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Tony's Thoughts
Wednesday, 13 September 2006

Now Playing: Peace Warrior

I’ve written a lot about socially engaged Buddhism - what it is, what it isn’t. But my entries on this topic so far have been theoretical and academic, historical without many concrete examples.

Thich Nhat Hanh is the one who gets credit for the term, but he is not the only major Buddhist social activist. There is Aung San Suu Kyi, who is still under house arrest in Myanmar. And of course there is the Dalai Lama, whose courageous struggle against the Chinese government resonates around the world. But there is another figure who doesn't get the attention he deserves - Sulak Sivaraksa.

He has written dozens of books and articles on Engaged Buddhism. He has received, among others, the Gandhi Millennium Award and the Right Livelihood Award. Although the latter has been called the "Alternative Nobel Prize," it is not a trivial award, as it has also been received by the likes of Vandana Shiva and Mordechai Vanunu. 

Sivaraksa founded a social science review that analyzed social and political issues while living under dictatorship years before social work became the major force it is in the West. He guided several important NGO’s in Thailand and continued his work under exile.

Sivaraksa is a model, not only for Buddhists, but for any religious or spiritual social activist.


Posted by tonygalli at 3:08 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 8 February 2016 1:07 PM EST
Thursday, 7 September 2006
The Worst Religion

Many are alarmed that Islam is the world’s fastest growing religion (though demographic stats can be misleading, it’s unclear how much is due to conversion and how much is due to natural birth rates). It’s becoming more and more apparent to many people in the world that Islam is the worst religion (hey, we all need a common enemy). Those who try to counteract this image problem get labelled as apologists, or worse. If defending Islam’s image seems like an apology, maybe that’s because so many try to put as negative a spin on Islam as they can.

 

To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, Islam contains some of the best religious tendencies. Sufism is inherently flexibility and has intermixed with other mystical paths. Islam’s holy book says it’s a summation and a correction to previous messages. Unfortunately, that means some of the previous baggage too, not to mention the baggage Islam picked as it developed as a distinct religion of its own.

 

Al Franken, in his humorous book Oh, the Things I Know, a sort of adult guide-book for post graduates, grades the value of the world’s religions from best to worst. Of course it’s a tongue-in-cheek exercise. He put moderate Islam relatively high on the list, and militant Islam dead last. If I were to construct my own list, it would probably be similar. Islamic fanaticism, out of all fanaticisms, is the one most dangerous to the world right now. Moderate Islam, on the other hand, can co-exist peacefully with the modern West, and for many converts it also addresses its ills. Moderate Islam is not “better” than other religions, but it is a balanced and inclusive approach to life. Islam’s mystical element exemplifies all that is good about Asian religions. Islam’s social ethos is part of an Abrahamic tradition of fighting for the weak and the oppressed. Islamic asceticism does not involve complete withdrawal from the world, but it does curb excess and materialism.

 

So my assessment is that Islam is neither the best, nor the worst religion, nor both. It is simply one wisdom tradition among many. Any political order that unites people of sovereign nations can’t be based on one religion, even if that religion is based on universal principles. The insights of any religion can be generalized and applied universally to human beings, but that doesn’t mean any one of them should dominate others. This is why unity must also honor diversity, lest idealism sink into barbarism.


Posted by tonygalli at 5:31 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 15 September 2006 10:29 AM EDT
Saturday, 2 September 2006
60 Minutes

The last episode I saw of 60 minutes had an interview of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a friend and collaborator of the Dutch film-maker Theo Van Gogh who was slain by a fundamentalist Muslim upset over his controversial film “Submission.”

 

I respect Ali for not letting fundamentalists intimidate her or stop her from expressing her opinions. She should have every right to say what she wants, and if people disagree they should express their opinions in a civil manner. However, she strikes me as a self-serving individualist. In the name of woman’s rights, she manages to stigmatize the minority groups she claims to help. Her criticism of their lack of integration into Dutch society only further alienates them. She also aligns with groups bent on disempowering them politically. To her, there is no way dialogue will bring mutual understanding between the two, not because anyone in the Dutch mainstream has any flaws, except for naïve liberals, but rather because you can never educate religious people so inherently pathological. Rather than clearly differentiating misogyny from religion, or religious ideals from relative cultural norms, her project is to completely secularize Muslims. This means that none of their practices or beliefs contribute to her newly chosen society. Indeed, some of the beliefs and practices of the fundamentalists are quite vile, but isolation or strict assimilation will only make them more hardcore.

