Religion and Politics
Mary and I have hitchhiked well over 100,000 miles together by now. I’m not judgmental or prejudicial, but I have earned enough experience and education to recognize some patterns in humanity. From New Orleans we got a ride with an annoyingly amplified evangelist preacher. He was driving his brand new Cadillac to Houston for a big revival meeting that would reap him “many souls and dollars to do HIS work, Amen.” The man was wearing enough money in diamond rings to feed a small nation. After about an hour of his self-righteous attempts to convert us in the name of his Lord, who must also have had a very good credit rating, no concern for humanity, and the ability to prattle on at a pace that would scare the shit out of an auctioneer, we asked to be let off at the next exit.
“But I’m going all the way to Houston,” said our host, who it seemed had mistaken himself for The Host.
“Thank you anyway, but we won’t be going with you.”
We got out of the car and walked to the nearest town for coffee. Mary showed me what the preacher had inspired her to write during her silent hour in his car’s back seat. She was so impressed by the arrogance of one of his statements that she quoted it as the title:
I Think What God Meant to Say
You think you know everything, in general.
This seems to interfere with you knowing anything specifically.
You move faster than the speed of sound,
crisscrossing the country as quickly as delusions cross your mind,
as quickly as mindless platitudes fly from your mouth.
You maintain a facade of happiness only as a vehicle for salesmanship.
You strive to control the weak and gain stability through materialism.
Your pace is too fast, false, and graceless for the normal human to want to learn from.
Your only visible value is teaching by negative example.
You are what not to do.
You are what not to be.
You are trapped in the quicksand of your own outdated bullshit.
How could you be expected to re-examine preconceived notions
when you run so quickly past thought
in order to reach manipulation?
You haven’t even time to pay attention to yourself,
much less anyone else.
Professed internal wholeness is belied
by your fragmented external judgments and condemnations.
You relay pretentious truths of minimal depth with maximum coercion.
I heard them all a thousand lifetimes ago!
Business gets done.
Profits, not prophets, have made you pay
them a heavy price.
It’s not my way.
I Think What God Meant to Say:
Go on by yourself!
Three Types of Communication
When you are hitchhiking, there are three types of communication that you can have with your host. These are: shallow conversation, deep conversation, and silence. Silence speaks for itself. It can range from uncomfortable to comfortable to transcendent. The shallow conversation mode may have more of religion and politics in it. Many people seem to think that just choosing these topics to speak about qualifies the conversation as being in deep mode. I have to disagree. Regardless, politics and religion seem to be the most popular subjects in human dialogue.
The evidence of a hundred thousand miles worth of listening suggests that many folks may not give these subjects as much thought as they should before they open their mouths about them. That doesn’t seem to stop many of my fellow humans from continuously talking about these subjects as if their opinions should be global mandates. I can sum up what I’ve learned from several thousand hours of conversation on these subjects in three very short chapters.
Organized Religious Distortion
The quality of attention paid by the student is more important than who the teacher is. A good Christian is better than a bad Buddhist. A good Buddhist is better than a bad Christian. Jesus is not going to keep you dry if you piss into the wind. Almost, every religion is waiting for someone to come save us. Jesus is going to come save the Christians, Messiah is going to come save the Jews, etc. My guess is that all this divine saving comes later. There seems to be a lot of saving that needs done by us amateurs before the professionals get here.
Some folks think that Salvation will never come. Some folks think that it’s already here. It seems more likely that salvation has been circling the planet for a very long time but can’t find a fucking place to land. Unless each individual human on earth starts taking on the serious tasks of saving both themselves and their fellow humans, we will disappear as a species—with or without God’s help. There have been many examples of how very capable we are of getting the job done, if we would all just get about doing it.
Some politicians may be less full of shit than others. Maybe not. As a rule, politicians get to be more full of shit as they climb higher up the political ladder. Some start out full of shit. Some actually start out with the altruistic intention that would be necessary to do the job correctly. After a period of time, they also succumb to the necessity of playing the game and the self-interest that has become the basis of political systems.
The self-interest of the rich and powerful in any and every society seems to have consistently required the compromise, or martyrdom, of that society’s authentic leaders. Couple this with the more personalized temptations—money, sex, wealth, power—offered to those who would be public servants and leaders, and the result is the sacrifice of moral priorities by those climbing up the ladder and…
Actually, all of the above is a very shortsighted observation. None of these malfunctions are the fault of any individual politician. It is the duty as well as the right of the public to install the systems and representatives that we want to be governed by. Politicians are indeed full of shit, but the public is responsible for that. We let the situation get out of control and we are the only ones who can potentially reel it back in.
