Is Peter Thiel correct that in stating that less democracy is desirable and required to save capitalism?

Well…hmm…Thiel appears to exhibit some fairly psychopathic ideation, along with a paucity of emotional intelligence — a combination that is routinely rewarded by modern capitalism. Among the many things he simply doesn’t understand or appreciate is human motivation itself: why do people do what they do? In his universe, the will to power/wealth/superiority is really the only viable, universal prime cause. There is nothing else. This fundamental failure (of both imagination and cogent observation of the human condition) could have been influenced by Thiel’s exposure to folks like Rothbard, Rand, Friedman, Mises and the like; but I think the starting point in this case is just an inner brokenness and lack of cognitive-emotive facility. Thiel is stuck.

And it is that stuckness — that profound limitation — which leads Thiel to his conclusions about democracy. It’s a bit like a child insisting that a dog ate his homework. Blaming welfarism, feminism, progressivism, socialism…or any other “social justice” agenda for the failures of capitalism is…well, it’s just stupid. Really stupid. Capitalism is its own worst enemy, and, with a brief and unique exception of laissez faire in Sweden during the late 1800s, has otherwise universally ended up eating its own tail without socialistic and democratic reforms. Why? Because of natural monopolies, resource depletion, market saturation, the spread of price-inelastic demand across most commodities, lack of profit incentive for public goods, increasing concentrations of wealth and exponentially expanding wealth disparities, negative externalities, inevitable wage stagnation, and a host of other factors. Democracy has absolutely nothing to do with any of these. In fact, it is usually democracy and socialized approaches that contain capitalism’s drive to self-immolate; they are the only reason capitalism’s inevitable death has been delayed.

So, just like the Presidential candidate Thiel supported, and the counterproductive US economic agenda playing itself out now around the globe, Thiel’s ideas in this area are woefully misinformed and, ultimately, really destructive.

My 2 cents.

What keeps people from seeing through Trump’s corrupt heart?

In all seriousness, while it’s always dangerous to presume we know what’s goin on within anyone else’s heart, I think there is enough evidence to support an assumption that Trump is, at best, horrifically self-absorbed and self-serving, destructively impulsive and highly irrational, a compulsive liar, recklessly overconfident in his own abilities, and misinformed to a truly alarming degree…all while holding the most powerful elected office on planet Earth. There are other characteristics that are evident, to be sure, but these alone should allow us to speculate with a fair amount of confidence about the “corruptness” of Trump’s interiority. “Corrupt” is of course a morally loaded term, and I think Trump is likely more amoral…with loyalty to his person (along with an unseemly expectation for flattery) being the only really “moral” priority in his emotional vocabulary. That said…why is it that so many people simply cannot see the obviousness of this man’s chaotic buffoonery, and just how destructive it is to the well-being of everyone…? There are a few options to consider:

1. Projection and denial. People do tend to project what they want to see on others — especially leaders and celebrities — and especially when some of the other factors listed below are in play….

2. Desperation and feelings of victimhood. I think some of the more sympathetic answers touch on this one. Basically, people who feel left behind hear promises that sound pretty good to them about being re-included (culturally, economically, etc.). Of course, compared to a majority of other people on the planet, Trump voters have had it pretty darn good…and for a very long time, and have contributed to their own situation by participating in conspicuous consumption, undisciplined spending and increased debt, poor self-care, and buying into fear-mongering. So the feelings of desperation and victimhood are…well…in many cases a good example of misattributed causality (and lack of personal accountability).

3.Low IQ or low EQ. Some research indicates that human IQ appears to have been declining in developed countries over the past couple of decades, even as population has increased. Simply put, there are just a lot more dumb people in the world. Along the same lines, it appears obvious (to me at least) that the EQ of conservative-leaning Americans has always been low…and appears to be getting lower. This combination of low IQ and EQ understandably leads to very poor decisions.

4. Consumer conditioning. This is a subtler issue, but equally pervasive. People who live in commercialistic cultures like the U.S. have been conditioned — over multiple generations — to respond to false advertising (miracle diets, etc.), to trust con artists (TV evangelists, pyramid schemes, etc.), and otherwise invest in “consuming” solutions for their problems, while taking little responsibility for the actual causes…or eventual consequences. This is a prominent feature of Western style capitalism, and it has contributed immensely to poor political reasoning and choices, and lethargic participation in democratic institutions.

5. Many folks were duped by Trump, and are now embarrassed to admit it…so now they are “doubling down” on their bad decision. When people are hoodwinked by conspiracy theories, deceptive campaign promises, distortions of reality, fake news, social media memes engineered by foreign States, and all manner of other nefarious things that were in play in the 2016 elections, they may feel compelled to invest more and more in their mistaken judgements in order to self-justify and post-rationalize to save face.

6. A “deluding influence.” This may be a tough one for non-religious folks to swallow, but perhaps there is some supernatural force at work here, causing people “to believe what is false.” Or perhaps it’s not supernatural at all, but a consequence of poor diets, pesticides and electromagnetic pollution. Or maybe solar flare activity is causing it. Or some sort of epigenetic breakdown induced by high-stress wage slavery…? I dunno, but it does seem as though “crazy” is the new normal.

My 2 cents.

Why are Western democracies failing...?

Thanks for the question.

Michael Kupperberg makes an excellent point in his answer, as does Jeff Franz-LIen in his comments to it. (See original Quora question here: https://www.quora.com/Be-it-resolved-that-Western-democracies-are-failing-What-is-your-case-for-the-affirmative) This “left behind” cultural and economic phenomenon is certainly one piece of the picture. Here are some thoughts on the rest of that picture…

1. **Western democracies have lost their way because they have forgotten what democracy is about: thoughtful engagement in democratic institutions by the electorate itself. **In large part this has been engineered by the folks who want to retain power and wealth: wherever the electorate can be effectively manipulated, demoralized and/or disenfranchised to produce desired outcomes, methods will be used aggressively to do so. As a result of the “consumer” mentality in Western democracies (i.e. thinking they can remain disengaged, spoon-fed information, and called-to-action only once every few years to response to well-funded ad campaigns), the electorates of those countries are increasingly subject to coercive manipulation. We see this over-and-over again with surveys that show those who voted for something (Prop 8 in California, Brexit in the UK, etc.) sour to what they voted for in growing numbers AFTER the election is over and they begin to check the facts. The well-funded persuaders and manipulators, on the other hand, are well-versed in tactics that evoke strong short-term emotions around a given issue, and thus secure the passing or defeating of a given candidate or legislation. But the blame can also be laid (and should be laid, more vocally, IMO) at the feet of lazy voters who don’t educate themselves about a given candidate or issue, and just wait to be told how to vote by their favorite authorities (news media, talk show hosts, blogs, campaign ads, etc.).

2. **The world has become much more complex, interdependent, and multifaceted — making democratic decisions much more difficult.** Black-and-white reasoning doesn’t work well for most modern, highly nuanced issues, which inherently invoke myriad interdependencies. Throw some unintended consequences into the mix, along the deliberate corruption of data and information warfare (i.e. climate change deniers, disallowing the CDC to collect gun violence statistics, etc.), and the picture becomes so muddy that people really don’t understand the parameters of a given political position, policy or other important and pressing issues. Of course, this situation is taken advantage of by those same nefarious actors called out in issue #1 above, making the situation much more confusing and challenging than it otherwise would be.

My 2 cents.

What actions can we do that contribute to humanity becoming a spacefaring civilization?

Get our collective act together. This would include:

1. Ending militarism and WMD.

2. Moving away from highly toxic and destructive crony capitalism to a more egalitarian political economy.

3. Thinking more collectively about solving problems that affect all of us — rather than individualistically about what “works best for ME.”

4. Being more understanding and inclusive about “difference” (If our societies are intolerant of LGBTQ, women, or people with different skin tones, how could we ever learn to get along with aliens?).

5. Exercising the “precautionary principle” regarding new technologies and innovations, instead of rushing to adopt them.

6. Getting more of a handle on our own well-being, in a truly holistic and harmonious sense. If we aren’t truly “well” — mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually — then we shouldn’t be spreading our illnesses around the galaxy (remember Smallpox and Native Americans…?).

7. And, as a general principle that influences all of the above, becoming much better at understanding and addressing our own limitations and shortcomings — individually and collectively.

In other words, we need to grow up a bit as a species. For some time I have theorized that other spacefaring intelligences are likely patiently waiting for us to mature enough to meet them. I would speculate that, right now, they are very disappointed in human beings, who seem to be moving backwards rather than forwards in terms of societal stability and individual development.

My 2 cents.

Let's say we form a word for an object given by our perception. The object can be animate or inanimate. Do you think the word refers to the actual thing or our idea/concept of the thing?

Great question — thanks for the question Danijel.

So here’s my take….

1) Some words are purely representational and symbolic.

2) Some words — or bodies of words — may actually embody the essence-of-a-thing, or “the thing as-it-is.”

3) And some words or bodies of words may actually create a thing.

In my view these three different operations of language are usually unconscious — humans don’t, in general, actively navigate the world around them via consciously ‘code-switching’ between these operations. Some may try to do this…usually those who have spent their lives intending to either a) understand and appreciate their own consciousness and agency in the world in an intuitive and introspective way, or b) have been educated about a particular approach to consciousness and agency in a systematic way. Still, extensive mastery of language in this context is IMO extremely rare.

Some examples will probably be helpful here. The first case — pure representation — is fairly easy to grasp and likely needs no examples (it seems as though the question itself is predicated on this assumption). The second case, embodying essence, is perhaps a fundamental function of consciousness itself, as evident in an infant’s gurgling as it is in a poet’s gift or a mystic’s insights. We see this in the phonemes “ma,” “muh” and “meh” which are an almost universal component of all the words referring “mother” or “motherly” in any language. How is this possible, unless there is some basic, essential unity-of-association between a given sound and its particular representation (or evocation) in our emotional experience…? In other words, in some instances a given word touches upon “the thing as-it-is” — at least in the context of universal human experience and response.

Poetic and mystical examples follow along similar lines, with kindred or identical sounds, words and phrases in many different languages (which do not share common linguistic roots) evoking similar meanings, contexts or experiences. Atman, alma, anda, pneuma, arima, anima, anam, jan (жан), neshama (נֶפֶשׁ) all relate to spirit or soul, for example. Likewise, metaphors that relate to happiness as a “rising up” experience are cross-cultural, near universals, as are idioms expressing anger or frustration that relate to being enclosed and trying to get out. Some linguistic theorists surmise that such universals reflect our common neurophysiology, or parallel developments in culture, and these are certainly viable explanations. Some behavioral scientists have even suggested that “moral grammar” — and the culture that arises around it — is itself a feature of our biology. Another explanation is that there are universal patterns, structures, energies and processes that occur on a quantum level across all of biology and consciousness — again, just a theory. And, adding to the mix, there are also intuitions of a unitive principle behind all consciousness and spirit. These theories are themselves representations from one perspective. From another perspective they are sussing out a shared ground — of being, becoming, evolving, a common cascade of interdependencies, and so on; that is, they are embodying essence. Personally, I’m willing to bet that all of these theories offer a piece of the puzzle (that is, that all of them have some degree of descriptive accuracy).

Lastly, we come to creative language. On one level, this idea is as simple as one person writing fiction, and another “experiencing” that story as a felt reality in their own mind. On another level, there is the suggestion that language itself has formative and projective capacity on human development and activity (Sapir-Whorf, etc.) — movements like “nonviolent communication” have been heavily influenced by this line of thinking. And on yet another level, there is the concept of logos within various Christian and Hermetic traditions, and the panentheism across various other traditions, that link mind and language and unfolding reality in interpenetrating ways. Even certain schools of philosophy have addressed the possibility of the projective capacity of mind on reality (from various forms of dualism all the way up to quantum consciousness), and here language can become a component of that projection as well. I’m covering a lot of ground here that probably requires more detailed elaboration, but the basic idea is that “a word” is much more than a description of a concept — it has its own substance, its own energy, its own essence, which links it more directly to the creation of other phenomena.

