The Silent Media Curse of Memorial Day

ZNet | Mainstream Media
by Norman Solomon; May 26, 2005

Memorial Day weekend brings media rituals. Old Glory flutters on television and newsprint. Grave ceremonies and oratory pay homage to the fallen. Many officials and pundits speak of remembering the dead. But for all the talk of war and remembrance, no time is more infused with insidious forgetting than the last days of May.

This is a holiday that features solemn evasion. Speech-makers and commentators praise the “ultimate sacrifice” of American soldiers -- but say nothing about the duplicity of those who sacrificed them. War efforts are equated with indubitable patriotism. Journalists claim to be writing the latest draft of history, but actual history is no more present than the dead.

In the truncated media universe of Memorial Day, the act of remembering bypasses any history that indicates an American war was not inevitable and unavoidable. The populace is made to understand that God and nature must be death dealers. We are encouraged to extol those who bravely gave their lives and took the lives of others -- but not confront those, high in the U.S. government’s executive and legislative branches, who cravenly gave their fervent blessings to gratuitous carnage.

It has become popular to describe the U.S. invasion of Iraq as some kind of anomaly, a departure from Washington’s previous record of seeking peaceful alternatives to war and refusing to engage in aggression. Such depictions amount to a kind of pseudo-historical baby food, chopped up and strained so it can be stomached.

But during the last half century -- when, for days or months or many years, U.S. troops and planes assaulted the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq again -- the rationales from the White House were always based on major falsehoods, avidly promoted by the U.S. mass media. In the light of real history, the U.S. soldiers who are honored each Memorial Day were pawns of methodical deception. Media spin and the edicts of authorities induced them to kill “enemy” combatants and civilians, for whom Pentagon buglers have never played a single mournful note.

The Orwellian process of rigorous forgetting is not only about past wars. It’s also about the next war.

Aldous Huxley observed about “triumphs of propaganda” long ago:
“Great is truth, but still greater, from a practical point of view, is silence about truth.”

I thought of that comment the other night while watching a TV network. No, it wasn’t Fox or MSNBC or CNN. It was PBS -- the “Frontline” show, airing a report about Iran’s nuclear program. Every word of the May 24 broadcast may have been true -- yet, due to the show’s omissions, the practical effect was to participate in laying media groundwork for a military attack on Iran.

“Frontline,” let’s remember, is supposed to be a quality show on a quality network. But predictably, the reporting bypassed key elements of nuclear proliferation dangers in the Middle East: No mention of the Israeli nuclear arsenal, now estimated at more than 200 warheads. No mention of Mordechai Vanunu, imprisoned for 18 years by the Israeli government for exposing Israel’s stockpile of nuclear bombs, now facing the prospect of a return to prison for daring to speak to journalists. No mention of the U.S. government’s plunge forward with development of new nuclear weapons, in violation of the same Non-Proliferation Treaty that Iran is now condemned for skirting.

High-tone media outlets claim to excel at providing context. But context is exactly what “Frontline” did not offer the viewers of its report on Iran’s nuclear development. Such “silence about truth” is a prerequisite for the kind of self-righteous hypocrisy that’s likely to propel a military assault on Iran.

Memory with integrity should inform our understanding, on Memorial Day and every day. If we remember the Americans who were killed but forget the people they killed -- if we remain silent while media scripts exclude crucial aspects of history that demolish Washington’s claims of high moral ground -- the propaganda system for war can remain intact. When journalists defer to that silence, they’re part of the deadly problem.


Norman Solomon’s latest book, “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death,” comes off the press in mid-June. His columns and other writings can be found at:

Amnesty International Report 2005

Amnesty International

Amnesty International Report 2005

During 2004, the human rights of ordinary men, women and children were disregarded or grossly abused in every corner of the globe. Economic interests, political hypocrisy and socially orchestrated discrimination continued to fan the flames of conflict around the world. The “war on terror” appeared more effective in eroding international human rights principles than in countering international “terrorism”. The millions of women who suffered gender-based violence in the home, in the community or in war zones were largely ignored. The economic, social and cultural rights of marginalized communities were almost entirely neglected.

This Amnesty International Report, which covers 149 countries, highlights the failure of national governments and international organizations to deal with human rights violations, and calls for greater international accountability.

