Malthus Vs. Sanger

•December 1, 2016 • Leave a Comment

In his 1798 book “Essay on the Principle of Population“,English scholar Thomas Malthus wrote that population growth generally expanded in  a period of resource abundance and was restricted by available resources, leading to check on population growth. He argued that intimes and in regions of plenty, a population could double in 25 years until the margin of abundance could not be sustained as the population grew and the size of the population relative to the primary resources caused distress:

The passion between the sexes has appeared in every age to be so nearly that same that it may always be considered, in algebraic language, as a given quantity. The great law of necessity which prevents population from increasing beyond the food which it can either produce or acquire, is a law so open to our view that we cannot for a moment doubt it…The savage would slumber forever under his tree unless he were roused from his torpor by the cravings of hunger or the pinching of cold and the exertions that he makes to avoid these evils, by procuring food and building himself a covering, are the exercises which form and keep in motion his faculties, which otherwise would sink into listless inactivity…If the subsistence for man that the Earth affords was to be increased every twenty-five years by a quantity equal to what the whole world at present produces, this would allow the power of production in the Earth to be absolutely unlimited and its ratio of increase much greater than we can conceive that any possible exertions of mankind could make it yet still the power of population being a power of a superior order, the increase of the human species can only be kept commensurate to the increase of the means of subsistence by the constant operation of the strong law of neccesity as a check upon the greater power…The supreme being has ordained that the Earth shall not produce food in great quantities until much preparatory labor an ingenuity had been exercised upon its surface…The power of population is so superior to the power of the Earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race. The vices of mankind are active an able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of destruction and often finish the dreadful work themselves. But should they fall in this war of extermination, sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence and plague advance in terrific array and sweep off their thousands and tens of thousands…Yet in all societies, even those that are most vicious, the tendency to a virtuous attachment is so strong that there is a constant effort towards an increase of population. This constant effort as constantly tends to subject the lower classes of the society to distress and to prevent any great permanent amelioration of their condition.”

In 1921, eugenicist Margaret Sanger proposed a method of averting the Malthusian overpopulation tipping point: birth control. Sanger’s essay, entitled “No Healthy Race Without Birth Control” not only argued that birth control allowed women with multiple partners throughout their lifetime, who heretofore ran the risk of pregnancy each and every time they became physically intimate, to instead select the “best” man with whom they wished to have children, but also strongly implied that there were some women; primarily poor immigrants of dark-skinned races, whom birth control could be used to prevent from ever reproducing at all.

While popular with no less than Presidents of the United States such as Republican Theodore Roosevelt and titans of industry such as Andrew Carnegie, John Rockefeller and Henry Ford in the late 19th century and early 1900’s, the pseudoscience of Eugenics to which Sanger subscribed fell out of favor after it was adopted by a failed German art student by the name of Adolf Hitler in the 1930’s. As misguided as Sanger’s motivations for first advocating contraception might have been, however, the organization she founded, called “Planned Parenthood“, continues to offer a wide variety of women’s reproductive health care services to tens of millions of women nearly a century later, well into the second half of the second decade of the 21st century.

Sanger’s 1921 essay also pointed out that birth control prevented unmanageably large family sizes, permitting more attentive parenting for each child born. It is no coincidence that Singapore, the nation with the third lowest birth rate in the world as of 2014 and the world’s lowest fertility rate as of 2016 according to the Central intelligence Agency also has the world’s second-longest life expectancy and is ranked as the second healthiest nation on Earth by the London-based Legatum Institute on its 2016 Prosperity Index and is listed within the top ten best-educated. The Republic of South Korea, the country with the world’s second-lowest fertility rates according to the Population Reference Bureau as of 2016 and the fourth lowest birth rate also has the world’s third longest life expectancy and the world’s highest literacy rate. Japan, the nation with the world’s second-lowest birth rate according to the CIA as of 2014 has the world’s highest life expectancy and ranks as the world’s fourth healthiest nation according to Legatum as of their 2016 Prosperity Index:  http://www.prosperity.com/rankings

Nor is it a coincidence that the Republic of South Korea, the with the second lowest fertility rate and the fourth lowest birth rate, has the third longest life expectancy for women specifically and ranks third in the world in the average number of years of education females attain. Japan, with the second-lowest birth rate, has not only the longest life expectancy overall but also the longest life expectancy for women specifically and ranks sixth in years of education for women. Singapore, with the lowest fertility rate and third lowest birth rate, has the secnd-longest life expectancy for women.

The inverse is also true. Niger, the nation with the highest fertility rate and birth rate, also has the world’s lowest literacy rate and is ranked as the third worst-educated nation on Earth by Legatum. Chad, which Legatum ranks as both the least-educated and the least-healthy nation on Earth with the fourth lowest life expectancy and the ninth lowest literacy rate, also not coincidentally has the fourth highest fertility rate. Mali, Legatum’s fifth least-educated nation on Earth with the eighth lowest literacy rate, also has the third highest fertility rate and the second highest birth rate, correlating to the world’s seventh lowest life expectancy for women.

