Fearless Reason

Fearless reason in an age of frightened absurdity.

Tag: politics

Zombies Wander the Streets

Zombies
wander
the streets.

Consuming
family
and friends.

Spreading evil
delusion
and confusion.

One
and the
same.

Hopeless
either
way.

Slaves
to the
id.

Zombies
wander
the streets.

Falling Upward

The world
is falling
apart.

But we
are falling
upward.

Chaos
reigns in
public places.

But we harbor
peace in
private moments.

Hatred
shouts from
on high.

But we embody
love from
below.

The world
is falling
apart.

But we
are falling
upward.

Eyes of the Oppressor

When I think about the Confederate monuments I try not to do so as a white man. I try to use my god given imagination to view them from the perspective of a person of color, who may be only a few generations removed from slavery and a generation removed from segregation. I try to think what it would be like, looking out of those eyes, to see flags and monuments on government property to an insurrection that sought to keep me and my ancestors in bondage….and it puts a cold chill in my stomach and fear in my heart. I can’t help but feel when looking out of those eyes, that a government that celebrates those symbols doesn’t represent me or people like me. Treating others as you would have them treat you means trying to look out of the other person’s eyes to see what they see and what they need and treating them accordingly. The eyes of the oppressor do not see the suffering of the oppressed.

Divergent Lives

Remember
when our differences
were theoretical?

The abstractions
of politics
religion
and god.

Insignificant
compared to
the sameness
of our daily
lives.

We thought
differently
but acted
similarly.

Which made
the differences
less real.

Divergent lives
shaped by
theoretical
divides.

Have changed
our daily
routines.

Giving reality
to the theoretical
abstractions
of youth.

It is harder now
that our differences
are real.

But my religion
is love
my politics
cooperation
my god
the creation.

To hate you
would be heresy
to hurt you
would be anarchy
to reject you
would be impossible.

It is harder now
but I love you still.

Basic Assumptions

I have gone through several stages of ideological and political evolution throughout my life. My first instincts were those of a progressive/liberal orientation, but they had little philosophical underpinning. When I turned 18 I registered as a Democrat because George W. Bush was President, and I was horrified by the wars and seemingly complete absence of reason in his administration’s policy decisions. I was a knee jerk liberal on social issues, because of an innate sense of fairness, but had few opinions on economic issues.

At college I majored in philosophy, but had a thorough liberal arts education, so I studied everything from the hard sciences, to economics and political science. Philosophy taught me to always identify and evaluate my most basic assumptions and go from there. At the time I was agnostic, which meshed well with the reductionist materialism that is a latent assumption of western academia. I spent four years as an undergraduate building a cohesive worldview based on dead matter in a mechanical universe. I was still socially progressive because that is what reason dictated, but I had the growing conviction that life was a Darwinian struggle of the survival of the fittest. Throw in a dash Ayn Rand, low empathy, and intellectual arrogance, and I was primed to be a libertarian leaning Republican. Selfishness was an inherent and immutable characteristic of humanity, whether that was a good thing was irrelevant.

That worldview served me well through law school, and may have persisted to this day but for a spiritual intervention. My metaphysical assumptions changed abruptly when I dared to consider the possibility that matter is not dead, but is awareness at the most basic quantum level. For the first time I seriously entertained the idea that the universe is a single unified field of awareness and that we only experience the illusion of separation and individuality. Seriously contemplating that idea led me to a spiritual awakening and mystical experience that utterly shattered my previous paradigm. I spent several years after the fact rebuilding my worldview around this understanding, which to the amazement of many friends led me to avidly support a socialist from Vermont for President. I now occupy the far left of the liberal/progressive spectrum, and have very strong and detailed opinions on resource distribution and social issues. All because I shifted my metaphysical assumptions, and ceased to view the pain of others as separable from myself. Love and empathy went from inconveniences, to a north star reminding me of my inherent interconnection to my fellow beings. Selfishness was no longer an inherent and immutable characteristic of humanity, but a choice every being makes.

