Archive for philosophy

The God Fetish, the God Phobia, and the Fetish of Words: Or, The Idolatry of Ideology

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 10, 2021 by jtoddring

There are some who will read my writing and think – he’s a dangerous right-winger! But if they read more, they will realize that is obviously untrue. Others will decide I am a dangerous leftist extremist; but if they read on, they will understand that I advocate non-violence, freedom, democracy and constitutional rights – and if that makes me a dangerous extremist in the minds of some, then I would say they are dangerously delusional.

Others will read my writing and declare that, while they may agree with some of it, or maybe most of it, they lose me when I venture into the realm of spirituality or religion. To them I would say, keep an open mind. “There is more to heaven and earth than is contained in your philosophy.”

And then there are the religious fundamentalists, the sectarians, and the religious conservatives, who will feel that I am dangerously open to foreign, exotic influences. To them I say, I don’t think God has a fetish of names, and He, or She, cares little for our cherished ideologies, dogmas or sects. She is far beyond such narrow confines of little minds.

As the Tao Te Ching says, “Naming is the mother of the ten thousand things.” “The Tao thaat can be spoken is not the true Tao.”

Keep your cherished ideologies, philosophies, theories or beliefs, if you wish, but hold them lightly, or you will see nothing at all.

As always, “There is more day yet to dawn.”

JTR,
January 10, 2021

Primary Influences

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on January 10, 2021 by jtoddring

What are my primary influences? Among them: Buddhism, Taoism, the perennial philosophy, Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi and Thoreau, along with the values of the Enlightenment: liberty, equality, solidarity – which I would like to see lived up to, and the sooner the better.

In short, we are our brother’s keeper. But if we fall either to callousness, or to authoritarianism and illusions of control, then there will be hell to pay, for we will make a living hell on Earth. That is the crux of what I believe, and what I have to say. The power is in our hands, as always. It is up to us how or whether we will use it.

There are myriad other influences; I’ve cited them in extensive footnotes and references, bibliographies and reading lists. But these are some of the primary ones. A quick search of my blog for “reading”, “philosophy”, and the like, or the short article, Flash-Drive Revolution, will provide a great many resources, along with my first two published books: Enlightened Democracy, and, The People vs The Elite.

“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.”
– Henry David Thoreau

“I fear no truth, and fear no falsehood.”
– Thomas Jefferson

“We have it in our power to begin the world over again.”
– Thomas Paine

JTR,
January 10, 2021

The Definition Of A Warrior

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 10, 2021 by jtoddring

Here is a good working definition of a warrior. Chogyam Trungpa, or the 13th Dalai Lama, can explain it better. I am just a student. (See, Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior, and The Bodhisattva Warrior) Nevertheless, I think the following thoughts are worthy of reflection.

A true warrior commits to compassionate action, for the benefit of all sentient beings, and commits to pursuing the truth, and speaking the truth, to that end. There is no other summary or definition of what it means to be a warrior that I feel has any merit, or at least, any real depth. That includes speaking the truth even when it is unpopular, even when it is dangerous to do so. To do otherwise means that you are not a warrior, nor even, a decent human being, but a hollow shell, a sham, morally bankrupt, and a coward.

When Chomsky said, quite rightly, “If the Nuremberg Trials were held today, every US President since World War II would be hung”, that was an unpopular thing to say, but it needed to be said. The same is true for the covid hysteria. The crisis is real, but widely misunderstood. Worse, the crisis is being cynically used by elites to advance their own agenda, and as always, it revolves around greater power and wealth for themselves – and a good 70-80% of the people are silently acquiescing to the new gospel narrative and the power grab which it covers, or are actively, though unwittingly, aiding and abetting it.

A few people question the official narrative, but not many. Most are either subjugated into unthinking obedience by indoctrination and propaganda, or are cowed into silence, fearing to raise their voices, lest they incur the wrath of the obedient herd. They are cowards, and they are endangering us all, far more than would ever dare to imagine.

Speak the truth. Seek the truth, and speak the truth, no matter how uncomfortable or unpopular that may be; or else surrender to the new normal, of vacuous obedience to power, and docile conformity, even at the expense of your own sanity and capacity for rational thought – even at the expense of your freedom, your dignity, and your soul.

The majority of people are motivated by ego and the pursuit of comfort. They imagine themselves to be moral and decent, but, at least in this decadent age, it is largely a ruse, and a self-deception. They have basically decent impulses, as Chomsky said, but no courage. When their conscience or compassion conflict with their desire for comfort, or to be liked, they choose the latter. But as Gandhi said, “Cowards can never be moral.”

They herd are terrified of being driven out of the herd. The herd instinct makes them strong, in that they naturally tend towards compassion, empathy, solidarity, cooperation and mutual aid; but it also makes the majority cowardly, because they are afraid to risk losing the perceived safety of the herd.

This is why all significant positive change in human society has always come, and will always come, from a small, dissident minority. It was the small minority that led the movements for democratic revolution in America and France, the movement to abolish slavery, to gain universal suffrage, to end child labour and racial segregation, and on and on the list goes. Only when the brave minority, through tireless action, and tirelessly speaking the truth, reach a tipping point in terms of getting their message across to the broader society, do the majority decide, and usually rather quickly, that they are now on the side of the right and the truth, and they join in, as late-comers, in the drive for positive social change.

So, keep up the fight. Non-violently of course. Seek the truth, and speak the truth. There is more day yet to dawn. The revolution has only begun; and so too, the new renaissance.

Freedom and compassion must be united, just as the people must be united, or our future is dark. This is the central principle upon which an enlightened democracy is founded. But in order to achieve that end, we must speak up. We must question more, think for ourselves, and speak the truth, as best we understand it. This will lead us to a better world. Nothing else will – certainly not technocratic plutocracy and fascism, which is what we have now.

