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R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Part 1

“Nothing is more despicable than respect based on fear.” – Albert Camus

In the last chapter I wrote about the bodhisattva, the buddha who sets aside her own well-being for the well-being of humanity. We have gone far down the road of the “what’s in it for me” society, but not so far that we can’t reverse it. My salvation was that I wasn’t born a part of the ruling class. Instead, I was a restaurant manager. I had the privilege of working in a variety of jobs that allowed me to mold the minds and work ethic of young people. I wasn’t perfect. I had some major failures along the way. The one thing that I tried to instill in every one of the m was the idea of respect. It is a word that I hold above all others. Respect comes in many forms, but each of them is an unconditional virtue.

If we are to build a global community, the first pillar has to be respect. The wonderful thing about humanity is that each of us, all seven billion of us, are unique in every way. There are as many different nuances that color the way we identify ourselves as there are people in this world. We come from different countries and different regions, states, cities and towns within those countries. We speak different languages and different dialects and accents within those languages. We come from religious backgrounds that mold our philosophy, the way we think and the things that we believe in. We are attracted to different things in our fellow humans, be it body shape, coloring, features or gender. We have different ancestries that dictate the color of our skin, the consistency of our hair and the shape of our features. And the nuances continue all the way down to the sibling level, where a twin will often look, act, talk and believe differently from his other half. It is impossible to know with any surety who you are looking at the first time you encounter them. And yet there are many people on this earth that will slap a label on you as soon as you walk through the door.

Like the bodhisattva setting aside her happiness for the happiness of all mankind, it is a necessary evolution for mankind to set aside its prejudices for the betterment of all bodhisattvas. Every human being is more than ninety-nine percent similar to every other human being. Our blood is for the most part interchangeable. Our body parts can be shipped to the other side of the globe to save the life of a person needing a kidney or heart. You, yes you, could be involved in an accident today with a person that is your racial, cultural or sexually oriented opposite and have your life saved by that person’s body parts. It is likely that the doctor performing the surgery will be completely different from either one of you. Despite all of these facts, we slap labels and prejudices on people that we know nothing about because of our beliefs, fears, upbringing or ideology. What we should be slapping on them is respect.

We hear about it in the headlines. “Cops weigh in on bullying suicide” “White supremacist executed in Texas dragging death” “California kids accused of taunting black teen with a noose” “I witnessed genocide, inside Sri Lanka’s killing fields” “Israeli Parliament approves plans of the ethnic cleansing of 30,000 Palestinian Bedouins.” I could go on and on, but you get the picture. People are perpetrating bad shit on other people in every corner of the world. And then the other side fights back. And then it escalates. And so on and so on. Who profits from all of this? Not you or me or anyone we know. The people profiting are the suits at Halliburton, UBS and Barclay’s, the warlords being paid off by this government or that and dictators paid to look the other way or do the dirty work. The same dictators that we see toppled and murdered when their brand of barbarism suddenly goes out of style. So what can we do about it? It’s hopeless, right?

Not so fast, my friends. Just because we’re sitting in a safe little house in a safe neighborhood in the middle of America, it doesn’t mean that we are powerless. We all have the ability to reach out to our neighbor and build a community. We all have the power to show people respect in spite of their differences. We all have the ability to help someone who is bullied or oppressed, be it economic, societal, racial, gender or racial orientation. We all have the power to stand up and say, “this is not right” “war is not right” “bullying is not right” “foreclosure is not right” “insider trading is not right” “taking away worker’s rights is not right.” There are 2,400 locations around the world where you can go out and stand on the street, hold a sign that says, “THIS IS NOT RIGHT!”

A true global movement has to start on the grassroots level. Your grassroots level is you neighbors and the people in your community. Think of it as a field of grass. When we deconstruct the field we find a fecund soil burgeoning with a million tiny seeds. Those seeds represent the hopes and dreams that lie within our hearts. We inherently know that the people of our community are no different from ourselves, yet we allow our preconceived notions and predilections to get in the way. If we allow ourselves to the off these notions we will see the human spirit in the most different of men.

So the seed of awareness sprouts in our hearts and begins to grow. As we become more committed to our belief, we acquire an emotional stake in our cause. This is like a bee, buzzing around us as a constant reminder of what we know is good and beneficial to all. The bee begins to buzz all around our community, pollinating everyone that it comes in contact with. Our field of grass begins to sprout the flowers of our labor. Our neighbors acquire their own bees and the field becomes a garden. Our community transforms into an Eden of bees and flowers and honey and love. This is grassroots activism.

Getting back to respect. What does that actually mean? My dictionary tells me that it means to “admire deeply as a result of their abilities, qualities or achievements.” I suggest that we amend that to make it read, “admire deeply regardless of their abilities, qualities or achievements.” Every human being deserves respect on the basis that they are just like us. They may have different hopes, fears and dreams, but all they really want to do is to live their lives in peace. So reach out to your neighbor, to your neighbor’s neighbor, to the man on the street, to the woman at the market, and give them a little respect and love. Ninety-nine percent of the people will repay you in kind if you give them a chance. If ninety-nine percent can come together, the one percent will surely fall.

