The Perils of Self-Righteousness

man with sword raised facing backward on horse at edge of cliff

We all have our pet peeves. One of mine is self-righteousness. “I am good and righteous and just and you are bad and maybe even wicked and evil.” Not that I never fall into it myself, but I try to notice it and pull out when I do. What are the earmarks? The self-righteous person fancies himself or herself better than others who think or act differently, or who look or sound different. If it’s one of your own tendencies, the chances are you don’t much notice it. You think you’re just in touch with reality. If it’s someone else and you agree with them, you may react that same way. But if you’re anything like me, you probably curl your lip with distaste and dislike (even if only internally and invisibliy) when someone else gets into a self-righteous schtick. It may be a raving rant like many of the venomous online “comments” sections or it may be snide and subtle, but either way it has several unfortunate effects.

First, it often involves projection, a common and often destructive psychological mistake that can easily torpedo our relationships. In projection I see you as the living incarnation of whatever qualities I dislike and refuse to recognize in myself. I deny my own inner reality and experience, project it onto you, and then either denigrate you or try to exterminate you, as if in doing so I could get rid of the disliked and unrecognized qualities in me. The projector does this over and over and over again. It is highly visible, and almost always present, in the phenomenon of self-righteousness.

Second, whether it appears in religion, politics, or in a marriage or other couples relationship, it often leaves whatever sense of shared community we might have had in tatters. After an incident or two, if you’re on the receiving end of the self-righteousness will always be at least a little on guard, at least somewhat reluctant to reveal your thoughts and feelings. This leads to a more distant relationship.

Third, you just might want to get the self-righteous SOB back, especially in contexts like politics and religion where in-group imperialism often runs rampant – WE are better than those other jerks and we’re going to run things our way and impose our ways on them. You end up with results like male committees and legislatures making decisions about women’s reproductive rights that take away women’s freedom (in some cases in direct violation of their own professions of a libertarian ideology). That can lead to a lot of bitterness and desire for revenge.

Fourth, self-righteousness often requires a person to lie to himself or herself. In something like eighty or ninety percent of situations there are at least two or three viable ways of looking at the situation, and sometimes half a dozen ways or more. The ability to consider such multiple perspectives increases internal communication within oneself and also increases a person’s creativity. A self-righteous attitude requires you to deny the possible validity of every view except your own. It commits you to your own monologue and makes it very difficult to engage in any potentially constructive dialogue. And who wants to listen to know-it-all blowhards besides people who already agree with them?

Finally, to anyone with the eyes and ears to see and hear, it boils down to ego. “I’m better than you are.” We’re better than they are.” And then it all to easily sildes into, “and so I’m justified in doing whatever I want to you,” or “we’re justified doing whatever we wish to them.” And of course often it turns into being the other way around. The organization, or our authorities, or some other influence requires me to do terrible things to you, and so I slide into the lie of self-righteousness to justify it.

But in the end, development as a person occurs when we work on shrinking our self-centered egocentrism, not when we inflate it. Self righteousness takes us in the wrong direction.

Barry Goldwater Was a Champion of Reproductive Rights

Texas demonstration

In Texas and numerous other states middle-aged white men who claim to want to get government off people’s backs are climbing onto women’s backs and causing great unnecessary suffering. What did some of the great Republicans of the past think?

BARRY GOLDWATER said, “A lot of so-called conservatives think I’ve turned liberal because I believe a woman has a right to an abortion. That’s a decision that’s up to a pregnant woman, not up to the pope or some do-gooders on the religious right.”

BARRY GOLDWATER’S WIFE PEGGY was co-founder of Arizona Planned Parenthood in 1937. “We knew family planning could relieve a great deal of human suffering,” wrote Peggy in a local magazine piece. Today their granddaughter is a clinic volunteer and Planned Parenthood Board Member

First Lady BETTY FORD said, “Any woman should have the right to a safe and legal abortion.”

GERALD FORD declared “In this Land of the Free, it is right, and by nature it ought to be, that all men and all women are equal before the law.”

In 1964 DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER whom I consider to have no close competition as the best Republican president of the 20th Century) and Harry Truman served together as bipartisan honorary co-chairs of Planned Parenthood.

