Tyrants and Damsels and Associated Incisive
An Earth Manifesto essay
by Dr. Tiffany B. Twain
Zen masters and ecological philosophers
agree with alert observers who see that everything on Earth is marvelously and
inextricably interconnected and interdependent.
Everything is hitched together in infinitely intricate ways. The implications of this most fundamental of
all understandings about the biotic underpinnings of our existence run so deep
that they defy our full comprehension.
In the province of ideas, any one organism,
idea or issue is ultimately hitched to all the rest, so any place provides a
legitimate point of entry into everything else.
Therefore, HERE is as salubrious a place as any to begin an exploration
of important ideas that affect the human race.
Let us consider, for instance, the controversy surrounding the story of
Tyrant fungi and Damsel algae.
I love this tale that concerns “lichen
symbiosis”. Biologists once heatedly
debated the nature of this evolutionary phenomenon. To understand it clearly, it helps to know
that there are, for all practical purposes, three Kingdoms in the
classification of all forms of life on Earth:
Animals, Plants and Fungi. About
72,000 identified species of fungi exist in the world, and this narrative deals
with the subset of fungi known as lichens.
There are about 17,000 species of these kinds of life. They generally live on rocks and trees, and
are either crusty or leafy. Their
structure consists of a tough drought-resistant outer fungal layer, called a
cortex, and inner algal partner cells that are protected by the fungal cortex. These algal cells provide sustenance for the
whole lichen by producing nutrients through the almost miraculously
providential biological process of photosynthesis.
Long ago, far back in evolutionary history,
these fungi and algae were independent life forms. Algae are plant species that love moisture
and are able to use energy from the sun to transform water and carbon dioxide
and minerals into food energy. Fungi and
algae have co-evolved together into distinct genetically united species in a
symbiotic relationship that functions as a cooperative win/win adaptation of
the formerly separate species. Lichens
formed through this evolutionary marriage are a mutually beneficial combination
of the descendants of the former fungi and algae species. In the natural world, it is instructive to
note, there are no absolute moralities, and there are no laws or constitutional
amendments against such bonding relationships.
For many decades, scientists had a spirited
debate about the nature of this particular genetically intimate relationship. A prominent English naturalist called it an
“unnatural union" and a “sensational Romance of Lichenology”. Freddie
Fungus and Alice Algae took a lichen to each other, as some aspiring aficionado
of alliterations put it. A
vigorous debate took place that was centered on a theory that was impressively
anthropomorphic: the tough protective
fungus acts as a Tyrant master that is holding the Damsel algae captive. This theory held that the fungus was
exploiting the vulnerable and productive propensities of the alluringly
productive algae. I suppose that scientists
have not actually been able to assign sexes to the fungi and algae, and the
various processes by which lichens reproduce are no doubt significantly less
interesting than those that pertain between a handsome dude and some eager and
comely young lass. (Just sayin’!).
This, however, is neither here nor there.
This story gives us insights into the anthropocentric nature of scientific
debate and philosophical speculation. It also provides us with an enlightening
perspective related to one of many awe-inspiring ‘survival strategies’ that
have been manifested throughout the long history of the evolution of life on
Earth. Books like Richard Dawkins’ Ancestor’s Tale flesh out this
fascinating story, for those whose inquisitive minds drive them to learn more.
This story of Tyrants and Damsels reveals
that human beings tend to see the world in ways that distort its true
nature. This is natural for us because
our frame of reference is a product of how our minds perceive and interpret
sensations and experiences. Our
self-referential perceptions and our systems of belief create worldviews that
are naturally human-centered. We project
our feelings and beliefs and superstitions and moral conceptions onto the real
world. The downside of this propensity
is that we often fail to see fuller, more complex and more accurate
Such projections powerfully affect how we
live in the world, and the roles we play in it.
People from time immemorial have projected anthropocentric archetypes
and stereotypes onto their deities. This
is why gods and goddesses of every culture exhibit human appearances and
motivations and behaviors and emotions and activities and control drives. These projections all have their genesis in
human nature, and are a creative reflection of the human imagination. Our species also tends to attribute human
qualities, sensibilities and feelings to animals, and to forces of nature like
lightening and thunder, and even to inanimate objects. This process of attributing human
characteristics to non-human entities is called anthropomorphizing.
A classic form of the anthropomorphization
of animals is embodied in Aesop’s Fables.
These stories are ones in which human traits and feelings are projected
onto animals. The purpose of these
fables is to illustrate simple moral lessons for people so that they are able
to more easily understand and remember them.
But is the lion really noble? Is
the coyote wily? Are owls wise? Are asses indeed intransigently
stubborn? Our mental projections can
cause us to perceive and interpret the world in ways that we believe our
projections accurately represent reality.
When a violent storm harms people, we may see it as vicious or
malevolent. But is it really?
Caring for Real Life
The purpose of this exploration of ideas is
to shed more light on the most important issues that face humanity. As we launch into these issues, let’s
remember that the most effective way to solve our problems is to begin by
developing clearer understandings of their real causes. We should avoid confusion and delusion about
the true nature of problems or their significance, or else we can end up merely
addressing symptoms instead of causes.
When we fail to understand the actual nature of problems, our efforts to
solve them can be misdirected, poorly prioritized, and woefully
Consider, for instance, the next generation
of American damsels-to-be: the 12
million teenage girls between the ages of 14 and 19. A study done by the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention in 2008 found that an estimated 26% of teenage American
girls had contracted some form of sexually transmitted disease. Twenty-six
percent! This is an unprecedented and extremely serious public health
problem. Protecting our children,
especially our daughters, should be one of the highest priorities of our
families, communities and nation.
We should design our social policies to
ensure that the physical and psychological health of our children are given
high priority. We should NOT make our kids pawns in hot-button ideological
conflicts, nor should we allow misinformation to misdirect public policy. Our kids are, after all, vulnerable and
impressionable young females and males!
To prevent the transmission of sexually
transmitted diseases, many of the people who control our government and
churches say we must focus on sexual abstinence. Social conservatives are often ideologically
opposed to teaching sex education in schools, or to encouraging the use of
contraceptives by people who are sexually active. This is patently wrongheaded. These are doctrinaire extremists who
apparently believe that sex -- one of the most powerful of all natural
biological urges -- can be effectively discouraged by telling boys and girls,
and men and women, to “just say no”.
Yet our entire culture is obsessed with sex
and sexiness. Images of slender nubile
young girls are so pervasively pimped by advertisers that it is impossible to
open a magazine or turn on television or log onto the Internet without being
bombarded by alluring, revealing and sexually suggestive messages. Ooh la la!
Boys and men are subject to these enticing stimuli, and this form of
cultural conditioning stokes already strong biological urges and peer
pressures. These influences encourage
males to “score”, and to get girls to “put out”, or give in, or even just “hook
up” to satisfy sexual impulses. It is
obscene to allow the radical right to control our social teachings and deny
important education to young people when the consequences of ignorance can have
far-reaching effects and implications.
400,000 teenage girls aged 15 to 19 years gave birth in 2009, and more than 80%
of these teenage pregnancies were unplanned, and a large proportion were
there is a remarkably simple reason that social conservatives and religious
fundamentalists advocate the abstinence-only method of birth control. It is an obvious yet astonishing reason: it doesn’t work! This is not just opinion, it is a statistical
fact. And why might these folks promote
a policy that doesn’t work well, given that non-abstinence
is one of the most powerful motivations in relationships between sex-obsessed
males and fending-off females? Again, it’s
simple and obvious. One reason these folks
don’t want the approach to work is because pregnancies produce more children
that can be indoctrinated into religious faith, or into materialistic
consumerism and future profits.
Within: Strict Father vs. Nurturant
Consider for a moment the way we think
about the basic nature of tyrants and damsels.
Tyrants are ruthless rogues.
Damsels are a bit dainty and need a hero to save them when they are in
distress. Language experts can help us clarify
our thinking and allow us to extrapolate our concepts into a valuable framework
of human understanding. The famous
linguist George Lakoff uses psychological underpinnings of family development tendencies
to provide insights into the sometimes contradictory nature of human
motivations. He concludes that there are
two broad contrasting philosophies that relate to ‘Strict Father’ ethics and
‘Nurturant Parent’ ethics.
People who hew to Strict Father
constellations of beliefs are known as ‘conservatives’. Conservatism is characterized by a moral
conception that respects strength, toughness, self-reliance, tradition and male
authority. It is associated with values
that revolve around duty, sacrifice, orthodoxy, self-discipline, and puritanism
as being proper and right. Conservatives
consequently advocate a powerful military and harsh punishment for
wrong-doing; they support the death
penalty; they believe in the rightness
of laissez-faire sink-or-swim economic doctrines and a minimum of regulations
and rules; they demand what is basically
regressive tax reform that emphasizes tax cuts for the wealthy; they want social program spending to be
reduced; they prefer private education
to social investments in public education;
they advocate gun ownership by private citizens with a minimum of
restrictions; they are susceptible to
authoritarianism and dogmatism; they
oddly oppose dignity in dying; they are
often sexually puritanical, so fundamentalists among them adamantly and intolerantly
oppose pre-marital sex, sex education, contraception, legal abortions under any
circumstances, freedom of choice, and civil rights for lesbian women and gay
men; and they effectively believe in a
rigidity of roles for males and females wherein men deserve more control,
power, privileges and pay than women.
People who tend toward a Nurturant Mother
constellation of beliefs are known as ‘liberals’. Liberalism is characterized by moral
conceptions that respect empathetic understanding, nurturance and fair
dealings. It is associated with values
that revolve around social justice, basic human rights, helping others, having compassion,
and demonstrating progressive attitudes.
