Showing posts with label Occupy Wall Street. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Occupy Wall Street. Show all posts

Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Thinker - A Novel (Chapter 1 Part 5) Cocaine and The Meaning of Life


WE FINISHED OUR CANCER STICKS, closed out our tab and made it out just as the bar was starting to fill with annoying yuppies. Alex’s apartment was on the Upper East Side just off of Third Avenue. He was a Manhattan kid, growing up right in the heart of one of New York’s most sought after addresses. His parents were well off and gave him a nice upper middle class upbringing, although they weren’t “rich” by New York standards. He was the product of a Jewish father and an African American mother. In Facebook pictures his family looked like the stereotypical liberal cosmopolitan Manhattan family, the kind that wouldn’t be all that hard imagining in a sitcom. He had a younger brother that I had never met.
     I decided to lock my bike up on the street and take the subway with Steve to get to Alex’s apartment since bringing my bike on the train during rush hour would be impossible. I still had time on my monthly Metrocard that if I didn’t use would all go to waste. So we hopped on the subway for the short ride from Midtown to the Upper East Side, stopping to get some orange juice on the way to mix with Alex's vodka. We made the trip up the three flights of rickety old stairs to Alex’s apartment in his prewar brownstone. I knocked on Alex’s door and he opened a second later.
     “Yo what’s good?” Alex said with a big smile. We palmed and patted each other’s backs in typical New York fashion. Alex always showed mad love to his friends. He did the same with Steve, even though they weren’t as good of friends and Alex and I were.
     “We got a bottle of OJ,” I announced. “I thought we’d make some screwdrivers.” I then realized Alex had a lady over.
     “This is Daniella,” Alex said. She was a Dominicana, New York style, sitting on the couch with her legs crossed watching the TV on low. She had glasses, big tits, and some extra fat around her midriff. I knew Alex liked his girls generally on the bigger side. It must have been the black in him.
     “How do you do Daniella?” I asked being cocky and purposely animated.
     “We met at work,” Alex said.
     “Oh nice,” I replied.
     We all got situated on the two couches in his tiny living room and I started making drinks. Steve and I were already sufficiently wasted, and everything Steve said was at maximum volume. I was actually worried in the back of my mind that Steve would get a little out of control since he was such a lightweight with his alcohol. The last thing he needed was vodka. Alex and Steve got reacquainted since it had been some months since hanging out. I got reacquainted with some vodka.
     “Steve! Take it easy on the drinking tonight, alright?” I yelled from the kitchen. “I don’t want you getting crazy on us.” Although Steve was a little guy, only about 5 foot 8, he was often quick to start a fight when drunk.
     “Dude, I’m fine man. I can handle myself,” Steve shouted back.
     “You can’t handle your liquor, that’s what I’m worried about.” I served us all drinks, making note to water Steve’s down a lot and we all sat on the couch.
     “Alex. What’s going on man?” I said in a slightly drunken stupor, “You still working in sales?”
     “Yeah, although I just got into a fight with my boss last week,” he said. “Check this out. They wanted me to work both Saturday and Sunday and I said I couldn’t do it. Then they told me that if I didn’t work both those days they’d fire me. So I told my boss, who’s a total bitch, I was like, ‘Listen, I can’t work seven days a week. I need a life. I’m not working Saturday and Sunday. You can fire me if you want to but I’m not working seven days a week.’ So I didn’t work, I didn’t show up. And you know what? They didn’t fire me. They were bullshiting. They can’t fire me and they know that. But now I’m on their shit-list at work because unlike everyone else, I spoke out. So I still might have to look for another job soon.”
     “Holy shit that’s fucked up,” I said. “You know what? I just got fired from my job earlier this week.” Alex and Daniella’s eyes grew twice their sizes.
     “Your serious?” Alex asked.
     “Yeah, I have no job now.”
     “What happened?” Daniella asked.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Inter-Belief Dialogue And The Challenges Of Secularism

Earlier this year during the Republican primaries, presidential candidate and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum said in an interview with 'This Week' host George Stephanopoulos that he felt the separation of church and state makes him "want to throw up."  He said, "I don't believe in an America where the separation of church and state are absolute", "The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country."

Extreme right-wing ignoramuses like Rick Santorum are the intellectual enemies of those who want to preserve the separation of church and state and it is good news to know his political party is on the decline. It is people like him that are constantly trying to knock down this barrier and usher in a flood of religious influence. As secularists it is important that we remain a challenge to their agenda while at the same time do not help further the extreme partisanship that has gridlocked much of Washington. This is much easier said than done, but let me try to explain.

We can never concede our principle on the separation of religion and government. It is paramount to the atheist and secularist alike that we continue living in a society where politics is decided from the point of view using science and reason and free from the influence of religious tradition, dogma and supernaturalism.

