>The Paradox of The Victorious


>The Battle for Recognition part 2

In my previous writing on the Battle for Recognition, posted August 11, I argued that all conflict stems from a single root, that we all want to be recognized as at least equal to but usually greater than those around us. I also stated that this creates some difficulty when the victor realizes he has either killed or otherwise diminished his foe to the point that no one is left to give him the recognition he fought so hard for. I called this The Paradox of The Victorious and it is that which I would like to explore further here.

I’ve spent the last couple of posts talking about Thymos, the Greek word for spiritedness, and concluded that while Isothymia or equality is a fine ideal our human nature drives us to Megalothymia or a feeling of superiority. I owe much of this thinking to sociologist Francis Fukuyama who in his book The End of History and the Last Man stated that “Man was from the start a social being; his own sense of self worth and identity is intimately connected with the value that other people place on him.”

But when one group has defeated and oppressed another any kind of value received from the vanquish foe is lessened because the vanquished are less human in the sight of the victor. In economic terms if one person has more wealth than another, their recognition of superiority gives no satisfaction because there is no equality to begin with.

So what is the victor to do?

History has shown us two ways in which winners continue to prop up their self worth long after they have already won. They either continue to look for more worthy opponents until they are ultimately defeated like Napoleon or they reach a point where they know they cannot continue to win and instead build walls around themselves and treat the outside world with contempt like Saddam Hussein. On a more local level the Napoleons of our world could be the Wall Street financers who continue climbing the ladder, leveraging themselves and their clients beyond all reason until they collapse into bankruptcy while the Saddam Husseins of our world could be the abusive men who terrorize their families behind closed doors.

On the international stage of humanitarian aid westerners must be aware of these tendencies. In the battle for recognition we’ve already won. We live in the most advanced society on earth, our economic wealth is unsurpassed. But when we move into the developing world to offer our help, be it specific expertise or simply an economic hand, we must be careful not to become like Napoleons or Saddam Husseins. We cannot ride in on a white horse proclaiming to save the world and we cannot build walls.

We must never forget that the very people we are trying to help are also fighting the battle for recognition and we cannot do anything that will make them feel diminished in any way. Otherwise their own megalotymic instincts will drive them to view us as invaders and ultimately prolong the suffering. One of the greatest criticisms of Humanitarian Aid is that the workers do not take enough time to study and understand the local environment.

For a resent example of how societies continue to build walls around themselves check out the following link from Human Rights Watch.

http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/08/25/honduras-rights-report-shows-need-increased-international-pressure?cid=004&tr=y&auid=5273477

>Winner-Take-All?


>The Third Way of the Thymos part 2

One of the most common criticisms of isothymia and the spread of liberal democracy is that it is homogenizing culture and stifling creativity. When the notion of all men being created equal proceeds to its natural conclusion not only are we all treated as equal but we will also all start to look the same, sound the same and act the same. When the lines between cultures get blurred there is no motivation to be unique and creativity ceases.

Liberal Democracy owes much of its existence to isothymotic passions but as Francis Fukuyama noted in, The End of History and the Last Man “If tomorrow’s isothymotic passions try to outlaw differences between the ugly and the beautiful, or pretend the person with no legs is not just the spiritual but the physical equal of someone whole in body, then the argument will in the fullness of time become self refuting, just as communism was.”

It is my assertion that Liberal Democracy has already gone too far. Our society is fraught with resentment toward those who work hard and achieve something great. We say to doctors who have spent a decade in school and borrowed heavily to finance their education that they or the entrepreneur who risked everything on an idea do not deserve to earn more than anyone else. It takes a healthy dose of megalothymia to be willing to stay in school for years after your classmates have gone to work or to forgo a comfortable life while you plough every dollar you earn back into an idea with no immediate payback.

On the other hand globalization has given corporations the ability to look at the whole world as one giant market and fostered a Winner-Take-All attitude that is further increasing the gaps between rich and poor.

The human tendency to make sure our own needs are covered before looking at our neighbour’s needs is far from isothymia. At best it is self preservation which stems from the idea that I am more important that you. The Third Way of the Thymos recognizes the human desire to be greater and encourages it because it also recognizes that a rising tide floats all boats. But what about the other great criticism of globalization and liberal democracy; as the economy expands what then happens to those people who have no boat?