BUT THEN Ronald Reagan became an errand-boy for the Vatican. “American policy was changed as a result of the Vatican’s not agreeing with our policy,” explains [Reagan’s Vatican ambassador] William Wilson. “AID sent people from [the Department of State] to Rome, and I’d accompany them to meet the president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, and in long discussions they finally got the message.” (Democrat Jimmy Carter was not a lot better. He named anti-family planning zealot John H. Sullivan to head USAID.) If current Republicans truly believe in getting government off people’s backs, they will go back to following Barry Goldwater’s intelligent principle of leaving women to make their own decisions about their own bodies.

The American Women’s Freedom Movement Declaration offers one possible path to a solution:

“WOMEN OF AMERICA, UNITE! Any law, rule, or custom that limits women’s rights or freedoms more than men’s is exploitive, unacceptable gender discrimination. We will not vote for, and will actively work against any candidate who supports such a law, rule, or custom. We will withhold all financial support from any political party or religious organization that supports such discrimination. We will consider permanently leaving any such party or other organization to join with sisters and brothers who actively oppose such restrictions. In whatever ways we find appropriate (which may go so far as to include days of fasting and prayer during which no work may be performed and no items will be bought) we actively commit to achieving full freedom for all women to live their lives and control their bodies as they choose, without gender-related discrimination, domination, or oppression of any kind. We invite all men who support women’s self-determination to join us.”

What the U.S. Should Not Be Doing: Using Depleted Uranium Weapons

DLU2

I see in the news that Obama says Assad has “crossed the red line” in Iran by using nerve gas against the revolutionaries, and that in response, the U.S. will begin sending weapons to the insurgents. This may be a good thing. Assad is certifiably evil (with evil defined as doing intentional and avoidable great harm to others to serve one’s own selfish interests). How wise is it for the U.S. to get involved? I can’t say, because all I know is what the mainstream media prints, and that’s usually notoriously biased toward presenting the narrative of the ruling power elite (i.e. both Democrats and Republicans and the military-industrial complex plutocrats who are the only ones guaranteed to win every war.)

But there is another dimension to this whole story. Nerve gas is certainly very bad. AND this is yet another instance in which it is easy to condemn what Those Other Guys are doing while conveniently ignoring our own similar actions. For years I have been trying not to think about the GIs with Gulf War syndrome and the many dead and deformed babies born in certain areas of Iraq ever since Gulf War I, and I just can’t not think about it and not say something about it any longer.

In 1991 during the George H.W. Bush administration, the U.S. began using armor-piercing depleted uranium (DU) warheads on artillery shells, and later expanded into using non-depleted uranium (NDU) warheads as well. “We” (I pay U.S. income tax, so I guess I’m complicit, even if unwillingly) have used them ever since and are still using them in Afghanistan. They are a stable of rounds fired from tanks and A-10 warthog airplanes. Now they are even used in rifle ammo and a new, ultra-deadly variety of cluster bombs. There are plausible reports that they are being used on drone warheads. Upon explosion, they mix with the dust, becoming part of the land itself for the next few million years. When our own troops breathe that dust, it is a deadly affliction, having been reliably verified as playing a part in the Gulf War Syndrome (U.S. Department of Defense denials notwithstanding). Radioactive poisoning of the people who live in the area has resulted in epidemics of dead and grotesquely deformed babies, and a sharp rise in cancer rates and other related affliction, including double and triple forms of cancer such as had never before been seen in the target areas. Under Republican and Democratic presidents alike, we used these weapons in Iraq, Kosovo, Libya, and Afghanistan, where we are still using them.

It is a strange irony: The United States has rightly strongly opposed nuclear proliferation in the form of “big bomb” weapons. It has exercised restraint by never using the “tactical nukes” that were deployed in Europe during the Cold War. Yet it now uses DU and NDU battlefield nuclear weapons every day, radioactively contaminating the areas where they are used for longer than you or I can even imagine. Moreover, the U.S. has now exported them to the military forces of more than 29 other countries. The army knew how dangerous they are long before it deployed them in Iraq and even made a training film to warn soldiers about touching DU contaminated dust – a film which was not shown to most Gulf War soldiers to prepare them for using those weapons.

