Monthly Archives: November 2018

The DNA Industry and the Disappearing Indian DNA, Race, and Native Rights By Aviva Chomsky

Tomgram: Aviva Chomsky, Making Native Americans Strangers in Their Own Land Posted by Aviva Chomsky at 8:12am, November 29, 2018.
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[This is a kinda-sorta reblog, though it really is simply a copy and paste from the Tomgram website. I’ve done this before as I find no way to re-post this otherwise except with the posting of a link which, in my opinion for what it’s worth, isn’t good enough. I think that if I’m hoping someone will read something I find worth reading, I should offer the article, not just the link. Still, the link is there if you prefer reading it on their website, and it is an amazing website at that!  This article is about how “America” – the Hegemon – treats the defeated original inhabitants of these lands (Canada where I reside does NO BETTER, let me make that perfectly clear.]

Begin Tomgram article:  In the 1950s, I grew up in the heart of New York City and had a remarkable amount of contact with Native Americans. As you might expect, I never actually met one in those years. What I had in mind was all the time I spent at the local RKO and other movie theaters watching Hollywood westerns. They were, of course, filled with Indians, and in those films, we — and I don’t mean the 12-year-old Tom Engelhardt, but the blue coats, the stage coach drivers and their passengers, the cowboys, and the pioneers I identified with — were regularly ambushed by those Indians. In the end, with rare exceptions, the natives predictably fell as they circled the wagon train or stagecoach or attacked those cavalrymen, whooping and shooting their arrows. They went down, naturally enough, before the implacable power of “our” weaponry, “our” marksmanship. And here’s the thing: they deserved it. After all, they were attacking us. We never ambushed them. They, that is, were “the invaders” and we, invariably, the aggressed upon.

All of this came to my mind when, in the midst of the 2018 midterm election campaign, Donald Trump labeled as “invaders” a caravan of desperate refugees, including women and small children fleeing their violent, impoverished lands (which the U.S. had a significant hand in making so) for asylum or refuge in this country. And then, of course, he sent almost 6,000 military personnel to the U.S.-Mexico border to protect us (and twiddle their thumbs).

I was reminded then of that celluloid past because Donald Trump, who is only a couple of years younger than me and undoubtedly grew up in the same movie world, felt — I suspect — so comfortable lambasting those refugees as invaders exactly because the term fit perfectly the “history” we had learned in our mutual childhoods. His claim was, in fact, a twenty-first-century version of the way, in our youth, the history of this country was regularly turned on its head, making the desperate and invaded into the nefarious and invasive. And, in truth, even without the helping hand of Donald Trump, that version of our history has never really ended, as TomDispatch regular Aviva Chomsky shows today. Native Americans are still being treated as if they were the invaders in what was once their own land and, like that caravan from Latin America, slapped down for it. Let her tell you how what she calls the DNA industry and various parts of our government, local and national, have been working overtime to recreate, after a fashion, the movie world of my childhood. Tom

The DNA Industry and the Disappearing Indian
DNA, Race, and Native Rights
By Aviva Chomsky

Amid the barrage of racist, anti-immigrant, and other attacks launched by President Trump and his administration in recent months, a series of little noted steps have threatened Native American land rights and sovereignty. Such attacks have focused on tribal sovereignty, the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), and the voting rights of Native Americans, and they have come from Washington, the courts, and a state legislature. What they share is a single conceptual framework: the idea that the long history that has shaped U.S.-Native American relations has no relevance to today’s realities.

Meanwhile, in an apparently unrelated event, Senator Elizabeth Warren, egged on by Donald Trump’s “Pocahontas” taunts and his mocking of her claims to native ancestry, triumphantly touted her DNA results to “prove” her Native American heritage. In turning to the burgeoning, for-profit DNA industry, however, she implicitly lent her progressive weight to claims about race and identity that go hand in hand with moves to undermine Native sovereignty.

The DNA industry has, in fact, found a way to profit from reviving and modernizing antiquated ideas about the biological origins of race and repackaging them in a cheerful, Disneyfied wrapping. While it’s true that the it’s-a-small-world-after-all multiculturalism of the new racial science rejects nineteenth-century scientific racism and Social Darwinism, it is offering a twenty-first-century version of pseudoscience that once again reduces race to a matter of genetics and origins. In the process, the corporate-promoted ancestry fad conveniently manages to erase the histories of conquest, colonization, and exploitation that created not just racial inequality but race itself as a crucial category in the modern world.

Today’s policy attacks on Native rights reproduce the same misunderstandings of race that the DNA industry is now so assiduously promoting. If Native Americans are reduced to little more than another genetic variation, there is no need for laws that acknowledge their land rights, treaty rights, and sovereignty. Nor must any thought be given to how to compensate for past harms, not to speak of the present ones that still structure their realities. A genetic understanding of race distorts such policies into unfair “privileges” offered to a racially defined group and so “discrimination” against non-Natives. This is precisely the logic behind recent rulings that have denied Mashpee tribal land rights in Massachusetts, dismantled the Indian Child Welfare Act (a law aimed at preventing the removal of Native American children from their families or communities), and attempted to suppress Native voting rights in North Dakota.

