Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Random Thoughts

“Anger at a fool for harming others is like anger at a fire for burning things.”

Last week I went to my first study group at the local Buddhist temple. This group of laypersons (not monks, just enthusiasts of Buddhism) meets every two weeks to discuss various tenets of Buddhist philosophy. Incidentally, last week they were reading from and discussing chapter six of An Introduction to Buddhist Ethics: War and Peace.

When I read the quote above, my mind leapt to Cheney. The “Pre-emptive strike doctrine” was also mentioned a couple of times. It would seem that taking this thought to its logical conclusion would mean that anyone who harms others is a fool, and therefore anger is unnecessary. Buddhism just so happens to provide direction for those who come to that conclusion: Conquer anger by love, conquer evil by good, conquer the stingy by giving, conquer the liar by truth.

So how does that apply to Cheney as I sit here wearing a baseball cap embroidered with “IMPEACH CHENEY”? Naturally, we had to discuss the just murder idea, or the idea that you could justify killing someone to save lives. There were even a couple of historical incidents with notable Buddhist monks who had murdered someone on this justification, but in the end, I think we ruled against the idea. Cheney’s policies based on ignorance are dependent on the ignorance of a lot of other people. You don’t actually have to fight Cheney himself to defeat his policies. Conquer the liar by truth, and the ignorant with knowledge.

When I give a speech, people always ask me “What can I do?” Aside from the normal stuff, like conventional activism, supporting IVAW and war resistors, and counter-recruiting, I tell them to share their passions. “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” Well, if you’re outraged (not angry, but passionate) then share that passion. Live that passion. After you’ve realized what’s going on in this country and the state of things in the world, you’d have to be crazy to sit down next to someone and strike up a conversation about the weather or about Britney Spears’ new haircut.

One Third of America

One third of America still thinks that, contrary to the 9/11 Commission report, and despite a complete lack of evidence, Saddam was personally involved in the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. One third of America is not living in cabins in the mountains, shitting in a ditch, making moonshine, and oblivious to the world around them. THESE ARE PEOPLE YOU KNOW! They may be oblivious to the world around them, but if so, it’s deliberate, either on their part, or by those that have deliberately misled us.

ignoraholism: noun, pathology
The compulsive dependence upon (addiction to) distraction, a Socially Transmitted Disease.

Special thanks to Greg Wierzbicki for coming up with this. I’ve been railing against the broader social trends of ignorance and apathy for a while now, but putting the ignorance in this context gives us an interesting take on things. It’s easy to blame people for being ignorant when it is largely by choice, but it’s even easier for a vet to get angry talking to someone on the street who asks shit like, “Did Iraqis appreciate you being there?” “Well, except for the ones that were shooting at us!”

But when you put it into the context of a disease, it makes more sense to place blame on the person’s environment, the government, and the society that conditions them rather than the individual. But then, we as a people are ultimately responsible for those factors too.

One of my professor’s has a favorite joke that is relevant here: ”Do you know the difference between ignorance and apathy?” ”I don’t know and I don’t care.”

Welcome to 21st century America.

Hurray! We’ll only be in Iraq for another 12 YEARS!

US officials are celebrating the latest numbers to come from the UNHCR: approximately one thousand Iraqi refugees are returning every day! While this is a big improvement from previous levels, it is a fairly meaningless statistic. We still don’t know how many are LEAVING every day. Assuming it’s zero, given the 4.2 million refugees including the internally displaced, it will only take 12 years for them all to get home. But that assumes that they’re coming back to their original homes, which I will bet they’re not.

According to Lauren Frayer of the AP, it is “declining violence” that prompted the return of 46,030 refugees in October. “Brig. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, the Iraqi spokesman for a U.S.-Iraqi military push to pacify Baghdad, said border authorities recorded 46,030 people returning to Iraq in October and attributed the large number to the "improving security situation."” Wow, Lauren automatically agrees with a puppet General’s assessment! What a surprise!

This number of 46K has been questioned (actually, it’s bullshit) because it is only a count of border crossings in one direction and does not discriminate returning refugees from visitors and businessmen. But this all might have something to do with Syria not renewing visas and tightening restrictions at the border. And according to the NYT, “The U.N. refugee agency has yet to update its own figures, which maintain that more Iraqis are fleeing than returning in most areas of the country.” “It seems likely that at least some refugees are returning, and their number may well be increasing. But the decline in violence in the capital is not the only factor that could be driving the trend. The A.P. said that visa-rule changes in Syria seem to be a leading contributor” So, the AP contradicts itself, and the NYT sets things straight, albeit on Mike Nizza’s blog.