It is a time of fear in the face of freedom, a time of an emptying country and swelling cities, a time for the widening of previous roads and the opening of new paths, yet a time when these paths are mined by knowing algorithms of the all-seeing eye. It is the time of the warrior's peace and the miser's charity, when the planting of a seed is an act of conscientious objection. These are the times when maps fade, old landmarks crumble and direction is lost. Forwards is backwards now, so we glance sideways at the strange lands through which we are all passing, knowing for certain only that our destination has disappeared. We are unready to meet these times, but we proceed nonetheless, adapting as we wander, reshaping the Earth with every tread. Behind us we have left the old times, the standard times, the high times. Welcome to the irregular times.
Our writer Jim has spent the last few days giving fair coverage to the fact that the Million Mask March would be taking place today in many locations around the world. There have been protests going on all day, in a remarkable number of nations, from Australia to Armenia. Now, as the world turns toward darkness, the line of protests is moving toward Anaheim.
Okay, so we understand that there’s a big series of protests going on today. Even more important, however, is to understand what the Million Mask marches are all about.
For many participants, the purpose of the protest seems to be to have a protest. That was the message I got from many photographs from the protests, such as this image from London, showing a sign reading, “United as one, no power can stop us.” That message is loud and clear: Nothing can stop the Borg. The question is, what do the Borg want?
Some good REM sleep, suggests another protest sign: “If they don’t let us dream, we won’t let them sleep.” Has someone been stopping people from dreaming? Who? How? Is sleep deprivation an ethical protest tactic? It sounds like the kind of torture that has been conducted in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.
Questionable protest tactics are at the foundation of the Million Mask March. It was planned for Guy Fawkes Day, in commemoration of a terrorist conspiracy by Catholic Englishmen who, when they saw that the government would not meet their demands, decided they would kill everyone in Parliament with a gigantic bomb. The enthusiastic embrace of Guy Fawkes – the man of the mask himself – as an inspiration has led to some hesitation among supporters of nonviolence.
In one city, protesters pooled their money to buy space on big billboards, for images of Guy Fawkes masks on top of unsheathed swords. Swords? Who is going to get cut?
Threats. There were many threats in the protests today, like this one: “People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.” Let’s pause, and think this through, please. Do we really want out governments to be afraid of us? Why? People who are afraid usually act impulsively, and make terrible mistakes. I want my government to respect my freedoms and be receptive to my opinions. That’s not the same thing as fear.
The rhythm of the slogan, in which one idea is turned around into its opposite, seems to be popular. Witness “We are not anti-system, the system is anti-us.” We do not want the government to be watching us, but want us to watch the government. We are not breaking the law, the law is breaking us. We do not argue with the validity of elections – rather, we elect the validity of argument. I get it.
Looking at the Million Mask March events around the world today, there were some slogans that were just plain bizarre: “Unfuck the World”, read one sign. Was it anti-sex, or just against everything being all fucked up, or was it merely about getting a thrill from carrying a big sign with the word “fuck” on it?
Some protest messages seemed to have a local, rather than global, relevance. This protester, in the Philippines, for example, seems to be addressing Internet censorship that’s taking place there. “You shut down our Internet, we shut down your government.” Fair enough, although the ideal in a government is that it isn’t really somebody else’s. My concern with this sign is for how the message transfers over to politics in the United States, where it has been right wing fanatics who want to shut down the government, mostly in order to keep pushing for lower taxes for corporations and the wealthy, and in order to avoid environmental protections.
I see many messages from protesters saying that they’re protesting against corruption and for justice, but those are very general positions, much like saying that they’re protesting bad things, and marching for good things. I actually don’t see many messages of protest against NSA spying, though some suggested that would be the dominant issue.
I’m searching a huge number of sources created by the protesters themselves to try to discover what the Million Mask March seeks to achieve, but most of what I find seems to be an expression of a raw feeling that protests need to be taking place, and that a demonstration of outrage… against stuff… needs to be made. So we find ourselves with the widely distributed sign carried today by people across the world, reading:
The corrupt fear us.
The honest support us.
The heroic join us.
For what? To fight for honesty? Okay, I’ll be honest. I had a doughnut this morning, and I should have told my wife about it, but I didn’t. Is that the kind of honesty the Million Mask March is looking for?
Really, if the heroic join you, and the honest support you, what role is there in your protest movement for the confused, who are watching you, and noting that something seems to be going on, but don’t want to be co-opted by a movement that may end up supporting questionable political ideals and tactics?
At this point, the Million Mask March is like a petitioner showing up at the world’s front door with a blank piece of paper, asking everyone to sign their names in agreement, or be counted among “the corrupt”.
The corrupt don’t fear you, dear ones. The corrupt ones chuckle at you for a second, then get back to their business. Get your thoughts organized, and then the corrupt may start to take notice.
