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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Problem of Freedom

“And what sort of chains of dependence could exist among men who possess nothing? I am chased from one tree, I am free to go to the next; if I am tormented in one place, who will prevent my moving somewhere else? Is there a man who is so much stronger than me and who is, moreover, depraved enough, lazy enough and fierce enough to compel me to provide for his sustenance while he remains idle? He must resolve not to lose sight of me for a single moment, and keep me cvery carefully bound while he sleeps, for fear that I should escape or kill him: that is to say, he is obliged to expose himself voluntarily to much worse trouble than the trouble he wishes to avoid, or gives to me....Withouth expanding uselessly on these details, anyone must see that since the bonds of servitude are formed only through the mutual dependence of men and the reciprocal needs that unite them, it is impossible to enslave a man without first putting him in a situation where he cannot do without another man...”
-Jean-Jacques Rousseau from “A Discourse On Inequality”

"Freedom" is one of those slippery words, difficult to define because it is an ambiguous and abstract man-made concept. It naturally occurs in nature, but only becomes an issue in the way that humans view themselves, their surroundings and others. Freedom is only an issue in the presence of oppression, and oppression only exists among humans as a result of their perceptions of the world around them. Freedom grants one the right to behave without fear or punishment i.e. go anywhere they wish, do anything they wish or say anything they wish. Of course there are always limits imposed on freedom. We are all born free, but as we grow we learn the physical limits of our surroundings. We learn about the limits imposed on us by gravity or by our physical surroundings such as walls. Then we learn about ethical boundries....often imposed on us by those raising us. “You can stay out until dark, “Don’t go to the ‘bad’ side of town,” and then moral boundries, “Poor people are no good lazy bums.”

After we form the skills of logic we think it right to do as we wish unless it imposes on anothers freedom. Unfortunately, we don’t usually consider this until somebody else imposes on our freedom. Then...the natural reaction is to make a law or rule that applies to all people, restricting them from certain behavior that happens to offend us...this is where defining freedom gets fuzzy, complicated, and society becomes more and more oppressive.

The thing is, freedom can only exist if you recognize its existence and then excercise it while at the same time acknowledging and tolerating others freedom.

“[W]hat is boasted of at the prestnt time as the revival of religion, is always, in narrow and uncultivated minds, at least as much the revival of bigotry; and where there is the strongest permanent leaven of intolerance in the feelings of a people, which at all times abides in the middle classes of this country, it needs but little to provoke them into actively persecuting those whom they have never ceased to think proper objects of persecution. For it is this-it is the opinions men entertain, and the feelings they cherish, respecting those who disown the beliefs they deem important, which makes this country not a place of mental freedom.”
-John Stewart Mill “On Freedom”

Likewise, if you voluntarily enslave yourself to the laws of society which bind you, then you are not free in the least. If you support laws that oppress others, then you yourself are not free, for those same laws apply to you as well. Freedom can only exist if we all practice it, and tolerate other’s freedom...and then...only if we practice it with responsiblity.

To do this we must learn to remove these man-made boundries which devide us...not just those of moral differences, but of geography as well. We must recognize and accept our physical boundries, and rid ourselves of these things called borders...ethnic boundries, economic boundries, etc. We must be united and equal, we must resist the urge to punish others for punishment is nothing more than oppression. As long as there are prisons, there will be no freedom. As long as there are judges, there will not be freedom. We are only free to judge ourselves, and restrict our own behavior...anything else is oppression.

When mankind has reached a point where we can all respect each other, and are logically educated enough to restrict our own actions that will obviously oppress others, and yet are able to tolerate others freedom to do as they wish as annoying as it may be, as long as it doesn’t harm us or inhibit our own developement, then we will all have freedom. If someones action harms, the only thing we can do is show the person through a logical argument that they are wrong. We can educate them, but not physically punish them.

“It is always our responsiblity to acknowledge where something has gone wrong, but never our right to punish.”

-The I Ching translated by Brian Browne Walker

What do we do with those who refuse to acknowledge a logical argument? We propose we send them back to school. (of course, schools need to be rethought as well, in their current state, they are nothing more than oppressive prisons or glorified nursery schools, but that’s another article.)

We must also be willing to accept the natural limits of being human. The sooner we recognize this, the better. Perhaps man was not meant to fly around the earth in man-made jets. Perhaps this is only reserved for the birds. Perhaps we weren’t meant to extract oil and pollute the air with industrialization. Perhaps nature will force us to obey these limits when the oil eventually runs out. (By the way, anyone who believes that the oil will not run out needs to go back to school now and get a logical fast...get educate and save yourself).

