Idealism and Naiveté: On Orwell’s “Homage to Catalonia”

by Peter Elliffe

George Orwell paid homage to Catalonia, Spain, in his journalistic book on the Spanish Civil War, Homage to Catalonia, but he paid homage to much more.

Orwell, like many idealistic men and women of his generation, gave up comfort and security to fight for socialism, communism or republicanism against the proto-fascist Francisco Franco. The war, which heralded many crucial dilemmas, ran from 1936-39, resulting in Generalissimo Franco’s victory.

One of those idealistic individuals was my high school history teacher, Peter Carver. He had fought with the communists, been jailed for his trouble, and came away with a life-long abhorrence for communism in general, and “Uncle Joe” Stalin in particular. I read Homage to Catalonia as an act of homage to my influential teacher.

Carver, like Orwell and Alexander Solzhenitsyn, managed to come away from bitter experiences with communism without bitterness of soul. Some part of the utopian dream that communism represented had touched his heart, and that openness remained.

Homage to Catalonia does not reveal Orwell as a mature political theorist, but as a man in the process of understanding his experiences and attempting to put them in perspective. Likewise, The Gulag Archipelago shows us Solzhenitsyn as a true believer, an intuitive follower of the party of Lenin, even after he is arrested on Russia’s western front. Surely there has been a mistake, he thought. I just need to speak to the right person to have the whole horrible mess straightened out, then I can continue to serve the Revolution – and in the process remove this disturbing cognitive dissonance.

Orwell presents the Spanish Civil War as a class conflict between the reactionary, would-be feudal, land-owning families (and the Catholic Church) represented by Franco, and the Republicans, who are a collection of bourgeois and working-class factions. He arrives in a Barcelona which has been revolutionized, in the hands of labor organizations such as the anarcho-syndicalists (CNT). This is as it should be for Orwell. Why pursue the modern slavery which is capitalism when the possibility of socialist revolution is within our grasp?

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Gun Control: Context and Purpose

By Gordon Anderson

Discussions of gun control, like climate change, welfare, immigration, and other complex social issues get reduced to single variables for political purposes. This reduction leads to political strife and gridlock. It also leads to poor laws that do not solve the problem they are supposed to address, and often creates other unwanted or unforeseen problems.

Whenever an incident like the Parkland, Florida, school shooting occurs, the political right promotes the sanctity of the Second Amendment and the political left promotes gun control as a solution. The focus on these two simplistic approaches, pushed by special interests, and magnified by political parties and the press, obscures genuine understanding of the reasons for mass murders and ways to reduce them.

The Larger context

Human society is complex like an ecosystem. There are many interrelated variables in which some correlate with each other more directly than others. But a butterfly effect can occur in which a small, nearly unpredictable factor, influences dramatic events. To understand how components of a system affect each other requires a knowledge of all the variables and their relationship.

It is useful to look at the history of predicting the weather. Some have believed the weather was an arbitrary decision of gods. Others noticed it had something to do with geographical location. But even in areas where it rains many times a year, it is difficult to predict when it will rain or when the wind will blow without a lot more data and complex weather models.

Today’s weather models are far more accurate than just a few decades ago because they use computers to integrate variables like day of the year, angle of the sun, atmospheric pressure, albedo, proximity of large weather systems, jet stream location, and many other factors.

People commit murder for many reasons and in many ways. They kill for anger and revenge; because they are forced to; to rob or commit other crimes; to impress others; because they feel threatened; to find out what it feels like; and many other reasons. They kill with guns, bombs, knives, bats, fists, cars, fire, gas, water (drowning), pushing off of a building, and in virtually any way that will get the job done.

Guns are easier and more effective in killing than many other ways. Murder can be an uncontrolled instinctual reaction or premeditated and well-planned.

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Gun Control or Heart Control? A Great Awakening?

By David Eaton

In the aftermath of another heinous act of mass murder, this time at a high school in Parkland, Florida, there was the usual spate of hand-wringing over the question of gun laws in the United States.

For the record, I’m not fond of guns and would like to see greater prohibitions on the sale of automatic weapons. That said, it was not at all surprising to hear certain commentators reflexively cite and blame the usual suspects (the NRA, the GOP) for “America’s gun problem.”

