Monday, August 25, 2008

Peace Nerd II

On Wings of Comity and Subsidiarity

By John Taylor; 2008 Aug 25, 06 Asma, 165 BE

In yesterday's Peace Nerd essay we talked about the principles of peace as tools for ese small coops, administered largely by farmers, teachers and doctors, would scientifically mediate the shifting needs of the economy at the grassroots level. Farmers would be empowered to ensure that food is grown as close as possible to those who eat it and would oversee every roof, yard and garden in both urban and rural settings. Doctors would see that the lifestyle of all is attuned to optimum mental and physical health. Teachers would oversee an apprenticeship program aimed at involving every local citizen in optimum, productive work, even if it is unpaid, bartered or volunteer service.

Doing as much work as locally as possible is not only ecologically and
culturally sound, it is the application of a principle of federalism
known as subsidiarity. Subsidiarity is, according to Wikipedia, "an organizing principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority." ( They cite the OED, which says that it is the idea that "a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed effectively at a more immediate or local level." Subsidiarity is not mindless delegation, it is the result of the fact that those who are closest to a problem are usually in the best position to solve it.

Subsidiarity means that the three prime physical needs -- food, clothing and shelter -- would devolve by default to the neighbourhood economy. The storage of cars and bicycles in garages would be handled by transportation specialists. Handyman activities would take place in local studios and workshops. Every bathroom would be public property; shower, bath and toilet facilities would be cleaned and renovated according to strict schedules in order to avoid wasted water and assure that sewage is disposed of and composted properly. Kitchens would be cooperative and tied into the products of local growers; incentives, overseen by dieticians, would encourage each citizen to improve their diet. Those not inclined to work in cooperative gardens and kitchens would pay for their meals to be delivered directly to the dining area of their family compound.

Since early human origins, the evening meal has been a source not only of physical nourishment but of spiritual, social, political and
intellectual nutrition as well. Centralization, competition, corporatization and other corruptive influences of our war economy subjugate the primal institution of communal breaking of bread. In this system meals would be treated with the utmost seriousness since from it comes the most essential quality of a peaceful economy: comity.

Comity comes from the Latin word for courtesy and it is defined as civility, a "state of mutual harmony, friendship and respect." Communal meals, properly run, tend to create a spirit of hospitality in local institutions. This propagates and promotes comity in other relations throughout the day. Living in a comity allows for the other Sine Qua Non of peace, polity. Polity, as delineated by Aristotle, is the complementary balancing factor to subsidiarity: it is the willingness of the part to subordinate itself to the interests of the whole. Like two legs that work together in walking, subsidiarity and comity trade off one another. Earlier this summer this blog examined a perfect example of how they go together locally. We looked in detail at Abdu'l-Baha's proposal, given in an address to socialists in Montreal, for local storehouses, where all wealth, including even mineral rights, is fed into a local, public bank, which (applying subsidiarity) assures the welfare of every local worker and enterprise. Then, according to the principle of comity, it surrenders without struggle not some but all surplus wealth to higher levels of government.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

War Nerds and Peaceniks

note: my other mailing program died, so this is a new way to send it to you. Let me know if your address got on when you no longer want to receive these frequent mailings from the Badi' Blog.

fyi, we are going to Louhelen Baha'i School next week. The artists in this family will be attending a workshop by Don Rogers. I will be sitting idle, so do come and keep me company if you can.

p12 The Peace Nerd

By John Taylor; 2008 Aug 23, 04 Asma, 165 BE

A friend linked me to an American writer, Gary Brecher, who calls himself the "war nerd." Good name. As a student of the principles, maybe I should call myself the "peace nerd." Today, let us try to earn that title.

This "war nerd" guy uses frank, even course, language but is witty and infectiously enthusiastic about his favorite thing, war and the techniques and strategies it involves; his articles are funny, shocking, outspoken. He is exceptionally well informed about the military aspects of the recent conflict in Georgia, and demonstrates this in his article: "South Ossetia, The War of My Dreams," (

He points out that for one thing, Georgians are hardly the saints the Western media is painting them as. They and indeed the whole area are extremely bitter, benighted and brutal. The whole region is a cauldron of hate for one's neighbour. One thing I did not realize was that, according to Brecher, Georgian troops were in the front ranks of Hulugu Khan's rape of Baghdad and committed its worst atrocities several centuries ago. This was one of the darkest hours ever for civilization. This holocaust tore the heart out of Islamic culture permanently; it was a horror, a destructive blackout strategically makes Mao, Hitler and Stalin's atrocities look like minor power outages. Interesting that Christian Georgians were the shock troops there.

I liked the war nerd's article so much that I read through several other of the many high-quality articles on the pro-Russian online publication, "The Exiled." I found one more by him, "Iraq, Iran, IRAM!" ( In this Brecher describes technical innovations mixed with incompetence of the insurgents fighting American soldiers in Iraq. He starts off saying,

"One of the best things about war is that it's a huge IQ booster. The only people who use their brains in peacetime are the suits: salesmen, real-estate agents. The rest of us just slog along for the pay check, get home and get on the computer so we can have a virtual war. But once real war comes to town, every guy turns into MacGyver, thinking up ways to convert harmless civilian items like alarm clocks and remotes into killing devices."

Indeed. Horrible as war is, it calls forth qualities from the average person, such as adaptability and intelligence, that civilian life and day-to-day work tend to stifle. Brecher puts it well: cleverness is not in demand in ordinary, quotidian existence, which is a good supplemental point to the one William James made in his famous 1901 speech and essay "The Moral Equivalent to War." At the start, James pointed out,

"The military feelings are too deeply grounded to abdicate their place among our ideals until better substitutes are offered than the glory and shame that come to nations as well as to individuals from the ups and downs of politics and the vicissitudes of trade." (

This is true. Even the train-wreck in slow motion we call global warming is not galvanizing us to action. Long term survival issues do not have nearly the attention grabbing effect that even minor conflicts like those in Iraq, Afghanistan and Georgia have.

Yet, the Baha'i principles could easily do that if they were incorporated into our basic education. They could turn everybody, from kings and presidents to those guys who clean out portable latrines into their own MacGyvers building tools of peace and reconciliation.

The Master put the problem very succinctly: war is death and peace is life. Peace is the most urgent survival issue, and has to come before everything else. Comenius points out that that is the very reason for being of politics: the establishment of peace. If you are not after peace, if you are not a peace nerd, do not even get into politics.

And as the Georgian conflict demonstrates, the oldest causus belli of them all, mere squabbling over territory and national borders, is not outmoded or a thing of the past. It can break out at any time and rapidly escalate into regional conflict. This will always be a clear and present danger as long as we leave things as they are. Where are the peace nerds? Let us go through the principles and imagine how they might be rigged up to save us all.

Individual Search for Truth, or Independent Investigation of Reality

The title says it all. Put all effort and attention to making yourself a peace nerd, since the central fact of human existence is that we are designed for life, not to die by the sword. Nuff said.

Oneness of Humanity

The oneness of humanity teaches that we are one in essentials, and diverse only in what is particular and limited in scope. These differences, being ephemeral, are not worth fighting over.

William James in the above mentioned essay suggests as an alternative to military wars a war against nature. Today we know that if we war against nature we only kill ourselves. It is true that we can see a war against nature more narrowly, as a fight against certain viruses, bacilli and other pests, but that surely is only a rear-guard action. We need to pick out the real causes of war among ourselves and fight them.

War can only exist in the power vacuum created by a majority of the population utterly neglecting these first two pivotal, principles, search and oneness. The consciousness of the oneness of humanity teaches that the only way to permanent peace is for everybody to see everybody else as on the same side in a shooting war not against each other but against the real enemies of humanity: falsity, ignorance and imitation.

The real fight, the Most Great War, has to be for unity, comity and world order, which is to say, God. To win this spiritual war all we have to do is live the examined life instilled by the first principle, investigation of reality. As soon as we grasp our inner oneness, we will be at peace with our neighbour. With that on firm ground, we have no choice; we must see each other as one since all were created of a loving God. This will expunge from mind and heart all perceived need for the ideas, illusions, imitations and prejudices that lead to war.

Oneness of Faith

The real moral equivalent of war is faith, the fight to honestly confront our mortality and meet our God. We make that into a principle if we act on the knowledge we gain from that encounter, and on nothing less. Faith is to meet our Maker not just at the moment we die but in every moment of conscious life. It is to imitate the God who created the universe and nurtures it and us every second of our lives. We were made not just for here and now but for all time, we are designed to pray and reflect and to act upon that. On the other hand, to be unfaithful, to be lazy and imitate lesser things is to fertilize the root causes of war.

If too many let their spiritual side go fallow, wars will break out like brushfires in a parched forest. But if we support one another in bolstering our spiritual strength, religion will cease to be a cause of war and will become a pillar of peacemaking.

Harmony of Science and Religion

We are living in a world where not only innovation but money and knowledge are systematically drained away into weaponry and other machineries of war. That is why the average person lives a boring, desperate life that can only be galvanized by a shooting war. When faith and science are reconciled, the flow will reverse itself. Money and talent will turn to peaceful ends, one of the most important of which is to make life interesting and challenging for everybody.

So, our goal as peace nerds is to substitute the military lust into an urge for peace, to make war-tooled industry into an educational endeavour, to turn our globe into a huge school, what Comenius called a "factory of light." Our challenge is to turn stultifying workplaces to activity as involving as an insurgency. To do that we will surely need to summon up all the faith and knowledge at our command.

