Ego identity and football:

Roughly six months ago I was having dinner with friends and discussing politics, and a mate of mine made an observation in response to some of my own thoughts about the rise of political far-right. Politics isn’t football.

I live in Victoria, Australia. We have rugby and soccer like most other countries, but we also have our own form of football: Aussie rules. I like Aussie rules football, it’s a great game. I enjoyed playing it at school, and I still enjoy a kick of the footy with friends. I don’t necessarily always like the culture that goes with it though.

I understand that for many people, that statement is tantamount to blasphemy. A significant percentage of men and women in this country live and breathe football. That is, they don’t merely appreciate the game, but rather they are totally consumed by it. Football fans of all ages often get quite obsessed with their team, and allow their emotions to be controlled by the results of the latest game. That is, grown men (and women) get angry and upset when their team loses, and can even sulk for days (or weeks) after a loss. Grown men and women scream obscenities at the players (on both sides), umpires and supporters of other teams. And of course, excessive alcohol consumption only makes this worse.

All forms of football are quite physical, and by very nature players come into physical contact with other players. Whilst players accept this, it is common for it to be taken too far, contact becomes excessive, and those on the receiving end resort to knee-jerk reactions, and brawls are the result. Fortunately, Aussie rules football fans don’t generally riot, as do soccer fans worldwide (or Ice Hockey fans in the US). So perhaps then, in this respect they are relatively restraint.

Anyways, the point is that sports fans often allow their emotions to be controlled by events that are completely beyond their control. A victory brings on a euphoric high, and a loss brings a gut-wrenching low. Whilst I admire the skill, fitness and intelligence required to play the game well, football players themselves sometimes get overtaken by an inflated image of themselves, or take on an overtly harsh personality as a result. It is good to be strong, but power and strength can have both positive and negative manifestation.

All this being so, this is not what this article is about. Rather, the reason I am writing this article is to show that life is not like football. Most football fans choose a football team to support, and then they give themselves over completely to that team. They become one-eyed, they develop narrow vision (or tunnel vision). They support their team regardless of what happens, and they consider other teams to be their enemies. They write a blank cheque to their team, and will honor it no matter what. There are of course many people that might take a more sensible, moderate approach to football. Such people may enjoy the game with a smile regardless of the outcome, appreciate and respect players of various teams, and recognize the relative strengths and weaknesses of all teams (including their own). Likewise, not all players (and other people closely associated with the game) make football part of their artificial identity – their ego. So, when I talk about football culture and the ego, I don’t mean to say that everyone who plays or enjoys the game is the same. However, the fact remains that football culture is saturated by ego.

Many people that are passionate about religion and politics display similar tendencies and behaviour to that of hardcore, one-eyed football fans. That is, many people (particularly those we would term conservatives), approach religion, politics, national identity and so forth as if they were football. That is, they choose a team (for whatever reason), and they write a blank check to their team to do anything, and they will always take their side.

But life isn’t football.

At least, it isn’t like how many people view football. Complex and important topics naturally demand a more complex, nuanced approach. Questions of how we view life as a whole, how one chooses to live, how you choose to treat others, how you sort through the myriad of competing views about the nature of humanity and the cosmos, and how best should a nation govern and regulate behaviour, resources and finances, naturally demand a sensible, objective and well-considered approach.

Complex subjects frequently demand that we weigh up opposing interests and find a sensible middle-ground. It is true that – as my brother David frequently says -, “Truth isn’t necessarily always found halfway between two opposing views”. That is, there are some areas of debate in which one side may be completely correct, and the other completely wrong. However, whilst truth isn’t always found somewhere in the middle between polar opposites, it often is! That is, most commonly, in most areas of division and dichotomy, a reasonable and informed opinion finds itself flanked on all sides by more extreme, unbalanced views.

Those that simply choose a team and identify with it may feel a sense of inflated ego as a result. That is, they feel superior because they believe they are on the right team. They feel justified when they demonize those that differ from themselves. They overlook the flaws of their own team, and refuse to acknowledge the strengths of their opponents. They are however holding on to a false sense of self, and they refuse to see the whole as it is. If you place your happiness upon the foundation of a false identity, it has a precarious existence. You will feel threatened by any challenge, as if your own being was at stake, and will react emotionally, without balance and depth.

From where I am standing, the commentary given by people that treat politics and religion like football has little value, as sorting out the half-truths from their bias is often so difficult, you are better off to start from scratch. It is necessary for reasonable and intelligent people to sort through the maze of opinions out there and offer a true alternative. We must however be careful not to be drawn into reactivity to the ego in others. That is, it is often hard not to react in kind towards inflammatory remarks made by others. We must have the courage to face up to what is not true, whilst holding in our hearts what is true.

Peace.

Marriage is NOT a Judeo-Christian concept:

I have been intending to publish a piece on marriage equality for some time, but I haven’t got around to finishing the article I started quite some time ago on the topic. Anyways, the media has been all over tennis legend Margaret Court over the past week or so after she announced her intent to avoid flying Qantas (where possible) due to its support of same-sex marriage.

I was watching Court’s interview on “The Panel”, and as is common when hearing conservative Christians discuss their opposition to marriage equality, it was quite clear that Court believes that somehow marriage is a Judeo-Christian concept, as if it was invented by Jews (and Christians), and as if it were dependent upon the Bible.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. The origins of the concept of marriage appears to be lost somewhere in the realm of pre-history, as practically all recorded history shows the presence of some form of concept of marriage. That is, the very earliest surviving written records reveal that men and women formed life-long partnerships that were recognized as akin to formal marriage. That is, the kings of ancient Egypt had their queens, who were of course their wives. The gods of ancient Mesopotamia had their female consorts – their wives.

These early records significantly pre-date any evidence of Hebrew culture and/or religion by well over a thousand years, showing the existence of concepts of marriage well prior to any historical evidence for a Judeo-Christian tradition. Of course, Christians can claim that their religious tradition existed well before the earliest definitive and widely recognised historical evidence (roughly 1200 BCE). The same however is true for Egypt, Mesopotamia and India (amongst others). Hence, we cannot simply grant the Jewish-Christian claims without evidence and not do the same for other cultures.

Concepts of marriage exist in practically all cultures, most of which are clearly independent of any Judeo-Christian tradition. Obviously there are vast differences in the details of marriage traditions, but the fact remains that marriage is a universal concept, existing from time immemorial.

I have pointed this out to many Christians before me who had been claiming that marriage was a Christian (or Judeo-Christian concept), who have then sought to move the goalposts by arguing that, “well, our modern Western conception of marriage is derived from the Christian tradition”, or “the West is built upon Judeo-Christian foundations, and marriage in Western countries is based upon the Bible”.

This is of course simply a matter of splitting hairs, as if they are saying that because Western culture is different in some details from the innumerable cultural traditions of the world at large, that therefore marriage in our society is different. So, what they are trying to say is that Christian marriage is a Christian concept. Well, of course it is. Just like Hindu marriage is a Hindu concept. But Hindu marriage and Christian marriage are both marriage. And an Australian Christian husband and wife are recognised as being married in India, just as an Indian Hindu husband and wife are recognised as being married in Australia.

Furthermore, our modern Western culture is secular, not Christian. It was Christian, but thankfully over the past several centuries we have separated church from state, leading to the potential for dramatic reforms, allowing for massive improvements in women’s rights, religious freedom, multiculturalism and general liberalisation. Of course our modern culture is not perfect, but to take the flaws of modern culture as evidence of “cultural Marxism” or the evils of a relativistic, secular world as the far-right claim, would be mad. We have come a long way. We still have much progress to make, we may have regressed in some ways, but there is no point looking back to a time when religion ruled all, as in truth things weren’t so rosy back then.

To claim that marriage in general is based upon the Bible is absurd, and simply factually incorrect. Of course, Christian marriage within a church is based upon the Bible. But marriage as a whole; no. So, when Christians say that we should leave marriage alone, they are trying to reunite church and state. Modern marriage is largely a secular and legal matter to be determined by the state. Of course people can still choose to be married in a church or temple if they are so inclined, but they have no right to deny the legitimacy of someone else’s marriage just because they are outside their faith, or their sexual preference is abhorred by an ancient text which they hold sacred.

Whilst I will save my thoughts about marriage equality in general for a further article specifically on that topic, I will say this now. I have little sympathy for conservatives who claim that they are being bullied when called bigots for opposing marriage equality. Just to be clear, obviously I don’t condone actual bullying of people on the basis of their beliefs.  Freedom of speech is important, as is freedom of religion, even if we don’t approve of things that people say or believe.  However, when people cite the Bible in their denouncement of homosexuals and speak of diabolical conspiracies taking aim at our children in reference to pro-marriage equality political lobbying, such things deserve to be actively denounced.  Those that make such statements cannot expect others to simply let such comments fly without a response.  I have seen lots of bad arguments against marriage equality, but no good ones. Whilst Christians are indeed persecuted in some parts of the world (particularly many parts of the Middle-East), I don’t believe Christians are being persecuted in Western countries (though there have been some cases whereby activists have gone too far). Rather, Christians are losing their privilege, as they should. Christians need to accept that in a secular culture they cannot expect to say “the Bible says so…” and expect people to follow suit. Fortunately, the Bible has no standing in a secular culture.

Certainly our conception of marriage has already changed dramatically over time, and this is certainly a good thing, not something to mourn. For much of history, marriage has literarily been a transfer of property (the bride) from her father to her husband. The fact that in Western culture we largely aim towards the ideal of men and women being equal and autonomous entities in themselves is certainly a major step forward from historical norms. The modern Western conception of marriage is as a formal, legal and cultural recognition of a life partnership between two adults who love each other, and share both deep friendship and also romance and passion. In recent times we have come to recognise marriage between men and women of different faiths, races and cultures as perfectly healthy and normal. Recognizing marriage between members of the same gender is simply the next natural step in evolving modern morals and ethics in the direction of truly universal and timeless ethical ideals, and away from backwards and superstitious cultural norms.

