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Selling a Vision of Hope: A Refreshing Alternative to Armageddon

Look inside Nissim Dahan's book Selling a Vision of Hope with Google Books.

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Obama plans 250 more U.S. troops for Syria, boosting force to 300

U.S. President Obama gestures as he makes a speach during the opening ceremony of the Hannover Messe in Hanover
By Roberta Rampton and Arshad Mohammed HANOVER, Germany/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will announce on Monday he plans to send as many as 250 additional U.S. troops to Syria, a sharp increase in the American presence working with local Syrian forces fighting Islamic State militants, U.S. officials said. The deployment, which will increase U.S. forces in Syria to about 300, aims to accelerate recent gains against Islamic State and appears to reflect growing confidence in the ability of U.S.-backed forces inside Syria and Iraq to claw back territory from the hardline Sunni Islamist group.

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Vision of Hope
Archive >> October 2007
file under: religioncommon sense 24 Oct 2007 8:28 PM
Babel Posted by Nissim Dahan
The biblical story of the Tower of Babel is fascinating to me, in part because I sense that the story is replaying itself as we speak. Here are several passages from chapter 11 of the Book of Genesis:

 

The whole earth was of one language and of common purpose...

...They said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks and burn them in the fire." ...And they said, "Come, let us build us a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed across the whole earth."

God descended to look at the city and tower which the sons of man built, and God said, "Behold, they are one people with one language for all, and this they begin to do! And now, should it not be withheld from them all they propose to do? Come, let us descend and there confuse their language, that they should not understand one another's language."

And God dispersed them from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel, because it was there that God confused the language of the whole earth, and from there God scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

 

Let me ask you this: Do you think we've somehow gone back to building a Tower of Babel? For some 2,000,000 years, our prehistoric ancestors lived as cavemen, hunting and gathering, and eking out an existence any way they could. It was a short, brutish life they had, but it was a life, nonetheless. It could easily be said of that period in history that: "The whole earth was of one language and of common purpose."

 

To survive yet another day, no small accomplishment at that time, we had no choice but to use our common sense, and to help each other out. And indeed, anthropologic research bears out the fact that for the most part, cavemen were good to one another, as depicted in the film The Rise of Man on the Discovery Channel.

 

And then, some 10,000 years ago, we decided to become "civilized," and in the last 200 years, with the advent of the industrial age, to become truly modern. True, we're not exactly building "...a tower with its top in the heavens...," although we do have some tall buildings out there, but in many other ways, we are taking God on, in an all out attempt to create our world as we see fit.

 

Let's face it; we do seek to "...make a name for ourselves..." No? Look at what we've wrought as part and parcel of our creation: towering cities, cutting edge technologies, scientific discoveries, top notch universities, thriving multinational companies, and the laundry list goes on and on, ad infinitum. Our many accomplishments, in this, the modern age, do not amount to a "Tower of Babel," in the strict sense, but they do constitute an edifice of sorts, an edifice which, in many ways, reaches for the heavens.

 

If God is indeed a Creator, and if He created us in His image, then we too are creators, and we have chosen to create a world in our image. Our prehistoric ancestors were of "...one language and of common purpose." Can we say the same of ourselves? Or is it rather the case that with all our maneuverings toward modernity, and in our attempt "...to make a name for ourselves...," we may have lost our "common purpose," and no longer "...understand one another's language?"

 

A small example, if you allow me. We have used our ingenuity to create the internet, a remarkable tool for which I am personally grateful, which enables the free flow of information, and which allows each of us to talk to whomever we wish. And so, now that we are technologically able to talk to one another in such a state of the art manner, and with virtually no interference of any kind, the question arises: What do we really have to say to each other?

 

Doesn't it seem, at times, as with the story of Babel, that while we are certainly talking to each other, very few of us actually connect? Our technology seems to have taken us to a place where there is a disconnect between the tools at our disposal, and our ability to put them to good use.

