Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, Religion and the Higgs Boson: How the World Turns — and Is Turning?

Like many things in life, it depends on what you want to hear.

Whether you’re a religious person and don’t believe there’s a chance in hell for the Higgs Boson to exist, a devoutly religious person that denies priests are fondling children — and concealing it — or a Scientologist that believes, after donating thousands upon thousands of dollars, your soul or “thetan” is a reincarnation that has lived on other planets before living on Earth, such as Tom Cruise, recent (apparent) scientific discoveries in Geneva, Switzerland suggest that, though we may not want to hear some things, we should question everything, but in particular, the largest, most powerful science fiction story of all — or scam, take your pick — the creation of organized religion that is the bane of our existence.

Higgs Boson

Let’s begin, then, almost at the beginning.

“There comes a time,”Aldous Huxley wrote, “when one asks even of Shakespeare, even of Beethoven, is this all?”

The oldest religion, dating back to the early Harappan period (5500-2600 BCE), is Hinduism. Neither the pursuit nor the attainment of the world’s visible rewards brings true happiness, suggests Hinduism. Might not, then, becoming a part of a larger, more significant whole relieve life of its triviality, after all, we all want meaning?

This question alone gives birth to religion — and slowly and energetically moves from an existential question to the “opium of the people.” Without falling into the ridiculous arguments generated by ill-prepared politicians and journalist hacks, let’s just say, avoiding the term, Marxist, that Karl was right on this one. Marx actually said, “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of the soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” If we take this “Marxist” notion and apply today, we can see that if fits, it works.

Name a poor community in America where you don’t hear, “It’s God’s will” uttered by people that are homeless and suffering from some institutionalized mandate, whether it’s zoning and the lack of health care and environmental degradation, and climate change and just plain old inhumanity, such as the lack of social mobility, particularly through education.

Name a time that has been more heartless then our own whereby in the name of God and Allah we are separating, maming, killiing and destroying people simply because they view the world differently — or better, we need their resources and we need their strategic location from which to launch our control over needed resources.

In the name of God — who we say we trust — we rob the poor, in our own country and elsewhere (the evidence is overwhelming), then give them guns, and to keep our attention busy, we fly drones over the helpless, in the USA and elsewhere. And we, the citizens of this country that says, “In God We Trust,” turn from our inhumanity to all, and we’re suppose to be the most Christian, Sunday church going, Bible pounding nation in the world. What gives? But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, not in the name of God, anyway.

Let’s go back to the problem.

The question of Hindiusm — and all subsequent religions — What do people really want ? — becomes fundamental in creating orthodox structures that solicit obedience through dogma meant to respond to the question. Within these tightly structured boxes — or organizations — where allegiance is mandated above even faith, there is little room for debate, let alone creative disruption.

Hinduism tells us that the first thing we want is Being. We want to be rather than not be; normally, no one wants to die (Scientology has co-opted this narrative strain quite heavily).

Second, we want to know. We are instinctually curious, whether you’re a scientist probing the universe or at home with the family watching the news — we want to know. In fact, we’ll turn to gossip — or reality tv — just to get the sense that we know something, anything.

The third thing people seek is joy, a feeling tone that is opposite frustration, futility, and boredom. Hinduism — and all other religions — prescribe a road to this sense of joy, provided one follow a strict path. Allegiance comes first, followed by the embrace of a promise to live happily ever after in joy.

If we couple these three needs to the unique human capacity to think of something that has no limits, the infinite, we can see how Christianity, which began as a Jewish sect in the eastern Mediterranean in the mid-1st century, follows. And how, with Islam, both follow the notion that there is an uncorrupted monotheistic faith of Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and other prophets, all of whom, first, try to answer the question, What do people want?, and, secondly, are the vanguards of strict organizations that get formed around the prophets’ ideas, long after these prophets are dead and buried, and try to conflate material reality with a science fiction pertaining to the afterlife, edenic spaces to experience life ever after, and even reincarnation suggesting that we’ve existed before, time traveling, century after century, year in and year, living and dying and being reborn again — perhaps into Tom Cruise — while all sorts of immoral actions are being leveled against the “flocks” of these organizations — and by the most staunch believers.

