Monday, December 26, 2022

Fear v Faith, and Why I Am Taking a Hiatus From Blogging

If you've been reading this blog, you will be aware that spiritual practice is an essential part of my life as I observe the state of the world and comment on it.   I watched a powerful video recently in which Latoya Okela taught that the spiritual struggle comes down to fear v faith.   And that fear is stronger than faith.   Therefore, we must double down on our work to find absolute faith.   (To define what I mean by "faith" is to complicated for this post.   If you are interested go to my Buddhist website, noted below, and read some posts on faith. )

And we must find that faith within us, not just say to ourselves that we have faith.   The latter has some value, but I can guarantee based on my own experience, that if there is a shred of doubt within you about your faith, that the mind will assert itself and take control. 

Everything that we think, say, or do that causes us suffering is at its core a function of fear.   Even insecurity, which I have written is at the core, is based on fear.

I must face it.   You must face it.   Everyone must face it.   And the only way to finally overcome fear is through absolute faith.   Without that faith, all effort to free oneself of fear by embracing it, having compassion for it, saying "Not me!" or any of the other means I have suggested in my posts will not work.   Because some part of you, regardless how small, does not really believe in your faith and therefore your efforts lack the force of faith.   

I have learned to be dispassionate in my reaction to things that had previously caused anxiety, nothing pushes my buttons, and I thought that meant fear was no longer there, but I realized one recent morning in my meditation that it is; it just doesn't express itself in the obvious way. 

I have written several posts on faith in my Buddhist blog,, and they remain of value.   But I have realized that there is a hole in the dyke of my faith.   And it is because of that hole that I keep on experiencing situations in which my mind asserts itself and controls my actions, which I always am surprised at and share in my posts.   

Usually I have dug deeper into my trauma and found something I hadn't been aware of before.   But that's not the problem.   The problem is the hole in my faith.   Bach wrote a famous hymn, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God."  The same can be said of faith.   But if your faith has a weak point, it will crumble and not protect you, just like a fortress that is built on a weak foundation. 

So I need to work on making my faith absolute. 

For that reason, this will be my last post for some time.   Why?  I have discovered that this blog and other writing of mine has been my mind's way of showing that I am right, that I have knowledge, and gaining the acknowledgment and respect of others.   It is a craving of mine. 

This is an example of the weakness of my faith.   If it were absolute, I would not crave the acknowledgment of others.   It would not be a driving force in almost everything that I do. 

In one of my books, I said, after going through a list of suggested actions, "just do it."  And that is the case here as well.   And so I will stop feeding that craving until I find that my faith is absolute. 

Saturday, October 1, 2022

The Census Race and Ethnicity Questions Don't Work – Change Them

Today, we, meaning the United States, commonly use the following categories to classify a person's race, both in the census as well as countless documents:  white, black or African American, American Indian or Alaskan Native, Asian, or Pacific Islander.  There is a separate question that identifies someone as Latino or non-Latino, since one can be Latino and either white or black or brown; it is thus not a racial category.   Note, however, that if a Latino is of Central or South American Indian descent, there is no race category that fits.   They are stuck with using "some other race." 

People would be surprised, and white supremacists shocked, to learn that the U.S. Census defines "white" as "A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa."  People who are Middle Eastern or North African are thus categorized as "white" by the Census.  This is based on the classic definition of "Caucasian" used when the first racial categories were established in the 1700s.  At some point afterwards, "white" was often used instead of Caucasian.

Clearly, "white" does not mean what white supremacists and people in general think.  

But beyond that fact, the classification of "white" is a misnomer in another, obvious way.  "White," even if confined in many people's mind to mean of European descent, covers a broad range of skin colors from the pale skin of northern Europeans to the darker tones of southern or Mediterranean Europeans.   Many "whites" are also thus people of color in the broadest sense. 

Why then this term, "white?"  One could say that the change recognized that the science behind the phrase "Caucasian" was debunked a long time ago.   I suggest, however, that it became common usage because it simply and graphically expressed the difference between and superiority of people of European descent compared with the people they colonized.    White is pure and in stark contrast to color.    

