Categories
- Prevailing Conceptions Human Nature

The Crucible of Universal Affliction

The current events taking place throughout the world — most prominently the social and economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic; and the social unrest sparked from a deep sense of systemic racism, being expressed through mass protests and riots — brings to mind a perspective offered by taking the long view of humanity’s long and checkered history.  Humankind has been slowly, and painfully, moving along a developmental process, from toddler-like tribes and bands, to childhood-like city-states and ancient kingdoms, to the now adolescent-like conception of identity as one’s nation or race.  The next stage in this developmental struggle is the mature stage of the oneness of humankind.

The principle of the oneness of humankind, as proclaimed by Bahá’u’lláh, however, is not “an expression of vague and pious hope.  Its appeal is not to be merely identified with a reawakening of the spirit of brotherhood and good-will among men, nor does it aim solely at the fostering of harmonious cooperation among individual peoples and nations.”  In short, it “asks not merely for cooperation among people and nations. It calls for a complete reconceptualization of the relationships that sustain society.”

Below are but a few such relationships within society, and how adolescent they currently are.

The deepening environmental crisis, driven by a system that condones the pillage of natural resources to satisfy an insatiable thirst for more, suggests how entirely inadequate is the present conception of humanity’s relationship with nature

The deterioration of the home environment, with the accompanying rise in the systematic exploitation of women and children worldwide, makes clear how pervasive are the misbegotten notions that define relations within the family unit

The persistence of despotism, on the one hand, and the increasing disregard for authority, on the other, reveal how unsatisfactory to a maturing humanity is the current relationship between the individual and the institutions of society

The concentration of material wealth in the hands of a minority of the world’s population gives an indication of how fundamentally ill-conceived are relationships among the many sectors of what is now an emerging global community.”

The principle of the oneness of humankind implies, then, an organic change in the very structure of society” “a change such as the world has not yet experienced.”

 It requires a complete and whole transformation, both inward and outward, in both individual hearts and in collective culture — a transformation away from otherness and towards unity.  All of human history has been characterized by “us” and “them”; any utility that that notion may have once had is ended.  But, like all transformations, it takes time and is painful.  

To try and understand an experience is not to dismiss it.  The suffering, anger, frustration, pain, fear, emptiness, sadness, agony, that are all feeling is very real.  But it is a real part of the painful process of the crumbling of a defective old world order and the birth of a new world order.  For Bahá’ís, the writings say: “We must expect these things: It is becoming evident that the world is not yet through with its labor, the New Age not yet fully born, real Peace not yet right around the corner….All humanity is disturbed and suffering and confused; we cannot expect to not be disturbed and not to suffer–but we don’t have to be confused. On the contrary, confidence and assurance, hope and optimism are our prerogative. The successful carrying out of our various Plans is the greatest sign we can give of our faith and inner assurance, and the best way we can help our fellow-men out of their confusion and difficulties.”

What do we expect. The world is subject to the immutable law of change, from which nothing is exempt, not least social structures and practices. Barriers to progress will decay and erode under the persistent force of integration. All that we can do is to strive to lend our energies, our talents, our time, and our sincerity to the constructive processes of, brick by brick, building a new world civilization, animating by the principle of the oneness of humankind. As as the number of people sharing this commitment rise, slowly, but irresistibly, a new society will emerge. “Conscious of their high calling, confident in the society-building power which their Faith possesses, they press forward, undeterred and undismayed, in their efforts to fashion and perfect the necessary instruments wherein the embryonic World Order of Bahá’u’lláh can mature and develop. It is this building process, slow and unobtrusive, to which the life of the world-wide Bahá’í Community is wholly consecrated, that constitutes the one hope of a stricken society.”

Categories
- Religion Human Nature

The Ontological Circle

The Ontological Circle

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.

 

 

.

 
Categories
- Primary Care Health Care Human Nature

‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Advice To A Smoker

Howard Colby Ives was a Unitarian Minister in New York who became a Bahá’í after encounters with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.  Howard was also a smoker.

When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá visited New York, Howard was not in the best of health, having some lung difficulties.  He was considering quitting smoking, yet again – in fact, he wrote “I had always prided myself on the ability to break the habit at any time.”  And yet, it was always a momentary lapse in the habit, nothing lasting.  And that summer, because of life circumstances, he was too nervous to not smoke.  With his pride, though, he also had a shame about the habit.  Though he wanted to, he didn’t bring it up to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá the first or so time they had met.  Finally, he got over his guilt and decided to ask ‘Abdu’l-Bahá advice on how to quit smoking.

When they next met, he very shyly began to tell ‘Abdu’l-Bahá about his habit.  He wrote, it “was like a child confessing to His mother, and my voice trailed away to embarrassed silence after only the fewest of words.”  Yet ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was the embodiment of loving-kindness and understanding, and never perpetuated the embarrassment that Howard felt about his habit.  After Howard was done speaking, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá quietly asked how much he smoked.

Howard told him, and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, with a gentle smile and a twinkle in His eyes, responded that He didn’t think it was harmful, that the men in Persia smoke to the point where their beards are filled with smoke, and that he shouldn’t be troubled by it at all.

Howard, at first, was a bit perplexed, and he did not understand.  He wrote, “not a dissertation on the evils of habit; not an explanation of the bad effects on health; not a summoning of my will power to overcome desire”.  Rather, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá freed him.  Howard then felt the burden of shame lifted from his shoulders, and he felt a relief.   During the next few days, Howard wrote, his “inner conflict was stilled”, and he was, at last, able to enjoy his smoke “with no smitings of conscience.”

A few days after this conversation, his desire for smoking was gone, and he quit.

*****

From this encounter, Howard concluded the power of love to bring true freedom – freedom from desires of self, from the habits of lower nature, from the fetters of this world.  Through an all-embracing love that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá evinced, He freed Howard from a focus on self.  And through showering each other with loving-kindness, we can accompany each other to free ourselves from the bondage of the animal promptings that weigh us down.  Our first duty to each other is to let our hearts burn with loving-kindness; from this we can think about building upon justice, unity, capacity, etc.

We can draw out two more elements within Howard’s encounter with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.  The first, is that through this love, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá did not allow any feelings of guilt or self-righteousness to enter into the conversation.  Howard came to him with guilt about a habit, and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said it wasn’t a big deal.  Howard came to him with a pride on being able to quit, and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá didn’t appeal to any will to power.  Guilt and self-righteousness are both manifestations of ego, on two extremes, that our self-focused society often evokes to motivate behavior.  However, the most powerful motivator of human action is an understanding of true self that comes from selflessness – freeing oneself from ego.  Often times in health care, patients come with various forms of ego, like guilt, which society has attributed to their health concern.  Physicians perpetuate this spotlight on the ego by a focus on the individual.  Yet, clearly, an inner conflict through pointing out “evils of habit” is futile; the most powerful way to transform self is a focus away from it, on selflessness.

This leads to the second point – a true understanding of human nature.  If someone considers their identity as a smoker, how is a physician going to say “don’t smoke”.  And continue by saying “here are all the reasons why you shouldn’t”.  This is telling them not to be who they think they are.  Quite a dehumanizing experience.  And yet, the health care system has gotten into this habit itself.  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá did not attack Howard’s sense of identity; instead, He helped Howard consider another perspective – that he is a spiritual, noble, human being, with a soul, and his true identity is not any category that society assigns, like “smoker”, “black”, “woman”, “liberal”, “academic”, “gay”, “banker”, “diabetic”, “depressed”, etc.  In the end, all these categories are, at best, secondary aspects of a human being; and, at worst, distortions of true human identity.  To detach from a habit or desire, one has to understand that this habit or desire is not one’s true nature.  One’s true nature is that of the soul.

Once Howard’s guilt over smoking was lifted, his identity as a smoker was shown erroneous, and his true identity as a noble spiritual being was affirmed, he was able to place this minor habit in its proper place – as just that, something that provides momentary enjoyment to the lower self; of tangential significance.  And then, quite naturally, as his higher nature assumed its rightful place, he no longer felt like smoking.

.

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.

 

 

.

 

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

.
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?
.
-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.
.
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. 
.

Scarcity & Modernity

.
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. 
.
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.
.

It’s Origin

.
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.
.
Human Nature is:
1) Material
2) Individualistic
3) Competitive
.
We are learning that human nature is not material but spiritual, not individualistic but communal, and not competitive but cooperative.
.

Science Devoid of Religion

.
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. 
.
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.
.

The Science of Economics

.
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. 
.
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
.
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.
.

Reform in Retrospect

.
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.
.
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.
.

Artificial Scarcity of Education

.
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.
.
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.
.
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.
.

Applicability of Curricula

.
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.
.

Culture of Contest

.
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.
.

Consumerism as Opiate

.
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.
.

Market-Share Vs. Pie-Size

.
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.
.
.
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?

 

 .

Categories
- Human Body Development Expansion & Consolidation Human Nature

Embryonic Humanity

Humanity is a whole, single organism, and may be likened unto the body of a human being, also a whole and single organism.  Likewise, the embryological processes that led to the development of the human being are therefore the same processes in the body of humankind.  What are these processes?

 

Humanity was not always a whole and single organism in its social, outward form.  Of course, on an ontological level, humanity is one – has always been, and always will be.  The last thousands of years have been the gradual manifestation into reality of this latent truth.  However, there have been stages:  “History has thus far recorded principally the experience of tribes, cultures, classes, and nations. With the physical unification of the planet in this century and acknowledgement of the interdependence of all who live on it, the history of humanity as one people is now beginning.”

 

We may say, then, that we are witnessing humanity’s embryological phase.  Roughly a century old, compared to the hundreds of millennia during which Homo sapiens existed, and the tens of millennia of civilization, humanity as one organism is very much an embryo.

 

What are the main embryological processes?  Immediately, the processes of cell division and growth and of differentiation and specialization come to mind.  This is how the organism increases in size and complexity, and other fundamental processes of gastrulation, somitogenesis, and organogenesis result from these first two foundational processes.

 

There is a third process, less discussed and yet now recognized as equally important, that it makes up the third of the three main processes of embryology: apoptosis.  A highly ordered and natural process, apoptosis is a series of biochemical events that leads to cell death.  WIthout apoptosis, for instance, fingers and toes wouldn’t be formed, as the hands and feet are massive paws until the cells in-between fingers and toes apoptose.  Similarly, organs are sculpted to their desired structure through apoptosis.  The chambers of the heart hollow out as structure responds to anticipated function.  The nervous system forms first as an overproduced mass of cells with potential, and those through which synaptic connections don’t arise aren’t chemically confirmed, and simply apoptose to allow for a well-functioning, descriptive neural network based on interactions that happened; and not a prescribed or predetermined system.  Apoptosis is not a passive processes, but active and highly-regulated, necessary for organic health and to maintain homeostasis – ironically, some degenerative diseases result from ineffective apoptosis.

 

This is not the only way cells die.  There is also the biological phenomenon of necrosis, which is the death of cells due to damage, toxins, trauma, infection, lack of blood flow or oxygen, a poisonous chemical environment – factors all extrinsic to the cell itself.  Necrosis is an unnatural and unhealthy occurrence, while apoptosis is a natural and healthy process.  And the differences are clinically perceptible; apoptosis is completely unnoticeable while necrosis results in pain, redness, heat, swelling, etc.

 

So what parallels can be drawn between the three processes of proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis?

 

– These processes are analogous to the dialectic through which civilization advances – crisis and victory.  The victory is often in terms of growth and decentralization – two movements that are inseparable.  They are both in terms of numbers and complexity, quantity and quality.  The crisis comes in the form of apoptosis – a decline in numbers, momentary set-backs and breaches in bonds, decreased efficacy when new complexities occur.

 

– Crisis is not a result of failure on the part of the protagonists, nor is it a passive occurrence; rather, it is an active and healthy phenomenon, necessary to provide organic conditions for new victories.  As progress is dynamic, so are the processes involved.

