Politics & Government

A Lesson from Nazi Concentration Camp Survivors

I lived in Israel for a year in 1972. I was working my way to India. I had come from six months in Frankfurt, Germany, where I worked in a bakery under the supervision of Herbert, who had been a drummer in Hitler’s private marching band; so he said. In Israel, I worked as a civilian employee of the Israeli Air Force. I lived with soldiers in tents in the Sinai Desert, close to the Suez Canal. We dug underground ammunition bunkers all day.

During my year in Israel, I met many Nazi concentration camp survivors. The stories they told me, quite honestly, were so horrific as to defy belief. Some people today do not even believe the Holocaust actually happened! How could it? How could human beings descend into such a hell as to do this to other human beings?

How could our very humanity be corrupted such that we became monsters, betraying everything good and beautiful and decent and caring and loving that is within our true heart, our living spirit? Hitler?

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No, I was told. Not Hitler. Us. The people. How? Why?

Because we the people were obediant and compliant to “authority.” When they lied, we believed them. When they asked us to hate, we did. When they told us Jews, Gypsies, and gays were to blame for everything bad, we believed them. When they said to attack, we did. When they said to imprison, starve, torture, and murder, we did. When we were told to perform experiments on children, we did. Not Hitler. We the people who were obedient and compliant. Hitler did nothing but challenge the very nature of who we were willing to be. Not Hitler. Not Hitler’s inner circle, his cabinet of monstrosities: Walther Funk, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Albert Speer, Karl Donitz, Erich Raeder, Wilhelm Keitel, Joseph Goebbels, Martin Bormann, Hermann Göring, Heinrich Himmler.

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There is something we need to remember. Many of us do. More of us need to. We cannot be obedient and compliant to anyone that asks us to betray the very best of our innate humanity. We cannot betray our common heart and our vibrant spirit — both of which lie within us beneath the ideologies of politics, religion, race, greed, nationality or any other seeming division between human beings. We cannot betray this, no matter the cost. We cannot be obedient and complient to any authority, of any kind, that asks us to betray that which makes us human, that which links us together, that which connects us to all living things with a caring and generous heart, with a loving spirit. You know what I mean. Call it what you will.

Look at the faces of people you love, adore, and cherish. Look at your children. Look closely at who you love. These people you love are what keeps you in touch with your humanity. That’s how you can love them. How do you show, manifest, and demonstrate your love? In many ways. But, I doubt you can show them this love if you betray the capacity to love within your heart, if you neglect to show that love, to demonstrate it. Not just to them, to those you love easily. But to others, who you may not even know. To others, who authorities may tell you to hate, imprison, torture, and kill.

The only thing that matters is what we do next. Shall we be obeident and complient? Or shall we find a cosmic roar of defiance to say NO to anyone, ANYONE, who asks us to betray our common humanity.

The only thing that matters now is what we do next. I, for one, shall not be obedient or compliant. What about you?

 

C’mon . . . Really?

I wonder how many times during this eventful year you thought, said, or even yelled something like this:

C’mon! Really? Is That True? Are You For Real?

Maybe your incredulity was even spiced with some F-bombs or other favorite words of emphasis!

Yes, this is the year where we learned that it is very difficult to know what — and who — to believe. Sure, the low hanging fruit on this tree would be the explosion of “fake news” stories on social media, the rabid, toxic rants of ideologues, the deceptive and manipulative narratives of many politicians and corporate executives, the premature ejaculations of news pundits, — OK, you know what I’m talking about. But, with the exception of a few notable branches, the entire tree of public discourse has become depressingly unbelievable.

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Here is an all-time memorable line from the 1976 movie Network, spoken by Peter Finch as the character Howard Beale: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

Sadly, I do not have sufficient super powers to send an energetic wave of transformation out into the world, such that — POOF and PRESTO — accuracy, believability, transparency, honesty, and dignity — would instantly sprout in the minds and hearts of all people. But, I can lead the charge, and I can speak for this, and I can stand for this, and I can embody this.

Which is what I do through Speaking Truthfully. It’s a kind of crusade for me, being a crusading, mission-driven kind of guy.