Conclusion: There exists a direct correlation between women’s use of birth control and contraception and not only the length of their lives and the amount of education they are able to attain, but indeed the overall education and health of the population of their entire nation. This makes a certain amount of sense, when considered, since the fewer children a woman has the more time she will have to pursue her education.

Providing birth control and contraception to nations such as Chad, Mali and Niger is not, therefore, an example of “Americanization”, or even “Westernization”. Access to birth control and contraception will not only allow women in this countries to live longer, but will improve the literacy and healthiness of entire nations.

Childish Things

•November 8, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Religions are, by their very nature, exclusive cliques. This is due to the defining quintessence of religious cults: the belief in the existence of absolute truth. Namely, theistic religions believe their holy books and sacred scriptures to be the absolute truth. In each religious cult believing their “absolute truth” to be the right one, they by default believe any and all other cults’ “absolute truths” to be wrong.

As Aaron Nelson of the University of Texas points out, since each one of the thousands of cults and denominations each believe themselves to be right and all others to be wrong, the only rational explanation is that they are all wrong, as they cannot all be right, since many if not most of their dogmatic doctrines are diametrically contradictory and mutually exclusive of one another:

If there really was one true god, it should be a singular composite of every religion’s gods, an uber-galactic super-genius, and the ultimate entity of the entire cosmos.  If a being of that magnitude ever wrote a book, then there would only be one such document; one book of God.  It would be dominant everywhere in the world with no predecessors or parallels or alternatives in any language, because mere human authors couldn’t possibly compete with it.  And you wouldn’t need faith to believe it, because it would be consistent with all evidence and demonstrably true, revealing profound morality and wisdom far beyond contemporary human capacity.  It would invariably inspire a unity of common belief for every reader.  If God wrote it, we could expect no less.  But what we see instead is the very opposite of that. Instead of only one religion leading to one ultimate truth, we have many different religions with no common origin, all constantly sharding into ever more deeply-divided denominations, seeking conflicting truths, and each somehow claiming divine guidance despite their ongoing divergence in every direction. The Jewish Torah, the Christian gospels, the Qur’an of Islam, the Kitab-i-Aqdas of Bahá’u’lláh, the Hindu Vedas, the Avestas of Zarathustra, the Adi-Granth of the Sikhs, the Mahabarata’s Bhagavad-Gita, the Book of Mormon, and the Urantia book are all declared to be the “absolute truth” and the “revealed word” of the “one true” god, and believers of each say the others are deceived.  The only logical probability is that they all are –at least to some degree…Perhaps that’s why there are so many different religions; because no man can know the true state of God.  There can only be one truth, and only one version of it.  But rather than coming together, as everyone’s search for the one truth should, religions continuously shard further and further apart into more divided factions with mutually-exclusive beliefs, -and there are as many wrong interpretations as there people claiming theirs as the “absolute truth”.”

Since religion, by definition, is founded upon exclusivity and the belief that you and you alone know the truth and that everyone else is wrong, religions are incapable uniting, or indeed of doing anything except dividing people, and so cannot help but to cause conflict.

And as Nelson points out, even if each and every religious denomination’s claim of theirs as being the “absolute truth” did not conflict with the identical claim made by members of every other religious denomination, the claims themselves would be dishonest on their face.

Truth” is more than just facts.  It implies something that is completely true, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  So every word of it better be accurate, or it isn’t truth at all; and depending on the topic, such a concept is likely beyond human comprehension anyway.  Truth may be pursued but never possessed.  That’s why we should trust those who seek the truth and doubt those who claim to have it.”

That the mutual exclusivity between these cults doesn’t and cannot result in “solidarity” would appear to be tautological; that is to say: true by definition.

This makes magnanimous movements such as Unitarian Universalism, altruistic as its idealism might be, at best quixotic.

As the guest speaker from the Unitarian Universalist church quite correctly pointed out, very nearly each and every single denomination of each and every single theistic religious cult is declining and shrinking exponentially in numbers in the information age of the 21st century. This may very well be an inevitable result of a world drawing itself closer together. Because while faith in books, doctrines, dogmas, gods, religions and sacred scriptures is subjective and so can by nature never create agreement among people, there do exist things that can and do. These are called “facts”.

Throughout the world, the countries that score the lowest on the list of the least-religious nations on Earth are almost always also those that score the highest on the list of the best-educated nations. The correlation, however, works the other way around. That is to say: The more you know, the less you believe. Beliefs can and do cause and create conflict. But if there is indeed one thing which has the very real potential to foster unity and solidarity, it is knowledge.

Education, therefore, can and should be utilized and wielded as an instrument for the purposes of globalization, whilst religion, any and all religious faith, can and should be fought against as the impediment and obstacle thereto that it is and has always been. The longer people cling to their subjective faiths, the more resistant they will be to a globalized world in which such imaginary delineations are rendered meaningless by the cumulative knowledge of the human species and the annual exponential multiplication thereof.

It has often been stated by comedians and scholars alike that religion originated as an instrument for the purposes of control of the many by the few, or of the strong by the weak, or vice versa. And given the exclusive nature of religious cults, the methodology behind this control should be obvious as the oldest in the proverbial book: Divide and conquer.