Elimination of Prejudice

As we learn to think for ourselves and we come to a realization of our essential oneness as human beings, we immediately realize that prejudice of some kind is at the root of every war, conflict and dispute. `I have seen the enemy, and he is our own idle, slipshod thoughts.' It does no good to fret about how the Web is allowing hate groups to proliferate, how calumny, gossip and backbiting not only between individuals but among races and ethnic groups gain force and how old parochialism and hatreds are strengthened by new technical means. These manifold dangers will continue to spread as long as we fail to follow through on an idea as old as modern science.

In the 16th Century Francis Bacon proposed "tables of error," databases that would compile, display and refute common misconceptions. Yet today, in spite of our advanced technical understanding, we forget that science (and faith) are not all about finding truth, they must also be concerned with expunging falsity. The problem is that, as Heraclitus pointed out, truth loves to hide.

This principle of elimination of prejudice teaches that just as all living organisms absorb good chemicals and eliminate useless ones, the search for truth must involve the rejection of wrongs. We all therefore have a prime duty to make a vigorous effort to expunge errors, prejudices and superstition from not only our own thoughts as individual but the public realm as well.

Faith groups, scientists and government leaders must come together and agree on what is essential, what is clearly right and wrong, and what must be left aside as a matter of conscience. Then they must act together on this resolution, protecting those who hold to matters of conscience from persecution, propagating officially-recognized knowledge that that everybody should know and recognize, and at the same time systematically refuting all lies and falsities, and especially those that might lead to war.

Equality of the Sexes

It is a glaring fact of modern life that wars and conflicts mostly take place where women are kept out of public life. Georgia, Iraq, Afghanistan, the list goes on. Even in peaceful regions women are not advancing as quickly as they must in order for disarmament and other measures for stable peace to be put on the table. This problem, then, is not an exclusively feminist issue. Indeed every peace nerd and "principle-nik" must constantly bear the equality of women in mind.

I have been suggesting the idea of a merit flag for every nation and region. Present flags display whatever a national government decides to put on it. Why not have a badge or symbol that is worth something, that they earn? Why not a merit symbol, some kind of flag or badge sanctioned by a world government whose contents are designed and adjudicated by a world body of statisticians? This would have no end of usefulness for the peace nerd.

Link every nation or region's merit flag (MF) directly to established statistical measures of well-being and happiness of the people who live there. If a nation wants to have colors on its MF, then let it have at least fifty percent women as its leaders. If it wants bright colours, let it pay and employ women equitably throughout its civil service and other work places. Otherwise, their websites and other public displays will be required to show only a dull or monochrome flag.

If a place's merit is flagged publicly, it would become impossible to hide misogyny and other systemic injustices. If a locale wants to get rid of the black splotches that turn up on their MF caused by sexual inequity, let them treat their women and minorities better. With such in-your-face publicity it would be very hard to maintain complacency. As things are now, chauvinistic national pride blindly sanctions every war that an oligarchic minority decides is in its interest. With MF's, anybody who wants to express legitimate patriotism will have to earn whatever they take pride in.

Next time, let us talk about the economic principles of becoming a peace nerd.

Friday, August 22, 2008

p14 dependability virtue: don't let the angels down

Some angels grumble: by Persian poet Hafiz

Every time
a man upon the path
does not keep his word
some angels grumble
and have to remove
a few of the bets
they had placed upon his heart
to win.

Anna's Presentation

This is a well done version of the Ruhi Institute's canned intro to the Faith.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Crowds, Utopia and the Most Great Revolution

By John Taylor; 2008 Aug 21, 02 Asma, 165 BE


I have finished "Men Like Gods" by H.G. Wells, and have gone over some of secondary literature about this lesser-known book of the pioneer of science fiction. The author himself complained that Men Like Gods was no money-maker; and after writing it, he concluded that this path of speculation about the future was unproductive. Most important for me, the novel has a message just for me. Speak up! This world is dystopic because good people do not stand up for what is right. We let bad, ambitious primitives set the agenda. Like the protagonist of the story, I have been too reticent and passive for too long. This, for me, is the biggest lesson from this novel. The protagonist, Mr. Barnstaple, concludes at the end of the novel:


 "Tens and hundred of thousands of men and women! And we achieve so little! Perhaps every young man and every young woman has had some dream at least of serving and bettering the world. And we are scattered and wasted, and the old things and the foul things, customs, delusions, habits, tolerated treasons, base immediacies, triumph over us!"


 An interesting aspect of Wells' Utopia in this novel is the intentional sparseness of the human population. He envisions a rational world government settling on a total world population of only 250 million, and these few spreading themselves out into rural areas. The utopians do not even congregate in villages, much less in cities. Their houses and farms are widely distributed around the earth, and they communicate rather than associate.


 I think the reverse, that if we design efficient, flexible urban neighbourhoods to encourage diversity, mobility and creativity in a small space, we would be a long ways closer to a real utopia.


 I admit though that my own utopian fantasies always agreed with Wells on this until a few years ago when I read Jane Jacobs. She makes a persuasive point that it is only when we jam ourselves together into cities that we ever attain the heights of creativity. Even in the earliest known settlements, thousands of years ago, it was the city that came up with great inventions, including that of agriculture. Rural areas follow. As a result of this discovery, it is clear that if a future civilization ever did spread out like they do in Men Like Gods, they would cease to innovate. They would atrophy and die in a few generations. We are inherently social beings. Isolating ourselves from one another would spell the end of civilization, not only literally but metaphorically as well. The virtues we call "civilized" are all forced upon us by the challenges of living close to one another. If we never meet, we cannot progress materially, emotionally or mentally. Humans desperately need to live in close proximity, to mix chaotically, before they can come up with fundamental innovation, especially in major things like infrastructure.


 Another advantage of high density living is that it has the smallest environmental footprint. Urban conditions, because of economies of scale and shared infrastructure, proportionately are the easiest lifestyle on the environment. Wealthy people imagine they are helping the environment by building homes in delicate ecosystems, but in reality they end up doing terrible harm to what they claim to value. Because of that, it is clear that any real-life utopias of the future will have to be highly urban in construction.


 An interesting aspect of this utopia is Wells' take on race and the race problem. He envisions love affairs among the races but little reproduction. The races do not associate, even after thousands of years of contact on a united planet. He does not anticipate the great genetic discovery of the Twentieth Century, that race does not even exist, that its differences are physically negligible. Nor does he regard what is fundamental in the mind of a Baha'i: that we need to encourage mixing and other forms of diversity, not only for its own sake but as proof that we have understood and applied the true fundamental of life: that Spirit comes first.


 Before, I talked about Wells' peculiar assumption that religion will atrophy as a united human race "outgrows" the needs that it addresses. Wells treats politics with similar distain. Life as separate, private individuals suffices the Utopians. To me it seems a lonely, solitary life that, after a few weeks, would become tedious. He does not see any form of government outlasting the dark "age of confusion." Families, cities, nations, world government, all fade away along with the confusion. The family fades away as an institution; children have little contact with adults for the first decade of their lives.


 Wells abhors the subversive, traitorous leanings of groups. They train members to bully "traitors" who show any care about society at all. They always put their own good before the general interest and they degrade into violent mobs and corrupt mafia. Crowds are inherently capricious, irrational and evil. As a member of England's lower-middle class in Victorian England, Wells also knew first hand the superiority and arrogance that class pride breeds. Clearly, Wells was bullied early on by at least one group. Although a socialist, he nurses in his breast a deep suspicion of all forms of collectivism. Dislike of cliquism kept him from being wholly sympathetic to Fabianism, socialism or Marxism, in spite of close sympathy with their goal of justice for all.


 I think it was Rousseau who said that if everybody were perfect, democracy would be the only viable form of government. Wells sees no need even for democracy. If we all got our heads straight there would not be any need to make decisions all the time, we could trust a small group to do the right thing on our behalf. It is true that this utopia has a sort of world government, but unlike anything we know. It is more like a SIG, an interest group, an aquarium society or stamp club than the awe inspiring monolith that we would call a government. The world government is small group of people with a specialized interest in world problems who get together, come to a consensus and move forward. No, I am wrong, they do not even meet in person, they discuss matters from a distance and decide based on common consensus. All emotional as well as physical needs that the machineries of government had addressed in the ages of confusion are gone with the wind; they all turned out not to be fundamental or permanent.


 The great merit of the Men Like Gods utopia is its realization that education has to be the foundation of all. The constant enquiry of the utopians seduces the hero of the story, as it did me. My utopia would be a lot more crowded and connected than Wells' utopia, but in this respect it would be identical.


 Although this novel was written when the evil of Bolshevism was barely crawling out of its cradle and had only partly devoured its parents, Wells sees its role in history with surprising clarity. Socialism is only a prelude, an ugly fit on the way to the real revolution, a revolution that can and must lead to utopia for the whole world. This is what Baha'is call the Kingdom of God.




 "We could do it."

 And suddenly it was borne in upon Mr. Barnstaple that he belonged now soul and body to the Revolution, to the Great Revolution that is afoot on earth; that marches and will never desist nor rest again until Old Earth is one city and Utopia set up therein. He knew clearly that this Revolution is life, and that all other living is a trafficking of life with death. And as this crystallized out in his mind he knew instantly that so presently it would crystallize out in the minds of countless others of those hundreds of thousands of men and women on earth whom minds are set towards Utopia.

 He stood up. He began walking to and fro. "We shall do it," he said.

