***I’m updating my 2017 post on being rebellious without fear. I re-read it recently and felt it needed more commentary to reflect what is going on today, especially as we approach the New Year. Namaste, and thank you for reading. All the best to you for a productive and healthy 2020.
As society marches obediently into its inevitable Orwellian authoritarian future I find myself troubled by the herd mentality and the general lack of tolerance for rebellion among our citizen ranks. Political correctness and outrage culture is mutilating language, homogenizing large swaths of U.S. citizens into camps of “Right” and “Left” trapped in infantile, oscillating and completely mutual psychological projection and annoying what-aboutism.
McCarthyism is back in vogue, rounding up what’s left of the critically-thinking public into a town-shaming rife with innuendo, baseless accusations, and outright censorship by our forum gatekeepers. The gatekeepers I reference, at least in this essay, are the mainstream cable media, social media, and the political power elite.
Google, Facebook and YouTube are de-platforming, shifting algorithms, and outright yanking content that it deems “suspicious”, a deliberately vague term that gives plenty of margin to stifle the flow of actual information.
Journalist Max Blumenthal had a swat team show up to arrest him at his D.C. home last month. Apparently some food was thrown at a protest at the Venezuelan embassy in D.C. earlier this year, and though I’m unclear as to whether Blumenthal was himself armed with produce, the U.S. government takes assault with a deadly banana very seriously and promptly arrests offenders… 6-9 months later.
The irony of our looting, murderous government taking umbrage to fruit tossing as a punishable act is hilariously hypocritical. But that’s how the cookie crumbles I guess: when you report on CIA shenanigans and economic hitmen, you’re bound to make powerful enemies. Blumenthal’s arrest comes conveniently on the heels of his recently published book The Management of Savagery, an unflinching and fascinating investigative tome on American hegemony abroad. After two days of being locked up without a phone call or a lawyer, he was released.
Charges have since been dropped but the unspoken threat to journalists is crystal clear, just as with Julian Assange. As a two-bit journalist myself, I’m both scared and outraged that this happened. The violation of constitutional rights, due process, and the targeting of an American journalist by the police on a Saturday morning for a surprise arrest should have had the news networks on fire. But the mainstream press was largely silent on the targeting of one of their peers.
The silence of MSM on many nuanced issues of national interest has been deafening. The idea that “America” was founded on tax evasion and revolt against an over-reaching British hegemony seems at odds with what we’ve become. The press was a vital part of that revolt: producing pamphlets and disseminating information helped form the binding ethos of the American Revolution. Yet today, in the age of the internet, the public seems unable to muster much outrage over the grift at the Pentagon, another topic not getting anything more than fleeting mention on any news outlet I’ve seen.
This is mind-boggling to me! What company missing over $21 trillion would get 100% budget increases year over year? It’s logistically insane. And yet, that’s what the Pentagon does with our money. Rather than put a freeze on spending until they can make sense of the first damn audit they’ve undergone in 20 years, quickly and quietly rules were put in place that will make their future audits even less transparent. Where in the actual fuck can anyone get a job with zero accountability and unlimited cash flow? If you stole money from the bank or mismanaged the books at your office you’d be fired or in JAIL. Christ, the police shot the boy in Ferguson – a child! – over a stolen $5 CIGAR. Right??
The rules apply to you and I but not to the people with any real authority or actual responsibility for stuff that matters. Our leaders are hanging out with pedophiles and sex offenders, grabbing the world by the pussy and living very well off our money and hard work. Meanwhile, they’ve thrown so many boomerangs and distraction bombs into the news, they’ve got us policing ourselves! We the Sheeple, strangling every opportunity for true debate because we’re too busy attacking each other over petty grievances, shaming counter-culture and ridiculing critical questions as conspiracy.
Everyone is home watching Netflix, smartphones in hand, grumbling about tweets instead of protesting in the streets. In fact, the very act of protesting and demonstrating is now looked down upon. Ask yourself, why is that? When did that happen?
It’s time to get angry at root causes, not gender pronouns or tweets. I honestly believe the spectacle is by design, not by accident.
It’s not a bug: it’s a feature, these distractions. There is rumbling around the world about alternatives to the U.S. dollar as a world currency. If the U.S. loses it’s status as the global benchmark for currency we are in for another looting of taxpayer money on a very serious level.
The financial “crash” of 2008 was just such a looting. The word “crash” is pure propaganda, considering a crash implies an accident and the financial institutions actually caused that crisis quite purposely by betting against their own shady derivatives and predatory mortgage instruments.
They double dipped: make money on the sale of repackaged “AAA rated” (ha) financial instruments to investors, then place market bets to undermine them because they’re actually at high risk for default. Grift on the way in, grift on the way out. Oh, and the bailouts? They reinvested that money overseas, ba-bye now.
Austerity for the American people, griftopia for the elite few. Free market my ass.
