Saturday, December 19, 2009

Dis'United States of America: The Red, White, Blue...and above all Green

This essay has been a concept for months, but the recent political rancor has forced me to finally sit down and write. I needed to find a way to cut through the rhetoric and get to the reality.

Those that have tried to debate religion know it is an exercise in futility. Talking politics has become as meaningless. People are so fixated on position, principle, or ideology, they forget reality.

As a social scientist, I believe in social facts. Everything is not debatable. For example, poverty exists. People try to debate why it exists...but there is an answer to that too that has to do with finite resources unevenly distributed through historical oppression where the wealth gained by a few came from the exploitation & poverty of the many - a two-sided coin (short answer).

Unfortunately, we have allowed everything to be about perception...but...reality matters...and it always will.

This essay is a lesson in the reality of politics in this country, and I think it is important to lay out the facts clearly. There is no point on debating questions that have answers and continue to focus on "what ifs" when our time would be better spent developing strategies to deal with "what is".
Most energy on the blogosphere and in political debate right now centers on the deception of Obama. Instead of being the "change" many believed they were voting for, Obama is now widely criticized for being anything from "status quo" to the "ultimate deception". The criticism leveled on him is intellectually dishonest because Obama is following the same script he has since the first speech that put him on the national stage in 2004.

The theme of that speech was "Out of Many, One".

Here are some revealing excerpts:


It's what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family: "E pluribus unum," out of many, one.

Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes.

Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America.

There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America.

The pundits, the pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue States: red states for Republicans, blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states.

We coach little league in the blue states and, yes, we've got some gay friends in the red states.

There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq, and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq.

We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.

In the end, that's what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism, or do we participate in a politics of hope?

Like most Obama speeches, it reveals exactly who Obama is and how he leads...i think this is what has been so ironic about the Obama debate...he is definitely a politician but a pretty transparent one that has been clear in terms of his philosophical bend but pragmatic approach to leadership and politics. The America he describes does not exist, but politically it is the only America any leader can address...the center. He has always tried to play down differences and speak to commonalities because that is the only winning position politically and electorally.

The reality is America could not be more disunited, with segments of the population having polar interests and objectives. And it is this reality all need to accept if we ever want to progress.

The Green: Fascism in the 21st Century

In reality, monied interests have controlled governments throughout history (even so-called "democracies" like the United States) , but the latest health care reform debate has been a glaring example of how little respect is given to the "will of the people". Despite a majority favoring a public option, the bill as it stands will not only not include a public option, but will be most favorable to insurance companies that have lobbied Congress and the President.

The Bailout of Wall Street is the most glaring example. The economy now constantly threatened by the collapse of banks "too big to fail" today we have socialism for corporate capitalists (public funds used to save private entities - a big no no in capitalism) only for these same private entities to turn around and lobby our elected "representatives" to make sure we don't get to use our money on ourselves for things like education, universal health care, etc...bail out for for us...bad.

The GREEN is the smallest minority by number but most powerful by resources.

REALITY #1 = This is a fascist state w/ monied interest controlling governments...6% controlling 60% of resources 94% having everything to fight for but very little to fight with...

REALITY #2 = In electoral politics, politicians speak to the masses (red, white and blue) about common dreams to get their votes, but the green control the purse strings so NO THIRD PARTY CANDIDATE HAS A CHANCE (unbought candidate) unless monied interest are removed from the process.

The Red: Guardians of White Supremacy, Pseudo-Morality, & Free Markets

There is a strong minority here that have bought into this system completely. They do not have the power, but they have gained something from it....privilege...and they do not want to give that up. In order to protect that privilege, they fight change and protect the status quo. They espouse "tradition" over progress and "values" over change. Would they benefit from progressive change? Absolutely...but this is the man who votes against his interest and supports corporate interest in order to maintain white privilege... Universal Health Care and distribution of wealth would be better for he and his family, but instead he chooses to support a system that gives him nothing but has taught him that his skin color alone makes him something.

REALITY #3 = Changing a system many will lie and die to preserve is a continuous struggle. It will not be solved by a revolution, or a radical leader, or progressive policies...until the hearts and minds of this group change, progress on a macro scale will take the form of a constant battlefield (See Fire Next Time). There will be no forfeit. Know the game, and play to win...or suffer defeat. Right now the red is playing the game better than the blue...They know the season does not end with one game...and when this season does ends, there will be another one to get ready for next year.

