The Christmas Truce

Happy Holidays mi gente,
Leave it to the Christian right and people in general to fuck up a good thing… There are two parts to today’s post. One illustrates how conservatives use religion to foster fear with the intent to force compliance, the other illustrates how spirituality can be a powerful force, even in the midst of unbelievable violence and insanity.

The Fake War on Christmas

07-10-16_ Sunday Sermon [Resistance]

A solitary unarmed Black woman demanding the Black Lives Matter confronts a militarized aggression.

What we preserve in the larger human story determines what we believe is possible in the world.

The fake war on Christmas is not really about Christmas, but rather it is in reality code for religious intolerance, anti-Semitism, and bigotry. It’s the dog whistle to rile up the rabble.

From what I can tell, at the message at the core of the historical Jesus is a powerful and sublime philosophy: that we love one another, and that we should treat one another with respect and as we would like to be treated. Of course, Christmas really isn’t about that at all. Shit, if there is a war on Christmas, it was won long ago by a consumer culture grounded in the mindset of mindlessly acquiring material possessions rather than self-actualization or compassion for one’s neighbor.

And that’s the tragedy here because this vital message of love is lost. And if you doubt the power of the true message of this spiritual teaching, then check out the following story…

Silent Night

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WWI soldiers in the trenches

The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce of 1914

On Christmas Eve in 1914, two lines of homesick soldiers, one British, one German, were dug into the trenches on the Western Front in the middle of World War I. Now, you have to understand that WWI was considered the “war to end all wars.” It was one of the most vicious wars because in those days, you had to look your enemy in the eye as you stabbed or shot him. You were more likely to die from starvation, exposure, and disease as you were at the hands of the enemy. So, there are these two front lines and between them was a fire zone called no-man’s land. On a moonlit, snowy night in this God-forsaken landscape, the Germans lifted army issued Christmas trees sparkling with tiny candles over the edge of their trenches and set them in plain sight.

The British shouted and cheered with delight. The Germans began to sing “Stille Nacht… ”and the British began to sing along with “Silent Night.” This encouraged the Germans and they set down their guns in the moonlight and heaved themselves from their trenches carrying candles, cake, and cigars toward their enemies. The British responded in kind, carrying steamed pudding and cigarettes.

These men met in the middle of the forbidden zone, exchanged gifts, sang carols, and played soccer. This seemingly spontaneous truce eventually extended for hundreds of miles among thousands of soldiers. The really funny thing was, having seen each other’s humanity, they could no longer shoot each other…

The war essentially stopped.

Horrified, commanders on both sides had to transfer thousands of men to new positions until the enemy became faceless again, something killable, not a human being — not a brother.

Almost a hundred years later, scholars are still studying this event, reading soldier’s journals and letters that refer to it, seeking to understand “the breakdown of the military mindset,” or attempting to understand how a fuckin spontaneous peace movement could spread even in the cold dark heart of war.

Today you will hear countless other stories. Stories of death and unspeakable cruelty. You will no doubt hear stories justifying, in the name of global economics or religion, the starvation and killing of innocent men, women, and children. You will see or read approximately 80,000 messages today bombarding you with the agenda to get you to buy something — most of it will fly under the radar of your awareness. But if you remember anything, remember this story because it is true and it speaks to who we really are and the essence of what it means to be a human being.

Most of all, remember the contrasts between the two parts of this post today. The first part emphasizes difference and domination, the second part reinforces what is good in all of us, regardless of what or who we believe in or where we find ourselves.

Happy Holidays.

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Hola Everybody,
Anyone in the issue of the struggle against racialized social control and mass incarceration, should come hear us at Old Soul’s Church. For details, see the flyer below:

mass-empowerment-event-flyer-1

I usually leave the art stuff for Saturdays, but in preparing for tonight’s panel, I came across the following poem in my notes. It’s from a poet that not too many people may know about. Many people know of Maya Angelou’s memoir I know Why the Caged Bird Sings, but not as many know of the poet who inspired the title, Paul Laurence Dunbar, the first African-American to gain national prominence as a poet. He died much too young, at 33, but his work is as fascinating as it is beautiful.