Since much of the justification for the global colonial enterprise was based on racial superiority, the stark difference between white and all other categories served its purpose.    Also, the categories are interesting in that if you were white, it didn't matter what your ethnicity was – you were superior.   On the other hand, if you were black, it didn't matter what your ethnicity was, you were inferior.  Likewise, if you were Asian, it made no difference what your country of ancestry was, you were inferior.. 

This post does not pretend to have any impact on racism, because racism has nothing to do with semantics or logic.   Instead, the post has to do with how the government collects data on people, which ultimately influences how we, the average person, categorize people.   

The government can change the way it classifies people.  The OMB had proposed changes to the race and ethnicity questions for the 2020 Census, but they were overruled by the Trump administration.

But although those proposed changes would have brought more nuance and coherence to the resulting data, combining race and ethnicity in one question, we would still have been left with the use of the category "white."  Given that "white" is not a word that is descriptive of the people in that category, in effect the government is saying that if you're not black, or Asian, etc, then you're white; you're not one of them.  This is not helpful from any rational perspective.

Why then does the government keep using the term?   I suspect because it is embedded in so many documents and the minds of so many.   

But beyond this question of semantics, why does the government still have a question that seeks to identify race?  Race theory has been thoroughly debunked and discredited.  We need to get everyone away from the idea that race impacts, in and of itself, what becomes of people.  What does impact people's future is the culture that they come from and remain part of, and the way people react to it.

There is precedent in the current Census questions to make the switch from race to culture,  We use the category "Asian" and "Pacific Islander" not because that is their race or country or identifies where they were born, but because of their ancestry and their culture; how they self-identify.

Black or African American is of data value not because it defines one's race, but defines one's culture.  So we wouldn't lose any valuable data by making this switch.  Also, practically speaking, many racists are really more against blacks because of their perceived culture than the color of their skin.  Their blackness is just an easy, short-hand, way of registering that prejudice. 

It would also solve the awkward situation of Latinos who are not white or black but of Indian stock having no race category that fits them. .

I would therefore suggest that we say what we in fact mean when referring to "whites," and use the term "European-American" instead of  "white."  There is no white race or culture.  There is a European culture.  People who are Middle Eastern or North African should have a separate category, as was proposed, not European. 

While I dislike categories like "Italian-American" because we are all American, for this purpose I think it is valid because someone's culture is a hybrid of the country of ancestry and the United States.   We are all Americans, but from a cultural standpoint, we are all hybrids.   Thus I would use the term "European-American."

I recognize that there are many subcultures for each of these cultures.   There is, for example. no one black or Asian culture.    Through cross-referencing other census data on an individual's education, location, SES, and country of ancestry, a rough approximation of the subcultures should be able to be gleaned.

Recognizing that culture is really the defining factor, not race, in what people make of their lives is also important because it makes clear that regardless one's race, it is your cultural habits and perceptions that are determinative of your opportunities and future.  Making this change is thus empowering, because each person can change their culture, or aspects of it; they cannot change their race. 

It is past time for the Census to stop gathering information on race, which is of questionable use, and instead to focus on information about a person's culture which is more determinative.


Saturday, August 20, 2022

An Epidemic of Troubled Children. Why?

We read in the papers about the rising rate of suicide and other emotional problems among teenagers.   People point to societal causes to explain what is happening, but while those factors have an effect, that is not the real problem.

We have seen articles questioning the role of parents in mass shootings.   These articles focus on parents not observing or acting on signs that their sons are radicalized.   But while this is often true, that is not the real problem,

The uncomfortable and inconvenient truth is that every troubled child, boy or girl, is troubled primarily because of the way they have been raised, the interactions they have had first and foremost with their parents as well as with siblings, their peers, and the world around them. 

It's not that most parents don't love their children and show them affection and attention.   It's that parents have their own problems and needs, their own distractions, and so they both cannot provide their young child with the love and attention he or she needs and they often react to their child out of anger, short temper or stress, for example calling the child bad, or stupid, lazy, or other pejorative phrases. 

