In Reason We Trust

Posts in category World View

RISE UP!

Today is Inauguration Day and despite the situation we find ourselves in, I am actually hopeful.

Don’t get me wrong. I was just as devastated as the majority of the country on Election Day; for weeks I was depressed. I struggled with making the decision to go hide in a hole for the next four years or face head on what is sure to be constant astonishment and outrage. I shied away from social media and the news. Tried to focus more locally and I began to notice a change in myself. I began to work harder to be the change I want to see in the world. I refocused on my recycling efforts at home. I started getting more involved in local issues and ticked up on my volunteering commitments.  I put my money where my mouth is and donated to organizations that are going to really need our help such as the ACLU and the American Humanist Association.

After doing that I realized that many people around me were doing the same. It finally dawned on me that progressives like me had become mobilized; energized by the need to DO something. I, like many progressives, had become complacent under the Obama administration because we had a government that was working for us, creating change for the better but now that task is left up to us. All the issues that are important to progressives such as global climate change, women’s reproductive rights, universal health care, income equality, helping refugees, assuring Human Rights for all, logic, reason, and the use of Science to make informed decisions for the betterment of humanity will likely be ignored by this new administration.

Looking for the positive in each situation and finding ways to bounce back from adversity are Humanist Values and these months leading up to this day that we say goodbye to the Obama administration I have seen progressives RISE UP and so have many of the organizations that will need our help over the next four years. Planned Parenthood has seen an uptick of contributions and volunteers, which used to be about 8 new volunteers a week but jumped upwards of 65 a week after the election. The ACLU is fired up and ready to hold the Trump administration accountable for any civil rights violations. The interest generated by the Woman’s March on Washington tomorrow is astronomical as local marches are slated to occur at the same time all around the country empowering millions of people to stand up for the rights of others. It makes me wonder , if we would have been this energized during the Obama administration imagine how much more he may have accomplished and we might have been able to prevent the predicament we are in now.

We must RISE UP to the challenges we will undoubtedly face moving forward and despite the despicable bigotry and ignorance we will be confronted with I know I will be at peace because we are on the side of justice and as long as we do not go back to being complacent but diligently remain steadfast with our voices and our actions we will prevail.

Volunteer. Donate. Speak Up. Make a Difference!

Change

In reflection on Darwin Day and his remarkable discovery of Evolution and the gradual change of all life on Earth it has me thinking about how humanity responds to change. As an atheist change is an integral part to the purpose of my life. I must continue to change and evolve throughout my life span and if during that time I have left a legacy for the next generation then I will be at peace in my death. I also think this holds true for humanity as well. If we are not all here to serve a supreme being then what else do we have but to serve each other and improve upon ourselves, our communities, and the world in which we live.

I have friends that abhor change, they wish for things to be like the “good ol’ days” and immediately equate the word change with negativity. I equate the word change with progress, improvement, growth. Yes there can be change that is unhealthy and does not add to the flourishing of humanity but that is a choice we make not inevitability. Change is going to happen whether we like it or not, it is a fact of all matter; some to evolve and perhaps into something better.

Now that is not how Darwin’s evolution works, change is not for the better or worse, change only occurs because it furthers the reproductive ability of the species but for conscious creatures such as ourselves we now can steer change in a positive or negative direction depending upon our choices. We can use what we know about the world around us and about human experience to make changes that promote human thriving or we can continue to allow the suffering we see today. We can ask ourselves questions like… Is creating scarcity through a monetary system the best way to run an economy? Is consumerism in the best interest of our planet? Does our current political system reflect the intrinsic needs of life on this planet? Is capitalism the best economy strategy to promote human flourishing? Does dividing up our planet with finite resources in specific areas by nations help or hinder the stewardship of those resources? Is it a good idea to allow mythical ideologies to run amuck in socio-economic decision making? Has anyone ever thought of a better way?

My answer is yes and his name is Jacque Fresco. This man will be 100 years old next month and he has devoted his life to answering these questions in such a way to promote the integration of the best of science and technology into a comprehensive plan for a new society based on human and environmental concern. It is a global vision of hope for the future of humankind in our technological age. Fresco is proposing a complete paradigm shift in how humans think about value. What value does human life have? Is it based on what God an individual believes in or how much money they can earn or do all conscious creatures have some other intrinsic value? What value do environmental resources have? Should they be based on how much money they can earn an individual or perhaps on their own carrying capacity to serve all life on this planet? Who or what should be making decisions on behalf of all life on Earth?

There is no other area in human existence that is changing faster than human technology. The exponential growth of technology has been changing the way people live for centuries and is changing the way humans interact with their environment. Here in lies our greatest evolutionary choice to use that technology to integrate human lifestyle in harmony with the environment in a Resource Based Economy or we can continue to use technology to rape and pillage the environment which can ultimately only end in our demise.

