CIVIL RIGHTS

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Great Figures of the Civil Rights Movement

By: The Great Courses

Narrated by: Hasan Kwame Jeffries

Hasan Kwame Jeffries (Author, associate professor of history at Ohio State University,)

A timely refresher on the civil rights movement is given by Hasan Kwame Jeffries in the “Great Figures of the Civil Rights Movement”.  It is timely because of the resurrection of the assassination of Malcolm X and its reification of a fundamental split in the black civil rights movement in America.

Marcus Garvey (1887-1940, publisher and jornalist, black nationalist.)

Jeffries reminds us of the movement initiated by Marcus Garvey.  Though the idea of a return to Africa has come up many times in the history of America, Garvey established a black movement for the creation of an independent African nation.

To one who believes in the principles of freedom and equality for all, the idea of equality through independence is wrong.  All humans live on space ship earth. It is the principle of our equal humanness that preserves civilization. Separate is not equal. The problem is human freedom, equality, and equality of opportunity are works in progress toward a goal of equal treatment by society. 

Women and minorities are not treated equally in America or in most places of the world.  Since America’s beginning as a republic, many believed in qualified freedom, and a few in universal equality, but equality is falsely preached by white power and never achieved.  Slavery is an undeniable truth in world history.  In America, atrocities of black slavery in the south and institutional discrimination in the north are well documented.  It is no wonder that Marcus Garvey successfully tapped into a desire of many black Americans to achieve equality through separation.  Separation’s appeal is in its potential as a base for political power. Even though that power is limited by being a faction in a dominant social and political power structure.

What Jeffries shows is that Garvey is the father of the idea of Black Power that is symbolized by the Black Panther movement in the mid-20th century. 

From Jeffries’ history, one can see and understand a more nuanced and broader American civil rights movement.  White American power did not exhibit much understanding of the black power movement in the 1960s. White America responded with violence. White America murdered Fred Hampton, the Chicago Black Panther Chairman and local leader.  This unjust murder lies at the feet of the City of Chicago and the FBI.

Stokely Stanford Carmichael aka Kwame Ture (1941-1968, 4th Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.)

Jeffries notes the idea of Black Power came from a Stokely Carmichael’s rallying slogan in the 1960s.  (The phrase is said by some to have originated in a non-fiction book, “Black Power”, written by Richard Wright and published in 1954.) Carmichael participates in the 1961 Freedom Rides in Alabama.  They were organized by CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) to desegregate public transit services and restaurants.  In 1961, Carmichael and others travel to Jackson, Mississippi to sit in a segregated restaurant.  Carmichael, along with other freedom riders, is arrested for disturbing the peace. He is sent to prison for 53 days in Sunflower County, Mississippi.  Because of Carmichael’s bravery and oratorical skill, he became a full-time organizer for SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee).

Of course, the stars of the non-violent black movement are best known as men like Martin Luther King. 

King’s history is well known but Jeffries notes there were many black women that became extremely important to the movement for black emancipation.  Ella Baker becomes involved with the NAACP (1938-53), SCLC (1957-60), and the initial foundation of SNCC (1960-66) as a black activist and highly successful recruiter. Rosa Parks becomes the face of the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama.  Diane Nash, as a Freedom Rider, is known for integrating lunch counters in Nashville, Tennessee.  Nash is also a co-founder of SNCC.  Fannie Lou Hamer fights for women’s rights as the vice-chair of the Freedom Democratic Party in Mississippi.  The newly formed party successfully gets several local black politicians elected in Mississippi.  Jeffries notes the FDP is less successful on a national level, but Hamer is elected to the U.S. Senate in 1964, and later serves in the Mississippi State Senate.

In order pictured left to right: Ella Josephine Baker (1903-1986, Political activist for the NAACP, SCLC, and SNCC.), Rosa Parks (1913-2005, Civil Rights Activist, best known for the Montgomery bus boycott.), Diane Judith Nash (Freedom rider and co-founder of SNCC.), Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977, Civil rights leader, Vice charwoman of Freedom Democratic Party, Co-founder of National Women’s Political Caucus.)

Eldridge Cleaver (1935-1998, spent 7 years in exile in Cuba, returned in 1975, joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and became a conservative Republican.)

Jeffries glosses over Eldridge Cleaver’s leadership in ambushing Oakland police officers (two officers were wounded) and his arrest and escape to Cuba to avoid trial.  However, Kathleen Neal Clever, who married and divorce Cleaver, became an active member of the Black Panther Party that helped feed people, provide family medical care services, and provide transportation for families to visit loved ones in prison.  Jeffries notes Kathleen Neal Clever came from an upper middle class black family and supported the early founders of the Black Panther organization with her father’s witting or unwitting financial support.

