Seeing Things as They Really Are

After reading the excellent article of Medium writer Caitlin Johnstone, who I suggest you all look up, I decided to share some thoughts on the nonsense adults filled my head with when young. I recall growing up with these narratives, and I admit they are not easy to shake, but I slowly began stripping away all of the lies embedded in my psyche, in fact drilled into my tabula rasa head throughout childhood. Not only the crazy Santa Claus and Easter Bunny nonsense, but a lot of things that should not be accepted fare that keep children from learning to understand the world.

Catholic school had a lot to do with that. Being immersed in a worldview that was unscientific and based on a grand, mythic story of redemption on a universal scale, the sacrifice of an only son by his father, who happened to be the big cheese sitting in the imperial realm of Heaven. Just step back for a second. Be reasonable and ask yourself if that story has any more validity or sense than the aforementioned man in a red suit or the rabbit with a penchant for delivering eggs, both of which grew out of religion to begin with, probably to make the grand one seem more plausible when weighed against them.

At Catholic school, I was indoctrinated with the Baltimore Catechism in my by women in hidden in what I would now call a burka, most of whom (but not all) seemed to have no recognizable personality. I subsequently learned that many had no college education and maybe were not qualified to teach. The religion class lessons in my early years consisted of a series of questions and answers. We had to learn these by rote, and they were made up by some priest who I later learned said if he knew his lessons were going to catch on he would have put more work into them. A best seller sold to a captive audience and dashed off in a whimsical fashion. A solid basis for learning.

The catechism started like this:

  1. Q. Who made the world? A. God made the world. {Simple start.}
  2. Q. Who is God? A. God is the Creator of heaven and earth, and of all things. {That clause at the end sounds like an afterthought, no?}
  3. Q. What is man? {Note the “man” thing, but hey, it is a patriarchal institution after all.} A. God made me to know Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in Heaven. {Okay, so a fascist wants me to make him the center of my world, bow down and serve, and then want to be happily around him for eternity? {A self aggrandizing bully, the kind I still abhor to this day.}

Number ten was a doozy. It went like this: Q. How shall we know the the things we are to believe? A. We shall know the things we are to believe from the Catholic Church, through which God speaks to us.

Obviously, intent on mindless adherents, one’s own common sense and reasoning capabilities are set aside. It’s all about blind belief. And the addendum “though which God speaks to us” means you don’t question the head honcho. Suck it up and serve and do not question.

I did the altar boy stint too. Made some cash serving funerals and weddings, back then people tipped the altar boys. Stole Hosts to eat (only unblessed ones so that I would not burn in Hell), drank a little wine, and still, I was a child believer. There was an aura of mystery about the Church that seduced me. Fancy robes, incense, Latin masses, stain glassed windows. Spinning up mystery is a good way to keep you unsettled if not dumb, in awe of what you don’t understand.

In 8th grade, I quit attending morning Mass on the delegated Tuesdays and Thursdays my class had to attend before school. I would wait up at the door to the classroom for Sister Mariam and my classmates to come single file, boys in one line, girls in the other. Once the only black kid in class started waiting there with me as my comrade in protest, the sensed revolution had to slap down. Dissent is not what God wanted. It was obedience He demanded. Thus, my little act of independent thinking lasted all of two and 1/2 weeks before I got sent to the principal, Sister Kenneth. I told her Mass should be a choice and not forced upon anyone. She actually seemed somewhat understanding, and in later years I wondered what her life must have been like. I also later learned she did a lot of good for people in the parish who were unable to afford school fees. Nonetheless, rules had to be followed and I was forced to return to Mass days, I protested by no longer going to Communion. That they could not control.

In ninth grade, I went to public school and had to attend CCD classes. It stood for Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, and it was instituted around 1567 after the Protestant Reformation to keep Catholics from thinking for themselves. The “D” in CDD, ‘doctrine,” was almost correct. The CDD should have been CDI, the “I” standing for Indoctrination. A Hitler youth rally could learn a few things from this wholesale attempt to control the minds of powerless and impressionable children by the methods employed by a institution with over a billion followers. Of course the Reformers kept all of the blind belief aspects but added their own wrinkle of making business interests and sober handling of bourgeoisie money getting the heavenly stamp of approval. God had a new Son, a growing capitalism mindset, a kind of second son that instead of being sacrificed would sacrifice everyone and everything for short-term profit.

