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H2O Man

H2O Man's Journal
H2O Man's Journal
April 25, 2022

Monday Afternoon

"You own your lies. Even if it takes a while, every lie you tell will eventually catch up to you. So try very hard to tell the truth. That is what I think. It's better to tell the truth." -- Onondaga Chief Paul Waterman; November, 1994.

I watched reports of Kevin McCarthy lying about what he said about Trump and the January 6 insurrection, followed by a tape of his saying exactly what he was denying. Then I watched Marjorie Taylor Greene lie faster than a cheetah can run on the witness stand. My cousin and I spoke several times on the telephone during the Greene testimony, each of us having other chores to do, neither of us able to walk away from the television until it was over.

On my walk to the pond to think about these lying liars, I thought of Gandhi's saying that "Truth is God." He explained the distinction between that and "God is truth." As my boot got stuck in some mud in the swamp before my pond, I asked myself -- if Gandhi is correct, then what is the logical deduction regarding McCarthy and Greene's lying? For I understand "evil" only in the human context. I have yet to see "evil" as anything but a 100% human product. Hence, for example, I frequently cite Michael Stone's 2009 book, "The Anatomy of Evil," in which the professor of clinical psychiatry documents levels of evil one encounters in forensic work.

At the pond's edge, while the dog went wading, I saw more than a dozen salamanders floating in the warm water. Pollywogs scurried about, hiding under rocks or in the mud. A school of tiny minnows caugt th dog's attention, before a number of fish -- including the two giant koi -- came to be fed. One of the koi likes to swim through the dog's legs, a habit sure to get her back on land.

As the dog was busy sniffing a variety of odors, I thought back to the first interview I did with Paul, almost 28 years ago. That is where the above quote comes from. What a difference in what is considered "leadership." Paul sat on the Onondaga Council of Chiefs, and the Iroquois Grand Council of Chiefs. A person like McCarthy or Greene would never e considered worthy of a leadership position in a traditional society. For they would be recognized as liars.

Next, I thought of the theories of Jean Piaget, Lawrence Kohlberg, and Erik Erikson. It's important, from the giddy-up, to recognize that while some of Kphlberg's studies had flaws -- h focused on males exclusively -- these theories have some value. Each of the three wrote about levels of human development in a manner that we might view as a staircase. Tiny infants recognize themselves as the center of their universe. Toddlers through about 5 years old have fascinating concepts of right and wrong, and the truth versus lies. It is largely rooted in the behaviors of their parents, and so for the sake of this discussion, I will be speaking of those children raised by nurturing adults. And I recognize that there are no "perfect" parents.

If we consider that first step, from infant to age 5, to be the pollywog stage of deveopment -- for we are, after all, at the pond's edge -- the next step up is akin to when a pollywog stretches out and sprouts hind legs. It is generally from ages 6 to 11. They encounter the society we call school, with expanded rules of right and wrong behavior. If these are consistent with those of the child's home, things go smoothly. There may be an issue with telling the truth from time to time. Among those frequently encountered at this stage is the infamous, "Well, what about _______?" It is essential to refocus that child with "I am only talking about you behavior now." Failure to do so often leads to adults who attempt that same weak tactic of trying to change the subject.

Note: it is not a coincidence that Russian military intelligence has inserted this exact tactic into the modern republican party.

The next step up comes roughly between the ages of 12 and 17. It is here that youth begin to explore the rules and guidelines in the larger society, with more expansive rules regarding right versus wrong, and truth versus lies. There are young people at the far ends of the spectrum, from those who rigidly follow every rule, and tend to point fingers at everyone else, to those who have zero respect for any and every social norm, and swing fists at others. But most of us fell somewhere in the middle. When confronted with wrong-doings, because they have a restricted ability to consider the consequences of their behaviors, nature has provided teens the ability to produce the most stupid, unbelievable of lies at the drop of a hat. Patience is necessary in teaching them that lying does not work to their advantage -- unless one had parents like mine, who were easily fooled. Yet, exactly as Paul said, those lies provide only the illusion of working, and eventually catch up. More than once, the NYS Police came up our driveway, lights flashing, regarding my brothers and/or my behaviors.

