With permission from
October 26, 2018
The murder of Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi Arabian embassy in Turkey is unprecedented in its audacity. The response from Washington and the Canadian government is to sell more weapons to Saudi Arabia, weapons that are being used by the Saudis in their destruction of the Yemeni population. The Russian response, if the report I saw was not fake news, is to sell the Saudis the S-400 air defense system.
What we can conclude from this is that armament profits take precedence over murder and genocide.
Genocide is what is going on in Yemen. I heard a report today on NPR that Yemeni are dying from starvation and from a cholera epidemic that has resulted from the Saudi destruction of the infrastructure in Yemen. The aid worker giving the report was obviously sincere and upset, but had difficulty connecting the high death rate to the Washington-sponsored war, blaming instead a 20% devaluation of the Yemen currency that raised food prices out of the reach of most Yemeni. She said that the solution to the crisis was to stabilize the currency!
It is difficult to understand why in the Western media and among Western politicians there is so much demonization of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, North Korea, China, and Russia. It is not these demonized countries that are murdering people in their embassies, conducting wars of aggression (war crimes under the Nuremberg Standard), and embargoing food and medical supplies to the populations that are being bombed. These crimes are being done by Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the United States and its NATO vassals.
Obviously, the Yemeni, like the Palestinians, don’t count. Their slaughter doesn’t cause a moral ripple in the West.
Putin might be giving Washington tit for tat by horning in on Washington’s armaments customers, but the decision to sell the Saudis the S-400 is a strategic blunder. Saudi Arabia is a sponsor of the war against Syria, in whose defense Russian lives and treasure have been spent. Moreover, Saudi Arabia is an enemy of Iran. Iran is an ally of Russia in the defense of Syria, and a country whose stability is essential to Russia’s stability. Perhaps even more important, the minute the Saudis get their hands on the S-400 they will hand it over to Washington, and experts will figure out how to defeat it, thus negating Russia’s investment in the weapon and its advantage. The decision to sell the S-400 to the Saudis convinces Washington that Putin and his government are clueless, babes in the woods to be easily run over.
In my opinion, the worst aspect of the S-400 sale is that it erases the moral edge that Putin has gained for Russia over the murderous and ever-threatening West. Now we have Russia putting profits above the Russian government’s professed respect for the rule of law and moral behavior.
An even more immoral and irresponsible development is President Trump’s withdrawal from the INF Treaty. The only reason for Trump’s Zionist Neoconservative National Security Advisor to orchestrate this withdrawal is to threaten Russia. Intermediate range missiles cannot reach the US. Russian ones could reach Europe, and US ones placed in Europe on Russia’s border can comprise a first-strike nuclear attack on Russia that has no warning and is indefensible.
President Putin has complained for years, and warned of the consequences, of Washington establishing ABM missile sites in Poland and Romania undercover that their purpose is to protect Europe from Iranian missile attack. Putin has pointed out repeatedly that these missile sites can easily, without anyone knowing, be converted into a nuclear cruise missile attack posture against Russia. Yet, the crazed US National Security Advisor claims, illogically, that it is the Russians, who have nothing to gain from violating the treaty, who are cheating.
Europe has no capability whatsoever of being a military threat to Russia except as launching posts for Washington. If it were not for Washington’s aggression toward Russia, Europe would face no Russian threat.
The reason President Reagan negotiated the INF Treaty with Gorbachev was to reduce the Soviet perception of the US as a threat. Reagan wanted the end of the Cold War and nuclear disarmament. Reagan hated nuclear weapons. By Reagan’s time in office, no one with any intelligence any longer believed that the Red Army intended to overrun Europe. The problem was different. The problem was to get rid of nuclear weapons that are capable, if used, of winning no war but of destroying life on planet Earth. Reagan understood this completely.
Unfortunately, this understanding has been lost in Washington.
If the INF Treaty is abandoned, it is impossible for Russia to tolerate any missile bases near its borders as these bases could be first-strike nuclear weapons against which Russia has no defense. The European countries sufficiently stupid to host these bases will be on a hair-trigger with the Russian military. Just one false signal, and nuclear war begins.
