Thursday, May 16, 2013

Searching for the Truth, Corporations, and the 'Saving American Democracy' Amendment: A Sufi Perspective

Current Affairs Are Often Hidden
The news tends to cover -- in an extremely condensed manner and usually to the point of distortion -- the events of the day ... or, at least, some of those events (whatever can be fit into an hour or half-hour program format). These reported events are, then, repeated throughout the day as if they are the only things of importance which are happening at any given time (assuming, of course, that such events even can be considered to be of real importance in the larger scheme of things rather than merely serving as a source of distraction intended to drown out matters of true, substantive significance).

The process starts all over again with the next news cycle. Consequently, time is occupied; attention is captured, resources are wasted, and a hermeneutical narrative is constructed through the news which comes to frame our understanding of reality ... a narrative that is hardly ever critically examined and, therefore, with time, becomes a dominant force in shaping the way many people think about the past, the present, and the future. 

The foregoing sorts of news events take place in a context of social, constitutional, political, economic, educational, and scientific forces that are rarely discussed within the news. Or, if such forces are explored, the accompanying analysis tends to be through the filters of power -- economic, financial, political, militaristic, scientific, institutional, and so on -- which serves to misdirect people's attention away from what might actually be transpiring. As a result, acquiring a clear understanding of the nature of current affairs is very difficult because, in many ways, they are hidden from view ... even if they are sitting in plain sight.

Searching For The Truth

The process of trying to discover the truth of any matter is fraught with all manner of difficulty. Quite frequently, those difficulties begin with the problems surrounding the issue of discerning the quality of the information which someone is presenting to us.

Without accurate information, one's search for the truth tends to be compromised from the very beginning. Bad information leads in many directions but rarely, if ever, toward the truth ... unless, of course, one somehow comes to understand that such inforamtion is bad, and this leads one to reassess the credibility and realiability of the source through whom or through which the information arrives are our front door stoop. 

Even with good information, the process of analyzing, interpreting, and critically evaluating such material is not necessarily straightforward. Among other things, we each have our own conceptual biases and blindspots that introduce a home-grown set of distortions or errors into the search for truth, and, therefore, while we all extol the virtue of "objectivtity', this tends to be easier said than realized.

Everyone subscribes to the importance of applying reason to the problems before us. Unfortuately, the notions of 'reason' and 'reasoning' can mean very different things to different people, and, therefore, one could sincerely believe oneself to be rational even as one might be thinking in a most irrational manner.

A delusion is a fasely held belief. In other words, the essential nature of all delusions involves an individual maintaining that his or her beliefs are rooted in the truth even though this is not the case.

Moreover, the fact that there might be many other people who share precisely the same delusion as one holds doesn't render the delusion true as a result just because it enjoys some degree of popularity. A generally accepted falsehood is stll false.

Coming to understand that one's manner of thinking or believing might be delusional tends to lead to a very difficult and usually quite traumatic set of ramifications and circumstances. In fact, this aspect of difficulty and trauma is why most people are inclined to remain entangled within the cozy cocoon of delusion since the alternative is very threatening and potentially disruptive to the flow of one's life.

What to Expect From This Web Page

I can't promise that you will discover the truth merely by engaging the material to be found here. What I can promise is that all of the postings and commentaries which appear here are intended to induce the visitor to critically reflect on the current affairs materials which are given expression through such postings and commentaries ... and, to this extent, the ideas, thoughts, comments, and perspectives to be found through this page provides one with an opportunity to search for the truth.

There is a perspective which states that philosophy is not so much a desitination as a process. Spirituality might be described in this manner as well.

In either case, if one accepts the idea that 'truth', whatever it turns out to be, is likely to be a lot more complex, richer, and nuanced than most of us have the capacity to grasp, then searching for the truth becomes a process rather than a destination. This does not mean there is no such thing as the truth but, rather, it suggests that one's relationship with the truth might, at best, be tangential (touching only at one point) or, possibly, like the notion of an asymptote (coming closer and closer without ever actually touching the truth).

