Tuesday, February 25, 2014

An Existential Definition of Community

Defining Community by Observing It

Travelling recently I saw a flock of maybe 50 wild turkeys scattered over a large snow-covered field. Most were busy pecking and scratching. I've never seen so many together. They usually travel in much smaller single family groups. Of course, I thought, they become community minded when times are tough and survival is threatened. The more that are out hunting and pecking at the snow, the better the chance that some one or few of them will find some grain, and all will eat.

The Inuit people of old did the same. In winter, several hunters would go out for days in different directions, to different holes in the ice where a seal might rise for breath.  When one hunter got a seal, the whole village ate.

 From each according to his ability, or luck, and to each according to her need.

 A long time ago, I was a junior person working in a large oil company that was having difficulty finding oil on the Canadian Prairies.  At some meeting, I noted that a few of the many small companies also seeking oil did in fact find quite substantial fields, and asked the vice president in charge of that department in our company why we did not simply buy into a number of those small companies, say 25% in each, and this increase the probability of getting control of more oil. His answer was "We will not give our expertise to other companies".

Neither the turkeys nor the Inuit would have survived with such a creed. But somehow, we think our society will survive,  though it is the creed of our governments and our corporations.

The Prodigal Son

The Prodigal Son

We know the story. The youngest son goes wildly adventuring, womanizing, loses jobs, fails education, parties, does drugs, damages his health and endangers his life, finally in despair returns home becoming a child again seeking his parents. He is exuberantly welcomed by his father, who with tears of joy exclaims this my son was lost and now he is found and now I am happy, now we we will have a feast and gifts for him!! The older son looks on with barely concealed anger. I have done everything correctly, got my education, got and kept a good job, visited my parents every week, sacrificed myself to raise my family, look after my wife, why should my brother get all this celebration and I get nothing?

My Thoughts

 The elder son is not made happy by his own rectitude and correct behaviour. He obviously takes his cue to be happy from what his father thinks of him, not of what he thinks of himself. His anger toward his brother and father comes because he tells himself he gave up his freedom to do what his brother did, followed his fathers’ rules, and now feels unrewarded. Evidently not capable of rewarding himself for his choices, he now doubts he is worthy in his father’s eyes. He doesn’t see that the father is not rewarding his brother for his profligate lifestyle, but is celebrating his safety, his returning home. The elder could join in the celebration but he mistakes the reason for it and so doubts his father’s love, and so doubts himself, and his fear makes him angry.

The younger son was evidently not made happy by his adventuring and reckless so-called self-indulgence. (How is it an indulgence if he is not happy?). The younger son set out to find himself in opposition to his fathers ideas, and found only suffering, and then he was desperate to get home, to get healed, to feel nurtured. He has not grown up yet, no matter how much the father celebrates him. Both sons have yet to learn about themselves, to have respect and love for themselves, regardless of what others may think of them. When they do, they will attain the wisdom of the father, who respects them both, loves them both, scolds neither of them, and shows them how he feels when he feels it.

This parable is played out daily in our culture. More sons and daughters than ever in recent history are returning home because they have not found themselves in the world, and seek safety and comfort of home and parents, like the children they still are. They have yet to grow up. Elder brothers ( and sisters) abound, scolding those who return to their childhood home, scolding the street people, scolding the poor, scolding those without jobs, those on welfare. Scolding the government for not looking after them better, granting them more roads, lower housing costs, better jobs, less taxes, etc. Younger brothers and sisters protest in the streets, demand the return of a nurturing government, demanding jobs, minimum pay, demanding governments do better, stop oppression, organize work and a meaningful place in society for them.

Yet returning to the childhood home may be the first step in healing our society for all of us. The childhood home is the nucleus, or ought to be, of a viable community.  Where each cares for all and all care for each. And given what is coming to our world habitat, massive and life endangering climate change, the breakdown of our global monetary system, the end of cheap oil fueled energy. Perhaps a time when most of those in developed countries will have to spend their own personal energy growing and making, in order to survive. Will we not need the comfort and skills of small communities of friends and, good neighbors, to survive?

It is all about our fear, of violence, of sickness, of hunger, of loss of goods and shelter, loss of love. We call it insecurity. We crave security, and give up our freedoms and often our social justice systems, hoping to get it.

