The Discomfort Zone

The Discomfort Zone


I woke up Thursday morning to news of the so-called Real ID card being approved by Congress, in a late-night session, with the provision stuck to a multi-billion dollar military appropriations bill. As I understand it, there was no debate at all, and the Senate vote was unanimous. Very nice. A little amendment to reality when nobody is looking. I suggest you do a Google news search and read a little about this issue yourself. Check out the different points of view.

All that remains in the way of implementing this program, for a national digital ID card, is resistance by state governments, who will have to pick up the tab of hundreds of millions of dollars in bureaucratic expense, and make major changes to how they manage and share data. From what I understand, the chip on these cards will be like a little hard drive that contains all manner of identifying information and private data (including, as I understand it, a digital photo and physical description), and will be available for anyone with a compatible scanner to read and download — basically, eliminating the entire concept of privacy, confidentiality and personal sanctity.

The card will be required to fly, and do many other things — like start a bank account. I have not read the law. I am only reading the press at this point. Look into it for yourself.

This is being done in the name of making ourselves safe from terrorists. Which it certainly will not do; but it will make the world very safe for identity thieves and those in government who want to consolidate their control and data sharing. For those who say that Europe uses national identity cards and everything is fine, which is true enough (but I still cringe every time I see one of their national ID cards), at least in France they are simply laminated paper ID documents like a passport — not a little computer disk that spills out your life story, and information even you may not know, and which may not even be accurate, to anyone curious technologically savvy enough. Of course, a quick trip through the microwave may help.

People who notice the problem with Real ID are few. This is in part because privacy has become exceptionally thin already, and we are getting extremely blase about what computers know about us; supposedly, it’s all as bad as it can get. And while you may see the problem, that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to convince anyone else that it’s there.

This is a bad idea and needs to be resisted, just on principle. As Americans, we supposedly have a 4th Amendment right to be secure in our papers and our homes. With this card, your personal file cabinet can be open to anyone in government, the security state (airports, etc.) and even retailers who perhaps may get to swipe your license as a way of identifying you when you use a credit card.

Here is the text of the 4th Amendment, article 4 of the Bill of Rights. Are the words familiar to you?

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

James Madison, author of the U.S. Constitution, was cautious about just such scenarios where we give up a little freedom to have a little safety. “It is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged to the provisions against danger, real or pretended, from abroad,” he wrote, in his commentaries of the founding of the U.S. republic.

He added, in another letter, “The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.”

He also wrote, “I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” I think we are seeing exactly what he was describing. Unless we read his warnings as hollow words, we may want to take heed.

He also cautioned, describing a situation very much present today: “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”

As an aside but not too far aside, for those who may be wondering about the wisdom of our new church-state alliance, Mr. Madison said: “The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe with blood for centuries.”

It’s easy enough to understand why governments and corporations want to spread their power and influence to a boundless scale. It’s almost enough to acknowledge they always have. When you study the financial and business interests, it’s possible to look clear through the political level and see something very simple at work.

In my inbox recently, I got a letter from a New Age guru, which he began: “I usually only write about spiritual things, but this week I had to address something political.” And I thought: wow, he really thinks there is a difference?

Maybe it’s all a matter of perspective. I’d like to share an interesting one of those with you. The other day, I received a reply to my articles and photographs about Delos from a friend on the West Coast, Charlene Osman, who I rarely hear from. She writes about how slavery and empire go hand in hand. I can see that. Reading her essay, though, I was left wondering why slavery is such a comfort zone even when we have the choice. Many people who do have options voluntarily subject themselves to it in various forms.

She is replying to this article:

Here is what Char has to say (if you would like to reply, just “reply” to the newsletter and I’ll pass them onto her):

Empire and Slavery go Hand in Hand

By Charlene Osman

MY FIRST FEELINGS on seeing the pictures of all the ruins were about how empire and slavery go hand in hand. Those ruins feel so familiar, comforting almost (as they did when I was in Rome), and yet I can see how much pain they have caused. Empire depends on slavery. I think maybe the men of the so-called ‘Enlightenment’ forgot that part. Or maybe they just didn’t talk about it.

