Child Abuse Sanctioned by Christians?

Well, if you’re a parent who’s been given a copy of “To Train Up a Child” by a well-meaning friend/family-member/whatever and told “It’s Christian, so it’s ok,” then that would seem to be the case.

Let me clear the air really quickly on something: I’m not a Christian. Don’t confuse this to think I’m not spiritual; I am. But I’m not a Christian. Now, having said that, I need to continue with a couple of caveats. First of all, I was for a 10-year-period in my life a practicing Christian, a Deacon’s wife, a Sunday School Teacher. I’ve read the Bible. I know it pretty well. Secondly? I’ve known Christians who would absolutely shudder at the “advice” doled out in this book.

Next, I need to tell you, I’ve never considered writing anything in this blogspot that would address Child Abuse; there are more than enough people out there crying out for it to stop that I never felt my voice would add any discernible anything to the fight. However, after reading http://www.examiner.com/article/another-couple-found-guilty-of-murder-for-parenting-by-to-train-up-a-child, I started doing some research. First, I went to Amazon.com and looked up the book. Read the excerpts, then scrolled down through the reviews. Of the 2,662 reviews, 919 of them are 5-star. The rest? 1-star. Not hard to figure out some good press was done on that book when it first published. Then I started surfing the web, and what I found was that, for years now people have been crying out about this book (like this site: http://whynottrainachild.com/2010/04/20/quotes-from-ttuac/).

I’d like to examine two scriptures from the Bible. I read these when I was a practicing Christian, then I studied them. I study everything, really. The first is Proverbs 22:6, and is the basis of the title for this monstrous book: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (NKJV)

This scripture seems simple on the outset — we want to train up our children to be good, right? But it’s oh-so-much-more complex than that! For instance, do we want to train up our children to be critical thinkers? Do we wish to train them up to have the ability to discern, for themselves, the difference between right and wrong? Do we want to train them up to celebrate their compassionate, giving, and sharing natures? Or do we want to train them up to instantly obey anyone “stronger/tougher” than they are? Do we wish to remove from them any ability to make decisions for themselves? Do we wish to teach them meek servility, at the cost of themselves? See? It’s not so simple. Because if we wish to teach them compassion, we have to give them compassion. If we wish to teach them to make choices for themselves, we have to enable them to learn from the failures of incorrect choices, without censure. If we want to show them the difference between right and wrong, we have to let them be wrong, and learn to deal with the outcomes of being wrong. The two different methods of “training up a child” are polar opposites, diametrically opposed to each other.

The next scripture goes hand-in-hand with what the authors of this book purport — and I’d bet you it’s quoted in their book, too. I won’t spend money on this trash, I won’t pay people to continue teaching this drek, so I can only go on quotes I’ve seen, and logical assumptions. The scripture I’m thinking of is Proverbs 13:24: “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” (NKJV). It’s commonly paraphrased as “Spare the rod spoil the child.” You know, when I was a Sunday School teacher, I read something on this that — yep! Caused me to do yet more research. Do you realize the “rod” referred to in this passage is a shepherd’s rod? That’s right — the comparison was being made of a parent as a shepherd, and the rod mentioned is the tool shepherds use to gently guide their stray sheep back into the flock. I remember reading this explanation of this passage, and the author asked “What shepherd in his right mind would ever take the rod and beat his sheep?” We are admonished to discipline our children, in order to be loving parents. However, people have gone too far into equating “discipline” with “punishment.” Simple concept: you do something wrong, there’s a price to pay. My taking your television away from you for a night because you lied to me is discipline. My stripping you down and beating you until you submit to me because you lied to me is abuse. There is a difference, folk.

I can only think of the Christians I know, and have known, shuddering to have their name linked to this outrage. Kind of like thinking all Christians are like the parishioners of Westboro Baptist Church.

I promise, I won’t go on and on about this; I may never revisit this topic. But whoever you are, get the word out. If you’re a parent, and you’re a Christian, go to the Bible. There are so many examples of God’s, and of Christ’s, love. Of Their compassion. Of Their grace. Let grace be the guide for you as a parent, not this drivel that purports to churn out “healthy, well-adjusted children.”

Food Chains

Who doesn’t know what a food chain is? We’re taught in elementary school a very simplified version of food chains, but the truth isn’t really beyond what an elementary school child could assimilate.

Food chains have, at their bottom, species of animals that eat no other species and ends, at the top, with a species that is eaten by no other species. So considering, for instance, domesticated cattle – they’re the bottom of their food chain. They eat no other animal species. Humans, by contrast, are considered the top of every food chain because it’s put forth that we eat all, but are eaten by none. Let’s disregard the tales of tigers, leopards, lions, crocodiles and alligators, sharks, bears, and so on. We like to pat ourselves on the back and declare ourselves so much bigger, better, meaner, and brighter than the animals around us; thus, we declare ourselves the top of the food chain.

The question becomes, what does it matter? If you consider the science of the question, invariably you have to state, we are just another link in the food chain. But because we have opposable thumbs and the ability to lay waste to the entire biological kingdom of this planet, we are capable of preparing for defense against any of the predators natural to our world, and further we are capable of killing any animal, any component, really, of the biological kingdom of this planet, including ourselves – because of these facts, we’re the Apex Predator.

