By Ali A. Parsa, Ph.D.
We should condemn extremism of all kind, right? Wrong. The purpose of this writing is to demonstrate that, extremism like a coin has two sides-good and evil. Then, why do most of us fail to observe that during the long history of our world, the extremists have been behind all important events and movements such as revolutions, dynasty replacements and other changes, from drastic to subtle?
We also need to remind ourselves that only one or a handful of leaders are the engines of the movements and they determine the direction of the change-good or evil. It follows that all great religions like Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as well as other lesser religions have been manifestations of extremist views of their time in opposition to the status quo.
In fact, extremism has been an integral part of all changes in our natural world and the underlying cause of evolution in response to the ever-evolving physical, chemical and biological changes and interactions going on within all living systems, from a single cell to complex organisms in nature.
One common denominator in behavior of living systems is that they all exhibit an initial resistance to change, but gradually adjust to them until a new equilibrium in the system is reached or all the dust is settled at least for a while, or until another change is needed. As a soil scientist with deep concern for the direction of our world, I see a clear resemblance between the living system of soil and human societies. The living system of soil has what we call the buffer system that resists drastic changes like, for instance in pH- acidity or alkalinity of the soil until a new equilibrium is reached and new adjustments are made. Suffice to say that if not for this marvelous buffer power of the soil, all life within the soil would succumb to the sudden changes. Further scientific explanation of such interesting phenomenon is beyond the scope of this writing. In the Far East this social phenomenon is referred to as the balance between ying and yang. In human societies ignorance, arrogance and hypocrisy can disturb this balance and create catastrophes.
The reason for this is that whereas extremisms in natural world have always followed the natural rules of law, but in human societies they often don't. This is due to interference from the imperfect human beings and the inferiority of their decision making as compared with the strict laws of nature. That constitutes the reason why most people or public dreads the change in status quo. Indeed, most revolutions have left a bad taste in public's mouths. Most extremists have abused the public and utilized them as instruments to feather their own nests. It is most ironic that most governments have been selective in the kind of education and information they instill in the public in order to avoid or delay another change in status quo.
Although a minority of public-the elite has managed to survive the evil of extremism, that has not been the case with most people (the masses). It seems as if the masses lack the ability of searching for truth, analyzing the facts and making unbiased personal, social, economic and political decisions by default. Indeed, the deprivation of the public from reaching their maximum potential has turned full control of the public to a handful of leaders to do as they wish. Such abuse of the public has led to more death and destruction in our history than that from natural calamities up to the present time. A popular American saying is, 'never underestimate the power of stupidity especially in groups!'
During humankind's recorded history, replacement of weaker governments by stronger ones in pursuit of power and wealth has been the real cause of all events behind the veneer of deceiving slogans. In our contemporary time the use of 'people' as in People's Republic, socialist republic and even Government of the People have gradually lost their meanings even if they had genuine causes and went through some initial reconstruction periods. However, sharing the power with the masses has not been an issue. As a result, the government and the people remained separated and the balance of power has, in most cases in favor of the governments. In the words of Barbara Tuckman, "Every revolution, in time, puts on the robes of the tyrant it deposed." While a few have argued the necessity of the governments for maintaining law and order and certain functions, the public at large has not been able to prevent their cancerous growth and their abuse of power.
One philosophical question facing humankind has always been, why does the public is short-changed even though it pays the most taxes, give more of their lives and plays by the rules more often. And, why even during the twenty first century or our modern time, in spite of our marvelous technology and its utilization in every aspect of our lives we have not been able to educate, inform and empower the public to shape their own destiny instead of leaving it to the extremists. In other words, why is the public more willing to forgo its rights and even resort to substance abuse and apathy instead of becoming active part of the political processes that affect their lives and pocket bloods? Why do we prefer to sit down, complain, let the chips fall where they may and then whine after we are shortchanged by the governments-or when the gate is left open and the horse is out, so to speak.
This indifference by the public and the abuse of its power by the governments has led to birth and premature death of many nations. As Erick Fromm said, "The world is graveyard of empires that did not meet the challenge of their time." The best answer to the question of public apathy seems to have been that by J.P. Durran who, in 1790 said, "The condition upon which God granted us liberty is eternal vigilance." Why is this eternal vigilance absent in most of us?
Unfortunately this and similar pleas from the elite have not been heeded by the mass. It is this ignorance that breeds apathy and complacency. It is also ignorance that makes the mass unconditional followers. Perhaps the saying "Ignorance is a bliss" expresses the general opinion of the mass. One answer may be that the masses are too decent and too honest to be involved in dirty politics. This unsolved puzzle still deserves considerable historical, philosophical, social and political discussions. Let us trace the historical aspects to about the beginning of a kind of recorded history.