One of the photos in the Google gallery shows two people carrying a banner that says simply, “Depleted Uranium is a crime against humanity and the earth.” I personally view the use of DU weapons as one of the most reprehensible war crimes occurring in the world today. “Wait a minute,” you may say. “I thought we were the good guys.” You’re right—we were—in World War II. That was a while back. Today—well . . . . if some other country were using DU weapons against Americans on American soil, how would you feel about it? The only way good guys can remain good guys is through relentless self-examination, and willingness to see when we have strayed into doing things that are not so good, so that we know enough to stop.

There is a massive cover-up of all this. The use of DU and NDU weapons is almost never mentioned in the news, even though it has been estimated that one out of every three rounds fired in Afghanistan today has a uranium warhead. The term “battlefield nuclear weapons” is never used, even though it is an accurate descriptive term. Project Censored, which covers “the news that doesn’t make the news” has run numerous stories about the use of such weapons, and it still doesn’t make the news. USA TODAY founding editor John Hanchette prepared an extensive story on such weapons , then was warned by the Pentagon not to run it, and shortly afterward was replaced as editor of the newspaper. But now, the information is widely available if you want it –even on YouTube videos.

All things considered, I suspect that the use of these battlefield nuclear weapons is far worse than the use of nerve gas, because they linger in the environment forever, waiting to poison the children of the children of the children of the children of the people who were alive when they were first used. It appears to me that the only sane alternative is to stop manufacturing them and stop using them – totally and completely. Unless we demand this, we are all complicit in their continued use.

One fina note: At the end of page 39 of a Google search for “depleted uranium weapons and dead babies,” there is this note: “In order to show you the most relevant results, we have omitted some entries very similar to the 387 already displayed. If you like, you can repeat the search with the omitted results included.” (If you go to Google Images and enter “depleted uranium weapons and dead babies”, be prepared to see strangely grotesque and frightening distortions of the human form.) You can also go to YouTube or any search engine and do other searches, such as “depleted uranium weapons and Gulf War syndrome,” “depleted uranium weapons production and cancer rates,” and “depleted uranium weapons and media censorship.” All those searches have the usual ten pages of entries at the bottom and the word “next” to keep on going. And in the full circle department, in the last search I did, there was the entry “US media censor uranium weapons stories. Depleted uranium turns to poison gas.” Poison gas! – doesn’t that sound something like what Assad is said to be doing?
DU1