As an aside, forgive me, but I must go on a short tangent here.The Avian Flu is Mother Nature’s way of laughing at our man-made borders. This is a natural problem, birds do not have to go through customs and immigration quarentine, they are truly free to go wherever they wish. The disease will affect men, women and children of any skin color, regardless of religious, moral belief or economic condition. Birds can spread this disease as they will, and man cannot do much to intervene aside from the ultimate and most arrogantly excercised form of oppression...the massive removal of life. Furthermore, it’s not just a problem for people in asia, it’s a problem for all humans around the earth. Mother nature is reminding us, that we are not so much above nature as an integrated part of it.

We are all born equal, but society teaches us to divide ourselves by rank (rooted in the ego) and to protect ourselves (rooted in fear). This is where the oppressive man-made chains of oppression are forged. To avoid these chains, we must take our ego down to size, realize that we are a part of nature, not above it...we are no better or worse than any other being on the planet, and we have nothing to fear, but fear itself. Life is life, and we have only to embrace all of it as it is comes our way, the “good” with the “bad”. Or perhaps I should say, the “pleasant” and the “not so pleasant” parts of life. For life is just all of its experiences in and of themselves. Those that make the best of it using their freedom, and helping themselves and others to get the maximum experience through their freedom will be the happiest and free. Those who wish to oppress others, and voluntarily enslave themselves to the chains of others, will unfortunately be destined to be unhappy, and oppressed.

“’When the great tao fell into disregard, did benevolence and justice arise; when knowledge and cunning appeared, the great artificiality came into being.’ When the source of the tao dries up, men take to the expedients of humanity and justice but in vain. It is as with the fish: ‘When the pool dries up, fish makes room for fish upon the dry land, they moisten on another with damp breath, spray one another with foam from the jaws. But how much better are they off when they can forget one another , in the freedom of river and lake!’ Hence the right way is for men to live simply in the tao without artifice and constraint, without thought or knowledge of good and evil.”
(Tr. of Lao-tsu by Arthur Waley)-excerpt from “Socrates Buddha Confucious Jesus” by Karl Jaspers)

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Life is a Jam

“ a consort of instruments, we do not hear the lute, the spinet and the flute, but a global harmony, the fruit resulting from the combination of the entire group.” -Michel De Montaigne from “On Friendship” (Pg. 46)

-Good musicians, like good citizens, listen to others and have the chops and good sense to figure out not how best to make themselves shine, but how best to blend with the others to create a beautiful harmony and make a good song better. Such is the same with life. We must all learn how best to contribute to sustaining life on earth as long as possible, while enjoying the fruit of our contributions.

Let me first state, that I believe there are two kinds of players of instruments, as there are also two kinds of citizens. First, there are musical automatons, those who have been trained how to play what they are told. Then, there are musicians who have been educated and disciplined in the art of making music.

The world is very much like Michel De Montaigne’s consort of instruments...each person playing their part. Our job is to perfect our chops and learn how to listen to others so that we may contribute to the consort in a harmonious way...improving on the song, without distracting from it, or attracting attention to ourselves or, in other words, without attempting to outshine but shine with each other.

If you’ve ever heard a good “jam-session”, the “song” probably went on forever...morphing and segueing from different stages of blend...all the players contributing without dragging the song down by trying to steal the show. When a musician decides to try to outshine the others...the jam is pretty-much over, because the other musicians lose interest for one reason or another (perhaps, they don’t feel a need to support and inflate another’s ego) or perhaps they add too much.

A good, true, jam-session is one where there is no rank, no star to shine with need of support. A good jam has everyone shining together in an endless blending morph of harmonies. You hear, as Montaigne says, “the fruit resulting from the entire group.”

One aspect of a good jam I’d like to focus on now is this:

When this magical amalgamation of sound occurs...the song can go on forever. It dosn’t ever get doesn’t lose too much energy or get over-bearing. The musicians always know how to keep the song alive through balance, and tasteful contribution. They know how to sustain the life of the song through sharing contributions. They listen to each other and add just exactly what is needed...always moving forward and falling back whenever it’s called for, thus pushing and moving the song through various phases, always improving and adding to what was laid down before them, in just the right way.

Now, that being said, to be able to do this requires major chops. (Chops in musician-speak meaning skill, or talent.)

Let’s take a moment to elaborate a bit on what this means. There are many levels of skill and talent. First, to be a good player, you have to get the basic skill of your instrument, but to do so, takes good ears and imagination. First, you have to be able to hear and repeat a note acurately without going either sharp or flat. Then, you have to learn how to read or play by ear, or both. Then you have to study all the different keys, time signatures and technicalities (music theory). Having learned all this, you have achieved technical skill, and are now ready to graduate to the level of an automaton.

However, to be a good jam musician, you have to have more than just technical skill, you also have to study style, finess, dynamics, etc. Good jam musicians are also well versed. They don’t just study one genre of music or copy one musicians style. They listen to everything...and become well versed in the other instruments as well. They are sponges of music. But, they don’t just absorb and regurgitate, they absorb things to make it a part of who they are, and use it to contribute to the jams in a new and improved way. The best of them can even play other instruments with at least an average skill-level. They have to be this well versed if they are going to know where they are going to fit in with relation to the other instruments.

