American Political Philosopher, Author, and Musician
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Ah- the Middle East. Wouldn’t life be grand if we could just solve the issues in the Middle East?

                 Questions such as “who are the good guys” and “what political party supports which viewpoint regarding the struggle” are guaranteed to fill the phone lines on the talk shows. Of course the popular American version is that the good guys are Israelis who are merely trying to defend themselves against fanatical Islamists who can’t seem to kick the habit of killing Jews and coveting their land. There are other views projected into and out of other techno-geographic regions.

In order to fully grasp the complexities of the situation, it’ll be necessary to accept the premise that all the information prior to my following analysis is baseless, irrelevant, and full of crap (from “both” sides). This will allow me to start from the beginning and supply the necessary detail:

A long time ago, people were even more ignorant than they are now. The basic knowledge people had was that they got hungry, used the bathroom, had sex and children, and that lots of other people and things were liable to kill them. In their free time, some of these ignorant people decided to fantasize about why human beings are engaged in this cycle of hunger, sex, and bathroom-using. Some of the ignorant people were less ignorant than the others, and these people started using language. The least dumb of these with the best weapons and methods of communicating nonsense deduced that they could control other people by persuading them to believe the given set of fantasies that best suited the aims of those controlling. It proved even more effective when someone wrote a book full of vague prose or poetry and tall tales the thesis of which is generally “accept these ideas or suffer”. The Koran, the Torah, the New Testament, and Mein Kampf, are all examples of these.

Let’s set that aside for a moment and move onto geography and mathematics. It just so happens that we human beings are playing out our little existences on a composite sphere of finite dimensions. There is a limited amount of surface area on which to live and not be killed by something or someone.

The problem seems to manifest itself at the juxtaposition of two entities: The first is the physical reality of human existence on the only known planet willing to host us, and the second are those pockets of people who find it extremely important that some number of other people believe and behave according to the brand of nonsense they’re peddling. The crux is that some of these groups of people believe (and have the paperwork to back it up, not to mention an army) that they’re due a piece of land on which to practice their “way of life”.

 

You can now see the dilemma: If we get too many groups of people who believe with all their hearts and bombs that life in their country (i.e. the bunch of people they want to control) has to be a certain way and are willing to kill you if you differ (or maybe just in case you might), and we start running out of places for people to be dumb in. And then ignorant people get crazy and start assigning irrational value to buildings and works of art in certain geographic areas. Then things get ugly when two different groups of ignorant and yet committed people assign conflicting irrational values to the same object or spot of land.

 

 

 This is what we now have in Jerusalem.

 

In order to get out of this situation, we have to first understand it in more detail:

 

Human beings throughout the history of civilization have seemed to occupy themselves with demarking the distinction between one set of individuals and another. This is done with hardly imaginable variety. There are those who practice more than 31 flavors of each of the popular religions, not to mention those who follow the sets of irrational beliefs which have yet to achieve fame. Then we have those who are republicans, democrats, fringe republocrats and hardcore moderates.

We have bigots and racists and white supremacists and chefs and attorneys general. We have union bosses, busboys, cheerleaders and supermodels.

 

Out of these practically limitless ways for people to divide themselves into and against other groups, some are less ignorant than others.

Among all of these ignorant people inventing ideas about why human beings exist and how we should be behaving and how one group differs from another were some who began considering that these ideas might best be based upon evidence and reason. They realized that there is no evidence nor reason that would explain the “why” about our human condition, and that therefore each individual has a right to form his own conclusion about that question. They deduced from evidence and reason that each individual was created with an equal amount of knowledge about the nature of God, which is precisely none. They further realized that any valid political system would protect the right of individuals to express their own conclusions about spiritual matters, which of course demands the enforcement of a tolerance of the variety of views among its population. These least-of-all-thus-far-ignorant people created the United States of America.

 

James Madison wrote the first sentence of the Bill of Rights which begins “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”

 

As I always say: Madison is on the record in numerous places stating that religion is “exempt from the cognizance of the institutions of civil society”.

 

As I defined clearly in my last essay, this is a fundamental break from history. (and from all that which followed in other countries and in practice in the United States)

 

That sentence is important in that it accomplishes something conceptually- it mandates a study of what is and what is not “an establishment of religion”. As I deduced logically in a recent proof, it means quite literally that law can not be made that is unreasonable.

Religion is unreasonable by definition. Whether Islam, Christianity, Judaism, or Scientology is ultimately revealed to be the one true religion (and as far as any human knows it will), any human being who professes a faith in religion has chosen to believe something with vehemence beyond the level that reason will allow, or in fact they are not practicing faith- again by definition. The United States by its fundamental mandate CANNOT express through law positions which have been brought into common awareness through religion or dogma. (Let’s set aside for a moment the fact that this right is violated regularly)

Even with its uneven enforcement and institutional misinterpretation, that first amendment is so important that even its mere presence in the human maelstrom that is the United States has had the effect of directing the unprecedented speed of development of all that can possibly be good for humanity. Separation of church and state has another name: Capitalism. That’s all it is and that’s how it’s made, period. The short story is that the effects of religious tolerance and human freedom slowly led to drastic improvements in human life and society. As science and freedom allowed more people to be less ignorant, more and more people became able to separate their religious beliefs from their political and societal relationships. This required the following: The reform of those religious ideas. That means people STOPPED believing things in order to YIELD to the requirements of a reason-based, individual-centric capitalist political system.

The act of being an American demands that an individual knows the difference between faith and reason. It may be- for any human being- difficult at times to distinguish the difference, but every human being who earns the right to call him or herself an American must be aware that there is a difference, and be vigilant in the pursuit of that distinction.

 

Now how does this apply to the Middle East situation and the so-called “War on Terror ™”?

