I had a dream about an organization called the Anti-Antichrist World League (AAWL).
Fifteen years ago a retired senior level CIA administrator named John Strawn wrote a paper called “Asymmetrical Leveraging: The Fall of Empires”. In the paper he advanced the theory that world governments are now simply hosts for powerful groups that advance their geopolitical aims by using religious extremists and ultra right conservatives as puppets. Strawn’s first axiom was simple: “money equals power”. The Master Groups realized long ago that money is the only real power in this globally connected world, and that they could control world governments by influencing the actions of their puppets. Because governments are not responsible for the puppets (and many times don’t know they exist) they are powerless to stop them. Strawn’s second axiom was: “To find out who gains... follow the money”.
“Push the hot buttons of religious intolerance on one side and nationalism on the other (preferably at the same time), mix in a little indignation and voilà!, you’ve got the makings of an international crisis.”, Strawn wrote. He argued that crisis of the kind that destabilize a government is the goal of Master Groups. “When the dust settles, it is the Master Groups, with their ability to mobilize vast logistical and monetary resources, that swoop down to feast on the bones of the wrecked state.”, he wrote. Master Groups do not need to collect taxes, provide for public services, govern, or concern themselves with alleviating the human suffering they cause. They do not need to pay for large armies or fixed bases of operation. Their host countries must provide for all that. The Master Groups have learned to constantly enrich themselves by manufacturing cycles of violence, then servicing the needs of afflicted host countries.
The use of relatively few resources to effect changes in much larger geopolitical systems is the “asymmetrical” part. The “leveraging” occurs when factions inside a host nation (or region) are manipulated to attack other puppets outside the borders of their host country. Strawn argued that was an important component of successful asymmetrical leveraging. Attacking outside the host country borders forces two or more host countries into participation because they are forced to protect what they perceive as their national interests. Such threatened interests may be ideals, physical assets, or groups of people valued by the host countries.
Many intelligence operatives around the world seriously read John Strawn’s paper. Mid-level Intelligence administrators began to communicate with each other across agency divides. While no spy agency could penetrate the Master Groups by themselves, they could, by working together, begin to see the Master Groups general contours. They discovered that most of the Master Groups were inspired by an apocalyptical worldview. Both fundamentalist Islamic and Christian theologies are cynically exploited into an Antichrist, apocalyptic scenario that serves both; Muslems looking for Jihad against infidels and Christians earnestly wishing to hasten the return of Jesus Christ. While Master Groups do not possess religious beliefs, they nonetheless use religion the way starships in science fiction use antimatter. So, the AAWL is so named as a rejoinder to what it perceives as its greatest common foe.
The Master Groups are difficult to identify because they are often loose associations of powerful individuals operating in business and government. Sometimes they are corporations or entire industries. The AAWL is, thus limited in what it can do to combat the power of the Master Groups or their puppets. It mostly operates as an extra-channel resource for hapless governments. Even though many spy agencies worldwide can operate with some level of impunity, the Master Groups have no legal, ethical, moral, or financial restrictions.
I read the “Asymmetrical Leveraging: The Fall of Empires” paper and spent time carefully examining how Master Groups operate. Stay tuned!
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a person who did something wrong would immediately suffer the consequences of their actions?
What if a person who started forest fires gets his house burned down?
What if a person who hits someone with a car and then drives away also gets run down?
What if you get sick if you cause someone else to get sick?
I’m certain you can, like me, think of a million other things to add to a list of “What ifs”.
The concept of Justice is so important to Unitarian Universalists that, unlike any other, such as peace or liberty, it appears twice in our principles. In the second principle it is included as: Justice, equity and compassion in human relations. In the sixth principle, it is included as: The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all. This is not just a semantic fluke. It demonstrates the subtle, yet awesome power of the word. Justice is required for “human” (or personal relations), as well as on the level of the “world” community.
According to most contemporary theories of justice, justice is overwhelmingly important: John Rawls claims "Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought." Justice can be thought of as distinct from and more fundamental than benevolence, charity, mercy, generosity, or compassion.
Studies at UCLA in 2008 have indicated that reactions to fairness are "wired" into the brain and that, "Fairness is activating the same part of the brain that responds to food in rats... This is consistent with the notion that being treated fairly satisfies a basic need". Research conducted in 2003 at Emory University, Georgia, involving Monkeys demonstrated that other cooperative animals also possess such a sense and that "inequity aversion may not be uniquely human", indicating that ideas of fairness and justice may be instinctual in nature.
