Some miscellaneous ‘life’ stuff and a thought on where we’re at with the climate problem.

I was recently asked how the book is coming on, and replied it is stalled. That’s the book “based on a true story” about my time as a street kid in seventies London. It’s all but done, and quiet a while ago, but the discovery of old documents and a few other things caused the realisation I have a memory gap. I can literally pin point where memory stops and where it resumes and further research indicates that what’s in between is serious, and can’t just be left out.

I never really believed in ‘suppressed memory’, which has been widely debunked, but not by some neurologists specialising in trauma and memory. A French researcher doesn’t call it ‘suppressed’ but rather that the brain can in people with post-traumatic stress, etc, and as a defence mechanism, bracket out parts of memory. Like a corrupt file made unreadable by a computer’s operating system. Reading online though some of his open-source research papers, I found there is reason to investigate further and after contacting various services, now have the details of an Australian who I’m told is a world-renowned authority in the field of trauma. All that to say the book will – InshAllah – be completed. I’ll be glad when the job is done.

Climate demos? Not much happening, but I received word the next kids’ one in Sydney is on the 21st of this month. Probably will not go given I’m not a kid, and feel too many supportive and appropriately concerned-looking adults dilutes the youth message.

I think we can wait and see what happens at November’s COP26 in Glasgow. If not enough then we will have to ‘consider our position’. Good to see pope Francis is onboard and calling for immediate action, and that worldwide, religious communities are organising interfaith actions. We have a problem with some claiming to be religious as was found in the United States where 80 percent of evangelists are Trump supporters and climate change deniers. I had a conversation a few years ago with a man claiming to be a ‘Christian’ who said climate change cannot be real because “God would not allow it.” No use even responding because he is still at the intellectual level of a child trusting Daddy will fix it.

Where we’re at is easy to see in the graph below. Not looking good at all and the question of why governments are reluctant to take the necessary action is often asked. It’s all the more bizarre given the drastic action taken with little hesitation to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. We know the countries who put economy and politics ahead of public health are now paying the price. The same applies to climate change with the difference we will all pay the price of inaction. Myself, I’ve suggested the problem is, and based on Baudrillard’s theory of hyper-reality, that we live in a civilisation in which reality has been replaced by an unreality, and one that excludes the very existence of any other reality. It’s Disneyland being more real than what lies beyond it, it’s the golden calf made from the collective wealth of a people promising happiness when in fact it is only a chunk of metal. What could be more ‘evil’ than sacrificing children, now even young adults, on the altar of that golden calf we now call ‘the economy’?

Just a comment on wealth being a false god and cause of our problem, I don’t believe the solution is “tearing down the system and rebuilding it” as the far left would claim to be the solution. That is a redistribution of the excess value of labour which does not solve the underlying problem and one Marx had no possibility of knowing would arise from industrialisation. Equality based on everyone having the same rather than some having more than others is just cutting the cake up into equal slices but without questioning whether the value we attach to the cake itself, is the problem. No argument from me that inequality has long been at unacceptable levels and continues to grow, but more than a change of economic system what we need is a change in how humans derive a sense of self-worth and by consequence how they interact with the natural universe and with each other. Basically ‘Love thy neighbour as thy love thyself’ and we would not be in the position we are today.

What the F does WOKE mean and a trans boy’s mother.

A recent edition of Sydney’s “Daily Telegraph” newspaper had “WOKE FEST” splashed across its front page. Woke? As in, “He woke with a headache”? Had to look that one up and found in a “The Guardian” article on the meaning of ‘woke’ that if I didn’t know the meaning, then I had been left behind. OK… that’s a start.

‘WOKE’ apparently describes a movement or a person who supports social justice and racial equality and according to “The Guardian” the term has been co-opted by the far right and “weaponized” for use against the far-left. Just like, ‘politically correct’ they point out but without explaining where ‘politically correct’ came from. Actually from the communists themselves and so it’s acceptable to say a far-left policy is “political correct if it is part of far-left ideology.

