Category Archives: Philosophy

Is there a Formula for Success?

Recently I was asked if there was a formula for a successful life. I decided there wasn’t because a formula provides but one method, whereas there are as many ways of being successful as there are people seeking success. What we need are guidelines that are useful to everyone, regardless of gender, race, aim or social station.
What is a “successful life”? That definition is up to the individual, and depends on his age, abilities and circumstances, so a formula would have to be so vague it would be worthless.
I seldom use the word happiness in the context of success, as it is an ephemeral emotion, whereas contentment is a fairly constant, vague, background feeling that you’re in the right place, doing the right thing, with people you like to be with. It’s akin to cosiness and when it’s absent one has the desire to get it back.
I define a successful life as one in which the person feels more or less contented most of the time.
Fortunately, wise men and women over the centuries have provided us with a plethora of guidelines that, if followed, could lead to a contented life. Interestingly,  despite the philosophers’ differences in time, place and culture, their ideas on how to life are similar.
Seven precepts have guided me to what I consider to have been a successful life.

  1. Be aware of your mental and physical limitations and abilities.
  2. Understand the difference between wants and needs, and after satisfying your needs, want only what is possible.
  3. Everything in moderation – nothing to excess.
  4. Treat others as you want to be treated.
  5. Keep healthy in both mind and body.
  6. The man who has one real friend in his life, is most fortunate.
  7. Waste not; want not.

Economics

A mathematician, an accountant and an economist apply for the same job. The interviewer calls in the mathematician and asks “What do two plus two equal?” The mathematician replies “Four.” The interviewer asks “Four, exactly?” The mathematician looks at the interviewer incredulously and says “Yes, four, exactly.” Then the interviewer calls in the accountant and asks the same question “What do two plus two equal?” The accountant says “On average, four – give or take ten percent, but on average, four.” Then the interviewer calls in the economist and poses the same question “What do two plus two equal?” The economist gets up, locks the door, closes the shade, sits down next to the interviewer and says, “What do you want it to equal?”

Economics is a very fluid concept that permits economists to use statistics to arrive at the outcome desired by their employer. In the case of politicians, they appoint accountants who will fiddle with the figures and provide them with a result wrapped in jargon that no one understands, so he can fool the electorate into believing what he wants is economically desirable. That’s the reason most political decisions are disastrous.

The entire monetary system is nothing but a gambling den where huge risks are taken with other people’s money; where money has replaced goods as something to be traded; where billions can be made overnight not by producing, making or growing something essential for human survival, but by buying virtual money in one currency then selling it for another. Money isn’t backed by gold reserves or anything of value; it’s a worthless promise by morally corrupt governments that simply print more money if they need it. We’re destroying the natural world to accumulate virtual money that represents nothing but unadulterated greed.’

Economics is soulless. Monetary profit is the sole criterion for success. If a hotel, or open cut mine, or housing estate will make more money for the developer or government than a pristine ecologically valuable lake and forest, then the hotel, mine, or houses will be built. However, if the total costs and returns were calculated, including the mental health of those affected, the loss of biodiversity, the loss of an important source of clean fresh water, the increased pollution, busier roads, need for extra sewage, roads, waste treatment, then the profits will be seen as illusionary, far outweighed by the value of the natural resource. When a market garden is concreted over for a car park, the costs of replacing the food produced by the property are not taken into account, because that will be someone else’s problem. Attitudes to the consequences of development versus conservation are reduced to immediate monetary profit and loss equations. Morality doesn’t get a look in.

The sole value of anything to an economist is its worth in dollars; or if he’s working for a politician, votes or power. To an economist, ‘good’ is a profit, ‘evil’ is a loss. There’s a field of economic study called ‘Return on Beauty’ and Japanese software can measure the ‘smile’ index – 100 being a from-ear-to-ear grin and zero being closed lips. Economists talk about growing money in an expanding economy as if money is a naturally occurring vegetable and the planet a balloon they can go on inflating forever!

Zillions of wise words have been spoken and written over the ages urging us to value truth and beauty, the common good, and the notion that more than enough is too much. We have been exhorted to respect nature and all life if we want to survive and lead a ‘good’ life. But rational economics sneers at such notions.

The inevitable result of a society based on capitalism alone, is that a man who is clever or sharp, or wicked enough to amass all the money in the world, is a good man, even if every other man woman and child are enslaved. And now that 99% of the world’s wealth is in the hands of 0.01% of the human population, that result is looming ever closer.

 

Queensland Attorney General Prefers Punishment to Prevention.