There is obviously much more I could say on the topic, but again, I will save that for a further article on the topic in general. I just wanted to say that when you hear Christians claiming that marriage is a Christian concept, based on the Bible, you can call BS. It’s simply not true. Christians should stop making this claim, and they should retract their previous statements.

Peace

On Donald Trump and the upcoming 2016 US election:

 

It is hard to know what to say in face of the circus that is current American politics. I have been feeling torn and tongue-tied; however this is not out of equal consideration of two opposing views, or out of a shortage of opinions to be expressed. Rather, it is because I try (and sometimes fail) to avoid the usual games of rhetoric and polemics that make the topic of politics such an ugly thing, despite its absolute importance. Regarding Trump, I don’t want to simply repeat the same labels of him and his followers that his many critics have been using. Rather, I typically find that such an approach doesn’t help, it doesn’t achieve anything constructive. Where possible, I attempt (again, not always successfully) to stick to the facts, and go into detail in explaining why I support a certain position over another.

With Trump however, I don’t believe a detailed examination should really be necessary. The problem with Trump is that if I say anything less than the usual rhetoric, I feel I would be holding back from speaking the truth, out of fear of offending others (including a few friends and family that support him). However, I could not live with myself if I held my tongue on this matter.

Of course there are many things that I can say without hesitation about him (and those that support him), all of which are already being said elsewhere. The common rhetoric from his critics is that he (and anybody that has and would support him) is insane, stupid and evil. This is where I really find it hard, because I generally don’t find such rhetoric useful. I don’t want to merely insult others that hold contrary views to myself. Certainly I can see that often both sides of politics lower themselves in their attacks against each other, and I personally wish to see politicians (and commentators) that are above such ploys.

The problem with Trump and co. is that anything less that the usual rhetoric wouldn’t really be true. We could try and sugarcoat it and present it in less offensive terms, but ultimately I think to conclude any less would be to fail to call things as they are. I have a policy regarding these things, and it is as follows: Speak the truth with love. This means to try to speak out about the things that matter, but to do so in a manner that does not seek to enhance ones own ego (in presenting oneself as superior to those on the receiving end). Basically, I believe one should be willing to stand up on issues that matter, knowing full well that there are those that will choose to take offense at your perspective. However, I believe we must be careful not to take this a license to deliberately cause offense, or to justify careless language.

Through this inner conflict I have felt regarding this issue, I have found this whole lead-up to the American election to be quite depressing. If only a handful of people were supporting Trump it would feel easy to just dismiss them all as being irrelevant to mainstream politics, and try and stay centred and optimistic about the possibility of improvement in the way our countries are run. However, with large numbers of Americans getting behind Trump it almost feels like there is no point caring about politics, if this is what so many people actually want for their leadership.

Whilst I am grateful to live in the 21st century in a Western country, with democracy, education, modern medicine and science, religious freedom and all that, it should be obvious to any reasonable person that there are many things that we need to improve and reform about Western culture (though I am aware of some on the far-right who wish to defend Western culture like a religious belief, considering anyone who is critical of any aspects of our culture to be self-loathing). To see improvement in the world we need leaders who are reasonable and intelligent, possessing wisdom, compassion and strength. Likewise, we need the general public to turn off their reality TV, put down their phones and be willing to take some time to educate themselves about things that really matter.

Now, from that last statement some might accuse me of displaying some sort of intellectual snobbery towards those that have no interest in politics. Certainly there are some amongst the privileged classes that turn their noses at the common man, considering themselves above the passions of the lower classes. Obviously, I do not condone such things. However, class snobbery goes both ways, and I have certainly witnessed numerous examples of those who actually attack those that seek to encourage greater knowledge on important topics. We can only blame our leaders so much; there comes a time when we must accept responsibility ourselves. If so many people honestly want Trump as the president of the United States of America, then the problem isn’t simply our leaders and the media. Rather, we the public are a major part of the problem.

I am fortunate enough not to know Donald Trump personally. Obviously, I try to see the best in other people, I attempt (and often fail) to be slow to judge and quick to forgive. Likewise, I always seek to get the facts from all sides and become quite familiar with the details of a topic before reaching definitive conclusions. I have initial impressions and intuitions of course, but I attempt to remain somewhat open about important topics until I have enough of the facts.  It is true that I can often express very strong opinions on a topic, but I try and withhold such conclusions until after I have shown (or am about to show) why such opinions are well justified.

I am still somewhat new to politics, in that I have not yet gone into the detail that I would like to in order to be able to offer my thoughts on comparing economic polices of progressives and conservatives, and other such topics. However, regarding Trump and co., I really do not think that you need to be an expert on politics to see what is going on here.

You would have to have been living in a cave to be unaware of all the crazy and disgusting things Trump has said and done. As a result, I’m not even going to try and document them here. Many people already have done so, and everything I am saying is easily verifiable to anyone with an Internet connection.

Trump encouraged the paranoia of evangelical Christians with his hysterical comments calling for his supporters to boycott Starbucks because their special Christmas coffee cup (in red and green, Christmas colours) wasn’t “Christmassy” enough? He stated that if he became president everyone was going to be saying “Merry Christmas”. So, is he going to send the army around to the houses of non-Christians to force them to sing songs about baby Jesus? He openly mocked a disabled man and then lied about it straight afterwards (gaslighting). He has repeatedly incited his followers to violence (and defended them for beating up protesters at his rallies), he commented that a female reporter that asked him difficult questions was having her period, and then there is of course his treatment of women… He openly said that using loopholes in business law to avoid paying tax “made him smart” (actually Trump, immoral), and then again denied it straight afterwards (gaslighting again). He has stated that there is a media conspiracy against him (like, why on earth would anyone not like him?), and that he may not accept the results of the election if he loses.

Now, I don’t really like the way that the media goes through peoples closets looking for skeletons. It’s generally malicious gossip and tabloid trash, and it doesn’t help. I have certainly said and done things, which I’ve been ashamed of later, and I think most people if they are being honest would confess the same. However, in Trumps case it is not as if he has made mistakes in the past but now he is a changed man. No, the man seems to have no genuine remorse for his obnoxious behaviour, and he continues the very same behaviour. Regarding the video that was recently released with Trump boasting about chasing a married woman and forcing himself on woman without their consent, the problem is that this wasn’t a surprise to anyone. Rather, the content of that video was simply another explicit example of Trump’s true nature, and its not like we haven’t already seen enough examples of that (check out his row with Rosie O’Donnell for the full ugliness of the man).

Donald Trump honestly thinks he is above the law, and above morality. That is, he does and says whatever he wants; he honestly does not care. He thinks because he is wealthy and famous he can say and do anything. He seems to be saying: “Look, I’m a jerk, and I don’t care”, and it has encouraged others to follow in his image, showing the full potential for the ugliness of the far-right. Somehow, Trump is being seen as a hero by many people. In their polemics about political correctness the far-right abandons common decency as well, and they have repeatedly defended Trump’s actions (whilst more reasonable conservatives have – to their credit – denounced him).

And then we have the bizarre situation that Trump has somehow managed to appeal to many underprivileged people, by telling them that he will bring down the system? Here’s the thing; Trump is the system! He’s a billionaire that doesn’t pay taxes, running for a party that objects to raising the minimum wage to a liveable level (that wouldn’t require working 2-3 jobs or being on welfare as well as working full-time), objects to universal healthcare, progressive taxation and affordable higher-education, to name a few things that would help the underprivileged.

Most significantly, Trump is the exact opposite of what we need. We need honest, trustworthy, decent, compassionate and wise leaders. Trump is none of that; rather, he’s pretty much the exact opposite of what we need.

What then of the opposition? There are many people claiming that Hillary Clinton is no better, or that she is actually worse. Well certainly Clinton was extremely careless in breaking the rules and using a private email server for classified government emails. So, she was irresponsible, majorly, but does this make her as bad as Trump? Well, obviously no. Being an amoral jerk and being severely irresponsible are pretty much at two opposite ends of the spectrum. I’m not sure how severe the email scandal should be considered in normal conditions, but by comparison to Trump it’s nothing.  Beyond the email scandal there are many, many claims made about Hillary Clinton, that she is crooked, taking bribes, using her foundation for profit instead of charity, amongst other things. The problem is that almost all of these are either false, half-true or unprovable speculations. Yeah, maybe some of these accusations against her could be true. Maybe she isn’t a saint. Or maybe they are almost all false.

I can’t say either way with what information I have encountered, and I haven’t seen anyone make a proper case against her. Rather, I have seen many, many heavily biased and poorly written articles saying she is this and that. As far as the full-blown conspiracy theories go that say she is part of the Illuminati and/or a Reptilian alien, if you want me to believe something like that and conclude she is no better than Trump, then you are going to have to actually make a really, really good case. Sure, I have read some David Icke and I have spent many, many hours reading through the endless conspiracy sites on the Internet. I suspect that some of it may be true, but if I were to commit to holding very serious positions, I would want to be absolutely convinced.

I am not so naïve to be taken in by mainstream media; however from what I have seen the whole conspiracy genre fails to meet the standards of argumentation and evidence that are required to accept their conclusions. It is true that sometimes just because a case hasn’t been made properly that it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have some legitimate points. However, you can’t expect me to believe that Hillary Clinton is as bad as Trump on the basis of rumours, conjecture and the email scandal. By comparison, to see the problems with Trump you just have to be aware of the things he has openly said and done, and the crazy policies he wants to implement (like building a wall between the US and Mexico, and trying to get Mexico to pay for it!?! Ok conservatives, if you want to have a serious discussion about open borders and immigration, make a sensible case).

