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               Transcendental Musings: A Bugle Horn Sounds for Solidarity of Purpose

                                                                               An Earth Manifesto publication by Dr. Tiffany B. Twain  

Unbuttoning the Prelude to a Fugue

Colossal quandaries confront humankind in the world today.  Economic turbulence and fiscally risky levels of public debt have combined with growing extremes of inequality and intense strife between a multitude of competing interests, creating a distinctly dangerous tinderbox of civil unrest.  Reactionary conservatism, extreme partisanship, religious fundamentalism and terrorist violence are causing severe political and social problems.  The stability and sustainability of economic activities and hopes for peaceful coexistence of people around the globe are being threatened by this state of affairs.  Mounting demands on natural resources and increasing harm to the environmental commons are making these risks ever more pronounced.

"What we are before is like a strait, a tricky road, a passage where we need courage and reason.  The courage to go on, not to try to turn back;  and the reason to use reason; not fear, not jealousy, not envy, but reason.  We must steer by reason, and jettison -- because much must go -- by reason."

                                                                                                             --- John Fowles, The Aristos (1970)

An enlightened understanding of both individual purposes and social responsibility is becoming crucial to the well-being of our societies.  The need is growing for us to gain a clearer comprehension of the moral philosophy known as “consequentialism” so that we will gain better perspective, and thus be able to more properly prioritize and sensibly solve the overarching challenges facing us.  These concepts and issues are evaluated from a series of surprising angles here in these Transcendental Musings.

To more fully understand the complex nature of these quandaries, a wide variety of related ideas is explored in this essay.  An evocative introspection is made into many imaginative myths of ancient and modern cultures, and a provocative exploration is directed at human psychological drives and “complementary opposite” aspects of our nature.  Heightened scrutiny is given to the relative roles of males and females in our societies, and a meditation is made on human rights with special attention given to the specific prerogatives of the “fairer sex”.  An assessment is made of child development philosophies and two primary constellations of beliefs, the conservative Strict Father worldviews and the contrasting progressive Nurturant Parent worldviews.  The genesis and character of intense political struggles that some observers characterize as a “war on women” is quizzically contemplated.  And the unquestionably impactful and sensational Population Connection between all these matters is carefully considered.

Swiss psychologist Carl Jung believed that the most important task in every individual’s life is to discover and fulfill his or her own deep innate potentials.  Jung called this developmental process individuation.  He felt that this journey of self-exploration and transformation is at the mystical heart of all religions.  This essay delves into the nature of this journey, and a vital new concept of collective individuation is proposed.  This is a kind of healthy assimilation process by which the diverse expression of all people’s motivations, experiences, personalities, activities and belief systems could be integrated into a more harmonious and smoothly functioning whole.  The hallmarks of this more holistic society would be a manner of organization that is fairer and saner for everyone, particularly including all people in future generations.

Broad Themes Emerge from the Headwaters of a Stream of Consciousness

A confluence of conscious thoughts flows freely across the internal landscape of our minds like the waters of Old Man River at flood stage during a period long ago before Procrustean levees channelized the many marauding torrents of this stream into narrowly proscribed courses.  One can almost imagine John McPhee sneezing “Atchafalaya” while he was writing his bestselling book The Control of Nature, and then hearing a chorus of well-wishers heartily ringing out “gesundheit”. 

The inspiration for this concatenation of ideas has been a series of developments and insights that arose in the Spring of 2012.  In ancient Greece, the source of inspiration was thought to be the gods Apollo and Dionysus, or alternatively the nine divine Muses, daughters of fickle Mnemosyne, the Titan goddess of memory, and powerful Zeus, the Olympian ruler of the gods.  The word inspiration literally means “breathed upon”.  Inspiration in Christianity is said to be a gift of the Holy Spirit.  In Islam, the Prophet Muhammad said that his divine inspiration came from Allah in the form of dreams, and perhaps THERE, deep in the inner sanctum of our minds, would be the best place for us to look for a greater degree of enlightenment.

Inspiration by a muse can be richly rewarding.  In many episodes in recorded history, inspiration by a muse has provided a remarkably prolific well of creativity for intellectuals and artists, especially including poets, writers, musicians and composers.  The life of Clara Wieck Schumann provides a wonderful testament to the passionate influence of a muse in inspiring others.  Clara was a young piano virtuosa who came to be deeply loved by both the classical music composers Robert Mendelssohn and Johannes Brahms, and she was a source of great inspiration as a muse to both of them.  Clara herself was a child prodigy who faced numerous personal hardships, but she managed to transmute them into virtuosic musical accomplishments.

The Austrian “talking-cure” psychotherapist Sigmund Freud asserted that inspiration, both creative and artistic, comes from our inner psyches.  Carl Jung expressed the opinion that inspiration springs forth from our “collective unconscious”, as is intriguingly revealed in dreams, free associations, symbols and cogent imagery.  Jung formulated theories about archetypal “racial memories” within every person that are unique to human beings and have been inherited as aspects of our genetic instincts, ancestral legacies, persona, shadow self, and inner anima or animus.  These “racial memories” are contained in the very structure and functioning of our brains, and they are manifested and recognized by human beings across all cultures.  These ideas are explored in detail below.

I slice a large navel orange into two perfect demi-spheres, seeking both reason and rhyme.  There is an admirable natural beauty in the orange’s segmentation, and it inspires me to invite readers to visualize the light, symmetry and elegance of this image, and to honor it;  and simultaneously to envision the interconnected and interdependent polar opposites of this vision, which are found in irregularity, contrariety, dissonance and darkness.  Hold both these yin and yang aspects of nature -- “and never leave the middle.”  Let us for a moment emulate an old Chinese sage who dwells on a high spiritual plane, but is equally concerned with ethical fairness in worldly affairs.  Let us unify in ourselves the two sides of human nature that are found in the complementary opposite poles of intuitive wisdom and practical knowledge, of calmly detached meditation and intense involvement, of feminine and masculine propensities, of quiet contemplation and courageous social action.

Wallace Stevens, the Pulitzer Prize winning “Dean of Western Writers”, once poetically expressed the speculation, “Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around a lake”.  Breathe deep, relax, and set forth with me on this mental circumambulation around a crucially vital body of water -- our inner selves.  The mythological story of Psyche and Eros will soon be related to provide illumination to this quest for meaning and truth and purpose and guidance.

Harpsichords Reverberate in the Background: Let’s Examine Our Minds

  “The unconscious occupies up to 97% of our brain functions.”

It is stunning to realize the implications of the fact that almost all our thinking operates at the level of the subconscious.  Thank God that each one of us has an autonomic nervous system that works without our needing to consciously attend to its functions.  Otherwise, more of us would likely fail to keep our heart beating, our lungs breathing, our blood circulating, our immune systems functioning, our memories adequately well-organized, our digestion and waste disposal systems in good working order, and our saliva, perspiration, and either eggs or sperm issuing forth.  If each of us had to pay attention to these functions at every moment, more people would likely fall into a stupor and forget, that’s for sure.  What was I saying, again?

 "Here is my secret.  It is very simple:  one sees well only with the heart.  The essential is invisible

     to the eyes."

                    --- Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince

Lightening Bolts, Thunderclaps, and Smoldering Trees

Two titanic struggles are taking place in our communities and civilizations today.  The first has been a feature for thousands of generations, beginning way back in the days of small human clans of hunters and gatherers.  This struggle is interpersonal, and it involves the roles of females and males in their relationships with each other, and within their families and clans and communities.  The relative roles of women and men have evolved over the ages, and a far-reaching power struggle has taken place between the genders for dominance of influence.  These relationships are provocative to ponder.

   “It’s still the same old story

      A fight for love and glory …”

                              --- As Time Goes By, famous lines from the film Casablanca, lyrics by Herman Hupfeld

The age-old strife between males and females can be better understood by looking into the fascinating evolutionary origins of human behaviors.  Dr. Leonard Shlain did exactly this in Sex, Time and Power: How Women’s Sexuality Shaped Human Evolution.  Gender conflicts can also be examined through game theory, a modern scientific study of rational interactive decision-making that can provide startling insights into endeavors in which people compete or cooperate.  A good comprehension of game theory is important because it has become an invaluable tool for economists.  Game theory has, in fact, been the underpinning of the theories of at least five Nobel Prize winners in economics.

   “Woman begins by resisting a man’s advances, and ends by blocking his retreat.” 

                                                                                                                            --- Oscar Wilde

The yin and yang of relationships are quite profoundly influenced by the counterpoles of the other, so envy and victimhood are often juxtaposed against jealousy and contempt.  Sometimes the “games people play” in relationships erupt into unnecessarily brutal and unjust eventualities that can include disrespectful hostility, psychological torment, domestic violence, sexual exploitation, or various other forms of interpersonal injustices.  So let’s make no mistake about it:  finding balance and mutually respectful harmony in any relationship is the essence of healthy and wholesome relating. 

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

  Find out what it means to me

     R-E-S-P-E-C-T

                           -- Aretha Franklin lyrics in Respect, written by Otis Redding

The title of this essay as it evolved, until it exceeded about half its current length, was Women of the World, Unite!  This title was chosen in response to the political battle that is taking place between the sexes today.  The most popular “conservative” radio talk-show political commentator has repeatedly called American women “sluts” and “prostitutes” and “feminazis”.  And social conservatives are working tirelessly to undermine women’s healthcare options and their rights to use various forms of contraceptives to prevent unwanted pregnancies, or to exercise fair degrees of self-determination in their lives by choosing to have an abortion in the early months of an unwanted pregnancy.

“The battle for the individual rights of women is one of long standing, and none of us should 

  countenance anything which undermines it.” 

                --- Eleanor Roosevelt, Chairperson of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, in 1950

John Fowles points out in his Preface to The Aristos that people are not born equal, and they never will be, but that when each of us is born, all should be accorded equal human rights.  A group of female and male psychologists, relying on their professional experiences, noted that equal treatment under the law is crucial to women’s physical and mental health, so they formed a fair-minded organization known as Psychiatrists for the Equal Rights Amendment.  Recall that this proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution simply states:  “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”  Despite the apparent basic decency and fairness of this proposal, it has languished in Congress every year since it was first introduced in 1923 without quite having been able to get the required ratification of 3/4 of the states.  The most staunch opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment exists, revealingly, in the fundamentally religious and traditionalist cultures of the Deep South.

Let us trust our intuitions in recognizing that improvements in the physical and mental health and personal security of mothers and daughters and wives and girlfriends would be good for almost everybody on earth, male and female alike.  As Mark Twain wisely observed in his Notebook in 1895:

“We easily perceive that the peoples furthest from civilization are the ones where equality between man and woman are furthest apart -- and we consider this one of the signs of savagery.  But we are so stupid that we can’t see that we thus plainly admit that no civilization can be perfect until exact equality between man and woman is included.”

A “polar view of life” reveals that individuals, groups and nations are far more dependent for strength and energy on their opposites or enemies or contrary poles than people generally expect.  The same is true for ideas.  In this embattled state of affairs, both healthy and unhealthy outcomes arise.  “But if one word could sum up all that is wrong with our world, it is surely inequality,” wrote John Fowles.  Hazard always infects life with far-reaching degrees of inequality and inequities, so it seems quite mad for humanity to make people’s fates even more challenging by allowing power-abusing segments of society to dramatically increase inequalities between themselves and the majority. Since every person faces hazard, we should make more concerted efforts to mitigate the hardships that affect the unluckier ones among us.  Who is to be unlucky next, no one can know, and everyone is a candidate.

A Declaration of True Fair-Mindedness

  "Be bold, be bold, and everywhere be bold" -- but "be not too bold".

                                                                                         --- English poet Edmund Spenser (16th century)

Olympe de Gouges was the author of a manifesto titled Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen.  In this manifesto, she honorably echoed the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, the fundamental document formulated after the French Revolution in 1789.  Olympe de Gouges sensibly declares:

“Women, wake up!  The tocsin of reason resounds through the whole universe: recognize your rights!”

Olympe de Gouges was a French playwright and political activist who had become an outspoken advocate for improving the condition of slaves in the colonies several years before the French Revolution.  She famously denounced the customary treatment of women as objects who could be taken advantage of and then easily abandoned.  She asked the provocative question, in essence, “Men, why have you chosen to subjugate women as a lesser sex?”  I guess the rationalization in the Garden of Eden for female subordination was beginning to run pretty thin by 1791, when Olympe penned these reverberating words.

After enumerating 17 specific rights in her Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen, she stated that this declaration was made “in the presence and under the auspices of the Supreme Being”.  Then she added a scathing postscript, asking:  “Oh, women!  Women, when will you cease to be blind?  … Whatever the barriers set up against you, it is in your power to overcome them;  you only have to want it.”  And then she calls on “wise legislators” to think about sanely providing for the fair-minded education of women.  Let these ideas resound in living rooms worldwide in these more modern times, and let them reverberate ceaselessly in the halls of power!

In the aftermath of the French Revolution, a French Constitution of 1793 was created.  Olympe de Gouges was alarmed that this legal framework included a provision giving the right to vote to all men but did not even consider women’s suffrage.  The Constitution also failed to address key issues such as fair legal rights in marriage, or the right of a woman to divorce her spouse if he abused her, or a woman’s right to property and custody of her children.  These omissions were a motivating spark for de Gouges to create her Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen.  The manuscript was written to provide the missing part of the proposed Constitution, and thus to give women the equal rights they deserve as legitimate human beings.  Throughout the document, it is apparent that Ms. de Gouges had been influenced by the philosophy of the Enlightenment, whose thinkers used "scientific reasoning" to critically examine traditional morals and institutions.

Interestingly, the French Constitution of 1793 was ratified by a public referendum but was never put into force because political upheaval continued and radical Jacobins led by Maximilien de Robespierre were busy implementing the widespread injustices and extensive program of executions known as the Reign of Terror.  Robespierre was a great figure in French history, curiously known to his supporters as “The Incorruptible”, though his many adversaries understandably saw him as being more like a bloodthirsty dictator.  He was, according to Wikipedia, “an eloquent spokesman for the poor and oppressed, an enemy of royalist intrigues, a vigilant adversary of dishonest and corrupt politicians, a guardian of the French Republic, an intrepid leader of the French Revolutionary government, and a prophet of a socially responsible state.  In recent decades his reputation has suffered from his association with radical purification of politics by killing his enemies.” 

There are always two sides to every story, I suppose, and fair-minded balance in perspective and action is generally the best course.

“Our revolution has made me feel the full force of the axiom that history is fiction, and I am convinced that chance and intrigue have produced more heroes than genius and virtue.”

                                                                                                                   --- Maximilien de Robespierre

A Reverberating Gong Sounds to Summons Us to Attention

A second struggle has been taking place for centuries, and this strife involves deep-seated conflicts between capitalists and workers.  This struggle has been particularly intense since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution some 250 years ago.  It is a profound and intractable conflict between people who work for a living and those who feel entitled to gain the preponderance of profits from business activities and the exploitation of Earth’s resources for themselves. 

    “Justice cannot be for one side alone, but must be for both.” 

                                                                                               --- Eleanor Roosevelt

This intense strife has a complex combination of economic, political and social causes.  It has pitted a really ruthless Goliath -- Capital -- against a much less powerful David -- Labor.  This conflict has been intense because Goliath is powerfully motivated to triumph over working people by continuously striving to increase its advantages.  The scene is getting more ugly as Goliath flexes its muscle and abuses the power of its influence, and extends its dominion around the globe.  Skirmishes between Goliath Capital and David Labor play out in the arena of labor relations that pit giant corporations against workers. 

Capital has usurped the upper hand in recent decades, resulting in declining real wages for workers, after the effects of inflation are taken into account.  At the same time, corporate profits in total are at or near record highs, and the proportion of the total tax bill paid by corporations is near the lowest in generations,

In Wisconsin, an attempt to recall Republican Governor Scott Walker took place in June 2012.  Walker had stripped public employee unions of their collective bargaining rights the previous year, further undermining the power of workers in this long-running battle.  He also endorsed an anti-environmental agenda to give big corporations an expanded ability to profit by foisting costs onto society as a whole.  The stakes were high in this contest because Goliath has such a strong motivation to destroy the power of labor by using “divide and conquer” tactics to gain ascendancy over labor unions and the Democratic Party.  Thirteen billionaires from outside Wisconsin’s borders contributed money to convince the public to reject this recall effort, which they did by a vote of 53% to 47%.  This outcome was bought, as Walker raised $30 million compared to his opponent’s $4 million.  Of Walker’s $30 million haul, two-thirds of it came from outside the state, so it can clearly be seen that outside interference with the affairs of the state of Wisconsin were a big factor in this detrimental outcome for workers.

The specter of the Citizen’s United decision by the Supreme Court can thus be seen to be having highly unfair impacts on our democratic process. This contest in Wisconsin featured record amounts of spending by rich people and corporations and unions, and clearly the contributions from deep pockets and corporate profits heavily outweighed contributions from workers’ wages.  The Citizens United ruling effectively invalidated a century-old ban on independent expenditures by wealthy people and corporations, and this development is having a negative impact on the people of Wisconsin and many other states in our great land.  A measure of the vibrancy of our democracy will be revealed by how long it will take Congress, the Supreme Court and the people to root out this provision for institutional bribery.

The Supreme Court made a possibly even worse break with precedent in April 2014 when it rendered a decision in the case McCutcheon vs. Federal Election Commission.  This ruling struck down sensible aggregate limits on the amount any individual can contribute to federal election campaigns.  The ruling was also made by the five conservative Justices against the four more liberal Justices, revealing the extreme politicization of the supposedly impartial and theoretically fair-minded Supreme Court.

Corporations have already decimated labor unions in the private sector in the U.S.  It is stunning to realize that worker participation in unions in the private arena has declined from a peak of 36% of all employees in the 1950s to less than 7% today.  Companies have grown more ideologically opposed to unions in recent years, and they are increasingly aggressive about resisting employee organizing drives and trying to eliminate collective bargaining. 

In striking contrast, unions in the public sector remain strong, and the interests of taxpayers are not adequately represented in controlling liabilities related to long-term benefits for public employees.  This has resulted in high costs for overly generous public employee retirement benefits, together with exceedingly large unfunded liabilities, so taxpayer opposition to unions in the public sector is strengthening across the country.  We should find fair ways to deal with all these issues.  Pension-spiking scams should be outlawed, retroactively for the past 10 years, and sensible reforms of public employee pension plans should be made.

Simultaneous with this conflict between corporations and unions, greedy Wall Street bankers and the Federal Reserve and Congress and the powerful military-industrial complex are driving our economy into risky straits.  These interest groups are promoting growth-addicted bubble economic policies and helping facilitate a highly undesirable externalization of costs onto society.  Extremely shortsighted and inter-generationally unfair amounts of borrowed money are being used to stimulate consumerism and increase corporate profits, and to give additional perks to the wealthiest people in our country and around the world.

An overarching perspective reveals that the fairest approach would be to make reasonable commitments in the form of a Bill of Rights for Future Generations to assure people in the future that we will not leave them a calamitous legacy.  The odds are good that the best investments we could collectively make for the greater good would be those made in resource conservation and more efficient uses of non-renewable natural resources.  This would surely be a fairer way to treat our descendants than using up resources at the fastest possible rate to stoke growth of consumption and short-term profits.

A proper assessment of these issues must include consequentialist judgments.  Consequentialism is a philosophical theory that judges the consequences of conduct as the determining basis for the relative rightness or wrongness of that conduct.  The moral good of any action, in other words, is directly correlated to the degree of positive or negative outcomes associated with it. 

A contrasting theory of ethics is known as deontology.  Deontological ethics simplistically assert that acts themselves are inherently good or evil, no matter what their consequences.  After a bit of reading about consequentialism, it seems crystal clear that consequential ethical perspectives constitute a much more socially-sensible and reality-based understanding of true morality than absolutist deontological ethics.  After all, judgments about people who cause physical and financial harm to others have a much different quality to them than dogmatic judgments about someone else’s private sex life or their personal choices or eccentricities or indulgences. 

Think about this, and feel these words.  Be suspicious about deontological ethics when you see they involve fervent moralizing judgments by those who demand orthodox conformity to rigid doctrines and traditionalism and antediluvian Holy Book commandments.  True morality is not black and white, and it is not absolute.  True morality is not a deontological set of rights and wrongs, but instead a relative, consequentialist set of rights and wrongs that evaluates a crime with numerous victims more harshly than an offense with no victims.  True morality is not a categorical imperative, independent of context, but a golden rule ethic measured by what is consistent with the greater good of a group. 

It is far more immoral to kill 100 strangers at random than one person by accident.  It is more immoral to cheat a thousand people out of their life savings than to steal a dollar out of the collection plate in church.  A true understanding of what is right and what is wrong, relative to one’s community or nation or humanity as a whole, is valuable.  Every assessment of ethical propriety should be made in proportion to its positive or negative effect on others.

Think about the concluding paragraph of Existence, Economics, and Ecological Intelligence, for it makes a clear consequential statement:  We would be wise to always measure public policy choices in the context of an awareness of the impact these actions will have on people today as well as in the future -- to our children and theirs, and theirs, and theirs, and theirs, and theirs, and theirs, not just to the fabled Seventh Generation, but indefinitely!“

This perspective is one of honest social and ecological sanity.  Malcolm Gladwell, who articulated the idea of a “stickiness factor” in The Tipping Point, might say that some of the ideas and social policies and actions advocated in the Earth Manifesto may well prove to be salubriously sticky.  Let it be! -- for that would be providentially consistent with the greater good.

A Triumphalist Trumpet Paradoxically Sounds a Clarion Call

These two titanic struggles -- one about gender politics and the other about money -- turn out to be skirmishes that distract our attention from the real battle developing in the world today.  This is the contest for the domination of our economy and political systems and societies by wealthy people, and their abuse of the outsized influence of their money. 

Every time I think about it, I am stunned to recall the surprising studies that found out people who earn more than $75,000 per year do not profess to be any happier than people who earn annual incomes of $50,000 to $75,000.  In review, people in the latter category definitely express greater satisfaction than people who earn less than $50,000 in every category assessed, including employment, housing, security, nutrition, health, relationships, spiritual life, and community involvements.  Here is a powerful and convincing reason why our national system of income taxes should be made more steeply graduated.

Instead of continuing to pander so exclusively to rich people by allowing them to corrupt our national tax policies, we should strive to maximize the happiness of the majority of Americans by ensuring that our national policies share wealth more broadly.  It is high time for us to stop allowing the super-rich to implement national policies that concentrate wealth increasingly in the hands of the few.

