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Re-introducing myself
comfortable
(This will take more than one post. I'm limited for time tonight due to my oldest boy's family visiting us for the holidays.)

I've become a monk.

It's peaceful. It's much better than my old life. You can do it too, if you wish.

Monk? What do you mean?

Well, not a religious person, that's for sure. I'm about as atheistic as they come. No afterlife, no ghosts, spirits, or supernatural powers.

I'm using the word to describe a calm and self-assured person. A person who accepts the world (and himself) for what is, and doesn't become frustrated or angry or indignant if the world isn't what 'ought' to be; who has arrived at this place after years of study and introspection. Didn't seclude myself in any monastery for years, didn't need to. Kept on with life, paid the bills, and thought and thought. Whenever something made me unhappy, I analyzed my own feelings. Tried to identify just exactly why I was upset.

Somewhere about 5 years ago, I synthesized the answer (well, at least 'my' answer. It works for me). I'm still working on improving my skills at this attitude (about myself and the world around me). Practice, I practice. I still run the risk of having negative feelings or hurting others - but these days, that seldom happens.

I enjoy life, as fully as I am able. Passion, love, joy, good food, family - I said 'monk', not ascetic.

No jealousy, no anger, no frustration, no indignation, no judging of the behavior of others unless that behavior threatens me or causes actual harm. (There's far too many self-righteous who mistakenly believe that some behaviors of others are 'harming society' or 'harming others' - with no evidence, only prejudice.)

At any rate, my 3 grown children and my wife have all remarked on the change in me. What's more, I've had my youngest son actually begin to emulate my attitude with some success. Impressive for being only 31 years old. (I am 61.)

Am I talking too much about myself? Is this about me? Well, yes. The forum invited us to introduce ourselves.

So with this newfound attitude, I have become - 'comfortable'. Comfortable with my atheism, comfortable with my death, comfortable with criticism by others.

Monk is the word I use to describe a person who, through introspection, contemplation, effort, study, and practice - has arrived at an inner-peace.

The largest single influence was reading Dawkins' many fine books on evolutionary theory. From reading and re-reading his books, I had an epiphany. I saw the true inter-connectedness of all creatures, especially the sentient ones with emotions. I saw the parallels between the animals I observed every day, and the interactions of humans. Evolution explains the survival-value of the emotions. It also explains why people can be so irrational. After all, evolution doesn't select for intelligence - it selects for birth-rate and health. That's all.

Another influence was the many essays and satires by Mark Twain. His Letters From The Earth, among other works, showed me that others saw the same irrationality and absurdities in human behavior that I saw. Therefore I had no reason to feel entirely alone. I understood that here was a very smart man who saw human irrationality much the same way I did; only he had a particular gift for organizing these thoughts and setting them down on paper.

It was easy for me to eliminate my belief in an afterlife. All I had to do was read about how people are given completely different personalities by brain injury, head trauma, surgery, and brain disease. Heck, if 45,000 violent criminals were turned into good citizens through the expediency of pre-frontal lobotomies (in the 40's and 50's - look it up), then how could an invisible "soul" be the cause of desires and actions? If you alter the brain, you alter the person.

My major epiphany, however, was when I realized that there is no such thing as a purely altruistic act. Every conscious decision to do something "for someone else" involves an expectation; of a reciprocal act, of appreciation, of heavenly reward, etc. In other words, a selfish motive.

Nowadays I do good deeds for others. But I do them to feel good about myself. I am never disappointed. If the recipient of my time, energy, or treasure fails to appreciate me, or show gratitude, or behave in a manner I would wish - that's okay.

The most mis-guided words in the English language are "How could you do this to me? After all I've done for you!" If the person making this complaint would only realize that their pain, anger, frustration, and hurt are due entirely to their own mis-placed expectations; expectations placed on the other person - their pain would evaporate quickly.

Now I have no such self-inflicted pain in my life. I realize that requiring another person to behave the way I want them to behave is, at heart, selfish.

