Category Archives: Religion

Catholic Support for War: Another Child Abuse Scandal

On August 14, 2018 a report from a grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania identified 300 Catholic priests across the state who had sexually abused more than 1,000 children. “Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all. For decades,” the grand jury wrote in one of the broadest inquiries into church sex abuse in U.S. history. Five days earlier, on August 9, in northern Yemen, a Saudi-led coalition airstrike hit a school bus with a missile made by Lockheed Martin and supplied to the Saudis by the U.S. government, and 44 children were killed. Just as the horror of abuse of children by priests goes beyond the scope of the report from Pennsylvania, the children traumatized and killed by the U.S. military and its proxies globally number far more than those 44. Only one of these events sparked a crisis and soul-searching both in and out of the Catholic Church, but they both should have.

Some Catholic activists for peace and justice have long lived in a state of crisis with our church and have recognized the scandal of “men of God” who bless and cover for the abuse and murder of innocents through war, economic injustice and institutional racism.

“Over and over again in history the Church has become so corrupt it just cries out to heaven for vengeance,” Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement said in a 1970 interview. “The crisis is something terrific,” she said then, before the problem of sexual abuse of the young was well known. This crisis, she said, was “a result of the corruption in the institutional Church, through money and through their acceptance of the lousy, rotten system.”

A radical even before she became a Catholic in 1927 (“I have said, sometimes flippantly, that the mass of bourgeois smug Christians who denied Christ in His poor made me turn to the Communists, and it was the Communists and working with them that made me turn to God…”) Dorothy never had the “honeymoon” of blind love enjoyed by many new converts and was always conscious of the Church’s flaws and failings. “I was just as much against capitalism and imperialism as ever, and here I was going over to the opposition, because of course the Church was lined up with property, with the wealthy, with the state, with capitalism, with all the forces of reaction,” she wrote in her autobiography, The Long Loneliness. “This I had been taught to think and this I still think to a great extent.”

Even as a new convert, Dorothy deplored “the scandal of businesslike priests, of collective wealth, the lack of a sense of responsibility for the poor, the worker, the Negro, the Mexican, the Filipino, and even the oppression of these, and the consenting to the oppression of them by our industrialist-capitalist order – these made me feel often that priests were more like Cain than Abel.  ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ they seemed to say in respect to the social order…  There was plenty of charity but too little justice. ‘The worst enemies would be those of our own household,’ Christ had warned us.”

While the use of the word “scandal” to describe the Catholic Church is new and painful for many contemporary Catholics, it was constituent to Dorothy Day’s vocabulary: “I loved the Church for Christ made visible, not for itself, because it was so often a scandal to me,” she said. More than once she applied Jesus’ caution that our enemies are “of our own household” to priests and bishops. She confessed that it was these “enemies,” not the Viet Cong, not even the industrial war profiteers and generals, that she found the hardest to love and to forgive as Jesus bade her.

In a 1967 column entitled “In Peace Is My Bitterness Most Bitter” Dorothy wrote about Cardinal Spellman and his support for the war in Vietnam: “But what words are those he spoke — going against even the Pope, calling for victory, total victory? Words are as strong and powerful as bombs, as napalm.” “I can sit in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament and wrestle for that peace in the bitterness of my soul, a bitterness which many Catholics throughout the world feel, and I can find many things in Scripture to console me, to change my heart from hatred to love of enemy.”

In 2002, after growing awareness of clerical abuse of children and twenty two years after Dorothy Day’s death, the priest/activist Father John Dear decried the scandal of the Church’s support of the war in Afghanistan: “Last November, nearly all the U.S. Catholic bishops voted to bless and support the bombing and mass murder of the people of Afghanistan. We know that some 4000 civilians were killed during the first two months of that U.S. war. Hundreds of children were killed by the United States, and the Catholic bishops condoned their murder.” John Dear stated what should be obvious: “Talk about child abuse! The Church cannot condemn child abuse by pedophiles and yet bless the government’s murder of children in its wars, if it wants to be consistent and faithful to Christ.”

Many Catholics are now struggling with the question, “how can I remain in this abusive Church?” In her meditation on Cardinal Spellman, Dorothy Day asked “as to the Church, where else shall we go, except to the Bride of Christ, one flesh with Christ? Though she is a harlot at times, she is our Mother.” Dorothy often quoted theologian Romano Guardini, who said “the Church is the Cross on which Christ is always crucified. One cannot separate Christ from his bloody, painful Church. One must live in a state of permanent dissatisfaction with the Church.”

Long time peacemaker and resister, Father Daniel Berrigan once said “I don’t know a more irreligious attitude, one more utterly bankrupt of any human content, than one which permits children to be destroyed.” In a situation like the present, satisfaction with the Church and its institutions is unnatural, sinful, even, and to view the suffering of children without scandal is inhuman. For too long, the Church has abetted the abuse, exploitation and murder of children. I pray that the rising outrage in the Church over the exploitation of children, and the resolve to protect them, will encompass also the children who are victims of war.

Breaking the Illusion of Power: There Is No Spoon

Do not be misled by what you see around you, or be influenced by what you see. You live in a world which is a playground of illusion, full of false paths, false values and false ideals. But you are not part of that world.

— Sai Baba

The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance – it is the illusion of knowledge.

— Daniel Boorstin

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

— Buckminster Fuller

Do not try to bend the spoon, that is impossible. Instead try to understand the truth…There is no spoon. Then you’ll see it’s not the spoon that bends, only yourself.

— Spoon Boy, The Matrix

At the height of empire a boundless stream of lies are told through euphemistic abstractions.  These abstractions are but illusion, they obscure perceptions by never directly dealing with the actual physical reality. Instead an interface is placed over the existing reality for purposes of control.

How often does one hear from corporate news sources about trying to build more homes or grow more food so there are no more homeless or hungry? Almost never, because there is already enough of both food and housing for all in the US, but what there is not enough of is the abstraction of money and that is what corporate news speaks of the most. The one thing we can create an infinite amount of is somehow the one thing we don’t have enough of so the people can have access to housing and food that already exist.

These abstractions are designed with the intent to flummox the people and hold them in place with abstract coercions that intend to create dependence and learned helplessness. We are told the automobiles that kill the environment and weapons designed to kill people are abstractions for freedom. We’re told a government that leads the world in mass incarceration is also an abstraction of preventing tyranny and providing security, democracy, and justice. Organized religion in the US is worth around $1.2 trillion a year, more money than Google and Apple combined, and is an abstraction of spirituality, community, and giving while never making a dent in any social problem.

Science has become an abstraction of wisdom, progress, and reason while evidently receiving their spiritual center from the aforementioned shoddy organized religion, as they continue to ignore harm they cause in favor of ostensible discovery, but what they are really discovering is how a corporation can concoct something that makes more money. Social media and likes become an abstraction for relationships, validation, and human connection. And most insidious of all money is an abstraction of self worth, material possessions, privilege, power, success, and labor.  Our virtual reality is complete sans the clunky head gear.

The illusion is created via layers of interfaces stacked on top of each other, similar to the creation of art which is made by adding layers of meaning through a chosen medium until the aggregate of the layers become a gestalt, or something more than its individual pieces. Such is the way the illusion is created for the people, which is intended to hold them in place.  They see only the gestalt and cannot understand the underlying truth around the world of false narratives elites have weaved over thousands of years of ownership and domination culture in western society.

The abstractions are man-made interfaces created by those in power to drive people towards predetermined outcomes. Abstractions are the propaganda by which we live our lives. They are not real, but the imposition of these abstractions forces us down the same illusory paths as they gaslight our waking reality.

Notice again, how nothing in American society is done directly, like when one needs medical care instead of going directly to a doctor they typically first get insurance so one can afford a doctor and are given doctors on a pre-approved list, along with only being approved for select treatments by said insurance. A certain crowd of people talk all day about the horrors of government getting in between them and their doctor, yet in America, predatory capitalism is a perfectly acceptable guest in their doctor’s office, as they assume that no one in the history of time has ever tried to sell people things they didn’t need or price gouge them for things they absolutely do need.

Or in the food situation, we don’t typically grow food directly. We instead go to miserable jobs to get the money to buy the food. Or when we don’t have a place to live, we don’t typically build a house ourselves, not that most people have time to build a house since, you know, we’re stuck at those miserable capitalist jobs so we can afford to eat. And we can’t afford to buy a home either because the miserable capitalist job doesn’t pay enough, and so it goes down the line of needs. A list of expenses that the capitalist jobs are supposed to be able to cover but they don’t. Just about everyone in the lower classes finds themselves in debt and working more hours to end up owing someone else money to live.

The system is as maddeningly irrational as it is cruel. A Sisyphean system that is seemingly inescapable where significantly more debt exists than money to pay off the debt. Now I say irrational only in relation to 99.99% of people on the planet, as it’s a perfectly rational position for lost souls at the top of the hierarchy who are ensconced in the throes of capitalist egomania.

Everyday in modernity people say things like “Well, you need money to live.” – Such utterances are said with an absolute certainty like the money could be consumed for nourishment with a nice chianti and some fava beans. To believe in money to such a degree is a delusionary psychopathy; a diseased state of being, which accepts artificial precepts as a primary necessity for survival. The reality is the money is only a tool for control by power. It’s the neo-whip.

Anyone that has a child knows they can control quite a bit of behavior by limiting their child’s access to funds and controlling what they can spend their funds on, or by altering what the child desires by what they are exposed to. Parents routinely reward certain behaviors to get the outcomes they seek, and you often see parents using their kids like indentured servants forcing them to do work for an allowance or just to be able to socialize with other kids.

Similarly the people are treated like children by a wealthy elite parent class. Most people have little interest in capitalist machinations, evidenced by the fact a whopping 80% of Americans are unhappy with their role as servant, that would be a hundred percent if they understood what kind of world is possible compared to what we are settling for. Very few have an interest in continuing to use oil, but if you can make people desperate enough to pay rent then they’ll go out on an oil rig and drill baby drill, just as they have little interest in war but through desperation they’ll kill baby kill.

The illusion is this system, the man behind the curtain; elites are playing a game and then pretending like their capitalist system is a natural order, like it was ever something democratically chosen. But Arthur Young long ago laid down the basic premise for the necessity of the illusions in capitalism when he said, “Every one but an idiot knows that the lower classes must be kept poor, or they will never be industrious.”  Or in other words, the illusion of scarcity must be thrust upon them or they’ll never show up at the bullshit jobs.