Profiting by Recreating Race

Let’s start by looking at how the ancestry industry contributes to, and profits from, a twenty-first-century reformulation of race. Companies like Ancestry.com and 23andMe lure customers into donating their DNA and a hefty sum of money in exchange for detailed reports claiming to reveal the exact geographical origins of their ancestors going back multiple generations. “Who do you think you are?” asks Ancestry.com, typically enough. The answer, the company promises, lies in your genes.

Such businesses eschew the actual term “race” in their literature. They claim instead that DNA reveals “ancestry composition” and “ethnicity.” In the process, however, they turn ethnicity, a term once explicitly meant to describe culture and identity, into something that can be measured in the genes. They conflate ethnicity with geography, and geography with genetic markers. Perhaps you won’t be surprised to learn that the “ethnicities” they identify bear an eerie resemblance to the “races” identified by European scientific racist thinking a century ago. They then produce scientific-looking “reports” that contain purportedly exact percentages linking consumers to places as specific as “Sardinia” or as broad as “East Asia.”

At their most benign, these reports have become the equivalent of a contemporary parlor game, especially for white Americans who make up the vast majority of the participants. But there is a sinister undertone to it all, reviving as it does a long-discredited pseudoscientific basis for racism: the notion that race, ethnicity, and ancestry are revealed in the genes and the blood, and passed down inexorably, even if invisibly, from generation to generation. Behind this lies the assumption that those genes (or variations) originate within clearly defined national or geographic borders and that they reveal something meaningful about who we are — something otherwise invisible. In this way, race and ethnicity are separated from and elevated above experience, culture, and history.

Is There Any Science Behind It?

Although all humans share 99.9% of our DNA, there are some markers that exhibit variations. It’s these markers that the testers study, relying on the fact that certain variations are more (or less) common in different geographical areas. As law and sociology professor Dorothy Roberts puts it, “No sooner had the Human Genome Project determined that human beings are 99.9% alike than many scientists shifted their focus from human genetic commonality to the 0.1% of human genetic difference. This difference is increasingly seen as encompassing race.”

Ancestry tests rely on a fundamental — and racialized — misunderstanding of how ancestry works. The popular assumption is that each of us contains discrete and measurable percentages of the “blood” and DNA of our two biological parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, sixteen great-great-grandparents, and so on, and that this ancestral line can be traced back hundreds of years in a meaningful way. It can’t. As science journalist Carl Zimmer explains, “DNA is not a liquid that can be broken down into microscopic drops… We inherit about a quarter of our DNA from each grandparent — but only on average… If you pick one of your ancestors from 10 generations back, the odds are around 50% that you carry any DNA from him or her. The odds get even worse beyond that.”

In reality, such testing does not tell us much about our ancestors. That’s partly because of the way DNA is passed down through the generations and partly because there exists no database of ancestral DNA. Instead, the companies compare your DNA to that of other contemporary humans who have paid them to take the test. Then they compare your particular variations to patterns of geographical and ethnic distribution of such variations in today’s world — and use secret algorithms to assign purportedly precise ancestral percentages to them.

So is there really a Sardinian or East Asian gene or genetic variation? Of course not. If there is one fact that we know about human history, it’s that ours is a history of migrations. We all originated in East Africa and populated the planet through ongoing migrations and interactions. None of this has ended (and, in fact, thanks to climate change, it will only increase). Cultures, ethnicities, and settlements can’t be frozen in time. The only thing that is constant is change. The peoples who reside in today’s Sardinia or East Asia are a snapshot that captures only a moment in a history of motion. The DNA industry’s claims about ancestry award that moment a false sense of permanence.

While whites of European ancestry seem enthralled with the implications of this new racial science, few Native Americans have chosen to donate to such databases. Centuries of abuse at the hands of colonial researchers who made their careers on Native ancestral remains, cultural artifacts, and languages have generated a widespread skepticism toward the notion of offering genetic material for the good of “science.” In fact, when it comes to one DNA testing outfit, 23andMe, all of the countries included in its lists of the geographical origins of those who have contributed to its “Native American” database are in Latin America and the Caribbean. “In North America,” the company blandly explains, “Native American ancestry tends to be five or more generations back, so that little DNA evidence of this heritage remains.” In other words, 23andMe claims DNA as conclusive proof of Native American identity, then uses it to write Native North Americans off the map altogether.

The Ancestry Industry and the Disappearing Indian

The ancestry industry, even while celebrating diverse origins and multiculturalism, has revived long-held ideas about purity and authenticity. For much of U.S. history, white colonizers argued that Native Americans would “vanish,” at least in part through biological dilution. New England’s native peoples were, for instance, systematically denied land rights and tribal status in the nineteenth century on the grounds that they were too racially mixed to be “authentic” Indians.

As historian Jean O’Brien has explained, “Insistence on ‘blood purity’ as a central criterion of ‘authentic’ Indianness reflected the scientific racism that prevailed in the nineteenth century. New England Indians had intermarried, including with African Americans, for many decades, and their failure to comply with non-Indian ideas about Indian phenotype strained the credence for their Indianness in New England minds.” The supposed “disappearance” of such Indians then justified the elimination of any rights that they might have had to land or sovereignty, the elimination of which, in a form of circular reasoning, only confirmed their nonexistence as a people.

