healthy screams

Have you ever had a "screamer"? Apparently you take some ice cream and you put it in a slushy and then the simultaneous cold and sugar rush makes you scream. It's a thing - another one of those things people do that, for whatever reason, I just can't seem to get. Like watching professional sports, buying shoes, or stopping my body's natural waste-excretion processes by blocking up my pores with aluminum-based antiperspirant.

I know, I know. That makes me an eccentric, screwed-up, stinky-man. What else is new? It explains some things, too - like why I get on here and shake my ineffectual little fist at the looming bulldozers, and why I say strange things at awkward times. I'm not special, I am just a weirdo.

It also explains why I'm not likely to turn this blog into a mondo-effective internet marketing scheme so I can quit my day job and sell prints of my paintings whilst firing off bi-daily cynical potshots at whatever bit of pop-flotsam that happens to drift by: I just don't care enough about what everyone tells me I ought to care about.

I do not generally write about:

A. Whatever everyone happens to be screaming about at the moment.
B. How to get more money or power in your life.
C. How to make friends and manipulate people.
D. The bowel movements of my cat.
E. The bowel movements of the American economy.

There are two main reasons for this. The first is that I decided a long time ago that it was dishonest and wasteful to get angry about things that I am not willing to work to change. The second is that I have a sneaking suspicion that when I scream along with everyone else, the resulting noise makes it impossible for me to think in that meditative, hermit-in-a-cave sense I am trying so hard to cultivate.

See, screaming is noisy. I find it very hard to scream and listen at the same time - and to quote the title of a book/cd combo put out by National Public Radio, "Listening is an Act of Love". I want to listen, think and love; and ultimately to work towards those changes I actually can make. It is my belief that screaming deludes the screamer into believing that he or she is being marvelously effective, all the while diminishing the capability of folks on both sides of the issue to actually hear anything. There's just too much freakin' noise.

Blogs are usually about noise. They are about shouting loudly that everyone else is an idiot. I did some research on how to generate blog traffic and one of the oft-repeated techniques was to go on other, more well-read blogs and make near-slanderous statements about the content.

I'm all for being obnoxious and near-slanderous from time to time, but I say enough stupid stuff on accident that I don't need to go out of my way to fill the air with the obnoxious detritus rattling around in my brain. As the old saying goes: "better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt."

Still, there are some people who write thoughtful, measured things that, despite the vapid nature of the interwebs, still manage to convey the idea that they are not so foolishly convinced of their own rightness that they can't hear the voices of their detractors over the sounds of their own screams. So I will try to be one of them here, and point out a few things that are bothering me about all this.

First and foremost, I am disturbed by the status quo. The American government spends bajillions of dollars on stupid stuff, because they have bajillions to spend (now, where they got those bajillions, that's another story). Everybody who benefits from that spending does not like the idea of cutbacks to them, and most will do whatever weaselly thing they need to to ensure the cash cow keeps excreting money.

As a result, the health-care system is bloated and ugly and stupid - Canada spends about six percent less and while I can tell you (as a half-Canadian who just moved from there) that their system isn't perfect, it protects the poor a whole heck of a lot better than the American system, which seems to be mostly about getting more money for those who already have lots. For me, protecting the poor is super-duper important, and anyone who (intentionally or otherwise) keeps that from happening is, in my humble estimation, a big poo-poo head.

Second, I am uncomfortable with all this talk of "human rights", because as soon as we take the conversation into that vocabulaterial realm, we enter a world of power and control. "Rights" in this sense are the sort of thing that must be protected by someone or some entity powerful enough to enforce them on others. This works as long as the most loving course of action is within the game plan of the people with the most power. While I am aware that this is the way the world spins, I am just too much of a fruit-bat idealist to let that slide.

I am a HUGE fan of grace. I think we should care for the health of other people not because they have some inherent right, but rather because they are awesome, incredible creatures just like us, and I think their best interests ought to be ours. When we start screaming about "human rights", usually we're just concerned with one particular right for one particular group of people, like, say, white Americans living in my town - a demographic of ME. I don't want health care for poor Americans, I want health care for poor humans worldwide, because I love those who suffer and want them to be healed. For this to happen, though, there is going to have to be some sacrifice on this end. And who wants to sacrifice just so that one of my seven billion neighbors can be a little more healthy?

