Saturday, December 31, 2011

My New Year's Wish

¡Happy New Year!

 * * *

I know you’re out there, whoever you are, because I see the page visits. Keep coming back.

It’s been a challenging for me, as it has been for too many people I know and come into contact with. Too many of us have been “downsized” or discarded, and have been finding much too difficult to re-enter the stream.

Too many of us have lost our homes, our livelihoods, our sense of self, and sadly, our sense of hope. In all my years on this planet, I have yet been confronted with the waste, the lack of opportunity, the destruction that I have seen…

I know I will eventually prevail, somehow, but it’s been hard, especially recently. My hope, for all of us, is that we find it in our collective will to strike back at the forces that would marginalize the vast majority of us. I’ve seen glimpses of that spirit this past year -- something I haven’t seen in a long, long time and that has been the most beautiful thing this year -- this whole notion of taking back, of occupying, or decolonizing, of speaking truth to power.

And so this year has been both extremely hard and challenging but at the same time something beautiful has come from all this. I don’t know about you, but I’m not going down without a fight.

Many of you may have heard me state this before, but it bears repeating:

I don’t pray, but if I did, my prayer for you would be that you would be able to discover the passion in your life and that you would be fortunate enough to make that passion your life’s work. My prayer for you would be that your every action and thought would be dedicated to making manifest that passion.

Be careful and much love…


Friday, December 30, 2011

The Friday Sex Blog [Riding the Horse]

Hola mi gente…
It’s the holiday weekend, and I wish you all the very best in the coming year, but, whatever you do, please -- please: Don’t. Drive. Drunk.

NO excuses, people. Don't drink and drive -- and don’t ride with anyone who does.

Tipsy Tow offered by AAA (You don't have to be a AAA member): from 6pm to 6am on New Year's Eve/ Day they will take your drunk ass and your car home for free. While not a nationwide program, a number of AAA clubs offer Tow-to-Go or Tipsy Tow service during certain holidays for members and nonmembers. This service is not available everywhere. AAA strongly encourages family and friends to pick a designated driver before they head out on New Year’s Eve.

Save this number: 1-800-222-4357. Click here to find out which clubs are participating. Please re-post this if you want to help save lives.

And just in case you didn’t hear me the first time, here’s some Stevie Wonder reinforcing the message:

* * *

One day I went with a girlfriend horseback riding. I had ridden before, but, my companion at the time warned me, we were going to ride “real horses,” real horseback riding. I was just horny to see her ass perfectly shaped ass on a horse, so I somewhat exaggerated my horse riding experience.

Big mistake. Out they came with this huge, black, fire-breathing-from-flayed-nostrils animal, and no sooner than I got on it and kicked, it just took off. No matter how much I pulled back on the reins this motherfucker wasn’t stopping and we were headed straight to a fence that, it seemed to me, this horse was determined to jump. Luckily, another rider was able to put his horse in the way, causing a collision that threw me off the horse. Fortunately, no one was hurt. That animal just looked at me and it seemed to me it was laughing at me. They asked if I wanted to switch horses for a tamer one, but I refused. I got some lessons that day on how to ride, but when I got back on that magnificent animal, I held the reins so tight it couldn’t move.

Eventually, my friend taught me enough where I became a pretty good rider and over time I developed a close bond with that horse, admiring (while respecting) its spirit and strength.

Of course, you know there’s a metaphor in here somewhere, right? LOL! Your growth is like that: in the beginning you’re holding on to the reins, white-knuckled, hanging on for dear life, afraid of the full power of your emotions. But if you go outside that comfort zone, you begin to explore the more meaningful, and infinitely more rewarding, emotional landscapes. You learn to relax in the saddle, to ride, motherfucker, ride!

For most people most times, violent emotions are destructive. People fly into rage, for example, and say things they don’t mean and later regret (can I get a witness?). We sometimes may lash out and hurt someone, or when hurt by rejection, we mope and eat and lay in bed, our hurt festering in the murky waters of self-destructive depression. Most violence is a form of self-abuse or other-abuse.

