In the flood of email that's been circulating, I have been feeling the need for intelligent people to cross connect. Your engagement is welcome.

The Conversation: Making Sense of These Times
A Mighty Companions Project

I sent this out in email on November 28, 2001, to announce what we are doing here on our Website:

Where To From Here?

Suzanne Taylor

November 28, 2001

Would you like a spot you can call home? A place you can find minds that think in big pictures? If you are going nuts, not believing your eyes at the stupidity of what is being played out in the world, take a look at what I've put together.

Smart people who are talking about another way can be found at TheConversation. From pithy remarks to well thought-out observations, you will delight in this gourmet food for thought.

If I only could read one person's commentary, I'd pick what Geov Parrish writes. (You can read a conversation with Geov here.) He tracks all developments, cutting through the reality maze with an edge that's very satisfying to me. You can follow his thoughts on the site.

You'll also find opinions of mine, with some exchanges with me that have ensued. Tell me what you think of what's posted. We weave the new reality as we exchange ideas.

"Upon this gifted age, in its dark hour,
Rains from the sky a meteoric shower
Of facts...they lie unquestioned, uncombined.
Wisdom enough to leech us of our ill
Is daily spun, but there exists no loom
To weave it into fabric..."
-Edna St. Vincent Millay-

Bob Stilger, Managing Partner of New Stories, writes:

I visited your conversation site and found myself unclear about its purpose. It feels like a collection of interesting conversations you have had with different people. Can you say more about what you are hoping to do?
Suzanne replies:

Thanks for taking a look and revealing perhaps some lack of clarity.

My living room has been an unusual meeting place, where a graciousness pervades the space and everyone feels like family. There's no dogma, no practice, nothing to buy, no nothing that holds us except an attraction for one another. Then sparks fly. I'm looking to the Net, where it is mysterious as hell how to meet each other except one at a time, for some translation of that. I keep inviting this sort of thing as we mull this world situation, and I pick from responses I get to post on the site, looking to make all that interesting for a reader on my wave length. Now that's my intention – to throw everything together on the Net in hopes that I find the people who share my point of view, so sparks can fly that ignite the rest. Brian Swimme wrote something so beautiful to me that I memorized it. He said, "We're both pointed at the same thing – igniting a great, raging forest fire of love that will sweep us forever out of this deadening sadness of egos and superficiality."

Anything you could offer to fan the flame would be relished. Your feedback is highly appreciated – any observations and opinions would help.

David Lorimer, President of the Scientific and Medical Network, writes:

I have just come from a very encouraging meeting of the International Futures Forum in St. Andrews, Scotland, where a group of us were grappling with the big systems issues and relating these to local situations. It was very inspiring and indicates a possible way out of the loop. How can we transform vicious into virtuous circles? How can we empower at a local level as well as co-ordinate internationally. Some of this will be on shortly.
Suzanne replies:

I've emailed the Futures folks to send me Maps for the Second Enlightenment. I love maps. There's conversation about mapping on my Figuring Out the New Way Together page.

I have a find. There's a conversation with Joe Simonetta, the author of "Seven Words That Can Change the World," on my site. (You can read a review of the book that I posted on

I'll have the publisher send you this slim little volume (as I'm doing with a few other people I think of as key thinkers) as food for thought to exchange about, re creating a sea change. I would so love to have your thoughts on what I see as paradigm changing work, plus a review of it in "Network."

David replies:

Greetings from Namibia! The book sounds most interesting. I'll contact the publisher for a copy. I have spent the last ten days in South Africa and with my sister in Namibia, flying back today. The kind of co-ordination you speak of is very important and I am working with Gill Wright ( to bring together a Cultural Creatives platform on the Internet, radio and TV.
Suzanne responds:

So glad to hear from you. You know how long I've been hoping we would get ourselves into something together. Let's see if you get as big a hit as I get from this book.

When I forwarded your email with that very impressive Global Visions site, here's what Joe Simonetta emailed back to me:

"I went to the Global Vision Network Website. Very interesting. Do you know what the name is that I used to self-publish The Simple Truth (and three of my other books), which is now Seven Words That Can Change the World? Global Visions Publications."

Some kind of sign, I hope. David, I am excited about what you might do with them. You are such a light, and when you shine it on something, you make magic. If anyone can make a meeting place work, I bank on you. I've just been through two ambitious attempts to hold council, with great software to support them, that were disasters. They lacked, most significantly, for a strong coordinating spine. People left to their own without a lot of shepherding just don't seem to be able to self-organize on the Net. I encourage you to make more of your presence felt than might seem "democratic." Perhaps that presence could diminish in time, but it is essential at the start.