If you ask me for a loan, and I give it to you; rest assured, I did it knowing full well that you may not say "thanks", you may actually resent me (it's all too human) - but since I gave it to you, I must have wanted to do it, and am glad that I did it, and feel good about myself for having done it. Your thanks is appreciated, but not necessary for my happiness.

More later.
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The fewer the facts, the stronger the opinion.
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Men are sheep in credulity, but wolves for conformity.
 
seeker
Do atheist monks have to get the funky haircuts?
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
 
Skeeve
Kung fu too? Pfft
 
comfortable
Thanks, guys.
No, that's just the word I use for inner-peace through study and introspection.

I saw a PBS show on "The Buddha" Wednesday night. I was surprised to learn (overlooking all the myths about shadows standing still, and trees flowering at his death) - I was surprised to learn that he came to the same conclusion that I came to. There is suffering and pain in the world - deal with it. One can achieve peace by coming to terms with one's own attitudes. Indeed "change can only come from within".

I don't know what he taught about an afterlife, but I agree with his take on emotional pain and suffering. It's self-inflicted.

Even when suffering is inflicted from without (e.g. tsunami, plague), one can realise that the world is what it is - and one can accept what one cannot change, with equanimity.

This is by no means defeatism. We can work hard to predict tsunamis and develop vaccines - but when faced with inescapable harm from intractable outside forces, one can at least retain internal psychological peace (as opposed to blaming it on homosexuals, god working in mysterious ways, or the Jews).

@ seeker: I wish I had enough hair for a funky haircut (* sigh *).

A Buddhist joke
A Zen master visiting New York City goes up to a hot dog vendor and says, "Make me one with everything." (already we have a double-entendre here)

The hot dog vendor fixes a hot dog and hands it to the Zen master, who pays with a $20 bill.

The vendor puts the bill in the cash box and closes it. "Excuse me, but where’s my change?" asks the Zen master.

The vendor responds, "Change must come from within."

Edited by comfortable on 12/24/2010 13:23
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The fewer the facts, the stronger the opinion.
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Men are sheep in credulity, but wolves for conformity.
 
comfortable
So here is my focus.
God is an invention of Man. So the nature of God is only a shallow mystery. The deep mystery is the nature of Man. (Nanrei Kobori)


I see religion as an ugly outward manifestation of our evolutionary history, our "emotional baggage", as it were; where the survival value of following a leader (an alpha male?), fear of the dark, tribalism, and fear of death - have combined and been mis-directed into "religion" since the dawn of mankind.

Disproving any particular religion's cherished beliefs misses the point. The larger point is the nature of humans, including myself. I sought "truth" through studying religions, quite earnestly, when younger. The goal was to "win daddy's love" (the cosmic daddy in the sky). To win His approval.

Now that I know better (there is no afterlife), the goal has changed. Now I wish to live harmoniously with the world I find myself in.

Those who believe in an afterlife are, by definition, deprecating this one as mere preparation for that afterlife. In short, they are acolytes in a cult of death.

No thanks.
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Edited by comfortable on 12/24/2010 13:41
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The fewer the facts, the stronger the opinion.
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Men are sheep in credulity, but wolves for conformity.
 
comfortable
See how easy it is to drive up the number of posts? (heh heh)

On the "mis-firing" of evolutionary traits:

Consider the (pleasurable) human male sexual response to the sight of a naked woman, her inviting smile, or various body parts.

An obvious survival trait. Obviously developed over the millenia and selected for by evolution, because those males who felt the urge most-strongly tended to leave the most offspring to pass the trait along.

Nowhere in the African savannah was pornography available to stimulate these drives. The "goal" of the evolutionary process was procreation. And yet an entire industry (or several industries, depending on how you count) has arisen to take advantage of a genetic trait developed in the complete absence of glossy color pictures, films, or video.

It's hard to have grandchildren by the process of ejaculation in the presence of a centerfold girl.

So there you have an analogue for churches. An entire industry that co-opted evolutionary emotions, developed for survival, and turned it into cash (and control).

