New Directions

In my most recent post, I stated my intention to resume posting within this blog and to change its name. I also discussed some pf the reasons for these decisions. Within this article I will describe much more specifically the direction in which I plan to take this blog.

From its beginning in 2008 the purpose of this blog has been to provide a space in which I could articulate my own ideas regarding the political economic issues that have been of importance to me. At that time I attempted in several posts to present the vision of a long-standing minority tradition within the historical socialist movement which was variously represented in the forms of Associational Socialism, Anarcho-Syndicalism, and English Guild Socialism. While there were clearly differences between these traditions of socialism they all had clearly a very similar stance against the dominant statist form of modern Socialism. I chose to call this tendency Cooperative Socialism. I also attempted to point out the connection between this form of socialism and the vision of the kingdom of God held by Jesus and other important figures within Christianity. Little of this made any impact.

More recently since the so-called “Arab Spring” of 2010 my focus has shifted to issue of US foreign policy particularly in its relationship to the nation of Syria. I have been a passionate supporter of the Syrian oppositon’s struggle to end the Assad dictatorship and to replace it with a more democratic, less oppressive polical system. I have been very disappointed by the policy of the Obama administration of refusal to provide military support and aid to the moderate Syrian Free Army in its battle againt the regime. This has consequently led to the slaughter of over 170,000 Syrians and to the raise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or as it is also called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Clearly a better nominclature.

This support of a US foreign policy which actively supports the stuggles of peoples and nations against genocide and their brutalization by their own governments has been a dominant aspect of my political life at least since the 1990s. During the Bosnian War of the first half of the 90’s and the Darfur War of the mid 2000’s I worked with groups of people within Columbus Ohio in hope of defending first the Bosnian people against genocide and latter to defend the people of Dafur against the same. Unfortunately these campaigns neither at the local nor larger national level did much to change national policy.

While most people of the left would rather take on “progressive” domestic issues and ignore the struggles of peoples particularly within the Islamic world, I happen to believe that the existential battles of life and death of whole peoples have a much greater moral significance than have many of the often purely tactical political fights between this nation’s right and left. I believe that one of the most significant aspects of a politics of justice should be to support the peoples in nations such as Syria and Iraq in their struggles against their own brutalization and destruction.

As stated above I initially attempted to articulate within this blog a radical vision of what I call “cooperative socialism” within a religious context. While one of my articles called “God and Socialism” over the years has garnered many views, it has received little real response. Most of the other articles within the blog have received much less response. This has reinforced my view that “socialism” has essentially died as a motivating ideal within the West and within the United States in particular. Still I believe that the ideals of a cooperative socialism are sound. They are in fact the values of the kingdom of God (Thea within my religious faith). I also think that many of details of the concrete reality of this form of Socialism have been worked out brilliantly within the Mondragan Cooperative Corporation and other cooperative enterprises. All of which show that cooperative socialism can work within the real world and not just within the world of ideas. Therefore I hope to again begin articulating this vision within future posts within this blog, even if I have to utilize an alternative vocabulary to better articulate these visions of a just society.

I am perfectly aware that perhaps such writing will have little positive impact, however I feel that this is what I am perhaps called to do. I think that it makes more sense to write about what passionately interests me than to follow what every one else is doing. I do of course have an interest in issues that are more mainstream and domestic in nature and I will probably comment on them here as well. But in the more immediate future they will not take priority status.

Religion also will continue to be a part of the mix. This blog is not be a theological blog. But to the degree that religious authors write on subjects which relate to issues of justice and to the degree that religious ideas impact positively on the political, economic, and cultural issues of the day, I will discuss them here.

I of course am perfectly aware that any attempts in modern political discourse to interconnect the issues of politics and religion is viewed with deep suspicion in the West and particularly within the secular Left. Many in the West of course reject religious belief in principle and believe that it should play no role in public life. Many religious persons also reject it because they believe that religious belief and spirituality is primarily a private, apolitical, purely spiritual thing which is not really properly related to the concrete political, economic world.

Such a belief is a falsity. Traditional Islam on the contrary has always believed that the laws of Allah (Sharia) should rule not only over the lives of individual believers but over the life of society as well. The Jewish tradition historically has seen the Torah as having a similar authority over the Jewish Nation. And even within Christianity it has been believed that principles of justice to the poor and oppressed within society have been mandated by God. Confucianism, certain forms of Taoism, and Buddhism also traditionally held that religious belief does and should have worldly social consequences.