Therefore, at the earlier stages of psycho-spiritual evolution or self actualization, growth means cultivating compassion and less emotional violence toward yourself and others. My experience has been that the more self-awareness you attain, the more you are naturally motivated toward peace and harmony. At this stage, when upset or angered, you learn to take a few breaths and calm yourself. You try to practice kindness rather than hate, acceptance rather than judgment, joy rather than anger.

In this way, you can become harmonious -- and frightfully bland.

In adopting the stereotype of a harmonious individual, all smiles and acquiescence, you forfeit your depth of love power for the sake of a safe but superficial calmness. Yes, you may have progressed from irresponsible violence and poor impulse control to a practiced tranquility, but growth doesn’t stop there.

After you have developed the basic skills necessary to breathe through your emotional reflexes and to act graciously, there’s another world. There is a whole new experience, lover, out there waiting for you: you can learn to open as your emotion. Rather than striking out in self-destructive, knee-jerk ways, and rather than merely breathing through your anger in order to achieve calmness, you can actually use anger, or any other emotion, as a gateway to a deeper love, a deeper expression of truth and your lived experience.

If you look back to a time when you felt you wanted to hit someone, punch a wall, break something, you will note the presence of an overriding sense of feeling trapped, restricted. Whether by your own limits or by external circumstances, you most likely felt imprisoned and loveless. Violence is always a dysfunctional attempt to break free, an unskilled effort toward greater freedom or love. Openness is freedom and love. Even the most violent or self-destructive emotions are based on our need for openness, to be free, to give and receive love.

When you are open, then you are able to give and receive love fully, and you are free. However, when you don’t practice how to be open, then you’re unable to live as love, then your chi, or vital power/ love-energy, backs up and roils as emotional mayhem. You feel trapped and alone, powerless, unable or fearful of riding that magnificent and powerful force, to ride free like the wind. Your emotional energy becomes constipated.

Embraced skillfully, intense emotions can be a quick path to a deeper experience -- to a more profound openness. Ever heard of “angry sex”? Anger can provide you with the sharp clarity and thunder necessary to awaken from moody distraction, if you can release and really feel your love that moves as anger.

Sadness, something we all try to avoid at all costs, can expose your heart, too. Sometimes we harden ourselves against sadness, in the process creating dead zones in our psyche and body. It’s as if in our fear of unleashing our full potential, we’ve numbed ourselves against feeling fully. We have the reins tight in our hands, and we’ll never let go, lest we lose ourselves, we think. Soften yourself and feel your sadness. Really feel your sadness. Softness is like the ocean, while it is yielding, it is not weak. Yield, surrender, to your sadness without falling apart. Soften your belly, feel the tidal swells moving through you, the heaves of gasps for yearning. There’s an astounding depth of love released by sadness. Ever heard and experienced the raw beauty of the blues art form?
Love can transform all these previously destructive emotions into something powerful and alive.
People mistake my work in politics or social justice for anger. But aggression for love’s sake is passion. Even the word protest uncovers some this. Pro means being for something. Test is to speak, as in testify, or testimony. To protest is to speak for something, to stand for something.

In order for you to take the next step, you have to come to the awareness that true spiritual and sexual passion demands your capacity to open as wild as the moment does. Just like with me and that horse. Sometimes the force of our emotions can scare us, and we need to be careful, to develop psychologically safe spaces. But not to do this work is deny yourself life.

Smacks and shouts and dark desires can wield love as powerfully as gentle kisses, mild-mannered moods, and pats on the back. And yes, this takes practice, and you might want to hold on to those reins a little tightly at first, or until you feel safe. It might take years to open freely in this way, but until you do, it’s as if you’ve entered an amusement park but have refused to get on the rides.

C’Ya on the rebound…

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Perfectly Unfolding...