 

To me, Mukhtaran Bibi is a true hero. A tribal council ordered her rape as a “punishment” for the indiscretions of her brother who was seen with an upper caste girl. The Mastoi clan accused him of committing sexual crimes (some believe this was a cover up for their crimes against him). When she was called to intervene on his behalf she was taken into a tent and gang-raped by four men, then thrown out with her clothes torn off and forced to walk through her village naked. Shar’ia, or at least its applications in hudood ordinances, comes down hard on women, and often there is double punishment rather than protection under the law. There is a tradition of “shura,” which is a consultation between families of the victim and the criminal. In theory this is not a bad idea, because it would mean that there is compensation for the victims in accordance with the sentiments of those primarily affected by the crime. In practice, however, shura means that the men who run the household agree to take money as recompense, and this is done to appease the stigma of shame and family dishonor.

 

Luckily, an influential imam heard Mukhtaran’s story, denounced the incident in public, and urged her to seek justice. Her case was taken up by a human rights commission and she faced her accusers head on, taking her appeal to the high court of Pakistan. Even though the federal government system is more secular than in her local area, they too have an elitist, feudal mentality that discriminates against the poor. But she won, and she didn’t stop there. She used the money she received to open schools for girls and boys, knowing that this is their best shot at empowerment.   

 

Those in the West who honor reformist Muslims invariably focus on the likes of Ayaan Hirsi and Irshad Manji. At the dinner reception for the "Glamour Woman of the Year" award, Mukhtaran Mai said she felt ignored, and it wouldn’t surprise me if many Americans have never heard of her.

 

It’s clear that Muslims who see it as their religious duty to fight for equality and human rights are given short shrift, while outspoken reformists who want a westernized version of Islam are hailed in the media. Consider this article from Islamica Magazine about how the US government banned Tariq Ramadan from a teaching position he was offered at Notre Dame University.

(http://www.islamicamagazine.com/issue-12/why-tariq-ramadan-13.html)


Posted by tonygalli at 4:22 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 13 September 2006 3:33 PM EDT
Monday, 28 August 2006
Killing an Arab

Why is no one talking about the cluster bombs used in Lebanon? Cluster bombs leave bomb-lets scattered across the land that are essentially the same as landmines. Although human rights groups condemn their use, they are not illegal per international law. Militaries use them because of their shotgun effect to penetrate armor, and they can be used to destroy mines as well, but it is well-known that they also lead to the death of many civilians. Since some of the Hezbollah rockets allegedly contained ball-bearings, it’s only fair game, right? Hell, suicide bombers often emit shrapnel. Hey, Arabs don’t care about life anyways.

 

Even liberals have failed see any parallels b/w the invasion of Iraq and the invasion of Lebanon.

 

We have used cluster bombs in Iraq, not to mention “bunker busters” with radioactive uranium (low-level nuclear weapons). Our weapons are also used by Israel to kill Palestinian civilians. The US routinely refuses to criticize Israeli human rights violations. We engaged in a premeditated attack on Iraq and claimed that 911 was one of the main reasons, when in fact it had been planned much earlier. Israel had already been planning an invasion of Lebanon before the July 12th attack.

 

(http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2006/08/08/israels-attack-was-premeditated/#more-1000). In fact, attacks from both sides of the border have occurred numerous times since Israel ended its occupation in 2000. It is even reported that Israel consulted the US for permission to attack.

This certainly fits the pattern. The US wants influence over the region, and its biggest obstacle is Syria and Iran (admittedly, some of the worst human rights violating governments in the world). Hezbollah is funded by those governments, and since Lebanon has a weak government, they are gaining strength there, regardless of the desires of Lebanese civilians. Israel too wants Hezbollah gone, and if it could set-up an allied government next door it would make them more secure.