The next step is from 18 to about 24. In the "old days," this was recognized as adulthood. In the late 1960s and early '70s, especially in regard to college students, this step often became an extended form of "youth." But we weren't swallowing goldfish or cramming into a phone booth. There were, obviously, many people our age that did not have this luxury, and indeed behaved like adults. But many of us inhabited the margins between right and wrong, believing we were uncovering a higher form of truth. We recognized that non-white males who were falsely accused of a crime faced severe punishment if they told the truth. We wanted to believe Carlos Castaneda's series of books were true.

Today, of course, the environment has changed for those at this step, perhaps most importantly with the internet. Cell phones allow instant access to things that are indeed true, some that are a mixture of truth and lies, and the Trump cult's shared delusional lies.

The next step generally takes place between 25 and 45, obviously representing a longer expanse of years compared to any previous step. One gets a job, maybe gets married, might have children, and usually respects most of society's rules. This may include some violations, such as exceeding the speed limit on an open highway. Some of us can admit that we likely had too much to drink and still got behind the wheel. A very few may have even smoked pot in our homes after the kids went to bed, even before our state government determined it was okay to do. This, despite the fact that today's product is a wee-bit stronger than it was decades ago.

The final step, which not everyone takes, is found in those with mature social consciousness. This includes the recognition that some laws change for the better when attention is paid to a situation. More, there are what Martin Luther King, Jr. called "unjust laws," which in his time involved the "legal" oppression of non-white people. This was, of course, similar to Gandhi's social experiments in India, fighting similar unjust laws. It should never be confused with signing a petition on the internet, of being dazzled by a meme. No, this step requires one's being at one with those suffering from injustice, specifically the pain caused by the lies of a McCarthy or a Greene. When these individuals break a law, they do so openly, and tell the truth when they accept the consequences. It is essential that we understand that this requires more than an inividual Gandhi or King -- for both harnessed the Truth of thousands of people who's names are forgotten. (This is why, when "Trout Unlimited" asked Chief Waterman and I to join them on a project, Paul said that he and I were "Minnows Unlimited.&quot

Now, I've said all this to make a point. In my experience with forensic social work -- just like your experiences in life -- I found that some adults lacked the capacity to ever tell the truth when confronted with their behaviors. For some, like McCarthy, lying as a tactic to get temporary relief is an entrenched habit. They go from one lie today, to another tomorrow. A few are more like Greene, who take delight in lying to your face, fully aware that you know they are lying. Different degrees of toxicity.

Among most criminals, lies follow a certain pattern. It always involves taking a step down from the level they are at, to one or more from previous stages. It starts with the simple, "No, not me." When confronted with, "Yes, you," they attempt to distract with, "But I'm usually a very good person, who has done good things." When again confronted with their bad behavior, they take an even lower step down, which includes how they are a victim of circumstance, and it is really other people's fault. (Note: when I worked at the mental health clinic, I sat in once when federal investigators accused a sociopath of stealing from Medicaid. For the lone time in the decade I knew her, she was honest, explaining that money paid for a heck of a lot of cocaine. She wasn't upset in the least with facing prison time, telling us she would take full advantage of the opportunity to have sex with numerous other inmate. I shall never forget that afternoon, eith for the impressive interrogation techniques, or her honest answers.)

There tends to be discomfort when one is around an adult who has the habit of stepping down a level to lie to avoid responsibility. It is grotesque when elected representatives do so. It makes me wonder why people prefer an elected representative, at any level, who's being is defined by lying, when there is the option of men and women who recognize that Paul was correct in saying it is better to tell the truth.

