We are at a point where almost every
developed economy in the world is now in decline due to greed,
ignorance, fraud, corruption, and the gross mismanagement
and/or misallocation of raw materials, capital, and people.
So far, those who hold positions of power
and could work for peace and economic justice do not have the
wisdom or the desire to do so, while those who might have the
wisdom and the desire, do not have the power.
Change is inevitable nonetheless.
Unfortunately, the trajectory we’re on now points to
change that will not come peacefully or end equitably… and
so political and economic security for the world’s extended
human family is probably a pipe dream without an unprecedented
transformation of citizens and their institutions.
A peaceful resolution to the world’s
shrinking economies would require that honorable and competent
citizens at all levels of society be active, intelligent,
conscious participants in reinventing education, government,
commerce, and other aspects of a decaying culture.
What is required is a return to the basics, which is to
say, the establishment of a vision that lays out a revised set
of common goals for humanity, and the bringing of all aspects
of our culture into alignment with that vision and those
goals. We have
extensive experience now with much of what works and what
doesn’t work. The
question is, do we have the wisdom and can we muster the
courage to tell the truth about it?
One reason the challenge is so daunting
is that most of us have been from birth compromised, born into
a society of individuals and institutions, most of which are
now consciously or unconsciously dedicated to deadening our
God given faculties of perception and reason.
These institutions now operate to perpetuate the myths
and traditions that society lives by and which are intended to
keep us uninformed, misinformed and vulnerable.
Even those who love us and intend for us to succeed
often unwittingly propagate false information, having
themselves been successfully indoctrinated with illusion after
illusion, unconscious and unaware of their own
Could what I’ve just said possibly be
Let me share with you the results of an
experiment I once read about, the original details and source
of which I am unable to cite. But
here, I think, are the essential facts, which illustrate how
vulnerable we all are to unconsciously acquiring learned
responses that are inimical to our own well-being:
number of chimpanzees were placed in a room, the ceiling of
which was fitted out with a sprinkler system.
On one wall was a one-way mirror through which the
psychologists who ran the experiment could observe the chimps
and activate the sprinkler system at will.
one corner of the room, a bunch of bananas were hung from the
ceiling which the chimps could not reach on their own.
A ladder was conveniently positioned below the bananas
so any one of them could climb the ladder and get a banana any
time he or she wanted one.
For several weeks the chimps were allowed to climb the
ladder and retrieve a banana at will, the supply of which was
regularly replenished and always available.
the fourth week things changed.
Now every time a chimp climbed the ladder and grabbed a
banana the researchers immediately turned on the sprinkler
system and drenched all the chimps in the room with cold
water, an experience they all vehemently hated.
During that week every time a chimp would climb the
ladder and grab a banana, the group would get drenched.
After awhile, whenever a chimp started to climb the
ladder the others would drag him or her down and punish them
for even thinking about climbing the ladder.
By the end of the week, no chimp in the room was
willing to risk retrieving a banana for fear of being
next week, one of the chimps was removed and a new chimp was
introduced to the group in his place.
The new chimp, a total stranger to the group, had never
been in this room before.
It didn’t take long for the new guy to notice the
bananas and the ladder and figure he’d go get himself a
treat. Of course,
as soon as he set foot on the ladder, all the other chimps
attacked him viciously. Several
times the new chimp tried again and each time he was dragged
down and pummeled. It
didn’t take long before he realized that trying to climb the
ladder was not something he was willing to attempt anymore.
week after that, another member of the original group was
replaced by someone new. When
that chimp predictably went for a banana, she was also pulled
down and attacked by the others. Joining in the attack was the
most recent member of the group who joined the week before.
In subsequent weeks, one by one, a chimp from the
original group was replaced with a new chimp until none of the
original chimps remained in the room.
Each subsequent week the staff continued to replace a
member of the group with someone new, and still any chimp who
ever attempted to retrieve a banana would be viciously
attacked by all the others.
the psychologists continued to replace older members of the
group with new members they came to realize that they would
never have to use the sprinkler system again.
No chimp in this particular society of chimps now would
ever be allowed to grab a readily available banana even if
they tried. This
was true even though none of the chimps in their society had
ever experienced being drenched by the sprinkler system for
trying to get one, and none of them would ever have any clue
as to why they got beat up for trying to retrieve a banana, or
why they were readily willing to beat anyone else up who
So what are we to learn from this
experiment? What I
conclude is that humans are probably as vulnerable as chimps
are to corrupting influences in their environments even though
humans have larger brains, language skills, education,
sophisticated tools, established institutions and history
books that chimps don’t have. Maybe
we humans do not usually physically attack members of our
society when they stray outside accepted norms, but like
chimps, we are all highly influenced by how the rest of
society thinks and behaves even though we might not understand
why we or they think or behave the way we do.
