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Unity or Separation?

“On days like this there are no Republicans or Democrats—we are Americans, united in concern for our fellow citizens.” -President Obama, in the wake of Boston Marathon bombing – April 15, 2013

The era of hyphenated liberals ends right here, right now. Tonight.” – Justin Trudeau, leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, in a speech following the announcement that he won around 80% of the vote for leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada, April 14, 2013

Firstly, I am shocked and saddened by the events of today.  It is horrible to see so much violence happening in the world throughout history and in recent times.  But the above recent statements got me thinking about what is at the core of such violence, hatred, and negative behavior in the world.

I found it interesting to note similar statements being made by politicians in two different countries in two completely different situations. One of the statements being made in reference between political parties and the other in reference to interactions within a political party. Both statements speak of uniting together as one, in a common purpose, to make positive things happen.

One might come from a victory of a party leader, and the other might come in the wake of a terrible tragedy, but both have a great message in their statement within speeches directed at their respective situations within the last 20 some odd hours.

It calls into question why do we separate ourselves from each other? Why do we have terrorists, citizens, and victims? Why do we have reds and blues, greens, yellows, oranges and others? Are we not all one under the umbrella of the human race?

That being said, I do fight battles whether within or outside of myself where I find myself pitted against someone or something generally somehow. I am not superhuman or above others. But I like to think I can come to terms with my differences from others and realize that in the end, unity reigns above all else.

But I wonder, is this kind of thing about separation vs. unity at the root of our issues in the first place, or is there something else at the core completely?

Denialism & Colonization

A concept that I first formally learned about through reading Michael Specter’s book Denialism is the idea of setting aside reality, to push forward with your own agenda, or avoid a reality which is perhaps less acceptable to ones self.  Specter tends to apply this concept to science and technology, where it relates to the medical field and drugs/medicine themselves.  He touches on such things as vaccines vs. autism, homeopathy and going organic compared to non-organic foods and the like, as well as the scientific study of drugs such as Vioxx and their results vs. the reality which companies and such looking to sell the drug were interested in seeing.  Somewhat of a political aspect of denialism is also shown in the book, particularly around AIDS/HIV and Africa.  I found it to be an intriguing book!  It has sparked some thoughts in my mind as to things I could write.  Therefore, I may write further about the book in another post if I see fit, but I thought applying the general concept to a trilogy written by Kim Stanley Robinson, the books Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars would be appropriate.

The Mars trilogy takes the human population from planet Earth and sees it colonize the planet Mars over a couple of centuries, starting around the 21st century.  It sees us through growing troubles on the planet earth, while mostly focusing on the development of things on the (initially) Red planet.  The main characters seen throughout the three books live on Mars and go through the normal issues which we see in our everyday life such as conflicts of various natures and relationships growing and conflicting.  The thing that interested me most was that they are also speaking of various perspectives; from political, scientific, economic, and religious/philosophical, among others that affect the overall outlook of the new Martian civilization.

As with probably just about anything, there is a form of denialism which takes place in the trilogy.  In fact, one could say that this denialism that comes to my mind at the moment, is what caused troubles on earth to worsen; if not begin.  It is that of corporations looking out for themselves with little or no thought of the environment, its plants, nor animals, nor its people which as a whole were ultimately responsible for creating them out of nothingness in the initial stages of industrialization.

Corporations, in the trilogy, become larger bodies called “transnationals” or “transnats” and they are less focused on a democratic way of operation and more on making bigger and bigger gains; the goal being to compete to see who might become the biggest and ultimately be able to control the interplanetary market.  There are buyouts of smaller companies in the process to become bigger and better.  They have their own intentions for development on Mars, along with all those perspectives coming from the initial 100 people who first arrived on the planet.  The transnats become metanats who want to take control of what goes on within the Mars civilization.  I remember that some of the discussion amongst the first 100 was around different concepts and was intrigued that Buddhist concepts were referred to in discussing the fate of the mars civilization that would be built.

A Buddhist outlook is much different from that of the corporate cultures in the novels.  It is one where living in harmony is of utmost importance to strive toward as opposed to focusing upon the ego and desire.  A Buddhist outlook or philosophy tends to shy away from sins such as gluttony and greed.  So there is a big contrast in the novel between what some of the first colonizers of Mars had in mind for the planet and what could potentially come to said planet depending on which voices reign in the end.  I don’t want to give away too much of the story line in this post, so as not to spoil things for potential readers as to what comes of either the Earth or of the planet Mars.

But there is also much focus in the book on scientific development and just how development of Mars should take place.  Some believe in the more natural approach whereby living off the land is best, others have thoughts around wanting to play around with the planet’s atmosphere and land in order to have the planet mimic that of Earth’s geography in a sense.  Both of these seem like they could make sense, but one is more or less playing God and looking to be in control, and the other is going with the flow of things.  Clearly, people do not have full control though, as in the Mars Trilogy, right from the get-go things happen that are not planned or anticipated at all.  Life is a mystery.  You never know how things will unfold.

