Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A Meditation: Using A Dead Man to Get Attention?

This is not a criticism of everyone, but a mediation on a few. Perhaps I'm no better than they are of whom I am writing about.  I did after all post a photo of Hugo Chavez and Muammar al-Gaddafi as my cover art on Facebook and as my header on Twitter. I posted two comments about them on Facebook, and did a few Tweets and Re-Tweets on Twitter.

Hugo Chavez lost his two year battle with cancer yesterday evening, and it wasn't a surprise to me. In 2005 I got experience with cancer when both my grandmother and her son, my uncle were diagnosed.  Grandma's was surgically removed, but my uncle's could not be because of the position of it and its' nature. (Another uncle currently has lung cancer.)  My uncle was given chemotherapy. Grandma lived several months after the surgery, but she was 93 and did like many elderly people will react after surgery. She forgot how to eat .  A feeding tube had to be inserted in her stomach.  Then she developed pneumonia and died.  The cancer killed my uncle the day after Christmas Day, and my grandmother followed him the next. She was never told her son had died because no one wanted to upset her.  My family watched them  slowly die over the year 2005.  I am experienced with cancer, and I sensed that Hugo Chavez would not survive. 

I am not a worshiper of any human being.  There are people I admire or like very much.  Most are dead though.  I see only a few living people with admirable qualities these days. They may appear to at first, but most make a slip on down the line.  It doesn't seem this era will permit people of true integrity and unselfishness to be.  Some feel that you can't be a Christian or a devout person and have compassion for others.  If you are religious you must be in the tradition of the American neo-conservative or the Muslim fundamentalist in the arena of politics. The political and social justice people of today feel that one must be an atheist or an agnostic to really have any genuine, compassionate social or political ideology.  Religious belief will  just get in the way in the real world.  They are very wrong.  But just like the old and my group built up a lot of prisons of the mind and heart the young in their twenties and thirties are doing the same thing.  Plus the young have the added disease of constantly seeking attention and notoriety.  Are they truly concerned about people and issues ,or are they using other people and the issues to self promote themselves? 

I was telling mom tonight about how some were reacting on social media about the death of Hugo Chavez.  My mother is 74. Getting a lot of attention never mattered to her.  There was no movie theater where they lived when she was growing up.  She was almost twenty when they got a television in about 1957 or1958.  My mother was pretty and still is at 74.  She never thought much about her looks.  Her group didn't seek every instance and nugget and grain in life to self promote.  Many people were private types back then and wanted to keep it that way.  There certainly wasn't the internet where anyone can easily do self promotion and appear to be important.   There was no celebrity culture like it is today. The celebrities had their place, and everyone else had theirs'.  But people back then didn't live in such a time as now with its' alienation and emptiness which we as humans continue to power and drive to a place we don't need to go.  But we are already in that place, this special prison we somehow walked into.

I look at the little kids on up to those through their 30s and a few beyond.  Due to the nature of these times there are a few even in mom's group who are powered by this need to be great and important. Usually they are the ones who can't cope with being old and probably always were the kind who were self important. 

Tonight when I told mom about the people who did blog posts in a split second, about the battle for the best cover art on Facebook and beyond containing Hugo Chavez, the repeated opinions of some and one after another going on for hours about his death, mom said about the blog posts especially, "They are like SEE how smart I am."  She laughed.  "You mean to tell me they're trying capitalize off a dead man?"  I told mom about those who behaved with class, posted a little and didn't get into a wild competition with Hugo Chavez photos, and we both felt they were being sincere and were not involved in self aggrandizement in a dead man's name. 

I am a fan of Hugo Chavez but not a fanatic.  I don't have all this gushing adulation. He was imperfect like all humans,  but I like him because he was fearless in the face of the US government's bullying and threats.  His mission was the elevation of the poor and oppressed.  He was also one of the very rare leaders who was not obviously physically black and who courageous enough to admit to having African ancestry.  That takes a lot of bravery because plenty don't want to be perceived as black or African even if the DNA is hidden somewhere.  Both Hugo Chavez and Muammar al-Gaddafi shown with goodness in several areas, and they had their flaws like any human being.  I only worship God, not men or women. The latter will betray you, ignore you, or even if they are there and loyal, one day they will ultimately pass away. 

It is not always about what we do, but how we do it and the impression we leave.  Many people crave the spotlight. Some seek attention at any and all costs. They use people, even the dead ones. There are the pseudo-analysts and experts. There are the princes and princesses of mainstream, alternative, and social media.  Do they have any human feelings for anyone outside of themselves I wonder sometimes?  

