BECK index

A Philosopher's Vision

Sanderson Beck

This has been published in the book PEACE OR BUST. For ordering information, please click here.

Q: Isn't this going to be less convenient than having one's own car to take on long trips?

P: Perhaps in some ways because of our current habits, but in other ways the new system will be more convenient. All of the problems, messiness, and noise related to the internal combustion engine will be avoided by most people. In the future I think that people are going to become less materialistic than our current affluent class. People will not want to be bothered with hauling around so much stuff. Being less possessive of personal ownership, they will realize that whatever they need will be available wherever they go.

Q: So you still visualize a lot of streets and parking lots?

P: Actually not as many as there are now. The cars will be smaller, and their speed quite limited in the local communities. If the cars were not individually owned, or if many people used taxi services, there would not have to be so many parked cars. The freeways, highways, and larger roads would be replaced by the rail system, which could either be underground or elevated to give passengers a view. In either case the ground space could be used for other things. Probably in the cities and towns, the rails would usually be underground, because the surface space would be more useful, and elevated trains might be a little noisy and would mess up other people's views. One of the great advantages of the electric cars, in addition to not polluting the air, is their quietness. Noise pollution would be greatly reduced.

Q: What about that, and those leaf blowers, lawn mowers, and other heavy machinery?

P: You're right; the noise pollution in our society really gets on people's nerves and is not healthy. As a start at least we could require mufflers on those engines, but eventually they will become obsolete or be replaced by quieter electric tools. I think that people will realize that exercise can be combined with work and that raking leaves or even pushing a lawn mower can be a useful as well as a healthy activity.

As we become more efficient and skilled with our technology and machinery, there is going to be less need for human labor as robotics takes over the repetitive drudgery in the workplace. Yet there are going to be people needing and wanting part-time jobs or exercise in their leisure time that could be spent in nature working with plants and cleaning up the environment. Gardening is likely to become an increasingly popular hobby for many and a pleasant part-time job for others.

Q: What about nuclear energy?

P: Nuclear energy based on fission has not lived up to the promises that were made for it. The cost of building and operating a nuclear power plant has risen into the billions of dollars, and yet many experts are still not satisfied that they are safe enough to be worth the risk. No long-term solution has been found for the nuclear waste produced except to bury it and leave it alone for centuries. That is a terrible legacy to leave the future.

Q: But isn't it an efficient source of energy that we are going to need?

P: Not really; the nuclear power plants become so contaminated with radiation that they can only function for about twenty-five years. Then the entire plant must be de-commissioned and buried, again for centuries. Even without accepting any reasonable insurance liability for a possible accident, a burden which the United States Government unwisely relieved them of in the Price-Anderson Act, the costs have proven to be too high. Apparently nuclear power based on fission is an experiment that has failed. At least we can thank God that there was no accident more serious than Chernobyl, which did poison a large area and harmed many people.

Q: What about fusion energy?

P: Some believe that eventually this can become an abundant source of energy. This thermonuclear energy is what powers the sun and explodes in a hydrogen bomb. Fusion energy seems to be rather hot and difficult to control, although perhaps technology could be invented to do that. Nevertheless it is a high-tech, centralized, and dangerous kind of energy similar to fission power. Such energy is popular with large government and corporate powers because they can have more control over its use. I don't doubt that this could become an energy panacea in the far-off future, but I don't think it is anything we can count on.

One of the great values of solar energy and other appropriate technologies, such as wind, water, and local fuels, is that they are more readily available to individuals and small communities, thus giving people greater energy independence. As with government, the more we can distribute power equally the less chance there is for the abuse of great power.

Q: What about the natural environment?

P: This is perhaps one of the most prominent parts of my vision of the future. I see humanity becoming much closer to nature than we have been in the twentieth century. First we must reverse the trend toward cutting down the rain forests for grazing land and old-growth forests for timber. These great plants provide us with oxygen and are our complementary breathing system, taking in our carbon dioxide, in addition to their being ecologically rich niches for various animals and potentially useful herbs.

Remember, the Earth, called Gaia by some after the Greek name for the Earth Goddess, can be seen as a living organism, an interdependent system with various homeostatic balances. If the human species gets out of control and starts to alter these balances essential for the life of the Earth, then adjustments are likely to occur, such as changes in the weather.

Q: What kind of weather changes do you mean?

P: If our air pollution causes a greenhouse effect, then more solar heat may be retained on the surface of the Earth, causing an increase in the average temperature. This already seems to be happening, as five of the hottest ten years in the last century occurred in the 1980s. Warmer temperatures in the oceans tend to produce more storms and hurricanes, which can be devastating to coastal cities, as with hurricane Andrew in Florida in 1992.

The eruption of the volcano in the Philippines at Mount Pinatubo in 1991 spewed so much dust into the atmosphere that the temperature of the whole planet was actually lowered for a few years. This may in fact be an example of the Earth responding to correct the global warming; or it may merely temporarily mask the global warming that is occurring. Obviously it is not very wise for us to depend on such catastrophic means of adjustment.

Q: Do you think that global warming could cause the polar icecaps to melt and flood coastal areas?

P: It is possible and a real danger. Yet there is also another theory that the extra moisture caused by this greenhouse effect might move up to the poles and become frozen, causing another ice age, which could be even worse. Ice ages, when they occur, apparently come on within a few years.

All the creatures on the Earth, including us humans, are merely parasites on the large body of Gaia. We need to realize that we have no place else to live until space exploration finds another suitable planet, which isn't likely for several centuries. We must respect our Mother Earth, or else we harm ourselves as well as Her.

Q: What about the hole in the ozone layer?

P: Certainly this is a major concern, as already the number of skin cancers is greatly increasing near the poles. People in southern Australia no longer dare expose their skin to direct sunlight for any length of time without special protection. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which also contribute substantially to global warming, are the main cause of ozone depletion. Already international agreement, starting with the Montreal Protocol in 1987 and strengthened in 1990, requires the complete elimination of CFCs by the year 2000.

Q: How can we protect our forests from being cut down and burned?

P: Our forests are not only national treasures but global treasures as well. The burning of wood is another major factor in the global warming. Certainly some trees can be farmed in a sustainable way so that trees are replaced each generation, and the soil and local ecosystems are protected. Additional building materials can be found in other farms products, such as hemp, which grows fast and easily. The hemp plant was the major source of paper, rope, canvas, and many other products before it was banned in the 1930s because of its narcotic properties as marijuana.

Q: Can't we also recycle paper?

P: Of course, and we will not need to use much paper in the future as we become more of an electronic culture. Tremendous amounts of paper are wasted on advertising in newspapers and magazines and in junk mail. Already newspapers, such as the Los Angeles Times, are available directly through the phone lines on one's personal computer. Soon anyone will be able to access the information from great libraries by the touch of a few buttons.

However, before I go into the communications revolution, I want to describe how we can become closer to the natural environment. Probably everyone can intuitively sense the value and healthiness of having living plants in one's environment. They provide oxygen to breathe, purify the air, shade us from the sun, protect us from the wind, prevent flooding, and of course provide our nutritional sustenance. Could there be a correlation between the happiness of the people in a community and the amount of growing things present? The problems in our inner cities of concrete might lead us to think so.

Q: But don't people live in the cities for the jobs there? How can you have more plants in the urban areas?

P: Cities will still exist in the future, but I believe that they will become much more green, as people realize the value of having more parks and gardens in our working areas as well as around our homes. Food can also be grown in many more places than it is now. Why not have vegetable gardens and fruit orchards along our streets and next to our businesses as well as near our residences and in parks? A holistic philosophy called "permaculture" is developing which integrates many of these concerns together.

Q: What does permaculture mean, and how does it work?

P: The word is a shortened form of permanent agriculture which is designed to be sustainable both for people and the Earth. The idea is for humans to take responsibility for maintaining a healthy balance by working with nature rather than against it. Permaculture turns problems into solutions, is energy efficient, avoids pollution, replaces and renews resources by recycling, uses biological resources instead of artificial and dangerous chemicals to provide for human needs, using appropriate technology and the efficient use of labor.

Q: How will things be different with permaculture?

P: Those who practice permaculture well are sensitive to the natural environment, meditate upon it conscientiously before they begin to alter it in order to study its living species, its water, wind, and sun patterns as well as the human patterns of use thus far. Then in consultation with the human purposes desired, careful planning attempts to preserve much of the natural life in place, or what was probably there before human intervention, and integrate this with what humans want. As many functions and uses as possible may be integrated together in the same area.

For example, a lot in the city may need to accommodate the walking patterns of pedestrians, the water flow patterns from rain; trees or bushes might be planted so as to mask the cars on the street or an adjacent building; then an organic garden of vegetables may be planted where it can be easily watered and tended; fruit and nut trees could be spaced for shade or as wind breaks, and various of these may be mixed together with decorative flowers or edible plants growing under fruit trees, and so on.

Q: But what if the fruit trees need to be sprayed for pests? Would that be a good idea in the city?

P: No, you are right in that it is not a good idea in the city, nor anywhere else either. The use of poisonous pesticides and herbicides has increased dramatically in the last thirty years or so with no improvement at all in controlling pests. Just as with our military situation, there are better ways of handling these problems other than declaring them enemies and killing them in great numbers. Pests are much more abundant when they can attack large monocultures, and according to evolutionary theory the mutants which can survive the poisons tend to multiply.

In permaculture there is such a mixture of different kinds of plants and insects that loss can be minimized by encouraging the natural predators of pests and by finding other ways of discouraging them that are not harmful to the whole environment. For example, flowers that attract the kinds of insects and birds that eat pests can be planted. Also ponds can have fish that eat mosquito eggs and frogs that eat insects. Plants, such as legumes, that take nitrogen out of the air can be used instead of artificial fertilizers. Crop rotation as well as mixing of plants can work effectively. As people realize how much disease, particularly cancer, is caused by these poisons getting into our food and water, they will convert our agriculture over to organic gardening and farming.

