Monday, October 9, 2017

How Do We Reconcile History With a Compassionate God?


The following piece first appeared on my web site www.undiplomatictimes.com on 16 September. It should be considered the conclusion of my series of several years ago that explored Indian history. The earlier posts are:

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8, Part 9.


All of us have heard people complain about God. Most of us probably know some who don’t believe in God at all. If challenged, they are likely to roll out a long list of reasons why God must be a figment of our imaginations because surely, if one did exist, there would be no war, or opioid crisis, or rape.

The usual problem in reconciling the bitter trail of human experience with the existence of a compassionate God is in how we envisage divinity. If we think of God as magically all-powerful there can be no reconciliation. However, as that idea of God cannot be reconciled with the world of Science either, it is no great loss.

God Acceptable to Science
An idea of God acceptable to Science would have to fit into the concept of causality, the fundamental element of the scientific method. In short, it cannot be magical. That is a perspective conveyed to children in an Indian fable about the inviolability of Karma (causality).

Shiva and Parvati are looking down from Kailas at a poor old man trudging along a desert road, hungry, thirsty and wretched.

“Why don’t you help him?” Parvati asks.

“I can’t” says Shiva. “It’s his karma.”

“You are almighty God. Surely, you can bend the laws of karma to give him some food and water and money.”

“Watch this,” says Shiva waving his hand.

On the road directly in front of the man a table appears with a pot of gold and a feast.

Just then the old man thinks to himself, ‘All my life I’ve walked with my eyes open. Here I am on this straight desert road with nothing to see. Let me walk with my eyes closed.’ He closes his eyes and walks past the table.

God in that perspective can only work through karma, as the essence of beneficial causality in a universe of laws.

PART I: HISTORY RED IN TOOTH & CLAW


Does History Make Sense?
The first step in reconciling the diverse evils of human history with the concept of a compassionate God is to see how the negative can be part of a positive narrative. Fortunately, this is not difficult to do at a time when the terrible experience of industrialization resulted in a growing awareness of the need for people to engage in reversing the damage done to the Earth. The harsh experiences of our history are clearly meant to teach us.

If we look with that perspective at humanity’s progress from its African exodus to the world of the Internet and the Worldwide Web we find that it has been a purposeful evolutionary process. Little in it is without meaning and much that seems irreconcilable with the idea of a compassionate God can be seen as the Life Force negotiating its karmic passage away from our savage animal ancestry.

The Divine Spur
Ideas of divinity have been a major spur to history. They have driven pacific, cohesive and violently disruptive conceptualizations of reality that have rippled down the millennia with unexpected results. Some examples:

  • The Vedas in India were compiled under the guidance of the Seven Rishis who have been memorialized for millennia as the stars that point North. They are valued for creating a holy compendium revered by all the tribes of India who could thus stop fighting and settle into interdependent castes, creating Hindu civilization. When that civilization became encrusted with superstition and division among the castes the Buddha's atheist movement swept clean with its concept of “Sunyatta” (emptiness) at the core of Creation. After his death, Sunyatta came to be represented by a circle, and that led to the invention of the Zero and the revolutionizing of mathematics into the language of causality. Many millennia later, when the Europeans discovered the Scientific Method, the essence of which is the inviolability of the causal chain, that mathematics became the language of all modern science.

  • Europe came to the Scientific method in its rational rebellion against centuries of religious wars, oppression and scholastic rigidity. The same rigors shaped the hard-edged states that pushed European power around the globe in a hugely bloody process. That set in motion the flow of wealth necessary for for the Industrial Revolution, which was the primary spring that drove the complex social changes that shaped the modern world. Repeatedly in history we see how deeply negative occurrences drove far-reaching changes 

  • Islam’s hugely violent explosion out of Arabia in the 8th Century was a wrecking ball to the civilizations of Europe and India that led them into new cycles of growth and renewal. In India, the renascence took up movements against caste and Hindu-Muslim divisions by the “Bhakti poets,” Kabir and Guru Nanak most prominently. Their teachings prepared the ground for Rammohun Roy centuries later, and he in turn cultivated the spirit that Gandhi mobilized against British rule. In Europe, Islamic conquest of the Middle East pushed classical learning from Byzantium into Italy, setting off the Renaissance.

