Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world…
So begins a remarkable document, ratified by the United Nations in 1948, which might serve as a prescription for the political, economic and culture future of “our human family”.
Beginning with “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person,” explicitly proscribing slavery and torture, the document goes on to establish
- a right of asylum from any abusive regime
- a right to free association, and to marry whom one wishes
- free expression and protest
and then, establishing affirmative rights
- universal right to education
- right to fair, democratic, representative government
- “the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.”
- free choice of employment. access to a labor union
- “a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family…”
- cultural life and the arts
Today, this is all economically feasible. We need only the will to hold ourselves and our elected officials accountable to providing it.
Illustrated edition of Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Both the substance and the politics involved in getting this document adopted were supplied by Eleanor Roosevelt, born this day in 1874.
Illustration byYacine Ait Kaci, © 2015 United Nations
A father-daughter team from an interdisciplinary science center in India has published creative new thinking about the biggest problems in physics and cosmology. They address three if the issues that have stumped physicists for decades
- Einstein’s theory of gravity governs space, time and matter on large scales, and quantum mechanics rules on small scales. The two theories seem completely incompatible, and since their realms do not overlap, no experiments are possible that might lead to a quantum theory of gravity.
- During the last 20 years, observations of the most distant galaxies indicate that the expansion of the universe is governed not by the familiar gravity we understand but by a gravity-like force that pushes where gravity pulls. It is a universal repulsion which has been named “dark energy”, but we have no idea what it is or where it comes from or why it is just the right strength to come to dominate the dynamics of the universe just in the present epoch and not before.
- The early universe was mostly smooth and uniform, but contained just a tiny amount of clumpiness on the right scale that the clumps could condense (via gravity) into galaxies as the universe expanded. Where did the clumpiness come from, and why was its scale just right to make galaxies the features of our universe?
Thandu and Hamsa Padmanabhan have published an idea this year that connects all these problems to the entropy content of space. On the smallest scale (far smaller than any sub-atomic particle yet discovered), space and time themselves are pixelated and not continuous. The size of the pixels dictates the maximum amount of information that a region of space-time can contain, and in Padmanabhan’s theory, this quantity dictates both the amount of dark energy and the clumpiness of the cosmos. (I don’t want to spoil the ending for you, but it turns out that the answer is 4π.)
Padmanabhan describes his theory in a Nautilus article
Under every guilty secret there is hidden a brood of guilty wishes, whose unwholesome infecting life is cherished by the darkness. The contaminating effect of deeds often lies less in the commission than in the consequent adjustment of our desires—the enlistment of our self-interest on the side of falsity; as, on the other hand, the purifying influence of public confession springs from the fact, that by it the hope in lies is forever swept away, and the soul recovers the noble attitude of simplicity.
— George Eliot
A Public Confession, Christian Bjorno
Once we have begun to heal from the social conditioning that has diverted us from the inner reality we know most intimately and denied the validity of our instinctual knowledge, we may find ourselves asking:
“What stands between me and a life driven and directed by my deepest passion?”
The question may become another diversion, a detour into therapies and spiritual practices, an incitement to making plans and deferring joy—analysis substituting for action.
There may arrive the right moment for a leap of faith, when we ignore all the valid and well-reasoned arguments to the contrary and burst forth in pursuit of our passion.
Vortices of Light, fabric art © Meryl Ann Butler
If we put our trust in the common sense of common men and ‘with malice toward none and charity for all’ go forward on the great adventure of making political, economic and social democracy a practical reality, we shall not fail.
— Henry A. Wallace, born this day in 1888
Among many facets of US history elucidated by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznik, there is the Democratic National Convention of 1944. Henry Wallace was already FDR’s VP and chosen successor. He enjoyed broad support across America, the most popular politician in America, after FDR himself. He was an international diplomat, FDR’s emissary who had brought together leaders around the world in the alliance against Nazism. Wallace’s guiding vision for the post-war world was the Century of the Common Man.
But FDR was too sick to attend the convention in person. Wallace was a democratic socialist and, above all, a pacifist. Democratic party bosses knew that FDR was dying, that America’s aristocracy and the vast, new network of military contractors would not fare well under a Wallace presidency. They cheated and connived to keep Wallace’s name out of nomination for the Vice Presidency until they could bribe enough delegates to support a dark horse and political neophyte named Harry Truman.
Just 8 months later, FDR was dead and Truman was in over his head, without the depth or the background to stand up for beliefs of his own. He relied on James Byrnes, who had engineered his rise to power, and Byrnes was responsible for the decision to use nascent atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and to provoke Stalin into the confrontational politics of the Cold War.
Imagine if the US had inherited the Lone Superpower mantle in 1945 with a vision of world cooperation instead of a paranoia of Soviet Russia. It might have been different…
TV Series. Book
It’s the harvest moon. The Jewish festival of Succot, when we live outdoors to remind ourselves that nature is our home. The Chinese Mid-Autumn festival, when we eat mooncakes in remembrance of Chang-E goddess of long life, who drank the elixir of immortality to preserve her love, then flew to exile on the moon; and of Hou-Yi, who turned the earth from an infernal oven to a temperate paradise by shooting down 9 of the 10 suns with his bow and arrow. In Hindu culture, it is a day of fasting, after which Lakshmi visits every household at midnight to find the devout awake to life’s bounty. For Western seculars, it is a time to remember that we no longer have to worry about the vicissitudes of harvest luck because the world produces half again as much food as all of us can eat.
Isn’t it the moment of most profound doubt that gives birth to new certainties? Perhaps hopelessness is the very soil that nourishes human hope; perhaps one could never find sense in life without first experiencing its absurdity.
— Václav Havel, born this day in 1936