One of the most interesting chapters of Jeffries book is about Malcolm X, particularly because of the recent release of a wrongly accused assassin.  Jeffries implies Malcolm X is assassinated by the Nation of Islam.  Jeffries infers the assassination is related to Malcolm X’s disillusion with the founder’s (Elijah Muhammad) dissolute sexual behavior, and NOI’s belief that the races should be separated to form a black nation to compete with all nations. 

Malcolm X came to believe all people are created equal in the eyes of God, while arguing the separatist ideal of NOI and Marcus Garvey were wrong.  The history of Malcolm X’s journey through life is fascinating, short, and impactful.  One cannot help but wonder how Malcom X could have changed the course of history had he not been assassinated.

Jeffries could have gone further back in history to tell the story of American black nationalism but he has done a great job of identifying the history of the 20th century heroes of the movement.

BRAIN FUNCTION

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

The Secrets of Consciousness

By: Essays in Scientific American

Narrated by: Coleen Marlo

A lot of ground is covered in “The Secrets of Consciousness” but for many who are interested in the subject, little new is revealed. 

Many articles and books have been written about the easy and hard part of the theory of consciousness. 

The easy part is knowledge of the physical characteristics and mechanics of brain function–the “how and where” of information that is stored and transmitted by the brain. 

The hard part remains the explanation of what consciousness means, particularly the “whys”. Why are living things aware of themselves, others, and the world from information transmission within a brain.  Why do humans get angry?  Why do we love?  Why do we hate?  Why are we sad or happy?  Is everything in the universe conscious?

(It is somewhat surprising that “A Thousand Brains” theory is not revealed in “The Secrets…” but it may be timing of publication. Or it may be scientist’s discounting of an engineer’s qualification for understanding consciousness.)

Consciousness is explained as an all-encompassing part of nature.  There is an avenue for consciousness in A.I., once the mechanics of consciousness are fully understood. The focus of first chapters are on scientific experiments showing all living things exhibit consciousness through their actions. 

For example, bees show consciousness by seeing red and in choosing the site of their nests with an ability to consciously navigate the world.

Following chapters explain parts of the brain and the mechanics of brain function.  They explore the complexity and interconnections of the brain and how different parts of the brain have specific functions.  This is the easy part of understanding consciousness because it is something that can be physically measured through brain scans and experiments that correlate actions with brain stimuli.  

Next, there are explanations of how experiments with brain stimuli offers potential for reading one’s mind without verbal communication. 

It opens the door for a consciousness meter that may allow some level of predictability and mind control.  In a positive sense, stimulus experiments might hold a key to reawakening consciousness in comatose patients.  The negative sense is the potential for brain washing a non-conforming human being.

Section 4 of these “Scientific American” articles is about “Altered States of Reality”. 

A particularly bizarre and threatening chapter suggests someone who sleepwalks can murder another person without being legally guilty of murder.

The last two sections of articles deal with psychoactive drugs, spiritual belief, and their effects on brain function.  A listener might view these articles as incentive to experiment with consciousness in two fundamentally different ways. One is with the use of psychedelic’s. The other is to join a monastery or convent.

The last article deals with the end of life. It reveals a possible explanation of why some see a white light just before dying.

Science argues the end of life is the end of consciousness. There is nothing after death–no heaven, no hell, just nothingness.

As an introduction to consciousness, this compendium is interesting.  However, after completion, the hard part of consciousness remains a secret.

AUTISM

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Uniquely Human

By: Barry M. Prizant PhD

Narrated by P.J. Ochlan

Barry M. Prizant, Phd. (Author, adjunt professor at Brown University, authority on autism disorders.)

Many are familiar with the existence of a neurodevelopment disorder called autism.  In a 2015 “Global Burden of Disease Study”, it is estimated that 1-2 people per 1,000 may be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. 

Prizant notes it affects more males than females and has a wide range of exhibited symptoms.

“Uniquely Human” is an excellent introduction to autism.  Prizant explains how symptoms are manifested, and how parents, teachers, and the public can help those within and outside the autistic spectrum. 

Autism is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.  Faulty synaptic connections in an autistic person’s brain affects their way of thinking and acting.

Prizant notes the importance of listening to a person on the autistic spectrum and asking questions to understand their thought and action. 

Prizant becomes an investigator by asking parents, teachers, and acquaintances of their experience with a particular autistic person.  By questioning, Prizant can find why an autistic person acts or reacts in a particular way. 

Prizant explains that a person on the spectrum is no different than any human being. An autistic person is thinking and acting based on facts they perceive and how they interpret those facts. 

If something is thought of as a threat, all people act in similar ways.  The principal difference is that one on the autistic spectrum may be interpreting information differently and reacting in accordance with their unique perception.    

When one realizes how information is being interpreted by someone on the spectrum, it is possible to work on reactions that seem wrong for the circumstances.  Prizant goes through several examples.  Being fearful of a boat ride, a particular corner of a street, or meeting strangers may make one who is on the spectrum act out.  With understanding of an autistic’s perception, one can desensitize and change behavior through explanation, environment change, or avoidance. 