The latest insanity around Tom Cruise and Katy Holmes suggests that we’ve reached a pathetic end to these cloaked belief systems. Imagine the level of intelligence of people, celebreties or otherwise, that pursue a religion that was incorporated in 1953, by L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction writer.  Hubbard created a rather false universe; it followed his treatise on self-help, Dianetics, describing a metaphysical relationship between the mind and the body.

But it makes some sort of sense, doesn’t it?

If we are in fact seeing the deterioration of monotheistic religions everywhere — and we are, simply based on the evidence of massive killings and the inhumanity being shown to the poor and the helpless in the name of God — and all these religions are, in fact, tales, stories, narratives that respond to the first question — What do people want? — it stands to reason that, after centuries we have been taught to find — and embrace — the ONE, the one man usually, that will respond to the question with a complex, albeit understandable, belief system that makes our desire to be, our desire to know and be curious palpable and manageable. (This notion, too, enters our political system big time, but the relation of religion and politics is yet another and larger story.)

Enter the Higgs Boson apparently discovered in Geneva the other day: picture a room full of people. We’ll call this the Higgs Field. Suddenly, in comes a person, a noted person. He steps into the room and begins to mingle, shake hands and so on; people gather around him or her. The more people gather around this person, the harder it is for this person to move. Then this mass of people begins to act — or move — as one. As one, it’s slow, large, difficult to move. Then a less popular person enters the room. Some break from the mass and move to the new person in the room — or field. This person’s mass is smaller, therefore it’s easier for this person to move about with his or her group. There you have the Higgs Boson. Without it, matter would not exist — we would not exist, and I wouldn’t be writing this. The Higgs is the foundation for matter, to put it plainly.

This is, apparently, the basis of the structure of the universe — and it is NOT the poorly named “God particle,” an The God Particleunfortunate statement made by Professor and Nobel Prize Winner Leon Lederman that titled his book, The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What is the Question? , providing a brief history of particle physics. No other physicist or scientist has used the term as such, according to Matt Strassler, theoretical physicist at Rutgers University.

If the Higss is not the “God particle,” then what it is?

It is a scientific discovery, first and foremost, data that explains our being; our desire to be has a scientific explanation. Secondly, the apparent discovery comes from our curiosity, our search for answers to the most fundamental of questions, but in a scientific way, rather than a science fiction approach that has its own place in our culture (another story). Finally, the discovery begins to turn the corner for human nature’s need to know where we come from, how we’re made and why. It may even provide a road to where we’re going.

This is the next story, the story to come, and it’s built on science, not on science fiction; it’s built on reason and intelligence, carefully constructed around mathematics and physics — the Standard Model — that, in turn, enable us to create fields of information that are varifiable.

Stories and myths are essential for the human condition; however, these have to be used appropriately, which is not to control, mandate, influence — and then punish — as a way to find happiness and peace later, after one’s death.

We can find joy and learn about each other, with science and poetics, myths and faith working in tandem, not as antagonists. The Higgs Boson calls attention to our diversity, which we are now challenged to accept and embrace.

Here’s a teaser for  you, finally: THE MASTER, a film by Paul Thomas Anderson, to be released soon. If you understand nothing of what I’ve said, see it in film form.

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Dominican – Haitians and the World Order

In Juno Díaz’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Oscar’s family — Beli, the mother, and Lola, Oscar’s sister — go to dinner, upon the mother’s invitation, to the Zona Colonial. We learn that “the waiters kept looking at their party askance.” Lola reacts to this in a manner consistent with (some) Dominicans, and of course consistent with notions of “zona” or zone that is aptly named “colonial,” and says, “Watch out, Mom … they probably think you’re Haitian.” Beli, the mother, replies, “La única haitiana aquí eres tú, mi amor” (The only haitian here is you, my love.). In another incident, as “Oscar Goes Native,” we learn that he sees “his first Haitians kicked off a guagua (bus) because niggers claimed they ‘smelled.'” Díaz also gives us the picture of “Haitians selling roasted peanuts at the intersections.”

What do we see here?

It is a picture, in this case of Haitians, that is consistent with how those in need are first seduced by wages, usually much lower than those paid to a native labor force but much higher than earned by the needy of a country not quite as bountiful, and then categorically denied human rights by the dominant culture, in this case the Dominican Republic.