 

This is not some weird conspiracy theory. What we do, allow, or fail to criticize, all set a precedent.

 

PS

After the writing of this entry, it appears that the US is investigating Israeli use of cluster bombs. This in-and-of-itself is a good thing, even if hypocritical.


Posted by tonygalli at 12:35 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 2 September 2006 4:16 AM EDT
Monday, 14 August 2006
Yet More Trouble in the ME

The recent conflict in Lebanon is not necessarily the beginning of WWIII. While a gruesome situation, any large-scale catastrophe on the level of, say, nuclear war, is highly unlikely. It wouldn’t be in the interest of either Iran or Israel to fire nuclear weapons at each other (well, Iran doesn’t even have any right now). If Iran had a nuclear missile and fired at Tel Aviv, there is no way it wouldn’t also do severe damage to Palestinians, as well as to Al Quds (“The Holy” aka Jerusalem). Israel may be able to hit Iran, but in response it would then find millions more Arabs and Muslims attacking it, and whatever credibility Israel had in that region would surely be gone. Furthermore, if Israel aimed at Tehran it is likely it could hit a significant population of Jews. Considering that, from an Israeli perspective, every conflict involving the Jewish state is really a matter of survival for the Jews and Judaism as a whole, Israel can’t afford to spill more drop of innocent Jewish blood.

Munich

As my satellite TV was temporarily out of commission at the beginning of the summer, and I needed a break from my voracious reading habits, I had to have some outlet entertaining my brain. For a few weeks I rented several DVD's, one of which being Munich. And how timely a rent it was. A day after watching it, the war in Lebanon exploded. History repeating itself. In this land, history is really the present.

As for the movie itself, I don’t understand how the pro-Israeli side could perceive it as apologetic. It was sympathetic to the Mossad agents and, to a lesser extent, the “collateral damage” caught in the crossfire. Some of the characters clearly saw that there were moral complexities in the whole affair. On the other hand, I cannot recall one Arab, Muslim, or Palestinian in the film portrayed in such a way. Do any of them have consciences? Rarely in any film will you see those people portrayed as anything but terrorists, greedy oil-rich sheiks, or defective in some other way. Is it art imitating life, or the other way around?

Syriana

I titled this bit, not after the movie, which I also recently rented, but because many analysts believe the power behind these attacks are the rogue states of Iran and Syria. It’s not surprising that we quickly want to connect this conflict to them, for militaries are built around attacking states rather than terrorist networks. That’s why a world war is a possibility – attack these two states, and not only will Iraq get much worse, but the rest of the world will get sucked in as well. 

I don’t know how deeply Iran and Syria are involved. Yes, they both hate Israel. The suggestion that they’re both behind this implies cooperation. I don’t think these two governments are very friendly towards each other. They’re both competing for economic and cultural dominance of the region. Now that the Iraqi regime has been overthrown, Syria is the last bastion of Ba’athist power. As we know, this is a secular dictatorship. Iran is an Islamic Republic and the only true theocratic government in the world. There is a suggestion that Iran, which has given funding and support for Hezbollah, a militant Shi’ite resistance born in the initial Israeli occupation of Lebanon over 20 years old during conflicts with the PLO, wants to take attention away from itself and buy time to keep pursuing nukes. But if it’s a well-known fact that Iran already supports Hezbollah, why would they risk further retaliation by such an obvious act of aggression? Syria, similarly, has been accused of aiding Saddam loyalists in Iraq. While they do have territorial disputes with Israel over the Golan Heights and Sheeba farms, possible retaliation from Israel and the US is enough of a deterrent to planning an attack on either state. Furthermore, Assad strikes me as a reluctant leader, as he assumed leadership after the death of his father while he was in medical practice. He seems to follow the party line because he has to; I don’t know how much power he really has.

If you want to blame anyone for the attack on Israel, it should be Hezbollah itself. They must have known Israel would retaliate. Perhaps they thought it would cause the Lebanese to support them as a defense force while laying the blame squarely on Israeli aggression. Am I missing something? Have they forgotten the Cedar Revolution? The assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri from Syrian agents? 