Even without scientific proof that we possess an “instinctive” understanding of justice, we all know this. We human beings understand that fairness, codified as the “Golden Rule”, lies at the heart of justice. The formula is a simple one of reciprocity: I will give another the benefit of the doubt as I would expect the same, I will not gossip as I would not like to be the subject of gossip, I will tell the truth as I would like to be told it, I will treat others with respect as I would like to be treated with respect, and I will not judge others because I do not like to be judged.
As I said earlier, a fascinating aspect of the concept of justice is that it applies in equal importance on both the personal and global levels. Indeed, it is, as Rawls says, “the first virtue of social institutions”, and it is essential to any relationship. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in his famous “Letter From a Birmingham Jail”, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” Luther was able to capture both the powerful personal and transcendent quality of justice in three brilliant sentences. In essence, he said, justice is always threatened by injustice, every person is responsible for ensuring that justice is done on every level because we are all affected by injustice.
Have you ever thought about how injustice weighs down even the most hardy individual, organization, or even civilizations? Even a perceived injustice can cause resentment, hurt feelings, anger, withdrawal, and pain. Disputes arise because of perceived, or real slights. The fairness genes we are wired with kick in and we stop thinking. Instead, we emote, we react, and we rush to judgment. We use terms like “justice cries out” or that someone “cries out for justice”.
I actually have friends who are bitter about the Armenian Holocaust that occurred before and after World War I at the hands of the Turks. I have other friends who are angry about how Palestinians were pushed out of their homeland by Jews. I’ve known people whose parents are Jewish holocaust survivors and the children carry the scars of injustice with them as if they were directly involved. I have family members who are still wounded by segregation and the discrimination they experienced during the Jim Crow era of injustices here in the United States, and I sometimes hear others wonder if they will ever see the forty acres and a mule they say African Americans were promised. I’d imagine some of you, like me, have even tuned into the local public radio station and been treated to angry, almost personal lectures on how white people have plundered Native Americans right here in Lake County.
Justice is such a powerful force in our lives that its personification has been encoded into our psyches since ancient times. Justitia, the Roman goddess of Justice, is an allegorical personification of the moral force in judicial systems. She is known to us as Lady Justice. Justitia is most often depicted with a set of scales typically suspended from her right hand, upon which she measures the strengths of a case's support and opposition. She is also often seen carrying a double-edged sword in her left hand, symbolizing the power of Reason and Justice, which may be wielded either for or against any party.
Did you know that it wasn’t until the 15th century that Lady Justice has been depicted wearing a blindfold. The blindfold represents objectivity, in that justice is or should be meted out objectively, without fear or favor, regardless of identity, money, power, or weakness; blind justice and impartiality. The earliest Roman coins depicted Justitia with the sword in one hand and the scale in the other, but with her eyes uncovered.
Because we emote, and react, and rush to judgment we have created an edifice upon which to hang the balances of justice. We need something that allows us to be more rational, and look more objectively on both sides of an issue. We need a buffer to the passions that may consume us. We need some time to reconsider our feelings. That buffer is called the law. Laws are the principles and regulations established in a community by some authority and applicable to its people, whether in the form of legislation or of custom and policies recognized and enforced by judicial decision. Because we are talking about the spiritual aspects of justice, we need to dig a little deeper than just what the law is and come to an understanding of how it relates to our deeply ingrained need for justice.
The law provides us with a way to balance competing views of reality. Essentially, it becomes necessary when the Golden Rule fails. Legal procedures are designed to put some distance between an event and judicial consequences. They don’t call a legal battle a “trial” for no reason. The idea is to try two competing views of an event with dispassion and fact through the lens of the law. Sir William Blackstone, a legal scholar during the period of the American Revolution, wrote the Commentaries on the Law of England that became the guiding influence on English (and American) Law for three hundred years. He developed and articulated many legal principles. He wrote that burden of proof "beyond reasonable doubt" equates to moral certainty. It is interesting to note that the moral certainty Blackstone argues for is certainty based on an inner conviction.
This inner conviction can be a little tricky. Malcolm X said, “Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery.” Martin Luther King said, “One who breaks an unjust law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.”
Who is right, Malcolm X or Martin Luther King? Aren’t they both addressing a higher law... an inner conviction, if you will? To help us with the reasonable doubt issue, we’ve come up with the concept of a jury trial. Did you know that only the United States and Canada make routine use of jury trials in a wide variety of even non-criminal cases. Other common law legal jurisdictions use jury trials only in a very select class of cases that make up a tiny share of the overall civil docket, while true civil jury trials are almost entirely absent elsewhere in the world.