The White: The Neutral and/or Neutralized Masses

The vast majority of people need better but are invested on some level in status quo. They have been neutralized through survival, media manipulations, and some level of comfort that comes from the known, no matter how difficult the known may be.

Consciousness and activism are luxuries all can hardly afford. When survival is your game, there is no time, energy, or possibility to fight the power! And of course, the system knows that and uses that to keep the masses in check. It is the ultimate paradox...To truly live, we must fight, but to truly fight we must be able to live...and right now, most are not living...most are existing...surviving...neutralized.

Those that may be able to live, learn and grow must survive the constant assault on reality by media. For the masses, media does not reflect reality, it defines it. Corporate interests and status quo power structure use media to manipulate thought processes. Hegemonic ideas are sold...what we should do, like, eat, support, not support, etc. The media controls information so the "white" masses will never be able to learn things they never get exposed to, or support what they never get to see.

Then there is the fact that the majority of those in THIS country are actually OK with status quo...because when we see social inequality as a two sided coin, one's advantages as reaped by other's disadvantages, the U.S. population is on the advantaged side of the equation and are not ready or willing to give up the status that they have become accustomed to....Most in this country don't SEE the world the way progressives see it...Malcolm X said it best at the end of this clip:

"they won't even admit the knife is there"...THIS IS MASS AMERICA...

Martin Luther King Jr. recognized the same REALITY when he spoke to the greatest threat to civil rights for African Americans not being the KKK but the majority that sit comfortably and silently at home doing nothing...non-action. Ignorance is truly bliss for many. But as James Baldwin so eloquently reminds us, it is "the innocence that constitutes the crime".

REALITY #4 = In this case, white does not represent a's a position...neutral; and the majority of people who have some ability to make change just don't. Inaction on the part of the masses for a multitude of reasons (some outlined above) is the REAL reason things stay the same.

The election of Obama (a black man in this racist country) is a symbol of the possibilities of what can happen when masses unite (whether he himself = change or not). masses vote and believe their part is done and now it is up to the elected leaders to "bring change". But Carter G. Woodson details how this western thinking was part of our miseducation in his classic text, The Miseducation of the Negro. Masses have been taught to accept their powerlessness; that they have no power to change things and must depend on leaders (white supremacists). It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because when leaders do not bring change, masses become more cynical and disengaged believing they tried to elect change but got more of the same...but the problem is change does not come from an act like "voting"(noun) comes from acting (verb). It is a state of being, not a finite action.
It is understanding that change comes from us...and we are all we need if we seize that the change.

The Blue: The Fragmented Left of Principled Idealists, Self -Righteous Elitists and Radical Revolutionaries (with no armies)

As someone who philosophically agrees with the progressive agenda, it pains me to disagree with their strategies. What i am trying to get folks to do is stop asking questions that are answered and doing the same thing expecting different results, and this is what progressives continue to do.

Staying ideologically pure with principles without strategy is what i would call "theory"...theory can provide answers to questions (like why is there poverty) but it never gets someone out of poverty until it is put into "praxis"..and praxis is a very different mechanism...not so clean because the real world is not a controlled laboratory and dealing with the realities as they are becomes a part of the solution...there is no way around that truth...

So for example, in this health care debate, the principled idealist will accept nothing other than a public option or single payer...and blame "leadership" (Obama specifically, Congress more generally) for not getting it done. They ignore the green, red, and most importantly "white" constituents of America...They expect politicians to act on principle and not reality of how they get and hold power, green lobbyists pulling their purse strings and white and red America not wanting any radical change in reality.

So for politicians, they alienate a fringe movement from the process, who they want to alienate anyway (sidenote: I started this essay before Rahm Emmanuel's remarks about the left but it just reinforces my point here)...they do not want the fringe minority to organize the masses.

So little gets done in Washington which successfully keeps masses disengaged (proving time and time again that Washington is broken so the majority don't bother to pay attention). Only a minority bother to vote anyway (what is it 30-40%?) and in between voting every four years disengage from the process altogether...And this is sold to us as democracy? Again, reality matters.

As I said in a previous essay, blaming a politician for being a politician is as effective to me as blaming a dog for is what they do...who they are.

Progressives on blogs and FB mad or disappointed in Obama for not being a principled strong leader are being disingenuous. The reality is Obama is doing exactly what Obama said he would a pragmatic leader of all Americans. Change was never going to come from him, and to his credit, he has said that on many occasions as well. Maybe his pragmatism will actually anger people into action...and we will finally see real change...time will tell. REALITY #5 = If Obama ran on a progressive platform he would not have won because active progressives in this country are a minority. When will this reality ever be addressed??