 Earthly thought was barely awakened as yet to the task and possibilities before mankind. All human history so far had been no more than the stirring of a sleeper, a gathering discontent, a rebellion against the limitations set upon life, the unintelligent protest of thwarted imaginations. All the conflicts and insurrections and revolutions that had ever been on earth were but indistinct preludes of the revolution that has still to come.

 When he had started out upon this fantastic holiday Mr. Barnstaple realized he had been in a mood of depression; earthly affairs had seemed utterly confused and hopeless to him; but now from the view-point of Utopia achieved, and with his health renewed, he could see plainly enough how steadily men on earth were feeling their way now, failure after failure, towards the opening drive of the final revolution. He could see how men in his own lifetime had been struggling out of such entanglements as the lie of monarchy, the lies of dogmatic religion and dogmatic morality towards public self-respect and cleanness of mind and body. They struggled now also towards international charity and the liberation of their common economic life from a network of pretences, dishonesties and impostures. There is confusion in all struggles; retractions and defeats; but the whole effect seen from the calm height of Utopia was one of steadfast advance....

 There were blunders, there were set-backs, because the forces of revolution still worked in the twilight. The great effort and the great failure of the socialist movement to create a new state in the world had been contemporaneous with Mr. Barnstaple's life; socialism had been the gospel of his boyhood; he had participated in its hopes, its doubts, its bitter internal conflicts.

 He had seen the movement losing sweetness and gathering force in the narrowness of the Marxist formulae. He had seen it sacrifice its constructive power for militant intensity. In Russia he had marked its ability to overthrow and its inability to plan or build. Like every liberal spirit in the world he had shared the chill of Bolshevik presumption and Bolshevik failure, and for a time it had seemed to him that this open bankruptcy of a great creative impulse was no less and no more than a victory for reaction, that it gave renewed life to all the shams, impostures, corruptions, traditional anarchies and ascendencies that restrain and cripple human life....

 But now from this high view-point in Utopia he saw clearly that the Phoenix of Revolution flames down to ashes only to be born again. While the noose is fitted round the Teacher's neck the youths are reading his teaching. Revolutions arise and die; the Great Revolution comes incessantly and inevitably.

 The time was near--and in what life was left to him, he himself might help to bring it nearer--when the forces of that last and real revolution would work no longer in the twilight but in the dawn, and a thousand sorts of men and women now far apart and unorganized and mutually antagonistic would be drawn together by the growth of a common vision of the world desired.

 The Marxist had wasted the forces of revolution for fifty years... He had estranged all scientific and able men by his pompous affectation of the scientific; he had terrified them by his intolerant orthodoxy; his delusion that all ideas are begotten by material circumstances had made him negligent of education and criticism. He had attempted to build social unity on hate and rejected every other driving force for the bitterness of a class war.

 But now, in its days of doubt and exhaustion, vision was returning to Socialism, and the dreary spectacle of a proletarian dictatorship gave way once more to Utopia, to the demand for a world fairly and righteously at peace, its resources husbanded and exploited for the common good, its every citizen freed not only from servitude but from ignorance, and its surplus energies directed steadfastly to the increase of knowledge and beauty.

 The attainment of that vision by more and more minds was a thing now no longer to be prevented. Earth would tread the path Utopia had trod. She too would weave law, duty and education into a larger sanity than man has ever known. Men also would presently laugh at the things they had feared, and brush aside the impostures that had overawed them and the absurdities that had tormented and crippled their lives. And as this great revolution was achieved and earth wheeled into daylight, the burthen of human miseries would lift, and courage oust sorrow from the hearts of men.

 Earth, which was now no more than a wilderness, sometimes horrible and at best picturesque, a wilderness interspersed with weedy scratchings for food and with hovels and slums and slag-heaps, earth too would grow rich with loveliness and fair as this great land was fair. The sons of earth also, purified from disease, sweet-minded and strong and beautiful, would go proudly about their conquered planet and lift their daring to the stars.

 "Given the will," said Mr. Barnstaple. "Given only the will."...

p23 We are soldiers in God's Army

Some of my sweetest memories of youth come from the time when I was on the Army of Light teaching teams in Alaska singing this song. Marian Johnson was running it back then. I taught in Anchorage and Juneau. This version is an excellent vocalist.

tgos Avoid the Backbiting Curse

Backbiting Music Video from Polynesia

p39 Shoghi Effendi

A video Tribute to Shoghi Effendi

for more Baha'i videos:

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

p16 Nature, gods and men

Men Like Gods, or God-like Men?

By John Taylor; 2008 Aug 18, 18 Kamal, 165 BE

I am almost finished H.G. Wells' utopian novel, "Men Like Gods," but I cannot resist commenting on it again. The story is set in 1921, the year the Master ascended, and is about an ordinary guy, a frustrated magazine editor, an optimist whose boss forces him to write dreary, pessimistic material. He comes down with "neurasthenia," the current rubric for exhaustion, and decides to take a driving holiday. Going nowhere in particular he passes through what we now would call an inter-dimensional wormhole. He meets a far more advanced civilization where women and men are like, well, gods. he calls them Utopians. For them, war is a thing of the past, as are diseases and even vermin and noxious insects. I like Wells' summary of the mental illnesses that had been prevalent in their ancient, primitive history,

"In the past of Utopia, in the Age of Confusion ... everyone had grown up with a crippled or a thwarted will, hampered by vain restrictions or misled by plausible delusions. Utopia still bore it in mind that human nature was fundamentally animal and savage and had to be adapted to social needs, but Utopia had learnt the better methods of adaptation -- after endless failures of compulsion, cruelty and deception.

"On earth we tame our animals with hot irons and our fellow men by violence and fraud," said Mr. Barnstaple, and described the schools and books, newspapers and public discussions of the early twentieth century to his incredulous companion. "You cannot imagine how beaten and fearful even decent people are upon earth. You learn of the Age of Confusion in your histories but you do not know what the realities of a bad mental atmosphere, an atmosphere of feeble laws, hates and superstitions, are. As night goes round the earth always there are hundreds of thousands of people who should be sleeping, lying awake, fearing a bully, fearing a cruel competition, dreading lest they cannot make good, ill of some illness they cannot comprehend, distressed by some irrational quarrel, maddened by some thwarted instinct or some suppressed and perverted desire."... (H.G. Wells, Men Like Gods (1923)

This is a parlous time, truly an age of confusion. Secret, inner fear, real and imagined, predominates while at the same time in external relationships, violence and abuse justifies the prophesy of fear. It is almost a century since Wells wrote this novel and we are no better off now, no closer to Utopia than then. The invention of computers and the internet has only drawn us further apart, given us as it were more mental space in which to roam. When we do come together, when it comes to making hard decisions or distributing wealth equitably, we are every bit as primitive, greedy and aggressive as the earth characters in Men Like Gods.

While it is clear that Wells was heavily influenced by Comenius -- for example he clearly agrees with Comenius that education has to be the predominating preoccupation of any future utopia -- Wells lacks the faith in God that has to be the basis of even worldly progress, much less eternal advancement through all the worlds of God. H.G. Wells' vision of our future is wholly secular, like the more recent world of Star Trek or Lennon's song "Imagine," where he asks us to imagine the people living as one and "there is no religion too (sic)." This is an insidious, ubiquitous presupposition of our age that once we progress beyond a certain point we will reach an upland where there will no longer be any need of faith and piety. We will outgrow such childishness of our youth and will simply not need to know and worship the Almighty. Nor will we need to treat sex and marriage as anything more than what our bodies are, a temporary union doomed sooner or later to disintegrate...

"Much of the every-day misery of earth was now inconceivable. Very slowly Utopia had evolved its present harmony of law and custom and education. Man was no longer crippled and compelled; it was recognized that he was fundamentally an animal and that his daily life must follow the round of appetites satisfied and instincts released. The daily texture of Utopian life was woven of various and interesting foods and drinks, of free and entertaining exercise and work, of sweet sleep and of the interest and happiness of fearless and spiteless love-making. Inhibition was at a minimum. But where the power of Utopian education began was after the animal had been satisfied and disposed of. The jewel on the reptile's head that had brought Utopia out of the confusions of human life, was curiosity, the play impulse, prolonged and expanded in adult life into an insatiable appetite for knowledge and an habitual creative urgency. All Utopians had become as little children, learners and makers.”

Here is why I find Comenius such a breath of fresh air. He refuses to believe that the sailboat of human progress will get anywhere without the wind of divine confirmation. And what a contrast Wells' future is with Abdu'l-Baha's teaching! He held that we progress only through the teachings of God and His holy Manifestations. We could no more thrive without God than the earth would if the sun were somehow switched off. Without a sun there would not only be no utopia, there would be no life at all.

The proposal that humans depend on God in the same way that the earth depends on the sun grates against one of our most basic instincts. I have been noticing this even in our children's class. This summer, in preparation for the upcoming commemorations of His Canadian visit in early September, we have been slowly going through the Master's talks given in Montreal. How strongly the kids resist this fundamental presupposition of the Master! They consider it an insult to their beloved animals to say that they are incomplete, imperfect, or lacking in anything. Anything we can do, they can do too. So, when I read the opening sentences of the Master's third recorded talk at the Maxwell residence, I got an instant and violent reaction.

