Sunday, March 31, 2013

Learning versus Education ... Thinking versus Compliance

If you are interested in education or if you are an educator or if you are entangled in education (as a student or as a parent or as tax payer), you might find the accompanying 15-minute video to be either very disturbing or quite exhilarating (maybe even both). Whatever your response might be, I believe that truth is being given expression through this video.

The video has two parts. The first section is a four-minute talk given at a graduation ceremony by the school valedictorian, Erica Goldson. It is a brilliant talk, and one can't but wonder if anyone in the audience or among the school staff attending the event or even among the other students who are graduating on that occasion is listening to her ... and if they are not, they are missing an opportunity to learn important principles since there is great wisdom being expressed through her words.

The quality of the first part of the video is not that good. However, what is important are the words and not the visual dimension ... although I do wonder what the couple on the right seem to be talking about every now and then.

An eleven minute presentation by Sir Ken Robinson follows the foregoing 4-minute talk. It, too, is brilliant (and so is the accompanying animation).

The latter talk nicely complements the first one. It outlines the many ways in which public education has lost its way ... becoming little more than an institutional factory for mass-producing students to become compliant, conforming citizens who can be taught to serve the economy but who have little capacity for either critical or divergent thinking, and whose curiosity about life or passion for learning have been sucked from their souls.

Learning is so much more than education will permit it to be. Human potential is so much more than the limits which education has placed upon it. 

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter, Civil War, and Sovereignty

Happy Easter!!!???

The topic is not pleasant, but the issue has become threateningly real. Most unfortunately, the prospect of a possible, coming civil war in the United States is no longer just a fictional scenario that remains safely locked away in the film canisters of Hollywood (See accompanying 10 minute video).

Although I pray that things may never reach such a level of insanity, we cannot just continue to live our lives in denial in relation to what is taking place within the federal government. Indeed, for quite some time -- and across a number of administrations -- various dimensions of the federal government of the United States have been making preparations to go to war against American citizens should the time arrive when committing federal forces and resources to that sort of path is considered necessary with respect to advancing the economic, financial, social, and political agenda of those who are in power.

The Patriot Act, The John Warner Defense Authorization Act, the Military Commissions Act, the National Defense Authorization Act, unprecedented, warrantless surveillance on all forms of domestic communication in the United States (one should familiarize oneself with what NSA whistleblowers William Binney and Thomas Drake have to say on this matter, not to mention Mark Klein's comments concerning AT&T's role in all of this), and a slew of Executive Orders (such as 10990, 10995, 10997, 10998, 10999, 11000, 11001, 11002, 11003, 11004, 11005, and 11921), together with the procurement of 1.5 billion rounds of hollow point ammunition by Homeland Security, as well as the purchase of enough body bags by DHS to house half the population of the United States, are all parts of the whole being alluded to above.

There also are treaties now in place between the United States and Canada which stipulate that if one of the two nations declares martial law, the armed forces of the other nation can be sent into (or will be permitted into) the country that has established martial law in order to assist the latter government in support of its oppression of  citizens. Furthermore, the federal government has indicated that military personnel returning home from overseas may, because of their skill sets, constitute terrorist threats to the United States.

All the pieces are in place for the Office of the President to declare martial law at the drop of a hat. if this is done, the President would become a military dictator (remember he is Commander in Chief of the armed forces, though not of America citizens), having complete control (thanks to the aforementioned Executive Orders) of: all communications media (including the Internet); all modes of transportation (including highways, seaports, trains, buses, inland waterways, and air fields); all sources of energy, all food resources and farms; all forms of education; and all financial institutions. In addition, Executive Order 11921 empowers the Office of the President to declare a state of emergency that is not defined and which Congress cannot review for 6 months. Moreover, Executive Order 11000 permits the federal government to organize American citizens into work brigades that serve the pleasure of the federal government.

The accompanying 10 minute piece consists largely of an interview involving Dr. James Garrow, a Canadian citizen, who wrote the book: The Pink Pagoda: One Man's Quest to End Gendercide in China, and over the past 16 years, or so, has spent more than $25 million dollars in a successful effort to rescue approximately 40,000 Chinese baby girls from the almost certain fatal ramifications of China's one-child-per-couple policy. However, the interview does not explore the gendercide taking place in China but, instead, talks about the potential for a different kind of genocide which might be facing Americans.

Certain patriots high up in the command structure of the U.S. military have spoken with Dr. Garrow and urged him to come forward to give public expression to a set of events that is taking place between the military and certain facets of the federal government. More specifically, there is a litmus test that has been operating within military circles which is asking the following question: 'Would you fire on American citizens if they refused to give up their guns.'

This is not an idle issue. During Hurricane Katrina, homes were breached in Louisiana by military personnel, as well as by employees of military contractors such as Blackwater (which has gone through several name changes and is now known as Academe). The residents of those homes were threatened at gun point to hand over their weapons.

I am not a gun owner. In fact, I have never owned a gun ... although I went hunting a couple of times when a teenager using a .22 that belonged to my father.

Furthermore, I am not a fan of the gun lobby. For, despite whatever platitudes it mouths in conjunction with 2nd Amendment rights, it often ends up playing everyone against the middle in a self-serving policy intended to generate huge profits.

In addition, I am saddened by tragedies like those in Newtown, Conneticut, Aurora, Colorado, and the Arizona rampage which nearly cost Gabby Gifford her life while ending the lives of so-many other innocents. However, if tragedy and loss of life is the criterion for generating public policy, then, perhaps one should go after the medical profession for the nearly one million iatrogenic deaths which are caused every year through the recklessness, thoughtlessness, and negligence of hospital personnel ... in fact, al-Qaeda -- whatever its sins might be (I am sure those sins are legion) and despite its more than a decade of operations in one form or another -- has killed or injured only a small fraction of the people who have been killed, injured, and maimed through the medical/health professions in the United States every single year. Given such mayhem, it is a wonder that the professionals in that latter array of occupations have not been declared a terrorist group.

Or, let's consider all the people who are killed every year through automobile accidents (quite a few thousands of these are linked to drunk drivers). There are many times the number of people who are killed and injured through the misuse of the automobile as a weapon than are killed and injured through the misuse of guns. If tragedy and loss of life are the criteria for banning things, then, perhaps, we need to take a closer look at cars, their owners, and the people who manufacture, distribute, and sell alcohol.

Another inconvenient set of facts which is often hid in the debate over guns, is the role which pharmaceuticals (e.g., anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medications, mood stabilizers, attention deficit disorders, and a host of other arbitrary inventions in the medical cornucopia of profit-making) play in generating senseless deaths (both of others and via suicide) within, and beyond, the walls of schools and homes across America. Having taught all manner of courses in psychology for a number of years in both Canada and the United States, I am well acquainted with the evidence indicating that not only do prescribed psychoactive drugs not work as hyped, but, just as importantly, those drugs actually de-stabilize people's mental and emotional condition (for those who are interested, read: 'Medication Madness' by Peter Breggin, 'Our Daily Meds' by Melody Peterson, Side Effects by Alison Bass, and 'The Myth of the Chemical Cure' by Dr. Joanna Moncrieff), and, yet, hardly a word is mentioned about the role which pharmaceutical companies have been shown to play in conjunction with the perpetuation of violence in America.

When I taught criminology in Canada, I made certain that my students were aware of the following fact. Namely, there are far more deaths, injuries, and theft which take place as the result of corporate activity than is due to street crime considered collectively. Maybe, we should begin to think about banning corporations and classifying them as terrorist groups.

Guns were taken away from the people of the Soviet Union. Dictatorship ensued.

Guns have been taken away from people in Australia. Crime has skyrocketed.

Many Australians rue the day that they permitted their weapons to be confiscated by their government. One can shake one's head in the negative all one wants, but there is a negative correlation between crime rates and the presence of citizens who are armed -- that is, when citizens are armed, the rate of crime tends to be suppressed ... although there are always exceptions to this general tendency.

The 2nd Amendment is not about hunting wild game or target practice. It is the right of citizens to bear arms and, if necessary, to use those arms in defending themselves against whatever oppressive and tyrannical forces seek to take away the inherent right to sovereignty which people have ... a right that precedes, and, therefore, is not derived from, or granted by, governments, and in the light of the revelations being issued by Dr. James Garrow in the accompanying 10 minute interview, the American people will need their guns to protect themselves against a government which has established all of the legal mechanisms that are necessary to destroy democracy in America and take over the United States and make it a military dictatorship under the auspices of the Office of the President ... and if this is not what certain people at the federal level of government had in mind, they would have not rammed such legislation as: the Patriot Act, or the John Warner Defense Authorization Act, the Military Commissions Act, or the National Defense Authorization Act through Congress (and, unfortunately, very few people in Congress actually take the time to carefully read what they are voting on, and,  therefore, are guilty of violating Article IV, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution).

