Crumbling Ideologies, Hope, and Baby Steps toward Wiser Ways Forward
Tiffany B. Twain, Doctor of
November 1, 2008
Some embarrassed Texans on a jerry-rigged
raft were once caught on a snag near the banks of the Mississippi River below
Lover’s Leap, just south of Hannibal, Missouri.
They ruefully observed:
“If all you ever do is all you’ve ever
done, then all you’ll ever get is all you ever got.”
That makes sense down home. You betcha!
It’s probably what Albert Einstein meant when he noted: “We can't solve problems by using the same
kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
A figurative tectonic shift is taking place
in international economies and American politics due to the economic crisis and
the revealed flaws of deregulatory policies and unfairly regressive changes in
tax policy and the irresponsibility of record levels of deficit financing. “Trickle Down” tax policy has resulted in
wealth gushing up into a new Gilded Age of extreme inequality. One percent of Americans now own about 40% of
the wealth in the United States.
Alan Greenspan testified before Congress in
October 2008 and made the stunning admission that he was really “shocked” to
realize that the ideology of deregulation has been proven to be partially wrong. Many people saw the risks inherent in
policies that hyper-stimulated the economy and created an unsustainable
economic bubble. Some warned of an
inevitable economic crisis. But those
who dissented from established views were shut out of the debate by those who
championed the certitude of conservative ideologies that serve interests vested
in the status quo.
Market-fundamentalist doctrines promote
laissez-faire capitalism in recognition of a basic truth about human
nature: people work harder when they are
able to personally benefit from the fruits of their labors. This is why private farm plots were much more
productive than public ones in Russia during the heyday of the Soviet empire. This is also why centrally-controlled
economies are not able to compete as well as ‘free-market’ economies. But make no mistake about it: capitalist economies are structured to
primarily benefit certain constituencies, and there is another aspect of human
nature that market fundamentalism turns a blind eye to: the potential negative impacts of unregulated
Greed has a powerful influence on
competitive impulses. Avaricious greed,
when not sufficiently tempered, creates speculative excesses and scams that can
put the entire economic system at risk.
This is particularly true when there is poor transparency in economic
activities, and when businesses are not subject to adequate control and
oversight. Many people are afflicted
with ideological blindness to the risks inherent in laissez-faire greedy
impulses, and this condition is a significant factor contributing to the severe
crisis embroiling the U.S. economy today.
The detrimental consequences of unwise encouragement of such unleashed
drives confirms the lessons of history, which caution us that we must prevent
the most anti-social and dangerous aspects of these compulsions. But those lessons have been ignored or denied
by Alan Greenspan and ideologues in the
“Selfish, adj. Devoid of
consideration for the selfishness of others.”
--- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary
History has shown over and over again that
wrongheaded rules and incentives create conditions that allow greater good
goals to be subverted, and workers to be exploited, and investors to be
whipsawed by volatile markets, and the environment to be unwisely damaged, and
the stability of the economy to be upset by financial panics and recessionary
times. This was glaringly apparent
during the Panic of 1907, and during the “Great Depression” of the 1930s, and
during the Savings and Loan debacle of the late 1980s, and again after the
dot-com bubble burst in 2001-2002. The
lessons of history make it abundantly clear that the immoderate stimulation of
speculative impulses creates economic bubbles that are destined to burst and
cause unacceptably great harm.
Desperate little guys rob banks and are
sent to prison when they are caught. In
the mean time, trillions of dollars have been lost worldwide in the Panic of
2008, and many banks became nearly insolvent.
An enormous infusion of money was required to save them. None of those bankers and CEOs who assisted
in facilitating this outcome by stimulating speculation and enabling corruption
have been put in prison. Countless of
those who shrewdly exploited rashly-conceived speculative opportunity are
sailing around the world with tens of millions of dollars in ill-gotten spoils. Not only do we let fat cats get away with
this, but we even submissively go along with the lowering of tax rates on their
gains. As a society we seem happy to
generously assess taxes on these people at low upper-end marginal rates that
are obscene in light of the size of national deficits and the costs incurred
and hardships caused by their self-interested activities.
At the moment I write these words,
ExxonMobil just announced that it made a world record profit of almost $15
billion dollars in the three-month period from June 1 to September 20, 2008. This is an increase of 58% over the prior
year. During this same period,
struggling people have been dragged over the coals of challenges associated
with high-cost gasoline. And in the
background, we still have hundreds of thousands of troops and contractors
occupying Iraq and Afghanistan to supposedly defend our national interests and
maintain access to oil that we desperately need from the Middle East.
In light of this financial state of affairs
and the profiteering of giant corporations, it should come as no surprise that
the Bush regime couldn’t even make it to the end of its reign before the harsh
consequences of idiotic and unsustainable initiatives wreaked havoc on the
The Calm Before the
Think about the fact that people strive
harder when they personally benefit from the fruits of their own efforts. In the past eight years, almost all the
benefits of increases in productivity have been taken as a prerogative of
capitalists and the wealthy, and they have not been shared fairly with working
people. Great profits and advantages
have consequently accrued to the benefit of high income earners and investors,
while at the same time the wages of workers have not even kept up with the rate
of inflation. The result has been that our
society has become much less fair and less empathetic, less fairly democratic,
less stable, and less sustainable.
By depriving people of a fair share of
benefits generated by productivity increases, the United States becomes more
like the communist societies we feared so tremulously during the Cold War. In the former Soviet Union, collectivist
farms were not productive because the workers did not have their own selfish
best interest vested in them. The fact
that crop yields were thus far lower than on private plots of land where the
workers reaped the benefits of their work make me think of a carrot and a
stick. Productivity is good, and it can
best be achieved with positive incentives rather than by cracking the whip and
imposing ever more oppressive requirements on working people.
An American political economist and philosopher named Henry George
played a key role in the late 19th century in a national debate over what to do
about rising inequality and excessive corporate power. George believed
that the government had a responsibility to establish policies that would
prevent resources and wealth from being monopolized by the few. He felt that it was more important that the
government take effective steps to promote the material well-being of the many.
This idea formed the basis of progressivism in the early 20th century and
beyond. Henry George also made a
compelling argument that extreme inequality threatens democracy because it
forces people who live in poverty -- and thus have little opportunity to
improve their condition -- to be able to enjoy either a reasonable modicum of
republican liberty or a fair-minded degree of democratic equality.
Henry George called for breaking free from the tradition of
laissez-faire government that had made sense in 1815, when most Americans lived
in small towns and earned their living as farmers, because excessive corporate
power rendered the government incapable of preventing monopoly and protecting
broad opportunity. George basically made
a compelling case for attending to the Common Good. He acknowledged that
individualism was a key American value, but he made it clear that it was not
the only value. Individualism and the Common Good are not mutually
exclusive. They operate in tension with one another, and the Common Good
should take precedence.
