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Providing a platform for new and different voices...

Monday, July 19, 2010

The lost art of Integrity

Determining what is 'right' is a longwinded question with no real answer at all.  But there are guidelines: taking responsibility for one's actions, telling the truth, treating people with mutual respect and dignity, standing up for yourself and/or others, injustice, fairness, whatever.  But what does any of this matter here in a Western society that no longer values this within ourselves?  

We no longer hold these things dear.  It used to be that a 'man' was only as good as his 'word' and that honesty meant something.  It was all he had.  Now certainly it would be nice to expand that to 'person', as opposed to just a 'man', but the fact of the matter is that it just doesn't mean that much anymore to anyone.  People focus on themselves first, foremost, and even solely; they will compromise what is 'right' in a second if it means that they individually might have to sacrifice.  Would you stand up for what you believe to be 'right' even if it means it might cause you some discomfort or loss?  To what extent?

You live in a small town, you know people there, they know you.  An employer you know well decides not to pay their employee for some hours worked and your testimony could provide justice in the situation.  No lies or anything of the sort needed, simply telling the truth if asked.  Yet that is too much to ask even as the person not getting paid is someone you have loved.  You know they worked there, you know they put in the effort, and you know they have accepted responsibility for their own personal indiscretions.  They simply want to be paid for their time worked.  Yet you do not stand up for them or for honesty or integrity in general but rather simply for your own self-interest.  A self-interest that in-fact promotes dishonesty elsewhere.  And we as a society not only understand that, we condone it, we make it so that this choice is acceptable and perhaps necessary.  This is the most shameful part - this is way life has become us.

Our world has become about nothing more than individual politicking.  We play both sides, we do what we must do to raise ourselves up the ladders of life whether through the course of integrity or not.  Value judgements are placed on when and where we use our concept of integrity.  There are no principles, no stands to be made for what is 'right' or 'wrong', no real care about others or concessions to our selves or our 'individual liberties' in the face of another's.  The only stand that we make is that singularly popular stand for ourselves - even if this happens in the face of compromising ours or someone else's integrity.  This is truly a sad world we've created, and it is a world that - with each stand we do not take - that we continually perpetuate each and every day...   :(


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Life II

Better to read the previous post first as this one is simply an extension of that one.  The continuation of that concept of equality and treating all living things the same, of course needs to be accompanied by ways of doing this.  What this means is that life must become about conservation, simplicity, compassion, and patience, rather than extravagance, indulgence, and the self.  The drawback to this is that life becomes more complex as a person has to think about other things before they do things.  It means examining everything you do at all times and thinking can I do this in a more minimalist way?  You may have to take the time to get a glass and trap a spider or ant and release it outside, that you may have to get halfway down the stairs and realize that you have left the light on and go back to turn it off, that you should use cloth towels rather than paper ones.    Re-use the same glass all day, the same plate, blah blah blah, we've all heard the same arguments all along.  The trick to it is constantly having it on your mind, or at least in the back of it.  Can I be more efficient here, there?  I was chopping wood, I protected the insects I could.  At a public rest room, don't use the air or the towel after you wash your hands, dry it on your shirt, its just water.

We all live in the world we are born in to.  In most places today we almost certainly have to have cars, computers, food, etc to live, and we get these things in a myriad of ways.  But what we must to is to try to make it minimally intrusive on the world and lives we're surrounded by.  Find a balance with our lives and the liberty of all living things.  Life is a team sport, and we are all on the same side.

This line of thought is also far more complex and holds much more depth than the simple living things.  It is about identifying the chain of life and order of things.  If a light is left on, at what cost does this come?  In order to produce energy today there must be land area used and cleared, production capacities set up, transport facilities, workers and tools to do it all with, transformation infrastructure makes it all usable, circuit breakers, lights, bulbs, etc.  All of this production chain requires the same complex things.  Our economy is one huge production sponge.  It takes lives at every instant and with every addition to the production cycle.  In terms of space, movement, facilitation, and delivery.  The environment is being alterered and changed at each step.  Therefore, we must reduce our consumption, reducing our production, reducing the amount of space and resources we need to live.  This is not a new concept, conservation is at the heart of so many movements right now.  But it is important to understand that with everything you buy or consume you are taking something form the earth and it inhabitants.

We need to come to a new homeostasis with the earth and to balance our needs with its resources.  We already have to many people on the earth, and we are trying to develop all societies so that they can live a 'modern' life, with all the amenities.  The world however can not sustain this.  So what do we do?  We kill people in the developing world with our consumption and drive for resources.  Diamonds, rubber, oil.  When we try to create ethanol based bio-diesel from corn for our cars, the cost of corn goes up and some people can't afford food.  We are hurting people by our own desire and arrogance of the self, and perpetrating it with our own ignorant media and informational methods.  All living entities on the planet - plants, insects, bacteria, etc - are all affected by this.

