Views on politics and current events

Saturday, July 22, 2006

How Do We Come To Believe What We Believe?

"Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders" Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha)At first glance, this advice from Buddha may prompt the question, "If I should not believe something simply for these reasons, how am I able to believe anything?"

But look deeper into what is being said. If you should not believe in anything simply because you heard it, because it is spoken or rumored, because it is found in religious books or on authority of elders and teachers, what is left? Critical thinking.

What Buddha's words mean to me, is no matter what the belief, question it. Question the source, for whatever is being presented has been concluded by humans through their own world view and frame of reference. Question the belief in and of itself. What if it is true? What if it is false? What are the consequences of believing it or not? Only after a person does that are they ready to form their own beliefs. Anything less will result in a belief in someone else's belief.

By all means be exposed to as many different beliefs of others as possible. But don't take them on authority. You are, in the end, as responsible for your thoughts and beliefs as for your actions. So make them your own thoughts and beliefs and not someone else's.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Middle East

The recent hostilities between Israel and Lebanon is a dangerous circumstance. Not just for the two nations involved, but for the entire world. This is not the time for nations to line up on one side or the other. It is the time for the nations of the world to do what they can to help defuse the crisis. In the past, the U.S. has lead the way in striving for peace in the middle east. This administration's response shows that the policy of peace is no longer a priority.

For the U.S. to condemn one side and encourage the other adds fuel to an already volatile fire. This is not the time for this administration's militaristic, arrogant swagger with saber in hand. This is the time for the U.S. to be a true ally to Israel by using every diplomatic avenue available to help bring about a ceasefire.

There are no clean hands in the middle east conflict. It's gotten to the point where no one can point the finger and honestly say who started what. The word 'terrorist' is thrown about, but how does a person define someone as a terrorist? A terrorist is someone that doesn't agree with you, it seems. But terrorist tactics are used by all concerned. Any time an attack results in so much loss of civilian life it can be called terrorism, no matter who does it.

This administration's 'war on terror' will only lead to a continued 'war of errors'. To continue the occupation of Iraq is an error, the cheerleading of Israel is an error. Both actions increase the willingness of nations to support terrorism. The possibility of the middle east crisis erupting into a global conflict is real. The death and destruction brought about by such a conflict will make the death and destruction of the previous world wars pale in comparison, for the threat of nuclear war is no longer just a threat. With extremist idealogues on both sides, there is no doubt that one of them would have no hesitation using nuclear weapons.

With so much riding on the outcome, diplomacy should be given every effort and possibility.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

A Free Market Economy

Much has been made within conservative and libertarian economic philosophies about free markets. That if all regulations of commerce, goods and services are done away with, that the economy will regulate itself. That not only the cost of goods and services will be determined by demand, but also wages will be determined by demand. That somehow all of this self-regulation will result in a more stable economy, true competition, lower consumer costs and realistic wages.

As with much conservative thought, the past is looked upon as a guide for the future. A return to the economic past is a panacea for the economic ills of the present. Perhaps if there was an historical example of a true free market, I could agree. But as there isn't, I must conclude that the free market idea is but a theory.

If we go by the economic past, what passes for a free market always involved actions by business to gain exclusive control over goods and services. Three industries in the 19th century, steel, railroads and petroleum were controlled by three men; Morgan, Carnegie and Rockefeller. This was an age of no government regulations, no safety regulations, long workdays at low pay, no worker's compensation, very little job security. Are these the good ol' days and the type of free market this country wants to go back to? Where a handful of the rich control every aspect of a commodity or service, that stifles competition and has no regard for the consumer or the worker?

That is what will happen in a 'free market'. Not a free market as conservatives think of it, for that is but a pipedream. Without any controls or regulations in the marketplace the inequality of the haves versus the have nots will increase. Capitalism itself guarantees that. When earning the greatest profit by any means remains the sole criterion of capitalism, there must be some sort of regulation to even come close to a market that is not 'free', but that is 'fair'.

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