The Pursuit of Happiness

The phrase means something different to every person. The Declaration of Independence states "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Please feel free to comment on any of the posts or browse the topic links on the left hand side below.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Nonviolence: A way of life

(Click on photo for The Llama Song)
So many of you might wonder why am I starting a blog? As Ricky once said to Lucy, “Luuuuucy!! You have some splaining to do…” Well, I don't know the answer to why I started this blog. If you really want to know, I guess I was a little bored at the time. You might also be wondering, "why now? why me? why was I emailed? how do you have time to write in a blog? why so serious with the nonviolence and political issues? why the ‘pursuit of happiness’?"

I don't really know the answer to all of these questions. Maybe it's because I am a serious person. Or maybe it's because I don't know any better. Or maybe it's because I like ridicule and controversy. It could be that I have had a lot of experiences and need a way to express my opinion. Whatever the reason, I do know I am putting myself out there for potential scorn and criticism and that’s okay. In the words of Stuart Smalley, "I'm Good Enough, I'm Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me!"

I hope this can be a place where people feel comfortable enough to express their thoughts, opinions and/or humor, however extreme or benign they are. That said, my idea is not to take this blog too seriousely, just have some honest dialogue. Of course, this blog may be something that goes absolutely nowhere with no one commenting and I am mentally prepared for that.

If you do decide to make an entry, please don’t be timid, say what you feel, why not? We have one short life to live anyway. Plus we can do it online and anonymously! Woo hoo! While we may not agree, I respect everyone’s opinion and invite you to share yours.

So anyway, I wanted to address a few of the recent comment entries including the comments about the Declaration of Independence mentioning "men" and the phrase that "all men are created equal." We have to keep in mind that the phrase, "all men are created equal" was written in a time when "men" were considered "white males". Let's get it straight, "men" as it is written in the Declaration of Independence, actually means "white males" up until about 1870; then it means "males" until 1920; and finally it means "all people but really still just white people" until 1964. In many ways the phrase "to form a more perfect union" really comes into play here.

Our country and it's founding documents was never meant to mean "all people" were created "equal" but rather "some people" are created equal. I mean African Americans were considered 3/5ths of a citizen before the civil war.

So I actually feel that the term "all men are created equal" was clearly race and gender biased when it was written and was not meant to be inclusive of women or people of color. I wouldn't be opposed to the Declaration being re-written to the effect, "all humans are created equal..."

To move address the comment that responds to the non-violence issue. Not to be rude and with all due respect, but can we think “outside of the box” for a moment? On the contrary, I think non-violence is a very realistic goal and not a naïve pursuit by any means. It is very much a necessary and capable orientation in this world today. By the way, I want to point out that although my statements earlier may come across like I know it all, and I know this will come as a big surprise, I know very little. I should not pretend to know all there is about non-violence because I don't. I will throw in my two cents though.

For me, whether humans are “hard-wired” with violence or not, it's less critical to debate where violence comes from or is derived. The bottom line is it’s out there. Don’t get me wrong, the causations of violence is an important topic. But I think it’s more interesting to find out how it can be overcome through nonviolent means, through learning, through practice, through self-discipline, etc. To say that non-violence, in your opinion, is an unrealistic goal, in my opinion is selling yourself a little too short. Other so-called unrealistic goals that have been met: the end of slavery in US, civil rights, labor rights, women’s equality, the list goes on.

For me, non-violence can be a sort of philosophy, a way of life, or in other words, a means to the end. Here's what I mean. When you bring up the idea of non-violence, most people react by saying, "well, what would you do if someone came up to you and tried to kill you? Or what would you do if someone killed a close family member? Wouldn't you go after that person? Or wouldn't you defend yourself? Or wouldn't you join the military if it meant that you would be protecting your country in times of war whether the war is justifiable or not?"

Well, these are tough questions, and I don't know what I would do in each situation. I guess I would respond by saying yes in certain situations I would use self-defense. But in my opinion, non-violence or the reaction of non-violence is also a frame of mind, or a thought process that can be utilized so as to de-escalate and minimize when someone encounters a violent situation. Also, I am not sure whether I interprete self defense as an absolute form of violence. Violence can be physical and it can also be mental. We can use self defense and still have a non-violent frame of mind. I think some martial arts use this philosophy. So in the situations described above, I think if one uses non-violence as a means in order to counter violence, then those situations described above will result in a non-violent end. Exactly how one would or should react in each situation and the multiple consequences that result are unclear.

As a side note, all kinds of things can happen that people just don’t think about when they think they are protecting themselves and their family. It’s like if you own a gun, yes you may be protecting yourself in your home, but your child can also open that cabinet when you are not looking and accidently shoot themself. Or you can go to jail for shooting an intruder. Or you can shoot someone else unintentially. The list of violent consequences that bring death and destruction when owning a gun for example, goes on and on.

When it comes to violence against others, I don't see that using violence in return really accomplishes all that much. I know this is controversial and you may not really care, but as some do know, I am against the death penalty. There are so many logical, moral and ethical arguments for it to no longer exist. The very fact that people seem to believe that it has a deterrent effect on future murder or criminal violence is absolutely untrue. There simply is no substantial evidence to demonstrate this. Moreover, there are just so many destructive aspects to the death penalty. For one, it destroys our humanity. With respect to how the execution leaves people, I can't say how many families of victims really feel a sense of peace when the offender is actually executed. I am sure that studies do show that while there may be an immediate sense of retribution, it is short lived. Nothing will bring that loved one back from the dead. Not to be curt, but as the saying goes, an eye for an eye leaves the world blind.

