As I sat listening to President Bush on the radio a few nights ago, I could not move from my chair to even turn on a light. Yet it felt like a fitting metaphor: the speech droning on, the shadows lengthening, the rooms darkening.
I was tempted to open a bottle of wine and finish it right there.
I was even tempted to reconsider voting for Kerry.
And here too, another fitting metaphor: get falling down drunk or sign my name to America's plans for empire by helping Kerry “report for duty.” A choice between nihilism or willful ignorance.
A Bush speech can do this to you.
Meanwhile the people of Iraq and the people of Afghanistan and the people of Haiti and the people of Palestine and the people of.... continue to live and die in the cross-hairs of the American war machine.
So, what is the alternative to this deep and swift current of mindlessness? After all, we have more than enough of that in the form of being subjected to America's high-tech delivery of all the modern manifestations of bread & circuses.
The alternative is mindfulness.
Let us begin with a stripped-down version of contemporary reality in 21st Century -- you know, the one being suggested as the New American Century.
Mindfulness Exercise One: The world's oil is running out. This is the fundamental reason that Iraq is under the bloody sword of military occupation. This is also why Iran will likely be next, and why U.S. military bases are springing up throughout the Middle East and Central Asia faster than you can say “Halliburton”.
Oil. Not WMD, not Saddam's lack of leadership skills, not freedom and democracy.
Mindfulness Exercise Two: The Corporate-Industrial-Military-Media matrix that rules this fair land is banking that the people of America will happily turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to their unleashing of perpetual visitations by the Angel of Death (in the form of depleted uranium ordnance, bunker-busters, daisy-cutters and eventually nukes) offered to people like ourselves in order to “maintain our American lifestyle.”
And if America's populace starts to wonder about this game-plan, or suddenly expresses its unease, the media is mobilized to spread Orange-levels of fear and disinformation in order to have us -- in true Pavlovian style -- fighting each other to see which part of the Patriot Act we like the best. Or which candidate.
Mindfulness Exercise Number Three: Our planet is suffering and dying. Our consumption has become a cancer and a blight across the globe. The continued use of fossil fuels is a major part of this, as is the continued waging of war in order to secure oil and markets for even more consumption. What a dizzying hamster wheel we find ourselves in.
Mindfulness Exercise Number Four: Considering the previous three mindfulness exercises. Is it possible that voting, as we currently practice it, has outlived its usefulness? Is it possible that clinging to “our vote” is actually a form of denial? A regressive step?
One thing about listening to the two party conventions is that not only have Kerry and Bush been exposed as merely slight variations on the theme of how best to expand the empire, but so too have their similarities been revealed to be embedded in, produced and reinforced by a system that can only see everything as another commodity to be exploited. It is way more than just the fact that they both hail from the Skull & Bones “fraternity”.
How can we continue to vote for this system anymore?
It is not simply that Kerry is lame, or that Bush is slick, or Rove is an evil genius, or that Americans are sheep. There are habits of culture, polarized viewpoints, simplistic and fundamentalist belief systems, and cynical and violent manipulations of people and information bombarding us all the time, 24/7. Our ears are filled with the roaring sound of a treacherous waterfall, growing louder and louder. So loud that every fiber in our body screams for us to turn away, not to look, and to put our faith and trust in the politicians and the political system that has created this mess in the first place.
Yet, given the state of this world, which currently presents us with the only option of going over the falls anyway, isn't it time to break with the banal act of choosing the next President and, as the poet Mary Oliver suggests, paddle like hell towards that sound?
T. Patrick Donovan is a doctoral student in Depth Psychology and can be reached at: email@example.com.
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