The Conscientious Contrarian

The US Presidency

by Calliope Braintree

The Conscientious Contrarian

The Conscientious Contrarian

The whole thing is ridiculous. I have a much better idea. First of all, instead of it’s being thehighest, most prestigious and powerful office, the US presidency needs to be the lowest, most embarrassing thing a person could have forced on them. The way it is now, just the fact that somebody wants it, makes them suspect. There should be no pay what-so-ever. The poor thing stuck with this hideous job should have to live under a bridge somewhere. But they could choose their own bridge. They could have food stamps, but that’s it. They’d have to do their own shopping, and do their cooking under the bridge.

 

 This would be good. They wouldn’t be able to contribute to genocide, make mandates, pass or veto legislation…they’d be too busy pan-handling and picking lice out of their hair. They would have to do a few hours of paper work a day…assuming they weren’t drunk, and could be located, which wouldn’t be easy.

 The method for choosing the victims would be a lottery. One native born or naturalized citizen a year. Like jury duty, people would desperately try to figure out ways of getting their names out of the pool. Citizenship would be a worrisome thing. Because once a year, a new loser would be picked by the wisdom of randomness. Everybody else would be wiping their brows in exaggerated relief, grateful to be guaranteed one more year of freedom, while the loser was dragged away kicking and screaming. They would probably pretend to be smug and say things like, “Well it’s only a year. I don’t know what they’re so upset about,” and, “It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it,” knowing, full well, they’d feel exactly the same way.

 Getting picked for this job would be worse than contracting leprosy. There could be no going back to their former lives, when it’s over. Oh, sure, there would be the occasional rare genius who managed something like that, but mostly they would be martyrs for freedom. People would speak abstractly of their nobility and sacrifice, around their dinner tables, but shun the actual people. But it wouldn’t be only the presidents who suffered this fate. For it to work, all the officials would have to suffer the same predicament. They would probably form communities like the Hoovervilles of old and figure out how to make a living by collecting cans and selling discarded pallets. They would discover the pleasures of fifty-five gallon drums and the nice warm fires they contain.

 This would work. This would be good. Without shepherds, the sheep would be left to their own devices. They would learn how to run their own lives, how to think for themselves. They’d revert back into Mountain Goats and become intelligent, brave, nimble-footed and free. With everybody focused on the possibility of losing their freedom and standard of living…there are a lot of officials and a lot of potential to be the loser…people wouldn’t care about laws. There would be no need to either make or enforce laws. The need for people to enjoy what they have, because next year it might be gone, would dominate absolutely everything.

 But of course…

 People being the connivers they are, strange sorts of black markets would develop, loop holes would be found and the ones who ended up having to be president, senator, governor, mayor, school board trustee…etc…would be the illegal Mexicans. But they’d probably do a fabulous job…

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The Conscientious Contrarian

Happy Vernal Equinox!

by Calliope Braintree

The Conscientious Contrarian

The Conscientious Contrarian

Equinox. Equal Night. Equal parts of dark and light.

It’s funny, isn’t it? How religious holidays are centered around the geological turnings of the Solstices and Equinoxes…regardless of when the celebrated events may or may not have happened? We’re still pagans at heart. Always will be. It’s in our DNA. The force and power and feeling of these times are…well…sacred. Take Easter. The bizarre formula for figuring out when Easter falls has always amazed me. The first Sunday after the first Full Moon after the Vernal Equinox. Weird, isn’t it? I mean, if it was an actual event, it would’ve had a date. Wouldn’t it? And even though time was reckoned differently then, it should still be convertible into the current calendar. December 25th is a date. So what gives? Is it that important for it to fall always on a Sunday? I don’t know, but I suspect that, yes, that’s exactly what it’s about. Another one of the Church’s control issues.