Ever since Earnest Hemmingway wrote the Spanish town of Pamplona, the running of the bulls ritual there has been an international symbol of masculine courage. Participants, historically all men, but in recent years including a few women, line up in one of Pamplona’s narrow streets, in front of a dozen bulls. When the bulls are released, the men run away, trying not to get hurt.
In the city of Ujjain, in north central India, the running of the bulls works a little differently. Men line themselves up along a street in front of a group of bulls. In Ujjain, however, the men don’t run away. They lie down, and allow the bulls to walk or run right over them.
The purpose of the Ujjain ritual is different as well. Whereas the participants in Pamplona are seeking to create a display of their physical and mental toughness, the people participating in the bull ritual in Ujjain are seeking forgiveness through submission. Instead of running away from the bulls, they wait for them.
Ujjain is a holy site for Hindus, home to the Mahakaleshwar temple and host of a Kumbh Mela pilgrimage. (The next Kumbh Mela in Ujjain will take place in July of 2016.) Tradition has it that the divinity Shiva resides in Ujjain, and the bull ritual is related to him. Shiva is traditionally depicted as riding upon a sacred bull named Namdi. Bulls are thus regarded as representations of the power of Shiva. To be trod upon by a bull is to demonstrate submission to Shiva.
We’ve all heard that Hindus don’t eat the meat of cattle, which they regard as sacred. The symbol of the bull is an ancient one in Ujjain in particular, and can be seen on very old coins from the area. However, not everyone in Ujjain is gentle to the bulls there. As in Pamplona, there are bull fights in Ujjain. Unlike the Spanish bullfights, however, the Ujjain bullfights feature two bulls fighting against each other. No human enters the fray.
Go ahead, read it. React. That’s what rule by the people is supposed to be about.
Geovanni B (Edits also By John F)
To all the Peoples of this Nation, We are the United States of America. We have come today, the Fifth of November 2013, Anonymously and Peacefully as One; Indivisible, without regard to age, color, income, religion, nor sex. From the coast of one Great Ocean, to the coast of Another, we come to gather as the children of Love & Freedom. We Stand with the heaviest of hearts at the Precarious State of Our Union, and our World. We Stand with sincere Hope of molding a better future, unlike the empty promises of those currently in power. We Stand in solidarity, here in Washington DC, and in Capitals Worldwide, with Most serious purpose: to Awaken our Human Brethren out of their Slothful Slumber. Listen to our wise counsel, America, and allow our words to open your eyes, lest we blindly perish
We are here to provide a warning to our Countrymen, that a rocky abyss awaits us if we continue this path off the precipice. We will no longer sit still as We see our beloved land veering dangerously far from Liberty’s Light toward Dictatorial Darkness. We rise up Our Voice with Love, yet Determination in the manner of Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Our only armaments are The Truth and Goodwill toward all. With Love for our God, with Love for ourselves, Love for our families, our neighbors, and Love for our Country and World, we seek to correct our course. This country needs to realize we are One, United from many, and what is done to some affects us all. Our history is marred by scars that will never heal, like the tragedies of slavery and the genocide of the native peoples, but we must also realize that to wallow in the sins of the past is purely destructive. Let us learn from these mistakes, and come together not in a spirit of retribution, but of brotherhood. Despite our many differences there is much we have in common. Regardless of your political beliefs, we all want what is best for our children and ourselves. We can all agree that Peace and Prosperity for our entire Planet is not a Utopian pipe dream, but a valiant goal to strive toward
We, the Aggrieved People of America gather at Congress’ doorstep to be Heard! Our Will has been Ignored for far too long. The Members of Congress, along with their financiers, are Not our Royalty, and we are Not their Subjects. The crimes committed by our leaders against the very Freedoms they have sworn to uphold are Too many to name. We Stand here, United, to prevent Any further erosion of our Civil Liberties. Once lost, Freedom will not easily be restored to this land. The Bill of Rights, its words the Bedrock of a Free Society, has never been so tested, and the time has come for this Generation to Stand up.
Without the pretense of Shame, and Reeking of Despotism, the United States Government Spies on its People, assassinates Citizens with remote drones, passes unjust laws no one has read, then Lies unabashedly when Truth finally struggles to the surface. We label men like Ellsberg, Manning, & Snowden as terrorists & traitors because they dare to lift the Veil of Untruth. In Violation of the Sixth Amendment, we detain such “dissidents” indefinitely, sometimes without the right to a public trial. This is a slap in the face to every patriot sacrificed on the altar of Freedom. The People deserve a transparent Governance & this deception will no longer be tolerated.
There is No ruling class in a Constitutional Republic. We the People rebuke our Governors for Misspending Too Much of the People’s money, yet doing Too Little to actually benefit us. This unprecedented level of corrupt mismanagement will Stop. Lobbying and selling your votes to the highest bidder, shall no longer be regarded as the status quo. Your Zeal for the destruction of our Founding Document is Unforgivable, as you enact laws that strip away our Liberty and Ignore the Constitution in the name of Safety. This Republic is Of the People, By the People, and For the People, NOT the property of the Ruling Elites.
