“Peole who walk are easier to rule”

OK – I did not look up the quote exactly:  if I picked up the book, I’d end up reading it (again) instead of writing this post…  Still, the sentiment is expressed accurately.

The speaker was Leto, the millennia old,  human-half-morphed-into-The-Worm God Emperor of  Dune in Frank Herbert‘s most illuminating books on human nature.  This tyrant (who only did things ‘for the good of his people’) ruled with an iron fist.  Part of the method which he used to maintain control over the population was by controlling all means of transportation except for walking/jogging.

Leto controlled all the vehicles, in the air and on the ground.  At one point, he explained that the reason for this was that a population that walks is easier to rule.

Now, let me digress to my childhood ‘behind the iron curtain’… I’ll connect it up, I promise!

The defining thing, the one aspect of life that took up almost all the ‘free time’ of most of the people I remember from my childhood, was ‘supply logistics’.

First of all, I did not know any family – not a single one – where there was a ‘stay-at-home-parent’.

The socialist state instilled, as the most supreme of all ‘human rights’, ‘the right to work‘.  This meant that every single person had a right to a job.  Zero unemployment! Nobody starving on the street!  Heaven on Earth!

Of course, nobody was permitted to ‘opt out’ from this ‘right’.  After all, The State could not appear to be failing anyone in upholding this ‘human right’!

The upshot of this was that, whether a parent wanted (or could afford to – the economic reality would have made this very, very difficult) to stay at home longer than the permitted 6-month maternity leave, their ‘right to work’ trumped their wishes and they had to go off to ‘a job’.

After a full day of work, one had to find a way to buy necessities of life: from food to toothpaste and toilet paper.  Because everyone walked to shops, or took public transit, shopping for food for a week’s worth of ‘stuff’ at one time (as is the norm in  North America) was not an option:  even if you could carry it all home in your two hands (often walking up many stories in apartment buildings where elevators either did not exist or did not work), there would not be enough room in your tiny fridge and ‘compact’ kitchen for all that much. So, ‘food gathering’ was a daily task.

It had to be planned well – the shops were not open in the evenings, so one had to rush off straight from work to the bus, so one could get to the store on the other side of town which had supposedly got a shipment of toothpaste.  Or to that clothing store that  got white/yellow t-shirts which were the required gym uniform for the kids, but of which there was constantly a shortage .

And you had to leave yourself enough time to make it to at least 2-3  stores:  even though milk and bread were usually available, they weren’t always…  And that does not even touch on the meat situation…

An average woman could expect to spend at least 2 hours a day ‘shopping’ – running from one place to another, standing in one queue after another, just to keep the household supplied with food and soap…  This was true of ‘everything’:  many men spent a lot of their time trying to find supplies and professionals who’d help with any household repairs or renovations, car care, and so on…

Plus people had to try and have a supply of luxury items, like, say, packages of ‘Western’ coffee: one had to bring these when one went to see a dentist or a doctor or any other kind of ‘professional’.  Needless to say, much of people’s ‘private’ conversations were about what one could find where, when.

This did not leave most people much time or energy for ‘political unrest’….

Which was the point!

Some of the shortages were real – but others were completely artificial:  an item of which there was a shortage in one area was temporarily over-supplied in another.  This was actually very, very clever:  not only did it keep most of the people too busy to want do anything about the political system, it gave them a chance to ‘succeed’ – and to feel the satisfaction that comes from succeeding!

OK – it may seem petty to us.  But, after a while of living in a system where necessities are not easily obtainable, people quickly begin to derive their self-worth from how good a ‘gather’ they are!

This makes sense:  humans started out as hunters and gatherers.  It is only natural that giving people these daily obstacles to overcome, giving them the opportunity to have these little successes over and over and over, makes the population relatively docile. In this type of a society, it is only if the shortages are too big and numerous and the majority of the people is denied the warm feelings they get from overcoming these daily ‘little obstacles’ that the population is likely to turn militant.

That is human nature.

So, what does that have to do with ‘people who walk’?

Driving from one place to another is too easy:  it does not take anywhere near as much time as trying to take public transit (and to bring your shopping back home on crowded public transit), it also takes much more physical energy to walk than it does to drive.  Living like this, people don’t have time or energy to do much more than grumble about ‘the system’…

Plus, it is the government who controls the public transportation systems:  if you want to stop a lot of people getting to a specific place to protest, just delay all the trains coming into town that day.  Or, cancel the bus runs that day.   Let’s see how many people will show up at the demonstration, when most are stuck in ‘in between stations’!

Let’s face it:  having control of one’s mobility enables one’s independence!

Which brings me to my actual point:

What are the ‘carbon caps’ focusing on?

If you follow all the ‘recommendations’ of the UN and their warm mongers, what kind of public policies flow out of them?

PUBLIC TRANSPORT = GOOD

PERSONAL VEHICLES = BAD

Now, more than ever, we are bombarded almost daily with more and more evidence that the IPCC recommendations are not founded on any scientific observations but are 100% top-down policy driven.  Today, one of the top IPCC people (a prof of climate studies at East Anglia, none-the-less) published a paper that claims there was NEVER a consensus of thousands (or even hundreds) of scientists behind the IPCC reports!

Of course, those of us interested in the actual science of ‘Global Warming’ and not the politics have been pointing this out for a long time – not that it got much play in the ‘balanced reporting’ by the MSM…

WHY?!?!?

The IPCC report claims a crisis of global proportions – which could only be solved by the establishment of a global governance structure, controlled by the UN.  Now, even as the credibility of those claims is melting away into thin air, the UN is already laying the groundwork for another ‘catastrophe of world proportions’ which can only be brought under control by a world-wide effort – co-ordianted, predictablky enough, by the UN whose appointed committees would have the right to shape all the national governments’ policies…

You’d better get ready for all the new buzzwords!

