Tag Archives: justice systems

Who Cares?

Compassion4I have recently begun to explore Unitarian-Univeralism (UU), a very inclusive “church” structure that requires no dogmatic belief system and yet recognizes the human need for community and the search for meaning, the need for caring and the questing of “Who Cares?” In particular, I invite the reader to view a recent sermon at the local UU church A Big Tent with Even Bigger Dreams[1] (20180506), one that I thought was profound (as well as very humorous).

For my part, UU (in its profound inclusivity) represents the possibility of mature community, an essential component of cultural transformation (of which I have written many posts in this blog — see this series). I find a number of aspects of the local church, the North Shore Unitarians, to have deep appeal for me; I also have the intuition (and hope) that these aspects are to be found throughout the UU system.

  • They are deeply inclusive. In particular, I have found them very welcoming, and very open to diversity, especially the LGBTQQIP2SAA community and any other source of divisiveness in community.
    • A significant quote from the above sermon is “we honor this truth by encouraging our members to reflect on the Light through whatever set of windows they find most illuminating. We only require that this same freedom be honored for others.”
  • They recognize the incredible destructiveness that “religion” has played in the world.
    • I have a friend who is atheist and strongly against religion, yet from my perspective he does not seem to recognize “religion” as simply a cultural lens, and that its implications range from the very immature (including much of Christian history as well as modern fundamentalism, both Christian and Muslim) to the very mature. I totally agree with him in his disparagement of Christianity when expressed via fundamentalism, and I also deeply value the mature expression of religion when I find it. Mature religion for me is not a set of beliefs, rather it is a way of approaching life with compassion to all its complexity.
  • They are very open to questioning the meaning of life.
    • For the past year, the Church has been running a series of discussion groups called Wounded Words (words such as sin, salvation, god, prayer) in an attempt to recognize how divisive these words have been (and continue to be).

The main emphasis that I have seen is that UU encourages the recognition that we all search for meaning and that we are all in the same boat! We must learn to value “making sure there’s room for another to come sit next to me, even if, especially if, they make me uncomfortable . . . . with such a big tent [that] we don’t even agree on the words to use to describe it.”

There is for me something deep within the heart of all human beings that searches for meaning; maturity for me means that of being willing to sit in the mystery that this represents. Those who claim certainty are at high risk of fundamentalism, and the abuses of religion — this I distrust.

To give my answer to the basic question of this post, those who care are those who continue to search, allowing others also to search. I honor all who do, including the UU church.

[1] Hartlief, M. (20180506). A Big Tent With Even Bigger Dreams, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNB–Aa5KWo, published 20180507.

The Clock Is Ticking

CO2Clock2What to say this week? The clock is ticking, in many ways. Certainly the news is dominated by the political scene in Washington DC, with the criminal allegations associated with the Trump-Russia morass. It seems that Mueller is operating with very sophisticated skill, creating massive anxiety. Essentially this is as it should be — an ineffective investigation would do more harm than good. But it is certainly complex.

The major difficulty is that such an investigation is slow, and the climate clock continues to tick. The report by Dahr Jamail is excellent and comprehensive (as usual), documenting the many ways, the increasing ways, in which we are in trouble. Meanwhile the Trump administration continues to dismantle the efforts to respond — sad. And all the more reason to sort the Trump-Russia muddle.

And on the lighter side, some interesting links concerning the complexity of our culture.

All of the this complexity would be fascinating, if the consequences were not so painful.

Global Warming

Dahr Jamail – Scientists Warn of “Ecological Armageddon” Amid Waves of Heat and Climate Refugees (20171030)

Jamail is a very reliable source, and here provides a summary of the current status of our planet. It is not good news.

New science suggests the ocean could rise more — and faster — than we thought (20171026)

Three new studies that indicate the dangers of continued fossil fuel usage, more and faster if we continue our present course. As usual, each report portrays more and more danger as we get better and better data.

The Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: from 25 years of inaction to a global transformation for public health (20171030)

Global warming is having major impact now, as well as in the future.

Trump to auction off a vast swath of the Gulf of Mexico to oil companies (20171024)

Continuing our present course, and a reminder of the BP disaster.

The Political Scene

The Daily 202: 10 takeaways from Mueller’s shock-and-awe gambit (20171031)

A comprehensive summary of the revolving issues as of 20171031. Overall, I find the issues difficult to follow, but this is fairly good in keeping me up to date.

Manafort and the Dominoes: Here’s Why Donald Trump Is Losing Sleep (20171031)

Fascinating the ways of shifting evidence and the intricacies of investigation.

