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Meandering along, going nowhere

from Peter Radford

Who knew that interesting times could be so dull? All the dangerous excitement of our great crisis and the exhilaration of erstwhile recovery has given way to an enervating nothingness. We are meandering along going nowhere. Deliberately.

And that is both infuriating and frustrating. Because it need not be this way.

The incompetence that flourishes in Washington is matched only by the cussed and cowardly way in which the politicians there have stalled any, and all, serious attempts at saving us from stagnation. Even some of our more hardened and grizzled political players are now opening up about their fears.   Bill Gates, a loyal Republican appointee retained by Obama as a bi-partisan token, apparently quivers when he considers the deep divisions and ineptitude that pass for governance in contemporary America.

We are doomed.

We are doomed because there will be no resolution any time soon to the division. The clash of ideologies is now crippling. The crescendo of right wing radicalism has reached its peak as the attempt to roll back the New Deal and Great Society has spiked to fever pitch. The right senses the immediacy of this crisis. The mess created by our binge of debt and the extraordinary stupidity and greed of our banks has opened an opportunity to fulfill every right winger’s dream: smash social programs and let every citizen fight for themselves. This they call individual freedom. It will devolve further into plutocracy. It always does. Which is why our ancestors fought so hard to establish a democratic system to offset the concentration of power and wealth that inevitably accompanies unfettered capitalism.

This right wing revolution will meet its end in the appetite that ordinary Americans have for the social programs the right so hates. Up until now the right has had the sense to avoid broaching the topic. It knew full well that running openly in opposition to such popular programs was suicidal politics. So they learned to wrap their goals, Russian doll like, within more palatable policies. Tax cuts designed to unbalance the budget were sold as returning tax payer money; voucher programs with low caps were sold as introducing choice; and now the great recession has opened the door to the ultimate weapon: we can no longer afford those programs, just look at the debt we are piling up.

Mixed in this brew is a melange of social issue politics such as anti-abortion and anti-science movements, coupled with a resurgence of extreme religion with its own toxic blend of intolerance, paternalism, and rigid adherence to archaic interpretations of religious books. It is this melange that provides the right with the fervor and righteousness typical throughout history of people filled with the certitude of faith. It is anti-modern. It is anti-rational. It is powerfully intoxicating.

And it is undermining America because, like all faith driven movements, it is uncompromising. Why compromise when you are completely certain you are right?

Instead you obstruct. You wear down the opposition. You exploit the opposition’s willingness to compromise. You proselytize. You convert followers to the true path. You prevent debate. You destroy and attack ideas that do not conform to your faith. You demonize the other. You stall. You delay. You create facts to support your case. You ignore or debase facts that deny your truths. Fervently. Absolutely. Relentlessly.

When marshaled along these lines even a small group can grind as large a nation as America to a halt. Especially if the majority remains complacent or ignorant of your intent.

It would help, I suppose, were there reservoirs of ideas untainted by these divisions. Then the majority could call experts into play to refute and ridicule the zealots. But, nowadays, the experts are all riven through by the same deep divisions. Society has no elite to call upon to resolve the conflict. Indeed the elite is caught up in the storm. It contributes to the division.

This is why modern economics has become so irrelevant. It is not a body of knowledge with enduring social value capable of being neutral, objective, or sanitized of ideology. Far from it. It is socially constructed. It is political to its core. It is an adjunct to the divisions and is called into play as a bulwark against compromise. Economists provide expert witnesses for both sides in every fight. Its contradictions laid bare modern economics wriggles to find some coherence, but surrenders any hope of being stable enough to stand against the onrush of ideology.

Deficits are either good or bad. Government intervention is either helpful or a hindrance. Markets are either perfect of imperfect. Trade is either beneficial or harmful. Consumers are hyper rational despite the evidence. Centralization is a curse despite its pervasive stranglehold on business. The list goes on until it reaches such absurdity that it vectors into a kind of ‘whatever-you-want-it-to-be’ neverland so distant that the phrase snake oil doesn’t seem to do it justice. Its great virtue is that it can be sold to anyone of any political stripe. Somewhere within economics there is a strand or an idea that suits every antagonist.