The report also acknowledges the opportunities for positive change that emerged in 2004, often spearheaded by human rights activists and civil society groups. Calls to reform the UN human rights machinery grew in strength, and there were vibrant campaigns to make corporations more accountable, strengthen international justice, control the arms trade and stop violence against women.

Whether in a high profile conflict or a forgotten crisis, Amnesty International campaigns for justice and freedom for all and seeks to galvanize public support to build a better world.
Information for journalists

For the latest information for journalists visit
AI's Secretary General - Irene Khan
Human rights are not only a promise unfulfilled, they are a promise betrayed A message from Irene Khan, AI's Secretary General


Amnesty International

Europe and Central Asia

Regional overview 2003

Europe and Central Asia
Europe and Central Asia
‘War on terror’

Armed opposition groups brought death and destruction across the region – in suicide attacks in Uzbekistan, in bombings on rush hour trains in Spain, and in the school hostage-taking and siege in Beslan, Russia – claiming hundreds of lives.

Governments, in their turn, continued to roll back rights under the auspices of the “war on terror”. Although the highest court in the UK ruled in a landmark decision that indefinite detention without charge or trial of foreign “suspected international terrorists” was unlawful, 11 men still remained in detention – and one under effective house arrest – at the end of 2004. Earlier the Court of Appeal of England and Wales had ruled that “evidence” obtained by torture of a third party would be inadmissible in court proceedings only if UK agents had been directly involved in, or connived at, the torture. Throughout the year the UK also sought to circumvent its obligations under domestic and international human rights law by asserting that international human rights law did not bind its armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In Russia, parliament extended to 30 days the period that someone suspected of “terrorism-related” offences could be held without charge. Uzbekistan conducted sweeping arbitrary detentions of hundreds of men and women said to be devout Muslims or their relatives, and sentenced scores of people accused of “terrorism-related” offences to long prison terms after unfair trials. Russian federal security forces continued to enjoy virtual impunity for violations in Chechnya.

Further information

Racism and discrimination

Manifestations of racism, discrimination and intolerance continued to plague the region.

Discrimination appeared in many forms, including in the barriers that prevented people from accessing their basic rights. In countries from Finland to Cyprus, Roma remained severely disadvantaged in key areas of life such as housing, employment, education and medical services. In countries of the former Yugoslavia, large numbers of people seeking to rebuild their lives after being displaced by war continued to face discrimination on ethnic grounds, particularly in obtaining employment, education and health care. The treatment of people with mental disabilities remained a disgrace in many areas. In Bulgaria and Romania, the living conditions and lack of care in some hospitals and social care homes were so deplorable they amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment. In Slovakia and the Czech Republic, cage beds continued to be used in some institutions as a method of restraint. Discrimination persisted elsewhere, as in Ireland, where disability legislation introduced in 2004 was not rights-based, despite previous government pledges.

Racism by law enforcement officials continued as a backdrop to human rights violations in the administration of justice. Members of the Roma community, immigrants and asylum-seekers were among targets of racist abuse and ill-treatment. The perpetrators were rarely brought to justice.

Intolerance of others and their identities was also evident in the behaviour of private individuals and organizations. In France, people perceived to be immigrants or Muslims were subjected to waves of racist violence in Corsica. Individuals of Jewish origin and the symbols of their identity were attacked in countries such as Belgium, France and Ukraine. “Skinhead” groups in Russia subjected foreign students to race-hate attacks. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Poland were assaulted at marches calling for greater respect for the rights of sexual minorities.

Many governments lacked the political will to prevent, investigate and prosecute such attacks actively and with due diligence. In Georgia, hundreds of people who attacked religious minorities went unpunished. In Kosovo, some local police were accused of official complicity in incidents during the widespread inter-ethnic attacks that erupted throughout the province in March. The authorities – including international security contingents – failed to provide adequate protection to minority communities in some areas during the clashes. At the EU level, there was a persistent failure to put the criminalization of racism and xenophobia back on the legislative agenda.