So this is a fascinating question, with substantial capacity for ever-broadening exploration. The danger, I think, is trying to reduce language and thought to mere representation, when there may be a lot more going on….

My 2 cents.

I am Interested in the overview of the current debates about the nature of the mind, which book(s) do you recommend?

Thanks for the question Danijel. Hmmm. There are a number of academic-flavored surveys available that cover different theories of consciousness…is that what you are looking for? There is William Seagar’s latest edition of Theories of Consciousness, for example. Then you have various proponents of their own approaches who will elaborate — in the course of describing their own work — on contrasting approaches. The work of Chalmers, Searle, Dehaene, Damasio, etc. all do this to varying degrees. There are also some good summaries online, such as this one: Consciousness (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). If you haven’t already read it, I also recommend McGilchrist’s The Master and His Emissary for a compelling interdisciplinary narrative. Another book that I found helpful was Ken Wilber’s Integral Psychology. To complete a multidimensional picture, IMO van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score adds an essential element to the mix. And, lastly, I would offer you my own Memory : Self to round out the recommendations. Many of these books — the last three in particular — focus on different aspects of mind, but will nevertheless help construct a well-rounded picture of the debates that percolate through our modern discourse.

My 2 cents.

Does capitalism have a negative affect on people’s sanity?

The evidence keeps accumulating that conditions which are amplified by capitalist values, work environments and economic systems do seem to have a negative impact on human well-being overall — and yes, specifically on human mental health. Some of this appears to be direct causality, and some of it more indirect. For example:

1) Accelerating (technological and societal) change driven by rapid product cycles and growth-dependent production induces stress, which in turn increases stress-related mental illness and dysfunction (depression, anxiety, etc.) to clinical levels. Would this still occur if there wasn’t so much pressure, created by the profit motive, to constantly produce and consume “bigger, better, faster, cheaper, easier” products? Possibly, but likely not at the same pace, or with such a precipitous impact.

2) Many products are designed to become addictive — or at least to create a dependent consumer — again in service to the profit motive. Everything from cigarettes to fast food to social media to video games have been designed from the ground up to “hook” consumers into ever-increasing and prolonged use. This, in turn, has led to some fairly serious mental health impacts, such as ADHD, cognitive impairments and distortions linked with prolonged sleep deprivation, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, emotional dysregulation, and so forth.

3) Capitalist work environments create some of the most emotionally and mentally antagonistic conditions humanity has ever seen. Humans performing highly repetitive tasks for excessively long work-days and work-weeks, while under constant stress of losing their job if they don’t perform; high-pressure sales environments where employees are likewise subject to constant fear of not meeting quotas, and viciously compete with each other for sales; corporate culture that constantly lies to employees to extract the tiniest bit more productivity from them, and encourages them to lie to customers to maintain profits and avoid losses. These environments create stressed, fearful, reactive, deceitful human beings who, in turn, are rewarded for essentially harming each other and the customers they serve. This is a pretty pathological situation, and shapes pretty pathological people.

4) The more indirect consequences of capitalism on mental health are a result of negative externalities. Chemical pollutants from “rush to market” mass production, poor nutrition from foods designed to maximize profit, disregard for electromagnetic pollution, and other environmental impacts almost certainly have a deleterious effect on human mental health. In fact, these may be impacting the human genome itself, as we have seen a marked rise in things like autism spectrum disorder.

These are just a few examples, but the real issue is the epigenetic impact of these capitalist pressures on the human species. Our children are now inheriting the mental illnesses induced by capitalist environments and culture…which means that, even if we counter the causes, the negative impacts will still be passed on to future generations. It’s a pretty bad situation. I liken it to Colony Collapse Disorder among bee populations: eventually, capitalism will so thoroughly undermine human well-being that our entire society will simply fail. It’s just a matter of time.

My 2 cents.

Comment from Isaac Armstrong: "I wish I could upvote this, as I agree with most points made, but autism spectrum disorder’s rise is probably a consequence of expanding the range of diagnosis, for example the documents that resulted in me being diagnosed with developmental delays with autism like symptoms on review based on newer diagnostic requirements consistently results in a diagnosis of autism - something about a vital symptom for diagnosis that is no longer required.

I remember reading somewhere that even earlier than that, it was defined only in the exact form that the guy who gave it the name autism saw it, most definitely not including aspergers in the autism spectrum disorders.
This is a bit of a long comment so thanks for reading it and in summary autism spectrum disorder is not a good measure as it has been broadened."


Thanks Isaac. I have read about the diagnosis issue before and agree that this is a huge variable that must be accounted for — especially in epidemiological analysis of ASD going back any number of decades (as reinforced by studies like this one: Diagnostic change and the increased prevalence of autism | International Journal of Epidemiology | Oxford Academic). However, even though genetics alone does account for some 50% of ASD, there is increasing evidence that environmental triggers (including some we can squarely place at the feet of capitalism) play a significant role in ASD’s phenotypical expression. You may be interested in this article regarding environmental factors: Environmental factors influencing the risk of autism As well as this one regarding genome-wide analysis: The Role of Epigenetic Change in Autism Spectrum Disorders. There is growing evidence (in studies that control for the very diagnostic variables you allude to) that the etiology of ASD is linked to risk factors that are indeed increasing, and that ASD itself is indeed increasing among the population. For more about this: The prevalence puzzle: Autism counts and Socioeconomic Status and the Increased Prevalence of Autism in California. I think the most definitive research is yet to be completed…but it IS underway. Take a look at CRAIG NEWSCHAFFER’s work and this: EARLI Study - Research Into Early Causes of Autism.

I hope this is helpful info.

Is pastoral art/literature an expression of human disdain towards urbanization and the alienation of people from their species-essence (human nature) in a capitalist society?

Thanks for the question Douglas.

This question (or some version of it) has actually been widely debated in the arts, philosophy and even religion for many decades. A fairly pervasive view is that yes, many of the creative, philosophical and spiritual subjects and expressions (across all mediums, really) just after the industrial revolution began were a reaction to that industrialization and the alienation of human beings from natural environments, from their historical social relationships, and indeed from their spiritual nature. This observed pattern/reaction was a fairly dominant feature of discourse at that time, and has persisted across multiple fields of study. Here is just one example of that view (from Romanticism and the Industrial Revolution):

“Romanticism was also closely tied to the Industrial Revolution in Europe. From the latter decades of the 18th century to the middle of the 19th century, most of Europe and particularly what is now the United Kingdom saw a massive migration of rural workers into large metropolitan areas. These workers were making the jump in order to work in the large factories that were springing up all over metropolitan areas as manufacturing capacity, aided by steam engines and copious supplies of coal, exploded all across Europe. Romanticism also played upon this drastic societal change, as many in Europe witnessed the large-scale pollution of coal-burning industry and the problems it caused, including water pollution and incredibly poor air quality for many major cities, as well as the many health problems that sprang up in its wake. Romanticism emphasized nature over industry, a point where again we can see the dominant force of the age (the Industrial Revolution) itself helping to create an art movement that began as a foil to that dominant force and then grew.”


Along with the Romanticism of the visual arts, literature and even music, there was also an equivalent romanticism in philosophy and a parallel transcendentalism in spirituality. Here alienation from Nature itself was a chief concern — as was the Enlightenment’s seeming overdependence on empiricism, rationalism and reductionism (a la Descartes, etc.). From 19th Century Romantic Aesthetics:

“We have fallen out with nature, and what was once (as we believe) One is now in conflict with itself, and mastery and servitude alternate on both sides. It often seems to us as if the world were everything and we nothing, but often too as if we were everything and the world nothing. (Hölderlin, Preface to Hyperion, HSA 3: 326).”


And from Romanticism:

“Philosophical Romanticism holds that the universe is a single unified and interconnected whole, and full of values, tendencies and life, not merely objective lifeless matter. The Romantic view is that reason, objectivity and analysis radically falsify reality by breaking it up into disconnected lifeless entities, and the best way of perceiving reality is through some subjective feeling or intuition, through which we participate in the subject of our knowledge, instead of viewing it from the outside. Nature is an experience, and not an object for manipulation and study, and, once experienced, the individual becomes in tune with his feelings and this is what helps him to create moral values.”

One of the more influential thinkers and writers of this era was Henry David Thoreau, and I would encourage you to read any-and-all of his writings here: Thoreau’s Writings. It’s actually pretty entertaining reading, and IMO still holds relevance and potency.

As you know, Marx himself expounded extensively about a similar flavor of alienation, unnatural rearrangement of social relations, and destruction of the creative capacities and nature of human beings. His take, however, was that the heart of the problem was less empiricism or rationalism, but rather capitalism in concert with industrialization — and in fact he sought to examine the underlying socio-economic dynamics using the tools of the Enlightenment (math, science, rational discourse, etc).

Since the time of those initial reactions and expressions, advanced human societies have largely adapted to urban, industrialized life, along with its cultural diversity and affluence, individualistic isolation, increased pollution and violence, wide array of interests and discourse, etc. — that is, its many pluses and minuses. There are still movements that seek to reconnect people with each other and with Nature, as well as intermittent cultural convulsions when modernity’s negative externalities become too dangerous or extreme (the 1960s in the U.S. was, I think, a fairly pronounced example of this). But for the most part, like proverbial frogs in a pot of water that is slowly coming to a boil, human beings have largely become numb to the deleterious impacts of industrialized, urbanized life. In fact, some folks will fiercely defend its “advantages.” But, as increasing breakdowns and challenges seem to attest — and here I am referring to everything from increases in mental illness and autism, to increases in cancer and diabetes, to the steady decline in human IQ, to the increasing depression and anxiety of each generation, to the increasing homogenization and nutritional emptiness of our food supply, etc. — the “frog” of humanity is slowly being destroyed by everything the Romantics were railing against.

My 2 cents.

Why do American Christians tend to gravitate towards free-markets and economic liberty, instead of socialism?

Thanks for the question Alex.

I think the OP’s question is based on a popular misconception. If you look at the data (see Pew’s Religious Landscape Study), those who self-identify as Christian in the U.S. are actually fairly evenly divided between liberal and conservative viewpoints (i.e. pro-government programs to help the poor vs. anti-government, pro life vs. pro choice, supportive of same-sex marriage vs. opposed, protecting the environment vs. less business regulation, etc.). It is true that these proportions don’t mirror the general population precisely — Christians do tend to skew slightly more conservative on certain social, political and economic issues. Again however, within the Christian community, folks are fairly evenly divided between liberal and conservative viewpoints.

So that leaves us with two distinct questions:

1) Why are misconceptions about U.S. Christians so out-of-line with the available data?

2) Why do any Christians at all “gravitate towards free-markets and economic liberty, instead of socialism?”

These are fairly easy to answer, IMO.

First, pervasive misconceptions about Christians and Christian beliefs have persisted for millenia…so that’s not exactly new. What is new is a media landscape that loves sensationalism, and that reliably turns its attention to the most vocal and “colorful” variations of any given group. All environmentalists aren’t vegans, all gun owners don’t love the NRA, all Muslims aren’t terrorists or terrorist supporters, and all Christians don’t want to overturn Roe v. Wade. But the strong cultural memes that circulate via mass media are compelled to capitalize on loud, combative, sensational extremes so they can maximize advertising dollars. So those who passively and unquestioningly consume that media can arrive at some pretty bizarre generalizations about various groups. Not that those generalizations have no basis, but they tend to focus on highly exaggerated “far end of the spectrum” squeaky wheels. Can we even generalize that U.S. Christians “believe in God?” Sure, that usually holds…but even in this instance there are plentiful exceptions (the Pew study reference above indicates only 76% of Christians are “absolutely certain” in the existence of God…).