This interaction, this accumulation of life experiences by the child, results in him or her feeling insecure and not good about themselves, feeling fear and anxiety.   This is the beginning of a life pattern that grows and deepens, like a cancer, until if the hurt is deep and bad enough, the child becomes a sociopath, capable of inflicting the harm caused by a mass shooter. 

But these children who commit mass shootings are just the tip of an iceberg, of an alarming problem in our society.   They are the extreme case of an epidemic of children who feel insecure, who don't feel good about themselves. 

I see this every day in the elementary and middle schools where I teach.   Children exhibit behavior problems which are not part of the natural process of growing up or experiencing new hormonal urges.   These are problems which are well established in these children by the time they reach school age and continue to deepen.   

It is no exaggeration to say that in a class of 20 children, there are typically only one or two who are well balanced and obviously feel good about themselves.   And by that i don't mean that they feel they are great or special, better than others; I mean that they simply feel good about themselves, they are comfortable in their skins. 

Why is this happening?  The problem is that child raising in our society has been a case of insecure parents raising insecure children who become insecure parents who raise insecure children who  . . . 

To some extent, this has perhaps always been the case, but it has become much worse since the industrial revolution and then in modern times as parents have become involved in work or activities which are not fulfilling and leave them stressed, as money and material things have gained importance, and as technology has separated human beings more from each other rather than brought them together.  This problem exists in all strata of society, whether rich or poor.

The result of the prevalence of this insecurity is that we see increasing violence and dysfunction at all levels of society – in the home, workplace, politics, and the international arena.   When people argue or act out, it is their inner child who is arguing or acting out,

Children are our future.   A child is a fragile, vulnerable person. From the moment the child leaves the womb, and even before, a child is deeply and permanently impacted by his parents’ moods and actions, as the young child is totally dependent on those around him for sustenance and nurturing. 

Every child has the potential to live a happy, wholesome, constructive, and fulfilling life regardless of their intelligence, ability, or looks.  There is no such thing as a "bad" or "stupid" or "ugly" child.   Every child deserves a happy life; that is their birthright.   

And so, it should be parents' primary responsibility to raise their children in a way that fosters in them the feeling that they are secure in themselves and happy.  We must protect children's psychic health.   But where do we start when only a happy, secure parent can raise a happy, secure child?  Are we in a cycle that cannot be stopped? 

I believe the answer is that it can be.   It requires first that parents understand the impact they have on their children.   Few parents intend to harm their children, but most in fact do, despite loving them.   It's a fact of life.   The point is not that parents should feel blame; the point is to be aware of your impact.

Second, it requires that parents take active steps to improve their own security and happiness.   These include (in brief): smiling mindfully, cherishing each passing moment, accepting ourselves/cultivating a compassion heart, accepting life, and staying grounded.   This does not require therapy, but it does require commitment and discipline because the control of our mind over our actions is great.

When parents have stepped back from the mental forces that grip them, they are able to stop and ask themselves, "Is what I am about to do or say good for my child's sense of well-being," as opposed to being on auto-pilot or doing whatever comes naturally based on their own childhood or their situation in life, be it their work, family or relationship with themselves. 

Parents cannot control what their children experience in the world out there.   But they can assure that their children are raised with a sense of self that will protect them from being damaged by the abuses they will inevitably face. 

Monday, July 25, 2022

Will the Real RINO Stand Up?

Trump and his allies have been extremely effective at changing the meaning of words in the minds of their supporters.   Thus, for example, "fake" news came to define any news from sources other than Fox News, Trump, and his allies.   While just the opposite was in fact true. The fake news is what came out of their mouths.   The other news was the truth. 

The same is true for the way RINO has been applied.   It has become the epithet for any Republican who disagrees with the Trump mantra. 

In fact, it is Trump and his allies who are truly RINOs – Republicans in name only.   Because what they stand for is not an expression or outgrowth of the traditional policy positions of the Republican Party nor what the Party has stood for during its history. 

The question that every American must ask is, how has Trump been able to so successfully manipulate the minds and hearts of the Republican base.   And we're talking not just die-hard Trump supporters, but almost the entire Republican voting base, as has been shown in recent polls regarding the "truth' of the stolen election claim. 