Abuses by officials and impunity

Torture and ill-treatment, often race-related, were reported across the region, including in Belgium, Greece, France and Spain. From east to west, states often failed to implement or respect rights that could provide a safeguard against abuses in police custody or pre-trial detention. Authorities in a number of states did not allow detainees access to a lawyer from the moment of arrest, or did not ensure an effective, properly resourced and independent system to investigate complaints. Failure to conduct prompt, thorough and impartial investigations resulted in continued impunity for those responsible for torture and ill-treatment reported to be widespread in countries such as Albania, Georgia, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Tajikistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. In Turkey, torture and ill-treatment remained a serious concern despite positive changes to detention regulations. Turkey and many other states lacked independent scrutiny mechanisms to investigate such patterns of abuse. Reports continued that police in Bulgaria, Poland and Romania used firearms in violation of international standards on excessive force, sometimes with fatal results. In many countries, conditions in prisons, as well as in detention centres for asylum-seekers and unauthorized migrants, were cruel
and degrading.

In the western Balkans, although there were some domestic prosecutions for war crimes, lack of political will and deficiencies in domestic justice systems led to continued and widespread impunity for wartime violations. Some war crimes suspects were transferred to the custody of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, but others continued to evade arrest, some apparently protected by authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia and Montenegro. Thousands of “disappearances” that occurred during the 1991-95 war, and others from the conflicts in Kosovo and Macedonia, remained unresolved – as did those of opposition figures and journalists in Belarus and Ukraine.

Repression of dissent

Civil, political and religious dissent was systematically and often brutally repressed in Belarus, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Demonstrations were banned, and peaceful protesters detained and often ill-treated in a range of countries including Turkey and Ukraine. Human rights defenders continued to face obstruction, intimidation and threats in Belarus, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. In Russia, human rights activists and others seeking justice through the European Court of Human Rights in connection with the Chechen conflict experienced harassment and torture. Some paid with their lives. In Turkmenistan, some critics were forced into exile and their relatives targeted in efforts to silence dissent.

As in previous years, some states showed scant tolerance for the conscience of those who objected to compulsory military service. In violation of international obligations, Armenia, Finland and Turkmenistan imprisoned those whose conscience would not allow them to serve. Other states such as Cyprus, Greece and Lithuania retained legislation that made alternative service a punitive option.

Violence against women

The human rights of women and girls remained under attack across the region. Violence in the family was still regarded by many governments as residing in the “private sphere” – a convenient excuse in many instances for failures to define domestic violence as a human rights issue and resource it as such. From west to east, there were documented failures to provide support to women who had survived violence in the home, or to ensure their effective access to justice, redress and reparation. Some states did not introduce or implement adequately such basic provisions as comprehensive protection and restraining orders against abusers, or appropriate shelters for survivors
of violence.

Trafficking of human beings, including women and girls for enforced prostitution, continued to afflict most countries throughout the region. In UN-administered Kosovo, the clients reportedly included international police and troops, and the women and girls – beaten, raped and effectively imprisoned by their owners – were often too afraid to escape. Survivors of this form of slavery were ill-served by many states with the power, and obligation, to do better. While many voices continued to press for state action against trafficking to be grounded in human rights protection, rather than through an agenda driven by organized crime and illegal migration, trafficked women were still failed by the authorities and judicial systems in countries of origin, transit and destination. Moldova, for example, remained a source country for women and girls trafficked for forced prostitution – the most vulnerable reportedly being women escaping domestic violence and children leaving institutional care. However, women were only exempted from prosecution in Moldova for crimes arising from being trafficked if they agreed to cooperate with law enforcement agencies. In Belgium, a destination country where trafficking for enforced prostitution reportedly continued to rise, the granting of residence permits was contingent on such cooperation – in accordance with EU legislation.

One potentially positive step to enhancing respect for the human rights of trafficked persons was the Council of Europe’s draft Convention against Trafficking in Human Beings, which was discussed during 2004. Non-governmental organizations continued campaigning to strengthen its provisions.

Death penalty

There were some positive moves on the death penalty, reinforcing the regional trend towards abolition. The Greek parliament approved the abolition of the death penalty for all crimes. Tajikistan declared a moratorium on death sentences and executions. In Belarus, the Constitutional Court ruled that a number of provisions in the Criminal Code relating to the death penalty were inconsistent with the Constitution and international law, paving the way – should the political will exist – for abolition or at least a moratorium.

