Do unto others as you want others to do unto you. –Golden Rule

Hobsbawm was clear.  Benjamin Barber is blunt: ‘Today, after a long history of regional success, the nation-state is failing us on the global scale.  It was the perfect political recipe for the liberty and independence of autonomous peoples and nations’.  He continued a bit later: ‘Too inclined by their nature to rivalry and mutual exclusion they appear quintessentially indisposed to cooperation and incapable of establishing global common goods.’

Then there is Ulrich Beck (Gentle Reader, I recommend that you read and think about what he offers us in his book: ‘Cosmopolitan Vision’).  Beck notes that even if ‘cosmopolitans are to this day regarded in many countries as something between vagabonds, enemies and insects who can or even must be banished, demonized or destroyed’ we are all already living, whether we like it or not, on a ‘cosmopolitanized’ planet with highly porous borders and universal interdependence.  In other words: ‘Migration-Immigration-Refugees’ are a deep current, if not a wave, that will not be dammed off and stopped.

Beck notes that what we are lacking is ‘cosmopolitan awareness.’  We must become awake and aware to our cosmopolitan condition.  Given the reality of our ‘cosmopolitan condition’ the ‘Nationalistic’ pledges of Donald J. Trump and his supporters is at minimum a failed vision and at maximum a conjurer’s trick.

The reality is that the ‘Nationalistic Vision’ – and the shortcuts – held by this aspiring strongman and his followers are no less seductive for being misleading.  Fraudulent the promises might be – but they ae catchy and seductive.

The seductive attraction of the pretender(s) to a strongman’s role consists in his pledge to act – even if his main action is just speaking and talking.  What our pretender speaks and talks about is that he can do.  The pretender and his followers tell us that there is no alternative to Nationalism.  In fact, he tells us that he is the alternative.

The wanna-be strongman’s seductive powers rest on the many pledges and pretensions that continue to remain untested.  The key to seduction is to keep speaking, to keep promising, to blame the other(s) for failures and inactions (even if the ‘other’ was a long-time ally); to keep repeating, over and over, the same themes.

We are a global community.  We are all in it together.  We are truly, more than ever before in history, interdependent AND our interdependence will only grow.  In order to embrace the reality of migration-immigration-refugees we must embrace the reality of being BOTH a nation and a member of the cosmopolitan global community.  History teaches us, over and over again, that Nationalism leads to the nation’s demise.  Today, Nationalism might well lead to the demise of humankind.  We, in our Country, still have a choice.  Each of us has a choice as to which vision we will support.

In closing I am thinking of the words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel:

Few are guilty, but all are responsible.




Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. –Jesus

I continue to think about ‘Migration-Immigration-Refugees.’  I continue to think about our ‘Nation-Nationalism-Globalism.’  Although the title I have chosen for these postings is ‘M-I-R’ I will also be addressing its sister topic, ‘N-N-G.’  Today, more than ever before, these are two siblings that must be, I believe, reflected upon, engaged and addressed together.

I have been immersing myself in several new books.  There is one that, I believe, we must read and re-read.  This is Eric Hobsbawm’s ‘Nations and Nationalism since 1780.’  

Hobsbawm is one of the most insight-full historians of our time.  Hobsbawm, more than 28 years ago – well before our present ‘immigration crises’ and ‘globalization crisis’ flowered into full bloom – noted that:

…urbanization and industrialization, resting as they do on massive and multifarious movements, migration and transfer of people, undermine the basic nationalist assumption of a territory inhabited essentially by an ethnically, culturally and linguistically homogeneous population.  The sharp xenophobic or racist reaction of the native population in receiving countries or regions to the massive influx of ‘strangers’ has been, unfortunately, familiar in the USA since the 1890s.  Yet xenophobia and racism are symptoms, not cures.  Ethnic communities and groups in modern societies are fated to coexist, whatever the rhetoric which dreams of a return to an unmixed nation. 

Hobsbawm added: ‘…movements of ethnic identity seem to be reactions of weakness and fear, attempts to erect barricades to keep at by the forces of the modern world.  What fuels such defensive reactions, whether against real or imaginary threats, is a combination of international population movements with the ultra-rapid, fundamental and unprecedented socio-economic transformations… Wherever we live in an urbanized society, we encounter strangers: uprooted men and women who remind us of the fragility or the drying up of our own families’ roots.’

Hobsbawm invites us to consider that nationalism and ethnicity are a substitute for factors of integration in a disintegrating society.  When society fails, the nation appears as the ultimate guarantee.  The ‘strangers,’ Hobsbawm reminds us from beyond the grave, ‘can be, must be, blamed for all the grievances, uncertainties and disorientations which so many of us feel after forty years of the most rapid and profound upheavals of human life in recorded history.’