A democratic system is by definition equal but individuals are by nature self promoters. To put it another way, we need a system that encourages individual megalothymia while maintaining a corporate isothymia. After all, it is the ambitious individual who contributes the most to rising economic standards and in turn makes possible, through employment and taxation, the creation of a social safety net. Benjamin Freidman made this clear in his book “The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth” by examining how expanding economies encourage the liberalizing of politics and stagnant or recessionary economies result in the closure of social programs and ultimately the oppression of weaker individuals. In the United States, the civil rights movement of the 1960s would not have been possible had it not coincided with a long period of sustained economic growth.

So where does that leave us? How then do we balance our individual drive to be greater with our group desires for equality? Not just on a local or national scale but also how does this influence foreign policy? How do we respond to corporations that exploit foreign workers? How indeed do we define exploitation when what we in North America would consider slave labour is seen as a good wage in other locations? These are all questions that continue to haunt me and will no doubt result in further postings.

>No Kings!


>The Third Way of the Thymos

In those days Israel had no king, everyone did as he saw fit – Judges 21:25 (NIV)

The story of the people of Israel as told in the book of Judges is a story of a society not unlike our own. It was a society that was based on a rule of law; this was after all the people who brought us the 10 commandments, but lacking in a strong central government. This lack of government eventually caused the society to collapse in on itself and gave rise to an oppressive monarchy.

Today “rulers” have been replaced by prime ministers and presidents that are servants of the people, thus weakening central government authority.

At first glance this may sound like a good thing but all too often a week central government becomes servant to special interests or puppets of the rich and powerful. They are forced to walk a tight rope between interests of the free market economy and social ideals. They cannot enact laws that will offend either of these groups for fear of upsetting the general population or worse, upsetting the capital markets and sending their economies into a tailspin. The rule of law alone still leaves far too much open to interpretation by the legal profession and manipulation by special interest groups. So we end up like the early Israelites, without a king, and everyone doing as he sees fit.

The rise of liberal democracy has made it impossible to live in a class based society. All men are created equal after all. But the idea that all men are created equal also means that no one is better equipped to make the rules than anyone else and everyone can question authority.

When we recognize that all men are created equal we are recognizing that everyone is human and all have the same spirit. The ancient Greeks had a word for this; they called it the Thymos which is loosely translated as Spiritedness. Francis Fukuyama, in his book The End of History and The Last Man spent a great deal of time exploring thymos and how it has related to political structure. Thymos manifests itself in our society as either Megalothymos, the desire to be seen as greater than the rest or Isothymos, the desire for equality.

Fukuyama theorizes that all of history has been leading up to a moment when all societies will adopt liberal democracy and the world as a whole will reach a state of Isothymia. He calls this The End of History because the need for major world-shaping events like wars and treaties will no longer exist and history itself will cease to be interesting. The Last Man at the end of history is the one man left who has been living with a megalothymos and finally recognizes the equality of all.

However; I disagree with Fukuyama’s assessment of history and where it is leading us. Despite all our best efforts society is nowhere near a state of isothymia or complete equality and I do not believe that there will ever come a day when megalothymia will be vanquished. In fact I believe that our liberal democratic society is schizophrenic at best, more likely hypocritical or even deliberately deceiving us. On the one hand we claim to be striving for equality through social welfare programs, universal health care and free education while on the other hand we are encouraging and celebrating megalothymia, rewarding those in business or sports who achieve great things.

This is not really a bad thing. Where would the world be without Bill Gates or Michael Jordan?

True isothymia stifles creativity by limiting its rewards. Marxist communism was very isothymic; Lenin turned it into a megalothymic power play. Total megalothymia oppresses those without the will or ability to fight back. We need a third way. Over the next few posts I intend to expand upon what I am calling, for lack of a better phrase, The Third Way of the Thymos. This is a new way of looking at the world that still rewards megalothymia and recognizes the sameness and potential for equality in all people.

>Gutenberg, Luther and the Literate Masses


>On the headquarters building of the Toronto Sun newspaper, there is painting depicting the first printing press made by Johannes Gutenberg circa 1450. The message they are trying to portray is simple; “we owe it all to this machine.”

