Saturday, September 19, 2020

Who owns what you think is true? Who owns what's in your head? The politics of belief and adherence

 A friend, with whom I'd been drifting away from, over 20 years, seems to have become enamored with "Q-anon culture."  It's not worth recounting here what that connotes, what they say will happen, who the villains are, the sex trafficking Clintons, Bill Gates and what-not.  Suffice it to say there's a few seeds of truth (Epstein, child sex-trafficking) buried somewhere in a chiliocosm of bullshit, said bullshit including a complete discounting of any report or story coming from major mainstream media.

How people got that way, what in their psyche or genetics pre-disposes them to cosmic credulousness is also not particularly relevant to the topic of this post.  Suffice it to say that it is certainly one by-product of Steve Bannon and other right wing propagandists' strategy to "Flood the Zone with Shit." Its political import is that by gaslighting people to think of vast conspiracies, it's easier to get them to behave how you want, it excludes and erases things which may challenge rightist political initiatives, and even causes left reactions that exclude and erase that which can challenge the right.

This has been going on for quite a while of course in one form or another; going back to the Red Scares, or Masonic or anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.  Too, there have been, you know, actual conspiracies.   But the questions I'm trying to pose here is are as above.  If you are thinking about a conspiracy of something, or some political thing or other, why?  Does it serve a purpose being in your head?

As of this writing, Ruth Bader Gisnburg has recently passed away, and of course there will be a titanic and greatly political struggle taking place in election season to name here successor.  And it's altogether fitting and proper that we should contribute to that discourse, just as it's been altogether fitting and proper to bear witness to the fact that Black lives matter.  We do have voices and feet and hands and brains and existences that does make it our responsibility to contribute to political discourse to improve the conditions of all beings.

Also as of this writing, September 19th, 2020, we in the Pacific Northwest emerged only yesterday from a week of very unhealthy to world's worst hazardous air conditions because of the confluence of forest fires and a temperature inversion.  That, combined with Covid-19, combined with the normal flood of shit in a political season, made it all the more absurd when my friend started texting me links from sites so lacking in credibility that the most credible one came from Fox "News," an organization that has literally gone to court to protect their "right" to lie to their audience.  Aside from the complete obliviousness to what I was actually experiencing (said Q-anon adherent lives in New York), what struck me was how divorced from reality my friend had become.  Mentally he was in the same place as a jihadi, a Scientologist,  or a member of the Weather Underground (although the latter at least had real enemies and legitimate animuses.   In short, my friend had drunk the Kool-Aid®.

Q-anon adherence is just one way though in which one's mind can be hijacked in the service of others.   Capitalism has lots of other ways of doing this as well.  "Ideal love a new purchase" is a line in a Gang of Four song. Our day jobs are in many cases the leasing out of attention and time to that which we wouldn't lease out if we didn't need the money.   Then there are those hours we while away in front of the TV, or in compulsive activities, or other ways in which we waste time and attention.  Most of the latter activities are ways of titrating reality because reality is found to be extremely painful. 

Who owns what you think is true? The Q-anon people claim they "do research," yet reject fact-checking that which is inconsistent with their premise that the "mainstream media" cannot be trusted.   The mainstream media should always be questioned as their choice of facts and narratives often does serve a political purpose, acknowledged or not.   But when one is trying to debunk a story from them with Turkish government propaganda, propaganda from the present Turkish government, one will fail.

"I'm not a philosopher, I'm a plumber" my Physics 101 professor said in response to a question about the nature of charge and matter I posed many years ago. I'm an applied scientist too, a kind of plumber, and while the nature of reality is something that has taken up a lot of mental space in Mahayana Buddhism, I've got to get from point A to point B.  So in a certain sense the ultimate nature of TRUTH is not as important as getting from point A to point B with grace, wisdom, compassion and generosity.  Both because the phenomena alluded to in Q-anon conspiracies do not comport with reality and because the recounting of the alluded-to phenomena is not done with grace, wisdom, compassion and generosity the movement cannot be given any kind of credence from anyone honestly "doing their own research."

Who owns what is in your head? 

Any serious practitioner of Zen knows the answer to that one. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Not going anywhere...

 Too much to do.

But will be back soon...

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Before some Zen teachers post some liberal stuff about the uprising...