Liberals tend to champion strong protections for people and the
environment against harm, exploitation and unscrupulous business
activities; they advocate actions and
policies that are consistent with the greater good, like fairness doctrines,
progressive tax reform, tightly controlled military spending, peaceful conflict
resolution, a reasonable safety net of affordable social programs and
intelligent environmental regulations;
they support true justice rather than retributive punishment, and
programs designed to reduce criminal recidivism; they oppose the death penalty; they advocate sensible regulation of
businesses to mitigate the social ills associated with industrialization and
poorly regulated capitalism; they want
greater safety of firearms and a ban on ownership of mega-clip rapid-fire
assault weapons; they believe in public
investments in good education and affordable public schools; they are tolerant of others’ privacy rights
and freedoms to choose how to lead their own lives; and they effectively believe in equal rights
in the relationship between females and males.
They believe strongly that future generations should be protected from
current day practices and policies that are shortsighted and destructive.
The best course for society to follow would
be to choose a healthy, smart and fair balance between conservatism and
liberalism. This balance should be
characterized by individual responsibility and empathetic Golden Rule
consideration for others, and for the greater good. Moderate points of view are critical in
public policy decision-making, and excessive extremism is generally contrary to
the best interests of almost everyone.
The Continuum of
There are no absolute rights and wrongs, so
it is impossible to make objective judgments about whether one moral system is
definitively "better" than another. However, conservatives are
generally much more interested in achieving and perpetuating their own narrow
ends, regardless of how unfair their means may be. Political and cultural conservatives are
therefore much more willing to have people suffer harm in order for them to
dominate public policy. In a dangerous
world, hypocritical self-righteousness and arrogant supremacism are risky
attitudes, and can be highly counterproductive to the formulation of fair and
far-sighted public policies.
The proportion of Americans who believed
that our nation was headed in the right direction fell to an all-time low of
14% in 2009, according to a CBS poll, while 81% said the country was on the
wrong track. Not many people at the time
were Pollyanna-ish about the wisdom of preemptive military interventions, or
inegalitarian economic and social policies, or the irresponsible use of huge
amounts of deficit spending by the government.
Most people were starting to suspect that bubble economics, scheming
fine print provisions in international trade agreements, deregulated banks, the
squandering of natural resources, and activities that harm the environment are
seriously misguided. Only the ignorant,
the gullible and those who are blind believers in propaganda and orthodoxy
still stuck to the opinion that everything was going quite well.
The severe economic crisis that began
unfolding in the autumn of 2008 contributed to this historic gloomy
outlook. Rasmussen Reports in May 2012
reported that the proportion of likely U.S. voters who said the country was
heading in the right direction had recovered to 30%, and it has stagnated in
that vicinity with 28% being similarly optimistic in May 2016. Since the time President Obama was first
inaugurated, this proportion has ranged from a low of 14% to a high of 42%. That’s the current pulse of perception in our
Liberals are still being mercilessly
belittled by conservatives and people in right-wing think tanks, and these
groups tend to have the biggest megaphones for trying to sway public opinion to
their essentially anti-populist propaganda.
As a consequence, most liberals shy away from the label of being liberal
and instead refer to say they are progressives.
In any case, these people look forward, not backward; they welcome new ideas without rigid
reactions; they care about the general
welfare, and emphasize it instead of the prerogatives of the privileged
few; they are concerned about people’s
health, good public schools, meaningful jobs, fair civil rights, citizen
privacy, universal health care, fair housing policies, smart investments in
needed infrastructure, protected women’s rights, sane environmental policies,
and better balanced foreign policies.
The domination of our nation by
Neoconservatives during the period from 2000 to 2008 was not good for our
nation or the world. Neoconservatism is
a reckless right-wing ideology that ironically had its roots in a kind of
intellectual utopian idealism. It
basically held a simplistic idea: after
the Cold War had come to an end, the best and safest situation was regarded as
one in which the ‘good guys’ -- that’s US! -- ruled the world. We would rule nobly, and make the world safe
for freedom and free trade and democracy and laissez-faire capitalism.
We Americans tend to see ourselves as
freedom-loving, honorable, God-approved, morally righteous people. This perspective has unfortunately
contributed to involving our nation in an aggressive global police-action role
and excessively unilateral foreign policies, and this has led to grave
injustices and significantly exacerbated social inequalities. It is an outlook that has served to
perpetuate unjust, exploitive, and oppressive American hegemony over other
nations in realms of military involvements, surveillance, intelligence gathering,
and international economic activities.
Neoconservative policies have been
extremely costly in money and blood and military overstretch and stoked
opposition and risks related to blowback retaliation. The outcome of these unfolding
miscalculations is clear: we rely too
much on “hard power” and pathetically fail in diplomacy and good faith. We are consequently faced with economic
adversities, immoderate geopolitical risk, moral quagmire, environmental
calamities, and detrimentally wrongheaded priorities. Neoconservatism, it turns
out, is not a conservative philosophy, but a deceptive right-wing rationalization
for corporatism, irresponsible profiteering, hubris-filled American supremacy,
expanding inequalities and inequities, short-term-oriented public policies, military
interventionism, repression and political corruption.
Setting Goals and
Improving Our Societies
There is, of course, a degree of tyrant and
vulnerable damsel within each of us. To
achieve a healthy balance in our societies, we need to moderate impulses toward
either unjust domination or cowering acquiescence. We would be wise to mitigate extremes of
Strict Father discipline or Nurturant Parent permissiveness. I strongly believe that our societies should
encourage the freedom and capability of people to actualize the best within
themselves, while also striving to create optimum outcomes for the greater
The devil is often in the details. There are many people on both the left and
the right of the political spectrum who believe in “social engineering”. So the
question is, how can we best decide what directions are most desirable? What changes should we support, and which
things should we actively discourage?
How can we reach a fair consensus on which priorities are the most important? How can we unite people to focus on common
goals, and restructure our societies accordingly, so that our national policies
are more honorable, fair, farsighted and sustainable? And how can we get people to collectively
agree on the best ways of accomplishing positive change?
The first step is to find better ways of
reaching consensus on the common good goals that we regard as most important.
This must involve broad-minded debate, clear thinking, reasonable compromises,
and a passionate commitment to finding win/win solutions. Once we have formulated a smarter master
plan, then it will be easier to stay on track to reform our corrupt system and
restructure our legislative priorities over the long term. This would help us prevent competing interest
groups from selfishly subverting greater good goals. We can most effectively and fairly implement
a more promising master plan by creating powerful incentives and disincentives
to affect the behaviors and activities of the entire populace.
Come to think of it, the best first step to
take would probably be to prevent moneyed interests from using blaring
megaphones to persuade people to support misguided national priorities, and to Move to Amend the U.S. Constitution as
soon as possible to reduce the misguiding influence of wealthy people and large
corporations in determining our laws and national priorities.
We would be wise to integrate the best of
libertarian principles and conservative principles and liberal principles into
our societies, and streamline the government to work better. We should more reasonably balance competing
interests, and do a better job of resisting the influence of entrenched
interest groups that have so successfully distorted our national priorities and
subverted fairness and stimulated inequality and undermined fiscal
responsibility and encouraged military aggression. We should minimize interference of federal
and state governments in people’s lives when it comes to privacy issues and
civil liberties and freedoms of choice.
And we should simultaneously ensure that all people are treated fairly
in educational and job opportunities, workplace safety, legal justice and
Choosing more intelligent and far-sighted
priorities is vital. Almost no one would
argue, in retrospect, that the best way to have improved the world and made it
fairer and safer in the wake of 9/11, given a multi-trillion dollar budget,
would have been by attacking and occupying Middle Eastern countries and thus causing
social, economic, and political turmoil.
George W. Bush had contended, when he was a candidate for president,
that the U.S. should be a humble nation, not an arrogant one. In his campaign rhetoric, he appealed for
voters to support him and said we should be judicious in the use of military
force around the world. As it turned
out, his administration seems to have been radically and recklessly
At half the price of our invasion and
occupation of Iraq, we could have created a more vibrant and ecologically sane
economy, reduced world tensions and instability, upheld our moral standing in
the world, made the United States more equitable and the world more just,
avoided much hostility and recrimination, mitigated serious blowback risks, invested
in independence from our addiction to fossil fuels, reduced deficit spending,
helped strengthen Muslim nations against radicalism, saved the lives of
thousands of our troops and hundreds of thousands of people in the Middle East,
and prevented an incalculable amount of suffering and an untold number of
It would have been much less expensive to
implement a positive program like the Marshall Plan that helped Europe recover
from World War II between 1948 and 1952.
Our goal in that plan was to use financial aid to rebuild war-devastated
countries and forestall hunger, desperation, poverty and potential chaos. Our preemptive wars have contributed to the
opposite outcomes in the Middle East.
They have made refugees of millions of people, increased instability,
and caused a horrifying number of people to feel less secure and more
desperate, humiliated, angry and hateful, thus providing powerful new impetuses
for terrorist groups and their suicidal attacks, and eventually Islamic State
When we followed our invasion of
Afghanistan by a bait-and-switch tactic of attacking and occupying Iraq, this
action proved to be a colossally costly miscalculation. One underlying reason for the launch of the
Iraq war was to forcefully gain control of diminishing international oil
reserves. This strategy was critically
misguided and foolish from the perspective of opportunity costs and adverse
unintended consequences associated with this decision. Have we really in any way meaningfully accomplished
a noble or rational mission?
Let this outcome inform all future war
debates. Join me in being an early
adopter of opposition to the next war,
The Despicability of
Tyranny is about control and domination,
and it can be severely unjust. Human
civilizations have been ruled from time immemorial by real despots who exploit
damsels as well as men and children.
These rulers are pathetic in contrast to the real heroes who save
damsels in distress, like the chivalrous heroes often appearing as protagonists
in myths, legends, novels, melodramas, comic books and movies.
