I gave this excellent little talk on light at the Odditorium in Brighton a couple of years ago and only discovered it to be online recently when a listener contacted me to ask about the tattoo mentioned in the talk. I sent him a picture of it and he sent me the link, which I now send to you. The curious events in their introduction occurred before my arrival so I cannot enlighten on that front.
This episode starts with a crash, after an eclipse and power cut in the studio leave our presenters stumbling around in the dark while Mr Mounfield later reveals himself to be a Zoroastrian. It all proves however, to be a perfect link for their guest, Gregory Sams, who puts forward a compelling argument for the sun, stars and universe being far more intelligent than conventional science would have us believe.
I share just one of 91 extraordinary microscopic pictures of the living world. Each new one in the slide show had me in awe and then at No.13 I gasped, stopped looking and began this blog.
Within the human brain, we know that each tiny neuron is connected through its dendrites, axons and synapses to thousands of other neurons, and that these connections shift as different tasks are demanded of our organism. It’s a staggering scenario, and one I have never really been able to picture. Here we see this for real, in an extraordinary photo of “fresh” brain cells, newly formed from embryonic stem cells. Looking at this cell, I get visual support for a point I make in my book, Sun of gOd, about the bottom-up structure of our own organism. Each single cell in our body contains 5-10 million residents going about their business of eating, excreting, repairing, assessing, co-operating, communicating with other cells, reproducing and so forth. There is no sign of a gang-leader determining what these individual characters do or when.
Here we see a brain cell looking like a miniature organism in its own right, ready to connect up with up to 10,000 other brain cells and exchange information, make decisions, learn new skills and much much more. Our brain has the structure of something organised from the bottom-up. Off on a wild tangent, looking at these fine filaments makes me wonder if they might also act as antenna connected to the activity of an energetic mind.
I delivered a 20 min talk last Saturday night at the Thomas Paine Hotel in his birthplace, Thetford, to a party of Paine fans who celebrate his birth each year. It wasn’t recorded so I am posting the laptop rehearsal.
NOTE to the video
Thomas Paine, it you didn’t know, was one of the most important characters of the last three centuries, initiating the concept of the nation state, a body of people who governed themselves instead of being ruled by a king or other ruler. As we know, it didn’t quite work out as he pictured it in Common Sense, the book which turned a tax-motivated protest into the American War of Independence, selling half a million copies in the first six months of 1776. He turned the tide of the war from defeat to victory later that year, with a pamphlet that began“These are the times that try men’s souls.”
His next momentous book was conceived while building a revolutionary iron bridge in England, from whence he fled the hangman’s noose to Paris, writing his next major work while immersed in the French Revolution.
In my talk I refer to those two other books. The Rights of Man “Man is not the enemy of man, but through the medium of a false system of Government.” – – – “The instant formal government is abolished, society begins to act. A general association takes place, and common interest produces common security.”
“I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church”
He connects these themes: “It has been the scheme of the Christian church, and of all the other invented systems of religion, to hold man in ignorance of the Creator, as it is of Government to hold man in ignorance of his rights.”
For any fans of Thomas Paine, or my first book Uncommon Sense, I highly recommend a listen to Melvyn Bragg’s excellent coverage of Paine’s world-changing book “Common Sense,” published in 1776. This 48-page publication was responsible for solidifying that which began as a tax protest into the American Revolution for independence. It also helped trigger the French Revolution and set the stage for the world’s first nation states. It was the best-selling book of the 18th century and, were sales scaled up to today’s population, they would have achieved 150 million. It is an amazing story.
