Categories
- Religion - Science Knowledge

A video on science and religion

Just a few thoughts from one of the contributors to this blog.

A document titled “One Common Faith” writes:

Religion is religion, as science is science. The one discerns and articulates the values unfolding progressively through Divine revelation; the other is the instrumentality through which the human mind explores and is able to exert its influence ever more precisely over the phenomenal world. The one defines goals that serve the evolutionary process; the other assists in their attainment. Together, they constitute the dual knowledge system impelling the advance of civilization.

Categories
- Empowerment - Primary Care Discourse Health Care Knowledge

HEALTH EMPOWERMENT

THE CURRENT STATE OF THE HEALTH CARE SYSTEM

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

 
ANOTHER IDEA, MORE LIKELY BASED IN REALITY

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

 
SPACES OF EMPOWERMENT

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

 
CURRICULA FOR EMPOWERMENT

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

 

 

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

.

Categories
- Education Health Care Knowledge

Evidence Based Practice

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Categories
- Religion Human Nature

The Ontological Circle

The Ontological Circle

Categories
- Religion

Baha’u’llah’s Solution for Religious Fanaticism

The Word of God dictates the dynamics of civilization over history and dominates the destiny of events. It is our privilege as souls and individuals to participate and contribute to the inaction of God’s Will in the history of humankind as it unfolds, if God accepts such service. In order to serve, it is important to know what God’s Will is; and in order to know God’s Will we would have to recognize where to turn to learn it. Historically, humankind has known and worshiped God through His Manifestations– the Authors of the great world religions.

Religion was created for the betterment of the world, to inculcate kindness and patience in human character. Religion teaches us to have faith, which empowers people to transcend attachments to selfish and material things that often motivate harmful behavior. As the latest chapter in the unfoldment of religion, the Baha’i Faith redeems and contextualizes all past religions, like Christianity and Islam that came before it.

Because the Baha’i Faith affirms other religions and prescribes the uniting of all particularistic worldviews, it is worth bolstering and defending against ignorance and prejudice. But fanaticism in Iran has caused the Muslim clergy to persecute the Baha’is. In a similar way, materialistic fanaticism through consumer culture has questioned beliefs at the core of religion in the West, such as the value of spiritual life and the need for Prophets or even faith in God.

Wherever they are found, fanaticism and fundamentalism are a harmful fire in the heart, that can be very detrimental to others and to the peace and security of society. Take for instance the violence between ISIS and the Shi’ih people of Iraq. For the Baha’is of Iran, and the people of Iraq, it is comforting to know that God sees the pain and suffering that religious fanaticism has caused and heals, exalts, bestows, and rewards those who endure and overcome it with patience and courage. Perhaps, one of the greatest condemnations of those who benefit from crime, both violent and moral, is the manifest implication through behavior that shows they actively embrace a philosophy that regards social justice as their enemy. The fanatic thwarts himself, in demonstrating desperation.

In the Tabernacle of Unity, Baha’u’llah teaches that we can protect ourselves from fanaticism and fundamentalism by remembering that there is only one God, and that his Word influences the world through the Revelation of successive Prophets or Manifestations of God over the ages. This concept is termed progressive revelation–the belief that humankind has experienced a single phenomenon called Religion (singular) comprising all the various world religions revealed successively over time by God’s Will for humankind in a socially and  historically-appropriate manner.

 To endure fanaticism and fundamentalism, Baha’u’llah teaches, we can pray to God saying, “aid me with the ensigns of Thy power and might” and “protect me from the mischief of Thine enemies who have violated Thy Covenant and Thy Testament.” Baha’u’llah says that this prayer acts as an “impregnable stronghold” in that it confers protection and can be likened unto an “indomitable army” in the way that it ensures deliverance.

“Consider the sun. Were it to say now, “I am the sun of yesterday,” it would speak the truth. And should it, bearing the sequence of time in mind, claim to be other than that sun, it still would speak the truth.” ~Baha’u’llah, Kitab-i-Iqan

Setting Sun over Cook Inlet

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
- Empowerment - Science Development Discourse

Technology: Good or Bad?

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

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

Categories
- Religion - Three Protagonists Expansion & Consolidation Justice Social Action

Ridvan 2014 Message Summary

Paragraph#:

To the Baha’is of the World

1 – 3 years down. 2 to go. 2 Movements reinforced by youth conferences. 2000 Programs of growth (PG) remain of the goal.

2 – 3000 PG’s. Many simple lines of action; some intensified pitch; educational quality attracts participants. Momentum regained with searching consultation into lulls. Scope and complexity commensurate to supportive environment. 100′s serving thousands. Underlying vision discernible with large numbers.

3 – Expanding conversation amongst 10,000 locals on Vanuatu’s Mashriqu’l-Adhkár extension of training institute. Chief’s support junior youth groups which galvanize all age groups through practical service projects. The Local Spiritual Assembly gives guidance and resolution with wisdom and sensitivity against a backdrop of Expansion and Consolidation (E&C) when the other elements of the Plan are coherently combined. House of Worship captures imaginations.

4 – Counterpart in reflection on action, consultation, study, and action in numerous advanced clusters.

5 – Local capacity for learning fosters progress. Dynamic clusters identify what is required and create ways to achieve it. Rigid formulae cannot be extrapolated as circumstances are all unique, each contributing to collective learning. Beyond “success and failure” that breed freneticism or paralysis. Detachment: Effort is for God.

6 – If we exert an effort, heavenly aid will be vouchsafed. Entreat in the shrines on our behalf. Call to Action. Tear the veils assunder, point out the path of Salvation.

signed: THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE

 

“There is much here to indicate that, when the elements of the Plan’s framework for action are combined into a coherent whole, the impact on a population can be profound.” 

Universal House of Justice - Main Hall

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
Justice Knowledge Power

The Price of Exclusivity

from a guest author:

 

A friend and I recently had a fairly common exchange about which show was better – Community or The Office. I argued for The Office, because in my opinion, it’s more accessible by a larger audience. The rebuttal (in favor of Community) was that often, things that are loved by the masses are lower quality. And this started me thinking…

 

What my friend said is often true. Let’s take a look at things that are loved by the masses, and are also of low quality. Sex, drugs, promiscuity, violence, consumerism, material goods, moral laxity, donuts and McDonald’s have all achieved celebrity status and are universally glorified. These “goods” are available to everyone, and STD’s, overdoses, broken families, premature death, the temporary and empty thrill of a purchase, diabetes and obesity are equally accessible by all.

 

Ye are even as the bird which soareth, with the full force of its mighty wings and with complete and joyous confidence, through the immensity of the heavens, until, impelled to satisfy its hunger, it turneth longingly to the water and clay of the earth below it, and, having been entrapped in the mesh of its desire, findeth itself impotent to resume its flight to the realms whence it came.”