Jam musicians have to be able to empathise with the other instruments so that they can know just what they can do to add to a jam without bringing it all down. To be able to empathise, you must understand what it’s like to be in another musicians shoes. The best way to understand this, is to study it.

Now, since all musicians are human, they are sometimes bound to make mistakes. Afterall...nothing in the physical world is perfect. Perfection only exists in the abstract world of mathematics. Good musicians, however, know how to use these mistakes to the advantage of the “consort”, or the whole...and to the advantage of the “jam” in general. They can use those “mistakes” to move the song forward, perhaps even move it in another direction. Other musicians in the jam, if they are of the same calliber, will be able to go with the flow and move with each other’s mistakes. They don't stop playing, and become critical of another player. A good consort doesn’t drop the ball, because there’s no such thing as a dropped ball...only one that’s bounced in a different the benefit of all.

So, to reiterate...without beating a dead horse...good jam musicians first educate and discipline themselves, they listen and interact with each other, and support each other with the ultimate goal of sustaining the “song” for as long as possible.

I think this makes a reasonably good analogy for being a good citizen of the world.

We can either train ourselves to be automatons, doomed to simply regurgitate what we are told, rehashing history, or we can educate and discipline ourselves to add to the harmonious consort of instruments in an attempt to imrove and sustain the song (world) as long as possible.

Monday, May 09, 2005

A Word On Efficiency

There are a lot of people wasting a lot of precious time and energy in an attempt to “debunk” environmentalist’s warnings about global warming and the destruction of the environment. I think people would prefer to spend their time and energy toward a positive effect on the world, by not only spreading warnings of environmental destruction, but by studying and sharing or teaching the wonders of positive things such as sustainable development, clean energy, eco-design, Permaculture and so on.

I see no point in ignoring the warnings of people who have dedicated their life to the study of saving the planet.

The reason most often given for debunking the words of environmentalists is the inconvenience it supposedly causes to the economy (or, more accurately, the inconvenience it causes to major corporations who make their gross profits directly or in-directly through the destruction of the environment).

I believe that if you think through this rationale, most logical people will find that it’s simply shortsighted thinking. Of what use is a good economy in an uninhabitable world? Of what use is it to amass a great fortune for your family if the world the future generations inherit is impossible to live in?

My father always told me that if you borrow something, you should return it in better shape than when you got it. I like to keep this in mind when I think about this world I live in. This world is not mine to do with as I wish. This planet belongs to every living thing living on it. I am borrowing it. I should leave it in better condition than it in was when I arrived for the sake of future generations to come, specifically my children and their children.

It’s not just my responsibility it’s also my duty. If I wish to hasten the end of humanity, than I can take advantage of the worlds resources for my own selfish purposes, if I wish to aid the survival of humanity for as long as possible, I must think about sustainability, and conservation of nature.

To achieve this goal, we have to use our time and energy efficiently. We have to spend it in a positive way. We have to take action with our lives and use our words wisely. We must point our words in the right direction toward improving the world we live in, not in the downward spiral of destruction caused by careless reasoning and inefficiently wasting our time complaining about the inconvenience of environmentalists to the economy.

Let’s pretend for a moment that the Republican conservative argument is right, and that of all the dangers facing our environment, Global Warming doesn’t exist, and if it does, it’s not the fault of humans, nature taking it’s natural course for the better. What good does this knowledge do us?

Let’s remember the words of Seneca, “For even if you admit that they say all this in good faith, even if they guarantee the truth of their statements, whose mistakes will thereby be lessened? Whose passions restrained? Who will be made more free, more just, more magnanimous? Our Fabianus used to say that sometimes he wondered whether it was better not to be involved in any researches than to get entangled in these.”

To put Seneca’s words into context for today’s situation, I can say that the passions of the corporations will not be restrained, they shall be lit on fire, and they shall no longer have to care about the CO2 emissions that they spew into the air, their mistakes shall be lessened, and they shall be excused from the responsibility they have to clean up any messes they have so graciously given us in the name of profit. They will be made free to do as they wish without guilt, while we become enslaved to live in the poorer environment they create.

Saying we have nothing to worry about amounts to nothing more than denial, and denial is not a positive action. The first step to solving a problem is admitting that you have one. We, the people of this planet do have a problem and it’s people fighting against environmentalists, fighting against each other instead of working together in a positive way to better this world we all share.

These last three words are a key to solving many of the world’s problems. A shift in thinking is needed from “Us vs. Them” to “We vs. Ourselves”. By this, I mean that it is the fault of all humans that war exists. It is the fault of all humans that the environment is being destroyed. It is the fault of all humans that there is starvation or homelessness. We are all responsible. These things exist because we, the people, allow it to exist.