Second, there have been concerted efforts by Right-leaning political interests in the U.S. to capture various groups, and generate opposition to others, for their own nefarious ends. You have the Southern Strategy, two Red Scares, the McCarthy era, and a consistent propaganda effort since about 1972 (by neoliberal think tanks, wealthy donors, conservative media, etc.) to demonize socialism and “big bad government,” and lionize free markets and “more efficient” business solutions that can supposedly remedy ALL social and civic issues. It is no accident that the term “godless communists” entered the popular vernacular, was perpetuated there, and was relentlessly associated with anything that interfered with corporate power and profits. For some time, part of the neoliberal objective has clearly been to consolidate very different ideologies under one single, pro-corporate, anti-government agenda. Each targeted group (fiscal conservatives, religious conservatives, right-libertarians, gun-lovers, immigrant-haters, etc.) has been carefully marketed an appealing brand of political groupthink that claims to champion their key concerns. In reality, of course, those key concerns are always subjugated to the primary aim of disabling government in favor of enriching a few owner-shareholders at everyone else’s expense. It’s little more than a long con.

So, you might then ask, why don’t Christians see through the sham? This leads into an interesting discussion about whether culture determines religious orthodoxy, or religion influences culture. I think there is some give-and-take there, but that established cultural programming usually wins out in the end. Historically and into modern times, “Christian” nations generally do not reflect Christ-like values, but rationalize or justify pre-existing cultural values via distorted religious legalism. If all U.S. Christians really wanted to emulate Christ and follow biblical teachings, they would have difficulty being conformant capitalists at all — and certainly would not support the “greed, guns and greatness are good” sentiments that so permeate the political Right today. Authentic Christian believers do, in fact, tend to be much more Left-leaning and socialistic. I actually wrote a book about this issue, A Progressive's Guide to the New Testament, which covers the evidence to support this view with great care.

My 2 cents.

What is humanity's biggest ignorance that prevents human progress?

Ignorance of our own ignorance, coupled with our willful tendencies to conceal and deny how ignorant we are whenever confronted with the fact.

If I could drop this act
Of eating clouds and stars and dreams
And sculpting meaning
From my own excrement
I might wield my sword of chance
With greater purpose.
But in forgetting what I never knew
I pound my chest
And bark my truth
Offering in willful confidence
A beacon to the rudderless.
Now aimless on a pond
The scent of steaming light
Creeps through hearty reeds
Lifting mind and spirit
Toward spacious absence.
I cannot rest
I cannot rest
For these long histories
Some pageantry is due.


My 2 cents.

How should I go about thinking for myself and not just regurgitating ideas I learn from other people?

Without knowing more about your personality, experiences, aptitudes and interests, it is difficult to offer anything but the most generic advice. Keeping that in mind, here is what I would encourage you to do to help formulate your own opinions about things:

1) Drastically reduce social media immersion, 24/7 mass media stimulation, and entertainment media immersion. In other words, limit your interaction with these media to an hour or two each day…max. Maybe even take a “media vacation” 1–2 days each week (on weekends, etc.). This also includes music and podcast consumption (even as “background” noise). The objective here is to give your mind a rest…and some spaciousness.

2) Wean yourself off of regular MJ use. It’s going to interfere mightily with your ideation, introspection and reflection capacities, as well as your ability to emotionally mature. Occasional recreation is not what I would be concerned about — it’s daily use (or several times a week) of the latest high-THC varieties that tends to create serious problems over time.

3) Learn to meditate. This takes time and discipline — and experimentation with different techniques — but it will help you focus inward and gain more internal reliance, rather than orienting all thoughts and emotions to external inputs. It will also help you manage anxiety and depression. If you can develop a healthy, regular habit of daily mediation, this will vastly enhance your abilities to navigate ideas, formulate your own thoughts, and intuit what is most important to you.

4) Consume carefully. What you eat, what you read, what you watch, what you listen to (music, podcasts, whatever), whom you spend time around…even what you spend time thinking or fantasizing about. Garbage in, garbage out. What you reinforce with constant exposure and focus will become your mind’s primary orientation, locus of energy, and interest…but you get to control this if you choose.

5) Spend regular time alone in Nature. Here again, this is about spaciousness. Creating space and time for different aspects of your being to expand, find their own level, and prompt you into an authentic relationship with your own interiority.

I hope this was helpful! :-)

Is anything you do that doesn’t hurt people or property okay?

Thanks for the question. That may be a good place to start, but it really doesn’t get you very far down the road to a complete — comprehensive — ethical framework. For example:

1) Inaction can cause harm — because we aren’t actively stopping harm from occurring — and so counteracting or preventing harm entails more than just “avoiding” actively harming someone.

2) Sometimes choosing to harm people or property is necessary to prevent even greater harm. If I know a truck full of explosives is being driven toward an elementary school full of children with destructive intent, I would have no moral qualms about shooting the driver and causing an accident or explosion that destroys that truck and a bunch of empty vehicles parked in the school parking lot.

3) Even a simple definition of “harm nothing and no one” requires wisdom and discernment to be effective — to know how to avoid or prevent harm requires perceptiveness, insight, experience, careful reflection, compassion, etc. And developing such wisdom and discernment requires self-awareness, personal discipline…and often conscious alignment with a greater context.

4) As for “a greater context,” let’s say you decide that the greater context is “doing the greatest good, for the greatest number, for the greatest duration.” That entails a lot more work, focus and learning than just avoiding or preventing harm in your personal interactions. So developing that context is just as important as having a personal ethical standard of “do no harm.” Again, though, this requires quite a bit of additional effort…and time.

These are the sorts of things that moderate both the “anything you do” part of the OP’s question, and the “do no harm” part as well. Having a worthwhile intent is not the same as developing “predictive efficacy;” and without being skilled and insightful about how our choices will impact others, we actually have little more chance at “harming nothing and no one” than someone rolling a die to decide what to do. If we are sincere about the kindness of our intent, we can’t just stick our heads in the ground and hope for the best…we have to engage the world around us, learn a lot about it, learn how to think both critically and intuitively, and work with others, so that we can navigate the astounding complexities that lie between our intent and a genuinely positive outcome.

My 2 cents.

Which countries are poised to gain the most from America being absent from world politics?

In proposed order of the overall scope of benefit:

China
Russia

Turkey

Pakistan

Iran (though this will likely be countered by Israel)

Eurogroup’s power to self-servingly utilize EU (that is, not the EU member countries…just their financial puppet masters)

African, Asian, Middle-Eastern and South American petty dictators and authoritarians.

Canada and Mexico (as a joint trading block)

Pacifica/Cascadia/New California/etc. — should such a new nation form out of secession.

India (if it can ever get its act together)

My 2 cents.

What are the things we know to be undeniably true, from which we hold all else to be true or false?

Thanks for the question. Of that which seems difficult to question:

1) Mind is.

From which follows:

1) Mind discerns and isolates through differentiation — operationally and imaginatively — and thereby boundarizes the ‘real’ as it interacts with lived experience.

2) Mind generates consensus reality in communication with other minds, within shared experiences and boundaries.

3) Mind seeks to extend its emergence beyond the limitations of perception-cognition, with speculative results that soften and, ultimately, reunite initial differentiations.

4) In the course of conceiving of its own extinguishment and error, mind challenges everything it has come to ‘know.’

That’s about as far as I would go regarding fundamentals.

My 2 cents.

What is creative thinking? How do you become a creative thinker?

Thanks for the question. There are several different types of creative thinking, and each has its own combination of supportive conditions and factors that serve it — often varying from one person to the next. Here is an initial take on how I would map those out….

1) Creative problem solving under pressure.

2) Serendipitous inspired insight that leads to innovation.

3) Creative self-expression in an organized form.

4) Creative communication.

5) Outlier thinking (thinking “outside the box”).

6) Discernment and wisdom.

7) Moral creativity.

Now each of these has its own specific definition, context, application and supportive conditions, and generalizing about them all is probably going to miss the mark. But — again as a very loose generalization — there are a number of common factors engaged to varying degrees, including:

1) Letting go of analytical rigor and rapid-cycling “head time” — along with its associated high-pressure intentional focus — to allow alternate input streams (emotional, somatic, spiritual, relational, etc.) to percolate through our awareness.

2) Holding everything involved in a given situation very lightly…what I call “the art of suspension…” so that no particular input or concern dominates.

3) Relinquishing personal ego-attachments to outcomes (i.e. expectations of praise, monetary rewards, career success, etc.).

4) Preparation and self-discipline — personal education, training and skill development in the form of creativity being practiced.

5) Looking inward rather than outward (i.e. relying on the still voice and spaciousness within to evoke and distill creativity, rather than on external stimuli or conditions).

6) Isolation from a deluge of cultural memes — that is, insulating oneself from a constant barrage of media, cultural inputs and expectation, etc.

I would also say that, beyond “creative thinking” itself, these conditions and practices also encourage excellence in creative thinking, choices, expression and follow-through.

My 2 cents.

Why are economists giving up on Milton Friedman theories?

Thanks for the question. So here’s the deal with Friedman…

IMO a lot of his theories sound really good — especially to those who lean toward market fundamentalism (Austrian School folks, Rothbardian right-libertarians, Randian objectivists, neoliberals, etc.). And Friedman’s self-confident style of discourse — often pedantic and even combative — has added to his appeal…again, especially for certain kinds of personalities and ideological leanings. And one lasting truth is that Friedman does have some interesting ideas, and that some of those ideas have what we might call “partial merit.” Friedman’s monetarism is a good example, since it only holds true under very specific conditions — conditions that support a relatively constant and self-adjusting velocity of money. And since there have been short periods where this kind of predictability and stability were available, Friedman’s views were vindicated by the use of monetary tools at those times. But when new variables have been introduced into the picture — indeed when the larger, longer and predictable macroeconomic economic cycles are taken into account — then the stability of monetary velocity and long-term “neutrality” break down…and break down fast. And Friedman’s prescriptions break down right along with them.

There are things I like about Fiedman — his promotion of guaranteed minimum income, for example — but, like many of his other ideas, there isn’t a lot of evidence to support the efficacy of that approach. And…and this is the really important point IMO…there is a LOT of evidence that whenever Friedman or his Chicago Boys got involved in economic policy in a given country or region, things got pretty bad for those populations. All around the globe, developing countries in particular are still reeling from the structural adjustment policies, aggressive privatization, loosening of government regulation and other bad advice that Friedman promoted over 40+ years. And this is why economists are “giving up” on Friedman’s ideas…not because they don’t have “partial merit,” because they do. But they also — by and large — have had pretty disastrous results whenever they were not implemented within, and constrained by, what is essentially a more Keynesian macroeconomic framework.

In this particular case (the linked article for the OP’s question), the “permanent income hypothesis” again sounded really good — reasonable, predictable, rules-based. Friedman was a genius at bringing order to chaos. It’s just, well…people, and markets, and the consequences of economic policies, and the highly variable inputs and outputs of all human systems, remain pretty chaotic regardless of the rules (or, in this case, expectations) imposed on them.

My 2 cents.

Is it possible to imagine a pure economic action independent of politics?

