Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Epicureanism: an Introduction

Epicureanism is a humanist philosophical doctrine for human happiness. It requires us to make a firm resolution to live a happy life and to apply philosophical and empirical methods to the pursuit of happiness.

Its first tenets are contained in the Four Remedies:

Do not fear death
Do not fear the gods
What is good, is easy to attain
What is evil is easy to avoid

For non-believers, the first two negative statements may be translated as "Do not fear chance or blind luck, for it is pointless to battle that which we have no control over. It generates unnecessary suffering."

The latter two positive statements lead to Epicurean teachings on how we should evaluate our desires and discern which ones are unnecessary versus which ones are necessary, which ones carry pain when satisfied or ignored versus which ones don't. By this process of an analysed life, one learns to be content with the simple pleasures in life, those easiest to attain. The best things in life are free.

"The wealth required by nature is limited and easy to procure; but the wealth required by vain ideals extends to infinity ... Do not spoil that which you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for." - Epicurus

The three goods are friendships, an analysed life, and autarchy which translates as autonomy or self-sufficiency. Epicurus taught that friends are the most important ingredient for happiness. Difficulties are much more easy to bear, and pleasures much more easily enjoyed, in wholesome association with our trusted friends. We should seek them often and blend our minds with them.

The process of living an analysed life leads to the cultivation of what philosophers called ataraxia: a state of satisfied serenity, content, and self-control. It translates as imperturbability. Its attainment signals philosophical maturity.

The serene grounds of the Epicurean Academy were known as the Garden. There, an egalitarian community evolved where men, women, and slaves discussed philosophical matters among equals. This was very progressive, and even scandalous, in those days. Epicurean Gardens flourished for over 700 years until the Christians destroyed all the philosophical schools and philosophy was banned.

We must not underestimate the influence of Epicureanism in contemporary political philosophy and in modern life. We ultimately owe the inclusion of the 'pursuit of happiness' in the Declaration of Independence to Thomas Jefferson, who was a disciple of Epicurus. In his letter to William Short, he said:

"As you said yourself, I too am an Epicurean ... I consider the genuine doctrines of Epicurus as containing every thing rational in moral philosophy"

For a vast resource of writings by Epicurean thinkers throughout history, visit:

The following is a series of videos detailing Epicurean philosophy by youtuber Lootra:

Saturday, December 22, 2012

2012: The Awakening of the Sleeping Monster of Global People-Power

Thousands descended on Stonehenge to celebrate the 2012 winter solstice and busloads of New Age pilgrims from all over the world made their way to the Mayan ruins of Guatemala and Southern Mexico in celebration of what many considered the end of the world, but for others the world was coming to a start. Latin American celebrities and common folk went to Guatemala and participated in public cleansing rituals under the guidance of Mayan shamans.
In recent years, the Mayan script has been decoded and great advances have been made in our understanding of Mayan culture. This has inspired a renewal of interest in Mayan traditions, and has also called to our attention that the last day in their calendar was our winter solstice (December 21) of 2012. Our current 20-year Mayan calendar period or katún, from 1992 – 2012, is known as the Time of No-Time since these were the last years of the sun’s 5,125 year cycle in the Mayan calendar. Mayan elders believe that there had been many humanities before us and that the fifth humanity would emerge on this day from the ruins of the previous one.
There have been innumerable doomsday predictions. Ancient Vikings believed in Ragnarok, the Day of Doom. The authors of the Gospels said that Jesus announced his imminent return within that same generation, which never happened. Ever since, Christians have been postponing the end times.
The pastor of an early Christian American sect known as the Millerites convinced his flock to await the end of days on April 28 of 1843. Some of his followers sold everything they had and gathered on a hill to await Christ’s return. When nothing happened, the pastor announced a new date, December 31 of 1843 … then March 21 of 1844, then October 22 of 1844. Eventually, the disciples distanced themselves from Miller and renamed themselves the Seventh Day Adventists while others became Jehova’s Witnesses. These groups have continued to postpone the date and turned fear-based doomsday predictions into a tradition, as have Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and their ilk.
More recently, homophobic preacher Harold Camping squandered millions on doomsday propaganda that assured his followers that the world would end May 21 of 2011 and blamed gays for just about everything he perceived to be wrong with our planet. When God failed to exhibit his wrath, he postponed the date to October 21 of 2011, and when nothing happened again, the fraudulent preacher stopped playing God’s ventriloquist and receded into irrelevance. He failed to offer a money-back-guarantee to his gracious donors.
It’s difficult to understand why some people get so easily seduced by doomsday prophecies: our species’ scientists have advised us that the sun is not scheduled to expand, swallow the Earth and explode as a super nova for at least another 3.5 billion years. Unless a comet hits before then, humanity should be fine and will probably have migrated to other planets by then.
One possible theory is that certain generations are more vulnerable to mass hysteria: this was certainly the case when the black plague killed a third of Europe and many people believed the end was nigh. Our generation has seen an increase in populist uprisings throughout the world. Increasing poverty in the US may also contribute to the phenomenon, as more people turn to faith for consolation.
The ancient Greek tragedy and our modern glorification of violence and gore in media, including violent apocalyptic imagery, may also have deep psychological roots. Carl Jung, the father of psychoanalysis, proposed that the mass hysteria and violence of the Third Reich and II World War was the result of generations of repression of the primal Odin principle within the culture of the Germanic peoples. He identified the ancestral deity Odin as symbolizing the savagery of the old untamed Germanic psyche. Perhaps humanity does need some form of controlled outlet for its repressed violence and anger just as volcanoes serve to vent the repressed magma within the Earth, and art can be explained as one such civilized, tamed, acceptable outlet.
But it would be unfair to say that all of the discourse around 2012 is fire and brimstone. 2012 is an indigenous American cultural phenomenon and its relevance must be understood within an indigenous and neo-indigenous context. No assessment of 2012 would be fair and complete without the voices of indigenous peoples. Prophecy can function as a generation’s assessment of its place in history and as an extension of vision-seeking, or framing the collective history and destiny of a group. 2012 represents a return to an ancestral continental American cosmovision.
There have been several Pan-American Gatherings of the Elders in Perú, where indigenous shamans and leaders from the entire hemisphere have come together in mountains in the Andes that have always been considered sacred to seek visions and are weaving a new continental myth-making tradition centered around the prophecy of the condor and the eagle. The elders say that when the condor (South America) and the eagle (North America) are seen flying together, there will be peace on Earth.
There are other hope-filled indigenous prophecies, most notable among them the Warriors of the Rainbow prophecy which emerges from the Hopi tribes and which the indigenous Bolivians associate with their rainbow flag. The Rainbow Warriors are said to be light-workers who will come from all the tribes and languages of Earth at a crucial time of near-destruction and will teach people through deeds, not words. They would help the spiritual traditions of the red man to reemerge within new cultural paradigms after 500 years of repression and marginalization. Invariably, these traditions reflect cooperative, egalitarian, community-based values and models of human interaction.
Of the films that cashed into the 2012 craze, the documentary 2012: Time for Change stands out. It features interviews with Jacques Fresco, a futurist architect that some consider a genius, and delves into complementary currencies, workplace democracy through worker cooperatives, sustainable energy, emancipation from oil dependency and other solutions to global problems that, whether or not we address them, will make our generation pivotal to humanity’s fate. The movie The 11th Hour also proposes similar shifts, but focuses on the environment and the creation of technology that seeks to imitate and weave itself into the cycles of nature rather than dominate nature.
Of equal importance, 2012 serves as an excuse for cultural renewal for people of Mayan and other indigenous ancestry in the Americas.
We of the last katún of the Mayan calendar are the generation that saw the first indigenous president ever in Bolivia, Evo Morales, whose first ceremonial act as president was to make a humble offering to Pachamama (Mother Earth) and whose nation was the first on Earth to pass a law granting rights to Mother Earth. This happened after all the water in Bolivia had been sold by the previous neo-liberal regime to one American corporation, Bechtel, and it had become illegal for indigenous and poor Bolivians to even gather rainwater. The water wars ensued in Bolivia, where people died on the streets to take back their access to the water that fell from the sky. In the end, the people won and Bolivia’s water is now in public hands again. While this was all happening the water wars were not mentioned in U.S. corporate-owned media.
Our generation also saw a Zapatista revolutionary uprising among the modern descendants of the Mayans: the indigenous people in Chiapas, rebelling against attempts by corporate powers to penetrate their society and dismantle their societal values after NAFTA was approved. In these days of corporate lack of social and environmental accountability, acts such as these represent a paradigm shift.
The Arab Spring, the Indignados, the Occupy movement and similar populist ones focusing on the 99 percent effectively changed the discourse and countered generations of corporate, elitist and political propaganda and tyranny. This global awakening is exacerbated by the fact that we were cast into the information era in an evolutionary blink of an eye. We’re all rapidly reinventing ourselves and re-contextualizing ourselves in the midst of more changes within one generation than any other group of humans has seen. Global access to the internet did not even exist twenty years ago.
It was a curious fact that the NATO gathering in Chicago occurred during an eclipse, bringing into focus the international military industrial complex and all that it evokes. For all these reasons, it was not at all difficult for 2012 prophecies to gather this vast constellation of cultural memes around itself.
Thomas Jefferson once said ‘When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; When the government fears the people, there is liberty.’ There is a sign that one would see at the boundary of the autonomous territory of Chiapas that reads:
“You are in Zapatista Rebel territory.
Here, the People Command and the Government Obeys.”
Indigenous groups have always been community-oriented, collectivist cultures and in Chiapas today all decisions are made communally, by vote and by consensus, not too different from how the local assemblies at Occupy make their decisions. Chiapas has become a model of decentralization of power and participatory democracy, and of course a huge challenge to the power of the corrupt Mexican state.
Post-insurrection Chiapas remains a stateless society where the mothers and grandmothers make sure that no one goes hungry, without an education or any of the basic requirements for human dignity. It is there that the Mayans originally made their home.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Autarchy and Its Relevance Today