Anti-Semitism

I read somewhere that Ahmadinejad’s infamous statement about Israel was mistranslated. He actually said something like “wipe Israel from the pages of history.” In a way, I think that statement is even more chilling. “Pages of history” implies destruction so great as to make people even forget Israeli Jews existed at all, which is consistent with the logic of a Holocaust denier – if you deny a past atrocity against a people, and the sick bigotry that fueled it, then it makes it easier to dehumanize them and justify a current atrocity. Now, there is another possible meaning. Maybe he meant that he wants to correct an ongoing injustice that he feels is long overdue, so his statement was really a salve for the festering wound of Muslim pride that the success of Israel represents.

Criticism of Israeli aggression and human rights abuses is not anti-Semitic, even though some anti-Semites use it as an excuse to defame Jews as a whole. We can understand why Israel acts as it does. That doesn’t excuse it, however. 

The conventional wisdom is that, once again, fanatics attacked Israel, and Israel is engaged in legitimate self-defense. Any reasonable person understands the need for a response. All states have the right to defend themselves from attack, and Hezbollah clearly attacked them. According to international law, jus ad bellum (the right of states to go to war) requires UN approval, but states engage in war all the time without the blessing of international councils. However, there is also jus in bello (rules of war) once a military is already engaged, and the near universal condemnation of Israel, far from being a case of worldwide anti-Semitism, is simply a recognition of that.

The problem is that people have either an overtly narrow and incomplete understanding of the conflict timeline, or use virtually meaningless generalizations that, again, leave out crucial details. 

There is a record of violence in the region, documented as far back as biblical times. So what? That doesn't make history an irrelevent series of cycles with no bearing on the present conflicts. Perhaps the reason this region's violence gets hyped is because it is at the heart of the two most populous religions in the world (Christianity and Islam) and their collective narratives, as well as Judaism. What many ask is why this largely sandy area is so important to so many people. There is a geographic reason for its highly contested status. For thousands of years it was at the crossroads of important trade-routes, and several empires were competing for dominance. It’s sort of like a bottleneck, big powers needed to squeeze through, and the people who lived there, however defiant, were basically small bands of nomads who had little chance of defeating imperial powers.

But while there have often been skirmishes among the Semitic tribes who settled there, it was not, categorically, what it is now – Jews versus Arabs. This is a recent conflict with roots in the early 20th century, or perhaps as far back as the late 19th century. Under both Ottoman and British rule, Arabs took care of Jewish holy sites in Palestine. Some might even trace it back to the Crusades. It is said that under Christian (Byzantine) rule, Jewish sites were in disarray, while under Muslim rule they were restored. Arabs saw it as a slap in the face when Zionists rewrote history and portrayed them as conquerors, when Jews and Muslims lived in harmony for so long. At the same time, there has been a white-washing of Muslim aggression (Islamic powers were not totally innocent when Christians launched the Crusades in the Middle Ages).

To get a more accurate perspective on this issue, we must look at the last century. The situation is not completely the fault of Israelis. Arab leadership made bad decisions and Arab states did a poor job handling the large influx of refugees, sometimes acting with indifference to the plight of Palestinians, while politicians incorporated their struggle into their rhetoric to gain the support of the public for Pan-Arab imperialism and hegemony. Even if the UN partition plan was unfair, the all or nothing stance of Arab states only hurt Palestinians. Instead of getting 45% of their land for Palestinian state, they got nothing.

Let’s look at the current cycle of violence. As far as I know, it goes something like this:

Arafat dies, leaving a power vacuum in the PA. Hamas win in election and continues to refuse to recognize the state of Israel, or disavow armed conflict. Israel withholds money from the PA. The US and the EU, while also cutting off funds, outline plans to aid Palestinians by giving to NGO’s. (Unfortunately, many of them are corrupt, and the aid falls far short of helping basic infrastructure needs.) Militants under the aegis of Hamas captured Israeli soldiers, breaking the cease-fire agreement. Israel captures members of the newly formed Hamas government and raids the Gaza strip (the world’s largest open air prison). Palestinian civilians are killed and more infrastructure destroyed. Meanwhile, 3 Lebanese civilians are captured and imprisoned. Hezbollah kidnaps 3 soldiers and kill 2 while firing rockets at civilian areas in Haifa. They make typical demands – stop controlling the occupied territories, release prisoners, etc. Israel invades Lebanon, killing over a thousand and leveling Beirut, while a million Lebanese become refugees.

