A Humanist Voice

Screen shot 2016-07-22 at 5.24.18 PM

         BOUNDARIES (the boundaries suite)

In this suite of three brief essays, each sharing the theme “boundaries”, I first warn the reader how it is that all of our boundaries, personal and public, have been ruptured. Then I go on to point out just how is that there seems to be two different sets of rules for respecting those boundaries, one set allocated to those who have no power, and then another set allocated to those who have power. And finally, I close with looking at how important it is to understand that our boundaries, those things that keep us whole, cannot be allowed to create borders which become an abyss that divide us from living together as neighbors and surviving and thriving, (all of us!), as citizens of the world.


Between the privacy of my thoughts and the words I choose to speak lay a boundary. Between the words I speak, as an aside to another, and the speech as made in the larger society of the office, place of recreation, or to a public assembly lay a boundary. And the curiosity of the millions of the consumers of Global Information lays on the far side of still yet another boundary

There is a boundary between the speech of those who are intimate and all others, as well as one between those who are family and the rest of the world. These are boundaries of personal relationships, but there are also boundaries of public space. For instance, there is a boundary between one's house and property and the Public Space and Civic concern, and yet another that divides the space we share in the streets of our community from those economic markets and social institutions that are the larger commons of our nation. These spaces and boundaries are spaces and boundaries open to negotiation. There are human demands of intimacy and so support these demands there are cultural social customs that assist us to negotiate these forms of communication.

And here is the Problem.

There is not one of these boundaries that at the outset of the 21st century that have not been ruptured by both corporate-commercial intrusion by data-mining as well as governmental surveillance for a kind of ever ongoing secret anti-democratic census that results in Watch-Lists and No-Fly Lists, and other even more chilling para-military pre-planning. 

And all of this has been accomplished behind closed doors by invisible ‘professionals’ who can shrug off the impact on human dignity by this state of total violation - a violation that strips  every man, woman and child of the boundaries by which human beings retain our dignity. Who asked for all this? Did anyone notice it happening? Non of this vast infrastructure was put in place over night. But is seems that we are to be ‘taken care of’, not ‘consulted’.

It is as if an un-elected secret elite of Watchers now stand, night and day, as nurses with clipboards, covertly observing a room full of children at play from an adjoining room behind a one-way glass mirror for some ever ongoing Scientific Test. Such a twisted re-interpretation of the words ‘Eternal Vigilance’ seems to have become a Magic-Spell that dissolves their intrusion into our basic humanity and caused it all to recede into the walls that surround us all in our homes and workplaces - like Muzak at the Mall. 

It is to this matter of boundaries we need to turn our attention.



What we do means more than what we say. Isn't that what parents are supposed to tell themselves when looking into the mirror after disciplining a son or daughter who made a poor choice in their behavior? Is there a boundary dividing what is good for the Goose from what is good for the Gander? If the FBI demands special backdoors in our cell phones and computers, don't we as citizens have the right to demand that we see the secret TTIP & TTP 1. trade agreements or the workings of our own government made behind closed doors? If we, the people, who elect those who speak for the US as a nation do not see anything wrong in them designating some bureaucratic paperwork,(drafted by unelected unknown men), sufficient legal process to designate citizens of other nations lawful targets of drone assassination, who are we to protest when we ourselves become a target? Who are we to protest the stationing of a division of the United States military on US soil 2. or the special powers of federal and metropolitan law enforcement to employ paramilitary tactics in civilian neighborhoods? After all, a United States Joint Forces Command publication of 2010 discusses the military role in context of natural disasters, radical ideologies, the problem of weak and failing states, and the globalization of terrorism, all of which could be applied to domestic crisis within the United States. Taken in this light a statement like “While the most important mission of the American military has been to fight and win the nation’s wars, the ability of U.S. forces to deter conflict has risen to equal footing.” 3. takes on a whole new meaning, one I think is actually uncontroversial! 

Folks who are accustomed to the habit of thinking in terms of the United States of America as being an expression of the humanist values of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and Bill of Rights, folks who have a habit of thinking of the United States are being “all about the rights and dignity of the individual” - they are in for a shock! 