Yet it absorbs the lives of a great number of bright and well meaning people. They, like society at large, are meandering along going nowhere. They persist. They endure. They research. They write. They publish. They argue. They resolve nothing.

Economics is currently embroiled in a re-hashing of arguments last held at this same pitch during the 1930′s. In many ways the two eras have an almost eery resemblance. But there is a great difference. Back then the combatants were titans: Hayek, Keynes, Schumpeter, Fisher and the others still stand as major figures and contributors to the development of economics. Today we have no equivalent people. Instead we have extraordinarily gifted pupils of those figures. We have people who interpret seminal books, but do not write them. We have updated and modified versions of those alternative theories. We have had to resort to brushing off those seven decade old ideas because in the interim we produced nothing of similar stature.

We have meandered and gone nowhere.

So just at a moment when economics is in the limelight. Just when society calls upon the discipline for help. Just when its value should be stark. Just at its moment of greatest relevance, economics fumbles. It dropped the ball along the way. It became so self referential that most dialog within the academy seems utterly divorced from its putative subject matter. Technical virtuosity substituted for insight into actual economies. The chimera of rationality was too powerful to be ignored, and the demon of uncertainty was too complex to tackle.

When we visit doctors we expect them to do no harm. When we enlist an economist we have no such assurance. None. Instead we are exposed to opinion. Educated, yes. Informed, certainly. But opinion nonetheless. Economic “truths”, it turns out, are in the eye of the beholder. Economics is an art. And like all art it reflects and holds a mirror up to the society within which it is created. It can be interpreted. It can be controversial. It can be contradictory. It can be vulgar. It can be inspiring. It can even be beautiful. But it always contextual. It is deeply embedded within the social and political swirl that it tries to illuminate, justify, or explain.

Contemporary economics is thus like our economy and our society. It is meandering along going nowhere.

And that, I doubt, is of much help to the unemployed workers whose lives have been disrupted and potentially permanently diminished by the failure of the ideas that dominated policy over the past three decades.

It’s time to progress once more.

  1. October 11, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    Peter, Thanks again for such a cogent review of the symptoms and, mainly, the secondary or subsidiary causes. And, yes, indeed, it is high time for progress, though when there was ever any real or pure progress I haven’t a clue. The whole history of money, fractional reserve banking, and “financialism” is tainted with delusion and corruption. However, not only do we need not fester in our vast cesspool of psychosocial demon pyuke, we need not think we are doomed to wait on the bewildered Pols & mini-Titans of the Plutocracy. It seems to me that you, Peter, and Jamie Morgan, Paul Ormerod, Dave Taylor, Alice & a few truly noble denizens of this RWE side of The Looking Glass are just about ready to begin some real progress, possibly for the first time since the vast majority of folks become totally confused about money, value, credit, wealth, ethics, corruption, etc. If any of you can explain why we should not simply start the future of civilization & economics with a totally new system of credit and positive, biocentric values, please do so ASAP. Another big issue of concern to nonspecialists [who monitor & understand the scientific data] is the immeasurably progressive acceleration of polar meltdown & radical climate change. We need to start the new counter-economy ASAP. If the changes depicted in the most plausible global disaster scenarios were stretched out over the next 28 years, if we keep failing to prepare and muddle along without making the necessary changes, then the consequences will surely be horrific. As I’ve reminded us elsewhere, FEMA & the Pentagon & the World Bank have known that 70% of humanity lives in high risk disaster zones (mainly coastal). If we do not instigate a new, nonprofit, green credit system, from the grassroots & community co-op level, then as you have observed, Peter, there will be no timely response for mobilizing & allocating & managing the dormant human capital & expertise quickly enough to save civilization as we know it. Those of us old enough to witness & understand the negative changes over the last 50 years know that mass-delusion & destructive sociopathic trends are as real as the physical phenomena that have progressively degraded and poisoned the biosphere during that time. Pictures of the Earth’s vanishing glaciers & ice-caps don’t lie, nor do the scientists discovering the ways & means & culprits. We can start the new unmoney, pure credit RW economy right NOW. Then all you folks who want to focus mainly on your chosen field of concentration will have some real work to do. If a totally bogus Plutonomy Game is identical to a valid, viable economy, then I am wrong. Would anyone like to prove me wrong or does it make more sense to reinvent The Game and rescue humanity from self-imposed doom? Oh, just in case, there is a super-abbreviated scenario of how the new nonprofit credit system jumpstarts sane culture from the grassroots up. Gung Ho! and on to a healthy millennial culture on this planet and/or elsewhere.

