The Spring They Stole

I walked into the station to report a theft

Can I describe the item stolen? Why, yes:

Days of medium length. Light winds off the ocean.

Breezes outdoors in the sun with friends.

 

Identifying features?

Faith in free expression and common sense.

My grandson’s first kick.

The sound of music while walking down the street.

A future for my family: work, play, hugs, joy.

 

The worst part of the robbery

Was when I shouted “Stop! Thief!”

And the cops threw a blanket on my head

And thumped me until I stopped shouting.

 

Hearts attacked, hearts broken. Hours and days tick on.

There’s no “pause” button as we all stop, fatten, ache,  Spend dazed hours waiting on electronic deposits

That never come. Of course, there’s no one on the phones.

 

No one can deduce the curve.

Nothing’s flat except our affect.

No one knows what’s being measured,

Changing from centimeters to ounces

While moving the endpoint of the tape.

And somehow the Spring they stole

Was taken voluntarily at gunpoint

Because we were more afraid of dying

Than of not living. Death just grins and waits

Somewhere past the end of stolen Spring.

 

Words That Should Be Replaced: 2. Conspiracy Theory

Conspiracy Theory Unsanctioned Premise

This is the second installment  an ongoing series.

The phrase “conspiracy theory” passed into common usage following the 1964 Warren report on the assassination of JFK.

The phrase was amplified in the heavily manipulated, non-social, media of the time as a form of ridicule. Later, it came to be applied to any theory that contradicts received, official, orthodox, or approved analysis, information, or justifications.

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For a story to be labeled a conspiracy theory, it is totally beside the point whether it actually involves a conspiracy.

For example, when extensive evidence was brought to light showing that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction, various actors in the government, intelligence community, and mass media all had incentives to support the claim that it did. They didn’t conspire; they didn’t have to. They just had to refrain from pulling the brake on the train and go along for the ride. Those who mentioned the actual available evidence were labeled conspiracy theorists, marginalized, and shouted down. Eventually, everyone was forced to concede that Iraq had no WMD and that the evidence of this was freely available it all along. Baghdad was already in ruins.

Conversely, if an official, approved, or orthodox organization embraces a notion, it can never be labeled a conspiracy theory.

An example might be the idea that the Soviet Union had conspired with thousands of artists, writers, actors, broadcasters, and journalists to infiltrate literature, news, government, civic organizations, and entertainment during the Cold War. That theory led to the persecutions and blacklists of the McCarthy Era. That was never referred to as a conspiracy theory, because it was held by a sizable faction of the US government, including law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Congressional hearings and criminal charges were made based on it. Many lives were ruined.

This is not to say that there are not actual conspiracy theories.

Some of those theories are probably correct (i.e., conspiracies do exist). But most of the time, the phrase is used as a pejorative without any precision or accuracy. It is far more accurate to use a phrase that makes it clear that the idea being discussed is challenging to a belief considered authoritative.

Whenever you hear or read the phrase, “conspiracy theory,” substitute the expression, “unsanctioned premise” in its place.

Words That Should be Replaced: 1. Healthcare

Healthcare Medical Care

 

This is the first installment in what I plan as an ongoing series.

I chose this particular word for the first one in the series because it’s near and dear to me, because of my 30+ years as a chiropractor.

The word “healthcare” as commonly used today means the sale of medical goods and services, or the sale of services that manage payments for medical goods and services (such as government and corporate medical plans).

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Yet, those services would be more accurately referred to as “illnesscare”

or more neutrally, “medical care” instead. With very few exceptions, when you visit a clinic, doctor, or hospital, you’re seeking treatment for an illness or injury. There’s nothing wrong with that, in fact it’s great that medical care is available! I’m just pointing out that medical treatment is only a small part of the process of caring for your health.

What do you do to avoid illness or injury?

Eat well, stay active, get plenty of sleep, drink water, laugh with your friends, wear your seatbelt, wash your hands, get massages and spinal adjustments, brush your teeth, get a little sunshine? Wouldn’t all those things be more accurately referred to as “healthcare”? Those are things you do while you’re healthy in order to care for your health. And they are actions that are under your individual control.

