Saturday, May 29, 2010

Small step for a man, one giant leap for Africa!

You may recall Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga were sentenced to the maximum 14 year sentence with hard labor for holding a gay "public engagement ceremony" in their home country of Malawi.  To think, when I was in Africa everyone kept saying Malawi was so friendly!

I'm thrilled to announce they were pardoned today!  Malawi's president Bingu wa Mutharika said they commmitted crimes against our culture, our religion, and our laws".  He also added that he granted the pardon on "humanitarian" grounds even though he didn't support it.

What amazing news!  International pressure WORKS!  Now we need the powerful figures who spoke out (Clinton, Obama, Madonna) to help them obtain asylum, at least until the threat of mob "justice" subsides.  When they passed the sentence there was talk about boycotting Malawi, but what we need is to go to places like Malawi.  We could affect so much change if rather than laying out at the pool at the Delano Miami Beach, we simply visited places like Malawi.

Until today, that prison sentence for two men simply holding a "public ceremony" that did not infringe on anyone's rights said lout and clear: You have no free will.  It's my way or the highway! Our species is so possessive.  We are a race of those Seagulls loudly squawking in Finding Nemo and what they're really squawking is: Mine! Mine! Mine!  
 We squawk: My woman.  My Arizona.  My bike lane!  I was running down Christopher Street to the west side on the bike lane (there's actually a bike path now) and a woman on a leg-powered scooter turns into the lane from a side street and says to me, "Get out of the bike path!"

I may be running in the bike path, but she's on a scooter!  Is it the wheels that give her the authority to order me out of the lane?  She is powering said scooter with feet strapped into a wedge heel.  A wedge heel!  Rather than give her a piece of my mind, I blow by her thinking I am going to blog about you!

Have you ever been puzzled why certain stretches of beach are off limits, labeled "Private Property"?  Or observed a plot of land for sale and paused to think how odd it is that we think we can own parcels of the earth?  Did you know that "W" hotels actually OWNS the letter W?  Or that Tiffany's owns their color of robin-egg blue?  Mine! Mine! Mine!

Who do we think we are?  This attitude (I do declare) hearkens back to the fear of death (I can hear you thinking: there he goes again--prattling on about death).  But at least I'm talking about it!  How many let the knowledge of our impending demise seep subconsciously into their lives, where it manifests (much like self-loathing) in myriad icky ways that are not talked about?

I finished a great book by Matthew Alpert recently that claims fear and reality dovetail. Every animal (even humans) deals with anxiety on a daily basis in order survive.  The Dodo had no anxiety at all, and look how that worked out.  We have this anxiety, same as a rabbit when faced with a bobcat.  Unlike the rabbit, we have this consciousness of our own mortality and unlike the bobcat, we are unable to flee the threat of decay and death.

This consciousness put a paralytic strain on our egos.  Alpert hypothesizes that evolution favored a physiological adaptation: the idea of an immortal soul.  It's not god, or faith, but a part of the brain which helps us get through this slog we call life.  In our minds, we can now live forever  Perhaps the reason fervent belief in god is not yet categorized as a psychological disorder is because it is a common trait? A necessary trait, to varying degrees?

Is death so hard to face that our brains have fashioned a way out?  It reminds me of what my grandma said, after Lasik surgery that gave her 20/20 vision: "I see too much now....look at all that dust!" Or my mother who tells me (wasting her breath): "Jesse, there is such a thing as too much truth!" It is insanely hard to face the idea of ceasing to exist.  I prefer Mark Twain's take on it: "Death does not worry me.  I was dead long before I was alive and it didn't bother me at all."

If we could get to his way of thinking---maybe we'd all just live and let live.  And stop clutching onto religion, plastic surgery, the gilded cage of a power job, possessions, possessing others.  Is this not all conscious avoidance of death? Check the world's top two resident tyrants: Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, Iran's Ahmadinejad (little man with a Napolean complex), and North Korea's Kim Jong Il (featured on Men Who Look Like Old Lesbians) How low will each stoop to get one more street named after them, to obtain more obsequious bows from fearful subjects?  Each killing of an insubordinate, each token of power clenched in fist increases their chance at immortality.

Is legacy immortal?  A funny story I remember about Dinah Shore: She had a golf course named after her in Palm Springs, which she was proud would live on forever.  And the minute she died they wiped off her name and gave it another!  So what is the legacy you will leave?  My friend Jimmy recently told me of his plan to restore his old high school and purchase textbooks.  Bea Arthur donated $300,000 to buy a new shelter for homeless youth.  Malawi's president has pardoned two innocent men. Wake up, look around.  Dare to share the bike lane.


Carla said...

Nice blog, Jesse. Something we all should be thinking about in a more conscious way!

Tony said...

In his "The Book of Dead Philosophers," Simon Critchley, a prof at the New School in NY, quotes the 17th century philosopher Spinoza as follows:

"A free man thinks of nothing less than death, and his wisdom is a meditation on life, not death."

Meaning, Critchley explains, that a free man is one who lives according to reason, not fear. And to be free is to desire the good directly and to live in pursuit of it. So the free man hasn't got time to think of anything else, much less death. He or she is too busy helping people out, like those who helped achieve pardons for those two guys from Malawi.

And here's the wonderful Mary Oliver's take on the matter in her poem titled "Prayer:"

"May I never not be frisky,
May I never not be risque.

May my ashes, when you have them, friend,
and give them to the ocean,

leap in the froth of the waves,
still loving movement,

still ready beyond all else,
to dance for the world."


milehisteve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jesse Archer said...

Thank you for reading!

Tony, I love the Mary Oliver quote! And looks like I had better start busying myself a bit more... ;)