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Artist: Signe Ruddy

He looks delighted

His eyes his hands

precious commodities

Closing my eyes

rushing sounds impart

Pushing colors inward from dark

Squeezed through sockets

fingertips following pathways

Propelled breath’s

tailwind Elfin spiral sparks

ground fires ignite elliptical tides

Rainy day washed blues

Red ochre sand stained footprints

Grounded pebbled toed yang  jumps

Yin crawls in.

*Expressionistic artist, poet, mental health professional & lavender farmer.

Androgyny, the opposites within by June Singer (2000)

We live in the “Age of Androgyny,” not the Age of Aquarius, the author observes.

To appreciate Dr. Singer’s study, it probably is a good idea to become familiar with the concepts of psychiatrist Carl Jung’s works and the construct of archetypes. Singer’s work is scholarly and verbose and one has to sift through the study to get to the core meaning of the cultural issues she discusses. It’s worth the effort but requires patience.

The duality of the universe and the interplay of male and female energies within all humans is explored. Though heavily influenced by Jungian analysis and the male and female as opposing energies there is the recognition of the commonalty of both male and female. And when discussing myths in her voyage and journeys through Gnosticism, Taoism, Kabbalah and so forth the study though intellectually thick at times offers provocative insights.

This is a worthy study of the cultural context of the concept of androgyny.  It does not offer enough substance beyond the metaphysical for this reviewer. It’s an engaging work if one appreciates Jung’s examination of the masculine, feminine dynamic.  The journey the author undertakes might have offered deeper insight into the Age of Androgyny from other psychological and sociological viewpoints but that was not her purpose.

She notes near the end of her study – when we are children we are all androgynous and as we grow we are “polarized” into thinking in terms of male and female and what that constitutes. We become lost “in the confusion of language” that transcends what we are. Biology is emphasized at the cost of conscience. Energy flows within and between the male and female in each of us. And the energy of the whole (both male and female within each of us) affects us beyond the biological scripts we are given as a “male” and a “female.” Her work also reminds me of the influence of the mythologist, Joseph Campbell’s take on paleolithic belief, that whatever you do to one strand in the web of life you do to the entire web.

This is in part an intellectually engaging study that remains relevant today. Times are changing. The literature on androgyny is somewhat significant in terms of the various topical aspects of the concept in some of its varied shapes and forms. There’s much room for further study and exploration of this Age of Androgyny for the general reader.

Artist: Signe Ruddy

 

Ehecatl (wind serpent)

 

There it was in the morning,

fluttering frenetically

wings buzzing humming invisibly moving;

Alighting on a little silver cup tracing grandmothers name.

Dragonfly: translucent, iridescent and Mesmerizing.

Hovering about the reading chair ancient wind serpent came and stayed.

Vibrating initiations for a path to midlife renewal.

 

Weeks later

Too large to vacuum

a dusty ball displaying only one folded  flapping wing.

 

A wing only….

 

How had this esteemed visitor disappeared?

Had some “other” devoured its parts leaving only a wing?

 

Only one wing…..

 

Had waning women’s path

Set awry from undisclosed fear

brought succulent esculent dragonfly

to disclose their most  secretive passion?

A Certain Crunch heard remembered or an

Imagined taste and flavor?

With Savory Balanced Bitterness and Salty Sweetness:

Courage settling Into a center

 

Digesting thus begins: forecasting calibration for body electric

as gestation for life begun.

*Expressionistic artist, poet, mental heath professional & lavender farmer.

Credit: Erica Faith
Artist/Photographer

Seashore Communiqué

The Impassioned Artist

NPJ Book Review: Faust’s Metropolis, A History of Berlin by Alexandra Riche (1998)

 Voltaire once observed: “We owe respect to the living and to the dead only truth.”

I’ve used Richie’s immense work as reference tool over the years to compare and contrast to other studies when digging deeper on a specific subject in German history including geography of which Berlin’s location is a separate book itself, along with its architecture and economic history.