There will always be predators. All classes in society are afraid of the predators. The rich bar their doors at night, co-opt police forces to do drive-bys, travel only on well lighted safe streets in fast expensive vehicles, enter only buildings protected by security guards and passcodes, spend time only with others of their class, surrounded by security.

Why all this emphasis on security? Why does the United States have 11 battle groups of thousands of warships, costing billions upon billions, army expenditures in the trillions, equal to the next ten largest armies combined? Why does that same country insist on having 3000 tanks and 6 billion rounds of ammunition, and much more, for their homeland security apparatus within their own country? Why do the rich in the developed countries all live in gated communities, and co-opt their governments into making the entire country a gated community for them?

They are afraid to lose what they have, afraid of the predators. And even the poorest, the street people, have a well founded fear of predators, seeking to rob them at knife point at night as they sleep on a subway grate in the cold and snow of winter.

It is all about fear, this desperate search for security. And there is no such thing as personal or even collective security. A life destroying disaster can happen to any, any time. The elder son in the prodigal son story discovered his self regard, his personal security, shattered when the father celebrated the younger in spite of his profligate behaviour. The younger son will wake the morning after the feast and know the insecurity of understanding he must leave home again sometime, to an unknown future.

The only security we will ever know comes from within. Learning not to doubt, learning not to fear, learning to trust and be open always to all the possibilities for joy, moment by moment, in being alive.

Donato Cianci  Feb. 25  2014

Saturday, February 22, 2014

an example of being blind to the real problem.

Public or Private Medical Care, an example of  being blind to the real problem.

Thoughts when I was asked to comment on an initiative by the Ontario Health Coalition, an organization that seems devoted to the status quo, ensuring that nothing important will ever be done for the first time.

(Roy Brady, Peterborough __High Priority Campaign to Stop the Dismantling of Our Local Hospitals and the Contracting-Out of Hospital Care to Private Clinics)

Why should we waste energy debating this or that minor fix, public vs private clinics, etc. when the system is fundamentally broken?

What Brady seems to be saying is that the people who can afford to pay for medical care that lets them jump the queue will be getting substandard care. What they will get by getting their surgery early rather than late is perhaps a better chance to to stay healthy longer than those who have to wait in line for the the public system, while their illness perhaps gets worse. Why should we care what happens to those who choose private over public? They have as good information as any of us on what they will get and what risks they will run getting it.

 What’s wrong with the medical profession and system everywhere is that it reacts, and does only palliative care, and makes huge profits for the big Pharm. companies, but still has a stat showing that 70% of health care costs go into chronic (that is incurable ) disease caused mainly by people’s addictive self indulgent life styles.

Feet (insufficient exercise), forks (poor nutrition) and fingers (smoking), are the indicators of the health crisis we are all in.  And it looks like the system will crash from lack of sufficient money or positive results,  before the medical profession will wake up to the fact that this is a mental health system crisis ( fixable only by understanding the human neurological system through quantum mechanics ( waves not particles, interacting fields of energy) rather staying with the out of date paradigm of particle physics and chemistry based on Newtonian 18th Century mechanics.

The science used in the medical system is getting close to 100 years out of date. And humans’ inability to control their addictions to consumption and to lives of sloth and ease, shows no signs of weakening either.

Plus we seem, collectively, unable to define the real problems. Too much traffic? Build more roads, so we can sell more cars create more havoc in the environment. The real problem? Too many roads. Eliminate 50% of all roads, force people to live closer together, work closer to home, shop closer to home,  and so on...

Education costs too much and has poor outcomes? Stick with the out of date model of huge daily warehouses for students spending most of their time bored into stupor listening to stand up teachers who spend 80% of their time lecturing or marking, and practically no time interacting with students, and argue about how to afford smaller class sizes. Why do we not insist on changing the model entirely, to one where students use the internet resources for learning material, and teachers spend 80% or more of their time facilitating homework for individual students who need some one-on-one?

Too much warfare or threat of it? Spend billions on surveillance of every communication, and on weapons and weapons trainings that are 30 years out of date by the time they are delivered. What’s the real problem here? We don’t trust each other. So work on building trust rather than building jails, walls and armaments, that only decrease trust, making the problem worse.

Donato Cianci  Peterborough Ontario