Thanks for the question. Like many others, I see them as inseparably intertwined. There are folks (usually on the market fundamentalist end of the spectrum, such as anarcho-capitalists) who like to believe that economic systems can somehow operate independently of politics — and that, in fact, this is a desirable state. And, as an ideal, I can see why it would be an attractive fantasy: rational actors motivated purely by efficiency and utility, exchange value dictated solely by demand and supply, etc. But in the real world, economic choices always involve political causality, and vice versa; motivations and calculations are not rational, but psychosocial within a given cultural context. Which is, I suspect, why the term “political economy” came into being.

That said, can we “imagine” conditions where the two are teased apart? Well, interestingly, if we go far enough downstream in terms of individual transactions, econometrics, automated trades and the like, it is possible to divorce politics from the conversation altogether, and just focus on the math. But, in isolation, that doesn’t really help us manage the overall economic system — or navigate it with any amount of insight or wisdom. Purely mathematical maps must be augmented by behavioral and sociopolitical maps to flesh out the macro and micro economics in play enough to, say, develop policies and strategies. So it is possible to analyze and act in brief, targeted bursts of “non-political economic action,” but it is like any other specialized discipline or activity that is superficially isolated from its larger context: it is not the full picture.

My 2 cents.

When we fail to grow spiritually for one of many reasons, is it because of the lure of the world?

Thanks for the question.

As with many activities that aim for positive outcomes, distraction is probably the biggest hindrance — a distraction that redirects our energies away from spiritual growth into something else. The subtlety, however, is in just how many forms of distraction there are. Some examples:

1) Gratifying our own ego to feel more important, ethical, disciplined…or indeed “spiritual.”

2) Worrying and obsessing over our spiritual purity, progress, efficacy, etc., to a degree where anxiety and guilt are our predominant emotions.

3) Becoming inflexible, legalistic and black-and-white regarding our certainties: not allowing for nuance, subjective differences, alternate explanations, gradations of truth, etc.

4) Looking for external signs and affirmation that we are “on the right path;” things like synchronicity, affluence, open doors, manifestations of personal will, etc.

5) Becoming preoccupied with future outcomes instead of experiencing the joy of the present moment.

6) Grounding all reasoning, emotions, choices, activities and imagination in an “I/Me/Mine” orientation of self-absorption…with only a veneer of consideration for anyone or anything else.

7) Resisting a felt reality of authentic compassion for self and others, and instead just going through the motions of what generosity, caring and kindness are “supposed” to look like.

8-) Looking outward, instead of inward, for answers.

9) Getting caught up in what everyone else is doing in order to feel comforted and accepted — then rationalizing that it serves a noble end.

10) Operating in “head time” rather than “heart time” or “spirit time;” that is, confusing busyness with carefully considered action, or quickly consuming mass media with gaining wisdom, or rushing to protest injustice with more discerning activism.

11) Forgetting our Divine purpose, and substituting it with the convenient passions-of-the-moment.

So we could attribute some number of these distractions to “the lure of the world,” sure. But would that be an accurate description? Would it really get at the heart of the impedance to what we believe to be spiritual progress…? I think you can probably see the trap here. Our conceptions of what spirituality is “supposed” to look like are just as problematic as other distractions that we attribute to an external cause. Everything that hinders us is a distraction…it is simply a matter of identifying the distractions for what they are, and moving beyond them…letting them go.

Along these lines, I would encourage you to read C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters. He dances neatly through many subtleties of distraction that we often overlook.

My 2 cents.

In what ways does Donald Trump misrepresent America to the world?

Thanks for the question.

To provide a little backdrop, I lived in (West) Germany during the Ronald Reagan administration, in an area of Frankfurt that saw a lot of hostility towards Americans generally, so I’ve seen firsthand how a President can influence people’s opinions of U.S. Citizens. In that case, Reagan reinforced a broadly held view in Europe of people in the U.S. being uninformed or ignorant to a comic degree (Germans in bars would all burst out laughing every time Reagan was interviewed, because of all the factual mistakes he made), that Americans are painfully unaware of their own ignorance and misinformation, and that we nevertheless are overly confident about what we know…especially regarding what we believe is true and morally right. I used to refer to this phenomenon as “the Texas ignorance/arrogance amplification spiral” (because it seemed like every Texan I met exhibited the behavior to an exaggerated degree), until researchers identified it as the Dunning–Kruger effect.

And when Americans later also elected George W. Bush to POTUS twice, it confirmed the same prejudice regarding Americans being overconfident and uninformed (the term I would frequently hear in Germany was “Idioten” or “idiots”). And Trump? Well he is really — from a European perspective at least — a predictable extension of that same pattern of electing goofy dipshits who seem to have little grasp of reality (or any demonstrated intelligence about navigating it) to POTUS, thus reinforcing that a large number of people in the U.S. seem to celebrate being “cocky but incompetent.”

To further illustrate how pervasive this perspective on Americans had become, I once stayed in a lovely hotel in Galway where a huge oil painting of a Confederate General was hung above the main stairway. The Irish patrons (at least the ones who disdained an America wielding so much global power with such demonstrated ignorance of the world around them) loved to ask American guests at the hotel what they thought of the painting. At one point, they would then ask, “Do you know who that is…?” Not many of the American guests — often well-educated by U.S. standards, as well as affluent — could identify the General…or even knew he was wearing a Confederate uniform. Some could, but those Irish patrons loved to demonstrate that even the bellhops and maids in the hotel knew the history of the U.S. Civil War better than many Americans did.

Okay…with that said, how does “The Donald” misrepresent America to the rest of the world? Well, you’ll recall that Trump didn’t win the popular vote, and that a LOT of Democrats didn’t vote at all in 2016. You’ll also recall that G.W. Bush lost the popular vote to Al Gore as well. And, interestingly, global confidence in the U.S. Presidency was very low for both Trump and G.W. Bush (plummeting to below 25% (see Around the world, favorability of the U.S. and confidence in its president decline). Now these are just two comparative data plots, but what they reveal is that in at least these two instances, a majority of U.S. voters didn’t trust or want Dunning-Kruger Presidents…and the rest of the world agreed with them. There is other data that supports the view that a majority of U.S. citizens are actually in synch with the more enlightened policies of other developed countries (i.e. stats about gun control, campaign reform, progressive taxation, single payer healthcare, etc.), and that successive generations in the U.S. have been straining against harmful conservative policies and distortions of fact that basically favor wealthy corporate shareholders above everyone else. Change is immanent, IMO, as we will likely see in 2018 and 2020 if U.S. media and elections are hijacked and manipulated. And THAT is why Trump misrepresents America to the world: because he is the last gasp of a dying, minority breed of uninformed, arrogant Dunning-Kruger citizenry. The rest of us — the majority of folks who live and vote in the U.S. — desperately yearn for progressive change.

My 2 cents.

What is the moral basis for the existence of government?

Thanks for the question.

First, I would say that government has no moral basis (or authority) unless it has been granted them by its citizens. There are various mechanisms to do this — to temporarily transfer collective moral agency to elected representatives and civic institutions, for example — that are grounded in an ongoing collective agreement, and allow adjustment, accountability and malleability over time. It is in these cases that we can say that the moral will of the populace is being expressed by its government, and thereby providing its “moral basis.”

Second, as a fine example, I would encourage examining John Rawls’ “original position” argument as one morally framed approach to governance (i.e. one that promotes fairness, justice and equality according to the most generous definitions of those terms as broadly accepted values). His thought experiment is very simple, very clear, and very “reasonable.” And within his arguments, the moral authority of representatives operating behind Rawls’ veil of ignorance becomes self-evident.

Third, I would say that the morality of government must therefore reflect the moral maturity of its populace. This is perhaps the most challenging aspect of the equation, because once the two (collective will vs. civic institutions) starts getting out-of-synch, the the moral agreements that justify government break down. Such an unfortunate state of disequilibrium is pretty much where we are today in the U.S., where some 30% of the electorate has regressed to a level of moral immaturity that is aggressively corroding more advanced civic institutions.

Fourth, I would loudly assert that this isn’t the end of the conversation — not even the beginning of the end — because there are so many other considerations. For example, there are additional features that bolster the intimacy and harmony between collective will and civic institutions: things like subsidiarity, direct democracy, egalitarian efficiency, critically reflective participatory action, reducing interference with liberty…and many more. These really must be considered in the context of any “moral basis” for government, because they directly impact the efficacy, stability and continuity of the collective agency that governance manifests.

For more on how I would propose approaching all of this (and why), consider checking out L e v e l - 7 Philosophy and “The Goldilocks Zone of Integral Liberty” at Essays by T.Collins Logan.

My 2 cents.

Do you feel US society today lacks compassion and understanding in one another's political views?

Actually I think the lack of compassion and understanding has been pretty one-sided for a very long time, but that it has slowly been spreading to become a more universal reaction, as a consequence of increasing exasperation.

For many decades, both hate speech and hateful actions against “libtards,” “commies,” “faggots,” “nigger-lovers,” “feminazis,” and many other groups characterized as residing on the Left end of the political spectrum was propagated and amplified mainly by the right-leaning conservatives of the U.S. And you could hear this seething vitriol — with lots of nationalistic sentiment, fear-mongering and Us vs. Them propaganda — on conservative talk radio 24/7 for many years. But the progressives just didn’t use the same approach — at least not in the same aggressive spirit, or using the same threatening and hurtful language. You might indeed hear a fair amount of condescension and dismissiveness from the Left, to be sure: phrases like “Bible-thumper,” “redneck,” “gun-lover” and the like were commonly used by liberals to describe conservatives in the U.S. But you wouldn’t hear the same kind of hate, or raging anger, or irrational fear. And, interestingly, unlike the corrosively derisive language that conservatives employed, many right-wing folks proudly embraced those liberal labels (i.e. “redneck,” “gun-lover,” etc.) as if they were a badge of honor. So even though liberals often raised a “we’re smarter and more educated than you” flag against the conservative’s “holier than thou” standard, that’s really as far as the liberals went in the mainstream. There was disbelief and disdain, to be sure…but not the same deep-seated fear and hate, and indeed a fair amount of compassion could be found among liberals regarding how rank-and-file conservatives were being manipulated and lied to by their wealthy handlers. It was only at the very radical fringes on the Left that you found militant activists willing to use underhanded, vindictive or violent methods to counter right-wing agendas. But again, on the conservative end of the spectrum, such tactics and genuinely discompassionate sentiments were regularly invoked by conservative media outlets, think tanks, and political candidates as they encouraged every Republican into lockstep conformance.

But I think those many decades of one-sided hatefulness may be coming to an end. The 2016 election tipped the scales. When Michelle Obama said “when they go low, we go high,” that was emblematic of the Left’s last stand for compassion and understanding; it’s what a lot of liberals really felt in their heart-of-hearts about the right way to think and act. But it failed. So a lot of folks — especially the young Bernie Sanders supporters who felt betrayed by the DNC — took note of the hateful tactics of Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign, and began to spout some aggressive, passionate, condemnatory rhetoric of their own. And, sadly, a lot of that rhetoric has begun to mirror the Right’s longstanding tactics, style and spirit. And so the tide is turning on the Left away from mere condescension, disbelief and genuine pity and compassion for Republicans, toward a right-wing flavor of judgmental anger. It’s very sad for me to see, and it does not bode well for the U.S. political process.

