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Discussing Politics and Economics With Right Intention

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I don’t like politics or economics. I don’t like them, because they engender such powerful emotions and conflict. The matters they involve are the most direct in affecting the overall condition of life itself for a society. I love religion, because people can be content with dialoguing in a kindly manner and the assumption that in the end “we’ll see who was right” but until that time, religion is just a purely personal thing. Politics and economics affect society at large and the smallest decisions at that level have enormous consequences for the suffering of a society. Nothing is clear cut, and you can’t be content with “we’ll see who was right in the end,” because doing so means potentially unraveling the fabric of society or causing immense suffering and pain for future generations. In some cases it can mean saving countless lives and livelihoods. I recognize that as a spiritual person, my highest goal is the reformation of global society into a place of happiness, well-being, wisdom, and freedom. This is the goal of science as well. But one must remember that politics and economics (in theory) have this very same intent. The problem being of course that no one really knows for sure what the best way of doing things is, and you can’t just be content with differing views. Another’s view could mean you lose your job, your most cherished freedom, or your life. So what can we do?
I have great respect for those who can dedicate themselves to the most contentious of subjects and fight for their opinion of the most effective policy to benefit their society. This is a noble aim (not to say that all such devoted individuals are devoted to this aim in particular. Many are of course power-hungry, status-craving, sociopaths, but i do hold respect for those who aren’t). We all can’t have perfect knowledge of the infinitely complex political and economic systems. We will all have our views on the best specific policy, and we are all likely to fight passionately over our particular chosen views. In the end, we won’t really know what the best policy is. One socio-economic system may work perfectly in one society, but be chaos in another.
What we can be sure of, is that we all (excluding the sociopaths) have the best interest of society in mind. We should remember that when discussing such contentious issues with others. Religion has the benefit of sacredness, which usually commands respect from people, making dialogue much easier. Even debates between the most conservative of religious fundamentalists rarely results in emotional outbursts at one another, and this is because of the embrace of the sacredness. I think it’s important that we transmute this force of sanctity to all contentious subjects, as it allows for the most constructive of dialogues and helps all sides to remember what the primary aim actually is: The benefit of society.
Sure many people hold views that are purely going to affect their own lives for the better, but this isn’t always the case. And even for such individuals, they have convinced themselves with full certainty of the positions they hold and why those policies are the best for all in society. We don’t have the right to deny them of this, just as we don’t have the right to deny a religious view. The intent is still in the right place, even if it took some serious cognitive dissonance to get there.
Now i’m not saying to just be complacent with others’ views if you really think they are harming society. Please do not think this. Fight for your all-important social or economic or political cause (i sure will). Again, i simply ask that people always remember that the final aim is the benefit of the whole of society. If this truly becomes the motivation for all individuals who discuss these subjects i hate so much, then i believe most problems would fix themselves and the society in question would reach the most effective equilibrium. So please, fight on for your view, but remember that your end goal is a compassionate one, and argue under the assumption that the person you’re attempting to dissuade or disprove or debate with is operating under the very same principle of compassion. It’s the best we can do until such time as we enter a utopian world of unity and understanding, or we die as a species.

A Glimpse Into My Synesthesia

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I have synesthesia, and more specifically color-grapheme synesthesia. I recommend you read about it if you are unfamiliar. Here’s a video on it i watched recently that does well to address the scope of what it can entail and the need for more reliable studies on it.

In any case, color-grapheme synesthesia is where letters and numbers are perceived as being inherently colored. The perception is purely mental, in that it doesn’t extend into the visual perception of the external environment. I see that all of these words are black, but i can look at them at the more subtle level of my mind’s perception and see vibrant colors. Recently i got the idea of attempting to illustrate this phenomenon in a way that others can understand, whether you have synesthesia or not.

So here is the alphabet, poorly rendered in MSPaint:

Synesthesia Alphabet

 

Note that the letter “l” is usually light gray, but in certain situations can be black. Also, the letters “z” and “i” are light gray and white respectively. The presence of the black border was simply to delineate them more easily. And note that there is no significant difference whether upper or lower case or cursive vs. print.

Here are numerals:

Synesthesia Numerals

I figured i would do a little more to show you what this is like for me. Here is the color-alphabet for me in abstract color form, which is for me, nearly equally as obvious as the actual letters themselves:

Synesthesia Alphabet Colors only

Weird, i know. You just see a seemingly random series of colors, when i see the alphabet. It’s crazy stuff. And there exists a dire need for continued research in the phenomenon for its implications in the nature of cognition itself and the philosophical implications for epistemology. I hope to see more research done in the future, but this article on the APA website does well to detail what we know about synesthesia and what its implications can be.

