Monday, September 27, 2004

What Do You Have in Common With Joseph Stalin?

I've been teaching my students about autocratic governments the last couple of weeks. Later in the year I'll be going over cats like Joseph Stalin. Here is a link to a online survey I have my students take to get an idea of how their views stack up against totalitarian dictators. Go ahead and take it. We can compare results later. Really, it is kind of fun at the end.

P.S. If you want to check out the website I have set up for students and parents click here.

I love my job. Peace and good health to all.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Back from Oblivion

It is difficult for me to believe that it has been nearly two weeks since my last post, but alas, it has. I've missed this little community we've all cobbled together.

Much has happened. School started. I shaved my head. My son started soccer. My wife's fibromyalgia has gotten worse. And the baby is finally growing hair.

With the start of school I have been working full tilt really since September 1st. As I shared in a previous post, I am now department head and things are different. Colleagues are looking at me differently. In a good way, but different. I am constantly doing something when I am not in the classroom. Getting supplies. Sifting through stacks of old textbooks by the football stadium trying to find those missing U.S. Govt. books. Conferencing with new teachers. Distributing information to my peers. Rubbing shoulders with the administration(Good people, but it leaves a residue I find unsettling). So far things are going well. It has only been two weeks and I haven't screwed anything up yet. The weirdest part is. I like being department head. Not for any strange power trippy kind of way, but I like solving problems and helping teachers get the stuff they need to do their job the best they can. It feels good.

I shaved my head because. . . well, if you have seen me in the last ten years you know I'm losing my hair. I finally figured, why fight nature? Besides, I've got a good shaped melon. I think it looks good. So does my wife, and that is a really good thing.

My oldest boy started soccer this past summer and his team actually won their first game last Saturday. My boy is a very intelligent, opinionated and competitive person. I wonder where he got that from??? We thought healthy competition combined with the forced reality of team cooperation might be good for him. Besides, he loves the game. I took him to a Los Angeles Galaxy game this summer and now he wants to be the next Kobe Jones, dreadlocks and all. God help me.

My wife's fibromyalgia has got worse over the last few weeks for a lot of different reasons. If you don't know what fibro is imagine having the worst headache you have ever had, all over your body,pain piercing every muscle you have just under your skin for the last ten years. That comes close to describing her pain on a daily basis. Pray for her. We're going to try some new treatments to alleviate some of the pain so she can get back to doing her yoga which seemed to help.

I think I have realized how some people turn 50 and wonder where the years have gone. Life happens when we are not even looking because we are just too damn busy with the stuff of life to notice the passage of time. Some of it good, even great. Some not so great.

Temporarily retreating is regenerative. I was sitting in my backyard this evening bar-be-cuing and enjoying the scenery. Much of what we had to slash this summer to make way for the fumigators has begun to grow back already. I recently planted another tree in our backyard. I have been raising this tree since it was a 3 inch seedling. It is now a little over 7 feet and a beautiful addition to the private sanctuary I am determined to create. I can almost breathe in the refreshment of my wife's roses. Hummingbirds are everywhere back there. The mingling scents of jasmine, freshly cut grass and the mesquite from the grill are soothing. I think it was Pascal who wrote that man is both lost and found in a garden. I think he may have been on to something.

Be well all. It is good to be back.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

World War III

Reading Troy's latest post about the horrendous acts of terrorism in Russia got me thinking. Troy specifically wonders if we are not already in the midst of another world war. I've been thinking about this for a couple of years now, really since 9/11. I must say, based on what I know of history, sociology and the dark pit that is human nature I believe we are engaged in World War III already, whether we are aware of it or not. To be sure, I'm not the first or only person to come to this realization. People much smarter and talented than I have stated this themselves. Take for example renowned and respected NY Times writer Thomas Friedman said as much in the first days after 9/11. I didn't believe it then. I guess reality has taken a few years to set in or perhaps it was blatant denial.

I don't think this war is like any other we've faced and maybe that is why it is so difficult to pinpoint the why, what and where about it. This war I see as more of a clash of civilizations. I don't mean Islamic and Western neccessarily, but Modern versus pre-Modern. Sure there is religious ideology invoked on the part of terrorists. But if you don't know that most Muslims are not terrorists then please stop reading my blog and never come back.

What I mean is that the Modern world with all it's technological and social 'progress' has ultimately head butted with the rest of the world that is not at this particular life stage. Religion tends to be neutralized in the Modern world, thus allowing for the advancement of certain other social instutions that bring additional changes. In short, in the march toward modernity, religion finds a nice little cozy, accomodationg niche in society that helps the members of society deal constructively with radical changes that science, technology and liberalizing politics brings (more about the down side of this later). Equality, prosperity and enfranchisement of the massess follows. Yada, yada, yada.

In the rest of the world where these conditions do not exist, religion becomes the vehicle in which frustration, ignorance, oppression and violence are driven. In these places, religion is used to explain how the infidel overpowered the righteous in struggle of good versus evil and in the process demonizes all those outside the faith. Such is the case in the Middle East. For example, 800 years ago when the Islamic caliphate was the envy of the world this side of China, there were no suicidal religious fantics in that part of the world. Prosperity bred stability and stability bred a healthy worldview of God's role in the world. Today, the M.E. suffers from failed regimes and an inability to adapt to a changing world order (anybody remember the Ottoman Empire?). Where there is no prosperity there is no stability. When instability rears its ugly head all hell breaks loose. Scapegoats are found to explain away failure. If you don't believe me please refer to Germany in the1930's, China between 1969-1976 or Cambodia under Pol Pot. When all this takes place, religion sometimes becomes the destabilizing factor in a pre-Modern society. Such is the case in the Middle East.

In short, it is for these reasons and many others I'm not bright enough to articulate properly, that the current Islamic terrorism has been shaped. An invasion of a Central Asian country by Western Communisits becomes framed in jihad. The Industrial World's thirst for oil like so much crack cocaine is interpreted as Western endorsement of oppressive regimes so long as they keep that light sweet crude a flowin'. Or the U.S.' unadulterated support of Israel(for so many ill conceived reasons it makes me shake), is cast in the shadow of the West supporting a government that prevents Muslims from inhabiting their homeland and thus perpetuating the fanatical nature of resistance. Resistance against all that is perceived to be diametrically opposed to the pre-Modern worldview mangled and twisted through the lense of religion and nationalism.

For all these reasons and more 19 young men will fly jets into iconic buildings. Misguided, dangerous and evil men will brutally behead their fellow human beings for all the world to see via the World Wide Web. The only thing that slows down your observing the madness is your ISP.

For these reasons young men will see the only weapon at their disposal is themselves, and use it. All in the name of nationalism or sicker still, in the name of God. For these reasons women, yes women will take 1500 hostages in a Russian school and murder over 150 of them and injure another 600. Becuase the perception persists that the Modern world order is invading the pre-Modern and everything must be done to stop the future and go back to the past when everything was right.

World War III is like nothing we've seen before. It lacks a specific definition and its foot soldiers are not always clearly distinguished. The challenge for us is not to fall prey to the cycle of pre-emptive strikes in the name of security and in the long run become what we hate. This is what Osama bin Laden and his homies want. And I fear our governemnt is currently giving him exactly what he asked for. Bin laden seeks to polarize the world into two camps and George W. Bush is accomodating him. I firmly believe if Osama bin Laden could vote he would vote for George Bush because another four years of him would continue the road bin laden opened up on 9/11.

We need to pray. We need to think. And then we need to pray more.

Just my unorganized ramblings late at night. Sorry this so long, blame Troy. He started it. Peace to all.