Go to: Modern Humanism – Part I
In a Toronto Star article, Oprah Winfrey talks about income inequality and why she left 60 Minutes by relating an experience early in her career. “In the late ’70s and ’80s, she said, “back when I was doing the news in Baltimore, I asked to make the same (salary) as my co-anchor who was doing the same job I was doing — except he called me ‘Babe’ the whole time.” Both her news director and news manager denied her request for a raise. “I realized at that moment that my employers didn’t get it; didn’t understand my value,” said Winfrey.
But power dynamics shifted when years later, in 1986, Winfrey’s Chicago talk show was about to get national syndication as The Oprah Winfrey Show. Winfrey got paid more, but her all-female team of producers did not. Why? Winfrey’s male boss was surprised she’d even ask: “They’re only girls. What do they need more money for?” she recalled him saying.
In a room filled with teenagers about to embark on entertainment industry fellowships, Winfrey said;
“It takes a while to develop a voice, but once you have it you damn sure are going to use it.”
So use it Winfrey did.
“I took a deep breath in that moment. I said, ‘Either they’re gonna get raises, or I’m gonna sit down. I’m not gonna work if they don’t get paid more. Babe,’” she announced from the stage.
Winfrey talked about a more recent example of standing her ground, explaining why when she departed 60 Minutes. “It was not the best format for me,” Winfrey told the magazine, adding that she kept getting feedback that she was “too emotional” when recording her name. “I think I did seven takes on just my name because it was ‘too emotional.’ I go, ‘Is the too much emotion in the Oprah part or the Winfrey part?’ I was working on pulling myself down and flattening out my personality — which, for me, is actually not such a good thing.”
Winfrey also revealed in the interview she had given advice to Gayle King when her best friend was mid-salary negotiations with CBS News.
“I said, ‘Get what you want. Get exactly what you want because now’s the time. And if you don’t get what you want, then make the next right move.’”
We opened our conversation reviewing the events that led up to the Arab Springs and in continuing our conversation about human dignity, our conversation would not be complete without breaching the subject about [income] inequality, not matter how brief. “Economists assume that human beings are motivated by what they label “preferences” or “utilities,” desires for material resources or goods. But they forget about thymos, the part of the soul that desires recognition by others, either as isothymia, recognition as equal in dignity to others, or megalothymia, recognition as superior. A great deal of what we conventionally take to be economic motivation driven by materiel needs or desires is in fact a thymotic desire for recognition of one’s dignity or status.
Take the issue of equal pay for equal work, something that has been at the core of the women’s rights movement for decades. While women have made huge gains over the past fifty years in the labor force, considerable attention has been paid to the glass ceilings that have kept women out of senior management positions or, more recently, from the upper ranks of tech firms in Silicon Valley. Much of the agenda of modern feminism has been set not by working-class women hoping to get jobs as firefighters or Marine grunts, but by educated professional women seeking to rise closer to the top of the social hierarchy. [Identity, Francis Fukuyama]
Among this group, what is the real motive driving demands for equal pay? It is not economic in a conventional sense. A female lawyer who is passed over for partner or is made vice president but at a salary 10 percent lower that that of her male counterpart just is in no sense economically deprived: she is likely to be in the very top of the national income distribution and faces little economic deprivation. If she and her male counterpart were paid twice their relative salaries, the problem would still remain.
Rather, the anger felt in such situations is not so much about resources as about justice: the pay she is awarded by the firm is important not so much because it provides needed resources, but rather because salary is a marker of dignity, and the firm is telling her that she is worth less than a man even though her qualifications and contributions are equal or even superior. Salary is a matter of recognition. She would feel equally aggrieved if she was given the same pay, but told that she would never hold a coveted title simply because she is a woman.”
Human Dignity and Access to Justice
There is a saying that I am sure many have heard at one time or another; “Justice delayed is justice denied.” No truer will these words ring true to you when faced with a gross transgression and there’s nothing you can do but suck it up and move on. When you’re punched by these words and you see how pointless seeking justice is in humanity’s present system of things you come to realize that this fact has always been the case for many others, for countless of years, decades, even centuries – all throughout human history and that the greatest joke done unto man was tricking him to believe that this was ever true. Yes, we have police, the justice system and courts but don’t be fooled, my peers, and don’t be tricked by the altruistic slogans you read in scrolls, academic books, and on historical sculptures memorializing men of great feats. What we have, in reality, is a system of laws where justice has no room to be administered. You see our system is geared to manage the masses, to control, streamline complaints and wrong actions but to administer justice is a whole new ball game that our present system, I am afraid is not designed to consistently provide.