In the case of the boat ride for the autistic child, Prizant suggests explaining the safety measures to be taken, adding a comfort toy on the trip, and showing that many friends will be on the boat.  In the case of a scary corner, Prizant discovers that a white building at the corner reminds the autistic person of a trip to the doctor when he was ill and in pain. Explaining to the frightened child that all white buildings are not the same abates fear of the corner. With more careful understanding of an autistic person’s perception, the object of fear can be addressed directly.  Being afraid of strangers is true of many people whether on the spectrum or not.  Knowing there is fear means one can address that fear by gradually introducing friends that do not have to be feared.

The difficult realization in Prizant’s book is that there are so many commonly understood social conventions assumed by people that are not comprehended by those on the autistic spectrum.  Social conventions are often poorly defined or not taught. 

Social conventions like not saying what you think when it embarrasses a person in front of other people comes from experience, not teaching.  This is just one example of how difficult it is for an autistic person to cope with life because societal norms are not precisely defined.  Those not on the spectrum, take societal norms for granted based on their experience.  Prizant notes a person on the autistic spectrum experiences life differently.  They may be completely unaware of social conventions.

Prizant offers tools for understanding and working with all human beings, not just those on the autistic spectrum.  Whether one is autistic or not, it is important to listen, investigate, and understand why people think and act the way they do.  It might be because that person is on the autism spectrum.  That does not mean those who are not on the spectrum may also interpret facts in a way that is inconsistent with most people’s understanding.

Many experiences early in one’s life have consequences later in life. A child remembers a father’s or mother’s rebuke as an eternal judgement when the reality may have been to protect a child from harm.  The shadow is created and remains with the child for the rest of his/her life.

Understanding human beings can only come from listening and questioning what a person thinks and why they act the way they do.  Easy to say, but time consuming and unlikely to be done in this increasingly fast-paced world.

HUMAN RIGHTS

The Handmaid’s Tale

By Margaret Atwood

Narrated by: Claire Danes

Margaret Atwood (Author)

For a short time in 2017-18, “The Handmaid’s Tale” mesmerized TV viewers.  A 4th and final season is planned by Hulu in 2020.  An interesting speculation in “The Handmaid’s Tale” is–what would happen if misogyny grew rather than diminished in society?  Margaret Atwood suggests misogyny will create a dystopian future. 

Atwood’s view of misogyny’s existence in the world is fulsome and complex. She implies misogyny is perpetuated and reinforced by both sexes.  Both women and men ally themselves in repression of sexual equality. 

Margaret Atwood creates a story about a conspiracy of women to repress equality by exclusively relegating women to propagation and covert management of humanity.  Males are correctly accused and guilty of denying women’s equal rights, but Atwood illustrates both sexes are complicit in suppression and enforcement of sexual inequality.

Many men and women hide behind the veil of religion and secular authority to exploit unequal treatment of the sexes. 

Atwood’s story implies men may rule the world but only under the influence and guidance of women.  Males are sperm providers.  Males possess rights to rule the world, but they delude themselves in thinking they are in control.  The relationship between the sexes makes women not only the vessel of creation but the covert controller of society. Only the female form can create human life.  In most western religions, only women were given knowledge of good and evil in the garden of Eden.

Love is not necessary and is a negative force in Atwood’s dystopian vision of the future. 

Atwood’s dystopian world suggests management of sexual inequality is perpetuated by women.   Atwood’s story infers God created humanity for man with women as knowledge bearers who reproduce and manage life through nature’s thicket of good and evil.  “The Handmaid’s Tale” exposes the weakness of men and the strength of women.

Atwood implies men’s weakness is in their ignorance, desire for intimacy, failure to control nature, and a wish to see themselves as more than sperm bearers.  The strength of women is in their knowledge of good and evil and how to use it to have some level of control over nature. 

Neither sex can control nature, but knowledge gives women a sharper edge for splitting the difference between good and evil.  What Atwood implies is that women’s superior knowledge of good and evil may lead to her described dystopian world.

The best antidote for a future unlike that shown in “The Handmaid’s Tale” is the Socratic importance of “knowing thyself”.  All human beings are created equal.  “Knowing thyself” is the beginning of wisdom.  Neither men or women are superior beings.

CULTURAL EVOLUTION

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

To You We Shall Return

By: Joseph M. Marshall III

                                             Narrated by : Joseph M. Marshall III

Joseph M. Marshall III (Author)

Joseph M. Marshall is a native American Indian of the Lakota tribe.  He argues that humanity must balance economic growth with nature to preserve cultural, particularly American Indian, identity.  The foundation of the argument is his life in a Lakota family and a felt loss of cultural identity.  His recollection is that his family’s life ambition is balancing the Lakota way of life with the natural world. 

Marshall creates an argument based on a false dichotomy. 

The world has never been a static place.  One cannot dispute balancing change with nature is critical to survival of humans on earth.  However cultural evolution is an integral part of that balance.

