To Bern or Not to Bern!

I am growing weary of the superfluous yet at the same time deeply important clash between the #neverhillary Bernie supporters and the #nevertrump Bernie supporters. I’m not certain the split aligns perfectly with a millennial demographic or not, but somebody is either being somewhat politically naive or is incredibly ideologically pure about something. One puddle of wisdom (from my small reservoir of wisdom) that I have imparted to my millennial daughter on occasion, is that one of the things about life that sucks the most is you will have to sometimes do things you really don’t want to do. I’m pretty sure this is one of those times.

Here’s the thing. There’s a big difference between issues politics and electoral politics. The difference is that in issues politics it is necessary to demand 100% of what you want because that is the only way to get any of what you want. It’s you and your issue versus everybody else and their issue. There are multiple contestants in multiple battles so where you win you stay and where you don’t you move on. In modern electoral politics there are only two contestants (as far as is today’s reality) and the point comes (and it always comes) where you need other people’s supporters on your side to win, because your goal and reward is not a small victory in isolation but a majority victory in a contest decided by everyone. It is not a contest of you versus everyone else but of your coalition versus their coalition.

Compromise of ideologies is necessary in the electoral world and an anathema in the issues world. Many Bernie supporters come from the world of issues politics. They did not previously involve in electoral politics because they had no use for elections unless it directly affected their funding. Other than that they would only pursue an electoral victory if they had a champion for their issue(s). There have been single issues champions throughout the but rarely have there been any special leaders who could coalesce the numerous issues silo activists into a cohesive power bloc.

Issues activists are used to either getting what they want or leaving defeat behind and moving on to the next battle. They make black and white decisions. The concept of joining together in a coalition with the people who just caused you lose, who made you not get what you want, is utterly alien to them and feels dirty and immoral. So it’s not difficult to understand why they have trouble putting together movements. It’s just sad.

This phenomenon works in reverse as well, although people involved in electoral politics usually only drop in to work on issues when they feel burned out and made filthy by the deceits of electoral politics, and want to recharge and cleanse. Someone coming to issues politics from electoral politics will seek coalitions with what they consider to be like minded issues advocates, with similar issues. They don’t quite understand why the other issues groups leave the coalition once they get what they want. Then they remember why they were frustrated with issues activism to begin with and go back to electoral politics. To work in both electoral politics and issues politics concurrently takes some highly skilled compartmentalising, of which not everyone is capable.

This whole broken process has been a bane of the progressive movement for years, because it hasn’t really been a movement at all. It has been a bunch of separate progressive issues oriented advocacy groups all in competition with each other for grants and status and recognition. There is always a lot of rhetoric about coming together as one coherent progressive movement but it always dissolves into jealousy and competition for scarce resources. The scarcity of resources is intentional and part of a greater strategic initiative by right wing tricksters, but that’s another story.

These progressives have only come together in agreement when they have had a messiah figure to rally them. Gene McCarthy, George Mc Govern, Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich, all to widely varying degrees, were able to bring a number of progressives together into some semblance of a movement, enough to have some modest influence on the Democratic Party. Bernie has been the latest, most successful and probably least likely of these standard bearers. The rub is these movements died off with the relevance of their leaders. Without the focus of the strong leader the coalition descends once again into the relative chaos of egotism and economically manipulated competition.

Bernie is, and always has been, aware of this. Warnings about life after Bernie have been clear parts of his speeches from the get go. He has spent most of his time and energy since it became apparent he would not win the nomination imploring that his followers continue on and forge a game changing movement. This is true, and necessary. He has implored them to remember that this is not about him but about us. This is true, and necessary. He has implored us to defeat Donald Trump by any and all means. This is true, and necessary. He is showing and/or reminding us that 30% of 100% is much more than 100% of nothing. This is true, necessary and perhaps his greatest lesson taught.