There is not just one evil person, or country, or company. Evil exists, because we all support it, we all allow it to happen.

A wise old Native American by the name of Rolling Thunder once said, “When enough people want peace, there will be peace.” We can expand this to say that when enough people want a better world, there will be a better world. But we have to be united. To be united, we have to start working together. We have to stop fighting the people who are trying to make things better, and start fighting the people who are trying to destroy it for their own selfish purposes. When I say fight them, I mean that we have to fight for their minds. We have to fight with the weapons of logic and truth in debate to get them on our side so we can all work together.

Furthermore, to be united, we must stop thinking of ourselves as competitors for the earth via our religion, our country, or economic status. We cannot all survive with this winner-loser competitive streak. We will either all lose in the end, or all win by uniting to create a better world.

Environmentalist David Suzuki, who was recently voted “greatest Canadian alive,” for his work for the environment stated in a recent interview that “The very definition of what it is to be human is that we were unique among all the other animals on the African plain in that we had foresight. Our survival strategy was foresight…we know clearly where we’re going, but we’re not even paying attention. So that’s the tragedy, we’ve turned our back on the very thing that was the key to our survival. “

Wasting our time on the denying of the dilapidated state of the environment, is turning our back on ourselves to run us all headlong and headstrong, like lemmings over a cliff. It is to shun our survival instinct. I can think of a million more pro-active ways to spend our time. The first would be to educate ourselves and each other to the dangers we face, and the second would be to take whatever action that lies in our power to avoid those dangers.

To do anything else, would simply be a waste of time, and a waste of this earth we inherited and share with each other and generations to come.

Friday, April 01, 2005

The Logic of Public Welfare

There’s something so simple that it’s hardly ever said, but it’s worth re-stating.

Governments exist to take care of the people that they govern. Their job is to look after the welfare of the public. It’s so obvious that I think a lot of people just take it for granted.

A lot of people who are for tough punishment of drug offenders, for the capitol punishment of murderers, who are anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, etc. believe that they support these positions because they are positions that place the government in a position of protecting the people. They believe that it’s the governments responsibility to do so. It’s interesting to note that a lot of these same people are against the government providing universal health care, social security, equal education programs, etc. Why?

The answer usually given is because that’s not what the government is there for. The government shouldn’t be using our tax dollars to look out for those who can’t afford it.

Suddenly, when it come to social welfare programs, such as crime rehabilitation, food-stamps, education, universal health care, etc., the citizens are suppose to be able to stand on their own two feet…be self-sufficient. But when it comes to breaking laws…we depend on the government to put those criminals to death…put them behind bars…spend tax dollars to go through a lot of legal red tape to ensure that no gay couple gets married, or ensure that nothing but the right-wing ideology is taught in school. These things are worth spending tax dollars on to “protect” the people…but we can’t spend tax dollars on protecting people’s health, or on providing a quality education to all our children.

My questions for the people who believe this way are as follows: If the government isn’t supposed to look out for the health and well-being of those less fortunate…if it isn’t supposed to take care of it’s citizens who have been unfortunate enough to be born into a low-income household, or have a low income job and can’t afford health care, education, healthy food, clothing, shelter, etc. Then why should the government take care of protecting its citizens with laws and punishments, police and a military?

Why should they bother? Why should the government care at all? Why even have a government?

If the citizens are to be self sufficient enough to fend for their own health, then shouldn’t they be self sufficient enough to protect their own? If they are to be self sufficient enough to educate their own children at private schools, then shouldn’t they be self sufficient enough to provide their own roads, and provide for their own traffic safety?

If the government isn’t going to provide for the health and well-being of it’s citizens youth, then why should it bother to protect them with police or protect its borders with a military? If it isn’t going to protect the minds of all their youth by providing them all with a decent and equal education, why try to protect them from a distant country’s tyrants or their supposedly dangerous ideals or people with (according to them) supposedly immoral behavior such as homosexuality? If we aren’t going to protect the health of all our citizens, why try to protect them from murderers or thieves who probably kill less than the health issues that face a developed country?

You simply can’t have it one way, and not the other. The government is there to look after the welfare of its citizens, not just to punish those who break the moral Christian law. Our tax dollars are there to be used to create an infrastructure to be used by all it’s citizens. This not only includes paying a police force, military and building prisons (although, on a side note, I must say that I would prefer rehabilitation programs to “isolation” punishment, or “liberty-removal” punishment), but it also includes educating our young, caring for our elderly who cannot care for themselves, caring for the sick as well as the healthy…the poor as well as the rich.