The first big step we must take in our
quest to make our society fairer, more stable and more sustainable is to elect
a new progressive-minded president. We
need a leader who: (1) is extremely
well-organized; (2) understands what we
must do to ensure the long-term well-being of our communities and nation, and
world; (3) is honest and open-minded
enough to develop a consensus on right actions;
(4) can articulate and clearly communicate a comprehensive perspective
on the nature of the challenges facing us;
and (5) can motivate people to unite and positively accept a share of
the responsibility for helping accomplish the changes needed.
The insights contained in Sliding Doors, Shifting Perceptions and
Transcendental Vision are included by this reference for the understandings
they provide into Mark Twain’s perceptive perspective relating to the original
Gilded Age of the late 1800s. That essay
also explores important issues involved in our neo-Gilded Age compulsions today,
like economic inequities, social injustices, and regressive changes in
Some Things are Simple
requires a proper balance between unfettered capitalism and overly burdensome
regulations, between stimulated activities and systemic restraints, between
government collaboration with socially-damaging extremes of corporate
profit-making, on the one hand, and tight government regulation on the other
hand. Societies do not prosper under
either anarchy or martial law, so the ideal is to create a progressive system
of incentives for people to work productively, and to simultaneously ensure
that there are distinct disincentives to prevent systemic threats like
financial disruptions, unstable speculative economic bubbles, and dangerous
extremes of inequality.
Architects and engineers know that a
durable building requires good design, solid foundations, competent
workmanship, and the right mix of cement and structural reinforcement. They conversely realize that poor design,
inferior materials, shoddy workmanship, too much rigidity and shortsighted
corner-cutting can result in unsafe edifices that will have unacceptably short
The businessman, political activist and
philanthropist Leo Hindery discussed the dark side of deregulation and
excessive industry concentration in his book It Takes a CEO – It’s Time to Lead with Integrity. Hindery wrote about the deregulation of the
airline industry and the problems caused by this action. Massive government intervention in the
airline business was required to create greater security. Leo Hindery also analyzed the deregulation of
the electric utility industry, a move that led to extortionate electricity
pricing, and about the ‘gaming’ of the electricity market in California and the
collapse of the corrupt corporation Enron that devastated the retirement
savings of thousands of workers. He also
delved into the deregulation and concentration of media ownership, particularly
of radio stations and television networks.
Such industry consolidations have resulted in abuses of power, and then
to government interventions in reaction.
Corporate concentration in the media arena
distinctly erodes the quality of news that Americans receive. It also limits the diversity of viewpoints
expressed, posing great threats to the proper functioning of our
democracy. The need is growing for the
Fairness Doctrine in broadcast media to be reinstated by the Federal
Deregulation of financial industries in
particular has caused terrible consequences for people in our nation, as well
as in countries around the world. It is
currently quite unclear how much more far-reaching this damage will prove to
be. But it seems apparent to me that the
irresponsible fiscal and monetary policies of the past eight years have caused
us to back ourselves into a foolishly tight spot, and an extremely risky and
detrimental one. Ideologues like Grover
Norquist may think that drowning the U.S. government in a bathtub has a nice
ring to it, but drowning our best hope for balanced policy-making and
figurative salvation in a deep sea of debt may turn out to be one of the worst
plans in history!
A National Foresight
Alex Steffen, executive director of the
online magazine worldchanging.com,
talks about solutions-based ideas, not just problem-based ones. Steffen recommends “a bright green” approach
to problem-solving that would create a prosperity that is more widespread and
more broadly-distributed. This “is
crucial for gaining support for moves to protect the environment and for
addressing poverty, public health, violence and civil rights.” He notes that desperate people are not good
stewards of resources or natural systems, and writes: “We can design ways of living that offer a
high quality of life with a fraction of the ecological footprint.” He also expresses the considered opinion that
we should act in smarter ways to design a better system in which sustainable
actions become good investments rather than burdensome costs.
Our current “ecological deficit spending”
will almost certainly have severe consequences for future generations. The findings of the Global Footprint Network
indicate that we are ratcheting up our demands on natural resources and
ecosystems. These understandings should
not be ignored. We clearly should
increase our efforts to create ways of living that are sustainable, instead of
speeding in the opposite direction.
Let’s create a Foresight Agency that is modeled along the lines of the
‘British Foresight Programme’.
The time is NOW to embrace such ideas! The United States should lead rather than
obstruct actions to create a new cleaner renewable energy regime, and to
prevent disastrous climate change, and to make the world more just and
“The crisis is a crisis in consciousness, a crisis
that cannot anymore accept the old norms, the old patterns, the old ancient
traditions.” … “It is no measure of health to be
well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
--- J. Krishnamurti, in the Internet
film Zeitgeist Addendum
What’s the Story,
When Ronald Reagan entered the White House
in 1981, he said “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” With these words, Reagan launched his agenda
of cutting taxes, eliminating regulations, borrowing heavily to finance big
increases in military spending, advancing laissez-faire ideologies, and
undermining collective bargaining rights that would otherwise benefit workers. These policies are proving to be extremely
unfair and distinctly harmful to people, the economy, and the environment. As a consequence of Reagan’s policies being
carried to an absurd extreme by Neoconservatives and the Bush/Cheney regime, we
are now dealing with an extraordinarily harmful and dangerous economic
crisis. This disastrous state of affairs
will likely help Democrats win a landslide in both houses of Congress and the
White House in the November 4, 2008 elections.
But great challenges will continue to beset us until truly
transformational policies are enacted.
The pendulum has swung from New Deal
big-government policies that built a strong middle class to the Reagan
Revolution that began to dismantle the New Deal safety net and eliminate the
rules that kept our banking system secure.
Reagan’s policies had the collateral advantage for his wealthy
conservative supporters of dramatically promoting the interests of the rich at
the expense of the middle class and working people and the poor. George W. Bush jumped on the Reagan bandwagon
by cutting taxes and indulging in large increases in government spending and
even bigger budget deficits. He embraced
policies that increased social inequities and ramped up government intrusiveness
against the civil liberties of Americans.
And he used the divisiveness of war to advance Big Oil and other
corporate interests in the United States, the Middle East, and around the
Now the impetus is strong to have the
federal government once again focus on creating fairer institutions and more
effective regulations. The probabilities
are high that the same forces of insider influence and political corruption
that the right wing has allowed to damage our nation in the past eight years
will skew remedial efforts into a new set of initiatives that will be
vulnerable to wrongheaded actions. To
ensure positive public planning remedies, long-term impacts of decisions need
to be more scrupulously taken into account.
