Salvation and the Further Adventures of
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.
an empire now.
And when we act, we create our own reality.”
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
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
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
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
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
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”
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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!
Tiffany B. Twain
April 22, 2008