Hola mi gente…
Occasionally, I like to re-post the following. It reminds me of the importance of gratitude.

* * *

Yes, follow your bliss, but dammit! Seize your passion!
 -- Me

My readers are probably already familiar with my sickening claim that this moment is perfectly unfolding, right? I mean, I only mention it at least once a week. Today, however, I’m going prove my point beyond a shadow of a doubt. No charge

Whether you want to own up to it, not -- whether you’re aware of it, or not -- literally thousands of things go right for you every day, beginning the moment you wake up.


For starters, through some magic you really don’t understand, you’re still breathing and your heart is beating, in spite of the fact that you’ve been unconscious for many hours. You wake up and breathe in the air that is a mix of gasses that’s just right for your body’s needs, as it was before you fell asleep.

You open your eyes and you can see! Light of many colors floods into your eyes, are registered by nerves that took billions of years to perfect. Furthermore, the interesting gift of these beautiful colors comes to you courtesy of an unimaginably huge globe of fire, the sun, which continually detonates nuclear reactions in order to convert its body to light and heat and energy for your personal use.

Do you realize that the sun is located at the precise distance from you to be of perfect service? One small difference either way and you would either burn or freeze. And here’s another blessing: everyday, the sun appears to rise over the eastern horizon right on schedule everyday, as it has long before you were born. Talk about trustworthiness and commitment!

How about the day you were born, do you remember that? It was a difficult miracle that involved many people who worked hard on your behalf. No less miraculous is the fact that you have continued to grow since then, with millions of new cells being born inside you to replace the old ones that die. And check this out: it happens automatically! You don’t even have to think about it.

Amazingly, the water your body needs so much comes out of your faucets in an even flow, with the volume you desire, and either as cold or hot as you desire. It’s pure and clean; you’re confident there are no parasites lurking in it. There is someone somewhere making sure you will continue to receive this gift of water without interruption for as long as you require it.

Look at your hands. They are beautiful. They’re amazing creations that allow you to carry out hundreds of tasks with great force and intricate grace. They relish the pleasure of touching thousands of different textures, and they’re beautifully perfect.

In your closet there are many clothes you like to wear. Have you ever stopped to think who gathered the materials to make the fabrics they’re made of? Who infused them with color, and how did they do it? Who sewed them for you?

In your kitchen, there’s tasty food in secure packaging waiting for you. Many people you have never met worked hard to grow it, process it, and get it to the store where you purchased it. This bounty of food is unprecedented in the history of the world.

Your appliances are working flawlessly. Despite the fact that they work on a power that would kill you instantly if you were to touch it directly, you have perfect confidence that you’re not in danger. Why? If I may say so, your faith in the people who designed these machines is impressive.

Wait! There’s more! Much more!

At this very moment, gravity is working exactly as it always has, neither pulling too much or with too little force. How did that little piece of magic ever come about? It doesn’t matter, because it will continue to function with amazing efficiency whether you understand it or not.

At the same time, a trillion other elements of nature’s design are expressing themselves perfectly this very moment. Plants are growing, rivers are flowing, clouds are drifting, winds are blowing, animals are reproducing. Though you may take it for granted, you relish the ever-shifting sensations of light and temperature as they interact with your body.

There’s still more! You can smell odors, hear sounds, and taste tastes, many of which are quite pleasing. You can think. Though some of us don’t use it nearly enough, we have the extraordinary gift of self-awareness. You can feel feelings! Can you even begin to understand the magnitude of being blessed with that mysterious and wonderful capacity? Moreover, as a bonus you’re able to visualize an infinite array of images, some of which represent things that don’t exist.

You have the gift of language. Millions of people have collaborated for untold centuries in order to cultivate a system of communication that you understand well. Speaking and reading gives you great pleasure and a tremendous sense of power.