Q: But what would prevent people from stealing the food?

P: These gardens would belong to the people of the local area who would be taking care of them as jobs or hobbies. If they saw someone trying to take something, they might call in law enforcement authorities, if they were being too greedy or destructive about it; but more likely they would probably invite people to help themselves to the food which could be for whoever is hungry and in need of it. By having these gardens and orchards in the cities as well as the suburbs and the country, there would be some employment for those who need it and abundant food for everyone. There would be nice places for people to walk and talk and for children to play.

Q: Does permaculture also integrate building structures with the natural environment?

P: This is one of its great values. Buildings can be designed so that the sunlight is used for heat and light. Energy can be conserved by good insulation and intelligent planning for efficient use. The whole idea is to integrate all the concerns of function, health, economy, and personal desires together. Roofs and terraces might be partly used as gardens as well as for direct solar energy. Rainwater is saved and used for irrigation or flushing toilets, although composting toilets may be used for fertilizer and may not need flushing; or a combination of the two might be used so that the toilet won't smell, but the waste could still be collected for fertilizer.

Q: How would trash be picked up and recycled?

P: All organic materials can be composted at a convenient place in the yard. Metals, glass, paper, and other items can be separated for recycling, and all of these would be picked up with whatever other trash there is. Already in Europe some countries have computerized trash collection so that individuals are charged by weight for their different kinds of trash. Of course non-recyclable material would be the most expensive and so on. This gives people an incentive to be more efficient and throw away less.

Lightweight standardized containers and bags could be used for carrying things such as groceries that would fit neatly and securely into train compartments and electric cars. By re-using these containers and bags, much waste could be eliminated. Of course people could also shop electronically by means of two-way visual and audio communication and have their purchases delivered.

Q: Ah yes, the information super-highway. How do you see the future of electronic communications?

P: This is coming in very quickly and for good reason. People like good communication systems, as can be seen from the immediate popularity of books, newspapers, photographs, phonographs, telephones, films, radio, television, computers, video, and so on. Plans are already in the works for combining telephone, television, radio, and computers into one integrated system. The implications of this in the development of freedom of choice, I believe, are very significant.

Q: How will these improve freedom of choice?

P: Instead of the rather limited choices of three or four very similar TV networks, for example, people now can choose from hundreds of options. In other words, instead of the large corporate powers deciding what people will see, hear, and know about, people can be much more self-directed. In my opinion one of the greatest improvements will be in the elimination of commercialism and advertisements, which I consider to be consciousness pollution.

Q: What do you mean by consciousness pollution?

P: Advertisements are a waste of time and energy for countless millions. In the past when people wanted to listen to the radio or watch television they had to put up with these messages, which use every form of psychological manipulation to try to get people to buy particular products or services. The resulting pseudo-entertainment can even be seen as a form of black magic which attempts to control the behavior of people against their will by appealing to their subconscious. This materialistic system has promoted excessive consumerism and false values by getting people to believe that they need or want all these extra things in their lives. Our society has become a market-driven sales culture which continues to exploit people's habits and weaknesses.

Q: How so?

P: For example, violence and sexual titillation are used to capture people's attention because these have immediate psychological appeal. Violence and danger evoke fear and excitement, and our instincts are programmed by evolution to pay attention to them for the sake of our survival. Similarly evolution is also based on sexual selection because only those creatures who engage in sex and parenthood pass on their genes. Thus the sexual drive is in some ways stronger even than the drive to survive, because from evolution's point of view it does not matter if an animal does not survive after it has produced surviving offspring.

So these have been used not only by advertisements but by commercial programs to get people to watch so that their programs would make money through the advertising. Studies have shown that the excessive violence on television de-sensitizes people, especially children, to violence so that they themselves become violent much more easily. Thus our society has become permeated by guns and violence.

Q: Would you censor violence from the media?

P: No, once again I am for freedom of expression, especially in the arts. However, by replacing the advertising system of financing media programs, a tremendous amount of psychological garbage and waste can be eliminated. Why should we have to watch commercials, if we don't want to? Instead of the corporations telling us what to watch, we as consumers can decide what we want to watch and know about.

Q: Would you ban advertising?

P: No, there still could be advertising messages for various products, but they would only be watched by people who wanted to know about those types of products. Through computerization and two-way communication, people could research whatever product or service they wanted, or even browse around looking at different things just by pressing buttons.

Q: Would people have to do all their shopping from home?

P: No, but they could if they wanted to. Those who like to go out and see and touch things could always do that, but they could save much time and effort by doing a preliminary search for what they think they want by visiting stores through the communications system.

Q: Then would people have to pay for all the programs on TV?

P: Obviously someone has to pay for the production of movies, documentaries, news, and other programs, and there are various ways of doing this. Since there are so many viewers watching these programs even when there are many channels, the cost per viewer is rather small, unless we want to give enormous amounts of money to the people who make them. One way would be to have computers calculate who is watching what and distribute money accordingly. Also people could decide through their governments that they want to fund publicly various cultural and educational programs through their taxes. Then these programs would have independent financing and would not have to worry about appealing to huge audiences.

Q: But then who would decide which programs and films deserve to get made and which don't?

P: Councils and committees of the most qualified people interested in making these decisions could be appointed and rotated frequently in order to give many different kinds of people the chance to participate. Of course there would also be evaluation systems which would include an assessment of the audience viewing. I believe that as people gain more leisure time and gradually become better educated and more cultured, these types of programs will become more and more popular. I believe that through experience people will gradually mature and evolve in their consciousness so that eventually they will not want to watch as much violence and crude sex; but censorship and prohibition delays this process and even makes these things seem alluring to many. Of course people could see any movie or program they wanted, and they could also get the information from any book or library they wanted.

Q: So do you see most of adult education coming through the communication media?

P: There certainly will be much more available in this way than ever before with college courses on hundreds of subjects available from renowned universities as well as local colleges. Yet these can be supplemented by many other educational methods as well. People will be encouraged to attend discussion groups, workshops, and seminars as well as participate in arts, crafts, theatre, and recreational activities in their local communities.

Q: How will all the people providing these services be paid?

P: Again some of it might come through public funding of education, but also people would be encouraged to give private donations to support those activities they especially value. I would hope that most educational activities would be available to all whether they could afford them or not, and I think that will be the case. Some activities, which cost more money in the arts, crafts, and recreation, might require a fee; but then students may also be able to sell some of their work or develop skills for jobs that may pay more.

Q: Would public television and radio stations have all those pledge drives to raise money?

P: Heavens no! The pledge breaks are as bad as the advertisements. Also the corporate sponsors definitely need to be removed, for they do influence the content of public programs whether they admit it or not. Did the single-payer health care system, which is favored by more people than any other plan, get a fair hearing on the MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour which is sponsored by New York Life Insurance?

In the system where small amounts of money are given to those programs which people watch automatically through computer billing, they would be contributing something just by watching or listening. Everyone would simply be made aware how they could contribute more to any program or station they chose to support through their computerized account.

Q: What kind of taxes are going to pay for all the education and job training?

P: Traditionally in the United States most of the costs of public education are collected by the states through property taxes. I think this is basically fair and will probably continue. The Earth is here for all of us to share. Yet I am not against the private and corporate ownership of land because it is there to be used and cared for by people. I think that it is also good for the states and nations to own some of the land for public use, such as for roads, public institutions, parks, recreation, and nature reserves. I think a balance works best here, rather than complete ownership by the state as in Communism or too little ownership by the state and too much ownership by big corporations as in raw capitalism.

Q: But how can people keep their land when taxes are always going up?

P: The land should be used and cared for either privately or publicly. Land ownership is a privilege society grants to those who have some accumulated wealth. In my opinion with that privilege comes great responsibility of not only caring for the land but also to contribute to the good of society out of their abundance if they can afford land. Otherwise the tendency under social Darwinist capitalism is for more and more wealth to become concentrated in fewer hands, which I don't think is healthy for anyone, even the rich. Those who cannot afford to pay reasonable taxes on their land may need to sell it to individuals or groups who can.

Q: What about other taxes?

P: I've already mentioned the need for environmental taxes to make people responsible for their waste. These might even be able to replace the sales tax. Although the sales tax does discourage excessive consumption, it tends to be a fairly regressive tax in that the poor have to pay as much as the wealthy on what they buy. Certainly food need not be taxed, as most states don't; for everyone needs to eat and has the right to eat, and the overconsumption of food is obviously limited. I've mentioned that tobacco and alcohol can be highly taxed to pay, not for the sin, but for the health consequences of these bad habits. Other legalized drugs would also be highly taxed and regulated. Guns that may still be allowed would be highly taxed, registered, and carefully monitored.

Q: What about income tax?

P: I believe that income tax is progressive, like property tax, in that those who can afford it pay more. On the national level, where most of the income tax in the United States is, more than half of it is currently going to military spending (if you count the interest on the national debt from past military costs, secret "intelligence" spending, nuclear weapons in the Energy Department, and military pensions). The disarmament and rapid decreases in military spending would reduce these costs to a small fraction of what they are now in the United States, which is currently spending on the military as much as the rest of the world combined.

Q: So would this income tax be reduced?

P: Unfortunately, probably not for quite some time. First, the environmental cleanup from military activities has been estimated in the hundreds of billions of dollars. Second, the national debt of the United States Government has grown so astronomically since 1980 that the annual interest payments are now a billion dollars a day. This debt began with the War for Independence and has increased during every war in our history. The emergencies of wars and the foolishness of the cold war caused the U.S. Government to borrow from future generations and obligated our society to pay interest to the wealthy from whom we borrowed the money, thus providing welfare for the rich far greater than the minimal welfare programs for the poor.

Q: How will this debt ever be paid, if the interest is already so high that it is difficult to pay that?

P: Reducing military spending and balancing the federal budget is the first step. However, I have thought of a plan by which the debt could be paid off as well at the same time. Since the wealthy have benefited from this borrowing and since they will be the recipients of the money when it is paid back, it seems fair to me that they could be asked to contribute the money to rid our nation of this huge collective burden.

