Another Potpourri

A. The war drums are beating. Various elements here in the US and elsewhere are trying to lure Iran into a war. And there are crazy elements in Iran quite eager also in the folly of going to war. The leadership in Iran is NOT good, maybe even can be said to be evil, but do not trust what the mass media have to say about Iran. Most of it will be propaganda–just like it was before the Iraq war. Nobody in the newsmedia questioned all those crazy claims of “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq. Somehow Iraq got turned into a threat to the US. Something similar is going on with Iran. Very few voices of clarity around to point out what is happening. One of them, as usual, is Noam Chomsky. Thanks to the Huffington Post and TruthDigger we get his refreshing clarity on Iran and the whole Middle East:

B. This is from SNAP, the Survivors Network Against Priest Abuse–they have vigorously been pursuing church abusers of young people for over a decade, but the Church has been fighting back. Here is the latest from them, read and weep:

“In October, SNAP Director David Clohessy was served with a subpoena in Kansas City by church defense lawyers. They demanded emails, correspondence and other records (some going back 23 years) including deeply private conversations with victims, their names and the details of the abuse they suffered.

Last month, Clohessy and SNAP Outreach Director Barbara Dorris were hit with more subpoenas, this time from the St. Louis archdiocese. Naturally our first concern was, and remains, the privacy of victims, most of whom never have or never will speak publicly or take any kind of legal action. We also quickly realized, however, that these wide-ranging demands also sought communications between SNAP and thousands of other individuals we help: family members,witnesses, whistleblowers, journalists, therapists, concerned Catholics and law enforcement officials. Our first duty is to those who seek and sought our guidance. For that reason, we fought tooth and nail to keep David from having to testify. Ultimately, we lost that fight. David was deposed. But he adamantly refused to give any names or private details about victims. And we’re refusing to turn over any documents with similar information.

The ramifications of these actions have already hit SNAP hard. Owing to massive legal bills which we cannot pay at this time, we have been forced to ask our attorney in Kansas City to withdraw from the case. The fact is we can no longer afford to pay him and still keep the lights on. We are seeking pro-bono help as the case moves forward and will update you as to our progress. Meanwhile in Kansas City, attorneys for the Catholic Church have moved forward with a “Motion to Compel” SNAP Director, David Clohessy to reveal private information about members and victims connected with SNAP and the case against Father Joseph Tierney. We will not reveal any of the information the church is requesting. The privacy of our survivors and members is absolutely paramount! So, David is preparing himself and his family as he faces jail time if necessary.

Over two decades ago, we in SNAP pledged ourselves to protect and help victims, witnesses, whistleblowers, police, prosecutors, journalists, in fact anyone who was working to stop and expose child sex crimes and cover ups. That promise has not and will not be broken, no matter what forces are arrayed against us. The fact that we have been so successful is the chief reason that we now find ourselves in this painful and threatening situation. However it is one we shall win.

Your support has been critical in our accomplishing our mission and is even more essential now. We, therefore, ask that you consider making a donation in order to help us meet the unprecedented challenge which faces us. In order to donate, simply go online to our donate page. Alternatively you can or mail it to SNAP: P.O. Box 6416, Chicago, Illinois 60680-6416 or call our Development department at (312) 455-1499. Meanwhile,. I want to assure you that SNAP remains as committed to end clergy sex crimes and cover ups as ever. These are difficult times, but we will prevail together. ”

Amazing stuff. Note how on the one hand the Catholic Church says it is so sorry for what happened to the victims and says that it wants to help them, but in reality it is seeking to intimidate, threaten and silence anyone coming forward with what must have been a truly horrible experience that can ruin a life. Hard to go to church after reading this.

C. The social, political and economic situation in the US is getting ever crazier(never mind that Europe is not far behind!). Corporations and corporate money are gaining more and more control and totally corrupting democracy. Democrats are extremely weak and are easily bought with corporate money. Republicans worship at the corporate idol. And their election rhetoric is so insane that I have never seen it so bad in my lifetime. The top 1% own the political process “lock, stock and barrel.” We do not live in a democracy but a plutocracy–rule by the wealthy.

Republicans practically go apoplectic at the thought of raising taxes on the rich. “How dare you punish ‘job creators!'” Well lets get this real straight. One big fat lie or piece of propaganda is that the rich are “job creators.” They are nothing of the sort. Job creation takes place when there is a demand for goods; the manufacturer then hires more people to make more goods and deliver them because he sees an opportunity to make money, but no one starts out by saying, Let me see I will hire so many more people. There is no hiring if there is no demand for goods. And the people who buy the most goods are the so-called middle class: the lower middle class and the higher middle class. This group of people are being squeezed real bad by the economic and tax policies of the Republicans. Thus the incoherence.