Examine your most basic assumptions about yourself, reality, and your relationship with your fellow beings. Then live the conclusions as fearlessly and consistently as possible. If I have any advice worth giving, that is it.

Growing Our Hearts

My heart has been hurting over the last few days, but maybe this will provide an opportunity for it to grow. This was a complicated election, with lots of ideological, economic, and sociological components. But at the meta level it was a choice between love versus hate. Inclusion versus exclusion. Empathy versus resentment. Love, inclusion, and empathy lost at the ballot box, but must never lose in our hearts and daily lives. It is tempting to hate, resent, and exclude those who brought this about, but then we become the thing we revile. Hate cannot defeat hate, only love can do that. Darkness cannot defeat darkness, only light can do that. We win by living our values more fiercely and unconditionally than ever before. We win by loving, including, and empathizing even with those we find offensive.

To Become an Exile

I feel a pull
inward
to become an exile.

To withdraw
from a public
that has become
sacrilege to my private values.

I am bewildered
that the worst in us
has become commonplace.

I am a foreigner
in my land
a place
where hate is more desirable than love
fear more tolerable than acceptance
and ignorance more comfort than truth.

I do not know these neighbors and friends
that I once assumed shared a common decency.

A decency now uncommon
as the worst in us
becomes middling.

I have become
a stranger
in  a strange land
that has lost the capacity
for self-preservation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Into the Void

Occasionally I break the cardinal rule of anyone who values their sanity and peace of mind; I read the comments section of news articles. An while it can be a jarring and disheartening experience, I encourage you to do the same.

It reminds me that I have the privilege of living a manicured life. Over the years I have cultivated a circle of friends that I both cherish and enjoy, and have meticulously groomed my social media feeds to the point that everything I see is thoughtful, informative, or uplifting. As a result I have attained an artificial sense of the world being comprised primarily of thoughtful and intelligent people with good intentions.

Then I stare into the void of the comments section, and all my pretty illusions crumble like gossamer in a fire. The depth of the fear, hate, ignorance, and hysteria I see varies depending on the news source, but is always quantifiably present. What world do these people live in I wonder, surely it is not the same as mine. Who are these aliens that have such drastically different understandings of science, morality, and justice?

Then I take it a step further, and visit these aliens on their home worlds. In a click, I am on their social media profiles, looking at pictures, prior posts, and their self-identifiers. These aliens are human after all. They have families they love, friends, jobs, hobbies and passions.

They are human and we share a common Earth, but their manicured world is much different than mine. Their faces have a lot in common, old, white, and working class. Much like the family I love, but studiously avoid discussing politics and religion with. In these moments I feel empathy for even the most vicious troll. I am reminded that we are not so different after all, and that only time and education divide us.

As Thanksgiving approaches many of us will be seeing relatives who may or may not be like the comments trolls that degrade our faith in humanity. Perhaps this year, it would be useful to seek to further understand your similarities, instead of just avoiding your differences. You may not agree on politics and religion, but you’ll certainly have more empathy for these aliens at the dinner table.

 

 

A Fearful Journey

What follows is an account of my fearful journey, which in patchwork fashion can be found in the posts of this blog. For better or worse I am a political creature. I feel compelled to play a part, no matter how small, in the conversations and policies that shape our world. So I read avidly, share and post excessively on social media, and participate as much as I can in party politics and campaigns.

I have always been socially progressive, and registered as a Democrat when I turned 18 due to my disgust with the Bush administration and the wars – but I didn’t have any strong convictions about economic policy. While in college I found myself drawn to philosophical materialism, which lead me to a rather libertarian, survival of the fittest, economic philosophy. But I remained somewhat muddled through law school, still a Democrat because I believed in science, reason, and human rights – but increasingly seduced by the libertarian Republican movement lead by Ron and Rand Paul.

