08/13/14

Robin the Mensch

RobinWilliams

Robin Williams 1951 – 2014

“You’re only given one little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.”

At first I thought it was just me and my often silly human mind. But I felt the earth move yesterday. Not in the physical realm but in the global consciousness we all share. After bumping into people all day who are close to me, I found I was not alone. Prolonged hugs seemed to be the norm, instead of just saying see you later.

12/26/12

The Borborygmus that is Palestine – An Essay on Apartheid

Chapter 1

The first time, the area between what was Phoenicia (today – northern Lebanon and Syria), and Egypt to the south, and from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, was clearly called Palestine was by the Greeks in the

5th century BC. Though Palestine had always been there and has been called many other names. The region was among the earliest to see human habitation, animal domestication, agricultural communities and civilization.

The descendants of earlier peoples, such as the Kebarian culture, who lived in the area from about 20,000 to 12,000 years ago, were the hunters and gatherers, the Natufian, who created an Eastern Mediterranean culture which would be the first to implement the concepts of agriculture; originally developed to feed their livestock, and the first cultivation of cereals, specifically rye. The Natufian dominance lasted from 14,500 to 11,500 years ago. One of its settlements, now called Jericho, is the oldest inhabited city in the world. It lies near the Jordan River in the West Bank.

The next peoples were the Canaanites, a mix of many tribes, whose languages and cultures would be influenced by the civilizations of Ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, Phoenicia, Minoan Crete and Syria. Later, the region would be controlled by the Babylonians, Persians, Ancient Greeks and Romans.

About 4,000 years ago, other groups of people began to arrive from the Aegean Sea region of Greece and Turkey and mix with the tribes of Canaanites and over the next couple of centuries, the many tribes of Palestine would become collectively known as the Philistines. Many of the people of Palestine had by now inhabited the area for over eight thousand years and were living predominately within small city-states and while the area was once covered in cedar and pine forests, over the centuries it had been nearly stripped clean by various empires, specifically the Ancient Egyptians, and the area had become a barren, eroded, hilly country with few and limited resources, nothing but a narrow ribbon of land squeezed between desert and sea, as little as 65 kilometres (40 miles). It also possesses the saltiest body of water on the planet, and the lowest point on its surface, that being the Red Sea, at 412m (1352ft) below sea level.

At about the same time, around 1900 BC, in Upper Mesopotamia (present day Kurdistan and Northern Iraq), an Ur, of the tribe of the Chaldees, and descendant of the ancient Sumerians, began to have visions, and a voice in his head telling him of a new promised land to the west. The voice told him that his tribe were the chosen people, and that they would have to toss aside their devotion to their numerous pagan gods and believe in only one god, which the Ur called El. After the death of his father, this Ur, forever known as Abraham, gathered up the few small tribes of the Chaldees and left their ancestral lands forever. Already being somewhat of a nomadic people, they migrated out of Mesopotamia, constantly wandering about in search of water and grazing land for their flocks of goats and sheep. Making their way through Syria and Jordan, they would eventually end up in Egypt, where after only a few years would be banished for “indifference” to the pharaoh at the time, Nebkaure Khety IV. They gathered their flocks and headed into the Sinai wilderness and onwards to the land of Canaan, which they entered for the first time, eventually settling down in Hebron, about 30 km (19 mi) from Jerusalem, in about 1850BC.

Both very elderly by now, Abraham and his first wife, Sarah, had never been able to have children together, though Abraham had gathered many wives. One of them, Hagar, had given birth to his first son, who had been named Ishmael. Sarah, now well past child bearing years became spiteful and talked Abraham into banishing Hagar and Ishmael from the tribe. It is said that with a heavy heart, Abraham banished them both into the Arabian Peninsula. But Hagar and Ishmael survived, with folklore and oral traditions recognizing Ishmael as the founder of the Arab nation.

Abraham had continued to have visions and spoke with his god El often, who one day told Abraham that Sarah, though very old, would produce a son as a “gift from God”, in his appreciation of Abraham’s obedience and discipline. Sure enough Sarah gave birth to her first child, a son whom they named Isaac. Still jealous and resentful of  Abraham’s other wives, Sarah became ever more protective of her son’s inheritance, and once again talked Abraham into banishing another favourite wife of his, Keturah, along with the six sons she and Abraham had together. This was also carried out, and Keturah, her sons and a small group of supporters headed out into the Arabian wilderness, where they would eventually become the ancestral tribal leaders of the Midian, in north-west Saudi Arabia. where 3,000 years later, the prophet Muhammad and Islam would be born. Dying in about 1830 BC, Abraham and Sarah were buried in the cave of Machpelah, in Hebron. A Muslim mosque marks the spot today. Abraham would become the patriarch of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Isaac meanwhile, would lead his father’s tribes into becoming the Hebrew.

It is said, that this is the point in time where the seed of hatred began between Arab and Jew and would accumulate, and cause all the future confrontations between them, even up to the present day in the Israeli-Arab conflict, where they wish each other to be erased off of the planet. Four thousand years of resentment and loathing caused by, basically, a family feud and what particular god each family believed in.

 

Chapter 2

Meanwhile, Canaan at the time was inhabited by dozens of tribes, split between nomadic herders, and farmers huddled around springs and wells. Most all of Canaan’s city states would grow up either on or near a well, where eventually walls would be built to protect the precious water from the goats and sheep of the herders. Because of this and either times of unrest, famine or drought, the herders had to often immigrate to surrounding areas to feed and water their flocks and themselves, or just as often becoming enslaved and relocating as refugees or slaves.

With one of the first civilizations in the world, the Sumer of Mesopotamia, disappearing into history and the Egyptian pyramids already more than 800 years old, many tribes in Canaan, including the Hebrew would end up in Egypt, as slaves, farmers, herders and craftsmen.

The Hebrew tribes emigrated, perhaps enslaved, to Egypt a couple of centuries after Abraham’s death and would stay for two hundred years. Over the generations the majority of them in fact did quite well, with many arising to respectful positions as craftsmen, traders, scribes and advisers to the Egyptian Royal Courts. One of the Hebrew, Moses, had been raised by the pharaoh’s daughter and had become a prince of the Royal Court, as well as a respected military commander. But after killing an Egyptian for beating a slave, Moses headed for the hills. Over the next few years he became a herdsman and wandered the hilly desert country as a nomad. Meeting other Hebrew herders and their small clans, Moses came to learn that the Hebrew people were descendants of Abraham, the patriarch with whom their one god had formed a covenant. Growing up reading and writing various texts and languages, he had studied ancient Sumerian, Ur and Babylonian tablets, which told epic stories of great floods and described the laws of the earlier Sumerian people. Linking oral traditions of Moses’ ancestors and earlier cultures, along with these readings, he began to discover his own roots and the origins of his own people, as well as enhancing earlier ideologies into the narrative which would become the concepts of Judaeo and Christian traditions. He also began to have visions and a voice in his head, which also spoke to him through his staff, rocks and burning bushes. Moses was told that he should lead the Hebrew back to their promised land. The voice in his head introduced himself as Yahweh, the only one true god of the Hebrew.

Around 1400 BC, Egypt entered a time of environmental and economic collapse, which coincided with one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history, the Santorini or Thera eruption, which destroyed the Minoan civilization, and effected most all the populations of the Eastern Mediterranean area. It was at this time that Moses would return from his self-exile and then lead the Hebrew tribes out of Egypt.

After leaving Egypt, the Hebrew would spend the next fifty years wandering about the Sinai wilderness. Moses explained to his people that Yahweh not only promised them their land around Hebron, but all of Palestine, and that it was their divine right. But they could not enter their promised land until the generation of people that had come out of Egypt with Moses, along with their ungodliness behaviour and attitude began to die off and a new generation could emerge to carry out their god’s will. And sure enough, soon after Moses died the tribes of Hebrew would swarm out of the hills of the Sinai and sweep across Palestine, bent on war and conquest. The earlier aspects of their faith – extinction of will, passive meditation, mournfulness, mysticism, and the softness of the Sun of Abraham’s time, would not do. To achieve victory they now needed their god Yahweh to become a fierce and jealous god of vengeance with an “eye for eye” brutality. And he did.

Palestine was inhabited at the time by many powerful and prosperous kings, in strong walled cities surrounded by agricultural communities, the population a melting pot of tribes, including the Ishmaelite, Edomites, Moabites, Ammonites, Midianite, and Qahtanites, with much of the population still living on lands where thousands of generations of their ancestors had lived, hundreds of centuries before Abraham.

But over the next four hundred years, the Hebrew would pillage, raze cities and towns to the ground, and beat much of Palestine into submission. Attacking the peoples that had always lived in these lands with the modus operandi; after conquering a farm, village or city, every man, woman, child, and domesticated animal, be put to the sword. It worked. By 900 BC many of the original inhabitants of Palestine had been killed, displaced or assimilated into the surrounding populations, losing nearly all of their distinctive and vibrant cultures. Eventually the loose confederation of Hebrew tribes would unite to become a nation themselves. Samuel, a religious judge, was appointed the king of the new united kingdom of Israel. With Saul, of the tribe of Benjamin proclaimed king and war-leader soon after.

 

Chapter 3

The still being written books that would make up their bible, the Torah (Old Testament), gave birth to their distinct religion, which they called Judaism and themselves, Jews. From the beginning they placed themselves apart from all other humans and religions, by making Judaism only for their race and no other, and very unique at the time, they only had the one god. Though the Torah speaks about tolerance, this attitude of Judaism would foster racism and the Jewish people would from then on become persecuted for such beliefs.

In about 600 BC, the Babylonians would invade Palestine and Israel, and then return to Babylon with nearly half the Jewish population in tow as slaves, though many would return over the next decades, with many having worked once again as scribes and advisers, and studied in the greatest libraries in the world at the time, in the greatest city of it’s time Babylon. Soon after returning, the books that make up the Torah would be copied and edited a few more times and eventually became the collection of books it is today.

Less than five hundred years later a greater Diaspora would occur when the Romans, having already conquered and attempted to subdue Palestine, would squash the rising of the Jews fighting against the oppression of Roman tyranny and the Jews would leave Palestine en mass. During the hostilities and rebellions, a Jew called Jesus was crucified, and nearly a hundred years later another new religion would come into being, centred on both, the Torah and the teachings of Jesus, and be called Christianity. At about the same time the Diaspora had run its course and very few Jews were left in Palestine after 100 AD.

Over the next 1800 plus years, the Palestinian people would be controlled by the Byzantines, the Sunni Arab Caliphates, the Shia Fatimid Caliphate, Crusaders, Mameluks and Ottomans. During the “war to end all wars” in 1917, the British captured Palestine and Jerusalem from the Ottomans-Turks and were awarded a mandate to govern the region in 1922, though revolts by non-Jewish Palestinians were a continuous thorn in their side, the way they carried on about wanting rights and such things.

In 1920, the League of Nations reported that there were 700,000 people living in Palestine, with 80% being Muslim, including small groups of Arab Bedouin and peoples of mixed races. There were some 77,000 Orthodox Christians, who also spoke Arabic, and other minorities of Latin and Greek Catholics, while the Jewish population was about 76,000.

From about 100 to 1850 there were always only a handful of Jews in Palestine, by the end of the 19th century perhaps a couple of hundred, but after the persecutions in Russia and especially after World War Two and the holocaust, the Jewish people began to return to Palestine in greater numbers. By 1948 the population of Palestine had risen to 1.9 million, of whom 68% were Arabs and 32% Jews. The intolerance, racism and hatred each race held for each other, and the British, escalated and continued unabated until 1947, when the British had had enough and wished to terminate the mandate.

The United Nations General Assembly recommended partitioning Palestine into an Arab state, a Jewish state and a resolution that the city of Jerusalem be designated a Special International Regime. The Jewish leaders agreed while the Arab leaders did not, and the day after the establishment of the State of Israel was declared in 1948, civil war began before the sun was up. More than 700,000 Palestinians had to flee or were driven from their ancestral homes and would be never allowed to return. More than 110,000 refugees made their way into Lebanon, the rest into Jordan, Syria and Egypt, while in the three years after the war, about the same number of Jews would immigrate to Israel from surrounding Arabian areas. The Arab-Israeli war of 1948 would last for nine months with over 15,000 deaths and many times more causalities. When the smoke cleared, Israel kept all the area given to them by the UN, took control of almost 60% of the land that was given to the proposed Arab state, including Jaffa, Galilee and territories in the West Bank and captured West Jerusalem. Jordan captured the remainder of the West Bank and East-Jerusalem, while Egypt took the Gaza Strip. No Palestinian state was created.

The heart of Palestine has always been Jerusalem, the holy city of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. During its long history, Jerusalem has been completely destroyed, twice, withered under siege 23 times, attacked over 50 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times. The place may be the shrine of the three main religions but the stench of violence, hatred and intolerance that pervades over it forever lingers. Even today, the status of Jerusalem is one of the core issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Nineteen years later, during the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel would capture East Jerusalem and then annex it, though the international community rejected this annexation as illegal and consider East Jerusalem a Palestinian territory under Israeli military occupation. Israel refers to Jerusalem as their “undivided capital” even if no one else does, and though all branches of the Israeli government are located there, Israel’s commercial capital city is Tel-Aviv. Today there are more than 720,000 people living in Jerusalem; 465,000 are Jews, mostly living in West Jerusalem and about 250,000 Palestinians, mostly Muslim and mostly living in East Jerusalem.

Besides East Jerusalem, the Israelis would also capture the West Bank from Jordan, the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, and the Golan Heights from Syria. Overall, Israel’s territory grew by a factor of three, gaining at least 300 km in the south, 60 km to the east, and 20 km in the north. And though the Camp David Accords of 1978 would return the Sinai to Egypt, Israel would keep the rest, for as US president John F. Kennedy stated years earlier, “Israel was not created in order to disappear, Israel will endure and flourish. It is the child of hope and the home of the brave. It can neither be broken by adversity nor demoralized by success. It carries the shield of democracy and it honors the sword of freedom.”

Israeli casualties numbered about 800 killed, 4,500 wounded, 15 captured, with 46 aircraft destroyed. In contrast, Egypt alone had 10-15,000 killed or missing. All be told, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq’s casualties were over 22,000 killed, 5,000 captured and untold numbers of wounded. They also lost hundreds of tanks and had an estimated 452 aircraft destroyed. For every Israeli who was killed, 27 Arabs would lose their lives. But then as proven 3000 years ago when the Israeli’s first conquered Palestine, they are very adept at killing fellow human beings and would ever become more proficient at it as time went on.

 

Chapter 4

The Palestinians, now led by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), were devastated, with over one million Palestinian Arabs placed under Israeli military control in the newly captured territories. The PLO would relocate its headquarters to Jordan, already home to thousands of Palestinian refugees. During the war 300,000 Palestinians had fled from the West Bank and Gaza to Jordan, Egypt and other Arab countries, while in the Golan Heights about 100,000 Syrians also had to flee. The end of the Six-Day war launched new Israeli policy to secure their captured territories through the process of creating permanent settlements. Dozens of villages were destroyed, both as punishment and to chase away those who lived there. In a few cities a third of the homes would be razed to the ground, evicting thousands of Palestinians. In the Jericho area alone, over 70,000 Palestinians had to flee; altogether, over 25% of the population of the West Bank were either forced and intimidated to leave or fled voluntarily in panic and fear. Though a few months later Israel announced that it would allow the return of these refugees, in reality perhaps 16,000 were allowed back.

The PLO, founded in 1964 by Yasser Arafat, Palestinian leader and President of the Fatah political party (founded in 1959), would grow in importance and strength after the Six-Day War, with Arafat spending much of his life fighting  for Palestinian self-determination; “where a state has the right to freely choose their sovereignty and international political status, with no external compulsion or interference so long as such rights are based on respect for the principle of equal rights and fair equality of opportunity, with no concern as to how the decision is to be made, or what the outcome should be, whether it be independence, protection, some form of autonomy or even full assimilation.”- Geneva Convention.

The PLO’s ideology would further embrace the concept and political strategy of what would become known as Sumud, meaning “steadfast perseverance” or “firm and unwavering,” through the understanding of the nature of “logical argumentation of oppression and resistance.” There are two forms of Sumud. The first is “static Sumud” which is passive and defined as the “maintenance of Palestinians on their land.” The second is “resistance Sumud” which is much more forceful and whose aim is to seek ways of building alternative institutions to resist and undermine the occupation of their lands.

By September 1970, King Hussein of Jordan felt he was losing control over his monarchy with the influx of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees, and moved to suppress the militancy of Palestinian organizations operating within his borders. Thousands, especially Palestinians, died. By July 1971, the PLO and thousands of its fighters would be finally driven out of Jordan. They would flee to Southern Lebanon, joining hundreds of thousands of fellow Palestinian refugees from the war in 1967.

By 1975 there were over 300,000 refugees in southern Lebanon, with the PLO creating a state within a state, which caused a demographic imbalance within Lebanese society and its democratic institutions. With the PLO’s arrival, fighting along the Israeli-Lebanese border escalated. The PLO would align themselves with the Lebanese National Movement, a coalition of Muslims, and Arab nationalists and leftists who opposed the rightist, Christian, ancestral Maronite-dominated government of Lebanon, and before too long civil war broke out in Lebanon which would fulminate for ten plus years. Eventually Iranian-supported Shi’a militant groups from Syria would also join in on the fighting.

In 1982, with the civil war spilling over its border and concern over Syrian influence of Lebanon, Israel invaded southern Lebanon. Initially Israel’s objective was to push the PLO forces back 40km (25mi) to the north but after attacking the PLO, Syrian, leftist and Muslim Lebanese forces, they found themselves occupying all of southern Lebanon. After surrounding the remaining PLO and elements of the Syrian army in West Beirut, the Israeli’s laid siege, killing upwards of 5,000 fighters and civilians. Under a truce and International peacekeeper protection, Arafat and the PLO were allowed to relocate to Tripoli and within a few weeks of fighting, Israel’s forces would defeat most of the Palestinian militants left in Lebanon. By 1985, with continuing international outrage over Israel’s role in Christian led massacres of Palestinian refugees, as well as the Israeli population’s disillusionment with the war,  Israel would withdraw to a 10km (6mi) occupied strip of South Lebanon.

The 1982 Lebanon War lasted but a few months while the actual conflict would continue on in seemingly tit for tat skirmishes up to the present day. The human cost of the war was typical for this holiest of lands; either 368 or 657 Israeli’s killed versus 9,800 Syrian and Palestinian combatants, along with perhaps 16,000 Lebanese civilians, with over 30,000 wounded.

The resistance movement of Islamic militant groups, such as the Shi’a and other Palestinian guerrilla forces, would consolidate with the Shi’a political party, Hezbollah, and the Lebanese party, Amal, and with remnants of the PLO, would carry out guerrilla warfare against Israel over this tiny occupied strip of southern Lebanon for the next 18 years. Though by the early 1990’s, the Palestinian organization’s political and military infrastructures in Lebanon, which had taken 15 years to build, ceased to exist. The Lebanese civil war abated in 1990 when Syria would establish complete dominance over Lebanon.

The Palestinians, in their ongoing struggle for national liberation and an end to the Israeli illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza would continue to fight and retaliate up to the present day, countering apartheid and the Israeli “defence forces” might and technology, with everything from armed attacks on Israeli soldiers, police and civilians to suicide bombings, launching rockets and mortars into Israel, kidnapping of soldiers, shootings, assassinations, stabbings, stoning and lynching to non-violent actions such as civil disobedience and resistance, mass protests, general strikes, graffiti and barricades.

To counter the Palestinians wrath, the Israeli’s created their “Iron Fist” policy. A policy devoted to erasing any idea of Palestinian nationalism whatsoever. A policy “founded on brute force, repression and fear, collaboration and treachery, beatings and torture chambers, and daily intimidation, humiliation, and manipulation,” with an “all-pervading element of humiliation.” Over a six year period in the eighties the Israelis would arrest more than 120,000 Palestinians. By 1990, one Israeli prison alone, in the Negev, held about one out of every 50 West Bank and Gazan males older than 16 years. Israeli tactics also included seriously curbing Palestinians movements, with checkpoints and enforcing a strict curfew in certain areas. This was accompanied by economic integration and increasing Israeli settlements such that, the Jewish settler population in the West Bank alone, nearly doubled from 35,000 in 1984, to 64,000 in 1988, reaching 130,000 by the mid nineties. With both sides guaranteeing that all future generations of both Muslim and Jew would grow up with continuing anger, racism and hatred towards each other just from the daily stress of potential conflict.

 

Chapter 5

Since 1988, when the Palestinians put forth their “Palestinian Declaration of Independence,” three-quarters of the world’s countries recognize the West Bank and Gaza as being the State of Palestine, except by the United Nations, Israel, the United States, Canada and a few other Western nations. To this day Palestine has more ambassadors around the world than Israel does. In 1993, for the first time face to face, Israel would meet with the PLO, the representative of the Palestinian people, in what would become known as the Oslo Accords. It provided the creation of a Palestinian interim self-government, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), who would be responsible for the administration of the territory under its control. The Accord also called for the withdrawal of Israel from parts of the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Main issues such as Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, Israeli settlements, and security was not discussed and neither the Oslo Accords nor the 1995 Oslo II Accords, promised Palestinian statehood. As to the Gaza Strip, Israel would finally get around to withdrawing their settlers and military presence in 2005, though maintained control of the airspace and coast, while they continue to systematically set up illegal settlements in the West Bank.

The Oslo Accords also declared that the West Bank territory to be divided into three separate areas and administration divisions. Area A, covering about 18% of Palestinian land and 55% of the Palestinian West Bank population, would be under the control of the Palestinian Authority and include most of the major Palestinian cities, the PA would also be responsible for security control. Area B covers 21% of the territory and about 44% of West Bank Palestinians and is mostly  rural communities, under Palestinian civil administration and joint Israeli security control, while Area C is under complete control by the Israeli’s and includes all the areas they have established settlements. Today Area C encompasses more than 60% of Palestinian territory, yet only 4% (about 150,000) of the Palestinian population live there because they face severe restrictions on planning, building and accessing services and the area’s natural resources, with 70% of the area off-limits to Palestinian construction and a further 29% heavily restricted. Israeli plans call for less than 1% of Area C to be for Palestinian development.