In any case, fungi are not tyrants. There have, of course, been plenty of
tyrannical human beings in the long span of human history, and in the course of
countless human relationships. Our
societies have many times been afflicted by despotism, arrogance and
ruthlessness on the part of those in power.
The abuse of privileges is carried to such merciless extremes that it is
easy to believe that capitalism and our oligarchic political system are fundamentally
predicated upon this propensity to take unfair advantage of others. Capitalize!
It is as if our business and political leaders believe in a divine right
that entitles them to the prerogative of abusing power, externalizing costs,
and enriching themselves and their “friends”, often in a corrupt, harsh or
pathetically paternalistic manner.
Consequentialist ethics would say that
despotism is deplorable in degrees, depending on the number of people that a
tyrant adversely affects, and the severity of the oppression, and the exact
nature of the injustices perpetrated.
The tyrannies imposed by Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse-Tung, Pol
Pot, Augusto Pinochet and Saddam Hussein are among the most notorious and
lethal in history.
During the years of the Bush
administration, some say that government officials were guilty of an especially
cunning tyranny due to their clever marketing, deceptive motives, manipulative
propaganda, dishonest spin, and Machiavellian exploitation of public fears,
patriotic emotions and nationalistic impulses.
These people point to the imperialistic initiatives of Republicans and
their aggression in preemptive warfare, ethics violations, usurpation of executive
power, pandering to the wrongheaded right wing, anti-environmentalism, and
absurdly disingenuous claims of God’s approval.
It is difficult to reconcile the high-minded words of those in the Bush
administration with the unfair quandaries their policies created. At the time, there seemed to be ironic truth
in Albert Einstein’s observation that “Force always attracts men of low
morality”. Years later, Trump, in
spades, has arisen.
form of uncompromising fundamentalism that is adversely affecting the greater
good in the world today is market fundamentalism. There are three primary planks in market
fundamentalist ideologies that generally view any measure that imposes costs or
limits on business as having the effect of "killing jobs" and as
therefore being a bad thing. This is a false
dichotomy between the economy and the environment that has become a
"new-right orthodoxy". The
first plank holds that environmental protections are always bad for the
economy, so they should be adamantly opposed.
The second plank in anti-environmental orthodoxy is uncompromising
antipathy to all regulation. The third
plank is a misguided obsession with absolute private property rights that
features relentless opposition to public land ownership and zoning rules and
environmental regulations. Frederic Rich
expansively explores these ideas in his thought-provoking book, Getting to Green, which has a subtitle, Saving Nature: A Bipartisan Solution.
Authority, Tyranny and
We should not allow our leaders to be
tyrants who treat us as damsels to be exploited. High up in the hierarchy of real tyrants
among us are ruthless followers of control-freak demagogues and those who
zealously promote unrestrained corporatism and take advantage of the darker
expressions of human nature. Joining
these tyrannical individuals are ideological supporters of the Radical Right
and of Manichean fire-and-brimstone preachers who exploit people’s fears. These tyrants manipulate people and hijack
our societies for power and profit, as if satisfying an ego-driven lust for
domination. They abuse their positions
to advance narrow agendas that are often detrimental to the greater good.
When people blindly believe demagogues and
follow authority figures, they become more vulnerable to negative
outcomes. Some of the most manipulative
leaders who have gained influence over others by playing on public prejudices,
anxieties, ignorance and gullibility are:
(1) Adolf Hitler, who was responsible for
killing millions of Jews by asserting that Aryan peoples are superior;
(2) Wisconsin Republican Senator Joseph
McCarthy, who red-baited liberals, intimidated intellectuals and artists, and
hyped people’s fears of communism in the 1950s to gain power and notoriety;
(3) Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, who in
the wake of the 9/11 attacks blamed “the pagans, and the abortionists, and the
feminists, and the gays and the lesbians” and organizations like the ACLU for
making God angry and thus contributing to causing the 9/11 attacks;
(4) George W. Bush and his right-wing
supporters who took advantage of the anxieties and anger that were generated by
the 9/11 attacks to wage a global ‘war on terror’ that has cost trillions of
dollars worldwide and wreaked terrible injustices on millions of people. These policies skewed our national priorities
into a wrongheaded agenda of dominion-oriented hegemony, endless war,
interventionist nation-building, record levels of deficit spending, and
(5) David Miscavige, leader of the Church
of Scientology, who is portrayed by former members of the cult-like Church in
the documentary film Going Clear as a
hyper-manipulative authoritarian demagogue who abuses his power to indoctrinate
believers, control adherents, and both shame and punish those who try to escape
the psychologically and apparently sometimes physically abusive practices of
the Church. He also exploits the
tax-exempt status of the Church of Scientology to amass wealth. And,
(6) The televangelist Texan, John Hagee,
who claimed that Hurricane Katrina was an act of divine retribution by God to
punish New Orleans for its allegedly sinful ways.
John Hagee harangues people with his
fire-and-brimstone preaching to bring attention to his Religious Right
gospel. His goal is to get people to
support his politically extreme ideas regarding social issues and End Time
prophesies and Israel. Presidential
candidate John McCain said in 2008 that he was “proud” and “pleased” to have
John Hagee’s support. Nice! John Hagee strongly advocated that the U.S.
or Israel should preemptively bomb Iran.
He denounces abortion and speaks out against gays and lesbians. He claims that Biblical scriptures, as
interpreted by fundamentalists like him, are absolutely right and should have
overriding authority in our society.
The tax-exempt status of religious
organizations should be revoked when they are headed by bigots and demagogic
leaders like Hagee who interfere in politics, especially when they use their
pulpits to gain power and advance reactionary political goals. John McCain should have been more honest, and
refrained from pandering to zealots like Hagee for purposes so transparently
self-serving and contrary to fairer understandings of the greater good. The American people should recognize the
risks and logical absurdities of allowing our nation to be ruled by those who
pander to religious fanatics and extreme right-wing ideologies and
“It is of
the utmost danger to society to make religion a party in political disputes.”
Earthquakes and Their
A destructive earthquake struck Lisbon,
Portugal on November 1, 1755. In an epic
irony, the strong quake took place at the height of religious masses during All
Saints’ Day, a Catholic holiday that is a commemoration of martyrs and
righteous people. Tens of thousands of
people died as a result of this quake, many of them while attending religious
services in more than 30 churches that ironically tumbled down on the faithful. Divine trick or treat?!
This powerful tremor had its epicenter deep
off the coast of Portugal, and it generated a destructive series of huge
tsunami waves that killed many more people in Lisbon and coastal areas in the
region soon after the quaking had subsided.
Fires also broke out that wreaked further damage and devastation.
Theologians of the time tried to take
advantage of the Lisbon calamity.
Various Christians claimed that God caused the deadly earthquake, and
that God was wrathfully punishing evil and sin in Lisbon, which was one of largest, richest and most opulent cities in Europe
at the time.
Simplistic explanations like this were another form of manipulative
propaganda designed to strengthen the Church’s power over gullible followers.
Philosophers like Voltaire and Rousseau
debated the dominant philosophy of the day, which was that of ‘philosophical
optimism’ and the conviction that ‘all is good’. In 1759, Voltaire wrote Candide, one of the most famous short stories in history, in
response to controversies spawned by the earthquake. The optimistic tutor Dr. Pangloss in Candide repeatedly assures innocent
Candide that this is “the best of all possible worlds”, despite calamity after
calamity after calamity that befalls him.
Another influence on Voltaire’s
philosophical understanding was the savage absurdity of the Seven Years’ War
that ravaged Europe from 1756 to 1763.
Far-flung colonies of European nations were all affected, including
those in America and India, and more than one million people died in this
conflict. Voltaire lampooned extreme
credulousness and simplicity of belief in this great short story.
It is vitally important for us to consider
the dangers of being credulous and having blind faith in shrewdly manipulative
rhetoric and authority figures. Every
time a natural disaster occurs, religious opportunists rush to blame people
whom they hate or can gain power by demonizing.
When they allege that God is wrathfully punishing the victims of such
calamities for their supposed ‘sins’, we should all snap to attention and
reject these biased, reactionary, ignorant and manipulative claims. I urge everyone to embrace more modern and
realistic understandings of cause and effect in the natural world. We would be wise to transcend ignorance,
superstition and prejudice, and strive to make our world a fairer and safer
Mark my words: Religious fundamentalists are already
preparing their explanations of how God will have struck ‘sinful’ San Francisco
after the next big earthquake in Northern California. The debate will rage on for a while, as if
there is some suspicious probability that such an explanation could be true. Right-wing bigots will probably claim God is
punishing San Francisco because it is an epicenter for regional tolerant
attitudes toward lesbian women and gay men, or on account of the 2008 decision
by the California Supreme Court that two statutes barring same-sex marriages
were unconstitutional, or other such things.
It will be similar to the hypocrisy and hot-button prejudices of certain
Religious Right ideologues in blaming lesbians and gays for 9/11, and for
damages done by Hurricane Katrina.
Earthquakes, like storms and volcanic
eruptions, are natural phenomena. They
are not the expression of the
wrath of an angry Supreme Being who causes natural disasters to punish
Some of the most powerful earthquakes ever
to occur in the U.S. took place in Missouri, of all places, when a series of
tremors struck the New Madrid Seismic Zone between December 1811 and March
1812. Let’s harken back to these
events. These earthquakes caused epic
ruptures in the land, and the mighty Mississippi River even flowed backwards
for a period of time. Superstitious
people thought that the devil had come, and imagined that the end of the world
was near. A geographer and geologist
named Henry Schoolcraft was so moved by the calamitous nature of the New Madrid
earthquakes that he expressed his emotions in poetry:
“The rivers they boiled like a pot of
And mortals fell prostrate, and prayed for their souls.”
should feel free to pray for their souls, and the activity apparently even has
positive effects on one's health like some miraculous tonic or placebo, but no
one should make the absurd mistake of thinking that God is going to stop the
eons-long movement of tectonic plates to accommodate their pleading personal
This New Madrid fault zone is still active,
and strong earthquakes will eventually happen there again, sooner or
later. Thus, preparedness is a bona fide
good idea. And it will be preposterous
to blame God for inadequate seismic protections in the building codes! Just ask the 5 million people in China’s Sichuan
province who became homeless in the immediate aftermath of a devastating
earthquake that took place in May 2008.