54th Anniversary of Michael Jackson’s birth

I thought that, today, it would be fitting to somehow acknowledge Michael Jackson on the anniversary of his birth, his 54th birthday. Though he may not be here in physical form anymore, being that he had the public following which he did, there is much that he left behind, from his creations to the perceptions of others as well as what you may call his teachings or ideas on life. He had the ability to show these ideas through the creation of music, performance, and short films throughout his life (as well as the occasional book and/or interview/speech).  In looking at things that he and others have said I found the following:

The media first turned the trial into a freak-show by emphasizing Jackson’s peculiarities rather than his humanity, and stoked the ratings with constant, trivializing coverage while other, far more important stories went under-reported or completely ignored in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, North Korea, and Washington, D.C. The press might respond by saying, ”We gave the people what they wanted.” My response would be, ”My job is to give them what they want. When he steps into a recording studio, it’s Michael Jackson’s job to give them what they want. Your job is to give the people what they need.”

Stephen King, in “The Sideshow Has Left Town” (14 June 2005)

What an interesting excerpt from a piece written by Stephen King around Michael Jackson and his trial to fight off allegations of child abuse!  It looks to me like it really sets the record straight on what goals belong to which professional in the public arena.  Those who are intended to entertain, strive to give the public (to which they are entertaining) what that public wishes to see.  Those who are intended to bring forth world events on a regular basis (such as news media) are intended to give the people facts and news about the events going on around the world.

One could argue that the facts were being presented by news media as necessary pursuant to their roles.  However, my impression was often that there was some level of suggestion in many reports that had some implication of guilt on the part of Michael Jackson, long before the jury had any say in the matter.  Kind of unfortunate for it to be that way; what sells is what’s news, apparently.

From my perspective, Michael Jackson had the right idea:

Just because it’s in print doesn’t mean it’s the gospel.

He even had a song about it, Tabloid Junkie.  Anything can be said or written; the more bizarre, sensational or just plain “out there” the better it sometimes seems as far as sales and public interest.  I was rather shocked to see one particular story reported on CNN, as it was quite clearly to me the kind of thing of tabloids.  The idea of him having a voodoo curse put on people such as Stephen Spielberg among others, bathing in sheep blood, and ceremonially having cows slaughtered in relation to the curses is really bizarre.  At the time, I thought that CNN was a source for news, and I could never actually believe that story to be news no matter how much anyone might pay me or how much of a sales and marketing job was enforced upon me.  To give them the benefit of the doubt, they must have just momentarily confused the character Wacko Jacko with the man who is Michael Jackson.  They really seem like two completely different people.

This individual who may have put curses on people to get back at them for things, and slaughtering animals in the process seems nothing like Michael Jackson reacting the following way to an insect on stage (at about 2 minutes into the video):

It might stand out as different, unique, but with a completely different intent than the above.

Then there’s something Gotham Chopra, wrote, “Michael Jackson and Kim Jong Il” in The Huffington Post (5 July 2009) which speaks of Lisa Ling, and Euna Lee being detained in North Korea.  He spoke to Gotham about whether there might be anything that could be done.  Michael Jackson thought that maybe if Kim Jong II were a fan of his, that might enable him to sway the North Korean leader to free these two individuals.  He also said the following:

Gotham writes: “I explained to Michael that there were larger geo-politics involved, nuclear programs, a new administration trying to assert its foreign policy strategy (Obama), and another one in NK possibly going through some sort of transference of power.” Which might be a typical response from most people, but here’s a different and I would say a rather touching response:

“Yeah,” Michael said wistfully, “but if someone wants to do something good, they just can. They don’t really need to worry about all that other stuff.”

It might not always work to just out of the blue be able to do something good, but if it doesn’t I would like to pose the question:  Did we really believe we could accomplish that good thing and let that belief surpass any fear or uncertainty we felt about accomplishing the good act?

From Gotham Chopra’s account, it seems as though Michael Jackson goes beyond the role that Stephen King suggests is his role.  He not only gave the people what they wanted, through his skill and ability as an entertainer, but he wanted to give so much more.

As can be seen through the lyrics of such songs as Heal the World, Black or White, Man in the Mirror, Will you be There, Earth song, and others; Michael Jackson, or the power that used him as a vessel through which to communicate, had a vision of humankind living in community with one another, regardless of race or creed or other differences.  His music, his way of living seems to show humankind as best lived in communion with one another and with a Higher power (regardless of whether this Higher power might be a higher self within us, or something completely outside of us; perhaps a combination therein which is the Creator).  It can be argued that how he lived was strange and bizarre, but is that argument using sensationalism as a basis to prove its point, or does it take into account all sides including the good?  You can decide.

