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                    Salvation and the Further Adventures of Humanity: 

             Grasping Reality and Glimpsing the Fairest of Big Picture Perspectives

                                                                An Earth Manifesto publication by Dr. Tiffany B. Twain  

An Essay Contest in Vanity Fair magazine in 2006 concerned a topic that was highlighted by a quote made by a senior advisor in George W. Bush’s administration in 2002.  The aide said: 

“Your judicious study of discernible reality … is not the way the world really works anymore.  We’re

   an empire now.  And when we act, we create our own reality.” 

The Vanity Fair contest posed this question:  “In a nation defined by video games, reality TV, and virtual friendships, and with a White House that has perfected the art of politics as public relations, what is reality to Americans today?  And did we ever have a grasp of it?”

Here was my response to this Essay Contest.

Lo and Behold --- REALITY.   (What a concept!) 

The Universe exists, independent of our perception.  Matter and light energetically speed through space in an unfathomably long galactic unfolding of physical evolution.  Constant motion and continuous change wondrously occur at every level from the subatomic to the macrocosmic, in accordance with apparently unchanging physical laws.  This is awe-inspiring!

Consciousness regards itself.  Hello in there!  Each of us has our own unique personal worldviews.  We are all inextricably involved in our own personal lives, swept up in our individual perspectives and circumstances, vanities, joys, sorrows and troubles.  We are naturally anthropocentric and profoundly solipsistic, so our worldviews are intricately centered on ourselves.  Yet in our hearts we know that larger considerations must ultimately prevail for the good of our communities, and for the whole of society. 

Reason is a process of seeking truth and knowledge by inferring these understandings from fact and logic.  We all attempt to impose simplistic and generally self-centered interpretations upon reality, but the true nature of existence and perception is complex and infinitely more nuanced.  Fact and truth can be difficult to separate from fiction and illusion, so perspective is subjective.  Everything is relative. 

We can grasp reality with better understanding by being more honest in our assessments, and by being open-minded, independent-thinking, and willing to consider comprehensive understandings. 

Clarity of ecological understanding reveals that our fates are intimately tied to Mother Earth.  Human well-being is directly dependent on healthy natural systems and biological diversity.  Nonetheless, we have been myopically and aggressively depleting the resources of planet Earth, and in the process we have been seriously damaging natural ecosystems rather than respecting and protecting them.  Our livelihoods have become disconnected from nature.  Materialism, money, consumerism, conformity, status, belonging and easily-offended pride have unfortunately become our strongest motivators.  This has had very dysfunctional impacts.  We are essentially in denial of ancient truths not to see this, and not to care about it. 

Survival implicitly implies continued existence for endless generations.  This is what survival is.  Survival is continued existence for endless generations.  The best interests of our children, and theirs, and theirs, and theirs, and theirs, and theirs, and theirs, intrinsically represent our most significant purpose.  It is our greatest moral imperative to ensure that the legacy we leave is a planet habitable to our descendents. 

Yet we are collectively acting in shortsighted and expedient ways that primarily benefit rich people, corporations, special interests, and corrupt politicians in the short term.  We are evading the need to deal NOW with enormous social, economic and environmental challenges.  And we are fleecing people in the future by borrowing enormous sums of money from them and squandering resources, failing to invest wisely in conservation, damaging the environment, destroying wildlife habitats, degrading fresh water resources, creating enormous amounts of wastes, toxin and pollutants, and disrupting global weather patterns.  Simultaneously, we are letting our leaders staunchly defend the status quo and allow economic and religious fundamentalists to unfairly influence our policy-making.  And we are accepting the ideologies of those who strongly oppose sensible family planning programs.

It is a sad state of affairs that Homo sapiens are exhibiting such an inadequate degree of sapience that we are ensuring a high probability of terrible consequences for our descendents, rather than acting with foresight and making more salubrious plans.  We cannot continue to be so startlingly negligent.  We must act to minimize the amount of hardship and suffering that will be our legacy to an untold number of people in future generations if we leave them a depleted, polluted, overcrowded and strife-torn world. 

We must reconcile economic progress with environmental and ecological sanity.  Please consider these words carefully.  Our personal beliefs strongly influence our understandings and our actions, so misconceptions can lead to wrong-headed and seriously misguided behaviors.  Our collective destinies are powerfully affected by the choices we make, so it is essential for us to individually grasp more enlightened versions of reality. 