 

In the story of Babel; before man tried to reach for the heavens: "The whole earth was of one language and of common purpose." Is it just me, or do you also sense that we must somehow find a way to come back to that-"one language and of common purpose." Only then, it seems, will we have a chance to reclaim our rightful place in the infinite vastness of God's creation.

file under: who we arevision of hope 13 Oct 2007 3:55 PM
What's In It For Us? Posted by Nissim Dahan
Sometimes, as I write about Selling a Vision of Hope, I think to myself, "How are you ever going to sell this stuff?" At a certain point, people are naturally going to wonder, "What's in it for us?"

 

In the past several blog entries, I've tried to show that Selling a Vision of Hope could be a useful framework not only for the Middle East, but for solving other problems as well, such as Global Warming, Globalization, and our Inner Cities. The basic idea is simple enough: think straight and believe in what makes sense, make common sense your ideology, use common sense and some well placed investment dollars to inspire people with a Vision of Hope, sustain the hope with programs which prop the vision up and carry it forward, and when necessary, fight, and fight hard, but position the fight within a Vision of Hope. That's it, in a nutshell.

 

Our development as a species has led to a lot of good things. Some of us are lucky enough to enjoy the full bounty of modern life: incredible technological innovations, state of the art healthcare, outstanding academic and cultural institutions, a cornucopia of material wealth, political systems which protect our personal freedoms, and so forth. The list of human achievements goes on and on.

 

But unfortunately, alongside each and every achievement, there still remain problems to be solved; big scary problems, some of which threaten our very existence. It is not a coincidence that man's technological advances have brought with them a whole host of seemingly insolvable problems. Each discovery seems to bring its flip side of disaster.

 

We're choosing to play God, and we may not be winning the game. We have plenty of smarts, but do we have the wisdom? We can create all the various pieces of modernity, but can we figure out how to put all the pieces together, and make them whole? God is a hard act to follow.

 

Sometimes it seems as if each innovation we come up with opens yet another compartment in Pandora's Box. We design and build beautiful cars for transportation, but end up with global warming. We build nuclear weapons for defense, but end up with nuclear proliferation. We enjoy tinkering with the genes a bit, but end up with the potential for human clones. We inspire ourselves with our deeply held religious beliefs, but end up with religious strife. We celebrate the material wealth at our disposal, but end up with an emptiness of spirit. We build towering cities that reach for the sky, but can't quite find a way to hide the desolation of our poorest slums. At every turn, man's reach for the stars comes up a tad short, and leaves yet another problem in its wake.

 

Selling a Vision of Hope will help us solve some of our big-ticket problems. It will inspire us to think straight, to reconfigure our priorities, and to invest accordingly. But just as important as restoring order in places like the Middle East, is the need to restore who we are as a nation. By investing in others, we will be investing in ourselves.

 

The United States is not only the greatest country on earth, but probably the greatest country that ever was. We have much to be thankful for: a vibrant democracy which protects our personal freedoms, a high standard of living, the hallmark of scientific research, outstanding academic and cultural institutions, abundant wealth and material resources, unparalleled military power, and the laundry list of our blessings goes on and on.

 

Yet, in our pursuit of progress, we have lost something as well. If we are honest with ourselves, we have lost our spirit as a people, a spirit which we must recapture, if there is to be hope for setting things straight in the years to come. Big problems require big solutions. For the sake of our children, and our children's children, and the countless generations of children yet to come, we have no choice but to rise to the challenge, as did our forebears, and to grow our hearts and minds to the task that lies ahead.

 

Along with America's wealth and power there remains a question to be answered: To what purpose will America put her wealth, and to what end will she use her power? The answer is simple enough-Sell a Vision of Hope. With hope, all things are possible. Yes we will solve some of the seemingly intractable problems which lay waiting at our doorstep. But even more so, we will restore, within ourselves, our sense of idealism, our can-do spirit, our sense of compassion, and our belief in who we are as a people, and who we can become if we merely choose to make it so.