“Man-up, rich people -- the gig is up.”  Marginal tax rates that are near the lowest since the late 1920s for the highest income earners, coupled with growing debt and “austerity economics”, are not sustainable from either an economic or social point of view.  Professor Robert Reich points out that such policies “…are not sustainable economically because when most of the gains from productivity growth go to people at the top, the vast middle class doesn’t have the purchasing power to buy the goods and services an ever-more-productive economy can generate.  It’s not sustainable socially because high unemployment and widening inequality results in rising frustration over the inability of most people to get ahead.”   

Robert Reich continues:  “Increasing productivity, widening inequality and high unemployment create tinderbox societies.  History tells us that public anger and frustration can ignite in two very different ways.  One is toward reforms that more broadly share the productivity gains.  The other is toward demagogues who turn people against one another.  Demagogues use fear and frustration to advance themselves and their own narrow political agendas by scapegoating immigrants, foreigners, refugees, ethnic minorities, labor unions, government workers, the poor, the rich, and ‘enemies within’ such as communists, terrorists or other conspirators.”

Partisan divisions prevent reforms and stalemate progress and undermine the common good.  Stubborn refusals to compromise can lead to worsening conflicts, increasing alienation, social instability, violence and impulses toward revolution.  A safer and more sensible course would be for our leaders to work together to create a fairer society, instead of an increasingly unfair society. 

The outlandish increase in our national debt in the past 35 years from less than $1 trillion to more than $19 trillion today has been coupled by an increase in the net worth of the top 1% of Americans from under $3 trillion to over $24 trillion.  How could we have in effect mortgaged the prospects of all people in future generations merely to enrich people who are already wealthy?  How could we possibly have allowed such heavy indebtedness to be incurred?  And, when it turns out that these people are no happier for being the big beneficiaries of this absurdly misguided national priority, it should give us pause for reflection -- and bold remedial action!

    “Don’t you miss the days when America was just MORALLY bankrupt?”

                                                                                                              --- Political satirist Bill Maher

A Tintinnabulation of Bells Chimes a Second Clarion Call

Dozens of pages of idea are jostling for expression here that contain interesting insights into formative understandings of the cosmology and religion of the people in ancient Greece at the intellectual height of their great civilization.  These insights are competing for primacy of attention with an important evaluation of initiatives that have frequently been characterized as a “Republican war on women”.  But Dionysus, the god of epiphany, insists that another topic should take precedence over these two, right here, and right now.

Listen:  The fact that the population of human beings alive on Earth now exceeds 7.4 billion should give us pause for serious thought.  Think about the fact that global human numbers have had a net increase of more than 70 million people each and every year since 1965.  This net increase of more than 70 million people every year for 50 years is staggering when considered from the standpoint of the rapidly increasing aggregate demands we are making on natural ecosystems like rivers, wetlands, forests and oceans, and on resources like fisheries, wildlife, fertile topsoil and fresh water.

The more people there are, the more damage we collectively cause to the vitality and health of the ecosystems that support us.  We are thus diminishing the carrying capacity of our home planet for our species at the same time that we are failing to take steps to reduce either the growth in human numbers or the per capita demands we are making on global resources.  This uninterrupted trend of increasing numbers of both needy and greedy human beings does not bode well for women or men or children, and certainly not for anyone in future generations.

Meanwhile, the number of vehicles on Earth has been disturbingly increasing at an even faster rate than the number of people.  There were 500 million vehicles in 1990, one billion in 2000, and 1.5 billion in 2010.  Projections indicate there will be more than 2 billion by 2020.  This trend is ominous when considered from the standpoint of the insidiously increasing amounts of greenhouse gas accumulations in the atmosphere and the destabilizing impacts of global warming on weather patterns everywhere.

Let no one deny the implications of our refusals to take effective steps to deal with these dilemmas.  Polluted air, poisoned waterways, clear-cut forests, overfished seas, damaged ecosystems, disruptions of global weather patterns, an increasing acidification of the oceans, and an on-going reduction in biological diversity are environmental problems that must be addressed with much greater concern and national commitments.  Alors, the increasing traffic and noise alone are warnings and adversity enough!  Intensifying strife associated with the stimulated depletion of natural resources is dangerous.  Think of the negative impacts of ever-increasing crowds on the health of agricultural lands that are cultivated and never allowed to lie fallow, and on open spaces, public parks, wilderness areas, oceans, waterways and the atmosphere. Think of the direct and indirect adversities the growing human hordes are inflicting on almost every other form of life on Earth.

We clearly should give a higher priority to the quality of life for people alive at this moment, and at the same time, we should act to ensure a reasonable quality of life for people in future generations.  We need to recognize the threat posed by policies that encourage population growth to the health of natural ecosystems and hopes for sustainable uses of natural resources.  A mindfulness revolution needs to materialize that recognizes the quality of life as being much more important than the quantity of people we can cram onto the planet.  All fair-minded folks should reject the gambits for ideological supremacy being made by social conservatives in our patriarchal societies.  We cannot afford to let the basic healthcare options of women be harshly limited, or access to contraceptives be restricted, or the ability to choose to have an abortion in the first trimester of a pregnancy be denied.

A valid new CONSEQUENTIALIST perspective arises;  and we can now pass judgment.  It will not be possible for us to collectively prosper into the future by disregarding the individual and aggregate consequences of harmful actions.  We simply cannot afford to artificially stimulate the number of people being born by limiting family planning options and restricting contraception, or by prohibiting abortions.  Nobody should be allowed to force a woman to have a child when she doesn’t want one.  We should guarantee every woman the prerogative to terminate a pregnancy in its early stages if she will be unable to give the child a decent life.  If a woman gets pregnant as a result of a rapist’s vile actions, or as a victim of incest, there should be no question as to her right to terminate the pregnancy.  And it’s morally wrong to force a woman to continue a pregnancy when her doctors say she is likely to die because of specific risk circumstances of her health and pregnancy. 

Every year, women in the world have an estimated 21 million abortions that are unsafe, resulting in approximately 47,000 deaths, according to Population Connection, and over half a million women have died in the last decade alone, and millions more have been injured.  Fairer and more sensible U.S. policies could reduce the terrible scope of this tragedy.

These are matters of fundamental human rights for women, and of decency and common sense fairness.  Let’s leave such decisions to women and their families and doctors!  Let’s shame Republican politicians to stop them from pandering so obsequiously to social conservatives who want federal and state governments to interfere in such personal decisions.

Bass Bassoons Bellow as Cymbals Clash

   “Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits.”

                                                                                     --- Mark Twain

Right-wing radio personality Rush Limbaugh has repeated slandered women who use contraceptives, calling them “sluts” and “prostitutes”.  This grotesquely sexist attitude is outrageously reprehensible.  Limbaugh is a man who has long indulged in spewing vitriol at women, and yet he continues to be an opinion leader of the conservative movement and a prominent voice of the Republican Party.  The former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum once stated that if a woman is raped and becomes pregnant, she should “accept what God has given to you.”  Mitt Romney stated:  “Planned Parenthood -- we’re going to get rid of that.”  Legislatures dominated by Republicans in many states are eliminating women’s basic reproductive rights and imposing constraints on their basic healthcare options, and reducing public financing of preventative cancer screenings, and trying to make abortions illegal.

The country really is in need of a good therapist.  Fairer governance would feature females having much more influence over determining what rights and prerogatives women have regarding family planning issues, and males would have less power to impose their domineering restrictions on women’s personal healthcare decisions or shrewd and sanctimonious new “undue burdens” on women’s reproductive choices. 

Mark Twain once sardonically pointed out the obvious fact that familiarity may breed contempt, but it also breeds children.  Sometimes females do not want to be sexually familiar with males, so it is very unfair for conservatives to impose their punishment-oriented dictates on women who become pregnant.  THAT is a real "undue burden"!

In a bit of what's-good-for-the-goose-is-good-for-the-gander news, Ohio State Senator Nina Turner is not happy with laws that seek to control women's access to contraception and abortion.  She has joined a hopefully growing trend across the nation by introducing a bill that would require men seeking a prescription for erectile dysfunction drugs to see a sex therapist and receive a cardiac stress test, and to "get a notarized affidavit signed by a sexual partner affirming impotency."  Sex therapists would be required to present the option to men of "celibacy as a viable lifestyle choice.” 

Billionaire Foster Friess is a born-again evangelical Christian and a supporter of conservative Christian causes who gave millions of dollars in 2012 to support religious fundamentalist Rick Santorum in his effort to gain the power of the presidency.  Friess expressed the bone-headed opinion that this “contraception thing” should not be expensive:  “… You know, back in my days, they used Bayer Aspirin for contraceptives.  The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.” 

Oh, did they now?  Archaic sexist attitudes like this, along with staunch opposition to family planning, are pathetically subversive of women’s prerogatives.  Such attitudes evade the issue that many males in our society are fixated on having sex with females no matter what the consequences.  Besides, an aspirin between the knees is extremely ineffective against the heinous violations of woman that are involved in rapes.  If a rape victim gets pregnant?  Many Republicans staunchly believe that our nation’s laws should be changed to prohibit every abortion under any circumstances, even if a woman’s life is endangered.  With regard to rape victims, Rick Santorum once said:  “I believe and I think the right approach is to accept this horribly created -- in the sense of rape -- but nevertheless a gift in a very broken way, the gift of human life, and accept what God has given to you.”  Huh?

God does not get women pregnant.  Males do.  No woman should vote for any politician who espouses such insensitive, hypocritical, and male-supremacist attitudes.  “Sometimes when you shoot from the hip, you end up shooting yourself in the foot,” a spokesperson for Mitt Romney almost poetically opined, referring to a clash with Rick Santorum over the nature of a government bailout of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, which Romney had presided over as the head of its Organizing Committee.

Rick Santorum shot from the hip when he asserted that President Obama has “… some phony theology.  Not a theology based on the Bible.  A different theology.”  Is that so, Rick?  He and his ideological brethren should try to remember that we live in a democracy, not a theocracy, and it’s extremely doubtful that any political candidate can get elected by promoting the intolerant, repressive, patriarchal Taliban wing of their faiths.  Opposition to birth control choices for women and men?  That position is a relic of an antiquated attitude that should have no chance for political dominance in our society.

These efforts and demeaning attitudes are one aspect of an on-going Republican opposition to women’s rights and prerogatives.  Most conservative partisans deny that there is a “war on women”.  Of course, they say, there’s the traditional status quo of male prerogative, but that’s just a normal biblically-sanctioned aspect of the age-old struggle between the sexes.  The cast from Fiddler on the Roof chimes in:  “Tradition, tradition!  Tradition! … Who has the right, as master of the house, to have the final word at home?  The Papa, the Papa!  Tradition!” 

Rick Santorum once declared that contraception is “not okay”.  Yet if a religious person is strongly opposed to abortions, they should be enthusiastic about supporting contraception.  Colorado has undertaken a Family Planning Initiative that gave free or reduced-price IUDs or birth control implants to more than 30,000 women, and during that period, births to teen mothers dropped by 40 percent and abortions dropped by 35 percent.  Colorado officials say the program saved taxpayers $80 million in Medicaid costs that they would have otherwise paid to care for new mothers and their children.  Many fewer abortions and saving money, to boot.  How could conservatives oppose this?  Yet Republican lawmakers in Colorado are obstructing efforts to provide a fraction of this amount of taxpayer dollars to keep this national award-winning program going.

Traditional family values put men in the lord-and-master position in their families.  In this patriarchal family model, many males expect obedience to their authority and are jealous of their prerogatives.  This tradition, however, has highly unfair consequences.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the median weekly wage for full-time female workers in 2013 was only 82% as much as the wages for men who do the same jobs, in the most common occupations in the U.S.  Eighty-two cents!  Yes, this is more than the three-fifths proportion that black slaves were accorded for purposes of representation in the U.S. Constitution, but this is a sadly small consolation for women here in the 21st century!  Eighty-two cents is one result of a very real skirmish against fair treatment of women!

The status quo is even worse for minority women:  African American women earned only 69% of what men made in 2011, and Latinas earned just 58%.  This is the case when all other factors are equal, including work experience and education.

As an aside, it is revealing that militaristic frames of reference are used so frequently in our culture, and in the mass media, and in our national dialogue.  We have a war on terror, a war on drugs, a war on poverty, a war on religion, and even “a war on Christmas”.  This martial rhetoric seems to have invaded our consciousness, and is often used today as a metaphor and even a cliché.  The use of emotionally-charged buzz phrases is generally dishonest, and it does a disservice to civil discourse and accurate understandings of issues.  Let this insight serve as a disclaimer to my occasional use of the phrase “war on women” to characterize brazen initiatives designed to restrict women’s rights and prerogatives and pay.  The fight against equal compensation for women for equal work goes on, no matter what it is called, and the status quo is unacceptable to the extent that women are denied respectfully fair treatment and greater economic security and more dignity and expanded personal freedoms.

A woman on average receives only 78 percent of what a man makes for comparable work.  This means that, on average, a woman must work a full year and then all the way into April of the next year to earn as much as a man makes in a year for the same work.  Equal Pay Day was commemorated in 2016 on April 12.  President Obama laudably designated the historic Sewall-Belmont House in Washington, D.C. as America's newest national monument on Equal Pay Day.  Understand the great symbolism of what this means.  This house is the place where women suffragists retreated to, in 1917, after their silent protests in front of the White House for the right of women to vote was met with spectators who yelled at them, kicked them, spit on them and ripped the banners from their hands.

"Undaunted, these women brought those tattered banners back to a house across town.  They cleaned them -- sometimes carefully re-stitching them -- and carried them back out the next day, and the next, and the next."

The designation of this historic abode as a national monument will preserve those same banners, along with an extensive collection of other artifacts that showcase the struggle and accomplishments of the movement for women’s equality.  And it will help highlight the extreme inequities that still remain.  Black women are even more poorly paid than white women -- 64 percent, on average, of what white men were paid in 2014.  And Latino women?  They get only 54 percent.  Grotesque!

In a larger perspective, while the set of discriminatory attitudes and policies related to women in the U.S. is deep-seated, there is an even more serious global assault in the form of far-reaching repression of females in countries worldwide.  In Saudi Arabia, it is a crime for a woman to drive a car, and girls are banned from gym classes.  Women are prohibited from competing in sports because male Saudi rulers deem these activities to be “steps of the devil” toward immorality.  These prohibitions are only one part of a broad pattern of systematic violations of girls’ and women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, and it is symptomatic of domineering male chauvinist attitudes in many other places. 

Meanwhile, when Pope Benedict was the head of the Catholic Church, he acted like “God’s Rottweiler” in his staunch obstruction to allowing females to be Catholic priests, or allowing priests to get married, or allowing American nuns to express their deepest feelings.  Confirmation of this contention was found in a June 2012 newspaper headline:  “Vatican intensifying crackdown on American nuns”.

I am always stunned when realizing that official Vatican doctrines oppose artificial insemination and in-vitro fertilization and surrogate motherhood, while also prohibiting contraception and abortion.  Think what this means!  The Catholic Church essentially forbids fertility to many women who WANT to bear children, but aren’t able to;  AND it makes motherhood mandatory for those who are able to conceive, but DON’T WANT to

Bizarre!!!  Read that paragraph again.  This is ridiculous -- surely, if there were a Supreme Being, such a God would not be so illogical and cold-hearted!  This is a political control issue.  Women should be given greater power in this stodgy old highly undemocratic church establishment.  Mark Twain was astute when he sagely observed:  “The church is always trying to get other people to reform;  it might not be a bad idea to reform itself a little, by way of example.”

A glimmer of hope salubrious lay surfaced in this regard in April 2016, one week before Good Friday, when Pope Francis released a 256-page proclamation on family life.  The Pope called for the Roman Catholic Church to be more welcoming and less judgmental.  Advocating greater acceptance of single parents and gay people and unmarried straight couples who are living together, these open-minded sentiments came in a document known as an apostolic exhortation, which is titled “Amoris Laetitia,” Latin for “The Joy of Love”.

The Pope made it clear that no top-down rule changes or far-reaching edicts will be forthcoming in the near future in the Church, probably because of the extent to which the Church embodies such a markedly fractious global network of bishops and priests.  He did, however, clarify the vision he wants local bishops and priests to follow:  "as a church that greets families with empathy and comfort rather than with unbending rules and rigid codes of conduct."  Hallelujah!

Pope Francis called for governments to provide better support for families in the form of health care, education and employment, and he described families as under siege by the pressures of modern life.  "In many cases, parents come home exhausted, not wanting to talk, and many families no longer even share a common meal,” Francis wrote.  He described “severe stress” on families “who often seem more caught up with securing their future than with enjoying the present.”

Hey, if the leader of one of the biggest religious establishments in the world can be more flexible in his attitudes towards people that it has previously condemned, maybe all religious folks can do the truly spiritual thing and act in a more civilized manner by both altering their judgmental biases against others and supporting institutional changes to overturn laws that discriminate against classes of people like women and gays and unmarried males and females.

Homosexuality was another hot-button issue.  Francis’ exhortation says that “every person regardless of sexual orientation” should be treated with respect and consideration, while “every sign of unjust discrimination is to be carefully avoided, particularly any form of aggression and violence.” 

The Pope also dedicated several passages to the importance of women’s rights, in a pronounced contrast to his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who was criticized for his accusations against women who “seek power.”  

There is only one really fair idea with regard to religious beliefs.  Hark back to the year 313 CE.  Constantine the Great had just become the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity, and when he did so, he wisely collaborated with his “co-Emperor” Licinius to issue an Edict of Milan that proclaimed there would be religious tolerance of all religions throughout the empire.  Good move!!

Imagine the context of those times.  Constantinople was the largest and wealthiest European city of the Middle Ages.  It was founded in 330 CE by Constantine as a Christian city that would be the new capital of the Roman Empire.  After more than 1,000 years as a Christian city, Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks, and they made it their capital in 1453.  Today it is known as Istanbul.  In the grand scope of changing times, religious tolerance should be seen as a crucial aspect of fair-minded governance everywhere.

Nations and peoples struggle, and we sure don’t need any additional goad of fervent religious conflicts over doctrinal righteousness and the question of whose God is the one and only true Supreme Being, or which set of holy book stories is the absolute right one.  None of these stories are factually true, and above all, we are transcendentally in need of religious tolerance of all religions!

“Dogmas thrive”, said Lemuel K. Washburn, “in soil where the truth could not get root.”  Agnostics and atheists believe in one fewer god than ‘true believers’.  Notably, true believers themselves dismiss all other gods.  Since evangelical believers tend to deny all gods other than their own, they should easily be able to understand why other people might dismiss their god.  An atheist is not someone who believes that God does not exist, but someone who sensibly believes that it is improbable that any specific declared version of ‘God’ does exist as conceived and claimed. 

Further, a fair modicum of doubt is a well merited attitude with regard to all the preachers in the world who tell us absolutely how God wants us to behave, especially when these eminences rationalize biases against people like gays or females or poor folks.  In any case, “Religious tolerance of all religions” should include “pagans”, too!  Virgil, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, who lived centuries before Christ, were naturally pagans, and retroactive condemnation of them is completely absurd.

“The easy confidence with which I know another man’s religion is folly teaches me to suspect that

    my own is also.”

                          --- Mark Twain

Just a Little Bit of Whistling Goin’ on Here

Important principles are at stake in the arena of traditionalism and oppressive attitudes toward women.  Every person should be assured the freedom to believe what they like, but when their beliefs have negative impacts on others, or infringe on the freedoms of others, or harm other people in significant ways, then those who hold such beliefs should not be allowed to dominate national policy-making.  The principle of a separation between church and state should override any argument against it.  No religion or church should have the freedom to force its views on the entire populace.  One of the most basic freedoms in any person’s life is to be allowed to exert some control over events in their lives.  For a woman, this means to be able to choose whether or not to have children, and with whom, or how many;  and it means that others should not be able to interfere in her personal health and family planning and reproductive decisions.

Hundreds of laws have been enacted to limit women’s rights in the past few years in states across the nation that have Republican-dominated legislatures.  Thanks, guys!  You may be calculating that it is a winning stance to be so abjectly obedient to Tea Party fanatics and patriarchal ideologies.  Women, and all fair-minded voters, I urge you to prove them resoundingly wrong!

What is the underlying cause of this mass male-driven psychosis?  It’s as if an Acorn Protection Society has decided to outlaw the protection of oak woodlands, and to deceive its members about the motives for this ruthless assault, not realizing that these edicts are like carvings on the tender bark of a young oak that will enlarge as the tree grows, and thus inevitably reveal to posterity the indictment that these acts represent of a deficiency of fairness in law-making by “conservatives”.

Hundreds of thousands of women are raped every year across the U.S. by acquaintances, date rapists, family members or strangers.  Many women are traumatized by rape violence, and by threats on their lives for resisting this violation of their bodies, dignity, liberties and personal security.  One might expect that Republican leaders would be committed to enacting new laws to deter and punish men who rape, but instead they continue to focus in Congress and state legislatures on effectively penalizing female victims of rape.  This must stop!

It amazes me that such a coordinated and concerted effort to undermine women’s prerogatives  and rights could be taking place in the U.S. here in the 21st century.  These actions are blatantly unjust and insidious forms of oppression.  Social conservatives are giving conservatism a bad name, and the extreme disrespect for women and their rights by domineering male authorities is reprehensible.

Many Republicans act like they have received a revelation direct from God telling them that life begins at conception, and that an incipient clump of cells proliferating in the womb of a woman after sexual intercourse deserves more protection and respect than the woman herself.  This dogmatic presumption seems to rely on a supposition that God is so proud that a sperm has found its way up a fallopian tube to a single monthly-generated egg that ‘He’ is damning the entire female gender throughout all their years of fertility in favor of tiny clumps of proliferating cells.

Republican politicians may in actuality merely be delivering on campaign promises they have made to social conservatives as a crass electoral expediency.  They have been pandering in recent years to angry Tea Party males and religious fundamentalists who demand to have their way.  Why else would these coldly-calculating politicians suddenly strive so righteously to slash funding for healthcare for women?  Why would they put up roadblocks to affordable access to family planning options, and strive to outlaw abortion?  Why would they so rashly choose to force pregnant women to have invasive vaginal probes, and require them to pay for all these violations of their dignity and well-being?

