Sunday, May 31, 2015

Sunday Sermon [Economic Enslavement]

Hola Everybody...
It’s official. I will be leaving my current job at the Correctional Association at the end of June. I am going to a transitional period right now, looking to see how I can best use my skills to undo the structural racism at the core of mass incarceration and police abuses. Perhaps I’ll write about that in the coming days. I don’t have a “real” gig yet, but I will be doing some freelance work while looking for full-time employment. So! If you know of any criminal justice reform organizations needing an intelligent and gifted writer with a strong analysis and years of experience in the direct services and policy arenas, let me know.
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There are currently at least 30 wars and armed conflicts raging in the world… over 80% of the casualties of war are civilians… disproportionately women and children.

The Ties that Bind Us
... And whoever controls the debt, controls everything. This is the essence of the banking industry to make us all slaves to the debt.
-- From the flim, The International

As we lurch toward the second decade of the new millennium, I can’t help but reflect in amazement how we’ve been at it for all these thousands of years and we’re still here in spite of ourselves. Through the cruel elements, the countless plagues and wars, the lunatics, and perhaps human nature itself, we are still here, defiant, striving, still trying to make sense of it all.

We’re still alive...

But we’re still suffering and killing and hating each other. Diplomacy has risen to an art form because we have become masters of the art of war. I wake up today with the realization that we have defeated the democratic process and in its place we have put an economic system that depraves our efforts in order to create riches based on a subculture of poverty and crime, a system any other creature would rightfully see as barbaric.

We believe ourselves to be the most advanced species but we demonstrate very little understanding or respect for our bodies or the world we inhabit.

For over a hundred years, the practice of slavery has been outlawed here in the Land of the Snow, but people still slave. Technology has taken us to outer space, but not before we managed to eradicate millions in search of genetic purity; not before one of our greatest technological projects, harnessing the power of the atom, incinerated tens of thousands of innocent men, women, and children to shadows.

We wear the restraints of capitalism, the corruption of ideals, and our hatred, prejudice, and ignorance like shackles.

Our capacity for moral reasoning hasn’t caught up with our technological advances. On the richest nation on the planet, we have the power to end starvation, but children still go hungry. We celebrate our medical advances, but the medicines that slow the progress of AIDS are nowhere to be found as that very plague decimates the entire African continent. Our thinking gets the better of our actions. But before we begin to lay blame, please know that our actions are not truly ours to command. At least not any longer... 

Today decisions are made by governments and the corporations that own them and are designed to increase profit, not to advance humanitarian ends. Children are starving because it has nothing to do with the bottom line. People are dying everywhere, but how can you try an international cartel for murder?

I awaken and I am appalled at the lack of moral responsibility and leadership. We all know something’s wrong, but we can’t seem to change because we’ve been hoodwinked -- we’ve all been chained and made into property.

Reality TV is our pacifier and money is our drug of choice -- the one habit we can’t kick without dying in the process. Money also forms the links that create our shackles. Our labor binds us to systems that see us only as units of value or expense.

And in this way we careen toward a future like a runaway train whose conductor and engineer have slain one another, its passengers blissfully unaware. Our lives are designed to maintain the values of our economy. A pound of coffee, an ounce of lead, a human life -- all these things express value in our world. Not human values, but the values of a system that rules us. We drag along these values accepting their consequences: wars, the laws that maintain order (and their prisons), the weapons of mass destruction, and the perceived need for world dominance.

Through all this, we are told that there awaits a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But we know deep down inside that we’ll have to pay in sweat, blood, and sacrifice -- our sacrifice alone -- for such a future. Yes, boys and girls, the future may be bright, but we will be the beasts of burden hauling around the necessities to maintain that brilliance.

I wake up today and I am overcome by an overwhelming sense that nothing will save the masses from this tragic fate.

Unless we free ourselves from those old chains of ignorance of the past two-hundred years or more. In order to free ourselves we must stop fooling ourselves into continuing to believe that our chains are jewelry. We must begin to consider the nature of our chains. Understanding something about how we became enslaved (again) might allow us the ability break free of those chains. Once freed, we might bring on a new consciousness that will help us realize that the dreams we had for a bright future pale in comparison to the reality that lies quiescent within each and every one of us.

I can’t help but think that as the latest economic devastation forces white working-class Americans to stop heeding the demagoguery of right-wing talk show hosts, they will come to realize that they too are part of the insanity of mass oppression for mass production. This current economic mess, brought upon by decades of conservative ideology, will not just go away. This is not an economic hiccup.

