The greater the degree of freedom which is present in a society generates a commensurately greater amount of responsibility vesting in every individual within that society. The responsibilities most urgently needing attention by individuals who reside within any social framework are those to respect and honor each other, to do no intentional harm to others, to assure that the state-society-culture serves the needs of its individual constituents, to wisely and ecologically care for the environment and to value, protect and advance the universal cause of individual liberty.
In order for any society to govern itself fairly and humanely, while also adhering to the basic rights of sentient beings, each society, culture and government must find a way to enter into a kind of perpetual dialogue with each new generation reaching maturity. What this calls for is the creation of a periodic, cultural rite of passage in which the group and the individual redefine or re-certify the basic rights and responsibilities accruing to all as each new era advances. One should take great caution with this idea, though, because it could easily be subverted into an oath of allegiance to an insidious despotic regime.
It is always the youth of any age who are the most idealistic. It is also they who inherit the mess previous generations make of the world. They should have a greater say in what enterprises the middle aged may impose on a culture or nation since it is the youth who will be expected to exert the efforts necessary to complete the projects, risk their bodies to injury or death both in the process of undertaking the projects and in the wars waged by the middle aged, and the youth of a culture are required to pay for all the projects, wars and incarcerations imposed by their elders in later years, including the accrued interest on a debt for which they never agreed to be responsible.
For elders to take charge and run things from their point of view (which is nearly always guaranteed to do no more than line the pocketbooks of the wealthy and well placed), amounts to indentured servitude for each future generation as they must either clean up previous generations’ ecological disasters and the ravages war wrecks on the planet or simply pay the bills on the debts accumulated by their elders who irresponsibly borrowed against the future income of the young without the input or consent of those who will be required to pay the bills. Seen in this light, the current system does not even begin to approach the goals of preventing taxation without representation while providing equal opportunity and liberty and justice for all.
Perhaps a brief, historical perspective on the growth of individual, human rights is warranted. Liberty, of course, really only exists in a vacuum. In every real world scenario which either has arisen or possibly could arise, the seeds of both the scenario and the outcome lie within every step along the great dialectic which is life – roots which dive deep into a rich and fertile soil, the harbinger compost of humanity’s accumulated past.
First there was Athens, a city-state operating on the common will. When the endeavors are few, and generally common, the differences usually count as few as well. Common interests were wielded clumsily though, and eventually Athens’ early experiment was overrun by the despotism of Philip of Macedonia and his son, Alexander the Great. So too, centuries later, would the Roman Republic gave way to Roman imperial despotism.
Despotism, whether wielded benevolently or maliciously, has been the norm throughout the so-called “civilized” age. Kings, Emperors, Caesars, conquerors, Popes, Khans, Fuhrers, Czars, dictators, Vassals and Lords: hierarchies of all kinds have been designed to place power and authority under the control of a few, funded by the meager profits earned off the sweat and disfiguring labors of the many, and then protected and enforced by armies composed of those same many who are now, just as they always have been, the oppressed. In this oxymoronic way, people have enslaved themselves to all kinds of dreams, none of which have ever been their own, and they have taken the unnatural grandeur of wealth and position as being something to be prized and worshiped. Consequently, the misguided loyalists carry upon their hunched backs, ever-growing mountains of responsibility and stress.
But tides sway the pendulum back and forth, each swing revealing a little deeper crack in the illusion of inherited position and wealth. Imagine that a worldview of subjugation and obeisance was accepted by humanity as they acquiesced to the doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings which imputed to superstitiously-maintained, ignorant minds a doctrine whereby God enslaved the masses to the financially elite, royal class by bestowing an appointment by God upon Kings and their heirs to rule over the masses within their kingdoms, passing sovereignty through the patriarchal lineage of those Kings. Meanwhile, Henry VIII of England declared the brand of Christianity being offered by the Pope – the only kind most people had ever known up to that time – unworthy for his country because the King wanted to divorce one wife and marry anew. In so doing, Henry lifted himself to "God on Earth" status in that he decided, since he was Divinely instated as King, he could Divinely inform his subjects they were in error following the only religion they had heretofore known and which was allegedly based on the infallible word of God as given to his messengers throughout the ages and implemented by infallible Popes.
Well, as one might deduce, on the heels of that self-serving, personally aggrandized reformation of clerical dogma mushroomed a worldwide revolution of Protestantism. Many people turned to men like Luther and Calvin, and then supported Cromwell. The result of the turmoil was the insight gained and passed on through the writings of John Locke. Locke established the theory that the common man is vested with basic rights, bestowed on men by God (he got it; he fought hellfire with hellfire, turning away from a Divine plan which placed the worst oppressors in human history in control of every human life and endeavor by replacing it with a system which imputed a more loving concept of God, who nurtured all humans within creation and vested them with Divinely bestowed, human rights which the King and every other government must respect).
It was Locke’s England which both suffered and reveled as the Industrial Revolution first began to inch forward, changing the course of all life on the planet. Cities were dirty, huddled, alienating places which offered employment opportunities paid for with meager sums while simultaneously, slowly eroding the atmosphere bringing new blights of death down upon humankind. Locke directly challenged the Divine Right to rule in his “First Treatise on Civil Government,” but it was in the “Second Treatise on Civil Government” where Locke really got down and funky delivering the nitty-gritty of his understanding regarding human liberty by interconnecting the ideas of property, government and revolution.
Locke claimed government only comes into existence because of the needs: 1) to regulate property and 2) to resolve disputes arising out from property disputes. Locke argued individuals could, and do, vest themselves with property. However, Locke proposed the idea that a “Right” does not vest in any man which allows him to possess more than he has a right to, meaning every individual ought to be limited in their property amounts and rights by some concept of what is a fair proportion (imagine that, Locke was an egalitarian socialist, way ahead of his time!). Since property was a legitimate commodity, and since rights vested in property which often required arbitration, Locke believed governments were also necessary and legitimate only insofar as those governments pursued the good of all in administering to those property needs.
Thomas Jefferson would later update Locke’s expression for what confers legitimacy on any and all governments when he said, “The freedom and happiness of man... [are] the sole objects of all legitimate government.” I feel the need to insert here my belief: governments only find legitimacy through: 1) removing obstacles which prevent humanity from pursuing happiness, 2) providing a safety net for the elderly, infirm and other needy citizens, 3) assisting all individuals to reach their greatest potential, 4) investing in ways to improve the conditions and quality of life for all sentient beings on the planet, 5) protecting both the environment for people and wildlife and the natural habitats of wildlife, and 6) providing neutral arbitration amid interpersonal, inter-corporate, business, or intergovernmental disputes.
Locke suggested that if a government’s course of action served the interests of the governors solely, or in far greater proportion than it served the needs of its citizens, then that government loses its claim to legitimacy. Locke believed revolution was a valid and legitimate course for the common man to follow in order to thwart the econocentric aims of the wealthy and powerful. [Econocentric is a word I coined which indicates: the efforts to consolidate all wealth in the pockets of the few who wield control over the economy, commerce and the lives and lifestyles of the masses that depend on that economy for their survival.]
About one hundred years later, new revolutions pried open the lid holding down ideas concerning liberty and equality. The time had come for their strains to be included in the chorus of life. Samuel Adams gave Thomas Paine a platform to build on the work of Edmund Burke in spreading theses on the rights of man. However, their ideas were appetizers to the main course, Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. That document summed up the thrust of what freethinking men of their time deemed the freedoms which are basic to every human, the greatest movement toward freedom and liberty yet undertaken for commoner and aristocrat alike.
In the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson boldly declared all men are created equal and all have certain, inalienable rights: the rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. They fought with England for those rights, and ten more encoded in the original Bill of Rights as Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. A few of those rights bear significance here, the rights to: freedom from unwarranted searches and seizures (for both every individual’s property and each individual), freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, and religious freedom. Half a score and three years later, the songs of liberty which proclaimed the rights of man spread to Europe, where they took root in France and led to the French Revolution of 1789.
In the roughly 100 year period prior to upheaval (1650 to 1750 shall we say), France was probably the wealthiest nation in the world as well as being envied and imitated abroad. At the same time, England competed with France on an entirely different level. The progress of the Industrial Revolution in England cultivated a newly emerging economy and an entirely new means for acquiring wealth. Industrialization allowed England to invest in armaments as well as find new ways to increase and hasten production of the means to wage war. In 1756, the French and English began an engagement in the first of several wars between them. One might want to think of the period from 1756 to 1815 as one perpetual war between England and France. However, one must also remember, France endured multiple governments during that time.
Prior to their revolution, the French, like contemporary American Republicans, neocons, and the G. W. Bush and Nixon Administrations, subscribed to the view that the sovereignty of a nation reposes in a single individual who wields absolute executive authority on behalf of the people and in their name. The French viewed a government as similar to a CEO administering a corporation (or how most chauvinists want to run their families, but certainly, the way families did operate in the 1780s and earlier) always best ruled by one individual who administers for the greater good, as was promoted according to the conventional wisdom (propaganda) of their times. The French grew up thinking, how could the “people” rule? The “people” are nothing more than a collection of individuals, each with different needs, wants and desires. No, some “one” must decide. This was the thinking of the French, who, prior to 1789, lived under a monarchy. However, after that line was severed at the neck by Robespierre and his compatriots, the people had to learn how to rule.
Monarchy lived on the notion that God created everything with a built-in order based on a hereditary hierarchy. God was at the top of the order of the universe. The people of France at the time believed in the irrational and false Law of Plenitude, “Everything that can exist must exist.” They believed in a God who was benevolent and filled creation to the brim out of his love for his world of creation and humanity. They believed that everything, from the lowest being to the highest found in nature, constituted works in a perfect plan implemented by this God. Naturally, everything was born to its rightful place in this order, and descendants remained in their rightful place – their souls directed to the proper bodies in both the proper place and caste by their “benevolent” God through the vagaries of heredity. The sons of Kings were born to be Kings, just as peasants were born to serve those Kings. The wealthiest families were always well placed in their representation among the clergy, it seemed. A synergy grew out of the order of things. Knowledge was suppressed. Few common people were educated, most couldn’t read or write. But, God administered to the people through their King and their clergy, or at least that was the official version as disseminated in the pre-American Revolution, western world.
