Love, Philosophy, Religion, Uncategorized

An Open Letter To My Muslims Brothers & Sisters

Assalamu alaikum

The world tells me we are inherently different. I’m not a Muslim my self, but I’ve always been fascinated & inspired by Islamic contribution to human civilization. The history of & historical figures from the Islamic world have fascinated & inspired me for years, especially the era of the Islamic  Renaissance in North Africa, the Middle East & Spain. As a student of philosophy the works of Muslim thinkers & scholars have always grabbed my attention, particularly Abu al-Walid Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Rushd (known in the West as Averroes). I first encountered Ibn Rushed in a wonderful Philosophy class I took in college for my minor. My German born professor admired him & introduced us to the basics of his system of though. This passage from his book The Decisive Treatise stood out to me

The double meaning [of religion & philosophy] has been given to suit people’s diverse intelligence. The apparent contradictions are meant to stimulate the learned to deeper study.

What this has always seemed to mean for me, a non-believer of God, is that religion & philosophy often have the same goal: to understand the Universe, what takes place in it, our own place in it, and how to live with and understand one another. There is intrinsic difference between people of faith & people of freethinking philosophy, just slight variations in emphasis & ontology. We all live by moral standards, we all have family or communities, we all seek knowledge, we all seek to better ourselves & those we love & care for. The differences in how we come to understand ourselves & our world are not nearly as important as the fact we do all seek to know, to feel, to love, to explore. 

There are many paths to truth, to happiness, to wisdom. We do a great disservice to ourselves & our fellow human beings when we close off a path because it may not seem familiar at first. I have found that when one takes the time to take, as Frost wrote, “the path less travelled”, you see that what at first seems to your eyes and mind to be alien is in fact your own world made new again through difference; a tree is a tree is a tree again, and a wise thought is wisdom in any tongue or any culture. We translate our seeming differences by experiencing them, through a striving to see love in unknown places, and emerging from the path to a shared destination.

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A beautiful building stands near my apartment in Bolingbrook, Illinois, a Masjib & community center. It represents to me the wonderful diversity of this country & its people, people who make our community stronger & more enlightened. I smile when I think of the young Muslim families I see at the library or at the store; how proud they seem, how kind & friendly they are. On a more personal note, when I was in college it was hard for me to make friends (I am autistic and social skills are not my forte) and many of my peers ignored me or did not take the time to try to understand my life or point of view. That is until I met a group of Muslims students, some of whom I worked with at the College library. They were warm, open, non-judgemental, invited me to sit with them at lunch, introduced me to new people & ideas. We enjoyed the time we spent together, and even though we saw the world differently sometimes, we never let these differences get in the way of caring for one another as human beings. Their friendship during this hard time in my life is not something I will ever forget.

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Today many of our non-Muslim leaders in government, medias & culture are telling us to fear Muslims, to hate them, to shun them. They tell us Islam is an “evil” religion, one that has no intellectual tradition worth studying, no love for women or those outside of Islam. I know these are calumnies, blood libels told to benefit those with power & who want power, whose imperial aims thrive when Muslims and non-Muslims fight & terrorize one another. I know that the West has blood on its hands and has done much to earn the distrust of some in the Muslim World. I know that fanatics on both sides need this hatred & use it to wield power over people who just want to live safe, happy lives. I know that those who hate, who want us to hate, believe that there are two worlds at war. I know the truth. I know there is one world, one humanity. I know refugees are seeking what I seek: a home, love, education, enrichment, happiness, community. I know most Muslims know this too. We are not different, we have no reason to fear one another. We must love one another. I support Muslims, I support refugees, I support immigrants. I support my brothers & sisters. I reject Trump & his fascist ideology, his fascist programs. I stand with you, and I know many more stand with you too. We are not different, you and I. We are the same people making our way, sometimes on different paths, sometimes on the same path, all heading to the same destination.

yours in friendship,

Noah Mann-Engel

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Activism, Autism

Autistic: What I am Not

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I need to start standing up for myself more as an autistic person. I am sick of people who think they know better about how to handle my condition and my life then I do. Just because you “knew a guy” who won the Nobel Prize and was autistic does not mean I should be able to hold down a job at a super market without having a nervous breakdown every week. Everyone tells me what I am capable of without even listening to me about my capacity or my struggles. I often go on about what I am on this blog, what I do, what I think, and what I am capable of. I have decided it is time to stand up for myself and declare what I am not.

