Monthly Archives: December 2011

Premature Globalization

As seen from above at night, the border between the two Koreas is clearly distinguished by the bright lights of South Korea and the darkness of North Korea. The modernization of South Korea is the result of a truce between North and South Korea, divided by the 38th parallel. It was designed to prevent an acceleration of the Cold War to a titanic Hot War between the Soviet Union and The United States. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the two nations have had little more than a ‘Chilly War’ (my term).

However, at the geopolitical level, North Korea is a relic of the Cold War at its worst. Its leadership and populace are backward. (I tried to find a softer word, but failed.) Their profound ignorance was sharply revealed when women (unfortunately, without a drama coach) carried on a display of grief over Jong-il’s death. His son succeeds him, possibly as one of a triumvirate composed of his sister, her husband, and himself. North Korea is still in the mindset of the 50s. It also has the bomb.

When the Berlin Wall was torn down and the Soviet satellite nations easily broke from the Soviet Union, there was a global sigh of relief. The world had squeaked through a titanic battle of states that lasted almost a full century. However, Post-Cold War relics of the battle between communism and capitalism continue, notably in the tragic continent, Africa, even though Russia and China have somewhat relaxed their proliferation of Marxist communism.

There has been a reversal of the geopolitical dynamics of the twentieth century. Now, it is third world countries that evoke re-runs of the Cuban Missile Crises. The governments of Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Syria continue to rule by heredity succession. The same is true of Cuba. The governorship of these nations is a family affair. Bizarre alliances have formed among nations as diverse as Venezuela/Cuba/North Korea. In the Islamic world the Shiites and Sunnis are still engaged in conflict with each other and Western Civilization. Incredibly, religious wars have resurfaced after centuries of dormancy. Iran, a powerful theological nation in the Middle East, is about to have the bomb.

With the aid of the Information Age, we’ve come as close as ever to world harmony. Fundamentally, the battle between communism and capitalism is over. But world peace is threatened by asymmetrical wars that do not recognize national borders. In today’s global context, borders consist of ideologies that overlap each other within and without national borders. This geopolitical time bomb is unlike the distinct national borders of the twentieth century. History is filled with patterns similar to this, particularly in what we now call the Middle East.

Prior to the attempted invasion of the city-states of ancient Greece by the Persian Empire, there had been wars waged for the acquisition of treasure. Greece was next on Persia’s quest for world domination. Wars based on a lust for treasure are interchangeable and make little or no impact on significant history. Key battles are soon forgotten. This was not so when Greek warriors, heavily outnumbered, stemmed the Persian tide in four major battles that saved the democracy that the Greeks had invented. That war, forced on the Greeks, was not like any other. Had they lost to the Persians, history would be radically different.

Democracy was born in Greece and was given a second chance in Revolutionary America. A third major test for democracy occurred when several democracies, including America, defeated Nazi Germany and Imperialist Japan. That conflict once again preserved democracy.

Democracy is no longer in danger of disappearing. Too many people have experienced it directly or vicariously. But the unprecedented and exquisite level of technology has trickled down to third world nations. There are governments and even individuals who are hostile to democracy. Several leaders openly threaten to destroy Israel and America. Individual terrorists, religious fanatics, and even pirates (!) have crawled out of the Middle Ages. This time, they have access to advanced technology to fight the civilization that created it. They also have considerable ideological support from media- – -both here and abroad- – -that characterizes them as freedom fighters.

If free people do not curb their enthusiasm and impatience for a ‘global village,’ we may find ourselves in a dark age wherein anything is possible, including worldwide Sharia Law or some other dreadful form of world government.

I allow myself to get lost in the seductive pageantry of an Olympic event. I love watching the parade of young athletes brandishing the colors of their nations, and the traditional honoring of Greece at the end of the opening parade, and the spectacular show that proudly displays the characteristics of the host nation. A bittersweet nostalgia overwhelms me when the torch is snuffed out at the ending ceremony.

The appearance of globalization is seductive, but in ideological terms, political globalization requires more time before it is safe for its realization. The goal of globalization should emphatically not be tied to economics or a one-world government.

The fundamental tenets of globalization are already embodied in the First Amendment of our Constitution. The rest follows.

There is no need nor is it desirable to turn the world into a monolithic state. Quite the contrary. Diversity celebrates life. America has already proved its success. It’s okay to be Russian, but not communist. It’s okay to be Muslim, but not a terrorist. It’s okay to be nationalistic, but not militant.

Until and unless world education is achieved, globalization is dangerous and can be no more than an illusion at best. The Information Age is on the side of democracy. Globalization must follow in the wake of an overwhelming majority of democratic nations.

