Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Coercion, Teaching, Social Work

by Skald

This is a version of a post I recently added to the teaching blog:

Coercion is dead. Over. The days of the drone are numbered.

Well, not exactly. There are still plenty of drone jobs (lots). Im not a businessman or scientist but I read about these topics to keep up to date... and everything I read suggests that the factory-soldier work mentality is collapsing.. while organic, autonomous, decentralized, project/team oriented organizations are on the rise. This may not be true in every field... but is at least (and especially) true among the emerging industries that will employ the bulk of our college-educated students: technology, creative services, design,.. and other fast-changing, sectors of the economy.

Thus the imperative to radically redesign "education". Is it easier (for the teacher) to just tell students what to do.. and punish them if they dont? Its certainly simpler. But more effective? No way.

Many teachers balk at this statement. Its nothing Im not used to. I encountered the same doubt as a social worker. As Clinical Coordinator for Stephens House (in SC)... I was constantly told (by my boss, by doctors, by nurses, by other social workers, by damn near every self-appointed expert in the field) that I must "be strict with the clients"... "you must be the parent because they have the mentality of children".... "lay down the law"... "make them take responsibility" (an oxymoron if ever I heard one)... "they wouldnt be where they are if they could make good decisions".

Who were "they". They were homeless, HIV positive, substance addicted individuals.... most of them minorities (gay, African-American,...). In other words, they were prime candidates for the title "bottom of the socio-economic ladder".

The people above them on the ladder were convinced that these people must be coerced and controlled "for their own good".

I disagreed and for the first time of my "career", I decided to throw caution to the wind and completely defy my boss. I surrendered control to the clients (residents of a transitional shelter). I gave them control of the house (upkeep, decoration, etc.). I gave them control of creating and enforcing "house rules". I put them in charge of transportation (getting clients to doctors appointments). I put them in charge of social activities. Im put them damn near in charge of everything.

And contrary to all the naysayers... they kicked ass. The more power they got, the more "responsible" they became. When they took over upkeep of the house... it improved dramatically (repairs made promptly, new paint on the walls, yard sales to fund decorations and social activities, everything cleaned regularly, etc.).

The most dramatic improvement was in the area of drug use. When I took my position, the house was in crisis. Clients were regularly using drugs in the house. They were inviting drug using friends into the house.. and having them spend the night in their rooms. Drug use on premises was the number one reason for ejection from the program.. and it happened alot.

The "experts" told me to get tough: Institute random drug testing, spy on them, encourage them to snitch, randomly search their rooms, etc.

Instead, I talked to two of the residents who were die-hard members of AA and NA. They attended meetings all the time. I asked them to talk to the other residents and find a way to solve the drug problem.

Here's what they did:
*They decided to host an NA (Narcotics Anonymous) weekly meeting in the house.
*They arranged for sponsors for all clients with substance abuse problems.
*They relentlessly encouraged, supported, badgered, and ass-whooped each other to prevent relapses.. or nip them in the bud.
*They instituted a volunteer mentor program.. volunteers from the community were paired with clients.
*They requested semi-regular private meetings with me.
*THEY requested drug testing "to help us maintain our recovery".
*THEY strictly enforced the "no overnight guests" rule.

Drug use plummeted. Ejections for drug use plummeted. The reputation of the house improved dramatically.

And I didnt do a damn thing.

For this I was eventually fired by my "treat them as children" boss. It was the proudest moment of my social work career.

Friday, August 26, 2005

More Zen Masters

Skald,

Your posting reminded me of a poem I wrote.. maybe 10 years ago now. I am convinced that I have met many Masters in my life but have been too ignorant to recognize it. They certainly aren't the evangelists that get on TV and proclaim their expertise and inside connection to the divine and then call for assassinations.



I saw Hephaestus today.
Hes grown tired of building castles for the gods.
He collects trash for the University. Picks up cigarette butts
from the ground and smokes em. He finishes.
Snobbish girls dont bother him. They can’t see him.
He hobbles around with one bad leg and a toothless
smile. Vodkos, that great god of fermented potato peels,
has a hold on him. He’s a hard one to wrestle. He fights.
Wants to sell his boat and buy a truck, second hand.
Sometimes he forgets who he is and where hes from, as all
gods do from time to time. I help. I know who he is.