  • Modern Islamic violence is rooted in post-World War I British-French manipulation of the Middle East and an unregenerate medievalist response feeding on a violent tribal culture. The flow of vast oil wealth to a backward-looking Arab elite, Cold War jihadism in Afghanistan and the use of Muslim terrorist movements to foster the opium/heroin trade have all fed into a witch’s brew of distemper and barbarism. That multi-generational tragedy is analogous to the relentless religious violence that led Europe into a rationalist rebellion. Peace and progress in the Muslim world must await a similar challenge to the ghosts of its past.

A World Economy
The emergence of a world economy in the wake of the ocean crossings of Christopher Columbus and Vasco da Gama at the end of the 15th Century was a brutal, soul-killing affair of enslavement, genocide and colonization that a Christian Europe could not have engaged in but for the new economic mechanism of the joint-stock company and the stock market. The first joint-stock corporation, the East India Company, was formed in 1600; as such organizations multiplied, stock market developed as the go-to place for raising and managing capital.

That arrangement distanced investors and corporate managers alike from the murderous activities necessary for profit. The man-made famines of the East India Company killed hundreds of millions of Indians and its two “Opium Wars” spread drug addiction to millions of Chinese. The Africa Company was established for the sole purpose of capturing and transporting slaves across the Atlantic to the Americas. 

When Christian pressure in the United States eventually ended the slave trade, some 14 million had been taken from Africa to the Americas and an equal number killed in their capture and transportation. The flow of slaves was then replaced by that of indentured labor from China and India, a process that killed as many or more. The workers supplied by Africa and Asia replaced many uncounted millions of Native Americans wiped out by settler colonists. In Australia and New Zealand, the indigenous peoples gave way to Europeans.

Bloody and greed-driven as these processes were, they served an epochal purpose: for the first time, all segments of the dispersed and differentiated human family were brought into contact, intermixed, and engaged in one economic system. All the great variety of human genes flowed into one pool.

Shaping the Modern World

The industrialization into which Europe led the world was also a grim and oppressive process that produced great wealth on the backs of exploited workers, including millions of children; mines and factories poisoned earth, water and air across the planet, sullying everything natural. While that was happening the greedy competition for resources and markets also engaged the leading Powers of the world in continuous war, their weapons growing exponentially in destructive scale and horror.

Under such depredations the human race should have dwindled in numbers, but instead it multiplied at an explosive rate. The five centuries over which the world economy expanded and industrialized saw the human race grow from a few hundred million to over seven billion. That growth is projected to continue for another century, raising the world population to over 10 billion by the end of the 21st Century, unless we reduce the pace of growth by rapid economic development.

Learning to Behave
What is the meaning of those five centuries of ravening greed and gore? What is the significance of industrialization?   

The answers are obvious. The bloodiest, most tumultuous and oppressive period of human history unified the species and focused its attention on stark evolutionary choices. Three World Wars (I, II and Cold), a spiking extinction rate of species and the prospect of climate change have shown the need for self-control.

Unlike a century ago, it is now widely recognized that war is no longer an option of statercraft. In a few minutes, unrestricted war can send humanity the way of the dinosaurs. Industrialization has provided a complex instruction in human planetary responsibility. As with war, it has been an abject lesson in good behavior.

Setting the Rules
Setting the specific rules of human behavior has been taken up through international organizations. The first organizations were responses to the need for cooperation imposed by the trans-border use of standardized technologies like the telegraph, railways and shipping. In the face of the problems described above they evolved into an effort to prevent war and deal with a range of global security, developmental and environmental issues.

The League of Nations and the United Nations represent that broadening scope of cooperation. Although stymied in their primary tasks by elite international power struggles the two organizations have laid the legal foundations for a peaceful world and established the framework of values necessary to sustain it. The global connectivity of the Information Age now offers international organizations the opportunity to network around the elite quarrels that block the path to peace.

