Sunday, October 30, 2011

The "Battle" for Good and Evil - Politics and Yoga - Not Really a Battle.

Politics is a microcosm for the "battle" for good and evil played out today. That is not that one party is good and another party is bad, as within each party, these value wars occur. It occurs at many levels in our world, it is just focused in the political world.

When I was studying psychology in college, I took two classes on psychopathology. One of the things I most remember was Dr. Cline pointing out that the psychological profiles of politicians and con-men are generally the same. While there are many very great people who have devoted their lives to politics; I would count among these Bernie Sanders, Bob Dole, Ron Paul (He's crazy as a loon, but is in politics because he is devoted to his beliefs, and I feel truly wants the best for the country), Barack Obama, Gabrielle Giffords and Raul Grijalva, among many others; but there are also numerous people who are called to politics by their desire to be powerful and exercise control over others. Need I remind anyone of how common it is for political figures to misuse their power in personal relationships (Anthony Weiner, David Vitter, John McCain, Bill Clinton, to name a few.)

And so this is an interesting forum within which the "battle" of good and evil takes place.

I would like to say, first of all, that I am not a person who sees religion as a struggle between good and evil, nor do I actually see the "battle" for good as a difficult one - nor even a battle, really (I'll address this later.) I do not believe in hell or the devil, or any type of eternal punishment. I believe good and evil are purely human traits, most often coming from misuse of power and from being obsessed with physical possessions. I actually see the root of it as the desire for power and control that looks like greed, hence my passion for the Occupy Wall Street Movement I have written about so often.

I think the finest example of evil in the political world, and perhaps the world in general, is Karl Rove.

Karl Rove is evil genius defined. He has an ability to scrutinize the law, and figure out exactly how to break the law in a way in which he will not get in trouble. Everyone knows he is breaking the law, yet he remains free to operate and continue manipulation because he has such a keep grasp of the legal loophole that he evades breaking the law by mere millimeters.

A little background on him:

Karl Rove's first foray into the world of politics occurred while he was in college. He broke into the office of Treasurer of Illinois candidate Alan Dixon, stole a pile of letterhead and printed up fliers inviting people to a beer party. He effectively discredited the Democrat, and allowed the Republican contender to easily win. After that, Rove worked as advisors to Republican candidates, helping them find legal loopholes and ways of manipulating the system to get them elected and to put forth their agenda.

Karl Rove became George W. Bush's advisor. During this time, he worked behind the scenes in Florida and Ohio to enact voter suppression. In Florida, a "scrub list" was created in which felons were removed from the registered voter roles. The suppression aspect of this was that people whose names were similar to the felons were also removed from the roles. People were not made aware of this until they arrived at the poles to vote, and were powerless to do anything, since voter registration had closed several weeks before. This reduced the black vote in key counties by about 3%. George W. Bush would likely have not become president if not for this suppression.

In Ohio that year, and in 2004, registered letters were sent to registered voters for them to confirm their addressed prior to the election. While this was fine for most people, those who were transient, homeless, or working multiple jobs and couldn't get their letters were removed from the roles. This allow Bush to win in Ohio in 2004, and that clinched the election for him once again.

Voter suppression continues to be a problem throughout the country. Simple things that result in removing poor, minority and other predominately Democratic voters not being able to vote allow Republican victories in close races. This year, there is much contention over having people present government-issued IDs in order to vote. This will eliminate a small percentage of people who do not have these documents - mostly people who use their twenty dollars to buy food instead of an ID - from voting. Notice that states that have this law are predominately Republican states - like Idaho, Arizona, Ohio, and so forth.

But back to Mr. Rove.

He was able to accomplish many other sinister deeds within the Bush White House. They pushed through legislation that repealed many of the regulations that had been put in place after the Great Depression, which helped their banker friends and eventually resulted in the collapse of the economy. They fired many people within the Justice Department, replacing them with aggressively right-wing lawyers and judges. The legal school most represented in the Justice Department today is Liberty University. This was formerly Oral Roberts University. They teach a curriculum of 'the ends justifies the means' and encourage people to use their positions in courts to push forth their religious views as a means of getting around the whole 'separation of church and state' stuff. Michele Bachman is a graduate of Liberty University.