The Federal Government’s Taxation obscene. Like two omnipotent hands strangling the Governed, One robs the People to fund Congress’ excesses, while the other uses the Internal Revenue Service like the sixth branch of the military to destroy its political enemies. Again, this is wholly UnAmerican. The treasury belongs to its people, not an Oligarchy of chosen few who print money out of thin air, then enslave the populace with debt. The citizens deserve to decide what their money is spent on. Welfare, whether foreign or domestic, in exchange for Loyalty is no longer acceptable to those that fund this country through the sweat of their labours.
After more than a decade of War, Congress’ war making powers need to be redressed. When threatened, the People of this Nation have proven to be Brave and Fierce warriors, but National Defence should be just that: National DEFENCE. Democracy at the point of a gun is no Democracy at all. America’s Offensive Wars of Fortune are Reckless & have been Criminally overpaid by the blood of American youth and innocents in villages far away. We, the Battle Weary, Demand an end to foreign engagements for the purpose of “Nation Building”. To borrow money to fund our “Democracy by Force” is Dangerous & Foolish. We claim to be battling terrorism, yet we create thousands more enemies with our heavy-handed actions. The Military Industrial Complex that President Dwight Eisenhower warned us about has now become a cancer eating this world alive, and needs to be excised. While claiming Neutrality, we arm both sides of a conflict, then sit back and watch the world burn as we count our money
“We are a benign Empire,” you may claim, “providing more aid to other nations during times of crisis than the rest of the world combined.” In answer we reply, what possible good can we be during the next catastrophic tsunami or devastating earthquake if our storehouse is barren? It is no longer correct, nor financially feasible to destroy a country at will, then remake it in our image. We Cannot continue to subsidize the entirety of the Earth. This irresponsibly bankrupting foreign aid must be reigned in. Let us rebuild OUR nation First, before we can be of any real benefit to others. Let us allow the rest of the world to care for their own affairs, before we assume the American way is what’s best for all. Once we have been cleansed of our own Corruption, we may regain our moral authority, & right to lead this planet. A Nation enslaved to Debtors cannot possibly free another.
The United States of America, the “shining city on the hill”, Freest, most prosperous Nation in all the history of humanity, has taken that precious gift for Granted. To the People we say, Wake Up! How can we offer Liberty to the third-world, when so many of our very citizens do not understand it? America has allowed itself to decline precipitously at a time when it can least afford to. Why do we allow ourselves to be divided so easy, when we must actually be uniting in order to battle a greater enemy? How distracted we are by the state-run Media’s stories. Have our electronics robbed our free-thinking? Are we STILL the Land of the Free and the home of the Brave?
Like ancient Rome before us, there are many that seek our destruction, from within and from without, while our forces are spread thin fighting engagements the People do not comprehend. Like Roman citizens before Rome’s destruction, the American People have become Too Comfortable. No longer are we self-sufficient, as we look always to Government, like a doting parent, for our basic needs. The days of the Victory Garden are long gone. A populace lost IN Dependence is NOT an Independent Populace. We Are Lazy, Selfish, and Most dangerous of All, Ignorant. Our people care more about the latest celebrity fashion trend or newest gadget, than who our leaders are or what malice they are up to. Daily we cede Individual Liberty and Vast new powers to the political class who’s only concern is perpetuating its own Greed & Vanity.
The Free Market, our economic engine, is broken. After providing more prosperity to the masses than Feudalism, Fascism, & Communism could ever dream to, it has been Perverted, and is now nothing more than a den of Liars and Thieves. The People can no longer strive for the American Dream of prosperity derived from hard work and dedication. Monstrous “Too Big to Fail” Monopolies have been allowed to choke the life out of the Small Business Owner, the life breath of our Prosperity. We have lost our freedom of commerce, de-evolving into an out of control Casino, with repetitive and destructive “Bubble then Burst” cycles created by their unchecked irresponsibility with Our Banking System. Ask yourself America, why are the very perpetrators of our Depression “Bailed out” while the People are left to Rot?!
Profit is not the evil we gather to decry, as it is only fair a man receive recompense for his labors. We are here to Decry companies that allow PROFIT to replace Human Decency, holding the lives of the People Expendable over another dollar. We shall no longer look upon blindly as the well-being of the average American is sacrificed in the pursuit of more money. We, the Citizens of this Nation, permit irresponsible profit seekers to poison us with Chemicals, Pharmaceuticals, High-fructose Corn Syrup, Genetically Modified Organisms, and many other cost-cutting, money-making killers. These Are Unreasonable Profits with no regard to future consequences, including, not only knowingly harming its customers’ health, but possibly causing irreparable damage to our very Genetic Code. Why are Diseases Spiking at a time of medical technology’s greatest advancements? Why is Obesity so rampant here, while the rest of the world is allowed to starve? Once again we have ceded our power. This time to the Corporations run by the gangsters of Wall Street who fund the lobbyists, who fund the Congressmen, who fund the generous business donors in one incestuous cycle of insider trading and villainy.
