Culture and Religion

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Our Future as a Global Community

Our contemporary society has reached a plateau that is in certain aspects different than previous plateaus. I believe that it will take a change in perspective for humanity to advance to another plateau in its cultural evolution. (Hopefully you have read, or will read, my thoughts on the present global community also.)

Humans now inhabit most of the habitable lands on Earth. Of course there are areas in the American Great Plains, Canadian Northwest Territories, Siberia and so on that are sparsely populated. That is because they do not provide an attractive host for very many inhabitants. The Earth's coast lands and large river tributaries are becoming densely populated.

There was something of a cultural plateau in the 'Dark Ages' (e.g., the feudal society did not foster literacy and was rather immobile) but that ended with the Renaissance and the colonization of the Western hemisphere.

We are now depleting our natural resources and our governments are making minimal efforts are managing those that remain. The pollution of our global environment continues with only minimal efforts at stopping that degradation of our host planet. Our chemical industries (apparently unfettered by ethical concerns) continue to produce new synthetic compounds with unknown health effects, while various health problems multiply without identified causes.

Whereas previous wars were often about territory, current wars tend to be over religious or ideological issues. Ireland remains a hot bed for Catholic and Protestant rivals. Israel awaits a spark for another Jew against Moslem battle. A number of the Middle Eastern countries (like Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan) rule with intimidation based on religious grounds (and in March 2003 the Bush administration began its attempt to change that barbaric rule in Iraq). Communist China is again renewing its military ambition to annex the non-Communist Chinese on Taiwan (which seeks closer economic and cultural ties while maintaining its ideological independence and remaining a democracy, not a communist bureaucracy). The United States and Russia are renewing their Cold War battles with talk of expensive missile defenses and spy stories.

From the big picture, all these conflicts are based on past conflicts or ancient myths. Any ethnic or religious conflicts tend to have a long history preceding the current conflict. In all cases, wars always end up destroying many people and resources.

None of these conflicts will ever advance the human condition. When the goal of a war is death and destruction, how can one be justified? Only when the aggressor is so inhumane is the bloody response worthwhile, as in the defeat of Hitler or Milosevic. In both cases, their continued rule ensured many deaths. Unfortunately, with the current development of biological and nuclear weapons, we are on the verge of ending the human condition. Iraq is ruled by a government (especially Saddam Hussein and his sons) that seems to have no regrets for the loss of human life and the biological weapons being developed there really could wipe out humanity. The number of suicide bombers in the Middle East indicate that the situation has become so grave there that the young believers will kill themselves just to kill others. The events of 9/11/2001 show that terrorists are taking their level of killing innocent people to new heights (or depths depending on your perspective). It might not take a world war to destroy the world, only a single lunatic with the necessary lethal weapons.

The production of synthetic compounds that have unknown consequences is irresponsible and unethical. These businesses are pursuing profit at the cost of human life and suffering. The extent that these companies hide the dangers has been well documented (and presented again on public TV recently). The recent Academy Award winning movie Erin Brockovitch also described this situation, with P G and E. The lack of accountability presents the obvious opportunity for extreme disasters. The dangers of lead and asbestos were addressed in previous generations but the current generation has never done a good job of watching over new technology.

Unfortunately, Americans find it so much easier to fear the government of Iraq than American businessmen even though the end result of the mistakes in judgment could be the same for humanity.

Humanity needs a bigger picture for its future than is ever presented now. We really are in this together - as one global community. Technology can bring everyone together in ways that were never possible before. As a global community, so much money is wastefully spent on weapons. Irresponsible science and business are also tolerated. This money and technology should be spent on improving the human condition - instead of placing it in jeopardy.

Technologically, our society has evolved to the level that it is capable of taking the next step, the colonization of another planet. We are doing a rather poor job of managing our current home so perhaps this is not an appropriate 'top' priority but we could take on the settlement of a new home at the same time.

Socially, we remain at a level of the Dark Ages. Wars are still conducted both to maintain control over one's peasants and to destroy the opponents, both the rulers and their peasants. Some wars are still conducted from a 'chosen people' perspective. There should be no such thing as a 'chosen people' segment within our global community. We continue to teach and foster ancient myths and beliefs that do not stand up to objective scrutiny.

The Taleban of Afghanistan believed that they should destroy ancient stone carvings and then sacrifice animals to satisfy their god. It is incomprehensible to me how a person educated in the 21st century can still believe that his/her god is so insecure that it requires animal carvings to be destroyed because they are false idols. This god must believe that people will see these false idols as a viable alternative to the real god. Since these carvings are a threat when they provide confusion as the correct god to worship, they must be destroyed. As has been documented over the centuries, the destruction of other religious artifacts has often been used to protect the current religious doctrine. It says something about the convictions of these religious leaders that if any religious temptations exist, they believe that their disciples have a high probability of changing their allegiance, even to stone carvings. The Taleban also sought to prevent their women from education. It becomes obvious that all these actions are executed by religious leaders that rule by intimidation and persecution rather than enlightened education. The Inquisition of the Middle Ages was a similar attempt to prevent the Catholic Church faithful from straying, or learning something heretical like the concept of the earth revolving around the sun (such as proposed by Galileo who was persecuted for such conjecture).