We must demand better outcomes by insisting on the implementation of wiser
priorities and a far-sighted progressive agenda for a saner human race. See Part Four of the Earth Manifesto for good
recommendations, like those in the Progressive
Agenda for a More Sane Humanity.
Among the most important things we need to
do is to get Big Money out of the driver’s seat in our politics by enacting
comprehensive campaign finance reforms and creating publicly-financed Clean
Elections. We must also make it easier
for people to vote instead of allowing Republicans to engage in voter suppression
efforts. And we need to put in place
revolutionary Congressional Ethics reforms to stem the tide of corruption in
our government. It is ironic that the
longest-serving Republican Senator in history, arch-conservative Ted Stevens of
Alaska, has been convicted of seven felonies for corruption and lying just one
week before the November elections.
We Americans are tired of the lying,
cheating, deception and dirty-trick campaigning that characterizes our
political system. We should not overlook
the dysfunctional impacts of established churches being involved in politics,
for the separation of Church and State should be more strongly codified, and
tax breaks for religious institutions that engage in political activities
should be eliminated so that they are on fair footing with all other political
The Bottom Line
Awareness is the key. The bottom line is this: when our leaders sell the people some story,
it should be the ‘biggest picture’ version of the story, not just a one-sided
story, or a small-minded aspect of the whole story. We must present a narrative that acknowledges
and addresses the causes of problems, not just their symptoms. This is true of tax and economic policy; it is true of the role of war in foreign
policy; and it is true of the role of
the government in such arenas as banking regulation, health care, family
planning, the war against drugs and the criminalization of sex workers.
This is also true of religious
fundamentalism. It is desirable to allow
people the freedom to believe in whatever religion they desire, but it is
undesirable to allow religious fanatics to strongly influence government and to
impose their closed-minded dogmatic certitudes upon others. This is why a wise society establishes the
freedom of speech and religion, AND it is why a strong separation between
Church and State must be made a distinct feature of democratic
self-governance. These rules concern
fairness and true national security, not just narrow ideologies.
The Empirical Nature of
Pyrrhic Victories: When Capital Quashes
In the early years of automobile
manufacturing, Henry Ford paid his workers higher wages than were paid in other
industries. One reason he did this was
so that his workers would actually be able to afford to buy the products they
were manufacturing. This philosophy is
distinctly at odds with many of the capitalist motivations of today, in which
influential corporations and investors gain great advantages for capital by ensuring
that policies are enacted that limit the wages, benefits, and collective
bargaining power of working people.
Denying workers the benefits of increases
in their productivity reduces mass purchasing power and erodes long-term
prosperity. The Center for American
Progress has published an analysis called “Understanding Bushonomics: How We
Got Into This Mess in the First Place”.
This analysis notes that George W. Bush’s economic policies have the
opposite strategy from those of Henry Ford, and as such they have contributed
to the current economic mess. Instead of
striving to ensure that workers are reasonably compensated, the Bush
administration has worked tirelessly to undermine the prerogatives and job
prospects of American workers by embracing flawed policies related to taxation,
trade, regulations, immigration, collective bargaining, minimum wages, and
Passionate free-market capitalists like
Jack Welsh, the former Chairman and CEO of General Electric, argue vehemently
that lower taxes on capital are needed.
He says the way to create jobs is to lower taxes on capital. He gets almost angry in TV discussions about
unions. These issues are complex, but
the bottom line is that we must find better ways to create meaningful jobs and
fair compensation for work, so that less injustice is perpetrated in the name
of prerogatives and high returns for capital and rich people.
This issue brings up thoughts about the Communist Manifesto. I personally lived through many years of Cold
War propaganda and vitriol against communism, so I know that even writing about
this issue creates a risk of engendering emotional reactions against rational
ideas. The Communist Manifesto advocated that workers use the power of their
large numbers to gain greater benefits in the face of the dominating influence
of capital. With the severe
inegalitarian trends that have been taking place in the past few decades in the
United States, we should take a fresh look at ideas and policies that could
substantially increase economic fairness.
The United States spent trillions of
dollars on staunchly opposing communism during the long Cold War. Oh, evil woe!
Those communists are such a dastardly bunch of … other people! What, one might wonder in retrospect with
regard to the Cold War, was the whole costly, hyper-competitive and destructive
episode of anti-communism about? Why did
we propagandize ourselves into such a frenzy of extreme fear of communism? Think about this honestly. The Communist
Manifesto was written in response to a pure and simple movement: it opposed capitalist ideologies that give
primary prerogatives to capital while basically damning workers for wanting to
get a fairer slice of the economic pie.
Communism was essentially an alternate
theory of economic organization that declared, “Workers, Unite!” There are a lot more workers than fat-cat
capitalists, so the best way for people to gain a better balance of power
against the abuses of domineering capital is to organize together. I’ll bet we can find an improved way of
organizing our societies than the ways we have been pursuing in the last eight
years -- better ways for the greater good of the vast majority of people.
Make no mistake about the pervasive extent
of the abuses in the capitalist system.
In the first century of the Industrial Revolution, abuses by Big
Businesses grew until they were intolerable.
These abuses included shrewdly unethical monopoly practices, long
working hours, low wages, unsafe workplaces, abusive child labor, gender and
race discrimination, irresponsible pollution, and environmental
degradation. A revolutionary reform
movement was launched in response to muckraking exposés, and a host of
Progressive Era initiatives were undertaken in the early twentieth century. The so-called Square Deal of Theodore
Roosevelt, and the New Deal created by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and the great
social and environmental advances of the 1960s helped to somewhat mitigate
Fierce competition with socialistic ideas
forced capitalistic societies to adopt many of the most important tenets of
democratic socialism. You know, like
sensible regulations and some basic social safety net plans, including Social
Security and Medicare. Deep
underpinnings underlie this epic competition between capitalism and
communism. They are found in the
fundamental conflict between the ideals of freedom and equality. When societies allow complete freedom, they
tend to create big and growing inequities of opportunity and wealth and power. When societies try to enforce greater
equality, freedoms must be curtailed to an extent. As in many things, a smart BALANCE is the
best policy. So we should strive to
create well-managed capitalism in which reasonable freedoms are balanced with
reasonable provisions for fairness.
Collaborative efforts should be made so
that we solve problems by bringing together business leaders, investors,
universities, governmental agencies, non-profit organizations, community
leaders and our political representatives, and have them work together for the
common good. Cooperation can override
excessively ruthless competition and make our societies healthier and more
John Fowles wrote about the concept of
“countersupporting” in his thought-provoking book, The Aristos. His interpretation
of the forces that shape history is compelling.