I am not “lazy” because I can’t function emotionally or mentally in the general work force.

I am not “weak” because I have a hard time processing emotions and am easily overwhelmed by the emotions of others.

I am not “stupid” because I cannot understand some math concepts and have a hard time with my handwriting and communicating verbally at times

I am not a “child” because I require the emotional support and protection of my family and enjoy being near them and having them in my life

I am not “sad” because I have depression that comes from dealing 24/7 with a brain that does not understand or function well in a world made for neurotypical minds.

I am not a “freak” or a “savant” because I excel at retaining information and discussing my area of expertise.

I am not a “failure” because I could not get through college after 4 years of striving and pain and intense mental focus.

I am not a “recluse” because I prefer to stay at home where I feel most in control and safe.

I am not “anti-social” because I cannot handle large public gatherings and can only handle one or two friends at a time.

I am not what you want or need me to be

I am Autistic and I don’t have to apologize for that to anyone.

So shut up, listen up  have some fries with that Assburger

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Philosophy

Philosophical Musings

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1. What is terror? The system you live (and die) in is an evil, destructive one, what we may have once have defined as terror, political or socially motivated violence, may now be understood better as the natural expression of creatures who wish to be free from this evil. All terror, all conflict, all action leads to the dissolution of the Capitalist order and its Imperialist system. All these anti-human forces have left to them is reaction against the boiling anger and yearning of the People. Reaction is terminative, a political expression of the scientific tendency of all things to eventually collapse into chaos and disperse back into the mixture of existence. This is a truth understood since at least Democritus that has influenced humanist thought in what is so stupidly, but now all but unavoidably, called the Western World for at least 1000 years. All things tend towards their most natural state unless prevented by another force or happenstance. War is a force that takes societies, cultures, landscapes and most importantly people and grinds them down to a bloody nub approximating the raw and painful animal state that tortured and terrified 99% of our forebears. This, though, is not the natural state of humanity as a political animal, as homo philosophicus. We can only live so long as creatures before we grasp desperately at what surrounds us so that we may craft a less galling existence.

 

2. I see the People as the greatest moral precept. The individual is it’s most profound and terrifying expression and the community is its greatest potential. This precept is not derived from a metaphysical source. If philosophy has taught us anything the past 200 years it is that metaphysics are anything but a universal basis for moral thought and exercise.

 

3. The nation state is the the cause of much of the strife the world has undergone during the past 150 years. The nation state serves to prop up and justify corporate and imperial power, and exists as a focus for the people’s anxieties, irrational passions, and urge to belong to a community. No nation state, no matter how liberal in outlook, is without xenophobia and jingoism, no state exists without the idea that one is inherently an object associated with an established type: the Englishman, the Brazilian, the Russian. The nation state creates barriers against unification of the people and causes the people to fight against the common good in order to preserve the empty dignity of national expression. Nationalism is a religion, a creature of irrational belief, and like all religion it is an opiate, something that dulls the senses and the ideals of a people and persuades them not to pursue revolutionary change.

