Saturday, October 21, 2017

Being Positively Disruptive

As many readers may have noticed, I haven't spent much time in writing essays for this blog over the last three or four months.  You might also have guessed from this that I've been very, very busy.  While many people I know have been glued to their TV's, computers, and smartphones, addicted to the torrent of toxic drama, crazy-making and bad news being generated by a certain doofus with orange hair who now claims to be the President of the United States, I've been occupied with making some good news of my own.  Let me fill you in on the details.

First, the tutoring initiative in which I am involved, which I mentioned in this post and this one, is now expanding from one location to three. Our roster of teachers has both changed and grown.  I believe there are now thirteen of us, and more may be joining in the next few months.  While two of our groups are continuing to focus on basic mathematics, one group is developing a science curriculum aimed at teaching appropriate technology and self-sufficiency/sustainability in the context of developing alternative institutions.  That group is being led by a woman from an African-American/Asian background and a Native American woman, and they are writing a series of science experiments and activity packets aimed at youth from 10 to 20 years of age.  

And we have a fourth group composed of writers, who are developing and editing a math curriculum to be used by all of our groups, complete with workbooks and worksheets.  (As soon as I am done with this post, I will be working on addition and subtraction worksheets.  If idleness is the devil's workshop, I won't have to worry about getting into trouble for a long time!)

On another front, a group of us at work are planning to launch a campaign to collect donations for the Puerto Rican victims of Hurricane Irma.  I am thinking we will present the campaign as an opportunity to spend money for a good cause instead of spending money on holiday shopping.  We will also promote news sources that are providing accurate coverage of the situation in Puerto Rico, as opposed to many American news sources and the White House.  My goal is to provide a positive disruption in three ways:
  • By providing concrete relief to people whom our current regime would like to starve,
  • By shunting money away from the usual recipients in our consumer economy during this holiday season,
  • And by providing ongoing evidence that our current regime and its President are illegitimate.
There are a lot of people where I work.  Let's see where this takes us...

Lastly, it looks like I may have a few opportunities over the next couple of months to talk about resistance and related topics in front of a few audiences.  It looks like my part in the resistance being mounted by oppressed people is likely to get quite a bit larger.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Puerto Rico - A Humanitarian Disaster

The Federal response to the hurricane which recently devastated Puerto Rico is not unexpected.  Indeed, it is symptomatic of the disease of a large swath of American society - a swath who are full of empathy toward those victims of Hurricane Harvey who happened to be wealthy and white - yet full of sleepy neglect or overt hostility toward everyone else.  Now that sleepy neglect has hypnotized many Americans (but not a majority, thank God!), lost as they are in their individualism and addicted to their consumerism, while the overt hostility issues forth sporadically from the current President like projectile emesis from an infant who has been burped too vigorously.  Note, though, that the hostility is provoked only when someone manages to break through the President's own sleepy indifference and his perverted preoccupation with himself.  Then, if you are that someone, watch yourself, lest you get yourself spewed on.

Meanwhile, a lot of people in Puerto Rico are about to die.  This is not because there are no Federal resources available to help them, but because the Federal government is now run by a bunch of rich and incompetent pigs.  Decent people who have the means to find out the actual situation on the island (and not the sanitized FEMA version) should be appalled.  Those evangelicals who supported (and continue to support) the President should take a look at the last half of Luke 16 before they go to bed tonight.

But let's not stop with just being appalled.  Let us do what we can ourselves to contribute to disaster relief in Puerto Rico.   The President, like an alcoholic absentee father, has made himself unavailable to provide for the common good.  Here is a link to a page listing organizations to which you can make a donation for the relief of the suffering of the people of Puerto Rico.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Catch-Up - September 2017

Here's a quick update on things.  I still have a few posts I need to write to finish my series on "The Revanchism of the Third Rome," but other things have lately been keeping me too busy to write.  Here's what is occupying my time:
  • Tutoring and teaching math and language arts to families from marginalized populations.  Our group of tutors has expanded greatly within the last two months, and we are planning to go to at least two, and possibly three apartment complexes this fall.  We may even get to teach in people's homes, which would give a nice retro, counter-cultural feel to what we are doing - rather like this.
  • Nonviolent resistance.  There are now well over fifty people with whom I have been in frequent contact over the last two or three weeks, and we are discussing the start of a boycott of holiday shopping (both for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas/Hanukkah/whatever else), along with a general push for frugality among those now targeted by the current regime.  We want to serve up a steaming, heaping helping of economic non-cooperation this holiday season.  Stay tuned...

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Home Repairs, Part 2

This week, I must again bow out of writing a long post.  Yesterday I hauled several hundred pounds of scrap wood out of my backyard, and today I have a huge list of projects to finish (aside from going to church, where I will be in a couple of hours).  If idleness is the devil's workshop, then I won't have to worry about being in trouble for a very long time.

I should be able to continue my series on the revanchism of the Third Rome next weekend. I will also hopefully begin to show the role played by Russia in the rise of the global fascist far right.  (Although, if anyone wants to do his or her own research, there are plenty of smoking guns lying around where one could start.)  Stay tuned...

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Home Repairs - August 2017

I have spent the last week fixing things in my house that badly needed fixing, as they were falling apart.  My backyard now contains a big pile of used lumber that I will be hauling to the dump sometime soon.  I'm afraid I'll have to wait until next weekend to have a post on my continuing series.  Until then, my prayer is that God's mercy and justice would shine on you all - especially on those who are among the oppressed.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Revanchism Of The Third Rome, Part 4: Caesar's 21st Century

At the end of my last post, I promised to discuss how the concept of the Third Rome and Russian Orthodoxy have influenced and guided Russian policy since the fall of the Soviet Union.  I also promised to discuss the bearing these concepts have had on the presidency of Vladimir Putin.  In my discussion, I will be relying heavily on "Russia's 'Special Path' In the Relation Between State and Nation" (Geir Flikke, Russia and the Nordic Countries: State, Religion and Society, Fondet for Dansk-Norsk Samarbeid, 2016) as well as other sources.

At the outset, let me say that the essay by Flikke makes a distinction between the concept of a state and that of a nation, with the state being the creation of the power-holders at the pinnacle of a society, and the nation (polity - as in a people united by collective identity, or народ) being a grassroots creation by a people from the bottom up.  Accordingly, the French concept of a nation is "the political authority emanating from the people..."  In this conception of nationhood, the people of the nation have a major say in how they want their national identity to be defined.  The state as an expression of the government of that nation depends for its legitimacy on the political authority emanating from the people.

The Russian experience has, historically been diametrically opposite to this process.  Starting from the reign of Ivan the Terrible, the Russian state has been an entity imposed by the most powerful on those without power.  "As Vera Tolz stated...'Russia became an Empire before ever contemplating becoming a nation'" (Flikke, ibid.)  The characteristic of such a state is that it is usually an autocracy and not a democracy.  This is to be expected, given the way that Ivan the Terrible achieved victory over his military rivals - namely by being more expert at the use of violence than his rivals - and given the way that the successful use of violence concentrates power in the hands of the wielder of successful violence.  The result in the Russian case was the creation of an extremely long-lasting system of despotism.  The majority of people who made the transition from non-Russian to Russian status over the last five or so centuries did not therefore do so willingly, but under compulsion, as newly-incorporated subjects of an empire.  (Chenoweth and Stephan would not characterize this as a "democratic transition"!)