"Nature is the material world. When we look upon it, we see that it is dark and imperfect. For instance, if we allow a piece of land to remain in its natural condition, we will find it covered with thorns and thistles; useless weeds and wild vegetation will flourish upon it, and it will become like a jungle. The trees will be fruitless, lacking beauty and symmetry; wild animals, noxious insects and reptiles will abound in its dark recesses. This is the incompleteness and imperfection of the world of nature. To change these conditions, we must clear the ground and cultivate it so that flowers may grow instead of thorns and weeds -- that is to say, we must illumine the dark world of nature. In their primal natural state, the forests are dim, gloomy, and impenetrable. Man opens them to the light, clears away the tangled underbrush and plants fruitful trees. Soon the wild woodlands and jungle are changed into productive orchards and beautiful gardens; order has replaced chaos; the dark realm of nature has become illumined and brightened by cultivation."

It does not matter that with the strongest admonitions and threats fail to persuade Silvie to stick her nose outside the house for fear of stinging bees and biting mosquitoes, nature is perfect and humankind is the bad guy. Now that I think of it, this is the overwhelming message of environmentalism. It will take a better teacher than me to persuade them of this point. I can only keep ploughing through the book and hope that the words of the Master will do what I failed at. Maybe my readers can suggest a better approach.

Monday, August 18, 2008

p02 Oneness of Humanity

Amazing long term history of the human race. We were reduced to a mere 2000 humans only 60,000 years ago, at the end of the great ice age.

human origins project

Sunday, August 17, 2008

2 Research Reports

By John Taylor; 2008 Aug 17, 17 Kamal, 165 BE

The Three Onenesses; a lesson

Imagine a chicken, a pile of straw and a cow. Which two of these go together? According to a recent editorial in the New York Times about Oriental collectivism and Western individualism, this simple choice was given in the form of a test to Westerners and Orientals. It was found consistently that Americans grouped the chicken and the cow together, and Chinese put the cow and the pile of hay together. The Easterners reasoned that cows eat hay, so they should go together; in other words, Westerners think categorically and Orientals functionally.

Just after I read that I gave this test to my nine-year-old son, Tomas. His answer was, "Well, my answer would be the cow and the chicken, but really I would like to put all three of them together, since all are found on a farm." I am blessed by having several Chinese student pilots as friends and I am looking forward to finding how they answer the test when I see them next.

Meantime, here is another test. Think of all the friends and other relationships that you have ever had in your whole life. How would you boil them all down? Would you group them categorically or functionally, or both? If you had to divide them into only three types of relation, what would you choose? How can you simply and concisely sum up, every person you have ever contacted, like the chicken, hay and cow test? How would you do it?

I'm reading the new volume of Jan Amos Comenius's Panorthosia that arrived in our mailbox a few days ago. Early on in this work of genius, Comenius offers a perfect, succinct and definitive answer to this question.

There are, he says, and can only be three kinds of relationship. We can either relate to ourselves, or we can relate to other people, or we can meet our God. That is it. Three and three only. Eureka! It was before me all this time and I did not see it. Here are the three onenesses. Oneness of self, or search for reality, the oneness of humanity and the oneness of God. They fit together in function as well as form. I have been studying the principles for decades, and I had never connected them in that way. How stupid I really am. I have been lost and deluded by my categorical bias, and typical Westerner, I failed to see the functional relations among the three onenesses.

My nine-year-old did not miss this. He wanted to group all three, the chicken, the hay and the cow in one group, farming objects. The oneness of all three oneness is the "pan" in panorthosia, the universality or oneness behind the multiplicity in this world. I can now see that Baha'u'llah did not miss this either, blind though I was to His wisdom. In his famous "fundamental" statement he says that God's purpose is to "safeguard the interests" (relationship with self), "promote the unity" (relations between human and human) and to "foster the spirit of love and fellowship amongst men" (God is love).

Research Report (written a few days later)

Yesterday I was in the Dunnville library looking for another work by this author when I started reading H.G. Wells 1923 novel "Men Like Gods," mostly because it was on the shelves and "World Brain" was not. It is a remarkable story about an alternate universe or dimension where the inhabitants, rather than fighting and competing, got it right and created a paradise.

These people, known as Utopians, communicate silently, rather in the way that the Master suggested we do in His London talk to the Quakers (published at the end of Paris Talks). That is, they communicate by means of silent thought transferance rather than clumsily articulating everything in words. Not being dependent upon sounds, they communicate with the surprised visitors, who simply drove there in their cars, hitting some kind of inter-demensional portal on a stretch of road within sight of Windsor Castle.

What a great idea! Reflective communication. Our primitive sound and symbol based tongues engender a thousand traps and pitfalls with every word; I really think that if we all sharpened our meditation skills we would not need to open our mouths as much as we do. We could be just like the Utopians in Wells' story. Last night I got as far as this passage, where religion is introduced; the Twentieth Century visitors, including a bored father named Mr. Barnstaple and a religious thinker, Father Amerton, are telepathically being introduced to utopian history and philosophy of the Utopians by one of their leading lights, Urthred. They had had an era of contention like ours, which they called the Age of Confusion,


from: Men Like Gods, Section 5

"What happened, Mr. Barnstaple gathered, was a deliberate change in Utopian thought. A growing number of people were coming to understand that amidst the powerful and easily released forces that science and organization had brought within reach of man, the old conception of social life in the state, as a limited and legalized struggle of men and women to get the better of one another, was becoming too dangerous to endure, just as the increased dreadfulness of modern weapons was making the separate sovereignty of nations too dangerous to endure. There had to be new ideas and new conventions of human association if history was not to end in disaster and collapse.

"All societies were based on the limitation by laws and taboos and treaties of the primordial fierce combativeness of the ancestral man-ape; that ancient spirit of self-assertion had now to undergo new restrictions commensurate with the new powers and dangers of the race. The idea of competition to possess, as the ruling idea of intercourse, was, like some ill-controlled furnace, threatening to consume the machine it had formerly driven. The idea of creative service had to replace it. To that idea the human mind and will had to be turned if social life was to be saved. Propositions that had seemed, in former ages, to be inspired and exalted idealism began now to be recognized not simply as sober psychological truth but as practical and urgently necessary truth. In explaining this Urthred expressed himself in a manner that recalled to Mr. Barnstaple's mind certain very familiar phrases; he seemed to be saying that whosoever would save his life should lose it, and that whosoever would give his life should thereby gain the whole world.

"Father Amerton's thoughts, it seemed, were also responding in the same manner. For he suddenly interrupted with: "But what you are saying is a quotation!" Urthred admitted that he had a quotation in mind, a passage from the teachings of a man of great poetic power who had lived long ago in the days of spoken words. He would have proceeded, but Father Amerton was too excited to let him do so. "But who was this teacher?" he asked. "Where did he live? How was he born? How did he die?"

(H.G. Wells, Men Like Gods (1923)


I cannot wait to get back to the story. I am aware that, like most utopian novels, this soon enough will probably turn into a dystopian fantasy. Still, I must say that I wholly identify with Mr. Barnsthorpe in this story; my life resembles his in that it is boring, he is an optimist working for pessimists, and his frustrated optimism revolves around hope, hope for a better future, for utopia.

I continue going through the Pansophia, the masterwork of Jan Amos Comenius. Also, I looked at the traces on the Web of the reaction to its publication a decade ago by leading thinkers. It was muted, to say the least. One reviewer of the book recommended H.G. Wells "World Brain" proposal as following in the tradition of the Pansophia. But I do not see it. A world encyclopedia is a step in the right direction, but it is far from enough. We have the internet today, our schools are getting to the point where every student has a computer linked to the World Wide Web, and still we are infinitely far from the world reform based on a universal, common education that Comenius planned out for us.

In what way are we coming together over what we learn?

No, it is clearer to me with every passing day that the Pansophia is one of the most important books ever written. It is the final piece in my jigsaw puzzle, the book about the Baha'i principles that has stumped me for decades. This plan for universal reform is the only way to keep the utopia of increased knowledge from sinking into yet another dystopia. The Pansophia is our only real hope to take order out of chaos, as the Utopians did in the passage above.

The only question for me, is where to start? It will take me at least another month to fully scan and absorb the two volumes of the Pansophia. What then can I write on in the meantime? Then I hit upon Chapter 21, Comenius's discussion of how to reform the family. As the head of an extended family and large household, he had ample experience with familial reform. That chapter surely is small enough to absorb and start an essay series going. In the past I looked at Kant's outline of a world constitution, and more recently on the Badi' list we looked at the idea of a constitution for the workplace. It would be perfectly natural to continue on with the idea of a family constitution, using Comenius's proposal as a reference. Plus, as a parent and homeowner, I can treat this as a hands-on project to see what works and what is, well, utopian.

Let me finish today with a passage from the end of the previous chapter, which is on personal reform, or in our terminology the principle of unfettered investigation of reality. Comenius points out quite sensibly that "the key to general happiness is to be born again and reformed in the likeness of God." Only such personal reform by each individual can accomplish this, the foundation of all reform,


"Happy is the man who succeeds in reforming himself with God's help, thereby becoming the image of God in the truest sense, representing the Maker of man and the universe like a living mirror, closely resembling Him and accepting Him. For everything that dominates other mortals is now under his control even the very limbs of his body, which otherwise lead to mischief, vice and disorder, but in his case they perform their functions in sacred silence, since his eyes are trained not to see what they should not see, his ears not to hear what they should not hear, his tongue not to speak what should not be uttered, his throat not to swallow what should not be digested, his heart not to covet what should not be coveted, and his mind not to permit thoughts that should not be thought; but on the other hand, he does his best to let God's will be done in and through him personally on earth, as it is done in and through the angels in heaven. Nothing could be more blessed than such a man, since he no longer knows any inward discontent, and God has filled him with an intimate sense of His grace, and the holy angels willingly attend him as one who has now been admitted into their fellowship, and see that no evil befalls him, and promote his interests with glad applause.