 

What is harder to get – intellectually and materially – is better for us. What are these things, so prized, you might ask? Private education, intelligence, clever jokes, organic quinoa and heirloom tomatoes, scholarship, locally-made apparel, elitism, and apparently Community, to name a few. These are not so easily accessible, and are therefore more valuable. Not everyone can have them. Their rarity makes them the property of but a few. The rest of the world does not “get it” as a result of their lack of knowledge, lack of funds, or both. But we must keep it that way if some things are to be valued above others, right? If everyone could have organic heirloom tomatoes, wouldn’t that make them worthless?

 

Or would it…

 

Commonality does not always imply poor quality, and alternately, we must be infinitely careful that rarity does not prescribe value. Let us take two examples noted by William Hatcher. Professional sports players, although highly skilled, hold an exaggerated value in society. Although they have attained a high degree of excellence in their craft, it is largely their rarity that makes them so highly valued in the minds and hearts of men. In contrast, the station of motherhood, a universal, mundane occupation, doesn’t merit a second thought. Does the fact that motherhood is accessible to half the world’s population de-value it? Is motherhood less valuable than sports because of its commonality? It certainly brings in less revenue. Yet, to quote Hatcher: “if only one generation of women all over the world refused to play this role, it would be the end of the human race, forever. But society could clearly survive quite well if professional sports ceased to exist altogether.”

 

Obviously, many things can, and must, remain highly valuable when equally accessible (Will not the junior youth spiritual empowerment program retain its value as it grows? In fact, won’t it gain in value and quality as it increases is size and strength? Similarly with the growth of the membership of the Faith itself…) We must re-orient our perception of value and justice if we are to pull this off. Value must no longer be defined by scarcity, but rather in its ability to exalt man’s station. “…man should know his own self and recognize that which leadeth unto loftiness or lowliness, glory or abasement, wealth or poverty.” Justice implies that those things that lead to loftiness, glory, and spiritual and material prosperity, are not only common, but accessible by all. If we lived in a just world, many of the “luxuries” enjoyed by the elite would be equally accessible to humanity, while others, also as a result of justice, would vanish. Humanity should have equal access to knowledge, health, and education that strives to empower. We should collectively be called to a higher standard, one “that seeks to raise capacity within a population to take charge of its own spiritual, social and intellectual development.”

 

This heightened standard must manifest in our rectitude of conduct, the way in which we treat each other, the foods we eat, the words we use, the clothes we wear, and the way in which individuals, communities and institutions carry out their responsibilities, enlightened by values that lead to man’s loftiness and glory. As individuals come to see themselves as “active agents of their own learning” and pursue spiritual excellence, so too will the communities and institutions made up of such high-minded individuals be re-structured to release the vast potential latent within humanity.

 

In this way will humanity collectively advance, and in this way will distilled quality, both material and spiritual, become the right of every individual.

 

 

 .

Categories
- Empowerment - Primary Care Health Care Knowledge

Thoughts on Health Care

All too common diseases, the vast majority of which are preventable and becoming more prevalent, are not befitting the inherent nobility of a human being.  The imperative of health care is to empower patients with the knowledge, the insights, the understanding, the will, and the resources to maintain their health and prevent diseases

At the root of the matter, the current poor state of health care is not so dissimilar to the cause of other ailments crippling our communities: a paralysis of human will.  This crisis requires a re-examination of our assumptions of basic human nature.  Instead of treating ourselves and the people around us as problematic, unresponsive, and self-consumed, we must view human beings as noble, intelligent, altruistic, and desiring to contribute to the betterment of the world.  Coupling this understanding of identity with the necessary knowledge and resources will empower an individual to improve his or her own physical health, and other aspects of daily life.

Moving beyond the individual, the culture of a community is something that, if transformed, can effect a profound change in public health.  Smoking is one such example.  For decades, smoking has been one of the leading causes of preventable disease and death in the world.  Knowing that smoking is detrimental for health is necessary to reduce its popularity, but even with that knowledge people will still begin to smoke.  On the other hand, if smoking was not portrayed as “cool” or popular in society, then rates of teens and young adults who start to smoke would decrease drastically.  The same concept of a change in culture applies to exercise and healthy diets, both of which contribute to preventing obesity, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia, which, along with smoking, account for most causes of preventable death.

Across the entire country, and placing a large toll on the cost of the health system, is the culture of receiving primary care in the ER.  Citing one recent study from the University of Virginia, 26% of patients visiting the ER claimed their complaint was something easily able to be treated in a doctor’s office, while another 9% stated that the ER was their only source of medical care.  An additional 30%, not knowing whether they needed the ER or not, would have chosen their primary physician if they had consulted with him or her before choosing the ER.  Once trust is built, education is provided, and encouragement is extended from primary care providers to their patients, each individual’s understanding of health will improve and better treatment and continuity will be provided, changing the culture of health care delivery and directly alleviating the high costs of our burdened system.

The changes in the individual and the changes in the culture of the community need to occur in parallel with each other, as they are complimentary and reinforce each other.  As more diabetics begin to eat more vegetables, then the community will slowly respond by predominating more vegetables.  The development of knowledge and will in an individual, and the mindset that each patient is capable of contributing to his or her well-being along with society’s well-being, go hand in hand with the profound changes of culture reflecting the interactions between these patients and their physician.

 

Community Health

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

120 years of discourse

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

.

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
- Consultation - Education - Language Discourse Knowledge

Coherence in Conversations

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

* * *

 

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

 

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

 

Categories
- Consultation - Language Discourse Justice Knowledge Oneness Power

Collective Reflections

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

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

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

 

ONENESS

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

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

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

– Concepts addressed by the House apply to all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Unity is promoted through associating with joy.

 

THREE PROTAGONISTS

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

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

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

 

HISTORY / FUTURE

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

TWO PROCESSES

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

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

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

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

 

LEARNING

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

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

– Culture of learning allows adaptation.

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

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

 

JUSTICE

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

 

POWER

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

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

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

 

TWO FOLD PURPOSE

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

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

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

 

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE

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

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

– How empowering is language of the House of Justice.

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

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

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

 

DISCOURSE

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

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

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

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

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

 

Discourse

Categories
- Empowerment - Religion - Three Protagonists

Advent Youth Conference

“In the young people of the world, then, lies a reservoir of capacity to transform society waiting to be tapped.  And the release of this capacity should be regarded by every institute as a sacred charge.”

“In an age consumed by self-interest, in which even spiritual affiliation is weighed in the scales of reward and personal satisfaction, it is heartening to encounter individuals from their mid-teens to their twenties- -those upon whom the sights of an aggressive materialism are decidedly trained–who are galvanized by the vision of Baha’u’llah and are ready to put the needs of others before their own.”