When something is strongly opposed, the action tends to strengthen what
it opposes, and opposition galvanizes societies to achieve purposes that it
could not otherwise realize. For this
reason, it is organizationally convenient for political parties to create
enemies, and to magnify perceptions of the threats they represent, in order to
gain power and advance the agendas of special interest groups.
Threats of communism during the Cold War,
and threat of terrorism in the past decade, have been the two principal straw
men that politicians have hyped up to exploit public fears and gain narrow
advantages. Using the divisiveness of
insecurity and the benefits gained by being able to more easily control people
when they are fearful, moneyed interests use deceitful spin to help advance
elitist agendas that allow the few to dominate the vast majority. This is a shrewdly clever strategy,
especially for gaining an outlandish share of the spoils; but is it socially wise? No!
As Civilization Falters,
What Do We Do Now?
Right now, poor people and the middle class
are unable to contribute to helping save the world by investing in the
well-being of our society and protections of the environment. Right now, governments are severely strapped,
torn between anti-tax forces and generous largess to giant corporations and
investors, on the one hand, and powerful spending drives for economic stimulus,
the military, infrastructure investments, and social programs like affordable
public education and universal healthcare and Social Security.
Nonetheless, we simply must make more
focused investments in our own society.
We must invest in needed infrastructure construction and maintenance,
and in good public education and the well-being of the populace and other forms
of fairness-oriented and equality-engendering initiatives. We should make epochal investments in an
alternate energy regime to wean ourselves from our addiction to fossil fuels,
and to supplant the use of non-renewable fossil fuels that pollute oceans and
the atmosphere and alter the climate, and encourage dirty politics and
Sometimes things are even more simple and
straight-forward than they seem.
Necessity marvelously clarifies the mind. Forget hot button social issues. People, Unite! Forget all the ideological arguments, the
economic fundamentalism, and the capitalist rationalizations. Ninety percent of the people in the world are
unable to do much about investing in making their societies healthier and more
sustainable, or in helping reduce poverty and make sure we have social
justice. Governments are likewise
constrained, having borrowed themselves beyond fiscal stability. Regular people and governments are often just
the pawns in the game, anyway.
Let’s focus! Who could finance, who should finance,
the necessary investments in a better world?
Aha! Yes, the wealthy people
could afford to finance it. Let’s ask
them nicely to step forward and contribute more to this vitally important
goal. It just happens to turn out that
rich people are demonstrably the Kings, Queens, Knights and Rooks in this chess
game, and often the Knaves in our world civilization, to boot!
Well, this is poetic irony indeed! Those who can finance bold investments are
the VERY SAME PEOPLE who (1) are benefiting the most from the way the system is
structured, and (2) have been receiving the biggest portion of irresponsible
profit-making and government largess, and (3) have ecological footprints that are
huge, and whose outlandish consumerism is practically obscene in the face of
the full scope of the world’s problems.
Ah, poetic justice is to come!
What should we do? There are many possibilities, and all of them
center around the people and organizations that are most financially well off
under current conditions. Here’s one
approach: Require every person who has
more than $10 million in net worth to invest 10% of their wealth into a Big
Fund. Every nation should join in to do
this. Each country will control its own
Big Fund. The proceeds are to be
invested according to priorities determined by special bodies of citizens in
each nation, people who are fairly chosen, with half of them representing
center-right interests and philosophies, and the other half representing
center-left interests and philosophies.
No extremists are to be included.
Simultaneously, assess a 10% sales tax on all weapons and munitions sold
every year in every nation, and put these proceeds into an international
Compensation Fund, and then apportion this money out to all the Big Funds
around the world to pay interest to the rich people on the money they have been
required to contribute. There you have
it -- a solution that figuratively takes care of three birds or so with just
one stone! Strategic!
What’s the Matter with
A century ago, Kansas was known for its
radical politics and the activism of its workers and farmers. Progressives and populists fought to save
America from ruthless industrialists and the plutocratic rule of the wealthy,
and they opposed abuses of federal government power. Today, Kansas has become extreme in its
social conservatism and pathologically anti-progressive. What happened? This is a remarkable transformation from
liberalism to conservatism, and it has taken place in defiance of common sense
and contrary to the rational economic self-interest of the people of Kansas.
Today, using shrewd and cynical Karl Rovian
strategies, dirty tricks and divisive hot-button wedge issues, conservatives
have managed to co-opt progressivism and make Kansas a rather reactionary
place. They have managed to get the
common people to embrace inequities and inegalitarianism. Instead of Kansans being concerned by Big
Issues, they have fallen hook, line and sinker for God-fearing dogmas,
gun-ownership protectionism, anti-gay prejudices, and misguided false
patriotism. This tale of the folly of
Kansans highlights the sad legacy of those who advocate Neoconservatism, which
has caused so much harm to broader prosperity by using trickery in the name of
narrow special interests.
Rebelling Against the
This tale of Kansas involves a “Great
Backlash” that has taken place against the liberalism of the late 1960s. This backlash mobilizes voters by using
emotional wedge issues, and then marries social and religious conservatism to
pro-business economic policies. The
backlash is exploited by using the energy of anger, frustration and religious
piety to marshal support for an unrelated conservative agenda that promotes the
narrow economic ends of the wealthy. The
blindness of conservative rank-and-file workers to the patently manipulative
insincerity of conservative leaders is one of the real cultural marvels of this
Great Backlash. Read the provocative
book by Thomas Frank, What’s the Matter
with Kansas for deeper insights into the cynical hypocrisy of this
strategy. The final sentence is this
book states: “Kansas is ready to lead us
singing into the apocalypse. It invites
us all to join in, to lay down our lives so that others might cash out at the
top; to renounce forever our
middle-American prosperity in pursuit of a crimson fantasy of middle-American
righteousness.” (Let’s NOT do this!)
We are basically allowing the gospel of
religious righteousness and the unfettered power of the rich to triumph over
the American Dream, and to devastate the hopes it represents for millions of
people. This is tragic because critical
thinking is a key to a better future, while ignorance and blind adherence to
ideology, dogma, orthodoxy and evangelical religious doctrines are
counterproductive and detrimental to society in many ways. Having an open mind is adaptive; having a closed mind is reactive and
antagonistic to progress.
I personally believe in moderation and
balance. Somehow many people tend to try
to achieve balance by marching from one extreme to the other, and today we have
gotten much too far to the right.
Rigidity and blind adherence to fundamentalist beliefs is both risky and
dangerous. Flexibility and open-mindedness
to fuller understandings are safer and more sensible attitudes, and they are
more propitiously adaptive. This is why
we need calmly reasoned debate to examine tenets of conventional thinking and
Maya Angelou and Nikos
“The idea is to write it so that people hear
it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart.” --- Maya Angelou
day shone brilliantly. I felt like Zorba
the Greek. The higher I went, the more
my spirit soared and became purged and exalted.
