Categories
- Governance Justice Oneness

‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Post-Election Talk

Two weeks ago, the United States once again had a presidential election, its 58th in an uninterrupted series held every four years since George Washington, predictably to occur in yet another four years.

 

During the 1912 presidential election, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá – Center of the Covenant of the Bahá’í Faith and Son of Bahá’u’lláh – had been visiting America. (Click here for this blog’s post from four years ago.)  He had been raised and lived most of His life as a prisoner and exile under two oppressive and corrupt dictatorial regimes, and had recently been freed as a result of the Young Turk Revolution of 1908 that brought partisan politics to a then-Sultanate Empire.  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá longed to travel to the democratic America, which was counseled years earlier by Bahá’u’lláh to adorn its land with justice. 

 

The day after the 1912 presidential election, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá happened to be in Washington DC, and gave a series of 10 publicly recorded talks over 5 days before heading off to New York. 

 

His first post-election talk – Wednesday, November 6th, 1912 – included a number of points, on liberty, on brotherhood, on the capacity of America, some of which are below.

 

He mentions the “freedom, hospitality and universal welcome extended to me during my recent travels throughout America” and then speaks of liberty:

The standard of liberty is held aloft in this land. You enjoy political liberty; you enjoy liberty of thought and speech, religious liberty, racial and personal liberty.”

 

Liberty and liberalism, though, He defines as “justness and equity toward all nations and people”, not merely as childish unfettered freedom.  Ensuring justice and equity sometimes requires a constraint on freedom as it is traditionally conceptualized.  

 

Brotherhood, or fraternity, is His next topic.  He speaks of different kinds: family bonds, patriotism, racial unity, and altruistic love of humankind.  These are all limited and liable to change and disruption, as we have witnessed over and over throughout history and in this country.  A spiritual brotherhood, on the other hand, will result in an indissoluble unity.  “We may be able to realize some degrees of fraternity through other motives, but these are limited associations and subject to change. When human brotherhood is founded upon the Holy Spirit, it is eternal, changeless, unlimited.”

 

In various parts of the world, this brotherhood and love had seemed to disappear; ‘Abdu’l-Bahá mentioned the Balkan Wars of 1912 and the turmoil in the Middle East.  Yet, “The world of humanity is one, and God is equally kind to all” He asserts, and the “source of unkindness and hatred in the human world” is division, citing examples of war and greed. 

 

He goes on,

As to the American people: This noble nation, intelligent, thoughtful, reflective, is not impelled by motives of territorial aggrandizement and lust for dominion. Its boundaries are insular and geographically separated from the other nations. Here we find a oneness of interest and unity of national policy. These are, indeed, United States. Therefore, this nation possesses the capacity and capability for holding aloft the banner of international peace. May this noble people be the cause of unifying humanity. May they spread broadcast the heavenly civilization and illumination, become the cause of the diffusion of the love of God, proclaim the solidarity of mankind and be the cause of the guidance of the human race. Therefore, I ask that you will give this all-important question your most serious consideration and efforts. May the world of humanity find peace and composure and this dark earth be transformed into a realm of radiance. May the East and West clasp hands together. May the oneness of God become reflected and fully revealed in the hearts of humanity and all mankind prove to be the manifestations of the favors of God.

 

Yet, it is not naïve utopia is that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is promoting.  He acknowledges that “Necessarily there will be some who are defective amongst men”.  His remedy, however, is based on the principles of love and unity, never admitting an “us and them” disunity; rather, He continues, “but it is our duty to enable them by kind methods of guidance and teaching to become perfected.”  Diversity implies a relative spectrum, meaning some will be on the right, some of the left, some further ahead, some behind, in any given measure.  The solution is not to cast one group aside in favor of another, but to help each group, knowing that we are all interconnected and, in the end, united and one.  He writes,

Others are immature and like children; they must be trained and educated so that they may become wise and mature. Those who are asleep must be awakened; the indifferent must become mindful and attentive. But all this must be accomplished in the spirit of kindness and love and not by strife, antagonism nor in a spirit of hostility and hatred, for this is contrary to the good pleasure of God. That which is acceptable in the sight of God is love. Love is, in reality, the first effulgence of Divinity and the greatest splendor of God.”

 

Finally, He ends with a prayer that is well-known to many Bahá’ís: “O Thou compassionate Lord, Thou Who art generous and able! We are servants of Thine sheltered beneath Thy providence. Cast Thy glance of favor upon us. Give light to our eyes, hearing to our ears, and understanding and love to our hearts. Render our souls joyous and happy through Thy glad tidings. O Lord! Point out to us the pathway of Thy kingdom and resuscitate all of us through the breaths of the Holy Spirit. Bestow upon us life everlasting and confer upon us never-ending honor. Unify mankind and illumine the world of humanity. May we all follow Thy pathway, long for Thy good pleasure and seek the mysteries of Thy kingdom. O God! Unite us and connect our hearts with Thine indissoluble bond. Verily, Thou art the Giver, Thou art the Kind One and Thou art the Almighty.”

 

 

 

‘Abdu’l-Bahá understood the capacity of the American people.  Just because we aren’t demonstrating that potential now, does not mean that it doesn’t exist.  Maturity is hard work, falling back into habits of childhood is the easy way out.  It requires effort and determination to release capacity, yet it is as inevitable as a tree releasing its capacity to bear fruit.   The question for everyone reading is: what type of gardeners are we going to be to the orchard of America? 

 

For the rest of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s post-election DC talks, and the rest of His talks throughout America, please see The Promulgation of Universal Peace.

 

 

 

 

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Categories
- Empowerment - Primary Care Discourse Health Care Knowledge

HEALTH EMPOWERMENT

THE CURRENT STATE OF THE HEALTH CARE SYSTEM

Our current model of health care places the provider, in many cases the physician, as a gatekeeper to access to health.  For whatever historical, political, social, or economic reasons this came about, the resulting effect has impressed upon the consciousness of people that health is a scarce commodity to be sought after and fought for, and that it is something external to be received in certain locations by an elite class, with whole economic systems and corporate structures dedicated to administering the transaction of health.
 

 
ANOTHER IDEA, MORE LIKELY BASED IN REALITY

However, instead of health care being seen as a disease-mitigating provision or commodity to be given by a class of experts, all human beings have the capacity to generate and share knowledge about health.  Health care can be conceptualized as body of knowledge generated by populations, not about disease, but about health, directed towards taking charge of their own needs.  Because, in the end, the generation of knowledge leads to empowerment.
 

 
SPACES OF EMPOWERMENT

Yet there are limited spaces in which people can reflect together on their own health, uncovering insights and gems and distributing them to each other to be applied.  The current model of health care is totally unsustainable – the gatekeepers are scarce and more and more becoming paralyzed by the plight of the system, and the teeming masses are reading to break down the gate, only to find themselves on the other side.  Creating systems, and structures to support them, in order to foster the process of bringing groups together in reflective, empowering spaces seems to be imperative in the context of the current crisis of health care.
 
In addition to spaces where groups of people can come together to generate knowledge towards empowerment to take charge of their own health care, there can be networks of groups, or networks of clinics, that reflect together and share knowledge with some frequency, always connected to the people at the grassroots.  Practically, then, health care once again can actually become a body of knowledge and practice about health of people – and not only a forum where one social classes develops expertise around disease.
 

 
CURRICULA FOR EMPOWERMENT

Concomitant to the space is the content.  The materials used in these spaces, with these people, would direct the process of generation of knowledge; and thus, the content is crucial to empowerment.  Our current models focus on knowledge of disease – even prevention still revolves around disease.  Yet, health is an intrinsic element of a human being – we’re all born with it, by definition, to whatever degrees, of course.  Basic concepts and principles of human health, likely the product both of a profound reconceptualization of human nature – understanding its material and spiritual existence, its inherent oneness, its altruistic and cooperative tendencies – as well as of reflections that emerge from these spaces, can provide a framework within which reflection and generation of insights take place.

 

 

Thoughts?!?  Would love to hear others’ reflections.

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Categories
- Education Health Care Knowledge

Evidence Based Practice

Reality is vast.  Yet, action requires knowledge.  So over time, we have created systems of practice and knowledge by which we can understanding reality and effectively do something.  Clearly, then, the way in which minds are training within systems, and the relationship between knowledge and practice, is crucial.

 

Medicine is one such system of practice and knowledge that has an associated educational process.  There have been many criticisms leveled against medical education, to varying degrees of validity.  However, arguably the most damaging outcome of the current medical education system is a certain biased way of thinking: that practices are determined by theoretical pathophysiological reasoning more so than adopted from evidence garnered from the field.

 

There is a certain receptor found in heart cells, a beta-receptor, that increases the speed and strength of the heart’s pump.  “Beta-blockers”, they are called, a class of medicine that blocks the workings of this receptor, was frequently used, logically so, for patients with high blood pressure.  And when a patient has heart failure – ie, the speed and strength of the heart’s pump is no longer adequate enough – it seemed, from knowledge gained through pathophysiological reasoning, the worst possible practice to administer a beta-blocker.  Yet, over the last few decades, the system of medicine has learned, through evidence, that the opposite is true: beta-blockers are first-line medicines for heart failure and generally fourth-line at best for high blood pressure.  And I’m not quite sure why (probably because I didn’t pay enough attention in medical school).  But, ironically, that might be a good thing – reasoning through the basic science of the cardiac system leads to an ineffective practice.  Knowledge of experiential evidence leads to an effective practice.

 

Now, this doesn’t mean that theoretical knowledge isn’t important; in fact, conceptual understanding contributes to an agility of mind that can use creativity to solve difficult problems and explore reality to contribute to systems of knowledge.  Yet the theoretical must be moderated by the practical.  If too much emphasis is given on theoretical reasoning (as in the case with the training of physicians in medical education), it results in arrogance, extreme individualism, lack of standardization, and stagnation.  When there is too much emphasis on training in technique without conceptual understanding (as in the case with the vast majority of educational programs), the result is passivity, blind obedience to protocol, lack of creativity, and, again, stagnation.  It seems the only way to progress forward is to understand how to move between conceptual and practical in a healthy way.

 

Analogous to scientific systems of knowledge and practice (like medicine), there is religion, a system that seeks to gain knowledge about the Word of God and spiritual dynamics in order to put it into practice into individual and social progress.  Again, the same insights can apply.  It’s true that the Revelation has transformative effects on both individual hearts and society as a whole.  Yet the practice – ie, the interaction with the Word of God – is something that cannot be reasoned through by simply reading the Writings and coming to conclusions; for 10 people will have 10 interpretations, just like 10 medical students will have 10 preferences of which blood pressure med to start with.  And the question is not “does blood pressure medicine work?”, just like the question is never “does interaction with the Word of God lead to transformation?”; obviously the answer to both is “yes”.  Rather, a good scientist will put the question of “what kind of interaction with the Word of God” to the field of experience, in the same way that a good physician will survey two decades of actual patient experiences to try to learn “what kind of blood pressure medicine?”.

 

Enter the Ruhi Institute.  Of the many, many, curricula that were developed over the years, each fostering a certain kind of interaction with the Word of God, it proved through experience to be the most effective.  And probably because it wasn’t the brainchild of a group of people who worked very hard and very sincerely to come up with a set of courses based on their theoretical understanding; rather it emerged from decades of practical experience trying to learn about effective methods.  Its system of knowledge and practice is based on evidence.  So maybe we don’t exactly know why it works, but we know it does.  And that a practice works is great foundation place to start to gain knowledge, to learn more about reality, answering the “why” questions.

 

At the end of the day, reality is vast.  It is presumptuous to think we can reason through it and then determine best actions.  Rather, let proven practice guide our quest for knowledge.  We know beta-blockers are effective treatments for heart failure – given this, what, now, can we learn about the relationship between myocardial contractility and neurocardiac receptor feedback?  We know that the Ruhi Institute’s sequence of courses effectively fosters individual and collective transformation – given this, what, now, can we learn about the elements of interaction with the Word of God and the spiritual dynamics of the environment within which it takes place?

 

As we build a conceptual understanding from effective and rich practices and experiences at the grassroots, we learn to exercise moderation and avoid extremes.  We avoid arrogance and passivity and instead become active protagonists with a humble posture of learning; we avoid blind obedience and extreme individualism and instead become empowered through cooperative action towards collective betterment; we purposely exert creativity within fruitful areas of inquiry; and, as is the pattern since humanity’s birth, learning propels progress.

Categories
- Empowerment - Primary Care - Three Protagonists Discourse Health Care Human Nature Knowledge Social Action

Re-Birth of the Clinic

Humanity is on the threshold of the crowning stage in its evolutionary history – its collective maturity, characterized by a unification of the entire human race, manifest through a new world civilization which has achieved a dynamic coherence between the material and spiritual aspects of existence.

Who are the ones that are to bring about humanity’s vast transformation? All individuals.  Since all individuals are part of humanity. In addition to individuals, there are two other protagonists that will share in the advancement of civilization – the institutions and the community.

 

How does this civilization advance? Through the empowerment of its three protagonists.

 

And empowerment?  Through the generation of knowledge.

 

Knowledge is a potent force propelling the advancement of civilization. “What appears to be called for in any given region, microregion or cluster is the involvement of a growing number of people in a collective process of learning, one which is focused on the nature and dynamics of a path that conduces to the material and spiritual progress of their villages or neighbourhoods. Such a process would allow its participants to engage in the generation, application, and diffusion of knowledge, a most potent and indispensable force in the advancement of civilization.”

 

Access to knowledge is the right of every human being, and participation in its generation, application and diffusion a responsibility that all must shoulder in the great enterprise of building a prosperous world civilization—each individual according to his or her talents and abilities.”
The generation and application of knowledge, part of this collective process of learning, takes place in the context of three broad areas of endeavor –community-building drawing upon spiritual principles; social action; and participation in social discourse.

 

What ensures coherence between and among these three areas of endeavor is the process of systematic learning that occurs throughout.

 

*****

 

The clinic is a place in which individuals are already engaged in some sort of institutionalized discourse on human nature – albeit material in nature only.  The clinic is a place in which a certain type of social action already takes place – albeit from one group directed at another.  The clinic is a place in which a community comes together and forms a certain version of identity – albeit, a secondary identity at best.

 

The three broad endeavors are already present – yet, they are stuck in the patterns of the old world.

The three protagonists are all interacting – yet, they are stuck in modes of the old world.

It has potential.  It needs to be spiritualized.

 

 

Let us no longer allow the clinic to join ranks with the pulpit and the classroom and the newsstands and the market, and fall prey to society’s oppressive tendencies – dispensing knowledge and prescriptions to a passive recipient; fragmenting community life into walled-off exam rooms; restricting otherwise naturally-occurring spiritual conversations to material aspects of reality; and robbing people of their true identity as active agents of civilization-building, replacing it with the identity of some chronic disease.  Rather, let us re-conceptualize it as a place of empowerment.  Patients, physicians, family members, can all participate in a descriptive process of the generation, application, and diffusion of knowledge, each contributing to the building of a community concerned about the welfare of people within and beyond its borders, about their physical and spiritual well-being, and engaging in a discourse on the elements of a healthy society – spiritual, physical, intellectual.

 

 

THE CLINIC: An institution of society, animated by noble individuals, that operates within a community; where learning can be generated on the interaction of these three protagonists in all three endeavors, contributing towards the creation of a new world civilization.

 

 

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Categories
- Empowerment - Science Development Discourse

Technology: Good or Bad?

It would be unrealistic to adhere to a retrogressive and romanticized notion of a “simple” life, in which technology is non-existent, and humanity subsists in some type of passively blissful coexistence with nature. It overlooks at once the inter-personal needs that technology satisfies with enhanced communication as well as the life-salvaging benefits of medical intervention, for examples. Retrogressive viewpoints for a romanticized past  are the result of rampant conservativism driven delusional by nostalgia.  It exists in the middle east, with Islamic revolutionary retrogression in the democratized states of the Arab spring, as well as in the United States with the spokespeople of the religious right. Retrogression exists anywhere conservatism blinds people to the evolving needs to which time subjects human societies. Its proponents become entrenched in and bolster the status quo against mounting evidence for desperately required change. An “ever-advancing civilization” is God’s own characterization of the human condition to which we are all contributors. It is this same retrogression that has prevented the recognition of progressive revelation in the manifestation of the various religions that have come to man from God over the centuries. Ever wonder why they don’t call it conservative revelation?

The concept of an ever-advancing civilization, material as well as spiritual, is central to our conceptual framework for social action, where we work for wholesale social transformation. It is inevitable that because of the never-ceasing tide of human needs and opportunities to improve social services and streamline infrastructure that our ever-advancing civilization will require a never-ending form of technological innovation, change, and development. As far as we are concerned, then, the challenge before humanity is not whether it should opt for high and sophisticated technology (eventuating in World War III) or low and simple technology (releasing humanity to care-free co-existence with mother nature) — this is a false choice, a false dichotomy. The question regarding technology, rather, is how to develop and apply technologies that are conducive to spiritual, and not only material, prosperity? And how in doing so does such technology organically extend the benefits of materially and spiritually prosperous civilization to members of the entire human race? Is technology doomed to be manipulated as the instrument of materialism forever? Are technological choices possible? What choices and how as a society can we make them? Share your comments below.

Categories
- Governance - Oppression Development Discourse Justice Oneness

Globalization: Good or Bad?

Friends, listen up. The end of the 20th century discloses to the eyes of humanity a vista of stupendous opportunities and grave perils. Allow me to explain. Some of the more striking phenomena are those associated with globalization, a designation that arouses strong emotions and lends itself to a variety of interpretations. But here is the truth. There is no doubt — and this is true irrespective of one’s views on the subject — that the forces of globalization have set the nations of the world on a new and irreversible course. There is no going back. We’ve passed the point of no return. Economic activity, political structures, and culture are all undergoing profound change. This is not our parent’s world any longer. A global society is being born as barriers that have kept peoples apart crumble and are swept away. Planetary civilization beckons. The transformation is made possible by accelerated technological advance, an early fruit of which is a mode of communication transcending national boundaries and operating at staggering speed. For example, the internet. However thrilling future prospects may be, present patterns of behavior do not inspire confidence in the process. People are critical about the role western governments and corporations have played on the global stage. It is only natural to wonder whether globalization will, in fact, unify the human race without imposing uniformity or simply propel the universalization of the culture of consumerism. Skeptics say globalization involves exporting materialistic values, consumer propaganda, and economic hegemony from the west. Can globalization really be the bearer of prosperity for the masses or the mere expression of the economic interests of a privileged few? Will it lead to the establishment of a just order or the consolidation of existing structures of power? Share your opinions below!

Globalization

 

Categories
- Empowerment - Prevailing Conceptions - Primary Care Discourse Health Care Power

Is Primary Care Actually Effective?

In the field of emergency medicine, there is an idea called “door-to-balloon” or “time-to-cath”, which is the amount of time that has elapsed from the moment a patient who is having a specific kind of heart attack walks into the emergency department to the time that a catheter enters the occluded vessel.  (There are two general types of “heart attacks”, or myocardial infarctions (meaning death of the heart muscle); one requires immediate surgical intervention with a catheter to open up the blocked blood vessel – the definitive treatment – while the other can be treated with medicines initially.  It is the first kind to which the “door-to-balloon” idea relates).

 

An enormous amount of energy and resources from a myriad organizations have gone into systematic efforts to reduce this “door-to-balloon” time, and subsequently reducing the number of deaths after the onset of a myocardial infarction.  The American College of Cardiology launched a large national “initiative” and the American Heart Association launched a complementary “mission” to standardize and reduce time-to-cath; emergency departments have received incentives over the years to make this an ordinary practice, it has become a core measure for healthcare accreditation, and it is now common vocabulary within the healthcare field and among the public.  Over the last decade, because of its success, it has become a common topic of medical research and direction for scientific inquiry.

 

And the results are impressive.  At the foundation of this idea is a set of hospital procedures and protocols, a collection of ready human and technological resources, an algorithmic approach to diagnosis and management for the ED team, and a mechanism for administrators to identify and eradicate delays in the process.  Whatever means are needed to bring door-to-balloon to under 90 minutes is supplied.

 

And none of that involves the patient.  In fact, the system probably runs smoothest when the patient is unconscious…one step from dead…as passive as possible while still able to be kept alive.

 

*****

 

Because of its tremendous success, and coupled with society’s event-oriented mindset and infatuation with instant results, the concept of attaining a goal within a certain time has become common in health care.  More and more, time parameters are set on objectives, which dictate reimbursement structure, staffing needs, research practices, and overall resource allocation.

 

What the health care system does well is simply a reflection of what society does well – eliminate the will of an individual and let the system’s will force short-term and end-oriented results.  We can miraculously prevent a patient from dying if their heart stops receiving blood, yet we can’t seem to do anything about the rising incidence of the need to do this.

 

*****

 

So it seems that primary care is the answer.  Manage disease before it becomes an “event”, before it requires “immediate results”, before it necessitates life-saving measures.

 

But it’s not that simple.  Let’s take an example with diabetes management in primary care.  Common in the discourse now is “time-to-goal-A1c”.  A1c is a great blood test that measures the average amount of blood glucose over 3 months, let’s say.  It has now become the standard for diagnosis and monitoring of diabetes.  Below 7.0 is good control; so ambitious primary care proponents are pushing the idea of lowering a patient’s A1c to 7.0 within 3 months of their first visit to a clinic.  Time-to-cath, 90 mins.  Time-to-goal-A1c, 90 days.  Makes sense.  It works in the emergency setting – the only difference between emergency and primary care is time, right?

 

Unfortunately, there has been little to no success.  Despite the enormous amount of energy and resources from a myriad organizations, despite the incentives offered to clinics, despite the core measures and accreditation criteria, despite the research, the prescriptions, the counseling, the protocols, the ready human and technological resources, the algorithms, the mechanisms, despite all efforts by the will of the medical system, there is no success.

 

Because, this time, the patient isn’t unconscious.

 

*****

 

The reason why our healthcare system – and, indeed, our society in general – is excellent at drastic end-of-life situations is because the variables are in the hands of the system itself; the patient doesn’t factor.  Emergency situations, albeit outwardly chaotic, are very controlled by those in charge.  Simply, the more the system is empowered to act, the better will be results.  And the same reason explains why primary care is unable to parallel such impressive results: because the power to act still is being locked within the clutches of the system, yet it is the patient who is the primary actor.  It mistakenly thinks that if it becomes more empowered, it will deliver health better.  However, while a patient may encounter the system’s will for 15 minutes every week, and be given prescriptions in the broadest sense of the word, this does not account for the other 6 days, 23 hours, and 45 minutes he is alive.  Delivering health is not the same as delivering a service or good that is needed in an immediate or life-threatening situation; in fact, health is not something delivered, it is something of which a patient is empowered to take charge.  Instead of focusing on the system as the deliverer of health, real healthcare means focusing on empowering patients to take charge of their own health care.

 
Empowerment, like health, is also not something delivered from the empowered to the unempowered; it is something fostered through the creation of environments and relationships.  It occurs through the generation of knowledge, through selfless service, and through humility.  It draws on the powers of the human spirit and the capacities of the soul.  It is a process that demands the active participation of the protagonists of social transformation – all of humanity.

 

 

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Categories
Discourse Human Nature

Maturation of Species: History, Human Nature, and World Peace

Human nature has been misinterpreted. We are not selfish and competitive by nature, but rather, altruistic and cooperative. The entire history of humankind’ s past represents only a stage in its infancy. The entire history of its adolescence is yet to be played out, and the relatively more extensive duration of its adulthood and maturity has yet to be envisioned.

So much have aggression and conflict come to characterize our social, economic and religious systems, that many have succumbed to the view that such behavior is intrinsic to human nature and therefore ineradicable. With the entrenchment of this view, a paralyzing contradiction has developed in human affairs. On the one hand, many people proclaim not only their readiness but their longing for peace and harmony, for an end to the harrowing apprehensions tormenting their daily lives. On the other, uncritical assent is given to the proposition that human beings are incorrigibly selfish and aggressive and thus incapable of erecting a social system at once progressive and peaceful, dynamic and harmonious, a system giving free play to individual creativity and initiative but based on co-operation and reciprocity.

As the desire for peace becomes more heartfelt, this fundamental contradiction, which hinders its realization, demands a reassessment of the assumptions upon which the commonly held view of mankind’s historical predicament is based. Dispassionately examined, the evidence reveals that such conduct, far from expressing man’s true self, represents a distortion of the human spirit. Understanding and acceptance of this point will enable all people to set in motion constructive social forces which, because they are consistent with human nature, will encourage harmony and co-operation instead of war and conflict.

To choose such a course is not to deny humanity’s past but to understand it in a larger context. The Bahá’í Faith regards the current world confusion and calamitous condition in human affairs as a natural phase in an organic process leading ultimately and irresistibly to the unification of the human race in a single social order whose boundaries are those of the planet. The human race, as a distinct, organic unit, has passed through evolutionary stages analogous to the stages of infancy and childhood in the lives of its individual members, and is now in the culminating period of its turbulent adolescence approaching its long-awaited coming of age – its maturation and adulthood.

A candid acknowledgement that prejudice, war and exploitation have been the expression of immature stages in a vast historical process and that the human race is today experiencing the unavoidable tumult which marks its collective coming of age is not a reason for frustration but a prerequisite to undertaking the stupendous enterprise of building a peaceful world. That such an enterprise is possible, that the necessary constructive forces do exist, that unifying social structures can be erected, is the theme of this discussion.

The bedrock of a strategy that can engage the world’s population in assuming responsibility for its collective destiny must be the consciousness of the oneness of humankind. Deceptively simple in popular discourse, the concept that humanity constitutes a single people presents fundamental challenges to the way that most of the institutions of contemporary society carry out their functions. Whether in the form of the adversarial structure of civil government, the advocacy principle informing most of civil law, a glorification of the struggle between classes and other social groups, or the competitive spirit dominating so much of modern life, conflict is accepted as the mainspring of human interaction. It represents yet another expression in social organization of the materialistic interpretation of life that has progressively consolidated itself over the past two centuries.

In a letter addressed to Queen Victoria over a century ago, and employing an analogy that points to the one model holding convincing promise for the organization of a planetary society, Bahá’u’lláh compared the world to the human body. There is, indeed, no other model in phenomenal existence to which we can reasonably look. Human society is composed not of a mass of merely differentiated cells but of associations of individuals, each one of whom is endowed with intelligence and will; nevertheless, the modes of operation that characterize man’s biological nature illustrate fundamental principles of existence. Chief among these is that of unity in diversity. Paradoxically, it is precisely the wholeness and complexity of the order constituting the human body — and the perfect integration into it of the body’s cells — that permit the full realization of the distinctive capacities inherent in each of these component elements. No cell lives apart from the body, whether in contributing to its functioning or in deriving its share from the well-being of the whole. The physical well-being thus achieved finds its purpose in making possible the expression of human consciousness; that is to say, the purpose of biological development transcends the mere existence of the body and its parts.

