A Feminine Vision
of an Achievable Better World: Anima
Earth Manifesto publication by Dr. Tiffany B. Twain
name is Tiffany Twain. I am the
philosophical great granddaughter of the Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known
by his nom de plume, Mark Twain. It has been 106 years since Mark Twain died
on April 21, 1910, and the global challenges collectively facing humanity today
are much larger in magnitude than the ones that affected the world during the
great author’s life. The incisive
perspectives of Mark Twain are being reincarnated and reinvigorated in the
Earth Manifesto to be brought to bear upon the global economic, social, environmental
and political problems of modern times.
For an in-depth understanding of Mark Twain’s ideas, entertaining points
of view, and relevant perspectives, see A
Quite Curious and Illuminating Biography of Mark Twain.
feminine vision of a practical and achievable greater good in the world is
presented in this essay as a valuable way for us to intelligently address the
daunting existential predicaments that we collectively face. One of the underlying ideas of all
understandings in the Earth Manifesto is that, for humanity to survive and
prosper, it will be necessary for us to create fairer societies that are more
peaceable, more environmentally responsible, and more likely to be indefinitely
sustainable. To best accomplish this
overarching goal, we need more accurate, open-minded and enlightened
understandings about reality. And we
must demand that the dysfunctional nature of our economic and political systems
be seriously reformed.
“The status quo has many guardians, but the
future is an orphan.”
--- Timothy E. Wirth, United Nations Foundation and Better World
is growing increasingly important for us to balance the desperate needs and
compelling desires of the more than 7.4 billion people alive today with those
of the estimated 14 billion people who will be born in the next 100 years. Our collective needs should also be balanced
with the countless people who will follow them, if we are somehow able to manage
to leave a planet that is habitable enough to support them. We cannot afford to continue to shackle
ourselves to a status quo that is primarily oriented to protecting the
interests of bankers, CEOs, shareholders, insiders and the wealthiest 1%. We would be well advised to stop encouraging
profit making on wasteful uses of natural resources like fossil fuels. And we should find better ways to shift our
economies to healthier and more sustainable activities, rather than continuing
to stoke profligate consumerism, allow predatory banking, engaging in armed
conflicts, promoting gambling, and encouraging addictions like eating unhealthy
fast foods and using immoderate amounts of alcohol and drugs.
manifesto contains wide-ranging and far-reaching ideas about how to improve our
societies. These ideas are summarized
in specific detailed plans for a better future in Common Sense Revival (Book One of the Earth Manifesto, and Part
Four online). The implementation of
sensible ideas like these would help ensure that human civilizations act in smarter
and more sustainable ways, rather than continuing to undermine the prospects of
people in future generations and to foist inimically deleterious impacts on
intuition tells me that a more “feminine” approach of sensible collaboration
and fair-minded compromise would be the most propitious way to address growing
global problems. Enough yang! More yin!!
Feminine approaches are a more desirable mode of action than encouraging
the perpetuation of the macho status quo of ruthless competition, exacerbated
conflicts, increasing inequalities, extreme political partisanship, abuses of
power, repressive rule, uncompromising aggression, hubris-driven militarism,
religious intolerance, and suicidal terrorist opposition.
live in the world without becoming aware of the meaning of the world is like
wandering about in a
greatlibrary without touching the books.”
--- The Secret Teachings
of All Ages
and vitally important perspectives are contained in this Feminine Vision. My hope is
that millions of people will eventually stumble upon these ideas -- and give
careful consideration to their implications.
“Good friends, good
books and a sleepy conscience; this is
the ideal life.”
--- Mark Twain
Note that when leaders evoke hope and
empathetic understanding in the people of a nation, the people tend to respond
by supporting fairness-oriented progressive causes. When leaders conversely stoke fear and hostility, people react to
this manipulative tactic by supporting extreme "conservative"
ideologies and more authoritarian rule.
This is one of many reasons that the American people should choose
Hillary Clinton to be the next president of the United States, and to reject
the alarming bid for power by the deceitful D.J. Trump.
peoples were much more attuned to the natural world than we are today. They were aware, for instance (if they lived
anywhere north of the equator), that every star in the night sky always appears
to revolve around the North Star each night.
It turns out, of course, that there is a very good explanation for this
phenomenon. The North Star happens to
be located in a position in the sky that is nearly directly aligned with the
Earth’s axis, so as the Earth spins around this rotational axis once every 24
hours, the North Star appears to be stationary, and all the other stars appear to
revolve around the North Star, even as they maintain a fixed positional
relationship with each other.
Scientists call the North Star “Polaris”, and inform us that it is 2,500
times more luminous than the Sun. Since
Polaris is 430 light years from the Earth, it seems to be only a relatively
bright star, but it conveniently appears to be the brightest star in the region
of the sky where it is located.
peoples saw patterns in the stars of the night sky and regarded them as
constellations that they named after imaginary projections of a Zodiac of
mythological deities and creatures. My
own favorite constellation is Cassiopeia.
In Greek Mythology, Cassiopeia was a beautiful and vain queen of
Ethiopia. Poseidon, the ruling god of
the sea, was said to have placed Cassiopeia in the heavens as a punishment for
her having boasted that she and her mortal daughter Andromeda were more
beautiful than the purportedly lovely divine sea nymphs, the Nereids. Another of those mythological outrages! The story of Cassiopeia is also a parable
that warns us that vanity can enmesh one in big troubles!
consists of a group of five bright stars that appear to form a skewed W-shape
in the night sky that is visible from everywhere in the northern
hemisphere. It is a constellation that
can be seen on a dark and starry night standing out from a wide swath of dense
background luminosity that extends across the heavens. This swath of distant lights is the central
spiral disk of the Milky Way, our home galaxy.
Surprisingly, humankind had no idea that the Universe was vastly more
extensive than the Milky Way galaxy until the 1920s, when the famed astronomer
Edwin Hubble, a Missouri native, proved conclusively that the Milky Way is
actually only one galaxy of hundreds of billions of them in the Universe.
lower three stars in Cassiopeia form a triangle that can be used to triangulate
across the sky to locate the North Star.
The Big Dipper is the other main constellation of stars that is
traditionally used to locate the North Star.
Conveniently, when the Big Dipper is descending toward the horizon to
disappear for the night, Cassiopeia is rising in the northeast and can come to
the rescue of navigators and others who seek directional guidance.
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of
strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of
nature -- the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”
--- Rachel Carson
The issue of guidance seems to me to be
vital to humanity. We collectively
could use much better guidance than we have gotten from our political and
religious leaders during the past 100 years.
Bad guidance seems to rule the day almost everywhere. This appears to be due to the fact that
nations worldwide tend to be frequently driven by masculine forces that are
hyper-competitive, exploitive, domineering, greedily money prepossessed,
materialistic, nature-defiling, destructive, oppressive, patriarchal,
misogynistic and militaristic. It is
time that we allow feminine forces to be empowered that give much greater
respect to cooperative problem-solving and collaborative efforts that will be
successful in more fairly addressing the escalating global problems we
The propitiousness of guidance physically
found in the night skies points to this broader need for better and more
ecologically sane guidance for each of us individually -- and for all of us
collectively -- in the face of daunting existential challenges. We are like lost lambs, a flock of insecure,
needy and sometimes deluded animals that are being exploited by ruthlessly powerful
overlords and corporations to satisfy their greed and lust for greater wealth
and privileges. Our shy bleating voices
are ignored, and shrewd players manipulate us for their own narrow benefit in
our capitalist economic system and our money-corrupted politics.
History Provides Us with Great Lessons, and We Should Heed Them!
Many of my philosophic understandings have been informed by a couple of
renowned historians, Will and Ariel Durant.
Their slender book The Lessons of
History is a marvelous distillation of big picture things they had learned
throughout 40 years of working on a collaborative study of history. Will had discovered early in his life that he had “a persistent penchant
for philosophy”, and it thus came to pass in 1926 that he wrote the fine book The Story of Philosophy. This book served the noble purpose of
popularizing philosophy for the general public.
Will conceived of philosophy as “total
perspective.” It should be clear that
the Durants were not naïve. They began The Lessons of History with some Hesitations in Chapter 1, readily
“Our knowledge of any past events is always incomplete, and probably
inaccurate, beclouded by ambivalent evidence and biased historians, and perhaps
distorted by our own patriotic or religious partisanship. Most history is guessing, and the rest is
prejudice. Even the historian who
thinks to rise above partiality for his country, race, creed or class betrays
his secret predilection in his choice of materials, and in the nuances of his
adjectives. The historian always oversimplifies,
and hastily selects a manageable minority of facts and faces out of a crowd of
souls and events whose multitudinous complexity he can never quite embrace or
comprehend. -- Again, our conclusions from the past to the future are made more
hazardous than ever by the acceleration of change. In 1909 Charles Peguy thought the world had changed less since
Jesus Christ than in the last thirty years.”
Will and Ariel Durant saw that evaluating history was a process of
ferreting out real facts, which is an art of establishing a meaningful order
from the chaos of materials. They also
saw that historical perspective can provide philosophic understanding and
enlightenment. “In history, as in
science and politics, relativity rules, and all formulas should be
suspect.” History plays havoc with our
generalizations, and breaks all our rules;
so we should learn to respect one another’s delusions, they say. As their Hesitations
come to an end, they observe: “only a fool would try to compress a hundred
centuries into a hundred pages of hazardous conclusions. We proceed.”
interesting sidelight, Will Durant had suggested that a movement be started
against racial intolerance, and he outlined his ideas for a “Declaration of
Interdependence”. He helped establish
the Declaration of INTERdependence, Inc.,
and it was launched at a gala dinner in March 1945 that was attended by over
400 people. This Declaration was even
read into the Congressional Record in October 1945.
Interconnected and interdependent, all of us proceed through the
minutia of our daily lives, usually without alert awareness. But here we are, embarked on an interlude of
larger considerations, and I hope everyone will be able to approach “total
perspective” a little more clearly.
Anima Should Reign
Each and every person has both
male and female aspects of their true inner selves. These natural aspects of our beings are complementary, and they
have both light sides and dark sides.
And it so happens that our cultures often either suppress feminine sensibilities or dismiss them as something
impractical or irrelevant, or inferior, or shameful.
The masculine and feminine aspects of our
subconscious are influenced by genetic predispositions and hormones, and even
by the functional structure of our brains.
During early stages of development, we all internalize the social roles
of mothers and fathers, and sisters or brothers, and daughters or sons. These important gender aspects of our
collective unconscious were described for the first time by Swiss psychologist
Carl Jung, who said that every male has within his unconscious mind a feminine
inner personality, or anima, and that
every female correspondingly has within her unconscious mind a male inner
personality, or animus. Borrowing these terms, anima is used in this essay to represent
the feminine psychological aspects of both the conscious and unconscious mind
of all people, male and female; and animus is used to represent the
masculine aspects of each of our minds, female and male.
The anima and the animus within each of us
have both noble and ignoble characteristics.
Our masculine aspects are noble in their loyalty, protectiveness,
respectful chivalry and heroism, and yet their darker side encompasses
tendencies toward bullying, confrontation, ruthlessness in competition,
psychological cruelty and violence. Our
feminine aspects can be quite noble in their wisdom, empathy, compassion,
generous-heartedness, intuitiveness, sensitivity, spirituality and loving
kindness, while their shadow side can be displayed in manipulative cunning,
bitchiness, masochistic impulses, and passive-aggressive qualities. These are gross generalizations, but that’s
the general idea.
Faced with the mounting challenges of
modern times, and with the considerable messes that males have made with their
domineering aggressiveness and lack of empathy, I feel strongly that it is time
we “think outside the box” and act to dramatically empower women. Let’s allow our repressed inner animas to
gain sway! Our inner animuses, too
often resembling mindless ignoramuses, should yield their obsessions with
ruthless dominion and control. All
together, we need to cultivate a better balance between the feminine and
masculine in our psyches, and in our cultures.
Feminine ways of being in the world are generally
more receptive and nurturing and collaborative than traditional male modes of
acting. This is a legacy of the days
when gatherers in hunter-gatherer clans relied on working together for the
greater good of their social group. I
believe that today we need a similarly better balance between feminine wisdom
and exploitive masculine dominance in our patriarchal world.
leadership is one that emphasizes teamwork rather than authoritarian command
and control. In this type of
leadership, the value of working together toward common goals is given much
greater emphasis, and win/win solutions to problems are sought. Dr. Alice Eagly, a scholar on gender and leadership, once stated that her studies show women are more likely
than men to possess the leadership qualities associated with success. She noted
that women are more inspirational and transformational leaders than men, and
that they often listen better. She
found that women tend to stimulate their employees to think outside the box,
and that they care more about developing their followers. She also pointed out that female leaders
are, in general, more ethical than male leaders.
Leaders are truly transformational when
they increase awareness of what is right, good and important, and when they
help elevate the needs of followers for achievement and
self-actualization. Leaders are most
honorably effective when they move people to go beyond their own self-interest
for the good of their group, organization or society. Professor Bernard Bass,
who has written books about transformational leadership, predicts that in the
future female leaders will be more successful simply because they are better
suited than men to act in ways that prove to be consistent with the best
practices of effective modern management.
“It is time to gather the women and save the
Message from Mother, Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D.
has just been chosen as the first female candidate for president of a major
political party in U.S. history. This
comes 96 years after women first gained the right to vote in 1920, and it is
high time that we elect a woman as our leader.
And never has there been a more extreme contrast between two
presidential candidates, given Hillary’s impressive record of public service
and Mr. Trump’s record of greedily selfish and dishonest, divisive, exploitive,
litigious, manipulative and women-demeaning behaviors. Vote for Hillary in November, along with
progressive candidates for the U.S. Senate and House. The best female politicians and
candidates include Zephyr Teachout, a progressive populist running to be a
Representative from New York and incumbent Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in New
York, along with Katie McGinty who is running for a Senate seat in Pennsylvania
that is currently held by a conservative republican loyalist, and Senator Elizabeth
Warren in Massachusetts, and Senator Maria Cantwell and Pramila Jayapal in
Washington, and Tammy Duckworth in Illinois and Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin and
Jennifer Granholm in Michigan and Lucy Flores in Nevada.
Larger Purposes and Breaking Through
unique capability of human beings to visualize the future with perceptive
foresight allows us to control our destinies better than any other creature
ever in existence on Earth. This
ability has collectively given us greater control than any other animals over
the biotic destiny of our home planet, for better or for worse. One would think that foresight would result
in better stewardship of resources and a greater commitment to the healthy
diversity of life on Earth, but it appears this is often not the case due to
shortsightedness, excessive greed and the selfishly opportunistic “tragedy of
people in the commons” nature of our economic and political systems.
time has come today for us to undertake courageous and transformative actions
to actually begin solving the daunting challenges facing humanity. It is time for us to honestly, boldly, and
intelligently use our foresight to achieve what John Steinbeck called “breaking
through” on a wide front of the most important problems that confront us. NOW is the time to transcend political
intransigence and the stubborn opportunism of vested interest groups, and to
promote fairer priorities, and to embrace better plans and practices. NOW is the time to adopt saner ideas for a
The time has come to reject the status quo
of wasteful consumerism and increasing inequities and trickle down
deceptions. We should stop letting big
corporations externalize so many costs and environmental damages onto society. We should take bold steps to end our
dangerous and polluting addiction to fossil fuels. We should cease indulging in intergenerational exploitation and
Ponzi-like schemes that myopically “rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul”. We should strive with greater resolve to
prevent violent conflicts. And we should
take courageous steps to make healthcare and sensible family planning measures
and contraceptives available to all women who want them.
The search for meaning, for true self, is what
mythologist Joseph Campbell referred to as the hero’s journey. Campbell believed in the
importance of a muse that leads the mythic hero toward his or her poetic
destiny. In this mythic dimension, the
hero makes a spiritual quest toward self-realization, and pushes the horizons
of his or her vision to ever larger vistas. We each make our own
hero’s journey of coping and survival and whatever personal measure of
accomplishment, creativity and self-expression that we can achieve. The time has come today for everyone to
become a little bit more of a hero in his or her own lives and communities by
striving to help make the world a better place.
Joseph Campbell had a similar belief to that of
Carl Jung, who felt strongly that life has a higher spiritual purpose than mere
material goals or status seeking. Jung
believed that our main task in life is to discover and fulfill our deep innate
potential, much as an acorn strives to attain its potential of becoming a
mature and majestic oak tree. Based on
his close study of Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism and other religious
traditions, Jung perceived that this journey of transformation is at the
mystical heart of all religions. He
called this process individuation.
This journey to find the authentic self is a
dynamic spiritual experience that is essential to our well-being. The fullest realization of this personal
development is similar to Abraham Maslow’s highest state of self-actualization
in his pyramid of human needs, involving a healthy integration of awareness,
wisdom, creativity, intuitive sensitivity, inner integrity, and service to
greater causes. To become better
citizens, I believe that every person should begin to embrace healthier
ecological perspectives in our search for purpose and meaning, and to act in
saner and more holistic ways.
In the pages below, I delve into the fascinating
aspects of relationships between males and females and the underlying masculine
and feminine impulses of our beings.
One topic that has risen like butter in churned milk toward the top of these
ideas is an issue of the counterproductive nature of military conflicts and
their relationship to the domination of politics by testosterone-driven males
in nations and churches worldwide.
Interesting insights related to this topic will be articulated further
One of the most
profound aspects of the great American experiment in democratic governance and
guaranteed individual freedoms is that these ideals resonate with the human
heart and spirit, and they are motivated by deep human desires to be able to
think and act without undue restriction or repression. Personal and
political freedom are arguably the most important founding principles in
America, and they are humanity’s “magnetic true north.” People love to be able to do what they want,
to go where they want to go, and to buy what they need and desire. Even more deeply, they want to be free from
financial insecurity and from worries about medical care when they need it, and
from insecurities associated with the challenging and stressful struggle to
make an adequate living. Obviously,
those who inherit a lot of money, or who make and save a lot of it, have much
greater financial freedom than others, and improved social justice is
challenging to achieve.
curiously become a hotly contested idea.
The concept has been corrupted by radical conservatives to mean things
that are actually antithetical to the idea of simple freedom. In his book Whose Freedom? -- The Battle over America’s Most Important Idea,
the famous cognitive scientist and linguist George Lakoff explores the stark
contrast between the ideas of freedom that are held by progressives and those
held by conservatives. Using deep
psychological framing, the concept of freedom can be transmuted through
misinformation, spin, and repetitive assertions into narrow rationalizations
that are socially irresponsible, slavishly doctrinaire, distinctly cold-hearted
and aggressively manipulative. A love
of freedom can thus be perverted into support for regressive changes in tax
laws and stubborn opposition to adaptive action and progressive ideas and
government protections and ecologically intelligent initiatives.
A clear and
far-seeing progressive narrative is needed to combat this distortion of
values. Ideas matter. Ideas have consequences. Ideas can be transformed, for better or for
worse, into policies and actions that dramatically affect people’s lives. Modern freedoms are unprecedented to the
extent they include expanded work and travel opportunities and high standards
of living. These freedoms allow us to acquire better knowledge and more
accurate understandings, and they extend our horizons and
perspectives. But at the same time, wider choices create heightened
insecurities and daunting new uncertainties and greater psychological
challenges in dealing with rapid change and increasing complexity. Vested interest groups exploit a veritable
multitude of conflicting worldviews in efforts to persuade people
of their own version of "truths", and their contentions often
differ from experienced evidence that resonates most closely with our personal
Make no mistake
about it, more extensive knowledge is available to humankind today than
ever before in human history. This knowledge is widely disseminated
in schools, books, newspapers, magazines and films, and on the Internet. But critical thinking skills and
fair-mindedness are required for us to be clearer in our interpretations and
understandings of the world. It is time
for us to use this awareness to make propitious changes in our societies, and
to ensure a greater probability of well-being and societal health that will
help our species to prosper and survive.
conservatives speak of freedom as meaning paying less tax and striving for
security by having a strong and aggressive military. They regard freedom as being allowed unrestricted rights to own
guns, being able to pursue self-interest with minimal restrictions, and being
allowed to exploit natural resources and engage in real estate development with
only a minimum of limitations imposed by the government. And, it seems that conservatives also tend
to believe freedom is best assured by having a retributive justice system that
harshly punishes those who violate the law.
This has unjustly contributed to the U.S. having the worst per capita
incarceration of any country in the world.
And statistics reveal that deep racial injustices pervade the status quo
of this hyper-costly system. So much
progressive-minded people believe in different ways of ensuring freedom. They believe that freedom would be best
achieved by guaranteeing equal rights to women and men; by ensuring fairness of opportunity, legal
justice, and good affordable public education for all; by enforcing rules that make competition
fair and protect consumers from abusive monopoly practices; by focusing the economic system on healthy
communities, general prosperity, and the common good rather than expanded
privileges for the wealthy; by
protecting workers from corporate abuses, workplace hazards and toxic
wastes; by taking effective steps to
prevent our economic and political systems from being rigged in ways that
increasingly concentrate wealth, power and influence in the hands of the few; by having a political system that demands
honesty, openness, fair representation, and cooperative problem-solving; and by establishing a more progressive tax
structure that promotes the common wealth and helps build a more secure
infrastructure in which individual freedoms are maximized.
believe that freedom would be augmented by maintaining an affordable social
safety net for all people that assures adequate medical care and prevents dire
poverty, especially in vulnerable childhood and old age; by having a fair legal system that protects
people from injustice, discrimination and hate; by ensuring that “tragedy of the commons” outcomes are prevented
through protections from degradation of parks, public lands, open spaces,
national forests, wilderness areas, rivers, streams, oceans, fisheries, public
beaches, aquifers, and the atmosphere;
and by requiring that the interests of future generations be protected
from rash resource depletion and habitat destruction, as well as from
preventable pollution, environmental harms, widespread species extinctions,
economic disruptions, and excessive increases in public debt.
visions of freedom demand an effective separation of church and state so that
every person is guaranteed religious freedom, and no one can impose their
beliefs on anyone else who happens to believe in a different God -- or not to
believe in a God at all. In the
conservative view, there is only one true God, and social conservatives and
religious fundamentalists want to be assured the right to try to convert others
to a belief in their God by having children pray in public schools, or by
posting the Ten Commandments in public places.