Trump’s intention to normalize relations with Russia has been defeated by CIA Director John Brennan, FBI Director James Comey, Justice Department Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the military/security complex, the Israel Lobby, the Democratic Party, the US liberal/progressive/left, and the presstitute media—CNN, MSNBC, New York Times, Fox News, BBC, Washington Post, etc.
We will all die, because the American Establishment lied through its teeth nonstop.
We can conclude from the acceptance of Saudi crimes and Western indifference to Washington’s withdrawal from the NFL Treaty that morality takes a back seat to material interest. We can also conclude that evil has achieved dominance over good, with the consequences that avarice and lawlessness will escalate their destruction of truth, peoples, and life on earth.
Twitter has suspended noted anti-war commentator, economist and former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, Paul Craig Roberts.
The suspension came without warning and was noted by journalist Caitlin Johnstone and others Thursday evening:
Roberts, 79, served in the Reagan administration from 1981 to 1982. He was formerly a distinguished fellow at the Cato Institute and a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution, and has written for the Wall Street Journal and Businessweek. Roberts maintains an active blog.
He’s also vehemently against interventionary wars around the world, and spoke with Russia’s state-owned Sputnik news in a Tuesday article – in which Roberts said that President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Intermedia-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty was a handout to the military-security complex.
The former Reagan administration official clarified that he does not think “that the military-security complex itself wants a war with Russia, but it does want an enemy that can be used to justify more spending.” He explained that the withdrawing from the INF Treaty “gives the military-security complex a justification for a larger budget and new money to spend: manufacturing the formerly banned missiles.”
The economist highlighted that “enormous sums spent on ‘defense’ enabled the armaments corporations to control election outcomes with campaign contributions,” adding that in addition, “the military has bases and the armaments corporations have factories in almost every state so that the population, dependent on the jobs, support high amounts of ‘defense’ spending.”
“That was 57 years ago,” he underscored. “You can imagine how much stronger the military-security complex is today.” –Sputnik
Roberts also suggested that “The Zionist Neoconservatives are responsible for Washington’s unilateral abandonment of the INF treaty, just as they were responsible for Washington’s unilateral abandonment of the ABM Treaty [in 2002], the Iran nuclear agreement, and the promise not to move NATO one inch to the East.”
Is this what got Roberts suspended?
He goes on to say that the ideology of US neoconservatives is “akin to the German Nazy Party last century” in their ideology of American supremacy and exceptionalism.
“Their over-confidence about their ability to quickly defeat Israel’s enemies and open the Middle East to Israeli expansion got the US bogged down in wars in the Middle East for 17 years,” said Roberts, adding: “During this time, both Russia and China rose much more quickly than the neoconservatives thought possible.”
Dr. Roberts opined that US policy makers are seeking to weaponize the Russian opposition and “pro-Western elements” to exert pressure on Moscow into “accommodating Washington in order to have the sanctions removed.” On the other hand, the Trump administration’s new arms race could force Russia into spending more on defense, according to the author. –Sputnik
While we don’t know if Roberts’ Sputnik interview resulted in his Twitter ban 48 hours later, it’s entirely possible.
In the late 1960’s my wife and I shared an eclectic circle of friends in London Ontario that included business colleagues, social workers, artists, university professors, hippies and students. We were starting a family and I was on the fringe of politics having volunteered to do fundraising and served on the public Library and Art Gallery Boards.
The hippie era was at its peak. Throughout North America, there was an active drug subculture that was at odds with the law. The enforcement tactics of the police in both the United States and Canada at the time were crude and unnecessarily alienating young people. Police were infiltrating hippie groups to search out drug use and this created paranoia.
Our friends who worked at the Addiction Research Foundation told us of the negative effect this was having on kids who were becoming fearful of police because the police were using spies and entrapment. A mantra at the time was, “Don’t trust anyone over thirty”.
Pierre Trudeau personified the period, as had John F. Kennedy a decade earlier, and he was elected Prime Minister in 1968. Trudeau’s charisma encouraged change, and this encouraged us.
In 1969, I established The Legalize Marijuana Committee with the sole purpose of lobbying the federal government for saner laws and became its spokesperson. We assumed that the government wanted feedback – probably even needed it – to discuss changing the law. We were right, and the government confirmed that in several ways.