Miscellaneous

Rabbi Sacks on Leonard Cohen and parsha Vayera (20161118)

Fascinating description of the last song by Leonard Cohen, and the search for love and peace.

The Improbable Origins of PowerPoint (20171031)

A fascinating history. I was very surprised to learn that PowerPoint was originally an Apple product.

A Very Old Man for a Wolf (20171030)

The complex story of mankind and wolves; sadly the wolves usually lose.

The Need For A Coup, Part 2

Complexity3This is my second and concluding post on the need for a coup. Earlier I noted Schmookler, in The Parable Of The Tribes, suggesting that a civilization based on power (the original basis by which civilizations emerge) is not sustainable: it demonstrates neither synergy, enhancing the welfare or all, nor viability, sustainable in its continuing existence.

Schmookler also notes that justice could be the antidote of power, thereby underscoring both synergy and viability. Justice requires:

  • “where power is exercised . . . it should not be used to benefit the wielder of power at the expense of the health of the system as a whole” and
  • “where different parts of the system have conflicts of interest, the conflicts should be resolved not by their differences in power but by some moral principle which, if always followed, would ultimately be to the benefit of all in the system.”

As a species, we have not yet demonstrated the capability of synergy and viability — world governance, such as it is, is by tenuous cooperative agreement, the limits of which have been demonstrated by Trump’s threat to withdraw from the Paris agreement. Again, simply as one example of the many instances of inequitable dynamics, Trump’s stance is that of power; it is not that of justice. Nor is power a stance of cooperation; it is a stance of domination! And it is not sustainable: either it is stopped, or the system itself will deteriorate to the point of collapse (e.g., the predictable outcome of global warming).

So how then does one deal with such insanity, in which it is necessary to develop power over power, and yet act justly. I have seen nothing in the past years to suggest an effective outcome. All of the efforts of the social movements of the past century (including feminism, racial discrimination, the environmental movement, et cetera) have been the attempt of the “people” to get the “1%” to cooperate, and have had only limited success.

Much of what has been suggested thus far is in the nature of civil disobedience. And whereas I believe it is an important tool is opposing power, it is the attempt of the weak to convince the strong to desist certain actions. It does not seem to offer any significant shift in the maturity of the strong, certainly not those who function from the power of domination.

Thus my suggestion that we need a coup! But in contrast to most coups where one form of domination simply replaces another form of domination, we need a coup in which justice replaces domination. And the coup needs to be international, including all of the major powers of the world. Although I often use the USA as an example, I am not naïve in believing that it is the only source of difficulties on this planet.

Furthermore, the only examples of sustainable justice of which I am aware have been within indigenous cultures — cultures that have resisted civilization, albeit without great success up to this point. Our track record of “civilized” process has not been very successful otherwise.

And hence, my best guess is that such a coup must come from indigenous sources, as the power to resist domination and act justly. Again in my limited exposure to cultural issues, it is the native people of North America who seem most apt to engage in sustained resistance (witness Standing Rock and Kinder-Morgan). They also have a cultural heritage that honored justice in much richer fashion than has European-based culture.

Thus my hope . . .

Links Of Note

Two Dark American Truths From Las Vegas (20171002)

Gun violence in America, explained in 17 maps and charts (20171002)

These two links discuss the ineffectiveness of modern attempts to limit the use of power, both in preventing individual tragedies and in developing just resolutions to such forces that underlie these tragedies.

U.S. Climate Change Policy: Made in California (20170927)

An interesting example of how the interplay of legality and power work in our culture. To quote the lead-in: “A peculiar confluence of history, legal precedent and defiance has set the stage for a regulatory mutiny in California that would reverberate throughout the country.” Legally, California can regulate independently of national concerns, and controls at least a third of the auto industry, with a sizable impact on how industry must react. I am reminded of a statement that our culture has a legal system, perhaps sometimes a justice system.

The Need For A Coup, Part 1

Complexity3I said in my last post that I would consider the possibility of a coup. At some level, I truly accept that the need for a coup is the only way in which humanity will survive. I’m not a historian, nor a philosopher, nor do I have a military background, so what follows will simply be my random thoughts regarding the issues that confront us as a civilization.