There are now about 350,000 Jewish-Israeli settlers who live in Area C, with about 15,000 added every year. As of 2010, there were 192,000 Israeli’s living in settlements in East Jerusalem, with a further 100 settlements not officially recognized by Israel and which are illegal under both the Geneva Convention and even Israeli law, but none the less have been provided with infrastructure, water, sewage and other services by the Israeli authorities. In 2011 alone, Israel demolished more than 560 Palestinian structures, including 46 rainwater collection pools, in Area C, instantly making more than 1,200 people homeless. Today more than half a million Israel settlers are living in enclaves within the Palestinian territories. The consensus of the United Nations, the European Union, the Arab league and the majority of legal scholars, hold that all Israeli settlements on the West Bank beyond the Green Line (the demarcation line set out in 1949) are illegal under international law.

The eventual conclusion for Area C, according to Israel, is for all the Palestinians still living there to move to Areas A and B, where it will be easier to contain them, a’la Gaza. But truth be told, they need the land for their ever growing population. Make no mistake; Israel’s number one concern is its maintenance of its Jewish demographic majority. Indeed much of their policy making is based on the threat of non-Jewish population growth, immigration and water rights. While the key issues we are told through the media are mutual recognition, borders and security, control of Jerusalem, Israeli settlements and Palestinian freedom of movement.

The governments of Palestine and specifically Israel are placing incredible pressure on the current stress levels of their populations and environment, especially considering how small the area is and how densely packed their cities are. Including the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem, Israel covers 22,072 square km (8,522 sq mi), with a population of 7,933,200 people as of 2012 and is the 34th most densely crowded country in the world. 78% are Jewish, (nearly 6.2 million), 20 % are Arabs (just over 1.4 million), while the remaining population is listed as “others.” In contrast, the Palestinian territories cover 6,220 sq km (2400 sq mi) with a population of an estimated 3.8 million people, including the 1.7 million living in the open air prison called the Gaza Strip, with 10 to 11 million Palestinian refugees, scattered in nearby countries and around the world.

In comparison, the largest island on the west coast of North America is Vancouver Island, at over 32,000 sq km (20,000 sq mi) with a population of 759,366 people. An area larger than Palestine and Israel combined. Most Vancouver islanders live on its southern tip, in the 13 municipalities which make up the Greater Victoria District, an area covering 2,341 sq km (903 sq mi), though metro Victoria actually covers only about 696 sq km (268 sq mi), with a combined population of just over 340,000 people. The Gaza Strip meanwhile is only 41km (25mi) long, 6 to 12km (3-7mi) wide and a total area of 365sqkm (141sqmi), one-sixth the size of the Greater Victoria district, but with a population of 1.7 million.

Though many attempts have been made for a Palestinian state, with the reasonable and logical solution of a two-state solution, the fighting is seemingly never ending, whether conducted by regular armies, paramilitary groups, terror cells, secret police or individuals. Not only do the Israeli military and Palestinian freedom fighters loathe each other to the point where they view each other as not being human beings, their societies despise each other as well, even though, according to a number of polls taken in 2007, the majority of both Israelis and Palestinians prefer the two-state solution as the means to resolve the conflict. An independent Palestinian state living alongside an independent Israeli state is a great idea, the most logical for sure. But with only about 3.8 million Palestinians still existing by surviving in the present day territories and Israel bulging at the seams with its ever growing population of  7 million and need for land, water and resources, I sadly see why the Israelis do what they do, which causes retaliation and ever more hatred. I am sure they would love to just go for it all and erase the Palestinian people off the planet by however means and then just move in. And then after another decade, their population growth and need for resources and water would dictate they expand even more, maybe Lebanon or Jordan or even Syria would be next.

 

Chapter 6

The most significant threats to a two-state solution are the Israeli settlements within Palestine, the number of Palestinian refugees, and as mentioned, water. First off, the enclaves that Israel sets up in occupied territories are populated with “settlers” we are told. The word bringing up thoughts of families made up of good and hard-working folks, moving into the frontier to create a life for themselves, a just, empathic, tolerant and law-abiding people, simple homesteaders. While in reality any “settler” who decides to move onto land that is not theirs, and which was only recently vacated of its native population through incitement and cruel violence would have to be psychotic. Each “settler” knows very well what environment they are entering and are no doubt very well prepared, supported and armed. Then after moving in they often wake up in fear of their very own survival. Not a place for a family or a “settler,” but as already mentioned, in May 2012, over half a million Israeli settlers illegally live on Palestinian soil. To-date Israel has ignored nearly 100 UN Security Council resolutions calling for them to withdraw to pre-67’ borders. In May 2012, 27 ministers of the European Union condemned the escalating incitement and settler violence. Israel paid them no mind.

In 2008, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, determined that; the segregated road network in the West Bank, with 500-600 checkpoints throughout the territories; the continuous construction of separation walls of monolithic proportions; the expansion of Israeli settlements and restriction of growth of Palestinian towns; the discrimination in granting of services, budgets and access to natural resources; blatant violations of human dignity; and the ethnically cleansing underway in Jerusalem is “reminiscent of the Apartheid regime in South Africa.”

Today there are approximately 4.7 million Palestinian refugees, 1 .5 million of them living in refugee camps, scattered throughout, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank. Most were born outside of Israel, but are the descendants of the original Palestinian refugees who had to flee in 1948 when their land was given to the Israelis. Israel, above all else, is a country which lives in constant fear of the Palestinians returning to their original lands en force. But this would not be allowed to happen because realistically, two to five million Palestinians returning to Israel would be the end of Israel.

As to water, Israel receives most all of its water from two large underground aquifers, both running under the 1948 boundary, the Green Line, and into the West Bank. Israel consumes 95% of the output of the Western Aquifer and 82% of the North-eastern Aquifer, not leaving much for the millions of Palestinians in the West bank and Gaza. In 2012 it was reported that the 450,000 settlers living in the West Bank used more water than the 2.3 million Palestinians who also live there. Because of climate change, where in 2012 the Jordan River ran at its lowest level in recorded history, water will become much more an issue in the near future, not only for Israel and Palestine, but for many areas of the planet. Globally, wars over water are already being fought, with many more just around the corner, for as the population of the planet escalates each artificially distinct society of the one species of man will want to be the lone survivor.

The estimates for people killed between 1948 and 2009 in Palestine vary from 13,000 to 30,000 though these numbers are even more inaccurate when taking into account the true civilian death toll, which most always seems just a guess and/or afterthought, and the unknown hundreds, perhaps thousands of deaths from landmines and explosive remnants of war. After reading multiple lists and numbers, it seems the “official” death toll, from direct conflict between Israeli and Palestinian for the fifteen years between 1987 and 2011, and attributed to either Israeli military operations, artillery shelling, rocket attacks, search and arrest campaigns, barrier demonstrations, targeted killing and settler violence, is 8,096 Palestinians killed, 1,633 of them under 16 yr s, with 1,514 Israelis killed, 147 of them under 16 yr s. More recent estimates determine that altogether, deaths from the Israeli-Arab wars from 1945 to 2010, exceeds 92,000 people.

 

Chapter 7

Then there is the Israeli controlled ghetto, the Gaza Strip; 41 kilometres (25 miles) of beach, 6 to 12 kilometres (3 to 7 miles) wide; with a 11 km (6 mi) southern border with Egypt, a 51 km (32 mi) western and northern border with Israel, a population of 1.7 million Palestinians and a 3.2% growth rate, the 7th highest in the world. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, but remained in control of anything or anyone going in or out of Gaza, whether by air, land or sea. In the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, the Palestinian Sunni Islamic organization Hamas, garnered the majority of votes and by 2007, after scrapes and skirmishes with the Palestinian political party Fatah and the Palestine Authority, held control of the Gaza Strip. Israel, United States, Canada, the European Union and Japan classify Hamas as a terrorist organization, countries that do not include Iran, Russia, Turkey and several Arab countries. Hamas was freely elected by the majority of Palestinians in Gaza to be their government on a platform based on their reputation for brutal honesty and that they are averse to corruption. Ever since, the Israeli’s have carried out a systematic, collective punishment on Gaza’s population while pretending to focus on the lunatic extremists that live within. While in reality Israel is creating terrorists faster than they can kill them, with their treatment of all non-Jewish people in Gaza about the same as South Africa’s treatment of non-whites was.

Daily life for a Palestinian living in Gaza is often made up of being harassed at checkpoints, imprisoned arbitrarily, denied clean water and sanitation, induced malnutrition and stressed of air bombardment or ground invasion that could happen at any time. Most of the population are permanently mentally scarred, living each day with the sound of either, jets, helicopters or drones overhead, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. There are no safe places in Gaza.

In June 2005 there were 3900 factories operating in Gaza with over 35,000 employed, by June 2007 only 195 factories were still operating with 1750 employed and only at 25% to 50% operating capacity. That same year Israel banned most all imports and exports and suspended 95% of Gaza’s industrial operations. In Feb.2008 Israel reduces electricity it sells to Gaza by 10%. The month before, knowing  a person  needs a minimum of 1200 calories per day to prevent a humanitarian crisis; Israel subtracts 8% to adjust for the “culture and experience of the Gazans” by intentionally allowing fewer trucks and supplies in to meet that need. While in the West, a Burger King Triple Whopper is 1,240 calories alone. In 2010 Gaza’s unemployment rate was 40% with 80% of its population living on less than $2.00 a day. Imports such as pipe and other building materials, which are being destroyed each time the Israelis strike, but which Israel deems could be used to make weapons, are banned.

In 2008-09, the 1st Gaza War, which the Israelis called “Operation Cast Lead” was fought and lasted three weeks, with over 1,400 Palestinians killed, including 930 civilians, and  9 Israeli deaths (3 civilian), 4 of which were from friendly fire. Of the Palestinian deaths, what sort of stands out is the seemingly intentional targeting of its hospitals and ambulances, with 17 health personnel killed and 26 injured, with a total of  29 ambulances damaged or destroyed by bombs or crushed by armoured vehicles. Emergency vehicles were often denied access to sites until it was too late to save the wounded, and then once they received clearance to enter, the Israelis would fire upon the site for the second time. Altogether 48% of Gaza health facilities were directly or indirectly hit by shelling.

Later that year, in Nov. 2009, a panel of international jurists, all veterans of human rights investigations in Sudan, Rwanda, and the former Yugoslavia, along with a detailed UN sponsored investigation which confirmed human rights abuse, came to the conclusion that war crimes were being committed by both Israel and Palestine. The United States immediately condemned the decision for failing to absolve Israel of any responsibility and blocked the United Nations from investigating.

The 2nd Gaza War,” called “Pillar of Cloud”, a “defensive action” by the Israelis, was fought from Nov. 14th to the 21st, 2012. It started weeks before, with Israel indiscriminately killing Palestinian civilians in several isolated incidents, including the deaths of a couple of youths out kicking a ball around, and then began in earnest after they assassinated the chief of Hama’s military wing. Gaza retaliated, duh. Israel stated that their aims were to stop such indiscriminate rocket attacks from Gaza and to disrupt the capabilities of extremist organizations operating within Gaza. Hamas declared that they, being victims living under violent occupation had the right to defend its people and respond to Israeli attacks. Indeed, the Article 1 (4) of protocol 1 of the Geneva Convention states that even a non-state, such as Palestine, or “any state or people under oppressive occupation, has the right to resist and use force to pursue the right of self-determination.” To suppress such actions goes against the Geneva Convention, UN Charter, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. Though in this case, and once again, The United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany and other Western countries supported Israel’s right to defend itself, even though Israel is the oppressive occupier.

The Israeli military struck over 1,500 targets in Gaza, none being surgical in nature, for with Gaza being so dense, even one grenade takes out many and damages much. The strikes paid no heed to collateral damage such as actual people, targeting houses, apartment blocks, civil institutions, police stations, farms, the Islamic National bank, and numerous offices housing Hamas government ministries. Also hit were media outlets, suspected rocket launch pads, cache sites and Hamas command posts. The bombardment of Gaza was by air, land and sea, with the sky abuzz with drones, helicopter gunships and jets. Many neighbourhoods were reduced to rubble, displacing more than 10,000 Palestinians. In eight days of fighting, over 160 Palestinians would be killed, 90 of them being civilians, including over 30 children. An estimated 1,300 to 1,500 Palestinians were injured. For the population it would have been very hard to even just think clearly under such conditions, let alone survive through the trauma of each day. It has been estimated that the majority of the 1.7 million people and nearly all the children in Gaza suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD).

At the same time, Palestinian militant groups fired over 1,400 rockets into Israel, with another 142 falling short and exploding within Gaza itself, killing Palestinians. Of the rest, 875 rockets fell in “open areas”, 58 actually hit urban areas in Israel, and more than 302 were shot down by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system. All told, Palestinian rockets killed four Israeli civilians, three of them in a direct hit on a home, two Israeli soldiers and an unknown number of Palestinian civilians. Israel announced afterwards that there were 21 Israeli’s injured by shrapnel, 28 injured during alarms and in the rush to hide, and more than 200 Israelis treated for anxiety. Since 2007, when Hamas came into power, up to Dec. 2012, the total number of Israelis killed by rocket, mortar or anti-tank fire from Gaza- 56, the number of Palestinians in Gaza killed by Israeli fire over that same time- 3,054.

The Palestinians in Gaza have no army, air-force or navy, nor airport or seaport. Their fighters consist of approximately 10,000 al-Qassam (Hamas) militant brigades, 10,000 other security forces and about 8,000 extreme Islam Jihadists. Israel had their entire Southern Command participating as well as 75,000 reservists prepared and ready to go on a moment’s notice. The deadliest weapon Hamas possesses is the longer range, 75km (46 mile), Fajr-5 rocket with an explosive payload of 175 kg (385 lb), the Israeli military prefers to strike back using their own MPR-500 advanced-penetration precision-guided bomb, which carries an explosive payload of 900 kilos (2,000lbs); and then there are the physical characteristics of the area, in that Gaza is only 365 sq km (141 sq mi), while Israel is over 20,000 sq km (7,900 sq mi).

Israel’s new toy, the U.S. backed Iron Dome missile defence system, consists of five truck-towed batteries of radar-guided interceptor missiles which engage only when rockets threaten populated areas of Israel and often will fire two interceptor missiles at once. Each battery costs about $50 million, each missile $62,000, while the estimated cost of one short-range Qassam M-75 rocket built in a Gaza workshop or garage, about $800. Israel has plans to eventually have 13 batteries in its Iron Dome system. During Pillar of Cloud they shot off about $30 million worth of missiles. But with overwhelming American support, in vast amounts of money and arms from their industrial military complex, Israel sees no reason to quit in its goal to become a colonial empire and fortress in the Middle East. In fact, besides the $3 billion per year the U.S gives to the Israeli military machine, two weeks after Palestine was recognized as a non-member state in the UN, the United States agreed to sell Israel $647 million in munitions to make up for what Israel expended during the eight-day Pillar of Cloud ravaging of Gaza. The deal included 6,900 precision bomb kits and 10,000 bombs of various kits. It is generous of the States, the three or four of the richest corporations in America will become even richer. Hell, weapons manufacturers and NRA (National Rifle Association) lobbyists in the States are making billions from their own population alone, not including the trillions that American weapons manufacturers and security companies are making and have made in Iraq and Afghanistan. With no iota of concern for such things as deaths, especially children, it is simply the cost of doing business.

During the Pillar of Cloud operations, 35 Palestinian children died from Israeli bombardments, of armaments mostly made in the United States. Five times the number of all Israeli deaths combined, which included no children. Meanwhile the United States has killed 168 children by drone attacks in Pakistan since 2006; another 231 children killed in Afghanistan in the first 6 months of this year alone, and another 921 children killed by US air strikes against insurgents in Iraq; in Yemen the numbers could be higher. While at home they are just as proficient. There have been 16 mass shootings in the U.S. just this year, leaving 88 people dead, including the 20 children killed with a military semi-auto in Newtown, Connecticut, where some of the children killed were shot up to 11 times, at point blank range. If one were to add the other 400 children in the US under the age of 15 who die from gunshot wounds each year and the tens of thousands of adults shot and killed, one could say the NRA and America’s leaders are responsible for killing more Americans in one year, than their enemies, real or imagined, even bin Laden, had at any time over the past twenty years. As it is, a gun kills someone in the United States every 20 minutes; twice the death rate of AIDS. In Duval County, in Florida, there have been 100 murders by guns in the past year, more than all of Britain, a nation of 63 million people. As one can see, wars don’t kill Americans, Americans kill Americans.

 

Chapter 8

While in Palestine, over 53% of Palestinians are under the age of 18, growing up in basically concentration camps, with limited access to necessities like running water, food, electricity and education. Their daily lives are filled with the pressures of persecution, brutality, hatred, coercion and injustice, each child trying to deal with the stress from the ever potentiality of conflict, bombardment, and/or extinction of their race. It is estimated that over 92% of Palestinian children are coping with some sort of trauma, while the cloaking smell of revenge, oppression and death is quickly erasing their dreams of peace and security in their future. They are of a generation who are becoming numb to further pain and suffering. A generation of children who not only have abandoned hope for a better life but who also have had their dreams taken away from them, a life where common sense and compassion do not exist any more.

Other ways Israel is defending itself, before, during and after the latest Gaza War, include the concepts – since 70% of Palestinians in Gaza live on fishing, their fleet is limited to fish only up to 4.8 km (3 mi) offshore, instead of the Oslo Accords guaranteed 32 km (20 mi) limit. Often fired upon, the fleet is totally blockaded from leaving the beach at least a couple of times per month, though for only 2 to 3 days at a time, with the Israeli’s knowing full well if such blockades go longer than 4 days, people in Gaza would start starving to death, and people would complain. As it is about 80% of Palestinians in Gaza exist on food aid, with an anaemia epidemic running out of control. Another reason for the 3 mile limit could be because 5 km (3.5 mi) off Gaza lies a natural gas offshore drilling rig, which in reality should be a Palestinian drilling rig.

After a ceasefire was reached in the latest hostilities, Israel seized 35% of the agricultural land in Gaza, as a “buffer zone.” Any Palestinian farmer who gets too close to the newly erected fence is shot without warning of any kind. Israel also seized aquifers and seawater desalination plants which is quickly turning much of Gaza’s water supply into a health hazard, though many areas of Gaza have had no running water for years, while current and escalating restrictions have created such a breakdown of sewage infrastructure, that within ten years, Gaza could very well be not fit to be lived in. Another technique the Israeli’s employ is, in areas of Palestine and Gaza under night time curfew, anyone outside after dark is shot without warning, and then regardless of who they are, is listed as a terrorist. And lastly, Israel controls the Gaza economy, what little there is left, by occasionally withholding import taxes. What it all means is that Israel has dehumanized their prey, just like all true killers do. And yes, Palestinians dehumanize, retaliate and become killers as well.

This is not saying all Jews and Muslims of Israel and Palestine are psychotic serial killers, far from it, but when Israel states they are defending themselves by punishing an entire population and occupying Palestinian territory is simply wrong and immoral. In reality much of the violence and overwhelming suffering  in Israel and Palestine is not created by the general population, but rather by fanatic extremist jihadists that Hamas cannot control, and other groups, such as the out of control and vicious Jewish settlers, whom Israel can’t or won’t control, and its racist military. And though both sides have committed great immoral transgressions against one another, Israel is much more capable in the killing department. Israel is by far the strongest military in the entire Middle East, in fact, the 2012 Global Militarisation Index, put out by the Bonn International Centre for Conversion, listed Israel as the world’s most militarised nation, followed by Singapore, Syria, Russia, Jordan and Cyprus. Israel also has one of the world’s highest standards of living and is heavily supported by the fading superpower, the United States. The Gaza Strip meanwhile is but an oppressed, impoverished ghetto with a weak government barely in control, making it through a complete and total blockade, living one day at a time, alongside a few thousand madmen.

While Israel and its Pillar of Cloud defensive operation was blitzkrieging Gaza, with Hamas and other Palestinian groups continuing to retaliate and fight for their independence and freedom, the Palestinian Authority was preparing for the upcoming meeting of the U.N., where it would be put to vote whether or not to give Palestine, United Nations “non-member observer state status”, and confirmation its state includes the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. You’d think this would no doubt force the resumption of a peace deal and get both sides talking as grown-ups should, abiding by international laws and values of humanity. But after decades of trying to negotiate an agreement with Israel to stop annexation and settlement in the West Bank and though they have, by as much as they can control, cooperated on many levels with both Israeli and American security forces, they have never even come close to getting an agreement or even initial dialogue with Israel for a formal two-state settlement. With Israel it is never going to happen, because it goes against its manifest destiny vision of a “Greater Israel” which includes all the Palestinian territories.

Before Pillar of Cloud, the Palestinian people were very aware of the upcoming UN decision, the Palestinian Authority had been working on it for decades, trying their best to stay off the angry road Israel strutted, and to instead pursue state status at the UN by adopting the non-violent, diplomatic and multilateral approach to gaining their freedom and dignity back, while at the same time trying to control the often foreign, gathering of lunatic extremist groups within their own population, and withstanding the extreme oppression of their people by Israel.

Preparing for the forthcoming UN decision, it was reported that the Palestine Authority, the military wing of Hamas and several Israeli civilian peacemakers were close to creating an agreement for a long-term ceasefire, while the world contemplated their hoped for status in the UN. For one reason or another, this was proving difficult to reach, but a short-term ceasefire agreement was being agreed upon. But just before such an agreement could be signed, the Hamas military’s leader was assassinated by an Israeli jet launched missile that bulls-eyed his car, as he drove downs a busy street in Gaza. Pillar of Cloud began soon after.

