Posts Tagged ‘MacArthur Genius Award’

Protesting 101

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

(This article appeared in the Anderson Valley Advertiser October 2011)

“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

You will recall the famous line from the movie The Wizard of Oz, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain,” and how, until the little dog opens the curtain and reveals the fraud, Dorothy and her friends do, indeed, ignore the man behind the curtain and remain riveted on a false idol projected on a large screen obscured by smoke and fire. I remind you of this cinematic moment because it brilliantly captures the current cognitive conundrum confronting contemporary crusading consortiums, most notably the much-heralded occupiers of Wall Street.

I have carefully skimmed numerous articles by people criticizing the protestors for not having a clear and unifying agenda, and skimmed other articles praising the protestors for not having a clear and potentially divisive agenda. These articles reminded me of my involvement in the protests against the invasion of Iraq in 1990, and my involvement in protests against the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq in 2001-2003 following the event known as 9/11, and how almost everyone involved in those protests paid no attention to the men behind the curtains, and insisted on railing against idols obscured by smoke and fire—the George Bushes, Senior and Junior, and their more public allies.

Wall Street, and by that I assume the protestors mean the for-profit financial system of the United States symbolized by the financial district of Manhattan, is not the cause of our current economic crisis, nor will Wall Street provide the cure, just as the Bushes did not cause the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. The cause of our current economic, social, environmental, and political crisis is, in my opinion, our collective infatuation with false notions of reality. One such false notion is that most of the money in America is concentrated on Wall Street and that if only those greedy billionaire bankers and amoral stock traders would give a chunk of their money to our government, then all our problems would be solved. Yet nothing could be further from the truth, since only a few short months ago our government gave those bankers trillions of dollars.

“Let’s form proactive synergy restructuring teams.” Scott Adams

I admit to active cynicism about systems that focus on attacking symptoms rather than dealing with underlying causes. My father, a medical doctor, had heart surgery late in his life and I was his nurse for some weeks after what turned out to be a nearly fatal and wholly ineffective bypass procedure. One of my jobs as his nurse was to make sure he took a mind-boggling array of drugs several times a day, twenty-three different medications, each purveyed by a pill of a different color, shape, and size than the other twenty-two pills.

One morning, five days after his surgery, as my father was surveying the great mass of pills he was about to ingest, a quizzical frown claimed his face. “Hey, wait a minute,” he said, holding up a pale pink pill, “I was only supposed to take (name of drug) for two days following surgery.”

“Good,” I said, eager to eliminate one of the four pink pills in the mix. “Let’s discontinue that one.”

“Only…” My father’s frown deepened as he held up a dark green pill, “I was taking (name of second drug) to counteract the side effects of (name of first drug), along with (name of third drug) because (name of second drug) is extremely dehydrating, so…”

To make a long story short, I called the surgery center, put my father on with a post-operative consultant, and a half hour later my father’s ingestion regimen was reduced from twenty-three to fourteen drugs, and three days later from fourteen to seven, but only because my father was a medical doctor and had some understanding of why he was taking which drugs for what reasons, not because the medical system was designed to take good care of him.

Now…along with thousands of people camping and marching on Wall Street, imagine millions of people all over the country protesting in front of hospitals and medical clinics to demand that American doctors stop behaving as American doctors are trained to behave and start behaving in more humane and comprehensive ways, free of the control of insurance companies and amoral pharmaceutical companies that extort trillions of dollars from people who feel powerless to resist them. Oh, wait. That would mean insurance companies would have to be kicked out of the medical process, and the pharmaceutical companies would no longer be allowed to charge criminally high rates for their drugs. Oh, wait. That would result in a Single Payer healthcare system covering everyone in America, a not-for-profit system paid for by an equitable tax system. Oh, wait. That would mean changing the current system of county, state, and federal taxation. And to do that, we would almost surely have to change from a two-party system to a parliamentary democracy wherein if the Green or Pink or Blue Party gets five percent of the vote, they get five percent of the government. Oh, wait. That would be, like, democracy.

“In some cases non-violence requires more militancy than violence.” Cesar Chavez

I pose the question: what would Martin Luther King Jr. say to the Wall Street protestors if he could speak to them today? I think he would congratulate them for their zeal and courage, and then he would ask, “What are the boycott components of your protest?”