The real drug problems rarely make headlines – those caused by pharmaceuticals designed to be addictive. We recently discovered that opioid painkillers claim the lives of 312 Americans every week, compared to 285 lost to murder. Since 2000 these drugs have killed three times as many Americans as were killed in Vietnam. A further 160 die each week from overdosing on heroin, most having become addicted via prescribed opioids. Yet nobody is fighting a war against them, while Big Pharma pockets big profits and markets them freely. Competition to Big Pharma is suppressed by law enforcement agencies spending vast sums of taxpayers’ money in the War on Drugs. Sometimes major drug enforcement agencies work with drug cartels, enforcing monopolies and suppressing free enterprise in the unlicensed drugs trade. For more on opioid painkiller killers, here’s the Forbes coverage.
Society does have a problem with drug use. It is a serious problem that is getting worse. For some reason, though, the perception of this problem is focused entirely on the very small range of drugs that are being used illegally. We cannot ignore the very real problems faced by those who are using drugs prescribed by doctors. Their lives can be damaged and sometimes destroyed as a result of diagnostic error, their own abuse of the prescribed stocks (few recreational drug users have a month’s supply in a bottle), or just years of being dependent on pharmaceuticals with known side effects. These legal drugs must be obtained through controlled channels, but these channels translate into a multi-billion dollar industry throughout the world—the real drugs trade. While we condemn it when drug barons bribe and seduce judges, police, and politicians, we think nothing of the lobbyists employed by the pharmaceutical industry in Washington DC, who number more than three for every single Congressman or Senator.
The most successful, and profitable, pharmaceutical drugs are those which do not cure, but instead create a lifelong habit for the user…”
It is not a case of who is paying their “fair share” of taxation but a case of taxation itself not being fair. That massive extraction, by the state, of wealth produced by human activity is at the root of our civilization’s troubles, and underwrites all its wars. Why do we think it okay that we cannot choose how to deploy half of the wealth we create? The answer simply lays in finding another way of doing things we are already doing.
Outrage has been prompted by Oxfam’s estimate that the richest 1% will soon own 51% of the world’s wealth. A predictable “steal from the rich and give to the poor” response rallies public support and thereby diverts blame from the state for its inability to deliver the services for which we pay them well. The problem is inherent waste and inefficiency, not who pays how much tax. Politicians won’t actually squeeze much out of their super-rich masters but we’ll support taxes implemented in the name of wealth redistribution and call if fair play. Taxation is the taking of money against the threat of damage for non-compliance – always has been. It’s rather like mugging, and not a lot gets sprinkled back. Over 70% of taxation is not upon our earnings anyway, but in every pound we spend; each cup of coffee, pair of shoes, drop of petrol or alcohol, massage, rent payment and watt of electricity bears the burden of a heavy state. Wealthy consumers already pay a lot more taxes on that account. If we doubled income taxes on the super-rich the extra revenue would not even cover the interest owed to bankers by our state for creating the money that prevented other bankers from going bankrupt as a result of immoral dealings. Don’t expect it to dent the deficit, and know that many of the wealthiest 1% have fingers, hands, and heads in governments across the world and would be less assured of their wealth without that leverage and control.
Were the answer to every problem “more taxation” then we would soon have 0.0% control over how we deploy our wealth, instead of just 50%. Only 10 of those 50% in taxes is eventually spent within the category of “redistribution of wealth,” which is neither an underlying purpose of taxation, nor a priority. Are we truly incapable of re-distributing our own wealth, voluntarily, to organizations with genuine charitable credentials and goals in tune with our own?
The combination of all levied taxes sees half or more of the total wealth created by people and companies sucked into the state to fund its spending. The state overspends and borrows the excess from banks, to be repaid by our future wealth creation (which must constantly increase for the scheme to work). It works for the central banks who create that money, literally, out of thin air. It’s smoke and mirrors.
“The bank hath benefit of interest on all moneys which it creates out of nothing.” William Paterson, founder in 1694 of the Bank of England,
The state is not a necessary evil and society will not collapse into dog-eat-dog savagery without them sucking out its lifeblood to preserve order. 98% of us are caring human beings who cherish the idea of living in peace and harmony with each other. We are good at doing that. Then some 2% of us are sociopaths who see the rest as a resource to be used and exploited, having no compassion for starving babies or tortured grandmothers of their own or any other race. Unsurprisingly, politics is a common career choice for sociopaths.