They want the government to let “faith-based initiatives” determine how
poverty and charity are handled. They
want to deny women the ability to decide how to plan their families or to make
reproductive choices in their lives.
I strongly believe that progressive
attitudes are vitally important, and that in contrast reactionary conservatism
is the wrong approach to a healthier society.
There is not a jealous and vindictive God who will punish us and our
descendants to the third and fourth generation for believing in any truths that
are broader, more modern, more ecumenical, more honest and more ecologically
sane than the ones adduced in various holy books.
We should honorably reject discriminatory
biases, racist bigotry, hatred, nationalistic aggression, and religion-inspired
conflicts, and begin to pour our energies into extensive and intelligent
efforts to improve the quality of life for the majority of people alive
today. At the same time, we cannot lose
sight of the overarching importance of protecting the prospects of people in
future generations. In particular, I
believe we need to reject the narrow orthodoxy of established worldviews that
say we should accept a system of unfettered capitalism.
An Underground Declaration
My good friend the underground Mole, snug in his home, communicates
his pithy, eccentric wisdom:
“Roiled by the vicissitudes of fate and the machinations of the
entitled folks, the little guys squirm with anxious cares and try to drown
their sorrows with a bottle or a joint.”
Still, astutely, he observes that there is a very simple cure that
would reduce the need for people to seek these compensatory indulgences: “Improve
Obstacles in the Path of
I often think about the three dominant
types of social institutions in modern human civilizations: churches, corporations, and
governments. It seems like all three of
these categories of institutions are failing us today in times of increasingly
desperate need. All of them are subject
to a variety of influences that pervert and corrupt their purposes. Excessive power and ill-used money are the
most distinct of these socially undesirable influences.
Money buys politicians and influence, just as it did in Mark Twain's
day, when he observed that we have the best government that money can
buy. Make no mistake about it, Mark Twain was being cynical; we did
not have good government in his day, and we will not have good governance in
modern times until we courageously limit the extent to which Big Money dictates
our national, state and local policies.
Money plays a dominant role in corrupting our political system and
unduly influencing our representative’s attention and priorities. Hopes for political solutions to the
overarching problems we face in the world seem to be diminishing as a result of
entrenched interest influence, extreme ideological partisanship, Tea Party
fervor, uncompromising political intransigence and the ominous rise of
temperamentally unfit D.J. Trump to become the harsh face of the Republican
Party. This state of affairs makes it
clear that we need far-reaching reforms to our dysfunctional political system
and the institutional bribery that drives it.
An “ethical rot” has been affecting Washington D.C.
in recent decades due to the enormous amount of money being spent on lobbying
activities to get our representatives to give special interest groups what they
want. This has contributed to a wide
variety of federal government failings.
Robert Kaiser writes provocatively about this in his book, So Damn Much Money: The Triumph of Lobbying
and the Corrosion of American Government.
We should find better ways to limit the influence of lobbyists and
the role that Big Money plays in financing election campaigns, and in
influencing the people who represent us to champion narrowly focused and
nightmares of conservatives tend to be "Big Government", while the
worst nightmares of liberals tend to focus on the corruption of government by
“Big Business”. In Cadillac Desert, writer Marc Reisner assesses political
corruption and intrigue that has historically been involved in billion-dollar
battles over water rights in the American West, and he sees that our leaders
have managed to exploit the situation to rape our environment while
simultaneously bilking taxpayers out of billions of dollars in order to
practically give away cheap water rights to powerful agribusinesses. One reviewer provocatively expresses the
opinion that water policy in the
U.S. is “a form of financial vandalism of the future” that “has made us rich,
but our descendants insecure.” Liberals and conservatives
need to come together to find common ground, which will most likely be found in
policies that are in the best interests of all Americans, including those in
years ago in 1776, revolutionary issues stirred the American colonies. The desire for independence from the British
mercantile economic system and the despotic monarchy was strong, and the
colonists were deeply angry at taxation without fair representation. Today, curiously, we have achieved taxation with representation, but wouldn’t you
know it, the representation is lousy!
Let us pause
and reflect as the year 2016 slips slowly past, and let the big issues of today
percolate in the interstices of our minds.
Let the holistic right hemispheres of our brains have greater influence! With this Stroke of Insight, we see that much must be done!
Breaking New Perspectives from August 1, 2016
sensational voice has recently been heard.
The marvelous author Tony Schwartz published a book that I highly
admire, titled What Really Matters:
Searching for Wisdom in America. In this thought-provoking book, Schwartz relates the
very interesting details of his wide-ranging search for wisdom in America
through the consideration of many modes of thought and exploration that have
been pursued in the past century. Does
happiness matter most? Personal
connectedness in friendships and love?
Physical and psychological health?
Authenticity? Integrity? Spiritual enlightenment?
Sensationally, Tony Schwartz was able to spend more than a year writing
this great book because he made a fair amount of money ghostwriting Trump’s
1987 memoir, The Art of the Deal.
Now Schwartz now come out with an anguished lament in The New Yorker magazine about having
been the credited co-author of Trump’s exploits and accomplishments, indicating
that they were so exaggerated that they bear little resemblance to
reality. The book helped make Trump “an
emblem of a successful tycoon”, so Schwartz effectively became Dr. Frankenstein
to a dangerous man. The main concern
Schwartz is now expressing is not Trump’s ideology -- for Trump seems to be
lacking in having articulated any coherent ideology -- but of his “personality, which Schwartz
considered pathologically impulsive and self-centered.”
“I put lipstick on a pig,” says
Schwartz. “I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting
Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing
than he is.” He went on, “I genuinely
believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent
possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.”
Tony Schwartz is ironically the son of Felice Schwartz, the
founder of a nonprofit organization that works to build inclusive workplaces
and expand opportunities for women and businesses. That seems pretty darn contrary to what Trump has left in his
wake in the business world.
Think about the small
Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan’s extraordinary idea of measuring the well-being of
a nation by championing policies that are most likely to lead to “Gross
National Happiness” Bhutan’s Prime
Minister Lyonpo Jigmi Y Thinley once elaborated, with this observation: “The four pillars of Gross National
Happiness are the promotion of equitable and sustainable socioeconomic
development, the preservation and promotion of cultural values, the
conservation of the natural environment, and the establishment of good
most glaring and contradictory contrast to this noble concept of “Gross National Happiness” is found in D.J. Trump’s
greed for money and lust for power and ominous prescriptions for what resembles
a twisted Grotesque National Dystopia.
This dark vision of authoritarian rogue rule and reactionary
law-and-order would be a dire development for fair-mindedness and personal
freedoms, for it would stoke inequities and ramp up strife and impose
repressive measures and increase social injustices.
It would also involve destabilizing trade protectionism and tariff wars
and betrayed trust and broadening conflicts.
Go-it-alone isolationism and racism and sexism and xenophobia and
anti-immigrant, anti-refugee national polices are not a good idea.
Donald Trump managed to get elected president, he would encourage
people, as he said in his Nevada primary victory speech, “to get greedy
for the United States … to grab and grab and grab … to bring in so much money
and so much everything.”
is one of the most egregious examples of a dishonorable vulture capitalist who
has ever lusted after political power in the USA. His aggressive use of lawsuits and his cheating of many people in
Atlantic City and at Trump U are deeply disturbing. Trump has used high-priced lawyers and thousands of lawsuits to
bully communities to get his narrowly self-interested way in real estate deals,
and he has often cheated employees and contractors and suppliers. These offensives cost taxpayers large sums
of money. To apply this business model and level of personal hostility to
dealings by the U.S. government would almost certainly prove to be disastrous.
alarm bells sound every time Trump expresses admiration for authoritarian
tyrants like Vladimir Putin, Benito Mussolini, Kim Jong Il and even Saddam
Hussein. Don’t be fooled into giving
support to this deceiver and con man!
who exploit the politics of division are often the same ones who champion
policies that widen the gaps between the haves and the have nots. Trump has been exploiting people's fears and
paranoia and insecurities and bigotry, emulating two of his mentors, the
red-baiting demagogue Joseph McCarthy and the unscrupulously manipulative
lawyer Roy Cohn. Like McCarthy and Cohn, he is a bald opportunist
who has no scruples and who seeks power and fame and notoriety for
self-aggrandizing purposes and the satisfaction of greed and lust for
Think of the context of where the
Republican Party stands today.
Republicans have used a hard-times swindle ever since Ronald Reagan took
office in 1981. They have strived to
crush collective bargaining rights of workers and give a much bigger share of
the money generated in the economy to the top 1%, and they propagate big lies
about this tactic being best for the populace because it will trickle down to
them. And they allow Big Money to
corrupt our national decision-making, so that the legislature and the courts
can be stacked with “conservatives” who champion this harshly unfair rigging of
the system. They simultaneously are the
loudest champions of international trade deals that give big corporations more
power to offshore jobs and exploit workers and wreak havoc on the environment,
both at home and abroad, and they vociferously blame liberals for the sadly
opprobrious outcomes. They also strive
to amplify the private profiteering that can be achieved by foisting costs onto
society that taxpayers must pay or that must be added to the national debt,
causing heightened risks of another financial crisis. And they strive to impose austerity onto students and families by
cutting funding for public schools and environmental protections and healthcare
for the “losers” in this mega-scam
Woe to the peoples of the world! Both Bernie Sanders and D.J. Trump tapped
into the anger, frustration and desperation that people in the devastated
working class feel because of these extremely unjust, inegalitarian and
socially unsustainable gambits.
Trump has stoked anti-establishment
sentiments in the USA by charging that our international trade agreements are
extremely bad deals. And sure enough,
when we let giant multinational corporate entities write many of the provisions
in these trade agreements, they inevitably slip in rigged provisions designed
to generate private profits at the expense of the vast majority of the
people. The most consequentially
problematic provisions in trade agreements are ones that artificially inflate
profits (with real Big Bucks!), and force society as a whole to pay for this
excessive generosity. Trade agreements
like NAFTA have served to send millions of manufacturing jobs abroad while
mercilessly exploiting low-wage workers in cheap labor countries like China and
Mexico. NAFTA also served to bankrup
more than a million farm laborers in Mexico, forcing many of them to emigrate
as undocumented immigrants to the United States.
you listen to Donald Trump speak about trade, “always keep in front of your
mind that he is peddling a con,” wrote one observer. Though he slams recent trade agreements by “the politicians,” and
promises to negotiate “great deals,” he never explains what will be in those
great deals. He claims they will
benefit “our workers,” but doesn’t mention his statement from seven months ago
that “wages are too high. We’re not
going to be able to compete against the world.”
a speech in Pittsburgh, he criticized “powerful corporations” and “the people
who rigged the system for their benefit” who “will do anything -- and say
anything -- to keep things exactly as they are”. Then a few minutes later, he complained the system wasn’t rigged
enough: “We tax and regulate and
restrict our companies to death.” He
has previously declared he would begin trade negotiations by unilaterally
slashing corporate income taxes -- a move that would mostly benefit the already
The outcome of international trade
agreements is too often that workers are unfairly exploited, and social safety
net costs are driven up, and the national debt increases unnecessarily, and we
foolishly allow the rashly wasteful depletion of natural resources and the
shortsighted skyrocketing of environmental damage costs. To allow profits to be privatized and costs
to be socialized is anathema to intelligently prioritized national planning.
Trump has rashly exploited the anger and
deep insecurities and widening inequalities that trade agreements have
contributed to bringing into being. But
his simplistic and unbelievably sketchy proposals to fix the problems would not
honestly address the underlying issues.
century ago, Republicans advocated and defended tariffs on imported goods, and
Democrats enacted a controversial tariff reform package that included a
breakthrough: a constitutional
amendment to establish the income tax.
Today, the ideological lines on trade are still pronounced. Trump likes to offshore manufacturing of
some of his own products abroad to save money on production costs, but he
advocates new tariffs to protect domestic industries that would likely cause
trade wars. Bernie Sanders and
Elizabeth Warren and other progressive populists do not favor trade
protectionism like Trump does and Republican President William McKinley did in
the early 1900s. Today’s progressive
populists don’t want to build economic walls, because they see the many
civilizing advantages of fair trade between partners, and they are not
narrow-minded nationalists. As Bernie Sanders
explained during the campaign, “fair trade means to say that it is
fair. It is roughly equivalent to the wages and environmental standards
in the United States.” In other words, he wants to lift up the standards
in other countries, not drag ours down.
populists want fair trade rules that lift up labor, health, human rights and
environmental standards across the globe, so we can build an economy that works
for everyone, everywhere. What progressive populists oppose are skewed
trade rules that allow corporations to profit off weak standards at the expense
of the middle class and the poor.”
Trump is not a Bernie Sanders populist.
He doesn't really care about raising standards at home or abroad.
He never even speaks the words “labor,” health,” “human rights” or
“environment” when he talks about trade deals. He champions tariffs
to protect domestic profits, and this has nothing to do with progressive
visions of higher wages and better standards, because he has made it clear that
he really favors lower wages and lesser standards.
"Trump’s brand of protectionism doesn’t move America
and the world forward. It turns the clock back to the Gilded Age.
Don’t buy the con."
--- Bill Scher
government has ordered the closing of more than 100 media outlets in July 2016
in the aftermath of a military coup attempt.
This includes newspapers, publishing companies and television channels,
and is a part of a sweeping crackdown following the failed coup. This
could easily be a prelude to what the exceedingly thin-skinned, power hungry,
bombastic, law-and-order proclaiming, litigious, Constitution disrespecting strong
man Trump might do in the USA if he manages to fool the American people into
giving him the power of the presidency.
word is your bond", stated the third Mrs. Trump at the Republican
National Convention in Cleveland, directly plagiarizing a speech made by
Michelle Obama at the Democratic National Convention in 2008. She
also claimed that her husband was a kind and inclusive man, not a divisive one,
declaring "Donald intends to represent all the people, not just some of
the people. That includes Christians and Jews and Muslims.
It includes Hispanics and African Americans and Asians, and the
poor and the middle class.”
Whoever wrote that script for her seems to have been desperately trying
to sell a contradictory version of her bombastic husband that is completely
unrecognizable after a rude primary election season that featured
hate-mongering, racist and sexist statements, and the most outrageously
divisive rhetoric in memory. Melania's
partially plagiarized speech makes her seem to be trying to be a bigger
deceiver than Trickster Trump himself!
“Stand by your man,” I guess …
characterization flagrantly contradicts Trump’s rhetoric in numerous assertions
he has made about rival Republicans, Mexicans, Muslims and women. Does she really believe he is inclusive?
Has D.J. Trump been lying about his extremely divisive and destabilizing
plan to deport 11 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S., and to
implement a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the
United States", and to radically stoke inequality by giving huge tax
cuts to rich people like himself, and to punish women who get an abortion?
Or was Melania Trump trying to broadly deceive the American people?
Mrs. Trump III cast her husband at the Republican National Convention as a
champion of diverse racial and religious backgrounds, she set up an inconsistent picture of her alpha male
husband as a loving man, in stark contrast to the image he has earned as a
divisive bigot and a cheating, lying, vulture
capitalist exploiter. How can
this new portrayal be squared with Trump’s statement some years ago: “... laziness is a trait in
blacks. It really is; I believe
that. It’s not anything they can
extraordinary contrast to the sociopathic character of D.J. Trump, Barack Obama
has been a model of class and dignity and intelligence and integrity and grace
under pressure. Obama chooses his words carefully to reassure and calm,
while Trump quickly blames and inflames. The Obama administration has
been remarkably scandal free, despite vociferous criticism and opposition from
extreme political adversaries. Obama is
an exemplary husband and father and human being.
Huck observed, “I seen how it’s possible to take things and twist them
into whatever shape you want, and see
them another way entirely that don’t have no resemblance to the truth.”
has been one of the most notorious abusers of power, using underhanded business
tactics and unethically cheating suppliers and contractors, and exploiting
students at Trump U, and ripping off the public, and employing a phalanx of
shrewd lawyers to make money for himself at the expense of many individuals and
communities. Trump has for many years
aggressively fought to protect the secrecy of his businesses and family, and
hide his tax returns, and today he has gone to similarly great lengths to
protect the secrecy of his campaign’s inner workings.
seems clear that Trump represents a billionaire’s cutthroat crony capitalism,
along with risky banking deregulation, extremely regressive
and inegalitarian taxation plans, opposition to climate action,
and a much more aggressive stance on a blowback-inducing Orwellian endless
"war on terror."
also seems like a habitual liar. The
fact-checking organization Politifact declared their 2015 Lie of the Year to be the
"various statements" made by Trump.
Politifact found that 75% of Trump's statements that they reviewed were
rated "Mostly False," "False" or "Pants on Fire. Additionally, Trump is "a believer in the big-lie theory,”
according to one of his lawyers. He
believes that, “If you say something again and again, people will believe you.”
This conviction is reminiscent of George W. Bush's Machiavellian
observation, "See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things
over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the
need honest leaders, not ones who try to divide people for personal gain by
exploiting their prejudices and fears and antagonisms. Our leaders have a
big responsibility to find common ground for the greater good of all,
rather than to sow division and whip up hatred. Trump is not a politician, but true to his retrograde
character, he appears to have no idea what ethical public service should be
halcyon days of petty frauds and charlatans during Huck Finn's times seem to be
an age of veritable innocence compared to the mega frauds of modern reactionary
master manipulators who strive to deceive the populace into supporting them so
that they can perpetuate the über crime of borrowing trillions of dollars from
people in the future, dangerously increasing the already gargantuan national
debt, to finance low tax rates on the highest levels of incomes so that the
rich can become richer.
his pathetically greedy and exploitive and litigious business career, Trump has
set his sights on political power and has used the most despicable methods to
get media attention by exploiting racist suspicions of Barack Obama not being
an American and then vanquishing his 16 Republican primary opponents through
outrageous accusations, schoolboy insults, and character assassinations, and by
taking advantage of millions of American people's anger, insecurities,
misunderstanding, conspiracy theories, gullibility and ignorance. As Senator Bernie Sanders has said:
"Enough is enough. This country and our government
belong to all of us, not just a handful of
choice we make at this juncture will make a huge difference in the fate of
humanity. I believe it is our
overarching obligation to choose to build bridges not walls, to seek fair trade
not trade wars, to unite rather than to agitate and rancorously divide, to
avoid excessive litigiousness, to honorably protect freedoms of the press and
expression, and to honestly strive to provide true conditions for liberty and
justice for all.
are faced with a turbulent future, and Hillary Clinton promises to be a much
better choice than Trump to lead us, especially since she and the Democratic
Party have been prodded toward a more populist and fairer platform by Bernie
Sanders. Trump is a diabolically shrewd billionaire huckster who urges us to
give him authoritarian power to set things rigidly straight, but his proposals
reek of racketeering for the rich and they ominously offer agitated rancor,
excessively litigious divisiveness, fraudulent misguidance, dishonest
bait-and-switch misdirection, and vindictive leadership by a mercurial and
pathologically narcissistic trickster.
A Call for a Bill of
Rights for Future Generations
Thomas Paine recognized back in 1776 that
growth in the number of people living together in modern societies made it necessary to design a system of representation
that would modify simple democracy into a form of governance capable of fairly
confederating all the various interests that compete for advantages,
privileges, wealth and security. He wrote in Common Sense that we would be wise
to seek better ways of accomplishing this, and in particular, that we should
avoid disenfranchising people who are too young to vote. He saw that this was necessary to ensure we
do not betray the potential well-being of all people in future
generations. To achieve this goal, we
should responsibly create a Bill of
Rights for Future Generations, as advocated by the Cousteau Society -- and as
specifically articulated in the Earth Manifesto.
Many things are desirable from the standpoint of
society as a whole, like good and affordable public schools, a strong national
defense, adequate protections of citizens by police and firefighters, a fair
system of laws and justice and courts and prisons, well-run government agencies
that are effective in protecting citizens from abuses, effective disaster
relief programs, well-maintained roads and water systems and power grids and
other physical infrastructure, protected public lands, and an affordable social
safety net for senior citizens and poor people and the young. Since these things are vital for a healthy
modern society, it makes sense to have them financed by the populace as a
But we collectively seem to want “to eat our cake
and have it too”; we want these social
goods, but we do not want to pay for them in full. So in recent decades we have engaged in the fiscally
irresponsible expediency of record levels of deficit spending, and historically
low tax rates for the top 1%, and we have thereby indulged in foisting huge
costs onto taxpayers in the future by borrowing large sums of money.
Ironically, “conservatives” have been the ones most
responsible for ramping up the national debt.