Want to travel to some far off land? There are a number of machines to choose from in order to get there. Cars, planes, buses, trains, subways, ship, helicopter, or bike -- whatever you choose, you have the utmost confidence that it will work efficiently. Multitudes of people who are now dead devoted themselves to perfecting these modes of travel. Thousands more still alive devote themselves to ensuring that these benefits will keep serving you.

Sure, we are now aware that in the future shrinking oil reserves and global warming may impose limitations on your ability to use cars and other machines to travel. But you also know that many smart and idealistic people are right now diligently working to develop alternative fuels to protect the environment.

Perhaps you own an MP3 player, a fantastic invention that has dramatically enhanced your ability hear a vast array of beautiful sounds at low cost.

Let’s say you have been awake for a couple of hours. At least a hundred things have already gone right for you. If three of those hundred things had not gone right -- your toaster was broken, there was no hot water, or your car didn’t start -- you might feel today the universe has conspired against you, that your luck is bad, that nothing’s right, and life sucks. Yet the fact remains that the vast majority of everything is working with breath-taking perfection and consistency. Taking this in consideration, you would be a deluded creature to think that life is primarily an ordeal.

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Hola mi gente… 
the new year is upon us and with it the flood of resolutions, most of which, statistically speaking, will be broken before the end of the third week of January...

* * *

Life is change, growth is optional, choose wisely.
 -- Karen Kaiser Clark

I once read a book that asked the question, “What if you woke up one morning and realized you were living the wrong life?” Love it!

While people won’t normally admit to it, I get the sense that many people feel as if they’re playing a starring role in a drama they never intended to play. I get a sense from so many people who seem to feel that they are somehow living the wrong life

The thing is I see people do complete about faces all the time.

In fact, I'm one of those people. About 21 years ago, I was a hopelessly addicted addict in solitary confinement -- sick, malnutritioned -- it doesn't get any more hopeless than that. But something clicked right before then and many times after. My turn-around -- my about face -- happened in small increments until I evolved into the life I feel I was meant to live.

Others change in a flash. Gandhi and the French painter, Gauguin, changed overnight and undertook causes at a great price. Gauguin was a well-to-do stockbroker leading a perfectly normal middle-class life and he just left one day. Left his wife and children and decided to become a painter. What's more, he painted in a style that was totally misunderstood by the public at the time. He lived most of the rest of his life in abject poverty and in the process condemned his wife and children to a life of destitution. Gauguin today is considered one of the greatest of the post-impressionists. I doubt that in his lifetime, Gauguin ever sold a painting for a significant sum of money. Eventually he died penniless of syphilis. But he painted until the end of his life.

That was his passion.

What's yours?

Gandhi, a chameleon if ever there was one, coined the term, “be the change you want in the world.” He too was living a comfortable life until one day he came face to face with racism and it changed him forever. Whatever you might say about his inconsistencies, he was probably the single most influential proponent of nonviolent resistance of the 20th century. His work influenced such people as Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, and countless others.

People do about faces all the time.

People change political parties and careers, people give up their jobs as doctors and become poets, mothers quit their families to pursue careers, and athletes quit their careers to spend more time with their families. There are passive people who change and become revolutionaries for a cause they didn't care about the day before.

I guess the message is that you can change at any time, no matter what your external circumstances. The people mentioned above are no different than you in many cases. We like to think, those people were different, they were special. We're just plain folk. Well, if you look at the history of these transformers, you notice that they were just plain folk too. In fact, some had tasted failure numerous times before they found their calling.

What will you do when you get your wake-up call? Will you just turn over and fall asleep? Or will you heed the call? Because I can assure of this: you will be called. Perhaps you have been called already.
My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…


Grierson, B. (2008). U-turn: What if you Woke up one morning and realized you were living the wrong life? New York: Bloomsbury USA.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Looneytarians

Hola mi Gente…
Let’s be clear: the harsh, punitive “voter ID laws” being passed throughout mostly southern states are nothing but a blatant attempt at a new Jim Crow. The menace here is voter suppression, not voter fraud, which is almost nonexistent. In South Carolina alone, there are over 80,000 registered African Americans who would be disenfranchised by the voter laws passed there

* * *

[Several months ago, I wrote the following for an online magazine I am no longer affiliated with. It's about the underlying premises of conservative and libertarian thought. Essentially, people like Ron Paul don’t trust human nature and what is a democratic experiment if not the collective expression of human nature?]

