Category Archives: Important Ideas

The Two Future Scenarios We Must Choose Between

Created May 13, 2022

Welcome to this week’s Bill Harvey Blog.

One of these scenarios is very easy to visualize. It’s the downside scenario of war. We’ve seen the way this works and are extremely familiar with it. We can picture it, including sitting under a mushroom cloud ourselves, something I’ve been visualizing all my life.

The upside scenario is not nearly as easy to visualize. We as a race have not expressed much about that scenario. We seem morbidly attracted to dwelling upon the negative.

And yet we seemed to be making some progress there for a while.

In 2003, the late Mark W. Zacher, a pioneer in the study of global governance, wrote a paper published by Cambridge University Press called “The Territorial Integrity Norm: International Boundaries and the Use of Force”. In it, he cited nearly 100 academic authors in establishing his case that “coercive territorial revisionism” was on the decline since the end of WWII. Many of the scholars he referenced indeed painted the same picture.

Alas, today we see that this relatively halcyon period appears to have come to an end. WWII-size battles reducing beautiful cities to rubble in Europe are now happening again. Do we have to go back into the old game? Is it built into us that there will never be an end to people fighting for ground?

In the development of species, the hardwired instinct for territoriality behavior goes back at least as far as the first reptiles and perhaps even further back. But humanity, possessed of more obvious intellectual credentials than other Earth species, in discovering what instincts are, could use its brains to conquer instincts – or can we?

Why is it that Putin and his supporters feel the urgent need to own more land when they already are such a massive piece of geography? Opinions in the press suggest that he is driven to re-establish the U.S.S.R. And why would that be what drives him? Why would he not set equally lofty goals for leading the human race into space, or building larger particle accelerators than the west, or some other goal that is more original? The goal of simply taking over the neighborhood goes way back, it’s imitative behavior, it may make us remember a person in history but not necessarily in a positive way. It’s been done before. Why not show off by doing something new?

Why would China place such importance on taking back Taiwan which had previously been called Formosa? There are so many other things for China to do, and they are already doing most of them, and doing well at them. If the specter of war were swept off the table China should be among the most confident and hopeful nations on Earth. Why bother with adding another small swath of land to their country? When one takes land by force it’s only a matter of time before someone else is there attacking you to take that land back. It’s almost guaranteed to become a perpetual motion machine keeping war in the lives of your descendants for many generations if not forever.

The human race has so many better things to do rather than return to the old bullying game. It’s gotten so old. First, we have to bring the pandemic down to permanent containment, which implies far-reaching progress in being able to anticipate the directions mutations could take, and getting the jump on them before they go there. Then we have to bring everyone up to par in quality of life. Then we have to bring education up to an unprecedented level that is individualized to each person’s gifts and aspirations, lifelong education that starts in the home from birth and lasts throughout the individual’s lifetime. The list goes on and on after that, so many things to do to make us all feel a sense of purpose, of meaning.

Underneath everything else all of us are driven by a search for meaning. We didn’t make it any easier for ourselves when we made it unhip to allow for the possibility of God. Even in a world that avoids God like the devil, a person can still live a meaningful life by simply bringing her/his gifts out for the enjoyment of others. Putin and Xi each have huge canvases on which they are free to paint beautiful pictures the world can adore, why settle for the bad guy role, even if lies and censorship can make people keep their mouths shut? Why is that the way that Putin and Xi can make themselves the happiest?

If we didn’t have such a rich roster of activities into which we could happily throw ourselves, then maybe I could understand playing the war game, but that game has worn thin its welcome. We’ve had a good run since the end of WWII – not without enough violence for anyone with a taste for that stuff – but staying away from major wars. Why break the winning spree now? Just because they can? I suspect that is the real explanation.