Will some people use guns irresponsibly, arbitrarily, and criminally when interacting with other human beings? Unfortunately, the answer to this question is: "Yes."

However, people -- being human -- will also use cars, medical licensing, corporate power, and political office in various irresponsible, negligent, and criminal ways when interacting with other individuals as well. Tragedies due to the misuse of guns are many, but there are many more tragedies in American life which are due to the misuse of economic, political, financial, and corporate power than to the misuse of guns, and, therefore, before considering the issue of guns, one should deal with the other, more pressing, devastating and more problematic ramifications which ensue from the acts of criminality, insanity, and cruelty which are made possible through governments, corporations, banks, and educational institutions.

For those of you who are Christian, then, in addition to the issues surrounding the resurrection of Jesus (peace be upon him) on which you focus during this time of year, you might also want to reflect on a different kind of resurrection during, and following, this Easter holiday -- namely, the resurrection of sovereignty in the United States. Sovereignty  is suffering, and the centurions are gambling on its robe beneath the shadow of sovereignty's ebbing light.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Article IV, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution -- All Federal Branches of Government Are Violating the One Guarantee Given In The Constitution

Last week, someone, who at this point remains anonymous, slipped in a rider to HR 933 (a 6-month funding bill intended to prevent the U.S. government from shutting down) that effectively nullified the ability or power of federal courts to stop companies like Monsanto from planting and selling genetically modified crops in the United States even when such products can be shown to pose a risk to public health.

The bill with the above mentioned rider has passed through Congress. It has been signed into law.

Prior to the vote, the foregoing rider should have been reviewed by the Committee on Agriculture, but it was not. The lone voice of opposition to the rider came from John Tester, a Democrat from Montana, and, yet, Tester's attempt to delete the rider from HR 933 was never put to a vote.

The passage of HR 933, along with legislation such as The Patriot Act, The Military Commissions Act, and National Defense Authorization Act, and numerous other pieces of legislation are all in clear violation of the Constitution. More specifically, Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution states: "The United States shall guarantee to every state in this union a republican form of government ..."

Nowhere else in the Constitution is the idea of a guarantee mentioned -- which means that Article IV, Section 4 has priority and supremacy over every other part of the Constitution ... even that of so-called National Security. Every single thing which is done by any of the three branches of Federal government must be capable of meeting the standards inherent in the guarantee of a republican form of government which is stated in Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution.

What is meant by the notion of a 'republican government' has nothing to do with the Republican party or, for that matter, the Democrats. Republicanism was a moral philosophy rooted in the Enlightenment, and it encompassed principles of: fairness, openness, honesty, objectivity, impartiality, rationality, integrity, compassion, justice, truth, freedom from all manner of corruption, and not serving as judges in one's own affairs.

Consequently, the biotech rider in HR 933, the Patriot Act, The Military Commissions Act, the National Defense Authorization Act, and many, if not most, of the Executive Orders that have been issued by the Office of the President (during a number of Administrations, including the present one) with respect to matters such as: torture, the use of drones, warrantless surveillance, undeclared wars (e.g., Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Syria), provisions for the suspension of all rights in relation to whatever future events might be trumped up as a 'national emergency' ... all of these are in violation of the most central and essential part of the Constitution: namely, Article 4, Section 4.

Whatever is hypothesized to be a matter of national security, or in the national interests, as well as whatever powers Congress, the Executive Office, or the Judiciary believe themselves to have -- as outlined in Articles I, II, and III of the Constitution -- are all subordinate to, and in the service of, the guarantee given in Article IV, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution. Moreover, in accordance with the guarantee of Article IV, Section 4, NONE of the three branches of federal government has the requisite authority to determine the meaning and scope of Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution, because one of the key requirements entailed by the moral philosophy of republicanism is that one must not be a judge in one's own affair, and, therefore, none of the three branches of federal government can have any legal standing in any matter in which they have a vested interest or conflict of interest that has the potential to undermine the intended protections of Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution for the people of the states of the union.

Article IV, Section 4, together with the 9th and 10th Amendment, clearly indicate that the people who comprise the various states of the union are the only ones who can establish the meaning and scope of Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution. Indeed, acknowledging the ultimate authority of the people as the source of all law -- and considered quite independently from the issue of alleged political representation -- this is the only means through which the federal government can guarantee that the states will be given a republican form of government because Article IV, Section 4 was intended to place a clear set of constraints on what any branch of federal government could and could not do ... in short, everything the branches of the federal government does or intends to do must satisfy the moral requirement of republicanism.

All of the enumerated powers given to any of the three branches of federal government under the provisions of Articles I, II, and III in the Constitution must comply with the guarantee given in Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution. In addition, the individual who holds the position of President may bear the designation of Commander in Chief, but this is only in relation to the military since the Commander in Chief, himself or herself, must act in consort with the guarantee stipulated in Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Learning Is Free: Degrees Still Cost Lots of Money!

The accompanying video is a little longer than usual -- 11 minutes -- but it might well be worth your while because it explores the expanding realm of free, university level, on-line courses, taught by top professors in their fields. Currently, there are more than 2,000,000 students from all over the world -- including war-torn areas like the Gaza strip -- who are taking advantage of these programs.

Udacity ( ), EdX ( ), and Coursera ( ) are three of the leaders in this growing field. And, for the moment, each of the foregoing organizations is intent on developing innovative, technologically savvy techniques for providing a quality learning experience for prospective students.

The financial advantages of such courses for a would-be participant are obvious. For example, it costs approximately $54,000 a year to go to a private university such as Stanford for one year (and, of course, there is the little problem of being accepted), and even at a publicly financed institution like Berkeley, the cost can be over $30,000 per year.

So, what's the catch? Quite a big one as it turns out.

First of all, given the way in which the aforementioned programs are presently organized, the most one might hope for is a certificate of completion. In other words, there are no college level credits given for those courses, and, therefore, if one mentions such a certificate on a job application, one is likely to be shown the door with some free advice: "Come back to us when you get a real education (i.e., a degreed one)."

While offering free learning opportunities of high quality is a good thing, everyone knows that higher education has become a game of degreed pedigree. Pass your courses at Stanford or Berkeley, and you get a degree which has a potential exchange value for a good paying job. However, pass your courses at Udacity, EdX, or Coursera -- and such courses might be precisely the same as the ones which are given through the two foregoing establishments of higher learning -- but one can expect little more than the satisfaction which comes from having completed such a process and having learned something.

One might as well borrow free books from the local library. After all, in the end, irrespective of whether one reads a book from a library or takes a course on line, one is going to have to invest the time and energy necessary to learn, if not master, the subject matter.

To the extent that Udacity, EdX, Coursera and others are committed to pushing the technological envelope and, thereby, enhancing the process of learning through various technologically-based efforts which are geared toward making the generation of insight and understanding more efficient and more accessible to a wider cross-section of the population, this encompasses important work. Nonetheless, unless the aforementioned educationally-oriented innovators offer something beyond an opportunity to learn -- such as a realistic chance to translate that learning into an actual job -- I have a lot of doubts about the ultimate value of these sorts of extracurricular programs.

Higher education -- which really means higher degree programs -- has become (and, really, has been this way for quite some time) the new housing market. More and more young people are going into debt to finance an education that, after all is said and done, often does not have all that much market value.

Consequently, following the completion of the degreed programs, more and more people are discovering that they have become the modern world's version of an indentured servant. In other words, those individuals have accumulated a debt load which is unlikely ever to be paid, and this means that they will be forced into doing whatever jobs come along (often low paid, without benefits, and unrelated to their college degree) in order to service their debt.

Just as in the case of the mortgage fiasco of 2007-2008, banks and financial institutions that have bankrolled a student's long day's journey into a living nightmare, will make all manner of profits. Unfortunately, the indebted student will have little to show for the price of admission but debt, along with a certain amount of learning which could just as easily have been extracted for free from a local library or by purchasing a few $14.00 books (rather than the obscenely priced textbooks which have become a mandatory staple of higher education degree programs).

A further perk of the current arrangement in higher education -- at least from the perspective of the government -- is that people who are heavily indebted are so busy trying not to financially drown, they have little time to reflect on what the banks, financial institutions, and governments are doing to democracy with the profits which have been squeezed from those who are really in no position to afford higher education. Indebted people often tend to be individuals who can be induced to go along with the way in which the power elite wish to run things.

