Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A New Violence and WMD (Weapon of Mass Destruction)

An Introduction to the Arsenal:
Yes, I have met the enemy and I can assure you he is us. I wrote about it in the book Looking Back: History through the eyes of those who lived it. I have seen weapons of mass destruction stockpiled for human doom. I have walked through a secret location with a military escort in a place in Siberia where a decommissioning facility was being built, a place that I could never find again and had better not. I have sat in the corner of a restaurant in Russia with an American Commander holding a laptop connected to God-knows-where while he sorted through its data to find some things that had recently been declassified so he could show me; there were some things he couldn't show me. The large shells that held chemical weapons were about my size; the smaller ones that would turn the Super Bowl into a morgue, were about the size of wine bottles. I have stood in assemblies holding two wine bottles and wearing a gas mask in order to make a point.

But now I have identified another kind of violence and even more scary weapon of mass destruction. It was revealed while doing some new research. My advice: be afraid; be very afraid for this weapon is a heat seeking predator. Why is it so dangerous? Because it is 'friendly fire'; it's constructed so as to do the most damage in short bursts; it isn't aimed at an enemy but at one of our own. It's a stealth weapon that can come out of nowhere and take away your life. Yes it could happen to you in your fifteen minutes of fame and your six degrees of separation. What is it?

The media.

The Mission: Human Suffering

Suffering is one of those common denominators and levelers for all of humanity. Humans know misery; humans suffer. Suffering comes in many forms: physical maladies that cause bodily pain, mental anguish, psychic wounding, imaginal fears, ecological dilemmas, circumstantial misfortune, and self inflicted injury or defeat. Some suffering appears to be accidental or resulting from particular twists of fate. Some suffering is wielded for political reasons, some for profit.

One may be born into poverty which appears to be a geographical accident of birth; one may be born with deformity or acquire a handicap that sometimes is genetic and sometimes an acquired calamity; one may be subject to many kinds of accidents and mishaps through a lifetime; risk taking required by culture may elevate the incidence of accidents leading to unfortunate outcomes. And certainly these misfortunes are hard to comprehend or assimilate.

We ask “why?” Why has a particular circumstance visited one person and not another? We search for meaning in suffering because we do not want to believe in its randomness or senselessness. Even when misery is an accident of nature in some way, it is not easy to accept and only the most spiritually advanced among us can embrace it. I only knew two: a nun who taught meditation, founder of a spiritual retreat center who held gratitude for her creeping blindness as it assisted in her quest for enlightenment. No longer able to see the outside world, she was forced to focus on the internal one and this greatly accelerated her spiritual growth. Ram Dass has said of his stroke that limited his movement; he had to learn to stand still to know the Presence.

We affix blame when misfortune visits. We have blamed fate, circumstances, ourselves, God, karma, luck, Satan, the gods and goddesses and more through time. We tend to link character to fortune: ‘How could this happen; she is such a good person? She doesn’t deserve this.’ We sometimes try to link character to deserving dark times. When misfortune befalls someone we don’t like we declare facetiously: ‘It couldn’t have happened to a nicer person.’

The kind of suffering that is far more difficult to comprehend, for even the most tepidly moral person, is suffering heaped upon someone deliberately by another person. And the worst of those is the individual who with malice, plots in order to heap suffering on another for undeserved gain or something for which they have no claim or entitlement.

But there is another kind of suffering that is perpetrated upon another that constitutes the most vile purpose of all: entertainment. There have been many dark figures in history who have deliberately heaped suffering upon others: Hitler, Stalin, Bin Laden, Ivan the Terrible, come to mind. But mostly their reasons were political. There is, however, one famous figure in history known for inflicting suffering for sheer entertainment: Vlad the Impaler. According to the records, atrocities committed by Vlad to at least eighty thousand people include torturing, burning, skinning, roasting, and boiling people, feeding people the flesh of their friends or relatives, cutting off limbs, and drowning and skinning the feet, then putting salt on them and letting goats lick off the salt.

Pathologically sadistic, Vlad was highly entertained by watching people suffer. But his favorite voyeur pastime was impaling people on stakes. He perfected a method of using oil to make the stake slick so that it could be threaded cleverly in a way that would not pierce a vital organ but would keep the person alive for hours, even days. When impaling women with children, he often threaded their babies on the end of the state jutting from their own chest. In this way, the mother was able to witness the horrific death of her infant before her own death. Vlad customarily ordered his meals and dined near the victims as he particularly enjoyed watching them squirm and hearing the screams while eating.

