Self-pity or new process?

Posted in response to sadness over the current state of things, in particular here, the fate of rainforests in Brazil under its new president.

In the midst of bad times the one way to cope that I know of is to get mad, not sad, mad enough to find the creative energy to do what seems at the moment to be impossible. It takes nerve and it takes will and it takes energy so it is a costly fix but it is the way through and possibly the way out. The roots of the problems need to be discovered–hard work, exposed–hard work–and cut–hard and dangerous work. To do such takes a different set of values and a different mind set and it is incumbent upon those who have the opportunity to engage the minds of others to start the process. Risky business but probably now essential to the survivable of decent civilization.

Nationalism, racism, tribalism, and sexism

Nationalism, racism, tribalism, and sexism are aspects of the same purview, sexism somewhat different because the differences between the sexes are real differences in the sense that sex is naturally of consequence of life, the other isms only of consequence because of decisions human beings, not nature, makes concerning how difference is regarded.  All reflect problematic in the way people choose to think about one another.  That the many are prone, in one way or another, to allow themselves to engage in such prejudicial ways of thinking and willingly act upon that thinking constantly impinges on my strong desire to believe that human beings are truly capable of engaging life humanely.  As were all who carry some degree of humaneness, I was disgusted by the carnage that occurred in a Jewish Synagogue in Pittsburg on Saturday.  I was also disturbed by the reaction of a number of people I know who thought the tragedy to be so much of a Jewish one as to pull it away from the context in which it exists, as first a crime against humanity and then, particularly, in this case, against people who the killer understood to be Jewish.  He did kill Jews but he exists amongst a class of killers who mass murders of people they, the killers, locate within the human race by tribe or race or national origin or by sex to harm or destroy.

So from where is it that such people who kill and do harm to others come?  They come from societies or sectors of society in which differences in people that are naturally of little consequence are made to be differences that count in deciding how people of one kindor anothercan and should be treated. Not all, probably not most of those who hold such prejudices would admit to holding them, often because they do not see the discriminations they make to be prejudicial.  For this reason, discrimination is, for a good many, simply a fact of life, no harm meant by it.

Thus, it  was disturbing to me to listen to many of those who expressed despair over the events at the Tree of Life Temple on Saturday, a good many of those who are Jewish speaking of the tragedy as though it was unique in some way because it involved Jews.  Only those of the Jewish faith were slaughtered.  That is true.  But to treat the event as different from those involving those who are not Jewish is symptomatic of tribalism, sorrow made more profound because they are ours, this symptomatic of the us/them way of thinking that allows for, even commands varying degrees of discrimination and prejudice.

I was particularly taken aback by the journalist Howard Fineman who I respect as a good journalist and good human being when he told of his feeling concerning the Tree of Life massacre.  He described how he was raised in the idyllic American community of Squirrel Hill, a section of Pittsburg that, when he grew up was populated almost exclusively by Jewish people.  In that community, he said, that almost exclusively Jewish community, he knew of no prejudice.  People treated each other humanely.  It was, he said, a safe place and a wonderful place in which to grow up.  Squirrel hill now, he mentioned, is now only a 50% Jewish community and I could swear I was hearing in his discussion a bit of longing for those old days when, in Squirrel Hill, all was well, Jewish people getting along well with other Jewish people.  He said nothing about the fact that the existence of ethnic or racial enclaves within America’s towns and cities is indicative of something like one of those problematic isms discussed above, by means other than hostility and/or violence but by separation and exclusion.

I too grew up in a neighborhood that was populated mainly by people of Jewish background.  I was never told to hate or even dislike others who were not Jewish.  I was made to know, from an early age, that I was Jewish and that being Jewish separated me, made me different from those who were not Jewish.  I assumed to be Jewish and not Jewish were as natural a division as being either male or female, I different from themin ways that mattered.  And it did matter because all of the friends I could have, for matters of proximity, yes, but also by sanction, were Jewish.  All of my parents’ friends were Jewish so that all of the adults who visited us in our home were Jewish, their children too, of course.  As I got older I did meet people who were not Jewish who I understood to be not as welcome at our house as those who were Jewish and, when girlfriends became a part of my life, there was always someone around to make clear that Jewish girlfriends were good and girls who were not Jewish could not be good girlfriends.

I cannot speak to whether these kinds of you are a Jew and remember you are a Jew and never even think about marrying a goy girl and try now to even think about having friends who aren’t Jewish, but knowing the Jewish kids I knew who are now Jewish adults, Jewishness is still a distinction that carries weight in life and some of the poundage comes in the form of prejudice and various forms of discrimination.

