Empathy: Bringing down the walls, one brick at a time

By M. Jefferson Hale*

What would happen if the entire world followed the greatest moral advice of the sages?  What would such a world look like? “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is not a concept owned by any religion. One finds it even in the words of secular humanists. It is almost universal:

It is Baha’i: “Ascribe not to any soul that which thou wouldst not have ascribed to thee, and say not that which thou doest not. . . .Blessed is he who preferreth his brother before himself.” Baha’u’llah;

It is Buddhism“…a state that is not pleasing or delightful to me, how could I inflict that upon another?” Samyutta Nikaya v. 353;

It is Christianity: “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” Luke 6:31, King James Version;

It is Secular HumanismDo unto others as you would have them do unto you; 

It is Brahmanism“This is the sum of Dharma (duty): Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you.”  Mahabharata, 5:1517;

It is Islam“None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.” Number 13 of Imam Al-Nawawi’s Forty Hadiths;

It is Judaism: “What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man. This is the law: all the rest is commentary.” Talmud, Shabbat 31a;

It is Confucianism“When one cultivates to the utmost the principles of his nature, and exercises them on the principle of reciprocity, he is not far from the path. What you do not like when done to yourself, do not do to others.” Confucius, Doctrine of the Mean.

Indeed, reciprocity** is a moral concept advocated by these and many more religions, as well as atheists and agnostics the world over. It is possibly the highest moral value ever espoused, and yet most who claim to adhere to this philosophy often ignore it, especially in politics. If this were not so, then there would exist little or no poverty, little or no indifference, and there would be universal, nonprofit healthcare. Why would this not be something to which everyone could agree?

I confess to my own guilt here. I, like everyone, am a product of my environment and my genetic heritage. I am a work in progress. I have profound regrets for inappropriate statements and actions that brought stress to others, and still often have difficulty in controlling my desire for fractious confrontation against those with whom I have grievances in both social situations and politics. Civil debate is always better even if civility isn’t a trait of one’s opponent, and I am a firm believer in debate. Thus, I have to keep reminding myself that anger wins no converts, always troubles the soul, and makes the way difficult. Since I cannot change the past or my genetics, therefore, the best I can do is try my best to recognize my inclinations to self-centeredness, condescension, aggression, and resist.

On this site, I will call on readers to join me in traveling the difficult path of the sages. We are all subject to the same natural impulses and will often fall short, but if everyone were to try, it would be a far better world.

How hard can it be? Consider Matthew 25:32-46. Matthew, or whoever wrote Matthew, in his quest to bring about a more just society, did not suffer from any illusion that empathy is our primary motivating force. Self-interest is far stronger. He knew that without threat of punishment, relatively few would follow his words. Moreover, he knew that mere punishment, such as execution, prison, or flogging would not be enough. He knew the punishment must be far greater than anything dealt by society. It had to be the threat of divine punishment: unrelenting torture, without end, forever.

Yet, even that threat has never been enough. Why has it not? Because we human beings are only slightly less subject to our genetic heritage than other species. By nature, we are aggressive, self-interested, territorial beings. These traits are characteristics honed long ago by the drive for survival—a drive we’ve inherited from a distant past far more dangerous than the present when to lose one’s territory and possessions was to lose one’s life, or at the very least, create hardships.

Still, human territorialism is no longer the instinct it was long ago. An instinct is a drive that impels an individual, without recourse, to certain actions, not the least of which is to protect himself, his family, and his territory in an aggressive manner and to procreate.

We now have the power to override those passions, reducing what used to be instinct to mere impulses. We have become, collectively, more tolerant and less territorial. Even though we, for the most part, have intellectualized our territorialism in the form of property possession and sovereignty by force of law, our ethical concepts are evolving. We, therefore, now have the capacity to follow the path of the sages, difficult as that may be.

I can envision a future—not in my lifetime but long thereafter—humankind will live together as brothers and sisters. I can see a time when our primary motivation will not be self-interest, but universal empathy. The founders of that future are those who listen to the sages and have the courage to venture beyond the walls of their theological and self-centered ideologies, taking with them only the greatest words of wisdom; the words of benevolent reciprocity. Imagine what the world would be like if everyone did this.