Oh, and by the way – their suggested ‘solution’ to the artificially induced ‘banking crisis’ is to levy a ‘world tax’ on each and every banking transaction: giving the UN the first direct ‘global taxation’ revenue and powers.

Hey – where is that a ‘Muh-ha-ha!’ sound coming from?

The future of broadband in Canada: have a voice!

Tim Denton, the CRTC commissioner, has recently made the following statement:

‘The rights of Canadians to talk and communicate across the Internet are vastly too important to be subjected to a scheme of government licensing. If more Canadians were aware how close their communications have come to being regulated by this Commission, not by our will but because we administer an obsolete statute, they would be rightly concerned. Fortunately, good sense prevailed and the evidence for intervention was not yet present. But this confluence of facts may not always be there. Thus the call for a government review of a digital transition strategy is both wise and opportune. Let us fix this problem.’


via Michael Geist

And while I do not believe that the CRTC has the right to control our wavelengths, the reality is that they do.  And, to their credit, they have (as Michael Geist’s post puts it so eloquently), decided to keep their hands off the internet – for now.

But, they will go on to develop a new comprehensive national digital strategy…

All of our voices should be heard, to help ensure that the net truly remains neutral – or, at least as neutral as possible.  This is important:  still, most of us are not sure how to best be heard…

Which is why I am going to quote the following text from Campaign for Democratic Media almost in its entirety:

Citizens from coast to coast are expected to engage in Canada’s first-ever online LIVE video-streamed national conversation about the future of broadband in this country.

During Town Hall meetings in Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver, viewers can take part in the confab through live, real-time online chat available at theREALnews.com, rabble.ca, TheTyee, Beyond Robson, SaveOurNet.ca and other participating websites.

The first of these innovative town hall meetings takes place in Toronto on Monday, June 8. The participating websites will start streaming video at 7:30 p.m.

The town hall events will bring together web innovators, entrepreneurs, social change leaders, cultural workers and citizens to discuss the future of the Internet in Canada. The sessions will be recorded and will form part of the citizen testimony that SaveOurNet.ca’s Steve Anderson will use to guide his presentation to the CRTC at the July 6 traffic management hearing.

SaveOurNet.ca is encouraging people who live within commuting distance to attend the town hall sessions to meet and mingle with fellow Netizens who want a say in Canada’s future Internet.

Here are the details, along with some updated information:

TORONTO • June 8 • 7 p.m.
The Gladstone Hotel, 1214 Queen St. West

Speakers include:
Mark Surman, Executive Director, Mozilla Foundation
Olivia Chow, NDP Member of Parliament
Steve Anderson, co-founder, SaveOurNet.ca
Rocky Gaudrault, CEO, Teksavvy Solutions Inc.
Derek Blackadder, National Representative with CUPE

Special guests:
Jesse Brown, Search Engine
David Skinner, Communications Professor, York University
Kim Elliot, Rabble.ca
Mark Kuznicki, remarkk consultant
Dan O’Brien, ACTRA
Ben Lewis, Canadian Federation of Students
Wayne Mcphail, w8nc

REGISTER TO RESERVE A SEAT: http://saveournet.ca/toronto

OTTAWA • June 10 • 7 p.m.
Ottawa Public Library Main Branch, 120 Metcalfe St.

Speakers include:
Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law, University of Ottawa, blogger
Charlie Angus, NDP MP, Heritage and Culture critic
Rocky Gaudrault, CEO, Teksavvy Solutions Inc.
Bill St. Arnaud, Chief Research Officer for CANARIE Inc.

Introduction by Steve Anderson, co-founder, SaveOurNet.ca
Discussion Facilitator: Marita Moll, TeleCommunities Canada

Special guests:
Mike Gifford, founder of Open Concept Consulting Inc. Leslie Regan Shade, Communications Professor, Concordia University Graham Cox, Canadian Federation of Students

REGISTER TO RESERVE A SEAT: http://saveournet.ca/ottawa

VANCOUVER • June 20 • (time to be determined)
Vancouver ChangeCamp, BCIT, downtown campus, 555 Seymour St.

Speakers include:
Rocky Gaudrault, CEO, Teksavvy Solutions Inc.
Steve Anderson, co-founder, SaveOurNet.ca
(More to come)

REGISTER TO RESERVE A SEAT: http://vanchangecamp.eventbrite.com/

Canada’s FIRST live INTERNET DANCE PARTY will hit Vancouver on Saturday, June 20! This is a fundraiser for host SaveOurNet.ca as well as the official after party for VanChangeCamp.

6 to 8 p.m. – Social & Film Screening
8 p.m. to 2 a.m. – Internet Dance Party
Gallery Gachet

Special Guests:
Quest Poetics feat: Mello Black, Mario Vaira, & DJ Hayze
More guests to be announced soon!

RESERVE A SPOT: http://internetdanceparty.eventbrite.com/

Join the Facebook group of your local Town Hall:
http://saveournet.ca/content/town-hall-facebook-groups

Organizing these events would not be possible without your contributions. Please donate today:
http://saveournet.ca/donate

If you received this message from a friend, you can sign up for Campaign for Democratic Media.

Anti-Islamist coalition

A new blog has entered ‘The ‘Sphere’!

Anti-Islamist Coalition

Anti-Islamist Coalition

Thanks to Babazee for creating this logo!

And, just to avoid any possible confusion, let me re-state this once again:

Islam is not the same as Islamism.

Islam is a religion, which is practiced in peace by millions of wonderful people.  I know and love some of them, and I certainly respect many of them.

Islamism is not the same sort of thing at all.  It is a political movement, intent on world domination, which just happens to be dressed up in the guise of Islam. These types of political movements have plagued humanity for thousands of years – and they have usually sought to legitimize themselves by wrapping themselves in the respectability of a ‘religious movement.  It just happens that this particular political movement is abusing Islam for its ends!

Certainly, Islamists believe themselves to be following Islam – which is why they cite it as a justification for their crimes.  And many Islamists truly believe what they are doing is following their god’s will – which is what makes this such a dangerous combination.