There are multiple reasons.   But two predominate.   The first is that a large block of these  voters,  formerly Democratic working class voters, carried huge grievances against the Democratic Party because they felt the Party had failed them and was more concerned with the plight of Blacks.   And so when Trump came and vociferously championed their cause, they supported him and continue to do so, even though he has not improved their lives in any way and actually has often acted in ways contrary to their interests. 

Second, the existence of Fox News and right-wing alternative media sources.   Before the advent of cable TV and the internet, everyone in the country got their national news from the Big 3 networks, which were solidly middle-of-the-road, nonpartisan, in their approach to the news.   The national nightly news anchors were respected by a broad spectrum of Americans.   Someone like Trump with fringe ideas could yell and scream all they wanted, but no one would hear them because their voice wasn't amplified by news coverage. 

Now, everyone watches the news that fits their beliefs.   And so Republicans watch Fox News and those on the far right have their internet outlets that fan their beliefs.   These media not only amplify the voice of Trump and his allies, but they give them credibility by mouthing their positions as their own.   The combination of their faith in Trump and their faith in their chosen media outlet makes the "fake" news phenomenon possible. 

Trump once said that he could shoot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue and he wouldn't loose any voters.   That is not only probably true but it shows how far the brainwashing of Republicans has gone and that Trump is well aware of his power. 

There is nothing that I can imagine happening that will shake the trust of the vast majority of Republicans in Trump and his allies.   Even after Germany's loss in WWII, most Germans did not renounce their faith in Hitler.   They did not turn on him.   I fear the attachment of most Republicans to Trump lies in this same vein and they will never abandon him. 

Sunday, May 15, 2022

How the West Made the War in Ukraine Almost Inevitable

The Soviet Union had collapsed, the former Communist countries of Eastern Europe were free, the world balance of power had changed; the cold war was over.  Russia was starting to work with the US and Europe as a friend.

But then policy makers and Europe decided to take advantage of the situation and expand NATO right up to Russia's borders.   Was there a threat current or future that caused this move?  No.   It was instead a visceral desire to contain Russia; a never again vow.   Russia would not even be allowed to have a reasonable zone of influence in Eastern Europe, such as the US has in the Americas.

But by so doing, the west embarked on a new cold war.   There was no question that Russia would react negatively to this move.   It was an in-your-face aggression prompted by the weakness of Russia.   

Putin became obsessed with preventing Russia from being hemmed in.   He reached out to China to secure his southeastern flank.   He fought the war in Chechnya and the Crimea.   

And then he clearly made moves indicating that he was planning on invading Ukraine.   There was lots of rhetoric about the Russian people and mother Russia, but it was mostly really all about stopping the accretion of NATO. 

The question is, given these basic facts, why didn't President Biden and the EU, prior to the Russian invasion, offer to keep the Ukraine out of NATO in exchange for Russia guaranteeing that it would never invade Ukraine?  The Ukraine did say it was not pursuing NATO membership.

This would have been no loss to the west, and a huge gain for Putin.   But Biden and other western leaders don't like to appear to give in to bullies like Putin.   And they certainly don't like giving Putin a big win domestically.  

So Ukraine is being bombarded and lives destroyed because of a desire by Biden and others to save face.

But at it's core, it's much the same mentality that has always viewed as a friend a country that was friendly to US interests regardless how barbaric and undemocratic its leadership, and to see as a foe any country that was not friendly to our interests, regardless how democratically elected they were.   It is the desire for empire, not in the old sense but in tactical control and influence.

But we aren't willing to go to war to defend this empire.   We instead use other means such as sanctions.   That's because it's really not about national interests in any true sense, certainly not one that the American people would support.   

And so the Ukrainian people suffer.  They are caught in the middle of the West and Russia not wanting to loose face and power, but the West not willing to put its military force into the equation and so leaving the ground to Russia.

