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What the Big Bang and wholeness have taught me about Facebook – Baptist News Global

Posted: November 28, 2020 at 4:56 pm


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In the fall of 2009, I finally gave in and signed my life over to Facebook. I figured it would be a great way to reconnect with friends and family.

Over time, I began to enjoy sharing my thoughts on theology, politics and sports. I was a conservative evangelical, Calvinist Republican in those days. And so were most of my friends. It was fun to share pithy, humorous statuses about how totally depraved everyone is, but how God chose to save a few of us, mostly Republicans, for his glory while burning the rest forever for his glory.

As I sharedin my recent articleabout my introduction toward healing through self-awareness that led me out of that world, I had a lot of suppressed trauma that was fueling my theology and consequently my use of social media that I was totally unaware of. But as my doubts and questions began to pile up, there came a point where I wanted to share some of them.

When I shared that article on Facebook, my entire experience of social media changed.

In 2018, I wrote arelatively tame blog articlewhere I wondered why I had listened to about 10,000 sermons in my life from mostly white, conservative, fundamentalist, Reformed, evangelical men, while never being given the opportunity to listen to women share much of anything. And when I shared that article on Facebook, my entire experience of social media changed.

Suddenly, I went from being the hilarious, theologically deep, politically informed friend to being on the witness stand having to defend myself, amidst hundreds of comments, against the charges of denying inerrancy, ignoring the clear teaching of the Bible and falling down a slippery slope. Then once I started questioning young earth creationism and the global flood, I was branded on my own Facebook wall as a false teacher and a wolf.

As weve spent most of 2020 dealing with COVID-19, socially distancing from one another, and experiencing a presidential election featuring Donald Trump, our stress on social media has intensified to unprecedented levels.Conservatives are threateningto leave Facebook for Parler due to Facebooks flagging of their conspiracy theories. And as we approach the upcoming holidays after spending this year arguing with family on social media about these conspiracy theories, were facing even more strife over whether or not to get together.

In her bookAlone Together, psychologist Sheri Turkle argues that computer technology has invaded our relationships, rewired our understanding of friendship and authenticity, and left us feeling alone. In a 2012 article forThe Atlantic,Stephen Marche saysthat the loneliness and depression that Facebook fuels has revealed that a connection is not the same thing as a bond, and that instant and total connection is no salvation, no ticket to a happier, better world or a more liberated version of humanity.

We need to look at the timeline of our story to grow in our awareness of who we are as relational beings.

While I agree with much of their observations, I believe social media has a power worth saving toward a more liberated version of humanity. But to discover the social crossroads we find ourselves at, we need to look at the timeline of our story to grow in our awareness of who we are as relational beings.

Our story began around 13.8 billion years ago when the universe was condensed into the wholeness of a dimensionless point of energy called the singularity. After the Big Bang, particles began to draw toward one another in a circular dance and bond together. As they bonded, their convergence transcended to create atoms. Then as atoms began to draw together in their circle dance, they bonded and transcended to create molecules.

From the formation of quantum physics to the unimaginably vast worlds of galaxies, stars, solar systems and planets, our story is an unfolding of wholeness transcending toward more complex wholeness. When we look inside our bodies, we can quite literally see this 13.8 billion-year-old story of coming together to transcend as one toward greater wholeness. The universe and our bodies are essentially a wholeness of energy in relationship.

As our story began to be written on earth, we evolved from reptiles to mammals and intoHomo sapiens, transcending toward greater complexity while bearing the marks and behaviors of our past. Our minds reveal this complexity through our anxiety-fueled reptilian brain that keeps us alive by sensing threats, our hunger-fueled mammal brain that drives desire and pleasure, and our primate brain that builds our social, cognitive, linguistic and creative connections.

Every individual contains within the mind and body a complex network of relationships. When individuals come together as families, co-workers, churches or social groups, these complex networks of relationships interact with one another to create even more complex relationships. As a result, new consciousness emerges.

As humans began to emerge, we initially developed a consciousness that was mythic, tribal and ritualistic. Our fascination with the fertility cycles of nature created a mythic vision of reality as sacred. Yet our experience of community was generally limited to our tribes. In order to restore any disorder in nature, we developed rituals and sacrifices that were meant to bring reconciliation and healing. Within this consciousness, the seeds of religion and politics began to grow.

As our tribes began to interact, we gradually became aware of the ideas of neighboring tribes. This interaction led individuals to question their own tribes ideas, which led to a consciousness that was more individualistic and rational. These individualistic, rational theologies and politics set within the hierarchical structures of power were the world that the church and eventually the American culture grew up in.

The more Christianity became separated from our growing awareness of universal wholeness, the more it shifted its theology of salvation to focus on the next world rather than this one. The 20th century devolved into the most violent, deadly century in world history. So culturally, the desires for salvation and immortality began to shift away from religion to technology.

Every time I log onto Facebook, Im faced with the question in the Create Post box, Whats on your mind, Rick? Most of us will click on the box and start typing away whatever were thinking about at the moment. Yet we have no idea how infinitely complex the subconscious web of relationships is in our minds and bodies that has been unfolding toward that Create Post moment for 13.8 billion years.

In his bookThe Future of Man, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said, Just as Earth once covered itself with a film of interdependent living organisms so humankinds combined achievements are forming a global network of networked mind, a new intersubjectivity.

While social media has been revealing a splintering apart of American society along the lines of religion and politics, it also has been evolving a more global consciousness by connecting individuals across the religious and political divides unlike ever before in history.

What we are really seeking is a bond that leads to salvation as a more liberated version of humanity.

In her bookRe-Enchanting the Earth, Ilia Delio explores how social media has led the individual to transcend into a networked consciousness that is fundamentally reshaping human relationships. Whether we are aware of it or not, the individual is transcending to become more tribal, while the religious and political tribes of the earth are becoming more global. Technology such as social media, Delio says, arose as natures cry for connectedness and wholeness, an effort to transcend our crippled individualism. As Stephen Marche said inThe Atlantic, what we are really seeking is a bond that leads to salvation as a more liberated version of humanity.

In their bookHow to Think Theologically, Howard Stone and James Duke discuss how Christians have anembedded theologythat is handed to us from within our communities. It is the unquestioned, natural theology that we simply assume is reality. They then discussdeliberative theologyas the process of becoming aware of, reflecting on and reconsidering our constructs of reality that we had long taken for granted.

This journey of self-awareness is the beginning of a more liberated version of humanity. We must do the difficult work of facing our wounds, of naming and grieving them so deeply until we are moved with compassionate love for ourselves.

Delio says we need to reimagine Christianity in light of the cosmos to discover both the depths and complexities of who we are within and the opportunities for convergence and transcendence that lay before us to expand without.

Over the past few years in particular, there has been a growing fear amongst conservative evangelical white men about what they perceive to be the dangers of liberation theologies. Twitter is full of these men attacking even other conservative Black men for bringing this supposedly dangerous theology into the church.

InLift Every Voice, liberation theologians Susan Thistlethwaite and Mary Engel frame liberation theologies within the eschatological cosmic story of God bringing the cosmos together into greater wholeness through restorative justice and love. Liberation theologies begin from the perspective of oppressed communities and address the systemic structures that are causing their suffering. According to C.S. Song, liberation theologies see that reality is a world of multiplicities stamped with the One, and that we are in nature and nature is in us, and together we and nature are in God.

The reason conservative evangelical white men are against liberation theologies is that they have promoted a gospel that is fundamentally against the reality of universal, unfolding wholeness. They promote a gospel that says we are fundamentally separate individuals, separate from God, making separate decisions, with separate eternal destinies. They embrace a theology that uses the individualistic, rational interpretation of mythic, ritualistic tribalism within an ancient hierarchical power structure of the cosmos. And they are its power brokers on the earth.

So when I post a status about liberating communities they have oppressed, they deny the existence of systemic evil, label me as dangerous, and threaten everyone with the judgment of separation from neighbor and God.

Part of my growing self-awareness has led me to realize I also have been oppressed by these men. I bear the wounds of their words in my bones. But I also bear the unfolding story of the cosmos as transcending wholeness in my bones.

To post a Facebook status or share a tweet is ultimately a cry toward wholeness.

To post a Facebook status or share a tweet is ultimately a cry toward wholeness. To have those who have benefited from systemic power tell you that you are wrong and a threat is trauma.

We have only begun to explore through astrophysics, quantum physics and neuroscience the depths of our story, the complexities of our minds and bodies, and the opportunity for liberation or separation that social media gives us. As Delio says, Technology is extending the outreach of the human person into global domains.

Perhaps by discovering our story of unfolding wholeness by exploring the cosmos within ourselves, well be able to use social media to name and bring justice to the traumas of separation as we transcend toward the bond of a more liberated version of humanity.

Rick Pidcockis a stay-at-home father of five kids. He and his wife, Ruth Ellen, have started Provoke Wonder, a collaboration of artists that exists to foster child-like worship through story and song. Provoke Wonders first album,Consider the Stars, was released in March 2020. Their first childrens book,What If, will be released in 2020. Rick is pursuing a master of arts degree in worship from Northern Seminary.

This article was made possible by gifts to the Mark Wingfield Fund for Interpretive Journalism.

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What the Big Bang and wholeness have taught me about Facebook - Baptist News Global

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November 28th, 2020 at 4:56 pm

Dominating the Street: President Trump Recycles Lawlessness from the Gutter – JURIST

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Louis Ren Beres, Professor Emeritus of International Law at Purdue, recounts the grave mistakes made by Donald Trump during his tenure, and analyses how they can be resolved going forward in order to reinstate American self-respect...

ANTIFA SCUM ran for the hills today when they tried attacking the people at the Trump Rally, because those people aggressively fought back..DC Police, get going do your job and dont hold back!!! US President Donald Trump, November 14, 2020

Whoever can dominate the street will one day conquer the state, for every form of power politics and any dictatorship run state has its roots in the street. Joseph Goebbels, Third Reich Minister of Propaganda, Party Rally at Nuremberg, 1934

I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump. I have the tough people, but they dont play it tough until they go to a certain point and then it would be very bad, very very bad. Donald Trump, March 15, 2019

In the fashion of his de facto mentor in 1930s Germany, Donald J. Trump remains gleefully a man of the street. This fearful resemblance is many-sided, and exists at different intersecting levels. Like Hitler, Goebbels and Goering, American President Trump thrives amid chaos, violence and general lawlessness. As an evident corollary, he remains stubbornly crude and disingenuous in his every gesture.

Some of this Presidents derelictions are more egregious than others. The worst, by far, is his orchestrated disinformation campaign against accepted medical science. Also unsettling and injurious is his steadfast insistence upon a rigged election. Though not supported by a scintilla of tangible evidence, Donald J. Trumps incessant claims of voter fraud simultaneously undermine US dignity and national security.

Plausibly, after Trump, we are even more apt to concur with Irish poet W.B. Yeats, There is no longer a virtuous nation, and the best of us live by candle light.

When Donald Trump is finally compelled to leave office on January 20, 2021 and no doubt, shrieking with indignation about unfairness the United States will have reached a nadir of epic proportion. This once-unimaginable low point will reveal not only greatly expanded American weakness on all legal fronts, but also a pandemic-created body count exceeding earlier compilations of national war dead. In specifically jurisprudential or legal terms, it would not be unreasonable to call these American Covid-19 fatalities the victims of a de facto genocide.

Donald J. Trump made all the wrong calls on controlling this disease, many of them based on deliberate and conscious manipulations of truth and law. These catastrophically wrong calls cannot be ascribed to predictive error.

Its finally time for candor. The only tangible difference between the Trump-assisted mass dying and a true genocide lies in the presumed absence of criminal intent or mens rea. From the flesh-and-blood standpoint of the dead Americans and their surviving families, of course, this law-based absence is simply immaterial.

Expecting this defiling Presidents behavior to change on its own has always been a core mistake in the United States. Merely hoping against hope that such persistently barbarous behavior can change was always about as credible an expectation as awaiting a sudden change in the earths gravitational tides. Today, on account of our refractory unwillingness to call things by their correct name, Americans are living (and dying) in a self-created desert of pervasive despair.

This demeaning creation will have ubiquitous long-term consequences. After all, as we may learn from 20th century European thinker E.M. Cioran, a cry of despair is more revealing than the most subtle thought; and tears always have deeper roots than smiles.

What do we do now, when even the normal prospect of a peaceful transfer of US presidential power can no longer be assured? To begin with, it is essential that we consciously reject the atavistic insights of mass man, and begin, with apt seriousness, to embrace Reason. Going forward, American national policies ought no longer be based upon unchallenged and boorish gibberish.

After Trump, it will be high time for competently gathered facts and a closely corresponding corpus of science-based theory.

And for jurisprudence, it will be very high time.

Something else will also be necessary. To wit, certain acts that were once merely wrong or harmful have recently become murderous or prospectively murderous. In large measure, this is because the Covid-19 pandemic mandates more substantially far-reaching patterns of serious cooperation, domestically and internationally. These patterns concern densely intersecting elements of world order.

Quo Vadis? Where should we go from here? To start the list, the conspicuously shallow and degrading Trump vision of America First ought never be allowed to outlast his corrupted presidency. Such a retrograde allowance would only lead the United States toward endlessly Darwinian global struggles and to an even larger worldwide chaos. Here, amid fiercely escalating competitions between nation-states, we could then expect more and more refractory global conflicts.

There is more. The failed standard of everyone for himself can produce only more and more intense levels of human suffering. Ipso facto, such bitter results would reflect discernibly wide deviations from Americas assorted legal obligations. Most notable, in this regard, would be certain statutory and customary obligations of both national and international law.

We are all obliged to inquire: Where should we be headed from such an inauspicious decisional precipice? In our war and disease-ravaged world, a synergy-exacerbated planet now teetering at the most vertiginous heights of despair, only a law-based expansion of human empathy could possibly save us. This suggests, among other things, that any such expansion by the United States would represent not just some generous or one-sided act of charity that is, a mistakenly altruistic species of traditional American benevolence.