I have to take a moment here and digress. But, really, people, don’t you see it? This is the same Christianity many of you worship today. It comes from the same seeds. If you took your Christianity back to 1650, you’d be branded a heretic who espouses heretical ideas. I’m sorry, but if a religion wants to claim to be valid (and derived from the infallible, unadulterated and inspired words of the Almighty), it must remain consistent in its dogma over the years or else earlier versions, closer to the version God allegedly imparted, were less correct and for some reason humanity had to discover through the Enlightenment and Age of Reason the mistakes God made in His original telling. Imagine that, fallible man had to correct the infallible words of God. How irrational!
Christianity proves itself always willing to change whenever such a change becomes necessary to maintain authority and position. Even the manner in which Christian dogma was compiled and encoded, through a government sanctioned manuscript which only contained those parts of the dogma deemed acceptable to and by Emperor Constantine as he sought to quell the factionalism, strife and petty regionalism within his Empire, shows Christian dogma as always having its roots in being a tool of government and governors who control the minds and actions of the masses of people. Whenever necessary, Christianity resorted to enforcing its authority through the torture and murder endemic to the Inquisition and/or excommunicated the eternal souls of men, like Galileo and Copernicus who today, we know, only discovered and explained scientific facts about the universe, but whose facts threatened the autocratic authority of Popes and Kings through proving the infallible word of God as contained in the Bible and as disseminated by infallible Popes as being incorrect and therefore, quite fallible.
Yes, Christianity also offered the Crusades in the Middle East and expansion through a system of missions throughout the New World and even on into the Pacific islands. In so doing, Christianity brought death by sword, gun, disease and conquest. “Here, please accept this new God,” missionaries offered as their allied armies eradicated whole civilizations throughout the globe in genocide after genocide. Meanwhile, the ambassadors of Christianity taught people to mind their place, enslaving the broad mass of humanity in incremental fashion, different regions at different times. Witch trials and burnings raged. Slavery gripped Africans with the greedy grasp of Christian Europeans and their insouciant desires.
Eventually, scientific discoveries began to undermine the foundation upon which early Christian dogma was based. In that climate, finally, Christianity sacrificed much of its ancient dogma as it was forced to enter into a series of compromises with scientific dogma’s much more accurate description of reality in order to maintain its grip on the minds and pocketbooks of the average person. However, the economics of the day dictated the masses were still too poor for an adequate education and thus rise out of Christianity’s enslaving shackles which extolled the ostentatious wealth and suffocating privilege it bestowed on the clerical hierarchy and the classes of royalty and nobility.
Where in that description resides Divinity, Love, Honesty, Humility, or the dear, Christian Prince of, what is it, oh, yeah, Peace? How can you believe this new version of the same old lie the powerful and elite been selling for two millennia now? When has it ever served you? Oh yeah, in that one place; your inability to face that life is one grand, but brief, experience we drop into and out from, but utterly lacking in objectivity and consequently never able to offer redemption, salvation or paths to heaven. No greater significance exists than to serve the same way all other life on our planet does – by expressing our true nature and life force, which was, is and always will only be love.
Let's get back to the French Revolution now.
The French watched as the Americans removed themselves from the British Empire. In France, because of the national affluence, a growing mercantile class accumulated modest amounts of wealth. Along with money came education. Pretty soon, these folks read Locke and Jefferson. It is ironic that the French monarchy aided the Americans in their revolution, and in so doing, sowed the seeds of its own demise. All the French could see was the conventional wisdom, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. They thought anything which hurt the English only served to benefit the French. The French monarchy never considered that the American’s radical ideas could and would cross the Atlantic and take root in French royalty’s own Kingdom. However, Voltaire, Rousseau and Diderot all wrote attacks on the notion that any despotic or tyrannical system could find claim to legitimacy. Louis XVI wasn’t able to grasp the need for change quickly enough to save his head.
The French people wrested away the rule of their nation, placed it in their own hands, and established a legislature which was empowered to devise and enact fair and just laws. The Jacobins, in August 1789, disseminated the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which went beyond the American Bill of Rights when it affirmed, “Nothing that is not forbidden by Law may be hindered, and no one may be compelled to do what the law does not ordain,” because “Liberty consists in being able to do anything that does not harm others.” [Emphasis added.] The document went on to say, “The source of all sovereignty lies essentially in the Nation. No corporate body, no individual may exercise any authority that does not expressly emanate from it.”
Now, that may sound like a good idea, and it would be in a perfect world. But France in the 1790s was far from a perfect world. Out of the climate of madly confused, raving, egalitarian riots arose one man who stood up and proclaimed he spoke for the Nation. That man’s name was Robespierre. The public allowed him to do so. As a result, Robespierre executed death sentences upon everyone he deemed an enemy to the revolution. Thousands died at the blade of the guillotine during the months of the Reign of Terror from 1793 to early 1794. Robespierre, himself, fell from power in 1794 and joined Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette and everyone else who took that long walk through orgiastic decadence to the bloody guillotine.
Out of the ashes of the Reign of Terror arose a man who promised to save Europe from the evils of monarchy. He claimed to want to free all Europeans from the shackles of having to serve monarchs and lords. Publicly, he held out a firm stance in support of the revolution and its tenets. In so doing, he seduced a whole culture of the downtrodden and came to speak for the Nation the way Robespierre had before him. That man’s name was Napoleon Bonaparte.
Well, Napoleon took his desire to free Europe from monarchy and deliver republicanism to Europe, and ratcheted it up all the way to enthroning himself as the tyrannical despot of an empire as he was crowned by the Pope, Napoleon I, Emperor of France. I guess Napoleon’s personal ambition got in the way of his republican dream. When Napoleon was finally defeated, exiled, defeated again, exiled again and then assassinated, Count Metternich used the position of continental power Prussia’s accumulating military might afforded him to reconstruct Europe into a semblance of its pre-Napoleonic era form as monarchies (some of which would re-emerge as empires) became the ruling order again. That order would last until the tide of humanity toward human rights led people to seek freedom and self-determination for ethnic and national minorities within empires and kingdoms as they attempted to wrest governmental authority away from despots in the assassination of the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The ensuing World War I ripped Metternich’s old world order into shreds.
The French Revolution yielded a more beneficial figure in the rise of human liberty across the face of Europe. Alexis de Tocqueville saw with startling clarity in the 1830s that a kind of universal march of the downtrodden toward liberty and equality was an irreversible movement because of the irresistible nature of the force for progress, community and inclusiveness. De Tocqueville informed his world this unstoppable, social force for human equality would lead to ever-increasing degrees of freedom, liberty and community from his time forward. Even though he was born an aristocrat, de Tocqueville understood that previous generations had been over-taxed and under-appreciated, abused by the former system of privilege and excess so marked by monstrous injustice, and subjugated to the whims of the pompous and powerful elite. He knew, justice would eventually demand the force of liberty to storm away the old order.
The French also understood another seriously significant element necessary to preserve their Republic and their republican spirit. That significant element was called the Fourth Estate, what we term today, the press. A nation, in order to maintain freedom and promote liberty, requires voices, separate and distinct from the government and its participants, to share opinions on governmental activities with the public. Those voices, to be effective at safeguarding the public’s liberty and best interests, should not only be the voices of the people, but should be readily available to all the people. Of course, the voices found their most effective medium lay in a free press: separate from government, uncontrolled by the government, and focused upon what they understood to be a sacred duty. A free and independent press, not made up of aristocrats but of the people, would be the surest device to control a government gone awry.
The French considered the relationship between the press and the people as being of paramount necessity. The public was too busy toiling daily, making ends meet and providing for their sustenance and comfort to be so preoccupied with the affairs of government as to act as watchdogs over their government. However, a press could and should act as the watchdog for the public. The French believed an independent press would help keep government in its proper place – caring for the needs of its citizens. Furthermore, a press which had the ability to reach a large public through wide distribution ought to be able to galvanize public opinion when it was needed to protect the concerns of common people. It was out of this relationship that the press was conceived as the Fourth Estate who bore a sacred duty to protect the rights and interests of the individual and of the common populace.
This understanding of the duty of the press has been handed down since, not only in France, but in other free nations as well, including Britain and the U.S. What no one could foresee were the changes which rapid and widespread industrialization would wreck upon societies. The rise of huge corporations changed everything. A new dynamic arose: advertisers created wealth for the press and found they could influence editorial policies through the financial leverage they wielded. Then, as television captivated every American home in the post-WWII economy, the medium became the primary tool for breeding conformity at the same time as it sold goods (while providing an illusion of honest and responsible information transfers amid the onslaught of mind-numbing entertainment). Out of this climate, and upon huge wads of promised, ever-increasing income, advertising manipulated editorial opinion and ultimately editorial content as well. There are so many negative trends in the operation of the press in the contemporary world that it remains difficult to keep track of them all. However, we can delve into some of those negative trends.
More people get their news on television or the internet than anywhere else. As the internet has grown to become pervasive, newspapers and magazines have had to offer their reporting online, essentially for free. Their reduced share of the public’s interest and reduced share of the advertising dollar has caused newspapers to shrink the size of their operations, most prominently in the number of journalists employed.
Complicating matters, advertising dollars prefer to be spent on television as opposed to newspapers and magazines. Television news reports are briefer, less in-depth, are delivered by a much smaller pool of reporters than has traditionally been the case for newspapers, and are much more easily slanted to present a particular point of view. Advertisers of televised news can exert greater editorial influence than is possible with newspapers and magazines. So, they do.
This is the Fourth Estate most of you trust today to give you an honest assessment of your world and to protect everyone from government run amok. But the people hired aren’t the brilliant ones, they are the ones pretty enough to sell you the news corporate sponsors want you to hear, with the attitude they want expressed, slanted the way they want it slanted, so they can continue to sell you shiny new toys and unessential products which advertisers seek to promote while the dollars spent buying air time is used to maintain the editorial slant most favored by the makers of those products.