They pushed through The Patriot Act, which allowed the NSA to spy on Americans. Under the guise of looking for terrorists, they listen to phone calls, read emails and so forth in order to collect any information on our citizens they feel may be important. I wonder how this could affect the outcome of elections?

After the Bush years, Karl Rove influenced the conservative members of the Supreme Court to uphold the stand that "money is speech." This eliminated control over money entering elections, allowing foreign money and unlimited corporate and PAC money to be given to candidates. Karl Rove's American Crossroads infused some $20 million into the 2010 election, mostly spent on TV ads supporting GOP candidates, ushering a vast number of radically conservative Tea Party candidates into elected offices throughout the country.

Rove also held a vision of using any means possible to get elected and then to push forth an agenda. The GOP funded attempts to destroy the American public school system has been evident, as radicalized candidates, supported by GOP PAC funds and conservative talk radio have been gaining footholds in school boards across the country, rendering them dysfunctional, and diverting public funds into private and charter schools - typically of a fundamentalist Christian nature. In my own school district right now, two men are lying to the public and accepting huge sums of money trying to get a quorum on the school board in order to do this very thing.

Then there is the other side.

Bernie Sanders is senator who has worked tirelessly to stand up for the rights of working people, the poor and the elderly. He gave a remarkable filibuster, lovingly named 'The Berniebuster,' last year, in which he spent some eight hours outlining the reasons if would be imprudent to not raise taxes on the rich and corporations. He has been a tremendous advocate for worker rights and protections, and has stood strong against cutting 'entitlements' for the poor, elderly and ill in the country. He is motivated by the utmost compassion in everything he does.

Similarly Barney Frank has devoted his tenure in congress to trying to make banks and corporations accountable to their investors and protecting consumers from fraud that is so unregulated these days. Like Bernie Sanders, he is a champion of compassion toward the American people.

Not to say that all Republicans are evil and Democrats are good, GOP lawmakers like Bob Dole and Ron Paul are honest, hard-workers who were/are more loyal to helping the American people than they are to their parties and those who finance their campaigns.

So, the lines are drawn and the battle is waged in Washington, throughout America, and on television.

Currently, the evils have been taking the upper hand: Fox News spreads lies and funds candidates. People claiming to be devoted to the living message of Jesus Christ, lie and cheat in order to push forth their agenda of being judgmental and eliminating the influence of non-Christians on our society. A war has been waged, based on lies, that allowed us to re-enact the crusades, sweeping Islam out of power, while, conveniently, also making it easier to procure oil, in key Arab countries. Anti-women agendas almost shut down the government. Non-Christians have been easily identified as terrorists, allowing their influence in the political arena to be marginalized.

I don't know, I just can't get over the irony of how un-Jesus-like these Christians in the GOP are. I kind of wish they would listen to their own phrase "What would Jesus do" rather than misuse the Bible to justify that God promised he would never again destroy the world. They say that therefore climate change is not real, and that it is OK to hire people to tamper with studies and otherwise lie and cheat to try to 'prove' that it does not exist, in the face of the fact that almost all climate scientists agree that there is climate change... and so forth.

But just when all seems lost, a quiet voice began to call out. It started as a few quiet voices in the world, complaining about greed and corruption and the abuse of rights. As of now, there are millions protesting throughout the world. Several dictators have been deposed and bigger changes coming as the people of the world have called for a change in our core values around power.

The twentieth century brought about perhaps the ugliest period of world history. During that century, we lost over a quarter billion people in wars that engulfed the entire planet. We saw the very worst of what humans can do to each other when vying for political power. We saw people become obsessed with money and other worldly goods, to the point that we now accept as routine people losing their lives in large numbers every day because someone wants their television, or their drugs, or their wives, or whatever.

Change is hard, and as millions in the world are changing their ways and seeing the value of simplicity, non-materialism, sharing wealth and humanity, many more push even harder for the comforts they might have to give up. It is a transitional state, and, I believe, the return of the good in the world.