It is rather depressing that the leadership of such a massive and powerful country is decided by something that could not be called anything less than a circus. One could easily be forgiven for giving up on politics, for giving up on caring about important issues, or trying to encourage positive progress. If this is what America really wants, one could almost ask if they actually deserve democracy? Of course the opposite isn’t worth considering, I am simply voicing the frustration that I have felt in watching the Trump campaign.

There are reasonable conservatives out there. Far-left Socialism is indeed a true evil, and there are real problems with the moderate left of Western nations. However, I simply don’t know what to say when dealing with the far-right. It pains me to my soul to see and hear the way they go about things, and I don’t know where to start in pulling apart the web of misinformation they spread.

All of this is rather unpleasant, and I don’t enjoy it at all. I totally understand why many people run for the hills the moment a conversation turns to politics. Yet, we must be politically active. We must urge people on both sides of the spectrum to be reasonable, be patient and forgiving with those on the other side, even though they may appear to be our adversary.

If there are any conservatives reading, can I please ask you to consider that most people on the left in Western nations are not simply Soviet spies trying to covertly bring about full-blown Russian communism. Rather, they generally simply care about social justice, the environment and sustainability, and wish to see Western civilization find balance between economic progress and technological advancements, and a healthy ecology and fair social-economic system. Likewise, I urge progressives to consider that there is often another side of the coin to be considered, and that they can often go too far in fighting for a just cause.

We need to show kindness to those that hold different opinions to ourselves, even when they show aggression towards us. Likewise, we need to be honest enough with ourselves to consider the possibility that our deeply held opinions and beliefs may be wrong. We need to be cautious and slow to wholeheartedly accept definitive positions on far-reaching topics, and we absolutely must compare arguments on all sides before we reach our conclusions.

I don’t think we can reform our political and economic models simply through making our case really well however. Rather, we are talking about fundamental human behaviour, and whilst I think we should be active in standing up for what is real and good and trying to create a better world, we must have peace inside. Our actions often reflect our inner state, and where there is conflict and imbalance in external circumstances it is guaranteed that there is inner turmoil that is feeding the fire.

We must truly know that we are not simply our mind or our body. We are all capable of experiencing unspeakable inner peace and stillness, regardless of external circumstances, and nobody outside of ourselves can ever have the power to withhold that peace from us. I am still working on it myself (I fluctuate); however I have certainly tasted it. We can hold that peace within ourselves, and act in accordance with it. When we do that, we have the potential to change our external circumstances. Rest assured, that those who create and continue the imbalances of our external world do not have peace inside.

May we all strive to be the best we can be, and encourage others to evolve into their best person, whilst being patient, accepting and forgiving with both others and ourselves for being flawed human beings.

Peace.

It’s time for us to take more responsibility in choosing our leaders:

Right now we have federal elections looming both here in Australia and also in America. I am happy to admit that for many years I didn’t invest much time or energy in learning about the different political parties, understanding their ideological positions and their policies. It is all too easy to dismiss them as all the same, and conclude that we are simply equally screwed regardless of who gets into power. I again confess that I have certainly expressed this opinion in the past.

I do indeed think that it is true that parties and candidates on both sides of the political spectrum have to work within the same overall system, and are subject to influence by outside forces that may make it difficult for them to fully manifest their ideals. Likewise, I agree that there are certain modes of behaviour that are common on both sides of the political spectrum. However, it simply isn’t true that all politicians are the same, or that all parties are the same. It simply isn’t true that we get the same results regardless of who wins the election. Rather, we do see some correspondence between the actions of a party once in power and its political ideology.

It is sad however that breaking election promises has become par for the course, to the point that some commentators think we shouldn’t be too hard on politicians when they fail to come through on the things that got them elected in the first place. Hence, we can understand the apathy that many of us feel towards electing new leaders. However, we the people need to make a stand and demand honest leaders with integrity who will come through on their word. We will not achieve this by sitting on the sidelines and ignoring the action up on the stage, but rather by paying closer attention to what goes on in office.

It is commonly thought to be impolite to discuss politics, religion, philosophy and other subjects in public, due to the offense that many take to hearing opinions contrary to their own. These subjects stir the egos of pretty much all involved and often bring out the worst in us. However, we have a crazy situation where it is considered fine to talk trash, gossip and so forth, but discussing things that really matter is out of bounds.

Politics really matters. It determines how a nation collects and spends money, how it behaves in international conflict and what ideology drives its actions. Our involvement (or lack thereof) in political affairs can help to influence whether or not we (and those we care for) can access affordable education and healthcare, it influences the state of our transport infrastructure, our environmental policy, whether or not we attempt to intervene to prevent discrimination and bullying, how our economy functions and whether businesses are constraint by excessive red-tape, whether financial institutions and international businesses are allowed to take advantage of our nation, how we go about intervening and offering assistance to those who suffer in other nations around the globe, and on it goes.

I would like to challenge us all (myself included) to take responsibility and start to invest more of ourselves into engaging with the big issues. Sure, we all have lots going on in our own lives. However, it has become all too acceptable to become completely immersed in our personal dramas and sheltered from the big picture. We need to care about the big issues, we need to invest some of our own time and energy into educating ourselves and becoming somewhat active on a national and international level.

Perhaps the first thing we can all do is to take time to learn about the parties and candidates who we will be voting for in the upcoming elections, rather than allowing ourselves to be swayed by the propaganda machine that inevitably rolls forth in the time preceding the election. We need to be educated so that we cannot simply be enticed by mere slogans.

I would hope that in the near future we can show politicians what we demand of them, rather than simply accepting that it is normal for politicians to behave like primary school kids, shouting each other down, using cheap shots, launching witch-hunts like trashy tabloid magazines, lying through their teeth, falling short on their promises and all that. We must demand that our leaders demonstrate behaviour above and beyond what we see amongst the masses. We must demand calm, rational, compassionate and generous leaders. We want men and women who demonstrate that they have open minds and hearts, patience, wisdom, and the bravery necessary to lead our nations into difficult territory.

Likewise, we the people must be willing to invest some degree of time to consider opposing arguments from both sides in order to decide which policies we wish to support, rather than being led by the tactics employed by industry spokespeople and religious apologists when defending their institutions against the threat of collapse.

We the people must take responsibility for who we elect and why. The stakes are indeed high. There are many in America who are terrified of what will happen both to America and to others at the hands of America if Trump were to be elected. Likewise, for us in Australia we will reap what we sow in regards to who we elect. I urge for everyone to attempt to lay their egos aside and care more about the big issues in life, as they really do matter, and they affect all of us.

Peace

A Few Quick Thoughts On ANZAC Day:

For those of us here in Australia today is Anzac day, a day where we remember the horrors of war and the sacrifices of our ancestors that fought to retain the freedoms which we cherish. As with other days related to war and issues of national pride, it’s a day that can also divide people on the basis of their political allegiance. As I have been reminded by my conservative friends, we often find that around this time we encounter articles written to counter the “Anzac myth”, or to challenge the glorification of war. Many people on the left side of politics and religion feel that we have glamourized war, arguing that conservatives seem to actually like war, and act in ways to encourage or outright create it. On the other side, many people on the right feel deeply insulted by the disrespect shown towards the fallen by those that use Anzac day as an opportunity to criticize our brave soldiers.

The following statement is one that I will repeat in many different articles:

Whilst it is indeed true that the truth isn’t always found halfway between two opposing views, it is most commonly the case that it is.

War is a tremendously ugly thing. Obviously there’s large scale death of soldiers and civilians. There are all those that are maimed and injured, let alone all those psychologically destroyed (should we mention the high rate of suicide, substance abuse and other mental illnesses amongst victims of war). There is slavery, rape, and environmental destruction. And then there is the sheer cost of war. It is a sad irony that many times war has broken out because someone wishes to take power over another nation to make themselves wealthier, and yet war is surely one of (if not the) primary cause of poverty in the world. If we did not spend so much on war and defence it would surely be a different world.

And yet, when there are those who are driven by whatever ideology or desire to attempt to infringe upon the freedom of others, we need good strong people to stand against them. Indeed many atrocities have occurred at the hands of those fighting for the US, and I would presume that Australia, New Zealand and Britain would likewise not be exempt from this. However, this does not simply make us the same as those we have fought against, and we must all be thankful for our predecessors that fought to defeat the forces of evil.

There is a popular idea in New Age spirituality that you cannot fight against ego (or unconsciousness if you prefer) and win. It is thought that if you do you simply become the same yourself, in which case ego has won and you have lost. Rather, many people believe that you should only ever show love in the face of evil, and that in doing so one can transform your opponent, bringing them out of their unconsciousness. Unfortunately, because of this idea I have seen and heard many spiritually minded people argue that violence is never appropriate, apparently even in the face of opposing violence.

Obviously such an approach is completely untenable. I believe that the Bhagavad-Gita dealt with this issue wisely when it stated quite clearly that it is the duty of righteous people to stand against evil and protect against the collapse of culture. We should note however that the Gita also noted that to fail to defend oneself out of not wanting to cause harm to others would actually be to succumb to ego, in viewing ones opponents as merely the body to be cut down. The Spirit is immortal, it cannot be killed. Yet if someone is to try to take away your freedom it is your duty to stop them, even if it means killing their body. There is just as much ego in absolute passivism as there is in aggression, and passivism will achieve the same end, as it will only allow the aggressor to succeed.