In the accompanying video, one professor is interviewed who thinks that the whole idea of free online courses is fraught with potential problems. She worries that those sorts of courses will displace professors -- many of whom earn quite good salaries (paid for, in part, through student debt), and she also worries that highly-paid professors could be replaced by lowly grad students and even more lowly undergrad students who will be given token amounts of money to teach courses much more cheaply than their high-priced professional counterparts.

Aside from being somewhat self-serving, the good professor's remarks also fail to capture the real problem of higher education. Higher education is a game of musical chairs intended to suppress the numbers of people who have access to the kind of degree qualifications that are needed to obtain decent jobs. In addition, higher education is intended to serve the needs of professionals (i.e., the professors and administrators), corporations (e.g., textbook companies as well as pharmaceuticals), financial institutions (the people lending students money), and the defense department (which, in one way or another, has its hooks into most institutions of higher learning across America).

The interests being served by higher education have corrupted the learning process. What is taught, how it is taught, why it is taught, who is taught, and who gets to teach are all heavily shaped by such financial, military, governmental, and economic interests.

The people organizing the free, on-line college-level courses believe that everybody should have access to opportunities for learning -- that learning is a universal human right. I agree with this, but I also believe that until an social/political/economic system is put into place that uses education to further the interests of all the people rather than the economic, financial, and political interests of the few, then free, on-line college-level courses have rather limited value.

Learning should be free ... it is a human right. In addition, however, degree programs need to be phased out, and in the place of those programs should be a process that makes getting a job dependent only on what one knows and not on where and how one learned such knowledge or gained that kind of understanding.

I have written about some of the foregoing issues in a more expansive way through my book: Reflections On Education And Learning (available through Amazon and other fine book stores everywhere). If you don't wish to read the book, then consider the above discussion my offering toward a free, on-line, college-level teach-in.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Ten Year Anniversary: Congratulations to the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex

It is not just American government officials who have committed war crimes in Iraq, but, as well, their English counterparts are guilty of those same category of crimes against humanity. The stupidity (both moral and intellectual) of Gordon Brown's smug, self-absorbed, pathological claim of hubris that going to war in Iraq was: "the right decision, and for the right reasons -- despite the mass of evidence indicating that it was 'the wrong decision, and for the wrong reasons' -- is overwhelmingly pathetic and self-serving -- but, wow, his suit and tie are so elegant.

A million Iraqis are dead. Tens of thousands more have been wounded. Millions of other Iraqis have become refugees. Thousands have been arbitrarily imprisoned and many of these individuals have been, and still are being, subjected to torture. Moreover, in the gift that keeps on giving, the presence of tons of depleted uranium that now litter the Iraqi countryside as a result of  coalition munitions is continuing to generate birth defects, illnesses, and deaths among the Iraqi people.

The society has become completely destabilized with hundreds of people continuing to die every week through the internecine bloodbath which America and its allies set in motion ten years ago. Whatever the sins of Saddam Hussein were (and they were many -- most of which were done with the assistance and support of the United States), those sins pale in comparison to the magnitude of the evil which the coalition, led by America, rained down on Iraq and its people.

America and its motley crew of morally challenged thugs destroyed a country and its people knowing, from the very beginning, that the idea of such a war being: 'the right decision, and for the right reasons' was a complete lie used to manipulate a largely gullible public so that the fear being manufactured by the different governments could be leveraged into a multi-trillion dollar bonanza for the entire military industrial complex. When Eisenhower issued his warning about the military industrial complex more than fifty years ago, relatively few people knew that he wanted to add Congress' name to his warning in order to complete the unholy trinity, but, for obscure reasons, allowed himself to be talked out of including the name of Congress to his clarion call -- indicating that despite his desire to inform people about the presence of an insidious set of forces within democracy, Eisenhower, himself, was still very much a captive of that industrial-military-congressional alliance.

The arrogance and mental/moral deficiencies which are on display in Gordon Brown's callous, Machiavellian disregard concerning the lives and rights of other human beings is symptomatic of the same moral and intellectual diseases which ravaged the minds, hearts and souls of his American partners in crime. Congratulations to ten years of inhumanity, as well as the underlying moral and spiritual turpitude, that made such uncivilized behavior possible.

There are a few very disturbing images toward the end of the accompanying four minute video. Despite their graphic nature, perhaps, we need to be reminded in a rather heart-rending manner about some of the handy-work of the people who call themselves leaders, for, notwithstanding all of their polished verbal presentations (e.g., "it was the right decision, for the right reasons"), one can clearly see who the real 'evil doers' are in the whole sorry saga of the Iraq War. To borrow, with some slight changes, from the words of Winston Churchill -- who was, himself, once responsible for gassing the Iraqi people: 'Never have so few done so much to so many.'

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Bell Is Tolling For the Death of Sovereignty

The coils of the Anaconda-like Leviathan tighten ever more inexorably about the oxygen-starved sovereignty of the American people. The sounds one hears from the streets of the United States are the bones of: rights, social justice, liberty, and democracy that are being crushed beneath the grip and power of such unpatriotic legislation as: the National Defense Authorization Act, the Military Commissions Act, the Patriot Act, and a slew of Executive Orders that have been issued under both Bush and Obama.

This governmental ordinance (in both senses of the word) have been set in place waiting for the right moment to be applied in order to finish America as a democracy. If that time arrives,  America will be turned into a full-fledged oppressive dictatorship in which any and all dissent will be shut away in some government-run hell-hole where the inmates have no due process, no rights, no freedom, and no democracy.

The austerity programs which have been instituted in Europe have not only led to social misery and demonstrations (and, on occasion, riots) but, as well, they have led to an ever lowering rate of employment, along with a downward pressure on wages and benefits. Those austerity programs are increasingly emerging on both the state and federal level within the United States -- e.g., witness what is taking place in states like California, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin, as well as in relation to the on-going sequestration process in the federal government (and this is just the beginning since there is a strong likelihood that more such cuts are on the way as Obama and Congress maneuver America into a economic, fiscal, and political straight-jacket). As a result, we are likely to see that what has, and is, happening in Europe will be called on to give a command, encore performance in America as well.

On the surface, legislation like the National Defense Authorization Act might seem to be directed solely at the so-called alien "terrorists" who supposedly hate America's freedoms. However, in truth, that legislation, along with all the other correlative acts of oppression which have been passed by self-absorbed legislators, have another strategic and tactical operational use.

More specifically, if Americans wake up to the reality of how democracy is being dismantled in America, piece by piece - the operative word here is 'if' since there is a very good chance that Americans will sleep their way into a nightmare -- and, consequently, citizens begin to persistently and demonstratively demand that their allegedly Constitutionally guaranteed rights be honored rather than continually being stripped from them, such people will be labeled as "terrorists" and, and in short order, will be disappeared into tyrannical, governmental/military black holes that will erase their existence through a complete absence of any rights whatsoever. When this happens -- and I believe there is a strong potential for this to occur in the not too distant future (although these things are hard to predict with any degree of precision, and one could always hope that Americans will awake in time to do something constructive) -- Americans will come to understand that, all along, they have been the intended targets of the aforementioned legislation, and that the 'war on terror' has merely been a false-flag operation which served as camouflage for the real intentions underlying such legislation.

If you don't think this can happen in America, ask the 110,000 law-abiding and loyal American citizens of Japanese descent who were thrown into detention camps, stripped of all rights, during World War II. What is worse, the Patriot Act, the National Defense Authorization Act, the Military Commissions Act, and all of the supporting Executive Orders which have been issued over the last 13 years are like World War II directives on super-steroids.

The bell is tolling ... and it is tolling for thee.

The 6 minute interview withChris Hedges which accompanies this posting covers a lot of important information concerning the foregoing perspective, and does it very well.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Banking, Control, and The Generation of Servitude

The essence of banks is captured in the one minute, 43 second accompanying video. Banks are not in the business of helping people (or, at least, this is, at best, incidental to the real purpose of banking), but, rather, they are in the business of inducing people to go into debt. When people are in debt, they are controlled by those who hold the promissory notes, and one sees this control becoming more and more manifest via the whole educational loan scam which is turning an ever-increasing number of people into indentured servants for an oppressive economic, military, and political system in exchange for degrees and a form of education that promise freedom but only deliver indebtedness.

That debt is the means through which more money is conjured into existence through a fractional reserve system which permits banks to leverage what they are, by law, required to keep as collateral against outstanding loans (beginning at a ratio of about 10 to 1 but with an upwardly mobile capacity into a leverage rate of 1000s, if not millions, to 1). Then, the money generated through leveraging is dumped into, among other places, the derivatives market where the excess cash is leveraged even further to an extent that is many times more than the collective GNPs of the national economies of the world.

