Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Donate Your Life

Nearly a century ago, a 32-year-old aspiring businessman stood on the precipice of ending his life. Failing at everything he attempted, he finally declared bankruptcy, and believed his wife and family would be much better off without him. Before throwing himself into Lake Michigan, a wild notion crossed his mind. It seemed like a waste to throw away his life. Since he was going to end it anyway, why not just donate his life to science? Why not give his life to the world and live it as a scientific experiment?

This eleventh hour epiphany gave this young man named Buckminster Fuller another 55 years in which he went on to become a philosopher and noted inventor, inventing the geodesic dome and the concept of Spaceship Earth.

Taking a cue from Bucky, maybe we are given our lives not just to live them, but perhaps to donate them to the world in a grand “experiment of one” to see if we can perhaps advance the world as well as the lives of others around us.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Quantum Compassion

When we hear the word “compassion” we may think of it as a nice sentiment, showing empathy and kindness toward another. In the Buddhist tradition the ideal takes on a much more sophisticated meaning, complementing what we have learned from quantum physics. The Buddhists describe compassion as a loving participation in the world. Some say it is “the practice of enlightenment” itself, something we can cultivate in daily life based on our true understanding of the world and our relationship to it. The Boddhisattva, one dedicated to awakening the heart and mind, understands that love of self and love of others are one and the same. Out of this intuitive understanding that all things are ONE, compassion then represents the supreme expression of human freedom.

Compassion is not only the field but is also the intention we put into the field. The choice that an individual makes out of free will directly impacts not only humanity as a whole, but the entirety of the universe. The reverberation of our actions through time and space is karma. The perception of selflessness associated with Buddhist compassion is actually a divine selfishness where two selves are served simultaneously – the small self of the individual and the greater Self of the collective all.

Compassion is what connects all things. It is this understanding of the relatedness of all things, as well as acting from that relatedness, that may offer the key to our spiritual advancement as individuals and citizens of the universe.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Big Pharma, Big Profits

Guess what the number one killer in America is? Cancer? Nope. Heart Disease? Nope. Number One is the practice of medicine itself. The Nutrition Institute of America found that “the estimated number of iatrogenic deaths – that is, deaths induced inadvertently by a physician or surgeon or by medical treatment or diagnostic procedures – in the U.S. annually is 783,936.” Compare that to just under 700,000 for heart disease and 550,000 for cancer.

Health care should not be on this list at all! Somewhere along the way pharmaceutical companies have diverted the Hippocratic path of medical care from healing to profiteering.

The American public has been hoodwinked into believing that all ailments, whether a transitory affliction or a chronic issue, can be remedied by swallowing a pill. Under our modern allopathic medicinal approach, the causes and cures for disease are the consequence of circumstances that only a medical specialist with years of advanced study can understand.

Health care in the United States is more expensive than anywhere else in the world, yet in terms of actual quality of health care our country is closer to the bottom of industrialized nations. Costs for health care have exploded BECAUSE HEALTH CARE HAS BECOME A FOR-PROFIT BUSINESS. Despite the competent, well-intentioned professionals who administer our nation's health care, we are overshadowed by an ideology where making a profit is more important than healing.

The drug industry is the most profitable industry in the world. In any given year, more profits are earned by the top ten drug companies in the Fortune 500 than the other 490 Fortune 500 companies combined.

More and more people are beginning to awaken and take back control over the myth of big pharma being the best answer. More than half of Americans already visit alternative healing practitioners, using modalities proven to be equally as effective, less expensive, and significantly safer than following the counsel of allopathic physicians that dole out pharmaceuticals for every affliction. Whether it is because of the increasing risk of iatrogenic illnesses or the skyrocketing costs of health care, more of us are claiming control over our medical options.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Last Days of the Banking Scam

The world's two largest bankers are the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), created at the end of World War II by 45 Allied nations to create monetary and financial order at the end of the war. Ostensibly, the world Bank provides financial and technical assistance to developing nations and countries recovering from conflict or natural disasters and in cases of humanitarian emergencies, while the IMF monitors global financial systems, exchange rates, and balances of payments.