For example, in our culture few of us would think of
eating roasted worms or grasshoppers for a snack; and yet in
some cultures they do it all the time.
We are simply conditioned to think and feel a certain
way about some things without necessarily being conscious of
how or why we came to think or feel that way.
Sometimes group pressure “forces” us
to behave in very sub-optimal ways such as when we engage in
war or gang violence even though the potential loss of life
and treasure would suggest to any rational observer that such
behavior is almost always unnecessary and counter-productive.
We live in a world where some of us are very well off
while others are barely able to survive.
Greed, envy, fear, prejudice and other negative
attitudes thrive in our society even when a review of our
personal experience or human history can demonstrate over and
over again, that the pain and unhappiness we inflict on
ourselves and one
another was never desirable or necessary for our survival or
It appears that when we don’t
consciously have all the information we need—which is to
say, when we can’t see the big picture or when our attention
has been purposely misdirected or co-opted by lies, myths or
illusions—we can end up making decisions and carrying out
acts that are detrimental to ourselves and others.
A student might go to school intending
one day to become a great investigative reporter, hoping to
put his or her talents, judgment and character to good use for
the betterment of their fellow man.
After graduating college and being hired by a major
newspaper to begin a promising career, they might soon learn
that they can’t always write about everything they discover
during an investigation, at least not if they want to advance
or keep their job. They
might learn that there are powerful people who don’t want
what they learned to become general knowledge, and those
people are powerful enough to keep that information from being
published even though our would-be journalist remembers what
he or she learned in school about journalistic integrity,
their first amendment rights, and their duty to stay true to
their purpose and values.
Many managers or politicians today find
it more practical to maintain a reputation among their
constituents, customers, or stockholders that they or their
institutions are worthy of being well thought of, not by going
through the inconvenience of actually holding fast to the
ideals they claim to live by, but by manufacturing that
illusion through dishonest collusions, deceit, various public
relations schemes and propaganda campaigns.
But even well meaning people can
propagate illusions, myths, and disinformation unwittingly.
Much of what we believe about spiritual matters, for
example, might largely have been shaped by our parents and
other well meaning people who taught us what to think and
believe about God, even though the people who taught us,
despite their good will and intelligence, only knew what they
were taught by their parents and teachers, as did all those
who came before them did going back generations, and maybe
even thousands of years.
We often choose to believe what we’ve
been taught, which information might be confirmed by millions
of other believers who will gladly testify to its truth, even
though neither we nor they have any first hand evidence as to
why we should believe it.
Many believe in times past that God spoke
to Noah, Moses, and Jesus and that the bible is God’s
definitive word… that He helped write, edit, and/or compile
that book a long time ago, and then promptly retired from
literary pursuits confident that we, a few thousand years
later, would understand its message and not be in need of a
more modern update.
And yet if I told you that God spoke to
me, would you believe that I am both sane and truthful, that
God really does exist, and that He really did speak to me
not. We often hold
some things to be true and not other things, without proof,
based on how many other people in society hold them to be
true, even though maybe not one out of a billion other people
who hold a particular belief to be true, really knows any more
about the topic at hand than we do.
We say we have faith, but do we know why we have faith
in some things and not others?
You see, the chimps who took part in the
experiment I described didn’t do anything wrong.
They weren’t stupid, bad, or foolish.
They just didn’t have all the information they
their innate abilities or lack thereof, there was no way for
them to get that information or to make sense of their
artificially manipulated environment.
What the experiment demonstrates is that some human
beings can steal the joy from a society of chimps (and also
probably people), by putting them in a situation where their
perspective is so artificially limited or skewed that they are
unable to understand key aspects of their reality and as a
result come to erroneous conclusions about how to respond
makes them vulnerable to being manipulated into thinking and
behaving in ways which, through no fault of their own, causes
them to lose their natural and rightful place in the world.
After all, there was no way for the
chimps to figure out why trying to obtain a readily available
banana ought to be so difficult, or inspire so much violence,
in themselves or others. They
had no way of knowing that they or their ancestors were
manipulated by unseen forces that purposely misinformed them
about how life worked, altering their perception of reality,
and which probably would remain forever distorted in the
absence of some outside intervening force that could expand
their perspective and set the record straight.