A ‘perfect storm’ gathers on humanity’s horizon.  The number of people alive has doubled in the last 40 years, and is on track to increase by almost 3 billion more people in the next 40 years.  This is causing an unsustainable acceleration in the consumption and depletion of limited non-renewable resources.  Fisheries, forests, minerals, fossil fuels, topsoil and fresh water resources are being used up or damaged.  Rivers, lakes, oceans, diverse wildlife habitats, and even the atmosphere are being harmfully altered and polluted.  And we are foolishly borrowing enormous sums of money from people in future generations to stimulate these activities and outcomes.

The Ecological Footprint calculator at RedefiningProgress.org indicates that humanity is already in an ‘overshoot’ situation.  We are exceeding the annual productive biological capacity of Nature by about 40%.  The need to embrace sensible precautionary principles of environmental protection is becoming increasingly important for us to prevent ominous and irreversible ecological damages. 

More accurate understandings are needed of the benefits provided ‘for free’ by ecosystem services.  When we see the wisdom in more inclusive and comprehensive and all-encompassing ideas, it will give us a stronger impetus to use resources more rationally and intelligently and conservatively. 

Powerful incentives and disincentives should be put in place to motivate people to reduce wasteful usages of resources and the amount of toxins, pollution and garbage that we generate, and to limit damages to Earth’s ecosystems. 

Humanity is collectively faced with this critically serious choice:  we can either proactively make wise decisions to transform our activities into ones that are more socially beneficial, ecologically sound, and  mutually secure --- or we can stay the course, stupidly sticking with business-as-usual activities until devastating crises arise that force change upon us. 

The challenges facing humankind will intensify here in the twenty-first century as competition increases for diminishing resources.  Earth’s population will be NINE BILLION people before the year 2045 (“God willing!?”).  As the crowds of people grow bigger, the urgency increases for us to find more effective, empathetic and emotionally intelligent ways to achieve peaceful coexistence.  Greater injustices are extremely unlikely to be the best way to achieve peace.  We should rightly sow justice to harvest peace.

We must ACT, not just worry or be apologists for the status quo.  Our best hope lies in revolutionary redesigns of our economic and political systems.  If we lend our voices and align ourselves with overarching progressive goals, we can take an important step in helping bring about a better world.  The needs are urgent, and the time to start is NOW.  Let’s demand change from Congress and the White House.  And let’s act to prevent corruption by our representatives, particularly the incumbent insiders in Washington D.C. and the lobbyists who influence them.

Competing interests abound in our societies.  These interests are generally concerned with gaining advantages and special privileges and more power, even when they profess to be concerned mainly with honest principles.  The fairest way to adjudicate between competing interests is to have fair institutions and fair laws that are fairly applied with the purpose of securing the best interests of the common good. 

Our economic and political systems represent the cumulative expression of an infinite multitude of individual human choices.  These systems are being seriously corrupted by deplorable influences like stubbornly regressive ideologies, institutionalized bribery, compulsive greed, unethical profiteering, unbridled corporatism, corrupt cronyism, serious incompetence, extreme partisanship and rash and objectionable abuses of power.   

Our capitalist economic system flourishes with freedom, but it fundamentally disdains fairness and equality.  It is extraordinarily effective in utilizing deep truths about the nature of human motivations, but it is extremely short-term oriented in its perilous spurning of social and ecological exigencies.

Capitalism is an amoral system.  It lacks committed concern for the QUALITY of growth, or for the HEALTH of communities.  It is addicted to growth in profit, and thus to increasing consumption and a growth in human numbers.  It is opposed to conservation.  It thrives on opportunities to exploit undisciplined government profligacy, natural disasters, emergency needs, social turmoil and war.  To maintain such a system, governments act with undue authoritarianism and use distorting perception management, repression, domestic spying, and increasing spending on weapons and the military.

Capitalism also strongly promotes destructive behaviors like unrestrained greenhouse gas emissions that are contributing to dangerous climate change.  By recklessly burning oil, coal and natural gas, we are causing global average temperatures to increase, altering climatic conditions to which all forms of life are adapted.  This risk is being taken to religiously maximize corporate and investor profits, no matter how costly this may prove to be to our societies and our surroundings.  We’re gambling with the future as if we’re betting on games of chance in Las Vegas!