Maybe this time it will make it harder to separate people of color from whites, as we all endure the hardships. Even if people do not want to see -- or admit -- the fact that we’re all in the same boat, reality has come knocking. Maybe, finally, as we all continue to suffer from the ravages of an economic shit storm, people will be less prone to heed the propaganda of racial superiority.

Poor or nonexistent medical care, job insecurity, lack of education -- these issues affect every cultural group, creed, and race to differing degrees.

Do not misunderstand me: I cannot abide the idiots who caterwaul that it is not race, but economics that matter. That’s bullshit. You cannot skip to class struggles without addressing the structural racism that is the foundation of the economics! Yet, while the runaway juggernaut of capitalism may not extract its pound of flesh in an equal opportunity manner, it does extract it from all of us. It is the nature of capitalism to apply its value system to everything. Within this system, all values are interchangeable. Not only are these values interchangeable, but they also rise and fall according to market forces. Your whole sense of identity and belonging can come tumbling down the moment the cost of a barrel of crude oil, for example, skyrockets. Price competition could well affect the cost of production and one of the major production costs is labor -- your labor. In this way, the value of life itself rises and falls according to the cost of production.

Contrary to what the well- groomed media lap dogs tell you, the economic system that rules so much of our lives cannot value human labor above any other commodity or resource. Under the crushing weight of this system, your humanity is no more valuable than its equivalent cost of a sack of potatoes. Capitalism has no humanity, something even the talking heads admit even while they tell you it’s the ultimate solution to all our social ills. All that exists in the capitalist bible is the margin of profit, the market share. We are all part of the machine, and those elements -- those idiosyncrasies of individualism -- must be dealt with in the same way any mechanic deals with a “faulty” part: removal or replacement.

We are all part of an economic machine. Some of us are cogs, others ghosts, but it is a machine, not our differences, that drive us.

Whites will experience what people of color have been experiencing for centuries and my hope is that, as they experience alienation and isolation from the full participation of the democratic process, they will begin to learn what it feels to be marginalized and in that way, we can all somehow create a coalition founded on our common experiences. As whites, you might feel identification with groups or power, but what does that identification mean on the unemployment line?

In our current reality, we are all a unit of labor. Sure, each individual may use his or her labor as he or she wishes, but in most cases, this power is extremely limited. Make no mistake: the advantage of supply and demand is in the favor of the corporations, not ours. While this is indeed depressing, I take heart in knowing that the experience that can marshal a new era -- a new consciousness -- in our shared history. 

The history of African Americans and other people of color is an integral and important part of the history of the United States. Rebellion, it is said, is the essential movement of understanding. Violence and oppression rob us of the ability to understand. Without understanding, there can be no growth, no appreciation of truth, and no tomorrow -- only a never-ending repetition of the daily act of humiliation that has become definition of our existence.

You may judge my words depressing, but I say that there can be no healing until recognition of the disease has evolved. With that, we are well on our way. I also realize that some of you despair that there aren’t enough of us, that the machine will chew us like so much grist for the mill. My first response is almost theoretical: allow me to point you to the power of karma as we discussed the other day. Your actions, no matter how seemingly insignificant, fan out, creating psychic ripples of consequences and actions. My second response is pragmatic. For those who would despair, I leave you with the following knowledge passed down to us by the great anthropologist Margaret Meade:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

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

Monday, May 25, 2015

Sunday Sermon [Uncovering the Heart]

Hola Everybody...
Things are in transition, always a tricky time… This post was inspired by a Facebook post by Dena Bridges.

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Uncovering the Heart

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What counts is to strip the soul naked. Painting or poetry is made as we make love; a total embrace, prudence thrown to the wind, nothing held back.
-- Joan Miro

Uncovering the heart means exposing the very core of the self. For many of us, though it is a part of our inner selves that we are uncovering, this is a scary move into unknown territory. The heart symbolizes feeling and intuition. Though we may be fearful, the true danger is in the death, not the exploration, of the heart.

Sometimes our hearts remember better than our analytical minds the times and places of our deepest felt experiences. During times of crisis or personal breakdown, the heart insists on revealing itself to us; we are forced to pay attention. Often these are times of deep personal pain that most of us would rather avoid, because we fear that the load will be too much to bear -- that it may be possible to feel too much.

Just as it is possible to close our eyes and not see the world around us, we can also close our hearts. We do so at a great price: we may choose to live in a world of flat surfaces, a clinically dry and angular world seemingly sterile until we peer under its surface.

