Tuesday, January 17, 2023
There are many armed conflicts being waged all over the planet in the beginnings of the twenty-first century. The one predominant war that is currently raging is the Russian-Ukrainian War. This conflict has left many thousands of death and has devastated the infrastructure throughout the Ukraine. There are also many civil wars like the ongoing conflicts in Columbia and the Sudan. Others represent territorial conflicts like the battle between Pakistan and India over Kashmir and the long standing conflict between the Palestinians of Arab descent and the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. There is also a strong religious component to these conflicts as well. Other conflicts fueled by powerful religious and ethnic differences are exemplified by Lebanon’s civil war in the 1970s due in large part to the enmity between Muslims and Christians. Of course, the horrific and tragic genocide that took place in Rwanda can not be overlooked. This is by no means an exhaustive list of the various trouble spots that exist in the precarious world of humans. Overshadowing all of these calamitous events is an inexorable deterioration of the global environment.
On examining the ferocity of warfare, it is not difficult to come to the conclusion that the human species has failed to learn very much over its protracted history. The history of Europe from the Ancient Roman and Greek civilizations to the present, as an example, is replete with the carnage that is the inevitable outcome of innumerable wars. These conflicts helped shape not only the geopolitical contours of modern-day Europe, but also nurtured a sense of cultural superiority that propelled forward the colonial ambitions that so impacted the rest of the world. Many of the contemporary areas of instability and unrest are a direct consequence of the policies and actions of the colonial powers of the past.
Within the individual human psyche, there exists a constant tension between the force and power of the emotions driven by the passions embodied in territory, tribe, and nation, and that of reason. The more reactive emotions stem, in large part, from the evolution of the species in an environment that was essentially hostile and in which the forces of nature that impacted human experience were not understood and the causes of calamity were attributed to the gods, malevolent spirits or a particular enemy.
In the beginnings of the humankind, ignorance was prevalent, and fear and suspicion dominated and shaped human behavior. Although the advancement of science and technology has shed light upon many aspects of the human experience that were once shrouded in mystery, the inherent tendency to strike out violently against that which is feared and poorly understood remains to haunt human societies. What is particularly unique about humanity in the twenty-first century is the inescapable reality that the application of overwhelming force against a perceived enemy is no longer a viable solution especially considering the destructiveness of modern technological weaponry.
Over the thousands of years of human civilization, great empires have risen and eventually fallen. The cycle of empire-building and dissolution has generally followed the same inexorable path. The beginning stage is represented by the rise of a local community of common origin followed by a gradual accretion of power, usually by force. Success at this initial stage leads to an ascendancy through the use of superior military strength that overshadows all opposition and leads to the conquest of local adversaries. As power becomes increasingly concentrated into an overweening empire, there is a tendency to expand and overextend the sphere of influence and domination. This ultimately leads to an exhaustion of resources both material and human. Finally, the empire contracts and ultimately dissolves. The entire process might take place over a thousand years as exemplified by the Roman Empire or hundreds of years as demonstrated by the now defunct British Empire.
In all of human history, these cycles of expansion and contraction were tolerable given the low density of human populations on the planet and the relatively benign effects of the primitive weaponry on the global environment. This model of collective human behavior where economic, political, and social differences and rivalries are settled through violent means is no longer tenable in the modern era.
The essentially tribal nature of human interactions has evolved over the millennia of human civilization into competing national sovereignties. The idea that each nation state is a power unto itself is no longer compatible with the rapidly evolving global character of human endeavor. There is currently too much at stake in maintaining the status quo, especially in regard to the survival of the species. The development of technological weaponry, especially nuclear and chemical weapons, has created a situation in which warfare necessarily leads to horrific consequences. Examples of the disastrous effects of protracted conflict can be seen both locally for the populations involved and globally due to the environmental impact as witnessed in the nuclear attacks against the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the use of anti-personnel cluster bombs in Cambodia, the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam, the deployment of land mines in Afghanistan, the use of chemical weaponry during the Syrian Civil War, and the use of Depleted Uranium (DU) hardened ordnance in Iraq.