These are clearly not simple issues and are very complicated and can bring up a lot of emotions in people. I know that the death penalty can be pretty touchy but I definetely respect others who do not agree with me on that issue. After I thought more about why I brought up the subject of non-violence, I think more and more about it as a means to an end, as a philosophy, as a way of counter-acting violence.

I know what many of you are saying at this point, “Mike, come on, what are you talking about? Why talk about this? Who cares? You are a wimp. Non-violence is for wimps Mike.” Okay call me a wimp. I’m really okay with that. Actually, wimps have gone down in history as some of the coolest people. Look at Ghandi, Jesus, and Mother Theresa…all wimps. You say, “there you go again Mike with your stupid comparisons of yourself to people you shouldn’t be comparing yourself to. You are being lame and pretentious.” Okay, I agree, but you have to admit, there is nothing wrong with the funny.

Again, not sure why I feel the need to talk about all this, but what the hell. Back to the serious stuff…

After all, it seems like violence breeds violence and the only way to really in the end stop it is through non-violent means. Violence comes in all forms: there is physical violence, emotional violence, social violence, psychological violence. While we are at it, we have to define what violence is too. Violence, according to one dictionary, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is defined as:

1 a : exertion of physical force so as to injure or abuse (as in effecting illegal entry into a house) b : an instance of violent treatment or procedure
2 : injury by or as if by distortion, infringement, or profanation : OUTRAGE
3 a : intense, turbulent, or furious and often destructive action or force b : vehement feeling or expression : FERVOR; also : an instance of such action or feeling c : a clashing or jarring quality : DISCORDANCE
4 : undue alteration (as of wording or sense in editing a text)

Violence is primarily referred to as a physical force, but again I think it can have many forms. I mean if one incorporates a philosophy of non-violence into their lives (which I think most of us do anyway without thinking) violence can be avoided and overcome. Humans are vunerable. Every thought or action we take can be violent or non-violent. We have the capacity to choose to be non-violent and believe it or not, I like to think most of us choose non-violence means in our daily lives, although violence does expose itself in many ways despite our intentions.

I believe that humans are basically good, but yes, problems, experiences, be they social problems, poverty, trauma, addictions, etc. do contribute to bringing violence into our daily lives. The most common form of violence in my opinion is towards ourselves rather than towards others. For example, people over eat (I am clearly no exception), put themselves down (again, no exception), talk behind other peoples backs (you guessed it, absolutely noooo exception), use of alcohol or other substances (never touched it ). Obviousely, people do commit extreme forms of violence against themselves including suicide. These are all forms of violence. There are means: ways, tools, methods, that humans can learn in order to live a more non-violent existence however. Whether those means are through meditation, prayer, religion, education, health…In the end, I see non-violence as a way of interpreting the world so that as a goal, every thought, every action, can be non-violent.

Click on picture to right for 9-11 link

On to the comment about the moral comparison of Dick Cheney to MLK…dude, where’s my car? Do we have to go there? I mean, Dick Cheney? The man is a criminal. No comparison to MLK. Next. But seriousely, I agree, there has been no substantial moral leadership in this country since the 1960’s. We certainly cannot look to our political leadership for morality, that’s a no brainer. Yeah I know what you are thinking, when they were handing out morality certificates, Clinton was last in line. I definitely agree. However, Bush is about as corrupt and immoral (as in liar) as they come and actually I heard he no showed when they were handing the same certificates out.

Yes to the commentor who wrote:

"Anonymous said... It seems that many of our political leaders today are re-treads from 30 years ago??? Now we might have legal wire tapping by our government?? It is some what funny how our government is doing the same things that resulted in Nixon's resignation?"

I can’t agree more. So-called re-treads. They are all the same. But it’s more than “they”, it’s the system. Campaign finance contributes to much of the corruption. This needs to be overhauled. Many problems, but I like to be an optimist so there are many good things too.

Lastly I wanted to mention I am proud of this country of its roots in democratic principles. Proud of the troops. Proud of the first amendment and feel absolutely lucky to live here and count my blessings everyday. I also feel like the freedom to criticize and critique the government is everyone’s right and is a patriotic act, which is founded in the US Constitution. You may disagree, but I know the majority of people in this country respect and honor the right of the freedom of speech and wish it to continue despite whether someone agrees/disagrees with US policy.

Okay that’s it. Again, for some, I understand that this blog may represent controversial topics, and topics that some people feel uncomfortable to read about, and don’t want to be concerned with, and I respect that. I guess the blog just offers this opportunity to write and write. I suppose I will just let my thoughts flow on this thing until someone smacks some sense into me….

Just in case you are interested, if you haven’t already, you should check out listening to Air America on the radio (mostly on AM) and the Daily Show with Jon Stewart on TV (Comedy Central).

The Political Fun Corner:

Were you Aware?

A president is said to have a “mandate” if he wins office with more than 55 percent of the vote. If he wins with less than 51 percent, he is said “to not care about having a mandate.”

Quoting the President

On the Economy:

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!”
-FDR, March 4, 1933

“Oh, and starvation. We might all starve.”
-FDR, March 4, 1933

Were you aware?

Though they may grimace and roll their eyes, each of the Supreme Court justices secretly likes it when you shout “here come da judge!”