Thursday, September 25, 2008

Pledge of Interest & Concern for the World


This pledge is to be recited by all persons who desire to commit and consider themselves active and participating members of the Global Understanding movement. This is the initial draft. I wanted to make it “good” without it being “overwhelming.” Even so, it may be too long for some people. I may have put in some words which some may find objectionable. I may have left out words others find as necessary. Please let me know what you think. This is your world. This is my world too. This can therefore be our work, composed together, for the good of all the world. I am not committing to having the pledge be utterly hacked apart and made meaningless. As the author and a principle behind the movement, some elements of philosophy and ethics shall remain unshakable in my work. Yet I am always open to improving and perfecting a work of politics, so that it can be shared easily for the benefit of as many people as possible.

Pledge of Interest & Concern for the World

I pledge my interest and concern
For the world in which I live
For my community and the environment
For all people and all living creatures
For as long as I may live

I pledge all my life and being
To continuously learn and gain knowledge
To ask good questions
To do my own research and investigation
To listen to what others have come to learn
To share generously what I have learned with others
To communicate truthfully and frankly
To express myself effectively and reasonably
To view and interact with the world using compassion and care
To consider and respect the opinions and feelings of others even if I disagree with them
To consider others with an open mind without prejudice
To act in faith
To speak the truth with consideration for others
To communicate forthrightly and bravely when I sense wrong-doing
To consider and compare what I learn to my ethics
To continuously revise and consider the appropriateness of my ethics and morals
To apply my ethics and my morals to my life and the world around me
To revise or expand my beliefs as I discover new wisdom and knowledge
To adhere to wholesome, productive ways and good principles
To honor my family, relatives, friends and community
To support the freedom, liberty and happiness of others
To act with kindness and compassion
To avoid malice and conscious harm
To be grateful for all that sustains my life and health
To do my best to honor and not abuse my gifts
To remember what I have pledged to undertake
To use my strength and spirit to uphold my commitments to others
To review my pledge each year henceforth
To understand and appreciate what I have done well
To understand what others have done for my benefit
To encourage others who I follow, who walk beside me, or follow in my path
To admit and identify what I need to improve upon within myself
For as long as I may live

Who, When & Where

Written by the hand of Peter Paul Conlon Corless in the modern English language upon this Thursday, the Twenty Fifth Day of September, in the year Two Thousand and Eight in the Christian Era, also known as Anno Domini (Year of Our Lord), at Six Hours and Forty Minutes post meridian (PM) as measured in the Pacific Time Zone, in the City of Mountain View, in the County of Santa Clara, in the State of California, in the nation of the United States of America, on the North American continent, on the planet Earth, in the Sol solar system, in the Milky Way Galaxy, in the Local Group of Galaxies.

Location in Latitude & Longitude from Google
deg-min-sec37° 23' 45.996"-122° 5' 26.934"

Revision History

Draft 0.1
Author: Peter Paul Conlon Corless
Date: 25 September 2008
Time: 6:40 PM, Pacific
Initial Proposed Draft
Subject to review and approval by the interested and concerned citizens of the world.


  1. Your pledge to honor your family seemed strange to me. Here are a few quotes from your last letter to me. I didn't feel very honored. Sickening, morbid and hostage-taking were interesting perspectives on a simple request for you to consider becoming vegetarian.

    "Putting a condition on my birthday present -- a gift to keep others from committing suicide -- seemed unnatural and slightly sickening to me."

    "It felt downright morbid to me for you to have held that condition out. Like "Sign for this here before you can be admitted to the emergency room."

    "A logical proposition, supposedly from the heart, but from a certain context wholly alien and disconcerting to me..... it felt all wrong to me.

    "If you loved me well, as I had expected and hoped, this sort of emotional hostage-taking would not have been attempted."

  2. For the readers who are not aware of the context of this post, I recently walked for suicide prevention in San Francisco for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The Out of the Darkness 2008 walk at Crissy Field, September 27, 2008. I raised $330, and will eventually will donate myself to bring that number to an even $500 commitment if other donors do not help me meet that goal.

    I sent out a letter asking friends, family and colleagues to pledge to support this cause rather than purchase me a birthday present.

    My sister offered to pledge $10 per month, up to $120 for a full year, if I would give up eating meat.

    I declined to accept the offer of donation because it came with a condition.