I posted the following on Facebook the other day:

“Who is looting whom? Grabbing off the TV set? He doesn't really want the TV set. He's saying screw you. It's just judgment, by the way, on the value of the TV set. He doesn't want it. He wants to let you know he's there. The question I'm trying to raise is a very serious question. The mass media-television and all the major news agencies-endlessly use that word "looter." On television you always see black hands reaching in, you know. And so the American public concludes that these savages are trying to steal everything from us, And no one has seriously tried to get where the trouble is. After all, you're accusing a captive population who has been robbed of everything of looting. I think it's obscene.” - James Baldwin, 1968

Not much has changed. Police are still murdering African Americans and other PoC, not to mention people who are in mental distress. Invariably when these things happen the media - whether conservative or liberal - responds without actually trying to understand _why_ people respond this way. The conservatives and fascists agitate for violence against PoC in the uprising, and the liberals moralistically demand an end to the property damage and always put off until tomorrow any redress of grievances. Just as it has done in this very case. The comparison has been made in recent days to the fascists and their hangers-on in cosplay, who, with weapons displayed, were protesting shelter in place orders. The cosplayers are people who feel entitled to do what they want when they want to regardless of consequences to others. On the other hand, the people in the uprising just want to be free from senseless violence inflicted on them by the state.

Property is not human. People are not property.

You would think the abolition of slavery would have decided those last 2 sentences once and for all, but it’s clear that conservatives, fascists and liberals haven’t made the obvious conclusion.

Now, as a friend observed with the Covid-19 pandemic, people fall back into familiar patterns of thinking in response to traumatic events such as we've experienced this year.  So yes, on the right, it's "Release the hounds, Smithers" - pretty much literally.  On the liberal side it's "I condemn the violence." And yes, you can attribute the above to the "woke" side of things, but I don't like that characterization; like Suzuki Roshi's belief in Nothing, I think it's vitally important to not only see the property damage within the confluence (I think that's a better word than "context") of state sanctioned  gangs of thugs called police.  And I think it's important to have science inform public policy in terms of policing, just as it should be in public health.

But to say, frankly, some of the stuff that one teacher has written, well, watch for sanctimony.

This is not a time to be silent.

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

The Covid-19 Post

I haven't blogged here in a while, and I'm thinking it's a good idea to start up again.  I'd been not blogging so much because there was so many other things to do.

But I think I should say something about recent conditions.

I have been deepening my practice a great deal, but you know what?

It is frustrating certainly not to go to the gym, go to restaurants, etc.  I feel as though I am in a bomb shelter and it's nuclear fallout if I go out in public so much.  I've put a positive spin on this for a quite a while, but frankly, going into the 3rd month of this (as of next week), it is a bit fraying.

And I know that's there for a reason.  It's there because a lot of people have it way worse than I do.

And I can fall back on the practice.  But beyond that, it IS deeper than ever.

So despite it all, I continue.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

The Coronavirus May be an Opportunity to Deepen Practice

Recently Brad Warner wrote some stuff on Twitter which I found, personally, somewhat irresponsible - basically stating that people should in general, not discuss the coronavirus pandemic.

His post here explains his position a little better than his Tweets, to say the least.  However, I still find it problematic.   So here's my response to his post:

Dear Brad,

I responded rather strongly to you on Twitter about your position re: the coronavirus, and reading your post on your blog I can understand your position, based on your own mental predisposition & baggage therein.

But please note it's far, far, far from universal. Those of us, such as myself, who have science backgrounds (especially historical science backgrounds)  can cut through the media and political bullshit, and in fact it's incumbent on us to speak out, to inform, to analyze, engage, and most of all, to help.   So while it might be the right thing for you, with your mental predisposition, I'd rephrase what you'd written earlier.

And frankly speaking, it's not out of the realm of impossible that we might have statewide quarantines coming.  I have in-laws in China that have been subject to their draconian quarantine measures, and they're getting by.  It's something to live with, to accept the circumstances such as they are. The point is, even in such circumstances, to be unmoved mentally and just do what needs to be done.   

The environment in which we live at present is like a really good Damascus Japanese knife made via the methods of samurai swords.  You have to pay attention to it or you'll hurt yourself.   So it is with a pandemic.  We don't want a pandemic, but what we want or don't want won't change circumstances, so we have to accept it.

As such, it's an opportunity to deepen one's practice, in somewhat the same manner as the mud at Tahoma Sogenji in February.  We have to be mindful of the mud, mindful of the sharp knives, and mindful of the possible presence of pathogens.

It's not really that difficult.