Thursday, June 30, 2016

Truth or Consequences

Hola mi gente,
I usually write these the night before I publish them and then a product I use, Symphony, publishes them to all my social media accounts (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, etc.). It’s a great blog tool for people who are serious bloggers. If you use it, mention you heard it here first.

Consequential Thinking

Complexity is the destiny of thoughtful individuals, from which they will never be rescued.
 -- Leon Wieseltier

There is a pernicious mindset that dominates our approach to social policies. Bluntly put, we live in a culture of blame:

Poor? It’s your fault!
Functionally illiterate? It’s your fault and your parents’!
Racism and classism don’t exist because we all know that there’s no relationship between individual motivation and larger oppressive societal forces.

The state of education has everything to do with the stupid little meanies -- our supposedly over-sexed, willfully ignorant children of today. Never mind that today’s generation has lower rates of drug use and teen pregnancy than previous generations. And it has nothing to do with the adults that don’t have the will, nor empathy for a coherent education policy.

We all know it’s all on the individual, therefore, if individuals from your family/ community are going to prison at higher rates than others, it’s, yup, your fault. It has nothing to do with systems created to benefit one demographic at the expense of another.

The new (and improved) racism is clothed in the language and myth of rugged individualism. We made it without any “handouts,” some seem to be saying, and an inability to break into the mainstream is the fault of greedy black and brown people expecting a free ride. I guess the irony of a nation built on land stolen from Indians and the slave labor of blacks is lost on such people. Or the fact that the vast portion of “free stuff” go to the richest is lost in a sea of proactive ignorance.

But logic has no place at the core of a right wing social movement marked by a resistance to change and a tolerance for inequality, as well as some common psychological factors such as: fear and aggression, dogmatism and intolerance of uncertainty, among others.

Do you believe that a microscopic clump of cells in a Petri dish possesses the same rights as you?

I first became interested in public policy during an undergraduate course in Metro Studies. I had the kind of teacher we all love: passionate, knowledgeable about his subject, and able to communicate complex concepts in ways that were both enlightening and easily understandable.

I was immediately drawn to the issue of consequences and public policy. As with everything, there are intended and unintended consequences to the public policies we implement. For example, declaring a racialized “drug war” and taking a punitive approach as a response to addiction/ drug problem had the unintended (some say intended) consequence of exploding our prison population to the extent that we now incarcerate more people per capita than any other nation in the world. We incarcerate more blacks than were slaves in 1840, years before the Civil War.

The drug war and the unprecedented mass incarceration that resulted also had the unintended consequence of draining resources away from education (there’s a direct correlation between increased prison spending and decreased education spending), and early enrichment programs, after school programs, etc. In fact, we went from a nation seeking a Great Society to a nation of prisons.

Do you believe public schools should actively teach children to disregard the validity of the scientific theory of evolution?

The point being that while it may sound nice to get up on your cyber soap box and yell out stupid shit such as, “tough on crime!” these sentiments, so prevalent today, hold dire consequences for all of us. I think many of us like to stand on the sidelines and pass judgment. We de-fund education and then chastise our young. We make it almost impossible to for poor single mothers to get ahead and then pass moral judgment on them. We sit back apathetically, while a right-wing religious fringe movement advocates abstinence-only programs that empirical research has shown to be at best ineffective, at worst dangerous. We adults then pass judgment on the resulting mess -- rates of teen pregnancy and abortions rates that lead all developed nations.

Do you believe legally available contraception is producing a “culture of death” in the United States?

It’s as if we all have decided to live not as a society, but as millions separated nuclear entities, where the law of the jungle -- get yours and fuck the rest -- is the rule.

Our social policies are the result of a nation of people who have been hoodwinked into choosing the very policies that do them the most harm, because, as global warming shows us, we’re all inextricably connected. What happens to you and to me, and everyone else, affects us as individuals and as a society.

Do you believe that the United States should be a Christian nation?

As for the questions in italics? Unfortunately for too many of us the answers to the questions are yes. And that, not Trump, should scare you... 

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

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Beginner's Mind

Hola mi gente,
My Mets are slumping… nuff said.

Remaining Teachable

In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's there are few.
-- Suzuki Roshi, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

We don't look at things as much as we overlook them. When people are learning something new, for example, there is a strong temptation to try to make it into something they already know. This is a basic fallacy in how we view the world. We’re not comfortable with not knowing, so as soon as we hear something, we filter it through our personal experiences and make it into something we already know. In reflecting on this, I come to understand why so few of us ever truly make real changes in our lives.