Sinohe (pronounced SeeNohay) was a man who rose from the depth of degradation to become personal physician to the pharaoh Akhnaton. His views of the public in 14th Century B.C. Egypt was the title of the first major historical novel (The Egyptian, listed at amazon.com) published in 1949 by Mika Woltari, widely considered the greatest Finnish writer of 20th Century. In this book Sinohe states that the public is not educable and always prefers to be ignorant and, if educated, always tends to revert to the state of ignorance! He likened educating the public to dipping a person in water. He said, as that wet person does not stay wet when out of water, the public and education, too, do not stay together! The irony is that Sinohe considered himself as elite rather than a common man that he originally was and he elevated his own status first and then he denigrated the public. The hidden conclusion is that even though the public as a whole prefers not to be decision makers, all or a limited number of them can, through their effort cross over and become the leaders in their respective fields. The bottom line seems to be that a minority of the people or the elite have and will always be responsible for all changes.
Obviously no revolution went as far as the American Revolution to provide the opportunity for the public to break the barriers of class or a kind of caste system and reach their maximum potentials. The beauty of the American Revolution was its universal acceptance and the fact that it espoused talented people not only of its own, but also from all over the globe regardless of their background.
No extremist movement contained as much antidote for preventing the abuse of the public by the government as the American Revolution. The success of this revolution was due to the genuine desire of a handful of men who opposed the status quo. Thomas Jefferson, a staunch believer of change in status quo believed that society, like standing water becomes stagnant if not stirred once in a while. He is also quoted as saying, "God forbid if this nation goes without a revolution for twenty years," as if he could predict the problems our nation is facing now. Obviously Jefferson could not recommend a physically destructive revolution especially with the modern lethal weaponry. His was mainly intellectual revolution that could even be considered evolution rather than revolution.
History repeats and the American Revolution that illuminated the world is all, but faded away and is need of serious revival. In fact I call what is going on in America 'the undoing of the American Revolution' that invented the 'government of the people, by and for the people'-the first movement in the history of the world that tried to elevate the status of the public by devising the public education system.
At the start of twenty-first century while we have invented all kinds of gadgets to make our lives easier and save time, we are barely taking the first effective step to make use of the dividends of our marvelous technology to reduce the gullibility of the public. The bitter truth is that we have the most gullible people in the world. The irony is that while the cost of education goes up and we throw more money into the system we educate less. In the meantime, we have amassed weapons of mass destruction to destroy our world and ourselves many times over.
What we have achieved in recent decades has been the positive balance of our evil power that has baffled our most respected scientists and philosophers in their intellectual discourse. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "The end of human race is that it will die of civilization." And, Albert Einstein was so concerned about abuse of technology that he said, "I do not know what weapons will be used in WW III, but I do know that WW IV will be fought with sticks and stones." I personally suspect that if we did a quantitative research on the net positive effects our technology that net effect would be zero or minus something.
I submit that all abuses stem from ineffective education, lack of ethics and lack or shortage of effective leaders. If not for these shortages, we could mobilize the masses in a way that we could use their latent positive potential and make our world better. In fact millions of decent Americans are volunteering to bring about positive changes both in America and abroad, but not enough to defeat the evil side of extremists.
Let us not forget that the American Revolution, the most noble, the longest lasting and the most effective revolution owed its success to a handful of leaders who were the products of effective education, ethical upbringing and followers of exemplary leaders before them. That is not to say that they were all angels, had no evil sides, did not engage in mud slinging and dirty politics that are customary at our time, but it is to say that they were as perfect as imperfect humans could be.
For thousands of years religious and secular leaders and gurus believed that education would redeem humankind and would put an end to death and destruction brought about by ignorant, arrogant and selfish leaders who took the public for a long ride to achieve their selfish goals. The American Revolution was meant to put an end to this tyranny with the invention of public education for educating and enlightening the public to fend themselves against their selfish leaders. That noble purpose is reflected best in Thomas Jefferson who said, "Enlighten the people and the tyranny of body and mind will disappear like evil spirit at the dawn of a day."
It is not difficult to trace the reasons for the downfall of America. Simply put, it is the reverse of what Jefferson said. That is, keep the people in the dark and tyranny of body and mind will appear like evil spirit in the dusk of a day!-my own phrase.
America is the youngest and the most successful empire on earth. Only those with a sense of world history know that countless empires have appeared and disappeared from the face of the earth. The founders of America would spin in their grave if they could see how the nation they founded is taken for a ride by the evil side of extremism that is turning back the clock of history of America and the world. It is allowing the infrastructure of America go to ruin and trample upon the cradles of civilization just as Genghis Khan did in the 13th century and similar ones at other times. Recall Albert Einstein's concern. The signs of decline are all over the walls for those who only care to look.
These signs should be serious concerns of all citizens of this Nation of Immigrants, no matter when we adopted this land as our home or where we came from. In fact, the newly arriving immigrants have always been more protective of the American Ideals than those who were born here and lost the sense of appreciation through apathy and complacency. The most vivid sign of decline of America is that this backbone of America is constantly bombarded with the colonial mentality of extremists and neocons that ridicule immigrants, multiculturalism and multilingualism. This is nothing but declaring a war on the whole America and divide this unique Nation of Immigrants at its seams. Did the fact that all America's founders were bilingual or multilingual hurt America in any way or strengthened it through diversity? Indeed, with friends like these America needs no other enemies to worry about. If we worried about anti-American activities, this is it. Once again, welcome to observe the undoing of the American Revolution.