Marshall notes his family modified their culture to adjust from hunter/gatherer life to a farming life. 

He decries the destruction of his native culture by non-native explorers who, without question, deceived, evicted, and murdered Indians for what foreign settlers believed was a new frontier to conquer and exploit.  

But that is not the theme of Marshall’s book.  His belief is that ethnic cultures should be retained by emphasizing balance of nature to maintain the environment in a fragile world.

What is disturbing about the emphasis on balance of nature is the discounting of science that saved many homos sapiens from disease, starvation, and death.

With discovery of the causes of disease, ways for cure, and methods for increasing food production, people’s lives and standards of living were improved. 

Marshall recalls an idyllic history of his Lakota family that lived in the wilderness by adjusting their lives to the exigencies of nature.  On a larger scale of life, rebalancing lives of humans with earth’s environment is a never-ending process.  New scientific, political, and social discoveries require cultural adaptation.

Cultural evolution is a consequence of human nature and manufactured law.  Human nature is formed at birth and evolves based on life experience that modifies the psychology of being, human desires, and behavioral traits.  Manufactured law is a social construct based on either authoritarian, socialist, or democratic political ideals and institutions. 

Contrary to Marshall’s explanation of the ideal of a culture that is disappearing, some like Norman Borlaug, imply the survival of humanity is dependent on the interplay between human nature, science, and manufactured law.  (Borlaug was an agronomist who found a hybridized wheat seed that saved millions from starvation.) 

Knowledge gained through science offers the opportunity to rebalance the relationship between humanity and nature. 

Cultural evolution is a part of that rebalancing.  Cultures collide and reform.  Cultures are compelled to adapt.  Over the life of the universe, one presumes earthlings will have one culture, and other worlds will have their own distinctive cultures.

This is not to minimize the monumental loss of identity to the Lakota or any other culture. 

The history of indigenous Indian cultural decimation in America is heart breaking in the same way that all human beings have not been treated as equals. 

Marshall’s wish for cultural permanence is an unreasonable expectation.  Human nature is a brutal and often unfair quality of being human.  Adaptation by cultures follows Darwin’s path of evolution.  The animal kingdom adapts to its changing environment, or its species dies.

NO EXIT

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

On the Run, Fugitive Life in an American City

By: Alice Goffman

                                                         Narrated by : Robin Miles

Alice Goffman (Author, sociologist.)

“On the Run” is a picture of life in a low to no income inner-city neighborhood in America.  Its focus comes from a white sociologist’s immersion in black families lives. 

Alice Goffman chooses to live with a black family to create an intimate portrait of life as a black youth in a poor inner-city neighborhood.

What Goffman finds is that young black Americans are taught by older siblings to distrust and evade the police.  Older siblings have experience with living in a neighborhood with few jobs, a lot of time, and limited legal economic opportunity.  The way of making a living is to deal drugs, steal from the few neighbors that have anything, and run from anyone who can accuse or arrest a fugitive for breaking the law. 

Once the law is broken and a perp is caught, arrested, indicted, and convicted, Goffman explains “a record” makes running the only way to survive.

Goffman explains running, to many born in this environment, entails lying about your name, where you are going, who your family and friends are, and where you stay at night.  The reason is that who you know, and where you sleep makes you vulnerable to the police or anyone searching for you.  A good policeman will ask questions and take notes on everyone he/she talks to about someone they are looking for in the neighborhood.

Those who get caught for a crime are trapped in a circle of arrest, incarceration, bail, parole, non-payment of fines, re-arrest, more incarceration, more unpaid fines, and re-arrest.

This systematic recycling of arrest and release is maddening and disturbing to reader/listeners of Goffman’s book.  On the one hand you have people committing crimes against other people and on the other you have law enforcement doing its duty to reduce crime.

This disturbing picture with “no exit” is accompanied by physical restraint, twisted arms, and face plants on pavement, bare floors, and carpet  that reinforces fear and hate between police and the public.  

Most Americans do not see this cycle of madness.  Those within the madness see it only as a way of life.  To political conservative and liberals, the answer is law enforcement, education, and job creation.  To a low-income/no-income neighborhood boy or girl, law enforcement is a recycling dead end, and education, or legal employment are either not available or poorly provided.

All that is remaining in these neighborhoods seems to be personal relationships.  Mother’s love their children, fathers are in jail or on probation, boys have guarded relationships with everyone and no one, girls are left to look after the next companion that offers escape from loneliness.

Goffman offers a dismal picture of life in big city poor neighborhoods that recycle themselves with little hope for those seeking a better life.

AMERICAN SPIES

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

The Quiet Americans: Four CIA Spies at the Dawn of the Cold War-A Tragedy in Three Acts

By: Scott Anderson

                                  Narrated by : Robertson Dean, Scott Anderson

Scott Anderson (Author)

“The Quiet Americans” is an investigative reporter’s view of the American spy service.  It is written by a veteran war correspondent and son of a former foreign aid officer.  The author, Scott Anderson, is raised in East Asia.  He reviews America’s spy network during and after WWII. 