Instead, we are speaking here of a determinedly positive and self-serving expression of rational US policy.

The reasons are easily identifiable and abundantly clear. In brief summation: US national interests can no longer be served at the calculably deliberate and zero-sum expense of other states and nations. As we ought already to have learned from the grievously debilitating Trump years, America First really means America Last.

It has been a lethal oxymoron.

There is more. At every crucial level of evaluation military, economic, biological and legal American security is integrally linked with a wider human soul. For the United States, any further misplaced confidence in embarrassingly vacant presidential witticisms or allegations could fatally undermine this unhappy countrys overall security. Although, until now, any open reference to US national morbidity would have seemed a hyperbole, or a gross exaggeration; but this is no longer the case.

Prima facie, we Americans are in grievously mortal danger, individually and collectively.

What we have been witnessing during the dissembling Trump Era, hour by hour, minute by minute, is the incremental dismantling of a once decent and law-respecting nation. Now, an immutable element of transience has become tragically self-evident. Its not that such transience or impermanence can ever be fixed, but rather that still-aspiring great nations ought not to take witting steps to hasten their collective disappearance.

Trump did not make America great again.

In continuous candor, during its Trump-based and pandemic-hastened decline, the American mass could not possibly cling convincingly to this Presidents contrived promises of greatness. At best, the childishly-inscribed red hats and related paraphernalia expressed a dangerously thin parody of high thinking. They were a demonstrably hideous caricature of legitimate thought. For the foreseeable future, lest we should forget the immutable lessons of change and transformation in world affairs, America will need to settle not for greatness, but only for elementary physical survival.

All this is hardly reassuring or comforting. Nonetheless, truth is necessary, and exculpatory, not just in law, but in national life generally. Trumpian false reassurance is not something we should ever seek or accept. Already, this deception has cost tens or hundreds of thousands of American lives, fellow citizens who foolishly believed in an elected leader who said treacherously, again and again, We have everything under control and We are rounding the corner on this virus.

Always, truth excuses candor. This particular truth about Americas mortal vulnerabilities is not subject to any captivating metaphors or credible contradictions. US President Donald J. Trump is personally responsible for uncountable American disease fatalities. Even if he meant well (a problematic assumption in its own right), his decision to distribute pertinent health supplies on the basis of presumed political loyalty was morally and legally inexcusable.

There is still more. For the United States, todays national and geopolitical truth is expectedly grim and undeniably sobering. Even worse, there are no discoverable correctives visible anywhere on this bewildered administrations determinable policy horizons. On the contrary, the medicine offered by a still-lingering (and still-limping) Trump administration is just more and more of the same.

This medicine remains toxic.

From the White House, nothing seriously remediating has been offered, whether on matters concerning war, genocide, terrorism or planet-wide pandemic. Of course, if we can somehow manage to hold out until January 20, 2021 and if the increasingly violent street fighters backing Donald Trump can be prevented from obstructing a peaceful transfer of presidential authority the incoming Biden administration ought to quickly supply some authentic and law-supporting solace.

The finding of regularities constitutes the beginning of any scientific inquiry. Apropos of this core understanding, there is a common problem here. Most fundamentally injurious and ominous about Donald Trumps studied indifference to human interconnections and properly codified legal rights has been his willful destruction of empathy. For still-thinking Americans, the palpably dreadful consequences of such destruction ought to have already become obvious.

The unmistakably monstrous global consequences of Germany First a readily recognizable antecedent of Trumps America First should have immediately exhibited certain stinging historical resonances.

For any necessary expansions of empathy to become sufficiently practical would first require a president and a citizenry at least minimally versed in history and law. At this moment, there is precious little evidence of any such learning. Even worse, we have been witnessing an American political process wherein learning and intellect are ridiculed and count only as liabilities.

Donald J. Trump did not create this countrys stultifying disinterest in history, law and learning. There are other much deeper roots to the correlative American deficiencies of empathy and cooperation. Divided into thousands of hostile tribes, almost two hundred of which are called nation-states, too many human beings still find it easy or even pleasing to slay others. As for any remediating considerations of compassion, that indispensable sort of sentiment is typically reserved only for those who live well within ones own previously-delineated tribe.

Looking ahead, any needed expansion of empathy to include outsiders remains a basic condition of law-based peace and more viable global cooperation. Without such a needed expansion, our entire species will remain inconveniently dedicated to its own protracted debasement and, by extrapolation, its own incremental disappearance. Hopefully, with the advent of a new President on January 20, 2021, Joe Biden will take useful note of this urgent human obligation.

Ironically, however, the essential expansion of empathy for many could become dreadful, improving human community, but only at the prohibitive costs of private sanity. This potentially insufferable consequence is rooted deeply in the way we humans were originally designed, that is, as more-or-less hard-wired beings, as individuals with distinctly recognizable and largely impermeable boundaries of personal feeling. Were it otherwise, an extended range of compassion toward too many others would inevitably bring about our own emotional collapse.

As an easy to understand example, we may consider how difficult it would be if all of us were suddenly to feel the same compelling pangs of sympathy and compassion for certain others outside our primary spheres of attachment that we customarily maintain only for family and friends inside these spheres.

This daunting challenge presents a challenging paradox. It has already been examined in the ancient Jewish legend of the Lamed-Vov; this is a Talmudic tradition that scholars generally trace back to Isaiah. Here, the whole world is said to rest upon thirty-six Just Men, the Lamed-Vov. Along normal criteria of differentiation, these figures are otherwise indistinguishable from ordinary mortals. Still, instructs the legend, if just one of their number were absent, the resultant sufferings of humankind would become staggering, poisoning even the purest souls of the newly-born.

This Talmud-explained paradox has some useful contemporary legal meaning for the United States. The modernized signification reveals that a widening circle of human compassion is indispensable to civilizational survival and yet, represents a source of private anguish. According to the Jewish legend, such overwhelming anguish would be unimaginable.

Still more questions must be raised. How shall President Trump or President Joe Biden begin to deal capably with a requirement for global civilization that is both essential and unbearable? Newly informed that empathy for many is a precondition for any decent and functioning world legal order, what could create such care without producing intolerable emotional pain? Recalling Ralph Waldo Emerson and the American Transcendentalists, remaining high-thinkers in the United States now ought to duly inquire: How can we be immediately released from the misconceived ideology of America First, a deranging posture that has been increasing the prospects not only of aggression, terrorism and genocide, but also of our now-uncontrolled disease pandemic?

There is more. The whole world, the world in toto, is a system. The existence of system in the world is at once obvious to every observer of nature, says the Jesuit philosopher, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, no matter whom.Each element of the Cosmos is positively woven from all the others. Above all, this dissembling Presidents soon-to-be-installed successor should fully and finally understand that the legal state of Americas national union can never be any better than the state of the world as a whole. This key truth now obtains not only in traditional reference to the enduring issues of war, peace and human rights, but also to patently critical matters of epidemic disease management.

Always, for the imperiled United States, the overarching presidential objective must be to protect the sacred dignity, safety and law-based rights of each and every individual human being. It is exactly this high-minded and ancient goal that should now give preeminent policy direction to a bewildered and bewildering President Trump and incoming American President Joe Biden. Such indisputably good counsel could represent a law-based corrective to Trumps consistently misleading endorsements of America First.

Naturally, it will be easy for many to dismiss any such seemingly lofty recommendations for human dignity and legal obligation as silly, ethereal or academic. But, in reality, there could never be any greater American presidential naivet than to insistently champion the patently false extremities of everyone for himself.

Among Trumps other egregious misunderstandings and falsifications, America First represented a sorely blemished presidential mantra. Devoid of empathy, intellect, and absolutely all principal obligations of human legal cooperation, it could only have led toward distressingly new heights of strife, disharmony and collective despair. Left intact and unrevised, America First would have pointed us all toward a potentially irreversible vita minima; that is, to badly corrupted personal lives emptied of themselves meaningless, shattered, rancorous, unfeeling and radically unstable.

Here, located among so many other melodramas and misfortunes, we would find it impossible to battle not just the usual adversaries involving violence, but also our increasingly fearful biological/pathogen-centered enemies.

There is more. Without a suitable expansion of empathy, we Americans will remain at the mercy not just of other predatory human beings, but also of certain exceedingly virulent pathogens. Progressively, the harmful synergies created by such dangerous combinations would sometime likely become too much to bear. And we could not count upon the Lamed-Vov to rescue us.

For all who would still value clear thinking, the cumulative legal lesson should be unassailable. We are all part of the same planetary whole. Only by placing Humanity First can an American president make America First. The latter placement, which must now include the capacity to combat disease pandemic as well as war, terrorism and genocide, is not possible without the former. Today, as America hopes to survive the closing days of Donald J. Trumps unraveling presidency, the driving reason behind this conclusion remains cosmopolitan and essentially unchanged.

Is it an end that draws near, asks postwar German philosopher Karl Jaspers in Man in the Modern Age (1951) or a beginning? To reply usefully, our national and international preparations must lie not in the warring streets of Donald J. Trump and Joseph Goebbels, but in the verifiable intellectual truths of history, science and jurisprudence. These basic truths are unhidden and ascertainable.

Americans now ought to embrace them together with other still-promising elements of the incoming Biden presidency. Inevitably, American security, global security and world law will remain intertwined. In the end, they must all become one.

Louis Ren Beres (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is Professor Emeritus of Political Science and International Law at Purdue. He is the author of twelve major books and several hundred journal articles in the field. Professor Beres writings appear in many leading newspapers and magazines, including The Atlantic, The Hill, U.S. News & World Report, The National Interest, The Jerusalem Post, The New York Times and Oxford University Press. In Israel, where his latest writings were published by the BESA Center for Strategic Studies, the Institute for Policy and Strategy and the Institute for National Security Studies, he was Chair of Project Daniel (PM Sharon, 2003). Dr. Beres strategy-centered publications have been published in such places as The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists; JURIST; Special Warfare (Pentagon); Infinity Journal (Israel); The Strategy Bridge; The War Room (USA War College); Modern War Institute (West Point); The Harvard National Security Journal (Harvard Law School); Modern Diplomacy; Yale Global Online; The International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, Parameters: Journal of the U.S. Army War College, The Brown Journal of World Affairs, Israel Defense (Tel Aviv); World Politics (Princeton); International Security (Harvard) and the Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs. Professor Louis Ren Beres was born in Zrich, Switzerland, at the end of World War II.

Suggested citation: Louis Ren Beres, Dominating the Street: President Trump Recycles Lawlessness from the Gutter, JURIST Academic Commentary, November 25, 2020, https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2020/11/louis-rene-beres-trump-dominating-the-street/.

This article was prepared for publication by Akshita Tiwary, JURISTs Staff Editor. Please direct any questions or comments to her at commentary@jurist.org

Opinions expressed in JURIST Commentary are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JURIST's editors, staff, donors or the University of Pittsburgh.

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Dominating the Street: President Trump Recycles Lawlessness from the Gutter - JURIST

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November 28th, 2020 at 4:56 pm

Rolheiser: The law of gravity and the Holy Spirit Grandin Media – Grandin Media

Posted: November 10, 2020 at 12:55 am


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God is erotically charged and the world is achingly amorous, hence they caress each other in mutual attraction and filiation.

Jewish philosopher Martin Buber made that assertion, and while it seems to perfectly echo the opening line of St. Augustines autobiography (You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.)it hints at something more. St. Augustine was talking about an insatiable ache inside the human heart which keeps us restless and forever aware that everything we experience is not enough because the finite unceasingly aches for the infinite, and the infinite unceasingly lures the finite. But St. Augustine was speaking of the human heart, about the restlessness and pull towards God thats felt there.

Martin Buber is talking about that too, but hes also talking about a restlessness, an incurable pull towards God, thats inside all of nature, inside the universe itself. It isnt just people who are achingly amorous, its the whole world, all of nature, the universe itself.

Whats being said here? In essence, Buber is saying that whats felt inside the human heart is also present inside every element within nature itself, in atoms, molecules, stones, plants, insects, and animals. Theres the same ache for God inside everything that exists, from a dead planet, to a black hole, to a redwood tree, to our pet dogs and cats, to the heart of a saint. And in that theres no distinction between the spiritual and the physical. The one God who made both is drawing them both in the same way.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who was both a scientist and a mystic, believed this interplay between the energy flowing from an erotically charged God and that flowing back from an amorous world, is the energy that undergirds the very structure of the universe, physical and spiritual. For Teilhard, the law of gravity, atomic activity, photosynthesis, ecosystems, electromagnetic fields, animal instinct, sexuality, human friendship, creativity, and altruism, all draw on and manifest one and the same energy, an energy that is forever drawing all things towards each other. If that is true, and it is, then ultimately the law of gravity and the Holy Spirit are part of one and the same energy, one and the same law, one and the same interplay of eros and response.

At first glance it may seem rather unorthodox theologically to put people and physical nature on the same plane. Perhaps too, it some might find it offensive to speak of God as erotically charged. So let me address those concerns.

In terms of God relating to physical nature, orthodox Christian theology and our scriptures affirm that Gods coming to us in Christ in the incarnation is an event not just for people, but also for physical creation itself. When Jesus says he has come to save the world he is, in fact, talking about the world and not just the people in the world. Physical creation, no less than humanity, is Gods child and God intends to redeem all of his children. Christian theology has never taught that the world will be destroyed at the end of time, but rather (as St. Paul says) physical creation will be transformed and enter into the glorious liberty of the children of God. How will the physical world go to heaven? We dont know; though we cant conceptualize how we will go there either. But we know this: the Christ who took on flesh in the incarnation is also the Cosmic Christ, that is, the Christ through whom all things were made and who binds all creation together. Hence theologians speak of deep incarnation, namely, of the Christ-event as going deeper than simply saving human beings, as saving physical creation itself.