 

– It is important to distinguish between natural and healthy crisis and disruptive crisis.  Two factors predominate – perspective and the environment.  As apoptosis is a result of inner conditions, whereas necrosis is a result of external environmental factors, we must be alert to extraneous complications that result from the environment, and are not intrinsic to the process itself.  Crisis can be a smooth, seamless, and non-disruptive process when occurring in an environment imbued with love, patience, forbearance, and enthusiasm, one in which a humble posture of learning is the mode of operation.  Furthermore, if one has a negative perspective on events, then likely it will be seen as a crisis in negative connotation of the word; whereas if one perceives the same events as natural, it can be seen as an opportunity for progress.  How can we prevent unhealthy crisis – necrosis – before it becomes clinically manifest, and create environments and facilitate perspectives toward apoptosis, or healthy crisis?

 

– These three processes, growth, decentralization, and crisis, are all necessary for healthy progress, and they exist in a dynamic equilibrium.  An excess of any one becomes unhealthy.  Growth by itself leads to a congregation of functionless cells, losing touch with the purpose of increasing numbers; decentralization by itself is a premature distancing from the community, resulting in unsustainable activities or complacent stance; and crisis by itself is usually an indicator that focus is not on the process as a whole, but instead is on certain cells (individuals).

 

There is, of course, much more insight that can be drawn from how a human being embryologically develops and its application to the processes by which humanity advances.  It is important to always keep in mind that all these multiple interacting processes are fundamentally organic in nature.

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
Development Human Nature Oneness

A Final Step in Humanity’s Evolution

One can analyze in the tumultuous evolution of the life of humankind one thread, among others, that has been present and steadily advancing for thousands and tens of thousands of years.  Perhaps human history can even be conceptualized as a progressive movement in this direction.  This common theme is that since its earliest beginnings, humanity has been moving closer and closer to realizing the oneness of humankind – to manifest into reality this latent truth.

 

The fundamental barrier towards this realization is perceiving otherness – categorizing one group of human beings as “other” to another, often one’s own, group.

 

The reality of man is his thought.  Just as spiritual and physical reality, with all its laws, processes, and forces, is a manifestation of the mind of God – (Nature in its essence is the embodiment of My Name, the Maker, the Creator. Its manifestations are diversified by varying causes, and in this diversity there are signs for men of discernment. Nature is God’s Will and is its expression in and through the contingent world.) – so, too, is all of social reality an emanation of the collective mind of humanity: “…all these highly varied phenomena, these concepts, this knowledge, these technical procedures and philosophical systems, these sciences, arts, industries and inventions—all are emanations of the human mind.”

 

However, both the oneness of humankind and the fundamental reality of human beings as thought have both been progressively realized over humanity’s collective development.  This evolution necessarily started out as more physical, then moved towards more cultural and geographic – natural evolution into our current physical form, then the gradual integration of individuals into families, families into tribes, tribes into city-states, cities into nations, nations into empires, and now the emergence of a global civilization.  At this point, no one can reasonably argue that humankind is not whole and interconnected, and the earth is not one homeland.

 

This realization has only been at the physical, geographic, and cultural level – through masses of people moving like waves across the earth, through inter-ethnic marriage on a vast scale, through interconnected systems of communication and economics.  Yet, the reality of man is his thought, and social reality an emanation of the mind.  The final step in the oneness of humankind, beyond conceptualizing that all of humanity is one, is in not creating an “other” that doesn’t conceptualize this.  This is, perhaps, the most challenging “us” and “them” barrier.

 

Recently I heard the statement: “well, for us there is no ‘us’ and ‘them’, but for them there is an ‘us’ and ‘them'” or “we don’t think in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’s’, but they think in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’s'”.  This type of categorization of “us” and “them” is the deepest obstacle to oneness, the greatest challenge that must be overcome in humanity’s physical-geographic-cultural-intellectual-spiritual evolution.  Once our collective consciousness eliminates the thought that one group of people realize humanity’s oneness, and another group do not, then will we have reached the level of humanity’s fundamental reality (thought), and will social reality reflect more and more just and unified processes and systems, greater and greater degrees of Bahá’u’lláh’s vision for humanity.

 

.

Categories
Human Nature

Occupied with the Greatest Undertaking

Invariably, opportunities afforded by the personal circumstances of the believers initially involved—or perhaps a single homefront pioneer—to enter into meaningful and distinctive conversation with local residents dictate how the process of growth begins in a cluster.  What happens next follows no predetermined course.

Thus began a pattern in which every generation of youth, drawing inspiration from the same divine impulse to cast the world anew, has seized the opportunity to contribute to the latest stage in the unfolding process that is to transform the life of humankind. It is a pattern that has suffered no interruption.

Thou seest me, O my God, bowed down in lowliness, humbling myself before Thy commandments, submitting to Thy sovereignty, trembling at the might of Thy dominion, fleeing from Thy wrath, entreating Thy grace, relying upon Thy forgiveness, shaking with awe at Thy fury. I implore Thee with a throbbing heart, with streaming tears and a yearning soul, and in complete detachment from all things, to make Thy lovers as rays of light across Thy realms, and to aid Thy chosen servants to exalt Thy Word, that their faces may turn beauteous and bright with splendor, that their hearts may be filled with mysteries, and that every soul may lay down its burden. Guard them then from the aggressor, from him who hath become a shameless and blasphemous doer of wrong.

Verily, Thy lovers thirst, O my Lord; lead them to the wellspring of bounty and grace. Verily, they hunger; send down unto them Thy heavenly table. Verily, they are naked; robe them in the garments of learning and knowledge.

Heroes are they, O my Lord, lead them to the field of battle. Guides are they, make them to speak out with arguments and proofs. Ministering servants are they, cause them to pass round the cup that brimmeth with the wine of certitude. O my God, make them to be songsters that carol in fair gardens, make them lions that couch in the thickets, whales that plunge in the vasty deep.

Were We to reveal thy station, the hearts of men would be sorely agitated, their footsteps would slip, the embodiments of vain-glory would be dumbfounded, would fall down upon the ground, and would thrust the fingers of heedlessness into their ears, for fear of hearing.

Grieve thou not over those that have busied themselves with the things of this world, and have forgotten the remembrance of God, the Most Great. By Him Who is the Eternal Truth! The day is approaching when the wrathful anger of the Almighty will have taken hold of them. He, verily, is the Omnipotent, the All-Subduing, the Most Powerful. He shall cleanse the earth from the defilement of their corruption, and shall give it for an heritage unto such of His servants as are nigh unto Him.

Say: O people! Dust fill your mouths, and ashes blind your eyes, for having bartered away the Divine Joseph for the most paltry of prices. Oh, the misery that resteth upon you, ye that are far astray! Have ye imagined in your hearts that ye possess the power to outstrip Him and His Cause? Far from it! To this He, Himself, the All-Powerful, the Most Exalted, the Most Great, doth testify.

Soon shall the blasts of His chastisement beat upon you, and the dust of hell enshroud you. Those men who, having amassed the vanities and ornaments of the earth, have turned away disdainfully from God—these have lost both this world and the world to come. Ere long, will God, with the Hand of Power, strip them of their possessions, and divest them of the robe of His bounty. To this they themselves shall soon witness. Thou, too, shalt testify.

Say: O people! Let not this life and its deceits deceive you, for the world and all that is therein is held firmly in the grasp of His Will. He bestoweth His favor on whom He willeth, and from whom He willeth He taketh it away. He doth whatsoever He chooseth. Had the world been of any worth in His sight, He surely would never have allowed His enemies to possess it, even to the extent of a grain of mustard seed.

Occupied with the greatest undertaking

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
- Empowerment - Prevailing Conceptions - Religion Development Human Nature Knowledge Oneness Power

The Power of Truth

For thousands of years, beginning with the birth of the family – the smallest unit in the scale of human organization – humanity’s evolution has been characterized by a process of integration, which although far less spectacular than the parallel process of disintegration, is nonetheless more significant.  This process of integration, which has gone though successive stages from clan, tribe, city-state, and nation, will culminate in the final stage of humankind’s evolution – the unification of the entire planet.  This is the age in which we now live.  The hallmark of this age in human history is the principle of the oneness of humankind.  As humanity’s transition to maturity and oneness will be a complete transformation that the world has not yet witnessed, the principle of the oneness of humankind will be the basis for the reconceptualization of all relationships within society and all social structures.

 

However, in order for patterns of community life – fruit from the transformation of relationships and structures – built upon the principle of the oneness of humankind to emerge, certain foundational concepts must be reexamined – notably the concept of power.  Additionally, to contemplate a complete transformation as the one upcoming for humanity, the question of the power to accomplish it is raised.

 

Traditionally, power has been viewed as advantage of one person or group in order to dominate another person or group.  Power is considered a limited resource that is acquired through contest with others, and confers the ability to surpass others and win.  Notwithstanding the benefits brought to the human race from the exercise of power to advance one over another, as humanity matures, it must leave behind obsolescent and anachronistic ideas that have obviously reached the limit of their effectiveness.

 

There are other conceptions of power, and with it, sources of power, that are more befitting a maturing humanity.  The powers of the human spirit, the power of unity, of love, of pure deeds, are all powers that have been harnessed and tapped throughout history, resulting in impressive accomplishments in all spheres of life.  These are the powers that religion draws our attention to – religions which have represented successive stages in the spiritual evolution of human society.  These sources of power constitute a limitless capacity to transform that resides in humanity as a whole; and their operation is necessary to move humanity forward.  Under the premise of the oneness of humanity, these sources are not only more powerful than military might, economics, media, propaganda, etc., or anything that implies an “other”, but in fact the only relevant means to progress in a global society.

 

Truth is another source of power, associated throughout history with some of the greatest philosophical, artistic, and scientific advances we’ve experienced, that humanity as a whole must learn a great deal more about how to tap in order to propel the advance of civilization.  Why is it so powerful?

 

Reality is an expression of truth.  To actively explore this reality, through conversation, through service, through fellowship, through collective reflection, through study, is to understand truth – and with that, harness the power of truth.  The exploration of reality, then, becomes a very empowering action.  Framing action as an exploration of reality, then, is a highly encouraging mindset.  As more and more individuals work together to explore reality, as more and more individuals are encouraged to share with others the idea that their collective action is an exploration of reality, and as more and more individuals are empowered by generation of knowledge, the total amount of power available to humanity increases enormously.  And suddenly, with all this power, the transformation beckoning humanity doesn’t seem as difficult.

 

The worldwide Baha’i community is actively laboring to increase the power available to humanity for its transformation: “…everywhere, a notable number of friends find themselves ready to enter into conversation with people of varied backgrounds and interests and 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.”  In fact, one may say that a goal of the worldwide Baha’i community is to work for the empowerment of all the peoples of the world.

 

And as Baha’u’llah, the Manifestation of God for our age, has ushered in this new stage of human development, He has also promised that the power of truth will strengthen all of humanity in our efforts towards collective maturity: “Be not dismayed, O peoples of the world, when the day star of My beauty is set, and the heaven of My tabernacle is concealed from your eyes. Arise to further My Cause, and to exalt My Word amongst men. We are with you at all times, and shall strengthen you through the power of truth.

 

.

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.

 

.

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
- 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
- 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 Development Human Nature Oneness

Inside Those Suffering Eyes: The Us and Them Dichotomy

Those who wish to make a positive impact on the world are faced with a paradox born of the very privilege that motivates them to help others. They are at once the beneficiary of oppressive structures and their product. Insofar as they have become awakened to the plight of the impoverished masses they are reactionary to the knowledge of suffering and the empathic guilt of enjoying the spoils of injustice. On the other hand, were it not for this privilege the motivation to rise up in activism would be lacking as well as the technological means to analyze the problem and the social influence to pursue reform.

Emerging from this context, activists in pursuit of reform are faced with a self-reinforcing dilemma. Spearheading a movement requires the oppressed (the proposed beneficiaries of reform) to submit to preconceived models of action and adopt objectives derived from their personal experience. Naturally, not spearheading a movement would obviate the possibility of marginalizing the directions and incentives of the masses, but would remove them from the field of service. Emotional and motivational repercussions of this problem overshadow any academic shortcomings conceivable, as social organization and collective will in the rural setting are far more susceptible to unspoken implications. Overall direction being set from the outside is the hallmark of failed development initiatives.

The exacerbation of the Us-Them divide renders the population purported to be served an intractable obstacle. Alternative extremes result in cultural relativism and relinquishing the task of transformation in the name of others’ rights to self-determination and autonomy. Colonial invader or assimilated relativist seem like the only two viable options.