First, they confirmed it by inviting us to meet with the federal Minister of Health and Welfare. Off we went to Ottawa. Only our immediate family knew where we were going or where we were staying.
We booked the cheapest room in the Chateau Laurier Hotel. When we checked in, the bellhop took us to the penthouse suite! It was a corner on the top floor of the hotel with outstanding views on two sides, four king size beds, a living room with several sofas and a kitchen area. Someone, it seems, had upgraded the room and paid the difference – this was the second bit of feedback that someone appreciated our efforts. (When we checked out, we paid the economy rate. Again, nothing was said.)
Within a few minutes, a reporter called the hotel room telling us that someone had released our itinerary to the press as the reporters started calling – the government was leaving nothing to chance, they wanted the publicity.
The Minister’s office was on the top floor of an office building in Ottawa, a short walk from both the hotel and the Parliament buildings. We arrived a few minutes early to a modest reception area with about six others waiting. They didn’t hear us introduce ourselves. As we listened, it was clear from the conversations that they were journalists who were there because of us. “I wonder who these guys are” … “I see nothing wrong with it … I smoke the occasional joint” … “good luck to them!”
Soon we were asked to go in, and reporters fidgeted as they realized they had missed a chance to scoop a first interview. We were taken to a more private waiting room before John Munro, an energetic, chain-smoking Minister of Health and Welfare, welcomed us into his inner office. Several sofas circled a large coffee table and on the table was a file folder about eight inches thick, too deep to close. When Munro noticed it was sitting open he immediately closed it and put an ash tray on top.
We had sent him one letter and a small brochure, yet he had a file on us eight inches thick. Later, as I thought about the file, our hotel upgrade, and our schedule being released, I recalled that we had a break-in in our home a few weeks earlier. The break-in was a non-event; it would have been unnoticed except someone had broken the cheap lock on the only file cabinet in the house. Nothing was taken but in hindsight, I believe it must have been the Royal Canadian Mounted Police doing a routine report on someone about to meet a government minister on a contentious topic.
The government was using our group to float a trial balloon alerting the world that they were thinking of changing drug laws. After a few minutes, the press was invited in. About twenty journalists filled the office for about half an hour of Q and A. Then one of the journalists asked if we would agree to go to the Press Club on Parliament Hill where we met another thirty or so print journalists. An hour or so later we were taken to the media studio for TV and radio interviews by another dozen journalists.
Later the same year the Trudeau government took a step towards changing drug laws by establishing a Royal Commission (Royal Commissions are a big deal in Canada, like a Presidential Commission in the United States); The Commission of Inquiry into the Non-Medical Use of Drugs which stated in its title that the Government saw this as a civil rights and medical issue, not a criminal one.
The government appointed Gerald LeDain, a lawyer and Dean of Canada’s prestigious Osgoode Hall law school to head the commission which began with a public hearing on Oct. 26, 1969. For their opening day, they invited two organizations to appear: The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and our group, the Legalize Marijuana Committee. Each group presented a brief and the next day’s newspaper had a lead story on the hearing including two photos: one of the Commissionaire of the RCMP, and the other, me. (My mother wrote to the paper to get a copy of the photo, “… before my son goes to jail” as she stated!)
The official report recommended the repeal of laws against possession of cannabis and the prohibition of cultivation for personal use. One of the commissionaires went further, recommending a policy of legal distribution. Unfortunately, the Canadian Government ignored the report; I suspect it was because the government to our south opposed it.
Now, 48 years later, we have legalized marijuana in Canada.
The Economics of marijuana
At the heart of illegal drug distribution is pyramid selling. Mary Kay thrives on it but whether to sell cosmetics or illegal drugs, anyone can be hired and hire any number of sub-dealers. Everyone gets a cut, and the profit margins are high enough in cosmetic sales to award the occasional pink Cadillac. Profit margins for drugs are higher because they are illegal and the market more dangerous. The vehicles tend to be bigger, and black, and usually with tinted windows.
In 2003, I was a member of a Social Action Committee that was studying the ‘War On Drugs’ and supported a progressive resolution on Alternatives. I was invited to attend a national conference, and to prepare for it I updated myself on some 30 years of changes. I learned how much larger and more dangerous the illegal drug market had become.