In the centuries of past we had major revolutions, revolutions that helped change and shape our society and laws into the system that we have but as valiant, courageous and fearless of the people who laid down their livelihoods and even their lives for this achievement, we’ve only come so far. Yet the collective will that is needed for justice and access to justice requires a whole lot more. Some say that man can never provide justice, that it is not in our moral make up to do so and is best left in the hands of your G-d, my G-d, their G-d, it doesn’t matter which G-d, the point is that ultimate justice can only be bestowed from someone from an outwardly world since we are incapable of doing it ourselves. But to believe in these fantastical stories would take a mountain, [or two] perhaps a mountain range the size and the length of the Rockies, of faith believing it would come to pass. However there are times when humanity does pull through to show us that there are glimmers of hope and perhaps somewhere within our future development as a species we are capable of consistently administering justice and not just the law.
I say this because justice is based upon a different set of principles similar yet separate than law. For the law is based on human’s manageability, as we collect, separate or segregate [derived from ‘church and state‘ powers] to save society from the ugliest of the ugly. To administer justice will require more than a basic understanding but a deep appreciation, even reverence for human dignity. We don’t nearly have an appreciation for the value of a human life, therefore, how can we appreciate and respect the dignity of an individual? We seem only to do so when we have evaluated their bank account, their rank in life or joined a ‘boys club’. Therefore to be rich or to hold status means you will possess a level of human dignity that will be respected by the Law where this precious commodity called justice can only be left for those very few because they can pay for it. It’s elitism. Whereas the system, at present, can find us bankrupt [and thus society] trying to seek closure to common disputes that don’t even require justice but just a swift kick in the ass or go to jail. And then you wonder why our societies are now morally corrupt?
Returning to , “justice delayed is justice denied” brings a frustration with our human collective and I say human collective because delayed or denied justice happens all over our world. And I’m not talking solely about justice delayed because of statutory limitations, it could be reasons for money, political, religious or for ‘the greater good’ [but who’s ‘greater good’ – and why] or you’re just simply try to escape taking responsibility altogether – like getting away with committing a crime. It’s a feeling of disrespect, a disregard for our human dignity that brings about the anger, and frustration that provokes an individual like Mohammed Bouazizi to die a martyr’s death by setting himself afire to make a point. Who will be western culture’s Mohammed Bouazizi who’s actions will enrage others, as it did in the Arab nations, who feel the same way and enact a modern western revolution. Will it be the yellow vest movement in response to Notre-Dame reconstruction? Or another travesty? We are dangerously close for something to happen and if it does I guarantee you it’s because of the lack of access to justice and a disrespect for human dignity. That’s what it was for Arab Springs to take place, after being disrespected by the police officer [slapped, spat in his face and instruments removed] Abouazizi tried to seek justice and authorities ignored him.
It may not be because of an authoritarian government but a liberal democratically run society; because of the blatant hypocrisy of giving us Charters and telling us of our so call Individual Rights that we hold but not for enforcement – if you don’t have the money. It’s the trickery of telling us that we have something and it is available to all of us when in reality it is not. And it will happen to the most unsuspecting, most innocent and mild person – trying to seeking remedy and justice to a transgression(s) and being told that the doors are closed to you because of your financial circumstance – it makes one feel silly (for believing that you do), stupid (for believing it in the first place) and mad (because they tricked you into believing that you do) and then to go about personally recovering the loss which maybe too large to bear, could send even the best of the best into a topsy-turvy. It’s natural – that’s what it is to be human.
In his inaugural speech to law students at University of Ottawa at a Probono event, special guest speaker, Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Wagner, recognizes the social decay created from lack of access to justice. He says the following:
“Whenever I think about access to justice a quote from Honoré de Balzac comes to mind: “Laws are Spider webs through which the big flies pass and the little one get caught.” To me, it perfectly captures not just the inequity in our legal system, but also the tangible effect of those inequities have on people. While the system is mend to treat everyone equally, some people end up getting stuck and expending a great deal of time and energy trying to break free. Giving people access to justice it’s like giving them the tools to take control of their situation and free themselves from the spider’s web.
Every day, someone gets stuck in the system. Every day, someone decides not to assert the legal rights in the first place. Every day, our system fails someone. Overtime, this would erode public confidence. What I’m saying is that it is not perfect, and we can’t afford to be complaisant. Not now and not ever. The stakes are much [too] high. Everyone as the right to equal treatments under the law and equal benefits. To deny access to justice, is to deny people their dignity, because [it] is said that people are worthy of justice and so me are not.