  2. Robert R Locke
    October 11, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    We need to pull outselves together and get on with the social critique and don’t worry about economics, worry about the country, and the world, and cast your net a little wider as economists to include historians, like myself and the sort of critique we are making and have been making for years. My latest effort, with J-C Spender, is Confronting Managerialism: How The Business Elite and Their Schools Threw Our Lives Out of Balance. (Palgrave Macmillan, October 2011). We haven’t lost heart. A ;lot of eggs are going to be cracked before we ever get a new omlette. With the sort of redistribution of the wealth that has been going on massively as it has been in the US over the past 30 years, you can’t right wrongs without political divisions that reflect these redistribution divisions eventually erupting — like the march on Wall Street. Bon courage.

  3. Wasabi
    October 12, 2011 at 4:24 am

    Peter, there is some new thinking going on: MMT. Please study it, help it develop, and don’t give in to despair!

  4. Dave Taylor
    October 12, 2011 at 8:56 am

    Bravo, Michael. And thanks.

    Peter, I have to comment on your attack on “faith-based” religion, which is undiscriminating and unhelpful. Religious people differ in character just like any other, coming to conclusions in different measure on the basis of feeling, follow-my-leader, formal thought and intuition (informed or not, and self- or other-directed, as the case may be).

    The Reformation polarised these. Luther emphasised faith (in a Christ who had been willing to die for us), Calvin the old formal Jewish law. Catholicism erected a shell of formality to protect its eclectic mixture of community-based and specialist orders, with the remainder tending to follow one leader or the other. There are faith-based movements in the Catholic Church, but there the follow-up is not praise or self-righteous bigotry but “follow-Christ-as-leader”, which in practice has meant the leadership condemning the effects of capitalism (including state socialism) as Christ condemned Judaism, and its grass-roots developing bottom up democratic forms of local self-sufficiency, (see Race Mathews’ “Jobs of Our Own”), which is quite a different thing from “every right winger’s dream: smash social programs and let every citizen fight for themselves”. My own faith is a Catholic, not an Evangelical one: I act on it not because I feel certain but because it is the best available hypothesis.

    It is interesting that the Reformation began three years after Machiavelli published “The Prince”, and whether “the Jews” originally referred to just the rulers of Israel. Peter Selby’s “Grace and Mortgage” makes a compelling case for the language of the Gospels being all along the lines of Christ paying off our debts. The Gospels, anyway, are full of deeply meaningful stories about economics.

    So, Peter, I recognise all too well the picture you paint, but I suggest to you the problem is not the Conservative Right, who do right if taught right. The problem is a small group of radically-minded, self-worshipping strategists, who have “learned to wrap their goals, Russian doll like, within more palatable policies” and forms of religion. Judging by the brilliance of so many of their race [think Marx, Freud, Einstein …], possibly descendents of the Jewish usurers tolerated in Medieval times?

  5. Alice
    October 12, 2011 at 9:12 am

    Peter says
    “Instead you obstruct. You wear down the opposition. You exploit the opposition’s willingness to compromise. You proselytize. You convert followers to the true path. ”

    Instead they obstruct the path to a true and meaningful remedy. They (the republicans) are standing in the way, blocking progress. They block Obama with every hair on their heads with every breath they take…even when we think Obama isnt even getting close to the change we needed.

    At least he is trying and I dont envy the crap he is putting up with from the republicans and I am terrified they will get back in to do even more damage.

    So Peter says we meander and go nowhere but Ill be braver than that and Ill say out loud the reason we are meandering and going nowhere is precisely because of the madness of the republican politicians (thanks to the large profitable firms and yes…probably part of the the extremely wealthy in the United States… that subsidise their very existence in government).

    The ordinary Americans need to wake up especially those that signed up to the tea party (wrong way).
    The people who have woken up are occupying Wall Street. Anyone who isnt there who can be, should be.