Fast forward to the 1990's and the time of great difficulty for Russia as it struggled under societal disarray and widespread corruption under Yeltsin.  One of the analysts of that time, a man named Yegor Gaydar (Егор Гайдар), wrote a pamphlet titled, "State and Evolution" ("Государство И Эволюция"), in which he made some very interesting points, as noted by Fikke:
"...Gaydar...saw the greed of nomenklatura capitalism in his own country as inevitably linked to a specific “Russian” entity and cultural context – that of the state. If state and property have never been divided, historically, and in present times, Gaydar held, '(...) even the most powerful state would, in reality, be weak and degenerate (trukhlyavy). The state servicemen, the bureaucracy (chinovniki) will eat the state completely, and they will not halt the hunt for property. Everyday corruption will soon become the real state of affairs. The servicemen will intuitively try to stabilize the situation, by converting power into property.' (Gaydar, 1994)."
And this also:
“Gaydar clearly linked this to the paradox of the liberation from the Tatar Yoke, asserting that the dissolution of the Horde put Russia on a firm path towards despotic Asian rule, firmly expressed by Ivan Grozny. [This], he suggested started the thriving expansion of Russia, ending only in 1945. And, this is important, the steady expansion left Russia void of important processes of nation-building and it also tapped state resources; Russia became a '.... Civilization' (dogonyayushchaya tsivilizatsiya), dedicating most of its resources to “catch up” with its constituent other --- the West: 'Russia was captured, colonized by itself, ending up as a hostage of the militaristic-imperial system, which profiled itself in front of the kneeling people as its eternal benefactor and savior from external threats, as the guarantor of the existence of the nation.' (Gaydar, 1994, p. 46).”
Gaydar's thoughts here can best be summarized by saying that the historical despotism of the Russian state never allowed the Russian people to build the local and regional independent institutions that constitute a healthy nation.  This is why the 1990's (after the collapse of the Soviet Union) were such a time of government corruption and social instability.  The Russian national response to this time was not to look inward to become the sort of people who could manage themselves on local and regional levels, not to begin to develop the capacity for what Mohandas Gandhi called swaraj, but rather to look for another strongman.  In Vladimir Putin they found him.  (But when one strongman "rescues" a nation from being eaten by other strongmen, what guarantee is there that the rescuing strongman won't also be a cannibal?)

Now, what is needed to sell the idea of a strongman and his imposition of a strong unitary state on an unresisting people?  The political and cultural leadership have answered that question in a number of ways.  But one of the ways has been the transformation of the Russian Orthodox Church into a blatantly political instrument to support the regime of Vladimir Putin (Per-Arne Bodin, "The 'Symphony' in Contemporary Russia"; Kristian Gerner, "Clericalization, Militarization and Acquiescence," Russia and the Nordic Countries, 2016)  There is indeed an organic link between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian military: "...a representative of the Russian Orthodox Church took part in the meeting of the Marshal Staff of the armed forces," (Gerner); "...Russian fighter planes were consecrated and sprinkled with holy water by an Orthodox priest..." (Gerner); the State and the Church collaborate openly in the strengthening of a "civil religion" which is primarily cultural in nature, although its symbols are religious (Kahla, "Third Rome Today or State Church Collaboration in Contemporary Russia", 2016); and the Russian Orthodox Church has been involved over the last several years in a massive project of canonizing many military heroes as saints (Kahla, ibid.)

And as for the concept of Russia as the Third Rome, this idea has been elevated even further.  Russian propagandists now refer to Russia as the "Katechon," a concept arrogated by Russia from the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians from the New Testament.  The Katechon is defined as that restraining force or agent which keeps the Antichrist at bay and preserves the world order against lawless chaos.  (Now, to me, that's funny!  Have you seen some of the numerous YouTube videos of Russian road rage incidents?  And these propagandists claim that Russia stands alone to defend the world from lawlessness!  Must...stop...giggling...)

To shoulder such a burden for the preservation of the world most "obviously" requires a strongman.  And of the activities of this "strongman" and his minions I have much more to say - especially as they apply to those of us who are not Russian.  But tonight I am out of time.  To be continued...

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Revanchism of the Third Rome: Symphony's Chords

(Some readers may be wondering why my last two posts (as well as the next two or three) are taking a trip down the path of Russian and Byzantine history, especially the history of the Byzantine (Orthodox) church.  You may be asking, "What does that have to do with things happening in the world today?"  Hang in there; I'll try to have a satisfying answer for you at the end.)

Last week's post sketched out the role of the Russian Orthodox church in promoting the myth of Russia as the "Third Rome," the heir to the spiritual and political mantle of the Byzantine Empire.  To see the deeper significance of the "Rome" in the Byzantine empire, it is helpful to see how Church and State were related to each other in Byzantium, and how State and Church rang some changes in that relationship in Russia after the fall of Byzantium.  Let's begin by defining the word "symphony."  And here I will rely not only on Wikipedia definitions, but I will be drawing extensively on Russia and the Nordic Countries: State, Religion, and Society, published by Fondet for Dansk-Norsk Samarbeid in 2016.

In the Byzantine empire, symphony referred to the formal arrangement between Church and State, which was explicitly stated by the emperor Justinian in 535 A.D.  In this symphony, both Church and State were to be collaborators in the project of the "protection and spread of the Christian Church..."  This concept was refined by patriarch (supreme bishop) Photius in the ninth century A.D.  He explicitly stated that emperor and Church patriarch were not merely collaborators, but equal partners in a project which was fundamentally religious in nature.  Therefore, the State was not supposed to dominate the Church, nor vice versa - in other words, the patriarch was not to be head of state, nor the emperor head of the Church.  There is a further significance to the concept of symphony, namely, that under this arrangement, it was not possible "...that the emperor might profess any other religion than Orthodox Christianity...The idea expressed already by Christ Himself that there should be a distinction between what belongs to the emperor and what  belongs to God...seems quite difficult to realize in a construction like the Byzantine theocracy."  In other words, secularization was utterly incompatible with Byzantine symphony.  (Quotes taken from "The History and Theology of Russian Orthodoxy," Gottlieb, Russia and the Nordic Countries: State, Religion, and Society, 2016.)

It is important to note that the establishment of a State church in the original Roman empire did not follow the principle of symphony. According to some sources, when the first State church emerged under the emperor Constantine, he established himself as "Head of the Church," thus establishing himself as a caesaropapist. (Now there's a new word for ya!) It is also important to note that not all Byzantine emperors submitted to the doctrine of symphony; therefore, there were not a few caesaropapists in their number as well. The practice of caesaropapism was a convenient way for a Roman or Byzantine emperor to consolidate and amplify his power, especially when seeking to expand his territory through imperial conquest or to eliminate internal threats to his power.

After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Russia (especially Muscovy Russia) sought to lay claim on the title of "Third Rome" in two ways.  First, the Russian clergy established the Russian Orthodox church as autocephalous.  In other words, a Russian cleric became the head (the patriarch) of the Russian Church, independent from Orthodox patriarchs in Constantinople or Greece. This project began in 1448 according to Gottlieb, took over a century to complete, and wasn't formally fulfilled until 1589, according to Laats. (Laats, "The Concept of the Third Rome and Its Political Implications," retrieved on 30 July 2017.) And the Russian rulers first adopted the title of "Tsar" (Царь, literally, "Caesar,") in 1547 with the coronation of Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible), thus establishing a Russian head of state as a continuation of the line of the Caesars of the first and second Rome.

How did symphony play out in Russia after 1453?  Well, first of all, we must note that it didn't always play out.  According to Laats, Tsar Ivan IV used the concept of theocracy to promote himself as defender of the Orthodox faith.  "His wars were against 'Muslim unbelievers' and 'the Catholic enemy of Christianity'.  The mission of the Russian church was directly grounded in [Ivan's] military victories...The state or the monarch was the real head of the church.  Ivan the Terrible 'sees the tsardom as a divine commission and himself as head of the church and representative of God on earth...'"

To be sure, the Russian Orthodox Church pushed back against the power of the tsars, with the Patriarch Nikon seeking in 1652 to establish the "preeminence of the patriarch over the tsar..." (Gottlieb).  However, Nikon lost that particular battle, and the attempts by the Russian Orthodox Church to continue the fight resulted in the breaking of Church power by Tsar Peter the Great in the 18th century.  Peter made the Church definitely subservient to the State and made it the "official state church of the Russian Empire."  This arrangement continued under Catherine the Great, and lasted, with some variations to this form, until the revolutions of 1917.

And as for the role of the concept of the Third Rome in Russian internal and foreign policy, Laats says that "The universality of Rome was connected to pax romana.  The goal of Rome was to establish a universal empire, which would supersede the disorderly competition between nations and establish world peace.  The monk Filofei, one of the masterminds of the doctrine of the Third Rome wrote that 'all Christian realms will comne to an end and will unite into the one single realm of our sovereign.'"  Moscow came also to possess an eschatological cultural dimension - not only as special and closer to God than any other city, but as the center of the last Rome, the fulfillment of all history.  The tsar therefore becomes an eschatological ruler, head of both Church and State.  And Russia itself became "holy", "elected by God and having a special task in the divine story within the world."  This is why the ability of the Russian tsardom to use Russian Orthodoxy as a tool for expansion of secular power is so significant.

According to Laats, this concept of Russia as the Third Rome was officially renounced by the Russian Church in 1667, and has not been explicitly stated by Church or State since then.  Yet it has remained the undercurrent and foundation of Russian state policy and identity from that time onward, under Tsar Nicholas I and Tsar Alexander III (and, as some would argue, under Russian communism).