The financial mess of 2007-2008 was not solved by the bailouts. In fact, those bailouts merely camouflaged the nature of the underlying debt crisis. Bill Black, a former bank regulator during the savings and loan scandal back in the 1980s, was, and is, right when he titled his best-selling book: 'The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is To Own One'. By owning, and, then, using the bank to control the economic milieu through which people live their lives, democracy becomes a joke because the ones who are really calling the shots in relation to both domestic and international public policy are the banks.

As Mayer Amshed Rothchild, a prominent European banker of the 18th century, once said: "Permit me to issue and control the money of the nation and I care not who makes its laws". The banks do issue and control the money, and they are the power behind the thrones that generate the wars, drug trafficking, economic exploitation, and governmental dysfunction around the world ... to suppose otherwise is mere illusion, if not delusional.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Genetically Modified Organisms: Who Should Have First Right of Refusal?

The accompanying 9 minute animated video provides a simple but accurate overview of some of the problems entailed by both genetically modified organisms and, perhaps, more to the point, the corporations, lobbyists, courts, and governments who insist on taking away people's right to choose what is eaten, grown, labeled, and permitted to impact the surrounding environment. This is not a matter of intellectual property rights, general property rights, or commercial rights, this is an issue of humanity having the right to protect itself against those who seek profits while externalizing costs to everyone else (and all the health costs which ensue from the problematic dimensions of such products is an example of how the costs are socialized, while profits are privatized).

Corporations/governments are doing the same thing with GMOs that were done with: pesticides, cigarettes, chlorofloro-carbons, Bis-Phenal A, Agent Orange (dioxin), all manner of pharmacological psychoactive pills (whether for depression or other psychological/emotional difficulties), depleted uranium, and a host of other poisonous pollutants of body, mind, and environment. The burden of proof should not have to fall on those who are being adversely affected by the aforementioned products, but, rather, the burden of proof should rest with the manufacturers of those substances ... they should have to prove that these agents are 100% safe.

Moreover, the testing not only needs to go on for a lot longer than a few years, but there should be no fast-tracking to approval for any of those products. In addition, the testing should be run and regulated by someone other than the companies who have a vested interest in such products or who are funded by those kinds of vested businesses.

The problem is not too much regulation. The problem is that there is a highly lucrative and powerful revolving door connecting industry and government which tends to ensure that the people who make decisions concerning the safety of products will undermine and render dysfunctional the implementation of anyone's attempt to establish an effective regulatory process.

The aforementioned revolving door exists because there are too many companies and so-called public servants (along with influential members of the media) who believe they have an inalienable right to run amok in society and who believe their alleged rights to do so are, somehow, more important than the rights of everyone else to be free from such pathology. Predatory capitalism is not about people earning a living with integrity, but, instead, it is a diabolical set of practices directed toward ensuring that the few benefit regardless of the costs which accrue to society, the world, or the future.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

A Sufi Perspective Concerning A Dysfunctional Form of Governance: The Constitution and Sovereignty

The Office of Legal Counsel is a division of the Justice Department which provides legal advice for the Executive Branch of the United States. The framework for the OLC was created through Congressional legislation, and, by law, the members of the Executive Branch are required to follow the directives which are handed down by the OLC.

Relatively recently, a legal opinion was issued by the OLC concerning the issue of drones. That legal opinion sought to justify the use of drones, and, as a result, the President was legally enabled, allegedly, to pursue his drone program free from other Constitutional considerations and responsibilities.

Whether Congress had the constitutional right to pass the OLC legislation as it is currently framed -- e.g., with provisions that force the Executive Branch to follow the dictates of legal counsel issuing forth from the OLC -- is an interesting constitutional issue. In effect, the Congressional legislation underlying the OLC says there are individuals within the Executive Branch who have greater authority than does the President ... the man who occupies the desk where, according to Harry Truman, the buck stops.

One might suppose that the Judicial Branch of government, under the auspices of the Supreme Court, has the requisite authority and responsibility to fulfill the mandate which has been handed to the OLC within the Executive Branch. If so, then, one wonders about why the OLC was created in its current form -- except, perhaps, to give cover to, and plausible deniability for, the President in matters of policy (e.g., like drone killings) which the President wants to carry out but for which he does not wish to be held responsible ... after all, he could argue that it was just those nasty folks in the OLC which forced him to pursue the drone policy legally, his hands were tied.

On the other hand, when one begins to critically explore the whole issue of Constitutional interpretation and the basis on which it supposedly rests -- e.g., the Marbury v,. Madison case, along with a few other decisions of the Marshall Court which helped to establish some of the basic legal filters through which the Supreme Court engages issues  -- one finds that the work of the Supreme Court is rooted in a manner of reasoning which is entirely -- and, I do mean, "entirely" -- arbitrary. More specifically, noting how the Supreme Court operates in accordance with its manner of framing legal issues, is one thing -- i.e., it does what it does as a matter of custom -- but what is done by the Supreme Court with respect to the generation of legal decisions can't really be justified in any way that could satisfy the legal condition of, say, beyond a reasonable doubt ... and I realize this legal condition usually refers to criminal cases handled by a jury.

Nonetheless, if Supreme Court Jurists cannot reach unanimity in the way jurors for criminal cases are required to do, then how much legitimacy do the decisions of the Supreme Court actually have? 5-4 and 6-3 decisions, or even 7-2 decisions, give expression to judgments with respect to which there are serious reservations on the part of various members of the Supreme Court concerning whether, or not, the 'right' conclusions have been reached, and, of course, this leads naturally to questions like the following: What are the criteria for knowing what constitutes a 'right' decision with respect to the Constitution, and what justifies the use of those criteria?

Consequently, even if one were to concede the point that it is the Supreme Court and not the Office of Legal Counsel which should be calling the shots on what is, and is not, constitutionally legal in relation to various acts of the Executive Office, this doesn't really solve the drone problem. The Constitution, the manner and circumstances of its creation, and the interpretive pathways which historically have issued forth from it constitute much more of a dangerous philosophical and legal body of quicksand than is usually believed. In fact, the sovereignty of the American people has been sucked under by the three branches of government almost from the very beginning of the framing and ratification of the Constitution, along with passing of the first ten amendments.

While I applaud Rand Paul's stand (see the 8 minute video accompanying this post) to speak out against the way in which the Office of Legal Counsel and the Executive Branch have awarded themselves the power to eviscerate ;the rights of American citizens, not to mention the rights of foreign nationals -- if that Branch should choose to exercise those assumed powers, and, in fact, they have so exercised those powers in the slaying of, at a minimum, the teenage son of Anwar al-Awaki -- nevertheless, I believe that Rand Paul and Acronym TV are missing a more important point. The reason why problems like the drone issue exist is because the Constitution is flawed in fundamental ways ... ways which inexorably have led, and are leading, to irresolvable conflicts and tensions within American society.

In my opinion, the only things of value in the Constitution, are: the Preamble; Article IV; Section 4 of the Constitution; the Bill of Rights; the 13th Amendment; Section 1 of the 14th Amendment, along with the 15th and 19th Amendments (having to do with the right to vote). The rest of it is, at best, a mess and, at worse, the progenitor of conflict and misery among the citizenry. However, even in relation to the aforementioned constructive aspects of the Constitution, there are still a variety of difficult issues concerning how those facets of the Constitution should be understood or interpreted.

The problem which confronts the American people is not, strictly speaking, a function of: a self-absorbed Congress, or an imperial Presidency, or an arbitrary Supreme Court (as true as such characterizations might be). The problem is that the Constitutional framework through which those Branches of government operate is dysfunctional, and this dysfunctional disease has infected the entire process of governance.

Rand Paul and Acronym are talking about symptoms. They are not addressing the issue of the underlying Constitutional disease that is giving rise to those symptoms.

Irrespective of how the Brennan/CIA issue is resolved, the country will be right back in the same quagmire again tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, and beyond. This is what happens when one deals only with symptoms and never with the disease.

Many people -- including Rand Paul and the people at Acronym -- believe they understand the nature of the American Constitution, as well as how and why that document came into being. I would take issue with the accuracy of such a belief.

I have written extensively about these issues, and many more related matters, in the book: The Unfinished Revolution: The Battle for America's Soul (Bill Whitehouse). One can follow the lead of Dr. Rand Paul and become entangled in symptoms, or one can consider exploring an alternative perspective which seeks to diagnose the actual disease from which we all are suffering. As with everything else, the choice is yours ... caveat emptor.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Economic Humanism and The Issue of Wealth

The following 6 minute video points out, in graphic detail, the real magnitude of the increasing chasm (it is not a gap) between the rich and the poor in America and, by implication, the rest of the world. The echoes of war and social conflagration which are being heard around the Earth are not the sounds of freedom casting off the shackles of oppression, but, rather, they are reverberations from the brutal crushing of humanity as the anaconda-like financial, economic, and political power exerted by the ever increasingly more wealthy tightens its compressive grip on resources, lands, markets and people everywhere.