Why did the United States and Canada evolve a system of justice that relies so heavily on a trial by our peers? Aside from the obvious concerns about the power of the state being too much for a normal citizen to defend against, there is a deeper, more spiritual component to it.
In our system of law a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Even in our day-to-day relationships that presumption is considered to be the best way to live harmoniously with others. On a spiritual level, it goes hand in hand with the idea of not judging, lest you be judged. So, in our legal system, the only way the state can take away our liberty, or even our lives, is if a jury of our peers find, in their common wisdom, a large measure of that moral certainty Blackburn described.
So, from a spiritual perspective, how do we achieve justice? Matthew has a lot to say about how to go about the business of justice. In Matthew 5:23-26, it is written, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.”
In Matthew 18:15-17, he writes “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”
Justice plays well with other concepts. Here are some popular, and desirable pairings: Justice and Mercy, Justice and Reconciliation, Justice and Forgiveness, Justice and Truth... just to name a few. Note that Matthew stressed the pairing of reconciliation with justice and trying to find a common truth with your brother. I particularly like what Mahatma Gandhi said, “Justice that love gives is a surrender, justice that law gives is a punishment.” In that quote Gandhi parallels Matthews assertions about never getting out of prison until you have paid the last penny. But Gandhi also points to another important point; that we must be willing and able to surrender our desire for retribution to love.
Perhaps one of the most impressive examples of the power of reconciliation as regards to justice is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. The TRC, as it is known, was a court-like restorative justice body assembled in South Africa after the abolition of apartheid. Witnesses who were identified as victims of gross human rights violations were invited to give statements about their experiences, and some were selected for public hearings. Perpetrators of violence could also give testimony and request amnesty from both civil and criminal prosecution.
The TRC, the first of the nineteen held internationally to stage public hearings, was seen by many as a crucial component of the transition to full and free democracy in South Africa. The commission was empowered to grant amnesty to those who committed abuses during the apartheid era, as long as the crimes were politically motivated, proportionate, and there was full disclosure by the person seeking amnesty. The TRC's emphasis on reconciliation is in sharp contrast to the approach taken by the Nuremberg Trials after World War II. That said, the TRC approach had its critics. Most believed that justice was a prerequisite for reconciliation rather than an alternative to it, and that the TRC had been weighted in favor of the perpetrators of abuse.
Still, I believe, as do many others, that the TRC was practically the only way South Africa could have survived as an intact nation, and that a blood bath was averted because people were willing to choose reconciliation, truth, and full disclosure instead of hatred and retribution.
The habit of retribution is a hard one to break for many people. Many times, it is indiscriminate – intended to hurt someone/anyone as answer to an injury, but not narrowly or appropriately targeted. An individual, a family, an organization, or and entire group of people can fall under the glare of vengeance that may never be realized. But, that does not stop the offended party from, at least, meting out the punishment of ill will. On a psychic and spiritual level that has a lasting and profound effect on both parties.
How do we stop injustice and promote justice at the level of the world community?
We UUs are deeply committed to the cause of justice. I invite you to do a search on the internet and visit the many UU-sponsored organizations that do work in the cause of justice. Probably the most visible such organization is the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC). It is a nonsectarian organization that advances human rights and social justice in the United States and around the world. According to their website, through a combination of advocacy, education, and partnerships with grassroots organizations, they promote economic rights, advance environmental justice, defend civil liberties, and preserve the rights of people in times of humanitarian crisis.
Working for justice on the world level can literally be exhausting. When I am so overwhelmed at injustice at that level, I draw inspiration from people like Marla Rukiza, a local girl from Lakeport. Marla was an activist-turned-aid worker. She believed that combatant governments had a legal and moral responsibility to compensate the families of civilians killed or injured in military conflicts. According to the Rolling Stone magazine, "Ruzicka is perhaps the most famous American aid worker to die in any conflict of the past ten or twenty years. Though a novice in life — she had less than four years of professional humanitarian experience — her death resonated far beyond the tightly knit group of war junkies and policymakers who knew her.
She stands as a youthful representative of a certain kind of not-yet-lost American idealism, and darkly symbolic of what has gone so tragically wrong in Iraq." If you doubt your voice cannot have an effect on the world, think of our Marla.
How do we promote justice in our personal lives? On a personal level, I like to say that I will not do or say anything unless it is kind, fair, or just. What I say or do must meet at least two of these criteria before I act. That is simple advice I gleaned from a Sikh master many years ago has been an invaluable guide for me over the years.
