“The writing of history is largely a process of diversion. Most historical accounts distract attention from the secret influences behind great events.”
Frank Herbert

Chapter House Dune

Jeffrey Sachs on John F. Kennedy and his Quest For Peace

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Finally, after all the short media appearances, a new talk by Jeffrey Sachs about his new book. As the first commenter noted this talk is, if nothing else, an excellent history lesson. Also I enjoy time and again hearing an academic and economist such as Jeffrey Sachs bring it all back to morality:

Following are a few thoughts and reflections that came to me as I watched the talk:

Create Space

The most concrete and actionable knowledge that shimmered for me was the idea of creating a space for making decisions (which if I remember correctly Kennedy picked up from a military strategist). This is a theme I often encounter in my own life, in my Yoga practices and as a Yoga teacher. How to stick a wedge into the default flow of consciousness so that there can be time to be present, to reflect … and to make decisions.

I believe this advice is precious because it is also a (the?) most practical tool in opening a door for morality to reappear in our lives.

Peace is Not Enough

I wish I had written a post that has long been on my mind about organic food so I could link to it – but I haven’t yet so I’ll just say briefly what it would be about.. I am not a fan of the idea of organic farming/gardening … I am actually against it, often times much like I am against traditional (chemically infused) farming/gardening.

Organic farming methods are a negative definition – they are about not using chemical pesticides and herbicides. They are not about doing what’s right but about avoiding what is wrong. It is “right” only in the face of a “wrong” it is trying to correct. Farming needs to go beyond organic and to do that it has to have something to work towards, to aspire to. My aspirations have come to rest on an idea of healthy soils that improve with every growing season. Organic farming can be as destructive towards soils as traditional farming. However when healthy soils are at heart, organic produce is a natural and obvious result – nothing to brag about really.

As Jeffrey Sachs was speaking of peace I thought of my birth-country Israel and Egypt and the middle-east. Israel and Egypt have had a peace agreement for decades and in all that time it has been fragile, always under threat by the shifty political winds of the entire region.

A thought came to me that peace, like organic,  is not a high enough aspiration … it isn’t a sustainable aspiration … it fades too quickly. Peace is mostly “not being at war” – another negative definition … like organic. It does not give something to strive towards. If you can imagine a future of “not being at war” with an enemy, try imagining what you can do together. That should you on a farther reaching trajectory than not being enemies.

Survival

For many years I vehemently rejected the idea of being a parent. At one time when I asked my father about this he answered something along the lines of “survival of the human race”. That answer didn’t work for me. I wasn’t (still am not) too impressed by the human race, so I can’t really see why it’s survival is so important.

Jeffrey Sachs brought up this same theme “survival of the human race” in his closing remarks (in answering a question from the audience). This continues my previous point … survival is simply not enough (at least not for me). I was born into and indoctrinated into this view that life is about survival. I reject it – if survival was all there was, I would not see a point in getting up in the morning (and for some years I did not see a point in getting up in the morning). I believe there is more to aspire to and that survival is only justified when it serves a higher purpose. Without that purpose survival is a defeating, pointless and uphill effort.

Were There Sane Voices?

I would like to ask Jeffrey Sachs and his research assistant if their research shows that during the period in question there were also sane, reasonable, moral voices in or in the vicinity of government. If there were, what prevented them from being heard, from achieving dominance? Why do we fall prey to stupidity, narrow-mindedness, rigidness and immorality – which si pretty much where we are today?

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