As soon as I share this opinion, however, I start realizing the endless digressions and qualifications I must make - like, say, about the difficulty of knowing what real health is, and whether our current pharmaceutical monstrosities are really providing it. Does health mean keeping unconscious people breathing in sterile rooms forever? I don't know. As Bob Dylan said, "everything is broken". The question always prompts more questions, which demand more silence, more thinking, and waaaay less screaming.

I think I'll shut up now.


  1. Brilliant!

    (I dislike one word comments but I honestly don't know what else to say and I have a couple more of your posts to catch up on so that's it)

  2. "I am uncomfortable with all this talk of "human rights", because as soon as we take the conversation into that vocabulaterial realm, we enter a world of power and control. "Rights" in this sense are the sort of thing that must be protected by someone or some entity powerful enough to enforce them on others. This works as long as the most loving course of action is within the game plan of the people with the most power."

    Josh, I'm trying to figure out the distinction here between ensuring human rights for all and just doing what's good for everyone. Isn't it still all dependent on the who has the power to inflict either good or bad on others? I don't see a problem talking about human rights because that word "rights" carries with it an implication of the intrinsic value of the human in question. Do you see it differently?

  3. ...contd.

    While looking out for the "rights" of someone else may be exactly the same, in practice (sometimes), as wanting what is best for them, I feel the term carries too much of the baggage of our highly selfish, arrogant, obnoxious culture. It may seem like I'm quibbling (because I am), but I think that where we start out with the phrasing of our debate will have a great effect on where we end up.

    I'm not against fighting for "human rights" in China if the end result is people don't get their kneecaps shattered for saying the local mayor is fat, but I'd much rather we got that result by finding a way to encourage the valuation of abundant human living as an thing that ought to be preserved at all costs - even the cost of OUR self sacrifice.

    Just thinking as I go here, but maybe THAT is my problem here - if we demand "rights" for other people, we cut ourselves off from the sort of wellspring of humility and truth that convinces people to change because it is the RIGHT thing to do, not because we force them.

    I think of Ghandi or Martin Luther King or Mother Theresa - I don't know how much they talked about "rights", but what made the most difference was their quiet, humble, truthful actions and their assertion that people were valuable.

    From my perspective as a person who thinks Jesus shows the way, I'd say that this is the attitude of the upside-down kingdom. It is the attitude that says, "I love the oppressors as much as the oppressed, and I will put MY neck on the line in faith in THEIR value, so that they, too, can begin to see the truth."

    I don't know if there is a way to arrive at that conclusion without granting some divine source for human value and worth, but I have noticed that many who don't believe as I do in theory in practice ACT as though they value people a lot more highly than many who claim to do so.

  4. Hmm. Good question, Darren. I guess I wasn't entirely clear. What I was getting at was this:

    I know that no matter how we phrase it, it comes back to power. I just feel that for myself, using the terminology of "rights" conjures up the image of obnoxious people marching obstreperously with fists clenched and noses held high, demanding what is theirs.

    "Rights" is the terminology of power, and as a lifelong member of Garrison Keillor's imaginary "International Society of English Majors", I believe that WORDS have power, too. Not only are they derivative of our socio-cultural frameworks, but they also create them.

  5. ...cont'd.

    Imagine if instead of telling some poor country that if they don't stop abusing political dissidents we'll cripple their economy, we said: "here is a pile of aid and a re-worked trade agreement that will cost us a lot of money and make YOU wealthier and more able to meet the needs of your citizens. There are no strings attached, but we think you are all as wonderful and valuable as us, and we want you to value yourselves (all of you) as much as we do."

    No government would ever do that, of course, because we all believe that to do so would result in people in power in that poor country taking advantage of us. But why do we have to use the logic of governments? To me, the real Christian message says: "Here I am. I love you. Take advantage of me if you must, but I will always love you." THAT is the good news, the best (and possibly only) thing we have to offer. It is grace, and it kicks the llama's bottom.


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