April 21, 2022

Beyond the Valley of the Vallow

"I spent 20 years in prison, in a hell hole where people everyday tried to strip me of my dignity. I did nothing to be there. .... I did not belong there. Because I refused to follow their rules, I spent 10 of my 20 years in solitary confinement -- 6 feet underground, 5 slices of stale bread a day. I was stinking and starving. There was no morning, noon, or night -- just different shades of darkness. Hate took over everything." -- Rubin "Hurricane" Carter

My older son and his girlfriend visited. They talked about their workplace. She said, "It's really dysfunctional, but people ave adjusted, and the work gets done." This reminded me of two things: first, Erich Fromm's classic 1955 book, "The Sane Society," and second, one of Rubin's friends in Rahway State Prison, joining Carter in atalk with an amateur boxer who was angry and prone to hateful responses to his surroundings. Fromm's book details how difficult it can be for sane people to navigate in an insane society. Rubin and his friends would expand on their efforts, to create what became Rahway's "Scared Straight" program. The angry teenager listened to Carter's advice, hung up the gloves, and went on to become a sociqal worker. (Indeed, I used a modified "Scared Straight" with the help of my brothr-in-law, who worked at a correctional facility, when I worked with teens.)

Communities can reach a level of dysfunction when there is widespread issues of violence, poverty, drug abuse, and other problems. That dysfunction multiplies in force when a percentage of people experience what is known as shared delusional thinking. I do not think it is the long arm of coincidence wrenching itself out of socket to hold that we passed that point when Donald Trump got elected president. Most of us have family, friends, co-workers, and/or neighbors who, when it comes to politics, are as delusional as, say, Lori Vallow Daybell is about religion. Thus, in my opinion, we find ourselves existing in a dysfunctional society at this time. Our collective response will determine if we plunge further into an insane society.

Rubin's friend Tommy spoke of how when a person first enters prison, and a system different than anything they have previousle experienced, they tend to behave in a certain pattern. At first, the observe how that system operates. Soon, they adjust their behaviors in a manner that provides some degree of safety in an unsafe setting. And then, they become part of that sick system. That change in their behaviors becomes entrenched, thus explaining why rates of recidivision is so high upon their release. Dysfunction has become ingrained.

A significant percentage of republicans -- including people you and I knew as decent, rational people -- now are inhabiting the Valley of Vallow, where delusional thinking saturates their being. And, again, our individual and collective response will determine the future.

"Every 15 days we were allowed to take a shower, and every 30 days we were given a physical exam. During one of the checkups, I walked by a mirror. I saw a grotesque image. I saw the face of hatred, a monster, and that monster was me. I realized that Iwas not hurting them. They were hurting me. Hatred and bitterness only consumes the vessel that holds it." -- Rubin Carter

Back in 2001, after listening to Rubin speak at Binghamton University, a professor there asked a friend to ask me if I could get Rubin to add a chapter to a book she was writing. She had been raised in a brutal household, and the emotional scars that remained were extremely difficult for her to deal with. The quotes I am using here are from Rubin's contribution to her book.. He began with his thoughts on pain as a part of suffering, before talking about the amazing writings of Victor Frankl about his experiences in a concentration camp.

Frankl's writings played an essential role in Rubin's transformation, from a hostile man wrongly incarcerated, to becoming free. He knew that this would demand that he forgive those responsible for his incarceration -- the two convicts who were pressured into lying about him, the three cops who planted "evidence," and the prosecutors, judges, and juries. "I had to first forgive myself," he wrote. "I had to understand the conditioning. People are not born hating others or themselves. Their hate did not have to become my hate. ....

"... I came to an understanding of who and what I am. Like Victor Frankl wrote about concentration camps, I realized that prison provided me the tools to become all that I could be. I was able to seize the opportunity to use the horrible conditions to find something above the law. I had an opportunity to go on an anthropological expedition into an unnatural laboratory of the human spirit."

When a single piece on a mobile hanging above an infant's crib shifts, the other pieces must also shift. As Rubin changed, he found that those around him changed as well. It was a slow process, of course, but came to include not only those around him in prison, but also his circle outside of prison. This included members of his circle being motivated to uncover evidence that would be used in his final appeal -- including some from that former angry teen turned social worker. Rubin would attribute his winning in the federal courts to his transformation as a human being.

Few of us will ever be confronted with the type of circumstances that Rubin was confronted with. Yet, he could relate on a personal level with the issues the university professor was dealing with. He told her that, "ro forgive yourself and your parents, you need to understand that you too are a machine. I am no different, you are no different. There are no saints. It is the way we were created. We are all savages on this earth. We are as much of a machine as your lawnmower. Your reactions are the same as mine or anyone else's. But you have the ability to wake up. That's your salvation. Somehow, some way, you have to get over it."