Which is what makes it that same old …

Go ahead and hate your neighbour,

Go ahead and cheat your friend,

Do it in the name of Heaven Islam,

So you can justify it in the end …

And THAT is why Islamism must be opposed.

It is an insult to Islam, and a deadly threat to the rest of us.  Never forget what happened to the ‘Mountain People’…  If you don’t know, then, listen, children, to the story that was recorded long ago…

(Please, take a special note of how the ‘Valley People’ reacted when invited in to share, as equals…  Of couse, were I the composer, I would have the ‘Treasure’ say ‘Freedom of Speech and Equal Rights for ALL’!  In my never-humble-opinion, without these, there can be no true peace!  But, that might be too big a mouthful for a song…)

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The concept of ‘murder’ is not ‘universal’

In the dawn of civilization, we lived in smaller groups – sometimes little more than extended families of 20-30 people.  The actual number depended on many factors, such as the environment, population density, how developed our societies were and what they depended on for sustenance, and so on.

For thousands of years, these earliest societies hardly ever grew to more 150 people – the Dunbar’s number – and formed our monkeysphere.  In these small communities, we could care about each person as an individual:  we knew them, their family, and we could relate to them on  an individual, personal level.  This group was what we related to as ‘we’ or ‘us’.  Everyone else was ‘them’, an outsider.

This is very important, because these concepts of ‘us’ and ‘them’ were key in the evolution of our concept of morality.

For example, the Yanomamo of the Amazon basin live in relatively isolated ‘traditional villages’.  They have a very specific understanding of the concept of  ‘murder’ ‘Murder’, in their view, is killing someone or something ‘of the village’.  Killing a person who is ‘not of the village’ is ‘killing, not ‘murder’.  For the Yanomamo, killing a dog or a chicken that lives in the village is just as much ‘murder’ as killing a person who is ‘of the village’.

After all, everyone living ‘in the village’ forms a community which shares social bonds and therefore has an expectation of trust from the other members of the community.  It is killing a being with whom one shares social bonds that defines ‘murder’ for the Yanomamo.  The act of transgressing against the social bonds, the breaking of  trust which was built up through living together in one community, that constitutes ‘murder’.

This little example shows how a concept we consider universal can be thought just as universal, yet interpreted completely differently in other societies.

As we ‘scaled up’ our communities and instituded rules/laws – rather than direct resolution of specific actions – to govern our behaviour, we have moved from the early, Yanomamo-style concept of ‘murder’=’breaking social bonds of trust’ to the more general concept of ‘murder’=’killing a human’.

It is we, ‘The Westerners’, who have a shifted our moral concepts somewhere along our society’s development.  Instead ‘drawing the line’ based on ‘trust’ and ‘social bonds’, we have made them more abstract (emotionally) choice:  we base in to genetic similarity, belonging to the same species.

Yes, it is much more complex than just ‘genetic similarity’…  The strong and undeniable influence of Christian doctrines of ‘soul’ and their separation between ‘human’=’soul’ and ‘non-human’=’no soul’ probably has a lot to do with why our ancestors shifted their definition of ‘murder’ from ‘breaking the expectation of trust’ to ‘killing a member of our species’.  The root cause is not the point here – the fact that it happened is.

We can still see the ‘old morality’ hold true in some of our attitudes:  many of us struggle with the cultural understanding that killing an enemy soldier during war does not constitute ‘murder’, while killing a stranger on the street during peacetime does.  These ‘conflicting attitudes’ have been much remarked upon.  Still, most people who comment on it miss the true significance of this apparent contradiction:  this is a vestige of our original, ‘human’ concept of ‘murder’ – from before we drew an abstract line around ‘human’ and began to consider it to be ‘absolute’.

This is a clear and undeniable demonstration that it is our own cultural morals which have deviated from their original meanings.

There is nothing wrong with that – societies evolve and so do their ideas of morality.  Evolving our morals to keep pace with social evolution is usually a good thing – in my never-humble-opinion.  I am not criticizing that in the least. Yet, I am calling attention to the fact that most of us still have trouble even conceiving of the very idea that OUR understanding of what constitutes morality is not universal!

Hinduism, for example, has a much broader concept of what constitutes ‘murder’ than we, in ‘the West’ do.  While the very idea of ‘soul’ originated in the area of today’s India (and influenced certain mystic Jewish sects, like the Essenes – via whom Christianity acquired the concept of the divine soul), the Hindus do not limit the concept of ‘soul’ to just humans.  Therefore, their idea of ‘murder’ is also different from our ‘Western understanding’.  To pious Hindus, killing any living being constitutes ‘murder’.

And Islam teaches that all Muslims are members of the same greater family (Umma), or tribe: to be a Muslim is to be one of ‘us’ – non-Muslims are ‘they’.  Therefore,  killing a member of the Umma is ‘murder’….but killing someone who is not a Muslims (and therefore not a member of the Umma, not one of ‘us’) is not ‘murder’, it is just ‘killing’.  The ‘Umma’ may have grown beyond a single village, but the concept of ‘being of the Umma’ has not!

Understanding this is essential in order for people form different cultures to communicate effectively.  This is especially important as we are reaching the next stage of ‘scaling up of our communities‘ – this time on the global scale.

When negotiating how we integrate our cultures (because that is what is happening, like it or not), none of us (all sides) must fall into the error of considering our interpretation of deep concepts, of what constitutes ‘morality’, to be somehow ‘universal’.

Doing so would only lead to deep misunderstandings which lead to conflict and suffering.

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Fascism now rules ‘The West’

First, let me state clearly and unequivocally that this post has nothing to say about the (so euphemistically called) ‘conflict’ currently under way in Gaza.  The particulars of the conflict and those involved in it are irrelevant to what this post is meant to address.  It could be any conflict, anywhere, between any groups: atrocities or not…. 