 

4. I think our place is as a side-effect of natural processes that make up the universe. we have to understand our feelings and our needs and our minds as extensions of a physical universe that has laws, and limits, but that is still changing and expanding in so many ways. We limit ourselves be seeing ourselves as unique or as separate from the universe and nature. we are no less natural processes than a quasar or a black hole…we are a manifestation of physics. we are self aware, but that only means we are capable of contemplating the forces that made us and as we slowly move towards a greater understanding it will bring is into closer contact with the forces that brought us into being. we have to allow ourselves to explore, and to feel, and to destroy at times. we are a small part of the universe but the smallest thing is no less than the universe in a nutshell. As to what makes us unique…I think it is the decisions we make and the individual experiences we find in the world. Each person is essentially a variation of the same animal, but there is that strange quirk in each of us that allows us be unique. In the end we are all animals and, if we want to find individuality, it must be in our thoughts and deeds.

 

5. Daniel Dennant, in his great book Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, persuasively argues that Darwin’s conception of evolution by natural selection is an algorithmic process wherein the raw elemental matter of the Universe is formed, without a teleology, into ever more complex and fecund forms. As an indisputable member of the animal kingdom, homo sapiens are not excused from this process and our emergence as, and our progression towards, our not at all inevitable place as the dominant mammal on the planet demonstrates that our agency comes about directly as a consequence of evolution by natural selection. Humans and their special talents, skills, genius, and deficits are a stamp of our origin in nature and its elemental building blocks. There is nothing human that is not natural, of nature, and there is nothing supernatural or metaphysical in the construction or operation of our remarkably powerful, albeit often confused, minds. Hume, in A Treatise of Human Nature, wrote

What we call a mind is nothing but a heap or collection of different perceptions, united together by certain relations and supposed, though falsely, to be endowed with a perfect simplicity and identity.

Hume, who as a man of the 18th century should be forgiven his lack of technical expertise regarding neurology and brain chemistry, outlines the telelogic fallacy that beguiles the human mind and ego; we believe we are more than the sum of our parts, that nature had our emergence in mind when beginning the process of bringing life from chemical chaos. Without evolution as explained by Darwin nature becomes the last of all possible gods and one that makes human beings the apex of an erroneous pyramid of progressive animal inevitability.

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Book, Politics

Libertarianism & Democracy…20 Sold so Far!

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Hello everyone! In honor of my book Libertarianism & Democracy (https://www.createspace.com/4227121) selling 20 copies (self published!) I thought I would announce that I have lowered the price down to $5.50! For the price of a large latte from a certain mermaid company you can get an enlightening and unapologetic examination of libertarianism and how it works to undermine social justice and democratic reform. You’ll also help out an independent writer!

As thanks for all those who have already bought their copy here is an excerpt from my forthcoming book “Terror: How Revolution Begins and Ends”. Enjoy!

***

What is terror? The system you live (and die) in is an evil, destructive one, what we may have once have defined as terror, political or socially motivated violence, may now be understood better as the natural expression of creatures who wish to be free from this evil. All terror, all conflict, all action leads to the dissolution of the Capitalist order and its Imperialist system. All these anti-human forces have left to them is reaction against the boiling anger and yearning of the People. Reaction is termintive, a political expression of the scientific tendency of all things to eventually collapse into chaos and disperse back into the mixture of all things. This is a truth understood since at least Democritus that has influenced humanist thought in what is so stupidly, but now all but unavoidably, called the Western World for at least 1000 years. All things tend towards their most natural state unless prevented by another force or happenstance. War is a force that takes societies, cultures, landscapes and most importantly people and grinds them down to a bloody nub approximating the raw and painful animal state that tortured and terrified 99% of our forebears. This, though, is not the natural state of humanity as a political animal, as homo philosophicus. We can only live so long as creatures before we grasp desperately at what surrounds us so that we may craft a less galling existence.

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Uncategorized

The US Constitution in Context: Part II

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The movement was always centered in the upper middle class and aristocracy, bourgeois in its demands and concerns: taxation that infringed upon the capitalist endeavors of the merchant class and their aristocratic investors, and high-handed dictates that insulted the honor and autonomy of classes that saw themselves as rulers by right of a continent that was just then being opened to imperial market exploitation. The Founders, as they are called, did not envision a state run for or by the poor, workers or for the betterment and empowerment of the marginalized and exploited. They wanted to do for themselves with their own systems of power and privilege what the British had done by imperial fiat. With 1 out of every 4 Englishmen now living in the colonies, and the vast amount of market growth and capitalist earning potential also located in the states, there seemed to be nothing but downsides to remaining united with crown.2 The United Kingdom and its imperial prerogative was a middleman the colonial power structure decided it could no longer afford.