Q: How could that be done?

P: The assets in this country are even more unfairly distributed than the income. Everyone has some income, because everyone needs food and other things to survive. Although many have large amounts of income, which are taxed, assets are only taxed if they are in real estate, or the additional profits on investments are taxed as income or capital gains. The poor and even the lower middle class have very few assets, since they own little and often have nearly as much debt as what they actually own. However, the wealthy class has tremendous untaxed assets. If I am not mistaken, the top one percent owns more assets than the bottom ninety percent of the population.

Q: Would you tax those assets to pay the national debt?

P: Yes, a temporary tax on each individual's assets beyond a certain amount, such as $50,000 or $100,000 could be taxed annually at perhaps one percent until the debt is paid. Assets over one million dollars could be taxed at two or more percent per year, assets over ten million at a higher rate and so on. This would not be a great sacrifice for the wealthy, but it would redistribute a small portion of the excess wealth they have been able to accumulate in our society. In fact much of this wealth would end up going back to the same people, as the debts are paid. Why should wealthy bondholders be collecting money from everyone else every year because of this enormous debt?

Q: But wouldn't the rich find ways to hide their money so that they wouldn't have to pay this tax?

P: Legislation could be written to handle that in the best way possible, for example by taxing money that is removed from the country. If they give it to relatives and friends, the recipients would have to pay income tax on it; and it would also be redistributing the wealth, which I believe is good and stimulating for the economy and creativity. Once this national debt is paid off, the future would look much better and be much more secure.

Q: Then would the income tax be reduced?

P: I'm afraid not. We still have not discussed the health care system. It seems to me that people will want to make sure that everyone has at least a basic minimum of proper health care. Most of the developed nations in the world have found that government is the most efficient and fair way to make sure that their people's health is well treated. Private insurance systems have been found to be expensive and bureaucratically wasteful as many extra salespersons and clerks are needed to run such a profit-making system.

Q: But isn't the government even more bureaucratic?

P: Yes, it is in many things, but not necessarily in health care. By having one state-operated system, whether it be national or by state, many procedures can be standardized and streamlined so that much of the paper work can be eliminated. By going to universal coverage, all the problems of individual insurance policies can be eliminated for most people. Those who want to pay more for extra coverage can still do so privately. With universal health care, people do not have to fear financial burdens when they need to go to a doctor, get an exam, or receive a treatment. They simply get the service they need. Progressive income tax could efficiently collect all the money needed to finance this system.

Q: Would everything for everyone be covered?

P: Obviously there would have to be some guidelines in the gray areas, such as cosmetic surgery or treatments and perhaps in some of the preventive therapies and methods which blend into healthy psychological growth and recreational exercise. Nevertheless it is probably in the best interest of society to encourage people to participate in such activities as much as possible. People will decide through their representatives what they feel society can afford to pay and what can be left for individuals to supplement privately.

Q: How would the progressive income tax work in your opinion?

P: Each society would decide what it considers to be a minimum standard of living, sometimes called the poverty line below which people have to decide which necessities they cannot afford. Those with incomes below this line would not owe any income tax. I believe that generous deductions ought to be made for dependent children so that our future generations can have an excellent start in life.

Those with incomes above this poverty line would pay a small percentage only on the income above this line. For example, if the line for a family of four is $20,000 per year, then they might have to pay 10% income tax on any income over that amount, 20% on income over $30,000, 30% on income over $40,000, and so on up to perhaps 80% or 90%. This is what makes it progressive. Keep in mind that even those paying 90%, are not paying 90% of their whole income, but 90% over a certain amount, such as $200,000.

Q: But wouldn't this take away the incentive people have to make more money and replace it with a deterrent?

P: People who are rich and greedy argue that, but I don't think people need incentives to make enormous amounts of money, and having some deterrent may actually help to give others who need it more of a chance to make money also. Nor do I think people need enormous salaries as incentives for the top positions in business and government. Managerial positions are interesting work and have many incentives other than financial rewards. In fact these managers might do better jobs if they are not so greedy just for making money but are more concerned with doing a good job. Do we need workoholics spending sixty hours a week on their job? Wouldn't it be better to share that work more evenly by using two or three people who are less greedy and not half-exhausted?

Q: You really want to soak the rich, don't you?

P: Some may say that, but in actuality I think it is time that we stop allowing the rich to soak everyone else. In recent years the wealthy have been getting richer, while the number of poor has been increasing. The salaries that top management pays itself in the United States are grotesque today, when one considers how many people are homeless and lacking even rudimentary job opportunities and the basic necessities of life. It is a disgrace to our whole society, and I do not believe that people will tolerate such terrible inequities in the future.

Q: Are you a socialist, and do you want to give everyone equal amounts of everything regardless of what they do?

P: No, I think either extreme will be avoided in the future. A progressive tax system is still capitalistic in that individuals and corporations are free to make profits and accumulate wealth; it merely provides that a portion of that extra wealth goes back into the good of the society as a whole. I believe that those who live in a society that allows them the freedom to make money and do as they please as long as they don't hurt others have an obligation to support the general welfare of that society.

Recent cultural evolution indicates to me that education and health care are so essential to everyone in modern society that it is in the best interests of the whole to socialize these in efficiently run programs that do not discriminate against anyone in the society.

Q: What about the free market? Do you believe in that?

P: Yes, particularly for consumer goods and every sector of the economy except for the public insurance programs that make sure that everyone has their basic needs met, and we must also except the military sector which was also socialized by public taxes and which now can be almost completely eliminated. History shows that free enterprize in business and commerce stimulates creativity and inventiveness, efficiently provides for supply and demand at the lowest costs to everyone, as long as monopolies and cartels are not allowed. In these areas I think private business is much more efficient and less bureaucratic. The competition to provide the best goods and services to the public at the lowest prices is a healthy and useful system because for the most part it can be self-regulating in response to how people choose to buy and use those goods and services.

Q: But don't many philosophers say that cooperation is better than competition?

P: Certainly in most cases we can learn better and be more productive by working together in cooperation, and even in the market system it is the case that much cooperation is occurring between the people who work together in a business that might be in competition with another company. However, the Communistic experiment of trying to completely eliminate competition by having bureaucrats plan economic activity was found to be wasteful, inefficient and destructive of the normal incentives to achieve excellence. Neither do we want monopolistic multi-national corporations cooperating together to plan everyone else's future. Rather let various groups of people cooperate together and compete with each other so that no one large group can dominate and exploit people.

Q: What about housing? Do you consider that a basic necessity?

P: I do. I believe that everyone deserves a decent place to live, even if they are not able to work. Public housing can be provided for those who need a place to live until they can find enough work to afford a better place. As we get better at it, these homes will be more intelligently planned so that they meet basic needs at low costs and are accompanied by job opportunities and ways that people can learn to help themselves by growing their own food if they wish, preparing it or helping others to prepare it, and so on. Various kinds of job training, counseling, and social services would be available to the people in these public communities. Everyone who wants to work should have the opportunity to do so. However, the current policy of continual structural unemployment is how the capitalists keep wages low.

Q: How would you end unemployment?

P: I recommend shortening the work week gradually and steadily so that there will be more jobs for more people. We have been on a forty-hour work week for most of this century, while our technology has produced computers, for example, that are doing the work of what would have required many trillions of people. France is already experimenting with a shorter work week. Within a generation or two I believe that the average work week will be closer to twenty hours. Not only is our technology with electronics and robotics becoming more efficient and requiring less human labor, but as people appreciate leisure and learn to live simpler and less materialistic lifestyles, they won't want to work so much.

Q: What about those who refuse to work?

P: Even those who refuse to work for money, I believe still have a right to the basic necessities of life, but not to its luxuries. Since most people prefer to work and contribute something to society, I don't think it will be a problem to provide the basic necessities of housing, food, health care, and education to the few who don't. It is important though to encourage people to work and make sure that there are jobs available in every area to people who want to do something useful.

Q: But don't people need incentives to work? If they can have all their needs met without working, won't a large number of people just be lazy and enjoy a life of leisure?

P: I don't think that will be the case, because there still will be many incentives to work. Only the bare necessities would be provided for those who refused to work. If one wanted a better place to live, possessions, and money to spend, they would have to work for it. Also most people get bored without any work at all to do, and by working one tends to graduate toward better and more interesting kinds of jobs. No, I don't think too many will refuse to work altogether, but people will not have to work any more than they want according to the lifestyle they choose.

Q: So would there be more part-time jobs and jobs with flexible hours to accommodate them?

P: Certainly. Basically supply and demand would regulate the labor market, but workers would have more autonomy and not be as dominated by the inflexibility of tradition and large corporations. Many more jobs will be in the service areas, as industry becomes more automated. This actually will give more flexibility, because there are so many options of services that people can use.

Q: But how can you guarantee jobs to the unemployed?

P: It seems to me that there are always improvements that can be made for the general maintenance and improvement of society. Naturally private businesses of all kinds would be encouraged to hire as many workers as they can, and government agencies could see to it that any excess labor could be put to good use in public service jobs of various kinds, from scientific research to public education to cleaning up and preserving the environment and so on. For example, there is almost no limit to how many teachers and teacher's aides can be useful to making education more personal. In the private sector I foresee a great increase, for example, in the number of hand-crafted items, which many people prefer to machine-made products.

Q: What about the use of animals in scientific research?

P: This is another controversial issue which is in need of reform. The military and many of the large corporations and universities have not been very sensitive to animals in their research. I think that society will want to put some guidelines on this work in order to restrain the unfettered profit motive and zealous scientists with limited ethical awareness or appreciation for the feelings of animals. However, I personally would not recommend going to the other extreme of banning any use of animals in scientific research. Although it is obviously difficult to get the voluntary cooperation of animals in research, we can consider their well-being and respect their lives. Animals can help us to learn about life, but we must also learn how to be merciful and compassionate to them as well.

