Saturday, March 26, 2011
Let’s begin with a definition of a reality. When I refer to a “reality” I'm referring to a consensual reality or human culture. It is not hyperbole to talk about culture as reality, since human beings can't experience anything at all without the filters and meanings that culture provides. Culture is traditionally considered the expression of human lifeways, our dress, art, and cuisine, our ways and means, but culture also determines what is possible and true, what exists or does not exist, who we humans are and what the meaning of our lives may be. In a practical way, cultures are the realities in which we live, and if there is a reality that exists without culture, humanity will never know.
A dominator culture is any form of reality that is defined by its subjection of humans and nonhumans by a small ruling elite. Humans have created a plurality of cultures, but for the past 5000 years, variations of dominator cultures have steadily increased their hold on human life and now claim hegemony on a global scale.
The ruling elite of dominator cultures are the people I call the dominators. They constitute a wealthy and powerful criminal class that has taken many forms and names over time, assuming such roles as warrior kings, priests, emperors and royal families, corporations, nation-states, churches, and political parties. They use whatever facade is effective in establishing mastery, and also employ a variety of weapons to control human people and plunder the earth’s resources, including terror and threat, weapons of physical violence, and weapons of mental and spiritual control. Some examples of these weapons of mental and spiritual control include church doctrines, threats of hell and damnation, marginalization, assimilation, ridicule, pathologizing, and demeaning, as well as the control of social institutions, mythologies, the sciences, and ultimately, what is acceptable as possible and real.
Dominator cultures are characterized by paradigms of materialism, that is, the disensoulment of matter, and by absolutism and linearity. Hierarchies are maintained by violence and power-over methods rather than by authority, and the values and institutions of culture support the goals of the ruling elite over and above the welfare of people and land. Personal gain and self-interest, for example, have been established as virtues in all dominator cultures, and individualism, an extreme form of humanism, is encouraged. It may be surprising at first to think of humanism as a dominator philosophy, but humanism, after all, is dominator hubris writ large, setting up humanity as the ultimate intelligence and the only ensouled expression of an otherwise mechanical universe.
The origin of dominator cultures is not easy to unearth. For reasons that remain speculative, many cooperative cultures gave way to dominator cultures as far back as 5000 B.C.E. The rise of the dominators may have been a byproduct of times of scarcity or of the tension created by competition between nomadic groups. It may have evolved from expressions of a dominating impulse in human nature. One thing we do know is that the artifacts of civilization, such as cities, writing, and institutionalized religion, seem to have arisen hand-in-hand with dominator hierarchies, although we can show no causal link. We also know that the actions of dominator individuals and groups are unconstrained by concern for the welfare of others. This selfish willingness to hurt has given them the power to control and command throughout the centuries, and to establish their vast wealth, their states and nations, and their churches and corporations.
As the 21st century opens, dominators control the institutions of almost every society on earth. They achieved this hegemony by managing science, religion, politics, technology, economics, medicine, education, food production, and every other human institution to empower themselves and meet their own selfish ends. Today’s dominators have claimed a monopoly on justified violence through a corporate trust of churches, states, and other powerful entities that claim loyalty to and garner ultimate justification from a variety of monotheistic gods.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Honesty, responsibility, and kindness. These are the three practices that Jack and I committed to when we married, and they’ve served us well. I’ve been thinking about honesty lately, at first because of knowing several fine human beings who lie to their spouses because they think it’s best for the marriage, and I felt sad for them. More recently, though, because of the machinations and soft soap lies of the school district in which I work, as the people in charge try to hold things together without enough funding. And that leads me to the larger culture, in which deceit and manipulation are so common as to seem normal and natural.
Perhaps I’m too honest. My dad was a dedicated truth-teller, much to his detriment in the mundane world, and my sister had Aspergers, which means she told the truth all the time, even when it was not courteous or socially appropriate. My mother told-it-like-it-was, since she believed she had important truths to tell, and here I am following in her footsteps. One of my greatest challenges at work is having to hold back on telling my truth, or even appearing as I truly am. Teachers are still judged by character and character is still defined as conformity.
Maybe I’m too honest. How I hate to lie! Or, maybe we should be telling the truth a whole lot more than we do. Maybe I tell just the right amount of truth . . . when I can get away with it.
Now remember, when I talk about telling the truth, I’m not referring to any grand reality or mystery revealed. This isn’t about the truth of a god or the meaning of life. I’m talking about what can be easily and clearly known. For example, the truth that most public schools are crappy places in which to learn, that it’s sick to be entertained by violence and gore, and that it’s not ok to climb to wealth and power on the backs of others.
We’ve become so accustomed to lies and manipulations from politicians, religious institutions, and corporate propaganda of all kinds that most people simply ignore them. The kids at school see dishonesty all around them and shrug it off. They think it’s human nature to lie, and many of them lie constantly and think nothing of it.
To bring this conversation back to earth, this week I’m hearing our administrators lying to us about budget cuts. Perhaps dissemble is a better word for it. They’re slashing jobs, firing reliable workers who may be the sole supports of their families, and they call it “budget adjustments.” They are closing libraries by destaffing them and they call it “look[ing] at sharing resources amongst buildings relative to the expertise offered by this position.” Yes, that’s a direct quote. What kind of bullshit babble is that? Wouldn’t we honor those workers more if we admitted the truth: You are being fired for no good reason because the schools don’t have enough money, and the schools don’t have enough money because it’s all going into the pockets of a hugely wealthy and powerful elite, funding their parties, their wars, and their corporate game-playing.
I believe in radical honesty. With every hurt caused to me by my loved ones telling me the truth, I have grown in spirit, yet every lie I’ve told has caused my spirit pain. If husbands and wives can’t tell the truth to one another, who can? If I can’t speak the truth at work, then where can I speak it? And when will we look in the mirror as a culture and see the fruits of corruption and greed?
Sunday, March 20, 2011
This cartoon-collage is 12x12, too big for my scanner, so I created two scans to catch most of the area. The moon and background is sparkly, but the sparkles also don't come through so well on the scan. Nevertheless, finding Puny riding against the beautiful equinox moon yesterday was a lovely surprise and I wanted to share this snapshot of her with you.
Saturday, March 19, 2011
The Green God embraces Earth and she conceives and gives birth to 10, 000 things. Flowers and birds, dogs and trees, and all the green people and animal people are born of this union.
Without the Green God, all the animals would surely starve. We humans would starve. Fall to your knees before the glorious face of the reborn one! Celebrate with the bunnies. Lay your eggs with the hens. I am grateful for the gifts of the Green God, I sing his praises night and day. I worship him without shame.
I'm pleased and proud to worship the Green God. "Yes, Beloved," I call out to him in springtime. "Lay your hands on my flesh. Open my body to the pleasures of sex and the senses. Open me!"
I won't be afraid.