The Laymanís Petition/Preface 2017 US Federal Election

In February 2017 the author of The Layman’s Petition (Copyright 2002) contacted a lawyer who had publically indicated a concern with the shifting political environment in both the USA and Canada. In their brief discussion, the lawyer recommended two titles of pertinent interest: EMPIRE OF ILLUSION— THE END OF LITERACY AND THE TRIUMPH OF SPECTACLE by Chris Hedges and THE BETTER ANGELS OF OUR NATURE—WHY VIOLENCE HAS DECLINED by Steven Pinker. Inspired by these two diverse books and a lifelong interest in social/political issues, the author of The Layman’s Petition wrote to the lawyer providing the following context in relation to his own earlier work:

“...Given the US President’s 2017 electoral success, a lot of people are asking ‘does this help or does this hurt me’? People are expressing surprise at the election’s outcome and are examining their thinking with regard to how consciously society is—or is not governing itself. I was caught off guard myself. Has the US President’s 2017 electoral success underscored the imperative for a human context beyond the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

I have not done anything with The Layman’s Petition for years owing to the fact that its what-is-thought theme seemed to remain a mystery to the general public and its social equivalency tone apparently too great an affront for civilized discussion. In society, so long as one’s livelihood feels secure, there is of course no appetite for uncomfortable questions which might impact the illusion of that security (EMPIRE OF ILLUSION). Everything is viewed through the hardwired and culturally conditioned reactionary filter of ‘does this help or does this hurt me’. The question, ‘does this help or does this hurt me’ naturally depends on a clear and accurate understanding of who and what you think you are, which in turn naturally depends on a clear and accurate understanding of what ‘thought itself’ is. If you do not have a clear and accurate understanding of who and what you think you are (what thought is), then how can you know what actually ‘helps’ and what actually ‘hurts you’—and therefore then what is the outcome and nature of our subsequent unknowing actions, if we do not know who and what we are (what thought is). How, more to today’s unsettling political point, does one participate productively in a democratic election, if one does not know who and what one actually is (...if one does not actually know what thought is).

We seem to have forgotten or never really understood why we require individuals to reach a certain age before becoming eligible to vote. The objective must relate to the concept of an adult as opposed to the concept of a child—the realization that policies and legislation must originate from a larger view of society than the initial/subjective and oversimplified desires of a chronologically conditioned and socially inexperienced individual (child/adolescent). In The Layman’s Petition, I am trying to point out that our defining policy statements, (Universal Declaration of Human Rights etc.) are flawed in their failure to define what an ‘adult’ human being is—what a “Universal” adult human being is. What we have inadvertently done, in the absence of that, is to enshrine the rights of what is essentially a childhood perspective into international law and therefore into the publics’ palette of general, oversimplified and short sighted expectations at large. Given the recent US federal election, and that the question ‘does this help or does this hurt me’ just got a lot more pertinent to a lot more people, I have been encouraged to make another attempt to publish The Layman’s Petition.

Getting specifically back to your recommended reads of EMPIRE OF ILLUSION and THE BETTER ANGELS OF OUR NATURE, both books were fascinating and challenging exercises. EMPIRE OF ILLUSION for spotlighting the electronic/digital divorce from literature (nuance) and its chilling prediction of the developing social/political climate. And THE BETTER ANGELS OF OUR NATURE for the extraordinary and monumental perspective on just how far mankind has actually come in the struggle to achieve peace. I can say that both books were life changing in regard to the discouraged resignation of my thoughts in recent years. I am however a little logistically concerned with Steven Pinker’s (THE BETTER ANGELS ...) message that the “Long Peace” is due in part to global trade. Although I agree with many fundamental aspects of that, I am not quite sure what he is ultimately suggesting. A corporate mentality could easily interpret or construe his meaning to be that we can and have ‘shopped our way to peace,’ and therefore it could follow that anyone who stands in the way of ‘shopping’ (either free trade or protectionism) would be an ‘enemy of peace’ (‘peace’ currently amounting to a global corporate control of markets without constitutional regard for human, environmental or planetary consequences). Mr. Pinker does not really address how mankind would reconcile growing bipolar beliefs about shopping with the fact of finite resources, ecological damage and conflicting age, economic and culture-related interpretations of what human existence ultimately means.

As far as I can recall and I will re-read ‘BETTER ANGELS,’ Steven Pinker does little to significantly further the articulation—from either a neuroscience or practical consequential perspective—of what ‘thought itself’ actually ‘is,’ and so therefore how our consequently unknowing/unthinking (unconscious) markets would police those human and environmental impacts on this ‘transition to peace through shopping’ (my words). He does address the subject through a discussion about sympathy verses empathy, but he does not, in my opinion, connect an understanding of what ‘thought actually is’—with a natural and spontaneous expression of a global adulthood that holistically embraces sympathy (intelligence) without the time-depleting contingent sequential knowledge of specified kinship (expanding circle of empathy). He does indeed spend a great deal of time examining which parts of the brain are active in various neurological scenarios; survival/natural-selection issues, and seemingly hundreds of remarkable observations about the motives, historical context and conditioned interactions of our thoughts; but he still does not, in my opinion, examine directly what ‘thought’ is. Perhaps Steven Pinker discusses this in his other books, but I am concerned here, in this specific and potentially volatile context, that he is proposing a social/economic scenario that I believe will ultimately feed into existing and future conflicts if it is not tied inherently to a larger discussion about ‘thought itself’ (and thought’s conspicuous absence of a social/legal definition). As we teach adolescents what their reproductive systems are and how they work, so also should we be teaching them what their ‘thought’ is, and how their ‘thought’ works. Not what they ‘should or should not think,’ but what their brain is ‘actually doing,’ as it builds up the subjective and conflicting complexities of thought, one compounding/conditioned image at a time. As we teach them how to understand their developing sexuality and so prevent unplanned reproductive outcomes, so also should we be teaching them how to understand and recognize their thought’s material and chronological parameters, and so enable them to intelligently recognize how and when they are forming physically and philosophically conflicting images about their developing global adulthood.