What I don’t understand is why so many of Bernie’s followers, who have followed him through the crucible of mainstream efforts to get in his way, have now stopped listening to him. Actually I do understand. The messiah has betrayed them. He has not delivered on their issue(s) so they are expressing their rage. They will try another tack later after they get over feeling suckered by promises of glory in a progressive paradise. To be clear though, this type of betrayal is not an unusual occurrence. It is seen, commonly, in the affairs of both parties and is not fixable from the top down. Let me repeat, it is not fixable from the top down but only from the bottom up. This is why Bernie is so adamant that his supporters not run away licking their wounds but stay and fight and elect Clinton despite themselves.

In order to have a bottom up re-evolutionary movement that succeeds the Sanders coalition must stay together and organize. To accomplish this it is critical that the activated millennials not get jaded and cynical and go back to their X-boxes. Bernie is trying his damnedest to impart the knowledge that this whole thing is bigger than him and must survive his primary loss. And the first step towards that accomplishment is to prevent the uniquely American fascism of Trump and his minions from ever getting enough control to do irreparable harm to our nation and thus the globe. That would take generations to recover from.

So listen up kiddos and ex hippies. You think you need an unconditional Bernie electoral victory, when what you really need is for the many wonderful progressive issues activists out there to drop their ego facades, overcome their economic jealousies, and form the powerful progressive movement that has always been there, dormant, and ready to flip the entire political landscape. I can help, but I’m old, as are my beautiful tye dyed peers. The mantel is now being passed from Bernie’s hippie contemporaries to Bernie’s hipster acolytes. We’ll all help actually, if you let us, we’re experienced protesters. And we still know how to roll an English joint.

Here’s a parable for us to end todays sermon. When Mom broke out the Ben and Jerry’s  you told her you wanted 3 scoops of Cherry Garcia. She said no but you can each have a half scoop of chocolate chip cookie dough, because that’s all we have. Do you say no, I know you have some Cherry Garcia in there and it’s either the whole 3 scoops or nothing at all. Or, do you take the cookie dough and get at least a bit of a sweet taste in your mouth. If you all keep bugging mom maybe you’ll get some of that Cherry Garcia next time.

You weren’t that stuck up in school, were you?

Had it up to HERE

I usually wait longer than a week to chime in on major events, so I can get a reading of how the wind is blowing and respond in that very arrogant all knowing way I am prone to. The event in Charleston SC, though, has blown me away, and all of my above it all superiority has melted away in the fire of anger and disgust. For me this is the last straw.

This is not about Christianity. This is not about gun control. This is not about mental illness. This is not about race. This is not about isolated “lone wolves” abandoned by their society. This is not about crime as anomaly. This is not about terrorism. This is not about meting out justice. This is not about the law or government. This is not about partisanship. This is not about the Confederate flag. This is not about the death penalty. It is all of these things and none of them.

This IS about systemic violence used as a bridge to cross the gulfs created by divisions in our society; divisions created through any number of social ills; social ills created by deeply ingrained ideas of privilege and class structure; social ills created by contending norms of race and wealth and status and political ideology.

This violence is not only that of the physical. It is that of the emotional. It is that of the mental. It is that of the spiritual. That said, it is physical violence, appearing as it does in the densest plane of existence, the physical plane, that is most apparent and observable to us. Therefore it is physical violence that we most relate to and respond to when grieving and mourning the descent of civility into the morass, into the pit, into disintegration. It is physical violence that shoves our weakness as a species into our collective face.

In this culture, the American culture, more than any other, violence is an accepted means of resolving conflict. In fact it is the primary means, the most revered the most glorified means. Let me say that again. Violence is the preferred means of resolving conflict in this our America. Daddies teach their boys that to “be a man” one must learn how to fight, that the best way to settle differences with the other boys is a hay maker to the jaw. Government is made up primarily of those very boys, not far removed from the grade school playgrounds where they learned and perfected using violence as a tool to get their way. They tell us the best defense is a good offense. They tell us might makes right. They are like the husband who thinks he is strong because he can beat up his wife.