But this is not a problem unique to the Dominican Republic. All dominant cultures contain segments of their population for the purposes of cheap labor. This creates an unequal distribution of wealth and benefits. Economies are built — and strengthened — on the backs of those that are economically and politically weaker. This is the history of Western Civilization. Beginning with the Dutch Empire in the 17th Century, establishing outposts and plantations, skewering the fertile Guyana plains and creating the Cape Colony in South Africa, what we learn is that the modern world has been built by colonialization, the extreme exercise of violent power and control, and therefore extraordinary abuses of people.

Colonizers increase their wealth and the colonized are effectively repressed. Moving away from this history is difficult since it’s built into the DNA of such notions as progress, individualism and now even multiculturalism, as the recent, tragic events in Norway reveal. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany is having second thoughts on multiculturalism following the attacks in Oslo; President Nicolas Sarkozy of France held a nationwide debate on “national identity” and banned Muslim full-face veils, for instance.

This way, this method of addressing the ills of our societies as we all confront differences and desires that may be quite alien to some, really begins with the year 1492 and the destruction of Andalusía and the expulsion or conversion ultimatum issued to Jews by the Catholic King himself, Ferdinand of Spain. I stand with those intellectuals, such as Noam Chomsky, that firmly see this dark moment of discovery and destruction, or the discovery that brought on further destruction already in progress in Spain, as the beginning of the Modern Age. If we look around, we can argue that we’ve yet to live through this period, the black plague issued from 1492 — perhaps the ultimate fukú, as defined by Díaz, “specifically the Curse and the Doom of the New World.”

Now, as the historically colonized and victimized — Africans, Muslims, the disenfranchised dark people of the world — slowly move closer towards social justice — those inalienable rights we all speak about — they are further victimized by the strong roots of extreme nationalism that apparently grow unabated when the Other we’ve always kept down gains a modicum of political power. Political power leads to economic power. We know this, our history tells us this, so we fear this inescapable reality.

The case of the Haitians in the Dominican Republic, the narrative of their efforts to gain respect and a sense of worth, began on October 4, 1937. Known as the Parsley Massacre, because Dominican soldiers, holding up a sprig of parsley, would ask, “What is this?” And if they couldn’t say peregil, the Spanish word for parsley, they would be executed. (The Creole word for parsley is pési; the French word for parsley is persil.) Between 15,000 to 20,000 Haitian immigrant workers were massacred in the Dominican Republic. Most were slaughtered with bayonets and machetes by the Dominican army and some Dominican big landowners (ironically this practice was thought of as a way to keep the Dominican army from being fingered — no bullets, no trace). Infants had their heads smashed against walls. Women were speared with pitchforks. Many who were attempting to escape back to Haiti were captured at the border and killed. These murders were ordered by Dominican dictator Raphael Leonidas Trujillo, in an effort to “cleanse” the border region and expropriate small peasants or “conuqueros” so that big landowners could take over their lands.

This ethnic cleansing pogrom was part of an ideological campaign by the ruling classes to scapegoat Haitian immigrants for the plight of poor Dominicans and build a Dominican national identity through this process. This has led to an enduring entrenched anti-haitianismo pervasive in Dominican culture, reinforced in schools and systematically used as an instrument of exploitation.

It seems as if when we exploit and colonize, we hate those we use and destroy. Could it be that this Other is so overwhelming a reminder of our brutality that it’s much easier to take the next step and simply annihilate them? Is it that in conquering we hate ourselves so we must more fully engage in the destruction of the Other to keep our sanity? Must we try to destroy their trace, a tragic irony since this is impossible, given that all our texts that justify our power — the Christian Bible, for instance, the US Constitution — are replete with memory, good and bad, peaceful and violent? The trace is just that — a stain, a drop, an instance that’s verifiable and that enables future generations to judge and adjust. Is destruction and devastation the only way we have of enjoying the treasures we’ve taken because they are so colored in blood? Do we destroy fearing the rise of the Other? Certainly the Norwegian extremist charged with killing 92 people in Oslo, Anders Behring Breivik, thinks so having developed a detailed manifesto outlining his preparations and calling for a Christian war against Muslim domination.