How about it? How about if we decide and dedicate ourselves to this crusade? A crusade that is about embodying and exemplifying truthful speaking, about seeding the world with actual and accurate information, about showing up in the world without pretense or hype, about using our words to educate and elevate, to illuminate and inspire, to unify and heal — rather than to demonize and marginalize, obscure and confuse, oppress and intimidate.

This is what I want for Christmas! This is what I’m giving for Christmas. This is what I want and will give throughout the New Year, and for as long as I live.

Truthful speaking: believable, accurate, honest, soulful, heartfelt, non-dogmatic, kind, healing, uplifting, encouraging, unifying … .

Speaking Truthfully. My mission and crusade. My promise. My hope.

Love to all.

A Short List of Leadership Qualities

In a recent interview by Judi Neal on her Edgewalkers Teleconference, the topic of leadership came up. That is one of those tricky words that, to me, does not have much meaning unless put into a context. Leading a firefight in a war zone and leading a mindfulness walk through a meadow require different leadership mindsets, skills, and competencies.

However, I do think that there are a few of these that are universal and apply to all “leadership” definitions.

In my view, this is a short but critical list of leadership capacities. These need to be embodied and manifest behaviorally; otherwise, they have no potency.

A clear mind. An open heart. Present-centered attention. Deep listening. Truthful speaking. Self-awareness. Honesty. Curiosity. Creativity. Empowering. Socially conscious. Service-oriented.

See if you can add to this list. A leader is not a leader simply by virtue of social or organizational position. A leader must earn that designation by virtue of embodied, manifest qualities and behaviors.

The 10% Project — Radical Conversations about Social Action

I would like to introduce you to “The 10% Project: Radical Conversations about Social Action by the Global Consciousness Community.”

The 10% Project invites the community’s millions of members to become personally involved in this unprecedented initiative to meld our various spiritual paths and explorations of higher consciousness with outer civic engagement.

The guiding spirit of this Project is a simple, heartfelt question: “How can we embody our spiritual practice and demonstrate our evolving awareness of higher consciousness in our everyday life so as to make a positive impact in our community and society?”

Please click on the icon just below to watch the 10-minute video I produced to describe the Project.10percentproject-sidepic

This Project does not advocate a particular form of activism or cause or issue. This Project does advocate the conscious, purposeful participation in any aspect of civic life that naturally activates our heart and irresistibly calls to us as our responsibility. Key talking points in the video include:

My Public Challenge to Donald Trump

In your Republican presidential candidate acceptance speech on July 21, 2016, you said, “It is finally time for a straightforward assessment of the state of our nation. I will present the facts plainly and honestly. Here, at our convention, there will be no lies. We will honor the American people with the truth, and nothing else.”

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Truth is a compelling yet slippery concept; eventually, truth must interact with accuracy and evidence. Sooner or later, the mental state of the “truth-teller” must be considered. The mental bedlam of a person — their degree of psychological/emotional chaos and madness — must be evaluated.

My public challenge to you: Will you consent to undergo a full battery of neuropsychological tests — with results and analyses made public — in order for us, the voting public, to have a straightforward and honest assessment of the state of your mind and of any tendencies you might have for mental disorders that would disqualify you from holding the office of President?

This challenge is not a challenge of your past success in building casinos and condos, nor is it a challenge to your personal values and policy proposals, though those are quite obtuse and quixotic to me. This is a direct and public challenge to your mental state and overall mental capacity and to your emotional maturity and IQ. Can you function in a reasonably sane and coherent manner within the complex environment of the national and international political arenas? You will forgive me if I am not persuaded by the   comments of your wife and children, or by the comments of a partner in casino building or by the president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

I’d rather listen to what James Fallon, Ph.D., might say after a proper professional evaluation. Here is an excerpt from his article entitled “The Mind of a Dictator”:

For the past 18 years, I have studied the brain activity, psychology, and genetics of psychiatric patients and the brain scans of psychopathic serial killers. A few months ago, I was approached by a non-profit human rights organization to create a presentation on the mind of a dictator — an especially compelling issue in light of recent uprisings against autocrats in the Middle East and North Africa. After combing through literature on the world’s worst dictators and combining it with my neuroscience research and that of others on psychopaths, I presented my theory in May at the Oslo Freedom Forum, an annual conference produced by the Human Rights Foundation. The following article is based on my speech, an attempt to look inside the minds of these elusive and powerful world players.