However, it was never phenotype or distant ancestry but, as O’Brien points out, “complex regional kinship networks that remained at the core of Indian identity in New England, despite the nearly complete Indian dispossession that English colonists accomplished… Even as Indians continued to reckon membership in their communities through the time-honored system of kinship, New Englanders invoked the myth of blood purity as identity in denying Indian persistence.”

Such antiquated understandings of race as a biological or scientific category allowed whites to deny Indian existence — and now allow them to make biological claims about “Indian” identity. Until recently, such claims, as in Senator Warren’s case, rested on the murkiness of family tales. Today, the supposed ability of DNA companies to find genetic “proof” of such a background reinforces the idea that Indian identity is something measurable in the blood and sidesteps the historical basis for the legal recognition or protection of Indian rights.

The ancestry industry assumes that there is something meaningful about the supposed racial identity of one of hundreds or even thousands of an individual’s ancestors. It’s an idea that plays directly into the hands of right-wingers who are intent on attacking what they call “identity politics” — and the notion that “minorities” are becoming unduly privileged.

Indeed, white resentment flared at the suggestion that Senator Warren might have received some professional benefit from her claim to Native status. Despite an exhaustive investigation by the Boston Globe showing conclusively that she did not, the myth persists and has become an implicit part of Donald Trump’s mockery of her. In fact, any quick scan of statistics will confirm the ludicrousness of such a position. It should be obvious that being Native American (or Black, or Latino) in the United States confers far more risks than benefits. Native Americans suffer from higher rates of poverty, unemployment, infant mortality, and low birth weight, as well as lower educational levels and shorter life spans than do whites. These statistics are the result of hundreds of years of genocide, exclusion, and discrimination — not the presence or absence of specific genetic variations.

Reviving Race to Undermine Native Rights

Native rights, from sovereignty to acknowledgment of the conditions created by 500 years of colonial misrule, rest on an acceptance that race and identity are, in fact, the products of history. “Native Americans” came into being not through genes but through the historical processes of conquest and colonial rule, along with grudging and fragile acknowledgement of Native sovereignty. Native American nations are political and cultural entities, the products of history, not genes, and white people’sassertions about Native American ancestry and the DNA industry’s claim to be able to reveal such ancestry tend to run roughshod over this history.

Let’s look at three developments that have, over the past year, undermined the rights of Native Americans: the reversal of reservation status for Mashpee tribal lands in Massachusetts, the striking down of the Indian Child Welfare Act, and Republican attempts to suppress Native American votes in North Dakota. Each of these acts came from a different part of the government: the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the Department of the Interior, the courts, and North Dakota’s Republican-dominated state legislature. But all three rely on notions of identity that place race firmly in our genes rather than in our history. In the process, they deny the histories that turned the sovereign and autonomous peoples of North America before European colonists arrived in “the New World” into “Native Americans,” and imply that Native American historical rights are meaningless.

The Mashpee of Massachusetts finally achieved federal recognition and a grant of reservation land only in 2007, based on the fact that they “had existed as a distinct community since the 1620s.” In other words, federal recognition was based on a historical, not a racialized, understanding of ethnicity and identity. However, the tribe’s drive to build a casino on its newly acquired reservation in Taunton, Massachusetts, would promptly be challenged by local property-owners. Their lawsuit relied on a technicality: that, as they argued in court, reservation land could only be granted to tribes that had been federally recognized as of 1934. In fact, the Mashpee struggle for recognition had been repeatedly stymied by long-held notions that the Indians of Massachusetts were not “real” or “authentic” because of centuries of racial mixing. There was nothing new in this. The state’s nineteenth-century legislature prefigured just such a twenty-first-century backlash against recognition when it boasted that real Indians no longer existed in Massachusetts and that the state was poised to wipe out all such “distinctions of race and caste.”

In September 2018, the Department of the Interior (to which the court assigned the ultimate decision) ruled against the Mashpees. Recently appointed Assistant Director of Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney, the first Native American to hold that position, “paved the way for a reservation to be taken out of trust for the first time since the termination era,” a 20-year period from the 1940s to the 1960s when the federal government attempted to “terminate” Native sovereignty entirely by dismantling reservations and removing Indians to urban areas to “assimilate” them. The new ruling could affect far more than the Mashpees. Some fear that, in the Trump years, the decision portends “a new termination era,” or even a possible “extermination era,” for the country’s Native Americans.

Meanwhile, on October 4th, a U.S. District Court struck down the Indian Child Welfare Act, or ICWA. This is a potentially devastating development as Congress passed that Act in 1978 to end the then-still-common practice of breaking up Native families by removing Indian children for adoption into white families. Such acts of removal date back to the earliest days of white settlement and over the centuries included various kinds of servitude and the founding of residential boarding schools for Indian children that were aimed at eliminating Native languages, cultures, and identities, while promoting “assimilation.” Indian child removal continued into the late twentieth century through a federally sponsored “Indian Adoption Project,” as well as the sending of a remarkable number of such children into the foster care system.