We spend an ungodly amount of money on machines of violence, so much more than on assuaging social ills and solving the many other problems that afflict us. We can read the words alright, but cannot seem to actually beat our swords into plowshares. Most of our great spectacles, professional sports, reinforce the message of violence, either overtly or covertly. We continually endorse this ideal of violent conflict resolution through the glorification of violence in all media, and in our blatant acceptance of it’s value.

The constant assault on our civilized sensibilities, at the expense of our mortal souls, and the resulting continuous and senseless destruction of those we love, this is the visible result of consciously or unconsciously applied physical violence. It is the part of the iceberg we can see. But, for me, it is the other forms of violence, the hidden violence of emotion and mentality, that cut society the deepest. Families slice each other up with focused, hurtful words. This too is violence. Businessmen step all over each other in the vicious battle we know as climbing the corporate ladder, the race to the top, rung by bloody rung. Political rivals, sporting rivals, romantic rivals, are not to simply defeat their opponents but kick their asses, to destroy them. We compete not to win but to annihilate. We do not call our rivals opponents but insist they are enemies.

We most readily use violence on ourselves. The fuel that propagates violence is hate. Hate is not the opposite of love as many may say. Hate originates within. It is the self loathing all of us experience somehow, somewhere, sometime, in that place we won’t let anybody see, that gives birth to hatred. Hatred is learned and we can only first experience it through hating something we ourselves are or do, something about our own selves that disgusts and mortifies us, something that holds us back from shining the light of our true, loving selves out into the world. Only then will we see those things in the “others” and hate them too. We begin to see anything that frightens us, or threatens us, perceived or real, and hate the “others” for it.

We use this hate of self to perpetrate violence on ourselves in myriad ways, some of them so subtle as to be nearly invisible and unreachable. These internal wars are the basis for the psychological, spiritual and/or intellectual violence that is so deadly to us and our culture, because of its ability to hide in places we can’t reach, like a virus in our bodies, waiting for that moment of weakness when it can emerge and strike swiftly and with blinding force.

As it is in the microculture of our own consciousness so it is in the macroculture of our relationship to the world. We cannot possibly be the decrepit creatures we see when we look inside. There must be some reason we fail. It must be that other, whoever that other might be. What the world teaches us is disgusting is in the other. We will assign any disgusting failure we want to the other, as long as it makes us feel better, as long as it stops the pain for just a few moments. Hatred and violence is the morphine of painful and failing lives. If we cannot shine our light then nobody can, especially the other, in whom we see ourselves mirrored so clearly. But we mustn’t let anyone know how alike we are. We must destroy the other before anyone can find out.

We need to look deep inside ourselves to find the buried vault of our hatred. We have to remove the multiple locks that bind the vault, one by one, regardless how difficult and wrenching. We must then take what we find there and search deeper yet, to find where it came from, from what decrepit fountain it poured forth. We must dive into that fountain of filth, swimming through the putrid bile of our own, hidden self hate to the source, the pump that forces the hate into our hearts. It is primordial.

It may be true, as many say, we are violent by our nature, it will never change, it’s in our DNA, it’s useless to try. But is that any good reason to give up, to stop trying, to throw up our hands and say it’s bigger than us, we can’t win. When has anything ever been bigger than a human heart full of love. If we truly believe that love conquers all then this is the time to prove it. This is the time to break the chain of violence. But it will take men and women and children with profound love and of unyielding courage, in action, the action of both warming the feet of the frightened and holding to the fire the feet of those both self righteous and only selectively human.

I speak to myself when I say we need to DO more and TALK less.

Americans believe in faith, even if it is the faith that no faith exists.

I have faith we can bury hatred and it’s weapon, violence, under a mountain of love.

Join me.

It’s In The Cans

Some time ago my daughter came to me saying she was tired of the ear bud headphones most kids use with their iPods and such. She wanted a “nice” pair of over the ear headphones for college. She was, of course, most familiar the Monster Beats by Dr. Dre, which are de rigueur for anyone for whom street cred is the least bit important. The most popular models are the Solo, which are expensive for a 16 year old at $200, and the Studio, which, for a teen, tempt burglary at $300. The main feature of the Beats, that which gives them their cool factor, is their bass reproduction, which features the same kind of teeth rattling booming that you hear when a car full of gangsta wannabes pulls up next to you at a stoplight. This is what most teens want to listen to whether they are into hip hop, dubstep, death metal or classic rock. Monster sells them in droves.

