Imagine: Making Reality What You Want It To Be

March 21, 2016

I realize that we are a long way from where I think we should be. I wrote this article about to inspire imagination.

Imagine a world where everyone individually and collectively did their best to follow the Golden Rule.

We cannot make it so unless we imagine that we can succeed and then strive to make it happen.

Now, just for the halibut, place your doubts, fears and cynicism on hold for a day while you imagine that world and how it would change your life.

Hold that thought.

Sleep.

Try it again tomorrow.

Why not?

Doesn’t hurt and doesn’t cost you anything. You can’t lose by trying.

If it works, share it with your friends.

If it doesn’t, go back to your life.

Remember: meaningful change starts with yourself.

You can’t change unless you want to change and most people don’t want to change unless they are unhappy.

We can’t change others, especially a nation’s foreign policy, unless we change ourselves.

When enough of us have changed, institutional change will come from within and change overnight.

Ironically, being unhappy is necessary to motivate change.

Talk is cheap. Show by example.


Golden Rule should be the guiding principle of U.S. foreign policy

March 20, 2016

A belief in American exceptionalism and a right to exercise dominion and control over the natural and human resources of the planet has produced a catastrophic foreign policy that is destroying the planet. Hillary Clinton, like her mentor and friend Henry Kissinger, is a true believer. Just like him, she believes it’s OK to lie to get what she wants. For example, from an OpEd in Salon by Patrick L. Smith, here is a recent example of her lying to get her way regarding a free trade agreement with Colombia when she was Secretary of State.

“I will do everything I can to urge the Congress to reject the Colombia agreement,” Clinton promised a gathering of communications workers at the time. In the releases of Clinton’s emails last year, we learned that she was simultaneously lobbying hard among members of Congress to get the pact passed—assuring them, among other things, that the rights of Colombian workers would equal or exceed those of U.S. workers.

[Dan] Kaufman [a labor writer in Wisconsin] concludes this pithy passage thus: “According to Escuela National Sindical, a Colombian labor rights group, 105 union activists have been assassinated since the agreement passed.” This is more than 20 a year on average, which computes to nearly a couple of murders a month.

This duplicity happened two years after she supported a 2009 military coup in Honduras that overthrew the democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya by officially recognizing the military as the legitimate government of Honduras. Since then, Honduras has been awash in blood. Berta Caceres y Flores, an environmental activist was murdered earlier this month by a military death squad. Anyone who is suspected of attempting to organize labor unions or, as Caceres did, resist the construction of an environmentally destructive hydroelectric dam, is marked for murder. Small wonder then that thousands of refugees from Honduras are seeking asylum at the Mexican border. Read more about Berta Caceres.

We need to stop the insanity.Destabilizing any foreign government (e.g., Libya: “We came, we saw, he’s dead,” said Hillary referring to Khadafi) to gain control of natural and human resources should be punishable as a war crime.

This is not complicated. The guiding principle of our foreign relations should be the Golden Rule. We should treat other nations the same way we want them to treat us and we should avoid doing things to other nations that we would not want them to do to us.

We also need to confront our past with public hearings conducted by a Truth & Reconciliation Council.

This simple truth has been staring us in the face since our beginnings in Africa approximately 200,000 years ago. We survived the ice ages not because of survival of the fittest, but because we relied on each other. Because of global climate change that we have caused, we are facing another Malthusian bottleneck. We are going to have to ourselves in the other and rely again on each other to survive it.

Predatory capitalism and wars have no role in the future we need to begin envisioning today on the Vernal Equinox — March 20, 2016.

So it shall be written; So it shall be done.


War Against the Poor must end now

December 19, 2015

This article is directed to those who call themselves Christians and anyone else who is interested.

In Matthew 25:31-46 [New International Version (NIV)] Jesus said to his disciples what has come to be known as the parable of the sheep and the goats.

Note that Jesus is not referring to himself when he mentions the ‘Son of Man.’ Instead, he is referring to someone else whom God would send to preside over the coming Kingdom of God on Earth. Jesus was a Jewish rabbi who believed the apocalypse was at hand. In this parable he is explaining what a person must do to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

This parable almost certainly goes back to the historical Jesus because he is telling his disciples that salvation comes to those who perform good acts. He does not mention religion, belief or faith. Indeed, they did not matter to Jesus.

Paul and the early Christians, however, believed acts had nothing to do with salvation. They believed salvation will come to those who believe Jesus died for their sins and was resurrected to eternal life. Therefore, they are unlikely to have made up the parable of the sheep and the goats.

Present day Christians, and others who despise and shun the poor, who believe their acts do not matter because they are saved by their belief in Jesus as their lord and savior who died for their sins are in for a rude awakening. Their reward will be eternal damnation.

And no amount of wishing it were otherwise matters a whit.