From one revolutionary man, Charles Darwin, to another, Jacque Fresco; I urge you to learn more about his visionary plan for our future and open your mind wide to the possibilities.

The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead - Season 2, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC - DSC_9915crgn_R_Ph Gene Page

I am a big fan of The Walking Dead. Not because of the imaginative and entertaining ways they come up with to kill zombies but because of the very real moral issues they have to deal with on a daily basis to survive. The main group meets lots of new people as they forage for food and shelter; lots of “strangers”. In a world like that, strangers are the great unknown and we all know how humanity fears the unknown. Is the stranger friendly or will he try to take what little we have, and will he try to kill us to get it? Every new person is a potential threat. So here in lies the dilemma… when the world is falling apart and all resources are scarce is it ok to consider someone a threat before they have proven that they actually are and act accordingly; which could include killing them before they have a chance to kill you? From strictly a survival stand point the answer is yes but you see humans have evolved beyond just “being”. Life is not just about being alive but how we go about living. Since man has been able to reason and ponder his existence, it has no longer been enough to just be alive; our lives actually have to stand for something. They have to have meaning. This leads us to the questions… is life really worth living in a constant state of fear, suspicion, and suffering? What value does a human life have if it is just mindlessly surviving long enough to reproduce? Is there a grander ideal that even in the direst of circumstances we should be trying to attain?

The characters in The Walking Dead all have asked themselves these questions. Some have come to the conclusion that they will do whatever it takes to protect themselves and the others they know and care about. They are unwilling to risk accepting any newcomers; other’s feel that every new person deserves a chance to prove themselves and is willing to take the risk for the greater good. Because once you get to know someone they are no longer a stranger and most often we come to care about the people we know.

This parallels very well with the current Syrian Refugee debate that is going on in this country. There is a large group of people that think we should close our borders to these people (strangers) in need in the off chance that a dangerous terrorist might slip through among them. Humanists and other empathetic Americans disagree with letting fear overrule compassion. Some of us do not want to just survive but instead want the entire human race to thrive together. Empathy has evolved in humans specifically for this purpose. It has been genetically selected because humans not only survive when they cooperate and care for each other but we reach our full potential to flourish as a species with less suffering.

I am so glad that there are people out there like Brandon Stanton; he is using his Humans of New York blog to tell the stories of Syrian Refugee families. It is much harder to be callous when you “know” who they really are. A stranger is just an unfamiliar entity but once we learn their story they become familiar and some become so close that they become family. When will we learn that we are all part of the human family?

Religion has tried to impart values but religion is divisive and separates the human family into groups. Dogma has made it very clear that thou shall not kill those within your ideological group but all other groups are fair game. Moral issues are decided very differently under the guise of dogmatic preference. The same goes for nationalism. We must help those from our same country but children, families, people outside our country can perish. But these are all labels we have given each other; once those labels are removed we are all the same. It is only our individual way of thinking that sets us apart, not where we live or what god we worship. Some choose fear and in honor of Star Wars day a quote from Yoda… “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

Instead what does compassion look like in The Walking Dead world? Do people still die? Of course they do; that is always inevitable. Instead it is how they live that really matters. Do they help everyone in need? Even if helping them might put them in a dangerous situation? Even if some are making poor decisions that put the rest of them in danger? Do they exile those people knowing that if they survive and hook up with other people, they may come back to try and take what they have? I’m still working out my own answers to those questions but there is a very interesting character named Morgan that has vowed not to kill any living person because “all life is precious”. Even if they are attacking him, his goal is to subdue and try to reason with them instead of kill them. He believes his life only has value if he values the lives of others. Otherwise he is no different than the “Walking Dead”.

The Plight of the Libertarian

I recently had a conversation with someone whom I thought was a progressive but as the discussion continued I learned he was actually a libertarian.

You see it becomes difficult to peg a libertarian as conservative or progressive, hence my initial mistake, because they are both conservative and progressive. Although they will tell you that traditional family values are very important to them they are also pro-choice. Many believe that humans have had an impact on global warming but yet they do not think that corporations should be regulated. Most will tell you that they don’t agree with same-sex relations but would never infringe upon their right to marry. Their primary principle is non-aggression but they vehemently protect their right to bear arms.