Tracie McMillan wrote an incredibly insightful, and painfully harsh, book called “The American Way of Eating.” In the book she describes her curiosity about how our food goes from the field to the table, and the investigation she undertook to learn this. She worked in the fields of California gathering produce; she worked in Wal Mart in the produce section; she worked in food prep in Applebee’s. She literally followed food from the field to the tables in this book, and what she learned was astounding. For the purposes of this blog, I want to focus on two items she brought to light:

  • Logistics drive grocery chains, not offerings of food
  • The “food desert” of Detroit – and what lead to it

Once upon a time, we were hunter-gatherers. With the advent of knowledge relating to producing crops, we began settling in towns, later in cities. Until roughly the 1700s, the amount of arable land equaled the needs of humans to feed themselves; in other words, we weren’t having a major impact on the lands around us, and were sustaining our own growth on locally available arable land.

Our population began increasing dramatically, as indicated below:

  • 1350 – world population around 370 million, following Black Death
  • 1825 – world population reaches one billion
  • 1927 – world population reaches two billion
  • 1960 – world population reaches three billion
  • 1980 – world population around 4.2 billion
  • 2000 – world population around 6 billion
  • 2020 – estimated world population around 8 billion

In 33 years, between 1927 and 1960, the world population grew by one billion people. One billion people in 33 years. We’re showing population increase trends, now, of about two billion people every 20 years.

The question this raises is, if there’s not more land being produced, how are we feeding all these people? The answer comes in a couple of creative ways:

  • GMOs, or Genetically Modified Organisms, have paved the way to greater crop production per acre of land. These organisms do everything from producing hardier crops to making them more resistant to the weather, insects and pests, and so on
  • Growth hormones and promoters, in the form of steroids and antibiotics, are used to increase production of livestock for grocery shelves
  • Grocery chains which are heavily invested in infrastructure – transportation and power grids, to name a couple – to ensure their products reach the most people

In essence, specifically in the United States of America, people can live pretty much anywhere and find a way to purchase nearly any foods. Tropical fruit? No problem! It’s been shipped up and is waiting for you to buy it! Want buffalo? Just hop on the internet and you’re sure to find someone nearby selling it! A simple search took me to www.thebuffaloguys.com, which turned in results of 13 retailers in Tennessee, eight in Connecticut, none in California and  Oregon, and 30 in Ohio. However, fear not, you can place your orders online!

What all this means is that we don’t really have any idea what it takes to get the food on our plates, which we consume with abandon and glee. Our farms are huge industries selling crops and livestock for big-buck companies who are heavily invested in infrastructure which leads us to … politics. Lobbying. A person in Georgia is likely to pay roughly the same price for chicken breasts as a person in California, because the grocery chains have ensured pricing by cutting out smaller markets. And that means that if you don’t make enough money, you’re left to hit the cheap shit on the shelves in the interior of the stores. Susan Powter, back in the ‘90s, urged people to stay away from boxed, packaged foods. There’s been debate and controversy over whether she was serious in her urgings to get people to eat healthier, or if she was just in it for the buck, but her message was a good one regardless. Want to know how grocery stores determine what goes where? Check this out – http://read.bi/njIBhK. The bottom line is that a great portion of our population can only afford the cheap, fast foods, prepackaged and canned and filled with who-knows-what. Their cost determinants include not only the cash price of items, but also the time investment in obtaining and preparing foods.

And this means increased obesity, higher-than-good-for-you sodium consumption, and escalated medical costs associated with food-related illnesses. We won’t even get into the controversy over whether genetically modified or antibiotic-infused foods are good for you. More and more of our society is being plagued with one form or another of gluten intolerance; interesting, isn’t it, that in the last 50 years our wheat use has expanded to become one of the primary fillers in many foods? I mean, who’d think you’d have wheat in hot dogs, right? Yeah, check in to “cereal binders.” Or “extenders.” Both cereal-based, both containing wheat. There are some natural products (latex, anyone?) which generate allergies with use – it’s possible wheat is one of them. But wheat is so cheap to produce, and it certainly costs less than the food it’s being used to “fill” or “extend!” Using fillers like this, producers are able to get more bang for their buck, thus earning them more of the almighty dollar.

Now, let’s look at Detroit. Between heavy governmental mismanagement, auto unions that refused to budge on their demands, taxes that kept rising as the population kept decreasing, we now have a city that is, literally, in ruins (http://content.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,1882089,00.html has a fascinating and saddening slideshow about this). Detroit has also become what’s called a food desert. What’s a food desert? I’m glad you asked! A food desert is essentially an area where healthy, sustaining food is difficult to obtain, and even more difficult for people without access to automobiles.