Did I just draw a parallel between churches and the porno industry?

I guess I did.
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Edited by comfortable on 12/24/2010 13:59
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The fewer the facts, the stronger the opinion.
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Men are sheep in credulity, but wolves for conformity.
 
JohnH
comfortable, I have a small nit to to pick. I have my biological family and I also have my tribe/clan. You made a comment two posts ago that was, to my mind, negative about tribes. Some members of my biological family are members of my tribe/clan, certainly my children and their mother, some are not. I will defend my tribe/clan with my life because they will also nurture me and protect me, even as they try to correct me. I embrace tribalism and will celebrate with and within my tribe/clan new years. They are the people I love and admire not because I have to but because I do.
 
seeker
comfortable wrote:

I see religion as an ugly outward manifestation of our evolutionary history, our "emotional baggage", as it were; where the survival value of following a leader (an alpha male?), fear of the dark, tribalism, and fear of death - have combined and been mis-directed into "religion" since the dawn of mankind.


Well put. Sadly now the 'follow the leader' mentality causes all manner of disaster ranging from atrocities like Stalin-ism, Maoism and Nazism to the Tea Party. We see tribalism manifest itself at its worst as racism and homophobia. Possibly the worst aspect of our tie to religion is, as you pointed out the embracing of death as more important than life.

I do think that religion is something that has evolved into our species. Perhaps the next evolutionary step for mankind will be the setting aside of religion and religious thinking.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
 
comfortable
JohnH wrote:
comfortable, I have a small nit to to pick. I have my biological family and I also have my tribe/clan. You made a comment two posts ago that was, to my mind, negative about tribes. Some members of my biological family are members of my tribe/clan, certainly my children and their mother, some are not. I will defend my tribe/clan with my life because they will also nurture me and protect me, even as they try to correct me. I embrace tribalism and will celebrate with and within my tribe/clan new years. They are the people I love and admire not because I have to but because I do.


Q.E.D.

(Nice to meet you, JohnH)
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The fewer the facts, the stronger the opinion.
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Men are sheep in credulity, but wolves for conformity.
 
comfortable
seeker wrote:
Perhaps the next evolutionary step for mankind will be the setting aside of religion and religious thinking.


Only if that 'step' would lead to more offspring.

Evolution is blind and has no 'purpose' or 'direction' - it is a process by which the genes of those who leave more offspring than others, become predominant in the gene pool.

Seeker, your erudition and encyclopaedic knowledge of history (esp. as relates to biblical issues) are way beyond my abilities, let alone my meager repertoire of knowledge; but if you haven't had a chance to read "The Selfish Gene", you might enjoy it as much as I did.

I lack sufficient imagination to envision a world in which the more rational and more educated actually leave more progeny than the unwashed, ignorant, and superstitious.
Frown
Edited by comfortable on 12/25/2010 15:57
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The fewer the facts, the stronger the opinion.
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Men are sheep in credulity, but wolves for conformity.
 
seeker
comfortable wrote:
Only if that 'step' would lead to more offspring.

Evolution is blind and has no 'purpose' or 'direction' - it is a process by which the genes of those who leave more offspring than others, become predominant in the gene pool.

Seeker, your erudition and encyclopaedic knowledge of history (esp. as relates to biblical issues) are way beyond my abilities, let alone my meager repertoire of knowledge; but if you haven't had a chance to read "The Selfish Gene", you might enjoy it as much as I did.

I lack sufficient imagination to envision a world in which the more rational and more educated actually leave more progeny than the unwashed, ignorant, and superstitious.
Frown


Think of it this way, less progeny but far less killing as well. So far the only real check on our overcrowding has been our propensity for killing each other. I'm thinking that eventually we either adapt and learn to rein ourselves in or someday we end up out of resources.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
 
comfortable
Sure.
But how do you get there from here?

15% of the world not killing others will likely be overwhelmed by the majority.