At the conference I met Judge Jim Gray from the Superior Court in Southern California, who told me about how teenagers in his California town could get crack cocaine easier than beer, because, as he said, beer was legal and controlled. Privately, he told me how much he respected Judge Le Dain and the work he had done with the Canadian Commission.
How big is the illegal drug market? One answer can be found in the Caribbean.
The Cayman Islands: swimming in money
Grand Cayman Island is the largest of three Cayman Islands miles just south of Cuba. It’s a tropical paradise, where you can swim with stingrays in North Sound or take a submarine ride along the coral reef cliff on the south.
It’s about an hour or so by plane south of Miami, about two hours north of Columbia and two hours east of Mexico – therefore, central to two drug producing nations and the huge drug consuming market of the United States. Politically the islands are British Overseas Territories. They are not independent, not a country, and not truly British. They occupy a small area, one-quarter the size of New York City (102 vs. 468 sq. miles) with a small population of 57,000 people.
Over half of those people live in George Town, on Grand Cayman, and this tiny town is the fifth-largest banking center in the world. There are 279 banks and 260 of them do no banking in the Caymans. With the Caymans’ unusual political structure, laws get strange and enforcement stranger. Drug lords can take a day trip to the Caymans, do some banking, avoid all taxes and be home for dinner. Money laundering and tax avoidance are reasons the Caymans have become one of the world’s largest banking centers.
Those who think that the war on drugs has been a failure have misunderstood its purpose. It has made illegal drugs more profitable making billions of dollars for those in the market; it has fueled a private prison industry in the U.S., made money for the banks and has been used to politically control nations. Was it intended to control drugs? Or, was it to make them more profitable? Follow the money!
Now under Trudeau the second, Canada is making some progress as it fumbles towards making an unregulated distribution system meet some standards of the corporate marketplace. I’m proud to have played a small part.
This article is based on part of chapter 3 in the book An Insider’s Memoir which is available at www.aninsidersmemoir.com or on Amazon.
 The Economist, Feb. 2007 http://www.economist.com/node/8695139?story_id=8695139
John Bolton, the national-security adviser to President Trump, was in Moscow this week meeting Russian leader Vladimir Putin and other senior Kremlin officials. Bolton huffed that the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty was obsolete from the US point of view.
“There’s a new strategic reality out there,” said the American official. The INF, signed in 1987, is “a bilateral treaty in a multipolar ballistic missile world.”
He was referring to countries like China, Iran and North Korea, which the US claims have built up arsenals of ballistic missiles prohibited by the INF. Those countries are not in violation of the said treaty because the INF was an agreement signed only by the US and the Soviet Union, later becoming the Russian Federation.
The INF banned ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with a range of between 500km and 5,500km.
By quitting the treaty, the US would, in theory, be free to deploy medium-range nuclear and non-nuclear ballistic missiles on the territories of European NATO members. That is, return to the situation of the early 1980s before the INF was agreed by then-president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The US would also be free to make similar deployments in its Pacific bases and allied countries, such as Japan and South Korea.
However, it is doubtful if Washington would be able to do this without causing major political problems with its allies. This week, European leaders strongly protested against the US plan to withdraw from the INF. Even the usually obliging Norwegian head of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, said European countries would not welcome the return of American nuclear missiles on their soil.
Washington for several years now has been accusing Russia of violating the INF, for allegedly developing a ground-based cruise missile. Moscow has repeatedly denied the claim, pointing out that the US has not presented any evidence to support its accusation.
For its part, Moscow says the US is the party that is in violation of the treaty from its installation of Aegis Ashore missile systems in Romania and Poland.
What could be the real cause of American concern is Russia’s new Kalibr cruise missiles that are launched from navy ships. The missile was used with devastating success against militant groups in Syria, launched from the Caspian Sea, and covering a distance of over 1,000km. Sea-launched missiles are not banned by the INF.
In any case, the missiles pertinent to the INF, whether belonging to Russia, China or some other nation, are only a threat to US forces because American military power is increasingly deployed closer to those countries.
The US military has troops in an estimated 150 countries around the world. That’s a global military footprint covering nearly 80 percent of all nations on the planet. Given that inordinate spread of US military, it is easy to see why American officials perceive “threats.” It’s a bit like a thief marauding outside homes and then complaining that the homeowners are installing “threatening” burglar protection systems.