I believe that the left are indeed correct when they point out that many in the right have glamourized war. It seems that it is difficult to fight a righteous war without being taken over the mindset of conflict. Certainly the US did largely save the world in WW2. Yet it does seem that many in the US have been taken over by this group-consciousness of believing themselves to be police and/or saviours of the world. How many movies have presented this theme quite clearly? What effect then does this group-mind have upon foreign policy and various other vital issues?

It is difficult (if not impossible) to look evil in the eye and feel love, but that is perhaps the ideal to which we should aim. To do everything possible in striving for peace, to offer compassion, grace, mercy, forgiveness and infinite and unconditional love to all, and yet be willing to stand strong and fight when necessary. To be able to hold love in ones heart for an enemy whilst being willing to end their life if necessary in the horrors of war.

In this way we perhaps do not fight against ego, and we refuse to be pulled into it ourselves. We can fight against flesh and blood when necessary, but be careful not to create in ourselves an ideology that is dysfunctional in much the same ways as those we fight against. It is a common human tendency to swing too far one way in response to unbalance on the other side. We however have the ability to change, to grow. We must evolve if we wish to change the world in which we live for the better. And of course, the easiest and best place to start is with ourselves.

For we can find peace within ourselves right here and now (and of course, that it is the only place it can ever be found). Those that attain inner peace will never seek to impose their rule over others, nor wield any weapon in acts of violence. Real peace however will not lead to passivism, but rather make us strong warriors when necessary.

May we find that peace, lest we forget.

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

Lokah Samastah, Sukhino Bhavantu.

Islam, Terrorism and Religious Tolerance:

Summary:

We see in the world news a consistent trend of violence and terrorism associated with Islam, most of which happens in foreign countries, though some of which has recently had more of a direct effect here in Australia.  Whilst ideally human beings should feel equal outrage for atrocities that occur overseas and those that occur closer to home (and likewise feel equal empathy for those that suffer wherever they are), the reality is that we naturally take these issues far more seriously when they come closer to our immediate circle.  There is currently fierce debate as to whether Islam bears direct responsibility for breeding terrorism, or whether terrorism is more of a universal response to various other issues.  This is a topic, which brings together religion and politics, and it is one where we need to get our facts straight and be willing to face reality.

Conservatives in both religion and politics have openly condemned Islamic terrorism and militarism, and have argued that these are directly caused by Islam itself, and that every problem we see associated with the faith can be linked to the content of the Koran, and the central tenets of the faith.  Progressives on the other hand have argued that the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful and law-abiding, and that violence and terror is a universal problem, that all Muslims are being unfairly tainted with the same brush, and that Islam itself is not to blame.  Many progressives have gone even further and defended Islam, accusing the West of deserving terrorism both in response to our intervention in the affairs of the Middle East and the way we treat Muslims (and others) back at home.

Whilst I generally swing far more to the left then the right (on both religion and politics), this is one issue where I believe that conservatives are closer to the truth, although I believe that the left has good intentions (albeit intentions that are in this case misdirected).  The truth is that whilst the potential exists for human beings to twist and misinterpret any faith, philosophy or ideology, there is in-fact a direct causal link between the problems associated with radical Islam and the core tenants of the faith itself.  The Koran itself should legitimately be held accountable when we can see an obvious relationship between its content and the behaviour of some Muslims.

This however does not mean that all Muslims are bad people, or that they should be discriminated against or persecuted, or that all Muslims will eventually become terrorists.  Rather, it is a difficult question of how to respond to a dangerous ideology, when this ideology is held sacred by a significant number of people, who naturally have rights as human beings.  It is very difficult to conceive of how to restrict Islamic terrorism without becoming the persecutor ourselves; hence the topic is a true can of worms.  Whilst progressives are seeking to promote peace, tolerance, pluralism and multiculturalism, many of them are going about it the wrong way, by resorting to pure relativism (in believing that all faiths are identical and/or equal), and by confusing criticism of bigotry with bigotry itself.

This topic is the perfect example of why we need to redefine our model of religious pluralism, and offer a rational middle ground between religious exclusivism, pure relativism and the rejection of faith altogether.  We desperately need to differentiate between legitimate and illegitimate criticisms, and understand the difference between true bigotry and the need for good people to stand up against true evil (or deep unconsciousness).  Seeking harmony between different religions does not mean that we need to be unrealistic and dishonest about the very real flaws in many faiths.  Rather, as long as we pretend that these flaws do not exist we only allow them to become worse.

We must seek to reform the world’s religions towards the ideal of a Perennial philosophy, in doing so celebrating their strengths whilst seeking to rid them of their weaknesses.  In doing so some of the worlds faiths (such as Islam) will need to either radically change into a liberal mystical form (and grow into a Perennial Sufi mysticism or move in the direction of the Baha’i faith), or disappear altogether.  We need a rational middle-ground whereby we can acknowledge the difficulties we face when a potentially dangerous ideology holds the hearts and minds of large numbers of people, whilst we seek to uphold our own ideals of freedom, equal rights for all, pluralism, tolerance etc.  However, we must not be afraid to ask the hard questions, and in times of war there sometimes is no easy answer.  We must admit that we have a real problem with Islam, and the problem will not go away by ignoring it and trying to play nice.  As for what the solution is I do not know; what I am sure of thought is that being dishonest about the situation is not helping anybody.

Main Article:

Religiously motivated violence is an issue that has plagued humanity all the way through human history, and since the events of 9/11 western media has continuously paid attention to the threat of terrorism.  Obviously it should be noted that the vast majority of terrorist attacks occur outside the western world.  However we in the west have not been immune to this problem, and recent events from late 2014 (with the Martin Place siege in Sydney, which some have argued should not be classed as an act of terrorism) – early 2015 have brought this to the forefront of conversation for those of us here in Australia, whilst the latter attacks against the Charlie Hebdo newspaper attracted worldwide media attention.

These tragic events have once again spawned a wave of commentary on Islam in the media, with the conservative right condemning Islam as the cause of the events, whilst the progressive left seeks to separate religion from these tragedies, arguing that Islam is not at fault and that it is merely the actions of a few lone extremists that do not represent mainstream Islam.  Politically I probably fall more to the left then the right, and the same is certainly true when it comes to religion, in that I promote a refined form of religious pluralism and oppose religious exclusivity.  However, in this case I think conservatives seem to have a much better understanding of the facts at hand, although of course some far-right commentators and groups have used these examples to attempt to justify their own agendas.  It seems that as an extension of currently inadequate model of pluralism that is favoured by progressives, the left is in complete denial as to the true nature of Islam, the content of the Koran and the consequences of its central tenets (just as it is in denial as to the issues inherent in other faiths and their sacred texts as well).

Of course, religion itself cannot be blamed for all of the problems that plague its followers, and the left does indeed have a half-truth here.  There are indeed examples where followers of a faith misinterpret a text, and act against the tenets of their faith, whilst claiming to uphold it.  However, when we examine these cases in detail it is quite apparent when someone is twisting a text for their own reasons, and when they are simply following through on what is actually written (in which case defenders of scripture attempt to argue that a text should be read allegorically when it is embarrassing to them, regardless of the original context of the work itself).  Many issues that plague religion are simply a manifestation of the lower side of human nature, and the very same issues manifest in slightly different ways in various other fields, such as politics, business and so forth.  However, we need to acknowledge the reality that there are indeed many cases where individual religions condone and promote hatred, discrimination, violence and so forth, and hence when their followers manifest these features there is a link between the faith of the individuals and their behaviour.

It is indeed true that a psychologically and spiritually mature person can find the best in whatever culture and faith they are raised in and highlight those features, whilst someone who is immature can likewise do the opposite.  However not all faiths are equal or identical, and different religions have different strengths and weaknesses.  We do not have a problem with Sikh terrorists murdering civilians, or Buddhist monks preaching hatred against western civilisation.  Whilst there are examples where followers of the Dharmic faiths have been involved in local disputes (such as the problems in Burma), their religious texts do not generally condone and/or promote violence or hate.

Progressives commonly point out that Islam is not alone in having “difficult passages” in its sacred text, and that the same can also be said of Christianity and Judaism, amongst others.  Likewise they often also go on to point out that the religious right in America have a major influence on American politics and foreign policy.  Likewise, they point out that Israel’s actions and general policy towards the Palestinian’s in occupied (or “disputed”) territory may not simply be a case of political ideology, but may likewise be influenced by religious tensions between Jews and Muslims and a belief that Jews alone have a God given right to the land of Israel (Zionism).  Hence they argue that Christianity and Judaism are just as guilty of influencing religious violence as is Islam, and that an equal amount of justification for their atrocities can be found within the Bible and Tanakh as within the Koran.

In response, conservative Christians generally attempt to argue that Christianity is without blemish, that their critics simply misread the Bible, take it out of context and attempt to paint all Christians with the same brush due to the actions of a few misguided souls who do not represent Christianity as a whole.  Likewise, they are also frequently known to defend all of the actions of Israel, and to distance Judaism and Christianity from Islam (conservative Christians like to speak of the “Judeo-Christian tradition”, to separate it from the term “Abrahamic faiths” that those outside of their faith use to group Judaism, Christianity and Islam together into a general category).

In this regard Christian apologists play exactly the same game that Islamic apologists play, except from the opposite side of the table.  The problem is very much the same for both Christians and Muslims alike, in that many of them are in denial about the very real issues with their faiths, and they attempt to deflect legitimate criticisms back to their critics, accusing their critics of religious bigotry and racism, despite the reality that their critics are often accurately identifying bigotry within their faith.  It matters not how well we present our case against any religion; followers of those faiths who have made their identification with that faith part of how they see themselves (their ego, or false self) will refuse to acknowledge the case, and will use all manner of fallacies in order to justify to themselves (and other devotees) the deflection of their critics case.