“So, what binds dictators across history and geography? What traits do they share? To begin with, let’s examine the general characteristics of psychopaths. They are usually charming, charismatic, and intelligent. They brim with self-confidence and independence, and exude sexual energy. They are also extremely self-absorbed, masterful liars, compassionless, often sadistic, and possess a boundless appetite for power. These are just a few of the character traits present in a genuine psychopath.

You can see why I’d like to know his informed and expert opinion of you! Thus, my public challenge to you. Hey, let’s go for the two-for-one discount and have Mike Pence checked out.

What do you say?

2016 GOP Convention: a crucial spiritual lesson

I  confess: I have been watching hours of television coverage of the GOP Convention. I cannot stop myself: CNN, MSNBC, FOX NEWS.

The Trumps

The Trumps

Even though my brain has crashed and collapsed and my soul has tried a roll-call vote to stop me, I continue to watch. I now have the justification I need. A massive, crucial, urgent spiritual lesson for me and, quite possibly, for you.

Ex-SEAL Marcus Luttrell

Ex-SEAL Marcus Luttrell

Truth be told, I have already understood this lesson, taught this, written and spoken about this. But here it is, courtesy of every person who has appeared on any screen: main speaker, delegate, pundit, analyst, commentator. Everyone teaches the same thing.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani

The lesson? It is this: all thoughts are automatically self-justifying. So are beliefs, which are gangs of thoughts gathered together to bully lone thoughts. in other words, one can say anything, anything at all, and that spoken thought, that thought spoken aloud, is proof enough of its veracity. Nothing more is needed. No evidence of any kind. No proof, no logic, no analysis. Each and every thought is unassailable, true beyond question, absolute.

The Donald

The Donald

As long as our awareness remains tethered to the thoughtstream; as long as our consciousness is imprisoned in our mind. When this is the case, we are unable to question our thoughts and beliefs, to interrogate them, to challenge them on the basis of evidence. One can say anything, and it is accurate and true — as long as we live in the thoughtstream.

Which seems to be an accurate and true statement, based on the evidence.

What to do? Get out of the thoughtstream.

The Koan of Leadership

This essay was included in an anthology entitled Leadership in a New Era: Visionary Approaches to the Biggest Crisis of our Time,
edited by John Renesch, published in 1994. Contributing authors include Warren Bennis, Margaret Wheatley, Stewart Emery, James Autry and Max DePree, among many others. It is still pertinent and relevant.

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No one I know has yet penetrated the koan of leadership. A koan is a riddle, the solution to which can only be found by going completely beyond all conditioning and thought. The solution originates from a place utterly free from image, belief, and concept. The mind that answers a koan is no mind at all; it is empty of all representation. Wrestling with the koan of leadership requires keen reflection and persistent inquiry. We must refine our awareness to have a chance of discovering what might be buried, as a treasure, beneath the layers of conceptual thinking. An idea of leadership will always miss the mark; it is too slow and cumbersome; ideas cannot respond quickly enough to reality. This is why leadership is a koan. Any definition or formulation of leadership will miss the mark. Contemplate leadership as a means to become liberated from conditioning and thought. Then you will be qualified to be a leader.

The steady practice of reflection and inquiry develops clarity of mind. Clarity, the state of being free from the impediments of image and idea, allows us to see things simply as they are, not wrapped in our various imaginings. Simple awareness—of ourselves, of others, and of the world around us—is the gift of reflection and inquiry. We cannot be didactic about awareness as we can about leadership. Awareness can’t be taught. We have to discover it for ourselves. If we have an interest in awareness, we can only unwrap ourselves from ideas, concepts, opinions, and judgments until awareness itself remains. Awareness itself supplants answers and solutions because it is more real and more useful.

The Case of Hillary's Emails

From March 18, 2016: Former U.S. Attorney Joseph diGenova discusses the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s personal email server during her time as Secretary of State with C-SPAN Washington Journal host Peter Slen.