PART II: THE PATH AHEAD


End of the Industrial Age
Two trends that have picked up speed in the last decade will accelerate the demise of the industrial age.

One is 3D printing, a layering technology that can produce any shape of product in a growing number of materials; those now in use include plastics, polymers, resins, titanium, concrete, food and human tissue. Since the first 3D printer debuted in 1992, there has been astonishingly rapid progress.
  • In 1999, a 3D printed frame coated with a layer of cells taken from a patient was used for an organ implant that faced little chance of rejection. 
  • In 2002 a 3D printer made a fully functional miniature kidney. In 2008 an open source program produced self-replicating printers. The same year, a human leg complete with knee and ankle joints was printed out as a single prosthetic. 
  • In 2009 the first blood vessel was printed out, the first robotic aircraft and drivable car were produced, and gold and silver used to print jewelry. 
  • In 2017 an entire house was printed using concrete in sub-zero weather. 
  • Developers are aiming at a 3D “desktop factory” capable of printing out any and all industrial products of the finest quality.

The second trend is the increase in the use of renewable energy at historically unprecedented rates despite a dramatic decline in global fossil fuel prices. Renewable sources are now a mainstream source of energy, accounting in 2014 (excluding hydropower) for 48 per cent of newly added electricity generating capacity. By 2030, the use of clean energy will probably be double the level of 2014, with solar energy accounting for the largest share.
Other Radical Changes
The plummeting price of off-grid renewable energy and increasingly sophisticated 3-D printing portend the capacity to produce the highest quality of industrial product off grid and in the remotest locations. Coinciding with the decreasing economic viability of mega-corporations, it will quicken the end of centralized factory-scale production and cause a range of other radical changes:

Without mass production, there will be no need to concentrate labor, energy and other commodities at particular locations. That means the trade and industry-driven urbanization of the last four centuries will cease and large cities will experience major changes in real estate use and valuation.

As decentralized small scale production replaces centralized factories the need for long distance movement of goods and commodities will fall dramatically, transforming the economics of the entire transportation infrastructure from railroads and roads to airlines and pipelines.
The predominance of small and medium manufacturing will revive the historical dependence on locally available raw materials; global commodities trade will be reoriented into regional patterns.

These broad changes will reduce all forms of industrial environmental damage, especially emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants. Meanwhile, small and medium enterprises rooted in their own communities are likely to be far more sensitive to pollution issues than mega-corporations. In sum, not only will industrial scale activity end, the legacy damage of the last century will be able to heal. 

The Information Age

Towards the end of the 20th Century, swift advances in computerized information processing and satellite communications enabled revolutionary changes in economic and social interactions. The most stunning progress has been in global connectivity: by 2016, basic mobile telephone service was accessible to almost the entire world population. Over 3.5 billion people – half the world population – now have broadband access to the Internet. The world’s largest data processor, Google, was dealing in 2016 with 3.5 billion search requests per day and storing 10 exabytes (10 billion gigabytes) of data.

Total Internet traffic grew from approximately 100 GB of traffic per day in 1992 to 100 gigabytes per second (GBps) in 2002 and to more than 20,000 GBps in 2015. Global IP traffic in 2015 was an estimated 2.5 quintillion bytes of data (2.5 followed by 18 zeros); by 2020, that is projected to increase to 2.3 Zetabytes (add another three zeros) per year. To put those figures in more comprehensible terms, by 2020, the gigabyte equivalent of all movies ever made will cross the global Internet every two minutes and it would take more than 5 million years to watch all the video shared in a month.

To deal with the enormous flow of information governments have made a rapidly accelerating effort in the last six years to create a system for global geospatial information management (GGIM). They envisage a global geodetic frame of reference to manage data through a network of location-specific centers integrating all available economic, social, environmental and cultural information (see article at top right of page).

It will give the planet a skin of information accessible to any smart phone in perspectives ranging from Big Data visuals to weather forecasts and local entertainments. Smart phones could also be programed to report automatically to the nearest database on a variety of variables, including environmental conditions; that would make the analogy to “skin” exact.A New Capitalism
The rapid onset of global connectivity, the age of Big Data brought in by the Information and Communications Revolutions, and the decentralized world economy point to the need for a new system to govern the use of capital. The joint-stock company and the stock market, the core of the free market system since the mercantile era, face unprecedented challenges in a period of global connectivity. 

