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15 November 2000

Questions to which Many deserve Answers !

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Parents are traditionally challenged by awkward questions from young children concerning the reality of symbolic figures, such as
Father Christmas, monsters, and the like.
The leaders of society are faced with other kinds of questions, for which the available answers are equally unsatisfactory -- when set against how these elders urge people to behave

Questions about questions

Why is so much information classified? What confidence can people have that the truth is not completely otherwise and that official public assertions are not invalidated by withheld information?

Why would some assume that questions, such as those above, deserve to be answered?

Governance and democracy

How is it that in a Europe of democratic countries, there was no referendum on the switch to the Euro - whose value subsequently decreased by 20% ?

Why does the world's greatest superpower (and self-acclaimed model society) have the highest proportion of its population in jail, who have been in jail, or who have some form of criminal record? How are these proportions to be explained to those with minimal understanding of the historical details of the gulag policy of the USSR?

How is that no database is maintained on the promises, pledges and commitments made by those seeking election or holding power - with a view to making it transparent as to if, or when, they fulfilled these commitments?

With the rise of just-in-time inventory management, how vulnerable has society become to unforeseen disruption of transportation and communication processes?

When voter turnout sinks below 50% of the electorate, how is the democratic nature of decision-making to be explained -- when the "silent majority" indeed remains silent?

Why do government leaders, members of parliament, and diplomatic personnel need immunity against prosecution? What proportion of parliamentarians in any country has been indicted or convicted for offences? Who holds this information?

Since its foundation, what proportion of those representing their country in the General Assembly of the United Nations has been indicted for offences in their own country? Why does nobody know?

Why does a country with a population of hundreds of thousands have the same voting power in international assemblies as one of hundreds of millions?

How was it possible for the world's superpowers to elect a former Nazi as a 2-term secretary general of the United Nations? Why did a successor publicly embrace President Mobutu and great him as his "brother"?

After the massacre of Srebrenica, betraying the trust of those who were promised "safe haven" there by the United Nations, why should anybody have confidence in the promises of the UN system?

How do the world's greatest democracies reconcile their self-satisfaction with the soft-money associated with their electoral processes and the subsequent effects on official policy decisions?

How should the influence of parliamentary lobbyists and "cash for questions" be explained as characteristic of the democratic process?

How is it that governments are so categorical in their assessment of dissidents as "terrorists", when the independence of their own country has usually been achieved by people who have behaved in exactly the same manner, and have often been honoured leaders of the governments of the new state -- even within living memory?

How are the consequences of past national and international promises of "health for all", "jobs for all", "education for all", "justice for all", etc to be explained? What credibility is to be given to such promises in the future?

Why is the bearer of bad news often subject to severe sanction, whereas the bearer of false promises is acclaimed -- despite consequent technical disasters such as the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle (due to failure to take account of warnings by junior engineers)?

Why is it that due process in democracy is unable to acknowledge and deal with citizen concerns (in a timely and effective manner) -- necessitating their expression in demonstrations that are characterized as "irresponsible"?

Why is it that despite all the technological and economic "progress" of the last 35 years (more cars per household, more living space, more TV channels, food from around the world available at the corner store, motorways, channel tunnels, jet transport, the Internet . . . etc, etc), polls show that the percentage of people happy with what they have is exactly the same -- around 30 per cent?

How can a so-called intelligent species become aware of the potentially disastrous impact it is having on its environment, and thence the possible extinction of itself, and then continue (and often increase) doing the very things that cause the problem? Where has the sense of the relationship of individual action and its collective consequences gone ?

Why are all governments, corporations and systems nowadays changing in a way to minimise their responsibility ?

History shows that all systems fail, and all governments and economies also eventually fail. If so, then what is Plan B in the current situation ?


Why is there such a deep commitment to disarming the IRA, or the Kosovar KLA - when the constitution of the world's superpower (and self-acclaimed model of democracy) specifically allows every citizen the right to bear arms ? And when the Irish peace process was chaired by a representative of the country stressing that right?

Why is the world's only superpower so rated when it has been unable (through fair means or otherwise) to defeat a small neighbouring regime to which it has been actively hostile for 40 years?

How can it be claimed that large scale electronic espionage, such as Echelon, is not used to the benefit of national economic interests -- as a vital dimension of national security?

How is it that the Israelis and Palestinians have together generated a ghetto-dynamic for the Palestinians that bears so much resemblance to the practices that justified the establishment of Israel in the first place?

Why is it that one or two police officers are considered quite adequate protection for an individual targetted as a key witness, or for other reasons, when the number required to protect a head of state is measured in hundreds?

How can a disarmed population feel secure in the face of potentially violent burglars when emergency services will only arrive, if at all, many minutes after the violence has been perpetrated?

Why does the law assume that a witness in the conviction of the perpetrator of a crime is not at severe risk, whether from the friends of the criminal, or after the criminal has been released?

Why is more spent on incarcerating the criminal than on protecting the witness or compensating the victim?

Why is the annual cost of imprisonment in the world's richest country of the same order as the cost of an education there at a superior university? And for what roles in society does the former "education" equip the criminal?

Why is the incidence of brutality and intimidation in prison not widely acknowledged as an additional, and necessarily more violent, punishment to that of the formal sentence of incarceration -- and which in the case of male rape by HIV-infected prisoners may be tantamount to a death sentence, totally disproportionate as a punishment for the original crime?

Why are many accidental deaths referred to as "instantaneous" when most technology used in capital punishment requires seconds, if not minutes, to kill a person?


Why is it that governments have been so reluctant to recognize the health risks of smoking and alcohol - from which they derive very large tax revenues - and yet are so deeply antagonistic to the narcotic drugs that generate large "revenues" for organized crime? How is this reconciled with the opium drug trade from which these same governments generated so much revenue a century ago?