David replies:

I read Seven Words on the train a couple of weeks ago - it's remarkably succinct and well expressed. It's worth a mention in the Journal, if I can find the right slot.
Suzanne replies:

Something definitely is happening here, what with Michael Moore, Dennis Kucinich and Barbara Lee rising to the forefront. If I read the tea leaves right, a grand alternative movement is being born. I see the Simonetta piece as the spiritual heart of what is developing – where the political and the spiritual meet. He could be a really important new voice. I'd so love it if you could give his book more than just a paragraph. Whenever Joe speaks, people buy multiple copies of the book as gifts. I don't think I've sent you this compilation of brief accolades.

David replies:

Yes, I will do a longer piece on the Simonetta book. I had read many of the accolades in the book itself.

Bob Bates, founder of Inner City Arts, writes:

Though you might like this if you have not already gotten it in your many emails:

What I Would Say to Osama bin Laden, Thich Nhat Hanh
Suzanne replies:

This is great. I hadn't seen it. You don't have to be a Buddhist to get the wisdom of it. You can't help but think that if everyone just read this, they'd get it. It's a teaching. There isn't even a choice about this in terms of it being more evolved than what we're up to. Maybe this whole thing has humanity on a crash course to really learn something – we've made some beginnings, but it's too soon to tell how deep they will go...except my feeling is that if we suffer more attacks, what can we do but wise up? Otherwise, we'll perish.

We've got a talk of Thich Nhat Hanh's from 9/25 in our five star pieces. Also, there's something by David Loy there, New Holy War Against Evil, for another profound Buddhist perspective.

Ralph Nimmann of the Rainbow Network in Cambridge, UK writes:

Interesting – I did the same as you described. I was guided to set up a Website for peace – now nearly 30 pages, with more in the pipeline. Very mind stretching...
Suzanne replies:

I see you've been busy, too. It feels so urgent to try to change our direction that everything else I'm supposed to be doing – especially some work on the crop circle documentary I was helping produce in England last summer – has been put on the back burner. (Wish I'd gotten to Cambridge to see those amazing formations – Gog Magog Hills-1 and Gog Magog Hills-2. Did you get to them?)

I poked around your site. We're seeing essentially the same thing, although I stay away from conspiracy type stuff. Who knows what of this is true, but what will happen is that the probers who are in a position to discern the truth will get to the bottom of it. The Internet can't suppress that. In the meantime, why fill my pretty little head with it? I save my attention for matters in which I might have some impact.

Glad to know you're out there. Be in touch with whatever my site brings up for you...

Mario Martinez, Carolyn Myss Experts Forum member and founder of the Institute of Biocognitive Psychology, writes:

Thank you for quoting from my article, Dealing with Terrorists Threats and Their Biological Warfare. In it, I take a psychology of health approach to deal with a phenomenon I call "collective post traumatic stress reaction." The 9/11 infamy had an effect on our collective consciousness and consequently on our individual sense of safety. My work is in the field called psychoneuroimmunology and specifically on how beliefs and emotions affect the immune system. In my work with HIV as well as autoimmune illnesses, I have found that a reaction of "righteous anger" against acts of infamy or inequities is in fact good for our health as it increases our NK cells (natural killer cells that fight viruses). Consequently, it is not healthy to forgive before justifiably expressing anger and taking protective action against aggressors.

I wonder if you would consider linking to my new brief piece titled The Courage to Defend America's Retaliation to balance some of the well-meaning but naive ideas on your site.

[To read this article, visit]
Suzanne replies:

Thanks for telling me that interesting biological info – that "'righteous anger' against acts of infamy or inequities is in fact good for our health as it increases our NK cells (natural killer cells that fight viruses)," so that "it is not healthy to forgive before justifiably expressing anger and taking protective action against aggressors." This is a wonderful contribution to the wisdom pool at this teachable moment.

I very much like what I posted of yours related to this because of some fuzzy thinking I have noticed on the part of some people in what I think of as the spiritual community. A couple of nights ago, I had a realized master – by his definition – giving darshan in my living room. Many great beings – and some not so great ones – have been focal points in my home, which is a place in Los Angeles for what I would call transformational people and activities. Sometimes I invite the guest of honor, and sometimes he or she is recommended to me by someone I know. The latter was the case this week. I found it hard to listen to this character, who sat on a sofa strewn with rose petals, telling us that in his exalted state he didn't ever feel compassion. I find it equally hard to listen to anyone who wasn't outraged over 9/11, like people I run into who say that it's too bad what happened to others but the injunction for life is to be joyful. Boy, does that have ring of denial about it, since we are in these human bodies and all the emotions are rightful parts of that. However, I don't hear anyone actually saying we got what we deserved, although I do hear critics accusing people who speak about understanding where the violence came from of saying something much more simplistic about deserving what we got. What I see is that our policies have earned us enmity as we have manipulated other countries in our self-interest, creating the seedbed for the antagonism toward us in which the terrorist network is recruited and supported. And that it is in our interest to change our policies in order to change that perception, which is the way they could "stop blaming America" and know enough to excise the terrorists from their midst.