  6. October 12, 2011 at 9:39 am

    There certainly is progress, I believe. But it is hidden, mainly. Surely we can´t expect to find this one comprehensive new theory like Keynes was able to offer in the 1930´s. Instead, what I think we can expect to find are quite different pieces of new thinking, and this time it will be more like solving a jigsaw puzzle. Unfortunately this process takes much time and this contributes to the persistence of neoclassical thinking.

  7. Dave Taylor
    October 12, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    It is hardly surprising, Stephan, if you don’t find what you don’t expect is there to be found; if you don’t look because you haven’t a clue what you are looking for. I personally have taken forty years doing the jigsaw, and having discovered the clue, have for years had comprehensive new theories at both macro and micro levels – developed using systems and language analysis methods from information science, which immediately makes it “new” in the field of economics. The difficulty is translating a two-dimensional jig-saw into a one-dimensional narrative when one’s readers are not familiar with either the picture or the language; in advance of being accepted as significant it would be a liability to a publisher. So, I’ve been trying to draw attention to it in blogs like this, where applying it in debates on details doubtless leaves it looking like different pieces of new thinking.

    Keynes of course offered not only a new theory but the basis of a practical solution, i.e. creating customers by Government spending on infrastructure. What I have been proposing began as a variant on the scheme – admired by Keynes – of Gesell, but a Copernician inversion of my perception of the direction of flow of value in trade has cut to the quick of the problem: the long-prohibited usury legalised on the basis of the old goldsmith’s fraud of lending entitlement to non-existent gold. If we buy meat or houses with paper rather than gold, and as happens, the butcher and previous owner do likewise, we are indebted to the community for accepting our credit, not specifically to the butcher and certainly not to the bankers. The logic required is not “an eye for an eye” but that of hitch-hiking: gratitude for lifts given gracefully being expressed by giving lifts gracefully ourselves, as we become able. I wrote as long ago as 1968 (in criticism of Mill, but as I now see, in complete answer to Dickens’s Mr McCawber), that “Happiness is a chain reaction”. Earning one’s keep (perhaps in a voluntary co-op or partnership) is a very different thing from subjection to the whim of an employer, “or else”.

  8. October 13, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    Hello Dave,

    the way of looking at things is critical for finding and identifying pieces as matching ones, even if you don´t really know, what you are looking for and what the new picture exactly will look like finally. The more familiar you are with contemporary economics, the harder it is to look at things differently, wouldn´t you agree?

    A new picture needs a new language, and this is why it is difficult to make others understand, I absolutly agree with you. So the the new story has to be told again, and again, and again. If it is an interesting story and about a practical solution to an urgent problem, like it was in Keynes´ case, people will start paying attention to it and trying to understand it. We´ve never had a smiliar crisis since then. Perhaps this is the reason, why a new “Keynes” didn´t come up.

    SLE

  9. October 13, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    Peter, please excuse me, I’ve just had a life-changing realization…
    OMG! Dave — BRAVO, Kudos, hats off & HalleluJahs (as hats launch into wildly ebullent parabolas of ballistic honor & praise)!!!!!

    When is there is ever a dull moment in a bright lit mind?

    Dave, so glad you’re pragmatically yet passionately & faithfully religious. You’ve been slogging through this morassful of alligators & vipers since before 1968 without blowing your brains out, yet you still remember you came to drain the swamp! It is a true miracle, for real, regardless of religious or irreligious or anti-religious persuasion!

    Here I thought I’ve had it bad making little to no headway since 1986 (the year of my ecomonetary tutelage & awakening & initial innovation in the realm of ecomonetics AKA ARE (or better housekeeping). I especially love what to me is your keenest key insights:

    “…my perception of the direction of flow of value in trade has cut to the quick of the problem: the long-prohibited usury legalised on the basis of the old goldsmith’s fraud of lending entitlement to non-existent gold. If we buy meat or houses with paper rather than gold, and as happens, the butcher and previous owner do likewise, we are indebted to the community for accepting our credit, not specifically to the butcher and certainly not to the bankers. The logic required is not “an eye for an eye” but that of hitch-hiking: gratitude for lifts given gracefully being expressed by giving lifts gracefully ourselves…”