So that would be my first point: yes, each side is becoming ever more polarized in its lack of compassion and understanding….but I think it is important to acknowledge that the Right has held that position for many years longer than the Left. The Republican Party has been such a magnet for hate and fear-mongering that Southern Democrats who were angry and fearful about Black voting rights and the end of Jim Crow switched over to the Republican Party so they could continue to fight against those progressive changes. And you could even say — when you consider things like climate denial, evolution denial, voodoo economics, rejection of science, suspicion and resentment of public education, and so on — that conservatives have perfected a lack of understanding to an absurd degree…an extent where “alternative facts” very disconnected from reality have become all-to-real for them. Clearly, considering how Republicans vote regarding helping the poor, women, minorities, the environment, consumer protections, worker protections, benefits to children, and a host of other issues, compassion and kindness have long been absent from their political ideology. Which is all to say that malicious intent (the will to power of the “haves”) has always been loudly present in the right-wing agenda, and almost entirely absent from the policies championed by progressives on behalf of the “have-nots.”

I do believe, however, that many folks on the Left and the Right are tired of fighting. They want peace…they long for compromise. And yet…the programming and propaganda that energize hateful polemics are very strong…so that may yet have to run its course. So those who long for harmony will have to wait. “It’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, when the tunnel is on fire.” Still…I believe there is Light, and that Light will prevail in the end. It will just be a very difficult road for all of us to arrive there.

My 2 cents.

What is the difference between wisdom and knowledge?


As a simplified summary, wisdom is knowledge applied with compassion.

As a more formalized and detailed procedure:

data/observation → education/information/contextualization → insight/knowledge → compassionate/inclusive intentionality (i.e. “for the good of All”) → application/testing/efficacy → experiential feedback → ongoing practice + fine-tuning → additional multidimensional input streams (emotional + somatic + spiritual + analytical intelligence) → discernment → consistent operationalization + values alignment→ wisdom.

My 2 cents.

How can I become more tolerant of people who are different than me?

Thanks for the question.

I think the answer is dependent on a) the issues you are intolerant of, and why; b) how that intolerance expresses itself; and c) your level of self-awareness and well-being. For example:

1) If your intolerance issues from a place of personal pain, and you are lashing out at others who “touch a raw nerve” in your own struggles, then addressing that pain and struggling within yourself is going to be quite helpful in reducing your judgement and increasing your tolerance.

2) If your intolerance issues from a place of arrogance and condescension, then appreciating your own limitations, areas you’ve made mistakes, and potentially unjustified self-confidence will be helpful in reducing judgement and increasing tolerance.

3) If you find it really hard to forgive others for harms they commit — against yourself or anyone else — then you may be holding some harsh judgments against your own past failings or be more insecure than you realize in some area or other. So, in this instance, you’ll want to learn how to have compassion for yourself, so that you can in turn have more compassion for others.

4) If your intolerance stems from ignorance — from a lack of experiences and exposure to folks who are different — then befriending them and immersing yourself in their world will be quite helpful.
If your intolerance is highly reactive, and seems to be uncontrollable or reflexive, then there may be an underlying mental illness, neurochemical issues, or cognitive and/or emotional deficit. In this case, seeking help from medical doctors and psychotherapists may be your best bet.

5) Intolerance, impatience, irritability, and black-and-white emotional responses can also be the consequence of not nourishing one or more aspects of your being. Consider taking this free self-assessment to see what those areas might be, and then try to address them: https://www.integrallifework.com...

As you can see, there could be a lot of different influences at play — and the ones I’ve covered don’t come close to all the different factors that could be energizing this dynamic. It’s great that you’ve observed it…I recommend patience with yourself and continuing to reach out for help in order to heal and grow.

My 2 cents.

What do civilians of former communist countries in Eastern Europe think about communism?

Well it appears that neoliberal propagandists are still up to their old tricks — trying to remake communism into an all-bad Boogeyman that must be feared and loathed. If the anti-Communist answers so far in this thread really are from folks who lived under communism in the former Eastern Bloc, then they are not representative of the majority. For example, according to a number of studies from a couple of years ago (see links at Polls show: Eastern Europeans miss Communism):

- 72% of Hungarians polled said their country is worse off economically than it was under communism. Only 8% believed things were better.

- 63% of Romanians said life was better under communism, while 23% claimed their lives were worse. 68% said communism was a good idea that had been poorly implemented.

- 81% of Serbians said living was better under communism, and 45% trusted civic institutions under communism more than they did at the time of the poll.

- Residents from 7 out of 11 member countries said their countries were harmed more than benefited by the collapse of the U.S.S.R.

It also depends who is being asked — see:
Have living standards in Eastern Europe decreased after Communism? - Debating Europe and The Post-Communist Generation in the Former Eastern Bloc. Even among those more successful countries, sentiments are still divided — mainly with younger generations believing their lives are better off without the communism they never experienced, while older generations maintain quite a bit of nostalgia for those times. You would think that East Germany would be prominent exception, but even there more than half of the population either thinks things were better before capitalism, or were about the same (see: Majority of Eastern Germans Feel Life Better under Communism)

Also, young people who weren’t alive when the U.S.S.R. collapsed will not recall that older people and the poor all across Eastern Europe were protesting their loss of pensions, healthcare, social services, etc. when it happened. And in the U.S., the neoliberal propagandists like to talk about all the terrible things that were going on in the former U.S.S.R., and are loath to admit any positive accomplishments. And of course this is reinforced by Hollywood depictions and the very real history of horrific problems during the Soviet era. But the fact is that those populations did have pensions and healthcare, and that the poor in many cases had a higher and more secure standard of living than the poor in those countries do today under capitalism.

Pro-capitalist pundits love to tout the wonders of the profit motive, but remain blind to what collectivist or nonprofit approaches can achieve. Frankly I think they are terrified by the prospect of socialist success stories, including recognizing America’s success as the result of a mixed economy (i.e. with both socialist and profit-centric elements). Such successes, after all, mean that capitalist owner-shareholders could lose some of their control over worker-consumers and other resources, and not be able to continue manipulating and exploiting them to enlarge their own personal wealth. Perhaps that is why neoliberals are still trying so hard to tear down successful socialist institutions in the U.S.A….?

My 2 cents.

Why is property considered a social construct or a social thing and not something else like natural? I just don't see how it's a social thing.

Property ownership is an entirely contrived and arbitrary social construct. The only thing “natural” about it is the selfish desire to keep things we want to ourselves, or “marking our territory” to attract a mate or feel less threatened. But such primitive instincts are not, in themselves, justified or “right” until society agrees that they are. And there are a LOT of primitive instincts (for example: to kill others, to have sex all the time with different people, to keep eating even whey we’re full, to destroy stuff for fun, to steal things we want, etc.) that are NOT sanctioned by society. So why do we sanction the concept of private property? Why does that have a special, elevated position among all of our animalistic impulses…? Getting down to exactly why this is the case can take some digging into our own tacit assumptions about “why things are.” Most of the time, we operate on an immense framework of culturally programmed reflexes, and have very little awareness why we do the things we do — or believe the things we believe. It takes real effort to challenge that programming, and even more effort to undo it.

My 2 cents.

What is the relationship between political and economic freedom?

They are inseparably linked — and as yet very few societies have been able to champion both at the same time. To have sufficient agency to claim to be “free,” there must of necessity be both egalitarian economic mobility and opportunity, and the broadest consensus of democratic will in self-governance. Sure, civic institutions and competitive markets are helpful first steps…but until you also ensure equity of economic and political influence for every individual, then concentrations of economic power will always coincide with concentrations of political power — it is inevitable and unstoppable. That is why it is so important to extend and support democratic mechanisms across all aspects of society — including economic systems, institutions and processes. This has been the primary failing of modern democratic societies, and why they are increasingly being “captured” by plutocrats and crony capitalism. To reverse this trend, we must move toward a political economy that champions equity rather than arbitrary privilege, and consensus and direct/semi-direct democratic mechanisms rather than insulated party bureaucracies.

My 2 cents.

Everything is also nothing. In order to be everything (infinite) it has to include nothingness. Is this correct?

The stumbling block here is that different realms of conception are being mixed together — like oil and water. In mathematics, integers range from negative infinity…through zero…to infinity. In philosophy and spirituality, nothingness or void can be included in definitions of an Absolute that encompasses all existence. However, there is also the concept of non-existence which is outside of existence, and by definition outside of conceptions of the Absolute as well. Other terms — such as “emptiness” or “unmanifest” — can refer to the potential for existence that is noncontingent, and thus imply a certain something that is neither nothingness nor non-existence. In physics, informal reference to “nothingness” is actually the majority of what exists as empty space — what is between all matter — but which is quite busy at the quantum level. And all of these are semantic distinctions which do not equate each other. Infinity is not equal to the Absolute, and nothingness and void are not equal to non-existence, nor is “empty space” the same as “unmanifest,” and so on. The error of the OP’s proposition is in ignoring these semantic differences.

My 2 cents.

How did Spinoza reconcile his faith in Christ with his philosophy of God?

Thank you for the question Roberto.

So getting to the heart of any answer to the question posed (“How did Spinoza [reconcile] his faith in Christ with his philosophy of God?” ) IMO will require reading through at least a few portions of his Tractatus Theologico-Politicus. This work is much more accessible than his Ethics, and clearly spells out his views on both the nature and role of faith, the place that Jesus Christ holds with respect to knowledge of God, and indeed the “flexibility” of what remains — namely the specifics of revealed knowledge. This last part, which speaks to Spinoza’s philosophy of God, is the most critical to appreciate IMO — with respect to Spinoza’s thought, and to answering the OP’s question. Spinoza’s overarching message in Theologico-Politicus is that the details of any individual philosophy about the nature of the Divine are completely and overwhelmingly overrun by what scripture instructs us to do: namely, to be obedient to God in our love for others, regardless of our personal justification for doing so. This is Spinoza’s chief contribution to discussions of spiritual relationship with the Divine, and IMO deserves our full attention. His point is really just a variation on what Christ taught: that all the rules and justifications and dogma of religious orthodoxy are just chaff to be burned up in the fires of agape. To be kind and charitable and fiercely outspoken — often in self-sacrificial ways — for the good of others is the expression of God’s essence that embodies genuine obedience — that is, as opposed to following a rigid set of rules. At the same time, how a believer chooses to understand, evaluate and execute this mandate is really entirely up to them — according to the culture within which they live, their native intelligence and abilities, and (and here I am extending Spinoza’s logic rather than summarizing his POV) their level of spiritual and psychosocial development. That is how Spinoza explains the different individual expressions of faith and different collective religious dogmas, and why he dismisses their importance in anything but a facilitative sense. Again, though, all he is really doing here is reiterating and extending Christ’s central message.

In conclusion, then, there is nothing to reconcile: Spinoza’s view of Christ as the preeminent communicator of God’s essence — that is, the perfect expression of the Mind of God in word and deed — does not at all contradict, undermine or interfere with Spinoza’s view of God. They are, in fact, in complete harmony with each other — both regarding Spinoza’s view of God’s expression of essence or nature in Christ, and in the variability of philosophical viewpoints that serve that expression. Human philosophy is, for Spinoza, only superficially divergent from revealed knowledge — because both are bounded my human imagination and interpretation, and both are a superficial layering over the core tenets of salvation: to reify compassionate affection and joy in relationship with others as evidence of God/Christ/holy spirit-in-us. And so, when Spinoza elaborates in Ethics on God as “a substance consisting of infinite attributes,” and that human thought and intuition are an extension of the Mind of God as modes of one such attribute (thought), he is really just elaborating on all things in existence being a continuum of Divine essence. In this sense, all the previous discussion here (about Christ, revelation, faith, salvation, etc.) can be framed within the context of the myriad extensions and attributes (or expressions of essence, if you will) of the Divine interacting with each other according to their Divine nature. Human consciousness then becomes a veneer layered on top of this dynamic interplay, a partial component seeking to understand the whole. And, once that whole is understood according to the capacities available to us — once the veneer is removed to expose the essential unity of a Creation that is the cause of itself — this produces boundless joy for us. And the logos of Christ? It is a powerful nudge in that very direction.