I never like it when someone is quick to call me an expert.  I don't like words like activist either because so much has been polluted by certain camps of people who go by that title.  I also don't live in a place where I can really be affective in getting across any unorthodox information to wake people up.  There's a certain mindset where I reside, and I can't get any support.   But I have honest compassion for people, and that is better, I feel than a lot of grandstanding. I write and do the best I can when I feel well.   If I can make a child happy like the one I worked with yesterday, and I was told he was a problem student, but he took to me and obeyed me as I helped him to learn leaving the class with a smiling face, I feel good.  It isn't all about me.  I praised that child, helped him, and to see his smile and hear his good-bye was enough for me.

Many of us lack humbleness.  Being humble is not weakness or being a pushover.  However, we are told that in order to succeed we must be competitive and always ready with an answer.  Never admit that you don't know or are in error.  We are told that if we have good looks and brains to use one or both to get ahead so we can be the king and queen of the hill. We are told all these things directly or indirectly in this worldwide culture, and along the way we have become selfish, obnoxious, plastic, bombastic, and ultimately less likeable because of our pride.  This is the world we live in.  To survive it I laugh about it with my mom sometimes, but deep inside I cry. 

Rest in Peace Hugo Chavez.  I am not sure what ideology I have.  It's not one thing though.   I'm also learning and observing. I used to be a Democrat. Now I'm a Pan-Africanist. Politically I lean more towards socialism somewhat and towards Orthodox Christianity faith wise.  Since your eyes were on the poor and despite the imperfections, your concern for the impoverished and oppressed showed your heart was in a good spot.  Jesus hung out mainly with the poor, though some want to say he drove a Cadillac and was living like a billionaire, but some of us don't buy that.  Some want to cut Him completely out of the picture, but  He was a threat to the establishment of his day as well, nonetheless He was perfection. 

Thanks to those in social media who handled things with class tonight and then went on about your business.  I really hope this post didn't come off as me trying to use a dead man to draw attention to myself. This is meant as merely a meditation and an observation. 


  1. I've been to my share of funerals, and you always get those who cry the loudest. Sometimes you get people who knew the deceased the least giving the longest eulogies. True, it makes you wonder about their motivations...but then there's a flipside to that too: how jaded have we ourselves become when we interpret 'big signs' of mourning and respect for the deceased as being significant of an ulterior motive?

    You've given us a lot to think about here, so I'm going to try to respond as much as I'm able to.

    One thing I don't have is ESP. I can't really say I know what the motivations of people are.

    I remember when Gaddafi was allegedly killed, it sent me into a deep depression that lasted weeks. That this happened, and happened with Obama and Clinton calling those shots, was one of the factors that made me finally decide to leave the US and move to Serbia once and for all.

    When Chavez was pronounced dead earlier yesterday, it hit my facebook stream in high volume from hundreds of contacts (aka 'friends').

    All sorts of folks changed their pictures and banners. Me and you included. Somewhat reformist trade union bureaucrats, liberals, socialists, radicals on the left, and radicals on the new-right and the new breed or radical or revolutionary conservative right - secular people and religious people too - all had a lot of respects to pay to Chavez.

    Personally I was both impressed and left with a feeling of hope in this moment of mourning. I'm glad to have witnessed that phenomenon on FB and it certainly helped with my own personal mourning process. It didn't cheapen it, rather the opposite, it gave it a deeper meaning because it was shared with so many others at the same time.

    Some of this is also about awareness. Not all of my friends on FB are political - lots, about half, of them are old drinking buddies, homies from the old neighborhood in East LA and Venice, ex-girlfriends, friends of theirs, family, former coworkers, and the like.

    If they knew anything about Socialism or Chavez, it was probably from me and very few others in their lives. So I think its great to raise awareness about Chavez - and use his death as he would have wanted - to promote and raise awareness about the struggles he waged which effect us all.

    Is it a contest to see who can pay the most respects? Are we drawing attention to ourselves when we do this? Are our motives complex, even contradictory? Perhaps, and probably.

    One of the arguments of Adam Smith in the "Wealth of Nations" is that elements of human nature that might otherwise be destructive can be harnessed to produce a social plus or a social good in the end. I don't want to focus on his brand of capitalism, but rather, that idea alone.

    Sometimes you go to church, especially in the baptist and evangelical tradition in the south and midwest of the US, and you can see a lot of interesting dynamics at work. You have people dressing the best to go to church, washing their car, even driving their 'sunday car' if they are so lucky ... you get people sitting in the front row to be noticed by the preacher or minister.

    There's always that person who shouts 'AMEN!' the loudest, and holds their arms up stretched out the most.

    You get people trying to get on this or that committee in order to gain some recognition or prestige within the church community.

    Chavez was a great leader but was not Jesus Christ, I think everyone agrees. We are all sinners and none of us are Jesus Christ. This means that all of our attempts to do something good will invariably be tainted by elements of our inherently defective character. I think this is where humbleness comes in. But its something we can strive for when we remember it, but even when we are ALWAYS conscious of it we will never achieve it. None of us are Jesus.

  2. (cont'd) In my 35 years, I've been able to observe some interesting dynamics and components of human nature.

