The Rights of Humans vs. Others, Part One

Ants

The ants have been invading our house on a regular basis.  California is in drought.  The ants are thirsty and hungry.  I do my best to keep them out by spreading turmeric or cinnamon over the cracks where they’re coming in.  We’ve set the legs of the little stand that holds the cat’s food in plastic containers of water, but Magic the Cat is a messy eater and whenever he drops a small piece of kibble on the counter (yes, his food is on a counter in the bathroom so the dogs won’t eat it…) the ants swarm in from some new place after that tiny piece of kibble.  I spread turmeric over the new place, and then… then I proceed to wipe out the ants.  At the first awareness of me they scatter in every direction like humans in a Godzilla film.  I can almost hear them screaming.  In my head I hear a whisper – “murderer.”

Wikipedia says, “Ant societies have division of labour, communication between individuals, and an ability to solve complex problems. These parallels with human societies have long been an inspiration and subject of study.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ant

You can read about their pretty advanced communication skills there, as well. And that they teach each other things!  Wikipedia says, “Many animals can learn behaviours by imitation, but ants may be the only group apart from mammals where interactive teaching has been observed.” (Ibid)

Ants have set up an aphid ranch in my artichokes.

Yes, they’re herding the aphids like cattle.

Wikipedia says, “Aphids… secrete a sweet liquid called honeydew, when they feed on plant sap. The sugars in honeydew are a high-energy food source, which many ant species collect.  In some cases, the aphids secrete the honeydew in response to ants tapping them with their antennae. The ants in turn keep predators away from the aphids and will move them from one feeding location to another. When migrating to a new area, many colonies will take the aphids with them, to ensure a continued supply of honeydew.” (Ibid)

Brings to mind covered wagons with cows tied behind them…

Ants have also been used for the benefit of humans.  Somewhere in Africa they’ve been used as sutures holding wounds closed with their mandibles.  Once the wound had been sutured, the ants were beheaded.

But the ants, too, can be brutal.  Sometimes colonies attack each other, steal from each other, and take slaves. Yes, slaves!

I get a very strange feeling when I kill ants.  What don’t we know about them?  Am I killing one of their greatest poets?  How could we possibly know whether or not ants have art forms that are important to their culture?

How does my right to an ant free home balance with their individual rights to life?

Overpopulation? Or the Needs of the Poor vs. the Needs of the Earth.

One day in one of my InterPlay classes, a fellow student said, “If you ask me, the problem is there are too many people.”

Well, maybe. But which people are the “too many”? Is it the poor of Africa or South America? Their actual population numbers are high, but their carbon footprint on the earth is very small. They are not the ones causing global warming. If left to live life the way they have always lived it, they live more than sustainably.

It’s those of us in the industrial nations who are living way beyond sustainably. We are causing the problem, we are denying the problem, but we are not the ones dying. Drought has been a problem in Northern Africa for a long time. We barely notice except to be surprised when boatloads of people who are trying to escape the drought die on the Mediterranean. We can’t be bothered to see the connection between the rise of groups like the Boko Haram and the exploitation of the natural resources of Africa by the multi-national corporations. Really, Africa is the step-child of the earth. We have allowed terrible destruction of the people and the environment without a blink of the eye.

Now in some parts of India the temperatures have risen to about 120 degrees. Thousands have died.  Who are these thousands? The elderly, the homeless, people who work outside. The poor. The innocents.

How do we change this? How do find a way not to feel helpless (and therefore frozen in action) faced with the power of the multi-nationals?

Our approach must be multi-faceted.