If you listen -- really listen -- to the underlying beliefs of many people, you’re immediately confronted with common assumptions about human nature that in actuality have no grounding in reality (or are at least empirically baseless). This is far from an academic exercise; the basic assumptions drive our economic policies, for example, and are often used as rationales for zero-sum societies (winners take all), and, most of all, justification for austerity measures and brutal wars that impact, for the most part, innocent women and children.

This false portrait of humankind feeds both a dangerous reverence for dog-eat-dog individualism and a sense of powerless in the face of holy market forces that must be obeyed no matter the cost in lives, global environmental catastrophe, or gross economic injustice.

Its roots lie in the gloomy conservative worldview of an essentially brutish human nature needing to be tamed. Conservative thinkers, looking to rationalize authoritarianism and explain away the social destruction wreaked by unrestrained greed, simply invented whole-cloth concepts of human nature that made their policy goals seem inevitable.

The irony in all this is that this authoritarian Kool-Aid is swallowed whole by so-called libertarians. You hear it all the time that human nature is selfish, war-like, brutal. Of course, the theory that we have a “selfish” gene is just that, a theory, founded upon absolutely no evidence. Yet it is propagated as if it is the gospel truth. As social scientist Riane Eisler, who in her seminal work, The Chalice and the Blade (1990) (and her later work) successfully dismantled this view, stated:

I don't want to lump every single sociobiologist into the same category, but the kind of sociobiological theories that tend to get popularized present what I call a dominator way of relating as the only human possibility. This is the model of human relations, as I describe in my work, in which males are ranked over females; violence and abuse are systemic and institutionalized; the social structure is hierarchic and authoritarian; and coercion is a major element in sexuality. And it's all supposed to be just human nature.

The ugly, empirically invalid portrait is this: a human is a cold and isolated individual who uses unemotional reason to reach pre-determined ends. This is the widely discredited but still popular “rational actor” model. And there’s another nuance, which some are now calling the “rat choice” model. This tells us those pre-determined ends are always selfish or self-interested. This myth is what is at the heart of so-called libertarian and conservative worldviews, popularized in economic terms by historical ignoramuses such as Ayn Rand and Hayek (and their progeny: Friedman, Greenspan et al.).

We are rats, these conservatives say.

As Eisler conclusively demonstrates, however, virtually every field within the human sciences has found that we are nothing like that. Cutting-edge neuropsychological investigations show that because we are hard-wired for empathy, we can (and do) act altruistically. We seek fairness. Our selves are not isolated, but interconnected in many ways. Yes, we are competitive, but we are also cooperative. Reason and emotion are intertwined. There’s no such thing as reason detached from emotion. We don’t coldly follow the rules of logic in making moral decisions.

The notion that there is no such thing as altruism is based on the neo-Darwinian theory of kin selection. In other words, if you do something altruistic, you’re protecting your genes so you can pass them on. Well, what about the people in Nazi Germany who took in Jews, total strangers, knowing that not only they but their whole families would be killed if they were discovered? Where is the kin selection there? This notion just doesn’t hold up to rigorous scrutiny.

Darwin also wrote a little book called Descent of Man, in which he very explicitly stated that natural selection, random selection, survival of the fittest, simply do not apply as the only factors, and certainly not as the primary factors, when it comes to human evolution. There is also the very important factor that he called “the moral sense.”

Despite the overwhelming empirical evidence to the contrary, the narrative of human nature as intrinsically evil is still the dominant prevailing religious and scientific narrative championing “original sin” and “selfish genes.” These also present male dominance as justified by either God or evolution (talk about irony), though scholars from many disciplines tell us a different story of our cultural origins.