The way forward may not be simple, yet the solutions are. We don’t need Government to feed us, nor material possessions to complete us. The only things we really require as human beings to be content are Love, Respect, and a Thankful Heart. The one thing religions the world over can agree on is to treat others as you would want to be treated. If we show unconditional Love to our fellow man we will reap a bounty in return of Epic proportions. We must Respect our elders as well as our children, as there is much wisdom to be gained from both. Abuse for either will never again be tolerated. Our Planet and All of Her residents, human or otherwise deserve the Utmost respect. Energy can be produced cleanly, efficiently and plentifully in our Own nation if the stranglehold of the Oil Cartels can ever be broken. It is our imperative to leave our home cleaner than we found it for those yet to be born to enjoy. Most Importantly we must all be thankful for all our many blessings, our fellow travelers, our every breath. Be happy with what you have. We do not suggest you stop dreaming of better things, as there is Pride in hard work and responsibility. This Country must rise above entitlement. Love is Charity, but caring for each other must be done willingly, not by Governmental Edict. Let us evolve past Selfishness & Greed, and together work toward a better Future for all Humanity.
America must return to the ideals handed down to us by our Founders. The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence set forth rules a Free People should follow in order to remain so. We turn our backs on the Wisdom of our Elders at our own Peril. We must strive to be strong of body and of mind. Education should be foremost, lest we perpetuate the ignorance. There is no need to change our entire medical system into yet another all powerful bureaucracy, when just a little more physical activity and responsible eating will cure most of our ills. In order to become free of our reliance to an all powerful Government we Must be more self sufficient. Grow your own food. Exercise with your loved ones. Share the bounty of your efforts in the spirit of Fellowship. As Thomas Jefferson said, “Every man is created equal, imbued by our Creator with the inalienable rights of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
Let Us Live. Let us Be Free. Let Us Be Happy. In George Orwell’s book, 1984, a Nightmare vision is presented of a Dystopian future where the few rule over the many with an iron first, and dissent is crushed swiftly and brutally. This would be easily dismissed were it just a work of fiction, but history has taught us repeatedly that true freedom is the real fiction. Man has Lorded over Man since the first days of our kind. If we do not Awaken Immediately we shall soon return to the oppressive state that is common among Humanity. Like Gandhi and Dr. King let us Dream of a beautiful future were we are ALL Free to pursue or own destiny!
Toward this end we make this NEW Declaration of Independence. We declare our Independence from the Enlightened Few who seek to Subjugate and Rule. We declare our Freedom from an All powerful Bureaucracy. Power belongs to the Governed and is better managed locally. We declare our intention as the Children of Love and Freedom, to fill this Earth with lives full of LOVE, RESPECT, & THANKSGIVING, not servitude to the ever more Heartless Iron Fist. We are now Awakened and United, and as people with hopes and feelings, deserving of the bounty this Planet can provide. Let Us contemplate these words. Meditate on their Meaning, and Let Us return a year from now, on November 5, 2014 a Stronger, Wiser, Infinitely Loving People ready to Give more than we Take. Humanity will either Transcend its baser impulses or we shall allow ourselves to be Destroyed. If there is to be a New World Order, let the People decide what it is to be. We have seen enough war, pestilence, famine, and death. A new age of Freedom, Charity, Peace, and Love has begun so that all the Peoples of America & the World may Thrive. Thank You, and Namaste. Peace be with You.
One night before the Million Mask March, taking place in 443 locations, who knows about this event?
You might think, considering that there have been 110 news articles on “Twerking” over the past week alone, that the Million Mask March might generate some interest from America’s “professional” news media.
You’d be wrong. Following up on the article I wrote two days ago, I encourage you to check the record of the past week for yourself. As of tonight, there have been no professional news stories on the “Million Mask March” in the week leading up to the protest. None. Zip. Zero. Nada. Zilch. The closest you’ll find in a news search are some blog posts by the people “professionals” like to call “amateurs,” some articles posted by Russian propaganda outlets, and an article posted by an Iranian propaganda outlet. In the Chico Enterprise-Record there’s a letter to the editor opposing the marches; in the Eureka Times-Standard someone got a guest editorial piece supporting the marches into publication. Those are written by outsiders. Otherwise, there’s a complete news blackout regarding the Million Mask March.
Now, you might have reasons to oppose the Million Mask March. You might find yourself disgusted by the Million Mask March. You might not. For a moment, set that aside and ask yourself the question: do you think you ought to at least know about the existence of a planned set of 443 protests tomorrow? Do you think that it is a healthy function of the news media in a democracy to report on organized efforts to petition the government for redress of grievances?