So there is no contradiction or even tension the nature of Christ and the philosophy of God for Spinoza, there is only imperfect understanding that gradually gives way to an inherent harmony. Again, though, I would spend some quality time with Tractatus Theologico-Politicus to further appreciate Spinoza’s perspectives around theology in this regard.

My 2 cents.

Does 'strange flesh' in Jude 7 refer to homosexuality?

Probably not. More likely the “indulging in sexual immorality and pursuing unnatural desire” alluded to in Jude is referring to wantonly destructive unbridled lust — regardless of how those impulses manifest. Remember that in the case of Sodom being referred to, “all the men from every part of the city of Sodom — both young and old — surrounded the house,” then demanded to have sex with Lot’s house guests (who in this story were angels), threatening to break Lot’s door down to sate their apparently uncontrollable desire. Just think about that for a moment. The ENTIRE town seems to have intended to forcibly RAPE Lot’s house guests! Clearly what was at issue here was not homosexuality, but something else entirely — some degrading act of abandoning all compassionate sense and moral conscience to pursue hateful and injurious appetites. It would really be no different, IMO, if the townspeople had demanded to roast Lot’s guests alive over hot coals and eat them; at its core, their intent was willful, selfish, mindless, callous self-gratification in the form of a violent mob. Similar moments have repeated themselves throughout recorded history all around the globe — it is part of who we all are, when we lose the light of compassion and kindness within, and instead turn ourselves over to our basest, most animalistic impulses.

My 2 cents.

How do you perceive relativism concerning religion, morality, and life in general? Do you believe in relativism in life? Why or why not?

Thanks for the question Dida. Here’s the current state of my thinking on this….

1) From the perspective of ignorance — the result of a lack of personal experience, or an absence of careful introspection, or an incomplete education in the history of sociology, philosophy, art, science, religion, etc. — all positions, assertions, insights and so forth may appear to be relative. In reality, they are not, and appearances can be deceiving…much like the shadows on the wall in Plato’s cave.

2) After a requisite amount of experience, introspection, education and integration, it becomes apparent that there are indeed many different positions along a given continuum of ever-increasing efficacy and certainty. At one end of that continuum are unskillful, uninformed, impulsive and conditioned/reflexive responses and actions that lack efficacy and certainty…despite feeling “relatively” true to the person acting them out — we might call this the “conditional” end of that continuum. At the other end of the continuum is highly refined, skillful, informed, carefully considered responses and actions that have a much higher level of predictive efficacy…even though the person acting them out may still have doubts; this is the more “absolute” end of the continuum. And all along that continuum are incremental shifts that lean in one directly or the other. I think research into the Dunning–Kruger effect sheds some light on this process across many different areas.

3) From a subjective point of view — or even across an entire homogenous culture — it can be difficult to appreciate why a given aesthetic, or value, or ethical standard, or cultural expectation seems so contradictory to those of someone else, or those of another culture. But again, this seeming begins to erode via emotional, intellectual, relational and indeed spiritual development that incorporates intersubjective and intercultural perspectives and experiences. The more absolute truths emerge not from an homogenous, sheltered and self-absorbed or protective existence, but from an open, engaging, porous synthesis through intimate interactions with others, empathic immersion in their experiences, and a fair amount of courage.

4) Thus mature wisdom tends to become more and more integral and integralizing — more able to suspend certainty in favor of holding all apparent contradictions lightly and compassionately until their fundamental ground (in shared, essential characteristics) becomes clear. Ultimately, this unitive process results in an enduring perception of the common underpinnings of seemingly divergent perspectives. But it is quite difficult to return to the cave and explain this illumination — and it takes time to free oneself from old emotional habits and modes of thinking that persist from earlier stages of development.

My 2 cents.

Why do Americans hate the idea of a socialist government? Socialism and communism are not the same thing.

Thanks for the question. In the U.S. we can draw a fairly straight line between anti-socialist sentiments and decades of neoliberal propaganda. For example the Red Scares that were invented after each World War planted the rhetoric and polemics that later became more widespread, “mainstream assumptions.” With Americans, many falsehoods that were propagated in this way have to be carefully confronted in order to relieve a prejudicial ignorance. For example, I often find myself defending these factual positions against the steady stream of misinformation flowing out of conservative think tanks, media, political candidates and pundits:

1) The most successful economies in the world are mixed economies that have combined socialist and capitalist principles and practices (this includes the U.S.A.).

2) Socializing certain sectors of an economy has almost universally solved many long-term problems that the profit motive could not regarding public goods, providing much better outcomes for the citizenry. For example, in healthcare, public infrastructure, education, basic utilities, land management, and so on. The insistence by market fundamentalists that the profit motive can solve all complex problems is simply mistaken…and indeed quite harmful in terms of public policy over the long run.

3) Authoritative Marxism-Leninism was a grossly corrupted form of communism that completely negates the fundamental tenet of nearly all forms of socialism (including Marx’s original ideas): that democracy is central to the foundations of a socialistic civil society.

4) Libertarian Socialism (left-libertarianism) has actually been the dominant leaning of libertarianism throughout most of its history, and is actually the only form of libertarianism that has been successfully implemented on various scales.

For more on why this propaganda has been so integral to U.S. politics, I encourage reading this: L7 Neoliberalism

My 2 cents.

Is it possible to just leave everything behind and live as an anarcho-primitivist?

Sure. I’ve personally known people committed to rewilding themselves, and have studied a number of individual examples. I myself have experimented (both purposefully and by unintended accident) with various degrees of both exiting a highly destructive capitalist society, and returning to Nature. It’s not easy, and requires a lot of planning, preparation, education and training. It also requires adequate and compatible natural environs within which to survive. There is a broad spectrum of exit strategies and perspectives, and learning about as many as possible will be helpful. In my own case, each experience taught me a lot about my own limitations, how Nature is often uncooperative regarding human intentions and survival, and how such efforts are indeed liberating in unexpected ways. It also taught me just how much courage is required to self-liberate (be prepared to confront various levels of existential terror on a routine basis). If you are willing to carefully prepare, learn from others who have taken this journey, and be open to having your expectations radically rearranged, then this may be a worthwhile objective for you. Regardless of where you end up in the process, you may find some creative ways to “not participate” in the destruction of planet Earth — and to help others understand the benefits of doing so.

My 2 cents.

Why is the subject of calculated neglect so neglected on Quora?

Carl I think there are a couple of things happening….

1) As I mentioned in a previous A2A on this topic, we are all increasingly losing our capacity for discernment of the deceptive manipulation and calculated neglect that is being willfully and artfully applied on a global scale. In a sense, the “neglect” of this topic is therefore partially attributed to ignorance about its reality. So we become frogs in a pot of water being brought to a boil, and a large part of the calculated neglect becomes (of necessity) keeping us ignorant of that fact.

2) The second issue, more specific to Quora, is that Quora itself is gradually becoming subject to the same propaganda mechanisms that have been injected into other social media of late — via Cambridge Analytica, Russian hackers and bot farms, etc. Someone recently asked me to answer a question with “totalitarianism” in the topic, which was then — unbelievably — changed to “socialism” by Quora content review, when it has absolutely nothing to do with socialism! So Quora is not immune to deceptive manipulations that continue to keep people ignorant and misinformed.
The steady attack on civil society by neoliberal agents — which includes undermining educational institutions, news media, informational resources, and indeed “facts” themselves — has coincided with a culture steeped in consumerism, self-soothing, comfort-seeking, titillation and distraction. A perfect union. Thus an increasingly global pool of worker-consumers is essentially self-medicating to manage the pain of being boiled alive by capitalism, and the neoliberal plutocrats and their obedient owner-shareholders are more than happy to provide additional consumables for that self-medication.

But, like David Foster Wallace’s observation about fish in water, a majority of us simply do not recognize the pain that is driving us, or that capitalism is the root cause of that pain, or that we are being force-fed a spectacle to further dilute and redirect our democratic will away from realizing or correcting actual causes. And so instead we are encouraged to lash out — to elect folks like Trump, or blame immigrants and minorities, or blame progressive-minded policies, etc. — and the neoliberal puppet masters, delighted by this windfall of populist conformance, can then amplify that misdirected ire so that we become dumber, more ignorant, more confused, more divided, and more tribalistic in our blame. It’s really quite ingenious.

My 2 cents.

Is leisure (Plato) essential to gain wisdom?

Plato’s elevation of “contemplative leisure” should not be equated with modern concepts of affluence and “recreational time” IMO. A shepherd herding sheep all day has plenty of “contemplative leisure,” for example, as long as no crisis arises. As does a professional bricklayer who can lay bricks all day without really thinking about it. In this sense, the critical component in developing wisdom is time to think — time to integrate and evaluate and self-reflect. In many ways I suspect this is why so many people in modern developed countries are becoming increasingly unwise: they do not cultivate this spaciousness for their interiority, but instead are constantly seeking stimulation, titillation, comfort and escape. Indeed they seem to have too much leisure in this regard. So I would say that a conscious and active cultivation of contemplation — in any and all situations — is really at the heart of Plato’s concern…and it should still be for us today. And, lastly, there is also the cofactor of quality input streams — information that contributes to wisdom, rather than simply distracting or entertaining us, is also essential to contemplative insights. In other words, what we think about is just as important as how we think about it.

My 2 cents.

What is your take on what was revealed in the (Republican) FISA memo? What should we do with that information?

Thanks for the question.

To my eye there are a couple of clues as to the intent and quality of this memo in the memo and cover letter, as well as the facts (that we know of) surrounding them:

1) There is a lot of emphasis on how “top secret” the information is supposed to be, and how strictly and appropriately the management of its declassification is being carried out. All of the language in the cover letter echoes the somewhat melodramatic hand-written crossing out of the top secret designation on the scanned memo itself. All of this seems contrived to make the memo seem much more revelatory and important than it actually is.

2) The bulk of the memo’s “revelation” is a conspiracy of nefarious intent to neutralize Donald Trump’s presidency (i.e. “an insurance policy”). The problem with this approach is that, even if the intent could be verified by reviewing the source materials (and here we must, alas, rely on a rather ethically tainted Devin Nunes to assure us this is the case), that does not necessarily impugn the information collected. In other words, even if some FISA threshold were artificially engineered, that does not negate the veracity of observed criminal activities. This frames a rather weak ad hominem strategy for countering accusations against folks working for Trump. Of course, if the FISA warrant really lacked appropriate justification, then the data collected might not be admissible in criminal proceedings…but that is a completely separate legal issue from whether or not there was evidence of collusion with Russia. I can only imagine that Nunes is hoping to muddy the water so that the American public falsely equates a possible political agenda for the investigation with inaccurate or fabricated surveillance results.

3) There is a lot that we know to contradict a purely political motivation on the part of the FBI to investigate the Trump campaign. Others have covered this in much more detail — the political leanings of key players at the FBI, how Comey undermined Hilary’s credibility in the 11th hour before the election, etc. However, what seems a lot more important in this case is the vast amount of classified information that would need to be disclosed to clearly evaluate the FISA proceedings for bias. And that likely won’t be available for years. Which means…Nunes had absolutely no business releasing this superficial assessment, which itself so clearly embodies an aggressive political agenda. In other words, the memo is pregnant with the very same quality of nefarious intent it attempts to assign to others — the pot calling the kettle black if you will.

All-in-all, I would say the memo illustrates a very sad state of affairs in Congress — a conniving and twisted flavor of manipulation we haven’t seen since the McCarthy era.

My 2 cents.