So what’s this ‘Woke Fest’? Well according to the bit of the article I was able to recover from the garbage bin where the “Daily Telegraph” had been cast, the WOKE are seeking to get God (him again) and the teaching of ancient history (namely Greek) banned from schools. The reason my flat mate, a devout Christian, had cast the filth (her words) into the bin and for sure she is not the only person outraged at the suggestion teaching children Jesus was born in a manger and that “democracy” is a Greek word meaning rule by the people, is likely to damage society. Unless of course you are a hardcore communist who does not believe in multiparty parliamentary democracy and misunderstood the sociological context of Marx’s “religion is the opium of the people”. We no longer have four-year-old children going from Sunday mass to an underground mine where they would, near naked and on their hands and knees, haul coal carts.

I disagree with the “Daily Telegraph” there is cause to fear society will collapse because if the proposed changes to school curriculum went ahead I’d put money on the end result being the far-right increasing its membership, and ASIO (our domestic spooks) again fronting the senate requesting more power and money. We had this ‘safe schools’ thing a few years ago which was supposed to make schools safe for LGBTQI+ students. I could well imagine the result was not expected as evidenced by what I saw at a railway station one afternoon. A group of teenagers in school uniform, the girls giggling at every word uttered by what must have been the good-looking trophy boy, who I didn’t catch why, reached out and taking the arm of a lanky dopey-looking boy, softly said, “It’s OK – don’t worry – you can be gay.” Causing the girls to burst into fits of giggles. So much for safe schools, and hope that lanky boy was not actually gay. It’s the kind of public humiliation that could easily be the small event that triggers suicide. Kids will always rebel against what adults order them to do, and as someone said, “We send our children to school to be educated by other children”. Watts? Can’t remember, but for sure children shape their opinions and beliefs on those of their peers.

Further on this ‘progressive vs conservative’ arm wrestling, I was the other day asked, as someone who had been a street boy himself when “young and beautiful”, for an opinion on an article that appeared in “The Catholic Weekly”. The story was that of a mother and her experience of trying to manage her fourteen-year-old son’s infatuation with the ‘Trans’ movement. Straight up I’d say that seeking happiness by putting on an ‘identity’ as one would a piece of clothing, is bound to at best only partially succeed in the long term. That self-evident truth aside, this particular case I found to be indeed sinister.

Based on my experience of five decades ago, this mother’s description of what her son was going through sounded uncomfortably familiar and reading, I’d say it is highly likely her son was been groomed into underage male prostitution. In the past, before the Internet and social media, a child experiencing family and social difficulties might runaway and in the early seventies it was estimated that over 60 thousand arrived in London every year. Demand for boys by child porno producers and pimps was high, and so they were particularly valuable. Most runaways arrived at London’s main railway stations where what I’d call ‘spotters’ would survey people disembarking from trains arriving from the economically shattered northern cities looking for good-looking young teens and preteens, and who could be runaways. Approached, and the runaway status confirmed, the boy would be offered accommodation and the possibility of making money. Such as ‘modelling’ work. The boy would then often be taken to places such as the Playland amusements arcade near Piccadilly Circus where he was ‘introduced’ to his new friends, and the spotter got his 5 to 10 pound reward. The average wage in England at the time was 30 pounds a week, or 3 boys ‘introduced’ to Playland. From there on the boy was emotionally, and physically if need be, bullied into prostitution. Trying to leave could be very dangerous.

The teen in the article was experiencing emotional difficulties which he shared online and was contacted by an adult trans woman who said his suffering could be the result of the fact he is actually a girl and not a boy. This adult person then went on to advise him on how to transition, insisted on video chatting because “typing is just too much” – more like wanting to know if he was sufficiently good-looking – and advised him on how to break the news to his parents which he did in a letter his mother later found was actually dictated to her son by the adult. The adult then told him that if his parents did not accept they had a daughter and not a son, they were ‘transphobic bigots’ and this adult would pick him up and take him away.

It screams grooming and is the social media equivalent to what happened in the past. The teen would be reported as missing and so could not attend school once ‘taken away’, nor could he get a regular job. There is only one way he could earn his keep, and if good-looking he certainly would be a significant business asset to his new friends. Also, and as often happened in the past and continues today, if the boy is killed, either accidentally or deliberately, who will come looking for him? Bodies can be dumped like a broken washing machine in a ditch outside the city – or by the side of a canal.

