Freedom is a ready to hang oil painting exploring spiritual freedom. Here we are bursting out of the religious chains which hold us back and prevent us from soaring into the heavens. Spiritual but not religious means that we are not bound by dogma or tradition but free to explore beyond the confines of "religion" and find something new, something freeing, something deeply meaningful. We may find that in the depths of dogma or tradition, not because someone told us to, but because that is where our heart met spirit.
Sunday, July 26, 2020
Saturday, July 18, 2020
What is a worldview?
And why is it important?
It is not a Google Earth Image of the earth, although those are cool. Nor is the first the photograph of the Blue Marble, taken by Apollo 17 astronauts in 1972.
A worldview is how we understand the world around us. It is derived from our experiences, education and outside influences such as culture, family, upbringing, geo-political and socioeconomic positions. And it is the most important thing to understand about ourselves and about others.
For most people their worldview is subconscious and they could hardly even articulate it. They understand the world around them through a set of filters and they believe most people use the same or similar set of filters. But when you start to ask the tough questions about existence, then their worldviews begin to peek out. Right now in America we are asking tough questions and many people are starting to see worldviews clashing. Why?
Let's start with an example of a major shift in the worldviews which happened a few years ago. This shift was slow in coming but profoundly changed the course of the world. For a thousand years leading up to the 17th century everyone believed that lords and kings were God's appointed rulers. Everyone in the lands were subject to the king. That is, the king could tell you where to live, who to marry, where to work, and what to do with your free times. All you, as a subject, could do was obey and pray that the king God appointed over you was a good one. This is a drastic oversimplification of a 1,000 years of Western history, but it holds true.
Slowly a new idea, a new worldview started to creep into Western Thought. Actually as a middle class developed, due to a rising Merchant class, and through the advent of secular universities, an old idea was rediscovered and reissued as a new idea. The idea was that people were equal. All people were created in the image of God and therefore anyone could rise to the ruling class. God didn't anoint a special line of people to be kings and rulers.
This revolutionary idea culminated in the following words:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
-Declaration of Independence
This revolutionary idea sparked the birth of a nation. We are not beholden to a king, nor to a state. This was an unheard of worldview shift. It was not just replacing the king with "the state."
Are we subject to the State? Can the State tell us where to live, who to marry, where to work? No. We are citizens in the State electing people to tell us where to work, who to marry… just joking! We are free peoples. We make our own choices. We tell the State what we want from it. At least in theory. Power rests in the hands of the people, not the government.
That is a major, major worldview shift. Some people could not wrap their minds around that shift. Even today some people claim kings are divinely elected to rule. Not all worldview shifts are this dramatic. Not all worldviews are this profound.
There are macro worldviews, which most people in a region hold to in whole or in part. And there are micro worldviews which only hold sway over small groups or even just individuals. A dominate culture will have a dominate worldview with some slight variance at the micro levels. A macro worldview might be: if you work hard you will succeed. A micro worldview might be: all my hard work has not gained me anything, the system is rigged against me.
When a dominate worldview comes up against another worldview which does not hold to the same values then tensions can arise. If the conflict is at the macro level then the two sides can come to conflict until they learn to live with each other or one side wins out. If it is a micro vs. macro worldview, the micro worldview will be minimized and the people holding to it will be ostracized.
Here is an example of worldviews which are at odds with each other.
WASP verses POC
A WASP is a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. The term, in a more general usage, refers to White Christians in North America. They have strong beliefs in America and American Christianity. Often they hold to the idea of Manifest Destiny, that God has chosen America and blesses it uniquely. They hold to a duality of hard work and divine blessing. If you are well off, then you are blessed by God, and/or you put in the hard work and deserve the riches. They support the military as essential for America to rule the world, by divine right. And they support the police as the keepers of law and order. They find foreigners as an oddity and people of other religions as suspicious. They believe everyone also holds to this worldview and that it is the only factually true representation of the world.
Not all white people hold to all these tenets, but they typically hold to some of them. Many white people have developed their own micro worldviews due to their rubbing against other micro worldviews. This is often seen as a threat to the WASP way of life who then blame higher education and a liberal agenda for corrupting the youth.
