Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Anyone reading non-mainstream news will see a new word to have entered the English language: "Sheeple." This cross-bred mix between "sheep" and "people" refers, somewhat derogatorily, to people around the world who blindly follow their leaders, even to the brink of destruction, without a second thought. The internet has fostered an underground current of popular discontent and revolution - a rumbling of powerless voices. It is easy not to put your money where your mouth is.
As our Founding Father Benjamin Franklin once said: "Make yourself sheep and the wolves will eat you."
My 15-year-old son came home from school recently and said he and his classmates had been shown news clips of the extraordinary 17-year-old Pakistani girl, Malala Yousafzai, who won the Nobel Peace Prize after blogging in favor of education for girls since the age of eleven and who, in 2012, was shot in the head by Taliban terrorists while she sat talking to her girlfriends in a school bus. She miraculously survived the ordeal, and even more miraculously, has continued to advocate for girls' education.
My son made the interesting comment to me. "You know what really bothered me?" he said, "When my teacher asked us what we thought of the film, everyone in my class said, 'Wow, I wish there were more people like her in the world.' And that made me really mad! Stop wishing other people would be like her - you should try to be more like her yourself!" I was struck by the wisdom of my son's words. So few people seem to realize that they (we) are actual participants in our world. The world is not a virtual reality.
This has led to passivity, a failure to become active in politics, an easy and automatic pessimism about environmental and economic issues, a resignation toward global warming, and a tendency to leave the "dirty work" of steering our collective reality to others.
Benjamin Franklin warned us about losing our American dream if we failed to participate in our own democracy. It is the idea of "use it or lose it" - and we appear to be losing it. It seems to be the intersection of two problems - Personal greed to fuel our personal destiny and the sense that larger capitalistic forces control our national destiny. It is easier to control one's own life than help steer a national or global existence. We just feel impotent no matter how angry we get. But that's the wrong attitude - and it's dangerous.
According to a front page article in the New York Times, on November 18, the Senate Republicans successfully blocked a bill, authored by Democratic Senator Patrick J. Leahy and supported by President Obama and computer giants Google, Apple, Microsoft and Yahoo, that would have restricted the National Security Agency's ability to collect telephone and other private data on all American citizens without the normally required warrants demonstrating probably cause. The reason given by the Republicans is that such a bill would thwart our efforts to fight terrorism at a key moment in time when terrorists, such as ISIS, are gaining ground.
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S Constitution clearly states: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
Benjamin Franklin once said: "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
As Americans we have collectively opted to cede our political power to others so we don't have to contribute our own time and energy (blood, sweat and tears) to any true political cause, and thus "collectively" we have all "agreed" to give up our personal freedom from unconstitutional searches and seizures guaranteed to us under the Constitution in order to "keep us safe from terrorism." We have just done what Benjamin Franklin warned us never to do.
One of my psychic mentors once surprised me by telling me she had had a vision that I was the reincarnation of Benjamin Franklin. I didn't know why. I knew little about him at the time other than the fact that he had something to do with electricity and was a Founding Father with some connection to Philadelphia. Having reviewed his biographies, I now agree there are certain similarities. Like Franklin, I too grew up in Boston, started out as a printer, newspaper publisher, author with an interest in science, have strong connections with France (he was Ambassador to France and my college thesis advisor was a Senator from France), am fascinated with the properties of electricity and Messmer's "animal magnetism" concepts leading to hypnosis (Franklin was appointed by France's King Louis XVI to investigate Messmer's claims on a scientific panel), environmental activist, and am a local politician.
But more than that, I agree with many of his "tough love" positions on political activism and success - his belief that if you find problems in the world, don't just throw up your hands in resignation, fix them! He was extraordinary in the things he recognized and tried to fix: he created his own phonetic alphabet, solved oceanographic trade currents that disrupted mail service, freed his own slaves and became an active abolitionist, created the first lightening rod and grounding device, Franklin stove, bifocal glasses, flexible urinary catheter, counter-surveillance techniques against the British, created the first American library, and started up countless civic and political organizations where he perceived problems that needed to be solved. This was a man of action, not merely words.
Franklin put his money where his mouth was. As for all his potentially lucrative inventions, he refused to patent any of them. He wrote: "... as we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously."
Our democracy is at risk due to apathy, lack of concern, personal greed and the continued encroachments into our civil liberties. The question of surveillance is very different today than it was 40 years ago. It is no longer a matter of physical bugs or wire taps on the phones obtained by waking up a judge at their home and pleading urgency in order to obtain probable cause to sign a search warrant. Today, information exists out in the "ethers" to be gathered quietly by satellites, computers, microchips, software programs, cell phones, televisions, cameras and other types of apparatus using frequency wavelengths in the "public domain." Nothing is private any more because our legal definitions of "public" and "private" are very different today. Information is non-local. It reminds me of how, in our legal system, we try to pinpoint a "location" for purposes of determining jurisdiction of a contractual dispute when the contract was signed by two parties on the internet! The idea of an actual physical location doesn't exist. The contract was signed in cyberspace. So we must invent the location by legal definition. The same goes for our Constitutional definition of privacy. We must become activists in protecting our private speech.
