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Medium published my new article “Social Media and the Almighty Dollar”
Yet again money and control usurp American ideals as recent social media giants’ actions demonstrate. Instead of these new communication platforms bringing us together, diminishing distances between us and creating one global village, they are undermining America’s core values of democracy, pluralism, and freedom of speech as YouTube, Facebook, and others decide to censor political content to benefit and solidify the power of one side of the American political spectrum.
YouTube, the Google-owned channel, announced it will remove videos disputing the 2020 presidential election at a time when the legal team of the incumbent president is still contesting the results amid fraud allegations, which include video recordings supposedly proving their claims. In addition, Facebook, owner of WhatsApp and Instagram, is also in the center of yet another controversy. The U.S. government and 48 states and districts are suing the company, accusing it of abuse of power to harm smaller competitors.
Pluralism as Phony as a $3 Dollar Bill
Today, the media, and social media in particular, enjoys boundless benefits as if it were a blank check. It avails itself of widespread influence and power as never before. At any instant, public opinion can be swayed one way or another. With a bag full of billions, anyone can become a president or prime minister. It may seem as if social media has an ideological preference for one political side over the other, but in fact, it is all about the almighty dollar.
Money can buy control, and control can overwhelm and influence everything, allowing the freedom of unruly behavior and excessive power. Day after day, social platforms become places open to slander and vitriol one another, fueling the human ego which enjoys flowing over everyone until people are gradually weakened and surrender. A space with no limits gives license to complete dominance. Day in and day out, hatred for other people becomes greater like a cancer eating away at the body of human society that proliferates toward causing the body’s death.
The proper role of the media is to bring us together, to serve to connect all the organs in a single healthy body. How good it would be if all the different parts of society would sit together — the left and the right, the representatives of all the different interest groups, even those at the margins of society — and all work together for the benefit of the public.
Unification at All Costs
Every opinion should have its own space, no opinion should be subjugated, and no voice should be silenced, but that is not happening anywhere in the world at any time. We need to come to terms with the fact that the current state of affairs is unsustainable — all is rotten, and therefore, radical change is needed.
While it seems like a utopian fantasy to envision social media playing such a role of unification, it is only because we are perpetually exposed to a world of lies and misinformation harmful to society’s health and sanity. Social media, the way it works now, should be completely shut down; otherwise, it will destroy society. People have the power to change it, but only through a strong and unified demand.
A new rule should guide the work of the media and all social media platforms: publish news and content that contributes to the public’s well-being, and strive to unite human society. No one would have the right to undermine another’s opinion, but only to balance it with a different position, to guide the varying points of view toward being mutually complementary, toward completeness.
Precisely when opposites reach mutual acceptance, society reaches a new stage of development. Social media fostering these values is what our global and interconnected world needs today. The benefits to all would be priceless!
Medium published my new article “The Worst Year Ever?”
Stephanie Zacharek, a film critic for Time magazine, wrote in its feature article that summarizes 2020, which it titled “The Worst Year Ever”: “If 2020 were a dystopian movie, you’d probably turn it off after 20 minutes. This year wasn’t doomily thrilling, like a fictional apocalypse. It was, in addition to being wrought with pain, maddeningly mundane, the routine of the everyday turned against us.” Moreover, “Our most debilitating threat this year,” she adds, “was a sense of helplessness,” and “Not since the spread of fascism in the 1930s … have we been faced with so many abnormal events.”
With all due respect to the distinguished film critic, I wholly disagree. There has been nothing abnormal about this year, since there is nothing abnormal about this pandemic. On the contrary, up until this year, we have been leading a maddening, abnormal way of life, and the “restraining order” we got from the virus has reinstated normality on Planet Earth. For the first time in more than a century, life functioned normally!
We have been pushing nature’s limits to the brink of snapping, and the virus is only the mildest way it could conjure up to make us stop before we blow ourselves up along with the rest of the planet. Nature could not be gentler with us than with Covid-19.
Besides, how can any sensible person say about forest fires, hurricanes, a pandemic, and earthquakes that they are abnormal? How can natural phenomena be abnormal? Only a warped perspective can view natural phenomena as uncanny and the artificial as normal. Not only that, for a distinguished magazine like Time to declare in its feature piece for 2020 that nature is, well, unnatural, is a testimony to our miscomprehension of the world we live in. If anything is to be regretted about this year, it is our folly.
The people at Time clearly have no clue about their role as a means of communication, about the role of the media. Instead of using their magazine for educational purposes, to teach people where we are and where we’re going, they’re using it to circulate eloquent inanity.