Being familiar with Marlowe, Manning and Goethe’s work on Faust and the dynamic work of Butler’s The Fortunes of Faust, the history of the City of Berlin has parallels unlike Leipzig and other haunts of the famous doctor for which the author liberally and understandably draws a parallel theme. Each chapter is introduced with a quote from Faust. The author writes, “And like Faust, Berlin has two spirits in the same breast.”

That said, this work is vast in scope. It has it generalities but along the way there are numerous, brilliant insights in its 900 plus pages. The bibliography is excellent. The study contains a wealth of research even if a given scholar might disagree with the author’s assessment on a particular event. That’s the nature of historical studies. They are perspectives. From ancient history through the Cold War and the fall of  the Berlin Wall and after, this is an engrossing and accessible study.

In covering the 1930s, one can see a parallel between today’s waves of nationalism to those in Germany. “A few months before Hitler took power Siegfried Kracauer wrote: whoever stays any length of time in a Berlin hardly knows in the end where he really came from.” And as people were deported in mass from the country without judicial review a fear set in as people became complicit in the ruling elite’s frenzy for authoritarian control.

The mass of the dictator’s supporters and officials were seeking to be greater than ever before. “A young SA recruit told the journalist Louis P. Lochner that he enjoyed beating SA prisoner because it was safe to assume that he is guilty, else he would not have been arrested and brought here…Berliners were not inherently evil, as immediate post-wat histories liked to make out… but many were naïve, cowardly, greedy or indifferent in an age when such weakness could mean the difference between life and death.”

From the tragedy surrounding WWII to the Marshall Plan for relief while Berlin was decided between East and West thew author covers the varied stages Berlin’s existential nature.

Richie’s provocative History of Berlin is remarkable as it is engaging and creates more questions and the desire to know more. This remains a worthwhile read.

How do you ride the wave of Inspiration? 

In Greek mythology, there were nine daughters or Muses who some scholars believed to be the primordial Goddesses of Uranus and Gaiea. Other scholars suggested they were the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne. Regardless, the daughters were considered the Goddesses of Inspiration. They affected a variety of areas in Science, Arts and Literature.

In our modern world, the energy from the word muses still carries on in words such as, “music” “the muse” “museum” “amused” and I am sure you could think of more. 

Just like The Muses, the spirit of inspiration lives within each of us if we but reserve moments to tap into the inspiration. Some like to say feeling inspired is living In Spirit or Flow.  Perhaps that is true but think about it. All the things we see and experience today were once just a thought until someone felt inspired to create it.

So, what ideas are you having recently? If you feel inspired then the energy to manifest it into this reality exists within and is waiting for you to hear its rhythm as if it was knocking at your door. It might be as facile as being aware of those around you for they may be feeling and sensing the same thing. Knowledge and inspiration depends on each of us.  It is both a concept and an act.

So how does one ride the wave of inspiration?

It’s simple, by taking action! Whenever you get an idea, take action. That action might be writing it down first because the idea or thought will eventually leave you as new information bombards your mind every day through social media among many other influences.

 So as you breathe in the ideas take time each day to jot them down. You might not be the person to give birth to a particular idea, but you hold a piece of the puzzle that may help someone else. Ideas build on each other and serve as inspiration as they affect the importance of our relationships.

 My thoughts are not new ideas, they are the culmination of study, self-examination and experience. Each of us has an opportunity each day for a fresh beginning and the inspiration we gain can in turn serves as an illumination for others. Our own humble self-awareness assists in our inner peace and that in turn affects the entire world around us.

I am transitioning to living and breathing en femme. The hormones I inject are rapidly transforming my skin; hair, body fat distribution and my breasts are already a full B cup. New feelings and emotions flood my thoughts and senses. Things once familiar, now viewed with a different perspective. Moving through social situations and public life as a teacher call upon my utmost attention to my presentation as female. I am glad that I can do this and be “passable.”

There has been some attention drawn to the term ‘passable’ as tacit approval of the sexist, male generated vision of what a woman should look like. Although, I agree that transgender women should be able to dress, act, and appear, as they will, personally I feel much safer if I am ‘passable’ in public. This is a reality that some of us find quite disarming in this hostile social environment.