But when I look for models of what I want to be in the world, I see that equitable, sustainable cultures don’t build big impressive buildings. In fact, they leave very little in their wake for an archeologist to find. Those amazing buildings are part of my past (and present too), and so are the slaves that built them. And the slaves that still labor in the backwaters of the world so I can drive a car and have a different set of clothes for every day of the week. They are still with us. The American empire depends on them.

On the reading itself: I think I would replace the word ‘love’ with the word ‘compassion’. ‘Love’ can mean so many things — affection, lust, and simple affinity among others, many of them selfish. ‘Compassion’ doesn’t mean you have to like someone, or be attracted to them, but that you choose to try and see where they’re coming from. You try to stand in their shoes, whether you agree with them or not, even if you think they might be monsters and not human. And I think compassion is truly the choice we must make away from fear. Fear leads to labeling those not like us as less than human somehow (‘terrorists’, ‘infidels’), which leads to violence. Compassion can bring transformation; it can bring understanding that does not necessarily mean agreement. That is, I can understand the motivation of a suicide bomber (or a soldier) without agreeing with the action.

Loving within a community, living within a community, brings up the image of the Quaker marriage certificate. Two of my friends chose this type of wedding. The certificate is a public commitment they make to each other in their community, on a big sheet of paper. It is signed by everyone present at the ceremony — they are married not by an officiant, but by the community. Then it is prominently displayed on a wall in their home, to be a reminder to them and the community of the promises they made to each other.

The fear side of the Tarot reading is something I danced with in some pretty tangible ways in January and February. The fear is the past that we keep putting into our future. It is the dark abyss, the dissolution of all I am. It is the fear of being made non-human, of not receiving compassion, of being trampled out of malicious intent, or worse, convenience. It is the fear of the slave: those who have been raped, starved, thrown away so someone else could make a buck. It is the exploited, the earth, the forests lost. We are just beginning to realize here in the heart of the Empire that it is also us. It is the darkness, our shadow side.

In February, I think it was, I took part in a series of Transformational Breathing sessions with a group of women. I went with the intention of learning how to walk in the dark. In one of Ursula K. LeGuin’s books (Tehanu) a character says: “Who knows where a woman begins and ends? […] I have roots, I have roots deeper than this island. Deeper than the sea, older than the raising of the lands. I go back into the dark […]. I go back into the dark! Before the moon I was. No one knows, no one knows, no one can say what I am, what a woman is, a woman of power, a woman’s power, deeper than the roots of trees, deeper than the roots of islands, older than the Making, older than the moon. Who dares ask questions of the dark? Who will ask the dark its name?”

So I went in to find my roots in the dark; to ask the dark its name. I faced that nameless, all-encompassing fear — I walked in it; I walked through it. I took it by the hand. I had a vision in one session, where I was like two of me, the little me and the BIG me. The little me was terrified of that darkness, panicked, unable to move. The BIG me just kept getting bigger and bigger, filling that blankness, that abyss, until I was like a big soft cushion filling all that fear so that the little me could fall, could let go, could walk safely in the dark.

This was a very personal experience, but I think it resonates in the larger community. That is, I think we must collectively and individually embrace our shadow. We need to integrate, to acknowledge and walk with our roots in the dark, so that we are able to have compassion in the light. It is paradoxical, not reasonable, that to defeat the fear we must embrace it. Yet this is the teaching of most mythologies in one way or another.

For example, Inanna and Persephone walk into the darkness. Inanna embraces her sister Ereshkigal; the dark and light become one, and integration is achieved. Persephone marries Hades. In the film “The Dark Crystal,” the dark and light become one, integrate, make the world whole again. To fight against the darkness, to push it away, only makes it stronger. Embracing the darkness, the fear, with compassion melts it, integrates it. Only when we do this within ourselves can we do this with each other. And as integrated, whole beings, we can truly transform our lives and our world. We gain power where we felt powerless before. I like to think we are composting the fear, and it becomes fertilizer. It becomes creativity. It becomes power — not power to dominate, but power to walk with those who are not like us and remain who we truly are, and let them remain who they truly are.