But as has also been stated, religion is, to paraphrase Albert Einstein, a relic remnant of humankind’s intellectual infancy. But if the education aspect of globalization that we have studied often since the first week of this course shows us nothing else, it is that humankind, like any infant, is growing up, and now is the time to, in the words of children’s author C.S. Lewis, “put away childish things”.

First things First

•November 1, 2016 • Leave a Comment

As a Political Science Major, in my study of Constitutional Law, I have found that if there is one important principle for understanding American government, history, law and politics, it is that the Founders of the nation; the authors of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights; never did anything accidentally. There are no superfluous words in any of those documents. Every word means something, as does the order in which they are written. The principle is that the Founders always placed whatever they deemed to be most important first and foremost. The Colonies had just won a long and bloody Revolutionary War against the Monarchy of the British Empire, and so the Founders not only placed the representative branch of government, the legislative branch, in Article I of the Constitution, but went further even than that in placing the people’s house, the United States House of Representatives, in Article I Section II, before the less proportional representative body; the United States Senate, in Section III.

One need only grasp this one very simple principle in order to resoundingly refute any assertion ever made that the United States of America was founded on a “Judeo-Christian” code or system. This can be demonstrated as easily as turning to what is by far and away the most widely-recognizable code in any Abrahamic faith: The Ten Commandments. The First Commandment, found in the Old Testament of the Judeo-Christian Bible in chapter 20, verses 2-3 of the Book of Exodus and chapter 5 verses 6-7 of the Book of Deuteronomy, reads as follows:
“I am the Lord thy God. Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.”

Two chapters later, in chapter 22, verse 20 of the Book of Exodus, and again in chapters 13 and 17 of the Book of Deuteronomy, this same “Judeo-Christian code” upon which it is claimed America was founded provides the prescribed penalty for worshipping gods other than the Abrahamic Judeo-Christian god of the Bible: Death.

Now let us compare and contrast this with America’s own ten-part code: The Bill of Rights. As has been stated, the Founders, that authors of these documents, placed what they considered to of utmost importance in the forefront. So what is in the first clause of the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights? What did the Founders consider more important than anything else to, in the words of Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence “effect their safety and happiness” and “provide new guards for their future security”?

Amendment I, Clause I of the Bill of Rights reads as follows:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

In the words of Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black in the February 10, 1947 case of “Arch R. Everson v. Board of Education of the Township of Ewing”:
“The ‘establishment of religion’ clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance.”

https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/330/1

In the June 27, 1994 case of “Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School District v. Louis Grumet”,  Supreme Court Justice David Souter concurred that the “principle at the heart of the Establishment Clause” was “that government should not prefer one religion to another, or religion to irreligion.”

Both of these establish what Thomas Jefferson referred to in 1802 as “a wall of separation between Church and State”.

The Judeo-Christian code in the Bible not only mandates that people believe in and worship a god, but prescribes precisely which god they must believe in and worship, under pain of torture and death. The American code not only strictly forbids the mandating of religious belief or worship of any kind, but declares everyone “inalienably”  free to believe in and/or worship whatever and/or whomever they want, and guarantees them the right to do so free from fear of punishment or retribution of any form.

These two, the First Amendment and the First Commandment, are not merely divergent, but mutually exclusive and therefore incompatible with one another. So not only are those who claim that America was founded on the Judeo-Christian code wrong in every imaginable way, but indeed they could not possibly be any more wrong if they tried. Not only is America not founded on the Judeo Christian code, but indeed that code has no place in America.

T-Minus Two Weeks

•October 25, 2016 • Leave a Comment

 

Key States:
Florida and New York [29 electoral votes],
Illinois and Pennsylvania [20 electoral votes],
Michigan [16 electoral votes],
North Carolina [15 electoral votes],
New Jersey [14 electoral votes],
Virginia [13 electoral votes],
Massachusetts  [11 electoral votes],
Maryland, Minnesota and Wisconsin [10 electoral votes]

Florida, Clinton 72% probability: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/upshot/florida-election-forecast.html
University of North Florida, October 6, 2016: Clinton +7%, 47%-40%

New York, Clinton 99.7% probability: http://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2016-election-forecast/new-york/
Siena College, October 19, 2016: Clinton +24%, 54%-30%

Illinois, Clinton 98.8% probability: http://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2016-election-forecast/illinois/
Southern Illinois Unversity, October 4, 2016: Clinton +25%, 53%-28%: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/docs/2016/Simon-SIU_Poll_Sept_2016.pdf

Pennsylvania, Clinton 94% probability: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/upshot/pennsylvania-election-forecast.html
Marist College, October 9, 2016: Clinton +12, 51%-39%: http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2016-election/polls-clinton-ahead-florida-pennsylvania-n662076

Michigan, Clinton 94% probability: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/upshot/michigan-election-forecast.html
Mitchell Research and Communications, October 19, 2016: Clinton +12%, 53%-41%: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/docs/2016/FOX_2_Detroit-Mitchell_Poll_of_MI_Press_Clinton_v_Trump_10-19-16_Final.pdf