I thought i would continue to explore the representation of my synesthesia for those who are interested and for other synesthetes to attempt to do the same. So here’s my name. First showing my name with the letters, and then showing just the abstract of the colors:

 

Synesthesia Name

Here’s some simple long division:

Synesthesia Long-Division

And to take it to the farthest level i can conceive of right now, i used OpenOffice (screw MSOffice!) to make this simple coloring-book-like image of some trees and bushes by the sea with the sun shining. Instead of filling it with colors, though, i used letters. For me this isn’t a problem to be “figured out” or compared with the original key, as you’ll have to do. For me, and me alone, this image has color, but it’s at a more subtle level than ordinary visual perception. And i think that’s pretty fucking cool.

Painting with letters

I also of course love to study languages. I’ve been studying Arabic for quite some time and i was wondering if this might happen for the foreign alphabet as well. I will do a new post in the future as my Arabic becomes more fluent and these letters become more deeply ingrained in my subconscious, but for now i am noticing that letters representing the same sounds as in English like the Arabic letter fa (ف) are differing slightly in the shade or the vividness. Vowels (alif (ا), ya (ي), and waw (و)) are the most vivid and differ from their Latin equivalents somewhat. Alif is red like “A” but is darker when making the long “ah” sound as in “father”, and lighter/more fiery when making the sound of the a in “apple.” Ya is a golden yellow-orange (obviously related to E and Y), and waw is seeming indigo-violet (similar to the letter O, but darker and more purple). But Arabic also has letters that don’t exist in English or the Latin alphabet in general. ‘Ayin (ع) is a very deep, blood-orange, while ghayn (غ) is like a dark gray-brown.

Synesthesia Arabic

I will write more on some of the other letters as their colors become more obvious to me. It’s especially interesting to me that there are connections between the new letters and the concept they represent, like as if fa is just an “f” in a weird form, meaning that it still maintains the overall orangeness. What this says about my cognitive processes i’m not sure yet, but i’m excited at the mere prospect of uncovering the meaning.

Jacob Ibrahim Abuhamada

5/15/14

Palestine: A Message to My People

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To stop the violence in Israel-Palestine we have a two-fold front of increasing compassion and eliminating ignorance. So many false histories and misinformation is propagated between the peoples of Israel and Palestine from birth. This must stop. Right now I address you, Palestine, and I will first dispel three of your most egregious myths with the truth.

First, the Jewish Holocaust happened and it was one of the worst human catastrophes witnessed in recorded history. More than 6 million Jews were killed; millions more displaced from their homes; and the attempt was made to rid them and their culture from the earth. Fortunately, Abbas has acknowledged publicly the gravity of this stain on human history. But for Palestinian children in Gaza not to be taught that the Holocaust occurred, or that the Jews have no historical right to the land whatsoever is an ignorance which can only lead to the highest level of suffering.

Second, the Temple Mount, on the site of Al-Aqsa Mosque, is absolutely sacred to the Jews. They are not lying about this to control you. There is far more archeological and historical evidence of it being sacred to the Jews than of any other religion, including Islam, and this is fact.

Third, the Israelis do NOT have countries to go home to. I’ve heard this a few times and even once is too many. “The Jews need to go back to the countries they came from!” Because of the Holocaust (which did happen) there are no empty houses waiting for the Israelis in their country of origin (which, for many non-sabra Israelis were Arab countries!). But at this point more than 70% of Israelis were born in Israel-Palestine! Since that time more and more Palestinians have never seen or set foot in Palestine, and more and more Israelis have. This is not about land. Maybe it was at first, even up to the Six-Day War perhaps, but now it’s about people (and let’s be honest, it was always ultimately about people).

I’ve heard the analogy of “if someone came into your house and kicked you out, you would do everything you could to get your house back!” Except in this case, we’re talking about my grandparents’ former house. And one is dead. And the other is incredibly busy and involved with the now very large family of offspring and grandchildren, most of which live close together in Jeddah. The children are growing up speaking Saudi Arabic, not Palestinian Arabic. No, my grandparents should not have been kicked out of their home, and it is very sad that they were. But that was the fault of the European governments: NOT this Israeli family. And you expect me to kick two mirrored generations of Israelis who’ve grown up, lived, loved, died, and spoken the native Hebrew (not a foreign dialect) in my grandparents’ former house out of their home when my grandmother has a home in Saudi?

