Archive for February, 2009

How to ensure a better future – Part II

We’ve got to stop lying to

 ourselves

By Ralph Dobrin

Future generations – if there are any – will have every right to condemn present-day humanity for stupidity and cravenness in the face of greed and evil. That’s if we continue our present course of allowing global warming and pollution to worsen, while failing to develop cleaner energy sources and adequately combat militant religious fundamentalism. At the moment, judging by attitudes and actions of world leaders and humanity in general, it seems that the best we can hope for in the not-too-distant future is the beginning of a grim Dark Age for humanity, far worse than the last. Another distinct possibility is a totally lifeless planet.

But there is still time to stop this steady slide towards catastrophe. A major player, of course, is the USA. But even if the newly-elected President Obama keeps all his noble-sounding election commitments, the threats to life on this planet as we know it will continue unless humanity as a whole learns a very important lesson – the meaning of truthfulness. This might sound like a glib yet naïve claim, but think about it. Rogues, tyrants and would-be-saviors have always fed on the inability of most people to recognize falsehood – which is the antithesis of truthfulness. (We are not talking about “Truth,” which though related to truthfulness, is too abstruce and controversial a subject for the purpose of this article.)

Any ten-year-old child can tell you that truthfulness means simply not to lie, nor exaggerate (too much), and not to hide facts and details that are relevant to any issue. Furthermore, everything has its opposite, and the opposite of truthfulness is falsehood. Falsehood means not only lie or exaggeration, but also the shrewd omission of relevant details (selective omission).

To be able to recognize falsehood we have to first ask ourselves: how we relate to what we hear, observe or read? Do we accept as a fact, everything that we read in black and white, if it happens to appeal to our personal mood or world view? Do we automatically believe everything we hear on the radio or see on TV, that tallies with what we want to hear? If we do, then we probably enable falsehood to flourish.

To trust everything we read, hear or see would indeed be fine if the world was inhabited only by benign, completely honest people, governed by wise, selfless, ethical leaders. But it isn’t. There are too many shysters posing as nice guys and too many shysters among the leaders. And they are all leading our world towards a grossly unhappy future.

We should always try to keep an open mind. For instance, when we first heard that the earth was heating up, we needed to take seriously the reports that substantiated this claim as well as those that refuted it. It’s easy to get relevant information. Just surf the internet. Relevant statistics and reports from dozens of official sources, as well as the palpable poundings from ever-worsening storms, increasingly numerous floodings and killer droughts – are very convincing that there are indeed critical changes in weather patterns. All this evidence begs the questions: What is causing all this? And what can be done to reverse the process?

MAKING VALUE JUDGEMENTS

While it seems that most scientists claim that ground, sea and river pollution, carbon gas emissions and rain forest depletion are the cause, there are those who say that global warming is part of a regular planetary cycle and they tend to downplay the urgent need to find alternative energy sources to fossil fuels. Granted, these detractors represent a small minority. But minority opinions have often been proven correct in the past. So, in the interests of truthfulness, I choose not to dismiss these claims outright.

As a concerned citizen I need to come to a personal conclusion on how to contend with the question. Yet how do I, an ordinary guy with very limited background in meteorology, chemistry, physics or other environmental sciences, make a value judgement?

The answer is to gather as much pro and con information from different sources. So, it’s back to the internet to collate material. I must use my common sense and be as objective as possible. The conclusions that I come to, whether scientifically proven or not, or whether based on a complete understanding on my part of all the scientific parameters, must lead to an uneducated conclusion that there is a very strong likelihood that gas emission pollution is the main cause of global heating and alarming weather patterns, as well as the rising incidence of many dreadful illnesses. Therefore I must do whatever possible on a personal basis to participate in overcoming the problem. So I check out what I can do, and again the internet can provide a wealth of information, that was totally unavailable to previous generations.