    I honor and respect my sister's vegetarian ways, though I do not follow them myself. Much the same ways I respect the dietary laws of Hindus, Jews, Muslims, etc. Each person in the world follows different dietary habits. Some based in deeply-held religious beliefs and personal ethics.

    Here is a key point: though we may understand each other's views, and we may respect each other's views, it is crucial as to how, when, why and how we try to incent others to adopt our own ways and beliefs.

    In other parts of the letter which were not quoted, I described my own feelings towards the issue of the sanctity of life, including plants.

    If we truly regarded all natural life as sacred, whether animal or plant, we would not destroy any of it. Thus we'd all have to effectively commit suicide if we were to give up eating any other biological entities. Or we'd have to kill the bunnies and deers, since they eat plants, and plants are sacred too.

    Yet I don't want to kill humans because some of them eat meat. Nor do I wish to kill rabbits and deer just because they eat plants. We all have to eat something, all the way up and down the food chain.

    Thus, we all must destroy something to survive. Whether animal or plant. I sense "spirit" and life in many species.

    I am quite cognizant of the "cost" of eating anything, including meat. In both spiritual and environmental terms.

    I also am aware of how, for many people around the world, eschewing eating animal flesh is a religious practice based in ethics. And for others, the luxury of animal meat and the cost or scarcity of it makes it a rare dietary inclusion, rather than the staple of diet is has become in the developed world. Would a poor child given no other food prefer to starve to death rather than eat meat? I'm not the person to "force" anyone eschew any food group to follow my own personal or political conviction. I'm not going to tell hungry people to throw out the food in their refrigerators or other storage simply because it does not conform to my own personal belief system.

    If I did wish to alter dietary habits, I would likely not conflate the issue with other issues or make it a condition in a form of quid pro quo exchange when someone was asking for a birthday gift.

    "Can I have a bicycle for my birthday?"

    "That depends. Will you become a member of the ABC political party? These are the rules you have to follow."


    Yes, I did find my sister's condition quite personally off-putting. Especially when the need in question was to help save the lives of troubled, depressed and suicidal people.

    I am not seeking to personally justify eating meat, or to enter into the debate of vegetarianism. Just to point out that the response to a request for a birthday present to donate for suicide prevention did seem odd, alien, unnatural and slightly sickening to me.

    And, by the way, none of this discussion really belongs under the Pledge topic specifically.

    I say all of this because I wish to convey that I do "honor" my family. I honor my sister enough to give her a response. I honor you, the readers concerned about Global Understanding, enough to take seriously a moral and ethical challenge, and to enter into rational, thoughtful, spiritual debate rather than brushing off a message seen generally as a detraction.

    To honor does not mean, however, "to submit yourself wholly and fully and always into the control of another." I honor my sister's ways. Yet I do not need to submit to them.

    Nor does a person who recognizes and honors another's ways need to be forced to submit to another's desires. Part of being pluralistic as a society requires a tolerance of differences:

    "4 a: a state of society in which members of diverse ethnic, racial, religious, or social groups maintain an autonomous participation in and development of their traditional culture or special interest within the confines of a common civilization b: a concept, doctrine, or policy advocating this state"

    I felt any donation should be that: a present, whole-heartedly granted. Not a conditional exchange with terms and requisites. A quid pro quo bargain. Not a means to influence, cajole, entice or bribe me to change my dietary behavior.

    If we wanted to have that discussion, we can. I am still open to it. Yet as a separate discussion of ethics and dietary habits. Not as a contractual obligation for a suicide prevention walk donation.

    For now, I'll stand by my words, quoted here. 100%. I respected my family member enough to tell her how I felt. For though I honor vegetarianism, between my love for animals and my love for my fellow humans, I would likely try to save the human's life before an animal's. Unless the human was such a reprehensible monster that they deserved not to be saved. I would not hold against a human that they had habits I did not like, if I needed to immediately save them. Smoker? Drug addict? Even a criminal? I might not hold any of that against them if I had to make a split-second decision to save their life over that of, say, a chicken or a cow.

    Thus I do not feel as if it was appropriate to make a birthday present "conditional" in this case or this manner. Nor do I feel it appropriate for this debate to have come out into public mention in this wise.

    Yet if it is here, let's talk.

    I believe it inappropriate to take the proposed Pledge and turn it into an ad hominem attack aimed at the moral authority of the author, to make a rather pointed undercutting of my reputation and person, and to "hijack the thread" by changing the axiomatic basis of discussion one of an interpersonal familial relationship and one dealing with vegetarianism.