Oh yeah… we can talk a lot about concepts but it seems to me we’re all just talking at one another, not truly listening. Have you ever tried just seeing what is without adding to it? It’s not that easy because of this habit of ruminating about everything. Right now, both you and I are engaged in this [mis]communication: I'm busy thinking about how you will twist this post, and you’re busy formulating concepts about it. None of this has anything to do with things as they are.

All of that shit going through your head? Shadows and illusions. This brings me to an ancient teaching popularized by Plato:

There were a people who lived their entire lives within a cave. After generations, they came to believe that their own shadows, cast upon the walls, were the substance of reality. To these people only myths and religious tales spoke of a higher possibility.

Obsessed with the shadow play, the people eventually became accustomed to and imprisoned by their dark reality.

We are no different from the people described above except for the fact that our shadows are in Technicolor and more dazzling than the shadows of earlier times. Still, however finely dressed they are, they are still shadows.

Before we can be guided into creating new possibilities of thinking, feeling, we have to become like a child in how we look at the world. We all think we’ve seen it all, and done it all, but the fact of the matter is we’re all imprisoned in our little caves, masturbating to the shadow play on the walls.

Wake the fuck up…

I was once informed that I needed to listen to learn and learn to listen. Some things are so outside our understanding that there isn’t a reference point. This can make us very uncomfortable and compel us to compare it with something we have done or experienced, but let it go – even for a little bit. If you knew that much then you wouldn’t be around here reading this crazy-assed shit because you would be out there doing shit! LOL I’m teasing, but listen: be stupid, even if for a little while. I promise you, your cave with its beguiling shadows will still be there when you’re finished playing out here.
Nowhere is this tendency toward reactionary thinking more evident when talking about the reality of white racism. It’s clearly evident in the majority of the responses: denial (“It doesn’t exist!”), projection (“You’re a racist!”) displacement (“You’re an asshole”), rationalization (“These things happen”), and intellectualization (“But we have a black president!”).

When I write on a subject, it usually means I’ve done my due diligence in research. Because my work entails advocating for social justice, I have to be on top of my game when it comes to facts. This doesn’t make me an expert -- not by a long margin -- but I can serve as a jumping off point for people looking to apply technologies for change. I refuse to entertain the hysteria from fools who don’t bother to read or understand. It’s a waste of time. And being “nice”? The majority of the people reacting to my writing would still react the same way no matter how “nice” I put it. Face it: if you’re denying racism, we all know where you’re coming from for the most part.

My experience has shown me that the thrust of evolution, whether personal or collective, happens with or without your participation. There’s no such thing as stagnation, dear friends -- life’s a train ride and you can’t get off. The choice, it seems to me, is whether to participate with your eyes open, or your eyes and legs wired shut.

Choose… now… this very moment.

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

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Affirmative Action

Hola Everybody...
No foreplay today, getting right to the issue...

The Curious History of Race Preferences


Their leaders seem more intent on vying with blacks for permanent victim status than on seeking recognition for genuine progress by Hispanics over the last three decades.

 -- Linda Chavez on Latin@s

Anti-affirmative action darling, Abigail Fisher (aka Becky with the bad grades), and other conservatives would have us think that Blacks, Latin@s, and other people of color are looking for handouts and preferential treatment. Ironically, it is she who has benefited professionally and financially by trading on her own white privilege1. Using this line of attack, Fisher filed suit against a Texas university which was eventually heard by a SCOTUS that ruled against her. Conservatives claim that segregation was defeated and white racism almost completely eradicated after Congress passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Her defenders go as far as saying (as many black and brown enablers of the racial conservatives do) that it has been liberals that have derailed Latin@ progress. I call those who deny the reality of racism racial conservatives.

You might have heard of Linda Chavez, another right wing darling. She once testified against Supreme Court Judge Sotomayor (of Puerto Rican descent) during Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings. Chavez has a particular dislike for Latin@s in general and specifically for Puerto Ricans, but I will not explore that today. Chavez had to step down as a nominee for Labor of Secretary under the catastrophe known as the Bush II administration because, yes, she hired an undocumented Latina immigrant. She denied knowing said individual was here illegally though the person in question contradicted that denial. Later, Chavez herself would issue an admission of sorts and forced by Bush's people to step down.