To combat falsehood we need to be able to recognize demagoguery and glib propaganda, and withstand the charm of smooth speakers. We must be wary of the pernicious comfort lurking in any wishful thinking that we ourselves might have. We must be critically honest with ourselves and recognize the difference between really knowing the truth about something and just believing it or wanting it. These guidelines are especially important for national leaders and parliamentarians.

A good example of political gullibility is the story of Neville Chamberlain, Britain’s Prime Minister between 1937 and 1940, who faced a dreadful dilemma with Germany’s growing military power and the bellicose statements and demands of its leader Adolf Hitler. Hitler had made his aims clear in Mein Kampf, as well as in his rabble-rousing speeches. He had built up an unprecedently powerful army and his ruthlessness and brutality were obvious from the way he had annihilated all his political rivals and his savage treatment of the Jews, gypsies and other despised groups in Germany. Any child could have known that there was serious trouble ahead. Yet Neville Chamberlain, together with most of the leaders of the other powers in Europe and America, as well as the media, opted to downplay the obvious, imminent perils. It is, however, easy to understand the prevailing “let’s-hope-for-the-best” attitude because the terrible memories of the First World War were still painfully vivid. Nevertheless, wishful thinking won the day and led to the most dreadful slaughter and destruction in history.

 JIHADIST CANDOR

 One of the most serious current issues is the rising influence of global Jihad. It is quite probable that a Muslim who firmly believes the Koranic demand to spread Islam to all the peoples of the world, while fully accepting the more militaristic strictures in his holy book, might have no problem justifying the bombing attacks, causing mass slaughter of ordinary people in places like the Twin Towers in New York, London, Madrid, Bali, Mumbai and other places. Also the believer in this credo sees that the State of Israel must be dismantled – by any means possible, even by nuclear bombs, and even if in the process millions of innocent Muslims are killed.

 The Jihadist bases his belief on the Koran, which repeatedly promises delightful rewards in the hereafter to the believers who actively participate in spreading Islam, especially for those who die for the cause. But who is to say that the Koran is less valid as the authentic word of the Almighty, than the New Testament or the Torah? After all, it boils down to a question of belief and it’s hard to argue with belief because for most people, belief is too deeply-felt, visceral and personal to allow sufficient objectivity.

It is quite plausable that whenever a Jihadist has suddenly plunged a knife in the back of some placid Jew somewhere in Israel, while yelling “Allah hooa Akbar” (God is Great), he (or she) feels as certain of the absolute righteousness of this action in the eyes of God, as the religious Jew or devout Christian would be when donating a kidney to a stranger on dialysis.

This last paragraph, which might raise stern protest from many a good person, concerned about even-handedness or unfair racial profiling, is nevertheless based on reality. Think about the countless times Jews have been stabbed by devout Muslims, or blown to smithereens by a suicide bomber in an Israeli town. Then think about the number of times that the reverse has happened. Not often! Also think about the number of towns in Europe and Great Britain that have suffered suicide bombings in the name of holy jihad, or the countless suburbs being taken over by Muslims. Think about the violent demonstrations and riots staged by Muslims in what was once regarded as Christendom. Think about the Iranian quest for nuclear weapons.

A natural response to this might be to allude to Israel’s recent bombardment of Gaza. One could deduce from the devastating scenes appearing on our TV screens that this was utterly reprehensible and unforgiveable. But the pictures on our TV scenes omitted almost entirely the background to this episode in the Israel-Arab conflict. Failure to understand the background is really pandering to a gross distortion of history.  

Here’s a useful website on the subject: http://www.israelandtruth.org/peace_1.htm

PATTERNS REPEATED

Human events seem to follow a pattern. Today the disturbing signs of the nineteen thirties are in evidence again. Hitler wanted to rule over half the world, Jihad aims at the conquest of the entire world. Hitler used crude lies about the supposed evil of Jews as part of his campaign to gain the leadership of Germany. The Nazis taught that the Jews were responsible for most of the woes of mankind. The idea that Jews were vermin to be tramped upon (and at a later stage to be exterminated) resonated readily in the hearts of a large percentage of the people of Germany and elsewhere in Europe.