I keep using the Occupy movement as a metaphor for so many things these days, and so I will return to it here:

Protesters throughout the world are being subjugated by the police, armies and political leaders. This is where this struggle is taking place. After all, why would people marching and camping around the country be seen as such a threat? A basic First Amendment right is the freedom of speech and to peaceably assemble. But we are pushing a button, and that is frightening those who have the most to lose. "When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose," sang Bob Dylan, a generation or two ago. This is true. Those who have prospered from this evil, which has been accepted as a social norm, are seeing their way of life under threat. How scary it must be to be identified as in a position where you are 1%, and 99% of the country want to take away your power and wealth! What will the world be like for them if we stop using banks and supporting corporations and corrupt politicians. And in their fury to break up the protests, they unwittingly increase support for the movement.

It will be fascinating to see what transpires over the next weeks and years as we seem poised for massive change, and redistribution of the world's power and wealth. But remember that as long as their are such things as power and wealth, there will also be evil and corruption.

So what of a world without power and greed.

As a novice yogi, I would just like to briefly address what I see happening on a more cosmic level:

We have a system of energy centers in the spine, know in India as the chakras. The progression of people, individually and collectively, rise up through the chakras from the lowest energy point to the highest.

The lowest chakra, the root chakra, has to do with basic survival and almost animal instincts. While some people still struggle with this, as a species, most of us have mastered this. The second chakra, located in the spine behind the genitals, has to do with material creation. This is where people deal with issues associated with greed or not being greedy. The third chakra, located opposite the solar plexus, has to do with power and conrol. The second and third are where people today most struggle. I believe power is a bigger issue than greed these days. I think a lot of what we see as greed is really just trying to amass power, but controlling peoples' money and goods is the easiest way to control people. This desire for control is also where judgmental religions, and all those other aspects discussed above occur.

Good news. Once we get through this, as many people are, the next chakra is the one opposite the heart, and as would be expected, this deals with love and compassion. This is also the transitional boundary between the lower, or material, world, and the upper, or spiritual world. The Heart is where these two mix nicely.

So, if you'll forgive the interjection of my spiritual beliefs here, this is why I currently feel so hopeful amid all the chaos of the day.

There is a lot of talk about 2012, and a lot of people freaking out about this, claiming it to be the end of the world and so forth (just as an aside, I believe that once a person predicts the end of the world, and it doesn't work out that way (Harold Camping) that you don't get another shot...but I digress...) I believe what 2012 does mark is the midpoint of the transition from being a species mostly guided by the third, (power and control) chakra to the fourth (heart, love and spirit) chakra. It won't be that everyone will suddenly change, but simply that the critical mass will shift around that time.

So I encourage everyone to keep up the pressure on all humans, politicians, family members, friends and acquaintances, to put aside their need to control others and to be accepting, I encourage you to show people how to see that, as the Dalai Lama says "People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they're not on your road doesn't mean they are lost." Once we stop passing judgment on people, the shift will come quickly.

I have identified Karl Rove as 'an evil genius.' This is because he is misguided and has become so obsessed with manipulating and controlling others that he has no moral compass. He probably never had a moral compass to begin with, truth be told. He is one of many who are damaged people who have lost the ability to find happiness in the world, except through exercising power over others. This is not judgment. This is just the way it is for them. Judgment is emotional. I do not feel anger or contempt for Karl Rove or these children, but instead compassion. I hope that Karl Rove can find real happiness in the world. Then he will no longer have such a desire to hurt other people. I'm not even sure Karl Rove even cares about the agenda he is pushing forth on the country. It is just the game play of doing it. If the Democrats hired him to do for them what he has done for the Republicans, he would probably be just fine with that. He really is the victim in all this, and deserves our compassion. Once people stop feeling emotional about what he does, he will have no power. That is a difficult concept to understand, since we are, as a species, so indoctrinated into the victim mentality.

People who are standing up against oppression in the world have simply stopped seeing themselves as victims. They are moving beyond the power and control third chakra. And, as such, when they are subjected to rubber bullets and pepper spray, they just get their friends and come back for some more. It is really an amazing, evolutionary move! Those in power are using violence - a very overt means that used to be effective in controlling people. But even as they get more violent, those standing up to them multiply in number by the day. How confusing that must be to them!

So I encourage people who are protesting in the world, stay centered in your hearts. Don't attempt to control others. Never respond with violence. Do not pass judgment on those you stand against, and good will triumph.