As growing numbers of small and medium enterprises locate and cater to niche clusters of demand, they will disaggregate markets shaped by advertising to sustain mass production of branded goods. That will deprive mega-corporations of the economies of scale and make their own size a factor of inefficiency in adjusting to changes in market conditions. Stock markets will also face a secular challenge from new mechanisms that enable Web-based crowd-funding.  

These developments do not signify an end to the need to raise and manage massive amounts of capital. On the contrary, the infrastructural changes that will be necessary in the scenario outlined above and the multi-trillion dollar cost of erasing poverty under the United Nations Agenda 2030 plan will require both functions to be efficiently performed; but it will require new instruments.

PART III: THE LEAP WE FACE


Globalization as Evolution
Globalization is a phenomenon as old as the temperature gradients that circled the cooling planet and created its atmosphere and oceans. It has been driven by a great diversity of forces, from unicellular life to plants and animals. If the entire history of life on earth were reduced to a single 24 hour day, humanity would enter the stage a few seconds before midnight. In those few second, Homo sapiens left Africa driven by changing climate, spread around the world impelled by every kind of trouble and tribulation, yet managed to share its advances towards civilization across continents and oceans. Traders, missionaries of every cause, adventurers, writers, teachers, imperial monarchs, all played their part.

Now, as we face a world increasingly frenzied in its interactions, with the stakes of nuclear war and environmental devastation higher than ever but also with the promise of the future brighter than at any time, we must ask about the meaning of it all. It is time to ask who we are as a species and what we have learned in our global passages. We must raise again the question that has haunted us from the earliest days, the issue of God.
The Nature of Life
The Upanishads of ancient India set out the world’s most comprehensive explanation of universal reality. Scientists have provided factual statements paralleling parts of it, especially the Big Bang that sets the universe on its billion-year life; in Sanskrit it is Hiranyagharba, the Golden Egg that bursts from the utter darkness of Brahma’s night and in a flash manifests Creation. 

Scientists have not touched parts of the Hindu schema closer to humanity stating the identity of the human soul and the Universal Self; it is that sameness of substance that allows the individual to be reborn in an endless succession of bodies.

Two scientific advances of the 20th Century allow that phenomenon to be presented in factual terms. One is the discovery that matter and energy exist in an unbreakable continuum of particle and wave, that neither can be destroyed, only transformed into the other. 

The second discovery is that the genetic code embedded in the human cell determines at the moment of conception every aspect of the body that will grow from it. 

In combination, those concepts can be read as scientific endorsement of the idea that when the material human body dies its genetic code will float free in its energy form. As a radio wave can carry the human voice and replicate it exactly on meeting an antenna tuned to receive it, so the code/soul of an individual will come to life upon contact with a cell at the moment of conception that is perfectly in karmic tune.
Unavoidable Conclusions

Looking back at history and keeping in mind that the force we call God must work through causality, every human trial and tragedy can be chalked down to karma. Violence, greed, rage and every ill-considered emotion we feel are the price we pay to separate from our animal ancestors. The vast difference among individuals in how they handle emotions points to the nature of their own karma.

What about war? No animal fights wars.

War can be seen as a means to discipline our monkey brains, the most fecund source of technological innovation, and now the only way violent tribal societies learn the need for peace. If they do not learn, if the tribal instincts of the Middle East or North Korea should unleash nuclear war, the world economy will collapse, nuclear winter will set in, and the human experiment will come to an abrupt end.

On the bright side, what can we expect from a firm sense that God exists, that each individual soul is divine and immortal? I would expect the following:
  • Educated, intelligent people will stop wasting their time in frivolous pursuits and see what they can do to prepare the world for a massive and fundamental transformation.

  • Enlightened countries – and that does not mean just the industrially developed – will move towards networking all forms of governance.

