Thursday, September 24, 2020

Imagine A World Where Simple Goodness Matters Afresh

Guest blogger extraordinaire, Michael Lee (OU Musicologist) shares the following:

This morning, I woke early to deal with my dog's sense of time and entitlement. Then I made a grave mistake. I turned on the news. Within 20 minutes, the pending collapse of democracy in America revealed itself with brazen precision. What a scary time. Which is worse: the envigoration of massive racial injustice, a deadly pandemic confronted by no plan, the president promising the end of democracy, or a climate crisis threatening life on earth?

Maybe all four could be fused into a single story about capitalism as a really big mistake. As we discussed, the Soviets and particularly Stalin did the worst disservice to the human race by discrediting an alternative to capitalism so thoroughly as to make all future alternatives far less viable. Maybe we're living through the moment when Donald Trump will so thoroughly discredit capitalism as to make the search for an alterntive vital again. Whatever is going on, it doesn't look like a happy ending is pending unless our side changes tactics. 

A hopeful friend, Jake Johnson, led me in a subsequent discussion of the above to a conclusion worth sharing. As we now find ourselves as human beings half emptied by the current circumstances, we may need to abandon any effort to address capitalism's remaining guardians (the venal, the timid, and the ignorant) with the reason and facts we so cherish. They have abandoned truth, and reason is entirely relative to them. As tools of persuasion, the facts have passed their expiration date with tens of millions of our friends, neighbors, and family members.  

Armed with this knowledge, we may need to reply with fantasies larger and more compelling than those Trump and the greedy monsters who make him possible are presenting. Here the arts and the artists may be at an advantage. The time to dream a better world is now more than ever. Lie more compellingly, artists who love truth. What is a lie but another name for a dream in this fact-free world? Please, artists, present a world where simple goodness matters afresh, and mean braggarts are pitied rather than followed.

We need a wildly attractive and wholly fabricated evangel of the beauty of everything Trump, his angry mob, and the cravens who enable him hate. Trump is piloting the Republic one of two places: oblivion or change. Let's rouse ourselves from our bad-news-induced torpor and use our imaginations to tilt the scale toward change using the tool our times value: fantasy.


Saturday, August 22, 2020

Never Watch Fox News Again

I'm sick of the damage this hideous scourge of political pornography, this electronic lobotomy known as Fox News has wrought on the country I love, the only planet I've known, and many of my loved ones. It's become clear that watching it is kind of like a fetish or an addiction that poisons the mind. It's not possible to think critically or empathetically while watching it. I don't think we can solve our problems in any meaningful way while it exists as it presently does. Here's my plea:


 I don’t have all the facts its genesis, but it’s becoming more and more clear that Fox News is the great villain that’s led to the mess we’re in.  Great masses of the populace, many that are loved ones of mine and other sane people that I know, have been essentially lobotomized and completely immune to the civic virtues that were the foundation of our society not long ago.  Fox News never should have been allowed to exist.  I know that Reagan eliminated the Fairness Doctrine which would have made Fox News impossible to operate as it does.  I also know that when I first watched a few minutes of it (I can barely stand to watch it even for a few seconds), I immediately recognized the tone as essentially the same as the professional wrestling I watched as a kid, the TV preachers of the ‘80s and the anti-Mormon propaganda I was attacked with constantly on my mission in Central California.  It’s really awful stuff, crappy entertainment, but incredibly toxic if it’s believed.  The truly apocalyptic challenges we face now are directly traceable to people injecting themselves with this electronic excrement and being simply unable to think or decide or distinguish right from wrong or good from evil or to even be able to make the most basic observations of what is around them.  It has seriously challenged the cherished notion of free speech to my mind.  There are certainly abridgements of freedom of expression, such as the fairness doctrine, or those employed in the U.K. to disallow demonization of one's opponents that would seem to make sense.  Many of the evils that seem to be threatening to engulf us presently would make our extreme form of freedom of expression obsolete anyway.


If anyone reading this spends any of their precious time on this earth and their precious senses of hearing, and sight and their mind on Fox News, I implore you to turn it off and never tune in again as long as you live and spend your life counteracting the damage it has done.  It is political pornography of the most vile sort, much more damaging to you and to society than conventional pornography.  I know Fox News has taught you to doubt and hate all other media (mainstream media, lamestream media), but you are quite safe listening to and watching pretty much any established media.  The pre-Fox News news landscape in the U.S. was the envy of the world and of history.  Quibbling about mistakes and bias does nothing to the fact that the networks, the major newspapers, CNN and MSNBC, etc. basically adhere to traditional press norms that have protected our information for decades, and made America a bastion of civic involvement and informedness.  (We are, post-Fox News, now viewed as kind of the opposite.)


Saturday, June 13, 2020

Abolish/Defund: It's a Trap!

In my 40+ years of watching politics pretty closely, I've noticed that
a. the institutional republican party (that counts as members some lovely people) is evil and want to make the rich richer, and they've got lots of ways to do it and are constantly cooking up new ones
b. they can't win elections fairly so they play dirty
c. every presidential election cycle they form an alliance with unwitting young/well off highly educated/privileged urban lefties to promote a cause that sounds really bad and no one really wants that can serve as their main talking point to scare people out of voting for democrats.