The answer to the question of personal justice is rather simple... we listen to each other, we respect each other, we should be mindful that there are always two sides to a story, we follow the rules designed to help us live in harmony and mutual respect, we apologize, and we forgive. Matthew also had great advice: “go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone”. Let an arbitrator deal with the situation if you need to, then abide by a judicious decision that results. That can mean you take your dispute to a court of law or you take it to the wisest person you know. In any case, if justice is questioned, it means the golden rule has failed. And that is, indeed, a very sad thing.
I have titled this sermon “The Many Faces of Justice” because justice resides in the hearts and minds of individuals. Every human being has a different idea of justice because we are all different people with our own, unique view of the world. Yet, our “fairness gene”, if you will, gives us remarkable access to a vast reservoir of the stored wisdom of our species. If we would only pause for a few moments to seek that wisdom when confronted by injustice, perceived or real, the world would be a much better place. And justice will prevail.
I had a dream that the elections were over and within two months, large gated communities sprang up around the country. Each one had an enormous wrought iron gate that had the words "Work Makes You Free" printed over the top, facing outward.
There were well manicured yards in front of all the houses. Each house was white, and there was almost no variety in their design, except that some were much larger than others around them. Each house had two flags flying on either side of the front door: an American flag on the left and the Christian flag on the right. On top of each door was nailed a King James Bible. On the doorsteps were printed instructions on how to pledge allegiance to the American Flag, the Christian Flag, and the Bible; in that order. The pledges needed to be completed before one could enter a residence.
The streets were named for large American corporations. They were cleaned every night with the sweat and tears of union workers. In the center of each community was a very large, tall building that looked like a curious architectural blend of a tabernacle and a bank. Floor-to-ceiling windows reflected the sun. Gleaming Alabaster panels were arranged in alternating rows with wood from Redwood trees.
I entered the tabernacle and saw strange statues in a rotunda that lined the walls. There was a man holding an assault rifle in one hand and a Bible in the other. The rifle was pointed at the head of an effigy of Uncle Sam, who wore a sign reading “... to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States”. Another statue was of a young pregnant woman kneeling in front of a man. Her face was cupped in one of his hands, while the other was pointing angrily at her belly. These statues were just a few among a great number.
At that point a man came to me and asked if I needed help. He wore a pin on his suit that read “Man is not free unless government is limited.” I asked him what the statues were for. He told me they depicted scenes from the “Great Struggles”. I asked him what struggles he was referring to. Exasperated, he turned to me and said “Well. Of course, the three great struggles of freeing corporations from government control, the struggle to eliminate taxes on those whom God has blessed with wealth and prosperity, and the holy mandate to codify Christian morals into our laws.” “Would you like a tour of our facility?”, he asked. I told him that I would greatly appreciate that.
After some time the guide took me up in an elevator. We stepped out to a balcony on the top floor high above the ground. From that vantage point I could see that the gated community was actually a compound surrounded by a vast number of poorly maintained buildings connected by crowded streets. In contrast to the well-ordered streets and sparsely populated gated community, the areas outside were chaotic and desperate. I asked my guide who the sign at the gates (“Work Makes You Free”) was intended for. “Oh, it's for them, on the outside”, he said,“We, in here, have attained our freedom by various means of acquiring wealth”. “So, you don't work?”, I asked. “God, no!”, he answered. “We make them do all the work. They look through the gates at our beautiful houses. We let them believe they can have what we have someday. That provides them with the incentive to continue believing, in spite of the fact that we've taken all the means from them.”
“What means?”, I asked. “Well we took from them or severely limited, access to affordable medical care, ability to litigate against corporations, public education, access to capital for entrepreneurs, access to higher education, expanded democracy through greater access to voting, regulation of corporations, support for organized labor, government advocacy on behalf of consumers, and guarantees of equality through civil rights... among other things.” I looked, genuinely surprised at my guide and asked “How did all this happen?”
“It was simple, really.”, he said. “You see, using the power of media and super PAC money we manipulated them into not voting in their best interests. We divided and conquered by having them identify with hot-button emotional issues (we called them 'God, Guns, and Gays'), instead of the larger, more important ones. We scared them with threats of taxes, looming deficits, and a hidden socialist agenda.”, he said. Then, turning to face me, my guide said, “We stay in power because we vote, and make certain they are so confused that they do not vote.”
About this blog.
This blog is a place where many of the confluences of my life can be shared. I am, at the core, a creative person. I approach everything from that basis... whether composing symphonies, playing the cello, being a serial entrepreneur, writing sermons and essays, flying airplanes, or creating software apps. I am deeply passionate about creativity, issues of social justice, and spiritual enrichment. These are fundamental to everything I do. Welcome to my journey!