The daunting issues that face humanity are no longer local but rather global in nature. The remarkable savagery of the First and Second World Wars of the Twentieth Century awakened the idea of a world organization as a forum for international communication so as to foster dialog between nations and forestall the possibility of future wars of such magnitude. The first experiment in a world organization as a vehicle for adjudicating international disputes was the League of Nations that was created at the aftermath of World War I. This international body met with limited success and was eventually disbanded. This experiment in world governance was followed by the creation of the United Nations at the end of World War II. The United Nations is still extant but remains hostage to the dominance of the special interests of the powerful industrial nations that constitute the Security Council.
The will to empire is still very much with us. Apparently, no significant lessons have been learned from the horrid and often repeated mistakes of the past. The absolute necessity for true international cooperation as a means to effectively circumvent a catastrophic future that now seems so inevitable is still not recognized. Many nations remain fixated on the ferocious competition for dominance and supremacy at the expense of those sovereignties that are weaker and more fragile. A poignant present-day example of this is the Chinese annexation of Tibet, a process that is currently going on. This competition has usually been over the natural and human resources required to fuel and sustain national economies. The needs for additional natural resources such as land for expansion of national populations or energy and mineral resources have often been the focus of international aggression. As needed resources such as oil or water become scarce, the competition will, by necessity, grow increasingly explosive.
This particular mindset has become problematic; the species is in desperate need of a completely new paradigm. The model must be based, by necessity, on a spirit of cooperation and giving. The chasm that currently exists between the so-called “haves” and “have-nots” both within and between sovereign states is helping to sustain the extreme level of violence that continues to plague humanity. Fundamental issues of social and economic justice need to be uppermost on the agenda. Such a focus would require a serious implementation of the role of social responsibility and conscience in the behavior of individuals and governments. The idea of belonging wholly to one nation must be superseded by the idea of being a member of the world community. This, of course, represents a huge leap in understanding, tolerance, and compassion; it requires an obligation to act in the best interests of all humanity. At the core of this change in worldview is the incorporation of non-violent behavior in inter-personal relationships.
The first images of the planet taken from space clearly demonstrated, for all human beings that the earth is our only home. This conception has, in my judgment, become such an integral part of human consciousness that the current and obvious threat posed by global warming may offer some impetus for change. The time may be right to open more effective channels of communication between nations with the focus of developing sustainable economies that would help insure a livable planet for future generations of not only the human species but all the magnificent creatures that constitute the living world. Simply moving through life with self-interest as the guiding principle is not enough to forestall a major calamity that only concerted human action can avert.
In my judgment, the human species is facing an impending crisis that may ultimately challenge its ability to survive on this fragile planet. The forward momentum of what is referred to as “human progress” has led human societies to a rapidly changing world where there are cavernous divisions in religious and political beliefs and a grievous imbalance in the distribution of wealth. These differences are intertwined with each other and provide the impetus for unrest and violent behavior. For the first time in human history the convergence of these forces on a world with limited resources and an ever-expanding human population has created a situation in which the future of the species is no longer assured. The question remains as to whether we are collectively smart enough to overcome these difficulties and work together globally in ways that can divert a catastrophic future.
Unfortunately, violence continues to be the essential driving force for resolving serious disputes between nations and peoples. The contemporary rise of what is referred to as terrorism (although the use of this term conveniently bypasses the terror tactics so often employed by nation-states) is indicative of aggressive behavior that knows no clear territorial boundaries. This does not have to be the case. There are many alternative ways to address controversial issues without necessarily employing violent methods. Why is it that raw aggression is so often the method of choice in resolving economic, political, and social disputes?
The leaders of nations often use their positions of power to exploit the fears and emotions of their fellow countrymen to fulfill hidden agendas, often economic in nature, that serve the powerful. It is the young, uneducated, and threatened members of the population who are most susceptible to the propaganda that is used to amplify the fears and uncertainties that are such an integral part of the human experience. From a chauvinistic viewpoint, the adversary is pictured as evil and somehow inimical to civilization. The enemy, so described, is often seen as less than human and, therefore, worthy of elimination. Those who are lured into doing the fighting are subsequently told that they must abandon the normal societal prohibitions that the rest of the society is taught to live by.
In war, civilized behavior is abandoned as young men (and women) are placed in situations where their main function is to kill and avoid being killed by the adversary that they face. For individual soldiers, survival becomes the impetus for their actions. Their behavior is rationalized by the idea that they are fighting for a higher purpose. Without, this set of beliefs, wars would not be possible.