A political cartoon made this issue particularly cogent in a newspaper in 2012:  In the first frame, an elephant declares: “There is no war on women.”  In the second frame, the elephant continues:  “Just the sluts who use contraception.”  The attitude summarized in this political cartoon sets up a curious conundrum:  are the elephants in our political system really the ones who have long memories, or will it prove to be female voters themselves, so disrespected, devalued disparaged, demeaned and disenfranchised, who will have the longest memories at the polling booth?

What’s next, one might wonder?  Will Republicans try to turn back the clock to 1919, before the enactment of the Nineteenth Amendment, and try to deprive women of the right to vote altogether?  That would be thinking really big, and not just limiting themselves to weakly suppressing the votes of millions of poor people and students and blacks and Latinos, and to staunchly opposing gerrymandering reforms, like Republicans are doing right now in numerous states and congressional districts across the nation.

Passionate calls for far-reaching social action are made repeatedly in this manifesto.  It is not enough to wait for salvation in the next life.  Now is the time to take care of important business and effect positive changes, like all the proposals adduced in the Common Sense Revival.  Confidence like that of the basketball wizard Steph Curry when he releases a long three-point shot after some adroit dribbling is needed.  Let’s not carp and cavil.  Let’s not resign ourselves to pathological aspects of the status quo.  Let’s not be paralyzed by worry.  Let’s “Just Do It”.

Mark Twain once said, “Worrying is like paying a debt you don’t owe.”  There is not a lot of value in worry, but deep and insightful concern is another matter.  The difference between worry and concern is that a worried person sees and frets about problems, while a concerned person makes honorable efforts to solve them.  A respectable concern for good ways to improve the prospects of humanity is a central feature of integrity-filled public service.  Politicians, take note!

A Solitary Bugle Plays a Solemn, Lonely and Mournful Version of “Taps”

Another evaluation of whether a “war on women” is being waged in the U.S. can be found in the eye-opening investigative documentary film The Invisible War.   This film reveals that numerous sexual assaults on women have been taking place in the military in recent years.  This issue of assaults on women in the military has not been adequately addressed because of the inflexibly hierarchical chain of command and male-dominant culture in the armed forces.  Lax recruiting standards, a tendency to victimize female service members who are raped, and shameful cover-ups by superior officers of men who commit rapes are further facets of this disgusting state of affairs in the military. 

The U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard have caused severe traumas for tens of thousands of women in the past few decades by their permissive policies on sex crimes in the armed forces.  The Invisible War turns a glaring spotlight on this issue, and on the inadequate sensitivity of the military establishment in dealing with it.  The Defense Department should be required to act much more effectively to prevent sexual abuses in the military, and the Veterans Administration should treat victims with greater dignity and fairness.

Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s Miss Representation is a great film that highlights the negative effects that the mass media in the U.S. is having on women in our culture.  Check it out!  Demeaning attitudes toward women, and portrayals of them in sexualized and trivialized contexts by advertisers and people in the entertainment industry also contribute to this state of affairs.  Men in leadership positions in politics, government, churches, businesses, the military, and the mass media are also generally reinforcing undesirable outcomes in gender issues.  Change must come!  See Huckleberry Finn, the California Gold Rush, and Sensational Related Reflections for more detailed insights into the film Miss Representation and its compelling perspectives.

An Electric Guitar Jangles Out In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida

We clearly need to find ways to work together better to achieve greater solidarity of purpose.  Can we find any better example in the world of what the best course might be for us to chart?  Can we find an instance of actions that dramatically improved a society?  The answer is a resounding YES!  We need look no further than the United States during the period from 1945 to 1980.

During this period after the end of World War II, Americans managed to pull together enough to help build a strong middle class, desegregate the military, fight communism, rescue war-ravaged Europe through the Marshall Plan, and give expanded civil rights to working people and women and racial minorities.  They also enacted far-reaching protections of clean air, clean water, wilderness areas, the environment, wildlife and endangered species.  Wealthy people allowed the tax system to be structured in a dramatically-graduated way;  in fact, the marginal tax rate on the highest income levels was 70% or higher every year from 1936 to 1980, and it actually was more than 90% for the highest levels of income from 1944 to 1963.  The funds from this national tax policy financed a hyper-expensive Cold War, and politicians resisted the temptation to add the costs of these bold initiatives to the national debt.  These funds also helped build a top-notch national infrastructure of highways, and a triumphant space program that eventually landed men on the Moon in 1969.

During this era of high marginal tax rates, mainstream churches sought common ground and greater good goals by helping build schools, universities, orphanages and hospitals.  Catholic and Protestant churches helped many generations of immigrants to assimilate, and black churches and white churches alike found common ground to help end desegregation and repeal discriminatory Jim Crow laws.

This solidarity of purpose began to be eroded with the election of Ronald Reagan as President in November 1980.  Not only did Reagan slash marginal tax rates on the highest incomes from 70% to 28% by 1988, but he also simultaneously increased federal spending on the military, thus ushering in an imprudent era of rapid increases in national budget deficits.  Reagan also worked to radically undermine the rights of workers, and to reduce the regulation of banks.  He began to dismantle the New Deal social safety net, and to reduce protections of the environment.  The theological center gave way to religious polarization, hardcore extremes, and staunchly orthodox religious zealotry. 

It is noteworthy that almost all established churches have members who span the entire continuum from liberal to conservative, and today the divisions between the two “can seem as distant from one another as Rush Limbaugh and Bill Maher.”  Unfortunately, the right wing of religious faiths always seems to dominate in the U.S., often in countersupporting opposition to the right wing in other religions and nations.  Faith itself seems to have been hijacked by people for partisan purposes, and political intrigue has rendered many religious influences distinctly disadvantageous.  The foremost goal of conservatives is to gain supremacy, using any means possible, so this is not a fair fight, and the outcome of this battle tends to be highly negative for humanity as a whole.

The states of the South reacted with racist animosity to federal mandates to desegregate schools and housing and public transportation.  The angry response of white leaders to laws aimed at ending racial discrimination against African Americans essentially caused the South to switch political allegiances.  Since the Civil War when Republican president Abraham Lincoln had freed black slaves, Southern whites had voted primarily Democratic for almost 100 years, but then they changed their tune and have endorsed Republican conservatism ever since.  They thus joined a coalition of wealthy people and energized white supremacists and the Religious Right to strengthen the conservative movement.  This sadly has served to heighten inequality and create ever-more divisive partisan rancor.

Commentator David Sirota noted the surprising fact that religious people in Britain tend to be the opposite of those in the U.S. in their political leanings.  Steeped in the propensities of religious folks here, it is amazing to us that religious people in Britain are more likely to be politically progressive than those who are non-religious, and they tend to put a greater value on equality and fairness.  In contrast, religious establishments in the U.S. are generally dominated by conservatives who oppose progressive economic values and eminently fair-minded initiatives that would reduce inequality and discrimination and injustices.  Jesus would be profoundly perplexed at this paradox!  And the American people should be deeply chagrined.

American evangelicals often support Tea Party conservatism and hard-line political positions.  When we see that religious people in Britain are less hypocritical in their interpretation of holy book ideas than people in the U.S., it provides hope that churches in America may see the light and support more moderate or even liberal attitudes of caring about the common people and the general welfare.

A bugle horn has sounded, and the way forward is clear.  We should champion solidarity of purpose, religious moderation and bold commitments to fair-minded policies and the greater good.  We cannot continue to allow good governance plans to be derailed by domination-demanding social conservatives, wealthy people, male supremacists, right-wing politicians, and selfish billionaires who oppose common sense environmental protections.  Any ideologues who oppose fairer policies for women and racial minorities and people in the lower and middle classes should be rejected, not supported. 

Since the Republican Party has become a political organization that is on the wrong side of history in these regards, I strongly recommend that all women, Latinos, blacks, and forward-thinking people refrain from voting for any Republican candidates until these politicians choose to refute their misguiding, divisive, inegalitarian, discriminatory and anti-environmental doctrines.

A YouTube Video Reveals Sexy Shania Twain Crooning “Man, I Feel Like a Woman”

Jungian psychologists say that each of us has a shadow self.  This is the part of our unconscious mind that contains dark motives, deep instinctual insecurities, feelings of shortcomings, and repressed suspicions of personal weaknesses.  This shadow self is instinctive and irrational, so it is prone to a curious defense mechanism phenomenon known as projection.  Think about this concept with regard to Rush Limbaugh’s seemingly crazed “feminazi” diatribes against women.  When people blame others for perceived moral deficiencies, it is often a projection of feelings of insecurity or inferiority.  These are reflections of personality disorders that tend to cripple people psychologically and insulate individuals by forming an ever-thicker fog of illusion between their egos and the real world.  Denial and projection are the two most primitive types of defense mechanisms, according to Sigmund Freud.

Rush Limbaugh’s bully pulpit on the airwaves earns big profits because his ranting tirades are popular with conservatives.  The bonanza that his buffoonery earns allows him to continue to propagate his distorted spin into the minds of susceptible people, even though his sick perspectives are often unhealthy for the national dialogue.

   “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?  The Shadow knows.”

                                                                                                --- The Shadow radio program in the 1930s

Parenthetically, these words introducing The Shadow were intoned by actor Frank Readisk, Jr., and were accompanied by an ominous laugh and a piece of music by French composer Camille Saint-Saens titled Omphale’s Spinning Wheel.  At the end of each episode, The Shadow reminded listeners, “The weed of crime bears bitter fruit.  Crime does not pay. … The Shadow knows!”

As I reflect on these ideas in the context of the main message to be communicated in Transcendental Musings, I want to clarify what Jung meant when he referred to racial memories.  He simply meant a kind of genetically-inherited archetypal memory that is specific to our Homo sapiens race.  I casually wonder whether any of the deep prejudices in our societies are somehow actually transmitted to us in these genetic propensities.  Alternatively, are all deep biases conditioned into us from our parents, peer groups, experiences, propagandists, mass media and cultures? 

Many prejudices exist among peoples in nations worldwide.  There are plenty of nationalistic biases and narrow ethnocentric prejudices.  There are also entire subsets of racist or sexist biases that are directed against groups of people like blacks, Latinos, Asians, Jews, immigrants, foreigners, the poor, lesbian women, gay men or the entire female gender.

Pride and prejudice can lead to many harsh judgments and emotional hijackings. They can also make people blind to more honest, clear-minded, civil, empathetic and fair relationships. Fictional character Elizabeth Bennet discovered this in the famous Jane Austin novel, Pride and Prejudice, and people would be wise to heed this valuable understanding by cultivating healing attitudes and ignoring more ignoble, vain, wounded, or piously sanctimonious aspects of selves that harbor prejudice and hate.

It does not really matter what the secret well-spring of people’s discriminatory biases may be.  Regardless, our national policies should be made fairer and less discriminatory.  One of the primary goals of Earth Manifesto understandings is to help formulate and advance policies that are as fair and moral as possible to all people today AND in future generations.  This is consistent with a Live and Let Live philosophy and real fair-minded principles like the “ethic of reciprocity” embodied in the Golden Rule.  It is easy to agree with this ethic because it is eminently sensible to treat others the way we ourselves would like to be treated.  The Golden Rule has been a central concept in the prevention and resolution of many conflicts in various cultures throughout history, and its importance is increasing dramatically as the population of human beings on Earth increases and increases.

Love, compassion, empathy, acceptance and forgiveness may be hard to practice in our dramatically stress-afflicted world.  It is challenging enough to maintain such wholesome attitudes toward oneself; and it can be even harder to love thy neighbor. And to practice loving-kindness toward strangers, or to forgive one’s “enemies”, is a degree more difficult.  But the ethic of reciprocity embodied in the Golden Rule is personally practical, socially sensible, intergenerationally wise, and eminently responsible.

I roll my eyes and sigh with perplexed disgust at the brazen double standard of males who chastise women for having sex for purposes other than reproduction.  Hello!  The most powerful biological drive of males in our mammalian Homo sapiens species is to be titillated, to be given carnal permission, “to score”, to find someone to satisfy their strong hormonal drives.  To tell women to hold an aspirin between their knees and keep their legs closed is a cartoonishly hypocritical, preposterous and simplistic recommendation to women, especially in light of the fact that tens of millions of American males are lusting after many of them with carnal intent and hormonal intensity at every moment.

To blame females for giving in to the wiles, powerful compulsions and manipulative maneuvers of males is ridiculous.  Come on!  A new feminist revolution is needed to reject this discriminatory double standard.  This new flow of feminism should be a broad-based cultural movement that is also strongly supported by fair-minded men.  Access to contraceptives and family planning options are as basic to women’s well-being and the overall health of a society as clean water, proper sanitation, public education, good governance and widely-shared economic opportunity.

Women have been exercising Original Choice ever since they figured out a correlation between the animal act of sexual intercourse and the time that presto! -- a little baby popped out of their wombs nine months later, a baby that had an appearance or behavioral propensities that curiously resembled a male with whom they had had sex around the time of a full moon many months before.

This Original Choice is made by females to select a desirable mate and a good provider, just as it has been throughout the evolutionary history of most mammals.  Human females seek a trustworthy and honest and committed male who will provide credible assurances that he will sublimate his biological desire to spread his seed far and wide, and will instead devote his energies and resources to helping nurture and support the children he fathers. This freedom for females to choose who they want to have a child with cannot now be taken away by self-righteous social conservatives who want to abuse the domineering power of their influence.  Males who fervently profess the existence of a Supreme Being that must be obeyed should be regarded with skepticism, especially when this God is made in their own strict father image, insistent upon female surrender and obedience in the strife between the sexes.

It is ironic that many Republicans claim to want less intrusion by the government into people’s lives, but when it comes to issues of contraception and sex education, they want the government to teach abstinence and legislate a puritan morality and force women to endure indignities.  In 1964, Republican Barry Goldwater voted against the Civil Rights Act because, he stated, “You can’t legislate morality.”  Now Republicans with right-wing leanings are striving, like persons possessed by a male chauvinist devil, to legislate their narrow vision of morality.  They want to legislate a strict form of morality that is highly discriminatory against women.  Hypocrisy knows no bounds!

If we are going to legislate morality, it should be an attempt to increase fairness, not to defend discriminatory biases that force females into being second-class citizens.  The idea that prerogatives of women should be more restricted than they already are, in this arena of reproductive choice and access to healthcare, violates our nation’s founding principles of support for personal freedoms, self-determination, the general welfare and the reasonable pursuit of happiness.  We should be able to agree to let churches have their ways in their sanctums, but to require that churches stay out of the bedrooms of the American people;  AND out of their doctor’s offices, too.  Tax exemptions for any churches that interfere in politics should be revoked!

There was once a very calm and isolated church high in the mountains where celibate priests dedicated their lives to contemplation and study.  One day, loud cries of angst began issuing from the rectory below.  Religious compatriots rushed to the cellar, and there, standing aghast over a tattered old manuscript, a religious devotee was exclaiming,  “Oh, my God, no!  No!  No!  The Bible says GO CELEBRATE, not BE CELIBATE!”

I heartily encourage religious fundamentalists to put aside their Holy Scriptures for a moment, and to stop blaming women for having opened a Pandora’s Box that revealed the Knowledge of Good and Evil in human interactions and released evils into the world.  It is not God that wants women to be subservient to men, it is the religion-exploiting males who concocted manipulative Biblical stories and have kept them alive for so many centuries.  These authority-demanding males have staunchly strived to suppress the divine feminine, apparently as a ploy to repress Dionysian impulses of the heart and emotions and sensations, and to simultaneously keep the roles and prerogatives of women inferior in our cultures.

A feminist perspective would declare that socially-domineering male supremacists have thrust these issues into the forefront of the fray of our dysfunctional national political discourse for a reason that seems indisputable:  to mold our nation in conformity with their own narrow biases.  The culprits in these efforts are shrewd and prudish males who champion patriarchal privilege and believe in a need for right-wing social engineering and uncivil re-engineering in which their will is mercilessly imposed on everyone.

Double standards run deep.  Especially objectionable is when politicians make prostitution illegal and prosecute women who try to make a living selling sexual favors, but neglect to prosecute men who drive the activity.  In this regard, France has a much more civilized approach than the U.S., for they make it legal to sell sex but illegal for males to buy it.  It should be a goal of all countries to find fairer ways to treat disadvantaged women, and to crack down on pimping, sex trafficking, violence against women,  and sexually transmitted diseases.

Dionysus, the god of epiphany, struggles to attention, his red robes flowing, with a characteristic look of disheveled nonchalance.  He has an almost sublime and beatific smile, a smile that is slightly quizzical like Mona Lisa’s, and yet inscrutably crooked, and there is a fire burning in his eyes, a flame that gives imaginative observers the impression that this god deserves more attention.

Later in this essay, an incisive introspection is made into socio-political observations concerning four specific arenas:  (1)  An assessment of how and why our political system has become so dysfunctional and corrupt that we are unable to put fair-minded common sense national policies into effect;  (2) An investigation into the relative merits of the competing constellations of values associated with Strict Father worldviews and the complementary opposites found in Nurturant Parent worldviews;  (3) An examination of social attitudes toward the obnoxiously repetitive promotion of the availability of erectile-dysfunction drugs and the distinctly contrasting attitudes toward contraceptives; and (4) An exposé of the five primary ways that the “Grand Old Party” is undermining democracy itself by attempting to disenfranchise millions of people while expanding the perks and privileges of giant corporations and rich people at the expense of the vast majority of Americans.  But right here, now, it is time for this:

A Musical Ode to the Power of Positive Thinking

   “You’ve got to accentuate the positive

      Eliminate the negative

        And latch on to the affirmative …”

                                                          --- Lyrics of a Johnny Mercer song

Among the most intriguing of complementary opposites is the tension between people who see the world with glass-half-full optimism and those who view the world with glass-half-empty pessimism.  This contrast is largely a matter of innate disposition, and is surprisingly independent of circumstances.  This is a tension between sunny, major-key Apollonian worldviews and darker minor-key Dionysian worldviews.  An explanation of these concepts will follow in the course of these meandering observations. 

Optimism can be very valuable, though cynics say optimists simply don’t fully comprehend the human predicament.  Optimism can be both a blessing and a risk, so optimists should be happy with their temperamental propensities, while at the same time being sensibly wary.  People who are endowed with an optimistic bias hardly need be told that they are lucky -- they feel fortunate almost as a matter of personal disposition.  Daniel Kahneman points out in his excellent book Thinking, Fast and Slow:   "An optimistic attitude is largely inherited, and it is part of a general disposition for well-being, which may also include a preference for seeing the bright side of everything.  If you were allowed one wish for your child, seriously consider wishing him or her optimism.  Optimists are normally cheerful and happy, and therefore popular;  they are resilient in adapting to failures and hardships, their chances of clinical depression are reduced, their immune systems are stronger, they take better care of their health, they feel healthier than others, and are in fact likely to live longer." Have faith!  "Of course, the blessings of optimism are offered only to individuals who are only mildly biased, and who are able to accentuate the positive without losing track of reality."  When action is needed, optimism is often a good thing, even if it happens to be of a mildly delusional variety.

Researchers and scientists studying human brains and behaviors are finding that people who regularly cultivate gratitude in their lives generally experience measurable benefits in senses psychological and spiritual, and in physical and social well-being.  Three fundamental traits of grateful persons are adduced.  One is the maintenance of a sense of abundance in life.  The second is a respectful appreciation of others.  The third is the enjoyment of simple pleasures.  Mindful practice is required!  Bravo for the spirit underlying our national day of Thanks Giving!

Superstitious thought and studied ignorance are often regarded as foolish.  Fascinatingly, however, a kind of superstition known as “magical thinking” can actually sometimes be advantageous, even when it misrepresents reality.  Positive psychological benefits can result, like a sense of control, a sense of meaning, or reduced feelings of anxiety.  A belief in destiny, like the belief that everything takes place according to “God’s plan”, can provide people with a coherent narrative and infuse a person’s goals with a sense of purpose -- and it can even help someone who is experiencing adversities to become more persistent in their efforts to overcome challenges. 

In May 2010, the commendable Tiffany Shlain gave an excellent Commencement Speech in Berkeley at a University of California graduation ceremony.  She provided students with a number of honorably wise observations and ideas.  Ms. Shlain is a filmmaker and daughter of the late polymath Dr. Leonard Shlain, and a philosophical soul mate and champion of those who embrace bold social activism.  She told her audience that to make our lives and the world better, we should “invoke a little moxie”.  To accomplish great things, she insightfully indicated, a salubrious combination is needed of farsighted vision, courageous commitments, patient persistence, and a good sense of humor.  She honors Goethe’s famous quote, "Whatever you think or dream you can do, begin it.  Boldness has genius, power and magic to it." 

Let’s embrace this perspective with a moment of silence.

Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel Sing A Lovely Sonata Enveloped in Silence

Hello darkness, my old friend

 I’ve come to talk with you again.

  Because a vision softly creeping

    Left its seeds while I was sleeping

     And the vision that was planted in my brain Still remains

        Within the sound of silence.

… My eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light

     People hearing without listening

      And the people bowed and prayed

       To the neon god they made

         And the sign flashed out its warning

          In the words that it was forming

           And the sign said, “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls

            And the tenement halls”

             And whispered in the sounds of silence.

                                                                         --- Simon and Garfunkel, The Sounds of Silence

Cue the Cymbals and Trumpets and a Chorus of Angels

Carl Jung was famous for his concepts concerning the collective unconscious.  He was the first person to articulate profound insights about the fascinating universally-recognized archetypes in the human mind.  Jung hypothesized that all of mythology could be taken as a type of projection of these archetypes onto deities in our collective unconscious minds.  All human beings share these archetypes as part of our genetic inheritance, and we all recognize archetypal patterns of prototypical human behaviors and roles and character types and symbols. 

Prime examples of these archetypes are revealed in Greek mythology.  Marvelous mythical stories like these contain provocatively revealing and juicy projections of human qualities onto the characters of gods and goddesses in the Greek pantheon of deities.  These personifications of deities are much more appealing and enlightening than the dominating image of a Son of God crucified on a cross almost 2,000 years ago.  This image carries with it a supposition that each and every one of us is guilty of ‘Original Sin’, and that we have no chance of being proven innocent.  We are lucky in the U.S. that those who fervently believe such doctrines aren’t in authoritarian charge.  Societies are better off when they are fairer in their rendering of judgments.  Cosmological conceptions that entail fewer guilt-engendering condemnations would be healthier ones! 