In a discussion after the Parkland shooting, MSNBC commentator Mike Barnicle asked the rhetorical question, “Is this a cultural problem?” The answer should be fairly obvious.

Our “gun control” problem is a resultant phenomenon, a symptom of a serious cultural and spiritual disorder. By all means, let’s have the debate about guns and laws, but we need to understand this is not fundamentally a “gun problem” but rather a “heart problem.”

It’s well-known that politics is downstream of culture. The Greeks understood this long ago; Plato was very perceptive when he cited musicologist Damon’s assertion that “if you change the songs of a nation soon you will change the laws.”

Politicians and our political punditry are reacting to the Parkland tragedy in the way they have for decades. Rather than examine deeper cultural concerns — family breakdown, sexual immorality, a debased entertainment industry — their focus immediately becomes political.

This is not to suggest there isn’t a law-and-order aspect in the equation. However, we already have many gun laws on the books. Both the Parkland perpetrator and Las Vegas shooter obtained their guns legally. There are as many as 100 million gun owners in the USA and most are law-abiding citizens. Most gun-related crimes in the USA are committed with illegally obtained weapons. Chicago has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, yet annually leads the nation in gun-related crimes — over 4,000 cases in 2016.

A study on gun–related crime published in 2017 by the federal National Institute of Justice found that between 1993 and 2013 gun ownership increased by nearly 50%. Yet during the same period, gun homicides decreased by nearly 50%. Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin pointed to the fact that in the 1950s there were far, far fewer gun laws on the books, yet the kinds of mass shootings we are seeing with disturbing frequency were almost non-existent.

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Gun Control: Profound Cultural Differences Regardless of Statistics

By Franco Famularo

News of the February 14 mass shooting at a Florida high school that claimed the lives of 14 students and three staff has people all over asking questions once again. In a debate where the same arguments are exchanged consistently, it seems a spiritual numbness prevails that leads to more confusion and frustration than solutions.

Here, I look at some statistics and posit there’s a profound cultural difference between the USA and most other nations, not only in the developed world but most other countries, when it comes to gun ownership.

Neither side of the debate in the USA has convinced the other. Supporters of tighter gun control scream something must be done and restrictions should be placed on gun ownership and background checks should be more rigorous. Supporters of existing gun laws tell us stricter laws are not the answer and that “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”

We are told, for example, that Chicago, with strict gun laws, has a very high murder rate and high crime rate. Some would suggest stricter laws would prevent people from killing people.

Most folks living outside the U.S. are perplexed that gun laws are as loose as they are and ask why Americans don’t do the obvious. Some go as far as avoiding travel to the U.S., fearing gun violence!

But there is one puzzle that repeatedly stumps supporters and non-supporters alike. Why does the U.S. have an enormously higher rate of mass shootings than anywhere else? And why do most developed countries such as in Europe, Japan and Canada have such low homicide rates — especially those involving guns?

(click chart to enlarge; source of graphic: New York Times)

There exists a long litany of arguments for and against tighter gun laws and both sides in the USA cite the Second Amendment. Most folks outside the U.S. cannot easily understand what’s at the root of the gun issue and what the American worldview is when it comes to gun ownership and their use.

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Justice Can Restore True Community

By Alison Wakelin

Three years ago, I joined the Coalition to Dismantle the New Jim Crow in the state of Delaware.

My thinking was the criminal justice system is vulnerable to being dominated by accusation, the primary tool with which the angelic world has dominated humankind, so that would be the best place to focus on bringing change and healing.

I have since learned a vast amount from interactions with prisoners, law enforcement and corrections, as well as many of Delaware’s highest officials, that has confirmed my original hypothesis.

Unificationists, more than anyone, understand that everyone is a child of God, and God cannot be happy until all are restored to their original position. We cannot simply stand by unmoved while God’s children are suffering, unaware of their true identity as divine beings. We have to search out the root causes of this vast suffering that has come through the criminal justice system, and heal the underlying wounds through truth and love.

Our present criminal justice system

The criminal justice system in America has expanded its reach to the point no one is immune to its presence in his or her life.  Having reached a situation where massive incarceration rates have negative consequences on a state’s budget, many states have begun to incorporate reforms in response to soaring U.S. statistics.