Gutenberg’s mechanical printing press was the first machine in Europe that used movable type to reproduce books, newspapers, and all manner of printed material. The use of movable type was a vast improvement in both quality and speed over the previously used methods of publishing; woodblock printing or handwriting. Use of Gutenberg’s printing press spread rapidly throughout Europe and is attributed by historians as the key technological advancement of the European Renaissance and Enlightenment period. Suddenly it became practical to reproduce and widely distribute written material.

With access to increasing amounts of printed material came the need for education and literacy. Before Gutenberg literacy was reserved for the upper classes of society, nobility, aristocracy and clergy. It was very easy for these upper classes to have their way with the illiterate underclass by pointing to a higher power that had written down instructions. Whether it be the king who had instructed an official to collect taxes or God who spoke through the local priest, all the educated had to say was “it is written” and the illiterate individual had no recourse.

Slowly the peasants learned to read and what they found didn’t always match up with what the educated were saying. Corrupt tax collectors were exposed, simple minded priests were questioned and within a few decades Martin Luther arrived on the scene and challenged one of the greatest abuses of power by the educated in history; the selling of indulgences.

In the early 1500s The Pope dispatched officials from the Vatican throughout the world to take payment from parishioners as restitution for sin. The money was ostensibly used to build St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome but much of it also found its’ way into the pockets of the Vatican envoys and local priest. The official teaching of the church at the time was that faith alone could not justify man and that in order to receive absolution from sin you must also purchase it. Luther, a theological professor at the University of Wittenberg, knew that there was no justification for this in scripture and believed that the practise exploited the poor. His 95 Point Thesis was a scholarly dissertation on this abuse of power that eventually got him excommunicated.

The thesis was quickly translated into German, French, Dutch and English copied and distributed throughout Europe. Luther continued to write challenges to the church and is credited with the first German translation of the bible. All thanks to Gutenberg and the burgeoning literacy that he helped to start.

Where am I going with this? It’s simple, when people can read they begin to think. When literate masses are able to read rather than just be told what is written they can challenge all manner of corruption and oppressive authority. What began with Luther soon spread throughout Europe and absolute authority has never been the same. Two hundred years later in both France and the Americas peasants demanded equal rights and representation based on many of the same principles Luther first laid out in the 95 point thesis.

Like the excommunication of Luther many regimes have tried to control literacy by arresting authors and banning their writings. It took 200 years for peasants in France and America to gain enough knowledge and strength to stand up to their kings but as technology advances information moves faster and it is becoming harder and harder for authorities to prevent it’s spread. Literacy has toppled Monarchies, Colonialism and the Berlin Wall. It has freed Nelson Mandela and caused thousands of students to stage a sit-in at Tiananmen Square. I believe that in the future literacy will overthrow Chinese communism, the Ayatollah and African warlords.

We learned nearly 600 years ago that literacy is the first building block in developing societies. The lessons continue today in regions of the world were education is restricted by religious and political leaders (as in most of the Muslim world) and the free flow of information through internet service providers is blocked (China). Just last week Afghan President, Hamid Karzai upheld a law restricting access to education for girls and in my own country (Canada) the Indian Affairs Ministry has been struggling to find ways to ensure that impoverished native communities have standards of education that are equal to the rest of the country.

Further Info

Afghanistan: Law Curbing Women’s Rights Takes Effect; Human Rights Watch, Aug 13 2009

Fixing The Native Economy – Macleans Aug 11 2009

>The Battle for Recognition – Part 1


>Standing up for Human Rights and Spreading Justice

Introduction

In my previous writing, peace statement I started off with the thesis; Peace without Justice is Oppression. That study and research has led me down and continually widening and branching rabbit hole of Politics, Economics and Philosophy. Recently my research has once again galvanized around a recurrent theme, that of personal recognition, as the basis of Justice.

Human society began a rapid transformation from authoritarian, totalitarian, top down regimes toward liberal democracy during what is commonly known as the enlightenment period of the 17th and 18th century. Over the past 400 years liberal democracy has emerged as the most stable and fair form of government the world over but this transformation has not been smooth. In most cases the old guard has not given up power easily.

The search for justice starts as a battle for recognition, an often bloody battle at that, where one person or group stands up to another saying; “I am Human too, show me some respect, recognize my humanity, I deserve the same rights as you!” How the powerful or favoured respond to that statement is all too obvious from even a cursory walk through history. It has led to, prolonged oppression, war and injustice.