I am interested in what pieces you thought were "well-meaning but naive," which leads you to suggest we better take care of the danger we are in as if those pieces say something else. Perhaps the David Diggs piece suggests something in which there would be no retaliation, reminding us of what true Christlikeness would dictate, but even that is interesting to contemplate. It's certainly worth talking about, to wonder what would happen if we absolutely got on our knees – and is a very different spirit from those la de da folks who are turning their backs. I wouldn't go into the conversation advocating such a course, but I do get a glimmer of something that might be awesome if we just threw in the towel and said that we would not fight no matter what, and that we were totally open to understanding grievances and revising policies. This is like a little tap from my highest self to just entertain the possibility. If we are truly defenseless, might that in some profound way disarm even the most evil aggressor? I can just get a glimmer of that possibility. I got that tap again, over the weekend, with the attacks on Israel and the Israeli retaliation against the Palestinians. It is a graphic example of violence begetting more violence, which is hell-bent no matter how "justified" retaliation is. Can there be enough fingers in the dyke, even to protect our airports, for instance, when things like box cutters are all that terrorists need? If going after the bad guys actually could catch them, well, that would be one thing. And do we have justification for retaliation? Yes. But success at it is another issue, which brings us to these more nuanced conversations and considerations that attract me. Do we want to be justifiably dead or could there be some smarter way?

My reading about the pieces on my site is that those who call for compassion are speaking about the larger envelope, where we understand what drives people to what they do that is abhorrent. If we are not able to understand, as the most recent piece I've quoted from Thich Nhat Hahn eloquently speaks about, we are stuck in our anger, which gets us nowhere. What all the people who speak about understanding also say is that ferreting out the bad guys – not by war, but perhaps by a United Nations police activity to catch criminals, which might even involve hiring armies – should be part of the equation.

I very much welcome this conversation with you. These are complex issues and none of us have a clear bead on what to do. Having conversations like this I believe is the very best we can do.

To more...Suzanne

Mario responds:

Much to respond here. I am working on a book titled Righteous Anger in the Face of Infamy which addresses these very complex human dynamics.

I will tell you a personal story that may reflect my philosophy and then I will expand. You caught me at a good time (taking a quick break from working on my book). I was director of treatment for one of the most innovative psychiatric facilities in a department of corrections in this country. It was maximum security and the inmates were criminals who required mental health services. In one of my many dangerous experiences there, the drug and alcohol unit inmates overwhelmed the guards and took hostages. Lives were placed in danger. One of the "dreamers" in our treatment team started on a discourse on how this uprising was a "symbolic rights of spring" that the inmates were expressing. While he was pondering his explanations, the inmates were getting ready to kill a hostage. One of the "unevolved, insensitive and uneducated" guards went up to the unit and told the spokesman for the inmates that if they killed the hostage, he would personally make sure that not one of them, including the spokesman, would come out alive. The spokesman went back to his fellow inmates and convinced them to give up and release the hostage. Pondering the rights of spring by a Ph.D. did nothing to save an innocent life. Yet, the "primitive" archetype that we so frequently trash intellectually, spoke the language of the aggressors and in an act of compassion saved a life.

I lecture worldwide on a theme I titled, Does the Immune System Have Morals? It addresses how our immune system responds to a set of what I call "bioethical codes" assimilated from our historical culture. Now returning to my philosophy: It is an integration of psychoneuroimmunology and medical anthropology research with ancient Tibetan psychology. I use the language of chaos and quantum theories to explain what had no scientific language in Tibetan psychology. I do not advocate vengeful violence and I am a profound student of compassion, but as I say in my article, this very complex emotions is grossly misunderstood and misused. So how do we apply all of this to acting vs. not acting during acts of infamy?

In the model of righteous anger that I propose, we need to address acts of infamy with the decisive action that can stop the violence against those in our sacred care (self, family, country). This is the first layer of compassion. Decisive action void of revenge to incapacitate the aggressor. This level of compassion protects the "innocent inside the circle" (i.e. self and those you have vowed to protect). The second layer of compassion has to do with preventive action to continue to protect the innocent within. The third layer of compassion addresses the protection of the "innocent outside the circle" (i.e. the innocent in the world of the aggressors). The fourth level of compassion, brings both circles of innocent people within one circle and works to resolve the obstacles that BOTH circles contributed to maintain the inequities.