Fast forward to graduation, and my first job out of law school was representing the business of a former RNC chairmen. He made it clear when I accepted the job that I needed to be involved in Republican politics. I needed a job and was economically conservative, so I registered and became active in the party. Not long after that I had a rather abrupt spiritual awakening that is documented in this blog, which lead me to a panpsychic/pantheist view of the world, and ultimately to Buddhism. Since that time my economic libertarian leanings have been under constant assault. First transforming into a more moderate position, and ultimately to my current full flown progressive/democratic socialist philosophy. Economic libertarianism is incompatible with a moral philosophy that cultivates empathy and postulates that harm to others is harm to self.

Throughout these spiritual, moral, and philosophical transformations I remained active in the Republican party, in part because of professional/career pressures, but also because I naively or arrogantly thought I might serve as a voice of reason. Then this election cycle started and the procession of clowns running for President took stage and a tea party darling won the Republican bid for Governor. At that point I knew I was not a voice of reason, I was a whisper in a caucus of fools, and had become complicit in their hateful, ignorant, and misguided ideology.

So I went back to the Democratic party, knowing the futility of third party movements, now a fully formed progressive in every sense. As I become active in the party I see some of the things I disliked about the Republicans. I see some conservatives, some cynics and careerists, but I also see the burning light of people truly dedicated to progressive values and a better world. For me that is enough reason to stand and fight with them.

So I continue my journey, perhaps a bit less fearful than before, still striving to live a life of fearless reason.

Big Problems, Little Solutions

It is often said that America has big problems that require big solutions. To this, I would say they are half right. We as a country have much to overcome, not least of which is getting our financial house in order. However, as the fiscal cliff looms, and one “big deal” after another gives way to temporary solutions and the kicking of the can down the road, these problems seem ever more insurmountable.

At a time when neither party seems to be able to agree on anything, both appear to agree that the federal government is and should be primarily responsible for addressing the country’s woes. I would contend however, that the fate of this nation should not be left in the hands of a few men with enormous power. The hope of our country, as always, lies in the vast resource of our people.

In the face of insurmountable problems, I propose our federal leaders take radical action. In fact I propose they do the hardest thing anyone with power can do, which is to relinquish that power. America learned long ago that free market capitalism is most conducive to an efficient, innovative and prosperous economy. When people are free to make their own decisions and prosper from them, they innovate, solve problems and by their individual actions create a better more prosperous world. On the other hand, the end of the Cold War and the decline and fall of the Soviet Union taught us that a centralized command economy becomes unsustainable when it reaches a certain level of complexity. A handful of bureaucrats cannot match the efficiency, innovation and flexibility of the invisible hand of the free market.

It is time we recognize that these lessons are not limited to the economic functions of government, but are applicable across the board. Centralization of policy and decision-making at the federal level has resulted in a bloated inefficient federal government, which is incapable of innovation or even carrying out the basic functions of governing. Therefore, I would urge our federal leaders to step aside, and restore to state and local governments the power to govern their people.

We must free the hands of local and state leaders, who understand the problems facing their people. Let the federal government do only that which the federal government can, and leave to the states all else. This was the original vision of our founders and constitution, before the Court rendered the tenth amendment moot. That is not to say I am advocating a return to Lochner, where industry was allowed to run amuck; what I suggest is a return to localism, and re-establishing state and local governments as the focal point of American political life. Let the most ardent red states and blue states realize their most radical ideological excesses, and let the rest of the country learn from their follies and follow a middle path incorporating their successes.

Give to the states the management and control of social security, medicare and medicaid, and give them the power to fund them. Those states that walk a wise and compassionate path that balances the needs of the most vulnerable with economic growth will prosper, while those who chose another path will fail. Those who do not vote at the ballot box will vote with their feet, and the ideological winners and losers will quickly become apparent by the success or failure of their states.

America is a large and diverse country, filled with talented people with different values and ideas. Yet the fate of all has been hitched to the decisions and faults of a few men in Washington, who with their narrow scope of experiences and ideas go about making policy for all. Where the wisdom of a few fails, perhaps the wisdom of the many can do better.