Finally, do you think it is a coincidence that all of the newspapers and news magazines and TV news outlets have independently decided that the Million Mask March just isn’t a newsworthy issue to cover?
A couple of days ago, I profiled an astroturf organization called Up To Us. Up To Us attempts to manipulate college students across America into working for free for a gigantic public relations scheme. Participating students devote two weeks of work to promoting the political message of Peter G. Peterson, an 87 year-old investment banker and former Secretary of Commerce under Richard Nixon. In return, the students have the chance to receive just one meal – but they have to compete against each other for it.
What kind of person would expect young people to work for him for free? Peter G. Peterson has devoted his life to helping the rich get richer at the expense of everybody else. His investment banking schemes earned him billions of dollars by pressuring companies to keep employee pay low. Peterson became so enamored with this arrangement that he began to look for ways to expand it beyond the private sector, to transform the federal government of the United States of America into a machine for protecting the wealthy while squeezing working Americans.
Twenty years ago this week, Peter G. Peterson published a book as a kind of manual for this political agenda. Entitled Facing Up: How to Rescue the Economy from Crushing Debt and Restore the American Dream, the book tried to convince Americans that if the government did not reduce spending on domestic programs, the national debt would soon wreck the USA. Time was short, Peterson warned. Well, that was back in 1993, and in all that time, the national debt has yet to wreck the American economy. Instead, the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression was caused by greedy Wall Street investors like Peter G. Peterson.
Regardless of these events, Peter G. Peterson refuses to change his tune. Though his predictions about impending doom resulting from the national debt have repeatedly failed to come true, Peterson keeps at it, claiming like a believer in the economic End Times that, unless the USA stops taking care of its responsibilities to working Americans, the fabric of civilization will soon come undone.
Peterson’s favorite tool for promoting his debt crisis conspiracy theory is astroturf – fake grassroots campaigns. He started with Unity08, an organization that was created by millionaires and billionaires, but sought to convince gullible journalists that it was a spontaneous expression of grassroots demand for a presidential candidate in the 2008 election that would just so happen to promote all the political positions held by Peter G. Peterson himself.
Unity08 was a pathetic failure, as American voters quickly caught on to the dishonest scheme. Peterson, always willing to ignore reality in pursuit of his political vision, simply arranged with his friends to change the name of the Unity08 organization to Americans Elect. In 2012, Peterson’s efforts once again failed. Americans Elect became a laughing stock. By that time, however the Peter G. Peterson Foundation was created, establishing full time employment for one of Peterson’s sons, and serving as a conduit for an increasing number of astroturf operations.
Among the new round of fake grassroots organizations spewed forth by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation was Owe No – a “group” with the mission of promoting the idea that the national debt needs to be decreased through cuts to programs like Social Security and Medicare – just like all the other Peter G. Peterson sock puppets. Owe No claims to be a “national public awareness campaign whose mission is to educate Americans about the causes and consequences of the projected growth in federal debt levels and engage them in a national movement to address these important fiscal challenges.” Owe No urges votes to “join other Americans who are calling on our leaders to take steps to end our debt crisis.”
So, how large of a national movement has Owe No managed to create, using the big piles of money provided by Peter G. Peterson to prop up its operations? How many Americans are working with Owe No to call on their leaders to end the “debt crisis” that has failed to materialize in the two decades since Peter G. Peterson wrote about it in his first book?
56. Owe No has attracted the attention of 56 Americans. That’s the number of people, including members of Peter G. Peterson’s family, who have signed up as followers on the Owe No Twitter account. That’s 1.12 people per state. By comparison, the Dutchess County Fair, which does not claim to be a national movement, has 1,434 followers on its Twitter account.
It’s Twitter account is about the only part of Owe No that is still in operation, actually. Owe No still posts tweets once every few days, but it hasn’t posted any items in its “News” section since May of 2011. The Owe No web site still focuses on trying to fix the federal budget for the upcoming year of 2012. The rest of the world has moved on to the 2014 budget, but the supposed national movement of Owe No has not.
While it lectures the rest of us about the proper distribution of resources, Owe No has itself become an emblem of the failed application of resources.
This morning, little Unitarian Universalists all across the USA listened to the story of The Water Bearer’s Garden. It’s a fable of a “water bearer”. The water bearer, we are told, lived in India, and had the task of bringing water up from a stream to a place vaguely referred to as “the master’s house”. To do this, the water bearer tied two pots to ends of a stick that he carried over his shoulders, back and forth from the master’s house to a stream.
The pot on the left end of the stick was in perfect condition and held a full load of water all the way up to the master’s house every time. The pot on the right end of the stick, however, had a crack in it, and leaked half of the water it held on each and every trip between the stream and the master’s house.