If we look back in history to a people who were irrationally called "savages" we can find a more civilized, socially responsible form of wealth distribution. Black Elk talks about the Oglala Sioux system in Black Elk Speaks,

"...When they had gathered about the holy tree, some women who were bearing children would dance around it, because the Spirit of the Sun loves all fruitfulness. After that, a warrior, who had done some very brave deed that summer, struck the tree, counting coup upon it; and when he had done this, he had to give gifts to those who had least of everything, and the braver he was, the more he gave away....the next morning nursing mothers brought their holy little ones to lay them at the bottom of the tree, so that the sons would be brave men and the daughters the mothers of brave men. The holy men pierced the ears of the little ones, and for each piercing the parents gave away a pony to some on who was in need."

In The Indian Heritage Of America, Alvin M. Josephy, Jr's talks about...

"A unique institution known as the potlatch (from the Nootka expression patshatl, meaning 'giving') was a prominent feature of tribal life and gave owners of property an opportunity to compete for prestige and status. At a potlatch, a feast given usually to celebrate some important event, such as a marriage or the naming of an heir, or even to remove the stain of a personal humiliation, the host saught greatness and position by giving away his wealth, or ostentatiously destroying it in front of his guests....The more wealth he divested himself of, the greater was his prestige and that of his clan....Persons who gave a certain number of potlatches and impressed others with their wealth were classed as chiefs and "nobles"...the wealth distributed at potlatches often passed into the hands of many people who, eventually, would give potlatches themselves, so that some of the property went round and round."

In Rolling Thunder Speaks: A Message for Turtle Island edited by Carmen Sun Rising Pope, the respected medicine-man explains about the old days, "...when the tribe was traveling and there was hunger, the chief and the medicine man had to eat last after the others had been fed. Now how would it be if your politicians had such a system?"

We can see by these examples, that Indigenous Americans realized that a person doesn’t simply cease to become a citizen or a valuable member to society just because they don’t have a six-figure job. They understood that those in an advantageous position had a responsibility to care for those less fortunate.

We are all citizens of this planet because we all walk on it. If we are going to have a government at all, then its job is going to be to look out for and take care of us all…our protection, our health our education our environment and our freedom. There can be no justice, if justice is not applied equally across the board in regards to all things. If there are going to be taxes, they must serve all, not just the wealthy.

During the debates for framing the constitution of the U.S., James Madison commented that the role of government is “to protect the minority of opulent from the majority.”

I would rather agree with what was mentioned in the introduction to Thomas Paine's Rights of Man, "It would be better to trust the many than the few, who are also infected with the plague of self-interest and selfishness."

If you’re opulent, then you can afford to protect and care for yourself, you have no need to depend on the public trough. However, if you are not opulent…then not only do you deserve protection, the opulent or the government has a responsibility to protect and care for you.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Two Butterflies, Logic and Education

Those who have studied physics, or have dabbled into chaos theory will already be familiar with something called “The Sensitive Dependence On Initial Conditions” which is often lovingly referred to as “The Butterfly Effect." It states, “The behaviors of all dynamic systems are dependent upon their initial conditions.” In other words, extremely small changes or influences can have a huge effect on the possible future of the system.

The creative image often presented to illustrate this, is that of a butterfly creating turbulence with a flap of its wings…this turbulence then grows, thus effecting it’s surroundings eventually creating a storm on the other side of the world. Of course, not every butterfly is going to create a storm. Perhaps there might actually be another butterfly whose wings will generate an opposite turbulence to cancel out the storm created by butterfly one. Butterfly one is creating what we will call a negative butterfly effect, and butterfly two we’ll say is creating a positive butterfly effect.

The education of a society, and the way in which its citizens communicate with each other are the initial conditions that will have an effect on the society (the dynamic system).

If a society foregoes teaching how to act through the skills of proper thinking (i.e. the skills of logic, reason and philosophy) in favor of teaching how to act out of indoctrination and training, then that society will be doing things for the wrong reason. They will simply be automatons of behavior, not thinking about what they do.

Furthermore, if they are trained or indoctrinated into behaving from corrupt, illogical or un-reasonable thinking, they will behave with disastrous effects, not only on their society and on the environment around them, but on the world as a whole.

First they will corrupt their immediate surroundings and then, with what I will call a negative butterfly effect, corrupt the world. This may look like a slippery-slope, and it very well may be. But if the laws of behavior are true, such as emotional contagion, or motor mimicry, spread of rumors, spread of lies, etc. , there seems to be evidence that the laws of behavior could tip in such a drastic way as to create an epidemic of irresponsiblity and destructive behavior that could hasten the end of life as we know it.

Even if it doesn't bring about the end, that society not only will be unable to learn anything because they haven’t been taught how to think, they will also be bound to make the same mistakes again and again for all eternity, or until their own destruction, whichever comes first.

Such is the state of the world today. It’s no wonder there exist so many doomsday religions, people acting with irresponsible behavior, crime and religious fanatics bullying the world.

