Saturday, October 30, 2004

Political Zen....

Yes, well, I know that title sux, but there's the little box asking for a title, and those two things are in my mind, so maybe that's what I'm writing about...

The election is upon us and as it looks, however it goes we're going to need to find perspective on it all, and zazen is how I get perspective on everything, so I know I'll be on my cushion Wednesday morning, probably all week. If GWB goes back in, it's a bleak day for democracy, and we just go on to organize... and if Kerry's elected, we cheer, take a deep breath, and - go on to organize, just in a slightly different direction. Doesn't mean the forces of fascism have been defeated once and for all, nor does it solve the immediate problem of Americans continuing to kill Muslims, making everybody in the Middle East hate us more each day. It certainly doesn't help the core problem there, Israeli occupation. If Arafat dies, things could get much worse there, and the Dems seem actually worse on that issue than Bush & Company. The two-state solution is a dead horse. (Read Edward Said.)

Corporate globalism and the "free trade" juggernaut will continue unabated under Democratic control, as will most of the destruction of the environment and exploitation of poor and working people around the world. Maybe Kerry would take a little more rational approach to things like the Kyoto Accords and actually make progress on stopping global warming before we cross the line of no return - if we haven't already. Certainly a Kerry administration would provide a less hostile environment for progressive work, but let's not think we can really relax.

Of course, if Bush manages to steal another one, our work is double, for we must procede with the progressive work while at the same time fighting to keep the Philistines from dismantling what is left of American democracy! Civil liberties will be severely under attack if the fear agenda is given a mandate, and we will suddenly be forced to be much more careful about security. Ashcroft and the rest of the fascists will be emboldened by a return to office, and free of any constraints they may have felt due to this election. Of course, in four more years, they may have consolidated so much power that the next election will be meaningless anyway. The startling mobilization of progressive forces in the country in the past year is the only thing that keeps me from being really worried about the consequences of Republican victory. Some people even think four more years would be good in the long run due to the greater pressure it would put on progressives to organize and leverage money out of wealthy supporters. I'm not willing to go there.

I don't love Kerry, but I would never vote for the N-guy and certainly not Bush - I'd not want that mortal stain on my soul!

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Thinking for yourself...

MickeyZ - alias the Cool Observor - says:
I believe the current patterns of dissent in America are long overdue for re-evaluation and overhaul. The powers-that-be have long ago figured out how to either marginalize or co-opt dissent. Unless our tactics evolve, they will become self-parody.

I believe Americans seeking change must help cultivate new, more realistic American Dreams (plural)...dreams not for sale to the highest bidder...dreams not based on material consumption or physical beauty. We need dreams that promote and extol unity and collective success while maintaining our individuality and independence...dreams that challenge humans to think for themselves AND about others."

...and I agree! Mickey was actually on national TV today, saying this and similarly radical things (like "the pleasure of thinking for yourself") that I thought I'd never hear on TV - okay, so it was on CSpan Book TV, but it was TV and people actually watch CSpan these days - even my mother watches CSpan. Along with him were Mark Hand, editor of Press Action, and Elaine Cassell, author of The War on Civil Liberties. It was great to hear them talk about the realities of politics in America today. Strange, as it was the first time I've turned on the TV in our house in a couple of weeks, and was really looking for a baseball game or something, and just happened on this great program.

The title of this post will link you to Mickey's web site, or you can find him and Mark at the Press Action site . One of the great things about George W. Bush's Presidency - wait, actually it's the onlygreat thing about it - is that it has re-energized the progressive opposition, and we actually have people like MickeyZ and Mark getting air time. They actually talked about the fact that some people think we should re-elect Bush so that it pushes the progressive people to get more involved, donate more money, and in the end make greater gains in the 2008 election.