The conversation with my friend the Libertarian began with him lamenting the fact that so many new comers have come to our great state to rape and pillage it and many things he was allowed to do growing up here in Alaska have been taken from him. He now is required to get a permit to hunt and fish and must pay to use our national parks and recreational campgrounds. He feels that since his family homesteaded here and he was born and raised her, he should have preferential rights; that new comers should not be able to come to our state and start changing things, like running for office and enacting new laws. I brought to his attention that he and his family were not the very first inhabitants of this great land, that indeed indigenous people were here before them.  He disregarded my statement as if to imply that only white people can lay claim to land, that somehow the indigenous people are a non-issue. On top of that, the hypocrisy of in one breath saying everyone should be left alone to do whatever they want and then in another refuse the freedom to relocate to a new community and build a life there, was confounding to me.

Libertarian-ism is a simple idealistic worldview with two basic principles.

  1. The non-aggression principle – The non-aggression principle (also called the non-aggression axiom) is a moral principle that prohibits the initiation of force by one person against another.
  2. Respect for property rights principle – whoever produces, claims, or creates “property” first lays claim to said property and retains it for perpetuity.

Libertarians believe in extremely limited government; only providing security (military, police force, and a justice system) for its members and nothing else; they consider taxation an “initiation of force” which violates the non-aggression principle. I personally do not feel that I am forced to pay taxes. I am not always happy with where my tax payer money is being spent but I feel I have an obligation to contribute to the society of which I am a part and most certainly benefit from.

Life, liberty and property rights are inherent and best accomplished through the “rule of law”, “spontaneous order” and the “free market”.

Rule of Law – a society of liberty under law, in which individuals are free to pursue their own lives so long as they respect the equal rights of others. The rule of law means that individuals are governed by generally applicable and spontaneously developed legal rules, not by arbitrary commands; and that those rules should protect the freedom of individuals to pursue happiness in their own ways, not aim at any particular result or outcome.

Spontaneous Order – order in society arises spontaneously, out of the actions of thousands or millions of individuals who coordinate their actions with those of others in order to achieve their purposes.

Free Market – To survive and to flourish, individuals need to engage in economic activity. The right to property entails the right to exchange property by mutual agreement. Free markets are the economic system of free individuals, and they are necessary to create wealth.

This philosophy is all well and good if everyone adheres to it and if the world was much smaller than it is today; before the industrial revolution and before human population swelled to upwards of 7 billion people. The reality of today’s world is that almost anything one individual does will in some way impact another individual. One person’s freedom and liberty ends at the tip of another person’s nose and since most of us live in interconnected communities, we are virtually right on top of one another.

Today the idea of a free market without any type of regulations is ridiculous. People do not have time to vet everything that they consume; to make sure that it is not harmful or does not violate their values. We now have huge corporations and social systems in place that have global impact on our economy and our environment. Many corporations are masters of deception and corruption so even if we were all diligent enough to vet all of our products and services how do we know the information that is provided to us is genuine? Look at what happened in West, Texas; West Virginia; the Gulf of Mexico, and here in Alaska.  And that’s with regulations.  They really believe big businesses would act ethically with how they dispose, or handle, harmful chemicals or toxins? These companies would pollute our environment in whichever way was cheapest for them and by the time the community would figure it out and create “spontaneous order” it would undoubtedly be too late. I can only envision “spontaneous order” as some sort of wild west scenario that typically ends badly for all parties involved.

Libertarian-ism is a novel idea in that it encourages individual freedom, peace, and prosperity, but is vastly outdated in today’s times. Libertarian-ism might work in small, tribal communities. There’s absolutely no way in a complex modern society you can sit back, have an almost non-existent government then truly believe that “consumer power” will be the saving grace for regulating the behavior of the rich and powerful.

When you ask Libertarians a simple question, “Name a successful society that’s existed in human history, or even presently, that was built on Libertarian ideology” – they can’t answer.  And no, the United States wasn’t built on “freedom.”  We started this nation with slavery and expanded it with genocide.  If anything more regulations were needed to ensure basic freedoms were being given to certain demographics because without those regulations, “the free market” often discriminated against them.

In fact, looking around the world, the countries which most closely resemble their system of beliefs (small government, little or no taxes, and few regulations) are impoverished countries like Somalia.  You don’t find successful societies built on their system of beliefs, you see disorganized chaos and poverty. So while I think the gentlemen I had this interesting conversation with is a wonderful person, and granted some of his ideas are decent, his overall system of beliefs are just so massively flawed I can’t take most of what he says seriously. It just makes absolutely no sense in a global society of the size we have today and with the exponentially increasing human population.

A better alternative is a humanistic worldview founded on empathy, compassion and an egalitarian- based sense of fairness. In which we work together to solve the world’s problems instead of leaving everyone to fend for themselves. Instead of relying on outdated ideology that has no relevance in today’s reality, let us continue to use science-based decision making and experience to improve humanity. We can accomplish so much more together.

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