Our world is so different from the world before television, mass production of products and consumerism wheedled its influence over the Western mindset. Most people don’t even contemplate the differences, let alone understand them. Money is everything in the contemporary climate. Money dominates culture, politics, property rights, influence, position, power, celebrity, art, music, movies, television and even education. The contemporary world operates because of money. However, just go back 125 years, and the prevalence of money, as well as its dominance upon culture and daily life, are so reduced one might find it difficult to adapt to the differences. The contemporary world’s change in values, speed of daily life, and debilitating, constant and pervasive angst and stress amid the constant pressure to produce and consume leaves contemporary humanity in a state of addiction to the rush of money: making it, spending it, accumulating it. Every aspect of one’s prestige is infused by the individual’s capacity to make and spend money, the more of both, the better.
One of the great consequences of the current set of circumstances is the greening of the press, no matter which medium, and I am not referring to their ecological interests. Money creates power. Money wielded by the powerful creates not only an aristocracy or monopoly, but also tyranny. Unfortunately, because the press is owned by the super-wealthy, is funded by the super-wealthy and their mega-corporations, and operates through corporate control wielded by mega-communication giants, the contemporary version of the Fourth Estate has lost its compass and cannot find its sacred course. Today, the Fourth Estate has been purchased and is run by the very entities which that press came into existence to report on. This indicates you cannot trust anything you see or hear on television or on the internet if it comes from a television news source.
Look at the faire the public is given, mostly scandals of infidelity, sports figures who cheated, ENRONs, disasters, or the latest celebutant’s outrageous escapades. This is cheap pop pap guaranteed to grab your attention and also divert you from everything which is really important to individual and collective interests. News has been transformed from vital information to protect the individual and the broad mass of humanity into entertainment. Lost is insightful journalism. There is very little in-depth reporting. One of the problems with the current state of the press is the rapid demise of the newspaper and the dearth of independent and insightful reporters willing to be honest.
As newspapers go under, there are fewer avenues for serious journalists to pursue serious stories. What sells is what is most scandalous. So, that is what is covered. Now, this is what the free marketplace has made of the formerly free, but suddenly expensive and manipulative press. Many contemporary news stories are little more than ads for the latest product from one of that stations’ sponsors.
Finally, “hard hitting” editorializers like Lou Dobbs masquerade as populists who express common sense when their real function is to impart a particular worldview, convince you it is your own view and make their small minded, elitist designs universally acceptable as they act as a shill and mouthpiece for the interests of big money and multinational corporations. A truly free press would be vociferously adamant in its opposition to any reductions in the inalienable rights of all people. Sadly, people listen to those charlatans like Bill O'Reilly who spin their viewpoint to the public, telling you how to think, who to fear, who to hate, when to act, who to kill and what to admire. When do any of them listen to you? When do they really seek to serve the public if their entire public lives are spent molding opinion and spreading propaganda?
Looking back on the decades after the French Revolution leading up to WWI, we can see additional gains were made in the advancement of “human rights.” First and foremost was Abraham Lincoln’s gift, the right to be free – that slavery was immoral – won after a war between brothers and countrymen over differences in opinion on moral decency versus economic expediency, and slavery became illegal in the United States.
There have been centuries of bigotry and prejudice of all kinds by and towards every group of humans on the earth which ever existed and which still persist today. Each culture has participated in genocides against their adversaries. However, as we are really only one race of beautiful diversity, many have striven, and many continue to strive, for an end to all racial, ethnic, religious, and other stereotyping, degradation and humiliation. Prejudice, in all its forms, presents the picture of a gnarled figure with a scarred face. That is not the figure of those who suffer prejudice. No, that face belongs to the white-supremacist, anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi bigots who scorn others as they seek to place themselves above all others. One certainly may comment, nonetheless, that freedom from bigotry and prejudice must be considered a right accruing to contemporary and future humanity.
The cause of human liberty found advancement when men finally accepted the equality of women. However, the failing still exists in some individuals to objectify women, see only their bodies, think of them as possessions, or treat them as inferiors. The time has long since arrived for all of humanity to realize we are all equals: irrespective of race, nationality, religious belief, sex and sexual orientation.
One of the great impediments to overcoming any (and all, for that matter) prejudices can be found in the inability for individuals to empathize with those who are different from them. The root cause for an individual’s impaired ability to empathize with those who one perceives as being different lies in one’s sense of entitlement, both as individuals and as cultures. Without empathy, there is no bridge. Without a bridge, the chasm created by the differences spanning the space between us, keeps us apart and erects walls built from fear and mistrust. The wealthy, the powerful, those in charge, all those who exemplify establishment-entrenched-in-narcissism, it is they who drive the wedges between groups, pitting the “inferiors” against one another, allowing the “superiors” to wallow in the obesity of their ostentatious wealth like pigs feeding on slop in the mud.
Over the past 40 years, there has been a continuing and ever-growing movement for peace, nonviolence, and nuclear disarmament. Shouting, “Hell no, we won’t go,” hippies asserted their human right not to be forced to bear arms in war. The “No Nukes” movement and “The Great Peace March of 1986” asserted a burgeoning awareness within humanity; they have a right to live in a world which is safe, clean, and free of threats. John and Yoko’s Bed-ins for Peace and the fervor with which John and Yoko advocated peace, sewed the initial seeds which lead to the next logical conclusion, humans have a right to live in a world free of strife, conflict and war; and humans have the right to freedom from conscription of any kind, since all forms of conscription reduce themselves to slavery or indentured servitude.
We awaken today to a world which is horribly polluted, in which humans are responsible for the extinction of many species every year, and have been for far too many years in a row now! There hardly exist any naturally wild habitats in which wildlife may thrive. The planet’s temperature rises as Mother Earth finds herself infested by a virus threatening to eradicate all life not raised by itself as pets or for food, energy or pharmaceutical uses. Many people are realizing they do not want to be part of that virus. Many people are waking up to comprehend the reality that they have the right to live in a pristine world, free of pollution and polluters alike.
Children come of age and march off to find a place of value in the economy. Before long, they discover this lifestyle yields nothing but mountains of debt, oppressive taxes, political hierarchies, codes of conduct and muscle knotting tension from endless waves of stress. Stress is a killer. The pace of our lives, so frenetic and frenzied, increases stress. It shortens humans’ lives while simultaneously eviscerating those lives of meaning, experience, community and joy.
What do you really get when you reach your inevitable end? All you will have accomplished is pay off the debts accumulated by your predecessors and leave a legacy of an ever-more-monstrous accumulation of debt to your children and their children. Someone, surely, must realize it is nothing more than indentured servitude for one society to encumber later societies with debt, danger, threat, pestilence, savagery, hunger, poverty and/or environmental disaster. Humanity exhibits a willingness to sacrifice everything of beauty, every noble and relevant life force nurtured by the planet – all just for the incessant and unquenchable thirsts which are greed, desire, power, luxury and convenience.
There are yet other movements of masses of people in the contemporary world. One such movement of people some classify today as “illegal immigrants” demands to be respected and valued. They demand some equitable piece of prosperity as their piece of the pie which they rightfully believe is a shared birthright among equals. Immigrant populations have always moved with shifting winds, finding their way to centers of wealth and employment. People of various backgrounds, nations and races, courageous in the face of daunting odds, even today seek to migrate from homelands they know so well in search of fantastic, fairytale lands, Oz-like Meccas, seeking their share of prosperity and no more, happy to toil long and hard hours for the opportunity.
Yet, the frightened, unemployed citizens residing in American cities find their substantial, middle-class lifestyles eroding into a meager existence as a cheaper labor force seduces the greed of wealthy employers, replacing the indigenous workforce with the advancing migrant populations. The same effect is occurring in contemporary Europe. Enmity naturally arises. The problem does not lie with the immigrant. The problem lies with captains of industry and political leaders who work hand-in-glove to stoke the animosities and fears of the downtrodden, because from that poisonous well does the tree of their prosperity drink, flowering and bearing beautifully intoxicating, but ultimately deadly, fruit.
Inertia may be the greatest force in manipulating the freedom of humanity. Inertia of the society forces children into schools where they are molded and brainwashed into becoming cogs in the Great Wheel of the Economy. Inertia prevents individuals from realizing the degree of control the social order exerts over people. Inertia stands at the head of the line leading babies into whatever is the parental church of preference. Inertia leads footsteps to military recruiting centers and battlefields without any concern for personal safety or moral consideration upon the rightness or wrongness of killing. Inertia prevents people from even considering not just if there is a better way, but also to consider if this world even really offers what they want?
Children are given income tax ID numbers long before they are even legally allowed to work. Our youth are taught by parents, siblings, relatives, friends, nearly everyone with whom they come into contact, to believe not only in the existence of a God, but precisely to which faith and even which branch of faith the child must subscribe.
These young minds, trusting their elders to be honest and fair with them, believe what they are taught to believe. However, the teaching comes at such an early age the belief inures endemically before the child reaches an age sufficient to reason out their own philosophy. The children never grow to see religion is just the same as the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus all rolled up into one for adults too insecure to accept their ultimate, eternal mortality.
Those same children are bombarded with advertising aimed at seducing them into the consumerist culture. They want without even knowing why. They want the latest and hottest toys, designer labels on their clothes, the “in” hair style, and every video game on the shelf. They want a boy friend or girl friend resembling their favorite celebrity. Instead of learning to play a real guitar, they take the hours which could have been spent learning the instrument and put them into playing the popular video games, Guitar Hero and Rock Band, where the skill sets learned are essentially useless. But the instant gratification fix, providing a sense of instant accomplishment, was satisfied with another dose of fantasy induced endorphin rush. When one considers the addictive behavior some obsessed gamers display, one wonders just how this differs from taking drugs. Moreover, more and more popular are games which involve either war or illegal activities. What kinds of mind sets are we teaching our children? They are being prepared by fun and games to join futuristic armies to wage deadly war or go out and steal cars on the street.