In my view, Mr. deGenova sheds light on the investigation without passion or prejudice, and what he has to say is hugely informative and illuminating. It is well worth 49 minutes of your time, if you have a sincere interest in the legal “facts of the case.” In this interview, there is a clip of Mrs. Clinton talking about the investigation during a recent presidential debate. I wish Mr. diGenova had been the one asking her questions.

An(other) Open Letter to Mr. Donald Trump

Dear Donald,

I hope you don’t mind the informal greeting, but I have seen so much of you in the past few months that I feel I know you, even though we’ve never met, and I doubt that you know me. (You can google me, though, and find out.) Along with millions of other Americans, I’ve been watching you as you’ve presented yourself and your ideas in televised debates, campaign rallies, and interviews. I’ve listened to various of your supporters extol your personal virtues and their belief that you can make America great again. (I don’t as yet really know what that means.)

With this modest preamble, I want you to know that I am writing to thank you. No, I’m not your fan or supporter, as I’ve been infected with the Bern, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate what you’re doing for the country. I’m grateful. But my appreciation and gratitude take a bit of explaining, a bit of backstory as we say here in Hollywood.

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Are We Going to Elect a Psychopath?

A quick look at some of today’s headlines referring to the U.S. presidential candidates’ debate and campaign trail performances include these words: racist, insane, crackpots, weirdos, bizarre, nonsensical, disaster, fear, hate, narcissist, fascist, Mussolini, psychopath, Hitler.

Psychopaths and Hitler vying for the White House? Seriously? Let’s hit the pause button and let this sink in, before we are swept away by the next news cycle — coming in a few minutes. Let’s have a deeper look at the real possibility that we might well elect a psychopath in 2016. Policy proposals and position statements, rehearsed talking points, bombast, bravado, soaring promises — these are not reliable indicators of the actual mental make-up of candidates.

At the moment, the only requirements for holding office are set forth in Article II, Section I of the U. S. Constitution. It specifies that, to be president or vice president, a person must be a natural-born citizen of the United States, at least 35 years of age, and a resident of the United States for at least 14 years. That’s it; nothing more. Except tons of cash.

With the entry requirements for candidacy being so low, what is to prevent a host of moneyed crazies from running for president, even being elected? Apparently, nothing at all. How are we to know if candidates for president are mentally sound and emotionally mature and stable?

How can we, the citizens who are charged with making wise and considered choices about who becomes president, evaluate whether a candidate is mentally sound or suffering from mental illness? We do not have that kind of access to candidates, who we finally empower to set our national priorities, influence public policy, command the military, raise or lower taxes, establish budgets, maintain or violate treaties, assemble a cabinet, and so much more. We can only witness manufactured, media-based performances that are scripted and rehearsed to produce an effect. We need to get behind the curtain of smoke and mirrors, behind the misdirection antics of press secretaries and publicists, to see who is really pulling the levers. We need a way to ascertain the mental health of presidential candidates before they are granted world-shaking powers.

Are we in danger of electing a psychopathic president?

In his 2005 collection of essays entitled A Man Without a Country, American novelist and wise elder Kurt Vonnegut offers some insight into how this can happen:

“To say somebody is a PP (psychopathic personality) is to make a perfectly respectable medical diagnosis, like saying he or she has appendicitis or athlete’s foot. And so many of these heartless PPs now hold big jobs in our federal government, as though they were leaders instead of sick. What has allowed so many PPs to rise so high in corporations, and now in government, is that they are so decisive. Unlike normal people, they are never filled with doubts, for the simple reason that they cannot care what happens next. Simply can’t. Do this! Do that! Mobilize the reserves! Privatize the public schools! Attack Iraq! Cut health care! Tap everybody’s telephone! Cut taxes on the rich! Build a trillion-dollar missile shield! Fuck habeas corpus and the Sierra Club and In These Times, and kiss my ass!”

Ah, yes: socialized psychopaths.