Eight days after the Pillar of Cloud Israeli assault on Gaza began a cease-fire was reached, negotiated by Egypt’s fundamentalist president, Mohamed Morsi. Then eight days after that, on Nov 29/12, the UN’s General Assembly met in New York City, 65 years to the day since Palestine was first partitioned by the UN. One hundred and eighty-eight countries of the world participated in deciding whether Palestine would be elevated to a “non-member observer state.” Of these, 138 nations, including the European nations France, Italy, Spain, Norway, Denmark and Switzerland voted yes, 41 nations, including Britain and Germany abstained, while only 9 nations voted unequivocally no – Israel, the US, Canada, the Czech Republic, Panama, the Federated State of Micronesia; which the US is wholly responsible for their defence,  the Pacific islands, Marshall and Palau; also influenced by the US, which provides both with defence, funding grants and access to social services, and another Micronesian nation, Nauri, the world’s smallest republic covering 21 sq km (8.1sqmi), with a population of just over 9,000 people. Also located within the Micronesian group of islands is Wake Island, the US Air Force base, airfield and missile facility.

 

Chapter 9

Another recent UN resolution, approved by a vote of 174-6 with 6 abstentions, called on Israel to join the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) “without further delay” and open its nuclear facilities for inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Joining Israel in the negative vote were once again, the United States, Canada, Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau.

The NPT was a treaty signed in 1970 aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and technology and to promote peaceful uses of nuclear energy. As of 2012, 190 parties have joined, including the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, the United States, Russia, France, the UK and China. More countries have ratified the NPT than any other arms limitation and disarmament agreement in history. Not in the NPT are India, Pakistan, and North Korea, with all three having openly declared they do indeed have nuclear weapons and have openly tested them. Israel stands alone, admitting nothing behind an opaque curtain. At the same time they demand that other Middle Eastern countries do not, under any circumstances, develop nuclear technology.  Estimates of Israel’s nuclear capacity range from 75 to 400 nuclear warheads, capable of being delivered by intercontinental missile, aircraft, and submarine. Israel most worries about Iran and its nuclear program, originally started and financed by the US and other Western European countries in the 1950’s and ending with the Shah of Iran’s exit in 1979, at which time the Iranians themselves continued any development and research. Israel worries of the Iranian rhetoric about wanting to erase Israel off the planet, while in reality if Iran ever did develop a weapon, somehow tested one, and then fired off a couple at Israel, they would, within seconds, be taken out themselves, entirely and completely, seriously, not a win-win situation. But then when has madness made any sense.

Though Palestine still cannot vote at the General Assembly, becoming a state rather than an entity does allow them other benefits such as membership in other UN agencies and organizations like the International Criminal Court (ICC), which scares the bejesus out of Israel. The fear that Palestine will bring forth a case over the illegal annexations and construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and/or the attacks on the West Bank and Gaza and/or war crimes, is one of the main reasons Israel and its supporters were adamantly against the General Assembly’s passing of the resolution. Palestinian officials have since stated that they have no immediate intentions to take such a road.

After the vote was taken, the Palestinian Authority Chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, addressed the representatives of 188 countries; “The moment has arrived for the world to say clearly: enough of aggression, settlements and occupation.” He also spoke about the need to resume negotiations with Israel and called the successful resolution the “birth certificate of the reality of Palestine,” at the conclusion of his speech the seated members of the UN General Assembly rose to a standing ovation, while those who voted against stayed seated and became invisible. It is clear that the Palestinians are trying to “create momentum for progress and credibility for legal and political solutions.” For beneath the hatred, oppression and persecution, the Israelis and Palestinians themselves are the ones who have to start listening to each other and find a way to live side by side. But for any negotiations to work Israel and Palestine, must start abiding by the laws of nations and humanity itself, and to know, like any human, we are or rather should be, held accountable for our actions. Their disgust for each other, the extreme ingrained insecurity they both possess, and plainly show to the world, and how both of their hypocritical scriptures have somehow replaced sorrow, compassion and empathy with hatred is beginning to wear thin with many fellow inhabitants of the earth. Collective disgust towards Israel and Palestine is accumulating the world over, unfortunately history has proven the next step is most always, more and more people will simply stop caring.

The countries who voted against the UN resolution were livid. US lawmakers, both Democratic and Republican voted that they would cut-off aid if the Palestinians used their new-found status against Israel in any way. Palestine I am sure is well aware of the cost they will be further taking. In 2011 Palestine was granted membership in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in retaliation Israel withheld millions of dollars in tax transfers to the Palestinian Authority, which is always in financial distress, with the US following along and withholding millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians, as well as cutting off their financing to UNESCO entirely.

Canada announced angrily that they will take “retaliatory measures against the Palestinians for forcing the statehood issue onto the world stage.” Though not revealed, the most obvious option would be for them to suspend aid to the Palestinians, even though on the Canadian Foreign Affairs website it states that, “Canada believes that both Israel and the Palestinian Authority must fully respect international human rights and humanitarian law which is key to ensuring the protection of civilians, and can contribute to the creation of a climate conducive to achieving a just, lasting and comprehensive peace settlement.” The tongue in cheek was well hidden, considering both Canada and the US have no qualms about looking the other way whenever Israel decides it should defend itself.

Israel declared that, “The Palestinians unilateral step at the UN is a blatant and fundamental violation of the agreements vouched on by the international community.” The next day they announced their plans to unilaterally build 3,000 new homes/enclaves within the area of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, called the E1 corridor, the illegal settlements would for all intents and purposes permanently slice the West Bank in half. As if human rights violations and breaches of international humanitarian law are not unilateral enough.

Both the US and Canada had to back pedal a bit. Condemning the move, they called Israeli ambassadors in to have a little chat. But Israel would go on to remind the world that “no matter the symbolic political games the UN General Assembly wishes to play, Israel alone controls the land, water and air of the Palestinian territories and will not waver on their intentions to permanently annex all three” and that the economic blockade of the Gaza Strip will continue. A few days after the UN resolution passing, Israel would confiscate over $118 million of tax revenues that they collected for the Palestinian Authority for the month of November, stating it was to offset continuing Palestinian debt to the Israel Electric Corporation.

Chapter 10

Israel’s tone continues to clearly show they have no intentions of allowing talks about any peace process and seem to be literally dead set against one. The arrogance of Israel’s ethnicity and religious beliefs has blinded them. They continue to be oblivious to many aspects of the realities of human behaviour, such as when people realize that they are a part of the problem, only then do they tend to then become a part of the solution, and that those who gain the greatest opportunities and accomplishments in life and society are those who master the “we.” Or further, that the most respected leaders’ minds work selflessly, with mutual respect for mutual benefit, and understand that influence only begins when a person or population feels they are being listened to and that they are understood. They also understand that compromise is rarely win-win, because rarely are both sides truly pleased, but that creative cooperation most always leads to success. Proving such realities have been thrown to the side of the road years ago, not only in Israel but nearly everywhere else in the world as well, especially in the US and Canada, an Israeli government minister declared during the attack on Gaza, that Israel should “send Gaza back to the Middle Ages,” and when a popular Israeli model admitted she had prayed for the welfare of the people on both sides in the conflict, she was accused of being “an enemy of the state.”

As to Hamas, which combines Palestinian nationalism with Islamic fundamentalism, it is the bee in Israel’s bonnet. Israel may not agree much with Hama’s ideology and policies, but terrorizing an entire population is not the remedy for such a situation, especially considering that, though deemed terrorists by Israel and her allies, in reality Hamas devotes 90% of their estimated $70 million annual budget to social, welfare, cultural and educational services. Most of their budget comes from Saudi Arabia, other Arab countries, Muslim charities, Palestinians living abroad and which is the ire of Israel, they receive about $20-30 million from Iran. But since the situation in Syria started in 2011, Hamas, the majority of which are Sunni-Islamic, have distanced themselves from Shia-Islamic dominated Iran due to their support of the Syrian dictator al-Assad. And in the past couple of years it seems their disposition towards a more central-is tic decision making process is growing rather than diminishing, with the rhetoric of their founding charter calling for the destruction of Israel slowly changing and becoming old news. They have recently stated that they would promote a resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict and accept a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders. Israel would rather this fact not be broadcast too loudly, once again totally ignoring the fact a two-state solution is the only answer.

The people of Palestine, and no doubt most decent Israelis, wish for peace and to simply just getting along as neighbours should, where the citizens of each have a sense of shared values. They obey the laws and act peacefully within their society, which hopefully possesses a certain degree of equality, and where unrealistic fears are diminished so that racism and abhorrence to a fellow human being’s existence passes and empathy moves in and embraces. Instead of comparing the best of one’s own ethnic culture to the worst of another, Palestinian Arab and Israeli Jew must somehow wake up and realize they are both of the same species, with the same needs, wants and desires, with the majority of each other’s populations innocent.

The problems lie with the hateful, egotistical and ambitious elite at the top pulling the strings and playing games. Living within a realm where there is no differentiation between politics, religion and business, for they are all but engines of consumerism, with the industrial military complex making the majority of the money by influencing government leaders to continue to seed their populations with fear, anger and insecurity. As the collapse of the international economy continues and climate change escalates, in droughts, flooding, the decline in crop yields, rising food prices and dwindling fresh water, the elites become an ever more secluded group, living within protected enclaves and fenced compounds gorging themselves on nothing but the best and lots of it. Meanwhile enraged populations the world over have become even more enraged as their societies break down. To keep the current inequality and severe imbalance in place between the haves and the never-will haves, the new paradigm of “modern warlords awash in terrifying technologies and weapons,” is turning many countries in the world into fascist police states, where freedom is lost and replaced with security.

Will Israel’s diplomatic, financial and military supporters continue to ignore, seemingly with near disdain, international law and basic human rights and continue funding Israel’s apartheid-like ways? As a Canadian I can say that though Canada has stated they will support Israel in its defence, whenever it goes on the offensive, it is a decision made by the Harper government of Canada alone. I and my fellow Canadians were certainly not asked of our opinion, much like also not being asked our opinion of how embarrassing Canada’s behaviour and attitude is at every international meeting that is dealing with climate change or how proud we are of being awarded the “Dodo Award” from the international environmental community.

If Israel, with its extreme nationalistic Zionism as its official value system, which opposes the assimilation of Jews into other societies and makes a key legal distinction between “Jew” and “Non-Jew”, continues unabated the end game is a Greater Israel that is erased of all non-Jewish peoples and settled by the Jewish people alone. Much like South Africa’s original intentions under their official value system of apartheid and which also made a key legal distinction but between “white,” “coloured,” “Indian” and “Black.”

 

Chapter 11

Today Israel stands at a crossroads. One road leads to the above. It would be a violent road. Each step it took Israel would be increasingly at odds with civil society and then, hopefully, with other governments, as it takes over Palestine, expelling and killing every non-Jew in their path or who resists. Devastating sanctions would be made against Israel, much like what is now done to Syria, North Korea and Iran. In reality such a thing happening, as in Israel fulfilling their “destiny”, would involve so much maniacal violence and ethnic-al cleansing that peoples and countries would be unable to support them and not just stand aside and allow it to continue. At least one can only hope. Because the question remains, will enough people finally stand up, ignore the 24 hour news cycle, and demand their will upon their leaders to have the courage to do what is right for humanity and not for corporate, soulless entities?

Another road for Israel, which would also lead to violence and further bloodshed, is the road of not trying to exterminate the Palestinian people outright, but just take complete control of all Palestine. This would still create a Greater Israel, but the Jewish people could become a minority very quickly, just by the birth rate alone, and this goes against all that is Zionism. The entire area would become palaces, Jewish enclaves and city-forts, ghettos and the largest concentration camp ever, all on complete security lock down, with a population densely packed together like a Gaza Strip on steroids. Hatred, racism, revenge and intolerance would continue dripping off of people, as it does today, generation after generation.

The only solution is two distinct and separate countries living beside each other, just like the rest of the world does and for the most part quite peacefully. Security would be easier to establish and each country would then be judged on its own intrinsic worth and not by how much violence each one could inflict on the other.

Sadly, this will not happen, no matter how much the Palestinian Authorities become recognized and go about their quest for the right to self govern themselves in their rightful lands through the courts of international law and the United Nations. Because the Israelis continue to elect right-wing fanatical governments who still feel they need to strut around like the typical bully, and who have become both, very predictable and ever the more isolated. But then being imaginative and willing to engage in dialogue has never been one of the Israeli’s strong points. They also do not understand that in the reality that is war, even when you win, on many levels you lose. Indeed, I’m sure to many people all over the world who might care or have even heard of the Arab-Jewish conflict, Israel and Palestine have become yet another pair of bad actors, in an often repeated bad film where everyone knows how it will end and everybody dies.

While the Israeli, American and Canadian leaders were condemning Hamas, who were being merciless bombarded “hopefully back to the dark ages” in the latest Gaza war, not one of them realized that the true threat to Israel comes not from tiny, impoverished and oppressed Gaza but from the policies of the Israeli government itself. The holocaust of the Second World War we are told should forever be remembered so that it will never happen again. Yet it has happened many times since, from Cambodia to Rwanda to Serbia and to the Sudan, and it is what is happening in Palestine today, just not so quickly, but more apartheid-like, so nobody notices as much.

When Israel, and the few remaining countries in the world that support them, say the Palestinians should just go back from whence they came and allow a Greater Israel state to be created, there is a serious disconnect happening, while the words – delusional and ignorant – spring to mind. Because where the Palestinians came from is exactly where they are living now and therefore, there is nowhere else for them to go. So either the occupation ends and a two-state agreement is signed or everyone should just step aside and allow the Israelis to continue to immorally ethnically cleanse the territories they illegally occupy to the very point of Palestinian extermination. Then let the world condemn them for their actions, and at the same time allow the Palestinians the right to fight for their lives, their land and their existence by all means possible. Would they then be condemned by the world for their re-actions? The stench of unmentionable horrors each side would inflict on each other would bring outsiders into the fray, especially religious and corporate psychopaths. Then the supposedly holiest place on the planet would continue to be one of the most unholiest and nothing but a black hole of violence and hatred, while the rest of the world stands on the sidelines and watches. And then after the dust settles we’ll tell ourselves that we must remember what just happened and never forget, lest it ever happen again.

“Elites Will Make Gazans of Us All”,   Chris Hedges

It’s mostly punishment…. Testimonies by Veterans of the Israeli Defense Forces from Gaza and the Occupied Territories, Oded Na’aman

Ten voices on the Palestinian bid for UN membership, CBC News

 

 

10/30/12

The Age of Myth – Chapter One

“They must find it difficult . . . those who have taken authority as the truth, rather than truth as the authority.”   G. Massey, Egyptologist.

 

The basic truths of human nature are the principles within us, which are the natural laws of the human dimension and include fairness, integrity, human dignity, service, and potential. These are the guidelines for human conduct. We all possess these truths and are creatures subject to all the basic laws of animal behaviour, because morality was inherent in humanity long before we achieved reason.

Too many of us think we are above these biological controls. That somehow thousands of years of genetic legacy is now beneath us because we think we have evolved so much, just in the past few hundred years, that we now reside above all those who came before us. Yet many people today are living unfulfilled lives because of such grandiose new motives and self-conceited ideas, which try to make us seem to be so much more than just a biological species. Our day to day lives get acted out, but it often seems something is missing, yet many of us feel we are more powerful, more innovative, smarter, and more financially well off than every other creature on the planet that has ever been. Our attitude has changed to where we now feel that reflecting on the past as being somehow offensive and hurtful. Meanwhile our character, the spirit within us, is being replaced by personality. We think we are growing and developing, but find ourselves ever the more disappointed and frustrated. We stopped listening to whom we are sometime in the last century and have become ignorant to our human nature.

Even before civilizations and organized religions, we knew that to attain love one must give their love to others to know what love is. That one could only be creative if they shared their creativeness with others; that only through the act of giving of something could one experience having; and to kill a fellow human being was wrong, no matter the reason. These are the fundamental truths that have guided us but are now being held suspect, by fear, faith, consumer-capitalism and even ourselves. Slapping one’s knee and shouting “I knew I shouldn’t have said that!” or “I knew that was going to happen” are cop-outs. We ignore our gut instincts and allow them to be shaped by others. Reality is we are an exploratory species now living in sedentary tribal groups, which stultifies our growth because our cultures and religious beliefs follow rigid patterns of behaviour and thought, thus restricting development and only promoting more needing and wanting. Such suppression of our fundamental urges is what is currently eating away at our souls and making us physically, mentally and morally sick. So much fear, spin and doubt has been cast into our hearts and minds that it keeps us illiterate functionally and spiritually.

Civilization has become a consumer and corporate world, with many religious beliefs continuing to hold onto the premise that their God is a supreme being who created the world in six days and who is to be feared. If indeed this is the case and that creation was the final goal, why was it not reached right away, all at once? Why was perfection not realized at the beginning? It could be because God is not a supreme being at all but instead is simply a word representing the definition of life.

If the adage “by our nature we are moral beings” is true, when did it all start to go askew? Perhaps when we stopped listening to the basic principles within ourselves and instead focused on the voices in our heads. Many believe, everything started to get confusing at the dawn of civilization and the invention of writing, five thousand years ago. It was a time when the human ego and the ability to view oneself apart from nature began to develop even more, where our mental processes started to separate from instinctive ones. Communication and dissemination of knowledge became symbolic and took the form of myth; though within these myths lay absolute truths concerning the processes of the natural world.

A myth is not always a lie, it also expresses something fundamental about how we perceive the world and human life as it really is. It also communicates to us our values and how we should live in the world and finally, myths show how we do in fact live in our worlds, through our lifestyles. Prominent anthropologist Clifford Geertz, formulates that a myth, in effect says “we live (or ought to live) the way we do because the world is the way it is. And because the world is the way it is, living as we do (or ought to) is uniquely satisfying and fulfilling.”

With civilization and the written word we became citizens and workers, and our villages became cities. And because politics, art, religion and even history are conscious, self mediating processes, they each dwell between the realms of spirit and life, idea and reality, just like our personal worlds do.

Pre-history, before the written word, is where our cultural origins are found, through science, archaeology and oral traditions, and is where the collective cultural heritage of all of humankind lies. Up until the mid 19th century some believed the Bible’s version of the world to be about 6,000 years old. By the end of that century the first humans were believed to be about 100,000 years old. Today, according to modern scientific archaeology, natural sciences, geneticists, and geology, and using radiocarbon, radiation exposure, and potassium argon dating techniques, we emerged in East Africa at least 2.5 million years ago, while the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old, with the first life-form appearing on its surface within a billion years.

The dedicated work of anthropologists; studying humanity and it’s culture, archaeologists; systematically studying the lives and cultures of ancient humankind through the use of scientific and controlled techniques, physical anthropologists; studying the evolution, behaviour and biology of humankind and geneticists; opening up new doors nearly every day concerning what we are made of, where we are from and that we are all related, have all combined in teaching us much of our collective past, and with the laws of association and superposition, are revealing many truths of our history. Like Newton, Da Vinci, Hugo, Galileo, Einstein and all the others that came before and since, they believe that the importance of seeking truth is not in the divinity, but rather in the belief of the supremacy of direct knowledge over faith. What has come more into the light is the importance of culture as the distinctive adaptive system used by humans to evolve. It is humankind’s way to adapt to our varied environments, instead of being rigidly held in check and suffering.

All animals, including humans, adapted to their environments through biological evolution. If it adapted it survived, if unable to, it evolved into a new species, moved away or died. With humans, culture is the traditional system of belief and behaviour that is understood by an individual. Culture is both, our own version within a social group and the version shared by everyone collectively as a group. When animals die, their experience dies with them, with humans, when we die our experience continues on in our culture. The ongoing phenomenon of culture usually changes very slowly over time, which is what has allowed us as a species to adapt and evolve. Today, culture has reached such a fast pace that we, as a species, are finding it ever more difficult and confusing, because we can no longer adjust or keep up to it.

Though the strides in scientific, psychological and social disciplines in the last ten years have been incredible, we should be moving quickly to retrieve what knowledge we may find of our past before we continue to blindly, and at an ever quickening pace, “pave over paradise” amidst a global climate crisis.

In the first century AD, the most valuable library in the world was in Alexandria, in the north central part of Egypt, on the delta of the Nile River. It held more than half a million papyrus scrolls, in several temples which contained much of the wisdom and science of the previous thousand years, including the works of the Egyptians, Babylonians and the writings of the Greek philosophers. A Christian bishop entered these greatest of libraries and put them to the torch, destroying everything, because he thought himself to be expelling paganism. From 16th century Catholic missionaries destroying all records of the history and cultures of the peoples they exterminated in the Americas, to today’s industrial activity, road construction, urban sprawl, strip mining, deforestation, archaeological looting, bulldozer, crane and plough, we are erasing untold truths and more comprehensive knowledge of our past. In 2001, the Taliban destroyed two statues of the Buddha, both more than 38 meters tall and carved into the side of a mountain, nearly two thousand years ago, at Bamiyan in Afghanistan. It seems curiosity about our past will always outstrip our ability to find out more as time goes on, and more is lost.

Archaeology in the past few decades has made some truly “worthy of belief” discoveries. Advancements made via technology are opening chapters of history that we did not know about, with archaeology finally reaching depths that we have not reached yet, raising new answers of what we know of our past. This is why history is important. If we forget or not try to understand what the past tells us, it has been proven time after time, like a big carousal, we will continue to make the same mistakes.

The Achilles heel of archaeology is that only a tiny fraction of all organisms leaves fossil traces anywhere. Most fossils of Hominoid specimens come from sediments dating back a few million years ago, but in many areas where fossils may be, their access and discovery are blocked because of the continuing movements and cracks of the earth’s surface. There is also much evidence hidden beneath dense plant growth, forests, jungles, and man-made structures, and considering that at the height of the last ice age, 13,000 years ago, sea levels were about 350 feet lower than today means many traces of human presence is deep underwater. Finally, there is the reality that anything from the past, if it wasn’t a rock, has dissolved back into the earth.

