Sunday, February 26, 2017

Creating Real Security

There's been lots of talk about security in our country lately. The greatest security apparatus ever invented by humans is healthy community.

Wall-building, law-and-order types have the cause and effect exactly backwards on this. Healthy community creates law and order, not the other way around. When we get this backward and try to impose law and order by force, threats, punishment and turning people against each other, we destroy the only source of sustainable security we have and lock ourselves into a never-ending spiral of insecurity.

If this sounds familiar, don't be surprised. Those selling protection love this destructive cycle, and one strain of American politics has embraced it wholeheartedly over the past 40 years. They've waged endless wars, built the largest prison system in the world with some of the most draconian sentences, — but where is the security each generation of them has promised?

All we hear from them is more of the same. "We're in danger, the world is falling apart. We need more law and order, more prisons, harsher sentences, a bigger military."

If you really want security and aren't just an angry person who likes hurting and villainizing people, start building community now.

Let your first act be to shut down the protection salesmen. Overcome the fear they are sowing and reject their absurd claim that we have to violate our values to save them.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Resistance vs Displacement: Finding Sanity in a Difficult Time

What's the difference between resistance and displacement? Here are some things we've been resisting for a long time: violence, drugs, gun violence, bacteria, terrorism and of course stupidity.

All have been strengthened.

When we go into a dark room we don't resist the darkness; we displace it with the flip of a switch. We're learning that the only way to sustainably deal with bad bacteria is to displace it with good bacteria.

In the same way, the only way to deal with broken community is to displace it with good community. (We can replace the word "community" in that sentence with the word "culture," "economics," "justice," and many others and it is just as true.)

If we don't like where our country is going, we have to remember that Trump is as much a product of our resistance as he is of his supporters' support. If we continue with, or even double down on that strategy, we will simply strengthen the fears that produced him in the first place.

What vision will displace this fear-based vision? Figure that out and begin building it now. I call for a vision of wholism because it's the only thing with the power to truly and completely displace the dysfunction and fragmentation plaguing us.

Here's a trick: when you hear the word "partisan," think "part-ism." We talk like bipartisanism (two-partism) is some grand accomplishment. Do we really think there are only two parts to our world?

How about we think a little bigger and strive for all-partism, aka, "wholism"?

The first act of a wholistic politics would be to really listen to those we are now trying to strongarm and drive out. The people we disagree with, whether on the left or the right, matter.

The first principle of wholism is that everything is part of everything else, thus "they" are part of "us." Not just "connected" to us, not just "related" to us, but part of us. If they are part of us, we need each other to be whole in order for all of us to be whole. We have to figure this out.

Find someone on the opposite side of things — your "they" — and talk to them. If you can't talk, just listen. But before you try to listen or talk, care about them, because if we can't find that in ourselves we can't get anything else right.

Monday, August 22, 2016

"A Polite Society"?

I shake my head sadly when the guy I'm walking with tells me, "Hey did you hear they stabbed Steward?" (Not his real name.)

Anywhere but here this would be a bizarre conversation starter. Here in prison it's a conversation I've had countless times. It's normal to be walking across the yard and see blood trailing up the sidewalk or to see men wrapping their faces with t-shirts and trying to get back to their cells without getting caught or assaulted again. In most cases, the victims are found out, locked up and transferred to another prison. The perpetrators mostly go uncaught.

I have heard people on the news saying things like, "An armed society is a polite society." I wish I could bring them here and send them out onto the yard with a jagged piece of steel to test their theory. An armed society is anything but polite. It's a society of bullies and overly sensitive egos; of men who never have to develop their character because they can hide behind their brutality and call themselves "men." It's a society where those most willing to do violence (or pay others to do it) set the honor code and good men don't challenge it because they don't want to get caught up in a stabbing war.

It's a society where the first time "an armed man" runs into someone he can't dominate — someone either better armed or stronger than he is — he starts a gang of bullies and thugs to protect himself. Then others, afraid of being bullied by that gang, start their own and on and on until what's true and what's right become irrelevant. The only thing that matters is who is most vicious and most willing to do the most violence.

Take it from someone who knows: An armed society is not a "polite" society. An armed society is a bloody, vicious, and stupid society where those with the least moral compunction rise to the top.

I've seen too many men stabbed and slashed in my thirty years here. Some "deserved" it, if that matters to you, but most did not. Most were men who had sworn off violence and were simply trying to live in an environment where a few armed thugs set the tone for everyone else.

The gun lobby has another cute bumper sticker: "The best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun."

Well, here's a question we seem to have overlooked: Once everyone has guns, who gets to decide who can call themselves "the good guys"? Answer: The last ones standing.

If you want that to be your moral compass, the standard by which you tell the difference between good and bad, you're welcome to it. I would like something a little further up the food chain.

You see, I'm in prison for taking the life of a young man in a bar fight. I was "the last man standing,"
but that didn't make me the good guy. It made me a very bad guy.

