to our minds. This concept of love could generate a picture of a past relationship that had ended badly. It could then trigger the memory of yet another relationship that had ended even worse. Love for that man is much different than love for another who, say, has loved and married only one faithful partner. Peace is different for the man who lives alone in the mountains than the man who lives in the city. So when we clench so tightly our ideas, writing them in stone... what do we often end up with? Well, most of the time... argument.

It may be asserted that Socrates was correct when he taught that we, as humans, know nothing. For even the concept of knowing is only that- a machination of the human mind based on formulaic events and reactions. At least he was honest enough to admit it. Sadly, he was brought to trial and sentenced to death ultimately because someone, or a great many, did not agree with him. It is especially important to keep in mind that validation does not always equate to truth. Justice to one man may be revenge to another. Is it justice to murder in cold blood the man who murdered one's parents? Is it justice to kill innocent civilians in the homeland of those who have done the same? This blogger does not believe that justice is an eye for an eye or that death, pain and suffering of any kind, for any reason, bring balance to any equation. It is only through ultimate compassion that one may see his own faults and through empathy that he may forgive, repent or be forgiven. Tell the truth- if not for second, third, fourth, hundredth chances how many loved ones would still stand beside us? Our thirst for blood and vengeance should NEVER outweigh an unquenchable desire for justice. We as a society no longer know what it is to turn the other cheek. Blood spilled in vendetta only brings more blood spilled in vendetta. To turn crime against the criminal will only duplicate the scenario. This convoluted sense of justice is no more than a pathetic pride fight that no one will ever really win. We must learn to put down our flags and live life not as a victory march, but as a celebration. And while the ideas presented in this post may suggest a sort of hopeless child's game of constantly asking "why?" please do not mistake them for something so simple. Suffice it to say that no matter how obnoxiously desperate the child's game may be, it is true that we will always end up saying " I just don't know." Would it not be more beneficial then, for us to stop destructive ways of living that are perpetuated simply in tradition's sake dead in their tracks and start a new culture of understanding?

Here are some ideas on the definitions of a few common concepts.

Love - A relative accumulation of varying intense emotions brought about by mental stimuli; some of which traditionally include euphoria, trust, attachment and trauma.

Hatred - A negative accumulation of varying intense emotions brought about by mental stimuli; some of which traditionally include anger, frustration, depression and trauma.

Trust - The belief that something will fulfill one's expectations of it.

Peace - The balancing of two conflicting opposites.

Leave the cave.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Article - Stephen Soldz

Paranoia, depression, or a world of hope:

Destructiveness and struggle for a better world

By Stephen Soldz

05/21/06 "Information Clearing House' -- -- Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson hit the nail on the head recently with his column "Nation of Fear". A bare majority may oppose the NSA database on all of us, but it’s pretty terrifying that the same polls indicate that 40% of Americans are willing to have the government record their every call in its enormous database. As Robinson points out, such attitudes are astounding in a country which has long rejected a national identity card and which would launch a revolution sooner than accept modest controls on gun ownership.

The explanation, Robinson claims, is the climate of fear that pervades the country, a climate that President Bush and his administration have manipulated, but which they did not create:

If a psychiatrist were to put the nation on the couch, the shrink's notes would read something like this: "Patient feels vulnerable to attack; cannot remember having experienced similar feeling before. Patient accustomed to being in control; now feels buffeted by outside forces beyond grasp. Patient believes livelihood and prosperity being usurped by others (repeatedly mentions China). Patient seeks scapegoats for personal failings (immigrants, Muslims, civil libertarians). Patient is by far most powerful nation in world, yet feels powerless. Patient is full of unfocused anger."

Robinson is correct about the fear, of course, but he does not do much to explain its origins. 9-11 was just the precipitating incident. But fear stems from insecurity and from guilt. Insecurity pervades the country as job security disappears along with the unions that fought for it and families experience large swings in income as members lurch from jobs to unemployment to new jobs, often at lower wages. Workers without professional training have little but WalMart wages and conditions to look forward to. Insecurity increases as the wages of the majority have almost stagnated for several decades, and as the country goes through a wave of downward mobility for many.