Human societies to some extent actually represent an anomaly in the competitive theory of the jungle, as endorsed by proponents of a competitive and destructive conception of human nature. Humans demonstrate a detailed division of labor and exchange of goods and services, with or without a cooperative intention on the individual level, between genetically unrelated individuals, that amounts to an economy-wide scheme of cooperation for collective prosperity. Modern societies with large organizational structures for meat and vegetable production and distribution, banking services and widespread trust in economic stability, and the rule of law and order, do the same. Since earliest days of the species Homo sapien, we have seen dense networks of exchange relations and practices of sophisticated forms of food-sharing, cooperative hunting, and collective warfare in hunter gatherer societies. The world of the animal for example, exhibits little to no distinguishable division of labor. In the jungle, cooperation is limited to small groups, and when it is seen it is almost certainly among genetically closely related individuals (eg: a family in a pack of wolves). Even in non-human primates (chimpanzees etc.), cooperation is orders of magnitude less developed than it is among humans. One may argue that certain insects such as ants and bees, or even the naked mole rat demonstrate cooperation in colonies of 1000’s of individuals working together. However, cooperation of these types of organisms cannot be appreciated except in the context of their considerable genetic homology. Genuine, conscious, cooperation that is biologically altruistic or selfless (ie: lacking genetic incentive) is seen in human society because of our unique nature, distinct from the jungle.

The “Jungle” interpretation of human nature comes from looking at humanity’s past of war and crime and deducing that human nature is selfish and competitive. No serious sociologist would look at a child and deduce that human beings are 2 feet tall and irrational. Yet, that is precisely what has been done when we look at humanity’s war- and crime-ridden history and deduce that human nature is selfish and competitive. Over the course of the child’s maturation and development it will become evident that he is actually capable of being a 5’10” professor of physics, for example. To judge human nature based upon an immature stage in human development leads to misconceived notions of who we are and how we should behave. The problem arises from the mistake of taking descriptive observation and mistaking them for a prescription of how things should be. The is-ought fallacy. Based on the observation of selfish and competitive behaviour, sociologists have prescribed selfish and competitive standards for others to follow. Instead of describing humankind’s violent past and seeking to overcome and transcend these difficulties in the future, many social theorists normalize these characteristics and prescribe them as the mode of interaction in economics and political practice. The sad truth is that much of our social order is built with this view of human nature in mind, catering to the worst aspects of our potential. No wonder society and the global state of affairs are in such shambles. A distinctive effort is needed to rethink human nature and our relationship to the collective order. Nothing less than a spiritual revolution in the hearts and minds of people and a transformation of the values of society will redeem us from the course we have set for ourselves with bankrupt self-conceptions.

Current economic theory is modeled around a self-interested conception of human nature analogous to the competitiveness of animals fighting for survival and reproductive resources in a jungle. I believe human nature is fundamentally altruistic, analogous to the harmony of cells and tissues cooperating for total organismic prosperity. The best advantage of the part is pursued in the progress of the whole. Cooperation of the various parts leads to health, and selfishness of any cell leads to cancer. The human body and not the jungle is what I choose as my model for societal and economic organization.

Assumptions of the Jungle Interpretation of Human Nature:
1. Human beings are naturally self-interested
2. There is a finite amount of goods, services, and opportunities with an infinite amount of wants, drives, and competitors
3. Competition is both biologically necessary and mandated by the scarcity of resources
4. Survival of the fittest is not just a biological law, but a social one as well, equally applicable to the biological and social human condition

Assumptions of the Body Interpretation of Human Nature:
1. Human beings are naturally altruistic
2. Goods are produced in proportion to the sense of a duty, purpose, and enterprise animating human endeavours, individually and collectively
3. Needs are satisfied in a way that does justice to their severity and intensity, which balances the extremes of satisfaction and want society-wide
4. Creation of a just and prosperous world order is the fruit of all social evolution, just as the manifestation of the rational mind has been the fruit of biological evolution

 

The Evolution of CooperationEvolution of Cooperation

Categories
- Education - Empowerment - Governance - Oppression - Orthopaedic Surgery - Prevailing Conceptions - Religion - Science - Three Protagonists Development Discourse Health Care Human Nature Justice Knowledge Oneness Power

Artificial Scarcity & The Baha’i Faith

The Problem

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ARTIFICIAL SCARCITY is a term used to describe the condition in which masses of people are deprived of their bare necessities, while wealth, resources, and infrastructure exist in sufficient proportion to provide for all. The amount of wealth and scientific technology available to humanity in the 21st century is more than at any previous time in human history. So why are the following statistics still true?
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-There are 1 billion children living in poverty today.  
-Twenty-two thousand children die each day from hunger/malnutrition.
-Two point two million children die from preventable illnesses annually, due to lack of immunization.
-120 million children are not in any school (60% of these are girls).
-Over 1 billion people lack access to clean water (millions of women spend hours each day collecting water).
-Two billion people lack basic sanitation.
-One billion people are illiterate.
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To put these statistics in perspective: it would take less than what the United States spends annually on dog food to solve any one of these global tragedies. Alternatively, it would take less than a tenth of 1% of what the US government spends on the military annually to do the same. 
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Scarcity & Modernity

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So with the increase in scientific technology and global wealth production, why is the number of people under poverty increasing, not decreasing? Humanity is richer and more technologically advanced than ever before, and yet the scale of suffering, and its proportion as a factor of global population is increasing. With the aid of science, agriculture industries produce more food than the entire species needs to survive, but hunger still persists. Millions of people die from preventable disease, for which vaccine immunizations have already been invented. The internet makes knowledge universally accessible, but education is still not universal. 
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Privation is a condition being exacerbated by modernity, not alleviated by it, despite an ironic time-warp advance in agricultural technology and global productivity in the 20th cenntury. A complex result of international disunity, outmoded economic theories, cultural slogans, corporate and government exploitation of indigenous peoples, and squandering of natural resources, has artificially imposed scarcity as a defining feature of modern civilization, crippling the abundance and global prosperity of human civilization that is its natural state, by orders of magnitude.
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It’s Origin

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A particular conception of human nature which is implicitly, and sometimes explicitly, promoted in popular narratives can be traced back and identified as the Archimedian point from which the lever of human history pivoted in the trajectory of artificial scarcity . With the post-dark ages rise of the state-type known as ‘western democracy’, an implicit claim of superiority regarding its cultural values, was exported along with its plastic goods, fast food corporations, and sexualized media. Economic hegemony of the globe implied at least three metaphysical presuppositions, to a world fixated on materialism as its religion and new standard of truth. Understood to be the basis upon which western prosperity was ostensibly achieved, three assumptions stood out about human nature.
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Human Nature is:
1) Material
2) Individualistic
3) Competitive
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We are learning that human nature is not material but spiritual, not individualistic but communal, and not competitive but cooperative.
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Science Devoid of Religion

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Much of science is only acknowledged as true science until such time as it is disproven to be the fancies of personal bias amongst the elite who control thought in ways that benefit them through mechanisms of power: private and public grant funding, editors of academic journals, television and internet news media moguls, and industry-sponsored misinformation. A classic example is the transition from Newtonian to Modern Physics, the ecstatic character of which resembles mass religious conversion, more than the sterile stereotype of science fancied in popular imagination (See Kuhn, On the Structure of Scientific Revolutions). In orthopaedic surgery, the controversy over research on drugs like rhBMP-2, procedures like kypho- and vertebroplasty, and implanting of metal-on-metal hip prostheses, bear similar semblance to the effect of profit-motive over elite decision makers who lampoon their whims downhill as the edicts of gods from Mount ‘Science’, only to realize in retrospect a lesson which humility could have taught prior to the the cost in human life and morbidity. It is not science, but hubris that is to be blamed. 
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Likewise, the  three assumptions of human nature popularized implicitly by materialism’s gospel of human betterment which was successfully exported along with US lifestyle’s addiction to instant gratification (salt, fat, sugar, sex, violence, and drugs), purported to be scientific as well. Again, not because of evidence, but because of arrogance.
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The Science of Economics

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The science of economics, taught in every school, has led humanity down a dark path,  because it is based on a flawed conception of human nature. According to the fathers of modern economic theory, which still holds sway in dominant market spheres today, actors in the marketplace can be characterized according to the following three principles. 
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1) Human actors express unlimited material wants
2) The quantity of  desirable resources and wealth is limited and finite
3) Markets operate in an efficient manner
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Principle one states that human beings are rationally self-interested actors in pursuit of maximizing hedonistic pursuit of insatiable material pleasure. Here, both self-interest and a materialistic conception of human nature are presupposed implicitly in the premise. Principle two states that resources and opportunities are limited. In the case of natural resources for example it holds them, implicitly to be non-renewable (viz a vis. fossil fuels but not solar power)  and in the case of educational opportunities (university admissions but not online courses, open-source code, Ruhi classes, or grass roots distance education) and employment opportunities (trickle down theory and not regulated, responsible, socially just policies). As such, it presupposes them to be scarce and insufficient. Principle three states that consumers will purchase good products more frequently than inferior products and as a result of Laissez-faire natural selection producers of poor products will fall out of business, leaving an increasingly superior quality of product available for sale in the marketplace (ignoring the effect of advertising, which is one of the biggest investments of corporate producers, designed explicitly to undermine rational self-interest and persuade consumers to purchase things that are not to their benefit. Also, ignoring negative externalities which lie beyond the purview of market actors, and are having a devastating effect on human society, viz a vis green-house induced climate change.)  Value ought to be determined by a commodity’s worth to human society, as opposed to its price, which in modern economic theory is left unregulated as the equilibrium point between supply and demand. To drive up price, supply is intentionally limited by providers, even in the case of necessities, to maximize their profit margin. As worth is divorced from price so to is universal prosperity impoverished by income inequality.
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Reform in Retrospect

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These “scientific” principles are more selfish, egocentric, philosophical beliefs, that are essentially metaphysical in character, with no amenability to scientific inquiry. More like Machiavellian or Nietzschean claims of human nature than empirical science. It should evoke the question in us all, “why has metaphysical speculation, personal conjectures, and supernatural philosophy been allowed to pass as science?” It makes science seem like prejudice, superstition, and ignorance, especially those branches of science that endorse these claims about human nature. The twilight of this conception of human nature is at hand, giving way under mounting evidence of success in ethical-collective-cooperative business models, but not before its effects had been baptized into law, dogmatized as inviolate, and employed in not only academic exercises, but also in application to global market operations, Geopolitical relations, ownership of natural resources, and even in the domestic policy arising in the wake of civil rights and social justice struggles.
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Notwithstanding this, the most tragic victim of the material-individualistic-competitive conception of human nature is the education system. The fundamental principles of pedagogy upon which K-12 and university models of education have been adopted endorse a zero-sum grading curve, in which the success of one student necessitates the failure of his classmates, interpersonal competition fostered for internal class ranks, extinguishing creativity through emphasis on standardized testing, and social hierarchies that rarely relate to inherent talent but more often reflect access to opportunities family finances that enable credentialing like MD and PhD, exclusively and artificially maintained, through insurmountable tuition barriers.
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Artificial Scarcity of Education

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How did the esotericization of knowledge come to replace what is the birthright of all humankind — universal education? The esotericization of knowledge is the single most grievous victim of the economic system that birthed artificial scarcity. Baha’u’llah writes, “What “oppression” is more grievous than that a soul seeking… knowledge…should know not where to go for it?” Knowledge has been artificially controlled by barriers to its generation, application, and diffusion. Barriers that include cultural myths about who has access to it, economic barriers about who can afford it, and popular barriers about what its usefulness and application can be. Furthermore, education suffers from internal corruption regarding its generation, and what kinds of subjects are investigated, reported and applied that are of specialized interest to wealthy urban technocrats and irrelevant to the majority of people.
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The internet and cyberspace has created the possibility of exploding knowledge at unprecedented rates across millions of miles to peoples and lands who would otherwise never be able to communicate. Tuition is used to keep people out of universities, while the curriculum is already online wholesale. Exorbitant tuitions purchase for the student only the numeric digits of the password to access gigabytes of lectures and audio-visual material that is already uploaded online. This material could be used to teach graduate curricula in every shack or shanty town with a wifi connection accross the villages and urban sprawls of Africa and Latin America. False scales of prestige are perpetuated by cultural narratives originating in the enlightenment by which knowledge is conserved as the elite purview of credentialed experts (MD, PhD, etc.) by which masses are excluded from contributing to knowledge, but also from participating in its application to their own life situations. In this way a passive, recipient class is created which depends upon the knowledge and expertise of gatekeepers, prior to their own use of knowledge to advance towards prosperity. The inherent potential, volition, and talent of the masses is subjugated and destroyed in exchange for the experts to acquire their profits.
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Disempowerment is profitable to the few. Yet prosperity for all demands that we enact the democratization of knowledge, revolutionizing the systems of pedagogy using modern day technology to achieve relevant and participatory education for all.
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Applicability of Curricula

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The content of research and educational curricula are set by intellectuals who are ironically distant from the life of the masses from which the most important questions of our generation arise. Academic content  is determined by individuals and systems with priorities alien to the communities and realities of the majority of people. Graduate curricula and research agendas are as irrelevant to the issues of privation and prosperity as they are to industry needs of employment markets. The education-to-employment market mismatch is an oversight which is staggering even from a materialist point of view. An unprecedented proportion of college graduates are working unskilled minimum wage jobs. The corporatization of the university has metastasized and is stealing nutrients from its parent-cancer, the broader unregulated capitalization of civilization. This is the nature of self-interest — it splinters until the tinniest atoms of existence are at war with each other.
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Culture of Contest

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Artificial scarcity squanders human and natural resources through conflict that is the result of a self-fulfilling prophecy. The narrative is sold that opportunities are scarce and competition between individuals needed to determine who deserves opportunity — inculcating a culture of contest, prescriptively. Similarly, this same logic is used to make economic decisions regarding the structural supply of goods and services in the form of policy and infrastructure that creates opportunity and education. The prevalent discourse about what is considered valuable opportunities for the actualization of human potential is likewise prescribed via education by the beneficiaries of a pacified and obedient labor force. As such, both the social structure and the minds of social actors, individuals and institutions, is handicapped in the reductionism of the prison of the scarcity mindset. A self-reinforcing cycle of human consciousness and social structures is established in which privation and inter-personal conflict are regarded as natural. Slowly, what should be a reprehensible externality is transmuted into a fact to be embraced by those functioning most virtuously within the system. Before any evil decision-making has entered, injustice is already prevalent, and no one is to blame.
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Consumerism as Opiate

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The material-individual-competitive conception of human nature exported by an imperialistic consumer culture has built scarcity into the economic paradigm as a means of maximizing profits but not prosperity for the world order. For the growing number of the oppressed, their economic situation is resembling more and more the feudal relationship that characterized wealthy land-owners and peasant farmers in medieval Europe. Instead of military force to induce compliance, the modern masters of social and economic control employ subtle mechanisms of consumerism and entertainment which act as opium to the human soul, lulling a satisfied and docile slave labor class into generational obedience. Myths of opportunity and the american dream maintain people in the belief that suffering and privation result from the failure of individuals and not from the nature of the socioeconomic system.Workplace specialization and a growing climate of worker insecurity drive laborers to increasingly monotonous occupations that necessitate increasing quantities of nightlife entertainment to cure and assuage the destruction of their God-given potential. Exploiting the bodies of the masses, unjust labor wages drain biological treasure, while consumerism and entertainment exploit financially, reabsorbing monetary treasure back into the system. In simple terms, the feudal lord owns the adjacent beer-hall, in which the peasants squander their family’s livelihood on substance addiction each pay-day. Like all opiates, tolerance to even the highest doses becomes inevitable. Income inequality and mass privation of an increasingly employed and impoverished majority cannot but lead to instability and a breakdown of law and order. As riches are increasingly concentrated in the hands of an elite minority, receptivity to alternative social orders grows amongst the populace.  Only those who question, and are attune to the searing of the Undying Flame of the Baha’i Revelation are awakening to alternative worlds.
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Market-Share Vs. Pie-Size

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Re-conceptualizing human nature as spiritual-communal-cooperative allows a transition from emphasizing an individual’s or business’s market-share as a proportion of profits, to emphasizing the total size of the pie available to everyone. Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith writes, “the advantage of the part is best to be reached by the advantage of the whole.” This revolution in economic theory and social policy implies a profound change at the level of culture, both as individuals and communities, and at the level of social structure and institutions. Unlike the pseudo-science of modern economics, a growing body of evidence is showing that when each individual or group works to further the productivity and usefulness of the entire market (ie: pie-size), it may entail that the group’s particular market-share decreases as a proportion, but notwithstanding this, their particular allotment actually increases in terms of its absolute quantity. This evidence flies in the face of the zero-sum conception of reality in which competitive and self-interested systems inculcate scarcity as a natural outgrowth of the economic paradigm. Ironically, selflessness conduces to prosperity. According to the Baha’i conception, scarcity is an aberration. The reality of the universe is abundance.
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De Beers is a well known manipulator of diamond supply (via its leverage over a majority of global diamond mines) to fix prices at a high level.
diamonds
Categories
- Education Human Nature Justice Oneness

The Midnight Sighing…

A continuation of a conversation on Facebook, prompted by the quotation below, in which thoughts about these two links were asked…

www.usdebtclock.org – US National Debt Clock
xkcd.com/980/huge/ – xkcd: Money Chart

 

“Tell the rich of the midnight sighing of the poor…”

One thing to remember is that money is simply a social construct that represents good and services, and the social value placed on these goods and services. In fact, economics as a whole is the systemization of values.

What the US National Debt Clock indicates to me is that there is a grossly unjust correspondence between useful and beneficial input of goods and services into society and output. For instance, the third largest budget item is on “defense/war” – this economic investment does not increase prosperity; in fact, building B2 bombers (represented in the xkcd chart in the bottom-right hand corner of the millions box) is not a constructive and beneficial use of funds. The cheaper alternative is to not war. Another example, which costs a bit more than the “defense/war” budget item is “credit card debt”. Again, this doesn’t input anything useful into society. Charging an individual to borrow money that they do not have does not create systemic prosperity – the more economical alternative is to create a culture of education that facilitates sound long-term economic planning at the level of the individual and community. How can we fund a legitimate need, like health care – an investment that will surely produce fruits (for healthy human beings contribute to societal well-being) – when we are, instead, funding fruitlessness?

The xkcd Money Chart is brilliant. At a certain level, it is a chart of values (the same way that the Manhattan skyscraper profile is a map of the depth and strength of its underlying bedrock). Money is simply the unit used to indicate this value. The wealth of the 1,200 richest people is roughly a bit more than the annual spending of the United States. US spending on nuclear arms during the cold war is roughly more than US spending on health care. The cost of flowers for William and Kate’s wedding is about equal to the annual income of individuals in the wealthiest 1% of the US; while the cost of Kate’s dress is more than what the wealthiest 10% of individuals make annually. It’s interesting to look around and make comparisons about how money is being spent.

Clearly, there is tremendous inequality and injustice. The solution is not found in fine-tuning manipulation of the same system that created the problem – not through “political passion, conflicting expressions of class interest, or technical recipes”. Rather, what is called for is “a spiritual revival, as a prerequisite to the successful application of political, economic and technological instruments”. As consciousness of the inherent oneness of humanity is raised and as understanding of the spiritual nature of a human being, a creation that mirrors forth divine attributes (like generosity), is fostered will the peoples of the world be empowered to creatively and together address the challenge of injustice. Understanding the nature of the individual as spiritual and the nature of humanity as one entity can be achieved through a process of spiritual education – through “meetings that strengthen the devotional character of the community; classes that nurture the tender hearts and minds of children; groups that channel the surging energies of junior youth; circles of study, open to all, that enable people of varied backgrounds to advance on equal footing and explore the application of the teachings to their individual and collective lives”. So we see the spiritual solution to economic injustice.

 

“Tell the rich of the midnight sighing of the poor…To give and to be generous are attributes of Mine; well is it with him that adorneth himself with My virtues.”

 

 

The Bahá’í perspective on the spiritual solution to economic inequality:

“…not through sedition and appeal to physical force—not through warfare, but welfare. Hearts must be so cemented together, love must become so dominant that the rich shall most willingly extend assistance to the poor and take steps to establish these economic adjustments permanently….For example, it will be as if the rich inhabitants of a city should say, “It is neither just nor lawful that we should possess great wealth while there is abject poverty in this community,” and then willingly give their wealth to the poor, retaining only as much as will enable them to live comfortably.”

“Fighting, and the employment of force, even for the right cause, will not bring about good results. The oppressed who have right on their side, must not take that right by force; the evil would continue. Hearts must be changed. The rich must wish to give! …The spiritually awakened are like to bright torches in the sight of God, they give light and comfort to their fellows.”

 

 

How can we create an economic system that empowers the wealthy to adorn themselves with the attribute of generosity, instead of oppressing them with the burden of greed?

 

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Categories
- Governance - Oppression Development Discourse Health Care Justice

“Concentrations of Wealth” by Michael Karlberg

A recent study by Oxfam provided some striking data regarding growing disparities of wealth and poverty within and between countries around the globe:

50% of the world’s wealth is now owned by 1% of the population.

This richest 1% has 65 times as much combined wealth as the bottom 50% of the population.

The world’s richest 85 people control the same amount of wealth as the bottom 50% of the population.

10% of the population controls 86% of all the assets in the world, while the poorest 70% control only 3% of assets.

The amount of wealth hidden in secret tax shelters is estimated to be $18.5 trillion, which exceeds the entire GDP of the richest country on earth (US GDP = $15.8 trillion).

In the US, the richest 1% of the population captured 95% of new wealth generated after the 2007 financial crisis, while the bottom 90% became poorer.

The combined wealth of Europe’s 10 richest people exceeds the total cost of stimulus measures implemented across the EU between 2008 and 2010.

The report goes on to show that these growing income disparities are being seen in most democratic countries today and it attributes this trend to “political capture” – or the control of political institutions by the wealthiest segments of society, who are re-writing national and international laws and policies in ways that serve only their narrow self-interests.

Which raises an important question: what can be done to reverse these trends?

The Oxfam report suggest that “popular politics” – or the political mobilization or poor and working classes in support of progressive taxation as well as investments in education, health, and other public services – will be needed to reverse such trends.

I fully agree that progressive taxation as well as investments in education, health, and other public services are essential. But achieving and sustaining these kinds of advances will require much more than “popular politics.” This is because the underlying problem is, in part, structural.

Western liberal democracies are structured according to the logic of interest-group competition. When governance is organized in this way – as a contest for power – it will always be divisive and dysfunctional at best, oppressive at worst.

For reasons I’ve outlined elsewhere, electoral contests invariably invite the corrupting influence of money; they diminish the inclusion and participation of historically marginalized individuals or groups; they reduce complex issues down to manipulative slogans; and they ignore the well-being of the masses of humanity.

Stated another way, when governance is organized as a contest for power, it will inevitably result in political capture.

Popular political mobilization will, in exceptional historical circumstances, result in temporary advances for the cause of social justice and economic equity. But the long-term trends will continue to be characterized by the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of fewer and fewer people – as the history of the 19th, 20th, and early 21st centuries abundantly demonstrates.

These trends cannot be reversed merely through popular mobilization within current political structures.  They will only be truly reversed when the organizing logic of interest-group competition is replaced with a new structural logic, derived from consciousness of the oneness of humanity — or recognition of the organic unity and interdependence of the entire social body.

It is, therefore, toward the cultivation of this consciousness, and the construction of new models of governance that are coherent with it, that we need to bend our energies in the long-term, if we hope to truly reverse the deeply troubling trends identified in the Oxfam report.

http://agencyandchange.com/2014/01/24/concentrations-of-wealth/

one of a kind

Categories
- Empowerment - Language Development Expansion & Consolidation Human Nature

Releasing the Deep Reservoirs that Young People Possess

“Throughout the world, across all classes and social groups, there has been a ready response from youth who are invited to examine the forces shaping their society and their role in contributing to its constructive transformation through service as animators of junior youth groups. Time and again it has been seen that consideration of, and reflection upon, the profound concepts addressed in Book 5 of the Ruhi Institute release the deep reservoirs of commitment to significant social change that young people possess. Engaging their fertile minds in an exploration of such ideas gives rise to profound conversations that leave their mark and find expression in action. Those who are inclined to establish a junior youth group are assisted to do so, and in this way, the program’s reach in a town or neighborhood is expanded in a relatively short period, even if there are only a limited number of human resources available within the Bahá’í community.”  – 14 November 2012, The Universal House of Justice

 

Commitment
Commitment

 

Forces – spiritual, social, intellectual, and physical – are irresistibly moving humanity.  Towards what direction?  Who are the protagonists of this movement?  How can humanity’s inherent capacities be harnessed?

In the young people of the world lies a reservoir of capacity to transform society waiting to be tapped. How are these deep reservoirs of commitment to significant social change that young people possess released?

Look at the verbs: examine, consider, reflect upon, explore – what do they mean and how are they used?  Look at the ideas: the forces shaping society, a youth’s role in contributing to society’s constructive transformation, the profound concepts addressed in Book 5 of the Ruhi Institute.  Look at the outcome: a sense of two-fold purpose, to develop their inherent potentialities and to contribute to the transformation of society – through service as animators of junior youth groups.  What are the means?  Conversations and mutual assistance.

What are some forces shaping our society?  Some, constructive and positive, include love for truth, thirst for knowledge, attraction to beauty, and unity.  Some, destructive and negative, include materialism, self-centeredness, prejudice, and ignorance.

What are some of the concepts addressed in Book 5 of the Ruhi Institute?  In addition to addressing the forces shaping society and a youth’s role in society’s constructive transformation, some other concepts include: coherence, two-fold moral purpose, the age of junior youth, spiritual perception, the dual-nature of self, language, the power of expression, hope, service, and empowerment.

Any serious attempt at civilization-building cannot ignore the role of young people in working with those younger than themselves, analyzing these forces, understanding these concepts, and taking on the identity of a life-long servant of humanity.

 

Categories
- Empowerment - Religion - Three Protagonists Development Discourse Justice Oneness

120 years of discourse

A few days ago passed the 120th anniversary of the first mention of the Baha’i Faith in the Western hemisphere.  At last, the spiritual forces released by Baha’u’llah’s Revelation had an “initial conversation” through which they could be channeled.  Many of the early Baha’is of the West interacted with the Faith through this initial conversation – whether they were present, read about in it a newspaper, or heard about it in a subsequent conversation.

 

September of 1893, just over a year after Bahá’u’lláh’s ascension, Reverend George Ford, a missionary in Syria, read a paper by a Presbyterian minister named Henry Jessup, at the World Parliament of Religions held in downtown Chicago.  After speaking about Christianity, he ending the speech with,

 

In the Palace of Bahjí , or Delight, just outside the Fortress of ‘Akká, on the Syrian coast, there died a few months since, a famous Persian sage, the Bábí Saint, named Bahá’u’lláh -the “Glory of God”- the head of that vast reform party of Persian Muslims, who accept the New Testament as the Word of God and Christ as the Deliverer of men, who regard all nations as one, and all men as brothers. Three years ago he was visited by a Cambridge scholar and gave utterance to sentiments so noble, so Christlike, that we repeat them as our closing words:

“That all nations should become one in faith and all men as brothers; that the bonds of affection and unity between the sons of men should be strengthened; that diversity of religions should cease and differences of race be annulled. What harm is there in this? Yet so it shall be. These fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars shall pass away, and the ‘Most Great Peace’ shall come. Do not you in Europe need this also? Let not a man glory in this, that he loves his country; let him rather glory in this, that he loves his kind.”