-Matt

The Little Prince

by Skald

The Little Prince is one of those books Ive heard about for years but never got around to reading. I finally borrowed it from a student and read it today. Its a very nice little book.

I suppose the take-home message has to do with love. We love when we accept someone exactly as they are and when we also accept responsibility to care for them... and help them realize their dreams and full potential.

What "The Little Prince" hinted at... but didnt say strongly enough.. is that its not necessarily easy. Its easy to SAY "Accept and love someone as they are". But what that means, in practice, is that we accept the things we dont agree with, dont understand, or just dont like!

It also means we dont try to change them to be more like we want them to be. Rather, we encourage them to be their best.. to do that which brings them bliss.. even if it takes them away from us... or makes our life more difficult.

Hmmm. Ive been accused of being a romantic and I suppose I am. But I also find great fault with most romantic movies and books. They emphasize the initial attraction... the game of "winning" each other over. But they never show what comes after that.

To my mind, love does not really begin until after that... after the "game".. after the posturing. Ive never been too fond of the game stage and never have been very good at it.

For I believe its the sublime, difficult, intriguing, mysterious, ambiguous, maddening, inspiring, heart-breaking, awesome process that comes later that is most important. Love is about what happens AFTER the movie ends.

Writing and "Real Life"

by Skald

Writing seems to bring out the strongest and most extreme opinions. Its a strange phenomenon.

I constantly find that what I write is much stronger than what I say,... while I usually qualify my spoken beliefs, I rarely do when writing.

On one hand, this is good. Qualified or ambiguous writing tends to be weak. Better to state the case directly and without hesitation.

But its a dangerous thing. Without the benefit of facial gestures, tone of voice, and other clues... its easy to misinterpret writing. Hell, its easy enough to misinterpret spoken language.

Thus... I constantly find that I "contradict" myself. The truth is, I often hold two opposing views on a subject at the same time. I can accept them both as, simultaneously, true and false, right and wrong... both and neither.

The world, in truth, is extremely complex. The Western notion of dividing everything into dualities... of firm "right" and "wrong"... "black" and "white"... is childish and immature and at complete odds with the infinitely complext reality we live in.

What makes fundamentalists so dangerous... be they Christian, Jewish, or Muslim... is that they radically oversimplify the world. They insist on an extremely narrow worldview and simply ignore or attack facts that contradict it.

The most frustrating and dangerous thing of all is that you cannot reason with these people. Most people prefer to live and let live. Most would like to practice toleration and let the fundamentalists live as they choose.

But the problem is, they turn our tolerance against us. They do not give us the same consideration... rather, they attempt to attack, regulate, harass, and bully us. They pass laws to try to force us, at police gunpoint, to live as they do (or profess to :) They seek to restrict what we can read, see, listen to, and injest.

And so they put us in a dilemma. Though we prefer to live and let live, they will not let us. The trick, then, is to defend ourselves while maintaining our values. In other words, we must be able to fight these people without becoming like them... without becoming equally angry, rigid, and dogmatic.

Its not an easy thing to do. Its not easy to practice grace under pressure. Or to be compassionate in the face of harassment. Or to smile at those who insult you.

Yet that is the best way.... in the end we need strength, tolerance, AND compassion... the are ALL necessary.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Zen Masters

by AJ

Today I observed a zen master in action. He wasnt a monk. Nor was he a martial artist. Rather, he makes coffee at Thammasat's Dome Snack bar. He is a master.

Its a sublime pleasure to watch someone like this do their stuff. His movements, his eyes, his posture... all communicate a deep absorption in what he is doing. He doesnt go through the motions like the "baristas" at Starbucks.

This man considers coffee making his art and he has indeed raised it to an art. The end product is fabulous... the best "ice latte" Ive ever tasted... a perfect blend of espresso, milk, and condensed milk.