This undermines the small progress made after Israel evacuated the settlements in the West Bank last year. While Palestinians have more control over Gaza, basic operations like their economy, infrastructure, and travel are still controlled by Israel. Curfews are still imposed, and if Palestinians go to their homes from work or a hospital after the curfew, soldiers have the right to shoot them. Palestinians are often shot arbitrarily from the security fence (wall), as well as imprisoned and tortured. Palestinians are still burdened with checkpoints. Yes, it was unfair to the Israelis who had to leave their homes in Gaza, but they were well compensated by the government. No one in the media seems to mention the unpaid Palestinians labor force that helped them move out of Gaza.

Until there is true justice for the Arabs, both from Israel, and from the Arab regimes, the wounds of the ME will continue to fester and stink.


Posted by tonygalli at 7:15 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 30 June 2008 8:09 AM EDT
Saturday, 12 August 2006
Let's Hear It For Restraint!

Leader Nasrallah of Hezbollah said recently he is willing to accept a UN brokered cease-fire deal. Great! However, he said that as long as Israel has troops in southern Lebanon they will continue fighting. It looks like we're not out of the woods yet, and the violence will continue. It would be better for Lebanon if there weren't members of Hezbollah in their government, as it is already difficult to abide by the disarmament agreement to disband this "government within a government." Then again, it would be better if Israel followed international law itself and honestly committed itself to ending its occupation of all lands acquired after 1967. Not going to happen any time soon.

I wrote a long essay that I was going to use as my next blog entry. Unfortunately, I had some trouble putting it on for technical reasons. I will write more about this issue later.


Posted by tonygalli at 12:32 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 17 March 2007 9:19 AM EDT
Saturday, 22 July 2006
Spiritual Politics?

A few entries ago, maybe two or three, I wrote about Buddhism and its relevence to social/political movements. Obviously I think there is a relationship; I wrote a whole essay about it on my website. So what was my point?

My disagreement is with three notions, that Buddhism is essentially: (i) not a religion, (ii) not metaphysical, and (iii) is a movement for social change. Well, the first and second notions are false to anyone with religious knowledge. But the third point is more subtle. 

It's not that Buddhism can't inspire social change; it's that they their ultimate objectives are different. I guess this matters, on the practical level, in terms of emphasis and the time spent on certain activities. Even within Buddhism there has been debates - how much time should we focus on developing compassion for others, versus meditating to attain wisdom (realizing the ultimate unreality of our individual self)? How do we integrate the two? How do act towards others and their suffering if we understand that the self is an illusion anyways? Simply, how do we act in the world that reflects Buddhism's particular insights?

Not easy questions, to be sure, and they're still being debated today. The social movements that I have in mind, generally, do not share a singular religious quest, though many different religious people, principly inspired by their own traditions, are involved in these causes (including Buddhism). One does not need to be Buddhist, for example, to recognize the inherent danger of a world full of nuclear weapons. Nor does one have to be Christian, Pagan, Jew, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, or from any other religion or non-religion. It's something that should be obvious to the majority of the world population.  

Despite the loftier debates within Buddhism, one thing that is clear to me are certain moral imperatives shared by all sects, and broadly by other religions. For the lay-person this is known as the "Five Precepts," (Pancasila in Pali) which are the minimum standard of ethics. If you cannot actively intervene in stopping any of the negative events in the world, at least don't partipate in them and cause more damage. Non-harm, basically.

I wrote towards the end of the blog entry that meditation, as a practical instrument of social change, is effective in as much as it changes one's outlook, and thus influences that person's behavior. I further stated that moral codes have the same function. In light of psychological research Lawrence Kolhberg and his findings on the developmental stages of moral reasoning, which I still think is still sound, even with feminist reworking, I must revise those statements.