“We extend an invitation to these gatherings to every youth who recognizes in the methods and instruments of the Plan potent means for movement towards a better society.”

Dates and cities are listed below. To register, please visit:

http://www.youthconf.bahai.us

revolution baha'i youth

 

 

Atlanta / August 9 — 11

For residents of: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi

Register With Others As a Group Register Yourself


Boston / July 19 — 21

For residents of: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont

Register With Others As a Group Register Yourself


Chicago / July 13 — 15

For residents of: Illinois, Indiana, Kansas (except Wichita cluster), Michigan, Missouri, Ohio

Register With Others As a Group Register Yourself


Dallas / August 9 — 11

For residents of: Arkansas, Kansas (Wichita cluster only), Oklahoma, El Paso, Texas, Northern Texas

Register With Others As a Group Register Yourself


Durham / July 18 — 20

For residents of: Bermuda, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee

Register With Others As a Group Register Yourself


Houston / August 23 — 25

For residents of: Louisiana, Southern Texas

Register With Others As a Group Register Yourself


Los Angeles / August 31 — Sept 2

For those residing in CA-SW clusters (plus CA-SE01, CA-SE03, CA-SE04)

Register With Others As a Group Register Yourself


Minneapolis / August 16 — 18

For residents of: Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin

Register With Others As a Group Register Yourself


Oakland / July 26 — 28

For residents of: Northern California

Register With Others As a Group Register Yourself


Phoenix / July 19 — 21

For residents of: Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah

Register With Others As a Group Register Yourself


San Diego / August 9 — 11

For those residing in CA-SE clusters (except CA-SE01, CA-SE04, CA-SE04)

Register With Others As a Group Register Yourself


Seattle / July 26 — 28

For residents of: Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Washington, Wyoming

Register With Others As a Group Register Yourself


Washington D.C. / August 16 — 18

For residents of: District of Columbia, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia

Register With Others As a Group Register Yourself

 

Categories
- Empowerment - Governance - Human Body - Religion Justice

Abdu’l-Baha on Economic Policy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

pies

Categories
- Governance - Religion - Three Protagonists Discourse

Double Cure: Eliminate Parties and Campaigning

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

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

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

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

holy land

Categories
- Empowerment - Primary Care - Religion - Science Development Discourse Health Care Justice Knowledge

The Structure of Future Scientific Revolutions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

child getting water

Categories
- Empowerment - Religion - Three Protagonists Discourse

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

Paragraphs:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Nancy Wong Photography, LLC

Categories
- Religion - Science Development

The Scientist Believer

Development as an enterprise will fail until it studies the inter-penetration of reason and faith, the same way that students who memorize by rote repetition will always be 2nd best to the genius who understands the essence of composing music. Just ask that guy who was jealous of Mozart in the movie Amadeus.

Materialism has an exclusive claim on rational approaches to development the same way that Desperate House Wives have a claim on their husbands: They scream as loudly as possible about how’s he’s faithful to them, but everyone watching kinda knows that there are alternative rational approaches to development.

Scientists stating their religious beliefs explicitly are not saying other views are wrong, anymore than people posting beautiful pictures of their travels on facebook are saying other landscapes are ugly or should be removed. The vastness of truth prevents conflict between anything more complex than religious fanaticism and ideological fundamentalism.

The freedom from criticism enjoyed by science under the aegis of moral relativism is like the mass shooter who killed off all the annoying people at his postal office before he finally turned the gun on himself. Like a loose cannon, moral relativism is beginning to question the assumptions at the foundation of the scientific enterprise.

 

super nova

 

 

 

 

Categories
- Religion - Science Development Justice

5 Aphorisms on Science, Religion, and Development

1. I feel like science is that family that screams at each other all saturday night long waking up the whole neighborhood and then shows up to socialize at a local potluck pretending like nothings wrong and acting like no one knows they’ve got issues. Each scientific field claims their version of the scientific method is the “correct” one — like teenage girls. News flash: you can’t all marry Robert Pattinson.

2. I feel like avoiding discourse about the values underlying scientific research because God and the soul can’t be proven, is like avoiding talking about morals with your children because you can’t control everything they’re going to do when they grow up anyway — so why try?

3. I feel like development needs to avoid thinking of native religions like a cultural idiosyncrasy of the people, the same way we’ve outgrown the notion that racial dialogue is the emotional need of African-Americans. Wake up call privilege: There’s truth to people’s perspectives.

4. I feel like because the poverty gap is getting bigger than ever before, development needs to come up less with grand projects and listen more to the needs and potential of indigenous people. Remember the middle-aged mom who forced her 3-year-old girl to compete in beauty contests? Hey mid-life crisis: your failed goals are not your daughter’s misfortune.

5. I feel like the separation of church and state in development is like the separation of truth and justice in the legal system. Truth comes out of attorneys paid to represent their client the same way that prosperity comes out of westerners paid to trivialize the beliefs and motivations of indigenous people. Rethink your model: Motivations and Outcomes are connected, in the courtroom and in the farmland.

 

lightening over the sun

Categories
- Language - Religion - Science Justice

The Circulatory System and the Beauty of Language

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Universal House of Justice Pillars Alight

Categories
- Education - Religion Discourse Knowledge

Discourse: Session at Bosch

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

Red Woods

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

cabins

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

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

Categories
- Empowerment - Governance - Science

Weapons – A Statistical Update

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

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

Gun Rampages

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

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

(Source: Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence)

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

gun rampage annual deaths

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

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

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

***

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

Categories
- Empowerment - Language - Religion Discourse Knowledge

Releasing the Powers of Junior Youth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Junior Youth Group Outdoors

Categories
- Governance - Oppression Development Justice Knowledge

Marx: From Beyond the Grave

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Let your vision be world embracing”

vision be world embracing

Categories
- Religion - Science Development Discourse Health Care Knowledge

Poverty and Revelation

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

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

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

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

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

Poverty

Categories
- Consultation Knowledge

Scholars and Servants

As beings of praxis, human beings differ from animals, which are beings of pure activity. Animals do not consider the world; they are immersed in it. In contrast, human beings emerge from the world, objectify it, and in so doing can understand it and transform it with their labor. Animals, which do not labor, live in a setting which they cannot transcend. Hence, each animal species lives in the context appropriate to it, and these environments, while open to humans, cannot be a facility for communication among them.

