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Interested in a cultural approach to solving social problems?
See: Chivalry-Now

Times Call for New Thinking

Cultivating our Intellectual Gardens

Introduction:

The philosopher Voltaire told us that instead of angrily quibbling over whose vision of the world is right, our time is better spent cultivating our gardens — by which he meant cultivating our lives, and how we nourish the lives around us with meaningful virtue.

If we take Voltaire's advice, and see our lives as gardens, then let us plant seeds-for-thought that will will grow and blossom and bear rich fruit. Living in the here and now, with a benevolent eye for the future, eliminates stale ways of thinking. A new consciousness will be born that will restore sanity to Washington.

The world is beautiful, and worth saving.

A Seed for Thought:

Why new consciousness? Sounds kind of New Age.

Consciousness refers to awareness. It refers to living in the moment, using our minds directly, thinking for ourselves, accepting responsibility for ourselves and others. It includes as a priority the moral impulse of conscience. The more consciousness we have, the more alive and complete we are, the better choices we make.

Latest Seed for Thought:

Socialism vs. Captalism?

One of the worst results of political and ideological partisanship is that just about every issue and every topic becomes a source of contention which obscures their significance. This is no way for a democracy that values truth to survive.

With the presidential candidacy of Bernie Sanders encouraging members of the far left, the topic of democratic socialism has gained public attention. Almost immediately, this has been perceived as a threat to our present economic system, which is predominantly based on capitalism. This is what partisanship does. There was no openness to a civilized exchange of information in order for people to weigh the facts. The word socialism was used to instantly conjure fears of communism and Marxism, and totalitarian regimes that used them in the past.

As time goes on, I envision political battle lines being drawn that will portray democratic socialism on one side versus capitalism on the other, each characterizing the other as a vital threat to our entire way of life.

(Read rest of article)

Seedling:

Warnings from the 1780s

The course of time is such that we always find ourselves at a crossroads. Unfortunately, we rarely know which route to take. We end up choosing what we think is the easiest, or let somebody else choose for us. We forget that every choice we make influences the future of humanity. Or perhaps, we no longer care.

It was not always so. In the 1780s, our responsibility to human progress was very much on the minds of people. Alexander Hamilton once wrote:

"It belongs to us to vindicate the honor of the human race."

Although he spoke during turbulent times in the early history of the United States, his observation remains as true today as it was back then. The only difference is that during his time a number of remarkable individuals seized the moment to establish grand opportunities, while today, most of us lack any inspiration for the greater good. Instead, we have sheepishly surrendered ourselves and our democracy to ideological tyrants of the soul.

There are few true patriots to be found in today's leadership, where corruption is not only endemic but deemed an indispensable part of the system. I differentiate by saying "true patriots," because real patriotism, the kind on which our nation was built, demanded more than self-praise, resistance to change, and surrendering our values for something less. The result of our inaction is a system of government scarcely able to function except for the privileged few. We see potential leaders not knowing how to respond when one or two in their midst deviate from the usual game, revealing how shallow they really are.

The present state of American politics, at the national level at least, shames us all. We have failed the dreams and aspirations of our founders with apathy and willful ignorance. I say "willful ignorance," because our founders themselves warned us what could happen. James Madison, our fourth president, published these quotes even before the US Constitution was ratified:

"How often the great interests of society are sacrifice to the vanity, to the conceit, and to the obstinacy of individuals."

"It is a misfortune, inseparable from human affairs, that public measures are rarely investigated with that spirit of moderation which is essential to a just estimate of [them]."

"Unanimity is not to be expected in any great political question: that the danger is probably exaggerated on each side, when an opposite danger is conceived on the opposite side."

Hamilton added his concerns, well-describing what we have seen in Congress for years now:

"Men often oppose a thing merely because they have had no agency in planning it, or because it may have been planned by those they dislike… Opposition then becomes, in their estimation, an indispensable duty… They seem to think themselves bound in honor, and by all the motives of personal infallibility, to defeat the success of what has been resolved upon contrary to their sentiments."

"The most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts."

"We well know that neither moral nor religious motives can be relied on."

(Read rest of article)

Seedling:

The War between Darkness & Light

The Unites States is facing a challenging dilemma. It seems that, while no one was looking, the world changed without our permission. So much of what we had in place to insure our own security no longer applies. Nuclear missiles and submarines, hundreds of military bases and international intrigue, have become pretty much obsolete against the rise of terrorism. The behemoth of our military might, so effective in the 20th century, has become like the Titanic. It cannot maneuver this treacherous sea of floating death that refuses to play by civilized rules.

I've heard it said that the only military lessons we learn are those from the last war, not the one we are in. We use strategies guaranteed to be out-of-date, and therefore almost useless. I don't think this is accurate right now. The war on terror has been going on long enough for us to adapt. The trouble is, many of our civilian leaders have learned nothing at all. The loudest of them are invoking failed policies of the past, which they still believe in, while military experts do not. We cannot shoot or bomb ourselves out of the predicament we find ourselves in.

The truth is, we have painted ourselves into a corner by incorrectly using our military might. We have yet to comprehend that terrorism is not just a tactic, as some are quick to say, but a disease that encompasses international discontent, religious fanaticism, feelings of vengeance everywhere, and mental illness among individuals who might otherwise be harmless.

(Read rest of article)

Seedling:

There is no doubt that Pamela Geller’s American Freedom Defense Initiative, under American law, had the legal right to hold their provocative contest in Garland, Texas that called for drawings of the Prophet Mohammad. If that were the only issue involved, the question would end there. What fanatics like this group fail to understand is that legal rights should always be subject to moral rights. Freedom demands civilized responsibility. Separate the two, and freedom loses its highest value, and becomes barbarity of the worst kind. In a contest of ideologies, I would not want this organization representing western ideals. We are better than that.