And when he learned that the protestors did not have a boycott strategy, he would say, “So why do you think that these people in positions of power over you will change their behavior if you do not pose a threat to their profits and comfort? Out of the goodness of their hearts? You are naïve.”

“It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it, and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.” Aung San Suu Kyi

On a more personal but entirely related note, I just turned sixty-two, so in lieu of a big paycheck from the corporate-backed cultural mafia, (yes, I know it’s hard to believe, but another year has gone by without my winning a MacArthur Genius Award) I applied for Social Security. And soon, barring total economic collapse, some six hundred dollars will be deposited every month directly into my checking account by the government of these United States. However, in order to receive that vast sum, I promise not to earn more than eleven hundred and eighty dollars a month, else I will be deemed too rich and therefore undeserving of such lavish government support. Let’s see, eleven hundred and eighty times twelve is…fourteen thousand dollars a year. And the official poverty line in America is…

To clarify: I have agreed with the government adjudicators that if I earn barely enough money in a year to pay for grossly inadequate health insurance, I will forego the six hundred a month; which brings me to yesterday.

“Irony is jesting behind hidden gravity.” John Weiss

So I’m standing in line at the Mendocino post office, one of my favorite places in the world, a place threatened by evaporation through governmental retardation and corruption, when the woman ahead of me in line turns to me and says, “I read you in the AVA.”

“Oh,” I say, ever cautious about what that might mean. “Well…good. I hope.”

She nods minimally, which I take as a kind of approval if not a compliment. Then she says, “So are you gonna go join the protestors?”

“Where?” I ask, looking out the window. “Have they made it all the way to Mendocino? Far out.”

“No,” she says, glowering at me. “Wall Street. Los Angeles. San Francisco. They’re having protests everywhere. You could write about it.”

“Oh,” I say, certain now that my interlocutor has no sense of humor, “you know, I would be there already but I suffer from a fear of traveling. Even going to Fort Bragg is extremely stressful for me.”

“I’m sorry,” she says, grimacing sympathetically. “I have a friend who has the same thing. That must be awful for you.”

“Well, fortunately, I don’t really want to go anywhere, but I’ll tell you this, when the protests come to Mendocino, I’ll be there with bags of homemade gluten free cookies for my comrades. And we will occupy Main Street until those people give us what we want.”

“Main Street?” she says, horrified. “Why Main Street? And…which people? And…what do you want?”

“Everything,” I whisper conspiratorially. “For everyone.”

Desnatchification

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

“Bodies devoid of mind are as statues in the market place.” Euripides

Have you ever seen Invasion of the Body Snatchers? I’m thinking particularly of the 1978 remake starring Donald Sutherland. I remember two things most vividly about the movie. First, the invading fungus (or fungus-like alien) left everyone it snatched seemingly unchanged on the outside, but on the inside those who got snatched were full of fungus. Hence the expression: the fungus amongus. Secondly, I had the distinct feeling the film was not fiction, but rather a docudrama. It seemed to me that Americans by the millions were being snatched and having their hearts and minds turned into sticky gray fungus; and I kept meeting these people and dating them.

“The problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them.” Albert Einstein

Now it is 2010, thirty-two years since I saw Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and here comes the news that a wealthy television producer just won a MacArthur Genius Award. If nothing about this news strikes you as strange or untoward, then I would say you have been snatched. The news that an award intended to support daring unknown artists has been given to a well-known commercial hack reminds me of that terrible day some years ago when the abominably sophomoric musical fungus A Chorus Line won the Pulitzer Prize. When I heard that news, the first thought that came to my mind was, “Those judges have been snatched.”

“Of one thing we can be sure. The quality of our life in the future will be determined by the quality of our thinking.” Edward de Bono

What do I mean by snatched, assuming the snatchee’s body and brain isn’t actually filled with alien fungus? To my way of thinking (which I grant you is not necessarily a simple or popular way of thinking) a person qualifies as snatched when he or she has surrendered his or her powers of discernment to propaganda disguised as contemporary culture. Sadly, horribly, fungaciously, this means we’ve all been at least partially snatched and live in constant danger of being totally snatched if we don’t take immediate action to counter the powerful and relentless fungal forces.