J. Todd Ring,

January 10, 2021

#covid, #covid-19, #coronavirus, #propaganda, #Warrior

The Essence of the Path

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on January 5, 2021 by jtoddring

Here are a few things that I have gleaned, from listening, from study and contemplation, and from some genuine experience. I believe they can be helpful. But above all, think for yourself. Question everything.

“Don’t take anyone’s word for things, not even someone you respect, not even myself.

Examine things for yourself.”

– The Buddha

There are many paths to the mountain top. Do not become dogmatic or sectarian.

“There is more to heaven and earth than is contained in your philosophy.”

– Shakespeare

Don’t obsess over your symbols. And all words and concepts are symbols.

“Naming is the mother of the ten thousand things.”

“The Tao that can be spoken is not the true Tao.”

“Return to your original nature.”

– The Tao Te Ching

“All of the scriptures are like a finger pointing to the moon.

If you mistake the finger for the moon, you will see nothing.”

– The Lankavatara Sutra

There is value in extensive, rigourous study and deep contemplation. There is value in elaborated expositions. Yet there is also value in pith instructions, and in concise expressions of the heart of things.

The most important thing is compassion: it is utterly simple, and yet, the most important thing of all – and sometimes, the most challenging.

Do not confuse wordiness for wisdom, complexity for profundity, or verbosity for depth. Simple is best.

But,

“Complicated works too.”

(Swiss folk saying)

Practice matters. Patience, perseverance, focus and effort, when combined, bring results.

“Be gentle with yourself. If you can be gentle with yourself, you can be gentle with others.”

– Lama Yeshe

“Trust yourself. It is extremely important that you trust yourself. Don’t be afraid of yourself. Trust yourself. You can trust yourself. Trust that your natural intelligence is working itself out.”

– Chogyam Trungpa

Calm abiding, with meditative awareness and pure view, motivated by compassion: this is the essence of the path. Start where you are.

JTR,

January 5, 2021

Post-Script: An important note

Here is a short letter that I sent to friends, elaborating on the essay here.

Hi there,


Here is my best summary of 35 years of study, reflection and meditation on the nature of being and mind, and the path to enlightenment. It comes down, after the preamble, to a single line.

(The brief essay is linked below.)

In that line, there is a term used from Buddhism that many will not be familiar with: pure view. It means, in short, to view all phenomena – all beings, things and sense objects – as pure and empty. It is important that this term not be misunderstood. So what on Earth does it mean?

Pure view does not simply mean thinking positive thoughts. It means viewing all phenomena as they truly are. Pure means uncorrupted and incorruptible – that all phenomena are the infinite Universal Mind, or Wisdom Mind, which is stainless and incorruptible. That does not mean that there is nothing to be done. When we do not recognize the true nature of being and mind, which is non-dual, then illusion arises, and with it, suffering, and also, actions of body, speech and mind that are based in illusion, generating misguided and harmful actions, leading to further suffering. What is to be done, therefore, is to wake up, to see reality, for the first time, as it truly is: empty and pure.

Empty does not mean non-existent, but means, precisely, empty or void of all inherent existence, or independent existence. Empty therefore means that all phenomena are mutually arising, or dependent arising, meaning they are interdependent.

Empty of inherent existence means that all phenomena, despite appearances, are both interdependent and also fundamentally one. It means that all ego-attachment, fear, greed and hate arise from delusion, and delusion alone. This is the meaning of pure view. This is the ultimate practice, along with, of course, universal compassion. Both must be cultivated, or else there is zero chance for enlightenment, and we are confined to the prison cell of samsaric, dualistic illusion, and the suffering it brings, forever.

Please read the short essay below, and let me know your thoughts.

Warm wishes,

Todd

(JTR, January 7, 2021)

https://jtoddring.wordpress.com/2021/01/05/the-essence-of-the-path/

Sent with ProtonMail Secure Email.

Post-Script Deux – Or Duh 😉

Two more important notes should be made here: on practice versus theory, and spiritual materialism versus true enlightenment. The latter first.

Spiritual materialism, as Trungpa Rinpoche described it, is using spirituality to re-enforce the ego, or to inflate or defend the ego. This is not enlightenment. This is recoiling further into the prison of dualistic delusion.

When some degree of genuine understanding is attained, or maybe even some degree of direct realization, there can be an unconscious temptation to use this gained knowledge or experience to re-enforce the ego. But ego is the primary illusion to be overcome.

In order to gain full enlightenment, a union of wisdom and compassion must be generated; and, a balance and union of confidence and humility must be cultivated. That means a confident realization of the non-dual, and intrinsically pure nature of being and mind, must be combined, not just with true humility, and freedom from ego-grasping, but with the realization that the separate self, or ego construct, is an illusion, thus precluding any ego-attachment of any kind.

Practice is key – which brings us to the second point.

It is not enough to have a theory, a concept, of the true nature of reality, being and mind. This will not suffice. It is a mean stepping stone, a jumping off point. Experience is required for full enlightenment. That means direct realization of the non-dual nature of being and mind. It means that second hand information is not sufficient. It means that, while studying, contemplation and receiving teachings are important, and generally essential, no one can tell you the true nature of being, nor can any book. These are all pointers, and invaluable pointers, but you must still see for yourself. As Morpheus said, “I can only show you the door. You have to walk through it yourself.”

In terms of seeing: that is what realization means – it means to truly see, and that is enlightenment. Seeing means pure view; it means wisdom; it means enlightenment. And seeing, wisdom, or enlightenment, mean one thing only: the direct realization of the non-dual nature of being and mind.

Nothing else can properly be called wisdom, or enlightenment, or even seeing. If you do not see that all phenomena are intrinsically pure and empty, then you do not see reality at all, but only shadows on the cave wall, only illusions projected by your own mind.

Practice is generally needed, as well as teachings and guidance from one who has seen. Books are invaluable, but generally not sufficient in themselves. We need a qualified guide, direct teachings from a qualified guide, and, along with study, receiving teachings, and contemplation, there is usually a need for practice. A rare few individuals can have the true nature of being and mind pointed out, and instantly achieve full enlightenment. Generally this is not the case.