"Apart from this way of returning unto and into one's individual self and unto and into God, there is no possible hope of salvation, no peace, and no happiness. If anyone who has failed to reform himself should seek salvation from any external source, be will not find it, but will be exhausted by his search, and being exhausted be will groan, and groaning be will lament, and lamenting he will despair, and despairing be will perish, since light is only to be found in light, peace in peace, and all things in one.

"Therefore no matter who you are, you must reform yourself according to God's good pleasure and with His help, so that angels and pious men are able, as it were, to read on your forehead the inscription: 'HERE IS A SPLENDID IMAGE OF GOD.' (Panorthosia, Chapter 20, paragraphs 22-24, p. 28)

Persepolis II (thanks to Jimbo for this)

from the blurb:

Sequel to Persepolis exposes the reality of the suffering of the Baha'is in Iran since the Revolution and until today, and calls for action on their behalf. Note: The images for this clip were borrowed from Marjan Satrapi's film "Persepolis", an admirable work which serves as inspiration to us all. ...what is the condition of Iran's largest religious minority?

For more information on Baha'i human rights abuses please visit:

To see more of our work please visit:

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Several Things

Life is hectic, so I am posting directly to the blog today.

My nine-year-old son is a dedicated follower of the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. For his birthday he was set on a Nintendo DS until he saw a compendium of ever strip ever made on Calvin and Hobbes and he changed his wish to that, which I have ordered. Yesterday he found a site that allows you to make up your own comic strip called "Digital Calvin and Hobbes" and he made one up entitled: "world leader." Here is the URL of his creation:

His phonetic spelling is evident, since it starts off:

calvin: "i think i'l concor the planet todey."

He carries his stuffed tiger named Hobbes everywhere he goes. I have pictures. One of the few without Hobbes in it I selected as my entry in our fall fair photo competition under the category "children." It is called "Tracer Bullit, Private Investigator." It shows him with a rolled up paper "cigar," a plastic gun and a hat he borrowed from his grandfather. Cute. The photos are being judged today. I will share some of my other entries in due time.

Check out this article. It explains why I, at least, am an enthusiastic blogger. It keeps me healthy.

from: "The Healthy Type; June 2008; Scientific American, by Jessica Wapner.

"Self-medication may be the reason the blogosphere has taken off. Scientists (and writers) have long known about the therapeutic benefits of writing about personal experiences, thoughts and feelings. But besides serving as a stress-coping mechanism, expressive writing produces many physiological benefits. Research shows that it improves memory and sleep, boosts immune cell activity and reduces viral load in AIDS patients, and even speeds healing after surgery. A study in the February issue of the Oncologist reports that cancer patients who engaged in expressive writing just before treatment felt markedly better, mentally and physically, as compared with patients who did not.

"Scientists now hope to explore the neurological underpinnings at play, especially considering the explosion of blogs. According to Alice Flaherty, a neuroscientist at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital, the placebo theory of suffering is one window through which to view blogging. As social creatures, humans have a range of pain-related behaviors, such as complaining, which acts as a "placebo for getting satisfied," Flaherty says. Blogging about stressful experiences might work similarly.

from: Scientific American, "The Healthy Type; the therapeutic value of blogging becomes a focus of study." June 2008 p. 32

Yesterday I had to drive my sister-in-law to Toronto to talk to the immigration authorities, a long, boring drive. I relieved the tedium by listening to the old ipod, specifically to the podcasts. I tried several interviews with various Baha'is from the Baha'i Perspectives' podcasts.

Baha'is, I found, can be pretty boring, especially when the interviewer is obsessed with Christianity. Finally, I hit upon one interview that grabbed me all the way there. I highly recommend it:

Episode 100: A Baha’i Perspective: Jeff Hajibandeh
"In high school, Jeff was reborn as a Christian. When he went off to college he became the worship leader for the on campus Christian fellowship. Jeff tells his story on how he ran into the Baha’i Faith while at college."

Why do I recommend this interview, especially in view of my utter boredom with all things Christian? Because it proved to me that it is possible to teach these people, if it is done right. This interview shows that all the time we spend thinking about prophesy is not wasted, that it is actually possible to teach the Faith using prophesy, if it is done right. If you want to learn how to teach the Faith right, listen to this guy's story of how his teacher "Jacob" taught him the Faith. This guy knows how to do it right.

Here is an interesting teaching initiative by a Baha'i television star:

Rainn Wilson's "Show us your spatufist campaign"

Monday, August 11, 2008

p22 Summing up

Worker's Constitution and Obedience to Government

By John Taylor; 2008 Aug 11, 11 Kamal, 165 BE

The reason we all have global warming to deal with right now is simple. Imagine how Los Angeles is run today, under the combined hand of an urban, a state and federal government. Imagine how much worse it would be in L.A. if its sole authority were its notorious street gangs. Lawlessness, a reign of terror, drive-by shootings, anarchy, would prevail and mere survival would be the best that its residents could hope for. That gives you an idea of what it is like on the international scene. When it comes to protecting the air and oceans, it is hopeless. Anybody can dump their effluent to their heart's desire and no central authority can say boo. Anybody who dares care about the environment had better become a world federalist. It is either that or join one of the gangs. A pundit recently wrote,

"multipolarity means that more groups have effective veto power over collective action. In practice, this new pluralistic world has given rise to globosclerosis, an inability to solve problem after problem."

My flow of essays has been slowed severely this summer but not stopped entirely. A reader pointed out yesterday that she has not received anything since the end of July. I have done a few essays and posted them on the blog, but it seems that some technical glitch in my mailing program has been keeping them from going onto the list. I will solve that problem ASAP. Meanwhile, check out to get the full poop. Today let us go through some remainders and reminders of various series of essays featured recently on this Badi' Blog.

Two essay streams written over the past year converged in the following point, which combines and resolves them both. One was about the Baha'i principle of obedience to government, the other consisted of speculations about a future constitution for workers and the workplace. Like two tributaries combining into a single flow near the mouth of a great river, these two series converged and ended in the following thought of the Lord of the Age. First, recall that the Will and Testament (Kitab-i-Ahd) of Baha'u'llah was named by the Master number three in importance among the works of His Father,

"The principal works of Baha'o'llah are the Kitab-ul-Ighan, the Kitab-ul-Akdas, the Kitab-ul-Ahd, and numerous letters or tablets addressed to sovereigns or to private individuals." (Abdu'l-Baha, Tablets, vol. 3)

One of my purposes not only in these series but as a Baha'i scholar generally is to remind my fellow believers of the importance of this brief but crucial document. It is easy to get buried in detail and forget how important the principle of obedience and subservience to government is. In the Ahd it is laid out in no uncertain terms,

"O ye beloved of the Lord! It is incumbent upon you to be submissive to all monarchs that are just and to show your fidelity to every righteous king. Serve ye the sovereigns of the world with utmost truthfulness and loyalty. Show obedience unto them and be their well-wishers. Without their leave and permission do not meddle with political affairs, for disloyalty to the just sovereign is disloyalty to God Himself. This is my counsel and the commandment of God unto you. Well is it with them that act accordingly." (Abdu'l-Baha, Will and Testament, 14)

Furthermore, we are enjoined to love and pray for our leaders. If we speak negatively of a leader we should take it as a sign that we have not been praying sincerely or ardently enough for that leader and that we should move that soul higher up on our prayer list. We should take it as an axiom: it is impossible to speak ill of someone we have prayed for ardently enough. This is of the essence of our reason for being in the universe, for if anybody ever was one, God is a leader. He first of all is sympathetic to the difficulties of leadership. To meet God is to come away with an appreciation of the lofty calling of guiding and helping our fellows. Baha'u'llah reminds us clearly that knowing and meeting God is the big reason He brought us into existence.

"The purpose of God in creating man hath been, and will ever be, to enable him to know his Creator and to attain His Presence. To this most excellent aim, this supreme objective, all the heavenly Books and the divinely-revealed and weighty Scriptures unequivocally bear witness. Whoso hath recognized the Day Spring of Divine guidance and entered His holy court hath drawn nigh unto God and attained His Presence, a Presence which is the real Paradise, and of which the loftiest mansions of heaven are but a symbol. Such a man hath attained the knowledge of the station of Him Who is `at the distance of two bows,' Who standeth beyond the Sadratu'l-Muntaha. Whoso hath failed to recognize Him will have condemned himself to the misery of remoteness, a remoteness which is naught but utter nothingness and the essence of the nethermost fire. Such will be his fate, though to outward seeming he may occupy the earth's loftiest seats and be established upon its most exalted throne." (Gl XXIX)

So, if God, Baha'u'llah and the other Manifestations of the Divine are leaders too, when we meet them too must appreciate and love leadership and followship, and mention our own, living leaders today, however inadequate we feel they may be in the face of what confronts us in this era. If they are inadequate, it is our fault first of all, for good followers make for good leaders, or, as the saying goes, "A people gets the leader they deserve." If we want better leaders, become a better person first, and the best and quickest way to become a better person is to know and meet God in prayer and reflection...

The best place to show better leadership and followership is in the workplace. All work, and all have a chance to act on this where they work. This location should ideally be seen as a place of worship, for we all know that work is worship if done in the right spirit. There should be a constitution for all workers to assure that work can be worshipful. But this very constitution should apply to companies and corporations too. If it does not, it would not be worth the paper it is printed on.