So you can begin to see that the problem with most of the fuzzy thinkers is that they are not aware of the stages of compassion and naively "feel their sensitivities" without following the sequential steps toward unitive compassion. History can teach us that to ignore the sequential paths of compassion I propose, can have catastrophic consequences. Thus, compassion includes aggression without vengeance and preservation without guilt. The immune system, functioning as our great protector, has an internal wisdom that responds best when we act in the sequence I outlined. Hopefully, this model can also begin to clarify the dynamics of forgiveness (i.e. protective aggression before forgiveness) The immune enhancements occur in acts of compassion at all four layers including righteous aggression. Conversely, it does not do well with actions based on guilt, shame or manipulative cowardness. Compassion should be a verb that compels action, rather than a noun to ponder in the face of infamy.

Suzanne, you are a clear thinker and a compassionate person. Thus, I am honored to devote this time to you and your work.

Un abrazo...
Suzanne replies:

I've got a horrendous pile-up of unopened email, but when a juicy one comes along, all those forwards stay back-burnered. I pray that in this haphazard fashion of covering the story of the world, what I do discern gives a satisfactory enough picture, albeit not a complete one. In fact, all the posts I have on my site, of the things that catch my eye, are in some sense the window dressing that are the lure to have some intelligent dialogue. As Edna St, Vincent Millay said in her telling verse:

"Wisdom enough to leech us of our ill
Is daily spun, but there exists no loom
To weave it into fabric..."

In this age of separation and overwhelm, the intelligentsia usually just speak to students and audiences, and there is a pathetic lack of cross-connection among them. I have been the host of many events where teachers have held court, but what I have enjoyed most is when I have created a round table of some sort, where the teachers get to talk to one another – and they are inordinately grateful, so I know I'm filling a gap. And it's in these setting that the most inspirational sparks fly and something new can be born.

Yes, I see the wisdom in what you say. I've been reading some post-Darwinian material lately, seeing that genes don't have morals. That prison guard story is graphic and compelling. Of course, a problem with what's related to your model in the current situation is not that some people are off-base in advocating premature compassion, where the argument is between people who would forgive prematurely and expose us to danger and those who would see that protection comes first, but that what we are doing to protect ourselves is counter-productive because it's not effective. If we had a clear enemy that we had the capacity to exterminate, then your wisdom clearly could kick in. In the old days, you'd have had a good presentation to make to the Beyond War group.

Another thing that occurs to me in what you say regards my personal experience, where my own code is different from what the turn-the-other-cheekers might say, and what I myself used to think as I felt guilty for being negative. I have come to an understanding that my reactionary rage is OK when, after expressing it, I am free of it. When I fester, it is because I haven't made that clean expression – holding back to protect someone or some such, which leaves me in a murky and unhealthy position. So, I strongly corroborate the value and the appropriateness of expressing very strong negative emotion – a sword and a chalice sort of thing, if I have my metaphor right.

Thanks so much for taking the time to write. I hope that in reading the "Conversations" on my Website, people will get an education, and you surely have contributed to that.

Hugs back...

Mario replies:

Just a quick note on the applicability of my model to these difficult times. We do have an identified enemy but this enemy does not have a geographic location. My theory operationalizes the definition of "enemies" and then applies the appropriate action to battle them. In fact, I argue that in the near future the geographic wars will be replaced with good vs. evil and tolerance vs. intolerance battles independent of location. So, I encourage you to reconsider the relevance of what I propose in the light of current acts of infamy. As a clinical neuropsychologist I can assure you that evil forces cannot be attributed to mental disorders. For example, the Nuremberg trials revealed that most of the Nazi defendants had normal Rorschach test results. The type of enemy we are facing hides behind religion, inequities and the law to poison the world with their toxic intolerance.
Suzanne responds:

I haven't got any argument with your analysis about anger being an appropriate response. Can you be specific about who it is I've quoted that you characterized as naive, which I take it to mean that you see them looking to compassion prematurely?

Although it's separate from the issue of whether anger is an appropriate response to what was done to us, I wonder to what you do attribute the violence and hatred directed at us? Mental disorder hasn't been what's on the table as what was causal. In your last email you said, "While historically we have not been the best ambassadors of our own democracy, it does not follow that we should assume the roots of evil generate from our imperfect dealings with less abundant nations." What else but our misguidedness in how we've treated the rest of the world is at the heart of why we are hated? There's a Noam Chomsky speech that I got in my email today that paints a graphic picture of the part the U.S. played that brought the destruction upon us. Here are some excerpts – from a lecture on October 18, sponsored by the Technology and Culture Forum at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology:

The war against terrorism has been described in high places as a struggle against a plague, a cancer which is spread by barbarians, by "depraved opponents of civilization itself." That is a feeling that I share. The words I am quoting, however, happen to date back 20 years. I am quoting President Reagan and his secretary of state. The Reagan administration came into office 20 years ago declaring that the war against international terrorism would be the core of US foreign policy and describing it in terms of the kind I just mentioned. And it was the core of US foreign policy.