Are human beings doomed to be outsiders to every group except a single subculture, narrowly defined by nationality, ethnicity, social class, religion, and occupation? I believe not. But can you think of a reason why? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

poor boy

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
- 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
- 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
Human Nature

The Role of Economics in Society

Plato reflects on the Role of Economics in Society:

If global development is to be governed by spiritual principles, the role it assigns to the generation and application of knowledge must be reevaluated.

Materialism, whether cogently defined or hidden in implicit assumptions, has little choice but to place economic activity at the center of human existence.

In one way or another, all other processes of social life end up subordinate to economic activity, deriving the greater part of their significance from the contributions they make to material comfort and wealth.

Specifically, knowledge, which is too often confused with information, acquires much of its value from its enormous potential to drive economic progress.

An alternative claim is that a worldview that is cognizant of the spiritual dimensions of consciousness would regard the generation and application of knowledge as the very central process of social existence.

Clearly, the creation of wealth and its just distribution would continue to be indispensable. But economic activity would not be seen as an end in itself any longer.

Beyond attention to the needs of survival, economics would concern itself with the multiplication of means through which humanity would pursue goals of a higher purpose.

PlatoCartoon

Categories
- Consultation - Empowerment Human Nature Justice Oneness

Ninety-Five Conferences will be Convened

Topic Outline: (by paragraph)

  1. Summary
  2. Youth Saviors
  3. 95 Conferences will be Convened
  4. Carpe Diem (Seize the Day)

¶1    Summary

Civilization as we know it is characterized by a culture of rational self-interest and a value system that encourages individual benefit. Decisions regarding what social, political, or religious ideology to believe in seem based upon calculations of which one personally profits each individual or satisfies their desires the most. Nevertheless an emerging demographic exists who are not duped by the assumptions of the establishment generation. Progressive thinkers and activists, who are typically in their youth, are ironically the main resistance to this dominant ideology. This is ironic, because it is precisely the impressionable age group of youth towards which corporate marketing and proponents of consumerism tailor their advertising propaganda and a culture of peer pressure. Precisely where beneficiaries of a consumer culture expect to reap the 2nd generation of their ideological harvest, a phenomenon is being observed that gives hope to heart.

2    Youth Saviours

Those who are old enough to have the intellectual capacity to perceive right from wrong but who are still young enough to posses the trait of idealism before vested interests in financial establishment strip them of it — these youth in their mid teens and twenties — are at once the target and the arch-nemesis of the materialistic way of life. In youth is found both the gullibility of rationalized hedonism and the will that blazes bright with the fire of sacrifice. Selflessness is the moral order that will inherit the future. There would be concern for the destiny of human society and the trajectory of our civilization were it not for the youth who are arising in diverse cultural settings, and from a wide spectrum of social and economic backgrounds, both rural and urban, public schools and private universities, indigenous and immigrant populations, working class and affluent families to unitedly affect positive enduring transformation. These diverse social elements have melted together as if by the heat of a common oppression and the camaraderie born of a shared sense of purpose. A sea tide of melded discontent stands ready to revolutionize humankind’s ordered life with sweeping reforms one after another, and the unity of identity and purpose needed to see the that transformation through.

¶3   95 Conferences will be Convened

In launching this stupendous mission and to accelerate its initial progress, an organization of youth which functions as a platform for the dissemination of conceptual truths, and a proclamation of the responsibilities to be borne by this age group is needed. Therefore, 95 youth conferences will be convened. Every young person who perceives that the path to the regeneration of the fortunes of humankind as one collective lies in the restructuring of social, economic and political life according to spiritual values of unity and justice would do well to attend.

¶4   Carpe Diem (Seize the Day)

Born, Lived, and Died on this earth — every human being who has ever existed has confronted the perennial question, posed to us from the bowels of existence itself: to contribute to the betterment of the world or languish in hedonism the remaining days of a fleeting life? As innumerable as all the people of the world and of the past may be, still each one possesses a unique opportunity to render some service. Youth of the world: the choice is now! The cross-roads beckon before us: do we meditate on this crisis of civilization, do we commit to its reform, do we harden our hearts for the pain that a life of sacrifice would entail, in preparation for the glorious revolution, the surpassing characters, and the untold blessings that are sure to follow on the heels of so great an undertaking?

The swamp of human values today will birth fairies of a realm beyond, nymphs of perspicuous eye sight, visionary pixies with stainless characters in stark contrast to the mire of the swamp. Plagued by insecurity the present world order will perish. Uniting the myriad disenfranchised segments of a multi-cultured but too extremely unequal society into a single response. Youth who do not placidly walk past the injustices of the world, nor even seek to ignore or avoid them, but rather run straight towards them — these youth will struggle and die for the reign of justice to arrive.

“Free thyself from the fetters of this world, and loose thy soul from the prison of self. Seize thy chance, for it will come to thee no more…”

95 Youth Conferences

Categories
Human Nature

Baha’i, Iran, Kafir!

The Islamic Republic of Iran has arrested and imprisoned the head (Shahin Negari) of the university designed to provide education for Iran’s 1 million strong Baha’i community who are denied access to higher education in that country.

The Iranian government has wrongfully imprisoned hundreds of innocent members of the Baha’i Faith, the country’s largest religious minority, as part of an on-going systematic campaign to persecute that community, which it sees as spiritually unclean or “Kafir” (infidels), and to deprive them of their basic human rights.

Persecution of the Baha’is has consisted of kangeroo court murders, summary executions, mob lynchings, kidnapping with torture and ransom, desecration of bodies and burial grounds, assault and battery, harassment, public media sponsored hate propaganda, the systematic denial of employment, property, and marriage licenses (and as a result, arrest for operating businesses “without a license”, “theft”, and “prostitution”) the surreptitious and nation-wide expulsion of Baha’is from all undergraduate and graduate institutions of education, and administratively sanctioned humiliation and bullying in K-12 grade schools.

Recently, Iran’s internal militia, the “Basij”, has shot, tortured, and killed hundreds of student protesters, who represent Iran’s free-thinking youth population under the age of thirty, who now constitute over 70% of the general population. These Student protesters organized the “green” revolution, a student-led protest which aimed at securing political change in opposition to the election fixing and ballot rigging widely implicated in Ahmadinejad’s run-up to presidential victory.

The most serious transgression of human rights committed by the Islamic regime in its quest to crush the youth movement and eradicate the Baha’i community has been the the use of repeated arrests and releases as a weapon of terror and demoralization.

These episodes in Evin prison (Iran’s jail for prisoners of conscience) are accompanied by violent interrogation and prolonged incarceration in unsanitary conditions, without sustenance or facilities for hygiene, without evidentiary hearings or due process, and under the guise of spurious charges indicting American or Israeli-sponsored espionage.

The aim of these systematic campaigns for the persecution of the peaceful and law-abiding women, children, and men of the Baha’i community is the wholesale extermination, undeterred debilitation, and utter denigration of the Baha’i community.

Through a deliberate and strategic devitalization of their economic capital, educational expertise, social cohesion, and psychological integrity the Islamic Republic of Iran has attempted a sub-clinical variant of genocide, on par with the ethnic cleansing of the Jewish peoples prior to the wholesale massacres of the holocaust.

The systematic marking, registering, and monitoring of individuals of a proscribed sect by members of a secret police bears an unmistakable semblance to the machinations constituting the prelude to the ethnic cleansing implemented by the Third Reich in the days prior to the advent of genocide, mass starvation, and utter carnage in the concentration camps.

The result must not be the same in Iran in the 21st century. The ultimate narrative of this atrocity must not find its conclusion in the same orgy of bloodshed and loss of talent and human capital as was seen in Germany, Bosnia, or Rwanda.

This tragedy is one horrific future that must not be manifested. It is an eventuality the possible materialization of which must galvanize the civilized world and democratic western governments to unite against such tyranny. Leaders among nations must arise to call other nations to abide under one universal law, and impel all nations to abide by one global code: Man is a spiritual being with sacred responsibilities and inviolable rights.

The earth is but one country, and humankind it citizens. This species is the Crown of God’s creation and the fruit of His tree of evolution, that has grown for 5 billion years under the diligence of One great Gardener — how dare we, who are His creation, take from Him what He has so laboriously raised up, and in which a rational soul has been deposited, a soul with spiritual faculties and moral potentialities which reflects God’s own Image?

Shahin Negari

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
- 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.

.

Jungle

.

Categories
- Education - Oppression - Prevailing Conceptions Human Nature Justice Power

Economic Mirages

Disproportionate access to nutritious diets, quality housing, industry-recognized education, employment opportunities, and healthcare services would not in itself sow the seeds of rebellion were it not for the possessiveness of the privileged over their resources. Selfishness towards privilege is engendered through  fear of having to share what one possesses. An individual’s right to private property has been scapegoated to obscure a cultural obsession with commodification, and a philosophy that reduces human reality to an uninhabited marketplace. “Pure capitalism” and “Laissez-faire” market are coinages held up to prevent wide-spread questioning of the merits of “economic growth” as the purpose of social life. The view that reality is an exchange of commodities on a social marketplace reduces human relations to products, capital, and profits in a mutually exploitative fashion and has been mistaken for a substantive claim to self-identity by some in the 21st century. A debasing culture, value-system, and worldview has become pervasive. This world view objectifies every element of its surroundings into an object for domination, exploitation, and profit, be it earth, property, product, or people themselves. Adam Smith’s “invisible hand of the market” is as unreal today as it has been impotent historically. Children refuse to accept tales of invisible saviors, why have grown women and statesmen fallen for such costly fairy tales? Theories that scarcely applied to a time when international industries, sophisticated financing, and advertising propaganda were absent, cannot be seriously relied upon for guiding today’s economy.

Limitless consumption is a right, some aver, earned through individual “effort” and the courage to endure economic “risk”. If others lack commodities, it is simply because they are lazy and cowardly. But what does access to education and employment opportunities have to do with effort and entrepreneurial courage? The truth of the matter is that the poor work much harder and with much more resourcefulness than the rich on average. Of course those with superior access and opportunity do not perceive their advantage as having issued from a type of privilege which excludes and denigrates others. More surprisingly, they do not perceive how institutional complacency with this injustice numbers them historically as backwards, ignominious and primitive. How will posterity evaluate the empathy, nobility, and vision of our privileged generation? Unabashed before the specter of their own selfishness, they resort to passivity behind the laws of the status quo that safeguard and drag their feet to create inequality. Material things contain a fire within them. Hoarders suffocate within their smoldering homes. Agency is forfeited. Humans become slaves to possessions. Desire is an inglorious master.

A habit of the mind gone voracious, the insatiable hoarders of commodities become afflicted with the conviction that they can transform everything into objects of their purchasing power. Hence their strictly materialistic conception of reality. A vapid conviction that deprives reality, economic and social , of its intrinsic meaning. Money is the measure of all things, and profit the primary goal. Whereas the opposite should be true: price determines value. The consciousness, now neurotic, feels that what is worthwhile is to have more—always more. Especially to be halted are those ingrates who may steal priceless technologies to barter in exchange for their daily bread. Laws must be enacted – to protect “private property”. And yet, the argument has already become deranged once it is cast in terms of private property or the struggle to justify or redeem it. Private property is a right. That is irrelevant  This is rather a question of oppression, not rights. Oppression is not a right. Exploitation is not a right. Slavery is not a right. Calling these things pure capitalism, lassaiz-faire, or private property does not change their moral nature. Inequalities of access and opportunity do not allow people to work for their own betterment or for that of the community. This is not justice.

The status quo is protected by law and maintained by the institutionalization of inequality. To call for justice amounts to a call for institutional reform. Institutions legislate laws, educate police forces, and mechanize a system of coercing and normalizing the inequality. When caught between his own dignity and the steel of the system, a young worker becomes devitalized, made complacent, and in-animated. He becomes inanimate before the eyes of the law as well as the benefactors of that system that created both his crime and engineered the low estate that forced him into it. The power to devitalize, the specialty of the privileged class, is completely consistent with the ideology of commodification. Inanimate objects are naturally more possessable and manipulable. Psychologically, the drive to possess, and in possessing, to devitalize, is akin to the psychiatric diagnosis of sadism. Sadism is the derivation of pleasure from the domination and objectification of a sentient life form. Sadism therefore is a love of death, since in objectifying and dominating we deprive a life of its inalienable quality – freedom. Love of power, is the source of all evil, and a perversion of human drives. Privatization of possessions is not a path which must lead to the deification of commodities, the rise of consumerism, and the psychological obsession with domination and sadism. This path leads towards a cultural love of death. Therefore, it is necrophilia. Dead men, oppressed objects of the perpetuated system of inequality under which they patiently languish, are owned by the plutocratic minority, lacking any purpose except what is prescribed unto them by their privileged masters.