As hostile as it can be at times, I truly see real change in social values. I see greater acceptance of transgender women. There has been a backlash against the trans-haters and the anti-trans vitriol being spewed by public figures and religious leaders. The average person may know a trans-woman or have some familiarity with the concept of what it is to be transgender. All of the attention both positive and negative will have a normalizing effect over time. This I can be sure of. The transgender movement is in much the same place as the lesbian/gay movement was 30 years ago. Over time, being lesbian or gay became socially acceptable and tolerated. Therein lies my hope for trans-people.

I am transitioning in a turbulent period in our shared history, true, but I am not alone. I have a voice. We have a voice. Our voice is getting louder as more trans-women assert their rights as individuals. Our voice is getting louder as we find more allies in our lives and in media.

I am very fortunate to have found not only a staunch ally, also a loving, kind man who respects me as transgender and loves me fiercely. We live together and we have slept in each other’s arms for over two months. Our bond has gone from just physical attraction to a love relationship. Our bond is strong and he is not ashamed to be with me in public because I am trans. He is proud that I am transgender and he has told his friends and family just that. We tease each other about marriage and love like any cisgender couple would. We inhabit a very special and rare place in our culture as a couple with a trans-woman and a straight, cisgender man. We both realize this and prize our time together. Life is good.

*Transsexual teacher/activist/lover of languages/anthropologist  (Medium.com)

Image for Writings

Credit: Jean Philippe-Cypres, photographer

 

A black and white photograph

alone on a dresser without clothes

in an empty clapboard house

the genes of a forgotten past

a period in history filled with hurt,

the forlorn captured

in Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.

 

The wind howled across the fields

a dustbowl shattered lives

tattered garments covering

skeletons

of humans in used trucks and cars

as they made their way west;

“Damn fat rich bastard” an Okie shouted

as the banker took his land.

 

Protectionism was the password

a Republican Congress

Hawley Smoot Tariff narcissism

made law earlier

but it was just a symptom not a cause

isolationism and protectionism

was the viral disease

as the rich got richer

and the poor sought relief

a sign alongside the road read:

”This is your country

don’t let the big men take it away

From You!”

 

“This is the breadbasket of the world

but we’re starving,” an old man moaned

his suit coat worn through at the elbows

two days without food and tears in his eyes

sitting on the curb of a city street.

 

The polarized became increasingly angry

fighting amongst each other

power resided in those who controlled

the debt

for the common man was the pawn,

even when the child cried, “mommy it hurts,’

the other’s point of view seethed and spit

though empty inside

where the darkness dwells,

and the love of God was missing

in the middle of a cold night,

“Stranger these are tough times

and don’t I know it,” a weary faced man finally stated.

 

“We never saw it coming but we should’ve

it was staring at us in the face,”

said a woman whose silk stockings

were decorated with holes.

 

“I’ve been through hard times,

but not like what’s coming”

and Woody kept singing

…”the hard working folks have done something

that the bosses, his sons, his wives,

his whores and his daughters have failed to do…

they sang their way through the whole dirty mess.”*

 

And the crowds of men and women out of work

walked passed stores vacant of affordable goods

ghostly haunted banks money withdrawn,

and those with wealth lurked in the shadows

while those without felt the ache on their backs.

 

And oil was spread over hogs and other beasts

shot and dumped into rivers along with food,

“Best not to feed the hungry and lose money,”

the owners stated,

while too many children of Man were admonished

for simply asking: Why?

 

The downstream of a generation lost

under the rubric

the beginnings of the scripture of prosperity

while the Social Gospel was speeding into the past,

and loathing and hurtful words were repeated

civility loss

“why should I pay a preacher

to make me feel guilty,

when I can do that all by myself

without charge,” was a familiar echo,

to purposefully change thinking

means to rewrite the past

so as to comply with the now

and still people followed like sheep

it was too much to think about

besides the trains ran on time

at least for the politicians.

 

*from Woody Guthrie, A Self-Portrait (an exceptional work)

 

The male population is what we read about when we view what’s going on in “The war on drugs and the war on crime”, which we are learning is more of a war on minorities and women.

