Sunday, July 7, 2019

of Serious Thoughts: Fourth of July 2019

of Serious Thoughts: Fourth of July 2019: I write this on the eve of the 4 th of July 2019 with a heavy heart.  President Trump has called for an unprecedented change in the holiday...

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Fourth of July 2019

I write this on the eve of the 4thof July 2019 with a heavy heart.  President Trump has called for an unprecedented change in the holiday of our nation’s birth.  We are a nation that seeks Peace not war, we don’t showcase military might—it seems provocative.  It is Trump alone, not the Pentagon or the Armed Forces who have called for this display of tanks, weapon and armored military vehicles with a fleet of fighter jets to do a fly over.  This is costly to operate and 2.5 million dollars intended for our national parks will be diverted to pay for it.

He has had a stage set up in front of the Lincoln Memorial with a section cordoned off with reserved VIP seats for important Republican donors.  He has arranged this in order to feature himself with a speech.  No other president has used the national holiday for his own political agenda.  The celebration of the 4thhas traditionally been to honor the flag, our constitution and the freedom that this nation promises its citizens. Presidents come and go, this holiday is to celebrate our country and flag—not one man.

Many people will just ‘enjoy the show’ without giving consideration to the cost or the implication of highlighting military weapons and the inappropriateness of Trump making himself the focus.  He has planned the kind of display that thrills dictators with not-so-subtle ‘saber rattling’ to inspire awe and intimidate.

This president is an embarrassment to the country but worse than an embarrassment he is a danger to the world.  His term of office is changing the face and values of our country while breaking treaties, embracing dictators and alienating our allies.
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Following are 2 similar words as defined on the internet:
1) Megalomania:   a symptom of mental illness marked by delusions of greatness . . . an obsession with doing extravagant or grand things . . . a mania for grandiose performance.
Related words: selfishness, narcissism, egotism, arrogance, overconfidence, vainglory, self-absorption 
2) Egomania:  is preoccupation with one’s self . . . applies to one who follows his own ungoverned impulses and is possessed by delusions of personal greatness and feels a lack of appreciation.  One who is obsessively egotistical and self-centerd.


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Reparation

Reparation has become a thorny issue; can it be explored rationally without immediately jumping to one side or the other?  Let’s begin with a simple definition—reparation: making amends for a wrong, by money or otherwise helping (offering assistance).  The question being asked in America: ‘Are members of the black race entitled to compensation for the injustice of slavery’?

Before continuing, I take a brief side trip in history.  For eons slavery was a norm for society, usually a rather local issue.  To quote the International Slavery Museum: “For more than 2000 years people in many different parts of the world forced their fellow humans into slavery.”  

The character of slavery changed as capitalism emerged in Northern Europe in the 16thCentury; it gave rise to the institutionalization of slavery.  Rather than remeining local, vast numbers of people were captured, gathered and shipped far away. 

The majority of those enslaved were from central and western Africa where slavery was historically widespread.  The captives were sold to Western European slave traders and shipped to America under horrible conditions and then offloaded and sold at auction.  This became known as ‘the transatlantic slave trade.’  It went on from the 1600’s to the 1900’s.  Only in the 1800’s in Europe and America did it come into question as a moral and political issue.

Denmark was the first nation to ban the import of slaves in 1792, becoming law in 1807.  The French colonies abolished slavery in 1848 and in the 1860’s the issue of slavery brought America to the bloody Civil War.  On January 1, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves.

The slaves were technically freed, but the injustice caused by slavery continued through decades of segregation and the resulting social inequality has never been directly addressed. The issue of reparation asks that we as a nation address it.  Some point to Holocaust survivors being financially compensated—but that is a different issue, those are individuals who experienced direct suffering whereas there are no longer people alive who experienced direct suffering from slavery.  Yet, just looking around you will see it is indisputable that blacks are still suffering societal injustice.  Some individuals have succeeded against the odds, but the majority has not.  

It does not make sense nor is it reasonable to consider direct financial payment to descendants of slaves from several generations ago, but it would make sense to compensate for the societal injustice with a societal response by providing free education or skills training to any low income black family who requests it.