However, Belarus – together with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan before its moratorium – remained the region’s last executioners. In addition, both Uzbekistan and Tajikistan flouted their international commitments during the year by ignoring requests from the UN Human Rights Committee to stay executions. In Tajikistan, four men were executed in secret just days before the moratorium. In two of these cases the Committee had urged a stay while it considered allegations of unfair trials and torture. Uzbekistan executed at least four men whose cases were under consideration for similar reasons. The total number of those executed annually in Uzbekistan – within a criminal justice system seriously flawed by widespread corruption and the failure of the courts to investigate allegations of torture – remained secret but was believed to be scores. As in previous years, the post-Soviet shroud of secrecy in executing states covered not just statistics, but blanketed the lives of those on death row and their relatives: neither were informed in advance of the date of executions. Families were denied the bodies of their executed relatives and even the knowledge of where they were buried.

Action for human rights

While many governments continued to ignore the concerns and recommendations of regional and other international organizations charged with a role in human rights protection, such bodies continued to strengthen human rights safeguards. As part of their contribution to combating racism, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe carried on highlighting the issue through a series of specific meetings, and the European Committee against Racism and Intolerance issued general policy recommendations on the struggle against anti-Semitism and on combating racism while fighting “terrorism”. Regional bodies and mechanisms, including the Council of Europe’s Commissioner on Human Rights, also took action against states’ failure to improve or respect human rights. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe rejected a request by Belarus for reinstatement of special guest status on these grounds, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development decided to cut aid and investment in Uzbekistan because it had not met the bank’s human rights benchmarks.

The EU incorporated its Charter of Fundamental Rights into the new constitutional treaty and decided to set up an EU human rights agency. These developments should be an incentive to change the EU’s complacent attitude to observing human rights within its own borders. A European Commission proposal for legislation on procedural rights in criminal proceedings was also a positive note, although it was feared that the content of the proposal might be watered down in negotiations between EU member states.

A powerful political will to drive reform in a positive direction was seen during the year in Turkey. Although implementation was uneven and at times resisted, the government pushed through many significant constitutional and legal changes to secure agreement to start negotiations on accession to the EU. The power of civil society to mobilize for change was also evident, from the platform for activism offered by the European Social Forum in London in November, to the streets of Ukraine during the presidential elections the following month. Human rights defenders, in the face of threats, intimidation and detention, remained resolute in continuing their work, inspiring others and achieving results.
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Amnesty International

Burma: Army and Proxies Attack Shan Civilians

Thailand Must Admit Civilians Forcibly Displaced

(New York, May 26, 2005) -- In a new offensive in Shan state, the Burmese army and its proxies have targeted and forcibly relocated thousands of civilians, Human Rights Watch said today. Thailand must allow civilians to cross the border to gain sanctuary from these attacks.

Thai government sources told Human Rights Watch that Burmese troops were burning down entire villages in Shan state. Approximately 100,000 Burmese government troops backed by forces of the UnitedWa State Army (UWSA), are implementing a counterinsurgencystrategy against the Shan State Army (SSA). Government forces andthe UWSA have regularly targeted civilians by forcing whole villagesto relocate. There are reports that they have also singled out young
Shan men for execution, and have raped Shan women and girls.

"In the name of counterinsurgency, the Burmese army and its proxies are executing, torturing, raping and forcibly displacing Shan civilians," said Brad Adams, Asia Director of Human Rights Watch. "Shan civilians live under constant threat of having shells rain down on their heads or being burned out of their villages."

Human Rights Watch expressed urgent concern over the safety of more than 2,000 civilians living near SSA positions in Loi Taileng, across from Thailand’s northern Mae Hongson province. Civilians in Loi Taileng have been under heavy attacks by the UWSA, including shelling, since March.

On a daily basis, 200-500 Shan villagers have been fleeing to Thailand via the Fang and Chiang Dao districts in Chiang Mai province, either snaking across the border or allowed in by local Thai army commanders for humanitarian reasons.

Many civilians, including victims of sexual violence, have fled from their homes in Shan state due to fear of harassment and abuse by Burmese forces during counterinsurgency operations. Often, the only option is to attempt to flee to Thailand. But the Thai army has publicly stated that Shan asylum seekers will not be allowed to cross the border, while those currently living in Thailand may be pushed back into Burma.