Unfortunately the left side of religion and politics have in many respects become the friend of the fundamentalist, in that many progressives will not acknowledge that the problems with Christianity and Islam have roots in the foundation of these faiths, in their sacred texts and core concepts and beliefs.  Rather, the dogma of the left as a whole is that it is only that some misguided souls misinterpret portions of various sacred texts that we perceive problems in these faiths, and that the founders and founding principles and texts of all the world religions were pure vehicles for higher truths.  The problem is that this simply isn’t true; it paints progressives (who I count myself amongst) as being ignorant and/or dishonest about religion, and it actually goes a long way towards allowing fundamentalism and fanaticism to continue.

As long as progressives deny that there is anything fundamentally flawed with the Tanakh, the Bible and the Koran, there will be individuals who will read these texts as they are, and will take them seriously; including passages that (if taken seriously) bare serious consequences.  You cannot read the sacred texts of the Abrahamic faiths objectively and tell me that there are only a handful of “difficult” passages found within them; rather the opposite is true, they are filled with offensive concepts and commandments throughout.  Hence, as long as progressives espouse the dogma that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with these texts, they are allowing these texts to retain their status as sacred works, and passively promoting them.

What we (those of us on the left) should be doing is being honest about the content of these texts, and promoting informed and reasonable views about them.  One can be informed and realistic about the nature of the Tanakh without being an anti-Semite.  Likewise, being realistic about the Bible doesn’t make you a bigot.  And again, being informed and realistic about the nature of the Koran doesn’t make you racist against people of middle-eastern descent, or Islamaphobic, or anything like that.  Rather, when progressives start to be honest about religion we will actually have more hope of being successful in our attempts at promoting peace.  Pretending that there aren’t any problems does not solve the problems; rather it allows them, and hence progressives that take the soft approach are shooting themselves in the foot, and refusing to stand up for the principles (freedom, human rights etc.) that are supposed to define their worldview.

Very few people on the left side of the political spectrum seem to understand the subtlety and complexity of the relationship between the three Abrahamic faiths, and their social effects.  It is indeed absolutely true that Judaism and Christianity both share many of the same flaws that are present in Islam, and I for one am quite open in my criticisms of them for these reasons, as I am with Islam.  The Hebrew Bible (the Tanakh, which appears in slightly modified form in the Christian Bible as the Old Testament) suffers from many of the same flaws as does the Koran.  The Tanakh is filled with “difficult passages”, and even the New Testament contains many problems, despite its far more pleasant nature by comparison to the OT.

As with Islam, there are many examples of real issues that occur in Jewish and Christian contexts today that can be directly linked to the content of the their sacred texts.  Judaism today however is (thankfully) quite different in the way that it is practiced by comparison to the religion that was practiced by the ancient Hebrews, and Judaism has been through many levels of reform through to the modern age.  That said, many Jews still consider the Tanakh to be divinely inspired and take it seriously, and would be hesitant to admit the great number of flaws it contains.

The nation of Israel has a very difficult relationship with the nations around it (of which I do not wish to discuss here), and it can possibly be argued that its actions have been motivated by an ideology that the Jewish people have a divine right to the land of Israel (Zionism), and that this ideology has inspired various human rights abuses, and contributed towards very difficult political territory (noting that Jewish people are also still victims of real anti-Semitism, and Hamas is a effectively a terrorist organization).  However, outside of the Middle East, one does not hear of Jewish people stirring up trouble for non-Jews due to their religious ideology.  Rather, Jewish people seem to be quite happy to allow non-Jews to live as they will, and do not feel a need to proselytize and convert others to their faith.

Christianity today is quite diverse in that there is a large spread from conservative to liberal believers.  We are all quite fortunate that very few Christians today attempt to enforce Old Testament laws upon anyone, but rather partial (or total) abrogation of the Jewish Law is a fundamental feature of Christianity.  Essentially we have a situation in which Christians generally believe that the Old Testament is the word of God and accurately represents the laws, behaviour and personality of God prior to the coming of Christ.  However, as explained through the Pauline epistles Christians believe that Jesus fulfilled the Jewish Law and brought about a new dispensation (age), in which these laws no longer applied.  There are several problems with all of this however, the primary one being that nowhere is there a specific explanation over which of the laws still apply and which don’t.  Hence, Christians themselves essentially pick and choose which parts of the Old Testament they choose to accept and which they don’t.

Fortunately for us today it means that we don’t have too many problems with Christians trying to enforce OT laws upon non-believers.  However, that is not to say that we do not still have problems with Christians trying to force their beliefs upon those outside their faith, and it is not to say that there are not real causal links between the content of the Bible itself and the behaviour of such Christians.  I for one am quite open in my criticism of some facets of Christianity and the behaviour of conservative Christians who take the Bible quite seriously.  Likewise, I again have been quite outspoken for some time in arguing that liberal Christians aren’t going far enough in their reforms, in that whilst I generally commend them for rejecting religious exclusivity, belief in eternal damnation and so forth, they generally still continue to give divine status to the Bible, and have not been strong enough in distancing themselves from various dogmas of their mother faith.

As with Islam, there is significant ignorance even amongst university-educated progressives as to the history of Christianity.  For example, the amount of times I have heard it stated that the doctrine of hell was invented by Catholics in the middle ages, and was not a feature of the early church, and likewise is not really espoused in the New Testament.  The problem with this statement is that it is patently false; in truth the doctrine of hell may have been extrapolated in the middle ages, but ultimately was taught from the earliest recorded times by the church fathers, and whilst there is certainly ambiguity about different terms used in the NT that are read today as referring to Hell, the passages are there, and at least some of them should probably be read in the way that fundamentalists today read them.

Likewise, the amount of times I have heard people claim that fundamentalism is a recent development in Christianity, only occurring in the last century in the US.  Again, there is only the faintest element of truth in this, as the label fundamentalism was only coined in the last century.  In truth however, nearly all of the core features of fundamentalism (as fundamentalists themselves defined it) can be traced back to the early church fathers who defined what orthodox Christianity was in the first place, and the only real grey area is the issue of how literarily the early church fathers read the Bible (I would argue that they read it literarily unless they were embarrassed by what it said, at which point they followed Philo in arguing for the absurdity of a literal reading).

The point of all this is that pointing out that there are likewise flaws in Judaism and Christianity does not mean that we cannot point out flaws in Islam, and it does not mean that we can’t argue for a causal relationship between the core problems of Islam and the behaviour of some Muslims.  Rather, we need to be realistic about all faiths, noting both their strengths and weakness.  We need to be able to give informed and reasonable critiques of any faith, ideology or culture without either going too far and being jerks about it, or on the other end of the scale being labelled as racists or bigots merely for objecting to offensive and dangerous beliefs.

Progressives are attempting to argue in favour of multiculturalism and religious and cultural pluralism, and to this I tip my hat (as it’s what I too aspire towards).  However, the way that many of them are doing it is invalid, and has dangerous consequences.  In wake of several of these attacks social media has been flooded with posts and blogs effectively siding with the terrorists, and accusing western civilization of deserving what was coming to them.  I agree that western civilization is not without it’s flaws, and I personally am sympathetic with many critiques of American (and allied) foreign policy.  However, this does not mean for a second that I sympathize with Islamic terrorists, as if their hatred for western democracy, pluralism and freedom was in any way justified.

It is quite ironic that so many liberals leap to the defence of Islam in believing that they are defending freedom, tolerance, pluralism and multiculturalism, when in reality it is the ideology of Islam that is the enemy of all the things that they seek to stand up for.  It is Islam itself that is opposed to religious freedom and pluralism, multiculturalism, women’s rights, LGBT rights, democracy and secularism.  Legitimate critiques of Islam are done on the basis of this reality; it is those that make informed criticisms of Islam that are in-truth defending the ideals that progressives are supposed to stand for.

Let us make this quite clear; critiquing Islam is not the same as demonizing all Muslims.  As most of us well know, the vast majority of Muslim’s living in western countries are willing to abide by the laws of our land, and separate their private convictions (which still may contain ideas that clash with the collective cultural norms and ideals) from their public life.  There are many, many beautiful Muslim men and women in both western and Arabic nations that uphold many of the great human virtues, and who can draw on universal ethics to inspire them to greatness.  Likewise, there are even Muslim mystics who soar to great heights of spiritual attainment, and pursue a path of divine love.  However, none of this changes the reality that Islam has no tolerance for religious freedom and/or pluralism, and it is only in western nations that Muslims can leave their faith (and even then it can be very difficult, if not impossible).

There is a difference between giving legitimate critiques of a religious belief and racism.  Most people that criticise Islam are not racists, and do not condone discrimination against Muslims themselves.  There are of course real examples whereby people do employ racism against people of Arabic descent as a response to Islamic terrorism, and there have been examples of westerners attacking Muslims or people they mistake as Muslims (such as Hindus and Sikhs) in retaliation for terrorist attacks.  However, much of the criticism of Islam that followed the Charlie Hebdo attacks has been accurate and fair, in that critics were pointing out that Muslim extremists were carrying out the commands of the Koran in murdering those that insulted Mohammad.  Yet when people such as Sam Harris point this out, they are accused of being racists.

Racism is discrimination against people on the basis of race, not faith.  Whilst criticism of Islam may seem to denigrate Arabic people in general, this is not necessarily the case, any more than criticism of Christianity in the US would be racism against white people.  Secondly, it is not bigotry to criticize someone’s beliefs, even if the beliefs in question are held sacred to them.  Rather, if religious beliefs are held to be above criticism then they gain absolute power, as they become untouchable.  When religious beliefs promote bringing all the world under the rule of a single religious authority and those beliefs are held to be above criticism, we are then in trouble.