The burden of war and the carnage and devastation that it brings is no longer tenable in the modern world. Technological weaponry has grown too deadly and sophisticated and the global environment, which is already in serious jeopardy, needs humanity’s undivided attention. There is, after all, one common thread that binds us: we are members of the same species depending on our planetary environment to sustain us.
It is imperative that national leaders embrace this reality and work towards finding common ground, especially with those who are perceived as dangerous adversaries. We face a global crisis that requires global solutions. The grinding hunger, poverty, ignorance, and despair that haunts the lives of billions of human beings must be addressed, along with finding ways to avoid the serious impact that unabated global warming will bring to ourselves and most importantly, future generations. There are, of course, many barriers to such a degree of international cooperation, but in reality there is no viable alternative. The world, with all its wonders, is for us to preserve or destroy.
These thoughts do not, by any means, represent new concepts or ideas. Quite to the contrary, throughout human history there have been voices putting forth the idea of peace and suggesting methodologies to achieve this elusive goal.
Monday, January 02, 2023
In my seemingly relentless pursuit of understanding of what it means to be human, there exists as a corollary to this question another one, namely: Why is the human world and especially human civilizations enshrouded in such chaos and violence and upheaval now and as it has been over its history of some ten thousand years.
Human civilizations over the eons, have gone through a familiar cycle: birth, growth, expansion, retraction and finally dissolution. How can this cycle be explained? Can the nature of the individual human experience shed any light upon this?
The individual conscious human brain (mind) can only navigate safely through the human and natural worlds by filtering all the chaotic incoming data so as to create an inner reality with some semblance of an ordered and comprehensive structure. Without this ordering process, civilized society would be impossible and life untenable. Given identical input, no two individuals will draw the same conclusions nor construct the same reality. Herein lies an essential vulnerability in regard to societal cohesion. In spite of this, civilized societies manage to encourage and enforce a relatively consistent and conforming reality that allows for such cohesion. The particulars of this reality can be referred to as culture.
Impregnated within human cultures is the idea of special creation – that humans are of special significance on this earth. This central idea is essential to most religious beliefs, for without it the concept of god would have no relevance. Yet this notion that humans are a special creation is at the heart of most of humanity regardless of their religious affiliation and even exists within the minds of those who claim to be atheists.
The potency of this idea comes into sharp focus around the issue of human abortion especially within the United States. This has been carried to a ridiculous extreme with the notion that human life begins at conception. It is true, of course, that the dividing newly fertilized female ovum is alive, but that aborting what is, in fact, an amorphous clump of cells following a precise genetic programming to develop into a human being is an act tantamount to murder is crazed thinking devoid of even a modicum of intellectual analysis.
If this idea of humans as a product of special creation is juxtaposed with human behavior on an individual or global scale it elevates this concept to surreal proportions. For example, currently on planet earth, there is horrendous war occurring in Ukraine in which atrocities are being enacted between humans on a massive scale; humans in the so-called advanced societies are wrecking havoc upon the future of their own species by consuming prodigious amounts of carbon-based fuel in order to sustain their exaggerated lifestyles - knowingly introducing enormous amounts of greenhouse gases into the environment, and humans are irrevocably decimating much of life on planet earth and diminishing the very diversity of living creatures that is synonymous with a “living” planet.
In what way are these examples compatible with the idea that humans are a product of special creation? The answer to this question is obvious.
The individuals within any culture are constantly evaluating their external environment so as to make choices to ensure their continued survival. There exists within the architecture of the human brain an inherent duality that influences conscious perception. That duality necessarily produces an unavoidable conflict between the lower brain – the seat of the emotions and the site of survival mechanisms honed through the evolution of the species– and the cerebral cortex and frontal lobes where the essence of judgment, reason and intellect reside. How this conflict is resolved results in particular choices and consequences both in regard to the individual and the larger society. It is the summation of choices made on the societal level that establishes the historic development of human civilization.
