Stand Up for Democracy

https://www.amazon.ca/Democracy-Chains-History…/…/1101980966

Democracy in Chains written by historian Nancy Maclean has written one of the most important books published within the last 100 years. If you want to see what the enemies of democracy are up to while Trump deliberately distracts everyone then give this a read; while everyone has been distracted by Trump’s antics (and he’s doing it on purpose because if there’s one guarantee its liberals will lose their shit at the least provocation), the Republican Party has garnered 24 of the 30 votes necessary to call a constitutional convention. The last convention was held by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, etc. back in the 1770s.

The objective of the new convention will be to repeal certain amendments. For example, they want to repeal Amendment 17. Amendment 17 was considered a victory by progressives back in the 1930s because it got rid of the practice of appointing senators and introduced the current system of having the People themselves vote for them. By repealing Amendment 17 the practice of appointing senators would be reintroduced and I can assure you that the will of the People will be utterly ignored. What you’ll see is an increase of corporate influence and interference over the organs of government.

You guys: if democracy fails in the United States it is only a matter of time before that sickness spreads to other countries. Quit falling for the distractions, put aside your petty differences, and come together.

Note: for context you need to also read a book published by Mark R. Levin (an influential thinker from the far right in the United States, e.g. The Liberty Amendments). You can see ALL of the amendments that the Right wants to push through. Another amendment is to make it illegal to pass budgets that create deficits. This sounds great in principle (i.e. don’t spend money you don’t have, etc.), however, this will be the Trojan Horse leading to the repeal of social programs like Social Security and Medicare.

One way or another, the United States will not look, feel or be the same following the next presidential election.

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Quotables #6

It’s best to cast off whatever mind-forged manacles you might have as early in life as possible. Funny thing, the mind, for all its free-willing one cannot imagine a more perfect prison.

Time & Space

You look at the beautiful and colorful Saskatchewan sunset–with its purples, pinks, oranges, magentas, blues and greens–and feel the same emotional response I do despite our being separated by whatever distance.

sask

There’s an interesting metaphysical implication in this: in the same sense we can be separated from one another by distance (and feel an identical depth of emotion) we can likewise be separated by time and share the same connectedness or emotional response.

For example, if someone looked upon Michelangelo’s sculpture entitled “David” in the 1500s and felt awe at the sculptor’s ability to represent the human form, which I am sure happened, and then you yourself looked upon that same marble statue in 2018 and had a similar response you would, in a sense, be united through time with that person living in the 16th century by your shared emotional response. The same effect takes place with listening to a piece of music produced by Beethoven, reading a psalm written by King David, or spending some of the little time you have in this existence experiencing the natural world like a sunset with someone special.

So despite the geographical or chronological distance separating us we can share the most deeply held sentiments and experiences in common; kind of a beautiful notion when you think about it.

Oracles

“Ours is a time that would have sent the Greeks to their oracles. We fail at our own peril to consult our own.”–Harold Goddard

The older you get the more you learn about yourself (or so some say that is the way of it). Surprisingly I find myself currently on the other side of reason despite my genuine love for logic, the rule of law, intellectual honesty,integrity, and the practical application of knowledge. I can honestly say I no longer see myself as solely governed by reason (and I am excited by that because a whole new organ of perception, as Goethe observes, has re-opened before me). Though I will continue to consult oracles–science, history, honest inquiry, objectivity, books, experience and curiosity–I think my allegiance is returning to that youthful and exuberant hand-maiden of reason known as ‘wonder’ (and with that reality is suddenly pregnant with possibilities again because I have finally given up the desire for certainty)

My Son the Skeptic

“All the idols made by man, however terrifying they may be, are in point of fact subordinate to him, and that is why he will always have it in his power to destroy them.”—Simon du Beauvoir

Aaron: why’d Achilles die the way he did?
Me: because his mother Thetis dipped him by the foot in the River Styx so he wouldn’t die young. The water made him immortal. But his ankle was not immersed so he remained vulnerable there.
Aaron: why not turn him over, dip him in the water completely and finish the job? Or switch feet and hang him by the other side?
Me: because Achilles would not have been nearly as interesting if they did that I guess.