Tracie McMillan outlined some of the problems facing Detroit, and that led me to a somewhat intensive research program online, learning about some of the issues facing Detroiters. Here’s a summation of what I found:

  • Grocery chains have determined that more stores in the heavily-hit and poorest parts of Detroit would be financially unfeasible; the cost-to-profit ratio is too high for them to wish to place their stores
    • Much of Detroit is inner-city roads, inhibiting easy access for transportation
    • Abandoned auto factories and homes are unsellable in many instances, as their “ownership” is currently in question, which makes space for placing supermarkets or chain groceries at a premium
    • The city of Detroit has obtained the title on many of these properties via tax defaults as their owners abandoned them and fled the city
  • Fringe stores such as convenience stores, liquor stores, party stores, dollar stores, and other such retailers have enabled themselves to accept food stamps by offering a comparatively small selection of canned and prepackaged foods high in salt, fat and sugar – this boosts their overall sales
    • Fringe stores and fast food stores proliferate, they’re very nearly on every corner
    • Food costs of food items in fringe stores are higher than their counterparts found in supermarkets and grocery chains, as the fringe stores buy in lower bulk
    • Foods in these stores can sit on the shelves forever, or until they’re sold, regardless of perishable dates
    • Detroit is one of the most expensive places, anywhere, to own and operate a vehicle, leaving nearly one-fifth of the entire population on foot
    • Detroit has not, since they dismantled their railcar system in 1956, had a good, fully functioning public transit system

In short, it’s nearly impossible to find good food for an amount most people can afford in Detroit. But the residents of the city are taking matters into their own hands. On abandoned automobile lots, many residents began creating gardens, planted in raised beds to keep them off the floors where toxic fluids had spilled and collected. Many of these gardens are and were begun as cooperative efforts; you work, you benefit. But Detroiters involved in these efforts also sold some of their produce to local residents. Naturally the government got involved; because these foods weren’t being taxed, the government responded by passing laws that no new structures could be built on these old factory floors.

It goes on. In essence, Detroiters have responded to their crisis of low-cost access to healthy foods by dedicating themselves to becoming a giant urban garden. Many projects are underway to kick this off, including but not limited to initiatives by Greening of Detroit, Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, the Detroit Eastern Market, and others. Michigan State University has even donated money, payable over a three-year time period, for a “food system innovation program that would promote economic development, land recovery, and food security.” (http://www.urbangardensweb.com/2013/01/19/will-detroit-get-worlds-largest-urban-farm/)

What is the point of all this rambling? Simple.

We’re killing ourselves, in yet another way, so that big companies can make a buck. We’re willfully ignoring food-production practices that have, in some cases, been proven harmful, all to grow food faster and provide more – more that grocery chains can “corner the market” on, by managing the transportation and logistics of food distribution. And let’s not even talk about the people involved, the ones out in the fields picking the foods, and how their diets are, by and large, less nutritious and more costly for them. We’ve been shown by the city of Detroit, if not others, that urbanization of food production can work, and can benefit the community.

In the rambling above, I’m making the argument that, in our food production and consumption, grocery chains are the Apex Predators. And I’m saying that we need to wise up. We need to be seeking local alternatives to shopping in these large chains. Initiatives are under way in many communities to “vote with the fork,” or to only purchase foods from local garden cooperatives. That’s a start. But we need to be tracing back the politics behind these mammoth institutions, and find ways to dismantle them. Mom & Pop shops are largely a nostalgic item from a past era; yet these shops were once a cornerstone of communities. They were the places where Joe Average got to hang out a bit with Jane Anybody, chatting about the weather, the family, so on and so on. They were the places where youngsters began learning about responsibility, being hired on to sweep, or stock shelves, or make deliveries. In short, it is my surmise that they were the parts of the communities that made the communities. In addition? We ate better!

Folk, there’s a lot of information out there. Do the research for yourself. Understand what you’re putting on your fork, and thereby into your mouth. Open your mouth, where you feel it necessary, to invite change. I say growth can relearn a pattern from an earlier era. Growth can embrace something that worked, giving over convenience for a stronger community. Really. You need to check into this.

So you say you want a revolution …

My darling husband felt that the topic of “Revolution” was a natural follow-up to my first post, since Jeremy Paxson was able to prompt Russell Brand to admit that yes, he does indeed wish for a revolution. However, is “Revolution” necessarily a bad thing? My thinks on this will be spelled out, below.

My oh-so-great-and-wonderful guide for word meaning, http://www.merriamwebster.com, has the following to say about Revolution:

Revolution

  1. The usually violent attempt by many people to end the rule of one government and start a new one
  2. A sudden, extreme, or complete change in the way people live, work, etc
  3. The action of moving around something in a path that is similar to a circle

In the context Mr. Paxson seemed to be using, revolution would entail definition number one. However, I believe that the term Russell Brand would apply to it would fall under definition number 2. I’ll study, talk, and think about both of these, for the sake of argument and debate, of course.

First of all – Our country was founded as an entity separate from the English monarchy via a revolution. This is ancient history, right? The American Revolution was, in fact, violent. The attempt was successful; we made victory for the English so very costly that they chose to accede victory to us, rather than continue pouring money into a recalcitrant group of upstarts.

Secondly, current events and recent history show that we’re very much dissatisfied, or at least a large portion of our population is. For instance, politicall pundits believe “Massive riots, huge crime waves expected in many US cities” (http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2013/10/22/330721/massive-riots-expected-in-many-us-cities/). Riots. Here? In our nation? Actually, for such a young nation, we’ve had a lot. A blog posted by forensiccolleges.net states “…it looks like all you need is the right combination of unhappy people, unfortunate circumstances, and an anger at society or the system at large that has been allowed to simmer to the boiling point.” While many of the riots, especially in the latter half of the 20th century, were race-related, they were often also related to the handling of specific incidents by our public servants, and the governments to which they belong. For instance, the Rodney King riots got out of hand not because a black man was mistreated, but because a black man was recorded being brutally beaten by local police officers. It wasn’t simply a case of race tension, it was members of a local government behaving in an inhuman and inhumane manner. Today, we have financial tension as our major catalyst, but this tension is growing, not shrinking. I believe a large current of anger is currently growing toward “the system.” I fear we are well past the simmering stage and hurriedly working our way toward boiling.