North Carolina: Clinton 80% probability: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/upshot/north-carolina-election-forecast.html
Marist College, October 13, 2016: Clinton +5%, 48%-43%: http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/first-read/poll-clinton-ahead-north-carolina-virtual-tie-ohio-n665981

New Jersey, Clinton 98% probability: http://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2016-election-forecast/new-jersey/
Farleigh Dickinson University, October 18, 2016: Clinton +11%, 51%-40%

Virginia, Clinton 98% Probability: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/upshot/virginia-election-forecast.html
Newport University, October 16, 2016: Clinton +15%, 44%-29%

Massachusetts:
Western New England University, October 6, 2016: Clinton +35%, 65%-30%

Maryland:
University of Maryland, October 7, 2016: Clinton +36%, 63%-27%: https://www.washingtonpost.com/page/2010-2019/WashingtonPost/2016/10/06/National-Politics/Polling/release_450.xml

Minnesota, Clinton 95% probability: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/upshot/minnesota-election-forecast.html
Star Tribune, October 25, 2016: Clinton +8%, 47%-39%

Wisconsin, Clinton 94% probability: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/upshot/wisconsin-election-forecast.html
Monmouth University, October 19, 2016: Clinton +7%, 47%-40%

Who’s the Best?

•October 25, 2016 • Leave a Comment

There are many, including myself, who say that Republican Party Presidential nominee Donald Trump, a bigoted, discriminatory, hateful, homophobic, intolerant, misogynistic, prejudiced, racist, sexist xenophobe and compulsive habitual pathological serial liar with a histrionic megalomaniacal narcissistic sociopathic personality disorder, does not represent the United States of America. However, that having been said, there are two different and distinct methods by which that can be measured, depending on how one defines what the United States of America actually is: either as one nation or as 324 million men, women and children. What may very well be even more frightening about Trump than just how far distant he is from representing the average American citizen is just how close he has gotten to the becoming personification of America as a nation.

On a psychological level, it is understandable why Americans might wish to distance themselves from someone like Trump because of his homophobia, his misogyny and sexism and his racism and xenophobia. But that is not because those things are not reflective of America, which they are, or rather were. Succinctly put: Donald Trump is the epitome of all of the worst things that America has ever been as a country. America has been homophobic, and many places in America, like the Indiana of Trump’s Vice Presidential running mate Mike Pence, still are. America has been misogynistic, and there are those who continue to argue that it still is. America has been racist, and again there are many who say that many places in America still are.

But what of Trump’s trademark megalomaniacal narcissism? As American author David Sedaris writes in his 1999 book “Me Talk Pretty One Day”, Americans enjoy nothing more than to tell themselves, one another and anyone else who will listen, as well as many who do not, that America is the greatest nation on Earth, and do so empirically, as though it were established fact, broaching no room for differences of opinion or disagreement.

 

“Every day we’re told that we live in the greatest country on Earth and it’s always stasted as an undeniable fact…Having grown up with this in our ears, it’s startling to realize that other countries have nationalistic slogans of their own, none of which are “We’re number two!”

-David Sedaris, “Me Talk Pretty One Day”, May 4, 2009

 

As the character of fictional cable news anchor William McAvoy points out in the 2012 Pilot episode of award-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s HBO drama “The Newsroom” the reality could not be more different.

 

“There’s absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we’re the greatest country in the world. We’re seventh in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, number four in labor force and number four in exports. We lead the world in only three categories: Number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real and defense spending, where we spend more than the next 26 countries combined, 25 of whom are allies…First step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.”

-Will McAvoy [Jeff Daniels], “The Newsroom”, Season 1, Episode 1: “We Just Decided To”, June 24, 2012. Written by Aaron Sorkin.

The London Legatum Institute on an annual basis ranks the nations of the world in the categories of economic prosperity, “Entrepreneurship and Opportunity”, governance, “Safety and Security” and “Personal Freedom”. As of 2015, the United States did not rank within the top ten in any of these categories: http://www.prosperity.com/interactive-ranking.html#!/

As the pathological liar with a histrionic personality disorder that he has been clinically diagnosed by psychiatrists and psychologists to be, Donald Trump lies effortlessly and without emotion or remorse about absolutely everything, and needless to say himself is no exception to the rule. Trump has lied about everything from his history of misogynistic mistreatment of women to his nonexistent record of military and public service to how he got his start in business to how successful his businesses have been to how much money he actually has, even going so far as to pretend to be someone else whom he was not in order to play his own publicist in news interviews. Throughout all of these, however, runs one consistent thread: No one anywhere is better, bigger, or higher than Donald Trump. Trump has claimed to know more about the military than the generals in charge of that military, to know more about employment and jobs than the Department of Labor, and to be better at diplomacy than professional diplomats. I would never demean the average American so far as to assert that this is representative of their behavior. What it is reflective of, however, is the behavior of the United States toward the rest of the world: Just as Trump proclaims himself to be the best at absolutely everything; so too does America proclaim itself to be the greatest nation on Earth…and with just as much factual basis in reality. America’s boast about being the world’s largest economic superpower, in spite of not ranking in the top ten most economically prosperous nations, is mirrored by Trump’s insistence on his image as a successful businessman, in spite of his business having gone bankrupt no fewer than half a dozen times, and his self-branded marketed products from Trump Magazine to Trump Mortgage, Trump Shuttle to Trump Steaks, Trump University to Trump Vodka and Trump Water to Trump Wine having all failed.