We’re aghast at what happened in Oslo, but given the world we live in today, the question is why doesn’t this happen more often? The answer is that it does, it does happen, only in more subtle forms; the suffering is plentiful, particularly among the people that have been pushed aside, run through with machetes. We’re heading for disaster if we don’t find ways to ask relevant questions to help us change our DNA of conquer, divide, abuse and kill off. At the heart of the current US financial crisis, for instance, is this approach — conquer (the poor who didn’t know what mortgage they were getting into), divide (government’s insistence on ensuring the golden parachutes remain in the hands of the privileged that, historically, have always aided abuses), abuse (14% detectable unemployment in the US, though it’s much higher; let’s not forget the immigration crisis, too — we want them to clean our houses but we don’t want to recognize them, not even after generations of being in the US), and kill them off (let’s take to our guns and hit the Arizona border — it’s a war!).

The latest crisis in the long history that exists between the Dominican Republic and Haiti concerns the documentation of Haitians in the Dominican Republic. Haitians — or better said: the Dominicans of Haitian descent — Dominican-Haitians — are seeking proper documentation so that they can attend schools and universities. These young people are not trying to gain anything that has not been earned by generations of their families living and working in squalor at the behest of the Dominican government. That is to say, these children are Dominican of Haitian descent — but rights are kept from them without reason. These young Dominicans don’t want handouts; they want what’s just so that they can then create a life for themselves, working hard, going to school and advancing. They see that their personal advancement would be the advancement of the nation. They are not welcomed in Haiti; they’re thought of as Dominicans. In the Dominican Republic, as we see in the hands of Juno Díaz, they are shunned, shoved off buses, ridiculed, made to live on the margins.

In Stranded: Stateless in the Dominican Republic, an Aljazeera report on a documentary by Steve Spapienza (why this tragedy is not touched by US mainstream media is yet another story, one of complicity, of course, since we have an equal crisis with immigrants we seduce with our bounty), we can fully see and understand their plight. But as we see in the featured case, that of Jean Sili and his family, the story ends tragically, as if we’re still in the bloody mess that was the Trujillo regime, the years of the brutal patriarch that ordered the massacre of thousands of Haitians (he of course killed plenty of Dominicans as well — no one was spared by El Jefe).

What’s a solution for Dominican-Haitians and, perhaps, for undocumented immigrants to the US?

A solution is being presented by Fundación 180 Grados and a unique concept, gobernabilidad, the notion or quality of governing, the art of governing that proposes as a goal economic opportunity, robust social institutions, and stability between government — the State — civil society and open markets.  Fundación 180 Grados aims to create education centers, places where gobernabilidad can take root in the promotion of humanity (social justice, a much maligned and overused term — and I dare say a term used by political correcteness not to addres the reality it hides: we’re talking about humanity, we’re talking about what is human, what is, after all, the normal discourse among thinking and feeling people, the blood stream in each of us that connects us all, something we readily dismiss — human rights). This can only happen if there is equal sharing of responsibilities between an organization and the people it’s trying to serve; one learns from the other, this way the underrepresented, the marginalized, can eventually take control of governance — gobernabilidad. It’s a concrete way of ensuring a fascicle and humane indoctrination into the dominant culture, and vice versa. That is to say, as Dominican – Haitians learn to govern — as they produce economies of scale for their own populations — they integrate into the larger society. In doing so, the dominant society benefits as suffering, which is costly in all shapes and forms, is reduced. The society then moves forward in humane ways, something we’ve yet to be able to do anywhere in the western world.

The light of day is in cooperation and collaboration, not competition. Competition — growth for growth’s sake and profits for few — has brought us wars and global warming, antipathies, violence and depravation. It’s time to work with people, such as the Fundación 180 Grados, that are finding creative and socially just solutions to our vast problems. We can’t learn apart from one another. We have to learn together. This will be the new world order.

In The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, when Oscar is facing his assassins, Gorilla Grod and Solomon Grundy, sent by their police captain to end his life for loving Ybón, a local puta who made her way through the world as best she could, only to end up in this brutal captain’s hands, Oscar tells these formidable henchmen “that what they were doing was wrong, that they were going to take  a great love out of the world. Love was a rare thing, easily confused with a million other things, and if anybody knew this to be true it was him.”