Human Rights Watch called on Thailand to offer refuge to Shan people fleeing fighting and abuses in Shan State. Thailand still officially denies sanctuary to Shans fleeing fighting, does not recognize their possible refugee status, and does not provide shelter or other humanitarian assistance.

The lack of refugee protections and humanitarian assistance forcesShan people to either remain as internally displaced persons in Burma at great risk, or live in hiding in Thailand without legal protections. Many end up as undocumented migrant workers in low-paid, low- skilled jobs in construction work, factories or domestic work. Womenand girls, many of them victims of sexual violence, have become vulnerable to human trafficking and prostitution in Thailand.

"The Thai government still refuses to officially recognize Shans fleeing fighting and abuses as refugees, even though the risk they face in Burma is patently obvious," said Adams. "By denying Shan people refugee status and humanitarian assistance, the Thai government is violating international law and turning away from a problem at its doorstep."

Major dry season military operations by the Burmese army, or Tatmadaw, began in March in Shan State, despite promises the Burmese government made when it announced its August 2003 "roadmap." Offensives by the UWSA are coordinated with the Tatmadaw in arrangements that allow the UWSA to live in and develop areas taken through forced relocation of civilians. In this way, Wa special administration areas in Shan State have been created and give both the Burmese army and the UWSA incentives to forciblyrelocate the population of entire villages.

Indiscriminate attacks and the forced displacement of the civilian population during an internal armed conflict violate international humanitarian law, or the laws of war.

Human Rights Watch noted that fighting may intensify and abuses against Shan civilians could increase after the announcement earlier this week of a merger of the Shan State National Army and the Shan State Army, which had broken in 1995 when the Shan State National Army entered into a ceasefire with the Burmese government. This is the first time in ten years that any of the 17 ceasefire groups has broken with Rangoon.

To view this document on the Human Rights Watch web site, please
go to:

Democrats Capitulate ... Again

This is a comment on the outcome of the "compromise" in the Senate over judicial nominations.

C. Clark Kissinger is one of the initiators of the Not In Our Name Statement of Conscience who, along with Joan Bokaer (Founder of Theocracy and others, called for people to protest the threatened "nuclear option":
"After all the bluster and shadow boxing was over, President Bush got his way. Under the terms of a "compromise," three of Bush's worst nominees will be voted on and they will likely be confirmed. And what did the Democrats get in return? They got to keep the right to filibuster, provided they promise not to use it!

"That's right. The Democrats got nothing. And what will happen when even more disgusting candidates are brought up as nominees for the Supreme Court? The Republicans will simply roll out the threat of the "nuclear option" once again, since nothing in the so-called "compromise" prohibits them from doing that.

"Once again this demonstrates the need for a mass popular movement of resistance. Without the kind of mass upsurge that we witnessed in the 1960s, there is nothing that will prevent the current threatening dynamic from continuing. This is why we called on people to go to Washington, and make their presence felt in the streets. The world can't wait any longer. We need to be about the business of driving the Bush regime from power."

C. Clark Kissinger

from the NION SOC Staff

Alumni group holds back Churchill award

Students Vote Churchill as Favorite Teacher, Alumni Group withholds Award
May 26, 2005

Ward ChurchillThe University of Colorado Alumni Association is withholding an award that students voted to give embattled professor Ward Churchill for teaching in 2005.

Officials say they are holding back the award, which comes with $500, pending the outcome of a CU investigation into Churchill for allegations of academic fraud.

Churchill said the Alumni Association is penalizing his exercise of free speech and does not have the authority to withhold an award granted by students. He said the act is like a professor withholding a grade "because a student has been accused of bouncing a check at Walgreen's."

"The fact is that I've won the award, and (Alumni Association President Kent) Zimmerman is withholding it for reasons having nothing at all to do with the criteria of the award itself," Churchill said.

Churchill queried on class time
Administrator asks department chair about 'Maymester' allegations

By Elizabeth Mattern Clark, Camera Staff Writer
May 20, 2005

A University of Colorado official was considering discipline against professor Ward Churchill after receiving a complaint that he canceled too much class time, according to documents obtained by a radio station.

Churchill, a tenured ethnic studies professor, is teaching an American Indian studies course in the condensed 14-day "Maymester" period, which began last week. Each day is equivalent to a week's curriculum.