The word autarchy derives from the Greek: αὐτάρκεια, which means "self-sufficiency" (derived from αὐτο-, "self," and ἀρκέω, "to suffice").  Today, it's used mostly to refer to the self governance and self sufficiency of small states or provinces.  There is also military autarchy, and some libertarian thinkers today have proposed that autarchy should replace anarchy in contemporary libertarian discourse.

Autarchy, in its original context, was one of the goals of life in Epicureanism.  The philosophy of Epicurus has been subjected to so many layers of misunderstanding and bias over the centuries that today most people link epicureanism with gourmet food and unrestrained hedonism.  Like many of the things that Epicurus taught, autarchy has also shifted in meaning.  In this case, it has been reduced to the realm of politics and economics although Epicurus himself encouraged his disciples to never get involved in politics. Epicurean autarchy does involve self sufficiency, and economics are inescapable from this, but the philosopher stressed mental and emotional autarchy: the ability to be independent, content and happy with the simple things in life.

Epicurus taught that there is an economic component to a good life and encouraged simple living and self sufficiency.  In the year 306 BCE, he acquired land outside of Athens and founded The Garden, where he lived with his close friends and disciples and where they discussed philosophical matters.  The Garden evolved into a model of Epicurean community and became their Academy or philosophical university.

The ideal of simple living which Epicurus proposed has today been resurrected in the frugality movement.  Yet, simplicity is not just a lifestyle for hippies or the poor: it is also one of the main roads that can lead to riches. 

Years ago, I read the book The Millionaire Next Door, where the authors tracked 7 habits of first-generation self-made millionaires and found that --contrary to what was expected-- most of them lived a frugal life.  They lived below their means, drove normal cars and lived in normal homes: no mansion, no Lexus, just your normal average Joe.  The authors of the book discovered, among other things, that people who are ostentatious about their wealth are generally in debt: frugal people who care more about financial independence than keeping up appearances are oftentimes the ones who end up truly wealthy. 

The ideals of frugality and autarchy resonate profoundly with the financial times in which we live and I think they're deeply interrelated: simplicity can and does lead to mental and financial self sufficiency, just as Epicurus taught 2,300 years ago.  Perhaps with the cultural awakening of the so-called new atheism, we'll begin see his Gardens mushrooming again in the modern world.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Epicureanism Vlog Series

A new series of videos by youtuber Lootraevefan explores the philosophy of Epicurus in detail.  Of all ancient philosophies, Epicureanism is perhaps the most wholesome and complete.  Nietzche said that after Epicurus, Greek and Western thought only went downhill.  Christopher Hitchens considered himself an Epicurean and so did Thomas Jefferson.  I mentioned Epicurus, my favorite philosopher, in my piece Death and the Skeptic which was featured in The Humanist.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Will Egypt Degenerate into a Theocracy?

One year ago, our planet lost eminent author Christopher Hitchens whose book God is Not Great had as subtitle "How Religion Poisons Everything".  Thousands of atheists throughout the world raised their whiskey glass --Hitchens' favorite-- to his memory over the last several days.  And how relevant is his message still today!

Egypt in recent times had a revolution where people died on the streets thirsty for freedom and furious against tyranny.  Now, as the dust is settling, the draft of a new constitution seems to have been hastily voted on by a slim majority that re-establishes shari'a as the basis of Egyptian law and gives too much power to clerics from Al-Azhar University, to the president and the military.  The process was so lacking in transparency that liberals, Christians and secularists walked out in protest at one point, leaving mainly members of the Muslim Brotherhood in charge of the contents of the new constitution.

An article in the Economist claims that the new constitution would bring Egypt back into the Mubarak era.  Among its provisions, the constitution gives the military the dubious right to arrest and subject to trial citizens independent of the judiciary, a clause that made many international defenders of human rights cringe.  It reminded many of the recent arrest and torture of hundreds in the Queen of the Nile boat for the imaginary crime of homosexuality.

During the vote, the city of Alexandria witnessed most of the violence as women protested a polling station where they were being prevented from voting because they weren't veiled.

Another minority that stands to suffer are the Baha'is.  Not only is the new constitution based on shari'a but it also limits religious liberty to the so-called 'heavenly religions' of Islam, Christianity and Judaism.  Article 37 grants the right to build a house of worship only to these three religions.

As such, Baha'is and members of any other religious tradition would find themselves second-class citizens just as they were under Mubarak, when they were denied the right to carry a national ID card for refusal to identify as either Christian or Muslim.  Without this card, they were unable to enjoy basic social services and rights in Egyptian society.  The new constitution clearly indicates that religious discrimination will continue even as it supposedly guarantees religious liberty.