But human activity consists of action and reflection: it is praxis, and through praxis it is transformation of the world. As praxis, it requires theory to illuminate it. Human activity consists of theory and practice; it is reflection and action. It cannot, be reduced to either pure analysis (verbalism) or mindless action (activism). Without a revolutionary theory there can be no movement for change. The revolution of mankind’s ordered life will be achieved with neither verbalism nor activism, but rather with praxis, that is, with reflection and action directed at the structures to be transformed. The revolutionary effort to transform these structures radically cannot designate its leaders as its thinkers and the rest as mere followers or doers. In this revolution all must be scholars and all must be servants.

.

Reflection and Action

.

Categories
- Consultation Development Justice Knowledge Oneness

Justice and Universal Participation

The development of a just society requires universal participation.

Why?  Why is this the case?  If you’d like, respond with your thoughts below.

Surely, there are many of reasons.  Three come to my mind at the moment.  They are related to unity, capacity building, and knowledge.

The purpose of justice is to bring about unity within human society.  This is a basic reason why all who are a part of this society need to be involved in its development; otherwise how could one claim unity, when some are spectators and some are protagonists?  More significant than the actual actions of various people (because of course, contribution to society’s development is a spectrum; some more active, some less) it is the mindset of “us” and “them” – of otherness – that hinders unity.

One of the manifestations of justice is that the capacity of each created thing is revealed to its fullest.  Obviously, this, too, is a spectrum.  But, to use a tree as a simple example, it is just that a tree be allowed to bear its fruit.  Human beings have infinite talents and capacities, especially when each individual is viewed as part of a collective humanity.  In order to fully express the collective capacity of humankind, opportunities must be created for each individual to contribute to humanity’s well-being and development, according to his/her talents.  Otherwise, if only some develop capacities while others don’t, the collective capacity of humankind will not fully be actualized, which is not just.

Finally, justice is the process of investigating truth through one’s own eyes, and not through blind imitation of what has been already stated.  A human being who undertakes an exploration of reality with justice will necessarily have a unique perspective, since it is through his/her own eyes – some may say that it is subjective.  We know that reality is multi-faceted.  As an example, imagine that it’s a sphere.  Each individual will view from a particular angle, perhaps seeing a disc.  It is only as more and more subjective perspectives are harmonized together will reality be objectively known and understood.  Justice demands universal participation, because it is only through a diverse range of perspectives that our multi-faceted reality can be known, and justice is the process by which we understand truth.

.

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

The World of Man: The Rape of Women

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

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

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

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

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

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

.

Veiled Woman Praying

.

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

Education and Liberation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


.

Brain Power

.

Categories
- Governance - Religion - Three Protagonists

Guns and Moses

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

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

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

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

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

.

MLK

.

Categories
- Education - Empowerment - Oppression Knowledge

The Difficulty with School

Education

Categories
- Empowerment Discourse Justice Knowledge

Kings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So it is that a person born into privilege becomes solidary with the oppressed. He finds true love and marries a local girl, learns the native customs and cultures, adopts the language and dress, cooks the food, and reverences the wisdom of elders. Historically, Buddha, Moses and Baha’u’llah, were raised in noble families but discarded their titles and privilege for the Cause and Faith they proclaimed, and entered into complete solidarity with the masses. The nascent community that emerged had its own structure with egalitarian principles and institutions. This is the embryo of a New World Order.

Categories
- Consultation - Education - Empowerment - Governance - Religion Development Discourse Justice Knowledge Power

Spiritual Re-Education and the Power of the Masses

In discourse, thought, reflection and action are intimately interdependent.  Action is coherent only when it is not merely rote but also consultative, that is, when it is not dichotomized from reflection. Reflection, which is essential to action, is implicit in the requirement of explaining to the masses their own action, just as it is implicit in the purpose we attribute to consciously activating the subsequent development of experience.

For us, however, the requirement is seen not in terms of explaining to, but rather dialoguing with the people about their actions.  In any event, no reality transforms itself, and the duty which we ascribe to responsible citizens of explaining to the masses their own action coincides with our affirmation of the need for the critical intervention of the people in reality through praxis.

The democratization of discourse, which is the spiritual re-education of people engaged in the fight for a just world order, has its roots here. And those who recognize, or begin to recognize, themselves as bearing the responsibility to contribute to this transformation must be among the developers of this new education. No world order which is truly just can remain distant from the masses by treating them as unfortunates and by presenting for their emulation models from among the privileged. The masses must be their own example in the struggle for their redemption.

The establishment of a just world order, animated by authentic, altruistic generosity, presents itself as a spiritual re-education of humankind. Values which begin with the egoistic interests of the privileged (an egoism cloaked in the false generosity of paternalism) and makes of the masses the objects of its humanitarianism, itself maintains and embodies injustice. It is an instrument of injustice.

This is why, as we affirmed earlier, the betterment of mankind cannot be developed or practiced by a wealthy minority fixated on 3rd world development. It would be a contradiction in terms for the privileged few to not only defend but actually implement a spiritual revolution. But if the implementation of a new type of spiritual education requires political power and the masses have none, how then is it possible to carry out the re-education of the world without a spiritual revolution?

This is a question of the greatest importance, the reply to which is at least tentatively underway in the system of distance education propounded by the Ruhi Institute. One aspect of the reply is to be found in the distinction between governmental education, which can only be changed by political power, and educational processes, which should be carried out with the masses in the process of organizing them.

Bind ye the broken with the hands of justice, and crush the oppressor who flourisheth with the rod of My commandments.

Categories
- Consultation - Empowerment - Religion Discourse

Summary of 14 November Message

Paragraph#:

1. Learning sites and associated clusters (31 in total) contain half the current junior youth groups and participants.

2. Universal youth response to serve as animators. Ruhi 5 releases reservoirs of commitment to social change. Program expands beyond resources within Baha’i community.

3. Benefits of JYSEP in junior youth: Power of expression, spiritual perception, developing capacity for service, shape praiseworthy character. Educational process and growth program benefit from JYSEP. Learning about  increasing and deploying resources, raising capacity in cohorts, coordination, and multiplication of core activities.

4.  Two broad goals – 1) accelerating progress in clusters with programs of growth.  2) finding individuals to carry this approach to hundreds other clusters.  Number of learning sites in North America to rise to 7, and associated clusters to 70.

5. Endeavors grounded in experience from clusters at the frontiers of learning will enable assembly to achieve objectives of current Plan

Department of the Secretariat

14 November 2012

JYSEP = Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program

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 - Governance - Oppression - Religion - Science Discourse Knowledge Oneness

Climate Change and Political Partisanship: Why is the Truth So Divisive?

Every intelligent mind that evaluates the causes for global warming concludes that human-induced green-house gas emissions are responsible for Earth’s atmospheric average temperature increases. The only people who disagree with this are fringe scientists and few in number. For mysterious reasons, politicians are highly polarized on this debate. This scientific question has therefore become politicized. Since the early 1990’s the debate has typically fallen along partisan lines. The question needs to be asked: ‘Should we raise awareness of the facts surrounding climate change and risk igniting partisan warfare?’