The first barrier is obvious: the cost. Legal services are expensive. There are just out of wedge for many Canadians. In 2014, Legal Aid Ontario, estimated that over a million people were living below the poverty line, but still not poor enough to qualify for legal aid. The third barrier to access to justice is lack of access to legal information. How many legal problems could be avoided if the public had a higher level of legal knowledge or at the very least quick and affordable access to these advice. Take a look around and you will see that the legal community has a number of initiatives, in place, to break down barriers and shine the light of justice on every one of us. […]
As much as we may want the perfect system, we live in the real world, its real challenges and limitations and competition priorities. But that those not mean we should not continue aim for a better justice, for better access to justice. Because the higher our aim, the more we would achieve. We need more diversity in the bar and on the bench because no one should walk in a court room and feel that their experience won’t be understood because of who they are. Our legal system should reflect the society it is meant to serve. From policymakers to law society, everyone in the justice system need to think hard about what we can do differently to give people access to justice and maintain confidence in the legal system.
We need more diversity in the bar and on the bench because no one should walk in a court room and feel that their experience won’t be understood because of who they are. Our legal system should reflect the society it is meant to serve. From policymakers to law society, everyone in the justice system need to think hard about what we can do differently to give people access to justice and maintain confidence in the legal system…. Let’s do our part to make sure everyone can get through that spider web without getting caught. Because access to justice is about equality. Equality is the foundation of our democracy. Our democracy is the guaranty of our freedom.”
On the other side and in our western neoliberal societies we have a disappearing middle class creating an even bigger divide between that haves and the have-not’s compounded by identity politics. These social malaise divides us even further. I’m talking about elitism. You hear it being argued constantly in Question Period when the Conservatives accuse the Liberals of elitism; a set of rules for the rich corporate friends (Conservatives are just as guilty) and another set of rules for everyone else. This is not a political issue per-se, it’s a social issue that effects us all and we see it happening every day all around us, in law, in our universities, in the workplace, and socializing with friends and family and between races and cultures. The favorite sibling, the “in” crowd, well behaved against the black sheep, light skinned against dark skinned etc. But for now we’ll keep democratically speaking about this chaste of people who feel [and perhaps they are] they are above the law and this goes back decades even centuries.
During the 18th century, when members of the elite were indicted for crimes widely recognized as such, like rape, robbery or theft, they were usually acquitted. Political influence, family, patronage, jury defense to their oligarch rules, the stall of expensive counsel, all played their part. Behavior that would not have been tolerated in the “lower orders” was deemed merely “letting off steam” on the part of the gentlemen. Thankfully today we have challenged that with the “Me too” movement and the scales of justice is beginning to balance. However, in the 18th century, where the political elite controlled parliament, we find some of the roots of such behavior when representation was rooted in the class system. This is because there was a close relationship between law, property and power. Administration then imposed itself between the literate and the illiterate, between what today we call crime in the boardrooms [white collar crime] and crime in the streets, rather in the suites. …In sum the law was twisted for the benefit of the rich and powerful. The elite lived in a different world. As we ascend the social scale they very concept of crime becomes problematical. And this is what Chief Justice Richard Wagner was referring to when he spoke about access to justice.
If freedom of expression is expected within the halls of academic institutions it must be just as so in for parliamentarians if they are to represent the needs and concerns of their constituents. In fact, by law this is true – parliamentary immunity is what they call it this is very different than parliamentary inviolability which countries around the world enjoy to this very day. In the book, Politicians Above the Law, author Joseph Maingot with the help of David Dehler compares the two in great detail. Only commonwealth parliaments and the Congress of the United States of America refuse to grant such special immunity powers that inviolability proceeds to their members. In fact for the Commonwealth parliaments we don’t have to since our systems includes parliamentary immunity inherited by English parliament called Privilege of Peerage. It’s a guarantee of the “independence of parliament and its members in relation to other authorities It’s primarily a sanctuary that provides the for the freedom of speech and the freedom to act while taking part in a proceeding of parliament.”
The most recent example I could give is when the former Justice Minister Judy Wilson-Raybould kept mentioning that she cannot give full disclosure of the SNC Lavalin case and what transpired between her and Mr. Trudeau because of client privileges. Other Ministers in the caucasus challenged Minister Wilson-Raybould and reminded her that she is covered by Privilege of Peerage (or some form of) and she can take her concerns and address the Parliament directly in the House of Commons to speak about what ailes her without any repercussions whatsoever from the Prime Minister despite this client privilege agreement. ALL parliamentarians enjoy this Freedom of Speech and Freedom to Act.