What are the signs that someone is self-aware?

Signs of self-awareness…hmmm. Good question.

First I would say that self-awareness in isolation from other qualities isn’t necessarily a good thing — or even all that helpful. Someone who has not come to peace with their own very accurate perception of themselves may expend tremendous amounts of energy attempting to hide aspects of themselves from others, or be defensive or insecure about them, or struggle with their observations to such a degree that they are in constant anxiety and self-doubt. So unless self-awareness is accompanied by humility, openness, self-control, self-efficacy, authenticity, compassion for self, maturity, acceptance and a host of other factors, the “telltales” of its existence may hold little import.

With that said, here are some signs I think are fairly common for folks with self-awareness that has evolved in conjunction with other critical and complimentary traits:

1) Realistic, honest and open assessment of own strengths and limitations — without either catastrophizing failings at one extreme, or overestimating competency at the other extreme. This, in turn, inherently improves self-efficacy.

2) Ability to describe one’s own mistakes by accurately identifying cognitive errors, mistaken perceptions or misinterpreted information. In other words, to be able to recognize not only the error one has made, but also how it happened via internal mistakes.

3) In my experience an ability to laugh at oneself is frequently concomitant with mature self-awareness.

4) The most effective and potent forms of self-awareness seem to require stepping back from the immediacy of a given situation — emotions, ideations, physical responses, etc. — rather than being swept up in it. This can manifest as both reflective metacognition and detached observation of internal events.

5) Genuine humility.

6) An ease with adjusting course when others point out weaknesses and strengths.

7) A knack for both avoiding overcommitment and neglecting the application of skills and talents; a balanced and insightful application of effort.

My 2 cents.


Can the human condition accurately be viewed as living in a prison?

Thanks for the question Joel. Well it certainly often feels — subjectively and collectively — like we are living in various prisons. For example:

1) The prison of our economic system, and our status within it (conspicuous consumption, wage and debt slavery, striving for affluence, “greed is good” acquisitiveness, etc.)

2) The prison of cultural expectations (getting married, procreating, achieving self-sufficiency, going to college, etc.)

3) The prison of conceptual dualism and its inevitable reductionism (left/right, moral/immoral, good/bad, ingroup/outgroup, etc.)

4) The prison of our investment in a particular worldview (i.e. ideological purity, exclusionary bias, a tendency toward tribalism, etc.)

5) The prison of our unconscious or unmanageable habitual behaviors (conditioned, impulsive, addictive, etc.)

6) The prison of our perception-cognition (i.e. the structural and conditioned limitations of our mind)

7) The prison of comfort (avoiding difficulty or confrontation, self-soothing behaviors, pleasure seeking, distraction, safe routines, etc.)

8-) The prison of our choices (i.e. the often unintended consequences of individual and collective investment)

There are more…many more…but we can feel trapped in a very real-seeming cage with regard to any of these methinks.

Often the best option people believe to be available is to learn how to acquiesce and integrate — to submit to these apparent cages and discover “freedom” in how they are navigated. Adolescents instinctively attempt to free themselves from these seeming impositions, but most often revert to a mimesis of their parent culture and the examples of their family of origin — they return to the river. It is a very rare exception that steps outside of the prison current, and most often these brave souls — the outliers by nature or choice — are ostracized, ignored, dismissed or neglected. And that is can be very painful existence for social critters like humans. An even rarer exception is the handful of outliers who demonstrate paths to some form of freedom — conscious interior will, cultural nonconformance, somatic reconditioning, psychosocial reprogramming, a new way of thinking, spiritual liberty — that inspires others to untether themselves.

My 2 cents.

What are the top 10 words of wisdom you can give to a man at the age of 30?

A fun challenge, thanks for the question. Here’s my 10-word offering:

“You aren’t what you feel/think, but what you do.”

My 2 cents.

Is the aim of all religions to teach only moral values?

Thanks for the question. In my opinion, it is not the primary aim of religions to teach moral values. Often, religious institutions will, over time, elevate moral correctness or dogma to an excessive level — seemingly just so that adherents can be more easily controlled, or to create a standard of conformance that qualifies as the appearance of being religious. But when we read the scriptures of the world’s spiritual traditions, it rapidly becomes clear that there is much, much more being discussed there than “100 things we must do,” and “100 things we must not do” in order to be a moral person. Instead, the focus is often on a much more subtle development of character, or a specific quality of faith, or a transformative change in attitude, or ways to develop discernment and wisdom, or a clearly defined avenue to “all spiritual truths” — moral and otherwise. So morality, as such, really becomes a secondary property of spirituality; advanced moral values are a natural outgrowth of spiritual maturity — evidence of our progress, if you will — rather than a central aim.

My 2 cents.

How do you keep yourself motivated to meditate?

Thanks or the question. My thoughts on this…

1) Meditation does not nourish all of our being — just certain parts. Finding other activities and disciplines that nourish other dimensions of our life will energize routines we attempt in unrelated areas. This is a principle of Integral Lifework — it may seem counterintuitive, but it works.

2) There are many different forms of meditation. One may appeal to you more than another — or be more helpful for you. Check out “resources” in the link above for some freely available descriptions and sample practices (for example, from the book Essential Mysticism).

3) Creating a structure, routine and regular designated space around meditation can be extremely helpful. If you practice at the same time each day, and always in the same physical space, this will have a reinforcing effect on your practice (it will often create a momentum that carries you forward).

4) There may be something — a barrier within — that is disrupting your ability to meditate or continue meditating. There may be fear, or difficult internal material to confront, or confusion and disorientation. Engaging barriers and working through them with patience and compassion can be very healing…regardless of the resulting impact on your mediation practice. Sometimes this requires the assistance of a counsellor, coach, therapist or support group.

5) Meditating with others in an established group (or one that you create yourself) can offer a huge advantage — accountability, routine, social connections, support and encouragement, etc.

My 2 cents.

What should be humanity's primary goal in the long term?

Thank you for the question. For our overarching goal, I think we should aim to embody skillful compassion at all levels of human organization — as a species, as cultures and nations, as communities, as individuals. In other words, to have compassion for ourselves, for one another, for the Earth and all its wonderful forms of life, and in our interactions with species and places beyond the Earth’s sphere…and to exercise that compassion with increasing predictive efficacy. This latter aspect of the imperative — the skillfulness and effectiveness part — is what knowledge, technology, artistic expression, wisdom, discernment and so on can aid us with. But the primary imperative itself — to love — can only be achieved through individual and collective emotional commitment to nourishing and amplifying our existing prosocial traits; this must become the focus of human beings that subjugates all others. And right now, mainly because of our dominant forms of political economy and the prevailing cultural zeitgeist, we are failing at this imperative. We are not quieting our most corrosive and repulsive antisocial traits, but instead glorifying them. This choice — which is essentially a moral one — has been with us from the beginning of recorded history and likely (considering what modern primate research has revealed) long before. I suspect it will persist until the human species is extinct — which is likely to occur much sooner if we don’t change our course.

My 2 cents.

How do you get people out of denial?

This takes time, and the avenues available to you will depend both on the quality of your relationship with the person, as well as on their mental capacity and emotional health. For example, if you are a very close friends, you might consider gently and lovingly confronting them about the issue, and asking if they are receptive to your observations and feedback. If you have a history of “telling each other straight” (i.e. being brutally honest with each other), then you could also just confront without the gentle, compassionate preamble, and just speak your mind. If you are in an intimate romantic relationship, you can appeal to your desire to deepen that relationship and your need to express concern about something that you feel is interfering with honesty and intimacy. If the relationship isn’t that deep, or has been rocky, or is relatively superficial (neighbor, coworker, person you see at the bus stop each day, etc.), then you probably don’t have the relational standing to effectively comment on the denial you are observing. I mean…you could…especially if you like being confrontational…but it’s probably not going to have much effect other than their becoming defensive and not trusting you anymore. But if you already have a longstanding trust with someone, then you can, in a spirit of genuine concern, offer your observation. Even here, though, wording and context is everything. Are they drunk? Are they surrounded by peers that agree with their POV? Are they expressing an openness to you about a problem they are dealing with? Are they angry or sad? Choosing the right timing for such a conversation is just as important as choosing the right words…which should affirm their emotions and your understanding of their POV prior to you offering anything that sounds like criticism or advice. Then again, if they aren’t that bright, or have a lot of emotional baggage they haven’t worked through, or are suffering from a mental illness, then you may not be able to penetrate a belief or untruth that this person has latched onto for a sense of belonging, security or identity.

My 2 cents.

Is the United States economy due for a correction?

Well it doesn’t look good in terms of both domestic fundamentals and international trade, considering:

1) The lack of U.S. investment (and political will) around green energy — along with a concurrent attempt to return to the rape-and-pillage model of extraction industries — means both that a highly innovating and job-creating sector will find a place to thrive somewhere outside of the U.S., and that the U.S. will lag behind in implementations and thus be subject to unstable resources, unsustainable production, and amplified negative externalities.

2) Nearly all categories of consumer spending are increasingly dependent on personal credit and increasing debt, and consumer debt burdens cannot increase without limit — thus demand will either attenuate in precipitous ways across multiple sectors, or competitive price inelasticity will shave profit margins to growth-choking levels.

3) When you remove some potential short-term variability, it appears that wages and job growth may remain largely stagnant over the longer run. Ironically, any potential “trickle down” to wages from a lower corporate tax rate (though there is no evidence that this will even be the case — see the next bullet) will be offset by trade protections that encourage low-paying jobs to return to the U.S. — jobs with such tremendous downward pressure on wages (from years of sweatshop exploitation and ever-increasing production efficiencies) that they will likely become the targets of automation.

4) Cuts in corporate and higher income tax rates will not stimulate economic growth — this has always been a neoliberal supply-side fantasy that has never borne fruit. Instead, we already see the amplification of a post-2008 trend where companies hoard cash reserves and buy back stock, further enriching owner-shareholders. And both globally and in the U.S., this concentration of wealth in the top <1% only exacerbates income inequality to an astonishing degree…it never “trickles down” to anyone else, but instead gets tucked away in trusts and offshore accounts — at least this is what all of the available data indicates for the past 40 years.

5) Stock market gains have been largely psychological, and are (once again) relying ever-more-heavily upon speculation and speculative instruments that either are not backed by material assets, or by extremely irrational valuations of assets.
Regulatory constraints on financial institutions are on schedule to be relaxed to pre-2008 conditions.
International trade deals are being threatened and/or scuttled by Trumpian protectionism and the “uncertainty effect” of his leadership style.

6) Intellectual capital is being jeopardized by discouraging immigrants from attending U.S. universities, an ongoing mishandling of the student debt crisis in higher ed, and a lack of investment and excellence in K-12 (alas, neither the profit motive nor aggressive performance metrics have made U.S. education any better).

7) The ongoing assault on the ACA and Medicare will almost certainly result in a shrinking healthcare infrastructure and increasing costs, even as demand accelerates with an aging baby-boomer population — and possibly an increase in disease vectors resulting from climate change. The consequence in the short term from any single one of these will be rapidly rising healthcare premiums and huge losses at hospitals that must serve the uninsured. When you combine all of these variables, I think this trend is one of the more explosive “crash inducers.” Will taxpayers be “bailing out” hospitals and insurance companies next…?

8-) As a more controversial prediction, exponential increases in product complexity, combined with ever-more-rapid product lifecycles, are inviting at best a form of consumer exhaustion — and at worst a concerted consumer backlash — in either case further reducing demand and potential economic growth.

9) As another speculation, since the U.S. government is trapped in a deficit spending spiral that will be amplified by the recent tax reforms, this will — given the current administration’s irrational belief in outdated economic models and ending “the nanny state” — likely result in de facto austerity measures similar to those that have decimated other economies. Paul Ryan and his ilk have already broadcast their intention to do just this.

