The Desperate Need To Be ‘Somebody’

Like a great many others in the days following the atrocity in Uvalda, Texas, I struggled to make sense of it all. My first thought was that this was a crime of rage and that there’s too much rage in our culture. I’ve changed my mind, however, because I now believe that these crimes are birthed of fear. Nothing else can produce the kinds of behavior we’re seeing with these shootings. We can talk about gun control, poor use of background checks, and mental illness, but I think it’s all motivated by fear — specifically, the fear of being a nobody. From social media “influencers” to billionaires and their rockets, it seems as though everybody else is succeeding in life. But what about those who don’t succeed, or worse, can find no way that they could ever share in what they’re seeing on television or their phones?

The correct term for this is envy, one of the seven deadly sins. Envy is not the same as coveting; it’s much more intensely personal. It’s entirely driven by our egos, for a healthy self is content to let life be in charge, to simply blossom where they’re planted.

Back in the mid-1970s, I went through a season in my life of hanging only with African-American friends. I dressed in silky Superfly clothes, with wide and long shirt collars — open with chest hair on display — and, of course, the jewelry. I went to the black bars and hung with friends who played basketball with our television station recreation league team. One of my friends during that season was an inner-city high school basketball coach. I remember playing in a benefit game at his gym, where the crowd erupted when I hit a jump shot. I asked my buddy the coach about it, and he said, “Look around, stupid! You’re the only white guy in the building!”

One day, he invited me to watch his team practice. It was fascinating. Every time one of them hit a shot, he would cry out, “I’m known!” Over and over, a made shot evoked shouts of “I’m known!” I asked my friend about it, and he said that scoring in a high school game meant you’d get your name in the paper. Hence, “I’m known!” This was an amazing revelation to me, and I still think about it today. What must it be like to grow up feeling like a nobody, unless you could score in high school sports, because that mean you weren’t a nobody; you were known!

There exists today a deep pocket of Americans who go through their lives feeling unknown. It spans the gamut of nationalities, and it’s especially prevalent among uneducated white folks in America’s Southland. They are incensed at the idea that they are somehow “privileged” because they’re white, when the reality is they’re dirt poor while pretending otherwise. Redneck culture includes driving home to young people the reality that they are nobodies. Behaviors, especially alcohol and sex, are designed specifically to toughen up young boys to face the inevitable. It’s not uncommon for incredible episodes of abuse in the lives of these young people. Born a redneck; die as a redneck. Very few people make it out. The most remarkable thing about rednecks is their refusal to publicly embrace a loser identity, which is why they vote Republican. “We’re just fine. We’re independent. We take care of our own and don’t need any of your government assistance.”

In his remarkable book, The Righteous Redneck’s Journey To Love, Keith Coffell tells of the cruelty applied to him as the community did their best to turn him into a “redneck soldier”. At the age of 12, he was taken to the woods by his uncle and an older boy, stripped, and sexually assaulted. Here’s a paragraph from later that night:

As I lay face down on my bed with my head buried in my pillow, I could still feel Uncle Joe’s slimy hands on my body, smell his whiskey laden breath breathing down my neck, feel his prickly whiskers rubbing against my chest, and cringe at the thought of Bobby’s sticky tongue pressing against my body. I cried myself to sleep that night and the next night and the next night and the next night. In fact, the nightmare of the rape still haunts and taunts me from time to time. I never told my parents. I felt they didn’t care. And in my mind, I believed Daddy would have simply said, “Stop your fuss boy, you in Redneck Boot Camp. You’ll be alright.”

Of course, not every redneck soldier is raped, but the takeaway here is that this kind of ignorance and brutality are likely more prevalent in the South than anybody realizes. If we ever want to understand the kinds of evil that this kind of treatment can produce, we only need to look into the roots that produced such rotten fruit in the first place.

New York Times best-selling author Mike Robinson says, “When you accept yourself for who you are without trying to be a ‘somebody’ in the eyes of humanity, then you have let go of your ego…Only an ego would make a person a ‘somebody’ or its opposite, a ‘nobody’. Your descriptive labels are not who you are, they are what you have become, so don’t judge yourself and others on the value of a label. Instead allow the true you to emerge, because when you are not attached to any descriptive label, you are free”

In a new article about Robinson’s book The True Dynamics of Life in CISION (PRWeb), writer Sara Gibbons provides a warning that summarizes Robinson’s thoughts:

“…to be a ‘somebody’ a person has to become something other than what they are, and to do that they have to desire, strive and suffer. He relates this to the very beginnings of society and the consequent development of desire for more. This caused society to split and divide into the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’. This split is called envy, which is the fundamental fear of not having enough or not being good enough. It is the fear of being a ‘nobody’. This is so destructive to human life that it is more deadly than AIDS, HIV, cancer and more toxic than greenhouse gases.

