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Don's report archive

by Donald B. Ardell, Ph. D.
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Wellness in the Headlines
(Don's Report to the World)

A Wellness Promoter Is Summoned To Ad Lib for Earth Day and Global Justice

Wednesday May 16, 2007


On the evening of April 21st, I was seated comfortably in a local theater awaiting a lecture by Sam Keen, visionary author and PBS co-producer. Sam was in town to deliver a keynote on "the critical issue of global justice in today's increasingly polarized world." A few days earlier, I had reviewed a text of Sam's prepared remarks and written an essay about my reactions to the idea of global justice here at SW.com. Now it was time to enjoy the actual speech, and I was relaxed, stress free and pleased to be in the audience, about to learn what I might do for global justice from an acclaimed philosopher. I was duty-free, at liberty to enjoy the show. It was a delicious moment. It was not to last.

Someone tapped me on the shoulder and asked that I step outside. Was I about to be placed under arrest? Had I gone too far in recent essays linking wellness to politics, sex and religion? Had someone turned me in for not believing in the Resurrection, the Trinity, Noah's Ark or other biblical miracles? Maybe I was in trouble for expressing doubt about the existence of Limbo? No, it could not be that -- the Catholic Church itself, whose nuns described limbo in detail during my primary school years at St. Barnabas in the forties, had decided, quite recently, that "Ooops, forget about limbo. There is no such place. Un-baptized babies go to heaven, after all."

So then, what was this about? I was told that Dr. Noel Brown, President of "Friends of the United Nations," who was scheduled to fly in from New York, was unable to attend the lecture as planned, due to a delayed flight. Dr. Brown was one of three experts who was scheduled to comment on Sam Keen's speech. Would I be so kind as to take his place as a panel respondent, along with Brennan Van Dyke, Director of the Regional Office for North America of the United Nations Environment Program (speaking via a live, worldwide internet videocast of the event) and Royal C. Gardner, Professor of Law and Director of the Institute for Biodiversity at Stetson University College of Law?

I said, "Sure." So much for sitting back and relaxing. Now I had to pay close attention and take notes. No day-dreaming during Sam's speech.

As best I can reconstruct my adlib remarks, here is what I said about Sam Keen and his concept of global justice during my five minutes of global fame after Sam spoke.

I began with a remark about the fact that so few people were in attendance (probably due to poor publicity, not the lack of celebrity appeal of the speaker). There are so many wonderful thinkers in our society. We would be wise to seize every occasion to consider what these creative lights have to say. Imagine if tonight's speaker were, through some kind of time-tripping cosmic wormhole or whatever, Carl Sagan, Stephen J. Gould, Bertrand Russell, Samuel Clemens or Ambrose Bierce. Every seat would be filled. Why wait till they die? Let's appreciate the great thinkers while we can (absent the time-tripping or wormhole visitations), one of whom, Sam Keen, is with us tonight.

We can assess Sam Keen's ideas about global justice and his proposed idea that we start working on the creation of an index (like the DOW Jones Industrial average) with which to measure global justice. Given just five minutes for a commentary, however, I'm going to employ only three assessment criteria. These are presentation, consequentiality and feasibility.

Presentation

In a few words, I thought the talk was stimulating, even mind-boggling. I've known Sam for 35 years. He never fails to give dramatic talks. He knows how to keep an audience's attention. After all, what else would you expect of a trapeze artist, which is one of Sam's little known hobbies.

Consequentiality or Need

Do the people now residing on Earth need more global justice than we currently enjoy? In other words, is the topic that Sam addressed important as a theme? Is it consistent with the goals and expectations for the UN's Earth Day?

Well, just look around at the characters in charge of some attention-getting nation states today. Then answer that question for yourself -- I think it's rather self-evident that global justice is desperately needed, so the topic is highly consequential.

Sam told us we need governmental/political justice, economic justice and ecological justice. He emphasized values, principles and several broad concepts, and noted that societies no longer rely on God above or the 20th century's secular belief in some kind of "March of Progress" to a peaceful, cooperative world. Sam Keen suggests that a global quest for ecological justice is likely to come first, followed by a focus on economic justice and finally political justice.

I don't agree. In my view, little will happen in the absence of political accords with a better class of leaders. There is little evidence this will happen. Consider some of the characters presently in charge of rogue nation states. While it's true that Saddam Hussein, Pol Pot and Idi Amin Dada are gone, other maniacs are creating global INJUSTICE on a catastrophic scale, every day. Start with but don't think the list is complete by singling out the following global disasters:

Then ask yourself, do the inhabitants of the Earth need Sam Keen's call for global justice? Yes, we all need such calls and the indexes he proposes to measure progress toward global justice. Please join me in a resounding, "YES, WE SURE AS HELL DO NEED GLOBAL JUSTICE."

But, don't hold your breadth. Which brings me to the third criterion.

Feasibility

"Measuring global justice?" That's impossible. Why? Because there has never been any! There is little of it now and the future looks even grimmer.

However, we can measure global INJUSTICE, and maybe the resulting publicity and shame from the index that results from that will do some good and move things along in a better direction.

Thanks to the pioneering work of Sam Keen and others in the months and years to come, perhaps there can be some modest progress made toward securing some justice on the globe, here and there.

Providing, of course, that we do not all die first. The threats include global warming and religious terrorism (backed by thermonuclear bombs and other WMDs). Will we make progress toward Sam Keen's INDEX in time? Nobody knows. Let's give it the old college try -- to add that the trouble involved is worth the effort seems quite an understatement.

Frankly, I think we'll see peace and harmony in the Middle East before the sorry world leaders who rule today -- and those who succeed them, come together to agree upon, plan for and achieve even a semblance of global justice!

But I could be wrong about this. I hope so.

Of course, I'm 68 and I'm out of here before long -- and so is Sam Keen. Somebody had better sell this idea of indexing global justice to the young or THEY might never grow old, at least not with the same opportunities for justice, however imperfect and poorly distributed across the globe, that we're enjoyed, through no fault - or virtue, of our own.

As the late, great Kurt Vonnegut might say, "so it goes".

Sam - great speech. Many thanks.

Domain: purpose
Subdomain: applied wellness

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