Between school, television, interpersonal relationships, parental guidance and the great manipulator which is momentary popularity, children face both subliminal and overt messages designed to mold the child’s personality into one comfortably conforming to societal pressures. The key word in that phrase is “conforming.” Every new fad feeds conformity. The ever-changing whim of style breeds conformity even as it insinuates to the subscribers their own, unique brand of "now" that they are non-conformists.
Take care when you watch your evening news on the TV. Take heed which companies advertise on the network. You will begin to see who controls the slant of the news presented to you and the motive behind the editorial philosophy. Oil companies and pharmaceutical companies are two of largest advertisers. Other major advertisers include the insurance industry, car manufacturers, banks and credit institutions. These folks work together to lead us into wars for their very own profit. The mass media molds us into a mass, consumerist culture, indentured to contemporary society’s corporate feudalism, dedicated to creating ever-increasing profits for major corporations, centralizing wealth into the hands of the few, and enforcing that order with the might of a military capable of eradicating all life on the planet many times over. Seen through this prism, the current system is only marginally freer than the Middle Age’s feudal society.
We aren’t taught to view purchases as investments. That would shrink the size of the demand, and consequently corporations’ profits, too. No, capitalists pursue the grand vision of the current “throw-away” society. All too often, carelessness becomes our expression. Is your car giving you trouble; need major repairs? Ah, just trade it in on a new model. With that, your payments increase because of the cost of the new loan. Likewise, just as you were about to make a sizable reduction in the principle on the loan, you trade away the value you have for a newer, more expensive vehicle in which you will be upside down on the loan as soon as you drive it off the lot. But it’ll look good, and make you feel good for a while. Eventually, after the first ding or dent, or maybe the increase in insurance, your good feeling will ebb. Humanity exists in a cycle of ever-rising debt, buying to feel good. Then, needing the fix again, people purchase rampantly, over and over, charging up the card until they need another one.
You know, one could provide proper maintenance on the car, pay it off, and continued to use it. In this way, one can extract the value out of one’s investment and create an opportunity to save toward the next vehicle. Try imagining, for instance, once the car is paid off, start making a car payment into a savings account for 3 years. At that time, including the trade-in and an additional sum one would have had to come up with anyway for one’s down payment, one should be in a position to pay cash for the next car. If one continues making the car payments to oneself, over time one will earn the interest on those payments instead of paying about double that interest to the bank holding the car loan. At the same time, the consumer also owns the vehicle outright immediately upon consummating the purchase. I’d suggest that doing this with all one’s purchases – taking care of them, seeing them as valuable tools instead of throw-away conveniences – would go a long way toward helping humanity reduce waste and conserve resources for future generations.
A small matter which humanity takes for granted costs us our forests: paper towels. Instead of using cloth towels and cleaning rags which can be washed and reused for years, we chop down our forests to purchase the convenience of paper towels: use ‘em once, and whoops, toss ‘em away. It’s just amazing how little humanity uses its intelligence. Rather than conserve our planet for future generations, the contemporary world uses it up as quickly as possible and then tosses out what it no longer wants. Sadly, though, this is not just how we treat the planet collectively, it is also how corporations treat workers and conformists treat everyone unique.
The greatness of humanity arises in its ability to appreciate the infinite splendor which is our universe. We diminish ourselves when we feel entitled. Entitlement is the great bane of humanity. In entitlement lay our waste, our arrogance, our greed and also our violence. That sense, that one is entitled to as much as one can get (at least in terms of things, possessions, accouterments, position, land, status and wealth), is not freedom, nor is it liberty; it is irresponsible stewardship of the planet’s resources, selfish and priggish behavior, and fails to lovingly pass on the bounty of life to future generations! One of the greatest responsibilities each generation owes is to preserve as much of our Earth as we can for all future generations. We must learn to husband the resources not only more efficiently, but also more ecologically.
The idea of entitlement leads to the closely associated phenomena known as privilege. What is any single person entitled to receive in life? Are some people worthy of receiving more than others? Locke didn’t think so. However, even if Locke was wrong and some people are entitled to more than others, one must ponder what is required for someone to be worthier, and consequently, entitled to a greater share than another. Would birthright be the defining characteristic granting the opportunity for more to some than others or are effort and intelligence more appropriately applied criteria? Well, birthright is the contemporary system, just as it always has been.
Some individuals come from abject poverty and others from unindustrialized nations. Those folks are not apt to aspire to the same standard of living as U.S. residents. Most Americans grow up with a sense of entitlement, not just to necessities, but to affluence. Most feel they are entitled to at least a middle class standard of living which includes iPods, laptops, personal vehicles (in the latest year and model, naturally), cellular phones, designer clothing, meaningful employment, a gold card, some well placed stocks and bonds, and the right frequent flyer program.
One of the tragic ironies here is that the really wealthy can sit smugly in their mansions while the middle and lower classes fight over the scraps the wealthy leave on the table. It is the wealthy who are the oppressors. They have everyone else divided against each other, pitted in a competitive race up corporate ladders which never extend very close to the top. The only caveat to which the super-wealthy adhere is the idea of ever-increasing profits arising out of an inaccurately described “limitless” economy which they claim the ability to project through ever-growing markets and market shares (on an ironically finite planet with finite resources).
Today’s economists attempt to create the illusion of being applied scientists through manipulating their theories with a mathematical prism. However, the models upon which all the projections are based derive from the interposition of a kind of “self-interested, self-absorbed, every-person consumer.” This entity does not exist. What does exist is the manipulation of people’s ideas regarding life, death, worth, meaning, honor and integrity into models which subjugate humanity to economical paradigms designed to maintain power and wealth in the hands of the same few in whom power and wealth are vested today. Humanity is molded through propaganda and social pressure into living lives based upon a contemporary conventional wisdom which not only promotes the policies and desires of the entrenched elite, it also sublimates real personal will and individual liberty to the dominance and oppression of societal, cultural, economic and political paradigms and hierarchies extending back through time for centuries.
Children’s minds are filled with social norms, a cultural sense of “cool” and forced integration of the individual into the economic and political systems in place in each nation. When history is taught with a slant towards the victors, who, after all, are the ones left to do the writing? The future finds itself built upon a foundation of half-truths and misconceptions which can persist through multiple generations.
The next premise contemporary economists accept is the theory of an ever-growing economy, with perpetual increases in productivity, market size and profits. What they fail to consider is that the Earth is a planet containing finite resources. We cannot keep extracting all of the planet’s resources and using them up at the alarmingly rapid rate we witness in this first decade of the 21st century. If we do, we will strip the planet bare. The result will likely be that our children and grandchildren will discover the cupboard is bare at a time when there will likely be more people on the planet than during any previous moment in history.
How will humanity survive? What will people buy then? How will they build new homes, pave roads, and fly jets around the world in a future when Mother Nature’s breadbasket won’t even contain meager crumbs? Will your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren forgive you for not leaving enough of the Earth’s bounty for their comfortable survival? Will your family line survive? To what use, then, will anyone put their stocks, bonds, savings accounts and cash on hand?
There is a third manner in which contemporary economics fails to adequately address reality. This is in the misnomer commonly referred to as the GDP. The term is used to measure the gross domestic earnings of a nation’s businesses. The problem with its usage relates to how the measuring device is applied.
The “P” was originally intended to indicate “product,” GDP meaning Gross Domestic Product. That was a time when economists measured something real, earned value from tangible products made by someone. However, much of today’s economy (especially in the U.S.) has nothing to do with a product. You see, today the GDP really denotes “profit.” Most of it is in service industries, primarily in the financial sector, especially with regard to the servicing of debt. The most precarious of economies is the one based on promises to pay consistently according to predetermined schedules. All one need do is remember 1929 to recall that lesson.
What is my concern with the use of this method for measuring the economy? My concern is: we aren’t measuring anything tangible. This impacts the sustainability of an economy. Far too much of the GDP, for every industrialized nation, arises from interest on debt – home loans, car loans, credit cards, student loans, consolidation loans. Even the nations, themselves, pay interest on the loans they incur when they fund deficit spending through bonds, borrowing from internal accounts (e. g. the U.S. government has taken enormous sums out of the Social Security account as well as borrowed heavily from China to pay for the war in Iraq, among other expenses), and loans among and between one another or the IMF.
The accruing interest on all these loans accounts for more of the GDP than is advisable. Concern in this area is warranted. All one need do is look at the crisis in the mortgage industry and the plummeting of housing values to see that when significant numbers of borrowers fall into default, lending institutions become vulnerable and some inevitably fail. However, the extent of the potential danger transcends the individual while threatening global economic collapse.
The indicator for global financial collapse can be seen in viewing the solvency of nations. For instance, in April of 2008 Iceland discovered their economy was in serious trouble because of a huge amount of foreign debt acquired by Iceland’s banks. Iceland has a population of about 300,000, and except for sheep, dairy products and fish, just about everything else has to be imported. Inflation was running at 8.7 % at the time while interest rates for lending were running about 15.5%. Icelanders borrowed heavily and spent excessively. Whoops; then came the global financial crunch. However, by September 30, 2008, Iceland’s sovereign debt rating was reduced by Fitch Ratings, the second such reduction in as many days. They were on review for another cut the next day. Fitch Ratings Director Paul Rawlings said, “The risks to macroeconomic credit stability and sovereign creditworthiness arising from distress in the banking system have materially increased.” As a consequence, Iceland had to take control of its third largest commercial lender. The consequence of that was that the nation bailed out a bank with assets far in excess of the national GDP. The main supermarket couldn’t get imported goods because they had no currency with which to purchase goods. Shops were half empty and people were advised to hoard with winter coming on. Meanwhile, the country had to bail out another bank with holdings which accounted for 623% of the GDP. That buyout occurred on October 9, 2008. A third bank was also bailed out by Iceland by that time. In so doing, Iceland had assumed $61 billion (in a U.S. currency equivalent) and the collapse left 420,000 Dutch and British customers with frozen assets. This state of affairs mushroomed in the European community. Britain taxpayers were looking at 2.4 billion British Pounds (the equivalent of $4.1 billion in U.S. currency) to compensate 300,000 U.K. accountholders who were affected by the Iceland banks’ failures. Iceland was looking at borrowing from the IMF and Russia in order to create some financial solvency and avoid tumbling all of Europe into a serious financial crisis. By April 9th, 2009, Iceland’s debt had increased to 850% of its GDP. Europe is still not out of the woods regarding the potential for disaster that will occur if and when Iceland cannot pay its debts. It was just this same kind of spiraling out of control of the German economy in the 1920s and their inability to pay their debts which led to the 1929 crash.