During Ronald Reagan’s eight years as President, the national debt
increased 208%. During the four years
of George H. Bush’s tenure, the debt increased 56%; during George W. Bush’s administration, the debt increased
77%. In contrast, during the eight
years of the presidency of Bill Clinton, the federal deficit increased just
40%. It is curious that, despite
deceptive rhetoric by Republicans in opposition to big government, federal
spending under the last five Republican Presidents since the 1960s increased by
twice as much as it did under Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, and spending
increases in the past seven years under Barack Obama have been even more
It is only the deceptions and discipline of the
right-wing messaging machine that convinces most Americans that Democrats
rather than Republicans are the most profligate with the public’s money!
Deficit spending is a highly undisciplined course of
action that is feasible only because all Americans under the age of 18, and all
those yet to be born, have no voice in our political system. This is an egregious and reprehensible form
of taxation without representation.
Here is another reason that a Bill of Rights for Future Generations is
so distinctly needed -- to prevent such rashly undisciplined fiscal
irresponsibility. Deficit spending is a
fiscal indignity that mortgages the future, adding on to many other serious
affronts to our heirs in the form of our profligate waste of resources, the
dumping of toxins, pollutants and greenhouse gases into the commons, the myopic
damaging of ecosystems, and the indiscriminate assaults, both intentional and
inadvertent, on the biological diversity of life on Earth.
A Marvelous Epiphany
Jennifer Siebel Newsom produced a brilliant
advocacy documentary film titled Miss
Representation in 2011. In a just
world, there would be much more powerful ripple effects of the waves emanating
from this film, because it is
concerned with the distorting influence of the way females are misrepresented
in various mediums of Big Media. There
are many male frogs around the pond who feel they have an inviolate interest in
keeping women in inferior economic and political roles in our societies. This isn’t merely an issue of sexual double
standards or a lack of respect for females in our male-dominated cultures; it is really an issue of the wholly
inadequate representation of women in politics, and of significantly lower
wages for women than men, on average, and of widespread gender discrimination
in the workplace and in religious institutions.
Pregnant with implications, Jennifer Lynn Siebel’s
message bears repeating and inclusion in this Feminine Vision. The
following seven paragraphs are accordingly borrowed from the Earth Manifesto
essay Huckleberry Finn, the
Forty-Niners Gold Rush, and a Resurrection of Mark Twain’s Perspectives:
This compelling film is filled with interesting information and insights
into the powerful influence that mass media outlets like television, magazines,
movies and the Internet exercise in creating sexualized, titillating,
trivializing and demeaning attitudes toward women. This is a skewed representation of females in our male-dominated
culture that distorts important perspectives and diminishes feminine ways of
seeing the world. As a result, females
are often judged far more by their bodies, hair, appearance, clothes and shoes,
rather than by their brains, effectiveness, accomplishments, talent or other
valuable virtues. Such narrow-minded
attitudes affect humanity in far-reaching ways that really should be more
The mass media plays a large role in contributing to a negative status
quo of curiously biased and perversely degrading portrayals of women. In significant part, this status quo is a
result of the domination of the media by a handful of giant media conglomerates
controlled by men in positions of ownership and on their Boards of Directors
and in top management. It turns out
that inadequate representation of women in positions of control in media
companies has a big adverse influence on women in society at large. This leads to less-important roles for
women, and a general underrepresentation of females in boardrooms, management
The representation of women in American politics bizarrely ranks 90th in
the world in the number of women in Congress or national legislative
equivalents. Ninetieth is NOT an
adequate showing for us to present to the world in this important gauge of
social fairness. Out of a total of some
200 countries around the globe, this is a pathetic statistic, revealing one
reason why women are treated so unfairly in pay and status and privilege in
America. This fact is also a sad
contributing factor to making our national decision-making unfair, poorly
prioritized, and extremely partisan.
Biases in the media have the effect of hindering progress toward vitally
important goals like allowing women more power and more equal
opportunities. Fairer representation
for women is needed to improve our decision-making by taking into account the
valuable perspectives and best interests of the 51% of Americans who are
The sexualization of women is accompanied by an idolizing of youth,
sexiness, thin bodies, long legs, and alluring cleavage. These ways of representing women tend to
diminish how women are able to compete and find fulfillment in many roles in
society. It is no wonder that females
as a consequence have deep insecurities about their appearances, and why they
spend so much money on things like clothes, jewelry, handbags, shoes and makeup
-- and facelifts, and breast implants, and other types of plastic surgery that
have become a rapid growth industry.
The media also helps create deeply ingrained stereotypes of males in our
societies. These are characterizations that help define the respective roles
played by the genders. These
associations are extremely complex, so it is difficult to generalize about them
accurately, or even to clearly grasp the big picture. But it is provocatively compelling to see how deeply social roles
are affected by images in the media.
Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s new film The
Mask You Live In explores American masculinity, and promises to reveal
interesting aspects of male roles.
The relative absence of fair representation of a group in the media is
known by the daunting term “symbolic annihilation.” Gaye Tuchman, a sociology professor, divides this concept of
symbolic annihilation into three aspects:
omission, trivialization, and condemnation. The use of narrow stereotypes in the portrayal of women is a
subsidiary means of symbolically annihilating them. Consult with any woman, or for that matter any gay man, lesbian,
black person, Latino or other devalued minority, and they will likely describe
some of the negative effects that omissions, trivialization and condemnation
have personally had on them.
I heartily commend and congratulate the beautiful
and honorable Jennifer Siebel Newsom for her courage, dedication and caring so
much about these issues, and for her efforts to change these aspects of the
status quo! Oprah Winfrey
acquired the broadcast rights for Miss Representation, so I have been hopeful that it will gain a much
higher profile sometime in the near future.
that a book titled A Sound Bite Society: Television and the American Mind by Jeffrey Scheuer sheds light on the
insidious extent to which conservative ideologies have been strengthened by
simplistic and emotional communications on television (especially on Fox News)
and talk radio. Published in 1999, the
rise of Trump in 2016 makes the words on the book’s cover seem eminently
“The Sound Bit Society asks if television
has served democracy. Scheuer’s
answer? A definite no. Scheuer believes our political culture has
been demeaned -- leaders replaced with clowns, ideology with eye candy, and
debate with pairs of pontificating parrots. The Sound Bit Society is
crucial to anyone -- on either side of the spectrum -- in understanding and
changing the circus that hour political landscape has become.”
Introspection into Relations between “Guys and
“When you see a guy reach for stars in the
You can bet that he's doing it for
some doll.” …
“When a lazy slob takes a goody
And he smells of Vitalis and
Call it dumb, call it clever
Ah, but you can get odds
That the guy's only doing it
for some doll.”
--- Lyrics sung by the character
Nicely-Nicely Johnson in the musical Guys
“Guys” and “dolls”
exhibit some quite curious characteristics.
Each of us, being immersed in the deep interpersonal and cultural well
of human interactions, tends to see the remarkable ‘dance of selves in
relationship’ as just “the same old story, the fight for love and glory.” But one might wonder how all these
behavioral propensities actually came to be. The exploration of this question
leads to an investigation into why the physiology of our brains and bodies, and
the motives driven by our hormones and the neurochemicals in our brains, have
developed as they have. How have the
transcendent thoughts and obsessions of our minds come to be?
Shlain provocatively explored these topics in his fascinating book, Sex, Time, and Power: How Women’s Sexuality
Shaped Human Evolution. He ambitiously proposed to present “a scenario for
how the kaleidoscopic, maddening, exciting, enchanting, and baffling man-woman
dance, more commonly known as ‘a relationship’, evolved.”
In the very
beginning of our becoming a distinct species, human females were faced with an ultimate existential
challenge: the “obstetrical
dilemma”. Babies were being born with
ever-bigger heads as human brain size increased over the millennia, and this
created growing and gravely mortal dangers for mothers in childbirth due to
increasingly tight birth canals.
savior was needed for our survival, and the natural processes of adaptive
selection stumbled upon it in a trade-off compromise: women gave birth to what are essentially more and more premature
and helpless babies. This resulted in
children that were dependent for an unusually prolonged period of time on their
parents for nourishment, safety and development. It became necessary for biological, social and cultural traits to
evolve to ensure the survival of mothers and children. What developed was a new kind of bonding
between males and females in which hunters and gatherers alike accepted highly
specialized roles and a mutual inter-dependence on each other to make sure their
offspring survived to be able to pass on their genes.
People who study
the extraordinary intricacies of evolutionary biology find that every species
has its own unique adaptations, along with others that are shared with related
species. These adaptations help animals
cope with various environmental conditions.
Closely related species, for instance, have distinct differences like
the famous finches of the various Galapagos Islands, whose contrasting beaks
were selectively adapted to different food sources on different islands, as
described by Charles Darwin after the second voyage of the HMS Beagle in the
1830s. A far, far more interesting
instance is at hand, however: human
beings! We differ from our antecedent
mammalian ancestors in a number of striking ways, as elucidated by Dr. Leonard
Shlain in Sex, Time and Power.
cultivated a lively interest in matters related to our species and other life
forms, and in the changes that have evolved in various species in general. In Sex,
Time and Power, Shlain delved into the curious interrelationships between Homo sapiens and Gyna sapiens, the males and females of our species. He focused on the biological adaptations
that distinguish us from all other mammalian primates, and the unusual
physiological, sexual and behavioral characteristics of human beings. He made an insightful introspection into the
implications of our walking upright, having big brains and opposable thumbs,
and the difficulties of birth due to the growth in size of the heads of human
babies. He gave consideration to how it
came about that we have vocal structures that enable us to speak and
communicate with an amazing variety of words and meaningful vocalizations. He looked into all the odd contrasts of
characteristics of human females compared to females of our closest
evolutionary relatives: chimpanzees,
bonobos and other primates. These
unique human characteristics include sexy breasts, concealed fertility, risky
monthly bleeding, helpless babies, long dependency in childhood, and the
relatively unusual interest of males in sex all of the time rather than
just periods when females are “in heat.”
speculated that long ago human females began to recognize the connection
between sexual intercourse and ovulation, often timed to correspond with the
full moon every 28 days, and their mysteriously becoming pregnant. This fact was by no means an obvious thing
in pre-scientific days. When they did
cotton onto this realization, females became more reluctant to engage in sexual
intercourse without consideration of the potential commitment of a prospective
mate to the support of a family and the children a man might help
conceive. Lenny evocatively called this type of evolutionary development “Original
Choice”. A great concept!
Females began to
be significantly more discerning about finding a good provider and an
upstanding character, in addition to a male who has good health and a strong
physique. This attitude made verbal
communication more important, and it significantly altered the relations
between the genders. It also led to a
curious kind of literal “meat for sex” barter, and a subtle negotiation in
which sexual intercourse was offered in exchange for security. These ancient motives seem to underlie many
of the modern behavioral interactions between men and women. The reasons for this are compelling.
why these developments took place, it is necessary to realize that iron is a
crucially important element in the vital processes of oxygen delivery to the
brain and other cells in the body. Iron
sufficiency is most easily assured by eating meat, so it was important in
hunter-gatherer groups for female caregivers to be able to procure meat from
males who did most of the hunting.
Getting a male to lovingly commit to her helped provide for their
Iron is critical
for metabolism and proper cellular functioning. It turns out that iron is the main component of hemoglobin in red
blood cells. Hemoglobin is an iron-rich
protein that is uniquely suited to pick up oxygen in the lungs and then release
it to cells after the heart has pumped the blood throughout the body. The loss of iron by females during their
monthly menses, together with long-term requirements of women to care for their
children, made it increasingly important for females to subvert the natural
impulse of males to spread their seed far and wide. Females began demonstrating a strong desire to get a male to bond
with her and commit to share the support and nurturance of their family.
Once our male
ancestors figured out their role in getting a female pregnant, they stewed
about the odd power of the wily feminine gender over them, and they became
intensely jealous. They began to prize
virginity and fidelity in their prospective mates, and to demand exclusivity in
sexual relations to assure them of their paternity. This was a complementary kind of Original Choice, and since they
were the physically stronger gender and were somewhat obsessed with power and
control, they cooked up moral systems that revolved around male gods that
worked in mysterious ways, and they made sure the male gods relegated females
to subservient roles.
Shlain’s sociobiological conceptions of human gender relations are a
sophisticated update on the intriguing ideas of zoologist Dr. Desmond Morris,
as promulgated in his 1967 book, The
Naked Ape. Morris startled the
world by speculating that human females had developed sexually alluring breasts
to get males to approach them face to face, rather than to perfunctorily mount
them from behind. This required them to
communicate, woo, negotiate and cajole to be chosen as a mate.
In this kind of
Original Choice, women first began to barter for more commitment than females
of most other species of life in the vital interactions of feeding, mating, and
rearing young. Allure, permission,
negotiation and obligation are surely all balled up together … Ah, love, what
John Gray is a psychologist who is
exceptionally sensitive to his inner anima.
He is famous for his book Men Are
from Mars, Women Are from Venus. He
makes a groundbreaking exploration of relationships and communication between
men and women in this and other books he has written. John Gray’s book titled Women
on Fire, Men on Ice looks into modern scientific understandings of the
roles that hormones play in human moods, feelings and relationships. He points out that hormones like oxytocin
and testosterone deeply affect people’s behaviors, and that they have different
effects in men than in women. In males,
the hormone testosterone is associated with sexual aggression and arousal and
lust, but in females it has a tendency to create more stress within.
Oxytocin has been called “the cuddle
hormone”. It is associated with
impulses in females toward care giving, tenderness, attachment and
reproduction. But in males, oxytocin
seems to create symptoms of increased anxiety.
John Gray claims that understanding the influences of hormones in
relationships can help us improve love relationships and better manage worry
and stresses. He gives readers some
ideas about hormonal imbalances and how good nutrition and “superfoods” can
help replenish vital hormones. I
personally believe that it would be healthful for us to better understand the
genetic and hormonal influences of human behaviors in wider societal and
scientists have learned a great deal in recent years about how genetic and
hormonal influences affect our perceptions.
Studies of twins separated from each other at birth, for instance, have
shed light on the primacy of genes in forming our characters, and even our
habits and perceptions. In
understanding human nature, we should not overlook the powerful affects that
hormones have on the brain in utero, as well as in childhood, adolescence,
menopause and old age. Provocative
perspectives on hormonal influences in human behaviors are contained in Dr.
Louann Brizendine’s two books, The Female
Brain and The Male Brain.
Those who study
human behavior have also found interesting influences in people’s unique
individual experiences and social conditioning. Understanding the motives behind people’s
behaviors can help us see how we would be best advised to redesign our economic
systems and social security initiatives and environmental regulations in ways
that effectively incentivize people to focus our national priorities more
clearly on healthier communities and goals consistent with the greater good,
and on activities that are sustainable in the long-term.
Environmental Justice Now
One of the most important national goals should be to create
greater social justice in our societies.
Environmental justice is one of the most significant aspects of social
justice. There is an extensive extent
to which economic good fortune insulates fortunate people from environmental
hazards like food poisoning, toxic wastes, pesticides, air pollution, and
inadequate supplies or poor quality of fresh drinking water. Poor people are frequently subject to greater
risks than others of ill health, poor nutrition, neighborhood degradation,
workplace hazards, transportation challenges, natural disasters, environmental
harms, and stresses related to economic insecurity.
Because of the integral aspects of “location, location,
location” in home and real estate priorities, and due to the associated
consequences of NIMBY zoning (“Not in My Back Yard”), the more money a person
has, the safer they tend to be from environmental risks of accidental injury or
death due to crime, gun violence, addiction to hard drugs, medical errors, or
emergency room inadequacies. Should we
not pledge allegiance to a nation that truly offers liberty and justice, more
equally, for all?
The main instruments of economic justice are
progressive taxation, well-designed regulations, fair-minded rules of law, and
social justice initiatives.
Unfortunately, economic security and equality of opportunity have been
deteriorating in the past 35 years.
This is primarily due to the weakening of public instruments for
promoting opportunity and redressing inequality, and because the influence of
labor unions in the private sector has been significantly undermined. Collective bargaining helped build a vibrant
middle class between World War II and the beginning of the retrogressive Reagan
Revolution, and it is among the potentially most effective grassroots means for
achieving a fairer balance of economic justice for working people.
Economic injustices persist and have gotten worse
partially because of the lop-sided power of financial and economic elites. An energized grassroots social movement is
needed to pressure Congress to respect the pocketbook needs of regular
citizens. Otherwise, moneyed interest
groups exaggeratedly affect our national decision-making. A boldly persuasive narrative is needed to
drive progressive and socially-advantageous change, and to displace wealthy
conservatives and powerful CEOs and Wall Street insiders from their dominating
positions that allow them to gather most of the benefits of business profits
for themselves at the expense of the majority.
has there been a contrast between two back-to-back presidents who are more
different than George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Hardly ever has there been a severe economic crisis that more
thoroughly discredited a failed economic order (in this case, the prevailing
conservative ideologies of deregulation, bubble economics, hyped-up
risk-taking, leveraged speculation and corrupt crony capitalism). But remarkably, when it came to financial
policy and extreme deference to Wall Street at the expense of the American
people on Main Street, seldom has there been more policy continuity between the outgoing administration and its
successor, as represented by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary
Tim Geithner and the Chairman of the National Economic Council, Larry Summers.”
--- Robert Kuttner (paraphrased), A Presidency in Peril, The Inside
Story of Obama’s
Promise, Wall Street’s Power, and the Struggle
to Control Our Economic Future
In the hard-fought struggle between capital and
labor throughout the Industrial Era, capital has had the upper hand, more or
less. In the past several decades, a
resurgence of the ideology of ruthless laissez-faire capitalism has led to
crushing defeats for collective bargaining in almost every sector of the
economy, with one exception: the public
This contrast is extreme. In government entities, public employee unions have gained power
rather than lost it, and the top echelons of unionized public employees have
sometimes abused their power. This has
given conservatives some valid grounds for criticisms of public employee
unions. Unfunded health and retirement obligations
for public servants have grown so large that sensible reforms are required. The fact that there is not an overweening
dog-eat-dog strife for bottom-line profits in the government allows it to be
much more egalitarian and generous to employees, so the goals of the government
have to a certain degree become contrary to getting maximum productivity from
workers, or to controlling costs. We
should take measured steps to correct this state of affairs. Fairer and more sensible ways of doing
business are needed in both the private and public sectors!
A Eulogy for
Martin Luther King, Jr.
The night that Martin Luther King was assassinated
on April 4, 1968, Robert F. Kennedy spoke these words in Indianapolis:
“Martin Luther King
dedicated his life to love and to justice between fellow human beings. He died in the cause of that effort. In this difficult day, in this difficult
time for the United States, it’s perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we
are, and what direction we want to move in.
… What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the
United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom, and
compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still
suffer within our country …”.
on! Let’s seek to heal the stark divide
between the fortunate few and the bottom 90% of Americans, and work together to
create a nation that is fairer and more secure for all.
The Changing Roles of
Men and Women in Our Societies
To find win/win
solutions to problems, it would be helpful to establish a new collaborative
dynamic and a political culture that is more willing to cooperate -- and less
inclined to aggressively conflict. A
new wave of female empowerment may be the best means to accomplish this.
The first notable wave of feminism in the U.S. took place in the 19th
and early 20th centuries when women waged a long struggle to secure property
rights and the right to vote. As the
twentieth century progressed, many changes took place in the respective roles
of men and women. When millions of men
were fighting in World War II, women were encouraged to get jobs to help win
the war. The media encouraged and
empowered women by using magazine ads, films, posters and songs that heralded
strong women. The cultural icon “Rosie
the Riveter”, for example, was made famous by popular promotional posters and a
catchy song in 1942.
After the war ended and millions of men returned home from the terrible
conflict, society needed to incorporate them back into the work force. So the media shifted the propaganda
dramatically and encouraged women to get married, stay at home, have babies, do
domestic chores, support their families, and be sexy to please their
husbands. For further insights on the
effect this had on changing societal roles, see the outstanding DVD Commentary
titled “Birth of an Independent Woman” in the ‘extra features’ on Season Two
discs of the drama TV series Mad Men (available
on Netflix). This Commentary provides a
compelling perspective on the somewhat rigid roles of men and women in the
1950s, and by juxtaposition, their evolving respective roles today.
A famous Kinsey Report on Sexual
Behavior in the Human Female, published in 1953, had an incendiary impact
on society by exposing the fact that it was not just males who have strong
sexual drives, but females as well. Conformity
and role rigidity and repressed sexuality were dealt further blows in the 1960s
when Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine
Mystique was published. The
invention and widespread use of oral contraceptives -- the Pill -- allowed
women greater control in their sex lives, and in their own personal decisions
about when to get pregnant, and with whom.
These developments led to a wave of feminist movements that targeted
gender inequalities, double standards and biases in our laws and cultures.