While this has usually led to a slight, sometimes even large, reduction in incarceration rates, it has left in place supervision over millions of lives by the criminal justice system, as well as millions of people deeply in debt to the state. These developments have disproportionately affected the African-American community, and America’s poor, both white and black.

The African-American community is dealing with issues within the criminal justice system that derive from a complex history of loss of every basic human right: identity, freedom, the right to protect one’s own family, even self-determination. Resolving some of the disparities in policing, sentencing, and in ascribing guilt or innocence is only a step towards justice.

The bigger issues cannot be disentangled from the daily lives of African-Americans without being addressed at the deepest levels. And the white community cannot really do more than offer opportunities to allow for healing. The healing must take place from within the abused community, as reclaiming its right to power is a huge step that must occur through the process.

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Climate Change: Rethinking the Debate

By Rob Sayre

The debate about climate change has mirrored the political divide in the U.S., with the political party in power standing behind their own understanding and agenda.  President Obama signed the Paris Climate Accord and in June, President Trump pulled out of this international agreement to limit CO2 emissions and reduce the worldwide temperature by 2°C.

At the heart of the disagreement is whether or not the rises in temperatures are manmade. Over 30,000 scientists and others insist no. Just as many other scientists, including those from NASA, say yes.

The U.S. military is already planning how to respond to rising sea levels regardless if this is due to man’s activity, natural forces, or both. Pope Francis in his encyclical on climate change, exhorts us: solving climate change means protecting the planet and vulnerable people, and we must hear “both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”  Faith can guide us. “The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us. Soil, water, mountains – everything is, as it were, a caress of God.”  Other religious views provide a similar outlook.

The Foreword to God’s Will and the Ocean, Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s collected words on the ocean providence, notes,

“The Third Blessing exhorts humankind to take its proper position in the universe: ‘. . . and replenish the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and of the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’ Thus humankind indeed becomes the God-centered caretaker of the world, empowered by the benevolent love of God rather than greed and selfishness. In essence, these are the responsibilities of humankind, and when respectively fulfilled, they become the wonderful blessings of life.”

If we substitute stewardship for dominion, I think we get the essence of what Father Moon taught about man’s proper relationship with the Creation.

One Metric is Not Enough

Worldwide temperatures are too broad a metric to use as a decision-making tool. This one metric is being used to guide nations worldwide to make significant policy decisions and monetary investments. The scope is too large and while not inaccurate, it is less relevant and helpful in making decisions. Does anyone use the average temperature of their country to determine their current driving conditions? Of course not. We use more relevant and local predictive tools. And so it should be with climate change.

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Global Warming from Mexico to Washington, D.C.

By Ronald J. Brown

The evening of October 9, 2017, I was sitting on the small balcony outside my budget hotel in Palenque, Mexico, when I first met the ancient Maya god Unen Kawiil.

I had learned to expect Mexican cataclysmic manifestations of nature from my many visits there. I experienced earthquakes strong enough to wake me out of a deep sleep, the periodic eruptions of a volcano near Mexico City, rain storms, lightning displays, hurricanes, and roaring thunder enough to make me appreciate the pagan gods who controlled them.

Mexicans are so accustomed to natural disasters and death they have created national holidays to them. The unique Mexican holiday called El Día de los Muertos, “The Day of the Dead,” stretches from October 31 to November 2 and is its most popular holiday. The residents of a death-plagued country spend an entire week honoring death.

My vacation in Mexico from September 25 to October 16 was preceded by natural disasters. On September 7, the state of Chiapas in the southernmost part of the country was rocked by an earthquake measuring 8.1, and aftershocks almost as strong for days afterwards. On September 19, another quake measuring 7.1 struck Mexico City, killing hundreds.

My rich experiences with the powers of nature well-prepared me for the arrival of the Maya god of lightning. I caught my first glimpse of Unen Kawiil announcing his arrival as he crept over the distant jungle. Like a giant, the storm marched across the fertile flat jungle, slowly approaching the base of the Chiapas Mountains and ruins of the many temples and palaces of the city of Palenque that once ruled the plains. Slowly the god crept closer and closer, each time announcing his presence with a flash of lightning from his eye.

