Alexander, Caesar, Pompey–how do they compare to Diogenes, Heraclitus, and Socrates? The philosophers saw the things of the world for what they are–that is they saw things in terms of their causes and their matter–and their command centers were autonomous. As for the others, look at the kinds of worries they had and how little freedom they had!
Aurelius, Marcus. Meditations: The Annotated Edition. Introduction by Robin Waterfield, Translator and Editor. New York: Basic Books, 2021.
No need for droning. Were one designing a modern “great books” program, one might do worse than start with Meditations for grounding.
Greed obliterates authentic purposes to become an end in and of itself. Perhaps it helps create an ordered society, bureaucratic, impersonal, programmed — but that rather misses the mark as regards human services and well-being.
By way of cold categorization, it might be said that all addicts are criminals, but one may wonder what part are themselves predators and what other part preyed on by dealers and doctors or equivalents in counseling.
From time to time, I catch the boilerplate conservative prescription “personal responsibility!” in relation to the kind of damaged, enslaved, marginalized, and traumatized person that has lost all agency, confidence, efficacy, and esteem and wonder how pernicious and greed-ridden a society we have become. Can we tell the difference between the sad sack hipster and self-serving and profiteering sociopaths? Have we overemphasized the substance — whatever it may be or have been — and under-emphasized disconnection, marginalization, ostracism? And if so, for what?
In business terms, we are each and everyone of us our own “cost centers” — we want to live with means; we wish to pay our way; and for the most part, that’s what we do — but for a portion of America’s 320 millions souls — about a million or so the last time I checked (2019 with figures from 2017 compiled by authorities in 2018)— personalities or problems attach to expensive dependencies, and those persons then become the smallest of “profit centers” — revenue generators — for the money mad among sociopaths, and that from the curb to the corporate suite. Family’s gone and all the connections left are “fiduciary”, i.e., all about money and control bereft of conscience and soul.
As so often happens, a frantic mother called us about her 19-year-old daughter, who I’ll call Jen. A heroin addict, Jen had been shuttled between multiple treatment centers and sober homes by greedy marketers looking to cash in on the teenager’s insurance benefits by keeping her perpetually in recovery, but never sober.
Instead of focusing on disaster, it would be more helpful if the Good of the world focused on improved Qualities of Living — biological, financial, psychological, social, spatial, spiritual — near and far. We need healthy communities globally as well as a healthy planet, and where there’s open conflict, we are collectively failing at both.
There’s the word from my low on-high seat, but I believe there’s some truth to having our obsessions and worries controlling our destinies in place of strong good possibilities and dreams appropriate to our individual and global existential challenges. If the latter attitude were prevalent across cultures, we would be chasing large fires with plantings conducive to producing a right human-healthy planetary atmosphere.
And why not?
Why not view natural destruction as opportunity for lending nature a hand on the positive side?
In Afghanistan this past month, people, notable people, people in positions of great responsibility and power, allowed or enabled corruption and greed to overtake better judgment and ceded power — for the time being — to the most absolute, fanatical, narcissistic, and ruthless of malign actors who will now proceed to destroy modern education at its outermost reach and with its Draconian views dishearten its population. The Taliban, so expert in barbarism and terror, will probably fail at every modern challenge and task, further inviting into their medieval sphere greater and more controlling powers, one criminal, the other dystopian, when modern Afghani People could just as well run circles around their malignancy and regain for themselves a more authentic contemporary dignity and freedom.
And why not?
Why not view the Taliban as the egregious insult to universal dignity, freedom, prosperity, and security that it has proven itself to be?
Afghanistan, should it reenter a politically coherent and cohesive phase, would be wise to help its latest burden fly off the rails on its own.
While the Taliban debate their 7th Century beliefs and Afghanistan goes dark, figuratively if not literally (but that’s a real possibility), the more advanced worlds as well as the Taliban might with to reconsider the Qualities of Living involved in the management of any geopolitical space (again biological, psychological, social, spatial, spiritual): where on earth does God, nature, or the universe, for that matter, protect air, soil, and water quality? Ask the same about security for persons and property? Given that we are all part of a gregarious species, what are “social freedoms” and what might the best societies offer in latitude and range for the full suite of our human enthusiasms, interests, and shared as well as dissenting values? What are our best options in our spiritual existence in relation to choice and reason?