Our Voice – Democratic Reform
“In law, political science, as well as in popular parlance, the carious uses of “democracy” leaves us with the inescapable conclusion that we are dealing with two distinct, though related, senses of the term. Democracy (captialized), refers to the characterization of an entire system of government based on self-governance achieved through the freely expressed will of a people, but also including a variety of other structural, institutional and procedural features of the state. In this sense, the opposites of Democracy are authoritarian government, oligarchy and dictatorship.” Former Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin has said “The rule of law is at the heart of our society: without it, there can be neither peace, nor order nor good government. The rule of law is directly dependent on the ability of the courts to enforce their process….” While the Union of Justices has been quoted as saying “Justice and judges must not be used as weapons in a politician’s battle”. Doesn’t the SNC Lavalin affair and Jody Wilson-Raybould come to mind when this quote is read?
“By contrast, democracy (using the lower case) is a more restricted set of rules customarily rules of law, specifically dealing with the organization of the people’s expression of their choice as to those would govern them – in other words, elections. In this sense, the opposites of democracy are unelected governments or governments through trickery, cheating or fraud. ” [Journal of Parliamentary and Political Law, p. 1-3]
In Bell Let’s Talk Mental Health three part series we looked at Alexander Graham Bell’s wonderful invention of the telephone and how since then, telecommunications industry it helped to create, continues to revolutionize the world. From the first telephone, to cable, to internet to present day’s the Internet of things. All these technologies have contributed to raising our collective voices, where today the internet plays an integral role, an open and democratic platform for all, for the lesser voice finding a place to speak and to be heard to any audience around the world! We also examined the various ways in which government tried to silence voices [especially the stronger voices] by discrediting their political expressions, thoughts and idea through political abuse of psychiatry.
“Political abuse of psychiatry, also commonly referred to as punitive psychiatry, is the misuse of psychiatry, including diagnosis, detention, and treatment, for the purposes of obstructing the human rights of individuals and/or groups in a society.”
Today in a less outwardly yet in more intrusive methods we now have the Internet and the Internet of Things (IoT) providing useful services for especially business and government support yet we can find areas where political abuses of psychiatry performed without us even noticing (i.e. Cambridge Analytica) where our voices may not [always] be stamped out but tightly controlled for the betterment of the ‘greater good’. For example in a recent Globe and Mail article:,
“China releases statistics for a new social-credit system, ‘the courts have added 13.5 million entries to a list of dishonest persons subject to enforcement’. By the end of March 2019, the Chinese government reported, people deemed untrustworthy had been blocked from buying 20.47 million air tickets and another 5.71 million high-speed rail ticket. The social credit system is set in place intended to assess citizens’ reliability to participate in a wide range of activities, such as exporting goods, accessing government contracts, converting currency and receiving Communist party promotions. That system is intended to govern “19 key areas of dishonesty, including spreading online rumors and false information, committing financial fraud, delivering unlicensed medical treatment, evading taxes, cheating on tests and fixing sporting machines.”
According to Worldometers, the current population of China is 1,419,231,723 as of Monday, May 1, 2019, based on the latest United Nations estimates. China population is equivalent to 18.41% of the total world population. China ranks number 1 in the list of countries (and dependencies) by population. That is a lot of people to govern! Is it any wonder that China is a communist country? ‘Some Chinese scholars and officials have defended establishment of the system as necessary corrective in a society of tainted by poisoned-milk scandals and financial frauds – “one that will reward good conduct and ease life for those with integrity, even as it deprives the unreliable of privileges. Publishing the figures is to show that people who thinks it’s unfair that people go unpunished and meant as a deterrent for those who might do it again.”‘
Critics have raised alarm about the construction of a “digital panoptiocon that leverages the power and rising technological sophistication of the world’s largest authoritarian regime to monitor its people for compliance to government dictates in ways never before possible. “The purpose indeed is to demonstrate that the system has been put to real use, in particular in the sense of imposing sanctions or incentives on those targeted entities.” says Dai Xin, Professor at Ocean University of China School of Law.
As an individual living in a democratic society, I find this practice shockingly so wrong on so many levels I do not know where to begin yet others find it’s a an appropriate solution in the managing of a densely populated country . However, Fukuyama notes, “Authoritarian governments by contrast, fail to recognize the equal dignity of their citizens. They may pretend to do so through flowery constitutions such as those in China and Iran that list copias citizens’ rights, but where the reality is different. In reality benevolent dictatorship such those Lee Kuan Yew, in Singapore or China under Deng Xiaping, the state adopted paternalistic attitude towards its citizens. Ordinary people were regarded as children who needed protection from wise parents, the state, they could not be trusted to run their own affairs. Yet, “[A]s a child turns into a teenager and then young adult, there is no doubt that child will test those bounds of protection from their wise parents. Keep a person or a group tied down it is only a matter of time that they would revolt seeking their freedom from repression and outdated thinking.”