By association, the GOP appeals to this need to be “somebody”. As the representatives of the wealthy, they ought to know who’s a somebody and who is not. By appearing to represent Evangelical Christianity, Republicans appeal to their sense of faith as a representation that they are okay, alright, and on the side of good. Add to that sweeping generalizations from the Bible, such as “Nothing is impossible with God”.

The greatest evil here may be that the GOP uses envy to manipulate the electorate on behalf of the rich and the extremely rich. The unintended consequences, of course, are all over the map, and include things like we saw this week. The Bible actually calls this “tickling the ears”, which is a whole lot easier than educating people. It tries to make them feel warm and wanted, well, except for those who don’t.

I agree with Mike Robinson that this struggle between the ego and the self — if effectively supported from without — is at the core of most things that are wrong with us humans at this stage in our development.

The insanity of Uvalde is just one more, highly horrific example.

The Ego’s Role in Trauma Response II

What is ego? Does it need to be destroyed? | Isha Sadhguru

When I reach into myself, there is no confidence at all. Can you imagine living your life as such? Probably not, which Is why this whole measure of confidence is misleading at best, and dangerous if not acknowledged by professional counselors. There exists a vast cavern of emptiness for me and those like me when I reach inside to find help under stress. It’s just not there. It was never allowed to develop due to childhood trauma. Therefore, I’ve lived my life with ego confidence instead of self confidence, and it is this revelation I wish most to share with the world.

Here are a couple of key paragraphs from part I of this series:

The ego is a part of the self but not the self. When all needs are met, the ego and the self work together efficiently to take us through our lives. Ego is not inherently evil, although it can become very much so with the right set of circumstances. For example, where there is trauma, the ego rises in defense and seizes the opportunity to lead the damaged self. But, as the ego continues in this position, it becomes stronger in representing the self’s identity, one that is often fallacious and harmful to the self’s wellbeing.

…The character of the ego, post-trauma, is described in Eric Bernes’ Transactional Analysis in a juvenile ego state known as The Little Professor, which is why some trauma responses are often viewed as foolish and childish behaviors. The Little Professor is smart, creative, and obsessed with protecting the self. Unfortunately, however, protecting the self includes living the life that the self knows should be hers, and in order to stay in charge, the ego then works to continue the pain that keeps the self bound in what feels like complete helplessness. This is often where the patient’s damages surface in what is often addictive behavior. Quieting the voice of the ego becomes the self’s obsession, which addictions provide for a season. A nervous breakdown of some sort will occur when the patient’s ego/self runs completely off the rails, for example, through an arrest, an outburst at work, or some other form of self-destruction, including suicide.

Ego confidence is developed over years as “victories” over the weak self in all things human development and relationships. The most common weaponry here is in the ability to gather insight from others while providing little in ammunition that could be used against the ego. Those deep into their egos, for example, will rarely remember the names of people to whom they’ve just been introduced, because they are too busy at the moment of such an introduction trying to figure out how to take advantage of the moment to sell themselves or otherwise manipulate the new face. Ego confidence, therefore, is a series of behaviors and beliefs that boost the ego’s hold over the self.

1965

A story of this from my own life comes from the constant obsessions to be noticed for outer expressions of talent. When I was in early high school, I spent one entire summer teaching myself how to play the 5‑string banjo. I bought cheap albums and slowed them down to half speed in order to study the notes and figure out the finger work. The banjo was one of my most important ways to show off without letting anybody get close to me. I couldn’t “take” lessons, because I had to do it on my own. I got my wish and became known for playing bluegrass music in Michigan. I was on TV every week with my brothers. I’d get invited to all the parties, but nobody wanted me for me, just to entertain their guests with my banjo. This is the cruel fruit of ego confidence. His ambitions are different than mine, and so it goes.

This is why Craig Nakken in The Addictive Personality writes that suicide is actually an act of homicide in which the self finally kills the ego. Before trauma, the ego and the self work together to create a growing girl or boy with all the attributes available to well-adjusted children. We call this “sanity”. Enter trauma, and the Little Professor rises to protect the self and slowing begins the job of doing the living for the self, which is destined for total failure resulting in even the death of the patient. Confidence exists only in the form of the personality that the ego creates, so there Is zero actual self-confidence. Therefore, when in situations as an adult that require a modicum of self-confidence, the response is defensive, loud, and generally filled with rage.

