Adonis Diaries

Archive for March 7th, 2016

Are People waking up: We want a healthy earth?

This speck of dirt in the vast set of galaxies that is our only Home

“People are waking up. They’re getting involved. They’re saying,

“Not another day! This is where I mark the line.” Their desire to change the world is turning from simple wishful thinking on Monday mornings into tangible action.

The thoughts they used to have only occasionally about their relationship to the rest of the world now occurs to them all the time.

By Tim Hjersted /

They’re beginning to see activism not as something that is done only at non-profit meetings and at protests, but that activism is a way of life – that it represents nothing less than our personal, spiritual choice to choose determination over defeat, and compassion over apathy.

It is the choice to reject our culture’s post-modern slide into narcissism.

It is to reject the modern consumer philosophy that true happiness and joy comes from personal material accumulation, from seeking personal desires and needs.

It is the realization that the joy that comes from connecting to our relationship with the planet blows the old way of seeking joy out of the water.

These people are realizing that humans are social animals; we crave connection and community; we crave a wide, encompassing identity that connects us with the whole humanity of the world – not just our friends and family, not just our city, our country, our species – but every living being on Earth – plant, animal, and human.

It is a new philosophy, perhaps a very ancient philosophy, one that sees everyone on this planet as one family – that everything is interconnected, that the whole humanity and life of all beings resides in each one of our hearts, and that we reside in theirs.

There is no “I” and “them.” Truly, honestly.

The happiness of another is my happiness. The suffering of another is my suffering.

There is no separation.

For millions and millions of people growing around the planet, the problems of the world are their problems; the happiness others find as we collectively realize a more just, compassionate, and sustainable world is their happiness.

It is the most profound and meaningful happiness one could possibly experience.

You can’t buy that kind of happiness at a store. You can’t get it from beating the last level of a video game. It doesn’t come out of the end of a pipe or at the bottom of a bottle.

It doesn’t come from watching sports. It doesn’t come from how you dress or what kind of car you drive. It doesn’t come from getting a college degree or from getting a fatter paycheck.

It comes directly from the final and profound realization that there truly is no “self” and there is no “other.” We are inter-connected with everything.”

To paraphrase Shunryu Suzuki:

If the world did not exist, I could not exist.
If I do not exist, then nothing exists.

Scientifically, this is true, but our culture makes it hard to appreciate.

But it is what Martin Luther King saw; it is what Gandhi saw. It is what every person that works to change the world in some way experiences – not in words, but in conviction.

It is this realization, how ever it might be described (it has been described in hundreds of ways) that gave every inspirational person in our history the personal, spiritual power to face the most impossible odds and to succeed.

To quote from a documentary that I saw recently, it is what “Martin Luther King called ‘Love in Action’, and Gandhi called ‘Soul Force’; what Velcrow Ripper is calling ‘Fierce Light.’”

It is what has made me want to dedicate my life to improving the world. It is why I do not feel like I have a choice anymore in the matter.

It doesn’t matter if it’s impossible. It doesn’t matter if everyone around me says it’s hopeless. I’ve got to do it because my inner-most nature wants me to do it.

I’m not sure when it happened. I’m not sure how it happened, but at some point, reading more news about how the world is falling apart, watching more documentaries about how urgent and dire our situation has become doesn’t shut me down.

I’ve watched over 350 documentaries at this point, absorbed an ungodly amount of “depressing” information, and I have not become jaded.

I’ve been burnt out before, several times in fact. And over time I have come to see that if we don’t know how to absorb this information we will undoubtedly be crushed by it.

I’ve seen this happen to many of my friends. They just shut down, not because they don’t care, but because there is too much to care about, and we just don’t know how to deal with it.

In an age where we receive more information in a month than a man in the Renaissance might receive in his entire life, it is simply too easy to become overwhelmed by the barrage of stimulus, the barrage of causes and problems that beg us to care about them and to help out.

It is a problem unique to our generation (and I have to laugh as we throw one more on top of the list). But it is one that if we do not frankly discover the solution to, we’re all gonna be screwed.

Figuring out how to turn apathy into action is one of the most important and vexing problems we can try to figure out.

Because as we’re all well aware, there are many ways people are responding to our mounting environmental and social problems — among all the people that are waking up and getting involved, there are many that have responded by shutting down.

The empathy center in their brains has short-circuited: too many images of oil-soaked baby seals, too many images of starving children in foreign countries, too much political corruption rampant in Washington, too many examples of the media failing to do their job on The Daily Show, too many ingrained and inter-locked institutions upholding the status quo.

Logically, they could make quite a case for saying that trying to change anything is pointless. And it seems that the logical side of their brains has won over and suppressed the voice in their heart. Or maybe not.