(I’ve been within both the Liberal Left and the Religious Right. I can tell you they don’t listen to each other with compassion. I can tell you both are strongly motivated by fear. They are motivated by fear OF THE SAME THINGS! They have much more in common than either wants to admit; their motivations are identical. I want to beg those on both sides, PLEASE listen to each other with compassion. Please try and understand where the others are coming from. You don’t have to agree; you probably never will, but try to UNDERSTAND. You can empathize without losing yourself. You can understand without changing your mind or your beliefs. And if you will only learn to listen, listen with compassion, then maybe we can find solutions in our differences that we cannot see now. Maybe we can integrate with each other somehow without losing ourselves. Maybe we can transform.) ++

Planet Waves Horoscope by Eric Francis
Friday, May 20, 2005

Happy Birthday, Gemini!

If there have been hidden aspects of your psyche that you wanted to bring out, make good use of, or reveal to the world, this year will present many of your best opportunities in a long time. I say many. There is no rush, and there is no one opportunity that, if missed, will mean you have missed the boat of life.

You may be wondering what the relationship between living transparently and expressing your creativity and power is. It has to do with how strong you feel. And it has to do with how right you feel living on the Earth. There is a relationship between these things and worldly success.

An illustration from the medical art called homeopathy may be illustrative. Homeopathy was the first whole-system form of Western medicine, developed in Germany in the 18th century and still practiced today — though somewhat quietly — in Western societies, as well as in India. This rather brilliant system of healing depends on working with mental and emotional states as well as physical states for accurate diagnosis and cure.

One condition described by homeopathy is a mental state where the person tends to hide, or to have a feeling that it’s necessary to hide. It can be subtle; often it is this lurking sense that ‘it’s not okay to be myself’ or ‘not okay to reveal myself’. Some call it insecurity, but it’s exceedingly personal.

This state is debilitating and weakens the system. It is in a sense a mental weakness that becomes a disadvantage in life and can even lead to physical illness. And it’s precisely this state of mind, experienced at some time by all humans, that you have the power to work through, and emerge within yourself as a more solidly integrated person.

For you, this particularly adds up to professional freedom. There is likely to be a serious calling you are hearing. And the key to making it real, the key to going beyond your past accomplishments (or lack thereof, as you may feel), is going to be a kind of personal breakthrough that is based on your becoming aware of your integrity, and putting that first all the time.

This will, of course, only help your personal relationships. You may recognize the extent to which you have let this kind of issue affect you — and how much progress you can make in your relationships with people if you work from your center and express yourself consistently, honestly and clearly with as many people in your life as possible.

Remember always to observe your options, and choose the ones that look the most appealing. Remember that you have two actual choices for every one you see — so it would be productive to look at everything at least two ways, always search for another possibility, and commit yourself only when you know in your heart exactly what you want.

Aries (March 20-April 19)
You need to make sure that your unresolved fears don’t lead you into an unnecessary power struggle. This is an easy trap to fall for, particularly when you are living in such a daring and imaginative way as you are now. Your conduct and your choices are above reproach. Yet you are all too accustomed to having to defend your life against those who would make far less daring decisions than you. I suggest you resolve to get out of this game, because it’s a waste of creative energy. You have no need to explain yourself, only to experience and enjoy your life.

Taurus (April 19-May 20)
Life is presenting you with options now. Yet it may be that somehow you feel peculiarly trapped. I suggest you put the two ideas together something like this. “If I feel trapped, therefore I must have options.” I know this would not get you out of logic class with a passing grade, but it works for astrology. The notion of options may begin with the situation you think is inevitable, and making one major reversal, trade or change in position that rearranges the whole chess board.

Gemini (May 20-June 21)
Frank Herbert begins the immortal Dune series with the statement that the beginning is the time to make sure that balances are correct. There have been many out-of-balance beginnings in your life in recent years, and in general I would say a rather significant struggle finding balance at any time. The odd thing is that you’ve succeeded. You’ve mastered something within yourself, or at least you are getting a taste of what that kind of success feels like. Now, take a few more balanced steps. Walk on the world’s surface without the fear of falling. It’s nice.