Indoctrinated or rationalized beliefs lead to actions that do not come from logical thinking, but from programming. Religious programming leads to good behavior at times, but the behavior is still coming from programming, not thinking. The action is not sincere…it’s just a reflex. People operating on this foundation are walking knee-jerk reactions.

Furthermore, religious programming often includes the portrayal of the world in an illogical way…and it is also so rigid as to form, in one’s core identity, un-changeable opinions about the world for religious belief is often the very foundation of the person’s ego, identity and social well-being. I hear people define themselves by saying, “I am a Christian.” Well, to be a Christian, you are supposed to believe in God and the words in the bible. Furthermore, you are supposedly bound to obey the religious law.

The problem with the Bible and most other religious law is that was written centuries ago. However, people and their minds are evolving along with society. The world is changing, and yet the religious law remains un-changeable…bound to a time in history when humans had not yet had the chance to make the moral and ethical leaps and bounds we often take for granted today.

If you are able to show that a persons religious beliefs are illogical, if scientific proof or facts come to light to show that their belief system is flawed in any way, they can no longer believe in the religion’s doctrines as the ultimate truth, they can no-longer believe whole heartedly in that god. They then have to question whether they can any-longer call themselves a Christian, a Hebrew, a Catholic, a Muslim or whatever. This brings on a crisis. What do they believe now? Who are they?

So this is the rational, or rather, irrational fuel on which the world is running now. However, this isn’t to say that the world has to be this way. We, as humans, the “rational animal” have the ability to change. We have the ability to find alternative sources of rational fuel.

If the initial conditions are such that a society has been built with a cornerstone of logic, reason and philosophy, then each citizen will be behaving from their very core with the foundation of proper thought, then that society will be able to learn and grow. The society will at least have a fighting chance to mature, because each citizen will be able to make logical and reasonable decisions for themselves.

Perhaps a society like this will be mature enough to accept responsibility for its mistakes instead of blaming someone or something else. They will be mature enough to take logical and reasonable steps to correct their mistakes and actually be able to improve their surroundings, thus having a positive butterfly effect on the world around them. Perhaps, they might be able to mature enough to surpass the archaic systems of law and punishment, greed, envy and all the other deadly things known in the religious world as “sins.”

I believe this paradigm shift in thought is possible. I believe that through teaching people how to be responsible, independent thinkers and decision makers, we can make the world a better place with people living in harmony. But the first stepping-stone, the seed that will sprout roots, is education.

A passage from Bertrand Russell supports this point. “An expansive and generous attitude towards other people not only gives happiness to others, but is an immense source of happiness to its possessor, since it causes him to be generally liked. But such an attitude is scarcely possible to the man haunted by a sense of sin. It is an outcome of poise and self-reliance, it demands what may be called mental integration, by which I mean that the various layers of a man’s nature, conscious, subconscious, and unconscious, work together harmoniously and are not engaged in perpetual battle. To produce such harmony is possible in most cases by a wise education, but where education has been unwise it is a more difficult process.”

Education of morals should not, and cannot continue to be left to the sole responsibility of churches or parents or even government who for reasons of convenience, expediency or just plain laziness, will rely on scare tactics and simple reward/punishment schemes to indoctrinate people into behaving. For example, religious indoctrination reduces morals to the concept of: good behavior=post-mortem utopia, bad behavior=post-mortem damnation…if you believe in God, you go to heaven, if you don’t, you go to hell.

The same is true for law. If you obey the law, you will be allowed to lead a “free” life, if you break the law, you shall be punished and stripped of this human right to liberty. This is very simple and easy to rationalize, but if we continue to rely on these methods, we will continue to have a society that acts from emotional reflexes, unable to change. Our decisions and our behavior will be dictated by our emotions (more than likely, fear) instead of logic. We will continue behaving no better than well-trained dogs.

We must start at the elementary level, teaching logic and reason at the first signs of it’s existence in the brain, and then slowly start bringing in philosophy at the start of puberty when minds and personalities are starting to truly take their own independent form. We must present young minds with broad knowledge of the world around them. We must teach them how to seek-out knowledge for themselves and how to divine the truth. They must become what Malcolm Gladwell, in The Tipping Piont, refers to as "Mavens."

"The word Maven comes from the Yiddish, and it means one who accumulates knowledge...The critical thing about Mavens is that they aren't passive collectors of information...They are more socially motivated."

Our youths must be more than just receptacles of information…they must become connoisseurs of information...knowledgeable of what is worthy and unworthy of retaining and using. They must be taught the art of logical debate for the sake of seeking the truth…not the art of rhetoric for the sake of winning an argument. They must learn how to act upon the knowledge that they have earned for themselves.