Hiding behind the 1st Amendment, as Ms. Geller is now trying to do, presents no good excuse. I view it as a mockery of free speech. The Constitution was never meant to supplant the obligations of reason, conscience and Nature’s Law. Indeed, it was meant to reflect these higher obligations. In order to avoid the misdirection of fanaticism, we must never allow legalism to replace the heart of legal intent. If we do not, small minds will forever find ways of using our rights for all the wrong reasons.

One has to question why sane people would want to provoke the religious hatred of one and a half billions Muslims around the world, and the violence of their radical fringe. Was it just to prove that the law allows it? Were they heroically exercising their right to free speech in order to protect it? More likely, their motives had to do with profiteering from extremism. And that is tragic. It perverts American ideals at a time when the world would most benefit from their clarity and depth.

We are now challenged to prove, despite the ongoing rhetoric, that America is not defined by the shameful deeds of misguided extremists. Our truest ideals are progressively far more humane than these fanatics portray, and strong enough to survive and supplant their hateful attempts

I just wish that the fanatics would step aside for a while so that our ideals could be better seen.

Seedling:

Have you ever thought about political "think-tanks?"

You should. The purpose of these well-financed organizations is to generate influence on the way you think, and they are very successful at what they do. A systematic influence over popular thinking is nothing less than mind-control on a massive level. Mind-control is, and always has been, an existential threat to freedom.

We are all familiar with clever marketing techniques in business. We see ads everywhere, all the time. They are now an engrained part of our lives, appealing to our personal tastes, interests, egos and relationships.

Political think-tanks are like marketing agencies. Instead of businesses, they represent ideologies. Their main purpose is to circumvent the individual's process of forming independently considered opinions on a whole host of subjects.

If the central benefit of a democratic system (and our republic is democratically inclined) is tapping into the combined wisdom of freethinking people, then the systematic propagandizing (i.e., brainwashing) by political ideologies is nothing less than an existential threat to self-government.

All of us have been afflicted by this to some extent. For some, it means shutting down to politics and allowing others to freely take control. For others, it means taking marching orders from talk radio or other media outlets, where the constant transfer of emotionally charged fear and anger cripples the mind of clear thinking and sane evaluations.

Think-tanks thrive on dividing the nation along ideological fault lines. Whereas diversity of opinion is supposed to strengthen the nation with positive consensus, cooperation and mutual progress of open minds, we now see partisan obsessions bent on tearing the nation apart.

Think-tanks know that once people are converted into an ideology, facts that contradict their adopted perspective are easily disregarded. That is a powerful weapon for those who would manipulate us to their advantage. Converts will readily believe lies and support issues that are contrary to their self-interests. They will hate whom they are told to hate. They will see evil conspiracies where there are none, while being exploited by professional conspirators.

Have you ever heard a number of politicians give the same answer, the same wording, to a question by the media? That is the answer that some think-tanks carefully formulated for them to placate their followers. Instead of direct communication, we are being subjected to mass produced propaganda. Our representatives merely give voice to those professional strategists for whom we never voted.

Surely this is not what our founders intended.

As individuals who value freedom and integrity, the question we face is this: how much of our own personal beliefs and values have been manufactured by ideological propaganda? Do we just fall in line and not question what we are told out of a misplaced sense of loyalty? As a free people, our loyalty should always focus on truth first, or everything we support is, at best, questionable.

Seedling:

Open Letter to Members of Congress

The establishment of Congress, created by our founders, was never meant to be a club for your personal advancement. The fate of our nation, and in many respects, the world, has been placed in your hands by either the wisdom or the folly of those who voted you into office.

We live in a "democratic-republic" for a reason. The founders anticipated that elected leaders would naturally be of noble character, honest, without governmental ties to personal profit. Not scandal-mongers. Not saboteurs of international affairs. Not people who habitually threaten to close or defund the government that they are responsible to run effectively.

You have allowed extremism to poison the hallowed halls where you dared to hand out lobbyist checks to members who vote for special interests. Extremism, which, by its very nature gets ever more extreme, has infected your vision of the world into something unnatural, where two ideologies vie for power over a people whose majority will accept neither.

The Federalist Papers discuss your factional competition, and project that the contest will never be won by either of you. So why not represent the stable sanity of the majority and learn to cooperate as the founders intended? No more personal attacks. No more conspiracy theories and lies. If you have nothing to offer other than discord and the painful dismemberment of our government, than do the patriotic thing and go away. Let some trustworthy grown-up take your place.

Seedling:

Let's look at the situation from a different angle.

Imagine, for a moment, a large business where a minority of middle managers purposely gum up the works so that the business has to shut down. Or these same middle managers decide that they are going to teach the company's CEO a lesson by threatening to close a very important department.

Surely they do not have the good of the company in mind, or the best interests of their investors. In real life, they would not be tolerated and would be publicly shamed by losing their jobs.

Why is it that these same actions are tolerated in politics? By electing people who do not believe in government, or believe that it is, by nature, too costly and ineffective to be endured, the results are self-serving. Government will fail by placing such people into office.

Why, you might ask, would anyone want their government to fail?

The answer has nothing to do with common sense, and everything to do with an ideology that perpetuates an angry death-wish that opts for failure. That this ideology has any appeal has to do with long-term resentments that resemble a nonsensical feud more than any logical goal or benign wish. Hence its negative, self-destructive behavior.

Consider: during our recent Great Recession, when jobs were being lost at a tremendous rate, the stock market dropped, and modern nations everywhere were staggering, our House of Representatives was presented with a Jobs Bill that would have helped alleviate the problems for millions of people, and had bipartisan support. Even during this time of emergency, it was prevented from coming to a vote. The very representatives who blocked this bill had run for office on the promise of bringing the American people jobs. They then did nothing to procure those jobs, and instead made sure that Congress would not respond. I can think of no greater betrayal of the people's trust than what we saw at that time.