Then, another thing:

The rich pay an awfully low percentage in taxes. Corporations sometimes pay absolutely nothing even though they make billions. There is a profound incoherence in the tax code—the product of both Dems and Republicans. Now consider this, Obama is called a “socialist” because he wants millionaires to pay at least a 30% tax rate AFTER their first million of income. But during the Eisenhower years, those same rich people paid a 91% tax rate!!! And we were a booming economy and a growing middle class. Finally consider this whole debt problem. The Republicans have made it a big issue and Obama has bought into it. What’s shocking is that so many of our political leaders, and Republicans especially, have their eyes set on Social Security, Medicare, and other so-called entitlement programs–anything that affects the common or poor American, as if these programs were the cause of this debt. Hey lets take a look at the Defense budget. They are barely trimming the Defense budget–it is a “sacred cow” or I should say a “cash cow” for so many people in Washington. Why do we have these trillion dollar wars? Why do we have military bases in over 80 countries? And then there is this enormous national security apparatus that nobody really knows much about and how much money goes down THAT toilet. After WWII (and maybe earlier) these people realized that there was enormous money to be made if we had adequate “enemies”—I mean we have to have enemies for the sake of this industry, so if the enemies are not naturally there, we will go and make them appear either through our propaganda or even better through our actions make someone into an enemy. It is absolute insanity, and this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Another thing: this pipeline thing the oil companies want from Canada, cutting through the whole U.S. from north to south. There are a lot of problems with this pipeline and the way this oil is being extracted, but opponents of the pipeline are being shouted down as being “anti-American,” not caring about Americans getting oil, the price of oil going up because we don’t have this pipeline, etc. However, as it turns out this oil would NOT stay in the US anyway but would be refined and shipped out. In other words it would be sold to other countries for the profit of the oil companies. Did you know that gasoline is our #1 export? As a matter of fact most of the oil drilled in the US and Canada does not stay in North America but gets sold and shipped out. Most Americans don’t realize that. Also, we have a surplus of oil in the US at this time–the demand for gasoline is the lowest since 2007. But shouts for the pipeline keep coming because it will mean greater profits for the oil companies.

The incoherence and insanity of it all will collapse the whole economy eventually—I will be rooting for that, but unfortunately there will be suffering too before something more rational can be rebuilt. In any case, this is truly the Age of the Hermit; like the old Chinese hermits it’s good to “lie low.”

D. Here is a chart that shows statistics of military spending by all the top countries in the world. Note where the US is! It turns out that the US spends as much as ALL the other top countries COMBINED:


E. In another vein, and more uplifting: There is this lovely Sufi saying by Ibn ‘Ata’illah al-Iskandari:

“Behold what shows to thee His Omnipotence, (may He be exalted): it is that He hides Himself from thee by what has no existence apart from Him.”

A lot there in that saying!

F. Two words: fakir, and dervish. Again we are in the Sufi element. “Fakir” is the Arabic “faqir,” and “dervish” is the Turkish pronunciation of the Persian(Iranian) “darvish”. Both words are very close in meaning. “Faqir” is simply the Arabic word for “poor man.” While the roots of “darvish” are not as clear, it seems to come from a term that means “standing by the door.” In both cases the emphasis is on spiritual poverty, which is an extremely important value for the Sufis.

When the Mughal Empire ruled in India, the term “fakir” began to be applied expansively to non-Muslim yogis and ascetics. When the British conquered India they inherited this terminology and thus Churchill called Gandhi “a naked fakir”–fro Chuurchill it was a term of derision.

Possibly only the Russian Orthodox holy figures–the monks, hermits, fools, and pilgrims—had anything even close to the kind of emphasis on spiritual poverty and that quality of a self-emptying kenosis that the Sufis developed.

G. Speaking of Gandhi, James Douglas, the well-known teacher of nonviolence and peace activist and friend of Merton, has written a new book with the title: “Gandhi and the Unspeakable.” It is about Gandhi’s last days and about his assassination. A few years back Douglas had written a book about the Kennedy assassination with a similar title: Kennedy and the Unspeakable. A short but cogent review of the Kennedy book by Oliver Stone can be found here:

The Gandhi book may be important for several reasons: for a better understanding of Gandhi himself, and for a better appreciation and understanding of how very dark forces can be circulating even in a country and a culture as religious as India.