It is said that, “Sometimes there is meditation, then enlightenment; sometimes there is enlightenment, then meditation.” This means that usually there must be practice first, then enlightenment follows; but sometimes, there is a glimpse, a taste of true enlightenment, but the enlightened view cannot yet be sustained, and so, practice must follow enlightenment, in order to stabilize the view. In either case, in all but the rarest of exceptions, practice is necessary.

Seek and ye shall find. But do not expect instant gratification. Patience, perseverance, and yes, effort, virya, diligence or vigour, are all necessary, along with focus, and of course, a receptive mind. With these things, enlightenment will dawn, most definitely. And along the path, while there will be obstacles, there will be a growing degree of confidence, understanding, and yes, awareness, compassion, joy and peace.

Patience, grasshopper – so I say to myself, and to my fellow travelers on the path of wisdom. Enjoy the journey, and practice, practice, practice.

JTR,
January 7, 2021

Acknowledgements:

For my teachers and mentors, profound thanks are in order. They are: Lama Zopa, Lama Tharchin, Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche, and the venerable Robert Carter, professor emeritus in philosophy, Trent University.

Indirectly, my other teachers include: The Dalai Lama, Namkai Norbu, Trungpa Rinpoche, Alan Watts, Allan Wallace, Joanna Macy, Joseph Campbell, Aldous Huxley, and many others. To them, and to my friends, family, and fellow travelers along the path, I say thank you, sincerely and with deep gratitude.

Rescuing Plato, Rescuing Ourselves

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on January 3, 2021 by jtoddring

Despite the fact that Western civilization (sic) has greatly venerated and virtually worshipped the ancients of Greece and Rome, in reality, they had little to offer in terms of philosophy. (I will qualify and elaborate on this broad statement in a moment.) That being said, modern philosophy, from Descartes through to the currently fashionable fascism and post-modernism – both of them being based in dangerous nihilistic delusions – is in general a dung hole, and should be suitably flushed, or at least, set aside for a couple of hundred years, until we can see it with fresh eyes.

In that context, it would be most helpful to rescue Plato and the ancients from the memory hole. Though the ancient Greeks and Romans have been overly emphasized, as well as dimly understood, they still have important things to teach us – if we have ears to hear, eyes to see, and, an ability to think critically, and do not simply worship at someone’s feet, or alternately, glibly reject them out of hand.

(I like rigour of thought; but I am not a fan of the narrow-minded and blinkered, authority-worshipping, pseudo-intellectual, prickly scholasticism that has come over Western society in these past few centuries since the Council of Nicaea, particularly within academia and “intellectual culture”, and which gilds the mind-forged manacles, as Blake so aptly called them, which we have come to worship in the place of knowledge, wisdom and truth, or any other sensible values. There are glowing exceptions to the general decline in Western philosophy since the Renaissance. Let Montaigne and Etienne de La Boite, rather than Newton, Bacon and Descartes, be considered the foundations of the modern world from hence forth, and we will be on far better and more sure footing. If you insist on a canon, which is always a risky thing to do, but valid enough, and useful, if done with intelligence, let these bright lights be among them: Spinoza, Hume, Emerson, Thoreau, Kropotkin, Aldous Huxley, Alan Watts, Erich Fromm, Joseph Campbell, Allan Wallace, Joanna Macy, Ken Wilber, Rianne Eisler, Murray Bookchin, Noam Chomsky, Morris Berman, Helena Norberg-Hodge, Vandana Shiva, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, and the writings and speeches of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. Is there room for democracy, freedom, constitutional rule, human rights, tolerance and diversity, and science and spirituality both, along with philosophy? Naturally, and these things should be considered to be fundamental – which they are. Maybe with a fresh perspective, in this new millennium, we can actually begin to live up to calling ourselves a civilization.)

Aside from Socrates, who asserted little of his own views, but instead urged us to question everything, and Plotinus, who was the last of the ancient philosophers, and the best, there is no single philosophy from ancient Greece or Rome that can, or should, be taken off the shelf and accepted as a complete, ready-to-use philosophy, on its own. Aside from Plotinus, all of them offered defective and confused philosophies, and the best we can do with them, is to take what is valuable from each, and leave the rest behind. That includes Plato and Aristotle, the two most influential of all.

Plato was rabidly anti-democratic, and urged a totalitarian elite rule, by what he called philosopher kings. This should strike any sane person as an extremely dangerous idea, destined to create tyranny and a nightmare society. (My first essay in philosophy, in year one of university, was to rebut Plato’s philosophy of benevolent dictatorship by philosopher kings.) But this idea of wise and benign dictatorship has been glowingly and eagerly embraced by generations of self-deluding elites, for centuries and millennia; just as it is again today, with the Davos/Bilderberg billionaire oligarchs, who literally call themselves the masters of the universe, insanely, thinking themselves to be on a messianic mission to save us from ourselves, through bringing in a benign, highly scientific, technocratic fascism (which Huxley warned us about) – ruled by themselves, of course.

The Western power elite seem clearly to be ruled by a set of delusions elaborated by a bastard hybridization of Plato – the idea that the wise and benevolent ruling elite, as philosopher kings, should rule; Machiavelli – power is the only value, and any means are valid to achieve it; Hobbes – centralization of power is is necessary and good, or, more delusions of self-justifying and self-serving elite rule), Neitzsche – yes, he fell into nihilism, and yes, the elite are nihilists, as well as egomaniacs and sociopaths, as all power-mongers are; post-modernism – polysyllabic psychobabble based in nihilism and relativism), Malthus (yes, the elite are neo-Malthusian, with all the grim horrors that implies), and above all, Spencer (the godfather of Social Darwinism, who put forward the view most beloved by elites ever since: the view that extreme inequality, and extreme concentrations of wealth and power, are natural, normal, and good – the view that the might makes right, and the powerful are justified in devouring the planet, the poor, and everyone else.