Another example is more recent. These same representatives, of the same anti-American government ideology, were given a bipartisan Immigration Bill by the Senate well over a year ago. After using immigration reform as a topic to get elected, one might expect them to jump at the chance to accomplish put it through, but once again blocked the bill from coming to the floor. Why? Because they profited too much from keeping the problem unresolved. It gives them a major topic to complain about to rouse their constituents. It is a political fact that nothing clouds reason more than hate and anger, and that is what they count on in their bids for election. They have nothing positive to offer.

So, here we are as a nation, suffering from an elected minority whom the media legitimates by labeling them as "extremists." The most notable are not extremists, however. They are opportunists who procure the mantle of extremism in order to gain power. Real extremists, no matter how twisted their vision, would not put the health of the nation in jeopardy all the time. They would not claim to be fighting for jobs and immigration reform, and then block every attempt to remedy these problems. They are not patriots either, because patriots would take every opportunity to poison political discourse by lying. They hate the president not for anything he has done (remember, they hated him before he did anything), but because they could aggravate regional biases to their own ends.

These exploitive representatives represent only themselves as they clamor for national attention. They claim to speak for the American people, but are actually supported by a small minority of duped extremists who exert more power than they should thanks to gerrymandering. They are also funded by corporations that continually place profit over the good of the American people. Unfortunately, nothing we can do or say will change that. You can't reason with extremists, and, as Thomas Jefferson once wrote, "The selfish spirit of commerce knows no country, and feels no passion or principle but that of gain."

It is therefore up to us, as a people, to see through their lies and call them out on it every chance we get. It is our duty to speak out for truth and good governing—and never stop out until the situation changes and a sense of nobility and righteousness returns to the People's House.

Seedling:

Republican ex-mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani, accused President Obama of not loving America.

He could say this because his conservative outlook of the world is based on the words "I love America." That sentiment includes the flag, the Constitution, the free market, the preservation of freedom, and guns. If a person does not constantly make references to this love, like the public persona of Ronald Reagan did, they simply do not love America. And worse. If they dare to instruct America, no matter how constructively or necessary for the times, it is taken as a traitorous attack on their inbred belief that America can do no wrong.

This love for America carries a number of glaring contradictions.

For one thing, it fails to include the people of America. Conservative extremists not only dislike diversity, they hate deviation of thought. You cannot hate deviation of thought and truly respect freedom, which America is supposedly all about. Unless you kowtow to their closed ideology, you are considered either a risk or a threat. Hence their almost warlike anger and hate against anything that does not fit their mold.

Their lack of respect and concern for the environment carries a real disdain for the land and resources defined by our borders. America is not only the people it represents, it is a place. You can find it on a map. It consists of fields and mountains and rivers and streams. It is the home of our wildlife. If we love our physical nation only for the oil that it contains, what happens when the oil runs out?

Without respect for the people, all of them, without supporting equal rights, without cherishing the land we live on, without honoring American ideals beyond words arranged on a pedestal, conservative love for America is nothing more than a love of empty symbols.

Who is the truest patriot? The one who says he loves America? Or the one who tries to preserve and better it? The one who shouts for freedom while denying equal rights? Or the one who knows that freedom comes with a cost of tolerance and a respect for the kind of change that freedom naturally brings about?

Mr. Giuliani took the mention by President Obama of the historical "crusades" as an affront to America. He interpreted it as calling all Christians barbaric, which is nothing more than a fiction created by evil-spirited outrage that is always ready to attack. Nothing that President Obama said in the speech was incorrect. That doesn't matter. It did not fit the superficial vision of the world that Mr. Giuliani embraces. That was enough for him to wildly and inaccurately condemn it. To no one's surprise, his words were welcomed by like-minded talk-show hosts whose view of the world is equally and dangerously superficial. Truth has nothing to do with the ideology they propagate.

It is sad. Conservatism once had a lot to offer, but it turned its back on its own heritage and value. Its lack of positivity has made it a negative philosophy that offers nothing but special privileges for those willing to sell their souls to symbolism and greed.

Liberalism once had a lot to offer as well, but lost touch with its original goals when it allowed conservatism to redefine it. Today's partisanship represents a symbiotic relationship between two broken ideologies long disconnected from true American ideals. And people fall for it. They leave all the ideals that America is supposed to stand for behind, to flounder and ultimately be forgotten.

Seedling:

Honor? Or Brutality toward Women?
by Dean Jacques

I am the author of Chivalry-Now, the Code of Male Ethics, and one of the two founders of our international fellowship. As such, I am deeply concerned about attitudes toward gender which are unacceptable for the modern world, attitudes that should have been unacceptable in the old world too.

That oppression toward women is somehow associated with the word "honor" is especially troubling, and needs to stop. These oppressions include restricting the experiences of women as fellow human beings to the point that their lives are held in bondage, punishing them for behavior that a culture mistakenly deems worthy of extreme punishment. These punishments include such barbaric atrocities as mutilation, permanent disfigurement and even death-often instigated by the guilt of someone else.

The men who do these things believe that "honor" demands such treatment, referring to the honor of family reputation. "Punish the one who brings shame or even a hint of shame. Punish severely to exonerate one's name. It is the honorable thing to do."

This compulsion is not derived from conscience, but from tradition, transmitted memories of past behavior that culture has associated with correct behavior. It is mistaken because it is cause and effect that has no heart, and no real thought. It only survives as an expectation aligned with fear-not honor. It is a lie that exonerates no one and, instead, heaps evil upon evil that reflects upon a whole community.