In the 2012 Presidential election, 44th President of the United States Barack Obama was widely perceived to have lost the first Presidential Debate on October 3, 2012 at the University of Denver to his Republican opponent Willard Romney, in part due to the fact that the President evidently entered the debate stage having prepared to hold Romney to the far-right-wing ultra-neoconservative political positions the Republican nominee adopted during the 2012 Republican Party Primary process, only to find to his surprise a Willard Romney awaiting him who had apparently ceased to believe anything of the sort anymore, a process Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom famously likened to erasing an etch-a-sketch. Since he clinched the Republican nomination in May 2016, the Republican Party has been promising repeatedly that Donald Trump will undergo a likewise ideological revolution, moderating himself from the alternative-right, pseudo-fascist, Christian nationalist and white supremacist racism and xenophobia with which he launched his Presidential campaign in June 2015. However, one crucial difference exists between Romney and Trump that I believe renders any such evolution an impossibility: Donald Trump already does, has always and always will believe himself to be inerrant and infallible.

Likewise, in spite of there being definitive steps that the United States of America could relatively easily take towards the goal of retaking its place among the top ten best-educated, most economically prosperous and safest nations, I attribute the reason we have thusfar abstained from taking such steps in no small part to the fact that, as we tell ourselves, each other and the world, we already believe ourselves to be the greatest nation on Earth.

The fact that we fail to even make the top ten in terms of prosperity would seem to me to matter as little to us as the fact that he is by any reasonable measure a failed businessman matters to Donald Trump.

Exempt

•October 21, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Taxation has formed the foundation for every civilization around the globe for thousands of years because taxation forms the funding for not only the institution of government in and of itself but of the act of governing as well. Since any reduction in revenue from taxation, therefore, detrimentally impedes government’s capabilities to effectively function and govern, the Code of Laws of the United States of America sets very clearly and in no uncertain terms, in Section 501 Subsection C, the very specific guidelines and limitations on which organizations are permitted to receive tax-exempt status. USC 501C paragraph 3 dictates than any organization applying for tax exemption must be a not-for-profit entity, with all of its proceeds going towards specified causes; and USC 501 C paragraph 4 strictly prohibits any organization receiving tax-exempt status from engaging in any political action or advocacy at any local, county, state or federal level of government.

Many, but not all, conservation and environment organizations are non-profit organizations. Under USC 501C this benefits them, since it exempts them taxes that many of the smaller non-profit organizations, especially the newer and younger ones with smaller memberships, could not afford.

Business interest groups, however, face no such limitations. Since businesses are by definition for-profit, these special interests are unencumbered by the need to remain tax-exempt in the amount of money they can spend on advocacy for their interests. At the early stages of framing, this makes business interests on the whole much more effective, as their ability to purchase multimedia add buys over multiple states, or in some cases even their partial or complete ownership of magazines, newspapers and television networks more often than not permits them to be not only the first but also the loudest to place a given issue in whatever their chosen context or perspective might be.

In its 2009 decision in the case of “Citizens United v. United States”, the United States Supreme Court under Republican Chief Justice John Roberts ruled that money was a form of speech protected under the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the United States of America and that corporations had the same rights to freedom of speech in the form of money as any and all human citizens of the United States. This opened up new stages of the process to influence by business interest groups; namely: agenda setting and legislation.

As was shown in the 2010 Midterm Congressional elections, after “Citizens United”, corporate special interest groups were able, through what are called “Super-Political Action Committees”, or “SuperPACs” to partially or wholly bankroll the campaigns of candidates handpicked by the Chief Executive Officers of those corporations. Once elected and inaugurated into the legislatures at the state and federal levels of government, these former corporate employees or handpicked corporate mouthpieces were able to actively participate, especially if their particular political party held majority control of the House, in the decision-making process as to which issues do and do not get on the legislative agenda.

Emboldened by their overwhelming success in the 2010 Midterm Congressional elections, these corporate special interest SuperPACs then made an attempt at getting a spokesperson in the Executive branch of state and local governments as well. At the state level at least they succeeded, electing Rick Scott to succeed John Bush as Governor of the pivotal President electoral swing state of Florida and Republican Scott Walker as Governor of the deep blue state of Wisconsin, birthplace of the conservation, environmental and progressive movements.