Mere words can scarcely convey the seriousness of the consequences of our foolishly and harmfully allowing pollution, resource depletion, worker liabilities and a range of healthcare costs to be externalized onto society.  By allowing such costs to be excluded from product prices, demand for products is being distorted.  It is the primary purpose of business to maximize profits, so corporations naturally strive to avoid costs.  But this results in socially irresponsible activities that promote the environmentally devastating and unacceptable “Tragedy of the Commons” phenomenon.

The human race is in a classic Bet Situation;  but instead of betting wisely and sanely, we are gambling wildly that we can continue to prosper while accelerating through a bubble of materialistic consumption, profligate resource waste, Peak Oil, unchecked greenhouse gas emissions, industrial monoculture agricultural practices, rapid population growth, increasing social inequities, fiscal hyper-stimulus, ruthless greed, desperate need, species extinctions and the denial of deep ecological truths.

Capitalism aggravates potent age-old struggles.  It facilitates the domination of the envious poor by the jealous rich, thereby increasing inequalities and social injustices.  It helps vested-interest capital to exploit workers.  And it gives the narrow interests of wealthy people and giant corporations far greater influence than it gives to people who have more reasonable concerns for the general welfare.  Government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” has insidiously become government of selfish bureaucrats, by unscrupulous politicians and lobbyists, for rich people and vested interests.

The story of history is filled with such conflicts, and with nations striving to create empires by conquering others.  The supremacist empire-building gambit of far-right German fascism was vanquished only after the cataclysmic violence of World War II, a conflict in which more than 50 million people died.  Capitalism and communism had their own protracted conflict in the enormously costly Cold War struggle that harmfully diverted resources and energies from constructive ends for over 40 years.

Now it is superpower America’s turn to arrogantly strut and fret its hour upon the stage, seeming to overreach in a brutal drive to dominate the world.  This course of action exalts aggression and ruthlessness, and makes global politics increasingly dangerous and unstable.  Economic imperialism, military aggression and evangelical Christian religious fundamentalism are having the highly detrimental effect of goading Islamic extremists.  Terrorism in response reinforces right-wing ‘Stern Father’ American authoritarianism.  This is causing preemptive wars and contributing to political repression.  Pathetic!

Neoconservatives, ‘good old boys’ and the Religious Right work relentlessly to gain and maintain power and to advance this brazenly rash agenda of control and dominion.  By strengthening sentiments of anti-Americanism abroad, these strategies diminish peace, liberty, human rights and true justice.  The political right wing is being discredited by its failure to act in the best interests of humanity and the common good.

Christianity and Islam are the two established religions with the greatest numbers of believers in the world today.  Fundamentalists in both these religions defend their narrow dogmas so strongly that they are willing to do anything to support their belief systems.  This is dangerous, because stubborn opposition countersupports what it opposes, and violence begets violence, and hate generates hate.  Greater cultural conflicts result, and wars become more likely. 

Wars are caused by motives similar to those that stimulate competition among individuals:  the desire for food, land, water, resources, fossil fuels and control, together with acquisitive drives and ethnocentric pride.  Governments have the same instincts as individuals, but with less restraint, because they are strong enough, or brazen enough, to defy interference with their will -- and because international laws and institutions are inadequate.  Overarching moral codes are too weak to wield an effective deterrent force.  Militarism in defense of economic and religious fundamentalism leads to heightened international tensions, social instability, and greater insecurity for all.  This is shortsighted and unsustainable.

War is the ultimate expression of competition.  Inadequately regulated capitalism consequently undermines peaceful coexistence.  It is true that excessive regulatory red tape and inefficient bureaucracy can be wasteful, but honest and sensible regulation of commerce is simply a must to ensure fair, peaceful and mutually secure societies.  Responsible public stewardship must trump private profit in our policies.

Military aggression is about the worst of international crimes.  It represents an ultimate and terrible form of unfairness and injustice.  War allows a nation to use unscrupulous means to accomplish mercenary and supremacist ends, no matter how unjust, violent, destructive, devious or vindictive it may be to achieve these ends.  War also facilitates profligate waste, obscene profiteering, and extensive environmental damages.  It invariably results in war crimes and horrible casualties.  God forbid it!

We have entered a new era of globally interconnected and interdependent realities in which economic, technological, demographic and geopolitical realities are all shifting.  These new realities require that we prevent all international aggression, and dare instead to defy a thousand precedents by cooperating together to apply Golden Rule fairness to other peoples and nations.