From a scientific perspective, the invention of tools does not begin with the discovery that we can use bones, stones, or sticks to kill one another. It begins much earlier, with the use of sticks and stones to dig up roots (which chimpanzees still do) and continues with the fashioning of ways to carry food other than with bare hands (simple vegetable slings and baskets) and of mortars and other tools to soften foods.

In this story, the evolution of hominid, and then human, culture also follows more than one path. We have alternatives. We can organize relations in ways that reward violence and domination. But, as some of our earliest art suggests, we can also recognize our essential interconnection with one another and the rest of the living world.

In his recent book, The Fair Society (2011), biologist Peter Corning writes:

Contrary to the stereotype about our innate selfishness and greed, most of us share a desire to live in a society where fairness is the operative norm, where everybody’s basic needs are met… where there is a robust sense of ‘reciprocity’ -- a rough balancing of benefits and obligations.

Corning’s provocative challenge is this: what if we’re wrong simply to resign ourselves to the notion that human nature is essentially destructive and war-like? What if we have the power -- and more importantly, the duty (the moral obligation) -- to change society for the better?

As cognitive scientists such as George Lakoff (2008) have been advising us for some time, it is impossible to advance a progressive social vision using false frames of reference clothed as unbiased scholarship. Assumptions that, by the way, rule out a fair, progressive, and democratic society.

Lynn Stout demolishes the concept of human beings as selfish creatures who respond only to punishments and rewards in her book, Cultivating Conscience (2010). She shows that the lonely, selfish, hyper-individualistic creature invented by conservative propagandists is actually a myth. That view, Stout correctly observes, “implies we are psychopaths.” I would add that the sociopath is the ideal of the conservative/ libertarian worldview.

Rather than depend on the power of greed to shape laws and human behavior, Stout argues, we should rely on the force of conscience. Stout makes the compelling case that conscience is neither a rare nor quirky phenomenon, but a vital force woven into our daily lives. Using empirical studies from culled from social psychology, behavioral economics, and evolutionary biology, Stout demonstrates how social cues -- ideas about others' selfishness and unselfishness, and beliefs about benefits to others -- play a powerful role in triggering unselfish behavior.

It should come as no surprise that corporations and the financial elite have funded the decades-long effort to convince Americans our nature is intrinsically evil. Rational choice theory, a theory that postulates that people working separately to pursue their ego-centered needs creates the ideal society (a libertarian talking point, BTW), has held sway over economics and political science and has redefined the foundations of public policy by assuming that self-interest defines all aspects of human activity. It was also used to redefine “freedom” as a fundamental aspect of greed (George Lakoff, 2007). When applied to corporations, the theory exempts them from any social responsibility other than that owed to their shareholder. Today, that corporation is considered a legal (if fictitious) entity. Or, as Mitt Romney succinctly put it, “Corporations are people [too].”

As a former scam artist, I have to admit that this has been the greatest scam ever in the history of humankind. The wholesale acceptance of the idea that there is a moral imperative for the pursuit of wealth and power, whatever the consequences for the many and for society at large, is almost too ugly to countenance. But this ideology is what supports our current political system -- this false and destructive view of our own natures. In fact, this scam has succeeded to the point that many so-called libertarians, “independents,” progressives (many of whom like to make fun of the rest of us unwashed masses) remain content to operate within the frames and narratives generated by the scam.

This particular form of pathology can be found in so-called progressives who support the racist, feudalistic policies of Ron Paul. Libertarianism is nothing more than feudalism in that both depend on decentralization, rigid local hierarchies, a martial culture of honor, a strong religious caste system to keep everyone in their place, isolationist trade/ foreign policies, and the lack of a middle-class tax base that would demand social services and a representation in government affairs.