I’m an American-Palestinian. I was born in America and didn’t even start learning Arabic till i was 16. My friends are American. My schools, my mother, the places i’ve lived, and probably the place my grave will rest. I don’t want to live in Palestine. But i am Palestinian too. I love my people’s culture, the language, and especially, the history. It is a depth of history stemming back, in terms of the people, to the trading Philistines and around 2000 BC the Canaanites. Yes, the very Canaanites the Jews came from. Go back even further and you find the first known human city of Jericho on this land.

Palestine does not belong to one religion, one people, one culture, or even one history.

Throughout the length of this history this land has known little but war and occupation of various peoples and governments. It has known lingua franca after lingua franca: Akkadian, Hebrew, Phonecian, Aramaic, Greek, Latin, Arabic, and others. Yet, through it all, it remained a sacred center of pluralism. Palestine is not in the land, it’s in the people and the legacy of history they carry with them. And in the people lies a beautiful, rich history of pluralism and diversity! If Palestine does not embrace its diversity, it will have an even harder time embracing peace and wisdom, and our people will continue to suffer. We have the choice to make a Palestine worthy of the name by the quality of our actions, words, and thoughts, or we don’t deserve to have it at all.

Palestine! It’s time we embraced compassion: The core of every religion which makes us up. If we do not, we will know only suffering. It is compassion to recognize that kicking a Jewish family out of the former home of my grandparents means leaving them homeless. I would rather give my house to them than leave them homeless, whether i share it with them or not. I will not let a child of Canaan die. I will not let any child die. But the Israelis and the Palestinians are siblings of Canaan. Even genetic analysis has proven we’re the same people! So we are fighting and killing our own nieces and nephews. Genetically speaking, killing an Israeli and a Palestinian is no different! And ethically, religiously, there is no comparing of any child’s life to another child’s life. Stop acting like animals, brothers and sisters.

Israel-Palestine should, in my mind, be a sacred center of the world like it’s meant to be. Diversity of peoples, religions, and cultures should be embraced. Compassion should be the new overarching policy. There should be inter-marrying between the peoples of these two cultures. Peace should reign over the land of Canaan again. And hell, let’s just call it Canaan for that matter. And its people Canaanites. It’s what we are anyway.

This is obviously a utopian vision, which is sad, because it really shouldn’t be. The conflict makes me angry, but not for the same reasons it usually makes others angry. The hard-headedness, the corruption, the lack of compassion and humanity is disgusting, and i often don’t want to associate with my people on this basis. It’s on both sides. Stop pointing fingers. Stop being so hardheaded. Please! For the love of all that is holy and sacred in this world: Stop acting like savage animals.

A Palestinian who embraces violence is not my brother. He is not my friend. She is not my ally. They who embrace violence in my mind become the enemy here. Would anyone of you take the life of a small Israeli child for a bit of mere land or a small concrete house? How dare one even consider such a thing! And as long as any such violence comes from the Palestinians, we lose much support from the world. Shooting rockets into Israel from Gaza hurts Palestine more than it hurts Israel. And I know you’re angry about a lot of what Israel is doing, like the building of settlements in the West Bank, and the treatment of Palestinians living in Israel, and the prevention of freedom to trade and live as normal, and the occasional bouts of violence from Israel, but you will never win through violence. Violence only undermines the Palestinian cause in every way possible. If you want to be Palestinian stop perpetuating violence. Stop perpetuating ignorance. Stop perpetuating suffering.

We will suffer as a people as we have, this much is certain. But the most powerful response is compassion and non-violence. No, the Israelis have no right to be violent either. No, they have no right to break UN resolutions or human rights protocols. No, they have no right to deny Muslims access to Al-Aqsa. But Muslims too, have no right to deny Jews or any non-Muslims access to the Temple Mount.

As hard as it is to let go of nationalism – a force often more powerful than religion in driving men and women – i ask my people to do so, at least a little, and to see themselves and the Israelis as the very same Canaanites. We are a single people of differing cultures and if we wish our people to live without suffering, the placing of more value on land than a human life must cease. As long as land means more than the life of a person, there is no Palestine or Israel or Canaan: Just hell in a formerly sacred center of the world.

Please wake up, my people!

Jacob Ibrahim Abuhamada