According to the ICWA, “An alarmingly high percentage of Indian families are broken up by the removal, often unwarranted, of their children from them by nontribal public and private agencies and that an alarmingly high percentage of such children are placed in non-Indian foster and adoptive homes and institutions.” States, it added, “have often failed to recognize the essential tribal relations of Indian people and the cultural and social standards prevailing in Indian communities and families.” The Act gave tribes primary jurisdiction over all child custody issues including foster placements and the termination of parental rights, requiring for the first time that priority be placed on keeping Native children with their parents, kin, or at least within the tribe.

The ICWA said nothing about race or ancestry. Instead, it recognized “Indian” as a political status, while acknowledging semi-sovereign collective rights. It was based on the Constitution’s implicit acknowledgement of Indian sovereignty and land rights and the assignment to the Federal government of relations with Indian tribes. The District Court’s ICWA decision trampled on the collective political rights of Indian tribes by maintaining that the act discriminated against non-Native families in limiting their right to foster or adopt Native children. That rationale, like the rationale behindthe Mashpee decision, directly attacks the cultural and historical acknowledgement of Native sovereignty.

Superficially, the assault on Native voting rights may appear conceptually unrelated to the Mashpee and ICWA decisions. North Dakota is one of many primarily Republican-controlled states to take advantage of a 2013 Supreme Court ruling eliminating key protections of the Voting Rights Act to make registration and voting more difficult, especially for likely Democratic voters including the poor and people of color. After numerous challenges, a North Dakota law requiring prospective voters to provide a street address was finally upheld by a Supreme Court ruling in October 2018. The problem is this: thousands of rural Native Americans, on or off that state’s reservations, lack street addresses because their streets have no names, their homes no numbers. Native Americans are also disproportionately homeless.

In the North Dakota case, Native Americans are fighting for a right of American citizens — the right to vote — whereas the Mashpee and ICWA cases involve fights to defend Native sovereignty. The new voting law invoked equality and individual rights, even as it actually focused on restricting the rights of Native Americans. Underpinning such restrictions was a convenient denial by those Republicans that the country’s history had, in fact, created conditions that were decidedly unequal. (Thanks to a massive and expensive local effort to defend their right to vote, however, North Dakota’s Native Americans showed up in record numbers in the 2018 midterm election.)

These three political developments downplay Native American identity, sovereignty, and rights, while denying, implicitly or explicitly, that history created today’s realities of racial inequality. The use of DNA tests to claim “Native American” genes or blood trivializes this same history.

The recognition of tribal sovereignty at least acknowledges that the existence of the United States is predicated on its imposition of an unwanted, foreign political entity on Native lands. The concept of tribal sovereignty has given Native Americans a legal and collective basis for fighting for a different way of thinking about history, rights, and nationhood. Attempts to reduce Native American identity to a race that can be identified by a gene (or a genetic variation) do violence to our history and justify ongoing violations of Native rights.

Senator Elizabeth Warren had every right to set the record straight regarding false accusations about her employment history. She should, however, rethink the implications of letting either Donald Trump or the ancestry industry define what it means to be Native American.

Aviva Chomsky is professor of history and coordinator of Latin American studies at Salem State University in Massachusetts and a TomDispatch regular. Her most recent book is Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer’s new dystopian novel (the second in the Splinterlands series) Frostlands, Beverly Gologorsky’s novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt’s A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II.

Copyright 2018 Aviva Chomsky


God’s Wife

The following came from a long time email friend of mine. She lives in Oklahoma and I, in Western Canada and we’ve never met, but over the years she has sent much wisdom my way. This is one of those, and thank you, Ellie.  [Sha’Tara]

  Author and lecturer Leo Buscaglia once talked about a contest he was asked to judge.  The purpose of the contest was to find the most caring child.  Apart from the winner, there were 4 others that were special:
  
1.  A four-year-old child, whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife. When seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old Gentleman’s yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there.    When his mother asked him what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy just said, ‘Nothing, I just helped him cry.’
 
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 2.  Teacher Debbie Moon’s first graders were discussing a picture of a family. One little boy in the picture had different hair color than the other members. One of her students suggested that he was adopted.    

A little girl said, ‘I know all about adoption, I was adopted.’
 
 ‘What does it mean to be adopted?’, asked another child.
 
 ‘It means’, said the girl, ‘that you grew in your mommy’s heart instead of her tummy!’
 
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 3.      On my way home one day, I stopped to watch a Little League baseball game that was being played in a park near my home.  I sat down behind the bench on the first-base line and inquired from one of the boys what the score was.    

‘We’re behind 14 to nothing,’ he answered with a smile.
 
  ‘Really,’ I said. ‘I have to say you don’t look very discouraged.’
 
  ‘Discouraged?’, the boy asked with a puzzled look on his face… ‘Why should we be discouraged? We haven’t been up to bat yet.’
 
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4. Whenever I’m disappointed with my spot in life, I stop and think about little Jamie Scott.
 
Jamie was trying out for a part in the school play.   His mother told me that he’d set his heart on being in it, though she feared he would not be chosen..
 
On the day the parts were awarded, I went with her to collect him after school. Jamie rushed up to her, eyes shining with pride and excitement..  ‘Guess what, Mom,’ he shouted, and then said those words that will remain a lesson to me….’I’ve been chosen to clap and cheer.’
 
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5.   An eye witness account from New York City: on a cold day in December, some years ago,a young boy about 10-years-old was standing before a shoe store on the sidewalk, peering intently through the window. He was barefoot and shivering from the cold.
 
