Blog # 206    SEEDS OF ETERNAL DISCORD (Redux #2)

It was part of our foundational intent two years ago when had its birth, to write on diverse subjects deemed interesting enough to warrant comment. A cursory review of the previous 205 blogs published since such inception, will reveal very few instances where subjects have been seen to require repetition [ all of which have been designated as a “redux”]. But certain disturbing news reports of late, have unfortunately provided a worthy rationale for another rare relaxation of our original intent. These distressing news reports dealt with the latest instances of religious conflict and shameful atrocity.

We have found it necessary on several past occasions to express the obvious and too often overlooked truism, that man acquires his respective culture and belief system by the random accident of birth (as opposed to philosophical choice). An individual born into a Coptic Christian setting will live his life as a Coptic Christian, a baby born to Irish Catholic parents will grow up an Irish Catholic.

Yet a reference to any historical period in mankind’s history (to the present) will reveal unlimited examples of groups of people of one religious belief, who have prosecuted and vilified other groups ascribing to a different belief system, and have dedicatedly committed genocide on the alleged self justifying grounds that they were carrying out God’s will. There are far too many historic examples to comprehensively cite; these include, for example, the celebrated Spanish Inquisition, in which the bloodthirsty religious zealots, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, put an untold number of innocent people to death  by burning them alive, for heresy, in the name of the Prince of Peace, the thirty year’s war in Central Europe between Catholics and Protestants, which earned the title of the most destructive war in all history, in which 8 million people died in the  name of some Deity, and a continuous war, since the 7th Century between Sunni and Shiite Moslems, over religious differences, discussed below.

There remains, rationally and empirically, the unavoidable question: Is organized religion helpful or harmful to mankind? In theoretical principle, organized religion would seem culturally and morally salutary; in actual, historical experience, it has been demonstrably and uniquely responsible for contention, misery, warfare and homicide, on an unimaginable scale, throughout recorded history. Any reader of this declaration of fact, who finds the same, in any way shocking or objectionable, is cordially invited to consult an authoritative history text of choice, which we feel will mitigate such reflexive reaction, in favor of objective, empirical reason.

In past writings we have often referred to the etiology of this deadly human malady and its origin.  Young and highly impressionable children, born, randomly, into an ethnicity and culture, are taught, by well meaning parents and the community, lessons of “we” and, as referring to other cultures, “they.” The purpose, conceivably, may be well intended and geared to giving the young child a sense of familial identity and belonging, but lessons of “we” and “they” are toxic seeds of future enmity and discord. Next comes the creation of myths concerning the other, possibly evangelical activity and later, conflict and tragedy. It tragically appears that once these seeds of discord are sown, the results are impossible to effectively eradicate.

An illustrative, (fictional but real- life) example of the principle, which we have previously posited in one of our past writings, went as follows: A white 30- year old, well -educated woman, and a supporter of civil rights, donating money to the NAACP and the Urban League, is walking her 11- year old daughter to school. She sees another young woman, who is also well educated, and happens to be black, similarly, walking her young child to school. Friendly personal greetings, and sincerely friendly broad smiles are exchanged; but the young white 11 -year- old thinks she notices a subtle (probably not consciously intended) cautionary squeeze of her hand, responsive to the meeting. The unconscious reaction of the mother, is included in the harvest of bitter fruit of the seeds of discord (the “we” and “they”) planted in her in early life, and thereafter impossible to effectively eradicate.

The Sunni and the Shia, both traditional Moslem, have been engaged in continuous war since the 7th Century. The dispute was whether Prophet Mohammed’s successor should legally devolve by familial inheritance, like the English Crown, or selected by democratic vote.  No rational, persuasive argument can be urged, that this is the issue which has continued to cause such bloody warfare and loss of life,  persisting into the 21st Century, with little hope of cessation.  The only understandable motivation is the pernicious continuance of the “we” and “they” dynamic, which results in the depersonalization and objectification of the “they,” making atrocity and murder possible. It is a momentous tragedy that neither side is able is to realize that the Deity has not directed the extermination of the “they.” One of the current news reports which motivated this writing advised a systematic killing of Sufi Moslems, by ISIS, during their prayer service at the Sufi Mosque.