Many news outlets made fun of the Occupy movement, or treated them as an annoyance. I have to admit, I didn’t fully understand the movement at the time because I hadn’t been educating myself: I blithely accepted whatever CNN told me, even when I was in my gut uncomfortable with the pat explanations. I looked no further, as many do, busy with the day to day of my life.
My original post follows below. May you be inspired to rebel in 2020. I bid you peace.
It strikes me oddly that society-at-large is respecting rules set by those who don’t follow them whatsoever. When you think about it, most people are pretty structured. And decent.
Still, I’ve got a problem with the hypocrisy of today and I don’t see any good reason to follow most of the rules I follow, so why do I? Fear of my government. Fear of prison. Fear of having everything I’ve ever owned or worked for taken away from me. Those are the big ones, anyway.
Most of my life, I’ve set my own rules. Sometimes this has frustrated the people in my life, but I’ve kept them entertained. It’s mostly frustrated me, really. One can’t be too principled, at last in my eyes, but my principles have often thwarted my efforts at achieving much of anything.
I write this today because in the midst of planetary tension and transition that I think we are all feeling, there is another type of tension occurring. Because for all our religious institutions and rules, many of us are in a spiritual crisis.
My values are not the values of my parents. I’m a child of the 70’s and grew up with lots of freedom; some might say too much. It didn’t matter. What wasn’t given to me I took without a second thought about who I hurt or what danger lie in my choices. I was fearless, I suppose. But it was the type of fearlessness that accompanies naivete and curiosity.
Today, as a parent myself, I often shudder when remembering particular moments in my life. Like the time I got stuck on a slender shelf no wider than my 9 year-old feet on the face of a mountain in the woods for hours. Or at 19, when I accidentally almost blew my own head off with a gun.
The very fact that I remain in my human vessel is suprising to me. Some might even call me “lucky”, a word I despise because it fails to recognize my will, or give me any credit at all for the choices I have made. “Lucky” gives all the credit to an invisible God, who may or may not exist, never mind have any preference about particular outcomes.
Given the kind of person I was, the kind of people I had for parents were ill-equipped to deal with the particulars of bringing me up to deal with the sort of mind I had. I was brought up to follow the rules, strictly. To repress anger. To become something decent in this world – what was expected of me, not only by my parents but what they felt was expected of their child by the familial bonds of authority they adhered to all their lives without question.
I began questioning my given religion in the third grade, and these questions were always unwelcomed and shut down by both the church and my family. So, I found my own avenues of Earthly knowledge and hid much of who I was, and who I was becoming, from my family.
This is not an indictment of my parents. They were doing as they were told by their own parents. They were following rules they never criticized or questioned. Their path to happiness was not varied: it was clearly defined by those who raised them as the path of least conflict, least resistance, most obedient, and least individualized.
Part of this happened, I believe, as a result of their parents having lived through WWII. My grandfathers both served: my father’s father in the Greek Army, and my mother’s in the U.S. Navy. Things were very difficult for people in Greece in the 40’s and Dad’s parents desired for my father to come to the U.S. rather than be an Air Force pilot and risk life and limb. He obeyed and came here in 1969, and he and my mother obeyed years later when the Catholic church threatened Mom with excommunication if my parents baptized me as a Greek Orthodox as they’d been planning.
I think the one rule my parents ever broke was their marriage itself, which was frowned upon by both sides of my family. Alas, my mother was already pregnant with me, and cardinal rule no matter what your ethnic background in 1974 was to keep things respectable. Abandoning the pregnancy and the responsibility of duty to be a married, two-parent household would have meant an emotional hardship and ostracization from their communities that would have been deeply difficult to bear.
For as long as it has been around, shame as a tool has never stopped anyone from doing anything shameful. It simply goes dark, the disobedience. And I mean dark in the sense of secretive or even illegal actions, and also those which are psychologically rested within the subconscious. The subconscious is where the repressed turns deviant and acts as an Executive Director to the Ego, manifesting in all sorts of quirky behavior that people are blind to in themselves.
When we shame someone into following the rules, we attempt to control them through fear. It’s not a fair fight, in my opinion. But we also live in a world where the God-figure of every religion is a deity of preference and judgement, both very human characteristics, ironically. We humans accept all sorts of unfairness in our lives, without question.
I’ve broken all the rules, and eventually I learned that to be a true rebel sometimes you need to follow the rules – or at least enough of them to get near the marrow of the rules you really want to break. Breaking the right rules is much more effective than I could have ever dreamed. I live by my values, and those values were not handed down. They were closely examined and set by me, who, as co-creator with the Divine, am the ultimate master of my soul.
A life without examination is not worth living; feed your soul! Test your boundaries. Give your head a chance to expand and explode and then put it all back together again. It’s completely spiritual work and will bring you closer to the God of your choosing than you ever could have dreamed. Heck, you might even witness a miracle. I know I have. And believe me, I am not special.
Just don’t ever tell me, “just because” or “that’s the way it’s done” because I will overthrow any chains that bind me very quickly and unapologetically. I remain respectful to myself and those around me, of course.