Our political imaginations are stuck with outdated images of what democratic failure looks like. When we have lost our democratic voice. We are trapped in the landscape of the 20th century reaching back to the 1930s or to the 1970s for pictures of what happens when democracy falls apart: tanks in the streets, tin-pot dictators barking out messages of national unity, violence and repression in tow…Our societies, today, are too different, too affluent, too elderly, too networked, and our collective historical knowledge of what went wrong then is too entrenched. When democracy ends we are likely to be surprised by the form it takes. We may not even notice that it is happened because we are looking in the wrong places.
In the book, How Democracy Ends, David Runciman articulates the various ways our democracy can be hi-jacked (or ended), he says: “The American political scientist Nancy Bermeo has recently identified six different varieties of a coup, of which the coup d’etat is only one. The others are:
- Executive coups; when those already in power suspend democratic institutions;
- Election day vote fraud; when the electoral process is fixed to produce a particular result;
- Promissory coups; when democracy is taken over by people who then hold elections to legitimize their rule;
- Executive aggrandisement; when those already in power chip away at democratic institutions without over turning them;
- Strategic election manipulation; when elections fall short of being free and fair but also fall short of being stolen outright
Some coups (i.e. coup d’etat) need to make clear that democracy is over in order to succeed; and some coups need to pretend that democracy is still intact. The coups that pretend that democracy is in tact are the ones that are concerned with keeping up the appearance. Those who feel they need to manipulate elections do so on the basis that the appearance of victory was given to them by the people – that they won their authority fair and square. “Promissory coups and executive aggrandizement require that the appearance of democracy be maintained because the success of the coup depends on people believing that democracy is not the enemy. It provides the cover for subversion, which makes it the plotter’s friend.”
“Elections are the highlight events of democratic governments.”
We often speak of voters apathy but what we don’t fully impart is what could happen when democracy is taken for granted or when democracy has just simply lost our attention. Those wishing to other throw it will have a greater chance of doing so without having to overthrow it. For example, its the grey areas, often known as “loopholes”, where voters know that something doesn’t seem quite right, fair and just – yet they get away with it because there’s no rule telling them otherwise not to do so. Trudeau and is holiday Agfa Khan trip, pay-to-play election donations $1500/plate dinner with the Chinese, the Finance Minister not reporting all of his assets; or the latest, Loblaws lobbyists attended exclusive Trudeau fundraiser and were later granted $12 million for the giant food company to get new freezers. It might not even be loopholes; how about those omnibuses, and all that was lumped into those for clear passing? Wasn’t that another election promise – the elimination of its use once Trudeau got on board? Basically loopholes require clarity but are left open on purpose because “everybody does it”, [for example say in taxes], and uses it to their advantage one way or another, to get rid of it means to lose the advantage once can have over another.
In particular, executive aggrandizement – when elected strongmen chip away at democracy while playing lip service to it – looks like being the biggest threat to democracy in the 20th century. Are we not seeing its affects with Ontario’s current Ford Conservative Government as he slowly chips away at education, privatizing health care, using the notwithstanding clause to cut counsel and dozens of other cuts to social services? And speaking of the Conservatives, how did Andrew Sheer become the leader? I watched the leadership race, it was all for Maxine Bernier when Scheer, he literally came out of no where – bumped Bernier off and won the whole thing on the 11th ballot. I mean, who’s Andrew Scheer? (not even Micheal Chong, Tony Clement, Lisa Raitt?) Even the NDP Jagmeet Singh again, came literally out of no where, he wasn’t even part of the original line-up of leadership hopefuls. “They” grabbed him from provincial politics despite him not showing a shred of interest in running as a federalist let alone the leader of the Party [who could one day be Prime Minister]. Yet again at the 99.9th hour they drag him out of no where mid to late summer and he wins in the fall election on the first ballot! And how is it that Tom Mulcair lost his position as leader since the party’s convention in Edmonton or Trudeau and his “Sunny Ways” marketing machine promising much of what he could not [or would not] deliver, for example electoral reform and that horrible mydemocracy.ca survey – exaggerating regional divisions and leaving huge numbers of voters without a voice in Parliament.
It not only happens here but in many countries around the world; India, Poland, the Philippines, Ecuador, Hungary and possibly USA are also guilty of this with Trump’s winning his election. What did Trump do as soon as he got into office but undo many pieces of legislation that Obama had successfully passed through. We have a bunch of personalities running our countries but can they or are they really fit to govern?
The difference between coup d’etat and these other sorts of coups is that the former is an all or nothing event and the latter are accomplished in incremental processes. One will succeed or fail in the matter of hours while the others take place over a period of years without anyone being sure whether they have succeeded or not. It becomes much harder to draw the line. More than that; while people are waiting for the real coup to reveal itself the bit-by-bit coup may have already have been long underway. I wasn’t living in the Province of Ontario however, the Ford government seems to me a continuation from the Harris government with a few tweaks and tinkers. In any case, a big problem with incremental coups is knowing how to oppose them. “Democracies that erode rather than shatter often lack the spark that ignites an effective call to action.” says Runciman “There is no single moment to rally the forces of democracy against the threat that confronts it. Instead political in fighting produces a series of disjointed confrontations that each side sees differently; while the opponents of the regime shout “Coup!” it’s defenders saying that those accusations are hyperbole and hysteria.”
