Archive for November, 2013

Gone Too Soon

Today I lost a dear friend with whom I had not spoken in far too long, and the world lost a good man who still had so much to give.

Ron White, you will be sorely missed. The heavens themselves must have needed a man as good as you, to have called you home this early. Rest in peace, warrior. Your labors are done.

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This planet has – or rather had – a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.

Douglas Adams hit that particular nail squarely on the head. We concern ourselves overwhelmingly with money. Who has it, how much of it, and most of all how can I can my hands on more of it?

To be honest, I’m as guilty of this as anyone. Simply by living in this society, we agree to participate in a sick game where money is the means of keeping score and most of the time the players who start out with the best hand will stay that way. But they are the ones who dictate the game rules, they are the ones who decide when and how the next hand will be played, forcing the rest of us to compete on their turf.

But the truth is, we have made massive advances in science and technology, advances which should and could make it possible for us all to have enough food, shelter, electricity and water without having to scrape together the pennies in between the couch cushions. We have the ability to move beyond the polluting and dwindling fuels of yesteryear. We have the imagination and insight to take great leaps forward in educating the next generation and caring for the last one.

Playing the Money Game stops us from doing it. For so long as we are playing by the rules of the moneyed elite, we will be serving their interests in preserving the status quo.

If we weren’t forcing ourselves to play the game, we could abolish poverty, hunger and homelessness from these United States for eternity. We could become the shining beacon of liberty which we currently only pretend to be.

Think about that the next time you play Monopoly.

The true wealth of this nation – of every nation – is held in its ideas. The true power of this nation – of every nation – is held in its people. The true justice of this nation – of every nation – is held in its compassion.

What can you do to break out of the Money Game?

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I am proud of my national identity. I am English by birth, and also American by citizenship. I experience the same moment of delirious elation as many others when England’s soccer team scores a goal, the same heartbreak when the team subsequently suffers the ignominy of being eliminated from the World Cup in a penalty shoot-out. I experience immense pride and satisfaction when it is an American who wins a Nobel or a Pulitzer Prize.

But do I believe that England or America is ‘better’ than another nation? Are we morally or culturally or intellectually superior to the Iranians, or the Japanese, or the Congolese?

My answer to this is a resounding “NO!”, for Humanity is not comprised of nations, or of religions. We are people, each and every one of us, none more ‘human’ than another. America can – and often does – make a case for superiority based on its military muscle or its financial strength, but that doesn’t make David Brennan from Little Rock any more an exemplar of the species than Hidetoshi Yamagata from Sapporo or Abdul ibn-Aziz al-Rashid from Riyadh.

I am also white, male and heterosexual. Does this mean that I am more deserving of any form of recognition or respect than someone who might be black, or female, or gay? Again, “NO!”. Not in the slightest. Each of us is a shining jewel to be treasured and cherished, equally able to contribute to the betterment of our species as a whole.

It seems unfathomable to me that any subset of Humanity is considered ‘lesser’ than another in this day and age. In America, women have made immense strides toward equality over the hundred years since being granted rights which men had long taken for granted, and yet are still often perceived as inferior by some. Similarly, black Americans have made significant progress over the last half century, but still feel the sting of the ethnic divide. The LGBT community is even now struggling for many of the same rights for which women and African-Americans fought for so long. How is it possible that in the twenty-first century we are still discriminating between members of our own species?

This is not to say, however, that these differences do not matter. They matter immensely. Your gender, you ethnic and religious identity, your national origin and your sexuality are all parts of the recipe which makes you uniquely you, worthy of being celebrated. These traits may afford you a degree of insight which the prevalent majority may lack. Coupled with your intelligence, your creativity and your education, these all put you in a unique position to contribute something of immeasurable value to all seven billion of us, and I for one will celebrate alongside you as you do it.

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