The Reagan administration responded to this "plague spread by depraved opponents of civilization itself" by creating an extraordinary international terrorist network, totally unprecedented in scale, which carried out massive atrocities all over the world. I will not run through the whole gamut of it, but just mention one case which is totally uncontroversial: the Reagan-US War Against Nicaragua. It is uncontroversial because of the judgments of the highest international authorities: the International Court of Justice, the World Court and the UN Security Council. So this one is uncontroversial, at least among people who have some minimal concern for international law, human rights, justice and other things like that.

The case of Nicaragua is a particularly relevant one, not only because it is uncontroversial, but because it does offer a precedent as to how a law-abiding state would respond – did in fact respond – to a case of international terrorism, which is uncontroversial. A case of terrorism that was even more extreme than the events of 11 September. The Reagan-US war against Nicaragua left tens of thousands of people dead, the country ruined, perhaps beyond recovery.

Nicaragua did respond. They did not respond by setting off bombs in Washington. They responded by taking the US to the World Court, presenting a case for which they had no problem putting together evidence. The World Court ruled in Nicaragua's favor, and condemned what they called the "unlawful use of force", which is another term for international terrorism. They ordered the US to terminate the crime and to pay massive reparations. The US, of course, dismissed the court judgment with total contempt and announced that it would not accept the jurisdiction of the court henceforth. Nicaragua then went to the UN Security Council, which considered a resolution calling on all states to observe international law. No one was mentioned but everyone understood. The US vetoed the resolution. It now stands as the only state on record which has been condemned both by the World Court for international terrorism and has vetoed a Security Council resolution calling on states to observe international law.

Nicaragua then went to the UN General Assembly, where there is technically no veto, but a negative US vote amounts to a veto. The General Assembly passed a similar resolution – with only the US, Israel, and El Salvador opposed. The following year Nicaragua took its case again to the General Assembly. This time the US could only rally Israel to the cause, so two votes opposed observing international law. At that point, Nicaragua had exhausted all available legal measures, concluding that they do not work in a world that is ruled by force. Terrorism, on the other hand does work, and is the weapon of the strong. It is a very serious analytic error to say, as is commonly done, that terrorism is the weapon of the weak. Like other means of violence, it is primarily a weapon of the strong – overwhelmingly, in fact. It is held to be a weapon of the weak because the strong also control the doctrinal systems and their terror does not count as terror.

Mario replies:

In general, the themes of some of the writers on your Website focus on what makes the criminals take infamous actions rather than what we can do to protect ourselves. This obsession with understanding intention looks for cause in society and what it has done to make the individual behave criminally. The fallacy here is the premise that all criminal behavior must be studied with the perpetrator as victim of an inequitable society. It decriminalizes infamy with a sociological spin. Evil exists and it cannot be diagnosed as psychopathological or sociogenic. Evil is a choice, not an inevitability caused by an insensitive upbringing. Considering my forensic psychology expertise (extensive work with perpetrators and victims), you may find my views very paradoxical. Yet, the difficulty in accepting my premise is that non-scientists (e.g. the media, political activists and the radical left) have addressed criminal behavior with an epistemology that sees the individual as a victim of his or her environment rather than as a coauthor with choices to grow from the vicissitudes of life. Most abused and deprived people do not become terrorists. Osama Bin Laden is a criminal who seeks power by using his religion to justify his hatred and intolerance. He does not come from a deprived or abused childhood. I have a patient who was sold for sex during all his preadolescence by his father and this patient, although very psychologically damaged, was wounded twice serving in the Vietnam conflict, raised two children as a single parent with great compassion and has never considered mass murder.

If unfair treatment of other nations leads to infamy, why is the violence directed against America rather than the dictators who rule the nations where the infamy comes from? If these criminals are so eager to meet Allah, why are all the suicide bombers young and why do their leaders boast about fighting to the death and then surrender like the cowards they truly are? I am reminded of Sadam Hussain's warning about the "mother of all wars" which turned out to be the "coward of all the Middle East."