The American independent spy agency is formed after WWII to provide intelligence on growing clandestine activities of the U.S.S.R.  The author notes there were intelligence operations during WWII, but they were not independent.  During the war, Intelligence services were defined and executed by the military.  It is only after WWII that an independent branch is formed along the lines of British intelligence.

In Anderson’s opinion, President Harry Truman is an inept manager of the nascent American intelligence service. 

 There are several surprising facts and interpretations of history compiled by Anderson.    Kennan is characterized as a great diplomatic analyst, but capable of lying to protect his reputation. 

George Kennan is viewed as an influential diplomat in the creation of what becomes known as the Central Intelligence Agency.

The Dulles brothers solidify the role of the CIA in American clandestine operations in the world.  Their modus vivendi for CIA operations prevails today.  Their intent is to have an agreement allowing conflicting parties to coexist peacefully.  However, Anderson shows their action belies their intent.

Dulles Brothers (John Foster on the right, Allen on the left.)

Parenthetically, as an example of Stalinist ideology, Anderson notes Adolph Hitler’s remains were not found in a burned bunker in which Hitler is alleged to have committed suicide.  His burned remains were secreted by Joseph Stalin and placed in an archive in the U.S.S.R.  Stalin’s motive for secrecy is unknown.

 

An independent spy agency is initially opposed by Truman, and perennially opposed by FBI Director Hoover. 

J. Edgar Hoover–Director of the FBI from 1924 to 1972. (Died in May of 1972 at the age of 77)

Anderson notes Ambassador Kennan’s prescient analysis (the long memorandum) reflects the duplicitous nature of Joseph Stalin.  Kennan recommends a surreptitious and aggressive American containment policy enacted through the practice of espionage.  Kennan plays an important role in the formation of the American Intelligence service.  The first director of this operation is a close friend of Kennan’s, a man named Frank Wisner.

“The Quiet Americans” Anderson profiles are Edmund Michael Burke, Frank Wisner, Peter Sichel, and Edward Lansdale.  In their stories, Anderson reveals the beginnings of the CIA and a history of minor espionage successes and significant failures.  In the back of a listener’s mind is the consequence of American espionage—their cost in human lives and dollars, and American truths about what measures are taken to presumably secure freedom and equality in other countries.

             

This is not a pretty picture.  American efforts to change the world for the better through covert action is shown to be, at best, questionable, and at worst horribly misguided.  As an American, it seems clear that most covert activity is meant to do good but the definition of good is distorted by human nature.

America’s role in Albania, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan raises the hopes of many but at a cost of too many lives and dollars.  Hope of many of these country’s citizens becomes despair. How many lives and dollars could have been saved and repurposed for freedom and equality, rather than destruction of cultural difference.  What Anderson makes clear is that national purpose (American or other) is distorted when it is undisclosed because human beings are seduced by self-interest, whether that interest is money, power, and/or prestige. 

Government disclosure offers visibility to the public.  Disclosure offers opportunity for public  influence on government policy.  America prides itself on being a government of, and by the people–through popularly elected representatives.  Covert government action that is undisclosed to elected representatives gives no opportunity for citizens to influence government policy. 

The idea of full disclosure discounts poor intelligence like that given about “weapons of mass destruction” that compelled America to invade Iraq and depose Saddam Hussein.  False disclosure by American intelligence misled both citizens and elected officials about what America should do in Iraq.

Dulles Brothers (John Foster on the right, Allen on the left.)

Anderson’s exposure of John Foster Dulles’s tenure as Secretary of State and his brother Allen, as the fifth CIA Director, exemplifies the worst characteristics of covert activities without oversight by elected representatives. 

Anderson’s view is America’s opportunity to change the course of history after Stalin’s death is lost because of Dwight Eisenhower’s actions based on the Dulles brother’s political influence. 

To Anderson, the course of the U.S.S.R. and American relationship may have been entirely different if the Dulles’s had not run Eisenhower down the wrong diplomatic road.  It is impossible to judge what may have happened if a different course had been taken, but Anderson infers the Dulles’ Road led to years of lost opportunity.  On the other hand, hindsight is always more perfect than foresight.

Though Burke, Wisner, Sichel, and Lansdale are great patriots, Anderson implies their patriotism and actions often failed to serve American ideals.

Burke’s extraordinary life led him to Italy, Albania, and Germany. He served his country by trying to save Albania from communism, and Germany from further encroachment by the U.S.S.R. At best, his success is limited to non-existent. Albania remained in the fold of communism and success in Germany is the split of Berlin from the eastern block at the expense of food deliveries by air and an agreed upon East and West Berlin.

Wisner kept the light on for covert operations of what became the CIA but failed to get the top job or temper the excesses of secret operations.

Sichel survives them all but appears to compromise a principle of not using bad actors who participated in the holocaust that murdered over 6,000,000 Jews and Nazi resistors.