As to human fossils, they give us evidence of size, proportion, and muscular development. Studying fossils has given us an understanding of the three most important phases of human evolvement; walking upright, a mandible thumb and increased brain size. What they cannot give us, and is based on an informed hypothesis, are facial features and how they thought, which is the most important to us.

To understand the evolvement of humans spiritually and culturally, one has to look back farther than when we first became citizens of civilizations, back to when we were still small families of hunters and gatherers and eventually farmers. Back to a time when the wisdom we desperately crave today, was ripe and fertile. Back to where everything that happened and existed was born of the same energy. Life was moment to moment, where a human being was not separate from creation but one with it and held great respect for nature; where life was brutal but not necessarily portrayed as such, for it was life. Back to the time before the development of the human ego, where a newborn child, a flower and a shiny rock still brought smiles to our faces and we were not criticized for doing so, nor did we feel guilty.

To be continued………..

 

10/2/12

CAMA? Say it isn’t so Stevie Harper.

Why does the Prime Minister of Canada, Steven Harper hate science so much? I pondered.

Over the past year I’ve written many articles of my opinion or rather confoundedness, over the decisions made by the Harper government of Canada. Besides the ever quickening pace of trying to sell and export our limited natural resources as fast as possible, our government is also picking up the pace as to selling the companies that extract said resources, mostly to China. The government openly panders to the energy corporations, yet hinders working Canadians, all the while chiseling away at our basic human rights and civil liberties, especially women’s and children’s, and specifically dismantling most environmental protections and controls. At the same time our government gets rid of the jobs, shuts down the work and tapes shut the mouths of a world renowned, respected science community, especially in natural resources and environmental science and technologies. From constant barrages of omnibus bills to funding cuts to nearly every government agency that deals with the environment and people or the safety and care of both.

We pull out of the Kyoto agreement yet have no national plan to battle climate change and carbon pollution. Local environmentalists and First Nations are branded foreign radicals, with Greenpeace called a “Multi-issue extremist group.” The charitable status of any group that dares to criticize the governments environmental performance or its subsidies for fossil fuels are threatened to be revoked, while journalists follow the lead of their corporate controlled employers by way of the Prime Minister’s office. Anything to do with safeguarding our streams, rivers, lakes and oceans has been gutted or dismantled, such as the Navigable Waters protection Act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the Fisheries Act.

The incredulous concepts that are entering government policy making should be scaring the bejesus out of you, it does me. Each new decision the federal government makes gives an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. It has all seemed so confusing. But if you know history it is yet another remake of the chapter we’ve all seen before and which I will name at the end of this article.

We are already degrading our land and creating ever more inequality amongst people, what’s suddenly the big rush? What is taking prestige over reason? Why the desperate maddening pace and disregard for the earth? Why has reform become a dirty word to politicians? Why is the Harper government so adverse to science and rational debate?

But then a couple of weeks ago a friend asked me if I had heard of CAMA, the Christian and Missionary Alliance, no I answered, having no clue. “Check it out”, he replied. And so I did. And the confusion I once felt is gone, now I’m seriously afraid.

The Christian and Missionary Alliance, was formed in 1887 by the Canadian evangelical pastor Albert Benjamin Simpson. Simpson, born on Prince Edward Island in 1843, was raised in a strict Calvinistic Scottish Presbyterian and Puritan tradition, though later he converted to Evangelicalism and was ordained as a Presbyterian pastor. He served churches in Canada and the United States and by 1880 arrived at the Thirteenth Street Presbyterian Church, in New York City, where he began to put together doctrine which emphasized global evangelism. Moving to what is known as the New York Tabernacle he began to preach his word and eventually his and others words would transform over the decades to become the Christian and Missionary Alliance. CAMA is based out of New York with a strong base of operations in Alberta. There are about 500,000 members in the States, mostly all Republicans and about 130,000 in Canada, mostly all Conservatives and mostly all living in Alberta. They have about three million members worldwide.

The tenets of CAMA’s gospel are; Jesus our savior, sanctifier, healer and coming king, as well as the “pursuit and promotion of the Higher Christian Life.” Their commitment is to promote a biblically-based world view centered on Jesus Christ.

Their values  include developing their pastoral and lay leadership; where women are strictly not allowed, nurturing the pastoral staff and their families, belief in Biblical conflict resolution, encouraging creativity and innovation in submission of spirit, empowering churches and strategic building of churches in all communities of the world. They also have an Environmental Transformational Plan, which describes their “life zones” or spiritual realities, but the plan has taken ecology completely out of context.

CAMA’s Church Planting Life Zone for instance believes in an environment perpetually growing, where “church planters and church congregations pregnant with new church planting ideas would be welcomed, encouraged and assisted in giving birth”, which means building a new church and finding new members is encouraged and would be supported by CAMA, and of course, “sources of funding would be accessed in order to provide a steady stream of resources for church planting opportunities.”  Further, in each Church Planting Zone, “multiplication-minded leaders are motivated and encouraged by catalytic events designed to expand their thinking and accelerate their passion.” Other life zones include the Global Seamless-Link Life Zone, Leadership Life Zone and Pastoral Health Life Zone, all placing much importance upon the church, its executive and the Second Coming of Christ.

Their core values begin with the authority of the bible, literately every word of it as it is written, and leadership, where they state that they intentionally identify and train “godly” leaders. They uphold biblical justice, minister to the poor and oppressed of only their communities, and encourage and strengthen marriages and families. Divorce is frowned upon and if caught as an adulterer one loses their right to ever remarry.

As far as stewardship of the earth they view “all our resources and possessions as God-owned and we use them with integrity, accountability and maximum effectiveness.” The world was created for them to use as they will, that God is sovereign over creation and therefore humans can do no permanent damage.

As to prayer they believe, “We do nothing until we pray”. The Canadian members pray for Canada and its government and that “Godly agendas are required through minority rule.” They pray for those “utterly unreached people group-those under the domination of Islam, closed Hindu and Buddhist nations, etc.” All non-believers of their doctrine are considered the “lost people’. They also pray for their church leaders, pastors and executive to receive the spirit of their God in “remarkable new ways” and for them to be “strategic in service.”

CAMA members truly believe the Second Coming is “imminent and will be personal and visible”. Much like the evangelical Jehovah Witnesses have believed that every year is going to be the last one, since 1870; where Jesus Christ will physically appear on earth and will reign for one thousand years and then there will be the Final Judgment. After which time, the universe, including the microscopic parts of heaven and earth, will be renewed to become a new and fresh heaven and earth. They also believe the world to be only 6,000 years old.

To survive the second coming they pray that their churches have the “budgets, decisions and staffing that reflect their kingdoms values.”  Only those who repent and believe in Jesus Christ will be born again and “justified, sanctified and granted the gift of eternal life as adopted children of God.”

Fields of flowers, blue clear skies, cold crystal clean water and natural resources will be renewed and the chosen one’s will live on, to use the world to their will and a vicious cycle would seemingly begin anew. I know the Bible well, and unfortunately nowhere does one find a story about a Third Coming.

Other  beliefs of CAMA include that the free market is divinely inspired, with libertarian economics being God’s will and that God is opposed to government regulation or taxation for he created government for limited purposes only and whom should never intervene in the workings of a free market economy. They also oddly enough, though I am sure Charles Darwin isn’t their kind of scientist, seem to believe in the new social Darwinism, where the adage has been changed to the survival of the richest, not the fittest, will somehow benefit society and everyone else are simply lacking the motivation and ambition to help themselves.

Besides not having any regard for the environment and not putting any belief in science, they have utter contempt for homosexual relationships, abortion, stem-cell research, euthanasia and the use of marijuana. They demand the complete loyalty of their members to their organization, possess extreme disdain for mainstream media, but then don’t we all in its current state, and believe wholeheartedly in the Dominion Theory, where humans were made to subdue and rule over all of creation. Because when it all collapses, no worries, God will fix it.

Because the Christian and Missionary Alliance do not put any faith in the notion of climate change due to human contribution and don’t think much of science in general, they are closely affiliated to another appendage of themselves in the Cornwall Alliance, a right wing coalition of scholars, evangelicals and economists, many who are Christian Alliance members, and formed in 2000 with the introduction of the Cornwall Declaration on Environmental Stewardship. Their motto is Dominion, Stewardship and Conservation; they “aspire to a world in which liberty as a condition of moral action is preferred over government-initiated management of the environment as a means to common goals.” Their main threats are science and anything to do with monitoring the environment.  They indeed have a very evangelical biblical view of the planet, but then as do so many other faiths and organizations. It’s why they all despise each other so much, would like very much to rid each other off the planet and to be just left alone, to be the only one left when human endeavor drives off the edge of the cliff. While extremists at both ends of the spectrum seem to have no qualms on creating an Armageddon themselves if they have to, just to prove their points.

Within the Cornwall Declaration are statements that were surreal to read, seemingly out of this world, time and place. I kept looking around, thinking someone was playing a joke on me or perhaps I was even being punk’d. The statements within the declaration include that policies to combat climate change would and are, destroying jobs. Besides, they say the trillions of dollars it would take to combat our affect on the planet would bring “no net benefits.” They also assert that any impediment on economic development such as raising energy prices, would take away the ability of the worlds poor to rise out of poverty, thus “so condemn millions to premature death.” They believe one of the worst things to do would be to continue trying to reduce carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions, because it will only increase the price of energy and harm the world’s economies. In fact they flat out deny that carbon dioxide is harmful to the planet because it is “essential to all plant growth.” Believing the energy from their God’s planet must be abundant and affordable until the day he soon arrives, they feel fossil and nuclear fuels as being the perfect sources for this. Policies to control global warming they deem, “fruitless and harmful”, because the earth is “self  regulating and self correcting” and besides the earth was made to be used, so that humanity may flourish and display God’s glory.

As far as alternative and renewable forms of energy, they believe that such things as wind and solar power will only be good enough for either “poor or rural peoples.” Going further into the declaration; they do not feel that humanity is only consumers and polluters but instead we are producers and stewards. One of their main goals is to reduce the need for collective ownership and control of both, the earth’s resources and corporations, and if there is to be any collective action it must be taken at the most local level possible. They also wish everyone would just recognize their proper place in their God’s created order.

I began this article asking a few questions about the madness that seems to be enveloping Canada. The denying of science’s role in environmental and social decisions; cutbacks to fading social programs such as unemployment, pensions, health and welfare; the attempt to become a militaristic badass in the world;  the ongoing destruction of our basic human rights; the death of our will to vote; and the insane and desperate need for the status quo to continue.

The outcome of the last federal election, where 39% of those who voted elected a majority Conservative government, brought forth once again, the Harper government. It would seem we Canadians have a democracy problem. According to the Harper government’s agenda and policies, especially at the quickened pace as of late one can only surmise what’s behind such asinine decisions. Well surmise no more.

Yes, kept behind Oz’s curtain, glimpsed at only briefly, with nearly no one knowing, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been a member of the Christian and Missionary Alliance for nearly twenty years. He has always been questioned of perhaps having a hidden agenda. He does and it could very well be his God’s agenda, heaven forbid.

Other notable members of CAMA include many TV pastors and healing evangelists such as F.F. Bosworth and Clement Humbard; Billy Graham’s first African-American evangelist, Preston Manning; founder and former leader of the Reform party of Canada, and the now deceased, American Evangelist Billy Graham, who became a member of CAMA in 1933 but who was actually a Democrat and not completely on the religious right, once saying that Jesus did not have a political party.

Another long standing CAMA member is former Canadian Conservative cabinet minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, Chuck Strahl, who in June 2012 was proudly given the chairman’s position of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, the lone watchdog which oversees Canada’s Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS), by his close friend Stephen Harper. The sounds you should be hearing are the goose bumps bubbling out of your skin.

Is the Prime Minister of Canada really basing his decisions on what Canadians need and want today and tomorrow or instead on what was written by many and then translated dozens of times, two thousand years ago? His positions on research, statistics, protestors, journalists, First Nation’s people, women, children, pipeline opponents and climate change cannot but make one wonder what is exactly going on here. Though with his buddy Strahl now in charge of Canada’s Secret Service we may never know. Heck I could even disappear or be tagged as a radical dissident after this article is posted.

I am not anti-religious, I do believe in spirituality; the spark of energy every living thing on the planet possesses and that we all share. Most organised religions have made a lot of money and gained much power over the millennia trying to control that spark. Usually by making that spark of energy negative and flawed as it were born and the only way to bring light back into it is by sacrifice, devotion and fear of either one god or many gods. On the flip side, whatever belief system a person has to keep them feeling centered, their lives rewarding, fulfilled and honest is right for them, for the Canadian Charter of Rights protects the freedom of religion, but it also protects our rights of freedom from religion. This is one of the reasons Canada is such a diverse place, where no matter one’s personal religion or race, its live and let live.

But if a Republican evangelical belief system enters the Canadian Prime Minister’s office, we Canadians should know about it, and seriously consider “the virtues of democracy over theocracy.” Remember, everyone not within the republican evangelical tribe are the “lost people” or “the others”, especially if you happen to be disabled, elderly, poor or a veteran.

More frequently, the Harper government’s policies are going against most Canadian’s values, with the words irresponsible, unethical, blatant and arrogant being bandied about more than usual. Any programs for promotion of renewable energy and home-energy efficiency have been thrown to the wayside. Yet in reality, investing in renewable energy will create more jobs than the fossil fuel industry ever could and the investment would be highly likely to pay off, it has to, for survival’s sake. Unfortunately the Harper government is continuing to rely on our economics to grow their way out of the problem of climate change and  haven’t realized yet that it will be too little too late and will not work. The earth does not care about economics. Instead of dealing with the causes of climate change it seems the world’s leaders would rather “watch the ice melt and then divide up the spoils.”

The English writer Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) was often referred to as the “prince of paradox” for his prolific and diverse published works. He was a true radical, meaning he sought the root or origin of an issue, any issue and eventually became a Catholic to boot. Over seventy years ago he would write, “The old hypocrite was a man whose aims were really worldly and practical, while he pretended that they were religious. The new hypocrite is one whose aims are really religious, while he pretends that they are worldly and practical.” He felt government was going to operate in a way where, “The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected”, quite astute that Gilbert, I do say.

Meanwhile we Canadians have another three years with PM Stephen Harper as our country’s leader. The question of where does his ideas come from, whether from fellow Canadians or from God, needs to be asked. Is policy, especially towards the environment, really being motivated by religious faith over reason? But then whether religion is a factor in government policies or just plain old greed, they are both of the same cloth. It is being proven daily that the diffusion of aggressive social conservatism based on evangelical beliefs is impossible to keep out of politics here or in the States. The difference is in the States they are oblivious to how ignorant they are to their ignorance and in Canada we just don’t hear about it and simply don’t ask. As far as the media and Stephen Harper’s religious affiliation goes it’s been mum’s the word.

The vision of a conservative society, where the privileged few would rule but understand the responsibility that came with such power, of being accountable to all citizens, whether they be poor or not, and who would act only for the common good, was held by many great leaders over the past century. Since killing off some of these great leaders in the late 60’s, the new religion that has become termed “conservatism” has arose, widening even further the inequality of our society, ignorant to any responsibility to the people or the public good, and is ego maniacal, quasi-psychopathic and greedy.

What will our environment and society look like in three years? Will we have sold off most of our resources by then and continue to ignore extreme weather and a ravaged oil soaked land and sea, as our infrastructure crumbles around us, with too high food prices, more starvation and ill health?  Will most social programs once supplied by the government be gone and communities will be more on their own and somehow funding themselves instead? Will homosexuality once again become stigmatized, forbidden and eventually against the law like abortion, stem cell research, euthanasia and protest of any kind could very well be?  Will a new private prison corporation build more prisons to house people who were either caught or even suspected of smoking a joint? Perhaps more fines, impoundments, licence removal and in many cases, jobs lost, because there will be zero tolerance for drinking and driving, with the limit point oh oh. How far shall I go here? Switch over and start reading George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, all over again to verify how much truth and foresight both authors spoke? Especially Orwell’s notion of “doublethink”, which means holding two contradictory beliefs simultaneously, which could be the Harper government’s problem believing in greed and God at the same time.

The Conservative right, on both sides of the border, may have abandoned truth and fact but we must not. The facts are the obligations to the things that matter in our lives, such as our health, meaningful work, family and our environment. One of the reasons our cultures are fracturing apart and decaying is because of our use of disengagement and distraction as an excuse for our ignorance; it is eating away at our souls. We continue to buy what corporate governments sell and lose value in the simple truth. While empathy, which has been taught over the past few decades as being “soft” and which is nearly extinct in many places, is actually as powerful as intelligence and knowing the facts in being a force with which to act. But we have been disengaged for so long we’ve forgotten how to drive standard.

First gear definitely has to be asking if indeed our future is being planned by ourselves and those who represent us or being dictated upon corporate ideology and make believe. Switching gears should be easier after that especially when more and more people realize that they are not alone. There are so many good things being done to better the planet and our lives, by many people, companies and yes, even a few corporations, the world over. Unfortunately the richest corporation’s ravenous quickening pace is leaving a diseased, spoiled wasteland behind.

I’d love to ask Stephen Harper; What if we destroy the ecosystems and non-human species of the planet, change the climate, melt the polar ice caps, acidify the oceans and rivers, use up all the earth’s resources and Jesus Christ does not arrive? No sign at all, no phone call, nothing, what then?

Ending this article as if I had included a drawing I did of Muhammad, I ask what of humanity in the scenario above? Would the laws that would have been put in place by then, which is not so far off as many think, be similar to the laws that became the Nuremberg Laws of Citizenship and Race, released in Germany in 1935, by the degenerate psychopathic Adolf Hitler? The first law of this doctrine is similar to many documents worldwide, though in this case “kindred blood” sort of curls one’s nose hairs. But say the word “Reich”, was replaced with the Harper Conservatives of Canada, if indeed influenced by the Christian and Missionary Alliance, and the word “German” perhaps replaced with Evangelical. This could be the new Charter of Rights they desperately seek. The Republicans in the States would fit the bill as well and we know what carrot they are blindly following.

“A citizen of the Reich may be only one who is of German or kindred blood, and who through his behaviour, shows that he is both desirous and personally fit to serve loyally the German people and the Reich.”

And so it began. More laws were to be added, starting with the simple banning of homosexuals, Jews and most all religions, foreigners, undesirables, the homeless and poor and elderly, writers, dissidents, thinkers, artists and many other “lost people”, whether man, woman or child. The banning would then become incarceration in work camps, with the final step being the Jewish issue, which was taken care of a few years later when Hitler attached another law, a Conservative Harper, omnibus type bill, which was called the “Final Solution” and after the smoke cleared, more than14 million people, 6 million of them Jews, had faced their Final Judgment and would die, because they were not members of his tribe.

Do we not bring up such past evils and horror; so that we can make sure they never happen again? This time though, the earth will soon be incapable of handling the human drama of our egos, the way we live, think and treat each other and it. We must not continue on being dismissive any longer or go “quietly into the night”. The Second Coming is nearing, but it’s got nothing to do with God and everything to do with us and our actions as a species today.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Martin Luther King Jr.

 

 

Further reading;

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/religions-fair-game-if-it-motivates-politics/article4450326/

http://www.macleans.ca/culture/lifestyle/article.jsp?content=20060220_121848_121848

 

09/9/12

A Stream of Prophets – Jesus

The biographical sources of Jesus’ life are mainly the four gospels of the New Testament; Matthew, JesusMark, Luke, and John. As well as other books such as the Gospel of Thomas, one of fifty-two texts included in the Gnostic Gospels. It has been estimated that all the books combined account for anywhere from six to forty days of Jesus’ life. He is estimated to have lived from about 6 BC to 31 AD.

The books of Matthew, Mark and Luke are similar in their content, though the fourth book, by John, is different in its approach. The book of Matthew was written primarily for a Jewish audience showing Jesus to be the Jewish Messiah, an aristocratic, rightful and legitimate king born to a wealthy family in Bethlehem who descended from David and Solomon. According to Matthew’s story, upon his birth Jesus was visited by three kings bearing gifts and writes of Jesus as being a powerful and majestic sovereign.

The book of Mark, the shortest of gospels, portrayed Jesus as performing as many as eighteen miracles and being a servant, constantly serving others. The book of Luke was written for a Gentile audience. Luke was the only Gentile disciple and a Greek doctor, who portrayed Jesus’ family as poor carpenters who moved from Nazareth to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born in the poverty of a manger. There he was visited by three shepherds. Luke portrayed Jesus as a meek, lamb-like saviour. While the most theological of the four books, the book of John, deals mostly with the actual nature and will of God, as revealed to people.

The focus of all these books was that Jesus was the Son of God, the Father and that they are addressed to the world at large. They also paid more attention to conversations and teaching than the earlier written books of the Torah (Old Testament). The four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were written over the course of two different time periods, with the first books appearing from about 66-74 AD, thirty to forty years after Jesus’ death and the others written from 132-135 AD, more than one hundred years after his death.

The Gnostic Gospels meanwhile were found in 1945 at Jabel al-Tarif, a mountain of honeycombed caves in Upper Egypt. Written around 50-100 AD, the fifty-two texts include the book, Gospel of Thomas, which suggested that Thomas was the twin brother of Jesus and that Mary Magdalene was indeed Jesus’ wife for he “loved her more than all his disciples.” The books also included, Book of Phillip, Testimony of Truth, Gospel to the Egyptians and the Apocryphon (secret) of John. Many of them contained the same sayings from the New Testament and the four gospels, but in different contexts, perhaps suggesting other dimensions of meaning. The Gnostic Gospels, as well as others attributed to Jesus’ followers, are called cryptic translations, with the originals written in Greek, the language of the New Testament. Many of the Gnostic gospels, though written about 1500 years ago, seem to be copies of even more ancient manuscripts of the Egyptians, Babylonians, Persians and Zoroastrians.