To investigate the scientific validity of an issue, to raise awareness and form thoughtful opinions, and to act on these views as citizens with our purchasing-power and electoral choices — all this seems a human duty and a moral responsibility. However, what if we also hope to avoid becoming embroiled in partisan conflict, and consider exacerbating its divisive character, by throwing fuel onto a fire, equally unacceptable? An alternative is to refrain from speaking altogether. This however, would imply remaining silent on matters of conscience.

To many it would be unconscionable to hold their peace on matters of importance to one’s community, the environment, and the world. As responsible citizens of one common homeland, if we know something we would wish to share it, especially if  it is of betterment to the world. Who wouldn’t want others to benefit from it, to stimulate large numbers to investigate it, to improve collective conditions and avert disaster?

Pursuit of truth is natural. The desire to teach it is equally natural. The facts compel our conscience to declare that human fossil fuels and deforestation are responsible for climate change and truly threaten life on earth as we know it. How can public information and unbiased investigation into the topic be promoted, while not attracting the label of partisan bickering? How can one be true to one’s conscience but at the same time avoid being drawn into conflict with partisan representatives and economic special interests?

Partisan demonizing carries with it a debilitating affect on intelligent discourse. Climate change is after all, an issue of global importance and collective human destiny. Is it possible to contribute wisely whilst remaining free of quarrel in a social environment charged with partisan bickering and economic second agendas?

Holding discourse hostage with the threat of demonizing and castigating alternative viewpoints undermines the truth-discovering power of consultation, cooperation, and collective action.

Dear Sandy: Will humankind put aside partisanship before the Earth overheats our species?

.

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
- Consultation - Empowerment - Governance - Religion - Three Protagonists Discourse

Summary of August 9th Message

Paragraph#:

1. 10 new Regional Councils (RC’s). 5-Year Plan messages foundation of action and study. Familiarity with dynamics of growth increases with core activities.

2. Dichotomy of neighborhood and centralized children’s classes (CC) transcended. 2 Junior Youth learning sites. Expansion/consolidation primary task of RC’s.

3. RC’s to ensure functioning of Regional Training Institute (RTI) and Area Teaching Committees (ATC). Two perspectives: cycles of activity and educational process.

4. RC to draw on world-wide system of generation and dissemination of knowledge. Relationship with Counsellors significant. Report successes and impediments.

5. Prospects for Junior Youth program especially bright. Transformation in junior youth and rapid development in those accompanied to serve as animators.

6.  Capacity for human resource development needed for sustainable progress in growth of Cause and transformation of society.

7. Intensity and patience are called for organically in accordance with the varying rates of growth in various populations.

8. Refrain from comparisons between differing circumstances. Validity of network teaching versus intense neighborhoods. Guard against inundating fledgling efforts.

9.  Attention to Latin, African, Asian children; now 1 in 4 children. Vibrant sense of community more pronounced. CC’s and JYSEP accelerate community building.

10. NSA to engage in regular consultation with Counsellors on form of scheme of cluster coordination being studied by International Teaching Center.

11. Ramifications for organization of National Center. Decentralization to respond to financial needs at grassroots. Funds for part- and full-time workers.

12. Growth not to revolve around expectations or presence of RC members. Requests for reports or gatherings deferred in response to needs of grassroots.

13. Appreciation of efforts. Ardent supplications on behalf of new RC’s. May Baha’u’llah bless American Baha’i community.

Department of the Secretariat

9 August 2012

Categories
- Oppression - Religion Knowledge

Lamps of Truth and Purity

http://educationunderfire.com/

More than ten thousand souls were slain, and a great multitude of women and children, left without protector or provider, dispersed and confounded, they were trodden down and destroyed. This occurrence was brought about by the arbitrary decision and command of the Prime Minister, who imagined that by the enactment of a crushing extermination this creed would disappear and all trace and knowledge of them would be erased. Before long had transpired the contrary of his imaginations, and it became certain that the Bábís were increasing.

The flame rose higher and the contagion became swifter: the affair waxed grave and the report thereof reached other countries. At first it was confined to Persia: later it spread to Europe and America, and then to the rest of the world. Quaking and affliction resulted in constancy and stability, and grievous pains and punishment caused acceptance and attraction. Cruel events produced an impression; impression led to investigation; and investigation resulted in spread of their teachings. Through the ill-considered policy of the Minister, the Cause became fortified and strengthened, and its foundations firm and solid. Previously the matter used to be regarded as insignificant, subsequently it acquired a grave importance in men’s eyes. Many persons from all parts of the world set out to investigate what happened in Persia, and began to seek with their whole hearts. For it hath been proved by experience that in the case of matters of conscience laceration causes healing; censure produces increased diligence; prohibition induces eagerness; and intimidation creates avidity. The root is hidden in the very heart, while the branch is apparent and evident. When one branch is cut off other branches grow.

Were it not for the cold, how would the heat of Thy words prevail?

 

Categories
- Consultation - Education - Governance - Language Discourse Justice Knowledge Oneness Power

Can Debate Lead to Truth?

Is it possible that a “debate” leads us, the listeners and watchers, to truth? Can a mode of dialogue such as contestational or confrontational debate assist others and people interested in the issues to discover the truth or learn more about the details of the issues? Does this forum conduce to discovery? Does contest and argument even produce results in truth seeking? Does a public setting of competitive public display uncover and disentangle the intellectual subtleties no doubt at the center of what needs to be appreciated to solve the problem? Do enraged egos before a gaping audience foster intellectual loftiness or merely expedience and aggression in a defensive mind? An audience seeking entertainment on “fight night” pay per view, as they do in the determination of political leadership on important social issues will scarcely be able to disambiguate its destiny out of the darkness of the 21st century. With a priority on violence as a form of entertainment, commercialization of political decision making, combat as the ideal form of intellectual activity – with all this, the result will be a world ruled by slogan-filled celebrities suited better for individual aggrandizement than collective vision and responsible leadership.

What is discovered through debate: Who is most skilled and most motivated to aggrandize himself and to dominate others. When important discussions are framed in terms of winners and losers, its is difficult to see how the goal of leadership is collective accomplishment. What are the losers meant to do after the debate? Respect the opinion of the majority, when so much practice has been given to disrespecting each other, and mocking and hating one’s opponents? If the process that produces political and social leadership is divisive how can the result be collective and universal prosperity? Moreover, how can the winner be responsible for the suffering of the losers, when his entire camp was running on disregard for the opinions and detests the values of 50% of the population? What assurance do we have that the partisan desperation created in the electoral process does not carry over into the legislative and governing process post-election? What is to say that the paralysis of the legislative and judicial machinery, and social and economic unrest, and distrust of the government is not a direct corollary to the contestual and partisan manner in our elections and governance systems? This results in an increasing privatization and individualization of isolated aspirations and life initiatives undertaken by individuals for their private family’s prosperity. Why be committed to a people or a system that feeds on violence and contest? The breakdown of the partisan political system results in breakdown of governance and collective social cohesion itself, at once a symptom and a cause of individualistic forms of materialism, consumerism, and entertainment preoccupations.

