December 26, 2007
“Say nothing of my religion. It is known to God and myself alone. Its evidence before the world is to be sought in my life: if it has been honest and dutiful to society, the religion which has regulated it cannot be a bad one.”
December 26, 2007
Is it still Christmas at your house? We hope so.
…There’s that sad, unkempt eight year old…the eldest child of a drug addict’s five kids. She had to tell her crying brothers and sisters that Santa once again, lost their address. Their Christmas dinner is stale dry cereal, no milk. That was all she could find to feed them.
There’s the broke couple who were only able to open mounting bills on Christmas morning.
…The 81-year old woman who waited for her son to come pick her up for a Christmas visit. She dressed and waited and waited, but he never came. He didn’t come last year, either. Maybe he’ll call on New Year’s Eve…
There are American servicemen and women stationed around the world who are on watch….on patrol. In Iraq, one squad is dodging bullets. There’s a lull in the fire fight. One 19-year old soldier, wipes away a tear as he clutches a gun on this night. He wishes to God he could be at home, in his mother’s arms. No, be brave. “I’m a G. I.”, he reminds himself. A stray bullet grazes the wall behind him. He hunkers down lower. He thinks about his grandparents and his cousins and his Aunt Deb’s pumpkin pie. He wonders if they’re thinking of him.
This, has he prepares to return fire.
Then, there are the other people who’ll go to sleep hungry. Like the people in war torn Darfur. The only Christmas gift some receive will be the “privilege” of waking up to to yet another morning…
And in every city in this country, many people will wake up depressed and hungry, but their hunger goes beyond the need for food; they hunger for love and companionship.
And there are those who’ll go to sleep cold and sadly, they’ll wake up shivering. For some tragic souls, being cold is no longer an atmospheric condition; it’s a way of life.
“How sad”, you think to yourself. You sigh and shake your head but through it all, you thank God it’s “them” and not you.
Thank God indeed.
Something to think about. Make the time to fix what is broken.
December 26, 2007
Under the skin, are we all really the same? Or, are we all really very different from each other? Can we be both the same and different, all at once? Is that really possible?
These questions are being asked and discussed because we are dealing with these very issues in our work. The answers- if there are conclusive answers- have a direct bearing on how we both perceive and address the various issues we face in the political arena.
Of course, many of those issues are clear cut. Others issues, however, are far more nuanced. Even if we factor in cultural, religious or societal differences and the influences these issues embrace, the questions remain. Are we all essentially the same, or are we all different?
Instinctive answers come easily. To the biologist, only certain strands of DNA separate us. To the anthropologists, behavior and culture separate groups. The psychological community adds to the mix by focusing on the mental and emotional processes that lead to and enable certain behaviors.
We believe that it is less important to know- or understand, even, what makes us human (that is, defined characteristics that define ‘humaness’), but rather, it is more important for us to know and understand the relationships we have with each other. How we come to understand our relationships shines the brightest light on what we see in the mirror.
That in fact, is what separates ‘modern’ man from his predecessors. We see and understand that we ourselves are connected with a part of history. We are part of an inter-connected chain, with cause and effect relationships. Earlier man looked skyward and understood his primary relationship was with the cosmos only.
It would be easy to say that first an early Christian (somewhat oppressive) and then (a milder) Judeo-Christian ethic came between European and non Europeans, and that alone distinguishes ‘western’ thought from ‘eastern’ thought, but that isn’t really true. Both the Chinese and Islam once represented forward and progressive thought, in both philosophical and scientific thought.
We believe that what separated Europeans from others was time. How we used and assimilated time to define the priorities of our culture and the priorities of our personal relationships. ‘Westerners’ made the deliberate effort to use time in a more progressive way and effective way, integrating the progressive use of time into our lives and our relationships. ‘Easterners’ chose not to do the same.
As a result, western cultures forged ahead, tying even personal relationships to time. Eastern cultures placed no such premiums on time. For example, birthdays, anniversaries, etc., are really more of a western cultural phenomena, adopted as significant by eastern cultures only recently.
No society, evolved or not, is perfect. Each generation of each society has to face their own challenges. We are not about to discuss the merits of cultures, but rather, if and how that evolution benefited society.
Which societies are more evolved is easy to discern.
With each new scientific discovery, western cultures forged ahead at breakneck speed, integrating those discoveries and ideas into daily life- and that too, influenced the nature of how we interact with each other. We came to understand that freedom benefits society more than conflict. We came to understand that societies advance and succeed without tyranny and centralized government. We came to understand we can and do make a difference, if we so choose. We in the west have the extraordinary luxury and gift of the opportunity to make and shape our own destiny.
