Making a Home

September 30, 2013

tabula rasaWhat I think over and over
eventually I do

I’ve been training body all along
to dance the cantos of my thoughts,
how can it not do what it learns?

Innocence seeps away
through the interstices of neglect—

if I have not built a room
to house a pure idea
it will move on to a better man
and leave my vacant skull to host
what loathes a vacuum

Seems at least probable, no? —doing founded upon on thinking.

I wrote that poem this morning after reading some news. It doesn’t matter what news, all the news is loaded with what the poem tells me about us and the kind of national and world home we’re making.

Do you recall a philosophical concept called “tabula rasa”, or, in English, “blank slate” —or blank blackboard if you went to school in the old days? The idea is that we’re born with minds free of the text that will be written there; minds pure as the driven snow which will then be nurtured one way or the other. Whether we turn out good or bad, wise or stupid, loving or hateful depends upon what’s scrawled on our slates —what’s put there by others and what we eventually put there ourselves. In the end our once pristine mental snow-scapes will look (if we’re lucky and astute) almost as brilliant as the icy crags of Everest or as splotched and grey as the plow banks along the January curbs of Manhattan.

The nature/nurture argument has persisted for years in educational circles: whether the mind is a tabula rasa at birth or comes equipped with certain information— but whichever side you fall on it’s fairly obvious that what we think is linked to what we do. As one poet has winked and said,

If my brain does not tell my arm what to do
nothing much will happen

—without a brain my arm is not much smarter
than a leg of lamb

If we can agree on this (that mind and meat are quite different substances, but interconnected) we can see why political factions do everything in their power to control information. The Dhammapada, a Buddhist scripture, says, “All that we are arises with our thoughts,” which is why we have powerful interests determined to transform public education to private while simultaneously buying up and consolidating  media news sources. Their goal is that what these interests think will become what their news divisions and educational institutions think and, eventually, what you and I and every kid on the block thinks. You might call such schools and TV stations corporate madrasas, no different in intent than the Muslim schools we’ve heard so much about: to indoctrinate minds to certain modes of thought. Prime examples of this are (most famously) Fox News, religious groups who want to transform public science education into curriculums of their particular dogma, and groups like the American Legislative Council (ALEC) a corporate lobbying organization which actually writes laws and invents facts for congressional reps that favor the interests of big business.

Every political regime has its propagandists, this is an old truth. Monarchs and tyrants have traditionally ruled by the false and the fist.  But in the past, in this nation at least, it had been traditional to guard our news sources against absorption by self-interested forces —government or private. Whether or not it was strictly adhered to, journalists had a code that insisted on maintaining a personal vigilance against  influence by interested entities.  But that’s gone now.  What we have today are annual entertainment orgies like the White House correspondence dinner where media types cozy up with politicians, dining and cracking wise with them as if they were not inherent adversaries —because now they really are not.  They’re propaganda partners.  To a large extent what we have now are not journalists, but “so-called journalists” —obsequious garment-touchers of power —factotums employed and controlled by media corporations.

Which leads us to where we are now regarding the misinformation assault of the ACA (Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare). There are many myths being generated by forces that have no regard for the well-being of individual Americans unless they have money. Politicians (of the right, especially —but certainly not exclusively) make false claims, invent realities and even contradict themselves without shame or fear of being exposed even when just about everything any big-cabeza has said is on tape somewhere. Our news sources are so beholden to financial interests the truth becomes whatever is reported and repeated enough, again and again, over and over, without pause in 24 hour déjà vu loops.

It’s crazy some say, but it’s our crazy.
No, I say, it’s just crazy.

It’s this kind of crazy that has infected the thought of a small, but passionate segment of our population. A faction that has control of at least one limb of one branch of our government: the House of Representatives who are acting out exactly what they’re thinking — they are being their thoughts, just as the Dhammapada predicts. They are being passionate legs of lamb performing destructive acts determined by destructive thoughts that have bounced back and forth in well-constructed political echo-chambers. It takes real work and diligence to counter the deluge of this myth stream, but the importance of doing so is huge.

So, if you think something’s gone haywire in the USA, say so. If you think, “United we stand, divided we fall,” join with others in associations that work toward the ends of economic fairness and compassion rather than the ruthless, Ted Cruzish,  cash-based kind of governance so fiercely practiced in the 21st century. Trust no power without verification and be especially wary of TV talking heads.

First: right thought, then right action. Don’t be a misinformed leg of lamb, be a smart one. Make a room in your skull for true thoughts. Keeping vigilant will make us a good home.

by Jim Culleny
for the West County Independent


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