Human Rights January

A new year is upon us. As the old year is set to expire, planning and execution of what is important for the coming 12 months should be considered. For me, January is a “Human Rights” month.

Each month, I will pick an individual that I believe epitomizes the best of the human condition (dead or alive). In January of 2018, my pick is Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. is one of my heroes. His views on civil rights and non-violence are an inspiration. His struggles to achieve his goals are well documented. From facing down water cannons and klansmen to dealing with uncooperative individuals from the government, his life is one of a profile of courage and hope (to borrow the phrase from JFK).

While his Dream speech at the foot of the Lincoln memorial is one that many will remember, there are aspects of his inspiration that few heard of nor knew of. He realized that the dream he shared with so many was part of a long nightmare– (the following is taken from a Christmas sermon broadcast by the Canadian Broadcast Corporation):

… If there is to be peace on earth and good will toward men, we must finally believe in the ultimate morality of the universe, and believe that all reality hinges on moral foundations. Something must remind us of this as we once again stand in the Christmas season and think of the Easter season simultaneously, for the two somehow go together. Christ came to show us the way. Men love darkness rather than the light, and they crucified him, and there on Good Friday on the cross it was still dark, but then Easter came, and Easter is an eternal reminder of the fact that the truth-crushed earth will rise again. Easter justifies Carlyle in saying, “No lie can live forever.” And so this is our faith, as we continue to hope for peace on earth and good will toward men: let us know that in the process we have cosmic companionship.

In 1963, on a sweltering August afternoon, we stood in Washington, D.C., and talked to the nation about many things. Toward the end of that afternoon, I tried to talk to the nation about a dream that I had had, and I must confess to you today that not long after talking about that dream I started seeing it turn into a nightmare. I remember the first time I saw that dream turn into a nightmare, just a few weeks after I had talked about it. It was when four beautiful, unoffending, innocent Negro girls were murdered in a church in Birmingham, Alabama. I watched that dream turn into a nightmare as I moved through the ghettos of the nation and saw my black brothers and sisters perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity, and saw the nation doing nothing to grapple with the Negroes’ problem of poverty. I saw that dream turn into a nightmare as I watched my black brothers and sisters in the midst of anger and understandable outrage, in the midst of their hurt, in the midst of their disappointment, turn to misguided riots to try to solve that problem. I saw that dream turn into a nightmare as I watched the war in Vietnam escalating, and as I saw so-called military advisors, sixteen thousand strong, turn into fighting soldiers until today over five hundred thousand American boys are fighting on Asian soil. Yes, I am personally the victim of deferred dreams, of blasted hopes, but in spite of that I close today by saying I still have a dream, because, you know, you can’t give up in life. If you lose hope, somehow you lose that vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of all. And so today I still have a dream. …

(Excerpt taken from

http://www.ecoflourish.com/Primers/education/Christmas_Sermon.html

The sermon was  broadcast by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on Christmas Eve 1967)

 

As can be inferred by my quotation (below) and passage choices, Martin Luther King Jr. never ever gave up. He understood that to persist in times of trouble, there had to be an overarching sense of purpose in the face of overwhelming odds.

For some of us, individuals like MLK Jr. hold inspiration – although we may not have the same trials— but their life of example is one to imitate. A better version of ourselves.

Lincoln Memorial

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” –MLK Jr.

 

Are we truly free –or do we submit to the paean of the many? Traveling a road less traveled is normally far harder than would appear. Can we sacrifice selfish desires?

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A Day in the Anthropocene

While the images like the Aurora borealis (seen below) are common to many of us. A lot of us recognize it as a scientific phenomena – It is one where the magnetic field of the Earth is excited by solar particles of our Sun.

The phenomenon is viewed as beautiful, and feelings of warmth and love are attributed to its viewing.

In many ways, there is a dichotomy to understanding our world. One of feeling and sentiment and one of analytical understanding based upon rationalism.

The dichotomy of the views present a problem– one can be said to think of the world in one of two ways. However, we can rectify the dichotomy. Rectifying the views requires wisdom.