  1. We have politics, of course. We must continue to back progressive candidates, sign petitions, etc.
  2. We must get out and organize against drilling in the Artic, fracking anywhere, for the rights of human beings being exploited, poisoned, pushed into the oceans, everywhere.
  3. We must rise up for alternative energy sources.
  4. We must insist on regulations for multi-national corporations and not allow trade agreements like the TPP that would undermine our ability make these changes.
  5. And, we must curb our own excesses. We must go off the grid.  Stop funding the big corporations by refusing to buy from them.
    1. Begin with clothes. Let’s stop supporting slave labor in poverty stricken nations. It’s not easy to find the things we need without going to the big box stores, but there are lots of good used clothing stores. Search for fair trade on the internet and you’ll find some surprising things! Email companies that have things you’d like to buy and ask them who makes their clothes, how are they treated?
    2. Buy locally produced food.
    3. My husband and I haven’t gone solar yet.  We don’t have the money, and suspect our old house doesn’t have the structure for it, but maybe we can cooperate with our neighbors to bring solar to our neighborhood.

And more, and more.  How about adding your ideas and “finds” in the comments?

Wrung Out

Wrung Out

I feel wrung out.  First a balcony collapses here in Berkeley killing six young people – five from Ireland – and injuring seven more. In my town – a building approved by my city. The full inspection information is not in, but the suggestion is that the balcony was full of dry rot.  This was a fairly new building – luxury apartments.  Full of students. Might this be a case of corporate malfeasance – someone taking a shortcut to amass more profit?

And then almost immediately after comes the news of Charleston. A boy the same age as the young people on the balcony murders nine people, accusing them – some women – one 88 years old – of “raping our women.” A young man infused with hate who thinks what he has done is morally correct..

Should I have been so surprised by either of these things? The roots of both are in our “profit first” society. Chattel slavery is the epitome of “profit first.” Kidnap innocent people, load them like logs on a ship to come to the “new” world, where sixty million of them died before even making it to the slave market. Sixty million! We’re horrified by the six million Jews killed in Nazi Germany.  Why are we not horrified by the sixty million thrown overboard like chaff? The ones who survived were beaten if they did not work hard enough to bring in the cotton; they were bred like cattle and their children – an extra profit beyond the profit from their work – were sold.

For some reason many people in this country think we are beyond all that – our ugly past is past.  But I believe it is our refusal to recognize our guilt, to acknowledge the horror of what our country did that leads to the kind of act that happened at Mother Emmanuel Church Wednesday night. Rather than recognize our own racism, rather than owning our past and working to make amends for it, we blame the victim. “It happened because something is wrong with them. They rape our women.” Or, “they’re lazy, welfare cheats,” “criminals”.  We make up stories about the people we’ve hurt, who we don’t want to face, and then go on hurting and hurting and hurting them.

Some of these stories are being propagated by pundits on the so called news presented by the corporate media and seeping into the impressionable brains of young people like the murderer, Dylann Roof. Why? Where is the profit in promoting racism?

Divide and conquer is certainly part of the strategy.  We cannot unite to make sure we have safe working conditions, safe emissions from factories, safe drinking water, safe food to eat if we are busy blaming our problems on black people. It’s a sleight of hand.  While one hand is stealing our commons, polluting our land and water, sending jobs overseas, etc., etc., etc., the other is pointing at “those folks” (black people, immigrants, and more) suggesting that it’s all “their” fault.

It’s time to open our eyes.  It’s time for reconciliation, for studying our true history, for recognizing that our country’s history has not been all goodness and light.  It’s time to see each other in all our complexities, good and bad. It’s time to embrace each other and care – really care.

Thug

Thug

What do we mean when we call someone a thug? If you google it, you find the meaning of this word is all over the place these days.

The urban dictionary says:

As Tupac defined it, a thug is someone who is going through struggles, has gone through struggles, and continues to live day by day with nothing for them. That person is a thug and the life they are living is the thug life. A thug is NOT a gangster. Look up gangster and gangsta. Not even CLOSE, my friend.

“That boy ain’t a gangsta, fo’sho’. Look at how he walks, he’s a thug… That’s the saddest face I’ve seen in all my life as a teen.”

Historically the word “thug” has been used to mean people who gang up and beat up others.  It originates in India – a group of robbers who attacked people, beating them up and killing them in the name of Kali, the defeater of demons. Did these people think the people they attacked were demons or is this just another of the many examples of people taking the name of some god or goddess or religion and twisting it to suit their own personal needs? (I’m tempted to segue into research about these original “thugs”, but I’ll refrain and bring the discussion back to today!)

