Of The Labors Of Hercules:
SOLUTIONS TO 12 HERCULEAN PROBLEMS
was given 12 seemingly impossible labors that he would have to complete
before he could ascend to his Higher Self and become fully divine.
We humans are also presented with at least 12 Herculean problems
or "labors" that we must solve in order to realize our highest nature.
has created a sense of complacency about most of the world's most
serious problems. It helps to visualize our predicament from different
perspectives in order to see how maintenance of the status quo is
making the problems worse. Rigid, dogmatic thinking characterizes
the thinking of our leaders, and they tend to avoid issues that
won't help them raise cash or get reelected.
since almost all of these vital issues are controversial, this creates
a system where problems are not faced until the situation is dire,
thus causing us to jump from one crisis to another without effectively
understanding the interconnections among all the problems and solutions.
government will continue repeating the errors of history, and even
more dangerous crises will occur as a result, unless important reforms
labors are an attempt to find a balance between public and individual
rights in relation to the long-term health of the Earth and the
other species that live with us upon it. Someday Artificial Intelligence
(AI) may be able to determine what this formula is. Until then it
is up to us to sort it out. This is my attempt, built mostly upon
the labor of others who have gone before over the turbulent course
of human history. It is a flawed, work-in-progress, for which I
make no apologies because, after all, I am not a demi-god like Hercules.
for the coming changes will be the greatest challenge humans have
ever faced. Computer theorist Ray Kurzweil projects that a PC will
begin to challenge human intelligence levels in only sixteen years
and will surpass a trillion human brains in 2060. Most humans are
ill prepared to face the evolutionary challenge that AI will bring.
It might be wise to fix our major problems now to position ourselves
for the difficult birthing of our species into whatever lies ahead.
It is partly for this reason that I compare our task to the 12 impossible
"labors" that the half-man half-god Hercules had to perform before
he could become fully divine. We humans have risen from billions
of years of evolution to now be faced with Herculean tasks that
precede the coming of what might be a god-like universal consciousness.
This apotheosis might be the very thing that we have been striving
for, or even experiencing in mystical states, but have not been
able to articulate.
Or it might be something quite terrible. Either way, it might
be a good idea to clean house now, while we still have the chance.
Labor I: Politics (Hercules defeated the crafty Nemean Lion who lived
in a cave with two entrances.) That sneaky lion is like a politician.
Just when you think you know where you stand, the politician slips
out the back with his corporate sponsor.
is about who gets what, how, and when. No matter who gets what,
there will always be someone who is not happy, but the goal should
be to seek the highest common good balancing individual human rights
and needs with long term sustainable policies. Political leaders
should be guided to concentrate on their job instead of fundraising,
strategizing, marketing and pretending to say important things while
saying and doing nothing. Ineffectual, distracted, uninspiring,
and corrupt, our politicians are the symptom of a poor electoral
system that forces politicians to become money-grubbers. Our country
was founded as a federal republic, but today it touts democracy
while functioning as an oligarchy. To end rampant corruption and
create a more representative and responsive government we should
enact real electoral reform consisting of these essential elements:
Campaign Finance Reform: We should ban private campaign
financing and publicly fund all elections. We should also require
candidates to publish their resume, voting record, and complete
positions on all important issues in a standardized summary form
(like this page), and in depth (like this web site).
Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) should replace the winner-take-all
system, in single member elections. Our current system allows candidates
without a majority to win, and creates a spoiler problem which in
order to avoid, voters must strategize their voting. With IRV, candidates
rank their candidates in order of preference. In the first count,
the candidate with the least votes is eliminated and those votes
are redistributed to the other candidates. The recounting continues
automatically until one candidate has a majority. This allows for
greater participation in the selection of the winner.
Direct Voting should replace the Electoral College,
an anachronism that allows disproportionate representation.