Again, let us refer to Ontario’s Ford Conservative government. It seems on a weekly basis I’m receiving emails, and seeing posts in my social media about what policy Ford is erasing or canceling having the opposition government up in arms and calling for strikes and rallies, “You Big Bully!!” While Ford shrugs it off and chuckles away – I seriously don’t recall another opposition party in previous governments having to organize so many rallies against the reigning government as what we are seeing today. Even in the protesting it can easily be seen as another form of aggrandizement on the part of the opposition party; all this protesting, is it effective? Are we winning? Even “Lawyers and journalists who see themselves as the last line of defense against the subversion of democracy can be recast by the other side as just another group of ‘special interests’ claiming the benefits of democracy for themselves.” cautions Runciman.
“To subvert democracy it is imperative that as a whole people remain passive bystanders to do otherwise no coup will succeed. You will never be able to subvert democracy with an informed crowd that believes in “Power to the People!” But a coup that hides behind the workings of democracy can hope to get by on the public’s innate passivity and in most democracies the people are bystanders much of the time anyway. They watch on as political decisions are taken on their behalf by elected representatives who then ask for their assent at election time. If that’s what democracy has become, it provides an excellent cover for the attempt to undermine democracy, because the two (coup d’etat vs coup) look remarkably familiar.”
Contemporary political science has devised a range of terms to describe this state of affairs; ‘audience democracy‘, ‘spectator democracy‘, ‘plebicitary democracy‘, and more appropriately ‘zombie democracy‘. The basic idea is that the people are simply watching a performance in which their role is to give or withhold their applause at the appropriate moments. “Democratic politics has become an elaborate show, needing ever more characterful performers to hold the public’s attention.” says Fukuyama.
A referendum looks democratic but it is not. Remember BC’s Electoral Reform referendum and the bru-ha-ha surrounding the crafting of the referendum question? The spectators got dragged on stage to say a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a preposition they have played no part in devising. Then the politicians get back to the business of deciding what they meant by what they said, while the voters look on many of them growing frustrated at not having a chance to play a further part. If necessary, another referendum can be called, like what happened in PEI, to get them to agree to whatever it was they were taken to have decided first time around. What makes referendums particularly effective is in this context is that they can be presented as the antithesis of the subversion of democracy. We witnessed this happening with Brexit and their slogan ‘Take back control” campaign or even Robert Mugabe’s 2017 coup d’etat. Yet, not every referendum is evidence of a promissory coup. But referendums are one way they can manage it.
DARPA Challenge (2012) – Revolutions and Neurotechnology
What brings about revolutions are when a country’s population are not free to live autonomously in dignity to free expression, to develop their craft, and to earn their living. In a Big Think article that provides an over view of 2012’s DARPA challenge, neurotechnology moved front and center as it questioned whether technological advancements could nourish our dissidence and creativity thus making us more susceptible to making revolutionary changes in our environments; be it political, social or both;
“In our neuro-centric world-view, a person is equated to his brain. The neuro-discourse has penetrated all aspects of our lives from law to politics to literature to medicine to physics. As part of this neuro-revolution, huge military funding is supporting neuro-scientific research; a huge body of basic knowledge on memory, belief formation, cognition and sensory modalities has been gathered over years, with fields like social neuroscience, cultural neuroscience, neuroeconomics and neuromarketing has emerging to improve our lifestyle; neurotechnological know-how from wireless non-invasive technologies to neuroelectronic interfaces is exponentially advancing; and neurotechnology business reports indicates the rapid increase in neurotechnological start-ups and the willingness of bringing neurotechnological products to the market.
