Thanksgiving genocideIt’s always a good idea to know what you’re celebrating, for the sake of honesty if nothing else. 

As Jon Stewart, host of the Daily Show said, “I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way. I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land.”  While a statement like that might spoil the celebration it puts things into perspective.

American Thanksgiving (the holiday) as opposed to thanksgiving (the act) has become a tradition of feast, football and family that began with the invasion of the North American continent by Europeans and ended in near genocide. Maybe this is why, of all sports, football is metaphorically most appropriate for Thanksgiving since the invasion of territory is its central goal. In short, there’s some brutality and ruthlessness mixed with Thanksgiving’s traditional tale.

Acknowledging the distinction between Thanksgiving (big T) and thanksgiving (small t) may eventually lead to something good as opposed to something gluttonous, profitable and profane.  Thanksgiving  has devolved for many into an anticipation of mob-inciting sales sometimes ending in a trampling death of a hapless big-box associate by a pack of shoppers chasing the cheapest HD-screen, while thanksgiving (small t) is an act of humility and gratefulness having nothing to do with commerce.

In humility, we might first be thankful for the improbable earth. We are of the earth. We are earth beings. Without the earth we would not be. We could not breath, we could not eat, we could not love, there would be no families, yet the way we treat it and its natural abundance we’re transforming it into a sewer. I would be especially thankful if we would wake to the fact that wealth is not money and profit, that it has to do with sustainability, with an understanding that to demean the earth is to demean ourselves, to damage it is to harm us and all we love.

A second thanksgiving-worthy object would be what Bob Dylan in a song called “the genius of generosity” —the whole line is “They’re sucking the blood out of the genius of generosity”.  I’d be humbly and truly thankful if  “they” (we) would stop doing that. But that would mean turning our politics into something to be thankful for rather than something to loathe. It would mean turning Wall Street and our Congress from blood-sucking franchises of the Hotel Transylvania into habitats of true humanity. Dylan’s genius of generosity is that it broadcasts wealth instead of hoarding it, it sees itself in the other.

And last, but never least (especially on Thanksgiving), would be a profound thankfulness focused upon what  is central to Thanksgiving: the feast. For me this gratefulness would come when, as global citizens, we realize that agriculture as big business is like banking as big business. They’re both about making money. As Big-banking is first in the business of creating millionaires among bankers before serving their customers, Big-agribiz is first in the business of realizing profit before producing healthful food. We’re being poisoned by pesticides, genetically modified organisms, growth hormones in animals, and any chemical required to most profitably produce a product that sells. If by some standards it might not even be strictly classified as food (Twinkies, for instance), has no bearing on its production.

Americans have more to be thankful for than any nation on the planet. I’d be most thankful if we were thankful for the essentials, the genius of generosity that sustains the objects of our thankfulness and distributes rather than hoards them.

How thankful I’d be if Thanksgiving were really thanksgiving, with a deep awareness of our place in the world that sincere thanksgiving requires.
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Jim Culleny
for The West County Independent
11/22/13


Let’s Not Get Metaphysical

November 10, 2013

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MetaphysicsThe ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle, called metaphysics the “first philosophy”. Metaphysics (literally: what comes after physics), is the branch of philosophy that addresses the constitution of reality and is something most of us are engaged in whether we know it or not.

You are a practical metaphysician if you’ve ever wondered and tried to answer questions about the reality of appearances, about distinctions between mental and physical categories, where the universe came from and why, or (the big one in 21st century American politics) the existence of God. Of course this doesn’t cover all possible metaphysical queries, but you get the gist.

In important ways we might say that the USA is not only in the midst of an economic and political crisis, but also a metaphysical one. Questions of fundamental reality affect political issues and policy in ways they have not for some time. For instance, questions about life and when it begins; whether the earth is gift from God or just property and ownable, and if so, who should own it; where the authority to govern comes from, Man or God; whether certain books are divine; what divinity is; what’s sacred, what profane; right down to how many capitalists can dance on the edge of a moral razor.

All of these are questions that “go beyond physics” and have stumped some of the most brilliant minds since before Aristotle, and are stumping ours to the point of national clog and decline. They are also questions that crafty and glib con artists use to mislead, manipulate and to mire minds that are not so crafty or glib —or minds that may be as potentially astute as Aristotle’s but simply so caught in the accidental circumstances of their lives —in immediate issues of survival— they have little time to deal with whether Ted Cruz is the slipperiest god-endorsed shark-in-a-suit to come swimming up the bay, or if Barack Obama is a secret Allah-worshipping Muslim. Metaphysics in America is the playground of the false and faithful as well as the free.

The nation and the globe face a set of circumstances unlike any we have faced before, the most far-reaching in terms of consequence being global warming. The vast majority of environmental scientists agree that this is so yet, here in the USA, science is often trumped by ancient metaphysics. American policy and action is determine more and more not on the basis of science, but on the basis of a world view originating over 3000 years ago. Sadly, and dangerously, science is often presented as if it were less reliable than Genesis in explaining our origins and what makes the world tick. Yet, the very people who show contempt for science when it comes to climate change would probably not place their injured child’s life in the hands of a priest or minister rather than that of scientists we call doctors.

What this “beyond-physics” (or beyond-science) world view has produced is a type of American politician who spouts personally invented metaphysical statements as if they were writing Bible verses.

Take Joe Barton, for instance. Barton (R-TX) said recently, “Wind is a finite resource and harnessing it would slow the winds down which would cause the temperature to go up.” Written 3000 years ago Barton’s statement might sound something like this (if written by a King-Jamesish, time travelling, 21st century meteorologist):

“Lo, the wind bloweth until it smacketh thee and, therefore; shall not bloweth over the one who follows haply in thy steps, nor anyone else down the line because the Lord diminisheth the wind after it hitteth thee. The Lord rendereth it impotent then, regardless of the continued demands of low pressure areas and His laws of physics.” —The Book of Barton 2:23

Winds may be finite and temperatures may increase when they’re not present, but Barton’s ignorance of their global effect is profound. When it comes to how winds happen, the conditions of their movement, how they are affected by temperature and the earth’s rotation upon them Barton’s limited understanding and statement may have made him at home in 3000 BC, but depressingly, he happens to be the current Chairman of the House-Senate Energy Conference Committee.

And then there’s Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia who recently told New York magazine in an interview that he believes in the devil. “Of course! Yeah, he’s a real person,” the justice said. “In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and whatnot. And that doesn’t happen very much anymore.”

There are effects to this kind of thinking not unlike the effects of a typhoon: a Satan-believing wind is just fifty miles-per-hour or so away from becoming the wild gale of a witch-hunting one.

I don’t know about you, but having a Satan believer on the Supreme Court citing the devil during a line of questioning by Justice Samuel Alito about whether any conceivable prayer could simultaneously be acceptable to Christians, Jews, Muslims and Hindus, is not comforting to me.

What about devil-worshippers?” Scalia said from the bench.

Indeed, and what about facts? What about reason? What about science?

by Jim Culleny
11/10/13

Barton’s Ill Wind

November 7, 2013

Barton's Wind

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They just make things up as if they’re writing Bible verses.

“Lo, the wind bloweth ’til it smacketh you, but it shall not bowleth over the one who follows haply in your steps, nor anyone else down the line because the Lord sloweth the wind down after it hitteth you. The Lord rendereth it impotent then, regardless of the demands of low pressure areas and His laws of physics.” —The Book of Barton 2:23

Answers on Obamacare

November 2, 2013