As job and wage security have eroded, the social safety net has been weakened. Over the last 25 years, our cities have become full of the homeless, whom most of us try hard to not notice. Americans are aware that decent medical care depends on remaining among the fortunately employed and insured, a status that can change as easily as one can receive a layoff notice. So-called welfare reform, passed under Presi dent Clinton, was a clear statement that Americans are ultimately on their own. A little help may come the way of the unfortunate, but, should circumstances not improve, the homeless shelter and soup kitchen are the only help of last resort. That this could become the fate of many of us was made clear after Hurricane Katrina, where the government proved profoundly uninterested and unable to help hundreds of thousands of its citizens.

In the America of today, government and society increasingly disdain responsibility to help, though, if individuals feel magnanimous, they can give to the private charity of their choice. As Barbara Ehrenreich pointed out several years ago, the dismantling of what this country had of a welfare state has been followed by the development of massive social service delivery by the religious right for those with allegiance to their positions and organizations. Aid is not a right, but a grace to be bestowed upon those found worthy. Insecurity is thus an increasing part of daily life.

Then we have 9-11 and the “war on terror.” Americans, singularly uninterested in other peoples, became aware that some of those others perceived Americans as the enemy. The country that viewed itself as the strongest and richest country on earth was the target of others whose motives we had no knowledge of and no interest in understanding. In situations like this, those others are ascribed motives. The ascribed motives are derived, not from an understanding of the other people, but from the depths within us. We give them those of our motives we are dimly aware of yet disown.

Thus, the country that spends more of its resources on war than any other is afraid of the terrifying killers in pitifully weak countries, the evil empire. The nation that possesses more nuclear weapons than all others and that rains hi-tech death from the sky upon numerous countries too weak to defend themselves (think Panama, Sudan, Serbia, Iraq for starters) is afraid of the mad terrorists out to bomb with weapons of mass destruction. And the country that flees headlong from the uncertainties of freedom worries that others “envy our freedoms” as our President once claimed, back in those days when he was the wise, all-knowing leader for so many.

Of course, fears often have a glimmer of truth to them. Thus, the country that proportionally consumes more of the world’s resources than any other is concerned that others want to steal from us, to take away the resources we stole fair and square. And every once in a while our defenses weaken and we glimpse the environmental destruction that awaits us if we do not change the path we are on.

Psychoanalysts have learned that, when faced with his or her destructive potential, an individual is faced with three major coping strategies. With the paranoid strategy, that person can massively deny the destructiveness within while simultaneously projecting it onto others, as many in this country have been doing the last several years. With the depressive approach, the person can take the blame upon his or her self, engaging in depressive self-attack accompanied by hopelessness and passivity, as has been the case among so many of those unhappy with the direction they see the country taking. Finally, one can refuse to be paralyzed by fear or by despair, face up to reality, acknowledge one’s one destructiveness and act to contain its effects along with the fear and destructiveness of the formerly feared and hated others. Only then can one start the difficult process of transforming that destructive energy into a constructive force that builds ties to others and together with them creates an alternative. In perilous times like these, that last possibility is the only one that can lead to a sustainable world capable of surviving and truly worth living in. It remains to be seen if we American people are willing to cast aside our fears and live in a world of reality, of uncertainty and occasional chaos, but also a world of hope.

Stephen Soldz is psychoanalyst, psychologist, public health researcher, and faculty member at the Institute for the Study of Violence of the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis. He is a member of Roslindale Neighbors for Peace and Justice and founder of Psychoanalysts for Peace and Justice. He maintains the Iraq Occupation and Resistance Report web page and the Psyche, Science, and Society blog.

Leave the cave.


Sunday, May 14, 2006

Some Words of Wisdom

It is true that, in general, people need something drastic to occur before they are woken from their deep, coma-like sleep of indifference and apathy. There is no need for me to affirm the fact that we will one day have no choice but to act and by then we will be thoroughly unprepared. We are assuring ourselves of this fact every day that our condition worsens. Each day that we remain inactive and indifferent towards the many crimes of humanity against our world we are forcing our children and their children to bear the cross we so discompassionately have constructed for them; that is to say, if indeed we don't end up dying nailed to it ourselves. The most important advice I, or anyone for that matter, could ever give or receive, is to look beyond your own pain. Duty, justice, action, furthering the evolution of humankind- these things can provide fulfillment not yet known by many. We have our part every day in shaping the world in which we and future generations will live. Every step we take is met with the opportunity of leaving a footprint in the sands of time and history. Each and every moment that we pay no mind to the pollution and global disasters that we are creating only to inevitably be effected by, we take for granted our life-sustaining mother earth. Every day we do not embrace with love and compassion for all living things, indescriminately, we forget our history and the words of our fathers. In the eight seconds that pass every moment, as a child dies from a water-related illness, or starvation, or war, we consign ourselves to comitting the very acts with which we will kill our brothers and sisters. At the end of the day, we will have no one to blame but ourselves... unless we stand up now, and ACT.