Most of us are inclined to long for the comfort of absolutes. However, in a universe where the ultimate nature of reality might be beyond our capacity to circumscribe, a good coping strategy may have more to do with a sincere attempte to continuously refine the process we use while seeking to uncover the character of reality -- according to our capacity to do so. Hopefully, this page provides one with an opportunity to do precisely that.

Bernie Sanders Proposes a Constitutional Amendment

The following video concerns a speech which Senator Bernie Sanders (from Vermont) gave back in late 2011. He proposed introducing a Constitional amendment indicating that corporations are not people, and, therefore, they have no protected rights -- especially with respect to the First Amendment, but extending, as well, to all of the other rights which are to be enjoyed by persons via Constitutional provisions (e.g., Although the 14th Amendment was ostensibly about protecting the rights of minority peoples -- such as African-Americans -- corporations have sought protection under the provisions of the 14th Amendment far more than racial minorities have done so.).

The proposed amendment went nowhere. Unfortunately, too many people who run for public office are dependent on the money which is supplied by coroporations, and in the quid pro quo of such arrangements, so-called public servants have become the thralls of those corporations and, as a result, will acknowledge -- wink, wink -- that corporations are 'persons' even though there is absolutely no rational, defensible grounds for doing so.

Supreme Court Justices (at least five of them in the Citizens United decision) might speculatively and delusionally mumble about this or that legal precedent in case law for claiming that corporations are entitled to the idea of personhood. However, there is absolutely no basis in the provisions of the Constituion or in any of the colonial history surrounding, or leading up to the writing and ratification of the Constitution or the subsequent passage of amendments which indicates that corporations were considered to be or thought of as: 'persons'. 

In fact, precisely the opposite was the case. From the very moment that independence was declared, most Americans considered corporations to be expressions and agents of royal tyranny. Corporations were despised by Americans for the manner in which they were used by royalty to undermine the economic, political and social fabric of Americans ... indeed, the Boston Tea Party was one of the first organized acts of rebellion that was directed as much against the corporate world as it was against royalty.

I consider the speech by Bernie Sanders a current affair (even though the speech was given more than a year ago), because the issues he is addressing continue to adversely affect the sovereignty of actual people in the United States. If corporations were denied the perks of 'personhood', there would be a tremendous set of constructive differences in how things proceed -- politically, economically, legally, militarily, and socially -- in the United States. Much of what takes place in the United States is filtered through, framed by, and hidden within the legal delusion which considers corporations to be persons.

Bernie Sanders and the: 'Saving American Democracy' Amendment -- May 16, 2013

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Science and Technology -- Prospects and Problems: A Sufi Perspective

Releasing the Genie

In a variety of movies, the discovery of how to release a given genie from captivity in order to do one's bidding or grant one a certain number of wishes is often accompanied by an ensuing realization that the process is not without potential risks and dangers. Siimilarly, on the surface, everything might seem straightforward with respect to various instances of scientific and technological creativity that, supposedly, will do our bidding, and, as a result, people speak about the wonders of progress and the promise of the future which scientific and technological breakthroughs generate.

However, the shadow of the 'Black Swan' event (or events), along with other possible unpleasantries, tend to lurk in the background awaiting the opportunity to suddenly manifest themselves and turn what seemed to be paradisical into a living nightmare. For example, when people began to unlock the secrets of the atom toward the beginning of the twentieth century, no one anticipated the advent of: nuclear weapons, depleted uranium, Chernobyl, Fukushima, or the problems associated with disposing of nuclear waste materials, but now we know the tragedies which might, and often do, ensue from the nuclear wombs of such scientific and technological fecundity.

Most of us are mesmerized by the amazing capabilities of the increasingly savy smart phone inventions that are rolling off the assembly line with each new generation. Yet, there is an ugly underbelly to this technology which is rooted in the 'coltan wars' which, for more than a decade, have been taking place in the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa and during which thousands have died fighting over the possession, mining, sale, and distribution of the metalic ore: Coltan (which is an amalgamation of the words: "Columbite" and "tantalite"). Coltan happens to have rather unique abilities when it comes to the storing and retaining of electical charges ... a capacity which is utilized in many smart phone capacitors.