The other shocking news report which motivated the present writing, related the report that there is a genocidal “cleansing” of the population of Moslems, domiciled in Myanmaar. A film clip featured a leading Buddhist cleric in that country, clearly and unashamedly, stating that people who do not follow Buddha are not human and should be eliminated. We cannot adequately describe our shocked and disappointed reaction to his words and to the reported events. For some naïve, wishful, reason, we had previously believed that Buddhism, with its emphasis on inner growth, rather than obeisance to a stereotypic Deity, its cultural emphasis on peaceful meditation and mindfulness, made it an exception to the common aberration affecting organized religion; apparently (and sadly), we were wrong, and are truly shattered.

However disappointing and discouraging they may be, the facts speak clearly and unequivocally for themselves. We are therefore obliged to maintain that the honest and considerate practice of secular morality is the only rationally appropriate and acceptable belief system.




One might permissibly define “society” as a voluntary entity in which people live together in company and companionship as a community, as opposed to living in isolation.

It would seem to be an elementary observation that no society can be established, or function, absent some degree of mutual understanding and consensus regarding the basic facts underpinning their existence. Differences regarding temporal matters are certainly acceptable, even encouraged as beneficial to society, but it is vital that the members of a society enjoy a basic shared recognition of the “given” in the geometric theorem of their common existence.

An accepted history, a language, an arithmetic system, ethical code and shared folkways, are among the existential requirements for communal living. Absent a shared acceptance of the commonality of human existence (past and present), one’s life, if survival were possible, would be solitary, insular and ignorant.

There is, inarguably, a universal, tacit acknowledgement of the observable elements constituting our natural phenomena. It is no longer open to dispute that the Earth is in orbit around the Sun, that the law of gravity is immutable, that the seasons change (for most of us) and have their signature features, that uncontrolled fire is destructive and dangerous and that all living things suffer their respective mortality. In this category of truthful facts, the only required investigatory mechanism is observation.

With respect to subject matter and events outside of our personal experience, a trusting reliance upon recognized sources of accurate information, such as encyclopedias, authoritative texts and other like sources, accessible for consultation, is essential. Knowledgeable consultants and specialists may also be resourced, when needed. Without a universal trust in such sources of accepted factual truth and accuracy, mankind would be doomed, metaphorically, to be lost at sea and rudderless.

America has (admirably) overcome a great many serious challenges and has nonetheless continued to evolve as an avatar of enlightened, moral and just society. It has outlawed slavery, and legally recognized the rights of all citizens, regardless of sex, sexual orientation, color or ethnicity, it has survived two world wars and other armed conflicts, economic depression, the McCarthy era, epidemics and natural as well as man-made disasters. It has successfully overcome virtually all manner of catastrophe yet has always emerged strengthened, because Americans have historically pulled together in common cause, and with a universal recognition and agreement as to factual reality.

However, we have recently been confronted with a truly existential threat to the existence of our Republican Democracy, one never previously experienced nor anticipated. This devastating threat, arguably, exceeds in resultant damage, physical and spiritual, the total sum of all horrific acts of terrorism practiced by our enemies. It a life-threatening disease, hosted by the previous election results, and has infected our body politic, and is rapidly metastasizing. The newly installed Administration has not only engaged in a consistent policy of recognizable mendacity, but has been the creative author of a new concept, “fake news,” among other activities, as a policy employed by it as a defensive and defamatory response when justly confronted by criticism from our historically reliable media.

There may be no worse institutional crime than an irresponsible and unprincipled attack on truth, the effect of which effectively constitutes an assault on (any) society’s rational gyroscope. It is particularly incredible when attributable to an American government, historically dedicated to the principles of verity and justice. From the sociological standpoint, concerning the progressive march of human development, it is an evil, retrogressive and a toxic threat to the basic support structure of human society.

We are left only with the necessary protective recommendation that the citizen be acutely aware of this base and unprecedented attack upon the very existence and moral stature of truth, and when appropriate, to trust solely to the value of his own personal inquiry and confident judgment.