And finally Wisner, who manages to gain the trust of Philippine and Vietnamese leaders, many of which America abandons by leaving them to fend for themselves.

Trapped, as all humans are, by the times in which they live, they were the instruments of many wasted lives.  How many people must die because of undisclosed covert Intelligence operations? 

Listening to “The Quiet Americans” makes one understand how important freedom of the press is to America.  

Americans must lead by example, not by covert action. More recent episodes in Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan show America continues to ignore history’s lessons.

TIBET

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Eat the Buddha

By: Barbara Demick

                                       Narrated by : Cassandra Campbell

Barbara Demick gives listeners a picture of Tibet with a darkness that rivals the narrative she creates for North Korea in “Nothing to Envy”. 

“Eat the Buddha” is a reminder of China’s insistence on Tibet’s acceptance of Communist authority in the face of Buddhist and Tibetan ethnic and religious identity.  Like the Uyghurs in mainland China, Tibetans practice a religion that conflicts with Communist atheism.  Unlike Islamist Uyghurs, Buddhists eschew violence against oppressors.

Demick addresses self-immolation as an example of Tibetan protest which does not harm others but only one self. Well over 100 men and 28 women have set themselves aflame.

Demick bases “Eat the Buddha” on living seven years in Beijing, with personal visits to Tibet. She interviews Tibetans and Chinese, including the Dalia Lama who is exiled in India. 

Demick interviews many who consider Buddhist teaching a positive and integral part of their lives and culture. 

Demick’s history of the treatment of Tibetan citizens under Maoist communism reminds one of America’s treatment of Indian tribes in America.  Mao tries to erase Tibet’s nomadic culture by murdering Tibetan leaders and excommunicating the Dali Llama. Mao’s object is to thwart the influence of Buddhist religious belief and indoctrinate Tibetan citizens into the ways of Communism.

Mao era attack of Buddhism during the Cultural Revolution.

Demick tells the story of Maoist cadre’s eviction and eventual murder of a regional Tibetan King and his wife during the cultural revolution.  The daughter of the former King is one of Demick’s many interviews.  The irony of this daughter’s experience with Chinese culture offers both positive and negative memories of her early life in Tibet.  She adapts to Chinese doctrine but eventually becomes an assistant to the exiled Dali Lama in India.  She cannot abandon her Tibetan cultural beliefs.

Tibetan demonstration in 2020.

Mao, and today’s Chinese leaders, believe any ethnic self-identification, other than Communist party doctrine, conflicts with the State. 

Like America’s treatment of Indians, China’s leaders use carrots and sticks to integrate Tibetans into Communist doctrine and Chinese culture. 

Rather than accepting culture difference, both America and China suppress their ethnic minorities.  However, the suppression is qualitatively different. The significant difference is that China sees minority ethnicity and religion as a direct threat to Communist ideals.  In contrast, American history implies ethnicity and religious difference are an evolutionary characteristic, bending toward freedom and equality.  That does not make American history less violent, but it suggests hope for something better than China’s expectation of ethnic and religious absorption by Communism.

Demick suggests Tibet is currently in the carrot stage of influence by the Chinese government.  Having personally traveled to Tibet in 2019, much of what Demick describes about the modernization of Lhasa, the capitol of Tibet, is obvious. 

The restoration of the Potala Palace by the Chinese government is astonishingly beautiful.  It is the burial place of past Dalai Lamas.  Though it is no longer a practicing Buddhist temple, it is a tacit acknowledgement by China of Tibetan culture.

The last chapters of Demick’s book acknowledge her extensive research. She notes Tibetans are better off now than they were during the Mao years.  However, she explains Tibetans do not have the same economic opportunity as the ethnic Chinese.  It is important to be Chinese and even more important to be a member of the Communist party. (Our guide in a trip to China and Tibet reinforces the value of being enrolled in the Communist party. Though he abjures the tragedy of Tiananmen Square, he has a slender hope to join the Communist Party because of the opportunity if would afford him and his family.)

Demick infers Tibetans face the same discrimination as American minorities (these pics are not of Tibetans but American Asians attacked by non-Asian Americans in 2021), and presumably the same discrimination felt by many women in the world.

In Demick’s interviews of the Dalai Lama, she finds he is optimistic about Tibet’s future and survival as a Buddhist haven.  The Dalai Lama continues to negotiate with China’s leaders with hope of a return to Tibet.  (He was exiled in the 1950s by Mao’s government. That exile remains in place.)   His successor is to be chosen by the Gaden Phodrang Trust, an India-based group set up by the current Dalai Lama. However, the Chinese government says it will approve the Dalai Lama’s successor.  The Buddhist belief is that the Dalai Lama must be a reincarnation of former Dali Lamas.

