Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Treatise on Breaking Laws during Protest

Definition of TREATISE : a systematic exposition or argument in writing including a methodical discussion of the principles involved and conclusions reached.
*Note: I have added website links in place of citations. In several places, I have used Wikipedia, but only where such links provide a nice, readable, well-reference summary of the topic.

There is a lot of debate going on about the Occupy Wall Street protestors getting arrested and worse under the reasoning that they are breaking laws. These broken laws include Pedestrian Interference, illegal camping, and more. Not only are these laws being used as an excuse to take away the right to effectively protest, but many people make comments online similar to this: "If you are going to break the law, you get what you deserve."

The pain that these comments cause me is almost indescribable, but I will attempt to do this, as well as explain the reasons behind the pain.

First of all, I am going to approach this from a historical aspect. In the past, there have been many laws that were in effect in the US that by today's standards are simply expressions of the bigotry and discrimination of the "Legal Majority". This includes, but it by no means limited to:

Women's Suffrage: According to this site, a website outlining historical activities "On July 14, 1917, Amelia Himes Walker was arrested and jailed for picketing the White House in the suffrage cause. She was one of 16 women arrested that day and sentenced to 60 days in the workhouse for "obstructing traffic.""  Furthermore, it states "The traffic obstruction charge was a shaky pretext. The women were political prisoners, of course, and they knew it."

Sounds familiar, doesn't it? Is anyone going to argue that women's suffrage is not a "duh" movement by today's standards? And what is the difference between making sure that men could not subjugate, through legal and financial means, the rights of women to be free and independent and making sure that corporations, in the same way, cannot subjugate the "non-wealthy" of this country?

On a final note, one of the banners that the Silent Sentinals of the women's suffrage movement carried said "We shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts--for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments." I think that can be directly applied to the protests going on right now.

Black Suffrage: Though, at the time, blacks had legal freedoms that women had lacked during their suffrage movement, blacks suffered many indignities revolving around the segregation and Jim Crow laws, as well as the discriminatory practices that blurred the edges of legality, but were largely ignored or outright supported by the legal system.

The protests for both groups often turned violent, not because of the protestors, but because of the tactics used by police and opposition to the movements. The Civil Rights movement was, by and large, more violent, either because of the higher percentages of male protestors (eliminating a protective attitude that may have come into play with women) or because of the greater outrage at the protests and protestor goals themselves.

"Parks was arrested, tried, and convicted for disorderly conduct and violating a local ordinance." Local ordinances and "disorderly conduct" are fabulous excuses for taking away the right to peaceable protest.

"When Parks refused to give up her seat, a police officer arrested her. As the officer took her away, she recalled that she asked, "Why do you push us around?" The officer's response as she remembered it was, "I don't know, but the law's the law, and you're under arrest."(Rosa Parks Interview, Academy of Achievement, 2 June 1995, accessed 13 November 2011.) I will address the officer's attitude below, regarding the psychological perspective. However, there is little stretch of the imagination to link the atrocious behavior of police with the "It's just my job" attitude that was so common in the Nuremburg Trials of Nazi officers. ("Superior orders (often known as the Nuremberg defense or lawful orders) is a plea in a court of law that a soldier not be held guilty for actions which were ordered by a superior office.")

Even when it is apparent and planned for a protest to occur peaceably, that isn't good enough for those who wish to punish the protestors. "After careful planning and training, nine members of the NAACP Youth Council — Meredith Anding, Samuel Bradford, Alfred Cook, Geraldine Edwards, Janice Jackson, Joseph Jackson, Albert Lassiter, Evelyn Pierce, and Ethel Sawyer — attempt to use the white-only Jackson public library on March 27. They sit quietly at different tables reading books that are not available in the "colored" library. When the nine refuse to leave, they are arrested for "Disturbing the Peace"."

Additionally, there is this: "During the next few days images of children being blasted by high-pressure fire hoses, clubbed by police officers, and attacked by police dogs appeared on television and in newspapers, triggering international outrage." Apparently, young people being attacked has become a blame-the-victim situation in the Great US of A.

Again, how poignant that such historical events should so closely match the goings-on of today's protestors and the police that arrest them. One wonders if it is a matter of using what they believe works, or if it is lack of creativity, or even lack of any REAL actions available, that causes the established system to use the same tactics over the course of an entire century.