And so if the Muslim Brotherhood has its way, nothing has changed in Egypt and the blood of its martyrs was spilled in vain.  I don't know if, as Hitchens said, religion really poisons everything but I can at least say that Egypt's revolution has been poisoned by religion.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I had the pleasure of witnessing Bhi Bhiman in a live performance. Many of his songs had an endearing effect.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Your history is not your destiny.
- Alan Watts

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Walmart: Corporate Tyranny with a Smily Face

This Black Friday, a boycott was called against that All-American sweatshop Walmart, fueled by a decades-long litany of complaints by workers unable to earn a living wage, even while working full-time.

Like many other giant corporations that seek to increase profits by relying on outsourcing production to China, Walmart also employs in its stores a large amount of part-time workers and as few full-time workers as it can get away with.

Concern over Walmart's detrimental effects on American labor and our economy has been building up for years.  Back in 2005, the documentary Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price helped to educate the public about how the opening of these stores in urban areas has the effect of lowering overall wages and worker conditions, producing an annual loss of at least $4.7 billion dollars in earnings for retail workers.

In spite of pervasive anti-union propaganda from conservatives, many on the right side of the political spectrum are beginning to manifest solidarity with Walmart workers.  In an opinion piece titled Why Libertarians Should Support This Movement, Lilly O'Donnell argued:
A lot of the same people who argue against striking and in favor of letting big business do whatever it takes to protect profit margins are the same people who are against monetary government assistance, and want people to fend for themselves. No strikes, no welfare. But, guess what, if Wal-Mart and other large employers of unskilled workers don’t raise their wages and benefits, taxpayer money will continue to make up the difference.
In 2004, a year in which Wal-Mart reported $9.1 billion in profits; the retailer's California employees collected $86 million in public assistance, Mother Jones reported. 
That's just in one state.

Although workers are supposed to be legally allowed to unionize, management is trained to participate in the company's culture of union busting and illegal retaliation against workers who sympathize with the unions.  The company has faced litigation in several states for surveillance, threats and intimidation of its workers, who are so demoralized that in some parts of the country, worker turnover is nearly at 100 percent.

There company even had to pay out $50 million in Colorado to settle a legal dispute after forcing workers to labor off-the-clock: in effect, Walmart literally engaged in slavery.  Steven Greenhouse, writing in 2002 for the New York Times, shared a similar case in Texas, where the company is estimated to owe $150 million in unpaid wages to its workers.

Walmart doesn't even create good American jobs indirectly, as it prefers cheaper, foreign production over American-made production.

Walmart is hell for workers.  It's bad for labor.  It displaces American-made products.  It's bad for the surrounding businesses wherever it sets shop.  It perpetuates poverty and all that comes with it, harasses its workers, and engages in slavery.

This holiday season, PLEASE make sure to buy American made products from your local shops.  Learn more about Walmart workers' struggle here.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Naci en Alamo

Nací en Alamo / "I was born in Alamo!" ... a sad song from the times when the Jews were kicked out of the only homeland they knew, Spain: it's an irony that Israel did to many Palestinians the same thing that was done to them.

Abraham stayed in THE LAND OF THE PHILISTINES for a long time. - Genesis 21:34


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Puerto Rico changes its status ... to "It's Complicated"

Puerto Rico became a US territory in 1898 as a result of the Spanish-American War.  Its islands (Borinquen, Vieques, Culebra, Mona and several others) sit at the very heart of the Caribbean, adjacent to another American territory: the US Virgin Islands.

Slowly, over the generations, the territory has inched closer to the US: in 1917 the residents were made US citizens in order to fulfill the demand for soldiers, in the 1950's the commonwealth status was created in order to allow Puerto Rico to have a constitution and a government system based on the American one and to vote for its governor, and in recent decades as the Puerto Rican population in the continental US has increased to numbers greater than that of the islands, the islands themselves have nurtured a robust pro-statehood movement.

Several referendums have been held, but on the historical elections of November 6, 2012, just as Obama was reelected, the territory citizens for the first time voted in favor of statehood.  Immediately, imagery of the American flag with 51 stars went viral on the internet ... but as I hope to argue in this piece, people should not rush to welcome the State of Puerto Rico just yet.

The referendum included two questions.  First, citizens were asked whether they agreed to continue with Puerto Rico's territorial status and, secondly, asked to indicate the political status they preferred from three possibilities: statehood, independence, and a sovereign country in close association with the US (so-called 'Free Association').

A total of 943,094 (54%) voted "No" on the first question, indicating that the people no longer support the colonial status of the island.

Secretary of State Kenneth McClintock-Hernandez (D-PR) interpreted the vote as a serious challenge to the legitimacy of the commonwealth which expedites the moral and political imperative to decolonize Puerto Rico.  The Declaration of Independence declares that government derives its legitimacy from the consent of the governed, and the people of Puerto Rico no longer consent to be governed as a colony.  Ergo, the commonwealth now goes against America's foundational documents.  What now?

As for the second question, statehood won 809,652 (61.13%) of the votes while Free Association got 441,505 (33.33%) of the votes, and full independence only got 73,362 (5.54%).

The commonwealth status evolved organically as a happy medium after half a century of American hegemony.  It was the result of the labor struggles in the sugarcane plantations in the mid-20th century and was, for the most part, great for the people of the islands.  A new deal was brokered where the economy would exhibit the progressive ideals of the American dream and where the local culture would be respected.  Prior to that, Puerto Rico's school system was entirely American and only English was spoken in the classrooms: now, English would be taught as a second language and Spanish would be the language in which all other subjects would be taught.

Puerto Rico in the 60's and 70's became "a reluctant part of America" and "a capitalist paradise", to cite from the movie The Rum Diary which is set in the Puerto Rico of the early period of the Commonwealth.  It provided tax loopholes for pharmaceutical corporations which created thousands of jobs and led to Puerto Rico becoming the largest producer and exporter of drugs in the world.

Today, Big Pharma is still a major employer.  These loopholes (known as the 936 Section of the Tax Code), however, expired.  As a result, the islands entered the recent recession a couple of years prior to the rest of the United States.

The pro-statehood establishment, which has on-and-off governed the island in recent decades, has been relentless in moving the island toward statehood.  Residents used to not have to pay a sales tax before, but in recent years the sales tax was introduced and some pro-statehood mayors have changed street signs to English or bilingual.  Critics of the statehood movement argue that the statehooders have been trying to make the islands so much like a federated state that, when status is up for vote, people will see no benefit with continuing as a commonwealth.

But with the expiration of Section 936 and the undeniable fiscal crisis, in the midst of which hundreds of thousands of island residents have moved to Florida and elsewhere in recent years, it does seem that the days of the commonwealth are coming to an end and that the status that helped turn the islands into a capitalist paradise in the latter 20th century has very little to offer residents.

The next step now is for Congress to enact a Puerto Rico Enabling Act, which would provide the guidelines and requirements for the island to transition into statehood.  This may or may not happen.  A new constitution, probably based on the Commonwealth one, will then have to be drafted and most likely voted on by the people ... but this would require a pro-statehood administration in Puerto Rico.  And so it also may or may not happen.

And now we must add to the complicated status equation the fact that a new pro-commonwealth governor was voted into office and the current pro-statehood governor, Fortuño, voted out of office in 2012.  Many Puerto Ricans wanted statehood, but not with a Republican anti-labor governor that destroyed thousands of jobs.  Private sector growth has not come even close to fulfilling the workers' needs.