Are forced confinement, control, and the delivery of feudal-medieval darkness really the best the Taliban’s Kabul might do?
While the Taliban appear on track for that, the world has changed and will continue changing beyond them for the better and by the most progressing of contemporary democratic standards. Perhaps all, including the Taliban themselves, would do better to dwell on transformations more suited to defending and serving earth and her human cargo — i.e., all of the rest of the world — than to a now deeply impoverished 7th Century system of belief and hypocritical religious egotism.
Anyone who thinks that the 21st century Taliban is a new version is delusional. Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid publicly stated, “Women will be afforded all rights within the limits of Islam [Shariah].” However, they have not explained what they mean by “the limits of Islam,” given their messages are not in sync with their actions on the ground. What form of education will be provided and will women’s rights be safeguarded as before? Will women be able to maintain their positions in media and government?
Even if the Taliban stick to their words, they would still fall short of their obligations under international human rights law. The Taliban’s way of justice translates to harsh punishments, including public executions and beheading of accused murderers and adulterers. It is very unlikely that they will accept any form of criticism, which is incompatible with the universal declaration of human rights.
The world is neither hopeless nor helpless in light of its collective issues and future. It may be crime ridden, fractious, and violent, but the measurable qualities of evil may be diminished with time. We have not, thank God, had our World War III but while living perpetually in a state of competition or conflict with China and Russia — those may be considered the Orwellian two other powers — we have developed sustained lower-intensity conflicts and the transnational crime organizations that fuel their fires. Well, if we can develop greater conscience in some, temper greed, and deal with practical pressures, we might be able to draw those down.
If the Devil’s winning, Mark, it’s our own fault (for not understanding how the Damned Thing works).
For corrupt Palestinian leaders, the real primary incentive appears to be relationships with elites yielding money and personal security. Some at the top of that heap should try purchasing a less self-centered and parochial conscience.
From whence comes the broader consideration of others in the world by those who by way of their own wealthy and powerful circumstance have the wherewithal to lead it?
In casual talk, I’ve suggested evolution.
Nature grows our minds.
In more serious psychology, altruism, caring, conscience, love, and the related apprehension of duties, obligations, and responsibilities toward others seem altogether healthier characteristics than fearful and compensating tendencies toward the meanest and smallest minded expressions of the will to survive as a will determined to destroy or dominate others.
For those with seriously Up There — Plutocratic — Clout, which is the better direction and why grind against it?
Why not formulate ideas and programs better fit for both a challenging global and personal future by simply enjoying what has characterized the past in dogma and politics — there’s no need to dishonor the past for anyone — while moving on to “well, we are all here on just this one marble of an island in space and time — and our first priority should be keeping our own conditions — environmental and broadly social — better than survivable”?
There are those with the power to drive forward of their own circumstances and life experiences, the present is always the place in time (and there is no better) where some cultural rivers and their ideas (and associated behaviors) needs must dissolve in their own delta while others — more fit for future time and space — flow from new wellsprings.
Wherever we are in time — this moment! — we’re not going to be in the same place tomorrow. It may look that way on the outside — same writer here, same desktop: differently informed and perpetually gathering, recombining, reformulating ideas, information, plans.
One theme is change and has to do with outgrowing old ways and adopting new ones . . . but on a civilizational level rather than personal; and the other may involved Moscow’s perfidy, if that, in efforts to encourage and sustain the feudal and tribal political and social arrangements and identities that account for the brutality and corruption of dictatorships attached to cultures left behind in geopolitical time. The 9/11 crews, for example, were still fighting the “crusader west”.
Related Online: Anachronisms, Rivers in Time, and Time Bubbles
If Time were a Surface, one where cultures and religions, among other things, have their wellsprings — and boisterous young years — and their deltas — with years fading into abandonment, one could map multiple lines, start to finish, for the gods, tribes, kingdoms, and states — and the attitudes, beliefs, and prayers and rituals once embraced.