 

Thus began a discourse on Baha’u’llah’s principle of the oneness of humankind.

 

One way to think about discourse is as the instrumentality through which spiritual forces are able to influence the hearts and minds of human beings.  As thoughts and habits of behavior are altered, so are social structures.  The initial conversation – the Word of God brought by a Manifestation of God and subsequently spread across the world – leads to a community dedicated to translating high ideals into action.  This new system of values reorders consciousness and behavior and restructures the administration of society.  Eventually, a civilization emerges that embodies the concepts contained throughout this conversation.  As more and more people engaged in this conversation, the civilization becomes more and more just – as justice requires universal participation.  And as it becomes more and more just, it takes on higher degrees of unity.

 

The discourse on peace that began 120 years ago in the heart of North America has gained in strength and momentum, and taken on degrees of complexity.  The conversation has taken many forms and included many topics over the last century, and is currently about a community-building endeavor that receives its impetus from an education process that seeks to build capacity in its protagonists for acts of service through imparting skills, insights, and knowledge.  But it’s always been the same conversation. This is humanity’s conversation about its spiritual and social destiny – all can contribute, all have a say.  And at a deep level, all are connected to it….all can learn from it and advance it.  The conversation’s aim is to empower populations to take charge and responsibility for their own development, as a people.  In what ways are your daily thoughts, words, and actions contributing to this conversation?

 

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Categories
- Governance - Three Protagonists Human Nature

The Reality of Coherence

In the 1 July 2013 Message of the Universal House of Justice, that beloved Body draws a connection between an individual’s engagement in the process of civilization-building and that individuals own personal development. The Letter states,

“You, however, are aware of your part in a mighty, transforming process that will yield, in time, a global civilization reflecting the oneness of humankind. You know well that the habits of mind and spirit that you are nurturing in yourselves and others will endure, influencing decisions of consequence that relate to marriage, family, study, work, even where to live.”

The connection between devoting your efforts to community-building efforts at the grass roots and developing success in personal affairs, the House of Justice explains, lies in the qualities of mind and spirit that are developed in community work that are beneficial to personal affairs, and vice versa.

What qualities of mind and spirit do we think are beneficial to a fulfilling marriage? Patience, tact, wisdom, love. To happy family? Selflessness, integrity, faithfulness, devotion. To effective study? Discipline, consistency, humility, reverence. To fruitful work? Obedience, loyalty, honesty, dedication, innovation. To strategic choice of living location? Consciousness of the provisions of the plan, awareness of the exigencies of population demographics, perception of receptivity, and freedom from prejudice.

How does one develop patience, tact, wisdom, love? How does one develop selflessness, integrity, faithfulness, devotion? How does one develop discipline, consistency, humility, reverence? How does one develop obedience, loyalty, honesty, dedication, innovation? How does one develop consciousness of the provisions of the plan, awareness of the exigencies of population demographics, perception of receptivity, and freedom from prejudice? Can these be developed in a vacuum, by simply willing it to be so? Virtues, must be developed by habituation, by practice — virtue requires application.

From where can the will and opportunity to develop all these virtues be mustered? It does not seem possible that for the sake of things in themselves (marriage, family, study, work, home) that this will is effectively summoned. To wit, we submit the testimony of the unnumbered millions with failed marriages, families, academics, careers, and homes. Where can the will and training arena to develop all the qualities needed to succeed in personal milestones be found? The Universal House of Justice is proposing: in selfless service to the provisions of the 5 year plan the youthful individual positions him or herself success in all these things. The 1 July Letter states,

“In the struggles that are common to each individual’s spiritual growth, the will required to make progress is more easily summoned when one’s energies are being channelled towards a higher goal—the more so when one belongs to a community that is united in that goal.”

Serving a higher goal, the creation of a New World Order, allows one to summon the will necessary to develop virtues. In practicing consultation one develops patience. In composing e-mails one develops tact. In navigating delicate situations one develops wisdom. In sacrificing for others one develops love and selflessness. In upholding others trust one develops integrity. In making good on one’s commitments one develops faithfulness. In prayer toward the common good one develops devotion. In punctuality one develops discipline. In tenaciously pursuing goals one develops consistency. In maintaining loving relationships one learns humility. In learning one acquires reverence. In instant, unquestioning servitude to the institutions one develops obedience.  In defending the Covenant and protecting others from those who would harm it one develops loyalty. In communicating efficiently one avoid lies and becomes honest. In enduring service one become dedicated. In problem solving one becomes innovative. In studying the guidance one learns the provisions of the plan. In scouting focus neighborhoods one learns population demographics. In teaching the Cause one develops perception of receptivity. In living with diverse cultures and socio-economic statuses one develops freedom from prejudice. Serving alongside comrades, sharing in their sorrows and delights, supporting them in their struggles and victories, further reinforces the will.  The qualities of mind and spirit needed for success in personal affairs are all developed in wholehearted service to the community that is laboring for social transformation and the erection of a divine civilization.

Coherence is the state of being in which multiple separate things are nevertheless linked through the products of their processes that are not only beneficial for the success of others, but necessary for it. The byproduct of community building is the necessary nourishment of personal success. As such, though they are separate things, they are one, as an ecosystem has parts, and yet is still one. Though animals and plants are distinct kingdoms, yet animals depend upon vegetation for their nourishment, and trees in turn rely upon pollination and dispersal by animal carriers to continue their life cycle. As such, the coherence that characterizes the balance of an ecosystem, is not unlike the coherence that characterizes the relationship between an individual’s personal affairs and his or her dedication to social welfare and public advancement.

Clearly then, the cycle would not be complete if civilization-building alone contributed to personal development and did not receive from it anything beneficial. Success in personal development contributes invaluably to the process of community building. Community building could not be carried in the absence of personal successes of individuals. It would be to allege that the work of advancing civilization could be carried out by disembodied souls. Human society advances as the result of human beings.

What qualities does a fulfilling marriage, a happy family, a prosperous occupation, and a strategic home-front pioneering position lend to the process of civilization building? A fulfilling marriage unleashes the powers of mind and speech upon which so many relationships that inspire organized community efforts depends. A happy family can anchor an entire community by providing moral leadership, organizing influence, for various age groups of activities for others to join, and a gathering center for other families. A prosperous occupation serves the community, inspires respect, conduces to dignity, and draws one into the economic and political  context of the society one serves. A well selected home front pioneering position, allows one to serve the best interests of receptive populations and establish pockets of social action.

Personal developmental achievements are dedicated to the operation of collective advancement, and striving for social change generates the qualities of mind and spirit that conduce to prosperity in individual affairs. Society cannot advance without individuals who are knowledgeable and capable of serving its needs, and wholesome family units with careers and social influence cannot be raised without engagement with society. Neither branch of coherence is acceptable without the other, for neither can subsist in the absence of the other.

Collapsing the dichotomy of the two-fold moral purpose is the secret to achieving coherence. This is the reality of coherence.

Recycle small

Categories
- Prevailing Conceptions - Religion - Science Discourse Human Nature Knowledge

A De-scription Pad

A ‘prescription’ is that which is laid down as a rule, an order, a precept.  A ‘description’, on the other hand, is a statement that indicates and notes observations.  Common to both words is ‘script’, which denotes a law or plan.  And ‘law’, of course, is a set of principles and rules that govern relationships and realities.

 

Current society’s conceptions regard prescriptions and descriptions as separate.  Are they?  Should they be?  What is, actually, the difference between them?  Are they the same?

 

Perhaps the problem lies in that fact that society promotes an overly-simplistic, and often bi-polarized, understanding of the world around us.  ‘Prescription’ is what ought to be, while ‘description’ is what we see.  However, under an understanding that human beings strive to progressively create social reality that increasingly reflects the principles that govern reality, description and prescription are the same thing.

 

Let us look at a few examples.  A farmer has certain prescribed actions and labors at certain times of the year – say, plowing in February, planting in March, fertilizing in May, and harvesting in July.  This systemic pattern of behavior occurs because the farmer has learned to progressively refine his description of the natural cycle of the crop.  In fact, one might say that the role of a farmer is to continuously learn to describe the laws that govern the life of the plant and prescribe a system to align his work with this description so as to most effectively yield crop.  A doctor, similarly, prescribes medicine in order to treat disease.  One who has diabetes might be prescribed 15 units of insulin at night to help lower blood glucose.  This prescription, however, is actually simply a description of how much more insulin the body needs in order to maintain normal blood glucose levels.  Through a systematic study of this particular disease, and learning to describe the pathophysiology of that human being, the doctor can prescribe a medicine that aligns itself with this description.  In the same way, an engineer prescribes a limit to the maximum weight that a bridge can hold, or prescribes an optimal flow of electricity to power an appliance.  However, these prescriptions are simply descriptions of the relationships and laws of physics that govern the materials of the bridge with gravity, or the flow of electrons with the circuits of the device – prescriptions are the application of description.

 

Society is similar to the examples of botany, physiology, and physics examined above.  Social advance is propelled through the generation and application of learning within two broad systems of knowledge and practice called science and religion.  Each serve to describe the world around us and its dynamics.  Religion articulates the values that are unfolding progressively through divine revelation, defines the goals of our social and spiritual evolutionary process, and increasingly clarify the spiritual forces and processes at work in the humanity’s life.  Science, of course, describes the laws that govern physical reality and is the instrumentality through which the human mind explores the phenomenal world.  The brief periods of human history in which these two systems operated in harmony have witnessed marvelous social development; for the prescriptions that people and social systems create for social reality come from some descriptive conception.

 

In the same way that no one would label 9.8 meters-per-second-squared as an arbitrary prescription of the earth’s gravitational pull on objects near its surface, similarly, the ordinance to pray a number of times a day is actually a description of the needs and dynamics of a human soul, according to an understanding of its nature.  Every prescribed law has an implied description.  What assumptions underlie this description?  Are those who act according to these prescriptions conscious that they are operating under descriptive assumptions, and therefore tacitly condoning a certain conception of human nature?  How well-aligned are the descriptions upon which these prescriptions are created with true science and true religion?  As an example, society prescribes laws within a competitive economic system; these laws, therefore, describe and assume human nature as competitive.  Yet, that is just one assumption; one can easily set aside this assumption for the more likely premise that cooperation is true human nature, and, based on this description, is the prescribed method of human interaction.  What can be done when one’s assumption of human nature differs from the description upon which social prescriptions are based?  Simple.  Operationalize these assumptions and give those around you a new pattern of behavior to describe; articulate these assumptions and give those around you a reconceptualization of human nature; build unity with others and put into place prescriptions based upon descriptions aligned with the harmony of science and religion.

 

Civilization advances through our descriptions.  The reality of man is his thought.  Social reality, on a certain level, is subjective and built through conceptions.  Conceptions are formed through discourse with fellows and through observations of behavior of those around.  Observe cooperation and speak about it with others, it will become one’s conception of human nature.  And conceptions of human nature become social reality.  This is why, whether or not you’ve read this prayer before, we all pray “confer upon me thoughts which may change this world into a rose garden”…it describes a longing of the human soul.

 

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Categories
- Education - Empowerment - Prevailing Conceptions Discourse Human Nature Knowledge Oneness

Pedagogy of the Empowered

The Baha’i world has been learning how to use an education program to raise capacity in individuals and populations to take charge of their own spiritual, social, and intellectual development and to build communities that understand the dynamic coherence of material and spiritual prosperity.  Based on the conviction of the nobility of the human being, on the oneness of humankind, and on the principle that science and religion are two complementary systems of knowledge and practice by which civilization advances, this educational system regards “man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value”, and believes that “education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit therefrom.”

 

Of course, we know that our perceptions are built upon our assumptions.  Thus, as first glance, an onlooker might perceive simplicity, tangentiality, indoctrination, limitation, rote learning, or a whole list of other problems.  Perhaps this perception is biased by assumptions and values adopted by society’s conceptions of education – which breed passivity and facilitate oppression.  And perhaps another look might help.

 

Current models of education are information based.  They consider a human being as an empty receptacle waiting to be passively filled with information and technical skills necessary to fill positions in an economic system to maintain the status quo.  They aim to provide enough thoughtfulness that a high-school graduate can vote in an election, yet not so much thoughtfulness that he will question the political system.  Education as society knows it promotes a false-dichotomy of right/wrong in order to allow for a highly simple method of evaluation, which conveniently can be capitalized (pun intended) by the economic system to brainwash consumers to buy the “right” product over the rest.  And current systems perpetuate a fragmented view of reality in order to make the minds of their graduates easily able to be controlled by those with power, yet build in enough curricular association to prevent complete disintegration of what holds together various disciplines.

 

The Ruhi Institute, which provides a highly successful example of a set of curriculum that adopts an entirely different set of assumptions about human nature and education – some which are mentioned in the first paragraph.  Its foundation is the Word of God as revealed by Baha’u’llah.  Regarding its pedagogy, here are a few thoughts:

– Ruhi curriculum is not content and information based, but rather concept based.  The purpose is not to impart information but to advance understanding about concepts.  If one just takes a glance at the material, under the assumption of information-provision, one might think “there isn’t anything in here I didn’t already know, any new information, any dates or facts”, and one might perceive it too simple.  However, the purpose of human life is to achieve understanding: “…the ultimate goal of human existence which is the station of true understanding…” and “Man’s distinction lieth not in ornaments or wealth, but rather in virtuous behavior and true understanding.”  To understand is a verb, and its corresponding subject is the human mind.  It’s object is a concept.  Through advancing understanding, the human mind is able to generate insights into reality; to produce knowledge, sciences, and arts; to effect a change of cultural; and to advance civilization.  By imparting information, the mind simply gets information.  Paradoxically, then, curriculum based on facts are actually more simplistic.

– The questions in the Ruhi curriculum are designed to engage the participants with the text.  At first glance, a fill-in-the-blank question may be simplistic, rote, mindless even.  Under current educational assumptions, it may seem very low-level.  However, the purpose of education is to advance understanding and enable participants to generate insights from the ocean of the Revelation.   In order to do this, in order to discover pearls in an ocean, one must interact with the words and concepts.  Take math as an example.  Simply reading 3+4+7=14, and then discussing it, might not advance understanding about numbers.  If the goal was information, perhaps one could waste a lifetime memorizing the sums of various combinations of numbers.  However, 3+x+7=14 requires operation; requires interacting with the numbers.  What kind of integer, when added to 3 and 7 make 14?  What kind of deeds lead to the betterment of the world?  This type of operation can then grow in complexity.  3x+5=6x-7.  And so on.  It is through operations, through interaction, through engaging, that someone learns the concepts behind numbers, and similarly the concepts within the Word of God.

– The true/false questions can also be misperceived under current educational assumptions.  Society’s educational models are based upon a system of evaluation founded on a right/wrong dichotomy.  In this paradigm, a true/false question is meant to evaluate the test-taker to see if they recalled the information correctly, and to see if they got it ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.  However, again, the questions in the Ruhi curriculum are carefully designed to advance understanding.  It breaks down current paradigms by creating true/false questions which are ambiguous, thus opening up space where understanding can be advanced in all participants through a discourse – in which people of all backgrounds of mind can advance understanding on equal footing, supporting each other’s advance and respectful of the knowledge that each one possesses at any given moment, and in which all can benefit from a diversity of perspectives.  Under an anachronistic evaluation model of education, however, ambiguous true/false questions just seem poorly worded.

– Humanity is one.  And the human being is one.  Thus, all aspects of the human being are one.  And all fields of human endeavor are one – a collective investigation of one underlying reality.  Over time, human society has successfully fragmented educational disciplines (as it has fragmented all aspects of life).  It has become popular to claim a multi-disciplinary approach to education, yet all current education does is associate disciplines together.  When studying physics, a series of math problems about gravity are presented, as a way to integrate math and physics – but the result is only an association (and hard math problems).  True integration occurs when education revolves around the understanding of concepts, the acquisition and generation of knowledge, the development of skills and attitudes, the formation of habits, the strengthening of qualities, all related to performing an act of service.  Here, service becomes the key to coherence and integration – the balance.  Because in the end, isn’t the purpose of education to reveal the gems of an individual and enable mankind to benefit?

 

In the curriculum of the Ruhi Institute we have a potent example of how education can empower the masses of humanity to take charge of their own development and contribute to the establishment of a new world civilization – a pedagogy of the empowered.

 

Categories
- Consultation - Education - Language Discourse Knowledge

Coherence in Conversations

Recently, a gathering took place in which friends from diverse backgrounds, ages, geographies, and experiences came together to explore participation in discourse.  Coherence, it seemed, was the key.

 

The weekend began with a study of a message of the Universal House of Justice dated 4 January 2009, which encourages examination and conceptualization of the community’s work in terms of three broad area of action – “enabling the protagonists of collective effort to strengthen the spiritual foundations of villages and neighbourhoods, to address certain of their social and economic needs, and to contribute to the discourses prevalent in society”.  All of these efforts require coherence in methods and approaches, something that was implicitly, as well as explicitly, explored during the weekend.

 

Next, a message dated Ridvan 2010 was studied, particularly the paragraphs regarding “two interconnected, mutually reinforcing areas of activity: involvement in social action and participation in the prevalent discourses of society.”  Though the content was overtly about social action as a field of endeavor, under a framework of coherence the same concepts and principles are easily applied to discourse.  For instance, discourse, too, requires efforts to draw on insights from Revelation as well as tap into the accumulating knowledge of the human race; involves the application of the teachings of the Faith toward improvement of some aspect of society, keeping in mind a dynamic coherence between the material and spiritual requirements of life; is built upon the principle that access to knowledge is a right of all human beings; fosters universal participation in the generation, application, and diffusion of knowledge; is not the provision of insights and principles, but is concerned with building capacity to apply and reflect upon the application on concepts; is not a series of conversations one group of people does for others, but includes insights and perspectives from all; is founded on the immutable conviction that every human being is a mine rich in gems of inestimable value and can contribute to discourse.

 

While coherence was explicitly the topic of discussion, as demonstrated by the Ridvan 2010 and 4 January 2009 messages, the structure of the weekend sought to be implicitly coherent in approaches and methods with, say, what has been learned from the institute process.  In efforts of community building all throughout the world – through “meetings that strengthen the devotional character of the community; classes that nurture the tender hearts and minds of children; groups that channel the surging energies of junior youth; circles of study, open to all, that enable people of varied backgrounds to advance on equal footing and explore the application of the teachings to their individual and collective lives” – Baha’i communities are learning about how to “raise capacity within a population to take charge of its own spiritual, social and intellectual development”.  One of the methods and approaches toward this end is that all participate in the generation of insights.  Reality is multifaceted, and therefore a sincere investigation of reality, or truth, requires the harmonization of diverse perspectives from all.  In fact, the culture of protest that has come to characterize much of political activity is a predictable reaction to lack of ability to voice opinions in political decision-making processes, a clear injustice – for justice demands universal participation.  A weekend gathering regarding discourse used the same participatory method and approach as has been learned from institute campaigns and study circles.

 

Another principle that this first area of endeavor – community building – is founded upon is the wedding of study and service.  True education is the process of revealing the gems latent within all human beings so that mankind can benefit therefrom.  Study and service.  Neither is effective without the other.  In such a short period of time, such as a weekend, study becomes the overwhelming emphasis.  Yet, multiple times were participants asked to each one voice an insight through their subjective mind to enrich the collective understanding.  And on the last day, individuals and pairs presented insights from specific-subject discourses that they had studied that morning, each presenting something unique that others didn’t have a chance to study.

 

By all accounts, the result of this coherence was highly energizing.  These participants, who had been used to attending lectures and presentation, who considered the norm a 50 minute talk with 10 minutes for irrelevant Q&A, and who felt that they needed to muster up energy for any conference since all collective activity was draining, all verbalizing feeling charged by the end.  Clearly, the galvanizing effects of participation in collective knowledge generation coupled with such a simple act of service as sharing insights with others was evident.  Participants left animated and inspired to share their understandings of the conceptual framework they studied.

 

* * *

 

At a foundational level, all areas of endeavor – whether a grassroots educational process aimed at the spiritual empowerment of large numbers, involvement in social action projects seeking to raise capacity, or participation in public discourses and humbly offering one’s perspective illumined by the Faith – are built upon conversations.  It follows, then, that all the conversations we are having in these diverse areas and fields must be characterized by a high degree of coherence.  In fact, in this way, the methods, approaches, principles, and framework will be more naturally coherent.

 

Coherence entails reflection on what we are learning about “meaningful and distinctive conversations” in the area of community-building, where we are seeking out receptive souls “who are willing to engage in a conversation about the world around them,” in order “to undertake with them an exploration of reality that gives rise to a shared understanding of the exigencies of this period in human history and the means for addressing them.”  If we are striving for coherence across all three fields of endeavor, then the nature of our participation in the discourses of society will share some of the same qualities as conversations we are learning to have in our community building efforts.

 

Categories
- Empowerment Discourse

Authentic Solutions

Authentic solutions to the problems of the world, products of an unjust social order, begin with a sea change in public loyalties. An expanding mass of popular support for a new center of authority and legislator of values, which occupies a transcendent station in the estimation of growing millions is needed. The science of expanding this web of unity is preeminent in the timeframe of transforming the social order. A social milieu in which talents are harmonized but collective vision is maintained precedes the systematic study of deficiencies, or enumeration of particular challenges, to be overcome through the work of social intervention through processes or agencies of social and economic development.

Without loyalty towards a common authority that facilitates the data gathering process, and renders an honest and transparent representation of public needs, intervention will continue to succumb to the multifarious forces of selfishness, each of which pulls funding, power, and factions towards their own disparate agendas. After an accurate representation regarding the most important challenges facing communities, and humanity as a whole, begins yielding fruit,  investigation into the social, institutional, and ethical factors that predispose to unjust arrangements, and research into the causes and possible solutions to problems can be initiated — in no small measure due to people who in those localities have embraced the new system and act as human resources to engage the work of change.

Gradually, knowledge regarding such solutions will be expected to replace pure finances as the true currency of social and political wealth. The democratization of knowledge to include its generation, application and diffusion by every member of the social order as well as increasing access and utilization of the products of research by all who could benefit from it, constitutes the bedrock of a future characterized by global and equitable prosperity. To this scheme of interconnected endeavours, the Baha’i community has given the term, ‘coherence’, designating the organic flow between the endeavours that speaks at once of their structure and logical order as much as it does of fluidity and the reinforcing of each effort by the products borne out by each other. A beast whose excrement constitutes its own food, occupies a dynamic that renders it an irrepressible movement.

electricity

Categories
- Consultation - Language Discourse Justice Knowledge Oneness Power

Collective Reflections

This past weekend, nearly forty individuals gathered together for an exploration of participation in discourse. (See post, Discourse: Session at Bosch)  The aim was to connect everyday conversations – those with neighbors, with friends, with co-workers, with family, with parents of children and junior youth – regarding society’s prevalent discourses with the conceptual framework described by the Universal House of Justice, in order to provide a context for continued reflection, action, and learning.

Among other documents, the letter dated 2 March 2013 from the Universal House of Justice was the main study.  Both halfway through study of the message and at the end of the study – which was done in small groups – all participants got together as a large group, and each individual shared one advance in understanding regarding the conceptual framework provided by the Universal House of Justice in that message, one salient point that they wished to share with the large group.  Capacity to articulate insights perceptibly increased from the first round of sharing to the second.

Below are some brief notes of each comment, grouped by concept.  This list can serve both as inspiration for others to connect their experiences with the framework provided by the House of Justice, as well as a source of analysis and reflection.  (Of course, these groups are my own categorization – many comments span multiple concepts).

 

ONENESS

– Oneness requires breaking of all us/them dichotomies, including an “us” that is more conscious of the oneness of humankind and a “them” that is less conscious.

– Relationships are reconceptualized based on the principle of oneness – including our relationship with nature.

– That the rational soul is the identity of a human being is a conviction of the oneness of humankind

– Concepts addressed by the House apply to all.

– All are working to advance one humanity, because all are one – this realization gives hope.

– Hallmark of age of maturity is oneness – this principle reconceptualizes relationships and structures of society.

– The new civilization won’t come through only the efforts of Baha’is, but is a process of organic change that all people contribute to.

– Humanity’s transformation will occur through the efforts of all people.

– The principle of oneness reconceptualizes all human relationships in a sustainable way.

– Peace will not come about through Baha’is alone, but all people – this reality is becoming more apparent.

– Association with others in a spirit of joy and radiance creates unity which actually advances humanity forward.

– The rational soul (our identity) has no gender – an empowering concept to women, as well as men.

– Unity is promoted through associating with joy.

 

THREE PROTAGONISTS

– The vision of the relationships between the three protagonists is completely new; there is no precedents to guide action, only a mode of learning.

– Each of the three protagonists affects the other – how can I, as an individual, strengthen community and institutions?

– The three protagonists are not just for the Plan, but actors on a stage of history that at this point need cooperative relations in order for humanity to mature.

 

HISTORY / FUTURE

– Humanity is on an evolutionary path and is at the threshold of maturity – our communities are similarly at this point.

– Humanity’s transition requires work and effort, and though it is difficult, we try and learn.

– Historical perspective is important to understand humanity’s current state.

– The House is opening and guiding the final frontier for humanity’s evolution – the building of a world civilization.

– Civilization is to the body of humanity as the soul is to the body of an individual, which elevates the building of civilization to the level of sacred.

– The analogy of the soul to the body as civilization to humankind gives a vision of spiritual, as well as material, prosperity.

 

TWO PROCESSES

– Linking together the process of disintegration and integration infuses hope into our outlooks.

– The process of disintegration is not discouraging, but hopeful; it sweeps away barriers and allows for more integration.

– Integration and disintegration go hand it hand – disintegration allows for integration.

– As the forces of disintegration are removing obstacles, integration proceeds; the House of Justice is now sending open letters to Iran, as an example.

 

LEARNING

– Diversity of thought has led to a rich conversation that allows investigation of truth.

– Our mode of operation is a process of learning, and all is on a continuum – there is no need to fear disintegration.

– Culture of learning allows adaptation.

– Decision-making in fact benefits from a diversity of opinions, because consultation is a form of collective investigation of reality.  Diversity is a source of strength.

– The messages of the House of Justice become more accessible through a collective collaboration of diverse minds.

 

JUSTICE

– Consumerism is inherently unjust – it doesn’t allow justice, which is a faculty of the soul that allows one to distinguish truth from falsehood, to be exercised.

 

POWER

– Sources of power that can be harnessed include the power of unity, of truth, of pure deeds, of humble service, which represent a limitless capacity to transform humanity and allow each person to grow spiritually.

– Words associated with power include “release” and “enable”, not “seize”.  How do we help release the power latent in others?

– Reconceptualizing power as having sources based in the human spirit, and the power of unity for example, is an empowering notion, something all can access.