Many shoddily constructed homes, businesses and schools simply pancaked
down onto their occupants.
When the next quake inevitably hits the
Midwest, preachers will need to be creative and dig deep to come up with an
adequate explanation for why God is punishing innocent and well-meaning and
righteous Midwesterners. After all, in
August 2004, voters in Missouri approved an amendment to the State constitution
that banned same-sex marriages, and many socially conservative Missourians
still righteously oppose allowing gay people to have any fair civil rights or
domestic partnership rights.
Albert Einstein, who was named Time
Magazine’s ‘Person of the Century’ at the end of 1999, once said: "I do
not believe in the God of theology who rewards good and punishes evil. My God created physical laws that take care
of that. His universe is not ruled by
wishful thinking, but by immutable laws."
Our thinking and our human laws should likewise not be driven by
prejudices or discriminatory biases, or intellectual dishonesty, or extreme
inequities. Nor should our laws be
formulated in ignorance, or in accordance with fatalistic beliefs in
supernatural causes of natural disasters.
Projections of belief and doctrine and myth
and fable provide a provocative context for us to question whether our
anthropocentric deities are really the way we picture them. Does God really get jealous or angry? Does God crave recognition, adulation,
worship and glory? Is God really an
all-knowing, all-powerful, and loving entity?
Could God really exist as imagined, for that matter?
There are positive aspects of
anthropocentric convictions that a divine being exists, just as there are
positive aspects of stories told in Greek mythology that a Jungian psychologist
like Jean Shinoda Bolen can salubriously summarize, as she does in Goddesses in Everywoman and Gods in Everyman. There is also affective power in the symbolism
contained in religious legends, morality tales, and other kinds of metaphorical
conceptions and beliefs.
Problems arise in the large subset of
situations where such beliefs are used for harmful purposes, as they have so
often been throughout history. It is
revealing to examine the nature of the things we believe in, and the biases
that are expressed in the narratives we create.
Consider, again, the lichen. Some
lichen species live on trees, but are not parasitic on them and do not harm
their host trees. Mistletoe, on the
other hand, is a parasitic life form that grows on trees, saps their essence,
and can eventually kill them. An
anthropocentric biologist might judge that lichens are nobler than mistletoe,
because in human interactions we generally regard those who make their living
off others without harming them as being better and more ethical than those who
bring harm to those they exploit. Think
about it! (This whole story,
incidentally, casts a curious new light on the tradition of a male deserving
the privilege to kiss a female under a sprig of mistletoe during Christmas
Here in the 21st century, in any case, we
sure could use visionary and farsighted clarity of understanding to properly
prioritize our collective efforts to cope well with arising challenges. We need
to seek unity and consensus instead of focusing on divisive attitudes,
supremacy gambits, absolutist opposition, rash exploitation or other
counterproductive ways of achieving narrow-minded goals.
Honorable Accolades, and a
Furious Fusillade Against Tyranny
Alexandria has been referred to as the “Lady Philosopher” of Classical
antiquity. She was one of the first
renowned female experts on the subject of mathematics and scientific
rationalism. When she was born around
370 CE, the city of Alexandria in Egypt was a cosmopolitan center where
scholars from many civilized countries gathered to exchange ideas. Hypatia's father, Theon, was a distinguished
mathematician and astronomer at the famed Alexandrian Museum, so Hypatia grew
up in an atmosphere of learning and exploration. Her father was an unusually open-minded
person at a time when men dominated the intellectual world, so he encouraged
his gifted daughter to develop her mind and understanding, and thus helped her
achieve academically what no woman previously had. Theon supervised Hypatia's education and
tutored her, passing on his own love of the awe-inspiring beauty and logic of
science to her. In addition to her
training in mathematics and science, Hypatia also received a thorough education
in the arts, literature and philosophy.
father instructed her not to let any rigid system of religion take possession
of her life and exclude the discovery of more accurate scientific truths. Theon told her to "reserve your right to
think, for even to think wrongly is better than not to think at all."
As a part of
her extensive education, she had traveled to Italy and Athens, where she spent
time as a student at the school of Plutarch the Younger. When she returned to Alexandria, Hypatia
became a highly respected teacher of mathematics, astronomy and
philosophy. Scholars, students and
admirers from around the world converged on Alexandria to attend her public
a reputation of dignity and virtue, and she was appreciated and popular because
of her intellectual accomplishments, but she was still vulnerable to a
religious and political struggle that was raging in Alexandria. Because she was a proponent of Greek
scientific rationalism, she made enemies who hated things like open-mindedness,
female empowerment and non-Christian ways of understanding the world, and these
qualities may have eventually become factors in her being assassinated in 415
been founded by Alexander the Great in 331 BCE, and within a century it became
the largest city in the world, “and for some centuries more, was second only to
Rome.” In its early years, it became the main Greek city of Egypt, and was
also home to the largest Jewish community in the world. The Roman
Empire had gained control of Alexandria in the first century BCE, leading to
some intriguing escapades involving Julius Caesar, Cleopatra and Mark
Antony. More than three centuries later,
during Hypatia's lifetime, many Romans were converting to Christianity, but
Hypatia refused to convert because Christians were hostile to what they
condemned as pagan ideas, and they even alleged that these expansive beliefs
caused a gradual weakening of Roman character.
that many Christians disliked Hypatia is because she expressed convictions like
this: "All formal dogmatic religions are fallacious and must
never be accepted by self-respecting persons as
those days was beset by intense conflicts between civil authorities and
religious authorities. The religious bishop Cyril of Alexandria became the powerful Patriarch of
the Church in the city in 412 CE, and began a program of oppression against
anyone he believed to pose a challenge to Christian authority. After some escalating incidents, he expelled
Novatian Christians and Jews from the city, and confiscated their assets in an
early example of extreme anti-Semitism.
Thus Cyril came in conflict with
the civil administration of Alexandria by championing Christian orthodoxy and
rigid hegemony with zealous single-mindedness of purpose.
considered the widely admired Hypatia not only a dangerous pagan but also an
enemy because she had considerable
moral authority and extensive influence in Alexandria, and
she had sided with Orestes,
the Roman governor of the province of Egypt.
everything that is implied by tyrannical control of Egypt by the Church. Orestes struggled against Cyril’s domineering influence, and he “steadfastly resisted Cyril's agenda of
ecclesiastical encroachment onto secular prerogatives”. The conflict intensified.
In March of
415 CE, a mob of Christian zealots formed that was led by Peter the Reader, a
minor cleric and major fanatic. A
frenzied mob seized Hypatia and dragged her into the cathedral of Alexandria,
then stripped her naked and proceeded to dismember her and burn parts of her
corpse. Hypatia's violent death made her
a martyr for her beliefs, and the vile murder has come to be regarded as the
end of Classical antiquity and the downfall
of Alexandrian intellectual life.
later given the title Pillar of Faith
and was made Saint Cyril. He was
regarded as a saint because of his obstinate devotion to political intrigues
that strengthened the early Christian faith, but when I think of the word
“saint”, I think of someone with more admirable humanitarian virtues than the
ruthless Cyril. Interestingly, not all
people admired Cyril’s harsh ways, and in fact, according to Wikipedia, the Nestorian bishops at the Council of Ephesus
declared him a heretic and labeled him as a "monster, born and educated
for the destruction of the church."
A monster and a saint?
"Reserve your right to think, for even to think wrongly
is better than not to think at all."
--- Hypatia of Alexandria, echoing her
Chief Seattle, an American Indian chief of
the Suquamish tribe in the Pacific Northwest, once warned the U.S. government
against the misuse of land, water, air, and animal life. In 1844 he
reputedly said, “Whatever happens to the Earth, happens to the children of the
Earth … All things are connected, like the blood that unites one family.
Mankind did not weave the web of life; we are but one strand within
it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.”
Try to imagine this idea from the
perspective of another species, like polar bears. The intention of the Endangered Species Act
was to protect biological diversity and safeguard the health of biotic
habitats, and to ensure that human actions do not cause a risk-laden unraveling
of the web of life. The Clean Air Act
stipulated that the Environmental Protection Agency, when faced with
uncertainty, must choose standards “requisite to protect the public health …
with an adequate margin of safety.”
an adequate margin of safety! The
Bush administration so politicized the EPA that the agency regularly sided with
Big Business and strived to protect corporate profitability with a negative margin of concern for the
health of citizens or the environment -- or for other species of life on Earth,
like polar bears. In the seven years of
the Obama administration so far, Republicans have shown adamant hostility to
the EPA and the protection of endangered species.
The EPA is supposedly an independent
watchdog agency concerned with the health of people and the environment. But
its administrator under George W. Bush was Stephen Johnson, who acted like a
political operative at the behest of the White House with an a different
mission. He basically opposed all
efforts to ensure protections of the environment from greenhouse gas emissions
created as fossil fuels are burned. He
did this despite an April 2007 Supreme Court decision, which held that the EPA
has the authority to regulate such emissions.
