October 14, 2017

uBuntu, Humanism, and the Lost Heart of a Nation

What is uBuntu?

Loosely translated, uBuntu means "I am because we are." Briefly described uBuntu is an African system of values that predates the Ten Commandments by two and a half millennia. uBuntu is taught by example. It illustrates the humanness, the value of community, and the value of caring for and sharing with the community.

The Origin

uBuntu is not religion based but rather it originates in ancient African spirituality and cosmology.  How far back we do not know. Africa is the the ancient "cradle of humanity," and it is thought that uBuntu may be the oldest, still existing system of human values, originating in the ancient, indigenous African'curiosity of the origins and meaning of life.

To find the basis for uBuntu we would look to Egypt and the concept of Ma’at. Records have been found in Egypt and in Ethopia which date to the period of the Old Kingdom, circa 2350 BCE. These records tell of the Forty Two Laws of Ma’at and the Seven Cardinal Virtues (truth, justice, propriety, harmony, balance, reciprocity and order) that instructed the people of that era on correct moral behaviour.

Ma’at as uBuntu 

Depictions of Ma’at show a sitting or standing goddess, often with a scale. She will have an ostrich feather in her headband and will be carrying a sceptre in one hand and an ankh in the other. The role of Ma’at was to maintain balance in the universe by regulating societal behavior.  It was her duty to determine if a person would have eternal life by placing the heart on one side of the scale of justice and the feather (representing truth) on the other side. If balance was achieved the person had achieved eternal life. It is believed that all religious afterlife or resurrection myths have roots in Ma'at.

The two concepts, uBuntu and Ma’at, are interchangeable.  The northern, central and western African religions were based upon a Hermetic philosophy of sciences originating with Hermes Trismegistus of Alexandria. This is the theosophy of Khem (Ta Shema) or ancient Egypt. Ma’at is the Ancient Egyptian/Ethiopian symbol of uBuntu.

In interesting correlation to the spiritualism of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, the characteristics of Ma’at have both metaphysical and ethical components. Therefore the laws of nature, community, and the divine, as well as the ideals of honesty, caring, sharing, truth, and order are all interchangeable. The concept of Ma'at relies less on the five senses to determine truth and instead ventures beyond the simply physical to look to the metaphysical world as well. uBuntu is considered to provide order and balance to the universe through humanistic love.

Humanism in uBuntu

To the African, the art of achieving personhood requires that it be earned by a lifetime of sharing and caring. To exist requires existing for the community and for all others who exist. The self only emerges by cooperative relationships with others and with the world. uBuntu means that a human can never be alone as the person is in continual communication and communion with others and with nature. The human is constantly feeling the pulse of the community and is always aware of humanity's impact on the environment around him.

Think of uBuntu as the Golden Rule

In Ubuntu we see a balance between the human and humanity. The Golden Rule states that we should “Do unto others as you would have them do unto ourselves.” uBuntu would say "I am because we are. We are as one." What is done for one is done for all. What is done to one is done to the other. There is ethic of reciprocity.

The tenets of uBuntu may be stated this way:

One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself (Golden Rule.)

One should not treat others in ways that one would not want to be treated (Silver Rule.)

On April 4, 1967, a great man and proud descendant of Africa; a man who embodied a 20th century uBuntu... spoke these words:
"A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies."

On November 22, 1963, the United States lost a president to the culture of incipient hate and fear that seems to have been part of the nation's fabric from the time the first Europeans landed on these shores. John F. Kennedy was a friend of the man speaking those words, and on April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated by a sniper's bullet just like JFK before him. A year and two month later, King's ally and brother to the assassinated president, Robert F. (Bobby) Kennedy, met the same fate.


Fifty years later we have almost daily mass shootings and multiple murders across the land, yet only when 20 school children are gunned down by an emotionally disturbed man, or an entire nightclub full of patrons become target practice for another lunatic,  or almost 600 country music fans fall victim to automatic weapon fire do we even hear about it in the news. It has become that common and we have become that lacking in empathy. White collar crime and ghetto violence have become commonplace. Our representatives in government are puppets for big money interests, installed for the purpose of fleecing their constituents, and almost half of all Americans voted to install a plunderer in chief... a hater in chief into the most powerful office on the planet.

