The Jai road
Last month, we took a trip to one of our favorite nearby hidden treasures. Called Ojai (oh-high) by the Chumash, its original inhabitants for hundreds of pre-Columbian years, this is a resort town tucked away in the mountains above Ventura, just miles from the Central California Coast. These pictures are from a recent trip we took to Ojai and I had some fun with them. I have more and will probably discuss Ojai in more depth next week, as I had planned to do today. The events of last weekend somehow jibed with the atmosphere of Ojai in a unique way, that I will expand upon next time, so I am not mixing apparent apples and pears here.
By the way, Ojai means “moon” in Chumash. Not wanting to be too cute, I think the moon is the perfect symbol for what we are all undergoing now, if you have any background in myth, Joseph Campbell, Hermetics, Jungian archetypes, and fairy tales (more on the latter some time — they are not for children, they are the collective wisdom of the eons, preserved in almost parable form).
I’ve been reading a series of books and articles by an interesting scientist, Beck A. Bailey, PhD. She is a child psychologist who has developed (and tested) a theory and set of principles to guide parents in raising babies to adolescents. In the vein of the “conscious discipline” movement, this employs a careful approach based on love and respect for the child and eliminating most of the both unsuccessful and harmful disciplinary measures of the past 100 years. This ranges from such outmoded “modern” practices as reward and punishment, time-outs to the now thoroughly discredited methods of corporal punishment, shaming, and intimidation that were considered effective and standard for the past thousand or more years.
What strikes me as relevant about this well articulated and brilliant approach to managing a child’s behavior, so they win more often than they lose, and the adults in charge keep their sanity and help bring out the best in the children in their care, is how this paradigm can be applied to the serious threats we are facing right now. Just in the last month alone, attacks on the Russians, Lebanese and French have spotlighted the issue of our clearly unsuccessful strategies for influencing our desired global outcomes of a peaceful, verdant, prosperous world. Along these lines, please take a minute and see the post my good friend here, badfish, put up and listen to the Chaplin speech. It moves one to tears of compassion.
As I said last week, these are sobering times and we need serious thinkers and doers. Bluster, hyperbole, and overblown knee-jerk posturing are not the tools needed for the complicated matters they entail. I have been listening all week long to certain of our leaders who want to “crush” these sociopathic extremists, etc., and bar largely innocent refugees from entering the country. We suddenly developed a robust localized xenophobia in response to what are largely international phenomena. These problems did not arise overnight and they will take a radical change of attitudes and practices on all our parts to resolve, if it isn’t already too late. In America, by the way, we have more to fear from the Visa Waiver program, that allows anyone from hundreds of countries to step on a plane and be here in hours, while the refugee program is a two year extensive vetting process. To date, no refugee on record has launched an attack on American soil. Plenty of “students” have.
We cannot simply destroy these thugs because they are not a state or even one or two discrete groups. They represent an idea, an ideology and pathology. Some of it is the result of what Thomas Friedman so rightly identified in his book The World is Flat, i.e., a group of young, poor, frustrated men in fifth world countries — many of them in the Middle East and Africa — seeing the bounty of Western countries and feeling utterly hopeless and left behind. Some of it can be laid at the feet of those countries who have solicited immigrants to do the labor that they no longer have their own populace in sufficient numbers and of an age to do and then ghettoize them, keeping them apart, failing to encourage their assimilation. Some of this can be attributed to the earlier hegemonic presence of countries like Great Britain, the United States, and other Europeans in what we once referred to as the Third World. Places, notably, like South America and Africa whose resources have been plundered for four hundred years, keeping them deliberately underdeveloped and impoverished as a consequence.
And, let’s decide together. Did the shock-and-awe doctrine deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq work? Where did this particular branch of the movement emanate from in the first place, shall we remember? We are still trying to fight current battles with old strategies and they are failing horribly.
This latest brand of violence and depravity is largely testosterone driven. But, these people believe such barbarity is a reasonable tool to employ in bringing about a mythical apocalypse. They also believe they will be rewarded for killing infidels and Westerners. DAESH and their ilk have a perverted world view and their dedication to it is confounding to reasonable people outside those societies. Let’s remember, these men come from cultures that are still employing female mutilation, slave labor, selling women and children into bondage, destroying land and polluting the earth for short term profits. They are living in little more than stone age hamlets. What do they see when they view us via our media? What appear to be a group of rich, spoiled, decadent, wanton, simpletons, living in utter luxury, drugged, drunk, and sex obsessed. Take a look at our ads, our sitcoms, our movies, our children’s electronic games. We must place ourselves outside the terrarium and look in, as we would on a zoo population. Am I wrong?
I have already mentioned that when I lived in SA working on my doctorate, many people asked me if I owned machine guns, if I do cocaine, if I live in a mansion and have a limousine. Where do you think they got this impression? We pay no attention to how we interact with the rest of the world, how we behave as tourists, how our government has conducted its largely economic affairs, pursued its imperial interests elsewhere on the planet. America may or may not have been as guilty of these aggressive and semi-predatory practices as some other nations, but we have engaged in them covertly, nonetheless.
We are not going to eliminate renegade gangsters by bombing Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan back to an even earlier age, as these people are already living in stone age conditions. That is part of the problem right there. Maybe an approach to them that reflects the sentiments of Rabbi Lerner at Tikkun — read this article — would eventually help resolve these matters and bring these disaffected populations into the modern world in such a way as to quell their hatred against us, whether deserved or not. I did not think the President’s speech in Turkey on Monday showed his lack of will to act. It showed instead an insider’s understanding of the complexity of the situation and his measured words were meant to give no quarter to these murderers, no fodder for their recruiting propaganda. The world, these matters, human beings, their psyches are not black and white. All of this is co-terminus, in my opinion, with the tremendous changes underway since the turn — ironically — of the 21st century, far greater than any of the past few hundred years and packed into a very short time frame.
This does not mean that America and the world have no role to play in stopping these barbarous fanatics. I want to see the Saudis, Kuwaitis and Emiratis step up and do something. Contribute troops if need be, certainly issue whatever warnings they need to and then follow through. I want to see the good Muslims of the world, including and especially the Imams, intercede so the innocent, whoever they are, will not be punished for what these few cultists are inflicting.
Just as we who employ best practices, parents and educators alike, no longer clobber children, verbally or physically, emotionally damaging them for life and having them turn on us in adolescence and reflect back to us our lack of understanding and respect for them, when they become teenagers, so we have to stop viewing the rest of humanity as a group of naughty children who must be harshly disciplined, cowed, frightened, intimidated into submission. It doesn’t and never has worked with children. It doesn’t work and never has worked in human history, planet-wide.
Coincidentally, I attended an online photography seminar on Wednesday about being a street photographer. It was so compelling to me because the photographer approaches his work as urban anthropology. He has shot photographs all over the world including in Iraq and Syria during the pitch of the conflicts. He looks for the marginalized, to try and bring out their humanity. Artists are usually sensitive people so I can only imagine what it cost him personally to do this. Yet, he helps us to confront the real nature of people that we in our comfort zones usually ignore.
The world reflects back to us, ourselves, just as the moon reflects the sun back. We can promote our dark side or our light. We have that choice. Many people in the world do not, just as those nascent human beings in our care when they are struggling to become themselves look to us to provide a safe space and wise guidance to bring them to their full development as adults. We in the West who have seen to it that we prosper, must lift the rest of the world up. Then we will rid ourselves of this plague of extreme violence. What we concentrate on, grows. In kind.
Images: Chez BeBe assets: Ojai, California