The idea of a complete separation of religious principles from a primarily secular society has been an unfortunate interpretation of the enlightenment vision of the principle of the Separation of Church and State which was first developed within the Protestant world of the Netherlands, England, and the United States. The separation of church and state was a positive response to the wars of religion that raged over Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries and religious tyranny which reigned over much of Europe through out its history. The extreme idea that religious principles have no right to any role in political discourse or influence in society is radical modernist premise of a radical secularism which seeks to end any role for religion in society.

As an American I believe deeply in the Constitutional separation of Church and State and reject all forms of religious intolerance. However I also believe that religious believers have the moral right to attempt to support legislation and laws via democratic means which they believe are in accordance with the will of God. Of course within this society the Christian Right has been most famous for its ability to channel its religious passions toward political agendas. While I reject almost all aspects of the politics of the Christian Right, I have not problem in principle with their attempts via democratic means to push their political agenda.

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Reflections in the face of Evil and Suffering

Deb Miskell has recently written an article “Reflection in the face of Evil and Suffering” for her blog The Veiled Witch which certainly takes that political dimension of evil seriously. I certainly think that her thoughts about the various strategies for responding to evil are quite interesting and that it is of value to share it here.

Glenn

Reflection in the face of Evil and Suffering

From Here
Last week saw several noteworthy events happen. Among them was the death of comedian Robin Williams and the violence in Ferguson, Missouri. Additionally, news reports of on going violence in the Middle East and the on going natural disasters of the wildfires in the western portion of the USA serves to show that great suffering can be found in many places around the world. Indeed, if one puts in a small amount of effort, it is sorrowfully all too easy to find evidence of evil and suffering even in their immediate environs.

The question arises, how is one to face these age old problems? While it is natural to desire to take actions to eliminate these problems, we must recognize that human efforts to eradicate these traits from the world will end in failure. Not because humanity is wretched, as some would teach, but rather because suffering is a natural part of existence in this world and that evil is a choice made to cause egregious, and generally needless, suffering.

The Buddha spoke of how suffering was part of existence and it was due to our attachment to things. Christians have, through the ages, declared that suffering was due punishment for rebellion against the Divine order and that evil was the fruit of the action of their anti-deity, Satan. If we look to different religions and philosophical paths around the world, we find different explanations given for why these things exist. The question as to why horrible things happen to innocent people will continue to vex us long after the Sun has burned out and humanity has left the cradle of Earth to fare to other worlds.

Suffering is a universal problem. All things that live will suffer at some point in time. It is reasonable to argue that suffering is a natural consequence of life. (It is equally reasonable to argue that pleasure is also a natural consequence of life.) Evil, however, is a problem that plagues humanity more, for we are the primary authors of its presence in the world. One might argue that the snake is amoral and lacks moral agency when it consumes a mouse. This incapacity to choose between right and wrong thus renders the snake’s actions amoral because it lacks the basic functions of conscious decision making. It is acting on account of millions of years of evolutionary programming. The whole of nature operates in this fashion.

Humanity, however, has the capacity to override that evolutionary programming and make moral decisions about their actions and how they interpret the actions of others. Personal morality moves a person to make decisions as to if the items they purchase at the store are going to be fair trade and ethically produced or mass marketed, factory produced with unknown damaging consequences to the environment. This is a moral decision that an individual makes. It is when many individuals band together and start making moral judgments that we encounter collective morality. It is collective morality that tells us if engaging in acts of warfare are right or wrong.

Now, the question is, how do individuals fit into the collective moral picture? What does one do when their sense of moral justness is outraged by what the collective morality tolerates? The answer can be found in things like the Civil Rights movement and the anti-apartheid movements in history. When you oppose the actions of the collective majority, you have a moral responsibility to oppose it. Opposition can come with a steep price. People in the two movements I mentioned died for their cause. Sometimes we lack the capacity to pay the ultimate price for our convictions. This should not dissuade us from action, because even the most limited action that you can take against evil has a net effect for the positive.