Based partially on current life and standards of living, listed below, I say we’re on the edge of a revolution. The events, specifically, I’m thinking of, are:

  1. Arizona is but one state where citizens have made noises about seceding from the United States (which in fact the 14th Amendment, ratified after the Civil War, made illegal)
  2. Between illegal immigrants, and our ever-growing lower class, we have a class disparity that is enough to topple both conventional thinking, and conventional ways of doing business – in short, if you court “popular opinion,” the lower-class, lesser-educated people will have more votes to speak for their opinions than can be generated among the higher-class, higher educated people currently residing in our country, simply by virtue of the numbers each can bring to the board
  3. Government cuts of benefits as terms for “increased” benefits expire – food stamps, anyone?
  4. We have all but lost our middle class – to outsourcing, to layoffs, to businesses going out of business because they don’t have people to purchase their products – and this means the core of our economic system is all-but-lost
  5. As jobs are lost, as people are giving up on retaining or regaining what had been their comfort zone, their way of life, depression and frustration are becoming endemic, which affects how these people manage themselves and the relationships with those around them
  6. People are seeking to leave our country – not because of a desire to “be” somewhere else, so much as a desire to “be away” from the United States

Now – caveat. These are observations I’m making, based on reading “Trending” reports. None of them are scientific; if you ask me to prove my case, I’m going to have to go back and research and find where I read this, and this can go back a couple of years. Some of it I gained in Soc 101, some of it I gained in news reports, some of it I gained by talking with my neighbors. Some of it I’ve gained from personal experience. So understand and accept that there is no scientific basis, but there damned sure is a real-world basis for each of the assertions I’m making.

The bottom line is that, at least in the United States, we have a very large pool of people who are becoming disenfranchised. We have an even larger pool of people who are poorly-educated, for the most part, and happily take out whatever the government gives to them. Sadly, however, we forget that what the government gives, the government can also take away. So let’s talk about a couple of scenarios, ok?

  • Scenario One
    Joe Average, who was a mid-level manager for an automobile production plant, was an average and unassuming employee. He went to work every day, punched his card, did his time, and helped keep things running smoothly. One day, due to Union deliberations and the burgeoning export of jobs, he lost his job. His plant shut down. Joe had no college degree – he’d brought himself up from a factory worker, he’d done his time, he’d paid his dues, and had elevated himself to comfortable middle-class status without having to take time off from work to go to school. Yet, when he lost his job, all of a sudden the ability to gain like jobs was largely taken from him. Why? He had no degree, to begin with. The industry he’d been a part of had shrunk, within his region, and trying to move required he have a job to go to, but he had no degree … so over the course of a couple of months to a year, he lost his home, and his ability to support his family. In desperation, during these times, he took multiple lower-paying jobs, he scraped by with little to no sleep, he moved his family into a reduced state of living, he liquidated any savings he might have been able to generate … and he watched his viability as a human being, as a man, a husband, a father, a provider, slowly diminish.
  • Scenario Two
    Jeffrey R. Youth was born in the ‘hood. He was one of five children birthed to his mother; his mother knew a couple of the childrens’ “baby-daddies” but didn’t know which one was Jeffrey’s. Jeffrey’s mom didn’t push him to succeed, she rather taught him how to hoodwink the government, to get money for free. Her attention for him, among the rest of her five children, was minimal, and she relied instead on handouts brought to the home by successive baby-daddies and by government handou. Babydaddy #1 brings the TV, Babydaddy #3 brings the alcohol for entertainment … and so on. If Jeffrey’s mother gave Jeffrey any indication that he could succeed, it was through physical sports – there was his way to bring himself (and Mom!) out of poverty. Jeffrey’s youth was spent being exposed to gangbangers, drug pushers, and other violent and “unsavory” types. In high school, just before Jeffrey quit, he was injured during Physical Education – blew out his knee. Jeffrey’s dreams of pro sports died, and Jeffrey had no direction in which to go.

Do both these scenarios seem as though I’m making them up? I’m not. Both are based on relationships I had with people. Both are true, both are real, and both don’t even begin to touch the surface of what these people experienced. What options are there, for them? Aside from whatever the government spurs itself to dole out – so each member of said government can keep his or her kushy job – what hope do these two believe exists?

Many people lead parochial lives. Their knowledge base consists solely of what they’re exposed to in their immediate vicinity. For those who were born and raised amidst affluence, they know only affluence. All their friends, their social contacts, their day-to-day interactions revolve around the lifestyle of the affluent. Conversely, for those born and raised amid poverty, all they know is poverty – unless, of course, they’re able to raise themelves out of it. My point is that it is impossible for a person born and raised in affluence to see, experience, and understand the issues facing those born and raised in poverty, and vice verse. However, the people who are supposed to be representing the middle and lower classes are – c’mon, you know where I’m going – affluent. The policies they enact don’t actually speak to the needs of their constituents, they speak to the affluent person’s desire to retain power and position. Therefore they are more often in the nature of “Here, take this and shut up – oh, and vote for me! See? I’m working for you!”