Many improvements can be made, such as the use of computer models for dissection in schools to replace the mass slaughter of helpless frogs, for example. Forcing children to be so cruel to other animals in order to "get ahead" in their education sets a very bad example and indicates an insensitive ethics.

Q: You seem to believe in the value of prayer? Don't you think voluntary prayers should be allowed in the public schools?

P: This is a very tricky issue which has been used by the religious right so that they can present themselves to the public as the defenders of religion and prayer. I think we need to realize that prayer is primarily an inward process between an individual's consciousness and a higher being or power or God. Since freedom essentially exists in consciousness, every individual is free at any moment they are conscious to pray, and no one can stop that. Since most would acknowledge that God or the object of prayer is probably omniscient, it is not necessary for prayers to be made aloud so that God can hear them.

As Jesus taught, it is usually better to pray in private, and it is often the hypocrites who want to gain a reputation for piety who want to pray in public. Thus it seems ironic to me that it is mostly Christians who want to have public prayers in United States schools. I think the tradition in this country that the government should not promote any particular form of religion is a healthy one, considering past abuses of this kind of power in western civilization.

Q: What about having a moment of silence in the public schools?

P: I have found that this is an excellent solution and have used it myself regularly when teaching at a private university that emphasizes spiritual teachings but is non-sectarian. A time of silence allows students to pray if they are religious and to contemplate or meditate within themselves if they are not. This I think is very beneficial both to individuals and to the calming of a group. However, if prayers are made vocally, then others have to listen to their implied doctrines or absent themselves, which is rather awkward.

Q: What about allowing voluntary groups to meet at schools for prayer sessions?

Q: I have no problem with this provided that it is not part of the regular curriculum but in the nature of an extra-curricular activity during non-schooling hours such as before or after school or during lunch when students are free to pursue their own activities. As far as having prayers at public meetings, such as a graduation ceremony, I think we need to be very careful and follow a fine line. If a minister is allowed to say a prayer pleasing to the majority, there are bound to be minority religions and agnostics who are going to feel uncomfortable. Yet once again a moment of silence could allow people the experience of real prayer, while the minorities could pray or contemplate in their own way too. Prayer is very powerful and helpful, and I do want to encourage people to pray as much as they wish, even up to twenty-four hours per day; yet I think we need to be careful not to impose our religious beliefs on other people against their will.

Q: Do you think religion should be studied in public schools?

P: Yes, there is a big difference between the study of something and the practicing of it. We need to study all the important aspects of human life and history in order to understand them and draw lessons from them, even including what we today consider barbaric or unwise. Thus we study wars, feudalism, dictators, fascism, Communism, and religious fanaticism. Of course religion needs to be studied for its positive aspects as well. I think that the study of all the great religions of humanity can be extremely enlightening for people and will lead to a wiser, more tolerant and universal form of religion in the future.

Q: How do you see religion changing?

P: I think humanity will be maturing much in the next century. Traditionally people have followed the religion of their culture as it has been taught to them by their family and local community. As we become more cosmopolitan and aware of different faiths and philosophies, individuals are more likely to become eclectic and self-selective of their religious ideas and practices. Eventually I think that most people will realize much more strongly the unity of humanity and that all religions and philosophies are part of a great quest we all share for truth and understanding of our place in the universe. Great teachers from various cultures will be studied to learn how we each can improve our own lives.

Q: What will happen to the great religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam?

P: I'm sure they will continue for a long time, for the power of tradition is strong and persistent. Yet people will become more tolerant of other ideas, and more people will gradually move into various ecumenical and universal approaches that acknowledge the values found in each of these great traditions.

Q: But aren't there some major contradictions between these faiths, such as over reincarnation, for example?

P: In this new age of Aquarius, humanity is already coming to recognize greater truth than ever before. The doctrine of reincarnation was actually present and accepted by many of the early Christians such as Origen. However, early church councils decided to eliminate the doctrine. Nevertheless mystics and psychics are able to perceive the experiences of past lives, if not always accurately, and more of the population is becoming aware of the likelihood of reincarnation. Within another generation or two I believe that only the most stubborn traditionalists will continue to reject the ageless teachings of reincarnation and karma, which is the doctrine of responsibility for one's actions.

Q: Wasn't the Buddha actually an atheist?

P: Although the Buddha himself did not recognize the existence of a God or even the reality of the soul, Buddhism contains so many excellent insights into the processes of consciousness and enlightenment that it's teachings have grown and flourished. Some of the metaphysical nihilism has been replaced by more popular beliefs about Buddhas and heavenly worlds.

As we mature in our spiritual awareness, I think that metaphysical arguments as to whether God exists or is one or two or three or many, male or female, will seem rather irrelevant and uninteresting to most people who probably will realize that God or the Universe can be any and all of these things.

Q: What is the age of Aquarius?

P: Ancient astronomers and astrologers observed that the Earth has a cycle which averages 25,868 years based on where the sun is in relation to the stars on the first day of spring when the days and nights are equal. This equinoctial point moves backwards or precedes gradually such that it takes a little over 2,000 years to precess through a sign. In other words about 2,000 years ago the sun was at the beginning of the first sign of Aries on the first day of spring. Now on the first day of spring, the sun is near the cusp of the last sign of Pisces and the eleventh sign of Aquarius. So for the last two thousand or so years we have been moving through the age of Pisces and its opposite sign Virgo, for the autumnal equinox is affected the same way.

Q: So how was the age of Pisces different from the preceding age of Aries?

Q: This was a rather significant transition, because it was from the first sign to the last. Aries represents the self and is ruled by the warlike god Mars. Pisces, however, is the last sign in the ending of the cycle. Pisces is a water sign and relates to the much more complex self-expression of belief. The symbolism of the fish and the virgin of the opposite sign were prophesied by astrologers to be important in the new religion of that time, which occurred in Christianity. The concept of salvation from this earthly life was also adopted in the East in the Mahayana form of Buddhism which spread greatly in the Piscean age.

Q: How will the Aquarian age be different than the Piscean age?

P: Aquarius has the self-expression, I know, which gives it a scientific quality as opposed to the dogmatic quality of Pisces typified by its ruling planets Jupiter and Neptune which represent religion and mysticism respectively. Aquarius is ruled by Saturn and Uranus. While Saturn is the father and the past, Uranus represents revolution, invention, and the spiritual intellect. Aquarius is the sign of the common person and represents democracy. The three constellations in the portion of the Piscean sky portray a king, queen, and a princess. Thus the Piscean age was dominated by monarchies, while Aquarius has two flying horses and a sea monster, signifying a time of free flight. These symbolize the technological inventions of air travel and communication through air by means of waves, the glyph of Aquarius; they also imply spiritually traveling outside of one's physical body, an ability likely to become much more conscious and practiced in the Aquarian age.

Q: But isn't astrology frowned upon by modern science as superstition and pseudo-science?

P: Attitudes about science and religion in the Piscean age were quite dogmatic. As we are now making this transition into the new age of Aquarius, many of the traditional concepts of science are being overthrown, as relativity and quantum physics transformed the seemingly perfect system of Newtonian physics. Even more significant is the transformation of the physicalistic paradigm which has reduced science to a materialistic view that only physical things are scientific. The development of psychology indicates that the soul or spiritual nature of our consciousness transcends physical laws.

Q: How would you describe this new philosophy?

P: Essentially we are learning to be more holistic in our thinking, realizing that causality is not merely linear but multi-dimensional with elements of freedom that can only be calculated in relation to probabilities. Also we are seeing the interrelationship of various fields and their integration. Not only are we finding scientific proof that prayer is effective and that clairvoyance is possible, but the entire universe is beginning to come alive as we perceive the Earth as the goddess Gaia, an organic being. The integration of the spiritual realm with the physical world is more complicated and less mechanistic, but nonetheless it is essential to any intelligent perspective on life and consciousness.

Q: How does astrology fit into this new paradigm?

P: Astrology is considered to be perhaps the oldest science in the world, as even primitive people studied the marvelous celestial bodies and their relationship to their lives. Essentially astrology is the science of time from a qualitative as well as a quantitative point of view. In other words people discovered long ago that different times of the year and different times of day have different qualities in relation to human experience. They took these insights and developed them into stories (myths) for which they found holistic symbols that could be identified in different portions of the heavens as constellations. The sun, moon, and the five visible planets were found to have certain symbolic qualities when in these different sections of the heavens. Individuals born at the different times indicated by these symbols seemed to have common characteristics.

Q: Then why has modern science not considered this scientific?

P: Because this holistic thinking is so different from analytic science that traditional scientists usually reject it out of hand without even bothering to study it in the way it is intended. Ironically though, some of the greatest scientists who did study it, including Isaac Newton himself, found it to be quite useful. In fact it has been said that astrology is the science of astronomy applied to human affairs. Astrology is holistic because it integrates the study of time with every aspect of life.

Q: But does astrology determine our character and destiny? What happened to free will?

P: Astrology is a way of understanding what I call our cosmic environment or how we as individuals fit into time and space, but it is more related to correlation and probability theory than to direct causation. No, it does not take away free will; but it is another factor of our environment which does influence us, just as our genetic pattern and personal upbringing also influence us. Nonetheless the soul still decides when to be born and continues to have numerous choices even after incarnation in human form. I have found that astrology can help individuals to understand themselves better as unique human beings who share various common patterns in different combinations. Although we all share the universe as a whole, we each fit into it in our own way. Understanding ourselves as different from others can be enhanced by means of these tools or symbolic keys. Thus astrology is a holistic system for helping us to understand the patterns of our minds, emotions, personalities, instincts, etc.

Q: If Christianity and Mahayana Buddhism were religions for the Piscean age, will there be a new religion in the Aquarian age?

P: Yes, there is a very new cosmic vibration now which does affect religion as well as everything else. However, religion was more important during Pisces, as I explained, whereas science and technology will be more important during the Aquarian age. In many respects the great teachings of Jesus the Christ and Gautama the Buddha are eternal and will always be valuable to humanity, but the form of worship and practice of rituals are bound to change from age to age. Because of this transition from the Piscean to the Aquarian age, these have been called discontinuous energy patterns which are being replaced by the new dispensation of Light, just as the Piscean replaced the Aries (Aryan) 2,000 years ago.

