Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Monday, March 29, 2010
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Friday, March 26, 2010
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Agencies of World Reform
Corruption and the Fifth Chapter of Panorthosia
By John Taylor; 2010 March 24, Ala' 04, 166 BE
Today let us continue our essay series on John Amos Comenius's ideas about how to eliminate corruption.
Defining Justice and Corruption; Balance and Moderation
Like a well managed flock of sheep, society has to balance security, the sheepdogs that guide and protect the flock, with enterprise and growth, the sheep themselves. Too much of one or the other will bankrupt a pastoral farmer.
This state of moderate balance we term justice. The Arabic word for justice, "'Adl," comes from the problem of loading a camel. Too much weight on one side or the other will at worst topple the beast of burden, and at best it will tire it long before other, properly loaded animals.
Furthermore, the greater the weight in question, the more crucial proper balance becomes. A recent study of the gait of running elephants found that these largest of land animals move less than two centimetres around their center of balance when they are running at top speed. With so much mass to move, any jostling at all would shake it apart. This implies that the more universal the justice, the more important moderation and balance become. Justice on the world level, therefore, must be extremely stable in order to move the seven billion souls that make up the human race anywhere at all.
This definition of justice applies especially to the question of corruption. Corruption is a state of imbalance that prematurely weakens and impedes the natural progress of society.
Reform Starts By Extirpating Corruption
In the fifth chapter of Panorthosia, called "The Idea of Universal Reform," Comenius sets up two apparently contradictory facets of truth that security officials must keep in balance. The first is the need, as far as possible, to avoid being infected with the attitudes and thinking of the corrupt,
"To be uncorrupted is better than to be reformed, for being constantly is better than being intermittently. It is better not to be wounded, than to be healed. It is better not to commit crime than to pray for forgiveness." (Panorthosia, Ch. 5, Para 3, p. 88)
Avoidance of the causes of criminality is the preventive medicine of security. It is far better to avoid wrongdoing in the first place than to have catch and punish wrongdoers. It follows, therefore, that the real front line of any policing operation is not the beat cop but the teachers in the schools. Protection of society must be a major concern of all, but especially of intellectuals.
On the other hand, Comenius says, one is often better for having been infected and worked a form of corruption out of one's system. Many illness leave the survivor with immunity from future infection. As Nietzsche said, what does not kill me only makes me stronger. Two hundred years before, Comenius put it like this:
"Nevertheless to be reformed to a better or fuller or stronger state than before is better than to be uncorrupted." (Ch. 5, Para 3, p. 88)
Thus every crime or instance of corruption must be looked upon as a learning experience. Don't just call in the detectives after a murder, call in the teachers, professors and thinkers. For once a learning experience is understood, it then becomes a teaching opportunity. It is important, therefore, to distinguish between what is inherently good, and what is not, before we can say that something is basically or incidentally corrupt. As Comenius puts it, "A Subject of Reform is a good thing which has begun to be corrupted and must be restored to its former condition." (Id.) If it is not essentially good, it is harder to deal with.
"A thing that is not good in itself is more liable to corruption than to reform."
Comenius evidently is seeking to extend the parable of the house built on the foundation of sand and the house on rock. He compares this aspect of the elimination of corruption to a building. A thing that is not a good in itself is a building that is located "on a disagreeable, unhealthy site." As long as there is mobility and choice, nobody will want to go near such a building, so its state of purity or corruption is moot. Things that are inherently good are likely to be less corrupt than otherwise,
"The less corrupt things are more easily reformed (like a building with some trivial structural fault). Things that are exceedingly corrupt are difficult to reform (like a building in a tumble-down condition)."
Thus the job of the security professional is not to monitor and control every move that every individual makes, it is simply to shift the overall balance so that society can move forward efficiently. This demands a proper understanding both of universals and of what is best left to rot.
"A thing that is utterly corrupt is not open to reform. If it must be restored, it needs to be constructed anew, such as a building that has collapsed, a garment that is completely worn out, a vine that is completely destroyed, a clock that is totally damaged, or a life that is lost. (For there is no medicine for the dead)." (Para 3, p. 87-88)
Universal Measures Against Corruption
If there is to be reform on a universal level, which is the very title of the work in question, Universal Reform, or Panorthosia, there must be some way to abolish the skewed burdens and unfair distribution that lead to corruption. Comenius holds that a solution to corruption can only be worked out by applying reason and spreading education,
"Without knowledge of the causes of corruption, he does not know the form of his restoration. ... Without knowledge of the cures, he does not know the efficient means to his restoration. This means that he does not know how to reform corrupt things. On the other hand, an understanding of the causes of corruption is the foundation of reform." (Comenius, Panorthosia II, Ch. 5, Para 5, p. 88)
Comenius uses the example of a farmer whose fields are threatened with flooding. The systematic approach he uses is the same thing we should do when faced with corruption,
"If you wish to stop a flood which is destroying your fields, you must put up flood-gates, divert the waters or drain them away; and to prevent their return, you must build an embankment on both sides of the river, so that the waters cannot breach it or overflow again. In time you will have reformed the dangers of flood damage. (Comenius, Panorthosia II, Ch. 5, Para 8, p. 89)
Our family lives on land in Ontario beside the Grand River. As in Comenius's example, it was constantly under threat of severe flooding until a system of barrages and fish gates was built along its entire length in the late 1970's. Building reinforced embankment did not prove necessary; a simple system of concrete floodgates in the towns of Dunnville and Caledonia solved the problem long before we moved here. In order to build such a system, expert knowledge was necessary, along with the means, money and materials, and organization, government authority, a bureaucracy and police to maintain rule of law. All these are necessary to solve any large problem -- the difficulty now is that at the world level these means are not yet operative.