Categories
- Education - Prevailing Conceptions - Science Discourse Human Nature

Economics and Human Nature

Our theory of economics is predicated on the assumption that people and wants grossly outnumber opportunities and resources in our society. This is why competition is the basis for our economic system. Biology is as much a testimony to this fact, in the Darwinian interpretation, as the social reality is which denies people jobs and education on the basis of competitor’s performance.

The competitive theory of economics is based upon the ratio of goods to wants. The competitive theory of evolution is based upon our observation of the disproportionate reproductive resources claimed by the fittest members of a species. One of these theories has scientific evidence in support of it. How can we demonstrate the falsity of the competitive theory of economics without overcoming the facts on the ground that wants exceed goods? We must arrange for a new situation in which the wants do not exceed the goods. This set of facts will be more consistent with a new theory of economics and will not require competition. This organization will allow for the deconstruction of the competitive theory of human nature. Without a change in the structure of the market and the social order, how can the same facts (wants>goods) give rise to a new set of interpretations about social and economic reality (that human nature is actually cooperative)?

It is naive to think that we can think up an alternative theory of human and economic nature without a subject matter to work with, an empirical reality to examine, and a group of people who enact and experiment by which we learn. Initial conjectures, even of an enlightened and inspired nature, can only carry us so far. New food is needed for thought. New experience is needed for reflection. A constant stream of empirical data informs, refines, and alters working theories. Understanding the application of theory, both in terms of individual growth and social progress, increases manifold when study and service are intermingled concurrently. There, in the field of service, knowledge is tested, questions arise out of practice, and new levels of understanding are achieved.

What structures can you think of which demonstrate a distribution of resources and needs that allows the corroboration of the cooperative theory of human nature?

Categories
- Religion Human Nature

Ideology, Service, Change: Is Peace Possible Without Sacrifice?

People say they want an end to violence. What they mean is, they want their opposing party to yield in deference to their will. Everyone wishes for world peace, but so many who wish continue to exacerbate conflict and contention. What they really mean is, they wish to use the language of peace to subdue their opponent to give in and capitulate. There are those who would invoke the name of peace, high ideals, and religion to achieve their own corrupt ends. There are those who would use religion to deceive the masses. The sign of true faith is selflessness. It is difficult to say something is faith if it benefits oneself. The touchstone of true faith is that someone sacrifices for it.

The sign of love is fortitude under the fire of Divine decree. Under the banner of Divine principles it is not easy to say that a thing is an act of faith, and yet have it violate the spirit of the principle. Always, if something is to be identified positively as faith it must entail sacrifice of the self, subjugation of the promptings of the ego, and pain. This does not mean that a thing that does not involve pain, cannot be an act of faith as well. It just means that it cannot be positively identified as such, it may be veiled or unknown or unclear to the eyes of the observer. If too much time passes in this grey, middle ground of things being done that do not involve sacrifice or pain, it may lead to a creeping suspicion that one is not actually abiding by the provisions of faith. How could you know if this were not the case? Unless, some or all of your deeds were sacrificial and obviously faithful? Ultimately, it remains for the conscience of each person to determine what proportion of their lives and opinions derive from dedication to principle and entail sacrifice. If one suspects that there may not be enough selflessness manifest obviously, to make the argument clear that his or her behavior is principle-based or sacrificial, the question ought to be asked, “are we sure we are making every effort we can to work for the world and for the Cause of truth?”

Sacrifice and selflessness manifest themselves as servitude at all times and to all wills surrounding you in life. Servitude emerges from the healthy expression of faith in an ideal. An ideal is postulated and people believe in it. Those who sacrifice to achieve its ends and accommodate their desires and will to its imperatives and needs become the faithful. Only by sacrificing of our selves can we really alter the course of how things turn out. When mankind continues in its selfish ways, the disintegration of the social fabric continues on pace with how it has been in the recent past. When individuals commit themselves to a new ideal, and sacrifice their inclinations and drives in favor of its beautiful and productive principles, society progresses as a whole, as a result of their cumulative contributions and achievements summed.

Ideology provides the ideal. Faith links the believer from the ideal to the practical expression of sacrificing his or her own will in favor of humanity’s betterment through the principles enunciated by the ideal. This is servitude. Cumulatively, individuals contribute to the process of change, and ultimately to enduring transformation, in themselves and society.

Ideology is the object of faith. Service is its expression. Change is the social result.

Love cannot be commanded; it must be invited. War cannot be threatened into ceasing; it must concede in the wake of sacrifice and pain. Conflict ends not when the spirit of shamelessness has lost its willingness to fight over petty wounds; conflict ends when entire peoples pursue disarmament as unilaterally as principle and not as a strategic expedient while peace talks allow restocking of ammunition supplies. Conflict ends when the aggressor loses the moral stomach to continue to slaughter hapless millions after those millions have decided to disarm and demilitarize themselves with complete willingness to endure whatever casualties may be incurred as a consequence. So far, disarmament has never resulted in the loss of life. So far, ironically, arms have never protected a people from injury or harm. All that arms have done is exacerbate and draw forth the blood lust of one’s opponents. All bloodshed has resulted from the response to aggression across national borders.

We cannot overlook the fact that the existence of weaponry, small arms or military grade, have always been correlated with the shedding of blood and the loss of life, whether it be on the social level of armed felonies or the multi-national level of  war and armed conflict. Large militaries are the greatest instigator of war and destruction. Demilitarization and disarmament are the single most influential correlant with peace and harmony. It devolves upon us to determine the course best fit for our moral destinies based on these facts.

No arms are necessary beyond what is required for the maintenance of a nation’s internal security and order. These are wielded by the police force. Civilians should not require them. The police are regulated by governmental over site and internal affairs agencies, and given a mandate and a budget by the state. Confident control over their actions is intrinsic to participation in the social order itself.

Internationally speaking, no more arms are needed than a global government would need to resist the invasion of one of the most powerful nation’s military’s into another state. Whatever the strongest armed nation’s military might may be, this defines the standard of the minimal armaments required of a global peace keeping force under the command of global government authority. If demilitarization could be achieved unanimously and completely, the amount of peace keeping force needed to be maintained by a global government would be minimal, including only what is necessary for intervention in the case of an emergency of a hidden national force showing aggression against another nation unexpectedly. The tighter the web of international communication and informed and consensual disarmament, the less likely such a possibility, and the less the total amount of military force needed by the global government for maintenance of order.

War is the result of our own weapons and the fetish for power that they symbolize. The result is the suffering of all mankind. The aggressor deprives himself of international support. Hiding behind his nukes, his people starve under embargo’s imposed by unanimous international sanctions. Aggression deprives both sides of prosperity. Insecurity drives the production and acquisition of weaponry. With 5 inch heels and 1000’s of nuclear warheads, Kim Jong Il reaps the reward of a watery grave and the disgust of countless millions.  Ahmadinejad earns the embarrassment and rebellion of young Persians all over the world.

Peace is the result of sacrifice, not nationalism.

Categories
- Consultation - Education - Governance - Language Human Nature

Shadows of the Mind: Disorganized Activism, Conducive to Change?

Decades have come and gone and our busy lives, cluttered with diverse daily drives and enjoyments, have advanced in age, irreparable choices have been made, courses set, and moral decisions cast in the stone of opportunity cost. Billions have come before us and billions beyond, all have passed into the annals of history, and been forgotten by the onward march of time.

The abyss of oblivion now beckons to our scrumptious generation, morsels for its dinner. Not many with good intentions have been seen on the world stage; albeit works of charity and small acts of kindness are as prevalent as the annual holiday season – but  structurally, not much has changed. A collective will that is able to revolutionize the structure of society and apply new values to its educational, operational, military, economic, and cultural aspirations has not emerged.

The failure belongs to us all, as much as it does to any individual, institution, or activist community. Faith in a number of established principles has waned from public consciousness. With lack of faith in these values, and the will to apply them, it is not easy to conceive a remedy for society’s spiral.

Many people speak of their ideals of improving society, but without the will to plan for the future how will this good intention produce any result? Without organization for the widespread application of intelligence, foresight, evidence-based strategy, and the will endure what is necessary to arrive at the desired result, of what use are all “good intentions”? The touchstone of intention, is the ability to learn from mistakes, not just to reapply the same failed systems and ideas to current problems.

Society has inculcated a system that places economic activity at the center of social existence, that deifies the market, that worships monetary wealth, that promotes cutthroat and deceitful business practices, that is protected by a system of legality that is equally divorced from morality as it is profitable to ruthless corporate-legal machines.

We have abandoned our children and the future generation to teachers less qualified, less compensated, and less equipped to discharge their duties than the sacred task of education requires them to be. The educational system is outdated, ineffective  and trains people to be a receptacle of knowledge, not active participants in their own learning process. This reflects our collective disregard for the importance of education. Lip service is no substitute. Where society places its wallet, is where you find what it believes in, what it values.

We have relegated intelligent problems that is the substance of climate change and discourses of global importance to the realm of political talking points, and corporate manipulation. When justice is dethroned, and intelligence is mocked as a partisan ploy, there you see the dangers of corruption in politics. Individuals cannot combat institutional corruption – institutional capacity is needed to deal with the evils of partisanship and to cleanse the current system.

We have abandoned justice for the guise of non-aggression in society: where human psyches should be nurtured with love and education and opportunity we have implemented a system of mass consumerism and individual disconnectedness.

Loneliness and desperation bursts through publicly in acts of unprovoked personal massacres committed by mentally deranged outcasts on the fringes of the social order. Mentally ill college students, and bullied high schoolers exact their vengeance upon a world that neglected their need to belong. The difference between outcasts and the rest of people living “normal lives” is not clear superficially, because the baseline level of social disconnectedness is so high. Madness, goes undiagnosed and unsuspected for decades. Loneliness is widespread and the human need to belong – much more powerful than the drive to consume commercial products – is not recognized at all in social value, taking hardly a second place to the recognized need for an new iPod.

Pain is the perpetual companion of the disenfranchised members within the system. Those without happiness, home, opportunity, love, or family values are relegated to a world of isolated subsistence, where they are expected to “overcome” through “self-reliance” the disparities that divide them. Instead, most are forced to suffer in solitude the aching question: should I continue being misunderstood by society? or take from society the attention and awe I deserve? Crime is the result.

Disconnectedness and disunity remain the foremost culprits. Though society has adopted a lingo of professed love and unity one to another, disenfranchisement and lack of a community to belong to, remains the de facto reality for most of the world’s inhabitants.

Oblivious to this suffering, post-modern voices from a bygone philosophical age still cry: “NO, to organized initiatives. NO organized system is needed to solve any social dilemma!” Why is this opinion maintained, that organized systems are superfluous to addressing social disparities and values of social cohesion and unity? Do we leave medicine and finance to free-lance garage-practitioners? Do we leave law and order to old-school sheriff’s like the wild wild west? In this day and age, do we leave governance to regional chieftains and warlords? So why would we leave social justice to disorganized activism?

Is the fear of oppression from large organizations rational? Or does it stem from a past where systems had been abused to commit atrocities against and oppress the public? Examples that come to mind are gender inequalities propagated by the Catholic Church, and government embroilment in scandals like the Tuskegee experiments?But should we throw out the baby with bath water, and use the rationale of post-modernism?

Religious structure even still oppress the masses. But is disorganization and the dissolution of organized approaches to reforming society’s values the solution? Do we consider these religious structure valid expressions of religion? Is al-Qaeda a valid expression of religion? Is Christian fundamentalism a valid expression of religion?