Some might make the mistake of assuming I'm against guns. I'm not. I'm against violence.

The problem with the American gun lobby isn't that they own guns or that they stand up for the rights of people who own guns. The problem is that they believe in and advocate violence as a pillar of civil society. They believe violence is a legitimate form of power. In this, they are no different than the criminals I live with.

Both seem ignorant of the fact that violence is like the cuckoo bird hatchling: the moment it is hatched into the nest of civil society it begins to murder and toss over the side of the nest all other forms of power.

Self-Advancement or Self-Transformation?

Recently, I Tweeted:

So a friend asked: What kind of questions could we ask ourselves to determine if we're in self-advancement mode or self-tranformation mode?

It's an excellent question. These are not really "ways of thinking" as much as they are states of consciousness. As such they are mostly unconscious and shape our behavior by changing how we see the world. If we think the purpose of life is to get ahead, to succeed, everything will look different than if we think the purpose of life is to learn to love, i.e., self-transformation.

Even spirituality can be approached through both of these filters. If I think the purpose of spirituality is some form of self-advancement, personal salvation for example, I'm going to be much more fundamentalist in my views and much more focused on the legalistic aspects of scripture than on the love aspects. If the reverse is true, I see the love aspect of spirituality as most important because I know that spiritual love is an ego-cide. Radical love, love that costs me my ego, is the all of spirituality.

If I put this into questions the first big one would be:

Am I in love mode or defense mode?

Others are:

  • How cheated by life do I feel?
  • How many enemies do I have?
  • Do I hold anyone else accountable for my own happiness and well being?
  • Do I own other peoples' suffering?
  • Do I recognize my own privilege?
  • How far out do the boundaries of my "tribe" extend?
  • Is service something I do in life or who I am? (Do I see my life as a mission of service?)

Monday, June 27, 2016

By Any Means Necessary?

Seven hospitalized in California when white supremacists clashed with an anti-fascist group calling itself "By Any Means Necessary." Yvette Felarca, a member of the latter group, defended the violence passionately, even calling for more.

So sad we can't get this: Violence only defeats people but people aren't the enemy. Ideas are. A bad idea has NEVER been defeated by violence. In fact, bad ideas thrive on violence. What defeats them is love and truth wielded creatively.

Anyone who embraces "any means necessary" has already lost. Good motives do NOT change this truth. Ms. Felarca and company: Don't be transformed by your fear; rather transform your fear into radical acts of creative love.

Also known as Wholism.

—Troy Chapman

Monday, March 7, 2016

Award to Kay Perry, MI-CURE

The Wholeness Ethics Project at Muskegon Correctional Facility has awarded Ms. Kay Perry our Community Service Award for her faithful stewardship of MI-CURE over the past three decades.

During this time Ms. Perry has edited and published MI-CURE News, which is a highly literate, wholistic and reason-based commentary on a topic that is too often dominated by emotion and politics.

She has been on the front lines of every battle between intelligent justice and demagoguery wherever they may occur.

Though she probably doesn't call herself a wholist, I am proud to call her one and to thank her publicly for her ongoing wholistic community service.

I encourage anyone who cares about justice in Michigan or elsewhere to give a minute of time and thank Kay and support her good work in any other way you feel you can.

Kay is the first free citizen to receive this award and I can't think of a better first. Thanks, Kay, for being a champion of wholeness.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Values Behind Bullying

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta did a report recently about a foundation that offers free plastic surgery for kids who are bullied. He followed a young teenaged girl through the process of an all-expense-paid trip to New York for three different plastic surgeries. The girl started out thinking her ears stuck out too much because this is what the bullies had teased her about. The other two surgeries were recommended by the plastic surgeons who discovered, upon examination, that she was uglier than she thought and needed a nose job and a chin implant as well.
Is this really the most enlightened response to bullying we can come up with? It seems to me more of an affirmation that the bullies were right: "Yeah kids, we agree; she is ugly." Never mind that we're talking about a normal, even above-average looking, teen girl.

Yet Dr. Zakaria never questioned this. He merely presented it objectively. The lesson he and the female reporter took from it was, "Kids can be cruel."

The lesson I took from it is, "Kids can be uncanny reflections of the adults in their lives." When we remember that the first purpose of education — indeed, of child rearing in general — is to teach children to be good people, we will begin to end bullying. Why? Because it's nothing but our own values carried to their logical conclusion. This is true of all childhood craziness from bullying to school shootings.

When our children go astray they're not abandoning our values and coming up with a new set of their own. They're merely expressing more truthfully and blatantly (as children are wont to do) the values we taught them.

A foundation to offer truly disfigured kids free surgery is a good idea. One that convinces them that they're deformed when they're not is just more of the same values that cause the problem it purports to be fixing. Einstein was right: A problem can never be solved on the same level of consciousness that created it.