While virtually every nation on the planet must deal with these banking entities, critics maintain that the primary purpose of the World Bank and IMF is not for the benefit of poor and disadvantaged countries, but for the benefit of big business in the United States. The net effect of their policies and actions since their creation has been to preserve global poverty by keeping developing nations in a state of permanent debt. The credit that is extended (more like, overextended) to Third World nations is a scam in which banks and their preferred crony capital partners reap billions at the expense of the poor.

This occurs by the banks purposefully lending these Third World countries more than they could possibly ever repay, then assuming ownership of key economic resources when they ultimately default on repayment. The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer, and if the powers that be in the poor nations don't like it or aren't willing to play by the Bankster's rules, they are strong-armed, threatened, or eliminated.

All this is about to come to a grinding halt. The days of easy money that is hard to pay back are coming to an end. The Banksters are soon to be Trumped. Wait for It.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Blessed are the Peacemakers

Since 1948, the United States has spent $15 trillion on its military-industrial complex. If there was such a thing as a million dollar bill, you would have a stack of one million dollar bills reaching nearly a mile high to equal this amount of money. It is a sum greater than all factories, machinery, roads, bridges, water and sewerage systems, airports, railroads, power plants office buildings, shopping centers schools, hospitals, hotels, and houses in the country added together. That will buy a lot of bullets and bombs. It is an amount of money that would have completely revitalized the American infrastructure had it be reallocated to useful domestic purposes.

Certainly there are forces that present a threat to American sovereignty and the American people, but it is hard not to imagine what benefit this kind of investment may have yielded had it not been spent for defense. It is also hard not to imagine that much of this expenditure may have been used for the benefit of those who beat the war drum for profit.

I was a United States Marine, volunteering during a time of the conflict in Viet Nam to serve my country in a time-honored tradition. While I was trained to fight and prepared to use that training against an enemy, I have always preferred to look at my role in military service as that of a peacekeeper. In order to thwart aggression it is generally prudent to carry a big stick and know how to use it, whether you have to whack someone or not. Clearly some of that investment in defense has been appropriate, but it is always questionable whether the expense of American lives is worth it.

Among the legends of the United States Marine Corps, I learned about the exploits and bravery of Smedley Butler, the most decorated Marine in history during his lifetime. Butler was a Marine Corps major general, the highest military rank authorized at the time. During his 34-year career as a Marine, he participated in military actions in the Philippines, China, in Central America and the Caribbean during the Banana Wars, and France in World War I. Toward the end of his life, he spoke disparagingly about war profiteers and with regret about his time fighting wars. In a speech in 1931, later published in a booklet entitled War is a Racket, Butler said: “A racket is something... conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many.” He further declared, “War is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious racket. It is the one... where the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.”

Many of the Marines I served with along with other veterans I have met since my time of service shared my commitment to standing up to keep the peace. It was nice to come across a quote from a genuine war hero and admired Marine Corps leader who shared the same sentiment.

Friday, October 18, 2019

the Chalice and the Blade

Early American colonists, by and large, voyaged here to escape the tyranny of European law, dictated by royalty which delegated power at its discretion to nobility, where it ended. Upon reaching the New World, colonists were exposed to a novel idea by the indigenous peoples that the power of leaders must come from the people. Native American culture was roughly egalitarian; resources of each nation were distributed according to need, not social class. The basic unit of government was the clan, most often headed by an older woman. Clans used the land to grow what was needed with no individual ownership of resources. Politically, the clan achieved the greatest harmony and balance when women and men treated each other as equal. It was the older women, the Council of Grandmothers, who were granted true political power within the clan, making all the important decisions and being arbiter of all disputes.