In fact, before serving the drink, he always samples the mix with a small spoon.. to make sure the taste is perfect. Ive never had anyone do that at any other coffee shop (and Ive been to many).

But its not only the end result.. its the swift, unhesitating, confident way he moves.... he's fast but doesnt seem to rush. He never looks distracted... while he's making the drink that is all he is focused on.

Ive encountered this kind of mastery only one other time... in a Post Office in Seoul, Korea (Yangjae-Dong). They had a man who would pack things for shipping. You brought him a box, or a pile of books, or clothes, or whatever... and he packed it up.

But the WAY he did it... wow!

First of all, he custom made every box from large sheets of cardboard. The boxes were ALWAYS exactly the right size when he finished. Hed measure the contents with a stick.. then, in a blur of focused activity.. set to work on the cardboard: bending, cutting, folding.... then zip, zip, zip with the packing material and tape.

As with my Thammasat coffee maker... he was incredibly fast and capable but never seemed to rush. Likewise, his concentration never wavered.. he never had a bad day, or got distracted, or screwed up.

Whatever you were shipping, you had 100% confidence that he would take care of it.. you knew hed pack it perfectly and it would arrive unharmed (it always did).

The Zen Masters of old are right... there is a strange and mysterious power in doing simple things with complete absorption and attention.

Smug Stereotypes

by AJ

Some good-meaning, lefty, PC folks at home occaisionally make cracks about "Asian women". They think Asia is a terrible haven of male dominance and that Asian women are meek slaves who obey without complaint. Few of these Americans have actually been to Asia- but since when has lack of direct experience prevented us from proclaiming ourselves as "experts" :)

I do have direct experience... in Korea, Japan, India, and Thailand... and I state unequivocably- the Americans are wrong!

Women are the future of Asia. One look around my classes gives me a crystal ball into the future: 70% women... 80% women.. in some, as high as 95% women. Asian women are the future. They are smart, they are creative, and they are getting educated at MUCH higer rates than Asian men.

And you can forget the meek stereotype too... thats a 1950s notion. The Thai and Japanese women I know are fed up with the good-old-boy system and arent shy about saying so. In their work choices, their dating choices, their educational choices... they are asserting themselves in huge numbers.

American feminists and "liberals" often look down their nose at these women because they arent as combative and ill-tempered as they are. They mistake loudness with power. To be sure, Asian women dont practice the in-your-face approach advocated in the West... but they are nevertheless kicking ass and taking charge.

These things dont happen overnight. Sure, the governments are still controlled by men (just as they are in America and Europe). Sure, the CEOs are mostly men (as in the US). But a massive shift is taking place.

Watch out. For in the words of Tom Peters... "Tomorrow belongs to [Asian] women".

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Another Great Christian Leader

by Skald

I cant resist joining the fray against that bastard Pat Robertson. Here it is folks... the smiling face of fundamentalist Christianity-- all those good church going folks who are such ardent supporters of George Bush, The War on Muslims, etc.

Well, now Robertson has added Venezuela's Chavez to the list of official infidels.. saying, "If he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think we really ought to go ahead and do it," and also that Chavez was turning his oil-rich South American country into "a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism all over the continent."

Apparently Chavez is going to convert the 98% Catholic population to Islam... though I was unaware that HE had in fact converted.

The great thing about Robertson is that he puts it out there for us all to see. Many Christians have similar views... they love war, they're all for assassination, the hate "peace lovers", they hate muslims, they hate gays/lesbians, they hate athiests, they hate Buddhists, they hate liberals... and Democrats... and Greens... and Hindus....on and on and on.

But many are more clever than Robertson. To your face they will speak of "loving the sinner but not the sin". But thats just code for "persecute the homos".

In the end, I prefer Robertson. He's a moron. He's a bigot and racist. He's a hypocrit of the lowest order. But at least he's straight up about it. He puts it out there plain... and lets us all see the true nature of "Compassionate Conservative Christianity".