Pretty much every single time I mention criticisms of Islam I get the response from somebody: “I know some Muslims and they are lovely people.  Perhaps you should meet them; you might learn something?”  Likewise, I have even got the same response when I have voiced criticisms of Christianity, despite the fact that the people giving this response should know that a great number of my friends and family whom I love and admire deeply are Christian.  Likewise, we saw the same response from Ben Affleck against Sam Harris and Bill Mahler(1), despite the fact that they made it quite clear that they were not criticising all Muslims as individuals, but rather critiquing bad ideas that are held sacred in Islam.  As stated previously, the majority of Muslims in western countries are happy to follow our laws, and keep their faith as a private matter.  However, the fact still remains that when a collective call to arms is raised by someone amongst their ranks in response to a perceived insult against their faith, we consistently see large numbers of Muslims come out of the woodworks rising up in violence and hateful rhetoric.

We also cannot afford to let conservatives be the only ones speaking out about Islam, especially as some of them are also failing to do so in a balanced and reasonable way.  Granted, there have been some excellent critiques of Islam by those on the right.  Likewise, there have been a handful on the left who seem to get it right.  However, if the left continues to define its position on the topic by its denial then they we risk giving fuel to the far-right (who would love nothing better than to completely discredit the left), in which case we have a situation whereby two equally unbalanced poles continue to fuel each other, and neither one resolves the situation at hand.  I personally was quite disgusted by the amount of people that I know that shared posts on social media or even wrote their own rants that basically sided with Islamic terrorists.  Whilst western civilization is certainly not perfect, the legitimate flaws of our culture do not legitimize the hatred with which many Muslims feel towards us.  Might I suggest that those that feel the need to so thoroughly critique western civilization that they would attempt to justify acts of senseless violence and terror might try living in a Muslim majority nation such as Iran, Syria or Egypt, and then see what happens when the “religion of peace” is given absolute power?

It is difficult to know what to do about Islam in terms of how to take action to prevent a threatening ideology from further harming the world, whether through acts of public terrorism, or through the human rights abuses that take place across the world in Muslim majority nations or enclaves.  It is hard to know how to institute measures to stand against evil without likewise becoming the very thing one is fighting.  Whenever someone mentions political measures designed to stop the spread of Islam (such as reducing or completely stopping immigration to Muslims, or even deporting Muslims, or halting or banning the construction and/or operation of Mosque’s and Islamic schools, or banning the burqa and hijab) it always makes me feel quite uncomfortable, as it blurs the line between persecutor and persecuted, right and wrong.  How do we stop bigotry without becoming bigots ourselves?

There is an example from history which is somewhat relevant to this topic and may give context to what we are facing (though it is an extremely touchy subject); that being Roman persecution of Christians in the first four centuries of the Common Era (which I will point out was actually quite sporadic, and was not the consistent and widespread persecution that many Christians would paint it as).  One may ask how that scenario is relevant to the discussion of Islam in the west today?  Certainly most people would view the Roman world as being the evil persecutor of innocent Christians, who were denied religious freedom and tortured and/or murdered simply for their faith.  Well this is true, but it is only part of the picture.  The Roman world was actually extremely pluralistic and tolerated all sorts of religious beliefs, as long as one was happy to take part in the state cult of Emperor worship, and propagation of the gods.

Christians weren’t so much persecuted simply for their personal faith; rather it was because they refused to participate in the state religion, and because they actively spoke against the empire of Rome (preaching its immanent destruction) and the religious practices and beliefs of everyone else (which they claimed were demonic in nature).  Christians weren’t trying to merely keep to themselves; rather they stirred the pot and stood against (what was then) the most powerful empire of the ancient world.  I repeatedly find it extraordinary that many Christians have claimed that Christianity can be credited for establishing religious freedom in the modern world, when in fact Christianity did the exact opposite from the moment it gained power.  When Constantine established religious freedom for Christians (which was later reinstated by Theodosius after it was revoked by Emperor Julian) Christians went about progressively removing the religious freedoms of everyone else, in as much was their capacity.

From this point through to the modern era Christians repeatedly brought about forced conversion on various peoples, and banned the practice of other religious traditions.  Granted there were some features of pagan religions of which I am glad have not survived, and certainly many of the traditions that were banned by Christianity were not enlightened paths.  However, Christianity also interfered with the practice of philosophy in the ancient world, and removed basic freedoms of large numbers of people over a significant period of time.  It took many brave leaders in the western world to bring about a process of separation of church and state, which has brought about the fortunate situation in which we pretty much have complete freedom of religion in our secular western world (though some conservative Christians feel persecuted that they are called out for bigotry when they express their opinions regarding the LBGT community).

I would like to make myself quite clear here however, I am not in any way condoning or seeking to justify the Roman persecution of Christians, nor do I condone the persecution of Christians today, nor any other group for that matter. Rather, I simply wish to point out that the Romans did indeed legitimately recognize that Christianity was a potential threat to its status quo, and this threat actually eventualized, as Christianity did much to prevent or even eradicate religious freedom within their reach in the ancient world.  Whether or not Christianity had anything to do with the actual fall of Rome, Christianity certainly was responsible for the fall of Roman religious freedom.

I do not wish to make it sound like Christianity did nothing good for the world; in truth I believe that it went both ways.  I do believe that the world would have been ultimately better off if Christianity had not become the official state religion of Roman world just before it crumbled.  However, that is not to say that there were not some horrible features of Roman society that Christianity stood against.  I may suspect that Christianity ultimately did more harm then good, but I would never have supported Roman persecution of Christians, let alone outright eradication of Christianity within the Roman Empire.  My point simply is that the Romans were right to be concerned about Christianity, and whilst they attempted to do something about it (in their own way) they still didn’t stop it, and what’s more they ended up looking like the bad guy (not saying they weren’t) for what they did to try and stop the threat.

If we apply this to our current scenario, we have a situation whereby our own culture is not perfect.  However, be that as it may, the fact remains that we do have a real issue in how to deal with Islam, and we must consider the possibilities of where this could lead in the future.  Having said that however, it is difficult to conceive of how we can act without being perceived as the persecutor.  In this manner progressives are currently making things very difficult, as they frequently stand alongside Muslim apologists, who claim persecution whenever a government attempts to do anything to prevent terrorist plots, or members of our community going overseas to fight alongside ISIL.  For examples of this I would cite numerous episodes of Q&A (on the ABC here in Australia), in which Muslims have repeatedly claimed that they were being profiled and persecuted whenever there were anti-terror raids on their community.  This is a double-edged sword whereby any action we take against Islam can potentially make us look like the aggressor, and in which Muslim apologists and their sympathizers on the left are making things worse by trying to claim that there is no problem in the Muslim world, and that we are fully responsible for all that has been done against us.

We have a real problem whereby anybody that publically insults Muslims is threatened; whether or not they are merely giving intelligent, legitimate criticisms of Islam (such as those given by Christopher Hitchens or Sam Harris) or whether they are trolling Muslims, deliberately trying to provoke them (as is often the case with political satirists, who take their genre as a licence to be a jerk).  Time and time again these threats have been followed through on, producing consistent results that should shock us all.  Case in point, the film “Innocence of Muslims” was indeed a tasteless film (although it did contain truths in it, albeit poorly presented), though the response was something that we only see from the Muslim world.  Muslims all over the world responded with violent protests, storming US embassies, and committing acts of violence (noting that quite a number of people died) and vandalism.  Unfortunately, the reality is that Islam becomes more and more of a problem the greater the percentage of Muslims there are in a community, and when Islam is the majority faith a nation falls into theocracy, and human rights and secular values disappear.

The recent “Reclaim Australia” rallies directed against Islam were led by ultra-conservative Christian preacher Danny Nalliah, were attended by neo-Nazis and Pauline Hanson predictably made an appearance and gave a speech at the local Queensland rally.  I would personally never wish to be associated with such figures, yet I wish to be able to critique Islam and consider at least the possibility that we may potentially need to resort to some action in restricting Islam in Western nations; though I shudder at many of the suggestions offered to the latter, and I would urge extreme caution when considering such things.

We New Age spiritual types are supposed to focus on the positive end of every issue, and so I can kind of understand that progressives are trying to do the right thing by deflecting criticism of Islam, and trying to avoid perpetuating a cycle of retribution.  I suggest that we can do that without being wrong about Islam (or any other religion for that matter).  We can recommend that Islam follow the lead of western countries in becoming separated from political and social life.  We can recommend that Muslims follow liberal Christians in reforming their faith.  Obviously we cannot expect the Islamic world to instantly change from one pole to another.  As with Christianity it is only natural that reform takes place in stages. However, we ourselves must continue to show the way and inspire (fellow) liberals to keep moving and take the reform of their faiths to the inevitable conclusion, in which they distance themselves from many of the core features of their orthodox mother faiths.

I am unsure as to what the best approach is for the future, whether Christians and Muslims should seek to create highly liberal, reformed Perennial versions of their faiths, or simply abandon them altogether for the Perennial Philosophy.  The latter is certainly the harder option, and for many it is practically impossible.  However, if the former is to be the case then we have to ensure that reform goes far enough, as currently liberal forms of these faiths stop well short of the evolution that will be necessary for them to fulfil their ideals.  A truly enlightened person can be honest about what is, but perhaps may attempt to keep their focus upon a solution rather than getting caught up in fear.  However, passivism in the face of evil is not the same as what I am idealizing.  Likewise, taking sides with Islamic terrorists and joining in hatred against the west is the opposite of enlightened action.  We could have a difficult time ahead of us in cohabitating with Islam.  It certainly isn’t going to disappear or reform over night, and the potential exists for it to get much worse.  We will continue to have a problem with Islam regardless of whether or not Muslims (and others) have legitimate reasons to be upset with the West.  Even if we were to stay out of Middle Eastern affairs and correct any perceived injustices against Muslims in our own nations, Islam would continue to present problems.