GADEN PHODRANG FOUNDATION OF THE DALAI LAMA

Demick writes of a Padme Dalai Lama in Tibet with a marginal explanation of their importance in Buddhism. The Padme Dalai Lama plays an important role in selecting the next Dalai Lama. The Padme Dalai Lama is second in the hierarchy of primary Dalai Lamas. A Padme Dalai Lama is identified (chosen) by a current Dalai Lama. The 14th Dalai Lama chose a 6 year old boy but he was taken by the Chinese government after his selection. Demick explains the Chinese government chose to select the next Tibetan Padme Dalai Lama despite the 14th Dalai Lama’s choice. No one with certainty knows of the Padme Dalai’s fate.  Some suggest he is now a college graduate living an anonymous life. Theoretically, today there are two living Padme Dalai Lamas.

Today’s Dalai Lama is Tenzin Gyatso.  He is the 14th Dalai Lama. As of this writing, he is 86 years old.

Pictures of the 14th Dalai Lama are forbidden in China. Demick notes that a travel book in her carry on luggage is confiscated by a Chinese Airport inspector as she returns to the United States in 2o20. The confiscation is because the travel book had a picture of the Buddhist leader.

Demick draws an interesting picture of Tibet. It reveals both the truth and weakness of one historian’s view of China and Tibet. It is founded on the truth of what a number of Tibetans remember of the Mao’ years and the current relationship of China and Tibet. As is true of all books of history, China’s and Tibet’s past is not perfectly clear and the future, at best, becomes a cloudy past.

LIBERTARIANISM

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

The Inevitable (Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future)

By: Kevin Kelly

Narrated by George Newbern

Kevin Kelly (Author, co-founding executive of Wired magazine).

Kevin Kelly’s book is a Libertarian’s guide to minimalist government. Kelly paints a clear picture of today’s internet of things and the direction in which it seems to be heading. If sharing replaces ownership, American Democracy must change or die. 

Kelly implies the evolution of technology will make all but defense of country the sole purpose of government.  This is a Libertarian dream.  What Kelly glosses over is the disinformation system of a sharing economy that misleads the public and foments anarchy.

Kelly argues block chain technology decentralizes the last bastion of government oversight by producing value (bit coin) based on an algorithm. Kelly infers there is no need for a Federal Reserve, or a bureaucracy to assure value of exchange, if currency is based on a mathematical formula.

Without the oversight of government, which includes bureaucratic regulations, a sharing economy diminishes the role of checks and balances.  Kelly correctly outlines what is happening in this technological world, but his extrapolation is frightening. 

In Kelly’s vision of a sharing economy, democracy is at risk of anarchy like that seen on January 6, 2021.

The public puts its head in the sand if they ignore Kelly’s view of the 12 technological forces in play today.

He describes flowing, screening, accessing, sharing, filtering, remixing, tracking, and questioning as the twelve technological forces that make the public codependent.  His observations reflect the “now” that presages a future.

The terror in Kelly’s observation is that human nature is not going to change in a sharing economy where nothing is owned but only shared.  Humans will game the system either by raiding the block chain vault or manipulating code to enrich their lives at the expense of others. 

Without a degree of centralized oversight (government), anarchy replaces equal rights and rule of law.

Any realization of codependence is anathema to the tradition of America. Human beings do not interpret the truth of facts in the same way.  Each has their own view of the world and their place in it. 

There will always be climate deniers, tree huggers, gun lovers and gun haters.

Kelly acknowledges there is need for some oversight of a sharing economy but implies the inclusion of everyone’s expression or belief will result in balanced self-governance and companionable A.I. for societal improvement. One may have a difference of opinion based on the events of January 6, 2021. That event’s aftermath will offer further clues to American Democracy’s future.

Decentralization by the internet of things and A.I. dependence may be as “…Inevitable” as Kevin Kelly suggests.  The question today has to do with what can be done to allay its negative consequences. Libertarianism is not the answer.

DISCRIMINATION AND SLAVERY

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Black Rednecks and White Liberals

By: Thomas Sowell

Narrated by Hugh Mann

Thomas Sowell (Author, Economist, Political Pundit)

Thomas Sowell offers a scholarly and cogent history of discrimination, and slavery, but like all who report facts of the past, Sowell’s book narrows the complete story.

Jason L. Riley (American commentator and author, member of The Wall Street Journal editorial board.)

In May 29th’s WSJ Weekend, Sowell is praised by Jason Riley who recently wrote a Sowell biography. The 3/4 page editorial does not comment on Sowell’s “Black Rednecks and White Liberals”.

Thomas Sowell agreed to a book title to create sales, not promote an insightful analysis of discrimination.  He fails to convince one that an inherited “Redneck/Liberal” meme neither originates nor perpetuates American Southern discrimination.

Sowell’s argument is a Redneck culture and White Liberals explain the plight of Black Americans.  It is a false theory because of his selective collection and use of facts.  Unequal treatment and opportunity are based on difference, a much broader human label than redneck, liberal, or conservative. 

The color of one’s skin is such an obvious difference; it magnifies discrimination. 