As the wisdom figures of the past several thousand years insisted – and we are recklessly ignoring – is that history is our teacher.

For me, a powerful lesson that I take from Hobsbawm’s insight-full and challenging book is that failing societies that invest their hopes in a savior, a man (or woman) of providence, are looking for someone staunchly, militantly, pugnaciously nationalistic.  They look for a person who promises to shut out the globalized planet, to lock the doors that are off their hinges (talk about futility).  To erect the many walls that are to keep the strangers out.

What is the ‘cost’ of locking the stranger out?  For Christians, Jesus was quite clear.

‘Let he who has ears, hear!’ –God

There is so much yelling and screaming and taunting and name-calling and demonizing washing over us like an out of control tsunami that I-You-We are missing the ‘Whispers & Wisdom’ that has been offered to us for thousands of years.   Here is a poem that emerged into my consciousness on 31 January, 2012.

They spoke in whispers 

They spoke in whispers.

The great wisdom figures

their voices long silent

but not unheard

continue to speak to us in whispers.


Be Still. . .


Be Open. . . .


Listen. . .


‘Love the other as you want to be loved.’


‘Invite the other’s voice into your heart.’


‘Include the excluded.’


‘Trust strangers for they are inherently good.’


‘Bind up the wounds given and received.’


‘Emphasizing differences enables guiltless killing.’


‘I see you!’ calls the other into life.


Look deeply into the eyes of all you meet along the way. . .

Look deeply and you will see the Divine residing within. . .

Look deeply and see their eyes reflect the Divine within you.


Be Still. . .


Be Open. . .


Listen. . .


for the whispers that continue to softly speak to your heart and soul.


–Richard W Smith 31 January, 2012


Systems thinkers shape a worldview based on the realization of interconnectedness. –Pearl Zhu

Consider, Gentle Reader, that Systemic Causation is familiar to us.  Smoking is a systemic cause of lung cancer.  Driving while drunk is a systemic cause of auto accidents.  Sex without contraception is a systemic cause of unwanted pregnancies which are a systemic cause of abortions.  What is crucial to remember is that Smoking, Drunk Driving and unprotected sex are NOT direct causes – they are systemic causes.

Consequently, because systemic causation is less obvious than direct causation, it is critical for us to seek to understand systemic causation.

Consider, Gentle Reader, that a systemic cause may include a number of multiple causes.  Systemic causation often requires special conditions; it might be indirect; it often works through a network of more direct causes.  It is more probabilistic than not.  In order to understand systemic causation a feedback mechanism is crucial.

Now we know that the precise details of yesterday’s huge winter storm in Denver could not have been predicted in advance, any more than when, or whether, a smoker develops lung cancer.  Nevertheless, systemic causation is causal – just not directly casual.

Words matter.

Because the word cause is commonly understood to mean direct cause, climate scientists, seeking to be helpful and precise, have too often sought to attribute causation of a particular event (think: hurricane or winter storm or drought or fire) to global warming.  They lack a concept other than cause (as we generally understand cause).

Scientists, like the majority of us, do not have the ‘right language’ for systemic causation.  As a consequence they hide behind what I call weasel words.  One ‘gift’ that politicians have provided us is the gift of weasel words; you can find them in the political voices captured by Aristotle and Plato.

Here are some of the common weasel words that are provided to us: high degree of confidence, anomalies, consequence, likelihood, absence, and one of my favorite, exceedingly small.  The impact of the bald truth, namely systemic causation, is negated.

This, Gentle Reader, is no small matter.  Our Earth is at stake.  The science is excellent.  The scientist’s ability to communicate the threat to us is lacking.  Our desire to seek to understand the enormity of the threat is also lacking.  We prefer to float on the river of denial.

Without the words, ideas cannot be effectively communicated; ideas cannot effectively be expressed.  We must, as an interdependent global family seek to understand systemic causation.  We must seek to understand what is afoot.

Global warming is real.  It is here, residing with us.  Global warming is causing – yes, Gentle Reader, ‘causing’ death, destruction and a variety of losses.  I will provide us with one disturbing fact.

EACH DAY (as of 2007), the amount of extra energy accumulating via the heating of the earth is the equivalent of 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs. EACH DAY!

Responsible journalists can help the scientists explain this to us; they can help educate us.  Here is one that caught my attention given our recent polar vortex experience.  Charles Petit, writing in the Knight Science Journalism Tracker on 7 January, 2014 provided us the following:

A weaker polar vortex moving around the Arctic like a slowing spinning top, eventually falling over and blowing open the door to the Arctic freezer.