I say, again, revolution is on its way. However, we, each of us, have the ability to determine which path it will take. Will it be the violent, bloody affair that established our nation? Or will it be an intellectual renaissance, sweeping the nation at large and urging the implementation of change that can help us all grow? Folk, I’m here to tell you, we do hold the ability to shape that in our hands.

How, you ask? How can I, how can one person, shape this change? You know, I’ve noticed a very interesting trend. Put bluntly, “the squeaky wheel gets the oil.” The noisy ones are the ones that everyone rushes to placate. They’re the ones whose votes are bought, in order to keep them quiet, to keep them in their place. They’re the ones who hold out their hands and scream “Gimme! Mine! I deserve it!” Meanwhile, back at the farm, we have the people who look around with their eyes open, who see that this state can not continue. But they’re weighed down with repression, and depression, and a sense of “Well, I’m only one person, what can I do?” So they bury themselves in their daily lives, and hope that things will magically get better, and they become the quiet ones, those whose votes don’t matter, aren’t sought out.

We can change this. We can begin to speak up. We can write letters to our representatives, our congressmen, our president, even. We can say, “I’ve had enough. I’m awake now, and I want change.” We can become the noisy ones, working to implement and institute change that benefits us, and benefits our neighbors, and benefits those around us.

I don’t have all the answers; hell, sometimes I don’t even know the right questions to ask. But there are ideas out there – ideas we should be courting. Oh, like for instance, the idea that all politicians up on Capitol Hill should be held to the same laws, regulations, etc as the rest of us. Ideas such as tax breaks, rather than penalties, for corporations who have all their facilites in the States, to encourage the regrowth of jobs in the middle class. Ideas such as community farming, of all things, to get rid of the logistical power-houses that our current grocery chains have become. Ideas such as clean fuel, which costs less. There are so many ideas out there. I say we have the right, we have the duty, and we have the privilege of seeking to try to bring about the best of these ideas. I say we can go against the financial power-houses that are our current lobbyists. I say that to do otherwise is to accept a bloody revolution, rather than one that can bring about positive change.

And I say that willfully remaining blind to all that’s going on around us is agreeing to a more bloody revolution.

Riding on Russell Brand’s Coattails

For quite some time, I’ve wanted to write this blog, for the reasons stated on the home page. I just couldn’t, however, find that one blog subject that would let me launch in the manner I wanted to. Warning! This is what one might call a “Wall’o’Text.” It’s long. There is much in it to read, to absorb, and to make your own statements about. Because, folk, I found that first blog subject.

Enter Russell Brand, and his interview with Jeremy Paxson (23 October 2013) [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YR4CseY9pk]. If you must see the full interview, here’s that link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xGxFJ5nL9gg.

I’m aware of Russell Brand – that sexy, funny, irreverent actor that people like to underestimate, all while he’s smiling and posting his earnings in the bank. I’d be dishonest if I said that I’ve thought more of him than simply – he’s an actor. He’s a comedien. I like his style. Then, he opens his mouth to debate and dialogue with Jeremy Paxson, and I’m absolutely blown away. Without doubt, in my opinion, we have allowed into our homes one of the most gifted, passionate, and eloquent speakers I’ve heard in quite a while. Interestingly, the Paxson interview was Jeremy’s attempt to put Mr. Brand on the spot, to call him out for stepping above his station, to reduce him, I believe, back to that “actor/comedien” who should know and maintain his place. Fortunately, Mr. Brand was not only able to meet that challenge, but to rise above it in a way that didn’t cast aspersions back on Mr. Paxson, but rather reflected a simple statement of “I am, and what I am is not contingent on what you believe I am/should be/can not be.” Brilliant, bravo!

Further, Mr. Brand made many statements I think we should pay attention to, and explore in greater depth. Since this is my blog, and that’s what I wish to do – that is exactly what I shall do. Note: In order to get the full story, I urge you to watch one or both of the above clips. When I refer to statements, I am referring exclusively to the first link, above.

Mr. Paxson poked Russell a couple of times on issues of “Authority.” At 02:27 into the interview, after Jeremy asked him “How do you have any authority to talk about politics, then?” Russell responded with the following: “Well I don’t get my authority from this pre-existing paradigm which is quite narrow and only serves a few people; I look elsewhere for alternatives that might be of service to humanity.” Later, at 10:22 into the interview, Russell stated: “So if we can engage that feeling, instead of some moment of lachrymose sentimentality, trot it out on the TV for people to pore over, emotional porn – If we can engage that feeling, and change things, why wouldn’t we? Why is that naive? Why is that not my right because I’m an actor. I mean, I’ve taken the right. I don’t need the right from you. I don’t need the right from anybody. I’m taking it.”

What is he saying, here? Aside from the engagement of feeling, what Russell Brand is stating is his right to personal empowerment. I would venture to also say, his responsibility to be personally empowered, to not rely on the thoughts, systems, or determinations of people around him. He’s moved away from the feel-good statement of “You have value because you should have value” to saying, “I have value because I have determined, for myself, that I have value.” Is this not something that is within the grasp of each of us? Is it not, furthermore, the responsibility of each of us to make this determination, and be able to stand on this statement? I believe it is. However, saying it is and achieving it are two separate things, and issues for a later blog. Suffice it to say, Russell Brand made this declaration, he made it in a manner that left it unassailable, and he gives the appearance of saying “No big, mate! This is what is, regardless of anything else!” Simple. Kudos, oh, so many kudos for this, Mr. Brand!