I’m not suggesting the trans community is a vast child prostitution racket but because of the wild-west nature of the Internet, online LGBTQI+ youth communities would be a prime hunting ground for criminals seeking out vulnerable kids. For sure, and as this mother said, parents do keep an eye on your child’s social media. I’d add don’t believe for a moment boys are at less risk than girls. The numbers over decades undeniably show that a good-looking boy is at greater risk than a girl of being groomed into prostitution. Boys, as a sociologist surmised seeking an explanation, are ‘more exotic’ and therefore more desirable to adults (men and women, Hetero, Bi and Gay) who are bored with ‘normal’ and can pay whatever a pimp asks. An investigation carried out in Houston (Texas) in the early eighties put the ratio of sexually abused runaway kids at 9 boys for every 1 girl.

Blessings.

I now need two hours of zazen.

The God question.

Not another boring discussion about the existence of God and who has ownership of ‘him’ and to whom did ‘he’ give the exclusive. As in ‘what we and we alone have is God’s word’, we are ‘his’ chosen people, etc.

That’s all rather ridiculous. Both believing and not believing in God implies, as commonly debated, a God outside all that physically exists. What’s known as a ‘personal God’, the one Stephen Fry said he didn’t believe in because it didn’t intervene to save the Africans from starvation. How could God allow such things to happen?! It’s – LOL – an old way of making God understandable to peasants thousands of years ago; “You see peasant – God is like a good king sitting on his throne, rewarding faithful subjects with fine things and casting the naughty down into the flames of hell’. I suppose that made sense at the time, the Earth understood as flat as a pancake, volcanoes spew fire from underground and heaven, where all the good people, angels and God himself reside, was somewhere up there beyond the fluffy clouds. Simple and effective in keeping the unwashed on the straight and narrow and the scary bit is that this infantile personal God concept remains the basis for debate.

I’m not going to now suggest what God is because I don’t know that anymore than I could answer the question, “Who are you?” God can neither exist nor not exist, just like I cannot know who ‘I am’.

Sounds nonsensical but what we would believe determines ‘you’ does not exist in any way permanent– the question has no answer.

Many have thought about these things and arrived at similar conclusions including the famous samurai and philosopher Miyamoto Musashi who in the last section of his “Book of Five Rings”, “The book of the Void”, wrote,

The Ni To Ichi Way of Strategy is recorded in this the Book of the Void.

What is called the spirit of the void is where there is nothing. It is not

included in man’s knowledge. Of course the void is nothingness. By

knowing things that exist, you can know that which does not exist. That is the void.

People in this world look at things mistakenly, and think that what

they do not understand must be the void. This is not the true void. It is bewilderment.

In the Way of Strategy, also, those who study as warriors think that

whatever they cannot understand in their craft is the void. This is not the true void.

I get what he means – sort of. During the month I spent last year fasting in the forest west of Sydney I arrived at a point where ‘only the mountain remained’. The poem of Li Po on the homepage banner of this blog. The ‘me’ as I understood it had disappeared and yes, there was nothing aside from what Musashi described as “the spirit of the void.” Something permanent like a mountain. Musashi most likely agonised over using the word ‘spirit’ but had no other and so added ‘It is not included in man’s knowledge’. There are no words to describe it.

I agonised over the decision to call an end to my fast, and trust me, it was not easy. I didn’t want to leave the beautiful space I’d found, and return to the world of humans. In the end, back in the city, wandering aimlessly, gradually refuelling my body, unable to make a decision, I just decided to trust and accept what might happen as right. Funny to think I should be long dead – honestly – and I still don’t really ‘get it’, and never will.

A caveat – I would not recommend trying the same thing. That being deliberately going to the edge of life. There are other ways such as prayer, meditation and the one that best works for me which is a combination of meditation both in stillness and in movement using the sword. I’ll expand a bit on all that some other time, especially on the oneness of Zen and Iaido.