Saturday, July 21, 2018

Snowy Egrets

Swiftly, under a rising moon they pass,
The two of them hushed in their exodus,
Wingtip to wingtip, origami on velvet,
Twin expressions of a single thought,
Forever at home in the tropical night.

Weaving through becalmed coconut fronds,
Neither silver, nor brilliant white -
But merely vivid, in the splendorous air,
Their forms are engraved into my sight,
Aloft, the billowing clouds, at rest.

Were they material, or mere fleeting ghosts?
I cannot be sure if I've seen these birds,
And yet I know that they're a part of me -
Compound expressions of a single thought,
Like you and I.

Brent Hightower
Copyright 2018 Brent Hightower

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Idealism Sometimes Does Achieve Great Results

I just thought I'd post the above letter I sent to the current manager of the co-op Lauren and I used to manage. In this time of deep political crisis, let's remember that sometimes idealism does win the day!

To: Matt Gougeon,
General Manager, The Marquette Food Co-op,
Marquette Michigan, 49855

Dear Mr. Gougeon,
My name is Brent Hightower. My wife, Lauren Waters, and I managed the Marquette Food Co-op from autumn 1988 to spring 1995. When we took over, the store had virtually no inventory, was thousands of dollars in debt, and was ready to close its doors. In fact, the accountant offered to give us the business (including ownership of the building we had at that time) for free, but we decided we would rather work towards building a community co-op. It took us years to bring the co-op back from the brink of closure, but by the time we left sales were up to about $120,000. I always knew there was great potential for the co-op in Marquette, but because of various internal conflicts, that was the best we could do. Still, I believe we saved the business, and we met a lot of very fine people along the way. I consider our time there to have been a success.

Yet I was completely unprepared, when I recently read an article about the co-op in Northern magazine, for the really tremendous success the Co-op has now become. It's everything I hoped the Marquette Food Co-op might some day become, and more! I just wanted to offer you all my deep, and heartfelt, gratitude for enabling us to see that chapter in our lives as one leading to such a resounding success! There are few such successes in life, and especially for those who've supported progressive causes in this era. To read about the Co-op today was enough to make my day, and several days to come!


Brent Hightower and Lauren Waters

Hilo Hawaii

The Lying Machine

Recently I had a virtual conversation with someone whose views I generally respect - who, in order to describe the effects of a protest strike over the traitorous regime of Donald Trump, used the words, collateral damage. Although I often agree with the person in question, I find the use of this term collateral damage, especially in such a context, disturbing. The use of such language undermines the efforts of reformers to usher in a more sane and just world, even as they are struggling to do just that. Citizens who perform the essential function of being agitators in a democracy use language as their primary tool, so they must wield it as effectively as possible, and so (with all due respect for the person unnamed), I'd like to elaborate, using the phrase in question as an example.

In the first place, the term collateral damage is vague, especially in such a context. We can infer that it regards the potential negative effects of such a strike - but what negative effects, exactly? It's not specific. So we can't really be certain of its validity. Secondly, and at least equally important, it's aggressive. It conjures up warfare in a discussion of non-military issues, so it's connotations are threatening. Such language seems aimed at silencing opposition with a subliminal threat. Thirdly, such terminology, used outside of a military context, serves to foster a widespread military outlook that is inherently contrary to civil society.

The phrase in question is derived from military jargon, but it's just one of a teeming number of words, and phrases, that have entered the common English vernacular from corporations, think tanks, the media, and government - the combined effect of which is to confuse, and to immerse us in ways of thinking that carry an agenda that is authoritarian and militaristic - as opposed to humane, philosophical, or spiritual.

Winston Smith, the hero of George Orwell's famous, and frightening, novel, 1984, would have recognized such a phrase at once, and would have known the name for it. Newspeak. The term collateral damage is a euphemism for killing noncombatants, which is a euphemism for civilian casualties, which is itself a euphemism for the killing, and maiming of innocents.

With each step we take from honest communication about questions of life and death, the less we care about those who live or die.

In the novel, one of the monumental institutions of oppression Smith has to contend with is The Ministry Of Truth. Its primary function is the fabrication of lies, propaganda, and cognitive disruption. The Department of War is known as The Ministry Of Peace.