I have a sign on my wall (let's see if I can post it here)
www.desperate.com/productimages/verylarge/XL1553.jpg

At any rate, I'm thinking SARS, Swine Flu, Avian Flu, or maybe India and Pakistan go at it with nukes?

The 'human race' won't adapt. The selfish will always over-fish for this season's profits, nevermind no fish next year. You and I can see the silliness of it, the ultimate doom if such policies are carried out, but you and I don't have a (meaningful) say in the matter. (* sigh *)
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The fewer the facts, the stronger the opinion.
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Men are sheep in credulity, but wolves for conformity.
 
JohnH
comfortable, rude and ignorant of the people I consider my tribe. Yes, I said I would kill for them but only in their defense.

I would ask if there are no people you would protect with your life. I would ask if there are no people in your life who help you with your life. I would ask if there are no people in your life who you would follow in certain situations. I would ask what you call them.

Nice to meet you also although I think we have met electronically before.
 
seeker
comfortable wrote:
Sure.
But how do you get there from here?


That is the question isn't it. Perhaps there is no answer. Certainly the disasters that mankind has inflicted upon itself in the past have not kept us from continuing the same thinking.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
 
comfortable
JohnH wrote:
comfortable, rude and ignorant of the people I consider my tribe. Yes, I said I would kill for them but only in their defense.

I would ask if there are no people you would protect with your life. I would ask if there are no people in your life who help you with your life. I would ask if there are no people in your life who you would follow in certain situations. I would ask what you call them.

Nice to meet you also although I think we have met electronically before.

Well, let's see here. How do I explain this.
"Tribalism" is a word I use to describe a mentality of "us" vs. "them", or "other", where "we" are the good guys, and "they" are the bad guys (or folks, or people, or whatever).

As long as one doesn't actually believe that their own group/family/tribe is intrinsically superior to another group - by simply belonging to another group - then one is not fanning the flames of bigotry and prejudice.

If one judges another group by actions of some members of that group, one must be very very careful and not tar ALL members of that group with the same brush, as it were. For example, my father passed judgement on "The Indians" (native Americans) as "lazy and dishonest". He justified this tribalistic view on the basis of his personal opinion of a grand total of three (3) native Americans who worked for him in minimum wage jobs.

It is apparently a very common human trait to pass judgement without actually understanding. I challenged his statements in this regard, and his answer was honest enough. He said that as I grew older, I would understand that one must make snap judgements; that one does not have the time to actually investigate and evaluate evidence.

I suspect that you are taking a different meaning from my words than I intended. The perils of the written language, I suppose. (Although it seemed that Seeker understood me very well, and even elaborated on the theme.)
Wink

In short, protecting the ones you love is not 'tribalism' in my dictionary. Declaring that your group is superior to my group simply because you care more about your group - is.

The subject was 'religion' as I recall, and I have never met a religious person who did not think themselves superior to others who were not members of their own religion.

It is but a very short step, and one all too often taken, to advocate the destruction of non-members. Further, that destruction has happened all too often, and continues to happen in places you may have heard of:
Rwanda, Philippines, Bosnia, Armenia, Turkey, Indonesia, Iran, Lebanon, Darfur, Chad, ''The Mahdist War", Weenen Massacre, Uganda-Tanzania, Abushiri Revolt, etc...- the list is quite extensive, and you cannot find any where those engaged in slaughter are not convinced that those they slaughter are inferior by reason of their religious beliefs. This is what I mean by 'tribalism'.
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Edited by comfortable on 12/27/2010 23:15
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The fewer the facts, the stronger the opinion.
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Men are sheep in credulity, but wolves for conformity.
 
comfortable
Somehow, the editor ate Afghanistan, Bosnia, Cote d'Ivoire, Cyprus, East Timor, Indonesia Ambon, Indonesia Halmahera, Iraq, Kashmir, and Kosovo...
We will just let the rest speak for themselves

Kurdistan
Christians, Muslims
Periodic assaults on Christians (Protestant, Chaldean Catholic, & Assyrian Orthodox).