On the other hand Resident Commissioner Pierluisi (D-PR), who is the islands' only vote and voice in Congress, is pro-statehood.  The statehood movement now contends with its state government being a monster with two heads, with two ideologies that can not be reconciled at the top tiers.  We are left with a scenario where it's unlikely that there will be any comprehensive follow-up to the statehood vote in the next four years, even if Congress attends to the issue and even if the United Nations exerts pressure to decolonize Puerto Rico.  It's likely that statehood will not materialize unless and until the next pro-statehood governor is voted into office.

For instance, if Congress requires from Puerto Rico a public school system that operates mainly in English and treats Spanish as a second language (which it can do), the pro-commonwealth governor is almost certainly not likely to support such efforts, regardless of the pro-statehood referendum vote.  The language issue is the main source of controversy between statehooders and the rest both in the island and in the continent, with statehood dissidents raising cynical doubts as to whether America can really culturally and socially swallow a tiny Caribbean and Latin American country whole.  Not that it hasn't happened before ... there is still some pro-independence fervor in some states: Hawaii still has a tiny independence movement, and so do Texas, Vermont, and Alaska.

Statehooders are hopeful, however.  It's unlikely that the commonwealth ideologues will regain the populist support they once enjoyed and now that the ball is rolling, pro-statehood leaders understand that the process of becoming a state can take decades.  After waiting for 114 years, what's another decade or two?

One final note, however, on how the current PR political parties might align with US parties after statehood.  Three small parties have recently come into being as a result of dissatisfaction with the three established parties which had been formed along ideological lines.  The old parties are the New Progressive Party (PNP) which is pro-statehood, the Popular Democratic Party (PPD) which is pro-commonwealth and the PR Independence Party (PIP).  The new parties are the PR Workers' Party (PPT), the MUS (Movement Towards Sovereignty) and the PPR (Puerto Ricans for PR).

The old Republican establishment finds itself, invariably, in the ranks of the PNP.  The Democrats will take in the entire pro-commonwealth party as well as many politicians within the PNP.  It's likely that some independentistas will probably resonate with libertarian ideals, focused as they are on the rights of states and in gaining as much autonomy for the states of the union as is possible.  The platform for the American Green Party is almost identical to the platform of the Puerto Rican Workers' Party, and it will also attract some of the voters who are now pro-independence.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Sands of the Sahara in the 2012 Frankenstorm

Did you know that hurricanes and storms in the New World take their baby steps as sandstorms in North Africa?
Sandy is indeed a sandy phenomenon, as are all the storms that visit us during hurricane season every year. Hurricanes originate as storms or tropical depressions just off the west coast of Africa in the Atlantic. They originally carry winds from North Africa with tons upon tons of sand from the Sahara, which are sometimes visible from the islands of the Caribbean as storms approach. The eastern horizon during hurricane season oftentimes takes on the yellowish hue of the sands.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