And, this is what we must overcome in order to find sanity in the here and now.

This is complicated by what I view as an ego-driven wish among people to place their agency (self-determined) over human nature. In recovery, we call this “terminal uniqueness”, because people will chase their own vision for themselves rather than admit they are just like everybody else. Partly, this is due to a lack of agreement over what exactly constitutes human nature. This is directly due to the ego’s attempt to present itself as somehow different than everybody else. This allows them to sidestep similarities in nature by saying they don’t apply. This is the greatest lie in the history of humanity, for we are truly all the same as human beings. We respond to stimuli in the same ways even though we may be different in the ways we think. Like snowflakes are all snowflakes even though they’re all different. Turn up the heat, and they melt. As humans, we “melt” in a similar fashion.

I believe our only real task in life is to become more human. This is the only logical conclusion, given that we are spiritual beings on a human journey, not the other way around. Despite centuries of teachings by “holy” people, we cannot possibly ever become MORE spiritual than we already are. What we can, however, become is more human. Moreover, it makes common sense, too, because what else could God possibly want from us? To conquer each other? To destroy in order to gain? Why? As my friend Doc Searls says, “Life is a death sentence for us all.” How true, and he goes on to tell us that the only difference between us is that some have more comfortable accommodations along the way.

Can we share our comforts to make the journey easier for others? Of course, but there’s that self-centeredness we’re famous for, so we don’t. I got mine on my own, so you can get yours, too. You just need God, a little faith, and you’ll feel so much better when you do it for yourself. It is a personal, oftentimes lonely calling, for we are corrupt at core, and the truth is that we get uncomfortable, because who wants to believe this of themselves? This is why people get angry when their sense of agency is discovered to be bullshit. Today, we emphasize how different we all are, but a great many of our societal problems could be overcome if we’d only agree that human nature trumps agency every time.

When God created humans (in whichever way you choose to believe), he put us in a garden that was watered by a mist. We can safely conclude then that this is where and how we were intended to live together. Unfortunately, we chose to believe the lie of the ego that our own guilt and shame made us feel unwelcome, and so we left. Joni Mitchell was right; we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden. And, we can only do this on our own by giving up our ego-driven, self-centered lives. Only then will the devil be defeated. This must be an internal governor, for all external controls will end in bloodshed. They always do.

So, the real question is can we ever get back to the garden? Again, this is the only goal that accomplishes the original task of the Creator of the Universe. Think of it as a cosmic “let’s see if they can dig themselves out of it.” By now, you likely feel that I’ve gone off the deep end, but it needs to be taken seriously, because the future of our planet is at stake.

Are we going to continue to twirl our fingers and whistle in the dark until Jesus comes to take us home? If these same people ignore the mercy side of our witness, then all has been lost, and God has no reason to keep us around.

People, He wants US to figure it out. How can I “make” you love my neighbor, if you won’t do it on your own?

Can humans unite as one without the constant presence of self-centeredness?

What the white Evangelicals really want

U.S. News & World Report photo

It’s all about abortion. Everything we’re witnessing with the Presidency of Donald Trump and his fervent — almost fanatical — support from white Evangelicals is, in the end, about abortion. You can add prayer in schools and display of the Ten Commandments, but the biggie is abortion. These issues have in common one thing — they became issues due to Supreme Court rulings — and the possibility of “fixing” these decisions through a more conservative Supreme Court is what allows certain Christians to look the other way through everything else about Trump, his character, and his dictatorial management of the government.

The “think” is that God put Trump in office, so that decades of cultural shifting to the left can be corrected. It’s a trap, an illusion seized by perhaps well-intended and exasperated people who long for what they think were better days. In their zeal to this end, they’ve become pawns in a bait and switch effort by the haves to seize the moment for themselves.

Here’s a simple description of what the (mostly white) Evangelicals want from a very good BBC report on the matter:

For decades the US Supreme Court — America’s highest legal authority — has been finely politically balanced. “The Nine” include four liberal voices, four conservatives, and one swing vote.