This wisdom we need utilizing both rationalization and emotional/feeling — bringing together both to an understanding.

The present solutions to our problems are based upon concepts of Sustainability. Will we be wise enough to use the Paradigm of Sustainability to ensure that our progeny can thrive?

HOPE and BELIEF in a GREATER GOOD

Can wisdom sustain humanity’s future? Image by John A. Jaksich.

Many problems that require humanity’s wisdom begin with solutions based upon hope. In this present era, it is known as the (era of Man) Anthropocene. It is fraught with pain and anxiety.

This Era of Man is a wake-up call for all.

Whether it is a La Nina driven hurricane slamming into the Yucatan Peninsula or an extreme high tide inundating the Florida Keys, the effects of human-driven climate change will affect more than just local populations.  From journals to popular best-sellers, our planet’s challenges are documented.

Answers for the Anthropocene are based upon Sustainability—

Sustainability is the means of meeting the needs of the present while preserving biodiversity and the natural ecosystems for future generations.

A major issue surrounding the paradigm of sustainability is the lack of a crystal ball that the approach is meant to address. Let’s face it, when addressing the preparedness of humanity to take on disasters of their own making, our own track record is poor. Putting it succinctly: We can not solve today’s problems with yesterday’s technologies.  

I do have hope, however. I will not give in nor surrender.

Ramblings, Statements, and Opinions — Christmas Message!

Ramblings of History

The world has not quite been the same since the multiple jets  hit sites in the US on September 11, 2001 and unfortunately, the terror continues well into 2016.

The jihad  is much like a that of a desperate, cornered beast. Their war on the West can be said to be one of  nomads desperately seeking to turn back time. Let me explain.(1)

When the hordes of Genghis Khan swept from Asia into Europe, their attacks were that of a nomadic tribe seeking to displace the Romans from parts of their Empire. The Romans, for what little credit they are given, were a civilized society. (Yes, the Romans were barbaric but they laid the foundation for modern Western society.)

The hordes of Genghis Khan were a nomadic collection of warriors mounted on horseback. They originated in what is now the Mongolia-China region of the world. Nomads are feudal tribes — they do not farm nor herd cattle nor sheep. They subsist through violence and terror. Much like the jihadists, I believe a fair comparison can be drawn to the hordes of Genghis Khan.

The eventual decay and demise of the Romans had multiple factors, but  the Mongolian horde hastened the Roman demise. The demise of Rome led to a power vacuum where Rome once dominated.

When Christianity filled the power vacuum left by the Romans, it was a natural order of civilization. Christianity (given its merits and faults) helped to stabilize the regions once held by Rome.

Lessons of the Early 21st Century

The military responses of the West against terrorist cells have crippled the abilities of the jihadists — but as the decade wore through the 2000s to 2016– the mood of the public has changed. In Africa, jihadists are still strong; however, much of the world is not concerned with Africa. Presently there a few resources to exploit.

As long as we are incapable to mount a full response in areas that lack economic resources, our actions are mute. It reeks of shallowness

and of greed. In other regions of the world, Nationalism has spurred Nazi sympathies.

And the following question might be appropriate–

Power Vacuums and Political Instability?

Parts of the Mid-East and parts of Africa are still populated with terrorist cells. Much of the Mid-East is unstable, as well.

The Arab Spring coupled with the rise of Nationalistic sympathies seem to have made instabilities though much of the world.

I personally don’t believe that the West will fall. However, what is frightening is the poor humanitarian responses that Nationalistic sympathies seem to have brought. If the jihadists are to be defeated (or at least made to believe differently), they need reasons to do so. And, breast beating hegemony from parts of the US and other parts of the world will hasten further conflict.

We and much of the world are perched for armed conflict–in my humble opinion.

So, what do I believe should be done?

Seek a third path– While much of world seems perched with an unstable attitude and potentially toward war, Nationalistic sympathies need to be assuaged. The fomenting attitudes of Nationalism seemingly are based upon an attitude that says — the former status quo is not good and denying basic human rights to those who are suffering is justified.

Those who are presently fomenting hate need to be thrown out of power….before it is too late.