The wars give the illusion like America cares for the safety of the people to the degree the government will aggressively pursue signing up desperate naive teenagers with much life to live and put them in harm’s way to keep us “safe.” It’s not clear what kind of safety is offered to people by a society that throws its youth into traumatic situations so a bunch of old rich codgers can make more money. This form of safety seems like a good recipe to provoke hatred against us and is the antithesis of fostering a peaceful cooperative world.

The edifices of our society are colored and detailed with nebulous misapprehensions, most nebulous of all is universal fiat currency, and everywhere it traverses empire is created without the need for firing a shot. It forces action via coercion and puts people into roles they wouldn’t do otherwise.

The ruling class likes to shame those they lord over for not working hard while ironically they do little else other than signing documents. They like to claim it’s then a profitable skill they should be rewarded for greatly to manage the complex rigged system they created for their benefit with their lawyers, contracts, corporations, loans, government institutions, courts, weapons, threats, and coercions. A capitalist’s claim to money usually rests on how they learned how to exploit you better and with less compassion. It truly takes someone that cares very little for anything but themselves to hoard power in such a tyrannical manner and then consistently try and rationalize their system as a benefit to all.

If there was real symbiosis in our society no one would have to be forced to do anything because the benefit of the actions would have equal benefit for all. But the creation of most things in capitalism is for the financial benefit of a small oligarchy and hence the people often have little interest in contributing to helping elites since most of the benefit goes to those who are already rich and powerful.

The money is such a perfect tool because it’s so easy to manipulate and it’s more surreptitious in disguising its intents than ordering someone around with a gun. If the masses became wealthy enough where they have better options, and thus refuse to work down in a mine shaft, then this is when the money is tightened by the ruling class. And all you have to do to restrict money flow is give out less loans at banks, or raise rents by increasing interest rates and suddenly you put a pinch on the common man. Add in property taxes so their home, typically their primary investment, can be taken from them at any time if they can’t cough up those taxes, and thus they’ll scramble to take those jobs.

If a ruler is going to adequately hold brutal reign over people, as all leaders do in some form, they must coerce, divide, and manipulate people to get them to do the things they want. And when those things are directly opposed to the held values of a person you then have to frame the action under an acceptable premise. Blinders must be placed on the human animal so that it continues to drag the emperor’s plow and carriage.

There is a sticky social glue that holds the fabric of reality together and it is based on nothing more than a perception and what we collectively believe. The contemporary state of our self-abusing beliefs says we have to wait for a president’s term to end before we can think about making desperately needed changes to this society and change the way we are living. Our held beliefs that capitalism offers some kind of fundamental liberty is an impediment to the freedom of the entire global population, because capitalism has always been a tool of control formulated by elites to rig the game in their favor. The people will not be free under any system where there is a centralized power, and continuing to pretend capitalism is anything but exploitation is to never realize the nature of the trap. But this is not to assume a centralized state run communism structure is any better. It is the opposite side of the authoritarian coin, a double bind coercion. They give you bad cop/worse cop options, China or America, blech and blech.

This way of being was never decided on by a vote of the people, there was never an alternative option. We were simply forced into this state, often violently so. We seem to have no recollection that indigenous Native American people lived prosperously for hundreds of years without much of a mercantile system, no stock markets, no lawyers, no mass incarceration system, no weapons of mass destruction, no corporations – And yet somehow, somehow, the majority of them managed to find meaning, community, and purpose in life.

In truth we cannot be free of illusions manifested in the material until we free our minds of what lies exist in the realm of thought and the false values we live our lives by; the shame, punishment, domination, and ownership installed in dogmatic systems of control have to go. There’s a lyric from Florence and the Machine that goes “It’s hard to dance with the devil on your back, so shake him off.” We cannot be free, we cannot dance in the sun, we cannot do anything until enough of us see past these illusions to create a new reality.

And to create this new reality, we must get right in our minds. Take care of our bodies, take care of each other, take care of our state of consciousness. Get strong in the mind. Do no harm to others, be humble and learn from all. Tried and true paths of reaching greater enlightenment often include meditation, walks in nature, learning how to breathe, doing an internet search for Terence McKenna, and a little help from psychedelics if you have the means. Know that your courage will be tested at every moment, and awareness will frustratingly leave you when you feel like you need it the most.

Breathe through that shit.

Face what you are afraid to face in your mind and your mind will be set ablaze, your spirit will flow, your body will beat with new rhythms, and just like that you’ll get it. And all that depression, all that violent negative shit you masochistically torture yourself with upstairs will fall away like magic. Alakazam!

If you should choose then to let go of desire, to let the world come to you, to accept, to forgive, to turn the other cheek, to have gratitude in the moment, well, then you might find yourself feeling like a god amongst common people. But then you come to learn you are equal to all, even to the smallest and most fragile, and you are just in a different place than them, different positions on a path. One may learn to the benefit of all, to always error towards humility, to work to help those who face the same struggles you have in ways that actually help them and are not colored with the shadow of selfish intent. These are truths beyond illusion.

The gaslighting must be unraveled before the shame and punishment systems truly come crumbling to the ground. To break the illusion we must at every moment hold in the forefront of our minds that this is but a chosen system elites have put us in and it does not have to be this way. Things can change quickly if we can find a new spell to cast, one we choose together instead of one chosen for us by a select few who hold illegitimate power.

Always remember, the centralized economic systems, the politicians, the corporations, the banks, and the organized religions are all tools of control in a social hierarchy. These tools of control are put there intentionally to curve your decision making to do what they want you to do, which is make them more powerful. These elites have quite the arrogance to suggest they know better than you, than philosophers, shamans, ecologists, biologists, climatologists, artists, artisans, the lovers, the dreamers, and me; to put it in amphibian terms.

They believe they know better out of convenience to them because if they know better that means ever so coincidentally they grow more powerful, with more money, more stuff, and better looking people to use sexually. Their success is not symbiotic, though, as their success means the exploitation of everything else in existence so they can just take more for themselves.

Never forget, even when we are forced to operate within this system and they put that saddle on you, do not be broken. To quote Margaret Attwood’s words from The Handmaid’s Tale, “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”

Know the illusion is a game being played with an malevolent intent, and work to bring the underlying truth into the forefront of the conscious mind and the illusion will break. Refuse to be led around by coercions of money or any other control system that attempts to cage humanity or your consciousness while simultaneously wrecking the natural world. The entire earth is now speaking to us in very direct terms, showing us that the way we are living is wrong. Every feedback mechanism screams this way of living is not healthy for body, mind, spirit, flora or fauna. We can change it, but it takes belief in better.

Free your minds. Free the Earth. May it be so.

Using the Burka: Boris Johnson’s Bid for Popularity

Comedy, Boris Johnson, and the Tories – these three share a certain comforting, if chaotic, affinity, lobbed together in some nightmarish union that risks consuming itself.  But times are serious – profoundly so, we are told: Brexit exercises the nerves as if Britannia were a patient about to expire, and there is the cultural irritation posed by those naughty elements who refuse to do the good thing and integrate themselves into the land of her Britannic majesty.

Thus far, Britain has resisted the moves of other states in Europe to impose public bans on such religious coverings as the burka and some of its more expansive cognates.  But there is a prevailing appetite for such measures in a climate suffused with notions of civilisation, irate outsiders and insecure insiders.  France was a pioneer in that regard, initiating a ban in 2004.  In Denmark, rough measures have been implemented punishing those who don such headdress in public spaces.

A perfect chance for Johnson, who remains a smouldering menace to Prime Minister Theresa May, to strike form, even if only to rile critics and keep the blogosphere busy.  “In Britain today there is only a tiny, tiny minority of women who wear these odd bits of headgear,” he noted in his regular Daily Telegraph column last week.  Confidently, he claimed that, “One day, I am sure, they will go.”

His has little time for assuming that women have any choice in the matter.  “If you say that it is weird and bullying to expect women to cover their faces, then I totally agree – and I would add that I can find no scriptural authority for the practice in the Koran.”

Nothing is spared. The whole show is given, and any social or academic nicety is given over to a populist punchiness.  “I would go further and say that it is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes.” But Johnson returns to a traditional stance taken to such articles of wear: they should not be banned. The only resort, then, is to mock.

It becomes clear what this exercise was about.  The burka, and Islamic dress, might well have found themselves objects of pure, unalloyed opportunism for yet another push for recognition from fellow Tories that Johnson remains a relevant contender for high office.  He might have resigned from the front bench in an act of calculated sabotage, but he glows.

The Conservative Party has found itself in a bind.  Something needed to be done, as the current wisdom goes, but what?  An investigation is currently being taken, a fairly pointless exercise that serves to supply valuable oxygen to Johnson’s flame of embellished martyrdom.  Communities and Local Government Secretary James Brokenshire told BBC Breakfast that an investigation into complaints made about Johnson’s comments was taking place and “that’s the right approach”.

If the investigation – being conducted by an individual officer – finds justification for the complaints, an independent panel will be convened (independence being in the eye of the beholders), which might decide to refer Johnson to the party’s board.  From there, the power of expulsion can come into play.

At this stage, these are meaningless hypothetical points, and expelling Johnson will add a few streaks of popularity to him.  If that ever unreliable metric called polling can be drawn upon, Johnson has allies on the score of whether he should receive some form of disciplinary action.  The Sunday Express, noting the findings of its ComRes poll, found 53 percent of respondents did not feel any such action should be taken.

The Muslim Council of Britain has also added to the exercise of giving Johnson form and profile, sending a letter to Prime Minister May that “no-one should be allowed to victimise minorities with impunity.”  The Council was “hopeful” that the Tories “will not allow any whitewashing of this specific inquiry currently in process”.

A few murmurings of support have aired.  That ever reliable period-piece Tory prop and member for North East Somerset Jacob Rees-Mogg is certain that the whole exercise against Johnson – a “show trial” no less – is tactical, a measure to protect May and see off a rival.  There is envy in the leadership at his “many successes, popularity with voters and charisma”.  He speculates: “Could it be that there is a nervousness that a once and probably future leadership contender is becoming too popular and needs to be stopped?”

Another element is the comedy line, suggesting the view that Johnson remains the permanent, immutable joke of British reaction.  To censure Johnson would be to censure a certain type of eccentric, if indecent, Britain.  Rowan Atkinson, the genius behind Mr Bean and a range of comic adaptations, took the freedom-to-joke line in a letter to The Times.  “As a lifelong beneficiary of the freedom to make jokes about religion, I do think that Boris Johnson’s joke about wearers of the burka resembling letterboxes is a pretty good one.”  Pity that it has been a standard one for some time – was Atkinson perhaps referring to Johnson himself, the joke in harness?