    Your realization of the essential principle of entitlement astounds me. How any deep, vast survey (my own, for example) of the field of monetary anthropology could fail to make that connection of core level dots boggles this mind. Yet, it points to another connection, new realization, and transcendence of the current theoretical-mental gridlock paralysing conventional-specialist economics of all flavors…

    Serious students of the history of Western banking, money, credit, and corruption know that buying on credit in the dark ages — after the beginning of the huge sociocultural disruption & psychophysical devastation wrought by the first few waves of plague swept Europe — began with the rise of commercialism (capitalism & proto-mercantilism) and the rise of new petty warlords (mainly thugs) who survived and jockeyed successfully for dominance. Their “entitlement” (ruthless power & hungry gangs) enabled them to walk into a local shop or warehouse and buy now based on a promise to pay later. Often times, that might mean payment per the “Lord’s” terms & prices agreed under duress (threat of worse thievery, maiming, or death). So, actually, this was closer to the institution of the “protection” racket (the fore-runner of insurance) and taxation, which began as tribute. Anyway, I digressed, the important thing is the relation of our notions of entitlement, value, honor, trust, and credit. So, in a pure society of pure people, cultural interaction & exchange never involves a negative, anti-equitable form of debt.

    Yes, Dave, all pure (equitable) money systems are communal. Introducing impure, corrupting notions that permit negative exploitation and disequity do so by perverting the communal values first, the paradigm, the sociocultural framework of conceptual reference, its matrix of thought, assumption, ethos, mythos, communication, formalized social norms, customs, religion and law. When the vast majority are no longer grounded in a pure, positive, life-enhancing ethos, they can no longer effectively evaluate the nature or quality of changes affecting the long-term viability of their community or culture. They lose the ability to see and know of the deep, systemic damage, making them easy prey ever after.

    That explains the typically rapid social decay of almost every previously sustainable, robust, ancient primitive culture — soon after the first contact with people of technologically ‘superior’ and more socially ‘sophisticated’ (corrupt) societies. Sustainable primitive paradigms were usually very easily perverted, leading to exponential corruption (decay). Remember, the compound Chinese word for “corruption” literally signifies rotten meat. It may be OK for maggots, worms, carnivorous fungii, vultures and other scavengers, but not for a healthy celebration of civilization.

    Yes, the duped may retain a basic sense of good, bad, right, wrong, and so on, but without the stable foundation of integrity and a healthy paradigm, there is no intrinsic support for a healthy, sustainably equitable communal economic system.

    It matters little where the perversion and mass corruption began and how the secondary causes & effects played out. The early history may be as unknowable as it is irrelvant.

    Economists live in communities and nature, like everyone else. The most important essentials and aims of economics must be healthy sustainability. Otherwise, we all suffer the consequences, some more than others, temporarily. Yet, if the negative, destructive, global plutonomy game keeps devolving despite the situation we now face, sooner or later all 9 or 10 billion of us would be suffering horribly. If that is what the Consumer Society chooses, then it will be well into the mass horror stage within 20 to 30 years or so. As our numbers increase, our individual, negative, ecological impacts increase, daily.

    Are one of the lucky elitists, not really concerned about all that?

    It was not only the poor and middle classes who suffered the collapses of the unsustainable ancient empires. Nor did all the damage and mass suffering occur only at the very end of the fall. Remember, the ecocidal exploiters of this global empire of corporate Demonocracy are not just ruining the material basis of a regional empire, they have been granted free-reign to wreck our whole planetary life-support system or, at least, to give a try while ammassing their quadrillions in ill-gotten virtual gains.

    Hopeless? No, but daunting? So far, yes. Yet, we have accomplished almost miraculous collective transformations when we united by a single imperative with a single, encouraging aspiration. For one prime example, the English transformed their 18th century industrial infrastructure — upgrading coal burning, steam & leather belt driven technology to automated diesel & electric powered systems — in a single year, while the Nazis were bombing them every night. Do we really need a world war to motivate us?

    That’s what we’ve been having for awhile now. Pres. Jimmy Carter once said, we must make the environmental crisis the moral equivalent of war, but he was wrong. Before the hideously evil spawning of the Fed, the inner demons of ecocidal plutocracy made it an actual war against nature, humanity, and sanity.