I can appreciate too that there will be some dis-ease in my speaking of God as erotic, given that today we generally identify that word with sex. But thats not the meaning of the word. For the Greek philosophers, from whom we took this word,eroswas identified with love, and with love in all its aspects. Eros did mean sexual attraction and emotional obsession, but it also meant friendship, playfulness, creativity, common sense, and altruism. Eros, properly understood, includes all of those elements, so even if we identify eros with sexuality, there still should be no discomfort in applying this to God. We are made in the image and likeness of God, and thus our sexuality reflects something inside the nature of God. A God who is generative enough to create billions of galaxies and is continually creating billions of people, clearly is sexual and fertile in ways beyond our conception. Moreover, the relentless ache inside of every element and person in the universe for unity with something beyond itself has one and the same thing in mind, consummation in love with God who is Love.

So, in reality, the law of gravity and the gifts of the Holy Spirit have one and the same aim.

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Rolheiser: The law of gravity and the Holy Spirit Grandin Media - Grandin Media

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November 10th, 2020 at 12:55 am

After the American Election: Overcoming Plague, Chaos and Mass – JURIST

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Louis Ren Beres, Professor Emeritus of International Law at Purdue, analyses America's future after the 2020 Presidential Elections...

The mass-man has no attention to spare for reasoning; he learns only in his own flesh. Jose Ortega yGasset, The Revolt of the Masses (1930)

In the United States, prima facie, presidential elections represent a core fixture of democracy. Nonetheless, though necessary and never more so than in the just-completed defeat of Donald J. Trump they are sorely insufficient in dealing with this countrys most deeply underlying problems. To deal satisfactorily with the coronavirus pandemic (our current worldwide plague) and with a more-or-less corresponding global chaos, America will first have to fix the microcosm. More precisely, we must diminish the always-corrosive influence of mass-man.

This obligation, in turn, will require various tangible reforms. The goal must be a citizenry that can finally take learning, science and law with evident seriousness. To effectively meet this goal, Americans must first work diligently at taking themselves more seriously. No long-term survival goals can be met by an electorate that nods predictably and approvingly to nonsensical howls of presidential gibberish and presidential execration.

Let us be candid. American democracy is now largely an oxymoron. Its not just the steep wealth disparities between individuals and groups inequalities steadily enlarged during the dissembling Trump-Era. It is also the de jure validation of an institutionalized plutocracy. Oddly enough, counted among the most numerous and strenuous supporters of Trump-generated inequalities were millions of newly-deprived and badly-treated American workers.

Credo quia absurdum, said the ancient philosophers with considerable prescience. I believe because it is absurd.

But now its all about our national future after the election. Now, more than ever, we must look forward. And we must look systematically.

Basic questions arise. What are the most significant post-election threats facing the United States? To answer properly, these substantial perils will need to be approached holistically, in their entirety; that is, conceptually, analytically and cumulatively.

Quo vadis? Above all else, this means, inter alia, a society rising high above the previously-deflecting politics of individual personality and strident partisanship; and a polity paying a sincere heed to the immutable primacy of intellect or mind.

For too long, incontestably, this unhappy country has mired itself in the sordid and superficial orientations of personal animosity, demeaning clich and callous indifference to law. This last dereliction refers to both US domestic law and to international law. These mainstay normative systems are always closely bound up with each other. To suggest otherwise is to accept a flagrantly false dichotomy.

To accept such falsehood is tantamount to sacrilizing a heavy ignorance.

Truth is exculpatory, especially in matters of law. One basic truth goes like this: The United States now stands at a once inconceivable level of national impotence and legal invidium. On Americas international legal wrongdoings, we have been witness to a President who routinely follows the authoritarian lead of Russias Vladimir Putin and other retrograde world leaders. On our more conspicuous domestic derelictions, We the people have had to endure, again and again, a President who acts as if peremptory legal norms were non-existent, and who led chanting rallies as if he had been taught by Third Reich Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels.

None of this is an exaggeration or hyperbole; rather, the anti-law similarities are overwhelming, deeply consequential and foreboding. In one repeatedly grotesque Trump refrain, Lock him up (earlier, for Hillary Clinton, Lock her up), the explicit call was for casually shelving the proper Constitutional protections of due process of law. When, most recently, the object of Trumps orchestrated rancor became the female governor of Michigan and this immediately after Gretchen Whitmer had become the intended target of a Trump-backing US terrorist group it once again became Lock her up.

Either way, the crude chants were a shameless rejection of Constitutional government and long-codified legal protections.

There is more. This ritualized obeisance to lawlessness was not confined simply to adrenalized and incoherent chants. Just days before his second presidential debate with Democrat candidate Joe Biden, Donald Trumps sought to convince his Attorney General to launch a full investigation of his opponent. This time, however, William Barr, ordinarily a dutiful sycophant to the end, stopped short of cowardly capitulation.

There is still more to understand. If the nations leaders and citizens could finally bring themselves to soar above this bitter amalgam of societal atrophy and mass wrongdoing a measurably low point in both legal and socio-political terms it will quickly become apparent that a single archetype of contemporary American life should become our present-day focal point of remediation. This ubiquitous object is the philosophers mass man, a one person distillation (male or female) of all that is most unworthy and law-violating in American life.

Clarifications are in order. To explain, this philosophers mass man is the herd person who all-too-often prefers anti-reason to reason and intimations of conspiracy to any tangible science. During the closing days of the recent presidential campaign, President Donald Trump several-times ridiculed Joe Biden because he would base his pandemic decisions on the scientists. Here, hewing to scientists rather than propagandists was described as a pejorative.

Credo quia absurdum, said the ancient philosophers.

There is more. At this still-unraveling time of plague and impending chaos, more precise and respectable normative standards will be necessary for guidance. Ongoing and prospective perils are generally intersecting; also, such intersections could often be synergistic. Accordingly, the whole corpus of relevant harms could on occasion be even greater than the sum of all relevant parts.

In these matters of leadership, it is time for celebrations of intellect or mind. In principle, at least, following a US leadership era that had proudly and loudly loathed science and learning, Americans should look back at authentic political and legal thought. We ought to be learning from Plato, Cicero and Blackstone, not from Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh.

In his seventeenth century work of classical philosophy, Thomas Hobbes a little-read but still-foundational author of the eighteenth century American Republic explored deductively the natural condition of mankind. Published just a few years after the Peace of Westphalia, the 1648 treaty that ended the Thirty Years War and ushered in the state system. Hobbes Leviathan placed its primary emphasis on what we would call today geo-strategic context.

There is more. Hobbes analytic focus was directed toward understanding the always-crucial connections between individual or personal weaknesses and world system anarchy or chaos. The thinker concluded that in the Westphalian system of international law, a condition of permanent war must obtain, not just during episodes of actual fighting, but whenever these exists a known disposition thereto. At that particular point in history, however, the philosopher was not taking into account the rare but catastrophic factor of worldwide disease pandemic.

One neednt be an historian or legal scholar to understand that such a relentlessly insidious disposition to conflict remains current for America, in 2020. Indeed, at the present historical moment especially in consideration of verifiable evidence for ongoing nuclear proliferation we are devolving still further from traditional anarchy toward a far more stubbornly remorseless and indecipherable chaos. It follows, for scholars and relevant policy makers, that to better understand Americas changing risk profile, more attention must now be oriented to central matters of intellect and thought.

Now that the presidential election is behind us, what does all this really signify? In the United States, as a direct consequence of Donald Trumps disjointed pandemic policies, tens of millions of Americans have been pushed ruthlessly into poverty. Lest anyone mistakenly feel that such an American poverty is relatively benign or gentle, the numbers make clear something far different. This poverty includes several distinctly palpable forms of hunger. Considered against the backdrop of the rest of the so-called developed world, Americans in general are now anything but enviable. We surely did not become great again.

In critical matters of foreign affairs and international law, the United States displays assorted and comparably distressing failures. Now faced with significantly strengthened adversaries in Russia and China, and with a greatly weakened set of once-viable alliances, even the most plausible strategic outlooks include a steady expansion of war and terrorism. Such an expectation has very deep roots in President Donald J. Trumps manifold disregard for Americas obligations under international law obligations ipso facto a part of US law.

Even before the creation of the modern state system in 1648 indeed, from time immemorial world politics have been rooted in some more-or-less bitter species of Realpolitik or power politics. Although such traditionally rancorous patterns of thinking are normally accepted as realistic, they have actually proven to be starkly shortsighted and insufferably transient. It follows, among several other things, that Americas president would be well-advised to finally acknowledge the inherent limitations of a persistently fragile global threat system, and begin to identify more promising and substantially more law-supporting patterns of international interaction.

There is a bigger picture. The United States, in the fashion of every other state, is plainly part of a much larger world system. But this more comprehensive system has steadily diminishing chances for achieving any sustainable success within a transient pattern of endlessly competitive sovereignties. What then, one must promptly inquire, is the point of continuing to maintain a qualitative military edge? After all, we coexist in a system that is resolutely destined to fail.

What is the good of passing from one untenable position to another, asks Samuel Beckett philosophically in Endgame, of seeking justification always on the same plane?

Realpolitik or balance of power world politics, has never succeeded for longer than brief and dreadfully uncertain intervals. From time to time, in the future, this unsteady foundation could be further exacerbated by multiple systemic failures, sometimes mutually reinforcing or synergistic, sometimes perhaps involving weapons of mass destruction. Most portentous, in this regard, would be nuclear weapons.

By definition, a failure of nuclear Realpolitik could be not only catastrophic, but sui generis. This truth obtains if the failure is judged in the full or cumulative scope of its resultant declensions.

Remedial steps need to be taken. Immediately, all states that depend upon some form or other of nuclear deterrence must prepare to think more self-consciously and imaginatively about alternative systems of world politics; that is, about creating viable configurations that are more reliably war-averse and cooperation-centered. While any hint of interest in complex patterns of expanding global integration, or what Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin calls planetization, will sound fanciful to realists, the opposite is vastly more plausible.

Now, it is more pragmatic to acknowledge that our every man for himself ethos in world politics is both degrading and incapable of conferring any credible survival reassurances.

Now it is plain that absolutely nothing could be less realistic for governments than to remain on the present collision course.

There is more. To grasp rapidly disappearing opportunities for long-term survival, Americas president must seize upon the penetrating insight of thinker Lewis Mumford: Civilization is the never ending process of creating one world and one humanity. Whenever we speak of civilization, we must also speak prominently of law. Jurisprudentially, of course, no particular national leadership has any special or primary obligations in this regard, nor could one reasonably afford to build its own security policies upon vaguely distant hopes.

Even after the corrupting and attenuating Trump presidency, the United States remains a key part of the world legal community, and its president must now do whatever he can to detach an already weakened America from the time-dishonored state of nature. Any such willful detachment should be expressed as part of a still-wider vision for a more durable and justice-centered global politics. Over the longer term, Washington will have to do its part to best preserve the world system as a whole.

America Together, not America First, must now become the preferred and expressed national mantra.

However impractical this may first sound, nothing could possibly be more fanciful than continuing indefinitely on a repeatedly discredited policy course.

Everything changes. In particular, the geo-strategic world within which we must all necessarily endure is endlessly in flux. Apropos of this transience, the specific kinds of anarchy or chaos facing the United States and all other states in the years ahead will be very different from what had earlier emerged in the seventeenth century.

What then? Though hardly compensatory in any meaningful human sense, there would nonetheless be present an optimal occasion for seeking greater precision in all pertinent analyses. American strategic thinkers should already understand that refractory threats that still lie ahead ominously may originate less with formidable enemy armies than with multiple forms of decisional miscalculation or inadvertence. These threats, furthermore, are now magnified or force-multiplied by an inherently many-sided pandemic.

Examples abound. One current example could center on any still-planned US deployment of intermediate range missiles in the Asia-Pacific region, a provocative step that would especially worry China (a state sorely needed by the United States to assist with still-accelerating nuclear developments in North Korea, and with a host of other more fundamental economic survival matters).

Already, for its part, at least on one key level, China indicates it has no intention of joining any nuclear weapons reduction talks with the US, pointing (understandably) to the huge gap in size between Chinas nuclear arsenal and Americas. At the same time, it would be a grievous error in American strategic thinking to conclude that the more destructive US nuclear arsenal will necessarily bestow any corresponding increase in overall American global power or influence. For too many years, even long before the grievously misdirected Trump presidency, the United States had consistently confused power of destruction with more general species of influence.

According to the Federation of American Scientists, China has an estimated 290 nuclear warheads currently deployed, compared to 1,750 for the US.

Another problematic area of possibly expanding chaos and corollary nuclear confrontation might be Kashmir. Here, America could quickly or suddenly find itself caught between variously unpredictable India-Pakistan escalations. Of course, even if the US were not directly involved in any such unprecedented levels of warfare, any nuclear war in southwest Asia would inevitably prove generally injurious (an evident understatement) for the planet as a whole.

An even more primary axis of conflict in world politics will require closer conceptual attention by American strategic thinkers and planners. Recalling Thomas Hobbes definition of war as not merely actual fighting, but also as a known disposition thereto, the US president should take far more explicit note that we are already in the thickening midst of Cold War II. This steadily expanding adversarial posture between Russia and the United States is both similar and dissimilar to the original Cold War. In any event, it defines the most plausibly basic context within which US nuclear strategy must from now on be fashioned and/or refined.

Even this most basic context will be impacted by expanding hazards of worldwide disease epidemic, primarily by their largely unpredictable effect upon national decision makers and by their similarly unknowable effects upon relevant decisional synergies.

These issues are not susceptible to solution by applying the dreadful clichs or empty witticisms of the previous US administration. Instead, they will require some serious engagement by a small number of genuinely gifted thinkers and planners, individuals who have been the beneficiaries of a comprehensive and challenging formal education. This is not the time for core policy judgments by mass man. Though Donald Trump claimed to love the poorly educated, these are not the people who can best guide Americas imperiled ship of state through uncharted waters.