In Defense of Seneca’s Adage

Ancient Spanish Philosopher
Seneca, Ancient Philosopher from Hispania
Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.
- Seneca, 4 BC – AD 65
The public discourse on the role of religion in our daily lives too often lacks the voice of atheists, and mass media further silences atheists when it persistently upholds the tenet that an atheist would never be able to win the presidency in our country in spite of the fact that recent polls by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life indicate that about a fifth of the US population identifies as non-religious and that it’s the largest growing segment of society.
The claim that belief in God is universal is bogus, and to presume that the collective hypnosis of belief in deity has something to do with evidence for God or with the moral superiority of credulity is misuse of logic. Furthermore, the praising of faith and credulity as a virtue is also highly problematic. The majority of humanity believed the Earth was flat before this was proven false by people who sought empirical ways to verify the claim. Consensus has nothing to do with truth or evidence. Or with ethics, as any survivor of the holocaust would testify. A mob does not accurately dictate what is morally superior or right.
Religious apologists often accuse atheists of arrogance while exhibiting ostentatious attitudes about their unfairly assumed moral superiority. A scan through crime and census statistics in a variety of countries shows that the most secularized societies invariably exhibit some of the lowest rates of violent crime, of teen pregnancy, of divorce and other statistics associated with societal dysfunction. They are also among the most educated and liberal societies, the ones least hostile to civil and human rights whereas the most deeply religious societies are the exact opposite.
People in deeply religious societies are oftentimes routinely denied basic human rights. Saudi Arabia denies women even the right to drive. Uganda almost passed a Kill the Gays bill recently. Afghani and Pakistani girls who attend schools have to fear for their lives. An atheist should expect to be executed in many Muslim lands. Nigeria is plagued daily by the most barbaric and obscene Christian-Muslim conflict, as well as killings of “witches” and slaying of children by their own Christian parents and pastors for witchcraft. In heavily secularized and peaceful Sweden, a recent wave of rapes is tied to recent Muslim immigrants who feel that if women aren’t modestly dressed, they deserve to be raped.
Atheists are happier and saner than theists. A report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that Danish people, the majority of whom are atheists, are the happiest among 40 countries that were studied. Other developed countries with high standards of living exhibit similar rates of disbelief, including Sweden where only 23% of the citizens say they positively believe in a God.
The statistical link between prevalence of religion and societal dysfunction in human societies is more than demonstrated in census data. Gregory Paul has published several peer-reviewed papers on this, including The Chronic Dependence of Popular Religiosity upon Dysfunctional Psychosociological Conditions (Evolutionary Psychology Journal) and his Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies, which was published in the Journal of Religion and Society. In it, he found:
… high rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion in prosperous democracies. Higher rates of non-theism and acceptance of human evolution usually correlate with lower rates of dysfunction, and the least theistic nations are usually the least dysfunctional.
He concludes,
… data examined in this study demonstrates that only the more secular, pro-evolution democracies have, for the first time in history, come closest to achieving practical ”cultures of life” that feature low rates of lethal crime, juvenile-adult mortality, sex related dysfunction, and even abortion. The least theistic secular developed democracies such as Japan, France, and Scandinavia have been most successful in these regards. The non-religious, pro-evolution democracies contradict the dictum that a society cannot enjoy good conditions unless most citizens ardently believe in a moral creator. The widely held fear that a Godless citizenry must experience societal disaster is therefore refuted. Contradicting these conclusions requires demonstrating a positive link between theism and societal conditions in the first world with a similarly large body of data – a doubtful possibility in view of the observable trends.
Although no causal relationship can be proven, a statistical correlation clearly does exist. Afollow up study carried out by Tom Rees concluded:
I pulled together data on frequency of prayer from over 50 countries, and found that countries where people prayed more frequently had lower life expectancy and scored lower on the Peace Index. They also had higher infant mortality, homicide rates, and levels of corruption, and had more AIDS and more abortion. That’s pretty conclusive.
What’s more, countries with worse societal health also had more income inequality. In fact, the relationship between income inequality and societal health was similar to that between religiosity and societal health. Income inequality can indeed serve as a ‘barometer’ of overall societal health, as it relates to religiosity.
- Tom Rees, from the article Why some countries are more religious than others
The Global Peace Index (GPI) measures nations’ levels of peacefulness or violence. Statistical data related to the U.S. states reveal similar correlations between religiosity and high crime rates, teen pregnancy rates, school dropout rates, etc. where the more secular states invariably exhibit more societal health than the more religious states. Prison and divorce statistics also shed light on the prevalence of societal dysfunction in religious communities. Atheists are much less likely to divorce than Christians and Jews.
Perhaps the correlation between religion and poverty can be linked to lack of access, at times even hostility, to traditional education among religious groups. In heavily-atheistic Denmark citizens can become doctors, courtesy of the state, thanks to free universal education up to college level whereas in the more religious U.S.A. anyone wanting to become a doctor would have to acquire tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. 93 percent of the members of the Academy of the Sciences –some of our most brilliant minds– are atheists.
All of the above statistical data demonstrates that the bigoted religious claim that infidels are amoral and angry, or the insulting accusation that they lack a moral compass, all have no factual base. People who realize that they can not honestly say that there is a divine being, don’t lose their moral compass and start killing, raping and pillaging. What are we to make of the Crusades, the glorification of violence in the tradition of jihad, Jephthah’s sacrifice of his own daughter as a burnt offering to God in the Old Testament, the genocide of the indigenous during the invasion of the Americas, and other great historical acts of religion-inspired murder or genocide, in view of these tired, insulting accusations of amorality coming from the religious?
And what are we make of slavery, if religion or fear of God makes people moral? Up until the 19th Century the Bible, in Leviticus 25:44-46, acted as a property deed that allowed humans to enslave others and turn them into commodities. Slave owners argued: if God ordered slavery, how can slavery be immoral? Even in the New Testament slaves were advised by Paul in Ephesians 6 to be obedient to their masters as if their masters were Christ, to treat their masters as gods, and then he not-very-humbly praised his own teaching regarding slavery calling it ‘a sane doctrine’ in 1 Timothy 6.
Furthermore, to generalize when speaking about atheists is always a mistake. The great minds of both the right and left sides of the political spectrum, from Marx to Ayn Rand, were atheists also: they shared a superior intellect, but in the service of opposing worldviews. Buddhism is an atheistic religion and the Dalai Lama does not believe in a personal god. Curiously, of all the mainstream religions, Buddhism has historically also been among the least violent.
Some theists claim that the burden of proof lies with the atheists and not with the theists. This is an absurd claim. It’s hard to begin to imagine what scientific experiment one would have to carry out to prove the infantile and imaginative events in the book of Genesis: would a scientist have to breathe into a man made out of mud in a lab and document whether it comes to life? Create a woman out of a man’s rib? If a woman could be cloned from a man’s rib, would that constitute proof of God? There are so many problems with the assertion that the burden of empirical proof lies with the atheists that it’s hardly worth considering.
Atheists have nothing to prove, it is the many flavors of theists who are proposing a hypothesis that does, indeed, require extraordinary evidence, aggravated by the fact that their supernatural claims are all mutually contradictory. Hindus believe in reincarnation, Christians believe in heaven but only if you believe in Christ, Muslims only if you believe in Allah, and then Mormons believe they’re getting their own planet with multiple wives in the afterlife … and that God is a man who lives with his many wives in planet Kolob. They cannot all be true, and if they all have been used by good people to perform good deeds then this only proves that 1. the wrong belief may inspire good and bad deeds and 2. good deeds have nothing to do with the right belief.
Here, atheist author Christopher Hitchens added an interesting point on how good deeds serve as promotional tools. He argued that Hamas, a terrorist organization, is also responsible for most of the charity work that takes place in the Gaza strip with orphans and widows. Mormon charities after Katrina also sought great publicity in spite of the fact that the Book of Mormon literally calls black people filthy and loathsome (Mormon 5:15). Atheists like Hitchens argue that the wholesomeness of these religious organizations can and should be debated, that the good deeds that they are so ostentatious of should not serve as an excuse to erase and forget the less noble episodes in the history of a religion, or to avoid rigor in studying the validity of its supernatural claims.
The idea that religion is what keeps people moral is not only false but it’s also dangerous as long as society continues assuming that religious leaders and institutions are above reproach, that we are not to require transparency of them as we do of other people and institutions. It’s this assertion that has allowed Catholic priests to rape and later silence thousands of innocent children over generations while their followers and even authorities try to not see what is going on under their noses, afraid to insult the sensitivities of deeply sincere Catholics.
It is here that the role of atheists in the public discourse on religion becomes more crucial. Atheists argue that it’s not only fair, but IMPERATIVE, to require transparency from religious leaders, that people do not have to be docile and fear religious authorities, that people can raise objections if necessary, that this is healthy.
Lack of visibility for atheists and prevalence of deference to religious authorities has contributed to a generally passive and docile attitude that is too often mistaken for humility and for a virtue. This false humility, and the false arrogance that atheists are often accused of, reveal a system of values that has little respect for empirical and scientific evidence and too much undeserved respect for religions that are ostentatious about a moral superiority that they sorely lack.
A final note on anti-atheist sentiment: social scientists have recently been studying the death denial principle, an underlying and mostly unrecognized tendency in humans characterized by attempts to hide, deny or re-imagine death.  It was first proposed by anthropologist and philosopher Ernest Becker, who argued that denial of death was behind most of human activity.
Studies demonstrate that, when faced with the reality of their own mortality, people tend to hang on to that which is familiar and to exhibit hostility towards the unfamiliar, and religious people in specific tend to express hostility towards atheists and people of religions that deny their fantasies about the afterlife.  Christians, for instance, exhibited more anti-Jewish and anti-atheist behavior when reminded of their mortality.
In another study, when judges were reminded of their own mortality and were given cases to judge, they also judged more harshly whereas a group of judges that was not reminded of their own death gave considerably less severe sentences.
These studies suggest that people’s bias against atheists, who according to recent studies are the most distrusted and hated minority in America, invariably have to do with the people that have the bias and their unconscious unresolved issues, not with the atheists. When theists assume their own moral superiority, it’s quite insulting for non-religious people, it’s tired and it’s baseless. Seneca was right. Credulity is not a virtue. It’s dehumanizing and it’s no facsimile for true ethics.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

do not pre-occupy yourself
Occupy Your Self
 - Enrique Barrios


Monday, October 8, 2012

Be Yourself.
Everyone else is already taken.

- Oscar Wilde

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Alex Parene, of Alternet, has written a New Declaration of Independence addressing the concerns of the 99%.  It's a great article, so I decided I'd share it here in solidarity with Occupy.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Caravan for Peace: Victims of Mexico’s Drug War Speak Up

The Caravan for Peace: Victims of Mexico’s Drug War Speak Up 
Last week at Northeastern Illinois University we were visited by the Caravan for Peace, a collective of thousands of Mexican mothers, siblings, fathers and other family members who accidentally became activists after having lost loved ones in the drug war.

Their presence on campus helped to humanize and personalize the difficult problems related to drug and arms traffic between the two countries.  The illicit nature of these two markets makes it difficult to accurately track how profitable they are but, if statistics are any indication, the exchange of arms and drugs between the US and Mexico seems to work like a well-oiled machine and represents a significant portion of the economies of both countries.  Estimates for how many people have died over the last six years in crimes related to the drug war range from 47,500 (The Telegraph) to 50,000 (The Atlantic) with more victims being uncovered daily, but some Caravan members cited figures as high as 70,000.