Ill take that over double-talk and innuendo anyday.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Let Go

by Skald

Here's another important technique for deconditioning... "cease to cherish opinions". Thats an old zen saying and a damn good one.

For a long time, I interpreted that statement as "cease to have opinions". While that sounded very zen and transcendent... it also seemed like an impossible task. After all, having no opinions comes pretty close to having no thoughts. And as any good Buddhist will tell you... the brain makes thoughts the way eyes make tears or bone marrow makes blood. Its automatic... the very nature of the organ.

But lately Ive focused on the word "cherish" and find the admonishment now seems far more doable. We will have opinions... the trick is not to cherish them... not to hold onto them too strongly... not too wrap our identity in them.

I struggle, mightily, to do just this. Im full of strong opinions but have learned at least one valuable lesson- I dont trust them. Too many times Ive been burned. What seemed like wisdom, looked at a year later, is revealed as obvious bullshit.

Sometimes the wisdom-to-bullshit cycle is as short as one day. My solution: state my opinions as clearly and powerfully as possible and then let them go....

Im not afraid to contradict myself. And Ive come to value the phrases, "I dont know" and "I was wrong".

When it comes to breaking free of conditioned chains.. those two phrases are perhaps the most valuable tools of all.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Plug for Transitions Abroad

by AJ

Many folks email and ask me how to get information about working and living abroad. My first recommendation is always Transitions Abroad (and not just because Ive written articles for them :)

The T.Ab. website is packed full of info-laden articles for all regions of the world. They cover living, working, studying, and volunteering abroad. Its a fantastic site and should be your first stop if you're contemplating a move overseas.

Recently they added a new feature to their site: a travel writers forum. This is a place to share writing ideas and also to shamelessly plug your website or blog. .

Anyway, if you're starting to feel the pull of travel but have questions about the "how"..... start with them.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

(Not So) Easy Rider

by AJ

Im now hitting Bangkok's roads during rush hour..... and holy shit... what chaos. Its quite a baptism by fire for a new motorcycle rider. No one stays in their lanes, so buses are constantly swerving across my path. Drivers cut me off. Others rocket past me.

Then there is the fact that in Bangkok, motorcycles ride BETWEEN cars. The big advantage- we cruise right through the traffic jams. But this can be a hair raising experience. The space between vehicles is often tight. Ive already clipped my side mirrors twice. And sometimes I wonder, as I slip between two huge buses... "do they know Im here".

All of this could produce disastrous or wonderful results. Disastrous if I am pancaked between two trucks. Wonderful if I survive. Cause Im certainly learning to drive defensively and to be constantly aware. I scan the front, sides, and back of the bike incessantly. Im always looking for the stray dogs who dart into the road, the pedestrians who dash across, the guys going the wrong way on one way streets (happens all the time)......

Some people say Im crazy. But eventually, you just have to leap into the fray. You prepare (I spent quite a while weaving around chairs and riding on back streets)... but sooner or later you've got to throw yourself into the whole catastrophe... and hope to survive.

Id say thats true of many things in life.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Wired & Nomadic

by Skald

Laptop, ipod, wireless internet, cell phone.... who the fuck needs to stay in one place anymore? Who needs a McMansion?

Its now possible to run a million dollar business out of your goddam van! (If thats your thing). The chains are cut... its no longer necessary to be a penniless wanderer (a noble tradition)- the Hobopoet life is open to all.

There's simply no excuse anymore. Whatever your inclinations,... whatever the level of comfort and income you need... if you are a wandering freedom seeker by nature, the opportunities are there.

Learn the skills you need to learn. Take the steps you need to take. Never has it been easier!

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Lessons of the Cat

by Skald

Ive been thinking of Orwell's Animal Farm recently. What makes it particularly depressing and powerful is its dead-on accuracy. It not only describes a totalitarian communist state.. it mirrors our own American brave new world.

Napolean and the other pigs, like George Bush & the republicans, are masters of manipulation and fear. They slowly erode the newfound freedoms of the animals through the creation and exaggeration of external threats. First, there is a real threat... other human farmers attack Animal Farm. This sews the seeds of fear which the pigs skillfully exploit. They remind the other animals of this attack again and again and again.