The three pieces cited below may at first seem disconnected, but each has to do with recovering or sustaining something installed — conflicts, ideas, relationships — in the past and no longer quite so necessary to the stewardship of Earth and the survival of our species (with the exception of diminishing our numbers with fire).
Above and in the order presented: a contemporary Constantine despoils the syncretic pablum that would diminish a long-standing rivalry with Muhammad’s troops; an explorer on the East-West Sea (a place in Time) suggests Zawahiri’s strings have been pulled by Moscow; and, yes, there was collusion but to be found in relationships and activities beneath them, not in deals.
So, for the future, how may Christian zealots and Islamist fanatics reach their deltas?
Well, they might wear themselves out while having made careers of their conversation — why stop today or tomorrow or in the next 35 years? The quests of each have become institutions — for as long as each may open wallets — and there’s money to be made defending and passing along dogma irregardless of its relevance to other than itself.
“Anachronisms” would seem things no longer fit to contemporary circumstance and concern.
“Rivers in Time”, as suggested, would be the channels carved by something young at one time — energetic, full, and moving heaven and earth — and later no longer strong but diminished and dispersed.
In such Regions in Time we collectively but separately sustain and replay old battles, stubbornly stick to our guns, and confidently believe we’re getting somewhere while going nowhere until one party or the other — or both — find ruin and leave their children or others to find them in history a page or a footnote or not vanquished but vanished.
Only two words really matter with information — empiricism and integrity. Where we dismiss the former, people will entertain anything; where the latter goes missing, people will tell others anything — and they’ll do it for greed and lust expressed as money and power.
We know the characteristics of good information.
There is the reporter’s standard, “clear, accurate, and complete”.
The empiricist may want to know what is cogent, valid, and reliable — and in what precise measure against chance (probability).
Most of the time we want to know “how things work”, and we want answers we may rely on for making decisions, but in difficult times — or just with troubled machinery — we may want to know as well why things don’t work.
Agitation, disinformation, and propaganda fail always the two-part test: is it true? Is it honest?
From the Awesome Conversation, a comment on greed in America and American domestic and foreign policy —
Greed can and will kill the credibility and promise of the USA if the constituency abandons its Constitutional, ethical, and moral obligations and principles. The state will either evolve forward toward greater achievement and enlightenment or it will simply fall backward to the repeated of lost eras more delightful, if that, in memory then tenable in reality.
Bonbons or bon mots, what do with a nice ring than put it up on the web for a few to contemplate momentarily.
Gecko’s “Greed is good!” speech from the Wall Street film provided the prompt for the response (“FTAC” on this blog) — and the response is true: the three “superpowers”, lumbering sumo that each may be, have each autocrats for chiefs. One appears to seek the renewal of dynasty and empire; another appreciates the glory and grandeur of more vicious imperial days; and the last appears to believe that money is existence and existence money, and that is all we know and all we need to know.
Compared to futurists, science fiction writers, and the advanced of 21st Century political and religious philosophers (well, maybe Thomas Berry), they’re kind of dumb and looking that way even cushioned by muscle and planted in luxury.
How much is enough? Enough to make us feel secure and happy. How much is too much? So much that the more we have of it, the less it fills our own wells made empty by the sense of our own shortcomings and related psychological and spiritual bankruptcy and exhaustion. More than enough becomes never enough.
Disciplined observation with integrity accompanied by empathy, logic, and reason may be more difficult than casually imagined, but those are the best tools we have for defining issues and answering with appropriate and progressive policy.
The Stanford philosophizing referenced above may not lead to the most cogent or helpful of references for approaching legal or policy issues, but for those two regions, any may start with the idea that mere perception is not reality, and it is generally good to investigate how things really work when on the way to making decisions or plans pertaining to them.
Peel the onion; turn over the rock; have another look; put it to a test — language has many cliches and tropes related to investigation and the methods of arriving at conclusions — “truths” one might call them — in which one might have confidence on the basis of other than ambitions, agendas, pleasant delusions, and personal interests.