The American Transformation V

Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry...

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As I am writing this, the Republicans in the Senate have just defeated the last ditch attempt to save GM from going bankrupt by the end of this month. Of course there is already a frenetic search going on to find yet another (laster) ditch and perhaps Santa Claus will come up with one. But there really are no good guys in this situation, only bad guys, worse guys and despicable guys. I wont't rehash all the murky details, but I can't fathom why the Republicans refused to shell out a 'mere' $15 billion (give or take a billion) to save an absolutely essential American industry--one that saw us through two world wars and beyond, enriched American society and indeed the world with the love and lore of automobiles, as attested to in the famous 

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American Pie:

A long long time ago
I can still remember how that music used to make me smile
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And maybe they'd be happy for a while

But February made me shiver
With every paper I'd deliver
Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn't take one more step

I can't remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died

Bye-bye, Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee
But the levee was dry
Them good old boys were drinkin' whiskey and rye
Singin' this'll be the day that I die
This'll be the day that I die

for many more American heart-wrenching stanzas, click on American Pie:

Chrysler has already been in crisis for a long time, and with GM now also on the block, Ford too will be unlikely to survive. It has to do with the entire structure of essential material and parts suppliers and the network of car dealerships and other related enterprises (all relying on the heavy volume that only the D3 can provide)  which  is likely to cave in.

Henry Ford must be spinning in his grave. The D3 appear to  have a very bleak future. Never mind that is almost entirely of their own making, for not having done the absolutely necessary research and development to stay abreast of what the foreign competition was doing quite successfully, and to the liking of Amercian car buyers. They should have paid more attention to the teachings of  W. Edwards Deming - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia--who taught the Japanese, obviously his better students, a lesson or two.

While it is true that the primary responsability of a corporation is to maximize stockholders' profits, a distinction must be drawn between short term and long term profits. Outright steeling does have a very short term advantage. Overcharging too has a very short term advantage. And making cars that the public wants, but that damage the biosphere has some short term advantage.  But when your million dollar bonuses depend merely on a short term track record or worse, no track record to speak off, but merely keeping a CEO seat warm for a few months, as in some notable cases, any thoughts of the biosphere go out of the window of your corporate jet real fast. 

So let's turn our thought back to what must happen in the American Transformation:

If we leave the biosphere, of which human beings are an integral part, out of consideration for the time being, I would put human rights first and foremost--it does not cost a lot to treat other people the way we would like to be treated. If you don't it always turns out to be more costly in the end. That's the golden rule.

Versions of the Golden Rule in 21 world religions

Brahmanism - based on the Vedas, which originated in ancient India, thousands of years BCE:

"This is the sum of Dharma [duty]: Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you". Mahabharata, 5:1517 "

The history of India begins with the Indus Valley Civilization, which spread and flourished in the north-western part of the Indian subcontinent, from c. 3300 to 1300 BCE. Its Mature Harappan period lasted from 2600-1900 BCE. This Bronze Age civilization collapsed at the beginning of the second millennium BCE and was followed by the Iron Age Vedic period, which extended over much of the Indo-Gangetic plains and which witnessed the rise of major kingdoms known as the Mahajanapadas. In one of these kingdoms Magadha, Mahavira and Gautama Buddha were born in the 6th century BCE, who propagated their Shramanic philosophies among the masses.

Traditionally, the authorship of the Mahābhārata is attributed to Vyasa. There have been many attempts to unravel its historical growth and composition layers. Its earliest layers probably date back to the late Vedic period (ca. 8th c. BC)[2] and it probably reached its final form by the time the Gupta period began (ca. 4th c. AD).[3]

Buddhism - based on the teachings of Siddharta Gautama  (ca 563 BCE to ca 483 BCE):

"...a state that is not pleasing or delightful to me, how could I inflict that upon another?" Samyutta NIkaya v. 353 

Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful." Udana-Varga 5:18

One of the oldest revealed religions is Zoroastrianism, from which all three Semitic religions have heavily borrowed--and in that religion of Zardust (c.628 b.c.–c.551 b.c.) the Golden Rule is stated as follows:

Zoroastrianism  -  based on the teachings of Zardust (ca 628 - ca 551 BCE):

"That nature alone is good which refrains from doing unto another whatsoever is not good for itself". Dadistan-i-dinik 94:5

"Whatever is disagreeable to yourself do not do unto others."  Shayast-na-Shayast 13:29

Confucianism - based on the teachings of Kung-fu-tzu, literally Master Kong (ca 551-ca 477 BCE):

"Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you" Analects 15:2

Did Confucius, born in ca 551 BCE, the same  year Zoroaster died, pick up his wisdom from the Persian prophet? It is conceivable. What is certain is that Judaeism picked up so much from Zoroastrianism during their Babylonian exile that it probably included the later ethical teachings of Jesus in this regard as well.  