Macedonia
Macedonian Orthodox Christians & Muslims
Muslims (often referred to as ethnic Albanians) engaged in a civil war with the rest of the country who are primarily Macedonian Orthodox Christians during the 1990s. A peace treaty has been signed. Disarmament by NATO is complete.

Middle East
Jews, Muslims, & Christians
The peace process between Israel and Palestine suffered a complete breakdown. This has resulted in the deaths of thousands, in the ratio of three dead for each Jew who died. Major strife broke out in 2000-SEP. Flareups repeat. No resolution appears possible.

Nigeria
Christians, Animists, & Muslims
Yourubas and Christians in the south of the country are battling Muslims in the north. Country is struggling towards democracy after decades of Muslim military dictatorships. More details

Northern Ireland
Protestants, Catholics
After 3,600 killings and assassinations over 30 years. A ceasefire is holding.

Pakistan
Suni & Shi'ite Muslims
Low level mutual attacks, overshadowed by Taliban insurrectionists.

Philippines
Christians & Muslims
A low level conflict between the mainly Christian central government and Muslims in the south of the country has continued for centuries. More details

Russia, Chechnya
Russian Orthodox Christians, Muslims
The Russian army attacked the breakaway region. Many atrocities have been alleged on both sides. According to the Voice of the Martyrs: "In January 2002 Chechen rebels included all Christians on their list of official enemies, vowing to 'blow up every church and mission-related facility in Russia'.

Somalia
Wahhabi and Sufi Muslims
Sufi Muslims -- a tolerant moderate tradition of Islam are fighting the Shabab who follow the Wahhabi tradition of Islam in a continuing conflict.

South Africa
Animists & "Witches"
Hundreds of persons, suspected and accused of witches practicing black magic, are murdered each year.

Sri Lanka
Buddhists & Hindus
Tamils (a mainly Hindu 18% minority) are involved in a war for independence since 1983 with the rest of the country (70% Sinhalese Buddhist). Hundreds of thousands have been killed. The conflict took a sudden change for the better in 2002-SEP, when the Tamils dropped their demand for complete independence. The South Asian Tsunami in 2004-DEC induced some cooperation. By 2009 the Tamil uprising was crushed..

Sudan
Animists, Christians & Muslims
Complex ethnic, racial, religious conflict in which the Muslim regime committed genocide against both Animists and Christians in the south of the country. Slavery and near slavery were practiced. A ceasefire was signed in 2006-MAY between some of the combatants. 3 Warfare continues in the Darfur region, primarily between a Muslim militia and Muslim inhabitants. 8

Thailand
Buddhists & Muslims
Muslim rebels have been involved in a bloody insurgency in southern Thailand -- a country that is 95% Buddhist.

Tibet
Buddhists & Communists
Country was annexed by Chinese Communists in late 1950's. Brutal suppression of Buddhism continues. *

Uganda
Animists, Christians, & Muslims
Christian rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army are conducting a civil war in the north of Uganda. Their goal is a Christian theocracy whose laws are based on the Ten Commandments. They abduct, enslave and/or raped about 2,000 children a year.
Edited by comfortable on 12/27/2010 23:52
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The fewer the facts, the stronger the opinion.
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Men are sheep in credulity, but wolves for conformity.
 
seeker
John - The interesting thing about tribalism is that it is such a pervasive part of society. Friends, family, acquaintances with whom you mostly agree, etc all become tribes of a sort because they offer emotional support. It really isn't that far of a stretch to attribute a sort of superiority to your various tribes because you would naturally prefer the emotional support you get from these tribes to the non-involvement, disagreement or even hostility you might get outside of them.

What comfortable is really talking about, IMO, is that tribalism really is a matter of self interest. One becomes a part of a tribe because of the various forms of support they receive but that support doesn't say anything about the inherent quality of the tribe other than that they act in the tribe member's self interest.

When we think of concepts of good and evil they generally come down to what is in our self interest and what is not; a concept which usually means that tribes we do not belong to tend to be seen as evil to some degree or other simply based on the fact that they do not tend to act in our personal self interest. It is really that self interest which IMO is the problematic aspect of tribalism.

