Thursday, November 24, 2022

Thanks -- and No Thanks!


Thanks -- and No Thanks

Some Personal Reflections on Thanksgiving Day 2022
"Oh, Great Spirit whose voice I hear in the winds, 
and whose breath gives life to all the world, hear me, I am small and weak,  
I need your strength and wisdom." 
 -- from a prayer
by Lakota Chief Yellow Lark, 1887
(Read Entire Prayer)

"Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, 
it was loaned to you by your children. 
We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, 
we borrow it from our Children." 
-- Ancient Native American Proverb

The three day feast that brought together 90 Wampanoags and the 50 surviving Pilgrims at Plymouth Plantation in 1621 has become part of our nation's mythology.

Unfortunately, the idyllic tale that's was presented to me as a child just doesn't cut it. It doesn't portray the stark reality of the European colonization of the Americas. 

If the truth be told, a holocaust occurred as "our forefathers" descended upon this continent. They brought with them white supremacy,  a harshly judgmental Christianity, the European notion of private property, and an emergent capitalism.  (The pilgrims received a land patent from the London Virginia Company and financing from Company of Adventurers. The investors who formed these corporations sought to profit by colonizing lands overseas. )

Although the set of democratic ideals set forth in the Preamble to the US Constitution reflect humanity's quest for a just society, the settler colonists also brought forth on this continent disease, death, domination, and the desecration of the indigenous Way of Life.  Rather than embrace the wisdom of these cultures, with a spirituality that seemed to better understand and honor humanity's relationship to Mother Earth, to the Great Spirit, and to the Circle of All Life, the settler colonists that invaded Massachusetts branded them heathens,  massacred countless human beings, assimilated a few, and drove the others from their homelands.  It was a classic case of what Buddhism characterizes as the three poisons: Greed, Enmity, and Ignorance.

The worldview of the Indigenous People who had lived on this continent for upward of 10,000 years embraced Connection and Reverence.  Our forefathers brought with them, instead, the Unbridled Greed buried in the belly of Capitalism, and a myopic form of doctrinal Christianity that produces a profound sense of separation from one another, from the natural world, and from a living, spiritual connection to all that is.  

Through force of arms, including germ warfare and the power of "law," the bad guys won.  Unfortunately for Mother Earth and her myriad beings, they still hold tremendous power today.
Propelled by powerful elites and a misshapen worldview, our species seems deadset on destroying the ecological fabric of life that we emerge from.  

Yet, it doesn't have to be that way forever.

It is true that history shows us that those with more guns and less morals have often taken power.  Yet, the opposite is also true.  

In my own lifetime, Mahatma Gandhi, armed with nothing but a spinning wheel, the force of Great Loving Soul, and the Power of the People, sent the mighty British Empire packing.  Martin Luther King and legions of non-violent activists toppled the framework of legal racial segregation that had existed here in the "land of the free." Non-violent revolutions toppled the communist governments of eastern Europe. 


Friday, February 25, 2022

The Dogs of War

Photo by Genya Savilov/AFP


They've cried havoc and let slip the dogs of war. Again.  

It's a bitch.

It turns out that Vladimir Putin's bite is even worse than his bark. In the long tradition of national leaders, the top dogs who have the power to control other people's destiny, Putin has pulled the trigger.  He's used the might of the Russian military to achieve his political and personal goals. 
And other people, mostly young soldiers and innocent civilians, will suffer. 
This, of course is increasingly the case in modern warfare. The ascendancy of computerized technology, with its "smart" bombs, drones, cyber-warfare, economic sanctions, etc., has only increased the likelihood of widespread human misery -- and the wealth of those who reap obscene profits from creating endless wars.
I don't claim to be an expert on the Ukraine, but I do have skin in the game. As a young child I heard more Yiddish than English at family gatherings. My mother's parents, Ashkenazi Jews, immigrated from Kiev at the dawn of the 20th century.  Later, my eyes set on a possible degree in Soviet Studies, I took Russian. Then Woodstock and the counter-cultural, collective kensho swept me up -- and an advanced degree seemed irrelevant.
I'm grateful that others chose differently. 
Chris Hedges is one of those. Ten years my junior, Chris was only 13 years old when I stumbled forth with my B.A. to save the world in 1969.  His brilliant mind and courageous heart propelled him on a trajectory which took him through Harvard Divinity School before realizing his gift was writing, his ministry, journalism. 
Chris Hedges on the Streets --  CC Photo by Steve Rhodes
As a war correspondent for the New York Times, Hedges was literally in the trenches during the tragic siege of Sarajevo, winning the Pulitzer Prize for his efforts to expose the reality of war.  He then went on to serve as Middle East Bureau Chief for the Times before resigning when the top dogs there reprimanded him for coming out against the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.  Since then, as well as teaching at a New Jersey Prison, writing several books and numerous articles, he's been on the streets with activists across the nation for years. 
I trust this guy. 
Yesterday, my heart ached as I heard what was going on in Ukraine.  I turned to Chris Hedges to get his take on the situation. 
Here it is:

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

As Plumvillage.Org continues their livestream schedule of events memorializing the life of the peace activist, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, I share a recent post by Norm Stockwell, the publisher of the Progressive Magazine.  