This “feminization” trend has continued, and it characterizes
cultural changes in many societies around the globe today. Some religious authorities say this trend is
a threat to marriage and the family, but these authorities and their
fundamentalist religious devotees are in actuality opposed mainly to
infringements on the power wielded by male authorities in patriarchal
churches. For instance, at preservingthebible.org, religious
spin-meisters write about getting a proper perspective “as to how invasive and
overwhelming this feminizing Jezebel spirit really is. This evil force is
perhaps the most malignant and hostile enemy the church has ever faced.” Well, excuse me! As a 2009 Bumper Sticker point out: “Hate is not a family
It is my conviction that the best legacy for a more propitious
future for our descendants would be found in ensuring a greater emphasis on our
noble aspects and collaborative instincts, and in finding more effective ways
to discourage the violent, vindictive, and punitive approaches that typify our
male-dominated societies, as reflected in the ridiculous words above about the
“evil force” of a feminizing spirit.
another example, seems to be woefully misaligned with modern society in seven
primary areas. The opposition of the
Catholic Church to reform harms our hopes for achieving a mindful, far-sighted
and sustainable existence. These seven areas are: (1) the Vatican’s opposition to birth control and the rights of
women to control their own destinies;
(2) the lowly status of women in the church; (3) the Vatican’s frequent political affiliation with extreme
social conservatism; (4) the Vatican’s
opposition to divorce and remarriage;
(5) the Vatican’s official position that condemns homosexuality, which
is odd considering that a significant percentage of priests are closet
gays; (6) the Church’s ineffectiveness
in responding adequately to sex abuse scandals and its pedophilia crisis, and
its on-going opposition to allowing priests to marry; and (7) the Vatican’s failure to emphasize good stewardship and
protections of the environment enough when it curries favor with capitalist
Reigning versus Ruling, a Saga Pitting the
Proverbial Carrot Against the Stick
Plato was one of the earliest
philosophers in written history. More
than 2,400 years ago he wrote a number of philosophical speculations, including
his famous book The Republic, in
which he investigated the nature of justice and expressed the opinion that rule
by a benevolent “philosopher king” would be the best way to govern a
nation. Plato had seen the shortcomings
of domineering control by elite oligarchs in his native Greece, and of
alternating episodes of mob-like democratic rule, so he disdained both those
types of governance. He was, no doubt,
correct in surmising that wise, benevolent philosophers could provide the best
guidance for good governance, at least theoretically. Unfortunately, history has shown that such types of leaders are
very hard to find, and they rarely achieve positions of power. More often, ambitious men lust after power
who champion policies that undermine the fairest priorities.
In the French language, the words
for “the queen” are “la reine”.
Adopting a meaning of reigning as being a benevolent form of rule by a
sovereign person dedicated to feminine anima wisdom, I assert that reigning
would be much better than ruling to achieve social justice and peaceful
Reigning is better than ruling because it
champions a reasonable modicum of social justice. In all guns-versus-butter arguments, reigning gives higher value
to domestic priorities than it gives to military interventions. Reigning is more honorable than
dominion-oriented ruling because reigning gives higher value to effective
incentives and disincentives rather than uses of force and harsh punishments
and divisive intrigue.
Ruling generally requires repressive governance to
enforce its defense of inegalitarian increases in disparities of power,
privileges and prerogatives between the powerful few and the vast majority of
others. Greed, hubris, nationalistic
fervor, and Machiavellian manipulation of people’s fears and insecurities keep
us in costly arms races and endless wars.
There are several main reasons for this, including the misguided goals
of distracting people’s attention from domestic woes and the facilitating of
profiteering on the huge military budget, and the emphasis on selfish
priorities of a ruling elite that serves to perpetuate this sadly wrong-headed
“Every gun that is made, every warship
launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those
who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money
alone. It is spending the sweat of its
laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true
sense. Under the cloud of threatening
war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”
--- Dwight D. Eisenhower, April 1953
I feel strongly
that we should create an effective Pro-Peace movement, and subject the
military-industrial complex to tighter spending controls and less wasteful
extravagance. Let me make one thing
perfectly clear: it was distinctly
unfortunate that authorities shrewdly undermined the anti-war movement of the
1960s and 1970s by eliminating mandatory conscription into the armed
services. The fateful and dreaded
military draft was fairer than the current system because it required all men
to serve their country, not only ones who had no better opportunities. The creation of “all-volunteer” armed forces
has made it much easier for the U.S. to get involved in wars because the main
people who risk their lives in combat are the economic underclass of men and
women that has little voice or political power. Rich people’s kids find better -- and safer -- things to do.
The excessive power of the military-industrial
complex is reinforced by not having a military draft. Congress and corporate-controlled media organizations have
collaborated in this negative development.
People’s personal liberties and our democratic processes have been
weakened by this strengthening of the military-industrial complex, as war hero
Dwight D. Eisenhower pointed out in a provocative warning to the nation after
the end of his presidency in 1961. We
should vigorously strive, Eisenhower proclaimed, to ensure that “security and liberty may prosper together.”
The anti-war movement during the Vietnam War
gained much of its power on college campuses and in cities because of an
intense interest in self-preservation that affected young men of that era. We crow about freedom, but tend to turn a
blind eye to the terribly disproportionate disparity between classes of people
in the amount of freedom they have to choose NOT to fight in wars. Morally and ethically, all-volunteer
military forces are an odd thing in the land of the free and the home of the
brave, and in a nation dedicated to the proposition that all people are created
Why We Should
Strive to Achieve Peaceful Coexistence Rather than Warring Dominance
“The rush of battle is a potent and often
lethal addiction, for war is a drug.”
--- Chris Hedges, War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning
War can be a
psychological and economic addiction that facilitates the use of force and
violence as a way to address problems.
But we should strive to cultivate the institutional discipline to engage
in war only as a defensive last resort.
Powerful forces in our society unfortunately tend to involve us in
costly wars for a variety of motives, causing unjustified aggression that may
be deeply unethical.
Truman called war profiteering a form of treason. Ah, the good old days of “the buck stops here” straight-forward
honesty! That was long before the
complex of the Pentagon, the arms and war services industries, big corporate
media, Congress and the Executive Branch turned war profiteering into a central
economic and political organizing principle of the U.S.
When the Cold War
ended, the military-industrial complex and its shadow contingent of
facilitators needed a new enemy to sustain its power. Since communism had been effectively emasculated as an
oppositional force around which to organize fear and mistrust and hate, a new
enemy was needed to distract the public from domestic inequities -- and to
ensure the growth of power and profits in armaments and war services industries.
This new enemy was ‘conveniently’ found
in terrorism and Islamic extremism, but it is a great danger for Islam and
Christian sects to involve themselves in an internecine worldwide competition
for power and influence that stokes extremism.
my fifty years of activism, both inside and outside the system, one hard lesson
has become clear to me from experience:
Domestic progress has been
continually derailed by dubious wars.”
--- Tom Hayden, The Long Sixties:
From 1960 to Barack Obama
Many Islamic peoples have had their lands
occupied by foreigners for decades, and severe economic sanctions have been
used against them time and again. These
are guaranteed sources of friction and oppositional counter-support that
ironically create an on-going and endless instigation of conflict.
The 9/11 attacks gave the cowboy-mentality
president George W. Bush (“you’re either with us or against us”) a plausible
pretext to sell the American people on invasions of Afghanistan and then
Iraq. In doing so, the U.S.
inadvertently stumbled into a hornet’s nest of ethnic conflicts that
destabilized the region and will make international strife worse for
decades. It will also make terrorist
blowback more dangerous and significantly more likely for generations. Historians point out that the Islamic world
has already felt a deep sense of humiliation and shame and anger at being
dominated and exploited by Western nations in the past century.
History indicates that our hubris-filled
meddling in the affairs of nations in the Middle East has been extensive, from
actions in World War I and World War II to the 1953 overthrow of the Prime
Minister Mohammed Mossadegh of Iran in a coup d’etat supported by the CIA. That intrigue against Iran brought the
tyrannical Shah to power. Mossadegh had
been democratically elected, so that overthrow of Iran’s government put the
hypocrisy of subsequent rationalizations about bringing democracy to the Middle
East in a clearer and more suspect perspective. This type of meddling has evolved into harsh economic sanctions
and aggressive military occupations of nations in the Middle East since
9/11. Undesirable policy Drift has affected our national purpose,
and sure enough, we were unable to heed the urgings of peace advocates: “No Blood for Oil.”
We would be wise
to develop more enlightened foreign policies.
Check out Reflections on War --
and Peace! in this manifesto for incisive insights into the historic
motives and consequences of warfare, aggression, militarism and empire
building. A safer and saner world could
be achieved, in my opinion, not by demonizing others and dividing people, but
by seeking common purpose and better ways to work together for the greater
good. Stoking sectarian strife and
making religious enemies is a pathetically counterproductive way to try to
obviously great potential risk in demonizing the Islamic religion, with its
more than 1.6 billion adherents worldwide.
Such efforts strengthen what they oppose. So, instead of being able to unite people in effectively
addressing growing global problems, conflicts over religious differences force
us to waste enormous amounts of time, energy and money. Terrorism is accurately seen as a tactic of
the weak and the poor, while aggressive warfare is a terror-inducing tactic of
the rich that is cunningly utilized to reinforce the power and prerogatives of
The pen, upon occasion, can figuratively have much
more influence than the sword. My
personal hope is that my use of this potential power of written expression will
be effective in influencing international impulses and making them less
misguided, less wasteful, less underhanded, and less unjust. This would help mitigate barbaric blowback
terrorism that is engendered by arrogant aggression.
and war often seem to go hand in hand.
Religion is like a drug, a feel-good drug of belonging and shared
community and hope for a better world in “the afterlife.” But this is a drug that is subtly laced with
opiates that appeal to the masses because they idolize obedience and serve to
numb our awareness of fairer perspectives.
Religion can be seen as a seductive and addictive drug that sometimes
seeks to stave off existential fears and insecurities by offering compensatory
hopes of a better life-after-death as a reward for docilely accepting the
injustices and harsh inequities in this life.
The fact that religious leaders often support politicians who work to
increase social inequalities should give us pause, and should dispose us to doubt
that religious establishments are primarily influenced by ethical and moral
It is deeply
ironic that one of the main reasons we cast our hopes so desperately to the
heavens is that, here on Earth, powerful and ruthless guardians of the status
quo adamantly refuse to allow our economic and social systems to be transformed
into fairer systems in which people’s real needs would be more propitiously
perspective reveals that, after our own individual deaths, all human afterlife
will reside in our progeny, so here is another exceedingly good reason that we
should strive while we are alive to leave a better and more just legacy to our
establishments often manipulate people’s emotions and exploit their guilt,
shame and fears for their own narrowly focused institutional purposes. In this gambit, they resemble political
party establishments. One of the goals
of religious leaders who offer people hope of an afterlife in Heaven is to
ensure that the faithful continue to contribute money and work hard and
rationalize their drudgery by keeping their minds on a hypothetical next life,
rather than on things like demanding broadly shared prosperity and greater
fairness in our societies today. And
both political and religious establishments tend to staunchly oppose change,
which eventually risks leading to heightened conflicts and an increased impetus
for violent insurrection. George Orwell
described a similar distraction, “Sugarcandy Mountain”, in a biting satire, Animal Farm.
religions tend to espouse implausible fabrications partially in order to help
them maintain the status quo of their power and influence. They thus often collaborate with
Machiavellian interests and political authorities to prevent people from
demanding more just policies in the here-and-now, or from rejecting authority
and war, or from demanding real significant progressive political and social
change. Let’s really give peace a chance,
and more solid footing!
I believe we should stop overlooking the
deep cultural differences that exist between the U.S. and the Islamic Middle
East. In the U.S., the influence of
Western religions’ concept of “original sin” infuses our culture with a historical
tradition of individual and collective guilt. Islamic cultures have less of this guilt-trip mentality, and
instead are highly sensitive to shame at what others regard as
weaknesses and humiliations.
Guilt-cultures and shame-cultures have distinctly different moral values
and social mores. Nonetheless, whatever
the rationalizations and motives behind patriarchal “honor killings” and
discriminatory women-oppressing provisions that underlie Islamic Shariah laws,
these are harsh instruments of control.
Shame on those who perpetuate them!
The empowerment of women is one of the fairest goals a society could
embrace. Evolve, guys!
Life Out of Balance
When in the
course of human events it becomes necessary to make truly transformative
changes to address extreme injustices, or to deal with a desperate crisis, or
to remedy systemic failures, we should be honest and courageous, and really
come to grips with the actual nature of problems in their broadest
context. We should seek to understand
true causes of problems, not just their symptoms. We should strive to comprehend the most probable consequences of
various courses of action, and to thereby choose the best alternatives.
understanding are called for, not misunderstanding and denial. Resilience, flexibility and open-mindedness
are needed, not blind obedience, stubborn intransigence, fanatical dogmatism,
or mindless reaction. The challenges
facing humanity are far-reaching and unprecedented in their global scope. We are failing to sensibly manage our
economies in ways that prevent overarching systemic risks. Injustices and inequalities are becoming
extreme. Intergenerational inequities
of debt and externalized costs are unsustainable. Non-renewable resources are being rapidly depleted and many other
resources are being excessively exploited.
The environment is being damaged in many impactful ways and global
climate disruptions are becoming more critical as we heedlessly continue to
spew billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year. And we are driving untold numbers of species
of life toward extinction by these activities and other means of habitat
developments are undermining the healthy ecological balance upon which the
survival and flourishing of our civilizations depend. One reason for this may be that holistic visions conceived in our
unconscious right brains are being sadly suppressed.
In our sound-bite-driven politics, the American
people often fail to understand the complexity in our society. Folks in the retrogressive Tea Party, for
instance, criticize taxes and government spending and budget deficits, but they
do not offer fair-minded proposals for where to cut government spending. They seem to cling to narrow ideological
dogmas for how to manage the economy, and to best reduce unemployment. Their mantra is to cut taxes, but we have
been doing this for years, and it has not led to more positive outcomes that
are consistent with the common good.
The large tax cuts enacted by George W. Bush have
resulted in huge benefits for the wealthiest 1% of Americans, but trillions of
dollars in additional debt.
Simultaneously the number of people living below the poverty level
increased to 46 million in 2010, the highest number ever recorded by the Census
Bureau since this statistic was first tracked beginning more than 50 years
ago. The inegalitarian
policies that have led to this outcome are outrageously misguided. The structural underpinnings of poverty should be dealt
with more intelligently. As Albert
Einstein is attributed to have stated, “Insanity is doing the same thing over
and over again -- and expecting different results.”
Having had a cocktail and being in a generous and
heartily egalitarian mood at a fun dinner party a few years ago, it came as a
surprise to me to stumble into a conversation with a smirky self-styled
“conservative” woman who spouted venom at progressive ideas and Democratic
politicians. She extolled her
admiration of Ayn Rand and Sarah Palin, and summarily professed beliefs that
were diametrically opposed to almost everything my experience tells me is
true. When I mentioned my strong
feeling that a greater modicum of social justice and less inequality in our
societies would make all Americans more secure, her attitude said, “I spit on
social justice”. It was as if she
regarded fair-mindedness as some sort of communist wrongheadedness that was
somehow ignominiously socialistic and repulsively fascistic at the same
We live in a bizarre world indeed. Much of what passes for political discourse in
America today resembles closed-minded dishonesty and misplaced
self-righteousness. Instead of engaging
in civil discourse, people express frustration and anger, and they goad others,
or personally attack them, or argue off the point, and there seems to be an
excess of emotional irrationality. No
wonder we fail to find common ground, when so many people seek to demonize
others and to deny the validity and importance of social and ecological truths.
These words were written well before D.J. Trump
began his swindling campaign to seize power.
Since then, toxic acerbity has overcome more honorable and socially
intelligent discourse, and fearfully insecure Americans could hand Trump
despotic power with no real idea of how that would turn out. Huge uncertainty! Remember that Adolf Hitler had managed to get himself appointed
as chancellor of Germany at the end of January 1933, during turbulent economic
times, and less than one month later he seized upon the pretext of a mysterious
fire in the Reichstag parliament building and declared a Decree that
effectively ended democracy in Germany overnight. The risk of a President Trump abusing power by similarly taking
emergency measures “to protect public safety and order” do not seem
Consider the nexus of three ideas.
John Steinbeck gave voice to downtrodden folks like migrant farm workers who
faced harsh conditions in a society without a social safety net, and to
refugees who were forced to flee the Dust Bowl in the Midwest during the hard
times of the Great Depression. He saw
clearly that dissatisfactions and political unrest grow most riotously in the
fertile soil of economic despair and social upheaval. It was in such soil that the fascist demagogue Adolph Hitler rose
to power by exploiting the German people’s feelings of humiliation and
desperate struggle due to the hard times that followed World War I and the
harsh reparations imposed by the victors of that war.
(2) Neoconservatives in the Project for a
New American Century think tank advocated an extremely powerful military and
big increases in military spending, and they bemoaned the obstacles to
achieving this goal,
"absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event -- like a new Pearl
Harbor.” This, chillingly, was written
just a year or two before 9/11 and the launch of an endless war.
Milton Friedman cultivated a Shock Doctrine belief that “only a crisis -- actual or perceived --
produces real change”, so that when such a crisis occurs, it is expedient for
“conservatives” to keep extreme policy proposals alive and available “until the
politically impossible becomes the politically inevitable.”
I strongly believe that Milton
Friedman was wrong in his gospel-like economic
fundamentalism, because it has contributed to despotism, bubble
economic policies, deregulated exploitation, inegalitarianism
and fraudulent activities.
I equally strongly believe that we was right that the opportunity for
real change can be stimulated by dangerous opportunities that are inherent in a
crisis, and the entire Earth Manifesto is dedicated to the idea
that some day, hopefully soon, a growing consensus
will develop that is centered on far-sighted propositions
like those contained throughout this manifesto. “Like the fact, for instance, that better
cooperative problem solving is needed in civilized societies to achieve goals
that are consistent with the common good.
Let’s accomplish this, instead of allowing corruption in our political
system and excessively ruthless free-for-all competition. Economic and ecological
ruin, after all, will be the tragedy-of-the-commons
outcome of an insistence that competing interests should have unlimited freedom
of action to exploit the global commons.”
writer Nikos Kazantzakis imagined Jesus as a real man giving his first sermon
on a hill above a lake in Galilee.
“Forgive me, my brothers, but I shall speak in parables”, he said. “The sower went out to sow his field, and as
he sowed, one seed fell on the road and the birds came and ate it. Another fell on stones, found no soil in
which to be nourished, and withered away.
Another fell on thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. Finally, another fell on good soil; it took
root, sprouted an ear, brought forth grain and fed mankind. He among you who has ears to hear, let him
my fellow Americans, one of our Founding Fathers warned us that eternal
vigilance is required to assure our liberty and to guarantee that our system of
democratic representative governance will long endure. NOW is the moment for a powerful resurgence
of that eternal vigilance to protect our great nation from the deceitful demagogue
Trump. The world needs visionary leadership,
not rulers who will turn inward or seek selfish advantages for themselves and
their billionaire supporters, or who prescribe “sound-bite solutions in a world
defined by complexity." NOW is the
time for us to come together to reject the despotic grab for power by
morality-deficient D.J. Trump …
I know Hillary is ready to fight for all of us. I use
the word “ready” for a specific reason: When I lived in Honduras, I learned
that the best compliment you could give someone was to say they were “listo” --
ready. Because what “listo” means in
Spanish is prepared, battle-tested, rock-solid, up for anything, never backing
down. And Hillary Clinton is “lista.”
Presidential Candidate Tim Kaine
Among all the
marvelous diversity of millions of species of life in existence today, Homo sapiens is the single species that
has been extraordinarily successful because of our cultural evolution and
ability to use forethought, insight, and educational communication in
learning. We have utilized fire,
energy, tools, clothing, shelter, agriculture, animal husbandry, and
technological innovations to help us survive and prosper. It is instructive to realize that this
cultural evolution has been the result of a dynamic balance between preserved
knowledge and tradition, on the one hand, and nimble flexibility,
open-mindedness, innovative spirit and willingness to try new things, on the
between change-averse conservatives and progressive-minded people is
intensifying. Entrenched interests are
using doctrinal arguments and the power of corporate influence in the media to
oppose remedial changes -- even changes that would be fairer for all, or more
ecologically intelligent, or most likely to lead to sustainable survival
advantages for our species as a whole.
Ideas to Live By
In Greek mythology,
the god Apollo was a son of Zeus, the Olympian ruler of the universe.
Apollo was said to embody spiritual clarity and
moral discipline in ancient Greece. Two
wise maxims were carved in stone in the forecourt of the Temple dedicated to
Apollo on the slopes of Mt. Parnassus at Delphi: “Know Thyself” and “Nothing in
Excess”. This is sage advice! A trip to Delphi was, for centuries, a
spiritual experience that was regarded as offering good hope for enlightening revelation. Say, maybe we could use more of such
Jesus taught Golden Rule sensibilities, and expressed concern
for the downtrodden. Such concerns are
the essential basis for the modern concept of human rights. The Golden Rule, also known at the “ethic of
reciprocity”, is a fair-minded perspective that epitomizes the notion that we
should treat others the way we ourselves would like to be treated. Live and let live!
religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend a personal God and avoid dogma and
theology. Covering both the natural and
the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the
experience of all things natural and spiritual as a meaningful unity. Buddhism answers this description. If there is any religion that could cope
with modern scientific needs it would be Buddhism. If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope
for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed.”
--- Albert Einstein
A voice speaks to me from within, urging
the idea that the religions of today must evolve into positive faiths in the
future that advance truer moral visions of the collective good, not just for
believers and a narrowly self-serving “in group”, but for all of humanity. These moral visions should include the
health of natural ecosystems upon which our well-being depends. These new religions should be oriented
toward unity, ecumenism, spiritual honesty, expansiveness, fairness and
peaceful coexistence. They should
transcend parochialism, divisiveness, myopia, archaic misconceptions,
patriarchal domination, reactionary traditionalism, discrimination, bigotry,
religious fundamentalism, absolutism, and “hate masquerading as love”. And this new direction for religions needs
to start soon. See Revelations of a Modern Prophet for further insights.