To undress the heart is to reveal our inner history -- a history forgotten or hidden. We may be paying a price for relegating powerful forces to the shadow world for it is there they hold greater power. One of the aims of depth psychotherapies is to help us rediscover our lost selves gradually and integrate them again into our whole personalities.

The language of the heart may seem illogical. But if we listen to it -- really listen to it without losing our heads -- we just might find the faintly shimmering message in it that what lies ahead is a new and better way of living. It is in this aspect that there is strength in living with a naked heart.

However, there is that fearful vulnerability also. We take a chance when we open to others. We can be hurt. We may ask ourselves if we are risking too much. Who the fuck wants to be open and vulnerable?

I have found that in my own life, some of the most rewarding examples of creativity have been those moments when my heart was uncovered, when I was able to emerge and address those unique yet universal experiences that bind us together in the human condition. I have learned that the uncovered heart contains both vulnerability and strength. Its strength perhaps lies precisely in that ability to open itself to itself with an exquisite grace that invites the hearts of others to do so as well.

My name is Eddie and I'm in recovery from civilization...

Sunday, May 10, 2015


Hola Everybody...
Today it’s my dear mother’s birthday. I love you mi viejita querida
For me, the archetype of The Mother isn’t a merely a downward spiral into an extended rap on identity politics (justified or not). For me, the archetype has much to teach all of us, regardless of our location on the power dynamic.And to further clarify, at least from my perspective, motherhood has less to do with biology than many of us assume. Some of the most powerful mothers I have ever known never had children of their own. My aunt, Fefi was everyone’s mother. She raised more children than you can shake a stick at and if she were alive today and met you, she’d be your mother too. But she never had a child of her own, biologically speaking.
I had an aunt in Puerto Rico who received recognition from that Island’s governor – some kind of lifetime achievement award. She literally raised hundreds of children.
The woman my son calls mother is not the fruit of her womb. But she is as close to a mother he will ever know.
My sister Darlene never had a child but her instinct for nurturing and compassion is present in everything she does.
So motherhood (or parenting for that matter) is not just about biology, though I’m sure that’s an aspect of it. I think the Mother Archetype is instructive to all people in that it shows us the heart of the heart of compassion. A role model I certainly needed when I my then seven-year-old son and I were thrust together and I had to be a “mother” to him.
My own mother wouldn’t allow us to have pets, but she would welcome fragmented people into her home the way other mothers collected stray animals. The exiled, the unforgiven, the broken, the traumatized  — they were the cast of characters that populated my childhood. And as much as my mother helped these poor souls, a few would turn on her and I would shake my head and ask my mother why she bothered, and she would look at me and say, “There’s a God and He sees everything, it’s not for me to judge. You help because that’s what you are supposed to do.” I believe my mother’s life’s philosophy goes something like this: “If you can help someone but refuse, then you have wasted your life.”
It took me almost a lifetime to understand that wisdom…
Basically moms led a hilarious life with her children in tow -- here’s a story I always remember…
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The Case of the Layaway Men