The thesis which I intend to expand upon over the next little while is that; Justice lives when people recognize one another’s humanity.

Cain and Abel – The first Battle for Recognition

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. 4 But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” 8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” [d] And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Genesis 4: 2b-8.

Bloody battles for recognition have been a part of human history from the very beginning. As we see in this early story from the Bible Cain is searching for recognition both from God and his brother when he doesn’t get it he kills the one person who he perceives is standing in his way. The problem is that Cain still does not the recognition he so craves. Instead God threw him off the land and condemned him to life of hard labour. With God still not recognizing Cain and Abel gone there was no one left.

This is the dual paradox of the victorious; God is not interested in our petty jockeying for position and if I am victorious in a battle my fellow man is either dead or somehow less human in my site and therefore his recognition is meaningless.

In times of war, you often hear leaders – Christian, Jewish and Muslim – saying, ‘God is on our side’. But that isn’t true. In war, God is on the side of the refugees, widows and orphans. Greg Mortenson “Three Cups of Tea”.

Anthropologists and Sociologist agree that and Man is the only creature on earth that will risk his life for the recognition of other men. At some point during this battle he either loses his life or his need for self-preservation takes over and he becomes the subordinate of the other. Some will argue that some animals such as mountain goats and wolves also display this tendency. But the existence of the alpha male in the animal kingdom has nothing to do with prestige and everything to do with the strongest gaining access to the best food and mates. No mountain goat will continue to challenge the alpha to the point of death.

In human culture; this has been the origin of the master and slave relationship, monarchy, imperialism, and authoritarian/totalitarian regimes. Victory is hollow when receiving recognition from a vanquished foe. The human desire is to continue to find a more worthy adversary. Thus giving rise to ever expanding territorial wars that are the norm of history from ancient Rome to the Hapsburgs of Austria the Ottoman Empire, British and French Colonial Imperialism and the USSR in more modern times, to name a few.

It was not until oppressed people that were the foundations of these powers gained enough strength, through the enlightenment that these regimes began to crumble from the inside. Beginning in France and the USA, in the 18th century peasants started to demand equality and representation from their oppressors.

What was the enlightenment, how did it effect the development of liberal democracy and how is it continuing today in the developing world? Those are the questions that I will address in upcoming posts.

>My Peace Statement


>Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they will be called Sons of God.
Matthew 5:9 (TNIV)

Here we go. My first real blog entry…

Through the reading of Naomi Klein’s book “The Shock Doctrine”; one of the things that kept coming back to me is a phrase that I coined about 10 years ago while sitting in church and listening to a sermon on peacemaking just after Remembrance Day.

Peace without Justice is Oppression

I grew up Mennonite and was baptised into the community of Nairn Mennonite Church, just north of London ON at the age of 17. Since the very beginning the Mennonite Church has officially declared itself to be a Peace Church. But when you make a declaration like that what you are really saying is that I want to protect Justice, otherwise you’re just ignoring and oppressing people with dissenting views. Peace is not simply the absence of war; it is the presence of justice and the absence of oppression.

Oppression does not have to be overt. I can be very subtle. If we aren’t careful majority rule or democracy in general can become distorted and look more like – biggest guns rule, elite rule, wealthy rule, or educated rule.

We in the wealthy West, or more accurately the North West are often times inadvertently waging a war of oppression on the developing regions of the world, mostly to the South and East of us. Over the past 30 years, and most rapidly since the fall of the Berlin Wall, governments, corporations and wealthy individuals have exploited the poor and uneducated in the developing world for their own gain. They have extracted natural resources and caused unprecedented damage to the environment, corrupted and interfered in local government affairs and generally ignored human rights all in the name of profit.

What are the oppressed people of the world to do? They do not have the resources to stand up to us economically, nor do they have the education or skills that are useful to the world wide economy, so they strike back in the only way they can. The world wide drive to globalization and homogenization of cultures through the economic domination of the North West has given rise to terrorism.

One of the things I have learned while exploring this Rabbit Hole is that we cannot continue to fight terrorism with guns. Greg Mortensen – founder of the Central Asia Institute and the chief driving force behind the building of over 50 schools in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan, which equally educate both boys and girls – has said as much to the US congress and the Pentagon in recent years. The war on terror should be fought with books, not bombs.