Despite falling Youth crime rates in Queensland the Attorney General introduced the Youth Justice and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 into parliament on 11 February 2014.  This signals a return to ineffective and oppressive treatment of children who, for the most part are victims of intellectually and culturally poor, as well as often violent family and social backgrounds.
The Bill makes amendments to key components of the Youth Justice Act 1992 .

  • Allow repeat young offenders to be publically named throughout proceedings.  This will not apply to first time offenders;
  • Open the Children’s Court to the public, this is to create transparency in the youth justice system;
  • Create a new offence for committing an offence while on bail for another offence.  This proposal will target repeat offenders and seeks to hold them accountable in relation to their legal undertaking not to re-offend while on bail;
  • Make juvenile criminal histories admissible during sentencing of adult offenders.  This will allow childhood findings of guilt for which no conviction was recorded, to be admissible to courts upon sentencing adults and will allow courts to have a complete understanding of defendant’s offending history;
  • Automatically transfer young people from youth detention to adult prison when they turn 17 if they have six or more months remaining to serve; and
  • Remove the principle of detention as a last resort in order to strengthen the sentencing framework and by providing Courts with the full range of sentencing options for consideration.  This principle will also be removed from the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 which means it will be removed for adults also.

Dozens of profoundly criticalsubmission on the Bill have been made by respected authorities to the Research Director of the Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee. They can be viewed here.

I would like our elected lawmakers to consider the following:

  • The threat of punishment, no matter how severe, does not deter people from committing crimes. Juveniles in particular are convinced they won’t get caught.
  • Prisons are schools of crime and creators of resentment and anger against society. Everyone who enters comes out with the ability to be an even worse criminal as well as socially inept, and increasingly violent against family. The only inmates who don’t become recidivists, are those whose backgrounds were not too bad to start with.
  • A socially aware and concerned government would seek to improve the social circumstances of everyone at risk, so that their children do not become criminals. Surely they are alarmed that 60% of the juvenile prison population comes from the most disadvantaged 6% of the population—Indigenous people! These kids haven’t a chance! What we should be doing is taking them away from their social setting and placing them in a secure, organised, safe environment, teaching them social skills, reading and writing, preparing them for a trade, then finding employment for them when they are released…meantime treating them with gentle firmness, kindness, consideration, thoughtfulness and even love, using positive reinforcement—never cruelty, threats, punishment. If they have never been treated decently, how can they learn to become decent? They will never learn it in a prison—there they will only learn to become worse…or is that what the government wants? Create employment for prison guards and social workers?
  • If you name and shame juvenile offenders, you are making it impossible for them to ever rehabilitate themselves. Their sole survival means will then be to develop a hard, ‘don’t care’ attitude that will make them even more likely to offend again—after all, what will they have to lose? You’ve destroyed their hopes of living a normal life in society!
  • Seventeen year old kids are still children. They may act tough, do adult crimes, but they’re still able to be turned onto the ‘right’ path.  Put them with adults and you are making their lives hell. Everyone knows they will probably be sodomised, terrorised, turned into calloused adults incapable of anything except sharing their sense of injustice, misery and brutality.
  • Offences by juveniles are usually innocent of malice. To bring these up years later when they have done something wrong as adults, is vicious.

When we have reached the point that indigenous juveniles represent only 6% of the prison population, then let the Attorney consider harsher penalties, but while there is enormous evidence of basic inequality and disadvantage among members of that social group, to compound this by punishing the people who are already being punished because of their birth is vile indeed. Like the U.S.A., it seems the Queensland Government prefers to violently punish wrongdoers rather than attempt rehabilitation, despite reams of studies that tell us clearly that what this bill is proposing will have the opposite effect to what the Attorney General reckons he wants. It will create more criminals who are not merely thoughtless of others, but also violently resentful of society, and will further disrupt and alienate the very people in desperate need of assistance, the indigenous population whose just grievances, and the injustices they have received from successive state governments, have never been addressed.
We should take heed of the U.S.A., which has more of its citizens in jail than any other country on earth, and one of the highest violent crime rates. We do not want to go down that road.

John F Kennedy on Peace

Coppied from Information Clearing House

 

Today, November 22, 2012 Is The  49th Anniversary of the Assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy

 

What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children–not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women–not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.”

 

“In the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.

“And is not peace, in the last analysis, basically a matter of human rights–the right to live out our lives without fear of devastation–the right to breathe air as nature provided it–the right of future generations to a healthy existence?”

 

“We shall also do our part to build a world of peace where the weak are safe and the strong are just. We are not helpless before that task or hopeless of its success. Confident and unafraid, we labor on” –  

President John F. Kennedy – Full text and video – http://is.gd/M8aElb

Julia Gillard, A dangerous woman. [reposted from ICH. Thanks to John Pilger.]