*

Aristotle was more sane, with regards to political philosophy, arguing for democracy and equality. But Aristotle leaned toward a materialist reductionist worldview, and hence, was also partially crippled in mind, and not at all to be embraced uncritically.

If, however, we approach philosophy, not as a canon, but as a body of thought, then we can perhaps think critically, and look at what is valuable, if anything, in various works of philosophy, and not be so naive, or unduly deferential and mousy, as to believe that it is impossible to separate the wheat from the chaff, or, heaven forbid, to synthesize and combine the best elements from various philosophies and thinkers.

For example, and chiefly, perhaps, we need to look at Plato and Aristotle more critically, and not simply embrace or reject them, but embrace and reject what is suitable to be embraced or rejected.

If we take Plato’s metaphysics, or ontology, if you prefer the term – which assert a unity of being, echoing the perennial philosophy, to use the phrase of Leibniz, or, the mono-myth, as Joseph Campbell called it – and reject his elitist call for totalitarianism; and we take Aristotle’s very sensible and prescient observations asserting that democracy is best, despite its flaws; but reject his materialist reductionism; and instead, combine Aristotle’s sensible love of democracy with Plato’s metaphysics of the unity of being: then we have an intelligent philosophy, based in the ancients, but not blindly bound to their mistakes, which can guide us well through the 21st century and beyond.

Aristotle, we should note, had the good sense to recognize that both wealth and economic power (which of course inevitably follows from wealth) tend to concentrate in a market-based economy: and if this trend is not checked, and policies put in place to redistribute wealth, then the rich will take over, and it will be a plutocracy, an oligarchy, not a democracy – and democracy will collapse, be eaten alive by the rising oligarchy (then as now), or alternatively, implode under the weight of civil unrest.

Aristotle presaged FDR. Roosevelt understood that if some measure of redistribution of wealth, and some measure of aid and protection for the poor, some degree of intelligent responsiveness to inequality, are not undertaken, then revolution would be the result. He was right. As JFK said, Those who make non-violent revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable. For those who fear or are averse to revolution (I am not one) this sage advice cannot be ignored.

In 2020 we were beset by a new problem, which is really an old problem, in a new form. A crisis is being cynically used by powerful individuals for personal gain. Hardly anything new. (See The Shock Doctrine.)Powerful elites are seeking more power. This is also hardly anything new, but as dangerous as ever – and more dangerous than ever before, because the power of the global elite is now far greater than that of the Nazis, the fascists of the 1930s and ’40s, or any of the kings or emperors of the past 5,000 years. If we cannot learn from history now, at this critical juncture in time, and learn from philosophy as well, then we are indeed headed, and in fact plunging, into an extremely dark and dystopian world.

*

The Stoics deserve a brief mention only, and only because there is a growing new fetish for that grim philosophy of complacency. Stoicism is indeed a grim philosophy. It is the valuing of silent acquiescence and servility as the highest value. How dismal and pathetic. It echoes Confucianism in the East – which is the still-reigning religion, in truth, of modern 21st century China: “Know your place. Shut up and do what you’re told.”

No wonder the Taoists have mocked the Confucianists for over two thousand years – as they should. Stoicism, old or new, as with Confucianism – or the neo-Confucian/Maoist/Leninist/neo-feudal corporatism of contemporary China – deserves to be mocked, and to be rejected entirely.

Of course, even in a sewage pit, you can sometimes find little treasures. It is no different with regards to philosophy. There are elements of Stoic philosophy which are valuable, though the whole is a stinking bog, and a cesspool of the mind. The valuing of inner calm and composure, resilience and inner peace, are of course appealing to many people. But the Buddha offered a sure path to these goals, without the self-castration or self-evisceration entailed in Stoic deference to power and the status quo – whatever that happens to be; and without the perverse worshipping of repression as a pinnacle value, or the deranged notion that anything good can come through the staunch refusal to feel either pain or pleasure, sorrow or joy, or any human feelings at all. No, if you want inner strength, inner peace, inner calm, composure and resilience, there are better places to look, and better approaches to take, than to submit to the eye-gauging and soul crushing philosophy of the Stoics. Buddhism is just one option which infinitely supersedes this dismal quagmire. (Taoism and Liberation Theology are two more, among many.)

Post-modernism, and the ever-fashionable fetish among elites which is fascism – both of which being forms of nihilism – have resurrected the rotting corpse of ancient Sophism. Let’s just say that if nothing matters, in our deluded minds, then the holocaust, and the killing of millions of people, was a perfectly acceptable act, and not a crime of any kind. Of course, most people have a basic sanity, and therefore, they recognize that mass murder is not an acceptable thing, but a horrific and despicable act by deranged and dangerous people who should never be allowed to wield power. The lesson has not yet been learned, however – either by the delusional elite, nor by the masses, who allow them to rule, and allow them to repeat the horrors of history, in ever new and more dangerous forms.

If we, the people, are at all sane – and I am convinced that, despite the mass propaganda and the mass indoctrination, most people still possess common sense and basic sanity – then we will remove the power-hunger elite from power, and restore democracy and freedom, and constitutional rights for all, and immediately.

If we are not so lucid or so wise, then we will simply repeat the worst mistakes of history, all over again, and the bloodshed, and the horror, will be on our hands, and on our conscience, forever.

“The greatest of philosophers have found answers to life’s problems,

not just in theory, but in practice.”

– Henry David Thoreau

Act now.

J. Todd Ring,

January 3, 2021

Further Reading:

(A very short and incomplete list, naturally)

C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite

Noam Chomsky, Necessary Illusions, Year 501, and Class Warfare

Peter Phillips, Giants: The Global Power Elite

Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine

John Perkins, The New Confessions Of An Economic Hitman,

and, A Game As Old As Empire

Joseph Campbell, The Hero With A Thousand Faces

Joanna Macy, World As Lover, World As Self

Aldous Huxley, The Perennial Philosophy

Allan Wallace, Choosing Reality

Rianne Eisler, The Chalice and The Blade

Murray Bookchin, The Ecology of Freedom

Erich Fromm, Escape From Freedom

Bertrand Russel, Roads To Freedom

and my own first two books:

Enlightened Democracy

and

The People vs The Elite

Whose Side Are You On?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on December 7, 2020 by jtoddring

It is very easy to not see the forest for the trees. In fact, it is nearly universal. For example, it took millennia before people broadly began to question whether certain genitalia naturally bequeathed social status and moral superiority, or whether such bias was simply a social habit, born of ignorance and causing great harm, imbalance, suffering, tyranny and poisoning of minds.