H. The current issue (#100) of the magazine Adbusters is an absolute must read. These are the folks who literally invented the “Occupy Movement,” and even though the movement is largely powerless and almost irrelevant in the larger scheme of things, it has provided an opportunity to voice the pain many people feel in this economy. Adbusters has been the only thing out there in the mass media to deconstruct the current economic ideology in a creative way and to offer some possibilities of alternative visions.

I. You would think that the well-to-do, not having to struggle for a livelihood, would be more likely candidates for expressions of compassion toward their fellow human beings. You would think that the rich, being free of the natural anxieties of how to make it from day to day, would have “spare room” in their hearts for the needs of others. As a matter of fact that’s not the way it really is–just the opposite. A recent study by some social psychologists at UC Berkeley came to the conclusion that the poor have more sensitive hearts and more likely to exhibit compassion toward their “neighbor.” Here is a brief write-up on this study:

It seems that wealth is truly a burden on the heart, even as it facilitates

physical existence. Recall what Jesus said about the “rich man” who

tries to enter “the kingdom of heaven,” and also what he said about

the other kind of “burden” that we should take up, which is “light and

easy.” Of course this is a psychological study, and so it has its

limitations. But spiritual masters from many traditions would say,

“We Told You So!!”

J. Clarification of thought. Dorothy Day prescribed for her Catholic Worker movement, a moment called “clarification of thought.” Whether it took place on a weekly or monthly basis, the members of the community would get together and discuss some social issue at hand or, better, have a knowledgeable speaker and then have a communal discussion. So, may I propose such a moment here because I hear a certain confusion running amuck in the land: “conservative” or “right wing”. These terms are being used sloppily and interchangeably but they refer to something very different. Of course considering the level of political discourse in our country and in the mass media, perhaps there is no hope for clarity. Today’s Republican Party labels itself as “conservative” when in fact it has nothing or very little to do with that distinguished political philosophy. It is purely and simply “right wing” and on the road to being true fascism. Conservative philosophy in the U.S. was very leery of foreign wars and “foreign entanglements”; it distrusted central banks and big business just as much as big government. It had an intuition that all these “big” entities could be corrosive to the person. It certainly had no love for the “military-industrial complex”. True conservatives believed in the values of community; not that of Ayn Rand and “rugged individualism” where the highest value is of individual autonomy no matter what. True conservatives were also among the first environmentalists—afterall they believed in “conserving” and not in exploiting. True conservatives were also fiscally responsible, while pseudo-conservatives like Reagan borrowed more money than ALL previous presidents combined. And the Bushes doubled that–to support their crazy wars. Now the “right wing” leans toward authoritarianism, toward an easy approach to war, toward rampant exploitation, etc., to idolizing corporate structures. In fact, “right wing” is a step on the way toward fascism, of which the essence is the merger of corporate and government power. This is what happened both in Italy and Germany in the 1930s. And it can come dressed in religious garb and religious language. Both “conservative” and “right wing” are slippery terms, so be careful to note how they are being used and with what intent.

K. There is a recent study by a professor at the University of Wisconsin that seems to indicate that the American “right wing” is becoming more and more “Catholic.” The so-called “religious right,” which traditionally was mostly Evangelical Protestent, seems to be taking on a Catholic presence. The religious right, which also contained many classic conservative values, has now imbibed almost the whole of the American “right wing” agenda. This blending of the two is troubling, and there are enormous and serious issues underlying this development. In any case, here is the professor speaking for himself:

L. Recently saw a young Native American with a t-shirt that had the following words:


Perfect! Felt like buying that t-shirt right off his back!

M. Let us conclude with some Sufi sayings:

From Shaykh Sidi Hamza el Qadiri el Boutchichi:

When GOD loves His servant, his qualities are covered with the Qualities of his Lord. It is as if a king invites us into his company and we find ourselves without clothes which are suitably clean and fitting to be in his presence, the king clothes us in his clothes and introduces us into his presence.

Love all creatures, whatever their religion might be or their race and opinions. Everyone has his place in the divine pattern. It is not for us to judge.

Rabia: If I adore You out of fear of Hell, burn me in Hell!

If I adore you out of desire for Paradise,

Lock me out of Paradise.

But if I adore you for Yourself alone,

Do not deny to me Your eternal beauty.

al-Hallaj: Between me and You, there is only me.

Take away the me, so only You remain.

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