Making the World a More Dangerous Place: The Eager Role of Julia Gillard

By John Pilger

October 24, 2012 “Information Clearing House” – The Australian parliament building reeks of floor polish. The wooden floors shine so virtuously they reflect the cartoon-like portraits of prime ministers, bewigged judges and viceroys. Along the gleaming white, hushed corridors, the walls are hung with Aboriginal art: one painting after another as in a monolithic gallery, divorced from their origins, the irony brutal. The poorest, sickest, most incarcerated people on earth provide a façade for those who oversee the theft of their land and its plunder.

Australia has 40% of the world’s uranium, all of it on indigenous land. Prime Minister Julia Gillard has just been to India to sell uranium to a government that refuses to sign the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and whose enemy, Pakistan, is also a non-signatory. The threat of nuclear war between them is constant. Uranium is an essential ingredient of nuclear weapons. Gillard’s deal in Delhi formally ends the Australian Labor Party’s long-standing policy of denying uranium to countries that reject the NPT’s obligation “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament”.

Like the people of Japan, Australian Aborigines have experienced the horror of nuclear weapons. During the 1950s, the British government tested atomic bombs at Maralinga in South Australia. The Aboriginal population was not consulted and received scant or no warning, and still suffer the effects. Yami Lester was a boy when he saw the nuclear flash and subsequently went blind. The enduring struggle of Aboriginal people for recognition as human beings has been a fight not only for their land but for what lies beneath it. Since they were granted a status higher than that of sheep — up to 1971, unlike the sheep, they were not counted – many of their modest land rights have been subverted or diminished by governments in Canberra.

In 2007, prime minister John Howard used the army to launch an “emergency intervention” in Aboriginal communities in the resource-rich Northern Territory. Lurid and fraudulent stories of paedophile rings were the cover; indigenous people were told they would not receive basic services if they did not surrender the leasehold of their land. Gillard’s minister of indigenous affairs has since given this the Orwellian title of “Stronger Futures”.

The tactics include driving people into “hub towns” and denying decent housing to those forced to live up to a dozen in one room. The removal of Aboriginal children has reached the level of the infamous “Stolen Generation” of the last century. Many may never see their families again.

Once the “intervention” had got under way, hundreds of licences were granted to companies exploring for minerals, including uranium. Contemporary politics in Australia is often defined by the power of the mining companies. When the previous Labor prime minister, Kevin Rudd, proposed a tax on record mining profits, he was deposed by a backroom party cabal, including Gillard, who reduced the tax. Diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks reveal that two of the plotters against Rudd were informants of the US embassy, which Rudd had angered by not following to the letter US plans to encircle China and to release uranium for sale to US clients such as India.

Gillard has since returned Australia to its historic relationship with Washington, similar to that of an east European satellite of the Soviet Union. The day before Barack Obama arrived in Canberra last year to declare China the new enemy of the “free world”, Gillard announced the end of her party’s ban on uranium sales.

Washington’s other post-cold war obsessions demand the services of Australia. These include the intimidation of Iran and destruction of that country’s independence, the undermining of the NPT and prevention of nuclear-free zones that threaten the nuclear-armed dominance of the US and Israel. Unlike Iran, a founding signatory of the NPT and supporter of a nuclear-free zone Middle East, the US and Israel ban independent inspections. And both are currently threatening to attack Iran which, as the combined agencies of US intelligence confirmed, has no nuclear weapons.

The necessary inversion of reality and double standard require a “carefully orchestrated process”, the US embassy is assured by an Australian official quoted by WikiLeaks. According to the US cables, there are enthusiastic “Australian ideas” for “dredging up” information to help discredit Mohamad El Baradei who, as director of the International Atomic Energy Agency from 1997 to 2009, repeatedly refuted US claims that Iran was building a nuclear weapon. The Director of the Australian Arms Control office is portrayed as a US watchdog, warning against “a slippery slope” of governments “exercising independent judgment” on nuclear matters. A senior Australian official, one Patrick Suckling, is reporting as telling the US that “Australia wants the most robust, intrusive and debilitating sanctions possible” against Iran. Suckling’s victims are today mostly ordinary men, women and children.

On 5 October, the Australian Nuclear Free Alliance, which includes Aboriginal groups from across the country, gathered in Alice Springs. They called for a moratorium on all uranium mining and sales. Indigenous women made a special plea to Gillard, recently ordained by the white media as a feminist hero. No response was expected.