It took generations before people began to question whether slavery was an acceptable norm, or a pathology to be thrown off and overcome. It took further generations before people broadly began to question whether institutionalized racism was normal and acceptable, or was, to use a phrase of the great social psychologist Erich Fromm, an example of “a profoundly abnormal norm”, deserving of fierce resistance and contempt.

It took nearly 500 years before people widely began to question whether colonialism, neocolonialism and imperialism, or their modern variants, “regime changes”, coups and “interventions”, are normal, natural, acceptable features of human society, or whether they are pathological manifestations of simple looting, pillaging, domination, aggression, hubris and greed.

(When Archbishop Desmond Tutu urged the West to impose sanctions of the Apartheid regime of South Africa in the 1980’s, when I was first in university, and the West refused, because their financial and economic interests went against such actions, Desmond Tutu stated flatly, “The West can go to hell.” There are times for intervention. When fascists were taking over Europe in WWII, I would say intervention was justified and necessary. But in general, and with only rare exceptions, unless the great majority of the people of a nation are openly and explicitly calling for international intervention, as in the case of South Africa under Apartheid, then any “regime change”, coup or intervention is, and should be viewed as, an act of aggression under international law; and is, and should be viewed as, a war crime, the highest crime, and a crime against humanity. In that light, the wars and coups in Vietnam, South East Asia, Afganistan, Iraq, Libya, Ukraine, Syria, Honduras, Bolivia and Venezuela, were war crimes, and the orchestrators should be punished as war criminals – not hung, as the was done after the Nuremburg Trials, since capital punishment needs to be universally abolished, but imprisoned for life, with no chance of parole. That is the severity of these crimes.)

Understanding our history is critical and vital. Understanding the present, is even more so. In the near future, we will look back in awe and regret, and in horror, at some of the things we blindly accepted as normal, or as “the new normal.” Fortunately, the awakening of humanity has accelerated exponentially, and continues to accelerate, unstoppably, I might add.

The fundamental questions are most important. One of them is, whose side are you on? And, are you really sure about that?

For myself, I would say that above all, I am on the side of truth. There is wisdom in the saying, The truth shall set you free. And in that spirit, I agree with America’s greatest philosopher, Henry David Thoreau: “Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.”

But to clarify further, I will say this.

I am on the side of democracy, freedom, constitutional rights and constitutional rule, social justice – which means a compassionate society; equality, unity in diversity, environmental sanity, and peace. I am not a partisan, a careerist, a sectarian or an ideologue. I will support anyone, any group, or any government that is seriously committed to these principles and values; and I will criticize, and if necessary, passionately denounce and oppose, any and all who are not.

Above all, at this moment in human history, I am on the side of defending the Earth and the 99%, or more accurately, the 99.99%, against the ravages and predations of the 0.001% – the truly fascist billionaire oligarchs who now effectively rule the world. That makes me a dissident, a member of the real resistance, and a revolutionary, in the spirit of Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King Jr., Zapata, Gandhi, Tommy Douglas, Lech Walesa, Rigoberta Menchu, Nelson Mandela and Thoreau, as a matter of practical and moral imperatives, and by sheer necessity. And I would urge all people everywhere, to consider where they stand, or if they stand at all, and to consider whose side they are truly on, and what it is they truly stand for.

The time to speak up, and to stand, is now.

J. Todd Ring,

December 7, 2020

Further Reading:

Murray Bookchin – The Ecology of Freedom

Rianne Eisler – The Chalice and The Blade

Joanna Macy – World As Lover, World As Self

Ronald Wright – Stolen Continents

Noam Chomsky – Year 501, Necessary Illusions, and, Class Warfare

Peter Phillips – Giants: The Global Power Elite

Naomi Klein – The Shock Doctrine

Vandana Shiva – Oneness vs The 1%

J. Todd Ring (myself) – Enlightened Democracy, and, The People vs The Elite

A New Social Contract: The Parable of the Happy Kingdom

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on November 22, 2020 by jtoddring

A brief preamble: 

The old social contract, the last social contract, has clearly broken down. That was the New Deal, which was a compromise between the business elite and the 99%, which lasted between the late 1930s until the 1970s. The business elite, with increased global powers, decided in the 1960’s that they no longer wanted to compromise. (See Chomsky, The Crisis of Democracy.) They wanted all power for themselves – that is nothing new in history, other than its global scale. The deal was off, and the war on democracy became a full scale class war. 

Now we need a new social contract, since the liberal democratic model has failed, the Marxist-Leninist model has likewise failed; and the “new normal” of global, bi-partisan, technocratic corporate fascism is intolerable, to put it mildly, and is simply a new empire, ushering in a deeply dystopian world order, which must be flatly and firmly refused and rejected by the people.

A vision is necessary. The old models have failed, and are crumbling. The elite want to revive fascism as their solution. That will fail as well. We defeated the fascists before, and we will defeat them again. 

I have written extensively about visions for a better world, and have offered a manifesto for non-violent democratic revolution, in my first two published books: Enlightened Democracy, and, The People vs The Elite, which I would frankly urge everyone to read. 

There is, however, a value to extremely concise manuscripts or treatises, however. It needs to be spelled out clearly and in brief, so that anyone and everyone cam understand what must be done. In that spirit, I offer this parable.

*

There was a kingdom that lived in peace, but which had only recently escaped from an almost unimaginably long period of suffering and turmoil.