The American people are fortunate to live in a democracy rather than a religious theocracy like the ones in Iran and Saudi Arabia.  Let’s all work together to keep it this way!  I find it quite curious that, according to the Pew Research Center, America is among the most religious of the world’s developed nations, and that evangelical people in America’s religious establishments are much more conservative than in other nations of the developed world.  In this regard, the U.S. is more similar to Iran and Saudi Arabia than to Britain, France, Germany or Scandinavian countries. 

Jean Shinoda Bolen has written a number of fascinating books, including Goddesses in Everywoman, and Gods in Everyman.  In these books, she explores the complex feminine and masculine archetypes within each and every person.  Her understandings go far beyond simple-minded dichotomies found in patriarchal societies in which women are regarded as virgins or whores, mothers or lovers, Madonnas or vixens.  Greek myths contain a wide range of female roles, from women whose identities are fully established in the context of their relationships with men to those who place their primary emphasis on their own accomplishments, autonomy and independence.  Jean Shinoda Bolen contends that a clearer understanding of these archetypes, as revealed in anthropomorphic projections upon Greek deities, can help each and every one of us understand and heal and grow.

One would be well-justified in wondering how insights into the nature of mythological deities from a “pagan” religion of the past could help us understand current realities that affect us all.  Such insights are said to offer the potential to help us create a fairer and more egalitarian future, so we should sit up, lean forward, and look more closely.  The potential for better understanding, both personal and interpersonal, and for win/win social betterment to boot, is a prospect that we should all seek, hail, celebrate and welcome!

Jean Shinoda Bolen dedicated Goddesses in Everywoman to her mother, “who was determined to help me grow up -- as she hadn’t -- feeling that I was fortunate to be a girl, and could do whatever I aspired to as a woman.”  Hurrah for such sentiments!  Actually being fortunate to be a female would be significantly more salubrious and likely if people were to choose more women as their legislative and judicial representatives.  Vote accordingly!

Women living in patriarchal societies are faced with the situation that men disproportionately decide what the roles and prerogatives of women will be.  In patriarchal cultures, males have a domineering influence in formulating what choices women have in their lives.  Men tend to strive obstinately to limit women’s choices and their rights.  Tradition serves to put women’s options subordinate to the prerogatives of men, and to restrict women to roles of being mothers, housewives, social facilitators, mistresses in the bedroom and kitchen, and seekers in male-dominated churches. 

Roles of both men and women in American society have evolved dramatically in the last fifty years since the invention of “the pill”.  This revolutionary birth control innovation energized the beginnings of the feminist movement of the 1960s, a movement that resulted in a relative empowerment of women.  This trend has stoked a powerful reaction against it.  Today, religious fundamentalists are doubling down in their efforts to turn back the clock to a time when women were more complacent with their subjugated roles.

Open-hearted and forward-thinking attitudes are needed to truly actualize the egalitarian ideals upon which our nation was founded.  This means greater fairness toward girls and women.  It also means a more enlightened embrace of the anima, that archetype of the feminine inner personality that resides within each man.  The anima has been rudely repressed for millennia in human societies, and this has caused wide-ranging dysfunctional consequences for all.

A Lovely Vocalist Sings an Aria, Accompanied by the Sounds of a Soaring Symphony

The ancient Greek extended family of deities embodies some of the greatest stories ever told.  In the beginning, Gaea the feminine-gendered earth emerged from the primordial force Chaos and gave birth to a son, Uranus, a primal god who personified the sky.  Gaea then repeatedly mated with Uranus to create 12 first-generation Titans, who were gods and goddesses personifying primeval nature powers that had been worshipped and feared from time immemorial. 

Uranus was the first patriarchal father figure in Greek mythology.  He grew resentful of some of the children he had parented with Gaea, like the Cyclopes and the Hecatoncheires, so he hid them in the earth.  This angered their mother Gaea, so she sought revenge.  Cronus, the youngest Titan, was the only one willing to come to his mother’s aid.  Conspiring with Gaea, Cronus boldly lopped off his father’s genitals with a sickle and threw them into the sea.  Aphrodite, the goddess of love, beauty, pleasure and procreation, sprung from the spermy foam.  Wow -- what a spectacle! 

Cronus thus became the most powerful god in the universe, at his father’s terrible expense.  He and his powerful Titan siblings then ruled the world as a dynasty of deities during a Golden Age.  They in turn were the parents of second-generation Titans like the sun god Helios, the moon goddess Selene, the god Atlas who supported the heavens, and the brothers Prometheus and Epimetheus.  These Titans became the parents and grandparents of first-generation Olympians like Zeus, the supreme ruler of the gods, and Poseidon, Hades, Hera, Hestia and Demeter who ruled, respectively, the sky, the sea, the underworld and the affairs of mankind. 

Cronus had become wary when his parents warned him that one of his children would someday overthrow him.  He, after all, had castrated his own father, so treachery may have run in the family’s genes.  What to do?  Cronus decided to swallow his children as they were born.  He swallowed the first five of his offspring, but then his wife Rhea became angry about this, so she tricked Cronus when Zeus was born and gave him a stone wrapped in clothing to swallow. Cronus fell for the deception, and Rhea hid Zeus on the island of Crete until he was full grown.  Then Zeus devised a plan with his mother to free his five siblings, and together they waged a ten-year war against Cronus in which the Olympians were finally triumphant, and sure enough Cronus was indeed overthrown by his son Zeus, as prophesied.

This is how Zeus became king of the gods and the father figure of the Olympians.  In a prototypical male style, he turned out to be a real philanderer.  He married his sister Hera after she had refused him for 300 years.  Some episode of trickery was involved, as I recall.  Hera was the supreme goddess of marriage and childbirth, and she was Zeus’ devoted but extremely jealous wife.

Imagine yourself alive some 2,500 years ago in Classical Greece.  These myths of creation and early genealogies were the dominant spiritual, religious and cosmological explanations of existence at that time in the most advanced civilization in Europe.  A rich, well-developed trove of stories surrounded these deities and enveloped the Greeks in a mythical connection to their world.  Sometimes, naturally, the behavior of deities was monstrous, personifying evil or dangers that seemed to lurk everywhere.  Note that this was long before Satan monotheistically arrived on the scene to be blamed for evil, and to influence humankind in their obvious enthusiasms to commit “sins” of indulgence and pleasure.

These myths are “family stories” that cast light on our patriarchal genealogy, and on the considerable influence these archetypal stories have on our personal lives.  Any student of mythology will discover that the myths of ancient Greece and Rome often included several versions of stories and genealogies.  These stories were never severely pruned into a single dogmatic version.  Many centuries later, Christianity was faced with a similar problem of having many conflicting gospels and creeds, so Christian bishops convened the First Council of Nicaea in the fourth century CE to judge which of the hundreds of existing gospels was officially true, and then they suppressed all other testimonies and perspectives.

"History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”

                                                                              --- Mark Twain

A Symphony Conductor Conducts a Sympathetic Survey

Think about the story of Prometheus, the clever Titan god whose Greek name means forethought.  Prometheus was regarded as a champion of mankind who had a wily intelligence.  He was said to have stolen fire from Zeus and given it to mortals.  His brother Epimetheus, whose name means “hindsight”, was regarded as foolish.  These Titan god brothers were said to have been entrusted with the responsibility of giving traits to each of the newly created animals.  “Epimetheus was responsible for giving a positive trait to every animal, but when it was time to give man a positive trait, since he lacked foresight, he found that there was nothing left.”  That myth not only puts backward-looking Epimetheus in a harsh light, but casts mankind in an oddly negative mold.  No positive traits at all?! 

Prometheus, in his turn, decided to give mankind the positive attribute of the civilizing arts, as well as the gift of fire.  The civilizing arts provide great depth and hope for our kind.  Since Prometheus had stolen fire from Zeus, this made the ruler of the gods colossally angry.  Zeus punished Prometheus with terrible torment for his transgression by binding him to a rock and having an eagle feed on his liver every day.  Zeus then set out to punish mankind.  The punishment, oddly enough, was to have all the Olympian gods help fashion Pandora, the first mortal woman, to give to Epimetheus as a wife.

Pandora’s name means “all gifts”, and sure enough, she received a wonderful range of marvelous traits from the various Olympian gods and goddesses.  She was also given some distinct character flaws that were not so fabulous.  Aphrodite gave her beauty.  Apollo gave her musical talent and an ability to heal others.  Zeus gave her mischievousness.  Hera gave her curiosity.  Hermes, a god known for trickery, gave her cunning, boldness, charm -- and a mysterious box.  The stage was set.  Epimetheus foolishly made the mistake of letting his beautiful wife keep the box, though he did supposedly forbid her from opening it. Since Pandora had been given exceptional curiosity, she of course eventually opened the box, and dang if it didn’t contain all manner of evils and mistrust that were thereby released into the world! 

This is how the first woman was blamed for having released horrors into the world, and for being responsible for having condemned all of humanity to suffer the consequences forever thereafter.  This was one early rationalization for the subjugation of women in patriarchal societies of old, and it is sure proving to be a stubborn trait in societies worldwide.

The Pandora cataclysm did contain a shard of good news, however.  When Pandora had looked in the bottom of the emptied box, she found that there was one thing left:  Hope.  Curiously, we still have hope, so we see once again that all curses contain some measure of blessing.  The visionary plagiarists who wrote the Bible found this story too good to pass up, so they incorporated it right up front on the third page of their holy book.  Eve, the first woman, disobeyed the male LORD God in the Garden of Eden by consuming the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden, which opened her eyes and allowed her and Adam to know good and evil.  So God reacted just as Zeus had, by condemning humankind to terrible troubles and unending grief.  This is how the legendary Greek mythological story of Pandora was assimilated into the Bible.

Consider the story of Prometheus in the context of the vital importance of critical thinking and foresight to our human existence.  The true nature of evolutionary change that has led to our extraordinary biological success is one of the most important understandings that we have ever realized.  The true dynamics of our evolutionary adaptation is that we evolved as a social species, and not merely as the fittest surviving individuals, “red in tooth and claw”.  As Edward O. Wilson points out in The Social Conquest of Earth, our species has been subject to the selective survival of individuals and their closest kin, and also to the survival of the groups to which they belonged.  Wilson writes:  “Every human and every human society has to learn how to manage adroitly the perpetual ambiguity and conflict between individual needs and group needs.”  Politicians today are too often less than adroit in negotiating this path.

In the conflict between individual motivations and community needs, I subscribe to the Optimum Balance Theory.  I believe that we need to find a much better balance than letting wealthy people maximize their advantages while trying to foist austerity on all others.  A cut in food stamp funding in November 2013 reinforced this conviction.  Conservatives are ostensibly quite worried that poor people may try to make too comfortable a hammock out of this humanitarian social safety net program, the lazy bums.   I myself am cynical about this self-serving and unempathetic attitude.

The biggest-picture story is one that emphasizes the natural selection of groups of individuals who have been able to cooperate together well enough to put the survival of the group ahead of the survival of ruthlessly competitive individuals.  All our ancestors who survived were from the clans that natural selection had favored because cooperative commitments are truly the best for any group as a whole.  The nature of the human propensity to embrace religious beliefs is, in itself, a characteristic that has given significant survival advantages to clans and tribes who manifested these tendencies.

It is noteworthy that the entire civilizing process of the past 10,000 years has been one in which the size of the groups to which we belong has grown larger.  While early human groups selectively survived by having individuals make ultimate commitments to their clans alone, it later became important for individuals to subsume some of their success and advantage-taking to the best interests of the tribe, the community, the town, the city, the region, the city-state, and then the nation.  The reason these understandings are so important is that they point to the next necessary breakthrough required of us to ensure our survival and prosperity:  we must begin to regard our social group as ever larger, so that we see the need for our entire species to cooperate together enough to make sure we do not destroy the global commons, or exterminate a sizable proportion of the biological diversity of life on Earth, or engage in destructive wars around the planet.  This holistic realization recognizes the precious truth that interrelationships and interdependencies of all life are deep and inextricable.

The better angels of our nature, along with the profound civilizing effects of modernity, help control dark human impulses toward sexual aggression and violence.  These better angels are a part of the civilizing process and humanitarian revolution articulated by Daniel Kahneman in his brilliant book, Thinking, Fast and Slow.  These civilizing forces involve a keen ability to anticipate longer-term consequences of actions, and an increasing willingness to take other people’s thoughts and feelings and perspectives into consideration.  The worser angels of our instincts lurk in voracious greedy appetites, extreme ruthlessness in competition, poorly controlled drives, wanton sexuality, uncontrolled addictions, and powerful drives to assert hegemony over others.

The exchange of pleasantries, and even of barbed witticisms, is ever so preferable to the exchange of blows, or of feathered poison arrows, just as the indulgence in a little flirtatious fun is much better than the unleashing of crudely presumptuous and unwanted sexual advances.  The consequences of actions, and their proportional importance, should guide our actions, laws and priorities.

“In studying the history of the human mind, one is impressed again and again by the fact that the growth of the mind is the widening of the range of consciousness, and that each step forward has been a most painful and laborious achievement.”

                                                                      --- Carl Jung

A Contrapuntal Flute Sounds a Cry from the Heart

Some of the most significant stories in Greek mythology are the ones concerning Apollo and Dionysus.  These are real good stories.  Apollo was the son of Leto, a goddess born of two Titans, and of that inveterate philanderer Zeus.  A visit to Leto’s birthplace, the island of Kos in the beautiful Greek archipelago, would be magical, for it lies just a few miles off the coast of Bodrum, Turkey, and the clarity of the air there can be like a veritable vision of revelation.

Apollo is the god of light and the Sun.  He represents cool detached elegance, grace, symmetry, order, control, logic, balance, clarity, light, simplicity, moderation, emotional containment, and sunny refinement.  Physically, as reflected in art and sculpture, Apollo was depicted as the ideal of the kouros -- a handsome, beardless, well-proportioned athletic male similar to Adonis, the god of beauty and desire, who was considered the veritable prototype of graceful and youthful male beauty. 

Carl Jung’s insights into complementary opposites give us forewarning:  there is much more to human nature than these noble characteristics of Apollo.  And sure enough, the god Dionysus now arrives on the scene to embody this contrast.  Dionysus was Apollo’s half-brother, the son of Zeus and a mortal princess named Semele.  Let’s give an enthusiastic salute to Dionysus!  As the next paragraph materializes into your consciousness, imagine the complementary opposite qualities of yin and yang, feminine and masculine, the moon and the sun, dark and light, the hidden and the manifest, the passive and the aggressive, cold and hot, water and fire.

Zeus was the powerful god of sky and thunder.  With the power of his stature and influence, he had easy access to the females of the world.  He took full advantage of it, let me tell you!  It was well known that his power as a supreme god made him difficult to resist.  Nonetheless, the wily sex maniac Zeus disguised himself as a handsome mortal male in order to deceive Semele and get her to fall in love with him.  He scored, and Semele became pregnant with Zeus’ child. 

The story of Dionysus’ birth, related below, is interesting.  But here’s the important part that should be emphasized.  In real life, there is always a wide continuum of complementary opposites in human nature, and a healthy balance is generally the best.  Since noble Apollonian characteristics simply do not typify all of life, and are inadequate to encompass its full expression, the positive aspects of Dionysian characteristics should be allowed fair rein, rather than being harshly suppressed.

Dionysus was the god of wine and the grape harvest, and of ritual madness and ecstasy and wild abandon.  Dionysus represents open-heartedness, passion, intensity, depth of emotion, improvisation, drama, tragedy and comedy, wildness, darkness, moonlight, extremes, dissonance, and general “too muchness”.  His story is juicy, and not at all fuddy duddy.  Picture an androgynous youth, half naked, making a dramatic and triumphant appearance in a somewhat disorderly and disheveled manner.

Dionysus was brought up by nymphs and was surrounded by nature, so he grew up unrestrained.  What good fortune!  His most symbolic role came to be his association with wild festivals, revelry, and wine and women and song.  In Dionysian rituals, ancient Greeks and Romans danced, listened to music, and indulged in intoxicants to reduce inhibitions and social constraints.  This was known to make them feel liberated and free to enjoy and express themselves.  Many Romans abused these indulgences, which alarmed the authorities at the time.  So numerous were those who participated in bacchanalia festivals that Roman authorities declared a national danger of crimes and political conspiracies being planned at these events, and they repressed these darker aspects of humanity by officially banning all bacchanalia gatherings in 186 BCE. 

There are lessons to be learned in the tension between the complementary opposites of Apollonian and Dionysian temperaments and propensities, and a good personal and society-wide balance would be a very positive goal to pursue.  A wise woman who is a professor of myth, music and philosophy, states that one good mark of maturity is the ability to hold joy in one hand and suffering in the other, and to balance the Apollonian virtues of clarity, lightness, order and moderation with the Dionysian virtues of emotion, depth of feeling, and creative expression.  In the parlance of Freud’s ideas about our psyches, we should strive to find a fair balance between our id, our ego, and our superego.  In doing so, hearty respect should be given to the fairness principles of the Golden Rule in every situation where our actions affect others.

Complementary opposition can be seen to be a fabric that is woven through all of existence.  Every current condition is a temporary balance point, a stasis that represents competing natural forces of mind and body, masculine and feminine, life and death, chaos and order, matter and energy, space and time, and many other forces of complementary opposition. 

   “Yeah, no, it’s generally a good idea to think proactively, and to sensibly control one’s impulses. 

      Long live the Golden Mean.”

                      --- An Apollonian pronouncement of a modern incarnation of the Priestess Oracle of Delphi

The story of Dionysus’ birth is fabulous.  Hera jealously wanted to exact revenge when she found out that her husband Zeus had had an affair with Semele, a daughter of King Cadmus and princess of Thebes.  So Hera disguised herself as a mortal girl.  What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, eh Zeus?  Remember that Semele was pregnant at that moment.  The disguised Hera became a maidservant to Semele, and one can just anticipate the coming treachery. 

The disguised goddess tells Semele that her handsome lover is really the King of Gods in disguise.  She convinces Semele to ask Zeus to abandon his disguise and reveal his glory to prove that he really was the macho dude Master of the Olympian universe.  So Semele gullibly asked for one wish from Zeus.  He nobly and loyally promised to grant it, no matter what the request might be.  She then asked him to reveal his glory to her, and he was bound to comply, having so agreed, even though he knew it would be disastrous to her mortal being.  When he revealed himself, Semele was engulfed in the flames of his radiance. 

What a story!  And it gets even better.  As Semele was being burned to death by the flames, Zeus ordered Hermes, the messenger god and incidental trickster, to save her fetus.  Hermes snapped to it, and creatively put the developing Dionysus into Zeus’ own thigh.  Three months later, Dionysus was born.  The rest is history, as they say.

The Lovely Goddess Artemis Appears

Dionysus had a divine stepsister named Artemis, who was Apollo’s twin sister.  She was the goddess of the hunt and wild animals, wilderness, the Moon, childbirth, virginity and young girls.  Artemis is one of my favorite goddesses. Homer referred to her as “Artemis of the Wild Land and Mistress of Animals.”  She was depicted as a huntress, confidently carrying a bow and arrows, as one might well imagine in trying to conjure up a fuller image of her from one of many Greek and Roman marble sculptures carved in her image.  

Artemis was one of the most widely venerated of the ancient Greek deities.  Her mother Leto was a daughter of two of the twelve first-generation Titans, as were Zeus and Hera, so she was actually a close relative of them both.  The Bible talks about many generations after Adam and Eve, making all people blood relatives, so what the heck!

Hera was naturally furious at her husband Zeus when she found out that he’d had sex with Leto and gotten her pregnant.  Hera cursed Leto so that she would be unable to find a solid ground or island on Earth where she could give birth to her children.  Zeus cleverly caused a floating island, surrounded by swans, to emerge from the Aegean Sea, and Leto found refuge there and gave birth to Artemis.  Artemis then helped deliver her twin brother Apollo.  What a nifty goddess move that was, to achieve such an amazing feat so soon after having emerged from the womb herself!  Artemis was said to have thereafter had an uncanny ability to help women in the pains of childbirth.  She believed that the Fates, those white-robed incarnations of destiny, had chosen her to be a helpful midwife.  

Ayla, the heroine character from The Clan of the Cave Bear would say “Yay for Artemis!”, for she herself had been an early expert of a rock-and-sling hunting method in cave man days.  If you haven’t read The Clan of the Cave Bear, here’s another thing to add to your list of interesting things to do.  As described in Recommended Reading for a Broader Understanding and Appreciation of the World:

(15) The Clan of the Cave Bear, by Jean M. Auel --- The first in a series of richly imagined narratives about Ayla, a girl who lived 30,000 years ago in Ice Age Europe.  Ayla’s story is that of a heroine who dealt with great challenges in an epic saga of early humans and their relationships during prehistoric times. 

The Clan of the Cave Bear provokes images in our imagination of a world long ago.  It entertains us with a marvelous saga, while it simultaneously provides provocative insights into how different the relationships and cultures of prehistoric peoples may have been.  Imagine facing the primordial world that Ayla lived in, with its pre-literate social ties and communication hurdles and cave lions and saber-toothed tigers and huge cave bears.  Try to place yourself in those times and those contexts, and imagine the worldviews that may have accompanied those human beings at the time.  As descendants of such people, this flight of imagination provides us with a compelling way of looking at our selves and our early associations with the Earth and its denizens!

Honoring the Greek Pantheon

To continue the story of the religious pantheon in ancient Greece, here’s a quote from Comprehensive Global Perspective - An Illuminating Worldview:

This Creation story of Uranus and Cronus has a bit of a patriarchal slant to it, eh?  Wow -- lots of testosterone!  The father’s genitals were lopped off by his son!!  It makes one yearn for the good old days when the Great Goddess ruled humankind’s beliefs -- and when much greater appreciation was given to the health and beneficence of the natural world.  In those times, more respect was likely accorded to Mother Earth, since people held a more personalized vision of the impersonal powers of cause and effect. 

The Great Goddess Mother Earth had been revered in ancient Europe and Asia for thousands of years before barbarian invasions led to the subjugation of these early civilizations by peoples whose deities were dominated by male warrior gods.  These invasions fractured and suppressed the prior mother-based religions, and father-based theologies became dominant.  Patriarchal religions not only consigned feminine deities to inferior positions in the pantheon, but they profoundly affected the cultures of the peoples in which they germinated and found expression.  Women were increasingly oppressed in those societies, and harsh laws like the eye-for-an-eye Hammurabi’s Code gained force.  The new myths demoted the value of the female life force, with its deep connections to fertility and nature.  And the men, like modern-day born–again Texan evangelicals, made sure to demote the status of women.  In Texas, they are going a step further and trying to mandate fertility by prohibiting access to abortions, and they are trying to justify aggressive oil-well-pumping assaults on nature.