Chillingly, again the Jews are being used in this same harrowing role by the Jihadists. Again, the Jews are said to be responsible for the woes of humanity. But this time the censure is far more voluminous than ever before, swamping cyberspace, as well as in college forums all over the world, in parliaments, city councils, churches as well as in the mosques and Muslim religious schools. But this time the Jews are also represented by a very tangible entity – the State of Israel. In Hitler’s day, the Jews were a helpless entity, unable to defend themselves. Today, Israel can fight back against attacks on its people and its territory, albeit always suppressed by warning strictures of its purported friends among the more enlightened nations of the world.

And each time Israel defends herself against its attackers, the forces of Jihad gain ever-more international support – ironically from the very people in Dar el Harb (the non-Muslim world) that the Jihadists aim eventually to subdue and conquer. And as always, the use of falsehood to condemn the Jewish state abound – the lies, half-truths, distortions and selection omission characterize most of the anti-Israel censure.

If you think that all this is paranoid, I suggest you go straight to real sources. Find out what the Jihadists themselves are saying. Just access a search engine and type out words such as “hamas” or “hizbollah” and enter their own websites. They will inform you exactly how they feel about their quest to conquer the world as well as your future as an “infidel.” In less than 20 minutes any average person caring about his or her freedom will be able to understand just how precarious that freedom really is, and stop taking it for granted. Other readily available information can be found by typing keywords such as El Khaida, Taliban and Iran.

While the Jihadists are all candid about their intentions regarding the destruction of Israel and the conquest of the entire world, their censure regarding Jews, Israel and the USA, as well as other western countries and ideals, is based largely on myth, mendacious hyberbole, selective omission and outright lies. Therefore the dire need of the moment is for people all over the world to recognize falsehood in all its various guises. This applies not only to religious fundamentalism, but also to the other imminent perils such as pollution, climatic changes, the need for cleaner energy sources, over-population and starvation in many parts of the world.

All these perils have been allowed to remain and get worse by shrewd, self-serving people in politics, international power struggles and big business. The apathy and frivolousness of too many ordinary people all over the world are equally to blame. The keywords to combatting all this are truthfulness, the perception of falsehood and appropriate action.

For more on falsehood click: http://www.israelandtruth.org/truth_1.htm

For part 1 of this series click: https://truthandsurvival.wordpress.com/2009/02/10/things-used-to-be-really-bad/

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February 28, 2009 at 11:31 am 5 comments

THINGS USED TO BE REALLY BAD

How to ensure a better

future – Part I

By Ralph Dobrin

Not so long ago – in our grandfather’s great grandfather’s day – this was a world where a tiny proportion of well-connected sycophants lived in pomp, luxury and indolence, while the vast majority of people endured a grim, precarious existence, either in stench-filled towns and cities, where sewage often flowed outside people’s doorsteps, or on farmland that demanded unceasing, herculean efforts to eke out a living, while fending off merciless creditors and the vagaries of nature. It was a world where many seven-year-old children worked fourteen hours a day in the most grueling jobs and the average life expectancy was about 30. It was a world where you could have your head chopped off at some stupid duke’s whim.

Life has undoubtedly improved immeasurably in the last few generations – at least in the westernized, developed countries, because many of the conventions and concepts were discarded. Each change showed how stubborn, stupid and nasty people had been.

For example, in the mid-nineteenth century Dr. Ignaz Semmelweiss created a furor in the general medical profession because he urged doctors to wash their hands with disinfectant before treating their patients. For daring to question the authority of the luminaries of the time, he was ousted from his position as chief of obstetrics at the Vienna General Hospital. It took decades before his ideas were commonly accepted by the medical profession. And not too long after that, the first horseless buggies generated great amusement and ridicule among everyone, until suddenly it dawned on people that here was a good, swift alternative to the modes of transportation of the time. And voting rights for women was still an outrageous concept in much of the western world less than eighty years ago. This is just a tiny, tiny sampling of the countless ideas and changes that were initially rejected by the elites and by the general populations.