Which is pretty radical discussion for national TV, CSpan or otherwise. Personally I think that is scary, and that we can't take those kinds of risks because so many people will be hurt, will in fact die, in the next four years, and the judicial appointments Bush would get to make could cripple progressive efforts for the next 50 years. At least it's a place to go if we don't win, a way to deal with that horrible eventuality and find some optimism. But I think people are beginning to realize for the first time that the danger of fascism is real, that this could be the last free election we have, and that we radicals need to be taken seriously.

"Check your local listings" for Outside the Ballot Box - Election 2004 and Beyond on Book TV - and pray it gets played again.


Friday, October 22, 2004

Young Liberals

Cool! Just got my first cross-post request! Young Liberal Chris happened on us via the Next Blog clik, liked what he saw, and suggested I visit his blog. A very political spot it is! And pretty positive - as positive as one can be when faced with the looming fascism of the current administration. Not like some guy at the site Right Winger I looked at today, which started out with how much he "hates everything liberal" and proceded to list all the stuff he "hates." How right wing! Even talked about how he'd like to beat some guy "with his fists" because he suggested W might be compared to Hitler. Of course he's not Hitler, he hasn't killed thousands (sic) of people. I wanted to ask him about the over 1 million Iraqis that W and his dad are responsible for the deaths of, but I tried to be civil.

Anyway, check out Young Liberals - they're young and firey and quite right on with their politics. It's good to see, 'cuz this country's gonna need a lot of good young folks to heal all the damage the Bushites have done. We're probably starting a long uphill climb back to be a progressive society in January, but it'll take a while to restore, especially the court appointments that will continue to visit right wing hate on our people for years to come...

The Misleader

One of the greatest obstacles to the open mind is the vast quantity of propaganda spewed by our government and political parties, especially during election season. The President and his supporters are past masters at the art of propaganda, subtle spin, and misleading innuendo. A great way to disengage yourself from the control of all this fear-producing, mind-numbing flow is to compare what's said to the recorded facts.

A good site to begin with is the Daily Misleader, which focuses on the President's role in this process, and is meticulously documented with links to sources. The sheer volume of stuff in their archive is astounding. Of course there are things they missed, too, like the comment by the President in one of the debates that he didn't think he'd ever said he wasn't worried about Osama bin Laden. Watching that clip paired up with the clip where he laughs and smirks and says, "I don't know where he is.... I'm not really that concerned about him" is eye-opening. That's at the Democratic party site,, I think. Similar clips abound.

One of the principles of good, effective propaganda is to never be afraid to tell really big lies when the occasion presents itself. Really big lies and half-truths seem to work the best. Little lies are not very effective, which is one of the reason the Democrats, and progressive political groups, are not very good at this game. Eric Alterman's book What Liberal Media shows how the right wing has taken over power in this country in the past 20 years by knowing how to manipulate the media and being willing to just be very duplicitous in some extremely creative ways. You have to admire their effectiveness. Even though the media in America are owned by about six mega-corporations, all of which have very conservative agendas, and almost all the media outlets consistently take right-of-center positions on candidates and issue, the right wing has convinced most Americans that "the media" is "liberal." As Alterman proves with lots of data, there is a liberal media, but it is tiny and quite underfunded.

The other issue, of course, is that even the liberals in this country are in service of the same basic agenda, they just take a different approach to it. They are just as much corporate and capitalist as the right wing, just more socially aware and hipper to what's cool with the cool people. The truly radical things that need to be said, discussed, and made clear to the people of the country never make it into the mainstream debate at all. That's why what's-his-name Dean was assassinated (media-ly) so quickly - he started making sounds like he was going to actually bring up some of the real issues. And of course, Dennis Kucinich, who did bring them up and has been for some time, never made it out of the dugout. He better watch his back or he may end up like Paul Wellstone, another who confronted power with truth. Or like Joseph Wilson's wife, who got clotheslined by the Oval Office boys. Notice how all those things happened before much of anybody but the diehard political people were really paying any attention, and it never got into the nightly news in more than some sanitized blurb.