Did you know that women are filling up our jail cells? Did you know that most of the women behind bars are mothers? Did you know that most of these ladies are single parents, having sole responsibility for their children that are left behind? Minority women are affected by this “war”. It’s a war on women, that we are beginning to recognize that is not only unfair and unjust but that also sets limits on these same women, these same sole providers from being able to apply for help within the system, in both welfare, child support and drug treatment programs.

A perfect example is the recent comments made by President Trump’s present attorney, Rudy Giuliani, when he remarked about Stormy Daniels and her line of work. He stated he had no respect for women that work in the adult film industry, yet he defends a man who has used many women in that same industry, the man who sits in the highest office in this country. A blatant and ignorant double standard comment, and the typical attitude concerning women and people of color made by the former mayor of one of the most, if not the most, diverse cities in the nation.

Women are one of the fastest-growing segments of the prison population. From 1970 to 2015, the number of women in prison grew by approximately 1,000 percent. That is tragic statistic. And although the U.S. accounts for 5 percent of the world’s female population, it also represents 30 percent of women imprisoned.  According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics there are 8,500 women in federal prisons on drug charges, 24,700 in state prisons and 27,000 in local jails. Sixty three percent of these women have not been convicted

Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics.6 Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2016.

Mothers of minor children make up 60 per cent of women in prison. Two-thirds of these parents are incarcerated for non-violent offenses, a substantial proportion of which are drug law violations. More than 5 million children (one in every 14) have a parent who is or has been incarcerated. The racial disparities seen in the incarcerated population replicate themselves among the children left behind: by 2008, one in nine (11.4 percent of) black children, one in 28 (3.5 percent of) Latino children and one in 57 (1.8 percent of) white children had an incarcerated parent. Eighty four percent of parents in federal prison and 62 percent of parents in state prison are housed 100 miles or more from their children. Pregnant women who are incarcerated for drug law violations often do not receive prenatal care. Children are routinely separated from their imprisoned mothers, causing irreparable damage to the child.

Sources: Bureau of Justice Statistics.18 1 Bureau of Justice Statistics, “Female prisoners under State or Federal jurisdiction,” Corrections Statistical Analysis Tool, www.bjs.gov.

Aleks Kajstura and Russ Immarigeon, “States of Women’s Incarceration: The Global Context,” (Prison Policy Initiative, 2015) http://www.prisonpolicy.org/global/women/.

Ibid. 4 Carson, “Prisoners in 2015,” Table 9. 5 Prison Policy Initiative, “Women’s Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2017” https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie2017women.html Source: Western and Pettit, Pew Charitable Trusts, 2010.

Prisons and jails commonly use restraints (handcuffs and shackles) on women in labor and during delivery, regardless of their histories. According to a 2015 shadow report to the United Nations Committee on Torture, “Only 18 states have legislation in place that restricts the use of restraints on pregnant inmates, 24 states limit the use of restraints on pregnant inmates only through institutional policies, and 8 states do not have any form of regulation at all.” Washington DC and the Federal Bureau of Prisons have also banned or restricted this practice, which the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists opposes because it puts “the health of the woman and fetus at risk.” The long-lasting penalties and exclusions that follow a drug conviction have created a permanent second class status for millions of Americans, who are often banned from voting, getting a job, securing a student loan and accessing housing or other forms of public assistance, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

A 2013 report found that more than 180,000 women have been affected in the twelve states that maintain a full lifetime ban for people with drug convictions. Due to the extreme racial disparities in drug law enforcement and sentencing, these collateral consequences disproportionately affect women of color.

Our society still today has a limited understanding of the inequality that women truly suffer, regardless of the #metoo movementIt is as important to educate the public to speak up with courage and conviction about the injustices and social stigmas that are inflicted upon all women. #metoo.

New World by Kathryn Thompson

 

Your large hands travel across
and around
the curves of my soft body,
your fingers trace a gentle glowing pleasure,

 

a curled, knuckled wake still trembles

 

long

 

after your touch has gone,

I can hear your breath,

honey tonal,

hear the moans.

our juices spread, sucked and licked.

Outside and closing the owl hoots

while we
bound by our history, finally entwine

 

upon the hallowed mattress of love.