While history suggests that Jesus could also have been Jesus of Nazareth, a Zealot, much like many young men at the time, rebelling against Roman rule, persecution and oppression. The countryside at the time swarmed with gangs of disciples. Unemployed, they would sometimes enter the Roman policed cities and fight against the tyranny of the Roman puppets, the Judean Kings and their harsh control of the populace. At the time of Jesus, most all people hoped and desperately needed a saviour. And perhaps a Jesus of Nazareth, through doctrine written decades after the fact, could be transformed into a being the people still so desperately needed, a Jesus of Christ.

Jesus is vaguely mentioned in the writings of Roman historians, Tacitus, Suetonius and Josepus, as well as some anti-Christian Hebrew writings. But the historical Jesus we know very little about, though he was known to be literate, nothing was written down when he was alive, much like Socrates and Confucius and  many other prophets up to this time, Jesus spoke to disciples who transmitted orally and in later in writing, the wisdom that was preached.

Jesus’ sayings, teachings and symbolic acts were seemingly ironic, in that the intended meaning of many of his words was often in direct contrast to their usual sense, much like the Bible in its entirety. It is filled with contradictions and inconsistencies. Thus we have no way of judging the accuracy of either form of the communication, especially considering the fact that after the Bible was put together at Nicaea in the 4th century, no one but a few could even read it. It would be more than a thousand years later that it was translated and printed and finally read by people outside the church- a mere five hundred years ago.

In Bethlehem, Judea, at the time of the winter solstice, when the three stars of the constellation Orion reached their ascent and lined up brightly to form its belt, Jesus was born as the first son of the virgin, Mary or Miriam, of the tribe of Judah and descendent of David; and wife of Joseph, a carpenter.  A poor family making the best of hard times, left to their own devices with faith in their fate. Jesus would become a disciple of John the Baptist and charismatic reformer of spirituality.

Before his birth, a rumour had made its way across the land of the coming of a messiah. Driven somewhat by Judaism, the tale also became a dream for many as the reality of the time was of oppression, civic and social persecution and intermittent rebellion. Where only a few hundred years before, the Babylonians ravaged the lands and peoples of Judea, now it was the Roman Empire’s turn for supremacy of the Middle East.

The dream for a rightful king to appear and deliver the people to freedom brought much hope. King Herod, the king of Judea at the time, who was appointed by the Romans heard the rumours and announced the persecution of all innocent new born children. Joseph and his family, with many others, were forced to flee to Egypt and upon their return years later, moved to Nazareth. Jesus is believed to have followed his father’s trade and became a carpenter. At twelve he was known to sit in the square and endlessly talk, argue and discuss with the scribes who gathered there. Jesus accepted spiritual responsibility by becoming a student at the synagogue like every other Jewish boy. Although young he seemed to be already aware of his unique relationship with his spirituality. For the next 18 years, nothing is known of his life, until his baptism at the hands of his cousin, John the Baptist, a cousin to his mother, in Jordan. This rite gave Jesus the first divine intimation or hint of his life’s mission. John himself was known as a prophet of the one God and through visions was given the task of preparing the people for the way of the Lord. John preached far and wide about reaching salvation through the forgiveness of sins.

Judea at the time of King Herod’s reign was filled with cruelties and atrocities, for he was a man overcome by jealous fears with the backing of the mighty Roman Empire and the Jewish Sanhedrin, a high court of 70 men who met in the great Temple, in Jerusalem. The authorities in Rome allowed the Sanhedrin to pass any sentence under Jewish law except the death penalty. Jerusalem represented the central government and its large administrative cabinet was the centre for all business and trade in the region. It was also the religious capital. In Jesus’ day the population of Jerusalem was about 250,000 people, with most its people speaking Aramaic. There were many markets with shops, stalls and restaurants, but away from Jerusalem and beneath the covers of society, there was much infighting and feuding, with mutually destructive strife and rebellion.

Away from the big cities, the wealthy class of rulers and officials had bought up all the land and oppressed the poor. Family farms disappeared and were replaced with huge estates, with the people having to hire themselves out as farm labourers. Slums appeared first in the villages and then within towns and cities, with the bigger and better homes of the rich usually built on large estates on the outskirts of a town. Within each community, the poor suffered tremendous hardship and tyranny. Thus when prophets such as Jesus, cried out against all the injustice and inequality, the people listened and began to believe in the hope for a saviour to save them from the drudgery of their persecuted lives.

Around 6 AD, Judas of Galilee began a highly militant revolutionary movement called the Zealots. When Jesus began his own ministry years later, the Zealots had by then assumed a prominent role in Palestine affairs. Palestine had been split into two provinces, Judea and Galilee, with Judea under direct Roman rule. Heavy taxes became the norm with much torture and a climbing suicide rate. But to many, these Zealots were revered for their activities against the oppression of the Romans. Jesus was still a child during this time, but it is conjecture that this time covered the eighteen years of his life which has gone unrecorded. We have no way of knowing who or what his influences were growing up. We do know however that when Jesus reappeared in historical accounts, the situation in Judea had become critical.

The rebellion would escalate until 66 AD, when the whole of Judea rose in revolt against Rome, albeit futile. Within four years Rome defeated all the rebel forces that fought against her and occupied Jerusalem razed the city and sacked and plundered all the temples. The fortress at Masada would be the final nail in the coffin for the Jews in Palestine and the Diaspora of the Jewish people began. They scattered to countries far and wide, feeling in exile. While the blossoming new religion of Christianity arose and within only a few hundred years became the Roman Empire’s official religion.

When Jesus reappears he is being baptised by John and afterwards Jesus felt so full of the Holy Spirit he would spend forty days in the wilderness alone, wrestling with doubts and fears, but was successful arguing against numerous temptations, even from the devil himself. In one of these temptations, Jesus rejects the traditional Jewish role of the militant Messiah who was to raise the Israelites to world domination by the sword. Besides showing moral character, Jesus’ rejection of this temptation would have a dynamic effect, for it showed the conception of the Messiah in a new light and with a new power, not evident before.

Upon his return from the desert, Jesus gathered twelve disciples around him; Peter, Andrew, Thomas, James the Less, John, Jude, Matthew, Matthias, Bartholomew, Philip, James, and Simon, as well as his companion, probably his wife, Mary Magdalene. He encouraged them all to go out and preach that which he was to teach them; only the positive and pure contents of the Old Testament and that his teachings were for all men equally, no matter the race. They were to go out and tell the people that the kingdom of God was at hand. The goal would be to provide hope and create a believing community. He was a very charismatic individual and seemed to carry himself confidently often using human and earthly analogies to explain spiritual and eternal concepts and moral issues, teaching that man’s true battle lay within. He warned people against careless talk and blasphemy against their God and that all of God’s children were to correct one another, to pray for one another, and to forgive one another. This demanding focus on others was very radical for the time.

During one of their journeys across the land of Judea, they eventually made their way to Nazareth, where Jesus, who still considered himself a Jew, as did all the apostles, entered the synagogue. Many elders were in attendance, and as Jesus entered he was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah, which he immediately opened and told all who gathered that, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are down trodden and to proclaim the favourable year of the Lord.” Finishing, he handed back the book and sat down. At first, you probably could have heard a pin drop. All eyes were upon him, no doubt some mouths agape, for here was a man proclaiming he alone to be the prophet of their God. The silence was soon enough broken as they then began to argue against him in rage, a cacophony arose. But word began to spread of this man, Jesus.

He was once asked by a lawyer, “Which is the greatest commandment of all?”, he answered that there are two commandments on which all the laws and the prophets are based, and that is to love thy God with all your heart and soul and, secondly, to love thy neighbour as thyself. He undertook at least two other missionary journeys through Galilee, where he is said to have performed many miracles, including the miraculous feeding of the five thousand by blessing a scant number of loaves and fish. He spoke revolutionary words at the Sermon on the Mount, where he emphasised love, humility, meekness, charity and service to God.

This Sermon began when those who had gathered around him, some from as far away as Decapolis, Jerusalem, Palestine, Syria and Jordan, became many, and he began to speak of many things in detail as he stood above them on a hill. He spoke about ethical living, about not seeking revenge for injury, but forgiveness of wrongdoers, about going beyond the minimal requirements of law and courtesy, in order to show true generosity of spirit. He blessed the poor, those who mourned, the gentle, those who sought righteousness, the merciful, and the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who had been persecuted for the sake of righteousness in their lives. He told them he was not there to abolish the law or the prophets, but to fulfil them. That, whomever commits murder shall be liable, those angry with others for no reason shall be guilty, and those who called a fellow person good for nothing or a fool, shall be guilty; that you shall not commit adultery, nor make false vows, speak the truth even if it is simply a yes or no response that is only needed. Give when asked and do not turn away from someone who wants to borrow. That one should love thy neighbour as well as their enemies, and to pray for them. To not practise your righteousness before others simply for the sake of being noticed by them and when you give to the needy there is no reason to blow your own horn.

When praying, Jesus stressed the need to pray in private and not bring undue attention to one self, to “go into your inner room and when you have shut the door, pray to the Father in secret and the Father, who sees in secret will repay you. And when you pray, pray in this way – Our father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”.

Jesus talked about not amassing material things or “treasures of the earth”, “for they decay and rust and thieves will break in and steal them”. Gather instead, the goodness of one’s heart. Not to worry or be anxious about life, one’s body, what one wears or what one eats and drinks. Who, he asked, can add even a single hour to his day by worrying. He spoke that one should not worry about tomorrow, “for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” And not to judge others, for you too could be judged. Ask and it will be given, seek and you will find, knock and the door will open for you. Do to others what you would have them do to you and to be leery of false prophets.

Jesus ended his Sermon on the Mount by saying that, for those who understood the messages he had spoke and who would go forth and practise such values and norms in their daily lives were wise and would be like those who build their homes on solid rock. While those who listened but have no intention of living in such a way were people who build their homes on sand.

The essence of the Sermon was trying to get people to believe in the things their god once held sacred and important, without the militancy that had become so much a part of it. With the New Testament not yet written, the majority of the populace followed both the written and oral traditions of the Torah and were ruled by a hateful, revengeful and jealous god. Jesus was speaking about the opposite.

Of course when the ruling Sanhedrin and the militant Pharisees heard about the Sermon they thought it to be rebellious with dangerous implications, especially in keeping the populace controlled. Though Jesus had only visited Jerusalem once or twice, the Sanhedrin already knew him as being a religious and political troublemaker who had gained a reputation for healing, for exorcism and for challenging the religious authorities. On an earlier visit to the temple in Jerusalem, people had gathered around Jesus, so he decided to sit and talk with them. The priests suddenly brought in a woman, saying to Jesus that she had been caught in the act of adultery and according to their laws should be stoned. Jesus ignored them at first then said, “He that is without sin among you, let them first cast a stone at her.” One by one the accusers left the temple. After they had gone Jesus asked the woman, “Where did they go, has no one condemned you?” “No” she answered. “Then neither do I condemn you”, Jesus declared, “Go now and leave your life of sin.” Such actions would beget much resentment amongst the Jewish elders.

They were especially offended and insulted that Jesus appeared to possess an insight to reality and the fatherhood of God. They were also disgusted with the fact that he ate and drank with the castoffs of society and taught forgiveness, compassion, and humility. The idea that God was closer than they had been led to believe, disturbed them.

After the Sermon, Jesus and his disciples began to feel the pressure from the authorities and had to seek refuge in the Gentile territories of Tyre and Sidon. There Jesus secretly revealed that he was the promised Messiah and that their God is one who cares for his people in this life and prepares them for their next life in heaven. Jesus held five great priorities as the central roles in a Christian’s life and stressed that he would not ask anyone something he would not do himself. The priorities were: a life of Surrender to God; a life of Service; a life of Obedience; a life of Communion, where God’s laws and expectations are not just for the Jewish nation, but are for all of God’s people; and a life of Witness, to be courageous in their convictions and emphasising that personal commitment matters most, whatever the cost.

Then came a day where he gathered his closest disciples around him and told them that he must soon die and that they would not believe him. Perhaps reading the writing on the wall, Jesus realized his destiny and resigned himself to the likelihood that he was going to be wrongfully put to death. He calmly continued to be seemingly in control of every situation, while his disciples were perplexed and dismayed.

Jesus then made his way to Jerusalem, a week before or after the Festival of Passover Feast, which commemorated Moses leading the Hebrew tribes in their escape from enslavement in Egypt. It was held on the 15th day of Nisan (Hebrew calendar), represented by March and April in the Gregorian calendar. It was at this time that Jesus and his disciples sat down together, to break bread for the final time and talk, discuss, argue and whisper. Fifteen hundred years later an Italian, Leonardo Da Vinci would give us his depiction of this gathering in his painting, The Last Supper.

Later betrayed by Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, Jesus was arrested and deserted by his followers. His disciple Peter denied Jesus three times in court, and he was tried without proof by the Sanhedrin, for blasphemy, for claiming to be the son of God and condemned for practising sorcery and leading Israel astray. The Roman governor, Pontius Pilate also questioned Jesus, not about blasphemy, but of treason for his claim of being the King of the Jews. Jesus replied that his kingdom was not of this world. Pilate found no fault with this and passed Jesus off to King Herod, who taunted Jesus and sent him back to Pilate.

This condemnation of Jesus took place at the time of Passover, where each year at this time, the people were allowed to decide freedom for a prisoner of their choice. Pilate asked the crowd if it should be Jesus, but it was an angry crowd and they shouted for the release instead, of the assassin Barabbas. Jesus refused to defend himself to Pilate or to the crowd, which was becoming angrier and more insistent. The earliest texts of the New Testament stated that Jesus was then handed over to a Roman guard for crucification. Later manuscripts had him being handed over to the Jews, “so that they might crucify him”. Pilate finally condemned Jesus to death on a Roman cross between two thieves, in public. At his end Jesus was at first suffering, crying out in despair, “My God, My God, Why hast Thou forsaken me”, soon though came the words of resignation, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit,” and finally, near his end he whispered, “It is finished.”

He died and was buried. Three days after his death it is said that he arose, made several public appearances and then rose aloft and into space, where he would continue to provide leadership to his followers. It is believed that, as well as being murdered for perceived heresy against the laws of the time, the spiritual corruption of society and the oppressed way, in which people were treated, he also died for humanity’s sins.

Jesus’ death and resurrection is commemorated each year at Easter, the most important religious date, on many religions calendars. The Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, established the date of Easter as being the first Sunday after the ecclesiastical full moon (14th day of a lunar month), following the spring equinox, on or about March 21st, which varies the date of Easter between March 22nd and April 25th. Easter represents the day Jesus was resurrected, having died three days earlier on what is known as Good Friday. Besides Easter, the spring equinox has also been known for millennia, as the time of re-birth and/or awareness; the time when the seeds of the crops begin to sprout from the earth. The Roman calendar associated the Ides of March, a festival that celebrated the planet Mars, with celebration and military parades, to be the middle of the month of March 15th, the day Julius Caesar was murdered in 44 BC, and the day the Christians celebrate the Passover. The spring equinox is also the first day of the astrological year and the first full day of the sign, Aries.

Even though Jesus’ ministry only lasted approximately three years, his disciples continued to spread his word of peace, love, compassion, purity, worship and service to God far and wide, and a few would soon write of his story and teachings. By doing so they would elevate a man, Jesus of Nazareth, into the embodiment of the Holy Spirit, represented by Jesus Christ, and upon this they would build his church.

Interestingly enough, considering our social ills of today and on through the millennia, one third of all the parables and one sixth of all the words recorded as being said by Jesus and what topics are addressed, the most often in all scripture relate to our treatment of the poor, the distribution of wealth, of resources, and the danger of wealth to our souls. And yet, most Christian societies today are associated with militarism, interest paid for the use of money, gross inequality and violent assault upon the environment.

The often used symbol for Christianity, a fish, is not from the Bible calling the Apostles, fishers of men; it is because the letters of the Greek word for fish, ichthus, stands for the Greek phrase, Iesous Christos Theou Uios Soter (Jesus Christ, Son of God, and Saviour). The symbol of the fish first appeared in Christian art from about 100 AD and was used as a symbol of Jesus and the newly baptised. As to the known “seven deadly sins” mentioned in Christianity, these were first compiled long after Jesus’ death, around the year 600 AD, by pope Gregory I, and are pride, covetousness, lust, envy, gluttony, anger and sloth.

After Jesus’ death, the continuing Roman persecutions only helped in strengthening the new belief among the people that he, now called Jesus Christ was the messiah, and that he had died for them. By the Fourth century, in Nicaea, the present day city of Iznik, Turkey, Christian theologians edited Platonic metaphysics and transcendences of spiritual and ideal characteristics into their theology and decided which books would make up the Bible. Soon after, Christianity became the Roman Catholic Church, and the official religion of the Roman Empire upon Emperor Constantine’s conversion.

Meanwhile the Gnostic gospels and hundreds of other documents were banned and denounced as blasphemy and heresy, with the writers of this material deemed as heretics. While in fact, a heretic is from the Greek word, gnosis, or knowledge; through observation, experience and insight.

As Christianity became an officially approved religion, possession of books became a criminal offense with all copies burned or destroyed. The Christian bishops, who were once victimized by the police, now commanded them. Penalties handed out for misbehaviour escalated and it was announced that there would be no salvation for anyone outside the church, while whoever argued with its teachings and principles was declared a heretic and expelled, or worse. The New Testament was translated into Latin, which hardly anyone could read and a few hundred years later the paranoia and cruel aberration escalated into an era of violent persecution, which today is known as the Inquisition.

The books that became the New Testament perceived the many Christian prophets as being individuals inspired by God, through the Holy Spirit to deliver a message about the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. But one of the problems with Christianity, as well as with Islam, is that Jesus, along with Muhammad, were both misinterpreted as the final prophets, while in reality there were many who came later, from all different cultures, all over the world.

 

 

 

 

Photo by James Shepard

http://www.flickr.com/photos/biblevector/

 

 

06/12/12

A Stream of Prophets – Socrates, Plato and Aristotle

 

Socrates

Born in Athens, Greece, in 469 BC, Socrates would live his whole life there, dying in 339 BC. His parent’s names were Sophroniscus and Phaenarete. He married a woman named Xanthippe at a young age and would take part in three military campaigns: Potidaea (432-29 BC.), Delium (424 BC.) and Amphipolis (422 BC.), where he distinguished himself for bravery, remarkable endurance, and indifference to fatigue, climate and alcohol.

He did not participate in politics but instead felt guided by his “inner voice” which led him to the study of philosophy and to the examination of moral attitudes and assumptions with his fellow citizens, notable politicians, poets and gurus of that time. He once called himself simply the midwife for the opinion of others.

Socrates, as well as other Greek philosophers, lived in a time of continuous warfare, paranoia and tyranny. Though the city-states of Greece began to embrace democracy, every aspect of one’s life was believed to have been controlled by dozens of different gods.

Leading up to Socrates time, Athens and Sparta had joined forces in 479 BC, to bring an end to the Persian Wars and over the next 50 years Athens grew the stronger. But after the Peloponnesian War, which ended in 404 BC, Sparta emerged as the foremost power in Greece. Sparta reigned supreme until 371 BC when they were destroyed by the army of the Greek city-state, Thebes, led by Epaminondas. King Phillip II (359-336 BC) defeated the alliance of Athens and Thebes in 338 BC.  The whole of Greece was then under Macedonian rule. King Phillip’s son, Alexander the Great (336-323 BC) invaded Persia with campaigns that spread Greek culture and philosophies to Egypt, Afghanistan, India, and the Persian Gulf.

Although Socrates himself never wrote anything down, founded no schools and had no disciples per se, he would become one of the great figures in ancient philosophy. He may not have written down his ideas, but did develop them through dialogues and discussions in Athens streets. He argued that one must pursue the truth through rational enquiry. But as Plato and Aristotle after him, the pupils were mostly young aristocratic men. Their discussions, lessons and teachings would forever change the Western world’s beliefs.

Socrates is responsible for the shift of philosophical interest from speculations about the natural world and cosmology, to ethics and conceptual analysis. This shift away from the religious view that society expressed God’s will, to where people began to see society as the product of natural forces, would accumulate over the years and by the end of the Medieval era in Europe, seventeen hundred years later, would evolve into positivism, the path of understanding based on science. What is known about Socrates came from three very different sources. Aristophanes a playwright, Xenophon, a soldier and by far his most brilliant associate and pupil, and who was the best and main source, Plato.

Socrates’ discussions and the arguments he used became the “Socratic method”, which was to ask for definitions of familiar concepts such as justice, courage, and piety and to elicit contradictions in the responses of those of whom he discussed these issues and thus demonstrate their ignorance, which he agreed that he too shared. He taught that man should always feel the need for a deeper and more honest analysis of their everyday lives.

Rather than upholding a status quo and accepting the development of immorality within his region, Socrates worked to undermine the collective notion of “might makes right”, so common to Greece and elsewhere during this time. In solving a problem, the particulars would be broken down into a series of questions. Finding the answers would gradually give you what you were seeking.

Socrates often admitted his wisdom was limited to the awareness of his own ignorance. Socrates believed wrongdoing was a consequence of ignorance and those who did wrong knew no better. He believed the best way for people to live was to focus on self-development rather than the pursuit of material wealth. He always invited others to try to concentrate more on friendships and a sense of true community, for Socrates felt this was the best way for people to grow together as a populace. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this is Socrates’ reliance on his inner voice, which the Greeks called his “daemonic sign” and that he would know only when he was about to make a mistake. It was this sign that prevented Socrates from entering into politics. In Plato’s dialogue, “Phaedrus”, we are told Socrates considered this inner voice to be a form of “divine madness”, the sort of insanity that is a gift from the gods and gives us poetry, mysticism, love, and even philosophy itself. He believed this internal guide’s good opinion was worth having and should be heeded, and that the conscience is what makes us behave when nobody is looking.

Another curious trait of Socrates was that he absolutely refused to say anything that he was not morally sure about. In conversations he would often suddenly stop talking half way through a sentence. He also brought up the idea that knowledge might just be a matter of recollection and not of learning, observation or study.