 

TWO FOLD PURPOSE

– The two-fold moral purpose permeates all aspects of life and all three protagonists, including its appellation to the Baha’i community itself (its own development, and its involvement in society at large)

– Through an understanding of this coherent framework for action, how can I choose coherent goals in life, aligned with two-fold moral purpose?

– Two-fold moral purpose requires a coherence of words and deeds.

 

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE

– The language of the House is accessible to all, and phrases from it can touch hearts.

– The House is inviting us to engage with a deep vision of a just and prosperous world civilization.

– How empowering is language of the House of Justice.

– The House of Justice has been providing us guidance in unfolding layers – their vision is world-embracing.

– The House of Justice itself is a model of effective governance, for it seeks to empower.

– This message demonstrates the power of Baha’u’llah through the vision and compassion of the House of Justice – all are uplifted, even those chastised.

 

DISCOURSE

– Discourse is part of the growth of Baha’i community – people are gems of value, and all can contribute.

– My goal is to have better discourse each day through reflection on conversations.

– The language of the House of Justice affects hearts, and use of its phrases is powerful.

– This letter represents a force of integration, and is empowering to discuss and share.

– The House of Justice’s use of language raises standards of discourse, and it uses language in a way that is beyond dispute.

 

Discourse

Categories
- Governance - Oppression Justice

Tax Code 101

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The top 10 US tax deductions, credits and exclusions ensure that over $12 trillion in tax revenues will be granted to multinational corporations over the next decade. The tax loopholes have been written into the tax code by a bought-and-paid-for Congress that receives its marching orders from the multinational corporations that dominate campaign-finance. The study below shows that the top 20% of American income earners will receive more than half of the $900 billion in benefits from these tax breaks in 2013 alone. Exactly 70% of the total benefits will  go to the top 1% of income earners – families that earn a combined $450,000 or more.

US fiscal policy could achieve a significant amount of deficit reduction by limiting tax loop-holes to the highest income earners.

Three of the top five biggest tax breaks, a $2 trillion dollar exclusion of net pension contributions and earnings over 10 years, the $1 trillion deduction for mortgage interest, and the $1.1 trillion deduction for state and local taxes also disproportionately benefit the top 20% of income earners.

These tax breaks that disproportionately benefit only the very wealthiest Americans are not only blowing up our deficit, but are providing unnecessary tax relief to those that need it the least, and do no work for the economy.

revolution

Categories
- Prevailing Conceptions Discourse Human Nature

Which brand are you?

“The reality of man is his thought…”

The world is in a state of oppression.  This is not an unknown fact – any media source will recount the various expressions of social disintegration throughout the world.  The riots in Turkey, the tension in Egypt, the plotting of terrorists, the violence, the scandals, the corruption…it all seems indistinguishable at a certain point.  A common characteristic to them all is that each is an instance of external oppression.

What about the United States?  By some accounts, we have less terrorism, less corruption, less rioting.  From a certain perspective, we have freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom from threat.  Some can claim we are a less oppressed nation overall.  Perhaps, however, this belief that we are less oppressed is itself one of the greatest oppressions.

The United States is dominated by a culture of consumerism – today’s inheritor of a materialistic worldview.  This is a different type of oppression, insidious, exacting, and stifling.  The discourse of our nation has been hijacked by the interests of corporations and government; so, while it is true that one has a choice – without threat of violent recourse – of whether to side with this or that political party, or support this or that technical recipe, or opt for this or that legalistic procedure, what is not up for debate is the framework within which the political system operates, the value that inevitably comes with advances in technology and who they serve, the circus of legal advocacy that has masqueraded as search for truth.  In other parts of the world, oppression takes the form of brute violence against the physical body, religious hypocrisy that can be detected with little sight, or obvious suppression of the rights of one group of people by another seemingly more powerful group of people; whereas in the United States, the oppression takes the form of a manipulation of identity.  Instead of being able to think about the systems within which our society operates, we are manipulated – through classroom, pulpit, and newsstand – to regard the human being as a consumer.  A consumer of whatever political topic is most convenient for the upcoming campaign; of whatever knowledge and skills are currently the criteria to assume a coveted post within some corporation to uphold our economic status-quo, of whatever foods and medicines are promising the lure of easy fix, of whatever technology can deliver convenience in exchange for adoption of values, of whatever trend is being deposited in the mind.  The question is never “why?”, but always “which?”.  To me, the most striking point – and the one that makes this type of oppression all the more apparent – is that those segments of the population that seek to distinguish themselves by attempting to identify and fight oppression, in fact only distinguish themselves by adopting different types of patterns of consumption.

An oppression that is external – that is violent and ugly and hurtful – is at least one that can be identified.  Hypocrisy, suppression, corruption, can be known and fought.  It is because this oppression targets the body and external conditions of a human being, not his essential reality.  However, when the sights of oppression are trained at the identify of an individual, then his mind becomes restricted, his thoughts become suppressed, his reality is oppressed.  How can one fight an oppression when one does not even know that one is being oppressed?  When one’s identity has been manipulated to regard as normal what is clearly a distortion?

“What “oppression” is more grievous than that a soul seeking the truth…should know not where to go for it and from whom to seek it?”

“The perpetuation of ignorance is a most grievous form of oppression…”

Categories
- Empowerment - Governance - Human Body - Religion Justice

Abdu’l-Baha on Economic Policy

According to Abdu’l-Baha, wealth inequality, can be attributed to the “extreme greed and rapacity of the manufacturers and industrialists.” He furthermore  identifies  the root cause of income disparity as the defunct operations of the legislative branch of government:

“The principal cause of these difficulties lies in the laws of the present civilization; for they lead to a small number of individuals accumulating incomparable fortunes, beyond their needs, while the greater number remain destitute, stripped and in the greatest misery.”

Abdu’l-Baha introduces concepts into His discourse that rarely find equivalent parallels in the modern discourse on economic policy. Instead of dominant values such as “economic growth”, He emphasizes “justice”; instead of  “profits” He emphasizes “humanity” and “equity”. His appeal to new concepts is grounded in a metaphysics that transcends the modern foundations of economics, which are outdated. The remedy to economic injustice He specifies lies in legislation designed to ensure that private profits go to meet the needs of the impoverished masses:

“…Rules and laws should be established to regulate the excessive fortunes of certain private individuals and meet the needs of millions of the poor masses; thus a certain moderation would be obtained…”

The exact proportion of workers wages as a function of CEO or owner income that is most conducive to justice, Abdu’l-Baha specifies as 20-25%. Therefore the average laborer should earn 20-25% of the total income earned by an owner or CEO. The majority shareholder of a corporation for example could expect to see approximately 4-5 times as much share in the profits as the average worker would. No more.

“Laws and regulations should be established which would permit the workmen to receive from the factory owner their wages and a share in the fourth or the fifth part of the profits…The body of workmen and the manufacturers should share equitably the profits and advantages…”

Today the average CEO “earns” 360 times as much as his average employee.  According to Abdu’l-Baha’s vision, the ratio of reward for investment vs reward for labor is not as distorted in favor of investment as is today’s market. The power balance between the labor and capital markets today is not tenable in the context of justice. Furthermore, honest labor should come with the guarantee of social security and retirement packages for aging populations. According to Abdu’l-Baha,

“The capital and management come from the owner of the factory, and the work and labor, from the body of the workmen… Either the workmen should receive wages which assure them an adequate support and, when they cease work, becoming feeble or helpless, they should have sufficient benefits from the income of the industry; or the wages should be high enough to satisfy the workmen with the amount they receive so that they may themselves be able to put a little aside for days of want and helplessness.”

The accumulation of excessive wealth is itself a burden and carries with it natural and moral dangers for individuals. Extremes of wealth and poverty engender social unrest between classes. Violence and crime become means of survival for the poor as well as weapons of retribution for their suffering against the rich. Wealth in itself is a transient entity that will not endure beyond its utility in this world. Large sums of wealth carry with them the burden of responsibility and administration for its owner. In the words of Abdu’l-Baha:

“If the fortune is disproportionate, the capitalist succumbs under a formidable burden and gets into the greatest difficulties and troubles…[for] the administration of an excessive fortune is very difficult and exhausts man’s natural strength”

Abdu’l-Baha advises people who control vast means of production that they exercise moderation in the acquisition of profits, instead diverting the majority of their funds to the infrastructure of their company, the needs of employees, or the welfare of society:

“It lies in the capitalists’ being moderate in the acquisition of their profits, and in their having a consideration for the welfare of the poor and needy”

For Abdu’l-Baha, the profits of a corporation do not belong to whoever arbitrarily purchased more of their stock. On the contrary, there is a moral right intrinsic to the workers who created the products to ownership of a fixed and definite proportion of the profits:

“Workmen and artisans receive a fixed and established daily wage—and have a share in the general profits of the factory…” “And it is from the income of the factory itself, to which they have a right, that they will derive a share…”

Moderation in the profits of the owner are linked to the retirement security of the laborers as well as the cost of caring for and rearing the worker’s offspring. The social security net of work covers not only the individuals who work but their family and children until they become old enough to be independently financially responsible:

“It would be well, with regard to the common rights of manufacturers, workmen and artisans, that laws be established, giving moderate profits to manufacturers, and to workmen the necessary means of existence and security for the future. Thus when they become feeble and cease working, get old and helpless, or leave behind children under age, they and their children will not be annihilated by excess of poverty.”

Abdu’l-baha advises congress to legislate on matters of workers rights and the share of profits to be apportioned to owners vs laborers in a just and impartial manner. By this statement He rules out the legitimacy of lobbyists or special interests swaying the partiality of the law-makers. It would be important for them to remain “impartial” in this regard and to legislate laws of profit distribution in accordance with principles of justice.

“But the mutual and reasonable rights of both associated parties will be legally fixed and established according to custom by just and impartial laws.”

If owners oppress laborers by refusing to pay them their share of the profits or treating them poorly or providing abusive working conditions, the judicial branch is responsible for passing a ruling in defense of the laborers, and the president and department of justice would be responsible for penalizing the corporation, procuring the profits due to the unpaid workers and establishing measures for the continuation of a just relationship:

“In case one of the two parties should transgress, the court of justice should condemn the transgressor, and the executive branch should enforce the verdict; thus order will be reestablished…”

Abdu’l-Baha clearly situates the relationship between employers and employees within the public sector, endorsing the validity and importance of state-run workers rights regulations:

“The interference of courts of justice and of the government in difficulties pending between manufacturers and workmen is legal, for the reason that current affairs between workmen and manufacturers cannot be compared with ordinary affairs between private persons, which do not concern the public, and with which the government should not occupy itself.

A coherent conception of society underlies Abdu’l-Baha’s vision of the relationship between the private and state sectors and the role of governance and law in ordering and regulating capital and labor markets:

“If one of these suffers an abuse, the detriment affects the mass. Thus the difficulties between workmen and manufacturers become a cause of general detriment.”

The Baha’i principle of unity is the nexus through which all things are connected. Pain of the part necessitates pain of the whole. Prosperity for the whole implies prosperity for each part. Can any body part maintain the position that only some distant body part is in pain, but that it itself is immune to the feeling? Surely not. The body experiences pain and pleasure as one. Likewise, the body politic experiences prosperity or privation as one. Abdu’l-Baha explains:

“In reality…these difficulties between the two parties produce a detriment to the public; for commerce, industry, agriculture and the general affairs of the country are all intimately linked together.”

pies

Categories
- Governance - Oppression Justice

Colonial Coercion vs. Corporate Consumerism: Replacing the Stick with the Carrot

About a century ago, in the free world, the ruling classes became aware they couldn’t control the population by force any longer, the spirit of the age was shifting and violence only bred further civil disobedience. Too much freedom had been won by struggles for democracy around the world, and it had altered the collective consciousness. Rulers in every nation began to realize and strangely grew self-conscious about it. This alienation of colonial rulers from their own means of coercion is discussed in their literature. The rulers never gave up their identity however, they just reformed their appearance. The dominant class recognized they had to shift their tactics to control of attitudes and beliefs instead of just through force and coercion. Baha’u’llah writes: “Wherefore do ye wear the guise of shepherds, when inwardly ye have become wolves, intent upon My flock?”

The dominant class didn’t completely dismantle the apparatus of coercion, they just replaced a substantial portion of its function with another system – advertising. Their aim was to control attitudes and beliefs. This period saw the birth of the public relations industry, in the United States and England. These nominally free countries are where physical coercion was replaced by a major industry to control beliefs and attitudes, to induce consumerism, passivity, apathy, and entertaining distractions.

Passivity is bred by the forces of society today. A desire to be entertained is nurtured from childhood, with increasing efficiency, cultivating generations willing to be led by whoever proves skilful at appealing to superficial emotions. For example, in educational systems students are treated as though they are receptacles designed to receive information, reinforcing a posture towards life accustomed to being told what to do and what to believe.  Regional training institutes around the world are succeeding however in developing a culture which promotes thought, study, and action among diverse collaborators in way that they consider themselves treading a common path of service. Against the dominant culture, the Ruhi system has developed an empowering culture, which constitutes an accomplishment of enormous proportions. Therein lie the dynamics of an irrepressible movement for change.

television

Categories
- Governance - Oppression Justice

Prophecy And Policy

The economic recession is linked to a recession in democracy. If we continue this way, we will be ruined by class warfare and the wrath of global warming. We must seek a different way of living that is based not on maximizing how much we can buy but on maximizing values important to life. True happiness is a transcendent experience, not inherent in material things. Groundswell in grassroots spirituality holds the solution. Countless small actions of unknown people are the foundation for those great moments that ultimately enter the historical record without mention of the people that created them. Change is made in such ways.

Before the 1970’s there was a sense that the US was a socially progressive society, albeit there were setbacks and economic downturns,  but most people seemed to believe in a spirit of progress, change, and development that was inherent to the narrative of US life. The despair that characterizes society now is like a burn-out after a long and hard period of endurance after hopes have been dashed and dreams gone unfulfilled. Injustice no longer has promise of resolution in, for example, the manufacturing industry that is facing similar levels of unemployment now as it was in the great depression: back then there was an assumption that honest labor was still fundamental to productivity and so there was general confidence that the market would eventually recover. Unfortunately, policies being crafted now in the US and western Europe enable off-shoring of jobs to foreign countries that lack organized labor unions. This incentivizes the abuse of workers and makes it possible for corporate exploitation to continue indefinitely by hopping around the globe, trading investment capital with countries that agree to deregulate workers rights. Only unification of the entire globe as one nation with one government and the formation of multinational labor unions will be able to stop the assault on masses of helpless workers by globalized capital markets. Hence, unity is the chief steward of achieving justice. The term coherence encompasses the concept of prosperity that is born of justice whose surest means is increasing levels of unity.

Further death blows to US hopes came with the financialization of the economy since the 1970’s. Work is worship is a concept that encompasses the belief that true work, or labor, when performed in a spirit of service to one’s fellow humans, constitutes worship of God and possesses sacred value. With the transition away from a productive economy, in which people once manufactured things of worth to others, the rise of the financial sector and the conversion of profits based on labor to profits earned by manipulating financial systems the demise of the US economy was guaranteed, along with the spirit of service that once animated it.

Before the 1970’s banks simply stored a family’s savings and used the extra funds in the meantime to offer loans to other families to send children to college or mortgage a home. Now banks have become hegemons of the entire financial system that own 60% of the GDP, conducting millions of wire transactions per day that produce no fruit for humankind or society, and manipulating sophisticated stock exchanges and financial packages for personal profit. Concentration of wealth entails concentration of political power. Tax reduction, corporate personhood, and business deregulation ensued. Banks borrow billions from government credit at no interest and loan it to taxpayers for substantial interest rates and profits. They corrupt governments, lobby congress, and distort legislation to their own ends, in a vicious cycle that further deregulates their behaviour.

Unimaginably costly campaigns for elections have driven government politicians deep into the pockets of the corporate sector, corrupting the very structure and function of democracy. Wealth inequality has become extreme in the US with wealth concentrating mainly in the top tenth of 1% of the population: owners of corporations and health systems, elite bankers and big-oil. Extreme disparity in incomes, wealth, and lifestyles is not good for the economy, and creates social unrest. A healthy middle class fuels the consumers who drive economic stability by purchasing necessities and goods lacking negative externalities. The production of necessities in turn ensures job security for many. The real picture is that the poor increasingly are unable to meet basic survival needs and the wealthy increasingly waste the society’s resources on personal entertainment and extravagant past-times. Average wages for workers have not even kept up with inflation over the past 40 years, yet US GDP has doubled in that time, and corporate profits are at an all time high – built on the backs of those uncompensated laborers. The gap between public policy and public will has never been larger. As Abdu’l-Baha explained, wherever you find great poverty, look close and you will find extreme wealth. One cannot be eliminated without the other.

Figure: “Death’s Embrace” – Workers found in the rubble of a factory in Bangladesh after it collapsed. Signs of building collapse prior to the tragedy were sensed by many. Bankers were evacuated from the 1st floor of the building. Workers were told that if they left they would not receive wages for the day. Over one thousand workers were killed due to deregulation of the business sector and lack of worker’s rights.
Bangladesh factory deaths embrace

Categories
- Governance - Religion - Three Protagonists Discourse

Double Cure: Eliminate Parties and Campaigning

Partisanship is a bane to effective governance. Identifying with a political party exacerbates a bitter partisan divide that threatens the very fiber of social order and governance. Motivations of civil servants should be only the good of all people and the interests of the common weal. Political parties are artificial fabrications designed to impose a priority on public servants entirely alien to the betterment of the nation and the people.

Campaigning is a bane to institutional integrity and effective governance. Campaigning is not necessary for effective elections. People’s character should be known to the community through their deeds and selfless service. Ballots need only allow voters to write in the name of the desired candidate. A plurality of votes would elect the individual most renowned for her brilliant character, virtuous conduct, mature experience, established service, and achievements on behalf of public welfare. Special interests are able to distort representation by donating to campaign funds. The presence of campaigning requires candidates to raise funds to win elections, which structurally enslaves their will to corporate profits.

It is the combination of partisanship and campaigning which makes political candidates dependent on funding because they need to campaign against proponents from opposing parties.  Without political parties there would be no need to campaign against anyone else, and without campaigning  there would be no funding requirement to drive politicians to seek lobbyist’s endorsement. Partisanship and campaigning are institutional arrangements of  American politics that have distorted its true nature and corrupted it effectiveness.

It is the philosophical position of this forum that steps toward the elimination of political parties as well as the banning of the practice of campaigning would increase the integrity of democracy and the efficacy of governance. We recommend steps toward the structural transformation of national, local, and international politics removing the institutional arrangements of parties and the introduction of legal bans on campaigning. Any person or group operating in a way appearing to constitute overt campaigning will be disqualified from the electoral process. Without need to generate funding for costly campaigns, candidates will be free of lobbyists and donations from special interests. Free from partisan affiliations, government representatives will vote on all issues according only to principles of selfless and academically-informed considerations of public welfare.

holy land

Categories
- Education - Empowerment - Equality of Women and Men

Prioritizing Women: Exigencies of Equality in an Age Transcending Patriarchy

The spiritual planetary civilization that is destined to be born out of the current international, humanitarian, and moral chaos will carry with it a shining jewel of accomplishment – the establishment of absolute equality between female and male sexes. Within a majority of rural and urban societies a pervasive institutional and attitudinal bias against women and girls can at present be perceived – biases, the transformation of which, will remain the goal of united development efforts which seek to give a strategic vision to globalization for some time to come.

That men and women are equal must be asserted explicitly and emphatically in all endeavours at the level of principle in order to prevent the overt, as well as to obviate the more subtle, forms of cultural or implicit masculine superiority. Metaphysically speaking, the religious knowledge that the soul lacks both gender and race proves a most formidable ally in the modern quest for social justice against the forces of ignorance and prejudice that have from the dawn of time plagued the fortunes of women and minorities.

According to values that are rewarded in the modern marketplace – intelligence, work ethic, and creativity – women are man’s rival if not his superior, scientifically speaking. Yet during Nazi Germany, science was used to substantiate social claims to rights and privileges that were erroneously founded. Religion, as the other system of knowledge and praxis to which the cause of social justice might appeal, demonstrates only a meagre history of advancing the station of women in ancient times, but recently has become synonymous with regressive doctrines and oppressive ecclesiastical hierarchies. The original spirit of the Christian or Islamic religions cannot be blamed for this eventuality as much as its corrupt and antiquated clerical order can in its pursuit of power.

The teachings of Jesus were largely silent on advancing the societal role of women, while the laws of Muhammad – defending the right to life of female infants – was certainly progressive in the context of Arabian tribal law. Nevertheless, society has evolved, and Biblical or Quranic conceptions of female gender roles no longer satisfy the soul of the modern social justice movement. However, these religious teachings can regain legitimacy in the context of an understanding of progressive revelation – in which religious truth is understood to be relative and not absolute, progressively revealed over successive advents of Manifestations or Prophets, corresponding to and driving the process of spiritual civilization. After arab muslims acknowledged the right to life of female infants why would it still seem necessary now to wear the hijab in an age when civilization is breaking into the daylight of equal rights and equal social responsibilities? Why would a church like Catholicism – formulated in medieval times – project its chauvinistic original culture onto times that lie well beyond the scope of those cultures and customs?  If Muhammad or Jesus were indeed to return, they would proclaim the equality and empowerment of women beyond Quranic and Biblical terms.

Lip service is the motto of modern politics – and in issues of social justice activists are too familiar with the pandering of campaign rhetoric amounting to nothing more than a stepping stone for a politician’s will to power. To prevent ideals of this kind from degenerating into political pandering or academic exercise, coherence between means and ends is needed, a coherence in which women and men both carry out the work of transformation in human endeavours – scientific, political, economic, and cultural – side by side, in serried lines, with equal rights and equal rewards.

Practically, resource allocation and policies specifically aimed at increasing accessibility and quality of education available to women is one initial paramount step. The UN and global consensus has shown encouraging progress on the primacy of education for the girl child in pursuance to this imperative.

Institutional structure is the most exciting element of reform that will come to characterize transformation towards a spiritual civilization. No institution, western or eastern, rural or urban, modern or indigenous, will stand immune to its exigencies. Equality of women and men does not imply the inclusion of women in all the current, often corrupt, activities of men – but rather the upliftment of both gender roles in novel social institutions.

Nation-state formulations of institutional structure force the individual who occupies them, whether man or woman, to exemplify the hyper-masculine characteristics of aggression, combativeness, and power-mongering. In light of spiritual conceptions of gender equity, human nature can be re-envisioned constituting more compassionate, intuitive, cooperative, and mutualistic modes of existence and institutional arrangement. New global structures will emerge as women take the helm in multiple fields of human endeavour, engendering a departure from war and violence, a re-awakening of the spirit of collaboration and empathy, on a scale hitherto unimagined. Without women in control, the world of man is simply lost.

Malala

Categories
- Governance - Oppression - Prevailing Conceptions - Three Protagonists Discourse Justice

Money, Lies, and Spiritual Solutions

Since the housing market crash of 2008 we have heard it said that the economy is recovering. Who, I wonder are the people who are actually recovering? Let us look into what the facts say. The top 7% of wealthy americans have gained $5.6 trillion during the period of time called the recovery from 2009-2011. The rest of the 93% of the working public have actually had a net loss in assets during this period amounting to a deficit of $669 billion. From 2009 to 2011, the richest 8 million families (7% of the population) have seen a rise in their personal assets increasing from $1.7 million to $2.5 million per family, on average. During this exact same “recovery” period 93% of the population – 111 million families – have seen their income decline by $6,000 per family, on average.

Who is recovering then I repeat? This comes out to a 28% increase in the assets of the wealthy, and 4% reduction in the assets of the poor. The phenomenon can be explained by a straightforward hypothesis: the entire financial product of the recovery is being accrued directly in the personal bank accounts of a wealthy minority. Income can be imagined to be a stream of money; wealth is the pool into which that stream flows. The vast majority of the water that was generated in the so-called “recovery” has flowed directly into the existing largest bodies of water, ie: all the reward gained by the recovery labor and austerity were accrued directly into investors pockets, some of it even being siphoned off from smaller lakes and streams that are already nearly dried up.

It seems we are to believe that the status of world affairs is determined by how the rich alone are feeling, and is reflective only of the state of the satisfaction of the privileged. This skewed metric of success is then reported publicly as if it applied equally to all. Medical science has confirmed that some affluent individuals suffer from Narcissistic personality disorders but how can a whole society be forced to think and feel the happiness of a small subset of people. I’ve never heard of a thief who forces his victim to deny his own feelings and profess great happiness at the wonderful new acquisition of commodities by the thief.

Through arrogance and methodical coaxing, through social conditioning and propaganda  the rich have come to identify the well-being of the state with their own personal well being.  If the rich feel enriched, the news announces, “we” are all richer. If the rich feel poorer, the media chastises american laborers for laziness, and calls for slashing of taxes and dismantling governmental infrastructure and safety nets. The entire world is asked to be selfless to make room for the narcissism of wealthy bankers and investors. Countless human beings in the latin american and african continents deny themselves their own perspectives and legitimacy in favor of believing the pronouncements and self-expressions of the powerful and wealthy elites of american society. The suffering millions go unmentioned and uncared for because media tycoons have decreed that it would suit their interests more if the news popularized the release of their latest technocratic gadget for consumer consumption.

Ideological transformation is necessary. Spiritual values must be heard throughout the world:  “tell the rich of the midnight sighing of the poor.”

The recovery has made a fortune for the rich and applied further downward economic pressure on the middle and working classes. A plan brought this turn of events about. The same plan that told the news media to cover reports of the great figures demonstrating a healthy and vibrant stock market and finance earnings. The discussion of the well-being of the masses of humanity is Taboo in american society. Such taboos themselves are evidence of a culture designed to placate and remove any trace of public discontent with the economic and social status quo. The more that news can spread of the recovery, the more the plight of the impoverished masses is kept out of the limelight, and the more injustice continues unabated and even intensifies in its oppression.

After greedy banks manufactured fraudulent credit schemes and sold them to the american public the stock market that had traded with and insured these corrupt mortgages collapsed. The government simply credited large amounts of money to these same banks that had ruined the world, in  order to prevent the world from suffering a collapse of the global credit system. Bail outs consisted of the US government using taxpayer money to pay the bloated salaries and bonuses of the big bankers who threatened to resign if not bailed out.
The so-called “bailout” designed to benefit victims of the banking fraud unfortunately followed the exact same logic as fraud itself, which was: paying fat cats at the top promotes wealth by a “trickle down” phenomenon. Our own tax dollars and government championed the world view that the rich deserve to get richer even after having made the poor poorer.

The Federal Reserve credited trillions of dollars to Wall Street firms employing a wide variety of transparent and opaque financial maneuvers with little accountability and even less earmarking. The graph below demonstrates the beneficiaries of the bail bouts by amount received. As you can see the lion’s share went to private firms on Wall Street.  Fannie May and Freddie Mac are officially private institutions however they operate the same way as Wall Street banks.