Without new input about how things really work, and how
historical events shaped their present state of consciousness,
they might never come to understand why they came to believe
or act the way they do; or come to understand that some of
what they believe might actually not be true; or come to
realize, that how things are don’t always have to be this
Similarly, a lot of what we humans think
we know is the result of how other persons, known or unknown,
now or in the past, take or took advantage of our inexperience
and ignorance, or our progenitor’s inexperience and
ignorance, for their own purposes.
This surreptitious behavior, which has been used by
some to the disadvantage of others, has persisted throughout
history. This is
true even though we humans have at our disposal advantages and
resources that chimps don’t have.
Some people may not know why they are
afraid of the truth while some people actually make it their
business to keep other people ignorant and vulnerable and
spend considerable energy thinking up ways to make them
afraid, or conspiring with others who are similarly motivated,
to keep their own elite group in the know, and everyone else
Some of us, through perseverance,
determination, curiosity, or serendipity, have been able to
look behind some of the one-way mirrors of the world and are
now in a position to tell others what we’ve found to set the
record straight. Of
course, if their agenda is threatened, those who work behind
those mirrors will try very hard to discredit what we have to
say or shut us up in order to keep their game going.
Certainly you can imagine that if the
chimps in the experiment were able to mate and bring their new
innocent infant chimps into the world, that the mothers of
those chimps would try to teach their young not to venture up
the ladder in search of bananas.
They might do this to save their offspring the trauma
of being attacked by the group which might be far more
dangerous or uncomfortable than learning a little self
Perhaps you can even imagine (stretching
your imagination a bit) that if the elders of the group could
talk, they might invent stories about how this all came to be
and how the God of chimps told the world’s original chimps
not to taste the fruit of the banana if they wanted to remain
in paradise. But
of course those first chimps eventually did taste the banana
and were then thrown out of paradise forever and this is why
things are the way they are and will always be that way… so
stay off the ladder!
If you were a chimp who somehow
discovered that all this time you were being kept in a room as
part of an experiment to see what you would do when you or one
of your roommates went for a banana, predicting that if any of
you tried to get a banana, that you would either get beat up
or unpleasantly drenched, what would you do?
Wouldn’t you try to tell the others what you know
about what those human beings behind the mirror are up to?
But what if the others couldn’t understand you or
wouldn’t believe you… then what?
Or what if they did believe you?
What could you all do about it anyway?
What would you do with the realization that all your
life you’ve been an involuntary prisoner of human beings,
unable to live out your life in peace and in freedom as others
do… others who are only constrained by the natural world
around them rather than by some artificially created place run
by human beings who don’t love you, and don’t care what
happens to you or the rest of your species.
In fact, sometimes it looks like humans
don’t even care about what happens to the rest of their own
The truth is… most of us now live in a
world of illusion. Our
institutions, our culture and we ourselves have been corrupted
by a world far more complex than what the chimps experienced,
run by people who don’t love us and maybe even by some who
do. We live by
false gods, myths, traditions, and other cultural realities
that rob us of our natural inclination to live in peace and in
harmony with others. Think
how difficult it has been for some people, trying to navigate
their way through complicated structures of society and the
physical universe, particularly when they’ve been
conditioned to not see, or even not desire to see, reality as
it is. Maybe in
some ways we’ve all been conditioned not to see, or want to
see, things as they are.
But why bring all this up now? Hasn’t
it always been like this?
Weren’t there always those who wanted to deceive
others for their own purposes?
problem is… some of us have come to believe that our
inability to see and respond to things as they really are, has
brought us to the brink of systemic failure—a failure that
could threaten all of us personally, and maybe even life
itself on our fragile planet.
In any event, wouldn’t it be better if we could break
free of illusionary forces that cause us all so much distress
and instead begin to live in peace and harmony with one
In our culture, some humans have not only
learned how to condition chimps to engage in mindless acts of
violence, some have learned how to condition soldiers and
police to commit mindless acts of violence too.
We have learned how to make would-be journalists into
instruments of propaganda.
Others have successfully turned scientists into
corporate profiteers, bankers into thieves, and politicians
into prostitutes for special interest groups.
We now issue patents to corporations for identifying
life forms, and we can now get plants to stop reproducing
themselves so that farmers will no longer be able to use seeds
from prior harvests for subsequent plantings (as they have for
thousands of years), but instead will have to buy new seeds
every year from some corporation perhaps forever.
We can get hourly workers to manufacture foods that
risk our children’s health.
We can get teachers to condition pupils not to think,
and get professors to inspire their students to make a lot of
money instead of inspiring them to make a difference.