Most in this country support the status quo actively or by default (via inaction). That is why a truly progressive leader (like a Cynthia McKinney for example) has no chance of winning in THIS country. If we are intellectually honest AND really want to find a way to foster a progressive movement, this reality can no longer be ignored.

Then there is the radical wing of the blue who understand the system was never for us and know change can't come from it. I completely agree with this analysis, but again disagree with the strategy. The revolutionaries or rebels without an army of masses behind them will not see change either...that is the state of the radical movement right now...they are fringe..and instead of trying to reach the community where they are, like the Black Panther Party did, progressives today choose to dismiss the masses for "buying into the hope Obama sold them" and would rather just bemoan the imperial system ...foster their own intellectual elitism by espousing critical analysis of the system but in that... CHANGE NOTHING...they have no foot soldiers. I know this to be true because I am around both the "activists" and "regular community folks". Black/Brown working folks for the most part are not actively supporting or rejecting Obama. They are doing what they usually do: surviving. But interestingly enough, they have harsher words for Obama haters than they do Obama. To their credit, they know one man is not their problem. They know the system is, and they want and need community support.

REALITY #6 = Knowing the problem is one thing. Solving the problem will take more than a pointed finger. Your energy is better spent organizing and serving our communities in need than bemoaning the system and leaders you supposedly don't believe in anyway.

I wonder if the energy we spend debating would not be better spent acting...serving our communities...looking in the mirror. had that right. RIP.


"The time has come. This is It. People are always saying.. 'Oh they, they'll take care of it.' 'The government will do it. They'll' ...They who? It starts with us.'s US. Or else it'll never be done."
- Michael Jackson

"Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can't ride you unless your back is bent." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

"You can't lead the people if you don't love the people. You can't save the people if you don't serve the people." - Cornel West

“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” - Frederick Douglass

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning.” - Frederick Douglass

"Who gets weaker? the king or the teacher
Its not about a salary its all about reality

Teachers teach and do the world good

Kings just rule and most are never understood"
- KRS One

"We are capable of bearing a great burden, once we discover that the burden is reality and arrive where reality is." – James Baldwin

It's time to arrive where reality of these days we will have no choice.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Burden...and Freedom...of Reality

One of my favorite quotations to cite in class, post on here, and spam elsewhere whenever i get a chance is by James Baldwin:

We are capable of bearing a great burden, once we discover that the burden is reality and arrive where reality is
. – James Baldwin

I post it often but have realized that very few people engage in dialogue about the heart of the matter...what this quotation really speaks to...and why it matters.

There is no shortage of people and energy that want change...but why does it seem so fleeting? Why do imperial forces seem to always "win" and progressive efforts for a more equitable existence for all humankind seem like such a pipe dream? again, the answer lies in the quotation.

The political circus that has become health care reform is yet another lesson in why this quotation's insight is so critical if we ever want to see real change.

For me, the debates raging on blogs and FB act as a constant reminder of how far we are from this reality. For many, it is easier to debate principles, ideology and philosophy...but reality is rarely engaged. I wonder....where will this lead us?? and the answer is the same answer it has been for all times....nowhere.

And then we wonder why nothing changes? Really? How can things change in a society where we have made even reality debatable? And as long as that is the case, we will not be able to agree on the path forward.
There ain't no substitute for the truth....either it is or isn't - India Arie

Keeping the quotation above as my guiding principle, and trying to arrive where reality truly is, I am going to try to answer these questions:

So what is our REALITY?
What is the truth?

1. Change is possible...but

2. it is NOT through leadership or policy unless....

3. There is an active electorate (the engine of a true democracy = people power) ....but

4. There is no active electorate... why?

5. Fascists and Hegemonic power control not only masses but progressive

6. Fragmented/Polar interests (no unity) and Miseducation. what can we realistically do?

7. KNOW all are not fighting for the same PROGRESS so it will be a continuous struggle, ACCEPT the power within to BE the change we need by SERVING our communities and working to ORGANIZE the masses.

OKAY now this is the REALITY we must really deal with...People I have the utmost respect for are not intellectually honest with themselves or others when they do not speak to these realities. The progressive movement in this country will never succeed as long as progressives continue to follow the same script:

1. blame leadership
2. blame the "ignorant" and "disengaged" masses
3. believe progress is possible without the masses; that they can make change alone, not realizing that even if this was a true democracy and worked as such, they would still lose by the numbers and resources.