Proportional Representation (PR) should replace single
member elections for the House of Representatives by creating larger
districts with more members that are elected by proportion instead
of winner-take-all. This will end gerrymandering and redistricting
fights. It will also vastly increase voter participation and representation.
recommended changes include:
Increased transparency in government, with greater public
accountability over intelligence gathering.
Better cooperation with the United Nations and the world
Public scrutiny and reforms related to the relationship of
the government with the military industrial complex.
Public regulation of the ownership and commercialization
of the media.
II. Overpopulation: (Slaying of the Hydra) Hercules set out
to slay the Hydra, a monster with many snake-like heads. Every time
he cut off a head, two more grew to replace it.
every people cut down by death, two and half are born, resulting
in continued exponential population growth of 200,000 people every
day. The U.S. is the fastest growing country among all the industrialized
nations with a disproportionately large effect on global resources.
The effect on the environment and all aspects of human life is devastating,
and population growth compounds all our other problems. The solution
to this hydra-headed mess is for the U.S. to lead a global movement
to bring about Zero Population Growth (ZPG).
credits could theoretically bring about ZPG immediately with the
poor being the primary beneficiaries in the short term, and everyone
benefiting in the long term. Vastly increased foreign aid should
focus on sex education and family planning efforts, raising economic
standards, the status of women, and other measures that will help
slow population growth.
III. Poverty: Hercules
captures a runaway hind with golden horns that was sacred to Artemis.
Artemis is one of the early symbols of an Earth Mother Goddess.
The golden horns of the hind represent the wealth held in trust
by the people of the Earth. This lost wealth is captured by Hercules
and returned to the kingdom.
in the U.S. consists of a complex interconnection of various factors
including substance abuse, overpopulation, immigration, parenting,
education, resources, mental and physical health, financial skills,
environment, discrimination, economic disparities, and attitude.
Poverty could be a greatly alleviated with a multi-pronged approach
that addresses all of these factors at once. The result would be
a return of great wealth to our nation in terms of human capital.
primary solutions are:
End the War on Drugs, and the war on sex by legalizing drugs
increase in sex and relationship counseling, family planning. Reduce
average number of children to one per couple.
new urban development should follow the livable, walkable New Pedestrian
model with multi-use pedestrian lanes in front of homes and businesses
and vehicular streets put in the rear.
Guaranteed living wage that adjusts automatically for
IV. Drugs: (Capture of the Erymanthian Boar)
Prohibition is a repeat performance of Alcohol Prohibition except
last time we wised up and reversed it after only 13 years. This
time around the government still insists that after a 35-year-long
war of attrition, the Drug War can still somehow be won, despite
the overwhelming evidence to the contrary:
We have the highest incarceration rate in the world, higher
even than in Stalinist Soviet Union, which is fueling a growing
and costly prison industrial complex that creates more criminals.
judicial system is overworked by the creation of crimes that
are nothing more than failed, moralistic attempts to protect
adults from their own personal choices.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the most dangerous
drugs are already legal and killing 650,000 per year while,
in 2000, all illegal drugs combined killed 17,000.
No overdose deaths at all were, however, associated with
marijuana or psychedelic drugs. Most of the drug war is directed
at marijuana, even though it is a fairly benign substance with
medicinal qualities. As a crop, hemp is a remarkable plant that
could provide food, fuel, clothing, and plastics, with a low
impact on the environment. Henry Ford once made a car out of
hemp that used hemp oil, and ran on hemp gasoline.
due to Drug War: Buying and using illegal drugs is more dangerous
than the inherent effects would be if the drugs were regulated.
For example, most heroin-related deaths result from it being
cut with quinine, or because the users contract AIDS, hepatitis,
or other infections from dirty needles. There are also many
injuries and murders related to the drug trade.
for the law: There has been a pervasive breakdown in respect
for the law. The lure of the forbidden creates a culture of
role of the military or political interference in the affairs
of other countries (Mexico, Columbia, and Afghanistan, to name
but a few).
failure to control drugs, even inside prison.
in all branches of law enforcement.
of civil liberties. (The weakening of the 1878 Posse Comitatus
Act in 1981 to allow military action against drug smugglers
and others, the abuses of Federal Asset Forfeiture Law, the
weakening of Fourth Amendment protections.)
and useless Drug War expenditures in the many
Distraction from real issues.