We were all crying because the bad men were going to take the TV away.
There was little else in that living room, I don’t think there was even a couch. We would sit on the plastic covered kitchen chairs to watch TV. And that’s what we were doing when these two strange men came into the room and started taking the TV away. I couldn’t have been more than five and my two sisters Darlene and Yvette were three and two, respectively.
We were crying.
These two big bad men were taking the TV away.
There were two things I remember most about that Lower East Side five-story walk-up apartment. One was that the bathtub was in the kitchen which made for funny situations during dinner time. The other was that it had this long, narrow hallway. So long, in fact, that I used it to ride a tricycle up and down its length. My mother was obsessively clean, the worn linoleum would gleam with floor wax, and we would take a running start in our socks and slide across that long hallway.
However, most of my memories of that apartment weren’t so good because it was the first time I would remember my father’s absence. And when my father wasn’t around, things were hard for my mother and we had less to eat, less furniture.
But we had this nice, brand new TV and these strange men were getting ready to take it away, so I cried, and my sisters followed suit. And my mother was standing there, not knowing what to do.
Then she started arguing with these men. At first it was more of a plea. She was actually begging these men not to take the TV away. You see, the TV was bought on the ghetto “lay-away” plan, which was actually a scam to rip off those who had nothing to rip off in the first place. You would put an item on “lay-away” and that would allow you to take it home. You paid for the item in weekly installments. The thing was that the weekly installments often added up to more than twice the sticker price. In fact, most of what you got on “lay-away” was used -- items that were taken away from other families who had failed to pay the weekly installment. Now, if the question occupying your mind right at this point concerns the wisdom of a poor family having a TV, I have no dialog for you -- you have no understanding of poverty. Fuck you very much.
Aside from the long, narrow hallway, it was the only form of entertainment we had.
Soon, my mother was engaged in an all-out argument with the men, who seemed to care less and weren’t even paying attention to my mother. You have to understand my mother is a petite woman who barely measures five feet tall -- not an imposing physical presence. So the men were ignoring my mother which made her more pissed off, which made us cry more.
“You can’t do this, Stop!” My mother yelled.
And everything stopped. We stopped crying because we knew that tone of voice. We had heard that tone many, many times before and it usually meant some shit was going to go down. So we stopped crying, curious about what would happen next. The men stopped because it was a defiant, authoritative voice. I guess they were used to taking orders and my mother had just barked one out that would’ve made a marine drill sergeant proud.
The pause lasted a split second, then the men continued preparing to take the TV, and we got back to crying.
I remember my mother tried pleading one more time to no avail and then I became scared because when I glanced over to her, she had The Look. I can’t ever sufficiently describe The Look. It was the look of death and it actually made my mother look taller, more powerful, but these guys just weren’t getting it, but we knew. We knew some shit was about to jump off. I felt so bad, I almost warned the men, but, having learned even at that early age that discretion is the better part of valor, I chose to stay quiet. My mother, seemingly defeated and frustrated, left the room...
And when she came back, she had the largest knife she owned in her hands. It was the same knife used for special occasions for cutting a pernil (roast suckling) or something like that, and she had this wild-eyed look in her eyes. I swear her hair was standing up!
“YOU’RE NOT TAKING THAT TV!!!” She roared. “You will take that TV over my dead body! My children are not going to suffer.” And with that, she yelled her death roar and made her charge, apparently ready to die.
Now, I was very frightened because I feared for my mother’s safety. My mother was small and petite and, after all, she was a woman. Surely, she wasn’t a match for these two big idiots who didn’t even know better. The men, who had until then been ignoring my mother, freaked out when they saw my mother charging them with this huge knife in her hand. They tried to calm her down, but it was too late. Shit, I could’ve told them that. She went after them and the funniest thing happened: The men ran!
Or rather, they tried to run, but my mother had them cornered, slashing at them with her knife and she meant to cut them. Through some miracle, they managed to elude my mother’s slashes and make it out the living room into that long hallway, whereupon they slipped and slid through the length of that recently waxed and gleaming long expanse. Somehow, they managed to make it out of the apartment, though my mother almost managed to stab the unfortunate one who slipped and fell.
But that wasn’t enough for her. My mother chased those men down five flights of stairs and down the street where they had their truck parked. They almost didn’t make it. By then my mother had ripped open her blouse and was yelling, “Rape! Rape!” at the top of her lungs which caused all the frustrated Puerto Ricans who happened to be hanging out on the street corner that fine summer day to join in on the chase of these two poor men. I know this because I was running behind my mother the whole time. I’m her oldest, after all.
They jumped in the truck making their final escape in a squeal of tires and a cloud of dust, never to be seen again, a mob of oppressed and upset Puerto Ricans on their tail.
There we were in the middle of the street, my mother with a knife in her hand, clutching her blouse closed. She looked at me and said, “C’mon, let’s go home.” Somehow, I remember, my mother managed to look regal, her head held high, and no one dared say a word to her.
And that’s what we did; we went home up those five flights to that sad almost empty apartment. She put the TV back where it belonged, plugged it in, and told us that we could watch as much TV as we wanted and that no one would ever take our TV away. She left and got some overpriced, stale meat and other things on credit from the corner bodega. It is said that Cuba, the proprietor notorious for once refusing credit to his own mother, took one look at my mother and decided that was not the best time to mention her credit was stretched too far. Later she cooked us dinner, with a Blackout Special as a treat.
And we were so happy.
That was the kind of mother she was: ferocious, fiercely protective of her children. Later in life, it was her power of example that maintained me and taught me never to give up when the odds seemed insurmountable. It was also her fierce love that nurtured and protected me, serving as beacon to a path for becoming a better man. I believe that if I were to carry my mother on my back for the rest of her life, I still could never repay her.
I love you Moms.
My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…


[un]Common Sense