*Sacred Order of Bodhisattvas, Buddhies, Beatniks, Bohemians, Bards, and Bozos

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Happy 4th Birthday #Occupy Wall Street!


Today marks the fourth anniversary of the day that protesters descended on Zuccotti Park in New York City, re-naming it Liberty Park and launching #Occupy Wall Street!  

Although the mainstream media narrative has often tried to deem as inconsequential the impact of the two month encampment, there can be no doubt that beyond the amazing spread of the #Occupy movement across the United States that fall, the Spirit continued to move across the land in a myriad of local, regional and national efforts to create a more equitable and democratic society.   (Read Michael Levitin's  article in The Atlantic, "The Triumph of Occupy Wall Street.")

On the national level, it seems to me that the emergence of Bernie Sanders, an avowed Democratic Socialist, as a credible candidate for the Democratic nomination for President this year is a direct result of #OWS! bringing into focus the alarming, and growing, income inequality existing in the US --and bringing to the national stage the issue of the ever-increasing domination and distortion of a government claimed to be "of the people, by the people, and for the people", by a wealthy corporate elite.  (Although it may be just lip-service even several of the Republicans have been propelled to allude to, if not address,  the disparity between the 1% and the 99% and the influence of unbridled money on the political process as well.) 

#OWS! made the case. Now it's up to each of us to stay on the case. 

The Flame of Liberty Park

Written as a song of triumph the night that Mayor Bloomberg first threatened to clear the #OccupyWall Street! encampment at Zuccotti Park --then backed off -- this is another one of those songs that pretty much wrote itself.  

A year later, for Occupy's First Birthday, I revised it a bit to reflect that fact that the Mayors Militarized Minions had ultimately cleared the camp.  Then I put it up on YouTube with a one take audio track captured with an $8 web cam mike, an old Dell laptop grunting away trying to run a basic video editing program, and a collection of photos that I grabbed from the web.   It took me about 16 hours that day.

It is, I think, still a Song of Triumph.  It certainly was a labor of love,  born of a labor of love.  (You can read the original ramble here: Happy Birthday #OWS!)  

But first have a look and a listen!? 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Lest We Forget: September 11, 2001

An Excerpt From "Thoughts in the Presence of Fear"
                                -- Wendell Berry, Orion Magazine 2001

In the aftermath of the horror of September 11, 2001, Kentucky farmer, author, environmentalist and activist wrote a stirring series of three essays, published as In the Presence of Fear. 

Berry's clear grasp of what had happened and what needed to be done was a clear indictment of the Bush administration's response.  Unfortunately, we have now seen that a change in administration did not change the fundamental nature of the plight we're in.  Fourteen years later, the ascendancy of neo-liberalism, with it's on-going march of an unfettered industrial capitalism bolstered by military power and the national security state, makes Berry's words even more relevant.

Here is an excerpt from the first essay.  It can be found in it's entirety at: https://orionmagazine.org/article/thoughts-in-the-presence-of-fear/

Wendell Berry
We citizens of the industrial countries must continue the labor of self-criticism and self-correction. We must recognize our mistakes…

This is why the substitution of rhetoric for thought, always a temptation in a national crisis, must be resisted by officials and citizens alike…

The aim and result of war necessarily is not peace but victory, and any victory won by violence necessarily justifies the violence that won it and leads to further violence…

What leads to peace is not violence but peaceableness, which is not passivity, but an alert, informed, practiced, and active state of being… The key to peaceableness is continuous practice…

Friday, August 28, 2015

They Just Washed Away 
Katrina a Man-made Disaster: Before, During, and After
(See Laura Flanders GRITv , Democracy Now!, and Brother Lefty Videos below)

Hurricane Katrina Takes Aim on the Gulf Coast
It still breaks my heart to cast my mind's eye on the Horror that swept through New Orleans in August of 2005.

Sometimes I still come to tears as I attempt to sing "Washed Away", the song that wrote me as I sat there ten years ago in Queens, NY, choked with pain and anger, appalled at what was happening -- and trying to comprehend how this could happen in the wealthiest nation on earth.

Made in the U.S.A.

Although Hurricane Katrina, the ferocious vortex that was born over the Atlantic Ocean during the sultry days of late August that year was a "natural" phenomenon, what happened a decade ago was not. It was, from beginning to end, a man-made disaster, a glaring example of the continued institutional racism of the neo-liberal era.

The confederate flag may have been removed from the State Capital grounds in South Carolina, but the de facto segregation and the systematic patterns of power that disadvantages people of color shaped the nature of the disaster that emerged.

In line for evacuation buses at the Superdome
The catastrophic series of events that decimated New Orleans, killing 1836 people (nearly a 1000 of them in the City itself), and displacing a million and a half others in the region, had been predicted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  They knew that the 100 year old system of levees and flood control protecting the half a million residents of the City, nearly 70% of whom were Black, couldn't withstand the force of a hurricane of that magnitude.  They also reported that there no adequate system in place to evacuate the people at risk.

Then, they passed the buck -- or the bucks, rather.  Crony Capitalism at it's worst, FEMA privatized New Orlean's Disaster Planning in 2004.

This is all a matter of public record.  It's there in black and white. 

Those in charge knew.

In fact, just three months before Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Agency responsible for flood control, had issued another warning to the Bush Administration which had not yet acted to implement a flood control plan involving extensive construction they had proposed years earlier.

My Humble Take on the Real Deal

I believe that the movement for peace, economic democracy and social justice is a Spiritual Quest. No mean feat, what is called for is a True Revolution of the Heart and Mind--and it starts with each of us.

This revolution has to be Peaceful. The Hippies (and Jesus and Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. King, et al) had it right. It really is all about Peace and Love. Besides being a total drag, violence just doesn't work. It keeps our wheels spinning in fear, anger and pain. Who needs that?

Besides some hard work, I think the Revolution also calls for dancing, plenty of laughter, and some sitting around just doing nothing. (Some folks call it meditation.)

As Stephen Gaskin, proclaimed years ago:

"We're out to raise Hell--in the Bodhisattvic* sense."

Doesn't that sound like some serious fun?

(*The Bodhisattva Vow is a set of commitments made in the Mahayana Buddhist tradition. It basically says I vow to get my act together and figure it out well enough to really help out--and I ain't gonna stop until everybody is covered.

I've found that doesn't necessarily have to happen in that order. It's best to try to help out even before you have it all together! Like right now.)

-----Brother Lefty Smith, Founding S.O.B*