….And these are just a handful of the known and possible factors. There are dozens of others all pointing in the same direction: increased market instability, excessive leveraging, inflated valuation, hampered productivity, flat or falling real wages, precipitous decreases in demand, increasing trade imbalances, and overall economic stagnation. Add to this that the Federal Reserve now has very little room to maneuver in terms of monetary tools, and anyone with a lick of sense can see the writing on the wall.

My 2 cents.

Do you believe truth is objective or subjective and does it affect your life in tangible ways?

“Truth” is a virtual point located between many different possibilities that are all equally true. This is the concept of multidialecticalism or constructive integralism. The moment we begin to constrain the conditions, context and containers for a given truth (for example, as objective, subjective, intersubjective, interobjective, universal, particular, etc.) is the moment we begin to lose our grip on the multiplicity of what is, and relegate it to black-and-white thinking. Extensions of Cartesian isolation of interdependent truths into “distinct substances” has led to temporarily convenient but ultimately unhelpful dualisms, divisions and specializations. It’s a mode of thought that has fueled the ascension of STEM, but is unsuitable to navigating infinite facets of nuance and complexity. Instead, our future demands we awaken to a more open holism of thought. This realization has had a profound impact on my life, my consciousness and my approaches to problem-solving, my understanding and integration of different fields, approaches to well-being, and conceptions of individual and collective transformation and growth.

My 2 cents.

Why do many people refuse to consider social democracy a form of socialism?

A couple of thoughts on this…

1) Be careful using Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Types_of_socialism#Social_democracy). It is Open Source, which is good thing generally IMO, but unfortunately there are folks who have specific agendas, and who edit Wikipedia pages to distort reality in favor of their own ideology. This is precisely what has happened with the definitions and discussions of social democracy on Wikipedia. In my experience, the most extreme distortions will eventually get edited out…but again, just a word of caution. Here is a more nuanced definition that supports the reality that social democracy is, in fact, a form of socialism: Social democracy.

A lot of people really dislike the term “socialism,” because it is so antagonistic to the forms of capitalism they believe in. In particular, laissez-faire capitalists have traditionally attacked ALL forms of socialism from a position of fear and loathing — this is primarily what generated the two “Red Scares” in U.S. history, for example. So when you see folks rabidly defending the falsehood that “social democracy isn’t socialism!” or that “a mixed economy isn’t socialism!” this is frequently issuing from a strong tradition of neoliberal propaganda. For those folks who want to funnel the most profit to owner-shareholders — and away from worker-consumers — any reference to a Socialist Boogeyman in any form must be met with the frantic, frothing rhetoric and hyperbolic polemics (like the ones I myself have just employed).

Now in the U.S. in particular, there is real confusion about what a mixed economy is (i.e. that it is, in fact, a combination of socialism and capitalism), and that social democracy is a very different form of mixed economy (i.e. a much more socialist version) than other forms. A good article that covers the difference between a U.S. Liberalism that “trusts” markets and promotes capitalism, and European social democracies that did NOT trust capitalism and saught to constrain it, can be found here: The Economics Of Social Democracy. In particular, you will note that one of the main features of social democracy to “tame capitalism” is not just regulation, but moving entire industries into the public sector. This is “public ownership of the means of production” in a very clear sense. Again, though, neoliberals and other market fundamentalists will squirm and shiver into condemnatory hysterics whenever this obvious truth is clearly articulated. But alas, they are simply maintaining an unfortunate zeal for denial.

I hope this was helpful.

In instances of abandonment issues and consequences towards other people not desiring your compassion and courtesy in life, how do you overcome not getting reciprocated by another persons love, admira

Thanks for the question.

This is a broad, deep, muddy puddle of a question. Without knowing you or the specifics of your situation, it is almost impossible to recommend a specific course of action. However, here are some options to explore — some or all of which may be helpful to you:

1) Consider asking yourself why you feel you need (or expect) reciprocity, and why you feel abandoned or disappointed by its absence. Perhaps you could employ the downward arrow technique from CBT to explore your thought patterns around these emotions…and what is really at the root of them (in terms of beliefs, assumptions, past experiences, etc.).

2) There is a possibility that you are choosing the wrong people to love, admire and adore. You may, in fact, be setting yourself up for disappointment and feelings of abandonment because you are attracted to people who are emotionally unavailable, or inherently subdued or unexpressive. This can happen when, for example, one of our parents was detached and undemonstrative, and we are forever trying to “fix” that experience — and our own feelings of inadequacy that are still evoked by it — by seeking out people that are just like that parent, and trying to “get them to love us.” To break this cycle, we need to address and heal the family relationship — and/or the persisting personal narrative within — that has modeled this dynamic.

3) You may be misinterpreting signals, perpetuating an exaggerated assessment of your affection and the clarity of your communication, or have unrealistic standards of reciprocity. In other words, you may think that the quid-pro-quo is obvious and reasonable, when it’s actually not. People get into all sorts of trouble when they think, “Hey, isn’t it obvious that I’m expressing affection and compassion here? And isn’t it obvious that you should be reciprocating…?” In reality the other person may have no clear idea of what is going on, or how to respond — even if you try to express it to them directly. At the same time, you yourself may not be accurately reading signals the other person is sending your way — both positive and negative. Lastly, have you actually asked for what you want? If not, that could contribute to a simple remedy. All of these issues of accurate awareness, expectation and communication are in fact what a LOT (perhaps most) of couples counseling ends up working through.

4) One of the most liberating spiritual practices I have learned during my life is giving without expectation of reciprocation. Giving of yourself, in any form, can be its own reward…with the right frame of mind. And when “the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing” (in terms of charitable feelings and actions), this can remove a lot of potential frustration and disappointment from the interpersonal equation. Learning how best to be a Blessing Presence to others is of course a lifelong task, but inherent to that is a mindset that a cup that overflows with love generated from within does not need to be refilled from without.

5) The quickest path to burnout is not loving ourselves first. Do you cherish the person you are? Do you honor and have compassion for that person in all of your choices? For most folks, identifying and addressing barriers to this basic level of self-respect and self-care is the beginning of healing necessary to love others effectively and freely.

My 2 cents.

What do we humans believe exists that isn't based on human assumptions?

Of course nearly everything is based on assumptions, which IMO is only a trap if:

a) We aren’t aware we are making those assumptions.

b) We don’t test them against our experience, observation, intuition and logic.

c) We don’t suspend or revise them when confronted with contrary evidence.

d) We aren’t vigilant and skeptical regarding our own certainties (i.e. we don’t hold our assumptions lightly)

All efforts at knowing are predicated upon certain assumptions — even if the assumption is that using a particular method, or symbolic language, or type of data, or quality of consciousness will ensure a high degree of validity. It may be that those assumptions are consistently proven — over and over again — by careful testing, and that they reliably enhance our predictive efficacy. But most proposed absolutes are either extremely difficult to prove, unknowable, or ineffable — because human perception-cognition is fallible. So really, asserting that “everything is based on human assumptions” is just a form of humility.

Vive l'Humilité.

How would a person living in a society where every type of work is managed by robots and artificial intelligence and with no scarcity find meaning in his life?

Thank you for the question.

There are a number of positions and assertions that approach this question in different ways, among which are:

1) Humans are meaning-making critters who will always invent purpose for themselves, regardless of their situation. In fact, it is often argued that this inventiveness is one of humanity’s chief assets in the face of both calamity/deprivation, and affluence/ease.

2) Maslow’s hierarchy of needs would indicate that once basic needs are met — physical needs, safety and security, love and belonging, esteem and respect — then what remains in that hierarchy is self-actualization. In the environment the OP describes, this self-actualizing pursuit of creativity, realizing personal potential, moral development, etc. seems like a reasonable fit for “finding meaning.”

3) Our current obsession with the materialistic and individualistic is really evidence of a moral immaturity that hinders the natural, intrinsic unfolding of human potential and transformation. Once conditions that perpetuate infantilization and toddlerization of humanity (i.e. economic materialism, commodification, commercialization, etc.) are removed, then human beings will naturally blossom into their next stages of moral/spiritual/consciousness evolution.

There are other possibilities, but I think there is ample evidence, for example, in different educational models and research that shows that self-directedness, curiosity, a sense of play, spontaneous creativity and cooperation, and a host of other positive traits are innate to human beings, and really don’t require much encouragement to flourish. However, since multiple generations have essentially been repressed in these areas, and burdened with invented constraints — rigid institutions, dogmatic ideologies, forms of wage and debt slavery, etc. — that have promoted fear and suffering above our joyful search for meaning, it will likely take a generation or two to recover and regain those inner freedoms once again. Epigenetically, this could present some real challenges — but my hope would be that humans would, in time, bounce back to our curious, adventurous, spontaneous selves.

My 2 cents.

Is nothingness just a belief or does nothingness actually exist?

LOL. Thanks for the question. So the answer is relatively simple IMO: There is a high likelihood that both conditions could be true at the same time. Nothingness — or non-existence — could only be a concept, and/or nothingness could hint at conditions that are one step further removed from non-existence as a concept. In other words, there is (1) our concept of nothingness, (2) our speculations about a non-existence that is once step further removed from our conceptions of nothingness, and (3) what actually is (or is not, as the case may be). If we are dualistic in our thinking, we will tend to force ourselves to choose one of these options. However, if we have experienced nondual windows of consciousness, we might be more willing to accept that either a) all three conditions may be true at the same time, b) all three conditions may be true at different times, c) only one or two of the three options may be true, or d) there are conditions that allow any of these options to be true at any given time.

Can you see what happens here? We can end up abstracting ourselves (causally and conceptually) so far from the initial ground of experiential knowing that — depending on how we integrate our new understanding — conceptualization itself loses meaning. And that points to another variable in the mix: the mode of perception-cognition that we are relying upon at any given moment to navigate any such waters. What about intuition? What about spiritual gnosis? What about mathematical proofs? What about logic? What about collective delusion? What about empirical observation? What about predictive efficacy? What about “common sense?” There are many ways of knowing, and all of them moderate the truth in ways that make what is actually true a virtual point suspended between limitless possibilities. Which IMO really leads us to a more pragmatic question of: how does nothingness — or your conception of nothingness — impact your choices in this moment…?

My 2 cents.

What are the difference between epistemology and metaphysics?

Thanks for the question. One take on the difference(s) between epistemology and metaphysics:

Epistemology is the predetermining and larger semantic container of the two, in that it explores and defines how we know what we know, and why we believe what we believe.

Metaphysics, in turn, influences epistemic proposals in its preliminary assumptions about the nature of being, which in turn shape the categories and processes of knowing — but it is still subordinate to epistemology (or, more precisely, nested within it), because all metaphysical discussion presupposes a given set of epistemic methods and assumptions.

That said, the two areas of consideration have often been intimately related, so that some might consider a “chicken-and-egg” dynamic in play. I would lean away from this being the case — it seems clear that epistemology ultimately provides the conceptual framework within which any metaphysical proposals will be constructed. Epistemology — in its formulations of language, hermeneutics, logic, etc. — offers us the foundation for all metaphysical inquiry.

Of course, in my own approach to epistemology (see Sector Theory 1.0 or http://www.tcollinslogan.com/res...) the gap between knowing and being seems to be narrowing, so that the differentiation I’ve just made is no longer as clear or assertive. Yes, I’m in danger of contradicting what I just said. Alas, I think this is the nature of the wily beast we call consciousness, so that we must always remain vigilant and open to revising our assumptions. :-)

My 2 cents.