Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Meaning of 'Dissent is Patriotic'

Earlier last month I wrote a post called Dissent is Patriotic. Well, it's been getting some traffic lately, but it was really nothing more than a rambling rant, that didn't really do either the title or the subject justice.

In fact, I see now that I didn't even explain in that post exactly what that slogan means, because I took it for granted that it was self-evident.

Well, I'm sure the phrase 'dissent is patriotic' has probably been used by many people, but it is officially attributed to the historian Howard Zinn. That is where I got it from. But what does it mean? I'll tell you what I think it means.

To say that dissent is patriotic does not mean that all dissent is patriotic, or that dissent in and of itself is patriotic. What it does mean is that dissent, which generally means the opposition to official policy, can be patriotic in certain circumstances. And not only that, but the right to disagree with official policy, or the freedom to have a dissenting opinion without fear of suffering unreasonable punishment for disagreeing, is built into the very fabric of a free and democratic society.

For instance, if your country is founded on a specific set of rules and principles, and the people in charge institute actions and policies that violate, undermine, or subvert those rules and principles, dissent (meaning rebellion, opposition, protest, the failure to comply or support the people in charge and their polices), would in such circumstances be considered patriotic.

Patriotism simply means love and support of country. By country we mean not only the land and its people, but our collective society, our culture, our government, and the founding principles and laws of our nation.

But laws can and do change. Just because something is lawful, doesn't necessarily mean that it is true, or just, or morally sound. For instance, slavery was once legal. At the time of legalized slavery, would you say it is patriotic to support the institution of slavery? If the founding principles of your country support slavery, than perhaps you could. However, if you believe that the institution of slavery violates what your country stands for, than supporting slavery would in fact be quite unpatriotic.

If you believe that all men and women are created equal, and that all human beings have a natural born right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and such a belief is written into the very laws and principles that your country was founded on, support for slavery, or anything else that opposes those principles, would be inimical to not only patriotism, but the ideals of truth, justice, and democracy.

So in such a circumstance those opposing the legalized institution of slavery, would be a good example of dissent being patriotic.

In a society based on democracy and the rule of law, patriotism does not mean uncritically supporting your country, right or wrong, no matter what. Country in this sense meaning government, your elected representatives, their official policies, and the military. Patriotism means supporting certain fundamental founding principles, values, and laws inherent to a democratic society, and holding your elected officials accountable to them.

If on the other hand a democratic nation is for instance taken over by a fascist tyrannical coup, that subverts democracy and the rule of law, it would not be patriotic to support such an administration's policies or military engagements.

So in conclusion, to reiterate my points: The phrase 'dissent is patriotic' basically means an opposition to tyranny and evil, corruption and injustice, and the abuse of power in high places, while actively seeking to change the people and policies responsible for subverting democracy and the rule of law.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Why Hope Matters

What is hope?

Hope is the optimistic expectation that things will change for the better.

That where there is ugliness, someday there will be beauty.

That where there is sickness, someday there will be health.

That where there is weakness, someday there will be strength.

That where there is poverty, someday there will be prosperity.

That where there is confusion, someday there will be clarity.

That where there is injustice, someday there will be justice.

That where there is cruelty, someday there will be kindness.

That where there is animosity, someday there will be forgiveness.

That where there is hatred, someday there will be love.

That where there is fear, someday there will be courage.

That where there is sadness, someday there will be happiness.

That where things are wrong, someday they will be made right.

Hope is the momentum that keeps us moving positively forward into the future.

Hope is intimately tied to inspiration and creativity, meaning and purpose.

Hope is life affirming. Hope is positive. Hope is a life saver. Hope is redemption.

Hope is a beacon of light pointing to a gloriously happy and prosperous future.

Hope is a yearning in your heart for something better, and the belief that something better will come.

Not someday distant, but someday soon.

"Hope in a Prison of Despair" by Evelyn de Morgan

What is the opposite of hope?

Without hope there lurks apathy and despair.

Hopelessness is the feeling of futility, that there is no possible solution to a problem, no chance of changing things for the better, that there is no escape and that all is lost. That your life has fallen into a deep hole. Where all you see is the bad, to the total exclusion of the good. The city is miserable. The housing is miserable. The jobs are miserable. The food is miserable. The weather is miserable. The scenery is miserable. The neighborhood is miserable. The people are miserable. The quality of your life is miserable.

To feel hopeless is to see no end to the misery, just more of the same and no way out.

Despair is a dead end. To live in despair is to die a painfully slow mental and emotional death. To be hopeless, is to give up your joy, and your passion for living. To allow the unfavorable circumstances of your life to obscure your vision and to overwhelm you into seeing no way out of the ugly darkness of despair.

How do you keep your hope alive?

The best way to nurture your optimism is to nurture your health: fitness, cleanliness, sobriety, and peace of mind.

Do everything within your power to stay healthy and mentally alert, to be of sober mind, relaxed heart, and clear conscience. To not break the law. To not descend into the abyss of drugs and alcohol and criminal associations. To keep your head clear and your mind sharp and your body fit and clean.

Cleanliness does wonders to promote a more positive frame of mind.

Keep your hair and finger nails clean, manicured and short, and your clothing laundered, even if you must wash it out by hand. It's easier to keep a shorter hair style clean, and having only minimal body hair inhibits the growth of bacteria and foul odors.

