Thursday, August 25, 2011

Freedom From Religion: It's a Godsend!

Ad Placed by Atheists on City Buses in Des Moines, Iowa
According to a study at the University of Minnesota, atheists are a group of people in America that are hated more than both LGBTs (lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders) and Muslims. Still, in spite of this social disapproval, the numbers of atheists and agnostics are growing fast, especially among the young. This is a really good sign when it comes to the prospect of political organizing.

In the seventies Gallup and the survey mavens studied what factors would determine social activism on campus and the only reliable correlation wound up being that those who checked off the no preference box under religion (on the university application form) were the most likely to end up participating in protests. Perhaps this means that folks who are not waiting for pie in the sky when they die might actually want to eat now and even make room for others at the table.

The truth is that many humans can possess a moral compass without the threat of hellfire, damnation or any other punishment that big, old, bearded white dude in the sky can dream up. Responsible communities can be built, movements started, corrupt governments overthrown independent of the Big Boy. That's how the concept of "secular humanism" was born.

Mindful godlessness can defeat the right wing theocrats in many ways. For one, it presents no inherent argument against women determining their own biological destinies by retaining decision-making power in reproduction. Freedom to determine what to do with your own body is a direct consequence of this.The same applies to the shunning or looking down upon LGBT folks. When all humans have value all can be respected. Those convoluted and contrived bible mantras can get flushed down the toilet of history to be replaced by the doctrine of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. An axiom long forgotten by the purveyors of prophesy. Who, at its American lowest common denominator seem to include some of the most dogmatic, inhumane and rigid people on this planet.

In some ways the gay stereotype and that of the aethist intersect. The word, "intellectual," is often the first one to be trotted out. This in and of itself speaks volumes. Following it are adjectives like childless, artistic and that catch all demonizer, "liberal."

Those of us of little faith have no use for the rabid American jingoism that, of late, passes for patriotism. We are too busy trying to build a meaningful life and a progressive movement to spend more time than necessary on our knees. Genuine compassion, empathy and goodwill are feelings more likely to arise out of discerning observation of the human condition than didactic instruction. And these qualities are more apt to flourish in an atmosphere of human love and understanding than one of superhuman threat and fear.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Great Computer of Life

Another coworker have retired last week. They are leaving like rats on a sinking ship; to get away from the seriously understaffed library system and our incredible, shrinking paychecks as well as to pursue goals outside of the stifling work environment.

Attempting to live in the world of work and the larger world outside it has placed me squarely in the category of employees with a "bad attitude." After all a librarian, who is a closet writer, is not devoting one-hundred percent of her precious creative energy to her job.

I am beginning to think of this problem in computer terms. Real life: our health, those we love, our ambitions, dreams and deepest desires are an integral part of our operating system. Without them, the system will not boot up at all.

Employment, as gainful as it may be, is just a money-generating program that runs on that system. Even if it is uninstalled completely, the computer will still run. True, you may have to locate another application to fill this function since the accumulation of money does help the system run faster and more smoothly. Loss of home or health insurance can cause the system to crash, but with some tweaking it is still possible to get it up and running again.

The recession/depression has turned many of us into "bad machines" that can no longer run as efficiently as we used to. This can be a cause for worry but it is also an opportunity to try to connect differently. We must network in different ways, some of them actual not virtual.

I have just tuned up my old computer by deleting a lot of unused programs. The most important step I took was in stopping a script from running over and over, slowing down my progress and bringing my system to a standstill. My script had something to do with self-esteem being connected to financial status.

As soon as I found the way to stop that message from repeating, my computer began humming once again. It has now recovered and is running like a new machine!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Free Speech vs Public Transit in San Francisco

Can one hundred people shut down the public transportation system in a major city? When the city is San Francisco and the system is BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) the answer is a resounding yes. As a working commuter, an advocate of free speech, a person opposed to assassinations by BART police, and a proud survivor of the social protest movements of the seventies and eighties, the kind of power that a small, dedicated group of protestors weilded this evening was astounding

The fact is BART police, hand-in-hand with the SFPD brought the traffic in San Francisco to a standstill all because of a handful of vocal folks with signs. The protest was called because the original demonstration against the BART police murder of Charles Hill in the Civic Center BART station on July 3rd, 2011. Hill was a forty-five year old mentally impaired individual. On New Year's Day of 2009, BART police officer Johannes Meserle shot and killed Oscar Grant at the Fruitvale BART station. With this kind of a track record, it's easy to pinpoint why those trigger happy boys in blue are having so many problems in the Bay Area.