A Brief Catechism
Old Testament of the Bible contains some of the stickiest stories ever told,
sandwiched right there in the midst of a numbing cavalcade of begets and
begats. Just think of these stories. There was the six-day Creation of the
Universe, with humankind at its center.
There was the “original sin” of Adam and Eve who disobeyed God in the
Garden of Eden when they partook of the forbidden fruit of the Tree of the
Knowledge of Good and Evil. There was
the jealous conflict between Abel and Cain, two of the sons of Adam and Eve, in
which Cain, who cultivated the land, killed his younger brother Abel, who was a shepherd. There was the story of Noah, a 500-year-old
man who built an ark at God’s direction to save a pair of every kind of animal
from a worldwide Great Flood that God was planning to wreak upon mankind in a
divine fit of disappointment and anger.
And there was the sublapsarian salvation story about God sacrificing his
son Jesus that supposes there will be a heavenly reward for people who have
faith -- and eternal damnation for everyone else, ostensibly because they are
sinners for not believing in the right God and for not repenting for this
come in all stripes, some better than others, but these Genesis stories are
real doozies. The contrast between the
biblical Creation story and the best scientific ideas of how the Universe
formed and evolved is like the contrast between an abstrusely nonsensical but
pithy poem and a weighty encyclopedia of knowledge. The biblical story may have emotional advantages of simplicity
and evocative depth of metaphorical meaning, but for the greater good and
future well-being of humanity, Holy Scriptures should be rejected that foment
dangerous conflicts and divide people and interfere with the best aspects of
good national planning.
Think about the symbol of a fish, a hallmark of Christianity. Consisting of two intersecting arcs that
trace the outline of a fish, this symbol was used by persecuted Christians in early
times as a secret symbol of identification.
But, quite curiously and ironically, this religious symbol actually originated in pagan myths that
related to the awareness of female fertility and representations of female
sexuality and the natural force of women.
Think about this in the context of Genesis.
Eve was the first woman, and she lived in the paradisiacal Garden of Eden. One fine day, a serpent approached her. Serpents, in those ancient times, were honored symbols of the
sacred feminine in mythology and art in many cultures, like that of ancient
Egypt in the time of the Pharaohs. Eve
made the mistake of becoming Pandora reincarnate when she committed the worst
of all sins ever -- the “Original Sin” of disobeying the all powerful male
God. As an incidental result, all the
world’s woes were released upon mankind, and Eve was blamed for having brought pain, sorrow, enmity,
privation, death and even a sad shame of nakedness into being.
still am not clear why “the LORD God” was so adamant about prohibiting humans
from knowing the moral difference between good and evil, or why ‘He’ was
against this dimension of expanded awareness in humanity. For most of my life, I have felt that these opening scenes of
Bible stories were ones that demeaned and diminished women. After all, they indicated that women should
be subservient to men. Hence I saw
these stories as a damning
indictment of dogmas set forth by orthodox patriarchal religions. God is widely regarded as being an archetypally supreme and powerful
male, similar to Zeus, the father of gods and men in the Greek pantheon. Patriarchal religions are further deserving
of criticisms made by sensible feminists who malign authorities in churches for
siding with political and cultural establishments worldwide in relegating
females to inferior positions.
my pleasant surprise, then, upon hearing a marvelous new and more positive
interpretation of the Genesis story. My eyes have been opened by the
enlightened insights of an intriguing professor in a Lifelong Learning course
who talks about the vital need for myth in our societies. This professor poignantly articulated an
alternate perspective of the meaning of the Garden of Eden story. He stated that the main thing that makes
human beings different from every other species of life on Earth is our
awareness of the past and the present and the future, and our capacity for
foresight and self-reflective understanding of our own existence and mortality.
Eve dared to understand good and evil by partaking of the forbidden fruit in
the Garden of Eden, she was epitomizing the audacity of humanity in seizing the
day to viscerally understand the context of human existence and moral judgment
and societal commandments that helped guide early peoples who lived in agrarian
societies. Eve was acting as a leader
in adaptive impulses, and she was providing valuable guidance to help our
ancestors coexist together in their struggle for survival.
motto of the Enlightenment Era was Sapere
aude: “Dare to know”. When the first woman Eve exemplified the
human desire to gain more visionary understanding, she thus symbolized the bold
evolutionary impulse to symbolically seize the fire of awareness and foresight. Revealingly, in an earlier Creation story in
Greek mythology, the Titan god Prometheus was believed to have created mankind
from clay and then given the gift of fire to humanity. This act helped enable human progress and civilization, and it was how
Prometheus became known as a champion of mankind. Eve, it follows, was a
main activist who helped humanity grab the initiative in gaining valuable
knowledge, and therefore she should be honored for having helped humanity to
grow and adapt and create fairer understandings and relationships.
should give respect to Eve for this heroic role rather than condemning her and
all her female descendants to live lives of pain and sorrow and
subservience. Maybe we could even
“grandfather in” all females in this recognition and approbation, and actually
let them have more opportunities and influence in our societies, and fairer
pay, and the freedom to have the primary say in all their personal health care
and reproductive decisions.
Creation myths and religious doctrines are largely responsible for having
relegated women to inferior roles in society, then a new guiding myth could
revolutionarily alter this aspect of the status quo. A new and more modern and more sensible myth would give women
expanded rights to have equal privileges to those of men.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that
all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain
unalienable Rights …”.
Admiring a Great Gal and Her Perspectives
Tiffany Shlain is a filmmaker and founder
of the annual Webby Awards, which recognize and honor the world’s best websites
on the Internet. Her film that I find
most thought-provoking is titled Connected:
A Declaration of Interdependence.
This film is excellent, and contains strong parallels to the ideas in Comprehensive Global Perspective: An
Illuminating Worldview in the Earth Manifesto.
In a Commencement Speech that Tiffany
Shlain gave at UC Berkeley in May 2010, she provided graduating students with a
number of wise observations and ideas.
She recommended that they “invoke a little moxie” in the face of
difficulties, and she advised that they remember to take themselves more
lightly and to occasionally laugh at their foibles or contradictions. The gist of her message dovetails with the basic
thrust of many of the ideas in this manifesto.
Creative and energetic young people are needed to boldly step forward to
help make the world a better place.
There is much that urgently needs to be accomplished!
Tiffany Shlain is a philosophical soul mate
and champion of those who embrace bold activism. She says that to accomplish great things, a salubrious
combination is needed of farsighted vision, bold commitments, persistence, and
a good sense of humor. She honors
Goethe’s famous quote, "Whatever you think or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic to
One of the most successful businesswomen of
the 19th century was Barbe-Nicole Cliquot Ponsardin. Known as the widow, or veuve,
Cliquot, she wrote to her great-granddaughter in the last years of her long
life: “The world is in perpetual
motion, and we must invent the things of tomorrow. One must go before others, be determined and exacting, and let
your intelligence direct your life. Act with audacity.”
The gauntlet has been thrown. “Let’s roll”, as they say! Note, parenthetically, that Tiffany Shlain’s
father was the insightful polymath Dr.
Leonard Shlain, whose compelling ideas are central to a clearer conception of
who we are as human beings, and how we got to be this way. Shlain’s important ideas about the
biological, social and ecological implications of our existence and behaviors
are further explored below.
Think some more
about the nature of our societies and the roles of women in them. Mark Twain wrote in his Notebook in 1895:
“We easily perceive that the peoples furthest from civilization are the
ones where equality between man and woman are furthest apart -- and we consider
this one of the signs of savagery. But we are so stupid that we can’t see
that we thus plainly admit that no civilization can be perfect until exact
equality between man and woman is included.”
Maybe Samuel Clemens really did transcend some of
the most salient prejudices of his times, and surely his legacy lives on in my
great granddaughterly perspectives, and as a testament to fairer ideas whose
time is in the process of becoming.
Mythological and Religious
Ancient Greeks and Romans believed
in what we regard today as mythological goddesses and gods. A study of the imagined character of these
deities reveals that they represent distinct patterns of human nature. These patterns are essentially what Carl
Jung called archetypes of human attributes in our collective unconscious. Human beings have projected these attributes
onto “divine beings”. These archetypes
are aspects of our human natures that are operative in our unconscious minds,
almost as if they are integral aspects of our brains. These archetypes are augmented and modified by cultural
stereotypes, and together these archetypes and stereotypes help define our
being and our selves. We may conform to
these defining influences, or alternatively choose to individualistically
conflict with them, but either way they powerfully influence our behaviors.
Psychologist Jean Shinoda Bolen
has provided a fascinating and practical blueprint for studies of this topic by
analyzing the archetypes represented by Greek mythical deities in her two books
Goddesses in Everywoman and Gods in Everyman. She points out, for instance, that powerful Zeus epitomized
the domineering philanderer male, and his wife Hera, the goddess of women and
marriage, was the epitome of the long-suffering jealous and vindictive
Myths are symbolically important
because there is a ring of deep truth in them about shared human
experience. The qualities of mythic
deities represent a variety of instinctual forces in our psyches. As Jean Shinoda Bolen points out, “Myths
evoke feeling and imagination, and touch on themes that are part of the human
It is curious that when the idea of monotheism caught on in
Western religions, a crucial part of its genesis was the biblical story of a male God who created mankind without any
female participation. This myth was a
blatant rejection of previous belief systems that honored Mother Earth and the
divine feminine. Monotheistic religions
were basically founded on ideas that devalued previous feminine concepts of
spiritual understanding. It is not
surprising that this diminution of the divine feminine occurred more-or-less at
the same time that harsh written laws were first propounded, like the Code of
Hammurabi in ancient Mesopotamia. This
demonstrates a strong correlation between the triumph of male gods and an
increasingly obtuse disregard for the rights and prerogatives of women. And there is a disturbing correlation with
these developments and the loss of concern today for the well-being of Earth’s
The Old Testament slaughter of
conquered Canaanites by Israelites was one of the first instances in history of
an entire people being killed because of deep prejudices stoked by religious
zeal. Tellingly, according to the
polymath Dr. Leonard Shlain, this conflict was one in which those who
worshipped God through the medium of written words vanquished those who
worshipped their gods through images.
This may be why the Ten Commandments start with dire warnings about the
worship of ‘idols’. Hey, maybe it
wasn’t Pharaoh’s heart that was hardened by God in the Bible before the
Exodus; maybe this story was a metaphor
for rationalizing domineering male authority and the insistence of mankind’s
left-brain thinking on the absolutism of its dominating prerogatives!
Thinking about Rainbows
Our minds are
like the Internet, consisting of billions of specialized cells that are networked
together via miniscule electrical charges.
In our brains, these cells are called neurons and they have tiny
synapses across which neurotransmitter impulses and chemicals and hormones
convey messages from various parts of the body. Our conscious thoughts are only “the tip of the iceberg” of all
that goes on in our brains. Scientists
assert that 97% of all our thoughts are subconscious.
The vast array
of contents on the Internet actually provides a good Big Picture map of the
total contents of our conscious and unconscious minds. The Internet reflects a wide-ranging set of
thoughts and feelings that is as diverse as philosophy, science, literature,
art, music, vivid imagery, blogged and tweeted opinions, biased perspectives,
social networking communications, sexual compulsions, and far more.
Think about the ways our understandings are
naturally limited. Visible light, for
instance, is only a narrow part of the full spectrum of all frequencies of
electromagnetic radiation. This
spectrum extends from short wavelengths like microwaves and ultraviolet
radiation to long wavelengths like infrared, X-rays and gamma rays. A rainbow is visible light refracted into
its various component colors in the optical part of the electromagnetic
spectrum. If they were visible to us,
infrared rays would appear just beyond the red end of the rainbow, and
ultraviolet rays would appear just beyond the violet end. It is natural that our perceptions are
limited by the limitations of the senses with which we see the world. It is also natural that self-referential
subjectivity affects us so profoundly.
Recognizing this relativity, we should be more open-minded to differing
ways of seeing things.
Our biases and the inadequate breadth of
our perceptions distort the way we see the world. This affects the way we interpret the events we experience. Recognizing this fact, we should be more
willing to be open to new ways of understanding things, and to accepting other
ideas, and to accepting people who see things differently than us. Live and let live! And we really ought to be more open to ecologically truer
perspectives of our roles and impacts in the world.
the Inscrutable Web Inside Our Brains
seems practically impossible for human beings to live fully in the present
moment, and to avoid carrying onerous baggage from the past or harboring
profound insecurities about the future.
Yet our brains work in marvelous ways, and we are capable of quite
different modes of seeing and feeling and acting than is our normal habit.
the amazing story of a brain scientist named Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D., who had
a blood vessel burst in the left side of her brain when she was just 37 years
old. The resulting hemorrhagic stroke
almost completely disabled the functioning of her brain’s left hemisphere. Blood, which brings vital oxygen to the
brain through blood vessels and capillaries, turns out to be a powerful
oxygenated toxin to brain cells if they come in direct contact. Jill Bolte Taylor’s stroke caused her mind
to rapidly deteriorate to the point that she could not think logically or dial
the telephone to summons help, or walk, talk, read, write or sense time.
a lot of pain associated with her stroke, Jill Bolte Taylor noticed a radical
change in her perceptions of the world. As her analytical left brain ceased its
dominating functions, she began to feel an oceanic sense of deep inner peace
and well-being, and even a sense of euphoria.
The natural temperamental character of her more harmonious,
appreciative, uncritical, and holistic-perceiving right brain emerged. This awareness has a universal connected
“oneness” sense of existence, and in its euphoric state, it seemed to have an
almost What-Me-Worry attitude.
It seems likely that people who have had near-death experiences may
merely have seen the expansive vision of their right brain for the first
time. This seems much more probable to
me than that they have glimpsed a real world of “life after death”. Have you ever felt that you were looking
down on yourself from a vantage point above your body, or outside of it? Right brain, caught in the act!
In astonishing contrast to Jill
Bolte Taylor’s sensational insights, a popular new book has been written by Dr. Eben Alexander, who had suffered a sudden rare
brain infection that caused a full grand
mal seizure and sent him into a comatose state for seven days. During his coma, he had similar perceptual
near-death experiences to Ms. Taylor’s, but he interpreted them in a much
different way. In Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the
Afterlife, Dr. Alexander had
visions that he felt proved definitively that there is a God and that angels
exist, and that there is a Heaven and an afterlife, and that he had seen that
LOVE is a scientific principle. This is
“curious and curiouser”!
I regard Dr. Alexander’s story as an extraordinary misinterpretation of
right brain perceptions, and hence a transcendent example of illusory
“confirmation bias”. I have to say that
this line of thought made me remember the French philosopher Rene Descartes,
who basically ponderously declared: “I
think, therefore I am. (I think).”
Taylor’s observations about her right brain’s perspectives and way of looking
at life and the world are marvelous, surprising and potentially very
valuable. Watch her TED talk online for
a clearer idea of her insightful perceptions. It
is sad that we tend to suppress the more feminine-valued half of our brain,
because the right brain may well hold an influential key to clear-seeing,
expansive awareness, personal equanimity, spiritual transcendence, and even
social fairness, peaceful coexistence and ecological sanity.
“Enlightenment may be a process of unlearning
even more than a process of learning.”
-- Jill Bolte
Taylor, Ph.D., My Stroke of Insight
Further Digression Exploring this Startling and Inspiring Stroke of Insight
often, while our body is right here, right now, our mind is somewhere else.”
--- Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D., My Stroke of Insight
We interpret “reality” through the lens of mental constructs in our
minds, and through the filter of the subjectivity of our own experiences. We all have our own individual worldviews,
and they are invariably influenced by the genes of our physical and
temperamental inheritances, as well as by the experiential influences of our
family, parental upbringing, peer group, community, faith tradition, archetypal
myths, and societal moral values.
“Our perception of the external world, and our relationship to it, is
a product of our neurological circuitry.
For all these years of my life, I really had been a figment of my own imagination.”
--- Dr. Jill
recognition that we are figments of our own imaginations will help us take ourselves
less seriously, and simultaneously let us see big picture perspectives that
will allow us to be more effective in accomplishing greater good goals.
is marvelous to realize that our perceptions of the world, and our
relationships to it, are a product of how our brains function. From birth until death, each of us perceives the world though our five
senses, and our brains receive nearly continuous reports about sights, sounds,
smells, tastes and touch. We process
these inputs through hundreds of billions of cells in the interstices of the
“enchanted loom” of our brains.
It is revealing that our amazing brains have these two distinct
hemispheres, a left one and a right one, and that each side functions in a
significantly different way. The two separate hemispheres of our brains have
different modes of perceiving the world.
The left brain is
associated with masculine ways of being;
it makes associations in
words and is language-oriented, analytical, methodical, categorizing,
linear-thinking, calculating, organizing, evaluating, judgmental, story
telling, gossipy, time conscious, busy and constantly chattering. The right brain is associated with feminine
ways of being; it is image-oriented,
intuitive, holistic, here now, naturally connected, empathetic, peaceful,
joyous and “heart-aware”. These two hemispheres of our
brains seem to be seamlessly integrated into our conscious mind, physically connected with each other through a
conduit that consists of a flat bundle of neural fibers known as the corpus
calossum, or the colossal commisure.
“Colossal, I’m sure!”
are all somewhat lost in our own worlds, our minds continuously chattering to
us and telling us stories about how the world really is. All of us think in words to a surprising extent, and tend to see our world through
the use of language constructs and “ideologies”. If we could choose to envision the world in more immediate and
holistic ways, we surely would be better off.
I suppose that this is one reason why people meditate, pray, do yoga,
engage in repetitive exercise, study philosophy, hike in natural surroundings,
use recreational drugs, or appreciate spiritual philosophies like Buddhism.
people meditate, they often use a repetitive sound pattern called a mantra
(which literally means “place to rest the mind”), and they pay attention to
their breathing or engage in sustained movement like walks in nature. These undertakings make it easier to
cultivate a sense of mindfulness in being, and a generosity of spirit, and
better perspective on life. They can
help us be grateful for our time alive, and for our health and whatever good
fortune we may have. Jill Bolte Taylor
declared that her intense experience made her “enthusiastically committed to
the well-being of the cells that constitute my life.” A good idea! She
recommends we choose not to be in a hurry;
after all, “Your left mind may be rushing, thinking, deliberating and
analyzing, but your right mind is very m-e-l-l-o-w.”
The fact that the chatterbox left hemisphere of our brains is
generally busy thinking, telling stories, rehearsing, gossiping, fantasizing,
judging, worrying and obsessing over slights is supremely ironic because the
contrasting neuro-circuitry of the right hemisphere of our brains is apparently
more like a “tranquil sea of euphoria”.
It is filled to overflowing with an oceanic sense of deep inner peace,
equanimity, heart consciousness and a sense of being right here, right now,
like a bright light at the end of a tunnel.
Each of us has a right brain that is unfortunately sublimated to the
obsessive left brain. I love the idea
that Jill Bolte Taylor tells us that anyone can learn to choose to tune in more
closely to this calmer, happier and more appreciative part of our brains.
cognizant of the value to each person of his or her own mental health, once
sent me a sign that I have hanging in my makeup room. It says, 'Please take responsibility for the energy you bring
into this space.' Thank you, Dr. Taylor, for that simple but powerful
lesson. All life is energy and we are
transmitting it at every moment. We are
all beaming little signals like radio frequencies, and the world is responding
words take on a simple context of positive energy and enthusiasms that will
help us improve the quality of our lives and achieve great and necessary goals!
A Stroke of Insight is
also available as a CD audiotape. I find this topic
valuable because it provides
provocative understandings on how the language-oriented left hemisphere of our
brains can control our perceptions and distort our values.
My left-brain controller
observes: “Let’s sharpen our pencils --
but not dull our wits.”
After reading parts of the Earth Manifesto, a
friend said that my writings are clearly a love being expressed. A surely feminine part of me is expressed in
these words, with compassion and caring and sensitivity. But my overriding
ecological sense of human sanity stems from rather different primary
motives. I have a compelling curiosity
and idealism and enthusiasm for life, along with a passionate sense of justice
and a hearty appreciation for the natural world, and for the importance of
long-term greater good goals. My
creative drive to express deeply felt convictions is accompanied by an
objective rationality and an aspiration to a reasonable degree of Buddha-like
Love, to me, is a bit like “God”. It is an emotional projection of spiritual
cravings of our deepest inner selves.
Both love and God are ineffable, mysterious, inexplicable, ethereal,
elusive, deeply personal, and potentially marvelous and sublime -- and often
tragically disappointing. Many people
are intrigued by mythic stories and poetic conceptions in which feelings of
love and the worship of deities play a large role. Obsessions with love and God have deep psychological
underpinnings that are reflected in established religions and other spiritual
pursuits, and they are revealed in personality assessments and character
typologies like those of the Enneagram.
Our beliefs in love and God are defining facets of
our deep needs for connection, belonging, affirming relationships and even
salvation. As such, they are complex
expressions of profound aspects of our inner selves. Let them be!
hundreds of different types of cells in our bodies: bone cells, muscle cells, nerve cells, gland cells and the
like. Our cells not only have an
amazing variety of functions, but also a surprisingly wide range of sizes. In A
Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson noted that the most
striking contrast in cellular size is at the moment of conception, “when a
single beating sperm confronts an egg eighty-five thousand times bigger than it
(which rather puts the notion of male conquest into perspective.)” Ha!