With that, I leave you with…

Sympathy

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I know what the caged bird feels, alas!
When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;
When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,
And the river flows like a stream of glass;
When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,
And the faint perfume from its chalice steals —
I know what the caged bird feels!

I know why the caged bird beats his wing
Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;
For he must fly back to his perch and cling
When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;
And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars
And they pulse again with a keener sting —
I know why he beats his wing!

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings —
I know why the caged bird sings!

— Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906)

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My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…

The Kool Logic of Late Capitalism

Hola mi gente,
I could decide to be quiet or “safe” — to not point at and ridicule the Emperor’s nakedness — but I’m not “safe” in that way. Whatever people will say about me when I’m no longer around, they will not be able to say I was a safe Puerto Rican, or that I didn’t try.

Here’s a gem from a kindred and “unsafe” Puerto Rican…

Kool Logic

06-25-16_ Kool Logic [Poetry]

The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Frederic Jameson
— by Urayoán Noel

 

1
I hope this finds you in good health (Or at least gainfully employed). We’re here to discuss the hologram-self In the era of the void.

Some say modern man is hollow, Others say it’s a condition Called “postmodern.” Do you follow Could this use some exposition?

2
O.K. See the common graves Rotting in the ancient cities? The Fast food? The porous borders? The ambiguous sexualities? The debt-bludgeoned ethnicities? The wars of chemical roses?
Cash flows from Utopian rivers And the market never closes!
“This is the kool logic
Of late capitalism.”

3
In the Prozac marketplaces People hoard new models of leisure; Love has been deregulated: Plastic breasts! Prosthetics! Seizures! In the suburbs neighbors mourn The death drive of their libidos, Late summers full of soft porn, Stolen Wonder Bras, torn Speedos.
“This is the kool logic
Of late capitalism.”

4
You can consume what you please: From work music to new age; Ricky Martin and John Cage Are touring the Basque Pyrenees; You can sing your song of peace (Pop! Punk! Folk! Tribal! Assorted!) But the violence will not cease, Hate’s fetus can’t be aborted!
“This is the kool logic
Of late capitalism.”

5
Macrobiotic-cybernetic- Fiber-optic folderol! Neo-gothic supermodels! Satellites and virtual malls! Vegan power lunch grand slams! Word elites! Money-go-rounds! Free will or free (pillow?) shams In the global shantytown?
“This is the kool logic
Of late capitalism.”

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NBTFA, Mercosur, Hamas! DVDs and open mikes! Watercross and motocross! SUVs and mountain bikes! Trailer parks! Gated communities! High-rise ghettoes and favelas! Acquired diplomatic immunities! Self-help prophets! Braille novelas! Mexico, Miami, Rio! Euro-Disney, Bollywood! Dell, Intel, Taco Bell, Geo! Stanford post-docs in da hood! I’ll stop fronting pedagogical… One last question (extra credit): This kool logic ain’t too logical But it’s still “kool.” Do you get it?!
“This is the kool logic
Of late capitalism.”

About Urayoán Noel: Puerto Rico-born and Bronx-based performance poet, Urayoán Noel, has been delighting and confounding the enlightened masses since the late 1990s. Solo and as part of the rock band objet petit a, he has performed-sung-scatted throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico, as well as in the Dominican Republic and Perú. His laugh-tracked new wave guarachas have rocked the rafters and/ or emptied the room at the Nuyorican Poets Café, Bowery Poetry Club, Bar 13, Cornelia Street Café, Instituto Cervantes, and Roka Espacio. (click here for more info and/ or buy Kool Logic here.)

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My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…

 

I am the Warrior

Hola mi Gente,
I am conflicted about having to be inside a jail for eight hours a day, five days a week. If you’re not vigilant, being inside a jail that much can suck the soul out of you…

The Awakened Warrior

06-08-16_ Scholar Warrior

Nothing in life is to be feared; it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.
— Marie Curie

 

I sold my son on education using the archetype of the Scholar-Warrior. After watching an old Bruce Lee movie, he wanted to learn the martial arts. Having studied Lee’s original art, Wing Chun, myself, I made a pact with him. We would both study with a master if he took the oath of the Scholar-Warrior. Of course, I made the whole thing up. LOL

Actually, there are precedents for the oath of the Scholar-Warrior. Throughout history and across many cultures, scholar-warriors weren’t just fighters; they were often learned men and women who were versed in a wide range of disciplines. They were familiar with poetry and the healing arts, for example. They were protectors not destroyers.