The Divine Mother Returns – Amma at San Ramon

Amma

THE DIVINE MOTHER RETURNS: A REPORT FROM AMMA’S ASHRAM

I went over to San Ramon to see Amma (the “hugging mother” a.k.a. Sri Mata Amritanandamayi) twice last week. The front wall behind the stage was done over since last year. Originally it had a style of Zen simplicity, with visible natural wood everywhere. Now it has been redone India style, with ornate decorations. I am guessing that her Indian disciples who live here in America made the changes.
Amma usually comes to her California ashram twice a year, once in summer and once in winter, as part of her U.S. Tour. We’ve also seen her in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Paris, and my wife and our daughter have seen her in Dallas. Yes, I got a wonderful hug.
Since the content of the talks and the meditations are minor variations on a few core themes (just as in every religious or spiritual tradition), it’s reasonable to wonder why I keep coming back year after year. A central reason is that my wife’s devotion is greater than my own, so that for her there is no question about going as often as possible during Amma’s brief visit. Personally, I am more logical and less devotional. I have seen and heard a great many preachers and gurus and swamis in my time, but none as overflowing with unconditional love as Amma. She is one of the great living Bhakti yogis. She is also a Great Goddess figure, a living incarnation of the Divine Mother. I am keenly aware that Yours Truly has a number of steps to go on the path to being filled with unconditional love, and am not at all confident that I will come close to that point in this lifetime, but I know of no better condition of spiritual evolution to aspire to. And the best way I know to move in that direction is to hang out with someone who manifests that in their everyday life. Amma’s joyful way of being, her loving embrace, her radiation of a loving presence toward everyone — these are what draw the countless masses to her appearances.
She is also a first rate intellect, a jnana yogi She shares with Brazil’s former president Luis Inácio Lula da Silva the distinction of having reached just the fourth grade in school. Now she is chancellor of a university with five campuses and a medical school, and has a powerful commitment to encouraging education. She must surely have composed far more devotional chants than anyone else alive, and together with her bajan group (a remarkable company of Indian musicians), produced innumerable CD’s of them. In regard to books, I can only wish i were a fraction as productive. (But there’s my ego again!)
As for karma yoga, or selfless service, you can go online and witness the countless millions she has raised to feed and clothe people and provide medical care and even huge numbers of new houses after natural disasters like the great Southeast Asia and India tsunami, the Bihar floods, Hurricane Katrina, and the Fukushima tsunami and reactor meltdown. (If you’re interested, see http://www.embracingtheworld.org/amma/ )All around the world it is nothing less than miraculous. And she inspires countless others to extend her work. (For example, my wife collects extra food from a local supermarket and drops it off at homeless shelters in Amma’s name.) Amma’s entourage, with its very extensive portable infrastructure that accompanies her tours in (much of it trucked from place to place by 18-wheel semis), is also a remarkable example of a huge organization run by volunteers in a spirit of serving the divine spirit.
If all that were not enough, Amma is an accomplished Raja yogi. She has developed her own meditation procedure and now her disciples teach it in an all-day workshop at her retreats.
In all this, although her centering place is the Vedic, Upanishadic, Hindu, Yogic, and Vedantic tradition of the Sanatan Dharma, she acknowledges that Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed and other great spiritual teachers and saints were also realized beings who were working toward the same end of helping their followers realize the divine spirit in their human lives. Like the great yogis stretching back to the Vedas, Amma aspires to help people connect with others and other living beings in that realm where we are all sparks of the same fire of divine life. If all that were not enough, it takes place within the context of a pervasive ecological consciousness. She is acutely aware that humanity is reducing our planetary ecosphere’s ability to support all kinds of life, human and nonhuman alike, year after year after year, and she is dedicated to stopping and reversing that process.
Those are the headlines. I sat writing most of this in the temple in her ashram on a Friday afternoon between the day program and the evening program. The electric company had a major outage in the nearest city due to too many air conditioners running on a very hot day, so all the electricity was out. The 5 PM chanting workshop was cancelled, and they were hoping to get the generators on by 6:30 for the meditation and talk that begins the evening session, so I had a chance to write this. I am a bit surprised that Amma does not have the power to intervene and magically get the regular power source working again–but I imagine she may be a bit tired after all this morning’s hugs, and taking a rest, so that restoring power is left to disciples whose divine power is rather less than her own. (It was “amateur electrician hour” as they struggled to get all the sound equipment working off the generator, but finally they succeeded.)
That’s all, folks. Day after day, week after week, it seems incredible that she is so relentlessly untiring, but as Amma says, “As long as these arms have the strength to keep reaching out and comforting people, I will be doing it.”
(Her main website is http://amma.org)

Mists of mystification: The confusing words “conservative” and “liberal” often mean the opposite of what they seem to.

“The enemy isn’t conservatism. The enemy isn’t liberalism. The enemy is bullshit.” Lars-Erik Nelson

There is a major political divide between those who commonly label themselves “conservatives” and “liberals.” Barry Goldwater had a fairly clear vision of conservatism that has been largely lost. He defined it as “economic, social, and political practices based on the successes of the past.” He wrote that the conscience of a conservative was “pricked by anyone who would debase the dignity of the individual human being.” He later said he should have said, “pricked by anyone or any action that debases human dignity.” When asked, “Doesn’t poverty debase human dignity?” he replied, “Of course it does,” and added that “If family, friends, and private charity cannot handle the job, the government must.” Finally, he said, “Politics is the art of achieving the maximum amount of freedom for individuals that is consistent with the maintenance of social order”—an almost perfect statement of an “individual libertarian” outlook. (That perspective is defined below.)

“Liberals,” as the word was typically used in the 20th century, trust reason and intellect to find new solutions to problems that old solutions have not dealt with well. They emphasize compassion, kindness, decency, equality of opportunity, political equality, and the welfare of ordinary working people. They are more inclined to support government action to realize positive social goals than conservatives, with special emphasis on eliminating discrimination against people who are poor or different from the majority. They tend to be more suspicious of big corporations than of big government, and favor government regulation to protect people’s health and well-being. (Oddly enough, in the 19th Century, “liberal” meant just the opposite—it meant those who favored big business dominance and government support for big business over working people.) “Progressives” have a lot in common with liberals, but are more likely to oppose foreign wars and to try to defend Earth’s ecosystems against pollution and dissolution.