Native American culture perceived Earth, plants, and land as feminine in character. Because older women were closest to the basics of life – growing and preparing of food, childbirth and caring for children, and the domestic work of the clan, men readily acknowledged women's fundamental power. When America's Founding Fathers adopted the political structure of Native American culture, the one thing they conspicuously failed to include in America's constitutional system was the important role of women in the community. As enlightened as the founders were and even though they embodied the feminine in the Declaration of Independence, the idea of actually giving women an equal place of authority and decision-making in society was inconceivable, - clearly the consequence of European bias, not to mention 5000 years of discounting and disempowering the feminine.

If we are to continue as a successful species on the planet it may depend upon how well we can reawaken, revitalize, and reinstate the feminine in our culture and throughout the world. One of the leading figures in the early women's rights movement, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, observed poignantly, “The world has never yet seen a truly virtuous nation, because in the degradation of women, the very fountains of life are poisoned at the source.” Even our primate cousins, the bonobo chimps, remind us of the natural order of things. Bonobo females bond with each other and effectively curtail all communal bullying by males. It is not that the females dominate the males, but they are able to counterbalance male power with their collective solidarity. Again, it is the feminine which brings balance and peace to society. As our testosterone-driven culture of aggression and domination may finally be running its course, it is a rebalancing by the feminine that may restore America to its original grace.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

the Politics of Procreation

by Joel Kotkin, September 5, 2019

Throughout most of history, starting a family was a task that most people either aspired to or dutifully performed. Today, that is increasingly not the case—not only in Europe, Japan, Australia, or North America, but in the world’s most economically dynamic region, East Asia. The trend towards post-familialism, a society in which the family and marriage are no longer central to society, will reshape our politics, economy, and society in the decades ahead.

Since 1960, the percentage of people living alone in the United States—where the percentage of Americans who are mothers is at its lowest in over three decades—has grown from 10 to 30 percent. Similar phenomena can be observed in virtually all wealthy countries; in Scandinavia 40 percent of the population lives alone. In Britain, the number of single parent households was 8 percent in 1970 but has now passed 25 per cent, while the percentage of children born outside marriage has doubled to 40 percent over the past three decades.

Even East Asia is also now seeing the early signs of a breakdown of its once impregnable family structures. In Japan, the harbinger of modern east Asia, the proportion of the population living alone is expected to reach 40 percent by 2040. Nearly 70 percent of China’s adults aged between 18 and 36 are on their own; the country now has 200 million unmarried adults, including 58 million single people between 20 and 40 years of age. The percentage people living alone in China, once virtually nonexistent, has risen to over 15 percent since 1960.

Political Implications

The trend towards post-familialism is already shaping new political divides between two geographies: large cities on one hand, and smaller cities and suburbs on the other. Households living in the central urban cores, notes demographer Wendell Cox, are one third as likely as those in the suburbs and exurbs to have children of school age.

In many big cities, the long dominant bourgeois family model has been increasingly replaced by a preference for single and unattached living. This trend was powerfully influenced by the rise of bohemianism in the twentieth century, which stressed individual empowerment over family obligation. In the United States, more than a quarter of households were single-person households as of 2015. In urban areas like Manhattan, that figure is estimated to be something more like half, the majority of which are headed by women.

Throughout the world, the urban centers that dominate contemporary economy and culture—Beijing, Tokyo, New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Sydney, and San Francisco—are becoming “demographic graveyards.” In Beijing and Shanghai, the fertility rate is barely one-third of that needed to replace the current population. Inner London, notes the Office for National Statistics (ONS), has a fertility rate fully one-third lower than the surrounding suburbs. In severely overcrowded Hong Kong, according to one recent survey, two-thirds of women said they did not want an additional or even a first child. The fertility rate in the Chinese territory is now less than half that of 1980.