Meanwhile, China found itself suffering from lack of international investment in 2008. However, a report in China International Business dated April 14, 2009 indicated that while the rest of the world was bracing for a full-scale recession, and the Shanghai Stock Exchange lost almost two-thirds of its value in the calendar year of 2008 amid struggling export industries in China, The Peoples Republic of China appears to be in a position (or at least claims it will be) to emerge as a more important global financial player in 2009. Economists suggest that U.S. savings and China consumption must both rise in 2009 to ameliorate the growing international financial crisis.
The poorest nations seek debt forgiveness. Every industrialized nation is so in debt, and owes such significant sums in interest on their national debts, that widespread unemployment could significantly undermine their ability to collect taxes, and therefore could cause them to default on their loans as well.
Let’s go back to post-WWI Europe for a historical perspective. Much of Europe lay in ruins as a result of the catastrophe which was WWI. England, Russia, France and the United States exacted a huge penalty upon Germany after the war through the economic sanctions called war reparations included in the Treaty of Versailles. At the same time, Germany was forbidden to engage in re-arming or in the manufacture of munitions and weaponry, a huge sector of their pre-war economy. This codicil to the agreement was intended to allay fears on the European continent that Germany might re-arm, build a new war machine and bring about a new conflagration on the continent. However, it also significantly affected Germany's economy and, ultimately, impeded their ability to pay the war reparations.
Germany got around that proscription against manufacturing weapons and munitions surreptitiously. Fritz Thyssen was a German financier during the 1930s with business holdings in steel, machinery and munitions. Prescott Bush, George H. W. Bush’s father and George W. Bush’s grandfather, was an American businessman who had numerous business transactions with Thyssen. Thyssen’s business interests throughout most of the 1930s (until Hitler finally invaded Poland in 1939) included the early financing of the Nazi party, fueling Hitler’s rise to power, and assisting in the surreptitious rearming of Germany. Prescott Bush’s business interests and holdings assisted Thyssen in those financial endeavors. Just as in today’s world, industrial magnates never feared arming any nation, even on the sly. Businessmen only see income generated and a future of continued financial dealings with customers, any customers. Consequently, they are always open to arrangements which will increase sales and profits. Later, they accept no blame for their complicity in bringing nations, or even an entire world, to war.
It isn’t hard to understand why the war reparations were so severe. The reparations were intended as compensation for embroiling Europe in what was then called “The Great War,” as well as to help pay for rebuilding the infrastructure which had been destroyed. However, there was another element included among the reasoning for levying the war reparations. That other element was the desire to punish the German people, and kill their spirit at the same time as they were taught a lesson by the surrounding European “civil” society.
Punitive retribution is never a useful ingredient in any human exchange, especially international relations. It breeds enmity. Hostility arises among the oppressed, going underground, planning revenge, guaranteeing a cycle of violence which deepens and festers with the passing of time. These kinds of cycles of hostility are nearly impossible to resolve. The longer they exist, the deeper are the rifts. The German economy crumbled, and Germany defaulted on its war reparations payments. Germany’s hard times caused a kind of domino effect among banks. It was in this environment that the stock market crashed in 1929. The situation today sounds rather familiar when compared with those of 1929.
Consider, who was hardest hit? As banks faced runs, fueled by masses of people demanding cash on their deposits, the banks were initially the hardest hit by the stock market crash. Ultimately, the market crash was an even greater catastrophe to millions of individual investors. This occurred in the U.S. because the American public had overinvested in the market, or perhaps better stated, they invested sums they could not afford to invest and did not maintain enough funds in savings accounts as hedges against difficult times. There was a mad swirl around the stock market and it had been reaching new highs regularly throughout the 20s. Greed was rampant and the income seemed easy and apparently would be perpetually there, leading to a feeding frenzy of middle income investors dumping large proportions of their earnings into the market. Again, this description mirrors the conditions in the U.S. stock market in 2008 and continues to be the case in 2009 even after the serious reduction in value which occurred in 2008. If Iceland goes into failure, we will find ourselves in the same situation as we faced in 1929. The result in 1929 proved to be a nation of people found which itself cash-poor, nearly all small businesses closed, jobs were scarce, the dust storms ate up agriculture, and then, the ultimate catastrophe arose as people everywhere lost their property, their jobs, their nutrition and their dignity. The year 2009 might prove to be just the same, and with Climate Change heating up the planet at levels scientists had not thought possible until 2070, we might face the same dust bowl conditions and potentially worldwide famine.
The world of high finance always rests on precipice’s ledge. Ironically, the super-wealthy discovered they could buy up their choice of the most interesting businesses and property which common folk lost with their jobs during the Depression. In other words, the rich got richer not only in direct proportion to the poverty of common people everywhere but directly resulting from the impoverishment of the working class and small businessman.
The super-wealthy argue they had to save the means of industry which turned out to be so vital for WWII and the ‘50s and ‘60s boom. However, those wealthy saw the inevitability of collapse looming long before the average-Joe investors who sank proportions of their savings beyond the prudent level into the market in a greedy frenzy as the market kept leaping to new highs. The super-wealthy sold their stocks high (or just held their assets through the Depression). In their initial sell-off, they created the panic which led to a run and the doom of the common and middle class workers as well as upper-middle class investors. That led to the demise of many banks (thereby consolidating wealth and investment power in the few left behind), and the run led to the inevitable demise of everyone through their economic descent into the lower-middle and lower economic classes. The wealthy feasted on the ill-fortune of the common people and gobbled up nearly all of America’s assets: corporations, properties and investments.
This scenario is not too different to the circumstances facing us in today. Change a few specifics (insert mortgage industry and an insolvent Iceland for Germany’s war reparations) and lending institutions are still hit hard. A slow domino effect began rippling through the financial community. For years, investors watched as the market rose to new highs, sinking too high of a proportion of their savings into the market seeking to create as much wealth for themselves as possible. Then, only on September 30, 2008, those same investors watched the New York Stock Exchange free fall. The fall was attributed to rising oil prices, which climbed to new highs, seemingly on a daily basis in concert with the mortgage industry crisis and a dearth of lenders willing to lend. Soon, banks began to fail. Congress offered up $700 billion to bail out the mortgage and banking industries. That was just a short term measure as all it was capable of accomplishing was a brief stay of execution for the global economy, and perhaps Capitalism as well. Bush gave sums to his cronies and those who had invested in his two Presidential runs. As it turned out, huge sums of the bailout money went right into the pocketbooks of corporate Presidents and CEOs in bonuses. I thought bonuses were earned on the basis of merit in a Capitalist system!
Meanwhile, the news reporting agencies failed to explain the ties between U.S. policy in the Middle East vis-à-vis international economic competition for oil, Arab and Muslim desires to rid their region of Western commercial interests and influences, American and European competition with Russia and China, the continued American military presence and hostilities with indigenous people in the Middle and Near East, and in the context of the Iraq War’s ever-growing costs to the American economy which fueled the increases in the price of oil as well as citizens’ increased cost at the gas station! Could it be the news depended on the advertising dollars from the super-wealthy and the oil industry? Maybe they didn’t want the truth painted quite so clearly?
You wouldn’t guess that oil tycoons know their day is coming to an end, would you? They wouldn’t be extorting exorbitant profits from a public caught with the automobile as an albatross, now, would they? You would guess that? Good. Then, also factor in the continual erosion of the middle class lifestyle due to reduced employment as well as the rising cost of every commodity and product in the marketplace due to the rising costs involved in transporting those commodities and goods as the cost of oil rises unabated, and you begin to see how the effects of this economic downturn can mushroom out of control.
The increase in oil prices hit individuals hard at the pumps in a palpably perceptible manner. It is true that at the beginning of 2009 and through April, oil costs have reduced to more tolerable levels. However, if we see rising oil costs again, they would eventually lead to an increase in the expense for all products and commodities because of the rising transportation costs creating a constant inflation in the price of every item needed by consumers. The effects of inflation on the public would be exacerbated by the attending recession arising as a result of reduced consumer spending which we are already witnessing.
As consumers found themselves either unemployed or underemployed, their buying power was markedly reduced at the same time as excessive product prices also reduced the consumers’ capacity to buy. Corporations found their market shares and profit margins reduced. They struggled to maintain profit margins and market shares by imposing the dual pronged, but utterly ridiculous, policy of raising prices further and cutting more jobs. The public watched inflation soar out of control, though all the pundits wanted to talk about was the recession and the attendant lack of consumer spending.
Hey, this isn’t rocket science; the consumers have stopped purchasing because the consumers don’t have jobs anymore (or when they do, their earnings have been reduced because the better paying positions have gone overseas). The dearth of jobs, and the suffering resulting from lower paying employment after the previous job was sent overseas, have engendered a natural shortage of funds the individual can allocate toward discretionary spending. The producers of the products which consumers are relied upon to purchase have given those jobs to workers overseas allowing the corporations to take advantage of cheaper labor.
The news wanted to focus on the recession because the reduction in profits by their advertisers could cost them a reduction in their advertising revenue. So, everyone on TV and in the newspapers extolled consumers to keep buying, in fact, please buy more. In early 2008, the economic conditions included both a recession and inflation (or stagflation). When those two factors occur simultaneously, one can surmise that the simultaneity of their occurrence resulted from a designed event, staged in order to maximize the shift in control and ownership of capital and property into the hands of the select few. This is how the oligarchy maintains control.