But the Christian god is not the first one to die and be resurrected. It’s actually been a very common theme among male gods. In fact, they liked it so much they got in the habit of doing it every year. Every winter they died and every spring they were re-born. Lots of them, in lots of different places, with lots of different names. Like clockwork. Like the crops, actually, and the birth of baby animals. Except they weren’t gods so much as consorts of the Great Goddess. It’s all about sex and fecundity and fertility and renewal and the cycles of life. The name Easter comes from Estrus. Which means being in heat. All those rabbits? Well, you know what they’re doing! Look at how many there are! The thing about the Christian god is he’s the first one to do it once and call it quits. He put an end to all that foolishness.

Well, he didn’t put an end to it, the Church did. He was certainly not the first, or the last person to die for the sins of others. There have been millions. Billions. And every single one of them was an opportunity for humanity to redeem itself. But it hasn’t. Partly…but not entirely…because of the Church’s usurpation of all things even remotely related to redemption and salvation. They own it. Or they think they do. It can only come via them. It’s pretty awful how a committee of jealous old coots can claim exclusive rights to the life and work of somebody…like that, somebody so incredibly great. They could never be like him. Ever. So they murder, oppress and exploit in his name and tell themselves they’re doing god’s work. They’re the money lenders he whipped out of the temple. And they’re the ones that killed him. The Church. They love to blame it on the Jews, for an excuse to hate them, but he was a Jew. His own people abused him then and his own people are abusing him now.

“Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” How many of us can say that? The Inquisitors, Hitler, W, Obama. Can we implore the great spirit within us to forgive them? They knew not what they did…are doing. That’s hard. Seemingly impossible. Yet something to be thought about and practiced all year long…not just during the Equinox.

For now, maybe it’s enough to take joy in the renewal of life, to revel in the joys of Spring, the crocuses bursting up through the ground, the rising of the sap in our hearts and the feeling that it’s not so bleak after all. It feels so good, like waking up, like life can finally begin again. That’s what Spring is about. Renewal. And that, Dear Reader, is the precursor to Forgiveness.

English: Goddess of fertility, Ankara Anatolia...

Goddess of fertility, Ankara Anatolian civilization museum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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The Conscientious Contrarian

Left vs. Right: What’s the Difference?

by Calliope Braintree

The Conscientious Contrarian

The Conscientious Contrarian

Does anybody else see the absurdity of this bizarre party thing? Left? Right? What does that mean? It’s like the people in Gulliver’s Travels, the ones perpetually at war with each other over which end is better to start eating a soft-boiled egg. Narrow or wide. Left or right. It makes no sense. Yet both wings carry on like they’ve got it all figured out. Signing petitions, going to rallies, ranting and raving, puffing out their chests and feeling oh-so-important, oh-so-sure they’ve got it boiled down to what’s really important. The so-called right-wingers think embryos are sacred but teen-agers make good canon fodder and the so-called left-wingers are exactly the opposite: kill the embryos, but stop the war! They’re both completely ridiculous, of course, and more alike than different.

 The truth is, they’re mirror images of each other, each as mindless a pawn of corporate greed as the other. Their mutual hatred connects them as perfectly to each other as a perpetually spinning yin-yang symbol. Embryos and teen-agers are both sacred, and killing?…is killing. Yet they go forever in circles. What else can you do with only one wing, but flap about uselessly in a circle?

 But this pointless bickering serves a useful function for the powers that be. It keeps everybody from noticing, or caring about what’s actually going on. The absurdity of this two party system simply keeps the powers that be in power.

 “Sure,” they say, smiling their Inquisitors smiles, “fight about this stuff. We don’t care. And while you’re doing that, we’ll continue to make ourselves obscenely rich by sucking the life out of the planet. Good. Keep fighting amongst yourselves!”

 It’s like a shell game. We’re killing ourselves and the rest of creation. But it doesn’t matter. The infighting goes on. This is how we convince ourselves we’ve created something special. If we’re fighting about it, it must be real, mustn’t it?  We must be free. So we fight. This perpetuates the illusion that our so-called democracy, our so-called republic is real…that it’s something to believe in, be proud of, to kill and die for…that it’s more important than anything. Even life. Our fragile egos depend on it. We need to believe we’re part of something noble and great.