This exchange got me thinking: all myths–whether produced by the ancient Greeks or by we moderns–never stand up to even the simplest most childlike question. Myths persist precisely because human ignorance and credulousness continue to make such fertile soil; by simply inventing answers to mysteries we are not actually increasing our knowledge but moving further away from reality. So your belief in homeopathy, acupuncture, astrology, etc. all anesthetize the intellect making one a slave to both mindless abeyance and absurdity.

Let’s Go to the Banca

If you need money then go to the “banca.” In the 14th century, when capitalism was emerging through the work of a growing class of merchant bankers in Italy, these bankers exchanged money at the “river bank” where they met traveling merchants to exchange currency. Hence, the name “bank” is a reflection of a centuries old Italian “riverbank” financial exchange. We are surrounded by words, ideas and concepts whose origins have passed into memory and then into complete obscurity; we presume they’ve always existed in their current form (a form we’ve inherited) giving our worldview an unjustified veneer of sophistication, meaning and purpose.

This is one of the reasons why knowledge and literacy are so important: knowledge increases a person’s awareness of where things come from (increasing the possibility of change and improvement) while literacy provides a person with the means to continue unlearning the nonsense their well-intentioned parents, teachers and parent culture taught them.

If You Seek Wisdom Drop Your Opinions

The Buddha observed that if you seek wisdom you should drop your opinions. Experience has taught me an additional truth: if you seek wisdom develop your capacity to empathize, perceive and see issues from someone else’s point of view. Specifically, just because an idea or issue isn’t important to you (or doesn’t affect you directly) this doesn’t mean that that idea isn’t worthy of consideration or that the issue isn’t important in principle.

Too many of us, without even realizing it, think and operate from a narrow position of egocentrism or self-interest; we think we’re informed, and we hold strong opinions, but–instead of seeing the 1s and 0s that make-up reality like Neo from The Matrix–we are ultimately just making things up as we go along. We are being arbitrary. This kind of thinking follows the formula: if I don’t personally approve of X, or if I don’t like X, I appeal to a combination of my dislike, and fundamental ignorance, as a sort of evidence in support of my opinion on X. The problem, though, is your like or dislike has absolutely nothing to do with anything whatsoever.

I’ll explain.

I make mistakes in reasoning all of the time. I know for a fact I reach conclusions without having all the necessary information or without taking time for proper consideration. So why, I wonder, should I ever hold an opinion or view so strongly I am unwilling to change my mind? Moreover, should my experience ever be the standard by which everything else and everyone else is measured? I’m thinking, no.  I understand people are going to form opinions (that’s inevitable). Yet, isn’t it possible to form more thoughtful, nuanced, and principled opinions? I think so. But we must practice more empathy and more humility. We have to drop some of our opinions.

Former American Vice-President Dick Cheney was an outspoken opponent of the LGBTQ community for decades. Then, suddenly, he changed his mind…when his daughter came out as a lesbian. Now he supports gay rights. Gay rights are human rights. Women’s rights are human rights. The rights of people of color are human rights. Rights don’t just belong to my tribe. Cheney should’ve supported gay people, not because his daughter is gay (and he is now personally affected), but because reasonable people should seek to operate from a consistent set of principles and beliefs. If you do otherwise, you are just making stuff up as you go and living incoherently (worse still you’re imposing your incoherence on others).

 

According to the Buddha, when we form opinions we are creating not discovering reality. We construct a narrative that both makes sense to us personally and which agrees with whatever political culture we just so happen to belong to by the accident of our birth. Arguably, we need to create meaning; doing so helps us navigate and make sense of the world; nevertheless, in the process of creating meaning we would do well to avoid becoming a sort Dr. Frankenstein giving life to a monster (an opinion) reflecting our vanity on to an unwitting world; rather, we have a certain ethical responsibility to ourselves and others to think and contemplate well; and, if you can, give life to opinions reflecting principles that are self-evidently true rather than to ones satisfying the need to win arguments or mock others. In the end, there’s more that links us than separates. Perhaps if we forget some of the things we were taught, or that we’ve taught ourselves, we can in principle work towards building better and happier communities.