First, as noted in my original first post of this blog (see my home page), Laszlo (in Evolution: The General Theory, 1996) wrote that we are in a cascade of crises, and that we must extend ourselves into a new maturity, else we will likely perish as a species (or at least as a civilization). I also recall from my PhD research, Toynbee in A Study Of History (1946) considered that in the failing of civilizations, new ones arise at the periphery (of the old collapsing civilization) wherein a small group arises who both represents a new energy of purpose while espousing a new religion, meanwhile opposed by the old tyranny. In my dissertation, I suggested that the small group was the Cultural Creatives and the new religion was our maturing relationship with ecology. The current difficulty with both the Cultural Creatives and the ecology movement, though, is that they are disorganized, and do not present a coordinated front to oppose the oppressive forces of our current civilization. Furthermore, this past century is the first occurrence in which we as a species have come to be both a global village and a power dynamic capable of altering the dynamics of the entire ecosystem of our world; there is essentially no periphery for a new civilization — we must confront the center of the old.

I also noted in my posts about power (beginning 2016-08-16) that civilization(s) arose because the human species came into relationship with power, a relationship different from that of all other previous species. Schmookler in The Parable Of The Tribes[1] indicated that “our destructiveness as a species and of our current culture . . . is a simple consequence of our creativity, a tragedy representative of the inevitable options for power” — and that there is “no way to return the dangerous djinni of human power back into the bottle.” In addition, “The laws of man require power, for power can [only] be controlled with power. The challenge is to design systems that use power to disarm power. Only in such an order can mankind be free.” Perhaps mankind will evolve to “control the actions of all to the degree needed to protect the well-being of the whole.”

Schmookler mentions a number of relevant definitions:

  • system: an aggregate the elements of which interact (and therefore no element of the system can be understood in isolation)
  • synergy: a pattern whereby each part functions in a way that enhances the welfare of the other parts as well as its own
  • viability: the ability to maintain without diminution whatever it is upon which its continued existence depends

Our civilization is definitely a system, yet it is neither synergistic nor viable. Our civilization is based on power, not synergy and viability. We compete rather than cooperate. We control by short-term domination rather than by consideration of the long-term. We demonstrate immense creativity, but we do not consider the impact of our creativity on future generations (in either our consumerism or our technological advances).

To be continued

Links suggestive of our cultural insanity

Heartless world watches while Rohingya nightmare continues (20170928)

An example of the inability of our species to deal with power.

Trump doesn’t get it on Puerto Rico. He just proved it by lashing out at San Juan’s mayor. (20170930)

I am suggesting this link, not as a critique of Trump (which it is), but as an indication of the need for definitive action in stopping this kind of tribalism, a stance that likely results in major deterioration of justice and viability. The current system is not healthy.

Homeland Security to monitor social media accounts of immigrants and citizens (20170926)

Where does surveillance stop? When is it effective? Here we seem to be moving to a police state, again with a major deterioration of justice and vitality.

Even This Data Guru Is Creeped Out By What Anonymous Location Data Reveals About Us (20170926)

So easy, and with enough computer power, likely also easy to cross-map details of how groups of people interact. Truly, Big Brother is watching.

[1] Schmookler, A. B. (1995). Parable of the tribes: The Problem of Power in Social Evolution. New York, NY: State University of New York.

The (Mis)Information Age, Part 2

misinformation1

In Part 1, I indicated my interest in the Netflix series: The Untold History of the United States (Oliver Stone, 2012), and my own issues with trust. Here, I continue with commentary on the underlying issues of how we trust, as well as the immense difficulty we have with too much information, or (mis)information.

Cognitive Biases

In attempting to understand trust, I recently looked up the nature of cognitive biases[1]. To quote Wikipedia, “Cognitive biases are tendencies to think in certain ways that can lead to systematic deviations from a standard of rationality or good judgment.” Depending on which source I looked up, I found between 180 and 250 distinct biases, ranging from anchoring bias (the tendency to anchor conclusions on the first piece of “trusted” information acquired) to the Zeigamik Effect (the tendency for interrupted tasks to be remembered better than completed ones). I found the list to be fascinating, and recognized that many of the biases would have great survival value in a simple culture.

But ours is not a simple culture. When overwhelmed with too much information, I (and almost certainly any human being) will rapidly sort the information for importance according to my biases, especially my other-than-conscious biases. I know I do this every day — and (perhaps as my bias) I believe I am very sophisticated in my understanding of human communication. Heaven help those who are less sophisticated.

Whom To Trust

As I said recently, I have previously written about the means by which we establish trust (Whom Do You Trust?), and the TIC process that people use. To reiterate (as I regard it as a very important process to understand), people:

translate (T) the new information into language they can understand more easily, they interpret (I) into their own system of meaning, and then they corroborate (C) this meaning with groups that they already trust. For example, if I want to process information about new electric cars, I translate (T) the information into my current understanding of cars, think about (I) what cars mean to me, and then go ask (C) my friends what they think about electric cars.