But no one’s hands are clean. The rest of us have not done enough to paint the picture of what life could be like if there is world cooperation on the broadest scale. Dystopias have more drama in them, and more opportunity for action scenes, while utopias are easy to put down because cynicism is hip. So few if any utopian movies or television series or novels. “Star Trek: The Next Generation” came as close to a utopian vision of a united Earth culture as we’ve seen on television. Lost Horizon by James Hilton (1933) was a novel and then a movie which showed how a sequestered culture could live in harmony (the story of mythical Shangri-La).

When Joe Biden was elected, I wrote a series of fictional stories here in Pebbles in which Joe reached out to Vlad and Jinping and detailed how cooperation could be attained and how lovely that would be for everybody, with me hoping that was in his plans. My c dream soon collapsed, but that doesn’t mean I’m giving up. If we don’t detail the upside scenario we will continue to slide down into this downside scenario we’ve been stuck on for too long. Someday soon we may never again have the option of revisiting this upside visualization opportunity, there may not be a someday if we don’t start now.

Love to all,

Bill

 

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What Are the Odds Against the Human Race?

Created March 18, 2022

Welcome to this week’s Bill Harvey Blog.

Today I gathered by Zoom with a few lifelong friends. One of them a man I’ve always admired and have learned a lot from about the advertising and media business. He’s as much a genius as ever and as much of a realist. And, whereas I’ve almost always been an optimist, he’s still a pessimist.

Today my mentor (I’ve been lucky to have many) argued persuasively about the end approaching. The quality of our leaders willing to put up with being endlessly mocked and slandered has fallen precipitously. Both our political parties taken over by their most radical activists, the parties locked into such hatred for each other as is hard to imagine ever going away. The leaders of big companies hypnotized, like Putin, by their own worldview, and seemingly unwilling to study the relevant facts and the numbers deeply themselves. Everyone below the top afraid to speak up because someone with greater power might be offended by something. 

My friend sums up the problem as The Age of Me, which he perceives came in about a half century ago, replacing The Age of We. Now everyone is so self-focused it’s as if their IQs have been effectively factored way down.

Ahead he sees revolutions, a total breakdown in civilization, only a minority living through it and rebuilding. And then the cycle possibly repeating itself, first rebuilding, and then hubris setting in, and it all falling apart again.

I agreed that we have had a mental illness pandemic for a long time and that the only pragmatic cure for it is for each of us pull himself and herself up by carefully watching and clarifying one’s own thinking. I added that our ability to communicate with one another also allows us to help each other in this process.

My mind flashes back to when I was about five. I always listened to my parents’ conversations and stopped them to ask what was meant by certain phrases. They were very patient and always answered. I remember asking what they meant by “Life Imitates Art”. My father explained that it works both ways, art imitates life (he pointed to one of my mother’s realistic paintings), and life imitates art, people identify with characters in plays and learn from their experiences vicariously.

So, from very early on I was always aware that perceptions make reality, fiction becomes fact as fact becomes fiction. “Thinking makes it so,” as Shakespeare put it.

In Mind Magic I wrote that we tend to perceive what we expect to perceive.

In Connectedness I pointed out that foremost modern quantum physicist John Wheeler theorized that we co-create reality. Jane Roberts’ Seth book series reframed this ancient idea for modern minds in the 1970s. Many people first heard this idea from The Secret, whose Law of Attraction echoes the concept of Karma. People have been considering such out of box yet logical ideas for at least 10,000 years.

All of this is relevant to our moral imperative for the existential threat of today. Regardless of how dire things look right now, it only makes things worse to dwell on problem definition, one must build into one’s own mental reflexes the immediate switch to solution orientation, which presumes hope and not hopelessness. As songwriter and playwright Stan Satlin said on the Zoom today, “We can’t accept defeat.” Every time our mind turns back to concern we must rechannel it into positive next steps we can take that will help even if only in a very small way, help ourselves, our loved ones, everyone and anyone.

Pagliacci knew that a clown’s role was to laugh and make people laugh, even if on the inside he was crying. Calm, patient, empathetic, we can help people creatively clarify their options and optimize their decisions for the closest thing available to a win/win outcome. The more of us take on this attitude and role, the faster we will recover from the brink.