It is all well and good to accept the necessary function of comedy to puncture, deflate and generally mock the role of faith, credulous attitudes and the devout. “All jokes about religion cause offence,” says Atkinson accurately, “so it’s pointless apologising for them.”

But Johnson has never been the font of sincerity in that regard, and his effusion was hardly intended as one of pure humour. He wishes to remain politically relevant, and persists sniping through his columns and from the back bench in the hope that he won’t be forgotten.  As Britain leaves its awkward EU marriage, Johnson may well find himself presiding over the ruins of his own handiwork.

1500 Rakan Statues of Mount Nokogiri

People sometimes ask me what religion Japanese people practice.  I usually end up saying that Japanese people aren’t very religious at all.  But paradoxically, if you go to Japan, you encounter huge shrines at tourists’ spots and there are numerous smaller ones across the country in many forms.  You visit a Japanese household, you might also find a shrine, a box shaped prayer spot, called butsudan.

There certainly are indications that Japanese society is bound together, to a certain extent, with beliefs, values and norms deriving from variations of Buddhism and Shintoism.

To me, who grew up in Japan, it is natural to perceive such a traditional framework as a cohesive layer that can be loosely described as sort of “religious”.  It guides traditional ceremonies and rituals of life, death and spiritual, and it contributes to world views of the Japanese people in varying degrees.

However, it should also be noted that this framework really does not address fundamental existential questions for the Japanese people today. In other words, people would go along with the customary rituals as long as they facilitate their social interactions and obligations; however, as soon as they impede their material necessity, they can be set aside. Japanese society is extremely secular and the grip of the socioeconomic hierarchy over its people is very firm.  After all, Japan has played a crucial role as an economic power in the western hegemony for generations after it was incorporated into the order of the American empire.

Our trip to Mount Nokogiri, however, has shown me how the abstract notion of traditional Japan has many layers that are deeply conflicting and it has had tumultuous aspects as we examine it in historical contexts.

Mount Nokogiri is located in Boso Peninsula, Chiba.  As you can see on a map it is relatively close to Tokyo.  My wife and I visited the area once before we had our kids.  I loved seeing rakan statues (stone carved arhat statues) along the path during our hike.  To me they appeared as expressions of lives emanating from the area which had been regarded as sacred for many centuries.

This time, we decided to stay for a couple of nights at a nearby seaside city, Tateyama. The inn we picked had a nice view of the water and hot spring baths.  Since my mother couldn’t take the mountain hike, I wanted her stay to be nice as well.  It was a few rustic train stops away to Mount Nokogiri.

I really liked riding the rural trains in the area.  Going a few hours south from Yachiyo city into the Peninsula made the scenery much greener and it was fascinating to observe a glimpse of country life as we passed fields cultivated with various crops, a house sitting among trees without a discernible way to get there, huge hawks flying over us and the water visibly getting cleaner as we got closer to our destination.

The hike was magnificently wonderful.  It was a bit strenuous for me, with numerous steps. But I’ve never felt a physical exercise to be so refreshing, so invigorating and so satisfying (in fact, it inspired me to start exercising again when I came back to the States).

My son found a Tamamushi (jewel beetle).

 

Nokogiri means saw blade.  The jagged appearance of the mountain stems from its history being a prominent stone quarry.

 

30 meter tall stone carved Buddhist goddess.

 

A Stone observatory called “Hell Peek” sticks out into the air. Terrifying!

 

Mount Nokogiri is also a home for the largest stone carved Buddha in Japan (31 meter tall).

I took many pictures of the small statues as we walked.  If you look at the statues carefully, you will notice that the necks of them have traces of reattachment.  Those statues were all violently destroyed once during the haibutsukishaku movement.  As the rule of the Tokugawa shogun family ended in 1868, the new government, aspiring to be one of the imperial powers of the time, embarked on drastic reforms.  One of them was a separation of Buddhism and Shintoism.  Shintoism was elevated as a national religion while Buddhism was regarded as a part of the old power. There was a strong momentum to see the power of Buddhist entities as an abusive and corrupt part of the past.  The accounts from the time certainly indicate that the deeds of the Buddhist class did reflect such descriptions.  The result was an emergence of a large scale destructive movement across the country against anything Buddhist.  As to Shintoism, it eventually ended up as the backbone of imperial Japan, propping up the Japanese emperor as a living god, prompting a direct collision with the US imperial plan over the hegemonic rule of Asia.  The inhumane momentum of destruction and atrocity took many lives in Asian countries.  In the name of the living god the Japanese colonizers sent young lives as suicide bombers.  The colonizers of the US dropped nuclear bombs on two cities full of people in order to declare its hegemonic superiority against enemies and allies alike.

Today the Buddihist legacy in the Mount Nokogiri area is regarded as a significant cultural asset.  The beautiful trails are well maintained, so are the shrines and statues for many visitors.  It was breathtaking to encounter spectacular views throughout our walk.  The weight of the historical layers also compounded the profound orchestration of the natural elements. The moss covered expressions of the aged statues — sad, tormented, resigned, angered, struggling, peaceful and fulfilled — were voices from the past beautifully sublimated within the harmony of nature and people.

As we were waiting for our bus back home, a man at a tiny local restaurant insisted that we take a look at an underground imperial Japanese fortress in Tateyama.  Although we couldn’t extend our trip for it, according to him, a mile-long tunnel dug during WW2  is something you must not miss if you were in the area.  He also mentioned that the entire Mount Nokogiri was a huge military fortress during the war.  To the imperial Japan, the area, situated at the entrance to Tokyo Bay, was the last defense on the ground protecting Tokyo against the invading US forces.

Famed sculptor Isamu Noguchi said that time can heal stones in describing his stone carving process.  Time can certainly give us a thrust of objectivity while natural elements can provide a layer of harmony, presenting a new way to understand what unfolds before us.  Mount Nokogiri certainly stood as a sacred ground before me.  The overwhelming sense of awe generously erased the scars of human atrocity.

However, it has also made me aware of myself as a captive of our time.  Tateyama’s imperial Japanese base is now a base for the Japanese self-defense force.  The corporate media is eerily silent about the fortification of islands around Okinawa, which lies at the tip of the archipelago and houses an American military base. Japanese regulations have been changed to allow a Japanese “self-defense force,” ostensibly to operate as a part of the western force against China. Those shifts coincide with the US pacific policy to counter China as an emerging economic power. And more urgently, I couldn’t help being reminded of inhumane atrocities of our time–bombing campaign against people, suicide bombing, underground fortress, destruction of environment and cultural heritage and so on and so forth are all elements emerging from the western colonial wars being waged against the Middle East and elsewhere today.

Have we learned anything from the past?  Our ability to see our history and events embedded in it, weaving the flow of time and space, as a unified front, as a collective part of our identity, allow us to tolerate pains of atrocity, allow us to reconcile, allow us to rebuild and allow us to be.  But we do know that the significant portions of the sufferings and deaths are endured by those who are powerless.  How could we allow ourselves to let the momentum of time swallow so many of our fellow humans?  Why are we tolerating colonial destabilization of “other people’s”?  How could we close our eyes as we encounter people sleeping on streets or losing their lives because they can’t afford to be healthy?  Why can’t we focus our hope for renewal for the people who have and will suffer the most?  How could we recognize the fact that our willingness to tolerate the hierarchy of money and violence, as the shape of our species, inflicts pain against “others” and against ourselves at the same time, forcing ourselves to expect nuclear missile attacks instead of reaching out for sharing and peace?

Every time I hear people say that for things to get better, things have to get much worse, I think of what happened in Fukushima.  Three nuclear meltdowns have not woken up the people.  The nuclear industrial complex of Japan is firmly embedded within the war economy of the empire.

This is not the time for conflict. This is the time we need each other to see what has become of us.  Let there be braveness, determination and steadfastness in renouncing the cannibalistic momentum of self-destruction.  The sacred power of nature will always embrace us no matter how we will do.

Education and the Mental Health Epidemic

Across the western world June is exam time; in Britain, written tests taken in halls of silence and tension have triggered a mini-epidemic of anxiety rooted conditions. Pupils have reported mental exhaustion, panic attacks, crying, nosebleeds, sleepless nights, hair loss and outbreaks of acne.

Over the past 25 years, depression and anxiety amongst teenagers in the UK has increased by 70%. This pattern is repeated across the developed world, and is the result of a cocktail of pressures, pressures that result in 10% of under 18-year-olds in America being dependent on mental health medication.

In parts of Asia things are just as bad or worse: the pressure to achieve high marks in exams in Hong Kong is driving some students to suicide: “71 students took their lives between 2013 and 2016,” reports The South China Morning Post. In Singapore, which produces children who excel in standardized tests, an 11-year-old jumped to his death from the 17th floor of an apartment building in 2016 because he was afraid to tell his parents his exam results. The inquest heard that the boy’s parents relentlessly pushed him to achieve at school: his mother would cane him for every mark he received under 70%. In 2015 a record 27 suicides were reported amongst children between 10 and 19, which was double the previous year’s total.

Suicide or attempted suicide is a raw scream revealing the internal agony a child is living with; pain that he/she feels suffocated by, and unable to openly acknowledge. In most cases children don’t kill themselves, they just become ill, some, chronically. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that neuropsychiatric conditions are the primary cause of disability in under 25-year-olds worldwide and says that globally between 10% and 20% “of children and adolescents experience mental disorders,” feeding what are often long-term conditions. Research shows that 75% of all mental health issues begin before a person reaches 18, with 50% taking root before age 15.

Engines of conformity

There are various interconnected reasons for this mental health epidemic; the burden to conform and the relentless pressure to succeed are primary causes and are present throughout institutionalized education. For many young people education has become a bi-word for competition and anxiety, school or university a place where uniformity is demanded and individuality denied: a hostile place in which pressure and stress dominate.

Despite the best efforts of teachers, many of whom are doing wonderful work, the goal of academic institutions in many countries has been reduced to passing exams and achieving good-to-high grades. This is anathema to what education ought to be. At the heart of education should be the aim of creating happy human beings free from fear. This requires establishing environments that allow an individual to discover innate talents, to explore him/herself and slowly, perhaps clumsily, give expression to that; a stimulating, nurturing space where mistakes can be made, failure allowed, independent thinking fostered and responsibility for society and the natural environment engendered.

