Friday, August 26, 2016

"Free Speech Is the Basis of a True Education. A university should not be a sanctuary for comfort but rather a crucible for confronting ideas."

In my opinion, freedom of speech is vital for an alive Dharma practice. Therefore, I have previously written and spoken of the importance of freedom of speech in Dharma life practice.

I was glad to read the article "Free Speech Is the Basis of a True Education", from which I will quote some significant passages below (and link to). After the article excerpts are some links to my previous work.

"Students grasp the complexity of collecting, analyzing, interpreting and deriving meaning from evidence of multiple forms. They learn to imagine alternatives, to test their hypotheses and to question the accepted wisdom. A good education gives students the intellectual skills and approaches essential to success in much of human endeavor.

One word summarizes the process by which universities impart these skills: questioning. Productive and informed questioning involves challenging assumptions, arguments and conclusions. It calls for multiple and diverse perspectives and listening to the views of others. It requires understanding the power and limitations of arguments. More fundamentally, the process of questioning demands an ability to rethink one’s own assumptions, often the most difficult task of all.

Essential to this process is an environment that promotes free expression and the open exchange of ideas, ensuring that difficult questions are asked and that diverse and challenging perspectives are considered. This underscores the importance of diversity among students, faculty and visitors—diversity of background, belief and experience. Without this, students’ experience becomes a weak imitation of a true education, and the value of that education is seriously diminished.

Free expression and the unfettered exchange of ideas do not always come naturally. Many people value the right to express their own ideas but are less committed to granting that right to others.

Over the years, universities have come under attack from a range of groups, both external and internal, that demand the silencing of speakers, faculty, students and visitors. The attack is sometimes driven by a desire of an individual or group not to have its authority questioned. Other times it derives from a group’s moral certainty that its particular values, beliefs or approaches are the only correct ones and that others should adhere to the group’s views. Some assert that universities should be refuges from intellectual discomfort and that their own discomfort with conflicting and challenging views should override the value of free and open discourse."

The rest of this article by the President of the University of Chicago, Robert Zimmer, with interesting comments by other readers, is at:

And here is another link with details of the related actions by the University of Chicago:

Here is a recent blog which summarizes some of my thoughts on the importance of freedom of speech in Dharma life practice:

Freedom of Speech - A most important Dharma protection even for those with whom we disagree, especially for those with whom we disagree.

Here are two Dharma talks on this:

Freedom of Thought, Freedom from Thought   5/22/15
Freedom of Thought, Freedom from Thought Part 2   5/23/15

Monday, August 22, 2016

The dictums of the political world.

The following article excerpts are a good summation of an interesting exploration of the life views and the perspectives of politicians. The article and the excerpts also highlight some of the social, cultural and political issues roiling the United States and world today.

As you read on, please reflect upon how the analysis, insight and critique of this article might be relevant to a life of practice, in whatever form your life practice takes.

"What exactly is this form of narcissism that is destroying—if it hasn’t already destroyed—our families, friendships, workplace atmosphere, and democratic republic?

The short form is this: What you believe, or claim to believe or say you believe—not what you do or how you act or what the results of your actions may be—defines you as a person and makes you “good.” It is how your life will be judged by others and by yourself.

In 19th-century France, the gastronome Jean Brillat-Savarin told us that “you are what you eat.” In 21st-century America, almost all of us seem to have concluded that “you are what you say you are. You are what you proclaim your values to be, irrespective of their consequences.” That is moral narcissism.

It is a narcissism that emanates from a supposed personal virtue augmented by a supposed intellectual clarity...."

"...This is a narcissism of political and social thought, a narcissism that evolved as religion declined, a narcissism of ideas and attitudes, a narcissism of “I know best,” of “I believe therefore I am.” It is our identity tied up inextricably to our belief system in a way that brooks no examination. It is a narcissism of group think that makes you assume you are better than you are because you have the same received and conventional ideas as your peers, a mutual reward system..."

"...If your intentions are good, if they conform to the general received values of your friends, family, and co-workers, what a person of your class and social milieu is supposed to think, everything is fine. You are that “good” person. You are ratified. You can do anything you wish. It doesn’t matter in the slightest what the results of those ideas and beliefs are, or how society, the country, and in some cases, the world suffers from them. It doesn’t matter that they misfire completely, cause terror attacks, illness, death, riots in the inner city, or national bankruptcy."

This seems to be a form of self-centeredness in a nutshell, and to be the opposite of a practice of presence, serving and intimacy.

Though the issues of narcissism have a long provenance, as I noted, the following updated analysis and spotlighting of the current cultural and political world is worth looking at if you have an interest in the subject:

apropos of the previous article, here is a recent news report:

Borgen - An interesting TV series look at politics through Danish eyes - from which we might learn something useful for US politics on the left and the right in the USA..

"Borgen (Danish pronunciation: [ˈb̥ɒːˀʊ̯ən]) is a Danish political drama television series created by Adam Price. It tells how Birgitte Nyborg, a politician, becomes the first female Prime Minister of Denmark against all the odds."

This has been compared to "House of Cards" which is about a US couple, politically corrupt, who have contempt for voters,  a "sham" marriage and in which many people in their way end up dead.