Cancer (June 21-July 22)
You’ve been carrying with you the vision for a kind of friendship that’s been difficult to articulate. Emerging from deep inside your dreams, it’s related to your most private sense of your own existence. Some people know that if this place inside us can ever be met by another, it’s a rare blessing. But it would appear to be possible, even likely, now. While there’s nothing you can do to rush the process, you can do this: treat every person you meet as a reflection of a necessary and life-giving aspect of you. Imagine everyone you meet knows the truth about you. Because in some way, they really do.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23)
The Sun’s ingress to Gemini offers you a chance to update your style and revise your approach to life. It’s not like you’re ever really scared of people, but you can now relate to them with yet another layer of inhibition removed. Those who can speak and listen fearlessly are the true leaders of our world. You have certainly had a lot on your mind, given that the past couple of years have been one of the single most profound phases of introspection in all your lifetime. You know more than you think, and people are more curious about what you’ve learned than you may imagine.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22)
You have ambitions, you have goals, you have desires and you have a calling. You also have your insecurities, just like everyone. But those insecurities are just one or two voices on an inner committee that constitutes your mind. So the question is, how do you make sure you take the other voices into account? The answer is, you listen, and you trust. And to borrow from A Course in Miracles, at a certain point you will learn to doubt your doubt in yourself. You might want to take that up as a project right now, because you’re well positioned to get exactly what you want.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23)
Remember that the key to this phase of your life, in a single word, is experience. There’s no substitute, as the old expression goes, and there is nothing I see you craving more. You’re in what I will describe as a blessed moment. Though it’s difficult to feel safe on our particular planet, I suggest you experiment with this, and with a few decisions that take you in the direction of what you want to do the most. Or maybe just plunge right in with the faith that you will be fully supported. If anybody has the ability to walk on thin air, at the moment, it’s you.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22)
It’s up to you to continue the impassioned creative revolution that has been sparked in your heart and soul. It may not be as easy to keep moving as you like. But then, you may have noticed that you’ve begun a completely new cycle of self-expression, creative freedom and developing the ability to love freely and without the thought of remorse. Remember that there is part of us that is programmed to respond to freedom with guilt. Keep an eye on that guilt and you’ll know when you’re heading in the right direction. Then, remember you can do whatever you like.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22)
There has been a flurry of new activity in your most personal relationships and partnerships for a couple of weeks now, but you may have thought it was a passing fancy. However, as you will soon see, it’s nothing of the kind. You are being met by the kind of partnership energy you want and need the most, or certainly you can be if you will open up to receiving it. This includes the people in your life being willing to discuss any subject at all: including but not limited to your health, sex, food, business ideas, or some very large inevitable change that you may feel approaching.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20)
Every idea involves a relationship, if it’s going to come into reality. You could say that there are few painters who weave their own canvas or mix their own paints. Maybe there is one photographer in the world who makes his own film. When we breathe, we share everyone else’s air. Now is the time to make the best use of all your interdependencies, your supporting relationships, your business partnerships, and those who would help you in any way. In the process, you’re going to help a lot of people, even if only by being present for the discussion and expressing your ideas.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19)
It’s now up to you to keep your momentum where certain financial development or creative self-improvement projects are concerned, but really I think you’ll have no difficulty at all. You have energy and you have imagination. The key will be applying one to the other in some concrete, tangible and disciplined way. The challenge as it develops will be directing the rather incredible abundance of creative energy, and really, you could have worse things to complain about. Use your technology, keep a notebook, and most of all, communicate with those you love.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20)
This is a time in your life when the theme is activating, that is, taking action with, your potential. You have felt this quality develop over many years, and you know what you’re capable of. You are also a Pisces, and may be given to doubt, or a peculiar sense that the world isn’t really here for you. I am here to tell you that this is your planet, too. The fact that you might get to express your talents or your ideas is not just about being recognized for what you do. It’s giving a gift to the world. So the arrangement is more than fair: everyone gains; nobody loses.

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