The first line of that worker and corporate constition should be the words of Jesus, "The sabbath is for man, not man for the sabbath." If any group or job violates the purpose of all groups, the common good, it should be immediately dissolved and expunged from memory. That should be article one. George Monbiot suggests some more rules for corporations, rules meant to stop their present gang rape of the majority of mankind,

"There are, however, a few standards we might wish to add to the list. One of the prerequisites of justice, for example, is that producers and consumers should carry their own costs, rather than dumping them on other people. Those who do the dumping tend to be the rich and powerful, while those who are dumped upon tend to be the weak and indigent. Environmental and social 'externalities', in other words, typically represent the theft by the wealthy of the natural and material wealth possessed by the poor. They amount to a monumental subsidy for the rich. It is a source of constant astonishment to me that those who profess to support free market economics routinely overlook this distortion." (Monbiot, Age of Consent, p. 230-231)

"This theft has reached so great a scale that it is arguable that the majority of the world's large corporations depend on it for their continued existence. The American professor of business administration Ralph Estes found that one took into account only those costs which had been properly established by authoritative studies in 1994 corporations in the United States were permitted to inflict 2.6 trillion dollars worth of social and environmental damage, or five times the value of their total profits. Many companies object that if they were forced to pay the full price for the resources they use and the damage they cause, they would be driven out of business. To this the only sensible answer is `good.' Wealth, in this case, would cease to be stolen from the poor and handed to the rich. The price of the most damaging goods would rise enormously, but this should surely please the practitioners of free trade, as it provides a classic `market response' to a social and environmental problem. Unlike localization, it punishes only those who cause the damage, and offers relative rewards to those who export less harmful goods." (Monbiot, Age of Consent, p. 230)

But a turning to God also would wipe out the intransigence of workers too. Corporations exploit, but lazy, slavish contentious workers probably cost the world's economy even more trillions of dollars in losses even than cynical, ruthless corporations do.

A few days ago I took on the boring job of picking the currents from our bountiful black and red current bushes. While picking them, I listened on the old iPod an old address by the recently deceased Alexander Solzhenitsyn, given at the start of his exile in the West. I well knew that if I did not keep my mind occupied I would soon give up again, and the currents would rot on the branch. Postcasts are a great way to overcome one's own fickleness, and one of my favorites is a series of famous speeches reenacted. The Solzhenitsyn speech was one of these. Most of the way through his speech I felt a growing sense of annoyance. Clearly, here is a contentious fellow, a Russian dissident proud of the superior spirituality of his nation, lecturing the West on its materialism. Buried in politics, urging on a course of action that, for better or worse, Americans have taken on, largely as he suggested here. But then, just towards the end, he suddenly proved how well he really understood what spirituality is. I have never seen it better and more succinctly summed up than he does here. Arguing against godless communism and godless capitalism at once, he says,

"If humanism were right in declaring that man is born to be happy, he would not be born to die. Since his body is doomed to die, his task on earth evidently must be of a more spiritual nature. It cannot unrestrained enjoyment of everyday life. It cannot be the search for the best ways to obtain material goods and then cheerfully get the most out of them. It has to be the fulfillment of a permanent, earnest duty so that one's life journey may become an experience of moral growth, so that one may leave life a better human being than one started it. It is imperative to review the table of widespread human values. Its present incorrectness is astounding. It is not possible that assessment of the President's performance be reduced to the question of how much money one makes or of unlimited availability of gasoline. Only voluntary, inspired self-restraint can raise man above the world stream of materialism."

While I was pleased to hear the great man express this point so well, my question was, why did he leave this point to the end? Why indulge in petty squabbling first, and leave this all important thought as an afterthought? I suppose if he had said this first, his talk would have had to go where the Master took His talks, to spiritual things, to obedience to government rather than blind opposition. Anyway, here is how the great novelist and opponent of communism ended this very important speech,

"It would be retrogression to attach oneself today to the ossified formulas of the Enlightenment. Social dogmatism leaves us completely helpless in front of the trials of our times. Even if we are spared destruction by war, our lives will have to change if we want to save life from self-destruction. We cannot avoid revising the fundamental definitions of human life and human society. Is it true that man is above everything? Is there no Superior Spirit above him? Is it right that man's life and society's activities have to be determined by material expansion in the first place? Is it permissible to promote such expansion to the detriment of our spiritual integrity?

"If the world has not come to its end, it has approached a major turn in history, equal in importance to the turn from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It will exact from us a spiritual upsurge, we shall have to rise to a new height of vision, to a new level of life where our physical nature will not be cursed as in the Middle Ages, but, even more importantly, our spiritual being will not be trampled upon as in the Modern era. This ascension will be similar to climbing onto the next anthropologic stage. No one on earth has any other way left but -- upward." ("A World Split Apart" an Address by Alexander Solzhenitsyn at Harvard Class Day Afternoon Exercises, given June 8, 1978,

In the same podcast there is a speech given at around the same time by then-president Jimmy Carter laying out a series of bold goals as part of a ten year plan to end America's dependence on foreign oil. This "lofty" goal has been mentioned by every President since Nixon, but it is surprising to hear how strong and determined Carter sounded.

One cannot help but wonder what would have happened if Carter had been able to carry out this determination. "Not one drop of foreign oil shall be imported after ten years." Imagine how much further we would be right now in our fight against global warming. Nor was this an impossible undertaking. A spate of articles by the press is featuring Denmark, which made the same determination in the 1970's to end its total dependence on oil and actually carried it out. Now their economy is flourishing and their industry cannot keep up with demand for its green technologies. All America had to do was summon up the spiritual resources to help their leader Carter carry out this goal when he proposed it, and they would not be in their present tailspin to oblivion. It is just as Baha'u'llah said, obey a just leader. Just leaders must have good followers or nobody gets anywhere.
I still remember the day Reagan won the election and Carter and goals like this were rejected. I remember it because at the same time somebody drove by our house on Upper Paradise Road and chucked a brick through our front window. I remember looking at the destruction in our living room and thinking that surely now the world is going down the tubes. It has happened slower than I expected, but with global warming baking us all well done, I do not think I was wrong in that gut feeling. If only we had prayed harder for our leaders we might be in a universe where our bacon was not cooked.

The effect of our prayers for our leaders would be, among other things, an increase in our "followership" abilities. John Lock wrote,

"If we look into the causes of our problems, we find that they come from the fact that people are able neither to govern nor to be governed. They do not know how to govern others, and they do not know how to govern themselves. They do not know how to be governed by others; they do not know how to be governed by themselves." (unfinished General Treatise on the Remedy of Human Affairs, De Emendatione Rerum Humanarum Consultatio Catholica)

Lock's sentence structure implies that leadership and followership act as mirrors to one another, each amplifying the other with each refraction. The story of the Manifestation, retold repeatedly on holy days throughout the year, gives just such a feedback effect.

The perfect demonstration of ignorant leadership and followership is in our ubiquitous habit of gossipping and backbiting one another. A journalist from Wired Magazine recently featured an interview with a "troll," an insidious variant of a hacker. Trolls take advantage of the wild west world of cyberspace to persecute and harass anybody they decide not to like. This troll, who uses the handle "Fortuny," demonstrates the perverse logic behind the troll's urge to attack and justify the attack. This urge and this logic we all use sometimes,


"We walked on, to Starbucks. At the next table, middle-schoolers with punk-rock haircuts feasted noisily on energy drinks and whipped cream. Fortuny sipped a white-chocolate mocha. He proceeded to demonstrate his personal cure for trolling, the Theory of the Green Hair.
"You have green hair," he told me. "Did you know that?"
"No," I said.
"Why not?"
"I look in the mirror. I see my hair is black."
"That's uh, interesting. I guess you understand that you have green hair about as well as you understand that you're a terrible reporter."
"What do you mean? What did I do?"
"That's a very interesting reaction," Fortuny said. "Why didn't you get so defensive when I said you had green hair?" If I were certain that I wasn't a terrible reporter, he explained, I would have laughed the suggestion off just as easily. The willingness of trolling "victims" to be hurt by words, he argued, makes them complicit, and trolling will end as soon as we all get over it.


This Wired journalist points out that the internet is built on Postel's Law, "Be conservative in what you do; be liberal in what you accept from others." The troll, and the backbiter, takes the opposite philosophy in dealing with others. The result is a constant state of low level war. Since God is love, this anarchy is the direct effect of rejecting Him.

One ill effect of rejection of God is not only that we reject his presence, but also his knowledge, and knowledge in general. An essay by one of my favorite economists, Paul Krugman, recently introduced me to the "knownothing" movement. The history of this kneejerk, racist movement in American life is given here: ( It is given a broader meaning by Krugman,

"... know-nothingism (is) the insistence that there are simple, brute-force, instant-gratification answers to every problem, and that there's something effeminate and weak about anyone who suggests otherwise - has become the core of Republican policy and political strategy. The party's de facto slogan has become: `Real men don't think things through.'" (

Krugman sees this attitude, not of rednecks but the ruling class in Washington, as the real reason behind this decade's Iraq attack,

"Why were the elite so hawkish? Well, I heard a number of people express privately the argument that some influential commentators made publicly - that the war was a good idea, not because Iraq posed a real threat, but because beating up someone in the Middle East, never mind who, would show Muslims that we mean business. In other words, even alleged wise men bought into the idea of macho posturing as policy." ("Know-Nothing Politics By Paul Krugman, New York Times, August 7, 2008)

This is at the heart of all war: know nothing but do all as a bully, intimidate, attack, besmirch. Forget about leading by example, if you do not whack somebody around you are not going to have an effect.