By contrast, Russian and Chinese military forces are predominantly confined to their respective national territories. Last month, when Russia conducted its Vostok-2018 war maneuvers in Siberia and the Far East, they were described as the largest-ever military mobilization by Moscow since the end of the Cold War. But let’s not forget, Russia’s war drills are always held within its territory.
This week, the US-led NATO alliance is conducting its biggest-ever war drills since the Cold War in the North Atlantic, Scandinavia and Baltic Sea. More than 30 nations are participating with a total of 50,000 troops and hundreds of aircraft and warships. The Trident Juncture mobilization will be held for the next four weeks and comes within 500km of Russian territory.
The anomalous imbalance should be glaringly obvious. Russia conducts its war drills within its own borders, which is its sovereign right; while American and allied forces are conducting simulated offensive actions on Russia’s doorstep.
The same double-think applies to the Trump administration’s complaint that Russia and others are in breach of the INF. If American forces were not encroaching on the territory of Russia and China, then they wouldn’t have cause for perceiving threats.
The distance between Beijing and San Francisco on the US west coast is nearly 10,000km. At its closest, the American state of Alaska is about 6,000km from Beijing. Those ranges are beyond the 5,500km upper limit of the INF. The point is that INF-type missiles from China or North Korea do not threaten US mainland territory. The only reason why US interests are “threatened” is because American forces are deployed in the vicinity of these countries, such as in the South China Sea, or in South Korea and Japan.
The next category of missile up is the Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICMBs). They are covered by the New START treaty. American officials, including John Bolton, are showing a tepid regard about renewing START when it expires in 2021. Many observers, including Americans, are concerned that with the scrapping of the INF by the US, then the last remaining arms-control treaty will also be abandoned. That then could unleash a new global arms race and greatly increase the risk of a nuclear war.
Lamentably, the US is tearing up the INF, as it did previously with the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in 2002, based on irrational arguments.
US military forces are only “threatened” because its forces are in everyone’s face in far-flung corners of the planet. Short- and medium-range “threats” would not be threats if America kept its troops and war machines within its own borders.
Donald Trump was elected partly on the promise to scale back US overseas militarism. It has turned out to be an empty and futile promise. That’s because American militarism is a vital, incorrigible function of its ambitions for domination of the planet. Ripping up arms-controls treaties is the corollary of such a monstrous military machine. Ironically, the treaties are trashed because the poor little American monster says it is being “threatened.”
Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, he is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. For over 20 years he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organizations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. Now a freelance journalist based in East Africa, his columns appear on RT, Sputnik, Strategic Culture Foundation and Press TV.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.
The modern tradition of wearing costumes on Halloween can be traced back more than 2000 years to the Celts of ancient Britain. During a Druidic festival known as Samhain, which is still celebrated by Wiccans and other modern pagans, revelers would often wear masks or costumes. In modern times wearing costumes is considered to be “innocent fun”, but in those times the masks and costumes were worn for very specific spiritual purposes. For some, the goal was to ward off evil spirits, but for others the purpose of the mask or costume was to help the participant communicate with the spirit world. And as you will see below, there are some that still believe in this practice today.
Samhain is the day when the Celts believed that “the veil between the living and the dead” was the thinnest. It is a day that has always been closely associated with human death, and according to the History Channel it is supposedly a time when “the ghosts of the dead returned to earth”…
This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.
So it is definitely not a coincidence that people have always dressed up as ghosts on this day.
Some Celts wanted to avoid the spirits that would roam about on Samhain, some wanted to appease them, but others actually wanted to contact them so that they could make predictions about the future. Here is more from the History Channel…
In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.
To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes.
In addition to divination, some wore masks and costumes because they believed that it would give them spiritual power.
In other words, people would dress up like an animal or even a spiritual entity in order to “absorb the power” of that animal or spiritual entity…
Halloween masks and costumes were used to hide one’s attendance at pagan festivals or—as in traditional shamanism (mediated by a witch doctor or pagan priest) and other forms of animism—to change the personality of the wearer to allow for communication with the spirit world. Here, costumes could be worn to ward off evil spirits. On the other hand, the costume wearer might use a mask to try to attract and absorb the power of the animal represented by the mask and costume worn. According to this scenario, Halloween costumes may have originated with the Celtic Druid ceremonial participants, who wore animal heads and skins to acquire the strength of a particular animal.