"What more is history than a series of fables agreed upon?"

- Napoleon Bonaparte

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world."

- Mahatma, Mohandas K. Ghandi

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

- Benjamin Franklin

"Mourn not the dead that in the cool earth lie, but rather mourn the apathetic throng, the coward and the meek who see the world's great anguish and its wrong, and dare not speak."

- Ralph Chaplin

"It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried."
"Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened."

- Sir Winston Churchill

"The ruling class has the schools and press under its thumb. This enables it to sway the emotions of the masses."

- Albert Einstein

"The truth that makes men free is for the most part the truth men wish not to hear."

- Herbert Agar

"The world is a dangerous place to live in; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."

- Albert Einstein

"It is the sacred principles enshrined in the United Nations charter to which the American people will henceforth pledge their allegiance."

- President George Bush addressing the General Assembly of the U.N., Feb. 1st, 1992

"In my line of work you have to keep saying things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda."

- President George W. Bush (He was applauded afterwards.)

"I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent."

- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Francis Hopkinson, March 13, 1789

"People should not be afraid of their governments; governments should be afraid of their people."

- V for Vendetta

"The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference and undernourishment."

- Robert Maynard Hutchins

"All propagand has to be popular and has to adapt its spiritual level to the perception of the least intelligent of those whom it itends to direct itself."

- Adolf Hitler

"We must not confuse dissent from disloyalty. We must remember always, that accusation is not proof, and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another, we will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason. If we dig deep into our history and our doctrine, we will remember we are not descendant from fearful men. Not from men who dared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were for the moment unpopular."

- Edward R. Murrow

"'You can't fight city hall.' 'Death and taxes.' 'Don't talk about politics or religion.' This is all the equivalent of enemy propaganda, rolling across the picket line. 'Lay down, GI! Lay down, GI!'. We saw it all through the 20th Century. And now on the 21st Century, it's time to stand up and realize, that we should NOT allow ourselves to be crammed into this rat maze. We should not SUBMIT to dehumanization. I don't know about you, but I'm concerned with what's happening in this world. I'm concerned with the structure. I'm concerned with the systems of control. Those that control my life, and those that seek to control it EVEN MORE! I want FREEDOM! That's what I want, and that's what YOU should want! It's up to each and every one of us to turn loose of just some of the greed, the hatred, the envy, and yes, the insecurities, because that is the central mode of control, make us feel pathetic, small, so we'll willingly give up our sovereignty, our liberty, our destiny. We have GOT to realize we're being conditioned on a mass scale. Start challenging this corporate slave state! The 21st Century's gonna be a new century! Not the century of slavery, not the century of lies and issues of no significance, of classism and statism, and all the rest of the modes of control... it's gonna be the age of humankind, standing up for something PURE and something RIGHT! What a bunch of garbage, liberal, Democratic, conservative, Republican, it's all there to control you, two sides of the same coin! Two management teams, bidding for control of the CEO job of Slavery Incorporated! The TRUTH is out there in front of you, but they lay out this buffet of LIES! I'm SICK of it, and I'M NOT GONNA TAKE A BITE OUT OF IT! DO YA GOT ME? Resistance is NOT futile, we're gonna win this thing, humankind is too good, WE'RE NOT A BUNCH OF UNDERACHIEVERS, WE'RE GONNA STAND UP, AND WE'RE GONNA BE HUMAN BEINGS! WE'RE GONNA GET FIRED UP ABOUT THE REAL THINGS, THE THINGS THAT MATTER-- CREATIVITY, AND THE *DYNAMIC* *HUMAN* *SPIRIT* THAT REFUSES TO *SUBMIT*! WELL THAT'S IT, that's all I've got to say. It's in your court now."

- Waking Life

"Apathy is the glove into which evil slips its hand."

- Bodie Thoene

"Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people."

- President Theodore Roosevelt

"The exact contrary of what is popularly believed is often the truth."