There seems to me to be a kind of systematized and periodic set of events. The value of money and status grows to narcissistic heights as a broad affluence permeates the culture (think 1929 and 2008). A decadent focus on affluence and convenience attracts an insouciant public, inducing that public to invest sums in the stock market beyond what is prudent. The market rises to record heights. From some combination of sectors (like oil-transportation, housing and mortgage-lending, and especially governments inability to pay their bills – Germany in 1929, Iceland today, and maybe America as well before long), the economy takes a hit and spirals out of control. The Fed dumps a lot of cash into the economy and reduces interest rates hoping to stimulate buying. But the cost of living is so high, unemployment soars, and the value of the dollar Americans hold is so diluted, that suddenly, the market will crash. The average guy will lose everything. The rich will scoop everything up, prepared to sell it back to you later on, at another profit, of course. But that takes time, because the cost of living is so high, and the income so low and sparsely spread, no one will be able to afford to buy much until a recovery, which the pundits try to convince you will occur in a year or two. However, any realistic view reveals that recovery cannot occur for at a least a decade, if a recovery ever comes again in our present economic climate which is to be affected by Climate Change and the alterations it will force on human lifestyles which no economist is prudent enough to factor into the calculations of future economic projections.
People shackle themselves to feudal ways from the past, all the way back to the Middle Ages, as long as they perpetuate this cycle. We can plainly see the writing on the wall; the future will have to be one much freer of pollution, meaning production everywhere will have to slow down. That will mean another wave of job loss, and even more centralization of wealth into the hands of the few as jobs become extremely scarce in a world where only the wealthy will retain any purchasing power.
Then, as oil grows scarce and becomes horded by governments (as it inevitably will when governments determine oil too important to the military and local emergency services to allow the public continued access), the global economy will crumble in waves of famine and hopelessness. Meanwhile, this is the Capitalists’ only strategy. It’s a kind of slash and burn policy; sucking every possible cent out of everyone, just as they do out of Mother Earth, herself. They skyrocket prices knowing their day is coming to an end. They want to milk every last penny of profit out of the market while the getting is still good, believing their wealth will insulate them from every worry the future might offer.
The military-industrial complex is everywhere. It’s in ammo, guns, rockets, University science departments, aircraft, aviation, astrophysics, autos, electronics, plastics, pharmaceuticals and oil. It’s advocated by the people who denied that cigarettes were harmful to smokers, and then later, denied secondhand smokers faced health risks, too. They are the same people that called Climate Change a hoax. Then, they said that there are no connections between human behavior and Climate Change. These people told you that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. They told you that if Vietnam was allowed to go Communist, then Communism would spread throughout the region and ultimately the world. These are the people who brought you the global strategy of Mutually Assured Destruction as a viable defense strategy (MAD, as in, total annihilation-ally insane). These people create mind control drugs from Valium to Prozac to enforce conformity. They tell you the only way to peace is to fight a war with your enemies.
When did you make enemies? How did you make enemies? No, the truth is, others have something our multinational corporations want, so they send in troops (under the banner of bogus platitudes) to take what the wealthy want by force. They also manipulate the value of the stock market and property values to maximize centralization of wealth.
In every economic downturn, instead of focusing on the needs of the masses for homes, a stable nutrition and a sense of security through continued employment, the super-wealthy and multinational corporations (and governments, both through them and for them) focus all attention on the perceived need to stimulate the economy (in other words, to maintain the status quo) – promising the carrot that more jobs will arise if only the consumer spends more, begging you to go into debt for something, anything, as much debt as you are able to incur. They’ll brainwash you with advertising, with news reports presented through the prism of reporters’ personal opinions inserted in slants and editorials, with the content and quality of television, with brief mirages of upturns, with bogeymen posed as threats to your way of life, and thereby sap you through fear, stress, and the consequent reductions in lifespan and neurogenesis – all through the pressure of the apparent unwillingness to rid the cultural ethos of the suicidal and narcissistic fascination with consumption and waste. This is what current economic trends have made of the American dream as it is reconfigured into a contemporary, globalized economy and culture. Every additional heaping dose of cultural and societal pressure to conform, to be both productive and consumptive, adds on additional stress, threatening to destabilize every human brain on the planet.
These are not the best people to get advice from on any topic. Their cold concern always remains self-interest. The pundits and talking heads pushing the agendas of the super-wealthy and multinational corporations have been wrong about every single one of the topics mentioned above. How dare any of you trust them anymore! Too many lies are mounted one atop another. Can you not see by the litany of their lies that their only motive is to perpetuate wealth and the current order which fosters it?
Voters don’t demand governments provide energy-efficient, low-cost, mass, public transit to replace the automobile. Instead, they beg their Presidents to lower the cost of oil. In response, those Presidents go off to the Middle East in wars to secure access to the oil the people require. In response, oil producing nations in the region raise the price of oil. Who pays? Taxpayers pay, triple-squared: they pay at the pump, they pay extra for every other product they purchase, they pay in their taxes, and they’ll keep paying in their taxes for decades as the interest on the loans incurred by the U.S. to pay for its wars to secure a continuing source of oil never abates.
In pursuing this energy policy, a cycle of violence arose between cultures, religions and regions. The global designs of American and European multinational companies often come into direct conflict with the will of native people on their own lands. Some cultures resist being subsumed by contemporary, high-tech consumerism. This is certainly the case with some believers in fundamental Islam residing in the Near, Middle and Far East. Since the super-wealthy have most of their eggs in a few baskets (military, automobile, oil, pharmaceuticals, tobacco, lending, banking, finance and telecommunications industries are among the most important), and since their financial support controls who is elected and what is accomplished during that term of office, they exert their overwhelming influence on government to protect and advance their interests, never the publics’.
Rather than advancing the interests of the huge and diverse public which comprises the nations they serve, representatives claim they serve a greater good by preserving and advancing the economy and its movers. They claim that is how they protect “our way of life.” Humans are all born into this “way of life,” apparently have no say in what kind of “way” it should be, often don't even try to define quality of life to themselves, and are even required to risk or give their lives to maintain it.
This “way of life” has nothing to do with real human nature, real human need or real human comfort. Humanity has replaced love, caring, community and humanitarian equality with technology, celebrity, scandal and net worth. What is seen as “our way of life” is obviated by the manner the mortgage industry crisis has been managed: the government attempted to bail out the lending institutions while the individuals and families who lost their homes probably never even received their government-issued, income-tax rebate checks from the economy stimulus of 2008, because no one knew where to deliver them.
But the real kicker, and something which no one seems interested in tying together with the inflationary recession which occurred during the spring of 2008 (and which is poised to be repeated during the spring of 2009), is the mass loss of jobs among the sector which has been the traditional consumer for the goods and services industry has to offer – the American and European middle class. Consumers are losing their discretionary income to inflation in the cost of products and transportation, but simultaneously through a loss in the value of their property as the economy becomes diluted with too much currency, too much business tied to servicing debt, too much personal debt, too little equity in property, too little buying power, no alternative energy strategies, too little savings, a crumbling stock market, a diminished middle class, a diminished job market and no new industry to employ those losing their jobs or those growing up who will need jobs as they leave school.
If the government took a tip from FDR and Marriner Eccles (his Fed Chairman during The Great Depression), it would not give any sums of money to the producers of goods, but rather invest it in the consumer because, as Marriner Eccles explained, the way out of a severe recession or depression is found by letting the real way Capitalism works run its course, that is, the economy faces under consumption and the only way to stimulate consumption is to put the money in the hands of the consumers. The size of investment in the consumer must be significant enough so those consumers have enough discretionary income to purchase big ticket items. In addition, the government should initiate an energy conversion/conservation plan. The plan could be coordinated with the states and communities. The plan could entail building a new national infrastructure which includes: environmentally responsible mass, public transit, converting our power sources to clean energy technologies, refitting homes and commercial buildings with recyclable solar panels and battery systems to get us all off the grids, and setting aside more public land as wildlife refuges to insure preservation of natural splendor and natural habitats. Employing people to rebuild our roads and highways as President Obama suggests is not an answer. That only spends exorbitant sums on an infrastructure which is already outmoded and will only serve to strangle the planet with increased effects from Climate Change because it will encourage continued use of the automobile. We can’t invest in more death, especially not on a planetary scale! Road construction and improvement isn't forward looking. The real change I think the American public expects from Obama would be to create massive job programs which simultaneously carry our American Republic into the future, leading wisely and proudly.
It would be wise for communities to learn to farm and raise livestock in greater varieties for local consumption at the local level. Our contemporary economy’s huge, conglomerated agribusinesses probably won’t be able to exist long into the future because the cost of transporting foods (every kind of product, actually) around the world will become prohibitive. Additionally, the transportation industry might be subjected to restrictions or surcharges on fuel consumption in the future from both concerns regulating Climate Change inducing activities and from shrinking oil reserves. Furthermore, even if Big Agriculture can thrive through just passing along the increased costs to the consumer, all this shipping just leads to more pollution and increased effects from Climate Change, reducing everyone’s quality of life faster and in a more pronounced degree at the same time as the consumer will discover their buying power further eroded.
All multinational corporations will find it difficult to survive the onslaught from the effects Climate Change will exert on our future economies as we struggle to create wealth in a world in which we will barely be able to survive. However, the super-wealthy and multinational corporations will try as hard as they can to preserve the current political, economic and social orders dominated by wealth. If humanity wants to survive, then governments must see the writing on the wall, stop legislating to benefit those corporations and businesses which should not and cannot, if we regain our collective sanity, survive much longer anyway, and start working for the public that elects them and depends upon them more desperately now than perhaps ever in the course of human history.
The true nature and greatest value of human beings are not to be found in high energy, lightning paced, stressful lifestyles. Stress speeds up the metabolism, correspondingly decreasing the lifespan. Stress also reduces brain functioning because it impedes neurogenesis. Chronic stress causes the brain to exhibit chronically diminished neurogenesis and a corresponding diminishment of brain function.