In my opinion, all the aforementioned indicators indicate that neurotechnology can be potentially used to control social dynamics. At the same time, neuro-technological advancements could nourish our dissidence and creativity – potentially making us more revolutionary. Revolution means the process of radical changes on all levels of the society and in all domains of knowledge. The revolutionary potential can be defined as the capability to realize these radical changes. The revolutionary potential is usually developed within an educational space that nurtures critical thinking, dissidence and creativity. But dissidence and creativity are both mandatory for the revolution to happen. Dissidence embodies the dissatisfaction about the status quo and the turmoil for change. Creativity is the engine that fuels our dissidence by giving us the ability to imagine alternative realities and transcend the strictures of our lived reality…”
It is worthy to note the connection between revolutions and creativity, critical thinking and dissidence where this is encouraged within the “unpopular” subjects of liberal arts for today’s degrees. These subjects originally had a common purpose, until ideological and technological revolutions introduced new methodologies involving sophisticated specialization. “As a result, philosophy and science were unable to resolve their basic differences and tore apart their common subject of inquiry. Philosophers and theologians carried with them mind and soul, while scientists kept matter and body. Psychologists, being newcomers, initially confused neuro-biological activities involving spirit and substance without receiving enough scientific recognition or philosophical support. As indicated, (Delgado, 1969) the present imbalance between science and philosophy has been partially determined by methodology because “the mind was considered a metaphysical entity beyond experimental reach” and “it appeared more practical to invent combustion engines or to investigate the structure of cells than to speculate about emotions and thoughts.” Against this trend, recent investigations including the DARPA Challenge are demonstrating the importance of neurobiology, liberal arts and its support of modern humanism through its blending with technology.
Man’s greatest problem to day is not to understand and exploit his physical environment but to understand and govern his conduct.
Our alternatives are either to enjoy and promote material progress without dedicating much effort to unveiling the great potential of our own power source, the brain, or to dedicate more of our intellectual and economic resources toward investigation of the mechanisms of mental activity, in an effort to modify the present destructive orientation of civilization. In this possible redirection of goals, modern humanism could be of crucial importance. Its impact could produce an evolution of the mental quest and could be more significant for human behavior than the revolutions in industry, atomic sciences, mass communications, and outer space exploration.
All values, including humanist, are stored in the material structures of the brain as codified patterns that influence neurons, synaptic connections, and neuro-chemical reactivity, constitution a frame of reference for the interpretation of incoming sensory signals. Personal interpretation will modulate behavioral reactions, which could be peaceful or hostile. Aggression, tolerance, prejudices, emotions, and other aspects of personal reactivity are not programmed by genetic determination; they depend on elements provided by culture and learned by personal experience.
From a religious perspective, it seems we are now performing the works of miracles that have been reserved for the realms of G-d; for example, resurrection, healing the handicapped, sick, and the blind [etc]. In effect, we are saying that we ourselves are G-d and we do no longer need the G-d of the Hebrew Scriptures (or headships of other religious faiths) because through technology we are able to manipulate and provide what was lost or to multiply and enhance what we have. We’ve gone so far to the point that we are rejecting the very home that G-d created for us; Earth. The abundance of litter, pollution, atmospheric disruption, poisoning our waters, killing our species of animals, raping mother earth of her natural resources and minerals and not replenishing nor giving her time to replenish. We’ve destroyed the world so much that we now seek to colonize other planets such as Mars, as we approach the point of no return for humankind, and mine not earth’s natural resources but resources found in asteroid belts in outer-space .
This sentiment is echoed in a recent article in the Epoch Times, entitled The Root of Our Troubles where, culturally, our elites have rejected the ideas of natural law, God’s laws, man’s laws, and even the laws of biology and reality. The article directs our attention to the biblical account of Adam and Eve saying that it’s the impulse of the Original Sin, the temptation and desire to ‘be like G-d’ that infects our times and ties together the social woes and chaos; for example, through nuclear technology recreating creation and controlling the weather. For that was what the result of Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit, no they did not die immediately but they lost their innocence as their eyes opened up to be able to see the world like G-d.
The author continues to share, “Many of our leader’s burn with the desire to have no authority over them, to “be like God.”” Turning to Plato’s Book VIII of The Republic “all liberty and equality”, he says “Too many of our fellow citizens no longer have the tools or desire to arrange their lives in accordance with a hierarchy of values. …All values are equal and so we do whatever comes to us in the moment and send damnation on anything that gets in the way.” …According to Plato, the pursuit of our desires leads to more and more social chaos, which ultimately ends in tyranny “When a democracy which is thirsting for freedom has evil cupbearers presiding over the feast, and has drunk too deeply of the strong wine of freedom, then, unless her rulers are very amenable and give a plentiful drought, she calls them to account and punishes them, and says that they are cursed oligarchs…see how sensitive the citizens become; they chafe impatiently at the least touch of authority and at length, as you know, they cease to care even for the laws, written or unwritten; they will have no one over them”. All of the “isms” are merely ways to rationalize and make possible one’s self-actualization, one’s desire to become like God. And if that is truly at the root of our current travails, our times do not end well unless there is a great awakening. [Epoch Times, April 18-24, 2019]
We have a responsibility to a broader humanity by giving genuine reasons for concern about the darker side of globalization. As we give data about ourselves for free in exchange for these services and as we invite more technology into our everyday lives we run the risk of having algorithms running our lives where computers understand you better than you understand yourself. For example, these ‘cursed oligarch’ can be found in places like Silicon Valley where the trend is no longer to seek equality but immortality as humans begin to merge with technology and biological engineering to change the human body, to speed up natural selection, cyborg engineering combining organic with inorganic parts, even completely inorganic lifeforms; will we be the same human beings as we are today?