  • Businesses will network all their own activities and participate in a variety of global networks necessary to accommodate their interests. (As indicated above, transnational mega-corporations will be extinct.)

  • Education and library services will be global and uniform in their high quality.

  • By 2030, there will be equality of human development in all countries, paid for through crowd-funding.

A fourth-generation international organization (see 
UN/Globenet) will be able to wind up the world drug trade, end terrorism, promote disarmament and negotiate an end to all the tribal conflicts now plaguing the planet.And Then What?
The consonance between the universal and individual souls suggests an answer to the question by physicist Erwin Schrodinger: is human thought individually generated or do we get it preformatted?

If thought is individually generated it would be virtually impossible to envisage broad movements like the Industrial and Technological Revolutions or the Information and Communications Revolutions. 

If our thoughts are preformatted, such movements would be easy to explain. 

The latter would also firm up the scientific expectation that at some point the density of digital activity surrounding the planet will generate an autonomous awareness in much the same way that the development of a baby’s neural network in the womb makes it conscious. 

The global brain humanity is growing will be supported by an enormous ancillary presence of Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things. God alone knows what altogether new chapter of human evolution we will embark upon

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Hey BBC, Here are some Other Things to know About Kashmir

The BBC has a story about the death of a 12-year old in Srinagar that sums up the situation in the valley with the following "Five things to know about Kashmir."

  • India and Pakistan have disputed the territory for nearly 70 years - since independence from Britain
  • Both countries claim the whole territory but control only parts of it
  • Two out of three wars fought between India and Pakistan centred on Kashmir
  • Since 1989 there has been an armed revolt in the Muslim-majority region against rule by India
  • High unemployment and complaints of heavy-handed tactics by security forces battling street protesters and fighting insurgents have aggravated the problem.
That is not enough!

Anyone who wants to understand why Kashmir is the way it is, must also understand the following:

  • Britain deliberately created the dispute over Kashmir when they split India in 1947 to establish Pakistan; the aim was to prevent reconciliation.
  • The first war between India and Pakistan was in 1947, when the armies on both sides were still commanded by British officers. While it was going on a British officer established the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the spy agency that has effectively controlled Pakistan ever since.
  • Pakistani Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan who got rid of the British General commanding the country's Army in January 1950 and signed a peace pact with India, was assassinated in October the same year.
  • In 1988, President Zia al Haq of Pakistan and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi of India tried to make peace and were close to signing an agreement on Kashmir when the former was killed when his aircraft exploded in mid-air. Three years later, Rajiv Gandhi was also assassinated.
  • It is important for the British to keep the Kashmir situation boiling because it gives them the leverage over Pakistan necessary to maintain control of Afghanistan, source of 90 per cent of the world's illicit opium and heroin. Only about 2 per cent of the $60 billion annual revenue from that drug trade stays in the region; the rest is siphoned into British banks.
  •  Those banks control the global money laundering economy through a string of some 70 "tax havens," most of them in small former British colonies. That money laundering system supports every terrorist group in the world. The so-called "Islamic terrorists" who have spread out from South Asia and the Middle East to Africa protect the routes along which Britain ferries drugs to major markets. 
It is necessary to keep all that in mind in trying to understand the tragic unnecessary death of a 12-year old in Kashmir. 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

UN's Guterres Avoids Truth About Terrorism

In a wide-ranging talk to the annual gathering of the world's top security officials at Munich, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres seemed to go out of his way to avoid telling the truth about global terrorism. 

He repeatedly referred to "fragile States," the multiplication of conflicts, their inter-relationship and "root causes" without once mentioning drug trafficking, money laundering and their role in shaping the disastrous terrorist conflicts ravaging the world. 

 There was no mention of the multi-trillion dollar illicit drain of funds from developing countries, a problem the African Group, and more recently the Group of 77 has specifically asked him to address. The only reference to illicit drain of resources was in answer to a question from the audience.

The inter-linkages he did mention were those between the "global mega-trends" of "climate change, population growth, urbanization, many times chaotic urbanization, food insecurity, water scarcity, massive movements of people." He pointed to "dramatic consequences, namely the competition for resources, increasing the probability of conflicts to take place and generating dramatic humanitarian situations."