To paraphrase Einstein, the same consciousness that is part of the problem cannot be used as a solution. A society organized around the values generated by an evolved consciousness look radically different from political and economic structures forced upon us by the greedy authoritarians who sold us a bill of goods about ourselves. But before that can happen, you have to disabuse yourself of the myths of human nature.

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…


Corning, P. A. (2011). The fair society: The science of human nature and the pursuit of social justice. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (click here)

Eisler, R. (1990). The chalice and the blade: Our history, our future. New York: HarperOne. (click here)

Lakoff, G. (2007). Whose freedom?: The battle over America's most important idea. New York: Macmillan. (click here)

Lakoff, G. (2008). The political mind: Why you can't understand 21st-century politics with an 18th-century brain. New York: Penguin. (click here)

Stout, L. A. (2010). Cultivating conscience: How good laws make good people. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (click here)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Punishing the Poor

¡Hola mi Gente!
Merry post-Creeka and all that. Personally, I’ve been having a hard time distracting myself with the glitter while children go hungry or don’t have a place to sleep…

* * * 

Government has to start living within its means, just like families do. We have to cut the spending we can't aford so we can put the economy on sounder footing...
 -- President Obama, weekly radio address, July 2, 2011

Yesterday I posted the following Facebook status update:

Before you post about all your gifts, consider that today one third -- ONE THIRD -- of children in the US are homeless.

A contact correctly pointed out that my figure -- that one-third of all children in the US are homeless -- was wrong and he posted a link to a credible source. I gotta respect that. In fact, if we go by official estimates, my figure grossly overestimates child homelessness. (h/t Paul P.)

I’m usually more careful about my statistics, so no excuses. Still, yesterday was Christmas and I was running around, and what I should have posted was that child homelessness has risen and represent one-third of the homeless population. If we take the “official” homeless figure for children at 1.6 million children each year. To put it in perspective that equates to more than 30,000 homeless children each week and over 4,400 each day.

There are two things I want to explore a little further. One is that there is no concrete way to count the homeless. So the correct homeless figures vary widely, most will say that the figure stands at anywhere between 600,000-1.5 million. That’s a huge margin of error.

The National Coalition for the Homeless points out:

Many people call or write the National Coalition for the Homeless to ask about the number of homeless people in the United States. There is no easy answer to this question and, in fact, the question itself is misleading. In most cases, homelessness is a temporary circumstance -- not a permanent condition. A more appropriate measure of the magnitude of homelessness is the number of people who experience homelessness over time, not the number of “homeless people.”

Studies of homelessness are complicated by problems of definitions and methodology. (here)
Of interest to me, and to those who actually study homelessness, are the children of families who are living doubled up with friends and families because they have no place to stay. These aren’t counted as “homeless” and don’t qualify for homeless services. Furthermore, there are the families who have dropped off the grid entirely, living on the precarious margins of society with no hope. There the families who have no way of being contacted, therefore studies, many of which rely in part on telephone surveys, never count them.

Therefore, if we expand the definition of homelessness in order to better understand and explore it, my one-third figure, while admittedly still a gross overestimation, is not as much of an exaggeration as one would think.

In the interest of better articulating my point, let me use a related issue, poverty. If we use the accepted norm for measuring poverty, we find that nearly 15 million children in the United States -- 21% of all children -- live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level -- $22,050 a year for a family of four. However, the way we measure poverty is woefully inadequate and obsolete. For example, research shows that, on average, families need an income of about twice that level to cover basic expenses. Using this standard, 42% of children live in low-income families (here). Notice that using a more rigorous measure of poverty causes the poverty rate to double. It doesn’t take a social scientist to understand the relationship between poverty and homelessness, so I have to wonder just how much of an exaggeration is my one-third figure.