The trickster smiles,
our hearts, red, dark suns, chthonic,

 

outside and closing the raven caws

 

as your fingers, like grace greet my skin
seeks the well,
spreads the lips,

 

and whisper profanities like a holy prayer,

outside and closing

the wild cat, upon the roof top, keens into the night.

 

My kiss
is just a shadow away, from the rise of your chest

 

I inhale your vulnerability,
breathe warm light upon our shared breath,

 

in you I seek extension,

seek solace, seek completion

 

and you will remain until I shrivel and slip from your sepaled embrace.

Hold,

don’t permit the diminishing,

 

the buzzing upon the liminal
the ritual upon the dream
the shining of stars, straining to align.

 

This chamber of tides,
I hold in the name of our love,

 

and outside and closing
the wild cat keens, the raven caws, and the owl hoots,

 

you the wingless angel, the only mortal,
to know my love.

 

The Gods always demand that I taste you first

… each and every time.

 

* An over-educated expat Brit, artist, poet, writer, etc, living in the Northern Territory, Australia (28 yrs with brief interlude of 2 yrs in New Zealand). Worked in Aboriginal education at the Red Centre for 25 years. Currently, working as a counselor and therapist.

Scribes, Scripts and Books, The Book Arts from Antiquity to the Renaissance by Leila Arvin (1991)

This work effects curiosity. I took a course decades ago from Professor Leila Arvin. Her research was always intelligent, thoughtful, in-depth and complex with invaluable insights. In the preface of the work she sums up two idiosyncrasies she possesses: “chutzpah and courage of imperfection,” which she acknowledges was coined by the existential psychologist, Rollo May. And, I like imperfection.

I found the professor to be an eloquent, quirky and engaging intellectual. She states when she undertook this “work of passion” (my words) that “I have written this book to gather the scattered information on writing and the handmade book into a continuous history, whose progress has been determined by the principles of tradition and change.” Her aim was in effect …to demonstrate just how these principles “have determined the form of the Western book from ancient times to the age of printing.”

The overview is extensive. This is a scholarly reference tool, not a coffee table work, though it may appear as such. Whether it’s cuneiform tablets, the Hebrew book or Egyptian book, etc., there are details for the curious to consider in this age of digital books.

One example of a detail worth noting: The Egyptian book was the papyrus scroll. “In addition to serving as a writing surface, papyrus provided Egyptians with raw materials for boats, sails, shoes, clothing, rope, mats, fuel, even chewing gum and its roots were eaten by the poor.” Now this may be the interesting part for some readers, “The Egyptians leave us no instructions for transforming the papyrus plant into a writing surface.” Or at least no directions that archaeologists have found. The same could be said of other things such as pyramid building. One would think a high technology civilization would leave instructions. Then again it might require an engineer to translate an engineer’s how to instructions. Perhaps it was such common knowledge that people would shrug their shoulders and say even a child knows the answer regarding papyrus (my speculation).

Of course this is but one small example of the voluminous number of examples the author provides. Another example, is when she discusses the Greek and Hellenistic book and notes: “Just as Greek script came from the outside world, so did the major materials for making books. Ironically, but not illogically, while her literature endured, most classic Greek books did not.” Whoever has the raw material is in effect a major player.

Latin works and codices and so forth are also covered. The description of scribes, where and how they worked and the time spent in the scriptorium is insightful.

In summary, this remains an exceptional historical overview/reference tool and a path for further research. It’s the kind of work that you drink from, so to speak, to be savored and compared to other emerging wells of knowledge.

The American presidency is an expanding fault in which it is now descending. The fault is both a chasm of political illiteracy and a chasm of weakness. It increasingly appears as a moral defect and failing that elected Donald Trump into the highest office of our country, the office of the President. We allowed this to happen despite being fully aware of this man’s manipulative behavior and transgressions of human dignity.  We allow him to continue despite his many weaknesses, his frenzied, irresponsible and reckless tweeting, his inability to lead this country, and some of us who are supporters continue to do so despite the direction that Donald Trump is taking this country.