In recent decades those labels have become so misleading that I use them only with quotation marks. The quotation marks mean, “Don’t believe almost anything you think this label means.” My dictionary defines conservative as “holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation.” It defines liberal as “Open to new behavior or opinions and favoring maximum individual liberty in political and social reform.” But these days those definitions often get turned upside down. In my region, many “liberals” tend to want to keep the towns and countryside pretty much as they have been, while many “conservatives” bulldoze every living thing to bare earth and build huge new suburbs and business and shopping developments—in other words, they make radical changes. The “liberals” are more likely to be content with modest lifestyles, while the “conservatives” are more likely to build palatial homes and multiple very pricey vacation retreats and spend lavishly on upscale cars. It’s just plain crazy to speak of those who are maiming ecosystems as “conservative,” and equally crazy to label those who are trying to stop that damage as “liberal” or “radical,” because the very opposite is true: Those who are trying to protect the good health of an ecosystem are acting conservatively, and those wanting to change it quickly and in large-scale ways are acting radically. The explanation, of course, is that by “conservative,” people often mean conserving their privileges, wealth, and status –or their knee jerk ideologies– rather than conserving real things in the world.

The Keystone XL pipeline is an example. It would carry oil 1,700 miles from Canadian tar sands (the most environmentally destructive, climate-hostile of all methods of oil extraction)—is that itself “conservative?”) from the facilities of multinational corporations that own the rights to extract the oil to a refinery in Port Arthur, Texas, which would export much of it\. It would not even help solve the U.S. energy problem. Who opposed the pipeline? Above all, farmers and ranchers in Nebraska and neighboring states afraid that pipeline leaks would pollute the precious Ogallala aquifer (vital for drinking water and agriculture) and oppose the U.S. government seizing their land and giving it to a Canadian oil consortium. To me that’s pretty conservative. But Shell oil, Valero oil, Exxon-Mobil, Koch Industries, the French oil company Total, and the Saudi Arabian government tried to paint themselves as the “conservatives” in that contest, and paint the farmers and ranchers as the radicals. Those companies spent about 37 times more supporting the pipeline than was spent by citizens who opposed it. It’s an airtight case that the oil companies were really the wild screaming radicals in that contest. (Kudos to President Obama for vetoing XL and to the thousands of citizens who pressed him to do so, from withholding campaign contributions to demonstrating on the White House lawn, where hundreds were arrested.) Similarly, Valero and another Texas oil company, Tesoro, tried to hoodwink California voters into passing a 2010 ballot measure that would have scrapped that state’s strongest law preventing air pollution. There also, calculated misuse of the “C” word turns everything upside down.

“Conservative” may mean conserving old vested interests, beliefs, attitudes, and habits. It is less often applied to conserving practices that protect and enhance people’s freedom, equality, and opportunity. Too bad.

With “liberal” we need to ask, “liberate what, or whom?” “Liberalize what restrictive rules, laws, or procedures? (That’s often important to business, and is a first-rate idea when the restrictions are not really protecting anything or anybody.) With “progressive,” the questions are “progress toward what? In what ways?” The term can be used for progressing in directions that neither you nor I would like at all. In that context it is as meaningless as “reform.” For instance, we could “progress” toward a more lenient or a more restrictive immigration policy. Many “social liberals” favor the former, while many “liberal environmentalists” favor the latter. The generic labels do not tell us much. And there is the additional confusion that until the Twentieth Century, “liberal” meant allowing big business unlimited power, both domestically and in international affairs. In the latter case, that included access to the armed forces to further its agendas.
For the most part I find all these terms to be conceptual toxic waste that leaves people confused and befuddled about the realities that underlie them. I prefer to bury them and be much more specific and precise in our thinking, discussion, and action.

SOLUTIONS

• Be very suspicious of these and other vague generalities and metaphors. Often such terms are meant to trigger conditioned emotional responses that short – circuit direct awareness and critical and creative thinking. Instead, we can speak more precisely, so that people respond to specific concrete events and policies instead of emotionally charged, knee-jerk, muddleheaded catchphrases that lump disparate items together.

• Develop a nose for bullshit, even when it is consistent with your inclinations. For starters, be on your toes for blatant contradictions. For instance, “’Senator Schmucko will lead the fight against big government spending and taxes, and he’ll protect your security by voting to build twelve new aircraft carriers and thirty new nuclear submarines.”