This is a call for a consciousness change to recognize the decades long injustice and offer assistance—reparation—for the wrong that had been done. 

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Revisiting the Abortion Issue

Although the question of abortion in the U.S. seemed settled in the 1973 Roe v Wade decision, with conservatism gaining more visibility since the Trump election, the issue of abortion has again become a contentious issue.  It is posed as a Yes or No question and both sides are highly emotionally charged so it is difficult to engage in rational discussions of the issue.

Much of the objection to abortion revolves around the question of ‘when is the fetus to be considered a human being?’ . . . is it as soon as the egg and sperm come together? . . . or is it with the first detectable heartbeat? . . . or is it when the fetus is viable—able to survive on its own outside the mother’s womb?  Law and science alone can’t give a definitive answer.

Another important issue at the core of the debate is ‘who has the right to make the decision concerning the use of a woman’s body?’  The woman? . . . the medical profession? . . . the Church? . . . the government?  The answer to that seems obvious—it is the woman. 

If we give careful consideration to that question, we see it as being influenced by the long-standing patriarchal perspective—a system of society or government controlled by men—wherein women have no voice, and all aspects of their lives are under the control of men.    That attitude can still be seen in the unwillingness to allow women to make their own choices.

More than a yes or no answer to abortion is needed.  Rather, what is needed is a deeper respect for life in general . . . unprotected sex can yield babies and babies are more than just today’s inconvenience.  We are all part of the flow of life and babies are the future generation.  Seen in those terms, abortion should never be a frivolous matter.  Women, being the carrier of life, hold a heavy responsibility . . . yet there are circumstances that can justify a choice to abort. Girls need be educated to protect their life-giving privilege and only in dire circumstances choose to eliminate a developing life in their body—but it is and must be their right to choose.

Let me bring up a point involving males that also concerns the ‘taking of life’.  There is a commandment ‘Thou shall not kill’ . . . all of civilization agrees that killing is wrong.  Yet since the beginning of time there have been wars—and they are even glorified in many ways.  It is almost exclusively men who initiate war and men who engage in war.  The world, having developed under patriarchy, has made no outcry—until recently—that war is immoral. 

The point I make here is two-fold: 1) men have not been restricted by law or Church to not engage in the killing of war, they have always been free to choose how to use their bodies; and 2) under a patriarchal system women’s freedom had been controlled by men. Historically, their freedom of movement was curtailed (needing male approval); their freedom to be educated, to choose professions, to own property, to vote, was withheld etc. Slowly women have fought to be free of male control and make their own choices—the abortion issue is part of that fight.  

I want my position to be clear on this issue.  I oppose abortion as simply a way to ‘solve the problem’ of an unplanned pregnancy; I believe it is a moral issue and should be resorted to only in a real crisis, but I recognize that there are circumstances that justify it.  This is a decision that only the one directly concerned can make—as are all moral decisions.  This conflict is a gender-freedom issue.  The long-standing patriarchal control strives to take away woman’s authority in this very sensitive matter—we again and still fight for our freedom.  

I do believe there should be reasonable legal limits to the time allowed in which to abort and a limit to humane methods used, but ultimately the decision pro or con regarding a woman’s choice should be in the hands of the woman concerned.  

Saturday, April 20, 2019

For Survival of Planet Earth

There are inherent values to guide human behavior that are essential for human survival on planet earth.

That is a strong sweeping statement.  I wish to unpack it . . . notice there is no mention of God in the statement.  It does not mean that God has been rejected or left out; it means the statement is applicable whether or not one holds a belief in God.

First let me make a statement about God, as I understand it.  When you think about a consciousness (God) that created life, the world and this vast wondrous universe you necessarily realize it is so beyond our capacity to grasp that you have to know that no group of people—no church, no nation; not theologians nor agnostics--can define or explain the phenomenon, so those insisting they know all the answers and have the right formula are wrong.

From that starting point, I say we can take some tentative steps toward recognizing what a creator (if there was one) who brought forth this beautiful delicately balanced world and life, would want from those creatures displaying the marvelous human quality of reflective awareness (reasoning).  It would surely be to appreciate the wonder and continue to create and flourish, not destroy it all.