Don’t be attached to success. Whether we collectively pull out of the nosedive is not the point. Another thing my father taught me when I was five was “It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, what matters is how you play the game.”  

What are the odds against us? It all depends on how we play it. If we tone down the rhetoric and discuss calmly and soberly, the odds in our favor are excellent. If we continue the current raucous and insane behavior, we have to pray for divine intervention, it becomes our best hope.

Best to all,

Bill

How Can One Say That There Is Good in Everyone?

Created March 4, 2022

Welcome to this week’s Bill Harvey blog.

Each of us is, at the core, a consciousness. My hypothesis is that at point of origin, consciousness is interested in the flow of its own experiences. It has no interest in destruction. It would be logical to say that at this point in its career, it is good.

Everyday we meet people – including ourselves – in whom it is easy to see that some aspects are not so good. We hope that we are all working our way back, with effort, to our original goodness, to the purity of our unique nature experiment.

Evil, in my worldview, is error.

This is not a new thought. The word “sin” in Hebrew derives from the idea of “missing the mark”.

We all make mistakes, and learn even more from them, than from the experiences where we did not make mistakes.

This cosmic process constantly brings us back toward our original goodness, to the pure selfness within each of us.

The Bibles, all three of them including the Quran, explain the sins of the world as being the consequence of the Noble Experiment, the giving of free will to inexperienced creatures.

The argument between the existence of real free will vs. the mechanistic determinism of the universe gets hung up when God’s omniscience runs up against true free will. “Well, if God already knows what I’m going to do, how can you say I have free will?” 

I have never heard an answer to that which I liked, until this one came to me. The First Self of which everything else in existence is an avatar, knows in advance all of the different paths that you can take in every instant, and delights in being surprised at seeing which one you did choose, whether it pinned the needle or missed the mark, and if so, by how far.

It would be awfully boring for any God to never be able to enjoy surprise. And by definition, the Absolute has no limitations, and so God must be capable of being surprised, by choosing to set up the game the way SheHe did.

You can say anything you like about this world, but the least plausible thing you could say is that it’s boring.

So, each of us accumulates certain dings in our consciousness and that leads us down this path instead of that one. As we gain experience if we are lucky, we start to see how it all works, process out the dings, and become menschen.

Even Putin is in this process right now. No question that he is one of the most dinged-up we know. But still with a more than zero possibility for fixing himself.

If he feels the hot breath of axe-wielding murderers around him – how could he not, KGB was famous for use of that weapon – he probably right now has a higher chance of going straight than he has had since he was a teenager holding hands with his first girlfriend Elena.

Not saying it’s the outcome to bet on in Earth Roulette. Lower probability but not zero. And higher than it was before he stubbed his toe on the Ukraine. Because now there is real risk that his cronies may see this as their chance to become supreme leaders themselves, even more privileged and rewarded than they have been as henchmen. That is the first circle of danger around Vlad.

So, what scenarios could his mind be thinking?

My friend from junior high school through college and to this day, John Chico, and I used to play board games. Sometimes when I was winning, he would flip up the board and the pieces would go flying.

Putin might have decided that having mutual assured destruction might not be satisfying. It might feel good in terms of getting even with all of us, but then slowly dying of radiation poisoning would leave a lot to be desired.

Being (when his mind is clear) a realist and a pragmatist, he might have already realized that there are innumerable scenarios in which he could reset the game back to where it was a week ago. Or even further back to before détente started to erode.

He’s extremely unlikely to do the following, but it would be the best way out: he could man up to it and admit it was a mistake.

The most sophisticated analysts are writing now about “finding Putin an offramp”.

I say, Vlad, show your best stuff, admit you are capable of making a mistake, and man enough to fess up to it.

I don’t presume to write a script for you, but you could say that you have for a long time been thinking about it all wrong. All you wanted to do – all you still want to do – is to make Russia great again. 