The Passing of Thich Nhat Hanh

Late monk used engaged Buddhism to build a foundation for a peaceful world.


Monday, January 17, 2022

A Time to Break Silence

"When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, 
are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, 
extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered."
-- Dr. Martin King Jr., Speech at Riverside Church, April 4, 1967

"It is my firm belief that Europe of today represents not the spirit of God or Christianity but the spirit of Satan.  
And Satan's successes are the greatest when he appears with the name of God on his lips.  
Europe today is only nominally Christian.  
In reality, it is worshiping Mammon."
-- Mahatma Gandhi, Young India, August 9, 1920.

The Truth, The Whole Truth, and....

For decades now, the corporate media has celebrated Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech -- and assiduously buried Dr. King's views on economic justice, materialism, and militarism.  Like Mahatma Gandhi, King's message was essentially Spiritual.  They each saw clearly that Mammon worship, the soul-sucking evil of materialism/consumerism, was alive and unwell, lurking in the belly of capitalism.

Throughout history, racism and economic exploitation have always walked hand in hand.  The prosperity of the capitalist English Empire and it's rebellious offspring, the USA, were built squarely on the horrors of genocide and slavery.  Sadly, although its current forms (cultural genocide, systemic poverty, and jailhouse slavery) are widely ignored or explained away, this continues today.

Like my identical twin brother, Lance, I usually tend to be more Buddhist in my lingo.  Yet, I just gotta say it out loud: I agree with Mahatma Gandhi.  Capitalism is the work of the freakin' DEVIL!  Its the dark side of the force.  In it's greed and exploitation it is taking aim on the survival of the planet.

Dr. King, like Gandhi, was a Holy Man.  He sought to alleviate the suffering created by a political and economic system that feeds on greed, hatred, and delusion.  Like many other prophets throughout history, both King and Gandhi threatened the ruling order of bankers and preachers -- and were martyred. 

Although Dr. King focused on the evil of racism in his "I Have a Dream" speech that late summer day in Washington DC, his words were delivered to the throng that had assembled for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  This effort, which he had helped organize, challenged economic exploitation and suggested bold governmental action to alleviate poverty. The FBI claimed the event was inspired by Communists and lobbied to prevent it from happening.

King continued to march.  He continued to preach love and championed a non-violent response to a system that has always used violence.  Like Jesus of Nazareth, and a myriad other martyrs, Dr. King knew full well that he would most likely be killed for challenging the ruling order -- and he chose Love instead.

Dr. King's assassination, five years after the "I Have a Dream" speech, occurred when he traveled to Memphis to support striking Afro-American municipal sanitation workers as the leader of the National Poor People's campaign.  That campaign demanded an Economic Bill of Rights which included five planks:

1. "A meaningful job at a living wage"
2. "A secure and adequate income" for all those unable to find or do a job
3. "Access to land" for economic uses
4. "Access to capital" for poor people and minorities to promote their own businesses
5. The ability for ordinary people to "play a truly significant role" in the government

When's the last time you saw the Economic Bill of Rights highlighted in the corporate media coverage of Dr.  King's life? 

A Time to Break Silence

As Trump's legion of misanthropes, materialists, and military men continue to loot and scuttle our beleaguered ship of state, it's a time to break silence.  Dr. King did so, dramatically, on April 4, 1967, at the Riverside Church in New York City.   

On that day, Dr. King proclaimed, "these too are our brothers," and came out against the US involvement in the Vietnam War with a passion and an eloquence that many believe caused his assassination exactly one year, to the day,  later.

The corporate media today ignores this speech and remains silent.  I hope you don't.  Please listen and pass this along.  Then join some folks and speak out -- with love in your heart!

It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it!

Beyond Vietnam: A Time To Break Silence



My Humble Take on the Real Deal

I believe that the movement for peace, economic democracy and social justice is a Spiritual Quest. No mean feat, what is called for is a True Revolution of the Heart and Mind--and it starts with each of us.

This revolution has to be Peaceful. The Hippies (and Jesus and Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. King, et al) had it right. It really is all about Peace and Love. Besides being a total drag, violence just doesn't work. It keeps our wheels spinning in fear, anger and pain. Who needs that?

Besides some hard work, I think the Revolution also calls for dancing, plenty of laughter, and some sitting around just doing nothing. (Some folks call it meditation.)

As Stephen Gaskin, proclaimed years ago:

"We're out to raise Hell--in the Bodhisattvic* sense."

Doesn't that sound like some serious fun?

(*The Bodhisattva Vow is a set of commitments made in the Mahayana Buddhist tradition. It basically says I vow to get my act together and figure it out well enough to really help out--and I ain't gonna stop until everybody is covered.

I've found that doesn't necessarily have to happen in that order. It's best to try to help out even before you have it all together! Like right now.)

-----Brother Lefty Smith, Founding S.O.B*