Yesterday, the stock market hit an all time high in value, while the actual economy involving the vast majority of people stagnates, stumbles, and sputters. There is a causal relation between the two ends of the financial spectrum.

Profits cannot increase without someone being deprived of a place in the economic game of musical chairs. If stock owners are making out like bandits, this is because the money they are receiving has been ripped from the pockets of those who are becoming increasingly poor ... this, after all, is how profits are made -- by making sure that workers are not given a livable wage (or needed benefits) while those workers are forced to increase their level of productivity (workers today are producing 2-3 times as much as workers in 1968, and when adjusted for inflation, being paid less).

I do not subscribe to communism, socialism, or capitalism. I believe in the kind of economic humanism which seeks to discover ways through which to provide everyone with the basic necessities of life with respect to: food, clothing, housing, health care, and  non-compulsory eduction. The resources of the Earth do not belong to nations, corporations, or even to the people ... the resources belong to no one and must be treated as a trust for everyone and for all species.

One of the basic tents of economic humanism is: to neither control, nor be controlled. This is not the same as a libertarian philosophy (although there is a certain amount of overlap). Libertarians tend to be advocates of free markets, and the problem with that sort of advocacy is that there is no such thing as a free market. As soon as one forces desperate people to work for less than livable wages, the market is no longer free, but rigged in favor of those who control the money and who insist on oppressing people through the violent ways in which that control is exerted.

Monday, March 04, 2013

The Real Face of Betrayal With Respect to the American People

The Washington Post and the New York Times were presented with what amounts to a first offer of refusal by Bradley Manning which would have enabled those newspapers to access documents which, among other things, showed unarmed journalists being gunned-down by US forces from a military helicopter. In addition those documents contained information that played a role which helped to ignite the Arab Spring -- events that have since turned to winter. However, the two aforementioned newspapers apparently had no interest in holding Obama's administration accountable for its promise of transparency. Whether those newspapers should be considered as co-conspirators in treachery concerning the interests of the American people or just cowards is hard to know, but whatever the answer might be, they are hardly worthy of the title: 'journalist'. 

More than four decades ago, Daniel Ellsberg had released sensitive, classified information to The New York Times, The Washington Post, and 15 other news outlets which became the basis of the best-selling 'The Pentagon Papers'. Those newspapers seemed to have a much different opinion about such matters in 1971 than presently is the case, and, as a result, those papers appear to have joined forces with the side which they are supposed to critically investigate.

Like Ellsberg, Manning is a whistleblower who was seeking to help, not hurt, the American people. Manning believed that if the American people actually knew what was going on in their name, they might take steps to stop such activities.

Some people, of course, take issue with the foregoing characterization and claim that Manning is a traitor -- that he endangered American interests by releasing information that provided behind the scenes insight into what actually happens within the circles of the power elite rather than the sanitized version which is handed out by official government sources and their journalistic partners in an attempt to keep the American people, and the rest of the world, in the dark about such matters. The secrets that are being protected by the government and its journalistic allies are all about how to control: information, resources, economies, nations, finances, and people in order that they might all better serve a plutocracy ... the rule of the wealthy few.

The whole idea behind legislation such as: 'The Patriot Act' and the 'National Military Authorization Act', along with whatever 'Acts' and 'Executive Orders' that people like Bradley Manning are being charged as having violated is to establish a position of power which is capable of: labeling, marginalizing, prosecuting, jailing, torturing, censoring, eliminating, punishing, disappearing and/or executing anyone who is deemed to constitute a threat to the interests of the plutocrats. Those aforementioned pieces of Congressional/Executive/Judicial betrayal of the American people all all about destroying America, not protecting it ... and by refusing to live up to their true fiduciary responsibilities to the American people (not the sham ones which they spout in their sound bites), both the government and papers like The New York Times and the Washington Post have issued a death notice to any real semblance of democracy in America.

There can be no real sovereignty in America, or elsewhere, when secrecy is maintained in order to serve the sort of national interests which are dedicated to the oppression of people on behalf of the plutocrats in governments, corporations, and the world of journalism. The 'national interests' that people like Bradley Manning threaten are not yours or mine, but, rather, they are the interests of those who do not have our best interests at heart.

The following 7-plus minute excerpt is a commentary by Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks Network television show concerning the Bradley Manning issue. 

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Change, Violence, Control, and Religion; A Sufi Perspective

Recently, I had an exchange with a person I know ... someone who is a non-believer with respect to spiritual issues, but someone about whom I care. The discussion began with a post which concerned some of the problems inherent in modern systems of education, both public and private, Muslim and non-Muslim, as well as in relation to American and non-American educational programs. The first several paragraphs of the aforementioned post were as follows:

“The six functions of education (both public and private) are: (1) Adjusting; (2) Diagnosing; (3) Sorting; (4) Conforming/Unifying (5) Tagging; and (6) Preserving/Perpetuating. These functions are obsessively and compulsively pursued by a set of "overlords and overladies" in order to establish and realize a means of imposing a process of framing and filtering reality upon a population. The first statement is not a conspiracy theory since I am not necessarily contending that a group of people gather together in secret in order to bring about the instituting of such a system. Rather, I am suggesting that there are a group of people who are so enamored with themselves that they each individually, and in their own inimitable style, develop a delusional disorder which whispers to their egos that they have the right to control and rule over the lives of other people, irrespective of what the costs of such control might be to society or the world in general.

“The foregoing process of six functions is instituted as a means of: dumbing the population down, controlling them, and perpetuating an arbitrary, and rigged system of: militarization, economics, monetary policy, legal processes, politics, together with a system of policing (which, when push comes to shove, is not intended to 'serve and protect' the people, but, rather, is dedicated to serving the interests of the elite). Moreover, the purpose of such a system of dumbing people down is to ensure that the few (the overlords and overladies of control ... i.e., the aforementioned elites) may benefit materially, financially, and through a progressively enhanced accruing of power (the Anaconda Principle), while the many are educated and trained to serve and worship the likes and dislikes of that elite. The foregoing is true of all religious (including Muslim), communist, socialist, capitalist, democratic, and monarchical nations.”

There was more to the post than contained in the foregoing comments, but that excerpt provides something of the flavor of what was written in the original set of remarks. My fellow interlocutor raised a question about what I had written, wanting to know how I proposed to move into the future with respect to changing the problematic way through which things currently are being done.

I replied to the inquiry with the following words:

“Everything begins with our selves. The only thing over which any of us ought to have some degree of control is ourselves as individuals.

“I don't believe in trying to impose a system (educational, political, economic, philosophical, or spiritual) on someone else since this would be just as arbitrary and unjustifiable an act as is that which is done by those who seek to impose their systems on me. Important changes always happen from within, not from without. Change takes place one consciousness at a time.

“We all have a responsibility to change and struggle toward realizing the constructive aspects of the potentials that we are. If not enough people are interested in doing this, then we, as a society, will reap what we sow ... and the reaping which currently is taking place is evident in the many forms of violence and terrorism (domestically, medically, politically, psychologically, economically, culturally, religiously, environmentally, educationally) which are taking place all around us.

“The only tools which are available to us are: sincerity, courage, tolerance, perseverance, dialogue, critical reflection, the interrogative imperative (the importance of asking questions), as well as the honoring or respecting of the inherent sovereignty of one another (a sovereignty which precedes both social and governmental institutions). This is how we change ... this is how we move into the future, but if people do not come to appreciate what is necessary in relation to such internal changes, then there may soon be no future to move into.”

Upon reading the foregoing remarks, my friend replied by saying that the ideas being expressed seemed rather impractical. In addition, the individual said that unless the violence being perpetrated by religions is stopped, then my friend didn’t see much hope for any sort of constructive dialogue being able to take place by which we, collectively, might be able to try to resolve world problems.

Furthermore, while my friend thought that the idea of sovereignty was okay, he believed that those who are exercising it should stay on their own reservations. In other words, the implication of my friend’s statement was that people should hoe their own row and leave other people alone.

The foregoing remarks led to another response from me. These latter comments are fairly lengthy and are, with certain changes and additions, given expression through the following material.