- Jean de la Bruyere

"There is a chance for the President of the United States to use the disaster ... to carry out what his father - a phrase his father used I think only once, and it hasn't been used since - and that is a New World Order."
Senator Gary Hart, speaking three days after 9/11 at a CFR meeting -
there's the sound wav.

" entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off."

- Fight Club

"In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happened, you can bet it was planned that way."

- President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the desire to rule it."
"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed, and thus clamorous to be led to safety, by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."

- H. L. Menken

"The real rulers in Washington are invisible and exercise power from behind the scenes."

- Justice Felix Frankfurter, U.S. Supreme Court Justice

"...The age of nations must end... The governments of the nations have decided to order their separate sovereignties into one government to which they surrender their arms."

- Preliminary Draft of a World Constitution, 1948, Introduced in Congress by Senator Glen Taylor in 1950.

"Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of State and corporate power."

- Benito Mussolini

"I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies."

- Thomas Jefferson

"Half of writing history is hiding the truth."

- Serenity

"The true equation is 'democracy' = government by world financiers...The main mark of modern governments is that we do not know who governs, de facto any more than de jure. We see the politician and not his backer; still less the backer of the backer; or what is most important of all, the banker of the backer. Enthroned above all, in a manner without parallel in all past, is the veiled prophet of finance, swaying all men living by a sort of magic, and delivering oracles in a language not understanded [sic] of the people."

- J. R. R. Tolkien

"There is no way to peace; Peace is the way."

- Author Unknown

"We're consumers. We are bi-products of a life-style obsession."

- Tyler Durden

"You sharpen the human appetite to the point where it can split atoms with its desire; you build egos the size of cathedrals; fiber-optically connect the world to every eager impulse; grease even the dullest dreams with these dollar-green, gold-plated fantasies, until every human becomes an aspiring emperor, becomes his own God... and where can you go from there?... And as we're straddling from one deal to the next, who's got his eye on the planet, as the air thickens, the water sours, and even the bees' honey takes on the metallic taste of radioactivity? And it just keeps coming, faster and faster. There's no chance to think, to prepare; it's buy futures, sell futures, when there is no future."

- The Devil's Advocate

"The future is not something that is entered; the future is something we create."

- Leonard I. Sweet

"If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator."

- President George W. Bush

In 1818, John Adams wrote:

"The Revolution was effected before the war commenced... The Revolution was in the minds and the hearts of the people."

Homework: watch this -

Leave the cave.


Monday, May 08, 2006

An Introduction to Leaving...

The last entry, entitled "Scenario," was posted merely to serve the purpose of shaking the foundation upon which many of our current social preconceptions have been so steadily built. Therfore, do not think that I (unlike our most brainwashed of citizens) shun dissent. In fact, I welcome it as an invaluable tool with which to sharpen the intellect in the areas of logic, reason and perspective. To quote Jean-Paul Sartre, "In Heaven's name, why is it so important to think the same things all together?" I pose this question before all of you who care to see it and I offer this suggestion: Disagreement is only dangerous or destructive when there is an emphasis on the positive connotations of agreement. In other words, we view disagreement as a forefront for debate, and in many instances, argument. However, the only reason that this is so is because we make it so. The most important life-lesson, I believe, is that since each of us are completely different individuals, drawing upon completely different experiences, we will undoubtedly possess completely different views on a great many things. Therefore, nay-sayers come forth and ye shall be embraced with unending encouragement. I do not purport to force my opinions on anyone; I am merely offering an alternative take on things. While some would view the previous post as a bit "militant" in approach, I have only to say that in my mind there is nothing so gripping, enthralling and inspiring as passion, and it is with much passion that I engage in all of my endeavors. Let it be known, however, that I do not now, nor ever will advocate the use of terrorism, violence, and/or destructive forms of protest to encourage or initiate reform. I would also like to make it clear that the opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of With that said, let us begin our journey out of the cave.

In Book VII of "The Republic," Plato makes referrence to the allegory of the cave. Albeit a bit dated, I believe it serves as the most brilliant analogy of the human condition for every succeeding generation since its inception. Here is another scenario:

Setting: A busy, metropolitan University, nestled in the heart of a bustling city. The first day of class, last semester.