In this story, the pots are conscious objects, with human feelings. The perfect pot on the left was very proud of itself for its ability to perform its function without flaw. The cracked pot on the right, however, was depressed and ashamed of itself, and eventually spoke to the water bearer, saying something to the effect of, “Look, buddy. We both know this isn’t working out. I’m terribly sorry for having failed you by leaking so much water as you walk up the path. My flaws make your work all the more difficult. Why don’t you stop using me to carry water?”
The water bearer is then purported to have said, “Buck up, pot, and look along the sides of the path the next time I carry you up to the master’s house.” On the next trip, the cracked pot, which had apparently been casting its ceramic eyes skyward until then, noticed that, on its own side of the path, there were banks of flowering plants growing lushly, while on the side of the path underneath the perfect pot, there was nothing but bare, dry earth.
“So you see,” said the water bearer to the cracked pot, in so many words, “I always knew that you were a leaky pot, so I decided to put your flaws to constructive use. I scattered flower seeds on your side of the path, and you’ve been watering them all this time, so that they would grow big and strong. Not a drop of your water has been wasted. How about that?”
Then comes the moral to the story. The little Unitarian Universalists are told, through the voice of the water bearer, that, “In God’s great web of life, nothing goes to waste.”
Culturally aware readers will now be doing a little double take. Why would a water bearer in India be delivering lectures about “God’s great web of life”? “God” is a German word for the general category of divinity, a word that has been appropriated by Christians, and, to some extent, Jews. “God” is not a word that is used by water bearers in India – unless they’re living in Christian enclaves.
Besides that, what bearing does the water bearer’s story have to any divinity. Well, it turns out that the version of the story used in the Unitarian Universalist Tapestry of Faith curriculum is not the original version. It was adapted and retold by Betsy Hill Williams to suit the particular Unitarian Universalist creed that everyone everywhere, whatever they say, really worships the same divine being, named “God”. Under this Unitarian Unversalist teaching, Wiccans, shamans, Jains, Buddhists, Greek philosophers, Brazilian tribesmen and Australian aborigines truly are all pursuing the same religious goal: The search for “God”.
Actually, there are versions of the Cracked Pot story that don’t mention any divinity at all. There are also versions in which the divinity in the story is not God, but a character named Krishna, a divine Hindu prince who liked to have lots of sex with milk maids and encouraged warriors to keep fighting and killing each other. The moral, in these versions, is that “Blessed are our flaws, as long as we offer then to our beloved Lord Krishna.” In these versions, the master of the house is none other than Krishna himself, and the flowers that are picked are placed before an altar devoted to Krishna.
Why couldn’t the Unitarian Universalist curriculum simply tell this Hindu version of the tale? One explanation is that, in spite of all their talk about accepting many sources of religious wisdom, Unitarian Universalists really are only comfortable dealing with Christian religious language.
Another explanation is that the story of the Cracked Pot is not really an ancient folktale, but something more like an urban legend. I note that there are many versions of the story, including some told by Hindus, that say that the story comes from China, and that the water bearer was Chinese, not Indian. It seems that, just as urban legends always ascribe a story to an obscure but real relative, the versions of the Cracked Pot fable tend to look to a faraway land as the source of wisdom. It may be that the Cracked Pot story was simply made up by an American preacher in recent times, or by a self-help “guru”, who added on the notion of a foreign source in order to make the story seem more authentic.
Do the questions about the original source of the Cracked Pot tale change the validity of its message? It may be worth pointing out that few, if any, of the people who tell this story have ever had to carry pots of water on sticks laid over their backs day after day. Still, the underlying theme that perfection and imperfection are relative concepts, and not absolute qualities, is worth hearing, even if the execution is flawed.
Is this wave of protests in Europe worth a blurb in the newspaper?
How about these November 5 protests planned across the United States?
These protests are being planned as part of the November 5 Million Mask March, the marquee event of which is occurring in Washington DC at the Washington Monument but parallel events of which are happening around the globe. Visit this page to find a Million Mask March near you: unless you live in a very, very remote area, there’s a Million Mask March near you. There’s one in Montana. There’s one in Wyoming. There’s even one in the depopulated South Dakota.
The topics to be discussed at the protests range from international issues such as the NSA’s spying program, genetically modified foods, and a general overreach of government to local issues that are pressing in the individual March areas.
John Fairhurst, organizer of the Washington D.C. March said recently in an interview “The main purpose of the event is to draw attention to the causes being represented. But it also serves to put the governments of the world on notice that we are watching, and that we expect them to address those causes. With the government’s lack of response to the people’s needs, they should have expected us.”
… and that’s a problem. But I do believe you have the right to know that these protests exist. Now you do. If you believe others in your life have the right to know about these protests, you have the power to make that happen.