If they want a shot at the eternal life they so dearly hope for, they need to stop hating and demonizing the poor and start following the Golden Rule.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you (positive version) or do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you.

In Mark 12: 30-31 [New International Version (NIV)], the historical Jesus also said in response to a question about which of the commandments was most important,

30 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’. There is no commandment greater than these.”

Additional Reading: Ehrman, Bart D. The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (2013)


Pope Francis reminds us about what matters

September 24, 2015

Neither building walls nor hunting down and deporting millions of immigrants is the answer to the refugee crisis.

In a speech to both houses of Congress this morning, Pope Francis said,

“Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions. We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal. We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the Golden Rule: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.'”

Deceptively simple, but so very true.

“Do not judge, lest you be judged.” (Matthew 7, 1-3)

“There but for the grace of God, go I.” (Uttered by John Bradford)

May we turn the page today and begin a new tomorrow based on respectful good faith dialogue to reach solutions that benefit the many instead of feeding the greed of the self-interested few.

He also called for an end to the death penalty, respect for all life, an end to income inequality and cooperation to end human-caused climate change.

He praised four Americans: Abraham Lincoln, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.

Dorothy Day was an American socialist.


Just because we are natural born killers does not mean we are not good people

September 18, 2014

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Good morning:

The significance of the recent scientific study published in Nature, which found that chimpanzees are natural-born killers, is that killing has a genetic basis. They did not learn that behavior from humans or choose to be that way. They are genetically predisposed to kill because, via natural selection, that predisposition has resulted in a competitive advantage for scarce resources and reproduction compared to chimpanzees that do not have that predisposition.

We need only look to our own culture and past to realize that we have the same genetic predisposition.

The Boston Globe reports:

It can be tempting to take a dark view of the violent behavior of chimpanzees, but Joan Silk, a professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University, said discovering the origins of human behaviors in other animals is not the same as learning our destiny.

“How do animals resolve conflict is interesting,” Silk said. “How do animals find out ways to cooperate? Those are general principles from which we can learn a lot, but it doesn’t mean we’re expecting them to be the same across species. I study baboons, and I love them dearly, but they do all kinds of things I think are sort of uncivilized. If they were my kids, I’d be very distressed.”

We are finally beginning to understand that human behavior has a genetic basis. That is, we are predisposed to act in certain ways, despite our race, ethnicity, language and culture.

A predisposition to kill when vital resources are scarce is a competitive advantage. In times of plenty, it’s a competitive disadvantage.

Empathy is a competitive advantage during times of scarcity because survival is enhanced by living in a peer-to-peer cooperative relationship with others.

Individuals cannot long survive unless they belong to a group and groups cannot survive without the informed consent and cooperation of their individual members.

Mutual respect and dignity promote harmony and cooperation in times of scarcity and plenty.

Greed and exploitation of others never do. They promote discord and ultimately cause chaos.

This is why living the Golden Rule and democracy are a better model for living than a corporation that exploits other people and the environment for profit and has no accountability for the harm it causes.

Survival of the fittest is not a law. It’s only a prediction of the outcome of a fight.


Reject neoliberalism and resuscitate the fundamental right to human dignity

July 10, 2014

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Good afternoon:

The time has come for all the people of the world to reject neoliberalism and its fundamental assumptions that greed and exploitation of people, resources and the environment serve the greater good. Instead, they serve an ever diminishing group of supremely selfish parasites who enrich themselves at the expense of everyone else.

In his State of the Union address to Congress on January 6, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt identified four essential freedoms:

“In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression—everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way—everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want—which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants—everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world.

Human dignity is the basis of the four essential freedoms.

Each human being has a right to dignity.

We must recognize and enshrine this right for all time together with the Golden Rule by which we assure it by our deeds:

That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow.

We know about freedom of speech and religion. They are protected by the First Amendment to our Constitution.

Freedom from want means the right to a job and a guaranteed living wage with benefits, including universal health care. The government should be the employer of last resort to assure that anyone who wants to work will have a job compensated by a living wage with benefits. That wage shall be the minimum wage.

Exploitation of labor shall be prohibited.

Freedom from want shall also include the right to a free education.

Freedom from fear means outlawing aggressive wars and prosecuting those who initiate them.

There shall be no right for a nation to start a war in preemptive self-defense.

This is our 1126th post. If you appreciate what we do, please toss some money into the hat. We need it to keep the lights on.

Thank you,

Fred


Greed is a false god

April 20, 2014

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Good morning:

Today is Easter Sunday.

Whether or not you celebrate Easter, resurrection is an ancient myth that was old before humans invented writing. The Ancient Egyptian story of the resurrection of Osiris dates back to a time long before Menes unified the Two Lands creating the fabled Old Kingdom of Egypt in approximately 3,000 BC.