Modern technologically-based and consumer-oriented civilizations – as typified in the Western World - have an added vulnerability that exacerbates and accelerates the elements of the cycle as described above. This vulnerability lies in the fact that in modern culture, individuality has become the primary focus at the expense of the common good. As a result individual choices and behavior are shaped by the pursuit of individual aggrandizement often at the expense of the “greater good” for the community. This emphasis on the individual places significant stressors upon the structured reality that defines the norms of behavior, and when enough individuals choose to reject the accepted conventions, the underlying stability of civilization can be placed in serious jeopardy. The origins of discontent can have many sources depending upon historic forces peculiar to a the time, place and circumstances. Under the right conditions, these kind of forces may lead to a period of inexorable chaos, disintegration and ultimately dissolution.
I would like to conclude this topic with the following proposal. Human are no more a product of special creation than a chimpanzee, a warthog, a stand of aspens or even a paramecium. Our existence is no real mystery in as far as we are a product of evolutionary forces that have been at play on planet earth for some three billion years. All living entities on planet earth are a result of the particular programming contained with that remarkable molecule referred to as DNA. The chimpanzee is such a close kin that we share 99% homology within our respective DNAs.
Our individual deaths are certain, and I would add absolutely necessary. Without death, our species would quickly overrun the entire planet and strip the earth of everything. In fact, the entire solar system that we inhabit will ultimately be erased without ceremony in a spectacular event when our star, the sun, ultimately runs out of the fuel required to run that marvelous solar furnace.
This is unvarnished reality that we need to acknowledge and accept if we ever hope to transform our destiny. We are only special to the degree that we can shape a more sane and harmonious future. If we collectively fail at this, then we would have done an abysmal job.
Saturday, December 31, 2022
but a flood of clarity,
guns and all weapons of
bad intention or ill feeling
reduced to their base metals
and fashioned into implements of healing,
all who are hungry
all who are afraid
all who are pariahs
brought into the human fold,
all who are filled with the bile of hatred
cajoled with sweetness and caring,
all who suffer needlessly
from their own lack of faith in themselves
see the blazing light of true wisdom,
all who have hearts weighted by greed
free themselves from the onerous weight of possessions,
all who love ignorance
witness the rapture and wonder of learning,
all who usurp themselves and others with power,
come to recognize their own impotence,
all who are crippled and torn apart by disease
see their true worth,
artists and lovers of knowledge and thought
are finally appreciated,
all without homes
find shelter in the heart of humanity,
all who are fractured
all who are obsessed by race or creed
are freed of their limitations,
all limited and pernicious ideas
fall to oblivion from their own weight,
all who are demagogues
find a life of true service,
all ideas born of avarice and rooted in war
are finally dead,
all embrace all
as members of the human family.
Sunday, December 18, 2022
At this moment in time as the year nears its end, certain individuals of the male persuasion - supposedly worth billions of dollars - are regularly depicted in the news. These individuals are particularly vociferous and manage to project their personalities into the public consciousness with a stunning regularity. This has inspired me to create the following piece entitled,
Pathetic Emperors of Greed
Within the preposterous shadow of
these two bit emperors
surrounded by their phalanx of
sycophants ever ready with
meaningless phrases and shallow praise,
inject their toxic venom into the
public space to perpetually remind us all
of the rarified space they occupy.
From shallow mind to
they elaborate lies
based upon nothing of substance,
designed to foster hatred
These preposterous idiots
enamored of themselves
forever admiring their
reflections in silver mirrors
their constant companions,
bathing in their own stupidity,
emersed in the chaos they engender,
the common good
with utmost precision,
inciting hatred in
These pathetic emperors
of their shallow kingdoms,
embrace an image of themselves
within their tortured and
without real substance
frantically attempting to
smother their desperate aloneness,
and the perpetual fear of their
These pathetic emperors of greed
steeped in the fallacy of their
carry the insatiable urge
to constantly remind us all of their
like hapless juveniles they
insinuate themselves into the public space.
Like all the petty tyrants that
they demand unequivocal attention
threaten the peace and
should be thoroughly and completely ignored.
Monday, November 21, 2022
Thanks to the inexhaustible efforts of the gun industry and gun lobby together with the remarkable assistance of the United States Supreme Court, the ownership of guns in all of its various lethal configurations has been declared and sanctioned as an inalienable right of every citizen; a right supposedly embedded within the U.S. constitution as the Second Amendment. A straightforward reading of this succinct amendment would demonstrate that this a rather far fetched interpretation especially considering the advances made in weapons technology in the modern era where unimaginable destruction can be done by a single shooter.