* M. Jefferson Hale is the lead character in the novel, The Empathy Imperative, by Max T. Furr

** What was implied by the sages was benevolent reciprocity. Simple reciprocity might allow for returning violence for violence, but benevolent reciprocity is returning kindness for violence. It is, indeed, a most difficult thing to do. Shouldn’t there be a Church of Benevolent Reciprocity?


— Max T. Furr is author of The Empathy Imperative, a philosophical novel exploring the nature Divine Justice. Was Descartes wrong and God was a deceiver, after all? What would the world be like if empathy, not self interest, were our primary motivating force?

Based on biblical literalism, the story opens at the beginning of the Tribulation, but a professor of philosophy and evolutionary biology becomes the focal point for a change that alters Yahweh’s Divine Plan. Jeff knew the answer to a question unspoken.

Bill Maher on the Magic (R)

A fascinating take on conservatism v. Trumpism and political integrity on the Right. Maher is well known for telling it like it is and adding a degree of humor even as he is being serious. He nailed this on!

I have vetted the following Dr. Seuss cartoon on Snopes. It is TRUE and a very chilling affirmation that history does, indeed, repeat itself (in varying ways).

adolf-the-wolf-with-explanation

— Max T. Furr is author of The Empathy Imperative, a philosophical novel exploring the nature justice and religious belief.

Was Descartes wrong and God was a deceiver, after all?

Consider that if the Christian Bible were true (sans contradictions), then what would that say of objective science, such as astronomy, biological evolution and medical research? Indeed, what would it say about logic and the Creator, Itself?

What would the world be like had it been created by a truly benevolent god and our primary motivating force was empathy, not self interest? How, indeed, with the human condition as it is, could we achieve such a world either via a god or by humanism?

Join Professor M. Jefferson Hale as, in part II, he puts God on the witness stand in an ethereal court to answer for Its malfeasance and terrorism.

Donald Trump Needs an Appropriate Moniker

donald-trump-capt-queeg

Captain Philip Francis Queeg

AMERICA, MEET DONALD (CAPTAIN QUEEG) TRUMP,” a real-life version of the fictional Captain Philip Francis Queeg of the minesweeper USS Caine. The Caine Mutiny, was the 1951 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel written by Herman Wouk, and subsequently became, in 1954, a five-star movie starring Humphrey Bogart—one of my all-time favorites.

The “Queeg” moniker came to me yesterday after months of observing and listening to Trump’s unstable lashing out at virtually anyone of note (and some not-so-much of note) from whom he perceives an insult and his consistent display of an uber authoritarian persona. It reminded me of Captain Queeg’s monomaniacal obsession with strict discipline—dominating and micromanaging his crew—which easily distracted him from his primary duties in WWII.

I recalled Queeg’s paranoia, his turning the Cain inside out in a search to find the thief of a can of strawberries, his demanding that no one may interrupt him while he’s talking, his intolerance of being contradicted and his angry rebuke of a subordinate while his ship steamed over its own tow cable.

Considering this juxtaposition with Trump, his presidency is chilling on many levels, especially that he’s now in possession of the nation’s nuclear missile launch codes (Dr. Strangelove comes to mind), his global-warming denial and his intention to go full bore in opening up more land to drilling for fossil fuels, a bow to the Kochs and which includes rescinding the sanctions on Russia for the sake of huge profits for Exxon Mobile (the corporation of Rex Tillerson—Trump’s nomination for Secretary of State and likely confirmed on Jan. 23rd).

As for Trumps thin skin, in my mind he needs some early conditioning on how to thicken it. Since his subordinates in the White House and most congressional conservatives likely are sycophants (yes men) who would bow to his demands for no other reason than for profit and power (although I hope the military types are not so greedy and demonstrate the integrity his Wall Streeters are not likely to display), his education is left to the public.

I will, henceforth, refer to him as Capt. Queeg, until and unless he proves me wrong. I won’t, however, bet the farm. I hope others adopt this view as well.

I once thought that GW Bush was much like Queeg and suggested as much in my novel, The Empathy Imperative, but at least Bush’s insecurity left him open to manipulation (mainly by Cheney). Trump, however, masks his insecurity in extreme narcissism and hostility, therefore, he is not likely controllable.

 

TRUMP’S TRUE REASON FOR NOMINATING REX TILLERSON FOR SECRETARY OF STATE: Lust, lies, and videotape

Hope you don’t have combustible hair. Rachel Maddow brings a bit of history to what leads up to the reason for Trump’s selection of Tillerson and why they are so friendly with Putin.