Q: But don't you believe in the second coming of Christ or the Jewish Messiah or the Buddhists' Maitreya?

P: Of course most Christians believe that Jesus was and is the Jewish Messiah, and they are expecting his second coming foretold in the New Testament. I personally do believe that Jesus was Christed ("anointed") for his holy mission of bringing great spiritual teachings to humanity; yet I also can see the Jewish point of view that the Messiah will really bring about a transformation of our society so that God will rule a world of justice and peace. Similarly I accept Buddhist ideas of the coming of enlightened Bodhisattvas and Maitreya to help humanity live more spiritually aware.

Q: When do you think the second coming of Christ will occur?

P: My interpretation of this is that the second coming of the Christ is when it comes to each person. So the timing is individually determined. Jesus prophesied that in the coming age many would say, "Lo here," and "Lo, there, come and see the Christ;" and he warned people not to go after them, because when the Christ came again it would be as obvious as lightning from east to west. I believe that the Christ consciousness is in the soul of every person; and when we awaken to this divine presence within ourselves we become Christed by a transcendent Light just as Jesus himself was.

Q: Do you believe that individuals can save themselves? Don't you believe the grace of God is necessary for salvation?

P: That is a tricky question. I do believe in the grace of God and also in the cosmic Christ (although other terms may also be used for the same thing), which is a position or job in the spiritual hierarchy to help souls lift into the heavenly worlds. In regard to salvation I am a universalist in that I do not believe that any soul is ever lost, but that every soul being eternal eventually returns to God. In other words I do not believe there is any everlasting hell or permanent damnation of souls. There are temporary hells though, and war is one of the worst.

I do think there is some role for individual effort or seeking in the process of enlightenment or liberation and that there is also grace and help from above. Many incarnations as a human being are usually required to evolve in consciousness toward liberation from this cycle of rebirth.

Q: Do you believe that the same souls who incarnate as human beings also incarnate as other animals?

P: The soul is very majestic, and even human incarnation is quite a fall, as they say. As I understand it, souls do not usually incarnate in other animals, except maybe in very advanced species such as whales, dolphins, and perhaps even elephants. Usually a soul connects to and rules over a group of animals of the same species without actually incarnating in their bodies; this is called a group soul by theosophists. Nevertheless there seems to be consciousness in these different animals which is gradually evolving.

Q: Do you believe in the prophecy that after the second coming of Christ there will be a thousand years in which Christ will rule on Earth?

P: Yes, I think there will be a time when many people will share this Christ awareness and work to bring about a society of justice and peace. That is what this book is about, and I think this new age of love and Light will be established within the next one hundred years. In Hindu terms we are making a transition from the darkest age of Kali yuga into the brightest age of truth called the Satya yuga. Thus the transition is even more radical than a revolution, and is more like a complete transformation of consciousness and way of life.

Q: But what about Jesus? Will he come again?

P: Jesus is a great soul who never really left and is quite aware of what is going on now in this transition. Clairvoyants in the last twenty-five years have indicated that the one who was called Jesus in that former life has recently changed his name to Sananda in order to have a new vibration for the Aquarian age. The old Piscean-age patterns have become discontinuous so that new energy can come in.

Q: What are discontinuous energy patterns, and what does that mean for those who are following them?

P: Naturally those who pray will receive whatever they deserve in way of attunement based on their sincerity, devotion, and wisdom, but generally those who follow discontinuous energy patterns tend to get back what they put in. Wiser and more spiritually aware souls tune into the living spiritual energies of the present and receive excellent guidance and grace from divine consciousness. I'm afraid that much religious zeal has been misdirected and less enlightened than it might have been. Whenever there is a change of the age, there is this conflict between the old forms and the new ones coming in. Moses had to deal with the Hebrews worshipping the golden calf of the old Taurean age, and Jesus faced stubborn traditionalist rabbis who could only see obedience to the letter of the law the "I am" God gave to Moses. (The opposite sign of Aries, whose self-expression is I am, is Libra, whose scales represent law.)

Q: Do you see this resistance in fundamentalists today?

P: Yes, religious fundamentalism and intolerant fanaticism are very serious problems, whether they are Jewish, Christian, Islamic, or any other religion. They are usually based on some kind of idolatry or fanatical worship of certain books, personalities, or religious symbols. They fanatically adopt certain beliefs and hate anyone who challenges or disagrees with them. Thus the faith, love, and kindness, which should be the basis of religious experience, become perverted into the opposites of fear, hatred, and anger.

Q: How would you describe this idolatry?

P: Perhaps the most prevalent is called bibliolatry, which means the worship of a bible or book. This is prevalent in Judaism and Christianity in relation to their Bible and in Islam and their Koran. In other words instead of worshipping and attuning themselves to the living Spirit of God, they worship a particular scripture as literally the word of God which cannot be changed or even interpreted in a broad enough way to make it more reasonable. Often the authors of these writings were inspired, but they also had many imperfect ideas reflecting their own personal and cultural development. To assume that God dictated all these writings perfectly is, I think, a fundamental error. As I said, Jesus had to contend with the same kind of fanaticism in his time, and he was persecuted for transcending their limited religious beliefs.

Q: Are there other forms of idolatry?

P: Fortunately many of the more obvious forms of idolatry that flourished in the Piscean age, such as the worship of relics and the giving of indulgences, have been recognized by most people as corruptions of true religion. However, I think there is a subtle idolatry related to bibliolatry among the born-again Christians which I call Jesusolatry. In this case people seem to worship the personality of the man Jesus as God instead of the greater universal Spirit or Holy Spirit. Now I actually agree that Jesus, the soul, is divine; but I differ from fundamentalists in that I believe that every soul is divine, though the consciousness may not yet be as enlightened as his. Nonetheless I think it is an error to make a person into the absolute God. But this is not the worst of it.

Q: What else bothers you about this worship of Jesus?

P: The doctrine of vicarious atonement, I think, tends to produce a spiritual complacency, because people believe that Jesus took on all their sins, past, present and future. Thus they assume that all the spiritual work is already accomplished, and no one has to do anything anymore to save souls or improve this world. I believe that Jesus did take on a tremendous amount of karma or responsibility for negativity in his time and helped to lift many people; but it is also obvious to me that there is still sin (ignorance, errors) in the world and that there is much more work to be done by those who would follow in his footsteps and take up their cross to act as the Christ would act in our time.

Q: So do you believe in the imitation of Christ?

P: Yes, in a general way, not a slavish literal kind of imitation. I think that Jesus did call people to follow a spiritual path and work for the good of humanity, and that as Sananda he and other great spiritual teachers are still calling us to expand our awareness, open our hearts, and devote ourselves to the welfare and upliftment of all. Yet when I see many people who call themselves Christians actively supporting the militarism of the United States Government and even supporting politicians who would reduce needed help for the poor and favor executing rather than rehabilitating criminals, then I have to examine the fruits of action rather than the belief professed.

Q: What about cult leaders and all these New Age gurus?

P: Again, as with Jesus, the worship of a personality rather than the Spirit of God can be a limiting idolatry. However, Jesus and his early followers were also a cult, perhaps the finest so far. In this awakening new age, spiritual teachers are needed; and there will be many advanced spiritual teachers, as people become more fully realized in the Christ consciousness or enlightened awareness (if you don't want to use the term "Christ"). Nevertheless any great power is subject to abuse, and spiritual consciousness can be a great power which individuals are learning how to use wisely. A true spiritual teacher will not manipulate people or tell them what to do, but rather allow individuals their own freedom so that they can grow in their own way. I believe that Jesus foresaw this, and that's why he warned us about it.

Q: Didn't he also foresee nations warring against each other?

P: Yes, I think he saw the overall pattern of civilization, but it is difficult even for such a great soul to predict so far ahead exactly how peace and justice can be brought about in the world. That is why we need to tune into the Holy Spirit and great teachers now so that we can perceive what we each can do to help bring about this new paradise.

Q: So are you finally getting to the question of how?

P: Many of the methods of how we can bring about a good future have been described already in my explanations of what the future could be like. The most difficult part of course is how we get from where we are now to that. The 1980s and the 1990s so far have been a rather discouraging time for many progressive people, as the United States and England in particular seem to have fallen back into a reactionary past of selfish and greedy conservatism and fiscally irresponsible militarism.

Q: Yes, the trend seems to be in the opposite direction of many of the social and political reforms you are suggesting. How can that pattern be reversed?

P: We have been in a conservative cycle astrologically as indicated by Uranus and Neptune being in the most reactionary sign of Capricorn, which attempts to consolidate the past and in its negative expression uses fear and paranoia for manipulation and ambition. Nevertheless the mostly nonviolent revolutions in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe away from totalitarian Communism and toward democracy and capitalism have been enormous steps forward. So even the conservative cycle has its value. Now the co-ruling planet of the Aquarian age, Uranus, is going into the sign of Aquarius for seven years, with the center of that period being the year 2000. In 1999 Neptune will also go into Aquarius for fourteen years.

Q: Do you really think the movement of these planets will make much difference?

P: To give you an idea, let's just look at what happened the last time Uranus was in Aquarius between 1911 and 1919. Up till then the world seemed to be in a conservative period and in the grip of powerful monarchs and royal empires. With the movement of Uranus into Aquarius came revolutions in Mexico and China, the outbreak of the first world war which destroyed the Hohenzollern, Hapsburg, and Romanov dynasties and led to the astounding revolution in Russia and the forming of the first attempt at world government in the League of Nations.

Q: Those were remarkable changes, but can we count on the planets to bring about revolution for us?

P: Of course not, but we can be ready and able to make the changes humanity needs at this time. Certainly everyone is looking at the year 2000 as a powerful symbol of a new beginning for civilization. The psychology of this openness to change is important and is a great opportunity for us to bring about major reforms.