 

We need to rekindle that sense of awakening. Like the rest of humanity, we need hope like air to breathe. We will bring back to life our rightful sense of destiny, a sense that has been lulled to sleep by the passage of time, and the fullness of our bellies.

file under: vision of hopetransitioneconomic developmentcommon sense 11 Oct 2007 4:57 PM
What's All The Killing About? (may not be suitable for people of a human persuasion) Posted by Nissim Dahan
Daniel Pipes, a renowned analyst of the Middle East, just published a list compiled, in part, by Gunnar Heinsohn, showing how many people were killed, since 1950, in all the various conflicts around the world. His point was that the Arab-Israeli conflict gets undo attention because it ranks only 49th   among the 67 bloodiest conflicts, with "only" 51,000 fatalities, as compared to some of the others.

 

Please take the time to look at some of the numbers.

 

1

40,000,000

Red China, 1949-76 (outright killing, manmade famine, Gulag)

2

10,000,000

Soviet Bloc: late Stalinism, 1950-53; post-Stalinism, to 1987 (mostly Gulag)

3

4,000,000

Ethiopia, 1962-92: Communists, artificial hunger, genocides

4

3,800,000

Zaire (Congo-Kinshasa): 1967-68; 1977-78; 1992-95; 1998-present

5

2,800,000

Korean war, 1950-53

6

1,900,000

Sudan, 1955-72; 1983-2006 (civil wars, genocides)

7

1,870,000

Cambodia: Khmer Rouge 1975-79; civil war 1978-91

8

1,800,000

Vietnam War, 1954-75

9

1,800,000

Afghanistan: Soviet and internecine killings, Taliban 1980-2001

10

1,250,000

West Pakistan massacres in East Pakistan (Bangladesh 1971)

11

1,100,000

Nigeria, 1966-79 (Biafra); 1993-present

12

1,100,000

Mozambique, 1964-70 (30,000) + after retreat of Portugal 1976-92

13

1,000,000

Iran-Iraq-War, 1980-88

14

900,000

Rwanda genocide, 1994

15

875,000

Algeria: against France 1954-62 (675,000); between Islamists and the government 1991-2006 (200,000)

16

850,000

Uganda, 1971-79; 1981-85; 1994-present

17

650,000

Indonesia: Marxists 1965-66 (450,000); East Timor, Papua, Aceh etc, 1969-present (200,000)

18

580,000

Angola: war against Portugal 1961-72 (80,000); after Portugal's retreat (1972-2002)

19

500,000

Brazil against its Indians, up to 1999

20

430,000

Vietnam, after the war ended in 1975 (own people; boat refugees)

21

400,000

Indochina: against France, 1945-54

22

400,000

Burundi, 1959-present (Tutsi/Hutu)

23

400,000

Somalia, 1991-present

24

400,000

North Korea up to 2006 (own people)

25

300,000

Kurds in Iraq, Iran, Turkey, 1980s-1990s

26

300,000

Iraq, 1970-2003 (Saddam against minorities)

27

240,000

Columbia, 1946-58; 1964-present

28

200,000

Yugoslavia, Tito regime, 1944-80

29

200,000

Guatemala, 1960-96

30

190,000

Laos, 1975-90

31

175,000

Serbia against Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, 1991-1999

32

150,000

Romania, 1949-99 (own people)

33

150,000

Liberia, 1989-97

34

140,000

Russia against Chechnya, 1994-present

35

150,000

Lebanon civil war, 1975-90

36

140,000

Kuwait War, 1990-91

37

130,000

Philippines: 1946-54 (10,000); 1972-present (120,000)

38

130,000

Burma/Myanmar, 1948-present

39

100,000

North Yemen, 1962-70

40

100,000

Sierra Leone, 1991-present

41

100,000

Albania, 1945-91 (own people)

42

80,000

Iran, 1978-79 (revolution)

43

75,000

Iraq, 2003-present (domestic)

