Care Enough [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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This is my broken record moment: a system will do what it was designed to do. Sitting as I am in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the latest national flashpoint, I feel I have a front row seat to the system activating in response to a challenge.

Our system was designed to prevent “the unity of the commoner” in order to keep the focus off of the ruling aristocracy. This morning I read this sentence in the news: The president is fanning the flames of violence and dividing the country for political gain. The implication of Trump’s attacks is that there is a binary choice between law and order, and offering understanding and a path to justice for Black Americans.

A binary choice. A false choice. The commoners can EITHER have law and order OR they can stand for equal justice for all Americans. With equality comes the possibility of unity and unity is a threat to the system. In other news, just as you might suspect, vigilantism is on the rise. The system is responding exactly as designed.

Here’s the conundrum: we believe that protest and civil unrest are the path to real systems change and yet protest and civil unrest always split the community (prevent the unity of commoners). The path to social change in the USA cannot come from division. It might start there but it has to transcend the designed divide.

While the pandemic rages and the commoners are fighting each other on the streets, the stock market has soared. The United States has the highest level of income inequality among the countries in the G-7 and the gap is growing. It is not an accident that Fox News has its Henny Penny followers running around screaming “Socialism!” at the very time that America boldly steps toward an oligarchy.

My dad used to tell me that I’d educated myself into stupidity and I’d shake my head. Why would anyone choose to be uninformed? An ignorant populace is easily swung by the nose. An ignorant populace might have guns but they are unarmed where the real danger lurks.  It seems a good many of us are happily manipulated, hungrily eating anger and hate rather than asking a question or bothering to scratching the paint to discover if what we’re being sold is true or a con. It’s easy to check a fact or a source but you first must want to do it. That is where we fall down. We simply do not care. We opt for tribal division and easy blame over communal health – again, the system is doing exactly what it was designed to do.

Caring enough to question. That, too is an option. Caring enough to question is a possible path forward but requires us to look beyond the spoon-fed-rhetoric, the misinformation campaigns, and the intentionally stoked fires of division. It requires us in our questioning to shift our focus from the fight to the workings of “the ruling aristocracy.”

There’s also this: the businesses in downtown Kenosha and beyond are boarded up. The people of the community came out to paint them with messages of hope and support. Stamped on the hood of a burned out car is an appeal: Let’s Be Better Humans.

The impulse for change and a better world is there. A river of hope is there. The voices from the angry fringe will always shout loudest but I have to believe the vast majority, the quiet people who come out to paint, are looking for a common ground. There is hope, lots of hope, if we can take a look in our national mirror and see that we are doing exactly what the system is determining that we do. If we see it, we might be able to care enough to question, to deny the divide. We might be able to come together. We might be able to find a way to do better, to be better humans.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about HOPE

 

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Divine It [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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[warning: Kerri just said this post is ‘heavy’ so enter at your own risk]

And, who hasn’t pulled the petals off a daisy in an attempt to divine the love of another? Loves me, loves me not, loves me… Perhaps a silly childhood practice but, truth be told, I’ve yet to meet a person who doesn’t secretly, unconsciously, or otherwise, put their right shoe on first for good luck, throw the I Ching, look to the stars, whisper a prayer for guidance, follow their intuition, avoid stepping on the crack, read the Tarot, plumb the sacred numbers, sit in the forest and listen for the ancestor to whisper.

I read an article yesterday that frightened me. Sometimes the statement of the obvious is more frightening than the monster peering from within the closet. The use of the behavioral sciences “to determine the news we read, the products we buy, the cultural and intellectual spheres we inhabit, and the human networks, online and in real life, of which we are a part.” Invisible Manipulators Of Your Mind. Techniques that appeal to “… our non-rational motivations, our emotional triggers, and unconscious biases.”

Techniques. A cold word. Manipulation. Perhaps manipulation is the central action and natural endpoint of capitalism. The reduction of the meaning-of-life to something that can be bought and sold. The church we construct and inhabit is built upon a hard sale and requires a made-up-reality to realize its fulfillment. The ritual of the market, the ringing of the bell, calls the worshipers to trade. We watch the numbers in an attempt to divine a fast moving future.

There is a tug-of-war happening now as the information age eats itself. “The pressures to exploit irrationalities rather than eliminate them are great and the chaos caused by the competition to exploit them is perhaps already too intractable for us to rein them in.”

Can you feel the chaos? Are your relationships fracturing along lines defined by red and  blue? What forces are determining your belief about the pandemic? The science is simple enough for a child to understand; the seeds of doubt, the ubiquitous exploitation of emotional triggers and unconscious bias makes us a behavioral sciences petri dish. It seems our division is not accidental, our tribes are rigged, our information is bubble-wrapped and packaged. Our division is also, we are told, increasingly irreparable.

Exploit irrationalities? Scary! Eliminate them? Scary, too! Why must we either exploit or eliminate our irrationalities? Think about it. The war on our irrationality might be a sign of our real root rot, our actual dis-ease.