    What we need now is the completion of the global paradigm repair & upgrade now in progress, and final dissemination via upgraded education, formally and informally. We need a return to healthy basics of healthy communities, sustainable integrity, biocentric ethics and values sustaining a vitally healthy, positive paradigm and all it supports. By entitling ourselves to all that, we empower ourselves to implement the essential principles and purposes of the US Consitution and Declaration of Independence, the UN Declaration of Human Rights, the Earth Charter, the best of the Magna Carta, and the healthy core values & wisdom of all the great spiritual traditions of humanity.

    Choosing to co-create or foster the solution means choosing to foster the healing and success of civilization. Failing to choose the solution, means choosing the fall of civilization and further, unimaginable degradation of human society and culture.

    This seemslike a very clear cut, simple choice to me. How do you see it?

  10. October 13, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    PS: Robert, Alice, Wasabi, Stefan, et al, thanks again for your courageous perseverence, contributions, and fearless commitment to insight & integrity. Let’s keep on unfolding, co-creating & fostering the solution, shall we?

    Finally, it all for one and one for all or we’re all going down in deeper dudu, etc…

    By the way, as a deeply devoted Nichiren Buddhist, I’m one of the most truly religious scientists in the world, and pity others who lack a victorious mentor-exemplar.

  11. October 15, 2011 at 8:05 am

    Dear Peter, first I want to apologise and give due credit for a great piece of very powerful, eloquent, effective writing, that was clearly, deeply heart-felt. In rereading your clarion call to sanity in your chosen field, I realized that I had missed the great pain that compelled such a passionate, articulate indictment of all that is wrong with the perversion of mainstream economics. I also admit that I was so taken with the Big Issues you raise that I was more concerned with offering an alternative conclusion (for the sake of less stalwart psyches), than with the core level reality that gave rise to your indictment.

    Now, I’m amazed again. Here I am defending your discipline, but not without precedent and not really. You helped inspire a train of thought and new insights that may help remedy the deep wound in the heart of the economics community…?

    Here’s what I mean by “not really”… Your discipline is fine, Peter. You are doing your best, and that is all anyone can expect from a devoted practitioner of any artful science or scientific art; and that is exactly what “economics” really is, is it not?

    Peter, et al (yes, you, you beleaguered RWE hero), as a highly empathic, very sympathetic ‘outsider’ to economics — but one who has deeply delved into its roots, in principle, its fundamental logic architecture, its core structural elements — it seems to me that real economics is only that which is valid, which is only that science of truth realized, accomplished, and expressed by each individual practitioner (devotee or auteur?) of the art. That would mean that anything less than the truth which accords with reality is bogus, a counterfeit, a charade, an abomination. Therefore, logic compels us to abhor, revile, and refute miscreant spewings of insidious corruptions, i.e., NeoLib N-CE, and denounce them for what they are — diabolically diseased frauds, symptoms of ecocidal mania, rampant greed and pandemic cowardice.

    Here is what insight and intuition tell me about your scientific art: Essentially, economics can be seen as a discipline related primarily to both mathematics and holontology (the science of being-as-a-whole (or universal reality)). We must then consider economics a relative of all other sciences, the humanities or liberal arts as well. Clearly, any major influence effective in human affairs is within the purview and scope of economics, holistic economics, the science.

    Now, I hope that provides food and fuel for thought that starts a flame that kindles an incineration of all sociopathic perversions posing as economics of any flavor.

    Coming back to your post, Peter, I think there’s an essential issue involving religion and spirituality that deserves deeper, more extensive consideration. So, let’s deconstruct your essentially crucial argument against religion, expressed in the passages quoted below (numbers inserted to flag major issues).

    “1) …You destroy and attack ideas that do not conform to your faith. 2) You demonize the other. 3) You stall. You delay. 4) You create facts to support your case. You ignore or debase facts that deny your truths. Fervently. Absolutely. Relentlessly.
    “5) When marshaled along these lines even a small group can grind as large a nation as America to a halt. Especially if the majority remains complacent or ignorant of your intent.
    “It would help, I suppose, were there (6) reservoirs of ideas untainted by these divisions. Then the majority could call (7) experts into play to refute and ridicule the zealots. But, nowadays, (8) the experts are all riven through by the same deep divisions. 9) Society has no elite to call upon to resolve the conflict. Indeed the elite is caught up in the storm. It contributes to the division.”