Read the Da Vinci Code for an enigmatic, thrilling and entertaining perspective on issues like this.  Fie on the extreme conservatism of Opus Dei! 

Our societies are still paying the price for the sometimes subtle, sometimes ruthless subjugation of the divine feminine.  Our patriarchal cultures tend to stunt the basic needs of both women and men, and to thereby inhibit personal growth and the fulfillment of our human potentials.  Cultural constructs compel males to repress their inner anima selves and their emotions and vulnerabilities, contributing to a variety of morbid symptoms.  And they repress females, and make sure women earn less pay for equal work, and they act to impose restrictions on their freedoms and prerogatives. 

In larger ecological terms, domineering masculine god conceptions facilitate the rash exploitation of Mother Earth.  We should instead give greater appreciation and respect to our home planet by being willing to boldly protect it with far-reaching commitments.  Protections of wildlife habitats should be strengthened!  We should recognize and honor the intrinsic values of Earth’s ecosystems in a healthy condition, and we should stop pretending with mindless myopia that we will be able to continue exploiting and abusing them indefinitely, or with impunity.

I highly recommend Dr. Leonard Shlain’s book The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: the Conflict between Word and Image for its provocative perspective on the curious transition of early civilizations from Mother Goddess worship to the worship of male Gods.  Dr. Shlain makes a compelling case for deeper causes for this rude transformation.  His brilliant insights involve the neurological workings of our brains and the physical shift to a dominance of the left hemisphere that occurred when analytical literacy became widespread.  Lenny asserted that there is a very strong correlation between this change and a diminishing of the status and prerogatives of women in societies back then, and a reduction in levels of respect for them, and far-reaching restrictions on their freedoms and rights. 

The study of mythology can provide us with enlightening insights.  Powerful images are expressed in story-telling, myths, legends, rituals and holy book stories.  These tales resemble Rorschach revelations of our inner selves and the drives that affect us.  We are all acted upon from within by the universal archetypes that reside in our collective unconscious, such as those richly embodied in the characteristics attributed to the gods and goddesses of Classical Greece.  Zeus! 

At the same time that archetypes strongly influence our behaviors, we are profoundly affected by forces from without, in the form of cultural stereotypes and expectations and acculturated opinions.  A better knowledge of all the forces that influence us can give us the power to re-shape our lives in ways that will be more meaningful and fulfilling.  Read the intriguing book, Goddesses in Everywoman: A New Psychology of Women by Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen for a deeper and more personal framework of this topic, and of important ramifications.

Formulate a Better Mythology!

Myths and belief systems help us define ourselves.  They create identity and a sense of meaning and belonging in our lives.  Every culture throughout history has had its own unique creation myths in response to the strong human need for trying to explain existence and to feel more secure in believing that we are significant in the world.  How could it be otherwise that we are at the center of the universe?  Could it be?  Isn’t it?  Surely every child feels, in any case, “It’s all about me!”

Since we seem to have a basic need for a creation myth, there could scarcely be a more solid, fact-supported, adaptive and unifying one than the narrative unfolding through understandings of deep ecology and related scientific disciplines.  This reveals a grand saga of an eons-long physical evolution of the universe and our solar system and home planet.  Within this backdrop, science presents a magnificent conception of the genetic evolution of all life on Earth, including every species of life in a billions-of-years-long epic of continuous change along a multifaceted branching of the tree of life.  Our own species evolved from earlier predecessors some 150,000 to 200,000 years ago, and then a Big Bang of the Mind brought us to the threshold of being able to conceive of abstract ideas, like the ones expansively explored in this manifesto.

Philosophy and psychology have broadened these understandings.  How can we contribute to a rapid transformation of these greater understandings into a vital new overarching myth that will be awe-inspiring, moral, life affirming, purposeful, and emotionally satisfying?  This question is important, for the need is great!

It would be salubrious for us all if a reconciling balance could be re-established between masculine and feminine cosmologies and theologies and worldviews and politics.  By yielding a bit of the drive for domination, the masculine divine could allow the vital feminine divine and its corollary positive attributes to gain proper and healthier influence in our societies.  Women could be empowered and accorded fairer treatment and greater equality of opportunity.  By choosing more women to represent the best interests of families and communities, we would improve our societies.  We should commit collectively to females that a universal healthcare system will be implemented that will include care for mothers and all females without meddlesome vaginal probes or purity pledges or sexist double standards! 

With women accorded more respect, more of them might run for office and help reform our political and economic systems.  We might discover that better cooperation would be cultivated in our national decision-making, and there would be a greater probability we would succeed in achieving common good goals.  This would be preferable to rigidly sticking with the same old sad story of uncompromising competition, extreme partisanship, and the squandering of resources on the military and wars.

A Trumpet Sounds, and a Haunting Flute Trills like a Nightingale

   “The cure for boredom is curiosity.  There is no cure for curiosity.”

                                                                                                        --- Dorothy Parker

Let’s look in on Mark Twain.  This great author was a real character!  He gave strict instructions that his autobiography should not be published until 100 years after he died.  That’s planning ahead!  This idea seems a bit presumptuous to me, but then again, he had wryly once noted that he was “born modest, but it didn’t last”, and he had bragged that he had became so famous that he was “the most conspicuous person on the planet”.  Sure enough, the first of a 3-volume set of The Autobiography of Mark Twain was published in 2010 by the University of California Press, just 100 years after he died. 

Remember that Mark Twain died in 1910, almost exactly when Halley’s Comet, in its highly elliptical 75-year-long orbit, made its closest approach to the Sun since the day he had been born.  Read all about it in A Quite Curious and Illuminating Biography of Mark Twain.

Carl Jung would have had a field day delving into the psychological, cultural, sociological, psychic and personal ramifications of illustrious Mark Twain’s ideas and thoughts.  Carl Jung, who died in 1961 actually did delve incredibly deeply into the inner psyche of one of the most well-known people in world history:  Jung himself!  It turns out that, almost 50 years after he died, a record was finally published of his provocatively-intriguing original artworks, along with a fascinating accompaniment of his thoughts, emotions and introspections that had motivated their creation.  This is The Red Book.

Mark Twain’s Autobiography is middling interesting, but it is not overly enlightening.  If, on the other hand, you have great curiosity and an extra lifetime or so, here’s a much more compelling suggestion:  Study The Red Book, because as Carl Jung observes:

    “He who looks outside dreams; he who looks within awakens.” 

Dionysus, the Greek god of epiphany, suddenly snaps to an uncharacteristically attentive focus.  He appears to be hung-over, as if disheveled from some intoxicated late-night debauch.  Readers are well-advised to be alert themselves in perusing these words.  The swelling sound of an orchestra with 121 instruments should accompany this Red Book disclosure, with wind instruments and stringed instruments intertwining harmoniously, punctuated upon occasion by percussion and a wealth of suggestive dissonance.

Anyone who studies The Red Book will find it to be almost breathtaking in its depth and scope.  In addition to Jung’s extraordinary art, the book contains original calligraphy and inscriptions in German and Latin, along with translations and a synthesis of the profound meanings he intended to convey.  It is a colossal achievement in the history of human ideas, delving into the conscious and subconscious ideas of a man with a brilliant intellect and a fascinating compulsion to better understand the complex concatenations of thoughts, feelings, motivations, memories and influences that lie deep in our brains.

“An opus is needed, that one can squander decades on, and do it out of necessity.  I must catch up with a piece of the Middle Ages within myself … The touchstone is being alone with oneself.  This is the way.” 

           --- The Red Book, Carl Jung

The Red Book is a revelation, a “numinous beginning”.  It was written and illustrated by Jung during an intense period of self-reflection between 1914 and 1930.  This was a time following the disruption of his close friendship with Sigmund Freud after an intense break in their relationship.  It was during this period that Jung developed his enlightening theories of archetypes in our collective unconscious, and of the process of psychological integration known as individuation.  He also explored the twin concepts of introversion and extraversion in different personality types. 

I look forward to reading Susan Cain’s book Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking, because I want to find out more about her insights into the nature of introspective individuals, having been exceedingly shy in my younger years.  In this book, Susan Cain talks about an interesting concept involving a “culture of character” as compared to today’s “culture of personality.”

I repeat the observation in the opening paragraphs of this epistle that Carl Jung believed the discovery and fulfillment of our deep innate potential is our main task in life, and that such journeys of transformation are at the mystical heart of all religions.  When speaking of The Red Book, Jung later asserted:  “My entire life consisted in elaborating what had burst forth from the unconscious and flooded me like an enigmatic stream and threatened to break me.”  Jung was suffering during this period from a kind of psychotic “metanoia” (literally, a radical “changing of one’s mind”).  This process is not a closing down like some conversion to born-again beliefs in fixed dogmas.  No!  This is a spontaneous process of a psyche that is trying to heal itself and recover from unbearable conflict by embracing thoughts and perspectives that lie beyond previous limitations and thought patterns.  An intense metanoia episode can transform an existential crisis into a healthier and more adaptive way of seeing the world, and it can thereby help a person cope with a challenging psychological crisis.

   “This is no social crisis

       Just another tricky day for you.”  

                                                       --- Lyrics from Another Tricky Day, The Who

Good Vibrations and Excitations

I love trying to array in my mind the grand sweep of history and the overlap of famous people, epic events, and evolving ideas and trends.  Let us harken back to the dawn of psychoanalysis and “the talking cure”, for example, and give consideration to the medical condition known as hysteria.  Hysteria had been diagnosed for at least two thousand years as a medical condition particular to women.  Hysteria was characterized by a state of unmanageable emotional turmoil.  A book titled Studies on Hysteria was published in 1895, co-written by a then-prominent Austrian physician named Josef Breuer and a young Sigmund Freud.  The two of them had been working with women to help them deal with nervous afflictions by using hydrotherapy, electro-therapy, massage, rest-cures and hypnosis.

Studies on Hysteria was the first book in history to contain psychoanalytic case studies.  These two pioneers of the field of verbal psychotherapy essentially discovered for the first time that we all have an unconscious mind.  (Duh!  Fish discover water!)  They found that women who had hysterical attacks sometimes manifested amnesia of their actions during these episodes, so Freud and Breuer used hypnosis as a tool to explore these neuroses and the deep influences of the unconscious mind. 

Studies on Hysteria delved into the new field that became known as psychoanalysis, and with this undertaking, Freud began to explore “free associations” and psychological interpretations and dream analysis to gain insights into the inner workings of the mind.  Breuer and Freud attributed nervous symptoms associated with “hysteria” to unconscious early traumatic experiences.  They theorized that repressed memories associated with sexual feelings were primarily to blame for the condition.

Some men claimed that hysteria was caused by “disturbances of the uterus”.  Oh, sure!  One treatment for hysteria in the 1890s that was not atypical was for a physician to massage a female patient’s genitalia.  The extraordinary film Hysteria provides a rich visualization of this story.  A challenge for the doctors engaging in this kind of sex therapy was that they often suffered from fatigued hands and wrists due to the prolonged energetic efforts required.  This led to the invention of mechanical vibrators.  Vibrators were used to erotically stimulate women and relieve them of the symptoms of their hysteria by means of a “hysterical paroxysm” -- an orgasm! 

“In 1902, the American company Hamilton Beach patented the first electric vibrator available for retail sale, making the vibrator the fifth domestic appliance to be electrified, after the sewing machine, fan, tea kettle and toaster, and about a decade before the vacuum cleaner and electric iron.”  Home versions of the vibrator reputedly soon became extremely popular.  I’ll bet!  During the sexual revolution of the 1960s, cordless electric vibrators for use on the human body became popular, according to bits of illumination in Wikipedia.

Conservative Christians tend to believe that the use of vibrators is immoral, and even that the Bible prohibits the use of vibrators.  It’s almost as if Biblical prophecy was omniscient, anticipating the evolution of innovations that would provide women with pleasure and “relief”, and that the devices would be judged to be contrary to puritanical beliefs.  Does the Bible really preemptively prohibit such activities and devices, or is this just another way that prudish control-freak males are trying to restrict women’s prerogatives?  One puritanical preacher inveighed against such devices because “they are conducive to promiscuity, because they promote loose morals and because they entice improper and potentially deadly behaviors.”  Really?! 

Other more liberal-minded people argue that vibrators are “marital substitutes” that actually provide a “social good” by playing “an important role in the emotional lives of millions of Americans.”  Yes!  I recommend that people watch the highly entertaining 2011 film Hysteria for an enlightening look back at the Victorian Era when Mortimer Granville invented the first vibrator for medical science.

Hysteria, in any case, is now considered a catch-all “junk diagnosis”.  The terminology hasn’t been used to denote a specific medical condition for many decades.  Curiously, women who were thought to be suffering from hysteria exhibited a wide array of symptoms that included insomnia, faintness, nervousness, irritability, heaviness in the abdomen, muscle spasms, shortness of breath, loss of appetite for food or sex, and even “a tendency to cause trouble.”  Ha!  It appears to me that those who diagnosed these conditions might themselves have been in distinct need of psychoanalysis!

An Obscene Device Law in Texas banned the sales of vibrators from 1973 until 2008.  Leave it to Texas!  The law was finally overturned in a flurry of court cases in 2008, when the law was finally deemed unconstitutional because it violated an Amendment to the Constitution that stipulated individuals have a right to privacy. 

One might wonder what really happened to the medical condition known as hysteria.  I veritably swoon to contemplate it.  As better understandings of how the human brain works have come into being, and as neuroscientists have come to grips with effects of hormones on human behaviors, people have come to realize that hysteria was often merely a convenient catch-all diagnosis for a wide range of judgmental projections, puzzling behaviors, eccentricities, chemical malfunctions and related neuroses and psychoses -- and even of many normal behaviors.

The Nemo Chimes in to Make Its Presence Known

Many women have long bridled at the deep-seated sexism of Sigmund Freud’s seminal studies in psychoanalysis and his scintillatingly inventive theories on subjects like penis envy, oedipal complexes and dark inner sexual drives.  The nature of Freud’s theories on the battles within our unconscious minds is worth the price of admission alone.  This struggle within each person pits the “gimme now” infantilism of the “id” against the “whoa, baby” internalized strict-father conscience of the “superego”, and both of them negotiate with the opportunistic “Let’s make this work” pragmatism of the facilitating “ego”.

Sigmund Freud had formulated these profound insights into the human psyche.  Another way of seeing and understanding his three provinces of the psyche is to see the ego as the province of conscious desires and the id as the more obscure province of the myriad motivations that reside in the subconscious, and the superego as governing the emotional intelligence that strives to balance, control or repress these two powerful mental forces.

Fugues are contrapuntal musical compositions that begin with an exposition then undergo an episode of development before returning to the original subject.  A bell now chimes, signaling another developing theme and bringing forth an observation that there is a fourth dimension in the human psyche that happens to be a tangential counterpoint to narcissism.  Philosopher John Fowles called it the nemo.  The nemo is an aspect of the psyche that has developed more distinctly in modern times, compared to Freud’s concepts of the id, the ego and the super-ego.  The nemo is ‘nobodiness’, a “supreme source of anguish”, a vaguely (or acutely) desperate feeling of being a nobody.  The lyrics play of the Beatles’ Nowhere Man drift into my consciousness.

    He's a real nowhere man

     Sitting in his nowhere land

      Making all his nowhere plans for nobody.

Sigmund Freud neglected this aspect of our minds in his tripartite analysis of the human psyche.  Ponder this, from Comprehensive Global Perspective:

John Fowles insightfully realized that there is also a more subtle force that is growing deep in the modern soul.  This is the ‘nemo’, which represents the psychic force that motivates us to try to be somebody, to be remembered, and to thwart our profound fear of being an insignificant nobody.  The nemo is strengthened by the knowledge that there are myriad inequalities in life, and by such haunting anxieties as feelings of psychological emptiness, ephemerality, futility and insignificance. 

Why did Mark David Chapman, the man who murdered John Lennon, kill the man he so respected?  The nemo!  Chapman was presumably a pathetic nobody, tormented by inner demons;  and yet his name will be remembered forever in conjunction with the great Beatles’ singer, songwriter, lyricist and champion of peace.  (Imagine the irony --- “All we need is love”!). 

Jorge Amado’s novel Home Is the Sailor conjures up a classic tale of a man who shouldn’t have had a care in the world, and yet he was troubled and unhappy in his life.  The main character felt that he was a nobody, and that he sorely needed to get a title, like Doctor or Admiral, to feel better about himself.  His friends conspired through a bit of nifty corruption to get him qualified for the title of a Captain in the Merchant Marine.  The sublime joy, braggadocio, comic misadventures, jealousy, circumstantial downfall, mortifying embarrassment, and triumphant denouement of the story are richly entertaining.

Two tales are told in Home Is the Sailor, “both taking place over a half-century before the narrator has taken up the case.  It is a marvelous joke that the mutually exclusive lines are both presented by the narrator as objective fact.” … “Both of the tales are told by a dull-witted narrator who has trouble deciphering truths in the present tense, much less those which are fifty years in the past.”

Jorge Amado succeeds in this book in “showing the humanity of unpleasant people, but saves the glory as always for the truth and the poor.”  Like John Steinbeck, Jorge Amado always tried “to give dignity to the people that society tries hardest to strip it from.”

“Will my readers now, with their learning and their experience, tell me what is the truth, the whole truth?  Does truth lie in the everyday events, the daily incidents, in the pettiness and vulgarity most people’s lives are compounded of, or does the truth have its abode in the dream it is given us to dream to flee our sad human condition?”

                                                --- Jorge Amado, Home Is The Sailor

I speculate in Comprehensive Global Perspective that the nemo impulses of extreme conservatives are driving humankind headlong in the direction of calamity.  Conservative convictions of God-appointed self-righteousness are impelling us down an ignominious conflict-engendering path on which unfair special privilege is championed for the well heeled.  Religious fanaticism is leading many people to support white supremacy, social repression, misogynistic male authoritarianism, puritanical domestic policies, and theocratic Christian hegemony.  By allying itself with right-wing politicians, the Religious Right is also strengthening impulses toward military aggression, irresponsible profiteering, and unfettered laissez-faire capitalistic rule by the wealthy.  I call once again for conservatives to help return America to sanity -- and the world to better hopes of fairness and peace!

The sound of Taiko drummers pounding in the distance brings my attention back to the here and now.  Where was I?

An Auditory Kaleidoscope of Emotional Themes Resonates in Anima Voice

I love discovering a new word.  Consider syzygy.  The name alone is inscrutable, evocative, scintillating, snappy and mysterious.  Syzygy, according to the New World Encyclopedia online, is the divine pair of both anima and animus together, consisting of three elements:

  ~ the femininity pertaining to men (anima) and the masculinity pertaining to women (animus);

  ~ the actual experience women have of men, and that men have of women;  and,

  ~ both masculine and feminine archetypal images. 

How can we holistically make sense of such an arcane concept?  How can we rise up to a balanced level of both specificity and generality that will allow us enlightenment and spiritual transformation that will make our world a better one?  Perhaps a more enlightened attitude toward the syzygy is needed.

Here is an interesting story, and one of the most revealing ones in the mythologies of ancient Greece.  A princess named Psyche lived in a kingdom in Greece more than 3,000 years ago, long before humankind came to monotheistic convictions that there is only one true God or Allah or Brahman or Jehovah or Elohim.  Psyche was beautiful, stunning really, and this made Aphrodite, the goddess of love, just as jealous as one can divinely be, which is supreme jealousy indeed.  So Aphrodite asked her son Eros, the god of love (his Roman counterpart was Cupid), to put a spell on Psyche.  Obediently, Eros flew down to Earth and sprinkled a potion on the sleeping beauty that would prevent any man from wanting to marry her.  But Eros accidentally pricked Psyche with one of his arrows (which, as many people know, make someone fall in love instantly), and she startled awake to see him.  Her beauty, in turn, so surprised Eros that he accidentally pricked himself with his arrow and he fell head over heels in love with her.

Later, Psyche, still being stricken by Eros’ potion, found that despite her beauty, she felt alone and was tired of being sensationally attractive and capable of inspiring plenty of flattery but unable to find love and a husband.  Her parents consulted the High Priestess Oracle of Apollo at Delphi, and received an answer: “The virgin is destined to be the bride of no mortal lover.  Her future husband awaits her on the top of the mountain.”

After much heartrending debate within her family, Psyche proceeded to the top of the mountain.  There, the gentle west wind Zephyr raised her from the earth and bore her into a flowery dale.  She took a nap, and then discovered a nearby magnificent palace.  She soon found herself feasting on delicious food and listening to harmonious lute music accompanied by a full chorus of handsome and beautiful singers.  Then her destined husband arrived in the night, invisible, and had his way with her, full of passion and love.  She was quite happy for a while, but her sisters sowed the suspicion that her unseen husband was a monster, so one night she took an oil lamp and silently rose while he was sleeping to find out what he really looked like.  She beheld a beautiful and charming god, not a monster;  but a drop of hot oil from the lamp fell on the shoulder of Eros, startling him awake and angering him because of this outrageous breach of trust, so he abandoned her.

Psyche thought of killing herself in despair, then tried to find help in the temples of divine goddesses, but finally realized she had to approach her antagonist, Eros’ mother Aphrodite, the goddess of love, so as to locate her husband and be reunited with him once again.  Eros, it turned out, had kept it a secret from his jealous mother that he had married Psyche.  Aphrodite reluctantly gave Psyche four tasks, each in sequence, that she had to accomplish before she could be rejoined with her husband.  Aphrodite made sure that each task was more risky and nearly impossible than the previous one.

The myth of Psyche turns out to be a profound metaphor for the struggle for love and trust in every interpersonal relationship.  All four of the tasks forced Psyche to grow.  Her first task was to sort out a large pile of sesame seeds, fenugreek seeds, and pine nuts that were jumbled together.  She was able to succeed in this task only with the help of supernatural intervention.  The symbolic meaning of this task is that a woman who is faced with making a crucial decision must first sort out a jumble of conflicting feelings and competing loyalties.  She must honestly sift through her values and motives and feelings, and make sure she is able to separate what is truly meaningful from what is relatively insignificant.  In this task, a woman recognizes that it is beneficial to trust her intuitions while also consciously striving to assess priorities between the many elements involved in making good decisions.