Drug War related crime, violence, organized crime, gang activity,
and the effect this has on all aspects of society.
solution to this colossal and indefensible waste of effort is to
end Drug Prohibition, then tax, regulate and control drugs, alcohol,
and tobacco. Advertising should be banned for all three. Public
education, treatment, and rehabilitation should be freely available
and paid for with the taxes from the substances that are causing
Labor V: Environment. (Hercules cleaned the Augean Stables, which
had become filled with cattle waste).
global stable is also filled with pollution and waste, including
actual, non-metaphorical cattle waste. The solution to that particular
problem is to substitute vegetables and grains for most beef. This
will not only reduce pollution and increase food capacity, but it
will slow the destruction of priceless tropical rain forests that
are being cleared for grazing.
Dioxide levels continue to rise every year due to industry and the
burning of fossil fuels. This is causing global warming, which has
a wide range of unsavory consequences.
recently completed 2-1/2 year study by a 16-member panel appointed
by President Bush concluded that the U.S. is treating the oceans
Magazine reported in 2004 that if global-warming trends continue,
a million species could be extinct by 2050. This human-caused extinction
event is now known as the Sixth Extinction. The last extinction
wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. A study published
in 2000 suggests that the Earth needs an average of ten million
years to recover from a mass extinction.
environmental problems related to human activities are too numerous
to list, but this short list will cover the most important solutions.
Zero or Negative Population Growth (see also Labor II:
vegetarianism, organic farming, and healthy food choices (see
also Labor X: Health)
up the oceans by following the 200 recommendations of the government's
own study by the United States Commission on Ocean Policy, including
the ratification of the United Nations Convention on The Law of
a non-polluting and renewable energy policy (see Labor VIII: Energy)
sustainable economics (see Labor VII: Economics)
Urban Growth Boundaries and build Pedestrian Villages (see Labor
Labor VI: Justice (Hercules defeated the man-eating birds of
begins at home. Violence, including spanking, teaches children that
violence may be used to get others to do what you want them to do.
It has been well demonstrated in various cultures, such as the Native
American Iroquois, and through scientific studies, that corporal
punishment and harmful and unnecessary.
injustice begets more injustice has been demonstrated throughout
history. It is a lesson that our country has failed to learn, especially
in the past four decades as our drug, military, and foreign policies
have fostered fear, hatred, and instability around the world. Faith
and fear-based fundamentalist religious interests with their rigid,
authoritarian ideologies inevitably clash with other and create
even greater violence, retaliation, terrorism, and abuse.
our judicial system is based on winning at all costs. The U.S.,
with only 4.5% of the world's population has half of the world's
lawyers. There are more lawyers in Los Angeles than in the entire
country of Japan. This is largely because of the "adversarial" system
that we inherited from England, which in turn has its roots in Middle
Age justice where justice was determined in a trial by battle. Those
who could afford it hired gladiators to do battle for them, and
it was assumed that God favored the one who was right. This same
attitude, both in our foreign policy and in our judicial system
still holds sway. We think that might makes right, and that the
rich should be able to buy more justice.
allow justice to prevail through reforms to our electoral system
(see Labor I: Politics)
mitigate poverty (See Labor III: Poverty)
drug prohibition and rethink the war on terrorism. War is waged
by one group against another, and cannot be successfully waged
on individual acts or tactics without creating widespread mayhem.
The War on Drugs is expensive and as futile as the War on Terrorism.
Prohibition creates high levels of lawlessness and corruption.