In our system sociopaths sometimes get to the very top. Historical examples abound, with our own era witnessing pre-planned wars waged on false pretenses destroying the lives of countless millions. That 98% cannot imagine a human being behaving so badly is the greatest strength of the 2%, and underpins the “Big Lie.”Adolf Hitler described this in Mein Kampf as a lie so “colossal” that no one would believe someone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.” Even after seeing “facts which prove” they “doubt and waver,” assuming there is “some other explanation.”
Politics is not even the main game in town, though it often appears to be the only one. Examples abound of civilization self-organizing without the need of top-down control by force. In our current system, democratic or otherwise, we too often find scum rising to the top and calling the shots. In a free system we develop means to eject the scum and let cream rise to the top. The feedback loop of customer reviews does just this at Tripadvisor and Amazon and other online businesses. We can do it. We have the technology, and I’m off on a tangent here which could stretch into an entire book but will not since it is already written.
TAXATION EXPLAINED, by Jean Baptiste Colbert, 17th century finance minister to Louis XIV : “The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest possible amount of feathers with the smallest possible amount of hissing.”
Talk of social engineering, climate management, and wealth redistribution is all about reducing the hissing.
In “The State Is Out Of Date – We Can Do It Better” I recall a cigarette-related event witnessed in Morocco many years ago that opened my eyes to the obstacles to free enterprise imposed by the state.
From Chapter 20, The State of Business: An early insight into this restrictive climate came to me some years ago at a cafe in Marrakesh, where I noticed a young man standing on the corner each evening with a pack of twenty cigarettes, selling them singly to passersby. The customers were able to better manage their habit by buying the cigarettes singly. The young man was able to set up his own business as a retailer for the cost of a pack of cigarettes—an almost inconceivable concept in our developed “free” democracy. The bridge is great between the skills we need to manage our own enterprise, and those needed to do so according to the requirements of the state. Many are unable to cross this bridge, despite having all the skills that nature demands to interact in this way with society.
Police accused Eric Garner of practicing the “free” part of “free enterprise” and killed him while enforcing regulations imposed to keep us safe. He had proclaimed his innocence of that victimless crime. Michael Brown was confronted in Ferguson Missouri for jaywalking and shot dead – for ignoring street-crossing rules. Don’t get me wrong, I am not against regulation or the policing of it – it is an essential part of community. What we need is connected regulation generated from the bottom up and voluntarily adhered to by those who want to enjoy the social facilities, connections, and benefits that accompany respect for that regulation. Such self-government would evolve along with society without creating volumes of victimless crimes and monsters like the War on Drugs or the Common Agricultural Policy.
Earlier in the book we look at coercion, the basic tool of every sovereign power, and see that refusal to pay a parking ticket could ultimately lead to one’s death. As it happens, suspicion of unlawful cigarette selling was enough for Eric Garner.
From Chapter 8 of The State Is Out Of Date, titled Legitimizing Coercion: “How does the state use coercion on us? Using a simple example like a parking fine, let us say that you absolutely refuse to pay this ticket or spend time in the court process trying to prove, say, that the police had blocked you from returning to your car in time due to a security scare. Anyway, no way are you going to pay a hundred dollars, pounds, or whatever to this uncaring and unresponsive state-sanctioned collection agency. Neither will you run and hide, accept losing your freedom and going to jail, nor will you let anyone impound your car or in any way take your money from you. So what does the state do? They will get your money, and they will coerce you into paying it; assuming that you are a relatively sane person, you will abandon your righteous determination and pay them.