If you consider that for quite some time secularists like myself and those against secularism will have to coexist in the US, I wonder how can this best occur while not conceding on principle. I have been trying to recently articulate my positions on secularism to make clear what I mean when I say the separation of religion and government, and what that means for a theist or someone who was anti-secularist. I haven't been able to take on every challenge of course, but I think it is important to address some issues we are facing.

It is important for those who disagree to be able to come together whenever possible on the things they have in common. Even the most ardent partisans on opposite sides of the political spectrum will have something in common that they could join together in fighting for. It is important that the secularist can recognize the common humanity bonding them together with the theist, and they should all be willing to engage with others who we sometimes disagree with. I can name a few areas where this could occur:

  1. The Occupy Wall Street movement. Although it was not as successful as many hoped, it did at least spark a serious debate on the disproportionate increases in wealth and power of the top 1 percent in recent years. Many Muslims (due to their religion's prohibition of usury) are also against the culture of greed that characterizes the financial system. Many Catholics are against this too. This is a perfect opportunity for atheists and those with faith to come together and fight a system of corruption created by the rich that hurts the poor and working class. 
  2. Working together towards the elimination of poverty and to help those less fortunate can be done between those with and without faith. 
  3. There are those with faith who also support the separation of religion from government and we can work together whenever and however possible.
  4. Working together to spread human rights and to help those in countries that are having their human rights violated, such as those suffering under dictators or from ethnic cleansing. 
  5. Working together towards unreasonable laws that we both agree are unjust, such as basic women's rights, civil rights and caste systems.
  6. Working together on environmental issues such as climate change, laws concerning pollution and waste treatment
  7. Working together for ethical treatment of animals 
There are many reasons where secular atheists can come together with those who believe in god. The other alternative is to say, "since we disagree on religion and politics, let's not even communicate or work together at all, ever." That is not a long term strategy of coexistence even if we are highly polarized in some of our politics. It is through working together, that we can best achieve our goals. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Occupy Wall Street

Dear Occupy Wall Street Protesters,

You have my utmost support in taking our country back from the corporate fascists that have taken over our country, and have destroyed the very fabric of who we are: the 99 percent.

For the past month the Occupy Wall Street movement has grown from Zucotti Park, in downtown Manhattan to a world wide movement. Although I haven't been down there, I support their cause. Many critics of OWS, especially the Fox News assholes, say the protesters have no central focus. Let me explain that the main principle at the source of the rage coming from OWS is the unequal distribution of wealth in the United States, due to the long cozy relationship between our elected officials, and big business. OWS has giving voice to many of us who are disgusted by the practices of the wealthiest and most powerful individuals and corporations that are controlling our political system and thus are controlling the national agenda.

For example, most, if not all of our congressmen, senators, mayors, governors and presidents are bought and sold by corporations. The corporations are funding their elections, and therefore once these politicians are in office, they are beholden to the corporations and not the voters, even though it was the voters who elected the politician. This is why legislation often contains within it loopholes that corporations use to escape whatever practices the regulations were intended to stop.

But you already know this right? What corporations get away with today, is some of the most disgusting immoral behavior in the world. It makes me sick. It's just unbelievable what the state of American politics is today. Will it ever end? Can anything really be done to divorce this grotesque relationship between big money, and government?

I feel I should be down there protesting. Although I have a job and have benefited well from my college education, I am very passionate about the movement. We need Wall Street to hear our voice. Their greed cannot go unpunished. What is at stake here is nothing less than the future of the middle class, which in turn is the future of the United States. Should we raise taxes of the rich to pay for our debt? Of course!

OWS is all about:

1. Ending the influence that corporations and banks have on our elections and legislation.
2. Protect the middle class; stop the increasing economic disparity between the rich and everyone else, by
3. Making the economy work for everyone (especially the 99%).

Why is this so controversial? Because the banks and corporations who control the government and a large percentage of our media, are using their money and power to mischaracterize the OWS movement and are actively trying to frame it so that OWS looks like a socialist revolution. They are very good at using fear mongering, a la Fox News, to scare Americans into thinking that OWS wants to destroy capitalism and replace it with a communist-style socialist market. OWS protesters don't want a handout, they want jobs. They want good paying jobs with benefits. They want to work and earn a living and to be productive. They don't want the 1 percenters taking the lion's share of wealth and leaving everyone else to gnaw at the tiny pieces of meat left of the bones. Who can blame them when the wages for middle income people has been virtually flat for 30 years and the richest 1 in the U.S. soared 275 percent from 1979 to 2007.

Revolution is inevitable under such circumstances.


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