"The Agency of Reform is something that has the power to reform a thing. (Obviously every original agency needs an instrument to assist it in action). Hence the axiom: Nothing is reformed unless an agency of reform is forthcoming). The power of the agency of reform can be subdivided into three functions (1) to check the corrupting factors, (2) to restore corrupt things to their proper form, (3) to establish them when reformed. Hence the axioms:
I. Evil is not removed unless you remove its cause.
II. Nothing is reformed unless you restore it to its true form.
III. Corruption returns very easily, unless you firmly establish the things that have been restored." (Ibid.)
Comenius's suggestion here to make up universal tools for extirpating corruption is a good mission statement for a department of planetary security under a world government.
The task of this security agency would be largely technical. It is impossible for the average person to say exactly what a world security apparatus might do to reduce corruption. For the same reason back in the 1970's it would not have been possible for anybody but a civil engineer to decide what might stop the flooding on the Grand River. However, we the people can and must draw up general principles for experts to follow. One of the most important is the principle of keeping everybody honest.
This principle cannot be fully implemented under a state capitalist system that breeds and thrives in a closed atmosphere of rivalry, competition and secrecy. Often officials are more cloaked than the criminals they are charged with controlling. Under a world government, though, the dream of complete transparency would at last be possible. Open bidding in fair auctions would precede every purchase. The use of undercover agents would cease, and every security agent would be charged with speaking the truth under all conditions -- studies have found doctors and police officers lie more often than any other profession.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
The following was written in response to this news report, http://www.democracynow.org/2010/3/22/arundhati_roy_on_obamas_wars_india
Monday, March 22, 2010
"Qurban-i-Shoma" means literally, "may I be your sacrifice," as in, "How are you?" "Qurban-i-Shoma," This is high formal speech, ta'arof, and the correct response is, "Khoda nakonad," God forbid.
Instead, Stephan Birkland unknowingly says something different.
I did not find any brief videos with Stephen Hall, but here is a transcript of an interview with him on ABC (Australian Broadcasting),
Revolutionizing Values; Notes on MLK, Oratory and Rhetoric
In Dunnville a super-church was just built and is opening. They distributed a flyer inviting everybody to an open house. At the top is the following quotation from the Bible,
"Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders will have toiled in vain. Unless the Lord keeps watch over a city, in vain the watchman stands on guard." (Ps 127:1, NEB)
This describes the two basic things human beings do, and how both depend upon the confirmation of God. All the activity of us mortals boils down to either building or protecting, making or preserving. The destructive part of the creative process is left over to the contingent world, to God, or Shiva, or whatever you want to call Him.
This duality is reflected in the commonwealth of Baha'u'llah. In the Aqdas, He took power away from the learned and handed it off to the people. As compensation, He gave the learned the gift of indirect influence, and He channelled this influence into those two streams: propagation and protection. He explained that the learned have a choice between words of fire and words of milk, and admonished them to choose words of milk, kind, gentle, nurturing words.
Thus, most of what you hear from one who is truly learned in Baha will be uplifting, inspiring, expansive. I can see them being accused, one day, of being mealy mouthed and wishy-washy, but far better than, heaven forbid, being accused of being a fiery orator.
One of my favourite podcasts consists of readings of great speeches of history -- and by history they mean American history. What about famous speeches from around the world? Is nobody talking on this level? Kant was right, we need a cosmopolitan history, a history of the world, and in order to write such a history we will surely need a planetary speaker's circuit. We have a world championship in the most obscure sports, but no world association of lecturers and debaters.
Such a group should be formed to choose the best orators and send them on tours to major capitals around the planet. As it is now, judging by the powerful oratory you can listen to in this podcast, the force, skill and wisdom of the best speakers is dissipated as soon as it crosses a national border. In order for there to be a future world government, we must first build up a world constituency.
The latest podcast consists of a late speech of Martin Luther King where he takes a position against the war in Vietnam. What a glorious tradition of stirring oratory people of African descent have given the world! And MLK was among the greatest of them all. The most interesting part of this speech is where, having dismissed in great detail any claim to justice or even sense that the Vietnam war may have had, King turns to what he thinks should happen now, what he calls a "Revolution of Values."
He points out that America clings to death rather than life, to hate more than love. "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death." Although America started off at the forefront of the revolutionary changes of modernity, of late it had become reactionary.
"It is a sad fact that, because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries."
The solution is an about-face, a switch back to the ways of loving thy neighbour.
"I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values ... [that will] cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies."
Although in recent years Christian leaders in America have identified their the rich and the right, MLK asserts the liberal leanings of his faith firmly and unequivocally:
"Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores and thereby speed the day when `every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain.' ... Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate."
Since MLK made this stirring declaration, little has been done to formally channel his idealism. In 1985, his widow Loretta King, wrote leaders and heads of religious groups (including the Universal House of Justice) and suggested that there be a "Martin Luther King Day," to be celebrated on the third Monday in January. She saw this as a sort of truce day, a chance for groups around the world to stop violent conflict and to turn to love.
It seems to me that MLK Day would be a good time to coordinate a "world cup of oratory." Have the best speakers compete all year long in giving speeches about peace, how to end violence and all the values that MLK stood for. Then have the champions address the world in a televised event similar to the Oscars or the World Cup. Let MLK have the last word, again from that same, fateful address known as his "Vietnam speech."
"A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies. This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one's tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept -- so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force -- has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man."
Saturday, March 20, 2010