Polar bears, threatened with extinction, if they were able to comprehend
the big picture of human hubris, greed and political shenanigans, would be very
cynical about this. As cynical as a
polar bear can be, anyway. They would
probably think that human beings are obtuse, inimically self-centered and evil
To me, far-sighted and realistic ideas are
important. It is vital that we
collectively begin to live our lives in ways that are consistent with the
greater good over the long run. At the
same time, it would be quite propitious for us to be true to the better parts
of our authentic inner selves. The ideas
in the Earth Manifesto have been set forth primarily to suggest ways that we
can accomplish important goals in this context.
The primary themes of all Earth Manifesto
writings are ecological sanity, principles of Golden Rule fairness, the
well-being of our communities, strategies for peace, win/win solutions to
problems, the advancement of personal freedoms, respect for human dignity, and
an overarching responsibility for the greater good in the long run. Wide-ranging points of view have been
assembled from an extensive diversity of sources to explore ideas aimed at helping
achieve an epoch-defining transition to a fairer and more sustainable
existence. My goal in articulating these
thoughts is to broaden understandings in general, with the hope that this will
contribute to a more salubrious destiny for people alive today, and for those
to be born in the future.
Our Great American Hero
Mark Twain Weighs In
Mark Twain was fascinated by our race’s
place in the universe, and especially by the absurdities of religious myths and
dogmas. He wrote much of his witty
satire, Letters from the Earth, in
the final years of his life. It was
published posthumously in 1962, more than 50 years after he died. This book gives readers entertaining insights
and perspective into the absurd nature of orthodoxy and inflexible dogmas of
established religions. It is an incisive
book that ridicules absurd contentions contained in ‘holy books’. Scriptures are, after all, as Ambrose Bierce
defines them in his Devil’s
Dictionary, “The sacred books of our
holy religion, as distinguished from the false and profane writings on which
all other faiths are based.” That is a
witty way of seeing!
“It ain't those parts of the Bible that I
can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that
I do understand.”
--- Mark Twain
More than 100 years have passed since Mark
Twain wrote Letters from the Earth. We can now see that ridicule has proved to be
inadequate to mitigate the harm that religious fanaticism is causing in the
world. Perhaps Mark Twain was wrong in
his contention that “Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.”
is intense today in many Islamic nations like Syria, Iraq, Yemen and
Libya. While sectarian rhetoric that
dehumanizes the “other” is centuries old, this cycle of demonization is getting
worse throughout the Muslim world. The two most powerful Middle Eastern countries fall on opposite sides
of this sectarian divide, with Iran being predominately Shia and Saudi Arabia
being mostly a form of Sunni. Many experts are concerned that Islam’s divide
will lead to escalating violence and a growing threat to international peace
and security. People in the Western world struggle to combat the
rise of Islamic extremism and the brutality that is being committed in the name
Islamic terrorism is partially a reactive
response to economic, social and military injustices, and to the underlying
strife involved with supremacist gambits of established Western religions. This tactic is making the world increasingly
dangerous by threatening attacks on Western nations and provoking a costly and
violent military and security apparatus reaction. The huge cost of our military interventions
and global standing armed forces is threatening to bankrupt the U.S., an
outcome that would create an even more unstable world and an incalculable
amount of widespread hardship.
Mark Twain has been described as “North
America's greatest Renaissance Man.” He
“traveled the planet, observed and assessed with insight and precision. Nothing he wrote is obscure and little of his
work is outdated.” I aspire to leave
equally significant writings, utilizing Mark Twain’s genius and making use of
many of his salient ideas, along with those of dozens of other eminent
thinkers. The Earth Manifesto is creative
in its organization and the thoroughness of its attempt to assemble productive
ideas. Its interpretation of history
uses extensive portions of the wide body of human thought and philosophy, and
some of humanity’s most visionary understandings, to clarify issues.
Mother Earth Weighs In
The original Earth Manifesto was first
published online in October 2004. It can
still be found linked to Part Seven on the Earth Manifesto Home Page (Book
Nine, The Original Earth Manifesto, is
now available from Lulu Publishing). It
was scanned in online as a PDF file so that it could include some of the
emphatic calligraphy that was typical of early versions of these ideas that
arose before they were put online. This
first version of this manifesto on the Internet consisted of 121 one-page
Soliloquies. Soliloquy #5 had a long
elliptical circle at the top with the title in it: Letters
from the Earth. A rotund
page-encircling dark blue circle appeared below it, containing a
three-paragraph communiqué, signed at the lower right by “Mother Earth”. Here is what Mother Earth told us in this
“Lovely to have you human beings
around! Life has finally achieved a
self-reflective state of consciousness after so many eons, meaning great
recognition for yours truly Mother Earth -- for my awesome beauty, and for the
extraordinary context of existence in the Universe. As a part of physical Nature, I am naturally
utterly indifferent to judging or favoring any particular circumstance or
changes, but I must make one thing perfectly clear: My Gaia aspect -- the sum total of all my
living systems -- loves itself. I love
my beautifully balanced ecosystems, teeming with life in infinite niches, my topography
of magnificent mountains and vibrant valleys and superb seas. Please don’t ruin everything by hunting all
the animals to extinction, by poisoning my life-supporting waterways and
atmosphere, and by myopically modifying and destroying my habitats.”
“My living systems are fabulous sources of
materials for your prosperity and sustenance, like food, fish and timber -- but
they are also vitally valuable in a healthy state for the services they provide
to the human race. Forests help provide
clean water and flood management, erosion control, water storage, regeneration
of the atmosphere, and buffering against weather extremes. Likewise, wetlands, rain forests, wilderness
areas, riparian habitats, coral reefs, symbiotic communities and other healthy
ecosystems are critical for your survival, so I recommend that humanity whole-heartedly
embraces the ideas expressed by Tiffany Twain, and begins to move boldly
towards sustainable and restorative activities.”
up, humanity, your home planet speaks!
You would be wise to rediscover your native reverence for Planet Earth,
the respect and appreciation that were once so germane to your awareness, your
hearts, and your souls. You must, for
your own good, begin a dramatic Ecological Revolution, and enact positive
environmental, economic and social changes worldwide. Commit yourselves to a transformation of
human activities consistent with both your own long-term well-being and that of
the Earth; and also strive to develop
more effective international institutions to help ensure peaceful coexistence
amongst all your peoples and nations.”
--- Mother Earth
Seeking a New
The Renaissance was a cultural movement in
Europe during the 14th to 17th centuries.
It entailed a dynamic flourishing of artistic, social, intellectual,
scientific, and educational innovation.
The great Renaissance followed the Dark Ages, a five-centuries-long period
in which medieval Christianity and the Church dominated “thought” in the
Western world through coercive dogmas, the suppression of “heresy”, terrible
Inquisitions, and a general antagonism to free thinking.
The Renaissance achieved its greatness by
embracing the freedom of thought, and by rejecting the inherently puritanical
and tyrannical aspects of monotheistic religious establishments. Fluid concepts of divinity helped spark
important scientific triumphs of logic and science. This facilitated advances in medicine,
technological innovation, artistic creativity, and even the impetus toward
revolutionary measures of democratic governance.
Today we would be wise to be open to a new
renaissance in thinking so as to cope more successfully with cultural and
environmental challenges that are unprecedented in their global scope. Progress is an adaptive force, but it is
staunchly resisted by change-averse elements of society. Those who stubbornly oppose change are often
backward looking, precisely at a time when we clearly need to be more
open-minded and forward-looking. Seeking
common ground and good will may be the key.
The need for adaptive flexibility grows
greater with every year that passes. We
can no longer afford to stubbornly stay the course. We cannot allow our leaders to cling to traditionalism,
orthodoxy and strict conformity, nor to engage in extreme entrenched
partisanship and opposition to needed change.
All is relative, of course, and there are no absolute rights and wrongs,
but surely there are ways of being that would be more socially intelligent and
collectively propitious. These better
ways of being rarely coincide with staunch opposition to sensible, fair-minded
reform. Whatever circumstances come our
way, we should strive to make the best of them for the whole of society.
Politics and the Curious
Continuum of Differing Perspectives
Every nation’s culture has its own
competing worldviews and continuum of political propensities. Rather than our country being composed of
clearly delineated “red states” and “blue states”, there is within every
community a broad spectrum of perspectives.
Think about people you know in the context
of the political continuum that runs from the radical and freewheeling far left
to the atavistic and reactionary far right.
Don’t people seem to arrive at their personal beliefs less by rational
thinking and sensible reasoning than by their upbringing, cultural
conditioning, peer influences, and a kind of knee-jerk emotionality? Doesn’t there seem to be some sort of
mysterious well-spring of belief systems and personality that appears to be
practically inborn? Recent studies have
found a “startle reflex” that curiously correlates people’s political
perspectives to complex genetically-inherited propensities of temperament. In any case, both nature and nurture are
involved in the genesis of people’s beliefs.
It is rare to see people shift their
attitudes dramatically along the political continuum. When people do change, they traditionally
tend to become more set in their ways.
In general, the more money that people make, the more they are swayed to
the right, where selfish and jealous motives are ensconced in the doctrines of
protected privilege and stubborn defenses of the status quo. I heartily applaud those who are fair-minded
and versatile enough to buck this trend and become more empathetic,
philanthropic and civic-oriented as they get older, or as they become
An Evaluation of
A valuable understanding of the foibles of
politicians was provided by columnist Dan Milbank in Homo Politicus, a book published in 2007. Milbank describes power
and money and status-conscious politicians and their scandalous activities from
the point of view of an anthropologist.
He analyzes characters in ‘Potomac Land’ (Washington D.C.), and
appropriately skews members of both political parties for their ethical lapses,
scandalous behaviors and corrupt political activities. Power abuse and hypocrisy and wrongdoing are
definitely not strictly confined to one party or the other!