So, what are you going to do today?

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Seven Billion Bodhisattvas

“Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.” ~ John Lennon, IMAGINE.

We live in the Autumn of Occupy. People of diverse national, social and economic backgrounds have risen together to highlight the injustices that have been perpetrated by a small group of corporate pirates who’s greed nearly brought the world to its knees. Human compassion has lost its place in the governance of the world, if it ever had a place to begin with. Americans love to think that we are the international symbol of goodwill. Most other countries will tend to dispute that, seeing us more as a hegemony that intervenes only when it is in our corporate interests. It is this compassion, or lack thereof, that I expound upon today.

All around the world, people are taking to the streets to trumpet the excesses of the ruling class. These same people who are sitting out there in Zuccoti Park, or in front of the Ohio Statehouse, or any of the thousands of other Occupy sites are putting their lives on indefinite hold for the hope of a better world for the children of the world. They are exercising compassionate leadership. Buddhists have a word for someone who places the need of all others above the needs of self. This is called bodhisattva. It specifically means that a Buddha will wait to achieve nirvana until all others have ascended to that plane. I cannot think of a better term to describe the many people who are standing for the rest of us.

The naysayers of this movement like to deride occupiers as “dirty hippies” “living on the government dime” “who need to get a job” and “take a shower.” How is this any different that the ascetics who trained the Siddhartha Gautama before he became the Buddha? They are not. The people of Occupy have come to a collective awakening that the world’s resources are being gobbled up and that greedy corporations are swarming the carcass of the earth like so many maggots on a corpse. Mother Nature is under attack and it will take a legion of bodhisattvas like James Hansen, Bill McKibben, Tim DeChristopher, and my friend Climate Hawk to hold the vultures at bay. The ruling class refuses to regulate their own greed. Who can blame them. They will be dead before the earth breathes its last breath, but they’ll have yachts and mansions and diamonds and dames in the meantime.

You’re probably thinking that I am crazy. There’s no “ruling class,” brother terry. We are a democracy and we’re turning the world into a hundred other democracies just like us. We are changing the world from a bunch of oppressed states into little mini-me’s. But is that what we really want? And do we really have a true democracy? How is having the choice between two rich white guys, with apologies to the random woman or person of color who manages to sneak into a race, representative of our populace. The system has been gamed to make it so that we have an overwhelming number of lawyers, captains of industry and career politicians making all of our decisions for us. Politics has been subverted from public service to corporate service. The politician who spends the most money wins Ninety-five percent of all elections. It’s all about who writes the biggest check.

So, how can we get around this conundrum of rich versus poor? They control all of the money and the use it to keep their boot on the neck of the rest of the populace. We have to devote all of our time and our energy to feeding and housing our children. If we are fortunate enough to own a house, they take more money away in taxes to fund their corporate welfare. It seems like the poor are fighting a losing battle right? It seems overwhelming and futile. We should just give up, let the bastards have whatever they want. We can’t win. I have to admit that the task is daunting. It will be hard work. Many if not all of us will be dead before the battle is won. So, does that mean we just give up?

A funny thing happened on the way to the bank. The banker looked up and a dozen people wanted to close their accounts. And that dozen turned into a dozen dozens. And then a thousand dozens. The supermarket opened on Saturday morning and nobody came into shop. The Exxon station opened up, only to watch watched all of the bicycles go riding by. A week went by where nobody bought a single product from Monsanto, Georgia Pacific or Proctor & Gamble. Big Macs, whoppers, three-piece chicken dinners and Godfather’s pizzas sat dying on the warmer because families decided to start cooking at home. The people decided to redirect their resources.

We have one thing that the ruling class will never have. Seven billion people. Each and every one of us has the ability to become an economic bodhisattva. There are some of us who stand in the street with a sign. Others go to jail day after day to stand for what they believe in. Some donate time to the movement. Others donate money and resources. Others still inundate their “representatives” with correspondence of their frustration and ire. Even if the masters dominate sixty percent of our resources, that still leaves the other forty percent. We can choose to withdraw that from this shadow economy designed to leech every dollar from us.

Every one of us has a finite amount of resources available to us. I’m not saying that we need to hoard every dollar and wait for the apocalypse. What I am saying is make conscious decisions on how you spend every dollar. Give your dollars to family run businesses. Source you food from local sources. Use local tradespeople for your material needs. Support indigenous vendors. Boycott the firms run by the pirates. Become an economic bodhisattva.

We all have the ability to lead. We have become a population of sheeple who allow ourselves to be diverted with television, video games, computers, sports and intoxicants. We have become over-medicated by a medical industrial complex that seeks to control us and siphon even more of our resources. It is time to rise up. It is time to throw off the anime and rebuild our communities. I’m not talking about cities and towns. I’m talking about friends and neighbors. I’m talking about extended families of the ones we love and care about. I’m talking about building a shield of universal love and using it to repel the cockroaches raiding the carcass. I’m talking about occupying our own minds and leading through compassion. This battle has only just begun and it can be won. Take the way of the bodhisattva and anything is possible for yourself and for humanity.