In this way, the individuals within society will be making their decisions and opinions based on logic and reason with the solid rock of truth to stand on. They will be behaving for the right reasons, because their actions will come from opinions and information that they own. Their decisions and opinions will be formed by them, for themselves,. Not for them by someone else. Their decisions will not be being made out of context to the current time-frame. Their morals will not have been instilled in them from a society centuries old. Their decisions will be made in context to the present, with knowledge and truth about the world as it has evolved…knowledge that they have found for themselves. Therefore their thoughts and actions will be harmoniously sincere and be coming from sound logic...not emotion, which can blind.

If you have ever tried to reason with a two-year-old child, you will be able to understand and sympathize with the state of human affairs as it is today in the mid-western and southern, rural U.S.A. This area is commonly known as the "Bible-Belt". It is populated with people who are sheltered from information and cultures around the world because their sources to information have been severely limited and their exposure to other cultures is likewise. It is an area where the land has been passed down through families for generations. Likewise their ideals and morals have been passed down from the religions that act as a social hub within the community. But I digress. The comparison I really wish to draw is as follows:

A two-year-old child’s brain has not yet developed the faculty of logic or the ability to understand reason. Its sources of information are also very limited. If you try to use reason or logic with a 2 year old, they become confused and don’t know how to react.

What a two-year-old does understand is senses and emotions like pain or pleasure. So, in response to the confusion experienced having been confronted with something they don’t understand (logic) they respond in emotional or physical ways that often aggravate the situation. They will smile, scream, cry, laugh, fidget, walk away or even strike out.

This is similar to what anyone with logical facilities comes across when attempting to debate (and I stress the word attempting) with, for instance, a right-wing conservative American, a Marxist a religious fanatic (or any fundamentalist for that matter). What makes things worse in dealing with one of these people is that they have wrapped their entire identity and ego up in the indoctrinated reasoning they have come to worship. Their whole life has been founded upon it. So, if you prove their argument wrong with solid documented fact, scientific proof, or point out a blatant logical fallacy, they become confused. They respond with rationalized beliefs, more fallacies, regurgitated rhetoric, ad-homonyms or even violent aggression.

They simply can’t imagine that what they’ve been trained to believe might not be true, and since their education lacks philosophy (unless voluntarily taken in University), or logic (often taught in-tandem with philosophy or University level mathematics), they are unable to respond with logic…the faculty is buried, if it exists at all, under years of indoctrinated rationale. They can rationalize themselves out of a wet sack, but they can’t argue with logic.

At this point, having been proven wrong, and if they have allowed themselves to admit it, they have a number of choices. One of them is to start questioning their belief system…question everything they’ve been taught…re-educate themselves, re-examine and take responsibility for their behavior, make necessary changes to correct their education, become active in their information gathering, they have to check their facts, question the credibility of their current sources of information, question their family and friends who have supported and provided their mis-education, etc, etc.

Perhaps, by making these changes, they start losing friends and family members along the way. (Of course, this would be unfortunate, for a wise and logical person should be able to find a way to open their friends and families minds as well. They should be able to argue with logic…and logic should prevail, but indoctrination is a hard nut to crack.)

To make matters even more difficult, in a small society such as a rural community, making changes to your belief system is not an easy option, for you depend on your neighbors…isolating yourself from them in anyway can leave you stranded alone, or even worse, can make you the target of an an organized attack on you and your family. Often, these people take the easy choice and live in denial, or simply re-join the crowd and continue acting irrationally.

As Bertrand Russell states in The Conquest of Happiness, “Owing to all these differences of outlook a person of given tastes and convictions may find himself practically an outcast while he lives in one set, although in another set he would be accepted as an entirely ordinary human being. A very great deal of unhappiness, especially among the young, arises in this way…this isolation is not only a source of pain; it also causes a great dissipation of energy in the unnecessary task of maintaining mental independence against hostile surroundings.” Sometimes, a denial comes about because facing the truth is just too scary. The truth is often ugly, and requires responsible action. Sometimes it’s just easier to keep the peace by keeping your mouth shut…even when you’re right. However, easy is not responsible.

Now, A person with the faculty of logic on their side, faced with being proven wrong, takes the pragmatic approach, and re-asses their beliefs and starts doing research, or whatever it takes to correct themselves. They will learn and grow from their mistakes. They will mature. The former, cannot for they have no interest in educating themselves to the truth. The later, armed with the teeth of logic and an agile tongue can launch into the un-programming and un-indoctrination of their neighbors. They can win them over, and in so doing, can win their respect, for logical people seldom forget who showed them the light. They can become what the Greeks called a parrhesiastes, roughly translated as a "free-speaker of truth." This word comes from the Greek root parrhesia, roughly meaning "freedom of Speech." Something we U.S. citizens supposedly possess.