The fact that a particular market segment has particular taste in what they like music to sound like is the basis for my observations of the headphone world, as I have been researching a pair for my daughter as she heads off to find adulthood in college. To get an idea of the positive and negative features of the various brands and models readily available I have been reading the user comments at websites such as Best Buy and Amazon, where the average user would purchase. I figured the more esoteric websites offering lesser known yet quality brands were the domain of audiophiles and aural fanatics and would skew my opinions of a product meant for an iPhone and laptop and not a studio or a top drawer entertainment room featuring class A amps and space age speakers with the best 7:1 surround sound crossover unit.

I found that the consumers who actually took the time to comment and review these products were primarily of two types, serious pro musicians and sonic aficionados with limited budgets who were looking for near state of the art, pro level equipment at high end consumer prices and high school kids who wanted to be cooler than their friends and have phones that were more expensive and had better bass than the ubiquitous ear buds worn by the mere peons.

Regardless of brand, model or price the comments were overwhelmingly either raving positive or bitterly negative. One could pretty much determine which category of buyer the commentary was from by the nature of the judgement. A scathing negative comment was invariably from a musician or self appointed audiophile while the “best I ever heard” comments were from kids whose best previous audio experience likely came from a pair of $12 budget ear buds from Walmart. This disparity speaks to many cultural values, our expectations, our perception of value, marketing, design and manufacturing strategies, who creates our entertainment media and why, the realities of sound frequencies, pressure, recording techniques and the human perception of same, and the broadly diverse range of subjective truth among humans relating to their relative perception of the exact same phenomenon.

It is the disparate perceptions, embraced by different people, of phenomenon witnessed by all people, pretty much from the same viewpoint, that are what I see as important here. People perceive both things and concepts, in some ways the same and in others quite different. The frames people use to process these phenomena depend on which perceptions they accept as true. We communicate our truths through language. If we agree that language deals with things and concepts then it is my contention that all things and concepts have both an absolute and a relative nature. I’ll examine this further.

Let us first look at things. The government gives people Food Stamps. This is a tangible activity. It has a giver, a taker, requirements, a physical transactional document that is honored by certain businesses as valid, and a result. It is an absolute thing whose metaphoric frame can be known by knowing any of those various segments separately. It is real and has a recognizable substance. Yet, different people see and judge its value in dramatically different ways, using radically different language to describe and define it. In this sense it is totally relative and one must be aware of the perceiver’s relative agenda before they can know the other parts of their base frame, see it in it’s entirety, and know the language that triggers it into consciousness. To simplify, the glass that is equally full and equally empty is absolute, tangible and universally knowable. But it is relative to those seeing it as half empty and those seeing it as half full.

Concepts are another thing entirely. Concepts are not tangible and therefore there are often as many perceptions of the definition of a concept as there are people perceiving it. But this does not represent relativity. Contrary to things, there is no physically tangible reality to perceive. The absolute nature of a concept must include every disparate perception, for everyone’s perception is real and has to be included in any definition of the concept.

Perhaps this can be slightly more simply stated by using mathematical set circles to describe these ideas. With things there is a real object which means there is something all viewpoints share. Thus all sets intersect and share points of data. These intersected subsets represent the absolute nature of the thing, qualities that everyone accepts as truth. For example everyone sees that a certain chair is made of wood. People who say it isn’t wood are considered as not being truthful. Their set does not intersect the “truth” subset. The relative nature is represented by all the different sets of perceptions, however slight, of the thing. These relative sets may include subsets of shared perceptions of their own but always include exclusive qualities that separate them from other sets. They are sets on their own and not subsets.

Regarding concepts the sets are much different. In this case all the relative sets are actually subsets of the gigantic absolute set of qualities. Once again they may share qualities, creating other subsets, but are again unique subsets unto them selves and thus relative.