We live in a different age, of course, but I would submit that the times we live in are screaming for more Scholar-Warriors to come forth. We cannot count on our leaders and government to be brave on our behalf; they are beholden to legal fictions (aka Corporations) endowed with the rights of personage. I would say that a failure of courage all around is at the root of most our problems today. Doing the right thing is a reward itself. Scholar-Warriors do not look for credit…

The word courage comes from the French coeur, meaning “heart.” Courage is a power that comes from the integration of the heart and brain. Brave, on the other hand, comes from the word for barbarians and was used by the Romans to describe the daring of the “wild people.”

For me, courage is the willingness to embrace challenge. Courage isn’t a single trait so much as a combination of a range of qualities: willingness, persistence, intent, valor. Real courage faces reality head on and when change is called for, accepts the need. It also calls for intelligence in that it calculates whether the means justifies the ends.

The irony is that seemingly unremarkable individuals commit some of the most courageous acts. Julia Butterfly Hill was only twenty-three when she climbed 180 feet into an ancient redwood. She lived in the tree for two years, saving it from destruction and in the process inspiring a generation of environmental activists.

I tried to teach my son that within each of us there lies a sleeping scholar-warrior and that part of our life’s purpose is to awaken that warrior. Sometimes it takes an extreme situation for the inner warrior to emerge. Many of the heroes we celebrate were initially reluctant everyday people taken by surprise.

I had a friend, Freddie (who has since passed away), who with no thought to his own safety acted on a situation. It was late at night and he was on his way to the corner bodega when he came upon a rape in progress. Without hesitation he tried to save the young woman. The cowards turned on him, beating him so badly that, among other serious injuries, they broke his eye socket, causing him to lose sight in that eye. Freddie was one of the funniest people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing and when asked, he said he wasn’t a hero. For him, he was just doing what needed to be done.

I don’t consider myself a hero. I am just a son of the human species who was taught that an injustice to one person is an injustice to all. If I am a scholar-warrior at all, I am a warrior for Truth.

Today, we’re at the political mercy of a relatively small group of bullies. This is how I view most of what goes under both political parties in America today. Much of what they do is based in fear and loathing. A woman once spit at me because she didn’t see me as a human being but as a receptacle for everything she hated. To her I was a thing; I was the “other.” Her fear and ignorance compelled her to see me as a scapegoat for all her frustrations. Bullies bully because they are rarely confronted, growing bolder with time. Push back against a bully, and his or her fear stands exposed. A scholar-warrior can stand up to them.

Lucky Babcock is an example of a spontaneous scholar-warrior. One day she was minding her own business looking out her window when she saw a man throw a woman to the ground and rip her blouse off. Lucky, then sixty-six years old, grabbed her cane and raced down two flights of iron stairs. “I felt like I was flying. I put my hands on the rails and just threw myself down four steps at a time.” She used her cane as a club and drove the man off.

Compassion is a powerful motivator. Scholar-warriors develop a thirst for compassion. The compassionate are the true protectors of the earth, moved enough to take a principled stand to wage war against injustice.

A newspaper editor in Uruguay who agreed to a duel with an irate police inspector announced he would turn up without a weapon. He was challenged after his newspaper reported the officer was involved in transporting contraband. “I am not going to bear arms against another human being,” he stated. He stood convention on its head and as a result, he gained the support of the press, many politicians, and much of the public. The exposure resulted in a power shift that saw a new party formed and a new president elected.

I could tell the stories of countless reluctant scholar-warriors who almost never get any coverage, but they all seem to share the same quality of people who simply did what needed to be done.

If everybody who cared actually participated, the world would change. But we can’t count on other people — only ourselves. If we each do our part, who knows? But if we don’t, I think we know what will happen — it’s happening now. I’ll tell you today what I tried to teach my son not too long ago. The task of the scholar-warrior is to persist in the face of the greatest opposition. Even if our efforts turn out to be for nothing at one level, our actions still create ripples of effect. Courage isn’t risking ourselves for what we believe in, my friends. Courage is letting go of the belief that there’s something to risk.

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…