This is not to say, as Sowell notes, that history shows Blacks did not victimize their own people.  It is that color of one’s skin entails a host of false assumptions about people of color, particularly by those in positions of power.

Sowell is certainly correct about culture as an identifiable difference that causes discrimination, but skin color magnifies difference, particularly when those in power are white.  Putting aside that disagreement, Sowell’s book is a first-rate history of what has happened to minorities who are different from those in power. 

“Rednecks” and “White Liberals” are only a minority in political twitter. Any human being might be classified as “Redneck” or “White Liberal”. There is no categorization that fully describes “Redneck” or “White Liberal” in Thomas Sowell’s book.

One might agree with Sowell that both Blacks and whites can be “Rednecks” but there is no “Redneck” culture.  There are rich who live in fine houses. There are poor who are homeless.  There are unemployed looking for work.  There are unemployed not looking for work.  There are able-bodied and disabled; some of which work, some not.  Any of them can be “Rednecks”, “Liberals”, or “Conservatives”.  Many came from Europe, England, South American, Africa, and Asia to settle in America.  There cultures, and indigenous Indians evolved in America from what they were in the countries in which they were born. The circumstances of America changed them.  What did not change is human nature’s habit of discrimination based on difference.

Sowell suggests that “Redneck” culture originated in parts of England. He characterizes the culture as uneducated, mean-spirited, and violent.  In the dictionary the definition of “Redneck” is defined as “a working-class white person, especially a politically reactionary one from a rural area”.

Sowell suggests poor education, meanness, and violence are inherited by the American south’s settlement by English immigrants.  This is a distortion of the South’s history, England’s lower economic class, and the south’s environment.

Many abolitionist thinkers and doers in the world came from the American South.  Some were white.  Robert Carter III, the grandson of a Virginia land baron manumitted 500 slaves in the 1700s, Robert Purvis born in Charleston, South Carolina helped found the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833, the Grimke sisters deplored slavery in the south and limitations on the rights of women, Francis White founded the Nashoba Commune in Tennessee that was formed to prepare slaves for emancipation, John Brown led the insurrection at Harpers Ferry Virginia because he believed “moral suasion is hopeless” in abolishing slavery.  

Some were black. Martin Delany, born in Virginia, insisted on Negroes controlling their destiny, James Bradley from Kentucky, who was a transported slave from Africa. He purchased his freedom and became an anti-slavery advocate in the Arkansas Territory.

Sowell is on firmer ground when writing about the middlemen merchant class.  The middleman and woman are between producer and consumer that rise from an industrialized and now technocratic society.  This middleman is the manufacturing and distributing class.  These middlemen and women are workers, and intermediaries who package, deliver, and sell product.  They are a cohort that includes “Rednecks”, “Liberals”, and “Conservatives”. 

Middlemen and women are not the superrich, but they grow into cultural groups that wield power.  They create different cultures that clash with each other because they can be identified as different.

They are different because of their religion, their wealth, their profession, their use of language, their ethnicity, or their skin color.  It is those differences that create an opportunity to act against, or in support of those in power.  It is difference, not exclusively one thing but anything that sets a minority apart from the majority.

Sowell enlightens listeners with information about the history of slavery, the details of difference among populations in countries where Jews, Armenians, Africans, Pakistanis, Indians, and many more ethnic groups were tortured, enslaved, raped, and murdered. 

Today, it is Blacks in America, Uighurs in China, castes in India, Armenians in Eastern Europe, Christians in Turkey, Palestinians in Israel, Chechens in Russia, and so on, and so on. Not because they were “Redneck”, “Liberal”, or “Conservative” but because they were different, clannish, and semi-independent.

“Suppression of equal opportunity” is another name for slavery. What is galling about Sowell’s selection of facts is the idea that slavery has always existed in the world.  That is true but how does that justify today’s slavery by another name. 

Sowell goes on to suggest “Brown vs. Board of Education” ruined high achieving schools for Black Americans by destroying neighborhood schools.

Some would argue America’s public school system is simply getting what it pays for.

Without contesting Sowell’s research on Black schools that deteriorated because of the “Brown” decision, he chooses to ignore what improvement there may have been for Black students that went to public schools that were largely white.

Good teachers are underpaid and often leave teaching because they can find better paying jobs in other professions. America’s public school system is becoming more of a child care system than a teaching institution.

Integration is meant to ameliorate inequality. Sowell’s research is more a criticism of the quality of public schools than the goal of ameliorating inequality

A conclusion one draws from Sowell’s history is the human need of tolerance for difference.  Not everyone wants the same thing out of life.  Not everyone lives life in the same way.  The Wall Street Journal editorializes on October 10, 2020 that tolerance is the bane of the 21st century.  It argues that tolerance allows equal rights for gays, lesbians, and transsexuals’ as though they are something less than human beings.  This is conservatism at its worst. Lack of tolerance is the sine non quo of slavery and discrimination.