Instead, this is a story about how we, in ‘The West’, have woken up to find ourselves in a fascist police state.  The official government position – as enforced by the police – is truly frightening.

No, we cannot see it everywhere – yet.  But, we do see it.

No, the grip is not a stronghold – yet.  But, it is unmistakably there, and it is tightening.

No, most of us have not felt it – yet.  But, some of us have… and if it can happen to some of us, it can happen to all of us!

Please, consider the following:

  1. In Germany, police enter an apartment without a warrant while the occupants are not home and remove ‘offensive material’ . (Hat tip:  Breath of the Beast)  I do not care what material they removed or why it was ‘offensive’ – it was not illegal.  When police abandon the rule of law and due process – for whatever reason, we all have reason to fear for our safety.
  2. In Alberta, Canada – in front of Prime Minister Harper’s constituency office – a man waving a tiny flag is told by police to stop it, or he will be arrested for ‘inciting civil disorder’.  This was not a flag of an outlawed organization of any sort.  The man was not tresspassing, or obstructing traffic.  When the police arbitrarily threaten citizens, who have not broken any laws, with arrest – we all have reason to fear for our safety.
  3. In Montreal, Canada (still), the police fail to even attempt to take any action whatsoever when a mob incites violence against a group identified by their religious beliefs.  Incinting violence is against the law.  Promoting prejudice against an identifiable group – on the grounds of religion – is also against the law in Canada.  When the police fail to enforce the laws of the land – we all have reason to fear for our safety.
  4. In Toronto, Canada, a protester publicly and loudly utters a death threat against a child – police look on and do not arrest the law-breaker.  When the police arbitrarily fail to enforce laws – and uttering death-threats is a criminal offence – especially when a child is threatened we all have reason to fear for our safety.

If this is not a clear and unequivocal demonstration that the rule of law is disintegrating, I do not know what is!

Before anybody has a chance to justify unjustifiable acts, citing some crap about ‘being oppressed’ (and that includes people who like to play at ‘oppressed’) and only acting out as a result of social oppression, please, let me tell you a story about a little boy….

I was born and raised in a country occupied by foreign military forces which imposed an oppressive, totaliritarian dictatorship.  The foreign military forces never left:  and were reviled by most of the population.  Even those among the populace who subscribed to the political doctorine of the dictatorship resented the presence of the foreign forces which enforced it.

One day, when I was about 10 years old, I had surgery and had to stay in the Children’s hospital for a while.  I was in a room with 4 beds and 6 kids (2 of the beds had little kids, so, in the highly-rationed medical system which is the hallmark of socialism, there were often 2 kids per bed….I remembered sharing a bed (and not having a pillow or a blanket, because they ‘ran out’) from an earlier stay there. 

I was one of the 2 lucky kids to have a bed to myself (I was pretty big for my age).  The other kid that had a bed to himself was a cute little  boy, about 4-5 years old, who had fallen out of a tree he was climbing – breaking both arms, getting 2 very black eyes and a bit of a concussion.  The Children’s hospital did not allow any visitors, because children would cry when visitors left – yet, my little tree-climbing room-mate’s father was allowed to visit him…

Why?

The dad was a general in the foreign occupying forces!

The little boy lived on the military base, because his dad was one of the highest ranking officers – and thus one of the few ones priviledged enough to keep a wife and a family.  As such, the little boy had never encountered any of us ‘natives’ – and did not speak or understand our language.  The fact that his dad was allowed to visit him caused incredible resentment among the other kids, none of whom were not allowed any visitors (some of us for weeks)…  The fact that he was a son of a general of the foreign occupying forces also caused most of the nurses to greatly resent him – and many refused to speak to him in his language – feighning ignorance – just because of his heritage.

Now, my family was directly targetted for persecution by the political regime whose power stemmed directly from this foreign occupation.  My uncle had the secret service follow him, 24/7, all of his post-invasion life – even to the point of taking photos of everyone who had attended his funeral.  My dad was sent to the uranium mines because he was identified as a ‘potential leader of people against the people’.  My mom was pressured (by threats against me and my ‘continued well-being’) to divorce him.  She resisted.  We were ‘identified as undesirable elements’; enough that from my earliest childhood memories (pre-school), people would forbid their kids to play with me at playgrounds once they learned my name, lest this minimal association is ‘reported’ and prevents these kids from getting an education a decade-and-a-half later…  My teachers (grades 1-5) regularly berated be in front of my classmates, lest they be accused of ‘coddling the child of a political dissident’ – and loose their job or miss out on a promotion…. 

In other words, you could say I had a good reason to resent the ‘occupying forces’ – personally.  And I did – truly, by this age, I truly did.

But, I could not condone the social ostracism this little boy was subjected to!!!

He was little – it was not his fault his dad was a general!!!  He was hurt, concussed, stuck into a place where he did not understand the language – and many people treated him very, very coldly.  I could NOT stand it!!!

I translated for him – whenever I could (and, many of the nurses were ‘shamed’ by this into speaking to him in his native tongue – even if poorly).  Both his arms were broken – and in casts… so, I fed him (it was not the nurses’ job to feed the kids, just to deliver the food…).  When he was frightened, or cried because he missed his mom, I dredged up all the memories of nursery rhymes and little songs and poems in his language and tried to comfort him (he must have been tone deaf, as well, because he seemed to be comforted by my singing). 

At first, I did not know him – and the sight of his father’s uniform filled me with hate!  I am ashamed to admit it now, but it really did.  (Please, remember I was quite young  and deeply hurt myself back then….)  Yet, I KNEW I had to help the little boy!  Not helping a sick, frightened child would have made me less than human!

Until now, I have only told my immediate family about this.  So, why am I sharing this deeply private and emotional event in my life, I cannot but feel very, very vulnerable.

Yet, when I read the shallow justifications of many ‘Canadians’:  ‘These people have been oppressed!” – to excuse the call for the MURDER OF A CHILD – just because this is a child of a perceived oppressor…..  that is just so very, very wrong!!!! 