How have Russian Orthodoxy and the concept of  the Third Rome influenced Russian leadership and policy since the fall of Soviet communism?  What bearing do these have on the regime of Vladimir Putin?  I hope to start answering those questions in my next post.  Stay tuned...

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Revanchism of the Third Rome (Part 2): The Role of Russian Orthodoxy

As noted in my last post, blogger Olga Doroshenko very nicely sketched out a description of national narcissism as applied to Russia.  She did an excellent job outlining the grandiose self created by the masters of Russian culture - namely, the tsar, the nobility, and the intellectuals - over the last several centuries.  A key pillar of that grandiose self is its assertion that it has a special, Messianic mission to the world, a mission that must be carried out by imperial conquest. Now, to claim that one has a special, Messianic mission, one requires some rather extraordinary proof.  What better proof than that the bearer of this mission should have received this mission from people who claim to speak on behalf of God?

So my attention was arrested by Olga's mention of Russian claims to be "the Third Rome" - a term which I had never heard of before.  As she says,
"There is an opinion that the Russians were spoilt and degraded by the Bolsheviks. Wrong. They were like that long before Lenin. Long before Peter the Great (who was a flamboyant narcissist himself). They adopted the myth of “the Third Rome” ("Two Romes have fallen. The third stands. And there will be no fourth. No one shall replace your Christian Tsardom!") in the early 16th century, but they believed themselves to be the only “true Christian” nation long before that. This narcissistic claim has its roots deep in the times of the Tartar invasion, and I will not trace them. Let’s concentrate not on the reasons, but on the consequences."
As I say, my attention was arrested by this phrase, "the Third Rome," so I did a little bit of Googling, and discovered that "...in the first half of the sixteenth century, an obscure Russian monk from Pskov wrote a number of letters in which he spoke about Moscow as the Third Rome.  The name of the monk was Filofei...and his letters were sent to...Moscow grand prince Vassiliij III...and to Ivan IV the Terrible..." ("The Concept of the Third Rome and Its Political Implications", Alar Laats, 2015).  To understand how the concept of the Third Rome contributed both to the Russian grandiose self and to Russian imperialism, it is necessary to see how Church and State evolved in the West from the "conversion" of the emperor Constantine to the present.  And to see this evolution, we must begin with the birth and evolution of Rome as a historical fact and metaphysical reality.

For Rome managed to establish itself as both the center of an empire and as a paragon of "civilization" - indeed, as the center of the "civilized" world.  Therefore, Rome laid claim to universality - to the notion that Rome alone was the bearer of civilization, and that this legitimized Roman conquests and violent imperial expansion.  Those people who lived outside the orbit and influence of Rome were characterized as "barbarians" - as uncivilized savages living in chaos.  With the "conversion" of Constantine to Christianity, Rome added a new claim to its existing claims of imperial legitimacy: namely, that Rome was now the defender of the one true faith, and thus even more legitimized in its use of imperial violence to defend and expand its territories.  This claim was an integral part of the political and religious strategy and philosophy of state and ecclesiastical power called Constantinianism, which granted powers of state enforcement to those members of the Church who were recognized by the Emperor as the "official" spokesmen of Christianity, and which gave these spokesmen the ability to use violent state power to persecute those people who claimed to be Christian while disagreeing with these official spokesmen.

One of the things that Constantine did was to establish a second imperial capital, named, of course, after himself: the city of Constantinople (formerly known as Byzantium) in the eastern half of the Roman empire, as part of a scheme to facilitate administration of an empire which had grown too large to be effectively managed from one city.  However, the leaders of the Roman church sought to concentrate religious (ecclesiastical) power in the city of Rome, and this caused a fracture in the "official" State church which paralleled the fracture of the Roman empire into two parts, one ruled by Rome, and the other ruled by Constantinople.  After the fall of the western Roman empire, the eastern, Byzantine empire declared itself to be the only true, legitimate seat of civilization, the one true heir to the titles originally claimed by the united Roman empire and the only true bearer of the Christian faith.  According to Laats, this made the Byzantine empire also universalist in its claims and outlook, as stated below:
"Thus the eastern Roman Empire, known also as Byzantium considered itself to be an empire and as the only legitimate heir of its history and tradition. The theologians of Byzantium understood their history as the continuation of the history of the ancient Roman Empire. Indeed, they pretended to even more – the empire existed according to the plan of God. The aim of the Roman, respective Byzantine Empire was to grasp the whole world for the proclamation of Christ. But together with this the aim was to spread the [Byzantine] peace and culture. Thus their intentions were also universalist. The people of Byzantium tried to be in every respect like the Romans. Even the name they used in Greek for themselves was Rhomaioi – the Romans.

"One important factor that influenced the development of their consciousness as Romans was their opposition to the West. This opposition was both political and ecclesial. The rulers of the Western Europe and of the Byzantine Empire pretended to be the Roman emperors. And both churches pretended to be the leaders of the universal church."
The Byzantine empire laid claim to the title of a "second Rome," a claim which originated from Constantine himself.  Due to a number of factors (including foresight and political and administrative shrewdness on the part of its rulers), the Byzantine empire lasted a very long time, and the Byzantine church brought many Eastern peoples and nations under its influence, from Greece through North Africa to Central Europe - and Russia.  The Byzantine empire viewed itself as a utopia, a visible, earthly expression of the invisible Kingdom of God.  However, the Byzantine empire also fell, and Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman empire in 1453, and the only part of the Byzantine church (also known as "Orthodox") which was not under Ottoman control was the Russian orthodox communion.

Now what is essential to note is that from the 12th century to the late 15th century, there were several political power centers in Russia, and Moscow's pre-eminence as the chief power center was by no means assured.  (Indeed, even later in Russian history, the center of political power was moved from Moscow to St. Petersburg, and was not moved back permanently until 1917.)  Thus it was that after the fall of Constantinople, there were a number of Russian power centers (such as Tver and Novgorod) vying for the mantle of "the third Rome" to fill the vacuum left by the collapse of the second Rome.  The ecclesiastical supporters of each of these power centers sought to bolster these claims by lending the weight of the support of the Russian Orthodox church to each power center's claim.

The victory of Ivan the Terrible over all other rivals (and over Tatar invaders) cemented Moscow's place as the center of an empire, and in the eyes of many Russian orthodox clerics, this cemented the place of Moscow (and eventually of Russia) as the heir to the mantle of the Third Rome.  However, to see how this conception of Russian identity influenced and guided Russian domestic and foreign policy from Ivan onward, you'll have to wait until next week (unless you want to do some research yourself).  Unfortunately, I am out of time today.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Revanchism of the Third Rome (Part 1)

Over the last seven or eight months, as I have tried to make sense of the changes (and attempted changes) which major players have wrought in global and American national politics, I have done a lot of reading, in an attempt to see the various major global actors through various lenses. Those who regularly follow this blog know that one of the lenses through which I like to look is the lens of abnormal psychology, as applied to both individuals and nations. So you can imagine how my interest was piqued as I came across a series of blog posts titled, Russia As A Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Ukraine As A Narcissistic Injury, written by a Ukrainian lady named Olga Doroshenko (or, as she writes in her profile, Дорошенко Ольга). Olga had the rather painful fortune to live through the violent counterrevolutionary response to the initially nonviolent 2014 Ukraine revolution which ousted then President Viktor Yanukovych.

Her series of posts on Russia contain, I am sure, some barbs of the sort which arise from the deeply unpleasant history that builds up between people who are related enough to each other to really get on each other's nerves when they live too long near each other. However, her posts also present a thought-provoking analysis which lines up with many aspects of Russia's official "face" which I had observed over the last few years "from the side," as some Russians say. As one can see from her writings, the danger of national narcissism is not limited to certain nations. Any nation can fall into such a derangement if the conditions are right. Her posts also shed a great deal of light on Russia's unhealthy interest in the affairs of non-Russian nations, including the interest which has been "lavished" on the United States during the last major election cycle.