Islam has a long history of taking advantage of progressive governments leniency, by attempting to secure greater and greater liberties.  Muslim activists do not simply push for an end to discrimination, but rather they push for special privileges, whereby Islam and the Koran are immune to criticism, whereby we cannot make images of Mohammad, and where they attempt to practice Sharia law in our countries.  ISIL is currently showing us the horrors of radical Islam, and it is difficult to imagine a true solution for this scenario.  Fortunately there are some reasonable conservative voices on this issue that recognize the seriousness of the situation and the need for us to do what is possible to prevent further atrocities in the Middle East.  However, whatever we choose to do there is no easy way out, and we could potentially make matters worse again.

As for how to deal with civil unrest back home, terrorist attacks and plots and Muslim activists who attempt to overturn western secular values, I personally cannot at this stage offer a solution or support any specific form of action to prevent further issues.  However, it is clear that my fellow progressives (remembering that I personally lean left) need to educate themselves as to the complexities of religion and its influence on politics and current affairs, and stop making excuses for Islam and blaming ourselves. The left seriously needs to get real, and perhaps integrate into its worldview some of the perspectives offered by modern atheists, who have given many well-reasoned and informed critiques of religion in recent years.

Having said all this, it is important that we don’t spend all of our time and energy focussing on fighting against Islam.  Rather, we need to actively seek to cultivate real lasting peace, by approaching the topic with the necessary depth that it demands.  Let us lead by example in finding peace within ourselves, forgiving others and reaching out to each other, whilst standing strong for the great ideals that we are privileged to benefit from in the modern world.

1)   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vln9D81eO60

Politics 101:

Summary:

Politics today is much like religion or football, whereby people commonly choose a team and barrack for them regardless of what they do, overlooking their flaws and likewise failing to see their opponents strengths.  I myself am only just beginning to dip my toes into the vast political ocean, but already I am inclined to suspect that different political and economical models in and of themselves do not hold the key, in the sense that one alone can be the best way to govern society.  Rather I am leaning towards believing that different political and economic models simply allow different aspects of human nature to express itself in different ways.  Ultimately we see the very same lower side of human nature (the ego) manifesting in all camps of political allegiance, particularly in the radical left and right, which seem to be locked in a cycle of reaction to each other.

Perhaps then, we could consider evolving these models in ways that allow the higher human values to express themselves but restrict the collective ego, rather than focusing upon the forces of the rich vs. the poor, government vs. business, rights vs. responsibility or freedom and human rights vs. national security.  It seems clear to me again that as with religion there seem to be irrational and unhealthy dogmas on both sides of the political spectrum.  As with religion however, there has never really been any doubt to me that I lean more to the left then to the right, though again I would not so much identify myself with the left as it stands, but rather seek to uphold some of its key ideals and evolve it into a purer vehicle for its core ethics.  There is real need for moderation on both sides of the political spectrum, and there are many issues where there are very legitimate arguments on opposite sides of the spectrum.  We have a real need for leaders with integrity to appear in the political world, who can put aside the dogmas of their party and weigh up arguments and evidence on their own merit.  In this respect we need leaders who are willing to risk their career by standing against their party (and its voters) when their own conscience calls them.

We have a need for progressives to be able to take a step back and consider that they can take their ideals too far, and that there are often complementary truths that need to be taken into consideration.  Likewise we have a real need for moderate conservatives who can give the other side of the coin to that given by progressives without falling victim to devils advocacy, as we are so commonly seeing from their ranks.  I dream of a future in which people are keen to talk about politics out of interest and concern with the world we live in, and whereby we can have passionate but polite discussions on real issues without the restrictions of social etiquette.

Main Article:

I will start by saying that I am really only quite new to politics, in the sense that I have only recently started to give it a fraction of my time.  Obviously politics has always affected my life and I have always had some awareness of it.  However I have chosen to put my time and attention elsewhere, for various reasons.  So, whilst I have always had opinions (or intuitions) on the topic, my thinking on the subject is quite primitive by comparison to my views on other topics, of which I have given myself considerable time to research and consider.  My point with this caveat is to simply state that these are introductory thoughts, and will preface any commentary that I give in the future.

Politics is one of those subjects that we are not supposed to discuss in polite conversation (along with religion), despite its great importance.  This is a real shame because essentially most of the things that really matter to society as a whole are at least somewhat political in nature, and we need to be able to talk about the things that are truly important.  The problem is that politics brings out the worst in people, much like going to football can turn otherwise civilized and rational people into foul-mouthed thugs, as their sense of critical thinking and caution disappears into a collective mob of rhetoric and polemics.  Politics divides people so severely, that those on the other side of the political spectrum are so commonly dehumanized and diminished as stupid, ignorant or just plain evil.  In this respect it perhaps goes even further then religion in polarizing humanity into ‘us and them’, and with equal potential for violence and war.

This is despite the fact that as with religion, most politically minded people consider that their side of the spectrum is actively seeking to make right all that is wrong in the world, stop the forces of evil and promote virtues which will lead to a free and abundant world.  It does seem to be true that different sides of politics have different priorities, as they consider different issues to be more urgent then others.  Likewise however, they often have different theories as to the best way to govern a nation, how to regulate business, whether to regulate the distribution of wealth (and if so, how to achieve this), and they differ in whether they place individual rights above national security, or support progressive, secular ethical ideals vs. traditional religious moral values etc.

However, it is not so much that very many politically minded people would be honest enough to say that they don’t care about others and they are only seeking to look out for themselves (and those on their team).  Rather, the vast majority believe that their party or ideology holds the key to shaping their nation into a successful and abundant country.  Therefore what we need is for people to be able to weigh up different arguments and theories to find out what works the best.  To do so properly we need to acknowledge that very few political issues are one-sided, and in probably most cases it seems that both sides have legitimate arguments for their case, even when the most appropriate action (when all is considered) may fall to one side.

To give a few obvious examples, the question of whether recreational drug use should be legal has strong arguments on both sides.  On the pro side of the coin, proponents argue (correctly) that making recreational drugs illegal creates a massive black market that is controlled by organized crime syndicates, and it pushes users to crime (and even prostitution) to pay massively inflated prices.  Furthermore, making these drugs illegal in many cases introduces toxic impurities into them (either through their production or being cut for the street), making their use far more dangerous.  What’s more, in many cases the drugs in question have previously been legal, and their abuse (and the consequences of abuse) have only gotten far worse since they were made illegal (case in point being amphetamines).  Likewise, proponents argue that governments should not attempt to regulate individuals states of consciousness, and that countries that put money into rehabilitating addicts rather then fighting a war against drugs have lower prison populations (and related costs), as well as far better success rates in rehabilitation.

On the other sides of the coin, those opposed to legal drug use point out that if recreational drugs are legal then this may create the impression that society approves of their use, and hence may encourage more young people (whose minds are fragile to the side-effects of drug usage) to experiment at younger ages, with tragic consequences for the users and society as a whole.  Likewise, they can argue that when drugs are legalized it can encourage drug tourism (such as Amsterdam is famous for), or result in addicts gravitating in large numbers in certain areas (such as around injecting houses, or clinics which give out methadone), which can stimulate crime and make the streets dangerous for non-users.  Furthermore, it can be argued that when drugs are legal users may quickly and easily graduate from entry-level drugs such as alcohol and marijuana to hard drugs like ecstasy (MDMA), LSD, heroin and ice (crystal-methamphetamine). It can certainly be argued that for some drugs from the latter category (such as ice) there is simply no safe usage, and simply trying the drug once can destroy someone’s life.  In this case both the users and society pay the price, as the users life is often ruined permanently from hard-drug usage, and such users will often struggle to hold down work (placing financial demands on their families and the states welfare system) and rarely pursue specialized education and training, and will often place demands on the nations medical and psychiatric resources, not to mention that they will often become violent and fall into crime.

In this example it is quite obvious that there are legitimate arguments from both side of the equation.  The question then is what is the most successful way to respond?  As far as choosing which path to take in response to the opposing arguments we need to be able to rely upon a systematic consideration of the relevant factors, along with analysis of relevant data to determine which method will have the most positive responses and the least negative ones.  There is probably no response to illicit drug use that can wholly stop the scourge of crime that relates to the industry, nor the personal tragedies and cost for society that comes from their usage.  Hence, when choosing a nations policy on such things one must put your own political leanings and ideology aside and consider what is the most appropriate course of action.  Of course data often requires interpretation, and different sides can often claim that the same data supports their contentions.  However, noting the difficulty of comparing apples with oranges, we need to take into consideration the statistical success and failures of different nations drug policies in deciding policy, and put this ahead of our own personal bias.

Another obvious example of a difficult scenario where there are legitimate arguments on both sides of the spectrum is the quagmire in Iraq, and the question of whether and to what degree western nations should intervene to fight against ISIL.  On the positive side of the equation, proponents point out that ISIL are committing human rights atrocities on a historical scale, raping, murdering and dispossessing entire populations, as well as targeting specific religious and cultural groups, hence designating their crimes into the category of genocide.  They point out that if we do not intervene then ISIL will probably succeed in capturing more territory and thus massacring larger and larger groups of people, making the complex and volatile nature of middle-eastern politics even more difficult, and raising the stakes of future actions in the area.

