Brazil’s “biggest shame in history?” Really?

Let me first be clear. I am not opposed to non-pugilistic sports of any kind. Indeed, nations should continue their internal and international games. It is a superb way for societies to interact.

As Important as I feel sports to be, however, they should not be our highest priority.

Sao Paulo's Itaquerão stadium Photo from en.wikipedia.org

Sao Paulo’s Itaquerão stadium
Photo from en.wikipedia.org

To put things into prospective, the Sao Paulo’s Itaquerão stadium, home to the 2014 World Cup games, was built at the cost to the citizens for $350-million.

Residents in the area say that their taxes rose between 20 and 35 percent. A short distance from this beautiful stadium live about 4,800 homeless people, (men, women, and children).

The Brazilian sports newspaper Lance called Brazil’s loss to their team’s bid to win the soccer World Cup, “the biggest shame in history.” Really? Brazil’s biggest shame in history? How about the rampant, abject poverty in Brazil? No shame there?

Brazilian homeless Photo: Elizabeth Gorman/Al Jazeera

Photo: Elizabeth Gorman/Al Jazeera

Indifference to poverty in any country is a disgrace, and most, if not all countries have an overabundance of it–including the USA.

All societies should be judged by how they treat the least of their citizens. In the USA, there is an ever widening gap between the wealthy and the poor, and conservatives, who claim to be “family values” Christians, are fighting fang and claw to keep it that way.

Photo: Elizabeth Gorman/Al Jazeera

Photo: Elizabeth Gorman/Al Jazeera

Arrogance (self aggrandizement) and indifference fuel poverty and war. It seem the world has at least another millennium to go before it gets its priorities in proper order.

Most of us judge ourselves in comparison to others in society. It’s natural do do so. We can see that we are financially better off than many, but not as financially secure as others. Yet our focus is mainly on ourselves–our position in society relative to those with greater wealth.

Should we not be more concerned with those who have little or nothing? No one wants to live in abject poverty. Would it not be a greater good if everyone worked for the benefit of others? This view, of course, is considered naive by many, and indeed it is, given our present day world with its attitudes of dominance, profit, and self righteousness. But we have slowly advanced from where we’ve been in history. There are, today, more of us who can see the benefits of universal empathy. There are more of us who do unto others as we would have them do unto us. In time, there will be many more. We can only hope humanity survives to see the world we envision.


— Max T. Furr is author of The Empathy Imperative, a philosophical novel based on the epic struggle between religion and science, and brings the true nature of justice, mercy, and love into sharp focus.  What would the world be like if empathy, not self interest, were our primary motivating force?

 

Why We Have a Wall of Separation between Church and State

Image

IRAN: “Razieh Ebrahimi was forced to marry at the age of 14, became a mother at 15, and killed her husband at 17. Now at 21, she is on Iran’s death row.”

The primitive and inhuman religious intolerance of fundamentalist Islam is not a testament to the superiority of Christianity, but a testament to the brilliance of the Founders of our republic (in particular, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison) in placing the Establishment Clause* in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, thereby, as Jefferson said, erecting a “wall of separation” between Church and State.**

Keep in mind that in the West, fundamentalist Muslims are considered to be evil merchants of hatred and death. Indeed, they are.

But keep in mind, too, that Islam is only one of the three Abrahamic religions, the other two being Judaism and Christianity. Of the three, it is the radical faction of Islam that holds most faithfully to the ancient scriptures, albeit adding many more draconian laws (especially for the subjugation or women) since its founding.

If a Jewish or a Christian nation were to strictly abide by the ancient laws, which they claim to be God’s Word, but to which only fundamentalist Islam faithfully subscribes in toto, there would be little difference between the fundamentalist Muslim states and the states of the west.

Fortunately, Judaism has moderated and evolved, with the help of reason, and early Christians saw fit pick and choose from the old laws, leaving out the summery executions of women for perceived insults to the male ego and their obsession for dominance. Fundamentalist Islam, however, with it’s head firmly buried in the 7th century, still perceives itself emasculated by independent women–and in Islam, the old laws govern the state. There is no Wall of Separation. Men still fear female independence.

ImageAnd yet, even here in the West, modern day Christian fundamentalists–including many politicians and some Supreme Court Justices, who should understand the Constitution better than anyone, still disavow and deny existence of the Wall of Separation, (e.g., Scott “Stoning Gays is Fine” Esk, of Oklahoma, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy MooreU.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and many others).

Such inexcusable ignorance! Have these people no knowledge of what happened in the early years of our nation? Have they not heard of the Salem Witchcraft Trials and the execution of women? With enough people like Esk, Scalia, and Moore, et al, in government, is there any doubt that we would not revisit the years when woman were hanged, stoned, crushed, or drowned by mere accusation of witchcraft and men and women executed for homosexuality?