Method of Deployment:
Yes, it’s hard to wrap your mind around that kind of depravity. Depravity comes in many flavors; there is even a contemporary kind that involves sadistic pleasure from entertainment. How much of a leap is it from sadistically impaling someone on a stake and inflicting maximum pain for your viewing pleasure to deliberately impaling someone on the cross of public humiliation, then periodically poking around and reopening the wounds to siphon all the psychic puss for encore? There is something lewd, salacious and obscene about the practice of impaling celebrities with today’s tabloid yellow pornography.

Have you noticed that currently the most popular genre in books and movies in our culture is Vampirism? We love to watch blood-letting and find it sexy? Does the irony of that escape you? Does the clamoring for tabloid gossip about our favorite celebrities satisfy some animalistic urge? It’s simply Neanderthal; no, more reptilian. There is something slimy about a culture supporting an industry that operates like a meat-market surgically slicing up pieces of people for human consumption. Stalking people with a voyeur's delight, carving them up, and feeding on their lives is cannibalism! There is nothing redeemable even human about engaging in a voyeurism that destroys people, their work, their lives and their futures. And our future.

It’s the kind of practice that deliberately looks for the lowest form of humanity. It gleefully attaches itself to its latest popular victim and sucks the life force from them. The worst offenders are journalists who deliberately hurl questions and insults designed to inflame the celebrity, already upset, so as to get even more lurid footage or copy for consumption.

Consumption of tabloid fodder and gossip is the kind of hobby that people engage in without thinking about the impact of their actions. Few think about the consequences of their indulging in the misguided practice of buying dirt rag magazines, watching tabloid TV, clamoring for the latest gossip about their celebrity interests. And reality TV is hardly ever a slice of my reality. How about yours?

Collateral Damage:
If we would think before we consume this stuff or clamor for more we might realize what is lost because of it, what futures are preempted because of it: What gifts do talented people withhold because they are afraid to venture into the public venue? How many performers hold back from introducing new or avant garde art for fear of public opinion? How many people deny they have a personal problem and delay or avoid treatment because if they checked themselves into a rehab facility, their personal lives would be splayed in headlines? How many great politicians have not run for public office because of the uncharitable scrutiny they face? How many books are not written because of the celebrity well known authors enjoy or because they might end up on someone's hit list? How many who have been excoriated by tabloid journalism give up on new work, new discoveries, maybe on humanity itself?

The tabloid frenzy over President Clinton’s indiscretion caused his impeachment. A president was impeached for behavior in his private life. And a beloved president of history was again exposed for private liaisons while in office. Is that our business? These kinds of “exposures” take down good men. Clinton subsequently has marshaled global humanitarian efforts responsible for saving the lives of millions. Had he been humiliated beyond repair and faded into obscurity because of a human failing what would we have lost?

Do you remember Vince Foster? Vince Foster was the Deputy White House Counsel for the Clintons who investigated the Travel office corruption charges on behalf of Hillary Clinton. He became so despondent over the affair that he committed suicide. His suicide resignation note read “I was not meant for the job or the spotlight of public life in Washington. Here ruining people is considered sport.”

Lady Diana was a favorite target of the tabloid press that insisted on focusing their spotlight on rumors of anorexia, bulimia and depression instead of her humanitarian work with children and eliminating land mines. And all this yellow press, while she was trying to hold together a marriage to a royal husband who was carrying a torch for someone else! What young new bride would navigate all that well? The Paparazzi haunted Diana endlessly and hunted her down on the night she died. Her driver had been drinking and certainly alcohol contributed to the accident. But the driver would not have been speeding if the Paparazzi had not been stalking and chasing Diana. And after the accident they helped to cause, they continued snapping pictures as she lay dying in the back seat.

And then there’s the most recent and visible casualty of the tabloid press: Michael Jackson. Deeply traumatized by the events of his life, by relentless exploitation by tabloid America, by rabid officials who anticipated their own fame in taking down a famous celebrity, dispirited by the treatment of his face, skin color, his home, his work, his life and even his innocence, Michael had trouble sleeping at night. The two cases brought against Michael alleging impropriety with children brought the tabloids down on a gentle humanitarian whose life was about saving and healing children. A man who was singing “Heal the World” in Super Bowl performances and promoting peace in his concerts.