So you must be really sharp to figure out what's going on. If you still think Dan Rather and company are gonna keep you on top of all the news that matters, you've given yourself to the rendering machine and your mind is the soap.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Emily's Blog

This is a link to the site of the friend who inspired me to begin my own blog. The courage Emily (nee Charles) shows in putting her/his journey of suffering, struggle and transformation out there for all to share in hopes that someone else may benefit from reading about it helped me to make the decision to do the same with my own struggles. Emily's blog is a story of self-discovery that we can all find inspiration in. Check it out.

Em also helped me modify my template - she's a fricking genius and screams on computer, code, all that! - so I now have, ta-da!, a sidebar list of the links I've mentioned previously.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Zen mind...

How are we to know the Truth?

Most of the preceding comments are on the relative level. At the level of the absolute, understanding and clarity about reality, truth, existence, or anything else can only come through experiencing. The operative principle is, however, the same: keep the mind open. Only the open mind is capable of the experiencing that leads to liberation. Beliefs and pre-conceptions of any kind, attachment to opinions and preferences about how things "should be" act as blinders to what is. Even the preceding statement may be an obstacle, as may the current statement. Anything may be liberating or confining. So the only avenue is not clinging.

Clinging, of course, may be okay too, because it can teach you not to cling. Words are so difficult because they tend to stick. Experiencing is teflon-coated. It moves continuously; there's no such thing as 'an experience' because experiencing never stops. 'An experience' exists only in the boxes of the mind where an artificial beginning and ending is ascribed to some segment of experiencing and it is filed away under some category of memory. Thus 'experiences' clung to lead us astray: "Don't waste your time on the foolish pursuit of the inconsequential," Master Yanagi (I think) said. He was speaking specifically of visions and other ecstatic experiences, but his warning applies to any experience that we would grasp onto and make into our ground.

Many years ago I stepped - or was pushed! - onto the Way of Buddha. Very bad things had happened to me, particularly the Vietnam War, yet in the middle of those very bad things, very good things happened, and I discovered in the smile and simple words of a Thai man that the Buddha's Way was my way. True to the conditioning of my cultural upbringing, I tried for years to follow this way intellectually, through reading and study, and thus I continued to wander and stumble in darkness. I learned a great deal about Buddhism, but it was through meditation that I began to understand my self, and thus began to find true understanding of other things. And it was only when I finally began a real practice of meditation, with a teacher and a sangha to support me, that I understood the truth of the Buddha's teachings.

One of the most interesting things to me is the relationship between the absolute and the relative. I think it's entirely possible to be very clear in one and still very confused in the other, and in either direction. There seem to be people who are very clear about the absolute, yet don't have a clue about what's going on in the world, mostly because their social analysis is flawed. That's primarily because of the two factors I've been discussing: conditioning and information. There are definitely lots of people who see what's going on in the world pretty clearly, have clear minds and sophisticated social analysis, and maintain a good clean information flow, yet haven't even considered looking into the absolute - just dismiss it entirely, and thus are subject to all kinds of other problems in their lives, and can't function very well even in the relative realm because of their delusions about themselves.

It's a real challenge to get both going on at the same time. This is the tension between practice and engagement in contemporary Buddhism. I am only just beginning to see all this, so I don't pretend to understand it, but it intrigues me and draws me into confronting my own conceptions. Sometimes it makes me feel schizophrenic, as I seem to hold contradictory ideas about things! I've been trying to do some writing about Buddhist practice lately, and I keep coming up against these contradictions in my mind. That's why writing is good for me, good for all of us: it helps us clarify our thoughts.