But in either case, they have given up before they have even started. They’ve accepted that the world is spinning out of control and have resigned themselves to enjoy what little of the party pie is left before it’s all gone.

There may be a deep seated rage in many of today’s youth, that goes suppressed, a rage from simply being born into these problems – that it was already out of control before they were even born.

And from the way it’s looking, the world they will inherit has already been squandered.

Our parents generation grew up in a time of unprecedented growth, the age of cheap oil – a 100 year paradigm that fueled all the rich affluence that we have enjoyed up to today.

But the 21st century, the young are realizing, will be a century of decline – declining supplies of cheap energy, fresh water, arable soil, and clean air; declining mental clarity in a world saturated by commercial noise, declining security in an age of climate change and growing resource wars.

For the youth of today that have not responded by becoming incredibly pissed off, they have responded by becoming incredibly despondent – birthing the kind of philosophical narcissism and ironic distance that is so perfectly embodied by the modern “hipster.”

Of course, billions of people all over the world never even got a taste of the party that we in the affluent West have gotten to enjoy.

Can you imagine the rage and anger one would feel knowing how so few in the West could enjoy so much while so many in the rest of the world will not benefit from any of it before it’s gone?

We’ve got to listen to this rage, not fight it but listen to it. So many people in our society are apathetic towards politics or social change. How can we turn the tide?

What’s the secret to transforming apathy into resolve?

What do you say to a person that says “everything is pointless”?

Like I said before, I’ve felt burnt out and depressed about our situation many times, but every time, a spark was lit and my enthusiasm regenerated.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve felt jaded. Something happened to me that made “pessimistic realism” completely unacceptable to me.

Now, I get depressed if I play video-games or party too much, and I feel more alive than ever when I’m “working” on activist projects. I don’t even feel like I have a choice about it anymore. I do it because there’s simply nothing else to do. Anything less just feels like I’m denying reality.

I know that a world of incredible potential and beauty exists if I will simply work to find it.

That’s the conclusion, but like many core convictions that we accumulate over life, I cannot remember how I got here. I know millions of people all over the world have had this same kind of conclusion. I know many of my friends have had this conclusion.

They’ve felt jaded about the state of the world, and then something happens to them, and suddenly their old view of the world seems entirely unacceptable. A spark ignites inside them, a passion to engage with the world rather than insulate oneself from it. And the beautiful thing is, whatever this spark is, it is self-sustaining. It is the furnace that burns in you the rest of your life, and the more you use of it, the more of it you have.

So I would like to ask everyone reading this, what was the spark that lit the fire for you? If you felt jaded once but found your way out of it, what was the catalyst? What gives you the energy to not just care intellectually, but in action?

I would love to hear your stories and thoughts on this. Because if we can figure this out, then I think we’ll have found the key to riding this tsunami of growing problems like a surfer rides a wave. We can engage with the reality of the world without being drowned by it.

From this, I think we can discover a philosophy on how to live one’s short life on this planet with passion and vigor, with unconquerable determination. And from here, a whole other world becomes possible

American Salafi: US Supreme Court Judge Antonin Scalia


How constitutional is this Supreme Constitutional Court.

Basheer Nafi.  29 February 2016

On 13 February, 79-year-old Antonin Scalia, the prominent US Supreme Court judge, passed away. Scalia was a conservative judge.

In fact he was one of the most conservative judges in America. However, this did not bar hundreds of Americans from diverse backgrounds and social circles to queue in a long line to have a final look at his body.

One of those waiting in the queue said that Judge Scalia was as far to the right as I am far to the left, but this was not the issue because he was an American icon.

On the other side of the political fence, the Democratic president, Barak Obama, and his wife were also among the queue of mourners. Vice President Joe Biden and his wife joined the prayers held for the judge on the following day, Sunday 21 February.

Within the week of his death being announced, every newspaper on both sides of the Atlantic, of all political trends, published reports and eulogies of the American judge.

Some expressed admiration and appreciation while others wrote critical accounts. Yet all, without exception, agreed on the significance of Scalia and his considerable impact in the debate, both academic and public, about law and political sociology as well as about the US Supreme Court’s vision of the relationship between the law and the constitution.

In one way, Scalia’s death generates what could be called a political crisis in the United States between the Democrats, or the liberals, and the Republicans, or the conservatives.

The Supreme Court consists of nine judges who are usually appointed by the president and endorsed by the Senate. The endorsement process is political par excellence.

The moment the appointment is endorsed, the judge remains in his position for life, unless of course he or she resigns. Until Scalia’s death, the court tilted towards conservativism by five judges to four.

This means Obama now has an opportunity to tip the balance in favour of the liberal block inside the court. This is what prompted Republicans to claim that filling Scalia’s seat should wait for the election of a new president. In other words, the appointment of a new judge is being treated as a reflection of the will of the American people as expressed in the presidential elections.