In the United States, since the Vietnam War, what was known as The War Department, has been called the Department of Defense. (A person can legitimately be opposed to war, but how can anyone possibly be against defense?) This is a classic example of using language to create cognitive disruption, to induce an inability to reason clearly. I am very happy to say that I recently read that 1984 was at the top of the New York Times bestseller list! That tells me I'm not the only one alarmed by such totalitarian cognitive disruption in the ostensibly democratic United States.

With independent journalism all but dead, and with the publishing industry, and virtually all other sources of media in America now owned by a handful of oligarchs - with censorship and propaganda justified everywhere by the profit motive, there could be no better time to read George Orwell! There are forces working double-time to make his horrible conception of life under Big Brother a reality in America, and the world, today. In America though, as long as we still have a democracy, government isn't the enemy. The enemy are those who seek to subvert government - namely the multi-national corporations and American oligarchs. It is their influence on government that is the culprit in this lean towards despotism.

Just look at a few examples of how language is used to confuse and re-shape our view of the world:

1. Natural resources. (Since when did nature, the sacred community of living things, become natural resources, merely something for
corporations to exploit and profit by?)
2. Entrepreneur. (Business man / or woman). Merely a word to class-up a banal occupation.
3. Gravitas.
4. Transparency. (Truth, honesty, clarity)
5. Going forward. (A phrase that has no meaning) There are many such phrases. They arise because liars and prevaricators need jargon.
5. Team player. (Yes man)
6. Up-market
7. Down market.
8. Downsize.
9. Outsource.
10. Plausible deniability.
11. Barista.
12. Curate.
13. Utilize.
14. Impacted.
15. Challenge. (We no longer have problems, just a lot of terrible challenges)

The above are a tiny smattering of the words and phrases injected into our language like poison over the last half century or more, to confuse us and guide our thinking down certain predetermined paths. With a dozen conservative think tanks operating alongside the dominant media, all in the interests of an international financial elite, we are well on the way to a system reminiscent of Orwell's dystopia, with its Ministry of Truth. In the novel, one significant method used by the totalitarian state is the perpetual fabrication of lies (alongside the omission of truthful news and views contrary to the interests of the elite). This involved changing the language itself, in the understanding that clarity of language is what enables people to reason, and thus assert their freedom and independence.

The constant use of such words and phrases doesn't just sell us on a certain view of the issue at hand, but on an entire way of viewing the world, one that is cold, profit driven, aggressive, militaristic, bloodless, and competitive to the bone. The notion that, for example, we should use our national wealth to create a society with great architecture, great art, great education, a love and appreciation of nature, or even of our children, and a million other sane and civilized notions is constantly ground down by all this corporate and military jargon, like collateral damage.

The danger in the use of such language, on the part of would-be social reformers, is that we run the risk of inculcating an essential worldview in the process that is, in substance, little different from the one we seek to supplant, without our even being aware of it. That is the evil genius of psychological / linguistic manipulation. It inculcates us with a whole way of seeing the world without our even being aware that we are so influenced.

Those of us who still bother to seek social reform can, in the end, achieve nothing if In our hearts we accept those cynical notions underpinning the culture we wish to reform. Too many would-be reformers are just such secret carriers of the values they themselves are convinced they have rejected, and those in the establishment seize on this as a justification for business as usual. When such would-be reformers come to power it's not long before they are indistinguishable from those they set out to replace, with the best intentions. What is required is a new outlook on life itself - on what it is that we truly value. To do that we must be able to think independently, and for that we need to cull all this vague and misleading language from our thoughts and speech.

Brent Hightower
Copyright 2108 Brent Hightower

Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Fires Still Burning

Alexander buckled on his father's sword,
And on his great black steed, rode forth.
Confident he was the favorite of the gods,
In swarms of death no doubts assailed him.

Riding down upon the hosts of Persia,
His pale eyes implacable, and aflame,
He was possessed of an odd mystique -
That of mortal man assured of immortality.

Though doubt that any god will save us,
Is the firm conviction of the rational mind,
No such fears assailed young Alexander,
And in ignorance, he conquered the world.

Some mysticism remains here unrevealed,
Apart from such omens and curious lights.
In such apotheosis lies the epic mystery,
Achilles knew, when circling walls of Illium.