Until recently I associated this term with fascism.  The historically earliest use of the term that I remember reading about was when “thugs” hired by companies attacked labor organizers.  In some historical accounts the Pinkertons and other hired militias were referred to as “thugs”.

Before World War II there were “fascist thugs” who attacked labor organizers, Jews, and others in Italy and in Germany.

Even today the words “anti-union thug” can be found in articles on the internet although they are talking about a metaphoric “beating”, rather than a physical one.

But mostly today I see the word used by white people on elists and comment sections as a code word for “black or brown man” (sometimes women, too).  I guess these people think they can claim not to be racist because they never identified the people they’re talking about as black or brown – even though it’s clear to everyone.

I do understand what Tupac was talking about in the quote above. I see young black men in my neighborhood looking lost. I had a conversation with a young black man in a class I was taking who said a third of his high school classmates were dead. Where are these young men to find grounding when we both haven’t prepared them for adult life in our society, and even when they are prepared, there are no jobs for them – where those hiring take one look at them and turn them down because they’re black.

But I have a hard time referring to these young men as “thugs”, even using Tupac’s definition.  I want us to stop using this word and start seeing each person in front of us as a complex human being whose life might be awash with fear, with violence, neglect, and the low self-esteem that comes from being immersed in the values of a racist society.

Please, no more name calling!

A Return to the Blog!

I can’t believe it’s been three years since I posted on this blog! Many things have happened in the world since then, some good, some bad.

(If you don’t want to read the following partial list of the bad, skip to the next paragraph!)

  • Global warming has progressed faster than we expected. Huge cyclones have devastated the Philippines. Indians are dying by the thousands from 120 degree temperatures. Glaciers are melting.  Some of the climate change refugees are now from our own Alaska and Texas.
  • Shell oil, having caused havoc in the Gulf, is preparing to go to the Arctic and bring destruction there.
  • Extremists in Africa have kidnapped and raped, sometimes killed, thousands of women.
  • Refugees pushed out by the powers that be in Burma (Myanmar) are floating in boats in the Indian     Ocean, pushed back into the sea by some countries they go to seeking refuge.
  • Refugees from drought and civil war in Africa are drowning in the Mediterranean.
  • In 2011 we were excited by the Egyptian revolution and since then it has come full circle back to the original repressive regime.
  • American elections have been weird, to say the least.
  • Our “liberal” president – who has done many good things – is promoting a trade agreement that will help corporations undermine our safety legislation, is intimately involved in sending drones to murder our perceived enemies, is locking up whistle blowers at unprecedented rates…

We might think that the world is cycling into destruction.  And it might be, but…

  • Los Angeles just voted in a $15 minimum raise.
  • The Black Lives Matter organization – created out of murder and despair – is bringing the rampant racism in our country to the forefront.  Many, many white people who did not believe racism still existed now can see the truth.  This is bringing reform to the police and justice systems, we hope.
  • Every so often one of the many petitions we sign fighting a particular oppression sends out an email saying, “We won!”
  • An organization in Seattle has built their own alternative energy platform floating next to the one Shell plans to send to the Arctic. Several local political entities are making it difficult for Shell to dock it’s platforms in Seattle.
  •  Idle No More, an organization of indigenous peoples founded in Canada, has organized huge protests against Shell in Seattle, surrounding the platform in kayaks.  They feel that Native American treaty rights might be the last stand to stopping environmental disaster.
  • People are organizing around many issues. I get email about demonstrations occurring about this or that need for change happening several times a week.  Many of them represent a coalition of organizations.
  • More and more people are turning to alternative news sources, recognizing that news sources owned by large corporations are distorting the news, leaving out important information, sometimes even lying.
  • We have a candidate for president who is truly totally unconnected to global corporations – a real Progressive.  Hurray, Bernie Sanders!