Politicians don’t rate praise or blame. We do. Supposedly, the government is in the process of saving us from terrorists. No one has quite figured out who is going to save us from the government. It seems it will have to be us. Part of what we built works great. Part of what we built badly needs fixing. It is delusional to think that a few politicians can fix what took several hundred million people to build—and run down.
The Distance Between Bullshit and Me
Folks barely out of their teens often have a bit of attitude. I’m no different. Pardon me while I ventilate some road fumes. There’s a lot of bullshit in the world. Your odds of being exposed to this bullshit increase as you are more directly dependent upon other people for your business, transportation, and so on. No one completely avoids interdependence; therefore no one can completely avoid bullshit, either.
The world smells worse in some places than others but everyone’s going to get at least a little bit of stank on them while living here. We also get exposed to vast reservoirs of knowledge and kindness, but that’s not the subject of this page or two. The subject at hand is the other side of that coin. The subject here is the lower aspect of humanity that everyone runs into during the course of meeting several hundred thousand people on the road, or wherever life takes us.
Most folks are great—but chances are you’re going to meet, at the very least, a dozen or so during your lifetime who will make you wonder if God had a sharp stick up his ass during creation. The term attachment to self seems to sum up the problem pretty well. The folks who seem to be the most judgmental, the ones with the most trouble adopting a live-and-let-live attitude, seem very attached to their own personally manufactured perceptions of what’s right or wrong, permissible or impermissible, good or evil, etc. This is disturbing, but not dangerous.
What is dangerous is when these folks become convinced through ignorance and arrogance that their own subjective judgments and opinions are Universal Laws and Facts. At this point these self-righteous pricks The Distance Between Bullshit and Me become sheriff. They grant themselves authority as the Karma Cops. They often grant themselves executive privilege as well. Jamming their beliefs down other people’s throats seems to take precedence over living up to and within their own principles. TV preachers who badger us about sins of the flesh while getting caught with their own pants down are a good example.
A few clowns on TV are no problem. The same disease circulating through the general population is. Lacking the strength of character to recognize, confront, and conquer their own moral inconsistencies, many people tend to scapegoat external sources. Then they want to punish the imaginary trespassers! The self-righteous have used their make believe connection with moral superiority to justify some pretty heinous crimes against the human family.
This can happen on a small personal level. A priest scolding an altar boy for not saying his prayers may be within the bounds of his position. Doing it while he rapes the child would make Father Fellatio a member of the dangerously self-righteous club. On an even more unfortunate scale, it can manifest as a national figurehead’s inferiority complex and paranoia fostering a compensatory delusion of superiority that leads a nation of militaristic sheeple to commit the genocide of scapegoats. There have been way too many examples of this throughout human history.
I’ve been extremely blessed in meeting a great number of truly kind and helpful people in my travels. I’ve also had a number of people try to victimize me with their holier-than-thou and almost always hypocritical rhetoric. Fuck these people. I’m sorry. I know I need to be more patient and tolerant. Professional help is being sought. So far, I’m not good enough to think anything but, well—fuck these people. Power-hungry vipers who support bombing villages full of innocent goat-herding or rice- growing civilians that couldn’t find America on a map, and wouldn’t care to do so if they could, do not have the moral authority to tell me to not smoke a joint! Kiss my ass! I’m not saying that smoking pot is the world’s greatest purpose, but we need to get our priorities straight, my friends. Smoking ganja is a pastime that is superior in every way to a lot of popularly accepted crimes. War and bigotry come to mind immediately. Curing these infinitely more damaging social diseases deserves an infinitely greater amount of our attention.
A great deal of nonsense snares our attention away from the things that most desperately need it. Worrying about who smokes a medicinal herb, keeping up with the sexual tension scripted between fictional TV couples, or saving a few cents a month on phone calls might be concerns that we could ignore until famine, war, and infant mortality are cured. There are too many people defining right and wrong by what makes them comfortable with their premature subjective cognitive commitments— their own bullshit—instead of examining the evidence. It’s nonsense. If you are one of these people, I’m not going to argue with you about it. I wouldn’t frustrate myself by playing in your ballpark. I can stay in my own ballpark or go visit a friendly one. That’s the exact distance between bullshit and me.
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