In 2016, it was unisex bathrooms.  I am not alone in saying, this was one of the worst things handed to the right on a silver platter.
It's looking like this year it's abolish the police.
If you ask an abolisher/defunder what they mean, it turns out, like "anarchy", that the words are meant to be provocative and the actual intent is more a kind of much-needed probing reform of an undeniably dysfunctional and often dangerous institution, than actual abolishing or defunding.  I know it's fun for you young 'uns to be provocative and I know there's a lot of peer pressure.  But you may not be aware of the hideous consequences of these traps has been over the decades.  Many of us can remember a time when the the middle class was much larger and included people who worked with their hands.  We remember when there was general agreement in polite company nobody should live on the street and that trade unions were forces of good and picket lines shouldn't be crossed.  The right has thousands of cold-blooded analysts figuring out ways to utilize anything they can get their hands on to divide the public and scare people who don't have graduate degrees.  This doesn't mean self-censoring.  It means mass communication that facilitates and encourages dialogue and teaching.  It means being bold with ideas and slogans that are real winners, that are absolutely true and clear and necessary.  Black Lives Matter is, of course, an excellent example.  Medicare for all is another.  These slogans can't help but provoke deep moral thought and shame in those who oppose them.  Abolish the Police can't help but divide and confuse.  It's a shibboleth.  If you know the "principles" behind it, you get it.  But to a majority of people, this sounds scary and menacing.  And if it's something that has to be "youngsplained", that makes matters worse.  I know "Reform the Police", "Demilitarize the Police", "Fund Social Workers", etc. don't sound as cool, but maybe there's something along these lines that will be almost as snappy and true and inspiring as Black Lives Matter or Medicare for All.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

The Poetic Book of Mormon (sorry, not chloroform in print)

I have been setting to music parts of the Book of Mormon that appear to be or have been in verse in the original languages.  I am aware that the Book of Mormon has been maligned by many, Mormon and not, for its stilted language and lack of poetic qualities.  Setting texts reveals their poetic qualities in ways that no other activity can.  I have found many of these texts to have delightful and evocative poetic qualities that I hadn’t noticed before, qualities that are quite musical.  The Hebraic parallelisms are, of course, striking.  They are not native to English language writing and have thus been annoying to many English speakers who have been taught to value economy and shun redundancy.  But I have also been noticing turns of phrase which have unique delights of sound and sense in their English manifestation.  There are abundant if subtle alliterations, in particular, as well as similes, synecdoches, etc.  I’ve listed a few here from the “Psalm of Nephi”, 2 Nephi 4, which I am in the midst of setting:

behold, my soul
the great goodness
causing them to quake
my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.
why should my heart weep and my soul linger
droop in sin
robe of thy righteousness
I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh;
rock of my righteousness
my voice shall forever ascend

Monday, December 23, 2019

It's Our Church

"if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man..." (3 Ne. 27:8). It's The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, i.e. Jesus's and the latter-day saints', i.e. it doesn't belong to any particular man, woman, or group thereof, it belongs to Jesus and the entire body of the Church. "We have learned by sad experience...", i.e. those who have particular callings in the church are always going to have the urge to advance themselves as being above everyone else, and many Latter-day Saints are willing to promote or go along with that. I'd like it if mormons got rid of the "they/them" pronouns when referring to The Church. Like, who is being referenced exactly by these pronouns? It's our church. Some of us take turns doing different tasks in the church, and we try to support one another, but that should not turn into a hierarchy. And definitely we should get rid of us/them. There's not supposed to be a clergy/laity binary. That's half of what we were supposed to root out. Everybody's clergy.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The Hearings

The Hearings
Watching the hearings has been an alternately sickening and heartening experience (only heartening in that democrats are finally, at long last, showing some spine and recognizing what's been actually going on for decades, and willing to speak of it).  I can't describe it without using religious language and the language of mental disorders and relationship based abuse.  I have never witnessed people lie so much and with so many layers.  But it all sounds the same.  Whenever a republican lawmaker speaks, it has the familiar sound of an abuser (projection, gaslighting), which is, itself the familiar voice of the Father of Lies.  When people lie there is a certain sickening ring of familiarity.  The special kind of lies that the republicans use are so insidious because they are designed to make communication and even logical thought all but impossible.  This kind of behavior always comes about in massively disproportionate efforts to protect the powerful and well-placed, by the cowardly/lazy in hopes of advancing to unearned positions of power and wealth.  It's all beautifully and succinctly described in the Book of Mormon.  I'm not sure what's going to happen to this country, or, indeed the world, but I sincerely hope the ghastly republican party ceases to exist.  It's sickening combination of cruelty, greed, avarice, priestcraft, and lust and ability to fool and degrade otherwise decent people must qualify it as at least part of the Great and Abominable Church.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Just Layin' it Out