    Peter, these issues are crucial because all ethical/moral dilemmas involve religion or religious issues and spirituality, to one degree or another. So, I address the issues in the order you gave them…

    First, let me confess that I am new to my faith, the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin, as taught and practiced by his successors of SGI, Soka Gakkai International. I have almost 40 years experience of Tibetan Buddhism, Zen, Taoism, traditional Vedic (‘Hindu’) yoga & meditation practice, mystic Christianity, etc., but my recent study and practice of Nichiren’s teachings, though relatively deep in some ways, does not make me a veteran expert, nor the ideal spokesman. SGI’s humanistic Buddhism is so effective, so powerful, that I am compelled to answer your indictment of religion, point by point. Yetj , please don’t take what I say as the whole truth. OK?

    1) Buddhists do not “attack ideas” that do not conform to our faith, but we are committed to refuting and denouncing disempowering ideas that cause pervasive corruption, harm, and excess suffering by creating or reinforcing delusion, etc…

    2) Buddhists do not demonize others. Ideas, doctrines, influences, forces, habits, and patterns that are negative, destructive, degrading, depressing, endarkening, etc., are already intrinsically demonic. Who needs to demonize what is already clearly harmful, poisonous and/or deadly?

    3) Buddhists neither stall nor delay, because we see that there is no time to waste. To us, each moment is a miracle, a precious opportunity to create value, joy, and positive causes for greater benefit for the sake of countless generations of living beings.

    4) Buddhists never create facts to support anything. We seek understanding of reality, human existence, universal principles, ways and means. We strive for more effective realization of our full potential for manifesting and expressing our greatest possible excellence and, as much as possible, encourage others to do so in their own way. We appreciate truth and the infinite value of ethical integrity and total authenticity.

    5) SGI leaders and members are deeply sincere supporters of the US Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the International Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Earth Charter, the Geneva Convention, and every other initiative for the realization and protection of human dignity and liberty. Our leaders are great champions of freedom, justice, compassion, ecological sanity, individual responsibility, and self-reliance. We are totally devoted to awakening ourselves to the incredible creative power of each of us seemingly ordinary, individual human beings.

    6) Buddha discovered the infinite, universal reservoir of untainted wisdom, the essence at the core of each human life. For over 2500 years Buddhism has offered the end of all destructive divisions, delusions, hostilities, excess pain & suffering.

    7) We (all compassionate humans) are the “missing” experts you envisioned but — though it is our duty to refute and denounce erroneous teachings, perverse doctrines, corrupting ideas and malevolent influences — we should not ridicule persons. Like good Christians, we should “hate the sin, but not the sinner” and do our best to help and encourage, never to harm. Yes, sometimes that calls for a no-nonsense “wake up” call. Strong language and tough love can correct and restore delinquents to sanity and healthy self-determination.

    8) Among all deeply compassionate people, there is no psychological nor ideological nor ethical division or contradiction at all. There is one all encompassing, all originating universal reality, and its essential truth we can all seek, recognize, revere, and respect. We can slough off petty egoism and selfish obsessions in favor of better results for all beings and all generations. We can See that all human beings as essentially precious, no matter how delusional, no matter what mistakes they made in the past.

    9) Devout Buddhists are here for anyone, any world leader, or any organization seeking help for world peace, global sanity, a greener future, general prosperity and a healthy commonwealth. The SGI component of the spiritual “elite” is neither divided nor tainted nor caught up in the plutonomic maelstrom of deceptive BS. We are serenely yet dynamically centered in the eye of the toxic tornado of worldly cussedness

    The many accomplishments achieved by Dr. Ikeda and SGI are more impressive than I can describe. You can explore the results by starting at www. SGI-USA.org, then through the many links posted there.

    Peter, I cannot thank you enough for giving me this opportunity to extend my mission to the realms of RWE/ARE and on to all those whose lives will surely be affected by what we are developing via these dialogues. Keep the faith and light of compassionate wisdom shining brightly, dispelling the darkness.

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