There is a financial-legal pipeline between political positions in washington and high finance. Financial influence on Wall Street readily translates into legislative power in the senate and vice versa. They are like one currency with two forms of expressions: money and power. Most individuals shuttle back and forth between Washington and Wall Street during their careers. It is these folks that write laws and basic policies that govern our nation, legally and economically. They consult for and advise banks and then go legislate policies that enable things like sub-prime loans. Instead of representing citizens they made bankers billionaires and evicted countless american homeowners and cause an economic Armageddon.

These same wall street politicians proposed and carried out the bailout. This is severe and unregulated conflict of interests. Hank Paulson served as chairman of Goldman Sachs before being hired as Secretary of the Treasure under W. Bush  in Washington. Timothy Geithner was head of the regional Federal Reserve Board in New York (side by side with the heads of all major Wall Street Banks) prior to being asked by President Obama to join his cabinet as Secretary of the Treasury. Many congressmen and staffers hold offers for lucrative Wall Street employment in recompense for work they performed while occupying an office on the hill. Together, this marriage of finance and government has enacted a half-century of policies that rob the middle and working class of their rewards on labor in order to enrich the already wealthy. Is there any more blatant idolatry at the false-god of money than this?

Policy after policy enacted protects big banks and emboldens them in their ways. Even at the time for punishment, the bail out solution takes the form of money paid to big banks to incentivize them to put things back together. This doesn’t count as democracy. This is plutocracy.

The partisan system only exacerbates the dilemma. The election procedure that decides between party candidates often boils down to cash donations for campaign funds. Underlying their time in office, in legislating, in campaigns, and getting elected – money is the real common denominator in what is done. And therefore banks reign supreme.

The current stimulus policy being pursued by the Federal Reserve operates under the presumption that wealth trickles down. They have continuously been reducing interest rates on diverse bonds and securities to facilitate and expedite the flow of money as much as possible into stocks holdings. As money pours into stocks, their value on the market increases, and supports a thriving, bullish stock market. Wealthy investors who profit by their stocks going up  are somehow mysteriously thought to reinvest their earnings into the economy in a constructive way that creates jobs, supports education, fosters research, and bolsters infrastructures. According to this theory, upper class elites rarely spend private finances on offshore investments like cheap labor in Foxconn plants in china, or store it in offshore bank accounts where US taxes don’t apply, and rarely squander their money on useless pastimes such as extravagant, unnecessary lifestyles like sailing yachts, sports cars, private jet planes and esoteric entertainment. This is the trickle down wealth effect theory that is basically a hoax devoid of economic data and dogmatized by people who need an excuse to justify the corrupting influence of finances of government.

Why lower interest rates on securities in the first place? Why give low-interest rates to investment banks? How does giving 0% interest to banks help the citizenry? These Banks have consistently been using that money to make risky investments and loan it to the American people for a usury profit. outlandish interest rates on credit cards, escalating mortgage rates, and a plethora of high-interest credit lines for the public to consume is the result. Why doesn’t the government loan us the money itself at a low-interest rate, taking out the middleman?  Big banks are the middlemen who turn a huge profit peddling our own government cash to us at a higher rate than the government loaned it to them. Then they higher politicians after office to reward them for their favorable policies.

Figure 2 demonstrates that encouraging investments in the stock market is basically giving money to the rich. The top 1% of wealthy americans own 35-40% of all stocks. The top 20% of all wealthy americans own almost 60% of all stocks. Therefore, an investment in the stock market is bypassing the majority of the people in the middle and working classes prima facie. It benefits them not.

In the crash of 2008 Wall Street made millions in a process that is the legal equivalent to gambling and as a result the middle class has been in recession ever since. Over the several months that ensued, the fallout of 8 million jobs lost was noted. The clear paper trail leads directly to Wall Street financiers who, acting on greed, concocted sub-prime mortgages after lobbying for dysregulation of the finance sector under Allen Greenspan and W. Bush and repealing Glass-Steagall. Their aim: to sell more mortgages and maximize short-term profits for their shareholders.

No mention of justice or punitive measures for the guilty parties have ever been mentioned. No one who committed white-collar crimes has been imprisoned, nor have their assets accrued unjustly been confiscated. People who suffered job losses in the middle and working classes have never been appropriately compensated. Ironically, the rhetoric of “moochers” and “free-loaders” and “the 47% of the country who don’t take responsibility for their lives” continues. The federal stimulus package merely slowed the pace of the recession. It has not improved middle class average incomes, let alone reversed the direction of the recession. Only the rich are profiting again from stock market investments. We are facing the highest levels of sustained unemployment since the Great Depression with the lowest number of people seeking employment since 1979, 63%.  Figure 3 shows how the long-term unemployed level, as a proportion of total population, is at an unprecedented high.

The mortgage bubble bursting caused wide-scale business failure and massive layoffs.  Because average middle class incomes plummeted there was less principle to be taxed by state and local governments, robbing them of their primary source of revenue. Justice would require fact-based appropriations of Wall Street private bank accounts to be tapped for compensating people with foreclosures, firings, failed businesses, and slashed government programs. In reality what happened is that we simply allowed government programs and employment levels to take the hit.

This however introduced a vicious cycle. Because people didn’t have jobs and lost major portions of their income, governments couldn’t tax incomes if they no longer existed. So, governments had to slash programs for which funds had already been earmarked, necessitating a further round of layoffs. And so on and so forth.

Secondly, rising unemployment drives up labor supply while the demand remains stagnant or even declines. Price is determined by the intersection of supply and demand profiles. The result is a significant decrease in the salaries offered for labor, further driving down workers wages. The corporate savings on decreased workers wages and collapsed government union bargaining conduces to further profits for the wealthy.

Compared with today, the government has never employed such a low percentage of the total populace before. This is unprecedented in american history. How detrimental to the welfare of the masses this predicament will be is not clear, except for what is obvious in the reduction in public sector employment. Police, teachers, EMS, and air-traffic controllers have been cut and their families destitute or sinking into poverty without new jobs to replace the old ones.  Table 1 below demonstrates teachers employment dropped almost 6%, policeman over 8%, emergency responders down almost half of what it was, and air traffic controllers down almost 30%. (Please note: Air traffic controllers affect congressmen directly. Therefore,  it appears a hasty bill has been passed to mitigate the effects of the sequester on that particular sector of employment.)

Occupation

Employment (2009)

Employment (2011)

Change in Employment

Percent Change in Employment

Teachers

3,942,700

3,721,938

-220,762

-5.6%

Policemen

666,579

610,427

-56,125

-8.4%

Fire fighters

233,051

277,158

44,107

18.9%

Emergency responders

69,370

39,170

-30,200

-43.5%

Air-traffic controllers

23,959

17,128

-6,831

-28.5%

The decision to bail out the banks in 2008 was based upon the threat that the global economy was infected with illegitimate credit and would collapse if the banks went out of business. Whether or not this was true, does not imply that the only option for the public is to roll over dead and allow the banks to do as they please. Otherwise they will take tax payer bailout billions, and simply continue their pillaging of public wealth. Nevertheless, that is exactly what happened. Big banks were bailed out, multi-million dollar salaries and bonuses continued to be awarded, gambling on wall street proceeded unabated, in fact with new vigor and boldness. The banks have actually delved deeper into dangerous practices and have grown in size. If they were too big to fail then, there is no description for how big they are now. The LIBOR scandal and other rigging of global interest rates is another outgrowth of this emboldened attitude after the crisis of 2008. Like a child who never receives discipline, bankers are growing in audacity, and are often in collusion with regulatory mechanisms or simply legislate them away.  Practices of gambling with insured deposit money, partnering with loan sharks, money laundering for drug cartels and terrorist organization, and increasing the monthly dues on homeowners forcing them into premature foreclosure have all proceeded unchecked. Figure 5 illustrates just how much since 2008 nothing has changed to break up big banks or to curb the expeditious use of immoral practices.

As an example of the cancerous degree of the growth of big banks, consider their relationship to, and enabling effect on, wealth inequality – which is a well-documented precipitant of social unrest and civil disobedience. The top hedge fund manager in 2012 reports having “earned” in a single hour the equivalent of what a family would make in 21 years, on average in the united states. Now consider the top 10 hedge fund managers “earned” in 1 year the equivalent of what approximately 200k registered nurses working in hospitals in the US would make combined.

The value of a hedge fund to society is similar to the value of a casino. They have an economy of their own that produces and consumes, but it yields no positive effect on society besides enriching the winners and impoverishing masses. Simple gambling is immoral, but at least is currently legal. A hedge fund manager’s expertise is in concocting schemes to bend rules and obscure crimes, to break the law or to buy it. Illegal insider tips hidden without a traced. High-frequency trading without actually caring about the product of the company invested in. Manipulating stocks with rumors or media. Exploiting tax loopholes. Manufacturing and marketing fraudulent financial products or bundles designed to fail so insurance money can be claimed. These are some of the ways that hedge fund managers break the law, make millions swindling hard-working families, and avoid being caught.

In modern times, radicalism doesn’t just increase in Islamic groups, it increases in political partisanship and financiers as well. Rhetoric and doctrines to support particular agendas become popularized through well-funded campaigns and propaganda,  often amongst rural, uneducated, and unsuspecting populations. Fear mongering and prejudice coupled with bigotry and the promised pleasures of materialism sway the minds of the electorate and purchase voting power in the grass-roots. As a war of civilization rages on the international front, a war of financial radicals pitted against the common weal ranges domestically — lobbied by Halliburton, the NRA, and big banks. Their viciousness is matched only by the fanaticism of the extremists who fight with each other overseas to see who will control oil resources. A philosophy that aggrandizes the ego and glorifies violence is used to seduce people, taking them back to fantasies of boyhood compensation sloganized in the works of 1-dimensional thinkers like Ayn Rand.

The erroneous philosophy of seeing competition, struggle, and war in everything. The juvenile outlook that society consists only of individuals and that government has no place in regulating, legislating, and providing infrastructure. These are the ideas of individuals who do not know what they are saying, and in their ignorance have even steeped to hatred of the poor. Rhetoric, such as “moochers”, “f freeloaders, and “the 47% who do not take responsibility for their lives” deserves no place in a society of mature souls, with spiritual insight, and moral integrity.

Individuals must voluntarily ask that their privileges be suspended if it would serve the common weal and ease the travails of their fellow countrymen. But this is not the interpretation given to the Bible anymore. Albeit, these were the sentiments and explicit intentions of Jesus Christ, Whom this Nation of God-fearing people reveres so much. So how could it be that national discourse has overlooked this striking passage from the mouth of Jesus, “go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

Rich and engaging discourse from all sectors on these and other issues of collective importance will raise awareness and educate the masses in the nature of what transpires in the economic and political spheres around them. In self-propelling systems of distance education at the grassroots lies our only hope of an irrepressible movement. Knowledge and spiritual transformation are a light that will illuminate the economic-political axis of darkness, and liberate individuals to love their social institutions fully, reduce the extremes of wealth inequality, and nurture all people without prejudice in a system that rests-assured that the surest path to the protection of any one part is to ensure the prosperity of the whole.

Various economic policy suggestions have been proposed by way of solutions to the dilemmas listed above. In addition to spiritual transformation and grassroots education, practical steps to mitigate short-term damage in the present humanitarian crisis of poverty would do well to consider the following activist opportunities. A Robin Hood Tax on Wall Street financial transactions. This is a matter of justice. Every sale or transaction in the US is subject to sales tax, why is high-stakes multi-national gambling not taxed? It is certainly a sale, and it may even be worthy of a vice tax as well. This is a principled starting point. The tax rate can be increased until the rate of day trading slows down enough to represent a legitimate interest on the part of the investor in the product and mission of any given corporation and sufficient time is allowed for products and initiatives to come to fruition before the stock is deemed worthy of sale or withdrawal. Such a posture is more in keeping with the honest and genuine intentions of an investor seeking to sponsor the business of a corporation. The tax rate on stocks, bonds, and derivatives can be raised until high-frequency trading for example is eliminated. These taxes would be used to offset the damages done to the global infrastructure as a result of scams originating from Wall Street. As a matter of fact, eleven nations have already decided to adopt the Robin Hood tax to govern their own internal stock exchanges. For more information please visit robinhoodtax.org.

Another practical solution is state banks that could compete and replace Wall Street type banks in each of the US’s 50 states. North Dakota  has a State Bank functioning in a transparent, honest, and legitimate service model devoid of corporate shareholdings, illegally maintained profit requirements, and other pressures of financiering. We recommend the erection of 50 public state banks to support local city banks with loans to private citizens to mirror the success seen in the State Bank of North Dakota model. Bankers in these banks, as public servants, receive reasonable, and not extravagant, salaries. It makes sense for the government to give low-interest rate credit to these banks because they pursue the interests of the people, not their own selfish interests. For more information please visit the Public Banking Institute which is led by Ellen Brown and Marc Armstrong. Twenty states are currently exploring this idea with their help. It is morally imperative that conscientious citizens become active in the reform that could improve conditions of economic and social justice in our society. This discourse represents one of many constructive ways to reform Wall Street’s influence on the economy and capitol hill. Justice demands that labor be rewarded with wages, and those wages not be taken by corrupt bankers even if they lobby the law to be written in their favor and can’t be caught. Society needs reform.

“Tell the rich of the midnight sighing of the poor, lest heedlessness lead them into the path of destruction, and deprive them of the Tree of Wealth. To give and to be generous are attributes of Mine; well is it with him that adorneth himself with My virtues.” 
sun trees cold
Categories
- Empowerment - Primary Care - Religion - Science Development Discourse Health Care Justice Knowledge

The Structure of Future Scientific Revolutions

Science is in its infancy. It will evolve, change, and grow until it achieves a more mature form. To date, the human experience suffers from an underdeveloped understanding of the nature and scope of the scientific enterprise. Those who suffer from this misunderstanding are scientists themselves most of all. Popular culture imagines science to operate at a superficial level of significance, with technocratic objectives, outlandish methods, and esoteric membership rolls. Scientists strive for this image sometimes, and so perpetuate an unwelcoming stereotype, despite the fact that they are privileged to be engaged in a noble enterprise that is the heritage of the entire human race. Above all, one would anticipate that scientists would know its worth and potential and lead the way in democratizing the generation, application, and diffusion of knowledge to encompass all people.

By restricting membership in a scientific community to an elite circle of like-minded personalities, who share a particular culture, upbringing, and socio-economic status the scope of what questions emerge to scientific investigation is narrowly restricted. This hierarchical structure is maintained by the use of elaborate accreditation systems (such as MD, PhD, and the like) and exclusive membership policies in professional societies. The structure is reinforced by a disciplined academic hierarchy, not unlike those of a church order or ecclesiastic organization, like the Vatican or Caliphate. Though their subject matter differs, their use of dogma and ritual to perpetuate it, does not. As a result only a tiny minority pose the problems to be researched for the benefit of humanity. These questions arise from the interests of a miniature subset of the collective brain power available to humankind, and in the process skew the representation of humanity’s fundamental interests.

The foregoing analysis explains the structural impediments preventing the scientific enterprise from attaining its full stature as the driving force and bulwark of human welfare. This will change in the future. Statistical power is born of the sample size of the population being studied. By restricting research subjects to the interests, purview, and aspirations of an elite, the questions really needing answers, the life-and-death circumstance facing humanity have been relegated out of the research agenda. Research topics of infectious disease, sanitation and fresh water, agriculture and irrigation, public health policy, and vaccinations are some of the most important issues in medical science today, affecting millions.

Statistical power in defining specific problems facing the largest number of humans in the most severe way should be the ideal. Therein should science find its priorities defined. Instead decision-making power lies in the hands of individuals at the top of grant-lending and fund allocating agencies, or in the personal vantage point of chief editors of peer-reviewed journals. The number of people polled in the decision as to what questions deserve investigation in this way never exceeds a handful of individuals, and these are often in competition with each other or finally coerced by market or governmental forces that displace their decision-making even further from what matters, the well-being of the majority. This structural arrangement is inadequate to address complex and wide-sweeping needs.

Whether this scientific structure has arisen due to unregulated expedients accumulating inadvertently over time to define who sits at the decision-table or if it is the direct result of corrupt forces on regulatory mechanisms like the cultural analogue of corporate money on politics, the fact of the matter is that scientific goals are driven in large part by popular consumer values for technologically enhanced entertainment and consumer-satisfying commodities like iPad’s and video games. No doubt these are useful to a subset of individuals who seek to have their work efficiency enhanced or their children pre-occupied and off the streets. But what cannot be denied is the selfishness of this position, and the motivations that lie at the bottom of this type of science. What is needed is conscious effort to engage in discourse regarding issues of scientific reform and encourage ongoing dialogue on the nature and structure of the premises underlying the agenda of science and its priorities.

Science cannot reform its own structure from within, because it responds to market pressures and consumer demand. Economics has run rampant determining western middle classes destiny politically, economically, and scientifically. An external influence is necessary to prescribe in part to science its core values and give it direction. Science is the machine, it must be given a directive. In the absence of clear public interest, obscure private interests co-opt the machine and employ it to selfish ends. While allowing science to recommend its own opinions of what remains possible and tactically feasible, an understanding that values must be prescribed from an external source, and cannot be left to emerge naturally from within the field itself is necessary. Dysregulation always implies corporate co-optation as a rule — as evidenced by politics, finance, globalization, and now science. The parasite is familiar, the host is diverse.

In the process of structural revolution, the democratization of science will require us to insulate funding agencies and influential scientists from financial forces in the industry, academic pressures from the university, or market pressures as healthcare becomes increasingly monetized. The democratization of science will mean that it is determined by universal participation in a survey of human needs. The generation of knowledge regarding research priorities bubbles up in response to the appropriate system of training grassroots initiatives to engage laborers of all kinds. Systems for grass-roots training will allow the masses to build consensus on the most pressing demands of their respective industries, synthesize response in the form of experimental interventions, and coordinate solutions in segments before extrapolating to global practice. Only in this way will the enterprise of science become informed by the diverse needs of the real humankind.

A process of increasing democratization in which fewer and fewer individuals call the shots for what is on the list of priorities and an ever-increasing number of unskilled laborers engage in dialogue that allows the organic assimilation of the experience of millions into an objective representation of what concerns humankind. These should then come to dominate public discourse, resource earmarking, priority setting in scientific agendas, and the daily concern of scientists. This is the transformation that so crucially beckons science into the 21st century.

In an age when social constructs are being torn down all around us, religious dogmas uprooted, social conventions systematically dismantled, gender roles questioned and experimented with, rules of personal conduct and language utterly recreated, and the very tempo of life on the internet re-envisioned — is it possible to constrain what constitutes the most powerful force for progressive civilization behind a veil of anachronistic and outmoded stereotypes of self-righteous elderly males donning lab coats and scheming over a slew of chemistry beakers and petri dishes, erlenmeyer flasks and bunsen burners? Is this image even tenable in any age of internet traffic and lightning media, of the democratization of skills, of the open-sourcing of software, and the free-flow of knowledge ? Why have we allowed stereotypes to restrict the prospects obvious to a dreaming and visionary world that can see the potential application of science to the betterment of the whole of humankind with participants numbering in the millions from every walk of life and every cultural persuasion? Such a prospect ought to invoke in the mind of an objective observer the promise of human longevity wrought by universal participation in the task of researching and discovering solutions to global impasse’s, with completely open source modes of disseminating research conducted and methods employed.

Ownership assumed across a representative spectrum of the human species would allow the generation of sufficient data to converge on statistically adamantine findings — discoveries the like of which humanity could never before have found, and which humanity could never before have felt so confident would benefit all equally. We all await the rise of science, the last great democracy.

child getting water

Categories
- Empowerment - Religion - Three Protagonists Discourse

Summary Ridvan 2013 Message: Growth and Discourse, A Dynamic Coherence

Paragraphs:

1- “The Book of God is wide open, and His Word is summoning mankind unto Him. Incline your ears, O friends of God, to the voice of Him Whom the world hath wronged, and hold fast unto whatsoever will exalt His Cause. With the utmost friendliness and in a spirit of perfect fellowship take ye counsel together, and dedicate the precious days of your lives to the betterment of the world and the promotion of the Cause of Him Who is the Ancient and Sovereign Lord of all.”

2- These Words come to mind unbidden at sight of consecrated global efforts. Power of Word of God is ascendant in hearts.

3- Training institute is mainstay. Some relocate to receptive village or neighborhood. 3 Month rhythmic pulses; 3 distinct stages of education process.

4- Dynamic cluster process not readily simplified. New features require special attention. Expansion phase goal can vary.

5- Different speeds. Welcome all contributions. Reflection on entirety and specific endeavours. Progress achieved with love.

6- Neighborhoods of intense activity have preceded cluster IPG’s. Community building transforms spirit and culture of a place.

7- Training institute impels Social Action. Common conceptual framework governs spheres of endeavour. OSED evolving.

8- Faith identified with possessing welfare of humanity at heart, in conception, and means.  Even in the Cradle of the Faith.

9- Recent wave of Iran’s persecution endowed network of agencies. Grassroots discourse arises naturally. National level discourse proceeds with action, reflection, consultation, study. Office of Public Discourse established at BWC to: facilitate learning, ensure coherence, coordinate activity, and systematize experience.

10- Chilean Temple apace. Expectation surrounding 7 new Mashriqu’l-Adhkárs. Fundamentally spiritual endeavour. Union of worship and service.

11- Fervor by convocation of 95 youth conferences. Younger followers stimulate entire Cause.

12- Day of supreme felicity, Ridvan 1.5 centuries ago, Najíbíyyih Garden. Word of God gone forth and God-intoxicated lovers have blossomed a community of purpose.

 

Nancy Wong Photography, LLC

Categories
- Language - Religion - Science Justice

The Circulatory System and the Beauty of Language

People have been inquiring as to the connection between the concepts of the circulatory system and the beauty of language. The human cardiovascular system is the symbol for justice in the world of nature. The means of distribution and circulation in it are perfect and provide us with a metaphor for understanding how human society should be structured. Society should mirror the institutional organization of the heart, arteries, arterioles, perforating arteries, capillary beds, venules, veins, and vena cavas. Local metabolite build up triggers vasodilation and increased flow. Similarly, hard work should merit more resources and nutrients. Vital organs have auto-regulatory mechanisms that maintain blood flow within a narrow window. Incorporated in society should also be equivalents for these sophisticated systems of chemical communication employed by the circulatory system in its responsibilities to arrange and order blood flow to and from various tissues and organs,  assess anatomic needs, differentiate distributions of flow based on organ function and physiologic state, and govern overall oxygen and glucose consumption to eliminate extremes of excess and privation. Privation would result in tissue necrosis and infection, while excess would produce disease states like diabetes and vascular disease. In the body, no tissue starves while another feasts on nutrients. The body manages to balance supply and demand to achieve organismic prosperity. A concept equally applicable to human society.

The human cardiovascular system distributes glucose and oxygen in a way that maintains balance in the whole organism to optimize its function and performance in life goals such as work and business and caring for family (some of which may require brain power consuming glucose or manual labor requiring oxygen in the muscles). The ideal regulation in human society likewise achieves coherence between the diverse populations within society, balances labor and the finance markets, and eliminates the extremes of wealth and poverty. When human masses have a just distribution of access to opportunities of education and employment the whole society prospers. Justice predisposes to society-wide prosperity.

The relationship between the metaphor of the circulatory system and the beauty of language is through the drive to search for meaning in the universe, which is intrinsic to human nature.  Language is the medium by which our minds probe and understand reality. Languages are of different kinds such as the language of science or the language of poetry, yet they all expresses a measure of meaning. Religious Writings maximize the richness of meaning, sometimes enduing each word with up to 71 different meanings. Religious Writings in this way may by mystical and lack simplicity or clarity. Scientific writing on the other hand aims to maximize clarity, but in so doing narrows the meaning of words and sentences. Science often defines ‘technical’ terms which convey only one, very precise meaning. Though scientific studies are not rich, the added influence of permutative inquiries progressively contributes to knowledge over time. Conversely, religious texts are progressively applied, and in iterations of  interpretations and refinements of application their rich meaning becomes manifest and gains clarity. A single scriptural phrase can be used to apply to diverse fields as it unfolds its enormous storehouse of meaning to improve human life. The clarity of science, and the richness of religious scripture drive the two major unfolding knowledge systems that shape human progress and the path to prosperity.

The misunderstanding that science and religion deal with mutually exclusive subject matters is fading. Science and religion are two systems of knowledge and praxis with regard to our reality, which is one. Science to date has dealt largely with phenomena that drive technological progress. While religion has been stereotyped as concerning itself solely with matters of the soul and a beyond. A new Revelation offers a vision of religion that deals directly with social, political, economic, medical, agricultural, and legal matters. We should seek to apply what is Written to reality.

In this day and age science and religion must collaborate to come to bear on matters of global import to improve human life. Themes such as governance and the laws of the land, social theory and the modeling of social institutions, economics and the writing of tax codes and national budgets, legality and the disarming of civilian life, finance and the attenuation of wealth inequality, are examples. Religion can inform national priorities for example that wisely reduce military budgeting while scientific research on the other hand can supply the evidence and rational footing that demonstrate the correlation between the prevalence of firearms and the rate of violent crimes in society. As one illustrative example, this gives us a glimpse of what the collaboration between science and religion makes possible.

Language is the structure of thought. And thought is the reality of man. Therefore the reality of man is mirrored in the beauty of language. Our deepest thoughts seek to express the heart of the universe. When a soul-refreshing truth is found it seeks to find expression through our tongues. Contentment results from perceiving a beauty that motivated the creation of existence itself. That beauty is a fire burning in the heart of Sinai, and that soft glow that binds you to it is Justice. Justice is the best beloved of all things that emanate from that burning fire. Justice is a gift to humankind from the depths of that fire’s furness called Revelation. Justice travels from the realm above to our own as a treasure. We as human beings are each in possession of our own sense of justice and strive to apply and unfold the reality of this light the world over. Like a blanket, as we labor the light of justice slowly encompasses the globe.

Justice gives to all according to their need, and employs all according to their talent for the benefit of all. It rewards all in proportion to their labors, and in its unerring wisdom, it regulates the flow and distribution of resources. Justice demands universal participation and ensures universal prosperity. Like an organism, it is the justice of the circulatory system that our spirit recognizes in the beauty of language that has been gifted to us from Revelation. The metaphor of the human circulatory system is the symbol which our soul describes when it sees this gift from on-high.

“The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor. Ponder this in thy heart; how it behooveth thee to be. Verily justice is My gift to thee and the sign of My loving-kindness. Set it then before thine eyes.”

Universal House of Justice Pillars Alight

Categories
- Education - Religion Discourse Knowledge

Discourse: Session at Bosch

Please join us ​June 14-16th for a weekend of study of the Messages from the Baha’i World Center.

Red Woods

This session is a space to build capacity to participate in the prevalent discourses of society. The Universal House of Justice has asked the friends to consider the work of our communities in terms of three interacting and coherent areas of activity: expansion & consolidation, social action, and participation in discourse.  In this session, we will study foundational documents from the Baha’i World Centre on the field of discourse, as well as reflect on its application at the level of the cluster.

cabins

Some main topics will include: Development; Governance; Human Rights; Equality of Women and Men; and the Environment. From the town hall to the cafe lounge, from civic societies to casual conversations, participation in discourse can bring the teachings of Baha’u’llah to bear on everyday social issues.