The real scandal
in Washington D.C. is not what’s illegal, it’s what is legal for politicians. Super
PAC funding, institutional bribery, political slush funds, travel and golf
junkets, personal expenses foisted onto taxpayers, and ethics code loopholes
are the stuff of legend -- and of entire books like Mark Leibovich’s This Town:
Two Parties and a Funeral - Plus, Plenty of Valet Parking! - in America's
Gilded Capital, and Peter
Schweizer’s book, Extortion: How Politicians Extract Your Money, Buy
Votes, and Line Their Own Pockets.
The wryly witty
Sam Clemens, trenchant in his Twainian humorous perspective, observes:
could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native
Since ‘conservatives’ were dominant in
power for the first eight years of the twenty-first century, and have been
staunchly oppositional since then, scrutiny of conservatism deserves close
attention. Uncompromising stances
fervently taken by badly misdirected Tea Party folks make them complicit in the
undermining of greater good goals.
Honest conservatives have had their honorable principles and
sensibilities exploited and betrayed by politicians who call themselves
conservatives. What treachery this
is! Sensible conservatives should be
outraged and embarrassed.
Voters rejected a “third term” when John
McCain lost the 2008 election, denying Republicans the ability to continue
policies similar to those of the George W. Bush years. Recall again the nature of policies that were
enacted then, under the rubric of ‘conservatism’: highly regressive changes were made in the
system of taxation; the federal
government was made bigger and more bureaucratic and much more intrusive in
people’s lives; ideological initiatives
were implemented that exacerbated social status conflicts and increased
inequalities; the U.S. acted with
arrogance, unjust unilateralism and militaristic hubris on the international
stage, harming our nation’s moral standing;
very irresponsible economic and fiscal policies were pursued; shortsighted initiatives were enacted that
seriously perverted our national priorities and made them into a pathetic
phantasm of responsible propriety; and our leaders stuck their heads in the sand
on environmental issues so as to perpetuate advantages for short-term-oriented
profiteers. Instead of dealing with
difficult choices, our leaders chose to exploit the debt-be-damned expediency
of deficit spending every year since President Clinton ran a budget surplus,
and they failed to establish fairer and more intelligent priorities. It is a pathetic record!
Most of our leaders have been unwilling to
tell people what they need to hear, or to be honest and courageous in acting in
accordance with what would truly constitute the greater good. What the American people need to hear and
know is this: that the government must
become more fiscally responsible, less bureaucratic, more fair in its actions,
less deceptive, more truthful, less secretive, more oriented toward the common
good, less racist, less sexist, and more socially and fiscally and ecologically
responsible. (Good luck on this!)
Political leaders have given big business
more power by failing to enact sensible campaign finance reform, and by
facilitating the unethical efforts of pay-to-play lobbyists and
no-need-to-pay-as-we-go budgetary policies.
The Bush administration in particular jumped wantonly into bed with Big
Oil, Big Pharmaceuticals, Big Brother, polluters, climate change deniers, the
National Rifle Association, corporate Big Media and the enormous
Military/Industrial complex. And
Republican leaders in particular have pandered too egregiously to
fundamentalists of the ‘Taliban wing’ of established religions on divisive
hot-button social issues. Do they not
know that Nemesis, the Greek goddess of divine justice and vengeance, nips at
the heels of hubris, and is likely to exact revenge on those who are heedless?
The Ironic Influence of
the Religious Right on the Republican Party
The fascinating book What’s the Matter with Kansas provides a cogent understanding of
politics in the heartland of America.
Kansas was once liberal, for good economic reasons, and fought valiantly
for the interests of farmers and workers.
But in recent decades the state of Kansas has rejected the economic
self-interest of its people, and this radical about-face seems to have taken
place in response to the triumphant strategy of scheming strategists who have
seen the light of political opportunism as being found in exploiting wedge
issues and pandering to the religious right and the Wichita Koch
The Republican Party has sided with
socially reactionary extremists on the religious right for years. The Party was ironically almost taken over by
fundamentalist religious candidates in the presidential primaries in 2008 when
Mike Huckabee made a strong showing in his efforts to capture the Republican
nomination. Then in 2012, the religious
right showed even greater sway when the self-righteous triumvirate of Michelle
Bachmann, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum briefly dominated those entertainingly
confused and conflicted Republican primaries.
And in 2016, Ted Cruz did ridiculously well in the internecine contest
for the Republican nomination for the presidency. These developments have a ring of poetic
justice to them. Imagine the
headlines: “Republicans pandered
promiscuously but insincerely to evangelicals, but then their party was
co-opted by faithful believers!” Many of
our representatives in Congress today are stubbornly uncompromising Tea Party
In 2008, Republicans chose to pass the
mantle of their presidential aspirations to the supposed “maverick” John
McCain, whose lobbyist-managed campaign championed the absurdity of endless
war, continued unilateral war-for-oil aggression, discriminatory free-market
economics in health insurance, and such things as expanded oil drilling off the
nation’s coasts and even a gimmicky and unwise “gas tax holiday”. McCain basically professed stay-the-course
policies and retrogressive proposals that would perpetuate war, and
disingenuous influence-peddling corporatism and inequities in health care and
the ascendancy of reckless right-wing evangelical religious authority.
Pragmatists like former California Governor
Arnold Schwarzenegger created shock waves in the Republican Party in 2007 when
he warned the GOP that their Party was in danger of “dying at the box office”
by failing to appeal to a wider spectrum of Americans. They haven’t improved since, waging a war
against women’s rights and failing to work together with Democrats to enact
comprehensive immigration legislation.
Donald Trump has brashly exacerbated this problem since declaring his
candidacy in 2015, and his rude brand of politics is exploiting the
frustrations and anger of millions of Americans in a bizarre swindle to gain
domineering power by sowing division and hate and dangerous isolation in the
Efforts to merely re-brand or re-shape the
image of Republicans are inadequate.
Republicans need to be more honest, fair-minded, fiscally responsible,
peace embracing, and oriented toward sensible environmental protections. Substantive changes in our national
priorities are required., and more clever marketing just will NOT suffice! Dark money is promoting narrow causes, but in
distinctly unconstructive ways.
Republican Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia said
in 2008 that the GOP had become such damaged goods that "if we were a dog
food, they would take us off the shelf".
Republicans should stop pandering so exclusively to the right wing and
anti-progressive attitudes and corporate prerogatives and inegalitarian social
policies and ideological partisanship!
I feel strongly that American citizens
should not vote for conservative Republicans until they develop a fairer
platform that is more consistent with the greater good. We should demand that both our Democratic and
Republicans representatives institute Clean Election initiatives and serious
campaign financing reforms. The
corrupting influence of Big Money in our politics is becoming more blatant
every month as Super PACs corrupt our political and judicial systems. The billionaire Koch brothers continue to
lead the way, and this form of reprehensible institutional bribery is
manifesting extremely negative effects on our national politics.
Mere rhetoric, window dressing, and
cowardly baby steps are not adequate to fix the Big-Money-rules system that
dominates our politics and rigs the system against the people.
Can Art Serve Society?
Passion and inspiration are valuable
characteristics in getting things accomplished.
Jack London, one of America’s greatest writers, wrote compellingly of
inspiration. In Martin Eden, a novel that is semi-autobiographical, London’s
protagonist Martin became infatuated with Ruth Morse, a young woman who
inspired him with passionate intensity.
Martin threw himself into trying to improve himself by reading books,
educating himself and trying to make himself worthy of Ruth. Intimidated by her alluring presence, Martin
was “like a navigator adrift on a strange sea without chart or compass.”
But then, “in splendor and glory, came the
great idea. He would write. He would be one of the eyes through
which the world saw, one of the ears through which it heard, one of the hearts
through which it felt.” Passionate
inspiration like this can be the source of much hope in the world, partially
because such influences can be the catalyst for positive changes. Everyone is a bit lost, in the widest of
senses, and these words and ideas are issuing forth to help provide a chart and
compass by which we can better see and more wisely navigate.
that gives me an idea!", as Jack London’s father had a charming habit of
saying, just before he proceeded “to elaborate a beautiful truth or what
appeared to be a fact in nature heretofore overlooked.” Far better societies are within our
reach. It is high time people demanded
them and helped to actualize them. It
seems as though humanity, given a comprehensive and perceptive perspective of
existence, might be able to use insights like those contained in this manifesto
to transform our cultures and societies into fairer, more sane and more likely
sustainable ones. Such ideas are found
throughout these writings and are summarized in detailed plans in Common Sense Revival – Book One of the Earth
Manifesto, and in Part Four online;
see “One Dozen Big Initiatives to Positively Transform Our Societies”,
and the “Progressive Agenda for a More Sane Humanity”.
Let us have healthy and honest debates
about these ideas, and seek a more unified consensus on how we should all
strive to get along better and improve the prospects of well-being for everyone
on Planet Earth, not forgetting all our heirs in future generations.
There will be plenty of challenges for the
human race in the years and decades and centuries ahead without us acting in
ways that create and exacerbate conflicts.
We must come together to seek common ground, and honor fair-minded
Golden Rule principles. We cannot afford
to continue to misunderstand others and fight violently over our differences,
for this makes conflicts worse. Even
without adversarial goading, our explosive planetary population growth and
resource depleting ways and competitive natures are sure to continue to
contribute to the impetus for resource wars and desperate struggles for
The Value of Humor and
Ambrose Bierce, in The Devil’s Dictionary, provides a cleverly insightful definition
that is quite appropriate to failed neoconservatism:
n. A statesman who is enamored of
existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal,
who wishes to replace them with others.”
Ha --- Such satire! Let’s act to honestly replace existing evils
with other things, but let’s replace them with productive, fair and farsighted
national policies! While I have my Devil’s Dictionary out, and am pondering
tyranny, here is another definition to think about:
n. The chief of a nation that prefers
the pestilence of despotism to the plague of
anarchy.” Balance, I say.