This is good.  AND – remember, Gentle Reader, there is always an ‘AND’ – responsible scientists with the help of responsible journalists can do better. They must learn to do better.  They must learn how to communicate more clearly and dramatically ‘Systemic Causation.’ 

There are two keys: One is ‘Education’ and the other is our commitment to ‘Being Educated.’  Thus far, we are falling short on both.

We are entering a period of consequences. –Al Gore

‘Systemic Causation’ contributes to both intended and, more importantly, to unintended consequences and ‘Systemic Causation’ has a structure.  Consider, Gentle Reader, that there are four elements that exist alone and in combination that help us understand systemic causation.  One, two, three or all four of these are in play at any given time.  In order to understand each a bit I will focus on the systemic cause for global warming.  Here are the four elements: A Network of direct causes, Feedback loops, Multiple causes & Probabilistic causation.  Let us briefly explore each of these (and, Gentle Reader, I do mean, ‘briefly’).

A network of direct causes.  (1) Global warming heats the Pacific Ocean; our world’s largest ocean.  What does this mean?  The water molecules in the ocean become more active, move with more energy, evaporate more, and move in the air with more energy. (2) The winds living in the high atmosphere over the Pacific blow from southwest to northeast.  The result: larger and larger amounts of high energy moisture move over the pole. (3) In winter, the moisture turns to snow and comes down over the East Coast – more and more blizzards occur.  Global warming causes systemically more major blizzards (this winter was an excellent example of this).

Feedback loops.  (1) The arctic ice pack reflects light and heat. (2) As the earth’s atmosphere heats up (thanks to CO2), the arctic ice pack melts and shrinks. (3) This smaller amount of arctic ice reflects less light and heat, and even more heat stays in the atmosphere.  (4) The atmosphere gets warmer – no ‘duh.’ (5) The ‘Feedback Loop’: Even more arctic ice melts, even less heat is reflected, even more heat stays, even more ice melts, even less heat is reflected, even more heat stays, etc., etc., etc…on and on and on and on.

 Multiple causes.  Because of the interaction between the polar vortex and the jet stream, parts of the vortex ‘break off’ and move south into the Central United States causing abnormal freezing temperatures as far south as Oklahoma and Georgia (we, here in Indiana, experienced three such polar vortex movements this winter and, to say the least, we did not like the experience).

Probabilistic causation. As we know from our lived experience: many weather phenomena are probabilistic (again, we in Central Indiana experienced this last night: The weather folks told us that there was a probability of severe storms with high winds.  These folks did not know where this storm would move so all of us were put under a ‘severe storm watch’).  What is caused is a probability distribution.  For example: Although we cannot predict whether a flipped coin will come down heads or tails, you can predict that over the course of a large number of flips, almost exactly 50 percent will come down heads and another 50 percent tails.

YES, Gentle Reader, global warming systemically caused freezes in the South and Deep South (of the United States).

YES, Gentle Reader, global warming systemically caused Hurricane Sandy – and the Midwest droughts and the fires in Colorado and Texas (you might remember that these preceded and followed ‘Sandy’).

The ‘Big Four’ that I briefly described above have been and will continue to systemically cause weather disasters; the more they act in concert the greater the threat.

As I close PART II, I am thinking of old song lyrics: When will they ever learn? …Oh, when will they ever learn? 

Stay tuned, Gentle Reader, there is still more to come in PART III.

Every why hath a wherefore. –Shakespeare

For the past few months I have been thinking about ‘causation.’  I have decided to share with you, Gentle Reader, some of what I have learned – although you will also note in reading what I offer that I have only acquired a ‘thumb-full’ of knowledge thus far.

Every language studied has in its grammar a way to express ‘direct causation.’  On the other hand, no language has in its grammar a way to express ‘systemic causation.’

My hunch, Gentle Reader, is that you know a great deal about the first and less – perhaps a great deal less – about the second.  So: ‘What is the difference between the two?’  This continues to be one of my guiding questions.

In all Cultures infants quickly learn about, via direct experience, ‘direct causation.’  As infants mature they continue to learn about and integrate this reality – and they test it over and over again.  I remember my daughter, Rebecca, sitting in her high-chair one morning.  She was about 11 months old.  She had finished her breakfast and was quite content.  She was entertaining herself with her spoon.  She dropped it.  Looked at me with her ‘please pick it up, Papa’ eyes.