The Trump Administration mimics a fracture in the crust of this planet accompanied by a displacement of one side of the fracture with respect to the other in a direction parallel to that fracture.  That fracture is “We, the People”

There is no argument, no excuse that can change this description. No matter how biased an individual or group is or becomes, this act of defiance within our own country has legitimized live-in conditions that are comparable to a Third World country. The question is whether the polarization is irreversible.

We have people living under dire conditions.  Take a good look at our city streets, littered with a homeless population in the richest country in the world.  Take a good look at areas like West Virginia where the oil and gas industry write its own laws, the teachers are among the worst-paid in the nation, and the Opioid epidemic has reached peak levels.

Therefore, we need to ask who President Trump really is?  We all know his blank promises about making America great again.  We also all know that he refers to people as “animals” when he speaks of immigrants and sanctuary states, such as California.

Because Donald Trump was elected president he is responsible for our issues, and he took on that responsibility when he was sworn into office. There is no more “past blame” that he systematically and continuously uses to excuse his inability to obliterate any of our requests.

I read, with interest, in The Washington Post the following,  “The slippery inexactness of Trump’s language is often ascribed by his detractors to the deficiencies of his verbal skills and his lazy tendency to return again and again to the same stock words and phrases. Trump’s admirers frequently cite his use of the English language as key to his success in convincing so many that he is not a traditional politician. After all, the way in which he uses the word “animals” is drawn from common street-corner or barroom talk. It’s not a usage he invented.”

This is a language of a far-right universe. It’s not conservative. It’s authoritarian. Words have effects just as the use of the word, terrorists. Language can seduce our youth and align them with white supremacy.  This is the message he sends to our sons and daughters.  They become his supporters and true believers. His goal is to dehumanize others by referring to them as “animals”, the press as “fake news” to destabilize and fill emptiness with a sense of belonging to making America great again. It’s the extremes and meanness that are distressing.

Trump made those awful statements at a White House gathering last Wednesday because California officials opposed to what Trump, in his introductory remarks, called “deadly and unconstitutional sanctuary state laws.” They offered, President Trump said, “safe harbor to some of the most vicious and violent offenders on Earth, like MS-13 gang members, putting innocent men, women and children at the mercy of these sadistic criminals.”

We all know that we are a country of immigrants that came here and stole the lands of the native American, but sometimes we must be reminded.  We must make sure that our children and grandchildren understand that.  It is up to us to make sure that history, the history of this country is not lost in the abyss of this fault we now suffer from, and we do suffer.

 Donald Trump is the epitome of dishonesty, he is purposefully deceptive, unpredictable, and erratic.  He is a showman, a TV star, a real estate mogul that is still working like he is on a reality show, but this is our show.

Those of us that are members of the “baby boomers” generation, that Donald Trump was born into, grew up quickly, during a time of war, a time of protest, a time when we sang ” Give Peace a Chance”. We were convinced we could change that world. We witnessed the assassinations of our young president, JFK, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy…….and to this day, we don’t understand why those tragic events were meant to happen.

Fast forward to 9/11…devastation took hold of us, a nation of sadness, a nation filled with pain. Yet, we continued to love one another, to connect, to help each other mend, to grieve, and then tried to rebuild what we had lost with our broken hearts, and so much suffering. Still, there was no peace.

This is an important part of history, one that must not be forgotten.  We elected our first black president, Barak Obama.  We elected out first woman to run for the highest-ranking office, Hillary Clinton. Are we back pedaling in our strides to create an environment that is worthy for our upcoming generations?

Peace and Love remain in our angry hearts, but if we remain angry, we will find no love, we will have no peace.

And that, my friends, is our fault and the chasm of darkness in which we will descend.

Evil in Modern Thought – an alternative history of philosophy by Susan Neiman (2004)

My read – this is an intellectually profound inquiry. Sitting on my bookshelf and consulted from time to time, more so as of late. How much time do we have? What is evil? Where can meaning be found? In a post–truth world sliding irrevocably into varied forms of authoritarianism how do we get a handle on the moral and seemingly natural evil that envelops us. There is no escaping evil. The study of evil perhaps is the beginning of philosophy itself as the author observes.