(Read entire article)

Seedling:

Who bears the blame?

We never know the unintended consequences we set in place through our actions. We never know when, where and if they will end.

A line can be drawn between the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, to the deliberate murder of two New York policemen almost five months later. The line includes the grand jury decision, protest marches, and every media commentary in between. Each made influence, good or bad, with no clue for the possible consequences. We have no idea how it will end.

But the line goes back further. It extends to the killing of Trayvon Martin, but doesn't start there. It includes feelings of anger generated by our political machine and a heartless media. An entertainment culture obsessed with violence. The hampering of race relations by individuals who stubbornly hold prejudices without regard for the future. It includes legal segregation and thousands of lynchings. All the choices of society in shaping children's minds. Suspicious looks for no reason. The fad of looking dangerous.

We constantly stand at a crossroads where things can improve. We can stop, learn and make things better. Or take the sickly, cowardly path of denial and blaming others. The truth is, we all share guilt, if only for ignoring the needs of others. Nothing will be solved, nothing, until we start living up to our responsibility.

Only then will we become the people we claim to be.

Seedling:

Our Greatest Hope: Defining Who We Are
by Dean Jacques

Existentialism tells us that everything we do and say not only defines who we are, but contributes to what it means to be human. As human beings, our actions reflect upon, and therefore influence, everyone.

The definition of humanity includes a wide variety of contradictions, disparate beliefs, an almost contagious mediocrity, and dangerous extremism. Our history includes the brilliance of enlightened philosophers, and genocidal tyrants. Government protected freedom, along with slavery. Inspiring declarations of equality, continually stained by vestiges of discrimination. Civilized laws twisted by corruption. Magnificent works of art and literature, competing with ignorance and hate propaganda. A reverence for human nature, continually spit upon by war, terrorism and torture.

Most of us recognize the nobler aspects of humanity, even as we disregard them at the behest of less honorable agendas. We are adept at ignoring our mistakes, denying them when possible, or deflecting criticism by blaming someone else. When all else fails, we revise history to justify our errors.

We do this despite those dignified aspects of human nature that we long ago enshrined to inspire us all. Truth. Freedom. Respect for just laws. Personal integrity. Democracy. Fair play. Civil rights. The humane advance of technology.

Considering our everyday priorities, however, can we say that these ideals actually define us?

(Read entire article)

Seedling:

Logic & Rhetoric
by Dean Jacques

I just received a Christmas present that I want to share with you all. Please bear with me.

For many years, I have tried to convey a very important idea that never seems to hit the mark.

Today, I stumbled upon a quote from Sir Francis Bacon that leaves me in awe. Before I share it, a little background is necessary:

A fellow named Peter Ramus, a French Heuguenot who preceded Bacon, taught that logic had to be augmented by rhetoric in order to arrive at truth. Facts themselves did not matter. Superficial logic and a gift for persuasion were all that was needed. Such a conclusion illustrates pre-modern thought, and strongly contributed to the lack of progress during the Dark Ages.

The formula went like this: first comes the idea, then comes choosing evidence that supports it, while ignoring or denigrating evidence that does not. Schools back then considered argumentation (what they called disputation) as the primary means of finding truth.

Bacon protested, demanding that indiscriminate facts supersede preference, no matter how persuasive the rhetoric of that preference may be. So began the era of science.

This is what he said:

(Read entire article)

 

 

Some Thoughts on Ferguson

The events in Ferguson precipitated by a white policeman shooting a black teenager deserve serious discussion. Unfortunately, dynamics of our politically driven media are such that rational discussion is almost impossible. We are all expected to take sides on every issue according to partisan demand, and that just fuels the fire.

If we must take sides, let us ignore falling into the trap of ideological quagmires and boldly take the side of truth.

The truth is, I never knew Michael Brown while he was alive. I don't know Officer Darren Wilson. I did not witness the killing. My knowledge of what happened is as limited as it is with most people who heard it on the news.

With that admission, I think it is wrong to lump all members of the police force as bad, just as it is wrong to label them all as good (I have personally seen examples of both). It is difficult to make split-second, life and death decisions while enforcing the law, and terrible mistakes happen. Nevertheless, police brutality, which we have seen too much of over the last few years, is a crime worth prosecuting. I believe there are vestiges of racism in America, and that we should all adopt a patriotic mandate for equality to rid ourselves of them. No more playing games with dog whistle politics and other hidden forms of prejudice. It is time for all of us to grow up. If human life has any intrinsic value, and human dignity is something to be respected, then it must apply to all people, regardless of color, or it applies to none.

(Read entire article)

Seedling:

Real Dialog

We all bemoan the lack of positive dialog in politics. Thanks to ideological extremists, and those exploitive politicians, strategists and talking heads who profit off them, what we take for communication can be likened to trench warfare. Each side hides in their respective ditch and take potshots at one another. The bullets and grenades usually miss. More precisely, the bullets and grenades never reach the other side. The conflict has degenerated to a war dance, with loud accustaions enflaming passions on both sides, assuring continued hostilities.

Each side speaks to its own pre-converted audience. If they bother to listen to the other side at all, it is to find weaknesses, fashion new complaints, twist the message out of context to mean the worst thing possible, providing fodder for insults and comedians. Positive dialog, constructive communication, cannot exist in the trench warfare of competing hardliners. There is no recognized common ground.

The result? Constant, unending political warfare. As happens during the moral collapse of any war, corruption and exploitation cheerfully go unnoticed. Despite the resulting pendulum swings of elections, no one really wins. Everyone loses. Even the profiteers have to live in a world condemned by political insanity of their own making.

It is said that democracy is, by nature, messy, but that is just a defeatist excuse. At some point the abuse of good intent becomes a farce, forcing a nation, along with its culture, to decline. The wealth may remain, and even grow. The military can still be powerful. But the soul of reason upon which the nation was built is steadily strangled.