We (I'm taking a general we instead of a personal one here) demonize Muslims, for example, because people who have acted hostilely towards us in the past have been Muslim. They demonize us for the same reasons. In both cases that demonetization prevents any real potential for resolution because a significant percentage of both sides are simply unable to set aside self interest to the degree necessary to resolve the conflict.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
 
comfortable
seeker wrote:
... a significant percentage of both sides are simply unable to set aside self interest to the degree necessary to resolve the conflict.

Interestingly - it's not even 'self interest' at work here. It's perceived self interest more often than not. (e.g. not real or factual in most cases).

For example: I just watched a video of Frank Zappa being harangued and the entire popular music industry demonized by well-meaning blue noses who were certain (in their own minds) that rock music lyrics were actually destroying their children and their society. There is no evidence for this conclusion. As could be expected, emotions ran high, very high, on the part of the blue noses who continually interrupted, called names, and attempted to make assertions of fact out of their opinions.
http://www.youtub...ata_player

For the viewing audience who agreed with the blue noses in this interview, I'm sure that given the opportunity, they would have gleefully destroyed recording studios, passed laws against recording rock music, and, if a mob developed, lynched some recording artists. All for what they perceived as a threat to their own self interests, for which there was/is no evidence; which is why I cautioned that one must be very very careful when ascribing harm to "the others"/"them".

So, JohnH, when you say you would fight to defend your tribe from harm, I hope that you would carefully consider exactly what it is that you are convinced constitutes actual threat or harm.

After all
- millions of followers of Jerry Falwell are absolutely convinced that homosexuals and lesbians caused the twin towers to fall on 9/11
- millions of listeners to Dennis Prager's radio show agree with Rev Hagee that a planned gay parade caused New Orleans to be destroyed by hurricane Katrina
- Senator John McCain's campaign sought out this Rev Hagee's endorsement for the 2008 election. If McCain had become president we could have looked forward to more claims of actual harm being caused by anyone who disagrees with the government's policies.
...and wouldn't some of those millions of believers 'take action' against gays and lesbians 'to protect' the ones they love from further destruction and harm? To borrow a phrase from another beloved candidate: "You betcha!"

You asked me if there's anyone I would fight to protect. Yes. But rest assured, I would fight them because they were threatening me and mine, not because they belonged to another group or tribe.

To me, it's an inexcusable leap of tribalism to think that because a man who stole my wife's purse and ran away was Mexican, I must now fight Mexicans.
Edited by comfortable on 12/28/2010 13:10
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The fewer the facts, the stronger the opinion.
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Men are sheep in credulity, but wolves for conformity.
 
JohnH
comfortable, I remain angry with you because you forced me to reread the entire thread.

I have no basic disagreement with anything you said. Nor do I truly disagree with your assessment of tribalism as you have defined it. My problem was and will remain that I believe we all consider ourselves a part of some tribe. That I define as the people who are important to us and those we would chose to protect and nurture whether we like them or not.

In my own opinion we as a species would fare better if we included all our species as members of our tribe, if we would include all the earth, living species or not, as part of our tribe. I think that you actually addressed this in one of your posts, not necessarily using the words I would.

Exclusion of, or outright violence to the other because one perceives they are the other is one of the great failings of humans. You enumerated several significant acts of violence by one tribe against another. I will not deny they occurred and could in fact add more subtle ones to the mix. That cannot be argued.

Inclusion of the other is difficult and is one of the things that humans have to be forced to understand.

I would point out to you that your comment on the uniformed having more progeny than the informed is a form of exclusion. It is very similar to comments I have been chastised for by a member of my tribe.
 
seeker
comfortable wrote:


Interestingly - it's not even 'self interest' at work here. It's perceived self interest more often than not. (e.g. not real or factual in most cases).



Thank you, yes, that is more accurate. In fact setting aside perceived self interest is actually in one's self interest LOL
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
 
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