They keep the threat of attack hanging over the befuddled animals as they dismantle their freedoms one by one. When Snowball challenges them, they drive him off. He is then puffed up into a threatening icon... the pigs tell the animals that the agents of Snowball are everywhere. Everywhere they are hiding... plotting and ready to strike (sounds like Al-Qaida, eh).

And so the animals gradually submit to control, drudgery, and... finally.. brutal oppression. Some do so mindlessly (the sheep), some do so through "loyalty" (the horse), some through cynicism and passivity (the donkey), some through fear (most of the others).

All submit except one: the cat. Throughout the entire story... from revolution to totalitarian dominance, the cat remains aloof. He ignores all efforts to "reform". He does not concern himself with the games and dramas of the other animals. He cares only for his own life and remains true to his own nature. He cannot be ruled or controlled because he remains outside the system... he never acknowledges the right of other animals to tell him what to do. And so he is the only animal that remains free and the only one who seems to smoothly ride out every event.

There's much to be learned there.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Back in Session

Ahhh... school is back in session and I'm glad to be back.

I've said it before and I'll say it again... I love my work!

Teaching these kids is a dream... they're almost always happy and cheerful, they enjoy learning and they're polite and friendly as can be! No one brings guns to school!

Unlike the McMerican public schools where I've taught.. the students/parents don't have the 'somebody owes me something' attitude, their parents aren't dodging responsibility and blaming anyone and everyone (especially teachers for some reason)....instead of emabarking on a little introspection regarding the issues they face personally and with their kids... and by and large THE STUDENTS DO THEIR HOMEWORK!

Another interesting thing.. our kids are healthy! They eat reasonable meals (rice, meat and vegetables.... not ALL deep fried! How could that be?) and our lunch room sells damn good food! I never ate in a lunchroom at a public school where I worked back home! A quick read of 'Fast Food Nation' or viewing of 'Supersize Me!' will remind you why.

It might sound like Utopia... and, of course, it's not... but it's as close as I've found to Shang Ri La in a job and a work place yet!

-Matt

So why is it that the 'richest' and most 'powerful nation' on Earth can't figure out how to educate it's public? Maybe it's in the way we define 'rich' and 'powerful'....

Hmmmm.... the land of the free.. and well fed and angry! GO MERICA!

Excruciating

by Skald

Bartlett had a secretary, staff, an important-sounding job and the paycheck to go with it. But, like many workers, he found himself underemployed and bored out of his mind.

"There is a reason why prison is considered punishment," Bartlett said, comparing it to his former job. "You may be in a gilded cage, but if you're just forced to sit there for eight hours all day long, staring at the wall, it can be excruciating."
--from The Washington Post

That's an excerpt from a Washinton Post article that David Smallwood sent me. As I read it, I had sudden flashbacks to IBM and several other office jobs Ive had. Of course, the Washington Post put a pro-work spin on the article... stating that "overwook is less stressful than boredom". Thats hardly the take home message Ive gotten from most jobs.

Most jobs, whether they require a lot of work or hardly any-- are monotonous, degrading, freedom robbing, ethics bending, exercises in humiliation. That goes as much for an executive position at GE as it does for a minimum wage job at Wal Mart.

We all know this. Even my Dad... a lifelong corporate executive... now admits that most of the work is pointless, boring, and meaningless. This is NOT just a phenomenon experienced by anarchist hobopoets.

What makes hobopoets different is that we don't surrender to the situation. We dont consider it "normal" or "realistic". We dont say things like, "well, life is work".... or "that's what being an adult is all about". We dont consider our highest aspiration to be "cover your ass"... or "bring home the bacon".

In my experience, most people are as bored and angry with their jobs as the average hobopoet. But most people bow their head and surrender. Most get trapped by huge commitments such as a mortgage, expensive crap, a spouse, and a family. Most are very very concerned what other people will think of them. Most are trapped by ideas of respectability and responsibility (to others, not themselves).