Jesus was a rabbi and the core principle of his teachings is the Golden Rule:

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Rabbi Hillel, who lived and died before Jesus was born, expressed the Golden Rule:

“That which is hateful to you, do not do to another. That is the whole Law. The rest is commentary. Now go and learn.”

Greed is one of the seven deadly sins and incompatible with the Golden Rule.

Nevertheless, greed is the so-called invisible hand that regulates the free market and, according to neoliberals, the only acceptable form of regulation. Not only is unrestricted greed an acceptable business plan, it has become the only acceptable business plan. Thus, has greed been accorded godlike status.

And we wonder why the world is so messed up.

On this day that we celebrate resurrection and rebirth, we would do well to recommit ourselves to living the Golden Rule. Believing it is not enough. Breath it. Live it. Become it, now.

Rabbi Hillel also said,

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when?”

We are in this together.

Greed is not a path to prosperity. It is a path to corruption, exploitation, enslavement and chaos.

We all know know it.

Now let’s do something about it.


Should nations follow the Golden Rule

September 15, 2013

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Good afternoon:

I had to attend to some personal matters yesterday in Tennessee and was unable to post a new article.

I write today to remind everyone about the importance of basing our conduct on the Golden Rule. We humans could literally change the world in an instant if we could get everyone in the world to agree to base their conduct on the Golden Rule. I am not the first person to say this. Philosophers and spiritual leaders have been saying this throughout recorded history. Nevertheless, instead of seeing progress in our country toward reaching a consensus about the fundamental importance of basing all human conduct on the Golden Rule, I see a retreat from it. I do not believe it is a coincidence that we are also seeing an increase in racism, disrespect for human rights, incarceration and demonization of the poor and the mentally ill.

I have a few simple questions.

1. If George Zimmerman believed in the Golden Rule, would he have gone hunting for Trayvon Martin or would he have identified himself and asked him if he needed any help?

2. Would racism exist if people followed the Golden Rule?

3. Would the right wing hate machine gain traction or lose credibility, if people followed the Golden Rule?

4. Would people, including the blind, be buying guns in record numbers, if people followed the Golden Rule?

5. Would the United States be interfering in the internal affairs of other countries and considering bombing Syria, if people and the government followed the Golden Rule?

6. What do we have to change about our thinking in order to apply the Golden Rule in our lives?

Let’s start with the last question because I think it is the fundamental question that answers the other questions.

We live in a society in which many politicians play the fear card to promote fear, suspicion of strangers, and demonization of the other. Seems like they are constantly declaring a war against this or that alleged calamity instead of using evidence based research to identify problems and propose reasonable solutions. No one is going to seriously consider following the Golden Rule, if they believe their existence is constantly threatened. Instead, they are more likely to follow a perversion of the rule and do unto others before they do unto you. This is the idea behind preemptive strikes in self-defense that our government used to justify invading Iraq and we all know how that turned out.

We have seen the fear card played over and over and it is long past time to recognize we are being played and refuse to support politicians who persist with the one-trick-pony show.

We need to reorient our thinking to see our fellow humans as basically the same as we are regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, nationality or the language one speaks. Our differences should be celebrated rather than feared. For example, the science of genetics informs us that 99.99% of human DNA is identical. Therefore, the obvious differences we see in others, such as skin color, are really insignificant in the big picture. Beneath the skin we are the same.

We cannot eliminate suffering by practicing the Golden Rule, but we certainly can reduce it. Rather than disregarding the Golden Rule as impractical and demonizing all Muslims as enemies or potential enemies, we should examine our nation’s conduct in the past to see what we did wrong or could have done differently to have avoided the hatred of so many people. This requires evidence based thinking, which is the mature and intelligent way for individuals to resolve their disputes.

Why is our government so afraid to admit mistakes and wrongdoing?

Why does it default to bully behavior and military options to solve problems when we have seen them fail over and over?

Groans Quoted Bill Maher in a comment at 12:10 am this morning:

“Forget the Syria debate, we need to debate on why we’re always debating whether to bomb someone,” Maher said. “Because we’re starting to look, not so much like the world’s policeman, but more like George Zimmerman — itching to use force and then pretending it’s because we had no choice.”

As our Founding Fathers said in the Declaration of Independence, we have the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

So does everyone else.


Ma’at and the Golden Rule

October 5, 2012

The Ancient Egyptians believed that the universe emerged from chaos. They perceived an enduring harmony and order to it that they regarded as sacred and necessary to sustain. They believed it was created and maintained by a powerful female spiritual force or goddess whom they called Ma’at. In their view, she kept discord and chaos at bay by creating order out of disorder thereby allowing them to live in peace, prosper and be happy. They regarded this ordering principle or Ma’at to be so important that they based their code of moral and ethical conduct on it believing that Ma’at required speaking the truth and treating others with honor and respect in all matters.