The gravest and most dire concerns regarding the possible ascendency of Donald Trump, an egotistical, thoroughly unsuitable candidate, to the Presidency of the United States (and as such, the leader of the free world) was only exceeded by the tragic and alarming results of his success. The quick decline of America as an evolving avatar of Republican Democracy, had the speed and pathos of Classical Greek Tragedy, and left many ardent citizens in a state of confusion and utter despair.

If there were possible, a worrisome observation, even worse than the fact of the election of this unusual character to the Presidency of the United States, it was the dismaying and shocking realization that, incredibly, millions of fellow Americans, necessarily, voted for him.

We have quite often referred to the sage advice of Thomas Jefferson that, for a Democracy to function successfully, it requires a literate and informed populace. The subject Presidential election demonstrated unequivocally, that our country proved deficient in voters of the Jeffersonian caliber.

The inadequate number of usefully qualified citizen-voters, predictably, resulted in the current travesty to the American tradition. We were left with a completely unsuitable and unstable individual in office, a cabinet composed of people with obvious conflicts of interest, officials who are at the very top of our Security apparatus who are under indictment for treason, officials who are principally and illegally concerned with their aggregation of profits, (including the President himself who is clearly violative of the emoluments proscription of the U.S. Constitution), an Oval Office serving as a family mom and pop retail establishment, the creation of an atmosphere of disrespect for law and ethical conduct, a President who is embarrassingly ignorant regarding international, as well as national affairs, and sadly, so much more. It is frightening to realize that this impulsive orange primate has his tweeting fingers on the nuclear trigger.

What can be done? We would like to hazard a proposed solution, at least, for future implementation.

It is obvious that any program to assess the qualifications of the individual voter would be unconstitutional, under our “one man, one vote,” Republican form of Democracy. Moreover, sad experience with the subject of voter qualification, has demonstrated that it has been used for unscrupulous purposes, typically for the implementation of bigotry. This is not a recommended solution.

We would, however, suggest that a process of official vetting and qualification of candidates be undertaken, prior to the convening of any Presidential primary. A recollection of the last Republican primary, except for a few contestants, was a disappointing clown show of obvious incompetents; which, predictably, resulted in the selection of an incompetent clown nominee (ultimately, chief executive). Certainly, it must be possible to convene an objective, knowledgeable screening committee, composed, perhaps, of past Presidents, political scientists or other qualified people, to function as a protective filter to disqualify manifestly incapable aspirants to our high office.



Blog # 203     OUR UBIQUITOUS THUMBS (A Lesson from Mickey Mouse)

Every Anthropologist and Evolutionary Biologist would tell you that the Darwinian evolution of the opposable thumb was a tremendous leap forward in the development of human civilization. Homo Sapiens (and certain other primates) were thus enabled, developmentally, to make and use tools in the performance of tasks vital to survival. One can recall the cinematic images of intelligent apes busily using wooden twigs, as tools, to probe and extract nutritious termites from dead tree trunks (and eat them with a gusto and style, reminiscet of present day hockey fans, eating “fries.”)

The potential facility of the evolved thumb was virtually limitless and its subsequent uses, too varied to enumerate in any comprehensive list: employing tools, using weapons, writing and creating art, eating and drinking with utensils, handshakes, hugs, even hitchhiking (called “thumbing a ride”), as well as many communicative uses, wishing good luck or bon voyage, assurances of wellbeing, and much more. But some of the dexterous applications of our marvelous opposable thumb, are not salutary.

We have very often expressed our great concern and disappointment regarding the growing trend toward the substitution of personal conversation (face to face or by phone) by electronic messaging, the latter, resembling the impersonal transmission of data; the absence of the familiar voice, the limited ability to express emphasis or emotion, the lack of  spontaneous and relevant response, the absentee nature of interaction making the exchange impersonal; all at an time in mankind’s history when closeness, empathy, and mutual identification are so urgently needed. It is to be recognized that the development of the human voice and the innate ability to construe interactive conversation, are also featured among the generous gifts of evolution. The facility of the opposable thumb in the transmission of electronic messages, has been universally exploited, and can be seen as a retrograde act of disrespect and ingratitude for our marvelous evolutionary inheritance, which, in the long run may prove harmful.