• Warren Buffett’s remark about integrity applies to the politicians we hire to be our legislators and presidents as well as to businesspersons. Richard Nixon was an example of a brilliant man who lacked integrity. Had he developed that quality in himself, he could have been an excellent president. We need to put the element of character high on our list when we elect people to public office at all levels.

This blog is lifted and slightly retwritten from The Radical Wrong . . . Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln & Others Refute Right – Wing Extremists. (There are a number of free downloads at the site, and you can get the whole thing as an e-book for $4.24 to $4.95. )

Of all the enemies of public liberty, war is perhaps the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. . . The means of defense against foreign danger have become the instruments of tyranny at home. If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy. –James Madison

Libertarian — What does it actually mean?

artist's rendering of the stature of liberty

statue of liberty

Benjamin Franklin declared that “Every natural right not expressly given up, or, from the nature of a compact, necessarily ceded, remains.” In the mid-twentieth century Barry Goldwater echoed his sentiments in his statement that”Politics is the art of achieving the maximum amount of freedom for individuals that is consistent with the maintenance of social order.” Both these are clear statements of an individual libertarian view.

Applied broadly and evenhandedly, This applies to where you live, how you make your living, whether or not you wish to remain pregnant if you accidentally find yourself so, and for many libertarians, prostitution, drug use, and suicide. From a true individual libertarian perspective, in no other way is a government as intrusive as when it presumes to tell us what we may or may not do with our own minds and bodies. Jesse Ventura states it clearly: unless one person is harming another, government has no place telling us what to do in our personal lives.

Some people, however, confuse things badly by mixing that up with a “big business libertarian” (i.e. corporate dominance) view. The two are entirely different. Taken to its logical end, big business libertarian really means “corporate dominance.” If both a person and a corporation can truly do anything they please (and No, Virginia, as anyone who does not have bean for brains can see, a corporation is not a person), the corporation’s enormous wealth and power enables it to crush individual liberties.

The naked reality is that Individual libertarian [and] big business libertarian views are entirely different. Individual libertarians’ say, “keep the state out of our private lives.” Big business libertarians say, “A corporation that may be more powerful than a small nation ought to be free to do as it pleases without any guidelines, oversight or social responsibility.”

Ironically, many who hold “big business libertarian/corporate dominance” views also lobby constantly for government contracts, subsidies, tax incentives, land grants, anti-labor and anti-union laws—even subsidies for herbicide and pesticide farming that poisons farmers and consumers. The corporate dominance outlook holds that Wall Street, the big banks, other great corporations, and “the invisible hand of the market” will look out for ordinary people’s interests and put people to work. A true fairy tale! Yet many in this camp also seek government regulations that will give them a competitive advantage or wedge of entry into some market. That’s a very long way from “free markets.” On the other hand,  small mom and pop businesses are alto often hobbled by an excess of rules and regulations and forms to fill out that don’t help anybody anywhere.

The confusion of the individual libertarian and corporate dominance perspectives owes much to Ayn Rand, an unbending elitist whose antidemocratic philosophy rightly lauded the individualism of the perceptive and able few, but forgot that the people as a whole can be educated toward a tolerant individualism and an evolving higher consciousness. Rand’s books have a strong cult following of those who believe themselves superior to others and therefore feel entitled to everything they can get regardless of the effects on anybody else. Interestingly enough, research shows that those who are “superior” in amassing wealth (Rand’s central cadre of supporters) are almost all people who are good at organizing and finance, and include almost no one who is creative in the sciences or arts, and not a single Nobel Prize winner. In other words, in real life many of the would-be creative heroes whom Rand lauds are shut out of the utopian conditions for the few that she advocated.

Many people who want to make laws that impose their own values on others are regular working people who have been lured into an alliance with those who foster the corporate dominance – (“business libertarian”) ideology. They have been taken in by the cover story that “free market economics” will fix all the problems they’re concerned about. Or they may be worried about the alternative story that unless they support the corporate dominance outlook they’ll soon be fired. Many are getting screwed by this unholy alliance.

To be truthful about today’s realities, Ralph Nader has suggested changing the pledge of allegiance to “. . . with Liberty and Justice for Some.”

Forms of freedom include freedom from intimidation by other people or government or businesses as well as freedom to do as you please. Your freedom to is subject to limits that keep you from harming others.