There is more. In a world increasingly prone to periodic and potentially primal conflict, the role of nuclear weapons will need to be more closely and specifically considered. This overriding obligation pertains not only to the nuclear capacities and intentions of the United States and its most obvious foes, but also to their several and most probable intersections with various other countries.

Because such plausible intersections could sometimes become synergistic, American strategists will need to best ensure that (1) there will occur no further spread of nuclear weapons among recognizable state or sub-state enemies, and (2) attempting to counter any one designable enemy would not wittingly or unwittingly assist another. Even more potentially bewildering in these pandemic-focused times, these strategists would need to take meticulously proper account of expanding disease impact upon both enemy decision-makers and on our own.

Among other things, this will not be a task for thinly-educated, narrowly political or commerce-oriented public personalities.

Soon, too, American decision-makers will need to more fully acknowledge that geo-strategic context can be broadly intellectual rather than just narrowly geopolitical or geographic. Expressed in terms of Thomas Hobbes aptly fearful argument about the state of nature, America must do whatever it can to avoid any dreadful equality from emerging in enemy nuclear capacity. Here, still more precisely, Washington could learn purposefully from Leviathan, the weakest has strength enough to kill the strongest.

By definition, the capacities of law to aid human survival and human betterment would be diminished by any such equality.

No matter how powerful this country may first appear vis--vis its relevant adversaries, even a seemingly less-powerful North Korea could bring nuclear harms to the United States or its allies. We ought not to presume, therefore, any clear existential benefit to national nuclear superiority. In the more formal parlance of original Cold War nuclear theory, absolutely any nuclear harms would be unacceptable.

Another specific threat must be factored in or considered. Looking even further ahead, assorted terror groups could gain incremental access to usable forms of profoundly dangerous weapons, including biological materials or crude nuclear ordnance. As a result, any still latent or residual civilizational capacity to deal with global chaos would immediately obligate the US to enter the fray with appropriate forms of remediation. To meet this demanding obligation in extremis atomicum, the American president should have firmly in hand, in advance, a suitably coherent playbook, one that takes into account (both legal and strategic) the discoverable capacities of patron states and their plausible intersections with pandemic-impacted sub-state actors.

Once again, this will not be a task for the intellectually faint-hearted. It is not a task for the philosophers mass man.

Strategy is a game that an American president must always be prepared to play with very conspicuous skill and without suffering any significant losses or declensions. Behind the manifold complexities of such an expanding chaotic context is the derivative obligation to see things through the eyes of each applicable adversary. Fundamentally, this must quickly become a psychological or psychiatric obligation, one not in any way specific to orthodox military calculations. It has been succinctly summarized by existentialist thinker Rollo May in The Discovery of Being (1983): The problem is how we are to understand the other persons world.

Now, of necessity, to make matters more of an analytic problem, we must add: during a time of pandemic.

Sooner or later, a visibly stark juxtaposition of pre-modern ideologies with nuclear weapon systems could present a unique challenge to the United States for dealing with chaos. This complex and pandemic-affected challenge could be exacerbated by (a) persistently opaque considerations of enemy rationality; and (b) steadily expanding uncertainties of decisional miscalculation and/or escalation. These overlapping factors could become still more daunting whenever the dynamic relationships between them becomes determinably synergistic, especially at a time of expanding biological adversity.

There is more. Struggling amid chaos, it should realistically be expected that we could fail to discover any reassuring succor in international law. This regrettable expectation is reinforced not only by President Donald Trumps unilateral US withdrawal from the JCPOA 2015 Vienna Pact regarding Iran, but also by US withdrawal from the INF Treaty with Russia. Today, one might also add Donald Trumps gratuitous and generally injurious attacks on the World Health Organization in Geneva, or his continuing attempt to deflect blame for pandemic harms upon Beijing. For Trump, the coronavirus has always been the China Virus.

To be sure, thinking people all over the world are still shaking their heads in disbelief about these wholly destructive and irrational US deflections.

One consequence of such shortsighted behaviors is that the United States will have to deal with multiple effects of a nuclear Iran in a shorter period of time, and to face simultaneously an expanding nuclear arms race with the Russian superpower. It should be unsurprising, therefore, when the already palpable global slide toward chaos eventually becomes unstoppable.

What then?

For the US, the expected perils of any emerging primal chaos must be particular and unique. Conceivably, the calculable probability of world system chaos could be enlarged by certain unforeseen instances of enemy irrationality. If, for example, America should have to face a Jihadist adversary that would value certain presumed religious expectations more highly than its own physical survival (e.g., Islamic expectations of a Shahid or martyr), this countrys applicable deterrent could be correspondingly diminished or immobilized.

Presumptively foreseeable worst case scenarios would involve an irrational nuclear North Korea or Pakistan; that is, in essence, a nuclear suicide-bomber in macrocosm. Here, once it had been convincingly determined in Washington that enemy leaders were meaningfully susceptible to certain non-rational judgments vis--vis the United States, this countrys rational incentive to strike first defensively could become overwhelming or even irresistible. Naturally, however, there could then be no reasonable or reciprocal assurances that actively yielding to such an incentive would be in the overall security interests of the United States.

None at all.

There is more. America could discard the preemption option one that would likely be described in more expressly legal terms as anticipatory self defense but it would then still need to identify other usable and multi-vector strategies of secure deterrence. Any such identification could then further require diminished ambiguity about selected elements of this countrys nuclear forces; an enhanced and at least partial disclosure of certain strategic targeting options; more substantial and simultaneously less ambiguous ballistic missile defense postures; and/or increasingly recognizable steps to ensure the perceived survivability of Americas nuclear retaliatory forces.

Going forward, America will need serious preparation, not just attitude. These alternative American strategies should be carefully worked out in advance of any specific crisis. In all such calculations, chaos itself would need to be included as a potentially salient explanatory factor or independent variable. In short, pandemic-rein forced chaos would maintain its analytic pride of place, however distasteful to Americas currently operating strategists and policy-makers.

At that disintegrative point, there might remain no reasonable expectations of safety in arms, of rescues from higher political authority or of any comforting reassurances from science. As with any true forms of chaos, new wars could rage until every flower of culture were trampled and until many things human had been flattened in a vast and barbarous cauldron of biological disorder. In such dire circumstances, even the best-laid plans for collective defense or alliance guarantees could quickly become little more than iconic cultural artifacts of a world order that had once been merely anarchic.

At that singularly portentous point, Carl von Clausewitzs idea of friction (that is, the effects of reality on ideas and intentions in war) would trump all earlier hopes for both predictability and conflict resolution.

At that fearful point, the only fully predictable insight would be that nothing was any longer predictable.

Some further clarifications are still in order. Since the seventeenth century, our anarchic world can best be described as a system. What happens in any one part of this world necessarily affects what would happen in some or potentially all of the other parts. When a particular deterioration is marked, and begins to spread from one nation to another, the disintegrative effects would quickly undermine regional and/or international stability.

We are still living in a planetary system. But now, there are significant points of difference from classic Westphalian dynamics. Now, when deterioration is rapid and catastrophic, as it would be following the start of any unconventional war and/or act of unconventional terrorism, the corollary effects would be immediate and overwhelming. These critical effects would be chaotic.

Soon, aware that even an incremental collapse of remaining world authority structures would impact its friends as well as its enemies, leaders of the United States, in order to chart more patently durable paths to survival, will need to openly advance certain credible premonitions of global collapse. Such considerations will be uniformly distasteful, of course, and are most likely not yet underway. Still, even without charting any compellingly precise Spenglerian theory of decline, American strategists ought not to seek to avoid this primary obligation.

In the final analysis, the only way for the American president to deliver us from the intersecting ills of pandemic and chaos will be by freeing us from the law-debasing tyrannies of mass man. As a practical matter, this will be a multi-faceted struggle against political falsehood, and a many-sided reaffirmation of fundamental international law. For this coming presidential administration, a corollary presumption must be that American interests and world system interests are intimately intertwined, and that extracting the United States from Realpolitik and America First will be required. Though any such extraction will at first appear impractical or naive, there can be no other way.

If United States presidential elections are to continue as a critically viable expression of American democracy, this expressly primary shift to a more cooperative world order has now become indispensable.

Jose Ortega yGassets mass man is the authentic root of our governance problem. To better ensure a safe and decent future for the United States going forward that is, in this critical post-election period Americans will need to heed another worthy philosophers quintessential counsel. It is Friedrich Nietzsches call for self overcoming, for finally understanding that a society (the macrocosm) can never be any better than its individual human components (the microcosm).

There is more. The corresponding will to power has nothing to do with the subordination or exploitation of others, with making a big noise in the world, or with the wretched ide fixe of obtaining progress though politics and marketplace. Rather, it represents the imperative of each singular person to wittingly defy mass and resist or overcome the valueless temptations of the herd.

In the final analysis, the only way this too-long-deceived nation can make proper use of Americas legal traditions and norms is to set itself on a determined path of science, intellect and overcoming. As always, elections will have their proper place, but they ought help to liberate us from the endless lies of mass and herd, not to imprison us further.

Too often ignored in the past, this sage counsel might not be enough to protect us from some future Trump-style era of derelictions and deprivations. In assessing future elections, history should be granted appropriate pride of place. Before America can avert yet another onslaught of egregious presidential wrongdoing, one that could sometime become an irrecoverable national catastrophe, this country must first plan to fix the microcosm. Until we wittingly reject herd and mass in every segment of presidential selection, all other efforts at electoral remediation will remain beside the point.

Louis Ren Beres (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is Professor Emeritus of Political Science and International Law at Purdue. He is the author of twelve major books and several hundred journal articles in the field. Professor Beres writings appear in many leading newspapers and magazines, including The Atlantic, The Hill, U.S. News & World Report, The National Interest, The Jerusalem Post, The New York Times and Oxford University Press. In Israel, where his latest writings were published by the BESA Center for Strategic Studies, the Institute for Policy and Strategy and the Institute for National Security Studies, he was Chair of Project Daniel (PM Sharon, 2003). Dr. Beres strategy-centered publications have been published in such places as The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists; JURIST; Special Warfare (Pentagon); Infinity Journal (Israel); The Strategy Bridge; The War Room (USA War College); Modern War Institute (West Point); The Harvard National Security Journal (Harvard Law School); Modern Diplomacy; Yale Global Online; The International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, Parameters: Journal of the U.S. Army War College, The Brown Journal of World Affairs, Israel Defense (Tel Aviv); World Politics (Princeton); International Security (Harvard) and the Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs. Professor Louis Ren Beres was born in Zrich, Switzerland, at the end of World War II.

Suggested citation: Louis Ren Beres, After the American Election: Overcoming Plague, Chaos and Mass, JURIST Academic Commentary, November 9, 2020, https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2020/11/louis-rene-beres-after-the-american-elections/.

This article was prepared for publication by Akshita Tiwary, JURISTs Staff Editor. Please direct any questions or comments to her at commentary@jurist.org

Opinions expressed in JURIST Commentary are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JURIST's editors, staff, donors or the University of Pittsburgh.

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After the American Election: Overcoming Plague, Chaos and Mass - JURIST

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November 10th, 2020 at 12:54 am

American Democracy and "The Barbarism of Specialisation" – Modern Diplomacy

Posted: September 13, 2020 at 11:56 am


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The specialist knows very well his own tiny corner of the universe; he is radically ignorant of all the rest.-Jose Ortega y Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses (1930)

It has been almost one hundred years since Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset published The Revolt of the Masses (Le Rebelion de las Masas, 1930). A prescient indictment of anti-Reason, and an immediate forerunner of modern classical works by German scholars Martin Heidegger and Karl Jaspers,[1] Ortega was most plainly concerned about Europes growing fragmentation of learning. Witnessing a world rapidly abandoning the traditional goal of broadly-educated or whole human beings, he worried about a future in which there would be more capable scientists than ever before, but where these scientists were otherwise unexceptional and without any wider embrace of erudition.

These observations were seminal. Among other things, the prophetic philosopher foresaw educated societies in which even the proud holders of impressive university degrees were conscientiously ignorant of everything outside their own vocational bailiwicks. In essence, Ortega had anticipated the present-day United States. Here, even in an oft-vaunted advanced society, the most exquisitely trained physicians, lawyers, accountants and engineers generally reason at the same limiting level of analysis as technicians, carpenters or lightly schooled office workers.

In large part, this is because professional education in the United States has effectively superseded everything that does not ostentatiously focus on making money. The adverb here is vital in this description, because the overriding lure of wealth in America remains the presumed admiration it can elicit from others. As we ought already to have learned from Adam Smith in his Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759): The rich man glories in his riches, because he feels that they naturally draw upon him the attention of the world.At the thought of this, his heart seems to swell and dilate itself within him, and he is fonder of his wealth, upon this account, than for all the other advantages it procures him.[2]

Almost by definition, any American concerns for intellectual or historical issues per se have become extraneous. This does not mean, however, that our strenuous national efforts at improving professional education have been successful or productive. On the contrary, as we witness the multiple daily technical failures of American democracy e.g. the all-too evident incapacity of our ballot calculating technologies to keep abreast of shifting vote-counting modalities this beleaguered polity is failing on multiple fronts.

For many reasons, many of them overlapping, this has been a lamentable retrogression. Above all, it has impaired this countrys capacity to sustain an enviable or even minimally credible democracy. Though Thomas Jefferson had already understood that proper human governance requires a purposeful acquaintance with historical and sociological learning, Americans now inhabit a country where the president can say unashamedly, I love the poorly educated. Significantly, this perverse preference of Donald J. Trump did not emerge ex nihilo, out of nothing.