Next statement I would make concerns inherent values . . . every society since the beginning of time—no, rather let me say since the beginning of reflective awareness—has looked beyond the immediate seeking answers.  Answers to ‘what is the best way to capture the game?’  ‘How should we protect ourselves?’  And ‘what is out there bringing this all about?’  They come to different answers but the quest is universal.  The desire to know and to understand is simply a part of being human.  In that desire to know and understand, if we look, we will find ways of being that support life and ways that oppose it.

Once we didn’t know how to extend communication beyond speech and writing; now we have phones and computers to instantly convey information.
Once we had only horses, oxen, elephants and camels to transport our goods and us; now we have cars, trains and planes for that.
Once we gave consideration to only ourselves, our family and our nation to prosper; but now we must look beyond that and realize we are one world and we have the ability to destroy it . . . and our lack of foresight has allowed that to become a real threat.

We have thus far ignored looking deeply into ethics and values, but now it is incumbent upon us if we are to avoid self-destruction.

About 125 years ago all the world religions began to dialogue, seeking a common core of values. In 1993 The Parliament of World’s Religions, after years of work, produced the document Toward a Global Ethic that was signed by 200 representatives of all world religions.  That document has been translated into nearly all languages and is available on the Internet.

The fact that all religions could come to an agreement, looking beyond their differences and see that we are all interconnected by common values is amazing!  Our humanness is supported by shared inherent values recognizable by our reflective awareness.

The 5 fundamental ethical demands are:
1.    Commitment to a culture of non-violence and respect for life.
2.    Commitment to a culture of solidarity and just economic order
3.    Commitment to a culture of tolerance and a life of truth
4.    Commitment to a culture of equal rights for all races and genders
5.    Commitment to a culture of sustainability and care for the earth

Only when we come to recognize the truth and necessity of these principles can we step back from the impending disaster we are now faced with.

If there is a God (and I believe there is) I think that God would care less about how people pray or if they pray at all, so much as about how they live their lives in accordance to a moral and ethical order, how they cared for and sustained this wonderful life-giving planet, and how they finally learned to love their neighbor as themselves.

I encourage readers to search the Web for Toward a Global Ethic.




Friday, March 22, 2019

Invasion of Privacy

Uncharacteristic of my usual blog content, I want to say a few words about advertising.  It seems odd to me that so much fuss was made about privacy when the government was searching bundles of phone lines to apprehend connections with potential terrorists—that’s not listening in on private conversations, it was seeking to know about connections with foreign powers—yet there was an outcry in the media.

As for the privacy issue, my privacy is invaded on a daily basis through my house phone and cell phone robocalls; through the internet via uninvited and unwanted ads in email and messages; through the mail with a sea of printed advertising, and through TV which seems to have become devoted more to constant ads than programming—I pay to have TV yet I’m subjected to endless advertising.

I have faithfully watched CBS Morning Show for years.  They have important and accurate news, interesting guests on a variety of topics as well as friendly and humorous banter between their reporters—it’s a well-rounded informative show.  But over the years the advertising has increased to the degree that I estimate equal time is now given to ‘stuff’ other than the show itself.  Many ads are the same ones over and over and they have added   more advertising for their other CBS shows.  In addition to repetitive advertising, time is consumed by long weather/traffic reports repeated every 10 to 15 minutes and between ads they insert shots of the reporters around the table to make viewers think the show has returned in case they zoomed ahead to skip the ads.  I no longer want to watch it on live TV.  The effect of the onslaught of advertising from all directions has alienated me to the extent that I deliberately avoid purchasing things that are over-advertised.  

If the government is to protect our privacy, why is there no effort to protect us from the invasion of unwanted advertising over our phones, the Internet, TV we pay to receive, and the US mail?  Why is it OK for advertising sources to collect data to learn an individual’s preferences and aim specific advertising at them?  Why is there no privacy protection there?

It seems to be a confirmation that our consumerism is out of hand.