One of the worst abuses of freedom in the U.S. today is widespread imprisonment of people who have done nothing that harms another. This began on its present broad scale during Ronald Reagan’s presidency. It costs taxpayers billions of dollars every year.  I cannot imagine that Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ethan Allen, or Abraham Lincoln would have done anything other than oppose this practice vehemently. They would surely have argued for freedom from  such tyranny.

In a similar vein, The Vatican is still trying to control U.S. state and federal policies to suit its own wishes, and has managed to drag some unsuspecting Evangelicals along with it.

Roman Catholic President John F. Kennedy declared, “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute – where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote – where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference – and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him. . . . I believe in an America . . . where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches, or any other ecclesiastical source — where no religions body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials – and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.”

Barry Goldwater, who was called “Mr. Conservative,” held similar views: “Religious factions. . . are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. . . . I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in ‘A,’ ‘B,’ ‘C,’ and ‘D.’ . . . I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of ‘conservatism.’ . . .  A lot of so-called conservatives think I’ve turned liberal because I believe a woman has a right to an abortion. That’s a decision that’s up to a pregnant woman, not up to the pope or some do-gooders on the religious right.” 

More recently Minnesota’s Governor Jesse Ventura said, “I believe in the separation of church and state. . . The religious right wants to tell people how to live . . . I hate what the fundamentalist fanatics are doing to our country. . . I have a strong belief that you are in charge of your body, whether male or female. It’s the house you are living in for your entire existence – your temple, as the more religious might say.” The comments by Kennedy, Goldwater, and Ventura express exactly the sentiments of the founding fathers. For example, James Madison declared, “The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe with blood for centuries.”

But in 2012 a Republican vice-presidential hopeful, Paul Ryan, sneered at the words of Democrat John F. Kennedy, Republican Barry Goldwater, and Independent Jesse Ventura above, which express exactly the sentiments of the founding fathers. And recently self–righteous true believers who are convinced that the principles espoused by their religious views should be put into laws that control everyone are making headway in state legislatures across the land, while self-styled libertarians roll their eyeballs and look the other way.

What is the opposite of a libertarian view? An authoritarian one. Authoritarians want control. They tend to belittle, harass, intimidate, or jail those who resist their agenda. Freedom is fine for them, but you and I had better shut up and do as we’re told. Authoritarian attitudes and actions are anti-libertarian and anti-democratic.  This holds true in the realm of  government, business, religion, and other matters.

So next time you hear the word “libertarian,” ask yourself: “Liberty for whom? Or what?”

 

(This blog is adapted from the 2012 book and e–book The Radical Wrong: Lies Our Founding Fathers Never Told Us — Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Others Refute Right-Wing Extremists. )

The next stage of civilization

view of leaves and tree trunks in rainforest

Inside a rainforest

We have already entered the Great Transition from the world we have known into the next stage of human history. Actually it is even more than that. We are moving into nothing less than the next era in human history, biohistory, and geohistory all rolled into one. The central feature of this great next step is obvious to anyone who has the eyes and ears to see what is happening all around the world today. We have to place caring for our local ecospheres and the world’s ecosphere at the very center of our community, political, and economic life. We need to genuinely center Earth’s cultures around the project of caring for the planetary web of nature of which we humans are just one part. We need to heal the world’s ecosphere and our countless local ecospheres in the many ways in which they are wounded.  This cannot be done from within the consciousness and the political and economic projects of the present and the recent past. It will require a transformation of consciousness in cultures all around the world, a step into the next era of history, an era of which we can only dimly see the barest outlines through the future’s filmy mists.  This will require drawing on the deepest traditional wisdom and the sharpest and most embracing current thinking of peoples all around the world. If we succeed in such a transformation, there may be a great creative renaissance of civilization. If not, the hurricanes, typhoons, floods, tornadoes, droughts, heat waves, and ice storms that are becoming commonplace will be only the beginning of what awaits us. The signs suggest that this will be history’s greatest transition since the great flood of about 8,000 years ago chronicled in the Bible, the Gilgamesh Epic, and other stories told all around the world. The choice is ours: a chance at a bright future for us and all of nature’s beings, or a forbidding and implausibly difficult one.  This website is devoted to exploring the character of the transitions in consciousness and culture that are needed, and to how to bring them into being. Thoughtful comments from you and others that contribute toward that end are welcomed. I invite you to join me on the journey.