Come hither to make a valiant conquest, you squiggly little striving
excessively confident one!
explanations can generally be found for almost every inherited
characteristic. New adaptations can be
traced to the pressures and influences of natural selection that tend to favor
particular outcomes and developments.
Leonard Shlain notes that four unique human traits appear in any given Homo sapiens population in a proportion
of about one-twelfth of all people. These
four traits are left-handedness, color-blindness, baldness, and
homosexuality. Shlain developed a
thesis that he calls the “Theory of Eights” (one twelfth is about 8%); in this
theory, he provides a provocative explanation for how “these four traits taken
together represent a constellation of genetic adaptations that enhanced the
success of the original human male hunting band.” Check out Chapter 16 and 17 of Sex, Time, and Power for a good understanding of how these traits
may have contributed to our evolutionary success during the time our hominid
ancestors were evolving larger brains and more complex hunting and mating
that does not reproduce is, in a sense, an evolutionary dead end. I myself, Tiffany Twain, have not yet reproduced,
and it is pretty likely that I never will.
My personal unique genes will apparently not be a part of the
evolutionary stream of humanity in the future.
Note, however, that new ways have become possible to pass things on to
future generations through the development of increasingly sophisticated
cultures. These new modes of
transmission are all but independent of the genetic legacy of our DNA. The fact of the matter is that the transfer
of information through non-genetic channels has become more important than ever
for our human biological success and survival.
Today these educational and cultural legacies are more important than
anything programmed in DNA to ensure our successful adaptation to rapid changes
in social and ecological conditions.
evolution is a process that is simply too slow to save us from the rapidly
gathering threats that are being caused by our species’ extraordinary
reproductive success and the impacts of our growing numbers. Since there are now more than 7.4 billion
human beings on Earth, the day is rapidly approaching that the carrying
capacity of the Earth’s ecosystems will prove inadequate to supply our
collective needs and desires. The
recognition of this fact should be crucial in motivating us to choose saner and
safer ways forward, rather than merely following our animal instincts to
reproduce with abandon and exploit resources with wasteful profligacy.
evolution is probably the most propitious way for us to ensure better hopes for
our species’ survival and prosperity.
Perhaps my legacy in this Earth Manifesto will make a positive impact on
our collective success. In contrast,
the act of reproducing adds ever more people to the planet and exacerbates the
challenges facing us. This is, in any
case, a splendid rationalization for my not having had any children! And take it from me, it is possible to have
a wonderful and adventurous life, filled with enjoyment, pleasure, variety and
purpose, without having had children -- and without having incurred the heavy
costs and time obligations attendant to child rearing!
Every person is
born and eventually dies, but there is an enduring strain of humanity that
survives. This genetic and cultural
continuity evolves along with our species.
An aspect of this essence that is crucially important for the survival
of our species is our collective conscience. This is the part of us that feels a sense of responsibility for
others, and for those in future generations.
Each of us tends to be selfish in our motives, but I believe that we all
have a deeper aspect of our beings that resonates with the greater good. Just as each individual has a profound
impulse to help his or her own families and relatives as a part of our instinctive
biological imperative of striving to ensure that our own genes are passed on,
we may also all have a deeper impulse to do the right thing to help ensure that
our own species survives.
recognition is growing that humanity’s survival is dependent on the health of
entire ecosystems, and on the protection of the diversity and well-being of
other species. This is an unfolding
realization that is finding powerful expression in the “blessed unrest” of many
movements like deep ecology, environmental activism, climate action and open space
initiatives, and the willingness to protect wildlife, endangered species,
wilderness areas and national parks.
More Perspectives of Dr. Leonard
I challenge readers to check out Dr. Leonard
Shlain’s surprising theories about the prehistoric overthrow of feminine
deities in favor of the worship of male gods, as compellingly articulated in
his provocative book, The Alphabet versus
the Goddess. Shlain writes that a
revolutionary societal change took place soon after the invention of alphabets,
and that this change was accompanied by changes in belief systems like the
overthrow of the primordial mother goddess Tiamat by the male god Marduk in the
ancient Babylonian pantheon. Dr. Shlain
contended that the innovative
creation of alphabets and writing caused wide-ranging shifts in our ways of
perceiving and interpreting the world.
Dr. Shlain postulated that a shift in consciousness
took place when the word-oriented left hemisphere of the brain became dominant
over the image-oriented right hemisphere. He says this was essentially a physical “rewiring” of the brain
that contributed not only to the subjugation of the feminine divine in
mankind’s belief systems, but to the real repression of females in early civilizations. One of the first codes of law to be written
in an alphabetic language was Hammurabi’s Code, and it was not only harsh (“an
eye for an eye”), but also distinctly repressive of women and their
The advent of alphabets in early
civilizations facilitated literacy for the masses, and it encouraged abstract
thinking. A correlated shift in
conscious awareness allowed people to more easily categorize knowledge, and it
facilitated a more systematic investigation of the workings of nature. The advent of written expression was thus
like a radical advance in weaponry during a long war, and one that causes an
abrupt change in the tides of fortune.
The development of alphabets and written records has been a great
blessing that has provided humanity with much good, but importantly, it has also
been a curse that has involved grave injustices.
It is time for a fairer balance to be established
between the roles of men and women in our modern patriarchal societies. It would behoove us to
have a simpler but truer and more comprehensive understanding of issues. At the same time, we should try to maintain
a spacious mindfulness in our lives. We
live in a deeply complex world in which appearances and reality are relative,
and simplistic explanations have profound exceptions. To be resilient and to cope well, we need to strive to remain
open-minded and flexible.
“I used to be somebody, but now I’m
--- Song from the film Crazy Heart
Shlain was a pioneer in the development of techniques for minimally-invasive
procedures known as laparoscopic surgery.
Impressively, he was also a remarkably insightful author and observer of
the human condition. He pointed out
that, for sophisticated neurolinguistic reasons, all forms of writing produce
subtle changes in mental cognition. The
effect of these changes is to redirect human thinking. Since the advent of the written word
increased the left brain’s dominance over the right, this had the effect of
strengthening left-brain masculine values and at the same time emasculating
right-brain feminine values. As a
consequence, human societies became more dominated by males, and they became
more ruthlessly competitive and increasingly repressive of females. They also may have become more oriented
toward warfare instead of peaceful coexistence, and humanity became less aware
of natural connections and vital good involved in our interconnectedness and
It is my strong
feeling that we should now once again find a way to give greater respect to
feminine values, and to cooperate together to achieve more enlightened and
holistic ways of apprehending and honoring other people and the natural
world. We need a smarter, more
practical and more sensitive self-understanding and a better balance that will
enable us to embrace more empathetic, statesman-like ways of relating with
other people. This is particularly
critical on the international stage, where global issues are playing out writ
large, with profound significance and disturbing implications.
societies can be made more humane by infusing them with a sense of shared
community, fairly-shared prosperity, and other feminine sensibilities. Today the need is stronger than ever for us
“to build bridges rather than walls”.
Feminine sensibilities are much more apt to strive to heal, reconcile,
and forgive others than macho male attitudes.
Men tend to be more logical, and women more intuitive. We should surely value our intuitions as
well as our logic. Women value
relationships over the goal of domination or violently conquering others, and
they place a high value on the creation of community. Since they often listen better than men, they are generally
somewhat more willing to pay attention to other points of view.
should be empowered by ensuring that they have fair access to a good public
education. They should be guaranteed
equal civil rights and property rights so that they will have more economic
power. Assistance with financing and
microfinancing for poor women, like the funding provided by Muhammad Yunus’
Grameen Bank, has been shown to have salubrious effects on societies at a
remarkably low cost. We should
therefore invest more money in such things, and less in bailing out mega-banks
with trillions of dollars when their speculative gambles go awry.
provided great hope that image-rich mediums like television and film could
spark a powerful cultural revolution, just in time, by once again shifting our
brain’s hemispheric balance. Watch Yann
Arthus-Bertrand’s great aerial images in
the provocative film Home
(google it!), and let me know if you notice any salubrious effects! It is, in any case, an extraordinary
film. We sure could use a positive revolution
that would advance a more collaborative, nature-honoring,
feminine-principle-embracing, and healthier balance in our societies -- one
that is oriented toward the greater well-being of people alive today AND the
security and prosperity of those in the future.
I like psychologist Jean Shinoda Bolen’s
job description for what may be required to ensure that we will succeed in
helping save ourselves and keep the Earth habitable:
"HELP WANTED: Everywoman.
Home keepers for Earth. Must
keep premises safe for all. Must have a
concern for children's needs and development, and an ability to manage
resources, resolve conflicts, work collaboratively, ask questions, listen,
learn from the experience of others, be empathetic, and act with compassion for
the benefit of all, including the generations to come."
Introducing Another Great Gal and Her Perspectives
Adversities sometimes inspire us to see and
feel a greater sense of empathy and compassion for others. Hardships sometimes serve to make us acutely
aware of the challenges others face in their own setbacks. Think,
for instance, about a woman named Carla Zilbersmith.
In May 2010, a
47-year-old woman named Carla Zilbersmith died after a three-year struggle with
the slowly debilitating disease ALS, which is also known as Lou Gehrig’s
disease. Zilbersmith was
spunky and courageous, and she handled her terrible adversity with admirable
aplomb. One of her occupations was as a
stand-up comedian, so she decided to leave the world laughing and wrote her own
humorous obituary, which included the line, “Friend to an amazing group of
caring, creative and competent friends, and lover to several very lucky and
largely undeserving men.” I’m
Her obituary continued: "Although ALS is a fatal and incurable
illness, Carla never gave up hope that one day her death would be surrounded by
a cloud of controversy and speculation.
Her final words, spoken through a clenched jaw were 'oil can.' The memorial is tentatively planned for the
afternoon of Saturday, June 5. It is
guaranteed to be the funniest funeral that you have ever attended, or your
flowers back. Costumes encouraged but
Carla Zilbersmith was deeply chagrined at having gotten this terminal Lou
Gehrig’s disease. Shortly after receiving the diagnosis, she joked to an audience: “It sucks, because I hate baseball. I’d really rather have been diagnosed with a
basketball disease. Maybe with Wilt
Chamberlain disease. That’s the one where you have sex 20,000 times and
then you die.” Very witty, Carla -- and
ALS is one of humankind's most dreaded
ailments. It is a neurodegenerative
disorder that gradually paralyzes the body while it leaves the mind
intact. Victims usually live from two
to five years after being diagnosed.
There is not yet any cure or effective treatment. When faced with the inevitable and
"imagining my deathbed," Carla had resolved "to live the rest of
my life with joy."
People who have
such an upbeat attitude are admirable.
Yay for you!, Ms. Zilbersmith.
May your memory live on as a dramatic example to us all. And may your memory highlight the value of a
clear sense of mindfulness in life, and of a positive attitude no matter what
the obstacles. May your memory lead us
to the words of Sylvia Boorstein:
“We don’t get a
choice about what hand we are dealt in life.
The only choice we have is our attitude about the cards we hold and the
finesse with which we play our hand.”
Sylvia Boorstein is a Jewish grandmother
who is also a Buddhist, and these words come from her book It’s Easier Than You Think: The Buddhist Way to Happiness. Boorstein also observes that everyone
inevitably faces struggles and adversities, and that it behooves us all to try
“to manage gracefully”. I believe that,
in addition to managing gracefully and trying to maintain a quintessentially chipper attitude, to whatever
extent possible, everyone should strive to make a positive
difference in the world in some way.
This would be a beneficial legacy to our descendants. By doing this, we would “pay forward” a more
salubrious destiny to our heirs.
Speaking of Evolution
We find ourselves here, now, aware, on a
planet that is majestically revolving around its axis once every 24 hours while
it makes annual orbits around a star that is the center of a solar system
spiraling around a vast conglomeration of stars known as the Milky Way
Galaxy. This galaxy is just one of
hundreds of billions of galaxies in the Universe. These clumps of burning matter are scattered across vast expanses
of empty space, and all of it is hurtling across the heavens. It appears that all these galaxies are
hurtling away from some colossal explosion that apparently took place at the
beginning of time. Sort of like a
really Big Bang.
Everything in the Universe is in continuous
motion, from the atomic and microscopic level to the macrocosmic. Everything, in other words, is changing all
the time. The geophysical evolution of
the Earth, as evidenced by erosion, landslides, floods, glacial activity, earth
tremors, volcanic eruptions and a million other detectable daily changes, is
merely a miniscule subset of this much longer evolution of the Universe. Life on Earth can be seen to have adapted
over time to the physically changing conditions on the planet. All species of life either succeed in
adapting, or become extinct. More than
99% of all forms of life ever in existence are extinct due to the endless
challenges of the almost eternal struggle to survive through the eternally
changing seasons, the fray of competition, and the long span of ecosystems
transformations. Every species alive
has almost miraculously survived a long succession of catastrophic extinction
events throughout this unfathomably long span of geologic time.
have revealed that about 40% of Americans do not believe that life has
evolved. This is startling because, as
Richard Dawkins has written, “Today the
theory of evolution is about as much open to doubt as the theory that the Earth
goes round the Sun.”
Many of those who doubt that life has
evolved on Earth hold this view because they cling to religious dogmas that say
humans have existed in their present form ever since a Supreme Being named God
created the world in relatively recent times.
This is a denial of overwhelming evidence of biological change. It also essentially denies the fact that
geophysical change takes place continuously, and that biological adaptation to
changing ecological and climatic conditions over the eons is the only sensible
way to explain the existence of so many life forms that are almost perfectly
adapted to current conditions in the habitats and ranges in which they
live. A recent “null hypothesis
confirmation” of the theory of evolution has been discovered by a UCLA
professor and paleobiologist named William Schopf, who found a marked lack of
biotic evolutionary change in forms of bacteria found in an unchanging
environment of deep seafloor sediments over billions of years. (When there is no change in a physical biological environment, the
theory of evolution would posit that there would be no speciation and no
evolution of the form, function, or metabolic requirements of its biotic
components, and sure enough, that is what scientists are finding in one of the
most unchanging habitats on Earth.)
The denial of extensive evidence of
cumulative evolutionary change (and the sensational discovery of places where
none has taken place over a period of more than a billion years) is so bizarre
that one must resort to studies of psychology to explain such pigheadedness. Mark Twain satirically ridiculed incredible
foolishness like this and man’s anthropocentric worldviews in Letters from the Earth.
Denial and self-delusion are truly
startling in light of the growing urgency for us to better understand the world
and our role in it. For our race to
have better prospects of surviving and prospering, we would be well-advised to
cultivate better understandings, and not to deny them. We are all free to cling to whatever beliefs
we like, and perhaps in many ways it does not matter if we are right or wrong
about beliefs concerning evolution or Creationism. There are, however, matters in which erroneous beliefs can be
either personally or socially disastrous.
In such instances, it is vitally important to understand reality more
accurately. When stubbornly dogmatic beliefs have negative consequences for
people’s welfare or the well-being of others, or for the future of our species,
it is important to accurately comprehend the way things really are. In such instances, narrow convictions of
absolute certainties in myths, superstitions, doctrinaire propaganda, and
cultivated confusion can be dangerous.
“Living is easy with eyes closed,
misunderstanding all you see …”
--- Lyrics from Strawberry
Fields Forever by John Lennon of the Beatles
Misunderstanding arguably does matter
significantly to all of us collectively.
Misunderstandings can lead to personal conflicts, social strife, wars,
and ecological devastation.
Perspective on Human Evolution
evolution during the relatively brief span of recorded time has been primarily
social rather than biological, according to Will and Ariel Durant in The Lessons of History. “It has proceeded not by heritable
variations in the species, but mostly by economic, political, intellectual and
moral innovation transmitted to individuals and generations by imitation,
custom or education. “Originative
individuals”, the Durants observe, inspire innovating minorities, and these
cultural creative types provide leadership that imitative majorities
follow. This is the way of
history. This is why history smiles
favorably on occasional “great” persons and heroes and geniuses, who are all a
product of events and developments, as well as being their agent and voice. Every such person, as the Durants point out
in their chapter Character and History,
“is an effect of numberless causes, and causes of endless effects.”
make a convincing case that “every vice was likely once a virtue, i.e., a
quality making for the survival of the individual, the family, or the
group.” Hence greedy appetite,
pugnacity, brutality and promiscuous sexual readiness were all once advantages
in the struggle for survival. So,
“Mankind’s sins may be the relics of his rise, rather than the stigmata of his
cultures evolved from the hunting and gathering stage to the agricultural and
animal husbandry stage, previous virtues became vices. “Industriousness became more vital than
bravery, regularity and thrift more profitable than violence, peace more
victorious than war. Children became
economic assets, and birth control was made immoral.” And moralizing conservatives, averse to change, shout out their
staunch and antediluvian opposition to the unmooring of moral values during
transitions to new sets of circumstances and exigencies.
On Theories and Evidence
“Nothing is so rewarding as a stubborn
examination of the obvious.”
--- Oliver Wendell
A variety of explanations can be posited
for any phenomenon. A study of evidence
can shed light onto which explanations are most probable. Consider, for instance, a deep mudflow that
covered a section of road near a National Forest campground just north of
Redstone, Colorado in early July 2010.
In September, the dried-up muddy mess could still be seen, and I
naturally figured that a mudslide in the mountains above this flow must have
been the proximate cause, sometime earlier in the summer. I hiked up along the dried-mud gash in the
landscape for more than an hour, climbing up a dry watershed whose banks had
overflowed with mud, rocks and fair-sized boulders. There was also a lot of devastated riparian vegetation. I reached a juncture where two equally
disrupted stream beds joined, and following one, I ascended to another similar
juncture. This contradicted my
expectations of a single source of the mud flow. Finally, further up the watercourse, there was convincing
evidence of what had actually taken place.
Abnormally heavy flows of water in a flash flood had poured down from
the towering red cliffs and the mountains above, and a 30-foot wide, 10-foot
deep wall of roiling water had ripped deep into the steep vegetation-covered
talus slopes. This had torn soil,
plants and rocks asunder and propelled them in a copious cascade of riparian
materials down the watershed. This
event forcefully cut and overflowed the stream banks until it played out widely
in less steep areas near the campground below.
A Google search indicates that the heavy rains and mudslides had
temporarily closed the highway between Redstone and Carbondale. My excursion had confirmed that the best
understanding of any phenomena is best attained by a close inspection of the
roots of humanity’s nature and behaviors lie deep in our prehistoric hunting
and gathering past, long before the economic and cultural upheavals associated
with the Agricultural Revolution and the more recent rapid technological
innovations in industrial activities.
To best understand the full scope of these ideas, let’s imagine back in
prehistory when our species’ existence first diverged from our predecessors. The origins of Homo sapiens can be traced roughly to an era between 150,000 and
200,000 years ago when our remote ancestors began appearing in the fossil
record as a species distinct from earlier Homo
erectus and Homo neanderthalensis
and other ancestral hominids. After
surviving and proliferating for many millennia, our species faced a
near-extinction event about 75,000 years ago.
It is instructive to think about this episode, which is discussed after
an aside, below.
Every so often in geologic history, a planet-wide catastrophe takes place
that is caused by some sort of geophysical event like the fiery impact of a
meteorite or the violent eruption of a supervolcano. Such an event throws so much debris into the atmosphere that a
‘global winter’ ensues for months or years on end. Particulate matter and acidic pollution ejected into the
atmosphere can block sunlight and disrupt the photosynthetic process upon which
all forms of life in the food chain depend.
When life-enabling sunshine is blocked, widespread population crashes
can occur for almost every species of plant and animal alive at the time.
The most famous such geophysical event took place about 65 million years
ago when all of the many species of dinosaurs went extinct along with more than
half of other species of life on Earth.
Some scientists believe that this massive extinction event was caused by
a long series of volcanic eruptions in the Deccan Traps area of present day
India. There, almost 200,000 square
miles of land are still covered more than 6,000 feet deep with igneous flood
basalt. Most scientists, however, now
agree with physicist Luis Walter Alvarez, who came up with a different theory
in 1980 that was startling at the time, but has since gained widespread
acceptance. This explanation holds that
the Cretaceous Extinction that took place 65 million years ago was caused by a
large asteroid that hurtled through the atmosphere and slammed into planet
Earth. The Chicxulub
(“Chick-shoe-lube”) Crater, a 15 mile deep crater that is about 350 miles in
circumference, has subsequently been identified as the place that this
asteroid, roughly six miles in diameter, struck so long ago. This crater is found on the Yucatan
Peninsula, overlapping into the southern part of the Gulf of Mexico. There is a good possibility of a correlation
of this impact on one side of the Earth’s crust with the Deccan Traps eruptions
at the antipodes on the opposite side of the planet.
The proverbial ‘smoking gun’ confirmation of this theory of an asteroid
impact is provided by a thin layer of iridium that is found in sedimentary
rocks all around the world that were being formed during that distant era. Iridium is a rare element on Earth, but it
is an element that happens to be abundant in extraterrestrial asteroids. A fall-out of iridium that followed a
colossal meteorite impact is the most probable explanation for this unusual
layer. A YouTube video about sandstones
along the Brazos River in Texas, about 750 miles from this impact site,
provides a surprising confirmation of this theory. Geologists have found iridium in unusual concentrations in rocks
that were formed worldwide at this “KT boundary” between the Cretaceous Period
and the Tertiary Period, which basically marks the boundary between the end of
the Mesozoic Era (the “Age of Reptiles”) and the beginning of the Cenozoic Era
(the “Age of Mammals”), some 65 million years ago.