Secondly, I am going to approach this from a legal/constitutional aspect. The question being: At what point does a legal ordinance or local law be held above the rights granted in the Constitution.

The answer, in the Constitution itself, is as follows: "This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land." For those who do not speak "legalese," that means NEVER. The local laws are to maintain peace under NORMAL, everyday situations. They do not have the authority to trump the 1st Amendment rights of the Constitution... unless the established system refuses to perform their duties appropriately and Constitutionally.

Well, this is embarrassing. I had believed that this section would require more searching and interpretation, making it longer. But that's pretty cut'n'dried, so I guess I'll move on.

Thirdly, I am going to approach this from a psychological aspect. Now I could go into the psychology of groups, mobs, officials, etc., but you can look up that stuff for yourself. What I want to focus on is the psychology of MORALITY and ETHICS.

This isn't nearly as abstract as one would at first believe. In fact, there is a straight-forward, non-dogmatic thesis on this very topic. Lawrence Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Development (For further reading, I recommend Moral stages : a current formulation and a response to critics by Lawrence Kohlberg, Charles Levine & Alexandra Hewer. I also recommend looking at the Heinz Dilemma as a further analysis of how these stages work). It breaks down as follows:
Level 1 (Pre-Conventional)
1. Obedience and punishment orientation (How can I avoid punishment?)
2. Self-interest orientation (What's in it for me?)(Paying for a benefit)
Level 2 (Conventional)
3. Interpersonal accord and conformity (Social norms)(The good boy/good girl attitude)
4. Authority and social-order maintaining orientation (Law and order morality)
Level 3 (Post-Conventional)
5. Social contract orientation
6. Universal ethical principles (Principled conscience)

As you can see, there are 6 stages broken into 3 levels. Pre-conventional stages are essentially how we grow prior to gaining a "conscience". Conventional are when we have a modern, adult concept of right/wrong. Post-conventional stages are what most consider "enlightened" (socially OR spiritually) persons.
(I should disclose at this time that I have taken the "test" for the Stages of Morality, and scored at a high 5, low 6.)

As a country, and perhaps the world, we have become stuck socially on Stage 4: Authority/Law & Order. "If you are going to break the law, you get what you deserve." This is completely legitimate in Stage 4, if narrow-minded (taking into account legality, but not necessarily the maintenance of social order that may be a part of protest situations). But the major problem with it is that it does not take into account the principals of Stages 5 & 6, the more advanced, if more abstract, stages of morality.

In effect, Stage 5 could suggest that it is the moral obligation of the protestors to exercise the rights given to them in the Constitution to make the lives of the collective community (the country) better, thereby fulfilling their duties as US Citizens. It could be said that the corporations that the protestors are working against have BROKEN their social contracts by not entirely living up to their obligations, both legal and perceived.

It could even be argued that corporations and government have gotten stuck in some limbo using Stage 4 arguments to justify Stage 2 behaviors. It could also be said that teaching lower-stage entities (persons, governments, corporations) to evolve into higher stages is another social contract or moral obligation.

Stage 6 suggests that material/legal matters are irrelevant when held up to the lives, health and well-being of individual people, with the well-being of the whole as the most important. By that concept, the ability of the 99% to function in an acceptable fashion is the most MORAL and ETHICAL tactic the country can take. A belief that I strongly suspect the founding fathers would agree with.

But more importantly, I questions the motivations, the moral reasoning, used by the anti-protestors to justify their judgments and criticism of the Occupy Protestors. Are they using Post-Conventional morality, believing that this will actually harm society or the Greater Good? Or are they stuck in the apparently abused system of Law, taking legality as dogma, never mind the intent or abuse of said Laws?

I began this treatise talking about pain.
I see the pained faces of the women's suffrage movement, the civil right's movement, even the protestors of wars over the years, on the faces of the Occupy Protestors. People attacked by "non-lethal" yet abusive tactics such as water cannons, rubber bullets, and pepperspray.
I am stung by the use of minor legal infractions being misused to bully the protestors away. I see the same legal infractions used to (ineffectively) bully the forces of justice throughout the tainted history of this (supposedly) free nation.
I ache to show people the morality issues that I see being broached with these protests. I see the way others see things from a perspective that I barely understand (from grown, educated adults, that is) anymore.

The pain I feel is that of a mother watching the news coverage of child-abuse, of the heartbreak of watching loved ones experience loss, of watching the world miss - time after time - the next rung on the ladder of its own development.