The heavy, towering oak doors of the lecture hall resound mightily throughout the empty hallway as they close. Scotch-taped on to the door is a piece of looseleaf notebook paper that has been written on with permanent black marker. A student approaches curiously and notices the following written on the piece of paper: "Welcome to Philosophy 101. Today's specials - An Introduction to Leaving. Come in and be seated!"
Inside, a portly, unshaven man, dressed in casual attire stands at the back of the room and turns off the lights once everyone is seated. A wide projector screen slowly lowers at the front of the room.

TEACHER: "Good afternoon class, and welcome to Philosophy 101. Without any further ado, I'd like you all to direct your attention to the projector screen at the front of the room."

Squeaking chairs echo throughout the lecture hall as the students turn to face front. With their attention focused, the teacher begins the presentation. What follows is a fifteen-minute video, comprised of video and audio clips, largely obtained from official media sources. These clips are of war, destruction, pollution and the greatest crimes of humanity. Mass graves, mass suicide, mass destruction; poverty, crime, greed, anger, utter chaos and total devastation. There are clips of the Gulf War; clips of Nazi concentration camps and mass graves. There are clips of the millions dying every day from diseases such as AIDS. There are clips of shoot-outs, break-ins, rape victims and public execution. There is war in the streets of Kabul, poverty in the villages of Kenya and riots in the streets of Ecuador. Vietnam; Grenada; Kosovo; Russia; Spain; all wraught with destruction. All around the world, civilization crumbles.
Some students exit, unable to cope with the brutal visuals. This goes on for fifteen minutes. Mass destruction of vital ecosystems; irreparable pollution and oil spills. The explosions at Hiroshima and the victims left alive in the aftermath. Images of flesh hanging from limbs give rise to an audible shriek from the crowd of students. A hum of disapproval lingers briefly before dying down. Finally, there is a clip of a mother on her knees in the street. She is holding her child in her arms as it struggles for its one last breath. Fire is ablaze everywhere as war tears through the streets. The caption at the bottom of the screen indicates that this was from a live BBC broadcast over a decade ago. It slowly zooms-in to the mother's tear-filled eyes. She screams frantically towards the sky. The students could feel the pain and anguish of her peals.

The video ends. The lights come on and the teacher makes his way to the front of the class. After a brief pause...

"The most disturbing thing that has just been presented before you is not the images, but the fact that this is not fiction. All of these video and audio clips have been compiled from corporate news sources in the media and have been broadcasted on television at one point..." "

The teacher lets this sink in as the students sit, awe-struck and silent.

"...Later, we'll stroll down the hallway and maybe wander into the cafeteria. Maybe we'll head to another class, or head back to our current place of residence and flop ourselves onto our beds. We'll be taking it easy; living our lives. Will we stop think of the lives that have had what is to us an improbability become a harsh reality? Well, I'd like to hope so... but probably not. The idea that I'm submitting to you is that the greatest destruction we face is that of our own. The greatest enemy we have is our own inability to see the big picture. The problem starts with education. I am here today to educate you of reality. Not the reality your parents have told you about. No, not the one your future employers would agree with. Today we will take our first step into a larger reality. Today we will discuss our caves."

Many of the students are still settling from the shock of having witnessed such disturbing visuals only minutes ago. There is a general mood of confusion and disapproval circulating around the room. The students bide their time and listen to what the instructor has to say, for the sake of their grades. The teacher then raises the projector screen to reveal a diagram of a cave drawn on the blackboard.

TEACHER: "Plato had an idea of what the average human is constantly engaged in, mentally. For this, we refer to "The Allegory of the Cave," in Book VII of "The Republic." First, I should tell you that an allegory is a work in which the events and characters are understood to serve a symbolic purpose. In other words, an allegory is a story meant to effectively present an idea by illustrating it in more clear terms. In his allegory, Plato compared most people's mental state to prisoners chained together in a cave since birth. These prisoners sat facing the back wall of the cave their entire lives, never moving from one spot. Behind them, on the other side of the cave, was a roadway leading to other caves that passed over a crawl space. Even further towards the other end of the cave, behind the roadway, was a fire. Other people would occaisionally walk across the roadway and pass the fire, casting their shadows on the other wall of the cave. Everything that the prisoners had ever heard or seen was cast by shadows and echoes of other things. Therefore, the prisoners mistook appearance for reality; they thought that the things they had seen on the wall were real and knew nothing else. Now if some prisoners were to break free and escape from their chains, they would turn around and realize that there is more than the shadows on the wall. They would crawl underneath the roadway and up through the crawl space which Plato terms "the rough ascent to sunlight." When they got to the other side, some would be free. However, some would NOT be able to handle coming to grips with the larger reality. They would crawl back into their caves and stay there, safe from the many things they have never known. Would you be able to handle it if everything you thought you knew was really an extremely miniscule aspect of a much larger picture?"