So I lied a little bit in the title. I called this "The Battle for Good and Evil," because that is what we have come to know it as over these millenia.  The reality is that what we 'fight' for, we always get more of: The war against drugs created more drugs. The war against terror bred more terror, and so forth. So if we try to fight oppression, there will just be more. Einstein said that "no problem can be solved at the same level of consciousness that started it." From what I understand, Einstein was pretty smart, too!

The consciousness that started the mess involved scheming, fighting and maniplulating. So we must be careful not to use any of these strategies. Taking stands, being committed, working for and such things are what we need to do. Let them fight. The battle, then, is one-sided. They fight, we work for, and so on. Raise the level of consciousness, and it is easy to have whatever we want. And as what we want is more in line with universal values, they become less about desires. Desires are based on material wants. That is where the problem comes from. The outcome we would like to see is much less about desire of material good and power, and about high values: equality and justice.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

#Occupy USA

I grew up in the Peace Movement. My parents weren't hippies in terms of having long hair and using drugs, but they were big supporters of world peace, and so some of my earliest days were spent riding in a backpack at peace gatherings in Oregon and Washington.
My sister and I protesting in Washington DC in the early 70s.
We stopped going to the peace rallies as much after there were some violent actions on part of demonstrators and police. In 1971 or '72 there was a big rally on the mall in Washington D.C. while we were visiting my grandparents. My aunt and uncle went, and may father took them into town. I really wanted to go, but due to the size and recent problems at rallies, they just didn't want to take a little boy, so my sister and I made signs and walked up and down the block. My sign was mounted on a gun-stock.

Anyway, after the 70s, Americans became very complacent. Things would happen, and some minor rallies would take place. Usually just a few 'freaks.' Everyone else stayed in the suburbs, watched TV and went about their business.

While people were watching TV and going about their business, corporations and the government took the lack of interest as permission to slowly erode peoples' rights. During the Bush administration, a war was waged based on false pretenses. I went to a little anti-war rally in Nederland, Colorado. There were about 15 demonstrators. 

That same administration was also starting to spy on our own citizens, and was torturing people in illegal prison camps in Cuba. A few people balked, but very few people seemed to really care.

The right wing has taken to busting unions, tearing apart school districts, diverting federal funding to religious organizations, illegally funding campaigns with foreign money, buying politicians, influencing the supreme court to say that corporations are people and money is speech, lowering taxes on the richest Americans and corporations, creating massive loopholes so that rich people really don't have to pay taxes at all, and so forth.

In the meantime, people were waking up in other parts of the world. People cast off their oppressive governments in Tunisia, Egypt and Lybia and are working on that is other countries around the world.

People started to wake up a little bit in the United States when Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin set about stripping unions of their rights in secret, illegal meetings of Republican lawmakers. A prank caller, pretending to be David Koch, got him to show his hand. An occupation began of the capitol rotunda for many months, until recall elections changed the balance of power in that state.

Finally, the rest of the United States is starting to take notice. Two weeks ago, a leaderless group of citizens started an occupation of Wall Street. Several hundred, then several thousand people showed up to bring notice to the manipulation of the US citizenry by Wall Street bankers and others. Many of these banks had been bailed out by TARP money - billions of dollars given to banks to keep them afloat. The banks gladly accepted the money, and then refused to free up loans for small businesses and citizens. Within a year, these bankers were back to giving themselves millions of dollars in bonuses, and just doing business as they always had, taking care of themselves and their wealthy friends, and continuing to suck on the the teet of middle-class of America.

As Andy Borowitz put it, it is like a man who has been rescued from a burning building then turning around and kicking the fireman in the nuts.

The mainstream media refused to cover this protest, as their corporate owners saw this as a minor threat, and assumed that if they didn't show it on TV, people would just lose interest and go home - the way Americans typically do. I learned about the protest through my Canadian cousin, who posted a link on facebook pointing out to us Americans what was happening in our own country that we had not heard about!

Two weeks later, Occupy Wall Street has become an international movement.

I went down yesterday to join Occupy Denver. I had a number of interesting experiences, so I'll just tell you that story:

Feeling an urgency to participate in what I saw as the most important movement since the Vietnam war, I went to my local Occupy gathering place. Occupy Denver took place near the Capitol building.

I walked several miles to get there while my wife was volunteering for The Race for the Cure. When I got there, I saw a dozen or so people milling about. No one was on the capitol steps, where my email said the protest was happening.