Good satire has a constructive
purpose: to criticize with humor and
wit, with the goal of stimulating an improvement in human institutions or
undertakings or activities. Satire seeks
not to tear down but “to inspire a remodeling". Few can deny that our nation and world are in
critical need of a big measure of smart remodeling!
must not professedly teach, and it must not professedly preach, but it must do
if it would live forever.”
--- Mark Twain
A Balance of Security and Liberty!
days before Dwight Eisenhower yielded the responsibilities of the Presidency in
1961, he made a haunting speech about the unwarranted influence of the
military-industrial complex, stating:
an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge
industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and
goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”
put, Ike! We should always remember that
a fair-minded balance between personal liberties and national security should
be a cornerstone of our national purposes.
On Competition and
Competition is a curious thing. Free-market competition is a marvelous
mechanism for creating wealth and jobs, and for compelling people to work
harder. Economists and investors love
productivity gains! But our economic and
political systems are set up primarily to benefit wealthy people and the
investor class, so they are unfairly rigged to give a small minority of people
the preponderance of benefits gained through increasing productivity. The buying power of the average worker’s
wages has been diminishing ever since the days Ronald Reagan embraced economic
elitism and began to dismantle the initiatives that built a strong and vibrant
middle class in America. At the same
time, the costs of living have increased significantly, particularly for
essentials like food, housing, heating, gasoline and healthcare.
Unintended consequences result from all
policy actions. In our late-arriving
efforts to become a little less dependent on fossil fuels, for instance, we
have given large subsidies to producers of corn and other grains that can be
used in making biofuels like ethanol.
This policy has contributed to a spike in demand that has driven up
prices for grains and stimulated speculation, creating growing hardships and
hunger for millions of people.
Inflation in the costs of many basic
necessities dramatically diminishes the economic security of tens of millions
of men and women and children. Personal
economic insecurity is, on the other hand, of little practical concern for the
wealthy. These trends of inequality
should not only be bemoaned, they should be reversed. Farsighted progressive
policies are needed. We must find better ways to prevent shortsighted and
regressive policies from being entrenched.
In an even larger consideration, cutthroat
competition can be seen to be one of the causes of the deterioration of the
global environmental commons.
Collaboration and cooperation are what is most needed to protect the
commons. We must reconcile competing
interests and start to better manage resources, farmlands, fisheries, and old
growth forests. We must give greater
protections to fresh water resources, lakes, rivers, wetlands, coral reefs,
oceans and the atmosphere. We must do
this to ensure future generations that they will have reasonable prospects for
enjoying prosperous and healthy lives.
We must, above all, leave a legacy that is likely to be propitious for the
survival of our species.
To maintain sustainable fisheries, for
instance, sensible quotas should be established and enforced. Likewise, to practice sustainable forestry,
we should manage forests better and protect old growth stands and make sure that
more trees are planted than are harvested.
Also, as the production of greenhouse gases begins to have serious
impacts on weather patterns around the globe, we must take bold steps to reduce
emissions and to mitigate the damages caused by an ominous build-up of carbon
dioxide in the atmosphere. We must
translate “hot air talk” into action.
After the Kyoto Protocol was adopted in 1997 to limit greenhouse gas
emissions, it was ratified by 191 nations, but the United States was not one of
them. We have refused to lead in
precautionary environmental matters, until President Obama began serious
climate change initiatives in his second term and the historic Paris Accords
were signed by almost every country on Earth.
Partially as a result of opposition to sensible climate action,
emissions have continued to increase worldwide, and trends are not
encouraging. Check out the online
We are very fortunate to be living at a
time in history when there is still such a great cornucopia of resources on
Planet Earth. There are so many
marvelous resources to enjoy, so many delicious animals to eat, and so many
yummy crops to consume or to feed to the animals we keep for meat or milk or
companionship. But we cannot assume that
this cornucopia is unlimited, because it is not, and the signs of this are
The issue of Peak Oil is always near the
heart of understandings about the urgent need for changes in our national
policies and collective behaviors. There
are less than 1.5 trillion barrels of identified crude oil reserves left in the
Earth. We are still producing oil in
quantities that allow hundreds of millions of people to fly around the planet
on airplanes in record numbers each year.
It is rather preposterous, however, to presume that we can continue to
stimulate our ravenous demands for this vital but exceedingly dirty resource
without inevitably depleting it. We are,
after all, burning up more than 30 billion barrels of oil each year. A quick calculation reveals that 1.5 trillion
barrels of oil will be used up, at a rate of 30 billion barrels per year,
within 50 years. Even if we drill in
wildlife refuges and national parks and in risky offshore sites and maybe find
another 50 years worth, it is a dirty fuel that is causing negative
environmental impacts. Even if we frack
the hell out of the rocks underground, it would be a precautionary better plan
to wean ourselves from our addiction to fossil fuels by choice, rather than
waiting until we are desperately forced to develop alternatives.
Our entire global civilization is built
upon fossil fuel resources, and yet we are fiddling while we profligately use
them up. Programs to wean ourselves from
this dependency should be accelerated, and most of the recoverable reserves of fossil
fuels should be left in the ground to prevent disastrous impacts of climate
change. Bold conservation efforts, much
greater efficiency of use, and wise investments in the development of renewable
clean energy alternatives should be given urgent priority!
Historical perspective is valuable. We are living in an era that has curious
parallels to the speculative and imprudent Roaring Twenties, just before the
Great Depression of the 1930s. That
decade-long event wasn’t all that ‘great’ for people! President Franklin D. Roosevelt was the
architect of many new economic and social polices that have served America
well. He created the “New Deal” to save
the capitalist economic system from itself by infusing it with sensible
safeguards, and creating more fairness and a social safety net.
The New Deal involved reasonable
regulations, economic recovery programs, and a social security program that
made the capitalist system more responsible to the people. The safety net was fragile for many reasons,
and many influential conservatives have strived to dismantle it since
1980. This backlash against progressive
programs began in earnest with Ronald Reagan, and it has accelerated as rich
people, corporations and ideological market fundamentalists have gained more
The Social Security program itself has
become increasingly unsustainable because it was based on a transfer-of-wealth
plan rather than an honest savings retirement plan. Today, basic economics and demographics are catching
up with the program, highlighting its flaws and vulnerabilities. It is an absurdly shortsighted expediency to
have spent the Social Security ‘surpluses’ year after year after year. Now that more and more people in the Baby
Boom generation are beginning to retire and collect benefits, this financial
problem is becoming increasingly serious.
Shortsighted myopia likewise afflicts
entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid. One good solution would be to completely
divorce healthcare insurance from work by creating a new system in which ALL
citizens would be covered by insurance.
The cost of such a system could be covered by reducing the red-tape
bureaucracy that costs an estimated 25% of the more than $2.7 trillion spent
annually in the U.S. on medical care and insurance. Another idea would be to enact a single-payer
plan and alter the insurance industry with its focus on bigger profits every year and its denials of medical
coverage. Some form of tax on business
could replace the current employer-paid system, which pathetically leaves tens
of millions of Americans without normal medical coverage. We need to somehow fix our unfair healthcare
system, and provide universal coverage.
Deficit spending is a form of accounting
gimmickry that could make all social security programs inadequate as the years
roll by. Check out the documentary film,
In Debt We Trust, to learn about how
sadly misplaced our trust in debt really is.
Debt and hyped-up materialism are a form of bondage. The use of credit cards has been heavily
promoted until it is a thriving industry, but it has become characterized by
excessive fees and usurious interest rates.
The bankruptcy law passed in 2005 benefitted lenders, but was
detrimental to thousands who suffer medical calamities and job losses.
Unsupportable debt is imprudent. Some 30% of Americans have a negligible or
negative net worth. Every man, woman and
child in the U.S. also basically owes a proportional allocation of the national
debt, which comes to almost $60,000 per person (simply calculated: $19 trillion
at the beginning of 2016 divided by 321 million people). The tax and spending policies that have led
to this state of affairs need to be balanced and intelligently reformed.
As a teenager, I greatly respected my great
aunt Aura. She had an indomitable
character and a wonderfully dry and sharp sense of humor. She was wise and thoughtful, and could
articulate an idea so clearly that you nodded your head in recognition and
agreement. She had traveled widely and
led a colorful life, and was exceptionally open-minded for her age. The Depression of the 1930s had strongly
affected her young adult years, so she was very frugal and never extravagant or
wasteful, even long after her financial circumstances had become quite
comfortable. Everyone in more recent
generations could learn some valuable lessons from such a fiscally responsible
shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
--- T.S. Eliot
Prudent fiscal precautionary principles
would include planning ahead for “rainy days”.
It would eschew wildly dishonest and short-term-oriented gimmicks. Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger floated
a proposal in 2008 to fix California’s large budget shortfall by borrowing from
future lottery earnings, and by promoting the lottery to make its revenues
grow. Since lotteries primarily appeal
to people without much money, this shortsighted expediency was particularly
regressive. It was just one in a long
string of short-term-oriented gimmicks designed to appease the populace and
avoid making hard choices required to balance budgets.
Californians, like the federal government,
need to compromise to progressively raise taxes and cut spending to more nearly
balance annual revenues and spending.
Ouch! When such courses of action
are taken, they should be formulated in smart ways, and fair ways that are
reasonable from a long-term perspective.
Maybe we could stop incarcerating so many marijuana users, and eliminate
“three-strikes-you’re-out” sentencing, and reform the extremely costly prison
system, and while we’re at it, reduce the racist underpinnings of the U.S.