And now, as we face immense, multiple global challenges and perils, the validity of many time-honored concepts and conventions has to be seriously questioned, and many bold changes are needed.

A REAL EDUCATION

Clearly, the standard and nature of education everywhere will be a vital factor for the future of all humanity, but especially for Israel, which faces demonic challenges.

A main consideration when considering how to improve the level of education should be the fact that most pupils don’t like going to school. They aren’t interested in what’s taught and spend their classroom years in resentful boredom. The natural curiosity that all toddlers display and the eagerness to learn about the world and to ask questions, is quickly knocked out of them once they begin school. That means that for many pupils, the type of schooling imposed upon them could actually be self-defeating.

Yet surely, schooling is something that should build on the natural curiosity and eagerness to learn things, that the child is born with! Here are a few suggestions to maintain and nurture that curiosity. Some of these ideas might seem drastic, but the situation calls for vigorous change.

The present kindergarten system catering for small children up to the age of five or six should continue. It is usually a fun enviroment with lots of interesting things to do, and where many basic skills are learned. However, good eating habits should be encouraged at this stage. Lunch boxes with junk food, white flour products and sugar-doused drinks should be strongly discouraged, if not forbidden. Parents should be coached in the vital importance of sensible nutrition, at least for their children. This is not an overzealous health-food freak’s attempt at missionizing. Many surveys all over the world have shown that decent nutrition contributes, not only to more energy and good health, but also to better concentration and a far lower chance of hyperactivity. Coming to kindergarten or school with a decent lunchbox should be as imperative as coming with clean clothes. It goes without saying that all meals provided by kindergartens and indeed, the entire school system should follow the principles of proper nutrition.

A smooth step from kindergarten to school

What usually happens when children progress to the first grade, is that they start with enthusiastic anticipation. But the sudden change to a more serious, disciplined regime, often in a larger framework, leads to astonishment and then disappointment. Stern teachers, a set curriculum including subjects that are often not of much interest to the pupils, limited attention spans and tests that lead to pressure as well as humiliation for the less successful pupils, all readily lead to disinterest, dislike and boredom, setting an unfortunate pattern for the rest of their scholastic careers.

This situation can be changed by providing a more gradual transition from kindergarten to grade or primary school. For the first two years of regular school, the style of teaching should continue to reflect the fun and joyfulness that is characteristic of the kindergarten. It could begin to change gradually into a more conventionally pedagogic mode at the age of seven. Pupils would learn reading, writing, arithmetic and nature studies and be introduced to other subjects such as history and geography. But, as much as possible, everything should be taught in the context of something topical. For instance a popular TV children’s program or book could be used as a the basis to introduce the pupils to the geography of some country where the program took place. Arithmetic skills could be honed by asking questions regarding the number of actors, how many children, how many other countables, etc.

Good, sensible education for young children demands imagination on the part of the curriculum designers and the teachers. (More on the quality of teachers later.)

Towards the end of the second grade, at the age of eight, all children would begin to do a daily one-hour work shift – cleaning the premises and the areas around their classrooms, keeping the pavements around the school clean and working in the neighborhood public gardens. Thus, already at an early age they would begin to learn how to work together, how to share duties, a stronger awareness of being part of a community and the meaning of responsibility.

Two separate programs from an early age

At the age of eight or nine, upon entering the third grade, schools would offer a choice of two different programs. There would be a program that emphasizes study and knowledge (it can be called “academic”), while in an alternate program (can be called “practical”), the pupils would go out to work. Yes – work! It would still be within the framework of the education system. Children in this program would begin by working one or two hours a day, with the shifts getting progressively longer as they got older, and culminating in a six-hour work day when they reached the age of fourteen.

