Posts Tagged ‘education’

What if an alien came down to earth and wanted you to explain the current divisiveness of the planet. The questions would start out simple enough.

“What are crosses? I see them adorning so many things,” it asks. A long story follows and the alien nods wisely and says, “Ah, an instrument of torture.” Oh, dear, and you were just about to take him into the cathedral and show him the really great antique cross with the tortured Jesus still hanging on it, rendered in all its detailed gore.

You take him to a mosque instead. No icons, so you think you are safe. “Where are the women?” the alien asks. Segregated and hidden under the veils, you answer. “Hidden from what?” the alien asks. From the men around them. “Why?” the alien asks, his confusion complete. Well, it makes that whole denial of the flesh so much easier when there is nothing to tempt you, you reply.

“Denial of the flesh?” it asks. “Is this a form of birth control?”

No, you say, at a loss for words. In order to illustrate your explanation you take the alien to see the monks and zealots, telling the alien about true belief. The alien looks at the extreme denial of the flesh with confusion. “But,” it would say, “the flesh is the extension of Self through which we touch all of the Universe. Denying it makes you effectively deaf, mute and blind.”

You try to explain holiness and saints and martyrdom. “Wouldn’t your civilization be better served if they lived instead of dying?” the alien asks. The alien is obviously not getting it. You take him to see the sufis and the flagellants and the emaciated fasters. The alien shakes its head at the fanatics who torture their flesh to induce paroxysms of mind altering ecstasy. “What are they doing?” the alien asks. They seek enlightenment, you reply. “You know there are drugs,” it says, “that do the same thing in a far gentler way, right?” Oh, well, that is illegal. We lock people into dark airless cages for using them. “Ah, you don’t want anyone numbing down the pain,” the alien nods.

You try to explain prisons. “Really?” the alien says in utter confusion. “And what does this accomplish?” it asks. “Is this not another extreme form of denial of the flesh? Are you trying to convert them to the ways of the Death Cult?” No, no, you say. We just want to teach them to obey the rules. “How is that working for you? Does it make them obey the rules better?” Well, no, you admit. They usually come out of their cages far more angry and uncivilized than when they went in, but they have been punished. The brutality usually strips their humanity away. But the punishment is the thing, you say firmly.

The alien nods wisely. “Death and torture,” it says. “Transformation through pain. It is to be expected of a society ruled by Death Cults. So do you use that to your advantage? Do the strongest and fittest and smartest survive and go on to rule your world?”

Well, no, you admit. You try to explain the permanent taint of criminal records. “So, they become so marginalized by the social system that they end up back in the cages or dying on the street, homeless and alone. Is this another form of birth control?” the alien asks doubtfully. “Isn’t it far easier to not have the babies to begin with? There are ways to control birth cycles. I could help you with that,” the alien suggests gently. Oh, no, you say, we already have that but it is only available to those who can pay for it. Besides, most of the religions think it demonic to deny the randomness of god’s will. “Uh, you know that random chance is another word for chaos, right?” the alien asks, looking at you oddly. “Is not chaos the enemy of a any civilization?”  You stutter on, not wanting to argue. Females, you explain, are kept ignorant. Most are used and treated like cattle, bound with rules and laws and brutality to keep them from using choice as a way of controlling family size.

“Without a strong mother, how can you possibly raise intelligent and strong children?’ the alien asks, a look on its face that tells you it is really afraid of the answer.

Uhhh, you say, searching for an explanation.

“No, no, let me guess,” the alien says, holding up his tentacle to stop you from replying. “I have seen many civilizations controlled by death cults. I know the answer to this one. You are a civilization obsessed with death, dying, and pain induced transformation. You teach through torture. I can only assume your infant mortality rates are quite high and the children that survive pregnancy and infancy in one piece are then forced into a monkish and ascetic lifestyle of deprivation and austerity. Those who survive to adulthood are so transformed by their experiences that they become invested in the system that created them, thinking that this is the only way to make a strong and powerful adult. Let me guess. The young adults confuse ruthlessness with being powerful, thus perpetuating the system.”