Right now the American President is basking in the Olympic sun while Putin is taking advantage of that distraction to attack Georgia. How can the American leader respond to an attack like that, with righteous indignation? Attacking another sovereign nation, in any other time that would be a capital crime worthy of vigorous action in defense of world order. But not now. Putin kicks at the international house of cards and the superpower dare not object. Before the house of cards topples, let us all learn to pray for leaders, for leadership, and for ourselves as followers. Let us be worthy of the vision of Abdu'l-Baha for us all in this age,

"One of the great events which is to occur in the Day of the manifestation of that incomparable Branch is the hoisting of the Standard of God among all nations. By this is meant that all nations and kindreds will be gathered together under the shadow of this Divine Banner, which is no other than the Lordly Branch itself, and will become a single nation. Religious and sectarian antagonism, the hostility of races and peoples, and differences among nations, will be eliminated. All men will adhere to one religion, will have one common faith, will be blended into one race and become a single people. All will dwell in one common fatherland, which is the planet itself." (Abdu'l-Baha, quoted in WOB, 204-205)

Saturday, August 09, 2008

thea sports

Tommyball, Capitation and the Function of Sports
By John Taylor; 2008 Aug 09, 09 Kamal, 165 BE

With the opening of the Olympics yesterday, now is a good time to talk about sports and its role in life.

I should carry a recorder around with me to get down the strange conversations and questions I am confronted with by my son Thomas, who turns nine years old tomorrow. He has invented a sport called "Tommy-ball," the first rule of which is "There are no rules." The second rule, needless to say, contradicts the first, "Any player can make, alter or nullify a rule at any time." It contradicts, but is still somehow in harmony. And so the rules continue. As always, I do not know if his idea is original to him or lifted from some Calvin and Hobbes cartoon.

Not to be outdone, I intersperse his long descriptions of Tommyball with my own invented sport, "capitation." Not to be confused with the medieval sport of beheading, capitation pits one locality against another in a contest to see who can most improve the overall health of their inhabitants. Instead of a ball, the towns use statistical indicators of health and fitness. For example, two comparable areas, like Dunnville and Cayuga, might enter into a one year contest to see how much they can improve the health friendliness of their townscape. The place that has the most quiet places to walk and bike, the best gymnasiums, the fewest smokers and drinkers, the most, young and old, who are physically active, and the town with the best diet, would win out. Unlike most sports contests, the result would not be a mere feeling of joy or despair lasting a day or two, but real, long-term benefits for everyone who lives in either town.

A while ago I ran across the following essay about the benefits of sport, written by Shoghi Effendi while still a student. I excerpt here a few paragraphs from what is very much juvenilia. Still, since the Guardian was sickly and rather severely handicapped by an unknown illness (possibly consumption) in his early school career, one can feel a twinge of pain in this description of the benefits of a healthy body -- okay, I feel the twinge, since I am in the same boat as Shoghi Effendi here (which is why I have a special feeling for him), having an annoyingly uncooperative constitution at the best of times, an exposed nerve ending to the vagaries of weather at the worst.

The Function of Sports in Life by Shoghi Effendi
Published in The Students' Union Gazette pages 28-30
American University of Beirut, 1914


If we consider sports from a general point of view and consider their relation to the life of the ancient people we must inevitably come to the conclusion that sports if well conducted, have always raised the standard of the nation to a very high degree. Nations which have played an important role in the Ancient History have all felt the necessity of sports and have introduced these athletic contests in their own domains.

Our next is to examine the results of sports or better, their function. The fact that athletics, a branch of sports, is of great advantage to life is evident to the experienced student of modern European Colleges. The argument which established its necessity is opposed by ignorant people yet it has grown nowadays into an irrefutable fact. Athletics are necessary if not indispensable for the future success of the nation as well as of the individual. "A sound mind in a sound body" was the motto of the Greeks and the model of the strong, healthy and vigorous Spartans. Their carrying out of the plan was a cause for the long existence of Greece and for its luxuriant literary culture. This model in just the same way should be put into action if we wish to have any success in this world.

Athletics refresh the body, tranquilize and enlighten the mind, and develop moral character. As a concrete example let us take a student in his college activities. The student who does exercise is always fresh and vigorous, he seldom gets sick and tired. His jovial character, his good disposition and his interest in life are his chief characteristics.

Moreover in exercising, the student gets animated, his blood is purified and consequently his mind becomes more apt to receive the ideas and thoughts found in his lessons. The health which he acquires will help him to work harder and he becomes more successful. A weak person seldom can endure the hardship of school-life, the trouble of memorizing and persevering in his daily lessons. Lastly when a student is busy with athletics during recess time his ideas do not deviate any more to the path of impurity, to think of such trivial things and the health and strength which he acquires will help him in overcoming such temptations. Generally a healthy person is endowed with a will stronger than that of a weak person.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Persecution of Baha'is

Persecution of Baha'is in Iran "A new crime of the century".

Congressman Kirk speaks on the House floor in support of his resolution, H.Res. 1008, condemning Iran for its persecution of Baha'is. The resolution overwhelmingly passed in the US House of Representatives.

p06 profit sharing

Continuing Monbiot's Apocalypse
By John Taylor; 2008 Aug 05, 05 Kamal, 165 BE

Last essay (2008 Aug 04) we looked over the best parts of the new book "Bring on the Apocalypse," a collection of George Monbiot's columns in England's Guardian newspaper. This review is at:

We looked at these essays: "How Britain Denies its Holocausts," about wrongs done under the British Empire, "Expose the Tax Cheats," about tax avoidance by the super-rich, "Property Paranoia," a discussion of how the right to roam relates to happiness, and "Britain's Most Selfish People," on the morality of multiple home ownership in a time of homelessness. Today let us look another of the best essays in this book, "A Vehicle for Equality," from a column written April 12, 2005; the full text can be found at:

This essay asks if the Rover motor vehicle plant would not have been better off becoming a workers' co-operative rather than being sold off for ten pounds to another well-connected fat cat. He, instead of investing in a company turnaround, took advantage of the situation and raided the workers' pension fund to make a quick buck. Perfectly legal but putridly immoral. As always, Monbiot investigates the issue dispassionately before coming to an impassioned conclusion.

In this case he investigates worker-owned enterprises, an issue of prime interest to Baha'is because our Holy Writings endorse profit sharing as a milder, more egalitarian and humane alternative to unfettered and polarized capitalism. When those who own a company are different from those who work it, a conflict of interests is established. One side aligns against the other. A good way to unite the two is to have workers, or at least their bosses, own part of the company. At Rover Motors the problem,

"is easily identified: there was a conflict between the interests of the men who ran the business and the interests of the people who worked for them. As long as the directors could escape with their huge pay packets, they had little incentive to ensure that their employees escaped with anything at all."

Monbiot makes an incisive criticism of modern capitalism: by buying into the idea that CEOs and other executives must have ever exploding paychecks, corporations loot their own capitol reserves and prospects of future returns in order to pay their CEO's. The managers become more shareholders than servants of the company. This corrupts a manager's reason for being there, to assure long-term success of a company. Instead, the modern exec aims at the same thing an investor does; make a quick buck any way you can, no matter what. Forget morality, forget people, forget even long term profit, grab the greatest gain as fast as you can.

"In companies in which the principal shareholders and the executives are different people, problems like this should not occur. The shareholders will reward the managers for looking after their capital in a responsible fashion. But in truth, because of the opportunity costs of capital, shareholders and executives have a common interest in securing jam today rather than jam tomorrow. The owners reward the executives for profit rather than investment, so the managers sacrifice the future to the present. It's arguable that the staggering returns the high street banks made this year should not have been treated as profits at all, but as the money which might have protected them, and us, against bad loans when the next recession arrives."

Monbiot points out that this development puts worker-owned enterprises at an advantage. In Argentina, laid-off former workers took over about 160 abandoned factories. These worker owned enterprises, surprise, surprise, do a much better job running them than the old management, in part because they do not have to pay the huge salaries of "high-powered" (meaning well-connected members of the owning class) executives. As Monbiot puts it, "The money which would have been snaffled by the executives has instead been re-invested." Needless to say, the owner class is fighting this furiously, as Naomi Kline's documentary film demonstrates. Monbiot continues his argument, pointing out some history and other background about worker coops that I had not heard before,

"For a country widely credited with inventing the idea, the United Kingdom is remarkably hostile to workers' co-operatives. In one form or another, they have existed since the division of labour began. But it was our own enlightened capitalist, Robert Owen, who formalised the idea. The workers' communities he founded in the early 19th Century soon collapsed. We still have one very large workers' co-op (the John Lewis Partnership), and hundreds, or, if you count professional partnerships, thousands of smaller ones. But the manufacturing co-ops Owen envisaged are few and tiny. The reason, we are always told, is that they are simply not as competitive as hierarchical capitalism. Given that there is no law against forming them, why, if they are such a good idea, have they not outcompeted the standard business model?"
"There is, I think, an interesting answer to this question. If the principle on which workers' co-ops are organised (ownership of the company by its employees) is uncompetitive, why are so many big companies now mimicking it, by turning their executives into shareholders? Their incentive schemes recognise, like the co-ops, that people who own part of the business will make sure it works. Of course, the schemes are mostly confined to the executives, who tend to be more mobile than the rest of the workforce. Being pegged to profits, they do little to encourage the executives to invest. So they don't address the conflict of interest. But the central idea of the co-op is now a standard feature of corporate capitalism.
"In several other countries, workers' co-ops, in which all the workers have a stake in the business and a voice in its decision-making processes, have flourished... Dutch and Danish farmers have survived the invasion of the superstores because, unlike British farmers, they process and market much of their produce cooperatively, and so can bargain collectively. They can also achieve economies of scale, which is why British people eat Danish butter and Danish bacon. The Mondragon co-op is now the biggest industrial group in Euskadi (the Basque country) and the 7th biggest in Spain, with 71,000 workers. Altogether, workers' co-ops around the world employ about 100 million people.