Some small wins, some big wins. We are beginning to understand that all these different problems are interrelated, forming coalitions to attack them. People are beginning to sit up and say, “We can do better than this.”

We can!

 

Nurturing Darkness

(An interlude before we go on discussing constant change):

One of my readers commented on the use of the term “dark” to describe “dark energy” in my last blog.

The term “dark energy” is a scientific one, not my own term.  We can see “light energy” so the energy we cannot see must be “dark energy”.  Scientists’ mathematical calculations say it’s there even though we can’t see it.  There is nothing negative about dark energy.  It is neither good nor bad.  It just is.

However, I am disturbed at the suggestion that darkness might imply evil.  Darkness as a symbol of evil has been used allegorically a lot, but this use has had some very bad consequences.  Much of the racism in this country is enhanced by this false allegory.  Are dark people evil?  No.  Is night evil?  Is winter evil?  No.  These are very important parts of the natural cycle of life on this earth.

I once wrote a song on this subject.  The words are:

In the dark of winter
the bulbs and the seeds
lay deep in the nurturing earth.
It’s a time of renewal,
a time of sleep
awaiting the promise of birth.

In the dark of night
we go to our beds
gather new strength in our dreams.
Its a time of rest,
a time to sleep
awaiting the sun’s morning streams.

In the dark of her womb
she carries her babe
who grows in life every day.
It’s a time of growth,
of nurturing hopefor our children will show us the way.

Come new life
come out of the dark
rise to the promise of spring
Come new life
come out of the warmth
see what the new life will bring.

Awaken my soul
come out of the dark
rise to the promise of  dawn.
Awaken my soul
come out of the warmth
see how the day is reborn.

Nurturing darkness is where we are renewed.  It is the silence, where, if we listen, new ideas, aha moments come dropping in.  It seems to me, if  “dark energy” is indeed the connecting force between us (and, again, I leave this idea to my Don’t Know Mind), it is well named.

Next week:  Back to finding an anchor in this constant change!  Or “Don’t fence me in!”

My book, Dancing the Deep Hum, goes into this concept of dark energy in a touch more detail.  You can learn more about the book and my other writings at www.deephum.com.  You can purchase Dancing the Deep Hum online at Lulu.com, Amazon, or Powells, or order it from your local bookstore.

Disposable People (in a Throwaway World)

Hello blogging friends,

It’s been a long time since I ‘ve posted to this blog, but I’ve been very busy writing a new poem, setting it as a blues song, and then struggling with recording it myself. I’ve included the song and the words below, and I do hope if any of you are singers, and find yourself interested in singing this song, you will contact me!

The song, Disposable People (in a Disposable World), was written after the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen last December. Since then things have gotten drastically worse. We have incredibly disastrous floods in Pakistan, India, and China, a killing heat wave in Russia, drought in Niger (and many other places), to list only a few. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area we’ve had the coldest summer since 1972. In other places it’s been much hotter than usual. In Greenland, a huge chunk of glacier has fallen into the sea, threatening the sea lanes. This fall meteorologists have predicted a very bad hurricane season because the water temperatures are much higher.

And yet, the United States, the country that contributes the most to global warming, still refuses to sign the Kyoto Protocol. Instead, our government has made attempts to get other countries like Ecuador and Bolivia to sign on to the US’s own much reduced agreement (that effectively sabotaged the Copenhagen conference) by threatening to curtail aid to those countries. (The President of Ecuador responded by refusing to be either threatened or bribed, and offering instead, to pay the US the same amount of money if they would sign the Kyoto Protocol!)

In the past when I’ve started feeling helpless faced with global warming, war, and the self-destructive greed of humans, I’ve always thought about the smallness of the earth in the vastness of the universe as a kind of solace – a concept you will hear in the song. But the other day my friend Amy said to me, “But we don’t know what effect the death of the earth will have on the universe. It might be like the flap of a butterfly’s wings….” No solace left.

Click the link below to hear the song. Also wanted to let you know that my book, Dancing the Deep Hum, is on sale on my website only for $12 (rather than $18 on Amazon, etc.).  To find out more go to www.deephum.com .