We may yet feel it nascent in our beings,
This ancient glimmer of the visionary self,
Or indirectly, its effects may be surmised,
Glimpsed in fires still burning in our eyes.

Brent Hightower
Copyright 2018, Brent Hightower

Thursday, June 28, 2018

On the Decline of the United States

*Above Image, Detroit, Michigan. Source unknown

A few people have said that my essays have a left-wing bias, and. . . well. . . so be it. But the truth is I don't believe left-wing ideology, per-se, can do much more to improve human life. The reason is, that although I agree with most of the ideas associated with the traditional left, such as freedom-of-speech, artistic freedom, equality for minorities, for women, for gays, and so on - and though I see most of the political agenda of the left as simply being rational - it should be clear that such rational practices would have long been standard practice, if there wasn't some more mysterious, overriding, factor at play than reason. Clearly there is something aberrant, and abhorrent in our collective natures that those who are rational, and ethical, are loath to look at. And so choosing not to look there the left wing makes its appeal almost exclusively through reason.

Those on the left, for the most part, confine themselves to a rational discussion of the issues, and abjure the more fundamental question of why reason isn't the essential factor that guides human actions. On the face of it, it may seem the reasons for irrational behavior are obvious. It would seem at face value that they are the standard culprits, starting with inadequate education, but I believe that that is a fatal mistake. The reasons for this tendency to abandon rational thinking in favor of emotional appeal are deeply rooted in our biological natures, and we are all subject to it given enough stress. For this reason a chaotic situation plays to the advantage of the right wing, who's subsequent policies engender more chaos, in a descending vicious spiral. That's what is at the root of America's decline.

Those on the right often shout at people on the left. . . "You can't improve humanity!"

"Why not?" We ask. "Well," they say, "look at me!"

And in truth that's a pretty difficult argument to counter! In effect they are saying "I know myself, and if you think I, or people like me, are going to start caring about something other than gratifying our own egos, and desires, then you can just forget it!" And how can you really counter that argument? It's a self-fulfilling prophesy, rooted in free will, and unchecked, it will doom us all.

The thing most galling about all this is, of course, that these same people who believe humanity is irredeemable, based on their estimation of themselves, and others like them, constantly prate about immorality in others, based on such insignificant issues (in the larger scheme of things), as their sexual activities, or preferences. Whether they are in a position to judge, or whether their prejudiced interpretation of the Bible is an adequate basis for judgement, they have apparently never questioned. Introspection isn't their strong point.

The only ill of society they seem to recognize, in an overcrowded world, is abortion, while their own avowed cynicism regarding human nature precludes them from giving a damn the billions of people already alive, and in misery. They consider themselves morally superior, yet are perfectly content to block policies that offer any hope for America's disenfranchised, or for the ocean of suffering elsewhere on earth. In a nutshell, they are contemptible.

All of the above behavior is driven by the deep atavistic impulses of mankind, and it's in the lack of a realistic assessment of such people that reformers who appeal exclusively to reason, delude themselves, and fail to come up with approaches that work. In America's heyday there were many educated, white, liberals who wanted others to share in America's wealth. For this they were subjected to ridicule - in part by the contemptuous rich - but primarily by those whom they'd wanted to share in that wealth. It was working class whites who, in the voting booth, shot down those attempts at reform, in the fear, it seems, that minorities might also share in that prosperity. So, in other words, they chose to fall into poverty and desperation themselves rather than see others, whom they hated irrationally, prosper as well. There is no way to account for such behavior in the light of reason.

Clearly, reason isn't primarily what motivates a great percentage of people. They're motivated by emotions, of which fear and hatred are often paramount. So likewise, those on the "old left," who believed in "The People," - as in, "If only we can educate "The People," we can change the world!" were also misguided. For despite the best intentions of the most altruistic social theorists, and generally enlightened minds of modern times, in 2018 the human condition grows darker by the day.

Though the liberal agenda of personal liberty, and the democratic division of wealth, is more historically American than the philosophy of economic royalty, exclusion, and class warfare, imposed by the Republican Party, it is the Republicans who somehow manage to wrap themselves in the flag - who constantly beat the drum of patriotism, and are considered then great American patriots. The Democrats should learn something from this, about the necessity of stirring people's hearts rather than appealing just to their minds. We live in a time in which, in Yeats' words, "The best lack all conviction, and the worst are filled with a passionate intensity." But the Democrats can't do this right now because they've given up on class equality. They no longer have a message that can appeal to the deeper emotions and cares of the masses. If this doesn't change the Democratic Party is done for!