We can get lawyers to ignore or obfuscate the law and
doctors to prescribe dangerous, ineffective or unnecessarily
expensive drugs. We
can make the rich richer, the poor poorer, the sick sicker,
award peace prizes to war mongers, celebrate stupidity,
denigrate intelligence, and teach ourselves how to stay
entertained while others plot to rob us and our children… of
our freedoms, our financial and emotional security, and our
sense of well-being.
Please don’t get me wrong.
Of course human beings can and do a lot of great and
wonderful things too. Advances
in technology and science open up our understanding of the
world around us in unimaginable ways.
And yet, it just might be possible that we’re at a
point where the “good” things we do are being overwhelmed
by the “bad” things, to the point of threatening the
society in which we live, if not the very survival of our
species. We know
from history and archeology that some cultures have
unwittingly destroyed themselves.
In some ways, we seem to be following in their
We now live in a society where a lot of
us know that something fundamental is wrong.
And yet we haven’t as yet found a useful way to talk
about it, or a clear path to make it right.
Many husbands and wives, family members and friends,
can no longer talk to one another because one of them might be
focused on what they see is an unfolding tragedy, while the
other refuses to acknowledge or talk about anything that they
perceive is negative or makes them feel bad.
Some people believe they no longer can find a job that doesn’t diminish their dignity
in some way. Giant corporations behave like enemies of
and politicians collude in fraud.
To some, the rich seem evil and callous, to others the
poor seem lazy and naive.
Our entertainment seems—more than ever—to be
violent, mindless, obscene, misleading, a distraction from
what’s important, underhanded propaganda, and/or a waste of
time… and yet we can’t get enough of it.
We go on about our business trying to
hang onto our sanity as the mind tries to identify who or what
is the source of our fears and discomfort.
We are vulnerable to propaganda designed to make us
believe falsely that we know who the enemy is, and convince us that
if we would or could only get rid of them, everything would
return to normal. And
so we might be told that the enemy are the Muslims, Jews, rich
people, poor people, capitalists, socialists, or communists,
dark skinned people, white skinned people, intellectuals,
rednecks, bankers, politicians, CEOs, men, Americans,
Israelis, Arabs, religious fanatics, left wingers, right
wingers, Republicans or Democrats, or who knows what.
And yet the truth is, maybe we’re all
our own worst enemy. Some
of us do wicked things or support others in doing wicked
things to our supposed enemies in reaction to our skewed view
of reality that was orchestrated by forces we don’t
understand and can’t identify.
We are all like those chimps who are now
mindlessly attacking anyone who attempts to do something that
we believe is “bad” and yet in some sense we too are
“bad” for we will attack (in our minds or in our hearts)
anyone who we think probably deserves it, without trying to
understanding how they got that way or how we got the way we
are, or how to stop them, or stop ourselves … because even if we
stop, other people won’t, so what’s the point?
And so we give up trying to figure it all
out or we become secret Avengers, which is to say, we become
justified in treating some segments of humanity not as we
would want to be treated but as we think they deserve to be
treated… because they are in some way evil while we are not.
We discard the Golden Rule, the Constitution, the Bill of
Rights, and any other morality from our cultured past because
we now believe that we must not be swayed by some quaint
philosophical abstraction that we were taught as children,
(and still teach our children), even though it no longer
applies to us, because now we are told and accept that basic
human decency was not meant to be a suicide pact… meaning
that if we hold fast to our ideals, we surely will die, be
damaged or compromised, and so we decide we no longer will or should.
And if we are not doing that, then we hide our heads in the
sand, unwilling or unable to see the downward spiraling
tragedy unfolding all around us. Instead, we arrange our
lives so that we never have to deal with anything that is
unfamiliar or uncomfortable, shutting the pain of the world
out of our lives and out of our consciousness. We
pretend we are unaffected by realities we refuse to
acknowledge, not admitting to ourselves that one day we will
release our children and grandchildren into this cauldron of
deception for which they will be entirely unprepared and to
which we all contributed our own version of helplessness by no
longer believing that there is really anything that we can do
about it. When asked how we're doing, we pretend
everything is all ok, making sure that every conversation we
engage in is some form of happy talk, never really connecting
in any intimate or truthful way to even those we love, let
alone the rest of humanity around us.