Song:  Disposable Peo 8 10 10 mix_2

The words are below.

Disposable People
(in a Throwaway World
)
Dedicated to the memory of Andrea Lewis of KPFA

Planets dance around their orbits
Comets fly through space
Stars explode with shattering flame
Born anew they wax and wane
It’s all relative they say
Even if the earth dies,
Melting away ‘til it’s dry,
Stars will be alive.

And yet, and yet, I cannot reconcile
The life of one small child.

When rainfall drops
by forty percent in Darfur
Drought and famine lead to massacre.
Add the minerals for I-Pods,
Blackberries and more
Bringing more conflict and civil war.
Disposable people in a throw away world.

Collateral damage is the word we use.
Death of innocents in war.
But there is another war we wage
Where collateral damage is the rage.
War for profits for the few.
It’s all related, don’t you know?
Buying stuff, selling stuff, takes a toll.
What we’ve sold is our soul.

We’ve sold our soul.

And yet, and yet,I really don’t want to see
The death of the Maldives.
Thirty-nine nations,
Island nations
Swept away by the sea.

It’s all related, don’t you know?
Buying stuff, selling stuff, takes a toll.
What we’ve sold is our soul.
We’ve sold our soul.

Eleven thousand people live in Tuvalu.
No major industry.
Little carbon pollution.
Living the way we all should.
What did they ever do?
But the seas wash higher,
The seas grow warmer,
Cyclones grow fiercer
Every year.
It won’t be long
Before they disappear,
Like Lohachara,
Gone now.
Lohachara,
Lohachara
Musical sound.
Lohachara has drowned.

Planets dance around their orbits
Comets fly through space
Stars explode with shattering flame
Born anew they wax and wane
It’s all relative they say
Even if the earth dies,
Melting away ‘til it’s dry,
Stars will be alive.
We’ve sold our soul.

An Open Letter to President Obama

Note: Some of my readers took me to task about this post (comments) suggesting that I wasn’t being fair to President Obama.  Perhaps they are right and I was too hard on him.  I was angry.  So bear that in mind, read the comments, and take it all with a grain of salt.

In your speech today at Oslo receiving the Nobel Peace prize you spoke of having a “clear eyed” look at the needs of the world.  But the speech itself made it clear that either you don’t have a “clear eyed” look yourself or you are simply spinning words together to cover a war mongering heart.

You speak of “moral compass”, but I wonder if you have lost yours.

You suggest that the moral principle of all religions, to do unto others as you would have them do unto yourself, should be paramount.  Clearly then, we must want Afghani and Pakistani people to send unmanned drones into our homes and market places, our weddings.

You speak of “enlightened self-interest”.  I see plenty of self-interest on the part of the large corporations and oil industry, the weapons industry, but nothing about this is enlightened.  You dare to speak of “human folly” and do not include yourself, and yet you have become the major “fool” of the corporations.

You speak of the “world rallying around us” in Afghanistan and during the Kuwaiti war.  Like most elites you seem to think that the moneyed people of the world encompass the whole world.  You seem to think that the northern nations are the “world” and to forget the southern ones.  Like so many others, the poorer people of the world are not real to you.  They are the disposable ones.  They haven’t been “rallying around”, but you don’t seem to notice.

And, too, many of us who are a part of those northern nations, many of us who are United States citizens, did not “rally” around the war in Kuwait or the war in Afghanistan.

You speak of civil wars where a government is warring against its own citizens and yet you are willing to continue warring against those same citizens in Afghanistan, and your own citizens in this country.  This morning, interspersed with your speech, was an emergency call by our local food pantry for blankets because there is not enough room in the shelters for all the people who are homeless and cold.   You think it is not warring against your own citizens when you spend trillions of dollars on war and wall street and don’t seem to have enough to provide the basic needs of your own citizens?  (Not to speak of the thousands of people in jail who really just needed a better education, more medical and psychological care, etc., all of which could be paid for by one tenth of the amount of money spent on “defense” in this country.)