Christianity - based on the teachings of Joshua ben Joseph  (ca 7 BCE - ca 23 CE)

"Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." Matthew 7:12, King James Version.

"And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise." Luke 6:31, King James Version.

Roman Pagan Religion - based on Roman traditions from ca 732 BCE

"The law imprinted on the hearts of all men is to love the members of society as themselves."

Non-theistic Western philosophers have made similar pronouncements:

Epictetus: "What you would avoid suffering yourself, seek not to impose on others." (circa 100 CE)

Kant: "Act as if the maxim of thy action were to become by thy will a universal law of nature."

Plato: "May I do to others as I would that they should do unto me." (Greece; 4th century BCE)

Socrates: "Do not do to others that which would anger you if others did it to you." (Greece; 5th century BCE)

Seneca: "Treat your inferiors as you would be treated by your superiors," Epistle 47:11 (Rome; 1st century CE)

Thus from all the above indications it is self evident that human beings are generally  intuited to have rights among other human beings, based on the ethical principle of reciprocity also known as the Golden Rule. Human rights are  therefore inherent. They are self-evident and their self-evidence is axiomatic.

The statement that human beings are 'endowed by their creator with inalienable rights'  is an unnecessary embellishment. It is simply theistic language for saying that human beings have inalienable rights that are inherent, self evident or axiomatic. An axiom does not need a theistic explanation, It does not need any explanation, theistic or non-theistic--for it is based on the universal ethical principle of reciprocity.

 axiom AX'IOM, n. [Gr. authority, an authoritative sentence, or that which is assumed, from worthy, and to think worthy, to esteem; Eng. to ask, that which is asked, sought or esteemed.]
1. A self evident truth, or a proposition whose truth is so evident at first sight, that no process of reasoning or demonstration can make it plainer; as, "the whole is greater than a part."
2. An established principle in some art or science; a principle received without new proof; as, "things which are equal to the same thing, are equal to one another."

See also:  axiom : 1485, from M.Fr. axiome, from L. axioma, from Gk. axioma "authority," lit. "that which is thought worthy or fit," from axioun "to think worthy," from axios "worthy, worth, of like value, weighing as much," from PIE adj. *ag-ty-o- "weighty," from base *ag- "to drive, draw, move" (cf. Gk. agein "weigh, pull").

That's why the references to what some ancient or mediaeval elohim or theos supposedly revealed was right in terms of human rights is completely irrelevant in the debate about human rights, particularly in a society that is not based on any particular view of God or religion, but that makes a conscious effort to keep religion and politics separate. Human rights are inherent, axiomatic and self evident,  not bestowed--unlike civil rights, which are bestowed--but by law, and not by some particular god.

It is self-evident too that in our society the only essential human right not yet even recognized as such by large segments of the population are the human rights of gay people to love and marry one another, regardless of either partner's gender, religion or ethnicity.

Violations of human rights are numerous in the world, but they are generally recognized in principle for what they are. It is the human rights of gay people to love and marry each other that are not yet recognized as human rights--and hence  violated by many laws and too often by constitutional misinterpretation.

That principle of human rights to be accorded to all people has to be recognized in any civil society--let alone in the United States of America, where ab initio everyone was supposed to be treated equally.

The destruction of the biosphere is, among many other things, also a violation of human rights. That ought to be recognized as well.  After all--what human being would like to live in a world unsafe for human habitation?  Yet that is what our past and present policies would subject billions of human beings to. It is very short term thinking that led to this situation--as well as sheer ignorance and recklessness.