Many of us remember the Walt Disney animated extravaganza “Fantasia” of some years ago. Among the several episodes was an animated production of an old poem, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” set to the beautiful music of Paul Ducat, bearing the same title. The star of the tale was none other than the celebrated and talented movie star, Mickey Mouse.

Mickey, a mere apprentice to the Sorcerer, during a brief period of his master’s absence, foolishly attempts to try his inexperienced hand at sorcery, with great catastrophic and uncontrollable results. Fortunately, the Sorcerer soon returns and restores normalcy. Mickey is profoundly shaken but now wiser.

The animated, melodious and humorous presentation, delivers a clear message for man to consider in exercising his choices; some of which may foolishly tend to reverse man’s advancement,so  generously facilitated by nature. One such instance is by the retrograde substitution of electronic messaging for our brain-larynx-voice capability of to socially communicate. The marvelous development of the opposable thumb, apparently useful in sending text messages, is being converted to such retrograde use. It, like all electronic conversation, is impersonal, insular, unsocial, mute ” message in a bottle” style interaction, with predictably future negative social and psychological implications.

We are certainly fortunate beneficiaries of progress, but need to be judicially selective; just ask Mickey!



There are some occasions when the use of a comparative example may serve as a useful illustration in illustrating, or directing  focus on, an intended observation. Since we happen to be experienced in the raising and nurturing of gooseberries, we have selected that botanical example, certainly, a comprehensible, consistent and rational entity to contrast with the complex phenomenon called “family.”

Gooseberries, as a garden cultivar, is officially categorized as deciduous, potentially attaining a height of two to three feet and a spread of three feet.  Significantly, they produce berries, yellow, green, pink to purple, which depend singly, or in two’s or threes, from each small stem (unlike grapes which develop in bunches) and have thorns which would make rose plants blush with inadequacy. Thus, they are difficult to pick, but make delicious jam or pastry filling. To our point, they are observably easy to comprehend and are reliably predictable.

Despite all virulent contention, in truth, there are some features in common between gooseberries and the family. Structurally, the family usually presents itself in small clusters, communication is normally with the individual member and it is similarly perennial, with progeny closely resembling the predecessor.

But, major differences do exist between the two selected comparatives. This is especially evident in the exotic interactive behavior of the family. Seen externally, the family appears close-knit, cohesive, caring, interdependent and when threatened, fiercely loyal and protective. Medical emergencies, death of a family member or other occurrences of perceived major impact, are jointly and cooperatively responded to in unified and loyal fashion. Daily routines are experientially synchronized to avoid personal interference, a commonly selected newspaper is usually read, and there is, notably at least some agreement on political and social issues.

Pointedly, it is the inter-family dynamics which sets it apart and distinguishes it from the peacefully attached and supremely content gooseberry. There appears to be certain inconsistent and bizarre behavioral phenomena, which elude rational analysis and is markedly distinguishable from the placid and contented gooseberry.

Let us postulate a situation in which one thoughtlessly, or foolishly, makes an undesirable or inaccurate comment, or perhaps, commits a thoughtless act. If said or performed in the company of a friend, usually an apology or corrective action will suffice to end the matter; which, in friendship will probably be forgotten. Not so with family, for some reason. Instead there appears to be the unfortunate practice of the recounting of the faux-pas or mistaken action, which becomes, by virtue of repetition, a part of the fixed oral history of the family; it is not unusual that the recounted incident is gleefully exaggerated in some form of familial schadenfreude. Additionally, family members (usually influential elders) ascribe fixed stereotypes, accurate or unjust, to family personalities. By sheer contrast, gooseberries peaceably and amiably hang out with their fellows in a state of peaceful amiability.

Where love and intra-family loyalty are certainly implicit, if not an evident fact, why is there no forgiving and forgetting of a mistake or malaprop, as would be the predictable case with the more casual relationship of friend or acquaintance? There are no comprehensible or available answers; we can only maintain our eternal admiration and envy of the gooseberry.

We would advise any reader who presumes that this writing was done “with tongue in cheek”, that such assumption is not only erroneous but clearly, impossible, since our mouth is crammed full of delicious gooseberries.