A lady approached the young boy and said,  ‘My, but you’re in such deep thought staring in that window!’
 
‘I was asking God to give me a pair of shoes,’ was the boy’s reply.
 
The lady took him by the hand, went into the store, and asked the clerk to get half a dozen pairs of socks for the boy. She then asked if he could give her a basin of water and a towel. He brought them to her.
 
She took the little fellow to the back part of the store and, removing her gloves, knelt down, washed his feet, and dried them. By this time, the clerk had returned with the socks. She placed a pair upon the boy’s feet, then bought him a pair of shoes..
 
 
She gave him the remaining pairs of socks, patted him on the head and said, ‘No doubt, you will be more comfortable now.’
 
As she turned to go, the astonished kid caught her by the hand, and looking up into her face, with tears in his eyes, asked her.   ‘Are you God’s wife?’
 
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SEND TO ALL WHO LOVE AND CARE FOR CHILDREN.

Only You can do this

[thoughts from    ~burning woman~    ]

What are you thinking about, he asked, perhaps not totally sarcastically.

Off the cuff, I replied: “Peut-être que ça ne dit rien a personne d’autre mais pour moi, ç’a dit tout car je suis mon propre petit univers.”

He looked at me as if I’d lost my mind and was rattling a mindless reply in pig Latin. Of course, my fault, I’d never told him I could speak French. I hadn’t wanted him to hold that against me along with all my other faults he liked to enumerate time and again. I’d gotten used to it but lately I had begun to feel an itch when he started up. The itch was and is, growing. I took off my ring the other day and left it off all day. I felt something like freedom; an exhilaration and a further sense of daring. Could I live without it – him? Since then I’ve re-watched two movies, two stories that are favourites of mine: “Shirley Valentine” and “The Book of Eve.” Why not me?

Well, that’s a strange introduction for what I have to say but it does set the tone. You see, “he” is not an actual man, and I am not actually married – not now, though I have been three times the loser in that game – so just call it a parable. “He” is the world, i.e., the System, the Establishment. The slave owner, slave driver, boss, whorehouse owner, pimp, prison warden, judge and executioner. I am property, sometimes lucrative, sometimes entertaining, seductive, rebellious, victim, always slave. Though “his” methods for securing my presence, conformity and subjugation have varied, the intent has remained the same throughout the millennia. The point is that in “his” world I have no voice unless and until “he” chooses to acknowledge something I said. That only happens when it is to “his” advantage as when it bolsters “his” flagging ego. Or, as some of “us” have often stated, I could “grow balls” and act like a man, think tough, talk tough, act tough. I did try that on occasion and it didn’t go too well. Too much like cross-dressing for a man: only the few can actually pass the test, and what is left of the real ‘me’ afterwards? Where am I when I can no longer pass?

I’ve been feeling alienated lately and that feeling is intensifying. In my mind I hear a constant truism: I do not belong here. Don’t I know it. Just about everything about this world, the natural and the man-made causes discomfort, aggravates, irritates, grinds, disappoints, saddens and sorrows me. I am, as a self aware person, moving away from all the things that make earth the place that it is. So please don’t get me wrong, it’s not just what man does, it’s what this world is. It is primarily a harsh, cruel, unforgiving place. No matter how many examples of kindness among people; of supportive bonding and pairing between different animal species, sometimes even crossing the line between natural predator and prey, it remains that these cause us to wonder and reflect, not because such expressions of acceptance are the modus operandi of this world but because they are rare exceptions. I can “admire” exceptions like those as much as anyone else but there is no forgetting, ever, that exceptions prove the rule, and the rule is always the opposite of the exception. Exceptions do not lead to freedom!

Leaving the animal ‘kingdom’ alone (it is what it is and until a new nature is woven over this dying one there is nothing I can do about it) I focus mostly on Earthians. They are, primarily, a short-sighted, jealous, cruel and vindictive species. They possess little or no empathy and their pride causes them to whitewash, or boast of, their gross indecencies in interrelationships. In this respect I put war near the top of the collective pleasure felt by committing mass murder – for make no mistake: all wars are the grossest of crimes, after misogyny. There are no “just” wars. There is no justification for war – ever – period. Try to understand how utterly depraved one has to be; how mentally deranged and sick, just to entertain the thought of war, never mind to plan for it; to use it as entertainment in books, movies, games; to participate in it.

Back to that French sentence above. What I said was, ‘Maybe it means nothing to anyone else but to me it’s everything because I am my own little universe.’ Honestly, if I hadn’t discovered the ability to both, shrink and expand myself into my own universe I would have become lost long ago. I don’t have to imagine what it’s like living a life that isn’t mine, trying to make one reality co-exist with another completely opposite reality because that has been my life. There is what “they” wanted me to be and what “they” wanted of me, and there is the me that exists only for me, within me, surrounded by my self-made protective wall behind which the alien me retreats and hides.

I realize I have often, particularly in my early years, been guilty of projecting the false, blue pill Matrix slave me. I so wanted to fit in and it was actually quite easy until it began to eat away at my mind and destroy the real me. I had to make a break from that particular “dark side of the Force” reality and reconnect to my self, the compassionate being who had had no chance at guiding or teaching until I acknowledged myself as different than, and separated myself from, Earth’s natural and social reality.