I cannot explain just how deeply offensive this is to me….

No matter who the child is, no matter what the child’s parents have done – or what his clansmen, co-nationalists or co-religionists have done – NOTHING can justify the call for the murder of a child!!!

Every attempt to justify the murder of any child is not only an insult me, personally, but to every single person who has sufferred oppression – yet did not loose their humanity!!!

(Sorry, I don’t really know how to write a ‘proper’ conclusion to this post…. )

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Religion (definition): part 2

To recap from Religion (definition): part 1 :

Religion is a particular state of mind.  It covers beliefs (faith), convictions and even concepts or principles that humans find note-worthy, worship-worthy or love-worthy.  I attempted to demonstrate that different people define ‘religion’ very differently from each other (and from my above definition), providing example of a school librarian who only considered several sects of Christianity as ‘religion’ (not even covering all of Christianity) and classifying all else as ‘mythology’.  As there is no provision in our society for ‘protection from discrimination on the grounds of mythology’, should everyone define the term as narrowly (or according to their own particular liking), this would effectively place many ‘religions’ outside of legal protection…. 

C.G. Jung’s definition of ‘religion’ (which I happen to like because it is clear, concise and can be workable in both a personal and a legal context – as well as being a definition I think most people could accept), is as follow:

Religion appears to me to be a peculiar attitude of the mind which could be formulated in accordance with the original use of the word religio, which means a careful consideration and observation of certain dynamic factors that are conceived as “powers”: spirits, demons, gods, laws, ideas, ideals, or whatever name man has given to such factors in his world as he has found powerful, dangerous, or helpful enough to be taken into careful consideration, or grand, beautiful, and meaningful enough to be devoutly worshiped and loved.

This definition would effectively eliminate the problem which I cited in the ‘librarian’ example – and more.

This definition of religion limits it to a peculiar attitude of the mindnot the practices or ritualswhich accompany it.

As such, whereever freedom of religion was guaranteed, a person could believe, admit and openly discuss all aspects of their religion freely, without regard to how ‘offensive’ this may be to other religions or to some members of the society.   However, since religion is limited (by definition) to a state of mind – not actions – one could not claim protection under ‘freedom of religion’ laws for taking action which would contravene the laws of the land that person would happen to be living in.  In my never-humble-opinion, drawing a very firm line between ‘beliefs/thoughts/ideas’ and expressing them freely (protected) and actions (not protected) is very, very important.

All actions which contravene the laws of the land – no matter how much rooted in or motivated by ‘religion’ – ought not enjoy any protection under ‘freedom of religion’.

Example:

Human sacrifice is an integral part of many bona fide religions.  From ancient Egypt and other parts of Africa, to China and Japan, to Europe, and the Americas – human sacrifice was an integral part of many religious rituals.  If actions based on religious belief were to be protected under ‘freedom of religion’, any person claiming to subscribe to any one of these religions could commit ritual murder without fear of prosecution or any kind of legal action.  The murderer would be protected under ‘freedom of religion’.

I particularly selected human sacrifice for my example because it is so extreme.  Yet, it is a well documented part of many religious rituals!  If there is a blanket protection for actions based on religious belief, even such extreme acts as ritualized murder would be protected.

In no way am I proposing that this ought to be so.  To the contrary.  I am demonstrating in as strong terms as I can think of that ‘freedom of religion’ must not be allowed to excuse acts which are in breech of secular laws.  OK, so the ‘religious practice’in question need not be as drastic as human sacrifice:  it could be polygamy, ritual rape, paedophilia (child-brides), ritual cannibalism, genital mutilation (male and female) – the list could go on for pages… 

The particulars of the practice are really not important.  The key is that freedom of religion ought to protect one from discrimination based on thoughts, belief, ideas – but must not in any way protect behaviour which contravenes the secular laws of the land.

We must protect everyone’s right to believe and hold ideas freely and openly.  At the same time, we must not allow cries of ‘this is part of my religion’ to protect illegal behaviour:  this would only lead to the hijacking of religions by criminal minded people or those who wish to oppress -or worse. 

It would be wrong of us to allow religions to be abused in this manner.

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Religion (definition): part 1

Another term which is important to define when talking about The Big Picture is ‘Religion’.

This is another one of those words that everybody thinks has a universal definition – but not all these ‘universal definitions’ are congruent…. and some of the differences between the various descriptions are, well, rather substantial.  (Yes, this does make our constitution, which forbids discrimination on religious grounds, rather laughable, as in the absence defining what is meant by ‘religious grounds’, this phrase is worse than meaningles…. it is open to abuse!  Please, don’t get me started on that topic!!!)

Just look at the how (not the what) of the way different people practice religion. 

To some, religion is little more than some surreal principles.  They believe in some undefinible, intangable divine principles that form the universal subconsciousness or, if you prefer, which give the Universe a consciousness of her own.  Or, they call it Mother Nature, or some ‘laws of nature’ which have no perceivable form (personification-able, that is).  To these people, spirituality is important, but religiosity – the rituals associated with these beliefs – may be largely irrelevant.

At the other extreme, there are people for whom adherence to the religious customs and rituals is a much more integral part of their religion than any form of actual belief or even abstract concept of the divine.  We see this in many highly ritualistic religions which dictate daily routines and behaviours onto its practitioners.  I have known Anglicans, Catholics, Jews and Hindus who all practice the rituals of their religion because it supports their perception of their self-identity – or serves and supports others in their community – yet who do not subscribe to the doctorines of their religious dogma. 

