Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sociopolitical Dream

Everyone goes to college to find out one thing: They don't need college.

It’s a really silly place where older people rob you and complexify the simplest concepts. For instance I’m taking a class where the basic premise is that people are different. Duh. Wow!

Before I went to college I thought the world and everyone in it was screwed up. Now that I am a senior in college I realize I was seriously underestimating the level of screwedupness.

It’s all a game really. Society says you have to do these things in order to get these other things and they make us believe we need both. Now don't be alarmed. I'm not dropping out. In fact I’m staying in college an extra semester just to get a paper from the state of Missouri that says I can legally teach children. Who knows, I may even have the privilege of teaching your future children some day. If only they were so lucky.

College is a debt factory. Aside from this fact, a redeeming quality is that it attempts to educate individuals towards self actualization. Autonomy. Once this is reached learning belongs to, and is regulated by the owner. And so in a good way school gives you the tools to do such. Ya, college you did something right!

However, not everyone is fortunate enough to receive these life long tools because college is for middle and upper-class citizens. Yes, there are always exceptions but I’m talking about the majority of college students. Even with "government aid" no one in impoverished communities is expecting to go. They don't expect it because sadly, no one else expects them to either. Isn’t that terrible? Think about it.

We were talking in my Cultural Communications class about this very thing and I had to ask myself: Do employers, politicians and the education system unconsciously withhold investment in minority students and workers because we secretly want them to remain ignorant, thus keeping them in the jobs we want them to be in….i.e dishwashers, mechanics, janitors, garbage collectors, factory workers, fruit pickers, and other blue collar jobs? Just asking the question makes me want to take a shower. But is that not true? Is the system keeping them down to force a kind of cast system?

Ah, but maybe you are thinking no! what about the American Dream?! We can change our stars, we can improve, we can move up! “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.1” Well of course we can move up, we can be “overlings.” But it takes education, mentorship and money to do all that. Meanwhile life is happening and the system perpetuates. Oh, and about the American Dream—to hell with it. There is more to life than making money, having stuff and being comfortable. I mean compared to the rest of the living world we are spoiled to the core, the richest of the rich where wants are needs.

Not long ago I sat through an amazing lecture at UMKC with Jonathan Kozol, Education guru and political activist. Mr. Kozol hit the nail on the head when he stated that schools are more segregated now than they ever were fifty years ago. Dr. King when did we wake up from your dream?

Yet, it’s not just about race it’s also about money—and the screwedupness is compounded! Not only can we hate those who look and think differently than we do, but we can also hate those who don’t have the same amount of stuff. Classism.

Oh, but we do our dandiest to mask the truth, our feelings and thoughts by sugarcoating our words.

For instance: I am not white…I’m ethnically challenged. People don’t say that…it’s just funny. But I do hear that STDs are now STIs (sexually transmitted infections) Maybe infection is less socially damning and less permanent. If it’s less permanent then bring on the sexual promiscuity! Adultery is an “extra marital affair.” That doesn’t sound too bad! And did you further know there is a web based company designed to facilitate spousal cheating?! For real people.
Brotherhood is often denoted as siblinghood. That one isn’t that bad on the surface, but on a deeper level I think brotherhood and sisterhood have different, more profound and specific meaning. You can’t just combine both and call it even. And yes it does matter.

Now, ultimately don’t get me wrong, I’m all for being inclusive in word and deed, especially gender inclusive. I really do support and appreciate equality but its getting to the point in some classes where I’m afraid to use the pronoun “he” when referring to a male person. I might get in trouble for being too specific thus offending or invalidating someone else’s existence.

I’ve gone too far. I can’t have an opinion on equality or injustice or anything related to suffering or anything ever because I am a middle class, white, straight, protestant male. My bad. Dang. Must have been my upbringing. You know, raised in an egalitarian household where I was taught to respect and love everyone no matter what and empathize with those in need or pain.

Moving along.

This words game is all so fake. Why can’t we just say what we mean and not worry about being diplomatic and stepping on toes? Is it just to pretend like we are respecting the other person? Where is the truth? Recently I’ve found I really appreciate tactful frankness. Its true, it’s to the point and you can take it at face value. But there is a negative connotation with frankness. I don’t like that. We need more frankness in this world. I’m tired of empty words, and promises. I’m tired of fig trees that won’t produce fruit.

It’s sickening to me to think how far people and corporations will go to pretend like they are progressive or enlightened. Political correctness is the kingpin of this phenomenon for words are the beginning of thought and action. If we somehow neutralize our words to dull down our still sexists, racist, and classist feelings and intentions it’s somehow okay to continue injustice.

I say these things because even though there is a deceptive aroma of change in the air, I think underneath it all we are still very much the same.