Q: But what can individuals do to help bring about such grandiose changes as you are recommending?

P: It is nothing else but individuals who will make these changes in the world. We each have our role to play in the unfolding of the great cosmic drama. Whether we contribute to good or evil is up to each of us to decide. I believe that everyone is trying to do good, but many are too ignorant or uninspired to act in more intelligent ways. The fact that you are reading this book indicates to me that you are probably one of those who are more intelligent and willing to make a great contribution to improving society.

Q: All right, assume that to be true; but what can I do?

P: Every little thing we do as individuals makes a difference, just as the proverbial butterfly flapping its wing in China can cause a typhoon and tidal waves across the Pacific Ocean. First of all, it seems to me we must begin inside ourselves by contacting that true self or soul that has the capability of knowing and understanding anything that can be known.

Q: How does one contact the soul?

P: Actually by listening to the still small voice inside ourselves we come to realize that we are the soul; the soul is the true essence of our being. It is not our physical body, although we are one with our physical body and use it as an instrument. Please don't get me wrong; I am not trying to say the body is evil or not important. But we are more than our bodies, and the life that sustains our bodies is the inner energy, which is also the source of our consciousness.

Q: But how can consciousness find its own source?

P: This can be quite tricky, because the consciousness is often confusing itself with various thoughts, concepts, feelings, instincts, etc. Yet all the time the source is eternally present, like a void or ineffable being in the center of our awareness. There are numerous techniques which can be used to explore our consciousness and seek this center. I am not going to go into all of them, but they can be summarized in the general categories of prayer, meditation, and contemplation.

Q: What is prayer, and how does it work?

P: Prayer is perhaps the most active form of spiritual endeavor by which we consciously direct our awareness toward God or a higher reality. Of course there can also be the receptive kind of prayer in which we listen and watch for the response of Spirit within us. Yet compared to meditation and contemplation, prayer is usually more actively seeking to align one's will with the divine. Spiritual exercises where we chant sounds or words, inwardly or outwardly, or visualize Light are active forms of prayer. These methods of attuning to the Sound of God and the Light of the Holy Spirit have been found by many to be quite effective and have been called the way of the saints by some.

Q: But can't prayer be manipulative? How do we know what to pray for?

P: I have been describing a higher form of prayer whereby we attune ourselves to God's will, which does know what is best for all; but you are right: prayer can be abused and be a form of black magic if we use it for selfish desires. That is why it is always wise to ask God for the highest good of all concerned, even when we are making a particular request for something we feel we need or want. That way if what we are asking for is not for our good, then it will not be brought forward.

Q: How else can prayer be used wisely?

P: We can also pray for others and the world by sending this Light of the Holy Spirit, or asking that it be sent by God. Again it is important that we always ask for the highest good of all concerned. Otherwise we are using only the magnetic Light which can produce karmic effects we may not want, instead of the wisdom of spiritual Light or Holy Spirit which is guided by God for the good of all. Prayer has been proven to be very effective in experiments with people who were having surgery or were in ill health. Those who were prayed for did better than those who were not.

Q: So do you think prayer can help to bring about a better future?

P: Yes, I think that prayer is absolutely necessary to bringing about a better world, and the more people who are praying for the good of all, and the more they pray, the faster that vision will be able to manifest. Nevertheless prayer is not sufficient by itself. Of course we also have to act for the good too and stop acting in ways that support the evils that must be removed. Prayer can also guide us in this discernment of determining what will support the good and what supports the evils.

Q: What is meditation, and how is that practiced?

P: Meditation is usually described as being more passive in order to receive the answers to the questions in the prayers. The idea of meditation is that we need to calm our minds and emotions before we are able to clearly perceive the higher spiritual awareness or deeper insights. If our minds are continually operating, even if in prayers, the deeper self or soul may not have the opportunity to be reached. Thus the practice of meditation is also active in its own way as an inner focusing of awareness and perception, while the more superficial levels of consciousness are allowed to calm down.

Q: How is meditation practiced?

P: Usually one puts one's body in a position where it will not distract us, and the eyes are often closed. However, one can meditate with the eyes open by observing not only what one is seeing outwardly but also what is occurring inwardly. Some practice guided meditations in which the mind is used to visualize calming scenes, and meditation can be combined with prayer in this way by visualizing what one is praying for while being receptive to insights and guidance at the same time.

Q: What do you mean by contemplation?

P: There are also forms of spiritual exercise which utilize intuition and intellect by observing and analyzing the flow of consciousness. Often when people attempt to pray or meditate, many thoughts and feelings from the day and its concerns intrude themselves upon us for attention. Contemplation is a way of looking at our lives and examining those things which concerns us, instead of trying to avoid them.

Q: How can contemplation be used?

P: If we have a particular problem for example, it can be explored from various perspectives for the insights that can be gained. This thinking process can help us to work through dilemmas by understanding our motives (and those of others) and the causes and effects of actions. Then we can integrate the various aspects of our lives so that we can master them better. By using the imagination we can try out ideas mentally to see how they might work before we go to the trouble of doing so physically. This gives us a sense of how an action might feel so that we can better realize whether we want to do it or not.

Q: What about yoga and raising the kundalini?

P: Yoga means union and implies union with God and integration into a healthy whole. However, the yoga I recommend does not try to move the lower snake-like earthly energies of the kundalini, which many acknowledge can be dangerous and difficult to control. Instead I have found that it is better and more enlightening to focus on the top chakras (energy centers in the body) and through prayer call in the heavenly energies from above. For experiencing greater oneness with God, consciousness can be focused on the top of the head in the crown chakra. Divine Light will pour into you like a waterfall, and you can also send Light out through this center and lift up your own consciousness at the same time.

Q: But doesn't yoga have to do with physical exercises?

P: There are many types of yoga. The physical or hatha yoga does practice postures to stretch and energize the physical body, and properly done they can enhance health. I would like to mention though, as related more directly to this book, what I call political yoga, which involves the unification of all humanity. I suppose it could also be called social and economic yoga. This I think is our greatest challenge now: how to integrate our human civilization into a holistic system that is balanced with justice and harmonized by mercy.

Q: What about ecological yoga?

P: You make a good point. Certainly we as humans also need to integrate ourselves with all other species on this planet into a way of life which is going to be healthy and beneficial for all living things. The learning experience of becoming sensitive and considerate to the political, economic, social, and ecological aspects of life will make us more holistic and wise in our awareness. By working for the good of everyone we cannot help but learn how we as individuals fit into and can contribute to the whole.

Q: So after prayer, meditation, and contemplation, what is the next step?

P: Communication. Once we have opened our hearts and minds to the process of human improvement, we need not only to express our own ideas and insights to others, but also to listen to and observe others so that we can be learning more all the time. There are some who seem to believe that we cannot do anything to help the world until we become fully enlightened ourselves, and so they never seem to go beyond seeking inner peace by inward spiritual endeavor; but it is my opinion that we need to work on the inner and outer simultaneously and that each stimulates the other. I believe the world is in an evolutionary crisis and needs immediate help. If we wait until we are perfectly enlightened Buddhas before we act in the outer world, the less enlightened may destroy the Earth before those working on enlightenment get around to saving it.

Q: But doesn't politics bring out the worst in people, and if we lose our inner peace, can we really do any good?

P: I agree that to neglect our own inner peace and get lost in a political struggle can be the other extreme and counterproductive. Yet by working on both we can keep a better balance. I have found that by engaging in the political struggle through action, the inner spiritual lessons are multiplied. It is easy to keep one's inner peace while meditating at home; it is more challenging to discuss political controversies with an adversary without losing one's inner calm. Perhaps the greatest test is to challenge powerful authorities with action when we are deeply convinced that their policies are wrong and harmful. This of course can bring about persecution and even imprisonment or death, and is the way of the cross which Jesus demonstrated and taught.

Q: Wait a minute. Are you saying that we have to go out and get ourselves crucified for the sake of humanity?

P: No, I'm getting ahead of myself here. No one has to do anything they don't want to do. We each are free to decide what contribution we wish to make to the collective effort. Getting back to communication, it is important that we educate ourselves on the issues we are concerned about and want to reform. In that process we will be influenced by those more aware than we are on some things, and then we will be able to share the knowledge we gain with those less enlightened on these subjects. Talking with our families, friends, neighbors, colleagues, and acquaintances is a very significant part of this social and political transformation.

Q: Just talk? How can we be effective in this?

P: Just talking in a natural way is important, and of course there are commonsense guidelines to good communication. We need to be honest with ourselves by listening to our inner feelings and conscience so that we can be true to what is best within us. Feelings and emotions tell us what our concerns are, and it is important to understand them and express them. Obviously this does not mean throwing away all self-restraint and control of negative feelings, but it does mean that we can look at what is causing these feelings and find positive ways of expressing our concerns.

If we are afraid of something, for example, we can talk to someone close to us about our concern. Then together after understanding it better, we might want to take our concern to others. Eventually we may be moved to act, perhaps first by calling some authority we consider is responsible or by writing a letter.

Q: What about anger? Can't expressing that be emotionally harmful to others?

Q: Certainly uncontrolled anger can be abusive; but that usually occurs after it has built up without communication and understanding. Suppressed or repressed anger may even lead to deep depression and despair if it is not acknowledged and expressed in a reasonable way. I know; anger does not always seem reasonable. Yet if we can talk about our anger with the person who seems to be making us angry or with someone we trust, then we can come to understand it and help others to understand the problem that is stimulating it. Often for the person who is depressed, the expression of anger is a very positive step forward.

Q: Shouldn't love come into the communication?

P: Absolutely. In my opinion, love is the basis of all action and consciousness, because we do and even think about what we love. By working with our feelings of fear, anger, jealousy, hatred, etc., we will come to understand ourselves better, and our love for ourselves and others will naturally awaken. Remember, that to love others as we love ourselves implies that we love ourselves. We cannot really love anyone else any more than we love our own self. Of course the natural tendency is to love others less than ourselves with whatever love might be left over after we take care of ourselves first.