 This is the very reason for the Establishment Clause. And for Scalia, et al, not to understand this is beyond belief. For his information (as though he would care), the intent of the Separation Clause is documented in Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom. This is the document from which the Separation Clause was fashioned and it spells out Jefferson’s precise intent–which is true freedom of conscience and speech for every person, and under no coercion from clergy or government agency. Scalia, et al, should take the time to read this document.

If a religion cannot stand on its own merits and be strong enough to withstand criticism, even from its women, then it does not deserve to survive. If our “leaders” cannot understand the concept of benevolent reciprocity (do unto others . . .) then they should step down.

* Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

** The “Wall of Separation” comment is found in Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in the state of Connecticut, written in 1802.


— Max T. Furr is author of The Empathy Imperative, a philosophical novel based on the epic struggle between religion and science, and brings the true nature of justice, mercy, and love into sharp focus.  What sort of world would a truly benevolent god have created?

Want’s the Matter with North Carolina?

The Culture War

The Culture War

How would I go about viewing politics through an empathetic lens? Politics is the second most pervasive subject to grip the human psyche–the first being religion. I am opposed to both, really, at least in the way they are practiced. There seems to be no honor in politics, and each organized religion has its conceptual boundaries, beyond which lies universal empathy–the Forbidden Zone.

I’ve written on both subjects, and at least with politics, I’ve tippy-toed around the ugliness. No more. In viewing politics through the lens of empathy, one must first find the truth, point out the truth and the deception, and then attempt to find an empathetic way to a solution that is best for society. In most cases, I suspect, the solution necessarily would be utilitarian in nature–the greatest good for the greatest number of people. This would include the “least of these” in society. And so I dive into the ugly, with empathy in mind.

In a State known for its class 1 colleges and its Research Triangle, one would think the good people of North Carolina would not be so easily swayed by misinformation and disinformation.

The neoconservatives, decades ago, having lost their beloved Soviet Union “evil empire,” declared a “Culture War” against liberalism. It had been going on since the founding of our republic, but this time it was different.

Right wing movements in a democratic republic must have an “enemy” in order to plant fear in the minds of the people, and then harvest their votes. The enemy must be painted as evil and destructive to society’s “values,” and the best way to do that is through coordinated, party-wide propaganda in the mass media.

The Strategy: in 1996, Newt Gingrich wrote a memo to GOPAC titled, <a href=”http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article4443.htm”>”Language: A Key Mechanism of Control,”</a>, in which he codified the neoconservative plan of political attack that the neocons had been using since before Reagan, but this time it was for all conservatives. This memo provided virtually all conservative politicians and political hopefuls with their tactical marching orders. It had little to do with policy. Indeed, the voter would vote against their policies where they argued on their own merits. Therefore, the strategy was to destroy the public’s view of the enemy and their policies, but never detailing one’s own policies.

Keep in mind that the neocons considered the “Culture War” a real war, and the strategy was to infiltrate the minds of the public, control the message with disinformation (kick up sand and muddy the water), and stamp out liberalism once and for all. But this was not for the benefit of the public, it was for the benefit of themselves.

Arguably (or not) the most potent weapon in any war is “psychological operations” (psyops), i.e., propagation of propaganda as a means to control the minds of the citizens and turn them against one’s enemies. No organization/nation/party can survive long without the support of the people. Therefore, to achieve this end, the conservatives needed a seemingly legitimate propaganda network. Thus was born Fox News and a radio/television nation seeded with right wing, talking-head think-alikes.

Why did this work so well in America? First, it began in the days of pre-Internet, so it was more difficult to ferret out the real truth. Then the message was peppered with emotional words and phrases like “family values,” and “communist liberals,” and “Nazis,” and “patriot,” and “Second Amendment,” and “the liberals have expelled God from our schools and are coming for your guns and Bibles.”

Liberals, unfortunately, were very slow to pick up on this. The conservatives were talking to the nation, but effectively, liberals were not. Thus the conservatives controlled the message.

No conservative voter I have debated has ever noticed the difference in the messages coming from their political camp and that of the liberal, and they have denied it when pointed out. Where the liberals concentrate on policy, the conservatives concentrate on demonization of the left–mostly personal attacks against the person and the person’s family. It actually works.

Few people noticed when the main thrust of conservative politics became less about policy and more about party-wide, unified, personal attacks, misinformation, and concentrated, emotion generating rhetoric. Hate speech! Now, thanks to Newt, et al, it is now the very foundation of conservative politics. Rarely will you hear a conservative politician speak on a policy without a personal attack against the president, designed to spike emotions. It is their deceitful modus operandi–method of operation. One need not present an alternative policy; just a demonization of the enemy and his policies.

