May 212016

EXCERPTED from:   2010-03-10 Propaganda, Democracy: Imagining “the other”. Ralston Saul. The Cellist of Sarajevo.  

The guiding light expressed is useful in a number of contexts, not only 9/11, terrorism and torture.   Consider the Census, Charter Right to Privacy of Personal Information and the involvement of Lockheed Martin Corporation.

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Einstein:  “A perfection of means, and confusion of aims, seems to be our main problem.”


Page 320 from John Ralston Saul’s “On Equilibrium”:

Philosophy is a commentary on the nature of our existence and so on the qualities all of us share in some way.  How useful is that?  Well, that nature and those qualities

(INSERT:  the qualities are

  • common sense
  • ethics
  • imagination
  • intuition
  • memory and
  • reason)

exist whether we recognize them or not.  What remains in our power is how conscious we are willing to be of our humanness.  By conscious, I mean how much we wish to exercise our qualities and to do so one in concert with the other.  To be conscious of them is to be more confident in our use of them.

What was disturbing on that day (INSERT:  9/11) and in the days that followed was how many (of the leaders) . . . concentrated exclusively on a narrow, linear approach towards terrorism.  They talked of eradication, punishment, in effect, of revenge.

We have some 130 years of experience with modern terrorism.  Concrete action is always necessary.  Guilty individuals must be dealt with appropriately.  We know that there will always be a minute percentage among us ready to kill others for a variety of reasons.  We also know that part of the problem is not so much generated as made possible by instability, disquiet, confusion somewhere.  The soft terrain from which terrorism has always operated can range from generalized poverty and suffering to directionless comfort and self-indulgence.  Conscious civilizations – those which use their qualities in concert – know that they must deal with the causes of that instability and loss of direction in order to shrink that context from which terrorism feeds.

To use our qualities is to be conscious of our actions.  A dynamic equilibrium implies an integrated sense of reality’s complexity.  For forty years now the West has led a rush to balance its trade figures by aggressively selling its armaments abroad.  The world is awash in weaponry.  You can trace the parallel rising lines of unstable areas slipping into violence as the quantity of weapons on the market increases.  To act as if our actions do not have consequences is to pretend that we are without qualities and are naturally passive factors when faced by the actions of others.  It is to reduce ourselves to forms of reaction.  ….

(p. 327-8)  “The rhetoric of global forces, whether economic, technological or military, leaves us as individuals with the demeaning and irrelevant pleasures of self-fulfilment, providing we can afford them.  I sense little satisfaction among people with this enforced holiday from the ability to shape their own destinies and the shared destiny of their society.  In fact, I sense growing discomfort and anger.  They see their lives, their families, their streets, let us say their friendships, as reality.  And this reality is the basis from which larger realities must be shaped.

“… Here friendship is the ability to imagine the other.   It is not easy.  It is the beginnings of tolerance.  It is, as Conrad said, “more difficult for some than heroism.  More difficult than compassion”.  Friendship is a relationship filled with uncertainty.  It is the primary territory upon which we test our dynamic equilibrium – our use of our interwoven qualities.  … 


(Sandra speaking:)   We should strategize as much as the General who tells the video-war-games-kid who sits in Nevada running the joy-stick that guides the image of an unmanned drone to its destination in Afghanistan, who pushes the “enter” key on the keyboard at the precise moment to release the bombs.


Einstein:  “We must be prepared to make the same heroic sacrifices for the cause of peace that we make ungrudgingly for the cause of war.”

Another email in this series is the now-public record on the torture done by the Allied forces in World War Two.  Which brings us full circle back to propaganda.  Our Government propagandizes just as much as “the enemy”, thanks for pointing that out.  Which brings us to “Afghan detainees”.

UPDATES:   see also


We must be well informed and engaged.  We CANNOT leave the decisions about the world to others.  Not any more than I can leave a decision about my life to someone else to make.  In that process I lose myself.


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