Ma’at is the earliest known version of the Golden Rule. As an expression of divine wisdom, Ma’at is reminiscent of St. Thomas Aquinas’s notion of natural or moral law. For example, he believed that the “standards of morality are in some sense derived from, or entailed by, the nature of the world and the nature of human beings.” Ma’at’s sacred status as a fundamental guiding principle that had to be honored in all things created an emphasis on using law to resolve disputes in a manner consistent with Ma’at, or the spirit of the law. Their emphasis on resolving disputes in a fair and equitable manner stands out in marked contrast to the rote application of the most relevant rule in a lengthy and detailed list of rules.

Ma’at was depicted on the walls of temples and tombs performing one of her most sacred duties at the Weighing of the Heart ceremony in the Hall of Two Truths in the Duat, or Egyptian underworld. She is depicted as a young woman holding a scepter with one hand, carrying an ankh with the other, and wearing an ostrich feather tucked into her headband. Known as the feather of truth, she would remove it from her headband and place it on one plate of a scale to counterbalance the weight of a recently departed person’s heart, symbolizing the soul. If the soul were lighter than the feather, it would achieve immortality and accompany Osiris to his home in the constellation of Orion and be reborn as a star. If the soul outweighed the feather, it would achieve eternal restlessness after dying a second time devoured by Amit, depicted as a female demon with a body part lion, hippopotamus, and crocodile.

During the Old Kingdom, the pharaoh’s primary role was to maintain Ma’at in society. Known as the Lord of Ma’at, he was said to decree with his mouth the Ma’at in his heart. This was an extremely important responsibility because the natural order and cosmic harmony would be disturbed, if someone violated Ma’at and pharaoh failed to restore it by making sure that justice was done, or if pharaoh violated Ma’at by his own conduct. Eerily similar to what we modern humans call the butterfly effect, the Ancient Egyptians believed that such disruptions would unleash ever more unpredictable and serious consequences reverberating throughout the Two Lands, including droughts, floods, pestilence, starvation, blindness, epidemics of disease, and accidents resulting in serious injury or death.

Ma’at prevailed over chaos for at least a thousand years beginning no later than the time that Menes unified the Two Lands of Upper and Lower Egypt in approximately 3,000 BCE until the fabled Old Kingdom passed into history at the end of the 6th Dynasty in approximately 2186 BCE with the death of Pharaoh Pepi II. He died at the age of 92 outliving all of his heirs. His death also marked the beginning of the First Intermediate Period, a time of declining central authority and civil war between the rulers of various powerful city states within the Egyptian empire. Eleventh Dynasty Pharaoh Mentuhotep II of Thebes eventually restored Ma’at when he reunited Egypt in 2025 BCE by seizing Herakleopolis, the capitol city of the rival 10th Dynasty. This marked the beginning of the Middle Kingdom and the shift of power from Memphis (modern day Cairo) to Thebes.

I believe our criminal justice system together with our economy and society is degenerating and falling apart. I propose for consideration and discussion the following idea:

We have lost our way because too many of us have discarded Ma’at and the Golden Rule as the fundamental ordering principle guiding our lives and replaced it with Greed.


Rabbi Hillel’s Three Questions: What Did He Mean?

July 31, 2012

I have always been drawn to the deeper questions in life and I spent quite a bit of my life defending clients charged with death penalty offenses and I confronted those questions on a daily basis. I am opposed to the death penalty in all cases.

I believe that, as long as we remain alive, we retain the capacity for redemption, no matter what we have done.

As we tread water waiting for Judge Lester’s decision on Friday regarding the defense motion to disqualify, I have taken the opportunity to establish some guidelines and rules for the site.

To further set the tone for a new way in the blogosphere to learn about law and grow in wisdom together, I decided to provoke some philosophical thought and discussion regarding Rabbi Hillel’s famous three questions.

Rabbi Hillel

Wikipedia states:

Hillel (הלל) (born Babylon traditionally c.110 BCE, died 10 CE[1] in Jerusalem) was a famous Jewish religious leader, one of the most important figures in Jewish history. He is associated with the development of the Mishnah and the Talmud. Renowned within Judaism as a sage and scholar, he was the founder of the House of Hillel school for Tannaïm (Sages of the Mishnah) and the founder of a dynasty of Sages who stood at the head of the Jews living in the land of Israel until roughly the fifth century of the Christian Era.

He is known for many things, including this expression of the Golden Rule:

“That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.

The man had a way of cutting through the bullshit and getting to the essence of things.

I do not mention him for any religious purpose. Instead, I mention him as a sage and, specifically, for the following three questions he asked his students.

If I am not for myself, who will be for me?

But if I am only for myself, who am I?

If not now, when?

What are your thoughts?


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