I think moral codes are important, but work on a different level of consciousness. There is a reason spiritual paths start with behavioral restraint. In Kholberg's stages I and II, respectively, these are the preconventional and conventional levels. First, one does the "right thing" because of egoic reasons (avoiding punishment and gaining a reward). Then, one is motivated by an understanding that rules are necessary for the functioning and well-being of society.

Meditation is supposed to eventually bring one to a postconventional level of understanding. Insight occurs after there is already some  psychological/behavioral stability. This is why psychotherapy, for the most part, is not the same as Buddhism, because the former helps one maintain a healthy ego, while the latter pushes one beyond the ego altogether. Another way of putting it is that psychotherapy allows one to be get better at an inferior mode of existance, and Buddhism allows one to get normalized at a superior mode of existence.

Once one is sufficiently healthy, bound by certain norms and mores, one can then look deeper into morality. To go beyond the conventional requires an attitude change. Laws are not always good, even when voted on democratically. They are often arbitrary, sometimes counter-productive, and can even be "immoral." To look at things relativistically means, for one, understanding the gulf b/w the written law and the spirit of the law. This is not amoralism, which is an orientation that always accomodates selfish needs, but an adherence to universal principles; universal because the principles of the good of all trumps the status quo. Ideals like non-harm should apply to all people, regardless of the society, and ultimately to all sentient beings.

Are spiritual paths even necessary? Why not just work on a just social order first, and then navel-gaze when conditions are more favorable? After all, if we get more paid vacations, guaranteed pensions, and clean and safe neighborhoods for all, then we'll have sufficient quality free time to develop ourselves inwardly without the intrusions of outer chaos. My position is that inner and outer work are both valid and necessary. Just how much is a judgment call that each must make on their own.


Posted by tonygalli at 10:51 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 30 June 2008 8:18 AM EDT
Sunday, 25 June 2006
Random Thoughts

I am noticing more hits onto my site, so I figured I should continue with my blog, lest anyone get bored and stop coming.

Since Earth Day I have been thinking more about the environment. It might seem trivial, but it's not. Without a biosphere, we can't have any of the things we take for granted. We wouldn't be able to sit here and read or write blogs on our computers. We wouldn't have much of anything. It is for this reason that I wanted to write about the environment for the integralworld website. I don't want to inundate people with a barrage of scientific facts, just the most relevant and alarming ones. My interest is in relating the environment to other important issues, such as economics, war, terrorism, and technology. I haven't yet figured out how to say something that hasn't already been said, and get more people thinking about this.

I've realized recently the true purpose of my website. Whether people read my essays or not is unimportant. If people find them interesting or informative, great. But as long as I've reeled in a few people, I really hope they will go to my links page, because I believe it is there that the important sites lie. A crude way of putting it is that my site is really just a vehicle to spread awareness of important issues. Not that what I'm focused on are the only important issues, mind you, but they include causes dear to my heart.

As for integralworld.net, I'm happy to say that my stuff has been put up. I will not comment on that, as the reader can go to the site and check it out for him or herself. I honestly thought the chances of getting them up would be low. I understand now just what a service Frank Visser has done for Integral Studies. He has created an open forum in a new and exciting area. Of course, with a forum that open, it is bound to let in lower quality work. As with my site, I make sure to include a disclaimer - I'm just a layperson. Maybe I state it too often, which shows some kind of self-deprecating insecurity. The reason I do state it is because I think it's important to know your limitations and not misrepresent yourself.


Posted by tonygalli at 5:07 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 9 September 2006 12:05 AM EDT
Saturday, 22 April 2006
Happy Earth Day!
If any of you out there are following my blog, you're probably wondering why I write so sporadically. I've wondered that myself (I can say I'm just busy, but that's an escuse). I think the reason is that I have approached this blog like a writing assignment, seeing each piece as a finished essay. Really, that's not the norm for blogs which, aside from news commentary, tend to be highly personal journeys into which people allow their stream of consciousness to run wild. I'm not going to do that, but perhaps it wouldn't hurt to be a little more organic and a little less polished.

Last month I wrote a newspaper commentary about the cartoon controvesy in Jillands-Posten on the Prophet Muhammad. Now that the vandalism has died down, I'm much more worried right now about the Iran situation. I want to focus on a broader question - Is it OK to use/have nuclear weapons?