What conditions does she then identify in the case of Russia? First, let's consider her thumbnail sketch of NPD. To me, she seems to be right on in stating that NPD is a compensatory response to feelings of inferiority. As Olga writes,
"Narcissism always starts with an inferiority complex. A narcissist feels his/her insignificance and hates him/herself for this. This hatred causes shame, and in attempt to protect him/herself from this shame the narcissist builds up an ideal person which he/she pretends to be. But any hint of criticism shatters this ideal image, which is intolerable. Therefore, the critic is treated as an enemy.
Any sane person can ask: why so complicated? If you feel shame, you just stop doing what causes this shame and stop feeling shame. Profit! That is true, but not for the narcissist. The narcissistic shame is different from the ordinary shame: there is no particular reason for it, the narcissist is ashamed just of being imperfect. Which means: just of being human."
Dealing with this shame in a truly effective way is quite scary. It is painful work to learn to live gracefully, humbly and honorably within the limits which your Creator has imposed on you, just as it is also painful to for most of us to admit that we have faults and sins to be repented of. Indeed, for the narcissist, choosing to give up the grandiose self and accept one's humanity - one's ordinariness and imperfection - is like experiencing a death. For a narcissist, the only thing worse is the involuntary disintegration of the narcissist's grandiose self in response to external events. That does lead some narcissists to choose physical death.

What then is the source of Russian narcissism as expressed in foreign and domestic governmental policy? What is root of the inferiority complex that the national grandiose self is supposed to cover up? According to Olga, that inferiority complex is the result of perceived historical technological, social and economic underdevelopment in comparison to Europe. And as suggested by Olga, this inferiority complex has historically been felt most keenly by the elites of Russia, including the tsars and other nobility, and the intellectual class (many of whom were also of the nobility). Therefore, the elites, from tsar to nobility to intellectuals in the service of the tsar and the nobles, all collaborated, often consciously, to build a collective identity consisting of a national grandiose self. This grandiose self, bejeweled with the virtues of a soldier (bravery, courage, spirituality, ability to endure hardship for a greater good, reverent submission to authorities, etc.), was meant both to inspire ordinary Russians (many of whom were serfs - that is, slaves - from the 11th century to the mid 19th century) to enthusiastically answer their masters' calls to arms, and to promote meek submission to the hardships under which Russian "commoners" lived. It was also meant to inoculate the populace against the desire for social change - even though, from time to time, some ordinary Russians were able to see how much better off many Europeans were, particularly in being allowed to live as free people.

Thus one of the chief "virtues" of this grandiose self was the ability to meekly submit to suffering - the suffering which must be endured for the sake of achieving the greater good of building a truly "great" nation. This meek submission was summarized in the notion of "the enigmatic Russian soul", the inmost being of a nation that had gladly accepted its calling to suffer as a "collective Christ" in order to bring light and redemption to the world. Never mind that the sufferings borne by the Russian masses were in many cases inflicted by those who held power in Russian society. Never mind also that the redemption which Russia believed itself called to bring to the world was to be brought by violent imperial expansion.

A chief ingredient needed for this grandiose self was the presence of a cast of inferior characters against whom this grandiose self might appear truly grand by comparison. The masters of Russian culture therefore cast Europe as a collection of these inferiors, a bunch of "soft" and "weak" people whose enjoyment of a more pleasant way of life was proof of their "godlessness." (As someone told me a while back, "In Russia, the strong survive! We don't demand soft treatment." His implication was, "like some other people...") Later, the cast of inferior characters expanded to include the entire West - at least, those who are white. As for the rest of us, well, I am sure that not many members of the current Russian elite regard what goes on in our heads as thoughts worth taking seriously. Oddly enough, that does not bother me, for reasons which I will elaborate in a future post.

Thus do we encounter modern Russia as the "collective Christ" pitted against a godless world as it soldiers bravely on in its Messianic mission to bring light and redemption to a world whose desire to be left unmolested is just so much proof of the "godlessness" of that world. Thus has this "mysterious", "enigmatic" nation closed itself off from learning anything from the world which it despises. This is convenient for the present-day Russian elites, for whom the prospect of internal change must be the kind of night terror that can cause cardiac arrest. But I must mention that it has not only been tsar and nobility that have conspired to build such an enduring grandiose self. There has been another agent involved in this project over the last several centuries. I will describe that agent in my next post.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Summer Science Night #1 - July 2017

On a hot night after work this week, I spent a pleasant hour or so with a couple of comrades as we visited a low-income apartment complex.  We were there to lead some kids through a science activity dealing with low-tech water purification.  One of our number has a background in civil and environmental engineering, and she showed the kids how to construct a water filter using empty plastic bottles, coffee filters, sand and gravel.  She gave a short presentation on why water purification is important, and the danger of water-borne disease and exposure to man-made toxins that can result from drinking unfiltered water.  Then we all began constructing our filtration devices. 

We tried out our filtration devices on some "dirty water" that we (the adult teachers) had made out of water, food coloring, oatmeal, and two-year-old white rice.  We measured how much each person's filter was able to pass in a one-minute period, and then led the kids through a few equations to figure out how long it would take each kid's filter to pass a gallon of filtered water.  I talked to the kids about how much water an average person needs to consume in a day, and how they could tell whether they had drunk enough water for the day.  (Hint: if you wake up at 2 in the morning with a horrible leg cramp after doing a lot of work under a hot sun, you know that you didn't drink enough water.)  We also asked the kids to think about the relationship between how much impurity the filters removed versus the flow rate of the unfiltered water through each filter, so that they might consider whether a fast filter was more effective than a slow one.  Lastly, we talked to them about how dirty water could be pre-treated before filtering by letting it sit for a while so that heavy impurities could settle to the bottom of the water container.  They also learned a new word, "turbidity."

The activity seemed deceptively simple, yet it managed to hold the attention of the kids, most of whom were between 10 and 12 years old.  We also had a couple of adults join us, including the mother of one of the kids.  Below are some pictures of what things looked like:


This is the friend of mine who led the kids in constructing the filtration devices.  On the table behind her is a partly-completed filtration device.



Here are a few adults and kids comparing the turbidity of their filtered water samples.




 Here is another view of our participants comparing the turbidity of their filtered water. 

We will have four more summer science sessions at the apartment complex, and at least one other session will involve water purification.  This last week's lesson was a lot of fun for everyone, and it was yet one more important step in building alternative arrangements to bring math and science education directly to people who need it, right in the settings where people live.  We thus find ourselves following in the footsteps of other artisans who have brought their work directly to people right where they live - as is the case for buskers and those who perform house concerts, as well as the pioneers of the original "flying universities."  It is exciting work.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Duty Of Active Citizenship

Here is another blatantly spiritual post.  But hey, it's Sunday (and I will be in church shortly), so I will indulge myself.

Lately I have been thinking rather much about the wide range of responses among the American public to the Trump presidency.  One response that has been somewhat troubling has come from certain seemingly well-meaning elements of the American church community - both home-grown and immigrant.  That response can be best summarized in the following statement: "We recognize that it is God who removes kings and sets up kings.  Therefore, we must recognize that it is God who has given Trump the presidency.  This means that we must not speak against the president whom God has given us."  Some carry this thinking even further, and say, "Just as God worked through flawed human beings in history to accomplish a greater purpose (as was the case with  Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus), even so God has raised up Trump to accomplish a greater purpose."  (See this also.)  The implication then becomes that the flaws and sins of Trump are no longer a legitimate point of criticism, since he is "the vessel whom God has chosen."  Some among this crowd even go as far as blatant appeals to Calvinist doctrine to teach that, since God is Sovereign, and since nothing happens apart from His sovereignty, we who have been the historical targets of oppression should not complain about the oppression which has been dished out to us, nor protest against the ascendancy of people who in the present day want to dish out extra helpings of the same oppression.

I say that such thinking is both flawed and dangerous, as it presents only a partial picture of the story.  One of the biggest missing pieces of that story is that God has given free will to both men and societies.  Another huge missing piece is the fact that God gives and allows things in response to the freewill choices of His creatures.  So when people fall under the grip of an oppressor, it may be that the appropriate response of the oppressed is not to absolve themselves of responsibility, nor to throw up their hands and say, "God is bringing us through trial as He did with Job, and we must not try to figure out the root causes of our suffering.  Perfecta es Tu voluntad para mi..."  Maybe what we should do instead is to ask ourselves how and where we dropped the ball and allowed this to happen.

So how then should believers look at life under oppressive political regimes? That is a huge question and it requires a huge answer.  And I don't have time to even begin to scratch the surface of that answer today, nor do I believe that I have the wisdom to provide a definitive answer all by myself.  However, I'll present a few of the thoughts that have come to me from thinking about this question over the last three months.

