Read Part One
There was a time when the small number of humans and the lack of genetic diversity overtly threatened the survival of our species. In fact, several of our close relatives, like the Neanderthals, didn’t make it. Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, climatic change, and other natural events were often deadly and close-at-hand variables. Then came disease, famine, and competition with other animal species. And, as if all these threats weren’t enough, we insisted in warring on each other, as if irrationally pursing a dark ‘death wish’. Our ancestors clearly lived in a terrifying world! That any humans survived at all is unbelievable good luck.
But we did, and our numbers grew and grew, and we populated ever widening portions of the globe. We learned about our world around us, and about ourselves, and our well-being improved by leaps and bounds. Science and modern medicine greatly reduced the effect of disease, and by 1800 AD we had reached the one billion population mark.
War and inter-human conflict had always been an added threat, but the warfare was mostly throwing spears or bullets at each other, and total annihilation was unlikely, although we did manage to wipe out some specific populations... the Spaniards with the natives of Central and South America, for example.
But something happened mid-way through the last century that changed forever the potential for war and human conflict to make our lives miserable and even to end our existence. It was, of course, the invention of nuclear bombs and other terrible weapons of mass destruction.
Our capability to decimate our own kind greatly improved in the last century.... even without nuclear weapons. Estimates of how many people died in all the wars, massacres, slaughters and oppressions of the 20th century, as computed by R. J. Rummel and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), are between 203 million and 258 million. These figures do not include deaths from nuclear warfare, which has not yet taken place, except for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But our closeness to nuclear warfare and a global nuclear holocaust has sometimes been only a button away.
America created the atomic bomb at the end of WWII, and the possibility of a global nuclear holocaust has haunted us, and the world, ever since. Our American government, its allies, the Soviet block, and a host of other governments have all pursued uranium-based nuclear fission ever since WWII, even though safer alternatives existed, such as Thorium-based fission. But our governments stuck to uranium-base fission because they wanted nuclear weapons. It may even be true that the various publics were never told the full story, and were unaware of the alternatives.
Our closeness to wiping ourselves out was the narrowest during the years of the Cold War... when a holocaust was as close as a certain ranking individual flicking a switch only a few feet away... and paranoia prevailed. That danger subsided somewhat with the changes in Russia and the Soviet countries, but has now risen to new heights because of the increased proliferation of nuclear weapons, threats from terrorist groups and rogue nations, nuclear failures and disasters, and the maddening inability of those nations with nuclear weapons to abandon them.
It is vibrantly clear that we also need to abandon uranium-based nuclear fission for the production of energy... the so-called ‘safe’ and ‘for peace’ nuclear reactors.
If we ask what factors are at play in increasing the nuclear danger, we can form a sizable list. All the factors helping to create human conflict and war are included. And ideology heads the list.
During the 19th and 20th centuries world population took a dramatic leap. As stated, by approximately the year 1800 we had reached the first billion threshold ... it had taken many thousands of years to reach that number. But it took only a little more than a hundred years, until 1927, for us to gain a 2nd billion, and only until 1960 to reach 3 billion, and then to 1974 to reach 4 billion. Last year, in 2011, we passed the 7 billion mark.
Exponential growth is sometimes difficult to put into perspective. One illustrative example is to take a sheet of standard .1 mm thick writing paper, and cut it into two sheets and stack them on top each other. Now you have .2 mm thickness. Double that thickness by doubling the number of sheets... now you have .4 mm. Double it again and again... and one more time. Now you’ve doubled your stack 5 times, and have reached 3.2 mm, or 1/8th of an inch in height. If you were to do this a total of 30 times, however, you would have a stack that would be 107.4 kilometers high.
If we were talking about people instead of sheets of paper, that would be over a thousand-times-a-billion people. During the last half of the 20th century we discovered that we were facing the possibility that we could not feed such increasing numbers. Amazingly, science and the ‘green revolution’ saved us, at least temporarily. But now we are once again dealing with a measurably diminishing food supply versus an ever-expanding population. A growing population on a planet with a finite amount of space and finite resources means that more and more people are chasing the same, or fewer, resources. There is no doubt that we are heading for a crisis, which will show in a growing shortage of food, energy, water, and other resources... plus an ever-increasing stress on our environment.
Which brings us to the relatively new factor affecting our well-being and our ability to sustain ourselves... the ever- pressing destruction of our environment, caused in part because of our growing population, and part because of our changing life style and expanding use of earth’s resources. We talk about it a lot now... environmental damage and climate change... a new threat to our survival, brought on mostly by our own actions.