Illegal drug sales help fund terrorism. Drug usage cannot be stopped
even inside prison. Terrorism cannot be stopped even in a global
police state. Frontier-style justice generally increases problems
related to drugs and terrorism.
and tort reforms: It is better to have democratically, well-thought
out laws than a system where every injustice has to be endlessly
litigated, with huge portions of the awards going mostly to lawyers
and a few lucky individuals. This places an unfair burden on society,
and encourages pocketbook contentiousness. More truth-seeking
and mediation must be introduced to the system.
Hercules captures the Cretan Bull.
It is not necessary to constantly
strive for a bull market. We need an economically and environmentally
sustainable economy. The U.S. budget should be presented to the
electorate as a pie that is to be divided up, rather than in incomprehensible
dollar figures. The public perception of what percentage goes to
defense and how tiny the crumbs are that go to education and foreign
aid would be clearly seen, for example. Our budget makers should
also argue over percentages rather than sheer numbers in order to
keep this perspective and automatically balance the budget.
tax reform might work quite equitably and simply with a maximum
15% V.A.T. that includes all state and local taxes. More or less
the same exclusions that apply to state sales tax would apply to
the VAT, including groceries and housing. The balance of income
tax would be taken from the top 10% of wage earning entities, corporate
or individual, who would have to file income tax returns and pay
a percentage of their income above a certain amount.
VIII. ENERGY: Hercules captures
the Mares of Diomedes.
We must capture the unbridled Mustangs,
Broncos, and other vehicles and recapture a paradise lost: Imagine
if the United States had not been directed by special interests
during the energy crisis thirty years ago, and had instead chosen
to achieve sustainable energy independence. Clean fuel cell technology,
powered by hydrogen produced by solar energy would today be fueling
our homes, factories, and vehicles. There would not be a foreign
trade imbalance and our country would lead the world in alternative
energy research and employment. A streamlined military would be
making do just fine on half its current budget. U.S. military aid
or oil revenues would not have propped up hard-line Islamic dictatorships,
monarchies, and theocracies. The U.S. would not have helped fund
Iraq's war against Iran. The U.S. would not have become the object
of Iranian fury and accelerated the power of Islamic extremists.
Kuwait would never have been invaded. The Gulf War would never have
occurred. The U.S. would never have supported the Taliban, nor fought
against it later. The War on Terrorism, The Patriot Act, and the
Homeland Security Department would have remained unrealized Orwellian
concepts. Osama Bin Laden would be living in obscurity, and the
twin towers would still be standing in all their overbearing banality.
The suppression of clean, alternative energy solutions has
prolonged the world's misery for decades. Sadly, Big Oil and the
military industrial complex continue to manipulate foreign and domestic
energy policy. The obvious solution is to become self-sufficient
as soon as possible using clean, renewable resources. What has been
less obvious is that we need to change our American voting system
so that it will be possible to elect wise, honest leaders who can
stand up and do what is necessary.
Hercules seizes the belt of Hippolyte.
We should take Hippolyte's
belt and turn it into a greenbelt around the cities. The public
cannot afford to buy up and administer all the land that needs to
be protected. Land use must be done with enlightened planning and
zoning that directs growth into denser pedestrian-oriented development.
The livability of a community should be more important than designing
propose a "New Pedestrianism," a much more pedestrian-friendly version
of what is called New Urbanism or Smart Growth. If all new large
housing developments were required to be Pedestrian Villages, and
Urban Growth Boundaries were established around the towns, sprawl
would be brought to a screeching halt and, over time, most of our
transportation-related problems would be greatly ameliorated.
would a Pedestrian Village look like? Streets for motor vehicles
would be relegated to the rear of the housing or businesses in all
developments, with pedestrian lanes required in front for
pedestrians, bicyclists, Segway Human Transporters, electric
scooters, wheelchairs, and the like. Houses would have big front
porches and they would sit close to tree-lined front pedestrian
lanes where cars are not allowed. All houses and businesses are
connected with these quiet, country-like lanes. A rear street
accommodates vehicular traffic and the rear-loading garages. Above
the garage would be allowed a dwelling unit, which would serve as a
rental, as a guesthouse, or office in home. There is a formal garden
gate at the rear where people arriving by automobile can call.
