Monthly Archives: January 2008

The Significance of the Iraqi Death Toll

Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam [is] in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5)

I am showing prominently a copy of the Just Foreign Policy estimate of the the number of extra Iraq’s that have died since 2003 (relative to the pre-2003 mortality rates), based on the John Hopkins study published in The Lancet. [N.B. Though it says ‘U.S. invasion’, it should say Anglo-U.S invasion. Although militarily speaking we Brits played a minor roll, we played an essential political roll, have never apologised or expressed any regret for our actions, and must take full joint responsibility for what has happened.] The researchers estimated that 31% of the mortality was directly due to Coalition Forces, and Chris Hedges’ report in the Nation last year gives some insight into this. These figures aren’t accepted by everyone but they can’t be dismissed too lightly either–see the Media Lens’s excellent explanation of why their dismissal is wishful thinking and the researcher’s recent defence of the study.

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Only a philosophical revolution can save us from climate catastrophe

Recently I found myself turning up the heating in a room that I found insufferably warm to meet the needs of others. The problem was that I had left my own heating off all winter (except on extraordinary occasions) and my judgement was shot. This may seem to have precious little to do with Professor John Gray’s recent call for a respect for reality in the Great Global Warming Debate, but it strikes at Professor Gray’s own lack of realism in his war on idealism. In his recent book, Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia, Professor Gray makes the compelling case that modern, Enlightenment, utopian, political philosophies—from Stalinism to Neoconservatism—are the manifestation of repressed religious impulses, corrupted religion with their own delusional eschatologies. In his article Gray calls for all manner of groups to slaughter their sacred cows to deal with the looming climatic emergency but Gray’s own sacred cow remains mystifyingly intact at the end, and this is the elephantine cow that nearly everyone is walking around.

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Day Retreat: Studies in Peace and Wisdom

Part of the Studies in Peace and Wisdom seminar series.

Led by Chris Dornan, Saturday 16th February, 10am-5pm, Bodhi Garden.

The civilized self-image of the West is based in the 18th century Enlightenment and the 17th century Scientific Revolution. We are more liberal, egalitarian, independent and knowledgeable than any of our forbears or any of our contemporaries outside of the first world. Yet we are also one of the most martial people in history, seemingly perpetually at war, and our collective spending on ‘defence’ today dwarfs that of the rest of the world.

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1: The Politics of Peace

Part of the Studies in Peace and Wisdom seminar series.

Chris Dornan, Tuesday 26th February, 7-9pm, Bodhi Garden.

Warning: this talk is intended to be (constructively) provocative.

If I were to buy a tub of ice cream and wanted to keep it for later I would put it into the freezer, not take a blow torch to it. It is a simple case of cause-and-effect, with the freezer option leading to the desired outcome. However, many peace and justice movements seem to take blow torches to their ice cream—at least from a Buddhist perspective (and it is doubtful that Buddhism is unique or even unusual in this).

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2: Flat Earth News

Part of the Studies in Peace and Wisdom seminar series.

Nick Davies, Tuesday 4th March, 7-9pm, Bodhi Garden.

‘Finally I was forced to admit that I work in a corrupted profession.’

As part of our process of becoming collectively enlightened in the 18th century urbanisation accelerated, so giving rise to mass literacy, the mass media and the development of journalism, thereby opening the door for powerful interests and deep pockets to shape the orthodox, received narratives for consumers of mass media (i.e., almost everyone today). From a Buddhist perspective, it is unhealthy to inhabit fantasy worlds as they promote violent strategies to maintain the fantasy, and Nick Davies’ research raises some disturbing questions about our attempts to live in such a collective fantasy. In this talk Nick Davies will talk about his recent book, Flat earth News, that shows this process accelerating along with the dynamics that have been driving it.

[Nick Davies writes investigative stories for the Guardian, and has been named Journalist of the Year, Reporter of the Year and Feature Writer of the Year in British press awards. Apart from his work on newspapers, he also makes television documentaries and he has written four books, including White Lies, which uncovered a racist miscarriage of justice in Texas; Murder on Ward Four, which examined the collapse of the NHS through the murder of children by Nurse Beverly Allitt; and Dark Heart, a journey through the wasteland of British poverty. He has three children and lives in Sussex.]

Flat Earth News is published on the 7th February.

3 Our Virtue: The Neoconservatives and the Power of Nightmares

Part of the Studies in Peace and Wisdom seminar series.

Chris Dornan, Tuesday 11th March, 7-9pm, Bodhi Garden, Bodhi Garden.