Aphrodite next ordered Psyche to acquire some golden fleece from the terrible rams of the sun.  Though the task is dangerous, she receives supernatural advice on how to accomplish it.  She waits until the gathering of rams retired for the night, and then successfully picks some of the golden fleece from sharp brambles.  The golden fleece represented power, and this task symbolizes the risks and undesirable aspects of trying to gain personal power that are found in associated tendencies to become hardened, cynical or uncompassionately merciless.

The third task was even more daunting.  Aphrodite tells Psyche to fill a small crystal flask with water from a forbidding stream that cascades from a spring at the summit of the highest cliff to the lowest depth of the underworld.  Dragons guarded this stream, so the task seemed impossible.  But an eagle comes to her aid to help fill the flask.  The eagle symbolically stands for the ability to see the situation from a distant perspective and to swoop down to grasp what is needed.  The lesson is to gain some emotional distance in relationships or decision-making, and to use this insight to best assess what is significant and what course of action to take. 

For her fourth task, Aphrodite tells Psyche to descend into Hades, the underworld province of the dead, and to take a box with her to get some beauty cream from Persephone, the Queen of Hades.  Persephone was a goddess of spring growth and natural cycles of birth, death and resurrection.  Once again a supernatural advisor helps Psyche on this hazardous journey by telling her what she must do to go to Hades and get the beauty ointment and return safely from the underworld. 

Psyche was very curious by nature, and as she returned from Hades with the box, she thought a little touch-up of her beauty using the fabled cream would be a good thing.  So she opened the box of magic makeup, even though she had been warned not to do so.  The box contained nothing but darkness, and it put her into a deep, deep sleep.  The lesson in this development was that it is important for women to learn how to exercise sound judgment in their life choices, and to be able to resist temptations. 

These four tasks also highlighted the need for women to be a bit more assertive and to refuse to be exploited or treated in demeaning ways, or to allow others to divert their attention from doing important things for themselves.  Having successfully completed the ordeal of the four tasks, Psyche still had to be rescued by Eros from the spell of the sleeping potion.  Eros brought her to Zeus in the heavens and asked him to intervene.  Zeus gave Psyche a cup of divine ambrosia, which is the pure food of the Titans and Olympians, and this made her immortal, so she was able to live happily ever after with her husband Eros in a blissful state of marriage.

The story of Psyche turns out to be a wonderful one of a woman who grows psychologically and evolves by developing capabilities and strengths through courage and determination. Despite all the challenges she had to endure, however, she remained true to her basic nature of valuing a love relationship and risking everything for it, and she eventually thereby achieved her desired goal. 

Psyche and Eros later had a beautiful daughter named Voluptas, the goddess of sensual pleasure, also known as Hedone.  She loved to hang out in the company of the Three Graces.  In an ironic perversion of reputation and meaning, the word “hedonism” carries with it a modern implication of wanton pursuit of pleasure without regard for consequences.  It’s possible that religious conservative sensibilities are the ones mostly responsible for this denigration of a potentially beautiful aspect of being alive.

The ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus (341 BCE - 270 BCE) proclaimed that the proper purpose of life and philosophy was to attain happiness and tranquility, and to feel free from fear by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends.  Epicurus regarded the quest for pleasure as a search for the simple things in life, like delicious food and leisurely meals shared with good friends.  He taught that pleasure and pain are measures of what is good and bad, and he warned against worldly pleasures and overindulgence and lavish consumption because these things could lead to disappointment, pain, suffering or other negative outcomes.  His philosophy is laudable, so it is too bad that it has been perverted by commercial promoters into a rousing cry for consumerism, and by hell-and-damnation preachers into a suspect and ostensibly immoral libidinous Epicureanism.  Some people just seem to hate the pleasures and enjoyments of others, or to regard stoicism and puritan denial as primary virtues. 

Sensual pleasure can be a sublime source of satisfaction in the moment, and it is sad to taint such experiences with the critical judgments of an overly rigorous asceticism.  On the other hand, there are plenty of instances in Dante’s Second and Third Circles of Hell where an obsessively disordered love of pleasure can become a corrupt vice of lust and gluttony.  Balance and moderation in all things, I say, and let’s give a greater modicum of acceptance and respect to others!

Epicurus was also known for having asserted that gods do not reward or punish humans.  He believed that death is the definitive end of the body and the soul, and that it therefore should not be feared.  These seem like reasonable probabilities and healthy attitudes.  On the day he died, Epicurus wrote a letter in which he said he was suffering severe pain, “But the cheerfulness of my mind, which comes from the recollection of all my philosophical contemplation, counterbalances all these afflictions.” 

Bravo for Epicurus!  In commemoration of healthy aspects of his spirit, check out Tiffany Twain Entertains: A Philosophic Cookbook, and Twelve Delicious Recipes for Good Health and Gourmet Appreciation.  Readers will find some great recipes therein, along with an enthusiastic sense of appreciation for simple pleasures and an introspection into ideas on how we could better “cook our lives” and improve our health, and even possibly make our individual and common destinies a bit better.  These reflections make me think of another good story in Greek mythology.

Catchy Rock-and-Roll Music Transitions into a Hard Rock Reprise

Narcissus was a hunter who was renowned for his handsome appearance.  A beautiful mountain nymph named Echo fell in love with him.  As much as anything, Echo loved to talk and hear her own voice.  Since Zeus really enjoyed consorting with beautiful nymphs, he often came down from the heavens above to visit them on earth, and his jealous wife Hera came down from the abode of the gods on Mt. Olympus to catch Zeus as he flirted and philandered with the nymphs.  Echo amused and distracted Hera with long entertaining stories while Zeus took advantage of the subterfuge to ravish the other mountain nymphs.  When Hera finally discovered this treachery, she was so angry with Echo that she punished her by taking away her voice completely, other than in fading repetitions of another’s shouted words.  As was the propensity of Narcissus, and as fate would have it, Narcissus spurned lovely Echo and she spent the rest of her days in lonely glens and canyons pining away for the lover she would never have.

Narcissus was an exceptionally proud youth, but he had the sad foible of disdaining all who loved him.  This characteristic offended Nemesis, the goddess of poetic justice and the remorseless spirit of divine retribution.  Nemesis was known for wreaking vengeance on those who were filled with hubris.  Nemesis fatefully made sure that Narcissus was attracted to a pool where he saw his own reflection in the waters.  He fell in love with his image, not realizing that it was merely a reflection, and he was unable to leave the beauty of his own reflection, so he consequently died.  Or, in some versions of the story, he stabbed himself in the heart in despair upon realizing that his reflection would never give him the fulfillment of love in return.  As his blood fell to the ground, the drops spurred the first growth of the daffodil or another kind of lovely narcissus flower in the Amaryllis family.

The entire human race is acting today with obtusely self-centered narcissistic habits and behaviors that are contributing to a wholesale destruction of living habitats through forest clear-cutting, fisheries depletion, wasteful usages of fossil fuels, and the degradation of the quality of water resources and agricultural lands and wild places.  Recall this date: April 15, 1912.  Just over a century ago on this date, the huge passenger liner RMS Titanic sank on its maiden voyage across the North Atlantic.  The Captain of the Titanic is reputed to have figuratively said, “Damn the icebergs, full speed ahead!” while steaming through treacherous waters, and the ship’s passengers and crew suffered the terrible consequences.  Some 1,500 people died and only 705 people survived.  We would be well advised today to stop going full-speed-ahead in these “Years of Living Dangerously” by failing to take bold steps to limit emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

All populations of animals exist in a dynamic state of natural balance.  These populations are in effect controlled by limiting factors such as predation, disease, competitive pressures, and available supplies of food.  Humanity is not exempt from these influences.  For this reason it is foolhardy for the human race to continue acting in ways that wipe out wildlife, damage ecosystems, waste resources, and upset the equilibrium of natural systems.  These are myopically misguided things to do.  This is not merely a value judgment -- it is a quintessential consequential conclusion.

Our actions today are creating a dangerous and unsettled situation that will probably be restored to balance only after our severe human equilibrium-disturbing impacts are ancient history, hundreds or thousands of years from now -- or tens of thousands of years, to those who are real optimists.

Beautiful Music Evokes Broader Associations

Much of the focus of these thoughts is centered on perspectives in Western civilization.  Any study of mythology would, however, be incomplete without looking into other cultures around the world.  Consider the rich mythology of Hinduism.  Recorded documents of the Hindu religion date from about 1700 BCE during the times of the Vedic civilization on the Indian subcontinent.  This was roughly the time when the earliest alphabets were invented.  One observer pointed out that there is a dramatic contrast between female archetypes in western mythology and those of Hindu deities.  Almost all goddesses in western myths, and in Judeo-Christian stories, have female traits that are generally virginal, motherly, manipulative, gossipy, weak or evil.  These stories feature damsels in distress, fairy godmothers, evil stepmothers, or women like those in the Bible who act with subordination, like Eve, or with undisciplined character, like the wife of Lot.

In contrast, earlier Indian and Hindu mythology features many positive female characters and very powerful females like Kali, the creator and destroyer who is foremost among the ten fierce Tantric wisdom goddesses.  The character of females in various mythologies reflects the roles that women have in the cultures in which the myths originated, so myths reveal the way women were perceived and treated in those times.  It is a sad commentary that Western religions feature female goddesses and mortals that are less heroic, noble or powerful than those in ancient cultures of India’s subcontinent.

In the Muslim holy book, the Qur’an, certain specific rights were granted to women that they didn’t have in pre-Islamic Arabia, like the rights to own property in their names or to inherit some of their husband’s estate when he died.  Laws that sprung from Prophet Muhammad’s beliefs had some interesting effects on societies in which Islam became dominant in its early years.  There were some salubrious effects for women, particularly mothers, in patriarchal Arabic cultures when the Qur’an enhanced the status of women a little bit.  Women had, after all, been previously considered to be merely chattel. 

But the Qur’an did not establish equality of rights for men and women.  Polygamy was accepted, with men being allowed to have one wife, two, three, four, whatever!  The superior prerogatives of males were left fundamentally intact.  Cultural change is difficult to effect in broad-based ways, and cultural changes take time to develop because traditionalist biases are so hard to overcome.  Adaptive changes come slowly in most societies, as can be seen in the slow pace of changing attitudes toward women’s rights and those of lesbian women and gay men in most countries in the world today. 

The ideals of the Muslim Qur’an, and the example set by Muhammad, were more favorable to women than has been practiced since then in Arab and Muslim societies.  Women have, in this regard, slipped back in status and rights in Islamic nations since Muhammad’s time in the 7th century CE.  Male supremacism is ostensibly far too entrenched to easily alter.

Women’s rights have a long way to go to achieve any fair semblance of parity.  This is particularly true in repressive male-dominated societies like those in the Middle East.  One chapter of the Qur’an specifically concerns women;  it stipulates that they should be devout, obedient and submissive.  It specifies that a male can beat a woman if she displeases him in any way.  The veiling and seclusion of women are one consequence of this male-dominated religion and culture.  Meanwhile, socially conservative Islam continues to cling tenaciously to patriarchal dogmas and traditions and restrictive gender roles for females.

The Prophet Muhammad claimed that Allah had commanded him to publish his revelations after he had suffered three years of angst at the prospect.  “When I make my message known to them I will meet with great unpleasantness, so I have kept silent.”

The first converts to Muhammad’s teachings, after his wife Khadija and a few friends, were poor men and members of weak clans, and rootless migrants, and younger generations -- “those people most dissatisfied with the changing moral and social climate of Mecca, for whom the Prophet’s message proved a vital alternative.”

Muhammad felt justified in his teachings against the status quo because he said “he was sent by God to rescue his people from ignorance and guide them on the path to righteousness.”  Initial strong resistance to Muhammad’s teachings made it clear that people would not be moved by ideas alone, but that commanding prestige was needed to advance new religious precepts.  As it turned out, this prestige was to be gained by the conquering force of the sword.

A power struggle played out in Muhammad’s early years, and he denounced Jews and slaughtered Jewish clans.  He began to win over people who had held more peaceable beliefs.  “In the years that followed, Muhammad worked to create a community based on shared religious beliefs, ceremonies, ethics and laws -- a community that would transcend the traditional social structure based on families, clans and tribes, and would unite disparate groups into a new Arabian society.”

By 624 CE, Muhammad began to achieve glorious prestige everywhere in Arabia through military victories.  Such militant triumphs were seen as a sign of divine favor, so they led to more widespread support and a consolidation of power.  In 630 CE, Muhammad finally triumphed over the people of Mecca.  “By the end of his life, Muhammad had created, for the first time in centuries, a large-scale Arabian federation of oases and tribes, and had provided a solution to the destructive anarchy of Arabian life.”  As usual, a relativity of good and bad generally accompanies all far-reaching developments.

Societal bonds based on common religious beliefs became more important in those times than kinship in clans.  Before Muhammad, clans were often feuding and there were no common laws or government in Arab societies.  The highest authority until then was found in chiefs of individual clans.  Wisdom and common sense, upon occasion, would prevail over bloodshed, and conflicting clans would select someone to be their arbitrator, or hakam.  This was a person reputed to have honorable religious vision and to be just, politic, tactful and impartial.  Because such persons had no means of enforcing their decisions, it was common practice for them to interview the disputants and assure themselves that their decisions would be accepted.

Today, a violently destabilizing era is materializing that began as an “Arab Spring”, and the unfolding implications reach far beyond the impetus for change that has manifested itself to date.  This dangerous sectarian strife involves a revolution of youth against repression, and women in those societies are hoping for greater freedoms.  Brutal strife is getting worse in Syria, and tribal religious extremism is proliferating as I pen these words.  An estimated 250,000 people have been killed in Syria, and hunger stalks the land.  The conflict has spilled over into Iraq and Turkey, and the U.S. has been bombing the ruthlessly militant self-proclaimed Islamic State since September 2014.  I appeal to any shred of humanity remaining in the heart of the President of Syria, Bashar Assad, to seek fairer strategies and to strive to heal the turmoil in his land.  Violence and brutal repression of the Syrian uprising has exacerbated the conflict, spawning the brutal Islamic State, and terrorist fervor is returning with foreign fighters to Western nations.  Revolutionarily fairer reforms and peace initiatives are needed NOW.  Let the Syrian people create a process of moving forward toward greater security, fairer democratic governance, and a more stable civil society!

Guitars Strum, One Weeping, and A Member of the Audience Unaccountably Snores

We Americans love the idea of freedom and assured liberties and democratic representation.  Think about the ideas in this excerpt from Comprehensive Global Perspective: An Illuminating Worldview:

The original great philosopher Plato spent twelve years traveling around the Mediterranean world, “imbibing wisdom from every source.”  He had embarked on his travels at a propitious time, because he had been affiliated with the Athenian aristocracy and was therefore considered a threat to the democratic Establishment that had come to power in his native Greece.  In that era, Athens was ruled alternately by either elite oligarchs or democratic majorities.  Neither form of rule was ideal.  The oligarchs had their own selfish interests in mind, so when they were in power they went to terrible lengths to defend the advantages of the few against the majority of ordinary people. 

Democracy is no better, according to Plato, because the people sometimes killed the rich in violent revolutions, and they were easily swayed by emotional and deceptive rhetoric that was propagated by ambitious politicians.  Democratic societies back then were often socially unstable, and were often afflicted by disastrous wars, numerous atrocities and terrible injustices.

Democracy in America today is not all that different, despite revolutionary changes in cultures, technological innovation, communications, industrialization and demographics.  This is because the basic nature of human drives does not change much, so we are all mired in politics that give us forms of governance that fall far short of ideal.  Plato advocated letting ‘philosopher kings’ rule.  It unfortunately seems to be quite hard to find any benevolent Philosopher Kings these days!  Besides, any such individuals would probably never get elected to office;  they would be lost in the feuding of electoral politics and fund-raising and hyper-partisanship. 

While human nature essentially doesn’t change, human behaviors are highly adaptable.  This is true especially when there are powerfully effective incentives and disincentives involved.  As I point out in examining the perspectives of the British economist Arthur Cecil Pigou in Existence, Economics, and Ecological Intelligence, an intelligently prioritized system of “extraordinary encouragements” and “extraordinary restraints” helps to properly reflect both social goods and social costs that are not accounted for in private transactions.  Such incentives are needed because deep interdependencies exist between people, and there are many “spillover effects” of one person’s actions onto the well-being of others, and of activities of businesses onto individuals and society as a whole.

The need for transformation in our societies is growing greater every year as our materialistic focus and myopic willingness to plunder and harm the natural world is causing circumstances to deteriorate.  I am sticking to my belief and hope that Thomas Jefferson was right when he said “I believe that the people, when properly armed with the facts, will come to the right conclusion.”

A Musical Measure of Harmonic Emphasis Arises in These Words

Freedom is the magnetic true north of human beings.  Americans tend to know little of the history of other nations, but there are good lessons to be learned from understanding the struggles of other peoples to achieve freedom.  The true hero in the history of Corsica, for example, was Pasquale Paoli, who lived from 1725 to 1807.  Paoli was a patriot, freedom fighter, effective administrator and great leader who helped throw off the hegemony of Genoese rule after the Italian city-state of Genoa had occupied the island of Corsica for 450 years.  In the course of the long and bloody struggle, the Genovese had used intrigue to exploit the Corsican tradition of retributive “vendetta”.  This practice divided clan against clan, and the Genovese had taken advantage of internecine feuds to keep the Corsican people repressed under the heavy thumb of Genoese military dominance.  The Corsican resistance finally strengthened and united under Pasquale Paoli, and the Genovese were finally forced to leave Corsica and secretly sell the island to the French in 1764.  French military troops then occupied the coastal cities to restore order, and the English later played a significant role in Corsican struggles for independence. 

Under Pasquale Paoli’s moderate leadership, it was recognized that freedom could best be assured by creating a sound economic plan and by reforming corrupt governing institutions.  Paoli made sure that a liberal new Constitution was written, fair rules of law were enacted, the vendetta was outlawed, and shame overcame pride in stopping vendetta murders.  He also brought great transformative change to Corsica in the years just prior to the influence of Napoleon, another famous Corsican, whose glorious story is a much more notorious one. 

Think of those words, “a sound economic plan”.  Pasquale Paoli had worked to stimulate the production of commodities for export in Corsica, including chestnuts, cork, olives, cheeses, citrus fruit, grapes, and both granite and marble.  Note that he did not create gambling casinos, speculative hedge funds or tax shelters, but instead worked to create a legitimate and fair-minded economic plan that balanced taxes with government spending on greater good goals and national security.  By the time the French Revolution took place in 1789, Pasquale Paoli had become regarded as a hero of liberty and democracy in Europe.  His example should be remembered today for his far-sighted thinking and honorably patriotic actions.

Instrumental Arrangements of Popular Music Play in an Elevator Shaft

Here is a curious digression to investigate another colorful character in Corsican history.  It was a man who Voltaire used as a model for the Baron in his famous short story, Candide.  Theodor von Neuhoff was a real-life adventurer from the Westphalia region of Germany who had made the acquaintance of some Corsican rebels and exiles in Genoa.  Theodor persuaded them that he could free their country from Genoese tyranny if they made him the king of the island, and it was thus that he landed a military expedition in Corsica in March 1736 and had himself crowned “King Theodore I of Corsica”.  He issued edicts and waged war on the powerful Genoese, but was actually somewhat of a bumbling personality who had to flee and was later arrested in Amsterdam for large monetary debts.

In the beginning of Candide, the protagonist Candide was a simple young man, the illegitimate son of the sister of Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh.  Candide was living in the Baron’s castle in Westphalia and was being taught by Dr. Pangloss, who declared that “all is for the best … in this best of all worlds”.  At first, Candide accepted this philosophy as true, but as he experienced the horrors of war and poverty and treachery and the general maliciousness of mankind, and the hypocrisy of the church, he began to doubt the veracity of the good Doctor’s philosophic proclamation. 

I myself have my doubts.  Candide was written during the Age of Enlightenment, which was basically a period of intellectual reaction against the stagnation of official approved thought in the late 17th century.  This was at the twilight of rigid orthodoxy during the reign of Louis XIV in France.  This great Age opposed the domineering influence of the Church, though it was not necessarily an anti-religious movement.  It was anti-clerical because, throughout history, when the Church and the established order have collaborated to support each other, it has often been gravely detrimental to the people.

Antonio Genovesi was an eighteenth century Italian writer on political economy and philosophy who passionately believed in the free play of the intellect.  Benedetto Croce once called him “the evangelist of reason”.  Genovesi abhorred dogmas and fixed systems, sharing with all prominent men of the Age of Reason (as the Age of Enlightenment is also known) a robust belief in the virtues of common sense, and of the superior force of a rational and scientific approach to any problem.  Let’s think about this, and turn our attention back to the skirmishes against the prerogatives of females.

The Striking Sounds of an Aeolian Harp and Twelve Lutes Swell in the Antechamber

I’ve repeatedly expressed my astonishment about the seeming commitment of “conservatives” to constrain the options of women in their lives and to limit their access to contraceptives, so now I turn my attention to giant drug companies that promote erectile dysfunction drugs with inordinately frequent and offensively repetitious advertising on television.  Advertisements for drugs like Viagra, Cialis and Levitra present sex as romance, and challenge men: “come on, be a man, get it up!”  And then conservatives demean women for giving in, or being seduced by cunning men, or being plied with alcohol and taken advantage of, or even for being raped. 

The American Academy of Pediatricians has come out with very good reasons suggesting that erectile dysfunction drug ads should not be shown on television until after 10pm.  Young people are vulnerable to being influenced by advertisements because their brains have not yet developed the sophistication to understand the manipulative nature of advertising.  Repeated viewing of these ads tends to make young people think everybody wants sex all the time, or that there is no risk to having sex, or that men should be ready for sex whenever possible.  No mention is made in these ads about sexually-transmitted diseases, or about the costs and risks of getting pregnant, or the dangers of childbirth, or the long-term costs of bearing unwanted children, or any eminently sensible family planning options.

How can we even consider denying women good access to basic healthcare services like those provided by Planned Parenthood?  The idea of denying millions of women access to health care needs, as many Republicans suggest with their plans to eliminate all federal funding of Planned Parenthood clinics, is shortsighted, cynical and misguided, and it is also a form of class oppression because Planned Parenthood primarily helps women who are poor.

Rick Santorum represented people on the Religious Right who are eager to deny reproductive choices to women because they think God wants women to get pregnant, no matter how happy or vile the circumstances may be that result in a woman’s insemination.  Santorum should not have had a chance in hell of being elected to lead our democratic republic, but conservatives and religious evangelicals nonetheless did a surprisingly effective job of promoting his candidacy for a while in 2012.