Please click here for more information or to register directly on Bosch’s website.

Categories
- Empowerment - Governance - Science

Weapons – A Statistical Update

It was said:  “It hath been forbidden you to carry arms unless essential” “beyond that which is necessary to insure the internal security of … countries.” Good “people need no weapons of destruction, inasmuch as they have girded themselves to reconstruct the world. Their hosts are the hosts of goodly deeds, and their arms the arms of upright conduct, and their commander the fear of God…Such hath been the patience…the resignation…of this people…that they have suffered themselves to be killed rather than kill.”

The frequency of Gun Rampages (Mass Murders) has gone up each year for the past 10 years, demonstrated by recent research (Figure 1.)

Gun Rampages

There were a record number of mass shootings in 2012. The spike in Gun Rampages coincides with the period 2009-2012 when approx. 100 state laws were passed into legislation making it easier to legally purchase, carry, and conceal firearms. Some examples of these new laws include:

  1. In Missouri, citizens can carry a gun while intoxicated and fire it while intoxicated assuming the motive is “self-defense”
  2. In Kansas, gun permit holders are permitted to carry concealed weapons inside K-12 schools
  3. In Utah, an individual under felony indictment is permitted to purchase a gun, and a person charged with a violent crime may retain a concealed weapon permit
  4. In Nebraska, an individual who has pled guilty to a violent crime in the past is allowed to purchase a firearm permit
  5. In Louisiana, permit holders are permitted carry concealed weapons inside houses of worship
  6. In Virginia repealed the law that requires handgun vendors to submit sales records and mandated the disposal of all such previous records on file

(Source: Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence)

The deadliness of  each instance of Gun Rampages is increasing as well, in part due to the superior quality fire-power (military grade assault rifles and high-capacity magazines) being used (Figure 2.)

gun rampage annual deaths

The Texas University study calculated statistics that show the majority of Gun Rampages were carried out by men stocking multiple weapons with over 50% of them preferring assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

There were three instances of men who intervened against a shooter out of 83 total Gun Rampages (between 2000-2010). All three men were trained professionals. Two were police officers who were off duty, and 1 was a US Marine. No Gun Rampage was halted by a lay person carrying a privately purchased firearm. Out of 83 total Gun Rampages from 2000 to 2010, the prevalence of personal firearms (300 million in the US) has not contributed to preventing One Gun Rampage incident.

The question now is whether social policy will be shaped by rationality, data, and evidence-based reason, or will manufacturer’s profit margins, a culture of violence and egotism, and political corruption shape the future.

***

“Every means that produces war must be checked and the causes that prevent the occurrence of war be advanced — so that physical conflict may become an impossibility…”

Categories
- Empowerment - Governance Discourse Health Care Justice

Trickle Down Fail

The sequester decreased federal investments in national infrastructure resulting in lay-offs and more unemployment. Only 88k jobs were created in march — the least jobs created per month in the past 9 months. The Labor Dept report showed that the U.S. Postal Service, for example, lost 12k positions. The pace of job growth this year is slower than its pace last year. Effects of the sequester are expected to continue mounting well into spring. The economic recovery was gaining momentum before the arbitrary and unnecessary cuts to government services took place. Congress legislated the sequester as a means of motivating itself to compromise on partisan national budget differences. It failed to compromise. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated the sequester will cost the economy 750,000 jobs, ultimately.Although thousands were laid of off, unemployment has not increased, offset by the exodus of personnel from the workforce. Unemployment is paradoxically down to 7.9%, because the number of people in the workforce has declined. Nearly half a million people have stopped searching for jobs recently. If you’re not looking for work, you can’t be counted as unemployed. The low unemployment figure belies the weakness of the labor market. The labor market’s weakness is evident in the small percentage of Americans currently active in the labor force. The percentage of working-age Americans with a job or looking for one has dropped to 63.3 %, the lowest it has been since 1979.Most of the 88k jobs created in March were from the construction and health care sectors. The construction sector, which is usually propelled by housing market growth, only generated 18k jobs in March. This is half the number reported in the previous month. Health care created less jobs than last month as well, at only 23k. Typically 36k retail jobs were created per month for the past 6 months. However, even the retail sector lost jobs in March for the first time in 6 months.

Trickle down economics is failing — statistically speaking. Evidence shows that cutting government spending and reducing taxes on the wealthy did not create jobs for the middle class. Statistics from March in the wake of the sequester show that companies won’t hire if consumers aren’t buying enough goods to justify the new hires. And consumers don’t have enough money to buy when they are unemployed. A growing economy depends upon an employed middle class. Employment leads to consumption which drives the need for job creation. Not vice versa.

The hike in the payroll tax (January), the government budget cuts due to the sequester (February), and gas price increases to maximize Big Oil profits (March), are all robbing the middle class of its income. People therefore, are not able to consume. Explicit evidence for this can be seen in that Retail Department Stores have cut their staff by 24k jobs this March.

The booming stock market should not be touted as evidence that the entire economy is recovering. A small segment of society is affected by the stock market. The top 1% of wealthy Americans own 35% of all stock shares. The wealthiest 10% of Americans own 90% of all stock shares. So the rest of the 90%, own less than 10% of stock shares. There is no generalizability in looking to the market as a gauge of middle class economic growth and stability. Even this is evidence trickle down economics is a cultural hoax, which has been foisted on the American people to abet the swindling of wealth by the elite from the national labor market.

Furthermore, the recent recovery in the housing market is not due to employed families mortgaging new homes. The recovery is from wealthy investors buying up real estate and renting it out to middle class families who can no longer request mortgages from banks. Again, middle class wealth and consumer confidence are undercut, and as demand shrinks so goes production and supply. The effect is bottom up.

The American recession mirrors the structural reform in Europe, known as austerity measures, which has exacerbated wealth inequality there. The middle class is asked to live more austerely, while wealth is concentrated increasingly in the hands of a shrinking few. Fewer people are working and generating wealth, thus there is a smaller pie to go around. The wealthy abide this situation, nay even enable it via lobbying congress to legislate trickle down economic tax codes, because their market share of the wealth increases. As long as the market share of the wealthy increases faster than the rate at which the pie is shrinking, they will not be moved to lobby against this state of affairs. Austerity economics is squeezing the average American and European.

A labor-based economy, that rewards work and empowers the central government to tax and create middle class jobs is the best hope for a sustained economic recovery. Economies, like organic bodies, grow bottom up.

Rain Dance

Categories
- Empowerment - Language - Religion Discourse Knowledge

Releasing the Powers of Junior Youth

National and Regional Training Institutes throughout the world offer a course called Ruhi Book 5, “Releasing the Powers of Junior Youth,” designed for the training of “Animators” who mentor youth between the ages of 11 and 14 years. Ruhi Book 5 builds the capacity of Animators to develop in junior youth the mental structures to weigh the world’s problems in the balance of advanced moral reasoning. It equips them with noble moral principles, together with the linguistic, mathematical, scientific, and social skills requisite for translating them in practice into their community, society, and institutions.

The resulting moral framework developed in the formative years equips junior youth to deconstruct, understand, analyze, and make constructive choices in life’s important decisions. Areas of transformation include: career choices, motivations for profession, reading comprehension and vocabulary,  habits of effective study, mental acuity and mathematical precision, economic theory informed by social justice, engagement in environmental causes and civic service, nutrition and health care practices, dangers of substance addiction, and the potential of positive power through peer groups.

The junior youth program has 4 components: 1) study, 2) service, 3) sports, and 4) arts. The study curriculum has 4 strands: 1) language and expression, 2) living in society, 3) math and science, and 4) spiritual education. Each strand currently contains 2-4 sequential workbooks of increasing difficulty levels. The text of the Animator training course, Ruhi Book 5, contains within it a delicate balance of  theory and practice, as all good training does, imparting knowledge culled from years of systematic experience that focuses the animator-youth relationship on challenging discussions stimulating  novel thoughts in response to theoretical problems in a socially responsible context.

One of the major advantages of the Ruhi system of distance education is its concomitant development of knowledge in tandem with practice, as research study after study have shown that implementing a trade or craft in practice is far more efficacious for the development of skills, knowledge, and overall mastery than mere abstract memorization, for both vocational and professional employment. Training, largely absent from secular institutions of higher learning, generally relies upon official certification and licensing as a prerequisite to engagement in the profession of choice. Efficiency, however, would recommend that knowledge be developed in tandem with practice, and certification be democratized to include an expanding base of population to be available to the labor market and of service to humanity.

Amid the practical study and concomitant Animating of junior youth, a challenging series of economic questions in the context of social justice dilemmas encourages the youth to develop solutions to modernity’s most complex political and economic issues, at the level of policy discourse and their own personal moral choices.

A valuable insight into how this complex style of posing questions elevates the math/science and language curriculum into an advanced discourse on social, political, and economic quandaries can be found in the following article. The author dissects the intersection between the Ruhi Book 5 training course and the culture of consumerism and egoism (together with its historical and economic roots), and the ways challenges are overcome in the field by nurturing the minds and creativity of the next generation to heal the corrupt and disordered world of the 21st century.

http://reflections-on-transformation.blogspot.com/2013/04/selfless-service.html?spref=fb

Junior Youth Group Outdoors

Categories
- Governance - Oppression - Prevailing Conceptions - Three Protagonists Discourse Justice

New World Order

Corrupt incentives drive people’s contribution to the public discourse. Politicians, businessmen, financiers, are all guilty. The discourse no longer represents an honest viewpoint of reality, the dominant slogans on TV and radio are a designed smoke-screen to hide the real structure, decision-making, and motives at play in the world of economic policy, legislation, and campaigning. The derangement in  economics, political deceit, and social manipulation is reaching unrecognizable proportions. Popular culture is responsible for making itself gullible to such influence. Our society nurtures a desire to be entertained from childhood, cultivating generations eager to be led by priests, politicians, advertising, pop idols, and whoever proves skillful at appealing to superficial emotions. Hence the increasing efficiency with which political marriages to the finance sector manipulate mass perceptions in the electorate during campaign season and drive up consumer demand with commercial advertising. The world’s social, economic, and political Order is in an irreparable downward spiral. Nothing can salvage it except a broad reconceptualization of our fundamental conceptions of society, self, government, global interdependence, the rule of Justice and Law, the reviving of the spirit of brotherhood in Religion, wide-scale increase in education and the free-flow of knowledge, robust discourse amongst the masses, self-sacrifice for unity, and a sense of  obedience to One Universal Cause.

Framing the problem and a plea to begin rethinking society’s fundamentals begins here with Professor David Harvey:

NWO
Categories
- Governance - Oppression Development Justice Knowledge

Marx: From Beyond the Grave

The global economy is now in a downward spiral, unemployment is at record highs in country after country, national debt is paralyzing governments, incomes have stagnated for a majority of workers — suddenly the question emerges from Marx’s grave: has capitalism been transformed into feudalism? Is our unregulated approach to capitalism tantamount to enslaving masses in serfdom under feudal lords who own the land/economy in which we work? Is capitalism without regulation inherently unjust and self-destructive? Marx theorized that the capitalist system would inevitably impoverish the masses as the world’s wealth became concentrated in the hands of a greedy few, causing economic extremes and social conflict between the rich and working classes. “Accumulation of wealth at one pole is at the same time accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degradation, at the opposite pole” ~Karl Marx.

Karl Marx died and was buried, seemingly along with his philosophy. The collapse of the Soviet Union and China’s prosperity since its emergence to a capitalist economy, sealed the fate of Marx’s philosophy as communism faded into the backdrop of history. The only communists heard of any longer were arch-villains in old James Bond movies, or on the news in the bloated rhetoric of child-emperors like Kim Jong Un. The class conflict that Marx envisioned seemed to have faded and given way to new frontiers of prosperity and unregulated upward advance in laissez fair markets and entrepreneurial globalization. Nothing was to be heard of regulations or the needs of the community as a priority above the sovereign rights of the investor-individual. Communication, international banking, expedited sea and air travel, and merging multi-national economies linked far off and remote corners of the earth with centers of purchasing power and consumption. The bonds produced were ones of lucrative potential and supposed mutual profit. Masses of slave labor forces in China and Indonesia were linked with desperate iPhone’s buyers in the USA through deregulated multi-national transport and finance routes resulting in the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs. Borderless economies were the result of dropping international import/export taxes. Farm workers in China were offered more money than they had ever seen before, despite the decimation of their local economies, family structures, health and sanitation conditions, and for far less than US minimum wage. For Silicon Valley tech giants the exploitation proved to be a remarkable benefit to their share holders. Less than 1% of Americans own over 50% of all stocks and bonds currently. Therefore, the mega rich effectively empowered their corporations to exploit the labor forces of distant economies for the century’s greatest instance of profiteering. The GDP, CEO salaries, stock values, corporate profits, and owner’s incomes all reflected this astronomical concentration of human wealth into the hands of the greedy few. This new oligarchy has become the modern version of Feudal lords. They own the land. We just work on it. All the rest who work for productivity-based wages are the masses of serfdom who toil in their service.

In the past, feudal lords maintained their dominance by force. Nowadays, the oligarchy keeps the situation alive with myths of social mobility and propaganda that convince people they can get rich as long as they work hard. Try as they might, however, people are beginning to realize that they work for a system that gives them no meaningful share of the profits they create. They will always be employed by the system, never owners of their own system. Moreover, their wages were shrinking given the rise in inflation, with no compensation in income or minimum wage. Additionally, an increased intensity of work demand was not earning anything more than the toil they endured day in and day out. Finally it dawned on them that social mobility was a myth designed to pacify the modern version of serfdom.

The owners of the system were an oligarchy that owned the rights and deeds to all land and profits and performed no work in the system themselves. The system ran on the backs and sweat of the slave labor class. Nothing seemed capable of hindering the political and economic machinery by which the super-rich concentrated all the world’s wealth into their hands, and relegated the burden of production and society-building to the poor and working classes. Capitalism now seems to be fulfilling Karl Marx’s long out-dated warning — that inherent to the system of personal self-interest and social non-responsibility there would arise a super-class of corporate tycoons, who purchasing the legislative powers of the state would employ the apparatus of government to their own greedy ends. The result: squeezing the masses of their labor and rewards and expanding extremes of wealth and poverty.

Wealth inequality would cause wide-scale poverty and privation of the necessities of life. The suffering would increase until a large enough majority were severely discontent. When social unrest can no longer be contained, a tide of populist uprisings would sweep the economic and political landscape stripping the wealthy of their lands and lives. As the feudal lords scramble to flee with what hoards of treasure they can steal with them, they take up foreign abodes and island resorts in exile.  The blood of the bourgeoisie fills the streets and guillotines follow swiftly upon kangaroo courts for the opulent princes and nobility that remain behind. The popular uprising supplants the political status quo with a government that rules by the people, of the people, and for the people.

Marx’s theories must echo loudly in our times faced with the reality of oligarchs that influence US politics, corporations that lobby legislation, and workers that are increasingly dissatisfied with their wages. Social change and willing progress towards economic justice is the only hope to a peaceful resolution of the dilemma. Justice demands conscientious insight into the needs of the community, and the rights of the public ought to be safeguarded against the excesses of individual greed. Otherwise, Marx’s philosophy is dangerously close to becoming a reality. Proactive, conscientious, and moral legislation will be needed to correct the excesses of this irresponsibly deregulated economy.

There is a growing body of evidence to suggest the rich are getting richer while the middle class and poor are getting poorer. A September 2011 study from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) in Washington noted that the median annual earnings of a full-time, male worker in the U.S. in 2011 was $48,202 which is less than it was in 1973 given the rate of inflation. Between 1983 and 2010, 74% of the gains in wealth in the U.S. flowed directly into the bank accounts of the richest 5% of Americans, while the bottom 60% suffered a decline in take-home pay.

Marx’s critique of unregulated capitalism appears to be coming true. It is easy to criticize. Marx’s solution seems not to have fared so well. Communist governments have failed miserably in historical examples from the collapse of the USSR to the mass poverty of China in the late 20th century. The conclusion may be obvious: Marx’s criticisms of capitalism were valuable, but his solution, communism, is not (private property is needed for incentivizing labor). As with many 19th century anti-establishment critiques, Marx’s criticisms were insightful, factual, and valuable. However, as with almost all of the 19th century post-modern critics, he had more effective criticisms than he had solutions. We can say that now, with the testimony of China and Russia in hindsight. Marxism, Communism, Socialism remain an informative category through which to deconstruct the inefficiencies of our current economic establishment, but not reliable methods for enacting responsible and positive change for the future. Marxian class theory remains an invaluable lens through which to view the struggles of laborers world-wide, as well as a wonderful insight into the dangers of unbridled capitalism which allows the extremes of wealth and poverty to invoke social unrest. Revolution by the hands of an enraged proletariat is no trifling matter, and deserves to be preempted in the stage of social unrest in which rests now, before the suffering of the masses draws out frank violence and revolution. “There is only one way to shorten and ease the convulsions of the old society and the bloody birth pangs of the new – revolutionary terror”, wrote Marx.

Workers of the world are growing discontent and belligerent, demanding their share of the increases accrued to the global economy. From the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives to the streets of Athens to the assembly lines of southern China, political and economic events are escalating tensions between sectors of capital and of labor to a degree hitherto unseen since the communist revolutions that rocked the 20th century. How this struggle plays out will influence the direction of global economic policy, the future of the welfare state, political stability in China, and who governs regions from Washington to Rome.

Tensions between economic classes are on the rise. Slogans encapsulate entire movements, such as “99%” (the masses or majority working class people) juxtaposed against the top “1%” (the wealthy, elite owners of corporations and big oil, who are connected politically). A Pew Research Center poll released last year showed that 2/3 of US inhabitants said they believed the country suffered from a “strong” or “very strong” conflict between rich people and poor people. In 2011 this was ranked as the most significant division characterizing US society, giving it a 19% increase in popular conception since the same study in 2009.

The modern US political discourse is being ambushed with a preoccupation with the concept “debt” which represents the cumulative excess expenditure accrued over all previous years through the addition of each year’s fiscal budget “deficit.” Deficit is another term of central importance to the debate. The deficit is the difference between the revenue and the expenditures of the US government annually, and each annual deficit funnels into the cumulative national debt. Revenue is the product of 1) taxation, and the total GDP of the economy that year, because more product means more incomes, which provides a larger sized principal to be taxed. Expenditure is the sum of costs such as wars, military spending, infrastructure, health care, medicare/Medicaid, research and investment, roads and construction, congressional operating budgets, etc.

The issue of debt has dominated the discourse as a result of proponents who wish to bias the categories of discussion towards downsizing and weakening the government, its domestic offices and their functions of regulating business  and representing the interests of the public. The reality is that the issue of “Debt” is not even among the top 3 most important issues facing modern US economics today.  Unemployment is #1. Two wars, a deregulated sub-prime mortgage bubble, and an unemployment rate close to 7.7% (Bureau of Labor statistic) is the root cause of deficits, debts, poverty, social unrest, and class distrust. More people working implies less unemployment entitlements doled out and more working individuals available to be taxed by the IRS. Reducing unemployment to 5-6% for example is the single most important way to improve people’s social status, personal well-being, healthcare, happiness and it will solve the budget, debt, and deficit problems. A working person has money to spend on stimulating the economy, receives health insurance from her employers, and has income that can be taxed by the federal government. Reducing unemployment should be the #1 economic policy interest of the US government and electorates who vote for congressional office. Improving the quality of employment, wages, insurance benefits, and investing in research and education that will train the next generation of skilled laborers and scientists is the surest way for preparing for sustainable economic prosperity in the long run.

Discourse on this topic has been largely politicized along partisan talking points that obscure the true intent of the speaker behind vague platitudinous of American patriotism which prevent an honest exchange that can actually lead to consensus in public opinion. Obscurantism serves the interests of those who benefit from popular disunity. To eliminate the extremes of wealth and poverty, Marx explains, the state will have to tax wealth that is sitting idle and not being re-invested in the infrastructure of the economy. Funding for universities, research, roads, services, and healthcare lay the societal foundations for future prosperity. Wealth that sits idle in personal bank accounts or is used for extravagant personal entertainment does not trickle down to training skilled labor forces or improving healthcare cost-effectiveness. Finally, wealth that is being shuffled around thousands of times per second in un-taxed high-finance stock exchanges especially in the case of derivatives, short-sales, and futures is not only not contributing to the common weal, it is diverting resources away from productive sectors of the economy, and instilling dangerous volatility into the overall health and stability of the global economy, viz. the 2008 sub-prime mortgage crisis for which the middle class is still fitting the bill.  Stock exchange purchases and sales should be taxed just like any other sale or purchase of goods on the market. That would slow down the rate of trading that has a proclivity to enabling gambling and irresponsible practices of financiers and wall-street market riggers, as well as generating an additional source of income for the federal government.

Cutting health care services simply drives the cost of living higher for the working class. This makes it essential for maintaining the overall health and stability of the workforce that the government tax corporate profits which corporations refuse to translate into increased worker’s wages and utilize those usury incomes for the benefit of the public in social services and reinforcing national infrastructure. An injured or sickly laborer cannot earn profits for corporations or himself, but the short-sightedness of quarterly profit margins blinds corporate boards to the social reality that they are driving the working class into the ground. This slavery is a subjugation from which there is either no return but poverty, or the return that no one wants but which Marx prophesied.

Amid the rhetoric of “Trickle-down” economics, which insists that the success of the 1% will benefit the 99%, the masses of the electorate have come to seriously question the underlying logic. Every working man and woman senses something amiss about this logic. However, we are told that if we tax the rich we will incur the wrath of their out-sourcing manufacturing  jobs to overseas, and they will move their capital and investments elsewhere. Perhaps some corporations will, but wherever they go, that place will soon suffer the unjust exploitation corporations bring with them. One by one the nations of the world will have to turn to a more regulated form of capitalism under pressure from labor forces awakening to their rights as co-creators of the economic productivity of a company. Dissatisfied and exploited workers in all societies will vote out their incumbent leaders who have been corrupted by lobbyists, and governments more representative of the interests of the people will emerge as the staple of national leadership.

Globalization can be seen as a transitional stage for countries that are coming to learn the benefit of regulating capitalist businesses. Inevitably, as each nation experiences in their own turn the downside and travesties of corporate exploitation of the masses and as their workers become more educated from the internet and a collapsing global flow of information the havens for corporate outsourcing will dwindle. So long as the masses retain their democratic voting power, the unification of the globe in a common economic policy that protects the laborer, is inevitable. The rich will run from country to country, seeking those that will welcome their corruption in their politics and legislate tax codes in their favor, but when those last few countries are reformed by an increasingly enlightened electorate who vote for the people’s representatives, there will be nowhere for the rich to take their exploitative business practices. No country will want them to exploit their masses for fear of the people’s wrath in democratic elections. Eventually, there will exist no safe haven in which multi-national corporations can perpetrate their exploitation of underpaid labor and ship the products to developed countries where consumers will fund their enterprise. Products will have to be manufactured locally.

Through shared travails and common experiences at the hands of exploitative corporations the people of the world are being drawn into under one economic policy, that protects the labor force from unjust exploitation. As for the present day, when the rich threaten to take their business elsewhere, on principle the workers must respond, “Go ahead. There are a finite number of places to which you can flee, and the day is approaching when you will not be welcome anywhere. On that day, no leader will be open to your corruption, because the eyes of a democratic electorate are trained upon them.” Any manner of bargaining with corruption simply makes that corruption more emboldened and virulent.

The rich-poor class struggle is more severe in China, where workers no longer enjoy the job-security promised under a communist regime, but did not gain a capitalist government that cares regulate worker-conditions or wages. Along with the lack of environmental regulations, workers rights legislation, freedom to protest of assemble, lack of free press, and absent manufacturing quality standards, China has seen an explosive expansion of air pollution, toxic contaminations, worker suicides, biohazard outbreaks, and lead and heavy metals in children’s toys. Obama and the newly elected President of China, Xi Jinping, face similar challenges related to the intersection of workers rights and oligarchical influence over government demanding unbridled economic freedom for exploitative practices, although the situation in China is more pronounced.

Marx’s warnings do not just apply to slow-growing, debt-ridden, industrialized economies in the West but also to rapidly expanding, emerging markets, such as China.  In China workers have few rights, wages are minimal, infrastructure is not provided, and the disparity between the rich and the poor is sky-rocketing. Resentment is reaching a boiling point in factory towns due to increasing hours, rising costs, oppressive management, and overdue paychecks. The rise of Marx’s proletariat can be heard echoing in the cries for justice that ring in the hallways where workers commit suicide. Tension between rich and poor is becoming a primary concern for policymakers the world over.

Internet access enlightens millions of youth that global conditions and expectations are changing. The free flow of information clues people into the fact that millionaires are partying with profits made on laborers efforts, while they are paid less than minimum wage. Through this rising consciousness, movements for social justice are laying the foundations for long-term and more egalitarian forms of prosperity. Factory workers feel a spiritual and moral righteousness in demanding humane working conditions and equitable pay in light of a sense of global solidarity, as well as their level of productivity relative to the salary of their CEO. The internet makes all of these concepts freely available and the revolution is therefore inevitable.

The democratization of knowledge is one of the most powerful forces of humanity’s collective maturation, and is soon to be recognized for its value as a force superior to that of economic growth. Knowledge and its free access and dissemination and productions should be recognized as the central pillar of human society, and the fulcrum round which society and its economy and government turn. Knowledge and its associated systems for generation and dissemination like universities, research labs, and the internet, will soon supplant monetary wealth as the true measures of power and value.  Monetary wealth is of short-term value, whereas systems for the democratization of knowledge can lay the foundation for national economic and social prosperity for centuries. Knowledge achieves this power by being entailing an attitude of empowerment and collective problem solve. As such democratic knowledge generation is a renewable resource with limitless applications. Moving beyond corporate dominance and financial influence in politics there will be an era in which monetary power is not only considered irrelevant to social decision-making and change, but we will see the rise of knowledge, and those who know how to generate and apply it, to the helm of decision-making, change, and authority.

Marx’s class theory foresaw much of our current class struggle. However, a violent revolution, as he prescribes, is not the way forward. Violence begets violence and does not lay the foundation for a just and prosperous future.  Laborers are increasingly agitated. Tens of thousands have protested in Madrid and Athens, bemoaning the stratospheric unemployment rates and austerity measures that best them. Marx encouraged this sort of protest, saying “The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains.” He went to on to explain that change can only be attained by a forcible overthrow of social structures. This however is not the case. And it makes it all the more imperative that peaceful solutions be reached in a reasonable time frame, before suffering consumes more souls in scale and severity, and social unrest produces violent revolution. It is important for all of us to act now, before Marx’s proletarian revolution becomes a reality.

Unions have not been able to be part of solution in large part due to their bureaucratization. In fact, many workers have abandoned unions in recent times. Populous demonstrations like the “Occupy” movement demonstrate the expansiveness of the discontent and the severity of those affected, nevertheless such movements lack the rational discourse to accompany their views in the public domain, not to mention lacking the institutional influence to see any substantive change. Most of those affected seek a peaceful reformation of the existing government institutions, tax codes,  spending priorities, and economic regulations that themselves are actually in the system’s best long-term interests for a viable and sustainable economic posterity.