In Without Conscience, Dr. Robert D. Hare, one of the world’s foremost authorities in the area of psychopathy, says that such socialized psychopaths “appear to function reasonably well — as lawyers, doctors, psychiatrists, academics, mercenaries, police officers, cult leaders, military personnel, businesspeople, writers, artists, entertainers and so forth — without breaking the law, or at least without being caught and convicted. These individuals are every bit as egocentric, callous, and manipulative as the average criminal psychopath; however, their intelligence, family background, social skills, and circumstances permit them to construct a façade of normalcy and to get what they want with relative impunity.”

Most alarming of all is the theme that runs through the case histories of all psychopaths: a deeply disturbing inability to care about the pain and suffering experienced by others — in short, a complete lack of empathy. If this inability to experience or care about others’ pain and suffering marries compulsive lying in the Church of No Conscience, presided over by impulsivity — well, good lord, that’s a train wreck for sure.

Should we be concerned that such a person would become president of the United States? A checklist of emotional and interpersonal traits of such people would include: a grandiose sense of self-worth, pathological lying, lack of remorse or guilt, shallow emotions, lack of empathy, poor behavioral controls, lack of realistic long-term plans, impulsivity, and irresponsibility. Do we really want a president whose core behavioral patterns include lying, cheating, cruelty, irresponsibility, lack of remorse, poor relationships, exploitation, manipulation, destructiveness, irritability, and aggressiveness?

It is unconscionable to elect a president who lacks empathy and conscience, honesty and integrity, and mature impulse control. Shouldn’t these qualities represent the minimum standard of mental health for someone who is commander-in-chief of the largest military force in the world and who has virtually unlimited power to affect the lives of billions of people?

So, I propose that all candidates submit to a battery of psychological tests to be administered and interpreted by eminent psychologists — and the results made public. I’m surprised this hasn’t already occurred. After all, psychological tests, along with drug and polygraph tests and background investigations, are routinely required in the public safety sector, including police officers, correctional officers, dispatchers, security guards, park rangers, SWAT teams, fire fighters, and emergency medical technicians. Military psychologists conduct psychological testing and applicant assessment for general fitness-for-duty and for highly sensitive jobs requiring security clearances. (It’s interesting to note that the Department of Defense employs more psychologists than any other organization or company in the world.) Courts may sometimes order a battery of psych tests to determine parental fitness. Work-related aptitude, ability, and personality trait testing, a billion dollar industry, is common practice in Fortune 500 companies. In a document entitled “Nuclear Security—Before and After September 11,” the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission “requires background checks for nuclear facility employees to ensure that they are trustworthy.

I’d like to have an equivalent screening process for candidates for president. I’d like to know that they have a human heart that can feel the pain and suffering of others. I’d like to know they have a conscience to hold their base instincts in check. I’d like to know if they can tell the truth or whether they are compulsive liars. I’d like to know they can work cooperatively with others. I’d like to know that they are not seeking to conquer the world as compensation for lovelessness. I’d like to know that they respect living things, that they have a sense of the sacred. I’d like to know that their soul moves toward peace, not war; toward forgiveness, not vengeance; toward freedom, not oppression; toward tolerance, not hatred. I’d like to know these things. This is where I want to set the bar.

There are a number of valid and reliable tests used to evaluate and assess a person’s personality traits and psychological health. The Personality Assessment Inventory (PAI) and the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI-2) can provide a comprehensive assessment of adult psychopathology and can help assess major symptoms of social and personal maladjustment.

Personality tests and inventories evaluate the thoughts, emotions, attitudes, and behavioral traits that comprise personality. The results of these tests determine an individual’s personality strengths and weaknesses, and may identify certain disturbances in personality, or psychopathology. Tests such as the Minnesota multiphasic personality inventory MMPI-2) and the Millon clinical multiaxial Inventory III (MMPI-III), are used to screen individuals for specific psychopathologies or emotional problems.

In 1972, George McGovern initially selected Thomas Eagleton, a senator from Missouri, as his running mate. What McGovern didn’t know at the time was that Eagleton had been treated for depression with electroshock treatments. In the eyes of many Americans, that meant Eagleton was not fit to be president, and as a result of the public disclosure of these facts, McGovern asked Eagleton to resign.

My guess is that in the eyes of most Americans, a psychopath is not fit to be president.