Corporations, as the world’s dominant economic institutions, have power so great that they now largely dictate decisions to their supposed overseers in government.  Corporations are thus dictating to governments, and governments are acting without fair discipline or restraint.  The dangers here are obvious.  All our principal institutions --- corporations, government and churches --- seem to support a status quo that is foolishly aggressive, self-righteously conflict-oriented, and inadequately committed to the common good.

A shift in our national focus to give greater priority to healthier communities, respectful relationships and mutual security would pay handsome dividends.  Doctrines that are, in contrast, antagonistic and bullying and provocative and disenfranchising and humiliating all have the effect of ensuring more intense and costly future conflicts.  We would be wise to focus on making better friends, rather than creating more enemies.  Imagine!

Imagine a world in which evangelical enthusiasm was dedicated to reason and understanding and Golden Rule fairness, rather than to blind faith, inflexible dogmas, and serious inequities.  Imagine a world in which people are more important than profits, and the common good is valued more highly than private privilege and short-term oriented prerogatives.  “Imagine all the people, Sharing all the world …”

John Lennon was a musical genius, and a humanitarian artist.  Yet the Nixon White House considered him a national threat.  Why?  Powerful leaders, jealously protective of their power, see populist movements, peace advocacy and visionary understandings as threats to their power, dominion, and ability to wage war and increase opportunities for war profiteering.  This is one reason the American political establishment tends to suppress truths, deceive the people, and oppose initiatives that support fairness and equality.

Our leaders are generally more concerned with good press than good results.  They distort reality, spin the truth, and wage war on science.  They use self-serving propaganda, misleading rhetoric, slick public relations initiatives and deceptive misinformation.  They refuse to admit mistakes or be held accountable for their actions.  They strive to make Americans think that hard-nosed and selfishly partisan policies are right and proper.  The Executive Branch of government has aggressively expanded its prerogatives in the past 7 years, disdaining Congress and the American people and upsetting the Constitutional checks and balances that were providentially designed by our forefathers to prevent abuses of Federal power. 

These characteristics severely harm our democracy.  This situation is made worse by the control of television and radio stations by giant corporations.  Corporate interests are vested in keeping things the way they are.  Media consolidation has led to a diminution of diversity in news coverage.  Even PBS news broadcasting was found to under-represent public interest groups and women and minorities in favor of Republicans and “stay-the-course” war advocates in recent years.  Only with truly fair and balanced reporting, and responsible journalistic integrity --- and a guaranteed freedom of the press --- can citizens be properly informed, and consequently make better decisions.  

Stunning contradictions exist between American ideals, myths, actualities and deeds.  Our identities have always been characterized by a degree of delusion.  We delude ourselves to think that our American identity encompasses the highest principles of democracy, justice and peace.  This delusion is a largely a cynical myth that denies the truth that our ruling elites are becoming increasingly corrupt, ruthless, authoritarian and anti-democratic as our rulers become increasingly desperate to secure their power.  Such characteristics have historically pertained during endgame stages of Empire.

Confusions in self-perception are arguably being dramatically amplified today through monomaniacal Machiavellian machinations by our shrewdly calculating leaders.  We definitely shouldn’t believe everything we have been indoctrinated to think!  The radical right has hijacked America in the wake of the shocking tragedy of the 9/11 attacks.  They have collaborated to stimulate and exploit people’s fears and insecurities.  They have helped to blatantly stoke divisive hot-button social issues, and used highly manipulative tactics to fool Americans into accepting a tsunami of harsh, discriminatory, wrong-headed and regressive strategies. 

Serious consequences are resulting.  Appalling abuses of power are emboldened.  Justifications are advanced for preemptive war, offensive militarism, government intrusiveness, the suppression of dissent, human rights violations, illegal ‘extraordinary renditions’, and prisoner torture.  Public resources and taxpayer funds are squandered for private benefit and pork barrel projects.  Fiscally irresponsible expediencies are indulged through profligate spending and huge amounts of new national debt, and disparities in wealth between the rich and poor are strongly stimulated. 

These shortsighted, inegalitarian and divisive doctrines distort our collective grasp of reality.  They divert us from proper courses of action.  Recognizing this, we should dedicate ourselves to clearer awareness and visionary reforms.  Stubborn adherence to orthodoxy and the status quo must be rejected.  New ways should be found to honor true values that serve to improve our societies.  Expansive thinking and longer-term planning must be an overarching principle in our policy considerations. 