We further see this god complex come to reality in the area of bio-technology, where advancements in the medical and gene technology have enabled us to beat diseases before the human fetus comes to full term. In other cases bio and neuro-technology could potentially provide those who have lost limbs or cognitive ability even their eye sight to attain once again what they have lost through brain computer interfacing to limbs, or even ‘resurrection’ by uploading your consciousness to a computer hard drive if brain dead [or just – dead] or bringing a person back to consciousness through cryogenics. “In theory, genetic manipulation may be considered ethical and acceptable for the therapy of mongolism and other functional abnormalities and degenerative diseases’ to those who are suffering and to improve their quality of living. However, it becomes rather gratuitous, god-seeking, even dangerous, and frowned upon by those in the field, when these technologies are used as “improvements” of human qualities, to enhance what we already have i.e. designer babies, enhance cognitive a mobility issues to compete or to bring a new level of elite class, or to create a class of super soldiers for war.
This disrespect for the natural world and a disrespect to what our G-d (whatever name you use to refer to your almighty) is saying, like Adam and Eve, ‘We are G-ds and we no longer need you’. “No ideology, law, or tradition can adequately beat back the toxin in our collective system. At the end of the day, we must admit that we are in a spiritual battle. Either man will be like G-d or we will humble ourselves and live accordance with reality.” [Epoch Times]
Bruce Ackerman, American legal scholar, characterized the last fifty years of American presidential politics as a series of power grabs by the executive. People are angry with institutions that are unresponsive, not because they are underdeveloped but because they are tired. Politics and democracy, they are argue, is not exciting anymore, in fact its bland and so boring that we have to find ways to “manufacture” conflict and excitement as if we are movie directors and storytellers.
Even during the formation of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms from crafting the document to presentation to interpreting what it meant in the Courts, was a dynamic and exciting period to be involved in law and politics. Peter J. McCormick author of The End of the Charter Revolution, called it a “game-changer of the first order” and that “Canadian politics has never been the same. The Supreme Court has never been the same…and is now a national institution of the first order”. His book “tells the story about the Charter, about the big ripples that have gradually but steadily died away such that the surface of the pond is now smooth”. The Supreme Court was the best show in town and the Charter was the marquee events. The Charter has carried the courts into the heat of many of the biggest controversies and the hottest issues in Canadian politics and the courts mightily rose to the challenge often being the best show in town. Not only tackling the most hottest and most socially divisive issues such as abortion, but doing it in such a way that it laid down the foundations while deliberately leaving the room open for continual judicial action in the future. “I was like a movie critic during those years when major studios released their summer block buster. But for several years, this opening spiel has been ringing hollow”. The really big questions have been answered and then there are fewer big questions remaining. the “heavy lifting” of the Charter had already been done, most of the major battles have already been fought leaving the Court to deal with: subtle interpretations. As far as the Charter is concerned it would seem that the heroic age is over; the pedestrian Age is upon us.”
As Runciman articulates “Democracy is no longer young. It lacks the heady sense that existed a century ago of vast, unfulfilled potential. The battles to expand the franchise have been largely fought and won. The state bears the burden of the huge range of public service that it is expected to provide….The current populist backlash in the established democracies is happening in places that have been doing their best with democracy for awhile. However, today, democracy is not working well – if it were, there’d be no populist backlash. But attempts to make it work better focus on what we feel we have lost rather than what we have never even tried.”
To do so might just require another revolution. Archaic philosophical ideas and wishful thinking will not solve our present problems. A new economic and political system based on scientific reality is necessary. Modern humanism should investigate, and then apply the neuro-biological bases of human personality in an attempt to help in the establishment of greater personal happiness and more peaceful relations among individuals and nations.
Go to: Modern Humanism – Part I
Maignot, Joseph, Politicians Above the Law: A case for the abolition of parliamentary inviolability, ed. Dehler, David, Baico Publishing Inc., Ottawa, 2010
McCormick, J. Peter, The End of the Charter Revolution: Looking Back From the New Normal, University of TorontoPress, North York, 2015, p. 1-13
Runciman, David, How Democracy Ends,
The Journal of Parliamentary and Political Law 2015: Informed Citizens’ Guide to Elections: Electioneering Based on the Rule of Law, Tardi, Gregory, Carswell, 2015, p. 1-17
The Root of Our Troubles, Epoch Times, April 8, 2019