Notes from the Road

Thoughts about the world as I travel through it


Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Rock, Paper, Scissors

Rock, Paper, Scissors

I wrote a play some years ago, exploring the relationships and perspectives of three very different people, caught in wartime Afghanistan. At an early stage, my friend Michael Sanie expressed interest in writing an opera based on the play, and after several years of delays and struggles, here it is.

The opera is in three acts, each providing a platform for one of the characters. There is also a fourth character: an Afghan boy. It seems to me that we rarely hear the perspective of the people over whose lands we fight.

You can get your copy here.

Music and Ego

Music connects us.

We celebrate the richness of life through creativity—expression of beauty, pain, our reality.

Our task is to create better thoughts and feelings so people can be united. Unity is the result of letting go of the walls we build in our minds. Learning to say “yes!”—first to ourselves; then to each other.

I’m looking up at the trees, wondering why we love nature. Perhaps because it has no ego, no agenda. It doesn’t want to change us, and it doesn’t judge us. Yet nature is an elemental force of unimaginable power that can overtake us in a moment, through storm, or fire, or earthquake.

It seems that we find ourselves in difficulties when our egos clash. My ego and my view of yours. Because you are human, I can imagine you are as agenda-driven, as false, as critical as I can be. So I must fear and control you, as I try to protect my fragile identity, that slips in and out of focus.

Music is a good way to create communication and empathy, because it can operate without words, without external logic, and without judgement. 

Technology will let us live forever

Ray Kurtzweil is not only a respected technologist and innovator, he is also known as something of a futurist. His latest book, The Singularity is Near, argues that technology will radically change our experience of living, and will fix a lot of the things that eventually kill us. There’s a summary of some of the main points here.

It occurs to me that there’s a connection to something the Jesuit theologian Teilhard de Chardin said many years ago – that there’s educational evolution as well as physical evolution. When we learn new things, we are irrevocably changed. The connection is that Kurtzweil is reminding us that technology, which is the result of knowledge, and therefore inextricably linked to education, evolves faster than we do biologically. Our bodies will be overtaken developmentally by machines. This is unavoidable.

The challenge for all of us is to make the absolute best of this that we can. To be responsible, forward-looking, and to express our care for the future of our world in the way we harness the potential of our technology-rich future.

Was the Presidential election rigged?

It’s frustrating that the public don’t seem to have enough information to make a good judgement. I’ve heard about statistically improbable differences between exit polls and the returned vote count, but here is the most detailed and damning discussion of the topic I’ve ever seen – reported in Rolling Stone in June.

The article by Robert F Kennedy Jr. presents data indicating that a variety of mechanisms were used to disenfranchise voters in Ohio – and it indicates that the errors almost exclusively favoured the Republicans at the expense of the Democrats.

I wish I really knew. It’s not much of a democracy if we tolerate this kind of thing.

Rhetoric vs. logic

President Bush is at it again. Not surprising, of course, he needs to defend his choices even if they were wrong ones. The latest example of faith leaping headlong over logic was from his 9/11 speeches reported here.

“We will not leave [Iraq] until this work is done. Whatever mistakes have been made in Iraq, the worst mistake would be to think that if we pulled out, the terrorists would leave us alone,” Mr. Bush said. “They will not leave us alone. They will follow us. The safety of America depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad.”

The illogic is the idea that war in Iraq brings peace to the US. This is such patent nonsense it’s hard to credit it even being said.  Not only is the war in Iraq hardening Islamic hearts towards America (and Britain, among others), it’s also failing to create peace in that country, let alone ours. And Iraq is not in fact the only, or the main place where Al Quaeda is active. The focus on Iraq smacks of a personal vendetta. If peace and safety for Americans is really the goal, let’s see a much more balanced approach:

  • defend against terror wherever it’s found
  • build alliances to increase communication and understanding
  • use aid as a compassionate tool to reduce inequality across the globe
  • don’t use the terror word as a label for people we don’t like – keep it for those who truly fit the bill.

Saint Osama?

This controversial piece was written to try to counteract the black-and-white, good and evil, freedom versus terrorist rhetoric that abounded following the 9/11 attacks. Now several years on, I think it still has merit. We see the US and other governments spending enormous resources on war, creating enormous pain and division, while there are many humanitarian causes that would not only have benefited directly from those funds, but that would go some way to building bridges between East and West, Christian and Moslem. It is deeply disappointing that fear and anger continue to prevail, where in truth compassion – and compassionate action – seems much more likely to create sustainable progress.

Attending Aurora Theater’s marvelous “Saint Joan” last week in Berkeley, I was struck by the parallels between the life of this fifteenth century warrior and our current nemesis in Afghanistan. Joan of Arc was a religious extremist who believed that God gave her precise instructions, independent of the advice of the established church or civil government. She also spoke of “France” and “England” in a day when both land masses were ruled in haphazard fashion by feudal lords. (more…)

A Sailor’s View

This was written for a US publication called “Spinsheet” that serves the yachting community. Following the attacks on New York and Washington, the paper asked readers to contribute their thoughts. With September 11th approaching again, I thought it was worth reprinting. Here’s what I wrote.

Sailing connects me with the planet, and with all the peoples of the world. It is easy to forget in these difficult times that the US is not the center of the universe, and that we are not the only people to have suffered a terrorist attack or to have lost innocent citizens in recent years. Yet every time we climb into a boat, and head away from the dock, we are physically connected, through the seas that surround the globe, to our fellow-travelers across the world. (more…)

An unsettling similarity

This quotation seems eerily consistent with the current British and US approach to communicaton with the electorate:

“Of course the people don’t want war… That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it’s always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it’s a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”

The quotation is from Hermann Goering.

A Foundation for Peace

I was in Brittany last week at a wedding (a wonderful experience in itself!), and I met a person who leads a foundation focussing on teaching and promoting peace with children. The website is, and it’s a multi-lingual site. (more…)

Safely home again

We came in from San Francisco without event. The security here was a little tougher than we’d seen at Heathrow – our carry on bags were briefly searched at the gate right before we climbed on the plane.

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