Some, however, have a flight response in the face of such things rather then a fight response (I tend towards the fight response myself). This should not be shamed. If you can not take action against evil, at the very least do not entertain it within your home and in your own actions. Conscientious objectors are as important to stopping collective evil as those who actively work against it. Additionally, if you must fly from evil, attempt to bring those who are at risk of succumbing to evil’s temptation with you.

Let me give you some concrete examples.

A man in Nazi Germany opposed the regime’s policies and practices. He complied with the laws that he did not find to objectionable and then refused to engage in the others. This is a method of active resistance to evil by way of passive behavior.

Countless people fled Nazi Germany prior to the start of World War II. They found the laws and practices of this regime intolerable but were unable to resist actively. Thus, they showed their opposition by leaving. Many of these people that had the ability to do so, brought others with them or provided means for others to leave the country. Their efforts laid the groundwork of the work of so many others to smuggle innocent people out of the country.

One might ask, what of the people of Nazi Germany who sincerely thought they were doing the right thing? It is possible for a person to be persuaded to engage in acts of evil. Appeals can be built around constructs that are especially tempting. Humans are creatures that seek simplicity. If you reduce a situation to a difference between two factions and make the faction that appeals strongest to your audience seem to be the ‘right’ one, it is possible to use that urge for simplicity to cover any multitude of evil actions as distasteful necessities to support the chosen faction’s actions against the other.

The common man is disinclined to engage in deep consideration of the ethical outcomes of their actions. The desire is to do the necessities of the day, avoid suffering, and achieve some form of pleasure. It is when it becomes apparent that the actions of others pose a threat to this peaceable existence that the common man’s temper becomes aroused. There are times, however, that action must be taken to rectify institutionalized harm. For the institutionalized harm is detrimental to the well being of the whole populace, including that of the common citizen.

In my rambling (which has taken me three days to compose fully), I have tried not to point blame upon any party and reserve my opinion. It has become clear to me, as I have worked on this, that it would be intellectually dishonest of me to withhold my position upon these matters. My invocation of Godwin’s Law only highlights the fact that I do have a position here.

Institutionalized racism (and other forms of discrimination) are abhorrent to me. It is my understanding that they run contrary to the spirit upon which the United States of America was founded. From what I have learned of the situation in Ferguson, this is a case of institutionalized racism meeting police militarization. The racism lays a foundation for violence against those who are deemed ‘lesser’ by accident of birth. It is my opinion that we, as civilized people, should be opposed to racism (and other forms of discrimination) and work to mitigate its influence over how society operates. I am firmly convinced that it should hold no sway over laws and their enforcement. To allow this is to undermine the rule of law.

With respect to acts of genocide, mass violence, and related evils perpetrated around the world, I sincerely believe that they should be opposed and justice be sought for the victims. Organizations like ISIS are in my understanding anathema* and persons who are able to take action against them to dismantle and render impotent these organizations should do so. These organizations exist for the sole purpose of perpetuating their will with out regard to the cost of life.

It is possible to effect change with out resorting to genocide and wide scale violence against the people living in a region. Any who would engage in such behavior should be reviled and none should take them into their company. I recognize that such behavior has happened in the past and is likely to happen in the future. It is, however, something that we have the capacity to surmount and put behind us as a species. Sadly, I do not see this happening within this millennium. Humanity, I fear, will only recognize the cost of such behaviors when it is all too late to repair the damage it has wrought.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
* I use the term in the sense of that which is offensive to Deity and should be shunned and opposed.

New Directions

In my most recent post, I stated my intention to resume posting within this blog and to change its name. I also discussed some pf the reasons for these decisions. Within this article I will describe much more specifically the direction in which I plan to take this blog.

From its beginning in 2008 the purpose of this blog has been to provide a space in which I could articulate my own ideas regarding the political economic issues that have been of importance to me. At that time I attempted in several posts to present the vision of a long-standing minority tradition within the historical socialist movement which was variously represented in the forms of Associational Socialism, Anarcho-Syndicalism, and English Guild Socialism. While there were clearly differences between these traditions of socialism they all had clearly a very similar stance against the dominant statist form of modern Socialism. I chose to call this tendency Cooperative Socialism. I also attempted to point out the connection between this form of socialism and the vision of the kingdom of God held by Jesus and other important figures within Christianity. Little of this made any impact.