NO. And I don't just mean that for Iran, but for ANY country. Nuclear weapons do not make the world safer.

Nuclear energy itself, even for peaceful purposes, has serious environmental consequences. Right now there's still room underground to store radioactive waste, but pretty soon we'll run out. Safer sources of energy are not just a luxury, we have to get on the ball with this. We don't need to do it to make ourselves feel better, we need to do for our basic survival and quality of life. If people decide to buy hybrids and solar powered lights to flatter themselves, fine. Shallow, but fine. Whatever the motivation, we need to do this without haste.

I don't want to live in a world where conflicts are resolved with threats of weapons that can destroy the entire biosphere. Call me a whiny liberal, but that doesn't strike me as very healthy.

This is not a presciption for how to deal with Iran. My position on that the international community should find sensable ways to allow them to develop peaceful energy programs, for now. Hopefully their own people will decide to implement other sources of energy (I realize that's highly unlikely given the political situation, but let's not meddle in that right now). It might indeed be possible Iran is secretly trying to build a bomb, but by all accounts they are years away from even having the capability. Let the UN and the IAEA investigate into the matter. Also, work with countries who are working with Iran. I'm sure Iran doesn't want sanctions and inspections all the time.

There's an argument - if we don't threaten them with serious consequences, they will have no fear of building a bomb. There are three unspoken assumptions here: 1.) The US is morally superior and has every right to be the world's authority, 2.) The US alone decides who has nuclear weapons and who doesn't, 3.) Iranians are inherently more dangerous than anyone else. Suffice to say I reject those assumptions. If the US is really serious about making the world safer, than by all means lets dismantle our own weapons and pressure our allies to do the same.

The sad truth is that the US is the only military that has actually used nuclear weapons, and the US is openly declaring its intentions to consider doing it again. Even if it's a bluff, it's a pretty dangerous game to play.

There are reformists in Iran who want to change its regime. If we care at all about them and their goals, attacking Iran is the worst possible thing to do. When you're your survival is at stake, what are you going to do but seek protection from your government? How are reformists going to sway its population when the government uses propaganda to link reformists with a country that is threatening its people? Iranians are not stupid, they know what the US has done to them. Hopefully, more Iranians will distinguish between progressive voices and American hegemony, but that is increasingly hard to do under threat of annihilation.

Posted by tonygalli at 11:12 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 9 September 2006 12:09 AM EDT
Thursday, 2 March 2006
Karma - It Keeps Going and Going
We all know that what goes around, comes around. Just read the news, or look at history. Those who live by the sword, die by the sword. And if we believe in reincarnation, we can be assured that those who do not taste justice in this life will get it in another.

I might not be a hell-fearing Christian anymore, but I certainly do fear karma. Freedom from karma is an incredibly lofty goal, but it sure would be nice. Do I have the discipline to reach that goal? Am I willing to pay the price? I don't know.

If any of you remember, one of the first entries on this blog mentioned a CD called "Burning Karma." Well folks, I'm happy to report that I finally ordered it from Amazon.com and received it in the mail the other day.

I've listened to it a few times, and I'd say it's pretty good, better than I thought it would be. The first time I listened to it the batteries gave out halfway through, so it was quite a distration.

The second time the same thing happened, though perhaps the calm state of mind I was in lessened the anger I would normally feel towards the obviously defective batteries I bought (that's what happens when you try to save a few bucks by going with the store brand).

The third time I used quality batteries, and the CD player worked fine. So what do I think?

I think it's probable that Leslie Temple-Thurston is highly awakened. They say that enlightened people can transmit their joy even through their voice. It sounds flaky, but I don't doubt it. Your state of mind cannot be fully hidden, it affects others in one way or another. Haven't you ever been around someone and felt good or bad "vibes"?

Well, it's a nice meditation, and I like her voice. I don't know if I burned away any of my karmas. Maybe after a few more listens I'll let you know.

Posted by tonygalli at 6:44 PM EST
Updated: Saturday, 22 April 2006 11:16 PM EDT

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