A POC is a Person of Color. Often they are first or second generation American, but some of them have been here since before the beginning of the nation. A POC could be Latino, Asian, Black, or Native American. It is a very diverse population. And to lump them all into one group does them a disservice. They have a variety of worldviews because they come from a wide range of experiences, religions, education and backgrounds. The only thing they have in common, living in America, is that they stand in juxtaposition against the dominate WASP worldview. They are a collection of micro worldviews brushing up against the macro American worldview of the WASP.
Let's take one sample from the POC group: a black, male in this mid-twenties. College graduate and working a full time job. He is most likely to be overlooked for promotions at work and he is more likely to be pulled over by the police on his way to and from work. How does this shape his worldview? His education and hard work don't amount to much. He is often met with skepticism and suspicion. He is seen as a criminal, repeatedly year after year by the police. What is he to think about the world he lives in? What message does he pass along to his children and, eventually, grandchildren? What is the worldview they will develop due to the course of actions against this POC just because of his skin color?
This is a real example, lived out by millions of POCs all over the nation. Their worldview runs along the line of: The police are not their friends and do not protect them. The police protect the system which only serves to keep them in their place. They are not free to live or work where they want. They do not have the power or entitlement to force the government to bend to their will. They have to fight for everything.
The micro worldviews of POC are beginning to be noticed and are rubbing against the WASP worldview. Things are changing. This clash of worldviews is seen in movements such as Black Lives Matter/All Lives Matter. Until both sides can sit down and listen to each other, to understand the underlying worldviews and find ways to move past them, the conflict will continue to escalate. The macro worldview cannot hold out against the plethora of micro POC worldviews which are beginning to merge into a single diverse unit, forced together by the WASP way of looking at things.
A dominate worldview which cannot make room for diversity of ideas will either fight tooth and nail to keep the status quo or it will slowly crumble. Some of the dominate worldviews tenets are powerful and worthwhile, some need to be dropped and other worldview ideas should be adopted.
A worldview should be a fluid and dynamic way of understanding the world around us.
It may be time to reflect upon your own worldview and see if it is just and life affirming. Maybe it is time for other influences to come into your life to help you shift your worldview and to educate your children and grandchildren about different ways to understand the process the world around them.
Wednesday, July 8, 2020
Aspens in the Dark, Acrylic on Canvas 18x24, not available
Trees have always held symbolic power for me. While painting the series "Through the Leaves" I wanted to explore the many different ways trees effect us. Through the acrylic pour techniques I used I was able to capture the full range from spring budding and blooming to the autumn changing of colors. This painting is Aspens in the Dark.
But Aspens in the fall where pure delight. Those dashes of yellows and oranges mixed in a hillside of every green pines. They would glow in the early morning dawn and look like tongues of fire on the mountain side with the setting of the sun.
Sunday, July 5, 2020
How did we get into this state of unrest? What the hell is going on?
We are not standing in a new place in history. 21st century America is just like 19th century America.
What we see going on around us is the same struggles that have been going on for centuries. These struggles stem from two roots and are so intertwine as to form one hulking tree of oppression. This massive tree overshadows everything that happens in western society, and possibly the world. The two roots are Capitalism and Police as paramilitary organizations.
The first root is Capitalism.
Capitalism is an adequate system. It certainly has its advantages over other system of economics and production. But it has inherent problems which actively work against it. The two largest problems are excess and inequality. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Defenders of the status quo like to point to outliers of this as seen by a rich person falling from grace and becoming poor or the underprivileged rising above it all to making it big, these are the scarce exceptions.
Excess in capitalism is a given. If you have a good idea and a little capital (cash) or access to cash then it is possible to turn your little into a lot. If you have capital but no ideas you can always "shark-tank" an idea. And the more capital you have, the more capital you can make. Excess builds.
If we were all starting from zero, then this would be limited to what could be achieved in a life time of work. We do not start at zero, some start well below zero and some start well above zero. There are millions of "trust fund babies" who don’t need to work a day in their life because they have the capital to invest and thus, live off the interest. On the other hand there are people who are saddled with debt from before they are born. It all comes down to the luck of the birth. This creates a duality: The Owners and the Workers.