The right wing has an instinctive grasp of the symbolism that appeals, where reason fails. In their constant use of the flag, in their visceral appeal to the emotions, they have become masters. The left is not wrong in appealing to reason. It is wrong in being unable to grasp that you must also appeal on a more primal level, because people make decisions more in response to what they feel than what they think.

If the right wing were to make an ad advocating the preservation of our national parks (if you can imagine such a thing!), they would show glittering scenes of Bamby in the woods with his mother, surrounded by wildflowers, all set to some idyllic music that makes people all warm and pliable inside. The left would give you a bunch of facts and figures about the way trees diminish global warming, and help to preserve the human race, not realizing that a huge percentage of people secretly hope for the end of the world. To admit such a thing is unimaginable to the mind that considers itself rational.

Tragically, The Age of Reason appears to be setting, and this despite the advent of computers, the latest technological marvel that, along with science and technology, we were told would save us. In some profound, and essential, way way we are stuck in our thinking. We are simply incapable of facing certain disturbing truths about the nature of psychology, and power, and sensing this failure on the part of (what remains of) the liberal and educated establishment, more and more people are abandoning reason altogether, to seek solace in enlightened spirituality, or New Age, feel-good, gobbledygook. Or more ominously, in Dark Age fundamentalism.

Though the divide between left and right is to a degree real, it is also to a degree misleading, and destructive. The deeper problem is inherent in human nature, and is not confined to left or right. It is rooted in Darwinian evolution and the struggle for survival, which has engendered in us a defensive cruelty and duplicity when we are threatened. So in searching for a paradigm to maximize the quality of life on earth, for ourselves and the other living beings, we must ourselves delve fearlessly into the extremely uncomfortable subject of our own natures, on the individual level, and on the level of society at large. We must do this with the goal of understanding human nature, and the reasons we endlessly reproduce the very problems we must then struggle to solve, in an endless round of self-destruction.

Firstly, it seems, we must re-commit to a quality, liberal education for all. For only through a liberal education can we develop the depth of understanding necessary even to begin to solve our rapidly escalating problems. We should not be surprised at the election of Donald Trump, for he is exactly the kind of man one would expect a society to produce that puts so much store in business and technology as the primary solutions to our problems. We must seek a paradigm that incorporates reason, science, ethics and spirituality. Only through using our full human potential can we combat the problems we face as a species, and at the moment our spirits and minds are vivisected into a number of incompatible, and antagonistic outlooks, such as the false divide between science and religion.

We must recognize that greatness doesn't come from an understanding of technology, or of business (or from military, or economic power.) It comes from the power of discerning what matters, in the quest for advancing humanity as a whole, and in acting upon what we find. America was once very good at this, but we've become a grab-bag of moribund cliché's concerning the primacy of business and technology. We've become a nation that promotes ourselves, rather than genuinely struggling to excel. These are the real reasons for America's decline.

The United States was forged in the philosophy of The Enlightenment, in a belief in the essential dignity of man that in turn gave rise to a belief in liberty and equality under the law. These things form a noble, and integrated worldview. One that has stood the test of time, and is worthy of attracting a large following here and abroad. We're throwing that away, in exchange for an outlook based on sales charts and marketing strategies, on self-promotion, and self-flattery. We increasingly rely on machines that are sophisticated, but lack anything approaching wisdom, or a soul.

Our belief in liberty was founded on a word-view in which reason and spirituality were integrated. That view has been under constant and active attack in America, since at least 1980, by those who have no use for democracy and who seek its overthrow. Liberals have done little, if anything, to counter that attack with a vision that appeals to both people's minds and hearts. We've sold ourselves short, and we're reaping the consequences. The left must learn again to appeal to people's spirits and not just their capacity to reason. Our hope lies in acknowledging that many of the assumptions the left has made in modern times have been proven wrong, and that we must now grow our understanding of what it fully means to be human, in mind and in spirit, if we are to lead in a genuinely new and positive direction.