This insanity has ultimately led to the current state of the nation in which the use of deadly violence initiated by private citizen(s) often leading to mass killings perpetrated against the gathering of ordinary American citizens in such commonplace venues such as schools, universities, churches and synagogues, bars and clubs, concerts, shopping malls or simply on neighborhood streets has become quite commonplace.
The collective impact of these unsettling and traumatic events has been to implant a feeling of trepidation and fear into the minds of many who have become fearful about the safety of themselves, their children, their families and their communities. This feeling of fear and instability can inspire even more violence and needless death.
There is a real danger to the society at large should these chaotic and deadly incidents continue with regularity, and that danger is that it may lead to a bizarre and surreal normalization of the use of deadly violence against nearly anyone at any time. Such a state of existence would be essentially untenable, for it would undermine the kind of stability that is an absolute requirement for any civilized society.
Should this insanity continue unabated, our future viability as a free and democratic people remains an open question.
Wednesday, November 09, 2022
In some respects, it is difficult to fathom that a considerable portion of the American population currently embraces an ideological perspective that flaunts statements, distorted propositions and absurd notions that not only challenge and abuse the truth but seek to undermine it. Those who espouse such ideas seem to be so cavalier in their pronouncements that they do not recognize the essential damage that this inflicts on the body politic. This worldview is extremely distorted and out of synch with the realities of the human world in the twenty-first century.However when one takes into account the role that religion and, more importantly, Fundamentalist Christian religion plays in the lives of its followers, this reality becomes more readily understandable for so much of the tenets of religious thinking are delusional in nature and are not representative of reality. As a matter of fact, the alternative reality that is presented as given often runs counter to ordinary experience.
There is, in fact, no spirit world nor any supposedly divinely-inspired compendium of edicts or unassailable commandments that must be obeyed. This all-encompassing worldview paints a picture in which humanity is constantly pursued by evil and satanic forces that can only be subdued by those who conveniently align themselves with a truth woven from a completely manufactured version of reality. From this perspective, individuals and groups that choose to align themselves with the desire to see and accept the true nature of things are seen as a menace and a threat and, therefore, need to be treated harshly, or eliminated.
From this perspective science and the progress of human knowledge are held suspect. This point of view does not abide democracy, for the essential character of democracy holds that all individuals are equal and have the inherent right to express and share their views and participate fully in the political life of society. From the myopic view of the religious fundamentalist, this cannot be allowed, for it is clear that when a people choose to take this path, fundamentalist thinking would rapidly become obsolete.
Theocracies such as those in Saudi Arabia and Iran provide a glimpse into the extremes of violence and relentless repression that religious fundamentalist rulers will utilize to counter the movement of true human progress. It would be most unfortunate if the experiment in American democracy were to be undermined by an ascendance to a delusional worldview.
Thursday, October 06, 2022
sun and moon and stars and night
into mother’s sweet embrace
upon an ever-spinning and wondrous planet
servant to its parent star,
expelled from the womb of darkness
in a state of sweet oblivion.
Born into the prospects for love and hunger
laughter and grief and
with a unique genetic imprint
yet simply another member of
the human race – Homo sapiens.
Born into family and tribe and nation
yet forever alone with the
wonder and burden of self.
Born into a kaleidoscope of
a labyrinth of escalating ideas,
the enigmatic world of dreams and
the wonder and enormity of
a living world,
a reality devoid of guarantees,
filled with the many textures
and surprising dimensions of
Born into the living world
along time’s arrow
tied to the cosmic symphony
ultimately destined to the finality of
the joy molecular.
Eventually to discover
there is no
singular solution to the
enigma of existence,
no one way to live a life,
no escape from
life’s ultimate conclusion,
no mysterious rescue,
no salvation from the
tenacious grip of reality
and the forward movement of time.
Ultimately to learn
the art of surrender
to the ultimate truth
that promises no alternative outcomes.
A magnificent and wildly haphazard
trajectory from birth
within the rhapsody and dance
of the cosmos.