Pupils in this “practical” stream would continue to receive lessons (one or two hours a day) in writing, arithmetic and the ability to express themselves properly. In addition, there would be sessions discussing general topics connected with their lives, society, the country and world events. There would also be talks connected with whatever field they work in. For instance a group working in a factory would participate in talks supervised by a factory manager, on subjects such as the products being manufactured, the various jobs of the staff, marketing, transport of merchandise to outlets, costs, salaries, labor unions, etc. This would be a wonderful way to build up general knowledge and encourage curiosity. This alone would open the children up to numerous subject on the regular school curriculum such as arithmetic and geography. Compare this to the situation prevailing today, where many pupils know very little about the world around them. Most know hardly anything about their parents’ work.

Pupils in this “practical” stream would also spend an hour in the school library, during which time they could read books or other periodicals, play chess or participate in a debating group. Also at least another hour every day would be spent on sport, or lessons in music, art and handcrafts. By the time they reached the age of thirteen or fourteen they would be spending less time on lessons, sport or other activities and more time on actual work. The daily working shift would reach six hours. A year or two previous to this point they wouldbegin to be paid a nominal wage for their work.

These pupils would be given opportunities to work in as many fields as possible – including hotels and restaurants, factories, offices, building construction sites, garages, workshops, factories, plumbing and electrical work and agriculture, etc. They would be rotated between a wide variety of jobs. At the age of fourteen they would be able choose an occupation or profession that they might want to specialize in. They could go on to a vocational college or join the work force.

However, at any point during this whole period, they could opt to join the academic stream – even at the age of fourteen or later. (Even after they had started a regular job they could request to go into an academic mode.) Their request to change to the academic stream would be checked for intention and aptitude. But once in the academic stream they could be returned to their previous program if they displayed any disruptive behavior or an inability to study properly.

There should be no disgrace or humiliation attached to the non-academic “Practical” stream. It should not be considered inferior in any way. Indeed, in a future world, manual work must become regarded as respectfully as any other kind of work.

In the academic stream, learning would be a lot more different than today. Firstly, only pupils genuinely eager to learn would be admitted to this stream. Therefore there would be less need for tests and examinations, because the teachers would know that the pupils are not laggards. It is important to realize that apart from classroom boredom, tests and examinations are the bugbears of the modern school system. While the pupils would all be very proficient at reading, writing and basic arithmetic, they would also acquire a sound general knowledge of all the usual school subjects as well as current events. However, those not particularly interested in certain subjects, like the sciences or mathematics, would not have to study these subjects in undue detail. They would receive only introductory tuition in these subjects and be able to concentrate on other subjects that really interest them. Similarly, pupils who find little interest in history or literature, but are fascinated by science or math would touch on the main points of world history and culture and be able to concentrate on the sciences.

The entire education system, academic or practical programs alike, would have four main goals – (1) To be a supervised framework for the young during the hours that their parents are at work or study (as it is today). (2) Developing the natural desire for ever-more knowledge, as well as good communication skills and preparing the young for a life of personal satisfaction. (3) Providing a broad general knowledge, as well as the ability to objectively analyze situations and think for themselves. (4) The means to become decent, honest, caring, productive citizens and participate in the growth and stability of the nation.

All pupils would be taught values, common decency and good manners as well as civics. Religious instruction would be available, with consent of their parents. In Israel pupils would be taught their historic roots and receive a comprehensive, objective overview of the Israel-Arab conflict. All Jewish pupils would study Arabic.

In addition, all pupils would receive lessons in health, nutrition and how things work. In both programs the pupils would learn how to do basic maintenance in the home, such as basic plumbing, and carpentry, etc. All pupils would learn basic computer skills as well as touch-typing. Serious first aid courses and self-defence skills would be part of both programs. Pupils in the academic program would also spend some time working in hospitals, municipality and government offices as well as on farms.