More recently since the so-called “Arab Spring” of 2010 my focus has shifted to issue of US foreign policy particularly in its relationship to the nation of Syria. I have been a passionate supporter of the Syrian oppositon’s struggle to end the Assad dictatorship and to replace it with a more democratic, less oppressive polical system. I have been very disappointed by the policy of the Obama administration of refusal to provide military support and aid to the moderate Syrian Free Army in its battle againt the regime. This has consequently led to the slaughter of over 170,000 Syrians and to the raise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or as it is also called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Clearly a better nominclature.

This support of a US foreign policy which actively supports the stuggles of peoples and nations against genocide and their brutalization by their own governments has been a dominant aspect of my political life at least since the 1990s. During the Bosnian War of the first half of the 90’s and the Darfur War of the mid 2000’s I worked with groups of people within Columbus Ohio in hope of defending first the Bosnian people against genocide and latter to defend the people of Dafur against the same. Unfortunately these campaigns neither at the local nor larger national level did much to change national policy.

While most people of the left would rather take on “progressive” domestic issues and ignore the struggles of peoples particularly within the Islamic world, I happen to believe that the existential battles of life and death of whole peoples have a much greater moral significance than have many of the often purely tactical political fights between this nation’s right and left. I believe that one of the most significant aspects of a politics of justice should be to support the peoples in nations such as Syria and Iraq in their struggles against their own brutalization and destruction.

As stated above I initially attempted to articulate within this blog a radical vision of what I call “cooperative socialism” within a religious context. While one of my articles called “God and Socialism” over the years has garnered many views, it has received little real response. Most of the other articles within the blog have received much less response. This has reinforced my view that “socialism” has essentially died as a motivating ideal within the West and within the United States in particular. Still I believe that the ideals of a cooperative socialism are sound. They are in fact the values of the kingdom of God (Thea within my religious faith). I also think that many of details of the concrete reality of this form of Socialism have been worked out brilliantly within the Mondragan Cooperative Corporation and other cooperative enterprises. All of which show that cooperative socialism can work within the real world and not just within the world of ideas. Therefore I hope to again begin articulating this vision within future posts within this blog, even if I have to utilize an alternative vocabulary to better articulate these visions of a just society.

I am perfectly aware that perhaps such writing will have little positive impact, however I feel that this is what I am perhaps called to do. I think that it makes more sense to write about what passionately interests me than to follow what every one else is doing. I do of course have an interest in issues that are more mainstream and domestic in nature and I will probably comment on them here as well. But in the more immediate future they will not take priority status.

Religion also will continue to be a part of the mix. This blog is not be a theological blog. But to the degree that religious authors write on subjects which relate to issues of justice and to the degree that religious ideas impact positively on the political, economic, and cultural issues of the day, I will discuss them here.

I of course am perfectly aware that any attempts in modern political discourse to interconnect the issues of politics and religion is viewed with deep suspicion in the West and particularly within the secular Left. Many in the West of course reject religious belief in principle and believe that it should play no role in public life. Many religious persons also reject it because they believe that religious belief and spirituality is primarily a private, apolitical, purely spiritual thing which is not really properly related to the concrete political, economic world.

Such a belief is a falsity. Traditional Islam on the contrary has always believed that the laws of Allah (Sharia) should rule not only over the lives of individual believers but over the life of society as well. The Jewish tradition historically has seen the Torah as having a similar authority over the Jewish Nation. And even within Christianity it has been believed that principles of justice to the poor and oppressed within society have been mandated by God. Confucianism, certain forms of Taoism, and Buddhism also traditionally held that religious belief does and should have worldly social consequences.

The idea of a complete separation of religious principles from a primarily secular society has been an unfortunate interpretation of the enlightenment vision of the principle of the Separation of Church and State which was first developed within the Protestant world of the Netherlands, England, and the United States. The separation of church and state was a positive response to the wars of religion that raged over Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries and religious tyranny which reigned over much of Europe through out its history. The extreme idea that religious principles have no right to any role in political discourse or influence in society is radical modernist premise of a radical secularism which seeks to end any role for religion in society.