The idea, of course, is that changing the ideology of the high court will change the culture for at least a generation, but this is a very deceptive perspective. That’s because the underlying issue is the concept of case law, where legal precedents established through court decisions actually become law. Conservatives like to use the phrase “strict Constitutionalist” as a litmus test for court appointees. It’s a euphemism for “legislators make laws, not judges,” and while an argument can be made that case law isn’t in the U.S. Constitution, it doesn’t follow that our judicial system will ever rule against the idea that precedent is a factor in the judging of cases. And as long as our legislative bodies are dominated by lawyers, it’s nearly impossible to achieve any change through legislation. A conservative lawyer, after all, is still a lawyer. Never forget that.

Another phrase that conservatives use is “legislating from the bench,” which is just another way of saying the judicial system should not be “making” law. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

So, if judges shouldn’t be making law through precedent, what is their alternative? I got a deep education on this from Pat Robertson and the faculty of CBN University’s law school during my time as producer of The 700 Club in the 1980s. The alternative is that courts only make rulings on the individual cases before them and that no precedent ruling can be considered. Verdicts are decided on the merits of the case, period. If the issue is so important as to require the creation of law, then that is a matter for our legislative bodies, for they are our elected representatives, according to the Constitution.

However — and here’s where it gets a little nuts — if this is the basis for their argument, then why the need to shift the ideology of the court? After all, if rulings are limited only to the cases before them, then why worry about their ideological make-up influencing culture? Could it be that abortion is merely an emotional appeal for conservatives who wish really to influence culture on behalf of their true beneficiaries, the haves who control everything in the first place? Donald Trump has not influenced the outcomes of the high court, but he certainly has done well for the billionaires who dwell in the high places.

Nathaniel Rachman of the Oxford student paper, OxStu, published an insightful piece with the headline “The spectre of a conservative Supreme Court is a fantasy,” in which he notes that the ideology of the court has had little to do with the important issues that conservatives want fixed anyway:

Even if the court’s judges remain solidly conservative however, they can still produce the occasional surprising decision. Clarence Thomas, the court’s most fanatical conservative, recently helped strike down an attempt to suppress black voters in North Carolina, while Neil Gorsuch is now facing Trump’s criticism after rescuing the liberal justices in their attempts to strike down a vague immigration law. Sometimes such defections can be transformative; when Obamacare, the central prop to the US healthcare system seemed fatally threatened, the Chief Justice John Roberts saved it, and when the court found a fundamental right to same-sex marriage, it was Anthony Kennedy who authored the 5–4 opinion. Roberts’ court is concerned with how the world looks upon it, and the chief justice is keenly aware of the shadow of history looming over him. The reputation of his bench is vital to him. Even if Trump appoints a consistent hardliner, he has no guarantee that the rest of the court would not shift in response, fearing a legacy that will go down in infamy.

This is the problem when ideology attempts to shift the culture through managing it from the top. The culture isn’t shifted by ideology; it’s shifted by people and the energy of their social movements. Therefore, issues eventually finding their way to the high court isn’t by chance, and it’s nowhere near as simple as the right wants to make it sound.

Besides, as I’ve written before, abortion is really about sex and the Biblical position that fornication is sin. We have to be honest about this, for we always have to “play the tape to its end” when considering issues such as abortion. What would be the Evangelicals’ view of how people “should” behave in a world without legal abortion? I think we all know the answer to that. Moreover, anti-abortion law becomes harder and harder as the evidence mounts about how birth control reduces the abortion rate. Our current rate is now BELOW what it was in 1973, when it was made legal by the high court.

My daughter is about to pop with baby number three, and we’re all pretty excited about it. This is especially so after her experience with baby number two, who died of severe birth defects six hours after birth. She learned of the birth defects at 20 weeks and went through this despite the knowledge that she “could have” gotten an abortion. She made the decision — the choice — for herself not to do so, and it was remarkable to witness. For her, it was a moral issue, not a legal one, and she could not have made such a decision for herself, had abortion been illegal. This experience has firmed my resolve that the Supreme Court got it right with Roe v Wade.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I strongly recommend you read the linked materials.

A Huffington Post reject on sexual harassment

Today, I’m publishing a somewhat tweaked version of the piece I wrote for The Huffington Post a couple of weeks ago that they chose not to publish. The reasons I was given were “the assumption of pathology and the discussion of victims’ responses and clothing choices, among other things.” I promised I would publish the piece here, so that you could judge for yourselves.