Do you suffer this pain, too?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Belief and Eclecticism: Oxymoron? No, neither an ox nor a moron

Wheel of the Year = Pagan Holy Days
 Reposted from a reply to this blog.

"But then there are the eclectics, and this is where I get confused. Do eclectics practice in such diverse and idiosyncratic ways because it fits their beliefs? Or, and yes I know this is a touchy idea, does a lack of consistency in practice perhaps denote a lack of belief?"

As an extremely eclectic Pagan, I can answer most assuredly: Maybe.

The truth is, I cannot answer for all eclectic Pagans. I can only answer for myself, and by extension my family.

I don't do ceremony. Unless I want to. I don't use ritual tools or cast circles. Unless I want to.

Paganism should be a family affair
Why? Because I believe that ceremony is a psychological tool to help people "get their spiritual groove on." If you want to do ceremony, great! If you need ceremony, fine! If you just wrestle your mind into place, think a thought or say a word, I'm right there doing that with you.

But I think of this as more of the way my brain works (I'm never entirely "in" normal reality, so I don't really have to "leave" it to do my spiritual work), rather than a skill set.

And thoughts become reality... this is seen in most spiritual beliefs as well as quantum physics. So, yes, it is because of my beliefs.
Making magic during the holidays

As for Joe Schmoe Eclectic Pagan over there? I dunno.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Dark of the Year: In Praise of Present (Part 2)

Part 1 * Part 2 * Part 3

During this time of year, the dark of the year, we as Pagans have a fairly unique opportunity within our spiritual wheel of the year. We have the opportunity to grow, spiritually, internally, rather than externally. The Wheel of the Year shows us how to use the energy of Nature to develop in a healthy cycle.

The Dark of the Year is the time of introverts, when humanity as a whole goes from exuberant, exo-energetic creatures to inner-focused beings who welcome the dark and calm of semi-hibernation. We don’t sleep the season away like the bear, but rather we enjoy a certain lethargy of the body, which allows us to grow our mental and emotional selves. We embrace the Yin in the world, the Feminine in ourselves, the dark/cold/wet/gestational parts of Nature.

In animals, a “false” hibernation is often called torpor or languor. I, for one, like “languor,” or “languid.” The word (words are power, remember) calls up in my mind an image of sensuality, of liquid, passive, flowing, small movements. Isn’t that what we crave during the Dark of the Year? Lying in bed, snuggling with family and blankets, lounging around the home with warm, liquid foods and drinks. Celebrating life and survival while death (dark, cold, wet weather) prowls around the periphery.

Death and gestation are two faces of the same coin. They bracket life like not-quite-identical bookends, giving us the time of dark and wet and quiet before we start going, going, going as life demands far too often. The season of winter, the Dark of the Year, allows us to pause in this rat-race of work and family and action, action, action. Winter is a small death that gives us a moment to breath, mentally and emotionally.

So how do we take advantage of this time when we can get back in touch with ourselves and those closest to us during the major holidays of the season of the Holly King?

Many Pagans (and Christians, for that matter) do not consider Thanksgiving to be a holy day. But a holiday (holy day) it is.

I would argue that Thanksgiving is the natural extension of Samhain. After celebrating the time of Death and what has passed, we move on to appreciation for what we still have. We gather with friends, family and food to embrace our emotional and physical wealth. We gather in groups to pool our resources, reveling in the duel affluence of luxurious, sensual foods and the emotional plenty of friends and family to share it.

What better follow-up for the Death of the Active Year then to celebrate those who we want to be languid around?

Of course, no Thanksgiving is complete without the sensual experience of those treasured, beloved foods shared with all, and the languid aftermath of the feasting, when everyone sits around and indulges in some light conversation or gossip, or enjoying games that don’t get played during those times when we are all too busy being active.

I think that a lot of people make a mistake during Thanksgiving. They forget the purpose of celebration. This is not the time for taking up the responsibility of supplying everything; it is the time of pooling resources. It is not meant to be spent among those who bring out negative emotions; it is a celebration of gratitude and love. Pressure to be perfect has become part and parcel of the holiday season, but allowing that pressure to choose who and how you participate is still a choice. Choose to make it the celebration it should be.

Many blessings during your Languor in the Dark of the Year!

Part 1 * Part 2 * Part 3