This country and Ubuntu are strangers. It is this which we must change.
~~~

October 4, 2017

Trivial Pursuit

Which of the states produces more rice than any of the others?

RICE CULTURE

By Henry C. Dethloff

The Texas rice industry owes its origins to the introduction of rice (Oryza sativa) seed from Madagascar to the Carolina colonies about 1685. Production, milling, and marketing flourished in South Carolina and Georgia for the next 200 years. Although there was early domestic cultivation of rice in Louisiana and Texas, commercial rice production began in Louisiana shortly before the Civil War and in the 1880s spread rapidly through the coastal prairies of southwest Louisiana into southeast Texas. Arkansas, California, Louisiana, and Texas now produce 90 percent of the American rice crop, with lesser production along the Mississippi River in Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee. The earliest form of rice cultivation in Texas involved essentially pioneering agriculture. Farmers plowed small plots with oxen, planted seed by hand, depended on rainfall for cultivation, and harvested with hand sickles. Milling was with a crude mortar and pestle. Consumption was strictly
local. Considerable acreages of rice were grown in southeast Texas as early as 1853 by William Goyens and in Beaumont in 1863 by David French. The latter is often considered the first major rice farmer in Texas. Modern commercial production in Texas derived largely from the completion of the southern transcontinental railroad in 1883 and its acquisition by the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1885, coupled with the availability of cheap land on the coastal prairies, the introduction of modern rice mills, and an influx of immigrants from Louisiana and from the grain producing areas of the Midwest. The latter brought with them combines and mechanized agriculture. Pumps, canals, modern irrigation systems, and improved varieties contributed to expanded production. Edgar Carruthers, Louis Bordages, and Dan Wingate produced the state's first large commercial crop of rice on a 200-acre farm near Beaumont in 1886. They shipped their crop by rail to New Orleans for milling. In 1891 Joseph E. Broussard established the first rice irrigation and canal system in the state, and the following year he added rice milling machinery to an existing gristmill, thus initiating rice milling in Texas and paving the way for the rapid expansion of production. Texas farmers planted 234,000 acres of rice in 1903 compared to Louisiana's 376,000 acres. The two states then produced 99 percent of the total rice crop, with production having virtually ceased in South Carolina and Georgia.

An important event in the development of the Texas Gulf Coast rice industry was the introduction of seed imported from Japan in 1904. Seed rice had previously come from Honduras or the Carolinas. At the invitation of the Houston Chamber of Commerce and the Southern Pacific Railroad, Japanese farmers were brought to Texas to advise local farmers on rice production, bringing with them seed as a gift from the emperor of Japan. The first three years' harvest, which produced an average of thirty-four barrels an acre compared with an average of eighteen to twenty barrels from native rice seed, was sold as seed to Louisiana and Texas farmers. C. J. Knapp, founder of the United States agricultural agent system, helped to overcome government regulation to bring seed rice into the country. Japanese rice production began at Webster in Harris County under the direction of Seito Saibara, his family, and thirty original colonists. The Saibara family has been credited with establishing the Gulf Coast rice industry.

Arkansas became a major rice producer after 1900, eventually surpassing Texas and Louisiana production. In 1915 Louisiana and Arkansas produced 12 million hundredweight of rice on 740,000 acres of land, and production was beginning to develop in California. In Texas rice mills operated in Port Arthur, Beaumont, Orange, and Houston. Texas-milled rice went to world markets by rail and through the ports of Houston and Galveston. The Beaumont Cooperative Rice Experiment Station began operation in 1912, under the cooperative management of Texas A&M University and the United States Department of Agriculture. Rice prices, like the price of other agricultural commodities, collapsed after World War I, bringing hard times to rice farmers. This was followed by the even more difficult years of the Great Depression. Various agricultural credit acts and finally the Agricultural Adjustment Act of the New Deal established