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The Age of the Pusher/Junky Relationship

1. Never give anything away for nothing.
2. Never give more than you have to give. Always catch the buyer hungry and always make him wait.
3. Always take everything back if you possibly can.

William Burroughs – NAKED LUNCH (the original introduction)

It’s an exciting time to be alive. We are on the cusp of a great schism that threatens to shake the every core of the world as we know it. Already the pillars are starting to topple. The people, long fat and complacent in the throes of decades of prosperity, woke up on September 15, 2008 to a huge slap in the face. Thirty years of systematic deregulation of the financial markets grew a bubble so big that when the balloon finally burst, twenty percent of the accumulated wealth of the United States of America disappeared into thin air. It seems like common sense that we should have protections against this type of reckless behavior. I could go on and on about commodities and credit default swaps and insane bonuses for criminal transactions, but that would be neither accurate nor productive at this point. But I am not an economist.

At the same time that the bankers are sucking the last of the lifeblood from our necks, the energy companies are ravaging our insides like a case of stomach cancer. The gas companies have come up with the controversial and dangerous practice of hydrofracking to extract natural gas from layers of shale that lay miles beneath the earth’s surface. At the same time, the oil companies are racing to exploit the Canadian Tar Sands oil fields. The jury is still out on the environmental impact of the extracting the tar sands, but James Hansen, one of NASA’s leading climatologists, believes that exploiting the tar sands will be game over for the environment. And all of this at a time when technology is making renewable and sustainable energy more affordable and accessible, yet is being suppressed by the purveyors of carbon based fuels. It seems like common sense that Mother Nature might not take kindly to machines boring into her insides and jets of wastewater breaking up her dermis. She has been providing all of the necessities for life on this planet through natural means of wind, sun and water, yet we subject her to unnecessary surgery for profit. But I am not a scientist.

Not to be outdone, another powerful industry is burrowing into another soft spot of humanity. The health care industry has spent the last two decades perpetuating a society of addicts. It is a two-pronged attack. Doctors are over-prescribing pharmaceuticals for the elderly in order to keep them chemically and financially dependent on a cocktail of drugs whose costs are spiraling out of control. At the same time, they are focusing on younger generations of children who are diagnosed as ADHD, clinically depressed, bi-polar and any number of other conditions that were unheard of thirty years ago. We are over-diagnosed, over-prescribed, and indeed over-doctored. We need to go cold turkey on the prescription drugs and get straight. But I am not a doctor.

Beyond our addiction to pharmaceuticals, we have developed an unhealthy taste for processed food. Restaurants and grocery stores have gotten away from preparing fresh food every day, instead mass-producing boxed canned and frozen foods and shipping them thousands of miles to end up in our pantries, or more concerning, at our drive-thru windows. This “food” is kept artificially cheap to make it cost prohibitive to maintain the ritual of the nightly home-cooked family meal. Family farming, one of our most noble and fulfilling professions, has been co-opted by multinational corporations. Our seed catalog, which should be forever sustainable and renewable, has been subverted and poisoned by genetically modified seeds. The effect is two-fold. First, the seeds have been engineered so that they necessitate the use of specific fertilizers and herbicides. Cows, pigs and chickens, once raised free-range on grass and other natural feeds, are now raised in warehouses where many of them never see the light of day. They are grown bigger and faster using mass amounts of the same genetically modified feed corn, steroids and antibiotics. The antibiotics are necessary because the size of the farms negate the ability to maintain a clean and safe environment. And because it is such a large and unclean environment, the waste that is produced is excessive and toxic. It inundates our water supply, forces us to use ever-increasing measures to ensure the safety of said water. But I am not a farmer or a nutritionist.

Families have become stratified. While the income of the richest one percent has grown three-fold in the last thirty years, the income for the rest of us has remained stagnant. Men and women have taken to working two and three jobs to keep their families at the same standard of living. And that is only if they can find a job, let alone two or three. Family time has become a fairy tale. Most families are lucky to have a night or two a week where they can all get together for a meal. To make matters worse, States across the heartland of America have launched attacks on organized labor. While many believe that the purpose of this attack is to limit the wages, benefits and bargaining power of the public servants that are served by these unions, I believe that it is an attack on the unions themselves. They are the only entities in this country that can organize millions of people to take to the streets. They are the only huge voices of dissent. The attack is to divide us so that the vultures can continue feeding on the spoils of our labor. We all know the story of David versus Goliath. It seems like common sense that all of the little guys should band together to take on the big guys. But I am neither a father or a religious man.

The common theme in all of these threads, indeed the villains of this story, are the multi-national corporations that control our food and water supply, oil and gas, monetary assets, job creation and even our politicians. They have made themselves too big to fail,. They have conspired to attack the bleeding carcass that is our world like a swarm of insects attacking a dying body. They are drunk with power and think that they are above the law. If fact, they think they are the law. It is only through a long, concerted and potentially bloody effort, that mankind can show them the error of their ways. I am not any of the things that I mentioned in the above threads. But I am an organizer. And there are now seven billion people on this planet for me to organizer. So let’s get started.

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