As always, FOLLOW THE MONEY:

ONGOING: The Greatest Heist in History

From Bloomberg Businessweek

The World’s Favorite New Tax Haven Is the United States

Moving money out of the usual offshore secrecy havens and into the U.S. is a brisk new business.

Last September, at a law firm overlooking San Francisco Bay, Andrew Penney, a managing director at Rothschild & Co., gave a talk on how the world’s wealthy elite can avoid paying taxes.

Read the report here. 


Don Quixote

 

–’tis I, Don Quixote, fighting corporate windmills–Image from Pinterest

 

And From Spiegel Online

Oligarchs and dictators’ daughters apparently have a penchant for bunkering their assets on the British Virgin Islands. Barons and composers, on the other hand, seem to prefer the Cook Islands. To cheat on taxes, they create bogus firms with imaginative names like Tantris, Moon Crystal or Sequoia.

. . . and conservatives in the U.S. blame the poor and the working poor for being poor.

Can there be a better argument for voting for Bernie Sanders for president and progressive candidates for Congress?

 The greatest sin of humankind is indifference to poverty and suffering. Think about it! GET THE MONEY OUT OF POLITICS! VOTE FOR PROGRESSIVES!

 


Max T. Furr is author of The Empathy Imperative, a philosophical novel featuring a trial of God. A bold story that takes a logical look at the god of the Abrahamic Religions.

Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?–from Plato’s dialogue, Euthyphro–a Socratic dialogue.

Is an act of God just and right because god does it, or does God do only that which is just and right?–Author’s paraphrase 

 

Seeking funds for Flint, Democrats block energy bill

Deceit

publicdomainpictures.net

When will America wake up? There appears to be no depth to which congressional conservatives will not sink in their utterly disgraceful attempts to undermine the president at the expense of the lives of thousands, even millions of citizens, including the lives of children. Their complete indifference to suffering is simply without precedent, at least in this nation. It appears, to them, the public is no more than a Machiavellian means to power.

I have to say that, even though I do not tend to favor conspiracy theories, knowing the sheer insensitivity, incivility, and inhumanity of leading conservatives, there isn’t much I wouldn’t put past them.

Thus, I have come to lean toward the theory that the Cheney-Bush Administration knew in advance of the 9/11 attack and let it happen (or even facilitated it) in order to fulfill their Project for the New American Century dream of “reconstructing” the Middle East for American control the oil fields.

Although the original site for this document has been taken  down (surprise, suprise), I found it.

The key line in this PDF document is the statement that their designs on the Middle East would take a long time to accomplish “absent some catastrophic catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor” (Italic mine).


 

Now, this:

Washington (CNN) Frustrated Senate Democrats blocked a bipartisan energy bill Thursday after Republicans refused to allow a vote on an amendment to help the city of Flint, Michigan, respond to its catastrophic water crisis.  READ MORE HERE.


How did Republicans become so insensitive, deceitful and belligerent? I researched the rise of the neoconservatives from my novel, The Empathy Imperative. I plan to post the relevant pages on The Benevolent Thou shortly.

 

 

‘Post-Materialist’ Science?’

ouija_boardMy notion of grownups, from tothood (which can be excused) through high school (which is much less excusable), was that they were, generally, beings of integrity and honor.

Obviously, I was not paying a lot of attention. It wasn’t until I went to college, however, that I realized how wrong I was.

There are a great many (apparent) frauds in politics, religion (rather easy to see for those who dare to use reason), and science (not so easy to see) where agenda-motivated sophistry abounds, easily and dangerously deceiving the uninformed, the faith-locked, and the ill educated.

I have no doubt that critical thinking (informal logic), world religions, and ethics should be taught as early in

creationism-cartoon-a-miracle-occurs
A scientist reviews Dr. Oz’s work

public schools as possible (well before college). These courses, like math, reading, writing, and science should be mandatory. We truly need an informed and logically minded public.

‘Post-Materialist’ Science? A Smokescreen for Woo

Sadri Hassani

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 39.5, September/October 2015

Pseudoscience has been rapidly gaining ground in the past few decades. Dietary supplements and homeopathic preparations, advertised by the disgraced Dr. Oz and his ilk, now constitute a multi-billion-dollar industry. . . read more at http://www.csicop.org/si/show/post-materialist_science_a_smokescreen_for_woo

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