While I admire Noam Chomsky for his devastation of B.F. Skinner's behaviorist views of language acquisition, he, in my view, has become an apologist for the enemies of America. Here is an earlier response that I wrote to one of his articles:

A Reaction to Chomsky's "A Quick Reaction
In his article, "A Quick Reaction," once again, Dr. Chomsky does not miss an opportunity to trash our country and our right to protect America. He takes the 9-11 act of infamy against our people and equates it to the action taken against the Sudan by our narcissistic ex-president Clinton. Although any action by Mr. Clinton was nothing but self-serving, I find it paradoxical that as a linguist, Dr. Chomsky does not see how language falls dead on the ears of criminals such as Bin Laden and those who hate our country. No amount of American "understanding" of the dynamics of oppression can stop evil zealots from conducting their acts of destruction. Does Dr. Chomsky really believe – as part of his radical pacifist distortions – that language can soothe the deep hatred of a criminal mind? It seems as if Dr. Chomsky sits around waiting for an opportunity to discharge his agendas against missile defense and the rest of his litanies, independent of the relevance they have with the events that he critiques. To "express justified horror" or to "listen to the words of Robert Fisk," as Dr. Chomsky proposes, does not make our airports safer nor does it protect our innocent people from further acts of infamy.

Re, "The Reagan-US war against Nicaragua left tens of thousands of people dead, the country ruined, perhaps beyond recovery," was this Reagan's doing or the Communist Ortega? Here is an example of my point about absolving the contributions of national oppressors. To illustrate: I have made several trips to Cuba to lecture on psychoneuroimmunology through a humanitarian scientific exchange program and I can assure you that the last thing Castro wants is for us to lift the embargo. That action would take away his focus on the "imperialist Americans" as the cause of all evil and place it back on the infamy of his Communist regime.

And Why did all the world counsels you mentioned above remain silent during the Ortega atrocities?

By the way, I love your concept of bringing intellectuals together. It reminds me of Gertrude Stein's Salons in Paris where Picasso, Hemingway, Apollinaire and other creative minds were frequent guests.
Suzanne responds:

My first response is that this is subject matter to put on the table around which wise people are seated.

In terms of what I can contribute, one influence on my opinion stems from the Women's Liberation Movement. Radical Therapy, which arose at that time, was predicated on widespread depression among women stemming from their entrapment in a man's world – therapy until then was all about adjusting to the status quo. It was freeing to see that the misery we felt was not pathology, but a function of the foul water in which we were swimming. So, too, terrorists in the Middle East are an outgrowth of the politics, and because some people don't succumb doesn't mean there isn't something to address. No one I have posted is in denial of the personal culpability of criminals and evildoers, but they also are not in denial about the sociological factors that contributed to warping people. And as to why people turn on us rather than the oppressors in their own regimes, resistance at home probably would get them killed. Also, us being so rich and them being so poor contributes to our being a target. Why wouldn't you factor these things in?

What bothers me about what you write is the definitiveness of your stance, as if somehow it's all nature and not nurture. I am amazed actually at what you say, as if the good people who make it through oppression prove that the ones who don't are inherently evil. Sides are what keeps war in place. Understanding shades those hard edges. Bringing down those towers was abhorrent, but if all we do is retaliate, we'll get more of same. Because Chomsky is more virulent in condemning the evils of this country than is to your liking, doesn't equate to his call about America being wrong. It's interesting that you call Chomsky "an apologist for the enemies of America," when you seem to position yourself in the opposite corner, as an apologist for America.

I am very surprised that you talk about an "obsession with understanding," as if understanding is a blind alley, or as if other people presume that hardened criminals will melt at a bargaining table. Things are much more complex than this simplistic perspective you presume other people have. If hardened criminals aren't open to negotiation (and who thinks they are?), it is still true that if you only chase criminals and you don't deal with the causes of criminal behavior, you will be in endless war, whether it's with international terrorists or the underclasses here at home. Drive-by shootings are not biologically or accidentally the province of the ghetto, and, if the shooters are beyond help, the seedbed that gave rise to them still is appropriate to address.

If and when we wise up as a humanity, we will deal with the disparity in the world between the haves and the have-nots. This is the big bullet for the affluent to bite – no way will we be able to have peace in the world until we care enough to close the gap. The pull of our design is toward a one humanity, and the consequence of ignoring that could be all of our lives.

As I've said, I see a troublesome blindness on the part of some who are not impacted by the horrors of the world, and I like what you have to say in this regard. Beyond being able to be disturbed is not my idea of healthy spirituality.