What makes hobopoets different is not their discontent with wage slavery... its the actions they take to live freer and more autonomous lives.... its the fact that they take responsibility for themselves, their lives, and their own happiness first and foremost.

That is what defines us and separates us from the smiling but quietly desparate.

...

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Price

by Skald

Im guilty of romanticizing the Hobopoet life... for I do, in fact, find it romantic. But I should add a caution for those considering a leap into this sort of life: there will be a price.

The price is different for everyone. For some it is loneliness. For some it is poverty. For some it is a loss of status and "respectability". For some it is a loss of comfort. For some it may be all of the above.

Some people hesitate when they realize this. Their illusion of non-stop thrilling adventures and perfect happiness is shattered. Doubt creeps in. Some give up. Some never try to work through the challenges.

But most worthy things have a price. Often, the worth comes from paying that price and accepting it.

And sometimes, by doing so, the challenge is transcended or overcome. And sometimes it is not. As Gandhi said, the reward is in the effort made- not the result.



.....

Monday, August 08, 2005

Hobo Snobbery

by Skald

An email from a friend reminded me that Im often fast and loose with my language (part of the pleasure of blog writing, to be honest). But there is a danger.

One danger is that some readers may misinterpret what I mean by "Hobopoet"... may think of it as a fashion, or cool image, or a set of rules. Others may feel the need to define what makes someone a "real Hobopoet".

But thats all missing the point. Here's the point (as stated by Joseph Campbell): Follow Your Bliss!

Thats it. Everything else is method and technique. I advocate simplicity because simplicity expands freedom and freedom makes it easier to pursue your bliss. I attack wage slavery because most wage slaves jobs are anything but blissful.

I encourage self-examination, psychedelic shamanism, and travel because those things often lead to greater learning, freedom, and bliss.

But all those things, in the end, are just trappings. If working at IBM fires your passion, bathes you in ecstacy, and fills you with purpose and meaning... then by all means work for IBM.

I have nothing to write to such folks because Im wired differently than they are. I can only speak to the restless, wandering, creative, change-craving freaks who, like myself, find bliss in learning, exploration, and travel.


......

The Glories of Som Tam

by AJ

How did I ever live without Som Tam (Spicy Papaya Salad)?

There's no more sublime pleasure than gulping down a plate of lip burning, tongue scorching, mouth watering Som Tam. Its a beautiful blend of pleasure and pain: an addictive combination of sour, sweet, and salty spices.... fresh green papaya... and red hot chilis.

I gulp a spoonful and coo in delight. Two minutes later Im chugging water and ice to quench the burn.... which I chase with forkfuls of khao niaw (sticky rice). Of course, it never works. Im in pain... but the delectable dish calls... so I suck an ice cube to numb my tongue for the few seconds it takes to spoon in another bite.

For a moment, there is only the magical blend of papaya and spices... then the tongue warms and ignites... glorious pain.

To think I was once a meat and potatoes guy!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Hiroshima

by AJ

Today I finally uploaded video from my camera to the computer.... video shot during my two month stay in Hiroshima. Of course, Hiroshima is in the news because of the 60th anniversary of the A-bomb.

So the city is on my mind. My primary feeling is one of gratitude for the place and the people I met. They were some of the most delightful people I have ever encountered. I remain impressed by the kindness, sweetness, and gentleness of most people I met.

Watching the video, I was also reminded how quiet and beautiful the city is. For a town its size, its very green. And, of course, I remember well how bicycle friendly Hiroshima is... bike paths everywhere, bicycle parking decks, wide sidewalks.

My greatest disappointment is that working in Japan is so difficult. The work culture tends towards workaholism. I was working insane hours and didnt have two days off in a row. Despite loving the city and its people.. despite making wonderful friends... I just couldnt endure the job.

This is a source of great frustration to me. Id love to live an extended time in Japan.. but I dont think I can stomach working there and its far too expensive to live there without a job. Perhaps one day I will luck into a relaxed job in Japan- and be able to spend a longer time getting to know the people and culture.