In this happy kingdom, which was no longer a kingdom, but in name only, new immigrants were arriving daily, for it was rumoured far and wide that this was a glorious and wonderful place to be, and a great many now wished to live there. They people of the land could not take in all the people who wished to come and share their land, but they took in as many as they could, because they knew from long experience what it was like to suffer, and they refused to turn their backs on others who were not so fortunate as they had only recently become.

Daily the new immigrants were welcomed. And a typical morning went something like this.

What is your profession, your skill set, your trade?

I am a lawyer.

Right, then. The exit is to the left, the dungeon to the right. Take your pick….. Next!

On and on it went, few lawyers daring to arrive, hearing of closed doors to them in response to their trade. Prostitutes were let in, but not lawyers.

(Lawyers, the people had decided, were barred and banned, unless they forswore their former profession, because, it was rightly perceived, lawyers had a habit of over-complicating everything, with the result that the people’s minds were clouded and confused, leaving their common sense laid waste, such that they became easy prey to the schemes of evil men and evil  women. Klauss Schwabb and Christine Lagarde, remain in their now fortuitously recovered and vivid memory.)

Carpenters, farmers by the thousands, shipwrights, cabinet makers, cobblers, tailors, potters and bakers arrived and were welcomed, but lawyers were barred – and the irony of their term for refusal was not lost on them nor on the people.

Then one day, an old man arrived, almost unnoticed in the throng, long beard and quiet ways, he almost disappeared into the woodwork. But for his twinkling eyes and unusual long brown cloak, he was a most unremarkable man.

What is your profession, skill set, trade? Have you any skills that might make your immigration to this new country easier for you?

I am a philosopher, the old man said quietly, with a voice that sounded somehow like the melody of a mountain stream, though perfectly human and natural at the same time.

The attendant blinked.

Come with me. The king – the former king, that is, to be precise – wishes to see any who might clarify what went so wrong in the past, and for millennia, and which was only overcome here, in this little former kingdom, just recently, and in our lifetimes; so that we might avoid such troubles and such evils forevermore, or at least, as much as possible.

And the old man was thus taken to see the former king.

To the king, or former king, after the usual introductions and greetings and the necessary preamble, the old man said this.

The role of government is to protect the people from tyranny. In good times, the government is nearly invisible, yet there, like a trusted dog by the fire. In bad times, when great evils arise, then only does government become prominent in the lives of the people. And when the evils are driven back, and once again held at bay, then once again, the government becomes almost invisible, like a well-fed, sleepy hound, curled up at his master’s feet. For the people are always the true masters of themselves, and hence, of the government, which is but the servant of the people’s needs. 

When the government makes itself the master of the people, then the government has become the great evil it was designed to protect against; and so, must be banished, or put down, like a rabid dog who attacks his own family. Only then can peace arise again.

This downing of the dog, as the old ones in my realm have called it, this removal of a government which has betrayed the people by overstepping its bounds, and becoming the tyranny it was intended to protect against, is best done with non-violent means, for the dangers of violence, both in terms of evil echoes and ripples spreading through space and time and minds, and even in terms of a failure to successfully complete the task of downing the rabid dog of state, can never be overstated, and so, should be avoided. But the removal of such governments from power in such times of corruption of the government, is not only the right, but the moral duty of the people. It must be firm, swift, and unhesitating, decisive and unwavering, and complete.

When the peace is restored, and the tyrannical government is no more, then the principles of liberty, justice and peace can be restored. And the central principle of a peaceful society, and a just society, is this: freedom and compassion are the two central values which must always be balanced and upheld. If either is lacking, then the society will surely and inevitably descend into madness, turmoil, tyranny and decay.

If you want to know how great evils arose in the past, this is how: the balance was lost, and forgotten. 

If you want to know how great evils are banished and prevented; and peace, and justice, are restored and maintained, it is not so complicated, but it does require eternal vigilance: you must balance freedom and compassion, and never let anyone fool you into believing that the one can be sacrificed for the other; for when either is lost, then madness, turmoil, tyranny and decay will invariably arise, and are guaranteed.

You seek great tomes, great wordy treatises, great, expansive, flowery prose, filled with allusions to famous people, deference to supposed authorities, and great canonical texts. But that is not where wisdom comes from. It is wisdom that is best, beyond all. And the heart of wisdom can be expressed in 10,000 lines, or 1,000 lines, or in two lines. Verbosity is not the measure of wisdom.

But wisdom comes not from words, in any case; and is not always immediately available, though it is the birthright (and even the true nature) of all. Common sense will do. That is common enough, when the people refuse to be fooled by puppet masters and false messiahs. Common sense is more than enough to live in prosperity, in harmony, and in peace. Read all the great and obscure texts you like. Some are of truly great value. Listen to all the verbose and airudite…pardon me…erudite, long-winded, high-sounding, jargon-dropping and pretentious “experts” you wish. Just remember, the keys to freedom, to justice, to harmony, to a life of well-being, and to peace, are within the human heart. If you cannot find them there, then seeking for them elsewhere will likely bring about the chaining of humanity, not its blessings, its protection, or its liberation. Look within.

Balancing the cardinal and foundational values of freedom and compassion is the most essential element. If you can achieve this, and you can, then you can have a peaceful society, and peaceful lives, for a long time to come.

Do not overcomplicate things. That will only invite confusion, and confusion will only invite evil, which always plays on, and feeds on, confusion. Keep it simple. Defeat the tyrants; then help the people without imposing on their freedom, and let them live in peace.

The great evils of the past – which your people have blessedly liberated themselves from, by virtue, not of their exceptional virtue, for they are simple people like the rest, but by virtue of their recovered common sense – arose because the balance was forgotten, and temporarily lost. 

The great evils arose because the right, as it was called, wanted freedom without compassion, which left the door open to tyranny, and invited it in. And they arose because the left, or the less enlightened and more confused among the left, which sadly came to dominate the people’s minds, accepted the lie that security, safety and compassion require the sacrifice and surrender of freedom – which guaranteed that tyranny would be enthroned, and nightmarish society would arise. 