So to summarize, the absolute nature of things are subsets and the relative nature sets, and the absolute nature of concepts are sets and the relative nature subsets.

Back to the headphones. Applying the aforementioned principles, the actual headphones are a real and physical thing. They have an absolute nature, the subset of construction materials, color, name, packaging, which everyone sees as the same, and a relative nature, represented by the sets of semi pro and amateur listeners, with their different perception of what the headphones do, how they perform. These differences are revealed through the reviews. Although the relative sets are all different, the subsets created by the shared perceptions of certain relative sets point to a modestly dualist relationship between those sets. They break down basically into those who, for a number of reasons, think they sound good and those who think they sound awful.

This is where things get interesting from my perspective. There are undoubtedly those who would say that how the headphones sound is not about the physical reality of the thing at all but a subjective thought process, in other words, a concept. This sounds logical but it is not quite accurate. Yes, it is subjective process but it remains a thing and not a concept. Regardless of the relative perceptions of sounds good or sounds bad those perceptions are still dependent on the thing being the thing. Therefore the perceptions are also a thing. This is the logic behind the statement “perception is reality”. The thing itself represents the physics of it’s existence and the perception of the thing signifies the metaphysics of it’s nature.

Where we get into concepts are in the reasons for the perceptions. Yes, reasons also relate to the thing but are not dependent on the thing. A reason may relate to several other things. Reasons that relate to many different things, often in a large shared subset, can sometimes be called ideologies, or a logic of ideas. So a reason can exist outside the realm of the thing and must be considered a separate idea, or concept. This subtle but significant difference between perception and reason is confusing to many of us and, when applied dishonestly, can blur the line between the perception and reality of both things and concepts.

Often when coherent collected concepts, ideologies, are applied to perceptions, things can be made to appear to have several different realities, and the agenda behind the ideology directs and focuses all perceptions of the thing into a particular desired reality, somewhat like cattle being led to the killing floor. Absolute truths can appear relative, and thus subject to seemingly logical doubts that the truth might not really be universal. Relative truths can be made to appear universal and apply to everything. It can get kind of scary.

But back to the headphones. The concepts dealt with here are the “reasons” people use headphones in the first place. They relate to the use of the thing, the headphones, but they are more broad reaching. In this instance they line up in a simple, if over generalized, duality of “I want to be cool and have fun” versus “I want state of the art and have a superior experience”. But they could also apply to a relationship with other things, such as the choice of buying an X Box or an iPad, or the choice of going to a poetry slam or a theatrical play. So the reasoning is more conceptual than tangible and thing specific.

What I find interesting about this is the phenomenon of people using the same words to describe essentially different concepts. This muddying of the waters has been called using contested concepts. Words such as love and freedom have become contested concepts because there are many unrelated ideas that use the very same word to describe all of them. For example the people with the highly disparate concepts above, about headphones etc., could all describe their reasoning as doing what is cool. Cool is perhaps the ultimate contested concept.

So how did I get off onto all this esoteric tangential stuff just from thinking about buying my daughter some headphones. Because sick minds leave no stone unturned when it comes to complicating a simple task. But I do think its not bad to understand that we all share at least some truths about “things” even though there are those who say we don’t. And many of us have very few or no shared “concepts”, outside of a sharing of contested words, when we are often told that we not only do share but must share.

So Monster can market Dr. Dre’s Beats headphones to impressionable kids because they are able to convince them that the concept of being cool can only become an absolute reality when they buy those headphones. This flies in the face of the relative reality that any number of headphones, some more and some less expensive, are perfectly able to satisfy their initial reason for having “good, over the ear headphones”. But it is a clear example of how smart marketers use psychology and knowledge of metaphysics to influence our nation of consumers.

Confusion about absolute and relative truths and ideas, concepts, perceptions and reality abound in our world. But we don’t have to suffer that confusion. It can be as simple as believing what we feel or believing what we are told. Yes, one man’s ceiling is another man’s floor. Just try to remember that both men are in the same building.