But what is evil? We can point to evil people in history such as Adolph Eichmann in terms of human cruelty like Auschwitz. We can then proceed through history with endless examples in every country and place on earth.

Professor Neiman’s thought provoking study lies with the philosophical challenge of evil. In other words, evil threatens if not negates human reason in a world that might otherwise make sense.

For Neiman “evil is not merely the opposite of good but inimical to it. True evil aims at destroying moral distinctions themselves. One way to do so is to make victims into accomplices.” Listening to recent events in Jerusalem and the violence brought about by the United States moving its embassy there and blaming victims as accomplices for their plight may be considered as an example of one form of a moral evil. Other examples include slavery, torture, terrorism, starvation, nuclear bombs, greed, etc…each thought of what is evil leads to another example.

The author reviews the thoughts of the philosopher Pierre Bayle, among numerous others. “And to imagine a God who judges many forms of life He created to be sinful, then tortures us eternally for our brief participation in them, is hardly to imagine a solution to the problem of evil. Positing a God who may permit infinite and eternal suffering is of little help in stilling doubt about a God who clearly permits finite and temporal suffering.”

The pages of human history overflow with evil in all cultures and the people who are punished and left unpunished. The Spanish inquisition, the Holocaust, terrorist acts like those that occurred on September 11, 2001, and the thousands of obscene acts of cruelty throughout history or major natural events like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and surges in the oceans. Nether God or nature appears to be concerned. Why do people suffer from evils? Is evil, like sin, merely a word invented by humans to arrive at some understanding of human suffering and misery?

Professor Neiman considers “philosophy’s response to the Holocaust as a final moral evil, concluding that two basic stances run through modern thought. One, from Rousseau to Arendt, insists that morality demands we make evil intelligible. The other, from Voltaire to Adorno, insists that morality demands that we don’t.”

Neiman describes Hannah Arendt’s reporting of the Eichmann trial concerning Auschwitz. “For Arendt, neither German war crimes alone nor possible Jewish complicity in them was on trial. What was under indictment was Creation itself.”

The author goes on to observe, “evils can be acknowledged as evils without insisting that evil has an essence. Our inability to find something deep that is common to the mass murders committed by terrorists and the starvation furthered by corporate interests does not prevent us from condemning both. Thinking clearly is crucial, finding a formula is not…Debates about which blend of moral and natural evil is worse will lead us nowhere. “ The author adds, “I write this in the fear and knowledge that either could destroy us all.”

This “alternate history of philosophy,” is not a fast read. It’s a long-term study balanced with self-examination and question, digested within both historical and contemporary knowledge. It’s a necessary read for anyone wanting to know more about the nature of evil in modern thought.

Upon reading Neiman’s work I’m reminded of Voltaire’s words in the final paragraph of Candide. “That’s well said,” replied Candide, “but we must cultivate our garden.” Is it that simple or that complex?

Image for Writings

Credit: Jean Philippe-Cypres, photographer

A query: How many Congressional finance Bills are written by corporate lobbyists? Who stands to benefit the most?

The most recent sweeping tax reform:

“To provide for reconciliation pursuant to titles II and V of the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2018” (or as Senator Bernie Sanders points out: 13% Middle Class Tax Hike, 29% Cash for Corporations, 47% Trillions for Billionaires, 11% Medicare Cuts.) The bill’s title was shortened to – The Tax Cuts and Jobs act. Interesting.

The value of tax cuts?  Doesn’t evidence demonstrate that corporate tax cuts do nothing for shared growth? Where is the empirical evidence to show a correlation between tax rates and economic growth? The economic drip philosophy?

“U.S. corporations have been raking in the profits since the Great Recession ended just over eight years ago. After-tax profits hit a record seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1.86 trillion in the third quarter of 2017. And totaled more than $13 trillion since 2009. As a share of gross domestic product, after-tax profits have averaged 9.6% over the past eight years, by far the highest in the 70 years on record. See the work of Rex Nutting, Market Watch.

