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Happy Birthday Ben

January 17, 2015 Leave a comment

Ben Franklin‘s birthday is January 17. Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was a signer of both the American Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, the first American Ambassador to France, and a scientist, inventor, writer, author, and printer.

His Poor Richard’s Almanac was a best seller during its publication (1732 – 1758) and stands to this day as an icon of American literary invention. He used the Almanac as a vehicle for many well known sayings. Among the most famous:

Well done is better than well said.

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Why So Much Anarchy?

February 6, 2014 Leave a comment

Global Affairs with Robert D. Kaplan

By Robert D. Kaplan

Twenty years ago, in February 1994, I published a lengthy cover story in The Atlantic Monthly, “The Coming Anarchy: How Scarcity, Crime, Overpopulation, Tribalism, and Disease are Rapidly Destroying the Social Fabric of Our Planet.” I argued that the combination of resource depletion (like water), demographic youth bulges and the proliferation of shanty towns throughout the developing world would enflame ethnic and sectarian divides, creating the conditions for domestic political breakdown and the transformation of war into increasingly irregular forms — making it often indistinguishable from terrorism. I wrote about the erosion of national borders and the rise of the environment as the principal security issues of the 21st century. I accurately predicted the collapse of certain African states in the late 1990s and the rise of political Islam in Turkey and other places. Islam, I wrote, was a religion ideally suited for the badly urbanized poor who were willing to fight. I also got things wrong, such as the probable intensification of racial divisions in the United States; in fact, such divisions have been impressively ameliorated.

However, what is not in dispute is that significant portions of the earth, rather than follow the dictates of Progress and Rationalism, are simply harder and harder to govern, even as there is insufficient evidence of an emerging and widespread civil society. Civil society in significant swaths of the earth is still the province of a relatively elite few in capital cities — the very people Western journalists feel most comfortable befriending and interviewing, so that the size and influence of such a class is exaggerated by the media.

The anarchy unleashed in the Arab world, in particular, has other roots, though — roots not adequately dealt with in my original article:

The End of Imperialism. That’s right. Imperialism provided much of Africa, Asia and Latin America with security and administrative order. The Europeans divided the planet into a gridwork of entities — both artificial and not — and governed. It may not have been fair, and it may not have been altogether civil, but it provided order. Imperialism, the mainstay of stability for human populations for thousands of years, is now gone.

The End of Post-Colonial Strongmen. Colonialism did not end completely with the departure of European colonialists. It continued for decades in the guise of strong dictators, who had inherited state systems from the colonialists. Because these strongmen often saw themselves as anti-Western freedom fighters, they believed that they now had the moral justification to govern as they pleased. The Europeans had not been democratic in the Middle East, and neither was this new class of rulers. Hafez al Assad, Saddam Hussein, Ali Abdullah Saleh, Moammar Gadhafi and the Nasserite pharaohs in Egypt right up through Hosni Mubarak all belonged to this category, which, like that of the imperialists, has been quickly retreating from the scene (despite a comeback in Egypt).

No Institutions. Here we come to the key element. The post-colonial Arab dictators ran moukhabarat states: states whose order depended on the secret police and the other, related security services. But beyond that, institutional and bureaucratic development was weak and unresponsive to the needs of the population — a population that, because it was increasingly urbanized, required social services and complex infrastructure. (Alas, urban societies are more demanding on central governments than agricultural ones, and the world is rapidly urbanizing.) It is institutions that fill the gap between the ruler at the top and the extended family or tribe at the bottom. Thus, with insufficient institutional development, the chances for either dictatorship or anarchy proliferate. Civil society occupies the middle ground between those extremes, but it cannot prosper without the requisite institutions and bureaucracies.

Feeble Identities. With feeble institutions, such post-colonial states have feeble identities. If the state only means oppression, then its population consists of subjects, not citizens. Subjects of despotisms know only fear, not loyalty. If the state has only fear to offer, then, if the pillars of the dictatorship crumble or are brought low, it is non-state identities that fill the subsequent void. And in a state configured by long-standing legal borders, however artificially drawn they may have been, the triumph of non-state identities can mean anarchy.

Doctrinal Battles. Religion occupies a place in daily life in the Islamic world that the West has not known since the days — a millennium ago — when the West was called “Christendom.” Thus, non-state identity in the 21st-century Middle East generally means religious identity. And because there are variations of belief even within a great world religion like Islam, the rise of religious identity and the consequent decline of state identity means the inflammation of doctrinal disputes, which can take on an irregular, military form. In the early medieval era, the Byzantine Empire — whose whole identity was infused with Christianity — had violent, doctrinal disputes between iconoclasts (those opposed to graven images like icons) and iconodules (those who venerated them). As the Roman Empire collapsed and Christianity rose as a replacement identity, the upshot was not tranquility but violent, doctrinal disputes between Donatists, Monotheletes and other Christian sects and heresies. So, too, in the Muslim world today, as state identities weaken and sectarian and other differences within Islam come to the fore, often violently.