I began my comments by providing a brief overview of a book of mine that was published last year – namely, ‘The Unfinished Revolution: The Battle for America’s Soul.” My reason for mentioning the book was because, on the one hand, its contents were apropos to my friend’s concern about the nature of the dynamic between sovereignty and non-interference, and, on the other hand, I wanted to indicate to him that it was quite possible to talk about constitutional and political issues in a way that might be able to establish some common ground for both those who had a spiritual orientation as well as those, like my friend, who did not share such an orientation.

I indicated that despite the wording of the subtitle for: the aforementioned book, it is entirely free of any discussion of spiritual issues, per se, and is entirely dedicated to deconstructing what passes for the constitutional basis of American life. If one were to reduce the book down to one idea, it would parallel my friend’s statement about 'sovereignty being fine as long as people stay on their own reservation' -- although, in practice, that kind of sentiment is a lot more subtle and complex than some people (for example, libertarians) suppose. In fact, the complexities involved are such that I required more than 600 pages in the aforementioned book in order to outline some of the nuances of what is entailed by the sort of perspective being alluded to by my friend.

I mentioned two further books that I had written which were related to the issues being considered -- ‘Democracy Lost and Regained’, together with a small book on education (‘Reflections On Education and Learning’) ... especially the long 'Paradigm Shift' chapter in the latter work during which the 'establishment clause' of the First Amendment was taken to its logical conclusion.

More specifically, a lot of people mistakenly refer to the relevant part of the First Amendment as the 'separation clause' – believing that the whole idea was to make sure that, unlike the case in many other parts of the world, government in America would not be a function of anyone's religious beliefs ... which is a sentiment with which I am in agreement. However, the wording of the First Amendment makes it quite clear that the crux of the matter revolves around the establishing of religion of any kind as a vehicle for governance.

Unfortunately, many people suppose that the meaning of the First Amendment maintains that any and all secular or non-religious points of view constitute acceptable candidates as a basis of government. However, I take issue with political and/or economic philosophies which seek to impose a worldview of any kind on a citizenry since I consider this to be, in its own way, an establishment of religion. I, then, proceeded to put forth the bare-bones reasons for such a claim.

There is no God-concept in Buddhism, and, yet, it is considered a religion. It is not theism that is the sin qua non for religion but the treatment of certain principles that are considered to be sacred, and, therefore, sacrosanct, inviolable expressions of what is considered to constitute reality or truth ... e.g., the notion of the ‘free market’ in economics which are considered to be a sacred basis for all commerce and, therefore, should not be regulated.

All public policy constitutes so many exercises that attempt to smuggle religion -- in the broad sense of the last paragraph -- into the realm of governance. If one really wants everyone to ‘stay on their own reservation’, then this goes for both secular and theistic versions of religion ... all such systems are arbitrary in the sense that one cannot prove them to be true beyond a reasonable doubt or even in conjunction with the lesser standard of a 'preponderance of the available evidence' when such matters are being considered among an impartial panel of our peers.

Everyone has his or her own opinion about the nature of reality. Nonetheless, proving the truth of such opinions to the satisfaction of other people is problematic in a variety of ways.

Given the way some Muslims act, many people – including some Muslims – might be surprised to hear that the Qur'an is very clear that there can be ‘no compulsion in matters of religion’ – and, surely, this is quite consonant with the meaning of the establishment clause which forms part of the First Amendment. Every human being must be free to make his or her own decisions concerning where that individual comes down on the issue of the nature of reality.

I wrote a small book on 'Shari'ah' which delineates how, in my opinion, the vast majority of Muslims today have been misled by so-called religious leaders with respect to the way in which they understand the actual meaning of the term: 'shari'ah'. They believe – mistakenly, I feel -- that the Qur'an was intended as a rule book which should constitute the basis of a legal system that is to be imposed on people.

In reality, however, shari'ah is about delineating a methodological process that is capable of exploring the character of natural law concerning the issue of how to go about realizing the potential inherent in the essential self and, as such, is intended to be pursued on an individual basis, not on a collective
one. To this extent, the purpose of any government is to establish a stable and non-oppressive public space within which every individual has the right to seek to push back the horizons of ignorance concerning the nature of reality as long as such a pursuit is consonant with a like right for others.

At this point, I returned to an earlier comment made by my friend which suggested that my approach (as outlined earlier in the comments concerning education) was rather impractical – that nothing would be accomplished through such a way of doing things ... that I was just spouting words. I disagreed with the individual on this point and proceeded on in the following manner.

One could, of course, cite figures such as Tolstoy, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King as examples of individuals who appeared, from the vantage point of some individuals, to be pursuing a rather impractical, quixotic path in relation to world problems, and, yet, those historical figures ended up helping people to change in substantial ways. However, most of us will never even remotely approach the level of impact that the aforementioned individuals had upon the world, and, so, perhaps the more direct challenge entailed by the charge of ‘impracticality’ concerning my previous suggestions for moving forward into the future with respect to changing things is to talk about what impact average, everyday sorts of people might have upon the considerable problems with which we all are faced.

I believe that a great deal has been accomplished in my life by using the principles of non-violence and attempting, as best as I am capable of doing, to act through the qualities of character ... accomplishments that go beyond 'just words.' For example, without violence and through the exercise of character, I have helped -- along with many others -- to end the Vietnam War by refusing to go along with an arbitrary and indefensible policy of hostilities in Southeast Asia. Moreover, without violence and with the assistance of qualities of character, I – along with others -- helped to force the government of Ontario to the bargaining table with respect to the way education was conducted in that province. Furthermore, without violence and through the use of principles of character, I stood up against the faculty and administration of a major university in relation to the plagiaristic activities of one of the faculty members of that university ... and while the university in question did nothing of a punitive nature in relation to that faculty member (in fact, it promoted him to a position that had oversight concerning the student honor code), the university also did not sanction me in any way as it surely would have done if what I had been alleging was untrue.

Without violence, I resisted the attempt of certain facets of the University of Toronto, and the provincial government of Ontario, to oppress me and unjustly deprive me of a doctoral degree largely because I was a Muslim who had the temerity to speak out about a variety of issues. Obtaining the doctoral degree took me 16 years and required me to think fairly far outside the box in order to finally succeed and overcome the forces of opposition that were aligned against me both from within the university as well as within the provincial government of Ontario. In addition, without violence and through the use of principles of character,  I (along with help from my present wife) helped to throw a monkey wrench, of sorts, into the spiritual abuse that was being perpetrated by a so-called Sufi teacher that I encountered following the passing away of my spiritual guide, Dr. Baig.  This was a battle that lasted for a number of years and, in some respects, still continues.

Did any of the foregoing activities significantly change the world? No, they didn’t, but they were actions that made a difference – on however small a scale – to my life and the lives of other individuals with whom, in one way or another, I have come into contact.

 Finally, without violence and through the application of principles of character, over the last forty years, paths of communication have been established with many people through public talks (e.g., Fordham University, McGill, Carleton University, the University of Toronto, the University of Ottawa, the University of Alberta, the University of Western Ontario, and the University of Maine.) There were also a number of television and radio interviews (e.g., CBC and BBC radio) concerning Islam that reached millions of individuals.

In fact, the CBC interview was originally slated to run just 5-10 minutes, but the network was so happy with the initial program that they invited me back to continue things for three more days -- which added up to an hour, or so, altogether, in air time. Following the series of interviews, a number of people – who were not Muslim -- approached me and indicated that they had appreciated and learned from the interviews.

Attempting to communicate with other people -- reaching out to them and trying to establish some sort of common ground through which dialogue might arise – are not just words. It is a word-based activity which constitutes an attempt to bridge the chasm of alien silence that often exists among people ... it is an attempt to try to begin a search for solutions to problems that will work for everyone – irrespective of their spiritual orientation, or lack thereof -- in a constructive way.

Moreover, I have conducted classes – both in Canada and the United States, involving hundreds of students -- that explored topics such as: psychology, philosophy, and diversity in a manner which did not cover just the required subject matter but attempted to serve as a means of assisting students to struggle toward finding their own voice, identity, and way in the world. I did not teach the students about Islam or the Sufi path in any of these courses, but I did seek to treat the students in accordance with principles and values that were consonant with the Islamic and Sufi perspective.

Providing food for thought is not an empty exercise in word usage. Rather, seeking to induce people to seriously reflect on issues ... to ignite their smoldering curiosity to seek out answers and solutions... to encourage them to ask significant questions of both themselves and others – these are activities, not just words

Thousands of copies of various books written by me over the last 20 years, or so, have been sold in 16-17 countries around the world, and, moreover, a number of those titles have been obtained by libraries such as: Harvard, McGill, Princeton, the University of New Mexico, and the University of Maine, as well as by a variety of public libraries in the United States, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and Oxford, England. While the foregoing is small potatoes compared to the best sellers of our day, nevertheless, people all over the world (even if they constitute a relatively small group of individuals) have come in contact with ideas that encourage them to reflect, ponder, question, explore, analyze, and engage existence constructively ... that is, to embrace life through more than words, but via actions that display respect for other human beings and their different points of view.