In the end, the very end of things, how we, as humanity, have recognized love and the magnificent power of love will be how we’re judged.  Trujillo and his legacy, Gorilla Grod and Solomon Grundy, those that carry out colonialization’s ugliness, they’re scared of love and loving; those who work only to deny human rights, likewise, are scared to death of love.  Love is powerful.  If we give it, we gain strength.

Happy 4th of July — to All Left Out of Freedom, Independence and Hope

We’ll never know what happened in Sofitel Suite 2086.  What we do know, however, is that there is more than one victim.  The hotel maid is a victim. DSK’s wife, Anne Sinclair, is a victim, too.

The ironically named the “Audacity of Hope,” that sneaked out under the cover of night from a Greek port with aid to Gaza, was stopped by the Greek Coast Guard.   Forty US passengers were on board, inspired, I’m sure, by rays of hope for the people of Gaza.  There are a lot of victims here, too.  Palestinians.  Israelis, too.  Of course, freedom, self-reliance, independence and hope are victims as well.  In the Israeli – Palestinian conflict we’re all victims. There are no winners here.  It’s a dark course we’ve embarked on here.

Not a single latino baseball player (40 percent of major league baseball players are latino) will boycott this year’s All-Star Game in Arizona, who passed an anti-immigration law.

We march on, celebrating the American 4th of July — yet thousands upon thousands cannot celebrate with the same audacity.  Of course, the top executives of the most powerful companies that now rule — that is, that run our government for their benefit can, indeed, celebrate unprecedented freedoms.  But for the countless poor, those that reside in the inner most regions of our large cities, their lives are walled up.

It’s to them, the people and their kids that I’ve come to know in such places as the South Ward of Newark, that I write.  It’s to them I send my wishes.  And I send these wishes using the words of sociologist William Julius Wilson, who I have used plenty of times before in these pages.

I think it’s best to simply allow Wilson to speak without commentary, so I’ll cite some definitive conclusions pertaining to The Economic Plight of Inner-City Black Males chapter in Wilson’s book, More Than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City, again a text I’ve used numerous times and that must be read and acted upon.

Listen carefully.  Read these out loud, several times, and see what happens:

Indeed, the employment woes of poor black men represent part of ‘the new urban poverty,’ which I define as poor, segregated neighborhoods in which substantial proportions of the adult population are either officially unemployed or have dropped out of, or never entered, the labor force.

…neighborhoods with larger fractions of nonwhites tend to be associated with higher rates of unemployment…[The data shows] that education plays a key role in enabling black men to secure employment.

By 2007, blacks were about 15 percent less likely than other workers to have a job in manufacturing. The dwindling proportion of African American workers in manufacturing is important because manufacturing jobs, especially those in the auto industry, have been a significant source of better-paid employment for black Americans since World War II.

Because they tend to be educated in poorly performing public schools, low-skilled black males often enter the job market lacking some of the basic tools that would help them confront changes in their employment prospects. Such schools have rigid district bureaucracies, poor morale among teachers and school principals, low expectations for students, and negative ideologies that justify poor student performance. Inner-city schools fall well below more advantaged suburban schools in science and and math resources, and they lack teachers with appropriate preparation in these subjects. As a result, students from these schools tend to have poor reading and math skills, important tools for competing in the globalized labor market. Few thoughtful observers of public education would disagree with the view that the poor employment prospects of low-skilled black males are in no small measure related to their public-education experience.

Their lack of education, which contributes to joblessness, is certainly related to their risk of incarceration.

…national cultural shifts in values and attitudes contributed to a political context associated with a resurgent Republican Party that focused on punitive ‘solutions’ and worsened the plight of low-skilled black men.

In short, cultural shifts in attitudes towards crime and punishment created structural circumstances — a more punitive justice system — that have had a powerful impact on low-skilled black males.

…research by Devah Pager revealed that a white applicant with a felony conviction was more likely to receive a callback or job offer than was a black applicant with a clean record.

Thus, whereas the subculture of defeatism is a result of having too little pride to succeed in the labor market, the subculture of resistance reflects too much pride to accept menial employment.

So much for the audacity of hope!  Have a wonderful 4th of July!