44

75,000

El Salvador, 1975-92

45

70,000

Eritrea against Ethiopia, 1998-2000

46

68,000

Sri Lanka, 1997-present

47

60,000

Zimbabwe, 1966-79; 1980-present

48

60,000

Nicaragua, 1972-91 (Marxists/natives etc,)

49

51,000

Arab-Israeli conflict 1950-present

50

50,000

North Vietnam, 1954-75 (own people)

51

50,000

Tajikistan, 1992-96 (secularists against Islamists)

52

50,000

Equatorial Guinea, 1969-79

53

50,000

Peru, 1980-2000

54

50,000

Guinea, 1958-84

55

40,000

Chad, 1982-90

56

30,000

Bulgaria, 1948-89 (own people)

57

30,000

Rhodesia, 1972-79

58

30,000

Argentina, 1976-83 (own people)

59

27,000

Hungary, 1948-89 (own people)

60

26,000

Kashmir independence, 1989-present

61

25,000

Jordan government vs. Palestinians, 1970-71 (Black September)

62

22,000

Poland, 1948-89 (own people)

63

20,000

Syria, 1982 (against Islamists in Hama)

64

20,000

Chinese-Vietnamese war, 1979

65

19,000

Morocco: war against France, 1953-56 (3,000) and in Western Sahara, 1975-present (16,000)

66

18,000

Congo Republic, 1997-99

67

10,000

South Yemen, 1986 (civil war)

*All figures rounded. Sources: Brzezinski, Z., Out of Control: Global Turmoil on the Eve of the Twenty-first Century, 1993; Courtois, S., Le Livre Noir du Communism, 1997; Heinsohn, G., Lexikon der Völkermorde, 1999, 2nd ed.; Heinsohn, G., Söhne und Weltmacht, 2006, 8th ed.; Rummel. R., Death by Government, 1994; Small, M. and Singer, J.D., Resort to Arms: International and Civil Wars 1816-1980, 1982; White, M., "Death Tolls for the Major Wars and Atrocities of the Twentieth Century," 2003.

 

___________

 

 

Incredibly, since 1950, about 85,000,000 people have been killed in bloody conflicts around the world. And that doesn't even include World War I and World War II.

 

I have often said that more people have probably been killed, by the hand of man, in the last 200 years, than the previous 2,000,000 years of human existence. It turns out, as dramatized in the film The Rise of Man, on the Discovery Channel, that cavemen, who lived during the 2,000,000 years before the advent of "civilization," were actually quite nice to one another. As hunter gatherers, there was no real reason to kill. Would you kill your neighbor just to steal a couple of peanuts? Why bother? Common sense told them to be good, and to help one another out, and they did.

 

In most instances, we demonstrate a certain sense of arrogance when we kill one another, an excessive sense of pride, and an extreme confidence in the validity of our convictions. When we kill, it is as if we cry out, for the world to hear, "We are right, and you will pay with your lives for the inadequacies of your beliefs." It is sheer arrogance to kill one another so casually, even in the name of our deeply held beliefs. Look at it this way-if we were indeed created by God in His image, then when we kill one another, aren't we, in effect, spitting at God's face?

 

To my mind, for what it's worth, there are only two reasons to kill: either someone is coming at you with an ax, or he's coming at your buddy with an ax. That's it; self-defense and the defense of others. No other reason to kill: not for our religion, not for our deeply held beliefs, not for politics, not for geopolitical considerations, not for the accumulation of wealth, not because we resent how someone thinks, or how he looks, or what he feels about us. Not for nothing. No other reason to kill.

 

Weapon systems are so advanced nowadays, that we would soon be able to kill one another in such magnitude, that previous death tolls would pale by comparison. Some of the bombs we have today are hundreds of times more powerful than the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs. We could literally wipe ourselves off the face of the earth.

 

Countries that are beginning to compete for scarce resources, like oil or fresh drinking water, could find themselves embroiled in a whole host of new conflicts, in the years to come. A global economy is a competitive economy, in which poor nations could easily find themselves on the losing end of the stick. But unlike previous times in history, when mostly everyone was poor, now there will be some who enjoy the prosperity that comes with economic growth, while a great many will be left behind, only to bear witness to their sense of deprivation and loss, and to their desperate struggle to survive.