The two most important points of his teachings were firstly that conscience is innate, and that our inner sense of what is right or wrong, good or evil originates from our intellect, our mind, rather than through experience and is inherent in our essential character. It lies within our soul. Secondly, the opinions, principles and beliefs of the faithful can easily be out pointed and satirized by those who at the onset will take their preaching at face value.

Despite claiming death defying loyalty to his city, Socrates’ pursuit of virtue and his strict adherence to truth clashed with the current course of Athenian politics and society. The city officials did not agree with him teaching the youth and aristocratic young men of Athens, his “troublesome speculations,” and discussing theology and philosophy. This unpopular activity contributed greatly to demands for his conviction for crimes against the state.

In many ways, Socrates’ beliefs were a paradox. He had no dogma and believed in the soul’s immortality, yet at the same time accepted the possibility that death may bring the annihilation of the consciousness. And although he bestowed and admitted ignorance, he also taught wisdom and cared for the soul. He would argue relentlessly. Someone would assert their position and Socrates would refute it; forever questioning.

Though much progress was made in the conquest for knowledge, including the physical and human challenges of man, in Athens, during these days of the first democracy, the situation began to turn and sour with the military overthrow of Athens in 404 BC.

Socrates’ position as a social and moral prophet began to offend the courts. Eventually he was charged for “godlessness”. The court considered him to be unsound because of his advocacy of free thought and unrestricted inquiry, and for his refusal to give assent to any dogma. If he affirmed the charges, the judges told him he would face lesser charges. But Socrates knew his life to be forfeit so he replied that death did not scare him. If death was either perpetual rest or the chance at immortality or to finally be in communion with the people that had gone before, he was fine with that. This insulted and angered the judges, as Socrates had somehow used their own beliefs against them. They quickly condemned Socrates to death, for “spreading unwholesome scepticism, impiety and corrupting the youth.” Found guilty, he turned down an opportunity to be smuggled out and escape, and at seventy years of age he was sentenced to die by drinking hemlock. The trial of Socrates and his judicial murder would be seen by many as representing the greatest moral defeat which the restored Athenian democracy inflicted upon itself. Much like biting off one’s nose and thinking you are saving your face.

Plato

Plato was one of the most important philosophers and mathematicians of all time. He was born in Athens, Greece, in 428 BC and would die peacefully in his sleep 80 years later, in 348 BC. His father was Ariston and mother Perictione. As a boy he was praised for his quickness of mind and modesty, with his youth a mix of hard work and love of study. Plato was instructed in grammar, music, wrestling and gymnastics, by the most distinguished teachers of his time. He also attended courses in philosophy, and before meeting Socrates, he became acquainted with Cratylus (a disciple of Heraclitus, a prominent pre-Socratic Greek philosopher) and the Heraclitean doctrines, which surmised that all objects are in harmony between two units of energy, an ebbing and flowing, which Plato did not agree with.

Plato was a pupil and associate of Socrates and would one day be the teacher of Aristotle. Any political aspirations he may have had withered when his friend and mentor Socrates was condemned to death in 339 BC. Plato recorded many of Socrates teachings and philosophies in three dialogues; the Apology, the Crito, and the Phaedo.

After Socrates’ execution, Plato and other philosophers, including Euclides, took temporary refuge at Megara. From there, Plato travelled widely in Greece, Egypt and the Greek cities in southern Italy and Sicily. He returned to Athens in 387 BC and founded the Academy at Athens, the first of, soon to be, many philosophical schools. It was here that Aristotle would later study and which would become a famous centre for philosophical, mathematical, and scientific research. Plato would preside over the Academy for the rest of his life.

Thirty-five dialogues and thirteen letters have traditionally been ascribed to Plato, and what became most prominent in the middle dialogues was the idea that knowledge is recollection, the immortality of the soul. Specific doctrines about justice, truth, and beauty immerged in his Theory of Forms, which refers to his belief that the material world, as it seems to us, is not the real world, but only a shadow of the real world. Ideas about the differences in the material world, the particular objects of perception, opinion, belief and the timeless, unchanging world of universals are the realities of the world and should be the true objects of knowledge. The debated theories of universals lie within the realm of metaphysics and are the characteristics and qualities that particular things have in common. The three different types of universals are; the types or kinds of a thing, the shared properties of certain things and the relationships of each particular thing. As to the belief of a divine, universal God, Plato opined that a universe abandoned by God would feel like the disorderly motion of a boat upon the sea.

Also included in Plato’s middle dialogues, through the words of Socrates, were his ideas of a political utopia ruled by philosopher kings, a visionary state with societies having a tripartite class structure which corresponded to the appetite, spirit, and reason. He saw it as the structure of the individual soul. Each part of society stood for different parts of the body, symbolizing the castes of society; the Productive, the abdomen, represented the Workers – labourers, carpenters, plumbers, masons, merchants, farmers, ranchers, etc. This corresponded to the “appetite” of the soul.

The Protective, the chest, represented the Warriors or Guardians; individuals who were adventurous, strong and brave, especially those in the army. This corresponded to the “spirit” of the soul. The Governing, the head, represented the rulers or philosopher kings; those who were intelligent, rational, self-controlled, in love with wisdom and who were well suited to making decisions for the community. The Governing corresponded to the “reason” part of the soul but whose numbers were very few. Plato used this model to conclude that the principles of Athenian democracy, as it existed in his day, should be rejected, as only a few were seen as fit to rule. Instead of rhetoric and persuasion, Plato believed reason and wisdom should govern. As he put it:

“Until philosophers rule as kings or those who are now called kings and leading men genuinely and adequately philosophise, that is, until political power and philosophy entirely coincide, while the many natures who at present pursue either one exclusively are forcibly prevented from doing so, cities will have no rest from evils,… nor, I think, will the human race.”

Plato described these “philosopher kings” as “those who love the sight of truth” and supported his idea with the analogy of a captain and his ship or a doctor and his medicine, because both sailing and healing are not things that everyone is qualified to practice by nature. He believed that the Republic (Athens) needed to address how the educational system should be set up within the Republic, and how it should be structured in order for it to produce these philosopher kings. The philosophic soul, according to Socrates had reason and will and desired unity for virtuous harmony. A philosopher king needed a moderate love for wisdom and the courage to act accordingly; for wisdom is knowledge of the good of humanity and the right relations between which all exists. Interestingly, Plato’s “philosopher kings” were seen as living communally, sharing everything and owning nothing.

Concerning states and rulers, Plato had many interesting arguments. For instance he asks which is better ‑ a bad democracy or a country reigned by a tyrant? He argued that it would be better to be ruled by a tyrant, as there would be only one person committing bad deeds, than exist within a bad democracy, where all the people would be responsible for such actions. According to Plato, a state which is made up of different kinds of souls would progressively decline from an aristocracy (ruled by the best) to a timocracy (rule by the honourable), then to an oligarchy (rule by the few), then into a democracy (rule by the people), and finally to tyranny (rule by one despotic person), and then start all over again.

Plato’s influence was especially strong in mathematics and the sciences. For instance, he helped to distinguish the difference between pure and applied mathematics by widening the gap between arithmetic, now known as number theory and logistics.

As a whole, Plato’s philosophy has had an incalculable influence on every period in subsequent history and tradition, and alongside his greatest pupil, Aristotle, he affected thought and belief through the Hellenistic period, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Plato died in his sleep at the age of 80, after spending a lifetime asking what lay beyond the deity-ruled world he lived in, and seeking the possible realities within the spiritually of man.

 

 Plato (left) and Aristotle

Aristotle

A Greek Philosopher and scientist who lived from 384 to 322 BC, Aristotle is known as one of most important and influential figures in the history of Western thought. Born at Stagira, a Greek colony on the peninsula of Chalcidice, Aristotle was a son to a court physician to the third king of Macedon, father of Phillip II and grandfather to Alexander the Great. After his father died, Aristotle was moved to Atarneus, in present day Turkey, where he was taken care of and schooled by a relative, Proxenus.

In 367 BC he moved to Athens, where he became a student and eventually became a teacher at Plato’s Academy. Here he stayed for 20 years until Plato’s death in 347, after which he began a 12 year journey that took him to Asia Minor, including Atarneus, where he would marry a friend’s niece, Pythias.

In 342 BC he was appointed by Phillip of Macedon, to act as a tutor to his son Alexander. For seven years Aristotle taught the thirteen year old Alexander all the disciplines, from mathematics to philosophy. When Alexander went on to become known as Alexander the Great, Aristotle returned to Athens. It was now 335 and near the temple of the Greek god, Apollo Lyceius, Aristotle opened a school for the children of the elite, which he called the Lyceum. There he would teach for twelve years.

His students and followers would become known as the “peripatetic”, from the Greek word for the columns of Greek architecture fronting the school and because whenever Aristotle would teach a class he had a restless habit of pacing back and forth and up and down, which a similar Greek word means “walking all about”.

When Alexander the Great died in 323 BC there was a strong anti-Macedonian reaction in Athens and Aristotle was accused of lacking reverence to the gods. Not wanting to end up like Socrates before him, he moved to the Greek island of Euboea and within a year died of natural causes at the age of 62.

His writings represented an enormous encyclopaedic output covering every field of knowledge; including logic, rhetoric, and psychology. His thinking and studies covered man and his environment as they existed, rather than what they were thought to be.

Aristotle’s terminology, “natural philosophy”, was a branch of philosophy which examined the phenomena of the natural world, and included fields that would be regarded today as physics, biology and other natural sciences. For Aristotle, “all science is either, practical, poetical or theoretical.” By practical science, he meant ethics and politics; by poetical science, he meant the study of poetry and the other fine arts; by theoretical science, he meant physics, mathematics and metaphysics. Most of Aristotle’s life was devoted to the study of the objects of natural science. Aristotle’s metaphysics contains observations on the nature of numbers but he made no original contributions to mathematics. He performed original research in the natural sciences including biology, botany, zoology, physics, astronomy, chemistry, meteorology, and several other sciences.

Everyone during this period believed the world to be flat, except for Aristotle, who came to the conclusion, by simply looking up during an eclipse and seeing that as the earth’s shadow began to appear on the moon, that the shadow of the earth was curved and since a sphere is the only shape that casts a circular shadow from any angle, Aristotle argued, the earth must be a sphere. One hundred years later, followers of Aristotle, began to calculate the earth’s size, with one of them, Eratosthenes, calculating the circumference of the earth to be about 42,000 km or 26,000 miles. Todays accepted circumference is 40,075 km or 24,901 miles.

In the study of physics, he defined the five elements: as fire- hot and dry; earth- cold and dry; air- hot and wet; water- cold and wet; and Aether- the divine substance that made up the stars and planets. Each of the four earthly elements had its natural place; the earth was at the centre of the universe, with water, air and fire lying in their respective places beyond that which was believed to be the center. With disharmony in the natural order of the elements there was a self-righting shift- requiring no external cause. This shift saw bodies sink in water, air bubbles rise, rains fall and flames rise in air. The heavenly element Aether had a perpetual circular motion.

Aristotle believed spontaneity and chance related to causes from effects different from other types of cause. That chance is of accidental things and creates things that are spontaneous. But spontaneous does not come from chance. Aristotle’s conception of “chance” is related to “coincidence”. If one’s intent is to go out to do something expecting a certain result but another result takes its place, it is by chance, and is rare. It was an incredible concept for that time; that when things that continuingly keep happening, with the same result each time, it is not by chance.

Another and more specific kind of chance, which Aristotle called “luck”, can only be applied to humans, as it lies within the sphere of moral actions. According to Aristotle, luck could only involve choice, and as only humans are capable of deliberation and choice, his theory was; for what is not capable of action, cannot do anything by chance.

Further to causes and effects, Aristotle theorized there to be four main reasons for anything happening. The four causes were; material cause- the material that something is made of; formal cause- its form; efficient cause- what sets something in motion, and final cause- the purpose for which anything exists, including everything that gives purpose to human behaviour.

As to the human psyche, Aristotle thought every human has three souls. The vegetative soul is shared by all living things, the sensitive soul we share with all animals, while the rational soul is only inherent in humans.

His work as one of the earliest natural historians, has survived in some detail, and reflects on his research in his books, History of Animals, Generation of Animals, and Parts of Animals. These observations and interpretations placed the rational soul in the heart, rather than the brain.

Aristotle taught that the virtue of an entity is related to its role and purpose in life. An eye is only a good eye in so much as it can see, as the proper function of an eye is sight. As Aristotle reasoned that a human must have a function, possessed by no other animal, he concluded that this function was the activity of the soul. He identified the highest level of the soul as Eudaimonia, the contentment and happiness felt living a good life. To achieve this, one must live a balanced life and avoid excess. Aristotle believed that to have balance, one must exist between the two vices- excess and deficiency. To follow this middle path one needed ethics. With ethics based on, virtue informed on reason, which he called the Golden Mean. He felt them to be the highest good in which humans could attain, with reason being a human’s prime faculty. Aristotle also believed politics should be a branch of ethics.

Aristotle considered epic poetry, tragedy, comedy, unrestrained poetry and music to be imitative, each different based on appearance, form, and manner. He felt music imitates rhythm and harmony, whereas dance imitates rhythm alone, and poetry uses language. These forms also differ in their object of imitation. Comedy, for instance, is most often a dramatic imitation of humans in trouble somehow, while tragedy usually emulates great people. They also differ in their manner of imitation ‑ through narrative or character; through change or not, and through drama or no drama.

Twenty-three hundred years after his death, Aristotle remains one of the most influential people who ever lived. He invented classical logic, pioneered the study of zoology, and left every future scientist and philosopher in his debt through his contributions to the Scientific Method, which stressed that the approach to scientific investigation must be through direct observations and that theory must follow from fact.

Similar to the other Greek thinkers, Plato and Socrates, both the seat of government and the priests did not agree with Aristotle’s teachings and for years attempted to oppress him. But he saw the end game and thus, in his final year Aristotle headed for the island of Euboea, taking refuge in the town of Calcis.

In the 1st century BC, Andronicus of Rhodes edited the bulk of Aristotle’s unpublished material, including lecture notes and student’s textbooks and published Aristotle’s far ranging original systemized and sophisticated work. These works had an enormous influence on medieval philosophy, Islamic philosophy and the whole Western intellectual and scientific tradition, and most specifically on humanity’s consciousness. The philosophies and studies of the great Aristotle, Plato and Socrates make them true prophets of humanity and nature, with each one simply asking how and why.

 

 

 

Socrates – “Image Editor”

http://www.flickr.com/photos/11304375@N07/

Plato/Aristotle – Ben Crowe

http://www.flickr.com/photos/croweb/2836992031/

 

“The School of Athens” or “Scuola di Atene” is a painting by the Italian High Renaissance artist Raphael Sanzio and painted between 1510 and 1511, in Vatican City, Apostolic Palace. More than 1800 years after their deaths, Plato (left) is holding the “Timaeus” (Leonardo da Vinci) and Aristotle holding the “Ethics”.

 

 

10/19/11

The Occupy and Fed Up and Can’t Take it Anymore Movement

“Evolution does not unfold in a neat, linear fashion; it is a messy complicated affair.” Palaeontologist Adam Yates

 

The Occupy Movement that is spreading around the world is the merging of people concerned about globalization, concentration of wealth and power, erosion of basic human rights and the economic and social marginalization of the majority. Our once progressive nations are now becoming regressive, where our current economic system isn’t working for the majority anymore.  Since we became viewers instead of doers and consumers instead of citizens the road that our governments are pushing us down is the road to totalitarianism, where sooner than we think, most all aspects of our lives will be subject to state control.

The issues driving this protest are diverse; corporate greed, environmental sustainability, social inequality, income disparity, homelessness, poverty and the erosion of fundamental human rights. It is a rising up against a system that benefits the wealthy elite at the expense of the working class, with citizens feeling excluded from the decisions that are extremely important to their lives. It is about the financial mismanagement that continues to push us further into economic recession and how corporations control and influence the political agenda, for any system that promotes greed does not include accountability, with the underlying issue being the lack of morality and no ethical leadership.

This is why many, especially anyone making over one hundred thousand dollars a year, are not getting it and are confused over why the protests are happening at all. It all comes down to basic human nature and the ego. Many of the top 1% who possess the majority of the wealth,  besides thinking irrationally that no matter the problems with our societies or of the degenerating environment, they will be insulated and unaffected from it and will be able to buy their way out, also possess unhealthy, excessive pride, which gives them over-confidence, arrogance and contempt. They are overly vain and become snobs, because they feel they are above others, who are to them “lesser humans”. This excessive pride does not acknowledge that others outside of their immediate circle are of equal worth. On the other hand, natural and realistic pride gives a person the confidence to recognize that the world contains natural hierarchies of both aptitude and attitude.

Many of the problems today, whether social or environmental, are caused by the globalization of market forces, which also drives income inequality. The riots in Britain this past summer were caused mostly from the barely contained anger of an unequal society. The crashing of global markets in 2008 was caused by greed and bad decision making by the principle players, by not understanding the moral implications of strategic decisions. Their problem was how they viewed their roles and as the 2001 accounting scandals that brought down Enron and others proved, they have no ethics either.

The super-rich of the 1920’s lived on income that came from holding assets; today the super-rich accrue their wealth from paid compensation. According to a survey carried out in Canada, in April/2011 by BMO Harris Private Banking, 94% of respondents with investable assets of $1 million or more said they have made their money on their own, either as self made professionals and/or business owners, with only 6% inheriting their wealth. Nearly 80% said  that they enjoy greater wealth than their parents and 70% said they are currently the same or better off than they were before the 2008 financial collapse. Surprisingly, less than 58% felt their children would be able to manage their inheritance.

In 2009 Canada’s highest paid executive. Aaron Regent, the Chief Executive Officer of Barrick Gold, earned over $24 million in wages. The same year the median income for a single Canadian was $22,800. Over the last 20 years, the income of 80% of Americans has stagnated while the top 1%’s income has nearly doubled, with the richest 1% of Americans taking in 25% of the income and controlling 40% of the wealth. Startlingly, the pace of widening between those who have and those who do not is rising faster in Canada than in the United States.

In Canada, over 33% of the wealth created in the past 20 plus years has gone to the richest 1% of Canadians, about 246,000 people, with most of their wealth gained from 1998-2007. But then the bubble burst, which it will always do, for as far as capitalism goes its flaw is that it is a system based on unlimited, infinite growth working within a finite framework. Canada’s once progressive approach to social programs and tax policies aided in keeping the disparity in income in check. Now that we are becoming more regressive, minimum wages have stagnated, with real income after inflation barely increasing. Unionization is decreasing. There is tighter access to unemployment benefits and lower welfare payments, while the tax rate for the richest 1% has dropped from 80% in 1948 to about 38% in 2009, with them paying about 18% of total taxes paid. From 1976 to 2009, the richest 20% of Canadians doubled their income difference over the poorest 20%, from $92,300 to $177,500, while the median income of the other 80% of Canadians rose only 5.5% over the same timeframe. With the top 20% of earners receiving 51% of total income earned.

In a nutshell, the 246,000 Canadians whose annual income is $200,000 or more are the richest 1%. One-tenth of a per cent of these individuals make over $2.8 million a year. Anyone earning $100,000 or more annually is in the top 5%. Globally, anyone making $53,000 a year or more is included in the richest 1% of worldwide income earners.

A huge fallacy has been countries using the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to show that an economy is doing well. GDP is used to measure a country’s total economic value. It measures total output produced within a country’s borders, whether produced by that country or not, in a given period. GDP per capita is not a measurement of but is considered an indicator of a country’s standard of living.  Countries base many of their legislative, financial, social and economic decisions on the GDP which seems ludicrous considering the facts that the GDP does not include assessment of quality of life, does not indicate growing economic and social inequalities or for variances in income, or for such things as household production, volunteer or unpaid services. It does not account for any “underground” economies or account for the value of all assets in an economy. It also does not account for amassing objects of value, increase in wealth or creation of wealth. It does not adjust for quality improvements or new products, does not include environmental and social impacts, costs for environmental clean-up and restoration nor for births and deaths. The GDP is what props up the world’s financial plutocracy and the concept that with capitalism, especially in the banking sector, people don’t matter. It robs us of any financial democracy. But then we are in societal denial about many things, especially thinking that we can continue to try to fit the square peg of our self-indulgent, consumer society into the round hole of the environment.

During the first decade of this century, under the guise of the GDP indicating a rising standard of living, steady growth in the world’s economies, very little oversight and hardly any reform 2008 came along and the proverbial shit hit the fan. The global financial market imploded. Corporate controlled media had been giving the story that we were in an age of wealth, while in reality it is the age of debt. Marketing, spending, entertainment, sports and politics have kept our eyes diverted, while drugs and alcohol keeps us occupied and complacent. It is no wonder that the worlds #1 health problem will soon be the state of our mental well being.

There was no public inquiry into the causes of the crash and no calling to account of those responsible. They were allowed to simply walk away from the crash, uninjured and would be actually compensated very well for their inferior and irresponsible driving. To bailout their greedy and irrational behaviour they were paid from tax revenue diverted from medical care, education, social security, jobs creation and addressing climate change. Many corporate leaders were given multimillion dollar bonuses, with the added dividend that the speeding up of the dismantling of public service resources makes populations dumber and more controllable. Incredible amounts of public money were paid to save the system without fixing it. The United States bailed out their villains on Wall Street to the tune of $700 billion, about the same amount they spend on their defence budget annually ($670 billion), and about the same amount they owe China, their largest foreign debtor.

Believing that some of the bailout money would trickle down is sheer fantasy. Left to the current devices of capitalism money always floods upwards. Politicians simple become cheque writers and do not have the will to stand up to global finance or the wealthy because those are the people they actually work for and represent. Much like all the empires throughout history, as they fall there is inherent corruption within the system. Members of a political party do not follow the concerns of those they represent, they follow the concerns of the party and what the corporate lobbyists, who wine, dine and play them, tell them what the concerns should be, in confidence of course.