On a less depressing note I realized recently that fear and hate are things you have to teach. Nobody is born a racist. Nobody is born thinking they are superior over another person. These are learned traits. And here is the point, our teaching and education is key.

I went to school as the son of a soldier in the US Army. I was typically a minority in the schools I attended, yet I befriended, played with and loved my friends of many different colors. I was taught to love everyone.
Then as I progressed through my higher education I learned what people of my skin color had done to my friends with different colored skin.

The institutions taught me I was a racist. They taught me that I was different from my friends, that we used to hate each other and probably still do. Then they teach us to simply coexist and get a piece of the pie—The American Dream of self love.

Whatever happened to the protection of innocence? Where did my childhood go? Why can't society and businesses and the world function like my blissfully ignorant childlike state? Why instead of hours of learning about all the horrible sins our fathers and mothers committed (although we don’t really learn much about our mothers do we….) can we not be taught how to better improve our behavior? Why can't we be taught to love and to play fair and to keep it like that?

I quote Switchfoot, "look what a mess we've made of love."

I think this country will be just about as racist, sexist and classist as it always was until we learn how to get over ourselves and not talk about it anymore. Maybe if we all banned together under the umbrella truth proclaimed in the Broadway musical Avenue Q, “everyone’s a little bit racist sometimes….doesn’t mean we go around committing hate crimes…” We are messed up, yes. We are bias and judgmental and selfish. Cool, now what? But it doesn’t happen like that. We are fooled into thinking we are lovely bright creatures capable of making our dreams come true! Sweet! Hey progressive movement……the holocaust. Ya….I went there.
Even today there will always be issues. And yet some people claim that we are so far removed from all this. No way. Actions speak louder than words case and point: white flight.

Just because Barak Obama is president doesn't mean our country isn't racist.

You're probably wondering why I haven't talked about faith issues or brought God into the discussion. I am getting to that.
When I look around I just can’t help seeing that there is something horribly wrong not just with our governments, schools, words, attitudes, behavior, cities and societies worldwide. Those same diseases that infect the system also infect me. I am the problem.

So are you and we’re holding hands running toward a cliff.

I've always held that pretty much all the world’s problems would be solved if we just eliminated the humans. I said that once in a theology class. People starred and laughed nervously. I was serious.

Despite the fact that we are the problem, killing all humans doesn’t work because I like those guys too much. Ah snap! I mean I like those people too much. Women are people too….cause when I said guys I maliciously intended to exclude half the earth’s human population….

The only shred of hope I hold is that I believe there is a way out of the mess. I believe this because I have experienced and have seen a change in myself. Something completely other, outside of me. It corrects my attitude and changes the way I think about everything. It makes me act contrary to myself. When I want to be selfish or think ugly thoughts about someone who is different than me I hear another voice in the back of my mind that causes me to think twice. There is a force in this world that has the power to change. It is very real. It is not physical. It is not a new hot shot political leader. It is not the next trend in international relations or a new educational act, it is the God of the universe. He created everything. Whether he spoke it into being literally in six human days or if he painstakingly designed its slow evolution and watched its poetic unfolding over billions of years we may never know. I don’t think that matters at this point of creation. We already exist.

This God is real and doesn't like what he sees either. I'll bet it breaks his heart to see the things we do, think and say about each other. But he didn't just sit on his hands and agonize far away at the horrible mess we made of his art project. He embodied our struggle. He became flesh and blood and felt and saw the immense weight of sin on his creation. He took it on himself and became the mediator between an angry Father and a guilty child. He paid the price and gave us the ability to reverse the curse if we trust in him. This world is not going to have the final word. No sir. He has given us a way out of ourselves.

The Good News of Jesus Christ is the only true revolutionary theory. It’s turning the world upside-down. I mean think of it! Loving my enemy and praying for those who are persecuting me?! Serving to lead?! Becoming last to be first?! Giving to the least of these?! Rejecting religious hypocrisy?! Denying myself?! Joy in suffering?! Living life free and only by two rules: Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Enjoying a relationship with the one who made you and seeing life like it has meaning and purpose! What else do we need?

And maybe you’ve heard this all before. Maybe you agree with me. Cool, so what are you doing to make this sociopolitical dream come true? Mathew 28:19-20. But maybe you disagree. If so, why did you entertain yourself to read this whole rant? Maybe somewhere deep inside you, you understand what I mean and see and feel that selfishness I’m talking about. At least think about it.

There you have it. Jesus Christ is my socio-political dream. I'm not talking about a specific Christian denomination, not a movement or an organization or a religion. I'm talking only spiritual. We are all one and we are all lost. And he is the only way. Keep your religions, organizations, societies, traditions and customs! So long as you have your world rocked by The Mediator and get to know the One True Father. That is his goal. I believe in God's love for humanity. I believe that knowledge of God is attainable. Through the love and knowledge of God, we can start living life the ways it was meant to be lived.