It is quite probable that under the system suggested here, many pupils would be ready for university education by the age of 15 or 16. The matriculation or final school-leaving exams could be abolished. Those wanting to study at universities would do special university entrance exams. Furthermore, today’s demand by many work places for a matriculation or equivalent 12-year-schooling certificate by work applicants is not necessarily a suitable criterion for job suitability. Preparation for these exams does not provide a good, comprehensive education nor a love of learning. Yet these are two of the criteria that should be expected by job applicants. Plus spirit and dependability. That’s precisely what the system being suggested here would inculcate.

 Teaching – A Unique Profession

Teaching would be regarded as an especially prestigious profession. Salaries would need to be a lot higher than they are now. Aspiring teachers would need to have special talents and characteristics. Erudition and intelligence alone are not enough to be a good teacher. Teachers would also need to be able to empathise with pupils and parents. They would need better than average communication skills, have an abundance of patience and be readily cheerful and friendly. They would need to be imaginative and have acting skills in order to keep their lessons alive. Finally, they would need to be thoroughly decent people with no hint of nastiness or malice, and an attitude that teaching should be a mission in life. Only people with the above-mentioned qualities should be accepted for teachers’ training colleges.

Until sufficient numbers of such people have entered the teaching profession, there would be a need for volunteers, probably from among suitable pensioners from various walks of life.

WHO’S GOING TO DO THE MENIAL WORK?

Two factors prompt this question. Firstly, the aging of societies in the developed countries and the fact that the locals aren’t interested in taking menial jobs, thus necessitating the need for the import of foreign workers. And secondly, the cynical unfairness of a system, whereby a large segment of the population is fated to spend their entire lives stuck in low-paying and undeservedly unappreciated jobs. The unskilled factory worker, security guard, stevedore, agricultural worker or street sweeper, to mention a few such discriminated workers – are largely invisible to the rest of society, who obtusely fail to realize that these people are performing vital, indispensable tasks for society. They spend five years, twenty years, or their entire lives doing jobs that most people shun because they are too boring, too arduous too unpleasant and far too unremunerative. The chances are almost nil that they will ever earn a decent wage or even enjoy an average standard of living. Often they got themselves into these jobs in the first place, because of the socio-economic situation in which they grew up, and their children will quite possibly follow the same unrewarding path. In Israel it’s largely Arabs and immigrants from Ethiopia who hold these menial jobs.

It is easy for people fortunate enough to have acquired an advantageous education, well-paid jobs and a respectable position in society, to say something like: “This is a free country. Everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed. All they need to do is work and not waste their money on booze and drugs.” And true enough, many people are stuck at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder because of their own laziness and self-indulgence. But many got stuck there in the first place because of the environment in which they grew up. The socio-economic set-up in most western countries is based on the large difference in salaries between the different classes. It’s a cynical exploitation of disadvantaged people by the more privileged, better connected and more fortunate members of society. I don’t think it’s something planned by the leaders. It’s just a fact of life – a grim, self-perpetuating, cruelly unfair situation that enables one fortunate class of people to acquire wealth and luxury at the expense of those at the bottom of the sociological heap. That such a situation still exists even in the so-called enlightened world, is a blot on all decent society and it can be solved without too much upheaval or cost.

There are two possible solutions. The first is simply to pay wages to those doing menial work on a level with other more fortunate members of society, and even add extra compensation for job tedium or arduousness. It is quite probable that most societies would be economically unable to make such a change. In the interests of fairness, however, one should remember that many professionals invested significant sums of money and time in their university training. Therefore higher wages for them is justified. But it’s all a question of proportion.