The duality of Owner/Worker defines the inequality. Inequality has very little to do with one's skill set or even educational potential. Often it has to do with being born into the right family with the right capital means. At no fault are the children who are born into a situation which is beyond their control. Sometimes education and opportunity presents itself and the child can move beyond their birth. Most often they cannot. It becomes a generational inequality issue. This is part of the system of capitalism. Owners need workers.
Attempts are made to limit the excess and the inequality. Antitrust laws of the late 19th century and early 20th century limited the size and scope of business. The Federal Trade Commission regulates big business. This helps to create a freer and more open market so other smaller business can have a chance to compete. Workers can move into the Owner class.
Another way to limit excess is through taxation. The inheritance tax is levied against the super-rich in order to limit the amount of capital that is trapped in trust funds. Property tax and income tax can both be used to help shape more equitable society. Often taxation is used to help support the working class as they struggle to make ends meet.
Unions used to be a powerful force in the USA fighting for the rights of the working class. Unions allowed the Workers to approach the Owners on equal footing. Through collective bargaining, workers' unions were able to increase the livelihoods of their union members. Unions have fallen out of favor and the working class has seen a huge wage gap increase over the last 40 years. The poor become poorer.
During the 1950s and 1960s the US economy was the strongest it has ever been. During that time we came to dominate the world market. It is also the time when taxation on the super-rich was the highest it has ever been, and Unions were also at their peak fighting for the workers. It was a golden age which created a robust Middle Class. A Middle Class which is now in sharp decline due to the loss of unions and the changing of laws in favor of big business.
No amount of regulation is going to create a perfect capitalism. There will always be excess and inequality. Some fear that regulation will move capitalism into socialism, where the State controls more and more of private business and private life. There certainly needs to be a balance between government regulation and capitalist freedom. And the people of the nation need to be the determiners of how far into socialism we are willing to go.
And this leads us into the second root, which is the way policing is done in America.
The owners of capital have always used the military or the police to keep the system in place. Socialism threatens them and they often respond covertly through politics: undermining the unions, relaxing taxes and antitrust laws. They also respond overtly through the use of police. The police may not even know they are being used as pawns to protect the rich. Certainly one would think the police union would stand with other unions against immoral corporate practices.
Let's take a moment to look at policing in America before we wade into how capitalists and police are intertwined.
Police forces are built upon paramilitary organizational ideas. There is a chain of command. You don't questions your superiors. You follow orders. You look out for your fellow soldiers. There are inherent problems when you use this structure in civilian life.
Some of those problems are lack of oversight and accountability. As well as the creation of an ingrained "us versus them" mentality. Other problems that occur are seeing everyone as an enemy (criminal), closing ranks around problem officers, and the blue brotherhood syndrome.
Accountability is only as good as the leadership. If the commanding officers do not want to hold lower ranks accountable, or even side with them in their bad behaviors then there is no recourse for the "civilians" to take. Outside oversight and accountability can go a long ways in correcting some of these inherent problems.
When you combine a paramilitary organization with an Owner dominated economy then you can see great abuse of power. The police power and the economic powers combined to keep the system working. In some respects this is needed. But if the powers at the top are unjust, corrupt, inept, immoral or just plain apathetic towards others, then the system slowly grinds people down. There is no recourse and no escape for the millions of people trapped at the bottom.
We are seeing the fruits of this dynamic play out today. It is not the first time we have seen it, nor will it me the last. People, on both sides, focus in on one particular aspect of the failing system, but fail to see the underlying faults in the whole system. People see racism in the police force, but fail to see that the police force is only working at the hands of the Owners. The problem is in the way in which people of color are perceived by society in general. And that stereotype is promoted on behalf of the system. This idea was started centuries ago and is ingrained in our culture. Very few of the people who work within the system even see the systemic failures. They may see a few problems, but chalk it up to a racist policeman, an inept business owner, or a lazy worker. They seldom take the time to sit down and piece it all together to understand how the whole system is devised to protect the wealthy and make sure the working person stays in their place.
Because this is a problem with the system and not a problem with a people, or person, there are very few changes that can be made. Going after an individual may feel good for now, but it will not change the system in the long run. Can the system be changed to make a more equitable and fair society? Sure. Do the power-that-be want that to happen? Probably not.