This is exactly what we need to get beyond.  A particular religion does not make one better or worse than others.  Being of a particular race does not make one better or worse than others.  Being of a particular ethnicity or nationality does not make one better or worse than others.  And being of a particular sex does not make one better or worse than others. Intermingling is the key to understanding and yes, intermingling does tend to dilute purity.  The good thing in all this is that purity of the national or religious or ethnic or tribal or sexual variety is at best worthless and desire for it of ignorance, against good sense.

Feeling sick

With the reality of a Supreme Court filled with Justices who will protect freedom of religion (freedom to impose its come from above narratives of how we came to be and what we should do on the lives of believers and non-believers alike) and the freedom of those who use the religion of capitalism to keep most of the people passive enough so that when they are abused they say thank you to those who provide them with enough of what they have been convinced to want to keep them happy.  These are truly terrible days and not only because something evil has overtaken us but because–far, far, worse–we have given our consent by making their evil ways our way.  Without the us that is that general public that goes about doing their business everyday, year after year, their wishes would not be so richly granted and there would not be an us continuously help them get richer and ever more powerful, ever more in command of what we are able to do with our lives, ever more in command of what becomes of the planet on which we live.

There should have been a revolt over the Patriot Act and their should have been a revolt over what Rumsfeld and Cheney cost us in lives and treasure.  We should have revolted long ago over there being so much for war (that money went into the hands of corporations, the corpses were rarely those of the children of politicians or corporate leaders) and so little for schools and roads and the building of institutions for human progress.  We should have revolted when the banks sucked from the average person–lover of America and the American way–most of what he and she owned, even most of what they needed, their homes and money to send their kids to college and all that stuff that makes the American dream possible, two SUVs in the garage, large screen TVs, and CocaCola in the fridge.  We should have revolted, we should have revolted, we should have revolted but there would be no revolution, there would be no revolution, there would be no revolution on that day or any other day.

Sucks!!!  Too satisfied.  To preoccupied.

Tragedy is that there has been a revolution going on for most of our lifetimes, a coup we can and probably should call it, the rich and powerful choosing who can be rich and powerful and the rich and powerful and their chosen running a government that should by of the people and for the people but is, and has been for a long time, a government by a few people for a few people.

What makes these days different is that those few, with our complicity, have finally rigged things so the few can have at us in anyway they want.  And they have show themselves, the few, to want every thing they can get.

The new court will let them have it–everything they want.

And still, there will be no revolution.

Really! Who Would Have Thought? NCLB Didn’t Work! Oh, What a Revelation.

Oh my!!!!  No Child Left behind did not improve the cause of education.  Modest assessment, I will claim, and in the book I am writing that is nearning completion, I argue that it was not only a failure but a profound disaster.  Why?  Because it was.  I do not forgive easily.  I cannot forgive McCain and I cannot forgive Bush and I have never forgiven Henry Kissinger (a “dignity present at the McCain funeral) because the results of  actions predicated on their advise and command harmed great numbers of people greatly.

As for NCLB, I cannot forgive those who initiated it and those who perpetuated it, G. W. for sure but Obama chose Arnie Duncan to lead the Department of Education and the reign of error was continued far beyond the time when disaster was acutely apparent.  I will be accused by Diane Ravitch fans of continuing to want to whip the repentant–she has apologized in a hundred different ways for her participation in crafting the legislation that twisted the education system into a more twisted mess than it was before, a deed that showed that the impossible was possible if a few dastardly people could find ways to do their dastardly deeds.

So, the article from which this quote comes, authored by Diane Ravitch, is but another in a series of apologies made without apologizing and speaking to the errors without acknowledging the magnitude of the damage done.

She reports that,

“No Child Left Behind will be recognized in time as the most colossal failure in federal education policy, whose disastrous effects were amplified by Race to the Top.

Its monomaniacal focus on test scores warped education. RTT just made it worse and left a path of destruction in urban districts.

And the gains were, as a new study reports, modest and diminished over time.

Anyone familiar with Campbell’s Law could have predicted this result. Social scientist Donald T. Campbell wrote:

“The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.”

Here is a link to the article: NCLB Got Little and Diminishing Returns.

LITTLE AND DIMINISHING RETURNS!  Understated, to say the least.



And only the sane and humane shall decide

Sanity.  We the people too often fail to demand sanity as an essential component of any argument and any initiative for which our argument allow. Our societal decision-making processes are infused with good amounts of arguments that are something other than sane. We are far to accepting of this and acceptance has become our way of life and too our determent.  There is the better idea and there is the horrible idea and the sanity of the deliberations which determine which is which is of incredible importance to a humane society, a society that is kind and generous because such are qualities of a humanely sane society.  Anyone alive who lives to be mistreated, most sane people would agree, is not fully sane.  The adverse should understood to be just as sane, that anyone who mistreats others, anyone who decides in favor of the mistreatment of others or decides for allowing others to be mistreated, should also be considered to be something other than sane.