Rubin used to tell me that every day we are alive on this beautiful, living earth, is a miracle. He also recommended that I move my family up near him in Canada, because he thought the United States resembled the crumbling empires of the past. Yet he believed that the good people in this country had the ability to transform it into a more perfect union, but that this would require a significant number of citizens to "wake up" (not to be confused with the misused "woke" we witness today). This was not some type of "religious" hokey-pokey, for Rubin viewed most "religious" leaders as charlatans. It was his belief that human beings were the highest level of unconsciousness of the earth, capable of becoming the earth consciousness. To transform the severe damage humankind has done to what we call the environment in recent centuries. And that this transdormation is on both the individual and group level.

April 16, 2022


'You can gain reconciliation from your enemies, but you can only gain peace from yourself.'
- Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter

The "spring peepers" were busy singing their song before the sun had set. Their chorus is a sure sign of good weather to come, although the next few nights are sure to be cold with a full moon rising. There are always three freezes after their first song before one should plant the earliest of garden crops, and this weekend marks the third. This is one of the teachings of the Elders, from the distant past.

As the dog and I venture down to where the bran once stood, we are followed by two cats, a rooster and a hen. Some crows signal that we are on our way, as others consume the sunflower seeds that have fallen from the bird feeder. The Plymouth Rock rooster is no fan of the crows, and he overtakes the dog and I as he engages in his rapid waddle towards the crows. He is surely a modern, if miniature, tyrannosaurus.

The barn was not like those of the dairy farm variety still seen on the New York State rural landscap. It was the much smaller, "family farm" type common in the first two-thirds of the 19th century. The ground floor for a few cows in the winter, the second floor for their hay. The barn burned 70 years ago, and that area has now become wooded. A very old water pump is still there, and I've asked my son to pull it out so I can transplant it as a decoration in my garden. He stops here most days to train for the finals of the NYS Golden Gloves, and I told him that moving the pump for me is a great way to get in shape.

The dog loves to dig holes in the dirt, as dogs do. The soil is black, not only from the fire, but from decades of plant growth and decay. I think back to my father telling me about his father teaching him a lesson from the Old Sod about the need to enrich your garden's soil every year. Dad said that as a kid, his father had him bring soil from the delta where smaller streams intersected with larger ones. When I taught my sons this when they were young, they asked why Grandpa didn't just buy Miracle Gro?

As the sun sets, two Pileated Woodpeckers fly in, one appearing to chase the other. For the first sixteen years I lived here, a pair lived in the huge trunk of what had been an Ash tree. In its shadow grew another Ash, which judging from its size was a century old. Yet the remains of the dead one were even larger. The woodpeckers had converted it into a home with an amazing number of entry-and-exit holes, and raised their young each year. But after sixteen years, the old tree trunk fell, and the other tree died and fell, too. Most of the Ash trees on my land have died, due to the emerald ash borers. No more pileated woodpeckers until this year. I note that I will not have to buy so much mulch and bark chips now.

Being outside brings me inner peace, although I have to check for deer ticks when I come inside. (I recently got over my 4th bout with Lyme disease.) I have become reconciled with the fact that I have to take various precautions that were not part of my life in the past. I recently came upon a recipe for a non-toxic recipe for a tick reellent, but checking for them remains essential when coming indoors, I recently found.

I cannot find inner peace by watching/reading "the news." Or engaging in discussions or debates with other members of the human race, either in person, on the phone, or on the internet. I am solely responsible for finding my own inner peace. And, without it, interactions with others is of a far lesser value. This I know as well as I know the back of my hand -- or the front of it, for that matter. And I know that right now, as I write these words, that these difficult days make it a much harder struggle, and not only for me, but for many -- if not most -- of the Good People trying to make it a better society. I know that if many more of us do not make conscious efforts to find that inner peace, that the disturbed people will continue to poison society with the fears and hatreds of the Trump cult. That is something I think about as the November elections approach.

H2O Man

April 4, 2022

April 4, 1968

The above film is of the speech Dr. King gave the night before he was murdered. This is something that I meditate on each year. I think it is especially important at this time in our nation's history.

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