The War that followed was led and financed by the aristocracy and the merchant class that so desperately wanted to join that class. With appeals to tropes of imperial brutality, patriotism, promises of land, enterprise and greater local control these privileged elites were able to bring the working and agrarian classes into the movement as fodder for the brutal grinding Continental style of warfare that would come to full horrible flower in the Napoleonic wars and the early engagements of the American Civil War. Erroneous promises of land and free agency, as well as intimidation, economic pressure and manipulation of the strained relations between tribal nations, also brought the indigenous population into the war on both sides. Neither the British nor Americans would hold up their end of the bargain though. The war was won by the American aristocracy over the British Imperial state on the backs of those who had no stake in the coming system of power and privilege and with a generous bit of assistance from the abominably cruel and brutal French Monarchy. The soldiers fought proudly and many organized and protested what they saw as injustices being perpetrated against the colonies by the British. What is lost though is the constant battle being waged by the destitute and the marginalized against the powerful and wealthy in the colonies themselves. With the British gone a new system would have to take their place, and that system would not necessarily be an improvement over the old system. Many fought for a new way of life in the colonies, a “new birth of freedom” if you will, but the war in the end would lead not to this potential but to “the rule of property, free markets, and a gilded elite of landowners, merchants, and bankers.”3

This is the context in which the US Constitution was crafted. But Constitutional Federalism was not a fait accompli; the interests of the various states, and those who held sway in them, were seen to be best served by a looser Confederation that diffused authority and control away from a central governing system familiar to the colonies through their experience of colonial rule from Great Britain. Article 4 of the Confederation charter made clear that this system would benefit the entrenched powers and classes:  “the free inhabitants of each of these States, paupers, vagabonds and fugitives from justice excepted, shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of free citizens in the several States”.4 Property ownership and economic power became the basis of rights and privileges and set up an insurmountable wall keeping much of the people from true political influence and power. This point of view would be cemented, albeit in a more palatable language, in the Federal Constitution and system that would replace the articles of Confederation.The state sovereignty envisioned by the crafters of the Articles of Confederation would not be sufficient to maintain the sort of control the aristocracy and merchants desired. The lack of taxation powers, a military limited by the opposing interests of the various states, and especially the proliferation of debt held by the states, and of course their wealthy creditors, would be the death knell of this form of union. The debt held by the creditors of the states was an especially powerful lever used against Confederated authority. The various states were responsible for the debts accrued during wartime, but such an arrangement would complicate attempts by Federalists to establish a more powerful central authority that was allied with (and therefore to a certain degree beholden to) wealthy creditors.  A new constitution would allow the government to take on debt of the states, and work directly with the monied powers that controlled the debts of the states, and distribute it onto the working people and farmers of the nation through taxation and penalties.

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Literature

Note on Italian Sonnets (From my Research)

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Note on Guido Guinzzelli sonnet/Dante Vita Nuova: Nature as allegory for love and for its the effect on the senses. the “noble heart” is a thing of man but nature supplies the love that fills and fulfills it in a spiritual and expressionistic sense. “Nature did not make” either before the other to justify the creation of the latter; they are in fact complementary and a unified whole when brought together in the perfect circumstances of romantic and/or courtly love. Dante uses people, women, as an allegory for the perfect and the pure, in love, in philosophy, in reason. The women are not stand ins for these concepts so much as they are these concepts, the breath them and add to their glory and perfection through their all too real impression on the love-struck heart. Love is for “the noble heart” not because love is noble in and of itself but because the unity of love and the heart of a man stricken by a woman of true beauty is the truest and most perfect form of nobility, a nobility echoed in the perfection of nature and the god that created nature for man and around man as an expressed complementary and unitary vision. “Love takes its place in the noble heart/as its rightful dwelling.”–Guinzzelli, Al Cor Gentil. It is the fate of man to love and love ennobles the heart which is naturally open and waiting to receive its graces. It is simple rhetorical and creative step from this naturalism to allegorical understandings of principles and ideas reflected and made more pure by the charms and love of a woman.