On occasion, my mind careens through my past and collides into the sweet and bitter taste of memories of friendships come and gone. Over the years I have experienced the deep loss associated with the death of many friends. The names that occur to me are Beatrice, Samiha, Najma, Warren, David, Bill, Chris, Robert, Nina, Noburu, Philip, Michael, Robert, Frivold and others.
I imagine that they have all gathered, both living and dead, in one place as if summoned to a sumptuous feast filled with color, and light and erotic and sensory images of the fleeting past. At this gathering, I envision a continuous slideshow displayed on a big screen in an endless loop – you know the kind I am thinking of as on display in the memorials of the recently deceased. Such displays rarely if ever display the individuals involved not at their best and most gracious selves. At this imagined slideshow, there is no such inhibition.
All the beds slept in both luxurious and mundane with erstwhile partners. All the exquisite and banal couplings with organs engorged and engaged at the beckoning of love’s insatiable fever. All the anticipation realized or diminished. All the passion spent or eroded by circumstance. The dance and inherent rhythms of bodies in their thirst for both substance and pleasure.
All the friendships accumulated in idle remembrance and fond recollections over the years. The bond created with childhood friends on the block outside the tenement apartment (1E) in my Bronx neighborhood. Visions of sultry summer days with the neighborhood fire hydrant spewing its content, and the bitter cold of winter sequestered in our fortresses of snow and ice as we staged joyous assaults upon our manufactured enemies with our hastily made collections of snowball weaponry.
Friends and enemies intertwined within the web and matrix of all things past. All the intense conversations of youth; all terribly meaningful at the time, but more reminiscent of that self-absorption so characteristic of adolescence.
At this spontaneous banquet, the guests awaited an erudite statement of some significance from their host regarding why they were all summoned. With a great deal of embarrassment, I realized that I had nothing either cogent or significant to say to them. I was speechless. What I finally uttered was pathetically inadequate: I said, “You are all here by pure happenstance; how this came to happen is a mystery to me It seems to be the physical manifestation of one of my exotic thought dreams.” This comment was met by an agitated state of annoyance and confusion.
My dear friend Beatrice, who died many years ago at the young age of forty-one, was never one to mince her words, spoke out, “Are you kidding me, This is why I came out of my sweet repose!”
In a hurried attempt to rescue some semblance of respectability I then said, “Beatrice, I am sorry; I did not mean to offend. I have such fond memories of you. To all of you, my dearest friends, gathered here, my sincerest apologies. I just didn’t know what to say – I was overwhelmed by this amazing gathering. Since you are here, please enjoy yourselves.” For some reason, this pathetic explanation was considered plausible enough and the party continued. Many of those present had no connection whatsoever with anyone else. I did my best to introduce as many as I could to others. As a result, many stories were exchanged that provoked uninhibited laughter, surprise, amazement and sometime disbelief. It turned out to be a wonderful event.
I noted that of those in attendance, a preponderance were women. This reality reflected the fact that I have always felt more comfortable in the company of women than with those of the same gender. However, regardless of their sexual orientation, they were all kindred spirits to me. I have remained in contact with some of these friends, but many have moved on with their lives. I wonder about them and where there lives have taken them.
In life, we accumulate friends, lovers, companions, acquaintances and colleagues. The experiences that are associated with them are all stored in long-term memory – to be called upon later. In life, one is born into a family of one kind or another, a locality we recognize as place and a tribe or nation. Bundled with all of these intricate and interwoven facets are a particular language(s), culture and an unwritten code of acceptable behavior. In this way norms are established that are viewed as natural to young and innocent minds filled with enthusiasm and excitement in the mere and daunting prospect of living. It is only later in life that these imposed values are subjected to scrutiny and questioned within the elaborate matrix of the thinking brain.
hours before dawn
camping on the oregon coast
full autumn moon
breaking free from the
embrace of tenacious clouds,
castes its light
upon my solitary figure
creating a multitude of shadows
A flood of clarity
fills my being
the subtleties and magnificence of
this wondrous convergence of
air and sky and the moon’s caress
upon the living world
As a creature bless with consciousness
transient and fallible
yet capable of understanding
the true nature of my
minuscule place within
the wondrous nature of the cosmos.
A golden moment
I want to share
with dearest Julia,
here we stand within
our brief sojourn
by the human propensity