(Read entire article)

Seedling:

If someone offered you ten million dollars to speak on radio or TV, but what you say would not be true, and would prey on people’s fears, and contribute to tearing the nation apart, would you do it? Would you consider yourself a traitor if you did? Or would you deny responsibility by claiming to be nothing more than a paid entertainer?

If you refused to tell damaging, public lies, congratulations! You are a person of integrity who would not betray your country even for incredible wealth.

On a different level, what if someone else accepts the deal in your place, and you become part of his or her fervent audience? Every day, the words sound more acceptable, as repetitive lies often do. As your values adjust, you make an emotional connection? While you may not be selling out your country for cash, you are helping someone else to do it instead. As the lies continue to influence your opinion, it clouds your judgment as well. It influences your vote. You mouth the words to other people. Will you consider yourself a patriot? Chances are you will, because the voice on the radio says you are.

In clearer moments you may tell yourself, “I’m just choosing between two evils. What more can a patriot do in a corrupt system?”

If you are seriously interested in the answer, it is this: A true patriot, a person committed to enlightenment ideals rather than a nationalist, would look for other alternatives. If none were found, the patriot would set about to make one.

Just as democratic republics were created as new alternatives to monarchy, we have it within our power to find workable solutions to the problems we have now. We have a proper structure of government to do this. We just have to quit thinking as combative partisans and look for real answers.

We can refuse to let people or parties of questionable character, supported by backroom deals, think-tanks and propaganda machines, define the parameters of our patriotism as something small, belligerent and often contradictory. The political form of trench warfare has a propensity of stopping human progress in its tracks. We can no longer afford that.

This can only be stopped by mobilizing patriots of truth who are committed to fixing and protecting the delicate system of government that our founders gave us. That means individuals motivated enough to step outside the regurgitated propaganda of partisan ideologies. We need such patriots in leadership positions, at all levels, to bring new integrity to public office.

At this stage, it is not about big or small government, or about welfare or guns or abortion or oil. It’s about the will of a free people who understand the potential that freedom grants us – the freedom to think for ourselves and do what is right.

The Revolution of 1776 can only continue, as it must, when it is freed from the stagnating confinement of ideology and partisanship.

Seedling:

Climate change?

At some point everyone must take a stand. What will yours be?

Before you answer, please keep in mind:

When the time for reckoning comes, you can someday claim you didn’t know, even though no one will believe you. You can say the scientific data was too incomplete or misleading, even though it wasn’t. You can give the excuse that you thought it was all just partisan politics, but everyone will know you helped make it that way. You can claim the ignorance that comes from selling your integrity to talk show hosts or special interests, but everyone will know that's a cop-out, and blame you more. Tell me, do you really want all that guilt piled on your head?

The sooner you admit the truth, and take an active role in solving the problem, the more exonerated you will be. Admitting wrong and setting things right is always the ethical, heroic, patriotic, religious, and superbly human thing to do.

Seedling:

Patriotism

To many people, patriotism means nationalism. It means rejecting “foreign ways,” no matter how positive they might be. It means resisting change, in the fear that the better part of their identity will disappear. It means turning mistakes and wrong-headed ideas into icons and traditions that need defending, a chimera based on faith, not fact, that covers over any sense of guilt or responsibility. It means rewriting history, which is an insult to truth and an assault on the future, in order to support continued error. It is a patriotism of closed minds, an embrace of ignorance, a stagnation of all that is human that needs to progress.

Patriotism, to me, is very different. It is a loyalty to an idea that I firmly believe in, loyalty to the overall vision of our enlightened founders, that freedom and virtue are intertwined, and will someday, once fully understood and practiced, result in a better world.

Patriotism, to me, like freedom itself, must remain inseparable to truth, or it leads people astray. Who are we without truth? What are we? A respect for truth is what makes human potentially special. I say potentially, because some have no respect for truth. They consider it an enemy. This is where the poison slips in. Civilization itself starts to crumble.

While patriotism extends to concerns such as protection of borders, a well-managed government, protection under law, defense from enemies, foreign and domestic, securing justice and other civil and human rights, the central focus must always be the good of the people. People are the heart and soul of a nation – no matter what their race or creed. To disregard or reject them is to transform a nation into an empty shell, a tagline, an obnoxious melee of competing factors, whose loyalty is limited to money and power.

To me, patriotism is appreciating what we have, preserving what is most humane, pushing the nation forward despite all odds, helping fellow citizens escape situations that severely limit their experience of freedom. It is the opposite of harshly saying “I don’t care.” Patriotism is about people, and real people care. They have conscience, and respond to it meaningfully.

To me, and maybe not to others, patriotism means doing our very best to make our government work efficiently, and with the kind of integrity that will make us proud. That was, after all, the real goal of our founders. That was the purpose of the Constitution. Do you want smaller government? Then find ways of reducing it that make sense and hurt no one. Don’t just propagate a mob mentality to tear out its heart, and leave nothing behind.

I see the beauty of our founders’ vision, the beauty of their forecast of a new world, where freedom and human dignity, based on virtue, reigns supreme. I wish all of us would speak out on its behalf with an enthusiasm of strong commitment. We should settle for nothing less.