First, I believe that God has created us to fulfill a particular purpose, and that this purpose involves the full development of the humanity of every human being, as I wrote in a previous post.  The fulfillment of that purpose and calling involves the struggle of nonviolent conflict, because of the presence of oppressors and would-be oppressors who seek to make themselves rich by dehumanizing the rest of us.  How should we respond when the oppressors become the rulers of the land?  One clue to the answer to that question can be found in 1 Peter 2:13: "Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution..."  The word translated "institution" is the Greek word κτίσις (ktisis), and it literally means, "creation (my emphasis), creature, institution..."  This is important.  For it means that we are called to submit to every created institution, not only to the institutions created by our oppressors, but to the institutions which the oppressed create in order to fulfill their ontogeny in spite of their oppressors.  For our submission to the institutions of our oppressors should extend only as far as we can obey without violating our duty to our higher calling.  Where the institutions - the creations - of our oppressors seek to violate that calling, we are responsible for creating new creations - new arrangements and parallel institutions - by which we may facilitate the fulfillment of our calling.  This is why anarchy is not a right response to oppression, for according to the Scriptures, "God is not a God of confusion but of peace."  When the oppressed create by themselves the creations - the arrangements and institutions - by which they may fulfill their calling in spite of their oppressors, this is an example of "active citizenship" as defined by Asef Bayat in his book, Life as Politics.

So then, why are "bad kings" given?  Why is it that peoples fall under the rule of oppressors?  For I have stated that the Bible teaches that God gives and allows things in response to the freewill choices of His creatures.  And it is true that God removes kings and sets up kings.  (See Daniel 2:21).  So what choices do oppressed people make that cause them to remain in victimhood to oppressors?  I submit that the answer is that the oppressed far too frequently become and stay oppressed through a failure of active citizenship.  I am thinking particularly of a quote from a book I recently got, Recovering Nonviolent History: Civil Resistance in Liberation Struggles, edited by Dr. Maciej Bartkowski.  On page 18 of the first chapter, Dr. Bartkowski quotes Syrian activist Abd al Rahman al-Kawakibi: "...people 'themselves are the cause of what has been inflicted upon them, and that they should blame neither foreigners nor fate (my emphasis) but rather ignorance (al-jahl), lack of endeavor (faqd al-humam), and apathy (al-taw kul), all of which prevail over society.'"  He also cites Polish philosopher Josef Szujski in his assertion that "...the guilt of falling into the predatory hands of foreign powers lay in the oppressed society and, thus, the solution and liberation need to come from that society transformed through its work, education, and civility. Victims and the seemingly disempowered are thus their own liberators as long as they pursue self-organization, self-attainment, and development of their communities."

This shows us where many societies, including the present United States, have gone wrong.  First, we fell victim to convenience - that is, in the words of Jack Duvall, we allowed ourselves to be rented by people who promised to relieve us of the duties of active citizenship in exchange for our support of the political aspirations of these people.  Their message was, "Let us do the dirty work of creating a healthy society.  After all, we are the experts and you are not.  (As our covfefe-in-chief once said, "I'm a genius!")  All you have to do is lend us your support by sending money to our political campaign and vote for us."  The flip side of that convenience is that we allowed ourselves to become addicted to convenience - that is, to a lifestyle which required no hard work, no thinking, no sacrifice for a larger good - but only the immediate gratification of our cravings and appetites.  In short, we became a society whose members aspired to be Ferris Bueller or a character from Happy Days when we grew up.  How fitting that Ferris Bueller's Day Off became a box office hit during the presidency of Ronald Reagan.  How perceptive also is Dr. Maciej Bartkowski's comment that the Ukraine fell back under the sway of corrupt dictatorship after the Orange Revolution because after that revolution, Ukrainians abandoned active citizenship and went back to watching TV.  

This also shows us where many "nonviolent resisters" in the United States are still going wrong.  They believe that the power of rulers over a society is a fixed, durable monolith, and they direct their efforts to arguing with the current owners of the monolith for control of the monolith, as Gene Sharp explained in his book The Politics of Nonviolent Action: Power and Struggle.  This is why their repertoire of strategy and tactics includes very little more than protest and persuasion (which might be termed a series of variations on the common tactic of loud complaining).  But movements which focus solely on complaining show a lack of confidence in their ability to take their affairs into their own hands.  These would-be resisters would do much better to stop arguing over control of an oppressive and unjust system and to devote themselves the much more effective work of active citizenship (starting with self-rule, self-control, and freeing oneself of degrading addictions), of building the parallel arrangements and institutions of a just society within the shadow of the wreckage of their present corrupt society.  Effective nonviolent resistance, whether in the United States or Russia or anywhere else, must be modeled on the spread of active citizenship and must not therefore rely on the presence of a charismatic leader who rents the support of the society by promising them that he will meet all their needs if only they will give him their support.

But I am sure that there are those who, after reading this, still think that Trump is a mysterious gift from an inscrutable Calvinist god, and not the fault and consequence of a nation guilty of wrong thinking.  Maybe among these people are those who will freeze to death this winter because even though they had money in the bank, they neglected to pay their heating bill.  Maybe their last dying sentence will be, "Perfecta es Tu voluntad para mi..."  But when they stand before the Judgment seat, they may hear, "You doofus!  Why didn't you pay your bills?" 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Non Co-Op News - June 2017

As I hinted in my last post, when it comes to opposing oppressive regimes, I have a certain preferred style of fighting.  A couple of prominent features of that style consist of non-cooperation - both economic and political - and building of parallel institutions.  So I tend to get really happy when I see other people adopting a similar style.

I think that's what I (and several perceptive others) have begun to see over the last six months.  Consider the following items:
The mainstream media all have various explanations for these phenomena.  But what if, among the various explanations, someone were to hypothesize that not a few Americans are deciding to stop feeding a predatory system?  I am thinking of a conversation I had with a co-worker who told me about a Keurig coffee maker she had been eyeing as a possible new addition to her home, and how she decided not to buy it in order to deny support to the Trump regime.  I have been in similar conversations with others lately who are coming to the same conclusion.  According to Gene Sharp's book The Politics of Nonviolent Action: Power and Struggle, economic non-cooperation was one of the key elements that brought down the Tsarist regime in Russia during the nonviolent struggle that lasted from Bloody Sunday in 1905 to 1917 (before the Bolsheviks, by the way).  What can be done to help accelerate the trends that I have listed in this post?

Sunday, June 25, 2017

A Matter of Alliances

After Donald Trump captured the U.S. presidency in a highly questionable election, a number of resistance movements sprang up in the United States.  One of those movements is called Indivisible, and it is representative of those movements whose strategy is to try to oppose the Trump agenda through established institutional political channels.   That's not my particular style of fighting just now, so, while I wished them well, I never really felt compelled to join them.  However, over the last few weeks, I ran into someone who is involved in a local chapter of Indivisible, and this person told me some of the things that this local chapter is trying to do.  The person also commented to me that "it seemed to be hard to get people of color involved in Indivisible...they just didn't seem to be interested..."  At the end of our conversation, we exchanged email addresses, and later, this person sent me a couple of links to Indivisible "weekly action checklists."

One of those checklists contained the following language: "After the election…
Like many Americans, I grew concerned for my rights—like the right to free speech, the right to be married to my wife, to dissent, and to privacy.  Even more, I grew worried for my Latino friends, my Muslim friends, my Black friends, and my gay sisters and brothers—especially as acts of violence and harassment increase..."

These words were written by a blond-haired, blue-eyed Caucasian woman who had married another woman.  And her statement of concern for "equity" and "equal rights" were led first and foremost by her concern for the freedom to pursue her own lifestyle.

Reading those words and looking at her picture on the Indivisible website spurred me to think about how the Civil Rights movement has morphed and mutated from its origins in abolitionist movement in the early-to-mid 19th century to the present, and especially how the movement's focus and agenda (along with the focus and agenda of the American Democratic Party) was changed from the 1960's to now.  I was also compelled to revisit the way I view nonviolent resistance on its most basic level.  I am aware that in their excellent book Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, Chenoweth and Stephan emphasize the importance of building a large coalition of diverse actors in order to insure the success of a nonviolent movement.  However, I believe that alliances must be chosen very carefully and not indiscriminately.

And as I consider the practice of radical nonviolent resistance, I see a some very important characteristics, the first of which is that this kind of resistance consists of speaking truth to power in the full knowledge that the power to whom you speak truth may respond by trying to kill you.  Second, radical nonviolent resistance requires that you cannot respond to your oppressor with violence even when he is trying to kill you, even as St. Peter wrote: "Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are crooked..."  Note also that even though Peter wrote of the need for submission, yet he and all of the apostles wound up as jailbirds at various times in their lives because they spoke truth to power by living radically in the truth.  (Indeed, Peter eventually was crucified upside-down.)