Like all aspects of contemporary life, education has been tainted by the values of a particular approach to life, a materialistic methodology that fosters negative tendencies instead of feeding the good and liberating the spirit. Competition is encouraged instead of cooperation, placing people in opposition to one another, cultivating division instead of unity. Individual success is championed at the expense of group well-being and life is reduced to a battleground ruled by desire and the pursuit of pleasure.

The focus within this paradigm of misery is on material success and the accumulation of status and things. Hedonism is sold as the source of all happiness, feeding perpetual discontent. It is an extremely narrow approach to life that denies mystery and wonder, pours cynicism on the miraculous and attempts to crush self-investigation and silence opposition.

Whilst the majority of humanity suffer and struggle to live healthy fulfilling lives within this mode of living, there are those who, economically at least, profit handsomely. As a result, and failing to recognize that they too are trapped, they do everything to maintain it; they are the wealthy and powerful, the ‘ruling elite’. Money begets power and political influence under the pervading paradigm; such influence is used to shape (and draft) government policies that strengthen systems, which maintain the existing unhealthy order.

To uphold the status quo, freedom of thought and true individuality is curtailed, social conformity insisted upon. The major tools of conditioning are the media, which is commonly owned by corporations or controlled by governments, organized religion, and education. The policies of schools and colleges are set by central government, and, consistent with the pervasive ideology politicians ensure that conformity and competition are built into the working methodology.

Students are set in competition with one another, with established standards and with themselves, and are regularly forced to sit written examinations to evaluate how much they can remember or know, about any particular subject. Taking exams dictates the passage of a child’s education and establishes the benchmark against which young people are judged, and by extension often judge themselves. Using tests as a way of assessing a person’s ability and knowledge is archaic; sitting exams exerts colossal pressure, and although some may be able to cope and ‘do well’ the majority feel suffocated.

In Britain, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) relates that in 2016/17 Childline delivered “3,135 counseling sessions on exam stress – a rise of 11% over the past 2 years.” Children aged between 12 and 18 reported that exam stress was causing “depression and anxiety, panic attacks, low-self-esteem, self harming and suicidal thoughts.” This pattern is common in many developed and developing countries, where ideologically-driven corporate governments obsessed with trade, continue to pursue methods, that are, by design, detrimental to the well being of children.

Instead of policies rooted in competition, cooperation and sharing need to be encouraged in all aspects of education and standardized exams consigned to the past. The educational environment needs to be one in which children are encouraged to support each other, to share their own particular gifts with the group and build a sense of social responsibility. Many teachers naturally employ such inclusive methods, but working within divisive systems, which promote individual success, conformity and competition, their efforts are often frustrated.

An Alternative way

A more enlightened approach to education is found in Finland. Here, children don’t start school until they are seven, there is no streaming or selection in schools, so children of varying abilities work side by side, no homework is set, school holidays are long and there is only one standardized test, administered in the final year of high school. The result is happier children than in countries where testing, homework, selection and competition reign supreme. Not only are children happier (according to the World Happiness Report, Finland is the happiest country in the world), they achieve higher academic marks than students in many other countries; according to The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) organized annually by the OECD, Finland ranks fourth for reading and 5th for Math in the world; 93% of students graduate from High School, compared to 78% in Canada and 75% in America.

Teachers in Finland are well qualified – all have a Master’s Degree – and are highly valued. They are not dictated to by misguided politicians who come and go, but are trusted to do their job independently, and the country has a long-term approach to education policy, which “means plans remain in place for a significant amount of time, giving them a chance to work, ” says Russell Hobby, leader of the National Association of Head Teachers.

An education system is part of a society’s overall approach to living. As well as being a happy place to live and having a relaxed attitude to education, Finland has some of the lowest levels of wealth and income inequality in the world and the highest level of community trust. In contrast, Britain, USA, Singapore and Hong Kong have some of the highest levels of inequality. The Finland education system is inseparable from the culture, which it serves. Saku Tuominen, director of the HundrEd project says that Finland has “a ‘socially cohesive’, equitable and efficient society, and it gets a consistently reliable school system to match.”

Systems of education built around the ideals of the market that use competition, selection and examinations are contributing to a collective atmosphere of division, injustice and anxiety. Such methodologies need to be fundamentally changed, replaced by creative environments in which children and young adults can simply be, without pressure to achieve or become anything in particular. In such an atmosphere, true intelligence, which is beyond the limitations of knowledge, can flower.

Social Animals have Two Modes of Being

I want to describe what I think is a fundamental truth about the individual bio-psychology of social animals, including humans.

Setting for the model

The setting for my model is arguably the greatest current scientific revolution: The formal realization and empirical demonstration that virtually all of social behaviour and individual psychology is encased in the evolutionary, biological and metabolic reality of dominance hierarchy.

For example, see Sapolsky’s influential 2005 review of primate studies1, and my critical review of medicine2. The metabolism of the monoamine neurotransmitter serotonin and the associated evolutionary biology is now an established area of science3,4,5,6. In my opinion, the said area of science, although far from complete, constitutes a foundational building block of the new tectonic-plate theory of social science, whether social scientists are aware of it yet or not. And it has started to infuse the popular culture.7

This knowledge implies that the metabolic biochemistry of dominance locks us in. No socialism theory that presumes altruistic cooperation as its organizing principle can ever work. Non-hierarchical anarchism and its libertarian cousin are useful conceptual end-points that can never be sustainably achieved. The best we can do is to have a responsive and optimally (evolutionarily) beneficial dominance hierarchy that is actively prevented from exercising pathological excess.8

The model

In this setting, I propose that the animal has two modes of being, which are binary end-points on an attitudinal, self-image and behavioural psychological-state-scape.

I’m not saying that each individual is permanently in one or the other mode of being. Rather, I propose that the individual shifts and slides into one or the other mode depending on his immediate social circumstances and on his history (biological and metabolic memory) of being predominantly in one mode or the other.

The modes of being that I propose map onto the social dominance hierarchy, and are consistent with the roles of different individuals within the hierarchy.

Specifically, one mode is the mode (and strategy) adopted by the dominated individual. This mode is one where the individual seeks “fairness” and minimal aggressions in their environment. The individual seeks a “safe space” and has no actual design to displace dominants. The culture of individuals that coalesce into such a stratum of the hierarchy is one where “kindness” and “being a good person” are the highest social values that are encouraged and rewarded. Altruism and “goodiness” are elevated to a status meriting religious indulgences. Viciousness actuated by enforcers within the social stratum is turned towards violators of this code.

The other mode is the mode (and strategy) adopted by the individual who intends to be and to remain dominant. It is an outlook of waging and winning battles for dominance. This is the climber with a “killer’s instinct”, prepared to joust for relative advantage and eager to dominate.

These modes are distinct mental and physiological states of being. They occur inside the individual and cannot always be ascertained reliably from outside indicators. For example, climbers in a corporate or government office hierarchy may achieve success by “kissing ass” rather than by confronting superiors. Advancement in these institutions may arise from actuation of the goodiness mode rather than the competitive mode, or competition within an office level may be the selector used by superiors. Anything is possible in a given corporate enterprise, in terms of utilization of intrinsic human behaviours.

The two distinct modes are real regarding the individual’s experience and bodily biochemistry, in the circumstances, rather than ascertainable from superficial outside features such as house or car or ring size.

The psychological-state-scape is binary in the two modes because the metabolic physiologies of the two modes are incompatible. The holistic state of being cannot be both simultaneously. Different blood biochemistries and tissue and organ responses are in play. It’s one or the other: Vying for dominance or accepting subservience. Fight or flight. Challenge or hide. More than a billion years of evolution ain’t goin’ anywhere.

“Bosses” will find each other to fight. Subservient individuals, subservient in the circumstances, will lower their eyes, group to the edges of the room and exchange vital information about who is “a nice person”.

Application to politics

The establishment bosses that run the Left, more than the Right, exploit the population of individuals that are most easily corralled into the goodiness mode and seduced by goodiness promises.

The boss propaganda (mainstream media, institutional messaging) is clearly designed in this direction: human rights, minority rights, environmentalism, democracy, participation… whereas the state continues its vicious wars of dominance world-wide and its violent apartheid of aboriginal and low economic classes and of non-violent Criminal Code offenders.

It is a textbook illustration. Extreme social justice warriorism and safe-space obsessionism are, in my opinion, pathological and predictable outcomes of unchecked exploitation by those who ride the Left.

As a backlash against the overly successful establishment Left propaganda and institutional capture, individuals who are inhabited by the competition mode react in revolt by violating the goodiness rules of expression and behaviour, causing generalized and amplified outrage. They break the taboos, express racism, use the N-word, graffiti swastikas, speak their minds, and trigger and troll the masses.

The establishment bosses that run the Right have not been keen to use this relatively unmanageable population and have been only tentative in exploring how to use it. Trump changed that. There is no denying that Trump unsettled traditional Republican forces.

This does not mean that all Right-thinking voters are competition-mode individuals, not by any stretch. Most Right-thinking voters are conservatives who seek the “safe space” of traditional family and religious values. They are horrified at the prospect of an eroded institutional framework that could threaten this safe space and they seek the good-person representatives that would protect them.

The establishment bosses that exploit both the Left and the Right understand that goodiness is a winning electoral formula, since most individuals in a dominance hierarchy are goodiness-mode followers rather that competition-mode individuals who vie for higher echelons. This is the nature of a stable dominance hierarchy: Most people just want to be oppressed fairly, to know their place and to be safe.  In a so-called “democracy”, since show elections are required, the only question is the flavour of the goodiness.

A problem arises when the flavours of goodiness are so different that the other side is threatened when institutions are captured. Then many will feel they are in danger and the conditions are ripe for competition-mode redress.

In these circumstances, the Right voters shift to seeking and supporting competition-mode leaders that will fight back on their behalf, and more of the Right adopts a competition-style stance. It could have gone the other way, like it did for decades. The Right could have accepted defeat, accepted the humiliation of being “bad persons”, and sought refuge in their own spaces. The Right could have stayed in a social state with most of its individuals in the goodiness mode being pampered by goodiness-mode representatives promising elusive “justice”.

In Canada, I think Preston Manning was a goodiness organizer (reform by rational argument) whereas Harper organized a coup and dismantled as much Left capture of institutions as possible. The Left stuck with goodiness and turned it on, screaming about the Right’s demolition of “human rights”, “environmental protection” and “democracy”.  We got Trudeau. Now the Right is rightly pointing to some of the pathologies of going too far with Left goodiness, and its managers are exaggerating the institutional threats against family and against human nature itself, no less.