As an American I believe deeply in the Constitutional separation of Church and State and reject all forms of religious intolerance. However I also believe that religious believers have the moral right to attempt to support legislation and laws via democratic means which they believe are in accordance with the will of God. Of course within this society the Christian Right has been most famous for its ability to channel its religious passions toward political agendas. While I reject almost all aspects of the politics of the Christian Right, I have not problem in principle with their attempts via democratic means to push their political agenda.

Ma’at: Toward a Justice and Equality Movement

I placed this blog in an inactive status several months ago, because of my sense of hopelessness that anything I could do or say would have any effective impact in the real political world. After seeing the betrayal of the Obama administration of the Syrian people and seeing his tacit support for the dismemberment of that country and from my observations of the moral indifference within this nation to the Islamic world, I could no longer in any way consider myself in the camp of any of its parties and factions including ‘Progressive Movement”

This disenchantment has come after a period of four years in which I made a last effort in my life to help build a Socialist movement in this nation via my work to help revive the Social Democrats USA one of the oldest Socialist organizations within this nation. That work had produced little evidence of success by the time I resigned from my duties within the organization. The fact is that both Socialism and Social Democracy are dead ideas in the modern world at least within this nation.

So yes my political cynicism is pretty well absolute, soYazidi refugees why bother about reactivating an old political blog? Well a lot has been happening of late in the Middle East particularly in Iraq. ISIS (Her Name how ironic!) has now developed its territory to such a degree that Iraq is now split into three sections and an Islamic State has been proclaimed. That Islamic State is now threatening genocide against the Yazidi people of Iraq and brutally tormenting the Shia and Christian peoples within the territories it has conquered. The Islamic State has defeated both the Iraqi army and even the Peshmerga forces of the autonomous Kurdish Regional Government. So much for the effects of the failed Obama policy in Syria. Hillary Clinton was right on Syria and Obama was wrong, wrong, wrong.

However in spite its deplorable past record the surprising fact is that the Obama administration has now decided to help the Kurds militarily, a very good thing. The administration is even considering the development of a military relationship with the  Islamic Front in Syrian against the Islamic State (IS) / ISIS another good thing. Unfortunately some in the administration are now talking about the development of an alliance with the monstrous Assad Syrian regime. This would be an abomination. So yes I am paying attention to what is happening.

Therefore this question has been beginning to confound me within the context of recent events. Do I continue in my despair and cynicism regarding the prospects of any real justice in this world or do I again attempt to speak my mind on these issues. I have decided on the second course in spite of the fact that I still feel quite hopeless about the world in general. I would feel too guilty if I do not attempt to do something. People should speak out on the fate of the Yazidis and all the other peoples who are being butchered in this world due in large part because of the moral difference of civilization as we know it.

Why rename this blog Ma’at. Ma’at is the ancient Egyptian goddess of justice and order. She was central to Ancient Egyptian society both as Goddess and as a rule of life. The conception of Ma’at / Justice within that society was not just about courts and the punishment of crimes. It was about that but it was about so much more. It was also about many of the same values of justice that are found in the Bible. It was about liberation of the poor and the oppressed. It was about the care of widows and orphans, it was about care for people, all of the things that Americans generally do not think about particularly in relationship to foreign nations.

So I have decided to rename this blog Ma’at: Toward a Justice and Equality Movement both because I believe in the conception of justice that Maat represents and because I believe in the Goddess Maat as one of the Angels of Thea. Hopefully this blog can be an act of devotion to her as well as play a small role in support of the oppressed. Toward a Justice and Equality Movement? As anyone knows who was involved in the effort to stop the genocide in Darfur a few years back, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) is one of the main rebel military organizations which fought for justice against to genocidal policies of Bashir Regime of Sudan. That organization sees itself as being a Justice and Equality Movement. I do not know if it has always in fact behaved humanely or if it as have so many groups has degenerated into a brutal thugacracy in the areas Darfur in which it dominates. However whatever the fact may be, I would like to be a part of an organization which consistently would act as a Justice and Equality Movement.

I do not know how much I will be posting in the blog in the foreseeable future. I hope for a few posts a month. It all depends on what is happening. I am an active participant within the Independent De’anic religion. Work in that community is still my priority. But I do feel that I have to show some solidarity with the peoples of Syria and Iraq as well. We will see what happens.