Dirty sickly bodies weaken the mind and dampers the spirit.

So you must do everything in your power to stay strong. To stay healthy, clean, well groomed, sober, and physically fit. This is not the only thing, but it is extremely beneficial.

Clean body, clean clothing, clean mind, plenty of exercise, and healthy food, free of all intoxicants: drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and sugary, salty, fatty toxic processed foods with minimal nutrition. Those things are the destroyers of health, and the destroyers of health are the destroyers of hope.

An interesting piece of trivia concerning hope:

Hope is one of the Seven Virtues of Catholicism. I'm not a Catholic or a Christian or even religious, but you can sign me up for these. I give these virtues my complete endorsement.

1. Prudence
2. Justice
3. Temperance (Restraint)
4. Courage (Fortitude)
5. Faith
6. Hope
7. Love (Charity)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Esoteric Notes Redux

This is a picture of one of my notepads filled with my handwritten notes. If you know anything about handwriting analysis this picture could possibly provide a goldmine of information, that is if you can read it. I write so fast that my handwriting is barely readable - which in certain circumstances could be a good thing - but I can read it just fine. I've even thought about using a mirror to write backwards, to conceal my private handwritten journals from prying eyes. Haven't done that yet, but I very well may.

Esoteric Notes
Cym's secret notes - Click to see LARGER

I'm always reading and taking a lot of notes. I have several notebooks, notepads, and binders filled with notes: passages from books, famous quotes, lists of books to read, names of people and places, words to define, subjects to look up online, and random insights that enter my mind written down in short form to possibly explore and elaborate upon another time.

Obviously many of my posts here are written randomly in the moment, as stream of consciousness musings in varying degrees of lucidity, some are written from memory, and others are based on an idea saved in one of my many notepads. I use these notes as writing prompts, and thinking prompts, as inspiration for future posts, or topics to think about and explore further.

It's particularly frustrating though when I sometimes forget or am too lazy to attribute the source of a quote. Seeing as though these notepads of mine are a mixture of different kinds of notes, some are my own original ideas written in my own words, and others are found and quoted word for word, so when I return to these notes months later, if I don't write down the source, I may not remember whether I wrote it or if someone else wrote it.

You could say it is the idea itself that matters most, not the person who thought of it, but I think it is useful to attribute the source, not simply as a token of credit and appreciation, but as a reference for finding additional related material. For instance, if you like a quote and know who coined it, you can look up the author and find more quotes of a similar nature.

So even if your notes remain private and unshared with others, it is a useful habit to get into to always attribute the source of your notes whenever possible, such as the name of the book and its author (or movie, website, song, or whatever), because later down the road when you page through your notepads, you may find that the name of the source may become a valuable note in itself - a word prompt leading to further investigation.

I am a very curious person and a very creative person. I am always learning. My mind is very active. If I'm not engaged in learning something, reading, thinking, and actively studying and contemplating the world, I would probably wither away. My mind would shrink. My confidence and will to live would fall. And the overall quality of my life, my sense of meaning and purpose, would become greatly diminished.

My interest in learning is a lifetime pursuit. But I am not an academic by any means (obviously). I have no interest in even going back to school, unless it were a job requirement, I feel that most of my learning can be done independently. To me learning is not merely vocational, it's recreational and inspirational. It is a way of life, not just something you do to make money or to get ahead materially, that's the least of it.

I'm not looking to be a walking encyclopedia, I'm looking to be a creative genius. I'm after wisdom. Not useless information. Any robot can memorize books and regurgitate facts. I'm looking for something more than that. I'm looking for freedom and creativity, independence and innovation, a deepening of awareness and an expansion of consciousness. I don't want to be a machine, I want to be a fully conscious, fully realized, creative, free thinking human being.

Learning, reading, note taking, is something I do in my spare time, but it makes up a very large chunk of how I spend my time. It is just the way I am. Like I've said here many times before: reading, thinking, exercising, and spending time in nature is pretty much my primary preoccupation.

This is another reason why I blog, because blogging is an extension of this creative note taking process, but it is interactive. Even if you never leave a comment, this blog is interactive. When you're sitting in your home, or wherever you may be reading this blog, unbeknownst to you you may actually be reading this at the same exact time as someone else on the other side of the planet.

What may initially appear to be a solitary individualistic experience, is actually a shared group experience. We are all observers and participants here. As soon as I'm finished writing, I'm a blog reader just like the rest of you. And the interaction occurs by reading or looking at what is here, engaging with it mentally, being affected by these words, makes you a participant too. You participate by being touched by these words, and responding to them in thought, in your own way.

It's kind of a trip if you think about it. I watch the watchers. You watch the watched. This insight is in the domain of quantum physics. How the observer becomes a participant, and the participant becomes the observed. Both influence each other. Your presence of attention influences the observed and the observed influences the observer. Rough. In my own words. Couldn't find a better quote. I had a great quantum physics quote that I think I accidentally threw away.

Here are a couple of relevant quotes transcribed from my notepad:

"No reality without a perception of reality - is the first rule of quantum physics."
- John A. Wheeler

"The universe as we know it is a joint product of the observer and the observed" - Pierre Teilhard de Chardin