How quickly then did the blue pill supports come tumbling down and how soon there was hardly anything left of those times with their jealous thoughts, their hate, their aggressiveness and insufferable pride.

“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Indeed, and how rapidly I grew beautiful feet because I brought good news, even if the System and those attached to it could not accept what I had to share with Earth as good news.

Let’s do a reminder of that good news. I call it living the compassionate life. That does not require any elaboration because compassion is self-explanatory to anyone who decides to live by it. There is no law, no method, no system, no religion or philosophy that can contain and explain compassion, it requires none of that. So is it any wonder that idea is not good news to any system that insists it must be in control of all ideas or concepts proposed to become the modus operandi of a world? The compassionate being already knows right from wrong from the get-go; s/he does not need intermediaries to explain how to proceed on this path. Any wonder any system would reject it outright? Why, it would make even governments obsolete, never mind God, and the plethora of religions and “charitable” organizations. No more law makers; no more lawyers, for where would there be contention?

I can go further: no more violence because, obviously, the compassionate being cannot do violence to another, choosing rather to suffer the loss in herself. Yes, choosing, from self empowerment, from certainty. No whining, no running to the police or the courts for redress, finding such within herself until the world is completely changed and there is no more violence. Yes, she could be killed but she’ll only come back and continue.

That is the under-girding vision that sustains the compassionate person. It is not pie-in-the-sky as some would think because she has already reached that place within herself, within her own little universe. Now all she does is water the surrounding areas with her compassion and watch as some of it actually succeeds in extinguishing the fires of violence.

Tell me you possess something better. Tell me there are other ways now being used that have never failed before and therefore remain legitimate. You won’t find any, but you will tell me that compassion as already failed because it was preached by the Buddha and others and went nowhere. I will reply, yes, it was preached, and yes, some went there, some died as a result, others were frightened or power-hungry and chose to create institutions in attempts to corner their concept of compassion. It became a religion… but it was no longer compassion. Compassion cannot be so easily entrapped. It was a fake claim. Collectives cannot be compassionate, only individuals can. Join two compassionate individuals together in a collective purporting to do compassion and they are no longer compassionate beings. That needs to be understood before the idea is rejected.

“Only you can prevent forest fires” says Smokey Bear. In the same vein, “Only you, as an individual, can be compassionate.”

After listening to Lakme, the Flower Duet

[thoughts from ~burning woman~ ]

I like beautiful music and although I prefer music over song, either can be from any era, just as long as it is beautiful to my ears and it moves me. So I was listening to Lakme, part I, The Flower Duet (in this case performed by Anna Netrebko and Elina Garanca – See YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vf42IP__ipw)

…And I was thinking, again, about Earth and about “Man” as Earth’s current lord and master. I was thinking of a line by Carl Sagan in “Contact”: ‘You are capable of such beauty, and such horror.” (Quoting from memory but the gist is here)

Whenever I engage myself, mind-wise, on Earthian matters, I get confused as to how I should approach it. Is it “you” and me as the cosmic observer, or should I include myself in among the observed? How do I decide this? First, I must be sure it isn’t a matter of hubris; that if my observation runs into negative judgment, that if I remove myself it isn’t in any way because I think I’m superior to the rest of Earthianity, but because I no longer think, speak or act as most of “you” do. This process, this judgment, must be impeccable on my part.

I believe it is, therefore I am going to be the observer and use the “you” though certainly in the generic sense. I do not know “you” as individuals, therefore it will be according to your conscience whether you “fit in” or can truthfully remain outside the picture. For you, today, I will once again take up the role of the Trojan prophetess Cassandra and say things you will not find acceptable.

You are capable of great beauty… certainly, and the piece of music I mention above proves it even by itself. You don’t have to be able to write, play or sing such, you just have to be able to listen to it and have the capacity to let it enter you and fill you and for the three or four minutes it takes, let it displace all other thoughts, feelings and emotions. Simple, really.

The problem however is that too often it seems impossible to let go. The “immediate” presses upon the mind and demands full attention. That immediate could be anything from the most pleasurable to the greatest pain or loss. The mind-heart refuses to let go of its current obsession driven by anticipation or the immediacy of physical or mental pain.

Earth is not a place conducive to an overall sense of peace, comfort and wholesome satisfaction. Even in the most remote corners, surrounded by nothing but nature, unless one is blind, the reality of the turmoil taking place in the skies, the seas, the trees, the soil, impinges on one’s awareness: predators, everywhere. You see, your world’s natural motive force is based on predatorship or perhaps I should coin a word here: predatorism, because in fact that is the concept that rules Earth. Some are born to kill, many, many more are born to be killed, eaten or absorbed into the natural fabric, their lives cut down long before they can complete their natural cycle. Even your great mountains are worn away by waters and passing winds.

I realize that most of you do not engage your world this way. You do not sense this, though you may be vaguely aware of it, and you generally shrug it off, or use it as an excuse for indulging in what Sagan called, “great horror.” You call it the food chain, and that’s that, as if somehow that explains it away. As if that same nature you want to wax poetic about can also be the brutal barbaric entity that supports your convenient food chain. As if there is no unacceptable dichotomy here, no problem.