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Irreconcilable Differences

Last Thursday I watched a debate among seven republican candidates seeking the nomination for the presidency in 2012. In his response to a question about foreign policy, Ron Paul said that wars should be declared with the consent of congress; that there is no evidence that Iran has or is about to have a nuclear bomb; and that it makes no difference whether or not one more nation adds nuclear bombs to its arsenal of weapons. His overall position is that our perception of Iran as a danger to America is overblown.

I am generally more concerned about a president’s foreign policy than his domestic agenda. If we don’t have a sound foreign policy, domestic agendas will become academic. Since Mr. Paul’s views on foreign policy sharply differ from all the other Republican candidates and those of President Obama, I think we should think hard about his response to questions about foreign policy.

Declaration of War

When Ron Paul said that wars must be ‘declared,’ I instantly remembered that there hasn’t been a declaration of war from the United States since Franklin D. Roosevelt declared war on Japan the day after the attack on Pear Harbor. Several declarations of war between major powers followed within days after the attack, notably Hitler’s declaration of war against the United States four days after that attack. Declarations of war were still in style then. They have since been replaced by hostilities that simply erupt without formalities.

Atom Bomb Proliferation

Ron Paul asserted that Iran doesn’t have the bomb and that even if its intention is to have it, that’s only because Iran is “surrounded” (his word, not mine). Those assertions do not address the issue of Iran’s stated policy of wiping Israel off the map. Many ask the rhetorical question, “If we and other nations have the bomb, why are we concerned about Iran’s alleged development of it?” My response to that question is that there is an enormous difference between a bomb in the hands of a theocracy and those of a democracy. There is a much greater possibility that a totalitarian state will use the ‘final option’ than there is for a democracy to do so.

Overblown Perception of Danger

Ron Paul firmly believes that we are overreacting to Iran’s anti-American position. In that regard he is in accord with most American and Israeli liberals. Overlooked are the goose-stepping Iranian soldiers and ominous echoes of Hitler’s Meinkampf. World War Two was a secular war. This time we are dealing with a religious war as far as Iran is concerned. Western civilization played out its holy wars long ago. Theocracies are ugly relics of the past. Paradoxically, Iran’s secular leader denies the Holocaust but threatens the destruction of Israel!

Ron Paul should know better than to think that Iran is not a clear and present danger to the United States and ultimately to Western Civilization.

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Political Euphemisms and Ghastly Grammar

Earlier today, I tried to decide whether this weekly blog should be about political euphemisms or ghastly grammar. Virtually all they have in common is the abuse of language. English is being battered by political euphemisms as tools to make political concepts less distasteful and by ghastly grammar that makes it less precise.

When I sat down to vent my grievances, I suddenly decided that this blog would be an intellectual buffet. Perhaps you might care to nibble on one subject or the other.

Manmade Disasters

There seems to be no limit to the lengths political partisans will go to justify their prejudices. In their efforts to do so they lump together disasters that are caused by negligence with those that are deliberately planned for the killing of innocent civilians. Citing both events within the same formal definition, partisans basically equate terrorists with natural killers like earthquakes, hurricanes, and tsunamis. At best, the difference between negligence and terrorism is the same as the difference between manslaughter and murder.

Freedom Fighters

This is one of several terms designed to support the notion that ‘one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter.’ Calling a terrorist a freedom fighter is an insult to everyone who has ever fought and died for political freedom. Theocracies are emphatically not strongholds of freedom.

Flash Mobs

Convoluted arguments justifying the motives of ‘flash mobs’ do nothing to dispel my view of them as marauding mobs. There’s an unequivocal difference between stealing bread because of hunger and snatching electronic equipment in the guise of dispensing ‘social justice.’ This is not the French Revolution. I have limited ‘respect’ for a man who admits that the television under his arm is theft and that breaking storefront windows is not motivated by social rage but rather by greed, the very characteristic he purports to protest.

The verbs to go and to say

What are they doing to the language I used to know! Why are they using the verb to go in place of to say! Our language has been and continues to be enriched by wonderful additions and changes, but I fail to see the value of saying, “He goes, ‘I went to the park,’ rather than, “He said, ‘I went to the park.’’’

What happened to the verb to happen?

There is another overuse of the verb ‘to go’ that is an unnecessary substitution for the verbs to happen, to occur, to take place. English already has those three verbs to express events in any tense and with or without the use of auxiliary verbs. At best, “Tell us what went down” is at the edge of being colloquial.


I’m not alone in my objection to the current use of the word fun. Many of us cringe when we hear “We had a fun night” rather than “We had fun that night.” Fun is a noun, not an adjective. Forcing the word into another class is not merely awkward; it violates a major structural tenet of our language.