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Why is this important?

Because it refocuses the discussion of health and well-being to include the elements of personal responsibility and creative initiative, instead of framing it as something you passively pay to have done to you.

Anywhere you hear or read the word “healthcare,” replace it with the phrase “medical care.”

Censorship: What’s a Non-Geek to Do?

By now, unless  you belong to the minority who are completely disconnected from social media, you’re aware that that there’s been a gradually accelerating program of centralization, control, and censorship operating on the biggest platforms over the past few years. If your views are other than mainstream, it’s been apparent since well before the last election. If you are a straight-edge exemplar of normality who roots politically for Team Red or Team Blue, the 2016 election might have been your wake-up call. If you’re intelligent and curious but apolitical, this week’s purge of Twitter and Facebook accounts might have been the first you heard of it.

What younger people may not know, and older people may forget, is that the dominant players in today’s information game are babies themselves. They can easily go the way of MySpace and AOL (both of which still exist, by the way).

The virtue of the internet is its decentralized, networked nature. As John Gilmore said, networks interpret censorship as damage and work around it. You have the ability to accelerate this process. Here’s what I’ve been doing:

  1. Opening accounts on alternate social media sites like Minds, MeWe, and WhatsApp.
  2. Subscribing to alternative-media sites and blogs by e-mail.
  3. Writing and reading content on curated platforms like Quora, Medium, and LinkedIn.
  4. Actively editing my commercial-site/phone newsfeeds to include lesser-known journalists (being sure to keep a tendril extended outside my filter bubble!).
  5. Putting a limited amount of my modest financial resources into cryptocurrencies and actively seeking ways to spend and earn them.
  6. Using Incognito mode or Tor browsing and VPNs when needed. While most people are not in a position to take this step, it helps that I’ve expatriated to another country so my traffic doesn’t automatically go through a US-based server.

Have some faith in the truth. It will prevail.

 

Courage and Cowardice

I’ve come across two recent think pieces online urging the assaulted and harassed to reclaim the word “victim.” The idea is supposedly this: that by refusing to accept the label of victim, one implies that there is something wrong with being a victim. I furrowed my brow, then realized with a blinding flash what’s missing in the discussions of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and toxic masculinity. What’s missing is the topic of courage, and its opposite, cowardice. That’s a topic we need to bring out in the open. It’s also a topic that may help us communicate with all the well-intentioned men who seem bewildered about what the rules are for approaching women today.

My favorite definition of courage comes from a fairy tale I read as a little girl, about a child who is terrified to fight a dragon, but fights it anyway. The moral of the story imprinted itself on my heart and mind at the tender age of seven: Courage is feeling the fear and doing it anyway. 

Let’s get this out of the way right now: being a victim is morally neutral. It does not confer any moral superiority or moral high ground; it likewise does not brand with moral inferiority. Victimization happens. The world is a brutal and vicious place pocked with shallow mass graves.

Victimization happens to courageous people and to cowards.

Fear, the automatic response of the sympathetic nervous system to threats, is a state of fight, flight, or freeze. We are told that women are unusually apt to freeze.

Boys are taught at a young age that freezing when challenged is an act of cowardice, and cowardice is to be avoided. I happen to believe that is correct.

Whether you’re about to give birth, or being attacked with a lethal weapon, the courageous response is the active response. Dealing with the energy of your fear, transforming it to calm strength or righteous anger, is a learned skill.

One of the most disempowering traits of sexism is its implication that courage is a masculine trait, cowardice a feminine one. The only acceptable archetype for a woman who rages and fights back is that of a mother bear fighting for her cubs. But not herself, never herself. The feminine does not own itself, does it?

But we do. We own our bodies and the space we occupy. And with that sacred ownership comes a sacred responsibility: to defend and protect ourselves with all the courage we can muster.

And why do we have that sacred responsibility? Because the courageous are less likely to be victims.

We owe ourselves the courage to say, “I was just talking; let me finish.” We owe ourselves the courage to say, “Please don’t touch me again.” We owe ourselves the courage to say, “Get the fuck away from me, weirdo!” We owe ourselves the courage to slap, punch, elbow, kick, bite, stab, and shoot if necessary to defend ourselves.