Appendix A: The body and soul snatchers have virtually no power over us in the absence of electricity and the myriad gizmos running on the stuff. Why is this? In two words: auric fields. Stay with me here. You won’t be sorry. Oh, maybe you will be sorry, but no more sorry than you’ll be if you go watch a half-hour of television instead of staying with me here.

An Aside (or is this a disclaimer?): I am well aware I run the risk of being called a crackpot for what I am about to write, but what is one to do if one truly believes in that which he is about to attempt to elucidate (because of personal experiences validating that belief) except to make an attempt to elucidate that belief? (Rhetorical)

The theory of physical illness and physical wellness and emotional distress and emotional well being I subscribe to posits that each of us has an aura, which in simple terms is a field of energy surrounding our body. Whether our auras emanate from us or are merely part of our totality, I don’t know, but there they are, our auras, otherwise known as auric fields. Not coincidentally, when our bodies die, our auras vanish.

This theory further states that the quality (color, texture, brightness, strength, vivacity, etc.) of our aura is determined by our thoughts, and most especially by our recurring thoughts. Furthermore, our aura is in constant communication with our chakras, which I understand to be energy concentrations in our bodies that are intimately and perpetually interacting with our internal organs, which interplay sets the tone for our experience of life. A grand oversimplification, to be sure, but in a nutshell, that’s where I’m coming from. Cognizant that you may now consider me full of hackneyed spiritual fungus, I will continue.

Thus we are receivers as well as broadcasters of energy. In the pre-electronic world, that natural world in which our species evolved, we were not being bombarded night and day with mind-numbing electronic sensory input as we are being bombarded today. Indeed, the sensory input bathing the senses of our founding homo sapiens (from whom we evolved) was not mind numbing at all, but rather mind-opening. Which is prefatory to saying that desnatchification, otherwise known as cleansing your aura of mass media fungus, may be achieved by periodically disengaging from all forms of electronica and connecting with our ancient ancestral roots by becoming an acoustic human being, and by acoustic I mean that which is not electronically enhanced or amplified, as in acoustic music.

Here are a few ways to desnatchify, cleanse, and invigorate your aura. These activities will also positively impact your chakras and make you feel much better and less fungal. 1. Making or listening to live well-played acoustic music. 2. Gardening. 3. Reading great literature 4. Becoming immersed in nature (a walk in the woods, a stroll on the beach, a dip in the sea). 5. Engaging in intimate equilibrious conversation. 6. Snuggling with a copasetic animal or animals (including cats, dogs, horses, and other humans). 7. Watching a spider spin a web.

Another important step in the desnatchification process is to strictly limit your intake of mainstream fungus. Alas, avoiding aura-snatching fungal books and movies and media is not easy, especially since the corporate purveyors are expert at dolling up the deleterious fungus to look like what we remember from long ago as the good stuff. However, almost without exception, if the book or movie or cultural goody comes from a neo-fascist multinational corporation, the book or movie or cultural goody is a body snatcher.

“Minds, like bodies, will often fall into a pimpled, ill-conditioned state from mere excess of comfort.” Charles Dickens

Now it may be that you enjoy much of what mainstream American culture has to offer. If so, I’m sure you stopped reading this article long ago. But if you have stayed with me here until now, the chances are good that you are still more acoustic than digital. And know this. You are not alone. True, almost everyone else has been snatched, but here and there, living among the fungus-infested zombies are your brothers and sisters who have secretly maintained their auric integrity. Seek them out. Establish covens of acoustic human to carry us through these dark ages and beyond the time when the fungal junk collapses under its own putrid weight, to a time when our culture is reborn, a culture for all of us, not just for totally, like, you know, fungal fourteen-year olds.

How will you know these other acoustic humans? And how will you signal to them that you are another who has not yet been snatched? You will…wait. What’s that sound? Oh, no. They’ve come for me. The fungus amongus! I must run. Be brave. Stay strong. Find the others!

(This memo originally appeared in the Anderson Valley Advertiser, October 2010)