It’s called pulling oneself up by your own bootstraps, you say, offended.  The alien looks at you like you have grown your own set of tentacles and they are whipping about uncontrollably. It is quite embarrassed for you. “You know that is physically impossible and denies all the laws of physics, don’t you?” it says.

OK, you concede. Bad choice of words. How about survival of the fittest? Everyone is a shark swimming in a great big ocean of sharks, you say.

“Yes,” the alien says patiently, “but not even sharks cannibalize their mates instead of f*cking them. But be that as it may, you are not solitary hunters swimming in an infinite ocean. You are a social animal who needs the matrix of the social group to survive. How long would an elephant herd last if you culled the elder females over and over again. Would it not effectively lobotomize your ability to survive change? What if you killed off all the elder chimps in a pack? The collective knowledge and wisdom of the group, garnered over generations would be erased and every generation would have to start over from scratch trying to survive in a world full of pitfalls. You are a higher order, thinking,  and intricately complex species. It takes years of teaching to make a successful adult and I am not talking about the knowledge you teach in your so called schools. No species gives birth to a helpless infant and then walks away from it.”

Some of our infants are raised in privilege, you say. “Not every child is an empty and vacuous soldier in the army of the corporate machinery. Really?” the alien says, hope in its voice. “Show me. I would love to see a human unaffected by the culture of pain, torture, and denial of self.”

You take the alien to see the children of the privileged few who have been raised in the proverbial belly of the beast. “I am sorry,” the alien says with a sad shake of its head, “the torture inflicted upon these children is far more subtle and insidious than starvation and neglect. They have been brain washed until the last vestiges of common sense and natural wisdom have been subverted to the system that birthed them. It has left them gutted, empty, and highly addicted to a value system based on ownership of tangible goods, made all the more ironic as the whole system is being continuously degraded by chaos and entropy. Where are the leaders of tomorrow?”

No, no, you say. Statistics say these are the happiest children on the planet. They will be good leaders.

“You know, I think I see the problem here. You have confused the illusion called happiness with tue joy,” the alien said.

Huh, you say. I don’t know what you mean.

“I know,” the aliens says as he puts his space helmet back on, “which is why I am officially posting your planet as quarantined and off limits. I will come back and check  up on you in a century or two but I don’t expect you’ll get too much further up the ladder of civilization than you are now. Maybe in another ten thousand years your ancestors will crawl out of their caves and try again.”


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In the escalation of the differences between the haves and the have-nots, one despairs at the obtuseness of those who would build walls around themselves to protect what they view as their birthright. But all it takes is one outbreak of Dengue fever in Miami to remind one that walls mean nothing to a planet that is one living breathing organism and that no matter where you live and how many armed guards you have at your door,  you cannot protect yourself from the folly of your own choices.

You see, Dengue fever is carried from person to person by the mosquito.  This would not be a problem in a country whose health care system ensured that everyone, no matter how poor, had free access to some sort of medical aid. In such a system, people would fall ill and be treated. The contagion’s vector pool is contained and eradicated.

But in a system where most people have either no coverage or inadequate coverage, a simple trip to the emergency room becomes a burden most households cannot bear. The sick stay sick. The contagion’s vector pool becomes immense. The opportunity for that stray insect to flit over the wall and infect the wealthy and the privileged increases exponentially.

The plague of the Middle Ages did not keep to the slums and the servant’s quarters. It killed indiscriminately regardless of class or status.  Fleas infested everyone back then. Hygiene was viewed with suspicion. They could be forgiven their ignorance. But do not think the Black Death is an illness relegated to history. I would venture to say that any house with a pet in modern times has flea problems. Insects are equal opportunity offenders. Wealth does not insulate you from their encroachment on human territories. Madonna’s very public and frustrating battle to eradicate head lice from her household is a prime example.

Listen. You are human. You live on a very small planet overburdened with +6 billion people. Nowhere is safe. You are at risk, no matter your lifestyle, no matter your wealth, if the least of your population, the poorest and the most downtrodden is at risk. Health is not just the result of medical access. Poor health is partly caused by ignorance. The lack of education in the poor becomes the problem of the wealthy when that ignorance endangers everyone. The group health is only as good as its weakest link. To sit behind your fortified walls and pretend any different is a fool’s delusion.

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