Citizens and their representatives need to
prioritize fairly and intelligently. We
can no longer afford to avoid making difficult decisions! Extrapolating California’s lesson to the
national scene, it appears obvious that an even worse plan would be to increase
federal spending and budget deficits while cutting taxes. This tactic may stimulate the economy in the
short run, but it increases the potentials for economic hard times. And it is SO irresponsible to people in the
The Relativity of
There are many ways of evaluating ideas,
and none of them are absolutely right or wrong.
Truth is elusive. When you think about it, simplicity is desirable, but
overly simplistic ideas that ignore real and important facts are
undesirable. “Everything is relative,”
to be sure. Albert Einstein proved this
as a scientific fact in the physical world.
One particularly rich illustration of the
relativity of perception is contained in Zorba
the Greek, the great book by Nikos Kazantzakis:
“It all depends on the way you look at it …
Look, one day I had gone to a little village.
An old grandfather of ninety was busy planting an almond tree. ‘What,
granddad!’ I exclaimed. ‘Planting an almond tree?’ And he, bent as he was, turned round and
said: ‘My son, I carry on as if I should never die.’ I replied: ‘And I carry on as if I was going
to die any minute.’ Which of us was
Zorba looked at me triumphantly and
said: ‘That’s where I’ve got you!’
I kept silent. Two equally steep and bold paths may lead to
the same peak. To act as if death did
not exist, or to act thinking every minute of death, is perhaps the same
During a recent day of lovely, gentle rain,
it seemed to me that there is something about falling rain and rushing water
that accords happily with the soul.
Drought is a threat that affects communities in many places, and this
makes falling rain a boon and an almost sublime affirmation of life. Yet if one were a tourist visiting from
abroad, the rain might seem like a bothersome inconvenience. And if one were homeless, then rain and wind
and cold could be quite miserable. A
fierce rainstorm with violent winds can lash out and seem to be malevolent in
destructive potentiality. Too much rain
can cause devastating flooding -- just ask Texans after another episode of
torrential rains or Iowans and Missourians and others in southern states after
one of the periodic rampages of the Mississippi River!
Consider the relativity of perspective in
geology, the science that studies physical aspects of the Earth. Geologists tell us that earthquakes are
sudden ruptures that occur when tension is released after years of building up
as tectonic plates of the Earth’s crust move past other plates, or subduct
under them. Friction prevents movement
between the rocks of the plates, and there are no sharp, well-lubricated
boundaries between the plates, so they get ‘stuck’ until finally they
snap. The tremors we call earthquakes
are the result.
Californians wonder if there will be
another “Big One” along the San Andreas Fault.
This fault zone is the contact area between the Pacific Plate and the
North American Plate as they move laterally against each other. Many people wonder this, even though
extensive evidence shows that there have been thousands of periodic Big Ones
over the eons as the San Andreas Fault opened up the Gulf of California, and
tore the volcanic Pinnacles in half, and moved Point Reyes far up the coast
from the position it occupied millions of years ago. It is basically a certainty that there will
be many more Big Ones in the next one million years, during which period the
beautiful Point Reyes peninsula will become an island. And within 15 million years, the area where
Los Angeles is now, on the Pacific Plate, will move north of San Francisco,
which sits on the western edge of the North American Plate. Unimaginable?
Incomprehensible? Check the
Visualize the Pacific Ocean drained of
water and seen from high above in an orbiting space capsule. A long line of more than 80 colossal
10,000-foot to 33,000-foot tall conical volcanic mountains stretch in a long
line all the way across the Pacific from the formative Hawaiian hot spot to the
deep Aleutian Trench, where the seamounts subduct on the seafloor down beneath
the North American plate. In 50 million
years, the Hawaiian Islands will be underwater seamounts, themselves
approaching this fate. The oldest
mountain in this chain is the Meiji Seamount, which is about 80 million years
old and lies some 3,600 miles northwest of its formative place above the
Hawaiian hot spot.
These earth movements will occur
independent of whether mankind survives during this eons-long interregnum. In other words, this natural process will
continue to take place whether or not ‘sinful’ human beings survive to live in
the lovely geophysical setting of San Francisco’s Golden Gate.
Geologic time provides us with a
provocative and awe-inspiring perspective:
time is practically eternal. In
contrast, time seems to rush headlong past us in our daily lives, and we are
driven collectively by myopic perspectives and short-term planning. We are particularly shortsighted with regard
to our undisciplined consumer activities and collective lack of willingness to
make much of any “sacrifice” to invest in protecting the environment that
In human affairs, change is accelerating as
our numbers continue to rapidly increase.
We are depleting resources at an unprecedented rate, essentially
blundering into the future. Our planning
timeframe barely envisions next year or five years from now, and certainly not
100 years from now. It makes me think to
myself: “Self, why do people choose to do so little objective good?”
There is so much we should and could be
doing, but NO!, the same old strategies remain dominant. The Establishment consists of vested interest
groups that set all-important aspects of our national agenda. A powerful resistance to changing the rules
of the game prevents us from setting more intelligent priorities and
goals. Because progress is impeded,
risks mount. Conflict escalation is
inevitable as long as we continue to cling desperately and half insanely to the
same old thinking and policies that we’ve been stubbornly pretending are right
and optimum for so many years.
A spectre is haunting Planet Earth -- the
spectre not only of ideologies that promote narrow interests and an excessively
inegalitarian status, but a spectre of obstacles that appear nearly
insurmountable. Limits loom ever more
ominously. We are in the desperate final
throes of allowing old ways of acting and thinking to dominate. We still let
the powers-that-be jealously protect their great advantages and narrow
prerogatives. We allow the international ‘corporatocracy’ to perpetuate
short-term-oriented activities and to resist fair-minded reforms and oft times
to hinder technological innovations like clean energy projects that could lead
us toward a healthier and more sustainable future.
Many people were concerned when the United
States entered a recession in 2008. The
Federal Reserve and the White House and Congress moved quickly to forestall a
slowdown in growth by using huge bailouts and hyper-stimulative spending and
tax cuts. As certain as it is that
strong earthquakes will rock California again in the future, there will
assuredly be economic recessions and depressions again, and they will be
international in scope.
To forestall such eventualities, it would
have been smartest in recent years to invest in America’s human capital with an
improved system of higher education, and to invest in the maintenance of our
national infrastructure. We should have
made bolder investments in innovations designed to achieve independence from
our risky dependence on fossil fuels.
Instead, we have indulged in huge amounts of deficit spending, created
large trade imbalances, squandered trillions of dollars on wars, and clung
stubbornly to extremely inegalitarian ‘trickle-down’ economic ideologies. And we have given huge tax breaks to rich
people, and unsustainably stimulated housing bubbles and stock market
profiteering, and let financial markets be deregulated, and allowed fraud and
abuses of power to take place.
We have also failed to demand strict good
governance measures. We have let our
leaders circumvent rules and regulations that would have made government more
transparent and accountable, and our representatives have made inadequate
efforts to limit interpretations of the Fourteenth Amendment, which some people
claim gives rights of “personhood” to corporations, even though many of the
prerogatives associated with such interpretations involve highly detrimental
social and environmental impacts.
Here is one very good reason to choose
future Supreme Court justices who have less “conservative” ideological biases. It is also a good argument to change the
Constitution to limit the tenures of Supreme Court justices, rather than having
them appointed for lifetime terms. We
need to be able to get rid of anti-adaptive ideological conservatives (“bad
apples as they over-ripen”).
We are failing to formulate ways to ensure
that good citizen goals are achieved. We
are apparently incapable of instituting adequate discipline to check excessive
impulses of consumers, investors, speculators, corporations and dogmatic conservatives. Check out the valuable perspectives of Robert
Reich in his book Supercapitalism to
better understand how our society has chosen to emphasize consumer and investor
goals instead of more important, sensible, honorable and sustainable good citizen
goals. A summary of Robert Reich’s
understandings are contained in Earth Manifesto essays like Optimizing Change Through Clarity of
Awareness and Right Action.
If just 10% of the specific recommendations
in Common Sense Revival (and Part
Four of this manifesto online) were implemented, our nation and the world would
be in much better shape.
In his novel Sweet Thursday, John Steinbeck wrote the following about his female
character Fauna: “It was Fauna's
conviction, born out of long experience, that most people, one, did not know
what they wanted; two, did not know how to go about getting it; and
three, didn't know when they had it."
Ah, sad but true! We humans often struggle to figure out who we
are, and why we do what we do, and what we should really be doing to achieve
greater happiness and to better connect with our authentic inner selves. In times of introspection, we wonder ‘What
Really Matters’? Well, I believe that
larger concerns must gain traction, and that we can and should make a heroic
Apollo-Program-like effort to solve the challenges we face. This, ultimately, is what really
matters. It is my hope that the rambling
thoughts expressed herein will contribute to the larger discourse, and make a
positive difference in the world!
We strut and fret our hour upon the stage
of life, as William Shakespeare so evocatively put it. Our lives pass, slowly but surely, no matter
how well or poorly we do. We can only conclude
that good or bad, right or wrong, worthwhile or useless, certain or uncertain,
meaningful or meaningless, it is incumbent upon us to abide by the implicit
conditions of our flourishing and survival, and to honorably leave the stage in
decent enough shape to those who will follow us that they will have a fair
opportunity for prospering and pursuing their own hopes of achieving happiness
in their lives.
To paraphrase the Common Sense pamphleteer Thomas Paine from the revolutionary days
of our nation’s founding, "These are the times that try people’s
souls". The decisions we make today
will be like words engraved with a penknife on the tender bark of a young oak
tree; the wounds will enlarge as the
tree grows, and posterity will read them writ large as definitive testaments to
our forethought and intelligence, or alternatively as proof of our overly
selfish and foolish shortsightedness.
Let’s choose to carve a more commendable history!
Dr. Tiffany B. Twain
July 2008 (modified
occasionally in 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2016)
Thanks for reading!