At his 2005 trial, hundreds of reporters drooling over anticipated juicy headlines, descended on the courthouse periphery. For five months they circled like vultures waiting to pick the bones from the carcass of his life served up in a trial with charges that never should have been brought. Michael simply wasn’t guilty.

Prison for someone like Michael Jackson would have been a death sentence. He lived month after month with that threat while the media conveniently left out newsworthy trial developments proving his innocence. Jermaine Jackson, Michael’s brother says he watched the light gradually go out of Michael’s eyes during the trial. A bone-weary, dispirited and traumatized father took his children and left his homeland, leaving behind a grueling trial, a justice system that failed to protect him from extortion, a media that impaled him and left him hanging exposed despite his innocence. He lost a home he cherished and shared for joy because he could no longer live there, the closeness to beloved Jackson family, and his country. A family with a history of extortion of other celebrities had targeted Michael and law enforcement with the media as accomplice, seduced by the allure of celebrity, played life and death games for sport.

How many Vince Fosters are there? What did we lose when we lost Diana and Michael? The loss is incalculable. Diana was the people’s princess and Michael was the most famous humanitarian in the world. They both were devoted to human welfare and social reform especially for children. Their work on this planet is legion and legendary as is their support of charities and generous philanthropy. Neither one had to, but they used their fame for all of humanity, for the elimination of pain, misery and suffering. And how did we thank these global messengers? We killed them.

Early Warning System:
Yellow press and you know who you are: here is your WMD Early Warning: More and more people are waking up on this planet. More humans are courting their own spirituality and enlightenment. Put your finger on that pulse because that heartbeat of humanity is our future. And I guarantee that you will not be here then. Unless you change your methods and reinvent your genre, you will be irrelevant. I promise you we, humanity, are far more than your narrow definition could ever imagine. We are tired of low slung dramas that don't work, a higher game awaits us and viewed from here, it sparkles.

Your imaginings are wrong; we are better than that! It’s sad enough that pain and misery visits every single life on this planet. We no longer wish to deliberately inflict it. Not for sport. You want to keep us down and drinking your Kool-Aid? You want us obedient to your doctrine? You think that is really going to work? We want to change. We are growing up and we don't want publications and media that slay people for fun. We are tired of the doom and gloom of people’s wounded humanity; we would like to hear about their brilliance. It's time. We want to applaud human contributions to art and life. We want to respect public figures more and be mature enough to allow them some dignity and privacy.

Decommissioning the Weapon:
We have a request media: We want you to stop inviting us where we don’t belong. We want you to give us the facts without the hype and sensationalism that by someone else’s arrogant determination censors what we are entitled to. We resent being spoon fed untruths so that somebody can sell a vile product and get fat paychecks because we are believed sophomoric. We resent being duped and treated like a commodity: like a consumer pig fattened up with garbage for the purpose of someone else’s slaughter. We are intelligent people; we would really like the facts and to decide for ourselves who and what we value.

Stop belittling us and all of humanity with your de-evolution. And now that we have all allowed the devolved media to destroy people who were national treasures and we have jeopardized a more bedazzled future because of the contributions they can no longer make, we are asking you to please stop killing people on our behalf. No, we are demanding it. We want no part in it. We want to breathe clear air not tainted with the stench of tabloid slaughter. We don't want to sit down to our dinner like Vlad, while tabloid TV shows dangle impaled flailing celebrity bodies in front of us during our meal. We don't want to feel that guilt or shame. We want to be part of creating a world we can live with and we can tell you it's not this one.

Peacekeeping Force:
We want to create a world where art is esteemed in whatever form, where beauty is a common pleasure, where the human mind and spirit is elevated; no, revered and we want help with that. We want a world where people’s woundedness is cradled with tenderness not exposed with glee. We want you to listen to us, to help us celebrate the human spirit, not feel ashamed of it. We all feel the winds changing and we want you to stop blowing us in the wrong direction. We want you to support us... humanity. We want you to do that by elevating the art of communication back to where it belongs and to feature and be the change we long to see in the world.

We have seen enough of what your weapons of mass destruction can do to a person and a world when they are unleashed. They destroy humanity. Ours. The create vacuums in the future where human treasures might have walked. We are asking you, the media… the latest incarnation of a WMD to decommission your arsenal and help us to make peace with ourselves... with the rest of the members of our human family. And please, help us to close the door on a shadowy era now past. We are ready to be the change we wish to see in the world. We need you now to convey not the darkness of our species, but our brilliance to us.