the precedent for price, production, and marketing controls that generally characterize the industry to the present. Rice farming in the United States has historically been a large-scale, capital-intensive enterprise, heavily dependent upon international markets. The United States markets annually 15–30 percent of the total world rice exports, although it accounts for only 2 percent of world production. Texas growers annually produce 20 million hundredweight of rice on 350,000 acres of land. In various years between 1974 and 1990 Texas rice farms averaged from 250 to 450 acres in size. The number of rice farms remained generally stable with 1,200 to 1,500 units in production. The value of the crop in the field in 1990 was $200 million. Rising domestic consumption and the opening of new international markets are expected to sustain the United States and Texas rice industry.

BIBLIOGRAPHYHenry C. Dethloff, A History of the American Rice Industry, 1685–1985 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1988). John Norman Efferson, The Production and Marketing of Rice (New Orleans: Simmons Press, 1952). Houston Metropolitan Research Center Files, Houston Public Library. Edward Hake Phillips, "The Gulf Coast Rice Industry," Journal of Agricultural History 25 (April 1954). Randell K. Smith, Eric J. Wailes, and Gail L. Cramer, The Market Structure of the U.S. Rice Industry (Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, February 1990). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

KISHI COLONY, TX

By Robert Wooster

The Kishi Colony was one of at least three small Japanese settlements established on the Texas coastal plains during the early twentieth century. The community, about ten miles east of Beaumont in central Orange County, was founded by Kichimatsu Kishi, a veteran of the Russo-Japanese War and a graduate of the University of Tokyo. Anxious to get land of his own, Kishi moved to the United States in 1906 and visited California, the Carolinas, and Mississippi before deciding upon the Orange County site. Borrowing heavily, he secured a tract in 1907. The following year he and several fellow Japanese immigrants planted their first rice crops. Several, including Kishi, brought their families to the United States, and the Japanese colony at Kishi eventually included thirty-two men, five women, and four children.

The new settlers faced severe problems in their daring enterprise. The dredging of the Sabine River allowed saltwater to infiltrate Cow Bayou and thereby ruin their irrigated rice crops. The general collapse of the rice market in 1920 led the colonists to turn to truck farming in an attempt to pay off their loans. With the new emphasis also came a number of Hispanic and Cajun laborers. Kishi also sought to diversify through cattle raising and oil exploration. Despite such efforts, the Great Depression led to the Kishi Colony's final collapse, when the settlers were unable to pay off their mortgages.

While refusing to forget their traditional ways, the Kishi colonists adapted to their new culture well. They built a school and church, and several of their descendants fought for their new country during World War II. A few of the former immigrants remained in Southeast Texas, and many of their descendants still live in the area.

The colony's founder, Kichimatsu Kishi, died in 1956. A Texas Historical Commission marker was dedicated on Farm Road 1135 seven miles southeast of Vidor on October 3, 1982, in honor of the efforts of Kishi and his fellow immigrants.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Gwendolyn Rosser Wingate, "The Kishi Colony," Las Sabinas: The Official Quarterly Publication of the Orange County Historical Society 9 (January 1983).

On this day in 1982, a marker was erected at the site of the Kishi Colony to honor Japanese pioneer Kichimatsu Kishi and the settlement he founded. The colony was one of at least three small Japanese settlements established on the Texas coastal plain during the early twentieth century. The community, about ten miles east of Beaumont in central Orange County, was founded by Kishi, a veteran of the Russo-Japanese War. He purchased the land in 1907, and in the following year he and other Japanese immigrants planted their first rice crops. Several, including Kishi, brought their families to the United States. The Japanese colony at Kishi eventually included thirty-two men, five women, and four children. Although the Great Depression led to the Kishi Colony's collapse, a few of the former immigrants remained in Southeast Texas. Many of their descendants still live in the area.