Racial conservatives would have us believe the United States has made more progress in removing racial barriers than liberals will acknowledge. The shift began, they argue, during the 1950s. And when the Civil Rights movement succeeded in abolishing Jim Crow, white racism had all but withered away. As a result, at least according to affirmative action foes, affirmative action programs are unnecessary and in fact are a form of “reverse racism.”

Ironically, the current debate over race-based solutions assumes that the only beneficiaries of these policies are blacks, other racial minorities. In fact, the biggest affirmative action winners are white women. However, if we define affirmative action as “race and gender preferences codified into law and enforced through public policy and social customs,” then it is indeed strange and peculiar to suggest that affirmative action began when in 1963 President John F. Kennedy issued Executive Order 10925. Taking the above definition, often cited by opponents of affirmative action such as those who supported Fisher, it would be more accurate to mark the beginning date for this legal policy as 1641. That is when laws specifying rights to property, ownership of goods and services, and the right to vote, restricted by race and gender, were first enacted. In 1790, Congress formally restricted citizenship by naturalization to “white persons,” a restriction that would stay in place until 1952.

Understood in this way, affirmative action has been in effect for 367 years, not 40+ years. For the first 330 years, the deck was legally stacked on behalf of whites and males (Fredrickson, 1988). Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney, in Dred Scot, didn’t mince his words when he said: “Can a negro, whose ancestors were imported to this country, and sold as slaves, become a member of the political community, formed and brought into existence by the Constitution of the United States, and as such become entitled to all rights, and privileges, and immunities guaranteed by that instrument?” Justice Taney’s answer to his own question leaves no doubt. We the people, he stated, was never intended to include blacks, slave or free. The authority cited by Taney in his ruling? The Constitution, the courts at every level, the federal government, and the states -- all having routinely denied blacks equal access to rights of citizenship (Harding, 1983).

It follows, then, that from the inception of the United States, wealth and institutional support have been invested on the white side of the color line. This preference, in turn, has led to an accumulation of economic and social advantages for European Americans. On the black side, it has resulted in the systemic exclusion of equal access to economic and social benefits, leading to a disaccumulation for blacks. When Kennedy issued Executive Order 10925 in 1963, he was simply attempting to pry open the doors that had been sealed shut for more than three centuries. Now, after only four decades of “racial and gender preferences,” racial conservatives have launched a largely successful attack against affirmative action programs that were instituted to reverse three hundred years of disinvestment in black communities. Yet when power and wealth were being invested on their side of the color line, white Americans registered hardly any opposition to the arrangement, nor do racial conservatives acknowledge this historical fact (Steinberg, 1995).

However, we don’t have to go back three hundred years to find the roots of current white privilege. We can look at more recent policies that have been instrumental to racial inequality. But that’s for another post...

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


Fredrickson, G. (1988). The arrogance of race. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press.

Harding, V. (1983). There is a river: The black struggle for freedom in America. New York: Oxford University Press.

Steinberg, S. (1995). Turning back: The retreat from racial justice in American thought and policy. Boston: Beacon Press.


1. Though Fisher claimed she didn’t get in the school because African-American students with lower grades and test scores were admitted, her mediocre grades would have disallowed her from being admitted either way. Of the 47 students that were admitted with grades lower than hers, 42 of them were white. On top of that, 168 black and Latino applicants who had better grades than Fisher were also turned down, according to ProPublica. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Desert

Hola mi Gente,
The following is an excerpt from a short story I never finished... started a while back. It follows the journeys of two lovers. It’s a repost.

The Desert

Photography: Thomas Sennett, Untitled, 1985

I find myself struggling: it’s a phase -- as if we’re driving through the desert of our early journey, and it is in the sands of my restless heart to which you make love. It’s the colors and tones within these barren passages that you court me, the reflection of the daylight between shadows, the dried parched terrain of this forbidden land -- dried mud and clay, your body now like a shimmering mirage of a long lost secret garden.

I’m struggling between frustration and despair, and I want to fight, or run, or at the very least to resist. Slowly, painfully, I let the colors bleed. Mile after desert mile, seemingly endless, with no horizon, I inch closer to the essence of you -- the very mud and clay of the Earth. You took me down into the clay, through your own uncovered soul, and I saw you for the very first time in the desert of our early journey and fell in love with you -- again and again

* * *

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


[un]Common Sense