But what should be foremost in our concerns, fear of tyranny, or commitment to improving the world? Systems increase the power of response. As such they increase the power of corruption as well.  Corruption should be rooted out, however, and we ought to struggle to eliminate. Let this be the end to which a painful past can motivate us to act. Let our will be stronger than our fear. Let us embrace an overarching process within evolutionary and global history. Let us acknowledge a fruit and destination to which the revolutions ages is inexorably drawing the human race. Let the telos of the universe again be recognized.

The new demand and discourse on valid religious organizations begins here: http://agencyandchange.com/2012/10/19/discourse-on-religion/

Mankind’s united destiny beckons. The merger of nation states into global federalism, the elimination of distinctions of all kinds, the economic, cultural, linguistic, and ultimately the political and biological unity of the human race is inevitable.

Inevitably, globalization will merge our economies, internet and cell phone communication will combine our languages, intermarriage and the force of biology will intermingle our genomes, the collective travails and natural disasters that persistently plague our world will require us to unite economically and politically to resist them, and the global trends in trade will mandate us to adopt a single international currency.

Competition, we have institutionalized in economic doctrine and business practice. Selfishness, we have inculcated as the driver of innovation and change. Concern with one’s personal family, we have touted as moral responsibility, while the heavens have said from the beginning of time “prefer others before oneself”.

Military might we appraise as a means of keeping peace and an expression of our patriotic commitment. But when has a display of might been conducive to de-escalating the portents and probability of war? When has war run from selfish armamentarians? and when has hot war not been preceded by cold-war?

When research and investments in technologies and green-energy for the future, upon which the prosperity of the whole race depends, are relegated to a second priority, and fossil fuels burnt at a ever-accelerating rate, it raises concerns about the intelligence of out political and discursive climate. If this trend continues, the demise of the values of the mind of man will be evident, and the rise of values pertinent to his body will be consummate in lust for power, war, and dominion. The drive for economic and military domination is an expedient, and not a path to enduring change and prosperity. domination is nullified when it faces the same thing across the sea. Historically, it has been particularistic pursuits of power that produce destruction, and it has always been submission of the ego in deference to the collective will that produces progress and prosperity.

Drives for particularistic interest, personal control, with power and war as a means to it, inevitably end by destroying and disenfranchising all, irrespective of the identity of the parties. Selfishness itself is the essence of destruction. Its origin is the war within the self, and its end is annihilation.

“…ye walk on My earth complacent and self-satisfied, heedless that My earth is weary of you…”

Categories
- Education - Governance Human Nature Justice

Spring Showers onto Hard Earth: Prevailing Theories of Human Nature, Alterable?

How great is our capacity for change? The endpoint of our progress is as difficult to imagine as space travel is to cavemen. Social reform will outpace our technological ingenuity. Freedom fighting at present is dwarfed by the liberties of the future. Cause-drops merge into revolution-streams; but the goal remains oceans away. Over fair seas, where life is fair, sail with me.

Activists confront wide-scale cynicism. Their hopes dashed by erroneous assumptions of human nature. Does the past have to be our future? Competitive economics prescribed because of the struggle for survival in World War II? Cutthroat education climates because individuals procreate their genes?  Contentious politics because checking leads to balance?

Selfishness theory is self-fulfilling. Its prescription causes the disease; the disease is mistaken for our nature; that nature is re-prescribed. If disease is described as health, symptoms become prescribed as cure.

Although, failure is common, is it also our nature? War and injustice reinforce this  illusion. The state of the world, however, reflects a distortion of the human spirit, not its essential nature. Anachronisms disallow drawing on the extraordinary reservoir of spiritual potential available to us.

Drawing on this power, activists develop spiritual capacities to contribute to social reform. Like hard earth, prevailing theories, seem impervious to alteration, before the spiritual springtime brings rain. Like flowers, accurate theories of human nature, are due to spring up fresh and fair.

.

Categories
- Consultation - Education - Empowerment - Governance - Language - Oppression - Prevailing Conceptions - Religion - Three Protagonists Development Discourse Human Nature Justice Knowledge Oneness

Summary: Ridvan 2012 Message

Paragraph#:

1. Abdu’l-Baha’s Temple-ground piercing Centenary. Diverse participants then and now.

2. Divine civilization beyond mere adjustments to present order.

3. Erroneous assumptions of human nature, justified by failings, disallow spiritual potential.

4. Imprisonment enables sympathetic hearts. 5-Year Plan (5YP) features grasped. Intensify application.

5. Signs: individual transformation, divine communities, administration promotes human welfare. Protagonist’s mutual support.

6. Citizens, body politic, societal institutions struggle for power. Cooperative Baha’i alternative emerging: responsible individual, nurturing institutions, eager community.

7. Revelation recasts societal relationships. Economic injustice tolerated; disproportionate gain emblem of success. Eschew dishonesty, exploitation.

8. National Mashriqu’l-Adhkars to be raised in Democratic Republic of Congo and Papua New Guinea. Remarkable response to Plans.

9. Mashriqu’l-Adhkar weds worship and service, reflected in devotionals and educational process, correlates with size and SA. JYSEP fuels SC’s and CC’s. Learning site fortifies E&C. Erection of Local Houses of Worship: Battambang, Cambodia; Bihar Sharif, India; Matunda Soy, Kenya; Norte del Cauca, Colombia; and Tanna, Vanuatu clusters.

10. Temples Fund established. Sacrificial contributions invited.

11. Seven countries breaking Temple-ground. Every city prelude. From these Dawning-Points peal out anthems of His praise.

The Universal House of Justice

 

“…extraordinary reservoir of spiritual potential available to any illumined soul…”

 

Abbreviations:
5YP – Five Year Plan
SA – Social Action
JYSEP – Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program
SC – Study Circle
CC – Children’s Class
E&C – Expansion and Consolidation

 

 

Categories
- Governance - Human Body - Prevailing Conceptions Discourse Human Nature Justice Oneness

Economic Theory: Competition, the Key to Prosperity?

Human nature has been misinterpreted. We are not selfish and competitive by nature, but rather, altruistic and cooperative. Human societies to some extent actually represent an anomaly in the competitive theory of the jungle. Humans demonstrate a detailed division of labour 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 labour. 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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7AWnfFRc7g

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

 

Categories
- Consultation - Empowerment - Governance - Human Body - Prevailing Conceptions Discourse Justice

Discourse and Politics: Blood in the Arteries of Governance

Discourse on the following topics has brought these themes to the point of being reconceptualized. Certain foundational principles have emerged and crystallized from ongoing discourse. Principles we now believe in in a new way are:

1) Unity of all Humankind
2) Justice according to the Laws of God for all
3) Knowledge, as the central feature of social existence, the generation of which is prerogative and responsibility of all
4) Power, corrupted by partisanship today, must be revolutionized by the power of cooperation, love, unity, spirituality, selflessness, collective-mindedness, and humility.

The fundamental difference between the governance of the present and the governance of the future will be the values of the governors. Unity of the people will be: 1) an assumption about the nature of their collective trusteeship of the governed. Baha’u’llah writes, “The poor in your midst are My trust; guard ye My trust.” If the assumption is that all citizens are equal subjects under one government then disadvantages will not be allowed to amass disproportionately in one sector. 2) The self-conception of governance must change to recognizing itself as the greatest champion of justice for all people. Associated with this is 3) the requirement of promotion of language that reflects the selflessness of the speaking party and grounds any and all validity or claim to be heard in the public forum in the collective well-being. Thoughts will be entertained only that aim at the betterment of all people without regard for particularistic interests. And proposals will be entertained only that allocate resources in accordance with what serves the long-term, principled interests of all people. Baha’u’llah addressing the concourse of the rulers of the earth writes “Take ye counsel together, and let your concern be only for that which profiteth mankind and bettereth the condition thereof.”

How can there be different people, with different ways of life and social structures, but all with a binding unity? How are the diverse tissues of a body coordinated to achieve maximum efficiency and prosperity for all? In pursuit of collective unity and prosperity, rulers ought to regard the world as the human body which, though created whole and perfect, now has various social, economic and political imbalances  as a body that has been afflicted with illness and maladies. Selfish, particularistic, or corrupt politicians, of whom partisanship is a subset, are like untrained, uneducated, fake doctors who have pursued their own materialistic desires at the expense of the common weal.  And through the violent and competitive electoral and social system we have created if a well-trained and educated physician did intervene, his influence was limited and interrupted and the recovery remained limited to a small region of the body. Collectively, the unity and prosperity of the human race has not been realized.  “That which the Lord hath ordained as the sovereign remedy and mightiest instrument for the healing of all the world is the union of all its peoples in one universal Cause, one common Faith.”

This can in no way be achieved except through the power of a skilled, an all-powerful and inspired Physician. Any representation to the contrary is false. The testimony of all history is obvious. Mankind suffers, and selfishness reigns at the level of statesmanship, where selflessness should have flourished decades ago. We must have laws within our discourse against selfish ideology or intentions and we must promote a discourse that glorifies and appreciates educated, thoughtful, proposals that aim for the betterment of all people with no surreptitious corruption or financial motives. We must vote for and uplift those who have demonstrated a history of consistent selfless action, thoughtful planning for universal betterment, and unwavering discipline and justice in the face of tempting expedients. A stricter order of appreciation for the level of selflessness in the ideology of political leaders is necessary. Those with power must support a culture and enact laws that ensure values which promote those with selfless tendencies, and remove those with particularistic or corrupt inclinations.  “It behoveth every ruler to weigh his own being every day in the balance of equity and justice and then to judge between men and counsel them to do that which would direct their steps unto the path of wisdom and understanding. This is the cornerstone of statesmanship and the essence thereof.”

The publication of high thoughts is the dynamic power in the arteries of life; it is the very soul of the world.

Categories
- Governance Discourse Human Nature Justice Knowledge Power

Progressive Revelation: Historiography and Civilization Dynamics

The endowment which distinguishes the human race from all other life forms is summed up in the reality known as the human spirit, or the rational soul. Of this soul, the diverse faculties of the mind constitute its most brilliant feature. The reality of man is his thought. Through the agency of this power humankind has been enabled to invent technologies, and rear social structures with intricate governance relations and sophisticated administrative capacities. Social order allowed economic prosperity and fulfillment for the human body. Accomplishments of this plane alone, however, must always fail to satisfy the human spirit, the mysterious nature of which draws imperceptibly and irresistibly towards the attainment of transcendence. As if by a magnet we are drawn heart-first toward a realm above or within – a realm that is harder, firmer, and more ultimate than anything that we have experienced. This transcendent, eternally-attractive, essentially unknowable Entity, we know by the ever-inadequate term: God.

Religion, as a phenomenon, is a set of ethico-social rejuvenations initiated cyclically in the life of mankind  by a series of great spiritual Teachers, who historically have served as the sole-successful self-claiming manifestation of the Word and Will of the Divine. Each in His own way, culture, and time has revolutionized and elevated humankind’s powers for attaining new moral and material heights of achievement.

Religion remains the only force capable of uniting mankind into a peaceful global society. World peace, for example, will require a reinterpretation of human nature in light of mankind’s progressive religious history before it can hope to achieve global acceptance. It is the position of this forum, that the interaction of the human conscience with religion has largely constituted the substance of history.

Before man knew fire, he buried his dead. To bury a corpse is to assume that life continues beyond the mortal frame. Ritualistic bones found in ancient graves of deceased ancestral humans predate the existence of society. Ritual itself stands for belief in meaning and significance that transcends the material symbols used to convey them. Religion therefore is a faculty within human nature, as deep and immutable as the homo sapien form itself. Homo sapien can alternatively be described as “Homo relgiosus” as the unique trademark our species.

Religion does not enjoy such a noble reputation in public perception currently, in large part because of the confusion in society due to the violent and inhumane conflicts fought in the name of religion in the 20th century. But the problem began long before that. Religion was losing its relevance to the struggles and questions of the human condition early in the 19th century. People may have been willing to tolerate the rare and radical extremists harming society in recent decades had religion maintained some of its positive contributions to human life, answering life’s challenging questions. Ethical dilemmas discussed in ancient scripture, however, are so alien to modern predicaments that it is difficult to see how one could derive inspiration or solutions from these Writings in a sincere way. Ultimately, however, it would also be incorrect for a fair-minded observer to discount the expansive influence organized religion has exerted on energizing, legislating, moralizing, and engendering the vital expressions of civilization.