Once again I felt the influence on the soul of pure air, easy breathing,
and a vast horizon. As I climbed, I felt
as if I were clambering over ranges of the mind within me, passing from base
and petty cares to nobler ones, from the comfortable truths of the plains to
precipitous conceptions. “Here,” said
Zorba, “a gentle, sober spirit could cultivate a religious exaltation that
would match the stature of men. Neither
a precipitous, superhuman peak, nor a lazy, voluptuous plain, but what is
needed, and no more, for the soul to be elevated without losing its human
Global Perspective: An Illuminating Worldview
Calling Again for a
A revolutionary paradigm shift is needed to
a new set of comprehensive understandings.
Rather than following failed Trickle Down economic policies, we need to
try Trickle Up strategies. We should
once again establish priorities that are effective in building the middle
class, and we should reject policies that undermine it. We should, for instance, demand that the
federal government give stronger support to affordable and well-designed public
education, and create public works programs that increase investments in vital
infrastructure programs. In light of the
housing crisis, we should find ways to freeze mortgage loan increases that are
causing foreclosures on people’s homes, and we should promote democratic ideas
like extending unemployment benefits to people who lose their jobs and providing
emergency aid to state and local governments because such policies have
positive economic ripple effects.
Ideological blinders allow people to seize
on partial truths and deny understandings that are more all-encompassing. The truth in market fundamentalism is that
free markets and free trade take advantage of natural self-interested human
motivations to stimulate productivity and hard work. But market fundamentalism conveniently denies
an equally profound truth about human nature:
that greed, when unfettered by sensible controls and transparency and
oversight, always leads toward speculative excesses and increased risks of
economic inequities and instability, and often to fraud and corruption as
A primary reason that Karl Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto was to renounce the
capitalist ideologies that champion prerogatives of capital over the rights of
workers. The fact of the matter is that
a fairer balance is needed between the power of capital and the power of labor,
and between the socially damaging impulses of stimulated greed and socially
propitious impulses of self-interested motivations.
Think about an idea presented in Zeitgeist Addendum: “Slavery is but the owning of labor, and
carries with it the care of laborers.
The European plan of the nineteenth century was that capital should
control labor by controlling wages. This
can be done by controlling the money. … The fractional reserve banking policy
perpetrated by the Federal Reserve, which has spread in practice to the great
majority of banks in the world is, in fact, a system of modern slavery.” To the extent that there is truth in this
idea, it behooves us to investigate it, and think about it, and do something
about it! Watch this film online for
deeper insight, and let me know what you think.
Contradictory Duplicity of the Washington Consensus
for a moment, the so-called Washington Consensus. This in an economic ideology that prescribes
the deregulation of financial markets, the lowering of taxes on capital, the
reducing of restrictions on imports, the strengthening of private property
rights, the privatizing of state-owned enterprises, and the imposition of
austere social program budgets. Often,
the Washington Consensus is used in foreign policy to advocate the devaluation
of foreign currencies so that the U.S. can import resources at cheaper
prices. It also often contributes to
serious environmental degradation. The
Washington Consensus is not actually a consensus of broad-based thinking, but
is instead a narrow laissez-faire ideology that excludes fuller truths and
denies wiser understandings.
Washington Consensus is an expedient debt-manipulative tool of the dominant
forces of capitalism. It unfortunately
ignores deeper economic truths and critically important social and ecological
truths. It ignores the fact that
everything is interconnected and interdependent, and that we can no longer pretend that it is an
expendable luxury to take environmental concerns into account in our planning. It is a simple fact that the fundamental
basis of the economic well-being of our societies is a healthy environment and
ecosystems that are not severely compromised or damaged. We must make overarching commitments to
ensuring that ecosystems are able to continue to provide the services we get
from them every year, indefinitely. The
Earth Manifesto opus, Comprehensive
Global Perspective, explores this topic in extensive detail. Check it out!
Market fundamentalism abhors government
interference in the marketplace and places the highest value on maximizing
private profits. But this ideology
conveniently champions initiatives that are intended to increase corporate
subsidies, reduce business taxes, undermine the collective bargaining power of
workers, mobilize the military to protect corporate interests, and generally
allow costs and risks to be externalized onto society. Market fundamentalism appears to be an almost
evangelical embrace of narrow ideologies over expansive visions that emphasize
the common good.
The ideological foundations of free-market
economics and a consumer society are being repudiated by recent developments
during the current economic crisis.
Financial elites seem to be out of touch, incompetent, and blinded by
greed and power. They seem to be
intellectually and morally bankrupt. The blatant corruption of our
political system is facilitated by Big Money, with corporations and elites
wielding large influence over both Democratic and Republican politicians.
Living in a moment of rapidly changing
history, it is hard for us to fathom the transformations that are
underway. Most people are in shock and
denial. We cling to old structures of
meaning and outdated ideas that describe them.
We do not yet realize that many of our conventional economic and
political ideas are being altered, right before our eyes. As our reality is altered, we grasp, on a
subliminal level, that laissez-faire capitalism is changing, but we are unclear
where these trends are leading. We will
soon return to basics, according to journalist Chris Hedges: to jobs and food and health care and
affordable places to live. We will
discard the old ideas that are still used by the Democratic and Republican
parties, and learn to speak in a fiery language of populism and long-term
common sense fairness.
Chris Hedges does not hedge. He states:
“We will turn with a vengeance on the 1 percent that has amassed more
wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined.
The populist conflict will see a battle between a frightened and
dispossessed majority and the corporations and elites who seek to ruthlessly
cling to power and wealth.” Stay tuned!
Many Americans have become disengaged over
the years. This crisis is forcing them
to pay more attention because it directly affects our economic future and
ability to put food on the table.
Outrage will lead to more involvement.
This outrage will fuel powerful social movements that may tend either to
right-wing populism or to progressive populism.
“The question is not whether we will build state socialism. This process has already begun. The only question left is whether this will
be right-wing or left-wing socialism.”
The question is also whether authoritarian control of our nation will
assert itself, or whether we will be able to preserve the civil liberties and
democratic fair-mindedness of our great republic. Right-wing
populism of the Christian Right is, according to Chris Hedges, the most
dangerous mass movement in American history.
It must be emasculated!
After the wrenching political losses
by Republicans in the imminent November 4 election, this hijacked
political party should be in for a rough period of soul searching.