Thus the fundamental basis of trust is how we select those around us whom we will believe, or at least with whom we will associate. But the group we trust may have their own biases, often in many ways. Examples include the colonial stances of the 19th century and the information presented in The Untold History . . . .

Such biases are especially important in the light of George Marshall book Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired To Ignore Climate Change that I recently reviewed (7 parts, beginning here).

I recently wrote to a friend, concerning our mutual need to find a way to have the Canadian people mobilize for climate disruption, that we need:

a big frame that allows the conservatives and doubters to engage together with those committed. We have to interact so as to establish trust, not so much with the people like [Steve] Bannon, but with those who listen to him and still have uncertainty. The frame could be something like: ‘What do you want for the future? We are all in this together, and even though most of us have uncertainty, we need to pull together to create a better world. Let’s all talk to each other as if the other has truth in what they are saying: both those who are uncertain about climate disruption, and those who are more certain.’

But I continue to wonder to what extent my own biases and those of others interfere with our ability to cooperate on this super-wicked difficulty.

And if we don’t cooperate, the consequences are immense, if not disastrous.

[1] (A) List of Cognitive Biases, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases, accessed 2017 February 14; (B) Cognitive Bias Codex, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases#/media/File:Cognitive_Bias_Codex_-_180%2B_biases,_designed_by_John_Manoogian_III_(jm3).jpg, accessed 2017 February 14

The (Mis)Information Age, Part 1

misinformation1

I’ve been watching a fascinating series on Netflix: The Untold History of the United States (Oliver Stone, 2012), twelve presentations based on a particular interpretation of documented events during the 20th century, especially events related to the politics of war, specifically the cold war. I find it fascinating because it seems well researched and well presented, and it also reinforces my biases regarding the duplicity of modern politics (and probably ancient politics also). And as a result, I am challenged again to decide if the information is actually mis-information — hence my title The (Mis)Information Age.

Reviews[1] of the series were mixed, with claims that there was really nothing new presented in the interpretations provided, and that there was much selective cherry-picking of the information presented. Perhaps this is true, but I still find that it provides me with much information that I had not previously encountered, and as a result that I have been reflecting a lot on how do I process information in the modern age.

My Experience of Trust

When I was a young boy, if I wanted to know something about a topic, I went to the encyclopedia; if needed, I went to the local library and searched for the topic in the Encyclopedia Britannica — the definitive source of the time. There I would find a concise three to five page article on the topic, and I had a sense of trust that I had now found useful information, actual knowledge of the state of the world at the current time. And that there was not easily a better source available.

Almost certainly this was a gross error, and if reviewed now, the information would undoubtedly be considered heavily biased (male perspective, British Empire perspective, et cetera). However, it was a world in which there was a sense of trust. Such trust was manifest in many ways. Many days as a child, I wandered freely over the neighborhood, perhaps blocks away, with no sense of fear. As a much younger child, I frequently visited with the “neighborhood grand-father,” where together with eight or ten other four-year-olds he would read us stories on Saturday mornings. I also recall going to school alone on the bus when I was seven or eight, perhaps younger. My older brother and I, he then perhaps nine or ten years old, would hop on the bus and go downtown to the Saturday morning movies, alone. When somewhat older, I cannot recall that I ever locked a bicycle or a car; most of the time the house door was unlocked, unless we were planning to be away for a few days.

In the interim, in my lifetime, I have watched the erosion of trust, both within myself, and within society in general. As I am sure you the reader know, almost no one fails to lock their home or their car anymore, or if they do, they worry until they return, fearful that it will be vandalized or stolen. Who today would think of leaving a younger child to go to the movies by themselves? Or allowing a young child to take public transit alone?

Nor do I trust modern communications, especially the media, and also much of professional literature. I have six university degrees, all of them in some way related to science; hence I generally understand scientific reports, but I do not trust many of the conclusions presented in modern scientific reports. I am very aware of the ways in which the language used in reports are heavily biased in subtle ways. Especially I do not trust the writings in psycho-pharmacology or nutrition (I also have a 1000 hours training as a cook, and know the politics of the culinary field).

Thus, I have my own issues with (mis)information.

To be continued (Cognitive Biases and Whom To Trust).

[1] The Untold History of the United States,  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Untold_History_of_the_United_States, accessed 2017 February 14

What values would be important in our future? (Part 3 of 3)

Values are the core of living.
Values are the core of living.