Because of many factors, including years of your life spent in intelligence organizations within a dictatorship, you could only see things one way. 

But now the strength of your own parent culture’s countrymen – the ones you sent into battle and the ones you were attacking – have shown you something you could never see before. They didn’t want to hurt each other. Even though all of them knew that defying you was a really dangerous thing to do, their concern for each other was greater than their own concern for themselves.

You can say – hopefully it is true – that this opened your heart and opened your mind to new ways of looking at things.

You can still make Russia great – first of all, it already is great, what could be more inspiring and noble and great than the stand the Ukrainians are taking – and by uniting peacefully with each other, Russia can take its place in the world with all the other nations and be appreciated for its contributions.

I can imagine Vlad reading this and saying “But what do we have? Oil and H-bombs. The human race is trying to cut down on those things. If I don’t leverage that, what else do I have?”

I would remind him of the things that made Russia great before. Amazingly resilient passionate people. Dostoevsky, Rachmaninoff, vast natural resources, a thousand other things. The ability to envision big and to build big. Russia can do everything the USA and China can do. I’ve engaged Ukrainian software developers, they rival India’s and America’s. We’ve all witnessed the mischief your cyber scientists are capable of, what if that were turned toward the good? 

Picture Russia with its cousins in the Ukraine and the other states that had been in the USSR re-unified as partners not vassals – their own NATO, their own EU, with each state able to create the system they want, Democracy or Autocracy.

Where do I feel that voluntary organization of peoples that have always been closely tied to one another could make the greatest contribution to the world’s future?

Sputnik is a clue. Russia can be a big part of the leadership in taking us into space, in which every country can participate together. They have been building some of the biggest rockets. Let’s channel those talents into obtaining Earth peoples’ fair share of the resources of the universe, and face the challenges that will bring out our most accelerated scientific and perhaps human development. Let’s all do it together, in unity.

You can’t force people to work together effectively. You can create a context that enables people to work together effectively. We all have to do it together. 

Putin could start to think and talk and be this way and remain the leader in Russia (the reparations would be costly but if he does it in time the final compromise could leave him in power if his buddies and his people still want that) and make Russia great again. Even greater than he was imagining, having a share in the priceless resources of the universe, along with others of all human and inhuman races.

That’s the offramp I would use if I were him.

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In last week’s post, I wrote:

What’s the best positive outcome of the situation?

The hopeful possibility that this will bring all Americans together.”

Watching President Biden’s State of the Union Message, I felt and still feel that this positive outcome is unfolding, in reality. The USA is moving into unity to face a common foe, with the inspiration of watching another nation whose courage reminds us of the roots of our nation, of what each of us holds inside ourself. It’s now time to let that good stuff inside, out.

I also sense more new unity than within the USA, all of the people in the world who yearn to be free – to have as much of that free will stuff as possible – are united with each other through their stand with the Ukraine.

I feel that this week redolent of WWII has been a stark reminder of how thin is the veneer of civilization indeed, how quickly we could snap back into deep darkness, and how much each one of us, in the nugget of central goodness, yearns for peace and freedom and cessation of hatreds and vendettas.

And how willing to die each one of us is, in that center of goodness within us, “so that honor and justice may live.”

I had never thought about it before, but events brought this mirror up to my face: my mother’s parents came from Kyiv (her father) and Odessa (her mother). My father’s parents came from Poland. I’m half Ukrainian in descent, a proud citizen of the USA and of the human race. It feels good.

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The first words of one of the earliest manuscripts on the planet, the Rig Veda, say:

“Assemble, speak together: let your minds be all of one accord.

As ancient Gods unanimous sit down to their appointed share.

The place is common, common the assembly, common the mind, so be their thought united.

One and the same be your resolve and be your minds of one accord.

United be the thoughts of all that may happily agree.”

Rodovoi! (“United” in Russian)

Tongyi! (“United” in Chinese)

My great friend, songwriter Stan Satlin offers us a song.