There is ample conviction among victims’ families that the war on drugs that has been conducted by the US and Mexico for decades is a policy failure.  One caravan member explained that drugs are not the actual problem, that it’s US-led militarization of the problem and drug prohibition that causes the turf war.  ”40 years of this war policy has turned us into criminals.  There are more deaths from the violence than from drug addiction.  Mexico provides the drugs, the US provides the arms, and our people provide the dead”.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the US spends nearly $ 700 billion in military expenses -a full 20% of our federal budget- and is responsible for 35% of global arms export.

One mother said “It’s not the ones who die, but the families, who live at the mercy of those who take the liberty to kill”.  Another mother said “My son, it’s as if the Earth swallowed him.  What prohibition has done is to create an illicit market that finances organized crime.  I ask US to change its policy to one of security and human development”.

Several of the mothers who gave testimony had journeyed numerous Mexican and American states in search for their lost sons, whom they were never able to bury so that the possibility that they may still be alive left them emotionally broken, in a state of perpetual agony and lack of closure.  They reiterate that the Mexican authorities are so corrupt that they’re completely unreliable in the process of investigating and solving these crimes.

Lucia Baca, whose 34 year old son remains missing, mentioned that they’ve “heard difficult declarations where they say that they get rid of the bodies with acid.  We don’t want anyone else to live through this.  It’s young people that they’re killing.”  She said her son was a wholesome student and a systems engineer who worked for IBM Mexico.

His friend Braulio, who was with him and also remains missing, comes from an extremely impoverished family that lives in a wooden shack.  Braulio’s mother lacks the means to join the Caravan and look for her son.

Another mother gave an emotional speech where she told the audience: “This has no name.  When you lose a father or mother, you’re an orphan.  When you lose a spouse, you’re a widow.  But when you lose a child, this is a pain for which there is no name!”

Indigenous leader Zacario, from the state of Chiapas, said “We are defending our Mother Earth from the multinational companies that want to exploit her.  Let there be no pollution of the land.  We want to leave the land wholesome for the children, for everyone”.

Zacario then went on to note that rampant government corruption is at the heart of Mexico’s problems and that many local leaders have been persecuted, imprisoned or killed by the authorities after speaking up against so-called ‘development’ projects that negatively impact human safety, public health and the environment.  He went on to explain that their “movement is non-violent in the tradition of Ghandi and other leaders who also struggled and were killed”.  He spoke in heavily accented Spanish, noting that his native language was Tzotzil.

A Salvadorian mother also spoke about the experiences of Central Americans who travel through Mexico in the hopes of attaining the American dream and die while en route.  ”Sometimes they travel on the roof of the train, they’re so exhausted that they fall asleep, they fall and la Bestia kills them or cuts their legs or body parts”.  La Bestia, I later found out, is their name for the trans-continental train that Central Americans use to reach the US border.  They call it “the Beast” because it kills or wounds so many of them yearly.

One Caravan member said “Media is an obstacle to be able to reach you, but social media helps us”.  It’s possible that the violence will garner more media attention as it continues to spill over into US territory.

For more personal stories and information about the Caravan, visit http://www.caravanforpeace.org/.

The above article was originally featured in greenewave.com.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

How I Overcame Caffeine Addiction

I was raised in a family and culture where coffee was thought of as a matter of tradition. The aroma of coffee in the morning is one of the defining features of many Latin American cultures, a source of pride even. Add to that the multi-billion dollar industry that has evolved around it and the propaganda it has effortlessly woven into our romanticizing about land, family, and tradition. Under this thick veil, caffeine became a necessary fixture in our cultural landscape. 

When I was about four or five years of age, I was introduced to coffee and caffeine addiction soon took hold. I would drink coffee first thing in the morning when going to primary school and frequently suffered from stomach acidity, low levels of energy and lethargy. 

If I did not have coffee in the morning, I would develop a terrible headache and mood swings. It was intolerable. I had no willpower to abandon the habit, and in fact did not even begin to see it as a problem until, late into my 20s, I noticed the huge expense that two or three cups of coffee per day can become over the long term. 

Then I had to make a couple of visits to the emergency room in March of 2009 with symptoms of tachicardia, defined as fast heart rate. Having been laid off, I found it impossible in the new economy to be gainfully employed again. I was stressed out, worried, anxious, and all this coupled with caffeine affected my health. The doctor prescribed beta blockers to help slow down my heart rate ... and advised me to stop drinking coffee. 

Well, it's not that easy when you're addicted. Coffee is a drug and, just as with any other drug, one goes through withdrawal symptoms. I had migraines for two weeks. I tried to cheat a couple of days after my last hospital visit, getting a regular cup of joe instead of decaf from Starbucks, but after five or six gulps I began to exhibit all the same symptoms that took me to the hospital. It took my heart about twenty minutes to return to normalcy. 

For the first time ever, I knew and accepted that caffeine could no longer be part of my lifestyle. That is the first step to recovery. Caffeine may be a natural stimulant, but it can also produce dependency, nervousness, insomnia, stomach irritation, and increases the risk of heart failure and anxiety among those who are susceptible. 

I tried several products that are marketed as beverages that resemble or replace coffee. I enjoyed teeccino for a bit. It's made out of figs, roasted nuts, and dates; is prepared like coffee but lacks the acidity. However, I decided that I did not need a drink that resembled or tasted like coffee. 

Then I discovered yerba maté, a herbal drink from South America rich in antioxidants which has mateine, a molecule similar to caffeine. It has some of the stimulating effects of coffee without the jitters. It can also be prepared cold, as in a lemonade. I enjoy drinking it frequently but I find that if I drink enough of it, it can have the same effects that caffeine has. Best to consume in moderation. 

I am happy to say that I've been free of caffeine addiction for over three years now. My words of advise to anyone who lives with caffeine dependency and lacks the willpower to overcome it is to drink lots of water during the process. In my research on overcoming caffeine addiction, I learned that this helps to detox, so I did that and I guess it probably helped to flux out the toxins and made it easier. 

I also used mild exercise, a live foods diet, zazen (a Buddhist meditation technique) and walks outside to deal with caffeine withdrawal 

Please do not be discouraged: freedom is always superior to dependency and it feels great.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Jabba the Hutt, the new Uncle Sam

It's called the American Dream because you gotta be asleep to believe it!
- George Carlin

I was just reading the article The Greed of Private Prisons written by Brian Magee for the American Humanist, and the image that came to my mind was the Star Wars scene where Princess Leia is chained to the wealthy, slimy, fat slug Jabba the Hutt.  The article mentions that, in spite of the private prison trend, the government's correctional expenses have increased.

Privatization of the military and of prisons creates a new elite of investors who live off the criminalization, militarization and brutalization of America and her citizens, with private Prison Lords lobbying the politicians for their interests.  Who will the citizenry lobby, when the poor are being pushed further deeper into destitution by the 1% who wants more for itself and less for the poor?

In the end, we will likely see more legislation around victimless crimes, unnecessary laws, and more demoralized youth and communities of color.  Will it be justice or profit that prevails?

The Prison Lord lobby, what a degenerate idea!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Hoodies and Turbans

The Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin, so close to my hometown of Chicago, troubles me for many reasons. I'm saddened to understand that in 2012 I live in a country where people get killed just for wearing a hoodie or a turban.