Friday, February 22, 2019

Patriarchy Challenged

In the book Sapiens, the author Harari states: “All societies are based on imagined hierarchies”.  These imagined orders divide people into make-believe groups—upper levels enjoy privileges and power while lower levels suffer discrimination and oppression. There has been some change over time . . . but, “One hierarchy, however, has been of supreme importance in all known human societies: the hierarchy of gender.” 

“Most human societies have been Patriarchal societies that valued men more highly than women.” “People everywhere have divided themselves into men and women.  And almost everywhere men have gotten the better deal . . . In many societies women were simply the property of men, most often their fathers, husbands and brothers.”  

In rare instances a woman has gained prominence—as in Royal succession—she may inherit the title when there is no male heir; but it is illusionary.  He gives the example of Elizabeth I of England who reigned for 45 years yet during her rule, “all Members of Parliament were men, all officers in the Royal Navy and army were men, all judges and lawyers were men, all bishops and archbishops were men, all theologians and priests were men, all doctors and surgeons were men, all students and professors in all universities and colleges were men, all sheriffs were men and almost all the writers, architects, poets, philosophers, painters musicians and scientists were men.”

“Patriarchy has been the norm in almost all agricultural and industrial societies . . . since it is so universal, it cannot be the product of some vicious circle that was kick-started by chance occurrence.”  How did this happen?  Harari asks, “What accounts for the universality and stability of this system? . . . we just don’t know.”

I want to speculate on a possibility . . . it is evolution.  Teilhard says evolution is the underlying principle of all that is. Life is dynamic, ever changing and time is one directional—an ever expanding process.  Looking at the law of complexity-consciousness, in all things, as the external (the without) grows more complex, the internal (the within) expands in consciousness.

When the Homo sapiens first acquired language and complex thought, it was an untamed brutal world. It stands to reason that men were better equipped with their strength, aggression, and violence to take command in that world.  It was also obvious that since nature gave women the responsibility of bearing, birthing, and nursing the next generation (which was not a one-time thing but continuous) that confined her activities to a smaller circle thereby the domestic scene with its requirements became her primary stage of operation.  Those obvious roles were dictated by nature in a primitive world.

But as the world became more civilized, more complex and with more opportunities, men, having come from that ‘might means right’ brutal world, saw themselves as being ‘in charge’ . . . so as civilization advanced, there was no desire on the part of man to share decision-making authority with woman.  Clearly men had the strength/violence advantage to enforce that, so what began as a natural biologically ordered division of labor became a dictatorial Patriarchal system in which, almost universally, women became second-class citizens with no authoritative input and the ‘voice’ of women was silenced. 

In psychology it is recognized that all human qualities are present in all people, but are exhibited at different strengths in each individual.  It is also understood that taken as a whole, each gender emphasizes certain preferences.  Lists of gender characteristics give males as having: strength, courage, independence, dominance, violence, competitiveness, assertiveness . . . and females as having: gentleness, empathy, sensitivity, compassion, jealousy, nurturance, tolerance . . . Given these characteristics each gender sees the world through different eyes and speaks with a different voice.   

By having long ago adopted Patriarchy as the basic societal hierarchy, half of humanity was eliminated from shaping the forward movement of civilization.  For uncountable generations this system was unchallenged and those dominant male qualities shaped the world to his view—with aggression gaining ever more prominence on the world stage as wars increased in frequency and intensity. 

Slowly female consciousness has awakened to the inequality and danger our world has found itself in.  It was and is an evolutionary awakening of consciousness.  By Patriarchy silencing the female voice during civilization’s advance distorted the outcome; the violence, aggression, dominance, and competitiveness of male characteristics have gone unchecked by female sensitivity, compassion, empathy and tolerance.  That makes no claim of female superiority; rather, it recognizes those qualities present in all humanity but associated more with the female.  They have been left out of the equation by silencing the female ‘voice’ thereby unbalancing our world.

Evolution is kicking in to bring attention to the ‘left out’ dimension, and the changing of the state of women on the world stage gives evidence to it. 

Evolution moves forward by advancing in complexity while increasing in consciousness and transforming to a higher state.  That is our present challenge—to fully embrace the whole of humanity.  There is purpose and direction to be found in evolution . . . we are to build the earth, not destroy it.