The students sit in contemplative silence. A student in the back row raises his hand.

"Yes... you in the back?"

STUDENT: "I've heard this before. What Plato means to say is that what we consider "reality" is only what our senses, like touch, sight, sound, taste and scent can perceive. Other senses that, say, animals possess, like keen intuition, are things we miss out on. Kind of like how some people can feel when they're being watched, or when someone reads your fortune. Hey, look at a guy like John Edwards or Edgar Cayce. We miss out on things like that by giving our sensory organs too much faith. And because of this, we miss out on the big picture, right?"

TEACHER: "Yes, that is absolutely correct."

STUDENT: "Alright then, but what does all that have to do with those gruesome images of war and violence that we were shown at the beginning of class?"

Suddenly there is a rumble of agreement from the students in their seats. The teacher guestures with his hands for everyone to settle down just for a moment so that he may be allowed to answer the question.

TEACHER: "Everything that you saw in that fifteen-minute video was caused by humankind's inability to see the larger picture. Hate is begot by misunderstanding; war is begot by conflicting opposites; peace is begot by finding a balance of the opposites. The most dangerous of these all, however, is apathy. Apathy is begot by the widely circulated notion that all the horrible things you see on television are, and will remain, miles and miles away. It is the notion that we are safe and that there is no way we can do anything to change the path we are on. Unfortunately, if you buy into this notion for long, I believe, in a very short time you will find that you are mistaken."

Leave the cave.

References: - A very good illustration of the cave.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


Setting: A high school classroom somewhere in a peaceful, quiet, middle-American suburb. Some time last Thursday.

The bell rings and class begins session. The shuffling of desks, chairs and papers amid a busy hum of background conversation decrescendos. A tall, slender man dressed in casual attire approaches the blackboard at the front of the room and addresses the class.

TEACHER: "Good morning all."


TEACHER: "I see that you've made it here on time today and I am delighted to tell you that the week turn-over for exams is still in effect. So you will be receiving your graded exams back on Tuesday. However, today we will be addressing some more abstract material."

With a taut smile, he turns to face the blackboard with his back to the class. After a brief pause...

Can anyone here tell me what today is?"

STUDENT1: "...Thursday."

STUDENT2: "The twenty-fifth?"

TEACHER: "Correct. But beyond that..."

The students give a muddled look of confusion, struggle for a moment with the question and give up.

"Today is just another day. Really, anything can happen. I mean, when you think of it logically... really... anything can happen. Certain restrictions are abound, sure, but within these parameters, and obeying these certain physical laws, life exists, and anything you can dream of is pretty much a possibility. I don't mean to be preachy, so forgive me if that is how you are perceiving this. What I mean to say simply... is that you could be swimming, hiking, traveling, reading a good book, watching a bad movie, writing, sleeping in Prague, dreaming in a field in Ireland, eating in a cafe in Paris, running along the Great Wall of China, etcetera. But, you're not. You're sitting here, in this class room."

The students have become very quiet and seem perplexed. They have not for the last few moments been able to understand just what the teacher is getting at. There seems to be an awkward tension building in the air.

"How impersonal. How degrading it all is when I look at it from afar. Forcing your compliance to sit here and listen to what whoever wrote this shit wants to stick into your head. Hell, it's practically brainwash. Winners write the goddamn history books, right? But who decides what we teach you and why its taught?"

The Teacher throws his hands up and loosens his tie a little. His eyes are beginning to shift slightly erratically and his demeanor is changing in the same direction. However, the students seem intrigued.

"Shit, I'm even starting to feel a little guilt. Look at you pathetic things. You sit here laughing and giggling, not knowing that every... single... day you're being taught to submit to the illusion that someone else has "power" or "authority" over you. That's really all it is. No one has the right to tell you what you can and cannot do if its not violating any of their individual rights. And I'm sure as shit that there's no individual right to control another individual. It kind of makes me nauseas now that I think about it- how pathetic a state your feeble little minds must be in. Worker bees. Shit... that's all you're being groomed to be."