It is a portentous but credible echo of Third Reich Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels: Intellect rots the brain.[3]

Ortega yGasset had a specific name for this generally defiling intellectual deformation. More exactly, he called it The Barbarism of Specialisation.[4] Earlier, and in somewhat similar fashion, Friedrich Nietzsche wrote about the educated philistine.[5] Both Ortega and Nietzsche recognized the irony that a society could become progressively better educated in various sub-fields of human knowledge and yet, simultaneously, become less and less cultured, less and less truly civilized.[6] In this regard, the German philosopher placed appropriate conceptual blame on what he preferred to call the herd.[7] For his part, the kindred Spanish thinker cast his particular indictment on the mass.

Whatever the terminological differences, both sets of ideas were centered on the same basic critique; that is, that individuals had been casting aside the necessary obligation to think for themselves, and had, thereby, surrendered indispensable analytic judgments to crowds.[8]

Today, both ideas can shed some useful light on American democracy, a system of governance under increasing assault by US President Donald J. Trump. To the extent that American education has become rampantly vocational that is, oriented toward more and more pragmatic kinds of specialization the wisdom of Ortega yGasset and others is worth probing with ever-increasing care. Moreover, the corrosively barbarous impact of specialization foreseen earlier by philosophers is now magnified by the injurious effects of worldwide disease pandemic.

Without doubt, this unwelcome magnification will need to be countered if American democracy is able merely to survive.[9]

But analysis should begin at the beginning. Inter alia, it is a discomfiting beginning. Americans now inhabit a society so numbingly fragmented and rancorous that even their most sincere melancholy is seemingly contrived. Wallowing in the mutually-reinforcing twilights of submission and conformance, We the people have strayed dangerously far from any meaningful standards of serious learning. In consequence, though still a nation with extraordinary scientific, medical and commercial successes, the American public is often ill-equipped to judge candidates for high political office.[10]

As we have seen, utterly ill-equipped.

Surveying ever-mounting damages of the Trump presidency,[11] some of which are synergistic or force multiplying, could anything be more apparent?

The grievously baneful selection of Donald J. Trump in 2016 was anything but a cultural aberration. It was, rather, the plausible outcome of an electorate relentlessly driven and even defined by mass. Without any real or compelling reasons, voting Americans freely abandoned the once-residual elements of Jeffersonian good citizenship.

Together with the unceasing connivance of assorted criminals, charlatans and fools, many of them occupants of the present US Governments most senior positions, a lonely American mass now bears core responsibility for allowing the demise of a once- enviable democratic ethos. To expect any sudden improvements to emerge from among this homogenized mass (e.g., by continuously making the citizens more particularly aware of this presidents manifold derelictions) would be to overestimate its inclinations. Though truth is always exculpatory, there are times when it yields to various forms of self-delusion.

What the mass once learned to believe without reasons, queries Nietzsches Zarathustra, who could ever overthrow with reasons?

There will be a heavy price to pay for Americas still-expanding ascendancy of mass. Any society so willing to abjure its rudimentary obligations toward dignified learning toward what American Transcendentalist philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson had once called high thinking is one that should never reasonably expect to survive.[12]

There is more. Treating formal education as a narrowly instrumental obligation (one should get better educated in order to get a better paying job), Americans now more easily accept flagrantly empty witticisms as profundities (We will build a beautiful wall; Barbed wire can be beautiful; The moon is part of Mars; Testing for corona virus only increases disease; Just one percent of Covid19 victims have symptoms, etc., etc), and consult genuinely challenging ideas only rarely.

Always, the dire result of anti-Reason is more-or-less predictable; that is, a finely trained work force that manages to get a particular job done, but displays (simultaneously) nary a hint of worthwhile learning, commendable human understanding or simple compassion. Concerning this last absence, empathy is not directly related to the barbarisms of specialization, but it does generally exhibit some tangible nurturance from literature, art and/or culture. Incontestably, the Trump White House is not only indifferent to basic human rights and public welfare,[13] it quite literally elevates personal animus to highest possible significations.

This is especially marked where such animus is most thoroughly pedestrian.

Intentionally mispronouncing the Democrat vice-presidential candidates first name is a small but glaring example of Donald Trumps selected level of competitive political discourse. By its very nature, of course, this demeaning level is better suited to a first-grade elementary school classroom.

There are even much wider ramifications of gratuitous rancor. When transposed to the vital arena of international relations, this presidents elevation of belligerent nationalism has a long and persistently unsuccessful history as Realpolitik or power politics.[14] Thinking himself clever, Donald Trump champions America First (the phrase resonates with those, like the president himself, who have no knowledge of history),but fails to realize that this peculiarly shameful resurrection of Deutschland uber alles can lead only to massive defeat and unparalleled despair.

I loathe, therefore I am, could well become Donald J. Trumps revised version of Ren Descartes Cogito.[15] Following Descartes, Sigmund Freud had understood that all human beings could somehow be motivated toward creating a spontaneous sympathy of souls, but Americas Donald Trump has quite expansively reversed this objective. Reinforced by the rampant vocationalism of this countrys education system, Trump has consistently urged citizens to turn against one another, and for no dignified, defensible or science-based reasons. In absolutely all cases, these grotesque urgings have had no meritorious or higher purpose.

Instead, they remain utterly and viciously contrived.

In the bitterly fractionated Trump-era United States, an authentic American individualhas become little more than a charming artifact. Among other things, the nations societal mass, more refractory than ever to intellect and learning, still displays no discernible intentions of ever taking itself seriously. To the contrary, an embittered American mass now marches in deferential lockstep, foolishly, without thought, toward even-greater patterns of imitation, unhappiness and starkly belligerent incivility.

All things considered, the American future is not hard to fathom. More than likely, whatever might be decided in upcoming politics and elections, Americans will continue to be carried forth not by any commendable nobilities of principle or purpose, but by steady eruptions of personal and collective agitation, by endlessly inane presidential repetitions and by the perpetually demeaning primacy of a duly sanctified public ignorance. At times, perhaps, We the people may still be able to slow down a bit and smell the roses, but this is doubtful.

Plainly, our visibly compromised and degraded country now imposes upon its increasingly exhausted people the breathless rhythms of a vast and omnivorous machine.

This machine has no objective other than to keep struggling without spawning any sudden breakdowns or prematurely inconvenient deaths.

Much as many might wish to deny it, the plausible end of this self-destroying machinery will be to prevent Americans from remembering who they are now and (far more importantly) who they might once still have become. At another reasonable level of concern, Americans remain threatened by nuclear war and nuclear terrorism, especially now, during the incoherent Trump-era. Significantly, although there exists a vast literature on law-based strategies of nuclear war avoidance, there is little parallel jurisprudential effort directed toward the prevention of nuclear terrorism.[16]

In fact, presidential banalities aside, this is no longer a nation of laws. It is a nation of ad hoc, narrowly visceral response.

There is more. Americans inhabit the one society that could have been different. Once, we harbored a preciously unique potential to nurture individuals, that is, to encourage Americans to become more than a smugly inert mass, herd or crowd. Then, Ralph Waldo Emerson (also fellow Transcendentalists Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau) described us optimistically as a people animated by industry and self-reliance.

Now, however, and beyond any serious contestation, we are stymied by collective paralysis, capitulation and a starkly Kierkegaardian fear and trembling.

Surely, as all must eventually acknowledge, there is more to this chanting country than Fuehrer-driven rallies, tsunamis of hyper-adrenalized commerce or gargantuan waves of abundantly cheap entertainments: I celebrate myself, and sing myself, rhapsodized the poet Walt Whitman, but today, the American Selfhas devolved into a delicately thin shadow of true national potential. Distressingly, this Self has already become a twisting reflection of a prior authenticity. Now it is under seemingly final assault by a far-reaching societal tastelessness and by a literally epidemic gluttony.

Regarding this expressly gastronomic debility, its not that we Americans have become more and more hungry, but rather that we have lost any once residual appetites for real life.[17]

In the end, credulity is Americas worst enemy. The stubborn inclination to believe that wider social and personal redemption must lie somewhere in politics remains a potentially fatal disorder. To be fair, various social and economic issues do need to be coherently addressed by Americas political representatives, but so too must the nations deeper problems first be solved at the level of microcosm, as a matter for individuals.

In the end, American politics like politics everywhere must remain a second-order activity, a faint reflection of what is truly important. For now, it continues to thrive upon a vast personal emptiness, on an infirmity that is the always-defiling reciprocal of any genuine personal fulfillment. Conscious of his emptiness, warns the German philosopher Karl Jaspers in Reason and Anti-Reason in our Time (1952), man (human) tries to make a faith for himself (or herself) in the political realm. In Vain.

Even in an authentic democracy, only a few can ever hope to redeem themselves and the wider American nation, but these self-effacing souls will generally remain silent, hidden in more-or-less deep cover, often even from themselves. In a democracy where education is oriented toward narrowly vocational forms of career preparation, an orientation toward barbaric specialization, these residual few can expect to be suffocated by the many. Unsurprisingly, such asphyxiation, in absolutely any of its conceivable particularities, would be a bad way to die.[18]

Donald J. Trump did not emerge on the political scene ex nihilo, out of nothing. His incoherent and disjointed presidency is the direct result of a society that has wittingly and barbarously abandoned all serious thought. When such a society no longer asks the big philosophical questions for example, What is the good in government and politics? or How do I lead a good life as person and citizen? or How can I best nurture the well-being of other human beings? the lamentable outcome is inevitable. It is an outcome that we are currently living through in the United States, and one that might sometime have to be died through.

Going forward, what we ought to fear most of all is precisely this continuously self-defiling outcome, not a particular electoral result. To be certain, at this point, nothing could be more urgently important for the United States than to rid itself of the intersecting pathologies of Covid19 and Donald Trump, diseases that are mutually reinforcing and potentially synergistic, but even such victories would only be transient. More fundamentally, recalling philosopher Jose Ortega yGassets timeless warning about the barbarism of specialisation, this country must resurrect an earlier ethos of education in which learning benefits the whole human being, not just a work-related corner of the universe.

Also vital is the obligation to acknowledge the fundamental interrelatedness of all peoples and the binding universality of international law.[19]

To survive, both as a nation and as individuals, Americans need to become educated not merely as well-trained cogs in the vast industrial machine, but as empathetic and caring citizens. Everyone is the other, and no one is just himself, cautions Martin Heidegger in Being and Time (1932), but this elementary lesson once discoverable in myriad sacred texts is not easily operationalized. Indeed, it is in this single monumental failure of operationalization that human civilization has most conspicuously failed though the ages. To wit, in Trump-era American democracy, the presidents core message is not about the co-responsibility of every human being for his or her fellows, but about winners, losers, and a presumptively preeminent citizen obligation to Make America Great.

In this Trumpian context, greatness assumes a crudely Darwinian or zero-sum condition, and not one wherein each individual favors harmonious cooperation over an endlessly belligerent competition.[20]

How shall we finally change all this, or, recalling Platos wisdom in The Republic, how shall we learn to make the souls of the citizens better?[21] This is not a question that we can answer with any pertinent detail before the upcoming US presidential election. But it is still a question that we ought to put before the imperiled American polity soon, and sometime before it is too late.[22]

American democracy faces multiple hazards, including Ortega y Gassets barbarism of specialisation. To be rescued in time, each hazard will have to be tackled carefully, by itself and also in coordinated tandem with all other identifiable perils. Overall, the task will be daunting and overwhelming, but the alternative is simply no longer tolerable or sustainable.

Donald Trumps removal from office is a sine qua non for all applicable remedies, but even such an needed step would target only a catastrophic symptom of Americas national pathology. By itself, saving the United States from Donald Trump would surely be indispensable, but it would leave unchanged the countrys still most deeply underlying disease. In the end,[23] because Americans will need to bring a less specialized form of learning to their citizenship responsibilities, the nation will quickly have to figure out practical ways of restoring educational wholeness.

Can this sort of rational calculation be expected? Maybe not. Perhaps, like the timeless message of Nietzsches Zarathustra, this warning has come too soon. If that turns out to be the case, there may simply be no later.

[1] See especially Martin Heideggers Being and Time (Sein und Zeit;1953) and Karl Jaspers Reason and Anti-Reason in our Time (1952). Is it an end that draws near, inquires Jaspers, or a beginning? The answer will depend, in large part, on what Heidegger has to say about the Jungian or Freudian mass. In Being and Time (1953), the philosopher laments what he calls, in German, das Mann, or The They. Drawing fruitfully upon earlier core insights of Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Jung and Freud, Heideggers The They represents the ever-present and interchangeable herd, crowd, horde or mass. Each such conglomerate exhibits untruth (the term actually favored by Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard) because it can encourage the barbarism of specialisation and suffocate broadly humanistic kinds of learning.

[2]Smith published Theory seventeen years before his vastly more famous and oft-cited Wealth of Nations (1776).

[3]See, on commonalities between Third Reich and Trump-era American democracy, by Louis Ren Beres at Jurist: https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2020/05/louis-beres-america-rise-and-fall/

[4] Chapter 12 of The Revolt of the Masses (1930) is expressly titled The Barbarism of Specialisation.'

[5]Here, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche coined an aptly specific term, one he hoped could eventually become universal. This German word was Bildungsphilister. When expressed in its most lucid and coherent English translation, it means educated Philistine. Bildungsphilister is a term that could shed useful light upon Donald Trumps ongoing support from among Americas presumptively well-educated and well-to-do.

[6] On this irony, Kierkegaard says it best in The Sickness Unto Death (1849): Devoid of imagination, as the Philistine always is, he lives in a certain trivial province of experience, as to how things go, what is possible, what usually occurs.Philistinism thinks it is in control of possibility.it carries possibility around like a prisoner in the cage of the probable, and shows it off.

[7]Sigmund Freud introduced his own particular version of Nietzsches herd, which was horde. Interestingly, Freud maintained a general antipathy to all things American. He most strenuously objected, according to Bruno Bettelheim, to this countrys shallow optimism and also its corollary commitment to the crudest forms of materialism. America, thought Freud, was grievously lacking in soul. See: Bruno Bettelheim, Freud and Mans Soul (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1983), especially Chapter X.