Avoid such grave, and avoidable errors, and the people can live in peace, and will. It is as simple, and as challenging, as that. Remember the balance. Let the people live in peace.

J. Todd Ring,

November 22, 2020

Getting Off The Treadmill: Seeking More Through Less

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 9, 2020 by jtoddring

Newer, better, more… Newer, better, more…

On and on the circle goes. But when you begin to see through such delusions and self-limiting, self-imprisoning patterns, then the door to true wisdom opens.

First, however, you must get off the treadmill of always seeking newer, better, more. If it doesn’t exhaust you, make you sick, or drive you crazy, it will leave you hollow and disillusioned in the end.

Get off the treadmill now. There is more to life than status, money, possessions, peer recognition, materialism and entertainment – much, much more.

Where to begin? Look for ways to reconnect with others, with nature, and above all, with your deeper self. The last and most important point requires at least some time spent in solitude.

But to summarize the beginning most succinctly, I don’t think it can be put any better than by the words of Henry David Thoreau, America’s own Taoist, ecologist, philosopher Zen master:

“Simplify, simplify.”

Enjoy the path. And never give up.

See you on the mountain top.

J. Todd Ring,

November 9, 2020

Beautiful, wise words here, from a Shaolin master:

Seldom in the modern world do you find the real deal, the real thing, unless you are very lucky (good karma) or know where to look. 99.99999% of what is out there is mundane, mediocre, or else far below that: illusion, delusion, propaganda, poison, or just plain garbage. Choose wisely. Shaolin, Wudang and Tibetan teachers are certainly one good place to turn for something better and higher.

Taoist Political Philosophy – Or, How To Not Make The World Worse, By Good Intentions Gone terribly Wrong

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 8, 2020 by jtoddring

The modern world, and particularly the modern Western world, which has now, as of these past few decades, successfully, and tragically, exported itself to become the basis and norm of the modern world globally, is clearly and indisputably in great and severe crisis, on multiple levels: sociologically, politically, economically, psychologically, philosophically, spiritually, and ecologically. We are, in a course phrase, in deep shit; and are stewing in it, rather than humbly seeking answers and wisdom in a broad-minded way.

We have, in the modern West, presumed that anything that came before the modern world, and even, anything that came before the 20th century, or in most cases, anything that came before last week, is hopelessly outdated, backward, and irrelevant. And if it also came from the Global South, or the East, then it is doubly outdated, backward and irrelevant. Our hubris and our arrogance could not be greater, or more deadly.

It is time, as Bertrand Russel urged, for the West to open its mind to the East, not merely perfunctorily, but earnestly, and on equal footing. The same can be said of knowledge from the Global South, from the ancient, medieval and pre-modern world, and from indigenous cultures world-wide.

In the spirit of learning, and of the pursuit of truth, I offer you this.

*

What could the Taoists possibly have to say that is useful to modern, Western, technological society? Quite a lot.

Are we living in harmony with ourselves? No. Are we living in harmony with one another? No. Are we living in harmony with nature? Hardly.

So, it would seem, we have a lot to learn. Hubris must be overcome. Open-mindedness and a pursuit of truth are valuable, and scarce commodities. Let those who have ears hear. Let those who have eyes see.

Firstly, of Taoist philosophy, in terms of political and social philosophy, we should say this. There is a basic trust and confidence in nature, and in human nature, as contra-posed by Judaism, Christianity, and especially, the reigning unconscious orthodoxy of capitalist Puritanism, which seized first Northern Europe, then North America, and now, the world.

*

From the Taoists:

“Man follows nature, nature follows heaven, heaven follows the Tao.” But, as Thoreau said, we moderns are insistent upon a life based in mistrust and fear, and, “Men are determined not to live by faith alone.”

Alan Watts was right: “People who mistrust themselves and others are doomed.”

And we are, as modern people, in precisely that disastrous psychological and social situation now.

People who mistrust themselves and others are doomed to live in fear, in paranoia, in chronic stress and anxiety, and in a perpetual, perceived need to repress themselves and others. This breeds misery, as well as fascism – both of which have seized the world today.

First principle of Taoist philosophy:

“Trust the people – leave them alone.”

Thomas Jefferson would strongly agree, and we went dangerously off the rails because we did not listen to him.

Further elaboration:

“If you want to control the cattle, move back the fences.” Give people freedom, or rather, respect their innate freedom, and things will improve.

That does not mean lawlessness or chaos or passivity. It means a spirit of freedom is not only ethical, but also, intelligent, and fundamental. Certain things must be banned or prohibited, such as weapons of mass destruction, international aggression, murder, theft, rape, assault, or the despoiling of the commons. But barring acts of harm to others, yes, we should leave people alone, and let them live in freedom.

Further clarification:

“You should govern a large country like you cook a small fish.”

That is, lightly.

And most pointedly, and most importantly:

“The greatest danger is the excessive use of force.”

And that means overt force, and also, elite control through propaganda and manipulation. In short, any form of authoritarianism, whether subtle or overt, represents the greatest danger to human society and human life on Earth.

I think it is high time we listened, and leaned the lessons, whether from Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu, or from Thomas Jefferson, Gandhi or Thoreau.

We are at a crossroads. It could be an enlightened age ahead, or it could be a dark age beyond our wildest, and darkest imaginings.

The choice, as always, is ours.

J. Todd Ring,

November 8, 2020

Economic Theory & Reality: Revolution Now

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 15, 2020 by jtoddring

Know this: we must understand and boldly address economics in fundamental ways, or there is no hope, in terms of justice, prosperity, the environment, democracy, freedom, or peace, but only a black hole future of darkly dystopian, genocidal, ecocidal, and ultimately suicidal Orwellian corporate rule.

Economic theory and policy – what a morass. What a rotting bog! What a dung heap of self-justifying mass, systemic delusion and self-deceit. But we need to make sense of it, and cut through the fog, and urgently so. Why? Here is why.