In what is perhaps the highest-profile case at the federal level, the same David and Charles Koch brothers of Koch Petrochemical Industries who had placed Walker in the Governor’s mansion in Madison, Wisconsin two years later ran their very own handpicked candidate for no less an elected office than the Presidency of the United States. Their handpicked candidate to campaign against sitting incumbent Democratic 44th President of the United States Barack Obama in the November 2012 Presidential election was an African-American man named Herman Cain, until recently a former employee of and spokesman for the SuperPAC called “Americans For Prosperity”, a group founded and funded by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.

As she had with a number of the anti-establishment anti-incumbent candidates run two years earlier by the anti-taxation group calling itself the “Tea Party”, Rachel Maddow of MSNBC, an author with degrees in Political Science from both Oxford and Stanford, theorized about the Cain campaign that it was not in fact a political campaign at all, but rather instead was form of dramatic performance art about the state of America’s broken political system. As evidence of this, Maddow cited not only “picture perfect” gaffes such as Cain citing the Japanese Nintendo children’s card “Pocket Monsters”, or “Pokémon”, as being his favorite philosopher and evidently deriving his proposed tax policy from the 1990’s Maxis Media Arts computer game “SimCity”, but also the fact that as late as the start of the 2012 Republican Presidential Primaries, Cain had little if any readily apparent campaign headquarters or infrastructure in any of the vital early Primary states. Maddow correctly concluded that Cain’s entire campaign was, in fact, the “Americans for Prosperity” Tea Party SuperPAC and its billionaire financiers at Koch Petrochemical Industries.

While, due in no small part to his lack of an actual campaign, Cain inevitably lost the 2012 Republican Party nomination to multi-millionaire Michigan hedge fund manager and former Massachusetts Governor Willard Romney, the mere fact that after “Citizens United”, a dark money Political Action Committee funded by the corporate profits of multibillionaires was even able to form enough of a campaign to keep the candidacy of someone such as Cain with no experience in government going for the many months that it did is a testament to just how outgunned 501C4-compliant not-for-profit conservation and environmental organizations really are when it comes to raw unadulterated capability to frame and shape the popular debate and multimedia coverage as well as the legislative agenda in America. With the Roberts Supreme Court ruling in “Citizens United” that, as Romney told the Iowa Caucus in 2012: “Corporations are people” and that billions in dark money donations to unaccountable partisan SuperPACs constitutes “Freedom of Speech” under the First Amendment, owning a business as the Koch brothers do had become a more potent and powerful political tool and weapon against conservation, ecological and environmental regulations than any Fourth President of the United States James Madison, the author of the Constitution and co-author of the first Amendment and the Bill of Rights with his predecessor Third President of the United States Thomas Jefferson, ever might have imagined.

What’s Wrong With Westernization?

•October 17, 2016 • Leave a Comment

One of the reasons why the term “westernization” carries with it such negative connotations is because it harkens back to the colonialist theories of eighteenth and nineteenth century European cultural anthropologists about the progression of civilizations being linear and unidirectional. One of the ways that the imperialist colonization of Africa, the Americas and Southeast Asia were rationalized was because the prevailing theories in anthropology held that human civilizations existed not on a spectrum but rather in a hierarchy. Needless to say, these Western European anthropologists placed their own culture and society at the “peak” or “pinnacle” of this hierarchical power structure.

The problem with this was that the overwhelmingly vast majority if not all of the criteria that these anthropologists utilized to delineate “advanced” human civilizations from “barbaric” and “savage” ones were for the most part if not entirely arbitrary. Before the advent of archaeology as we know it as a discipline of systematic methodological scientific study, for example, European anthropologists rationalized placing Western European societies “above” those of the Americas by asserting that Europeans lived in cities with stone buildings, whereas the Native Americans only ever lived in wooden huts. The discoveries of cities like Cahokia, Teotihuacan and Tenochtitlan dispelled this illusory distinction.

That having been said, however there are, I believe, some objective ways by which the relative advancement and progress of a given civilization can be measured objectively. The first and foremost of these is knowledge. Rather than asking how large or populous a give society’s cities are or how tall the buildings in those cities are, a vastly more dispassionate, and accurate gauge of how advanced a civilization is would be to ask how much they know about their world, about life, about the earth and about the universe. By this measurement Europeans, at last in the post-Renaissance, post-Enlightenment, post-Industrial Revolution era were not on the whole entirely incorrect when they judged the nineteenth century Western Europe whence from they came to be more progressed than the indigenous native cultures they were encountering in Africa.

However, here is where we run into why the term “Westernization”, in the twenty-first century, is a misnomer.

In his 1997 book “Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies: A Short History of Everybody For the Last 23,000 Years” University of California—Los Angeles Professor of Geography and UCLA Medical School Professor of Physiology Jared Diamond theorizes that the relative advancement of Eurasian civilizations such as those of the eighteenth century Western European colonial empires as compared against the relative civilizational retardation of civilizations such as that of the Native Americans had significantly less to do with hemispheres or sides of the Atlantic Ocean than on latitude. The shape assumed by the Eurasian supercontinent after the final breakup of Pangaea landmass in the Jurassic Period of the Mesozoic Era 175 Million years ago was highly conducive to the lateral movement across its breadth and width from East to West or vice versa with precious little change in latitude. The shape of the Americas, by contrast, was much more aligned along vertical lines of longitude, meaning that any traveler from North to South America would pass through both the tropics and the equator.

