Saturday, September 29, 2007

Prisoners of fear

Deepak Chopra again tries to sow wisdom where our leaders sow only fear and anxiety:

How to Feel Safe and Secure (Part 2)

" regard to terrorism, the most frightened voters are being allowed to dictate security policy. Unless you are personally anxious, you are considered unrealistic in the face of the terrorist threat, and politicians feel forced to be "strong on security," meaning that they must appeal to fear rather than to courage, patience, and trust."

Personally, I think that an empire cannot feel secure. An empire knows how much it has ... and how much it has to lose. As far back as 1948 (just after our victory in the "good war" that is currently being eulogized in a PBS series), George Kennan, head of the State Dept. planning staff, predicted that the U.S. would soon become "the object of envy and resentment" because it had "about 50% of the world's wealth, but only 6.3% of its population." In 2004, the U.S. United States accounted for 4.6 percent of the world's population and 33 percent of global consumption (see As Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer explains in his book Brave New World Order:

"The goal of the United States in the emerging world order, Kennan stated, was 'to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security.' In order to maintain this disparity and defend U.S. national security, the United States had "to cease to talk about vague and ...unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of living standards and democratization.' Instead, he noted, the United States had "to deal in straight power concepts.' "

Thus did realpolitik, rather than an ethic of cooperation and sharing, become the foundation of our country's foreign policy.

That was back in 1948. Since then those who formulate our country's foreign policy have become more talented in talking a talk of "human rights, the raising of living standards and democratization," while clandestinely setting up a system that benefits us first and others second. And often those "others" have been the less humane and democratic elements of the countries we deal with.

To get back to Deepak, it is a simple matter to understand why it is so hard for those who lead us and for those who follow them to practice the detachment that he suggests, the kind that "brings a stable sense of self that isn't prey to the wild mood swings of current events," let alone the empathy and compassion that reach out to a world of such glaring disparity. Our national leaders are prisoners of their own blind greed for power and they stay in power by keeping the empire's citizens shackled in fear. We citizens do little to help lower our own anxiety level by buying into (literally) a culture of rampant consumerism.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Quaker Week, Sept. 22-30

Just found out that Quaker Week is coming up in Britain!

Also, as a way of letting people hear individual Quaker voices, they're sponsoring a blog to which three "diarists" contribute their thoughts:

Found also a series of videos about the Quakers on YouTube, produced by Friends at Watford Meeting, Hertfordshire, UK

Introduction to Quakers, Part 1

Introduction to Quakers, Part 2

Quakers and the Bible

Quakers and other religions

For all titles, see

Great article in The Guardian:,,2174610,00.html

Let the peaceful light shine!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I think we're winning!

More than three-quarters of the displaced were women, and children under 12, reducing families to poverty, and compounding the sense of social dislocation.

“The men who were the breadwinners are no longer part of the family. They either fled or joined armed groups,” the report said.
Refugees in Their Own Land: 2m Iraqis Forced to Flee Their Homes

Seriously, though...I think I've finally figured our federal government out: the military is no longer subject to a civilian commander-in-chief. The President is now first and foremost a military commander and it's the civilians who are subject to the military...which exists to protect the interests of Halliburton et al. Difficult to draw any other conclusion after our senators, obeying the commander-in-chief's every whim, refuse even to extend the leave time of service personnel who are already being sent to Iraq for 2nd and 3rd tours of duty and keep babbling meaningless slogans like "recipe for defeat."

It's taken me a while to realize it, but our federal government is officially dysfunctional.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Solve the word problem and go to the head of the class

Our meeting will be hosting the Eyes Wide Open Across PA memorial next month, and this morning I'm going to worship at a neighboring meeting so that I can recruit volunteers for EWO from among their members.

The original Eyes Wide Open was a memorial consisting of a pair of boots for each American service person killed in the Iraqi conflict. The American Friends Service Committee first assembled the memorial in Chicago in 2005, when the body count stood at 700-something. It toured the country for two years, adding boots as the number of casualties rose. By the time the number of American military casualties got to 3,000, the memorial had become just too massive to haul around. It was assembled for the last time last May. Since then, the AFSC has dispersed the boots to its state chapters, who continue to mount the exhibit, each one memorializing the number of dead from its state. I've volunteered for the memorial and blogged about it previously.

EWO also includes a proportionate number of shoes of various sizes and styles, representing the Iraqi civilians who have perished.

I've always been poor at math, so maybe someone can answer this word problem:
If 3,775 American military personnel have perished in the Iraq war to date, and the O.R.B.' s latest estimate of Iraqi civilian casualties stands at more than 1,000,000, what would be the proportion of civilian shoes to military boots that AFSC would need in order to mount a representative memorial to Iraqi civilians, if they were still doing the original exhibit?

The O.R.B., or Opinion Research Business, is one of the UK's formost "corporate and issues-led market research companies." They report in a recent news item that their research has shown that over 1,000,000 Iraqi civilians have died. The O.R.B.'s methodology is similar to that used by researchers at Johns Hopkins, who reported last October that over 655,000 Iraqi civilians had perished in the violence.

And after you've answered the word problem, maybe you can answer this question for me:

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Prayer Surge for Peace

I've been successfully recruited by Sojourners for their "prayer surge" to our's sort of like volunteering to invade the Senate and House with a contingent of prayers for peace.

So, ever the spiritual foot soldier, I sent this prayer to inspire our Senators and Representatives to withdraw from Iraq and dedicate the billions to aid for the stricken Iraqis instead :

O Divine Spirit,
Inspire our members of Congress that they may reflect and remember that our true safety lies in you, not in our armaments or our nuclear payloads. As Jesus reminded us, you are the mother hen, longing to gather us all safely under your wings. May we learn to take refuge in you and in you alone.
Hey, it's an all-volunteer army! So go sign up in the spirit of peace:

Sunday, September 2, 2007

September Evening

my paneer korma

with my college sophomore son
and his girlfriend

so sweet
in her white dress

with her long brown hair

I’m too young
I think

in a wine-woven haze
to have a son in college

with a girlfriend

Strolling down
to the ice cream parlor
I order crunchy cappuccino
in a cone

a baby scoop
but decadent enough

for a 55-year-old

Listening to a street musician
in Davis Square
who peddles his music
from place to place
though stuck in the 60’s and 70’s
Simon & Garfunkle
il Young…

I applaud heartily
and drop money

into his guitar case

An elderly couple
and a flower vendor
are noticeably
less animated

And I lick
my cool
September breeze-swirled

ice cream cone
as the stores and the street lights blend
into my wine-woven haze