Community livability and cohesiveness is increased. People of all
ages can move around on the quiet and beautiful walking streets in
Hercules Captures the Red cattle of Geryon:
eat too much red meat from cattle. We do not exercise enough and
two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. We have an
outrageously expensive health care system that leaves a huge portion
of the nation without health care. Our cities are ugly and we cannot
go anywhere without getting in a car. This results in obesity that
degrades the health of most people and a demolition derby involving
27 million motor vehicles, 5 million injuries, and 42,000 deaths
each year in the U.S. alone.
A misguided drug policy contributes to 650,000 deaths in
the U.S. from legal drugs and increases the danger from illegal
the urban and drug related issues were addressed, and preventative
health issues were given higher priority, a national health
insurance program could be financed for less than what taxpayers pay
now. To keep costs low, most people would have to get supplemental
insurance for the most expensive medical procedures, but everyone
would be protected with basis coverage. Many of the additional
solutions to health problems are contained in the other labors.
Hercules captures three golden apples that grew on the tree in a
tree was coiled with a serpent and blessed by eternal spring guarded
by three beautiful maidens. This Labor, the Garden of Eden story,
and various other similar tales in ancient cultures of the northern
hemisphere, have the same origin. The tree of life represents the
central axis of the sky that was centered in the Dragon
constellation around 5,000 years ago. This symbolism still survives
today in the caduceus as a symbol of healing. In pre-Christian
religions, the three maidens represented the triple goddess, which
later became the Trinity.
Both the Hercules story and the Garden of Eden story are
both mythological, but myth is, as mythologist Joseph Campbell used
to say, "the lie that tells the truth."
was that early humans must have stood in awe at the wonder and mystery
of nature and longed to find both understanding and meaning in its
unfathomable depths. But over time myths got bundled
into religions that quickly calcified into dogma. Then as William
James once wrote, religion became an inoculation against the real
thing, and it became absolutist.
modern example of this is the supreme religious authority of Saudi
Arabia, Sheik Abdel-Aziz Ibn Baaz, who issued a fatwa
in 1993 declaring that according to the Koran the world is flat and
that disbelievers would be punished. While we know that even Muslim
astronomers were teaching Westerners about a round Earth in the
second century, we do not yet know the origin of the universe. Greek
mythology stated that, except for the brief time that Atlas tricked
Hercules into shouldered the burden, Atlas held up the world. What
was Atlas standing on? A turtle. And what was the turtle standing
on? Don't worry, they were told that its turtles all the way down.
the truth may replace turtles and God. There might even be a
creator, but not necessarily a caring one. According to James
Gardner, complexity theorist and the proponent of the Selfish
Biocosm hypothesis, it may be that our universe came into existence
as the result of an intelligent design by AI in a previous universe.
He says that the solution to the infinite regress problem is that
the universe is its own mother and created its own past.
most reasonable response to all speculation is to be agnostic about
matters unknown or presently unknowable, but retain a scientific
curiosity to learn where it really is going.
Fellowship is important, and faith can move mountains, but
blind faith and dogma have given us Christian suicide cults,
organized religious fanaticism, theocracies, demagoguery, and worse.