It’s already public knowledge that I’m an addict in recovery, and it’s my experience in working on my own bad habits that brings me to publish this. My single purpose in so doing is to raise awareness about a part of human life that people would — for whatever reason — choose to rather not know about. I don’t see how that does anybody any good, especially in the area of human relations known as sexuality. Besides, I’m an old man now and care much less about what people think of me than I once used to. Here’s the link:

Advice from a former serial sexual predator: In the Era of Harvey Weinstein, Break the Predator’s Fantasy!

The Winds of Change

Hello, friends. I feel a familiar tug in the wake of recent dealings with The Huffington Post, and I need to take a step back and reconsider everything regarding my mission in Life as I continue to get older. I’ve got another book in the works, and perhaps that’s where my attention needs to be right now. I’m tired of being broke, and the book that I’ve dedicated my life to over the past couple of years (The Gospel of Self: How Jesus Joined The GOP)  isn’t selling like I thought it might. But this latest business with the online publication I’d hoped would help has left me a bit cynical and very disappointed

I’ve enjoyed commenting on current events for HuffPost, but this episode affirms my belief that our society has no real wish to deal with its problems, because we are complicit in their continuation, even to the point of rooting for them. My piece on Harvey Weinstein was rejected due to “the assumption of pathology and the discussion of victims’ responses and clothing choices, among other things.” This is, of course, their right and perhaps even their duty, but it tells me that despite my experience on the issue, my opinion simply doesn’t matter. Offered the confessions of a reformed serial sexual predator, the editors couldn’t bring themselves to consider another perspective in the matter. Meanwhile, I’ve read countless expert and non-expert opinions on Weinstein, all of which make assumptions of pathology or character defects. This is similar to responses I’ve received regarding articles about Christianity that I’ve produced, so I’m thinking that perhaps it’s time to just move along. One of the great tests of leadership is to turn around and see if anybody’s following. Just like what happened in media circles, with religion and feminism, there’s too much at stake to risk going off-road with sacred cows. And so, I need to back away — at least for a bit — and give some thought to where I go from here.

I’ll continue promoting my book, because I still believe it’s an important read in the age of Trump. I got an invitation to participate in a major book event in Tucson in March, and that’ll be a lot of fun.

I’ll publish here the article that was rejected by the folks at The Huffington Post and let you be the judge. It took guts to step out and admit what I did in that piece, but I really thought it would help advance the discussion. I know where Harvey Weinstein is getting treatment, and I know who is helping him. I’ve taken very similar steps, but apparently that’s of no consequence.

We’ll see.

Announcing my new book

contractI’m very happy to announce that OR Books in New York will be publishing my new book about my days as Pat Robertson’s producer with The 700 Club. We’re going to call it “The Gospel of Self: How Jesus Joined the GOP,” and it should be available by December, which is a pretty quick turnaround for a publisher. You will be able to pre-order via the web in a few weeks, and I’ll keep you posted about that.

This has been quite an adventure, and I’m very proud to be associated with OR Books. They are a unique independent publishing company embracing “progressive change in politics, culture and the way we do business.” Believe me when I say we are a perfect fit, and I am so, so excited.

As you likely already know, I’ve been working on this book for 18 months and thinking about it since I left CBN in the wake of Pat Robertson’s run for President in 1988. It’s a book for Christians — especially Evangelicals — although its message will be a very hard sell to this group. It will do well with Christians on the left, but it’s really for everyone who was ever influenced by the hard wind that blew in the era of the televangelists in the 1980s. “The Gospel of Self” is my term for the broad use of the Bible as a self-help manual, a handbook for personal salvation, as opposed to the bigger issue of pleading the cause of the poor and the afflicted. I will get a ton of criticism for my views, but the facts are always what really matters in the telling of history. I provide documentation, including portions of my sworn testimony with the Criminal Investigative Division of the IRS. It’s a compelling story and includes my postmodern predictions for the future of the church.

I’ve been writing about online marketing for over 15 years, and this will give me a chance to try some things that haven’t been done as well as doing things the mass marketing way. Can you tell I’m pretty pumped?

A great big thanks here to Jeff Jarvis, my old friend and colleague from the trailblazing days of early blogging. Jeff is the one who opened this door for me, and I will forever be in his debt.

Another big thanks to my newer friend, Brian McLaren, who has been a strong supporter of this effort. McLaren is a prolific author and the key founder of the Emerging Church movement. His work dovetails nicely with mine over the last 20 years, and I’m proud to call him a friend. He has a new book coming out next month that I’m looking forward to reading. I could not have stayed the course of my vision without Brian’s encouragement.