Healthcare too is a human right--or at least a civil right, to be bestowed on us by civil authorities if not by cruel nature, red in tooth and claw. But too often the inflexible ideologies of left and right clash and make decent compromises impossible. The destruction of the biosphere cannot be good for human health or for human rights. That's why it is part and parcel of the current financial and economic crisis.

 A nation of sick, unhappy and dying people cannot support a healthy financial and economic system.  

After all, we are not Zimbabwe, where the cholera crisis has apparently been solved by an executive fiat of its president Mugabe. Cf.: Mugabe: 'There is no cholera in Zimbabwe' - Times Online.

He's not unhinged, but he is ridiculous: Richard Beeston's analysis | Top 10 denials of the truth

With breathtaking contempt for the suffering of his people, Robert Mugabe declared yesterday that “there is no cholera” in Zimbabwe. As the UN announced that the death toll had risen to 783 and prepared for 60,000 cases, Zimbabwe’s autocrat claimed that his country’s doctors, with the help of unnamed “others”, had arrested the epidemic and with it the West’s pretext for regime change. “Because of cholera, [Gordon] Brown, [Nicolas] Sarkozy and [George] Bush want military intervention. Now that there is no cholera, there’s no need for war,” he said.  Western officials were astounded. One senior diplomat said: “Mugabe’s claim makes him the King Canute of cholera, and embodies the criminal responsibility of the regime for this epidemic”.

Well, we know a thing or two in our country as well about two faced lies and two faced lying politicians, but Mugabe certainly takes the cake for making that statement. Who does he think he is? Moses? 

Corruption too is a violation of human rights, for it seeks monetary gain in subverting the decision making process that is supposed to be fair and unprejudicial--thus damaging the rights of many people in the process. The Mugabe of domestic corruption has to be Rod Blagojevich - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia  who had the cajones to put Obama's senatorial seat uo for sale! At a time he was already under indictment for other matters of corruption.

Education in America has two faces: one for the well off who can afford to send their kids to tony private prep schools or public schools in wealthy school districts, followed by the best colleges and universities.

But there is another face for those who cannot afford this. That too is a violation of human rights under the reciprocity principle of the Golden Rule, theoretically so well anchored in all human world views and traditions--theistic or non-theistic.

Note: It is interesting that unlike Americans, Dutch people are rarely asked about their religion, but instead are asked about their 'levensbeschouwing' (outlook on life) or wereldaanschouwing (world view). This is more correct since religion is usually considered a specifically theistic outlook on life or world view and some people answer 'none' to the question about their religion. That problem would be avoided if the question is about their world view or outlook on life. It is therefore the better democratic practice.

Proper education also would eliminate bigotry: it is no surprise that people of lesser education tend to be more prejudiced--or that churches attended by the lesser educated tend to be more bigoted. Thus education is important to human rights in more ways then one. And what is preached from the pulpits is education too--and what they teach in Islamic madrassas as well as  schools of other religious traditions that lack appropriate and unbiased educational tandards is perhaps even more of a hindrance to the full implementation of human rights.

Thus when we put human rights on the top of the agenda for transforming American Society  we would naturally include the protection of the environment or biosphere, the improvement of health care and the elimination of corruption.

If  Barack Obama can achieve a significant measure of success in these areas, my vote of confidence in him will not have been wasted.

To recognize and restore human rights to gay people is not very costly: all it takes is some goodwill and the implemetation of the Golden Rule. In fact, it is likely that the economy will gain greatly from the gay marriage and divorce industry, as it has so long from the straight marriage and divorce industry.

Allowing  gay people, like straight people, to marry and divorce would create innumerable jobs and that would benefit all of society in a time of great ecomomic need.

To reverse the negative trends in the biosphere would involve a long term strategy of building a new infrastructure that is friendly to the environment on which the biosphere and humanity depend. This would require enormous outlays in the beginning only the Government is in a position to provide, but the building of the infrastructure itself would enable many private enterprises from engaging in important, constructive work that would provide great job opportunities and which would be very profitable in the long run.

To reverse corruption would eliminate waste as well as  societal distrust and disaffection, even revolution. This would require greater oversight and this too would have enormous financial benefits in the long run.

Thus the financial and ecomomic crisis in the long run would be alleviated, not worsened by taking care of human rights, health care, the environment, corruption, and education.

There is also an important international component to the transformation of America, which may be the topic for my next journal entry.