The Challenge

Easy access to information is a brilliant hallmark of The Information Age. But the age is also short on contemplation. I urge you to question words and phrases that may contain hidden political agendas or diminish the precision of our language.

There is a difference between ‘manmade disasters’ and murder that has a great deal to do with politics. There is a difference between nouns and adjectives that has nothing to do with being pedantic. There is a difference between enriching a language and diminishing it. The better part of that difference depends on you. 

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Bets, Anyone?

I have no doubt that I’m conscious (at least, most of the time). An attempt to deny consciousness is in itself proof of its existence. Reality is real. That’s why we have a word for it. Speculation that physical reality and consciousness are illusions is sophomoric and tedious.

When a plant draws water up against the force of gravity, that is an event that unequivocally distinguishes life from inanimate matter. Life profoundly differs from rocks, stars, and galaxies- – -notwithstanding the fact that stardust is the matter that makes life possible. Only life is simultaneously imbedded in matter and consciousness. Unlike inanimate matter, a blade of grass is not passive to gravity. Life is a band of existence in the universe that includes will.

When a stone (inanimate) and a man (animate) roll down a hill, the stone does so in absolute conformity with ‘the laws of physics,’ the man (as long as he is conscious) engages in willful activity to keep himself from injury or death. Will is a concept applicable only to the animate world.

Darwin’s Theory of Evolution maintains that survival is primarily dependent on chance. In that context, the erratic nature of our biosphere determines which species shall survive and which shall not. His theory implicitly describes a pattern of life that mirrors the passive state of inanimate matter, i.e., life as deterministic.

On the other hand, Darwin’s predecessor, Lamarck, posited that the evolution of a species is driven by the use or disuse of limbs and organs in response to its environment. That process eventually leads to a new species (acquired characteristics). His theory explicitly describes a pattern of life that is generated by will.

The difference between these two evolutionary theories is profound. One theory subsumes evolution as primarily a function of chance; the other, of purpose.

Of course there are several less celebrated evolutionary theories of life, whether based on chance or purpose. Basically, these are variations of the two principal theories mentioned above. For example, although it significantly strains credibility, there is a theory that suggests life is a process through which the universe is trying to ‘understand itself.’ It maintains that the fundamental agents driving life are genomes. Are we therefore vehicles through which the universe is seeking to know itself? I think not.

The now traditional standard model of the Big Bang traces the evolution of the universe beginning at 10-43 seconds when physics and time as we know them began. The stages of its evolution are described in time frames beginning with billionths of a second to billions of years, the current stage being the era in which atoms have linked to form complex molecules and living matter.

Cosmologists tell us that we are in a ‘habitable zone’ of the universe. The criteria for those zones obviously include an extremely thin margin of temperature somewhere between infinite heat and absolute zero. We are told that somewhere within that margin, matter is cool enough for atomic linkage that transforms inanimate matter to animate matter.

I have a problem with that. The universe is 13.7 billion years old. At its birth, matter and antimatter have a titanic battle. Matter remains standing as the universe inflates. Gravity instantly splits from the three other forces that, in turn, interact with each other and gravity. Matter is inanimate through billions of years of star and galaxy formation that is equally inanimate. Suddenly (in terms of billions of years) the inanimate becomes animate ‘because it’s cool enough for it to do so.’ Gravity, the strong force, and radiation remain inanimate. I hesitate to include the electromagnetic force as totally inanimate.

I’m not a cosmologists. My mathematical ability is equivalent to that of a brilliant three-year-old, and my physics is elementary. But I recognize that there must be good reason for cosmologists to focus on quantum gravity for profound revelations about the universe. I also am not a fan of fantastic cosmological theories like parallel universes and the like. But I think my metaphysical speculations about the four forces of the universe may have some relevance.

For decades, cosmologists have sought the ultimate description of the universe by focusing on quantum gravity. My bet is on electromagnetism. I think of gravity as the skeleton of the universe; electromagnetism as its soul. If I were a cosmologist, there is where I’d look for answers to the origin of life. Neurologists investigate the brain and nervous system a posterior, i.e., now that the brain has evolved from the first instant of life itself. Biologists and physicists examine the brain and nervous system from their perspective. Philosophers as well as scientists investigate the epistemological aspects of the brain and nervous system. And so on. I wonder what the a priori creation of will, a function of electromagnetism, would reveal about the universe.

Am I anthropocentric? Of course I am. Like you, my synapses are all I’ve got to understand the universe and me. I don’t speculate on far out theories. But I know that thought is exclusive to living organisms. Exactly what is it that dances through our brains and from one brain to another, even in the form of mental telepathy (which I know exists). What is it that makes us love, laugh, create art, study stars, and split atoms? Does all this exist only because the right temperature transformed matter to life?

I doubt it. 

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