The other solution lies in the system once used in all the kibbutzim in Israel. Everyone used to share in the all menial tasks. From the kibbutz manager to an army general home on leave, and to the most ordinary of people, every few months every able-bodied kibbutz member had a turn doing communal chores. That included peeling potatoes and washing dishes in the community kitchen, cleaning the public latrines and garbage removal. People on the kibbutz did these duties quite willingly because that’s how their society was run. True, most kibbutzim stopped functioning in that quintessentially socialistic form over two decades ago. But it presented an example of egalitarian fairness. No one was demeaned or humiliated by the system. It engendered a community spirit and kept personal ambitions and self-assessment in a healthy perspective

Translating the kibbutz model into practice, here is how general society’s menial tasks could be handled: The work could be done on a roster basis. It could be a form of national service, for those not already doing army reserve duty. Everyone would be called up for a week or two every few years to work in those menial tasks. It would be seen, not as something demeaning. On the contrary it should be regarded as a form of national loyalty. Everyone would receive the same remuneration for their week’s work. Tasks could also be rotated if desired – e.g. one year in sanitation, the next year repairing roads and infrastructure, the following year in agriculture, and so forth. After something like five or six weeks of national service, one would have completed one’s civil duty for life. This duty could be done in one complete stint or on consecutive years or every two or three years or more. University students, not doing army reserve duty, would be exempt until they graduated.

Except regular or reserve army personnel and hospital doctors and nurses, no able bodied or able minded person one would be exempt. It would do society good to see the millionaires, company directors, members of parliament or congress and other high echelon folks sweeping streets, working as unskilled laborers in a factory, planting vegetables or shoveling cow manure. The Prime Minister and his ministers as well as the President, would not be expected to be called up while in office.

What would happen to the people already employed permanently in menial jobs. They would be trained to oversee or manage the projects and be paid higher wages. Also, those who wished and who had an aptitude, could be given the opportunity to train for other less menial jobs.

Most western-style democracies are having very slow or even negative population growth rates. Also very few people are willing to do the menial jobs, often preferring to go on welfare, thus costing the state huge amounts of money. This suggested system would lower or even end the need to import foreign workers. Furthermore, it would be marvelous for the personal image of any company director, senior politician, sports or entertainment celebrity to be seen rolling up their sleeves and sweeping, digging or shoveling for the benefit of society.

BEING SENSIBLE ABOUT THE LAW

Nowadays jail – which should serve as a deterrent to law-breaking – is often a seminary for ever more crime. Also jail is often a place where violence is at its most vicious – even worse than on the street.

On the other hand, the very laws, which are supposed to protect the safety and the rights of all citizens, often prevent the police from arresting dangerous criminals. Also loopholes in the law are used by shrewd lawyers to evade appropriate punishment for their nefarious clients, thus enabling them to continue their mayhem.

These two anomalies must be changed. Police must be allowed more empowerment, especially when crime becomes more rampant. And loopholes in the legal system must be closed. This doesn’t mean an assault on democratic principles or human rights. On the contrary, it means giving what every citizen is entitled to – more personal safety from ruthless criminals. It’s a question of common sense and reviewing principles that might have been totally valid a few generations ago, but are no longer sensible, given the influence that organized crime has nowadays on the establishment and on society. Changes must be made in laws that enable known gangsters to remain free.

Also, prison systems in many countries need serious overhaul. It should be remembered that the purpose of jail should be more than mere deterrence and punishment or “payment of a debt to society.” Jail should be regarded as a center of learning – not of how to be a sly criminal – but a place where the occupants learn about decent values, increase their general knowledge of the world, acquire training in order to hold a decent job once they finish what should really be their period of rehabilitation.

Jails should not be dungeon-like cells with a slop bucket in the corner. While they needn’t resemble a three-star hotel, jails should be clean and offer decent shower and toilet facilities. No one, not even the worst criminals should be treated as though they are animals. Every person should be treated with a basic level of respect. That means no malicious teasing or cursing on the part of the prison wardens, no nasty sarcasm or pushing and certainly no violence. Also, all prisoners should be fully protected from the other inmates. Furthermore, convicts should not spend most of their time lying on their bunks. They should be kept occupied with work, study or lectures in common decency and civics.