In 1817, Prussian geographer and naturalist Friedrich Humboldt discovered that the biogeographical variation of plants and animals at different levels of elevation above sea level was closely mirrored by their distribution at differing degrees of latitude above and below the equator. As such, whereas travel from East to West or vice versa across the Eurasian supercontinent meant maintaining relatively the same latitudinal coordinates and thus broadly speaking a comparably similar biome or ecosystem throughout, travel from North to South America through the tropics and across the equator would have been comparable biogeographically to constantly climbing up and down to and from wildly different elevations.

According to Professor Diamond in “Guns, Germs and Steel”, the relative constancy of the biogeography and ecology across Eurasia aided the civilizations thereof to advance relatively unimpeded by their environment and to move and trade freely with one another across the continent. The Native American civilizations, by comparison, such as the Aztec and the Maya, who built the largest cities in the Americas such as Tenochtitlan; which at its height in the fifteenth century before the Spanish conquest of Mexico surpassed any city in Western Europe at that time in size and population; were forced by their environmental constraints to remain relatively isolated to one very specific latitudinal region such as the Yucatan Peninsula of Central America. If indeed any trade or even communication ever took place between the Maya of the Yucatan and people of Cahokia in the Mississippi River Valley of North America, or between the Aztec of Tenochtitlan in Mexico and the Anasazi people of Mesa Verde in Arizona, no record of it has survived the centuries since.

One of the most frequent objections to the projection map made by Belgian cartographer and geographer Gerardus Mercator in 1569, which pioneered the use of straight lines of latitude and longitude is that it, and all maps and globes manufactured from it in the centuries since, places the Northern hemisphere at the top of the map and the Southern hemisphere at the bottom. The argument, made by analysts of globalization such as University of Peking Professor Gao Shangquan, is that this leads to the adoption of “North and South” attitudes [2]. Indeed, it does seem in the 21st century as though the difference between the developed first world and the underdeveloped third world is no longer so much one of East versus West, since there are now nations in the East such as China which are just as industrialized as those in the West such as the United States of America, but rather instead between North and South.

Like “Westernization”, “Colonialism”, too, has negative connotations that it carries along with it to this day, but it is notable that the places in the world where critics of globalization are most concerned about “colonialism” are not countries such as the United States, even though North America was colonized by half a dozen different European empires over the course of more than three hundred years from the time of Christopher Columbus through the Louisiana Purchase and the completion of the transcontinental railroad, but instead in former colonies in the Southern hemisphere such as in Africa.

In anthropology and history, one of the defining characteristics of a civilization is the division and specialization of labor, stemming from a sedentary urban lifestyle and an agrarian agriculturally based abundance of natural resources. It is notable that the first agricultural revolution in human history, the “Neolithic Revolution” of circa 10,000 BCE occurred in the very heart of the Eurasian supercontinent, in the “fertile crescent” of Mesopotamia between the Euphrates and Tigris and independently in the Indus River valley near the western border of the Indian subcontinent. This is notable because, with the notable exception of the Anasazi, Aztecs, Inca and Maya, even as late as the European conquest in the 15th Century CE the majority of tribes in the Americas remained nomadic hunters and gatherers. This lends credence to Professor Diamond’s theory of the growth civilization being dependent upon longitudinal consistency.

As the title suggests, one of Diamond’s theories as to why the Europeans were able to conquer and colonize the Americans has to do with technology. The word “Neolithic” means “New Stone Age”, but 11,500 years later when Christopher Columbus and Conquistador Hernando Cortez arrived in the Americas, they were armed not with stones, but with steel. Very few of the kings and emperors of the Aztec, Inca and Maya had metal weaponry of any kind, and the majority of their warriors were armed with wooden clubs tipped with obsidian blades. In other words, while a few of the civilization of Central and South America were in the early stages of what in Eurasia was called the Bronze Age, the majority of Native American tribes were still in the pre-Neolithic Stone Age as late as five hundred years ago. The technology of the Western European Empires was due, once again, to their knowledge, in the form of science.

In the late fifteenth century when Columbus reached the Western hemisphere, Western Europe had just experienced the Renaissance, which in turn had brought it out of the nearly millennium-long period that followed the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the Fifth Century CE called the “Dark Ages”. Fifteenth century figures such as German Renaissance astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus and sixteenth century scientists such as Italian astronomer and physicist Galileo Galilei would very soon thereafter launch what is called the “Scientific Revolution” [the scientific method was pioneered by English philosopher Francis Bacon in 1620, though the term “scientist” would not be coined until 1833 by English historian and philosopher William Whenwell].

Unfortunately, in no small part, I believe, due to the lingering unpleasant shadow cast by those early European colonial cultural anthropologists, outside of the developed First World in places such as Africa, “Western Science” evidently still has negative connotations to it, as was on display when the leadership of the student body at the University of Cape Town in South Africa called in an address to the University’s faculty for, as part of “decolonialization”, among other things, the abolition of science, calling it the “product of Western modernity” [1].