Mario replies:

I think you are missing the essence of my stance. As a psychologist, I am most aware of the social inequities and how they affect perception. My problem is that the liberal left can only see the mistakes that our country makes. Yes, I am an apologist for America but not blinded by my apologies. Chomsky, on the other hand, can find nothing right about this country and nothing wrong with the leftist governments he has a history of supporting. He is always looking for the deep controlling structures of democracy, conveniently ignoring the Marxist homunculus he carries deep in his brain. We have gone from male dominated psychotherapy to politically correct fascism. Both are enemies of human dignity and freedom of expression. Of course we have to address the inequities of the world, but before we do that we have to protect ourselves from the envious criminals that want nothing better than the destruction of our country.
Suzanne responds:

Well of course I would think you were up on all the aspects that I parroted back to you, but then again you rather shock me by what you say that seems to belie a deeper understanding. I see stars where you say "the liberal left can only see the mistakes that our country makes." This is just untrue. This statement is the stuff of which wars are made. You do great injustice to much more nuanced opinions that come from everyone. You demonize the left. How to reconcile this with your activity to keep people healthy? Does this keep you healthy? I just don't get it – although I do get the inherent wisdom of expressing the full range of human emotion. Do you think we would be able to compartmentalize our engagement and stay at peace with one another? I would think that everything will come up, and, if you insist on attacking everyone who finds fault with our policies, our engagement will be unproductive. I keep looking to where we can mesh, but you keep insisting on what I perceive to be a narrow nastiness. A good debate is fine – all those emotions on the floor – but someone who doggedly clings to an extreme position isn't fun to talk to. What do you think? If you see chinks in my perception, fire away...

Mario replies:

Let's make the assumption that we both love our country and that we have different priorities on how to save and improve our democracy. Let's also assume that my comments are not directed against you personally. I have little respect for most of the left because of the pseudo-intellectual armchair pontificating they profess. I have followed my convictions from actions and not from the Chomskian armchair virulence. I am a humanist and at 14, when most kids were thinking about sports, I left school in Florida and went to fight for the revolution with Fidel Castro. At 15, I was a lieutenant in the rebel army and on several occasions was an interpreter for Ernesto (Che) Guevara. I saw, even at that tender age, how the 26 of July Movement (the founding leaders) was engulfed by the Marxists and what started as a humanist revolution became a Communist betrayal. I have seen what the left has done in Cuba and around the world with their ideologies and bankrupt models. I am not blind to the many flaws of America but I consistently see from the left a trashing of all we do in this country and very little acknowledgement of the liberties and benefits we enjoy.

I perhaps annoy you because you may be trying to classify me. Yes, I am a very healthy person because I express all my emotions; including those that are politically incorrect. I don't know what I could contribute to your conversation if you believe we are that far apart. I would hope that there is room for disagreements if we can maintain a compassionate awareness. I leave the destruction of our democracy to the enemies of democracy. I do accept criticism about our many shortcomings if they are grounded on compassion for our own first and commitment to protect us from our enemies first. It's less than palatable to take these views, but I have seen too many ponderings from the pseudo-intellectual left while the barbarians were at the gates. I believe compassion starts at home and it is allowed to spread to those who are willing to tolerate us.
Suzanne responds:

Yes, I see that we are after the same end result, with the same sense of patriotism. And I wondered what was in your life experience that had shaped your ideas. You have earned the right to hold strong positions, and are to be admired for leading a principled life. Shades of myself, in my own way, having been called "tactless" when I was younger, with my proclivity to throw caution to the wind in defense of what I perceived to be just. In fact, you are much more savvy about history than I am, and I wouldn't know enough to argue with you about what has been. However, if you read the "Fives Star Pieces" on my site, I don't think you'd find a one that is echoing the folly of how far the left's pendulum may have swung in times past. You say, "I consistently see from the left a trashing of all we do in this country and very little acknowledgement of the liberties and benefits we enjoy," but that's not what I see, or have posted. I am struck by the balance between the universal condemnation of what was done to us and the heartfeltness of the pleas to our arrogant administration to see into itself.

As I hear you in this conversation with me, you are focused on eradicating the enemy, as if that is possible – and as if the left would do otherwise – where it seems like an afterthought to address the need to change our government's perspectives and procedures. I think massive drives in both directions are the path of wisdom today – including the drive to eradicate the enemy being undertaken much more intelligently than waging this misguided war. I still wonder what you've seen on my site that would support your positions, which I realize aren't directed at me personally but seemingly are shaped by what you've read there. I don't think the people I posted – who express opinions that are widely held in the progressive community – would find it "less than palatable" to feel "compassion for our own first and commitment to protect us from our enemies first." Where are you getting this? Things are so dire, in fact, that events have ameliorated pacifist positions of yore, and everyone seems to me to be seeing things very practically and pragmatically in terms of what is necessary to save our lives. Perhaps if we were talking specifics about what's posted, we could proceed more intelligently. We might even discover that we are not far apart – that these posts speak eloquently for what we actually would agree on.

Mario replies:

The more we exchange views the clearer it is to me that we could become good friends. You are a compassionate thinker. We may disagree on the road to take but we are both going to the same destination.