On 17 October, all the testaments of obedience and servility to the mighty patron finally paid off when Australia was rewarded with a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, known in Canberra as “the top table”. The timing is striking. An attack by Nato on Syria or Iran, or both, has never been closer. A world war beckons as 50 years are marked since “the world stood still”, wrote the historian Sheldon Stern. This was the 1962 Cuba missile crisis when the US and the Soviet Union came within an ace of nuclear war. Declassified files disclose that President John F. Kennedy authorised “NATO aircraft with Turkish pilots … to take off for Moscow and drop a bomb.”

The echo today could not be clearer

www.johnpilger.com

What do We Humans Value?

The Great Barrier Reef is on the verge of extinction. Rainforests and all other old growth forests and ecosystems have all but gone. Every river, lake and waterway on the planet is unsafe to drink. Most of the planet’s farmland is more or less toxic. Cities are devouring the land, they are drowning in their own waste and running out of water and food. The planet contains about five thousand million more humans than it can maintain without ecological collapse. Millions of plant and animal species have become extinct in the last century and the rate is increasing. Why aren’t we doing something about global warming and climate change that threatens our survival within the next century?

Why don’t we value the planet? Indeed, what do we value and where do we learn our values? Religionists tell us values stem from religion – but they are never in the forefront of attempting to save the natural world that sustains us and in which we evolved.
It is obvious that most humans don’t value clean air, water, soil or oceans enough to stop poisoning them. The vast majority don’t value privacy and personal space enough to stop breeding so we can leave some spaces untouched. Very few people value other forms of life – unless they can either be eaten or will serve us. Very few value the lives of people who are different, which is why we are endlessly at war. Scarcely anyone really values happiness, otherwise they would pay attention to centuries of sages who tell us how to be contented.

Humans value getting more than those around them… a more prestigious address, more money, a larger house and car… these sorts of things. This is the only value espoused by most people, notwithstanding their protestations to the contrary, and they are prepared to sacrifice everything else to gratify these primordial urges. This is how we evolved. It is the way every living thing on the planet lives, and it is foolish to imagine our species could be different. People like Ben are evolutionary misfits. Humans are simply behaving in the same way as every other animal on the planet. Pleading with normal humans to change their ways is pissing in the wind. It is beyond their ability to conceive of being different, thus, the deteriorating natural environment and imminent crisis is inevitable and unstoppable and has been predicted by wise men since the beginnings of technology. Nothing anyone says even slows the rate of despoliation, let alone reverses it. Wise people now, in the end days [Ha! sounds like ‘rapture ready] make themselves safe and hope for the best while expecting the worst.

Government

Government

Like most mammals, humans are social animals and, like them, we’re also individuals so we require strong leaders to keep groups protected and together.

Being able to think and reason using experience and concepts, most people realise that it is unlikely everyone will get fair treatment if the leader is a bully boy. And that has proved to be the case in most societies throughout history, in which a small elite live off the work of a large poor underclass who receive little remuneration and less justice.

In the beginning, small societies usually employed a system of democratic government in which the men, and sometimes women, sat around and discussed and argued until they reached consensus. Larger groups, however, rendered this too time consuming and consensus almost impossible to reach.

Representatives were then appointed to ensure the rights of specific groups, but powerful people soon become impatient and dissatisfied with consensus, which tends towards stasis and security, conservation and tradition. Consensus was then replaced by majority rule, in which 51% of the votes gave the ‘winners’ the right to ignore dissenting opinions.

Faced with this situation, it becomes apparent that the only form of government that is completely fair to everyone would be a ‘benevolent dictatorship.’

Equally obvious is the fact that no human has all the qualities or abilities to be a truly benevolent dictator. Such a person would have to exhibit superhuman strength, intellect, compassion and foresight—omnipotence. He would also need to know the details of every individual in his jurisdiction, and know what was happening to everyone everywhere at all times—omniscience. To do this he would have to be invisible, and as his death would be disastrous, he would have to live forever—be immortal.

A few thousand years ago the Jews invented a god exactly like that to protect them and guarantee their interests. A later break-away sect took this a step further by dividing the same god into three, and a few hundred years later another breakaway sect received new messages about laws and dogma relating to this same god. But the system is so successful these three sects of judaism are now followed by most of the people in the world.

Unfortunately, this supernatural benevolent dictator/god decided not to communicate directly with the individuals he loves and cares for, leaving daily communion and transmission of directives to mere mortals—priests, rabbis, imams… and, as we are too well aware, they are human and humans aren’t perfect and if an imperfect person is left in charge of a perfect system it won’t remain perfect for long.

So, we’re left with democracy or dictatorship—very imperfect systems indeed to govern vast, ever-growing populations on a tiny planet fast running out of everything essential to the survival of life.