"It is unclear how much classroom time was held last week," Joyce Nielsen, associate dean for social sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences, wrote Tuesday to Emma Perez, chairwoman of the ethnic studies department.

The e-mail was posted on the Web by KHOW talk-show hosts Dan Caplis and Craig Silverman. The broadcasters have been calling for Churchill to be fired since controversy erupted earlier this year over an essay he authored that appeared to sympathize with terrorists.

Nielsen first wrote to Perez a week ago, saying she received a report that Churchill only handed out a syllabus the first day of class and made reading assignments the second day of class before dismissing his students.

She asked Perez to investigate and recommend discipline if the complaint was true.

On Saturday, Perez forwarded a response from Churchill, which said that he scheduled "reading days" at the beginning of the term, allowing for better discussion in subsequent classes.

"I call that success (assuming the object is to have students actually absorbing the content we're supposedly imparting rather than merely counting beans)," Churchill wrote.

He said the first class included a lengthy discussion about the course structure and student expectations, and the second was a reading day that did not constitute a "dismissed" class.

"The implication of the 'report' seems to be that I simply blew off my class and attendant obligations to the institution to do something else — like leave town for an honorarium lecture on another campus — this past week," he wrote. "This is categorically untrue."

On Tuesday, Nielsen wrote that there were still some unresolved questions about "too many canceled classroom days even if there was outside reading assigned for those days." She asked Perez to document last week's teaching time.

The outcome of the discussion was not clear from the e-mails.

Churchill said his class time has been documented and the "internal university matter" resolved.

"There is no issue," he said Thursday. "I'm not going to respond to Dan Caplis on how classes should be taught at the University of Colorado."

Contact Camera Staff Writer Elizabeth Mattern Clark at (303) 473-1351 or
Copyright 2005, The Daily Camera. All Rights Reserved.


dao leisure

Chinese characters for "leisure"

side of mountain, small house at bottom, abstract-vangogh-like

Birds chirp, vanguard for coming rain.
Dog bark skitters through twilight village.
Smoke raises a column through the pines,
Contented families dine in golden windows.

Life’s pulse is gauged in the hollows, the intervals between events. If you want to see Tao, you must discern these spaces. This requires leisure, the change to sit and contemplate, and the opportunity to respond to inner urgings.

If you can find a place to retreat, you can make a life where Tao will flood into you. Out in the woods, or in the mountains, or even in small villages where the times are slow paced and the people sensitive to nature, there is the possibility of knowing the deep and the profound. Only when you have the time to accumulate an unshakable belief and faith can you glimpse the Tao in which there is restfulness and a natural sense of what is right.


365 Tao
Daily Meditations
Deng Ming-Dao
ISBN: 0-06-250223-9

Luo Erchun 1987
Oil on canvas 36" x 46"

Luo Erchun still prefers to paint scenes from his homeland, Hunan Province, even though he has lived most of his life in Beijing and sometimes in Paris. He feels a passion for this and is particularly interested in the color of the soil there which he still remembers from his childhood.
The Hefner Collection


dao wrinkles

Chinese characters for "wrinkles"

calla lillies in splendor color a bit abstract (by lisbeth)

Lines on the face, tattoos of aging.
Life is proved upon the body
Like needle-jabs from a machine.

The older one gets, the more one is conscious of aging. We can barely remember childhood innocence and exuberance. We are surprised by the youthful vitality and unmarked face when we see earlier photos of ourselves. When we look in the mirror, we reluctantly acknowledge the aging mask. It seems that there is no escaping the marks of life.

Every experience that we have, everything that we do and think is registered upon us as surely as the steady embroidery of a tattoo artist. But to a large degree, the pattern and picture that will emerge is up to us. If we go to a tattoo artist, it is we who select the picture. In life, it is we who select what we will become by the actions we perform. There is no reason to got through life thoughtlessly, to let accidents shape us.

Whether we emerge beautiful or ugly is our sole responsibility.


365 Tao
Daily Meditations
Deng Ming-Dao
ISBN: 0-06-250223-9

Calla for Jan
by lisbeth west
© duckdaotsu 2005


dao dissent

Chinese characters for "dissent"

abstract figures, appear Mao and another face suspicion? — with two monks praying

Old man: Dissent is not disloyalty.
Be careful before you retaliate.
Your steel wrapped in cotton
May only be brittle bone wrapped in fat.