By opposing contraception, extreme religious conservatives appear to favor Unplanned Parenthood.  Many of them seem to be opposed to people having sex unless it is for the purpose of making babies.  In a classic case of hypocrisy, they oppose family planning and contraceptives at the same time they are pleased that recreational “lifestyle drugs” like Viagra are available to help men get erections.  The fact that contraceptives help prevent unwanted pregnancies, while erectile dysfunction drugs contribute to more of them -- and to more need for abortions -- makes this a bizarrely hypocritical and rather reprehensible position. 

The organization Planned Parenthood provides many vitally important health services to women in the U.S., especially women in lower socioeconomic classes.  A full 97% of Planned Parenthood’s funding is dedicated to non-abortion-related services, which include contraception services, cancer screenings and the prevention and testing for and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases. So, when Republicans oppose Planned Parenthood, they are indeed assaulting women’s health prerogatives. 

Mitt Romney egregiously declared a sexist plan to “get rid of Planned Parenthood” when he ran for president in 2012, and many Republicans in Congress opposed a required re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act.  These facts are truly revealing facets of a real assault on the dignity, personal security and well-being of women.  I feel that all Americans should support more enlightened attitudes and fairer public policies, and refuse to support any politicians who refuse to adopt more respectful and less discriminatory approaches.

The Republican Party has been increasingly championing the interests of the political far right, and of narrow-minded social conservatives and religious fundamentalists.  The highest value of these groups is to gain power and dominion, and to have their narrow views forced on all others.  In this regard, and many others, the Republican Party has become markedly more radical than it was during the years of Ronald Reagan’s presidency.  The Party is so determined to get more power that its top goal has been to make President Obama fail, no matter how negative the consequences may be for the American people.  It has become obstinately uncompromising in obstruction, serving to sabotage sensible policies and harm millions of people.

Several years after these paragraphs were first written, the Republican Party has gotten even more extreme by favoring Donald Trump and Ted Cruz as their standard bearers in the unfolding Republican presidential primaries, and Trump talks of outlawing abortions and punishing women who have an abortion and their doctors.  These are times that try women’s souls.

The Grand Old Party seems to have made a Faustian bargain with the devil by pandering to the Religious Right.  A national newspaper contained a story in late March 2012 about Rick Santorum’s visit to a Jelly Belly candy factory where this genial face of religious extremism evoked an affiliation with the icon of Republicanism, Ronald Reagan.  Santorum made a speech to those assembled, lambasting President Obama for being “weak” and “unprincipled”, and he verbally attacked Mitt Romney for lacking core convictions.  He preached like a Crusading minister, alleging that the most serious threat to America today is the “evil regime” of radical Islam.  In many ways, it can be seen that extremism begets extremism.

Recognize what this means.  The power of Christian fanatics has been strengthened in the U.S. by the opposition of Islamic extremists, who they resemble in curious ways.  This phenomenon is called countersupporting.  When we see Iranian ayatollahs and their brainwashed followers inveighing against “the Great Satan” -- that’s us, folks! -- we should see the mirrored reflection of that mindless antagonism, intolerance, self-righteousness and stimulated fear right here in the Religious Right in America.  Deep psychological and political motives are involved in this state of affairs.  This is the dark underbelly of evangelists who are supposedly “spreading the Good News.”

Attempts to deprive women of dignity and rights are ridiculous.  This issue will be a losing fight for social conservatives.  Too much aggression, boys!  Many proposals and laws that have been enacted in states like Virginia, Arizona and Texas in recent years are too extreme to pass the muster of populist and fair-minded sensibilities, and a well-justified backlash is arising to this male chauvinism.  No one wants harshly prohibitive Shariah-like laws in the U.S., so it is wrong for conservatives to deem repressive legislation acceptable when it comes to women’s rights.  Some of these laws are completely contrary to the ideals and spirit of fairness embodied in our Constitution. 

The “optics” looked very bad when a group of Republican Congressmen refused to allow any woman to testify during a February 2012 hearing about women’s access to contraceptives.  In addition, many outright lies have been told about women and their bodies and their private health matters and Plan B contraceptives.  No matter what spin men use to justify the rigidity of their positions, when they are dishonest, their arguments ring hollow and undermine any legitimacy of their position.  The refusal of these retrogressive “leaders” to allow a woman to provide perspective on healthcare issues that affect them is jarring and offensive.  Change course, Republicans!

The days are coming to an end when the public sphere of law-making, commerce, breadwinning and commerce are so exclusively the domain of men, and when women are relegated to inferior roles.  Women can no longer be kept in submissive roles and restricted to the private realm of domestic life, housekeeping, child-rearing and pleasing men.  A Cult of Domesticity once held that true womanly virtues reside only in piety, purity, domesticity and submissiveness.  Times have changed, and males should begin to courageously support fairer treatment for females.

Equal pay should be given for equal work, and fairer treatment should be accorded to women in nations worldwide with regard to parenting, property ownership, contracts, and marriage.  There should be fairer sexual attitudes and reproductive and economic rights, and sexual harassment, domestic violence against women, and gender discrimination should not be tolerated.  Women should no longer be treated as inferior beings.  The personal IS political.

All the 2012 Republican Presidential hopefuls, especially including Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney blatantly pandered to extreme conservatives.  They disparaged options for birth control and family planning choices, and called piously for a reversal of the pragmatic 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision by the Supreme Court that allowed American women the right to make a choice to get a legal abortion in the first trimester of a pregnancy.  The Roe vs. Wade decision fairly gave women the liberty to have some control over this important, far-reaching and impactful aspect of their lives.

The 2016 Republican primary competition is shaping up to be even more extreme than the one in 2012, with Donald “we have stupid people” Trump attracting support for his inflammatory characterizations of Mexicans.  Remember the 2012 race, when Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and even Ron Paul engaged in “a tireless fight to see that American women have the same rights as Saudi Arabia women.”  This is completely contrary to any fair notion of a proverbial ‘good fight’.  American women value individual rights and freedom much more than Saudi Arabian women, who live in an Islamic theocracy that imposes very strict and repressive laws on them.  In the Saudi kingdom, for instance, conversion by a Muslim to another religion can be punished by death.  That is beyond outrageous, and completely antithetical to respectful freedom of choice, that’s for sure!

In their internecine fight for the GOP nomination, all the candidates battle for the support of hard-core right wing factions of the Republican Party.  Some of them like Mitt Romney in 2012 stated support for positions they probably didn’t honestly believe in.  Flip-floppers!  In this regard, they were emulating the evasions of John Roberts and Samuel Alito during their confirmation hearings in the Senate for lifelong appointments to the Supreme Court.  It might be remembered that these two judicial eminences both claimed a profound respect for precedents in the law, but then after succeeding in getting their nominations confirmed, they have showed their true colors by acting to overturn decades of Supreme Court precedents.  They have consistently ruled in favor of corporations against the people, especially in the corruption enabling Citizens United decision that has had such god-awful effects on politics ever since.  Anyone who is a billionaire or has one supporting them can now stay in the presidential race without actually needing a large number of American citizens to provide financial and popular support for their ideas, positions and candidacies.

Once Mitt Romney finally got enough support to win the 2012 Republican nomination, he then began to face the need to fight for the presidency against incumbent Barack Obama.  This naturally forced him to reset his positions and lurch toward somewhat more moderate political stances. A top Romney advisor had made a revealing gaffe by telling this truth during the primaries, stating that Romney’s positions on issues would be reset like an Etch A Sketch screen after he succeeded in getting the Republican nomination.  Conservatives, especially in the Tea Party, were already unhappy with the Republican field, thinking that it was just not extremely conservative enough, so the idea that Mitt Romney would repudiate positions they hold dear made them frustrated and angry.  They were particularly concerned that Romney would support views that are more moderate during the general election campaign because they want representatives whose positions are etched in stone.  Since many Tea Party types are angry white males, this reinforcement of anger is a potent force -- and a powerful impulse backwards!

With so many Republican politicians asserting that they want Roe vs. Wade to be overturned, it would be a disastrous development for women to elect more of them in future elections.  Such an outcome could send our society back to the days when tens of thousands of women tragically died every year while getting dangerous backroom coat-hanger abortions.

Dissonant Droning Sounds of Monotonous Music Emanate from Within

The values of conservatives have been perverted, corrupted and hijacked by their overarching goal of prevailing over all others at any cost, almost without regard for the degree of negative impacts on others.  The prominent linguist George Lakoff writes about the constellations of values associated with Strict Father worldviews and the complementary opposite worldviews found in Nurturant Parent paradigms.  Neither worldview is absolutely right or wrong, but the extreme focus by Strict Father adherents on achieving supremacy, and their willingness to wreak harm on others to achieve this goal, make these male domineering attitudes distinctly short of fair-minded.  Purity, in this pathetic regard, is distinctly dirty.

Here’s a specific confirmation of this assertion.  The Republican Party has been pandering to narrowly self-interested rich people, social conservatives and religious fundamentalists in its zeal to gain more power.  In making these appeals to people who oppose the Democratic Party, they are simultaneously opposing the fairness principles of democracy itself.  Consider the five primary means by which conservatives are shamefully pursuing the nefarious end of winning at any cost:

(1)  Republicans are trumping up reasons to disenfranchise millions of American voters by enacting new requirements that basically violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  Republican legislators in many states are indulging in a variety of efforts designed to suppress voting by students and poor people and racial minorities, who typically vote for Democrats.  At the same time, Republicans are betraying the trust of the people in the legitimacy of our political system by refusing to support measures to rigorously ensure that voting machines and the processes of counting the votes themselves are not rigged.  And they oppose smart, fair and vitally needed gerrymandering reform.

(2)  The Republican Party opposes governance for the people, insisting instead on governance that mainly benefits giant corporations.  It claims that these organizational entities are actually people that deserve equal protections under the law.  Such calls for equal rights for corporate entities inevitably mean less protection for the vast majority of real people.  Corporations are run by executives who are very undemocratic, serving their own interests and those of shareholders with a narrow focus on profits and the evasion of legal, social and environmental responsibilities. 

(3)  The Republican Party opposes egalitarian measures that involve more progressively graduated tax rates.  Instead, they champion regressive changes in tax laws that would serve to even further concentrate the nation’s wealth in the hands of the wealthiest 1%.

(4)  The Republican Party refuses to ensure the general welfare of the people or champion greater good goals.  It does this by embracing short-term oriented, deficit-financed policies that harm Earth’s ecosystems in order to benefit the Few in a classic “social trap” of irresponsible governance.  While they controlled the White House from 2001 to 2009, they enacted highly regressive tax cuts and significantly increased military spending and ramped up spending on a new entitlement program for pharmaceutical drugs that was designed to give big drug companies maximized profits. These actions have contributed to huge budget deficits in recent years, and Republican politicians now dishonestly decry these shortfalls and disingenuously and dishonestly blame Democrats for them.

(5)  Republicans consistently oppose fairer rights for women, gay people, blacks, Latinos and working people.

These five categories of political ploys, dirty tricks and retrogressive initiatives are wrong-headed and generally mean-spirited.  The winner-takes-all character of our political system is making wealthy people vastly richer at the expense of the well-being and security of the vast majority of Americans.  The corrupting influence of Big Money in our political system has managed to structure the economy to give the lion’s share of the wealth to rich people, and to shift costs to all other Americans and all people in future generations.  Both political parties are culpable in allowing this to happen, but especially Republicans with their ruthless ends-justify-any-means pursuit of power.

According to the satiric Bill Maher, Democrats essentially say:  “Elect us.  We’re lame, but the other guys are nuts.”  There are deep elements of truth in this amusing characterization.

George Harrison’s Guitar Hauntingly Weeps a Sad Song

Before concluding these ideas, it is essential to evaluate the impact that Rush Limbaugh has had on our country and people.  In addition to his “highest-rated talk-radio program in the United States”, Limbaugh hosted a half-hour syndicated talk show on television from 1992 to 1996.  This program was produced by Roger Ailes, the Republican operative who later became the founding CEO of Fox News.  Limbaugh’s TV show was so rudely outrageous that it inspired political satirist Al Franken (now Senator Franken of Minnesota) to write a funny book entitled Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot.

Al Franken pointed out in this book that those who listen to Rush Limbaugh, or who watched him on TV, think they are the best-informed Americans, yet a study of people done at the time of the 1995 healthcare reform debate demonstrated that Limbaugh’s followers turned out to be the least well-informed.  Franken satirically opined:  “Social scientists call this phenomenon ‘pseudo-certainty’.  I call it being a fucking moron”.  LOL.  Can’t we all just get along?

Today, Rush Limbaugh has an audience of many millions of people who seem to believe his every word.  They absorb all his toxic and misleading disinformation as if it were gospel truth.  They do so with a kind of mindless absorption, and sometimes with rabid enthusiasm.  As Al Franken wrote, these Limbaugh fans “voluntarily -- hell, gleefully -- call themselves ‘dittoheads’ in honor of their ability to blindly and uncritically agree with everything that comes out of Limbaugh’s mouth”.  Cue up some righteous exclamations and obnoxiously wild applause!

   “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”

                                                                      --- The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde, 1895

Large amounts of money are being made by “conservative” talk radio personalities and radio stations that are appealing to people who are angry, insecure, suspicious, paranoid or highly prejudiced.  Many of these listeners harbor intolerant sexist, racist, anti-immigrant, anti-liberal, anti-government, anti-gay and anti-environmental sentiments.  So presto! -- Rush Limbaugh has become a shadowy reflection of these darker sides of human nature.  Rush “I’m proud to be an entertainer” Limbaugh mines the veins of narrow-mindedness like the owner of an insidiously destructive mining operation. 

Rush Limbaugh has been working this vein for more than 30 years.  The fact that this vein is more profitable than the veins of liberal views is a curious aspect of American society.  Limbaugh seems, in particular, to relish making fun of women’s contentions that they are often victims of discrimination.  His attitude, though deplorable and rather reprehensible, has been so profitable for Limbaugh that he has made more than $30 million every year for more than a decade on his radio show.

One might wonder how Limbaugh got his start.  Revealingly, it involves the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, an official policy of the Federal Communication Commission from 1949 until 1987.  The purpose of the Fairness Doctrine was to ensure that all radio and television broadcast stations provided a diversity of viewpoints to listeners and viewers.  The Fairness Doctrine stipulated that radio and TV stations must present controversial issues of public importance in a manner that was honest, equitable and balanced.  Ronald Reagan and Republicans decided that the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine would suit their political interests best, being astute in areas of linguistic framing and targeted political messaging and manipulative propaganda.  Limbaugh exploited the repeal of this fairness doctrine better than any other media personality. Freed from requirements to provide rebuttals to provocative opinions, Rush Limbaugh’s reactionary and confrontational style became sensationally profitable, and he soon signed with ABC Radio Networks.  Subsequently he became syndicated by Clear Channel Communications, a radio network now owned by Bain Capital LLC and another private equity firm.  (As of 2014, Clear Channel did a make-over and officially changed its name to iHeartMedia.)

Follow this closely.  Clear Channel started as a Texas company in 1972 with one radio station in San Antonio.  The company benefitted from an Act of Congress in 1996 that deregulated media ownership and allowed a consolidation of media into the hands of large corporate entities.  Not long thereafter, the presence of giant corporations in radio and television broadcasting became overwhelming.  Today Clear Channel owns more than 800 broadcast radio stations, and it wears its conservative biases on its sleeve.  Most of its talk-radio stations feature right-wing personalities like Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and the Savage Nation’s hyper-rude Michael Savage, all of whom seem to practically rant and rave with ill will and pander to a low common denominator of insecurity, paranoia, anger, bigotry and prejudice.  In recent years, crippling debt associated with leveraged acquisitions forced Clear Channel to lay off thousands of employees in what was described as an employment “bloodbath”, and their radio stations have moved to more centralized programming with less local content.

In 2006, Clear Channel was taken private in a leveraged buyout by Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners.  Bain Capital is the private equity company that Mitt Romney and two other partners formed in 1984.  These partners made huge profits from this enterprise, and the money was taxed at historically low rates.  These profits then helped fuel a presidential candidacy that was intent on reducing taxes on rich people even further.

Meanwhile, the conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch from Australia created Fox News Channel, and Fox News has become an astonishingly opinion-manipulative media presence in Britain and the U.S.  Rupert Murdoch, like Limbaugh, exploited the deregulation of media ownership and the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine.  The president of Fox News is the staunch and influential Republican Roger Ailes, whose partisanship has affiliated him with Nixon, Reagan, George H.W. Bush and other conservatives.  A documentary film titled Outfoxed makes a convincing case that Fox News is very far from being accurate or honest, in brash contradiction to its self-characterization as being “Fair and Balanced”.  Nonetheless, it has adopted this slogan to imply it actually fairly presents news stories and issues.

I felt in 2012 that a new “Game Change” was taking place that involved a resurgence of more liberal ways of seeing the world, and greater respect for women’s rights.  One of our Founding Fathers, Patrick Henry once said:  "United we stand; divided we fall.  Let us not split into factions which must destroy that union upon which our existence hangs.”  These are perceptive words, on many levels.  Finding common ground is unquestionably better than allowing ourselves to fall prey to divisive partisanship and intransigent conflicts of interest.  The control of the Senate by Republicans that was won in the November 2014 elections sadly makes this hope much harder to be achieved.

The biggest picture understanding of this real state of affairs is that united, as a species, we can survive, prosper and flourish, while divided by ideology, economic fundamentalism, religious conflicts, fear, hatred and violence, we will be more susceptible to an ignominious and calamitous fall. 

Expansive ideas and forward-thinking fair-mindedness are unfortunately forced to fight an intense rear-guard action against small-mindedness, retrogressive impulses, narrowly focused profit-making, exploitive forces, Super PAC-funded propaganda, and stoked Tea Party fervor.  These forces are hindering our success in uniting to foster greater good goals, and in properly prioritizing them, and in making sure we take into account wisdom, common sense, fair-mindedness and precautionary principles.

A Crooning Vocalist Wails Provocative Lyrics

My shadow side slouches in a barely-glimpsed inner sanctum, hiding behind a carefully constructed and well-balanced natural cheerfulness.  I apparently took a story my father used to tell to heart:  “Cheer up, things could be worse”.  Or perhaps it’s just that I’ve generally enjoyed a natural surplus of serotonin, the hormone that contributes to feelings of well-being.  I have definitely enjoyed an unusual amount of good fortune and have thus successfully managed to avoid traumatic “metanoia events” in my life. 

My father’s story about cheering up was always followed by the punch line, “So I cheered up, and sure enough, things got worse!”  Ha!  Life is, after all, a terminal condition.  Nonetheless, we should in no uncertain terms strive to feel gratitude and appreciation at the potential joys of being alive and the beauty of the natural world.  Sing a song of sixpence!

Think about this concept of metanoia events, which are like mental breakdowns followed by a spontaneous healing process of the psyche.  In this process, the mind strives to get itself together after a traumatic setback, and unbearable conflicts can thus be resolved by embracing feelings that lie beyond previous limitations and stultifying thought patterns.  Those who suddenly convert to another religion often do so because they experience a kind of metanoia when some calamitous trauma or psychological travail befalls them, causing them to be “born again” with a sudden vision of God as a savior.  Thereafter, they are often evangelical in wanting to share their religious beliefs with others, whether the others want to hear about it or not, and whether others want to be affected by the zeal of newfound convictions of sometimes fanatical believers.

A metanoia can turn out to be personally positive to the extent that it transforms an existential crisis into a healthier and more adaptive mindset of perspectives and agendas for action.  A collective metanoia -- a social breakdown -- could, however, be socially catastrophic, because it could lead to serious survival problems for millions of people.  A violent revolution is, in a sense, an instance of collective metanoia.  History shows that during a revolution, wealth is often destroyed rather than being created.  Traumatic events that accompany periods of revolutionary change can be severe for a populace when organizations and relationships break down.  We should thus commit our countries to preventing collective metanoia events by enacting fairer and more farsighted national policies.

On the other hand, a crisis is generally needed to upset established ways of living and behaving, so a collective period of reevaluation is often needed to bring significant changes.  It seems clear that looming demographic and ecological crises are approaching, so we should use our foresight to find the will to champion farsighted changes in our habits and behaviors and politics.  A new regime of smarter incentives is needed to motivate people to alter the aggregate trajectory of our activities.  If we fail to implement these new incentives, we may be faced with a far worse outcome of collective metanoia. 

Perhaps the largest such challenge will emanate from our growing impacts on the global climate.  The month of March 2012 witnessed warm spells that broke 15,000 hot temperature records in the U.S.  The average temperature was almost 9 degrees Fahrenheit above the twentieth century average for March.  The summer of 2012 proved to be unusually hot and drought-like in many locales.  Then 2014 and 2015 became two of the warmest years ever recorded.  These developments should motivate us to come together to implement new policies targeted to mitigate the extent of global warming being caused by our aggregate activities.

Dramatically beautiful Glacier National Park is estimated to have had 150 glaciers in 1850.  Today, there are only 25 glaciers, and they will likely all be gone within 25 years.  New Mexico not long ago suffered the biggest wildfire in the history of the state.  There is a strong correlation of these facts, and a thousand others, to a global warming trend that is accelerating as this century unfolds.  This trend is being caused by two anthropogenic mega-activities:  rash cutting of forests and profligate emissions of greenhouse gases created by the burning of fossil fuels.

Leaders in island nations like Kiribati and the Maldives are extremely concerned about rising sea levels associated with the current long-term warming trend.  In the Pacific island nation of Kiribati, leaders are considering moving all 103,000 of their people to higher terrain in the Fijian Islands.  Intruding seawater has already contaminated some of Kiribati’s underground freshwater supplies and forced some villagers to move.  The writing is figuratively on the wall. 

Just 15,000 years ago, sensationally, the level of the world’s oceans was 300 feet lower than today.  This was due to a tremendous amount of water being locked up in vast ice sheets during the last ice age.  The average global temperature 15,000 years ago was about 14 degrees Fahrenheit colder than today.  The fact that an increase of 300 feet in sea level has been caused by such an increase in global temperatures should provoke us into more boldly striving to mitigate our impacts today.

Corporate apologists and defenders of do-nothing politics and “conservatives” tend to vigorously deny that climate changes are being caused by the global-warming impacts of burning fossil fuels.  It is as if they believe that spewing more than 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year might have no impact, or may not be a problem at all.  These folks generally oppose any measures to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change, even including sensible support for precautionary actions.  Just ask Donald “we need global warming” Trump! 