Religion’s indispensability to social order has been grudgingly recognized in recent decades due to its irreproducible effect on human morality and law. Intrinsic to its force, religion remains the greatest means for the establishment of order in the world and for the attainment of inner peace. Without an inner restraint on the conscience of a human, what is to prevent him from causing harm through tendencies towards selfishness? According to modern economic dogma, we are rationally self-interested actors on a free market stage calculating cost-benefit analyses for each decision. A society formed by social contract for the betterment of all requires a police force to maintain internal order. But who will police the police? Order cannot be maintained purely by external coercion. Moral obedience to the conscience of faith has always been and will always remain necessary. Civilization and religion have always depended upon each other.

Eclipsing the light of religion, corrupting its tenets, structures, and intentions, evidence shows, leads to a persistent, progressive degeneration of spiritual faculties and qualities. As the lamp of religion has been obscured, under duress from its own incompetence or misuse, increasing normalization has been seen with regard to levels of chaos and confusion. Actions motivated by a personal sense of fairness, justice, tranquillity and peace have ceased to be common modus operandi. Taking account of the effects, we see the perversion of the human drive towards transcendence misused and misguided in the corruption and dissolution and loss of respect for human institutions. Character has become a thing of the nostalgic past, though unbeknownst to most, no reversion to the past will succeed in reversing these unwanted effects, nor is such a reversion possible. Moral conservatism is as untenable as a world conceived without change. The question is not recreation of nostalgic bygone virtues, but rather the creation de novo of a new prosperous order, suited to the needs and unique opportunities of the age we enter.

Survey of social landscape: human character is normalized as debased in comparison with the noble virtues of which humanity is capable; confidence is shaken individually and universally; the nerves of discipline are relaxed and unprepared for sacrifice; the voice of human conscience is dulled by the intoxicants of social narcotics and preoccupation with entertainment; the sense of decency and shame is obscured behind a veil of anomie; conceptions of duty, solidarity, reciprocity and loyalty are twisted to suit exploitative and self-centered interests; overtime, though material comforts have accrued, the increasing agitation in people’s minds tells us: the important feeling of peacefulness, of joy and of hope has gradually been extinguished.

Categories
- Language - Religion Human Nature

The Beauty of Language

One of the most fundamental characteristics of human nature is a soul’s desire to explore reality and search for meaning in the universe – the mind longs to understand.  Language is the medium by which we can think about and describe our understandings of reality.  Over some previous posts, elements of the language of science were discussed, desirable features to help express meaning.  But this is not the only language.  Poetry expresses meanings, relationships, and underlying truths of reality with a different kind of precision and clarity that science can’t.  The language of religion, too, though not always keeping with the same type of unambiguity that science has, nonetheless is rational and consistent, albeit a different kind.  It arouses noble sentiments, empowers and inspires the reader, and reaches the deepest roots of human motivation through its appeal to a human being’s innate attraction to beauty.

Knowing that words, thought, and actions are all linked, what types of thoughts and actions can the languages of poetry and religion develop within someone?

The human being’s ceaseless search for meaning and truth is borne of an attraction to beauty.  Contentment comes from discovering beauty within the existence of a thing, a concept, a relationship, an experience, a melody, an action.  Is not part of the drive of science or philosophy the beauty – the order, symmetry, subtlety, simplicity – reflected in descriptions of reality?

Beauty, like all concepts, can be interpreted within a framework.  Consider a materialistic interpretation of reality.  Our innate attraction to beauty would have to come from the evolutionary process – certain characteristics increasing fitness and thus creating attractive impulses.  As language developed, these impulses created the concept of beauty.  This interpretation reduces beauty to a source of pleasure – whether manifest as crude physical or as sophisticated intellectual; as a stimulus for action; as a collective culture of excitement and thrill.  Regardless of its form, it is controlled by ego and unable to transcend this limited earthy existence.

Under the assumption that the human soul exists and that it lasts beyond this brief association with a body, then attraction to beauty becomes a main force that governs the journey and evolution of the soul towards perfection – the beauty of perfection.  The pleasures and experiences of this type of beauty can be used as indicators of spiritual progress.

In this context, how can we view the concepts of love, knowledge, unity, justice?

Categories
- Language - Science Development Discourse Human Nature

Social Conventions – Objective or Subjective?

Objectivity – another desired quality of the language of science – is a term loaded with connotations and interpretations; it’s rarely a straightforward concept.  It helps to contrast it with subjectivity.  An entirely subjective statement is one of personal preference, such as “daffodils are the prettiest kind of flower” – this might be a consensus among a large group of people, but is not in universal agreement.  Something that is in agreement with others is not necessarily objective, nor is it necessarily truth.

There are certain things, however, that are somewhat objective because of their agreement amongst individuals.  Social conventions are of this nature.  Money, for instance, is a great example.  A particular piece of paper is money not because of any physical qualities it possesses (it’s just a piece of paper with ink), but because social agents have agreed on it and created it.  In this sense, it is ontologically subjective – meaning, its existence is contingent on human consensus, and it has no meaningful existence otherwise.  However, at this point, determining whether a piece of paper is money isn’t a matter of personal preference; no one could say that a five-dollar bill isn’t five dollars.  It is epistemologically objective – meaning, our knowledge of this social convention, and its influence and effects, are based on ascertainable facts, independent of individual opinions. Because of it’s subjectivity, collective thought determines what society is; though because of it’s objectivity, collective thoughts are, in part, determined by society.  However, those of us who aim to contribute to the advancement of civilization will benefit from understanding the subjective aspect of society.

Social reality, including rules, conventions, codes, is built on shared understandings – it is an expression of human agreement.  A red light means “stop”, and a green light means “go”; but there is absolutely no reason that it couldn’t have been the opposite.  Yet, social reality shapes human relationships and interactions, forms human thought and understanding, and directs action and conduct.  There is a profound reciprocal relationship between human thought and social reality – each affects the other, and a change is either necessitates a simultaneous change in both.

What are the implications that social reality is ontologically subjective?

What are the implications that social reality is epistemologically objective?

If a large enough amount of people believe something to be true, does it become social convention?

What about the inertia built into the social structures that exist?

 

.

Categories
- Empowerment - Governance Development Human Nature

Building the Capacity to Build Capacity

When one examines social structures, processes, and relationships, one can identify numerous factors that influence them all.  Yet one that is a never-changing and ubiquitous factor upon which ultimately depends the efficacy of civilization-building is the individual – the values, qualities, and capabilities developed and expressed.  On the one extreme, people will not spontaneously arise to perfection when institutional maturity demands it; and on the other extreme, people are not incorrigibly selfish and inept.  As has been stated numerous times regarding human nature, individuals have the potential for both egoism and altruism – and that attribute that is manifested depends, in large part, on the surrounding environment.

 

The environment, however, includes, of course, social structures and institutions.  And they are, in turn, shaped by the individuals who participate in them.  Thus we have set up a profound reciprocal dynamic between individual and structural change – and any lasting change must focus on both simultaneously (as aspects of the same process of advancing civilization).  All of this means that the goal of effective governance requires the building of capacity in individuals who are to shape governance, which itself requires institutional structures, particularly education, that build capacity in individuals.  Education must empower individuals to create systems of governance described in the last few posts – with this goal, we see how important moral, intellectual, and spiritual education actually are.  The quality of honesty and humility in a statesmen, the capability of consultation and cooperation in a leader, and the attributes of open-mindedness, of freedom from prejudice, of rectitude of conduct, of a world-embracing vision, of thinking in terms of process, of systematic inquiry, of reflecting with others, of seeing unity in diversity, of a spirit of service, of being able to communicate well, in this context all take on a fresh and urgent importance for education, even at a childhood level.  Justice – a capacity often attributed to the level of state – is fundamentally a faculty of the human soul.

 

The highest purpose of institutions is to nurture human potential – those being governed, as well as those serving within the institution.  In the process, and also as a consequence, effective governance is built – it cannot be any other way.  The goal of social structures is to empower individuals; the building of these social structures is through empowering individuals.  The end is simultaneously its own means.

 

Where do you see examples of individuals empowering structures of governance?  Where do you see examples of structures of governance empowering individuals?  

 

How can education foster these mutually empowering relationships?

 

.

 

 

Categories
- Governance - Prevailing Conceptions

Assumptions Underlying Governance

As we can clearly see around us, governance stands in need of reconceptualization.  At this moment in history, when humankind is in a transition phase, and when changes are occurring at accelerated rates, the development of just and effective forms of government is imperative.  Democratic government, which has become the predominant form over the last century, has lost its legitimacy as a result of the corruption, hypocrisy, and elitism that has come to characterize its practice, rending it ineffective to address complex social challenges.  One main cause is its cooptation by lobbyists and interest groups – which, nominally may seem democratic, but in reality are just manipulations through selfish expressions of power.  These problems are not just confined to politics.  At the level of the market, corporate governance is viewed with distrust and suspicion – again, through the corruption and hypocrisy that characterize their economics, and through their pursuit of self-serving goals at the expense of broader concerns.  The result in this case has been outrageous ecological damage, a collapsed worldwide economy, and an ever-widening abyss between the rich and the poor.  Even governance of civil society and social organizations have been subject to the same problems of competing selfish factions, corruption, and viewing with otherness – rendering anarchy in the management of a school board or a hospital.  Considering the interdependence that characterizes all levels of governance, the interactions of these three levels leaves dismal expectations in one’s mind.

These are just the symptoms.  Any change must be at the level of principle – deeper still, at the level of assumption.  Some assumptions underlying these problems include:  1) Governance has to be divisive.  2) A single individual with good intentions can go into the system and change it.  3) Government is inherently ineffective, but necessary, so the more privatization, the better.  4) Governance is just an expression of power struggle.  5) There is no role for nurturing human potential.  6) Governance is largely a bureaucratic endeavor, and bureaucracy is cumbersome by nature.  7) To prevail, you have to undermine; to win, another has to lose.  Can you think of others?

The next series of posts will provide some insights into the concept of governance based on the assumptions provided throughout previous posts, rooted in a recognition of the spiritual dimension of human existence as well as drawn from the experience of governance within the Baha’i community.  What will be extremely helpful is your thoughts and contributions on the topic – to generate more and more insights; to understand issues, concerns, and needs; to raise questions for further exploration; and to identify challenges associated with profound changes both at the level of thought and at the level of structure.

.

Categories
- Governance - Prevailing Conceptions - Three Protagonists Power

Governance and Discipline

How does the conception of power from the last few posts shape thoughts regarding governance?  Currently, because our society’s structures and relationships are dominated by self-interested expressions of power, governance is viewed as a set of regulations and rules of conduct between competing parties, or an instrument of oppression by those in positions of privilege.  Government, viewed in this manner, disciplines the populous in two ways – through systems of overt reward and punishment to ensure order and the status quo; and through a version of “common sense” indoctrinated through government education and socialization to ensure the easy governability of the people.  What results is a perpetual struggle for power.  Little wonder the lack of trust in authority.

As demonstrated with the analogy of the relationship between the nervous system and the muscular system in the body’s release of power, the role of government instead, is to guide and coordinate collective capacity towards pursuit of collective goals, decided upon through consultation.  The highest purpose of institutions is nurturing human potential – releasing the creative powers of individuals and communities and harmonizing them together.  Discipline also takes on new meaning.  On the individual level, it is responsibly aligning creative capacity and action with collective endeavors, and consulting thoughtfully with institutions.  On the institutional level, it is putting aside their own interest, valuing the welfare of all, and consulting with humility, never considering themselves intrinsically superior.  On both levels, this discipline is not imposed by checks and balances, nor by fear or incentive.  It is ultimately a conscious, spiritual, internal process entailing self-sacrifice and alignment with a higher purpose.  And this process will lead to empowered individuals, empowered communities, and empowered institutions, utilizing power for the betterment of the world.

Do you have any relationships with authority that nurtures and releases your capacities and powers?  What are the dynamics?

.

Categories
- Prevailing Conceptions Human Nature Power

Structures of Contest

With the understanding that the human being is a potential instrument for the expression of spiritual powers and capacities within social realty, just as a lump of iron has the potential for the expression of magnetic forces within the physical world, then how do we conceive of social structures and their role in fostering human nature?