These patterns were seen prior to WWII– the Axis powers and used them to justify the slaughtering of Jews, gypsies, and many who were deemed unfit… (none-Aryan)

Well, as any student of history will tell you, anyone who does not understand their own mistakes will repeat them.

1. The Ascent of Man, Jacob Bronowski. BBC Publications 1973.

Jacob Bronowski (1908–1974) was a mathematician, biologist, science historian, and author. His well-known works include The Origins of Knowledge and Imagination and The Ascent of Man.

Our Oceans: A Public Dumping Ground

 

Our oceans face a crisis. There are a number of important reasons for concern. The trickle down through the food chain may affect several generations of our progeny.

Sampling the World’s Oceans for Pollution

In every ocean on our planet, we find the signatures of humanity.

On the tiny Pacific Atoll of Midway, adult Albatross birds feed plastic and other garbage to their hatchlings. The skeletal remains of albatross chicks litter the beaches of Midway Atoll revealing a menagerie of un-digested plastic.

Off the coast of Los Angeles county, there is a US-EPA Superfund site, it had served as an illegal dumping ground of DDT and PCBs in the 1960s to 1970s for the Montrose Chemical Company. While its declaration as a Superfund site occurred in the 1997, its present status is still toxic. Recent studies appearing in the journal Environmental Pollution in 2016 find evidence of some coastal fish ingesting DDT and PCBs. The scientists from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, the University of California, Riverside and the Southern California Coastal Water Research of Costa Mesa California report high levels of DDT and PCBs in the sediment, as well.

A schematic from US Environmental Protection Agency that details levels of DDT contamination of sediment off the coast of Southern California. Highest levels are in red, while indigo represents the lowest reported levels of DDT. Image by US EPA.

One place that many would not fathom to believe finding the remnants of civilization is the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean. In 2016, it was reported that garbage was found there, as well.

Scientists are now finding the effects of technological excesses in the Arctic ocean, as well. Studies as recent as August of 2017 reveal finding  micro plastics (MP) in sediments and waters of the Arctic Ocean.

It does not take far or very long to notice the effects of ocean pollution. It is safe to deduce the oceans and we face a potential crisis.

PCB Pollution Los Angeles County

A schematic from US Environmental Protection Agency that details levels of DDT contamination of sediment off the coast of Southern California. Highest levels are in red, while indigo represents the lowest reported levels of DDT. Image by US EPA.

Image source: https://www3.epa.gov/region9/superfund/pvshelf/index.html

 

 

What are these ‘Newer Pollutants?’

Finding micro-sized particles ( known as beads from toiletries and micro-sized plastics) in sea life presents a new twist in the  water problem. Because the so-called particles are not readily trapped during sewage treatment processes, many different kinds of sea life are ingesting them, as well. Thus, micro-sized particles are found in many forms of  sea-life: kelp, shellfish, birds, and other fish. These findings have led to a further maturing of technology leading to the new field of nano-toxicology. However, not all of the scientific establishment is on board with the findings.

A Mindset that Allowed Micro-sized Refuse in the World’s Oceans

Whether it is leachate from plastics or micro-beads utilized in toiletries– the un-wanted chemicals are found in almost every species of sea life. As the world forged ahead by utilizing nanotechnology in the hopes of greening the planet, paradigms that were utilized in past technologies still haunt the planet’s population. The mindset of ignoring the repercussions of toxic chemicals was one that was rampant prior to Ecology Movement of the 1970s. Since that time, a majority of the newer generation of scientists have changed their priorities, but complete change is yet to come.

 

 

 

November 2018 #metoo and #8yearsinPower and a #Solution

eightyears.001

If it wasn’t for the bumbling stupidity of the Republican mysogyny, a lot of the of the gains of the 2018 midterms would not have occured. Facts remain the same- money will dictate how most will vote. In my opinion, this is a sad indictment of the status quo.

Not only have we failed to squelch racism– it still rules many parts of the country — it is in the form of gerrymandering and voter suppression.