To the keepers of the system, the powers that be, the representatives in the heavenly realms and under the earth. Hear the words of my friend Neo…

“I know you're out there. I can feel you now. I know that you're afraid... afraid of us. You're afraid of change. I don't know the future. I didn't come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell how it's going to begin. I'm going to hang up this phone, and then show these people what you don't want them to see. I'm going to show them a world without you. A world without rules or controls, borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible. Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you.2”

1. Julius Caesar I ii, William Shakespeare
2. The Matrix

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Shut up and Listen

I haven't written in this blog in a while. Probably cause I have had ludicrous writer's block. Maybe I don't know what I should say. I don't know what I’ll end up writing about, but I’m going to try with all my might to muster out a coherent thought. If it ends up being profound or encouraging or inspirational, I guess that is good, but I’m shooting for coherent. How am I doing? Its like a truck on the highway with a sign that says how's my driving? Anybody really call one of those numbers? Anybody really care? Sometimes I call the numbers on the sides of food products just cause I figure no one is giving those people the time of day. Recently I tried calling the people who make Frank's Hot Sauce. That stuff is freagin good. I was eating with a group of friends and attempting to try my hand at corporate advertising. Here were the top five for a hot sauce.

(in an intense movie guy announcer voice)
Frank's Hot Sauce: So hot it can make a baby cry.
Frank's Hot Sauce: So hot it can make a blind man speak.
Frank's Hot Sauce: So hot it makes the sun look foolish.
Frank's Hot Sauce: So just shouldn't be this hot.
Frank's Hot Sauce: So hot it can bring a mere child to appreciate Russian literature.

Who knows.

Coherent yet? Nah I didn't think so either. Let's keep going, maybe we'll get somewhere together.

Well, a good lesson I’ve learned in my life but haven't mastered into practice is when you can't think of anything to say....don't. Meaning, you don't always gotta use your yapper. I think to a certain extent silence frightens people. Have you noticed this? It does depend on the relationship and the person but generally speaking, we (as Americans) tend to shy away from silence. Why is that? Is it because we hate awkward? Are we afraid what the other person is thinking? Why should we be?

I want to like silence more. I want to date it. I want to get to know it and learn something in the quiet. There is so much to learn if we just shut up and listen.

Listening is an active process. It is an active process in which we do not have full control. Not talking makes us give away control. I think we hate that too.
If we submit (ooh buzz word!) to silence and commit to listening more what would we learn? Sometimes the greatest thing you can do for your health is listen to your body. When I look in the mirror I see something interesting. Maybe you will think this interesting too next time you're checking yourself out. I have two ears, and two eyes. I have one mouth. That means I have four times as many "listeners" as I do "talkers."

What would happen to our relationships, houses, schools, communities, churches, cities, states, countries and our world if everyone committed every day to listening four times as much as they spoke?!

What would that look like? What would that sound like? Ask yourself, how much time in your social interaction do you spend talking and how much time listening? Interesting.

At heart I believe I am the biggest problem the world is facing. Me. I am a selfish creature and I am infected to the core with ME ME ME.

I believe I am not alone in this condition. Unfortunately, I believe we all want to talk more than we want to listen. I believe we want to be in control more than we want to give it away. Because of this we are in opposition to each other. Conflict and the rebellion of the soul from its loving Creator.

This past Sunday my pastor put it rather bluntly. We hate God. It’s true. Either we hate God or we Love God there is no middle ground. We play games and try to pretend that we are either apathetic or that we care, but when it comes to the heart of the matter we either love Him or we hate Him. This love or hate can be unfounded. It is usually based on faulty or missing information. Hate is usually rooted in ignorance. And so, we do not love because we do not know. We hate because we do not know. If we knew, we would love.

Maybe we have seen something we don’t like in those who are supposed to know God. If you are somebody who has seen something in me that you don’t like, please don’t judge God. I am sorry. I am doing my best to be a servant of The Story. I am learning and listening as best I can.

All in all do yourself a favor and listen. Use those beautiful ears and eyes. See the beauty in this place. See the fingerprints of a creative God. Hear the wisdom and voice of God. Hear the never ceasing chorus of creation proclaiming the only truth that matters. I am.

So maybe I haven’t said anything past coherent. Maybe I haven’t touched coherence. Maybe in your mind I have only danced around with rhetorical babble. Perhaps. All I know is what I feel, what I see in myself, what I see in others and in the world. I just really believe that if we let go and listen we would hear God. We would see God. And if we listened we would get to know God. Maybe then we would accept the love God gives to us. Maybe then we might see a very different world.