Is the reason that corporations don’t need capital any more because “profits are based on intangibles, such as computerized information, IP, network monopolies, and other forms of monopolization? Tangible investment like property isn’t where the primary action is.” (see: Capitalism without Capital, The Rise of the Intangible Economy Jonathan Haskel & Stian Westlake)

Or as suggested by a number of economists, when corporations go public, the purpose is not to raise capital for investment. Rather, it’s to – reward the founders with immeasurable personal wealth. The large tech companies are piling up mountains of cash because they have no place to invest it.  Similarly, the most important use of profits these days is stock buybacks–a definite sign that corporations have no idea of how to profitably invest the money.

At what point does an individual of enormous wealth and power have enough wealth and power? (Remember, corporations are also flesh and blood individuals under the 2010 US Supreme Court ruling, in fact corporations have more rights than the ordinary individual – unlimited spending on political issues and lobbying benefiting them.)

Back to my first question of who were the writers of this Bill? The question more precisely is which players are benefiting the most?

*Wasis Diop song in the 1999 version of the Thomas Crown Affair, “Everything Is Never Quite Enough.

Ideas with consequences: The Federalist Society and the Conservative Counterrevolution (Studies in Postwar American Political Development) by Amanda Hollis-Brusky (2015)

Impartiality? That word comes into mind and the question surrounding it, upon perusing this scholarly work. The atmosphere whether in a judge’s chambers or in the halls of Congress or the offices of the US Supreme Court – there’s been a distinct change over the past few decades and it continues. The line between politics and policy and law is blurring. Context: There’s a harshness that’s been developing in the daily life of politics and the law and the public square. Lives are disrupted and distrust sets in while polarization rises. What are the downstream effects of judicial decisions and policy making?

Perspective depends I suppose on how close you are to the action or whether you have been paying attention to the decisions being made by district judges and politicians affecting your daily life.

Power. Who has it, why and how is it used. During the first years of the Reagan administration Yale and University of Chicago students created an organization as a response to what they perceived as the left of center liberal view of law schools and justice in the country. The agenda was to move the discourse from the training and credentialing of lawyers to the judicial system itself to the right if not far right. The society eventually grew to 40,000+ lawyers including judges and policy makers and a number of the wealthiest corporate leaders among others.

This is a thought-provoking, scholarly, exhaustive work and the author treats the subject matter in-depth and even-handedly. Her research / bibliography are quite substantial and remarkable.

The state of “justice’ in the United States is disconcerting. More right of center judges are appointed for life in district courts across the country. Judges were once vetted on their impartial views and non-political credentials. Today that has changed.

Interestingly, former Pres. Obama’s selections for district court and a “center oriented” Supreme Court justice opening was/were routinely blocked by a Republican Congress influenced by the Federalist Society, leading to the most conspicuous – Mr. Gorsuch’s appointment under a Republican president. There are four Supreme Court Justices who are members of the Federalist Society (Chief Justice Roberts, Justices Thomas, Alito and Gorsuch.

From a citizen perspective watching a district judge or Supreme Court justice making a ruling one might ask do they fully understand the downstream effect of their decision? Yes they do. Entire generations are affected: When police enter a house without a search warrant based on a suspicion or misplaced rumor, when a corporation is treated like a flesh and blood human being with an individual’s rights, when an elderly man in debt is imprisoned because he can’t pay a bill, when campaign finance is held in secret by private interests for public control, when gun control issues are so blurred nonsensical arguments develop, when abortion rights are based on politics not on a mother’s emotional and physical health are made policy, etc., etc…the list is lengthy. Are the human and humane issues obscured to divide and conquer? The judges understand. Decisions are made based on partiality. The former impartial center is now considered “left.”

Another example of partiality: A Supreme Court justice (and member of the Federalist Society), invites a lawyer (also a member of the Society) to present their case before the court. The Federalist Society in effect become “gatekeepers” of lawyers securing a position within the judicial system and what cases will be heard and supported. That’s called influence. The posture of the Society is to create an alternate elite who “controls” the reins of power.

This is an important book for understanding how the US Constitution and “Originalism” is being translated and how the district court system that affects all of our lives is a primary vehicle for the Federalist Society perspective on how we think, act and live. Freedom is a politicized word that ultimately depends on how much money you have.  The book is a useful reference tool to be consulted and reread and compared with other studies.

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