Even today, millions of people look forward to “being someone else” for a few hours on Halloween night.
But many Wiccans and other modern pagans take these old traditions even more literally. According to SacredWicca.com, dressing up as a spiritual entity on Halloween is a form of “sympathetic magick” that allows practitioners to “experience what it could be like to be on the other side of the veil”…
On Samhain night the Faerie folk are believed to be very active and delight in playing tricks on humans. If you’re near a faerie mound, be very careful not to be drawn inside, else you may disappear for a few hundred years. The Fey enjoy gifts of food and drink and pretty baubles, so be sure to leave treats for the Faeries so you won’t be tricked! In order to fool the Nature Spirits, our pagan ancestors would dress up in costumes if they had to travel about on Samhain night. They would dress all in white, like ghosts, make disguises of straw, or dress as the opposite gender. I suppose that the Faeries were so busy laughing at the costumes they forgot to play any tricks!
Another school of thought regarding dressing up at Samhain has a much more spiritual basis. Dressing as a ghost or skeleton could be seen as a form of “sympathetic magick” allowing us to experience what it could be like to be on the other side of the veil.
Halloween has a very deep spiritual dimension, but most people never think too much about where all of these traditions originated. We should never be afraid to ask hard questions, and this is a point that I make very strongly in my latest book entitled “Living A Life That Really Matters”. I never understood the shocking history behind any of our holidays while I was growing up, but I wish that somebody would have told me the truth.
One survey discovered that there are more than 300,000 Wiccans and pagans in America today, and for them it is still a night when the veil between the living and the dead is the thinnest that it will be all year.
And so that means that it is also the best night to communicate with the spirit world. Just consider the following from SacredWicca.com…
Samhain is a night for divination, the veil between the world of the living and the dead is at it’s thinnest making this the best night of the year to find out what the future has in store. Pull out your crystal ball, scrying mirror, Tarot, runes, stones or bones, don’t miss this opportunity to see into the future.
When you participate in the exact same things that they are doing, don’t be surprised if you end up opening the same spiritual doors that they are opening.
There is a reason why Halloween feels so different than every other day of the year. Even if you try to ignore spiritual reality, it is always there, and it is more powerful than most people would dare to imagine.
About the author: Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.
While the Tao Te Ching is not one of the world’s most discussed religious texts, at least relative to the amount of attention the Bible, Quran, and Buddhist and Hindu doctrines receive, Laozi’s slim volume of instructions has massively influenced how we think about Eastern philosophy. The basis of Taoism is embedded in his series of short and punchy ideas that are rooted in, at times, paradoxical thinking.
Consider one of his most famous aphorisms: “The Tao does nothing, and yet nothing is left undone.” The ‘nothing’ is wu-wei, often translated as ‘non-action.’ One translation of Taoist ideas, Tao: The Watercourse Way, written by British philosopher Alan Watts and Chinese philosopher Chungliang Al Huang in 1975, state that the concept should not “be considered inertia, laziness, laissez-faire, or mere passivity.”
As with those who believe meditation is ‘doing nothing,’ wu-wei is not an easily graspable concept when approached from a mindset of constant action, i.e. the perpetual distraction our brains (and by extension, technology) afford us. Rather, the idea is to not battle yourself to, at times, let the course of life have its way with us. As the authors put it:
Wu-wei as ‘not forcing’ is what we mean by going with the grain, rolling with the punch, swimming with the current, trimming sails to the wind, taking the tide at its flood, and stooping to conquer.
They compare the practice to judo and aikido, two martial arts that teach seasoned practitioners to use their opponent’s force against themselves. By waiting for the challenger to overextend himself, you exploit their exertion and use his body weight to overthrow him. To accomplish this, you need to maintain calm and composure in the midst of potential violence and chaos.
Which is why Nick Hobson, a research psychologist and lecturer at the University of Toronto, recently suggested implementing wu-wei as an antidote to our rising rates of anxiety and depression. Instead of pinpointing a singular cause for our growing dissatisfaction with our lives, he points out the reasons are myriad: smartphones, sleep deprivation, a lack of meaningful social connection, and not enough movement. He doesn’t mention diet, though plenty of research implicates bad eating habits as well.