Most Christians would probably think that Scientology's reported
cosmology involving an evil galactic alien ruler named Zenu who
clustered human souls and blew them up with nuclear bombs in a
volcano 75 million years ago might have sprung from a drug-induced
rant by its pulp-science-fiction-writing founder. They also probably
think that Muslim claims of the mortal Mohammed ascending to Heaven
on a white horse from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, or the reward
of eternal sex with 72 virgins promised to martyrs are also
the same time, most Muslims and Jews cannot fathom how a man could
have been the son of God, and justifiably point to the scant
evidence to support even a historical Jesus, much less all the
unverifiable supernatural claims that are similar to at least a half
dozen earlier savior gods. The problems with dogma are not as common
in Buddhism, which claims to be a philosophy rather than a religion,
and in other pantheistic beliefs that claim God is everything and
that all the stories are metaphors for states of consciousness.
Buddhism does not even acknowledge a permanent self but rather an
environment that is being continuously reinvented and reconstructed.
example, the Dalai Lama once told Carl Sagan that Buddhism would
change if it were presented with irrefutable scientific evidence
that challenged a central tenet like reincarnation. Ask the same
question of the pope and then contrast Buddhism to the
religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, which all jockey for a
special relationship with the same father-like god/creator. All of
their claims and counterclaims of absolutist and unproven
assumptions are futile and dangerous.
Intelligence will radically change the role of religion during this
century as the mystery is further unraveled, but until that happens
it is critical that religion stay out of the way when it comes to
science and politics. The origin of the word religion is the Latin
word, religare, (or religio)
meaning "to bind together." Hopefully the new religions will not
be bound to dogma but rather based on a search for the truth, a
connection to nature, and compassion. Thus we humans, whether
individually or as a collective mind, or as some as yet unfathomable
assemblage of consciousness, might again experience awe at the
wonder and mystery of nature and long to find both understanding and
meaning in its more fathomable depths.
Hercules captures Cerberus, the guardian of Hades.
Cerberus symbolizes the monstrously difficult job of reaching
consensus, but I hope that we do not have to go to hell and back to
accomplish this labor. Admittedly, the biggest problem of all the
labors may be getting enough people to agree on what the solutions
are. Ethicist Peter Singer states that not choosing to give to
charities until it hurts is tantamount to actually making other
humans suffer and die. Unfortunately even if a much larger
percentage of people gave to the world's charities it would not
solve the world's problems. There is a saying, for example, that
whatever your cause is it's a lost cause unless population growth
similar principle applies to political reform, and to some of the
other labors. The best way to make a difference is to focus effort
into doing the things that will leverage the most productive
changes. Reducing population growth would prevent many millions from
starving to death, yet the cost of family planning is a trifle
compared to trying to feed the starving masses on a planet with
dwindling natural resources.
Edward Lorenz discovered that sensitive dependence on initial
conditions, a major component of his groundbreaking Chaos Theory,
might allow the single flap of a butterfly's wing in Brazil to
lead to a tornado in Texas. The other major component of Chaos
Theory is that no matter how complex a system is the dynamics still
rely upon an underlying order.
components are at work when it comes to the kind of change we are
talking about. It is not necessary, or possible, to convince every
one in this country of the wisdom of change, because the majority
tends to go with the flow, even if the flow has stagnated in the
backwaters of the status quo. It will take sincere and motivated
individuals, who understand how everything works together, to unite
their will to stir the waters.
will use the branching tree of the Internet to connect with
individuals willing to commit even a tiny amount of time and money
to make something important happen. But instead of pursuing noble
but lost causes, we must focus on what will reap the greatest return
in the shortest period of time.
human idea begins with less force than the flap of a butterfly's
wing. But if the ideas expressed here catch wind, stand up quick,
set your wings, and come along for the ride. Are we humans the chrysalis
of a self-transforming butterfly that will emerge from carbon-based
flesh, or are we an evolutionary dead-end that will be extinguished
like the Neanderthals, while the emerging, competing species lives
on? Whatever our fate is to be, we seem to be experiencing the
unfolding of an underlying order. These are exciting times! There is
a quickening and edginess that comes with facing the unknown. Don't
sit on the sidelines as it happens. Get involved. Ride the nascent
Cosmic Internet to LaborsofHercules.com to find out what you
can do to help.