~~~

October 1, 2017

Evangelical Preachers, Stop Crediting God With Donald Trump’s Victory

Dear Evangelical Preachers

I think you believe you’re helping right now.
I think you believe you’re actually glorifying God.
I think you believe you’re somehow bolstering the Gospel.
I think you believe that you’re engineering some conversation-stopping, sanctified mic drop, by crediting God with Donald Trump’s ascension to the U.S. Presidency.

You’re not doing anyone of these things.

You’re not sharing the Good News of Jesus.
You’re not evangelizing.
You’re not making disciples.
You’re not helping.

You’re making from the pulpit and platform, the greatest case for Atheism you could ever make.

You’re aligning God with an ignorant, petulant, narcissistic bully.
You’re putting God’s rubber stamp on unprecedented racism, bigotry, and violence.
You’re attributing to God, the most despicable treatment of women, the greatest intolerance toward the marginalized, the least compassion for the hurting.
In other words, you’re assassinating the character of Jesus in an effort to rub non-Christian’s noses in it.

Crediting Donald Trump’s win to “God” is the best conceivable argument for someone rejecting faith.

If God is responsible for the unbridled vulgarity, the viciousness toward people of color, the utter disregard for diversity that the President has so continually displayed this year—you can keep God.

If God sanctions someone like Trump to the highest place of leadership we have—you can have that God.

If God is that partisan, God is not a God who “so loved the world”, but One who has contempt for most of it.

If you’re asking me to agree that a God who is love, can also be a God who votes Trump, you can stop right now because that’s laughable and ludicrous.

Fortunately, I know God isn’t responsible for this disaster:

God didn’t campaign for Donald Trump.
God didn’t fail to report on the sexual assault allegations against him.
God didn’t give incendiary sermons.
God didn’t hack into our databases.
God didn’t generate fake news stories.
God didn’t suppress voters.
God didn’t refuse to educate himself on the issues.
God didn’t reject experience for celebrity.
God didn’t have his racism emboldened.
God didn’t manufacture hatred for Hillary Clinton.
God didn’t excuse sexual assault for a Supreme Court seat.
God didn’t choose party over country.
God didn’t stay home on Election Day.

I think God watched it all and wept.

It’s rather telling that the same God you’re crediting for Donald Trump now, seems to have had nothing to do with the past 8 years of Barack Obama. Guess God was offline or sleeping during those two terms.

Preacher, there is nothing to be gained by using the President-Elect as supposed evidence of God’s work in the world. It bears no good fruit. It has no redemptive value.

All it does is pour salt into the gaping wounds of marginalized communities who feel threatened and vulnerable right now. It says to people of color and Muslims and the LGBTQ community and women, that God is not for them. It confirms for those already viewing Christians as all hypocritical, dangerous, and self-serving—that they are correct in this assumption.

You’re wasting your platform, failing your calling, and squandering an audience with millions of people by giving God credit for a madman’s success.

Stop it.

Stop passing the buck to God.

---  John Pavlovitz

~~~

Corporatism, Fascism, and Confirmation Bias

Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s had three Vice-Presidents during his four terms in office. Henry A. Wallace replaced John Nance Garner in 1941, and was replaced by Harry Truman in 1945. Of the three, Wallace was by far the most articulate in his condemnation of the corporatist agenda that was the Republican Party platform.
In 1944 Wallace penned an opinion piece that would be published in the April 9 edition of the New York Times. The Republicans have never ceased in that agenda, and Wallace's words of over 70 years ago lend perspective to why we find ourselves with the current president, and why his often otherwise reasonable supporters cling so ferociously to the lies that were drummed into their heads.

“The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact. Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity…"


"American fascism will not be really dangerous until there is a purposeful coalition among the cartelists, the deliberate poisoners of public information, and those who stand for the K.K.K. type of demagoguery..."


The full piece, entitled The Danger of American Fascism, along with other of his works, may be found at the FDR Presidential Library & Museum website.


I doubt any of my biased Republican friends will read it, or anything that might disagree with what they want to believe, but who knows? They are not necessarily stupid... just confirmed in their bias.


~~~