Is Neoconservativism an Enlightened philosophy?

Leo Strauss (1899-73), classical scholar and intellectual father of Neoconservatism, was concerned that liberal democracy contained the seeds of its own destruction in individualism through a liberal philosophy where nothing is true and everything permitted. He taught that the great philosophers had two messages: an exoteric message accessible to everyone, but also to those who how able to decode it, an esoteric philosophy that couldn’t be more widely disseminated without destabilising the social order. Strauss believed that the intellectuals of the ruling class had to perpetuate ‘noble lies’ and ‘pious frauds’, unifying myths, such as religion and the divine purpose of the nation to fight evil and establish good in the world, so maintaining social cohesion and reversing the decay of liberalism.

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4: Pride and Prejudice: The Enlightenment and the Virtue of the Other

Part of the Studies in Peace and Wisdom seminar series.

Chris Dornan, Tuesday 11th March, 7-9pm, Bodhi Garden

This talk will look at 18th century Enlightenment philosophy and Jane Austen’s alternative.

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5: Why are we such a violent nation?

Part of the Studies in Peace and Wisdom seminar series.

Christopher Titmuss, Tuesday 25th March, 7-9pm, Bodhi Garden.

Is there a connection between what we are doing in the world and our state of mind?

According to a Russian sociologist, England has been at war in the past 900 years more than any other nation on Earth – around 56 years out of every hundred. The United States, its closest ally, has invade 19 countries since 1950. It doesn’t end there. There is violence on our streets, domestic violence, child abuse, alcohol fuelled violence, drug fuelled violence, football violence and verbal and physical abuse upon ethnic communities. Our prisons are desperately overcrowded with prison sentences lengthening. What is it about our psyche? Why don’t we make the connection between war on other nations and the violence on our streets? Is there an appalling spiritual and philosophical vacuum at the heart of our lives? Do we obscure this violence behind the language of being a civilised people with the world’s longest democracy?

6: Liberal Interventionism

Part of the Studies in Peace and Wisdom seminar series.

Chris Dornan, Tuesday 1st April, 7-9pm, Bodhi Garden.

[In preparation]

7: Nemesis: Iran, Israel and the Palestinians

Part of the Studies in Peace and Wisdom seminar series.

Chris Dornan, Tuesday 8th April, 7-9pm, Bodhi Garden.

[In preparation]

Consciousness Really Explained?

Conclusion [full article]

No matter how many people try to explain some basic facts of science and philosophy, from James (1890) to Stapp (2007), the mechanistic idea that everything can be reduced to the cogs and wheels of physics has a tremendous grip on the modern mind, which is why this humble little thought experiment is proposed, being both concise and positivistic.

Strong cryptography allows information to be pickled so that a message can only be recovered with the application of a key. If that key is held in only a person’s mind then that person, using their mental faculties, can carry out a procedure that is otherwise impossible. This publicly observable phenomenon has no physical explanation nor is there any prospect of one appearing.

Its long overdue that scientific orthodoxy stopped trying to pretend that those mental faculties don’t exist, or can somehow be reduced or explained away. Only then will there be a chance of developing a truly-coherent scientific understanding of them.

[Read full article]

Pity the Moderator

“Thick as two short planks.” I was in the checkout queue in Sainsbury’s and the nice chap in front was apologising for his tardiness in placing the divider. I patted him on the back and told him not to worry about it. “All he had to do was push up the divider to us.” Ah. It was at this stage that I realised the gentleman who was manning the till was very Asian in appearance.

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Stop the Demonising

Trita Parsi, author of Treacherous Alliance – Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran and the US has long been saying that Iran is a rational actor and has now been vindicated by the latest US National Intelligence Estimate on Iran. In a recent article Parsi asks Is Iran NIE a Blessing in Disguise for Israel? Parsi’s point is that Israel’s Iran policy has been getting out of touch with reality, leading to a strategic paralysis. However, the NIE provides the opportunity and ammunition for wiser voices to begin asserting themselves and argue for a policy of accommodation with Iran through Condoleezza Rice’s good offices at the US State department. This would be a reversion to the policy of security through the periphery where alliances are sought with states like Turkey, Iran and Ethiopia to balance the hostile Arab states on her borders, a policy which Israel continued to pursue after the ‘79 revolution; Israel was one of the few powers to help Iran repel Saddam (the real threat to Israel) while trying to patch things up with the US, so giving rise to the Iran-Contra scandal (see Treacherous Alliance).

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