Let us use one historical evidence and judge for ourselves how the today's extremists use the same tactic as 2500 years ago and expect the public in America and in the world believe them.
"BEWARE THE LEADER WHO BANGS THE DRUMS OF WAR IN ORDER TO WHIP THE CITIZENRY INTO A PATRIOTIC FEVER, FOR PATRIOTISM IS INDEED A DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD. IT BOTH EMBOLDENS THE BLOOD, JUST AS IT NARROWS THE MIND. AND WHEN DRUMS OF WAR HAVE REACHED A FEVER PITCH AND THE BLOOD BOILS WITH HATE AND THE MIND HAS CLOSED, THE LEADER WILL HAVE NO NEED IN SEIZING THE RIGHTS OF THE CITIZENRY. RATHER, THE CITIZENRY, INFUSED WITH FEAR AND BLINDED BY PATRIOTISM, WILL OFFER UP ALL THEIR RIGHTS UNTO THE LEADER AND GLADLY SO. HOW DO I KNOW? FOR THIS IS WHAT I HAVE DONE AND I AM CAESAR..." -Julius Caesar
I leave you with a few questions and I hope you as the reader will help me to answer these questions:
How does the public still fall
prey of the extremists after some 2500 years after Julius Caesar, not mentioning
the onslaught of numerous others who seduced the public?
Moreover, why does this still happen in America in which public education, freedom, and democracy had the best chance to grow, mature, elevate the status of the public once and for all? In other words, how does the otherwise decent public is so detached from reality and the least interested in its own history, its present and its future generations who will inherit even more of the same?
Let us assume for a moment that the whole world emulates America in every respect as the extremists wish. Let us predict the social, economic and global impact of this emulation.
Social impacts- A public education system that educates less and costs more; a public that is the least informed not only about the history and geography and culture of the world, but those of their own country ; the least voter turnout in exercising their participatory democracy ; a public and government that spend more money that they have; a public that chooses 'shop till you drop as a big source of relaxation; a public that is confused even about simple facts of life such as when, what and hoe much to eat, then over eat and spend billions of dollars to lose weight; a government that does not care about record national debt that spends borrowed money to venture into unhardened territories and trample over the Cradles of Civilization as Genghis Khan did, but more sophisticated warfare at the cost of bankruptcy of Social Security and Medicare; bullying the smaller country and allow the idea of bullying to spread not only in international arena, but in school yards, punishing drug producing countries because they are unable to fight the widespread substance abuse inside their own borders, energizing the repressive regimes if they cooperate and punishing more democracies if they choose to not to follow the order of the bullies; practically stealing the resources of other countries by any conceivable illegal means in order to live beyond their own means; being indifferent to international rules; letting the wage disparity ruin the morale of its workers; getting their young so disinterested in education that would increasingly depend on import of talents from other countries; making the country bankrupt and calling the most debtor country the richest nation on earth, following the example of colonial powers during the twenty first century; not recognizing that educated generations in emerging make this impossible; replacing truth with falsehood, peace with war, justice with injustice, education with ignorance, patriotism with profiteering and corruption,; be indifferent to the will of the young people to fight senseless wars and using mercenary to conduct such wars.
The best antidote to the above self-destructing trend is effective education that includes ethics and exemplary leaders. America has the wherewithal to educate the world starting from its own public with a cost that is a pittance as compared to development of weapons of mass destruction. Ignorance brings arrogance and these breed terrorism by highlighting the evil side of the people. Just watch the Animal Planet and see how wild animals are tamed and the best friends. All the extremists can do is to believe that people too, are educable.
Those who have abandoned hope that corporate America has no human face, should recognize the fact that corporations, too, have humane side and evil side. If Bill Gates and his wife have demonstrated this, so can the others.
While America is grappled with these problems the world is making more progress than America and yet our extremist leaders have gone into denial rather than facing reality which is the first step to overcome the problems. In other words, America remains a sleeping giant while the world goes through progress. Not long ago the same extremists used to turn their nose when a Japanese product was mentioned. Now, not only Japan, but also China and other newly emerging nations are added to that list and their products beat those of America's while America's trade deficits rise.
Finally, I hope that I do not leave the readers with the impression that I do not love America. I love truly love the American public, American history, its founders and the ideals they had. I only dislike where America is going. To me this writing is the ultimate expression of my love for America. I am not one of those who praise everything in America and deny the reality. To me, America's proven and unprecedented record of leading the world makes it the best superpower if America survives its present extremist leadership.
My only source of optimism and hope has been the way the decent Americans have expressed their dissatisfaction with the status quo during the last midterm elections. If that enthusiasm for change becomes a reality I will be my reward. I appreciate it if the readers assist me to answer the following questions:
By undoing the American Revolution, do the extremists believe that the public is not educable as Sinohe' did in ancient Egypt?
Is the extremists' resistance to change and ignoring the will of the public an indication of their belief that American Revolution was in vain?
To what extent are extremists driven by ignorance, arrogance and greed? Do our present extremist leaders qualify to be the real 'axis of evil?'
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... Payvand News - 11/28/07 ... --