On the other hand, the Democrats argue that nominating a judge to replace the dead one is not just a right but a constitutional duty for the incumbent president.

Furthermore, the court should not be left in a state of polarising paralysis between two equal blocks of conservative and liberal judges to the effect of hindering the process of issuing rulings on issues that are of divisive constitutional nature.

The US Supreme Court, which was formed in accordance with a constitutional provision of 1789, is often called the Supreme Constitutional Court.

However, it is not just a constitutional court, in the sense that it ensures the compatibility of laws with the constitution and with its interpretation. It also performs the role of a high appeal court, which is the last resort for arbitration.

With such a role, the US court combines the highest level of appeal, which in Britain is undertaken by the Supreme Court (since Britain governs without a constitution, and so its system does not include a constitutional court) and in Germany the role is fulfilled by the Constitutional Court when it comes to ruling whether laws are constitutional or not.

Right from the start, the United States of America was born in the late 18th Century as a modern state. Like all systems of governance in modern states, the American state soon imposed its hegemony on the land and the people.

Legislation was, and still is, the most important tool used to bolster that hegemony.

As in the case of every other modern state, the process of codification was not intensive in the beginning but it accelerated during the 19th and 20th centuries. As socio-politics grew more complex and more diversified, the law steadily crept in, shifting large areas from the private to the public sphere.

With the acceleration of the process of codification, the Supreme Court acquired increasing prominence in American life so much so that it became one of the most important state institutions.

Such prominence lent additional significance to Scalia and to his role in the Supreme Court and his influence in the public sphere. Although Scalia did not occupy the position of court president, many saw the Supreme Court during the past three decades as a “Scalia Court”.

Antonin Scalia was born to Catholic parents of Italian origin. He received his primary education in a Jesuit school in New York. He then went to Georgetown University in Washington, a university that was also founded by the Jesuits.

After graduating from Harvard School of Law, he worked as a lawyer for some time. He also worked in the office of President Nixon’s legal advisor and taught law at the universities of Virginia and Chicago.

In the mid-1980s, he was appointed an appeal court judge in Washington DC and in 1986 President Reagan nominated him to the Supreme Court.

Scalia was an observing Catholic and just like every other religious Catholic he did not approve of birth control. He had 9 sons and daughters out of his marriage.

One of his sons grew up to be a Catholic priest. He was the one who performed the rituals when his body was laid in repose at the Supreme Court.

The importance of Scalia did not emanate only from his conservative legal opinions, such as the right of individuals to carry arms, abortions, equal rights for homosexuals and capital punishment.

These are the issues that are close to the hearts of the conservatives. The fact is that other judges in the Supreme Court, no less conservative than Scalia, have been known to adopt similar positions toward these issues to his own.

In a case dating back to 1989, Scalia agreed with other Supreme Court judges that burning the American flag falls within the framework of the right to freedom of speech, an opinion that contradicts the position of the conservatives in general on this issue.

Scalia’s significance lies in his theoretical approach and his legal methodology in dealing with the American constitution not only as a supreme frame of reference for law making but the sole frame of reference.

Of course, Scalia knew that the American legal culture, including the culture of the constitution drafters, is a Western legal culture. Yet, despite this he did not recognise any other authority in the United States as being worthy of sharing in this frame of reference within the American constitution.

From Scalia’s point of view, the judge need not search farther than the constitutional text as intended by its drafters.

He also rejected, in what would become known as textualism and originalism, the liberal legal approaches that are underpinned by the spirit of the text and the changing context, of looking into the historic development of laws, considering the constitution a living organism whose texts grow up and may be reinterpreted with the passage of time and changes of context.

Once Scalia said: “We govern by the law and not by intentions.” He meant the direct meaning of the text.

Such an approach to the constitutional text is from the Islamic point of view a Salafist approach. In fact, it is a radical Salafist approach par excellence.

According to Islamic standards, Scalia would be regarded more Salafist than Ibn Taymiyah himself, for instance, who believed in the existence of a relationship between the text and the context and distinguished between the absoluteness of the Quranic text and the relativity of jurisprudential provisions.

This is what arouses considerable debate today about Salafism.

Scalia is certainly many folds more extreme than the Islamic Salafist reformists who moulded the culture of Muslims in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Scalia’s vision expresses the crisis of man, legitimate as well as illegitimate, in dealing with the constituent text and the debate through which all legal cultures have been through while endeavouring to interpret and read the text.

If Scalia imbued all this sanctity on a positivist constitutional text (that has been through 27 amendments so far), perhaps his legacy warrants some humility and understanding on the part of today’s critics of Islamic Salafism, whose views are dominated by ignorance and hastiness when it comes to making judgments.

– Basheer Nafi is a senior research fellow at Al Jazeera Centre for Studies.





March 2016

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