[8] In essence, the crowd was Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaards equivalent of Nietzsches herd and Ortegas mass.

[9] The most ominous synergies of barbarism would link pandemic effects with growing risks of a nuclear war. On irrational nuclear decision-making by this author, see Louis Ren Beres, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: https://thebulletin.org/2016/08/what-if-you-dont-trust-the-judgment-of-the-president-whose-finger-is-over-the-nuclear-button/ See also, by Professor Beres, https://warroom.armywarcollege.edu/articles/nuclear-decision-making/ (Pentagon). For authoritative early accounts by Professor Beres of nuclear war expected effects, see: Louis Ren Beres, Apocalypse: Nuclear Catastrophe in World Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980); Louis Ren Beres, Mimicking Sisyphus: Americas Countervailing Nuclear Strategy (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1983); Louis Ren Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: U.S. Foreign Policy and World Order (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1984); and Louis Ren Beres, Security or Armageddon: Israels Nuclear Strategy (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1986). Most recently, by Professor Beres, see: Surviving Amid Chaos: Israels Nuclear Strategy (New York, Rowman & Littlefield, 2016; 2nd ed. 2018). https://paw.princeton.edu/new-books/surviving-amid-chaos-israel%E2%80%99s-nuclear-strategy

[10] At a minimum, in this regard, the US public ought to be reminded of the explicit warning in Nietzsches Zarathustra: Do not ever seek the higher man at the market place. (Moreover, it would not be unfair to Nietzsches core meaning here to expand higher man to mean higher person.).

[11] Most egregious, in any assessment of these damages, is this presidents wilful subordination of national interest to his own presumed private interests. In this regard, one may suitably recall Sophocles cautionary speech of Creon in Antigone: I hold despicable, and always have.anyone who puts his own popularity before his country.

[12] Still the best treatments of Americas long-term disinterest in anything intellectual are Richard Hofstadter, Anti-intellectualism in American Life (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1964); and Jacques Barzun, The House of Intellect (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1959).

[13] See, by Louis Ren Beres: https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2020/04/the-trump-presidency-a-breathtaking-assault-on-law-justice-and-security/

[14] The classic statement of Realpolitik or power politics in western philosophy is the comment of Thrasymachus in Platos Republic : Justice is nothing else than the interest of the stronger. (See Plato, The Republic, 29, Benjamin Jowett, tr., World Publishing Company, 1946.) See also: Ciceros oft-quoted query: For what can be done against force without force?, Marcus Tullus Cicero, Ciceros Letters to his Friends, 78 (D.R. Shackleton Baily tr., Scholars Press, 1988).

[15] I think, therefore I am, says Ren Descartes, in his Discourse on Method (1637). Reciprocally, in his modern classic essay on Existentialism, Jean-Paul Sartre observes that outside the Cartesian cogito, all views are only probable.

[16] See, by Professor Louis Ren Beres: https://digitalcommons.law.uga.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1410&context=gjicl

[17] An apt literary reference for this condition of lost appetite is Franz Kafkas story, The Hunger Artist.

[18] In more expressly concrete terms, average American life-expectancy, unenviable for several decades, has now fallen behind most of the advanced industrial world. While Trump boasts of a wall to keep out Mexicans and assorted others, more and more Americans are trying to cross in the other direction.

[19] Apropos of this universality, international law is generally part of the law of the United States. These legal systems are always interpenetrating. Declared Mr. Justice Gray, in delivering the judgment of the US Supreme Court in Paquete Habana (1900): International law is part of our law, and must be ascertained and administered by the courts of justice of appropriate jurisdiction. (175 U.S. 677(1900)) See also: Opinion in Tel-Oren vs. Libyan Arab Republic (726 F. 2d 774 (1984)). The specific incorporation of treaty law into US municipal law is expressly codified at Art. 6 of the US Constitution, the so-called Supremacy Clause.

[20] Here it could be helpful to recall the words of French Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in The Phenomenon of Man: The egocentric ideal of a future reserved for those who have managed to attain egoistically the extremity of `everyone for himself is false and against nature.

[21] Long after Plato, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung thought of soul (in German, Seele) as the very essence of a human being. Neither Freud nor Jung ever provides a precise definition of the term, but clearly it was not intended by either in any ordinary religious sense. For both, it was a still-recognizable and critical seat of both mind and passions in this life. Interesting, too, in the present context, is that Freud explained his already-predicted decline of America by various express references to soul. Freud was plainly disgusted by any civilization so apparently unmoved by considerations of true consciousness (e.g., awareness of intellect and literature), and even thought that the crude American commitment to perpetually shallow optimism and to material accomplishment at any cost would occasion sweeping psychological misery.

[22] Sometimes, says Swiss playwright Friedrich Durrenmatt, the worst does happen.

[23] In the end, says Goethe, we are always creatures of our own making.

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American Democracy and "The Barbarism of Specialisation" - Modern Diplomacy

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The specialist knows very well his own tiny corner of the universe; he is radically ignorant of all the rest.-Jose Ortega y Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses (1930)

It has been almost one hundred years since Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset published The Revolt of the Masses (Le Rebelion de las Masas, 1930). A prescient indictment of anti-Reason, and an immediate forerunner of modern classical works by German scholars Martin Heidegger and Karl Jaspers,[1] Ortega was most plainly concerned about Europes growing fragmentation of learning. Witnessing a world rapidly abandoning the traditional goal of broadly-educated or whole human beings, he worried about a future in which there would be more capable scientists than ever before, but where these scientists were otherwise unexceptional and without any wider embrace of erudition.

These observations were seminal. Among other things, the prophetic philosopher foresaw educated societies in which even the proud holders of impressive university degrees were conscientiously ignorant of everything outside their own vocational bailiwicks. In essence, Ortega had anticipated the present-day United States. Here, even in an oft-vaunted advanced society, the most exquisitely trained physicians, lawyers, accountants and engineers generally reason at the same limiting level of analysis as technicians, carpenters or lightly schooled office workers.

In large part, this is because professional education in the United States has effectively superseded everything that does not ostentatiously focus on making money. The adverb here is vital in this description, because the overriding lure of wealth in America remains the presumed admiration it can elicit from others. As we ought already to have learned from Adam Smith in his Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759): The rich man glories in his riches, because he feels that they naturally draw upon him the attention of the world.At the thought of this, his heart seems to swell and dilate itself within him, and he is fonder of his wealth, upon this account, than for all the other advantages it procures him.[2]

Almost by definition, any American concerns for intellectual or historical issues per se have become extraneous. This does not mean, however, that our strenuous national efforts at improving professional education have been successful or productive. On the contrary, as we witness the multiple daily technical failures of American democracy e.g. the all-too evident incapacity of our ballot calculating technologies to keep abreast of shifting vote-counting modalities this beleaguered polity is failing on multiple fronts.

For many reasons, many of them overlapping, this has been a lamentable retrogression. Above all, it has impaired this countrys capacity to sustain an enviable or even minimally credible democracy. Though Thomas Jefferson had already understood that proper human governance requires a purposeful acquaintance with historical and sociological learning, Americans now inhabit a country where the president can say unashamedly, I love the poorly educated. Significantly, this perverse preference of Donald J. Trump did not emerge ex nihilo, out of nothing.

It is a portentous but credible echo of Third Reich Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels: Intellect rots the brain.[3]

Ortega yGasset had a specific name for this generally defiling intellectual deformation. More exactly, he called it The Barbarism of Specialisation.[4] Earlier, and in somewhat similar fashion, Friedrich Nietzsche wrote about the educated philistine.[5] Both Ortega and Nietzsche recognized the irony that a society could become progressively better educated in various sub-fields of human knowledge and yet, simultaneously, become less and less cultured, less and less truly civilized.[6] In this regard, the German philosopher placed appropriate conceptual blame on what he preferred to call the herd.[7] For his part, the kindred Spanish thinker cast his particular indictment on the mass.

Whatever the terminological differences, both sets of ideas were centered on the same basic critique; that is, that individuals had been casting aside the necessary obligation to think for themselves, and had, thereby, surrendered indispensable analytic judgments to crowds.[8]

Today, both ideas can shed some useful light on American democracy, a system of governance under increasing assault by US President Donald J. Trump. To the extent that American education has become rampantly vocational that is, oriented toward more and more pragmatic kinds of specialization the wisdom of Ortega yGasset and others is worth probing with ever-increasing care. Moreover, the corrosively barbarous impact of specialization foreseen earlier by philosophers is now magnified by the injurious effects of worldwide disease pandemic.

Without doubt, this unwelcome magnification will need to be countered if American democracy is able merely to survive.[9]

But analysis should begin at the beginning. Inter alia, it is a discomfiting beginning. Americans now inhabit a society so numbingly fragmented and rancorous that even their most sincere melancholy is seemingly contrived. Wallowing in the mutually-reinforcing twilights of submission and conformance, We the people have strayed dangerously far from any meaningful standards of serious learning. In consequence, though still a nation with extraordinary scientific, medical and commercial successes, the American public is often ill-equipped to judge candidates for high political office.[10]

As we have seen, utterly ill-equipped.

Surveying ever-mounting damages of the Trump presidency,[11] some of which are synergistic or force multiplying, could anything be more apparent?

The grievously baneful selection of Donald J. Trump in 2016 was anything but a cultural aberration. It was, rather, the plausible outcome of an electorate relentlessly driven and even defined by mass. Without any real or compelling reasons, voting Americans freely abandoned the once-residual elements of Jeffersonian good citizenship.

Together with the unceasing connivance of assorted criminals, charlatans and fools, many of them occupants of the present US Governments most senior positions, a lonely American mass now bears core responsibility for allowing the demise of a once- enviable democratic ethos. To expect any sudden improvements to emerge from among this homogenized mass (e.g., by continuously making the citizens more particularly aware of this presidents manifold derelictions) would be to overestimate its inclinations. Though truth is always exculpatory, there are times when it yields to various forms of self-delusion.

What the mass once learned to believe without reasons, queries Nietzsches Zarathustra, who could ever overthrow with reasons?

There will be a heavy price to pay for Americas still-expanding ascendancy of mass. Any society so willing to abjure its rudimentary obligations toward dignified learning toward what American Transcendentalist philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson had once called high thinking is one that should never reasonably expect to survive.[12]

There is more. Treating formal education as a narrowly instrumental obligation (one should get better educated in order to get a better paying job), Americans now more easily accept flagrantly empty witticisms as profundities (We will build a beautiful wall; Barbed wire can be beautiful; The moon is part of Mars; Testing for corona virus only increases disease; Just one percent of Covid19 victims have symptoms, etc., etc), and consult genuinely challenging ideas only rarely.

Always, the dire result of anti-Reason is more-or-less predictable; that is, a finely trained work force that manages to get a particular job done, but displays (simultaneously) nary a hint of worthwhile learning, commendable human understanding or simple compassion. Concerning this last absence, empathy is not directly related to the barbarisms of specialization, but it does generally exhibit some tangible nurturance from literature, art and/or culture. Incontestably, the Trump White House is not only indifferent to basic human rights and public welfare,[13] it quite literally elevates personal animus to highest possible significations.

This is especially marked where such animus is most thoroughly pedestrian.

Intentionally mispronouncing the Democrat vice-presidential candidates first name is a small but glaring example of Donald Trumps selected level of competitive political discourse. By its very nature, of course, this demeaning level is better suited to a first-grade elementary school classroom.

There are even much wider ramifications of gratuitous rancor. When transposed to the vital arena of international relations, this presidents elevation of belligerent nationalism has a long and persistently unsuccessful history as Realpolitik or power politics.[14] Thinking himself clever, Donald Trump champions America First (the phrase resonates with those, like the president himself, who have no knowledge of history),but fails to realize that this peculiarly shameful resurrection of Deutschland uber alles can lead only to massive defeat and unparalleled despair.

I loathe, therefore I am, could well become Donald J. Trumps revised version of Ren Descartes Cogito.[15] Following Descartes, Sigmund Freud had understood that all human beings could somehow be motivated toward creating a spontaneous sympathy of souls, but Americas Donald Trump has quite expansively reversed this objective. Reinforced by the rampant vocationalism of this countrys education system, Trump has consistently urged citizens to turn against one another, and for no dignified, defensible or science-based reasons. In absolutely all cases, these grotesque urgings have had no meritorious or higher purpose.

Instead, they remain utterly and viciously contrived.

In the bitterly fractionated Trump-era United States, an authentic American individualhas become little more than a charming artifact. Among other things, the nations societal mass, more refractory than ever to intellect and learning, still displays no discernible intentions of ever taking itself seriously. To the contrary, an embittered American mass now marches in deferential lockstep, foolishly, without thought, toward even-greater patterns of imitation, unhappiness and starkly belligerent incivility.

All things considered, the American future is not hard to fathom. More than likely, whatever might be decided in upcoming politics and elections, Americans will continue to be carried forth not by any commendable nobilities of principle or purpose, but by steady eruptions of personal and collective agitation, by endlessly inane presidential repetitions and by the perpetually demeaning primacy of a duly sanctified public ignorance. At times, perhaps, We the people may still be able to slow down a bit and smell the roses, but this is doubtful.

Plainly, our visibly compromised and degraded country now imposes upon its increasingly exhausted people the breathless rhythms of a vast and omnivorous machine.

This machine has no objective other than to keep struggling without spawning any sudden breakdowns or prematurely inconvenient deaths.

Much as many might wish to deny it, the plausible end of this self-destroying machinery will be to prevent Americans from remembering who they are now and (far more importantly) who they might once still have become. At another reasonable level of concern, Americans remain threatened by nuclear war and nuclear terrorism, especially now, during the incoherent Trump-era. Significantly, although there exists a vast literature on law-based strategies of nuclear war avoidance, there is little parallel jurisprudential effort directed toward the prevention of nuclear terrorism.[16]

In fact, presidential banalities aside, this is no longer a nation of laws. It is a nation of ad hoc, narrowly visceral response.