I'm an atheist.  I have no religious conviction, only philosophical opinions that change when new information becomes available.  And very often I find that I harbor animosity against certain religions for certain reasons.  Sikh traditions impose a number of unnecessary restrictions on people, and attachment to these traditions is sanctioned very strongly by the community and carry strong emotional and communal bonds.  I can understand emotional attachments to one's roots.  But the choice to assume such unnecessary restrictions should rest in the conscience of each Sikh and each individual should be respected in his or her choices.

Having said that, no one who chooses to wear the turban, or a hijab for that matter, or any other culturally significant head dress or piece of clothing, should be punished, hated or persecuted, much less killed, for that choice.  Some people make choices out of pride and loyalty, not out of fear of being marginalized by one's own.  And these choices, particularly when made in the spirit of pride and loyalty, are noble and should be respected.

I used to be a Vaishnava, a so-called Hare Krishna.  I still love cows, vegetarian food, the music and the people I met when I went to temple.  I still feel tenderness when I remember some of the mellows I experienced there.  And I would imagine it's no different for Sikhs when they listen to their peaceful kirtan.

I would like to share a sample of the type of ecstatic love songs that Sikhs dedicate to their God when they gather to worship.  Please try to imagine that this is the kind of peace that the worshipers were seeking when they were gathered in temple and some of them were killed.  Perhaps, in the sweetness and innocence of this melody, some of my readers will understand my sadness and my solidarity with the Sikhs.


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I thought love would keep us from pain. Had I been there? - George Michael

Friday, July 27, 2012

Built-in Obsolescence, or How Consumerism Beat Genius

Built-in Obsolescence, or How Consumerism Beat Genius
Candles are magical, but light bulbs have a magic that candles don’t have.  One never sees a cartoon with a candle symbolizing a person having a brilliant idea.  Light bulbs represent human genius.
But recently, as I watched the documentary Planned Obsolescence, aka The Lightbulb Conspiracy, I learned about a lightbulb that has been emitting light for over a century in California, and how it was designed by Adolphe Chailet prior to the year in the early 20th Century when the lightbulb cartel (yes, you happen to live on a planet that has a lightbulb cartel) gathered to decide that from then on, lightbulbs would have a short life of several years and that people would be forced to buy light bulbs again in spite of the fact that the technology existed to create lightbulbs that would function for a century.
There are no added benefits to new time-bomb light bulbs.  No innovation, no new technology that we should be grateful for.  The only reason for this shift was profit.
The technology to build the lightbulb that has been lit in a Livermore, California, fire station for over a century –whose 100th birthday was celebrated as an act of generating awareness, and more recently the 110th birthday– was either destroyed or has been kept secret all this time.  Those who stand to profit from sales of light bulbs make sure that no one is allowed to build lightbulbs of their original quality anymore.  As I understand it, General Motors headed this brilliant initiative to ban the better quality of the original.
The computer industry also plans and builds-in the obsolescence of its gadgets.  Oftentimes, the next great thing has already been planned years in advance, so that by the time we install Gadget 3.0, they already know what Gadget 5.0 will look like.  But there are fortunes to be made with each upgrade.
Obsolescence is not only functional, it can also be systemic.  A light bulb may explode like a time bomb … or a computer may simply no longer be compatible with many of the other gadgets that we use.  In all cases, the makers of these goods benefit handsomely from obsolescence.
This is not entirely bad: competition is better than monopoly … but the consumer who wishes to take advantage of a vast array of computer aps will probably have to own both Mac and PC.  We’ve all seen the Mac vs. PC commercials: here are two artificial brains that don’t like to talk to each other much.  Oftentimes competition takes precedence over pragmatic considerations.
Some consumers (particularly in developed countries) are so docile and so easy to manipulate that, lured by the commercials, they will happily buy two, three computers, just to have the latest updates whereas computer users in India and many of the poorer countries only buy a new computer as a last resource.  They always have computer geeks to fix and upgrade their gadgets at low cost or no cost.
Planned obsolescence has a huge environmental effect, adding millions of tons of trash in the developed world while in the third world people often would never think of throwing away an outdated computer.  Parts are recycled, and they’re very much in demand.
There needs to be a balance between competition and profit on the one hand, and pragmatism and inventiveness on the other.  I’m sure that, just as we have geek squads in every city who can fix almost any computer problem, somewhere, somebody knows how to make Chailet’s light bulb.  I wonder what would happen if he or she were to put it in the market …

Friday, July 13, 2012

I, Pet Goat II, Interpreted

The above short film has enough imagery and air of conspiracy to help people today understand more or less the effect that comparable documents like the Book of Revelation would have had in their day, except that the imagery is relevant to our generation.

It's a very well made film by Heliofant (whose name means The Shower of the Mysteries of the Sun, or of Light), which is a Canadian company.  I am reminded of the fact that Adbusters, the activist publication that kickstarted the Occupy movement, is also a Canadian publication.

The title of the film refers to a pet goat, and in my view represents the idea of the scapegoat, an innocent sacrificial animal on whom all the sins of others are transfered and who is sacrificed in order to pay for the sins of others.  It's interesting to note that sacrificial animals (and humans) were oftentimes sedated by their murderous priests in order to facilitate their immolation.

Some of my interpretation for the imagery is as follows:

An obscure puppet-master pulls the strings on US Presidents.

In the first scene, there are black and white tiles on the floor.  This is Masonic imagery.  President Bush is in a classroom, just as he was when 9-11 happened.  Behind them, there is a symbol of the Owl, which represents secret elite societies, in particular Bohemian Grove, to which President Bush has been linked.  We will see another symbol for a secret society, Skull and Bones, later in the film.

The map of the US has pins wherever there have been recent disasters, which proved much sinister when the weight of the presidential response to them was added: Katrina, the BP oil spill, 9-11.

A snow flake, perhaps code for the Sionist six-pointed star, also is represented.  We know that some of the wealthiest donors (or purchasers of his services, if you prefer to see it that way) of the current President are Sionists.

We also see a reference to evolution and a hanging figure -the possibility of failure to evolve- and we see a shark and a house burning down, most likely a reference to the banking cartel (loan sharks) and the mortgage industry collapse.  Just as the loan shark is waiting to prey on the housing collapse, there is a dragon (China) waiting for the split of what looks like two hemispheres of a brain, some speculate this is the two party system in the US.

The letters "F = -F" might indicate that, because the Presidents are puppets, it really does not matter who is in power.  The choice of this letter may be a symbol of failure, or falsehood.

A girl holds an apple, symbol of knowledge, but falls asleep and lets the apple fall at the feet of the President.  The mathematical formula "< C" appears at his feet, which indicates that the girl is smaller than, or less powerful than, the President with whom the letter C is linked.  In mathematics, C stands for calculus, for calculating.  The apple bears the fruit of a lotus flower, a symbol of illumination which appears throughout the entire film. Sweat flows from the brow of the President.

After this, a scene which is obvious reference to the collapse of the twin towers appears with the flying away of an American flag as a preamble.  A dancing clown figure, which is identified as L'enfant Bleu (the Blue Child) on Heliofant's website, commits suicide nearby.  This same figure will dance around a fire later.

We see what the ancient Egyptians would have called the Boat of a Million Years, which carried immortals through the orbits of the heavens.  The jackal head of Anubis, the Way Shower and God of embalming and funerals who showed the way to the West, which was Egypt's idea of the Other-world, leads the barque.  He is the Psychopomp, the Guide of Spirits.