In the workplace, I don’t refuse my boss’ request for me to do something a certain way, for example. But I do point out that there might be a better way and sometimes argue my point before doing exactly as I am told. If asked to do something which diverges from my core values, then I simply refuse. And yes, I have quit before when in toxic work situations. Explosively so, in one case, but that’s a story for another day.
We can apply this attitude to politics, our churches of choosing, our communities and our families. The effects ripple right out. People are more flexible than we imagine them to be, and often the outcomes we fear are not even close to what occurs when we honor our personal truths.
Now, I know it’s not simple to switch into this rule-breaking mindset. I’ve probably read a hundred spiritual texts to aid in the development of my particular mindset. One has to question their intentions unremittingly and be willing to call themselves out at the slightest whiff of bullshit. This takes a little practice because our egos are in the driver’s seat and the ego wants to win, always.
Spiritually I suppose I’ve got a Buddhist-Pagan vibe going on. I blend detachment with potential outcome to arrive at my decisions. I’m not Wiccan but part of the Wiccan rede seems a fitting summation for today’s thoughts: “Do what ye will and harm none.” It asks us to evaluate the morality of a decision, before taking any action.
I took an unintentional hiatus from writing, dear readers. I had so many ideas. Too many ideas. As many of you know, I am a news and politics junkie. Having no designated horse in last year’s presidential race, I thought the ideal thing to do here would be to discuss politics in a way that could divest us from the sheer emotionality of it. I wrote several essays I never published about facts, digging into history, blah blah blah… I came off preachy; at least I realized it before I hit the “publish” button.
Part of being a writer is being an observer, but at the beginning of this year my observational compass was askew. The sheer volume and volatility of the daily news necessitated that I respond before the topic got stale, something very difficult to do given that I have few resources that other journalists have.
So I turned inward. I needed to work on myself or nothing I put out as a creative writer or a news-commentator will be without bias. True, it’s impossible to eliminate it entirely. But a self-aware person who is mindful of their intentions can create something of value to both themselves and their community.
That’s where things began to come into focus. I have always said, “You can’t change what’s happening in Afghanistan, but you CAN be a good neighbor.” I had forgotten my own commitment to community in the midst of election hoopla. Resolving to re-commit to mine, I reconsidered current commitments (Malden Cultural Council) and pondered the stories that were happening all around me that were not being told. Stories that deserved life, I felt. I am a proud Maldonian, and so I set out to discover my local scene again, never-minding the national drama.
For $30 I signed up for a class at MATV called “Writing Local History.” Currently working on a historic-fiction-genre novel, this class has turned out to be right up my proverbial alley and – bonus – is being taught by Globe reporter and author Stephanie Schorow.
I feel blessed that a course of this caliber is being offered for such short change; I’m getting a lot more out of this class than the one I spent $2K for at Harvard last year (insert eye roll). My plan is to roll my historical novel research and interviews right into my class project, which is to write a local history piece for Neighborhood View. I’ve received so many contacts of WWII vets right here in Malden – it lends itself perfectly to a story about them for my class-related feature. What the details or theme will be will emerge as I write and interview my subjects. Part of the process is not holding on too tightly to preconceived notions so I can allow the best of these interviews to emerge. (Sidebar: contact me if you know or ARE a WWII veteran interested in being interviewed for my project.)
I recently attended Mayor Christenson’s “State of the City” breakfast and emerged with many notes about stories I wanted to investigate and potentially write about. Look for these in local outlets like the Patch or the Advocate soon.
Yet another project in development is a podcast called “In My Head” which will empty out the contents of my brain for an hour-long weekly format I hope to take to radio airwaves one day. The concept is still a secret but it will not be dull; I promise you will laugh, and you will learn something – my two favorite things to do.
So you see, I found the best way to continue is to simply add value to the world I live in. Bitching and moaning on Facebook does not change anything. I encourage readers to stop un-following and un-friending folks who hold a different worldview from you. Human beings are not here on this planet for safety or consistency, (though we crave it with every fiber of our survivalist-programmed selves). We are here to stretch, to grow, to evolve, to change, to become a better version of ourselves today than we were yesterday. Anything less than that and we live in sin, which in ancient Greek means to “miss the point of existence”.
Seek to understand your neighbor, and when you don’t? Love them anyway. That is what the Creator calls us to do, if you’re into the whole God thing. And if you’re not then just be a decent fucking person – you’ve only got one go-around, eh? I have been good and I have been bad – being in the Light is much more fun, believe me.
In the meantime, since someone else developed an online database much more quickly than I ever could (ahem, Michael Moore), I will leave a couple of links below to get your political mojo active, if that’s your cup of tea.
Myself, I’m taking a step back. As a critic and commentator I think it’s important to my readers that I remain independent – for now. I may change my mind, as I often do. But that is what balance is about: minute adjustments made on a moment-to-moment basis allow me to stay in the center. Have a blessed day.