Indeed, since the Civil Rights movements of the late twentieth century, it has become increasingly common for those in Western developed first world nations such as the United States complaining of racism and other forms of discrimination and prejudice to, as a sort of colloquial shorthand, place the blame for such ills at the feet of what they derisively refer to as “Western civilization” or “Western Culture”. It is ironic, however, that more often than not these self-proclaimed “Social Justice Warriors” choose to voice their disenchantment with “western civilization” over the world wide internet, one of the dozens of technologies they utilize in their everyday lives that are a monument to the very western science that the smartphone-bearing student leadership at Cape Town University calls to be abolished. Indeed, far be it from being a system of oppression as the South African students assert, scientific knowledge and technology, as a means of measuring a civilization’s relative advancement is both dispassionate and accurate.

As theoretical astrophysicist Doctor Neil Degrasse Tyson of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History’s Rose Center for Earth and Space pointed out in his 2005 Natural History Magazine article “The Perimeter of Ignorance”, the Arabic-speaking world of the Near East and West Asia experienced a nearly half-millennium-long “Golden Age” from the eighth through the thirteenth centuries CE [786-1258 CE], during the overwhelmingly vast majority of the stars in the night sky and mathematical principles such as algebra and algorithms were all given Arabic names. Tyson points out that, for a variety of various reasons, the Muslim world then fell into a “technological Dark Age”, an intellectual black hole from which it has yet to emerge centuries later. It is, I believe, for this reason above and beyond all other that for the past few centuries, European imperial powers have conquered, colonized and divided up amongst themselves in various contentious temporary arrangements the states and territories of the Middle East again and again. And while the nations of the Near East and West Asia, as well as those of Africa, gained their independence in the twentieth century just as the United States did more than a century and a half earlier, the United States has joined the nations of Western Europe and East Asia as the primary drivers of scientific and technological progress through the turn of the millennium whilst the former colonies of the Middle East and Africa have yet to emerge from their respective scientific and technological Dark Ages.[3]

So contrary to the assertions made by the student leadership at Capet Town University, the scientific gap is not between what they called “African science” and “Western science”. It is instead, as Professor Shangquan implies, between Northern science and the third world South.

One hallmark of science and technology, and a particular target for the anti-Western advocacy of the South African students, is modern medicine. Medical science and technology, in turn, provides what I believe to be quite a useful benchmark for the measurement of a given society’s scientific progress, which might otherwise prove exceedingly difficult to accurately quantify in easily-understandable terms. After the discovery of smallpox vaccination by English physician Edward Jenner in 1796 the global eradication of smallpox was formally officially announced by the World Health Organization less than two centuries later in 1980. Since 1900, the world average life expectancy has more than doubled from 31 years to more than 67 years as of 2010. The country with the longest life expectancy for males is Switzerland at more than 81 years. The lowest life expectancy both form females [48 years] and overall [49 years] according to the United Nations as of 2015 is in Swaziland, just 1,700 miles from the University of Cape Town in South Africa whose students called for the abolishment of science. For males, the lowest life expectancy is in the Central African Republic at 47 years.
The fact that the life expectancy for males in the Western European developed industrialized nation of Switzerland is nearly double that in the sub-Saharan equatorial Central African Republic presents a clear a qualitative as well as quantitative difference between the developed first world in the North and the underdeveloped third world in the South that is not, as the South African students accuse science of being, “racist”, but is instead dispassionate in its objectivity. Living longer is as definitive a measurement of the relative advancement of a given civilization as any conceivable.

A disproportionate percentage of the deaths in the equatorial underdeveloped third world such as the Central African Republic are due to malaria, a mosquito-borne parasitic disease that kills more people than all others put together combined…and that western medical science and technology is even as we speak well on its way towards eradicating as it did Smallpox three and half decades ago [as of 2015, a malaria vaccine had already been developed and was being tested]. Another killer in equatorial Africa is the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, which causes Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, or HIV/AIDS. As of now, medical scientists are working on developing a vaccination against AIDS as well. This is partially at least what makes South Africans of all people being the ones to be calling for the abolition of science all that much more paradoxical, as such an abolishment of medical technology would arguably damage the populations of the nations of sub-Saharan Africa more so than anyplace on planet Earth.

  1. Claymore, Ezra. “UCT Student Says Science Must Be “Decolonized”, The South African. October 14, 2016: http://www.thesouthafrican.com/sciencemustfall-goes-viral-after-uct-student-says-science-must-be-decolonised/
  2. Shangquan, Gao. “Economic Globalization: Trends, Risks and Risk Prevention”. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Development Policy and Analysis Division Committee for Development Policy. 2000: http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/policy/cdp/cdp_background_papers/bp2000_1.pdf
  3. Tyson, Neil. “The Perimeter of Ignorance”. Natural History Magazine. November 1, 2005: http://www.haydenplanetarium.org/tyson/read/2005/11/01/the-perimeter-of-ignorance http://www.naturalhistorymag.com/universe/211420/the-perimeter-of-ignorance
 
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