For roughly 52 weeks a year, over a period of nearly 20 years (from around 1975 until the early-to-mid 1990) I conducted the Sufi Study Circle (a discussion group) at the University of Toronto. This was done at the request of my shaykh.

Sometimes no one showed up to those meetings, and on other occasions anywhere from 5 to 12 people might show up, rarely more than this. For most of the people who attended the meetings they (the meetings) served as little more than a temporary way-station before moving on to somewhere and something else. However, in a few cases, the seeds which were being sowed through those discussions came to fruition and such individuals began to seriously pursue Islam and the Sufi path, but perhaps even more importantly, as far as those individuals who were not interested in Islam or the Sufi approach to mysticism are concerned, both during and following those meetings, those individuals were treated with respect and consideration ... again, this is not a matter of just words but spills over into the realm of action.

Over the years I have built a variety of websites which have been visited by thousands of people from all over the world. Some of those visits have been quite fleeting (seconds), while other visitors have stayed for hours, and, of course, one can determine all of this by looking at the raw data for the website.

For roughly seven to eight years, I did a podcast – ‘Sufi Reflections’ – which had an audience that ran anywhere from 500 to 900 people for the 42 programs that were put together during that period of time. A certain number of those individuals have written to me and expressed appreciation for the contents of those podcasts.

In a world of 7 billion people, an audience of hundreds or thousands of people hardly constitutes anything more than a blip on the screen of life. Nevertheless, like George Bailey in Frank Capra’s ‘A Wonderful Life,’ I believe the foregoing activities have made a difference in the lives of other people that extends beyond words.
Will I solve the world's problems on my own? No!!

Are the world's problems solvable? I believe the answer is: Yes!!!

Will human beings do what is necessary to help bring this about in a
peaceful manner? I really don't know.

I don't have control over what anyone else does. I only have control
-- within certain limits of imperfection -- over what I do, and though relatively limited in stature, what is done through me goes far beyond the typing or speaking of nice sounding words. I say what I mean, and I mean what I say, and my words are never intended to remain within the realm of just the spoken.

We don’t have to be famous movers and shakers in order to have a constructive impact on the lives of other people ... even if only in a very limited manner. There are many things which each of us can do to try to improve the condition of the world – however small-seeming such acts might be.

Seen from the bottom, the idea of reaching the summit of Mt. Everest seems overwhelming. Yet, many people have made it to the top of that mountain by putting one foot in front of the other and continuing on in that fashion.

Similarly, if one looks at the problems of the world, the difficulties seem too numerous and complex for anything to be done to improve matters. In this respect, one might think about the words of Neil Armstrong who said: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” ... every step a human being takes in the service of truth and improving the lives of others, no matter how small that step might seem at the time it is taken, is always a giant leap for humankind, and if enough people came to understand that truth and actively incorporated it into their daily lives, then, maybe, some of the world’s problems might begin to dissipate.

At this point in the exchange with my friend, I changed topics and told him that I was inclined to agree with his belief (noted earlier) that many acts of violence are committed in the 'name' of religion. However, I provided a qualifying caveat to that agreement – namely, I indicated that I am not all convinced who use the name of religion in mischievous and destructive ways are necessarily all that religious.

I began to expand on the foregoing idea by mentioning that there is considerable evidence to indicate that most people have a real aversion to killing other people. Yes, every year -- at least in the United States -- one has the usual set of 16,000 murders, or so, which are committed, but this is a miniscule portion of the more than 330 million people who live in this country. Moreover, although murders are committed in other parts of the world -- and I will leave out, for the moment, the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, the Sudan, Mali, Syria, and the Congo -- the fact is that in many countries there are even a smaller percentage of people who turn to murder as their coping strategy of choice as a means of dealing with conflict than is the case in the United States.

Furthermore, the aforementioned murders are, for the most part, not done primarily for religious reasons  ... although some of them might be. More specifically, while the surface motivations underlying such acts usually involve money drugs, or sex, there is also a strong component inherent in those actions that concerns the desire to control other people ... and, presumably, causing the death of another human being is the ultimate act of control ... something that plays a very prominent role in the thousands of cases of domestic abuse which occur on a regular basis around the world every year..

As Smedley Butler -- a winner of two Congressional Medals of Honor stated back in the 1930's, both in a book, as well as through an address to the Veterans of Foreign Wars -- 'War is a Racket.' It is a ‘racket’ specializing in the control of money, resources, and people’ for the benefit of the few.

Butler knew what he was talking about because he had been engaged in that very racket on behalf of the United States throughout Central and South America during the ‘Banana Wars’ which were waged on behalf of American corporations against the people of countries that had resources coveted by those corporations. Butler indicated that all wars are fought to gain access to money, profits, and the strategic control of both resources and people by the power elite.

God and religion had absolutely nothing to do with those activities except as an exercise in perception management. Perception management, propaganda, indoctrination, brainwashing, and undue influence are used by governments, school systems, and corporations to manipulate the emotions of the public and military personnel in order to induce segments of the population to be in a mood to kill whomever the powers that be indicate should be killed.

Many people cite the assassination of Austrian Archduke Ferdinand as the spark that started the World War I. However, the real key to understanding the underlying issues of that war are rooted in the desire of the German government to establish a railroad connection – along the lines of the Orient Express -- with Iraq and its oil resources ...and, it is interesting to note in this respect that the very first place where English troops were sent at the beginning of World War I was to Basra, in the oil-rich region of Southern Iraq.

Although people on all sides of the foregoing conflict might have invoked the name of God, it was not a religious war. While the name of religion might have been used to stir up resentments and other emotions amongst the general population as well as the troops, World War I was a conflict concerning control of resources ... it was a racket intended to serve the interests of money and power with respect to whatever side might win.

The seeds of the Second World War were sown, to a considerable degree, through the harsh provisions of the Treaty of Versailles which financially and economically decimated the German people. The destructive ramifications ensuing from that treaty constituted one of the primary factors that induced Germany to become highly susceptible to the delusional worldview of Hitler.

The Treaty of Versailles was not a religious document. It was an expression of political power and control concerning finances, economics, land, and people.

During the Second World War some researchers estimated that more than 50 percent of the soldiers who saw combat actions did not fire their weapons at the alleged enemy. Instead, those soldiers discharged their weapons in the direction of places where, hopefully, people weren't.

If the foregoing observation is correct and given that that more than 60 million people -- most of them non-combatants -- were killed during World War II, then one seems forced to conclude that some military personnel were much more active with respect to the killing of human beings than were others. Many people were killed through the use of air strikes, artillery fire, V-2 rockets, and the like ... that is, like the drone weapons of today, weapon systems in which one doesn't have to look into the eyes of the people one is killing.

Nevertheless, the Second World War was not a religious war. It was an exercise in German national self-aggrandizement in the service of a sense of racial superiority. The holocaust was about ethnic cleansing ... Blacks, Jews, Gypsies, and anyone else who did not fit into the mythical and delusional racial worldview of the German ideologues.

One could have been a non-believing Jew, and this would not have made the slightest bit of difference to those charged with carrying out ‘the final solution.’  There was no religious litmus test to determine who went to the concentration camps. What was important to the German hierarchy revolved around the issue of race or ethnicity rather than religion.

The mass murders and scientific experiments carried out by the Japanese on the Chinese were not primarily a matter of religion. Rather, one of the basic rationales for such activities centered on the Japanese belief (or, at least, the belief of those who were in power) that the Japanese were a superior race relative to all other peoples. Religion might have played a role, of sorts, with respect to that sense of superiority, but religion was in the service of race and ethnicity, not the other way around.

Similarly, the internment camps which were set up in the United States for Japanese-American citizens were not about religion. The Japanese were considered to be an alien racial and ethnic group who could not be trusted and, therefore, needed to be controlled.

The dropping of nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not done for religious reasons. In fact, there is considerable evidence to indicate that the strikes were entirely unnecessary because the Japanese had been seeking a way to surrender, but those bombs were dropped anyway as a warning to the Soviet Union.

The fire-bombing of Dresden, Hamburg, and Tokyo was not a religious exercise. They were intended to let the Germans and Japanese know, in no uncertain terms, who was in control of their destinies ... as such, it was uncivilized diplomacy carried out through the means of war.

Stalin oversaw the slaughter, torture, and imprisonment of millions of people. This was not a religious exercise, but, rather, it constituted a raw, destructive expression of a delusion-based desire to control people, finances, resources, and culture.