Why is Taiwan excluded from the UN analysis of trade statistics - even though it is one of the world's principal trading nations ?

Justice and equity

Why is it that the standards of proof for some theories of fundamental physics are so confidently based on parts per hundred million, or less - justifying further costly experiments -- whereas "proof" of toxic effects, acid rain, BSE, TV violence, global warming, is considered as inadequate and unworthy of either research or remedial action?

Why is it so easy for some people to indulge in luxury in hotels surrounded by streets full of beggars and underprivileged - especially when those in the hotels are discussing remedies for that condition?

How is that those responsible for development programs, and their implementation in the Third World, always benefit much more than ordinary citizens of the First World (let alone the Third), even when the programs are rated a total failure?

How is it that when establishment figures are indicted or convicted, for crimes or misdemeanours, the convictions tend subsequently to be quashed, or the penalties severely reduced?

How is it that the principal multinational corporations headquartered on the territory of the world's greatest superpower (and self-acclaimed model of equity) pay little or no taxes?

Some countries pride themselves on the equality of their citizens before the law. How is this to be reconciled with the fact that the financial penalty for the same offence may completely ruin a poorer person but be merely a minor inconvenience to a person of wealth?

How is it meaningful to distinguish between the nomenklatura of the USSR and that of the European Union in the light of their respective privileges?

Remedial action strategies

How is it that with respect to long-standing intractable conflicts (Northern Ireland, Kashmir, Sudan, Middle East, Tibet, etc), there is no publicly available checklist of what has been tried (whether it failed or not), what has not been tried (and why), and what has not been considered (and why)? Who conceals this information and why?

Would it be correct to say that multinational tobacco companies have been more successful in regulating population growth than official population programs with that objective?

Why is it assumed that pharmaceutical companies have no interest in discretely facilitating the emergence of new "incurable" diseases? Or "security" firms in facilitating burglary and kidnapping in their market area?

How should a meaningful distinction be made between western economic logic and Pyramid Selling or Ponzi Schemes -- especially when this economic logic has only been proven to "work" when the pool of disadvantaged is constantly replenished?

When barriers are removed, traditional farmers know that crops may be damaged by animals, or homes may be vulnerable to flooding or entry by unwelcome visitors. But, although susceptible to simulation, no analogous problems are foreseen in the case of globalization -- with its removal of buffers -- despite the lessons of speculative movements of capital (during the Asian financial crisis) and the flooding aggravated by deforestation and watershed management?

Why is it that the jobs that most need to be done are rated as dishonourable, whereas most of those rated honourable are of questionable necessity?

Why do efforts to seek solutions to the intractable problems of society rely so heavily on approaches, models, institutions and people that have such a poor track record -- whilst denying the existence of possible alternatives and stressing that "no stone has been left unturned" in the search for innovative solutions?

Why is unemployment stigmatized, when so many are unemployed and so many aspire to being unemployed on retirement?

The world is awash with capital, and no-one really knows what to do with it. What can be done to absorb the excess and reduce further excess production?

Most mutual benefit organizations are in decline or being corporatised. Why is this so -- when most people prefer services to be provided in a mutual way?

Why is it assumed that medical doctors have no interest, individually or in collaboration with colleagues, in prolonging their tests and sessions with a given pateint beyond the health needs of the patient? Does an equivalent question not also apply to most professions and service providers?


Why are interpersonal relationships so fragile and increasingly so unsustainable?

Most religious and spiritual leaders claim unique merit for their particular approaches to peace, insight, and personal and collective well-being. How is it that they exhibit so little capacity to reconcile their differences creatively in the light of their insights into the human condition and the disciplines which they practice?

How is it that humanists/atheists claim religion is the major cause of cruelty, war and oppression when the 20th Century (surely the most irreligious century ever) hit the jackpot on all three ?

Why are the relationships between academic disciplines, schools of thought, or their representatives, so petty, crude and unworthy of the quality of insight they claim to represent?

Formerly there were clearly identifiable spiritual movements and teachers that were in a sense "inclusive of rationality". Why has so much been published, but with so little advance for several decades?

Why are so many aspects of life being capitalized or commodified -- with factors other than money having decreasing relevance, even in terms of relationships, family, leisure activities, art, and sport?

Why do so many people identify to a greater degree with their work than with their family or relationships?

Why does the relationship of masculine/feminine, active/receptive, creative/passive fall so easily into standard patterns and habits ? Why are these patterns so difficult to change ? Why are only "nuclear relationships" shown in the media, with no signs of any holistic relationship between complete persons?


Why is so much investment made in scientific and technical research and development, despite the problems its products exacerbate -- whereas virtually none is made in social and psychological research and development to ensure comparable community innovation?

If genetic engineering of crops and humans is claimed to be so safe, why are those developing such products unwilling to set up an insurance fund to recompense anybody seriously affected by them (say at a rate of $10,000,000 per person)? Surely their insurance companies would accept that the risk is close to zero?

Natural scientists have been key factors in technological development. Why is it so difficult to identify any contribution of social scientists to innovative social development and the reduction of the group tensions challenging modern civilization? Why have social science insights, and their practitioners, proven so unremarkable in their capacity to design new styles of community capable of enhancing a higher degree of individual and collective well-being?

Why does the practice and role of science and scientists in society increasingly parallel the practice and role of religion and the priesthood during the centuries of their dominance in western societies?


Anthony Judge. Limits to Human Potential. Mankind 2000, 1976 [text]

Edmond Jabes. The Book of Questions. Trans. Rosmarie Waldrop. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1976. [text]

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