 

The global economy offers promise for the future, but some pitfalls as well, as is often the case with new developments. The trick will be to sustain economic growth for ourselves, while allowing everyone on earth a place at the table, a stake in his or her future. Yes we will compete with one another, but we will invest in one another, as well. Yes we will work to augment our prosperity, but we will work for the prosperity of others, as well. Yes we will compete for scarce resources, but we will challenge one another to protect the environment, as well. Yes we will hold on to our deeply held beliefs, but we will find ways to talk to one another with common sense and with a sense of personal dignity, as well.

 

The secret to world peace, in contrast to the bloody history of the past, is not a secret at all. We have to find a way to connect, and to connect so cohesively, that we come to depend on one another. As such, it will be in our mutual best interest to keep the peace. By helping others, we help ourselves. Granted, it is a tall order, but it is probably the only way. Connect ideologically. Connect economically. Inspire in each other a sense of hope. And let the hope sustain the peace throughout the generations.

file under: vision of hopeinner city 8 Oct 2007 5:04 PM
Hope and the Inner City Posted by Nissim Dahan
My wife and I live on the outskirts of a great American city, Baltimore, Maryland. For many reasons, we are proud to call this city home.

 

Having said that, however, we cannot help but recognize that Baltimore suffers from a whole host of big city problems-problems which are endemic to a great many cities across the US: more than 50% of babies born in Baltimore are born out of wedlock, we're close to the top in homicides averaging close to one murder a day, drug use and drug sales are exorbitantly high, HIV and other disease rates are high, gang violence abounds, educational achievement and graduation rates are abysmally low, unemployment is high, poverty is widespread, and the list goes on and on. In fact, whenever Baltimore makes national news, it's usually for some dubious distinction, like being number one in syphilis, etc.

 

As you well know by know, this website is all about Selling a Vision of Hope in the Middle East. But we need only look at the inner city to realize that hope is in short supply right here and right now. How can we possibly look to change the world, without also looking to change ourselves? People the world over need hope like air to breathe, and for many of our less fortunate citizens, the need for hope is crying out for our attention.

 

Many of the ingredients needed to Sell a Vision of Hope in the Middle East could prove quite handy to Sell a Vision of Hope right here at home. First, we would sell people on a Vision of Hope using Common Sense and Investment. Second, we would support and sustain the vision with programs that are designed to bolster the vision and to carry it forward. Third, and when absolutely necessary, we may have no choice but to fight to reclaim our neighborhoods, but to fight within a Vision of Hope.

 

Ideology plus Investment equals Hope. Use common sense to talk to the residents of the inner city, and to convince them, as Bill Cosby is beginning to do: that their lives could be made better, that they are in the best position to make that happen, that change has to happen from within even as help comes from without, that they may have to reassess what best works for them, that they may need to let go of some preconceived notions and beliefs, that they may want to consider some new ways of organizing their lives, and that it is time for the cynicism of the past to give way to the hope for tomorrow.

 

And, as with all issues of great import, we will have no choice but to invest. But we shouldn't just throw money at the problem, as we are doing in many of our schools, and in many of our social welfare programs. We should invest in ways which make sense, and in ways that inspire a sense of hope: teach kids the skills they need for good paying jobs, find ways to have those jobs waiting form them when they graduate, teach the values which are consistent with a more hopeful future, find ways to provide healthcare for the uninsured, encourage investments in better housing, and so forth.

 

As inner city residents begin to buy into a Vision of Hope, we should support and sustain that vision with a whole host of programs that are specifically designed to do just that: a Media Campaign could be used to help people make sense of their lives and could reinforce the promise of a better tomorrow, a program to Empower Women could encourage young women and help them to take control of their lives by getting good jobs and by having children within the framework of good and healthy marriages, a Cultural Exchange could include a mentoring program between schools in impoverished areas and schools in affluent areas, a Student Exchange could envision taking talented students from the inner city and affording them the opportunity to study at top ranked schools, an Expanded Peace Corps Program could train inner city kids to become Peace Corps volunteers around the world, and to broaden their horizons while affording them the opportunity to help others in need.