 The powers that be continue on undisturbed while left and right snarl over the dried out old bones they get tossed. The extinctions go on and on. It’s business as usual.

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The Conscientious Contrarian

It’s Not All Good!

by Calliope Braintree

The Conscientious Contrarian

The Conscientious Contrarian

I’m extremely spiritual and metaphysical. I revel in the woo-woo. But enough is enouph. The saying “It’s all good” bothers me. It’s not. There’s a whole lot that’s bad…that’s very very bad. Colonialism, military spending, genital mutilation, both here and abroad, deforestation, rampant consumerism, rape, murder, ethnic cleansing, Monsanto…the coming Extinction Event.  The list goes on and on and on, ad nauseum. And while it’s true that good can and does emerge out of the struggle with bad, the way order emerges out of chaos, it goes the other way, too. Horrible situations do not always get resolved. Sometimes they get worse.

 If we’re here to learn lessons that improve the quality of our souls, we have to stop being so arrogant, simplistic and naive. We have to actually learn the lessons we’re here to learn, not pretend we already have, like we’re above it all, smiling benignly at the supposedly less evolved. “It’s all good,” we say with a patronizing pat on the head. Ugh! The nerve! The arrogance! Because whatever we think we’ve learned? Is a drop in the bucket. We can choose our response to things, and we should. It does make an enormous difference. But it is most definitely not all good.

 The economist Karl Marx described religion as the opiate of the masses. It helps oppressors oppress. When people believe they’ll be “rewarded” in the after life for the suffering they’ve endured in this, plantation and sweat-shop owners smile. Metaphysics is no different. If it’s all Maya, all an illusion, then the horrors can continue unimpeded. What’s the difference?

 Meta means beyond. As in better than? Or just in addition to? Either way, it’s meaningless without the physics. The concept’s impossible without first being alive, in a physical body. So why ignore physical reality in favor of what’s beyond it? Opiate. It’s like the thing with the cup. Is it half empty or half full? Positivists say “it’s half full” while negativists insist, “no, it’s half empty.”  This either/or reasoning is not doing anybody any good.  It’s a lie.  Because actually?  Most things are both. Positive and negative are not mutually exclusive. They are one and the same. Look at the cup in your mind’s eye. The bottom half is full and the top half is empty.

There is immense power in positive thinking, but what about the power of lying to yourself?

The Glass Half Full

The Glass Half Full AND Half Empty (Photo credit: Cayusa)

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The Conscientious Contrarian

What’s Against Nature?!

by Calliope Braintree

The Conscientious Contrarian

The Conscientious Contrarian

The religious right loves to use Nature when they think it supports their agenda, while trashing it the rest of the time. They say homosexuality is “against” Nature. It certainly isn’t. Have they never heard of bonobo chimps? They’re major lesbians. Large populations of mice display a lot of homosexuality. They have to…for population control. And I seem to remember something about penguins…not to mention a good 1,500 other species!

 Many animals display some degree of gayness at some point in their lives. Why not? Nature doesn’t care. She says, if it feels good, do it! The natural world is not as straight and narrow, or as hetero, as the “right” foolishly believes. There are endless possibilities, and among highly social animals, the ability to bond is a prerequisite to procreation. And you bond with who you bond with for your own reasons.