During the interview, Jeremy many times tried to shake Russell’s conviction that his way is the correct way; he tried, vainly, to build support for the traditional belief that we should all work within the currently-existing paradigm to try to enact change. For instance, regarding who Russell Brand was, and making a link that should define who he is now, this relegating him to his “proper” place, Jeremy Paxson said at 02:27, “So you’re blaming the political class for the fact that you had a drug problem?” Russell responded with the following: “No, no no, I’m saying, that I was part of the social and economic class that is underserved by the current political system, and drug addiction is one of the problems it creates when you have the huge, underserved, impoverished populations; people get drug problems, and also don’t feel like they want to engage with the current political system because they see that it doesn’t work for them. They see that it makes no difference. They see that they’re not served.” Whoa. Is this truth? Ha, take any Social Sciences 101 class, and you’ll see that an underclass is always extant; and that many social problems, including drunkenness or drug abuse, are also always extant. Government policies which once paid people more money to stay at home and pop out children than they could make by getting a job have created an enormous population increase of just these people. And we have the audacity to wonder what’s wrong with our country?

At 01:08 Jeremy Paxson states, in response to his own question re: “How do you think these people get power?” “They get power by being voted in.” Then, at 02:53 – again, Mr. Paxson is trying to state that we must work within the currently-existing system to enact change, says: “Of course it doesn’t work for them, if they don’t bother to vote!” I have to say, I loved Russell’s response – and the look on Jeremy’s face as he delivered it was priceless, too! “Jeremy, my darling, I’m not saying that … the apathy doesn’t come from us the people, the apathy comes from the politicians – they are apathetic to our needs, they’re only interested in servicing the needs of corporations.” Russell clearly pointed out the problem that absolutely does exist – the currently-existing system works to keep itself in power. I’ll discuss, at some point in the future, the reality of push-pull systems – what’s given, what’s taken, and what’s all a bargain. However, two things I do wish to point out with these two statements:

  • Our vote, actually, does not matter. How many elections have we watched where the “popular vote” was overridden and ignored by the electoral college? Given the fact that a popular vote can be obliviated by this body of know-better-than-you politicians, what truly is the common American’s impetus to cast a vote?
  • If we are governed by people who work for themselves, rather than – as was originally intended, a governing body of the people, by the people, and for the people – why should we try? What is our motivation to attempt to better ourselves, and those around us, when we are greeted by the very people who are supposed to be watching out for our needs with this level and degree of apathy? As Russell Brand stated, at 00:57, “The burden of proof is on the people with the power …”

At 08:09, Mr. Brand stated “Within the existing paradigm, the changes are not dramatic enough. Not radical enough. So you can well understand public disturbances and public dissatisfaction when there are not genuine changes, and genuine alternatives being offered. I say when there is a genuine alternative, and a genuine option, then vote for that.” How many of us have longed, longed for that genuine alternative? I loved Jeremy’s attempt, yet again, to defend the status quo, at 07:10, and Russell’s response: “It’s possible as human beings they’re simply overwhelmed by the scale of the problem.” Mr. Brand stated, “Not really … well, possibly, it might be that, but that’s just sort of semantics really, whether they’re overwhelmed by it, or tacitly maintaining it …” He doesn’t give our current system high marks for caring about their people; rather, he shows them as many of us believe they are – holding on to a power system that works for them, that keeps them the “Big Dogs” while keeping everyone beneath them in a reduced state. At 08:30, Jeremy said “… By the time somebody comes along you might think worth voting for, it may be too late.” Russell’s response was, again, eloquent, and on-target: “I don’t think so, because the time is now, this movement’s already occurring, it’s happening everywhere, where a ton of communication is instantaneous and there are communities all over the world – The Occupy movement made a difference, even if only in that it introduced to the public lexicon the idea of the 1% versus the 99%. People for the first time, in a generation, are aware of massive corporate and economic exploitation. These things are not nonsense, and these subjects are not being addressed. No one’s doing anything about tax havens. No one’s doing about their political affiliations and financial affiliations of the conservative party. Until people start addressing things that are actually real, why wouldn’t I be facetious? Why would I take it seriously? Why would I encourage a constituency of young people that are absolutely indifferent, to vote?” Thank you, Russell, for speaking for us! I would keep you our spokesman and representative for this alone … except there are some things you believe that I am not entirely on-board with. More on them later!

I’ve long been a subscriber to the belief, myself, that if you want to change the system, you must work within the system to bring about that change. Mr. Brand’s statements have caused me to sharply reconsider that stance. Why? Because while I’ve given mouth-service to the belief that “If you don’t vote, you have no right to criticize,” I’ve also, in the last several elections, found myself unable to vote. Put simply, as Jerry Garcia stated, “Choosing the lesser of two evils is still choosing evil.” The last several American elections have been, for me, a situation where I would be forced to choose what I saw as the “lesser” of two evils. I have been presented with politicians who make promises I know they won’t keep, where one says this that I like, but so much more I dislike; the other says this that I dislike, and all this other that I dislike even more! What’s a simple person, like me, to do?

What can we do, what are our options as Joe and Josephine Anybody, 101 Anywhere Street, Common-Man-America, 01010? Russell has some ideas on this, as well. Again, some I’m not entirely in agreement with, as I’ll explain. Some, again however, I absolutely think are completely on-target.