No one is a supreme authority. People seek leaders, priests, gurus, and hermits thinking that someone has a precise formula for living correctly. No one does. No one can know you as well as you can know yourself. All that you can gain from a wise person is the assurance of some initial guidance. You may even spend decades studying under such an extraordinary person, but you should never surrender your dignity, independence, and personality.

There is no single way to do things in life. There are valid paths, even though they may differ from the ways of respected elders. Diversity is good for tradition. Too often, elders confuse dissent with disloyalty and punish people for the crime of having a different view. They are no longer in touch with Tao but instead mouth self-serving convention. Perhaps the panic of their own impending death makes them clutch. When the leaders become repressive, it is a sign that their time is drawing to a close.

A saying about old masters was that they were like steel wrapped in cotton: They appeared soft on the outside but still held great power on the inside. We all hope for elders like that. But oftentimes, the old masters have lost their mandate of Tao. Then, when tested, they are merely brittle bone and fat. How can we respect such people?


365 Tao
Daily Meditations
Deng Ming-Dao
ISBN: 0-06-250223-9

"Sweet Life #38"
Zhu Wei 1999
Watercolor and ink on paper
Dimensions: 76" x 102"
Zhu Wei was born in Beijing in 1966 and studied art at the Beijing Children's Palace from 1974 to 1975. In 1982 he joined the People's Liberation Army and graduated from the Art College of the P.L.A. in 1989. In 1993 his army unit was demolished and the following year he graduated from the Beijing Academy of Film and established his own studio, Zhu Wei Art Den.

Inventory #: CC_0827
The China Collection

Stanford Studies on Daoism

Definition of "Daoism"

The underlying distinction between the philosophical and religious poles is an epistemic issue. Both species of Daoism start from a common critique of "ordinary" knowing of dao way:guide. From this mildly skeptical or relativist base, philosophical Daoism tends toward pluralism, perspectivalism, skepticism, political equality and freedom. Religious "mysticism" professes to control of an esoteric way of overcoming the skepticism and typically claims some "superlative" or direct access to a single correct dao way:guide. As the special insight cannot be justified to those with "ordinary" perspectives and/or cannot be put into language and argument, it tends to generate esoteric, hierarchical and authoritarian forms.

The latter tendency is associated with a Confucian-like emphasis on "cultivating" this special epistemic ability, obediently following teachers and traditions. The philosophical strains emphasis on natural spontaneity, freedom and egalitarianism, leads them to favor political anarchy. This is because in the context of Ancient China, the assumed role of government is cultivating moral character, that is, instilling the same moral dao way:guide in everyone whether by education, attraction or force.

The gap between the religious and political attitudes can partly be closed by claims that the content of the religious dao is egalitarian, empty or anarchist.

Confucianism argues that the religious strains shared interest in cultivating a special moral status means that Confucianism and Daoism are ultimately compatible. Both have at their core a dogmatic asseveration of a "special," cultivated ability of direct (not mediated by language or reasons) access to the single, correct, dao -- which cannot be cast in the form of "fixed" principles. The supposedly shared presupposition is the possibility of cultivating an intuitive guidance that is not undermined by the philosophical Daoist arguments. Insofar as they are accountable for justifying or answering those arguments, tendencies in that direction can still count as ‘philosophical.’ We draw the line of definition when the claim to special insight rests on dogmatic claim, special pleading or "revelation."

The domination of Confucianism in Chinese intellectual life has brought with it the wide acceptance of this "friendly" orthodox religious interpretation of Daoism. History does little to settle which line of interpretation is "original" since lines of thought leading in each direction can be found in early classical sources. This difficulty is compounded by the diffidence of the writing styles in both the Daode Jing and the Zhuangzi -- which is so marked that it is often tempting to suspect the writers intended to be ambiguous, to invite divergent interpretation as an object lesson in the "inconstancy" of any discourse-based dao. Conceivably, therefore, both trends may have drawn "support" from reading the early texts as expressing ideas compatible with their own.

a reading list of books and interpretations of the Daodejing is available at

for a meditation sent to your email address each day, please write
‘subscribe tao’ in the subject line and send to lisbeth at duckdaotsu