The US congress is held hostage by corporate-owned votes and lobbyists, China’s government does not know how to rectify wide-spread corruption, Europe is approaching unemployment with economic policies that decrease government spending instead of stimulating growth, Italy, Spain, Greece and Cyprus are being forced to accept austerity measures for workers and further deregulate their economies, and national unions have collapsed under the threat of out-sourcing jobs overseas.

The solution is an international labor union, across all national borders. Thereby corporations will be unable to exploit people by threatening to take jobs overseas. In the long run, the economic unification of the planet is inevitable to defend against dangers such as this. It is best to be pro-active and support a preemptive international movement for standardization of laborers wages and rights of sanitation and working conditions across national borders.

The political spectrum of left-right wing supporters is now heavily biased towards the right. The left of yesterday is the center-right of today. And the right of yesterday is the fascism of today. It really raises concerns for what tomorrow’s political radicals will bring.

Marx’s class theory helps us understand the problems of class struggle today, but we need to unite as a global economy with a universal scope to our laws and policies, with an equal emphasis on corruption-free legislation at the national and international levels, to be able to address the challenges confronting the labor and capital markets of the 21st century.

“Let your vision be world embracing”

vision be world embracing

Categories
- Governance - Oppression Discourse

What Do You Call Capitalized Gains But Communized Losses?

The spike in income inequality in the U.S. in recent decades is due to systemic injustices at the level of policy and institution structure for over 40 years. Incomes for the bottom 90 percent of Americans grew by an average of $60 (adjusted for inflation) per person over the time period spanning 1966 to 2011. Mysteriously, during this same 40 year period, the average income of the top 10 percent of Americans has risen by $116,071 – $254,864 per person without any spill over into the lower income brackets. This represents an 84% increase in the personal incomes of the top 10% of earners in America since 1966. The disparity in income increase is over 431,972% in favor of an elite minority. The top 10% have earned more than 4000 times as much income increases than the middle class who actually do 99% of the work constituting the economy. The incomes of the top 1% have increased 10,608 times as much as the incomes of the middle class. And the top 1 % of the top 1% whose 2011 average income was $23.7 million, is today $18.4 million richer per year as compared with those that income bracket in 1966. That represents a 350% increase in their own incomes, compared with the super-wealthy of 1966.  That represents a 30666666% greater increase than the income increase of the bottom 90% of Americans.

The United States Chamber of Commerce expressed disappointment with the U.S. House of Representatives for passing an increase in the federal minimum wage recently. This, despite the fact that if minimum wage had just kept up with inflation for the past 30 years it would have been over $25/hr in 2013. The reason for the disappointment  the Chamber of Commerce reports, is the negative impact this increased wage will have on the employment figures of private sector small businesses, which they claim will be “forced” to lay off workers due to the decreased availability of resources. Why one might wonder, wouldn’t the business owner simply cut his own pay, which has been on the rise for decades now? And that is exactly what he will do. And that is exactly what the House of Commerce is lobbied to prevent — owners of businesses having to reign in the rate of their expanding incomes for the sake of paying their employees equitable wages. The House of Commerce, continued then to “encourage” the Senate to carefully consider its decision in light of the impact this will have on small businesses.

Bruce Josten, Chamber executive vice president for government affairs, is reported saying “Any minimum wage increase will significantly affect the bottom line of the nation’s small business owners. Unfortunately, this bill completely ignores that fact, and as a result small businesses may be forced to eliminate jobs, reduce hours, and cut employee benefits.” It is true that this will negatively affect the short-term profit margins of business, but it is not at all necessary for that deficit in profits to come out of the employees pockets, in terms of cut payrolls or slashed benefits. It can and should easily come out of the cancerous growth in the owners share of the profits. In fact that is exactly the problem — the culture that assumes that all costs and failures of a business are instinctively transferred to workers in the form of salary cuts, benefits slashed, and hours reduced.  The assumption that business failures belong to the workers, but business profits belong to the owners is exactly the chimera that has been fed to the American people and adopted by the economic culture. This is exactly the delusion that led to the big banks bail outs in 2008 in which AIG, Goldman Sachs, Lehman brothers, etc spent a decade making record millions in personal bonuses off of the sub-prime mortgage boom, and when the housing bubble finally burst they turned around and handed the debt to the government and nationalized the losses. That sounds to me like capitalism when the chips are up, but communism when the chips are down. Otherwise known as communism (by totalitarian leaders). What happened to taking responsibility for yourselves? What happened to the value of “risk raking”? What happened to not mooching off tax payers?

Communal Water Hole

Categories
- Governance - Oppression Discourse Health Care

What is the Definition of Capitalism?

I didn’t know it was called capitalism to work for someone else’s money.

I thought capitalism was the harder you work the more money you earn. In fact, i was told communism is what we call it when you work day in and day out and someone else gets the check. How did this get confused?

The middle class is where all the producers and professionals are located (doctors, teachers, farmers, engineers). So, according to capitalism, because producers do all the work, they should be the richest. Why aren’t producers the wealthiest?

Also, if the upper class is the wealthiest, they should be the one’s performing all the important jobs requiring labor and education in society, right? Like MD’s, RN’s, agriculture, teaching, and electrical and software engineering. There must be some confusion.

Otherwise, how could it be possible for a capitalist economy to reward the top 1% with all the national rewards, and tax and burden the middle class who are the backbone of the economy.

If capitalism is the harder you work the more you earn, then the middle class should probably be the wealthy class, and the upper class should be the poverty line. Does owning hospitals, banks, and corporate business require the most amount of stress, labor, education, degrees, effort, creativity and intelligence?

Does setting up a business, or ordering around middle management, or consulting on which CEO hire will maximize short term profits — is this harder than being a surgeon, a professor, a software engineer, or a farm laborer?

Does membership on a venture capitalist board stress one out more than performing open heart surgery? How bout being a major share holder in a hospital stake holding — is that harder than being the ICU nurses who clean, draw blood, and resuscitate patients daily?

How bout owning a farmland — is that harder than working the fields all day to pick fruit and vegetables for less than minimum wage?

Oh, right, its not hard work that’s rewarded, its investment capital. And its not a capitalist economy that we are employed in, its an oligarchy. And its not congress’s job to represent the interests of the american public in legislating tax codes, its the bribery and corruption of lobbyists that do that. And its the job of “capitalism” to be misused to mean communism, its exact opposite, by those who benefit from control of the economy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Categories
- Oppression Discourse Justice Power

Are You Working for Someone Else’s Money?

GDP has doubled in the past 30 years, yet workers wages haven’t even kept up with inflation, let alone increased.

The 1.9% increase in wages was  surpassed by inflation in 2012 marking the 40th consecutive year that wages have declined below their 1972 peak. Wages fell 0.2% in 2012, from $295.49 per week, (in 1982 currency value) to $294.83 per week, according to the 2013 Economic Report of the President.

Data for production and non-supervisory workers in the private sector from “Hours and Earnings in Private Non-Agricultural Industries, 1966-2012” (taken from Appendix Table B-47) shows that this decline in wages is affecting 80% of the current private-sector workforce (as detailed in table below). At this same time, during these same years in which wages stagnated,  private non-farm productivity has doubled (in the fashion illustrated on the graph below). Therefore, higher productivity coupled with lower wages implies increasing wealth inequality. This fuels the gap that separates the rich minority from the poor majority widening into abyss.

The great irony is that the middle class is doing all the work that is enriching the top 1%. The audacity of the rhetoric from the rich minority is to accuse the poor of mooching off society and not taking responsibility for their lives — however the obvious reality is that the laborers and educated services classes are doing all the work that booms the economy. And the economy has boomed — doubling in productivity over the past 30 years. With none of the profits going towards those who do the actual work or those who deserve the increased salaries. The profits have one and all flowed like streams of increasing income into the sea of an already wealthy elite’s bank accounts. If they would only stop calumniating the poor, the situation would be almost tolerable.

If minimum wage had merely kept up with inflation for the past 30 years it would have been over $25 an hour by now. Comparatively, minimum wage is still in the sub-ten-dollar range and corporations ownership incomes are exponentially higher than they were just 5 years ago. Who is mooching off society now?

Year     Weekly Earnings (1982-84 dollars without taking into account inflation)

1972     $341.73 (peak)
1975     $314.77
1980     $290.80
1985     $284.96
1990     $271.10
1992     $266.46 (lowest point; 22% below peak)
1995     $267.17
2000     $285.00
2005     $285.05
2010     $297.79
2011     $295.49
2012     $294.83 (still 14% below peak)

Graph of Nonfarm Business Sector: Output Per Hour of All Persons

 

Categories
- Governance - Oppression

Monarchy AND Democracy?

Assault rifle ban dead in the Senate. Monsanto protected from lawsuits by congressional legislation. 50 K-12 schools closed in Chicago while corporate profits at all time high. Yet, Obama speaks in Israel on  the topic of youth laying the path to peace and reconciliation. Democratic representation seems to be failing, and executive leadership is impotent.

The solution is to expand the powers of the executive branch of government.

Obama is a face responsible to the public. The executive branch has integrity, personal responsibility, and a keener sense of justice. Votes for hire in congress hide behind parliamentary anonymity. The US presidency should be expanded to a monarchy.

A king could dispense true justice to the senators who have sold out the well-being of the United-States for personal profit. Gun control, immigration reform, GMO transparency, oil money out of public transit infrastructure, corporate donations out of congressional campaigning, renewable energy a main new policy direction, and climate change research a top priority. These are the things the executive branch wants but cannot do.

A King could do these immediately, without delay. A democracy could do these never. Especially a democracy whose corruption defends itself as capitalism; an economy that thinks rigging the market is laissez fair; and a tax code that offers 90% of reward to returns on investment as opposed to compensation for labor. These are the realities that spell ruin.

“Although a republican [democratic] form of government profiteth all the peoples of the world, yet the majesty of kingship is one of the signs of God.”

 

Buckingham-Palace

Categories
- Empowerment - Prevailing Conceptions - Three Protagonists Discourse Human Nature

Unemployment and Religion

No one looks for the source of economic problems in spiritual matters. Likewise, no one looks for solutions to economic problems through spiritual means. Unemployment is the self-claimed most important economic problem of the day, and yet, the fact that workers aren’t motivated to go to work isn’t seen as a systemic problem of our culture, but rather as a problem with those individual workers themselves. “Lazy”, some people call them. “Unmotivated” others say. And yet, what do we expect individual’s to feel motivated by in our current conception of the purpose and nature of employment? How does it draw on a human being’s capacity, talents, and aspirations? These are the sources of motivation after all.

Modern western society has reduced the individual’s perspective of work to what is termed “gainful employment.” The gainful employment conception sees work as solely aimed at acquiring the means for the consumption of produced goods. The main driving thrust of employment then is to put into  society the labor that earns one the credit on which to purchase society’s commodities. There is no real purpose or passion or spiritual worth intrinsic to the labor itself in this conception. Society has crafted innumerable “jobs”, to be filled, and “products” to be consumed around this vapid conception of employment.

No serious doctor would look at the human form and reduce the purpose of eating to being healthy, and the value of health to hoarding food. But that is precisely what we have done when we expect society to work for a salary, and expend that salary on the consumption of goods. The system is circular: acquisition and consumption resulting in the maintenance and expansion of the system of good production and, in consequence, upholding the practice of gainful employment. Whereas, the reality is that human life should have a purpose that transcends the mere physical dimension.

In the gainful employment conception, there is no consideration for matching a human being’s natural talents to her or his tasks, for the maximization of society’s benefit from her or his labor. Neither is there a sense of credence given to the dreams or aspirations of the individual, in what he or she deems worthy of their life’s work. Finally, there is very little collective planning with regard to what division of labor would be most efficient and conducive to the prosperity of society as a whole. Corporations are empowered to employ countless thousands of mindless workers without questioning the merits of the menial tasks they assign them to perform, many of which are a waste of true human potential, and taken cumulatively  usually detrimental to the interests of society. For example, the maintenance and running of enumerable fast food chains, which waste human talents and capacities on things like assembly line production for Big Macs or janitorial labor, meanwhile the whole time these establishments do a disservice to society, driving up the consumption of unhealthy foods and saturated fats, simple sugars, and processed goods.

Taken individually, things like labor of various complex levels, compensation of salaries and wages, and the purchasing of goods, groceries, and housing are all essential activities to the economic order, however the vapidness of the entire conception is demonstrable in its circular-ness. Bodies don’t live to eat, and expend energy to hunt food — we live to listen to music, love our families, serve our communities, and develop our potential for art, science, and civic engagement. Eating is just something we do to enable this whole process. Likewise with sleeping, and using the energy from our food to solely pursue another meal or shelter, clothing, and some other basic necessity. The purpose per se of our health in our bodies however is not the acquisition of the next meal, nor is it the purpose of food and rest and shelter simply to create those conditions in which we feel most comfortable and secure. They are part of a larger context in which meaning comes to be realized through a series of complex, interconnected social, personal, and spiritual pursuits that give a sense of transcendence and purpose to our lives.

The  inadequacy of the concept of gainful employment, as it is practiced in our modern culture can be read from two sources: First, the wide-scale apathy of workers and upswing in mass shootings that social media sources are covering as the natural expression of people on their daily routine grind as post-office workers, school boys, or university students. The second sign of the inadequacy of the conception of gainful employment is the mounting tide of people who are totally unemployed all together. The growing armies of the unemployed, who develop day by day an increased sense of demoralization and despair, are considered by those who believe in social safety nets and those that consider them lazy or un-ingenuitive, a bad sign for health of the economy. One of the most important indices of economic strength and prosperity is the unemployment level, and in turn, one the major causes of unemployment is the conception of gainful employment as it is understood in modern culture. A reconceptualization  of employment in popular culture is the spiritual solution to the economic problem of unemployment.

Workers

Categories
- Governance - Oppression Discourse Human Nature Justice

Capitalism vs Corporatism

Dow Jones is at record high; corporate profits are too. The real estate crisis is over, but most people in the united states still seem to be in financial difficulties.

Household incomes in absolute dollar amounts are at a decade-low despite an inflationary market; the poverty bracket consumes an ever larger proportion of american citizens annually; 47 million people on food stamps; 110 million without health insurance. America’s once burgeoning middle class is being squeezed into poverty. The owners of the fortune 500 are doing well, while american families are having a harder time.  Isn’t wealth supposed to “trickle down” as the theory goes? Where are the corporate profits trickling down now?

To maximize profit margins corporate business models lay off workers locally and transplant manufacturing to China and or other economies that do not protect their laborers. Accepted culture of economic responsibility to one’s shareholders maintains that ethics has no place counteracting the profits of exploiting under-payed workers. Board members, shareholders, owners of the fortune 500 are an elite minority comprising <1% of the population who control an estimate 40% of the treasure and wealth of the United States. 50% of stocks are owned by 1% of the population. Justice, the responsibility of the federal government, would be to intervene legally and reverse the imbalance of the ownership-labor profit benefits which currently give 99.7% of profits to owners, and divide up 0.3% to workers, teachers, doctors, farmers — the educated and laborers who make the products and services needed by society. The US Congress has legislated, as a result of its private relationships with lobbyists, financial benefits should go almost entirely to the owners not the laborers, and has written capital gains taxes in the order of 12-15% and other loop holes for wealthy owners to exploit. Corporations purchase this legal power to write laws from senators and members of the house of representatives by donating to their campaigns and offering them financial and employment compensation after their terms are completed. This is corporatism, not capitalism.

Capitalism rewards anyone who is intelligent and works hard. Reward right now is entirely controlled by certain owners of corporations who do not compensate those who are creative or hard working. The Federal government who is charged with safe-guarding the proper functioning of the capitalist economic system is defunct and failing to perform its duties. The economy is dominated by corporate boards who have successfully co-opted the legislative branch of government, and to a lesser extent, the executive and judicial branches as well. The educated and the laborers are caught in a cycle of consumption of commodities and taxation of their wealth that leaves them squeezed between the greed of corporations on one hand, and the corruption of government on the other.

The average CEO ‘earns’ 360 times as much as his average employee. The size of personal incomes should be curbed by progressive tax reform, and the proceeds used to supplement the wages of the educated and the laborers. Lobbying and financial influence on congress’ legislation should be illegal. Campaigning, being itself self-aggrandizing and immoral, in time will be outlawed — until then, financial donations to campaigns should be taxed at 100%. The personal incomes of congressional representatives and senators should be capped at 200k from all sources — including salary, business, and personal investments, as well as lobbying and corporate royalties. Civil service should be a self-sacrifice, not a winning lottery ticket. Craving leadership itself is a sign of moral unsoundness; whereas selflessness, humility and service are the touchstones of civil qualifications. Corporations and their financial influence should be ousted from government. The marriage of politics with the finance sector must end in a divorce.

Capitalism in its true sense leads to a growing middle class. The rules of the economic system should be protected by the government of the people. One of the most important duties of the government is to safe-guard the integrity of functioning and rules governing the free flow of capital, services, and labor on the free market. This is true capitalism. The system has been corrupted. People who labor do not receive their fair proportion of profits made in compensation. People who receive stressful education and contribute creativity and valuable services do not receive the bulk of the profits accrued as a result of their efforts. The owners of the respective systems within which they operate, be it a farm, a school, or a hospital, receive the true meat of that profit generated. This is not capitalism; this is corporatism.

Corporatism mirrors the structure of communism, in the sense that totalitarian regimes concentrate the nations wealth in the hands of a powerful minority at the top. Popular discourse makes it seem like the debate is between capitalism and communism, however the real discussion revolves around the relative merits of totalitarianism versus capitalism. The discussion framed in this way, makes it much less easy to conjure up the irrational fear which wins votes in presidential and congressional elections, however. Corporatism is a form of totalitarianism, like communism and fascism. Evidence for this can be found in transformation of China from a formerly communist state to a largely corporate state.  Justice, not socialism, is needed to return corporatism to its original state of capitalism. True capitalism would mean a more just distribution of economic rewards for the educated and laborers — those upon whom the prosperity of our country depends; they deserve to enjoy the majority of that prosperity.

Personal income fell 4% in January 2013 (corrected for taxes and inflation). Median household income in 2011 ($50,054) has declined for 4 consecutive years, now 8% less than its 2007 peak ($54,489), which is lower than it was in 2001. Are america’s laborers getting lazier? Are the educated forgetting their creativity? Economic data shows the US is more creative and more prosperous now than ever before. So how does the current discourse’s focus on ‘self-reliance’ and ‘incentivizing’ growth’ justified? A corporate power who wishes to distract the masses from the obvious swindling of their hard-earned products and wealth would re-direct the conversation towards further self-reliance, and increased workers diligence. Or otherwise, to conceal a theory that emphasizes the value of ownership (ie: investment, risk taking, venture capitalism, capital gains, etc) over hard earned work, like the educated services and laborers.

Post the real-estate bubble, the economic recovery has mainly benefited corporations. The US labor market is still in recession. Multi-national corporations recovered faster because they employ emerging labor forces in unprotected markets like China and India, without minimum wage or insurance benefit regulations, and without functioning unions to protect against worker mistreatment. In 2013 corporate profits as a percentage of U.S. GDP are at an an all-time high, yet educated and laborer wages are nearing an all-time low.

Figure 1. Chart of corporate profits.

Corporate Profits After Tax

Figure 2. Graph of workers wages as percentage of GDP in the same time period.

Wages And Salaries As A Percentage Of GDP

Corporatism funnels all of the economic rewards in the system to the top. Leftward motion, towards socialism, however is not advisable, as totalitarianism of all kinds produces the same structure that funnels reward centrally towards an elite minority. The solution rests with justice enacted in the political and economic arenas.

When a minority concentrates all the wealth of the nation in their own hand, they can make small portions of it available to the public, but this done in the form of loans and credit, to control the masses with the burden of debt and compounding interest. Debt, has grown in prevalence, scope and magnitude at unprecedented rates in proportion to the centralization of capital in the hands of a minority at the top. Increasing frequency and size of mortgages is limited only by consumer’s inability to funnel to the banks the monthly premium that is due. Automobile loans show record breaking size ($26,691) and duration (65 months) quarter after quarter. Longer, larger, and more frequent loans, for an expanding spectrum of goods is evidence that we are being owned by others. We borrow our existence from those who own all the wealth of the nation. If all the wealth is theirs, they enslave us through debt. The educated and the laborers work the remainder of their lives to redeem that debt and make the wealthy wealthier.

32 trillion dollars have been funnelled from american corporations to off-shore accounts to avoid US taxes. How does this money trickle down to the american people? Discourse on these matters can assist us to recognize the injustice, elect government officials with integrity, legislate the removal of finances and corporate influence from congress, develop a progressive tax pattern, and rectify the ownership-labor imbalance of reward distribution toward the educated and laborers .

Passivity is bred by the forces of consumerism. A desire to be entertained is nurtured in popular culture, from school age children to young professionals. Social causes often devolve into superficial fads, rarely challenging the fundamentals of our economic and political systems. Education fails to go beyond the memorizing of information, failing to cultivate curious minds that will question and reform the structures of our society for the future. Society must learn it is treading a common path of service, in which communities should support each other and advance together, unitedly. Prosperity follows unity.

Funneling of financial reward to the elite minority at the top disempowers the masses of people at the bottom. Eventually, the squeezing of the middle class will completely obliterate the power and rights of the majority. People are concerned about hostile occupation under a tyrannical government, saying that the individuals right to bear arms is the only defense against domination — how can fire arms help us now? An elite government plutocracy controls 40% of the nations wealth, and all of congress, and has rigged the system such that the law — which is supposed to stand up for american justice — is written against the people. The debate over fire arms is misplaced — we are under an oppressive government rule now, and there’s nothing that the right bear arms is doing about it. Military violence is not so oppressive as economic domination.

Noam Chomsky once wrote, “jingoism, racism, fear, religious fundamentalism: these are the ways of appealing to people if you’re trying to organize a mass base of support for policies that are really intended to crush them.” Trickle down economics, the ideology in favor of the wealthy elite, was  popularized by a confabulated myth of self-reliance (fundementalism), demonizing critics of wealth inequality (fear), and a sharp racial divide along party lines (racism), by people with pretense to a monopoly on patriotism (jingoism), which accumulated a mass of political support for policies designed to squeeze the middle class of its hard-earned labor and education reward.

Categories
- Religion - Science Development Discourse Health Care Knowledge

Poverty and Revelation

Poverty is as ineradicable as the house-fly! The misguided conviction that material resources exist, or can be created by scientific and technological enterprise, to entirely eradicate poverty is a myth of global scope. Social scientists are hardly necessary to uncover the reason for this manifest paradox: scientific  and  technological research pursue a  set  of  priorities set by financial interests and corporate investors. This elite technocratic minority is pursuing its own vision of middle class consumer desires and marketing entertainment. Science and technology therefore are the pet projects of a wealthy elite and their professional priorities. If scientific research does impact the lives of the masses it does so because it is tangentially related to the real interests of the generality of humankind.

A radical reordering of these priorities will be required if the burden of poverty is finally to be lifted from the world. Such an achievement demands a determined quest for appropriate values, a quest that will painfully purge humankind of both its spiritual mis-orientation and scientific structure. Religion must lead the way in setting new priorities, with humankind and the generality of the masses as its beneficiaries. The agenda must be set by the most dire and widespread of global human needs. With research topics that identify agriculture, education, sanitation, infectious disease, and other issues as the thrust of scientific and technological advancement.

Mainstream religion will be severely handicapped in contributing to this undertaking as long as it remains a prisoner to outmoded traditions, sectarian doctrines which cannot distinguish between metaphors in their scripture designed to motivate people, and stories told to 6th graders to keep them from misbehaving in the teachers absence. Contentment and mere passivity are not the same thing, and mainstream religion must learn to express the distinction which entails keeping up with modern trends in social justice and moving beyond an obsolescent past of sexual and racial prejudices.

Ascetic interpretations of mainstream religion which teach that poverty is an inherent feature of earthly life, the escape to which lies only in a world beyond, deserve to pass like the tide of eurocentric prejudices that we have passed beyond already, into the next world. Humanity no longer requires ancient religious practices to inform its scientific agendas, research values, or social priorities. To participate effectively in the struggle to bring material well-being to humanity, the religious spirit must find — in the Source of inspiration from which it originally flowed — a new commitment to life in the 21st century. New spiritual concepts and principles must be conjured up, or if none can be found then new religions must be embraced.

Religion with Authority Divine in origin; religion with Revelation satisfying in volume; religion with administration democratic in representation; religion with followers selfless in unity; religion with education first rate in its caliber and accessible globally — religion with values worthy to restructure the priorities of scientific research, is needed to answer the question of poverty.

Poverty

Categories
- Empowerment - Governance - Oppression Discourse Human Nature Oneness Power

Framework that Shapes the Baha’i Approach to Political Involvement

For decades, the Universal House of Justice has been nurturing the development of the Baha’i community in Iran, guiding them through their persecution and assisting them to recognize the significance of their sacrifice and their opportunities to serve.  A few days ago, they sent a letter to the Baha’i of Iran.  Below are a few notes, paragraph by paragraph.

.

1. The message starts by acknowledging that wave after wave of persecution to this sorely tried community has only served to strengthen it. The larger Iranian community, itself oppressed, sees this injustice as destructive, while witnessing the Bahá’í community as a force of construction and calling for its full participation in the life of society.

2. From a political standpoint, the Bahá’í community has historically been cast as either rebels and foreign spies against the current regime or apathetic and withdrawn from social life. The House is providing comments on the Bahá’í attitude and approach towards politics to assist in the understanding of Iranian citizens regarding this subject.

3. Perspective on politics is tied to conception of history; humanity is approaching its threshold of maturity – the unification of the entire human race – and is currently in a period of unprecedented transition characteristic of the struggle to come of age. Latent powers and capacities are coming to light, and accepted conventions and cherished attitudes are being rendered obsolete by evolutionary imperatives.

4. These changes are the result of two interacting processes – one destructive, sweeping away barriers that block progress; one integrative, drawing diverse groups together for opportunities to cooperate. Bahá’ís strive to align themselves with the integrative forces.

5. This view of history underlies every endeavor.

6. The organizing principle of the imminent mature society is the oneness of humanity, though widely accepted today, is still in the early stages of reconceptualizing societal structural relationships – current ill-conceived notions of which are entirely inadequate and dangerous.

7. All peoples and nations will contribute to the transformation envisioned, and as unity will be progressively achieved in different social realms, structures reflecting political unity in diversity will take shape.

8. How can Bahá’ís best contribute to the civilization-building process?

9. Regarding its own growth and development, Bahá’ís are dedicated to a long-term process of learning to establish patterns of activity and structures that embody convictions based on the principle of the oneness of humanity, in which all are invited to participate. Those listed help form the conceptual framework in which Bahá’ís operate.

10. Because this process of learning must address numerous questions that arise (with many examples noted), a mode of operation characterized by action, reflection, consultation, and study of the Writings of the Faith and of patterns unfolding using scientific analysis has been adopted by Bahá’ís.