This is really about a mental exercise.  It is never 'just' a plastic bag or plastic wrap, never 'just' better to take the short cut, but it is always an opportunity to make a difference, every moment, every day.  If you can leave a building by physically opening a door or using the electronic garage or handicapped door opener, which do you choose?  Open the door by yourself, its healthier for both you and the world.  If we conserve in our self consumption, our self production, and in all else we encounter every day, we can simplify life and help provide equal outcomes for all lives, on all levels.      

Monday, July 12, 2010


I have spent a great deal of time over the last however many months and years really trying to explain my view of life to people.  I feel that it might just be easier to put it down on paper and send people here to read it.

Before I get into the ills of society and what we are doing to offset the balances of life on our planet, think it best to jsut state my position.  I believe first and foremost that we are all equal.  By this I do not mean "we", as in all of us Americans, or Westerners, or Ethnicities and Races, creeds and religions, or even ever so more broadly, humans.  I mean ALL of us.  All of the living things that inhabit our earthly environment.  From the most arrogant of humans to the most "ignorant" of algae - plants, animals, insects, bacteria, and both the earthly and unearthly particles that may or may not surround us.  I see the earth as an holistic entity that works uniformly together, and thus everything in it should be valued and respected as such.  A wise old man name Mozi, once espoused a principle of "universal love" for all.  And by "all" Mozi - to my interpretation - was generally speaking of people (though his works are some 2500 years old and translated so one can't be certain).   But anyway, I take this concept further than this interpretation.  I think it is about universal 'love', or as I prefer universal 'respect', for ALL things on earth.

So what does this mean?  Everyone can easily say that they love all things, but do we really show it, practice it?  When was the last time you killed a fly?  A spider?  An animal?  Pulled out a weed?  Chopped down a tree?  All of these are things that many of us do in daily life - get out the fly swatter and kill one.  This is not right.  That fly - along with every other thing in the world - has just as equal a right to live as you and me and everything else.  Who are we as humans to decide what or who lives and dies?  We call war and killing a travesty, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International beat the drums of individual rights to life/liberty and of the 'inhumane' treatment of those less fortunate and suffering, but for the most part we stop there.  Yes of course we try to protect animals.  We value them right below us on the arrogance chain.  We choose not to include other living beings.  Some do, Buddhist principles respect the life of all things, yet the rest of us don't head their lesson.  Why not try not to kill worms or whatever else doesn't have to die for survival?

I often have a disagreement with some vegetarian friends over this basic principle.  Some vegetarians don't eat meat because they physically feel better when they don't, others may find it a positive social scenario, others about the mistreatment of animals in slaughterhouses, etc, the list goes on infinitely.  I however have a serious problem with people that say they don't want to kill animals - yet they have ABSOLUTELY no problem killing a plant.  In simple terms this is 100% hypocritical.  Your problem is with death, yet you put a value judgement on who's or what's life is more important than another's!!  A living thing is a living thing and no values should be attached to them.  

Now most often, the first thought in people's minds is usually: but we have to eat, we have to do things to maintain our lives.  Of course we do.  And the basis of my concept is that we have to find a balance and put in an effort - at all costs - not to harm things that do not explicitly need to be done or killed/harmed.  We have to eat, so we kill animals, plants, etc.  So this in my view is a necessary scenario, just as a spider kills and eats a fly.  But these killings should be done respectfully and only out of necessity.  Not as we do now in overcrowded slaughter houses that take nothing into account but the cost of production and killing.  We should all do what we need to do to survive but work within a balance of nature that goes way beyond one's own 'self'.  And I know this is difficult to understand because we have been taught and socialized to see the world solely through our own eyes and in hierarchical terms based upon us at either the center or the top.  In terms of our own individual quality of life, killing a fly makes our lives 'easier', convenient.  Are we so arrogant to think that we are above another living thing that we share an entire ecosystem with?  Without flies we would not exist, just as without spiders there would be to many flies.  A friend said, yes but flies spread disease and in refugee camps this is one of the leading causes of sickness and death.  But when was the last time someone died in suburban New York from disease spread by flies?    It is not the flies, it is the cleanliness and unsavory conditions that these people are living in that then can be spread by ANYTHING, including flies.   In my opinion, we kill flies mostly because they are annoying and because we have been taught they are "bad."

So here we sit, at the top of the arrogance chain, speaking as if we are the almighty overlords of our world.  Who is, or how, our population growth is being checked is sadly not at issue.  We are the one's putting the world's ecosystem and living scenario at risk with our overpopulation and over consumption.    Is arrogance civilized?  It is certainly not team oriented, or cooperative in nature.  It is a value judgement, I/We are 'better' than something else.  What do you think of when you see an arrogant person in your daily life?  Do you respect them, or do they rub you the wrong way?  We are that person in the world we live in.  We should strive for compassion, and equality in value in an attempt to universally respect ALL living things - not just humans or sometimes animals, but EVERYTHING that we SHARE our world with.  Give life everyday...  Share life everyday...