Contrast that with the realization that life is meant to be enjoyed and to be shared in a kind and loving manner. It is meant to be lived leisurely but not slothfully. There should be an equally available opportunity afforded to everyone to live a more natural lifestyle if so disposed. We should not be forced into the indentured servitude of required labor in the Great Wheel of the Economy. We should not be divided and pitted against each other by anyone for any reason, especially not for someone’s own greedy designs to increase personal wealth, corporate profits or market shares.
On the one hand, I strongly believe in a middle ground between mere subsistence and extravagance; while on another hand, I find it utterly unconscionable for anyone to amass wealth while realizing others are: starving to death, afflicted with disease, homeless, poorly educated (if they are educated at all), or some combination of the above. Since the advent of television, actors have participated in telethons which were held for a variety of causes. During the last few decades, musicians have supported causes through concerts for charity. People of all types, coming from backgrounds of varying degrees of affluence, have supported these causes through charitable donations. Everyone involved are caring people, genuine and sincere in their compassionate efforts to make a difference and help the downtrodden.
But what does this really accomplish? Every additional dollar (or euro, yen, ruble, peso, baht, rial or any other unit of currency) making its way through the economy just heaps more suffering upon the poor at the same time as it advances global catastrophe through Climate Change. The more money donated requires a correspondingly additional sum be earned by the donors for the security, health and well being of the family unit. Every charitable effort, though necessary and highly humanitarian, requires the use of money.
Money means work. Work means use of resources and the creation of waste. The waste continues to choke the atmosphere, poison the water and dry up the land. So, well intentioned charity results in higher temperatures, the loss of more water, the loss of more arable land, and a consequent reduction in quality of life for the poor everywhere, especially for what the American cultural/economic/national bias refers to as “underdeveloped” nations.
I will not say Bob Geldof, Bono and their program to buy “red” products which seeks to provide aid for the poor, are wrong to do whatever they can to both provide relief from suffering for as many poverty stricken populations as possible and to engage political leaders in discussions, encouraging them to provide relief in the form of forgiveness of the world debt owed by the poorest nations. [As an aside on that topic, I think forgiveness of debt as they request is now out of the question in the minds of economists and economic strategists, and consequently politicians, too, given the current economic factors.] My point is that they are not doing anything to change the mentality which causes the poverty and poor living conditions they want to alleviate when they send people into stores to buy products, no matter the color of those products.
Furthermore, all the activity associated with putting on a charitable event, combined with all the activity associated with earning the sums donated to the charity, combined again with all the activity the charity exerts doing its charitable work, turns out, in the long run, to fuel the underlying problems associated with both Climate Change and the cultural genocide from the West as it subsumes the rich tradition of every locality within the overriding economic and media influenced movement into a single culture of consumerist, celebrity worshipping, corporate feudalism at the same time as it relieves, for some small percentage of the affected individuals to some small degree, the symptoms caused by those problems and which are endemic to Capitalism.
What is Capitalism all about? Many will answer, “Capitalism is the freedom to choose how one will live one’s life and the opportunity to rise in wealth in proportion to one’s efforts and abilities.” The Capitalism favored by the Puritans who immigrated to the New World, and which exists today, ironically, is actually based on the very same premises underlying biological evolution which they refute – survival of the fittest, here as seen in the acquisition of wealth through victorious economic competition with one’s peers.
Through interjecting ownership, old money’s descendants reap the reward of inherited wealth received by people simply by virtue of who their ancestors were. This money wasn’t earned by the recipients. No, inheritance is the means by which wealth perpetuates itself into either aristocracy or oligarchy. Preserved privilege is not a system conducive to aiding an equal opportunity for all people to fulfill their promise. Rather, it induces the evolution of a narcissistic, insouciant, aristocratic class who wield power over the rest of humanity with their sole interest being to line their own pocketbooks and bank accounts further still.
Yes, some people do rise from impoverishment to degrees of comfort and security through a higher standard of living, and by the fruit of their own labor, too. We often see meteoric rising stars from the classes of artist, entertainer, celebrity and athlete, who accumulate wealth, often quickly, due to their exceptional talent and charisma. While modest to magnificent advances out of poverty and into the middle class and above do occur in many more fields of endeavor than those just enumerated, they are not easily gained nor do they occur as often as one might think or hope. No, most people brought up in poverty are relegated to a second class existence. This result is both endemic and systemic to Capitalism.
One reason poverty sustains itself by inheritance is rooted in the manner in which the brain functions. Science informs us our brains regenerate themselves – they create new cells through corticogenesis and neurogenesis. However, science further informs us that stress inhibits those processes. In actuality, if persistent stress is present while the brain is still developing from fetus through infancy and on to the toddler stage (the brain’s primary stages of development), science informs us the stress will have not only reduced the number of brain cells which grow during this vital time, but it will also inhibit neurogenesis and corticogenesis throughout the individual’s lifetime.
Many people believe poverty is the result of laziness, or other poor character traits. Some have suggested that poverty is inherited because children growing up in poverty only learn to imitate those same conditions when they become adults through learned behavior passed on from generation to generation. Again, the learned behavior is considered to be a character flaw. In other words, these people believe that poverty results from character flaws which can and should be overcome. That also infers that those who do not overcome the shortcomings of the “poverty character flaw” are at fault for their own squalor.
What we are learning from science is exactly the opposite. A baby born to poor parents will undoubtedly be exposed to the parents’ stress, to noises in the neighborhood, to many types of jarring experiences, perhaps even regularly arguing parents. This baby will be born with a less developed brain than a child born in more serene conditions. That child will also be doomed to a life with a diminished ability to perform neurogenesis, so they will always be mentally disadvantaged. They will not be able to do as well in school, not because they are genetically inferior, simply because they were born into and raised through the conditions of poverty engendered upon them by Capitalism.
In other words, poverty is not only an economic condition; it is also a self-perpetuating, brain impairment forced on minorities and the endemically poor through the conditions of their poverty-induced squalor and which is fostered by the manner in which Capitalism is now practiced by the super-wealthy, elitist privileged class through their “management of the economy.” This goes a long way to explain why the rich are always getting richer, while the poor only become more impoverished.
Even later in life, stress inhibits neurogenesis and corticogenesis. Essentially, that is what results from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Again, the brain’s inherent ability to regenerate itself and function at optimum levels is impinged by stress. The greater the degree of stress, results in a commensurately greater degree of regeneration inhibition. The result of all inhibitions to brain regeneration is a corresponding reduction in brain functioning. These conditions or symptoms end up afflicting sufferers in the future, through a lifetime of reduced neurogenetic capacity. Thus, the idea that the “so-called” market driven economy is based on a level playing field which offers equal opportunity for success to all, fails to comprehend that all poor people are disadvantaged in this economic system. They are disadvantaged socially through reduced opportunity for business connections. They probably receive less supervision, less personal instruction, less encouragement and, in many cases, perhaps even an inferior nutrition growing up. But until very recently, no one knew that those conditions also inhibited the development and maturation of the brains of the children of poverty, dooming them to a substandard life even before they were born. Shall we agree, “So much for a level playing field, equality and equal opportunity?”
Capitalism does not really allow anyone the freedom to choose how one will live one’s life. From the moment one can understand language, one is forced to endure a near constant bombardment of advertising, peer pressure, parental requirements and socio-cultural influences to conform and become a “productive member” of the socio-economic order. The very essence of Capitalism demands the presence of divergent, economic classes, because one cannot have wealth without the presence of poverty and the middle between those extremes. Competition, by its very nature, insures winners and losers – hence, haves and have-nots. Science is discovering stress is a link between the conditions of poverty and the perpetuation of poverty (and its conditions) among the impoverished. Thus, it becomes obvious that Capitalism is not a system offering fair and equal treatment to all.
Contemporary Capitalism, like feudal societies of the past, segregates the wealthy and powerful from everyone else and guarantees the passage of position and wealth through hereditary lines of succession, even if those lines are only evidenced by the conditions which nurture neurogenesis among the privileged while suppressing it in everyone else to varying degrees. Do you see how Capitalism is not, and can never be, compatible with a truly democratic system of government? Capitalism perpetuates an aristocracy of the wealthy, who use their wealth to mold public opinion, buy political favors and perpetuate their position at the same time as it dooms those born into lower classes a reduced opportunity to escape their conditions amid commensurate reduced opportunity for brain development.
The rights of individuals have been advanced slowly, over a long history. Each was initially fought for, won, acclaimed and encoded in grand documents. Since encoded, they are always being slowly eroded through convention or new laws. People are taught to accept the culture and government into which they are born, no matter whether the government and/or culture adhere to the ideals which the culture or nation professes to embody and wield. With the passage of time, later generations may not grasp just how precious those rights are. So, they may not fight vigorously against the erosion of those ideals of liberty.
I suggest that the rights of humans reach much further than previously argued. The contemporary need is for people to stand up and demand their rights, bravely and non-violently, and with deeply entrenched conviction.
Enumeration of Individual and Collective Rights
The world of today is a world of global concerns with a global economy and networked by global telecommunications systems. It is a fair critique to say of globalization that it is really just a new kind of imperialism or colonialism, utilizing a different name, where the imperial nation-state is replaced by multinational corporations and the new governors do not want to merely superimpose their order upon the existing cultures as they intrude; the corporate aims are to subsume the indigenous cultures with crass commercialism, celebrity worship and the irrational excess of consumerism.
Our present is confronted by global threats from Climate Change, to the potential for nuclear winter, to international terrorist networks. Consequently, there has never been a more important time for Universal Rights of Sentient Beings to be asserted and obtained.
Universal Rights of Sentient Beings
1. Sentient beings have the right of self-determination.
2. Sentient beings have the right to live and travel where they please.
3. Sentient beings have the right to live in a world free of conflict.
4. Sentient beings have the right to live in a world free of poverty and wealth.
5. Sentient beings have a right to be born into equally advantageous conditions.
6. Sentient beings have a right to be born into a clean and healthy environment, free of both stress and pollution.
7. All sentient beings have a right to their natural habitat.
8. People have a right to live freely in their homes (as long as no physical, mental, emotional, or psychological harm accrues to others), and to be free from any intrusion into their homes.