My hope is that if a logical new perspective were shown to be more valid in our present society, the harmful perspectives of many current religions will eventually dissipate and lose their influence. All of the Bible-based religions (Christians, Moslems and Jews) seem to have a common thread of a supposed 'chosen people' and a tendency to fall into an 'us vs. them' attitude when a conflict arises. The Asian religions tend not to have those tendencies as their 'icons' (like Buddha) were not gods. However, historical cultural differences seem to have formed similar attitudes in the East - just read about the treatment by the Japanese of its vanquished countries during World War II.

It is difficult to conceive how to achieve the lofty goal of no more 'chosen people' religions or attitudes. The alternative is to wait and see whether mankind will destroy itself, as the different chosen peoples destroy the other chosen peoples. That is not an attractive alternative.

However, there are always encouraging signs that conflicts do not have to be considered unrepairable. America and England overcame their conflict of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. America has overcome its 20th century conflicts with Germany and Japan. The European Economic Community seems to be somewhat successful at overcoming the centuries of conflicts among its member countries. Some religious groups have affirmed their tolerance for other religious groups (although this is sometimes just between different Christian religions).

To change attitudes regarding science and technology will be difficult for the developed countries. The belief that scientists always know what is good is a dangerous fallacy. History is littered with too many mistakes made by those trusted but not monitored. Chemists and geneticists now have the technology that can jeopardize all life, not just that within a laboratory. I think most Americans are familiar with the public lies told by the executives and scientists of the major tobacco companies involving their manipulation of cigarettes, to their profit and to the detriment of the health of consumers. I find it incredible that this unconditional trust is still provided to any American institution given this recent history and continued documentation of abuses.

We now have the technology to

o Better manage our natural resources: control pollution and conserve, preserve, manage what we have ('we' is mankind rather than just the country whose borders surround the resource)

o Better manage our technology: scientific research and development cannot ignore the consequences of those activities

o Better manage our people: money for weapons technology and chemical/biological weapons research could be better spent on improving the human condition, not destroying it

o Better educate our children: each is an important part of a larger community - a community that shapes them while they in turn contribute to its success

o Expand to new worlds: to colonize another planet (like Mars)

We need to start on these efforts before it is too late (except for the last one - exploring other worlds is a capability, not a need). Already, I see the Midwest winters are never as they used to be just 5-10 years ago. They are consistently warmer with less snow cover. Alaska reports a thawing of its thermafrost. There are other signs all over the world. It could be global warming or it might not - but can we take the chance waiting if it is? The Bush 43 administration has shown that the effort of changing our level of pollution control is not a high priority. Carbon dioxide is not considered a problem, at this time. There is so much poverty and misery in the world and yet major countries still spend exorbitant amounts of money and resources to develop lethal weapons.

In early 2001, China announced a high level of funding for its defense (or offense, depending how the weapons are used) even though it appears a grade school blew up (killing many) because its students were making fireworks to bring some money to the inadequately funded school.

My local community built a new high school in 2000 because the school being replaced was 50 years old and in need of serious renovations. The Bush government's missile defense plan would require funding that could provide new high schools to hundreds if not thousands of local communities in this country. This 'defense plan' will do nothing to change the threat of international conflict; it actually has the possibility of increasing the likelihood of such conflict. As our counterparts (enemies?) react to our posturing, that danger becomes rather obvious to me.

I almost expect that public outcries over unethical chemical/biological product development will be answered by the denial systems of institutions, proposing that all the benefits of such expedited product development will be hampered. This suggests that it is more important to gamble on a fast profitable product than to take the time to first ensure the product is healthy. A company with this priority is not run by ethical management. My college course in ethics proposed the question: what is the cost of a human life? After all, when Ford chose to deny the dangers of a gas tank explosion in a Pinto by calculating the relative cost for a recall versus the number of deaths and injuries, the company management was assigning its cost to a human life. It might be said that an automaker is limited by the number of possible casualties because of the limited number of vehicle occupants. Unfortunately, a chemical compound might have no such limitations. It is known that extremely small amounts of certain toxic compounds can kill or harm countless numbers of people. Any new compound that does not have its effects identified before its distribution is potentially one of these toxins that could affect current and/or future generations. The release of such a compound has no ethical justification.

So much more could be accomplished if our priorities were more for the needs of humanity, rather than for the needs of those in power to stay in power and control. I could mention improvements in health care and nutrition that are possible. However, such improvements will never be effective unless there is a common change in perspective by all peoples involved.