There should be two kinds of prisons: One kind of prison for first-time offenders or for detention before hearings before trial. Here, most of the time should be spent on lessons, cultural activities as well as different kinds of work. Any unacceptable behavior should result in a conversation with a specially trained warden who would try to probe the source of any untoward attitudes. The warden would also issue a clear explanation of dire consequences for any future infringements.

The purpose of this type of prison would be rehabilitation that would enable the prisoner to enter or return to normative civilian life and avoid sliding back into any form of lawlessness or perversion. This procedure should help drastically lower the number of prisoners who keep returning to jail over and over again.

The second kind of prison would be for those who keep breaking the law as well as for people sentenced for serious premeditated crimes. While the conditions of imprisonment should always be humane, the daily routine in this stricter kind of prison should include daily 10-hour shifts of hard labor, as well as occasional sessions dealing with values and common decency and vocational training for those without any work skills.

Also, jail sentences should be longer, especially in Israel, where terms are often ridiculously short and with time off for acceptable behavior as well as periodical furlough, even for murderers. This is truly stupid. There should be no time off for any kind of behavior. In order to encourage acceptable behavior, prisoners should know that any untoward behaviour could lead to prolongment of their sentences or a removal of some of the comforts and privileges. Also, there should be no furlough under any circumstances.

All jails should serve nutritious meals. Not in order to mollycoddle the prisoners, but as part of their rehabilitation. Research has shown that diet has an influence on behavior. The extra expense involved in providing better food would probably save funds by preventing future crimes. See:
http://larryjamesurbandaily.blogspot.com/2007/06/nutrition-and-behavior.html

Certain heinous crimes should carry the death penalty (when there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever of guilt). Crimes carrying the death penalty would be acts of terror, premeditated murder, repeated acts of violence that led to permanent disability, including especially brutal cases of rape.

Too many cases of crime are exonerated because of a supposition of mental or emotional disability. This loophole should be drastically reviewed. The main consideration should be society’s safety.

In cases of violent kidnapping, hostage-taking, drug dealing, protection money extortion and cynical embezzlement or theft of money or assets from pensioners, repeat offenders should also be faced with the death penalty.

Many travesties of common sense are committed in the name of political correctness or liberalism. For example, freedom of speech, one of the basic principles of democracy, should nevertheless be severely penalized either by fine or imprisonment, whenever it is abused by the media. Journalists, editors and publishers must be reminded of their great responsibility to society. Cases of disingenuous libel or false reporting by the media should not be allowed in the name of freedom of expression.

Laws must be modified in order to enable swifter apprehension of scoundrels. Also, lawyers, defending a lawbreaker, should themselves be liable to prosecution if it is found that they knew at the outset that their clients had in their testimonies.

Ordinary citizens needing legal counsel should not be prevented from getting effective counsel because of limited budget. In the same way that many countries have sick funds that offer medical care, there should also be such funds for legal care.

Terrorism, drug cartels and other types of organized crime have made alarming inroads in our lives. Society must be able to defend itself against all types of violence and plunder. As the 21st Century gets under way, society will need to marshal its human and financial resources in order to counter the many serious economic, environmental and jihadic challenges ahead. We cannot afford the drain on our economies imposed by crime and by criminals who are not properly challenged because of legal systems with too many loopholes and channels that enable the scoundrels to continue wreaking havoc.

THESE ARE JUST A FEW ISSUES THAT NEED THOROUGH REVIEW.

Other issues that need rethinking are health, governance, coping with old age and dying, religion, the environment and energy sources. Interestingly, all the issues are connected with each other. We will deal with them in future blogs.

This is the first part of a series on ensuring a better future for us all.

February 10, 2009 at 3:52 pm 1 comment


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