For progressives, the shift to post-familialism promises almost unlimited power, particularly in urban areas. Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg has noted that the singles, particularly single women, represent the Democratic Party’s largest core constituency, with two-thirds voting for Democrats. As families have fled from the largest cities—particularly their inner cores—the urban electorates have become almost Soviet in their voting patterns, with Democratic majorities upwards of 80 compared to 60 percent as recently as two decades ago. Overall in 2016, 52 percent of married people voted for Trump, while Clinton took 55 percent of the single vote.

Family formation and fertility rates of differing geographies could determine the election in 2020. The 11 states with the lowest fertility rates—including New York, California, and Massachusetts—are all hotbeds of progressivism, and unassailably Democratic. In contrast, all but one of the 25 states with the highest rates of fertility, from South Dakota to Kentucky and Texas, supported Trump and remain dominated by Republicans.

These patterns can be seen in most higher income countries. Brexit, for example, fared poorly in inner London, where fertility rates, particularly among whites, are substantially lower, but was far more popular in the more distant suburbs and smaller cities, where birthrates tend to be higher. Similarly, the growth of the Green Party in Europe, and pro-green sentiment in Australia, has been greatest in the heavily childless core cities, and less marked in the suburbs or smaller towns.

This could change if the next generation demands policies—notably the building of affordable family-friendly housing—that challenge the near-universal progressive embrace by planners of forced densification. As generational researchers Morley Winograd and Mike Hais have pointed out, American millennial attitudes about families and preferred housing types do not differ significantly from those of prior generations, albeit with a greater emphasis on gender equality. A 2012 National Health Statistics Report found that barely six percent of childless American women under 44 were “voluntarily childless.” The vast majority of millennials, meanwhile, want to get married and have children.

The struggle over urban form is already underway in places such as California, where tech- and real estate-backed groups like the YIMBYs (Yes In My Backyard) embrace extending high-density development into the remaining lower density bastions of middle- and working-class families. Fierce opposition from these neighborhoods, particularly in the San Fransisco and throughout the LA area, has slowed densification drives from the state, at least for now.

These conflicts are also seen in places like Sydney, where groups such a “Save our Suburbs” have worked to slow down densification schemes in some of the area’s bucolic neighborhoods. But this is not really, as some suggest, an anti-urban movement, but one that seeks to preserve  something of the very family-based—and often diverse—middle-density neighborhoods that amazed Jane Jacobs with their “staying power.” In contrast, the new urban paradigm, dominated by the rich and childless, tends to create the same repetitive apartment streetscape, the same shops, the same kinds of people, the same architecture.

Economic Impacts

Post-familialism will drive many of the biggest economic challenges facing many countries. To be sure, a major reduction in childbearing is a blessing in some impoverished parts of the globe, but declining birthrates, and the consequent drop in the workforce, will sap the growth of the higher income countries they depend upon for trade and finance. Already in the United States, workforce growth has slowed to almost one-third of the level in 1970 and is likely to fall even further.

Over time, falling populations in advanced countries will threaten economic growth, both limiting the size of their labor force and undermining the fiscal viability of their own welfare states. As the employment base shrinks, some countries—notably Japan and Germany—have already raised taxes on the existing labor force to pay for the rising tide of older retirees.

Some countries even face an inexorable depopulation reminiscent of early feudal times. In Russia, for example, between 1991 and 2011, a total of about 13 million more people died than were born. Overall, Europe’s population, notes Futurist Frederic Pearce, is destined to fall from 738 million to roughly 482 million by 2100 when the elderly in a shrunken Germany will outnumber children under 15 by as much as four to one.

The demographic decline in East Asia has been, if anything, even more dramatic. Over the past few decades, China, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Singapore, have seen their fertility  rates fall well below that required to replace their populations. Perhaps the most extreme case is Japan, where this process had started by the 1960s. If the current patterns hold, the island nation’s population, according to Japan’s National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, will decline from 127 million to under 80 million by 2065.