I picked up her spoon and gave it to her.  She looked at it.  She held it out and let it go.  She giggled.  She looked at me again.  I picked up the spoon and handed it to her.  She looked at it.  She held it out.  She dropped it again.  This little cycle went on for several minutes.  Now I knew that at some point in her early childhood development that she would engage in some activity like this.

Why?  She was learning, directly by experience, the law of cause and effect.  She was learning about ‘direct causation.’  Once she had integrated direct causation with her spoon she stopped the ‘drop and fetch.’  That day she practiced with other objects.  She was learning about and integrating the concept of direct causation.

We see direct causation all around us, every day – most likely we experience it every hour of every day.  I am putting finger to key and I am experiencing direct causation.

‘Direct Causation’ = any application of force to something or someone that produces an immediate change to that thing or person.

When causation is direct, the word/concept cause is unproblematic.  ‘Direct Causation– the control over our immediate environment – is crucial for us to learn and integrate so that it becomes second nature to us.  Each human learns this and that is one reason why it shows up in the grammar of every language.

This ‘reality’ is not true of ‘Systemic Causation.’  Simply put: ‘Systemic Causation cannot be experienced directly.’  It does have to be learned.  It also has to be studied, not just experienced.  AND (remember, Gentle Reader, there is almost always an ‘AND’) it must be communicated, over and over and over, before it can be understood and, more importantly, accepted as reality.  Thus, no language in the world has a way in its grammar to express systemic causation.

Consider, Gentle Reader, this one example of systemic causation: We drill more oil, burn more gas, put more CO2 in the air, the earth’s atmosphere heats up, more moisture evaporates from the oceans yielding bigger storms in certain places and more droughts and fires in other places, and yes, more cold and snow in still other places [Thanks to George Lakoff for this example].  Even as I type these words we are experiencing in our country some of this today.  The world, we know, is a ‘system’ and is impacted by systemic causation.  Although it is not ‘direct’ this causation is real and its impact is real.

Consider, Gentle Reader, that with the direct causation frame alone, it is easy for us to ignore the systemic causation facts of global warming.  We know that if the facts do not fit the frame(s) we have integrated, then the facts will be ignored.  We have not integrated a systemic causation frame and hence if causation does not fit our direct causation frame we will – we do – ignore the facts/reality.

So, next time, let us explore a bit the structure of systemic causation.


Antonio Machado is considered by many to be Spain’s greatest poet.  One of my favorite Machado poems ends with a question: What have you done with the garden entrusted to you?  There is a paradox for me if I hold the metaphor of garden as being who I am – I am the garden I have been entrusted with.  The paradox is that I am both the garden and the gardener.  I have often reflected upon this paradox.  In 2010 I captured part of this metaphor in the following.




I cannot remember the first seed that I choose for my garden.

How old was I?  What was the event?  What did I experience

so that my response was to choose a seed for my garden?


I cannot remember the last seed that I choose for my garden.

When was it?  How long ago?  What did I experience

so that my response was to choose a seed for my garden?


I am aware that I have chosen a vast variety of seeds for my garden.

I am aware that I have chosen to nurture into life some of these;

I am aware that I have chosen to starve into dormancy some of these.

I have come to believe that once chosen a seed will always be a seed

of potential.


Some believe that we are born with all of the seeds of potential within us.

Sometimes I believe this to be true.  It doesn’t matter, actually.

The result is the same for me.  I still have choice.


I have the choice to attend to, to nurture, to bring to life certain seeds.

I have the choice to not attend to, to starve, to keep dormant certain seeds.

I have the choice.  I have the choice.  I make the choice.  I choose.


I nurture seeds of virtue.  I nurture seeds of compassion, empathy,

love, hope, courage, moderation, tolerance, caring, hospitality, openness,

flexibility, possibility, wonder, and curiosity.


I nurture seeds of vice.  I nurture seeds of intolerance, rigidity, prejudice,

bigotry, lust, resentment, envy,
rage, apathy, despair, violence, sloth,

hubris, and gluttony.


Aristotle says that we are what we think and do habitually; we become our

enacted thoughts, if not our thoughts.  My nurturing of these seeds is done

by what I think and is supported by what I choose to enact.  Who I am and

who I am choosing to become is directly related to the seeds that I choose

to nurture and sustain in the garden of ‘Richard.’


I nurture these seeds whether I am awake and aware

or whether I am asleep and unaware; this I believe –

being asleep and unaware does not release me from

the fact that I am the gardener of my garden; this is

the garden I have been entrusted with.


I choose each day which seeds I will attend to.  What seeds will

I choose to nurture or starve today?          –Richard W Smith, 3 January 2010


Here is a photo I took in Singapore, it reminds me of the garden and the seeds.

By RWSmith5