Why? Because coercion ultimately means that if you are not willing to pay the fine or go to jail or run away, you can be killed. Shocking, isn’t it? Of course the state has bailiffs and ways of seizing your hundred whatevers before it comes to this. But if you really did not want them to collect their fine and either had no assets or had made them inaccessible, then the state would come to put you in prison for non-payment. If you did not go into hiding or sought to successfully resist this, actively defending yourself from being seized or stunned or gassed, then they would by some means eventually overcome and incarcerate you, or you would avoid going to prison on account of being dead. They will never say, “Well played, mate, we acknowledge your determination as righteous and will no longer press you to pay the fine imposed by our courts.”
Coercion may have been the only means to deal with threats such as Napoleon and Hitler who were, in essence, fighting other rulers for dominion over territory and the people within it. Horrifying to think, but had they won we might be looking back at them as great historic figures; a likely outcome when victors write the history. William the Conqueror got away with it, they did not. No visceral hatred of the English ever sent hoards of French or German people streaming onto cross-channel ferries armed with muskets and pickaxes. You need armies and governments to do that, or to protect us from governments and armies that do that. The more we spend on defense and security the more war and insecurity we will experience.
In the chapter of my book entitled Victimless Crimes I write of an imaginary situation where the police might shoot somebody for threatening suicide. Seeing it as an amusing concept, I never imagined it actually happening.
It happened in Utah when Jose Calzada, 35, called a suicide prevention hotline last Tuesday at 4am and threatened to kill himself. Seven hours later he was shot and killed by police, according to law enforcement. They shot him four or five times, just to be sure.
Quick-thinking detective Matt Gwynn explains: “Often police go into these situations with an ingrained mentality of looking at citizens as threats to the safety of the officers and thus feel empowered and justified to use lethal force as the suicidal person has already threatened to kill someone, themselves.”
It is not the first time police have shot those who admitted to thoughts of suicide. Earlier accounts in the original story here, at The Free Thought Project
The state has various ways to protect us from doing things that it thinks are not good for us. It can take our money away in fines, confiscate our property, put us in jail, get us fired or liquidate our business. Hell . . . there are even situations where it can kill you to protect you from yourself. Even the right to take your own life is an offense in most parts of the world. I have this mad image in my mind of a crouching policeman shouting “Don’t jump or I’ll shoot!” to a would-be suicidée about to leap from the window ledge of a high-rise.
Whilst beheadings are undoubtedly savage and brutal the fundamental problem is that they are terribly old-fashioned. Today, civilized nations blow people up, obliterate them with drones, riddle them with bullets, and execute them with chemicals cocktails. Many of those killed with hi-tech weapons die slowly in excruciating pain, their bodies ripped to pieces. But this is somehow okay since it is the modern way and done from a distance – however savage, brutal and indiscriminate the results. Most of the weaponry involved comes from the guardians of peace and democracy in America and Britain, with average cost-per-kill running into tens of thousands of dollars per “insurgent,” millions by some estimates.
The drums of full-spectrum war are beating once again, stimulated by outrage and hysteria over this single video. Bearing in mind the fallacy of WMD it would behove us to see this war-worthy video but no, we are banned from doing so, with the mere viewing of it in the UK declared a potential terrorist act. Let me tell you right now that no execution takes place in the video, which is 4 minutes 32 seconds of propaganda. The other eight seconds of the video show a small knife being pressed against James Foley’s throat without drawing blood or cries of pain, then shifts to a prone headless corpse (or mannequin) with a severed head sitting on its chest looking almost as realistic as those in movies and TV series. James Foley may well have been killed, but it certainly did not happen on camera. Many who have viewed the video comment on the absence of copious blood, the green screen look, the omission of a neck on decapitated “body” or head, and even differences between the face of this James Foley and the one we see in previous television interviews.