Consider this passage from Fear-less Speech by Michel Foucault:

"...the decisive criterion which identifies the parrhesiastes the harmony which exists between his logos and his bios...secondly, the target of this new parrhesia convince someone that he must take care of himself and of others; and this means that he must change his life...conversion is not completely different from the change of mind that an orator, using his parrhesia, wished to bring about when he asked his fellow citizens to wake up, to refuse what they previously accepted, or to accept what they previously refused. But in philosophical practice the notion of changing one's mind takes on a more general and expanded meaning since it is no longer just a matter of altering one's belief or opinion, but of changing one's style of life, one's relation to others, and one's relation to oneself...these new parrhesiastic practices imply a complex set of connections between the self and truth. For not only are these practices supposed to endow the individual with self-knowledge, this self-knowledge in turn is supposed to grant access to truth and further knowledge."

The state of society today, unfortunately, is one in which it is largely functioning morally from a foundation of indoctrinated beliefs handed down through religious laws. Those laws were formed centuries before the human mind had a chance to evolve logically, with the help of reason and scientific discovery, to the point at which the modern brains exists today. Our societies are functioning on an out-dated program. Somewhat similar to an adult with the logic and reason of a two-year old child, or perhaps a better description would be like trying to run a state of the art computer on an operating system made 20 years ago with faulty programming.

We have narrow moral minds in society because they have not been fed the information that could allow them to be broad. We have been sheltered by the emotional reason that lies (spelling intended) within religious indoctrination…the fear and passion of religion has corrupted or clouded all proper thinking. Therefore, our decisions…our opinions and our world has been corrupted. Our growth is being stunted so we are unable to mature. We are being suffocated by a lack of education. Our informational diet is lacking nutrition. We have been trained to follow orders and have been indoctrinated into not questioning what we learn. We have been taught that rationalized, emotional reason overrides logical reason. For this we are doomed today, unless we can change tomorrow.

Some people have been taught or convinced that rational and logical thinking/reasoning are the same thing. The people in power and control have rationalized their right to that power and control, but it is not logical. Can it be logical that some people have a right to wealth and power while others don’t? Especially in a society where “all men are created equal?” This can be rationalized, but it’s not logical.

If one has power and wealth, while another does not, then they are not equal, and they never will be. If one is born rich, while another is born broke, they are not born equal, nor have the poor been given a fair and equal chance to change their situation or ability to achieve the “American Dream.” They don’t have an equal chance, because they don’t have equal access to an equal standard of education…schools with good teachers, state of the art computers, current textbooks, supplies, etc. The poor don’t have an equal chance to life, for they don’t have access to the same diet or health care afforded the wealthy.

The wealthy can rationalize their right to these things all they want, but they cannot make a logical argument in support of it...especially under the light of the American constitution.

So, here we see that the U.S. constitution is often in conflict with the economic system of capitalism. The economic system has been rationalized and indoctrinated into the people’s belief system. The result is an undermining of the logical statements made in the constitution, thus creating a split personality in the society.

There are the people who have rationalized their right to the greed of Capitalism in an Ayn Randian way. The people who have equally wrapped their identities and egos in the cloth of moral religious beliefs, and the morals that perpetuate the classist ecenomic system…willingly enslaving themselves to it. In the U.S., they are the G.O.P., the Republicans, the Conservative Right, who feel that their religious belief has given them priveledge over others. Their Christian God is right, therefore anyone who does not believe as they do is wrong. God made the world for them...not for others. There is no tolerance in their belief, because there is no room for it. "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." Therefore, there can only be world peace if they convert everyone to their religion, or destroy all those who don't believe. The extremists on their side possibly even wish to hasten the end of the world so they can (as the bumper sticker goes) "Let God Sort 'Em Out."They have no choice but to argue from rhetoric and indoctrination. Words most often used? "The Bible says..." Has anyone ever thought that the Bible might be out of date?

In the other corner of the ring are those who see the world logically, supporting the constitution, freedom and human rights over the economic system, for it's only logical (In the U.S., they are on the left and often called liberals). They fight for the liberty and justice for all, and tend to have logic on their side to support it. Unfortunately, they often resort to rhetoric as well..and this hurts their cause because they drag themselves down to the level of their oppontent.

On a side note, let it be said that those who attempt to straddle the fence between the two, trying to call themselves “moderates” are actually suffering from an identity crisis caused by their indoctrinated rationalizations over-weighing their logic on some issues, and vice-versa on others. This is where the famous flip-flop can happen.

We, as a people, have to decide which way we wish to take the world. Do we want to have a positive or negative butterfly effect on our existence? Do we wish to sacrifice our future to the will of those who are acting blindly out of obedience to rationalized rhetoric and indoctrination for the sake of only those who believe as they do? Do we wish to have a positive effect on securing the sustainability of our world through the power of logic and correct thinking…thus acting sincerely and responsibly for the sake of the whole world?

If history tells us anything, irresponsible behaviors toward the end of destruction and responsible behaviors toward the end of peace will tend to tip back and forth, I just hope they don't tip too far down the destructive path someday leading to our own extinction.

The thing to remember is that as human beings, we all have a choice. It’s high time we decide.