Eastern cultures were in no rush to ‘share’ their advances with the population. As a result, it was only a privileged few that benefited from the technological, scientific or philosophical advances. The notion of universal access to progress remains a non starter to this day, in many parts of the world. For much of the world’s population, destinies are written before they are even born. To this day and despite centuries of hard and empirical evidence that free societies are wealthier, healthier, more advanced and more successful societies, there are cultures and societies that operate under the rules of conflict and confrontation, backwardness and illiteracy.
What is remarkable is that these differences in societies and cultures have come to be regarded as cultural diversity or cultural differences, as opposed to optional cultural evolution. This is a smokescreen- camouflage, really, designed to obscure the reality that relationships in some societies identify those societies as lesser, or failed societies.
The better psychosphere bloggers- Dr Sanity, Shrinkwrapped, Gagdad Bob, Neo-neocon, Assistant Village Idiot and host of others, predicate their opinions and beliefs on how those opinions and beliefs impact relationships. It is less about ideologies than it is about who benefits and who is put at risk. They base their well qualified opinions with an eye to the outcome and repercussions on society, not just today, but down the road.
For example, non of the aforementioned bloggers resist or reject classic liberalism. The relationships that are a part of classic liberalism, benefited the country in historic and spectacular fashion. Classic liberalism broke barriers, was a foundation of inter religious dialogue and spurred American values all over the globe. The Peace Corps wasn’t about celebrating ‘cultural diversity’- it was about bringing modern technology to those who were deprived of access. It was about making medicines available to all, not about midnight Wiccan Priestess healing rituals or Shaman remedies. Superstitions were not ‘cultural differences- they were superstitions. Ignorance was about lack of access, not ‘profound tribal cultures.’ The same people who loudly deride western believers are only too quick to embrace the faithful from anywhere else, no matter how violent, vicious, bigoted or crude.
Our society was and remains advanced and we have always wanted to share the riches of our advancement. We respected other cultures and beliefs- to say otherwise is absurd. We learned tolerance of others in our own back yard, the American melting pot. It is only those that fear empowering people with education, freedom and allowing them to have a say in their own destiny, that resent us.
Sadly, very little of that is true of today’s left. Helping people is only relevant if there is a political payoff at the end, either here or abroad. Plainly said, if the cost of helping others might result in their empowerment of those formerly disenfranchised or the choice of a free government, the left isn’t interested. There are no real relationships- only those based on self interest motivate today’s left. They have left Classic Liberalism in a shambles. It is almost extinct.
Even as they left celebrates Hugo Chavez, they do not extend any effort into helping impoverished Venezuelans. They, like the victims in Darfur, are only an impediment to achieving their agenda, a ‘people’s paradise.’ That kind of irony is not lost on any of the psychosphere bloggers.
In an email exchange and discussion on the subject, Dr Sanity noted the following:
What distinguishes western civilization from the civilizations which historically preceded it, is a firmer grasp of and appreciation of time consciousness. The complex relationship of life, death and time is a fundamental aspect of Man’s very existence; of reality and even the entire universe (life, the universe, and everything?). Attempts to unravel the complexity of time’s impact on our existence are at the core of philosophy, religion, and science. The nature of time occupies such a central place in human experience–we are born, we grow, we form relationships with other humans, we create new life, we age, we die–we forget that it is actually an essential part all life. What makes our humanness different, what we as a species share that is not present in other species, is the nature of the relationships we form with other humans in that space of time between the beginning and the end of life. The human mind is capable of appreciating the inevitability and nuances of time as no other species is. It is because there is a beginning and an end–i.e., that time flows forward AND WE KNOW IT, that such concepts such as individual freedom and the pursuit of happiness were able to develop. What is freedom but the human imperative to structure one’s own time between birth and death? How one structures the time between determines how intimate relationships and even entire societies and cultures evolve. Those individuals or groups who desire to structure other people’s time are actually throwbacks to an earlier era in human evolution when our ancestors lived in a primitive, time unconscious state, dependent on and subservient to the collective.It seems to me that our essential freedoms–freedom of speech, freedom of association etc., are all concepts that depend entirely on the freedom to structure our own time. Ensuring that all other individuals have the same opportunity to structure their time elevates our own time by giving it a meaning beyond our own individual lives.
Tomorrow, we will continue the conversation, looking at some of the Arab and Islamic world and how the struggles to redefine time and relationships are impacting those societies.