Sent ahead to prepare his arrival was a windswept cloak of black clouds and the first pattering of raindrops. By my third glass of wine, he was hovering above, surrounding me with wailing winds, lashing rain, and most importantly, blinding bolts of lightning. It was not the rain or wind that announced the arrival of the god but rather the shattering bolts of lightning.

According to the complex mythology of the kingdom of Palenque, it was such bolts of lightning that first separated the earth from the primal sea and prepared the world for the advent of humanity some 5,319 years ago. According to Palenque inscriptions, Unen Kawiil was born in the year 3,121, only 188 years after creation according to inscriptions.

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Original Sin Re-visioned

By Alison Wakelin

We as humanity face a reality today, especially in the Western world, where our original values are threatened.

We have focused on the nature of original sin in our attempts to return to goodness, but the true depths of the problem have not yet been clarified enough to comprehend why we experience division and conflict between groups who believe in the same origin story.

A lack of clarity and insight has led to unexpected loss of unity and love, even as Unificationists have been able to claim the victory of Foundation Day.

This same loss of love is manifested in an explosion of violence and political enmity in the world around us. In America, we are experiencing pointless mass killings, and our jails have become filled with lives destroyed by the atmosphere of violence and disunity which haunts our streets.

Humanity has been caught up in the story of the first transgression as a means of explaining our traumatized reality since people first began to wonder why human lives were dominated by suffering in a world of so much beauty and harmony. For thousands of years, our existence has been almost entirely dictated by religious thought, demonstrating the absolute need for a sense of meaning and purpose at the core of our being.

But the Western world moved on to a purposeless model for life, based on a materialistic paradigm within which science could grow, and current developments have brought us to a singular challenge — in which our choices today determine whether we move forward to a true spirituality, or whether we hold on to the flaws in thinking that designed our past.

We must make decisions about the myth at the root of so much of our troubles. Therefore, let’s look at an alternative telling of the story of our original human ancestors:

“Eve was feeling confused. She really loved their teacher Lucifer, and he seemed incredibly wise and knowledgeable, but she had to admit what he was teaching her wouldn’t pass the Adam test. But then, since Adam hardly ever turned up for their lessons anymore, she felt annoyed she should even think about how Adam would react. He was missing out on so much stuff that was really fascinating, and he would just never know how the universe came into being, for one thing.

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“I Have an Issue with That!”

By Andrew Wilson

The other night, I felt Rev. Moon say to me, “My son marrying me off — I have an issue with that!” To which I thought, “That’s for sure!”

Many Unificationists have heard about the goings on in the breakaway Sanctuary Church, where on September 23, their leader, Hyung-jin Moon, decreed True Mother divorced from True Father and then proceeded to “marry” True Father to Mrs. Hyun-shil Kang.

Mrs. Kang, who in December last year joined Sanctuary Church, has the distinction of being the first disciple Rev. Moon made in Busan after he finished writing Wolli Wonbon. Further, True Parents had blessed her to St. Augustine in 1998.

The strangeness and irregularity of this event is beyond question. We have heard of children wanting to divorce their parents. But this is even stranger: the youngest son, who claims authority from his deceased father and has a quarrel with his mother, divorces his parents from one another. Then he weds his deceased father to a follower who is submissive to his will.

His motive is to establish his claim to be his parents’ sole heir, and it is quite convenient for him if his mother is out of the way. That the parents whom this son are divorcing are the True Parents, who in the past stated publicly he was to succeed them as leader of the church, is the theological overlay providing Sanctuary supporters with a justification for this deed. Yet it only makes this human farce more unsettling.

Like all members of FFWPU, I can testify that Mrs. Moon remains devoted to her husband and never ceases striving to fulfill the goals that God asked him to achieve during his lifetime. I have ample reason to believe that the True Parents of Heaven, Earth and Humankind are eternally one, love each other deeply, and that God fully participates in their love.

Furthermore, it is the bedrock of FFWPU theology that the eternal oneness of True Parents is the core and foundation for God’s Kingdom to be established throughout heaven and earth, and without that oneness there is no Kingdom. Also, the eternal oneness of True Parents is the basis of the Blessing that has defined our lives and affords all of us the hope that we as Blessed Couples can become eternal citizens of God’s Kingdom.

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