So, again, why do conservative psyops continue to work with all the information now available? It works because it is emotional and it works because far too many voters simply do not vet the information (it’s on Fox News, to it must be fact). And it works, too, because of the apparent legitimate “reports” coming out of conservative, corporate funded think-tanks that are accepted as authoritative by the corporate media.

The end-game: The United States is in a precipitous slid into oligarchy (note, in the graph below, the ever widening income gap between the wealthy and the working class).

Image

The United States already is a corporatocracy. Few things will get done in DC without Wall Street’s approval, and they continue to see record profits while the working class virtually flat-lines. With a corporate Supreme Court and multinational corporations (loyal to no flag) mainly funding the conservatives, I see no means of recovery at anytime in the near future.

 

 

The illusion of separateness

Max T. Furr:

This is a re-blog from

LIFE IS NOT AN ERROR

Originally posted on Life Is Not An Error:

My horizons know no bounds, dimensionless I pass through with no sound; through dimensions, vacuous, folded and entangled so I am the golden thread oscillating a heavenly glow, binding strings in a perpetual state of flow. As thick as a Planck are those who insist they are alone and separate from all around them; for once we were all in union and hence forever in communion and unison despite an illusionary range. Believe me not? Then just ask the cat locked inside the box and ignore that sly fox, whom asks that you merely shake the box to hear it meow! Understand the entanglement, the oscillations and vibrations that echo silently and abundantly through all. This Earth and you are but one expression of me but one I love dearly so, so I bring you this message on the illusion of your separateness and the rarity of your sentient glow…

View original 49 more words

the untouchable smile – {QP3}

Max T. Furr:

From a new and genuine friend. His social philosophy and mine are one.

Originally posted on Kendall F. Person, thepublicblogger:

{press play}

When I look out at the people and they look at me and they are smiling, 
then I know, that I’m loved. That is the time that I have no worries, no problems.- Etta James

untouched smile

the Smile Collection

the Quest for Peace entry Three {QP3}
QP1/Violence - QP2/The 5 Reasons We are Our Brothers Keeper

The smile. A mood lifting, contagious reaction, free to give, and beautiful to receive, gesture and expression. How we love when babies smile.  It is the one sound or expression they make, that lets us know everything is okay. A natural reaction, it is created with ease. A frown creates tension, and if our Grandmothers are correct, hold on to one long enough, and it will become your permanent expression. Smile, and less an occasion or two,  the person you smiled at, will smile back at you. Smile in the mirror…

View original 840 more words

GITMO: An Enduring Symbol of Conservative Shame and Dishonor

I have written much about the meaning of empathy and benevolent reciprocity. This entry is about what these concepts are not.

Guantanamo Bay prison Camp (Gitmo), located at the southern tip of Cuba, is a major source of frustration for me. The Bush Administration brought deep shame to the U.S. with their Gulag Archipelago of torture camps–torture of suspected terrorists, many of whom were completely innocent, having been the victims of the U.S. policy of handsomely paying “snitches” to finger people with terrorist links. Quite obviously, many thusly accused were those with whom the “informer” had a personal grudge and had no connection to terrorism at all.They were well paid simply to get rid of someone they didn’t like. Quite a temptation, wouldn’t you think?

Image from Salon.com

Image: Salon.com

Today, with 154 untried prisoners in perpetual political limbo, Gitmo still stands as a black symbol to our shame. Conservatives blocked President Obama’s two attempts to close the camp. On his first day in office, the president signed an Executive Order to shut down the camp and try the prisoners in the U.S. The conservatives squealed like angered chimps, leaped about, shook branches, and then blocked funding for the shutdown and transfer. This inhuman action has continued, along with fighting and blocking other policies and legislation, and it is all with pointed political purpose—to make the president appear to have broken his promises, turn the voters away from him, and thereby regain power. For the conservatives, it’s all about politics and power.

Patriotism is defined, in part, as devotion to one’s country, especially the ideals set by its founders. George Washington, for example, after capturing 1,000 Hessians at the Battle of Trenton, ordered that they be treated with the same rights for which our young nation was fighting. After the Battle of Princeton, Washington wrote of the prisoners; “Treat them with humanity, and let them have no reason to Complain of our Copying the brutal example of the British Army in their treatment of our unfortunate brethren…. Provide everything necessary for them on the road.” 

By continuing to honor this concept of kind treatment for our enemy prisoners, we gained the moral high ground around the world. We were highly respected for this, and a few other nations soon followed. We were leading by example! This is why, in the closing days of WWII, German troops went out of their way to surrender to U.S. troops instead of the Russians.