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Philosophy

Outline for a Feasible Utopia: Part I

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Scenario: Humanity has reached a point as a species where they are capable of mastering their own bodies and environment to a point where complete social, political, religious and ethnic harmony has been reached. Human beings no longer fear war, famine, disease or a lack of basic resources. The population has stabilized to a much more sustainable 2 billion people. These people are spread out in 100 population centers of 20 million, each with an equitable and sustainable amount of natural resources.

 

Each center, called a Region, is administered by a representative body that consists of 2000 individuals voted for at 2 year intervals who each serve one term that cannot be repeated. The people vote directly for the representative individuals and they pass laws on a simple up or down majority vote. Each Region is further divided into 100 Segments, each with a population of 200 thousand. These Segments are administered by a representative body of 200 people that functions in the same way that the Region representative body does. There is no executive official or branch and the judiciary is staffed only by those voted into their office by the people after being nominated by the Law University at which they were educated. Voting is administered through a computer system that allows every person over the age of 14 in the Region one vote on every issue or candidate, and each person over 14 in a Segment will be allowed to vote on issues and representation pertaining to their Segment.

 

All people are educated in a local school from age 10 to 18, with an option at the age of 18 to leave schooling and join a trade. Students are educated in mathematics, the sciences, civics, philosophy, history, art, music, writing, and rhetoric. Psychological examinations and consultations along with the skills and interest will help the students determine what area of study they would like to pursue. Entrance into a University at the age of 18, assuming one does not choose to leave school and apprentice in a trade, is automatic upon successful completion of basic schooling. Successful completion will be determined by the grades of the students seen in context of any mental, physical, emotional, or otherwise mitigating handicap the child may have and also with an eye towards the interests and skills of the individual child. No child will ever be denied entry into a University who has not received the complete and unbiased assistance of the school and its staff. If a child is not deemed able to attend University for any reason they will be given whatever assistance they may need in placing themselves in a trade or in the case of a more serious mental or physical disability they and their families will be provided with all necessary aid and assistance needed to care for the child throughout the course of its life. All local schools in a Segment will be given equal resources and training to meet the needs of their student body.

 

University education lasts from age 18 to 25, or earlier depending upon successful completion of the chosen curriculum. Each Segment has 3 Universities, one a Liberal and Creative Arts School, one a Technical School dealing with the Biological, Physical, Medical, Agricultural, Engineering, and Computing Sciences, and a Law and Civics School. All Universities are run by the people of the various Segments in trust and all official decisions pertaining to the administration of University are voted on by the people. The various departments of the Universities, and the content of their curriculum, will be administered by graduates of the University. For example, graduates of the History program will vote on who will run the departments and subjects making up their program and on what will or will not be part of the curriculum. This will be the case throughout all the disciplines with consideration given to the unique circumstances of each discipline. It will also be graduates of the various programs who will review and publish studies and papers pertaining to their discipline.

 

No person is allowed to go without clean and comfortable housing, no person is allowed to go hungry or to go without necessary health care both physical and mental. No person is allowed to live without the ability to explore the world around them or to travel to wherever they need or desire to go. No person will ever be treated as less than a whole and unique human being; this is true regardless of sex, sexual orientation, physical appearance, age, health, size, ability, intellectual and/or physical, or personal belief, so long as these beliefs do not infringe upon the needs and health and safety of others. One will be judged only on their ability to execute their chosen profession or field of study to the satisfaction of the requirements thereof and/or on their treatment of their fellow human beings.

 

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