I understand the reason fair minded people would think that to declare some not sane and not allow or not listen to what they have to say is undemocratic and, too, who is it who gets to determine who is sane and who is not?  I think that sane people have a pretty good notion of what is what and who is who in regard to this matter even though they are too fair minded—too tolerantto make public the distinctions they make in their minds.

Really, I would like it if there were to be a public discussion of what stands as sane argument and what does not, this in the context of appreciation for all human beings and a strong desire for them all to be treated humanely.  That some are very poor, deprived of what they need so that others can have lots of what they want, that some can get what they want bydepriving others of what they need would, I would hope, be found to be inhumane and not sane, the do onto others principle understood as something more than a convenient moral adage, as a basis for declaring arguments sane and otherwise.

We would have to look at or laws and the arguments made for them, whether those arguments sacrifice the well-being and the happiness in life of others and whether the sacrifices of some serve no other reason than making some much better off in their lives than others.  The wealthy would not be alone in receiving sanity-oriented scrutiny but also those driven insane by their situation, those driven to understanding of the world that, in the light of good sense, would be shown to be the product of something other than informed good reasoning.

People have to be allowed to be who they are and think what they think but the criteria for participation in any decision-making process that has an effect on the well-being, on the quality of life of others must be that they engage in humanely sane thought, their ideas scrutinized for attention to not good for me than not good for them either kind of reasoning.

Debate, disagreement would not be eliminated.  Nor would our public debates be wholly reasonable or necessarily cause all decisions to be good ones.  But good, in those debates, made the foremost criteria, as in good for all and none harmed as the ideal might get us somewhere nearer to becoming a good and humane society, capitalism be damned and so to pernicious religious beliefs that interfere with good reason.

Liberals and how they have come to love the clandestine services they once feared–for good reason

I was watching a segment on some news program that pointed out that a good number of people running for office this election season have affiliations with our clandestine services. The piece suggested that the reason they are running for office in such numbers is because of the way their agencies are being treated by the Trump administration–understandable. They are mostly running as democrats, the party where liberals felt they had a political home. Personally, I have never thought of the CIA or the FBI or NSA to be populated by people of the liberal persuasion. And not too many years back, liberals were, for good reason, leery of the secret services because they all had a long history, under the cloak of secrecy, hiding from a democratic missions being carried out of which few who were liberal in their thinking would approve, for one thing because many of the secret actions were carried our against liberals and their causes. Is it really good for freedom and democracy to fill the chambers of Congress with people who worked for these agencies? Has bad, bad Trump made FBI, and CIA, and NSA the good guys and are they really now representatives of what good liberals understand to be good? My enemies enemies are not, by virtue of being their enemies, necessarily my friends, right. It might be that Trump has caused liberals to lose their minds.L

Meanings in memorials

I am not very good at being good, so I think. Good means accepting and forgiving and I find it hard much of the time to be either. Recent memorial services for famous people remind me of what I really do not need much reminding of, those for John McCain and Aretha Franklin. McCain’s was so much about praise for a hero that I had to wonder if some people had forgotten what should not be forgotten, thought and behavior that brings harm to others, to others who should not receive the kind of treatment certain thinking and behavior responsible for pain they suffer in real time of real affect. I heard no weighing of heroic against what I understand to be humane, the message being broadcast that bad is cancelled out by good even if, in a lifetime, the bad hurts more people than the good helps.
Aretha’s memorial today was graced by wonderful people saying wonderful things, a good many of which I understood to be true, truly good and righteous. The religious part bothered me terribly. I could not be accepting of the role of some lord almighty even though it seems true that the person for whom the memorial was being held held beliefs in just such an almighty. That was her life and it did not interfere with her singing like no one else could sing and maybe singing so well because she believed.
But those who came to the stage to give praise to God, who put God center stage not only annoyed me but gave rise to anger for what they were doing to public consciousness, to a public consciousness that has undermined the possibility of a democracy based in the good sense of the citizenry because a good portion of the citizenry believes that forces other than human ones are responsible for what human beings do and determine what humans can and cannot do to make better the quality of the lives they live, non-human forces that justify and, therefore make possible and even probable actions upon others and the world that are not born of rationality and, therefore, understood to be right and righteous even though they are not, this because they are ultimately of the gods’ doing and not of the decisions of human beings capable of thinking for themselves who understand responsibility because the decisions they make are of their own making.
So, I watched and listened, liked some of the speeches–loved some of the remembrances, laughed at the funny moments recalled, appreciated the wit and the eloquence when such were present, but was very much concerned at the larger messages being broadcast and the implications for the future of humanity and the planet.