The Canadian Government, currently called the Harper Conservative Government received 39% of the votes in the last federal election yet rules by a large majority of the Parliament and is every day becoming a classic case, which time and time again has proven, will eventually rot  from within from apathy, smugness and placidity. Politicians are no longer men and women of the people but men and women of the governing class who preside in the realm where honesty and openness are rarely seen and their false vanity soon becomes cynicism. Eventually they will very nearly believe they have been placed in government by god himself. This has happened more often than not over the past few thousand years.

On certain levels, we the people knew this was going to happen because we could feel the changes in our personal lives. The huge majority of people do not live so grandiose lives as do those in the corporate world. For most of us life is earning enough to eat, having a decent job and having a modest home to live in. Our lives are the daily contacts we have with our fellow human beings, our interactions and our relationships. This year (2011), polling has determined that well over 60% of Canadians are living pay check to pay check.

Politics in Canada and the United States is an affair where few actually vote, especially among the young. Elsewhere in the world people are literally sacrificing themselves, and often dying for even the right to vote. When we do vote we are voting for a party instead of whom one represents.

The Occupy movement is being accused of having no leadership or definition. Instead, so far it is being led by everyone standing up and being allowed to voice their concerns. Though the powers that be have the media clamouring for a definition, they must remember that our current modern age began over five hundred years ago, when our need to understand led to definition. To get the Occupy movement to announce a definition of what they represent now would be clearly skipping the understand part. And once defined, accurately or not, would put itself in the hands of the richest 1% whose primary activities are transaction and consumption, and at which time the cool-aid would be then passed around.

What the world needs now and is craving, is ethical leadership. Unfortunately in the past whenever great ethical and empathic leaders would appear they would eventually become marginalized or killed off.  But that is changing, for there are many wealthy people today who are very concerned about their fellow humans and the environment, there simply is not enough of them. Our banks and our economies may soon sink into bankruptcy, but we should not allow ourselves to become morally bankrupt at the same time. One can only imagine the difference if more corporate leaders, bankers, traders and political lobbyists were actually morally enlightened. Corruption, the stink of capitalism, would be rare. Imagine politicians speaking for and representing the people that they live alongside in their communities and regions instead of living in fear of speaking out against the party and being just puppets, putting in just enough effort and time to receive obscene pension packages. A far changing difference would be having the 10% of humanity who manage the various societies for the wealthy, continue to be educated in accounting and economics but also in the values of self reflection and the study of virtues, such as humanity, justice and courage. Developing responsible business ethics is not the answer we need now, but might be what’s needed to prevent any future damage.

The leaders that are needed today are men and women of good character. Leaders, who will admit their mistakes, humbly seek advice and retain their personal integrity. Such corporate leaders today have led companies that are holding their own through the current financial crisis. They possess a strong value system and with an ability to reflect on these values and tendencies have encouraged better communication and more transparency in their business transactions.

What started as a global financial crises became a debt crises for individual nations, which is now seeping back into the financial system causing further bailout plans. But austerity measures won’t work and will probably simply speed up the downward economic spiral. The Occupy movement has many issues that are important to humanity and how we do things, as well as issues vital to the earth’s deteriorating environment. They don’t have the answers but do agree that something has to be done now, today. And that everyone must start making a difference equally. We have arrived at the point in time of our history where we have become aware that communism and capitalism don’t work. As to what will work is what we need to find out, but we must first understand what we need before defining what it is we need.

There are a lot of sound ideas out there on what should be done. A huge step in the right direction would be getting away from global and national banking. The enormous profits big banks make do not create new jobs, fund the renewal of our infrastructure, build a new green economy, eradicate poverty or tackle climate change. The new money that is created only enriches the wealthy. Far too many of us are becoming slaves of distant lending and credit card companies. Household debt is climbing drastically, even though we can’t afford it; student fees rising to life-long debt levels, rents and a housing market that is becoming as fantastical as thinking one will be alright as soon as they win 20 million dollars on the lottery. Instead we should perhaps ponder about having local, public savings banks which support small business and ordinary people.

Another need is for more dispersed ownership and control of a nation’s natural, human and financial capitol, whereas the financial industry returns to a more mutual ownership. For example, all print, whether newspapers, books or magazines; publishing houses: television, film and radio is all owned, in Canada and the US, by about 2-3 corporations, which is very scary close to being all owned by just one.

Instead of hiding behind the curtain of the GDP perhaps each community could discuss what each sees as its future and what opportunities are there for locally based businesses and lasting, stable jobs. And to also incubate initiatives among diverse groups that perceive and think ahead to future dangers and make long lasting decisions to correct its course.

As to the gap between rich and poor, the reality is that when equality is greater in a society it brings about such things as; with everyone having at least a decent standard of living with their basic necessities taken care of, it brings about the elimination of poverty, which translates into better physical health thus less health costs. More education would bring higher levels of trust between peoples, which would reduce imprisonment and prisons and also bring about less drug abuse and less obesity.

With rising health costs and the fact that in North America in 2011 the largest wave of the wealthiest, most educated and professionally accomplished people in the history of mankind, the proponents of what is happening today, as well as a majority whose illusions of retiring to a life of leisure is now compromised, reached the age of 65 yrs. This generation has been very lucky in that most of their wealth was gained from a housing boom that saw the average home value rise nearly 80% over their lifetime. Housing values over the next decade is forecasted to either go sideways or decline. The new generation are already in debt and their future will be living in a debited society. With the majority of people in Canada now elderly, it is interesting to note that of the factors determining our health in Canada, only 25% of the quality of the health care system accounts for our good health. For 50% of us Canadians the factors determining our health includes childhood development, education, social status, community connection, income and work history. While for 25% of us our health is determined by biology, genetics and physical environment.

The Occupy movement started with people looking around empathically and finally standing up and saying enough is enough. With lists of issues and needing answers, the dialogue already created is going a long way and is growing with each passing day. The movement is global, for the gap between those that have and those that do not is widening everywhere. People are simply fed up and it’s not that they won’t, it’s that far too many cannot take it anymore, not just what the world has become now, but as to what it will be like for our children and their children. Far too many of us continue to believe in the naive concept that, “My father did better than my grandfather. I did better than my father, while my children, i hope will do better than me”.

The wealth, prestige and respect of a few leaders gives them the freedom to go out into the world and instil change, to care and to stand up and speak for their fellow humans no matter where they were born on the earth. This is their passion and who they are, but as mentioned earlier they are but a few. Others who have wealth have passions as well but it is for the need of more wealth. Instead of being an important person to their family, community and the world they are simply trying to buy themselves the title and the respect that comes with it. The rest of us only want a fair shake and need to realize that for about 70 to 80% of the world’s population, any changes will have to be done collectively and individually.

The irresponsibility and greed of the super-rich have already caused one crash but we the public bought them a new vehicle, which we are once again standing on the sidelines, watching as it speeds headlong for the edge of the abyss sucking everything along with it, with all the principle players fighting over who is going to steer or at least who gets to sit up front.

The collective consciousness of our world is what must be changed and has nothing to do with where and to which environment we were born into. All wise men and women, who we have deemed as being true prophets, throughout the history of humanity, have always stressed the point that each person must strive to create positive change only into their own lives to affect change globally.

 

 

 

 

07/14/11

Some Creation Stories

Part 1 of 3

Mesopotamia – Egypt – Mayan – China – Ainu of Japan

After having spent some twenty years commercially working upon and beneath the ocean’s surfaces, where most days, you are out there on the edge, over time and multiple near death experiences, one’s mind ponders many things. I began to study religion and science through history, then drifted to researching the time before religion and science. I found many answers and as many, if not more, questions. I continued to do my homework and of course ended up at the beginning, where this essay’s seed began to germinate. It was followed by others, but we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves, as we most often do.

Throughout my researching and reading I sought to gather as much, and as up to date, information as I could pertaining to creation, human behaviour and history. Encapsulating hopefully what those in the know, know now, and continue to learn, as well as sharing the creation myths of groups of human beings who together inhabit the planet earth as a single species. Thereby perhaps allowing us to get some perspective on many truths and illusions.

Much thanks, admiration and respect goes to anyone who has made it their passion in life to seek truths through the disciplines of science and philosophy. The following essay, Some Creation Stories, grew as an essay and eventually peaked out at a goliath fifty-seven pages, so I will be posting it in parts. It was completed in 2009. Part One includes the Prologue and the creation myths of early Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Mayan, China and the Aniu of Japan. All resource material and bibliography for this essay is listed under Research. Have fun. Much peace and thanks.

Prologue

Most all the cultures of the world have their own creation myths, with many of them rooted in oral traditions and histories that have been passed down through the previous generations, and then with the invention of writing more than 5,000 years ago, they were finally recorded, and then through multiple translations and interpretations, they became hopeful answers to the question of, where did we come from? They represent a time when growing cultures began to dominate the direction our thoughts would take and when memory came into our beings. Though at one time, before the earliest creation stories, the question where we came from was perhaps not even asked, for it had nothing to do with, and was not a concern in one’s life, when most were living in the present moment, with memory used more as a survival tool. Creation stories’ emphasis is on explaining humanity’s place and role in the world.

Thousands of years ago this became important, when small groups of humans grew to form larger populations of hundreds, then thousands of individuals. It was the time when we had to learn how to get along with each other, outside of our traditional small tribal group, and village.

Within these first populations, human morality would become defined by creation stories as a means for social control, conflict resolution and group solidarity. Before creation stories and the subsequent religions that would arise from them, humans already understood how to properly behave with their fellow humans and always had. Our behaviour was based on the ability to be able to understand the present, to be aware of our surroundings and most importantly to remember the behaviour that would be right for the situation at hand and for living peacefully with others.

Even chimpanzees have a deep understanding of the social world around them. Each chimpanzee has the ability to mentally model the impact of its own action on the group, as well are able to guess the intentions of others. Thus, the perceived belief that we only get our morality from religion is layed open. We used to very much, understand that there were many important similarities behind life’s experiences, but then with the emergence of creation stories and religion, we were told only of perceived facts, a specific doctrine, that would be taught to us in a very specific way. We were preached to ignore the truth and that reality is actually nothing but a blurred and confused general definition of life, and truth soon began to disappear. What we thought, what memories we had, all began to be controlled. People would begin to believe in a god, because they would become conditioned to believe in a god.

Personal memories are mostly constructed by us without any influence. While the memories of belief systems are actually deemed factual by way of manufactured knowledge, which soon dilutes the wisdom of a culture and polarizes the races of human beings. Races who are not allowed their individual view on the matter, but instead taught of a right way and a wrong way. Which instantly creates enemies who believe their way is the right way, and therefore have justification for all sorts of actions and behaviours.

These systems would become developed to be easily learned and were, and are, taught in a very systematic and certain way, using proverbs, textbooks, churches, and classrooms. The inflexibility of these teachings has been the disability of anyone actually trying to learn something. Very early on certain individuals found that the way to control a population was to control the population’s mind. And the best way to start is to get them when they are young, and quickly teach them all about fear and guilt, the enemies of human beings. Look at a newborn child, happy as a clam, hears words but they don’t yet appear in their heads, they simply don’t believe in anything yet. Their minds are a blank slate (tabula rasa), and do not even possess an ego yet, which they won’t develop for another couple of years. Babies are even born with the ability to make sounds of any language, but as they learn the language of their parents, they lose this ability.

The dominating values of all societies do not come from the people, but are generally the views held by a domineering, authoritative control group, either the church, the military, banks and corporations, or the power elite. They are the ones who determine the public agenda, which in most cases, is to serve only their own interests, and not, we the people. Rulers and governments become the tools used to suppress or explain away any deviations that may threaten the power of the elite. Today, much of what we call our conscience, or believed to be morality, is unfortunately, not influenced as much by our soul, but more by where we live, the era we live in, and how we are raised. Even government, has given way to the power of the media. Our most cherished beliefs, our thoughts on what is good and evil, and even our concepts of morality has been created by our cultural heritages and experiences, and defined by the media. Where before the rulers and priests ruled with the whip and sword, and revolt and disturbances were put down quickly and viciously, today the media is used instead, to constantly manipulate and control the masses. This method of control is very subtle as it doesn’t use force, but is so successful we don’t even know, or sense, we are being manipulated. Besides many organized religions, the media is also very adept at hiding the realities of our economies, of really what’s going on elsewhere in the world and in our own communities, as well as the realities of life itself. Combined, these concepts represent the perception we would have of our worlds, and would become known as the world-view.

When language was invented, it became the manifestation of the world-view, and began trying to explain our collective sense of existence. This world-view would be the framework for generating, sustaining, and applying all the knowledge that we would gain over the centuries. The concept of a world-view comes from the German word, “weltanschauung,” and is just that, our sense of existence. It operates and is constructed by individuals, mostly at the national level, but also at the community level and/or the unconscious level, and is most always made up of six basic building blocks.

These six building blocks would be used by individuals all though history, for all different reasons and intentions. The using of different scientific disciplines, language and various systems of knowledge give us Ontology, a descriptive model of the world or the ideas and beliefs through which we interpret, to be able to interact with our world. The Center Leo Apostel for Interdisciplinary Studies at the Flemish university, the Vrije Universiteit Brussels, in Brussels, Belgium, lists them as; an Explanation for the world; Futurology – Where are we going? ; Ethical Values – What are we supposed to do? ; Methodology – How are we to behave and attain our goals? ; Knowledge – What is true and false, real or imagined? ; and Etiology – the building blocks of our origins and construction of our societies.

Our hidden being is what is hidden within these symbols, codes, and fables that would become the scriptures, which all appeal to our moral intuitions and have evolved over the centuries by our thoughts and experience about the causes and possibilities of human happiness. We combine science with this knowledge to create our world view. Intertwined and woven into most scripture are truths about our inner being and that all the wisdom we will ever need is within us, it only takes a pure heart and deep need to seek the divinity within each of us. And then to be able to listen and trust what we hear or feel. This ethical wisdom should be desired by each one of us and realized that it has always been within each one of us, instead of being made to believe that if we worship a creator of the universe, he would allow us this wisdom. And yet at the same time, this supreme creator, in most all cases, tends to be an intolerant, jealous, angry, oppressive, demanding, restricting, violent, vengeful, and killing god. For example, people who don’t understand that cruelty and violence are wrong, won’t learn this from reading most scripture, like the Bible or the Qu’ran, which are filled with unmentionable cruelty, especially toward women. Too often it seems that religion gives people bad reasons to behave well, when good reasons have always been within us.

All social animals live in hierarchical societies in which each individual knows their place. Social order is maintained by rules of expected behaviour, while dominate group members enforce order through punishment. Nearly all animals, not just humans, possess this morality, though humans and the higher primates, such as chimps, also have a sense of mutual exchange and fairness. What separates humans from all other animals, at least socially, is the difference in the change of our natural character to a higher level of sophistication and urbanity. Human society’s moral codes are enforced much more with rewards, punishments, and reputation building than other animals. Humans also have a higher degree of judgment and reason.

Most creation stories also represent a time when our expanding cultures began to dominate the direction our thoughts would take and memory would become important to our lives, arising from our development of language and speech. Before speech, early man had considerable reasoning power and were very intelligent, but language soon enabled us to have control over our thoughts. Where once our environment shaped us, speech would now take over that role, though the perception of our worlds would only be in terms of the symbols contained within that language. Instead of living in the moment, we could now chase after thoughts far removed from the present and better plan our behaviour.

Personal memories and history would become an artificial addition to the mind. Because creation stories are very similar to what human memory is, a repetitive, re-creation of events rather than an exact snapshot or video replay of what actually happened. It is one of the ways that beliefs begin to become true, even if they are not. When something is repeated enough, it is held to be true, even though in fact it could be the farthest thing from the truth. To this day society is still controlled this way in our thinking and our behaviour. It is our dogma. Our fantasies and imaginings are only limited by the diversity of our vocabulary and the level of the awareness of the world around us and are most always deliberately fictitious. We are still very much wrapped up in illusions.

Before the dawn of the first civilizations, early man routinely engaged in religious rituals, based on their interpretation of the stars, of their natural surroundings, with certain aspects of their lives becoming sacred, such as births, deaths and the passage to adulthood. People lived more in the present tense and used memory only to assist them in their understanding of what was going on around them from moment to moment, very much like the wordless mind of an animal that reacts only to events that surround them at a particular moment. With a clear uncluttered mind an animal focuses on its environment as each moment happens, its life is lived in the present tense. It has no ability to decide for itself what it concentrates its awareness on. For though it is hard to imagine, we humans, before language and speech, didn’t have voices in our heads. But with language and speech we were then able to control our thoughts more, by using words and visions to deliberately focus our attention on other aspects of our world.

Creation stories are beliefs in our origins and represent a time when not only memory, but reason as well began to become more controlling and dominate in our minds. They represent a time when we began regretting and feeling guilty about the past and forever worrying about the future, when we started to lose our focus on the present moment. It would lead to more dramatic, unwarranted anger, jealousy, and unhappiness in our daily lives. We should not totally ignore our past, for reflection of the past is good for acknowledging things that one can perhaps make right in the present time, situations that call out for healing. But we must not spend all our time trying to analyse every doubt, worry, and regret we’ve ever said and done, either.

The earliest people’s spirituality was based on animism, the belief that natural objects were conscious forms of life that affected humanity. They viewed the forests, mountains, oceans, even the wind, as spiritual forces, and displayed a reverence for the natural environment. The rain was a blessing, the warmth of the sun, the coldness and freshness of the water one would sip, all were probably felt as being a blessing.

Ten-thousand years ago, before the first civilizations, which were really just empires that were ruled by shamans, astronomer-priests, and tyrants, the chief deity of most of the planet was the sun of each day. All over Europe and much of the Indo-Asian continent they called the sun Dyeus, or as it was known all over the world, the Sky Father or Sky Mother, representing life, as well as the position of the patriarch or matriarch of that particular society. Only after humankind had butchered most of the big game and started to use hand tools to raise crops and start the domestication of animals, which led to trade and commerce, and which eventually led to the first civilizations, did the belief that a divine power was responsible for creating the world appeared. Where once everything on the planet was looked at as all on the same level, creation stories deemed humanity insignificant compared to the universe. For instance, the characters in the earliest creation myths were most all represented in animal form and represented in the stars, but with the birth of civilization this changed to where the gods of the creation stories were now viewed in human form, and possessed human traits and behaviours, and in many cases, were considered, basically, reflections of those that worshipped them. In many of the creation myths, after the gods or god had created the universe, these divine beings did seem to act human, but only if you are comparing their behaviour to a dysfunctional, egotistical, immoral human. Many of the gods seemed to just spend the rest of their days wrapped up in all sorts of debauchery. Each day was a party spending the time feasting, drinking, lusting, fighting, intervening in earthly affairs, or even, just sitting back and watching, with no intention of intervening at all.

But the priests would instill in the people that the balance of order and chaos in the universe could only be maintained by the gods and goddesses, or their representatives on earth – the kings, emperors, and the priests themselves. These divine forces required constant replenishment through worship, devotion, and sacrifice to maintain the continuity of the cosmic equilibrium. The gods had to be honoured for the cosmic order to be upheld. What separated these gods from mankind, was they were believed to possess sublime power and immortality. The people themselves would come to believe that their lives were to be totally dependant on the continued goodwill of these most powerful gods. The biggest loss to our collective humanity at this time was, where before we each had a choice, that choice was then taken away from us, and we would come to believe that we have no choice. It would become humanity’s crutch.

Out of these creation myths, two main thoughts on what god actually means began to arise. Pantheism would become the belief that God the creator was transcendent, existing in all living things. Nature and God were the same thing. Theism meanwhile believed God to be transcendent, but even though he works within the world, he also exists apart from, and is not subject to, the material limitations of the universe. These two main beliefs persist to the present day, where half the planet is traditional in their need for spirituality, in the belief that they must worship and pray to a supreme being, while the other half are more eastern in that it’s all about getting in touch with one’s inner self.

What also began happening within these early societies was that other gods, spirits, and ever watchful ancestors would appear in the social realm. It would become a very effective way to restrain selfishness, create order and enhance a population’s survival, by using the adaptive value of building cooperative groups of people, but because of religious belief, groups of humans actually began separating themselves from each other.

In many of the ancient cultures, the priests were the only ones who were literate enough and able to interpret the omens and portents of the gods, and use their creation stories to create order and control over the people’s everyday lives, to govern agriculture, but also, to set apart certain ideas, objects, events and experiences and make them sacred. Instead of trying to seek the truth as it is, many of the early scholars and priests sought what they thought the truth should be. Creation stories are believed to take care of the question of where did we come from, who created us, and emphasize that we should be grateful for being created in the first place, with the histories of both creationism and religion following this same path.

Besides giving interpretations on how and why the world was created, creation myths are limited in the definition of what the author’s world was thought to be at the time as well. The vast majority of humans at the time were completely illiterate, and whose reality of daily life was based only on what they could hear, see, smell, taste and feel. Their worlds were very small. Family, food, and shelter. The early Sumer peoples of Mesopotamia knew of their world to be only the Mesopotamia plain, the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, the Arabian deserts, the Syrian hills, and the Zagros mountains. They had no idea how large the planet truly was, or even the concept of what a planet was. Up until the 16th century, most inhabitants of the world still believed the world to be flat and lay at the center of the universe.

Most all creation stories are religiously motivated rejections of evolution as an explanation of humanity’s origins and were, in most cases, successful in replacing the principles of human nature and awareness. The real and unchanging natural laws of being human are deep, fundamental truths, and have always been with us. Principles that govern human effectiveness and are guidelines for human conduct. Universal principles of fairness, on which equality and justice are based on. Integrity and honesty, which creates trust, then service, which is based on quality or excellence and potential, which brings about growth, patience, encouragement, and human dignity. But when creation stories came along, they brought forth aspects of human nature that did not necessarily exist before. These aspects would enter peoples lives and become the illusions of humanity that persist to the present day, and which would become the illusions of need, failure, disunity, inadequacy, judgement, criticism, conditionality, insolence and ignorance. This foundation of illusion would be upon which religion would be created, and adopt the religious view that society would manifest a god’s will. The populations of the first civilizations and cultures worldwide believed very much in what the early priests told them of their creation and why they were in the world. There was somewhat of an appearance of security given and some sort of continued existence above the reality of their daily lives that the people began to believe in. This promise of an afterlife, gave most people hope to get through their own lives as well as the perception that they too were immortal, just like their gods.