The students listen more carefully, some with hesitation and others with excitement. It is clear that the teacher is getting very excited himself.

"Well... sure, you'll live your ignorant little shit of a life walking about in some half-sleep, rushing from point A to point B because you "have to." Never stopping once to consider the alternatives, and even if so, probably too scared to take a risk. And that's exactly what they want. They don't want a revolutionary if it's not for their revolution! They don't want a visionary if it's not for their vision! They want a worker drone to stimulate the economy- a worker bee to perpetuate and enlongate their reign of mental imprisonment! And by "they" I mean those who have power over your life and who seek to have even more. Look at you. You sit there laughing and giggling, letting each precious moment pass you by and go to waste. What concerns you? Is it the television you're going to be glued to for an average of about 4 hours between today and tonight? Watching what? Some pop idol be worshipped in the holy name of validation? Some professional athlete be what you have the power to become, but aren't because your fat ass is glued to a seat in the suspense of something so mind-numbingly trivial as a GAME. What experiencial value does that contain? Worker bees! Hell, you're so isolated from each other and the rest of the world because of this gigantic rat race to make money. And then what? Well we figure, there's got to be a good reason to want to make money... maybe it's the car that I'm saving up to buy that'll fill this void. Or maybe whenever the Bowflex is delivered, or that new bathing suit I ordered gets here. Waiting perpetually for the happiness that is seemingly just around the corner. And leading back to what? Trying to make more money to buy the things you think, but ultimately won't, buy you true happiness. All the while, war is being waged and your friends, families and strangers pay the price of losing a loved one at the cost of someone elses fight. Shit, what about the destruction of the planet? Goddamn, if this isn't a time of disaster then when was? What, because we have ipods, means we've evolved so much? I mean has anyone ever heard of the sacred Om?!"


TEACHER: "Of course not. Imagine this, if you can: over 5,000 years ago in the Indus River Valley, the people there believed in the sacred Om. The Om to them translates the belief that vibration is the essence of all life, which is why they vibrate their vocal chords to make the sound "Om." Modern science took this long to tell us that all matter consists merely of condensed light energy, vibrating at very low speeds. So from the primordial nothing, came something... and it was a vibration. Over 5,000 years ago people knew this, but communicated it differently and we now call them "primitive." You're telling me we've evolved? You're telling me about how far science has come when 50% of its efforts in debate and arguments are to displace and supplant religion? I've got news for ya- I dunno if you've realized, but pretty much ALL of society up to this point has had its foundation in thousands of years of religious tradition... and they want to throw that away? And what about religion? These people have been fighting for thousands of years and they'll fight for thousands more! Cancer, car accidents, drugs, domestic abuse... these aren't the lead causes of death. Religion is. And we've evolved? What about the battery found in Baghdad dating back to around 2,000 years ago? A large clay pot with an asphault stopper. There's an iron rod through the middle of the jar, surrounded by a layer of copper. When filled with any electrolytic substance, like grape juice, this thing conducts electricity! Shit, I bet you knew nothing of that. Damn right, 'cause in America education is the enemy. Keep their minds closed otherwise they may just wise up and become aware of the great accomplishments that have paved the way for humankind. We might just be inspired by finding that the absolute truth is that men have risen well above their potential and have held the flaming sword of truth, justice, love, life and progress, lighting the way for absolutely any possibility to become a reality. It's time to raise that sword again and stick it deep into the belly of opression, fear, injustice, mental slavery, educational monopoly, ignorance, greed and most of all APATHY. Get up off your asses! Voltaire said it best: "Every man is guilty of the good he does not do!" This moment is all you have, so don't squander it. As humans in this generation, there are many things that are currently larger than us. But it is in our power to rise to such enormous proportions, so that nothing is greater than our accomplishments. And if you don't like my message and think that I'm wrong in standing by my opinion... then don't listen. This world was forged on the ideas of great men. Without ideas we have no identity, without opinions we are nothing. It has not been the mindless, the apathetic, the "live and let live/go about your business" type who have made changes. It has been those who had an idea and acted upon it. It has been those who claim the lost for their side, before the tyrannical can chain them to the earth, who ultimately enlighten the lives of others. And there has scarce been a time when change was so absolutely imperative as right NOW. Class dismissed."

Leave the cave.