More important, China’s working age population (those between 15 and 64 years old) peaked in 2011 and is projected to drop by over 200 million by 2050. China will lose 60 million people under 15 years of age by 2050—approximately the population of Italy—while gaining nearly 190 million people 65 and over—approximately the population of Pakistan, the world’s fourth most populous country. By then, China’s ratio of working to retired people is expected to have more than tripled, one of the most rapid transitions in history.

Overall, world population growth could all but end by 2040, suggests Austrian demographer Wolfgang Lutz, and begin to decline as early as 2060. These demographic declines will reshape economic prospects in the twenty-first century. Today, a majority of people live in countries with fertility well below replacement rates. This number will grow to 75 percent by 2050, according to the UN; rapid aging, and a declining workforce, will become increasingly common around the world.

Children and How We Deal with Humanity 
Ultimately, the issue facing the high-income world—and increasingly China as well—is how we regard humanity itself. British author Austin Williams describes this question as a conflict between whether humanity represents “the biggest problem on the planet” or the “creators of a better future.”

Like their Medieval predecessors, many environmentalists view climate change as the singular explanation for everything from starvation, wars, and crop failures to hurricanes, floods, or any other unusual weather. As a result, some climate researchers, such as at Sweden’s Lund University, believe population growth, even in the low fertility countries, should be limited. Scientists at Oregon State University have even proposed severe taxes on people who have children, particularly more than one, for  their “carbon legacy.” These notions have been embraced by the UK’s influential Guardian newspaper and such luminaries as Bill McKibben, Paul Ehrlich, and John Holdren, who served as President Obama’s science advisor. If the old clergy attacked sex, the green one focuses on preventing the traditional result from a proverbial roll in the hay.

As the numbers of singles and childless grow, our immediate political future could shift to the left. In Britain, Labour, Conservative, and Liberal Democrats are losing younger, largely childless voters. But the Greens have almost tripled their support since 2014, which is now almost now equaling the Tories among voters 18 to 24. Nor does family orientation seem a factor in European politics; today many of the leaders, virtually all the leaders of the continent (Germany, France, Netherlands) are childless. France’s President Emmanuel Macron even identified child-bearing with ignorance.

Yet, in the long run, the anti-natalists could face an unexpected turnaround. The heirs of the post-familial city are not reproducing themselves, leaving only a digital legacy. The fact that these centers appear to be “post-Christian” may accelerate the pace. Secularism, with its tendency towards identity politics and hyper-individualism, notes author Eric Kaufmann, undermines itself as it fails to “inspire the commitment to generations past and sacrifices for those yet to come.”

In contrast, the more religious, more family-oriented population, living mostly in the suburbs and smaller cities, will reproduce themselves. Kaufmann explains in his important book Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth? that those who embrace more traditional religions—which generally favor families—will prevail. The future of Catholicism won’t be shaped by a Pope, whose closest advice comes from liberal bishops in Germany, where the church is now losing nearly 170,000 adherents annually. The new faithful will be those nurtured by the more traditionalist African bishops, who enjoy the fastest church growth.

Ultimately, the believers and families may have the upper hand. By 2050, for example, Islam may constitute a larger faith community in Britain than the Church of England, the state-sanctioned but hardly faith-centered Christian denomination. The family-centric Mormons, or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, continues to thrive, while the more “progressive” Protestant faiths lose parishioners. Among Jews, the increasingly strident and politicized Reform movement is demographically stagnant and aging. Today, the Orthodox constitute the majority of Jewish children in the New York metropolitan region, and by 2100, they are projected to become the majority of the Hebraic community in Britain.

No matter how many communes anybody invents,” the late anthropologist Margaret Mead suggested, “the family always creeps back.” This will prove to be the case in the decades ahead. Greens, progressives, and feminists may seek to weaken this most precious institution, but in the end, they cannot manufacture future generations. As they have done from primitive times, families create the future, in the only way humanity can remain fundamentally human.