Brent Hightower
Copyright 2018, Brent Hightower

Saturday, June 23, 2018

An Open Letter to the Democratic Party

It is almost intolerable to sit by and watch while the Democratic Party prepares to lose yet another election. In spite of the polls there is a deep underlying weakness in democratic strategy that could turn November’s election from a golden opportunity to reverse the country's direction under Trump, to yet another unexpected and humiliating defeat. That weakness revolves around the party’s apparent inability to understand that right now it is, crazily enough, the Republicans who are winning the votes of the Democratic Party’s natural core constituency, working class and poor white Americans.

For all of its appalling ethical debauchery, the Trump administration knows what it’s doing when it attacks immigration, because they know it’s a divisive issue, and dividing people is the Republican’s stock in trade. The more they can focus people’s attention on race and immigration, and keep it away from the unifying issue of jobs, wealth, and class, the better off they will be in November.

It is amazing, that while the Democrats have such legitimate contempt for Trump’s intelligence, it is Trump who, through this strategy of keeping the dialogue on race and immigration, is now controlling the agenda, and in so doing will be able to claim at least a partial victory in the next election by effectively limiting the damage to his party, in what should be a decisive Democratic landslide. The results of this to the Democrats would be devastating, and might even user in a chapter of American neo-fascism.

For all of our legitimate hared of Trump’s agenda where race and immigration are concerned, the Democrats must not allow themselves to be distracted from the one essential, uniting, issue of our times – the one that will lead to inevitable victory or defeat, the issue of economic inequality.

Look at the deplorable state of the America working class. The destruction of trade unions has left millions with work that cannot support even a marginal standard of living. Medical care for all is still a far off dream. The minimum wage hasn’t been raised in decades. We have an epidemic of opium addiction. Our standing in the world community is in a deplorable state as a result of this, and the policies we’ve followed to get there.

The point is that we will not make progress on immigration, or racism, or sexism, or anything else unless we win back political power in America, and we can’t do that without the while middle and working class. That is start, obvious, political reality, and the Democratic Party seems utterly blind to it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Great Ten Dollar Bank Caper (A True Story)

This morning I went to a bank to get a roll of quarters. I went to the counter, and said, "I need a roll of quarters."
"Do you have an account?"
"Then we'll need to see an ID."
Wait a minute, I thought to myself, I need an ID so I can get quarters?
"Okay," I said, taken aback - like a dutiful drone.
So I gave her my ID. She looked at it, then looked skeptically at the ten dollar bill I put on the counter, and proceeded to spend literally two minutes typing away on her keyboard.
I'm thinking, just what the hell can she be looking at on her screen, and what the hell does she have to type for 2 minutes, and why the hell should I have to tolerate this bullshit?
Finally, her printer spit out a piece of paper. She looked at it, looked at me skeptically again, and then showed the paper to her supervisor, who came over and also closely scrutinized, first at my ten dollar bill, and then me. (I should add here that I have no criminal record whatsoever.)
At last she whispered something to the teller, who finally passed over the contraband - I mean roll of quarters - and I sort of furtively slunk off to my get-away car, feeling pretty mean now, pretty bad you might say - like Machine Gun Kelley.

Does this seem as weird to anyone else as it seems to me? It's like we're all criminals now, trying to prove our innocence.

Brent Hightower
Copyright 2018, Brent Hightower
*Image source unknown

The Sirocco

A murder of crows soars above the golden corn,
Their wings furled against the buffeting wind.
Beneath this blinding glare of Provencal sun,
The air feels heavy from the steaming earth.

There is no shelter from this wild wind;
So I spiked my canvas to the stubble plain,
To frame this dazzling bonfire of a sun -
These fields, swept by its archangel light.

I'm staggered by the fierceness of this place;
By these crows that rip and tear each other -
Cold, and black, and as pitiless as death,
Scrapping over the remnants of my dreams.

Brent Hightower,
Copyright 2018, Brent Hightower
*Image, public domain

Saturday, June 9, 2018

The Tragic Reality Underlying Our Terrifying School Shootings

Several weeks ago I wrote an ironic article recommending that we arm special education students, as a solution to the tragic number of school shootings in the U.S. today; and given the superficial nature of the solutions bandied about by the media, and by our malodorous current "leadership," that seems about as good an idea as most, and better than some. But now I'd like to address the question in all seriousness.