We need to change our perspective from one of an individual trying to survive until death to one of a person that is part of a local community whose future relies on his/her participation, and these communities are all part of humanity. Humanity forms a very diverse community, spanning the globe in all climates, that represents the most advanced social life form on this planet. Until we change our perspective, mankind will probably destroy itself and the earth before another planet can be colonized. 

A Libertarian view

Our culture needs accountability. We believe that people are intelligent beings, capable of making intelligent decisions based on one morals and values. However, often a problem is blamed on someone or something else, rather than a person taking ownership of the problem. The Judeo-Christian perspective certainly plays against full accountability. I have certainly heard preachers (and Presidents in 2003?) say that human and natural actions are according to God's will. That perspective denies any accountability for any action - it is just according to God's plan. As other pages in this site discuss, each person is accountable for his/her actions.

The libertarian perspective also places accountability on individuals. Each person is responsible for his/her own future. In fact, the government has no place in trying to control person decisions. Hence the view that victimless crimes should not be prosecuted, as they lead in invasive police actions as well as being a waste of government efforts and taxpayer money.

Similarly, the libertarian perspective also places accountability on individual business entities. If a business fails, it must be due to market forces, and probably because a competitor does a better service or provides a better product at a better value (although in the current form of US capitalism, government actions certainly affect the markets).

Similarly, if a school system provides poorly educated graduates, it is because there is no accountability on the school system. The local government provides a school at taxpayer expense and the taxpayers have little choice but to send their children to the local school regardless of the school's performance. A school run by the government with no competitive forces in place results in a school system that withers. Such has happened with public schools all across this country in the last century. While private schools can provide a better education since that attracts parents willing to pay for the results, the government using tax dollars to support them is not the solution for the public school problem. With religion-based private schools, these tax-driven dollars are in violation of our Constitution's important separation of church and state. The government must not mingle with religious activities.

The simple role of government is the enforcement the proper rights and obligations of its citizens and economic entities. The government provides the structure of rules for law enforcement. For example it is wrong to kill someone or steal from someone; it is wrong for one business to steal from another business through misleading transactions. The government (those representatives of the populace chosen/elected to perform this duty) develops such rules. A police force enforces those rules of conduct and the judicial system dispenses the proper punishment, whether that be retribution or jail time out of typical social contact.

What is required in any level of government is the strong sense of proper community values. The government, limited though it should be, provides the structure for the community. Such structure is sadly lacking in most levels of government today. For example much time, effort and money is spent on drug offenses (resulting in a high percentage of prisoners being there due to just drug offenses), which are really nothing but victimless crimes since the drug user does not infringe on others' rights. If a drug user commits a crime, like robbery, then that robbery is the valid crime not the drug use. The government actions attempting to attack these victimless crimes actually spawns a network of criminals determined to get rich by successfully working around those actions.

The lack of effort on the part of our government providing the proper social structure is resulting in our communities being torn apart into a two class society. The rich get richer while the poor get poorer, due to government actions that are often intended to reach that very goal. When companies abuse their communities and workers to the benefit of their upper management, the individual levels of government do nothing. Companies of any size bear some social responsibility but less and less is being shown. The US administration of 2003 sought to relieve the richest in the society of less tax burden, to be born by the rest of the society which is being further stressed by the economy that continues to disintegrate (first by internal problems, then by the actions of a government determined to conquer distant lands to take the oil and to have more influence over adjoining governments and their Islamic militant movements).

I expect the purist libertarian view lets the market forces drive whatever outcome will be. This view denies the social nature of our society. While competition will drive efficiencies, it also leaves any community open to abuse by a successful business. That should not be acceptable to the community of that business. A businessman having no social responsibility can hold hostage his employees - either they tolerate less than adequate wages and/or working conditions or he/she will take away their jobs. (Unions arose because business leaders were not inclined to provide safe working conditions for suitable wages.) While competitive forces can drive a failing business to hold down costs in this manner (lose jobs rather than take away jobs), it cannot be other than the very last resort. Unfortunately, current business practices for large companies now endorse this as a valid option under many scenarios whenever the business has the opportunity to move jobs or work to other parts of the country or to other countries. As more and more businesses take this option, lives and communities are being disrupted. This is slowly destroying the economy of our country, to the benefit only of those few business leaders that profit from these changes. These leaders exhibit no social responsibility. In return for their business and income, they owe a pay back to their communities. Taking the money while destroying local communities is nothing less then robbery - and it is tolerated by our governments (local, state and national) because of the emphasis on business profits over social well being. Business leaders must be held accountable for what they do to and for their communities.  

Much effort could be spent describing how the current form of American government is doing a poor job of servicing its populace. Some of the poor performance is due to the current people occupying various roles while some is due to the bureaucracy that has evolved. The push for benefits to big business resembles the failed trickle down economics of a few decades ago. Accountability is very important at every level of human existence. It must be basis of any human community hoping to be successful.

created - April 2001
last change - 09/27/2003
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