January 2, 2017

Roundabout V

June 24, 2016

Let's see if I correctly understand the recent article on guns I posted. Many white folks in the US were alarmed over black folks and their supporters demonstrating and rioting in the '60s and '70s. Many of these people became fearful, judgmental, resentful, and blaming. Instead of seeking an understanding of why blacks were complaining and rioting, and, if any of their complaints had merit, what if anything might be done to address their grievances, many whites decided to call the disturbances a law-and-order matter with an often unspoken undertone of group-blame based on racial prejudice and bias.

A large part of their response to this perceived threat to their person, property, wealth and power was to buy guns and shoot blacks and anyone else who might try to rob or harm them. This, such whites thought but most would not say, would help protect themselves and their stuff, and slow down or stop the ongoing erosion of their societal power and privilege.

Let's now consider what happened next. Most Republican politicians and key fundamentalist Christian leaders quickly jumped in and proclaimed their strong support for this kind of thinking and action. Underneath it all they knew it was a quasi-law and order response yet they went along with it and festooned it all with religious righteousness and patriotism.

Now, let's see how this response to America's social and cultural evolution toward a more just, humane, rational society worked out. Well, we now have a society where gun selling, buying and use are, for all practical purposes, poorly controlled to the point that a significant number of preventable deaths of innocent people cannot be stopped. Worst of all, the majority of a major political party and their base of supporters are on the verge of putting forward a vulgar, race-baiting, misogynist, laissez-faire uber-capitalist for the US presidency.

How did all this happen? Go to the top of this post and the essay and start over. What can we do? 1) Do not confirm Trump as the GOP nominee. 2) If he's nominated, vote against him in November and encourage others to do the same. What about the problem of choosing inappropriate responses to social problems? Support people at all levels of society and circumstances who offer societal and individual responses and solutions based on reason, unbiased research evidence, and critical thinking; and oppose in all forums and situations those who act on, feed into, racialize, politicize, profit from, and supernaturally sanctify our emotions and fears.

Do you think I correctly understand this? If not, please explain.

June 27, 2016

You know me, Mr. Positive and hopeful about our species' continuing survival and flourishing based on our first 200,000 years of cultural evolution. My optimism that the global morality and civilization we are building, following the establishment of the UN in 1945 and the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the UN in 1948, will continue to grow and become a reality.

However, the populism and demagoguery currently on display among many in the UK and US, and elsewhere, and the continuing persecution of millions by repressive governments and certain followers of religion are beginning to make me question my hopefulness.

"Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
- W.B Yeats

I've known and loved this poem for years. Now I look at the phrase "the center cannot hold" and ask: What exactly is that "center?" And what might Yeats have meant by "cannot hold?"

The center must mean more than a government authority. It must also mean a commitment by Humankind to specific principles - enlightened, reasoned governance; a balance between an individual's freedom and his/her duty to others; and an appreciation and respect for the diversity of human beliefs, values, and behaviors, locally and globally.

Irishman Yeats wrote this poem in 1919, during the turmoil after WWI and at a time when Britain was dealing with Irish uprisings. His center holding or not referred to Britain remaining a United Kingdom during that time. It was also an obvious alarm about a broader, civilizational or Humankind as a whole problem.

Is H. sapiens at another fork in the road of its cultural evolutionary journey? Our first being to choose dependence on group life and the development of ever more efficient tools as survival strategies, or not. And now, after many successive evolutionary forks that have been navigated successfully, are we at a time of choosing between reason and emotion, between principled democracy and mob rule as means for pursuing human flourishing? In many ways it would seem so.

Choosing paths forward in the past was accomplished by different means - political, religious, military - and sometimes by necessity or luck. Sometimes enlightened, benign despots held sway. It was only in the middle of the last century that a successful attempt was begun to unify Humankind under a set of elective principles to pursue peace, human rights, and flourishing for all.

Is the current populism and demagoguery a statement that these goals currently at the center of Humankind's collective striving are ignoble or unachievable goals? That unfettered individual emotion and violence and rabid nationalism are our preferred ways forward at this current fork in the road? Are we now crying out to be the brutes of our short-sighted emotions as opposed to the deliberate and measured guidance of our reasoning?

Your thoughts?