"The ['Borgen'] show follows the newly elected Prime minister of Denmark Birgitte Nyborg and her Spin- doctor Kasper Juhl. While the first season was criticized for being a far cry away from any realistic depiction of politics, the second season have climbed to be a great story about the life of politicians in Denmark. While the drama is sometimes is exaggerated compared to that of real-life (which is to be expected) the stories are however quite believable as many of the themes are inspired by true stories and problems Denmark's politicians have faced during the last 20 years. 

While the characters went from stereo-types in season 1, many of them have grown into dynamic believable characters in the second installment. If one can survive the pretentious opening titles and the dumb-wise Machiavellian quotes, the sopping drama from time to time, especially in the first run, second season we offer a rich and engaging story which must be applaud for its eminent storytelling and drama which is both entertaining and relevant for anyone interested in politics." 

Here is an interesting analysis from another perspective especially relevant to this political season of Clinton, Trump and Sanders;

“ 'Borgen' captures this: History is human. Political leaders are driven by personal imperatives every bit as much as—often more than—public ones.

It demonstrates, knowingly or not, that to be of the left in the Western political context is to operate in a broad, deep, richly populated liberal-world that rarely if ever is pierced by contrary thought. They are in a bubble they can’t see, even as they accuse others of living in bubbles. Birgitte sees herself as practical and pragmatic, and she is—within a broader context of absolute and unquestioned ideology.

It reminded me that as a general rule political parties and political actors do not change their minds based on evidence or argument. They have to be beaten. Only then can they rationalize change to themselves and their colleagues: “We keep losing!” Defeat is the only condition in which they can see the need for change. They have to be concussed into it."

Here is the rest of this review with many comments by readers [when screened as Reader Recommended], which helps clarify fundamental issues of this current election season:

I have only seen bits and pieces of this series, but look forward to seeing some more parts of the later seasons, when I have the time and availability, based on the recent reviews that have been brought to my attention.

Satisfactory-Unsatisfactory 8/21/16 Dharma Talk

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Real 8/14/16 - A Dharma Talk

Entanglements of cause-effect, "where there is this, there is that," and the unintended and harmful consequences of political actions II

Here is another instance of the unintended consequences of human plans, and in this case, messing with "nature" for self-centered reasons.

"Scheming Buffalo Herd Roams Amok at Grand Canyon - Descendants of ‘beefalo’ outfox hunters, refuse to relocate; ill-fated ‘catnip’ plan.

The park’s so-called bison problem is getting worse with no clear solution in sight. The U.S. National Park Service estimates the size of the herd is 600 and growing at an average rate of 30% a year. The animal has no natural predators here, except for one: Man. So far, the bison have evaded him.

Hunting isn’t permitted in national parks and somehow, these “beefalo”—as they are still colloquially called by some—are on to that...

....It doesn’t matter that the current animals aren’t purebred, or even that their ancestors were imported to the area, Mr. Plumb says. They look and act like regular bison. The bison is on the park badge, he says. It is on the park logo. Today’s animals don’t have enough cattle genes to be considered “beefalo” by USDA standards.  

“These animals have standing. We can’t go back to the time before we screwed the animal up,” he said.  Mr. Plumb is waiting for the results of a new park study—due in September—before deciding what to do with them. Options range from using volunteer hunters or paid sharpshooters to cull the herd to trying yet again to relocate some animals."   

For the rest of the article see:

Entanglements of cause-effect, "where there is this, there is that," and the unintended and harmful consequences of political actions.

When we make changes in life, whether personal or political, social or psychological, it is important to remain aware so that we can see and respond expediently to the cause-effect consequences and reactions, our own and that of others.

Below is an interesting, and if accurate, very sad consequences of the ongoing changes in the national and state marijuana policies and politics.

"Okay, I'm going to say it: The heroin epidemic was caused by the legalization of marijuana.
We wanted legal weed, and for the most part, we got it. Four states have legalized it outright, others have decriminalized it, and in many jurisdictions police refuse to enforce the laws that are on the books, creating a de facto street legalization.

Good news, right?

Not for the Sinaloa Cartel, which by the time Colorado passed Amendment 64 in 2012 had become the dominant cartel in Mexico. Weed was a major profit center for them, but suddenly they couldn't compete against a superior American product that also had drastically lower transportation and security costs.

In a single year, the cartel suffered a 40 percent drop in marijuana sales, representing billions of dollars. Mexican marijuana became an almost worthless product. They've basically stopped growing the shit: Once-vast fields in Durango now lie fallow.

More good news, right?

Yeah, no. Guzmán and his boys are businessmen. They're not going to take a forty-point hit and not do something about it. They had to make up those profits somewhere.....

At the same time, American drug and law-enforcement officials, concerned about the dramatic surge in overdose deaths from pharmaceutical opioids (165,000 from 1999 to 2014), cracked down on both legal and illegal distribution, opening the door for Mexican heroin, which sold for five to ten bucks a dose.
But pill users were not accustomed to the potency of this new heroin. Even heroin addicts were taken by surprise.

As a result, overdose deaths have skyrocketed, more than doubling from 2000 to 2014. More people—47,055—died from drug overdoses in 2014 than in any other year in American history. (Perhaps the most famous of these, Philip Seymour Hoffman, died on February 2, 2014, right at the height of the epidemic.) That's 125 people a day, more than five lives every hour, a fatality level that matched the AIDS epidemic's peak in 1995."

So what is the appropriate and skillful response on our part to these events? 

Can we see anything similar in our own life? Is there practice for us to learn from this? 

For the rest of the article, see the link below.