11. The direction of this process of learning is guided by Plans of the Universal House of Justice, broadly aimed at building capacity in protagonists to strengthen spiritual community life, address social and economic needs, and contribute to discourse, all with coherence.

12. The nature of the relationships of these protagonists – individuals, communities, and institutions — which lies at the heart of this process of learning, is cooperation rather than competition, is universal participation rather than spectators and powerful elite, is collective prosperity rather than irresponsible liberty.

13. The operation of power is involved in the relationships between these protagonists; yet the concept of power as domination and contest is antiquated. Rather, the human race contains a limitless capacity to transform through powers of the human spirit, such as love, unity, humility, purity, that can be released and channeled.

14. The Bahá’í community is not perfect, is not the embodiment of these ideals; it is gaining insights into them. It is not uninterested in social affairs nor unpatriotic, but its endeavor – which can be labeled as “idealistic” by some – is obviously deeply concerned for the good of humanity, hardly an objectionable effort by a group of people.

15. Involvement in society is another dimension to contributing to the advancement of civilization, which naturally must not contradict the first, in terms of principle or practice, in assumptions or action. Bahá’ís endeavor to associate with all people with joy, to promote unity, to serve humanity.

16. With these thoughts, Bahá’ís collaborate with others to promote human welfare, choosing means worthy of noble ends. They don’t impose religious convictions, yet do share lessons learned from their experience.

17. The convictions, beliefs, assumptions, and commitments detailed in the paragraphs above constitute the essential elements of the framework that shapes the Bahá’í approach to politics.

18. Bahá’ís don’t seek political power, won’t affiliate themselves with political parties or divisive agendas, and won’t accept political posts except those purely administrative in nature. However, humanity organizes itself through politics, and thus Bahá’ís vote, observe the laws of the land, and endeavor to uphold the standard of justice through lawful and non-violent means.

19. This approach enables the community to maintain cohesion and integrity and build its capacity to contribute to processes that promote peace and unity.

20. Participating further in the life of society is not without challenges, and the House of Justice prays for assistance from God in conversations regarding the framework articulated in this message, in collaborating with others, and in working towards betterment without compromising identity.

 

Categories
- Consultation - Empowerment - Governance - Oppression Discourse Human Nature Justice Oneness

In the Masses Lies the Key

Some facts are based on principle, others follow from empirical evidence. The economic and social order of the industrial world no longer considers universal welfare the object of its deliberations and actions. This has been, in part, the result of a self-centered design by the elite few whose underhanded influence upon government has seen a cancerous variant of capitalism eat into the vitals of democratic representation. However, this is also because a general unity of values, discourse, and global consensus on the part of the masses of people was lacking. Blame should be carefully laid where it can be demonstrated, to avoid exaggerating the culpability of those who exploited a situation that lacked unity of vision. Particularistic forces operated in a way that profited themselves according to an institutionalized design. The measure of their selfishness may neither have exceeded nor been exceeded by the selfishness of the masses. Outcome inequalities in access and opportunity may have resulted from a difference in power which enables them to acquire the structural changes anyone would seek in accordance with a morality of chaos that is fragmented into isolated individuals, in which each individual pursues their own personal benefit. This was and continues to be the dominant moral order. A differential of moral culpability may not have existed; only a power differential, between the soon-to-be elite, and the masses. But all animals exist in a state of power struggle with others. What worm declines to struggle against the crushing weight of a lion’s paw on his hunting sprint? If all people were universally selfish in the years leading up to the current accumulation of financial and social capital in the hands of a minuscule minority, then the current outcry should not be identified with the voice of justice, but is better anthropomorphised as the objection of losers. Culpability cannot be placed at the feet of the victors, soley due to their disproportionate privilege. Culpability must be placed equally at the feet of all who engaged in a jungle-style war of the fittest evolutionary specimen in the selfish and competitive world of social Darwinism. Anyone who competed in the game of selfishness contributed to the downfall of our moral order, and its institutionalization of unequal access and opportunity. If all humans were equally guilty in the years leading up to the injustice of our world order, then all can be declared equally innocent in this day, when all humankind is awakening to the reality of what our selfish ways have wrought. Humankind is now waking up from its great folly and opening its eyes to the beneficence of a new value system. The value systems of the future are based upon the acute awareness of the spiritual reality of humankind and therefore our essential oneness. The realization of the many inadequacies of the individualistic, competitive, materialistic paradigm is tearing away the veils from our eyes. In temporary moments of adjustment to blinding sunlight most social theorists are stunned, awed, and bewildered. There is need for a time of self-examination after our confidence in our identity has been shaken. The social theory that we touted for over half a century with such apparent promise, and in which we invested so much of our hopes and faith, now sags under mounting evidence that it is the source of a world-wide atrocity against all humankind, and the perpetrator of an ever-expanding abyss that divides a quickly shrinking wealthy elite from the masses of impoverished people mired in hopeless want. Bewilderment, gives way to search, and search to love of a philosophy of universal brotherhood and institutionalized philanthropy,  based on the concepts of a spiritual human identity, global unity, justice for all, and insightful theories as opposed to economics as the central feature of social existence. These concepts enable a renewed commitment on the part of people, institutions, and communities to the common well-being of humankind.

In the application of this new theory, we are not allowed to assign to the masses again a role of passive obedience to the will of an elite minority, this time a minority who understands the need for the common resources of earth (material and human) to be devoted to the universal well-being of all equally. This minority, no matter how well intentioned will prove to be no different from the minority that was responsible for the individualstic, competitive system of consumerism that produced so much senseless suffering and injustice in the world. No doubt they too had noble intentions with the start of their enterprise  (Indeed their theory maintained that the greatest amount of total prosperity resulted from each person striving to achieve the most comfortable life for himself or herself). No, rather must the revolutionary theory of human unity, equality, and spirituality be implanted in the lives of all people through the patient but methodical action and reflection of all people collectively in their respective spheres of endeavor to the problems facing them in their social, economic, agricultural, health care, and educational lives. Only this way will the empowerment of a people become a wide-spread and global phenomenon, which alone can be responsible for elevating a civilization out from the mire in which a half-century of greed, domination, and war has imprisoned it. The masses will have a fundamental role in the transformation of our world forward.

New theories are important, but structures must be coherent with those theories if they are to have a positive effect. Love cannot be maintained by force. Peace cannot be achieved through war. Similarly, justice cannot be achieved through injustice. Through principle we always knew, and through experience we have come to learn, that means must always be expressed in a way that is morally consistent with our ends. Equality cannot be achieved by a few. For, those few in perceiving the endpoint of a just social order, and seeking to impose that endpoint on multitudes of other people, will thereby  ironically become the unknowing perpetrators of a tyrannical world order. Foreknowledge of outcomes is not always necessary to be a good man, in many instances adherence to moral principles is sufficient. A revolution for the people must ultimately be conducted by the people. Where the people are activists only and not thinkers in the formulation of transformation, they continue to occupy the position of the manipulated  and their leaders, though purportedly advocating a moral order free of manipulative dynamics, are in fact inwardly becoming the oppressor class of a new totalitarian regime.

What is the role of “leadership” then, in the path to a just social order? As opposed to giving society its structure and overall direction, the function of the new leadership is to convene those settings in which selfless consultation can take place, to coordinate the interface and representation of all human needs equally, and to safegard the process of democratic decision making. The new leadership is a shepherd, walking beside the flock, not a fox, herding them toward exploitation. Reflection and action are as intrinsic to the masses as success is to revolution–without it, tyranny supplants tyranny without any change in human fortunes. Ironically, the act of compelling the masses to serve a revolutionary goal, falsifies the goals of the transformation, and robs it of its intended nobility. The oppressed maintain their status as oppressed under a new master, and the elite are merely exchanged for a minority with another lingo, and another vocabulary for justifying their indulgence. The means must be coherent with the ends, to truly vindicate those ends in the long run. It is a strange law built into the fabric of the universe, that morality is not utilitarian, but always will be, deontological. No matter how good the justification for a crime may be, God has made up His mind, that unsound means shall never serve His holy Ends. If leadership is committed to the unity and equality of all humankind, it recognizes that its reflection and action must walk hand in hand with the reflection and action of the masses.

Masses

Categories
- Equality of Women and Men - Governance - Oppression - Primary Care - Religion Discourse Health Care Justice

The World of Man: The Rape of Women

“…Should anyone deliberately take another’s life, him also shall ye put to death…”

The world of man is a terrifying place. A world constructed on violent notions of masculinity. A world where power is the only rule, and law is secondary to what can be taken by force. In today’s society, man’s confidence is proportional to his capacity to accomplish what he wants devoid of co-workers’ approval, against economic obstacles, and by the exercise of his own aggression. Society bows to corporate, monetary, physical, social, and sexual might. This rule by masculine power – its political, social, institutional, and cultural apparatus – is known as the “patriarchy,” to feminist scholars.

Our political world remains in the grip of its own insecurities of phallic inadequacy: each actor on the world stage determined to substantiate claims to tyrant fertility by means of their tank size and number of infantry and nuclear missiles commanded. International relations have been governed by men challenged by their own fear of infertility and lack of procreative capital for too long. Our world has gone to war over power-obsessed men unfit to carry workman’s hammers, let alone their own god-given equipment. Let it be known to all who command armies, allow widows to raise their husbands children fatherless – to all who carry a gun – it does not matter that your 2nd amendment allows you to compensate for your phallic inadequacy – you do not have the right to kill what God has Himself raised up!

The dominant relationship of men over women in the home, born of inadequacy and fear of being undermined by a biologically inferior specimen, has carried over into those men’s professional lives, and in the case of international relations, has written the political history of the world in blood. So long as we view physical might as the measure of social and familial right, the world will rot from the core outward. Family is the fundamental unit of social existence. It is precisely the personalities of men who spend their nights womanizing in Washington, in whom our decisions to wage war with foreign powers lies. And it is in the corrupt characters of these same slick cheaters-on-their-wives that the decision to allocate funding to the military-industrial complex versus education resides. A man who cheats on his wife, and thereby betrays his family, cannot prioritize the education of his own or anyone else’s children over the deafening cry of his own phallic insecurities  – no matter how his slickly whitened teeth present a tranquil demeanor before the 7 O’clock news cameras. It is these insecure facades of men (unworthy to bear the name) who appear as the face of the nation, and it is these influential, wealthy, and well-dressed manipulators who set the values that dictate our tax dollars spending allocations. It is these same power-mongers and their sojourn in privilege that has protected similarly-positioned potentates since the dawn of time from the justice of the rights of the masses.

The voice of the oppressed will no longer be silenced on the issues of global justice, and the clamor for the New World Order will no longer succumb to exhortations for patience and resignation. Our destiny is now; the Promised Day is come! The lives of those 6 men in India who committed rape-homicide will be snatched out from within them, quickly, publicly, and shamefully. The victim of rape-homicide died of overwhelming sepsis several days after the episode. If her assailants were trans-genitally disemboweled (as the victim was) and allowed to expire from septic shock – it would not be unjust. Law has to be expanded to include punishments commensurate to the heinousness of the crimes committed. Arson-murder produces fortunate victims who perish from smoke-inhalation, and unfortunate victims who endure weeks of superficial skin-site infections before succumbing to global sepsis and organ failure. Arson-murder should be punishable by death from burning. Rape-homicide should be punished capitally. The execution of these “men” in New Delhi should be publicized as both justice for the criminals and as deterrents for others who have yet to learn the rights and sacredness of women and girls. Faces, names, families, and final moments should be made publicly available and popularized. The shame and hate, the wrath and indignation of the world of humankind should be made to bear upon the psyches of these criminals – until the fear of God and the terror of humankind’s justice – both – are inculcated in their minds and in those of all men and boys like them, until all would-be exploiters of the privileges of patriarchy recognize now and forever: that the world of man and the world of his mother, his sister, his daughter – in short: the world of woman – will not stand for this type of treatment.

“…Should anyone intentionally destroy a house by fire, him also shall ye burn…”

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Veiled Woman Praying

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Categories
- Consultation - Education - Empowerment - Oppression Discourse Justice Knowledge

Education and Liberation

Some people think education is an act of depositing facts, in which the students are the receptacle and the teacher is the banker. Instead of communicating, the teacher issues lectures and makes deposits which the students receive and memorize. This “banking” concept of education, allows the students only to receive, file, and store facts told to them. In the final analysis, it is the people themselves who are filed away through the lack of creativity, transformation, and true knowledge in this misguided pedagogy. The reality of man is his thoughts. Devoid of inquiry, apart from the exercise of generating knowledge, individuals cannot be truly human. True knowledge emerges only through invention: a restless, impatient, hopeful inquiry which human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other. In the banking concept of education, knowledge is a gift bestowed by those who are “knowledgeable” upon those who “know nothing”. Projecting ignorance onto students actually negates true education because this arises through agency and inquiry.

Education must begin with the resolution of the teacher-student dichotomy, so that both are recognized as simultaneously teachers and students. They are simultaneously co-creators of knowledge and collaborators walking a path of discovery. The banking concept of education regards humans as manipulable, submissive objects. Students fail to develop the critical consciousness of intervention as transformers of the world. Passively, they adapt to the world handed to them, and to the fragmented view of reality it describes. Fragmentation of the mind and not coherence is engendered by the banking conception of education.

To annul the creative power of the students and to inculcate their submissiveness serves the interests of those in power, who do not wish to see the world transformed. The state of the world as it is, is profitable unto them. Charity and “humanitarianism” are held up to pacify the people and preserve a profitable situation. Education must foster critical faculties unsatisfied with a partial perspective of reality – minds that always seek out the connections which link one fact to another and one reality to all the rest. Fragmentation weakens the mind of the slave class upon whose backs the profits of the privileged depend. The interests of the privileged lie in changing the consciousness of the underprivileged – not the situation which oppresses them. To achieve this end, the privileged use the banking concept of education.

The underprivileged are considered marginal outsiders, and deviants from the norm of prosperity and justice inculcated by the social order. As the excrement, or pathology, of a healthy society such outliers receive the stigma of “incompetent and lazy” folk. This stigma is used to justify a situation in which the disenfranchised are maintained quiescently in the social order doing the jobs and occupying the social rank that no one else would willingly accept. The banking concept of education avoids the threat of mass increases in spiritual consciousness, prevents unity of thought, and obviates activism toward wide-scale social reform.

The banking concept of education never proposes to students that they critically consider reality. It will deal instead with memorization as the vital question, and insist upon the importance of submissiveness and compliance as the measure of grading and evaluation. The “constructiveness” and “benefit” of (banking) education masks the effort to turn women and men into automatons. Many of those who use the banking approach, do so unknowingly, for there are innumerable well-intentioned teachers who do not realize that they are serving only to dehumanize their students.

The true educator must from the outset make efforts which coincide with those of the students to engage in critical thinking and the quest for mutual good. His or her efforts must be imbued with a profound trust in the majority of students and their creative intellectual powers. To achieve this, “teachers” must be partners of the students in their classrooms.

Grammar memorization, reading assignments, standardized testing, the hierarchy between teacher and student, and the criteria for teacher promotion: everything in this cookie-cutter approach serves to obviate thinking and boycott actualization of intellectual potential. The bank-clerk educator does not realize that there is no epistemic authority in his paid position as teacher: knowledge is not already known; it needs to be created. Teacher-student solidarity requires honest, respectful communication. Only through dialogical engagement can pedagogical, institutional, or community life find meaning. The teacher’s thinking is validated only by the authenticity of the students thinking. The teacher cannot think for his students, nor can he impose his thoughts on them. Thought has meaning only when generated by action upon the world.

Banking education begins with a false understanding of men and women as objects. Instead of “biophilia,” it promotes “necrophilia.” Life is characterized by growth in an organic, functional manner. Necrophilia loves all that does not grow, is mechanical, and stale. Memory rather than experience; subservience other than agency; owning rather than manifesting, is what counts. The necrophiliac loves control, and in the act of controlling kills life. The banking concept of education, which serves the interests of oppression, is necrophilia. Based on a mechanistic, static, naturalistic view of consciousness, it transforms students into receiving objects. It attempts to control thinking and action, leads women and men to submit to the world, and inhibits their creative power. When their efforts to act creatively are frustrated, people find themselves unable to use their faculties. This impotence leads to suffering.

We must abandon the banking method of education and replace it with the posing of problems relevant to human beings in their relations with the world. “Problem-posing” education, responds to the essence of consciousness: intentionality. “Problem-posing” education avoids lecturing and embodies honest communication. It epitomizes the method of consultative reflection. It is a pedagogy in which known facts are intermediates between people in their mutual quest for new knowledge. Known facts are not — indeed cannot be — the end in itself. Dialogical relations empower people’s capacity for cooperation in perceiving insights into knowledge and generating its further extensions.

The teacher becomes the convener of the class and the provider of prodding questions. With the students, he becomes jointly responsible for a process in which all generate knowledge. His authority must be on the side of freedom of thought, not against it. No bank-clerk teacher teaches, and no bank-account-student is self-taught. People research together, mediated by the world, using cognizable objects available to all in wikipedia, in textbooks, and on the internet. The teacher does not regard known facts as his private property, but as the object of reflection for himself and the students in their quest for mutual human betterment. In this way, the problem-posing educator constantly re-forms his reflections in light of the reflections of his students. The students—no longer docile listeners—are now critical co-investigators in dialogue with the teacher to find a solution to new human problems. The teacher presents the material to the students for their consideration, and re-considers her earlier considerations as the students express their own. The role of the problem-posing educator is to create, together with the students, the conditions under which knowledge is most effectively, and energetically generated. Problem-posing education involves a constant unveiling of reality. Students, as they are increasingly posed with problems relating to themselves and their world, feel increasingly challenged and motivated to respond to the inquiry. The challenge is interrelated to other problems within a holistic context, not as an isolated theoretical question. The resultant comprehension tends to increase total consciousness. The students conclusions to the challenge evokes new quandaries, followed by new investigations; and gradually the students become committed to a life of insatiable learning.

The “problem-solving” model of education is a practice of freedom—as opposed to the banking model of education which is a practice of domination. Through fragmentation, robbed of their minds, there is nothing to unite people in resistance to the exploitation of the powerful. The new liberatory pedagogy denies that man is abstract, isolated, independent, and unattached to the world. The world does not exist as a reality apart from man either, however. Consciousness neither precedes the world nor passively follows from it. They dance together the path of life.


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Brain Power

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Categories
- Governance - Oppression Health Care Human Nature Oneness

Mental Illness and Collective Responsibility

Mental illness is not responsible for mass shootings. Removing guns from society would prevent mass shootings, but guns aren’t responsible for mass shootings. A desire for mass suffering is at play. What causes the desire for mass suffering? Much of what we call mental illness is not the cause but the effect of pain in relationships with family, community, and institutions. Individuals shouldn’t  be held responsible for illness, but who then is responsible? Insanity is a collective phenomenon. The desire for mass suffering is an outburst after a chain of painful experiences, inadequate coping mechanisms, family dysfunction, social alienation, exploitative communities, institutional neglect, and personal malice. Society is in part responsible for the suffering that produces mental illness. The division between criminality and insanity is a subtle one, mediated by society’s willingness to heal and prevent aberrant behavior. The barometer for what is considered mental illness depends upon what we are willing to accept responsibility for as a society. One day when social institutions are far more capable of caring for the neglected, and communities welcome their outcasts, we will recognize how much more the responsibility for tragedy rests on our own shoulders.

A perfectly sane man may commit a mass shooting, with pre-meditation and planning. However, mass shooters are automatically branded as mentally ill because it seems irrational. Why? Because we are too good to be worth killing? That reflects our experience of ourselves and our community. We are not so innocent in the shooter’s eyes. Mass shooters, terrorists, and communist revolutionaries traditionally feel disenfranchised by the social order. Our contentment with our individual homes, luxuries, entertainment, ambitions, and families blind us to the suffering of other people. The people in Newtown are no longer blind. The killer achieved his objective. We all feel his pain now. His suffering is externalized, projected onto those families. If you think this is unjust, it is only a matter of time before more mass shooters force us to reconsider the meaning of justice. We are responsible for everything that affects us. If something matters, we should hold ourselves responsible for its outcome. Welcoming the social outcast and eliminating gun ownership would have helped prevent this. We are all interconnected. Unity is both a goal and an operating assumption. Through shared travails we realize that as one humanity, we rise and fall together. Any pretensions to individualism, isolationism, or factions of particular interest will be forced to acknowledge their interconnectedness. Selfish evil cannot be marginalized or ignored, it just transforms expression until united good rises to meet it. Pain never leaves the world, it just waits to kick open a school door in Newtown, Connecticut.

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Jungle

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Categories
- Governance - Religion - Three Protagonists

Guns and Moses

If other people were carrying guns in the Newtown massacre they would have been able to intervene and stop the mentally ill killer — Or so the argument by gun owners goes. The reason why this argument is false is that mental illness exists with a predictable proportion within the population. Increasing gun ownership increases the number of mentally ill people with guns too. This means we will have more mass shootings, which will require more people to carry guns. Very convenient for the NRA.

Unintelligent and egotistical people fall for this corporate reasoning. Real heroes don’t kill bad guys, they sacrifice their “rights” to save children. It is vain and statistically inaccurate to believe that guns prevent mass shootings.

This is not a progressive viewpoint. This transcends partisan disagreements. This is a moral ideal with universal scope. Absolute demilitarization of nations and disarmament of individuals is a pre-requisite for world peace. Whatever minor technologies are necessary for maintenance of internal law and order by official police is all that is needed. Without national militaries, a small global peace keeping force under UN authority will be all that is necessary.

It is the presence of weapons and militaries that makes violence and war possible. Security and peace cannot be kept by threats and war, they must be produced by disarmament and demilitarization.

The legislative function of nations and the UN must come into play to outlaw the possession of all guns and weapons and the demilitarization of all national armies. Only when disarmament and demilitarization are embraced as law and principle can the safety and security of the people of the world be established.

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MLK

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Categories
Discourse Health Care Justice Oneness

Don’t Regulate Guns: Arm the Children!

Fire arms enable tragedy in a way that no other technology does. Where guns are absent, tragedies and destruction are less. Where people possess fire arms, homicide,  suicide, and mass shootings are more prevalent. Why do we need guns? We don’t. We enjoy guns for recreational purposes. What about defense? Possession of a fire arm does not deter other people from shooting you. Self-restraint isn’t inculcated by fear of retaliation. Rational foresight isn’t a strong suit of the violent. What about the 2nd amendment? The freedom to bear arms applied to (a) musket technology of the 1700’s, and (b) farmers who resisted government occupation by force. Muskets fire few shots per minute. Modern hand guns and semi-automatic machine guns were not envisioned by the founding fathers. Who today would seriously entertain the idea that guns help deter wrong deeds committed by the government? The government could commit a host of financial fraud in league with wall street to rob a majority of american home-owners of their pensions, and there’s nothing that guns would do about it. The government is tyrannical in its corruption to corporate tycoons and NRA lobbyists, but guns ironically aren’t the solution to that: they’re the result. Modern governments are tyrannical in a non-military fashion; therefore owning weapons isn’t the solution. A discourse on the influence of finances in congress would do more good. The 2nd amendment is outdated. Society evolves; so should the constitution. Civil servants should have to make a sacrifice to hold their office to ensure their incentive is strictly the common good. Total personal income for congressmen should be capped by the IRS at a modest quantity to flush out those who seek public office for personal gain. Lobbyists would lose interest and general welfare would be the only motive left for congressmen. To serve civil society is a responsibility and a sacrifice, not an accomplishment and a lottery ticket. Periodic massacre’s are not the price of freedom, but the outgrowth of anarchy.

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Olivia Engel

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Categories
- Education - Empowerment - Oppression Knowledge

The Difficulty with School

Education

Categories
- Empowerment Discourse Justice Knowledge

Kings

Disproportionate access to education and employment opportunities for a privileged minority deprives society of the labor and intellectual potential of the masses. From among the privileged, certain members may seek to join the struggle for social transformation towards a more just world order. Historically, what has been the role of defectors from privileged classes who seek to join the masses in a people’s revolution?

A nobleman and knight, Sir Florian Geyer (pictured), fought for peasant liberation in the German Peasants War of 1524. Won over to their cause by a sense of justice, Geyer’s “Black Band” was uniquely capable of combating heavy cavalry from the aristocratic opposition, executing lords and priests, and liberating thousands of peasants. Mistrusting an aristocrat, the peasant army made him a chief adviser instead of a general. Ironically, Geyer was assassinated by peasants loyal to the aristocracy in summer, 1525.

Existentially, these people pose unique risks and special opportunities as they move from one pole of the privileged-oppressed dichotomy to the other, without necessarily transcending it. As exploiters of the masses, heirs of oppressive fortunes, or passive spectators of inequality, when such individuals take up the cause of social transformation, they bring with them their capacities as well as their biases.

Pitfalls of privilege include a lack of confidence in the peoples’ ability to think, to want, and to know. Accordingly, these adherents to the cause of social transformation constantly run the risk of offering material generosity to their compatriots which is as disempowering and destructive to the self-esteem of the movement as the system of charity institutionalized by the status quo. The charity of the oppressors is nourished by an unjust order, which must be perpetuated in order to concentrate wealth amidst the privileged class, necessitating in turn these acts of oppressive charity. The power dynamic is concealed behind the washing of the oppressor-conscience and the legitimization of the economic order, by such charity.

Converts to the people’s cause, even those that truly desire to transform the unjust order, because of their upbringing believe that they must be the executors of the transformation. Their self-assurance stamps out the budding aspirations of the newly empowered. They talk about the people, but they do not trust them; and trusting the people is the surest prerequisite to universal participation and social reform. A champion of social justice can be identified more by his genuine trust in the people, which draws him into identity with their plight, than by a thousand actions on their behalf devoid of that trust.

Those who commit themselves to the cause of social justice must re-examine themselves constantly for that ego that creeps incessantly and imperceptibly. Bringing themselves to account each day in regards to their inner thoughts towards their fellow collaborators will guard against it. This conversion is unspeakably difficult, and does not admit of ambiguous behavior. To affirm this commitment but to consider oneself the proprietor of the knowledge of the dynamics of change—which must then be explained to (or imposed upon) the people—is to retain the posture of the paternalistic status quo.

The man or woman who proclaims devotion to the cause of justice yet is unable to enter into socio-economic equality with the people, whom he or she continues to regard as ignorant, is self-deceived and eventually may be a traitor. The convert who approaches the cause of social transformation but feels cautious with each step they take, often expressing doubts about success, and whose suggestions are accompanied by attempts to impose his or her “status” remains nostalgic towards their powerful origins.

Being drawn into the life of the masses requires a profound reorientation, burning the selfishness born of materialism. Those who undergo this personal transformation must take on a new state of mind; they can no longer remain as they were. Only through unity with the oppressed can the new converts truly understand the culture and aspirations of the grass-roots, their beauty and legitimacy, which in diverse ways reflect the structure of domina­tion.

So it is that a person born into privilege becomes solidary with the oppressed. He finds true love and marries a local girl, learns the native customs and cultures, adopts the language and dress, cooks the food, and reverences the wisdom of elders. Historically, Buddha, Moses a