Firstly, I think we must realize that school shootings can't be stopped by putting more guns into the schools, in anybody's hands. A student with violent intent can only be given more opportunity to commit violence by bringing guns into the schools. To think otherwise is to think that these kids aren't intelligent enough to get their hands on those guns, with the element of surprise on their side, and to believe that is a fatal flaw in our own reasoning. It's difficult to believe that it's even necessary to point this out.

Likewise, the view of gun control itself as a solution is almost equally superficial. Though gun control is a good idea in general, and many killings would undoubtably be prevented by it, school shootings are among the relatively rare percentage of murders that are calculated, in which case the perpetrators can overcome the inaccessibility of guns, through premeditation.

Our notion (or more accurately the notion of the NRA) to inject guns into our schools is a tacit admission that our culture's degenerated to the point we are no longer civilized, and that most certainly is not a problem that can be solved with more guns! What we must do is ask why our culture is producing such maladjusted kids, how to deal with these kids in the short run, and ultimately, what aspects of the culture itself must be changed to solve the problem.

Recently, the NRA has been funding advertisements, in effect blaming these shootings on a "liberal, permissive society". . . Well, whether America is permissive or not, it certainly isn't liberal. The far-right now controls virtually every element of American society from the Presidency, to Congress, to the Supreme Court, to Wall Street, to corporate business, to most of the governorships and state legislatures. Yet somehow the NRA, the conservative think tanks, and their obsequious puppet media, blame school shootings on liberals! The question of exactly how liberals are responsible is kept very vague, of course, because it can't stand up to a moment's scrutiny on either the grounds of logic, or morality.

This effort to blame liberals is a spoiling attack, intended to preempt the much more logical argument that these shootings result from the unjustified increase in militarism, and authoritarianism, in America - and our incessant promotion of guns and violence. Because these things, along with increasing wealth disparity, are indeed among the most obvious culprits. There isn't any other country in the developed world where this is happening - not in democratic societies, socialist societies, communist societies, or among the Inuit. It doesn't happen in Denmark, France, or Holland, which are socialistic countries, and far more "permissive," (if I understand that also vaguely defined term) than the United States.

No. School shootings are a singularly American problem.

In all of this one very important thing is missing, and that is to ask these kids themselves why they are doing it. I haven't seen a single interview with a kid at risk for this kind of behavior (and there are many), asking them why they think others like themselves are doing it; and such omission is not unusual in America. It's become standard practice over the last forty years, or so, in the media. We ask everybody else. We ask "the experts." We ask school principals, teachers, housewives, the man on the street, dog catchers, or anybody in short, but those who would actually know! Could it be that we're afraid that their answers might bring up aspects of our culture and ourselves we find unpleasant to examine?

For about five minutes after 911 there was an attempt on the part of common Americans, (as reflected on the internet), to ask the obvious question, "Why are they doing this?" But those who asked were quickly drowned out by the roar of the offended, and the self righteous. They were chastised by the "America is greatest country in the world" crowd, who seem to believe we never have to introspect, we never have to think, because we are Americans. And then, as always, the media re-affirmed our preconceptions, and so few of us ever heard the views of those actually responsible.

Personally, I find the restrictive fundamentalism, either Islamic, Christian, or any other stripe, abhorrent, but I also know that when we refuse to engage in a dialogue with those who oppose us, we will never see an end to wars and enmity. I also know that many people in the Middle East have a legitimate grievance over who profits from the wealth of their oil fields, because in most cases they themselves do not. This is to some extent a digression, but the point is, our persistent belief in our own inevitable rightness, and our refusal to engage in self-examination, will finally prove more dangerous to us than most of our supposed enemies will ever be. . .

So, we don't ask these kids why they're so desperately unhappy. Nevertheless, some of the reasons are transparent. These are, in no particular order, that many of these kids are rootless. Their families have often moved from place to place, and they haven't been able to establish permanent connections. Most Americans no longer have farms, own no land, have no animals to provide these kids companionship and allow them to learn empathy. They have no sense of place, or room to roam freely, no appropriate spaces to play with each other, and later, to safely congregate. In many modern tract housing developments today children don't even have a cursory strip of grassy yard in front of their house to play in. Their world is built for cars and for degraded adults, not for them.