Bertrand Russell gives us pause for thought when he opines:  “The fundamental cause of trouble in the world today is that the stupid are cock-sure, while the intelligent are full of doubt.”  Let us not fall into the tempting narcissistic trap of judgmental moral absolutism, whereby we regard ourselves as good and others as evil.  All is not black or white;  and we must not treat others as being “either with us or against us”.  The line between good and evil runs through each and every one of us.   

Religious orthodoxy puts mythology, superstition, and unquestioned doctrines and beliefs on a footing equal to reason and rational coherent thought.  Such sloppy thinking and erroneous understanding would be acceptable if the effects of this comforting belief system were primarily benign -- if, for instance, they mainly created joy, peace, happiness, cooperation, harmony, positive identity and social benefits.  But in the world today, established religions are becoming increasingly evangelical, self-righteous, intolerant, manipulative and discriminatory.  Detrimental impacts result that include ignorance, humiliation, hate, terrorism and militarism.  This needlessly undermines true justice and peace.

The religious myth of End Times is as absurd as the dogma that holds that the Earth is Biblically young rather than unfathomably old.  Unfortunately, ‘rapturous’ and calamitous End Times could become a self-fulfilling prophecy to the human race.  We assuredly have become capable of destroying ourselves, and of taking the majority of other species of life on Earth with us in a grand extinction event like thermonuclear war or a population collapse caused by climate change or ecological overshoot. 

The Earth will almost certainly continue to orbit around the Sun for another few billion years, no matter how long we survive to bear witness to it.  What would the Buddha say?  We must attain a more enlightened long view.  We can no longer be so naïve as to believe the notion that we will be able to self-servingly squander the astonishingly providential cornucopia of resources found on our home planet without terribly handicapping the prospects of those who will follow us for untold generations.  Moderation, discipline, and a commitment to conservation must become ascendant.

Our economic and political systems need to be restructured so that socially and ecologically positive ends take precedence over harmful behaviors.  Our renewed national purpose should be to use intelligent foresight to make better choices.  Our overarching goal should be to find positive incentives to motivate people to live more responsible and sustainable lives, and to create societies that are more just and conducive to peaceful coexistence.  Live and let live!

Respectful cooperation, consensus seeking and constructive diplomacy should be cultivated.  Far-sighted initiatives should be implemented, including publicly financed Clean Elections, “greener” laws, smarter energy plans, fairly and rationally prioritized planning, more progressive taxation, balanced budgets, stronger protections of human rights, more affordable public education and universal healthcare, programs that ensure greater fairness of opportunity, generously supported family planning programs, and true mutual security in foreign policies.

For a road map to a more intelligently planned future, check out the detailed and valuably insightful recommendations that are contained in the One Dozen Big Initiatives to Positively Transform Our Societies, and in the Progressive Agenda for a More Sane Humanity at www.EarthManifesto.com.

Nobel prizes are awarded annually to people who “have conferred the greatest benefit upon mankind”.  Let’s elect leaders who are likely to nobly confer benefits upon all of mankind through statesmanship and positive vision.  In particular, let’s avoid choosing politicians who deceive us and lead us into war based on wrong-headed ideologies or lies or hidden motives.  We should reject leaders who are corrupt bullies, and those driven by ruthless avarice, arrogant impulses to abuse power, unfair prerogatives, blind obedience, harsh inequities, uncaring injustice and stupid shortsightedness.

Virgil, the Roman poet of antiquity, said that “We make our destinies by the gods we choose”.  We are all dreamers, and we must dream up new paradigms and priorities in our societies to reflect choices that are the wisest.  We must begin to make the best of whatever comes our way.  Maybe we should ask the Dalai Lama! 

Ideas are powerful.  Accurate perspectives and clear understandings are vital.  Reason must rule, guided by integrity, decency, and a constructive and compassionate dedication to Golden Rule fairness.  Critical thinking, broad-mindedness, clarity of vision, wisdom, and innovative social action are essential to the flourishing and future well-being of the human race. 

Herein lies our hope for true salvation!

    Yours Truly,

        Dr. Tiffany B. Twain    

           Hannibal, Missouri               

               April 22, 2008