And yet, in a world facing such threats, a few are surviving exceptionally well compared to others. Americans, for example, comprise about 5% of the world’s population, but use 23% of the world’s energy, more than three times the average world consumption of water, create twice as much rubbish, and discharge five times as much carbon dioxide. We witness this disparity even within America ... the 99% versus the 1% for example. The stark disparity between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ is not diminishing, but instead is increasing.
Such economic disparity and greed is becoming an increasingly destabilizing factor and a growing cause of human suffering and conflict. The role of ideology In the discussion throughout this book I use the term ideology in a broad, umbrella sense, meaning ‘the set of beliefs’ that are fundamental to our way of life. One dictionary definition is that an ideology is a system of thought applied to public matters and thus makes this concept central to politics, economics, and yes, religion as well.
Or, like the German word weltanschauung, ideology is a ‘world view’, referring to the fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society, encompassing the entirety of the individual or society's knowledge and point- of-view, including philosophy; existential postulates; or themes, values, emotions, and ethics; and includes religion. The role of ideology, especially when viewed from this broader perspective, runs through every facet of our respective cultures... our politics, our form of economics, our religion, our philosophy, our system of justice and law and order, and our moral and ethical base. It includes both the secular and non- secular, if these terms are more familiar, or both civic and religious.
Most ideologies aim for a universal and timeless application, and usually claim some sort of basic truth or absolute. However, as I have suggested above, it may be more important that the ideology be relevant to the current reality... to our current problems and challenges.
From this perspective, then, we can set aside the requirement of an absolutist base. The first role of ideology is to enable survival. Next is its ability to provide or enable a cultural and a spiritual framework. Most thinkers and writers think of the ‘spiritual’ part of ideology as being religious, or mostly religious, with the idea that we are dealing with our souls and life after death. But this does not need to be so. Even in the customary sense, spiritual matters can be addressed philosophically, or even through science. The Greeks found philosophy to be a comfortable compliment to the worship of their Gods, and later philosophy even replaced godly worship. Scientology is an example of a modern attempt to provide spirituality through science.
In this discussion I go a step further, and suggest that our spirituality can be part of our civic ideology. For example, parts of our Constitution are clearly spiritual... the ideals of freedom, equality, and justice... the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness... a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Because of this somewhat unorthodox approach, there is considerable overlap in the following discussions in matters that may be considered purely cultural versus spiritual, or political versus religious. I apologize to the reader... I don’t know how to avoid this. Finally, we develop specific ideologies with a purpose, or end- goal in mind, and a game-plan on how to achieve that end-goal... and therefore one role of ideology is to identify a desired end- goal and to provide a game-plan on how to attain that end-goal.
Following is one suggested outline of the roles of ideology:
1. To enable survival. The first requirement that we humans face is simply the need to survive... so obvious a requirement, and yet one that we seem to readily forget, judging by our actions. We can further break down the role of ideology as it pertains to survival into:
a. Enables the acquisition of basic physical needs, beginning with food, shelter, and clothing.
b. Offers insight and guidance to limit and control war and human conflict.
c. Encourages care of our environment
d. Encourages population control
e. Encourages economic equality and sharing of resources
2. To provide a cultural framework. Our ideology defines our cultural framework, providing a base for:
a. Morals and ethics
b. Justice, law and order
c. Political framework
d. Economic framework
e. Allows and encourages cultural diversity
f. Allows and encourages cultural tolerance
3. To provide a spiritual framework and enhanced quality of life:
a. Offers a vision of what we humans are all about
b. Presents a set of higher ideals and principles, i.e. equality and individual freedoms
c. Promotes peace, harmony, compassion
d. Offers insight, guidance, hope
4. To identify a specific purpose and end-goal and provide a game-plan on how to attain that end-goal. Perhaps it comes with our ability to think, and to exercise rational thought, but it seems that we humans have a genuine need that goes beyond just our physical needs and simple existence... we need a vision of what we are all about... something that we can refer to for insight, guidance, inspiration, hope... a set of higher ideals and principles. In our history this has most commonly been provided by religion. Or at other times by philosophy.
In our modern era science has, for some, provided this need... with expanding knowledge of ourselves, our world, and the universe, we erode away the mysteries, and are awed and inspired.
Having identified the definition and role of ideology, the next question then is, can we choose our ideology, and if so, how can we assess, or evaluate, specific ideologies? I will address this subject in Chapter Seven, suggesting that we can, indeed, choose our ideology, that we can then identify criteria to judge specific ideologies, and, finally, that we can then evaluate specific ideologies. I also include a discussion on examples of ideology gone wrong. This will lead to the assessment of the Mormon ideology in Chapter Eight, explaining why we do not want a Mormon President.
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