Love to all,

Bill

Putin’s Test

February 25, 2022

Welcome to this week’s Bill Harvey Blog.

Putin feels very deeply that his Mission is to resurrect the Soviet Union. What he has decided to do is a test. Are the Western democracies as weak as they seem, and will they pull a Chamberlain? The latter gentleman is always remembered for his backing away from a bully.

Cuba all over again. However, figuring the odds as Putin has, he is not in the US backyard, I’m in my own damn backyard, and economic obstructionism is his only risk.

From the West’s point of view, there is a strong inertia for the policy that came out from the end of WWII: contain communism.

These three species of subcultures have always been around, and always will be: Utter Freedom, Considerate Freedom, and Fake Freedom. After all, we are part of God’s experiment with free will.

Under Utter Freedom, as with most of the native American tribes in North America before Columbus, there was a Chief yet if you stayed far enough away from him, you were in effect under no rule at all.

Under Considerate Freedom, there is a very active government that is well-intentioned.

Under Outright Totalitarianism, everyone knows who has the power, and how to stay invisible.

Let’s assume that most Americans would agree that the one of the three choices we all want is Considerate Freedom.

A small minority of Americans might prefer Utter Freedom i.e. anarchy but it’s hard to realistically imagine how a country the size of the USA could cooperate enough to remain militarily strong as an anarchy.

If we want to achieve Considerate Freedom everywhere in the world so that we can all get on with life without the war games of yesteryear, how would we deal with Putin’s Test?

Consider:

Some Ukrainians want to move closer to the West (this is using the normative taxonomy – reflecting a bias to consider Russia NOT part of Europe which goes back millennia). Some Ukrainians feel closer to Rus (the original name of the enormous landmass between what we call Europe and India/China).

In Rus, the leader feels so strongly about Russia regaining a former greatness, and the people feel so strongly about the threat of falling out of step, that they will follow the leader into a path which could literally mean the end of the world.

They are all figuring the odds and until the first nuke is tossed they hope it can all be walked back with blarney no one will question anymore since anything goes now in the way of public statements.

Realistically, the West will wage economic war but will not want to be the first to put the torch to the kindling. Not until an inch of NATO soil is touched, at which point, head for the hills.

The comparison with Chamberlain will be answered with “This has always been part of Russia, what business is it of ours.”

It’s all a balancing act.

People will say, “If people want out of the Ukraine, they should move West and we should welcome them in.” Why not? More people will move to Considerate Freedom from Total Totalitarianism the longer we can keep the game going without flameout.

What’s the best positive outcome of the situation?

The hopeful possibility that this will bring all Americans together.

The need to be externally strong does not permit of internal squabbling and separation. We should naturally unite and forget trivial differences when faced with a common threat several orders of magnitude larger. That would be the sane response.

If we do not unite internally we will morally forfeit the leadership of the world we’ve had for three quarters of a Century.

The outcome is still up in the air. Economic sanctions will follow first. We will see what they accomplish. Completely excluding countries that practice aggression from the benefits of world trade and cooperation may take a long time to fully work. Such methods may never have worked before but that’s where creativity can come in.

We will hear about the awful treatment of Ukrainians at the hands of Russian soldiers and our blood will boil.

But we cannot put out violence with violence. We cannot end hatred with hate. Escalation reached its natural limit in 1945 when atomic weapons were first used and their implications immediately understood.

Creativity and consideration are the only tools which will get us to the promised land here on Earth. We had a chance to go that way when Joe Biden took office. But instead our leaders fought each other and fell back into the predictable old ways of warnings and threats to other world leaders.

How long will it take for the human race to outgrow violence and childish thinking?

Mr. Putin has just turned the clock back a hundred years.

Obviously we cannot think of ending the arms race at the present moment. We must continue to carry the big stick. But we can at least speak in the soft voice. It will be a start to walking back this test of our skills.

The alternative ways of being have all been proven bankrupt. What is left to us is creative diplomacy and military readiness.

Best to all,

Bill