I address most of these issues in the previous post (Dis'United States of America) particularly the issue of fragmented and polar interests, so in this essay, I want to speak more specifically about the reality of miseducation in our lack of progress for a more equitable society.

The Roots of Miseducation: How the Masses were taught Powerlessness

Carter G. Woodson details how we were taught to be powerless in his classic text, The Miseducation of the Negro. Masses have been taught to accept their powerlessness; that they have no power to change things and must depend on leaders (white supremacists).

If this miseducation is not combated, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because when leaders do not bring change, masses become more cynical and disengaged believing they tried to elect change but got more of the same. They learn the "power" they thought they had (in a democracy) is of no significance so they must accept their lots in life.

Leadership, at best, brings only temporary and incremental progress (and usually with backlash), because once leaders are neutralized, so is the progress. History has taught us this lesson over and over again: well known leaders like Toussaint L'Ouverture, Nat Turner, John Brown, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and the BPP all gave their life works for black liberation, but black liberation is still a dream deferred. And while no one can deny the significant progress all their efforts made to advance black liberation, their most significant achievements were organizing the mass "followers" they emboldened to action. Alone, they could accomplish little, but leading the people, they helped us on our path from slavery to freedom...a path we still are on today.

Woodson's solution to this miseducation of looking to leadership to save our communities, comes in the chapter titled "Service over Leadership". He says we need to start serving our communities, investing and trusting in our own people to realize self determination.

Interestingly enough, this powerlessness is mirrored in much of western philosophy and traditions, and religion is probably the main way it is taught.

Manifest Destiny

Although I did not realize it at the time, the combination of growing up going to a Catholic school, and having a father who was an avid reader and student of not only the Bible, but eastern philosophy (ex. Book of Tao), and new age spirituality (exs. Wayne Dyer, Marianne Williamson, Deepak Chopra) impacted my worldview tremendously.

In eastern philosophy, much focus is placed on inner power.

Catholic training actually emphasized service and sacrifice. While evangelicals seemed to focus on Jesus as the way to salvation, I learned more of his acts of mercy and treatment of the poor.

In Mass, this is the scripture I remember getting most attention:

Matthew 25: 34-40
34Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me,I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' 37Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' 40And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'

When I listen to most evangelicals discuss the Bible, they focus extensively on this passage:

John 6: 40-46
40And this is the will of Him that sent Me: that every one who seeth the Son and believeth in Him may have everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the Last Day." 41The Jews then murmured at Him, because He said, "I am the Bread which came down from Heaven."42And they said, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that he saith, `I came down from Heaven'?" 43Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, "Murmur not among yourselves." 44No man can come to Me unless the Father who hath sent Me draw him; and I will raise him up at the Last Day.45It is written in the Prophets: `And they shall all be taught by God.' Every man therefore that hath heard and hath learned from the Father cometh unto Me. 46Not that any man hath seen the Father, save He that is of God; He hath seen the Father.

Comparing these two passages provides one powerful lesson. The first focuses on service. The latter teaches that no one is saved unless they come through Jesus; it is the script that many "Christians" use to damn all non-Christians to hell. It also basically teaches that the power comes from accepting, not doing. Salvation comes from accepting Christ as Savior, not being Christ-like. This is a very powerful lesson in teaching powerlessness.

Interestingly enough, later in the book of John, Jesus says:

John 14: 12

"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father."

This passage is hotly debated as to whether Jesus meant we could "really" do all he did now on Earth...

but in Luke 17: 5-8 Jesus also says:

5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Show us how to increase our faith.” 6 The Lord answered, “If you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘May you be uprooted and thrown into the sea,’ and it would obey you!

These last two passages speak to the same inner power eastern philosophy often speaks to, but these passages are treated as more figurative while the John 6:44 is treated more literally; again, playing down "namaste" to reinforce that power comes from an outside force.

This western way of thinking has implications in all we do...and don't do; what we believe we are capable of...and not capable of...what is possible, and impossible. The reality is this miseducation heeds progress, and this is the burden we continue to bear to this day. But this is one burden we can cast off once we accept the power within us to be the change we want and need. So in reality, the obstacles are great, but despite the interests that work against progress, our power is greater if we embrace it fully...and the truth is...the REALITY is...we REALLY can change the, let's get free. Namaste.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

----from A Return to Love, by Marianne Williamson.