If people had a government they loved, a collective community to which they belonged, an ideal worth fighting for, and a prospect that united not divided people’s interests against each other there may be more general will and universal participation in matters of importance to collective well being. Without a collective to believe in, what reason do people have not to pursue their own individual happiness and pleasure in isolation to the collective good? In the absence of a cause worth serving, people find entertainment and pastimes to serve themselves, becoming a shadow of what their inherent potential could have destined them to be. Human being, is a mine rich in gems. Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures. Our purpose is that all humans shall be regarded as one soul. If the leaders and politicians of this age would lead the people towards fellowship, love, and unity, everyone would finally experience the pleasure of the highly-coveted true liberty, and within the energy of a free conscience discover the exhilaration born of undisturbed peace and inner composure. Productivity on that day will harness the power of unity for explosive levels of global prosperity. It is inevitable that the earth will one day attain this station. ‘All things have I willed for thee, and thee, too, for thine own sake.’

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
- Religion Discourse

A New Discourse on Religion

From agencyandchange.com

http://agencyandchange.com/2012/10/19/discourse-on-religion/

.

Categories
- Consultation - Governance Discourse Justice Knowledge

Post-Partisan Politics

Identifying aspects of political discourse that is partisan in nature and to be avoided is challenging and will call for a higher caliber of insight and self-mastery as issues become increasingly engrossing and complex and as noble ideologies arise to prominence within the context of partisan systems. The boundaries may not always be clear, and our understanding of these boundaries in turn may evolve over time as the community synthesizing and advocating noble, selfless, and unifying ideologies 1) learns from the global experience, 2) synthesizes collective learning into tangible guidelines, 3) initiates more radically when responsibilities are low, and then consummates more reservedly as responsibilities and powers grow,  and finally 4) as issues available in the data itself evolve and humanity unitedly breaches new frontiers in the study of phenomena related to modern governance. World conditions change, and as such, engagement in partisan politics must change its off-limits demarcations – always keeping true to the axiom that what promotes unity is best, and any discourse involving combativeness, conflict, or competition, must be eschewed behind. In our struggle to apply our keenest insights into unraveling these boundaries, perhaps some controversial issues will unintentionally be engaged, however, rapid real-time delimitation of what is considered valuable and allowable discussion will suggest itself and can be modified distinctly and quickly, retracting said involvement, and supplanting it with non0involvement – as a policy most conducive to unity. Damage will by this means be minimized and any controversy will be pre-emptively avoided.

Future collective understanding of these boundaries will be able to benefit from the synthesized experience of others who engaged in discourse of a similar learning nature and whose results, quickly synthesized in a globalized learning process, feeds its respective experience of controversial boundaries into a centralized, canalized, web of communication that extends inwardly collecting experience from near and far policy-discussions. Subsequently, dissemination of information regarding which topics, structural arrangements, language insensitivities, particularistic proposals, and bigoted sentiments conduce to public discontent, fueling contention. This information is data that can be synthesized into a guideline for political activists seeking to avoid encroachment on elements that create disunity, constitute partisanship, inadvertently support campaigning, or constitute a breach in voting secrecy. Generation of knowledge takes places through experimentation at city and village centers; the collation of information from localities will proceed inwardly and upwardly toward a world nerve center for synthesis and crystallization of collective experience into a distillate of statistical averages, constructive coincidences, complementary tendencies and identification of strategies of benefit. Finally, recommendations can be formulated by induction, insofar as cultural and contextual considerations allow, for the dissemination and diffusion of guidelines in a retrograde direction, towards diverse cities and hamlets, on a global scale. The process of the generation, application, and diffusion of knowledge therefore has its dawn at the grassroots level, sees its meridian glory emerge in the metropolitan nerve center that synthesizes global experience, and reaps its golden luster in the distant goal lands it warms in the political landscape which undergoes a global re-organization of its structure and re-education of its culture. Knowledge and praxis of political science will be equipped to assist and not invalidate human progress.

We know that we can minimize our mistakes, maximize our systematic learning, and revolutionize structural insufficiency  if we deliberate together on the synthesized global experience, study the resultant guidance, and consult together with unity. So powerful is the light of unity, that it can illuminate the whole earth. The power of fraternity, camaraderie, and prosperity through unity surpasses the light of the sun, and turns earth into a lustrous homeland for a prosperous people. As a species, we learn how to apply knowledge, have faith in the collective, scientific, knowledge-generating and synthesizing process, and ultimately take action informed by such experience and empowered by such loving unity. After one cycle of experimentation, collation, synthesis, recommendation,  application and diffusion – we return to reflect on what we have learned through such action. Please, offer some recommendations that inform the structure of a post-partisan political world. Outcome measures include considerations of practicability, merits and nuances in application, prohibitions and descriptions of internal dynamics. Let us keep in mind the complexity and difficulties that are involved in prosecuting such a charge.

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

Objective Spiritual Reality

Considering how difficult it is to judge objective statements about social reality, it is even more challenging with spiritual reality.  However, spiritual reality exists, human language can attempt to describe it, and therefore, it is possible to make objective statements regarding spiritual reality.  Throughout this blog there have been numerous such claims.  One simple one is that “justice is a faculty of the human soul that enables one to see with one’s own eyes”.  The nature of this statement is objective – it describes an ability of a human being to discern truth through an investigative process free from prejudice, an ability that is inherently latent and needs to be developed.  This type of claim, along with its implications, can be observed, studied, and analyzed.

Yet, not all statements about spiritual nature are objective – many, such as personal feelings when reading spiritual writings, meditating, spiritual experiences, etc, fall into the category of subjective yet valid statements.  However, the existence of this category of observations about spiritual reality does not negate the ability to make objective statements.  Thus, someone can describe a subjective spiritual response to a prayer, and also put forth a thoughtful objective claim regarding a human being’s relationship with prayer.  One has to distinguish between subjective experiences and objective claims, for – just like with social reality – many try and pass off vain imaginings as objective.

That some people disagree with some statement on spiritual reality also does not negate the objectivity of that statement.  As a parallel example, regarding the objective statements made about the interaction of light with an object giving rise to its property of color, most words used only have meaning to those intellectually trained in physics – for others, the statement is meaningless.  With spiritual reality, then, objective statements would be less meaningful to those whose spiritual susceptibilities haven’t been developed – they wouldn’t understand nor accept such statements.