The pursuit of pure reason. Cut yourself in half and toss the dream-side in the bin? Creatures who fight multiple world wars, build economies on weapons sales, send their kids to school during a raging pandemic, soil their nests with plastic, cut down their rain forests (lungs of the earth) for more grazing land, exploit each other…are not following the signs on the path to pure reason. Exploitation of others is not a characteristic of reason, pure or otherwise.

Creatures that make art and prize beauty are not purely reasonable.

Rationality is not the goal. It’s a sick tease to promise the elimination of fear and mystery. It’s hubris to desire to transcend nature, to promise dominance over creation. No one really wants to be Mr. Spock. Staring into the Milky Way with wonderment, standing with your back to a warm brick wall while facing the sun on a cold winter day is gloriously human. Sensual. Not rational. Mystical and mysterious. The dark side of the moon is as necessary as the light.

Sensuality is as necessary as rationality. Why strive to build a gate with a single post?Why close the gate on the middle way? Maybe the word we need to strive to achieve is “sense.” Common sense. Shared sense. It may lead to common good, shared responsibility and other wild ideals built on bedrocks of trust rather than sandy deceit.

There’s nothing rational about generosity or kindness. They are, however, specifically human and vitally irrational, made even more plentiful when not exploited for small change.

Loves me. Loves me not.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about LOVES ME

Kerri remains in the FACEBOOK penalty box for unspecified crimes against e-humanity. If you enjoy reading her musings, please consider subscribing to her blog. It will keep you (and her) out of the daily trawl of horrors.

 

 

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icarus ©️ 2004 david robinson

Stand Out [on Two Artist’s Tuesday]

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You be you. If you think about it, who else can you possibly be? As trite as it may seem, this appeal on the side of a bus captures in simple marketing language one of the greatest paradoxes of living life in the most individualistic culture on the planet. We are reinforced to be hyper-unique but hammered repeatedly to fit in. It is the ultimate split intention. It is why we have such a ubiquitous self-help industry and so many preachers-of-purpose-seeking. Asking, “Where do I fit in?” is a terribly hard question to answer when the expectation is to stand out.

I suspect our current dedication to division is, to some extent, built upon this paradox. Split souls are generally angry souls and anger is an easy organizing principle to exploit. Tribes of anger need nothing more than enemies to bridge the split. A good enemy, real or imagined, can provide to an angry tribe both a sense of individual purpose and a place to belong.

I heard a term the other day that frightened me: low information voter. Years ago I heard an economist speak at a conference and his message was profound. A healthy democracy requires an educated populace. Without the capacity to sort through the heaps of rhetoric, pull apart the agendas to see beyond the manipulation, without some simple capacity  for analysis, or a bigger picture, then votes will be cast from simple, uninformed and often angry belief. In other words, democracies fall when its members do not care enough to know what they are voting for. Power will always corrupt. The brilliance of a democracy is that the people are meant to be the ultimate check on power. In order to be the check, they have to look beyond the political party line and ask, “What really happened here?”

The leaders of angry tribes need low information voters. It’s the only way they can stay in positions of power. It feels good to fit in. But, in a culture known for its individuality, it feels all the more satisfying to stand up, to stand out and ask, “What’s really going on here?”

 

read Kerri’s blog post about YOU BE YOU

 

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Use Your Magic Wisely [on DR Thursday]

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…and the wily old story fox told the pack, “Words are like magic, misused they are tragic…”

“Words are like magic, misused they are tragic, but handled with care they bring insight and good cheer. So listen, dear friends, listen with care.” ~ The Story Fox

I wrote and illustrated Lucy & The Waterfox in 2004, long before this common era of weaponized language use.

Declan Donnellan wrote that, “There will always be a gap between what we feel and our ability to express what we feel. The more we wish the gap to be smaller, the more we want to tell ‘the truth’, then the wider the perverse gap yawns.”

The more we need words, the less capable they are at expressing what we mean. That is the blessing and curse of language: it can never achieve the goal. It can only point us in a direction. The closer we step toward ‘the truth’, the less language can actually reach it. Which, if you think about it, requires us to keep reaching for it. Conversely, we can stand directly on a lie and say exactly what we mean. Dead air.

‘The truth’ is a verb. It is a moving, alive, relational thing.

Language is imprecise and, so, easily manipulated. Endlessly interpreted to fit an agenda. That is precisely why language requires respect and care in the handling. Words are more powerful than most people understand. They are capable of starting wars. They are capable of creating peace. They are capable of inciting division. They are capable of inviting unity.

When the ‘perverse gap yawns’, when words become the weapon of the small minded, it is incumbent upon us – all of us – to listen beyond the words, to recognize and acknowledge the agenda. It is incumbent upon us all to handle our powerful magic with care and use it wisely.

Waterfox coverLUCY & THE WATERFOX is a story for children and adults about believing, following your own path, the power of word

 

read Kerri’s blog post about LUCY

 

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lucy & the waterfox ©️ 2004 david robinson