So goes the seesaw of political manipulation, perfectly in resonance with the intrinsic modes of being of the individual.  The individuals naturally self-organize and are corralled into protective communities, both within and between strata of the hierarchy.

Application to religion

Institutionally organized religion is a perfected system of goodiness rules, which stabilizes and strengthens a dominance hierarchy. Even environmentalism can be understood as such a state religion.9

Religious belief and practice, for most people, is deeply ingrained in the goodiness mode of being of the individual, as should be obvious from my above description. The rituals of recycling, healthy lifestyle practice, donations to The United Way and so on, while they have no positive effect on population health, systemic negative class bias or “the planet”, nurture and solidify a prolonged and robust adoption by the individual of the goodiness mode of being.

As long as a majority of citizens reside in the goodiness mode of being, the dominance hierarchy cannot be challenged and major displacements will not occur. Public peace will prevail.

Of course, religious seminal texts, nowadays including much of the so-called scientific literature, are more complex than state propaganda and can be used, as needed or desired, to incite individuals into the competitive mode of being, into the confrontational state, to be manipulated by political organizations.

This is actively seen today in Zionist Israel with Torah and holocaust scholarship, where the texts are used to incite and rationalize genocidal displacement, confinement and suppression of the native population. Interestingly, hard science (genetics) has established that white European Jews that have always run the modern state of Israel do not have a relevant ancestry that originated in Palestine.10 If science mattered.

Conclusion and verification

It is in our animal and human nature — inherited on our evolutionary path — to occupy either the goodiness or competitive modes of being, which represent biochemical and physiological states of either accepting or challenging the dominance of others.

The reality of my model of individual modes of being can be tested (experienced) by experimentation with LSD, which alters serotonin metabolism.11  A common description of mild LSD experiences is that the subject is able to escape their persona and become conscious of their identity programing and conscious of the identity or motivational programming of others.12 Dominance hierarchy is dissolved by blocking serotonin receptors on neurons.  No wonder that’s illegal.

  1. R.M. Sapolsky. “The Influence of Social Hierarchy on Primate Health”, Science, 29 April 2005, vol. 308, pages 648-652. DOI: 10.1126/science.1106477.
  2. Denis Rancourt.  “Cancer arises from stress-induced breakdown of tissue homeostasis”, Research Gate, December 2015, DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.1304.7129.
  3. Donald Edwards and Edward Kravitz. “Serotonin, social status and aggression”, 1997, Current Opinion in Neurobiology, vol. 7, pages 812-819.
  4. Molly J. Crockett et al. “Serotonin modulates behavioral reactions to unfairness”, Science, June 27, 2008; 320(5884): 1739. doi:10.1126/science.1155577.
  5. Molly J. Crockett et al.  “Serotonin selectively influences moral judgment and behavior through effects on harm aversion”, PNAS, October 5, 2010, vol. 107, no. 40, 17433-17438.
  6. Anna Ziomkiewicz. “Serotonin and Dominance”, January 2016, In: Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_1440-1.
  7. Denis Rancourt.  “Jordan Peterson and the Threat of Working-class Intellectual and Attitudinal Liberation”, Dissident Voice, June 3, 2018.
  8. Denis Rancourt. “Cause of USA Meltdown and Collapse of Civil Rights”, Dissident Voice, September 7, 2017.
  9. Denis Rancourt. “The Climate Religion”, Dissident Voice, September 15, 2016.
  10. Marta D. Costa et al. “A substantial prehistoric European ancestry amongst Ashkenazi maternal lineages”, Nature Communications, vol. 4, Article number: 2543 (2013).
  11. GK Aghajanian and GJ Marek. “Serotonin and Hallucinogens”, Neuropsychopharmacology, vol. 21, pages 16S–23S (1999).
  12. Larry Hagman ‘All Politicians Should Use LSD‘”, interview of Larry Hagman, YouTube, November 24, 2012 upload by xBehindthetruthx.

The Catholic Church in Resistance

The tradition is represented as noble, the confiding link between confessor and penitent, a bridge never to be broken, even under pain of death.  Taken that way, the confessional is brandished as the Catholic Church’s great weapon against the wiles and predations of secular power.  The State shall have no say where the priest’s confidence is concerned, for all may go to him to seek amends.  “The sacramental seal,” goes the relevant code of canon law, “is inviolable; therefore it is absolutely forbidden for the confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason.”

Those points certainly have merits, even if these seem a touch faded after the sex abuse imbroglio the Church has found itself in.  Confession, which functions as a barometric reading of Catholic guilt, has developed its own succour and relish, an ecosystem of ritual and understanding resistant to the prying of the criminal law.  Not merely does its ironclad protection provide a dispensation from the laws of the land in certain troubling cases; the confession, in effect, serves as an economy of ordered guilt, reassurance for the next binge of sin. To remove it, or at the very least heavily qualify it, would be an unsettling challenge to a distinct Weltanschauung.

The process effectively permits all – including erring priests – to engage the process from either side of the grille. Historically, the process also imperilled children.  Pope Pius X, in decreeing in 1910 that confession should commence at the tender age of seven, permitted an army of celibates access to vulnerable, and in certain instances titillating flesh.

Legislators troubled by the enduring force and fascination with the seal of the confessional have gotten busy, most notably in Australia.  This was prompted, in no small part, by the findings and recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. “We are satisfied,” went the Australian report, “that confession is a forum where Catholic children have disclosed their sexual abuse and where clergy have disclosed their abusive behaviour in order to deal with their own guilt.”

One recommendation specifies that institutions “which have a religious confession for children should implement a policy that requires the rite only to be conducted in an open space within the clear line of sight of another adult.” But the members of the Royal Commission went beyond the spatial logistics of the confessional.  Institutional jolting was required.

Each state and territory government, argued Commission members, should pass legislation creating “a criminal offence of failure to report targeted at child sexual abuse in an institutional context”.  This, it was suggested, would extend to “knowledge gained or suspicions that are or should have been formed, in whole or in part, on the basis of information disclosed in or in connection with a religious confession.”  The law would also exclude existing excuses, protections or privileges.

Despite treading delicately, such recommendations were not merely matters for demurral by the Church, but considerations to be sneered at from the summit of spiritual snobbery.  President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart reduced the matter to one of neat sophistry veiled by religious freedom.  “Confession in the Catholic Church,” he reasoned in August last year, “is a spiritual encounter with God through the priest” being “a fundamental part of the freedom of religion”.

Hart’s protestations did not go heeded in the South Australian legislature, making it the first in Australia to legally oblige priests to report confessions of child abuse from October 1.  Omitting to do so will result in a fine of $10,000.  Bishop of Port Pirie and acting Adelaide Archbishop Greg O’Kelly, much in Hart’s vein, saw the move as having “much wider implications for the Catholic Church and the practice of the faith.” Such comments could only come across as archaic and insensitive, given the conviction of his predecessor, Archbishop Philip Wilson, for concealing child sex abuse.

More to the point, the remarks by Bishop O’Kelly are brazenly selfish, permitting the priest an all-exclusive gold card for reasons of amendment, “that the penitent actually is sincere about wanting forgiveness, is sincere about wanting reparation”.  The conspicuous absentee here is the victim, always abstracted, if not totally hidden, by matters of the spirit.

While accounts such as John Cornwell’s, whose stingingly personal The Dark Box makes the sensible point that abolishing the confession and its lusty pull would essentially address the problem, the Church is already finding fewer penitents.  In a sense, it is already losing the appeal, the allure, and even the danger, of the confessional.  Musty physical convention has given way to digital releases and outpouring.  Social media, crowned by the confessional fetish that is Facebook, takes the disturbed soul and expresses it to the globe.

From the vacuity of the Kardashian phenomenon to the newly enlisted grandparent keen to reflect on banal deeds, these platforms have stolen an irresistible march on those in the land of Catholicity.  Such confessions of sin or achievement – the distinctions are not always clear – have become the preserve of Mark Zuckerberg and his technicians, rather than a local priest desperate to remain relevant. But that age old resistance against the laws of the civic secular domain remains the Church of Rome’s stubborn, practised specialty. The elusive spirit, in dialogue with an unverified Sky God, continues to be its invaluable alibi for crimes of the flesh.

Cover Ups and Confessions: Pope Francis and Child Abuse

It is the season for exposures and exposes, and the Catholic Church has been making regular ripples of the wrong and undeniably crude sort.  Globally, the church is finding itself being picked bare in terms of institutional malfeasance, not merely on the issue of having harboured abusive priests, but of placing a dark, impenetrable cover over them.

No area of influence has been spared.  In Guam, the disruptive efforts of former Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron made it into public eye with G. R. Pafumi’s work citing attempts to invalidate a 2016 statute lifting limitations for child sex abuse.  In Pafumi’s grave words, “The Church believes it is never wrong because it has been guided by the Holy Spirit for nearly 2,000 years.”

The Holy Spirit has not being doing much work of late, and seemed to have deserted Adelaide’s Archbishop Philip Wilson last week when he was found guilty of concealing acts of child abuse by a priest.  Australia’s media cognoscenti claimed this to be a globally significant move, as it made Wilson the most senior Catholic in the world to be found guilty of such a charge. The legal argument for Wilson had been one of ignorance: he had not known that a priest by the name of James Fletcher had abused a boy back in the 1970s.

Magistrate Robert Stone did not find much to merit that version, rejecting Wilson’s frail memory on a conversation in 1976 in which the then 15-year-old victim described the abuse by Fletcher, who was working in the Maitland/Newcastle diocese in New South Wales.

Would there be immediate effect upon his office?  Certainly no resignation, a move deemed arrogant by former NSW police detective chief inspector Peter Fox.  The Church, as ever, remains an obstinately self-policing institution at logger heads with secular institutions.  Wilson was hoping for a soft landing, a reprieve from “the people of the archdiocese of Adelaide” to whom he urged to “continue to pray for me.”   In the meantime, he would continue his “prayers and best wishes” for the faithful in the archdiocese.

There would, at best, be a temporary standing down, but hardly a genuine resignation.  Spokeswoman for the archdiocese Jenny Brinkworth seemed to undo the seriousness of the conviction with bureaucratic numbing.  “Standing aside doesn’t necessarily mean it’s forever.  He’s standing aside until process has run its course.”

Pope Francis has found himself reeling in managing the child abuse crisis, and more specifically the machinery of deception and concealment.  For all the claims of his supposedly more progressive streak, he has been traditionally resistant on the Church’s sclerosis in dealing with the culpable management of abusive priests.