This has been a recurrent theme in all of my research to date. When we give the poor access to knowledge we can bring them into fuller participation in the global economy and help to greatly reduce terrorism and increase security. How we do that is the subject of further research and will no doubt pop up again in future entries.

Stay Tuned!

Recommended Reading “Three Cups of Tea; One Mans Mission to Promote Peace, One School at a Time” – Greg Mortensen and David Oliver Relin

>My Resume


>Mr. Lauren Christopher Sheil

Phone: 289-232-0270
Cellular: 416-768-0270
Email: woodsheil@rogers.com
64-333 Meadows Blvd.
Mississauga, Ontario L4Z 1G9

General Qualifications and Skills

Entrepreneurial- I started my first business at the age of 10, and have viewed every position since with a business owner’s eye.

Sales and profit driven- As a salesman and entrepreneur at various points in my career I have developed a keen understanding of the importance of both the top and bottom lines on the balance sheet.

Customer Service Minded- Building long term customer relationships is the key to maintaining and expanding any business.

Hard Working- From a very young age I learned to work until the job is done and done right. When required; come in early, stay late and don’t complain.

Adaptable- I strongly believe that the salesman or customer representative in any business should be flexible and knowledgeable enough to step in and complete any basic operational task on behalf of the customer.

Professional Experience

April 1999 to Sales Manager / Artist Relations
Present Indie Pool (Canada) Inc.
Toronto, Ontario CANADA

May 1997 to Customer Service Representative
October 2000 Oracle, The Assistance Group
London, Ontario CANADA

January 1995 to Owner / Partner
March 1999 Art-Tec Productions Inc.
St. Thomas, Ontario CANADA

May 1995 to Studio Operations / Recording Engineer
November 1994 Trans World Radio Inc.
Vienna, AUSTRIA

August 1992 to Staging Technician
May 1993 Motivational Media Assemblies Inc.
Calgary, Alberta CANADA

In addition to the formal work experience listed here I also worked my way through much of my childhood and High School by starting and managing a 25 head rabbit farm. Starting at the age of 10, with the help of my father, I cared for the animals’ health and hygiene and ran a breeding program for meat production. Within 2 years my father’s involvement was no longer necessary.

During this time my animals were consistently recognized with the highest possible health and food safety rating by the provincial meat inspector.

Volunteer Experience

September 2000 to Board of Directors
June 2002 Southdale Chaplaincy
London, Ontario CANADA

September 2008 to Home Church Elder
Present Ginger Downs Home Church (The Meeting House)
Mississauga, Ontario CANADA

Education
September 1991 to Audio Recording Engineer
June 1992 Vocational Certification
Ontario Institute of Audio Recording Technology
London, Ontario CANADA

September 1986 to Ontario Academic Certificate (OAC)
June 1991 High School Diploma
North Middlesex District High School
Parkhill, Ontario CANADA

>Introduction – Down the Rabbit Hole!


>Welcome to my Blog!

About 8 months ago my wife gave me a book that has forever changed my life.

The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein, chronicles the rise of Capitalism and Corporate influence throughout the world since the 1970s. Largely based on the theories of Milton Freidman and the Chicago School of Economics, Klien argues that economic expansion in developing countries has served multi-national corporations at the expense of human rights and built the entire economic structure of the 21st century on a very shaky foundation. The current world-wide economic structures have given rise to terrorism, spread diseases like AIDS and concentrated power not in the world’s capitals but in the world’s capitol.

Reading this book shook something in the very core of my being. At first I couldn’t begin to describe it; was it anger, sadness, frustration, confusion, or all of the above?

What I did know was that I had to learn more and the more I researched and studied the more I learned how much I didn’t know.

Studying how the world really works, from the point of view of economics, politics, business, technology, development, aid and eduction is like falling into a Rabbit Hole. It’s full of twists, turns and side tracks.

I have no idea how deep the Rabbit Hole is nor do I have any idea where it’s taking me. I might get lost in here for a very long time. So the purpose of this blog is to journal my thoughts, get feed back from anyone who is listening and find my way out again.

What I find on the other side will likely be a whole new way of looking at the world.

Join me – It’ll be fun!