To practice justice implies that one knows through one’s own knowledge, not through the biases of society’s classroom, pulpit, or media.  Just like with the science of physical reality, objectivity is not altered by subjective experiences nor by the disagreement of people.

What are some objective observations regarding spiritual reality?  How can you test them?

.

Categories
- Language - Science

Claims About Social Reality

The physical and material aspects of our complex reality are not the only ones with objectivity – the human mind is able to make objective statements about all of reality, including social and spiritual reality.  As an example related to social reality, one can claim that “one of the causes of violence in certain countries is pervasive social injustice”.  This statement contains a relationship between two observable phenomena, namely violence – demonstrated by crimes like robbery, murder, assault, and by increased need for police, security, and gated homes – and social injustice – shown by analyzing conditions of certain segments of the population, and interactions of certain groups of people with social institutions.  One can then observe societies to see if there is a positive correlation between the two.  Of course, correlation is not causation, but the statement claims that injustice is “one” of the causes, and therefore has some degree of objectivity to it.

One point to note is that objectivity is not synonymous with truth.  Furthermore, subjective statements can easily be presented as objective.  For instance, consider a hypothetical situation of a doctor who hires poor employees and pays them low wages, who sees poor people as patients and charges them high prices for unnecessary medical testing, and works in a system that blocks their progress.  This person would not make the subjective statement “I like to profit off poor people”.  Instead, this person would make the objective claim “poor people are lazy and uneducated and therefore stay poor”.  Because objectivity can be tested, it should be straightforward.  However, an observer can be biased by his or her own subjective judgements.  For instance, he might see that his family members worked hard and then became wealthy, or that a lazy person lost his job and became poor, or even notice a poor person who was also lazy.  From these limited, yet objective, observations, the observer would accept the claim that the poor are lazy.

However, a more thorough analysis will reveal this statement false.  Hard work is not the only factor in the generation of wealth – it also includes starting capital, access to credit, technical knowledge, fair wages, and a somewhat just social structure.  All of these factors need be to examined and controlled for if one is to scientifically and objectively link work to wealth; and even observations need to be made about the resulting amount of work done when opportunities are given to the poor.  It becomes clear that subjective prejudgements about social reality, often false, can be disguised as objective.

Can you think of other statements that pass as objective, yet in reality are subjective?

.

Categories
- Language - Science

Objectivity and Reality

Notwithstanding that all social conventions, including language, are built from shared understanding that are to some extent ontologically subjective, they are not completely arbitrary. Language – as well as social reality – is built upon objective reality itself. Words and conventions have become abstract representations and codifications, respectively, of the complex dynamics of human beings within reality. There are a number of realities that interact together to form social reality. Both physical reality and its forces along with spiritual reality and its forces influence human thought – which is the reality of a human being. These three realities come together to shape social reality, which itself also influences human thought. Language both builds and is built upon this reciprocal interplay between human thought and society – and ultimately, rests upon the objective spiritual and physical realities themselves.

Let us take our previous post’s somewhat objective statement a bit further. Instead of simply claiming the color of something to be “green”, the property of an object that determines it to be “green” can be explained:
The color of a thing arises from its interaction with light. In order for something to be visible, light – composed of packets of energy called photons or particles – hits an object, interacts with it, and emits photons back into our eyes. Visible white light from the sun (or a bulb) is actually a mixture of a range of frequencies by which its photons vibrate – each one corresponding to a color on a spectrum. Frequencies are measured by the photon’s wave cycles per second. When this white light interacts with something, some frequencies are absorbed and others are reflected. The frequency of the reflected photons determine what color this object appears to be in a beholder’s eye.

This explanation that accompanies the statement “that thing is green” is much more objective. It’s true, this paragraph – as with all of language – includes many names that are based on social convention. For instance, why is it named “light” or “frequency”? However, the naming included in this previous paragraph is not simply subjective social convention – there must be some agreement as to the underlying reality on which these names are based. One who agrees with this paragraph must have at least a basic level of understanding of physics to understand that “light” is made up of “energy packets” characterized by “frequency”. Furthermore, this paragraph goes beyond naming – it establishes relationships between concepts (X is composed of Y which is characterized by Z) and attempts to explain them a bit (Z is some unit of space per time). Regardless of the naming, these relationships and explanations are objective. To agree with this paragraph is not a matter of convention – it is based on reality itself.

.

Categories
- Language - Science

Language as Social Convention

In understanding the role of objectivity in language, two types of statements have been presented – personal preferences, which are entirely subjective; and social conventions, which are subjective in their creation or existence yet objective in their influence and knowledge.  Let’s move progressively towards a more objective statement.

Two examples of social conventions presented last post were traffic lights and money.  So, what about the statement “That traffic light is green” or “That dollar bill is green”.  This is certainly not a personal preference, nor subjective – all people looking at these objects can reach this valid conclusion.  Furthermore, this is not societally or culturally dependent; a green light or a green bill taken elsewhere will still hold the property of green color – it is apparently an inherent property of that bulb or that ink.

Is this, then, an entirely objective statement that informs us about reality?  Upon further analysis, this statement still is based on a social convention.  Language, as has been discussed earlier, is itself a social convention.  The main point of the statement about the traffic light or the dollar bill is its green color.  However, the term “green” is simply a name that, like all other names, was at one point or another agreed upon – the naming process of language, being a social convention, is also ontologically subjective and epistemologically objective.  Additionally, languages, both between and even within, contain myriad connotations, subtle meanings, and context-specific interpretations.  In order to understand the concepts, ideas, and underling reality being conveying through the vehicle of language, one needs to go beyond names…one needs to get to the objectivity that those names symbolize.

.

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
- Language - Science Justice

Consistency

The statements of a language that seeks to be rational must also be internally consistent. Obviously, premises and claims cannot contradict each other, otherwise, truth could never be sought, and reality could never be adequately assessed. The importance of consistency is that it is a direct requisite for justice – if justice is the faculty of the soul that enables the mind to differentiate truth from falsehood and understand through one’s own knowledge, then one must strive for consistency in one’s perception and analysis, and the actual reality. This path to coherence requires constant reflection. And as words, thoughts, and actions all influence each other, consistency in words becomes even more important – for consistency within and between thoughts and actions is also praiseworthy. One cannot believe one thing and do the opposite. Consistency expresses itself as a commitment to long-term action informed by vision; as thinking in terms of process; as a learning mode characterized by action, reflection, and consultation; as being uncompromising in principle, never sacrificing values for practicality; as maintaining resolve in purpose; and as aligning methods and approaches with goals and ends, and with humanity’s innate nobility.