And sometimes, for a woman or for a man, that courage doesn’t come. The boy slumps and shuffles away from the bully; the woman allows herself to be pawed rather than make a scene. Sometimes it’s because we are picking our battles. Sometimes it’s because we are too exhausted to face yet another confrontation. Regardless, it amounts to the same thing.

That’s cowardice.

I have tasted that cowardice; I’ve bled and wept (literally) because I was a coward. I have also faced attacks with courage and been a victim anyway. And from those experiences, I have learned that we sometimes find our courage later on. Sometimes years later, we find the courage to speak, seeking retribution and redress, and warning those who come behind us. Sometimes that courage redeems our cowardice. Sometimes it brings on new assaults to test our courage further.

Let me ask you this, oh feminist sister, who wants the men she meets to stand up to other men about their bad behavior: why should they have the courage to stand up for us, if we don’t have the courage to stand up for ourselves?

Let me ask you this, oh well-intentioned straight man, who feels terrified to sexually approach a woman for fear of being accused: why would you involve yourself with a woman if you’re not sure if she’s a coward?

But let’s take this out of the arena of the eternal war between the sexes for a moment: let’s paraphrase the Irishman Edmund Burke and point out that all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing. Let’s then hop forward to the 20th century, and soldiers who were only following orders, and the pastor who said nothing when they came for the homosexuals because he was not a homosexual. Now let’s move up to the 21st century and all those millions who watched a Nobel Peace Prize winner drop tens of thousands of bombs on innocent civilians with surreal serenity, and let a man languish alone in a small room in London without a peep.

The courage to speak up is not domain-specific. If you are too much of a coward to speak up, you are already a victim.

Armenian women ready to fight Ottomans

Photo: historical photo of Armenians preparing to fight the Ottomans.

Is the Face of Fascism Your Own Face?

The Time Is Now

This is really happening. The only people who don’t see that government—all government— is lying and manipulating and deceiving and intimidating us are the people who are religiously devoted to one faction or another. True believers, equally matched, who completely balance each other out! All the rest of us (the vast majority who are sane and reasonable) have to do is allow them to engage in their death grapple until they force each other off the cliff. What’s left? Chaos and anarchy? Yes, in the sense of chaos being an exquisitely interconnected system in which small changes can have great effects; yes, in the sense of anarchy being being the state of individual freedom and self-governance.

IMG_4282The free circulation of information is now making it clear that we are being fed lies to keep us in fear. Perhaps the only time a politician told the truth is when the master propagandist FDR said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” That he then proceeded to create a leviathan based on protecting the “tribe” from non-existent threats is just a demonstration of the cognitive dissonance inherent in an institution which claims to be keeping the peace even as it also claims a monopoly on force, fraud, spying, extortion, and violence.

It is only a matter of time before the entire world wakes up. The color revolutions of the early aughts were just a rehearsal, a mere shadow of the transformation in the offing. It may be that my nation of birth will be the last holdout, clinging desperately to its illusion of exceptionalism and its narcissistic addiction to dominance. But the foundation has already crumbled. The head is cut off the chicken and it’s running around the barnyard, not yet realizing  that it is dead.

Truth, Like Glass in the Street

I have not published in a long time. It has been hard to write truth in the face of lies. It has been hard to espouse consistent principles while watching the liars try to mold reality as though it were clay, mud, dough.

It has been easier for me to read novels, short stories, and nonfiction, to copy edit scientific manuscripts when they come, to watch entertaining series on DVD. The slow-motion car wreck will not end. The best and most faithful are, not crucified, but smeared with excrement and shunted aside. The truth sits like a diamond in the middle of an intersection full of shattered glass.

Yet, when I turn away from mass media, including online networks, I realize: The change is here. It is more profound than the posturing pompous pricks in power or the women caricaturing themselves in cuddly cunt costumes can even imagine! Every human in the entire world is waking up to the reality of individual agency and setting aside the collective fantasy of authority. Poverty is subsiding; population growth is slowing; warfare is guttering out like a flame whose fuel is exhausted.

The years ahead will truthfully see enlightenment in full flower.