In The Layman’s Petition, my view is that academic society has inattentively perpetuated an auto-verifying lie of omission effectively obstructing the world’s population from reaching a timely and spontaneous global adulthood. I do not expect the average person, with their basic consumer/market driven education (legal?)—clinging desperately to the precarious social and financial symbols of that conditioning—to have the energy or opportunity to enthusiastically entertain such unsupported questions. But if one considers oneself to possess a higher education, to be a creator or sustainer of society, then I expect him or her to understand immediately (and profoundly) what thought is and what its full ramifications are.

In Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “thought” (the irrefutable fact of it) is the primary (hence first to be stated) issue; followed by its subsidiary issues of: “conscience,” “religion” and “belief”—followed in turn by their subsidiary issues of what amount essentially to individual self- expression. Because we have not ‘identified’ what ‘thought’ (subsidiary belief) actually is, and because we have consequently and conversely guaranteed the unqualified protection of ‘unidentified thought’ (subsidiary belief) into law—we have effectively validated and intrusively established the finite chronological/philosophical particulars of one’s ‘personal entry tradition’ (childhood/sequential conditionings) into the context and territory of universal adulthood. We have legislatively and therefore systemically obstructed both the primary acknowledgement and practical development of our own collective global adulthood.

Ask anyone you meet, “What is thought?” and you will see how and why Article 18 refers to the normal and natural developmental perspective of a child and not that of a fully realized and neurologically conscious contemporary adult human being. ‘Belief’ (subsidiary of thought) in and of itself, taken as an authoritative and universally guaranteed personal right—and the ‘honor’ and ‘dignity’ that therein follows (‘honor’ as discussed by Steven Pinker)—is really the luxury of childhood and a perfectly logical/forgivable adult imperative of earlier historic times (my words). I ‘believe’ that most human beings today understand ‘belief’ to be a ‘practical working premise in the absence of larger factual information or perspectives’. We can still celebrate and respect the sincerity, innocent thought and unimaginable human costs of each others ‘entry traditions,’ but that is what they are—sincerity and innocence by virtue of their time/place thought-generated aspirations for a better world. They exist inseparably together—in the context of a universal ‘grappling with thought’ found in every human entry tradition (spiritual or material)—as viewed through our contemporary insight into ‘thought itself’ (global adulthood).

In ‘BETTER ANGELS,’ as a working demonstration, Steven Pinker refers to the Christian Bible as essentially a wiki, a work of many writers over an extended time. He also speaks about the many biblical references to violence as a normal course of action in those periods in which they were written. He goes on to point out that virtually no one today embraces those entries (involving violence) as acceptable, and that the bible, today, is really more like a talisman (pages 11,12 ‘BETTER ANGELS’) than an actual guide/verbatim to daily living (my adaptation of his words). In the same way, most people recognize that “belief” (thought’s remedial accommodation of not knowing) without the moderating insight of its conditioned nature, is in fact the definition and recipe for conflict and extremism in all forms. “...Economy is war by other means.” If one is going to take excessive personal comfort

and legitimacy in one’s personal entry tradition—to the exclusion of another’s—then one must likewise expect to be excessively, personally, and legitimately ‘excluded’ by that other.

I ‘believe’ that most human beings today have already moved beyond Article 18 (Universal Declaration of Human Rights) with its vulnerability and obviously divisive consequences and have recognized that as modern adults, we are not “free,” to “think,” to “believe,” whatever we want—but are bound by our collective adult humanity to grasp our true global relationship to each other and our larger sustaining environment. I am not talking about a legislative end to ‘developmental belief,’ (innocents/unconscious sequential development), just a corresponding legal and realistic treatment of what ‘thought actually is’—what a global adult human being actually is. If it is legally acceptable to describe the one (luxury of childhood/forgivable adult imperative of earlier historic times)—then it is likewise legally acceptable to describe the other (as viewed through our contemporary/physical insight into thought itself/global adulthood).

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights allows us (in fact implores us) to challenge the inherent/strategic neurological ambiguity of Article 18.

I say “inherent/strategic neurological ambiguity,” because among many other things: “...The need for an assertion of ‘universal’ human rights had ‘become evident’ during the Nuremberg Trials of 1945-46, when some lawyers had argued that Nazis could be prosecuted only for the portion of the genocides they committed in occupied countries like Poland. What they did in their own territory, according to the ‘earlier way of thinking,’ was none of anyone else’s business.” (Page 258, BETTER ANGELS OF OUR NATURE) (My quotations/underlines)

To proceed with timely, unprecedented and globally legitimate prosecutions, an injunctive functional benchmark in human behavior had to set—Article 18—with the delicate, respectful and universally validating language concerning ‘thought itself’ to be realized later through Article 19.

It was toward this end that The Layman’s Petition was written.”

Paul Young, author: The Layman’s Petition, April 24, 2017


So here then, with an acknowledgement of its many compositional challenges, is The Layman’s Petition as previously presented (©Copyright 2002, 2007, 2010).

(The author does not question or challenge the necessary and strategic mechanism behind the social/political expedient of the individual’s inalienable rights, only the neurological ambiguity of it.)