You speak of civil wars in countries like Somalia and seem blind to the causes of these wars, the rape of their countries by colonization, the continued rape by large corporations.  If we want the wars to stop we must stop our exploitation of these people.

You speak of us as if we were the “peace keepers” of the world.  The wars we make have nothing to do with keeping peace for the people of the world.  We are nothing but hired mercenaries for the large corporate interests.

You say that peace requires sacrifice!  Yes,  but it is the corporations, the oil industry and the weapons industry who are the ones who need to sacrifice!  Not our young men and women, not the citizens of Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, not our poor, not our education system, not the very well being of the earth itself which you will allow these same major corporations to kill with their wanton disregard of the needs of our planet.

Take a deep breath, everyone — including me!  Let it out with a sigh.  Shake a hand, and then another one, shake everything and do a little babbling to let out those frustrations! (For more on breathing, shaking and babbling to to www.InterPlay.org. )

Want to read more of my “humble” (or  not so humble today!) ideas about how to live in the world?  Go to www.deephum.com to learn more about my books, poetry and music.

Running Internal Scripts

Racism permeated our childhood
A muddy stream constant through our lives
Crying out to our innocence with its painfulness
Interfering with our friendships
Seen clearly in our child-eyes as the wrong it was
Murdering the purity of our souls.

(Tyler, Humming on the High Wire, 30)
(Tyler, Dancing the Deep Hum, 62)

Last post, just as I was talking about the “script” we have that says people shouldn’t complain about being victimized; they should just ‘grow wings’, another old script came popping up out of the ether.

An article circulated through Facebook about a justice of the peace in Louisiana who refused to marry an interracial couple.  His excuse?  It would be hard on any children they might have.  “He came to the conclusion that most of black society does not readily accept offspring of such relationships, and neither does white society.” (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33332436/ns/us_news-race_and_ethnicity/?ocid=twitter)

We all have scripts running in our head especially from things we heard as a child, but also from messages we’ve heard repeated over and over again on TV, in both ads and shows, in church, at schools, and in organizations we belong to.  This justice’s comment is one of those scripts I heard many times as a child and young adult.

One friend, who probably had not heard this script before, questioned whether or not this was really racist.  He felt the justice had thought it through and believed that he was doing the right thing for the children.

Of course, many racists believe that they are right, that “separation of the races” is the way things should be.

What makes this action racist is not that he believed he was right, but that he had motives that came as a result of an attitude that white and black “races” should be kept separate.

I’m sure this justice isn’t living totally isolated from what is going on in the rest of this country.  In the movies, on TV, in magazines and in the newspapers, interracial couples, and their offspring, abound.   Our own president is the offspring of an interracial couple.

All of these folks are, for the most part, accepted in both the black and white worlds, and indeed those worlds overlap far more than they did when I first heard this “script” back in the fifties.  The prevalence of interracial children has done a great deal to further this overlapping of societies.

So, in 2009, the argument doesn’t make any sense, if it ever really did.

When I first heard this script the social climate did sometimes make it hard for interracial couples and their children.  But because we rose up, black and white together, to fight against racism, the world changed, drastically.  So now the argument is just a “script” left running around in people’s heads.

How subtle, how hidden even from our own awareness are our reactions when judging others.  There are lots of scripts about other people hidden in our subconscious minds.  They pop randomly into our consciousness when we encounter people of different ethnic groups, different religions, with physical differences, etc.  Even though we don’t like to admit it, if we are truthful we all know it is true.

We didn’t create the scripts and we usually, dearly, don’t want them there, but we can’t erase them, only recognize them and reject them as they pop up, and, most importantly, refuse to perpetuate them by letting our children hear them.

I have learned when the script from some inane television ad for something that is not good for me pops into my head, to “just say no!” (A useful “script”!)  That’s because I recognize the ad script for what it is.

We have to learn to recognize the racist, elitist, stereotyping scripts that are around (and unfortunately “in”) us and say no, no, no to them, sometimes over and over again.