Moreover, the lives of people all over the world have been transformed through the presence of computer technology. Yet, the appearance of computers in the world also introduced a huge problem -- which still remains largely unsolved -- involving the disposal of the toxic wastes (e.g., involving heavy metals such as: cadmiun, beryllium, and lead) that are entailed by the process of manufacturing computers.

Once the genie has been released, it is not always so easy to try to control what has been set free and, thereby, been enabled to haunt, if not terrorize, the world. People who are good at creating new science and technology are often blind, if not indifferent, to the ramifications and implications of that which has been manifested through them.

The creators -- and associated vested interests -- often label anyone who resists what the former individuals are trying to do as "Luddites" (textile craftspeople in England who resisted the introduction of labor-saving machine technology in the early 1800s). Nevertheless, history is replete with incidents in which, like Pandora's Box, technology and science became like conduits for the flow of problems (social, political, environmental, moral, and legal) into the world.

The Cautionary Principle

Prudence, patience, and wisdom tend to indicate that the activities of science and technology ought to be engaged with a certain degree of circumspection. One application of this sort of perspective is to exercise caution when it comes to such activities For instance, wouldn't it be nice to come up with solutions to problems inherent in technological and scientific innovation before the fact rather than after the fact ... only after tremendous damage already has taken place?

There is a teaching principle among Native Americans which says that unless one understands what impact a given action will have on the seventh generation to follow, one should refrain from such an action. Another related teaching is: we do not bequeath the present world to our children but, rather, we borrow that future from them since what we do today will affect the quality of their lives tomorrow. In both cases, the underlying moral principle is that we need to exercise -- not abandon -- caution when it comes to decisions concerning the release of new scientific and technological innovation into the world.

3D-Printing Technology

The following video is about the emerging technology of 3D printing. One is introduced to some of the potential -- and a few of the possible problems -- associated with 3D printing.

However, although there is a short section near the end of the video concerning one conceivable environmental application of 3D-printing technology, absolutely nothing is mentioned, or even alluded to, in the video with respect to the question: What sort of impact might the heavily plastics-based technology (at least as it is currently operated) have on the world's ecologies? Unless we can find an ecologically safe way to handle the plastics which will be released into the environment, then it is hard not to perceive something like 3D-printing technology as being as big a problem -- if not bigger -- as it is a potential boon. After all, to date, humanity does not have a great track record when it comes to the successful and safe disposal of plastics ... or, for that matter, many other environmentally unfriendly manufactured substances.

For instance, currently one can find 'The Great Pacific Plastic Garbage Flotilla' off the the coast of California which has been estimated to be anywhere from 600,000 square miles to nearly 4 million square miles in size. Furthermore, there is ever-increasing evidence to indicate that all sorts of micro-sized plastic molecules are entering into the food chain and doing irreparable harm to many species of animals ... the micro-sized plastic components give direct expression to the fact that plastics are highly resistant to being completely broken-down into harmless substances via some process of bio-degradation. 

All we need now are millions of people purchasing 3D-printing technology (as it becomes cheaper, faster, and more ingenious) that will exacerbate an already extremely difficult problem. There is something deeply troubling about all of this, and, yet, the underlying issue does not seem to be even on the distant horizonal radar of the following presentation.

One can only hope that someone will come along -- sooner rather than later (if not before the fact) -- and develop a feasible, efficient, cheap way of recycling the plastic products that are generated through the 3D-printing process so that when they break or have lost their uses/attraction, they can be dumped back into the printing process instead of being dumped back into the environment.