Allow me to summarize just some of what I believe:

  • Don’t take my gun away! But don’t force me to buy one to satiate someone else’s fantasy or paranoia. Don’t threaten civilization by promoting fear and violence at the behest of the gun industry. That’s not a world we should want our children to inherit.
  • The rationale of racial discrimination falls apart with one simple realization. Not all white people are the same. As human beings they disagree. They hold personal values. They differ in intelligence and wealth, occupation and religious belief. Even siblings differ considerably. We all know this first hand. Now we need to know that it is the same for black people, and Native Americans, and Hispanics, and Asians. It is the same for all people. That is what makes us human, and makes us equal as well.
  • We should aim at reducing welfare dependency -- but not by throwing people out into the streets, or letting children starve. That would be completely inhumane. The problem was long in the making, and benign solutions will take time as well.
  • Trying to stop people who disagree with you from voting is possibly the most unpatriotic thing a citizen leadership can do. It undermines democracy and freedom, and deserves the strongest condemnation.
  • Gerrymandering is a close second.
  • Politics must somehow be rescued from itself. A democracy depends upon truth. A republic depends upon noble leadership. Corruption has denigrated both aspects of our democratic/republic.
  • Religion can and should influence personal values, which are given a voice at the polls. Our government itself was made to be secular to accommodate the religious beliefs of a diverse population. We must honor that intent.
  • When a political party believes it can repair cultural problems by programs that provide costly, superficial answers, it needs to reevaluate its mission.
  • When a political party disregards truth, becomes a threat to the union, when it purposely sabotages the workings of government instead of improving them, when it refuses to acquiesce to majority demands (not to protect the rights of minorities, but to initiate an ideological coup), and denies a long-term global threat, proven by science, it needs to be voted out as quickly as possible.
  • Haphazardly interfering with other cultures, in the name of freedom, capitalism or whatever, only leads to ruin. Cowboy diplomacy is a disaster. We have broken sovereign nations and are now largely responsible to clean up the mess that followed. An enlightened nation treads more carefully, intelligently. We cannot forever afford the perpetual wars and violence that follow bad decisions.

I firmly believe these things, and others, of course, and consider myself a patriot, although others will disagree.

What do you think that real patriotism requires?

Seedling:

Citizen Soldiers in the War on Terror
by Dean Jacques

We sometimes forget that the War on Terror is really being fought on two separate battlefields. The first involves guns and bombs, suicide killings and barbaric executions, and the security of civilized nations. The other is related, but far more subtle. It is war of ideologies. If we fail to respond in kind to this threat, we lose the war even if we win, for the threat will never go away.

On one side, you have the international spread of western modernity, with its enlightened vision of democracy, freedom, equality humanitarian conscience, freedom of religion and speech, and the use of reason in the name of progress for all.

On the other side is unbending, religious fanaticism at its worst, disrupting civilization with its rebel armies, indiscriminate killing, and even mass murder - crippling the functions of legitimate governments while ruining the lives of millions, in the supposed name of God. They reject democracy, freedom, equality and religious freedom. Indeed, they reject everything of western civilization, except for its weapons of destruction.

(Read entire article)

Seedling:

Thoughts about Race for a White Audience

Responding to the race-related issues of his time, Thomas Jefferson wrote: "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever."

A young black man in Ferguson, Missouri, was killed by a policeman for what appears to be no legitimate reason. The incident highlights a number of unwarranted shootings and beatings of black people that have been going on for a long time. This is measured beside a history of racial discrimination that goes back to before our country was founded. People in Ferguson went to the streets to peacefully protest. Some turned to violence, theft and the destruction of property. The police responded with a military-style show of force.

The election of a black president did not mean an end to racial discrimination. Such transformations don't happen over night. "Dog-whistle politics," using coded language to exploit local bigotry, still taints political discourse. A clear conscience speaks plainly.

Lacking real leadership, politicians and the media keep things the way they are. Without a rational promotion of unity and understanding, people take sides according to inclination. Prejudice is seen as a given. The uninspired pace of actual progress reveals the foot-dragging response of a disengaged, unenlightened people.

In the name of honest discourse, I'd like to share my thoughts about where this attitude comes from.

(Read entire article)

Seedling:

Reaching Back for Enlightenment

Much of who we are as a nation, our visionary foundation especially, comes from the 17th and 18th century period known as the Age of Enlightenment. It was during this turning point of history that a radical change was made in the way people think and how they confronted the world in which they lived. It produced what historians recognize as the modern mind. That refers to us - at least those of us who liberate our minds through the use of reason, which is what the idea freedom was all about.

The founders of the United States were enthusiastic proponents of Enlightenment principles. Inspired by this powerful movement, which had already resonated through much of Europe, they used its enthusiasm for truth and freedom to fashion a new form of government.

Unfortunately, with the passage of time, much of the context of their elegant writing, including The Declaration of Independence, has lost some of its deeper meaning.

The idea of freedom, for example, or the pursuit of happiness, or equality, were loaded terms that referenced not only governmental standards, but the potential brilliance of a coming age. A vast, new potential for understanding had been recognized and indelibly enshrined for posterity. Like the fabled Camelot, where an idealized kingdom reached its peak, only to be lost by those who were not ready, now serves as an inspiration for some future time that will be more favorable.

(Read entire article)

The Virtues of Government

There are political extremists in the Republican Party who believe that the very existence of government is an affront to freedom. They would force this view upon us all and consider themselves patriots for doing so. Although they are a small minority, their influence in Washington has been as extreme as their rhetoric. The Republican Party itself, in Congress especially, has relinquished its soul to accommodate them, only to learn that no accommodation ever goes far enough. These extremists are tearing the party apart, and the nation along with it. Thanks to the loud voices of certain media personalities, who are willing to say anything to expand their coffers, a large part of the American public is being led astray. Disturbed by the manufactured anger that they hear, they don't know what to think.

To promote some understanding, I present the following simplified overview of the rationale that went into the making of the government of the United States.

(Read entire article)

Seedling:

A little off topic. The Republicans are preparing to sue Presdient Obama. This is the latest attempt to maliciously hurt and illlegitimize his presidency that started on his first day in office.