Blog #201  SECULAR ICONS (Editorial Comment)

There is a vital and salutary benefit, enjoyable most especially by a nation singularly composed of citizens of various cultural origin (“E pluribus Unum”), to an instrument of unifying identification. This functional service is accomplished by means of common traditional symbols, such as our flag and national anthem; a far preferable alternative to ethnic or cultural feelings of insularity and divisiveness. Such shared trademarks afford to all citizens, the comforting recognition of acceptance and social commonality.

Our contemporary American flag, containing fifty stars, representative of the fifty states, and thirteen stripes, symbolizing the thirteen British colonies which declared their independence from England, has a long historic tradition (Betsy Ross), but, as updated, is credited to the design ingenuity of a seventeen- year old Ohio high school student in a 1950’s school project to include Alaska and Hawaii.

Our celebrated national anthem (“The Star- Spangled Banner”) derives from a poem, written during the War of 1812, by a captured American soldier, a military prisoner aboard a British Warship, who joyfully observed the survival of Ft. Henry (and its flag) following a formidable bombardment by British cannons. The music to such word(soon lyrics) were written by John Stafford Smith, in 1931 (only 86 years ago).

It was interesting to learn that that the protocol applicable to the flag is prescribed in a Federal Statute, (36 U.S.C. sec. 301); however, it is to be especially noted that the Statute expressly provides that its regulations are suggestive and not regulatory; so that failure to abide by the legislated procedures is not, in any way, a violation of law.

Despite commonly manifested feelings of intense outrage, a long and consistent string of judicial precedent has ruled that overt acts of desecration, such as flag burning, or disrespect for the national anthem, amount to Constitutionally protected free speech and are by consequence, legal. The founders of our nation foresaw the expression of differences of opinion and debate among the citizenry as useful and a healthy and rational route to good governance for our democratic republic.

Still, there are many ardent Americans who wrap themselves in the flag and religiously revere the national anthem, unmindful of the essential meaning of our American symbols, and who worship them in the same fashion as religious adherents would worship religious icons. These are the people who are outraged by the recent scenes of NFL football players “taking a knee” at the rendition of the national anthem. Such zealous Americans see objectionable sacrilege in such behavior, rather than, as has been explained, in this instance, the expression of objection to the wrongful and un-American treatment of people of color by the justice system. Such super- patriotic critics can only construe such acts as national heresy, rather than an editorial expression of discontent, regarding unjust behaviors apparently prevalent in our nation. Those who are unable to recognize this American form of symbolic of dissent, act as if loyal Americans died to preserve the religious sanctity of the anthem (although we can foresee the empirical possibility of someone suffering a fatality trying to sing it).

We are, unhappily, obliged to conclude that such demonstrated outrage has its etiology in some paranoid symptom of xenophobia, a pathology dealt with in Blog # 197 (“War is Curable”). Our national symbols proudly declare a great, admirable and secure nation, confidently respectful of the existence of dissent (as well as its historically demonstrated beneficiary).





Let us start with a basic definitional statement: A Republic is a State in which supreme power rests in the voter and is exercised by representatives chosen by them to implement their will.

For more than three centuries, America has occupied the laudable position of the exemplar of representative democracy. Its founders, in the 18th Century, declared the moral principle that all men were created equal, thus legally eliminating the previous historic conception of privileged birth and class distinction. The governing philosophical mantra of the new American Republic was now to be “one man, one vote.” Except for the long and unfortunate struggle for the franchise for black people, this has been our consistent guiding and inviolate principle.

Thomas Jefferson instructed that for a democracy to succeed, requires an informed and literate citizenry. Jefferson and the other founders of our republic, followers of the English philosophers, John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham, looked to the exercise of free speech and mature debate between citizens of disparate beliefs, as the way to rational and balanced decision making. This was a new, enlightened and salutary design, fashioned for equitable and morally estimable governance.

There are some people that seem inclined to credit ancient Athens with the origin of democracy. However, although the word, “democracy’, is of Greek etymology, the privilege of voting in ancient Athens was reserved to a relatively select class of Athenians, qualified to enjoy the designation of “citizen.” The accurate facts concerning the Magna Carta, another occasionally cited icon of democracy’s gestation, was no more than A surrender (at Runnymede) by the 13th Century English King of the right to collect taxes from certain enumerated Barons, nothing else.