What we have learned is that more needs to be done-

Money from the far Right must be countered with a mainstream attempt from the Left to tell it like it is. Not back down — I, for one, plan to be more socially active in the coming year especially when it comes to calling a spade a spade. No more backing away — from political activism and countering falsehoods with the truth.

I will be posting my attempts on this blog to counter what I believe to be falsehood straight-on.

Cheers,

John

 

Where were you in 1968?

John_Carlos,_Tommie_Smith,_Peter_Norman_1968cr

The american sprinters Tommie Smith,John Carlos and Peter Norman during the award ceremony of the 200 m race at the Mexican Olympic games. During the awards ceremony, Smith and Carlos protested against racial discrimination: they went barefoot on the podium and listened to their anthem bowing their heads and raising a fist with a black glove. Mexico City, Mexico, 1968 Mexico city, Mexico, 1968 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1968_Olympics_Black_Power_salute

 

 

Where were you in 1968? I was just a child who didn’t know enough about the world–let alone what it meant to be repressed. My heart presently bleeds as I attempt to fathom the duplicity and lack of respect shown to immigrants. Children being separated from their mothers and kept in detention for weeks… How did we get here America???

Ramblngs: Curt Flood– Exemplary Role Model with a Golden Glove

By John A. Jaksich

Curt Flood played for three teams during his Major League Career: Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Cardinals and the Washington Senators. He would have been regarded as Hall of Fame status in some circles. However, Mr. Flood is presently regarded as a Civil Rights figure that was many years ahead of his time.

You see, Curtis Charles Flood is responsible for challenging how baseball players were regarded by their owners. Curt Flood protested the trade that would have sent him to the Philadelphia Phillies. He refused to be regarded as property– he sued MLB and shortened his playing career. However, with his actions, he set the stage for future players to be paid salaries that they felt were deserving-of. His actions allowed Reggie Jackson to become a New York Yankee and not play for the Oakland Athletics.

Mr. Jackson, at the time. was a premier player with the Oakland ballclub. The team owner was  Mr.  O’Finley. He paid the players lower wages than they felt they deserved for the time. The team had won 3 world championships and the players felt they deserved better salaries. The city loved their team– its citizens could not have been prouder. But, behind the veil of ownership was a tight-fisted businessman. Whether he viewed his players as property is not known, however- his players wanted better.

What Does It All Mean?

Further examination of Mr. Flood’s actions should lead many of us to question how we regard our own loyalties. Many of us have careers and jobs that we enjoy; and in some ways, many of us don’t have to worry about being “owned by our employer.” Many times, we are free to choose how long we can continue to work at a particular employer. However, much of what we do and say in the era of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the others, is subject to scrutiny.

Much of what is being scrutinized is our First Amendment rights in the US. While the Internet has no real borders, to many US citizens- losing our Civil Rights is a big deal. What many whites don’t understand — it is privilege that minorities don’t quite enjoy as well as they do.

If you look at close enough, much of the backlash of Social Media is a bad reflection of how many minorities have lived. Let me indulge the reader: One must live an exemplary and extraordinary life just to be online. Many minorities have lived in that manner — just to be accepted by the powers-that-be (white men who hold purse strings).

A Step Further?

If a non-minority had broken the law or stepped out-of-line with the police– there was no fear of potential violence against them. Whites, as a rule, can get away with some of the crimes that they commit after paying their debt to society. Many blacks, hispanics, and many others don’t get the luxury. It was taken away from them by a white ruling class that based its principles upon “so-called Christian ethics.”

The gospel of compassion was not on the minds of the white ruling class. We ‘white people’ felt our God was as white as our so-called souls -however, little did we know the truth.

God has no boundaries nor questions the love he gives. Pure love has no boundaries and sees no color (whatever it maybe)!

Not only that: True Compassion is Color Blind. (The real bigger truth).

While many of us stated emphatically that we felt no guilt because of what transpired  beyond our cozy apartments and homes, we were and still are complicit in what has transpired during our own watch. If we claim Christianity as our anchor, then we need to be compassionate and question personal motives everyday. From sunrise to sunset, we need to acknowledge that we have failed ourselves and our neighbors. We need to heal  the wounds of our own divisive ways.