Will conservatives in this nation ever wake up and realize that their “leaders” are not patriots and certainly are not honorable men, but turncoats to the values that made our nation great? Will the conservative base ever be able to put themselves in the place of an innocent prisoner, tortured and held for life without trial? Think about it. What a living hell it must be. Where is the humanity? Where is the empathy? Where is our honor?


— Max T. Furr is author of The Empathy Imperative, a philosophical novel based on the epic struggle between religion and science, and brings the true nature of justice, mercy, and love into sharp focus.  What sort of world would a truly benevolent god have created?

HOMOSEXUALITY: Perception and Fear v. Reality and Reason

I have been arguing that universal empathy is the only path to peace and that organized religion builds walls that block the path. Few subjects make my case better than this one. Around the world in many countries, social and political forces work feverishly to suppress homosexual behavior. In the U.S., religious/social conservatives try to establish laws against same gender marriages.

In at least 10 countries, homosexuality may be punishable by execution. Why are homosexuals so feared? Homosexuality isn’t a disease, communicable or otherwise. It affects no one detrimentally.

Among the most favored arguments is that everyone’s sexuality is a choice. Yet, if you ask, I suspect most heterosexuals will deny they’ve ever been romantically attracted to their same gender (I’d love to get comments in this particular assertion).

Still, I can judge with certainty, only one person–myself. I’ve never been romantically attracted to another male. Am I to assume I am different from most folks? Are all conservatives, who make the choice-argument, really bisexual–equally attracted to both genders? I think not.

I offer four rational arguments that I hope most readers will spread:

1) Natural Law: When their biblical argument against homosexuality does nothing to convince lawmakers to make laws against same gender marriage, social conservatives turn to the deceptive and bogus “Natural Law” argument. They claim that in order to determine how humans are genetically programmed–how they should naturally act (unspoken: according to God’s Law)–we draw our conclusions from nature. Yet, it appears that few religious conservatives know much about nature.

The Catholic Church is a good example, as well as conservative Justices on the Supreme Court of the United States (and most in Congress). The Roman Catholic bishops, when Illinois legislators approved civil unions in 2011, said “Marriage comes to us from nature. . .That’s based on the complementarity of the two sexes in such a way that the love of a man and a woman joined in a marital union is open to life, and that’s how families are created and society goes along. … It’s not in our doctrine. It’s not a matter of faith. It’s a matter of reason and understanding the way nature operates.”

Never mind the thinly veiled and false statement that “it’s not a matter of faith,” just a modicum of research would have told them that their uninformed opinion is not the way nature operates. It took me about five seconds to find the facts. Same gender attraction and sexual play occurs naturally in many species besides Homo sapiens. Among the best examples is the bonobo, sometimes called the pygmy chimpanzee. Research on this can easily be found online.

2) Science: A phenotype is a genetic trait that manifests physically (easily seen by the eye). A genotype is a genetic trait that manifests psychologically–a predisposition to certain behaviors, such as sexual attraction (heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual).

      a. Phenotype: An estimated 1 in 4,500 infants are born with ambiguous genitalia. This is a condition in which the gender of a baby cannot be determined, having both male and female reproductive organs. This situation can become tragic when parents decide which gender they believe, or want their child to be, and then order the surgery. As the child grows, he/she discovers that the parents made the wrong choice. The question now becomes; Would religious conservatives deny that person’s right to pursue happiness by marrying a person of the same (apparent) gender?

      b. Genotype: Recall that “genotype” is really all those genetically predetermined behavioral characteristics of any person. Therefore, the genes predisposition a person to be romantically attracted to the opposite gender, the same gender, or to both genders (think of the indisputable variations in phenotype).

3) Strict Constitutionality: The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment forbids the government from making laws respecting an establishment of religion. This is made applicable to the states by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Anti marriage laws are based solidly in religion. These laws represent government recognition and support of the theological belief of an establishment of religion, and are therefore, strictly unconstitutional. To fully understand the intent of the Establishment Clause, see Thomas Jefferson’s The Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom. This is the document from which the Establishment Clause was crafted.

4) Reason: Religious conservatives are often complaining that the government should stay out of their lives. They call it “intrusive government.” Yet, they are quick to use government as a blunt instrument with which to bludgeon the rest of society into living by their religious beliefs. This should be pointed out by people of empathy at every opportunity.


———————————
What is wrong with allowing every citizen, in this “land of the free,” to seek happiness according to the dictates of his or her own conscience–the same right social conservatives claim for themselves?


— Max T. Furr is author of The Empathy Imperative, a philosophical novel that brings the true nature of justice, mercy, and love into sharp focus. It must be read with an open mind. What sort of world would a truly benevolent god have created?

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