If you were to create a grassroots activist organization to confront the growing sense of political disassociation described by our own writer Jim yesterday, Up To Us would be a pretty good name for the group, wouldn’t it? The whole idea would be that yes, times may be tough, and yes, the political challenges we face may be daunting, but darn it, if we the people of the United States of America don’t stand up and start acting like the citizens our forefathers wanted us to be, well, who will? It’s up to us to fix this mess, so let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work! I can hear the trumpet call in the distance even as I write this.
As luck would have it, some senior political operators have had this very idea, and they have created an organization called Up To Us – to be seen at UpToUs.com
So, what are they up to at Up To Us? They’re working hard to organize college students to get them active on an issue that should be close to their hearts: Debt.
Most college students are deep, deep in debt. They’ve been told that, if they will go to college, and invest their time, effort, and a lot of money in getting a degree, their lifetime income will increase. The investment will be worth it.
The truth is that even people with advanced degrees are struggling to get jobs, because corporations and wealthy individuals are hoarding their money, rather than recirculating it through the economy. So, students rack up big debts while they’re in college, and then they’re unable to pay them off – and under the latest bankruptcy law, there’s nothing students can do to free themselves of the burden of their student loans. It’s an issue that college students care about passionately.
Strangely, the issue of student loan debt is one that the organization Up To Us does not talk about at all.
Oh, yes, Up To Us is very much concerned with the issue of debt, just not as the issue affects students. That’s because, although Up To Us claims to be “a nationwide campus competition that empowers students”, it actually isn’t a campus organization at all. It’s a shell organization set up by billionaire Peter G. Peterson.
Peter G. Peterson is not what most people would describe as college age. He’s gray and wrinkled. His children are all grown up, and have gone through the university system themselves – saved by their father’s substantial fortune from any obligation to pay off student loans. One of his sons, Michael, was given a job as President and Chief Operating Officer of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, which created the Up To Us organization.
The wealthy take care of their own, you so. When they say it’s Up To Us, what they mean is that it’s up to the wealthy to give directions, and it’s up to everyone else to follow orders. That’s what Up To Us is all about. It’s an astroturf organization dedicated to creating the false impression that college students favor big cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, along with tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.
Up To Us runs annual competitions in which teams of college students battle against each other for the right to run officialy-endorsed Up To Us public relations campaigns, talking about the danger of the national debt. Up To Us competitions award two thousand dollars to specially selected groups of students. Those student groups use the money to run two-week PR campaigns, about the threats caused by national debt, on campus, through social media, and in the larger community. Up To Us then judges the effectiveness of the PR campaigns, and then, the winning groups get a free meal as a prize. The losing groups get nothing.
The two thousand dollars granted by Up To Us doesn’t go to pay student salaries. Even if they did, the grants would be paying a rate far below the legal minimum wage. No, a single meal is the only payment that students are given for their substantial PR work to promote the economic agenda of billionaires. The message couldn’t be more clear: It’s up to billionaires to decide if poor students deserve to eat – and Peterson’s young shills should be happy to receive one order of pizzas in return for the privilege of serving his noble political vision.
If you know a college student who has been suckered into participating in the Up To Us astroturf campaign, it’s up to you to stage an intervention. Yes, students may be struggling to look for work, but the cruel economics of the Up To Us campaign show that nobody in the working classes will receive any just reward for kissing up to Peter G. Peterson and his billionaire friends.
You may notice that over the last few days, I haven’t been really been posting substantively. Big changes are afoot in the worlds of surveillance and campaign finance. American hunger is set to grow as food stamp cuts kick in without an expansion of jobs for the hungry to fill. Faced with these changes, I’m experiencing a new emotion: I’m stymied. I can’t bear to write about these subjects any longer. I’m retreating to articles about bowling bag spam and paid placement and inconsistencies in web hosting terms of service. This is meaningless. I’m retreating into meaninglessness. I’m taking refuge in meaninglessness.
I came back home on Sunday from a national march in Washington, DC against massive surveillance. I was not buoyed by the experience. I was cowed. It’s not polite to mention, but I’ll mention it because someone has to say it: the turnout to the march was absolutely dismal. At its peak, the march had attracted somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 participants. It wasn’t hard to count the crowd; it wasn’t that kind of an overwhelming march. I stood on the monument to Christopher Columbus outside Union Station and could see everyone within my field of vision. My daughter and I alone were able to add one tenth of 1% to the crowd. This does not make the march or its subject matter insignificant — but it does make the amount of inaction in this country in the face of bold-face bad news very depressing. Consider that supposedly, over 100 national organizations were behind this march. If that is really true, then each organization only attracted 10-20 participants at a maximum. That’s national staff plus a boyfriend or two. The alternative is that the march never had that kind of organizational support, not really, and that individual Americans’ desire to spread the news of the march on their own wasn’t sufficient to make a difference.
Headed home on Sunday, I passed a footrace sponsored by the U.S. Marine Corps. Participants clogged the DC Metro to the gills, and the side of the road was clotted with supporters, bringing signs declaring how much they cared about those running the course. The contrast was glaring.