    For the record, I am a human being, quite flawed and imperfect. I may believe I hold high ideals and ethics, yet others may both now, and in the future, level and heap heavy ethical and moral judgments on me. To somewhat short-circuit years of castigation, I admit it: I can and often am wrong. In many things. People will find out, over time, I am quite mortal. I have led an imperfect life.

    Hence my belief that, through regret, repentence, reflection, regard, reinforcement, and renewal of our principles, we can gradually improve ourselves over time.

    We can recite and do our best to hold ourselves to pledges, yet they are not iron-clad "laws." There is no hell to be banished to if we do not always and at all times live up to these ideals. They are goals. Better ways of living we can strive for. And, at times, even pledges like these may lead to conflictions: do I honor this part, to the violation of that part?

    If I, or anyone else who wishes to join the Global Understanding movement, prove to be flawed or imperfect, they are still welcome to the club called humanity. They can even argue with me and tell me I am not a good person. I may seek to refute their claims, or let them stand without debate, as I so choose. Yet I do not like the "Ah hah! I found his personal character flaw, now let's exploit it!" to be a particularly attractive tactic for the long-term good of humanity.

    Any code of ethics needs to be able to be personalized, so it makes sense to the context of the discussion. Any pluralistic society needs to take into consideration the beliefs of others, even if, inwardly, we deeply hold them to be antithetical or even, at times, evil. One woman's evil may be another man's good. If there is a disagreement, we need to talk about it. Yet such personal ethical and moral choices cannot be forced upon the other throuch crisis, lest we truly "convert by the sword." Or, through the dollar in this case.

    That is a forced conversion to an ethical principle. It is unnatural and, to my mind, unethical to take opportunistic advantage like that. That's just my own view.

    Each human being will likely find their own merits and mileage may vary.

    I find it rather poor of anyone to try to undercut the meaning of this Pledge of Interest & Concern by turning it into an ad hominem undermining. A snubbing of the principles. "Yeah, you're not so perfect! Look! Look! I caught him being a hypocrite!"

    As a Christian, each week I admit that I do, or fail to do, things that are construed as "sins." Each day I humbly repent that which I do wrong or at least not-as-well as I'd have hoped. Some days I do better than others.

    Many millions in the world will find that my eating meat is a terrible sin. In return, I may believe others who undermine, belittle and hold in low esteem the character, confidence and belief systems of others to be terrible sinners.

    All of this becomes distraction. Ethnical and moral "gotchas!" Score-keeping on karma. Fear-based philosophy.

    Ironically, this is precisely the sort of debating and picking apart of each other that leads to interpersonal and global conflicts.

    Yet if this needs to be the first debate for the sake of the Pledge, so be it.

    I was, and am, and remain open to speaking about the ethics and morals of eating meat. Or eating any other living organism. We do it for our survival. Yet that debate should happen separately. Here, in this thread, we should focus on the Pledge itself. Not on its author. Not on side topics like vegetarianism.

    Once again, the conflation of issues means that, unless one person's particular personal agenda is dealt with to their satisfaction, they would scuttle any progress along other social fronts. It becomes lowest-common denominator thinking. Unless one person is pleased, they would make the entire discourse unpleasant for others. That demand for orthodoxy is the very heart and basis of destroying pluralistic society.

    To be clear, I am not a "hard core meat eater." I do not eat it specifically to snub and cheese off vegans and vegetarians. My sister makes a special appeal for vegetarianism for the sake of animals. I do not wholly reject her appeal. Yet her appeals, I believe, were ill-timed and came off poorly.

    Furthermore, they are based on her own belief systems which may or may not be held in common with others. The way she put the proposition before me came off like a bribe to go vegan.

    The question she must ask herself is whether her political and ethical dietary beliefs are greater than her love for her own brother.

    And whether raising her objection here, in this manner, serves the goals and spirit of Global Understanding.

    In a way it does. I got to write this long thoughtful consideration of her opinion, even if I, once again, reject her means and methods of communicating it. I simply feel her appeals inappropriately presented and ill-suited to the general sense of discourse.

    In sum: "I love my sister, but she has an odd way of forcing discussions of various topics to conform with her own views of life."

    I invite others to weigh in with their own thoughts. I also apologize for my ramble. It's about 2:52 am here. I came to check the responses and didn't expect to see my sister in the proverbial Book Depository with the virtual sniper rifle. Character assassination is never really pleasant to deal with.