On the other side of the scale, those opposed to western intervention argue that western intervention was what created the power vacuum that led to ISIL’s rise to power in the first place, and argue that therefore we (western nations) have to bear much of the blame for the atrocities being committed by ISIL now.  They also go on to argue that if we intervene again (as with previous Iraqi wars) we may simply make matters worse and breed the next generation of Islamic militants, who may go further and further in their extremist ideology.  Furthermore, it has been pointed out how much money was spent on the original Iraqi war and occupation, and that in many ways Iraq was actually in a better situation before the invasion.  Whilst Saddam Hussein committed vast atrocities against his own people and posed a potential threat to other nations (as shown with his history in Kuwait), many have argued that the people of Iraq were still much better off before western intervention.  One could likewise argue that the threat posed to global peace and the level of atrocities committed against civilians is far worse with ISIL then it ever was with Hussein, and hence one could argue that western intervention does not bear positive results, but only makes everything worse on a grand scale.  Likewise, many people have quite legitimate suspicions about America’s interest in foreign affairs, suspecting that they have ulterior motives for getting involved in foreign conflicts.  Likewise, US military and businesses have been implicated in their fair share of scandals that blur the lines between who is on the right side of the conflict.

Whilst there are some issues that receive bipartisan support, can we imagine a situation whereby say a conservative voter with strong moral objections to recreational drug use would support lax drug laws, after weighing up the arguments on both sides and concluding that it causes the least amount of harm?  Alternatively, can we imagine someone with a history of recreational drug use voting in favour of harsh illicit drug laws, if the evidence was to show that such laws were best for society as a whole?  Likewise, could we imagine a pacifistic, left voter supporting western intervention to stop ISIL after accepting that despite the complications, they must still be stopped?  We humans need to become less predictable and stop just merely voting for the same thing that everyone else on our team votes for.  We need to weigh up the arguments on both sides, and then make what are often hard decisions, and remain flexible to change again in the future if the results don’t meet expectations.

I suspect that we are disadvantaged somewhat by our training in high school and university, when we were taught to write argumentative essays and engage in amateur debating, as these taught us to simply make a case for one side, and let our opponents make the case for the other side.  Imagine if both sides referenced the arguments on both sides, but then went on to explain the way that they personally weighed them up and thought through their implications, which led them to their conclusion.  Could this bring on a new dimension of depth in public debate, and potentially lead to more rational decision-making by our leaders?

Certainly this ideal is a far cry from the scenario we have at the present, in which each side make their own case and resort to heated polemics with their opposition, almost as if to imply that those on the other side were completely stupid, or evil (though I must admit, I am tempted to believe the latter in some cases).  We really just see the human ego expressing it’s worst features in these public debates (from our politicians, the media and the general public), which is exactly what we do not want when dealing with matters of life and death.  When dealing with the things that really matter we need everybody to find the best within themselves, take a deep breath, centre themselves in their soul and approach these issues with caution, patience and reason.

As it currently stands, each side drives the other into more and more extreme responses, and they frequently define themselves not so much in terms of what they stand for, but what they stand against, and whom.  Then we have the behaviour that accompanies the ideology.  Politicians themselves behave like a bunch of primary school brats, smirking arrogantly whilst they deliberately taunt the opposition, interrupting and heckling whilst their opponents speak in house, and so forth.  Political commentators frequently misrepresent and quote mine those that they disagree with, and some commentators take the form of political satire as a license to simply be a jerk, whilst convincing themselves that they are insightful and witty.  Of course, I could expect people to respond to me by asking if I have considered how unrealistic what I am asking is?  Do I really expect human beings to act all enlightened?  Let us be serious here, I work in retail, I know what people are like…hehe.  The thing is that people can also be amazing, they can summon amazing strength of character and will, and we all have the power to bring out the best in ourselves when it really matters.

It seems likely that it is in truth quite difficult for politicians to retain their ideals when they actually come into office, in that there are so many forces advising them this or that way and pulling at their strings, that it is difficult for them to stick to their guns.  I would imagine that they might find themselves in a position whereby they have to choose between holding strong to their convictions or furthering their career.  I believe there have been many examples of people who have gone into politics with strong ideals, only to find them difficult (if not impossible) to realize once they stood on the stage.

The left side of politics is heavily focussed upon social justice, protecting the rights of the persecuted, helping the poor and underprivileged, protecting the environment and interests of animals, investing in education, fair distribution of wealth and resources, and so forth.  In its moderate forms the left side of the spectrum has always been more involved in human rights, freedom of religion and political association, equal rights for all and freedom from discrimination and subjugation for women, those of colour, the LGBT community and others.  I really shouldn’t need to give a list of sources for all the good things that those on the left side of politics have achieved over the years, nor should I really have to make a case for the necessity of people campaigning for progressive values, as it should really be common sense.

However, it is indeed true that the left has its dogmas, and radical far-left governments have been far from the socialist utopias that their philosophers have dreamt of, often becoming totalitarian nightmares in polar opposite to their ideals.  In the case of more mainstream left-wing governments, it seems to be a common thing that they have real trouble with keeping a budget balanced, and seem to think that they can just spend other peoples money to make everything better in the world.  Furthermore, left-wing activists often go too far in reaction to subjugation of various groups, and sometimes end up trying to persecute the persecutors.  An obvious example is radical feminism, which in some cases goes into the realm of batshit crazy, and in reaction to real misogyny ends up resorting to misandry.  Likewise, attempts to promote sensitivity towards minorities often results in political correctness, which can make it difficult to discuss the elephant in the room (as is the case with issues relating to Islam).  This obviously has serious consequences, and it gives fuel to the far-right side of the spectrum when they wish to diminish everything good that the left stands for.

The conservative right certainly has many legitimate truths to express as well, such as that brilliant, hardworking people deserve success and should be able to reap the rewards of their endeavours without being brought down to the same level as those who did not put in the same effort.  It is often the case that successful individuals offer so much to their nation as a whole, in generating business they bring prosperity to their country, bringing employment to countless others and stimulating the economy.  It can be argued that capitalism has allowed and promoted the development of technology and raised the living standards of much of the world, helping to alleviate humanity from the suffering that previous generations took for granted.  At least here in Australia it seems that conservatives are the only ones that are in any way concerned about Australia’s rising debt and the weight that we carry in paying it back.  Likewise, conservative governments here have an excellent record in recent years of balancing a budget and even ending up in surplus, by comparison to the left side which spends and spends, often perhaps taking social justice ideals beyond what is sustainable (at least without improving other areas first).

However, conservatives have a bad history of trying to prevent progress in areas of human rights, as we have seen recently in the response of conservatives (particularly those with religious motivation) against marriage equality laws in the US.  Likewise, conservatives have a bad reputation for not caring about the environment (and our current Australian government is not helping this), raising suspicion that their strings are merely being pulled by immoral forces in the business world, that care not about the long term impact of their actions.  Far-right political commentators seem to take examples of those on the left taking things too far as justification for outright rejection of concern about fair distribution of wealth and resources, environmentalism, animal rights, rights advocacy for indigenous people, LGBT and women’s causes etc., almost appearing as if they are defining themselves by their opposition to everything that is good.

The question is how to find a healthy balance between the two extremes of the political spectrum.  Again, I would think that it is only common sense that one needs to balance complementary truths in this arena.  For example, it is true that the poor can often be mistreated by those with wealth, who often fall into corruption and greed, making it difficult for the underprivileged to rise up.  Likewise, it is also true that business can often put its private interests (greed) ahead of the good of a nation, its people, animals and the environment.  To a degree therefore it is absolutely necessary for a government to put into place laws and policies to protect the disadvantaged, and to prevent private enterprise from various abuses.

On the opposite side of the scale however, it is also equally true that human beings can be quite slothful, particularly if we are allowed to do so without any real consequences.  People can mismanage money, and if they get away with it they will generally continue to do so until it reaches crisis point.  Governments are just as prone to corruption and abuses as are private enterprises (or perhaps even more so), and taking freedom from business and citizens and giving it government just opens up other potential problems that can end in tyranny (and history is full of many examples of this).  The poor are just as prone to be unenlightened as are the rich, and in many cases they have simply tried to leech off those that are successful through their own initiative.  Snobbery occurs both ways, and the lower social classes are just as commonly snobbish towards educated and disciplined people as privileged classes can be towards the disadvantaged.

Hence, good policy should take these complimentary truths into account, in accepting the different ways in which the lower side of human nature (the ego) will manifest in different contexts, and attempt to encourage the best in everyone, regardless of their place in life.  Good policy will look at arguments on different sides and attempt to weigh them up and follow through on their implications, and seek out any available data to consider what results have been achieved from past experiences with different policies.  Likewise, good politicians will stay out of the taunting and bullying that is the norm in politics, and will approach their job with maturity and integrity, keeping their sights upon the ideals, which initially motivated them to pursue their career.  When this happens we can expect more and more politicians to “cross the floor” in voting against their parties line, and we can likewise expect to see more bipartisan support for policies, which are balanced and contain the necessary depth.

I propose that human beings strive to seek personal identity not in allegiance to a political party, economic model, religious organization, nation or football team, but rather through our continual progress towards a realization of the highest human ideals.  Politics should not be about competing parties and individual careers (and egos), but rather a think tank of ideas as to how best to allow humanity to realize its potential, balancing social justice with evolution and abundance.  We can all play a role in this process, by taking an interest in the issues that affect humanity both in our own nations and worldwide.  By paying attention we can start placing higher demands upon those that represent us, expecting them to uphold higher ethical standards (not least of which will be honesty), and holding the expectation that they will put truth and the common good ahead of their own careers.  When we the people invest ourselves in politics we will (hopefully) see a higher standard of candidates emerge, that rise to meet our lofty ideals.

Peace.