To me then, to be a nonviolent resister is synonymous with being a Christian.  And being a Christian means that I have confessed the Lordship of the Boss I work for.  Since He has called me to a dangerous work in which I might lose my life, I believe the success of that work hinges very closely on my willingness to do exactly what my Boss says.  And my Boss (as revealed especially by the New Testament) has specifically condemned homosexuality as a lifestyle.  Therefore, I cannot join with those who seek to legitimize homosexuality as a lifestyle.  Otherwise, I run the risk of failing in the task which my Boss has given me.

Yet there is another element of obedience to my Boss which I ought to mention.  According to His orders, I am forbidden to try to use secular, earthly political power to punish other people for their private sins.  Paul's letter to the Galatians clearly lays out the futility of trying to get people to act like Christians by trying to force "Christian" laws on a fallen nation.  The entire Old Testament history of Israel illustrates this futility.  And the history of Prohibition in the United States is another clear example.  Also, in the story of the Lord's encounter with the adulterous woman in John 8, when the Pharisees were pressing Jesus to agree with stoning the woman to death, Jesus responded by saying, "He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."  Those who read the story to the end will notice that at the end, the woman was still alive.

There is one other thing to notice from the story in John 8, and that is the motive behind the Pharisees' efforts to force the Lord to condone stoning this woman to death.  He said, "He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone..." and this stopped them from throwing stones - so...I guess that means that they themselves had sinned, doesn't it?  And I think it is quite likely that some (perhaps many) of them had sinned in exactly the same way that this woman had.  Their motives in trying to put this woman to death had nothing to do with zeal for Biblical morality, but were rather a ploy to eliminate a threat to their secular, earthly political power and social status.  And Jesus knew it.  And they knew (from seeing and hearing about some of His miracles) that if they tried to continue their rush to judgment after hearing His warning to them, He would most likely have publicly declared some of their secret sins in the ears of the crowd standing around Him.

Which brings up a point, namely, the use which political actors in the United States have made of private sexual sin in order to advance their own political and economic power.  I am thinking particularly of homosexuality and how the response to homosexuality has been used both by the ostensible "Left" and by the Right as a proof of their "righteousness."  The Right, for instance, has largely succeeded in reducing Biblical morality to the question of how we should respond to a very small handful of issues related to sex.  This has been convenient for them because they have been able to say in threatening tones that God's "blessing" on this nation by which this "great nation" (meaning rich white folks) has been made "great" is under threat because "we have abandoned Biblical morality."  Therefore, the great issue of our time is the need to fight against departure from Biblical sexual morality.  We need a renewed "Focus on the Family!"  There are no other issues more important than this.

Such language conveniently ignores two things.  The first is that, according to the Scriptures, my Boss (whom they claim to be their Boss also, even though they don't know Him at all) is concerned about many issues beside sexual sin - and His concern for them is just as great as His concern about sexual sin.  One such issue (which they don't address because it would cost them money) is the issue of predatory behavior by one group of people against another.  Indeed, in Ezekiel 22, God promises to tear Israel apart, to destroy it economically and politically, and to send its residents into captivity.  When one reads Ezekiel 22 and counts the reasons why God promised to do this, homosexuality is not mentioned once.  However, economic oppression (and accompanying violence against the powerless) is mentioned fourteen times.  While sexual sin is mentioned four times, in two of those cases, God condemns men for forcing themselves on women.  (The word "humbled" can also be rendered "raped"!)

The Religious Right has condoned every sin listed in Ezekiel 22.  Indeed, their darling, Donald Trump, has been guilty of every sin listed in Ezekiel 22.  If we limit our focus solely to sexual sin, the list of Republicans and supremacists who have fallen is quite long, including Newt Gingrich, who was fooling around behind his wife's back during the Republican-led impeachment of Bill Clinton.  It also includes Bob Livingstone, who led the impeachment proceedings after Gingrich was outed, as well as Dennis Hastert who replaced Livingstone after he was outed for cheating on his wife.  It also includes Kenneth Starr, the special prosecutor who investigated Bill Clinton.  Starr later became the president of Baylor University, where he helped to cover up a massive sexual assault scandal involving the Baylor football team.  And as far as homosexuality, Dennis Hastert was later found guilty of paying public money to hush up his sexual assaults of high school wrestlers while he was a wrestling coach.  And the current Republican regime in Washington is trying hard to remove every legal protection from women who are victims of sexual assault, harassment, or domestic violence.

("Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!...You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the damnation of Gehenna?")

So we can see how the Right has pushed zeal against sexual sin as a convenient gauge of zeal for righteousness, because such a gauge does not threaten existing economic or political disparities in power, nor does it threaten existing patterns of oppression which enrich the few at the expense of the many.  But what about the "Left"?  For it seems to me lately that the Left has largely succeeded in reducing concerns about equity and diversity and equal rights solely to the push to legitimize certain sexual lifestyles.  Indeed, I remember reading a few years back (although I am sorry that I can't find the source now) that during one of the "general assemblies" of the Occupy protests, a group of gay rights activists stood up and proclaimed that the struggle for civil rights for people of color had largely succeeded, and that now the main focus of struggle should be on promoting the acceptance of "sexual minorities."  I also remember reading that the people who said this were shouted down by several people of color who knew differently.  Indeed, there are people of color within the LGBTQ movement who themselves have pointed out the racism and overall whiteness of the movement, and how it has largely ignored the voices of the people of color in its ranks.  (See this, this, and this, for instance.)  Note also what one source has said about the alignment of some elements of the gay community with the global far right.

To an increasing number of us from communities of color, the gay rights movement seems to have hijacked the efforts in this country to fight for social justice.  The last year, for instance, has seen many well-funded "rights" organizations fighting for things like public "transgender restrooms" even as corrupt white police officers get away with murdering unarmed African-Americans.  What is also telling is that there is so little outrage within the broader American society over the murders.  To us, the LGBTQ agenda has no relevance to us; rather, the insistence on making this agenda so prominent is one of the factors which makes us increasingly distrustful of the so-called "Left", and unwilling to engage with them in their agenda.  This is one reason why we are not rallying behind the Democratic Party - a party which is home to a Governor who derailed the indictment of Darren Wilson, the police officer who murdered Michael Brown.  This is the same party who has as a member a man named Rahm Emanuel, Bill Clinton's former chief of staff.  Rahm Emanuel went on later to become the mayor of Chicago, where he helped the Chicago police department cover up police murders of unarmed African-American teens.  So as the Left extends its hand to us once again, we don't trust it.  To me, it seems that we must chart our own course.  And some of us are gaining the skills and tools to do just that.  For the Left as it is currently constituted is also no threat to existing economic or political disparities in power, nor does it threaten existing patterns of oppression which enrich the few at the expense of the many.



Saturday, June 17, 2017

La Batalla Por La Ontogénesis


[And now, at last, the promised Spanish version of one of my recent posts.  Muchas gracias, N.R., for the translation!  One note: I transcribed his translation from a paper copy he gave me, so if there are any spelling or grammar errors, I take full blame for them...  Also, I will try to clean up the formatting in the next week or two.  Buen provecho.]
Ontogénesis: “El desarrollo de un organismo individuar,” Wictionary. “El origen y el desarrollo de un organismo,” Wikipedia. “El proceso por el cual cada uno de nosotros personifica la historia de nuestra propia formación.” (Gingrich, Fox, et al, 2002)

Ontogénesis. ¿Un tema interesante, o no? Estoy especialmente sorprendido por la ultima definición citada, ósea ontogénesis como “proceso por el cual cada uno personifica la historia de nuestra propia formación.” Tomando estas definiciones indican que esta historia es una función de nuestro desarrollo como individuos. En otras palabras, el propósito de nuestro desarrollo es originar una cierta clase de historia. ¿Habrá claves de la clase de historia que debemos personificar, y de la meta deseada de nuestro desarrollo?

Antes de darte mi respuesta a esta pregunta, déjame advertirte con tiempo que esto será otro anuncio espiritual manifiesto. Y ahora, miremos a una escritura en particular:

Porque la gracia de Dios que tra salvación a todos los hombres se manifesto,
ensenándonos que, renunciando a la impiedad y a los deseos mundanos,

viviamos en este siglo demplada, y justa, y piamente, esperando aquella esperansa bienaventurada,

y la manifestación gloriosa del gran Dios y Salvador nuestro Jesucristo,

que se dio a s mismo por nosotros para redimirnos de toda iniquidad, y limpiar para si un pueblo propio, celosa de buenas obras.