How?

However, there was a time when not everyone had that luxury. That time was not more than 40 years ago. While the 1960s are celebrated for the advances in Civil Rights, much  needs to be addressed. Not only does Jim Crow Esq. affect minorities, it makes cowards of many of us whites. We don’t want to lose our jobs because we spoke out against racism and indignity. Not only athletes –but all of us need to stand up against racist dogma.

The Take Away?

While many of us do what we can on a daily basis, we are too complacent. Many of us need more backbone-

And it may take some time…. time that many don’t have…. our brothers and sisters who lose parents at the border because the US once represented freedom ….. 😦

Informal Bibliography:

We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy

 Ta-Nehisi Coates

 

 

 

 

The June Swoon?

The June Swoon? For anyone who has heard of the term, one origin comes from US Baseball. It has referred to a team whose fortunes swung so badly in matter of one month. Among the teams that have the term referred to them are: Chicago Cubs and SF Giants.

However, I am continuing my series of posts honoring those brave individuals that have or continue to make a difference.

Thus, I am saluting the athletes who dared to challenge the status quo over the last year. When someone, in the public eye, takes a stand against repression and bigotry — they need recognition. Some may argue – athletes make too much money and it does not make a bit of difference if they stand or kneel. Well, for those who wondered whether athletes are looked up by children– they certainly are admired by children.

Most of us grew up following a baseball, football, or a basketball team– and many wanted to emulate the players.

 

 

However with the uproar of some– certain, present day athletes have made it a point to protest against violence against people of color. Not only that — it has caught the attention of team owners and unsavory politicians. The powers-that-be don’t want to controversy to mark their precious reputations.

 

Oh– how will they make it to heaven?? Not only that – they act like they own the players outright….. Oh, what will they do??

“Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us.” Wilma Rudolph

JUNE will salute the athletes who have made a difference!

 

Batter Up??

What Can Mindfulness Do For You?

In this late, but last post on Mindfulness, I will add a few observations of my own. I first came understand Mindfulness in the 2000s. I came to utilize its techniques when realizing the extent to which personal anger was damaging my personal relationships.

A good friend recommended a work by Thich Nhat Hanh–  Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames. As I recall it, having read it in 2006, the Zen master points out how anger dominates moods and can color our own perceptions of the world. Of the many passages that I remember, one still sticks out in my head:

“… eating food that is prepared in anger … “—

Although many scientists would dispute its validity, I must state that it made sense to me on the following level:–  (There is a space between stimulus and response between individuals.)

In a very non-analytical manner, we do sense the moods of others. While it is not easily nor precisely measured (therefore lacking scientific rigor), we can be affected by these moods. Whether we imitate the acts of others  is an act of free will–or our personal choice. That is where Mindfulness can come into play. Understanding how they affect us on a personal level allows know that there is a space between the action and stimulus. Or– slowing down our responses to how others treat us.

Whether it is good, bad, or indifferent– learning to distance oneself from individuals who adversely affect us… can spell the difference between a bad day and a good day…

 

One last point—- February’s Mindfulness is a difficult one for me— I have tried to practice Mindfulness on a personal level for a number of years. In some ways, it is as if one were climbing a staircase of Mindfulness. The longer and higher you climb the staircase, it is more likely that it will become harder to climb. —Much like a “learning curve.”

Peace,

John

Walking-Smile Meditation: A Mindful February

Much of Buddhist mindfulness tradition is used in certain parts of psychotherapy these days. It can and does work–whether there is a placebo effect or not, it is difficult to fully state (especially when you are practicing it yourself. So, I will examine that aspect at the end of the month).

Have you ever noticed that when you start to smile a little– your half smile breaks eventually into a large full smile. There is also a Buddhist practice of a half-smile. Physiologically, it is based on the fact that smiling can boost natural endorphin levels.

The Buddhist tradition also says walking–or mindfully walking can be a good way to center oneself. When combining mindful walking and half-smiling the effects upon most people is irreversible: an up-tick feel-good endorphins. It is also used to center oneself —or grounding oneself in the present moment.