And in the case of the justice of the peace we need to go farther.  What he did is against the law.  We need to say, “No, no, no, you can no longer hold this office.”

Take a deep breath.  Let it out with a long sigh.  Shake one hand and then the other.  Shake your whole body.  Let my ideas dance in your head and through your body.  If they sit well, keep them.  If not, throw them out! (For more information on deep breaths, sighs, and shaking go to InterPlay.org)

You can find more about my experiences with racism in my book, Dancing the Deep Hum, One woman’s ideas on how to live in a dancing, singing universe! You can learn more about this book and my other writings at www.deephum.com.  You can purchase Dancing the Deep Hum online at Lulu.com, Amazon, or Powells, or order it from your local bookstore.

Not So Little Boxes

Last post I talked about our love/hate relationship with the personal boxes we put ourselves in.  But there are some socially imposed boxes that we are put in because of our race, our culture, our religion, our physical makeup, etc. that carry with them stereotypes of behavior and expectation that are even harder to escape.

Remember the folk song about the calf “bound for market” who is told by the farmer to stop complaining.  “Who told you to be a calf?  You should be like the swallow and have wings.”  I always loved this song, but recently I’ve begun to see the subtle irony in the story.

I identify with the calf, not the farmer, or the swallow.

Why is this?   Is it because there is an unwritten subtext in the song?  Probably.

Calves don’t have a choice to grow wings and fly away.  The only way the calf is going to escape being sold and slaughtered is if there is outside intervention.  That’s not the calf’s fault.  If we look at it from this point of view, the song, using the voice of the calf’s exploiter — the farmer — is blaming the victim for his victimhood.  The farmer has put the calf in a box that says, “All calves are meant for slaughter.”

This was not the original intention of the author, Aaron Tsaytlin (1899-1974).  The song was written in Yiddish during the Nazi era and translated into English first by the composer of the music, Sholom Secunda, and later by Arthur Kevess and Teddi Schwartz.

There is no voice of the farmer in the original translation.  The song is written from the point of view of the calf who asks the wind, “Why can’t I fly like the swallow, why did I have to be a calf?”  The wind replies, “Calves are born and soon are slaughtered with no hope of being saved.  Only those with wings like swallows will not ever be enslaved.”  The voice of the wind is not the voice of an exploiter, but a neutral voice.  It seems to be saying, “This is the way things are.”  This doesn’t blame the victim, but it also leaves the victim feeling pretty hopeless! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donna_Donna)

Interestingly, the second English translation, the one written from the farmer’s point of view, was written in 1956, after the defeat of the Nazis.

There is a “script” in our society that says that people shouldn’t complain about being victimized.  They should just “grow wings” and pull themselves out of the situation, out of poverty, out of racism, and all the myriad other deep mires people find themselves in.  In other words, if you are victimized, it’s your own fault and it’s okay to exploit you!

In the case of calves, it is obvious that we humans, born with physical advantages that privilege us and make us able to exploit the calves, are the only ones who can help them escape their circumstances.  In Dancing the Deep Hum when talking about this song I said:

….. I [can’t] help but imagine a stampede of cattle rising up against their human oppressors.
Mad cows, rather than mad cow disease!   (DDH, p 86)

We all know hundreds of “scripts”, stereotypes, boxes that people are placed in because of their race, religion, country of origin, size, age, etc.   Even those  who happen to be born with privilege are put in a box which makes it easy for them to fall into the role of exploiter, a box that can also be difficult to break out of!

We all of us, exploited and exploiter, need to be willing to ask for, and offer, help to break the boxes of stereotype we find ourselves in.   Frankly, I think if we can’t find ways to do this our world doesn’t have much hope of surviving.

How do we deal with this hard stuff?  Take a deep breath, let it out with an audible sigh!  Shake out one hand, and then another!  Shake yourself all over!  Let out another deep sigh and head out into the world!  (For more about sighing and shaking go to InterPlay.org!)