If journalist Foley is reading from an Islamic State script, then he does so without notes and appears to have spent considerable time rehearsing IS’s message to the world. He doesn’t falter or show any sign of fear and included messages to his family and his brother, a serving air force pilot. It is a crude but effective piece of propaganda and with the “execution” edited out is far less gruesome than the killing of innocents we see in other Islamic State actions, the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, the Syrian civil war, and even the cold-blooded shootings by US police in Ferguson and elsewhere. It may sway the minds of young Muslim men looking for purpose and excitement, with its twisted message being no more distorted than some of the blatant mendacity fed to us by our media – mendacity that led to phony wars killing over a hundred thousand innocents. Though difficult for a Westerner to find online (check LiveLeak), it must be easy for those searching in the Arab-language web.
The banned video is, of course, the propaganda of an evil and despicable group who have beheaded thousands of men and children, putting their heads on sticks, and abducting their wives and mothers. I despair at the appearance of this gruesome new player on the world stage; a player armed with the latest US hardware and rich with billions of US dollars seized in Iraq. For those who make the arms, of course, this is all good for business, as they effectively supply both sides in the conflicts of the Middle East. They will be rubbing their hands all the way to their bankster backers.
Responding to the beheading, Obama tells us emphatically that “no faith teaches people to massacre innocents.” Correction Mr President, your faith does. Let us briefly dip into the Bible, believed by fundamentalists of Judaism and Christianity to contain the indisputable word of God. Muslims credit this too, except for those bits that differ from the Quran. Perhaps this selection from Deuteronomy will help us better understand both the mentality of the Islamic State and that of fundamentalist Christians in the US who see themselves as players in catastrophic events visited upon the Holy Land and predicted by the Bible.
Deuteronomy 13:12-16 New International Version (NIV) If you hear it said about one of the towns the Lord your God is giving you to live in that troublemakers have arisen among you and have led the people of their town astray, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” (gods you have not known), then you must inquire, probe and investigate it thoroughly. And if it is true and it has been proved that this detestable thing has been done among you, you must certainly put to the sword all who live in that town. You must destroy it completely, both its people and its livestock. You are to gather all the plunder of the town into the middle of the public square and completely burn the town and all its plunder as a whole burnt offering to the Lord your God. That town is to remain a ruin forever, never to be rebuilt.
If we seriously want to neutralize the threat posed by Islamic State then let us join with the well-organized forces of President Assad of Syria, a secular leader. It was Western efforts to bring down his government through aiding its Islamist enemies that gave new wings to Islamic State, originally born out of the turmoil in Iraq. Their brutal slaughter of innocents appalls me, whatever means they employ, as does the slaughter of innocents in Gaza, Ukraine, Syria, and wherever factions fight for ownership of the right to take money from a nation’s people and tell them how to think and what to do. It’s the same old stuff that has been playing out on the world’s stage since Sargon of Akkad started the ball rolling around 2250 BCE.
Is there anything we really cannot manage without a top-down coercive state running it, other than protecting us from other varieties of themselves? Many are rightly concerned about corporations running the state, though one could argue that it might be preferable to being ruled by fundamentalist Muslims of the Islamic State, or a military junta, or the sort of Christians who burn heretics. But as long as we accept the state as some kind of a “necessary evil” then somebody will always be calling the shots and we will always be arguing over whether we prefer cat shit to dog shit to chicken shit.
There is another way and we already self-govern the majority of our social structures. Civilization preceded, by a few thousand years, the top-down state that Sargon initiated, and has often survived its collapse. Humans are good at self-governing when they are well-connected, doing it with feedback loops instead of threats and sticks.
Sunlight – a dangerous drug for humans or a life-prolonging blessing? Different scientists claim both.
Sun’s rays make us feel so good that they are addictive, which is a serious health problem, according to doctors in Massachusetts. Meanwhile, scientists in Sweden have found that women who avoid sunbathing during the summer are twice as likely to die as those who sunbathe every day.
The epidemiological study in Sweden followed 30,000 women for over 20 years and “showed that mortality was about double in women who avoided sun exposure compared to the highest exposure group.” Full story click here…