 There are oh so many practices the religious right thinks are good…and against Nature. Mono-culture is very much against Nature. Nature would never devote vast tracts of land to the support of only one species of plant or animal, poisoning everybody else. Any land steward or biologist will tell you so. Nature is about biodiversity and symbiotic relationships. Mono-culture devastates natural eco-systems, which makes it decidedly against Nature. But the religious right smiles benignly at agro-big-business and the trucking industry and the artificial insemination of livestock and chemical fertilizer…

 Male supremacists point out so-called harem species, like lions and horses, as proof of the rightness of the subjugation of women. But these poor, exhausted, constantly challenged males are hardly masters of their domains. They exist briefly, if they are incredibly lucky, within female societies…mothers, sisters and aunties. The females stay together, pretty much for life. The males, fabulous specimens as they are, have only a short time to pass on their genetic information. After a year, maybe two, somebody stronger, smarter and better looking sends them packing. But hey! They can’t be around long enough to get their own daughters pregnant, can they? That would be line-breeding, which is against Nature, too.

 What about oil drilling? That’s totally against Nature. True, it’s not only the religious right who do it, but the mentality that perpetuates the exploitation of Nature, draining her every resource, using her like an old rag before tossing her into the landfill, is a mentality that springs, full-grown, out of the head of the Old Testament. In Ezekiel 34:25, Yahweh promises to rid the world of wild animals so there can be a utopia of cultivated gardens and humanity can be like sheep. Look it up. That’s about as against Nature as it gets.

 There are tons of things against Nature…awful, unnatural things…the religious right thinks are just great. So why do they worry about others doing anything they call against Nature…especially when it isn’t?

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The Conscientious Contrarian

Domesticated Animals

by Calliope Braintree

The Conscientious Contrarian

The Conscientious Contrarian

A domesticated species is one whose body and behavior has been specifically modified. Spastic, neurotic humanity is as much a victim of animal husbandry as any nervous wreck of a Chihuahua. And like our artificially selected cousin the Chihuahua, we are dependent and helpless. Useless, really, for anything but serving the whims of our master. This master, a.k.a., Civilization, has broken us so well, we believe we need it to survive.

 We’re so helpless, news broadcasters report on power-outages like they’re a tragedy. Yeah, they’re inconvenient, but we’ve existed a lot longer without electricity than with. But the grid is part of the illusion of control. When even a tiny part of the matrix fails, it’s news worthy. It plays on our worst fears…that dangerous, untamed forces might rush in and destroy everything. And if a few people die? Oh my God! This proves the worst could happen to us, too.

 This is the leash our master keeps us on.

 Once upon a time, we were strong, courageous and intelligent hunter-gatherers, who took only what we needed. We enjoyed symbiotic relationships with other species. Scavenging canines hung out around our encampments, strengthening both their territories and ours. Ravens, who help many predators hunt, were our friends. We even grew into a symbiosis with herbivores by propagating the kinds of plants they liked. Being around human and canine territories meant fewer predators for the herds. These relationships developed naturally and were mutual, they weren’t the result of our “superiority.” This peaceful co-existence lasted so much longer than anything since.

 But.

 We became greedy, rapacious gluttons. Simple pastoral and agrarian ways devolved into the obscenities of deforestation, mono-culture and mass predator-killing. With an excess of stored food, came the perceived need to protect the stores. As food stores grew, so grew the population, so grew the fear, which spun-off to infect many other areas of life. With the Bronze Age, lethal weapons fertilized growing fears, and with the Iron Age came even worse weapons. The more sophisticated the weaponry became, the deeper the fear was driven. This schizophrenic, divisive dynamic grew exponentially all the way into the really terrified Nuclear Age.  And Monsanto.

 People believe civilization was created for humanity. That’s the dominant myth. It’s the only myth never argued among your arguing factions. They’ll fight endlessly about every other infinitesimal nuance of the smoke and mirrors, but never that. Yes, civilization emerged because of us. But for us? Hardly. It’s murdered too many billions of us for that to be true. It exists only for itself, murdering the planet, extincting her darlings. When this planet is sucked dry, it’ll just move on to another, and we’ll pat ourselves on the back for being such clever colonists. We refuse to see the escalating sickness as anything other than progressive improvements on the way things used to be. We believe the way it is, is the way it’s supposed to be. Because we are the most domesticated animal we have ever bred.

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