So, lets try to break down the  components

  • Walking Meditation

The technique of walking meditation that I tend to employ in my own life is based on that of the “peace walk” described by Thich Nhat Hanh.

From the website:

( https://www.lionsroar.com/how-to-meditate-thich-nhat-hanh-on-walking-meditation/ )

Walking meditation is first and foremost a practice to bring body and mind together peacefully.

Thich Nhat Hanh explores the process:

Walking meditation unites our body and our mind. We combine our breathing with our steps. When we breathe in, we may take two or three steps. When we breathe out, we may take three, four, or five steps. We pay attention to what is comfortable for our body.

While learning to walk mindfully may seem un-natural — one may argue, it can bring a sense of peace and well-being if practiced regularly. Try it…

 

  • The Half-Smile

While smiling, itself, is not necessarily apart of Buddhist tradition, you may notice that pictures and statues depict Buddha with a “half-smile.” Generally speaking, Buddhist tradition preaches serenity–thus the half-smile.

Quite a few psychological studies have shown the positive effects of “half-smiling” — I will cite one:

In the journal, Psychological Science, we can read—- Grin and Bear It
The Influence of Manipulated Facial Expression on the Stress Response
Tara L. Kraft, Sarah D. Pressman

Grin and bear it

While it is just one study, try it some time– when in a stressful situation, try half-smiling and it may reduce your blood pressure….

 

Mindful February-From Buddhism to Mental Health to Thich Nhat Hanh

 

 

The concept of mindfulness is a fuzzy one. In 21st century parlance, it has evolved to be any of a number of things– it is used in prayer by Buddhists, as a tool used in psychotherapy, a management paradigm-tool, and finally– a manner to centering  one’s soul

Perhaps, the most accurate way to look for a definition is to look at the source of its the practice. According to the website:

www.dhamma.org/en/vipassana 

The practice of vipassana, is to see the world as it truly is. The origins come from ancient Buddhism.

Borrowing more words from another internet site:

www.vipassanadhura.com

The practice of insight, on the other hand, cultivates wisdom. The student develops systematic mindfulness in order to see the real characteristics of existence: unsatisfactoriness, impermanence, and impersonality. All the activities of daily life can be objects of mindfulness: bodily actions, feelings, thoughts and emotions— even painful ones. Nothing is suppressed.

Where does that leave us?

All too often, we find ourselves in the midst of pain–and when we identify where the pain comes from, it can give us insight. It can gives the means to rid ourselves of the pain, or to learn to accept it.

While this sounds like a lot of whooey to those of who have scientific backgrounds, the technique actually does work if you find yourself in a state dismay and stress. It is successfully used to treat people in prison, people in facing depression, and quite a few maladies.

In psychotherapy, the techniques fall under the practice of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy– a technique pioneered by Marsha Sinetar:

http://www.marshasinetar.com/

Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh is an elderly Buddhist priest who is was nominated for the Nobel Peace prize in the 1960s by Martin Luther King Jr. Thich Nhat Hanh was one of the voices calling for peace amidst the war of Vietnam. Although he has not been awarded the Nobel (not yet, at least), he has brought the practice of mindfulness to western culture. Let me borrow a word from his website:

https://plumvillage.org/about/thich-nhat-hanh/

 

The energies of mindfulness, concentration and insight can liberate us from our anxiety and worries. We let go of the past and the future, and come in touch with the wonders of the present.

— Thich Nhat Hanh

February is dedicated to Thich Nhat Hanh

I  will be concentrating on this Zen master to help explain how he and his paradigms of mindful peace can change one’s world and our world! He has a lot things to say about how to live peacefully with one’s self. Even in today’s world– we can find a bit of peace and love without the din of greed and war….

1000px-Dharmachakra,_withprint_(en).svg

Mindfulness is just one practice of the eight paths –when taken in perspective with Buddhism.

Source of artwork:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dharmachakra#/media/File:Dharmachakra,_withprint_(en).svg

Peace,

John