2020 is the best year ever! It is the first time when nature has shown us, in plain view, how it responds to the distortions we install in its system. It tells us we have crossed the line and if we continue on the road we’re going, we will extinguish ourselves. Mother Nature is doing all she can to save her ungrateful children, and we whine like spoiled brats that she isn’t giving us the candy we want.
When you don’t know what you’re doing, stick your hands deep in your pockets and keep them there until you are smarter. We have been doing the exact opposite: switching every knob and pressing every button we could find in order to somehow squeeze more fun out of nature. It is only a miracle we have survived this far. The coronavirus saved our lives by forcing us to go home and limit our abuse of our only home. It is clearly a blessing, yet foolish we curse her on the front page of one of our most acclaimed publications.
The media is our number one educational tool. We should use it to learn about ourselves and our surroundings, not to complain about nature’s teaching but to explain how we should work within the ecosystem that is our universe. It is a closed system, and any wrongdoing bears its consequences. We may not feel it right away, but it is only because we are insensitive to our surroundings and oblivious to our interconnections. If we were slightly more aware of our interdependence, we would see the negative impact of our misdeeds straight away, and wouldn’t think that when those offenses take their toll on us, it is not our fault. Because not only is it our doing that we’ve had such an “eventful” year, it is nobody else’s.
If we do not learn the lesson that Covid-19 has taught us in 2020, 2021 will teach us the same lesson even more painfully. It is not for nature’s meanness, but for our denseness. I feel sorry for Mother Nature; it is not easy rearing such obstinate children. At the same time, I’m grateful that she always chooses the least painful means to teach us what she must, and that she has finally chosen to reveal to us her ways, so we can study them and become grownups in our own world, too.
Michael Laitman, On Quora: “What are some unusual ways to light the Hanukkah menorah candles?“
Today, the most unusual way to light the Hanukkah candles could very well be the original way that these candles were lit.
A candle contains oil and a wick. The wick lets us alight and burn the oil, which rises up the wick. The oil and the wick will set ablaze only when the oil seeps into the wick, which then lights up the candle.
This depiction of lighting a Hanukkah candle is not unusual in and of itself. However, if we look at what this process represents, then it would appear unusual to anyone who was raised thinking that lighting a candle begins and ends with an external action alone.
Rather, the process is an internal one.
The wick represents the rejection of light, i.e., the rejection of receiving pleasure for self-benefit.
The oil represents the fuel that we have to reject self-aimed pleasure. However, the oil cannot burn by itself. We thus need to understand that we change our growing desire to enjoy for self-benefit by working to invert it into its opposite form: a desire to love and bestow. It is written about this change: “The evil angel becomes the good one,” and “The angel of death becomes the angel of life.”
The Maccabees found a cruse of oil because they had been trying to positively connect to each other in order to attain the quality of love and bestowal. They could light that oil because they had great resistance to those who bowed before Greek idols and constructed Greek temples in Jerusalem. The Greeks represent the will to control our desires, i.e., that we reason first and foremost that we personally benefit from a certain effort.
The war of the Maccabees is a war that we conduct within. When we overcome our resistance to love, bestow and positively connect to others, we change the hatred that fuels our conflict into a wick in the oil, which we can light.
Therefore, the cruse of oil with a wick represents a person’s inner spiritual work of rising above desires for self-benefit, and entering into a new desire to love, bestow and positively connect to others.
When the Maccabees overcame the resistance of their reason, which dictates that self-benefit should always prioritize and justify benefiting others, and they unified, then they found the cruse of oil where they were able to insert the wick into and light. In other words, they changed their desire for self-benefit into a desire for love, bestowal and positive connection, and the upper light—the quality of love and bestowal—illuminated their souls.
That is the Hanukkah miracle.
Question: There are some obstacles in communication such as someone having an unflattering reputation. People may not want to communicate with that person because of information that discredits the person due to some facts regarding his biography and lifestyle. What is your advice in a case like this?
Answer: If it is a group of beginners in integral education, then it is desirable for people not to know anything about each other and not to talk about it at all. We need to start with the fact that you are a person and I am a person; we need to come to unification by the will of nature without any preconditions.
Question: And if they do know, for example, from the media that someone was in prison?
Answer: This means that this person must be introduced into a group that is prepared to perceive him as an absolutely separate personality.