Perhaps I should explain what I mean by this:  they are able to abstract moral lessons from their religious teachings and see value (either to their personal growth or things helpful or important to others within their community) in adhering to the religious practices, even though they reject the dogmatic or supernatural aspects of their religions.  (I regard this with great respect – it is the opposite of some peoples’ self-righteous pretense at being religious while missing the ‘greater message’!  That is a subject of its own…)

Yet others both have faith in the dogma of a religion, and adhere to its daily rituals.  The spectrum is about as varied as humanity itself…

Many people in The West think that religion is something which deals with questions regarding the meaning/purpose of life, death, afterlife, God, etc.  And, some religions do that.  However, most religions are not this narrowly limited.  So, what exactly defines religion?  What is common to all the religions ‘out there’?

Well, it depends on whom you ask… and what background they are approaching the subject of ‘religion’ from.

The psychoanalyst (NOT to me mistaken with ‘psycho analyst’) Carl G.Jung defines religion as:

Religion appears to me to be a peculiar attitude of the mind which could be formulated in accordance with the original use of the word religio, which means a careful consideration and observation of certain dynamic factors that are conceived as “powers”: spirits, demons, gods, laws, ideas, ideals, or whatever name man has given to such factors in his world as he has found powerful, dangerous, or helpful enough to be taken into careful consideration, or grand, beautiful, and meaningful enough to be devoutly worshiped and loved.

(Emphasis added by me…  I do have to admit that I copied this definition out in calligraphy and stuck it to the inside of my locker door when I was in high-school – yeah, I know, pathetic!)

So, accortding to Jung, religion is a peculiar attitude of the mind

The reason I like this definition is because in a society which allows fredom of thought, freedom of religion is automatic:  you are free to believe – fully, partially or not at all – anything you wish.  Here, freedom of religion becomes a sub-set of freedom of thought and does not require special treatment, privileges or accommodations under the law.

That, in my never-humble-opinion, is very important.  After all, no idea or belief should be accorded greater or lesser protection from persecution, regardless of its nature!  Plus, most oppressors (or would-be oppressors….knowingly or condescendingly) are notorious for defining ‘religious grounds’ in a way that allows them to oppress those whose ideas (religious or otherwise) they do not like! 

Example:  when my older son neared the end of grade 8 and different high-schools were lobbying us to register him to attend them, I visited one of the most highly regarded and very coveted high-schools in Ottawa.  That is when I got a chance to look around the school’s library – and it did indeed contain an impressive selection of books!  When I came to the ‘Religion’ section, there were many, many books on Christianity and Christian philosophy.  Truly, it contained an exhaustive collection of books on all the sects of non-Arian forms of Christianity.  Yet, when I looked for the Torah, the Koran, the Vedas, Tao Te Ching and other texts widely considered ‘religious’, they could not be found….until one came to the ‘Mythology’ section of the library….  Needless to say, we chose to send our son elsewhere.

Obviously, to this particular school’s librarian, only non-Arian forms of Christianity qualified as ‘religion’Everything else was ‘Mythology’, and would not deserve protection under Canadian constitution which bans ‘discrimination on the basis of religion’ – but does not protect against ‘discrimination of the basis of mythology’….  I’m sorry about the circuitous description, but, I do hope I explained by point clearly:

According to this librarian, only non-Arian forms of Christianity qualified as ‘religion’ and therefore, freedom of religion would only extend to people who subscribed to this narrow group of religious sects.

I’m afraid I prefer Jung’s definition or ‘religion’ to this librarian’s!
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Disbelief

Perhaps it seems counterintuitive to define ‘disbelief’ before defining ‘belief’.  Yet, in this case, approaching things ‘from behind’, can allows a definition of what does not constitute belief.  Since belief is such a complex matter, it may, in fact, be effective to define ‘disbelief’ first so as to better focus on the different concepts we all lump together as ‘belief’.

Disbelief is simply ‘absence of belief’.

If I were to present you with the statement:  ‘my great-grandmother’s eyes were blue’, and if you would have no way of knowing if it is true or not (no facts are supplied along with the statement and there are no means for you to obtain the facts/you do not dig for the facts).  You would now be faced with two choices:

 

1. Believe

Having read some of what I have written, you could conclude that I am a reliable source and that if I say that ‘my great-grandmother’s eyes were blue’, then they truly were.  While this particular belief may not alter your life to any significant degree, you  invest your trust into me  and accept the statement at face value. 

You believe that at least one my great-grandmothers indeed had blue eyes.

 

2. Disbelieve

You may find that even though there is no reason for my statement to be false, without any supporting evidence, there just is not enough there for you to believe the statement. 

The following sub-categories of ‘disbelief’ are in not somehow official, scholarly, or in any way learned from any source.  Please, do not consider these divisions as somehow ‘authoritative’ or based on any specific philosophy (something I chose never to train in – but that is tangential to the issue….) – they are just my way of looking at the principle of ‘disbelief’.  Yet, I hope they will help to clarify the concept of ‘disbelief’, because it seems to me to be terribly misunderstood in current popular culture.

  • Tentative acceptance (conditional acceptance) 

You may decide that the information came from a credible source, so it is likely to be true.  You have no reason to doubt it.  Yet, you reserve committing to belief  in the veracity of the statement: if more information were to come along (like, say, a statement from several people who knew my great-grandmothers, or some other unforseen event which provided contradictory data), you would have no problem changing your mind on the matter.

On an intellectual level, in the absence of further evidence, you tentatively accept the statement as true, but you do not putt any emotional investment into its veracity.  Were you to learn that the statement is false, you might change your opinion of me as a source of information, but it would not greatly trouble you.  Though, for now, you may behave as if the statement were true, the absence of any ’emotional investment’ in its veracity means you disbelieve it.

This is why I contend that Pascal’s wager  does not constitute belief, but tentative acceptance.  Therefore, in my never-humble-opinion, it is a form of disbelief:  it is an acceptance on an intellectual level, but not on an emotional one.  The emotional investment is, in my opinion, necessary to constitute ‘belief’.

The tentative/conditional acceptance is what, in scientific terms, is termed a conclusion.  It is similar to belief, but not quite there.  It asserts that according to the best information currently available, this seems likely – it is the best conclusion from currently available information – yet, this conclusion is open to ammendment as additional information comes to light.  This is as close to belief as science ever gets….and, irritatingly (to me, anyway), many scientists refer to their conclusions as beliefs.  In reality, when a scientist replaces conclusions with beliefs, they cease being a scientist!