Saturday, February 26, 2022

The Vanished Frontier

Throughout all of man's development, there have always been frontiers, places either geographic or intellectual, where an individual could go to grow, to make a new person of himself, to make his fortune – places where anything was possible because it was an open book, man had not been there or done that before

For most of man's history, however, it was only exceptional individuals who had that opportunity.   For the vast majority of mankind, the present was their only reality and there was no knowledge of and therefore no longing for something different.  They were grounded in the knowledge of their place and value in their society.

There was no significant change in this societal dynamic until the enlightenment, when the masses came to realize that a better life was their due, resulting in revolutions occurring throughout the western world.   Later, the industrial revolution provided significantly expanded frontiers.

As recently as 100 years ago, the United States still had ample geographic frontiers and untold intellectual ones.   Even big cities like New York were frontiers because they were evolving and growing at such a rate that so much was possible, the opportunities were endless. 

After WWII, the geographic frontier shrank to almost nothing.   Not that there weren't still vast areas in the country that were wild or semi-wild, but there were no areas where man had not left his footprint, where he had not made his claims.   The days of homestead9ing were long gone. 

But intellectual frontiers were expanding at an incredible rate.   Especially in the sciences, technology, the questions to be explored were endless. 

Fast forward to the present.   There are no more frontiers really.   Not that there aren't still scientific questions to be answered, but the questions have gotten either smaller and smaller, and the payback or reward less and less, or they are so large and basic as to be Einsteinian, that even the questions are beyond the grasp of most. 

One could say that the frontier of technology in endless.   In one sense that may be true, but one can see already that advances in technology are not improving our lives; it is not as we once thought it would be.    Also we've reached the point of diminishing returns, in that technological changes are only incremental. 

In one sense, one could say that the only frontier left is making money.   There seems to always be new ways to be found to make money.   There are those who find that a driving force.   But for many, that is not the holy grail, and for those that it is, it is a spiritually empty grail.  There is nothing that enlarges man, enlarges his spirit, by making more money.

Which brings me to the point of this post.   Much has been written about the phenomenon of millennial boys and young men having little ambition; that they lack the drive that people had in the past.   They seem to be drifting. 

Some have looked to the increased role of women in the formerly exclusive masculine world of business and science to explain this.   But I think that hypothesis is not warranted. 

Instead, I think that boys and young men have no drive because they don't see possibilities open to them.   There are no frontiers that excite their imagination.   They don't see a way to be free of their past and present.   Part of that may be a failure of their education – everything seems blah to them – but I think the real reason is the lack of frontiers, the lack of challenge.   Instead they escape into the fantasy world of video games and seek refuge in technology.   This does not bode well for America's future in any sense – economically, politically, or socially. 

So what are we as a society to do?  The world is the way it is and there's nothing to be done to change it.   Perhaps the only frontier left is the spiritual one.   This has been a dead issue for a long time.   True spirituality has had no place in our society.   Yet it is needed now more than ever. 

If boys and young men came to have faith in themselves, to not look to outside things to make them feel somebody, worthy.    If they came to be open to the presence of God/Buddha inside them – not the Evangelical's God full of vengeance and hatred towards all who don't follow his lead – but the Divine essence that we are born with and can be found in our heart, which is love, light, faith, trust, humility, gratitude, compassion, joy, contentment, strength, courage, and wisdom. 

If boys and young men thus became the full potential of human beings, then they would face the world and their future with energy, to do whatever it is that they decided was meant for them.   This is my hope for the future.

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Republican's "Legitimate Political Discourse"

Is there no end to the mendacity of Republican Party leaders; have they no shame?   We've heard them labeling real news, "fake" news, whereas it is their news which is fake.   We've heard their claims that the 2020 election was stolen by fraud, whereas they are the ones who have perpetuated fraud in an attempt to steal the election. 

Now we have the Republican National Committee criticizing the January 6 Special Committee, and Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, for the "persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse."

Although Party leaders said afterwards that that description was not meant to apply to the rioters who stormed the capitol, how deceitful are they.   That is precisely what and whom the January 6 investigation is looking into.   Republican leaders – Trump acolytes all – want to have their cake and eat it too.   Not so fast!

All thinking Americans regardless of Party allegiance should rise up against this mendacious statement and say, "The attack on the capitol was not legitimate political discourse."