Kierkegaard pointed out that we tend to be subjective about ourselves and objective about others, when it might be better to reverse it. In other words, we should make extra effort to understand and excuse others, while being more detached and critical of ourselves. However, being too hard on oneself can also be a problem for some who may have already reversed this too much.

Q: What else helps communication?

P: Active listening is a technique that assures us that we are understanding what the other person is saying by repeating back to them in our own words what it is we understand they have communicated to us. Then the other person can verify, correct, and add to what we have understood, and then we can again repeat back and so on. So many problems in the world seem to go on because people are talking past each other without really understanding the other's point of view.

Q: What happens when the viewpoints are understood, but there are still differences of opinion as to what should be done?

P: In many institutions, families and other situations the tendency then is for the authoritative ones to impose their will, or sometimes the majority will do so by voting. However, there are other procedures which can either replace those methods or at least modify their results by preceding those decisions.

Q: Like what?

P: I refer to negotiation and working toward consensus. In this process everyone concerned is allowed to be heard and considered so that a more holistic decision can occur. If the group can understand the different concerns and their reasons and importance to people, often adjustments and compromises can occur which may produce better solutions. If all of these concerns can be met, the resulting decision is going to be better supported by everyone.

Q: What if the conflicts can not be resolved?

P: At least the process of discussion and consideration will enable everyone to know what the unresolved concerns are. Then those with the concerns have several choices. They can give in for the time being on this issue and try to build more support for it later by staying in the group and either supporting the group's action or standing aside only on this particular issue. They can quit the group and look for another more supportive group elsewhere. Or if they believe strongly this is an important ethical violation, they can attempt to resist the action of the group by staying in the group and not cooperating with the action.

Q: Now you've gotten beyond communication to political action, haven't you?

P: Yes, we each must ultimately decide whether to support, ignore, or resist the actions of any group we are in. But before I go on with group action strategies, it might be better to discuss other individual actions we can take besides prayer, communication, and education; for the actions of our daily lives have many economic and political implications.

Q: What can we do economically to help the world?

P: We can be careful how we spend our money by being very discriminating in what we buy. For example, we can boycott companies which have poor environmental practices or which violate human rights. We can live simply and not buy material things that are wasteful and unnecessary. We can recycle useful products as well as waste materials. For example, in regard to clothes we can either give away to charity extra clothes we no longer want, or we can buy used clothing at thrift stores, or both. Books and other items as well can often be bought used. We can share our possessions and material goods with those around us whom we trust with them. We can become vegetarians, or at least eat less meat. We can drive our cars less and use public transportation or bicycles and walking more.

Q: These sound like a lot of personal sacrifices. Why do the good people have to deprive themselves of these things, while the bad go ahead and enjoy them?

P: Everyone must decide on their own the sacrifices they are willing to make for the good of the whole. Don't forget also the power of personal example. What intelligent and good-hearted people do will often be imitated by others. Also most of these things are actually more healthy individually as well as collectively, such as being vegetarian and bicycling and walking more; and simple living is more economical, giving us extra money or time to do what may be more worthwhile than materialistic concerns. If we have extra money, we can donate to worthwhile causes or invest in socially responsible businesses. However, I agree that these alone are not enough to bring about the changes we need. But to stop others from being abusive of the environment or from harming people with violent methods, we need to become involved in political action.

Q: What political actions can we take?

P: Obviously we can vote intelligently in elections, but there is also much more than that that we can do. I already mentioned talking to and writing to public officials. We can become involved with others and work together on political campaigns, not just for candidates for office but on particular issues of concern to us as well.

Q: Now you are back to group action. What political strategies do you recommend?

P: Again each of us has to decide what is most important to us. For many people politics is a distasteful activity, and most people in our society do not get involved unless an issue arises that seems to affect them personally. These are often referred to by the acronym "nimby" (not in my backyard). The history of revolutions shows that usually governments bring on their own overthrow by becoming so oppressive that eventually the people can no longer tolerate the grievances. As privileged and powerful individuals, groups, corporations, and governmental officials exploit people and resources for their selfish purposes, they impinge on the well-being of other people who may be stimulated to act in response.

Q: But if everyone takes care of their own backyard, so to speak, won't the world be a better place?

P: Yes, absolutely; I'm don't mean to criticize people for acting on issues of immediate personal concern. Action on local issues is very important and can help build larger movements of similarly concerned people. However, in examining the larger picture of what is wrong in our society, I'm afraid that these efforts will not be adequate for solving the major problems we face. Also sometimes personal and local concerns can be short-sighted and in conflict with what would be in the best interest of everyone in the long term.

Q: Could you give an example of this?

P: Sure. Communities and their political representatives, who may even be "liberal," often oppose the closing of military bases in their areas because of the immediate loss of jobs. Yet they fail to see that other better jobs can be created in the cleanup of military facilities and in their conversion to constructive uses. Eventually the jobs that are created in the converted facility will more likely be long-lasting, better paid, and certainly more ethical and beneficial to society as a whole. Yet thinking only of the temporary disruption of employment and their own re-election, these politicians continue to support a horrendously wasteful and unnecessary military establishment.

Q: How are we ever going to get people to support disarmament when it seems to be against the short-term benefits of jobs and the national power of the United States?

P: This I believe is the crux of the problem. It is very difficult to get people to see that what is in the long-term best interest of everyone on the planet is also in their personal best interest from a spiritual perspective. In other words we are actually causing ourselves and our children future problems by continuing an unethical, wasteful, and harmful system of militarism. This is perhaps the main purpose of this book—to explain why we need to make these changes and how to do it. Getting people to understand that disarmament will be better is probably the most difficult part of that.

Q: Why?

P: Because most of the other issues relating to the environment, crime, welfare, economic justice, human rights, vegetarianism, and so on tend to impinge more directly on people's lives. Thus people are able to adjust their economic and social habits so as to bring about gradual reforms in these areas. However, with militarism it is a function of the national government paid for by taxes and borrowing, and until there is a devastating war it doesn't seem so bad. The only problem is that it only takes one bad war to annihilate us completely, after which of course it will be too late.

Q: Yet haven't you explained how militarism is a continual drain on our economy?

P: Yes, and the United States by spending as much as the rest of the world combined on the military, while having less than 5% of the world's population, is obviously carrying the lion's share of this burden. It has kept our standard of living from growing for the last thirty years and will continue to do so until we change this pattern, even while other nations like Germany, Japan, and developing countries are catching up and surpassing us. Yet because the United States economy has been very successful in the past and is still the largest in the world, our standing still or decline is not really experienced as being as painful as it finally was in the Soviet Union, whose economy was eventually destroyed by the arms race.

Q: Are you saying that the United States did not really win the arms race and the cold war?

P: As is usual in war, the winner is the one who manages to lose less than all the others involved. In the world wars the United States made economic gains by supplying the fighting countries before entering those wars. I think the U.S. lost much in the cold war; we just didn't lose as badly as the U.S.S.R. Yet if we try to continue the arms race and militarism alone as the only superpower, we are bound to bankrupt our society financially as well as morally. Not only is the national debt of the government about five trillion dollars now, but the annual trade deficit has been running about one hundred billion dollars a year for more than ten years. The United States is being sold out to pay for this arms race. Eventually people will finally realize that it is not appropriate for the United States to appoint itself the world's police force.

Q: Do you think that persuasion will be able to bring about the change of consciousness needed for disarmament?

P: I wish it could, but unfortunately it seems as though the propaganda in this country for patriotic militarism is so widespread among the politicians of both the major parties who are corrupted by contributions from the warmaking corporations, and because of similar biases throughout the media and intellectual communities, it could take a long time before people get enough of a chance to hear the truth from an unbiased perspective. I'm afraid that if we do not take some courageous steps to get our points across, the country might just bumble along until there is a major military disaster or economic depression.

Q: How then can we help to bring about this realization sooner?

P: I mentioned before about not cooperating with the unethical actions of a group to which we may belong. Mahatma Gandhi showed that not cooperating with evil can be as important as cooperating with good. So in addition to using all the tools of persuasion we can muster, it is my deep conviction that we need to withdraw our support from definite evils.

Q: What evils do you mean and how might we be supporting them?

P: In my opinion the military spending of the United States Government is so far beyond what is needed for self-defense of the country, especially since the Soviet Union collapsed, that I cannot in good conscience contribute to it; and I don't. In fact I have not paid federal income tax for many years, because more than half of it is spent on the military; and I consider much of that, particularly what is spent on nuclear weapons, to be illegal as violations of international law and treaties to which the United States has agreed.

Q: But what about the social security system and tax?

P: I am not opposed to social security, which is in fact a separate insurance system, and I do pay social security tax. The social security funds are supposed to be independent, but recently the federal government has even borrowed from them to finance the pentagon's waste.

Q: But doesn't federal income tax also pay for welfare and other services?

P: Yes, but many things in addition to the large social security system are paid by other taxes. Highways are paid for by gasoline tax, for example. The post office is financed by the price of stamps. More fees have been added to visit national parks, and so on. Now the Republicans in their contract with America are trying not only to increase military spending but also to cut welfare costs and perhaps even eliminate them from the federal budget so that the states would have to take them over.

Q: What do you think of this and the balanced budget amendment?

P: I favor a balanced budget for the federal government as soon as possible, and so do not oppose such an amendment. Let us hope they do not put loopholes in it so that in a "war emergency" it can be ignored. A balanced budget will force the federal government to be more responsible for military spending by raising taxes or reducing the defense budget. So this at least could bring some discipline to the military waste.

I do believe that welfare and social services are needed, especially when there are not enough jobs for all who want them, but I don't see why they cannot be handled by the states instead of by the federal government.

Q: But won't things get worse if the Republicans get their way?