As we look at the events today it is imperative to remember a few things:

First of all, people have the right not to get shot in a public transit station just because they're mentally ill, black or a bit mentally off. This, you would think, goes without saying.

Second, when methods of communication media are tampered with by authorities this smacks of totalitarianism. Iran, Egypt, China, all other speech-supressed nations come into focus.

Third, it is a total overreaction to mobilize as many law-enforcement officers as protestors to try to attempt to abrogate a simple protest, i.e.: freedom of speech in action.

Yes, people were protesting the BART shootings as well as the intentional wireless disruption to prevent organizing.

Whatever emotions these activities bring up is a separate issue. Shutting down the BART system along with the MUNI bus and trolley lines is not only an uncalled for overreaction by the authorities, it is also a breach of the U.S. Constitution.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Verizon Workers Strike to Retain Pensions and Healthcare

Verizon Workers Fighting
to Keep Their Benefits
Striking Verizon employees are trying to hold the line against the erosion of their healthcare and benefits. Theirs is the latest battlefield in the class war being waged against the American working people. Verizon corporate management is trying to ride Scott Walker's coattails to obliterate unions and the middle-class working conditions that they provide. It's all part of the great race to the bottom, fueled by right-wing fervor and Obama administration supported downgrades and take-aways.

Further complicating matters in the Verizon situation, the wireless workers are all non-union while the old land based phone service workers are with the CWA (Communication Workers of America). So pitting the two factions against each other is a made for management dream with the wireless workers representing the "future" of the private sector.

Verizon management is pleading poverty and income losses in the land line segment of their business, a ploy that president of the AFL-CIO Richard Trumka has called a "smokescreen."It is evident now to almost everyone that the lowest echelons of society are paying for the lavish lifestyles of the wealthy. Management now has now been given a green light to erode all the gains of the past and chalk it up to the crash and burn economy, another demon of their own creation.

We can see even mainstream economists such as Robert Reich and Paul Krugman openly acknowledging that the American working people have been taken hostage and because our president has paid their ransom, we have lost.

The media is running with the ball, saying the Verizon strike has gotten ugly. As though bringing in scab workers to undermine collective bargaining power and steal people's jobs is not a violent and provocative move, in and of itself. Yes, people are angry. Confrontational behavior is the rule, not the exception under these circumstances and it is understandable considering that folks' livelihoods and survival are on the line.

Verizon workers may be in for the long haul and we can only hope that they will be successful in their struggle.

Friday, August 5, 2011

When Businesses Answered Phones, and Dinosaurs Roamed the Earth!

A Woman of Another Era
Answering a Telephone
I've been too depressed to blog much lately. The atrocious debt ceiling sell out, the stock market crash, the continued attacks on workers rights, immigrant rights, LGBT rights, all these things have been weighing on me making it difficult to sit at the keyboard to write anything.

I've also been dealing with some health issues; not the life-threatening kind but the exhausting kind that require a complex orchestration of  faxes from my primary care provider along  with a highly complex choreography of appointments with specialists. A total production that is not getting rave reviews from the critics.

I have joked that I have a managed care health insurance plan, as long as I play the role of manager. Getting a medical problem that requires specialists treated is every bit as consuming as trying to fight identity theft, foreclosure or anything else requiring a strictly synchonized string of telephone calls.

As a boomer, I can remember a prehistoric time before answering machines, when a person could call offices during business hours and actually speak to a human being. In the eighties and nineties this feat was still possible. With the coming of the aughts and the great recession on its heels, it is now officially impossible to make phone calls directly to human beings, no matter what time of the day they are placed.

Now I understand why folks abrasively answer their cell phones at the most inopportune moments and we are all forced to listen to the intimate psychological details of their relationships on public transportation, in waiting rooms and at the supermarket. I haven't sunk to that level yet, but, in order to get my medical problem resolved, I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that this rudeness is what I may have to resort to.