Netflix OA

I just finished watching the first season of Netflix’s series OA. Great story telling. The best aspect of the story is the group of “misfits” – young and old – that provide the main medium of the story telling. Of course, it brought up all the old high school “misfit” / “geek” feelings that have gone on within me all my life.

It’s true that for whatever reason I’ve always been slightly off kilter from most other people. Every now and then, I find another kindred spirit, but rarely.

Watch it, if you can.

Down a different road…

‘But how can it be I am guilty before anyone?’ each of them would say, laughing in my face [even good naturedly]. ‘Well, how can I be guilty before you, for example?’ ‘Oh,’ I replied to them, ‘how can you hope to understand that,  when the whole world has long been progressing along another road, and when downright falsehood is considered by us as truth, and when we expect and demand similar falsehood from others.’ 

– The Elder Zosima (The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoyevsky)

Democracy

“This is not group therapy! It is to continue democratic structures.” -Naomi Klien

Speaking to the protesters at the Occupy Wall Street site in Zuccotti Park.

Regardless of whether I agree with their politics or economics or anything, this is thrilling because it is democracy in action. One never really knows what changes are afoot or what kind of movement this may become until after the fact.

We are privileged in this country where this kind of thing can happen and not descend into the violence experienced in Iran or Syria or Tunisia or Egypt.

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Control

We are rarely as in control as we would like to think.  It seems to me that we always attempt to persuade everyone else and fool ourselves – whether as individuals, groups, churches, assemblies, governments, dictators, et.el. – that we are the masters of our own destiny.  We put forth with much bravado our grand plans and schemes which we believe will secure our security, our affluence, our prestige, and our power.  Yet, nature and world events so often thwart our best laid plans.  Unexpected situations arise so quickly that we can’t respond soon enough, and if we finally do we generally respond with violence of word or deed.

The events these past couple of weeks in Tunisia and now in Egypt have the potential to change everything having to do with world affairs.  If the Arab world is to realize freedom, a measure of prosperity, human dignity, justice and the rule of law, even peace, well, all these things will have to be won by the people themselves – against their own oppressors whomever they may be.  The reality is that the U.S. has come to be seen not as the defenders of liberty, but the supporters of dictators and corruption.  The world is not rejecting the ideals of our Founding Fathers, but of the increasingly bankrupt nature of our culture.

The problem the U.S. faces, which we should have known before the little warrior (whether it was actually him or his adviser manipulators) sent off our troops to invade Iraq, is that we cannot impose something like freedom, democracy, the rule of law, or security unless the people themselves both buy into it and are the vanguard in seeing it through.  If the people believe they don’t have a stake in the whole affair, I don’t see how it will honestly work. 

True revolutionary movements are not planned, they happen.  We can plan for eventualities; we can even attempt to cause the “revolution,” but we are rarely as in control as we would like to think.  The fall of the Soviet empire, the shedding of dictators across the globe – the throwing off of oppression has to be the work of the local people.  We can aid the effort; and if we live up to the best of our ideals we will aid, not cause, the profoundly disruptive and often horribly violent events that are often necessary to throw off tyranny, but the aspirations of local peoples for freedom, dignity, the rule of law, and peace have to be precede and be the under-girding for the aid to actually help and not hinder.  

From an international affairs perspective, what is happening right now in the Middle East is striking.  We shall see whether it is the right time for the people to rise up and demand something better of their governments and their rulers.  Once again, for politically expedient reasons (which, sometimes, is justifiable) we have supported a more-brutal-than-not dictator.  The people are rising up against the corrupt dictator and his government.  We are, once again, on the wrong side because our concern is not for the freedom and dignity of the Egyptian people, but for our political interests in the area. 

The people know this, despite the billions we give to Egypt in foreign aid. Where that aid goes might be a wise question to ask, but only if we
really want to know the answers and if we might truly do something about
the problem. The people know this and so do not
see the U.S. as the defenders of freedom and dignity, but as the
supporters of their oppressors.

So, our embassy is attacked.  We wonder why.  We make the excuse in order to absolve us of any guilt in contributing to the oppressive regime that these are just enemies of the U.S., jealous of our prosperity, enemies of freedom-loving peoples everywhere, but the people in the streets want freedom and security and so they simply attack the symbol and the power behind the corrupt government that rules over them.  We bare the unintended consequences of our actions, our neglect, our profound hubris.

There is just the sense in me that we are on the cusp of significant
change in our political, social, and economic structures, world-wide. 
We like to think we have things under control, but suddenly everything
changes.  We are in such times and heading more deeply into a
fundamental shift.  I’m not sure where the shift will takes us, but it
has begun.  

To be given confidence

I am about finished with a very good book by the new author, Thomas Chatterton Williams, entitled, “Losing My Cool: How a Father’s Love and 15,000 Books Beat Hip-Hop Culture.”  For the past several years, I have bought an autobiography as one of my summer books.  This is that kind of book for this summer… Williams writing about his life, and I’m finishing it too quickly. 

In his acknowledgments, Williams quotes Truman Capote, “Anyone who ever gave you confidence, you owe them a lot.”  A good statement, a good sentiment, a good thing to remember.

I hated when in school we were told to write about a favorite hero, and everyone seemed to jump right to it.  I couldn’t.  I never really had any heroes, and wondered whether something was wrong with me.

But what about those who gave me confidence?  If I am honest, and I have to ask myself if I am truly remembering correctly, I have encountered more that broke down my confidence than raised it up.  I really have had to be my own motivator for much of my life. 

The person that came to mind most quickly is Dr. Terry Kuhn.  He is retired now, but while at Kent State he was the Vice-Provost and Dean of the new academic unit in which I worked.  He was my boss.  There is much to admire in Dr. Kuhn.  He had enough confidence in me to allow me to branch into areas of interest and person development that never would have been possible, otherwise.  He allowed me to develop the whole technology department for our unit, when I was a student development specialist and hardly a technology guy.

This may be strange way of conveying such a thing, but one of the greatest compliments I remember receiving came from Dr. Kuhn.  I asked him to write a letter of recommendation for me as a perspective student to The General Theological Seminary.  He wrote in the letter that he thought this turn in my life would result in a tremendous waste of talent, but he highly recommended me nevertheless.  There you go. 

Then, of course, there is my mother!