Chile has proven to be particularly problematic, a veritable crown of thorns.  The Pope had, for instance, gone as far as accusing child abuse victims, notably those associated with the infamous Rev. Fernando Karadima, of calumny.  An exchange with a reporter at the gate of the Iquique venue, the site of Mass on the last day of his Chile visit, sent the press and commentators into a spin of dizzied alarm.

Central to the exchange was the pontiff’s 2015 appointment of Bishop Juan Barros.  The appointee to the diocese of Osorno had been a Karadima protégé, who survivors say bore witness and covered-up abuses in Chile.  In a more moderate tone, the Pope decided to sober up matters on returning to Rome.  “You [reporters],” went Francis, “in all good will, tell me that there are victims, but I haven’t seen any, because they haven’t come forward.”  This was a far-fetched assertion, given that Barros has been lighting up matters on the abuse trail since 2012.

Since then, victims have been furnishing Chilean prosecutors with a bounty of testimony.  Former member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, Marie Collins, was significantly riled, having delivered a letter of 8 pages to the Pope outlining her own accounts of abuse.

Collins’ own resignation from the body was prompted by a seemingly incurable bureaucratic inertia.  “The most significant problem,” she penned in her resignation in March 2017, “has been reluctance of some members of the Vatican Curia to implement the recommendations of the Commission despite their approval by the pope.”

In his January 31, 2015 letter to the executive committee of the Chilean bishops’ conference, it became clear that Francis was entirely cognisant of the problems.  “Thank you for having openly demonstrated the concern that you have about the appointment of Monsignor Juan Barros.  I understand what you are telling me and I’m aware that the situation of the church in Chile is difficult due to the trials you’ve had to undergo.”

Having rounded up on critics of those accused of child abuse, he has been pushed into an act of near grovelling contrition, suggesting last month that there has been “serious errors of assessment and perception”.  The question lurking amidst the frocks was who had supplied the supposedly infallible Francis with the unreliable information. He had claimed to have precipitated the errors of assessment “due to lack of truthful and balanced information.”  Cardinals Francisco Javier Errázuriz and Ricardo Ezzati, both archbishops of Santiago, have denied being involved in that defective information loop.

By the end of April, the pontiff had met three victims of Karadima in Rome.  One of the survivors, Juan Carlos Cruz, claimed that the Pope had sorrowfully relented.  “I was part of the problem,” he is reported to have said.  “I caused this and I apologize to you.”

The Vatican Curia’s response to the dimension of shuffling, moving and redirecting errant and abusive priests supplies a general, global blue print.  Dioceses have duly complied, taking their lead from the top.  All in all, responses by the Church have been irregular and often soft.  Sabbaticals and exit strategies have been promised to those in the higher realms of the church food chain.

Those constructively guilty of abuse – through denial and administrative dissimulation – are merely moved on.  Individuals like Apuron have not been defrocked, nor restrictions placed on his continued ministry.  Wilson, despite his conviction, remains defiant.  Given the Vatican’s previous form, he has every reason to be so.

Saudi Wahabbism Serves Western Imperialism

When the Saudi Crown Prince gave an interview to the Washington Post, declaring that it was actually the West that encouraged his country to spread Wahhabism to all corners of the world, there was a long silence in almost all the mass media outlets in the West, but also in countries such as Egypt and Indonesia.

Those who read the statement expected a determined rebuke from Riyadh. It did not come. The sky did not fall. Lightning did not strike the Prince or the Post.

Clearly, not all that the Crown Prince declared appeared on the pages of the Washington Post, but what actually did, would be enough to bring down entire regimes in such places like Indonesia, Malaysia or Brunei. Or at least it would be enough under ‘normal circumstances’. That is, if the population there was not already hopelessly and thoroughly indoctrinated and programed, and if the rulers in those countries did not subscribe to, or tolerate, the most aggressive, chauvinistic and ritualistic (as opposed to the intellectual or spiritual) form of the religion.

Reading between the lines, the Saudi Prince suggested that it was actually the West which, while fighting an ‘ideological war’ against the Soviet Union and other socialist countries, handpicked Islam and its ultra-orthodox and radical wing – Wahhabism – as an ally in destroying almost all the progressive, anti-imperialist and egalitarian aspirations in the countries with a Muslim majority.

As reported by RT on 28 March 2018:

The Saudi-funded spread of Wahhabism began as a result of Western countries asking Riyadh to help counter the Soviet Union during the Cold War, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told the Washington Post.

Speaking to the paper, bin Salman said that Saudi Arabia’s Western allies urged the country to invest in mosques and madrassas overseas during the Cold War, in an effort to prevent encroachment in Muslim countries by the Soviet Union…

The interview with the crown prince was initially held ‘off the record’. However, the Saudi embassy later agreed to let the Washington Post publish specific portions of the meeting.

Since the beginning of the spread of Wahhabism, one country after another had been falling; ruined by ignorance, fanatical zeal and fear, which have been preventing the people of countries such as post-1965 Indonesia or the post-Western-invasion Iraq, to move back (to the era before Western intervention) and at the same time forward, towards something that used to be so natural to their culture in not such a distant past – towards socialism or at least tolerant secularism.

*****

In reality, Wahhabism does not have much to do with Islam. Or more precisely, it intercepts and derails the natural development of Islam, of its strife for an egalitarian arrangement of the world, and for socialism.

The Brits were behind the birth of the movement; the Brits and one of the most radical, fundamentalist and regressive preachers of all times – Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab.

The essence of the Wahabi/British alliance and dogma was and still is, extremely simple: “Religious leaders would force the people into terrible, irrational fear and consequent submission. No criticism of the religion is allowed; no questioning of its essence and particularly of the conservative and archaic interpretation of the Book. Once conditioned this way, people stopped questioning and criticizing first the feudalist, and later capitalist oppression; they also accepted without blinking the plunder of their natural resources by local and foreign masters. All attempts to build a socialist and egalitarian society got deterred, brutally, ‘in the name of Islam’ and ‘in the name of God’”.

Of course, as a result, the Western imperialists and the local servile ‘elites’ are laughing all the way to the bank, at the expense of those impoverished and duped millions in the countries that are controlled by the Wahhabi and Western dogmas.

Only a few in the devastated, colonized countries actually realize that Wahhabism does not serve God or the people; it is helping Western interests and greed.

Precisely this is what is right now happening in Indonesia, but also in several other countries that have been conquered by the West, including Iraq and Afghanistan.

Were Syria to fall, this historically secular and socially-oriented nation would be forced into the same horrid direction. People there are well aware of this, as they are educated. They also see what has happened to Libya and Iraq and they definitely do not want to end up like them. It is the Wahhabi terrorist fighters that both the West and its lackeys like Saudi Arabia unleashed against the Syrian state and its people.

*****

Despite its hypocritical secular rhetoric, manufactured mainly for local consumption but not for the colonies, the West is glorifying or at least refusing to openly criticize its own brutal and ‘anti-people’ offspring – a concept which has already consumed and ruined both the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. In fact, it is trying to convince the world that these two countries are ‘normal’, and in the case of Indonesia, both ‘democratic’ and ‘tolerant’. At the same time, it has consistently been antagonizing almost all the secular or relatively secular nations with substantial Muslim majorities, such as Syria (until now), but also Afghanistan, Iran (prior to the coup of 1953), Iraq and Libya before they were thoroughly and brutally smashed.

Aghanistan-US-air-force-Bagrani-base

It is because the state, in which the KSA, Indonesia and the present-day Afghanistan can be found, is the direct result of both Western interventions and indoctrination. The injected Wahhabi dogma is giving this Western ‘project’ a Muslim flavor, while justifying trillions of dollars on ‘defense spending’ for the so-called ‘War on Terror’ (a concept resembling an Asian fishing pond where fish are brought in and then fished out for a fee).

Obedience, even submissiveness – is where, for many reasons, the West wants its ‘client’ states and neo-colonies to be. The KSA is an important trophy because of its oil, and strategic position in the region. Saudi rulers are often going out of their way to please their masters in London and Washington, implementing the most aggressive pro-Western foreign policy. Afghanistan is ‘valued’ for its geographical location, which could potentially allow the West to intimidate and even eventually invade both Iran and Pakistan, while inserting extremist Muslim movements into China, Russia and the former Soviet Central Asian republics. Between 1 and 3 million Indonesian people ‘had to be’ massacred in 1965-66, in order to bring to power a corrupt turbo-capitalist clique which could guarantee that the initially bottomless (although now rapidly thinning) natural resources could flow, uninterrupted and often untaxed, into places such as North America, Europe, Japan and Australia.

Frankly, there is absolutely nothing ‘normal’ about countries such as Indonesia and the KSA. In fact, it would take decades, but most likely entire generations, in order to return them to at least some sort of nominal ‘normalcy’. Even if the process were to begin soon, the West hopes that by the time it ends, almost all of the natural resources of these countries would be gone.

But the process is not yet even beginning. The main reason for the intellectual stagnation and lack of resistance is obvious: people in countries such as Indonesia and KSA are conditioned so they are not able to see the brutal reality that surrounds them. They are indoctrinated and ‘pacified’. They have been told that socialism equals atheism and that atheism is evil, illegal and ‘sinful’.

Hence, Islam was modified by the Western and Saudi demagogues, and has been ‘sent to a battle’, against progress and a just, egalitarian arrangement of the world.

Poster of radical FPI in Jakarta

This version of religion is unapologetically defending Western imperialism, savage capitalism as well as the intellectual and creative collapse of the countries into which it was injected, including Indonesia. There, in turn, the West tolerates the thorough corruption, grotesque lack of social services, and even genocides and holocausts committed first against the Indonesians themselves, then against the people of East Timor, and to this day against the defenseless Papuan men, women and children. And it is not only a ‘tolerance’ – the West participates directly in these massacres and extermination campaigns, as it also takes part in spreading the vilest forms of Wahabi terrorism and dogmas to all corners of the world. All this, while tens of millions of the followers of Wahhabism are filling the mosques daily, performing mechanical rituals without any deeper thought or soul searching.

Wahhabism works – it works for the mining companies and banks with their headquarters in London and New York. It also works extremely well for the rulers and the local ‘elites’ inside the ‘client’ states.

*****

Ziauddin Sardar, a leading Muslim scholar from Pakistan, who is based in London, has no doubts that ‘Muslim fundamentalism’ is, to a great extent, the result of the Western imperialism and colonialism.