  • Possibility/probability assessment

Here, instead of believing the statement, or tentatively (conditionally) accepting the premise pending further data as truth, you may entertain its veracity as a distinct possibility.  Perhaps you might even give it a ‘probability rating’ – whether scientific or subjective.  Whether this probability is 1% or 99%, it is still a probability assessment – not a belief.

Back to scientists:  if a scientist assesses a conclusion to have a  high probability of being true, they may express this.  Again, this is not in any way the same as belief:  it is a probability assessment, without the emotional investment necessary to cross the boundary between possible or probable on the one hand and belief on the other.  Irritatingly, many people (including scientists – most of whom are not really all that up on liguistics and the nuances of expressions, and many of whom are rather deaf to ‘social nuances’ to start off with) erroneously lump this position in with belief when they speak about it – yet they do not, in any way, imply belief in the religious sense..

  • Absence of opinion

You may read the statement, file away in your mind that I had made it, but make no conclusion about its veracity.  You simply do not care enough to believe it.  It’s there, you can recall that this statement had been made, but that is really the end of it for you. 

  • Belief in the opposite

OK, I admit it:  I am uncomfortable including belief in the opposite into the category of disbelief.  Why?  Because unlike the other positions, listed above, it involves holding a belief.  Not a belief in the statement itself, but rather, a belief in the opposite of the statement in question.  What would be the opposite?  Here, you might believe that my great-grandmother’s eyes were green or brown, so long as you believe they were not blue.

This is disbelief=withholding belief with respect to the statement in question, even if it is not general disbelief. 

  • Belief in unknowability

Again, I am not happy to include this positive belief in the category of disbelief, but, it must be included because it constitutes disbelief with respect to this statement.  The positive belief held here is that there is no way of finding out whether or not the statement is true:  that the veracity of the statement is unknowable.

 

This is not a perfect division – and I am aware that not everybody will agree with the lines I have drawn up to distinguish belief from disbelief.  Yet, I have attempted to apply logic consistently throughout.  I would welcome any and all comments which would help enrich this discussion.

 Aside:

If you are interested in a great documentary on the topic of disbelief, I would recommend ‘Jonathan Miller’s Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief’.  While I am not sure if I agree with everything he says (I’ve only been pondering it for a little over a year – and I am a slow thinker), it is interesting and thought provoking.  It is available for sale, or order over the internet in various places.

Alternately, the 3-hour series can be found many places on the web…  YouTube has many channels which feature it.  One of them has broken it up as follows:

Part 1.1,   part 1.2part 1.3,  part 1.4part 1.5,  part 1.6

Part 2.1part 2.2part 2.3part 2.4,  part 2.5,  part 2.6, part 2.7

Part 3.1part 3.2part 3.3,  part 3.4,  part 3.5part 3.6

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Defining some more terms…

Words matter.

Words matter a lot.

They carry a direct meaning (and, perhaps, an implied meaning) as well as hidden ‘colouring’ with a number of associations, sometimes conscious, sometimes subconscious.

This ‘colouring’ changes and evolves within a culture – and can be quite different in another language.

I am not a linguist.  Yet, during my life, I have picked up a few languages:  some of them I am fluent in, some are shadowy and hiding in the recesses of my memory… and will only come ‘flooding back’ if I immerse myself in that language.  In other words, I am not speaking as an expert, rather as just an observer.  (And, I must admit, misuse and misrepresentation of the core meaning of words causes my blood pressure to rise.)

Yes, in my ever-obsessive way, I have contemplated starting a ‘Wiki’ where people from all over the world could post their particular linguistic and cultural colouring associated with a particular word….  But, at this point, this is just a fun contemplation!

Let me give a few ‘simple’ examples: 

Cat – this word’s plain meaning is rather straightforward:  a domestic animal, felis catus, of the family felidae…  Cute and cuddly, clever and aloof – we have all met cats we have loved, and perhaps a few we disliked (I know I have met both kinds). 

Yet, in English, ‘cat’ can also mean a ‘guy’, when in the context of jazz.  And, calling a woman ‘catty’ is no compliment – it implies she is gossipy, capricious and petty.

Switch to Slavic languages – calling a woman ‘catty’ (or a ‘cat’) means she is graceful in a very sexy way!  By culturally highlighting very different aspects of ‘cat’, it is a compliment, not an insult, to call a woman ‘catty’!

Bitch – the plain meaning means ‘female dog‘:  a domesticated animal, canis lupus familiaris, of the family canidae…  Dog is a loving and loyal companion of humans, the first domesticated animal to be ‘in’ the house, rather than ‘outside’ it… and thus ‘in’ the social sphere of humans, inside our ‘monkeysphere’, rather than ‘outside’ it!  A dog is ‘man’s best friend’!

In English, the feminine form, ‘bitch’ has some very definite negative connotations:  from ‘submissive’ (as in, someone was ‘made somebody’s bitch’) to argumentative and quarrelsome (especially as applied to women).  The explression ‘son of a bitch’ is definitely an insult – and is understood as such.  Curiously, the word ‘bitch’ does not carry any of the positive connotations of the term ‘dog’.  (I wonder why – and what it says about the attitude of the ‘Anglo-linguistic culture’s’ attitude towards ‘female friendships’…but that is going off on a tangent…)

Again, looking at Slavic languages, the word ‘bitch’ has quite unrelated connotations!

In Russian, for example, the direct translation for ‘dog’ is (and I am transliterating – perhaps not perfectly, as my Russian if very rusty) ‘sobaka/sabaka’ (spelled, it transliterates as ‘sobaka’ but due to emphasis, it is pronounced more like ‘sabaka’) is a feminine word.  Thus, the word ‘dog’, directly translated into Russian, becomes ‘female dog’=’bitch’!  Yet (and I would like to be corrected here if I am in error) the term does not carry the negative connotations of ‘bitch’!