    The long and short of it is this: it seems to be a positive thing to encourage hierarchical behaviour in the direction of the good. Let's compete (and work together at the same time!) to produce good. Let's be aware at the same time of human nature and vanity, and the need to check that with humility.

    True, this competition for good can bring out the worst in us too! But its highly unlikely that we are going to eliminate our worst tendencies - after all, we are only forgiven of sin and not free of it. I think this is going to be a component of who we are until the Second Coming.

    So that's the choice we seem to have. Encourage some competitiveness tempered by elements of humility towards 'the good' - OR leave the entire 'game' of competition to those who outright desire and aim to do 'the bad'.

    Those involved in competition of either type are ultimately going to be calling shots here in 'the world'. I would not call this a choice between the lesser of two evils. One is arranging a complex system of rewards and punishments, including hierarchies and 'awards' to help people put food in their mouths and clothes on their children. The other is being bad for the sake of bad, for the sake of the unchecked ego, and takes food out of peoples mouths and leaves babies naked and hungry. That's the reality of the choice we are faced with in my opinion.

    Some say that ALL pursuits towards social justice and the like are futile and hubristic - that pretty much we just have to turn the other cheek and give unto Cesar until the Second Coming. Some would even use John 8:7 against the idea of social justice!

    So we have this problem, this situation: church lady syndrome.

    If the Church is involved in good works, outreach, is involved in social issues in the community - then the church is doing good. If within that church, there is a whole network of busy-bodies and church ladies running around trying to be noticed and out-do each other for recognition from the laity or the preacher, then so be it. See, they've set up their mechanisms so that 'what' they are competing for is going to produce a social good, even if it highlights and even promotes some annoying personality types which in the abstract we might associate with with 'the bad'.

    From a certain perspective, this is troubling too. But we are, after all - at least in part - social animals and we are always forming these hierarchies, pecking orders, and so on. My sense is that biologically, having a good position on the pecking order helps us to have access to better mates, and increases the chances that the community at large will pool its resources for us in a time of need.

    This doesn't mean that there aren't going to be some genuine wolves in sheep's clothing. Telltale signs for me is if they've set up paypal accounts named after the deceased when they have no actual-world connection to them, with donation drives and the like which don't quantify or qualify specifically what's going to be done with the money.

    But a 'competition' on social networking to pay the biggest tribute through words and pictures - it costs you nothing to read and view! - to who is unarguably a great man and ally of the oppressed, even if its tainted with a lot of church lady syndrome replete with that 'holier than thou' mentality, then so be it.

    Until the Second Coming, there's really only one other alternative, which is much much worse.

    In this time which often feels so close to what must be 'end times', we are drawing a type of self-centered focus on ourselves in part when we go to bat for Socialism or Justin Bieber.

    Social networking is thus: Look at me and fight for Socialism! or ... Look at me I just went shopping and met Bieber!

    Take your pick!
    - Joaquin Flores

  3. Thanks for your comment Joaquin. Being middle aged I have seen more change than I can handle sometimes. I grew up with one humble parent (my mom) and one competitive parent (my dad) and I took on the traits of the former and my deeply caring, compassion, and devout grandparents, my mom's parents.

    I have been told I expect too much from people and that I'm too much of a perfectionist. Yes, I have that streak.

    My age group is almost as bad with the celebrity culture mentality, but they know the limelight won't be on them now, so they cheer on from the sidelines such as with the African-American worship of Obama and never ever criticizing him and staying in total denial.

    I have some people on my Facebook timeline that went overboard yesterday. It wasn't you. Your tribute was sober. I have never gotten the impression that you are grandstanding. You express things in a humble and sober way and with a lot of knowledge.

    Like you express, this is a complex issue, and it goes along with very complex times. I don't know always what to say, and I have to overcome a tiny degree of shyness to express dissatisfaction. I once didn't speak my mind so much. I was afraid too, but I as I get older I feel compelled too. I might come off as too preachy and critical at times, but if I seem that way it is only because I care and it's the teacher in me too, old school that is.

    I can understand about your leaving the US. I had an Iranian friend who is a citizen who decided to leave after 9/11. He said he didn't like what they were saying. So much as come to fruition with that event. I just had bad feelings from the start, and one of my uncles who had been in the Vietnam draft was one of the first to say it might have been done by the government. Since 2003 I have debated on whether to move abroad. I've lived in Turkey off and on, but I decided it is not for me. Perhaps I will end up somewhere in Africa again. I want to go home. I just wish this scramble for it was not on again.

    I can understand completely where you're coming from. I live in the Deep South so it is especially hard. I don't relate to my white or black counterparts, most who have never been anywhere except another state. Everything is so anti-intellectual. To be a black female with a degree of intellectual is very difficult. All with my own or not don't feel I should be that way.

    Okay I a rambling. I wish you the best with your life in Serbia. Thanks for including me in the Syncretic group and for your comment.


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