 

We are well advised to begin selling inner city residents on a Vision of Hope, and to support the vision with programs designed to carry the vision forward. And when the need arises, we will fight for a Vision of Hope by doing what we have to, to take back our communities-communities which have been allowed to languish and to drift gradually into a state of utter chaos. But our ability to reclaim our neighborhoods will depend on the good will we show to one another, by speaking with common sense and with a sense of personal dignity, and by investing in one another, in a way that is more likely than current efforts, to make real the promise of a better day.

 

Yes, we can remain focused on the Middle East, as we must, but we dare not lose sight of some similar realities to be found right here at home. The hope for mankind is to recognize the needs that we all share in common, and to address those needs with a Vision of Hope. Only in this way can we build the bridges which can make us whole.

file under: vision of hopeglobal warming 3 Oct 2007 11:49 PM
Global Warming and a Vision of Hope Posted by Nissim Dahan
The good thing about Selling a Vision of Hope is that it is versatile. It can be used to solve almost any problem we face. Ideology plus Investment equals Hope. Use An Ideology of Common Sense along with some well placed Investment Dollars to sell people on a Vision of Hope.

 

Global Warming is one hell of a problem. Let's put it in perspective using Common Sense. Most scientists agree that man-made greenhouse gases are causing global warming by trapping heat in the atmosphere. But even if you believe that global warming is a natural phenomenon, well guess what; we still have to fix it. Try finding another environment if we mess this one up. It's time to turn down the thermostat, unless we want to get a preview of hell, right here and right now.

 

The idea that we should grow our economy by burning massive amounts of fossil fuels is a relatively new concept in the overall scheme of things,  perhaps only 200 years old. We survived as a species for some 2,000,000 years before then. True, it was a short and brutish life that the cavemen had, but it was a life nonetheless, and we kept ourselves going, using our common sense, for some 2,000,000 years. That bears repeating, but I'll spare you.

 

Well, is it just possible that when we decided to modernize in this way, with our excessive reliance on fossil fuels, we may have made a wrong turn in the course of our development as a species?  Could our foray into modernity, in this particular way, have been a slight mistake? If our species approaches extinction as a result, will we finally come around to the conclusion that we may have made a boo-boo, at a time when there may not be anyone around to do much of anything about it?

 

OK. So what do we do now? We invest. And by investing, we fix the problem, and create jobs as well. What a concept! We know roughly the parameters of a solution: cars that use less offensive fuels, hydrogen cells, bio fuels, geothermal energy, wind power, solar power, nuclear power, conservation, bicycles, etc. I love my bike, by the way. I'm not a technical person, but there are some very smart people out there who know how to fix this thing. They have to be backed up by political will. Time to bite the bullet.

 

So we will use common sense to understand global warming. And we will invest big time to make it right. And we will inspire people with a Sense of Hope: the hope that people will have the courage to push aside all the nonsense and to see things as they really are, the hope that people will make their will known to the moneyed interests for the sake of future generations, the hope that a problem we all have in common will give us the opportunity to come together in common purpose, and the hope that we can defy the odds, and transform a dire threat to our existence into our ultimate salvation.

 

Global Warming, like our problems in the Middle East, is staring us in the face. We dare not flinch. It will not go away, unless we decide to make it so. We have used our brainpower to get into this mess. It is time now to use our common sense, and the resources we still have left, to make it right. In so doing, we will realize the potential that is within us to be more than we are. On this score at least, we played God and lost. It is time to own up to our failures, to learn from our mistakes, and to find it within ourselves, to do what we have to do, to leave behind a legacy that takes into full account the welfare of our children, and of the countless generations still to come. In the final analysis, isn't that all we may ever have left, when it is all said and done?