Two million people – mostly civilians -- were killed in Korea for other than religious reasons. Two million more individuals – again, mostly civilians – were killed in Vietnam for other than religious reasons.

In the light of the aforementioned empirical findings concerning the tendency of many military personnel during World War II and the Korean conflict to not want to kill the “enemy”, training strategies for recruits did begin to change during the Vietnam War in order to induce individuals to be more willing than they had been in World War II and the Korean conflict to get over their natural reluctance to kill the ‘enemy’. Thus, the Vietnam strategy to 'kill everything that moves' (first made infamous in relation to the Mai Lai massacre but implemented in numerous other war crimes committed during the war in Vietnam) was rooted in a process of demonizing a people which made the latter into 'objects' which, according to the chain of command, could – and should -- be dispatched with all due haste.

The policy of training soldiers to objectify and de-personalizing the 'other' was stepped up in the first Gulf War of the 1990s, as well as in subsequent incursions into, first, Afghanistan, and, then, Iraq. This focus on demonizing the enemy is why places like Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and other similar venues of torture exist, as well as why some marines feel justified urinating on the Qur'an or flushing that book down the toilet or desecrating/dismembering the dead bodies of Muslims or killing children through an indiscriminate use of drones.

The people who torture and seek to humiliate other people are not conducting a class in religion. Those activities are all about seeking to control and dominate an alien people in the service of those who control the shots and do so for their own not so hidden reasons which are financial, economic, and resource-related  ... not religious.

Afghanistan did not attack the United States in 2001. In fact, the Taliban government was quite prepared to turn over ‘Usama bin Laden to American authorities, but certain facets of the American government and military wanted their war for both strategic and tactical reasons and,  therefore, refused the Taliban offer concerning bin Laden, and that desire had nothing to do with religion.

Iraq has never attacked the United States. However, for political, financial, and economic reasons, war-mongers within the United States decided to go to war against Iraq and sow the seeds of democracy.  And, this was true in both the First Gulf War in the 1990s, as well as the war which began in 2003.

These sorts of acts arise out of the same mind-set which created the techniques that have been, and are continuing to be taught, at the infamous 'School of the Americas' (which used to be in Panama, but has since been moved to Fort Benning, Georgia with a name change – namely, Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation). Current and former US military personnel teach people from all over the world -- but especially from Central and South America -- how to murder, rape, humiliate, oppress, and exploit the indigenous and poor peoples in their respective home countries.

The Civil War -- which resulted in the deaths of more than 600,000 people -- was not about religion. Both sides might have invoked the name of God in relation to their cause, but that war was about the control of resources -- banks, people, slaves, the economy, and government.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not primarily a religious issue -- after all, there are many Palestinians who are not Muslim or Christian but secularists and non-believers. The same is true on the Israeli side.

The issue is about control, land, water, and ethnic cleansing. To borrow words from Leonard Cohen, but used in a slightly different way, wars concern: “The homicidal bitchin that goes down in every kitchen to determine who will serve and who will eat.”

The 2-3 million who have died in the on-going war taking place in the Congo which has been transpiring for nearly ten years, or so, is about controlling the mineral Coltan which is used in cell phones ... a big money maker around the world. That war is being armed primarily by entrepreneurs from Belgium, France, England, and Germany, and while some of the people in the Congo who are being armed might have a religious orientation of sorts, religion is serving economic interests, not the other way around.

The 2 million people who died in Rawanda were the product of the racial/ethnic hatred that was established between the Hutu and the Tutsi with the considerable assistance of Belgian colonial rulers. The atrocities which have taken place, and are continuing to take place, in the former southern portion of Sudan were -- and are -- primarily the result of tribal, racial, and ethnic hatreds that, on occasion, were dressed up in religious language and used for purposes of gaining control over resources. The Nigerian civil wars of the 1960s involved a litany of tribal, racial, ethnic, and cultural tensions, only some of which were religious,

The genocide committed against indigenous peoples around the world --including America -- was not primarily about religion. The issues primarily were a matter of money, property, control of resources, and an irrational hatred of Indian racial and ethnic characteristics which exists to this day and which is why Indians today are far more oppressed than Black people are ... indeed, the Buffalo Soldiers (cavalry units consisting entirely of Blacks) used to serve the interests of the powers that be by hunting Indians down (did those soldiers learn nothing from their own history of slavery?).

The recent incursions of the French, English, and Americans into Libya were not about religion. In fact, there is considerable evidence to suggest that Gaddafi was pushed from power, raped and assassinated because of ethnic/tribal tensions which had been brewing for many years, as well as because Gaddafi recently had proposed establishing an international gold-based dinar system which would threaten the dollar as the monetary unit of last resort (a mistake which Saddam Hussein made in the run up to the first Gulf War and which may be playing a significant role in the present saber rattling that is taking place in relation to Iran since Iran has been asking that payments for its oil be done in currencies other than the dollar.)  

The tragedy of Syria which has been unfolding for a year, now, is not primarily about religion. It is about which ethnic/tribal group gets to control financial, economic, and political resources, and all sides of the issue who have each played a role in constructing the mess are guilty of committing atrocities (as indicated in a recently released UN study) for the sake of such control.

Many of the problems and conflicts in the Middle East that are erupting today are the direct result of the arbitrary manner in which Western powers – notably France and England – carved up the territories in that region and created countries with all manner of ethnic and racial fracture-lines built into the arrangement. That geographical gerrymandering was not about religion but, instead, was about creating nations that would serve the economic, political, and military interests of the West.

Although religion may factor into the foregoing problems, this is more as an effect of political, economic, and military policies rather than as a cause of such matters. The people in power have found ways through which to induce soldiers -- via techniques of undue influence -- to commit all manner of atrocities, and if the name of religion is invoked in such a process, this is done only as a means to further the more important economic, political, and military ends of control.

If one needs to misuse the words of this or that religion in order to fan passions and create a sense of self-righteousness in the soldiers with respect to the atrocities they commit, then so be it. However, this is not about religion ... it is about: (a) people in control who are decidedly not at all religious irrespective of what they say for public consumption; and, (b) the susceptibility of human beings to having their minds manipulated through techniques of undue influence, and, in the process ceding their agency to the people of power so that the agendas of the latter individuals might be better served.

Fundamentalism of any variety – religious, economic (communists, socialists, and capitalists are all fundamentalists, each in their own inimitable style), or political (and seeking to forcefully impose an arbitrary notion of democracy or some other political system onto people certainly constitutes a form of fundamentalist terrorism – is not about religion. Rather, fundamentalism is about insisting that everyone else must believe, think, speak, and act as those fundamentalists do, and, as such, fundamentalism is more about a desire to exercise control over people than it gives expression to any authentic spiritual purposes.

In short, for the most part, religion is not the cause of the world's conflicts. Rather, religion has become a tool to be manipulated by those in power (whether with respect to familial, governmental, educational, or corporate forms of control). And, my contention is that most, if not all of, the people in power do not believe, in any essential way, in God, or accountability, or morality, and, therefore, have no qualms about engaging in the sort of Machiavellian tactics that use religiously-toned propaganda to get people to do what the power-elite desire and which the average person would not otherwise ever think of doing on his or her own.

Am I saying that religious people are free of any wrong-doing? No, I am not.

Nor am I trying to argue that any and all people who do not believe in God are responsible for the wars of the world, both present and past. Rather, I am saying that notwithstanding the spouting of religious verbiage by this or that leader, anyone who would seek to induce people to go to war in order to slaughter other people has little concern about either religion or morality and is primarily motivated by visions of money, profit, wealth, and control ... regardless of the costs to the rest of the world or their own citizens.

The normal inclination of most people – whether believers or non-believers in spiritual matters -- is to try to get along with other individuals irrespective of whatever philosophical and spiritual differences might exist. And, like Newton's laws of motion, people will tend to continue on in that same normal trajectory (i.e., not resorting to violence against their fellow human beings) unless acted on by an external force -- namely, the powers that be who are interested in nothing more than extending their sphere of influence, control, and power and who will use whatever means are at their disposal to accomplish this ... including fanning religious sensitivities.

Are there idiots within any given religious tradition who are delusional and believe that their God-mandated mission in life is to control what other people do or believe? Yes, there are, but such individuals are the exceptions that prove the rule – namely, those sorts of delusional individuals are human beings who have become infatuated with the idea of controlling the lives of other people, and as such, they are all brother and sisters under the skin with those non-believers who seek to dominate the world for their own personal reasons which have nothing to do with religion and have everything to do with being caught up in a frenzied compulsion and obsession that seeks to control anything and everything.