Consider the following reasoning:

– A humble posture of learning is essential in order to contribute to the advancement of civilization.
– The western systems are the most advanced in the world.
– The advancement of civilization is conditioned on establishing western systems.

Are these statements consistent? What are the assumptions underlying them? What is the relationship between them? How was this conclusion reached?

What are some other examples of inconsistency you see in society? Do they correlate with injustice? Do you see examples of consistency and justice?

.

Categories
- Language - Science

Rationality

In addition to clarity, another important characteristic of the language of science is rationality.  Again, as language informs thought, using rational language helps create reasonable thought.  And because words and thoughts influence actions, a language that seeks rationality will translate into action that strives to be strategic, efficient, sustained, and with long-term vision.  What is rationality?  What is logic?  What is the process of reasoning?  A quick wikipedia or google search demonstrates the difficulty of this subject.  Instead of going through philosophy 101, a few basic principles can be explored with the aim of applying them into language, thought, and action.

Rational thought and statements result from a process of reasoning.  One type is deduction – reaching a conclusion that follows from premises.   “All iphones have a camera” + “Your cell phone is an iphone” = “Your cell phone has a camera.”  Theoretically, this type of reasoning is comforting – if the premises are true, clear, absolute, and relevant, then the conclusion is correct.  However, this type of logic is highly limited; rarely do we have these types of premises regarding social reality.  Instead, the premises could be false, ambiguous, or conditional. “Some iphones have a camera” would lead to “your cell phone might have a camera – not sure”, which is unclear.  “Your sandwich is an iphone” would lead to “your sandwich has a camera” which is just not true.  (And please comment below if it is).

Another process is that of induction – to create generalizations from observations.  “The iphones I’ve seen have cameras” and thus “All iphones have cameras”.  In order to have correct and clear inductions, the number of observations made must be large and in diverse conditions.  The more observations one makes that fit one’s generalization, the more confident one is of the truth of that statement.

The above examples are but two of many processes of logic.  They are very simple, and just go to show the basics of rationality in language and thought.  In everyday life, however, there is much more than rational thought that is needed.  Regarding the simple process of deduction, where do the premises come from?  What assumptions underlie them?  Consider, for instance, the following:

– Poor people steal more than rich people.
– Joe is poor, and John is rich.
– I should trust John over Joe with my car keys.

The logic is sound, but where did the first premise, in particular, come from?  What assumptions underlie it?  How is logical reasoning being deceptively used in our society to manipulate and distort views of reality?

Similarly, with inductive logic, what assumptions lead to the lens through which observations are made?  And what assumptions form the framework through which observations are interpreted?  If one wanted to use induction to determine whether collaboration or competition leads to more productivity, one would set about observing instances of competition, instances of collaboration, instances of productivity.  What factors determine the conditions of these instances?  What constitutes productivity?  What are the mindsets of those competing and collaborating?  Obviously, rationally is important – but it is not without a conceptual foundational built on assumptions about human and societal nature.

 

.

Categories
- Language - Science

Clarity

Human beings understand reality through conceptualization.  For material and concrete objects, language naturally defines them easily.  As concepts become more abstract – such as regarding the social and spiritual reality – this becomes more and more difficult.  The language of science, however, is well equipped to meet this challenge, for it progressively moves towards precision and clarity when describing concepts.  As its methods to achieve clarity, science uses repetition of language with slight alterations each time, identification of subtleties and implications in word choices, realization of possible logical contradictions at a later time, and a vision to take creative and calculated leaps forward.  Gradually, using these processes, the language that science uses in understanding a concept becomes unambiguous and takes on unique meaning.

The quest of scientific language to be precise is not a mechanical, cold, and sterile set of operations; nor is it mutually exclusive with certain spiritual faculties that have always aided in scientific discovery.  The role of imagination, intuition, and attraction to beauty have always characterized the scientific enterprise.  After all, the role of science – just like the role of religion – is to unravel the mysteries of reality and witness the marvelous beauty inherent in the order of the universe.

Inseparable from clarity of language is clarity of thought.  Many of the requisite characteristics of successful consultation are also needed for clear thinking. These include eliminating false dichotomies, tolerating temporary ambiguity, being detached and dispassionate with one’s ideas, thinking in terms of process, being flexible and open-minded in considering views, relating the practical to the principle, adopting a wider vision, attention to details, and very importantly, the ability to understand and identify causality on a complex level.

What are your thoughts regarding the clarity of current speech?  In education?  In politics?  In medicine?  In music and entertainment?  In relationships?  In family?  In friendship?

 

.

Categories
- Language - Religion - Science Discourse Knowledge

Language and Civilization

Reality has physical and spiritual dimensions.  Indeed, the world civilization that beckons humanity is one that will achieve a dynamic coherence between these two requirements of social life.  If reality is more complex than just the physical universe, then a limited description would be inadequate to fully explore and understand it.  In recent times, because of the relative success of the field of science, particularly physics, the prevailing thought is that science is adequate to explain reality.  The assumptions implicit in this belief are that 1) reality is purely physical or material; 2) science, alone, can explain the mysteries of this purely material reality.  But, again, these are just assumptions.  There are alternatives as well – equally plausible – that have been advanced throughout this blog.  1) Reality includes levels beyond matter – including social dynamics, human consciousness, and spiritual reality; 2) if reality includes both physical and spiritual components, then both science and religion are needed to understand its mysteries; 3) understanding of reality does not equal reality itself – understanding evolves.

With the understanding that words influence both thoughts and actions, and with the above assumptions in mind – that science and religion are two complimentary systems of knowledge that, over time, gain understanding of our complex reality – the topic of language takes on paramount importance, particularly the language of science and the language of religion.  The next few posts will explore this topic.

Language, for the purposes of discourse, must be rich enough to explore issues at a depth that accompanies action.  It is the medium through which we communicate observations, create models of reality, articulate theories of dynamics, explore sentiments, describe the world’s operations, and even prescribe relations and behaviors.  Crucially, it allows for shared understandings to exist between one individual’s mind and others’ minds.  Otherwise, collective knowledge about the objective reality that exists outside of our minds would be tremendously difficult to generate, and our connections to each other would be extremely limited – to the point where we wouldn’t really have society.

To advance civilization is to construct a new social reality, and social reality emerges through language – words are the building blocks of civilization. In other words (pun intended), social reality is the operational expression of words and the meanings of them that society has agreed upon.  However, it is important to note that language is itself a social construct – a component of social reality.  Thus, like all social constructs and conventions, it can be changed.  And a change of language becomes a change of civilization.  Therein lies the power of discourse.

.

Categories
- Governance Knowledge

A Learning “State”