And then, of course, there is always the possibility of creating genetically modified organisms (such as bacteria) to consume the plastic refuse and, maybe, secrete, say, gold as an end-product, so to speak. Unfortunately, this might be a 'solution' which transitions us from the frying pan to the proverbial fire.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Whistleblower Realities

The Issue

Some people claim that whistleblowers are individuals who are concerned about: fairness, integrity, justice, honesty, transparency, society, rights, democracy, truth, and sovereignty for the people. Government authorities, however, argue that whistleblowers are criminal, selfish, treasonous, ego-driven, publicity seeking troublemakers who are jeopardizing national security as well as violating the principle that democracy is best served when secrets are preserved and the people are kept ignorant about what is being done through the process of governing. Where does the truth lie?

The Grand Deception

The American form of government is supposed to be rooted in republican principles. Such principles were derived from, and shaped by, a moral philosophy that was promoted during the Enlightenment. At the heart of this Enlightenment philosophy is a belief which requires the process of government to be run as a moral enterprise. In other words, rather than governement officials acting in ways that are arbitrary and intended to serve the interests of the government rather than the interests of citizens, republicanism indicated that government officials must abide by certain moral principles such as: honesty, objectivity, fairness, truth, nobility, keeping promises, charitability, transparency, tolerance, service to the public, and not being a judge in one's own affair.

The foregoing outline of republicanism is integral to the United States Constitution. Indeed, the principle of republican moral philsophy was enshrined in the American form of government through Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitutiion. That portion of the document stipulates that the federal government guarantees the states, and, therefore, the people, a republican form of government ... a form of government which does not violate the moral principles of republicanism. 

To operate in accordance with Article IV, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution, a government cannot be a judge in its own affair. Among other things this means that governments (whether federal or state) do not get to be the final arbiters of what is in the best interests of democracy or promoting the sovereignty of the people, and this includes the Supreme Court (both federal and state) since the judiciary constitutes one of the three branches of centralized government.

For several hundred years (in fact from practically the beginning of the founding of the American Republic), both federal and state governments have sought to render Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution relatively invisible and irrelevant to the process of governance. And, yet -- and this is precisely why Article IV, Section 4 has been rendered obscure by the federal and state governments -- this portion of the Constituion is, probably, the most fundamental principle set forth in that document becuase it was intended to allay the fears of the people that government would become tyrannical, but through a guaranteed, Constitutionally enshrined promise, the people would find assurance that the process of government would not be oppressive or tyrannical and, instead, would operate in accordance with the moral requirements of republicanism.

Bait and Switch

Centralized government in the United States has been conducting a sleight-of-hand routine before the American public from almost the very beginning of the founding of our experiment in democracy. However, this form of governmental prestidigitaton has been picking up steam over the last one hundred years as the sorcerers of governance seek to induce the public to believe that protecting 'national interests' or 'national security' is the same thing as protecting the sovereignty of the citizens, and this illusion is assisted by misdirecting people's attention away from the moral requirements of republicanism -- which, in the present case, means that the government does not have the right to determine what is, and is not, in the best interests of citizen sovereignty. Invoking the terms: "national interests" and "state security" is about protecting governments, not the people, although governments have done their best to try to deceive people and induce people to believe that there is no difference between "national interests" and citizen sovereignty.

Governments don't like whistleblowers because, in essence, such individuals remind us all that sovereignty is the right of the people and is not derived from, or a gift, of the government. Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution indicates that whistleblowers have the right to be heard by the people beyond the horizons of a legal process which may serve the interests of central government but does not necessarily serve the sovereign interests of citizens.

Whistleblowers perform a public service to the cause of citizen sovereignty, often at great personal risk. Article IV, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution not only encourages such selfless acts, but guarantees that the government must let such acts take place quite indepedently of what the government believes to be the case and quite free of criminal prosecution. Indeed, every prosecution of a whistleblower constitutes a violation of Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution and, as such, represents an unconstitutional act on the part of the government. 

Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution is the 'supreme law of the land'. It takes precedence over every other aspect of the Constitution because it is the only guarantee which appears in that document. To seek to deny the requirements of Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution not only renders the rest of the Constitution meaningless, but it seeks to suppress the principles of republican moral philosophy in which the American form of democracy is supposedly rooted.