Monbiot brings up the well-known, received criticisms of coops, as documented by Harvard economist Michael Kremer. Kremer showed that dividends in a coop tend to transfer wealth from more productive workers to less productive ones; worse, worker democracy nullifies innovation and efficiency, which often demand harsh, unpopular sacrifices in the short run.

"The greater the capital investment, he shows, the greater the potential inefficiency, which could explain the scarcity of manufacturing co-ops. Co-ops, in other words, like hierarchical firms, suffer from conflicts of interest. There are other constraints too: the lack of access to capital (keeping the business in the hands of the workers means keeping absentee owners - and their money - out) and the lack of opportunities for capital (you can't move it around as freely as other shareholders can). The Mondragon co-op appears to have overcome both these problems, by establishing its own bank, which circulates money among its 200 affiliated businesses, and by encouraging diversification."

It seems to me that under the right regulatory climate worker-owned companies could be tweaked to get around their present shortcomings. Why not have a banking system built into the constitution of every worker-owned company? It is already technically possible to make individuals their own banks. Why not make companies their own banks? At the same time, why not devise internal mechanisms to reverse the flow of capital from productive workers to unproductive ones? Or, even better, why not figure out how to make unproductive workers more productive? That way profit sharing could succeed even in capital intensive industries. None of this seems insurmountable.

The result of profit sharing schemes would be more equality. As Monbiot points out, this does not guarantee that these more democratic and egalitarian companies will be any less predatory or ruthless in their behavior to outsider who stand in their way. But that only proves once again that nothing will replace a universal, spiritually balanced education. The Baha'i principle of equality does not stipulate how much equality we should aim for, as opposed to how much freedom. Nobody knows what is optimum, though safe to say today's extremes are far from acceptable. Only spiritual training and complete elimination of the extremes of opulence and destitution would assure that the broader interests of all, rich and poor, are looked after. All we need is to try it. If it is done in a spirit that avoids strife and conflict, it is bound to succeed.

Next time we will look at another important essay in George Monbiot's book, "The Anti-Social B-'s in our Midst," which addresses the pointed question: has the automobile perverted our moral fibre? I think experienced readers of this blog will already know what my answer to that is...

Solar Energy Tower

Monday, August 04, 2008

Annual Fuller Prize

The Buckminster Fuller Challenge - SEE THE MOVIE! from Buckminster Fuller Institute on Vimeo.

Thomas and Hobbes; Monbiot's Apocalypse

Thomas has been looking forward to his ninth birthday celebration next week with the avid anticipation that I would have expected to be reserved only for Christmas. For a long time he wanted to have the same portable game player that his little friend has, a Nintendo DS. For a while I tried to persuade him that a more expensive Sony PSP might be more versatile, but he was adamant. Then he himself changed his mind. He asked for and I ordered from an online bookstore an only slightly less expensive gift, "The Complete Calvin and Hobbes." This comprises every Calvin & Hobbes comic ever written and costs a hundred dollars. No more selected or treasuries of Calvin and Hobbes, now he will have the whole corpus at his fingertips.

Thomas has become ever more devoted to this comic strip over the past year, almost worryingly so. He carries a stuffed tiger named "Hobbes" with him wherever he goes. Once, after our daily Baha'i class, Thomas candidly commented, "You know, sometimes I think that Bill Waterston (the author of Calvin and Hobbes) is inspired." I replied, "You mean you think that he is a genius?" "Well, maybe a bit more than that..." was his discrete reply.

I just finished George Monbiot's "Bring On the Apocalypse," a collection of his best columns from the Guardian. Our library was kind enough to purchase a copy at my request. This is from an online blurb for the book:

"In this explosive collection George Monbiot sets out exactly what he believes can and must be done and establishes how it can be achieved. Bring on the Apocalypse scrutinises the promises of supermarkets to become carbon neutral and asks why, if they can make such promises, cannot governments? It attacks the self-serving interests of those who dismiss climate change and discusses the consequences of eco-living, from keeping an allotment to surviving without a car. George Monbiot's accumulated wisdom unpicks the confusing mass of contradictions surrounding environmental debate to demonstrate that there is a way to save our future, if only we would listen." (

In reality, the book is useful only in that it picks out what some editors think are his best columns. Unfortunately, many are dated, especially those dealing with the early stages of the Iraq conflict. Others are merely contentious and niggling, though always in the cause of justice. But his best work is very, very good, offering insights that are just dazzling. Since all his essays are online on his blog, you can wade through them all and judge for yourself which are the best, if you are the sort who likes reading on your computer. Myself, I found the paperback book a lot more convenient. The rest of this post gives you a selection of what I think are his best essays from the Apocalypse collection.

In an essay called "How Britain Denies its Holocausts," ( Monbiot discusses the findings of a 2001 book by Mike Davis called "Late Victorian Holocausts." This "tells the story of the famines which killed between 12 and 29 million Indians. These people were, he demonstrates, murdered by British state policy." That is a very big number, more I note than the six million Jews that Hitler killed.

"When an El Nino drought destituted the farmers of the Deccan plateau in 1876 there was a net surplus of rice and wheat in India. But the viceroy, Lord Lytton, insisted that nothing should prevent its export to England. In 1877 and 1878, at height of the famine, grain merchants exported a record 6.4 million hundredweight of wheat. As the peasants began to starve, government officials were ordered "to discourage relief works in every possible way". The Anti-Charitable Contributions Act of 1877 prohibited "at the pain of imprisonment private relief donations that potentially interfered with the market fixing of grain prices." The only relief permitted in most districts was hard labour, from which anyone in an advanced state of starvation was turned away. Within the labour camps, the workers were given less food than the inmates of Buchenwald. In 1877, monthly mortality in the camps equated to an annual death rate of 94%.
"As millions died, the imperial government launched `a militarized campaign to collect the tax arrears accumulated during the drought.' The money, which ruined those who might otherwise have survived the famine, was used by Lytton to fund his war in Afghanistan. Even in places which had produced a crop surplus, the government's export policies, like Stalin's in the Ukraine, manufactured hunger. In the North-western provinces, Oud and the Punjab, which had brought in record harvests in the preceding three years, at least 1.25m died."

The difference between this event and Hitler's work is that, diabolical as it was, it was largely the work of a few mad, bad and out of control administrators rather than open state policy working out ideological principle. The British did not enter India with the goal of exterminating all Indians, as Hitler did when he invaded Russia. A brief but horrific holocaust tolerated for a while in the name of state and personal interest is not the same as an out and out extermination campaign like Hitler's was. Then again, both equally happened from the same motive: racist contempt. This tragedy indeed deserves to be named right along with Stalin's intentional famines in the Ukraine and Mao's partly inadvertent starvation events. As Monbiot points out, it is hypocritical of any people to deplore other peoples' atrocities while ignoring and burying all record of their own, and the British are guilty of that.

Sadly, there is not a people or nation (that I have heard of) that does not have plenty of holocausts in its past to keep the fires of guilt burning indefinitely. As a Baha'i of British heritage, I can only point out that at least `Abdu'l-Baha was of the opinion that the British crown and empire, taken all in all, was just in ideals and intent. He said this in his first address in London and later on, after Palestine had fallen under the direct administration of the British after the Great War. You could not have a higher endorsement of one's nation's hight ideals, though it certainly does not excuse the blindness to one's own holocausts that Monbiot denounces.

Other fascinating essays are "Property Paranoia," a brilliant essay about the right to roam and capitalism's fallacious idea of happiness, and "Britain's Most Selfish People," a startling moral thesis that it is immoral to own more than one home when others are going homeless -- this is an idea that Baha'u'llah Himself seems to have pioneered when He spoke of the rich in their mansions and the poor in their cottages, implying that housing will be a universal right one day. But as Monbiot points out, as long as parliament and the press are run by people with multiple dwellings, this is not likely to make it onto the agenda in the near future.

"Expose the Tax Cheats" is, I think, hands down the most important in the book. First of all, it talks about how there is no moral distinction between tax avoidance and tax evasion. Yes, the first is legal and the second illegal, but morally both amount to the same thing. Then he points out the reason why billionaires are so avid to own the press: not to make money out of the investment itself but because owning our media gives them power over the public agenda. It is a chance to put forward their preposterous opinion that tax avoidance is some kind of natural right on their part. The very idea that they should pay their fair share of taxes is systematically throttled before the public can even consider it. Nobody but a billionaire makes money from owning a newspaper; his profit comes not from the so-called business itself but from its ability to keep annoying tax obligations off his back. And, as Monbiot points out, whereas the law requires that the income of all parts of society be public knowledge, the amount of tax paid is a strictly guarded secret. Whether that is true in North America, I do not know. In any case this is a very important essay that deserves to be made into a book, if a publisher could ever be found who would dare publish it -- of course I forgot, the publishing industry is a corporate structure too, owned by the same plutocrats.