That’s the problem, you see, the fact that you don’t see a problem with how nature works. You don’t see a problem because you don’t realize the direct relationship with your own social failures: your wars, genocides, social injustices of every possible kind juxtaposed with those of the world you happen to be temporarily using as a base because… you have no choice: you can’t get away, and if you could, you would have no clue where to go. Some of you feel that your species is a failure, but how many see your world’s “procession” as an equally and connected abysmal failure?

I feel both, the horror that is the working natural system of this world, and the greater horror that is an intelligent, sentient, self aware (ISSA) species calling itself “mankind” that refuses to question the modus operandi of its natural world; refuses to question its own modus operandi; refuses the simple expedient of connecting the dots in order to realize why things are as they are and why no lasting (real) solution to man’s social problems has ever come forth. The only times some significant change has ever happened was through the exercise of violence. That true statement should make any rational being stop and take note: why must it require violence to make significant change within the social structure, and why is it that any and all such changes have failed and are in the process of failing right now?

To me that would be the “why?” question of all the “why?” questions. Why do you always fail? Look, even now, while shooting off on all kinds of tangents based on IT and AI, you are helplessly realizing that this technology is quite likely going to supplant you, perhaps destroy you as ISSA beings. Barely has the technology begun that already you know without a doubt that some way or another it is going to bite you in the ass, and that severely so.

You see? There is no win-win here, not under the current hegemony; the current “force” or “power” that operates this planet. You, people of earth, are not that force or that power, but its slave species. There, I’ve said it, and but for rare exceptions, that is not something you will find acceptable, therefore you will find it necessary to reject the thought outright. If you did not, guess what? You would be forced to look into this in depth and who knows where that would lead? To confront your real nemesis?

No. I can easily tell you where it would lead: back to organized religion. Without self empowerment; without the power to cancel out all input and replace it all with your own thoughts, your own self-made ISSA reasoning, the forces or powers I speak of, will seem to smile in your brain. They will prod you along, with fine words or goads, down the chute into a ready-made religion that will, of course, explain it all. You will then accept the “new” ideas this “new” religion programs into your mind and who knows? It could explain how the AI is a divine power, or it could just as easily make you believe that the time has come to launch a “revolution” against science and technology and you will go off to destroy all vestiges of science and technology, mindlessly following the dictates of a few madmen who will tell you they are “making the Earth great again.”

Either way, you see, you’re not your own person: you are an actor, a puppet, a robot because you are not in control of your own mind. So you will go along (or you will be of those who will violently oppose the barbarians) and indulge in much, much more horror and under your feet, in the seas, in the trees and in the air, predators will continue to kill and eat, and billions of lifeforms will die premature deaths in attempts to sate the hunger of an insatiable system – as Costello would say, “Same as you!”

Quote: “Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty- five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.” (Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt)

Good People Doing Good Things — Scott Macauley

Definitely a reblog,and it speaks for itself. Isn’t it how it all should go?

Filosofa's Word

Today I am focusing solely on one good person, for his deeds deserve the spotlight.Scott MacauleyIt began 33 years ago in 1985, when Scott Macaulay’s parents divorced, and he found himself all alone for the Thanksgiving holiday.  He was divorced also, and he really didn’t want to spend the day alone watching football with a tv dinner, or grab a burger from McDonald’s for his Thanksgiving dinner, so he placed an ad in the local paper, asking 12 strangers to join him for Thanksgiving dinner.McCauley-at-storeWell, he got twelve strangers to join him that year, and he enjoyed it so much that he has continued the tradition of a free Thanksgiving feast every year since.  He has hosted widows, the homeless, and college kids who can’t go home for the holiday.  Today, he estimates that he has about 70 people each year, and sometimes as many as 100, and he…

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I never knew Him

a short story, by Sha’Tara

I wanted to know him, but I never did.  He worked for my parents at the house on the Estate.  That’s where I spent my time when I wasn’t in school, or college.  Year after year.  I grew up, he got older. 

I was raised by wolves, you know what that means.  So he was my life.  And now, they’re all gone.  The wolves finally ate each other and their prey died, possibly of boredom. 

He cared for them, though he cared for me the more.  But he was so careful around me, careful to always have somebody else with us, near us, a witness, so that should something untoward happen the wolves wouldn’t blame him, and eat him.  I never blamed him for being careful; for protecting himself.  And so, I never got to know him.  He was just there.  And then like that, and suddenly, he wasn’t. 

I won’t try to explain in words what it means for a twenty-two year old pretend woman to be left adrift and alone after swimming her entire life with sharks and being forced to hunt with wolves.  I didn’t like either roles but I did not pretend hard enough, meaningfully enough, that I was an exception, an actual human being.  Perhaps being alone now, completely out of the limelight, rich, and with only one uncle as would-be guardian – he’s barely aware of my existence – I can finally become what I was born to be.  Hello? Can anyone tell me what that is? Listen to my harsh, sarcastic laughter!

In the back of my mind, there is an image, or perhaps it’s a mirage. 