Our current models of society have normalized a contest of power.  They are based on the assumptions that human beings are only competitive, egoistic, and selfish by nature; thus the role of social institutions are to mitigate and regulate selfishness in an equal playing field in order to maximize utility – much like the role of a referee in a competitive sports game.  We have deluded ourselves into believing that the mythical free market, driven by some “invisible hand”, will bring about well-being; we have fooled ourselves into thinking that a tug-of-war will result in movement.  So it is seen today, not only in sports, but in the economic, political, legal, and educational systems of society the results of acting on these assumptions – the disintegration and breakdown of academia, the collapse of economic vitality, mistrust and apathy towards governance, extreme moral relativism in law, and utter and irreparable ecological disaster.

There are other assumptions about human nature and society, including those being advanced here – that human beings have a spiritual nature, with spiritual capacities and powers; that the nature of human beings is cooperative, reciprocal, and selfless.  The culture of contest that is normalized in prevailing thought is severely constraining the developing of our latent potentialities.  In our age of interdependence and imminent maturity, collective prosperity can only be achieved through creating systems, environments, and communities that cultivate our spiritual sources of power.  It is an evolutionary imperative.  Otherwise, we will continue to have ruinous consequences.

Categories
Human Nature Power

Spiritual Sources of Power

The conventional analysis of the role of power in society has only focused on material sources of power.  The discourse of this blog acknowledges that civilization has both a material and spiritual dimension, that science and religion are complementary systems of knowledge, and that human nature has both a material and spiritual nature.  All of these notions follow from a certain understanding of reality itself – that reality, on an ontological level, has a spiritual dimension, as well as a physical one.  We have physical laws and forces, which we have only recently begun to comprehend and harness; and we have spiritual laws and forces, which are relatively more intangible that we have a more dim understanding of at present.  However, we respond to spiritual forces regardless of our understanding of them, just like we respond to gravity regardless of our understanding of it.  It follows easily, from this understanding of reality, that there are physical or material sources of power, and there are likewise spiritual sources of power.  How do we draw up and factor in these powers?

Humanity’s history clearly proves the ability to conceive of power in more creative ways than brutish military strength or manipulative economic clout; evidence demonstrates that the human race has always tapped into spiritual sources of power.  These include the power of beauty, the power of justice, the power of humility, the power of cooperation and reciprocity, the power of selflessness.  Even more obviously is the power of truth, responsible for great artistic, scientific, and philosophical advances; the power of character, inspiring countless generations to create positive change; the power of unity, without which we have no progress; and the power of love.

Before delving into the process of drawing upon these powers, we can already see by this short list of spiritual sources of power that they are unlimited resources – power need not be reduced to a scarce material good for which groups must compete.  There is not a fixed amount of humility, cooperation, unity, or integrity, which, when used up is then gone.  Understanding that intangibility is not mutually exclusive with existence helps one understand these powers’ unlimited ability to transform society and human thought.

Categories
Development Human Nature Knowledge

Relative Latency

Earlier in this blog, there was a post on the concept of latency.  This concept helps us further understand an approach to knowledge that transcends foundationalism and relativism.

If one considers the biological development of any organism – embryo to fetus to human, flowering of a plant, transformation of a caterpillar to butterfly, etc – one sees that the end condition was present in the beginning.  In fact, this process is teleological – meaning, that it has a purpose.  The purpose of a seed is to develop into a tree.  However, the tree itself is not within the seed; it is potentially present therein.

Using this analogy, one can understand that foundational truths were once latent within existence and have become manifest over time.  Some truths are latent relative to human agency, and some truths are latent independent of human agency.  For instance, the laws of physics manifest themselves in the universe (fairly quickly after its creation according to popular science) completely independent of human will.  On the other hand, the equality of women and men is a foundational truth of reality, though is still being developed and brought to fruition over time through human effort.

Thus, there is another layer to reconciling this tension.  Some objective truths are relatively latent, and they become manifest truths through time or through human agency.  In the latter case, they are indeed socially-constructed, but they are still foundational truths of reality – both relative and objective.

Categories
- Oppression Human Nature Justice

The Stimulus of the New

Medical treatment of drug addicted patients involves assessment of abuse, addiction, and tolerance. Consumerism is an addiction. Commodities, physiques, and sensations are its drug of choice; corporations the drug lord; advertising the dealer. The mystique of the unknown first lures an unsuspecting customer in. The first hit lasts as long as heaven should. Subsequent hits take less of an effect. Higher doses and new brands are necessary to maintain the sensation. Appetites for drugs and commodities alike grow. Finally we find insatiable greed tears a family, a community, a society apart. Often, relationships are characterized by an energetic initiation, a meteoric consumption, and a rapid disintegration.  Conquest, challenge, mystery drive the interaction. The stimulus of consumption gone, so too is the friendship. The market has found its invisible hands into human social relations. Mutually commodified and exploitative relationships are manifestations of consumer values. Is consumer culture to this extreme a re-manifestation of the practice of prostitution?

Categories
- Consultation - Empowerment Discourse Human Nature Justice Knowledge

Education: The Driver of Social Transformation

In reference to human potential it has been said, “Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit there from.”
.
Education is a fundamental right and duty of every soul. Education allows each person to manifest justice – to be able to see with their own eyes and hear with their own ears. It is by education that we learn to understand the world around us and to articulate the inspiration we find within ourselves. True education is a cause of humility; by it a person learns their finitude and takes up their duty to serve others. In this way, true education bestows wisdom upon an individual. False education serves the ego and cultivates attitudes of superiority and aloofness, and the knowledge acquired is used in improper ways. The acquisition of knowledge should be guided by our twofold moral purpose: developing the latent capacities of an individual, and empowering the individual to carry forward the very lofty task of civilization-building. Without education we are deprived of the powers of thought, articulation, and consultation which allow for the generation of knowledge, it’s application in our lives, and its diffusion to others; without education, we are deprived of fully manifesting our human nature and participating in the central process of social existence.
.
Consider the importance of education as a human right and duty, and the role of the denial of education in situations of oppression.

What are the signs of a well-educated person, and by what means have they acquired knowledge? For what do they use knowledge?

Categories
Human Nature Knowledge

Information, Understanding, Wisdom

Knowledge is distinct from information.  Facts are the raw materials of knowledge – just as brick and wood do not, in themselves, constitute the building itself but are shaped into a structure, so is knowledge a structured system.  The system of knowledge includes facts and information, and also includes concepts, hierarchies, connections, patterns, and concepts.
.
.
Knowledge and understanding are also not the same, though this distinction is subtle.  Understanding is a latent spiritual capacity bestowed upon every human being, through which an individual can gain knowledge; knowledge is only meaningful if accompanied with understanding.  For instance, there are laws and an order to nature – say, the physical universe.  Nature, obviously, cannot know the meaning of these laws, and is not conscious of this order; it simply abides.  Humanity, on the other hand, not only can know the laws of physics, but understand the meaning underlying their existence.  To know them is not enough; to understand them is to penetrate to their meaning.  Because the reality of human nature is the soul, and because understanding is a quality and faculty of the soul, the search for knowledge is concerned both with sharpening the powers of the mind and the powers of the soul.  A learning mode implies and requires a constant endeavor to develop one’s spiritual qualities.
.
An awareness of the powers and capacities of the soul, and their role in both knowledge acquisition and understanding, helps prevent an individual from adopting dangerous habits of thought – one in particular being the false dichotomy between mind and heart.  Though designations are useful in language to aid in comprehension of complex concepts, such as will, understanding, and knowing, rigid categorization only serves to limit the development of human potentialities – the human being is one; its diverse abilities are all coherent.
.
.
Wisdom is the result of knowledge accompanied by understanding; it connects knowledge with action and enables one to apply knowledge in various ways to a range of situations.  Thus, striving for wisdom is striving to fulfill one’s two-fold purpose in life: to develop spiritual capacities and qualities in the context of contributing to society and serving humanity.
.
.
How do you see information, knowledge, understanding, and wisdom interact in daily life?
Categories
Development Discourse Human Nature Justice Knowledge Oneness

Conscious Choice

Beyond the highly propagated fragmentation of science and religion in current thought, and the resistance to reconceptualize these complementary systems of knowledge and practice, there are, in general, voices that resist change, especially at the level of principle.  They refuse to believe that the assumptions they hold dear are not useful.  Yet, civilization is in crisis.  The fruits of outworn assumptions have gone rotten.  If long-cherished social assumptions are no longer bearing the much needed fruit, and are no longer promoting the betterment of the world, then what is stopping us from simply discarding these assumptions and adopting new ones to operationalize?  After all, the value and validity of assumptions lie in the results garnered from applying them to social reality – assumptions are all equal until they are tested through application.  Let us apply science in the realm of civilization-building itself; let us be evidence-based.  If assumptions no longer serve humanity’s developing requirements, then they are no longer valuable or valid; and new assumptions need to replace them.  Change is an immutable law of our reality.  What is the harm in adopting the assumption that humanity is one?  That science and religion are complementary?  That human beings are noble?  That beauty directs our purpose?  That individual and social well-being are inextricably linked?  That a world civilization beckons humanity, one that will be governed by justice, one that will achieve a dynamic coherence between the material and spiritual requirements of life, one that will be rich with knowledge from all people?

Tell, which do you prefer: the assumptions that led to our current crisis of civilization, or those listed above?

Categories
Human Nature Knowledge

Truth and Beauty

Developing our latent capacities requires self-knowledge about our nature and purpose – both individually and collectively.  Knowledge of self and of civilization cannot be separated, as each individual exits in a social context and influences their environment, while it is within society’s conventions and codes that an individual develops.  Thus, human beings have a socially-embedded nature and a two-fold purpose – personal development and contribution to civilization’s advance.

Our nature and purpose are shaped by many forces.  There are two forces in particular that strengthen and direct consciousness so as to prevent it from succumbing to society’s negative forces.  The first is attraction to beauty.  This is an innate spiritual perception that allows us to see the interconnectedness of a multifaceted reality and search with an eye of oneness.  This attraction can manifest in myriad ways – love for the majesty and diversity of nature; the impulse to create arts, music, crafts; the response to the elegance of a theory or idea; beholding the development of capacities in fellow human beings.   It underlies an individual’s search for order in reality – physical, social, and spiritual.  It acts as a standard for human behavior and language, and social practices and patterns.

What do you find beautiful in the world?  How does it direct you?

Investigation of truth is another innate quality of the soul that is a force impelling human purpose.  It motivates human beings to acquire understandings about reality and self, to weigh the opinions of others against one’s own investigation, and thus, to express justice.   If reality is viewed with a spiritual perspective, three truths reveal themselves, on which all other investigation is based.  1)  Human beings are created noble, with inherent capacities.  What leads a human being to loftiness or to lowliness?  Through what means can these latent capacities be manifest?  2)  Humanity is one.  What human capacities are brought out with an understanding of the oneness of humanity?  3)  Human existence extends beyond daily life.  What types of goals are set, and what type of vision is adopted, with this understanding?

Categories
- Oppression - Prevailing Conceptions Development Power

Exploitation and Oppression

The processes of development have adopted values driven by economic growth, values that often view all things as means to a narrow-minded end, values that reduce an individual’s identity to a producer, consumer, and coveter of goods, values that reduce human virtue to economic goods. The underlying assumptions and values of the materialistic enterprise have ended up characterizing development efforts and relationships as exploitative and oppressive.

One of the most obvious examples is humanity’s relationship with nature. It seems as though there is a competition between nations to destroy ecosystems with greater and greater swiftness in their attempt to sap as much output in the shortest amount of time, completely disregarding any requirements beyond the present. Little wonder that the state of health is in a crisis, as air and water are poisoned to produce the same shoes that one wears to the emergency room. If endless material acquisition is the goal, then why shouldn’t the planet’s resources be drained?

The relationship of the individual and the institutions of society is another example. Individuals, groups, and societies are fed manipulations of their identity so that corporations can profit. They are denied self-knowledge, and thus are grievously oppressed – in fact, the system depends on demoralized and self-serving individuals who have no sense of collective responsibility. They view their own human capacities for good, for honesty, for cooperation, all in terms of economic profit or loss – thus, their own spiritual potentialities become relative and subservient to economic growth.