In Czech, the most direct translation of ‘bitch’ is ‘psina’, which carries the connotation of ‘having a really fun time – while remaining within the social boundaries of politeness/proper etiquette’.  There are other terms for ‘female dog’, but they are either scientific (‘fena’) – devoid of cultural colouring – or or extremely contrived and ‘artificial’-sounding (psice).  And while I am not fluent in all the Slavic languages, I do speak a few – and in none of the ones I speak (as far as I am aware) does the core expression for ‘female dog’ have negative connotations!

I recall, as a kid, reading books translated from other languages, which contained the insult ‘son of a bitch’:  I was puzzled!  I could not understand why somebody would think this expression was in any way insulting, even though from the context I understood it was meant to be bad….

Therefore, in my ever-obsessive way that cannot let go of ‘patterns’, I find ‘words’ to be important: not due to their primary meaning, but because of what they imply outside of this narrow interpretation.

(Aside:  I suspect that some kids – especially ones who are obsessively concerned with ‘accuracy’ of expressions – may start out learning language naturally.  Then, as they discover that the words have additional meanings they were not aware of – the ‘colouring’ of the word, in my description – they may become unable to use that word any longer as they know they cannot use it accurately, without this additional layer of meaning…  This is just an anecdotal observation, but I would not be surprised if the ‘natural early language development’ followed by ‘regression’ which is sometimes seen in Autistic children was, in some nebulous way, connected to this principle.)

If this ‘colouring’ is so very different, affects so much the non-primary meaning of words as simple as ‘cat’ and ‘dog’, how much deeper are these different connotations experienced – consciously or not – when we talk about concepts as personal and deeply held as spirituality, faith and religion?  They have the power to affect our reasoning without us being aware of it!  Yet, if I plan to present a comprehensive view of ‘The Big Picture’, I cannot avoid the area of influence on individual humans – as well as on the evolution of whole societies – which ‘spirituality’, ‘faith’, ‘religion’, ‘dogma’ and ‘belief’ and their specifics have. 

I must admit – the concept of ‘faith’ and ‘belief’ has always fascinated me.  Perhaps because as an Aspie, I lack the bit of brain structure required for ‘faith’ and ‘belief’ (religious meaning), the ability other people had to ‘believe’, to ‘have faith’, had puzzled and attracted me from when I first became aware of it.  While in my teens, I did a lot of reading up on different faiths.  And even though my education is in Physics, every one of my ‘electives’ was used to study anthropology and sociology of religions (I actually came only 1/2 credit short of a minor in this, but thought a degree in Physics with a minor in Anthropology of Religion was not likely to make me ’employable’… so I made a conscious choice not to take that last course.  Yet, this did not prevent me from doing the reading, plus more…)

Therefore, before I delve into examining the role of various religious beliefs and various religious organizations (they truly are very separate from each other, even if related) on ‘The Big Picture’, I think it essential that I take some time to define a few terms.  Yes, these are not going to be ‘new’ terms…  However, tracing their origins and ‘pure’ meaning, as well as the cultural change they had undergone (and defining in what sense and with what ‘colouring’ I use these terms) is important if I am to convey my perceptions of what is happening accurately.

In the next little while, I will make a post for each of the ‘big’ terms I am talking about, in the hope that this will both aid in linking to them when I use them in my later descriptions of ‘stuff’, but also in order to generate ‘term-specific’ comments, corrections and recommendations.  So, if you have something to add to these upcoming posts, please, do so.  It will be most appreciated!

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Corporate censorship – tip of the iceberg…

‘The Economy of Ideas’ by John Perry Barlow, the co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, is an excellent (if a little long – but well worth reading) essay published in 1994 in Wired Magazine.  I would be a visionary essay were it published today!  Here, Barlow warns us that in the coming years, corporate censorship could be the greatest danger to our freedom of speech.

A provocative – but well reasoned – position, to say the least. 

“Throughout the history of copyrights and patents, the proprietary assertions of thinkers have been focused not on their ideas but on the expression of those ideas. The ideas themselves, as well as facts about the phenomena of the world, were considered to be the collective property of humanity.”

“Notions of property, value, ownership, and the nature of wealth itself are changing more fundamentally than at any time since the Sumerians first poked cuneiform into wet clay and called it stored grain. Only a very few people are aware of the enormity of this shift, and fewer of them are lawyers or public officials.”

“Whenever there is such profound divergence between law and social practice, it is not society that adapts. Against the swift tide of custom, the software publishers’ current practice of hanging a few visible scapegoats is so obviously capricious as to only further diminish respect for the law. “

“I believe that law, as we understand it, was developed to protect the interests which arose in the two economic “waves” which Alvin Toffler accurately identified in The Third Wave. The First Wave was agriculturally based and required law to order ownership of the principal source of production, land. In the Second Wave, manufacturing became the economic mainspring, and the structure of modern law grew around the centralized institutions that needed protection for their reserves of capital, labor, and hardware.

Both of these economic systems required stability. Their laws were designed to resist change and to assure some equability of distribution within a fairly static social framework. The empty niches had to be constrained to preserve the predictability necessary to either land stewardship or capital formation.

In the Third Wave we have now entered, information to a large extent replaces land, capital, and hardware, and information is most at home in a much more fluid and adaptable environment. The Third Wave is likely to bring a fundamental shift in the purposes and methods of law which will affect far more than simply those statutes which govern intellectual property.” (my emphasis) 

Barlow makes the case that corporate interests will, if allowed, protect their investment in the ‘ideas’ which are the ‘currency’ of the Third Wave – and that could involve significant curbing of our freedom of expression.

Interestingly enough, I have come across this video (and there are many others which raise this issue) that might just demonstrate a tiny little bit of what Barlow is talking about:

It is something to ponder….

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