What a rollercoaster those 54 years have been!  I’m suddenly reminded of Michael’s “Leave me Alone” music video, which has imagery of the circus atmosphere and also includes a rollercoaster ride.  The song is from his Bad album, which celebrates its 25th anniversary with a release in September of Bad 25, including the first officially released concert from the Bad world tour.

Feel free to watch the “Leave me Alone” video here:

Community, Society, & Death, Rebirth

This week has brought two first anniversaries that I am familiar with that started last August – the 21st and 22nd to be precise.  The first event was the tornado in Goderich, Ontario.  This was the only tornado I have ever decided to be present for, without my advanced knowledge that it would occur.  I had plans to visit Goderich for a week, and arrived there just 26 hours before the water spout came up from Lake Huron and swirled through Goderich causing much destruction to its buildings, and plenty of shock and other emotions of its community members.  The hydro was out for several days, and citizens had a lot of work ahead of them in the wake of the F3 that tried to mess with the town (with only temporary success; the town has endured and will continue to endure much longer than any Tornado.  It was inspiring to see the community come together and work to rebuild the town, through initial clean up such as clearing away trees and bringing some semblance of order to a disorderly situation to ensuring those who became homeless had the basic necessities available to them.  Still months after, on Thanksgiving weekend (the Canadian one in October 2011), the town was coming together as a community, with the Out of the Storm benefit concert that lasted all day on October 8, 2011 with many entertainers as well as vendors selling food, beverages and souvenirs etc.  The day of the concert was much different weather-wise; it was nice and sunny, warm and peaceful.  About a year after the storm, on Sunday, August 19th, Goderich saw Windstock, another kind of concert/celebration.  This time featuring bands such as local bands Fermented Oranges and Builder Refused who have played local pubs and such together on more than one occasion.  When the music is alive and well, we unite as one and come together for the sake of community; in this case in somewhat of a rebirth of Goderich.

The day after this event, on August 22, 2011, Jack Layton passed away from cancer.  He was the leader of the NDP party of Canada, during the election that brought the party to Official Opposition status in the current parliament.  The fact that the party went from generally a third place win in an election to second place, being Official Opposition, says something about his leadership and his ability to draw the public toward him—his charisma.  Some may not have liked him, and others may not have liked his party, still others may disagree with both.  But many people came together in community during the 2011 Canadian Federal Election to try and bring the NDP into power as a voice for change.  They elected 103 seats, in what was dubbed “the orange wave.”  His final message through his letter is very inspiring to remember, and also seems as though it fosters community growth/development:  “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

These qualities are crucial to building stronger community and a more positive society I would say.  If we’re always angry at each other, how will we ever be at peace?  If we’re always fearful, how will we ever do so much as approach anyone, for fear that they will hate or reject us?  If we’re living in despair, where is the hope of a better tomorrow?  Thus, it is best to “be loving, hopeful and optimistic” to make the world a better place to live.  Perhaps there is something in this about why I prefer not to label myself politically or otherwise for that matter.  There are connotations that go along with labels, things that separate me from you.  Instead I have some values/beliefs that may or may not fit within any particular political boundaries.  I do believe it is the right thing to vote, because we can only get the best representation of what the country wants through as much participation as possible, but to me it is more about who I believe would make a good candidate than about which party they stand for (or not, since theoretically a person requiring the use of a wheelchair could be the best candidate and they wouldn’t necessarily stand at all—but they may still use the language of “standing for” something.)

I believe that we should all be independent and strive to achieve all that we want in our lives.  When we run into tough times, after working hard and not quite getting where we are yet, those around us should realize our efforts and stick by us in times of need.  I get caught up in the (ultimate) brain debate of money vs. happiness whereby I confront the concept of working for money or working for enjoyment and achieving money on the side.  I think of all the expenses that exist in modern day Western society and think a high paying job may just be the answer to everything.  But wait, there’s my mental health–my happiness, joy, and genuine satisfaction in life.  Where would that be, if I had that high paying job to pay for all the perks of the Western world in the 21st century?  It would be probably non-existent, or severely lacking is my guess.  I’m starting to ponder what community would have been like back in other civilizations of the past, or even different cultures.  I also ponder whether the technological advances that may have brought the civilization of Atlantis to an end were anything connected to community and the coming together or lack thereof in the civilization.

I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on this post, because I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s thought of money vs. happiness, or been in situations where this competition arises in life.  I’m also probably not the only one that has an interest in, or ponders life in ancient civilizations.  I’ve read some about them but not a whole lot at this point, so there may be more answers I just have not stumbled upon yet.