A little disappointed, I sat down on a bench nearby and thought about my options. When I looked up, I saw my friend Tony walking over to me. He was coming to tell me that I looked like a friend of his, and I was just about to tell him he looked like a friend of mine.

He told me that the protesters were out marching around the city. The dozen or so people milling around were the actual 'occupiers,' and they had been there for 9 days, and intend to be there until at least January first.

He and I walked down and met them. Tony had been there all morning playing his drum. I'm still not sure why he was walking around by the out-of-the-way bench I was sitting on. Just something meant to happen, I guess.

I talked to several of the 'occupiers' - and realize these were extremely well educated, well spoken and well intentioned people. They were not just a bunch of radicals. They spoke from the heart about the issues they believed in.

The message of the day had become "We are the other 99%," meaning that the millionaires and billionaires being so well taken care of by our government constitute 1% of the population. We are the remaining 99% - the vast majority of all Americans.

The marchers came back after a short time and rallied on the capitol. The headcount, according to the 'occupiers' was nearly 600. The week before, a similar rally had brought out 50.

Then the protestors took off again to march around Denver.

The people occupying the street were extremely cautious about being courteous and following the rules, so that the police had no reason to move them along. They were constantly picking up litter, and making sure the sidewalk remained clear for people to pass.

After a couple hours, I needed to go back to meet my wife.

On the way back, I passed the protestors, who now seemed to have a police escort.

There was a story behind the police escort that I learned about later:

There is a pedestrian mall in Denver called The 16th Street Mall. It is a high-rent high-profile area for a lot of upscale stores, hotels and restaurants. A video on youtube showed the protestors approaching the mall, which was being blocked by the police. The protestors came upon them, and the initial cries went out "get your cameras out" "cameras out!" and hundreds of people started taking pictures of the police. After that, the chant changed to "The police are the 99%!" "The police are the 99%!" After a minute or so, one of the police officers gave the order to allow the protestors onto the mall.

Like I say, when I saw them, the police were leading the protest, blocking traffic and clearing the way.

Meanwhile, the occupation movement is gaining momentum.

In New York, some 500 people were arrested as they tried to cross the Brooklyn Bridge. News agency accounts say they were blocking traffic and not following directions. A number of non-news agency interviews with the protestors paint a story of being lead onto the bridge, as if the police were going to escort them across. Once in the middle of the bridge, they found themselves in an orange net and being arrested. This is on the heels of the macing and arrest incidents on Wall Street.

However, with this sort of movement, any violence directed toward the protestors benefits the protests. People today are blogging about the fact that many current and former members of the military are saying they are going to participate, along with union member and others also joining the movement. The military people say they will offer support as well as protection to the protestors.

This reminds me of the last big protest I was in, which was a small revolution in Moscow, USSR:

There had been a coup, and the government was attempting to establish marshall law. Tanks were in the streets, and soon surrounded the "Russian White House" where Boris Yeltsin was holed up, pointing their guns at the large tower. At some point, there was a dramatic shift. Yeltsin jumped up on one of the tanks, and the tanks turned their guns to face away from the Russian White House building. In the course of a few minutes, the army had moved from being aggressive toward this symbol of freedom, to protecting it from other military that may be meaning aggression. This also happened in Egypt. Is it happening here?

The military are the 99%, after all.

So, is this our Arab Spring? Is this the beginning of the shift to put the people once again in charge of the country instead of the wealthy, banks and corporations?

This is the biggest American movement of my adult life, and I am proud to be a part of it.

There are Occupy movements currently in almost every large, American city. You can be part of it. Even if it is an hour or so. Or maybe you want to be one of the occupiers, and live with a group of like-minded people.

And what if you are not like minded? What if you are one of the Tea Partiers who has followed the likes of Sarah Palin, or Michele Bachman. Maybe for you, it is worth talking to some of these protestors and see if they are really as bad and misguided as the right make them out to be. They are, after all, asking for less influence of money, fiscal responsibility and putting control of the government back into the hands of the citizens. If you are part of the other 99%, maybe they are representing your point-of-view more than you think. Perhaps you have been brainwashed by your TV. It is worth considering. And if you disagree with what we are standing for, we will support your right to believe whatever you wish. That is power by the people.