The secret is to keep Beginner's Mind, where, as Suzuki said in _Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind_, all things are possible.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

News & views: Common Dreams

For right action, we must have understanding, which in turn depends largely on good information. Corporate channels filter and color information for their purposes. For our purposes there's Common Dreams, Alternet, One, and other news sources. I like Common Dreams, and it'll get you to the rest. If you get all your news from the networks, you're being brainwashed, plain and simple. Read widely, trust no one source, question authority, suspect motivations, and develop a really good bullshit detector.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Chomsky resources

Critical Thinkers Resources is a site that provides many links to essential thinkers - this one is to Noam Chomsky, whose teachings about how our very thinking is targeted by the authoritarian aspects of our society are necessary to keeping open and free minds.
"For those who stubbornly seek freedom, there can be no more urgent task than to come to understand the mechanisms and practices of indoctrination. These are easy to perceive in the totalitarian societies, much less so in the system of 'brainwashing under freedom' to which we are subjected and which all too often we serve as willing or unwitting instruments." - a good Chomsky quote!
There are other Chomsky sites, but this one is organized around those concerns, and helps to sort thru the vast quantity of Chomsky material.

Braima Moiwa

Braima Moiwa is one of the most captivating, charismatic individuals I've ever met! His smile will open your heart, and his story of life in Sierra Leone will take you to the heart of the third-world crisis on an intensely personal level. My wife and I met Braima at one of his presentations at the Broadfield-Hofwyld Rice Plantation in coastal Georgia. His site is filled with photos of his exhuberant drumming/story-telling/cooking cultural encounters for all ages, as well as articles he has written about his experiences in Sierra Leone. []

The Black Commentator

Black Commentator - The most clarity and truth you'll find about what's happening in America on the political and economic fronts. These guys are so informed they seem prescient, and so honest they seem radical. They're just telling the truth.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Recommended blogs/sites

I'd like to find a place here to list others' sites that I find interesting and enlightening, but for now I'm just going to post them as entries as I think of them.

The first is the "girl blog from Iraq," which was my first contact with if you want to know what has been and is happening on the ground in Iraq, read Riverbend. She's the Anne Frank of this war, perhaps this century: [clik Link below]

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

But sometimes it's a mine field...

Yes, the best approach to life is to keep an open mind... but sometimes the terrain of life is a mine field, full of hazards that threaten with every step to blow us to smithereens!

Struggling to be open and free of the dualism of attachments and opinions, I find nothing but conflict with the emotions that explode in me when I see the horrible things going on in the world, the suffering that people visit on other people out of greed, hatred, and anger. My own suffering through the Vietnam war in the early years of my adulthood left me passionately opposed to war and the authoritarian systems that promote it, so the growing corporate dominance of the world and the increasing fascism of the American people seem obviously evil to me. Yet I recognize the dualism in that idea. How do I reconcile the absolute and the relative?

I certainly don't propose to answer these questions in this cyber journal I am undertaking, but I hope to be able to explore the questions and the conflicts in some meaningful ways that will help me sort through it all for myself, and perhaps even spark comment and exchange from others who happen by this offering to the world. In the discourse that may emerge, I hope my ideas and understandings become clearer, and perhaps others my benefit as well.

There are few things that I am willing to say that I believe, and few things that I can say I know. However, one thing I know: Lucinda Williams is the best song writer currently writing in any genre. If you don't believe me, you should probably just commit suicide and save the world from your own fucking stupidity. How's that for taking a stand? But it is true. Take for example "Those Three Days" from the World Without Tears album - that song probably contains more truth unvarnished about relationships between men and women in our society than anything ever written. I am something of a musical snob, actually, and I know many people just won't get past Lucinda's Lousiana country voice, but anyone of true emotional intelligence who listens to her songs for a couple of albums will eventually come to agree with me.

With that decidedly dualistic assertion, I will close this evening's entry. Sweet dreams all.

Monday, October 04, 2004

The Mind Field

The open mind is beginner's mind, where all things are possible and new learning is easy. This site is empty, open to whatever may arrive. I am beginning tonight with many ideas about this project, but my mind is open as to what it will be. Whatever may come to fill it, it will always be open, and it will always be dedicated to fostering openess in the minds of others.