As for as the articles on your website, it's not so much specifics as the lack of focus on what to do with the barbarians at the gates. I would love to meet your friends and possibly rescue them from their wayward paths – ;-).

Irv Thomas writes:

Suzanne, your dialogue with Mario is a classic, and should be both preserved and circulated. It demonstrates many things: how close and yet distant from one another honorable positions can be, how to hang in with disagreement and talk it through, the very sorts of issues that we divide on, the futility as well as the utility of words in such collisions of perception... Oh, I could certainly go on. Maybe you and he should jointly publish a booklet, possibly extending the dialog even further, as a kind of prompt and guide for the issues we need to resolve among one another, seemingly before a fully unified progressive movement can again get underway. Is THIS, perhaps, why the progressive movement has been stalled in its tracks?

I am also writing to let you know, if you haven't yet heard, what is happening here in Seattle, in its incipient stage. Go to this website for it: It is something that might be capable of rolling like grassfire, if it gets underway. More meaningful at this point, I think, than conversational efforts on the web.
Suzanne replies:

Irv – Thanks so much for perusing the site enough to read this, and for your comments, which encourage me to let the good, the bad and the ugly all hang out, rather than just the making nice.

My old friend Vicki Robin and I are in touch re the Seattle dialogues you mentioned. I hope it works, and will help however I can.

Who knows what is up. I can't believe that America is so stupid as to brandish a big stick without looking for what's causal to the nightmare. It really is hard to believe that the thinking is so primitive when the technology is so sophisticated. Very scary. We don't deserve success.

Suzanne writes to Mario:

Mario – Irv Thomas is an old acquaintance of mine. Interesting comments he makes.

Another thing – I'm looking to light a fire for a few hearty souls to sit around. It could become a literal face-to-face if it gets sparky enough. Because he offers something radical enough to move us beyond our dangerous divisiveness in the world, I want to expose people to the work of Joe Simonetta, another of the people with whom I've struck up conversation since 9/11. If what he's talking about interests you, I'll have the publisher send you his slim book, Seven Words That Can Change the World. See if you think his idea could provide some glue for cohering a wisdom council, which could go on to consider the work of the others who would comprise this little huddle.
Mario replies:

Good to hear from you again. Very kind comments from Mr. Thomas. Of course, I would love to read Simonetta's book. By the way, I admired Willis Harman's work and was saddened by his passing. I did not know that you had been friends.

I went back and re-read our dialogue here I am glad you posted it. It flows well. Let me know if you have other ideas to expand this vehicle. Let's start thinking about a time for me to visit.

Suzanne replies:

Yes, Willis was a great loss to me and to everyone – a rare being, trying to turn everything around and yet very down home personal in the process of doing his important work.

Let's see if Joe Simonetta's book gets some next interchange going, and maybe that can turn into something face to face. I'm talking to Joe about going for Templeton funding to pay some plane fares.

I had Joe look at our conversation. He said, "I found a Mario Martinez website. Very interesting work that he does. Talented guy."

Ilene Cummings writes:

I am looking forward to getting into your site. I cannot believe what is happening. Every day gets worse. God knows where it is going. I feel very deeply that this is "you shall reap what you sow." It sounds so cryptic, but I honestly was not surprised by 9/11...a tragedy waiting to happen. These are tragic times but equally brilliant times. However, I feel something unprecedented will happen to twist this situation yet again. Anything could happen.
Suzanne replies:

Yes, it seems like something will twist – since we can't get straight. Oh god. I keep hustling for crop circles – the only thing I can imagine to lift us all out of this implosion.

Holley Rauen writes:

Thanks for drawing me back to your website and the latest "conversations." A lot to read and mull over. It is very refreshing to see the insights of such wise and progressive people posted in the same place. I have especially appreciated the Thich Nhat Hahn interview, What I Would Say to Osama Bin Laden. I will pass that one on.

Thank you for continuing to open up your living room, now on the web as well as at your home, to those who would work for peace and enlightenment.
Suzanne replies:

Gawd, Holley, how many people did we squeeze in shoulder to shoulder on my living room floor during our relative youth – hard to believe it's been twenty years – when all we had to worry about was how well we understood our divine nature? Sickening to see Allah be praised for devastating us enemies now. Pop in on the Joe Simonetta "Featured Conversation" for info about his book, "Seven Words That Can Change The World," which is the most intelligent body of thought I've ever seen for how to get us past waging holy wars.

For more Featured Conversations, click here...

Upon this gifted age, in its dark hour,
Rains from the sky a meteoric shower
Of facts...they lie unquestioned, uncombined.
Wisdom enough to leech us of our ill
Is daily spun, but there exists no loom
To weave it into fabric...

-Edna St. Vincent Millay-

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