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Food for thought: two months’ worth of the military budget would wipe out the student loan debt of every current student in America and then some.

Four months’ worth would send every student academically eligible to attend college to school for free.

Three months’ worth would pay for the entire reconstruction of the Gulf Coast, erasing Katrina’s damage.

Friend of Pensive, Chris Penn has posted a short article on where the US military budget could go, and a reminder that we can help make policies in the voting booth this November (well, those of us that are US citizens, so not me -but the point stands).

Food for Thought on Memorial Day

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With its lace curtain bungalows and steepled Anglican church, the once tranquil town of Camden in New South Wales seems the most improbable of settings for a row that combines race and religion.

Now the town, which lies on south-west fringes of Sydney, is confronting a very 21st Century issue: the proposal to construct an Islamic school for some 1,200 Muslim pupils.

This is definitely a touchy subject, inflaming a lot of passions:

“Everywhere is being destroyed. Why don’t we tell the truth. They’re wrecking Australia. They’re taking us over,” she said.

“Why hasn’t anyone got any guts? They’ve got terrorists amongst ’em… They want to be here so they can go and hide in all the farm houses… This town has every nationality… but Muslims do not fit in this town. We are Aussies, OK.”

I won’t shy away from calling this what it is – xenophobic racism. Stopping a religious school because it is not your religion is wrong.

But…

There is a valid objection to the school – “planning”: a 1200 student school in an area that has, (in my rough guess) about 500 Muslim students means a lot of students are going to be bussed or driven in. In an age where carbon should be a critical factor in every decision, I think this should more than enough to quash the school.

Beyond that, I have a fundamental objection to religious schools of any sort. Religion has no place in education – the notion of received or revealed wisdom is a direct contradiction of how the world works – in science, in mathematics, in history. Truth is found through thought and investigation. Not through reading one or two books of dubious veracity.

Religion stunts the development of the human mind – it is a meme that once served a purpose (of a sort) but has survived long past the point where it did anyone any real good. In a very real way, it is like an appendix of the psyche – a vestigial organ that dates back to long ago and now just consumes resources and endangers our lives by eventually becoming inflamed and bursting.

No-one should be exposed to religion, least of all children who haven’t the experience to tell dogma, superstition and wishful thinking from truth. No religious groups should be allowed to run schools, period. If religion must exist in this world, it should be treated the way pornography is – kept away from children by law, made hard to find, the users ostracized and condemned. All religions have an agenda – even if it is a relatively innocent agenda of self-propagation – and education coming from an agenda is bound to be substandard.

BBC – Town moves against Islamic school

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As she accepts her 2008 TED Prize, author and scholar Karen Armstrong talks about how the Abrahamic religions — Islam, Judaism, Christianity — have been diverted from the moral purpose they share to foster compassion. But Armstrong has seen a yearning to change this fact. People want to be religious, she says; we should act to help make religion a force for harmony. She asks the TED community to help her build a Charter for Compassion — to help restore the Golden Rule as the central global religious doctrine.

I find the idea that humanity needs religion to encourage or justify compassion incredibly insulting. Religion has contributed to many of the great evils perpetrated over the entire span of human history. We can learn to be nice to each other without some sort of cosmic judge looking over our shoulders. And then it is real compassion – an act of love and respect for our fellows – not an act of fear.

The “charitable works” of the religious are akin to those of people on court ordered public service – no matter what face they try to put upon it, we all know that they are only there because a higher power that they fear has made them. This is distinct from true volunteers who sacrifice their own time, resources, and/or comfort for the greater good of what ever group they identify with – a society, a nation, a race, a species or the “Greater Terran Group of Life Forms” (As far as I know, no-one on Earth is working consciously to help out a group larger than all life on Earth).

We can be nice to each other with worrying about what Yahweh or Zeus or Kwan-yin tell us to do. Listen to your own conscience. Act rationally. Compassion is the end result of rationality. Don’t apologize for religion, just join the rest of us that can see that we have outgrown it.

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Imagine

Imagine if only 12 out of 6,000 churches, synagogues or mosques were left standing in the place where you live. Imagine if over a million plus of your people were killed.

Imagine thousands and thousand and thousands of strangers being sent to your home and taking up residence, swamping/overwhelming you and your remaining family members so that you are lost in the swarm, your voice is drowned out by the noise of a huge throng, and you are crushed by the weight of so many bodies pressing against you.

Imagine that you are, for the most part, a peaceful person whose only wish is to live peacefully in your home. You have no desire to go to someone else’s home and take it over, let alone take what they have and make it yours. For the most part, you simply want to work, practice your faith, take care of your family, and be friends with you neighbors. But you can’t, you aren’t allowed to. Instead, the things you love are destroyed, and even your voice, which you would like to raise in song and prayer, is taken from you.

This is life for the average Tibetan.

The cultural genocide that has been occurring in Tibet for the past 50 plus years is appalling. It has also been largely ignored by certain world powers—and by us in our safe comfortable homes.

It seems likely the only reason Tibet is in the news is because of the Summer Olympics soon to be held in China.

I’d like to see the U. S. boycott the Olympics in Beijing. If we could boycott the Moscow games in 1980 over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, why not boycott over China’s invasion of Tibet?

Perhaps Tibet is too small, too isolated, too insignificant for us to bother about.

What would you do if your home were being invaded? I would like to imagine I would be like those brave monks who recently stood strong in the face of impossible odds. But I don’t know if I am that strong because, from where I sit, I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to lose what I have, to lose my way of life, to have my beliefs denied me, to have my culture stripped from me, to have my family killed right there in front of my face.

But maybe, just maybe, Tibetan voices are finally been heard above the noise of those imported masses.

There have been protests as the Olympic torch has made its way around the world and meetings between the Dalai Lama and China seem possible.

One can only hope.

My concern is that China is only contemplating talks with the Dalai Lama because of the Olympics.

My concern is, like much of what I’ve seen about China, (mostly on CCTV) that these talks will just be for show. I can almost hear those in power saying, “if we can just get through the Olympics….”

My concern is once the Olympics is over certain world powers will again sweep Tibet under their proverbial rugs, pretending the dirt isn’t really there.

My concern is, things will return to how they were before.

Except of course for the Tibetans–their lives will only get worse.

Imagine.

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