Analysts and some party activists say that losing the White House will highlight
the pitfalls of relying too heavily on a narrow foundation of conservative
Christians whose support has become crucial to the electoral success of
Republican politicians. What about
moderates? How about those who feel that
they did not leave the Republican Party, it left them!
P. Oui’s Big Adventure
A gripping drama unfolds in the film The Wave by director Dennis Gansel. The film is based on a real-life high school
classroom experiment in which students went from being normal undisciplined and
somewhat cynical teenagers to being a cohesive group that accepted
authoritarian order, discipline and conformity, all within the span of a single
week’s time. The film is a provocative
revelation of the fact that human behaviors can be easily and quickly
manipulated. We must try to structure
our societies so that our collective behaviors are manipulated in positive
ways, with liberty and justice for all, rather than allowing shadow elements to
drive us ruthlessly toward ruin and mean-spirited extremes of unfairness and
is not free from the laws of nature, not free from the motivations of instinct,
not free from the influences of social conditioning. Only knowledge is freedom; by imagination and reason we turn experience
--- Baruch Spinoza,
a Dutch philosopher of Portuguese Jewish origin
Money Makes the World Go
Around, that Clinking, Clanking Sound
the small secrets need to be protected.
The big ones are kept secret by public
--- Marshall McLuhan
Money in the form of coin and paper
currency came into being to facilitate trade.
Money initially represented value because it had intrinsic value, like
gold coins. Later, money was supported
by underlying assets like deposits in banks or implicit guarantees by
governments to cover obligations through the power of taxation. Money has been a convenient form of exchange
that was adopted and guaranteed as “legal tender” even when it became divorced
from actual value and began to be created as debt.
Money created as debt? What?!
Check out the simply-explained but mind-warping film Money as Debt on the Internet. It is difficult to comprehend the complexities
of how the global monetary system really works, but this film gives a
compelling analysis. It discusses in
basic terms the nature of the fractional reserve banking system that was
created to expand the availability of credit and fuel economic activities. This system requires central banks to protect
against the dangers of regional financial panics and insolvency risks. Laws allow individual banks in the U.S. to
loan out 9 times more money than they have in deposits. This is a clever provision for making profits
that is called ‘leveraging’. When
depositors lose confidence in a bank, the risk of a “run on the bank” by
depositors who want to take their money out can quickly make the bank
The film Money as Debt casts an astonishing, simple and perplexing light
onto the entire international banking system, which is fundamentally
intertwined with debt, interest, leveraging, expanding money supply, taxation,
inflation and an escalating utilization of resources. This system is in some ways like a giant
pyramid scheme, and the system itself may ultimately prove to be
unsustainable. This explains why
periodic episodes take place in which the system becomes vulnerable to crises
of confidence and increased risks of banking panics and bailouts.
The film Money as Debt provides provocative insights into how the banking
system and our societies could actually be made sustainable, so that we would
really be living within the limits of renewable resources. We could have a stable money supply, and even
a non-profit government banking system that is fair, sound, value-based,
non-inflationary, and independent of usury and private profiteering. Why not?!
Reforms to the monetary system, like real
reforms to the electoral system, run into powerful resistance in the form of
established interests that are vested in keeping things the way they are. Wall Street moguls, central banks, and
investors who profit from the current system strongly oppose changes to this
system. They even oppose the shining of
light on this whole “secret”, and on ‘thinking outside the box’ in
general. Until a crisis arises! Now is the time to better understand; now is the time to make positive and
progressive far-sighted changes!
Change will come, after sufficient
calamity, sometime in the future. In the
interim we will keep tweaking the system to balance public risk against the
merits of private profit-making. In any
case, we can probably keep the monetary system going much longer than other
unsustainable practices -- like, for instance, the wasteful uses of fossil
fuels in the face of Peak Oil and the eventual inevitable declines in oil
production. Nonetheless, we should
embrace revolutionary reforms in this arena.
Keep on tweaking!
During the harsh depression of the 1930s, sensible
reforms like the Glass-Steagall Act were implemented to keep the U.S. banking
system safe. These reforms were undone
by anti-regulatory officials in 1999, and we are currently paying extremely
high costs for the consequences of this foolishness. Now is the time to make new reforms, no matter
how strong the resistance is by shrewd and conniving bankers! Let’s re-enact the Glass-Steagall Act, and
take steps to deal with the risky too-big-to-fail phenomenon.
Tectonic shifts are taking place in managed
capitalism as the reality of the risks of unfettered speculative activities
becomes obvious, and as the need for wiser rules and better enforcement becomes
clear. Someday the issue of the
“carrying capacity” of our Home Planet for our species will be thrown into
stark relief. Someday we will more
clearly understand the folly of the unsustainable growth in human numbers that
underlies all these problems. At such a
time, humanity will be forced to make difficult decisions instead of
figuratively sweeping such challenges under the carpet.
Someday we will be forced to reconsider our
cherished beliefs that encourage us to reproduce without planning, and without
acknowledging ecological limits. We will
also be forced to realize that our compulsion for endless consumption cannot be
sustained without tragic consequences.
We are courting catastrophe for ourselves by blindly adhering to
marketing and ideological and even Biblical strictures that say we must
religiously stick to the advice that God allegedly gave humankind: “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the
earth, and subdue it: and have
dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every
living thing that moveth upon the earth.”
Enough of subduing -- when does the wise
and sensible stewardship begin?!
The Dawning of the Age
Lord, may these words find a receptive audience of people who truly care
about fairness, peace, intelligent planning, good governance, ecological
sanity, and sustainable human activities.
May this document be a Progressive Game-Changer!
Here is an interlude of lyrics from the
rock musical Hair, which opened on
Broadway in New York in April 1968:
the moon is in the Seventh House
and Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars
This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius
The Age of Aquarius
Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind's true liberation
In the decade of the 1960s, a protest song
cried out that we are on the “Eve of Destruction”. Not long afterwards, a song reacted by
proclaiming that we are on the “Dawn of Correction”. Today’s economic crisis presents us with a
great potential for a new and real dawn of correction. We are on the threshold of a paradigm shift,
a tipping point, a dangerous opportunity in which we can choose to make
positive growth choices rather than negative fear choices. We can choose to champion intelligent ideas
that are focused on progressive change, or continue to allow anti-progressive
demagogues to implement their narrowly-focused agendas.
One of our biggest problems today is that
we are allowing subprime ideas to dominate our politics and our national
decision-making. Vacuous and defensive
certitude in these subprime ideas, and stubborn loyalty to them by
self-interested ‘yes-men’, are seriously damaging the world. In the mean time, opportunists who pull the
levers behind the curtain continue to be in control. The problem isn’t necessarily that we are
letting sub-par people rule, but that our political system encourages the
on-going ascendancy of an establishment and an insidious war on fair-minded
good ideas. Our political and economic
systems are focused on achieving short-term-oriented goals instead of honorable
and honest objectives designed to make our world fairer, more just, more
peaceable and more sustainable.