There is more. Americans inhabit the one society that could have been different. Once, we harbored a preciously unique potential to nurture individuals, that is, to encourage Americans to become more than a smugly inert mass, herd or crowd. Then, Ralph Waldo Emerson (also fellow Transcendentalists Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau) described us optimistically as a people animated by industry and self-reliance.

Now, however, and beyond any serious contestation, we are stymied by collective paralysis, capitulation and a starkly Kierkegaardian fear and trembling.

Surely, as all must eventually acknowledge, there is more to this chanting country than Fuehrer-driven rallies, tsunamis of hyper-adrenalized commerce or gargantuan waves of abundantly cheap entertainments: I celebrate myself, and sing myself, rhapsodized the poet Walt Whitman, but today, the American Selfhas devolved into a delicately thin shadow of true national potential. Distressingly, this Self has already become a twisting reflection of a prior authenticity. Now it is under seemingly final assault by a far-reaching societal tastelessness and by a literally epidemic gluttony.

Regarding this expressly gastronomic debility, its not that we Americans have become more and more hungry, but rather that we have lost any once residual appetites for real life.[17]

In the end, credulity is Americas worst enemy. The stubborn inclination to believe that wider social and personal redemption must lie somewhere in politics remains a potentially fatal disorder. To be fair, various social and economic issues do need to be coherently addressed by Americas political representatives, but so too must the nations deeper problems first be solved at the level of microcosm, as a matter for individuals.

In the end, American politics like politics everywhere must remain a second-order activity, a faint reflection of what is truly important. For now, it continues to thrive upon a vast personal emptiness, on an infirmity that is the always-defiling reciprocal of any genuine personal fulfillment. Conscious of his emptiness, warns the German philosopher Karl Jaspers in Reason and Anti-Reason in our Time (1952), man (human) tries to make a faith for himself (or herself) in the political realm. In Vain.

Even in an authentic democracy, only a few can ever hope to redeem themselves and the wider American nation, but these self-effacing souls will generally remain silent, hidden in more-or-less deep cover, often even from themselves. In a democracy where education is oriented toward narrowly vocational forms of career preparation, an orientation toward barbaric specialization, these residual few can expect to be suffocated by the many. Unsurprisingly, such asphyxiation, in absolutely any of its conceivable particularities, would be a bad way to die.[18]

Donald J. Trump did not emerge on the political scene ex nihilo, out of nothing. His incoherent and disjointed presidency is the direct result of a society that has wittingly and barbarously abandoned all serious thought. When such a society no longer asks the big philosophical questions for example, What is the good in government and politics? or How do I lead a good life as person and citizen? or How can I best nurture the well-being of other human beings? the lamentable outcome is inevitable. It is an outcome that we are currently living through in the United States, and one that might sometime have to be died through.

Going forward, what we ought to fear most of all is precisely this continuously self-defiling outcome, not a particular electoral result. To be certain, at this point, nothing could be more urgently important for the United States than to rid itself of the intersecting pathologies of Covid19 and Donald Trump, diseases that are mutually reinforcing and potentially synergistic, but even such victories would only be transient. More fundamentally, recalling philosopher Jose Ortega yGassets timeless warning about the barbarism of specialisation, this country must resurrect an earlier ethos of education in which learning benefits the whole human being, not just a work-related corner of the universe.

Also vital is the obligation to acknowledge the fundamental interrelatedness of all peoples and the binding universality of international law.[19]

To survive, both as a nation and as individuals, Americans need to become educated not merely as well-trained cogs in the vast industrial machine, but as empathetic and caring citizens. Everyone is the other, and no one is just himself, cautions Martin Heidegger in Being and Time (1932), but this elementary lesson once discoverable in myriad sacred texts is not easily operationalized. Indeed, it is in this single monumental failure of operationalization that human civilization has most conspicuously failed though the ages. To wit, in Trump-era American democracy, the presidents core message is not about the co-responsibility of every human being for his or her fellows, but about winners, losers, and a presumptively preeminent citizen obligation to Make America Great.

In this Trumpian context, greatness assumes a crudely Darwinian or zero-sum condition, and not one wherein each individual favors harmonious cooperation over an endlessly belligerent competition.[20]

How shall we finally change all this, or, recalling Platos wisdom in The Republic, how shall we learn to make the souls of the citizens better?[21] This is not a question that we can answer with any pertinent detail before the upcoming US presidential election. But it is still a question that we ought to put before the imperiled American polity soon, and sometime before it is too late.[22]

American democracy faces multiple hazards, including Ortega y Gassets barbarism of specialisation. To be rescued in time, each hazard will have to be tackled carefully, by itself and also in coordinated tandem with all other identifiable perils. Overall, the task will be daunting and overwhelming, but the alternative is simply no longer tolerable or sustainable.

Donald Trumps removal from office is a sine qua non for all applicable remedies, but even such an needed step would target only a catastrophic symptom of Americas national pathology. By itself, saving the United States from Donald Trump would surely be indispensable, but it would leave unchanged the countrys still most deeply underlying disease. In the end,[23] because Americans will need to bring a less specialized form of learning to their citizenship responsibilities, the nation will quickly have to figure out practical ways of restoring educational wholeness.

Can this sort of rational calculation be expected? Maybe not. Perhaps, like the timeless message of Nietzsches Zarathustra, this warning has come too soon. If that turns out to be the case, there may simply be no later.

[1] See especially Martin Heideggers Being and Time (Sein und Zeit;1953) and Karl Jaspers Reason and Anti-Reason in our Time (1952). Is it an end that draws near, inquires Jaspers, or a beginning? The answer will depend, in large part, on what Heidegger has to say about the Jungian or Freudian mass. In Being and Time (1953), the philosopher laments what he calls, in German, das Mann, or The They. Drawing fruitfully upon earlier core insights of Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Jung and Freud, Heideggers The They represents the ever-present and interchangeable herd, crowd, horde or mass. Each such conglomerate exhibits untruth (the term actually favored by Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard) because it can encourage the barbarism of specialisation and suffocate broadly humanistic kinds of learning.

[2]Smith published Theory seventeen years before his vastly more famous and oft-cited Wealth of Nations (1776).

[3]See, on commonalities between Third Reich and Trump-era American democracy, by Louis Ren Beres at Jurist: https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2020/05/louis-beres-america-rise-and-fall/

[4] Chapter 12 of The Revolt of the Masses (1930) is expressly titled The Barbarism of Specialisation.'

[5]Here, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche coined an aptly specific term, one he hoped could eventually become universal. This German word was Bildungsphilister. When expressed in its most lucid and coherent English translation, it means educated Philistine. Bildungsphilister is a term that could shed useful light upon Donald Trumps ongoing support from among Americas presumptively well-educated and well-to-do.

[6] On this irony, Kierkegaard says it best in The Sickness Unto Death (1849): Devoid of imagination, as the Philistine always is, he lives in a certain trivial province of experience, as to how things go, what is possible, what usually occurs.Philistinism thinks it is in control of possibility.it carries possibility around like a prisoner in the cage of the probable, and shows it off.

[7]Sigmund Freud introduced his own particular version of Nietzsches herd, which was horde. Interestingly, Freud maintained a general antipathy to all things American. He most strenuously objected, according to Bruno Bettelheim, to this countrys shallow optimism and also its corollary commitment to the crudest forms of materialism. America, thought Freud, was grievously lacking in soul. See: Bruno Bettelheim, Freud and Mans Soul (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1983), especially Chapter X.

[8] In essence, the crowd was Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaards equivalent of Nietzsches herd and Ortegas mass.

[9] The most ominous synergies of barbarism would link pandemic effects with growing risks of a nuclear war. On irrational nuclear decision-making by this author, see Louis Ren Beres, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: https://thebulletin.org/2016/08/what-if-you-dont-trust-the-judgment-of-the-president-whose-finger-is-over-the-nuclear-button/ See also, by Professor Beres, https://warroom.armywarcollege.edu/articles/nuclear-decision-making/ (Pentagon). For authoritative early accounts by Professor Beres of nuclear war expected effects, see: Louis Ren Beres, Apocalypse: Nuclear Catastrophe in World Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980); Louis Ren Beres, Mimicking Sisyphus: Americas Countervailing Nuclear Strategy (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1983); Louis Ren Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: U.S. Foreign Policy and World Order (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1984); and Louis Ren Beres, Security or Armageddon: Israels Nuclear Strategy (Lexington, Mass., Lexington Books, 1986). Most recently, by Professor Beres, see: Surviving Amid Chaos: Israels Nuclear Strategy (New York, Rowman & Littlefield, 2016; 2nd ed. 2018). https://paw.princeton.edu/new-books/surviving-amid-chaos-israel%E2%80%99s-nuclear-strategy

[10] At a minimum, in this regard, the US public ought to be reminded of the explicit warning in Nietzsches Zarathustra: Do not ever seek the higher man at the market place. (Moreover, it would not be unfair to Nietzsches core meaning here to expand higher man to mean higher person.).

[11] Most egregious, in any assessment of these damages, is this presidents wilful subordination of national interest to his own presumed private interests. In this regard, one may suitably recall Sophocles cautionary speech of Creon in Antigone: I hold despicable, and always have.anyone who puts his own popularity before his country.

[12] Still the best treatments of Americas long-term disinterest in anything intellectual are Richard Hofstadter, Anti-intellectualism in American Life (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1964); and Jacques Barzun, The House of Intellect (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1959).

[13] See, by Louis Ren Beres: https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2020/04/the-trump-presidency-a-breathtaking-assault-on-law-justice-and-security/

[14] The classic statement of Realpolitik or power politics in western philosophy is the comment of Thrasymachus in Platos Republic : Justice is nothing else than the interest of the stronger. (See Plato, The Republic, 29, Benjamin Jowett, tr., World Publishing Company, 1946.) See also: Ciceros oft-quoted query: For what can be done against force without force?, Marcus Tullus Cicero, Ciceros Letters to his Friends, 78 (D.R. Shackleton Baily tr., Scholars Press, 1988).

[15] I think, therefore I am, says Ren Descartes, in his Discourse on Method (1637). Reciprocally, in his modern classic essay on Existentialism, Jean-Paul Sartre observes that outside the Cartesian cogito, all views are only probable.

[16] See, by Professor Louis Ren Beres: https://digitalcommons.law.uga.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1410&context=gjicl

[17] An apt literary reference for this condition of lost appetite is Franz Kafkas story, The Hunger Artist.

[18] In more expressly concrete terms, average American life-expectancy, unenviable for several decades, has now fallen behind most of the advanced industrial world. While Trump boasts of a wall to keep out Mexicans and assorted others, more and more Americans are trying to cross in the other direction.

[19] Apropos of this universality, international law is generally part of the law of the United States. These legal systems are always interpenetrating. Declared Mr. Justice Gray, in delivering the judgment of the US Supreme Court in Paquete Habana (1900): International law is part of our law, and must be ascertained and administered by the courts of justice of appropriate jurisdiction. (175 U.S. 677(1900)) See also: Opinion in Tel-Oren vs. Libyan Arab Republic (726 F. 2d 774 (1984)). The specific incorporation of treaty law into US municipal law is expressly codified at Art. 6 of the US Constitution, the so-called Supremacy Clause.

[20] Here it could be helpful to recall the words of French Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in The Phenomenon of Man: The egocentric ideal of a future reserved for those who have managed to attain egoistically the extremity of `everyone for himself is false and against nature.

[21] Long after Plato, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung thought of soul (in German, Seele) as the very essence of a human being. Neither Freud nor Jung ever provides a precise definition of the term, but clearly it was not intended by either in any ordinary religious sense. For both, it was a still-recognizable and critical seat of both mind and passions in this life. Interesting, too, in the present context, is that Freud explained his already-predicted decline of America by various express references to soul. Freud was plainly disgusted by any civilization so apparently unmoved by considerations of true consciousness (e.g., awareness of intellect and literature), and even thought that the crude American commitment to perpetually shallow optimism and to material accomplishment at any cost would occasion sweeping psychological misery.

[22] Sometimes, says Swiss playwright Friedrich Durrenmatt, the worst does happen.

[23] In the end, says Goethe, we are always creatures of our own making.

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Kamala Harris as Vice President Attractive for the Indian American Voter? - Modern Diplomacy

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September 13th, 2020 at 11:56 am

The Institute of the Cosmos – Announcements – e-flux – E-Flux

Posted: September 8, 2020 at 7:56 am


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The Institute of the Cosmos

http://www.cosmos.art

The Institute of the Cosmos presents an online library of essential readings on and about Russian Cosmism. Until very recently, many of these key essays, treatises, poems, and novelshave not been available in English. Those that have been translated have been scattered and difficult to find. The Institutes researchers assembled this selection of historical and contemporary texts to make the intellectual context surrounding cosmism accessible. This library will continue expanding: subscribe to our newsletter to receive updates on new titles.

Topics: Accelerationism, Anarchism, Architecture, Art, Artificial Intelligence, Astro-Linguistics, Biocosmism, Communism, Constructivism, Cryogenics, Cybernetics, Earth, Ecology, Energy, Film, Futurism, Gender, God-Building, Immortalism, Labor, Machine Learning, Marxism, Materialism, Monism, Museology, Noosphere, Occult, Poetry, Productivism, Religion, Reproduction, Resurrection, Revolution, Rocketry, Science, Science Fiction, Socialism, Soviet Union, Space Exploration, Suprematism, Technology, Time, Transhumanism, Weather

Authors: Abba & Wolf Gordin, Aleksandr Svyatogor, Aleksei Gastev, Alexander Bogdanov, Alexander Chizhevsky, Alexander Yaroslavsky, Alexandre Kojve, Anastasia Gacheva, Anatoly Lunacharsky, Andrei Platonov, Anton Vidokle, Arkady Strugatsky, Arseny Zhilyaev, Boris Groys, Boris Strugatsky, Fred Berthold Jr., Friedrich Nietzsche, George Young, Georges Bataille, Gilgamesh, Herman Potonik Noordung, Hermann Oberth, Hito Steyerl, Irmgard Emmelhainz, Johannes Kepler, Kazimir Malevich, Keti Chukhrov, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, Marina Simakova, Mckenzie Wark, Mikhail Bulgakov, Nel Grillaert, Nikolai Berdyaev, Nikolai Fedorov, Nikolay Zabolotsky, Pavel Florensky, Peter Kropotkin, Pierre Teilhard De Chardin, Sergei Bulgakov, Sergei Eisenstein, Trevor Paglen, Valerian Muraviov, Vasily Chekrygin, Velimir Khlebnikov, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Vladimir Odoyevsky, Vladimir Solovyov, Vladimir Vernadsky, Vsevolod Meyerhold, Walter Nunzio Sisto

The cinema of the Institute of the Cosmos is pleased to present Immortality for All: A film trilogy on Russian Cosmismby Anton Vidokle.