Ziauddin Sardar and Andre Vltchek discussing Islam at Mr. Sardar’s club in London

In a conversation which we had several years ago, he explained:

Trust between Islam and the West has indeed been broken… We need to realize that colonialism did much more than simply damage Muslim nations and cultures. It played a major part in the suppression and eventual disappearance of knowledge and learning, thought and creativity, from Muslim cultures. The colonial encounter began by appropriating the knowledge and learning of Islam, which became the basis of the ‘European Renaissance’ and ‘the Enlightenment’ and ended by eradicating this knowledge and learning from both from Muslim societies and from history itself. It did that both by physical elimination – destroying and closing down institutions of learning, banning certain types of indigenous knowledge, killing off local thinkers and scholars – and by rewriting history as the history of western civilization into which all minor histories of other civilization are subsumed.

As a consequence, Muslim cultures were de-linked from their own history with many serious consequences. For example, the colonial suppression of Islamic science led to the displacement of scientific culture from Muslim society. It did this by introducing new systems of administration, law, education and economy all of which were designed to impart dependence, compliance and subservience to the colonial powers. The decline of Islamic science and learning is one aspect of the general economic and political decay and deterioration of Muslim societies. Islam has thus been transformed from a dynamic culture and a holistic way of life to mere rhetoric. Islamic education has become a cul-de-sac, a one-way ticket to marginality. It also led to the conceptual reduction of Muslim civilization. By which I mean concepts that shaped and gave direction to Muslim societies became divorced from the actual daily lives of Muslims – leading to the kind of intellectual impasse that we find in Muslim societies today.  Western neo-colonialism perpetuates that system.

*****

In Indonesia, after the Western-sponsored military coup of 1965, which destroyed the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) and brought to power an extreme pro-market and pro-Western regime, things are deteriorating with a frightening predictability, consistency and speed.

While the fascist dictator Suharto, a Western implant after 1965, was said to be ‘suspicious of Islam’, he actually used all major religions on his archipelago with great precision and fatal impact. During his pro-market despotism, all left-wing movements and ‘-isms’ were banned, and so were most of the progressive forms of arts and thought. The Chinese language was made illegal. Atheism was also banned. Indonesia rapidly became one of the most religious countries on Earth.

At least one million people, including members of the PKI, were brutally massacred in one of the most monstrous genocides of the 20th century.

The fascist dictatorship of General Suharto often played the Islamic card for its political ends. As described by John Pilger in his book, The New Rulers of The World:

In the pogroms of 1965-66, Suharto’s generals often used Islamicist groups to attack communists and anybody who got in the way. A pattern emerged; whenever the army wanted to assert its political authority, it would use Islamicists in acts of violence and sabotage, so that sectarianism could be blamed and justify the inevitable ‘crackdown’ – by the army…

‘A fine example’ of cooperation between the murderous right-wing dictatorship and radical Islam.

After Suharto stepped down, the trend towards a grotesque and fundamentalist interpretation of the monotheist religions continued. Saudi Arabia and the Western-favored and sponsored Wahhabism has been playing an increasingly significant role. And so has Christianity, often preached by radical right-wing former exiles from Communist China and their offspring; mainly in the city of Surabaya but also elsewhere.

From a secular and progressive nation under the leadership of President Sukarno, Indonesia has gradually descended into an increasingly radically backward-looking and bigoted Wahhabi-style/Christian Pentecostal state.

President_Abdurrahman_Wahid_Gus_Dur

After being forced to resign as the President of Indonesia during what many considered a constitutional coup, a progressive Muslim cleric and undoubtedly a closet socialist, Abdurrahman Wahid (known in Indonesia by his nickname Gus Dur), shared with me his thoughts, on the record:

These days, most of Indonesian people do not care or think about God. They only follow rituals. If God would descend and tell them that their interpretation of Islam is wrong, they’d continue following this form of Islam and ignore the God.

‘Gus Dur’ also clearly saw through all the tricks of the military and pro-Western elites. He told me, among other things, that the 2003 Marriott Hotel bombing in Jakarta was organized by the Indonesian security forces, and later blamed on the Islamists, who were actually only executing the orders given to them by their political bosses from the pro-Western military regime, which until now is being disguised as a, ‘multi-party democracy’.

In Indonesia, an extreme and unquestioning obedience to the religions has led to a blind acceptance of a fascist capitalist system, and of Western imperialism and its propaganda. Creativity and intellectual pluralism have been thoroughly liquidated.

The 4th most populous nation on the planet, Indonesia, has presently no scientists, architects, philosophers or artists of any international standing. Its economy is fueled exclusively by the unbridled plunder of the natural resources of the vast, and in the past, pristine parts of the country, such as Sumatra and Indonesian Borneo (Kalimantan), as well as on the brutally-occupied Western part of Papua. The scale of the environmental destruction is monumental; something that I am presently trying to capture in two documentary films and a book.

Awareness of the state of things, even among the victims, is minimal or out rightly nonexistent.

In a country that has been robbed of its riches; identity, culture and future, religions now play the most important role. There is simply nothing else left for the majority. Nihilism, cynicism, corruption and thuggery are ruling unopposed. In the cities with no theatres, galleries, art cinemas, but also no public transportation or even sidewalks, in the monstrous urban centers abandoned to the ‘markets’ with hardly any greenery or public parks, religions are readily filling the emptiness. Being themselves regressive, pro-market oriented and greedy, the results are easily predictable.

In the city of Surabaya, during the capturing of footage for my documentary film produced for a South American television network TeleSur (Surabaya – Eaten Alive by Capitalism), I stumbled over an enormous Protestant Christian gathering at a mall, where thousands of people were in an absolute trance, yelling and lifting their eyes towards the ceiling. A female preacher was shouting into a microphone:

God loves the rich, and that is why they are rich! God hates the poor, and that’s why they are poor!

Von Hayek, Friedmann, Rockefeller, Wahab and Lloyd George combined could hardly define their ‘ideals’ in more precise way.

*****

What exactly did the Saudi Prince say, during his memorable and ground-breaking interview with The Washington Post? And why is it so relevant to places like Indonesia?

In essence, he said that the West asked the Saudis to make the ‘client’ states more and more religious, by building madrassahs and mosques. He also added:

I believe Islam is sensible, Islam is simple, and people are trying to hijack it.

People? The Saudi themselves? Clerics in such places like Indonesia? The Western rulers?

In Teheran, Iran, while discussing the problem with numerous religious leaders, I was told, repeatedly:

The West managed to create a totally new and strange religion, and then it injected it into various countries. It calls it Islam, but we can’t recognize it… It is not Islam, not Islam at all.

*****

In May 2018, in Indonesia, members of outlawed terrorist groups rioted in jail, took hostages, then brutally murdered prison guards. After the rebellion was crushed, several explosions shook East Java. Churches and police stations went up in flames. people died.

Destroyed Aleppo

The killers used their family members, even children, to perpetrate the attacks. The men in charge were actually inspired by the Indonesian fighters who were implanted into Syria – the terrorists and murderers who were apprehended and deported by Damascus back to their large and confused country.

Many Indonesian terrorists who fought in Syria are now on their home turf, igniting and ‘inspiring’ their fellow citizens. The same situation as in the past – the Indonesian jihadi cadres who fought against the pro-Soviet government in Afghanistan later returned and killed hundreds and thousands in Poso, Ambon and other parts of Indonesia.

Indonesian extremists are becoming world-famous, fighting the battles of the West as legionnaires, in Afghanistan, Syria, Philippines and elsewhere.

Their influence at home is also growing. It is now impossible to even mention any social or god forbid, socialist reforms in public. Meetings are broken up, participants beaten, and even people’s representatives (MP’s) intimidated, accused of being “communists”, in a country where Communism is still banned by the regime.

The progressive and extremely popular Jakarta governor, Ahok, first lost elections and was then put on trial and thrown into jail for “insulting Islam”, clearly fabricated charges. His main sin – cleaning Jakarta’s polluted rivers, constructing a public transportation network, and improving the lives of ordinary people. That was clearly ‘un-Islamic’, at least from the point of view of Wahhabism and the Western global regime.

Radical Indonesian Islam is now feared. It goes unchallenged. It is gaining ground, as almost no one would dare to openly criticize it. It will soon overwhelm and suppress the entire society.

And in the West ‘political correctness’ is used. It is lately simply ‘impolite’ to criticize Indonesian or even the Saudi form of ‘Islam’, out of ‘respect’ for the people and their ‘culture’. In reality, it is not the Saudi or Indonesian people who get ‘protected’ – it is the West and its imperialist policies; policies and manipulations that are used against both the people and the essence of Muslim religion.

*****

While the Wahhabi/Western dogma is getting stronger and stronger, what is left of the Indonesian forests is burning. The country is literally being plundered by the Western multi-national companies and by its local corrupt elites.

Extremist attacks against Indonesian churches

Religions, the Indonesian fascist regime and Western imperialism are marching forward, hand in hand. But forward – where? Most likely towards the total collapse of the Indonesian state. Towards the misery that will come soon, when everything is logged out and mined out.

It is the same as when Wahhabism used to march hand in hand with the British imperialists and plunderers. Except that the Saudis found their huge oil fields, plenty of oil to sustain themselves (or at least their elites and the middle class, as the poor still live in misery there) and their bizarre, British-inspired and sponsored interpretation of Islam.

Indonesia and other countries that have fallen victims to this dogma are not and will not be so ‘lucky’.

It is lovely that the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman spoke publicly and clarified the situation. But who will listen?

For the Indonesian people, his statements came too late. They did not open many eyes, caused no uprising, no revolution. To understand what he said would require at least some basic knowledge of both the local, and world history, and at least some ability to think logically. All this is lacking, desperately, in the countries that have found themselves squashed by the destructive imperialist embrace.

The former President of Indonesia, Abdurrahman Wahid, was correct: “If God would come and say… people would not follow God…”

Indonesia will continue following Mr. Wahab, and the capitalist dogma and the Western imperialists who ‘arranged it all’. They will do it for years to come, feeling righteous, blasting old North American tunes in order to fill the silence, in order not to think and not to question what is happening around them. There will be no doubts. There will be no change, no awakening and no revolution.

Until the last tree falls, until the last river and stream gets poisoned, until there is nothing left for the people. Until there is total, absolute submission: until everything is burned down, black and grey. Maybe then, few tiny, humble roots of awakening and resistance would begin to grow.

• First published by New Eastern Outlook (NEO)

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

Gay Adoption: Is This Really the Most Pressing Issue in Adoption Today?