A blue-green sea casts its waves upon a dun shade sandy shore.  Palm trees move in the afternoon breeze blowing all along that shore.  Sometimes I see a colourfully dressed woman with a young boy walking on the sand.  The boy bends over frequently to pick up things.  Once I watched him from the house’s balcony.  He was picking up starfish and flinging them back into the waves.  The woman, probably his mother, or guardian, walked on ahead slowly, oblivious of the stranded starfish.  It reminded me then of a story you’ve all heard; a story that haunts me today. 

It’s about a little girl frantically running up and down a beach after a storm, picking up starfish and flinging them out to sea.  A man, watching her, came to her and said, “There are so many stranded, you can only save a few.  What difference can it possibly make?”  To which the wise girl replied, as she flung another into the waves, “It makes a difference to that one.”

It’s easy to forget that lesson.  I’m twenty-two and what do I know of life?  I know how to use money to get what I want.  But do I know what I want?  That’s the problem: I don’t, not really.  Sometimes, I think bitterly, if I were a Barbie doll, I could buy myself friends, maybe even a boy friend.  But I’m much, much less than a popular doll.  I’m a rich no-one with fangs; one who knows how to snarl and chase prey in the shallows.

It is summer now and even in summer, there are storms.  Sometimes the waves are cavernously deep and as they approach the shallows, rise in high combers, their wild palomino-maned surf crashing and thundering all along the shoreline.  On such occasions I like to run down there and stand just out of reach of the surf as it crashes, runs up the beach, then slithers back for another attack. 

Then with heart beating, I walk down, barefoot and bare-legged into the pushing and pulling roiling waters.  Of course I’m looking for answers.  And in those brief moments I get to put my loneliness on pause.  When I see a starfish on the shore I pick it up and throw it back in the waters, hoping it will not be washed up again.  Yes, hoping.  Then I think about my life, beyond its hellish peacefulness and dulling emptiness.  And how it keeps getting washed up on the shore and is as helpless as the starfish to do anything about it. Who would pick me up out of sympathy perhaps, and cast me in my element?

I asked him once about loneliness.  He’d noticed it in me and I know it made him sad that a young girl could be so alone in the world.  I asked how he could live there, in that… that house, alone year after year.  He’d explain that he didn’t just stay there.  He had family and friends among the fishermen in the village.  I wanted to go with him to meet his friends, or to make my own friends in the village but the wolves forbade it.  They’re not our kind of people, said my mother, baring her fangs.  You could be kidnapped for ransom, said my father, turning and blocking the exit.  The house is safe, and there’s enough space on the estate for you to wander through without danger.  We’ll get you a horse, and a trainer.  I didn’t want a horse and the trainer would be another short-lived diversion.

Do you have any idea how lonely it is to be property? To be an estate slave with no purpose whatsoever but to fill a void in someone else’s life? A convenience, a trophy, even if never first prize, being of wrong gender? Let me give you a piece of advice before you throw yourself off a cliff, or the fake battlements.

If you ever feel truly alone you want to go down to the sea shore when the wind tears up the clouds as they whip over the half moon, say around midnight, and you want to sit on a wet rock to just listen to the waves crashing in, one after another, and between each one, listen to the water hissing back down into the roiling darkness.  That is the sound, and the feeling, of the heartbeat of the lonely; the truly lonely.  That is the heartbreaking echo of utter loneliness. Only then will you know, for an inescapable fact that your fate is sealed; alive or dead, it’s all the same and it will not change.

If only I could give my life a purpose.  Join the throngs of others going on about their business of struggle, survival and periodic pleasures.  Using my own wits instead of my cursed inheritance of family money.  Using my own hands to create, or just make, something.  Maybe sit down beside a homeless woman and try to feel what she feels. What if my hands could actually hold someone without crushing them? My lips kiss another and my fangs remaining retracted?

These are my thoughts today.  You see, it was his funeral yesterday and I’m just now beginning to realize how truly lost-lonely I am.  I would like to do something outrageous right now, but my mother said, they’re not our kind, and my father, it’s too dangerous.  And the only person I ever trusted, ever loved, was buried yesterday.  I couldn’t even attend his funeral, I was afraid.

The Crux Crew Mini-Interview

Ah, a welcome switch from the political and conspiracies… this is the direction I’m looking into at the moment, and my focus may well sharpen over the next months. Enjoy this, and if you buy the anthology, well aww, golly, gee, I got one o’ mah own short stories tuck in there too… not going to give it away, you’ll have to find it, and it is one I never published on this blog, so it ain’t here! Enjoy.

Rachael Ritchey

I couldn’t help reblogging this entertaining and interesting interview (more of a conversation between three authors we get to sit it on) between host author Joy E. Rancatore, R. J. Rodda, and Audrey Driscoll. 

To enjoy the interview in its entirety, head to Joy’s website by clicking this link:

http://www.joyerancatore.com/2018/11/15/the-crux-crew-mini-interview/

Following is a snippet, but don’t miss out on the rest. These ladies are smart, and their conversation is one we can all enjoy. 

~ Rachael Ritchey

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The Crux Crew Mini-Interview

Is it tea time where you are? Are you sipping your morning coffee? Even if it’s neither, I invite you to pour yourself a cuppa and join me, Joy E. Rancatore(JER) and authors R J Rodda (RJR) and Audrey Driscoll (AD) as we have a little chat about writing, stories and the release of The Crux Anthology. We are proud to be part of…

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