-Guns are just plain bad.  Of course if you hunt, blah blah blah.  Military weapons should not be owned by civilians.  I can't believe I'm even writing this.  What the hell?!?  They shouldn't exist at all. They're pushbuttons designed to kill lots of human beings.  Just bad bad bad.  Necessary maybe for countries to defend their citizens, but I believe in the swords into ploughshares thing.   I've got friends and relatives with them, but I detest them (i.e. the guns).  Those who have promoted gun ownership will rot in hell, I'm sure of it.
-Toxic masculinity is the great cause of most of America's problems (and those of many other societies).  But toxic masculinity is not organic.  It's promoted by the rich and powerful to manipulate the weak for the sake of increasing and consolidating wealth and power.  It's why there is violence, environmental destruction, crime, rape, income inequality, you name it.  It all traces back to male insecurity and desperate attempts to soothe it by incredibly destructive means.
-Racism is likewise not organic.  Children don't naturally hate other people because of their skin color or facial features.  It's taught and learned and promoted by the rich and powerful to divide the weak and thus make it easier to control, defraud, subjugate and generally rip them off.
-The "left" in this country all but disappeared, starting with Dukakis (who famously shunned the word "liberal") and finishing with Clinton.  The democratic party has not been the left flank of American politics for a long time.  "Liberalism" has come to mean gradualism/incrementalism, which, in the face of the rapid destruction of the social contract by the right, actually has merely meant a somewhat slower degradation of the non-rich.
-Moreover, the democratic party has come under the control of rich people who have been hyper-focused on the loud promotion of personal liberties, but completely tone deaf to the needs of the non-rich, and especially of the poor.  This while simultaneously obsessed with somehow appeasing, or pleasing, or "compromising" with a force of evil that has no interest in facilitating any kind of success for them in the form of "compromise" or anything else.
-"Progressive" has come to be the only way to describe politicians who believe in the principles that guided American social policy from FDR to LBJ, and that facilitated the rapidly improving standard of living and opportunities our parents and grandparents enjoyed.
-Libertarianism is an idiotic, adolescent, evil (and literally Satanic) force that has infected our society at almost all levels.
-The republican part is a secret combination, likely the secret combination described in the end of the Book of Mormon.  One of the main messages of the Book of Mormon is that societies often move from idealism and egalitarianism to where greedy men create secret combinations to horde and to "grind upon the face of the poor", and protect one another.  The current republican party is hardly anything but this.  And it is controlled by the former KGB director and current dictator of Russia.
-The KGB has long used racial division to try to subvert America and thus weaken it.  Trump has simply been a Russian asset for a long time.  This was as clear as day during the presidential campaign and every day since.  Our lack of spine to just point this out and get rid of this bastard is an absolutely breathtaking act of cowardice, especially to those of us who lived through (and thought we had won) the Cold War.
-Back to the democrats. In the presidential sphere, we have seen a parade of corporate lackeys vying for and winning the democratic nomination. Before Sanders, the only exception was Edwards, who was literally the only candidate to even mention the poor.  Sanders was a genuinely transformative candidate.  Scrupulously honest, razor sharp focus on the screaming economic inequities that have been ignored by other dems, fearless, outwardly rough and not tv-ready, yet incredibly popular among swing and conservative voters, as well as intermittent voters.  Incredibly well-informed, courageous and ironically amazing at working with some of the most conservative lawmakers.  The democratic establishment made a terrible, terrible mistake in thumbing the scales for an unelectable technocrat who happened to be a woman, thus enabling the election of an unthinkably bad human specimen who is wholly owned by Russia, and who took the country out of the most important climate change initiative, and the most important peace initiative of the last decade.  These are actions which, in themselves will have baleful effects for decades.
-The "center", the "democratic establishment" has failed miserably, not just in the '16 election, but over the past 25 years since the '94 election.  They have consistently squandered majorities and super-majorities.  They have reneged on promises.  They have continually shown favor toward corporations and the rich with the justification that at least they're not criminal/racist right-wingers, i.e. slightly better than the republicans.
-They have been enablers.  Those who have been in abusive relationships, or even been bullied in the playground know what an enabler is.  They make the bully worse by trying to negotiate or compromise with them, rather than standing up to them or holding them accountable (as Gandhi/MLK did).  The big/strong playmate who you think will protect you from the bully, but who ends up sucking up to him instead.
-The "centrists" will tell us that if we'd been better at supporting they're crappy candidate in '16, we would have won, when in reality, we gave more than they did to help.  We're actually a lot better and scrappier in a fight.  And we have infinitely more at stake.  But we knew that their crappy candidate would likely do very little for us and likely continue to enable and facilitate the continued consolidation of the plutocracy.  It's very hard for us to comprehend the gall of "centrists" to blame us for their hideous and selfish blunder and to actually blame us in advance for their incomprehensible drive to nominate a doomed, greasy, dumb, fumbling, unelectable, usury-loving 80-year old, when there are so many incredibly inspiring, appealing, sincere fighters who could actually bring an end to the spectacular income inequality, climate change, and warmongering.