From KabTV’s “Communication Skills” 10/14/20
Question: In recent decades, we have seen that technology is ahead of our moral standards. Why does nature allow us to develop technology faster than our moral values grow?
Answer: In order to recognize the evil of human nature and to begin to correct it.
Question: An increasing number of young people prefer to live in the virtual reality. Don’t you think that it is possible that we will no longer need the physical world at all in the near future?
Answer: No, we will need it. We cannot push a button and say we are canceling this physical world. Even if we wanted to, we would not be able to do so. We would still have to maintain our physical existence in some way.
In principle, all of our thoughts can be concentrated in the virtual world. However, this will only take a short period in the process of the recognition of the evil of our nature in order to understand where it has driven us to. We will get out of this state and come to the correct form.
From KabTV’s “Communication Skills” 10/7/20
Question: When people communicate on social networks, they lie to each other in order to seem better than they really are. On the other hand, they are more sincere than in direct contact. That is, when I look you into your eyes, it is harder for me to tell the truth. And when we have contact through the screen, it’s much easier.
What did we lose when we stopped communicating with each other physically and looking into each other’s eyes?
Answer: Direct communication requires some preparation, I would say, rising above oneself and being included in another person. And communication through the screen, if it is also incognito, is not communication, it is a one-sided expression of not even your thoughts and views, but of something you want to fill the screen with.
The problem is, that there is no limit for communication on the Internet in either quantity or quality. And this is why we have entered the area where we are completely degrading. We do not care what others think, what happens as a result of our involvement in the Internet connection. In sum, humanity dilutes itself with filth.
Question: How do you imagine virtual communities of the future?
Answer: Virtual communities of the future will outgrow this childhood disease and adopt clear, strict laws based on the need for the correct development of humanity. It will make people learn, and they will have the time, energy and resources for it.
People will begin to learn, based not just on the moral, but on the spiritual level, which they must achieve. This is how the entire Internet will develop.
From KabTV’s “Communication Skills” 10/7/20
Michael Laitman, On Quora: “What is happiness?“
There are different definitions of happiness according to a person’s level, i.e., the kinds of desires a person has, and whether or not such a person has a desire to seek a higher purpose in life, and to what extent. (For instance, in another Quora thread that has asked this same question, you’ll see how I answer it differently.)
However, in principle, happiness is experienced when a person’s desires are on the brink of being fulfilled, but have not yet been quenched.
In such a state, a person is in a high state of anticipation, like a child who is about to have a birthday.
Therefore, happiness takes place in the anticipation of a reward from life, when we feel as if we are about to be given something very positive and good, like on our birthday. Also, the form that this happiness assumes is different for each person.
Answer: Virtual communication may be close in some way. It certainly moves us to communicate and engage in world thought, but we need to learn how to do it correctly. Undoubtedly, this connection is bringing us closer to the ultimate goal of our development.
Question: Is the virtual world safer for people than the physical world?
Answer: As long as the physical world exists, we are able to destroy one another. As for the virtual world, it all depends on how it will be positioned relative to the physical world: to serve it or vice versa.
From KabTV’s “Communication Skills” 10/7/20
The Book of Zohar tells us how its authors, Rabbi Shimon’s students, gathered before the lessons and each time revealed a new depth of creation and described it in this book. Before they focused on the lesson, they felt such enormous hatred between them that they were ready to kill each other. This is how big their egoism was.
We have to learn how to rebuild the connections between us, at least with the same inclination, according to the same system. This means building another floor above us, “love will cover all crimes.” The crimes and the sins remain, and a connection is built above them between us. This is how we exist in two worlds at the same time: in our world and in the spiritual world.
By trying to focus ourselves on each other in the ten, we awaken and summon the gradual impact of the surrounding light unto us, and with its help we need to build a second floor in each ten. We need to demand this from the Creator, to do everything that depends on us on our level: to pray, to cry out, to ask Him, and then we will succeed. We will begin to feel that we ascend above everything that we know and above our reason, above the perception of the world, and that we begin to see it differently, synthetically, so that despite our first egoistic floor, we can see that everything is absolutely globally connected.
Then all the problems and differences disappear, and instead, they begin to complement each other, which is the spiritual system of connection. This is actually what we need to learn. We engage in it in the tens and in our study.
This is the goal of our study, our lives in this world, as we return to the corporeal state again and again and restore and rebuild the connection between us that covers all the discrepancies and disagreements that will remain and grow between us more and more. This is how it works.
From KabTV’s “Fundamentals of Kabbalah” 2/6/19