Unfortunately, the later Enlightenment was missed by this institution of the Church for 400 more years, until Pope John XXIII had the Second Vatican Council. He tried to reform the Church, and out of it arose the Mass said in the native tongue and “Liberation Theology.” The latter was the best expression of the changes in that social justice was pushed forward in teaching. Priests formed local base camps of Catholics in Central and South America, and US bishops were quite liberal at that time. The Church was looking into its roots, the teachings to pre-Constantine ideas, a return to the most prominent theme Bible, an emphasis on the poor, the widowed, the imprisoned. All of it short-lived. John Paul II and groups like Opus Dei stamped out that short lived drive to make religion actually meaningful (if still based on a fantastic story) in terms of the biblical call for justice for the poor.

The CIA played its role in stamping it out, it concerned that having a bunch of poor Latin American people rallying for justice against US corporate interests and maybe demanding a little democracy. Many poor people were killed,and some priests and nuns, and a bishop of note, Oscar Romero, whose understated tomb I visited while in El Salvador. Though not a believer, I still give respect to the deserving. Early on, Romero served the wealthy, but even a bishop can have a conversion, what is called a metanoia experience, and see the light. He began serving the poor and calling for social justice. For that un-Christian crime he was gunned down while serving Mass by US trained paramilitary troops. America, the land of the free, the home of the brave, supporting democracy and human rights throughout the world — those all other myths droned into the sheep-like citizens in our education system causes one trouble only if questioning its basis. We did the same to Berta Caceres recently in Honduras, Thank you Obama and Hillary for that one, and the hundreds of others there dying because of support for human rights and democracy.

To this day I am still amazed at the amount of propaganda I ingested at the hands of my captors (those an innocent child trusts), related to the greatest country that ever existed, this exceptional nation, the beacon of democracy and purveyor of all that is good in the world, the red, white, and blue, the United States of America. May the rockets never quit emitting red glare. Come to think of it, they never have.

It too took a long time to shake, but slowly over the years I evolved. More recently, in the last 20 years,once a proud Democrats, I have watched while what I once thought a force of good I came to abandon with good force seeing that it is the other half of a criminal organization serving the same interests that killed those priests and nuns in Central America. I had joined progressive groups, thinking it could be reformed, but put away that myth ten years ago watching the Obama presidency mimic the same shortcoming and crimes of the Clinton administration, the latter of which I saw as an aberration from the norm. Due to a great amount of reading of Leftist lit, Chomsky and others, I now know that capitalism itself is the systemic problem.

I confess, evolution is often a slow process, and for me none of these myths died easily. But it is the same experience one might have when someone tells you they have something in their closed fist. You may believe them, giving humans more trust than is good. Once they open the hand and it is empty, you immediately can no longer believe it true because you now know for yourself. There is no going back once one has a catharsis from foolishness, a metanoia experience if you like, a turning around not to return to the former direction.

I’m no psychologist, but it seems to me that we are raising our children wrongly. I know I would have been better off if I had not been filled with all the poppycock. We should dismiss all of the myths and lies and teach children to see things, as a Buddhist might say, “as they really are.” No more nonsense. No more stories. Tech them to question and rebel against the lies they are taught in history class. Teach them the truth about religion, about the USA, about the contradictions and inherent evil of capitalism. But this means we have to be responsible and do not foist off our children and their impressionable minds to others. We must teach them that going against the grain is not the easy way out, but it is often if not most of the time the ethical way. We must teach them to think for themselves, to not blindly follow leaders. I believe if we do this, our children will grow up to be healthier adults, ones that can participate in and help shape society to become a place where more justice exists, more compassion. I think that this hope for a better future is not one analogous to Christian “hope.” It is based on seeing things as they really are, and it is firmly grounded on solid ground, not on the false narratives that keep us disconnected from being agents for change.

Socialist, unionist, anti-imperialist, anti-racist, internationalist, and a fairly nice guy too. Let's make some change.