– Tito 2:12-14

Considerando las partes de esta escritura, podemos hacer unas observaciones rápidas. Primera, la intención de nuestro creador es que seamos rescatados para no vivir vidas fútiles, caracterizadas por pasiones y adicciones degradantes, y descrontroladas. Segundo, nuestra vidas devén de ser disciplinadas y con propósito; con nuestro ingenio y facultades envueltas completamenta en servir a ese propósito. Tercero, nuestras vidas devén de ser virtualmente hermosas siendo caracterizadas por buenas obras. La palabra “buenas” en Griego es la palabra “Kalos.” De acuerdo a la concordancia de Strong, esta pabra significa “hermosa (Mi énfasis), como una muestra exterior de un buen interior, noble, carácter honorable, dignidad, honrosa, y noble que se hace manifesto.” Entonces nuestras vidas devén de estar llenas de obras hermosas, obras cuya hermosura es una reflexión directa de la bondad en ellas. Y la carta a Tito esta llena de apelaciones a aquellos que se llaman cristianos para que se envuelvan en estas buenas obras, cuyo propósito, entre otras cosas es suplir las necesidades apremiantes (o urgentes) de nuestros semejantes seres hermanos (Tito 3:14)

La escritura indica que esta vida llena de propósito solpo pueda ser experimentada atreves de una transformación que es resultado de una fe genuina en Cristo. Y aun cada ser humano ha experimentado alguna vez un deseo por esta clase de vida, un deseo de cumplir esta clase de ontogénesis. La prueba de esto se puede obetner al preguntar a cualquier niño de 5 o 6 anos que quiere el o ella ser cuando crezca. Al menos que el niño halla sido traumatizado severa y persistentemente, nunca oirás al niño contestar que el o ella quieran ser basura o nada. Los niños de forma natural tiended a querer ser algo hermoso, algo noble, algo bueno cuando crezcan.

Sin embargo, la perversión humana que es el resultado del pecado original a traido como resultado a personas que comúnmente están confundidas acerca de como pueden cumplir su ontogénesis. Tales personas frecuentemente hacen el error de creer que ellos no se pueden levantar al menos que empujen otros hacia abajo, que no preden brillar al menos que apaguen a otros, que no pueden cumplir su deseo de ser hermosas al menos que arruinen y deshumanizar a sus semejantes seres humanos, que no pueden cumplir su ontogénesis al menos que priven a otros de su derecho y habilidad de realizar su ontogénesis.

Esta perversión se puede mirar en el papel ejecutado por el gobierno Británico del siglo diecinueve al proteger y expandir el movimiento del opio en China para enriquecer a la Bretaña y dañar a la sociedad China. (Es interesante notar que los Chinos trtaron de erradicar el mercado del opio cuando vieron el dano des bastante de los efectos de la adicción al opio. También es interesante notar que antes de la invasión en Afganistán por los E.U. en el ano 2002, los gobernante, de ese país habían eliminado el mercado de opio y sin embargo este mercado resurgió después de la invasión.) Otro ejemplo son las leyes puestas en varios estados en los siglos 18th y 19th en los E.U., las cuales hicieron que el ensenar a leer y a escribir a los esclavos Africanos una ofensa criminal. De hecho, mucha gente no sabe esto, pero los estados y los dueños de esclavos trataron de evitar que los esclavos aprendieran de la Biblia, o que fueran evangelizados, o que se convirtieran en Cristianos, temiendo que este conociemiento podria ayudar a los esclavos a afirmar su humanidad en cara de los “dueños” blancos. Estos y otros ejemplos ilustra la perversidad de gentes que tratan de cumplir su ontogénesis oprimiendo a otros, que buscan alcanzar su mas alto propósito convirtiendo a los semejantes humanos en victimas.

Para los oprimidos, entonces, la búsqueda para alcanzar su propia ontogénesis se convierte en el aspecto central de la resistencia sin violencia contra su opresores. Y como los opresores están en el negocio de tratar de prevenir este logro, los oprimidos no pueden esper ayuda alguna de parte de la sociedad opresiva en que viven. Después de todo, el interés de los opresores se cumple mejor al mantener a los oprimidos en una condición de quebrantamiento constante. Entonces, si los oprimidos han de lograr su ontogénesis, tiene que desarrollar la clase de instituciones paralelas, fuera del control de los opresores, por los cuales equipar a los oprimidos para su completo desarrollo como seres humanos. Ya que una ontogénesis cumplida resulta en gente quienes son caracterizados por buenas obras, un componente clave de instituciones paralelas es que tienen que ser edificadas en la edificación de arreglos paralelos para la educación de los oprimidos. Esta educación debe equipar a los oprimidos con las habilidades y herramientas necesarias para buena obras. (Tito 3:14 – “Y aprendan asimismo los nuestros a gobernarse en buenas obras...”)

Ejemplos de instituciones paralelas para la educación incluye la escuela de esclavos ilegales (illegal slave schools) de los Americanos antes de la guerra en el Sur. También incluye las universidades volantes Polacas (Polish “Flying Universities”) que aparecieron durante cuando menos tres periodos en la historia polaca, correspondiente a la partición de Polonia por Prusia, Austra-Hungary y Imperial Rusia del siglo 19th; la ocupación de Polonia por Alemania Nazi on la seguerra Mundial, y la lucha contra el dominio soviético en el medio y fin del siglo 20th.

En los dos primeros casos, los ocupantes invasores de Polonia buscaron deshumanizar a la populación Polaca negándoles (especialmente a las mujeres) acceso a la educación alta. En ambos casos, estas universidades volantes clandestinas fueron instrumentales en edificar y preservar un cuadro de dirigetes intelectuales. Polacos quienes reconstruirían a la sociedad Polaco cuando el tiempo fuera apropiado. (Muchos quizás no saben esta pero Marie Curie, la descubridora de radium fue una gradúate de una universidad volante Polaca.) Ejemplos en la actualidad incluyen el fenómeno creciente del homeschooling entre padres afroamericanos.

Y yo tengo un ejemplo personal, es a saber, el colectivo de tutores al cual pertenezco, el cual visita apartamentos de bajos ingreos tres veces al mes para ensenar matemáticas básicas y ciencia a los niños que viven ahí. Puedo ver que deseperantemente necesitan nuestro servicio cuando le pregunto a un niño de nueve y dies anos cuanto es 8 por 7 y miro a muchos de ellos que empiezan a dibujar ocho círculos para poner siete puntos en los círculos para poder contar los puntos, lo único ue puedo pensar es que las escuelas publicas que estos niños atienden, son culpables del terrible desperdicio del tiempo de estos niños.

La educación de la cual hablo es por tanto no meramente vociacional, sino dar a los estudiantes un conjunto de herramientas para navegar esta temprana etapa de la vida, y proveer en una forma honorable para suplir sus necesidades propias y las necesesidades de otros mediante hermosas buenas obras en cualquier situación que puedan encontrar. Corresponde a los que son oprimidos el tomar responsabilidad de proveerse por si mismos de esta educación.

Cuando una gente oprimida hace un esfuerzo coordinado para realizar su ontogénesis en la manera descrita, devén anticipar una reacción adversa de parte de sus opresores, como fue el caso de los seguidores de Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (También conocido como Bacha Khan). Durante la primera parte del siglo 20, Bacha Khan organizo un grupo grande de Pashtungs para poder educarlos y para mejorar la sociedad. Los Británicos tenían el control imperial de esa región, y ellos resintieron profundamente su trabajo. Por eso, ellos lo arrestaron a el y a su anciano padre en 1919, lo cual fue el principio de una serie de arrestos y enarelamientos. A pesar de la acción de la policía Británica, el pudo organizar un gran ejercito pacífico de Pashtungs dedicados a mejorar la sociedad Afgana.

Por su trabajo el ejercito Británico y la policía cometieron una masacre de cientos de Pashtungs durante una protesta pacifica en 1930. Los Británicos dispararon sus rifles contra los desaramados protestantes pacíficos por mas de tres horas. (Informacion tomada de Civilian Jihad: Nonviolent Struggles, Democratization and Governance in the Middle East, Chapter 8, Maria Stephan, et al.)