It is a foolish mistake on their part, the kind that unthinking extremists eventually make. Why? Because in a very real sense, they will be the ones on trial on the popular stage, along with all their ridiculous behavior for the last 6 years. All their falsehoods, tricks and disasters will collectively be recalled by the media, and the American people will finally realize that Congressional Republicans are the ones who should be sued for fraud (and the illegal use of tax money in the form of their salaries).

That being said, the arrival of the Tea Party was truly the worst thing that ever happened to the Republican Party, and to America too. It is time to vote them out of office and restore sanity back to Washington.

Seedling:

A fascinating interview of Carl Sagan by Ted Turner, from the early 1980s. I wonder what Sagan would think of us today.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=juXn972d3g8

Seedling:

The founders of this nation believed that the only adhesive that would hold a country of diverse people together was the natural affection people develop among themselves despite differences. Without this natural affection, which comes from the simple interactions of everyday life, the cohesiveness that binds people together as a nation is lost - and the grand experiment of democracy fails. We lose it all.

We are witnessing that failure today, and it is mostly due to the deception of political gamesmanship.

We are witnessing political strategists who work hard to find ways of disparaging whole swathes of people in order to separate and manipulate just enough voters to fuel a contest of ideologies that, in the end, and not far off, will destroy everything we ultimately believe in. Plain and simple, it is difficult to think of a more devious, greed-driven plot than this homegrown, multifaceted betrayal of American ideals.

(read more)

Seedling:

If you think climate change is not happening, or that our burning of fossil fuels is not contributing to it, or you find yourself in doubt about the whole subject, please take time to view the explanation given by Neil de Grasse Tyson in his latest episode of Cosmos.

Our attitudes and policies toward climate change are too important to leave to wishful thinking, willful ignorance or political ideologies. They need to be based on truth.

While Tyson barely touches the wealth of evidence that has been accumulated by science since it was first predicted around 1958, he gives a compelling, insightful overview in simple terms that will help non-scientists to understand.

A threat of this magnitude needs to be treated seriously by everyone.

In the past, the actions of people created acid rain that was destroying lakes and forests. Prompt, remedial action repaired the situation. The same thing happened with the hole in the ozone layer. Human action caused the dustbowl era that did terrible damage in the mid-west in the early 1900s. Conservationists were able to fix that as well. All these examples, and many more, prove that careless human activity can cause frightening damage to the environment. A proper response can fix it as well.

With global warming, however, we don’t have much time to turn things around. Seeing the iceberg ahead of time did not save the Titanic. The momentum was already in place.

Please do your part. Take this lifestyle challenge as an opportunity to show the world how heroes respond. It's time to do something.

"It's a risk. What if China and India don't follow suit?" These words were muttered by a CNN reporter on June 2, 2014.

It is only natural to make up flimsy excuses to avoid doing what one prefers not to do. Children do it all the time, although their efforts can be charmingly transparent.

When adults do it, it is not so charming.

A prime example comes from people who question if the United States should make the effort to combat climate change, because China is now the largest emitter of carbon into the atmosphere. The fact the US emits 25% of the world's carbon, and that China's population is more than three times larger than ours seems to make no difference in their logic. (Compare per capita emissions.)

Personally, I think it comes down to this. When people embrace freedom as a virtue, it comes with an equal measure of responsibility as well, or it cheapens freedom to become a mockery of what it should be. Complaining, making up excuses and dragging feet are not the actions of people who understand what really freedom is.

Freedom is a subtle virtue. Taken at face value, it allows people to do what they wish, without regard to right and wrong. Even at this level, however, it separates those who are worthy of freedom, from those who are not. Some of those who are not find themselves incarcerated because they break the law. Others may successfully work within the law, but fail to rise to the moral implications for which a free people should inspired. They still fall short.

We all recognize that freedom has its costs, especially when we patriotically remember the sacrifices of those who came before us. Our mistake is in thinking that the cost ends there. It is attached to every decision that we make in our daily lives. Freedom is rated by what a free people do and say. We owe not only our thanks to those who fought for our freedom, but our best efforts in bringing value to their sacrifices.

The message is clear. The requirements of freedom, which call not from outside us but from the depths of personal conscience, demand that we live responsibly, make decisions prudently, grow wisely, protect the world we live in as we would protect ourselves and the whole future of humanity. Let us allow what is best in us to be inspired by freedom, and grow in the process, instead of being demeaned by the trappings of shortsighted distractions.

Seedling:

The next revolution, the one that really matters at least, will entail a new way of thinking, a revolution of the mind that will free Western civilization from the enslavement of contentious ideologies.

Once liberated, people discover their own authenticity, a direct vision of the world based on reason and compassion. A new surge of human potential will follow. Instead of holding each other back, people will work together to set everything right.

We call this revolution of new consciousness, like others in the past, a Kairos event.

Let's hope it happens before it is too late…

Seedling:

What is "cap and trade?"

It is an attempt to use a market-based approach to control pollution. Also called "emissions trading," it provides economic incentives for to reduce industrial carbon emissions. A carbon production limit is established for an industry (the "cap") and permits offered (allowances and carbon credits) to regulate it. If an industry needs to emit more carbon, it can purchase additional permits from companies (the "trade") that no longer need them. In this way, it gives market-based incentives to reduce carbon emissions.

Seedling:

You can't emit 7 gigatonnes of carbon into the atmosphere every year and not expect it to effect nature.

This is an appeal to common sense. When we place color dye in water, the water changes color, right? When we throw 36 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere a year, it stands to reason that the composition of the air changes accordingly. It has more carbon.

What does that mean? It means we are playing with nature on a grand and dangerous scale. The more people there are, the more oil and coal that we burn, the more carbon fill the air. Carbon is an invisible gas. Like any gas or element, it has its own unique attributes. One of those attributes is to prevent sunlight from reflecting back into space.