Even Benjamin Franklin was spied on without his knowledge. According to a an in-house CIA journal "Studies in Intelligence," a recently declassified document states that Franklin was such a security risk, due to his insistence that his three-man American Commission in France had not been successfully infiltrated by at least four or more British spies despite the facts available to him, it was a miracle that he didn't screw up the entire American Revolution!
But he didn't. And the fact remains, he effectively changed the world for the better. As he once wisely said, "If everyone is thinking alike, then no one is thinking." We don't need to give up our Constitutional rights to privacy as long as we become activists in our own democracy. If we allow our democracy to rot from within, it doesn't matter how many terrorists from without we defeat - because the system will crumble all by itself.
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
I find myself to be a kind of strange observer of my own life as it hurtles, like a car without brakes, toward certain death. I don't want to die. I absolutely adore life and I have been exceptionally privileged to live such a wonderful and extraordinary life in this lifetime. Yes, I believe in reincarnation of the soul - into different physical and spiritual "bodies" or space-time "points" of matter. My lifelong search into the world of the paranormal has been a search for answers about the meaning of life and death.
Why am I thinking about death? Well, not so much death. Just aging. Well, maybe not so much aging, as a reflection of this ironically long yet short journey I have been on since I was born. Most people don't talk much about how their ideas change over a lifetime, preferring instead to talk about the physical changes.
Once a person reaches young adulthood, the human body doesn't seem to change much. This is very comforting. After all the trials and tribulations of being a morphing child and then a spurting teenager, achieving physical stasis is very reassuring. This continues on for a long time and one begins to get quite comfortable in one's physical body. We begin to take it for granted. We begin to think our adult body is synonymous with our identity. Wrong! Just when we start to feel like we know ourselves and our bodies, we change.
One of the good things about getting older is that my dreams are really, really interesting now that I have the background knowledge of history, technology, psychology, politics, analysis and life experience. My dreams are really entertaining now. When I was a child (I remember my first dream was a 5 years old), my dreams were simple and a bit stupid. The component parts were not well-developed.
On the downside of aging, I remember watching the skin on my hands change. I could see tiny little - almost imperceptible - diamond, snakeskin-like patterns slowly appear on the surface. At first, it was only when I tried to wrinkle my skin. Then it occurred all by itself. Over time, the skin slowly began to have the appearance of crepe paper - thinner, more paper-like, just like a real old person! As I have watched the skin sink slightly below the blue veins on the back of my hands over recent years, losing the smooth fatty tissue, I constantly have the feeling of watching a movie - a play about someone else, not me. I feel helplessly trapped inside this old person's body. Other times, I am simply fascinated. For some reason, I never anticipated that my young adult physical body would ever change. I thought it had stabilized.
I have watched all my contemporaries get old. Sometimes when I look at my friends I think they are in my parent's generation. I get confused. When did we all go bald and wrinkly?
I have been blessed, to great degree, with some excellent genes. I was very pleased when I went into the nail salon this weekend and announced my age for some reason and the Korean woman doing my nails (and everyone else working in the salon) stopped working, stared hard at me, and kept shaking her head, saying, "No! No! I don't believe it! Skin is so good!" Knowing full well that Occidental types tend to show their age a lot faster in their skin than Asian people, I was deeply flattered. True, many people assume I am much younger than my true age.
Recently, on Facebook, I have been indulging in a bunch of silly online quizzes. Strange, but they seem to be revealing something true about me. The first one was "What is Your True Age?" Turns out, according to this quiz, I am a young, single black woman in my early 20's who enjoys going out to eat, going to nightclubs, and has a pet. My next quiz was "What is Your Best Hair Color"? Turns out, my best hair color is not blonde, brown, red or black (and I have tried all of them except black) - but rather electric blue! The blurb said something about my unique and adventurous personality. The next quiz was "What Was Your High School Type"? My answer - "The Stoner."
What does this all mean? Clearly, I am not reflecting my true age! These quizzes seem to indicate that I am "young at heart." I have young energy inside a chronologically older body. Since I believe in the Mind-Body connection in all matters of physical, emotional and spiritual existence, this makes sense to me.
What is young? It is the willingness, coupled with joyous curiosity and sense of adventure, to want to explore something new every day. I actually force myself to do at least one new thing every day.
The physically "old" body is still influenced by the young energy of the mind.
I have watched every American president turn grey after a few years on the most stressful job on earth. Grey hair is a sign of age. However, grey hair is reversible. A friend of mine is a Tai-Chi Master. His teacher, a great venerated old Chinese Tai-Chi Master who died in his late 80's, taught his students some amazing secrets of life. According to my friend, his teacher had grey hair. Strangely, his hair began to turn black again in his mid-80's. When my friend inquired about this, his teacher said he was doing this with the power of his mind. So, age is, to some extent, reversible! As odd as that may sound! Can we control the physical body even after death? Perhaps. There are recorded reports and photos of some yogis to halt the process of decomposition of the physical body after their death!
What is "old"? In my opinion, it is - energetically speaking - a desire to maintain status quo or to stay the same. Actually, that is also the definition of death.