Among the 21 most affluent nations, the United States has the highest percentage of poor children. In fact, our rate is twice that of the country next in line. And contrary to the demonizing and racializing of the poor by the idiots on the right, most of these children have parents who work, but low wages and unstable employment leave their families struggling to make ends meet. Poverty sentences children to live on the margins as it impedes the ability to learn and contributes to social, emotional, and behavioral problems. Poverty is a major factor in poor health and is correlated to mental health. Risks are greatest for children who experience poverty when they are young and/ or experience deep and persistent poverty.

What to do? What’s needed is the exact opposite of the austerity budgets favored by Obama and conservative politicians in the US and Europe. More government spending and tax cuts targeted at the working class, beyond what President Obama has proposed, will surely make the deficit larger and drive up debt. But the post World War II ratio of GDP to debt in 1946 was at 109% -- a record. This was followed by two of the strongest decades of economic growth in U.S. history.

FDR, who reneged on his initial promise to balance the budget and initiated the New Deal instead once declared, “to balance the budget in 1933, or 1934, or 1935 would be a crime against the American people. Unfortunately, the biggest obstacle to day is that poverty in America has been racialized. The color of poverty is black and brown and it’s far easier to demonize, as conservatives do, the shiftless black and brown hordes of poor who multiply like rats and who have taken “our” country away from “us.”

This is what is meant when teabaggers mewl about “taking our country back.”

Never mind that this perception is false and there are multitudes of poor, hungry, and homeless children who happen to be white, as long as the mainstream political narrative can paint the issue in stark racial tones, Americans in the US won't identify with the plight of the poor. When the right cries “class warfare” their argument is little more than a thinly veiled racial slur. It’s how they get the white working class and the culture warriors on their side. Because this strategy is itself so deeply irrational, it’s inevitable that conservatism would become poisoned by it. Essentially, American conservatism is little more than a primal scream about its own demons and imaginary hells. Who benefits? The 1% percent who pick their pockets while they vent about fetuses and sex.

Without a champion or the political will to brand balancing the government budget as a “crime against the American people,” today’s crisis will likely drag on for more than a decade as economic hardship mounts for more and more of us -- especially our children.

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…

Sunday, December 25, 2011

What Really Matters [Laughter]

I’m hearing people talk about the gifts they’ve received and I can’t shake the knowledge that one-third of all children in the US are homeless.

One third.

And you’re posting FB/ Twitter updates about all your gifts? I dunno, man, something isn’t correct…

There is no greater reward than sharing. No gadget, no toy, nothing glittery will save you from yourself. I believe life’s greatest challenge is being able see the suffering in the world and still commit to living with compassion, humor, joy, and a lot of laughter. For this is what really matters.

* * *

It is impossible for a truly grateful person to be sad for an extended period of time.

Because a large portion of my work involves the mind, I consume a lot of research, especially new research around neuroscience. I love it when this research confirms my experiences. For example, I came across these few important facts about laughter…

Research shows that when you laugh from the belly, you breathe in sex times more oxygen than normal. Some experts estimate that twenty seconds of laughter is equal to twenty minutes of cardiovascular exercise. Usually something is funny as well, which is its own reward. In fact, laughter stimulates the euphoria centers in the brain, the same ones that light up over sex (or chocolate).

Scientific studies have been done on the “vocalization” and “burst rates” of laughter, discovering that, cross culturally, the most constant consonant of laughter is “h.” Most of us go, “ha ha,” or “hee hee,” “ho ho,” or “heh heh.” the researchers also found that no one laughs with mixed consonants, as in “ha, fa, la, ca, kee, po… ”

Anthropologists now believe that the human laughter, “ha ha,” evolved from the rhythmic sound made by other primate species when tickling and chasing each other in play. The make a sound like “hooh hooh.”

Primates like to tickle each other, and one scientist has determined that the first joke ever made was the fake tickle, when the gesture to tickle is made but withdrawn before contact, as in “Ha ha. Fooled you.”

Here’s hoping that you have much to laugh over and that you commit to sharing that bounty and laughter with people not just inside your insular bubble, but to an ever-expanding network of relationships.




[un]Common Sense