This means that the world is getting hotter. The delicate balance of life is experiencing the stress of irregular weather patterns. The climate is changing, becoming less hospitable for life as we know it. Since it takes hundreds of years for this carbon to leave the atmosphere, the problem worsens as we continue to pollute it. Even small changes in global temperature can create terrible consequences.

Seedling:

Did you know that the difference in global temperature between what we have today and the last Ice Age is only 6 degrees Celsius?

Seedling:

Science is science - an objective methodology to discover verifiable fact in the real world. Its value has been proven time and time again. Everyday, we benefit from scientific knowledge and the technology that it brings.

Science is neither liberal nor conservative. To disparage it to incite partisan resistance does a terrible disservice to us all - especially when it comes to climate change! The times call for serious action. We must all put pollitics aside and do what we must.

Featured Article:

What Climate Change Means

A lot of people have trouble understanding the cause of climate change - and for good reason. It is a complicated subject. That is no reason to shirk from it and just hope it goes away. The best course of action, and the only effective one left it turns out, demands that each of us get involved.

I recently listened to a 6 hour lecture series on the subject, and was amazed by all the indisputable scientific evidence we now have. There simply is no good excuse for denial anymore. I will try to summarize what I learned.

Carbon dioxide, the main culprit of climate change, has a different opacity than other gases in the air. It inhibits the reflection of incoming solar energy from returning to space. This disrupts the normal balance that regulates Earth's climate. The more carbon in the air, the more heat gets trapped. This begins a self-sustaining chain-reaction that increases global temperatures to dangerous levels.

The problem is that carbon takes a while to be recycled from the atmosphere. Water vapor recycles from evaporation to clouds to rain in about a week. It takes carbon about 5 years. That in itself would not be bad, except half this carbon gets stuck in the recycling process, and returns to the atmosphere. It can take several hundred to over 1,000 years to completely disappear. That is a very slow process.

In 1860, global temperatures started to be recorded. In 1950, the recordings were expanded and refined. They show an unprecedented increase of carbon in the last century that coincided with the Industrial Age. It continues to climb.

For comparative data, scientists drilled bore-holes in the arctic to identify and measure gases from hundreds of thousands of years ago. Other sources include with layers of coral reefs and lake sediments, and even ancient tree rings. They all supported the same conclusions. The Earth is rapidly warming in an unnatural speed and manner.

Scientists differentiated carbon from volcanoes because it does not contain isotopes. Measuring the ratio between these isotopes and fossil fuel carbon shows that the vast increase of recent history are the result of human activity. (We produce 30 billion tons; volcanoes only 500,000 million.)

The more carbon in the atmosphere, the more the warming effect increases, which will take centuries to remove. The hotter it gets, the more water vapor forms as clouds, which also serves as a green house gas. This process is now underway, and cannot be remedied during our lifetimes. All we can do at this point is slow the process down to avoid the worst results.

Some politicians are naturally concerned about the economic ramifications of corrective action, which is projected to cost 1% of the world's economy. They ignore the financial impact of not responding, which is estimated to be 20%.

The more carbon in the air, the more heat accumulates. Hotter temperatures cause more cloud formations, which is a major greenhouse gas. This process has started and cannot be remedied during our lifetimes. All we can do now is slow it down to and hope to find ways to stop it completely.

Climate factors are so complex and interconnected, it is impossible to know all the bad that will happen. We do know that warmer oceans contribute to major weather events, which will cause extensive property damage and loss of life. Forest fires will be more intense and frequent. The rise of sea levels due to melting ice will force human migrations. Some species are already threatened by a rise in ocean acidity. What we don't know is what will happen on the microbial level. What will happen to algae colonies that produce most of the oxygen that we breathe?

Although implementing new EPA standards is a positive step, much more needs to be done. Political gridlock prevents the federal government from responding as it should. We citizens have to mobilize ourselves. 320 million people in the U.S. alone, conserving energy, can make a sizable difference.

We begin by consuming less energy.

  • Be aware of your energy usage.
  • Cut corners when you can.
  • Shut off unnecessary lights.
  • Moderate your indoor temperature control.
  • Use energy-saving light bulbs.
  • Insulate your home or business.
  • Have an energy audit and follow its advice.
  • Avoid unnecessary travel. Use mass transit.
  • Whatever vehicle you drive, keep it well-tuned with correctly inflated tires.
  • Make sure your next vehicle is energy efficient.

Consider adopting solar energy for your home or business. The initial investment results in long-term profitability, perfect for retirement planning.

Speak out. Motivate others to follow your example. Contact your representatives and demand effective action.

On the national level, there is no silver bullet that will solve the problems of climate change. We need to combine a variety of actions, such as replacing fossil fuel with either natural gas, nuclear energy, wind turbines, bio-fuels or solar energy. We have to stop deforestation, and plant more trees to remove carbon from the atmosphere.

If we do all these things now, we may be able to curtail the growth of carbon increase at its present level. This will buy us time to find and incorporate better solutions.

If you have questions about climate change, please take time to investigate the evidence yourself, which is available online. The consequences are too important to leave to uninformed opinion.


Dean Jacques
Chester Energy Task Force Volunteer

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The Times Call for New Thinking

For too long the United States has been trapped by the contagious "either/or" shenanigans of partisan politics, defining issues according to the senseless, knee-jerk, myopic kind of reasoning based not on truth but on ideological contention. The future demands a new way of thinking, a consciousness liberated from the artificial agendas that have long stained our values.

The purpose of Seeds-for-Thought is not to dictate policy or harangue those who would ruin the nation for short-term profit, but to call stale thinking into question, inspire people to reject the trappings of partisanship, and think for themselves.

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