Some of us conclude that the only thing left to do is try to
get by until we are finally saved by our own death,
Armageddon, or some event over which we have no control… and
anyway… its always been this way, and it always will be this
way, and things will go in cycles… times will change to
something better or something worse before it turns around and
then goes back the other way again… so deal with it, but
leave me alone… I don't want to talk about it. No one
has the answer. And besides, I’m busy.
course there is an alternative…
In fact, I believe I have an answer to
this problem… this problem being, how do we transform this
reality into one where all humans have a chance to live in
freedom in a large diverse community of well adjusted, well
cared for individuals who have compassion for one another.
will turn around when you finally learn how to love other
people’s children at least almost as much as you love your
What would that mean?
It would mean that you recognize that there is no child
in this world who is not entitled to be loved.
Naturally your emotional ties and commitment to your
own children will almost always be deeper and more profound than
someone else’s, particularly with respect to children you never met and
who live somewhere on the other side of the planet.
there is no child in the world that is not entitled to basic
human rights as enumerated in the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights.
There is no child in this world that is not entitled to
the truth… by which I mean, that no child deserves to be
purposely lied to in order to deny them the full measure of
their dignity or rightful place in the world, or to cheat them
out of the right to experience life as it is so that you or
others can take advantage of their ignorance or inexperience.
Every child deserves a fair chance to succeed in life,
to be treated with justice, to enjoy freedom of expression,
economic security, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit
of happiness… to be treated as you would have others treat
there any reason why your children should enjoy these gifts of
life and other children not?
To love them almost as much as you love your own is to
acknowledge and to strive to live your life in such a way that
other people’s children are not denied these gifts of life
if you have any say in the matter.
And the truth is, you do.
Why do you have a say in the matter?
Because you’re here… you have a voice… and you
have a conscience. How
can you make a difference?
You can’t not make a difference.
All any of us do is make a difference, because all we
ever do in life, moment by moment, is make choices.
Perhaps we would make a different kind of difference if
we made more conscious choices and better informed choices.
So we all have a lot of thinking to do
and lot of truth to acknowledge.
Those thoughts and that truth requires freedom from the
false teachings, practices, traditions, myths, and belief
systems that keep humanity (us) stuck, impoverished, unhappy,
and vulnerable. Once
we recognize the extent of our ignorance, we’re going to
have to discover what to put in its place.
We must restructure our institutions and
revise our philosophical understandings as to how people ought
to behave towards one another, and then bring ourselves and
our institutions into alignment with our recreated vision as
we let go of those unworkable and outdated traditions, myths,
and belief systems that we ourselves still live by.
So how do we do that?
If you’ve read this far, the work has
already begun… in you. I
already told you how. You
don’t need to know or understand anything else to begin. You
don’t need anyone else’s permission.
You only need to want to begin by asking yourself…
“What would it mean to love other people’s children at
least almost as much as I love my own?”
If you are willing to take that first step honestly and
with integrity, whatever else you need to know will be
revealed to you. One
thing will lead to another.
If you are truly honest with yourself, the world…
your world… will change.
That’s how it’s done… one person at a time,
beginning with you.
Now I am mindful that human experience is
drenched in dichotomies. You
always have a choice. You
can always turn right or turn left, because there is both a
left and a right. You
can always look up or look down, because there is both an up
and a down. You
can always say yes or say no, because you can choose to say
yes or say no. And
every time you make a choice there are always consequences and
new choices to be made.
it possible that all human beings could live happy, productive
and satisfying lives? I
believe that that is just as possible as all human beings
living unhappy, discouraging, and unsatisfying lives.
Some of us can imagine the second possibility much
easier than they can the first.
But why should we believe that one reality is more
possible than the other? Because
we are quite familiar with how much suffering so much of
humanity experiences and always has.
I’m telling you that that can change.
I can imagine how it can change, and I can imagine it
changed. You can
choose to imagine what I can imagine or you can refuse.
I believe that if you are willing to step back in order
to gain a wider perspective than what you now have, you could
make a better informed choice.
I will tell you this: God is real and not a myth.
But God is not a religion and God is not the fool most
people think He is. God is not angry, jealous, vengeful,
spiteful or cruel... but is kind, understanding and forgiving.
is closer to you than your own breath. You are not forgotten.
You are, in fact, greatly loved. And you have a choice.
You can choose to love other people’s children at
least almost as much as you love your own, or you can choose
not to. You can
choose to love other people’s children even if you don’t
have children of your own.
Now the only thing left for
you to do is... choose.
By the way, I don't believe you need to
justify your choices to me or anyone else. I love you
just the way you are. I simply had something to say that I
thought some people might find interesting or useful, and so I
thought I'd say it. On the other hand, maybe you do owe us
and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Letter to Lawyers and Judges
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