We are continually told (by Republicans mostly), that more guns and more law enforcement will solve our problems, when all the evidence shows they have done the opposite. The more money we spend on added "security," and take away the things that comprise a civil society, like decent schools, the worse our problems become. The fact is by now obvious even to a sub-par intelligence that the "Reagan revolution," with all it's emphasis on selfishness, and on police and security, has all but destroyed the once great United States. And yet the lunatic liturgy goes on. . . Deregulation! More police! More "national security!" More guns!

We must face the truth, that everything about current American culture tells these kids we don't really value them. Even after so many school shootings there are a grossly insufficient number of qualified counselors in the schools, and counselors are the most important mechanism for preventing these attacks! Except for a tiny minority of the overprivileged, who get whatever they want without having to earn it, everything in these kids' world is now sub-par, starting with the condition of the schools they attend. We no longer build city parks for the great majority of American children, or athletic fields, or public swimming pools. They will have no jobs that pay a living wage when they graduate from high school. College is too expensive, and even college graduates are now lucky to find jobs that can support a family.

Many of these kids are also tormented daily, by peers allowed to vent their Darwinian instinct towards domination on them unrestrained. In many schools even teachers, and particularly athletic coaches, have encouraged this pecking order out of the very subconscious impulses that drive the schoolyard bullies themselves. When children are exposed to a value system like that, is it any wonder they sometimes lash out in rage? With boys this "hazing" is often looked upon as something positive, as "toughening them up." But children can learn physical toughness, and discipline, without being encouraged to torment and humiliate. It should be especially evident we need to do whatever is necessary to reform this simian social hierarchy when, with modern weaponry available to anyone determined to get it, this bullying behavior is increasingly getting the bullies themselves shot with high powered rifles.

Perhaps the reason we don't ask these kids why they're so angry is that we don't really want to know. If we did, we might have to confront the fact that it is we ourselves who must change, if we want them to change. If we really care about ending the school shooting tragedy we have to repudiate the outlook that gave rise to it. Partly that is the "Reagan revolution," which takes as it's first tenet the abdication of all social responsibility.

We need to care about something beyond the wealth of a few bankers and corporate executives, and show these kids that we actually do care about them, by taxing those bankers and executives and putting that money into the things these kids desperately need, starting with school counselors. For the price of one military contract boondoggle, like the obsolete-off-the-assembly-line B1 bomber, or the osprey aircraft that isn't safe at any speed, we could have built new high schools for just about every state in the union. And even those kids who don't know this can sense it. In their hearts they know exactly how much we really care about them.

If we want them to care we have to care about them - not just pay lip service to caring about them - while a few unconscionably greedy individuals cheat them of a life. Even more importantly, far more so in my judgement, we need to subdue our acquired cultural arrogance that prevents us from critically examining our culture, and ourselves - that prevents us from introspecting, and therefore from making any positive change, in any area of our society at all now for over 40 years. For if we continue down that road, even these school shootings will prove to be a drop in the bucket of the social chaos to come.

Brent Hightower
Copyright 2018, Brent Hightower
*Image, Washington State Psychological Association

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The Cresting Tide

My mind at peace, I gaze upon the sea,
Its blue, unfathomed depths, epochal.
The cresting tide rushes in, as if alive,
And sounds an ancient chord inside me,
Some tone general to the orchestra of life.

Vast waves are thundering far out to sea,
Like the reverberation of primordial drums,
Or the fire of a thousand sea-borne guns,
Bringing to mind the cresting human tide;
Engulfing the earth in its onrushing flood.

On this Island, lost in earth's greatest sea,
Coconuts brown in the great beach palms.
And verdant uplands glow in riotous green.
Yet even this thriving nature lies imperiled,
By the seething tide of starving billions.

Before us rises the specter of annihilation,
And though the thought is scarcely bearable,
In mourning the loss of these living things,
We find detachment on the loss of our own life,
In that our death eases a burden on the earth.

And though species perished for me to live,
In this brief nova of a burgeoning mankind,
Sorrow and regret can only profane their loss,
So in homage to their passing, I will live for joy,
And forge my spirit in a metal worth the price.

Brent Hightower
Copyright 2018, Brent Hightower