The media has focused on gay adoption for quite a while, perhaps because it is controversial and controversy – like sex – sells. So, it is little wonder the attention being given to gay rights advocates who are up in arms about laws they see as discriminating against them in the adoption arena based on religious beliefs of adoption agencies such as the law recently passed in  Kansas granting legal protections for faith-based adoption agencies that refuse to place children in LGBTQ homes.

LGBTQ activists have now been joined by “tech giants” Google and Apple lobbying against such laws that prevent the state from denying grants and contracts to faith-based agencies for refusing to place children into homes that don’t align with their religious beliefs. A similar bill passed the house in Oklahoma and heads for the Senate. South Dakota, Michigan, Alabama, and Texas have all passed similar legislation.

It amazes [and offends] me that, of all the pressing issues in child adoption today, this is the one these mega corporations chose to take on and stand up for.  Is this really the most pressing current wrong in adoption?

What about child trafficking for adoption? What about pressure, coercion, exploitation to meet a demand for babies? What about rehoming? What about establishing a national child abuse registry so people cannot move state to state like the Hart family did to avoid detection of their abuses to the vulnerable children entrusted to them, and may possibly have prevented the murder of six adopted children? What about denial of adoptees right to access their own birth certificates? None of that matters? It is shocking that Apple and Google find the alleged rights of the LGBTQ community more important to take a stand on than all of these other issues facing adoption.

Sadly, none of these issues which cause harm and suffering to innocent children ever garnered the attention that the issue of gay adoption has. They are just not popular or sexy. Sad realities don’t sell like warm fuzzy happily-ever-after – or even indignant – stories do.

Let me be perfectly clear. Despite the recently freorted horrific abuse and murder of six children adopted by Jennifer and Sarah Hart, as a lifelong friend, ally, and supporter of LGBTQ rights to equality, to live free of harassment and violence perpetrated out of hate and discrimination and to marry whomever they choose, I know that same sex couples and gay individuals can and do make excellent care-takers and parents of children, of that I have no doubt or concern and plenty of hetero adopters have brutally abused, abandoned, and murdered children in their care (as have natural parents).

At Issue

The argument is that adoption agencies should not have the right to discriminate against same sex couples and gay individuals and that to do so causes suffering to children who need adopting by reducing their options for a loving home, a preposterous claim when demand for children to adopt greatly outweighs the “supply.”

It’s also a deceptive argument inasmuch as neither state adoptions from foster care nor secular private adoptions are being challenged. These avenues remain open to people of all persuasions. No one is screening out potential families for these children based on religious beliefs or sexual preferences.  Thus, it is patently untrue that LGBT people are discriminated against when it comes to adoption.

Gay adoption – like international adoption – is masqueraded as being in the best interest of “unwanted” children who are “languishing” in foster care.  It is true that there are approximately half a million children in state care in the United States. Many are awaiting reunification with their families. Others who can be adopted are, for the most part, ignored by those seeking to adopt because of the children’s age, because of their physical, emotional and educational abilities and limitations, or they are sibling groups. But there are still other paths to adoption open to same sex couples.

As noted in The Nation’s recent article “The Left’s Assault on Adoption”:

Same-sex couples have abundant options to foster and adopt. Every state in the country allows fostering or adoption by same-sex couples. As one LGBT advocacy group has documented, there are no states where same-sex couples face legal restrictions when petitioning for fostering, joint adoption, or stepparent or second-parent adoption.

Most private adoption agencies, as well as all public agencies in America, are willing to place children in same-sex households. The number of adoptions by same-sex couples has more than tripled from 6,500 couples in 2000, to 22,000 in 2010. And almost 40 percent of all adoption agencies, and 83 percent of public agencies, report that they have made at least one adoption placement with an LGBT person. Same-sex couples adopt and foster and are not prevented from doing so by the continued existence of adoption agencies that prefer to place kids with married moms and dads.

Anyone – regardless of their gender, marital status, or sexual preference  – is perfectly able to adopt a child needing a family. The only restriction in question is one that pits the non-existent right to adopt against the right of faith-based adoption agencies – often funded by religious institutions  – to operate in keeping with their religious beliefs and to provide services to specific communities that choices such religious based services.

The Nation also recognizes:

Faith-based adoption agencies that follow their religious beliefs have a high level of success in placing older and disabled children. They also provide services for vulnerable women seeking help with unplanned pregnancies. Moreover, some women facing an unplanned pregnancy want their child to be raised by a married man and woman. A birth mother should have the freedom to work with an agency that honors her preferences and shares her values.

In general, I am opposed to businesses refusing to serve LGBTQ customers which can result in health professionals refusing to serve clients based on their religious beliefs.  However, when it comes to adoption agencies, there are multiple clients served – those seeking to adopt , the families seeking placement, and the child. Adoption is not, or should not be, merely a business transaction.  And herein lies the difference between adoption agencies and wedding photographers or bakeries who are serving a single client.

This is nothing new. There have long been specifically Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Evangelical adoption agencies that serve their communities, providing families the option of selecting who might or might not want to raise their child based on religious values and practices. Should that right be taken from families in need of finding alternative, extra-familial care for their child? It is, after all their child up until they relinquish their parental rights or have those rights terminated by the state.  Families in crisis considering adoption have the same right to ensure their child is raised in the tradition of his or her family of birth and kin just as every parent does and thus have the right to choose a placing agency to act on their wishes and preferences.

Religious and secular adoption agencies have many criteria such as age of those seeking to adopt, standards some may object to or call discriminatory. The alternative, however, is a society in which children are treated like cars that are sold to whomever has the ability to pay. Adoption agencies act on behalf of and represent families in need. We hope they are acting on good faith and using good judgment to do the best not for the paying client – those adopting – but for the silent client, the child. In that capacity, representing the most vulnerable among us, it is their duty to be selective and have criteria. As a society, we want potential adopters subjected to criminal background checks and home studies though many object to being scrutinized in ways that people who become parents naturally are not. But should the safety net for children in need be any less cautious?

The powerful LGBTQ lobby

I have long avoided writing about this aspect adoption knowing that unless I am totally in favor and supportive of the rights of the LGBTQ community to adopt, I would be seen as biased against gays and deemed homophobic.

The rights of LGBTQ people to create anonymous offspring via genetic “donations”, to exploit women as surrogates, and their alleged right to adopt – a right no one has – become hands off, sacrosanct. Speak out against any of these practices that provide children for LGBTQs and you are labeled prejudiced against their sexual preferences, and silenced, despite speaking out against such practices for all.

Out of more than 100 blog posts I wrote for Huffington Post, only two were rejected. One was this one, opposing the sale of anonymous genetic material because it stepped on the toes of the gay community, despite my objections being the practices themselves when utilized by anyone, gay or straight.

No adoption policy should be formed without hearing and respecting the input of the lived experiences of adoptees.  Anything less treats adopted persons as commodities. Yet, the voices of adult children of same-sex parents who dare to write or speak out about their personal experience in anything but glowing terms, are silenced, discounted as “ungrateful,” bitter, angry by powerful LGBTQ lobby. Those who are less than thrilled at having been raised by same-sex parents report having have great difficulty getting published despite glowing credentials, are labeled homophobes, and are harassed to the point that at least one woman known as Rivka Edelman had to go underground and write under a pseudonym.

Gay men and women, like any group of people, are unique individuals and cannot be grouped together based on that one aspect of their lives. Not all women or even all feminists agree on everything any more than all left-handed people, or all Ohioans share similar opinions, or beliefs.  Thus, not all members of the LGBTQ community are incensed or feel discriminated against by religious adoption agencies upholding their criteria.

Bryan C. is a gay male adoptee and an adoptee rights advocate. He brings a unique perspective to  this issue:

My issue with same sex couples adopting a child is not dissimilar to my issue with any couple or individual legally and ethically adopt[ing], that being the primacy of the child’s well-being above and beyond any real or imagined “need” to parent where biological ability is absent. It is my sincere belief as an adoptee who struggled over years with my own sexuality (self-concept) issues, that a child at all cost, be allowed to thrive in the most stable environment possible. In some instances, single mothers and fathers . . . if assisted by family and professional help would be [able] to maintain an original nuclear family.  In the absence of that possibility, a child placed for adoption for whatever reason, is immediately in a destabilized environment by the very nature of the process.

When one compounds that destabilized situation, it is not, in my opinion, ameliorated by adding further to a [child] placement [with] a same sex couple by nature of it not being a societal ‘norm’ (tolerance or lack thereof ) is not itself necessarily a stable environment. A child already struggling with issues of adoption is then faced with the struggle of being raised in a created non-traditional family. There may be instances of success, but in light of what I have experienced as both a ‘successful adoptee’ who grew up and became an experienced gay man, I believe what I have written to be true from my experience.

I do not think same sex parents ‘deserve’ to be parents more than stable single parents, it simply adds another potential layer of instability to a child of whom instability, in my honest opinion, is already a large portion of their lives. This is my opinion with the interest of all adopted or potentially adopted children, including those conceived in vitro as primary.

My position on adoption

As a lifetime advocate for children and families, I too view adoption through one narrow lens: the best interest of children, above and beyond the alleged “rights” of any of the adults involved (birth or adoptive parents) over those of the child, though I recognize the powerful bond created by the mother/child dyad and believe it detrimental to both mother and child to severe that without good cause.

As such I do not give primacy for the needs, wants, desires or wishes of anyone seeking to create or enlarge their family through adoption. I believe adoption should always be about finding the best care for children not about filling longing arms. (I am equally disliked for this position in the infertility community which has accused me of being heartless and lacking compassion as in the LGBT community.)

Apple and Google and any others who support adoption need to educate themselves and learn the facts. Adoption is glamorized, applauded, encouraged, and promoted as a win-win. It is not. Every adoption, in fact, begins with a loss that creates a lifetime trauma. Many – perhaps even most – adoptees cope well with the separation, loss, lies, and secrecy of the relinquishment at the foundation of every adoption. Their resilience and coping skills do not, however, eliminate struggles such as cultural identity and lack of medical history. Stranger adoption – by any non-related person or persons –  should be a last resort turned to only when there are no extended family able or willing to parent. It should not be encouraged and fought for as a right.

Viewing adoption from a child-centric perspective, we need to be less inclined to jump on the band-wagon of anything that increases the enormously high demand for sought-after babies – currently about 36 to 1. It is this demand and the tens of thousands of dollars those seeking children to adopt are willing and allowed to pay, that creates pressure, coercion, exploitation, corruption, and child trafficking. Thus, if one agency turns down one couple there are many other agencies and many others vying to adopt! No child has suffered.

No adult’s “rights,” needs, desires, or feelings of entitlement should take precedent over the rights of children in need.