We see a worshipful Osama Bin Laden and his followers under a blood-drench crescent (Islam)... with the symbol for the CIA on him.  We see oil drilling in the background in an icy, dark setting while blood drips on the ocean.  I am reminded not just of the wars for profit, but some of the many other crimes of the military industrial complex, including the oil spill in the Golf of Mexico.

We see Lady Liberty (named Lady Helotry by Heliofant on their webpage) emerging over the Sionist symbol, the Star of David, and its torch falling into the waters.  I am reminded of the Patriot Act, and the continued, sustained attack on our liberties that is being advanced by many in the Jewish lobby including Senator Lieberman who has recently called for emergency measures that would lead to a complete halting of our civil rights in the name of national security.

We see the Wizard, represented by a monitor with an eye, studying humans from before they are born.  His eye looks like a dragon's eye, perhaps a nod to the conspiracy theories about reptilian aliens, but most likely a reference to the draconian and orwellian nature of the Powers that would control humanity.

The heart of the shamanic Christ figure is burning.  The Sacred Heart of Jesus is a traditional symbol of love for humanity.  He appears in a trance.  The Wizard, still operating from within a monitor, has installed himself in the mind of a human child who lays in a state of semi-slumber, mindlessly uttering things, being programmed with Wall Street data and with pills and needles by his side.

We see what appears like an attack on a mosque, surely a reference to wars in the Middle East.  We then see a figure that looks like Mother Mary with Jesus in the Pietà scene, but this is the Mater Dolorosa who mourns and is wearing a black robe.  The Divine Feminine imagery is accentuated also by the fact that she lies on a shell in the waters, just as Aphrodite did when she was born from the foam of the seas.  She may also be a Middle Eastern mother who is crying with her dead child on her lap.  She holds her tears in a vessel from which fire seems to emerge, or a mushroom cloud, clear reference to Muslim retaliatory action.

The child lies in bandages, his eye swollen and bruised, and a beetle or scarab walks around its skin.  This may be a reference to Egypt's revolution, or to the idea of resurrection since the Scarab is a symbol of Khepri, an aspect of Lord Ra in Egyptian spirituality which represents the daily resurrection of the sun.  The child is therefore said to have been reduced to a pile of shit, since Khepri represents the dung beetle which lays its eggs on dung after rolling it into a ball and pushing it into its nest.

Let's not forget that the assumed name of the creators of the film is Heliofant, which is tied to the Egyptian mysteries of the sun.  Heliopolis, in ancient Egypt, was the center of the cult of Khepri or Kheper, whose name means The Becoming.

Add to the list of disturbing images that of a small African boy with tribal symbols on his skin who is carrying a rifle and amunition.  His eyes are red and he carries a lace, which is loosened by a figure that looks Egyptian wearing a Skull and Bones tatoo, which represents death and, of course, the elite fraternity that many Presidents (including Dubya Bush) have been members of, and therefore secret brotherhoods and elite conspiracies.

One interpretation of this lace is that it represents remembrance and that its removal represents forgetfulness. This might be true, but I believe it's likely that this is the AIDS solidarity ribbon, and that the child is an African AIDS orphan who, because of the discontinuity that exists in countries where the entire middle generation was wiped out by the plague, never met his parents and/or was raised without authority figures. These children, particularly when indoctrinated into cults like the Christian terrorist group infamously headed by Kony in Uganda and adjacent countries, can easily be turned into muderous armies.

I am reminded of the American Christian Right's meddling in Africa through abstinence-only sex education under the Bush regime, abstinence-only being a code for Christian indoctrination, which in Uganda led to the Kill the Gays Bill within a decade.  Abstinence-only education also carries with it the belief that AIDS is righteous punishment and that sexuality must be subjected to control by religious institutions.  We see a reference to Christian sexual repression later in the video.

The symbols of communism are buried in toxic waste or mud, along with what appears to be a Latin American worker. An army of tanks marches into a peace protestor wearing a tiger robe who is met by Lord Death.

The Christ figure, in trance, appears to be seeing all these things unfold, as the previously-shown child is accosted by the wizard form within the monitor, acting as a brain parasite.

With fire emerging from his mouth, and ablaze, the Christ figure enters a cave. What seems like a pituitary gland at the center of the brain, is activated and for a moment as he enters the brain-cavity, the Christ and Anubis figures aboard the Boat of a Million years are aligned with it.  This signals activation of the third eye and the beginning of illumination.

We see the Goddess Kali, Mother Time who is also Mother Death (for, as Krishna said in the Bhagavad Gita, Time is swallowing us all), dancing. Kali's dance is associated with a Hindu myth about the destruction of the demon Mahisha.  Whenever Kali performs her dance of destruction, she is frenzied in her duty of killing demons.  Hindus also believe that we are living in the Age of Darkness, the Kali Yuga, and the end of this era precedes the beginning of a new awakening.

Fish leap into the shaman Christ's boat awaiting salvation, but he is in trance and ignores them.  The Age of Pisces is coming to an end.

There is an icy figure lying on the ice with an erect phallus with a cross on top of it. This, of course, represents the church. At the head of the icy phallus-tower lies an elderly woman imprisoned, and looking out from her window as if lovingly awaiting her rescuer or savior who never came.  She is no longer a Princess or a Maiden in her tower but has grown old and is now trapped inside the power structure of the church.

When illumination happens, although she is presumably in menopause, she is shown to have a menstrual cycle, she has life again. As the Christ crosses the river in the inner cavern of consciousness, things are crumbling. Kali dances.

Finally the Christ figure arises from under what seems like an icy army, and crushes it. The monitor that was used by the wizard flees and leaves the hypnotized child free to own his own head.

A whirling dervish figure, representative of the Sufi mystics, rises above the former mosque that had been destroyed.  He rises towards the heavens liberated. He dances as the upward spiral of the double helix of DNA announcing evolution, ascension. The bloody crescent moon that hovered above Osama Bin Laden is now replaced by a full moon.

A dancing figure (the Blue Boy again) around a fire wears the masks of the dragon, the bear and the eagle and his suit has what appears like a star, perhaps a symbol of nuclear fusion, of a nuclear war between China (dragon), Russia (bear) and America (eagle).  At the end of the dance, he regains his humanity.  The dancer might be a shaman, since the imagery deals with transformation into animal symbols.

The Christ figure finally emerges from the cavern out of a portal that is adorned with a devil's icon, perhaps symbolizing that he lacks the innocence that he came in with. Or perhaps symbolizing that he is now resurrect and transformed after having been to Hades.

He opens his eyes to see the sunrise before him and behind him the icy church structure crumbles. The Illuminati symbol of the pyramid is clearly seen on his forehead with the all-seeing eye at the base and not at the apex, as the elite would have it. This indicates the illumination and awakening of the masses of humanity. The Christian era has passed.

The sun rises again and its rays destroy the pyramids, the power structures that have stood until now, and their entire icy world will now melt under its rays.

This Heliofant.com page has a partial explanation of the imagery. Their interpretation of the wizard is as follows:
Drako, The Sorcerer, the unseen hand and spirit of madness seeking ever more control through trickery, lies, poisons, false-flag events, wars, and mountains of beauracratic and legal framework to siphon off the energy of the inhabitants of the earth. He fears the light of day as he fears life itself, and operates in the shadows. His greatest power is his hold on the issuance of the currency.