Indulge the imagination in prospective details, like those I found in
one of my Germinating files:
immediate outcome of an impact as big as the Chicxulub would be hours of
worldwide heat from the fiery impact that would be comparable to exposing
forests and all land and ocean surfaces to heat in a domestic oven set on
broil. There would also be intense acid
rains and a blockage of the Sun’s rays for weeks or months on end, resulting in
the inability of land plants and algal plankton in the ocean to photosynthesize
food. This would be followed by a
“nuclear winter” of freezing air temperatures as the heat of the Sun would be
blocked from reaching Earth surface, and this condition might persist for
months or years. Thereafter, a
“microwave summer” effect would transpire, caused by the greenhouse gas effects
of enormous amounts of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by the
meteorite impact and subsequent volcanic activity, and these hot temperatures
could last around the planet for a thousand years.”
evidence indicates that this greenhouse effect could have persisted for a
million years due to huge earthquake
forces that came together from all directions in a colossal hammer blow to the
Earth's crust at the antipodes on the opposite side of the planet from the
impact. These forces would have
pulverized the Earth’s crust and caused hot magma to escape in practically unheralded volcanic eruptions that
would continue for hundreds of thousands of years, creating a formation like
the Deccan Traps in India. These
multiple layers of flood basalt are so extensive that they contain a volume of
solidified magma that exceeds 100,000 cubic miles of extruded lava.”
more than three-quarters of all species of life on Earth were wiped out during
the terrible Cretaceous extinction 65 million years ago! Revealingly, species of life distantly
ancestral to Homo sapiens managed to
cling to existence through these dire times, as did the distant ancestors of
every other form of life on Earth today.
Existing today necessarily means that no ancestral species ever was
completely wiped out.”
The cause of the Permian Extinction, the most severe extinction event in
Earth’s history, is less well understood.
I find this quote in another one of my Germinating files:
“The Deccan Traps were a municipal fireworks
display compared with a huge Siberian basalt formation called the Siberian
Traps, the product of eruptions lasting 600,000 years. These occurred about 250 million years ago,
coincident with the Permian extinction -- the worst mass extinction in the
--- Gregg Easterbrook, We’re
All Gonna Die
The reason that these ancient extinction events are of particular
interest is that biological diversity today is experiencing another major
extinction episode, and this one is being caused by human activities. When we understand the causes of this rapid
extinction, this awareness could and should serve as a catalyst for us to take
sensible steps to mitigate the severity of this development. The problem is made significantly worse by
the fact that not only is humanity threatening and endangering many species of
life in terrestrial areas, but also in marine habitats.
Our activities, in aggregate, are affecting the most ecologically
crucial marine habitats -- estuaries,
wetlands and coral reefs -- in
especially harmful ways. One
third of the world's mangrove forests and almost half the world's coral reefs
have been lost due to direct habitat destruction. Many of the remaining critical marine habitats are indirectly
degraded by fertilizer runoff and other forms of pollution, freshwater
diversions, and “ocean acidification” (declining ocean alkalinity) that is
being caused by increasing amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
As human population pressures grow, essential ecological services and
species are affected, and this could prove disastrous to the vitality of
Earth’s ecosystems. Let’s take bold
action now, and focus our efforts on instituting really effective incentives
and disincentives to alter our collective behaviors!
I am well
aware that Niccolo Machiavelli,
one of the shrewdest observers of politics in history, makes it
vividly clear how intransigent the problem of changing an established system
“It must be remembered that there is nothing more
difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage than
the creation of a new system. For the
initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old
institutions, and merely lukewarm defenders of those who would gain by the new
discouraging word about roadblocks to propitious change is offset by the
positive implications of the Rule of Two Impossibles: When something is declared politically impossible,
and yet the alternative option is proved to be impossible to an equal or
greater degree, the first impossibility becomes curiously much more
feasible. I believe that courses of action
that lead to future ruin should be regarded as a greater impossible, rendering
the stubborn stances of “conservatives” and defenders of the status quo as
suddenly less impossible to change.
The Genetic Bottleneck of the Toba Tuff
The most notable instance of a ‘volcanic winter’ in more recent times
was caused by a geologic event known as the Toba Tuff cataclysm. Scientists find extensive evidence of this
volcanic eruption that took place 75,000 years ago on the island of Sumatra in
present-day Indonesia. This eruption
caused the most severe biotic disaster on Earth in the last 25 million
years. The Toba Supervolcano spewed so
much volcanic ash, gases and sulfuric acid into the atmosphere that it caused a
volcanic winter that stressed life to an extreme degree. The human race was carried right to the
brink of extinction. The population of human beings was probably reduced
to a few thousand on the entire planet, and all the survivors lived near the
equator on the continent of Africa.
Every person alive today is descended from this
small population base.
This explains the
extraordinary lack of genetic diversity found between all members of our
species. There is less than one-tenth
of one percent difference between the gene structure of any one human and any
other, despite the obvious variations in skin pigmentation, eye color, body
shapes, facial features, and hair types that characterize people around the
world. As Leonard Shlain points out in Sex, Time, and Power, “The genes of
chimpanzee communities inhabiting ranges only a few thousand yards apart have
more genetic diversity than those of humans separated by oceans.”
In 1977, I just happened to visit Ground Zero of this Toba ecological
cataclysm. I flew from the Indonesian
island of Java to the southern tip of Sumatra, the 6th biggest
island in the world. Then I took a
rough bus ride north for 24 hours to the inland body of water known as Lake
Toba. This lovely lake is the largest
lake in a volcanic caldera in the world.
It is 100 kilometers long and 30 kilometers wide. In the middle of Lake Toba, the
extraordinarily beautiful Samosir Island was idyllic back in the 1970s. Ferry boats that took locals and a few foreign
travelers out to the island at the time were so dilapidated that the crew would
bail out the 200-passenger vessels during the entire trip across the lake. This journey was an adventure!
The lovely waters
of Lake Toba fill the ancient volcanic caldera remnant of a “Toba
Supervolcano”. In this regard, it is
similar to Crater Lake in the Cascade Range in southern Oregon. The caldera of Crater Lake was also formed
by a climactic eruption of a volcano, one known as Mt. Mazama. This towering volcano had been formed by a
long succession of eruptions over a period of some 400,000 years, and this
climactic eruption took place relatively recently, almost yesterday in geologic
time, about 7,700 years ago. It spewed
out about 12 cubic miles of magma, in maybe one week’s time, and then the
mountain top collapsed into the emptied magma chamber, leaving a remnant rim 33
miles around with a deep hole in the middle.
When the crater eventually partially filled with fresh water, the lake
became the deepest lake in North America.
the most violent volcanic eruption in modern history was that of Krakatoa in
August 1883. In this great eruption,
about 6 cubic miles of material is estimated to have been ejected. Many people remember the impressive explosion
of Mt. St. Helens in the southern part of the state of Washington in 1980; it ejected only about 1 cubic mile of
that the Toba caldera is the remnant of a series of Toba Tuff explosions, and
that the last eruption 75,000 years ago ejected an estimated 670 cubic miles
of pumice and ash. One can imagine the
effects that this had on the patterns of the world’s weather in the years
following that eruption. The Krakatoa
explosion in 1883, after all, had sent less than 1% of the volume of debris
into the atmosphere that the Toba eruption did, and yet it had very significant
adverse effects on the agricultural food production worldwide in 1883 and the
years that immediately followed. Of
course, everything is relative. The
lava flows in the Siberian Traps are estimated to exceed one million cubic
miles of molten rock!
live in A Sound Bite Society, so
the publication of more than 1.5 million words in twelve 212-page books in this
manifesto may sound like the most colossally quixotic instance of literary
madness imaginable. Nonetheless, every
day evolving ideas spring forth unbidden to modify and augment these ideas and
understandings, as if from a mysterious but certainly not entirely inexplicable
water source like the Rogue River springing forth from Boundary Springs, not
far from beautiful Crater Lake in the Cascade Mountains of southern Oregon.
had actually hoped to hike to this source of lovely spring water on a recent
visit to extraordinarily beautiful Crater Lake, but a wildfire had raged
through the tinder-dry forest in August 2015 and temporarily closed the
trail. In my imagination, I am
wandering their now with a book of Greek mythology to read about Athena, the
Goddess of Wisdom, who was born
fully grown and armed from the head of Zeus, ruler of the universe. Athena was also known as the goddess of
courage, inspiration and civilization, and she was known for her calm temperament. She notably only fought for just reasons,
and was thus the patron goddess of heroic endeavors.
Catastrophes and Cooperation
A provocative article written by
Emily Spence about the Toba Tuff eruption and related topics can be found by
googling Emily Spence Toba Tuff. Ms.
Spence makes a fascinating observation in this article, titled “Concerning
Catastrophes and Cooperation”. All the
human survivors of the Toba explosion lived within 200 miles of the Rift Valley
in modern-day Kenya, so she speculates that obsidian tools, which are found in
abundance in the Rift Valley, were instrumental in allowing the early humans
living in the region to be successful in hunting the reduced populations of
animals found there. These tools
allowed them to survive the extreme hardships posed by the global ecological
calamity. Ms. Spence theorizes that
tribes probably died off if they chose to violently conflict over resources,
but those who survived were the ones who cooperatively hunted and traded and
coexisted peacefully. “As a result,”
she writes, “our ancestors, all of them for everyone on Earth, likely came from
these small bands of people, and we all inherited a genetic foundation imbued with
a propensity towards accommodation and sharing and cooperation!”
I like Ms. Spence’s attitude. Today, we are divided and distracted from
seeing vital bigger picture perspectives, due to obtuse ideological
intransigence, political partisanship and obstruction, religious differences,
animosity, greed, and the denial of scientific understandings. Larger perspectives reveal that our human
activities are causing many detrimental impacts that are harmful to the ecological
commons of our home planet. These actions,
in aggregate, are endangering the Earth's capacity to provide for future
generations of many species of life, including our own. The most serious of these impacts are
changes in temperatures and rainfall patterns in almost every locale and habitat
around the planet.
These developments make it clear that we should be
more serious about finding ways to give higher priority to our collective
well-being and the things that are most important in life. We should seek ways to reduce the power and
stubborn opposition of those who defend the status quo and fight only for
short-term goals. Proposals are
elaborated below that would help us achieve greater respect for the natural
world and a needed radical reorientation and restructuring of our activities and
Note that Richard Dawkins provided a counterpoint to
Emily Spence’s ideas in his book The
Selfish Gene. He contended that the
nature of our biological inheritance may provide little help in building
societies wherein individuals cooperate unselfishly toward achieving common
good goals. He may be right that, in
the context of DNA and genetic influences, things like universal love and the
welfare of the species as a whole are concepts that are inconsistent
with processes that drive natural selection.
But new understandings of the survival value of in-group cooperation in
early human clans make it clear that cooperation has been crucially important
throughout our species’ evolution.
Today, it is becoming ever more vital for our cultures to work together
to adapt, and to make sure Earth’s resources are not overexploited. We simply cannot allow the ecosystems of our
home planet to be damaged beyond habitability as our civilizations grow, for
catastrophic collapse will result from ecological overshoot.
Seen from another angle, historians Will and Ariel Durant expressed
the following provocative idea:
“Co-operation is real, and increases with social development, but mostly
because it is a tool and form of competition;
we co-operate in our group -- our family, community, club, church,
party, “race”, or nation -- in order to strengthen our group in its competition
with other groups.”
Hunting and Gathering and Associated Behavioral
Emily Spence’s observations that all human beings
alive today are descended from ancestors who lived in a single area in
sub-Saharan Africa are confirmed by extensive genetic studies that have been
done around the world in recent years.
It is valuable to note that, throughout the entire span of time from our
earliest origins until the past 10,000 years, our ancestors survived by hunting
animals and gathering plants, fruits, nuts, and herbs for food and
Since human males generally tended to be hunters in
early human clans and females were gatherers, the eons-long biological and
cultural evolution of humanity has encouraged different traits in men and
women. Men had to be more aggressive in
the hunt, so they tended to be more ruthless in competition and more ready to
be physically aggressive and violent.
Women tended to collaborate and cooperate together to raise children,
gather foodstuffs, prepare meals and do other chores required for domestic
survival. So they naturally accorded
greater value to relationships, and they forged connections better and solved
problems in ways that were more oriented around community and good
communication and peaceful coexistence.
Studies of the brains of females and males show that the influence of
the main human sex hormones, estrogen and testosterone, play significant roles
in creating these gender differences by helping shape neuronal circuits and
behavior patterns during embryonic stages of development and early childhood
Each of us naturally has an intensely solipsistic
and self-absorbed worldview. We think
we are so sophisticated, and we scarcely admit that we are actually
animals. But despite our introspections
and conceits and spiritual pursuits, our drives are rooted in basic biological
imperatives like getting enough to eat, finding a secure place to live, and
seeking success in courting, mating and reproducing.
The respective roles of males and females began to
change significantly 10,000 years ago when the transition began from
hunter-gatherer clans to agricultural societies. Nomadic peoples settled down during this Agricultural
Revolution. Then another great
transformation began when the Industrial Revolution started about 250 years ago
with the use of steam engines, and people began to move in large and growing
numbers from farms to cities to work in factories. The twentieth century saw economic forces that propelled most
women into the payday work force, and it witnessed sociological changes
stimulated by the widespread availability of birth control measures. These developments all dramatically altered
the relations between females and males.
Today, we are faced with the fact that our human
impacts on Earth’s ecosystems will likely lead to far-reaching and potentially
devastating consequences. It seems
obvious that it would be propitious for us to choose to make new transformative
efforts to empower the cooperative and collaborative aspects of our natures,
and to weaken the aggressive, exploitive and conflict-oriented mentality that
dominates the world political scene.
The best way to accomplish this might be to give women more power,
because they embody the empathetic and nurturing constellation of feminine
values. A better balance of power
between men and women would serve to diminish the domineering influence of
strict-father attitudes, and to weaken the undesirably retrogressive
traditionalist elements of human societies.
I believe women
are the key to sparking a new respectful worldview that will be in better
harmony with nature. Female politicians
like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann are exceptions to this general idea, but
it is because they are so affected by religious fundamentalism and sycophantic
conservatism that they cater to entrenched interest groups and deny scientific
knowledge and oppose vitally important ecological understandings. Some women can obviously be as uncompromising, myopic, ideologically extreme,
reckless, irrational, idiotic, and manipulative as the worst of men. But regardless of whether any specific woman
offers better ideas for a more sane future, a far better balance is needed, in
aggregate, between the collaborative constellation of Nurturing Parent
sensibilities and the contrasting constellation of worldviews that characterize
Strict Father values, as identified by linguist George Lakoff. The values generally associated with
feminine worldviews are needed to balance out the rash, domineering, and
ruthlessly competitive values that are generally associated with masculine
It seems clear that, in light of our growing
knowledge, we should take more courageous steps to educate and
empower girls and women in our societies, and to provide them with fairer
opportunities. By doing this, we would
likely improve cooperation on the world stage and make our societies fairer,
more collaborative and more conducive to healthy living and peaceful
coexistence. This would be a salubrious
form of social intelligence!
would also be potently desirable to create a cease-fire in the war between the
sexes. To do so, it would be valuable
to understand the sociobiological exigencies that have led to misogyny and the
repression of women and patriarchal domination. Dr. Leonard Shlain pointed out that the struggle between the
sexes is comprehensible because a part of every male is resentful toward
females for preventing him from following the “evolutionary imperative adhered
to by 99.9 percent of male creatures -- to spread his seed far, wide, and
often.” Females, on the other hand, are
frequently angered by the male gender’s failure to live up to their hopeful expectations,
so they harbor deep resentments toward the male sex. “This mutual rancor abets the war between the sexes and renews
itself in every generation,” wrote Shlain.
Gray, the bestselling relationship author in history, offers his own brand of
advice on how to improve relationships and create lifelong passion and lead
healthier lives. Can we do it? All together now; one, two, three, four, can I have a little more!
The time has come today for collaboration
and consensus-seeking to move our nation forward. The principal vision in these words is that feminine
sensibilities, intuitions, practicality and collaborative spirit may be the key
to improving our prospects for needed progressive adaptation. Let’s work to enable this transformation!
Whether or not this strongly-held
conviction is completely valid -- that a greater respect for women’s
perspectives would help us successfully address the overarching issues we face
-- we cannot afford to delay in boldly and fairly addressing the risks, dysfunctionality
and inequities presented by today’s far-flung challenges. NOW is the time to act!
A Lunar Aside
The Moon has been provocatively personified in feminine
symbolism and monthly cycles throughout human history, just as the Sun has been
regarded as an Apollonian symbol of masculine forces. This symbolism calls up important evolutionary memories. The Care2 social network website contains this
illumination about the Moon (edited):
The moon is the
primary night light of the skies, illuminating the land brightly on the nights
of the full moon and receding again to the mystery of complete darkness at the
new moon. This ancient enigma of
constant regular appearance and growth and subsequent disappearance is a visible
symbol of life and death and then rebirth with the appearance of the waxing and
waning phases of the Moon. Ancient
peoples measured time by the regular cycle of the Moon rather than the cycle of
the Sun, and even the solstices and equinoxes were originally celebrated on the
closest full or new moon.
The Moon is like
a mirror that reflects the light of the sun, so it represents the shadow side
of the sun’s light and can be seen as reflecting the mystery and fear within
our souls. The changing face of the
Moon is particularly associated with women because its regular twenty-eight day
cycle so closely matches the cycle of menstruation. The Moon’s visible
cycles can also be seen as mirroring the life of woman in her various stages as
a girl, mother and older woman, symbolically paralleling the lunar phases of
new, full and old. The mirror of the
moon can symbolically be seen as illuminating both the darkness of the night,
our shadow part, and the blue sky of daytime, our conscious selves.
The Care2 website,
incidentally, was founded to help connect activists from around the world. It has a stated mission of helping people
make the world a better place by connecting them with individuals,
organizations and businesses that are making responsible impacts in the
world. I salute this splendid idea of
working to make the world a better place!
I find it
fascinating to imagine the genesis of the Moon. First, I’ll set the stage. The Sun and our solar
system formed from nebulas of dust and gas clouds that were hurtling through
space, similar to the genesis of every other star system in the Universe. As these materials came together, they gained more mass and stronger gravitational force,
and nuclear reactions forged them into dense, hot stars. As the Sun was forming, other gases and
heavier elements in orbit around the new Sun coalesced into disks of materials
that began colliding and fusing into protoplanets and planetoid masses that
would eventually make up all the planets in orbit around the Sun today, along
with their satellite moons.
The best scientific theory for how the Moon was formed is the Giant
Impact Hypothesis. This is a
provocative theory that a Mars-sized protoplanet slammed into the Earth during
its “Late Heavy Bombardment stage”.
This colossal collision early in the geologic history of the Earth
blasted a part of the mantle material from both bodies and sent it outward at a speed great enough to achieve
escape velocity from the Earth's gravity, and thus into orbit. The
Moon’s orbit is slightly elliptical, with the average distance from the Earth
to the Moon being about 236,000 miles.
A close viewing
of the Moon through a telescope provokes the imagination. More than 300,000 visible impact craters can
be seen that have a diameter in excess of one kilometer. Since there is no water and little
atmosphere and no plate tectonic movements on the Moon, forces of erosion like
those on Earth do not operate there, and the cratered surface offers mute
testimony to the many impacts of meteorites over the long course of lunar
The biggest and
deepest crater on the Moon is “an abyss that could engulf the United States
from the East Coast through Texas”.
This crater was created after the Moon had formed, when a large
meteorite crashed into it and gouged out a crater almost 1,500 miles across and
more than five miles deep. Scientists
have named this crater the South Pole-Aitken Basin. The tremendous heat of the impact melted part of the floor of the
crater, turning it into a sea of molten rock.
“Everyone is a moon, and has a
dark side which he never shows to anybody.”
--- Mark Twain
You have to love the majestic rotation of the Earth that
equally gives everyone on the planet days and nights of constantly changing
duration. This is a marvelous instance
of natural egalitarianism. Yay for
Mother Nature! The Moon, in distinct
contrast, long ago stopped any similar spin, frozen as if it’s in suspended
animation by the friction associated with the strong pull of Earth’s
gravitational field. One side of the
moon is always lighted by the Sun; the
other side is always in perpetual darkness.
When the orbit of the Moon takes it directly between us and the Sun, we
see only the dark side, and call it a new moon. When the Moon’s orbit takes it directly away from the Sun, 14
days later, we see only the light side, and call it a full moon. The Moon waxes from new to full and back to
new every 28 days.
Eclipses of the Sun and the Moon take place
only because the orbit of the Moon takes it directly between the Earth and the
Sun, and directly away from the Sun on the far side of its orbit. An eclipse of the Moon can be seen from
anywhere on Earth where the Moon is visible, and it always takes place when the
Moon is full, because the Earth’s shadow is being cast out in space directly
away from the Sun. An eclipse of the
Sun, however, is visible only from a narrow moving corridor on Earth about 30
miles wide, because this is the size of the Moon’s shadow at its distance from
us. This occurs only when the Moon is
“new” and we see only its dark side because the Moon is directly between the
Earth and the Sun when such an eclipse takes place.