A system, so says Russell Brand, should have don’ts. Things it shouldn’t do. At 00:49, he says “But here’s the things you shouldn’t do: [ticking off on fingers] Shouldn’t destroy the planet, shouldn’t create massive economic disparity, shouldn’t ignore the needs of the people.” Well, what we have now has all these elements, and I don’t know if there’s any more poignant statement of defeat than this. Incidentally, I’m not a “Greenie” or a “Tree Hugger” or any of that ilk. I do, however, believe that we have a responsibility to ourselves, and to future generations, to start being far better caretakers of our home than we’ve been thus far.

At 03:53 an interesting couple of statements were made. Jeremy opened by saying “I’m not having a go at you because you want a revolution, many people want a revolution. But I’m asking you what it would be like?” Russell responded with the following – again, a don’t, which he then expanded on: “Well, I think what it won’t be like is a huge disparity between rich and poor, where 300 Americans have the same amount of wealth as the 85 bill-million poorest Americans, where there is an exploited and underserved underclass that are being continually ignored; where welfare is slashed, while Cameron and Osborne go to court to defend the right of bankers to continue receiving their bonuses.” At 4:25 Jeremy was still pushing Russell to define his vision of what should be: “You talk vaguely about revolution – what’s the scheme? What is it?” Russell responded with the following: “I think a socialist egalitarian system based on the massive redistribution of wealth. Heavy taxation of corporations and massive responsibility for energy companies and any companies that are exploiting the environment. And I think they should be ta … I think the very concept of profit should be hugely reduced. David Cameron says profit isn’t a dirty word, I say that profit is a filthy word, because wherever there is profit there is also deficit, and this system currently doesn’t address these ideas.”

Here’s where I ran into a couple of problems. I both liked and disliked his statement – in order to see why, I’ll break it apart.

  • A Socialist Egalitarian System
    Let’s define these two words, first. Both definitions, for ease of reference, come from the Merriam-Webster dictionary (merriam-webster.com).

    • Socialism – A way of organizing a society in which major industries are owned and controlled by the government rather than by individual people and companies
    • Egalitarianism – A social philosophy advocating the removal of inequalities among people

Why are these, in my opinion, “bad”? Well, for Socialism, you’re saying replace a drive for personal success with one where nothing can be achieved beyond a mundane existence by the common person. Everyone will be either in the government, thus a part of the “ruling elite,” or they will be subject to the whims of said government. I absolutely do not believe that we can seek out personal success in such an environment. Then, you add in to it a “removal of the inequalities among people.” Well, I hate to break it to you, but inequalities exist. Someone who has a 210 IQ (and don’t get me started on the IQ topic!) will always have a greater ability to learn than someone with a 120 IQ. This is fact. Someone who has a natural talent toward writing will always have an advantage over someone who struggles with reading and writing comprehension. I absolutely do not believe that an artificial removal of inequalities is the answer. So what do I think is the answer? Exactly what I pointed out above – an inherent recognition that what we are is what we are, regardless of what we are told we should be. Under the system promoted by Russell, I do not believe it would be possible for him to have become the famed person he is. He would have been castigated for operating outside the norm; his talents, his brilliance, would either have been co-opted by this governmental body to keep him quiet, or he would have been quieted in other ways, and we would have lost the innate self-inspired brilliance that I do believe currently marks him as separate, and inequal, to many of his fellow humans.

