Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Hurricane Metes Out Poetic Justice on Houston

What does Houston stand for if not the oil industry? Houston benefited from its nefarious alliance with the Motor City, Detroit, to marginalize U.S. environmentalism, destroy public transit and subjugate every oil producing nation by bribing their sheikhs and dictators to sell out their citizenry.

We already saw one kind of retribution in 9/11. Now Mother Nature has joined the cause.

Just as the auto industry's Detroit — the one place in which Martin Luther King, Jr., felt unfettered hate — was allowed to decline and die after the city's African-American poor exploded against inequality in 1967, Houston is now feeling the effect of climate change among the anti-Mexican Texas kickers.

Auto and oil industries, allied sectors and a few of their most suborned politicians conspired to destroy public transit (see the 1947 conviction of General Motors for conspiracy to destroy electric tramway systems) and prevent environmental measure that, in the 1970s might have stopped and reversed climate change. Even a Republican, the notorious Richard Nixon, recognized the need for environmental action by establishing the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970.

Now it's too late. Climate change is irreversible, we can only soften the blows. The electric streetcar is gone. The Arab world is seeing the worst passions inflamed by deep and justified resentment at the exploitation, and now endless war, wrought on their countries by the West.

That is why Houston is flooded.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Created Equal?

So we're in the late 18th century and early 19th. We have a tripartite government (with executive, legislative and judicial branches). Supposedly, the principles that led to the start of the new nation, the supposedly united former colonies called states, were that all people were "created equal" to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

But wait. Women could not vote. Nor could slaves nor Indians. Nor could even all white men. Those who were serfs, or "indentured," did not have a vote. Even among free men, only those who had property, meaning assets such as land or a business, could vote. So the USA began essentially as an agrarian oligarchy, which literally means, in its Greek roots, "rule of the few."

In the year 1776, a Scotsman named Adam Smith wrote a book titled The Wealth of Nations. Smith was a moral philosopher engaged in the then-new field of study called economics (which means literally the study of the management of a household). Applied to entire societies, Smith was interested in political economy, which he viewed as "a branch of the science of a statesman or legislator [with the twofold objectives of providing] a plentiful revenue or subsistence for the people ... [and] to supply the state or commonwealth with a revenue for the publick services."

This is one way to examine society. In short, I will be touching on the later development of sociology and psychology. In this way we can ask, how have Americans worked to secure their survival at each stage? How did they organize their society? What have they been like as people? How have who they were, what they did for a living, the institutions they favored and the personal way of living make them into what we try to understand today as one nation?

This is the second in a series of entries on the development of ideas that made the United States and the economic, social and political issues Americans debate, posted under the label WeHoldTheseTruths.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

We Hold These Truths

A cyberfriend on Facebook nudged me into starting a brief series of entries on the development of ideas that made the United States and the economic, social and political issues Americans debate. I have decided to share my posts on her "wall" with the greater cyberspace under the label WeHoldTheseTruths.

What ideas brought us to the binary electoral choice of two basically similar political parties serving whomever pays the piper? Are there alternatives for running our society, making our economy fairer for all and, if so, what are they?

To look at the beginnings, I suppose we have to look at truth. Up to 1517, when one Martin Luther rebelled, truth in Europe was said to be divinely inspired and taught by the successors of the apostles of one Yeshua bar Yosif (aka Jesus the Christ). Then came Luther and said, more or less, "no, truth is revealed to my soul directly by God when I read the Bible."

Then, a few centuries later, people such as Francis Bacon, René Descartes, John Locke, Baruch Spinoza, Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, David Hume, Adam Smith and Immanuel Kant, proposed that the truth properly had to be reached by human reason and that all reasonable people, presented certain evidence, would agree.

That is the quintessence of the original American philosophy and the underlying idea behind the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

You can see at least three layers of thinking that informed the framers of our nation's foundations: the idea of theological and absolute truth (Judeo-Christian religion), the notion of intuitively revealed truth through faith and, finally, empirical or factual reasoning. Today, many people question all three, not usually at the same time; but this is the source from which all our talk about principles and society and fairness, and so forth, springs forth.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Blogging Christianity

Yesterday I reached the end of the trail of what became a Sunday blog about the history of the Christian faith. I had started it for a friend preparing for confirmation as an adult; she wanted to hear the outline of the Christian story in order, so she could grasp how Christian beliefs, morals and rituals developed.

The result was my blog Let Mountains Hear, its title drawn from Micah 6:2. It originally was just a tag in a blog about faith, generally and haphazardly, as ideas came. Then the history came to dominate, then it became a weekly blog, one post every Sunday.

Yesterday was the final, 140th post since April 2013.

Anyone interested in reading it through, from beginning to end (and correcting, corrections are always welcome), may

(a) start at the beginning Story of the Christian Faith and click on the Newer Post link at the very bottom of each entry; or

(b) use the menu at the top, which organizes the posts by era, starting with Abrahamic Faith, then Bethlehem through Chalcedon, Middle Ages, Renaissance & Reformation, Modernity, Our Time.

It grew like Topsy, with some posts longer than others, a few topics spread over posts — all guided by the inexorable march of historical time, with some attention to complexity.

Describing the setting and themes of the Nicene Creed took five weekly entries. The Protestant Reformation and various reactions took about 20. Looking back, I see I did not cover every possible detail, but I would argue that all the major developments that help define modern Christianity are there.

The idea was to write something by an ordinary person — I am neither a professional theologian nor historian —for ordinary people. My biases are my biases, I wear them on my sleeve, but I tried in general to be fair as I am fair in my professional work, journalism.

So, it is done.