Presidential campaigning by “whistle stop” appearances at strategic towns, at which candidates solicited votes by speeches delivered from open platforms on rented railroad trains, actually continued, it seems, through the 1980’s, during the candidacy of Ronald Reagan. Radio, newspaper advertisements, public billboards and later, television, were more effectively employed by candidates seeking voter support.

With the exponential development of mass media and the growth of electronic digital communication, candidates could now reach millions of prospective voters with their utopian promises and earnest assurances of superiority over their opponent. The outreach of public media was effectively unlimited and, unfortunately, strategically successful. This was so, particularly among citizens characterized by limited information and sophistication, easily won over by demagogic candidates promising utopian results. This was far from the classic Jeffersonian model for a successful democracy.

Political use of the media is unconscionably effective yet enormously expensive, requiring every political campaign with any practical aspiration to success, to be armed with vast financial resources. Here is the etiology of the pathogen, gravely infecting our laudable system of republican governance, which  mandated the foundational, democratic criterion of “one man, one vote.”

Thus, candidates and their supporting staffs were now obliged seek financial support from wealthy donors. Such donors seldom contribute substantial moneys without a reciprocal obligation on the part of the candidate to cast his vote, or exert his influence, in accordance with the donor’s business interest, or unique dogma. As a result, we are faced with a (sham) republic in which the will and interest of the voters are relegated to an inferior position relative to the influence of the few special interest donors.

There have been idealistic and patriotic attempts to eliminate inequitable financial dependence on the unjust  influence of special interests and to properly restore our agreed democratic principles, however, none seem to have been successful.

To make matters considerably worse, it appears that the constitutionally designated “highest law of the land,” the Supreme Court of the United States (”SCOTUS”), the fountainhead of our democracy, the revered institution of Marshall, Brandeis, Cardozo and so many eminent jurists and upholders of the American law and justice, has, of late, ruled disappointingly and shamefully, directly in contrast to its great juristic past, and in such a fashion as would exacerbate the pathological disease, of monetary influence, presently invasive of our body politic. It has, surprisingly, acted in a unprecedented manner, contrary to its consistent jurisprudical history and historically established, invariable priorities.

The precedential law of SCOTUS, from its inception, has eternally been, to refuse to accept (grant certiorari) to any case which may, albeit in some indirect fashion, have any political subject or impact.   This fixed precedent, was wisely enforced without exception, to avoid trespassing upon the strict, constitutionally mandated, “Separation of Powers.” Said legally required roadblock, strangely, seems to have been by-passed in the cases of Bush v. Gore, and in the infamous Citizen’s Union case, both strangely, accepted for review, despite their indisputable political nature.

In the Citizen’s Union case, SCOTUS expressly ruled that corporations are “people” and accordingly, under the citizen’s right to free speech, legally could contribute unlimited campaign funds. This continues to be an enigma. Such ruling necessarily destroys the foundational principle of equality, one man, one vote historically protected by SCOTUS, by its legal approval of the influence of the few major financial sources of campaign money, to the unfortunate detriment of the interests of many individual voters (one man, one vote).

Most confusing is the specious reasoning. Every law school freshman (and businessman) knows that a “corporation” is a fictional entity, existing only in commerce for the sole purpose of limited liability; contracts thus can be entered in a business’s registered corporate name, and the convenient entity may be a named party in a lawsuit, separate from the principal of the business. The law school freshman, like everyone else, understands that the statutorily created legal fiction, the corporate entity, is not a natural person [ with rights under the first ten amendments.] Certainly, the august Court is aware of this fundamental principle, existing since Victorian England’s “Limited Liability Act,” passed by Parliament in the !9th Century, and adopted by America’s State laws.  Yet SCOTUS seems to have gone to great, unprecedented and remarkable lengths to rule, as it did, to the delight of the influence peddlers, and the material detriment of our republican form of government. This bizarre and uncharacteristic ruling must be overturned, as soon as possible, if our democracy is to survive and SCOTUS retain its former respect and credibility.

There is an urgent need to consider creative methods of campaign financing which do not impair the appropriate significance of the vote.