(c) 2010 & beyond B. Kaufmann, One Wordsmith


Unknown said...

Barbara- from your lips to God's ears. I am praying for this world you speak of that seeks to uplift our fellow man rather than celebrate his fall from grace. You are right- the media has become Vlad the Impaler and we in turn have become their enablers. When we buy a tabloid or watch a tabloid television show we are enabling the medialoid (mainstream media infected with tabloid mentality) and making them an even bigger monster by feeding them with our prurient interest in the filth they pump out every day. Our brains grow slack and our humanity grows weaker with every purchase and every peek into their gossip spewing world. It is up to us to be self aware and fight this carnal urge to see our fellow human beings impaled by the medialoid. We are all succeptible because this is a basic unevolved part of our consciousness that the medialoid deliberately appeals to on a constant daily basis. We all need to stand up and say ENOUGH! It is wrong to glory in the pain and humiliation of a fellow human being. We should hold up and celebrate what is decent and good in mankind not in our failings or downfalls.

Tina Marie Xykis said...

Barbara, once again your eloquent words flow forth with wisdom and truth.
The violence done to individuals who have had their lives destroyed by gossip and slander for no other reason than to provide entertainment is unimaginable. The most insidious aspect of this whole issue is the fact that once-respected conventional news outlets have, for a long time now, engaged in tabloid-style reporting. I was always taught that gossip/slander is evil. But the medialoid presents it as benign and even fun. What does this teach our children? What information can we trust anymore from the media? What will become of our society if we continue down this road? Do we want to live in a society that does this to people?

The following quote sticks in my mind because it reminds us of the grave nature of this issue and the consequences of letting medialoid continue with business as usual:

“The vicious and vile treatment of this man in the media was for selfish reasons. [Even] if you have never bought a Michael Jackson record in your life, you should be very concerned. Society is built on very few pillars. One of them is truth. When you abandon that, it's a slippery slope."
- Michael Levine, a Jackson press representative

A few Thoughts...

When I think about it, my own life is no less rich and the living no less inspiring than my pioneering ancestors and I come from a long line of Indians and outlaws so don't ever turn your back on me!

Life is, after all, a slice of human consciousness lived from its place in human evolution. "From here to eternity" as it were-- from earth to the stars, from personal space to cyberspace, from a small local footprint to the world reduced to the size of a notebook and sitting on your lap!

As a child I lived with the perpetual and immenent threat of annihilation. That's child abuse! It wasn't a kid-friendly world and I couldn't understand why the grown-ups who were in charge weren't doing something?

So at age seven with my face in the window eyes turned up into the night sky and staring at the stars I made a vow: "When I am a grown-up, I will do something."

My writing is that something and I write to "simply change the world." If that sounds like a lack of humility it isn't because I know that one person absolutely can change the world and I've met some who have.

Kay Kennedy put together an anthology that puts the reader in the midst of history to view it from the inside out.

When I was in high school and even college, history classes were stale and boring featuring memorization and regurgitation of dates that coincided with events that had no human face, certainly no magic, and no life!

Anthologies are great fun and stores are rich remembrances. History books chronicle; stories are little narrative slices of living. History comes alive through story. I often think of my grandmother and her story, her life-- the history she lived. In her lifetime she saw humankind evolve from horse and buggy to man on the moon.

I was a sixties kid and for the youth of the sixties, turmoil, disillusionment, and revolution were everyday 'business as usual'. Like a radio perpetually on low volume, fear and death dronned on in the background. The superpowers threatened to extinguish all life on the planet, the Vietnam War was escalating and peers were being escorted home under American Flag blankets. The civil rights and equal rights movements were testing human civility, and faster than one could recover from one shock another real life hero would fall to yet another assassin. Despair was commonplace. Contrast that with a man on the moon... we could conquer space travel but couldn't make nukes or war obsolete! It was a time when youth needed hope because hope was scarce. When it was finally resurrected, it came in the form of idealism and a philosophy of brotherly and universal love. Perfect principles; imperfect execution.

For others who contributed to "Looking Back," the history is different for each because the "times" were different as well as the perspective of the individuals. The stories of human societal evolution are enlightening, heartwarming, poignant and spellbinding. They put a human face on the past.

And there are people now who are putting a face on the future...