Even relations among individuals become exploitative and oppressive. There is a constant power struggle between classes, races, ranks, and statuses; “how much can I gain from another” becomes the dominating question in the workplace, education, the social scene, and even romantic relationships. Others are seen as means to one’s end. And then people are perplexed as to why friendship and marriage have become so superficial and so difficult.

Exploitation and oppression are inherent features of the materialistic view of human reality. How does a spiritual understanding of human nature change the dynamics and characteristics of development and relationships?

Categories
- Oppression - Prevailing Conceptions Development

Materialism

Today’s vision of betterment is dogmatically materialistic.  The interpretation of reality that progress equals economic development, and that people’s happiness would only be the result of better health, food, education, living conditions, etc., has consolidated itself to become the deciding factor in the direction of society.  In the West, this relegated spirituality and religion to the realm of personal preference – each individual could hold whatever belief or relationship with transcendence that he wished, but society’s course would not be influenced.  (This fragmentation is already problematic in itself, independent of the content of what is being fragmented.)  Throughout the rest of the world, where the view that human nature is fundamentally spiritual is a common truth, the ideological imperialism of the West marginalized people’s deepest convictions – rather than challenged them directly.  Faith became impotent to direct society, something that it had done for millenia prior.

The field of development was rooted in these underlying materialistic assumptions and values.  Since the end of the World War II up to the present, global development efforts have been judged, by their own standards, a failure, often causing the opposite of their intended, well-intentioned, and idealistic goals – resulting in the widening of the gap between the rich and poor, the plunging into hopelessness of whole peoples, the desolation of vast geographic areas and ecosystems.  Economic activities, rather than knowledge, assume the central role of social existence; while knowledge is reduced to information, and is valuable insomuch as it can aid economic growth.

Even diverse worldwide economic systems, different in their approaches and methods, still nonetheless held the same underlying assumption.  Whether a state-controlled system, seeking to liberate the populous from struggle; or a system of competitism, invoking the “invisible hand” to create a prosperous society if each individual sought his own economic well-being; all yielded similar results: a host of personal and social pathologies, including anxieties, prejudice, apathy, breakdown of family life, ineffective educational systems, and consumer culture, just to start.

Economic growth is not the problem; it is essential, provided it is in the context of building a just and unified world civilization, having both a spiritual and material component.  Materialism’s error was in the arbitrary attempts to divorce humanity’s physical development from its spiritual development.  Both need to advance coherently.

Categories
Discourse Human Nature

Moderation

Up to this point, many spiritual principles and qualities have been mentioned, in multiple contexts, and to various degrees.  What is important to note, as more and more will be mentioned, is that virtues do not exist in isolation, but instead, moderate each other.  Moderation, albeit in some cases implies a desired balance against an absolute zero – ie, a moderate amount of breathing, a moderate amount of sleep – but more often means balancing two virtues, principles, or qualities together.  With each of these qualities, more is better – more love, more justice, more service – but they should not lead to excess nor lead to self-righteousness or fanaticism.  This is achieved not through balancing them against an absolute zero, but balancing them against another spiritual attitude that is likewise growing.  With this understanding, we learn to distinguish moderation from mediocrity.  We develop a sense of justice moderated by compassion, instead of a state of half-justice, half-compassion.  A type of generosity informed by humility is cultivated, and not a calculated and cautious giving.  Truth acting through love prevents it from being a negotiable commodity driven by convenience.

Speech, too, needs moderation.  It is moderated by purity of motive, by unbiased investigation of truth, and by blending one’s words with Divine words.  This resulting speech has a penetrating power that transcends mere sounds and syllables, that moves hearts in a way which ordinary speech one hears throughout the day could never.

At a foundational level, being and doing moderate each other.  It is not the case that one seeks to tone down or limit one’s actions because of some desired artificial level; nor to halt or stall one’s internal development for this same reason.  Rather, they moderate each other.  We strive to serve more, to contribute to society more, to accompany others more; and we likewise strive to reflect more, to meditate on our actions more, to develop proper attitudes, approaches, and qualities more.  There is no set amount.  Both are meant to increase and advance together.

On an ontological level, only good exists – evil is the absence of good.  Love exists, hate is lack of love.  Action exists, passivity is its absence.  In the physical world, and as an analogy, light exists, and darkness is lack of light.  And the creation of light necessitates the creation of a shadow.  It is not the moderation of light and shadow that we seek; not some arbitrary level of light against its absence.  We seek the moderation of light upon light!  The moderation of multiple shades and colors of light produces a beautiful white light.  Tyranny and oppression exist; but they are the absence of justice – they don’t moderate justice.  As we learn to moderate justice with compassion will we understand both of these principles more fully.

Categories
- Empowerment Human Nature Justice Knowledge

Champion of Justice

Knowledge of human nature is essential in championing the cause of justice. Ontologically, human beings are dual-natured – there is capacity for egoism and altruism, competition and cooperation; in short, there is a lower/animal nature, and a higher/spiritual nature. Self-interested behaviors can be conscious and intentional, and alternatively, they can be unconscious and unintentional. When human being are in a state of ignorance – a cause of injustice – they tend towards selfish actions and thoughts. As we gain knowledge of our true nature, our latent capacities and talents, and our purpose, we can consciously reveal our higher nature. And as we are able more and more to investigate reality for ourselves, we increasingly recognize the oneness of humankind.

Ignorance is a main cause of injustice. Unlike ages past, the oppression of today is not caused by a few evil tyrants actively battling the hapless multitudes. Rather, oppressive forces are the result of countless, small, self-interested thoughts, words, and actions by the vast majority of the world. These accumulate over generations and gradually consolidate themselves in social structures, which then perpetuate this oppression and normalize the selfish assumptions on which they were built.

There is no “us” and “them”. Humanity is one. Every human being is responsible for the current crisis of civilization. Through our words, thoughts, and actions, through advancing self-knowledge and empowering others, all work for justice.

Categories
- Oppression - Prevailing Conceptions Justice Knowledge

Advertising

Let us take advertising as an example of social forces that cause oppression through distortion of self-knowledge.  Advertising, a euphemism for propaganda, mutilates our conceptions of reality.  Images presented to youth, at a time of rising self-awareness, present unattainable goals and appearances that create an endless struggle for self-confidence.  A real girl’s purpose is to attract men.  A real man is defined by physical power.  Sexuality is the center of existence.  All of a sudden, a commercial draws a conclusion between a bike helmet and romance; between a brand of shoes and a one-night stand; between a certain snack food and finding the love of your life.

The idea behind advertising is to create a culture to which one desires to belong.  Increasingly, teenagers are categorized according to attitudes towards which products can be catered.  Advertisers link their product with whatever culture this teenager identifies with, and symbolizes it with happiness.  A studious youth is sold state-of-the-art books and study aids that promise to bring them happiness through out-competing their peers academically.  A rebellious youth is offered unique and shunned earrings to fulfill their desires to be non-comformist.  Even an environmentally-conscious youth is targeted for t-shirts that state “yay recycling” – t-shirts that have ironically been made at a factory that pollutes the environment.

Manipulative and self-interested social forces are pervasive.  They maintain ignorance and propagate injustice.  Only through empowerment in knowledge can they be overcome.

Categories
- Prevailing Conceptions Justice Oneness

Fear of Uniformity

Current society, quite understandably so, has a fear of imposed conformity in the name of unity.  History has repeatedly given examples of oppressive systems under the disguise of unity – feudalism, castes, communism, fascism, theocracy, nationalism, and authoritarianism.   This legitimate fear has resulted in the populous back-lashing against government and order – manifested as distrust of organized religion, distrust of social systems such as medicine and academics, distrust of most economic and legal regulations, distrust of any position of power – leading to an ungovernable condition.  Appeals to social harmony and unity today are met with such resistance and suspicion.  (Ironically, current society also embraces very uniformed practices in economics, education, health care, agriculture, and governance, to name a few).

Promotion of unity, therefore, cannot take a superficial approach, lest it be criticized by historically informed and socially conscious observers as, at best, hopelessly naive and unrealistically idealistic; and at worst, threatening, dangerous, and oppressive – claiming it to be a suffocation of diversity, a silencing of thought, and a violation of freedoms and rights.

To intelligently promote oneness, conceptions of unity must increasingly become related to and coherent with the principle of justice, which necessitates the preservation of diversity.  Diversity is a source of strength; while uniformity, even the replication of something correct, is always weak.  The purpose of justice is achieving unity, and unity can only be sustained through the power of justice.  Unity is the governing dynamic of reality, and justice is the means of its expression through social reality.

What are the questions we can ask that help guide us towards achieving this coherence?

Categories
Human Nature Justice

Justice: a Spiritual Capacity

The roots of justice are in the human soul.  Justice is a faculty of the human soul, a spiritual capacity that, like others such as love, reason, and mercy, can be nurtured through education and training, or ignored and left to atrophy.  Thus, justice is an already-existing latent capacity that becomes manifest through an individual’s own efforts, as well as through a fostering environment.  What this particular faculty bestows upon a human being is the ability to distinguish truth from error, to judge fairly, and to independently investigate reality.  Otherwise, individuals blindly imitate others and adopt conceptions of reality imposed on them by media, society, and tradition.  Additionally, it empowers an individual to respond to the injustices one sees in the world, and motives one to strive to pursue one’s purpose of selfless service to others for the betterment of the entire social body – this, because one recognizes the truth of humanity’s oneness.

What is the relationship between justice and science?  Between justice and prejudice?

Categories
- Prevailing Conceptions Discourse Oneness

Beyond the Culture of Contest

Dr. Michael Karlberg is a professor of Communications at Western Washington University whose work centers around the advancement of collaboration and mutualism in human relations.  In his TEDx Talk, Dr. Karlberg challenges the assumption that human nature is inherently competitive and self-interested. The consequence of this largely unchallenged assumption, that humans only have the capacity for competition and self-interest, is the establishment and entrenchment of a “culture of contest.”  Viewed from within this culture, governance is a contest for power, justice is a contest for legal advocacy, and education is a contest for grades and recognition.  Dr. Karlberg’s analysis exposes this very pervasive culture of contest and suggests alternative ways of thinking and acting that stem from a very deep commitment to humanity viewed as a singular and interconnected social body, about whose latent potentials we have only begun to learn.

What are the attributes of a culture which views human beings as cooperative and mutualistic?

What motivations sit deeper in the human heart than selfishness and competition?  How have you seen these motivations tapped in a way that advances individual and collective development?

The TEDx Talk can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0ZCAbYrQ7Q

Dr. Karlberg’s blog is agencyandchange.com

Categories
- Human Body Development Human Nature Oneness

Latency

That certain evolutionary processes are teleological in nature, meaning they are driven by an intrinsic purpose, brings up to the concept of latency.  The characteristic of latent potential is common to all organic bodies – plants, the human body, and humanity included.  Latent truths or characteristics come to fruition (quite literally in the case of a tree) or are manifest visibly over time.  This does not mean, however, that they previously didn’t exist – they were simply in latent form.  Some latent potentials are manifest through physical processes that are independent of humans, such as the formation of planets.  Others only come about through human agency.  Let us look at individual and collective evolution as it manifests latent potential.

On the individual level, the soul is a latent capacity that is manifest or expressed through the human mind.  Prior to the physical development of an individual human, the soul was not manifest, but latent, and its powers become manifest when the human being assumes its physical form – particularly the brain.  And the soul itself has latent capacities – reason and understanding, justice, attraction to beauty and truth, nobility, desire to search for meaning and purpose – and these spiritual potentialities become manifest only through human agency and will, through conscious effort, through an individual’s life and behavior.

On a collective level, world civilization is the latent fruit of humanity’s collective social evolution, which comes about through human agency.  It is a social reality we construct.  In the same way that biological evolution provided for the expression of the soul, social evolution is providing for the expression of a divine civilization – the soul of the body of humankind.  As oneness is the operating principle of our collective life, its manifestation is also latent relative to human agency.  Over time, we progressively express higher and higher degrees of oneness.  This doesn’t mean that humanity was not always one.  Rather, the expression of oneness becomes more maturely translated into social reality over time.

Oneness of humankind, thus, is an ontological truth, a teleological truth, and a latent truth – latent relative to human agency.