  • Massive redistribution of wealth
    Real-life example: Through a horrible legal decree, I lost custody of my two children following a divorce. Not only did I lose custody, however, I also lost all rights to visitation in any form, while still being nailed with the legal responsibilities and obligations. Why did I lose this battle, to this degree? Because after the divorce, I could not afford an attorney, while my ex-husband could. At this time I was 25 years old; I’d never lived on my own, managed my own finances, nothing. I was, put simply, struggling. A time of homelessness was followed by a period of working three jobs, saving money to become a “good mom” again, to earn the right to be in my childrens’ lives. During this time, since I was single, I was taxed at a rate of about 37%. What does this mean? This means that the government decided, for me, how much of my hard-won and hard-earned wages should be redistributed for other things – things like infrastructure maintenance. And programs to “feed the hungry” who weren’t working three jobs. And programs to provide medical care for people who’d never saved toward their own retired expenses. And so on. Does this sound harsh, my opinion? Sure it does. But the truth is that beyond infrastructure, what a person earns should never, ever be taken from their hands and arbitrarily given to others. Why? If I wish to give, it is my right, my responsibility, and my privilege to decide to whom I will give. In a nutshell. At the point you take my money and tell me I have to reduce the amount sent to my own children, to care for others’ children, I have a problem. Let’s take it a step further, though. Let’s assume that I write that great novel that sells billions of copies, and I become massively wealthy from this. Are you truly going to tell me you, or anyone else, has the inherent right to take any of that money away from me, and determine how it’ll be spread around? Again, I have a problem with that. Mr. Brand, are you telling me you honestly believe the government – any government – has the right to take a portion of your earnings, which you have worked for, and decide arbitrarily they should go to this person, over that person, over any person or cause you would willingly choose to support? Think about it.
  • Heavy taxation of corporations
    From Dailycaller.com (http://dailycaller.com/2012/10/01/study-high-us-corporate-tax-rate-hinders-growth-drives-jobs-overseas/) An analysis by the Cato Institute ranks the United States fourth among 90 countries for the highest corporate tax rate. The overall rate of 35.6 percent “is almost twice the average rate for the 90 countries studied, and it is also the highest rate among the major industrial nations,” the study says. “These results underscore the need for U.S. policymakers to tackle corporate tax reform.”Put simply, we can rail about the “tax havens” sought out by companies – and justifiably, in my opinion, we can also rail about the “profit-over-everything” mentality that is currently enjoyed by most corporations – but we can not deny the fact that higher taxes will, absolutely, drive corporations to find escape. After all, if you’re in the business of making money … well, that’s your goal, right? What do I see as a viable alternative? We should begin making tax concessions to companies who close up their overseas operations and bring jobs back to the states. Any economist will tell you a society must have a happy, healthy, and productive middle-class in order to be successful. Currently, we do not have that. What we have is a very small upper-class and a ginormous lower class who don’t have money to spend. Offer companies tax breaks for bringing their operations – and jobs! – back home. Will there still be abuse? Of course. History has shown that any society is rife with abuse. But allow people to make their voices heard by 1) having a buck to spend and 2) having a choice as to where to spend their buck. As things exist, this is impossible; most of us barely have the means to survive, paycheck to paycheck, because we’re struggling to find jobs which just don’t exist – because our companies and corporations have set themselves up overseas. In addition, I believe a higher tax burden should be placed on companies which are based in the States and yet have their operations overseas.
  • Massive responsibility for energy companies and any energy companies that are exploiting the environment
    I’m actually in agreement with this – but I’d expand it to be also inclusive of companies, in general, that are exploiting the current people and policies of our nation. It’s all tied up together – if we don’t have the ability to protect and care for our home, we likely also don’t have the ability to protect and care for ourselves. Or, conversely, if caring for ourselves is such a struggle that it overrides any other concern, why will we care about our environment? I believe change begins at the bottom, not the top. As we know, the fat cats are happy. It’s the rest of us, who are scrabbling by our fingernails to hold on to some semblance of normalcy, that will eventually stand up and say “That’s it. Enough. I’m done.”
  • Very concept of profit should be reduced
    This, I disagree with. Perhaps we can rewrite the concept. But the heart of humanity is, as with all other animals – “What’s in it for me?” Many would like to argue that altruism exists. I say it doesn’t. I say, anything we do up to and including taking care of our neighbor is for selfish reasons. I say that we derive pleasure, or satisfaction, or a sense of self-worth out of what we choose to do, and what we choose not to do. I say that attempting to abolish this, rather than working within it to bring about change, is attempting to rewrite human nature, rather than helping our inherent nature work for us, and bring about positive change for ourselves, and for those around us.

Naturally, all of the above are just one person’s views – and should be taken as such. In other words? Barely worth the electronic medium they’re written on.

At 05:08, in response to Jeremy’s prodding about how administrators for a changed government should be chosen, and what this body should be called, the following conversation took place: “Jeremy, don’t ask me to sit here, in an interview with you, in a bloody hotel room, and devise a global Utopian system. I’m merely pointing out that the current … (interrupted by Jeremy Paxson at 05:16)

05:16 Jeremy Paxson “You are calling for a revolution!”

Brand 05:18 “Yes. Absolutely. Abso … I’m calling for change. I’m calling for genuine alternatives.”

Why would we not be frustrated? Why would we not wish a change? Why wouldn’t frustration lead, in so many, to anger, to a sense of futility that drives rage?

I believe we must seek alternatives. I believe that we must strive to break down our current system, then say, “Ok. How can we rebuild this so it’s better, so it’s viable, so it’s realistic, so it reaches the people it’s being designed for?” But further – how can we create a system that will catch its own errors? Our system is full of errors – two parties with exclusion of anyone else. A “ruling class” that lives separate from those it’s purported to stand for. A government that continues to grow, never dissolving or removing portions of itself that are no longer functional. And so on, and so on. As Russell said, at 06:47, “…there are people with alternative ideas that are far better qualified than I am, and far better qualified, more importantly, than the people that are currently doing that job …” I think we need to be seeking out these people, hearing their voices, actually listening when they say, “This can’t work.” We need to find them and ask them their opinions on what can be changed to make it work.

Russell spoke (statement at 08:35) of the young people; however, you don’t have to be young to be disillusioned, to be disenfranchised. I remember, in about the first grade, teachers making pronouncements of doom about how we were going to become a society that would have no middle class. I recall, distinctly, wondering why this should matter to me? And I recall, with complete detail, watching it happen. Watching homes across the nation be lost because people lost their jobs, and couldn’t find replacements. I’ve seen it happen, not been born in the aftermath. I want change. I want hope for the future, for my children. I want to find a way to build the answers, to go forward with a vision that enriches my life – and your life, and the lives of those around us.

At 09:50, Jeremy asks, “Do you see any hope?” Russell responded with the following: “Oh yeah, totally, there’s gonna be a revolution, it’s totally going to happen. I ain’t got a flicker of doubt, this is the end. This is time to wake up.” I don’t know if we have any choice, any more, but to wake up. But we do have a choice on the paths we take to bring about change. And we have a responsibility to be heard, to speak, to shout, to sing, and to say “I am.”