In this three-part film project, Anton Vidokle probes Cosmisms influence on the twentieth century and suggests its relevance to the present day. In This is Cosmos(2014), the artist returns to the foundations of Cosmist thought. The second chapter, entitled The Communist Revolution Was Caused By The Sun(2015), explores the links between cosmology and politics. The film's third chapter, Immortality and Resurrection for All! (2017), re-stages the museum as a site of resurrection, a central Cosmist idea.

Combining essay, documentary, and performance, the trilogy quotes from the writings of Cosmisms founder Nikolai Fedorov and other philosophers and poets. Vidokle's wandering camera searches for traces of Cosmist influence in the remains of Soviet-era art, architecture and engineering, moving from the steppes of Kazakhstan to the museums of Moscow. Music by John Cale and liane Radigue accompanies these haunting images, conjuring up the yearning for connectedness, social equality, material transformation and immortality at the heart of Cosmist thought.

Watch the films here.

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The Institute of the Cosmos - Announcements - e-flux - E-Flux

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September 8th, 2020 at 7:56 am

SPIRIT MATTERS: In matters of the spirit, spirituality matters – LaSalle News Tribune

Posted: August 31, 2020 at 1:58 am


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Regular and longtime readers of this space have probably figured out by now there is at least one thing in my life I am passionate about.

Spirituality.

Admittedly, this term can be confusing for many, and create all kinds of misunderstandings. When the question arises whether someone is spiritual or religious, many people see it in dualistic terms like you must be one or the other, but you cant be both.

This is just not true.

In fact, after reading about and studying spirituality for 25 years, I would propose that before religion comes into ones life, one is already, by birthright, a spiritual person.

Although it has been attributed to various people over the years, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin is credited with originating this statement: We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.

This implies, that just by being born, each human is a spiritual being. Indeed, some would include in that spiritual being category, all living things animals, plants, trees

Before I sat down at the keyboard this week, I looked up the term spirituality to try to get a grasp on a generally accepted definition of what it means to be spiritual.

There are, of course, many factors that go into determining this, but probably the most basic answer is this, which appeared when I googled the word. This definition is from Oxford Languages:

the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.

I might elaborate on that just a bit, to say that spirituality is an effort to find meaning, in ones own life, in others lives, in the world around them, and in the events that take place in their lives.

Another description of what it means to be a spiritual person came from an article on HuffPost in 2015. This one is more detailed than the above definition, but overall (and as in anything, there are exceptions), this definition better encapsulates what it means to be spiritual in these days in which we live:

Being a spiritual person is synonymous with being a person whose highest priority is to be loving to yourself and others. A spiritual person cares about people, animals and the planet. A spiritual person knows that we are all One, and consciously attempts to honor this Oneness. A spiritual person is a kind person.

Now, in reading this definition, we can see that it does not preclude spiritual people from also being religious. For some people, they dont have a spiritual awakening for years, even though they have practiced a religion for their entire life. In fact, most world religions, in one way or another, teach the highest priority of human life is to be loving to yourself and others.

As we all know, not all religious peoples lives reflect this, however. In fact, sadly, religions can be divisive, when seen as the be all and end all of existence.

Anyway, the reason I decided to write about this topic this week, is because I was thinking about 2020 and what an unusually, pardon my language, hellish year it has been. Honestly, humanity has been blindsided this year in more ways than we ever thought possible, at least in modern times. At least that is how it seems to those of us living it out. Now.

And I know for almost everyone scratch that everyone, adjusting to these new realities has been mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually challenging scratch that word challenging exhausting.

I know and have heard of many people with heightened anxiety and other mental health issues that are directly related to the extreme uncertainty we live with now.

Each day we awaken, we wonder what life is going to throw at us today.

It cannot possibly get any worse than it is already, we think.

But then it does.

So as someone who is passionate about spirituality, I look at it this way:

In many ways, there is not a lot we can do hands-on, at least not immediately, to resolve the circumstances we find ourselves in. Many of them, especially those more medically related, take time to research and find solutions to.

Others which are more systemically related with deep, thick, sprawling roots must be addressed with much dialogue and mutual respect. No easy answers here.

At the foundation of all these attempts to find a solution, however, is the need for each one of us to tap into that spiritual side of us, that is our birthright.

For months, millions of people have been at home, afraid to go out into public; many of them elderly with few family or friends to check on them.

Others have watched helplessly as nearly 200,000 Americans have succumbed to Covid-19, or complications from the virus. They have watched as dear family and friends have died painful, awful deaths, alone in a hospital room, without anyone even being able to physically touch their skin, or say goodbye. They have grieved their losses relatively alone, without the human support they so desperately need.

Hostilities related to all kinds of situations have boiled up and exploded in recent months, and only seem to be getting worse with each passing day.

As I write this today, I do so without, GOD FORBID, any intention of stirring up yet another political debate. Life is not all about politics. It is about so much more than that.

That is where this idea of spirituality comes in.

I believe that these terrible months we have all endured, if looked at in a positive light, have been an opportunity for every single one of us to get in touch with that spiritual side with which we were born.

That doesnt mean necessarily going to church. Many people cant go to church right now.

It is something more basic than that.

It is getting in touch with a loving Reality that undergirds all the pain and alienation so many of us feel from life, from each other, from ourselves

It is sitting still, quiet, and reaching out to that loving Reality to try to find out more about that Reality, and to find some way to make sense of it all.

Not that we will make sense of it all.

I have found in my life that when we go looking for answers as to why something happened, we might as well be beating our heads against a wall.

We just cannot be assured we will get an answer as to why something happened.

But

We can find meaning in it.often after much time has elapsed.

We can find ways to get grounded in this loving Reality that is eternal the beginning and the end of all things.

We can find ways to acknowledge that we are not isolated beingswe are connected to one another in ways we cannot imagine or explain.

And what happens to one of us, impacts the rest of us.

We can find ways to be the spiritual beings we are.those whose highest priority is to be loving to ourselves and others.those who care about people, animals and the planet.those who know that we are all One, and consciously attempt to honor this Oneness.

those who are kind

SPIRIT MATTERSis a weekly column that examines spirituality in The Times' readership area. Contact Jerrilyn Zavada at jzblue33@yahoo.com to share how you engage your spirit in your life and in your community.

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SPIRIT MATTERS: In matters of the spirit, spirituality matters - LaSalle News Tribune

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August 31st, 2020 at 1:58 am

PLEASANT HILL RAMBLINGS: ‘Love at the Heart of the Cosmos’ webinar set – Crossville Chronicle

Posted: December 4, 2019 at 5:45 pm


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The Uplands Lifelong Learning Institute is joining with Pleasant Hill Community Church, United Church of Christ, to bring a different kind of program to the area.

Ulli (formerly the Shalom Center for Continuing Education) has sponsored two-day educational programs or short courses meetings for six to eight weeks with live speakers or leaders.

On three days, Friday-Sunday, Dec. 6-8, the Institute and Church will bring the broadcast of an Omega Center Conference Webinar called Love at the Heart of the Cosmos: Living in Relational Wholeness to Pleasant Hill. The sessions will be shown on the large-screen and smaller video screens in Adshead Hall of Fletcher House for Assisted Living.

After each of the lectures, Ulli Group Discussions will be led by Ed Olson and Mark Canfield. Because of the different nature of this program, there will not be a potluck dinner on Friday night, but coffee and a light breakfast will be provided for the morning sessions.

On Friday, Dec. 6, the webinar will begin at 5:30 p.m. with an introduction by Ilia Delio. This webinar is an event committed to Teilhards vision for a new religion of the Earth for a new planet of life.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was a French idealist philosopher and Jesuit priest who trained as a paleontologist and geologist and is known for his theory that man is evolving, mentally and socially, toward a final spiritual unity.

Delio said, Teilhard envisioned a new type of energy flowing from the convergence of world religions, giving rise to a new religion of the Earth and a new ultrahuman community, electronically connected in a rising Cosmic Person.

The lecture beginning at 6 p.m. will be by Ursula King, a German theologian and scholar of religion, who specializes in gender, religion, and feminist theology. She has been a professor of theology and religious studies, president of Catherine of Siena College, and a prominent lecturer.

King received honorary doctorates from the universities of Edinburgh, Oslo and Dayton, OH, as well as research awards from the University of Delhi and Sorbonne, Paris. She is a Life Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts.

On Saturday, Dec. 7, from 7:45-8 a.m., a continental breakfast will be followed with the morning lecture by Kathleen Duffy, editor of Teilhard Studies who serves on the advisory boards of the American Teilhard Association and Cosmos and Creation, holding an honorary doctorate from Iona College.

She has published Teilhards Mysticism: Seeing the Inner Face of Evolution.

Following a break, there will be Teilhard & Centering Prayer led by Cynthia Bourgeault from 9:45-11:15 a.m. She is a modern-day mystic, Episcopal priest, writer and internationally known retreat leader. She is a core faculty member at the Center for Action and Contemplation, a member of the Global Peace Initiative for Women Contemplative Council and recipient of the 2014 Contemplative Voices award from Shalem Institute. Bourgeault is a founding director of both The Contemplative Society and the Aspen Wisdom School and author of several books.

The program will resume again from 4:30-6 p.m. with a lecture by John Haught. A theologian of science and religion, he will provide an analysis of what faith might mean in an age of science.

Haught is a distinguished research professor in the Department of Theology at Georgetown University and the author of 20 books, more than 100 book chapters and articles as well as hundreds of invited lectures and major academic presentations.

He offers fresh insight into the biblical nature of hope in order to clarify his position about those who differ with his approach the New Atheists and Creationists.

On Sunday, Dec. 8, from 7:45- 9:30 a.m., Ilia Delio will focus on exploring divine action in a world of evolution, complexity, emergence, quantum reality and artificial intelligence.

She earned doctorates in pharmacology from Rutgers University-School of Healthcare and Biomedical Sciences and in historical theology from Fordham University, NY. She is the recipient of a Templeton Course in Science and Religion award and the author of 17 books, many of which have been translated into Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish and German.

Ulli anticipates people will come and go throughout the three days of the conference.

Adshead Hall is on the lower level of the Elizabeth Fletcher House for Assisted Living, 40 Fletcher Dr. in Pleasant Hill off of Church Dr. across from the Community Church.

The webinar is free and open to the public, but donations will be appreciated.

This week in Pleasant Hill:

Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2 p.m. Documentary (Retirement Revolution) in Room 4, Pleasant Hill Community Church, United Church of Christ, Main St. and Church Dr.

Wednesday, Dec. 4, 5:30 p.m. Spaghetti supper, 6:15 p.m., and Taize Service in Pleasant Hill Community Church sanctuary, 67 Church Dr.

Wednesdays, 6 p.m. Bible study and prayer at the Pleasant Hill Baptist Mission at 39 Browntown Rd. near Main St.

Thursdays, 2-4 p.m. Fair Trade Room open in Pleasant Hill Community Church. Coffee, tea, chocolate, SERRV crafts from around the world. Supports co-ops and crafters with a fair price for their goods.

Thursday, Dec. 5, 7 p.m. Community Bridge at Fletcher House Dining Room. All welcome. Call 931-277-5005.

Friday, Dec. 6 Obed Wild and Scenic River 1.5-mile hike to the high rock outcrop of Lilly Bluff. Meet at 9:15 a.m. in the Aquatic Center parking lot on West Lake Rd. to carpool to the trailhead.

Tuesday, Dec. 10, noon Pleasant Hill emergency siren test.

Tuesday, Dec. 10, 6 p.m. Pleasant Hill Town Council meeting at Pleasant Hill Town Hall, 351 E. Main St. Call 931-277-3813.

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PLEASANT HILL RAMBLINGS: 'Love at the Heart of the Cosmos' webinar set - Crossville Chronicle

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December 4th, 2019 at 5:45 pm

CNY Inspirations: Sense of the holy can be found in quote – Syracuse.com

Posted: November 23, 2019 at 7:48 am


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This feature is coordinated by The Post-Standard/Syracuse.com and InterFaith Works of CNY. Follow this theme and author posted Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday.

The American holiday of Thanksgiving marks the grand opening of the Christmas shopping season. So by now you've been inundated with advertising: print, radio, television, and social media. How amid all this clamor for our money do we maintain our sense of the holy?

You might have heard: "You are not a human being having a spiritual experience. You are a spiritual being having a human experience." In other words, what is important is who we are and how we relate to others, not what we have and how we acquired it.

The quote is most often attributed to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. However, he was not the author. The real author gives us the real irony! It was part of an advertisement for Volkswagen, written for the company by motivational speaker Wayne Dyer.

May we all be blessed with the spirit of thanksgiving and gratitude!

Maggid Jim Brul is an ordained Jewish spiritual storyteller. A member of Temple Concord, Brul teaches storytelling and works with congregations and organizations to heal fractures of faith, class and ethnicity.

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CNY Inspirations: Sense of the holy can be found in quote - Syracuse.com

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November 23rd, 2019 at 7:48 am


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