Daily high tides are higher and low tides are lower around two
specific times of each month: the new
moon and the full moon. A curious mind
will be able to imagine the causative factors behind this fact. During a new moon, when the Moon’s orbit has
taken it on its path directly between the Earth and the Sun, the gravity of the
Sun and the Moon are both pulling Earth’s oceans in the same direction,
creating higher high tides and lower low tides. During a full moon, the Moon’s orbit has taken it directly away
from the Sun and the gravity of the two bodies is tugging in exactly opposite
directions. The tides ebb and flow from high to low
and back to high and then to low, completing this cycle regularly every 24
hours as the pull of the Moon’s gravity exerts its attractive influence on the
Talking to the Animals
This somewhat impressionistic line
of thinking has haphazardly led me to a memory of an episode in a year-long
journey I made around the world when I was in my twenties. The tethers that anchored me to my own persona
had sufficiently unraveled that I was forced to give deeper consideration to
who I actually was, and what I was doing.
I felt as though I was drifting like a truck driver hurtling down a
mountain highway when it’s safe to “Let ‘er drift”. Volubility seized me, and the liberating refrain sounded in my
head, “Ain’t life
While spending three weeks trekking around the vast Annapurna
Massif in Nepal, I began to talk to the animals, even the yaks, the polliwogs and the ravens. I gave enthusiastic encouragement to donkeys
burdened with heavy loads that had big clanking bells around their necks. I asked the dogs if they were so sleepy
because they had spent all night long barking.
I gave congratulations to the spiders for the beauty of the large webs
they wove. I challenged the intellect
of the quizzical snorting water buffalo.
I taunted the bravado of the roosters (“lay low, you cocks!”). I quizzed the lizards on their philosophical
perspectives. And I made fun of ducks
on a pond as they cautiously swam toward me, hoping for a handout and yet at
the same time being very wary of potential treachery. Hope and fear, I thought parenthetically, appear to be as
fundamental to ducks as to human beings.
Chipper the Cow:
“I’m a glass-is-three-quarters-full kind of cow,
and being confident in the fact that everything is all
about me, I lead a happy and cheerful
life. Yay for me!”
Passion and Compassion
Twain brazenly made fun of biblical absurdities in his posthumously published
book, Letters from the Earth, I can’t remember if he ever wrote about the
Immaculate Conception. I had to look up
this concept on Wikipedia to understand what occurred way back when, according
to the official story. The Immaculate
Conception is a Roman Catholic doctrine that says Mary, the mother of Jesus,
was conceived in her mother’s womb free from all “stain of original sin”, so
she had divine grace. No sexual
intercourse had reputedly been involved!
doctrines are absurd to accept as literal.
Why does the Holy Book assert that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was born
from a mother through Immaculate Conception?
To understand this doctrine, remember that the act of disobedience by
Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden was regarded as such a terrible provocation
of God’s wrath that it unleashed ‘His’ severe condemnation of the human race
ever-after to live lives of suffering followed by death. Sex soon thereafter came to be considered as
a sin, somehow dirty, libidinous, and way too alluring and potentially
pleasurable, and prone to make one promiscuous. As a result, “virgin births” were a convenient way to posit
complete virtue for heroine figures in a religion’s dogmas. And, Presto! Mother Mary was born in a miraculous Immaculate Conception.
was actually a new dogmatic truth that was concocted and canonized in
1854; it was “solemnly defined as a
dogma by Pope Pius IX”. I can just
imagine! And there they were, just
after the ‘49ers Gold Rush got going in a far distant part of the world,
creating a curiously implausible new doctrine in a holy book with a solemn air
of newfound absolute certainty!
claim an Immaculate Conception were borrowed from pagan myths. Zeus, for instance, made many mortal women
pregnant without the involvement of any mortal man. I reasonably reckon that virgin births are just about as likely
today as they were with Zeus in Athens in 500 BCE!
conceptions of God simplistically picture ‘Him’ as an ethereal old man. This is
an absurdly anthropocentric projection of our human self-centeredness upon the
Universe. It seems crazy to me to
anchor all the tenets of a religious establishment upon such a dubious
presumption. The Almighty God portrayed
in the Bible is not much more sophisticated than Greek mythological deities,
and it is pretty doggone preposterous to honestly believe that God made us in
‘His’ own image, rather than the actual and more obvious fact that we have made
God in our own image. Whatever!
like virgin births are whoppers! Babies
are born nine months after a woman’s egg is fertilized by a man’s sperm, so
anyone who claims that a woman gets pregnant without a sperm being involved is
making it up! You can count on it. The belief in a virgin birth is a throwback
to antiquated times of superstition when people did not understand the nature
of reproductive biology. Today we know
better, and yet many people cling to atavistic dogmas as if they are really
true. Promulgators of doctrines should
take care to make their miracles a little more plausible!
The creators of
the Garden of Eden story set forth a dogma of “original sin” in order to induce
guilt and conformity. The Bible may
even have been designed to reconcile humankind to tilling the soil and
accepting suffering in life. Doctrines
that egregiously conflate sex and sin were cooked up to stimulate guilt, a
prominent aspect of Christianity. One
purpose of such stories is to manipulate people to get them to obey moral codes
-- often as strictly defined by stodgy, conservative and puritanical male
authorities in undemocratic power-obsessed churches.
portrayed as sinful by religious authorities despite the simple fact that sex
is a vital biological function and a potentially beautiful form of human
connection and communication. It is
biologically absurd for religious authorities to use sex and guilt to get
people to think the sexual act is dirty.
The doctrine of
the miraculous Immaculate Conception is what Mark Twain called a
“stretcher”. The assertion that Mary’s
mother got pregnant through divine intervention is no more plausible than myths
that Zeus impregnated many mortal females in the course of his divine
philandering. At least the ancient
Greeks weren’t so audacious, prissy, implausible or preposterous as to
formulate the idea that Zeus left the mothers in a virgin state after the deed!
Greek gods and
goddesses were much truer reflections of human nature than God or Allah are in
modern times. Zeus was a philandering
alpha male driven by macho sex urges to spread his seed far and wide, and his
wife Hera represented traditional matriarchal roles. God is more of a caricature today than an honest
personification. He has no wife, and
instead of being driven by powerful sexual urges, He was content to get a
mortal female pregnant without having sexual intercourse with her in some
inexplicable sort of mythic virgin intervention. Fascinatingly, God did this with an abstruse sublapsarian master
plan that his divine son Jesus would later be sacrificed as a loving savior for
mankind who would forgive the natural and inevitable sins of any person
gullible enough to fall hook, line and sinker for this story. God apparently craved the adulation of His
glory so much, and He was so mercurial, that He condemned humankind forevermore
for the original sin of disobedience by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and
He further condemned non-believers and all their children for three or four
generations to eternal burning in Hell for any sign of rational skepticism of
of things are a peculiar form of “abracadabra”. These explanations may satisfy eager believers, but they do not
any longer suffice in the face of modern knowledge and understandings of the
physical universe in which we live.
Some things are inexplicable, and some seem downright magical, it is
true, but explanations that directly conflict with cause and effect are
I mention these
controversial ideas because established religions have big responsibilities
when they choose to side with regressive forces and authoritarian political
establishments. When outcomes are
opposed to fair-minded policies or sensible environmental protections or the
prevention of tragedy-of-the-commons calamities, they are contrary to the
greater good. To the extent that
religious establishments collaborate with corporate shenanigans or inadequate
regulations in laissez-faire capitalist systems, conservative religious folks
must yield to moderates and reformers, in all faiths! With regard to repressive theocracies, don’t
get me started!
The Issue of
Health Insurance for All Americans
instincts, such as they are, urge me not to let these meandering words come to
a conclusion without mentioning the state of health care in the United States. What now, in the fog of obfuscating
rationalizations, are we to honestly think of rampant profiteering on health
insurance policies? These policies
affect life and death decisions about medical treatments, drug prescriptions,
and people’s well-being. Profiteering
ploys that exclude “preexisting conditions” and deny treatment and insurance
coverage are a form of exploitation and betrayal. This form of profiteering takes advantage of tens of millions of
the most vulnerable people in the U.S.
The fact that these gambits are insidiously directed to exploit the most
powerless of Americans is outrageous.
Oh, blackguards! Oh, vile
justifiers of an inhumane exploitive status quo! Oh, systemic stupidity!!
How can we effect
change when the dominant voices that control our economic system are those that
are often diametrically opposed to the common good? One of the most powerful instincts of parents is to protect their
offspring, and the sensibilities of mothers in particular are oriented toward a
protective nurturing of their children.
Yet when these sensibilities conflict with motivations that involve
status seeking, intense competition, aggression and instinctive male drives to
exploit and dominate others, compassion generally loses out.
It is feminine
sensibilities that are the ones most closely affiliated with fairer and safer
courses of action and a more sustainable future, so they are the ones we should
An Aside to
People Who Like to Eat: Recipes, Free
Since this is a
feminine vision of a better world, it cries out for some good recipes. Check out the sensational Twelve Delicious Recipes for Good Health and
Gourmet Appreciation. Do not overlook the Ginger-Infused Health
Beverage, because it is a hyper-healthy drink that is a great replacement for
coffee in the morning. This concoction
is good for you because ginger provides alkaline balance to the body’s acidic
systems, and cayenne, cinnamon and turmeric have been used for millennia for
their extensive health benefits.
to imagine that my recipes for the betterment of our world contain equally good
directions and guidance. The Greek
Kazantzakis wrote a personal version of Homer’s Odyssey, and he kept rewriting it repeatedly “to broaden its scope,
until it came to include all he had ever seen and heard and thought.”
Pondering this, I remember that Thomas Paine enlarged the scope of his understandings by wisely focusing on big picture ideas, not
specific individuals. He did this to
establish his relative objectivity in his analysis of the “absurdity” of
despotic British rule in the American colonies. And he justified the vehemence of his arguments -- and lent his
work significant gravity -- by referring to the "cause of America" as
"the cause of all mankind.”
that these writings contain equally noble attempts at a big picture scope, and
forgive the passionate diatribes aimed at any specific individuals who may have stumbled into a poor opinion here of
your humble servant scribe.
I thank readers for the
forbearance of your attention. Please
help advance these ideas by providing me with your input to help enlarge these
ideas and make them more inclusive.
More heart-centered understandings, in particular, are welcomed to
strengthen the emotional force of these ideas.
I am open-minded to hearing what one of my
somewhat conservative friends endearingly called “a
reasonably articulated counterpoint to your liberal pabulum.” Ha!
(Thank you, El Gaviero.)
Some More Reflections on Will and Ariel Durant
Ariel Durant have inspired many reflections in this manifesto. I love the fact that, according to
Wikipedia, “The Durants shared a love story as remarkable as their
scholarship.” Will and Ariel provide
readers some interesting details of their lives in A Dual Autobiography. Will Durant had fallen in love with a
14-year-old pupil at the Modern School, Chaya (Ida) Kaufman, whom he later
nicknamed "Ariel". They were
married one year later. She was so
young, according to one review, that that she roller-skated on her way to City Hall for their
marriage. That’s a delightful image!
shared not only a burning love for each other but a hunger for ideas. Their Dual Autobiography follows their intellectual journey, beginning with their interest in
anarchism and going on thru a long, shared lifetime that brought them honors,
fame and acquaintance with almost every major literary and intellectual
personality in Europe and the USA.
Their book is frank and moving, at once a star-studded history of the
decades through which they lived and worked, and it provides us with an
intimate tribute to an enduring love.”
long and esteemed intellectual collaboration, Ariel died in 1981, even though
she was 12 years younger than Will, who was 96 years old. Amazingly, Will died less than two weeks
survey of the contents of the eleven volumes of The Story of Civilization gives you an idea of the impressive scope
of this undertaking. From Our
Oriental Heritage and The Life of Greece and Caesar and Christ
through The Age of Voltaire and Rousseau and Revolution and The
Age of Napoleon, they studied a long span of history, and brought their
penetrating and sometimes poetic vision to their interpretation of people and
Ariel had intended to carry their work up through the 20th century, but they
simply ran out of time. They had
expected the 10th volume, Rousseau and Revolution, to be their last, but
they lived long enough to publish the 11th volume, The Age of Napoleon
in 1975. They also left behind notes
for a twelfth volume, The Age of Darwin, and an outline for a
thirteenth, The Age of Einstein, which would have taken The Story of
Civilization through to 1945. Those
two volumes would no doubt have been extraordinary additions to their collected
works! Maybe some enterprising scholar
will study all the volumes the Durants wrote and finish the job with excellent
additions to bring their story of civilization to modern times.
When I think
about those Biblical times of old when there were giants in the earth and God
would parcel out the responsibility for saving a few specimens of mankind (and
two of every other kind of animal), to a 500-year old man when He was hatching
His plan to unleash His fury on His biotic creation, I think how sad it is that
God didn’t decide to give Will and Ariel another decade or two of vital energy
to complete these books and add to their great contributions to human
At the end
of the day, Will and Ariel’s life works gave humankind many rich reflections,
and their stories about Darwin and Einstein would have provided more of their
inimitable illumination on the lives of these two modern intellectual
giants. The story of the lives of Will
and Ariel itself is a great one, for it is not only a marvelous love story for
each other, but also a love for history and philosophy. Since philosophy itself is literally a love
of wisdom, these ideas come full circle.
A love story
is a perfect one to cap these reflections, for love is an essence of the divine
in the human spirit. Will and Ariel’s
loves give us hope that we too can find the touchstones of repentance and
reconciliation and achieve a measure of salvation in a philosophic acceptance
of others; and even if it is not a loving
one, then at least a respectful Golden Rule kind of acceptance for other ways
of living and believing and seeing the world.
himself had been one of the most widely traveled people on the planet in his
day, having spent years living in Europe and circumnavigating the globe on his
lengthy lecture tours, and these travels broadened his perspective
considerably. No one has, or can have,
a “total perspective”, as Will Durant aspired toward achieving, but there are
definitely good ways of broadening one’s worldviews. It is my theory that the bigger a perspective we can cultivate,
the better off we will be as the decades unfold in our personal and collective
“I have striven
not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, not to hate them, but to
Jeff Wills provides an interesting point of view in a piece about Total Perspective:
is impressive. Modernity is in large part about the rise of modern natural
science. There is so much we understand
now and can accurately predict about natural phenomena because of the advances
of modern natural science. Our lives
have been improved beyond the imagination of those living within just the past
60 years. Science is an enormously
powerful tool for reading the book of nature. We need to be careful and
circumspect when challenging the results of scientific research. Believe me when I say that most of the time
it’s a mistake (dangerous and irresponsible at times) to discount the validity
of scientific explanations. If we’re
not careful, we fall into delusionism.
yet to believe that science is the only domain of real knowledge is simply
mistaken. Let’s start with the
statement that all real knowledge is, indeed, physics (science). Well, there is no scientific, falsifiable
way to prove the validity of this statement.
It is, ironically, a philosophical precept. You can’t run an experiment that proves the statement “that all
knowledge is physics.” You have to, well, take it as true … philosophically.
there is the big problem with ultimate or original causes. To explain: We can discover, detect, and
explain physical laws and how they operate in the universe, but as we keep
pulling back the layers and layers of the causal onion, we realize we can’t
explain the meta-laws (the ultimate laws) of the universe. In simpler terms, our current science can’t
tell us why there is a universe (galaxies, etc) in
the first place. “Why,” as the
philosophical challenge goes, “is there something instead of nothing?”
then there is the problem of judgment and values. Science can provide us with facts and important data, but science
can’t resolve questions of value. For
example, science does not help us decide whether we will or will not allow
stem-cell research. This argument is
sometimes confused as a science versus religion debate. But it’s really not.
This is a philosophical debate, not a scientific one. Science provides context, but it can’t give us the knowledge we
seek -- about what’s the right thing to do.
This is a decision of ethics, of philosophy.
then, I believe, there’s the knowledge of human intentionality. Basically we all have the same range of
emotions in greater or lesser degree.
We feel love, hate, lust, rage and fear and so on. But how do we truly learn about these
emotions? Certainly emotional
intelligence is real knowledge. Science
can tell us about the chemical makeup of these emotions and suggest how to
handle, understand or cope with them.
But how do we really gain emotional insight? Science just can’t give us this knowledge. We learn about these things through art,
literature, religion, philosophy, history, experience and so on. You learn them, in the broadest sense,
through the humanities. As Will Durant muses: “To observe
processes and construct means is science. To criticize and coordinate ends
there are the other Big Questions about life itself, and about the miracle of
human consciousness, both of which are still mysteries beyond the reach of
science. Science can give us a lot, but
it can’t provide us with meaning or purpose or even “why” science itself is so
important and worth our time and effort.
These are all philosophical questions.
me conclude by letting Will Durant provide my favorite summary of the
relationship between philosophy and science:
is philosophy stagnant? Science seems
always to advance, while philosophy seems always to lose ground. Yet this is only because philosophy accepts
the hard and hazardous task of dealing with problems not yet open to the
methods of science -- problems like good and evil, beauty and ugliness, order
and freedom, life and death. As soon as
a field of inquiry yields knowledge susceptible of exact formulation, it is
science begins as philosophy and ends as art:
It arises in hypothesis and flows into achievement. Philosophy is a hypothetical interpretation
of the unknown (as in metaphysics), or of the inexactly known (as in ethics or
political philosophy). It is the front
trench in the siege of truth. Science
is the captured territory, and behind it are those secure regions in which
knowledge and art build our imperfect and marvelous world. Philosophy seems to
stand still, perplexed, but only because she leaves the fruits of victory to
her daughters the sciences, and herself passes on, divinely discontent, to the
uncertain and unexplored.
we be more technical? Science is analytical description; philosophy is
synthetic interpretation. Science
wishes to resolve the whole into parts, the organism into organs, the obscure
into the known. It does not inquire
into the values and ideal possibilities of things or into their total and final
significance. It is content to show
their present actuality and operation.
It narrows its gaze resolutely to the nature and process of things as
scientist is as impartial as Nature in Turgenev’s poem: He is as interested in
the leg of a flea as in the creative throes of a genius. But the philosopher is not content to
describe the fact. He wishes to
ascertain its relation to experience in general and thereby to get at its
meaning and its worth. He combines
things in interpretive synthesis. He
tries to put together, better than before, that great universe-watch which the
inquisitive scientist has analytically taken apart.
tells us how to heal and how to kill.
It reduces the death rate in retail and then kills us wholesale in
war. But only wisdom -- desire
coordinated in the light of all experience -- can tell us when to heal and when
to kill. To observe processes and to
construct means is science. To
criticize and coordinate ends is philosophy.
And because in these days our means and instruments have multiplied beyond
our interpretation and synthesis of ideals and ends, our life is “full of sound
and fury, signifying nothing.” For a
fact is nothing except in relation to desire.
It is not complete except in relation to a purpose and a whole. Science without philosophy, facts without
perspective and valuation, cannot save us from despair.”
Conclusion Is Reached
provocative independent film made its rounds of the film festival circuit about
five years ago. Titled Sergio: Chasing the Flame, it is about
Sergio Vieira de Mello, a highly respected and praised human being who worked
selflessly for the greater good. Sergio
was a charismatic Brazilian who listened well and was empathetic, and he spent
his life trying to bring people together for positive purposes. Sergio exhibited an honorable integrity in
helping refugees when he worked for the United Nations, and he helped East
Timor, the former Portuguese colony in the Indonesian archipelago, to make a
transition to independence after many centuries of Portuguese rule.
Vieira de Mello was tragically killed in Baghdad where he had been leading a
mission to help the Iraqi people in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion of
Iraq. It is likely that al Qaeda
extremists targeted him because of his efforts to help East Timor, since
Islamic fundamentalists felt that East Timor should have become a part of
Muslim Indonesia rather than having been allowed to become independent. The qualities Sergio demonstrated are needed
more than ever in the modern world, and we should seek a fair way to mitigate
the fervor of suicide-bombers, and to emasculate the war-mongering forces that
undermine freedom and peaceful coexistence in reaction.
primary hypothesis in the Earth Manifesto is that we need to strive to achieve
greater good goals by making transcendent efforts to honor our reason, sensible
intelligence and farsightedness, and at the same time we need to honestly
respect our intuitions, collaborative instincts, and more feminine
right-brained impulses. We should find
ways to unite people by embracing Big Picture perspectives and the lessons of
history. We should incorporate insights
of people like knowledgeable ecologists and biologists, brilliant
neuropsychologists, far-seeing philosophers, and honest spiritual leaders. We should accept enlightened ways of looking
at the world from those who think and feel deeply. Such enlightening approaches could help us advance a salubrious
new worldview in which individuals, communities, societies and civilizations
can flourish without destroying the entire biotic fabric of existence on our
providential Mother Earth.
Margaret Mead provided encouraging words to those
who believe the world can, and should, be changed for the better:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful,
committed citizens can change the world.
Indeed, it’s the only thing
that ever has.”
Let’s join these people! The time has come for us today to support wiser and more
farsighted ways of seeing and understanding the world. Let us heed progressive calls to action and
work together to make our world a safer and more sustainable place. Let the anima within us reign!
Women of the World, Unite! (Men, Join Us!)
Thanks for your
consideration of these ideas. I
hold my hands at chest level, palms together, fingers pointing up, and I
figuratively look you in the eye, bow slightly, and say Namaste! (“I
salute you with reverence!”)
Dr. Tiffany B. Twain
August 1, 2016
(originally published in Nov. 2010 and revised occasionally since then)
The official motto of Paris, the City of Light is:
mergitur -- or, “She is buffeted by the waves but she does not
That’s a good quality, indeed, and an inspiration for us all
to persevere in the grand scheme of things!