While the causes are many, Hobson points to our penchant for overanalyzing every situation as the elephant in the mind. Instead of holism, a cognitive trait he associates with Eastern psychology, we choose the trees over the forest, leading to an obsession with overthinking.
This stark cultural difference has been confirmed by thinkers like social psychologist Richard Nisbett, who devoted an entire book to the topic. One of the most revealing instances involves the ways in which Easterners and Westerners—these terms are generic and broad, but serve to supply a bit of yin to our yang, at least as a metaphor–view art. Americans seek out a subject, an overarching detail that exemplifies the ‘purpose’ of the painting. Asians, by contrast, seek to understand the relationship between everything in the scene. Their focus is more on interdependence than independence.
Hobson uses the ‘triad test’ to make this point:
Suppose you’re presented with a dog, a rabbit, and a carrot, and then asked which two belong together. The analytic thinker chooses the dog and rabbit because both satisfy the internally held rule of ‘animal category.’ The holistic thinker, on the other hand, chooses the rabbit and carrot because of the interconnected and functional relationship between the two: A rabbit eats carrots.
Western ‘rule-based reasoning’ leads us to believe every problem has a solution. Research in cognition and narrative has shown that when we aren’t offered a resolution to a story, we’ll invent one, often to our detriment—your partner is cheating on you if they haven’t texted, while the reality is anything but. When we’re not provided an answer, we tend to overanalyze the situation, heaping anxiety upon anxiety.
Which is why Hobson suggests two Laozi-era practices to calm our overactive imaginations. Wu-wei is the first, which he says means “we shouldn’t hurry to action.” While he prescribes “to not do anything at all,” which is slightly different from Watts’s and Al Huang’s translation, Hobson recommends an “intuitive style of thinking” to chill our over-analyzing minds. Meditation and visualization exercises are two ways of rerouting our mental habits.
The second involves dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), an evidence-based therapy created by Dr. Marsha Linehan. Among its many applications, it is designed to promote skills for cultivating “mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness.”
To make this connection, Hobson points to Taoism’s great export, the yin-yang symbol, which denotes mutual dependence exists in everything. Hobson continues:
Two things can be mutually opposed, and at the same time, mutually connected. You can be, for example, in an anxious state and still have perfect control of your situation and your life. Thinking in this way allows a person to tolerate contradictions and to accept the uncertainties that inevitably present themselves.
Hobson writes that DBT has proven more effective than cognitive behavioral therapy (Linehan considers DBT a form of CBT) and pharmacological interventions. The goal is to make incremental changes by admitting that:
a) not everything is going to be exactly how you want it, and that’s okay, b) certain changes will have to be implemented, so practice those changes, and c) recognize that life is worth living. In the balance between states that afflict those suffering from psychological disorders—complete control and lack of control—an emotionally salient mindset can be achieved.
Not that any of this is easy, but as Hobson mentions, neuroplasticity is a real phenomenon. Seeing the landscape instead of the singular figure walking through it is essential for breaking free of isolationism and the overwhelming burden of anxiety. As Watts and Al Huang phrased it:
Is a long life such a good thing if it is lived in daily dread or in constant search for satisfaction in a tomorrow which never comes?
We all intuitively know the answer. Putting that intuition into action, ironically through a bit of non-action, might just be an important key to healing our anxious minds.
Russia would immediately target any European nation that agreed to deploy US missiles on their soil, Vladimir Putin has said, following the announcement from Washington that it would withdraw from a landmark arms control treaty..
It would be “quick and effective.” Mr Putin said. The Russian president added that if the US “delivers” any new weapons to Europe after they pull out of the deal, Moscow would have no choice but to defend itself.
“European countries that agree to host them, if things go that far, must understand that they are putting their own territory at risk of a possible counterstrike,” he said.
The comments, delivered during a news conference following talks with Italian Prime Minister Conte, came a day after meeting US National Security Advisor John Bolton in Moscow.
That visit made it clear that the United States intended to issue formal notice on the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, and brought forward the prospect of nuclear weapons returning to European soil.