Humankind is myopically treating planet Earth like a business in liquidation, instead of acting more intelligently and responsibly by treating it as a going concern.  Where money can be made from cultivated ignorance and staunch denials of scientific facts, a long line has formed.  Predictably, the line extends far far back, to the right.

Conservatives like Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe have ramped up anti-science propaganda to benefit their fossil fuel industry supporters and contributors.  Inhofe published a tome titled The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future.  I would be curious to see if the book makes any objective sense, and to see if the Senator gives fair consideration to the many ways that high costs will result from denials of the impacts of our stubborn adherence to the status quo in our national energy policies.  I wonder if Senator Inhofe has given any consideration to the long-term impacts of refusing to take precautionary steps to prevent ecological disasters, or if he provides any assessment of the risks associated with overarching threats like that of natural disasters and species extinctions related to climate disruptions and associated habitat damages. 

In any case, the fact that Senator Inhofe receives many millions of dollars from Big Oil interests makes his conflict-of-interest opinions seriously suspect.  Inhofe became chairman of the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee in January 2015, a disturbing fact because he denies human exacerbated climate change.  He actually asserts that God is in complete control, having once stated: "God's still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous."  Such denial is preposterous, to me, and to almost every scientist and person who thinks critically and objectively.

Truly moral behaviors are those that are consistent with the greater social good.  They are not divine decrees.  To the extent that the consequences of a behavior are more harmful to society as a whole than another behavior, the most harmful behavior is ethically and morally the worst one.

“Moral right action should not merely be a function of theological dogma, or of fear, or of political ideology.  Instead, it should be a function of sociology:  what is right for society depends on the well-being of the majority AND of future generations.  What is right and proper is what is best in the long run.  It is not right to neglect the interests of our heirs in future generations by pandering principally to greedy shortsighted interests today.”

                                                           --- Comprehensive Global Perspective: An Illuminating Worldview

Our worldviews are crucial in understanding ourselves, and they are pivotal in affecting the course of our lives and our relationships with others.  The way we see the world also strongly influences the health of the natural world’s ecosystems upon which we depend, so it is valuable to cultivate the best understandings possible.

The Sounds of Silence Echo with the Crooning of a Passionate Vocalist

The following observation appears in Tall Tales, Provocative Parables, Luminous Clarity and Evocative Truths - A Modern Log from the Sea of Cortez:

Picture this:  There is a story in John Steinbeck’s Log from the Sea of Cortez about a poor Indian boy in the Baja town of La Paz who found a large, valuable and nearly perfect pearl.  This story is a great parable about greed and materialism and false salvation and evil -- AND about the woes that are attendant upon these traits.  In 1945, Steinbeck amplified this Mexican legend into a more complex short story, a novella titled The Pearl, which was published in 1945 and made into a compelling film, La Perla, in 1947.

In this story, John Steinbeck uses the literary device of an evocative song heard in the minds of Kino, a Mexican Indian pearl diver, and his wife.  Kino and his family are so poor that they live near La Paz in a small house made of brush.  Kino’s people, long ago, “had been great makers of songs so that everything they saw, or thought, or did, or heard, became a song.”  Kino had a personal song, one of warmth and security and well-being and hope.  Had Kino been able to speak of it, he would have called it the Song of the Family.  Not long after finding ‘the greatest pearl in the world’, Kino and his good wife Juana began to hear a Song of the Enemy, a song that grew as the sad story unfolds, a story of materialism, deception, cheating, disillusionment, racism, and fateful pursuit.

Curiously, songs upon occasion also spring fully formed into the head of yours truly, Tiffany Twain.  It’s like the elusive ‘race memory’ thing that young Ayla and elders of her tribe experienced in The Clan of the Cave Bear.  The songs that come to me are at times subtle and indistinct.  At other times they are as clear and bold as Beethoven’s symphonies, some of which the great composer imagined into existence even after he had gone deaf.  I recognize haunting passages in these songs from my dream states, and understand the music to be a Song of Everywoman.  The tune begins with a soaring orchestral sound, and swells to a crescendo.  A lovely flute trills happily, and a solo vocalist chants a Song of the Family.  In the background, a rhythm beat includes a full range of bass notes, making me think of a Song of Everyman.  Different segments of the song ring out with sounds of children, of communities, of all human beings, and of the ecological harmony of all life.  It is a song for the ages, with a catchy beat of natural balance.  A cyclical riff of alto sax comes and goes, emphasizing the song’s inclusion of respect for our ancestors, while a tenor sax harmonically intertwines, honoring our descendants.  Let it be!   

A Sliding-Horn Trombone Carries Us toward a Near-Term Conclusion

None of the ideas in this essay should be tied in with that dastardly Communist Manifesto and its political slogan, “Workers of the World, Unite!”  That manifesto was a dangerous ideological proclamation that caused terrible grief in the world, and culminated in a real scary and costly Cold War of hyper-militarized, nuclear-armed superpowers that vied for supremacy.  The economic, social and psychological costs of the Cold War were so high between 1945 and 1990 that they cannot be fully fathomed.  The opportunity costs of this misguided military spending are even higher.

Our political representatives are using the shortsighted and irresponsible expediency of rampant borrowing from future generations to finance on-going high levels of military spending.  The Federal Reserve and speculators in our crony capitalist economic system are also culpable in facilitating this misguided gambit.  The costs of this expedient course of action are unconscionably large.  And the risk of destabilizing the world’s economic system grow year after year as the Fed prints up trillions of dollars of new money to support this risky game.

Karl Marx advocated economic justice with the socialist credo, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”  Today, in capitalist USA, this credo has a jarring sound.  A new and more responsible credo of a fairer capitalist system, according to Shann Turnbull, would be:  “From each according to their interest, to each according to their contribution, provided the basic needs of all are fulfilled.”  Such a principle would be much better than the dominant dogmatic “conservative” credo in the U.S. today:  “From all workers and citizens according to their abilities, to each according to the amount of influence they can wield using their position and money and power.”  

Karl Marx also once expressed the opinion that it is a simple sociological fact that “Social progress can be measured by the social position of the female sex.”  Considering this plausible assertion, it seems clear that American culture has in many ways been undergoing socially regressive changes in recent years.  Domineering influence by males and conservatives in Congress and the military, and on the Supreme Court, and in male-dominated corporations in the media and entertainment worlds, has created a backward-looking backlash against expanded women’s rights that were gained since the beginning of the Women’s Liberation Movement of the 1960s.  The time has come today for a new feminist movement to take hold.  Let’s heartily support it!  

As some of these thoughts materialized into my consciousness, I was lying in a grassy clearing on a vividly green hillside near a clear rushing stream in the springtime.  The character Rodman Ward came to my mind from Wallace Stegner’s novel Angle of Repose.  Rodman Ward was a Berkeley radical of the Sixties who aspired to save-the-world by creating a manifesto that would contain forceful ideas and convincing arguments and even detailed blueprints that would help bring into being the social and political institutions and systems of ethics needed for a more auspicious future. 

Sometimes life imitates art!  Upon occasion I myself feel like a Berkeley radical from the late Sixties rather than an earnest and thoughtful gal from Hannibal, Missouri.  This manifesto is, after all, a lofty, calmly ambitious and almost quixotic endeavor designed to save the world and liberate our collective thinking from the blinders of illusion, materialistic delusion, vested interest propaganda, corporate apologists, self-serving politicians, right-wing commentators, and religious fundamentalist authorities who insist on obedience to the dictates of their all-too-often excessively rigid faiths.

When I think about the 97% of our brain functions that operate at a subconscious level, I try to imagine the complexity involved in the activities of the 100 billion cells in each of our minds.  Hmmm … And then I regard my gently persistent urge to express myself in this manifesto, and am pleased that I have been able to achieve both good fortune and a fair balance in my life, and to do so, so far, in treasured and well-appreciated anonymity.  Once again I remember Leonard Shlain’s observation that every great blessing contains a curse, just as every curse contains a kernel of blessing.  I feel that these ideas are about to go viral, and that they will contribute to the greater good when they do. These perspectives are too important to remain closeted, or to be vulnerable to suppression before they blossom into the greater consciousness.

Inspired by a quote from Mark Twain, I sail boldly on:  “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed with the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did.  So throw off the bowlines.  Sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover.”

The most famous voyage in literature is Homer’s story about Odysseus, the Greek warrior who sailed for ten years on his epic journey home from the Trojan War.  Odysseus had devised the stratagem of constructing a large wooden horse to get into the city of Troy after a long and fruitless siege.  Nikos Kazantzakis wrote his own modern version of Homer’s epic Odyssey, and reputedly rewrote it repeatedly to “broaden its scope, until it came to include all he had ever seen and heard and thought.” 

I myself love expansive understandings, so this concept resonates with me.  Kazantzakis also wrote the great story of Zorba the Greek, a man with a voracious heart and appetite and enthusiasm for life.  The narrator in that story struggles for understanding while he is writing a long and evolving manuscript about Buddha, rationally exploring matters of the intellect, and of feeling, and of the many predicaments of life.  The Dionysian and the Apollonian, once again, are manifested in this novel in a viscerally sinuous dance.

I conclude these Musings by expressing the feeling that I am like a twenty-first century Anais Nin, who observed in Volume One of her published diaries (1931 - 1934):

“There were always in me, two women at least, one woman desperate and bewildered, who felt she was drowning, and another who only wanted to bring beauty, grace and aliveness to people and who would leap into a scene, as upon a stage, and conceal her true emotions because they were weaknesses, helplessness, despair, and instead present to the world only a smile, an eagerness, curiosity, enthusiasm, interest.” 

Well, I’ll be.  I am.  Thanks for reading!                  

       Truly,

          Dr. Tiffany B. Twain  

            Hannibal, Missouri     

              April 16, 2016  (Originally published in 2012)

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“The Earth Manifesto appears to me to be one of the most expansive, inclusive, fair-minded, and potentially transformative set of ideas ever compiled and enunciated.”

                                                                                         --- The Underground Mole

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Disclaimer

I went to confession in a magnificent hilltop cathedral not long ago, and renounced all presumption, so readers can rest assured that it is only the slow pace of my editorial efforts that allows any of it to remain in the expression of these ideas.  I’m a gal who sees herself as distinctly unlike the teachers described by Christopher Hitchens in his English countryside boarding school, who he described as micro-megalomaniacs, or "those who are content to maintain absolute domination of a small sphere".  LOL … !

I have also made a commitment to my personal Muses to try and reduce the widespread redundancies that pervade the various Earth Manifesto writings.  I intend to scrutinize the tone and content of my expressed opinions to make sure they are more scrupulously fair.  Succinct, laconic and Spartan just do not seem to be in my makeup!  If it’s true that “brevity is the soul of wit”, as William Shakespeare asserted it to be in Hamlet, I must be witless.  Then again, Shakespeare’s character Polonius in Hamlet, who proclaimed this aphorism, had a personal propensity to give long and rambling speeches, so the joke may be on us all.  If brevity is the soul of wit, I’ll eat my hat!

Even more humbly I apologize for any tone or content that unfairly maligns or mischaracterizes any of the protagonists or villains in this serious and yet somewhat comedic farce.  The good news is that the natural selection of the passage of time is winnowing out some of the superfluous chaff from the vital seed, and I imagine receiving intelligent editorial feedback from readers someday that will allow a leap forward in conciseness and right perspective that will providentially strengthen the focus and force of these ideas.  Through the power of clarity and fair-mindedness, the transformative power of reasonable ideas may be given wing.  That’s the theory of it, anyway.

(Any volunteers to assist in this?  Help make history!)

 “Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.”

                                                                                                                        --- Oliver Wendell Holmes

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Germinating Ideas for Inclusion Somewhere Herein

 “To deal with radicalism and extremism, we need to deal with economic inequality.  This is what I learned from my experience in Solo and then in Jakarta.”

                                                                             --- Joko Widodo

Another aspect of growing inequality in America is the relegating of black people to inner city ghettos and the failure to provide good schools and fair opportunities to underprivileged people.

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The stakes in the 2016 national election are very high.  Right now, women have a constitutional right to choose to get an abortion under the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.  Donald Trump said he would take away that right, thus criminalizing women's choosing to have an abortion and punishing them for making personal reproductive health decisions.  Trump sure seems to feel a deep level of contempt for women, though it is revealing that he seems to have a great amount of respect for sexy babes with alluring cleavage, like his wife Melania who is 24 years younger than him.

Maya Angelou once said, "When someone shows you who they are, believe them."  When conservative Republicans say they plan on taking women’s reproductive rights away, seriously, we should believe them!

Criminalizing abortion, as Trump suggests, would violate women’s rights and also come with severe health consequences.  A report from the Guttmacher Institute found that highly restrictive abortion laws do not decrease abortion rates, but instead they lead to higher rates of unsafe abortion, and this often has fatal consequences.  Trump admitted that banning abortion would force some women to seek out abortions illegally, but he still said, “We have to ban it.”  The truth is, we don’t have to ban abortions, and it would be in the best interests of society to protect women’s rights to choose to have an abortion in the first trimester of a pregnancy.

Donald Trump has severely criticized the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe vs. Wade that allowed women to get an abortion, implying that he would like to see abortions outlawed.  And once abortions are illegal, he declared that women getting an abortion should be subjected to “some form of punishment”.  When Trump was surprised at the backlash to this statement even from hard-liner conservatives who have been pretending that they care about women’s health, he backpedaled and said that it is the doctors who perform abortions who are the ones that should be punished.  As to the males who get females pregnant in the course of satisfying their sexual drives, Trump makes no suggestion that they should face any consequences.

Think about this.  Trump claims to believe in a “culture of life”, but oddly enough females are not going to have reproductive rights in this culture, for if they get pregnant and are not absolutely willing to carry the embryo for nine months, he thinks they should be punished.  What next?  Shall we condemn every woman that gets pregnant to be responsible for any and every embryo conceived for the rest of her life?

Criminalizing abortion is about sending women or doctors to jail. Defunding Planned Parenthood, and otherwise limiting access to abortion and other health programs, is far worse.  Because history proves that for a variety of reasons, women sometimes will be so desperate to terminate pregnancies that they will seek any available means.  And history proves that when they terminate pregnancies without having access to medical professionals, many of them will die.  What Kasich signed into law, and what Republicans throughout the country are trying to enact, is part of an overall effort to impose capital punishment on women who seek abortions.

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Trump has a bizarre history of preying on people's prejudices and fears, and of sowing discord for personal gain.  He was involved in fanning racist fears in April 2009 after a woman was raped in New York's Central Park, and he has a personal history of using cultural suspicions to achieve narrow advantages.  One victim of this pathetic strategy was aghast at his grotesquely underhanded bullying actions, called them "morally reprehensible".

According to one article in Time Magazine, Trump "hasn't dragooned supporters into believing he's a conservative;  he's leading a willing rebellion against modern conservatism itself."  This is a rebellion against wrongheaded priorities of the conservative establishment that have generally had negative impacts on the vast majority of Americans.  These anger-stoking and frustration-inducing policies are topped by attempts to shred the social safety net to help finance generous tax cuts for wealthy people, along with insidiously harmful outcomes associated with globalization and free trade agreements that have resulted in millions of jobs being shipped abroad.  These and a distasteful smorgasbord of other standard Republican Party policies have angered the electorate, including their tough stands against universal healthcare and contraception and abortion.  Their excessively business-friendly stances and obsequious deference to the banking industry and Big Oil and giant drug companies have thrown sand in the gears of the public's regard for conservative incumbent representatives, and their irresponsible stands against climate action and stubborn opposition against even the most fair-minded federal influence in populist governing are contributing factors to this modern rebellion against the establishment.

Trump recently said, "I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct.  I've been challenged by so many people, and I don't frankly have time for total political correctness.  And to be honest with you, this country doesn't have time either."

In simplistic sound bites, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump characterize political correctness as a danger to America.  They basically advocate racial profiling and harsh prisoner interrogation and no restrictions on Christian hate speech.  But in fact, we are not suffering from an excess of political correctness, but rather a profound paucity of honorable civility and an excessive disdain for Golden Rule fairness and a severe lack of respect for the feelings and destinies of other people -- and of what should be a proper vision of the inalienable rights of others.

Republican presidential candidates are tapping into anger and frustration being felt by millions of Americans left behind in our establishment-oriented economy, and they have ginned up these emotions along with repressed racial prejudices and anti-gay sentiments and white male supremacism and even hateful feelings.

Angry conservatives apparently hate having an undue burden imposed on them that prevents them from indulging in any untethered expression of religious intolerance or sexist attitudes or hateful biases against others.

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The term “civil religion” goes back to the writings of French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau, who ruminated on the tensions that arise when church and state become separate entities.  In American discourse, the term is most closely associated with sociologist Robert Bellah.  In 1967, Bellah characterized civil religion as “a set of beliefs, symbols, and rituals” that was “neither sectarian nor in any specific sense Christian” but nonetheless constituted a shared experience of being American that was inspired by Christian notions of redemption and spiritual fulfillment.  Civil religion casts America as a beacon of secular and sacred hope in a fallen modern world.  In this context, Bellah wrote, “Europe is Egypt” and America was the Promised Land to which “God has led his people to establish a new sort of social order that shall be a light unto all the nations.”  And if this concept seems open-ended and ripe for abuse, that’s because it is.

In his book God and War: American Civil Religion Since 1945, historian Raymond Haberski Jr. observes that civil religion is a “strange beast” that can be appropriated by anyone for any purpose.  “As a hybrid of nationalism and traditional religion, civil religion has an ideological flexibility that is intoxicating because it is so evocative, elastic, and deceptively complex,” Haberski writes.  Moreover, civil religion is “not a set of laws but a collection of myths” such as the idea that America is “the last best hope for mankind,” and these myths can’t be empirically confirmed.  Myths are indeed the key elements in American civil religion.  Religious scholar Richard T. Hughes identifies six core myths that Americans live by: the myth of the Chosen Nation, of Nature’s Nation, of the Christian Nation, of Manifest Destiny, of the Capitalist Nation and of the Innocent Nation.  These myths have been sources of American strength and unity.  But they’ve also been abused by those who would “absolutize the righteousness of the United States,” confuse the ideals of the American creed “with the realities of the present moment” and stifle all dissent.  Enter Ted Cruz.

Ted Cruz packed the speech he gave when he announced his candidacy for president at the extreme religious Liberty University with simplistic and often historically inaccurate myths that are emblematic of American conservatives’ approach to civil religion.  Of course, civil religion isn’t the sole property of the right.  As sociologist Philip Gorski once pointed out, Barack Obama has always filled his rhetoric with “the promise of America.”  "However, just as they are wont to do with Christianity, conservatives boil civil religion in a steaming pot of moral absolutes, anti-intellectualism and redemptionist history until all nuance and context is burned away, leaving a distilled political elixir of fundamentalist dogma that absolves America of any of the human faults that plague other nations."

Cruz had the myth of the Chosen Nation down pat when he claimed that America is “an indispensable nation, a unique nation in the history of the world.” As for the myth of Nature’s Nation, he evoked America as the cultivated political garden of God Himself that, “from the dawn of this country, at every stage… has enjoyed God’s providential blessing.” The myth of the Christian Nation? Cruz parroted the now standard (but historically bogus) right-wing claim that the U.S. “was founded upon” the idea that rights come from a very specific “God Almighty.” Cruz’s reference to the myth of Manifest Destiny was more veiled, but he name-dropped key historical figures such as Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (no doubt for good bipartisan measure) and, of course, Ronald Reagan to reiterate his point that God has blessed every step in America’s development. The myth of the Capitalist Nation came via his railing against standard conservative government bogeymen like “regulators,” “tax collectors” and Obamacare that despoil the purity of the Free Market. Finally, Cruz touted the myth of the Innocent Nation when he claimed that political change will only come from “lovers of liberty” who realize that “God isn’t done with America yet.” Bless their liberty-loving souls.

An America as defined by a future President Cruz is an America that sees itself as blindingly perfect, naively innocent, incapable of critical reflection over both its strengths and weaknesses and utterly convinced of its capacity to shape the world in its own image.  Cruz’s version of civil religion is the ultimate example of how conservatives “absolutize the righteousness of the United States.”  When you believe that God has blessed America from the beginning, you ignore the times that Americans have invoked God to justify the evils of Indian removal, slavery, racism, sexism and environmental destruction.  More importantly, you undervalue the times when Americans have overcome those sins to demonstrate what Abraham Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature.”  When you worship capitalism and tout the United States as the world’s only hope, you ignore the false idols that led to the Great Recession and the bloody folly of the Iraq War that’s left the Middle East in tatters.  When you develop a false sense of American innocence, you view national self-reflection as a weakness.

In the recent past, voters elected a conservative Texas politician who genuflected at the altar of fundamentalist American civil religion, who famously valued faith and ideology over critical examinations of the world’s complexities — and they paid a stiff price.  Here’s hoping that the electorate won’t repeat recent history by elevating Ted Cruz as High Priest of the American civil religion temple. 

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Coral reefs are the crucial incubators of the ocean’s ecosystem, providing food and shelter to a quarter of all marine species, and they support fish stocks that feed more than one billion people.  They are made up of millions of tiny animals, called polyps, that form symbiotic relationships with algae, which in turn capture sunlight and carbon dioxide to make sugars that feed the polyps.  An estimated 30 million small-scale fishermen and women depend on reefs for their livelihoods, more than one million in the Philippines alone.  In Indonesia, fish supported by the reefs provide the primary source of protein. 

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In recent years, bees have been dying at a record pace in a phenomenon scientists are calling “colony collapse disorder.”  The situation is so bad that people have started to dub it the “Bee-pocalypse.”

Now it may be stretching the point to make this observation, but we humans do not want our global population to collapse, so we need to establish robust safeguards against any eventuality that leads in that direction.  

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Climate lawsuit: 

The federal government and major energy companies have lost a legal round in their effort to block a climate change lawsuit by young plaintiffs who contend the U.S. is failing to protect them from the harmful effects of greenhouse gas emissions.  U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin in Eugene, Oregon, rejected motions to dismiss the lawsuit by 21 plaintiffs ages 8 to 19.  The youths contend the release of dangerous carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere is a violation of their constitutional rights.  They are demanding that the government be forced to create a plan that would cut the emissions.

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The pope didn’t change church doctrine on same-sex marriage, but was offering another sign that he’s pushing the church away from cultural warfare and toward a focus on poverty, economic injustice, immigration and the plight of refugees.

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