  1. The real political philosophy, and the real, derivative economic policy that rule the world is, and has been for a long time, “Let them eat cake.” It is “the vile maxim of the masters”, as Adam Smith called it, which, as he said, is “All for us. Nothing for anybody else.” The currently ruling economic theory, model, paradigm or orthodoxy, which is neoliberalism, and its equally evil twin, neoconservatism, is simply a rationalization and a smoke screen for crony capitalism on steroids, which has over the past 50 years deliberately morphed itself, in silence, in a slow motion global corporate coup, into corporatism, which, as Mussolini said, is the merger of business and the state, and is the proper term for fascism. So, under cover of the ideological bullshit of a rising tide lifting all boats, or the trickle down theory, what we have is rabid class warfare and economic warfare, with the banking elite and the Fortune 100 biggest corporations, the richest 0.1%, devouring the poor, the middle class, small and medium businesses en mass, the real economy and economic infrastructure, the social infrastructure, and even the affluent and the merely rich, along with the planet, while amassing control of all assets, wealth, resources and power into their hands. And big government and big money are now fused into an all-consuming, ravenous, insatiable eating machine, that is not only eating the people and the planet alive, but also, all that remains of freedom, democracy and constitutional rule, driving us at break-neck speed into a barren and toxic, global dystopia that would make Orwell shudder.
  2. Ok, that was several major problems listed together, for they are inseparably linked to the central problem, which is excessive concentration of power – and that CANNOT be resolved by limiting or even dissolving government and political power merely. It requires limiting and placing strict checks on both political and also economic power. And that, by now, requires fiercesome anti-trust action to break up the entire corporate oligarchy, and, with possibly a few exceptions, break up the Fortune 1000 corporations competely. I would urge we break them up immediately, which requires Gandhian revolution, and distribute their assets to the people broadly, and globally, since they have been stripping assets globally, and turn each corporate empire into a coordinated federation of local democratic co-ops, with ownership divided in shares among three main groups: the local workers, the local community, and the global community of citizens. But however we do it, we must break them up immediately, or they will devour us, and all life on Earth along with us. Make no mistake.

Does a free market economy work? No, all questions of justice aside, it simply implodes. Chile tried it under Pinoche. It was a disaster economically, as well as sociologically. (See Naomi Klein and Greg Palast) A mixed economy had to be reintroduced to stem the hemorrhaging, and restart the collapsed economy.

Does elite run central planning work? Not well, and it creates a gulag society, as China and the USSR have shown. Not remotely acceptable, though the West has now adopted it in 2020, ominously.

Do locally owned, economically democratic co-ops work? Yes, it is amply proven. Mondragon and myriad examples prove it beyond doubt. And it is a model with vast emancipatory power, which we have barely glimpsed so far.

What must be done?

First, remove the bankers and other corporate elites from power. Nothing changes until that happens. We are living in a dreamworld if we think otherwise. That means revolution. Get ready for it. It is coming, and fast. And the enormously heightened feeding frenzy and class warfare, the ramped up, feverish economic warfare of the plutocrats on the other 99.9% of humanity in 2020 will mean that: a) economic collapse is coming fast; and b) civil war and revolution will follow right behind; with c) ruthless fascist repression unleashed in response, and rationalized in order to restore “order”.

We need to restore the power of democratically elected governments at three levels, firstly – national, provincial/state, and local. This is necessary in order to reign in the business elites, as Chomsky has emphasized, though his long term vision accords with Bertrand Russell’s, Bookchin’s and mine, which is libertarian socialism: which means freedom with compassion and cooperation, or mutual aid. Libertarians and anarchists must understand this, or tyranny is all we can expect.

After restoring democratic power to the nations, states and provinces, and to local communities, and removing the business elite from their current position as the new technocratic, neofeudal, fascist overlords, both of which are urgently required and unavoidable; then, and only then, can we decentralize power further. First things first: we must remove the neoliberal and neoconservative fascists from power, and now.

In the short term, democratic nations with mixed economies, serious anti-trust policies, free and fair trade, and both serious anti-pollution laws and green New Deal economic stimulus programs, and above all, dethroning the bankers, by ditching fiat money, implementing a tax on financial speculation, instituting serious capital controls, and dethroning the Fortune 100 by de-chartering them and breaking them up via vigorous and fearless anti-trust action (Teddy Roosevelt would understand), and restoring full constitutional rights for all, would take us a long way, and very rapidly if we have the will, toward a peaceful, clean, green, just, and free world, and a better world for all.

It’s not rocket science. Economics is the dismal science. In truth it is medieval, scholastic, quasi-religious, pseudo-science run by high priests who are as indoctrinated as they are deluded. The whole “profession” is awash in delusion and systemic self-deceit, and functionally serves to rationalize and justify rabidly anti-democratic, world-razing, sociopathic elite rule and global looting and pillaging, the strip-mining of people and the planet, and the cancerous consumption of all life. Remove the crypto-fascist sociopaths from power, and we can swiftly make real, rapid progress from there. Dethrone the oligarchs and their high priests, and we will be half way there.

The moderate grassroots right understand that the core problem is authoritarian technocratic corporate oligarchy, just as the saner minds on the left understand it. In fact, my estimate is that 30% of the people, who are on the moderate right, and 30% of the people who are on the left, understand this fact, and what needs to be done, which is to remove the oligarchs from power. Only the timid 30% in the centre quiver in their boots at such bold statements and bold propositions. Well, to hell with the eternally vacant and spineless centre, I say. Unite the right and the left, and let’s get on with the revolution and the task at hand. Remove the fascist bipartisan corporate elite from power, restore freedom and constitutional democracy, or the republic if you prefer that term, and return the power to the people, where it rightfully belongs, and we will be well on our way to a better world for all.

Don’t let the Orwellian-Machiavellian swindlers fool you. The core problem really is that simple to fix: remove the crooks from power. Restore power to the people, and now.

JTR,

September 15, 2020

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