Until then, I wish the people of Hiroshima peace and happiness.... and thank you for the kindness you showed me during my two months in the city.

.....

Happy Birthday Shiori

by AJ

Shiori Iwagaki's birthday is on August 13th....... as a birthday present, check out her excellent website: Atelier Volante.

Send her an email and let her know what you think of her artwork!

Happy Birthday Shiori!!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Evil Muslims

by Skald

Muslims have now joined gays/lesbians as a pariah group that can be freely harassed. We are all careful and so "PC" when it comes to African-Americans, Latinos, etc.... but it is now acceptable in American culture to openly attack two groups: Gays and Muslims. Of these two, muslims are particularly vulnerable.

What a farce. A few Muslims fly into a building.. or explode some bombs... and suddenly MILLIONS of people worldwide are labelled as sub-human "terrorists". These people are cajoled to "control", "condemn", and "moderate" their "fellow radical muslims".

So why is it that the Christian Taliban are not given the same treatment. Christian Taliban have gunned down abortion doctors and others they disagree with. Good white Christian males blew up the federal building in Oklahoma. Good Christians are currently murdering Iraqi civilians in huge numbers. Good Christians are imprisoning and torturing muslims-- without charge or trial.

Why don't "moderate Christians" "control", "condemn", and "moderate" these fanatics? Why do we never read about the radicalization of Christianity?

This isnt about Islam. Its about whipping up fear and creating a government sanctioned scapegoat. Forget about the aggressive invasion of Iraq. Forget about the invasion of Afhganistan. Forget about the escalating aggression against Iran. Forget about America's suppport of Colombian death squads. Forget about the shaky economy and corporate control of virtually every aspect of American government and society...

All our problems are the fault of scary brown Muslims. They irrationally "hate our freedom". They are psychotic shizophrenic maniacs needlessly attacking our virtuous and innocent corporate-Christian empire.

Its all so simple. Black and white. The Muslim infidels are "evil"... the corporate Christians are "good".

Trust the government and the Republicans. Keep an eye out for suspicious brown people.

And thank God that you live in the "freest, richest, most perfect country that has ever existed".

Now get back to working and shopping.

........

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Motorcycles

by AJ

Uh oh... there's no going back. Im already addicted to my motorcyle. The experience of riding it is so much more immediate than driving a car. No windshield or doors between me and the world (nor between me and other cars). Without doubt, its more dangerous than a car-- another factor which sharpens the senses when I drive it.

This is especially true in Bangkok... where there are few (observed) traffic laws. No one stays in lanes-- and motorcycles freely zip between rows of cars... making motorcyles the best traffic beating choice in this city.... and the most demanding form of transportation as well.

Another advantage of having the bike: Im no longer dependent on taxis. Thus, I have greater access to the city. I can ride anywhere... explore back streets.. commute to friends houses. This is one thing Ive missed about the American car culture... its nice to have transportation autonomy... especially in a city with public transportation as crappy as Bangkok's.

.....

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Gandhi, Thoreau, Leary, and Internal Travel

by Skald

If all the Negroes and left-wing college students in the world had Cadillacs and full control of society, they would still be involved in an anthill social system unless they opened themselves up first.
--Tim Leary

Amen Dr. Leary! Mahatma Gandhi said much the same thing... as did Thoreau. Social activism is pointless without internal transformation first. Likewise, external travel (backpacking, wandering the world) accomplishes little unless accompanied before, during, or after by deep internal travel.

Whether through introspection, meditation, yoga, psychedelic shamanism.... or a combination of them all- the internal journey is absolutely vital. It takes primacy over our external travels and travails. What is the point, after all, if you return home the same uptight, egocentric, narrow minded idiot you were before you left?

The central truth of the matter is that travel is just another means of shifting (widening) consciousness. The traveler is generally more open, more sensually alive, more sensitive, more impressionable, and more aware. Thats the kick of travel- its a spiritual experience.... a transformative experience.

By recognizing this we can focus on it and increase the power of that transformation. That, to my mind, is the point of "intentional travel".

....