At the same time, most creation stories also emphasized that the common people were impure, flawed, and lived error-filled, short lives, but that if one behaved, kept his head down and said his prayers, there would be hope for salvation. Unfortunately much of this is true, we human beings are flawed, this is most obvious when it comes to our conduct during times of temptation. What is not true, is our only hope for salvation is not through prayer or keeping the head down, it is by keeping the head up and interacting respectfully with the people around us. Most of our problems, our flaws, have to do with our behaviour that arises when we succumb to our own passions, thus the artificial systems that would be created, beginning with the creation myth, which more often than not, had to be created to balance and keep within bounds our selfish desires. Before creation myths, humans were not inherently evil, nor was the earth, but after the myths appeared, both would become thought of as much.

Because there are literally hundreds of creation stories, and in different peoples minds, the world was created in a variety of ways, this essay relates only the stories of the people of Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Mayan, China, the Aniu of Japan, India, the Greeks, Aztec, Norse, Haida of the Queen Charlotte Islands, on the west coast of North America, the Iroquois nation of eastern North America, Inca, Judaism and Christianity, the Mandinka of West Africa, and Islam. There are of course a multitude of other creation stories we know about, just like there are many others that we’ll never hear or know about because they’ve been lost over time. And because the genetic map of an organism of every living thing on the planet is linked in fundamental patterns, and are able to change and adapt in many definable ways, I have also included the chapter, Big Bang and Darwin.

The People of Mesopotamia
In the beginning there were two divine beings, Apsu, god of fresh water and Tiamat, god of salt water. Though at first separate, they one day united and chaos was created. From this chaos arose the four levels of creation. The sky, air, earth, and water. The god of the sky was An (Anu), who would become known as the father of all the gods who would appear after him. He represented the heavens, with his symbol being a star. The god of air and the wind was Enlil (Ellil), who was believed to be the cause of a great flood, due to his angry character. Then there was Enki (Ea), who at first, was just the god of the earth, but he would succeed Apsu and become the god of fresh water as well. Enki was the child of Ninhursag (Nintu), a consort of the sky-god, An. Enki is known for being the god who had saved mankind after a great flood and was also regarded as a fertility god who brought agriculture to the Sumerian people. He was believed to be a benevolent god, the source of wisdom and creativity, and would eventually become the supreme Sumerian deity.

Working as a team, these gods began to create their world. They first dug out channels in the earth which became the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and then proceeded to create the irrigation infrastructure on which the land would depend and would allow vegetation to grow. All this work exhausted the gods though and soon they rested. While they slumbered, they discussed how could they free themselves from the mundane and arduous tasks of creating a world, as well as creating for themselves the idle time they craved and felt they deserved, being that they were celestial, all-powerful gods.

Ninhursag and her son, Enki, came up with an idea. Grabbing fists of clay, they worked together and melded mankind out of the clay. Turning toward one of the more rebellious, lesser deities that was emerging out of the chaos, they grabbed him and killed him, mixing his blood with the clay. The blood gave life to the clay, as well as the divine essence that is a part of mankind, in the form of a soul that would never die. The problem was that the blood had come from a rebel god, so it was deemed to be naturally flawed. Undaunted the gods finally had a workforce to take over their tasks of creating the world. The rules for mankind were that they were to work each day and pay homage to their gods, in the form of praise, worship, and sacrifice. With mankind created to finish the job, the gods retreated to their celestial realm, to live lives of luxury and look down upon their creation.

Then one day a man named Adapa, out fishing upon the river, had his boat overturned by a powerful gust of wind. Scrambling onto the overturned hull he shook his fist at the sky and cursed the wind and everything else he could think of. Unfortunately the gods heard him and they summoned Adapa to appear before them. Adapa stood before the gods and gave such an excellent account of himself during his defence that the father of the gods, An became very impressed by this man. He offered Adapa the bread of eternal life and water. While Adapa decided what to do, the god of water, Enki whispered into Adapa’s ear and told him to reject the offer. So Adapa rejected the bread of eternal life and water and agreed to accept two other gifts that were offered to him, oil and a robe, but Adapa very quickly came to regret his decision. The oil turned out to be the type that was used to dress corpses, with the robe turning out to be a burial shroud. Thus, from that moment on, humans were condemned to mortality. Eventually Enlil (Ellil) god of the air and the wind would unseat An as the supreme god and become, “Father of the Gods and King of Heaven and Earth.”

Though the Mesopotamia people’s earliest gods were worshipped in the form of animals, soon after writing was invented in about 3000BC, the gods began to be described in the form of humans. Over time the people would recognize thousands of different gods, each associated with a different aspect of the universe and their lives. They felt each one of them had to have their own personal god or they would cease to survive. The people would become obsessed with divination and considered themselves to be at the mercy of their gods, reliant on divine goodwill for success in any goal or enterprise. To avoid giving the gods any reason to be angry with them at all, the people employed diviners to seek out omens and portents on earth, as well as in the night’s sky. Even sickness was thought of as a punishment for some transgression, perceived or not against their gods. Many times it was not even possible to know whether or not you had broken any rules. The diviners would gain power and become the earliest priests, who would control the population by retaining their power through an ideology that would arise out of creation myths that they themselves had created.

The priests held their power and would become wealthy, while at the same time they had the populations of their growing city-states believing that they had no free will, which was something only the gods held. The people accepted and believed themselves to be simple slaves to their leaders, priests, and gods.

Egypt
Egyptian creation stories took on different versions of how the earth was created, each attributed to a certain group of scribes and priests, depending on which temple and city they were from. Each story was equally accepted and regarded as no less valid than the next. Though each story is based on the belief that in the beginning the earth was covered with the “Waters of Chaos” and then a huge eruption occurred beneath the surface of the water. From this eruption arose a dark and formless void, known as Nun. Soon after, a primeval mound of earth rose from the depths and it was on this mound that the gods would create life. There are theories that the pyramids are based on the representation of this original primeval mound of creation.

According to the scribes of the Egyptian temple at Heliopolis, the supreme creator was the god Atum, “the All.” At the first sunrise, a lotus flower had sprouted from the ground of the primeval mound, this was Atum, who then created all things. Within himself he held the life force of the universe, the creative power of the sun. The sun god took the form of Re (Ra) and was depicted as a falcon, ram, or a human with a falcon’s or ram’s head. According to two different versions, Atum either ejaculated or spat out, twin gods, Shu, god of air and Tefnut, goddess of moisture. Shu and Tefnut quickly threw themselves at each other and produced Geb, god of earth, and the sky god, Nut. Geb and Nut quickly had intercourse together as well, but Shu stepped in and separated them, but not before they had produced four children, Osiris, Isis, Seth and Nephthys.

The Memphis temple version of creation was based on the idea that the primeval mound that had arisen out of the waters of chaos was in fact the creative world of the god Ptah, who used his mind, and thought the world into being, thus making all things of the earth by simply speaking their names.

According to the temple of Hermopolis, life was formed by the eight gods of the “Ogdoad,” who lived in the waters of chaos. There was Nun and his counterpart Naunet, who represented the waters, along with Heh and his consort, the goddess Hauhet, who represented infinity. Kek and his companion Kauket represented the darkness, the god and goddess, Amun and Amaunet, the hidden forces of life. Working as a group, and combining their energies, they would create the primeval mound of creation. The sun then exploded upon the world and life began. Amun would soon become the “King of all Gods,” and is depicted in human form, but is also seen as a ram, a goose, and as Amun-Kematef (“He who has completed his moment”), in the form of a snake shedding its skin in a constant, forever cycle of renewal. The Egyptians also believed that in the beginning, before the written word, their rulers here on earth were in fact, the gods themselves. The first king was the sun god Re. His realm became known as the golden age of plenty. But then a day came when he abandoned the world for a celestial realm, taking the sun with him. Mankind felt they had fallen from grace at the loss of the life-giving sun and quickly turned against each other and began to fight amongst themselves. As he watched from above, Re quickly sent Thoth, god of wisdom, down to settle the people and restore order. Re then appointed a succession of gods to rule in his place. Some believe this to be the Horus-line of rulers, the first pharaohs.

The twin goddesses’ Nekhbet (Vulture Goddess of Upper Egypt) and Wadjet (Cobra Goddess of Lower Egypt) would become known as the Mighty Ones, and whose roles would be to protect the pharaoh, with Nekhbet able to use her outstretched wings to act as a shield, and Wadjet able to spit fire into the eyes of the reigning pharaoh’s enemies. Indeed one of the royal titles of the pharaoh was “He of the Two Ladies.” In her role of directing the forces of aggression and destruction, the Lioness Goddess Sekhmet also guarded the pharaoh and was able to cause pestilence and disease. The shrewd and perceptive judgement of the northern goddess Neith (Mistress of the Bow and Ruler of Arrows) was respected and sought out by the other gods, with the Scorpion Goddess, Selket another maternal Guardian of the king.

The Goddess Hathor was represented as a cow, and was the goddess of love and beauty. She was also known as the “Mistress of Darkness,” who oversaw music, dancing and all forms of revelry. Also known as the Lady of the West, and though she received souls of the dead in the afterlife, she would become a much loved and joyful goddess, and became one of the peoples most popular goddesses.

Another myth accounts for Osiris being the first king, inheriting the right by being the firstborn of the four offspring of the gods Geb (God of the Earth) and Nut (Goddess of the Far-Reaching Sky). Osiris ruled alongside his sister Isis and together they brought peace and prosperity to the world and gave wisdom to mankind. Isis was the first daughter of Geb and Nut and over time would merge with many of the attributes of the goddess Hathor, and become the Goddess of Motherhood, Magic and Fantasy. She would be known as the ideal mother and wife, a friend to both, the downtrodden and the wealthy. One of her many other titles was the Mistress of the House of Life and she would become one of the most powerful figures in the Egyptian pantheon. Osiris was murdered by the god Seth (Lord of Chaos), his brother, who took his crown, dismembered him and scattered the remains around the world. The grieving Isis would use her magical powers to gather up all the pieces and revive Osiris. The virgin Isis then gave birth to a son, Horus (Lord of the Sky), whose eyes were the sun and the moon. As soon as Horus reached adulthood he would avenge Osiris’ death, and take back the crown. All the gods supported Horus in his claim of the throne except for the Sun god Re, who thought the stronger Seth should have kept the throne. Horus would be the last in a long line of gods who had ruled Egypt, after him, would arise the pharaohs, who would now be counselled and aided by priests, who began to record great stories of gods and creation. The priests themselves began to accumulate great wealth and power, which rivalled the pharaohs themselves. The gods became to be many and were nearly all symbolized aspects of the natural world, such as the sun, sky, land and the river. The early priests also had an incredible knowledge of the sky and the movements of celestial objects, which led them to be able to keep track of time, keep records, create calenders, and keep order in the world by performing the necessary rituals at the proper time of the day or season. They appeased the gods and kept the general population eternally grateful and afraid at the same time.

These priests would invent writing and be the only ones that could read the words, which the population thought to be sacred and divine, and which was believed to hold great power. It was something that the general population felt they could never attain themselves. Great temples would be built, which the priests maintained and directed for the good of the country. Scrolls and the best of the artisans works were kept inside them. They were also totally forbidden to the public, and in many cases to the nobility as well. Only the astronomer-priests could enter them. The priests would become the agents between the mortal and the divine worlds. The knowledge they gained they shared only with the pharaoh and the nobility, thus keeping their power intact. They would honour, soon to be, hundreds of gods, with a constant stream of offerings, festivals, music and dance. Every aspect of ancient Egyptian life would have a god, each represented by combined elements that were both male and female, active and passive, aggressive and temperate.

As with most all inhabitants of the earth, the sky, especially on a clear night, was and is everything, with the most supreme being, the almighty sun. To the Egyptians the sun rising in the east was the god Khepri (the evolving one), represented by the scarab or dung beetle pushing the day along. As the sun rose it was also known as the falcon god, Horus (the far one) or Harakhty (Horus of the horizon). Combining Khepri and Horus was the single solar deity, Re-Harakhty (the Dawn god). As the sun set in the west it was Re-Atum and it would then be swallowed by the sky goddess Nut, as they sank down into the underworld of Duat. All night the sun god, Re, confronted the forces of darkness and the giant serpent of chaos, Apep (Apophis). With each dawn, Re would emerge victorious, reborn in the east as a child of Nut, amid the “redness of her birth blood”. With each day after, Re would come to represent life, death, and rebirth.

The Mayan
In the beginning there was nothing except the sky and a vast ocean. Then one day the sky gods met with the ocean gods and they talked about the need for worshippers, and where these beings could live. They all agreed that to create the earth, they would simply say “earth”,which they did, and suddenly a cloud that, “formed and unfolded “, arose out of the water. The earthly realm was square and flat with four sides and four corners. Above this earthly realm was the celestial realm which had thirteen layers, each with its own god, and is from where they would tell stories in the night sky using the movements of the stars and planets. Below the earth lay the underworld, Xibalba, which had nine layers, also each with its own god. At the center, rising up through all three levels was the World Tree, with four other trees standing at each corner of the earth, holding up the sky.

Each side of the square and flat earthly realm, faced either north, south, east or west, with each direction having its own distinct colour. The east was the red of the rising sun, the west was black, signifying death, the south was yellow and the north was white. The center of the earthly realm was green, representing vegetation and life.

The Mayans had many gods, but the sun was the most important element in the life of the Maya. The sun was a male god known as Kinich Ahau, the “Sun-faced Lord”. He had created the light and heat that had created life. In the morning, Kinich Ahau was portrayed as being young, but as the day progressed he aged and by sunset was old, bearded, and withered, only to be reborn the next morning. The moon was a goddess who at first was just as bright as the sun, but one day the other gods threw a rabbit into her face to make her paler.
Hieroglyphic inscriptions gave the date of Mayan creation as 13.0.0.0.0.4 Ahau 8 Cumku. By using the two main calenders of the Maya this translates to Aug.13th 3114BC, or about the time that extreme global environmental change occurred due to a catastrophic event, and was recorded the world over. Interestingly enough, it is also about the same time as the great flood of the Bible, of the Mesopotamia plain in the Middle East.

The Mayans believe the earth goes through cycles, though unlike other creation myths, their cycles of time are more determined by the solar and lunar cycles of the sky. The current world age is a cycle of about 5,200 years and is due to end on December 23, 2012, though it is rarely determined to be apocalyptic in any way, but rather a change in universal consciousness. Even up to the present time, each year, on the night of August13th, Orion rises in the sky near to a point at which the Milky Way crosses the ecliptic and then, just before dawn, it reaches its highest point in the sky. The Mayans believed that this is when the gods placed the first thing onto the earth, the “Three Stones of Creation,” which is interpreted as the setting up of the first fireplace.

Other accounts of the Mayan creation tell that the earth was supported on a turtle’s back and since they believed the constellation of Orion was a turtle, the three stars of Orion (Alnitak, Saiph, and Rigel) are linked to the “Three Stones of Creation.”

After the gods had placed the first three stones, they began the task of somehow creating worshippers. At first they created animals. Instead of worship and praise all they heard from the animals were grunts, hisses, chirps, howls, and squawks. This didn’t impress the gods at all, so they then went about trying to create a human. On the first attempt to create a human they used mud. Though the human they created could speak, what was coming out of its mouth made no sense at all and its form soon dissolved into a shapeless puddle of slime. On their next attempt the gods made humans made out of wood. Once again these wood people looked human, spoke, and seemed to be very attracted to each other. Unfortunately they lacked a soul and the gods saw that these humans would not recognize them as divine beings, which would make them therefore useless. The gods became ever more angry and frustrated and began to destroy these wooden people by many means, including a great flood and attacks from wild animals like the jaguar. They even got the domesticated animals to turn against the people. Still not satisfied the gods even ordered the peoples’ cooking utensils, like pots sitting in a fire and grinding stones, to attack, at which time incredible damage was caused. Soon most all of the wooden people were destroyed. The very few that were left standing were transformed into monkeys to live forever in the forests.

The gods regrouped and decided to give one last attempt at creating humans. They each gathered up handfuls of maize kernels, then the goddess, Xmucane took the kernels and ground them up nine times. Adding some water, she made a paste, which she used to create the first four people. These people could speak and be understood by the gods, and seemed to hold up well to the earth’s environment, and most important, the gods found that these humans were able to quickly learn how to worship and make appropriate sacrifices to their creators. This made the gods very happy. They finally had their worshippers and began to teach them how they should perceive the world.

And from the very beginning, these first Mayans began to study the skies in reverence to their creation and to seek direction. With astronomer-priests soon arising, interpreting what the sky was saying and controlling any knowledge gained through the use of fear of the gods, they were able to keep the people, and their rulers, in their place and subdued.

China
In the beginning there was nothing, no light, no dark, no hot, no cold, nor time or space. But within this formless mass was a slimy substance that contained all matter. It was called Grand Unity (Tai Yi). Out of this nothingness, water was born, and when it mixed with Grand Unity, heaven was created. Heaven then mixed with the Grand Unity and made the earth. Heaven and earth then united to produce the spirits, the sun, and the moon, as well as intellect, spirituality, and moral qualities. As soon as this was all accomplished and everything had come together, the Yin and Yang were born, who in turn, gave birth to the four seasons. The two natures’ Yin and Yang were in the beginning only shade and sunshine, though they were made up of all the energy and matter of the world. Soon enough they became a series of oppositions that would carry onto the humans that were to still be created and represent both inner and outer, private and public, good and bad, male and female. The four seasons that had been created brought forth both hot and cold, after which moisture and dryness appeared, which would from then on determine the cycles of the seasons.

Everything was now set for the creation of humans. Chinese mythology has two different explanations for the creation of mankind, one about a man, and one about a woman.

The man, Pan Gu “Coiled Antiquity” was the personification of Grand Unity. When he neared his death, his body suddenly exploded. His breath became the wind, his left eye the sun, his right eye the moon, his arms and legs the four quarters of the world, his blood and semen the rivers and seas. The lice on his skin were touched by the wind and these became people.

The woman was Nu Wa. She used clay of the earth to make people, the noble ones were yellow, the meaner ones were darker. Another version of Nu Wa is that she coupled with her brother, Fuxi, the only other person alive, and together they made children. Whichever method was used, it was agreed that the body was to be made up of two elements, or souls. The Po, which was viscous and material, and Hun, which was vaporous and transparent. When combined they produced life, but upon death Hun would separate from the body, as it did when people slept, where its wanderings produced dreams.
The Chinese universe was complete, and contained three realms, the heaven, the earth and humankind, with an emperor becoming the living link among them. The first emperor was Fuxi, brother and husband of NuWa. He was responsible for all important cultural inventions, including the first marriage. Fuxi would invent the carpenter’s square, the hexagrams that would become the book, I Ching, and also would become the models for the building of nets used for hunting and fishing.

The second emperor was Shen Nong, the divine farmer, who would continue on Fuxi’s work, inventing the plow and the first market, where the people could exchange goods. Next up was the emperor Huang Di, the yellow emperor. He would invent armour, medicine, pottery, and the compass. These first three emperors would forever be known as the “Three August Emperors.”

The August emperors would be followed by the Five Emperors of Antiquity. Zhuan Xu, Di Ku, Yao, Shun, and Yu. Collectively they made government an institution, with emperor Yu The Great, dividing China into nine regions, each with it’s own particular traits.

Very much like other ancient creation stories, the stars and planets were believed to be gods and that their movements affected people and events on Earth. Chinese mythology also included the idea that the human realm had corresponding effects in the natural world, though not necessarily reactions, and vice versa.

The five visible planets in the sky at that time were Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. Each were each believed to have their own personalities, with Jupiter considered the most important because it governed time as it appeared to pass from one constellation to another, and like elsewhere, time was deemed to be cyclical rather than linear. These five planets also could be related to the myth of the Wu Xing or “Five Motions” or “Five Phases” of which all matter was thought to be composed. Of all the ancient Chinese myths, the most important aspect seems to be the idea that the universe is a self-contained entity with no abstract, supernatural, and supreme being outside of it, and that civilization is a legacy from generations of divine beings and imperial ancestors.

The Ainu of Japan
The Ainu people of Hokkaido recount that in the beginning their cosmology consisted of six heavens and six hells where gods, demons, and animals lived. Demons lived in the lower heavens. Amongst the stars and the clouds lived the lesser gods. In the highest heaven lived Kamui, the creator god, and his servants. His realm was surrounded by a mighty, metal wall and the only way in was through a great iron gate.

Kamui made the world a vast, round ocean that rested on the backbone of an enormous trout. As the trout sucked in the ocean and spit it out again he made the tides and whenever the trout moved it would cause earthquakes. One day Kamui looked down on the watery world and decided to make something of it. He sent down a water Wagtail to do the work. By fluttering over the waters with its wings and by trampling the sand with its feet and beating it with its tail, the wagtail created patches of dry land. In this way islands were raised to float upon the ocean.

When the animals who lived up in the heavens saw how beautiful the world was, they begged Kamui to let them go and live on it, and he did. But Kamui also made many other creatures especially for the world. The first people, the Ainu, had bodies of earth, hair of chickweed, and spines made from sticks of willow. Kamui sent Aioina, “the divine man,” down from heaven to teach the Ainu how to hunt and to cook, after which the people soon began to multiply.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

sunrise photo by Sean Macentee : http://farm1.static.flickr.com/39/86898564_8450ac24a7_m.jpg

earth photo: http://farm1.static.flickr.com/39/86898564_8450ac24a7_m.jpg