  3. Let's see... you wanted her to support your cause, she said: "sure, if you support my cause." Sounds like a win-win situation to me. Except that it slightly sickened you. So naturally you had to refuse her offer while delivering a fairly scathing critique of her value system. That's definitely a lose-lose out come. And it's mean. You were raised in nearly exactly the same milieu as your sister and yet for all of your intelligence (no sarcasm intended) you appear to be utterly incapable of understanding her on any but your own terms. That's not respect and that's not gonna work... before you go too much further with your Global Understanding efforts, you might want to check your ego and look at your familial relationship(s) from a view point other than your own.

  4. I would like to address a few flaws in your statements. Firstly, if one person says “I honor my family”, and the other person says “you do not honor your family”, this is an argument against the point, and not against the person. Therefore it is not an ad hominem argument.

    Secondly, if the person supports their argument that “you do not honor your family” with direct and recent quotations by the person making the statement “I honor my family”, as evidence of their point, it does not constitute character assassination.

    Thirdly, if the person wanted to refute the point and said “I honor my family” and here are my supporting statements, that would be one thing. Instead, the course of the letter was an ad feminam attack against the person making the argument, replete with pejorative and belittling commentary. It was written to for a third party reader and didn’t address the person directly.

    “Yes, I did find my sister's condition quite personally off-putting.”

    Lastly, in future, if you are not open to a critique of your work, it would be best if you did not invite readers to leave comments.

  5. "Your pledge to honor your family seemed strange to me..."

    That was the first sign of trouble for me. Why would it be strange?

    You can feel strangely not honored if you wish. I've honored you with my time, considered opinion, and love. You are free to accept or reject any of those. I just wish you'd stop arguing and *help*.

    I wished you to support a particular cause: suicide prevention.

    Because right now, it accounts for thousands of deaths per year in the US alone. It also affects the mental health of entire communities. Young people are losing hope, and they are not even waiting to grow up before they choose to die.

    • 4,599 US suicides of youth between ages 10-24 in 2004

    Police officers, those who would be "first responders" to suicide, are also suffering from depression:

    • Suicide rates jolt police culture

    Beyond this, the rate of suicide-homicides in the US, and around the world, is on a rate of dramatic increase.

    In 2006, an angry milk truck driver decided to kill Amish girls:

    • The Copycat Effect: Homicide = Suicide Turned Outward

    In the time since I made my appeal, a Pakistani school girl is dead, blown up on a bus because a distraught young man thought his life on Earth, and her life, and the other lives lost that day were collectively worth less than his violent ideals.

    I am reading right now about a Nevada police officer who committed suicide, unable to cope with the crushing psychological pressure of enforcing laws and living a normal existence in a so-called civilized nation.

    What part of this debate is directly aiding the survival of such people?

    The Violence Policy Center (VPC) is looking to create a database to track murder-suicides as a new and growing phenomenon:

    "As of yet, no national database or tracking system exists to systematically document the toll in death and injury of murder-suicide in the United States." — American Roulete, Violence Policy Center

    I see this as an immediate and present community and global concern, because it is what justified the 9/11 attackers to commit suicide while killing nearly 3,000 people and plunged the United States into international warfare.

    I lost another friend this year to suicide. A classmate from college. A friend.

    Humanity is losing tens of thousands of lives, and trillions of dollars. What part of "help now" do I need to express clearer?

    Hence, my appeal to support a suicide prevention walk in 2008.

    In return, rather than a donation, I was met with a bargain. Then an argument.

    You, my own sister, came and wrote here — for what purpose exactly?

    Why are you even entering into this discussion?

    What goal do you wish to achieve?

    What are you seeking to help achieve?

    Still, on my shelf here — I'm looking at it — I have the book about George Harrison's life I bought you for your birthday a while ago. I've held onto it. I somehow misplaced your zip code. Hugh here refused to give me your phone number or provide your full address. So it was clear to me last month a lack of trust existed between us.

    When you wish, email me your full address (including zip code) and I'll send you your birthday present.

    Meanwhile, try to elevate the game and think about more than just ourselves in this argument. People are quite literally dying as we debate.

    For those who would have hoped for something a bit less pedestrian, more in the vein of Jesus, Buddha, Aristotle or Descartes than Jerry Springer, you have my apologies this has so far been the sum, tone and point of the discourse.

    However, it is quite human and typical. Welcome to the world circa 2008. We squabble while the world moves on. We fiddle as Rome burns. Heaven help us all.