The globalization of economic, military and political interests on the part of every major nation state makes for a web of interconnected ‘incompatible sets of hopes and fears’ that 24-7 threatens to break up like melting ice under the continual covert struggle between those who govern those nation-states. In studying H.G. Wells, (the one most people don't know about, the one who believed that the world was on a race between education and catastrophe), my eyes were opened to just how much fear those who had education, a scientific background, and a global outlook felt when they looked out at the world on the advent of World War I and saw the arms producing nations of Europe becoming destabilized by secret treaties and a terrible fear that an other nation might get the jump on them. In 1910 this included Great Britain, France, Italy, Germany and Russia. There are now scores of nations playing The Great Game - all of which have secret treaties, are constantly in shifting covert alliance with others, all who through the mass-media, electronic surveillance, and para-militarization of the police all seem ready to view their own citizenry as a potential enemy nation. 

In this interconnected world, what will it look like if our World comes apart the way the world came apart in the first decades of the twentieth century? When there are no boundaries between nations and no boundaries between governance and those governed, what is to prevent a plague from sweeping across the entire face of the Earth?

1. (TTIP) Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership & (TTP) Trans-Pacific Partnership

2. See: Posse Comitatus Act.

3. [THE JOINT OPERATING ENVIRONMENT (JOE) Distribution Statement A: Approved for Public Release February 18, 2010,part IV, THE IMPLICATIONS FOR THE JOINT FORCE, Sec1:60]


BOUNDARIES (THREE)                                      

You don't know from what background other people were born, what their life experiences have been, or how they were molded by the good and evil that befell them. However smart you are, or however proud you are of your heritage or belief system, when you look at a stranger the proportion of their truth that you see is just as insufficient as they see when they first cast their eyes on you.

This boundary of not knowing each other at all is an abyss and it is this division into which our world pours as if our world were an ocean on a great earthquake had opened a mighty crevasse down the middle between North and South and East and West.

I truly believe as HG Wells said "the World is on a race between Education and Catastrophe" - our Species has derived such Black Profit from Lies & Manipulation for so many centuries that any reality beyond the domination of one man by another seems small beer. It seems to me from watching the TV that idea of Hypotheses and Experiment Demonstrated Theory and the Peer Reviewed Understandings of Science posses less charm and capacity for suasion than a Political Bully’s shouted boast, and the ugly sexual excitement of a mob worked up with excitement and cruelty in the street.

Military Pride, the thrill of Attack, and powerful romance of feeling Wronged. We love best our Sad Songs, and rush with their banners undaunted by the prospect of ruining other people’s lives or our own World’s Destruction.

And why should anyone listen to Reason when the Apes are waving their Truncheons, and Hard Words have our Blood Boiling?

Look into the Abyss with me, and read a little History Lesson of 1914 and 1933. As a Democratic Socialist, Buddhist and Atheist I may be your idea of the perfect target for mockery - but Worlds can End, my friend. Wrong Minded Men and Women driven by Selfishness and the tickle of being thwarted in their Vanity and Enmity can end the World in a moment of passion. With the Exhaustion of the bounty of Eden, little respect for the Tree of Knowledge, and impatience with our lot - all these things conspire against the Prophet and hate the innocence of young Lovers.

Take a deep breath please. Think of your own Mortality and how much you depend on and must live with your Neighbors.

These boundaries that seem to divide us are also the places at which men of Good Will go when it is a Friend they seek.


A Postscript

A heartfelt thanks goes out to Jon Stinnett, the editor of the Cottage Grove Sentinel for publishing all three installments of my series of thoughts about what has befallen our boundaries in Modernity in general, and in the United States of America in particular. “You didn't have to do that. But you did. And I thank you.”  

Leo Rivers, the garage house, Wednesday, April 13, 2016 3:08:25 PM

Pushing History


Published in the Cottage Grove Sentinel volume 128 Number 33

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


Published in the Cottage Grove Sentinel volume 128 Number 38

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


Published in the Cottage Grove Sentinel volume 128 Number 42

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

 © Leo Rivers 2016