Hope, Warmth and the Winter Sky

4 Feb

The City’s boundaries and dimensions surpass our understandings. Reality flows unknown around us. But at the same time we live in a web of unreality. Our civic order imposes its inevitable logic on our lives; streets mapped by the myth of progress, directed by distinctions between public and the fragile private; our steps quickened by tabloid fear and the unconscious claims of memory.

Considering the city in its unreality, NYC is metaphor for social aspiration and media’s hall of mirrors endlessly reinforce that hungry and protean image.  Like a horde of locusts we are consumed as we move, consuming, over the world. The market’s on life support. We are aspirated. The machine fuels and feeds on youth, on immigrant striving, reducing difference and human beauty to shared and quantifiable dreams of desire.

In song we are the city that never sleeps. We are also the city that repeats its name twice. But such self aggrandizement is a half-remembered dream. Self image is not self awareness, especially when the image is a marketing tool. What is the reality that flows within and around us, the energy of basic life response? Who and what is New York, and how can we know the whole and naked truth, so help us God?

I am tired of the lies we tell. I tell them too. How to escape the web?

Lies and fear feed the military industrial complex with tax and treasure.  In their new book The Rise of the New American Security State, Dana Priest and William M. Arkin detail massive annual expenditures on national intelligence. In 2010, $80.1 billion was spent; plus an unknown percentage of the military’s $58 billion annual budget. Priest and Arkin were also able to construct a jobs database with at least 182,000 recent job openings requiring Top Secret clearance.

In 2011, in the Washington Post series of the same name, Priest and Arkin had already demonstrated how 3,984 federal, state and local organizations are currently working on domestic counterterrorism, with 934 of them newly created since the 2001 attacks. These vast bureaucratic numbers suggest a larger context for the recent report from Political Research Associates (PRA) that $1.67 billion in federal funds were allocated to states for counter-terrorism training in 2010 alone. For many entrepreneurs this funding stream has proved a golden opportunity to enhance the nation’s security– and their own.

Parallel to this boom in homeland security related business, on the federal and state level, right wing think tanks have also located deep pockets both in and out of government in recent years, in order to promote their interests and preferred security state policies. In August 2011 Fear Inc, an eye-opening report from the Center for American Progress, detailed how more than $40 million have flowed from seven foundations over 10 years to fund projects promoting a politically paranoid and highly inaccurate view of Islam and Muslims.

In large part because of such generous financial support over the last decade, a wide range of anti-Muslim conspiracy theories have become accepted wisdom, influencing political and media discourse, most often organized to impact election year politics. One relatively well known example is Donors Capital’s 2008 contribution of over $17 million to the Clarion Fund to produce Obsession: Radical Islam’s War against the West and to distribute DVDs to more than 28 million voters in swing states.

According to the Pew Research Center, the public’s favorable rating of Islam actually fell from 40% (right after the terror attacks) to only 30% nine years later (during the media assault on the Park51 community center aka “Ground Zero mosque.”)[1].  Once again, xenophobic hate has proved to be an effective and popular strategy. And this all-devouring discourse negativity does not only damage Muslims—it sucks the life from all manner of peoples and tribes and from the dream of Zion itself.

The Right Wing machine has us all hooked up to a gurney. This is why we cry out. One government official too many has lied to us. And yet, around the world religious leaders (including Muslims) are not immune from this disorder in the name of order.

So it’s time for change. Ground Hog Day has come and Commissioner Kelly has seen his shadow, even faintly patterned in pale newsprint as a politely implacable Times Editor sneaks a look at her watch.  Deadlines and breadlines. Time comes for all of us, even Mayor Bloomberg.

And it is always time for change, whatever season’s here. Change may never be comfortable for us, except when we are at play in dreams.  Whether a campfire or flat screen is flickering before us, the comforting warmth is temporary. Night surrounds us even as the black of space surrounds our day. Even so, the embrace of a loving and cosmic Attention may awaken us from dream. We may still be able to learn how to know, understand and renew some small measure of an inner freedom– even under the icy surveillance of the far off stars, far from any human myth of progress. There may be hope even without dreams.

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