Usually, this kind of silence gears me up. Usually I’m motivated by others’ quiescence. This week, I’m struck dumb. In the face of others’ silence I can’t speak any more, and I can’t seem to find my way out.
Yesterday, Barry C. Black, the man appointed and paid by the U.S. federal government to be the high priest of the United States Senate, stood on the floor of the Senate and called upon his god to seize control of the legislative body. “Today, equip our Senators to do Your will, helping them to grasp the wonder of Your purposes. Lord, give them the ability, power, and resources to complete Your mission on Earth, thereby achieving the destiny You have for their lives,” he said at the height of his ritual of supernatural intervention.
So now, to discover the divine will of the god of Barry C. Black, all we have to do is look at what happened in the Senate yesterday after Black’s god took control.
According to the god’s purposes, Maria Cantwell introduced S. 1633: “A bill to suspend temporarily the duty on certain footwear, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Finance.”
Then, Mitch McConnell and Daniel Coats submitted S.J. Res. 27: “A joint resolution providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by the Internal Revenue Service of the Department of the Treasury relating to liability under section 5000A of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 for the shared responsibility payment for not maintaining minimum essential coverage; to the Committee on Finance.”
Finally, Rand Paul introduced S. Res. 281, a resolution alleging that the National Security Agency used its electronic surveillance powers to spy on the conclave that selected Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the next Pope, and demanding, “President Obama should directly address the serious allegation whether his administration monitored the calls of Pope Francis or the conclave selecting the Pope.”
It doesn’t take a Masters of Divinity degree to see that the god of Barry C. Black is a god of shoes and tax efficiencies who wants to know more about the NSA spying scandal.
This god also made it the destiny of Senator Harry Reid to rise to the floor of the Senate yesterday to wish his little brother Larry a happy birthday. Imagine all of the centuries of divine intervention that had to take place just to lead to that moment.
In the latest news from the NSA, Deputy Director Chris Inglis has reiterated the core values of the organization. “I’d like to spend a moment talking about NSA’s core values – core values that are important to us because, as federal servants, we know that at the end of the day, it’s not simply important that we deliver something of value to the nation, but it’s also very, very important that we’ve done it exactly the right way. Our core values, I hope you wouldn’t be surprised, are respect for the law, honesty, integrity, and transparency.”
Certainly, no one is surprised that the NSA values honesty, integrity, and transparency. Respect for the law is a no-brainer too. Thank you, NSA, for respecting our constitutional rights day after day!
In other NSA news, the following three universities have been awarded grants for participation in the NSA’s Cyber Initiative: Auburn University, Carnegie Mellon University, and Mississippi State University. I’m sure the adminitrations of those universities will be fully and transparently, with integrity, honesty and respect for the law, informing students about all NSA activities on campus. Bravo, schools!
The NSA also wants everybody to know that it is not investigating 4,000 cases of breached security at in its own data centers. Rather, the National Security Agency is merely investigating over 4,000 cases of potential breached security in its data centers. Rest assured! The data the NSA stole from you is perfectly secure!
By the way, did you know that the Center for Cryptologic History keeps history alive by enhancing the knowledge and decision-making abilities of the intelligence community (IC)? Oh, yes. “A critical asset, the Center for Cryptologic History provides a historical and objective account of cryptologic history.” So, whenever you have cryptologic history needs, you know where to go! Without this NSA Center, history would be dead – just you remember that.
The NSA is in your schools, too, says Chris Inglis: “We’re Americans too – we come from the same communities, we go to the same schools, we raise our families in the same communities that you live in.” Yes, Peoria, the NSA is shopping right next to you at the grocery store. They’re everywhere!
Speaking of everywhere, did you know that the National Cryptological Museum is now on Facebook? Well, let’s not be humble… Facebook is the National Cryptological Museum. Google and Yahoo, of course, serve as their own adjunct facilities.
Now, about that transparency thing: Chris Inglis clearly explains, “(I’m) often asked the question about, “How is NSA transparent?” Some might read that question to be, “Does NSA put all of its secrets in the public domain?” Of course we don’t.” Keeping secrets from the American people, of course, is what transparency is all about. Chris Inglis is willing to stake (his) personal reputation on the integrity of the NSA. Isn’t that transparent enough for you?
By the way, young people, the NSA is looking for new staff members all the time. Among the benefits of working at the NSA is paid time off, away from the office. “Life is too short to spend it all at work,” we say. Besides, your supervisor will be able to keep track of you no matter where you are. Capiche?
Finally, don’t forget: Today is the last day of Cybersecurity Awareness Month. If you’re not aware of cybersecurity yet, get cracking! You only have a few hours left to get up to speed.
How liberal is Washington, DC really? Check our ratings of the 535 members of the U.S. Congress and find out for yourself:
** House scorecard
** Senate scorecard
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