9. People have a right to privacy in their personal affairs, as to their property, their communications, relationships and personal histories.
10. People have the right to worship as they please, or not worship if they please; as well as the right to be free from having others’ attempt to convert them to another belief system.
11. People are entitled to their opinions as well as the right to express their opinions freely and openly without fear of retribution from any source (as long as those opinions are not libelous or slanderous in nature).
12. People have the right to gather together for any purpose which does not harm any other person or group.
13. People have the right to be told the entire truth in all matters by governments and other institutions empowered into leadership positions by people.
14. All people, even those arrested as being allegedly involved in criminal activity, as well as those who may be alleged as involved in seditious or terrorist activities, have the right to be treated with dignity and respect at all times.
15. People have a right to decide the time and manner of their own demise if they so choose as long as they are mentally competent and can provide a rational rationale.
16. People have a right to be free from slavery, indentured servitude, conscription, harassment, search and seizure.
17. People have the right to an honest education which keeps young minds free from being molded into automaton-like conformists who will accept whatever is on the table.
18. People have the right to pursue knowledge in the fields of their choosing after a basic foundation has been laid.
19. All people, being equal, have the right of equal opportunity to pursue and fulfill each of their myriad, personal passions and dreams.
20. People (and the nations, cultures, generations and societies they comprise) have the right to come into the world free of debt incurred by preceding generations, electorates or other bodies of people, free of pollution created by previous generations, free of conflict and enmity between groups created by previous generations, free of bigotry, hate and intolerance, and free of militaries, military weapons and other tools of war as well as any and all weapons of mass destruction.
These ideal, yet, basic rights of sentient beings form the foundation upon which any civilization must be based assuming that civilization seeks to be legitimate, subservient to the will of the people without creating a tyranny of the masses, fulfill the needs of the community which comprises it without damaging the environment, and then last through time. This system has to be evolutionary, constantly modifying itself to the changes arising with the passage of time and development of future generations. The approach should be holistic, attempting to embody the wishes of what Mother Nature, if the life force of our planet could speak to us, might suggest.
With the assertion of these rights, humanity must acknowledge that responsibilities accrue with regard to how we all must learn moderation of appetite and moderation in the pervasiveness of our reach.
Enumeration of Individual and Collective Responsibilities
1. No human has the right to inflict physical, emotional, intellectual or psychological suffering, or death upon any sentient being, whether individually, in groups or en masse.
2. Humanity does not have the right to cause the extinction of any other organism unless the organism threatens the continued existence of humanity.
3. Humanity does not have the right to restrict, constrict or eradicate the habitats of other sentient beings.
4. Humanity does not have the right to perform laboratory experiments on any sentient being which does not knowingly and freely give their consent.
5. Humanity does not have the right to pollute the atmosphere, water or land.
6. Humanity does not have the right to consume voraciously.
7. Humanity does not have the right to overpopulate the planet.
8. Humanity does not have the right to waste any natural resource.
9. Humanity does not have the right to devise and build weapons which threaten to inflict damage on either the environment or other sentient beings.
10. Humanity owes a debt to the planet, and all its future life, to try to correct the damage it has wrecked on the environment.
11. Humanity has the responsibility to maintain the world through all generations in balance, free of pollution, and preserving enough wilderness space to allow nature’s infinite diversity to continue to express itself and continue to evolve as it was intended to do.
Implications of Morality and Individual Choice
A common thread of perception winds its way through the mental processes of every individual consciousness and which underlies the unique awareness in every one of us. In most moments, we view the “so-called” mundane decisions we face in our daily lives as irrelevant, annoying or perhaps even burdensome. Most of us fail to recognize that the decision of where to dine is not only just as creative as the expressions contained in a timeless novel or classic work of art, but the creative decision of where to dine (or what book to buy and read) can contain greater significance for the course one’s life will take in the future.
Consider that one never knows when or where a fluke occurrence will present the opportunity to meet someone who will shake the foundations of one’s belief systems to their core or will deliver into the inbox of life the sudden rush of chemistry and attraction which might ignite a lifetime of love and fulfillment. Choice is omnipresent. It is also omnipotent. Creativity is the foundation upon which the mosaic of the infinite possibility inherent in choice is expressed.
Along with creative choice arises the responsibility of right action. Whether a “law of karma” truly exists as some kind of universal moral-equalizer or not is an irrelevant philosophical consideration. If one does wrong to another, the one committing the wrong will unquestionably face some consequence of that action eventually.
The consequences of one’s actions which are harmful to another can assume form in a wide variety of possibilities. The causer-of-wrong may be shunned by the recipient of the wrong perpetrated. Then again, the receiver-of-wrong may not be aware of having been wronged. However, consequences will still result. Third parties might bear witness and lose some degree of, or perhaps even lose total, respect and/or trust for the causer-of-wrong. In either of these scenarios, the causer-of-wrong will suffer either a reduction in the quality of relationships or even complete termination of one or more of those relationships. Such an eventuality will have a like reduction in future opportunities which might otherwise have presented themselves to the causer-of-wrong.
It is also possible no one other than the causer-of-wrong will ever be aware of the wrong which was perpetrated. In this scenario, the causer-of-wrong may erroneously conclude no consequences from perpetrating the wrong will occur. However, one never knows if, when or how consequences can still arise. The conscience of consciousness tends to dwell upon incidents from the past: some are haunting, some painful, still others joyful. In the case of the mind dwelling on a wrong performed, the conscience of consciousness within the causer-of-wrong may be expressed by regret, grief or guilt. Too great an accumulation of regret, grief and/or guilt over the course of a lifetime will not only add additional stress upon the individual, but can also lead to psychological, and sometimes even physical, ailments. Ultimately, there is no escape from the inevitable effects which manifest as the result of consequences to one’s actions, especially when one thinks one got away with something that everyone else knows about but is too embarrassed for the perpetrator to mention.
Developing a Model for Right Living
Opportunity for redemption lies around every corner in the life lived thoughtfully. The European Existentialists of the 19th and 20th centuries developed a concept for right living which centered on the individual living a life whereby one becomes one’s own saint. This outlook was modified by the counterculture existentialists in the U.S. during the 1960s and 1970s. The idea of personal freedom was also perceived as to contain a measure of personal responsibility. A sense of moral certitude arose through the naïve concepts embodied by Flower Power. The underlying meaning was altruism, kindness, acceptance, and love.
Proponents of each of those existential movements retained a necessary focus on the Kantian formula for right action: 1) create a maxim, 2) now, imagine a world in which everyone is permitted to act on that maxim, 3) the maxim postulated can be accepted as a Universal Principle and incorporated within an individual’s (or group’s) system of morals and ethics if no contradiction or irrationality arises from allowing everyone to act in conformity with it, and 4) only follow the ethos contained within legitimate maxims arrived upon through this method.
Many readers will wonder what the difference is between Kant’s formula and the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The latter is a system useful for governing interpersonal relationships. However, no additional admonition is contained with regard to relationships, situations and other concerns which are beyond single human to single human interaction.
The relationships between nations, societies and cultures, as well as to our environment, the planetary ecosystem and all of both plant and animal life, are equally important in the formulation of both personal and group ethics. Individuals rarely conceive of the necessity for holding governments to moral standards just as we hold individuals to a common set of moral standards. I’m not speaking about the individuals within governments; I mean the entire government, as if it were considered as being the representation to the rest of the world of that nation’s collective moral fiber. This is the idea Thomas Jefferson expressed when he said, “Moral duties [are] as obligatory on nations as on individuals.”
The Kantian formula works for individual people, collectives, nations, cultures, religions, commercial enterprises and families, not only with, among and between each other, but also in regard to the environment, the entire mass of humanity and all other planetary life. Additionally, the Kantian formula assists in building a moral and ethical system, whereas the Golden Rule is a momentary moral expression.
One can sense the broad prosperity which all may share in a world built on such a framework. This framework assists to define and design the greatest heights to which humans can aspire. Ultimately, we make ourselves worthy of each breath through our kindness to others and our thoughtful concern about how each of our actions affects not only ourselves and our relationships with other people, but the ecology of the world, too.
Judge personal, cultural, national and societal actions on the basis of their affinity with Universal Principles. Think; what are Universal Principles? Aren’t: Attraction, Understanding, Accepting Others for Who They Are and How They Live, Love, Peace, Personal Growth Leading to Greater Depth of Character, Hope and Respect all examples of Universal Principles? Then, these are the Principles by which we should all guide our lives! To do anything less is to negate the purpose of life, because life’s purpose can only be expressed through the application of Universal Principles just as Universal Principles always express meaning and purpose.
How can anyone who believes in their own human potential to grow and develop assert human nature is so deeply rooted in negative attributes that humanity is incapable of rising above them to reach for the kind of interdependent web of balanced relationships with one another and the environment to which a philosophy of Love dedicates individuals and groups? Whoever does not believe in the ability of humans to evolve into fully aware beings, living in harmony with all of nature and one another, that person has no real belief in their own abilities, potential or knowledge of place in the grand scheme of things. “What,” you might ask, “is the purpose of life?” Life’s purpose can be witnessed and experienced by the following aspirations: to live in harmony with all individuals and the whole of life as a totality, to live in harmony with the entire planetary ecosystem, to promote planetary abundance, to live in moderation, to aspire to a level of comfort and ample sustenance which minimizes waste and does not inculcate over-consumption (nations, cultures and societies cannot legitimately create 2 million tons of waste per year per person as currently occurs in the United States), to build a society based on Cooperation, Support, Peace and Prosperity, and to explore the wonders of each pregnant moment without ever detracting from all that is Splendor. The planet will not have enough resources to satisfy humanity’s insatiable appetite much longer. However, by knowing one cohabits in utter harmony both with and on the planet, and therefore the Universe as well by extension, one can beam with pride at the life they live. To do so should lead to being loved, wide and far. This is the way to not only a happy life, but also a happy death.