The avoidance of the truth about the international situation was particularly vivid when he noted that the wealth of the eight richest men in the world equaled that of the poorest half of humanity. That comparison by the British charity OXFAM neatly directs attention away from those who run the global black market with its command center in London's financial district. The illicit flow of funds from developing countries is estimated at over $7 trillion in just the first decade of the 21st Century. Read More

Donors Not Giving to UN Haiti Cholera Fund

Donors have not been eager to fund the UN's belated effort to fight the cholera epidemic in Haiti brought to the island by a contingent of troops sent to help following the devastating earthquake of 2010. Only two percent of the needed $400 million has been raised, according to a letter UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has sent to all member States.

So far, Chile, France, India, Liechtenstein and South Korea have together contributed about $2 million to the UN fund, while Canada and Japan have donated $7 million bilaterally. Guterres asked member-states in the letter to notify the United Nations by March 6 if they intend to contribute to the fund. "Should resources not materialize, a multi-funded solution would have to be explored," the letter said. What exactly that means is not clear.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

UN System CEOs

The United Nations System consists of the central political organization, its 11 subsidiary entities, 15 autonomous Specialized Agencies and two related bodies, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the World Trade Organization. 

They are rather fitfully coordinated by twice a year meetings of a Chief Executives Board (CEB) under the chairmanship of the UN Secretary-General. 

I've just listed the (21) men and (8) women who make up the CEB and it makes interesting reading. The women are outnumbered but they run the largest and most influential agencies, including the IMF, the World Food Program (world's largest aid agency), the World Health Organization and UNDP (world's largest technical assistance agency). 

The listing has links to the biographical pages of the relevant agencies

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Imperial Elites and the United Nations

After World War II, as formal imperial structures were dismantled, those who had benefited from them were shape-shifting into the new money laundering elite. 

 These old/new elites will not relinquish their power meekly at the behest of UN resolutions and declarations. The three world wars (I, II and Cold) show the extent to which they will go to retain power, and it would be wise to expect horrors equal in magnitude as we seek to escape from their monstrous dominance. 

In our nuclear tinderbox world with a Pandora’s Box of invented pandemics it requires little imagination to think of what might happen.

There are also a number of less dramatic eventualities that could affect world order severely. Consider the following: Read More

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Rich Debate on UN Peace Ops Misses key Issues

A richly detailed and lively two-day discussion of United Nations peace operations and architecture (10-11 May), left untouched the basic reason for the Organization’s 70-year failure to achieve its primary Charter aim. Although the debate was shot through with facts and themes pointing to a malign and actively hostile international environment, no one tried to define it or say how the UN should respond. 

A few speakers from developing countries murmured about the negative role of “external actors” and one from a comfortably peaceful and affluent country cautioned against doing even that. In contrast, there was much talk of the internal factors – from weak governance and lack of democracy to insufficiently inclusive elites – that have contributed to the current grim and deteriorating world situation.

The Secretary-General’s report last September on the “Future of United Nations Peace Operations” described the current world situation as follows: “Since 2008 the number of major violent conflicts has almost tripled. Long-simmering disputes have escalated or relapsed into wars, while new conflicts have emerged in countries and regions once considered stable. Labels assigned to conflict, such as “internal”, “inter-State”, “regional”, “ethnic” or “sectarian”, have become increasingly irrelevant as transnational forces of violent extremism and organized crime build on and abet local rivalries. Environmental degradation and resource deprivation are not contained by borders. Exclusion at home is driving tension abroad. The number of people displaced by war is approaching 60 million, and global humanitarian needs for 2015 amount to close to $20 billion.”

Remarkably, neither the Secretary-General’s report nor the two from expert panels in 2015 inquired into the reasons for the negative trend and the growing disorder. That lack of curiosity has been endemic in the UN system as a whole, despite repeated complaints about the predatory international environment from developing countries dating back to the conceptual birth of the Nonaligned Movement at the 1955 Bandung Conference in Indonesia. Read More