Information Technology. Various forms of electronic communication, often transmitted by smartphones, can empower the crowd against a hated regime, as protesters who do not know each other personally can find each other through Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. But while such technology can help topple governments, it cannot provide a coherent and organized replacement pole of bureaucratic power to maintain political stability afterwards. This is how technology encourages anarchy. The Industrial Age was about bigness: big tanks, aircraft carriers, railway networks and so forth, which magnified the power of big centralized states. But the post-industrial age is about smallness, which can empower small and oppressed groups, allowing them to challenge the state — with anarchy sometimes the result.

Because we are talking here about long-term processes rather than specific events, anarchy in one form or another will be with us for some time, until new political formations arise that provide for the requisite order. And these new political formations need not be necessarily democratic.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, societies in Central and Eastern Europe that had sizable middle classes and reasonable bureaucratic traditions prior to World War II were able to transform themselves into relatively stable democracies. But the Middle East and much of Africa lack such bourgeoisie traditions, and so the fall of strongmen has left a void. West African countries that fell into anarchy in the late 1990s — a few years after my article was published — like Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ivory Coast, still have not really recovered, but are wards of the international community through foreign peacekeeping forces or advisers, even as they struggle to develop a middle class and a manufacturing base. For, the development of efficient and responsive bureaucracies requires literate functionaries, which, in turn, requires a middle class.

The real question marks are Russia and China. The possible weakening of authoritarian rule in those sprawling states may usher in less democracy than chronic instability and ethnic separatism that would dwarf in scale the current instability in the Middle East. Indeed, what follows Vladimir Putin could be worse, not better. The same holds true for a weakening of autocracy in China.

The future of world politics will be about which societies can develop responsive institutions to govern vast geographical space and which cannot. That is the question toward which the present season of anarchy leads.

Why So Much Anarchy? is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

The Global War on Christians

February 7, 2012 Leave a comment

The scale and severity of Islamophobia pales in comparison with the bloody Christophobia currently coursing through Muslim-majority nations from one end of the globe to the other.

– Ayaan Hirsi Ali

We hear so often about Muslims as victims of abuse in the West and combatants in the Arab Spring’s fight against tyranny. But, in fact, a wholly different kind of war is underway—an unrecognized battle costing thousands of lives. Christians are being killed in the Islamic world because of their religion. It is a rising genocide that ought to provoke global alarm.

(Read More)

This is a Must Watch

December 9, 2011 Leave a comment

Hinduism

November 17, 2011 Leave a comment
[Second in the Continuing Series “World Religions”]

 

Hinduism (Sanskrit Hindū Dharma, also known as Sanātana Dharma, and Vaidika Dharma is a religion originating in the Indian subcontinent, based on the Vedas, and is thought to be the oldest religious traditions still practiced today. The term, “Hinduism,” is heterogeneous, as Hinduism consists of several schools of thought. It encompasses many religious rituals that widely vary in practice, as well as many diverse philosophies. Most Hindus believe in a Supreme Cosmic Spirit, which may be understood in abstract terms as Brahman or which may be worshipped in personal forms such as Vishnu, Shiva or Shakti. The religion is classified by many different forms of theism such as monotheism, monism, pantheism, polytheism and even atheism. Hinduism is the third largest religion in the world with approximately 1 Billion adherents, (2010), approximately 930 million of whom are in India.

Hinduism is formed of diverse traditions and has no single founder. Among its direct roots is the historical Vedic religion of Iron Age India and, as such, Hinduism is often called the “oldest living religion” or the “oldest living major religion” in the world.

A large body of texts is classified as Hindu, divided into Śruti (“revealed”) and Smriti (“remembered”) texts. These texts discuss theology, philosophy and mythology, and provide information on the practice of dharma (religious living). Among these texts, the Vedas are the foremost in authority, importance and antiquity. Other major scriptures include the Upanishads, Purāṇas and the epics Mahābhārata and Rāmāyaṇa. The Bhagavad Gītā, a syncretistic treatise from the Mahābhārata, is of special importance. It combines Vedanta, Yoga, and some Samkhya philosophy into its discussion of good conduct and life.

For Further Reading: Hinduism article in Wikipedia

Relationship Therapy You Can Do on Your Own

November 16, 2011 Leave a comment

                                                                                    Reprinted from

                                               

 

 

 

We Tell the Government What to Do!

November 10, 2011 Leave a comment

 

One Year to Pick a President, Not a Party

We have one year to rethink elections as usual, friends. As Americans Elect, we are going to put a third choice for President on the ballot in all 50 states, and to get there is going to take ALL of us. In short: we can’t do it without you.

Here’s what we need:

FIRST: Sign up as a voting delegate for the online convention we will hold in June 2012.

SECOND: Please share this video and the link to AmericansElect.org anywhere and everywhere you can.

MOST IMPORTANT: We need you to LEAD. We need you to organize your family, friends and community around Americans Elect wherever you are.

Delegate and Campus Leaders are the cornerstones of Americans Elect. As a Leader, you will:

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To become a Delegate Leader email volunteer@AmericansElect.org. To become a Campus Leader, please fill out this form.

Be an active Delegate

If you want to be more involved, but can’t commit to a role as a Delegate Leader or Campus Leader, then you can still help:

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Remember, no act is too small. Everything you do to help spread the word about Americans Elect makes a difference. Thank you for making history with us!