P: Yes, probably; but the evils will become more obvious. If welfare is shipped back to the states, then the evil of militarism will become much more concentrated in the federal income tax. Already 20% of federal income tax is not collected. I believe that a campaign of not paying federal income tax combined with a call for complete nuclear disarmament as the first step toward total disarmament and world law could be effective.

Q: Are you asking us not to pay tax to our own national government?

P: Yes, in my opinion to pay federal income tax to the United States is to support what I call the corporate warfare state and so be an accomplice in their international crimes. If we want to bring about peace in the world, we have to begin by ceasing to pay for war. Anyone who claims they are for peace and justice, yet is paying thousands of dollars every year to the United States Government's war machine, is, in my opinion, a hypocrite.

Q: What precedent is there for not paying taxes to one's own government?

P: Perhaps the best example is with the thirteen colonies who refused to pay taxes to the British government to pay for the costs of the French and Indian War which ended in 1763. The Stamp Tax of 1765 was successfully resisted by nonviolent noncooperation, and it had to be repealed. The colonists continued to refuse to pay taxes to England because they felt they were not represented in that government. "Taxation without representation is tyranny." This issue eventually led to the independence of those thirteen states and a war to sustain that independence. Yet as John Adams pointed out, the real revolution occurred between 1760 and 1775 and in fact was almost completely nonviolent.

Q: But are not the people of the United States represented in the Congress?

P: Yes, but who and what are these politicians representing when it takes millions of dollars to get elected? They either have to be independently wealthy and thus tend to represent that class, or they have to accept contributions from various special interest groups. Do you really think that is a democracy? No, it is clearly a plutocracy, wherein those with the money rule.

Q: What other examples of noncooperation are there?

P: Many. India won its independence from the British also by nonviolent noncooperation. Boycotts helped to overthrow the apartheid system of South Africa. Don't you wish more good Germans had refused to support the Nazis? Yet the Norwegian teachers refused to teach Nazi propaganda in the schools when their nation was occupied during the war.

Q: But didn't Jesus say that people should pay tax to Caesar?

P: No, this is a very misunderstood issue, and I'm glad you brought it up. It is actually quite the reverse. If you examine the Gospel of Luke 23:2, you will find that Jesus was probably crucified because he was telling people not to pay taxes to Rome. The famous statement he made about rendering to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's was made in response to a question maliciously calculated by his enemies to trap him into admitting his real stand on this issue. However, apparently he was not yet ready to be arrested at that point; so he gave an ambiguous answer, which could easily be interpreted by his supporters as implying that they should not have anything to do with the Romans or their money system, while at the same time not incriminating himself. Yet as Luke makes clear, when Pontius Pilate asked the Jewish people why they wanted Barabbas released instead of Jesus, the main reason they gave was that Jesus was an enemy of Rome, because he told people not to pay taxes to the Romans.

Q: But what about the story of sending Peter to catch a fish with a coin in it to pay the tax to Rome?

P: I hope you will forgive me if I speculate that that seems like a fairy tale or legend to me, made up by someone later who wanted to justify Rome and Christianity to each other. Also that tax was for the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. When Christianity became a separate religion from Judaism and the religion of the Roman empire, efforts were made to blame the Jews for the killing of Jesus; yet the facts remain that Jesus was a Jew, and crucifixion was a Roman punishment.

Q: But if we refuse to pay tax, won't we be put in prison?

P: Not necessarily. If we are earning less than the taxable amount, then we don't owe any income tax. Currently an individual can make up to about $6,000 per year without owing any federal income tax.

Q: But how can a person live on that, and what if we have children to support?

P: The exemptions for children allow some more income, and the Republicans plan to increase these exemptions somewhat. Certainly it does mean living at or below the poverty line, but it can be done.

Q: How?

P: By sharing and living in community with others we can save much on housing and other expenses. Also it is not necessary to have an income that low. If one is earning more than that, one can donate the excess to a non-profit organization.

Q: It sounds like you're asking people to live like saints. What if a person owes taxes but refuses to pay?

P: Usually people are not put in jail for refusing to pay their tax, but they are put in jail for cheating or lying about their taxes. Some people even argue that the income tax is illegal, because that amendment to the Constitution was never actually ratified. Nonetheless the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) does act precipitously to get the money the U.S. Government believes belongs to it. They do not bother to go through any legal procedures; they will simply take your money any way they can get it, such as by robbing it from your bank account, forcing your employer to give a portion of each check to them, stealing your property and selling it at auction, etc.

Q: How can the conscientious person avoid these hassles with the IRS?

P: Unfortunately being a conscientious tax resister is incompatible with being materially wealthy. If you have a large income and assets, the IRS will probably come after them. Thus the best solution I can offer is the same one Jesus gave to the rich man, "Sell your possessions; give to the poor; and follow me." If enough people refuse to pay tax to the United States Government, its bankruptcy from military spending will become more evident sooner. Then people will make the changes that are needed.

Q: But what if my employer automatically withholds the federal income tax from my check and sends it to the government before I even get it?

P: It is up to you in filling out the forms to indicate that you consider yourself exempt from paying the federal tax. If your salary is too large, and the employer insists on withholding this money, you may have to find another job or cut back your hours.

Q: But is there no chance at all of my being arrested if I honestly refuse to pay?

P: Although it is unlikely, I can't guarantee that people may not be charged with something, even if it is merely refusing to file an income tax form. Of course if they think you do owe money and haven't paid, they may prosecute you for cheating. However, to put someone in jail they have to go through the legal process, and you will at least get a hearing and a trial. This is much more burdensome for the federal government, which cannot afford the legal costs. That is why the IRS prefers to just take the money, if they can get it.

Q: What else can we do to protest militarism and stimulate the change toward disarmament?

P: For the courageous and self-sacrificing there is always civil disobedience. I myself recommend nonviolent protest as the purest form of social revolution. There are so many military bases, terrible weapons manufacturers, and other military atrocities in this country that one does not have to go far to find something bad to protest. Or people can protest the politicians who are voting for all these things by sitting in their offices and refusing to leave or by other creative demonstrations.

Q: Now these type of actions do lead to jail, don't they?

P: Yes, but once again we do have a judicial system in this country, and one always gets one's day in court. Naturally to take one's protest into the judicial system by pleading not guilty adds tremendously to the costs of the federal government in handling the case and does tend to lead to longer sentences. However, as long as one's protest is nonviolent and does not damage property, it almost surely will only be a petty offense or a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence usually of six months.

Q: Is there any major difference between the federal judicial system and that of the states?

P: Yes, although the states will usually allow jury trials, the federal courts will not give you a jury trial if the maximum sentence is six months or less, even though the United States Constitution states in two different places that the trial of all crimes shall be by jury.

Q: Why don't they follow the Constitution?

P: Because the U.S. Supreme Court decided that six months is not a significant impact on one's life, and therefore somehow they rationalize that they can ignore what the Constitution requires in those cases.

Q: Do you think there will be a mass movement of civil disobedience against U. S. militarism?

P: Certainly mass movements can be very effective, but they are difficult to mobilize unless there are obvious grievances which affect many people. If the United States were to get involved in an obviously unjust war again, as in Vietnam, I think that the response to protest it will be quicker and larger than that earlier loss of innocence which had to build up over so many years.

I do think if we had enough people dedicated to really bringing about world peace through disarmament and world justice, we could turn this country around within a few years.

Q: But what about the rest of the world?

P: The United States is now clearly the leader, especially in regard to the military situation. If we can elect leaders in the United States who favor negotiating complete nuclear disarmament as a first step to be followed by conventional disarmament and the establishing of world democracy and world law, I believe that most, if not all, of the other nations will eagerly follow. Any nation which tried to hold out against disarmament would have to be treated carefully by the other nations, but with the United States and most of the world acting together it could be accomplished.

Q: How would that work?

P: The first step of nuclear disarmament would depend on convincing all of the major nuclear powers to agree. If a nation suspected of having a secret and therefore fairly small nuclear weapons program refused to cooperate, then the rest of the world could go ahead with the constitutional convention, ratify a new world government, and eventually create a world law banning nuclear weapons. At that point world police and inspectors would go into the resisting country to make arrests of the individuals breaking that new law.

Q: But what if they resisted with military force?

P: Then the world police would have to do whatever police normally do when suspected criminals violently resist arrest: they would have to attack them to disarm them and arrest them. Of course some of the violent resisters may be killed, but they would have brought it on themselves after having ample opportunity to surrender and submit to world law.

Q: Could a better organized world stop the Serbians and others from fighting in Bosnia in this way, for example?

P: Yes, the same type of thing could be done in a situation like Bosnia; but of course once disarmament is established these problems would be solved before they ever escalated that far. Nonetheless in the initial phases of disarmament a resisting military force may have to be militarily defeated by the rest of the world. However, by first charging the political leaders with crimes, it is likely that the soldiers will not resist in such a hopeless cause.

Q: So I take it from all this that you are saying that the world then will no longer tolerate the use of violence and war as a political means. Is that correct?

P: Exactly. We must learn how to discipline ourselves as a civilization so that we no longer allow these immature and dangerous activities to occur. For too long we have made violent politicians and military leaders into patriotic heroes when in reality they are actually war criminals. In the future we will have many problems to handle, as I have explained; but if we can begin by stopping the worst crimes and removing the most devastating dangers first, then all of the other concerns can eventually be solved without having this tremendous anxiety and insecurity that the world could blow up in our faces any time.

Q: What other methods can we use to convince people of the need for disarmament and world government?

P: There are so many ways of bringing peace and persuading people in nonviolent ways that I would not presume to think that I could list them all. I would like to leave it with the creativity of the people who want to make this Earth a better place to decide how they each want to act. I can only plead with them that they pray and meditate about all these things and after consulting their conscience do as much as they can to bring about a world of love, peace, and justice. Thank you for asking questions, and God bless everyone.

copyright 1996, 2008 by Sanderson Beck

This has been published in the book PEACE OR BUST. For ordering information, please click here.

BEST FOR ALL: How We Can Save the World
WORLD PEACE MOVEMENT Principles, Purposes, and Methods

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