 

 

Let’s accept first that if one is at war, it’s best to understand the enemy. That involves categorizing human beings again- In this case I’ll use my previous analysis as the basis.

First let’s look at how this relation is commonly perceived: If you follow the media, you’ll hear terms like Islamic fascists or extremists to denote the enemy. From another view one might hear how the Jews have committed atrocities against the Muslims. Finally we hear the term “terrorist”. When we cut through it all, however, there’s one significant way to categorize people in this conflict: those who accept the difference between reason and religion and are willing to reform their beliefs such that they do not require that other people accept them, and those who either cannot or will not accept the distinction. The conceptual war is between those who are rational and those who are not. That war permeates the human condition. It is fought within each individual, and nearly any group of people divided in any way contains some number of the enemy. In the United States, for example, there is a constant battle of ideas about how democracy should guide our law, and about whether some laws are based in religious dogma- which would violate Constitutional law. On another level, there are individuals who are citizens of the United States who take all sides in the Middle East conflict. Then this swirling mass of contradiction must project one national policy regarding the Jews and the Muslims. This conceptual war permeates additionally the individuals in the populations of all other nations of course, including those in the Middle East.

And of course the nations that represent those people put forth policy. The two religious bodies involved in the Middle East conflict share a major policy flaw: They both accept without question the notion that nations may be built upon premises that are anti-individual. We all appear to accept the idea that such a thing as an Islamic or Jewish state can exist rightfully. The very idea means that the state will administer justice unfairly. The concept embodies divisiveness.

From time to time I’ll hear someone ask “why are the Jews so hated?” Underlying other possible answers to that question is that fundamental concept of divisiveness. For any group of people to define themselves according to what separates them from other individuals is to be divisive by definition. When one group draws a line in the sand, it’s likely the line will be challenged, and there need not be any other provocation than the line itself. The problem with the Jewish state of Israel is the problem of most: It’s Un-American.

The distinction is quite official. One need only look at the founding document of each nation to discover the fundamental flaw in Israel’s composition. The Declaration of Independence of the United States makes no reference to established religion or ethnicity in forming the justification for the existence of the nation. In fact it negates forcefully this proposition when it simply states that self-evidence shows that “all men are create equal”.

The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel borrows nothing from the logic of the US declaration. It references biblical adherence, racial lineage, and a history of struggle that bonds “the Jewish people” to that land and which justifies the formation of the nation of Israel. While the document explicitly states that citizens of Israel will have equal rights regardless of race or religion, the proximity of those assurances within a document that is focused on one point- that this land is for the Jewish people- makes them ring especially hollow. Imagine if our founding document were to say that America is being established for white Christian people, but that other races and religions will have equal rights in this white Christian nation. It seems absurd because it is absurd. What Israel demands through its declaration is something that no group of individuals can rightfully claim from the opinions of mankind: The legal validation of its heritage.

Clearly the average Israeli is an individual who just wants to live a peaceful life, and clearly Israel for the most part is as democratic and freedom-loving as the United States. Unfortunately, however, the charter is racist- and that will always catalyze conflict. It must change before there can be peace in the Middle East. The Jews must reform their views, and reflect that fact in their charter to one end: to yield to the demands of capitalism.

What about the Muslims?

 

When tensions between Muslims and Jews in the Middle East, the debate always centers on who is good or evil in the conflict. While the question may have relevance in a particular battle or violent act, it doesn’t make sense in general. Christians, Jews, Muslims, like any other group of people, are on the same developmental path. The difference is the in the location of the percentages of individuals in each group along that path.

At the beginning of that path, each individual is a violent dogmatic bigot. At the end of that path is a free tolerant capitalist.  It’s pretty easy to note development along this path in an American example: the views of violent dogmatic bigots against black Americans through the present. Black Americans suffered everything from inconvenience to outright murder in great numbers early in 20th Century America. A significant percentage of white Americans had unreasonable negative perceptions of black Americans, and plenty of those were willing to act on those beliefs. Over time those people got older. Some got wiser, but mostly they just died, and this was good. As they died, the influence they had on their children and those around them got weaker and the influence of reason in the lives of their offspring got stronger. This can happen relatively quickly in a free society. That speed is increased, incidentally, as communications technology develops. Violent dogmatic racist bigots still exist in America, but they are few and they generate overwhelming popular disdain.

The next example is Christianity. American Christianity is now at a pretty comfortable point along our bigot->capitalist path. This makes it pretty easy to forget that they’ve had representatives at certain points in history that have been just as violent and deadly as those from any other religious group. I’ll coin a term for what has happened to Christianity in America: Santazation. Christianity has been wrapped up in a beautiful package with a bow on top and placed carefully under a sparkly Douglas fir tree, where it belongs. The Jews aren’t far behind- they just have that one “evil founding document” problem they need to address. When Jerusalem becomes the international amusement park that would do Walt Disney proud, then it will have been santasized. I’ll be the first in line to the Temple Mount roller coaster.

The Muslims have all too many members who are still in that awkward “kill people to prove how deeply you believe in something that makes you better than they are in the eyes of your peers” phase. This wouldn’t be particularly special except weapons are a lot more dangerous now than when Christian extremists were killing people. This didn’t make much difference to you if you were the one being drawn and quartered, of course, but it is particularly dangerous for free people who are lucky enough to still be around. When people are beyond reason and dangerous, they must be stopped with force. That’s the only choice unfortunately.

In order to win that greater war, we will have to be the best capitalists we can be- because that freedom is our only advantage. We are making some mistakes in this regard, and fixing them is the topic of The Answers to All the World’s Problems. Buy it because I earned the money.

 

Copyright 2006 Kenneth Shipman

 

 

 

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Michelle Obama illustrating her ventriloquist technique sans  dummy



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