This is the third posting on what I believe a mature culture would value. In the previous one I commented on

  1. the primary need to value children,
  2. the need for a cultural story, a mythic narrative, that honors wisdom,
  3. an educational system that provides deep support for life-long growth, and
  4. practical skills that allow living with diversity and resolving conflict.
Further thoughts

I’ve been re-reading a book that had a important impact on me as to how I view culture: Rupert Ross’s Dancing With A Ghost: Exploring Aboriginal Reality. Reading it in the 1990s, I was deeply impressed with Ross’s suggestions of the profound maturity of Aboriginal culture (much of which was destroyed by European domination), a culture that was non-technological and subject to the risks of living in wilderness.

At that time, I created a workshop I called Reality, and how we live it. In it, I contrasted what I called The People of the Ladder (European-based) with The People of the Wheel (Aboriginal-based). I suggested that both had value (technological civilization versus emotional maturity) and both had deficits (the costs of domination versus the risks of starvation). If we are to survive, we now need integration of the positives of each of these, and reduction of the risks of each.

To continue — the next value I suggest is:

Governance based on planning for the “seventh generation.”

Overall, our current governance, at least in democratic countries, is based on political systems. The term comes from polis, meaning “affairs of the cities,” thus organizing groups of people to achieve desired ends. Its origin was part of the development of democracy, a system of governance meant to access the wisdom of the people. Beginning in 1952, MacIver[1] suggested that “modern specialization of functions and interests, and the consequent growth of great interest groups, and of vast and powerful organizations devoted exclusively to their advancement, has destroyed the very basis of social life” (p. 77). Utterly true for me. And given the lobbying of commercial interests, modern political systems certainly do not plan for the long-term future.

I make a huge distinction between statespersons and politicians; to quote James Freeman Clarke[2], “A politician thinks about the next elections — the statesman thinks about the next generations.” A mature culture must focus on the needs of our entire planet, over many generations; in general, as a people, we are not skilled in the management of such diversity and potential conflict. The issues are incredibly complex, but there are modern models available to deal with complexity; a blog is not the place to go into details, and I recommend the interested reader to explore Gaian Democracies, holacracy, and community development processes. There is also much of value in Ross’s book; he was a practicing lawyer when he wrote the book, very aware of how European governance had destroyed Aboriginal culture.

To quote from my book Acedia, The Darkness Within:

A mature culture would actually be a no-party democracy, with individuals elected on the basis of perceived wisdom, and with interlocking regional governments, up to a world government. Individuals would be elected on the basis of perceived wisdom by appropriate regional groups to form a regional level of government, that government deciding within itself who would be the proposers of legislation and who would be the devil’s advocates. Essentially, the government would function to be a sophisticated cooperative body, attuned to the needs of the populace it served, yet focused on what the populace needed long-term, not as based on election requirements. Sophisticated electronic communication, including frequent high-level polling of needs and ongoing values, would allow the government to stay in touch with the populace. (p. 202)

A judiciary system based on justice circles, not just legality.

As indicated about, I am re-reading Dancing With A Ghost. Somewhere in his book (I have not yet found the specific reference), Ross tells the story of a discussion between a white judge and a native elder, in which the elder says to the judge: “We know you have a legal system; we are just not sure it is a justice system.” Our European-based legal systems in general are adversarial; they do not support community.

And we need community; if well-developed, it is the basis of cooperation. The best example I have seen has been the use of justice circles — attempts to restore all parties to be in community at peace with each other, and such that the contraversial actions which led to disputes are not intentionally repeated. I also believe that such attempts to create justice is not perfect, and that there will be occasions where individuals repeatedly:

act contrary to the needs and desires of the group. I suggest that, here, more senior groups (groups to which earlier decisions might be appealed) would have the power … [to ostracize such individuals] from the group, perhaps [for the individuals] to live in enclaves not subject to the standards of the general culture. These alternate cultures would be free to develop their own standards, but would not be permitted to impose their standards on the main culture. If desired, individuals in these substitute cultures could transfer back to the main culture, but a requirement would be they demonstrate they have sufficient intention and maturity to live within the main culture. (MacQuarrie, Acedia, p. 203)

A question: Would these six values that I have proposed be adequate to ensure a balance between the needs of individuals and the needs of the culture? Almost certainly not; I would call them necessary, but not sufficient. What is really needed is ongoing attention to the character of the culture. This would be the prime intention of the ongoing pursuit of wisdom: good judgment of the needs of the evolving present moment.

Your thoughts?

To be continued.

Next postings — I was going to explore how governance would function. Instead, I will explore what community would be like.

[1] MacIver, R. M. (1952). The ramparts we guard. New York, NY: Macmillan.

[2] Wikipedia. (2009, December 11). Statesman. Retrieved December 23, 2009, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statesman