An odd force of inertia and vested interest
resistance spins us onward with a powerful impetus, obstructing progressive
adaptation to change. Greed and pride
too often masquerade as moral righteousness and economic wisdom. Hate often masquerades as love. We need to restructure our societies to
marginalize retrogressive forces and extremist dogmas and bad ideas and failing
ideologies. We must refuse to allow them
to prevail. The smartest guys in the
room are not automatically on the side of virtue, honesty, fairness and smart
decision-making, and often they oppose such socially desirable traits.
It has come to pass that our nation is channeling
the Seven Fundamental Characteristics of the Decay of Civilization, as if they
were some virtuous Holy Grail (see these characteristics enumerated in Chapter
#21 of Comprehensive Global Perspective). The historian Arnold J.
Toynbee ominously noted: "Civilizations die from suicide, not by
murder." Let’s act to save
Speaking of Salvation
Think of how the rest of the world regards
us. One third of Americans adhere to
conservative religious fundamentalism that is the most anti-progressive in all
of the Western World. It is likely that
if a reincarnation of Jesus Christ walked amongst us right now, preaching love
and tolerance and peace and turn-the-other-cheek forgiveness and charity toward
the poor, such a Lord would be ignored or ridiculed, or slandered, shouted
down, despised, persecuted, made homeless or even killed. If he were killed, it would probably be by an
ignorant, hateful, gun-toting religious fanatic who expected Jesus to come in a
different form. A reborn prophet simply
will not be announced by trumpeting horns, a brightly shining star, or a trio
of wise men.
Speaking of Jesus Christ, it is valuable to think
about the idea of “sublapsarianism”.
This is a dogma that explains that a Supreme Being created
humanity and allowed a Fall in the Garden of Eden, and elected some people to
be saved, and provides hope of salvation for those few who are true believers
in this story. This type of myth was
pervasive long before the Bible was written, and in many different cultures.
The End Times Rapture, you say? -- Ha! This is fiction, folks! It turns out that the Jews will not, after
all, be forced to either convert to be saved or be burned to death. “Nice try” by dominion-oriented
fundamentalists on these prophecies that exploit archaic fears and hopes for a
‘better afterlife’ for blind believers!
Dr. Nicky Stiletto recently said, with her
cute stuffed cow and wonderful sidekick dog running in circles around her: “What’s up about that? The psychologist in each of us wants to
Voltaire once wrote: “The progress of
rivers to the ocean is not so rapid as that of man to error.” He also noted: “Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but
certainty is absurd.” For deeper
understanding of issues related to religion and true spirituality, see Revelations of a Modern Prophet in the Earth
Knowledgeable scientists tell us that the Earth will
continue to revolve around the Sun for billions of years. The End Times that are relevant to us will be
ones that eventually involve the extinction of our own species, most likely as
a result of our own myopic actions. We
will no doubt do great harm to the Earth and its beautiful ecosystems and all
the other plants and animals that we share the planet with, before our eventual
demise. When the rapid increases in the
number of human beings on Earth is considered, and our unbridled competitive
urges, and our aspirations for domination, and our ethnocentric foolishnesses,
and the “murder traits” that John Steinbeck talks about in his Log from the Sea of Cortez, it seems
likely that these hard times may come sooner rather than later. They will probably come relatively
soon from the frame of reference of the long sweep of geological time.
More than 99% of all species ever in existence have
gone extinct. The fossil record
indicates that the average species exists for about 5 million years before it
goes extinct. Let’s see, our species Homo sapiens has been in existence for
maybe 150,000 years. How will we make it
to 5 million years? Or even another
“Our fate is in our own hands to a large
extent; no other species has ever had
such potential control. If we want our
species to survive another century, another millennium, another ten thousand
years, another one hundred thousand years, or a million years -- mere blips in
geological time -- we must begin to work together, rather than to ruthlessly
compete and aggressively conflict.
Intelligent long-term-oriented policy-making and progressive-minded
ideas must gain ascendancy over shortsighted neoconservatism and short-term
--- Comprehensive Global Perspective – An
We sure could improve our prospects by adopting a
Bill of Rights for Future Generations and a good portion of the Progressive Agenda for a More Sane
Humanity. See links in the Earth
Manifesto for these and other provocative ideas.
In concluding my thoughts about salvation,
I recommend Bill Maher’s funny, irreverent and oddly frightening film, Religulous. The film gives audiences surprising insights
into the bizarre nature of the cherished beliefs of some crazy religious
fundamentalists. The “Creation Museum”
in Petersburg Kentucky, which isn’t all that far from Hannibal, actually shows
dinosaurs and human beings playing together, glossing over some 65 million
years of geological history in service of its ridiculous dogma. Gosh, no need to let scientific facts get in
the way of one’s cherished beliefs, I guess!
Religulous also exposes the
“Holy Land Experience” in Orlando, Florida.
People just seem to LOVE to see fictions reenacted like the bloody
crucifixion of Jesus Christ! Let the
‘Truth’ go marching on, hallelujah! Does
anyone have any spare time for more real truths?
Visceral Connections: The
Intimate Impacts of Creative Destruction
economic systems sometimes facilitate a process that economist Joseph
Schumpeter called “creative destruction”.
By allowing businesses to fail that cannot compete successfully, a
winnowing-out takes place that ensures a kind of survival of the fittest. This can have positive effects by letting
innovative forces transform markets, products, equipment, methods and
organizations. This makes capitalism
quite adaptive, when the competition is fair.
But it can be extremely maladaptive when vested interest groups use
unfair tactics like monopoly practices, or when they take advantage of the
power of their size to quash competition or corrupt government to get special
advantages, privileges, and wrongheaded subsidies.
destruction can have salubrious effects on production processes, product
quality and consumer prices, but even then it can also wreak terrible
dislocations and hardships on workers, investors, and the environment. To manage change well, individuals,
businesses and governments must be more flexible and forward thinking.
government is forced to bail out organizations that are “too big to fail”, this
thwarts the market process. Taxpayers
should be generously rewarded for coming to the rescue of those who indulged in
speculative risks and other types of “moral hazard”. This fair reward to taxpayers should come in
the form of significant stakes in the profits that the bailed out entities make
in the years after they recover. It is
wrong that we have risked national bankruptcy to save banks and other financial
institutions, only to have them rebound to make big profits at a time when the
speculative gambits they have taken are wreaking havoc on society as a whole.
destruction often merges with ruthlessly exploitive aspects of capitalism, as
explained by Naomi Klein in her book Shock
Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.