Ese incidente, aunque horripilante y tragico, ilustra un punto poderoso. Y es, que mediante la búsqueda de esta clase de ontogénesis – y mediante la búsqueda de esta clase de auto-educación necesaria para vivir la vida de hermosas buenas obras, una gente oprimida puede lanzar una poderosa reprensión sin violencia a sus opresores. Porque las vidas provechosas hermosas y llenas de habilidad y de propósito que son el resultado de esta educación, tienen un poderoso efecto en los opresores, a saber la no deseada diminución de la distancia social entre el opresor y el oprimido, porque el opresor es forzado contra su voluntad por las hermosas obras que ve, a reconocer la humanidad de aquellos que desea oprimir.

Friday, June 2, 2017

How Do You Say "Head Fake" In Mancunian?

I almost titled this post, "How do you say 'Head Fake' in Scouse?" Many may not know this, but British actor Bernard Hill, who played King Theoden in the Lord of the Rings movies, got one of the bigger breaks of his career playing a Scouser unemployed asphalt layer named Yosser Hughes in the British 1980's series The Boys From The Blackstuff.  I have never lived in Britain, so I cannot tell the difference between a Mancunian accent and a Scouse accent.  However, I did discover that Bernard Hill is actually from Manchester - thus not a Scouser at all.  Such is the power of good acting, that a skillful actor is able to so thoroughly disguise his origins and identity in pretending to be someone else.  (I remember seeing one other instance of this several years ago, when a coworker foisted a DVD of Secondhand Lions off on me, and insisted that I watch it, which I did.  I couldn't really stand the kid in the movie, nor did I particularly like the movie itself, but Michael Caine did a very creditable job of pretending to be Texan.  Could'a fooled me...)

Such cases of pretending can be quite entertaining when part of a well-done drama, although they can't save a cheesy plot from annoying the living daylights out of those who are forced to be its audience.  As I think of Manchester, and of the recent "terror" attack which took place there, I have to confess that I am annoyed.  The trouble to me is that it has all the markings of other attacks which were perpetrated in Europe and the United States over the last several years, characteristics such as the following:
  • The attacks were supposedly perpetrated by some vague, shadowy "Islamic State" bent on imposing Muslim rule throughout the world;
  • The attacks did not materially degrade the military capabilities of the nations where they took place;
  • The attacks had an effect exactly opposite the supposed aims of the supposed perpetrators.  The actual effect of the attacks was to provide an excuse to inflame anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant (especially anti-dark-skinned-immigrant) sentiment in the nations where they took place, and to provide a justification for the nations of the Global North to attack Muslim and Arab nations where there were large concentrations of mineral resources.
  • The alleged perpetrators of the attacks all wound up conveniently very dead, and thus unable to stand trial in pubic.
  • After each attack, critical thinkers began to expose holes and inconsistencies in the official narrative put forward by government authorities.  One example of this includes the fact that after a supposed Islamic jihadist supposedly drove a truck into a crowd of people in France last year, French anti-terror police asked the city in which the attack occurred to destroy all video surveillance footage of the attack.  (See this also.  And, oh, by the way, did you know that remotely driven trucks have existed for years?)  If the police were really interested in getting to the bottom of this attack, why destroy video footage that could provide valuable evidence?  Another example is the presence of faked passports among the dead in the 2015 Paris terror attack.  Now in the wake of Manchester, an analyst and critical thinker is again raising questions.  And even some of his potential enemies have begun to listen
There is additional evidence of plans to carry out false flag attacks over the last few months, such as the case of the German army officer who tried to pose as a Syrian refugee in order to plan an attack that would have been blamed on Syrian asylum-seekers. I think the cases I have mentioned only scratch the surface of the false-flag phenomenon as it is now being practiced by powerful interests in the Global North.  The goal of these attacks is actually to prop up these powerful interests, who have succeeded in capturing the governments of the United States and Russia, and who have succeeded in the recent reversal of freedoms in many other countries such as the Philippines.  These false-flag operations prop up such regimes by validating the myth of redemptive violence which is devotedly taught by so many oppressive regimes because each autocratic leader of such a regime can cast himself as Marduk, the Babylonian autocrat deity who alone preserves the world from...chaos!!!  Those subjects who live under autocratic rule are thus taught again and again to fear...chaos!!!..., to fear disorder, to fear any deviation from the micromanaged script dictated to them by the Marduk who rules their society, and most of all, to fear those whom Marduk deems to be enemies of the state, for those enemies are the potential seeds of...Chaos!!!  And if those enemies don't care to act like enemies, Marduk must arrange incidents which portray these enemies as agents of...CHAOS!!!

In his book, The Powers That Be, theologian Walter Wink does a good job exposing the myth of redemptive violence and the uses which dictators and autocrats make of this myth in propping up their regimes.  If you follow his logic, you can see that George W. Bush was Marduk.  Dick Cheney was Marduk.  Ronald Reagan was Marduk.  Donald Trump is Marduk.  (Indeed, Trump is a spectacular Marduk, as he is only good for protecting us from "threats" that don't exist.  Other than that, he is worthless as an agent of the common good.)  Maybe Theresa May is about to become a Marduk.  (In that case, "he" will become "she" for a while.)  And Vladimir Putin is Marduk, as he showed in March of this year when he rallied his security forces against the outbreak of...CHAAAOOOOSSSS!!!!!!

The execrable part of this program is that too often, it actually brainwashes ordinary people who are susceptible to national narcissism, as in the case of Germany at present, where in 2016 there were about ten attacks a day against asylum-seekers, or in the case of Portland, Oregon, in the United States, where last Friday, a crazed white supremacist killed two passengers with a knife and seriously injured a third while they were riding a MAX train. 

What is the actual nature of the "chaos" of which the Marduks of the Global North are afraid?  If we're going to be honest, this "chaos" is nothing more than the loss of white supremacy and global domination, and the emergence of a world in which one nation cannot bully or unilaterally impose its will on other nations.  It is a world in which you can't get anywhere without taking your turn, saying "Please," or "Thank you."  It is also a world populated by many, many really neat, decent people - even though they are not of European descent!  It is a world in which nations that formerly dominated the world must acknowledge these non-European people as people, as fellow human beings.  It is a world in which national narcissism simply won't fly, but will instead lead to a moment in which the leaders of narcissistic nations are forced to look at each other and say, "You arrogant coyote, you've killed us!"  Britain is having such a moment just now.  For narcissists always miscalculate.  And the outworkings of damnation always find those who have made themselves damnable.  "Whatever a man sows, that he will also reap."

Saturday, May 27, 2017

So...Who's the Dangerous One Again?

I have a couple of posts in the embryonic state, which I hope to develop and publish within the next few weeks.  But something happened that demands a response.  At around 4:30 yesterday afternoon, a male white supremacist began screaming racist and anti-Muslim insults at two young women on a MAX train in Portland, Oregon.  I think it was probably the same line that I often rode home from work at around that time for many weekdays over the last several years.  When some male passengers tried to calm this man down and de-escalate his behavior, he viciously attacked them with a knife, killing two of them and wounding a third.  Then he fled the train.

I wonder what was going through the accursed head of Jeremy Joseph Christian when he started his screaming and shouting, and when he began to kill.  Did he think he was being some kind of hero?  Was this his way of trying to get one last shot of narcissistic glory to compensate for a life wasted as a felon and a loser?  Some prominent politicians and community leaders have called on Donald Trump to publicly condemn the bigotry embodied in Jeremy Joseph Christian, but if I were them, I wouldn't hold my breath, because Trump, like Jeremy, is a loser and a felon who is trying to get one last shot of narcissistic glory before being thrown into an incinerator.  Trump and Jeremy, moreover, are symptoms of a larger national and ethnic narcissism which seems to have permanently taken hold of a certain sector of the American public - a sector which can easily be egged on to re-enact the myth of redemptive violence (see this also) at the slightest provocation because the enactment of this myth enables them to project the shame of their own lives onto convenient targets, even if the choosing of those targets makes no sense, as was the case with Pizzagate.  This is the sector which doesn't believe it actually exists unless it can prove its existence by terrorizing people who don't belong to it.  But it is inescapably - bit by bit - losing its ability to terrorize.  For its members, the future contains only a yawning abyss, because this sector is good for nothing.

I am a Christian and not a Muslim.  But when Muslims are actively performing deeds of reconciliation and healing in a nation and society that is being polarized and torn apart by knuckleheads for the benefit of its wealthiest members, what does that say about America as a "Christian" nation?  Only that "the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you."