As a result, our overall standard of living can be at risk, as well as
our financial, physical and ecological well-being. Even our liberties and basic human rights are
at stake. It is my contention that we
can take control of these dysfunctional aspects of capitalism by understanding
them better, and that we should accordingly reform the system to more
providentially protect people!
The Trojan Horse
Virgil, the Roman epic poet of antiquity,
wrote the famous epic poem the Aeneid
a few decades before the birth of Christ.
This poem tells the legendary story of Aeneas, a Trojan hero who made a
journey to present-day Italy after the fall of Troy, and is said to have
founded the city of Rome. The Trojan War
had pitted the Greeks against the people of the walled city of Troy. The reason for the war? Three of the goddesses of the Greek pantheon
had quarreled bitterly over a golden apple inscribed with the words, “to the
fairest”. Zeus, the supreme ruler of the
Greek heavens, told Aphrodite and Athena and Hera that a prince of Troy named
Paris would decide who was the fairest of them all. Paris famously chose Aphrodite in the
‘Judgment of Paris’. This Greek goddess
of love and beauty had promised that she would reward Paris for his favoritism
with the love of the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen of Sparta.
As luck would have it, Helen was already
the wife of a wealthy and powerful king of Sparta named Menelaus. When Paris met the beautiful Helen, he was
smitten, so he abducted her and fled to Troy with her. A thousand ships were sent to get the
fair-faced Helen back, and a terrible ten-year siege of Troy ensued. “Beauty, terrible beauty!” intones Homer in
the Iliad. (They always blame the woman, right Eve?)
Finally, after many futile years of
fighting, Odysseus, the Greek king of Ithaca, hatched a clever ruse. A giant hollow wooden horse was constructed
and left for the people of Troy, and then the Greeks pretended to leave the
scene of the battle. The Trojans dragged
the wooden horse into the city and celebrated the end of the war. During the night, Odysseus and fifty warriors
emerged from the wooden horse and threw open the city gates to the Greeks, and
every one of the Trojans was massacred.
This classic strategic military deception
gave rise to the modern adage, “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.” Those who profess to offer to do good often
have hidden motives. Take, for instance,
the United States in its support for the International Monetary Fund, the World
Bank, and the World Trade Organization.
The Sophisticated Trojan
Horse of Modern America: Strategies of Empire Disguised as Ideals of Free Trade
and Economic Development
Development can be beneficial, if it is
managed carefully and intelligently.
When it fails to recognize larger impacts on resources and ecosystems,
development can be harmful. The foreign
policies of the United States sometimes advance ‘economic shock doctrines’ that
involve ideologically-driven initiatives such as those of the Washington
Consensus. This policy cocktail was
developed as an economic and political prescription for developing
countries. It consists of a set of
market fundamentalist policies that have become tarnished for their exploitive
use of debt, their unfairness, and their frequently harmful and destabilizing
The Washington Consensus prescribes the
opening and deregulation of financial markets along with reductions in import
restrictions and the privatization of industry in general. Often, the World Bank and the International
Monetary Fund and the Treasury Department have used Washington Consensus proposals
to browbeat other nations into adopting budgetary austerity that hurts their
people by exacerbating unemployment, poverty, inflation, national debt
obligations, and social instability.
Goals of sustainable long-term development have been harmed by these
plans. Some say that this so-called
Consensus contributes to a “regulatory race to the bottom”, and even eventually
to the necessity for costly government bailouts. IMF policies have, in the past, sometimes
made economic downturns worse, and even helped precipitate them.
Many countries in Latin American have
recognized the insidious failings of IMF policies, and consequently stopped
borrowing from the Fund. Fairer foreign
policies, in my opinion, would make for much better international relations!
An Even Bigger
The fundamental existential questions of
What is the ultimate nature of the Universe?
What is real?
What is the meaning of life?
Who are we?
Do we have free will?
Why are we here?
What should we do with our lives?
How can we cultivate higher purposes
that serve society without being hijacked by materialistic
pursuits, destructive activities
and foolishly shortsighted behaviors?
Philosophy and science have certain
unsuspected affinities. For instance,
two categories of scientific instruments have allowed humankind to see the
Universe with dramatically clearer perspective:
telescopes and microscopes. These
instruments have given us the ability to more clearly understand the universe
and our place within it. Telescopes gave
us an astonishingly expansive insight into the scope and nature of space and
time. An early telescope was invented or
significantly improved by Galileo, and soon thereafter the earth-centric view
of our solar system gave way to the more accurate knowledge that Earth revolves
around the Sun. Later it became apparent
that the Sun is only one of billions of other suns in our Milky Way
galaxy. These clearer ideas about the
universe allowed us to see the stars in the ‘firmament’ as entire solar systems
and other galaxies, rather than just points of light in God’s heaven or
mythical constellations in astrology.
Microscopes, on the other hand, gave us the
ability to see extremely small views of matter.
They gave us insights into the causes of diseases and the structure of
matter and cellular life. These
discoveries led to remarkable advances in physics, medicine and technological
innovation. Since light consists of
photons that are larger in size than electrons, scientists eventually
discovered that by bombarding something with electrons, an electron microscope
could detect images with significantly greater magnification and resolution
than a microscope that relies on reflected light. Electron microscopes work on a principle
similar to the greater sensitivity to detail of finger tips in feeling an
object rather than elbows, as one might well imagine.
The applications of instruments such as
these, and of others like spectrometers, are far-reaching. They have expanded our understandings and led
to great scientific advances and deeper introspections into fundamental
questions of science and philosophy.
Nonetheless, denial and ignorance and anti-scientific myths have
curiously gone marching on, with stubborn insistence, as if knowledge is not
better than ignorance for our future well-being. I feel strongly that knowledge, not
ignorance, is the key to hope of a better life on Earth. Creationists, repent!
I recommend viewing the two-hour Internet
film, Zeitgeist Addendum. (The original Zeitgeist Movie is also compelling:
see Reflections on War in the
Earth Manifesto for a discussion of it.)
The Zeitgeist Addendum deals
with a host of issues that are explored in this manifesto, such as the
poorly-understood role of banks and the Federal Reserve in monetary policy,
debt and money creation, and the dangers of using economic hit men and
“jackals” and military aggression in foreign policy, and the folly of allowing
a ‘corporatocracy’ to control our government, and the wrongheadedness of the
‘war on terror’ and the like. Check it
In conclusion, clearly-conceived ideas and
understandings can lead us to a fairer and more intelligently realized
future. My hope is that the ideas in the
Earth Manifesto contribute greatly to such a better future!
Tiffany B. Twain